Two Start Pitchers for the Week of August 26: Pineda Party
From a top-end evaluation of this week, the casual observer can see it is top-heavy. There are a significant number of elite arms going paired up against equally elite matchups. However, once we delve into the tiers of two-start pitchers below the lines start to blur. The better arms have the tough matchups and many of the average arms are balancing elite matchups with terrible ones. Weeks like this can make or break and owner especially this late into the season.
Below I stake my claims on the two-start pitchers I want to be relying on as I make my late standings or playoff push. As always these matchups are subject to change and others are likely to emerge as two-start pitchers themselves. For any questions as well as two start versus one start options feel free to reach out on Twitter. Best of luck this week!
For more help this week, check out Nathan Dokken’s updated Top 100 Starting Pitching Rankings.
Two-Start Pitchers Tiers:
No Doubt – These are the guys who you do not even need to think about placing in your lineup regardless of match-up. This will typically be the smallest tier and I won’t provide much commentary on them.
Should Starts – These are the pitchers with solid match-ups or above-average pitchers with slightly tougher match-ups. If you own them start them.
Proceed With Caution – These arms have difficult match-ups or just aren’t very good and as a result, should only be started if you have no other options.
No -These guys should stay far away from your lineup no matter how desperate you are at the moment as they could end up destroying your ratios.
Note: the order within the tiers is not as important as the tier itself.
Two-Start Pitchers for the Week of August 26:
Buehler has been pitching like an ace on a team full of aces. The Dodgers have one of the best staffs in all of baseball and the fire-balling righty leads the pack. He gets two road starts this week but faces offenses that have been well below-average over the last 30 days. His powerful offense should get him a chance at two wins.
Any time a two-start week contains the Astros it is bit concerning. Their powerful offense has not missed a beat all season, pairing nice K rates with elite production. However, if you own Morton there is no way you are benching him as he may be the AL CY Young winner.
Castillo has some of the most purely impressive stuff in all of baseball. If you do not believe me go check out what he did to Francisco Mejia his last start. Both matchups are against struggling offenses who like to strikeout. He might be the best play on the whole slate.
This week I decided to change up things and focus a little more heavily on the last 30 days when evaluating offenses. This led me to realize the struggles the Angels offense has been experiencing. Against lefties, they have the fifth-highest K rate with the Mariners right behind. They also have one of the lowest wRC+ values against lefties in all of baseball. The Mariners are an elite offense against lefties so this could be a bit risky but if someone is chasing Ks Minor needs to be in your lineup.
I am willing to bet that for the casual fan, Nola has been worse than expected going into the year but likely better than the coverage of him has made it seem. The Ks are up slightly but so are the walks. The happy fun ball has “ruined” his season. As ruined as a 3.5 ERA can be. Two starts at home are concerning with the relatively small homer issues he’s had, but he gets to pair a hot offense in the Mets with an ice-cold one in the Pirates.
Somehow, every week I end up with Cole being slated for a two-start week. Not sure how or why it keeps happening but quite frankly, don’t be stupid. Just start the man no matter what.
If Castillo is not the best start of the two-start pitchers on the slate, it is his teammate Sonny Gray. All the beautiful things said about the matchups Castillo has also apply here as well. Being reunited with his college pitching coach has done wonders for Gray who has managed to maintain his walk and homer rates while drastically improving his K numbers. Anyone who took a chance on Gray this offseason is being rewarded handsomely. He may be one of the best bargains in all of fantasy baseball.
This Stroman pick comes with a caveat. The right-hander left his last start hurt so there’s a chance he gets pushed back or skipped entirely. However, with the Mets being the Mets and a playoff push currently happening they may not exercise as much caution as you might expect. He has a tough matchup set but he has just been way too good for you not to use him this week unless you definitively hear he’ll be moved back.
When the Royals traded their catcher for Montgomery many were left to wonder why. Overall, the move did not make much sense as many thought the Royals should have taken a chance on a lottery ticket prospect. Since the trade Montgomery has been solid but not elite. He has a decent set of matchups lined up for this week with a small K boost. He may be a riskier play but the entire slate falls under that limited umbrella.
To be honest there is not much I love about Mike Fiers, the aesthetic of his pitching does not jump out to me. He gets a rough Yankee matchup and a cookie Royals pairing. I am going to take my chances here and hope he can pull out a quality start against the Yankees to make this all worth it.
Giolito is finally hitting the hype and expectation that once made him a top prospect in baseball. The K rate has almost doubled and the walks have come down to a more manageable number. He has looked every bit like an ace. However, this is a miserable pair of matchups with both offenses placing in the top 10 by wRC+. He would be a no-doubt option if there was a small improvement in the matchups. He may even deserve the ranking regardless.
Going into the season I was in love with Marquez. The stuff was electric and I was willing to look past Coors. Well, that’s been pretty foolish as Coors has once again won. Marquez has too much talent to sit and he has the ability to pull off a truly dominant performance against anyone anywhere. Two home starts make it rough but luckily one is the lowly Pirates.
Much like Sonny Gray, Darvish has been a huge value pick for his owners. The overall numbers do not look anywhere near as pretty due to a miserable start to the season. However, Darvish has been a valuable source of strikeouts, especially over the past month. Homers are still an issue but this week he gets two teams closer to average in the power department. I like his chances of a strong week.
