by Ray Kuhn
This week we are light on options, but that just means that finding the right pitcher making two starts gives you an even bigger advantage. Let’s take a look at how those options rank:
- Chris Sale – Boston Red Sox – at Tampa Bay; vs. Atlanta
- Gerrit Cole – Houston Astros – vs. San Francisco; at Cleveland
- Zack Greinke – Arizona Diamondbacks – at Milwaukee; at Oakland
- Trevor Bauer – Cleveland Indians – at Chicago Cubs; vs. Houston
- Jose Berrios – Minnesota Twins – vs. Detroit; at Seattle
- Masahiro Tanaka – New York Yankees – at Texas; vs. LA Angels
- Miles Mikolas – St. Louis Cardinals – vs. Kansas City; at Pittsburgh
- Kevin Gausman – Baltimore Orioles – at Chicago White Sox; at Tampa Bay
- Jameson Taillon – Pittsburgh Pirates – at Cincinnati; vs. St. Louis
- Mike Foltynewicz – Atlanta Braves – at Philadelphia; at Boston
- J.A. Happ – Toronto Blue Jays – vs. LA Angels; at Philadelphia
- Trevor Cahill – Oakland A’s – vs. Seattle; vs. Arizona
- Nick Pivetta – Philadelphia Phillies – vs. Atlanta; vs. Toronto
- Jordan Lyles – San Diego Padres – at Washington; at LA Dodgers
- Bartolo Colon – Texas Rangers – vs. New York Yankees; vs. Kansas City
- Andrew Cashner – Baltimore Orioles – at Chicago White Sox; at Tampa Bay
- James Shields – Chicago White Sox – vs. Baltimore; at Detroit
- Jake Faria – Tampa Bay Rays – vs. Boston; vs. Baltimore
- Mike Leake – Seattle Mariners – at Oakland; vs. Minnesota
- Chase Anderson – Milwaukee Brewers – vs. Arizona; vs. New York Mets
- Doug Fister – Texas Rangers – vs. New York Yankees; vs. Kansas City
- Ian Kennedy – Kansas City Royals – at St. Louis; at Texas
- Jason Vargas – New York Mets – vs. Miami; at Milwaukee
- German Marquez – Colorado Rockies – at LA Dodgers; vs. Cincinnati
- Elieser Hernandez – Miami Marlins – at New York Mets; vs. Washington
- Jason Hammel – Kansas City Royals – at St. Louis; at Texas
- Zack Wheeler – New York Mets – vs. Miami; at Milwaukee
- Matt Harvey – Cincinnati Reds – vs. Pittsburgh; at Colorado
- Hector Santiago – Chicago White Sox – vs. Baltimore; at Detroit
- Ryan Carpenter – Detroit Tigers – at Minnesota; vs. Chicago White Sox
- The strikeout totals we are seeing from Gerrit Cole are just absurd. To say that the right-hander, almost single handily, is helping fantasy owners dominate the strikeout category is undeniable. Cole was always a talented pitcher but he has truly taken a huge step this season and we have seen a drastic change in approach and it’s hard to argue with the results as he has a 1.75 ERA (1.96 FIP and 2.35 xFIP) to go along with a 0.75 WHIP. His most recent start, against the Angels, was his worst of the season but he still struck out seven batters in five innings while allowing three runs on five hits and two walks. He has struck out just over 10 batters per start (93 in 61.2 innings), while only walking 2.04 batters per nine innings. It isn’t often that trading ground balls (45.8% to 29.9%) for fly balls (33.7% to 47%) is successful, but it is clearly working. The change makes sense considering he has all but abandoned his less successful sinker (18.1% to 5.3%) for each of his other pitches. With two starts Cole is a true difference maker.
- We can’t argue with the talent, but it really has been a 50/50 proposition for Jose Berrios. What we saw in his last start against the Cardinals is believable, and it’s also what keeps us on the hook, as he struck out 10 while allowing just one run on two hits and a walk over 7.1 innings. The fact that he starts the week off against the Tigers is a good thing, and he gets to the face the Mariners, without Robinson Cano, in his second start. Overall, Berrios has a 4.05 ERA (3.76 FIP, 3.67 xFIP) with a WHIP of just 0.96, and in three of his other starts he has gone a minimum of seven innings while allowing either zero or one run. In the other five starts he has allowed a minimum of four runs. He is walking just 1.69 batters per nine innings and we need to see more of the pitcher who generated 16 swing and misses in his last start.
- After his first start of the season things have been going pretty well for Kevin Gausman, at least until his most recent start in Boston. Prior to that point he hadn’t allowed more than three runs in a start, but against the Red Sox, he had some struggles. It was a mixed bag for the right-hander as he allowed runs in both the first and fifth innings, while throwing three scoreless innings in between. All told he allowed six runs on eight hits and two walks, but he did strikeout six. Overall Gausman has a solid 3.88 ERA, but with a WHIP of 1.28 WHIP and his walks have dropped from 3.42 per nine innings to 2.26. In facing the White Sox and Rays things are looking good.
- Don’t do it. At least not this week. Yes Matt Harvey used to be a stud, but now he is reduced to waiver wire fodder. After being discarded by the Mets Harvey is owned in just 37% of CBS leagues and there is good reason for that. The right-hander hasn’t been the same pitcher and his strikeouts are down while his velocity and stuff have been diminished. Somewhere there is a solid pitcher left in there, he just needs to harness that. In his first start with the Reds Harvey allowed just one hit in four innings, but he only struck out two batters. He followed that up by allowing three runs in four innings on seven hits. His 6.17 ERA should scare you off, but his 5.06 FIP and 4.36 xFIP represent some cause for optimism. This is not the week to take the chance as Harvey travels to Coors Field for his second start.
- There is some value in Trevor Cahill. It may sound crazy but it is reflection of both the current state of pitching and also how good Cahill has been in his five starts this season. The right-hander is striking out 9.93 batters per nine innings while only walking 2.17 batters per nine innings. Not only is he striking batters out at a high rate and limiting free passes, but he is also keeping the ball on the ground; 61.4%. While his BABIP of .271 is on the lower side, Cahill’s 3.01 FIP and 2.50 xFIP show that we can expect the success to last.
- Another pitcher of that ilk, but who has certainly struggled this season, is Jason Vargas. After breaking his non-pitching hand this spring he has struggled (a massive understatement). After being skipped last week he makes his return to the rotation with two starts. Vargas allowed nine runs in his first start, which was followed by six runs, and then four runs in Cincinnati. While Vargas has yet to be a fantasy asset this season, he has at least improved. There isn’t much that looks good, especially his 13.86 ERA, but his 8.90 FIP and 6.39 xFIP at least look better (though still ugly). Vargas has had to deal with a .447 BABIP, so that can only improve, but he also needs to decrease his 5.11 walks per nine innings while generating more than a 32% ground ball rate. With his first start coming against the Marlins, followed by a start in Milwaukee, there is a good chance we see a rebound. To get there you have to stomach some risk.
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