by Ray Kuhn
We have now reached that critical time of year. In most leagues the trade deadline has passed, there are a few weeks of summer left to enjoy and preseason football has begun. There are a lot of distractions, but that doesn’t mean we should stop paying attention to fantasy baseball either. Let’s take a look at who is taking the mound twice this week and determine which options are worth using:
- Michael Wacha – St. Louis Cardinals – vs. San Francisco; at San Diego
- Gerrit Cole – Pittsburgh Pirates – vs. Arizona; vs. San Francisco
- Cole Hamels – Texas Rangers – vs. Seattle; at Detroit
- Danny Salazar – Cleveland Indians – at Boston; at NY Yankees
- Garrett Richards – LA Angels – vs. Chicago White Sox; vs. Toronto
- Francisco Liriano – Pittsburgh Pirates – vs. Arizona; vs. San Francisco
- Jordan Zimmermann – Washington Nationals – at Colorado; vs. Milwaukee
- Scott Kazmir – Houston Astros – vs. Tampa Bay; vs. LA Dodgers
- Jason Hammel – Chicago Cubs – vs. Detroit; vs. Atlanta
- Jake Odorizzi – Tampa Bay Rays – at Houston; at Oakland
- Edinson Volquez – Kansas City Royals – at Cincinnati; at Boston
- Taijuan Walker – Seattle Mariners – at Texas; vs. Chicago White Sox
- Anibal Sanchez – Detroit Tigers – at Chicago Cubs; vs. Texas
- Andrew Heaney – LA Angels – vs. Chicago White Sox; vs. Toronto
- Chris Tillman – Baltimore Orioles – vs. Oakland; vs. Minnesota
- Nathan Eovaldi – New York Yankees – vs. Minnesota; vs. Cleveland
- CC Sabathia – New York Yankees – vs. Minnesota; vs. Cleveland
- Rasiel Iglesias – Cincinnati Reds – vs. Kansas City; vs. Arizona
- Trevor Bauer – Cleveland Indians – at Boston; at NY Yankees
- Carlos Rodon – Chicago White Sox – at LA Angels; at Seattle
- Ervin Santana – Minnesota Twins – at NY Yankees; at Baltimore
- Kevin Gausman – Baltimore Orioles – vs. NY Mets; vs. Minnesota
- Matt Garza – Milwaukee Brewers – vs. Miami; at Washington
- Scott Feldman – Houston Astros – vs. Tampa Bay; vs. LA Dodgers
- Jorge De La Rosa – Colorado Rockies – vs. Washington; vs. NY Mets
- John Danks – Chicago White Sox – at LA Angels; at Seattle
- Steven Wright – Boston Red Sox – vs. Cleveland; vs. Kansas City
- Kyle Gibson – Minnesota Twins – at NY Yankees; at Baltimore
- Eduardo Rodriguez – Boston Red Sox – vs. Cleveland; vs. Kansas City
- Ryan Vogelsong – San Francisco Giants – at St. Louis; at Pittsburgh
- Aaron Brooks – Oakland A’s – at Baltimore; vs. Tampa Bay
- Matt Wisler – Atlanta Braves – at San Diego; at Chicago Cubs
- Justin Nicolino – Miami Marlins – at Milwaukee; vs. Philadelphia
- Jeremy Hellickson – Arizona Diamondbacks – at Pittsburgh; at Cincinnati
- Chase Anderson – Arizona Diamondbacks – at Pittsburgh; at Cincinnati
- Colin Rea – San Diego Padres – vs. Atlanta; at St. Louis
- Williams Perez – Atlanta Braves – at San Diego; at Chicago Cubs
- Chi Chi Gonzalez – Texas Rangers – vs. Seattle; at Detroit
- Adam Conley – Miami Marlins – at Milwaukee; vs. Philadelphia
- So far Texas has not agreed with Cole Hamels. Of course it is only two starts and there is nothing to overreact about. In 13.2 innings he has allowed nine earned runs and is battling a groin injury. At this point it appears that Hamels will be fine to make both starts this week, the first of which comes on Monday against Seattle. Having made his last start on August 7th he will have ten days between starts, and the adjustment period in Texas should have passed. The southpaw isn’t having the sharpest of seasons overall, with a 3.86 ERA and 1.20 WHIP, but he is still at the top of the list as far as two start options go for this week.
- What has gotten into Francisco Liriano over the past three starts? There isn’t a reality in which a 5.52 ERA is a good thing, but a BABIP of .429 and a 69.9% strand rate does explain a good portion of the story. The easy answer is to not let this bad stretch scare you away from a pitcher who has been consistently successful for the majority of the season. He has a 3.19 ERA and 1.13 WHIP, but perhaps more important for some fantasy owners he has struck out 149 batters in 135.1 innings. The fact that Liriano is making both of his starts at home, against the Giants and Diamondbacks, for a team that has been successful is a good thing.
- One pitcher who has had no issues in making transition to a new team is Scott Kazmir. The Astros have been struggling as of late, but that shouldn’t change your stance. He has lost his last two starts, but don’t hold that against him. Over his last three starts he has allowed just three earned runs in 19.1 innings while striking out 13. If you want to split hairs he has walked seven batters over this recent stretch, but on the season he has walked just 2.85 batters per nine innings. That has helped keep his WHIP at 1.08 and his ERA at just 2.12.
- If you are searching for two start pitchers, don’t forget about Chris Heston. I know you don’t want to fall into the trap of overrating a pitcher just because he threw a no-hitter, but he has been a solid option for most of the season. Heston has struggled a little bit over his past three starts, allowing nine earned runs over 14 innings, although he did bounce back in his last outing (1 R on 3 H over 6.1 innings against the Astros). As far as luck and advanced stats go, the right-hander has been consistent with a 3.49 FIP against a 3.38 ERA. With 106 strikeouts over 141 innings and a 1.19 WHIP, Heston doesn’t profile as much more than a back of the rotation option. However with both starts on the road this week where Heston sports a 4.08 ERA, compared to 2.99 at home, I would search for a better option. Also, the Cardinals and Pirates are not the easiest of opponents.
- With any luck, you either bought low or did not give up on Taijuan Walker. With 22 strikeouts over 22.1 innings in his last three starts and a 2.42 ERA, this is the pitcher we have been waiting for. Pitching in Texas is not as hard as it used to be, and facing the White Sox at home is a positive match-up. Walker has made substantial progress with his WHIP as it is now down to 1.21, but his ERA still stands out at 4.60. With a FIP at 4.10, he still stands to make more strides but his xFIP of 3.71 and strand rate of 68.3% also points to some more improvement.
- Don’t sleep on Matt Garza. By no means would I expect great things, but he could be a solid option down the stretch if you are looking to chase innings. In CBS leagues he is owned in just 23% of leagues, but he does have 2.70 ERA over his past three starts. Just keep in mind that you are playing with a little bit of fire and there is some risk involved. We are dealing with a pitcher 4.82 ERA and 1.44 WHIP on the season, there really is no other way to put it. I know it sounds like a contradiction, but this is the point of the season where every decision is amplified and, depending on your situation in the standings, Garza could be worth the gamble.
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