Another Friday means another installment of my two-start pitcher notes! Below are my thoughts on 12 projected two-start pitchers for next week. Be sure to listen to today’s podcast as Mike and Cory will run through all of these guys.
Matt Harrison (@NYY, @TOR)
A few weeks ago, who would have thought that Harrison would be a questionable call as a two-start pitcher? The Rangers’ lefty has been very inconsistent of late, recording just one quality start in his last four outings and registering a 5.55 ERA during this span. I’d play it safe and bench Harrison next week as he’ll face the Yankees and Blue Jays, who rank 3rd and 4th in the AL respectively in runs scored. The risk here outweighs the reward. Ditch.
Ryan Dempster (@NYY, @TOR)
It was nice to see Dempster bounce back after getting bombed by the Angels in his AL debut, but the jury is still out as to how well the career-long National Leaguer can adjust to the Junior Circuit, and by pitching him next week you’re simply playing with fire. Dempster still deserves a roster spot in most mixed leagues, but even in a 12-teamer I wouldn’t feel comfortable starting him. These are two very difficult matchups.
Mike Fiers (@COL, vs. PHI)
Fiers’ recent pitching can best be described by one word: dominant. The numbers jump off the page. He’s allowed a combined seven earned runs over his last nine starts while notching 61 strikeouts in 61 innings. The Phillies rank 13th in the NL in runs scored since the All-Star break and although Coors Field is always a tough place to pitch, keep in mind that Fiers is doing an excellent job limiting the longball, as he’s allowed just three homers in 80 total innings this season. Pitch.
Chad Billingsley (@PIT, @ATL)
This guy is so frustrating to own on a start-to-start basis but the overall numbers are solid and the career-low walk rate cannot be overlooked. The matchups here aren’t overly favorable but note that Billingsley has been a lot more effective on the road this year, as he sports a 3.57 ERA and 1.19 WHIP away from Dodger Stadium as opposed to a 4.12 ERA and 1.47 WHIP at home. And we know the strikeouts will be there. Look, he’s always a gamble, but this time he’s a worthy gamble.
Josh Beckett (@BAL, @NYY)
Let me start out by saying that from a fantasy standpoint, I’ve always felt that Beckett was overrated. We all know about the injury issues as it seems like he spends part of every season on the DL, but then there’s the consistency factor. Did you know that the last time Beckett posted a sub-4.00 ERA in back-to-back seasons was 2004-2005? And this is a pitcher who routinely gets drafted in the early rounds. Anyway, he’s been a big-time bust this year and I don’t like these matchups one bit. The Yankees roughed him up pretty good in the series right before the All-Star break and the Orioles’ lineup is no pushover. Chances are at least one of these starts will be disastrous. Ditch.
Wei-Yin Chen (vs. BOS, @DET)
Having allowed just seven earned runs combined over his first five starts since the All-Star break, Chen got torched by the Royals on Thursday. This will be a tough task as the Red Sox and Tigers are two of the best offenses in baseball, but Chen has had success against both teams this year. Still, I see little upside and a whole lot of downside in pitching him next week. Ditch.
Jeff Samardzija (vs. HOU, @CIN)
Samardzija has rebounded nicely from an awful month of June, posting a 2.58 ERA and 45-to-15 K/BB ratio since the beginning of July. I love the vs. HOU matchup and though the @CIN matchup scares me, Samardzija was lights out in his start at Great American Ballpark earlier this season (7 2/3 IP, 1 ER, 7 K). This one is a real toss-up as Samardzija is prone to the disaster start from time to time, so I think the choice really depends on where you stand in the ERA and WHIP categories. In 12-team mixed leagues, I’d lean towards pitching him, but if you want to sit this out I’m fine with that too.
Justin Masterson (@LAA, @OAK)
Masterson is so unpredictable but he is coming off a stellar performance at home vs. the Twins. That said, he’s a ditch for next week, and I wouldn’t think twice about it. The Angels are the hottest offense in the AL right now and while the @OAK matchup looks great on paper, the A’s rank 2nd in the Junior Circuit in home runs since the All-Star break. Not to mention Masterson’s extreme home/road splits this season, as he holds a 3.27 ERA at home as opposed to a 6.68 ERA on the road. Ditch.
Bartolo Colon (@KC, vs. CLE)
3-0 with a 0.00 ERA. These are Colon’s numbers over his last three starts, so why would you want to jump ship now? Sure, he’s bound to give up a run sooner or later, but I fully expect him to do well next week. The Indians are a sub-par offense and although the Royals’ lineup is decent, Colon was exceptional in his only other start against them this season (7 IP, 2 ER). Pitch.
