by Ken Balderston
Streaming pitchers off the waiver wire can be a very effective way to add innings to your staff. Maybe you missed out on some of your end game pitchers in the draft, have run into a string of injuries or just want to take advantage of matchups. Here’s a look at some options owned in less than 50% of CBS leagues to help you gain an advantage this week:
To be considered in most leagues
Brandon McCarthy – Braves (vs. Phillies, 33% owned) A-
Long thought to be a solid starter when healthy, owners can take advantage as McCarthy is currently healthy and pitching effectively. In the past couple of years he has been part of a trend in the new MLB, reducing his fastball usage (about 44-48% this year and last, down from 60%+ in 2014-2016) and mixing in more breaking balls. This has resulted in a 3.31 ERA in ‘18, consistent with a 3.58 xFIP and a 1.29 WHIP.
McCarthy is matching up with a struggling team in the Phillies who are showing extreme splits (.829 home OPS vs .563 road OPS) and are striking out at a 31.4% clip on the road. Long term health is not a concern in a streaming context, as we’re only looking for one start, and this matchup is very enticing and can be considered even in shallow mixed leagues.
Some nice upside but also some risk
Brent Suter – Brewers (vs. Marlins, 15% owned) B
At first glance, something doesn’t add up with Brent Suter’s ownership rate. 15% owned in CBS leagues, despite a 3.42 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 12.3% KK%-BB% in 2017, why no love? Well, there’s also the very low 18.8% K% and a 7.05 K/9, doesn’t flash upside. Fortunately for those who are looking to stream pitchers he is matched up against the Marlins (get used to hearing that phrase this year). The Marlins were not expected to be a good team, and have so far proven that to be true ranking 26th in MLB with a .626 OPS (dead last in MLB .462 on the road). They’re also averaging a little over 3.5 runs scored a game, have hit only 7 HR this year and one of their best hitters (Justin Bour) struggles against lefties. One thing to keep in mind is JT Realmuto is working his way back from an injury and could possibly be active for this game. Injuries aside, the Marlins make for an appealing matchup against almost any pitcher, let alone one who has had moderate success in the past and is available in a large percentage of leagues.
Solid option but also a fair amount of uncertainty
Matthew Boyd – Tigers (vs. KC, 14% owned) C+
Boyd is off to a hot start in chilly Detroit, putting up a 1.38 ERA and 0.62 WHIP in two starts. The Royals offer an opportunity to ride that success, with an OPS vs. lefties of .653 (20th in MLB) and 27% K rate and 0 (zero) home runs in 125 AB against southpaws. We’re seeing Boyd reduce his fastball usage and is featuring his slider more (31.6% usage compared to about 10% the previous two seasons), and that could be leading to the 55.6% O-Contact% we’re seeing. However, he’s still using his curveball and changeup over 10% of the time each, giving him a 4-pitch mix to keep hitters guessing. A common theme in streaming is taking advantage of a strong matchup, but in this case we’re also able to grab a starter who has started hot which is the best of both worlds and makes for an enticing matchup.
Francisco Liriano – Tigers (vs. KC, 31% owned) C
A writeup for streaming Liriano can be tied to what’s written about Boyd above. Both are lefties and both have started hot (2.13 ERA & 0.95 WHIP for Liriano). Digging a little deeper into the matchup for Liriano, the chart below shows Lirano’s pitch locations so far this season, consistently burying the ball down and in to right handed hitters.
Moustakas is one matchup to monitor, as he hit 38 HR last year in spacious Kauffman Stadium, a Royals all time record. However, below is a Wiff % chart for Moustakas for his career, with fairly elevated numbers on pitches down and in, seemingly playing to Liriano’s strength:
Now I don’t think anyone is going to scream from the mountain top that the Royals have a formidable offense, as only Moustakas (.923 OPS) and Lucas Duda (.778 OPS) are sitting with an over .700 OPS on the season. If Liriano can neutralize Moustakas with the ball down and in, and Duda struggles against lefties in general, a lot of the punch could be taken out of an already weak lineup that is also missing Salvador Perez (who remains out with an MCL tear).