Maeda has been a fairly boring option since coming to the Dodgers but boring does not mean bad. He tends to be in the high 3.00’s low 4.00’s in terms of ERA with a 9-10 K/9 and this season is no different. The Padres strike out a ton and the Diamondbacks are much more contact-oriented of late. This is a fairly neutral matchup but the two teams have below-average offenses which means Maeda should walk out on top at least once this week.
The Marlins have built a fairly formidable pitching staff topped by Smith. The lefty combines high-end K numbers with average control and poor homer management. However, overall it has led to a pretty damn good season. He gets two teams that in name seem to be much more dangerous than they actually are. Both are just below average against left-handers in the past 30 days and have decent but not awe-inspiring in either direction K numbers. Smith has been excellent and his savvy owners will be happy to play him this week.
Keller is another guy with a pitch to contact approach that has been making it work in 2019. Luckily for him he gets two home tilts with a small strikeout boost. He likely will not take advantage of it but if he can, this could be an extremely positive week for Keller owners. The issue is the Royals are so terrible that I am not sure it is worth hoping for any win help.
Spotlight Arm – Michael Pineda
For fans of the Sleeper and the Bust podcast from Fangraphs, it may be impossible to think of Pineda and not call him Pinata. The hosts (mainly Paul Sporer) used to call him that when he would get smacked around like the party prop. For years Pineda has paired what appears to be elite stuff with miserable results. However, he has always been an ERA estimator favorite. His ability to generate Ks and limit walks made him a perennial under-performer. The main issue has always been the long-ball and this season is no different.
Overall, the K numbers have regressed however, the underlying swinging strike rate suggests no major changes outside of 2016, his best season in terms of strikeout rate. The main issue for Pineda has always been a lack of any good pitch outside of his slider. He has tended to have good results with the slider but poor results with his fastball and pretty much neutral results from the changeup, his third most heavily used pitch. Weirdly enough, the slider has been worse this year and the fastball while slower has been more effective. This has led to him throwing fewer sliders and more changeups and fastballs.
Looking just at the numbers it appears that Tommy John has not truly changed Pineda all that much outside of making his fastball velocity drop a bit. This could be a function of rust or could be by design but it appears at least on the surface to be working. If he can get his slider results to follow while keeping the better fastball this could be a massive boost to his overall value. The results we have all been hoping for might finally materialize.
This week though Pineda has about as favorable a set of matchups as one could hope for. The Tigers and White Sox are bad strikeout prone offenses and as a result, I am firing up Pineda everywhere I own him.
PROCEED WITH CAUTION:
Teheran is possibly one of the least reliable pitchers in fantasy and he could ruin a week without hesitation. While the White Sox matchup is a nice one I do not want to deal with a road trip to Coors Field.
Paddack has been a revelation for the Padres and lived up to every bit of the hype that surrounded him. He gets a nice matchup at Oracle but the Dodgers matchup scares me enough as well as some possible inning restrictions that I want to temper my expectations for him this week.
Outside of his homer problems Mikolas does not look much different in 2019 than he did in 2018. He pitches to contact does not walk anyone and gets about half the balls in play on the ground. The results are much worse, likely due to the increase in his homers allowed. He gets two mid-tier offenses in terms of power making this a bit risky. I do not want to have to trust him this week.
Much like Teheran Porcello is not good enough for me to tempt fate and to play him in Coors. The former CY Young award winner has been terrible for the Red Sox and for fantasy owners. Let someone else deal with it this week.
In typical Yankee fan fashion, they have soured on Happ quicker than milk left on the counter. The lefty is getting killed by the long ball and is making the team regret they re-signed him this offseason. The matchups this week are poor and ones I want to avoid.
Without much of the fanfare that has surrounded is teammate Paddack, Quantrill has been excellent in 2019. Low walks, average-ish strikeouts, and a decent home run suppression has led to a very good rookie campaign. There is some BABIP and LOB luck here but nothing insane. If I do not feel comfortable with Paddack I cannot recommend Quantrill who is just a little bit worse.
Both Leake and Gio Gonzalez have an average matchup and poor one lined-up. Both pitchers do very little that interests me but if I had to make a choice I prefer the slightly higher K-rates on Gonzalez. Both are better than some other two-start pitchers on this slate but you should not bend over backwards to get them into your lineup.
Plutko has a nice matchup this week with the Tigers but his pitching style is not particularly exciting for our purposes. If you really need wins you could do worse than him this week.
Beede’s inclusion is entirely about the matchups as he has one of the better pairings of the slate. A strong stretch has made his numbers look more horrible than abysmal but the matchups this week are nice enough where he is worth taking a chance.
Are you down with Paul’s two-start pitchers? For more great analysis check out all of our fantasy baseball content.
Paul Mammino is a former collegiate baseball player turned fantasy writer. He joined Fantrx HQ in 2019 and writes for a number of different places including Sportsline and Friends With Fantasy Benefits. He focuses on two-start pitchers for Fantrax but is also extremely interested in relief pitching which he covers for Sportsline.
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