Aaron Harang (@PIT, @ATL)
I’ve been recommending Harang a lot for two-start weeks as he’s always a safe bet to post a quality start and keep his team in the game. I’m not that high on him for next week, however. He’s 1-2 with a mediocre 4.75 ERA in five starts since the All-Star break, the Pirates are an OK but not great matchup and the Braves rank 2nd in the NL in runs scored this season. Harang is a viable start in NL-only leagues and a decent choice in deeper mixed formats. But in 12-team mixed leagues, I’m keeping him benched.
Clayton Richard (@ATL, vs. SF)
Fresh off a five-hit shutout vs. the Cubs, Richard might not even be available in your 12-team mixed league. But if he’s still on the wire, I’d definitely pick him up for this two-start week. In three starts since getting rocked by the Giants back on July 23rd, Richard has gone 2-0 with a 1.27 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. These aren’t the easiest of matchups as the Braves can put up runs and Richard has struggled against the Giants this season (0-3, 7.64 ERA in three starts), but Clayton is red-hot, and that’s the single most important reason why I’d pitch him.
Joe Kelly (vs. ARI, vs. PIT)
Kelly was emerging as a viable Pitch or Ditch option but he’s been terrible over his last two starts, allowing a combined seven earned runs and 19 hits in just 10 2/3 innings. For the time being, Kelly is strictly an NL-only play.
As promised by Mike on today’s podcast, here’s a breakdown of the K/BB ratio records that are being set this season. Enjoy!
(Courtesy of MLB Productions’ Roger Schlueter)
Thanks to the collective efforts of the 68 men who threw a pitch on Thursday (including R.A. Dickey, Ubaldo Jimenez and Jordan Zimmermann – who contributed 31 strikeouts and one walk), the Major League strikeout to walk ratio for 2012 now stands at 2.42. The last year to see the Major Leagues finish a season with a ratio that high also witnessed Charles Radbourn – better known as Old Hoss – win 59 games with 441 strikeouts and 98 walks for the Providence Grays. But the ability to connect 2012 with 1884 is only part of the storyline taking shape this season. As of right now, 12 qualifying pitchers – including Dickey and Zimmermann – own strikeout to walk ratios of at least four to one – no season in the modern era has ever finished with that many. And finally, with the performances of Dickey, Zimmermann and Jimenez, the 2012 season has seen 71 examples of a pitcher striking out at least 10 and issuing no more than one walk. Since MLB expanded to 30 teams in 1998, the high mark for this performance came last year, when there were 91 such lines. After games on August 9 last year, 59 of those 91 performances were in the books.
Buchholz @ Seddon
Hochevar @ M. Gonzalez – Miguel has been solid and KC is a choice matchup
F. Garcia @ Romero – Chief worth a gamble vs. struggling Jays in deeper leagues
Scherzer @ Feldman – bench but don’t cut Max, unless desperate for K’s
McCarthy @ Floyd – play it safe and bench but don’t cut B-Mac on his return
Hellickson @ De Vries
King Felix @ Big Erv
Bailey @ Germano – Bailey MUCH better on the road than at home
Volquez @ McDonald – J-Mac is fading and Volquez is DTM
Lohse @ Halladay
Maholm @ Harvey – Maholm worth a look in deeper leagues
Kershaw @ Buehrle
Rogers @ Norris
Strasburg @ Cahill
Chatwood @ Lincecum
Kuroda @ Fister – Kuroda has allowed ONE run in 5 day game starts. Wow.
Alvarez @ Moore
Doubront @ Jimenez – Doubront erratic but seemingly better on the road.
B. Chen @ W. Chen – double Chens! Get it?!
Johnson @ Dickey
Bumgarner @ Wainwright
Saunders @ Wandy – Saundo! Worth a look in deeper leagues.
Leake @ Volstad
Zimmermann @ Harrell – Harrell has a 2.02 ERA at home, 2.05 ERA since the All-Star break and 3.33 ERA in his last 11 starts.
Deduno @ Kluber – Deduno is getting it done and the Tribe are in free-fall… blue plate special!
Hughes @ Porcello
Beavan @ Britton – Beavan is strictly for at-home use
Dempster @ Lester – bench but don’t cut, x2
Happ @ Shields
B. Chen @ Peavy
Wilson @ Colon
Corbin @ Karstens – ride the Karstens train!
Minor @ Hamels
LeBlanc @ Niese
Detwiler @ Lyles – ride the Detwiler bus!
Cueto @ Fiers
Zito @ Lynn
TBD (CHC) @ Ohlendorf
White @ Harang – good at-home matchup vs. weak road team
King Felix @ Kuroda
Romero @ Griffin – Romero’s last outing was encouraging but I still don’t trust him, even against the A’s.