It’s early in the week so it’s hard to accurately project exactly what days pitchers will start, but Lirano and Boyd are currently projected to start a double header on Friday. An added bonus if they do is Ned Yost would be unlikely to play a full lineup of regulars in both games, meaning one or both of the Tigers starters should face members of the Royals bench. There’s a lot to like with both matchups.
Jhoulys Chacin – Brewers (vs. Marlins, 42% owned) C-
In the same matchup as Brent Suter, Chacin carries a little more strikeout potential (7.63 K/9 in 2017) but also a little less overall success in recent years (3.89 ERA last year with the Padres). Chacin is off to a bit of a rough start this year, with a 6.59 ERA in 3 starts, but this is in some part due to an elevated .327 BABIP when historically Chacin has kept batters around or below a .300 BABIP, and his HR/9 is also elevated to 1.98 (nearly double his career mark). This is another case of looking to take advantage of matchups against bad teams. He is in a situation where he’s due to normalize some measures that have led to some rough starts, and a visit from the Marlins just might do the trick.
Significant risk but also potential to put up a solid outing
Anibal Sanchez – Braves (vs. PHI, 3% owned) D+
Sanchez signed a minor league contract with the Braves in the offseason, an organization that (as I understand it) prioritizes teaching the changeup to it’s pitching prospects. Low and behold his usage of the changeup has jumped up to 26% in 2018 and has resulted in a 1.29 ERA, 9.00 K/9 and an impressive 11.2% SwStr% in starts in Colorado and Wrigley Field, as well as a 3 IP relief appearance against the Nationals. Even Sanchez’s GB% is back to similar levels (43%) when he had success in 2010-2014. In this matchup against the struggling Phillies we’ll hope to see him continue to feature the change up, as the only Philly to post a SLG% greater than .250 against the change up so far this season is Caesar Hernandez (.625). Even if he does allow a couple of runs, he should get plenty of run support as the Braves currently lead MLB with a .857 home OPS, maybe resulting in a W if he can get through 5 innings. Given he’s only owned in 3% of CBS leagues, and had to settle for a minor league contract in the offseason, we know Sanchez has struggled in recent years. He’s shown a glimmer of hope and is an interesting play in a strong streaming matchup.
Matt Moore – Rangers (at Rays, 15% owned) D
Matt Moore has been bad, there’s no getting around it, no way to deny it. 8.79 ERA, 6.57 K/9, 5.11 BB/9… not inspiring numbers. If we look a little deeper, some of the numbers suggest some bad luck so far this year. He’s living with an elevated .391 BABIP and a very low strand rate of 54.7%. Throughout his career he has pitched to a fairly low GB%, but so far in 2018 he’s only induced 25% of batted balls on the ground. Coupled with the 0.73 K%-BB% and it’s easy to see how Moore has gotten himself into trouble. How can he even be considered for a streaming start? Some of those numbers are unlucky, reflected in a 4.59 FIP. Another positive is he (so far) has cut his HR/9 almost in half from last year, currently sitting at 0.73. As bad as Moore has been, he’s facing a team who has been equally as bad. The Rays are dead last in baseball with a .501 OPS at home, and a 27% strikeout rate. Granted that’s only in 5 games, but it’s also an extremely low OPS and something to try to take advantage of.
We’ve ranked this start low since on the surface Moore has really struggled this year (against some tough offenses none the less), but if you want to gamble his underlying stats could normalize against a team who’s struggling offensively.
Options you might be considering but are not recommended
Kyle Freeland – Rockies (at Pirates, 7% owned) F
On the surface you might be considering Freeland who will be away from the dreaded Coors Field and has started the year with a healthy 15 strikeouts in 16 innings pitched. Looking deeper into the matchup the Pirates offense has also started hot, ranking 4th in MLB in home OPS with an .821 mark, and also 4th in MLB against lefties with a .847 OPS. While Freeland has started with a healthy number of strikeouts, his career major and minor league rates are closer to 6 K/9, and the Pirates are 28th in baseball with only 87 strikeouts this year. Assuming a pitcher will be successful outside of Coors can be dangerous, and in this matchup we’d worry what the Pirates are able to do when they inevitably put the ball in play.
Sources – Fangraphs, CBSsports, Brooksbaseball, baseball savant, MLB.com
Feel free to tweet me (@kenintoronto) for advice on any other pitching matchups or post the matchups in the comments below
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