Two-Start Pitchers 2016: August 29 – September 4: Are There Any Gambles Worth Taking?

by Ray Kuhn

As crazy as it may sound, with this week we are entering September. While that means we are in the home stretch of the baseball season, it also means that rosters are expanding. We likely have another week, until the minor league season is complete, before we see lineups otherwise associated with Grapefruit League games but it is something to keep in mind when evaluating pitchers. Let’s take a look at who is taking the mound twice this week and how they rank. Don’t get too excited though, as the comfort level does fall off quickly:

Tier One:

  1. Jake Arrieta – Chicago Cubs – vs. Pittsburgh; vs. San Francisco
  2. Jose Fernandez – Miami Marlins – at NY Mets; at Cleveland
  3. Johnny Cueto – San Francisco Giants- vs. Arizona; at Chicago Cubs
  4. Yu Darvish – Texas Rangers – vs. Seattle; vs. Houston

Tier Two:

  1. Carlos Martinez – St. Louis Cardinals – at Milwaukee; at Cincinnati
  2. Kyle Hendricks – Chicago Cubs – vs. Pittsburgh; vs. San Francisco
  3. Rick Porcello – Boston Red Sox – vs. Tampa Bay; at Oakland

Tier Three:

  1. Hisashi Iwakuma – Seattle Mariners – at Texas; vs. LA Angels
  2. Kenta Maeda – LA Dodgers – at Colorado; vs. San Diego
  3. Trevor Bauer – Cleveland Indians = vs. Minnesota;vs. Miami
  4. Tanner Roark – Washington Nationals – at Philadelphia; at NY Mets
  5. Julio Teheran – Atlanta Braves – vs. San Diego; at Philadelphia

Tier Four:

  1. Matt Shoemaker – LA Angels – vs. Cincinnati; at Seattle
  2. Michael Pineda – New York Yankees – at Kansas City; at Baltimore

Tier Five:

  1. Jon Gray – Colorado Rockies – vs. LA Dodgers; vs. Arizona
  2. Dan Straily – Cincinnati Reds – at LA Angels; vs. St. Louis
  3. Joe Musgrove – Houston Astros – vs. Oakland; at Texas
  4. Tom Koehler – Miami Marlins – at NY Mets; at Cleveland
  5. Matt Boyd – Detroit Tigers – vs. Chicago White Sox; at Kansas City
  6. Sean Manaea – Oakland A’s – at Houston; vs. Boston
  7. Dillon Gee – Kansas City Royals – vs. NY Yankees; vs. Detroit
  8. Zach Davies – Milwaukee Brewers – vs. St. Louis; at Pittsburgh
  9. Seth Lugo – New York Mets – vs. Miami; vs. Washington

Tier Six:

  1. James Shields – Chicago White Sox – at Detroit; at Minnesota
  2. Wade Miley – Baltimore Orioles – vs. Toronto; vs. NY Yankees
  3. Hector Santiago – Minnesota Twins – at Cleveland; vs. Chicago White Sox
  4. Matt Andriese – Tampa Bay Rays – at Boston; vs. Toronto
  5. Edwin Jackson – San Diego Padres – at Atlanta; at LA Dodgers
  6. Jake Thompson – Philadelphia Phillies – vs. Washington; vs. Atlanta
  7. Anthony Ranuado – Chicago White Sox – at Detroit; at Minnesota

Notes:

  • Don’t fear that Kenta Maeda has been sent to the minor leagues. It is simply a temporary move allowing the Dodgers to add another reliever for the weekend, and the right-hander will be back on the mound Monday. Additionally the move serves to give Maeda a few extra days of rest, which is a prudent move. He last pitched August 23 and while he earned the victory (his 13th of the season), it was a struggle for him to get through five innings of work (103 pitches and 3 ER). After walking just four batters in his previous six starts, and just 2.48 per nine innings this season, Maeda walked four Giants in that start. So far it’s hard to argue with his performance, as he gets by more on smarts and knowing how to pitch than just sheer stuff. He sports a 3.37 ERA on the season with just a 1.10 WHIP, but his 4.50 ERA in the second half does present a little concern. However Maeda’s xFIP’s in the two halves (3.76 and 3.95) are pretty close as is his WHIP (1.09 and 1.13). Home runs have been the main culprit, 0.87 per innings in the first half which has risen to 1.66. Pitching in Coors Field, it’s something to watch despite his past success there.
  • Is Tanner Roark slowing down? Even though each start becomes increasingly magnified the later in the season we get, I would not be concerned about the right-hander. In his last start, against the Orioles, his streak of five straight starts of at least 6.1 innings and three earned runs or less came to end (he allowed four runs on seven hits and three walks in five innings of work). Overall he has been a very solid starter this season, pitching to a 2.99 ERA and 1.19 WHIP with 13 victories on the season. The one downfall is that he only has 134 strikeouts in 168.1 innings, but with his two starts this week there are no issues there. His 3.80 FIP says that he is pitching over his head a little bit, but he has remained consistent (his ERA’s have ranged from 2.03 in April to a high of 3.56 in June).
  • Are we really going to advocate for Dan Straily this week? In his last three starts he has a 2.08 ERA with 3 Wand 18 Kin 17.1 innings. On the season he has actually been quite respectable posting a 10-6 record with a 3.57 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. Straily is two thirds of an inning away from having a streak of seven straight quality starts, and perhaps at age 27 he is finding his groove.  He has benefited from a .235 BABIP, which has been consistently low all season, and he has staggering 96.8% strand rate in the second half of the season. To his credit, he also lowered his walk total (from 4.00 per nine innings to 1.44), but he is nothing more than a back-end option this week as you don’t know when the correction will come. However, it is hard to justify leaving him on your bench this week given his recent success.
  • For all of the success Jon Gray had earlier in the season, it is getting quite difficult to go back to him. Well that is certainly the case if you look at his 7.53 ERA over his last three starts, but at this point you should know that there is more to it than that. Prior to Gray’s last start against the Brewers, you can’t argue that that he was quite cold (18 earned runs allowed in 12 innings). However before that, he had allowed just two runs in 19 innings of work and rebounded by holding the Brewers to two runs over six innings. Gray’s rough stretch saw his ERA rise from a respectable 3.85 up to 4.76. The right-hander was also hindered by .382 BABIP in August and his ERA at home is a run higher than on the road (5.11 to 4.18). You have to like the strikeouts he brings, 142 in 132.7 innings, but his two starts at home could be a little tough to stomach depending on your ERA situation.
  • If you are looking for a surging pitcher who could likely be available in your league, then Matt Boyd warrants a look. As of Saturday evening he was owned in just 54% of CBS leagues despite his recent string of success, 1.89 ERA in his last three starts. Is he someone you are willing to trust down the stretch? While you might not have much of a choice depending on your situation, looking elsewhere might be in your best interest. Boyd has a problem with the long ball, 1.6 per nine innings (although that is an improvement from 2.7 last season). To go along with his 3.98 ERA so far this season, he has a 4.78 FIP in 15 games (13 starts).

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