Feldman @ Smith – Feldman more of an AL-only/very deep mixed league option.
Jimenez @ Fister
Big Erv @ Floyd – Floyd 2 ER or less in five of his last six starts. Dangerous vs. LAA but worth a shot if you’re the gambling type.
W. Chen @ Hellickson
De Vries@ Buchholz
Saunders @ Halladay
Buehrle @ Zimmermann – Not giving up on Buehrle after rough outing @ATL.
Harrell @ Maholm – Maholm has been lights out since the All-Star break.
McDonald @ Leake – Leake awful at home this year and is coming off a stinker.
Rogers @ Wainwright
Bumgarner @ Francis
Hefner @ Volquez – I have faith in Volquez when he’s at home.
Volstad @ Kershaw
TBD (CLE) @ Scherzer
Iwakuma @ F. Garcia
Blackburn @ Beckett – Losing patience with Beckett but this is a great matchup.
M. Gonzalez @ Price
Haren @ Liriano – Tough test for Liriano but I’ll roll the dice.
Holland @ Hochevar – Holland too inconsistent to trust in any matchup right now.
Laffey @ Milone – Milone coming off a rare poor home start but I still consider him to be an automatic pitch @OAK.
Bedard @ Bailey – Sticking with Bailey once more at home but if he struggles here I’m not pitching him at home for awhile. Disaster alert for Bedard.
Cahill @ Lee
Norris @ Medlen – Norris’ last two starts have been solid.
Nolasco @ Strasburg – Nolasco is DTM.
Lincecum @ Friedrich – Only pitch Lincecum if you have a comfortable lead in ERA/WHIP.
Harvey @ Marquis – Outstanding matchup for Harvey.
Germano @ Harang – Harang a decent play vs. lower-tier offense.
Estrada @ Lohse
Nova @ Verlander – Nova too inconsistent.
Vargas @ Tillman – Seven straight quality starts for Vargas.
Diamond @ McAllister – Pitch or Ditch special!
Darvish @ Cook – Yu struggling lately though.
Mendoza @ Peavy
Weaver @ Parker
Sheets @ Worley – I’m lukewarm on Worley for this start but if you have him you might as well pitch him.
Miley @ Burnett
Jackson @ Keuchel
Arroyo @ Gallardo – Arroyo a decent pickup in deeper leagues thanks to his outstanding road numbers but there is considerable risk here.
Cain @ Westbrook – Westbrook just doesn’t excite me.
Wood @ K. Wells – Three of Wood’s last four outings have been disastrous.
Pomeranz @ Capuano
Just about an even balance of pitches and ditches this time. Here’s a list of 10 of the more interesting two-starters for next week along with my analysis and a final verdict. Be sure to listen to today’s podcast when it comes out later. Who knows, Mike and Cory might disagree with me on some of these.
Ivan Nova (@DET, @TOR)
Nova’s coming off a rocky July but his 5.97 ERA for the month is skewed by one disaster outing (5 IP 9 ER vs. BAL). Still, Ivan has been mired in inconsistency for most of the season, as June marked the only month during which he posted an ERA under 5.00. Not to mention the ugly 1.44 WHIP for the year. On the bright side, he’s considerably improved his strikeout rate from a year ago and the Yankees’ lineup will always put him in great position to rack up wins. Plus, Nova’s home/away splits this season are telling, as he sports a 6.16 ERA at home as opposed to a 3.32 ERA away from the Bronx. Still, I’d be very hesitant to pitch him for these matchups as I think there’s a good chance he puts up a stinker in at least one of these starts. In AL-only leagues and NFBC-style mixed formats, I might throw him out there. But in a 12-team mixed, I’m passing.
Phil Hughes (@DET, @TOR)
What’s not to like about the way Hughes is pitching of late? He’s now notched four straight quality starts and has lowered his ERA by close to two full runs since the beginning of June. He has the same two matchups as Nova but I’m simply more confident that he will avoid at least one disaster start. Pitch.
Jon Lester (vs. TEX, @CLE)
Lester needs to do more than just put up a 6 IP 4 ER line vs. the Yankees to fully earn back my trust. And despite the strong showing vs. the light-hitting Twins last night, let’s face it, the guy has been flat out awful all season. While the @CLE matchup is tempting, no way would I feel comfortable starting him vs. the Rangers, even though he’s at home. Keep in mind that Texas rocked Lester for seven runs in only two innings back in Aprill. And that start was at Fenway as well. Ditch.
Vance Worley (vs. ATL, vs. STL)
Talk about a fall from grace. Worley seems to have lost his mojo, though he did toss a seven inning gem vs. the Nats on Wednesday night. The Braves and Cardinals both rank in the top-5 in the NL in runs scored and Worley has pitched a lot better on the road than at home, so pitching Vance next week is risky. But as crazy as it might sound, I’d pitch him in a 12-team mixed. There’s something about that last start that makes me believe he’s beginning to right the ship.
Scott Diamond (@CLE, vs. TB)
If only Diamond was more consistent in the strikeout department, he would be a must-start in any two-start week. But with less than five strikeouts in five of his last six outings, his upside is limited. That said, he’s a safe choice to at least give you a decent performance, as he’s allowed more than four runs in just one of his 16 starts this season. Both of these matchups aren’t overly intimidating, so I’d take a chance and pitch him. Even if he picks up one win without seriously hurting your ratios, it’ll be worth it.
Jake Westbrook (vs. SF, @PHI)
A decent ERA, a so-so WHIP, more than a hit per inning and a miniscule strikeout rate. That’s what you’re getting with Westbrook, and this just doesn’t excite me. With the acquisition of Hunter Pence, the Giants’ lineup is actually pretty decent, and Citizens’ Bank Park is always a tough place to pitch, even if the Phillies’ offense isn’t nearly as dangerous as it was a few days ago. Ditch.
Bronson Arroyo (@MIL, @CHC)
As much as we like to bash Bronson, we can’t deny that his stat line this year, aside from a pedestrian strikeout rate, is solid. Did you know that Arroyo has pitched to a combined 3.08 ERA vs. the Brewers and Cubs this year and holds a 3.39 ERA and 1.10 WHIP through 11 road starts? Now you know! Pitch.
Zach McAllister (vs. MIN, vs. BOS)
Yeah, McAllister was mediocre vs. the Royals on Wednesday night, but it wasn’t an ERA/WHIP ruining performance. And let’s cut the guy some slack. He was coming off eight straight starts of three earned runs or less and still sports a nifty 8.17 K/9 rate for the season. And here’s an interesting nugget. The Red Sox and Twins rank next to last and last respectively in the AL in runs scored on the road. Pitch.
Barry Zito (@STL, vs. COL)
Love the second matchup but hate the first one. In fact, I hate the first one so much that I’m willing to give up the second one. By week’s end, best case scenario is that Zito’s numbers are mediocre. Ditch.
Ross Detwiler (@HOU, @ARI)
Detwiler’s poor performance at Milwaukee last week broke a string of three consecutive starts of three earned runs or less, but he bounced back nicely last night in tossing seven shutout innings vs. the Phillies. The strikeout rate is nothing to get excited about and these matchups aren’t ideal, but with a 3.02 ERA and 1.21 WHIP through 22 appearances (16 starts) this year, NL-only owners could do a lot worse. I might even try him out in deeper mixed leagues.
Masterson @ An. Sanchez – Masterson too inconsistent to pitch, but don’t cut
Millwood @ Sabathia
Hunter @ Moore
Duensing @ Doubront
Greinke @ Humber
Harrison @ Guthrie
Cecil @ Blackley – some of the shine came off Blackley last time out
TBD (MIA) @ Lannan (Gm 1 of doubleheader)
Johnson @ G. Gonzalez (Gm 2 of doubleheader)
Kennedy @ Blanton
Wandy @ Latos – those in a tight ERA/WHIP race might bench Wandy, but don’t cut
Galarraga @ Hudson
Wolf @ Kelly – 7 straight QS for the Cards’ rookie
Vogelsong @ J. Sanchez
Dickey @ Richard
Samardzija @ Billingsley – Billingsley is a toss-up, play it safe if needed
What better way to kick off the post-trade deadline phase of the season than to update our Pitch or Ditch chart.
A lot more demotions than promotions this time around as there has been a whole lot of lousy pitching of late. Hey, we even sent two guys to Club DTM!
Anyway, here are the changes we’ve made since the last version:
Sheets PoD to grad
McAllister PoD to grad
Beckett ace to grad
Shields ace to grad
Masterson grad to PoD
Worley grad to PoD
Norris grad to PoD
Jimenez PoD to DTM
Nolasco PoD to DTM
And once again, a reminder as to how the chart works:
We’ve divided all of the current starting rotation pitchers in the Majors into five groups: Aces, Grads (pitchers who should not be dropped and can be started almost all the time), Pitch or Ditch (guys who you should be picking up to start in favorable matchups but do not deserve a regular roster spot), DTMs (guys who we are fed up with and would not start under any circumstances for the time being) and Indifferents (guys who we don’t feel any ill-will towards but who just aren’t that good). Keep in mind that these classifications are very much subject to change throughout the season depending on performance. We’ll be updating the chart every other week. Also, we are basing this on a standard 12-team mixed league.
All comments are welcome!