We are getting to the nitty-gritty of the fantasy baseball playoffs and everyone is looking for any slight edge as we finish the final two weeks of the season. Two-start pitchers abound, but there is always risk and caution must be taken to not lose the delicate balance you have with your pitching staffs. Let’s take a look at what we have this week and make some tough calls.
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Two-Start Pitchers for the Week of September 13
Adam Wainwright @ New York Mets, vs. San Diego (15-7 2.98): The ageless wonder continues to surprise with 15 wins and an ERA south of 3.00. How long can he keep this up? Don’t know but enjoy the ride.
Nathan Eovaldi @ Seattle, vs. Baltimore (10-8 3.57, 171 Ks): He has continued to pitch well in September even though he has no wins to show for it. With the announcement that Chris Sale is on the Covid-IL, Eovaldi becomes the Red Sox ace again. That doesn’t matter to you; he’s got two juicy matchups this week in fantasy playoff baseball for many of us, and you should feel confident using him in both.
Wade Miley @ Pittsburgh, vs. Los Angeles Dodgers (12-5 2.89): Is there a bigger surprise in baseball this year than Miley? I kept waiting for the bottom to fall out but it never really has. Keep riding him. Still inducing soft contact (he’s 94the percentile in average exit velocity), he’s got a great matchup against Pittsburgh and one that scares you with the Dodgers. Miley bounced back last week after a tough outing the week before against the Cards in which he coughed up 12 hits and five runs. I would use him.
Lucas Giolito vs. Los Angeles Angels, @Texas (9-9 3.69): Giolito, if we are being honest, has been a mixed bag this year. You were hoping for more wins and more strikeouts than you have gotten from this high-round pick. These are good matchups for him, and I think he rebounds this week as he returns from injury, scheduled to go on Tuesday. Keep in mind in a return from injury he may have his innings or pitches limited; manager Tony La Russa has been mum on this so far.
Clayton Kershaw vs. Arizona, @ Cincinnati (9-7 3.39): Kershaw has not pitched since the July 4th weekend, but has been his old reliable self when healthy, with 127 strikeouts in 106 innings. The Dodgers need him down the stretch. It’s risky to use guys coming off the IL, but this is Clayton Kershaw, with a terrific track record, and you have to love that start against the Diamondbacks. Use him.
Gerrit Cole vs. Minnesota, vs. Cleveland (14-7 2.78): Will he make these starts? Word out of New York is that he will be good to go after leaving his last start with hamstring tightness. Let’s just face facts: now is not the time to get cute. With the Yankees fighting for their playoff lives, they are going to ride Cole and his 217 punchouts all the way home. You should too; do not get cute and overthink this. Run with him.
Frankie Montas @ Kansas City, @ Los Angeles Angels (12-9 3.57): As has been documented, Montas changed his pitch mix and it has been particularly effective for him. Good matchups here for a team fighting for a playoff chance. Start him.
Yu Darvish @ San Francisco, @ St. Louis (8-9 3.95): Darvish was better last time out, surrendering three hits and a run around seven strikeouts. He needs to be what the Padres paid up for last offseason if they hope to stay in the NL West and Wild Card hunt. Will he do it? Darvish is capable of carrying a team by himself if he gets hot and is healthy. Fantasy players certainly expected more from him this year, but the lure of the pennant race should up his game. Use him.
Logan Webb vs. San Diego, vs. Atlanta (9-3 2.64): Not to be flippant, but the Statcast page is red and and he continues to be amazing this year. Two good teams lie in wait for him this week, but pitching against good teams has not seemed to bother Webb all year. He’s give you worry-free innings all week. I would not stop using him now.
Anthony DeSclafani vs. San Diego, vs. Atlanta (11-6 3.33): How many players have been rooting for Tony Disco to become what he has been this year? One thing to keep in mind is that he does not strike out tons of guys (last five starts: 4, 1, 4, 5, 5), so you need to bake that into your analysis too. However in the last month he has surrendered three earned or less in five of his six starts. While not lights out, that is what you need here down the stretch: consistency. I would likely use him if I had him this week.
Shane McClanahan @ Toronto, vs. Detroit (9-5 3.59): McClanahan has truly started to come into his own this year for a Rays’ team that always finds pitching. He’s 90th percentile in fastball velocity and 87th percentile in whiff rate, but surrenders quite a bit if hard contact when he gets hit. Until last week, he has not given up more than three earned runs since the first week of June. And after he had that mediocre start against Boston, he bounced back with five shutout innings…against Boston. I would feel good using him this week despite my fear of Vladito in the middle of that Toronto lineup.
Sandy Alcantara @ Washington, vs. Pittsburgh (8-13 3.24): I love this guy and I know many of you do as well. Sandy went nine innings in his last start, striking out a whopping 14 batters…and did not get a win. Two starts before that, he had 12 Ks. The only lamentable thing about Alcantara: pitches his butt off and doesn’t get the win. He has really come into his own this year and should be on everyone’s radar for next season. I will definitely be using him for those counting stats and ratios this week.
There are some really decent two-start options here, but as always, there is a level of risk. How much risk can you tolerate? This level is sure to cause some debate this week. Remember it’s just my opinion and you are entitled to yours, obviously. Some of these two-start guys could pay dividends or disembowel you. Use caution.
Merrill Kelly @ Los Angeles Dodgers, @ Houston (7-9 4.30): Kelly is one of those starters I always vacillate on. Almost always on the waiver wire, you think about spot-starting him based on his overall body of work, and then he coughs up 11 hits and five runs with two strikeouts, and your week is ruined. These matchups do not bode well on paper for him this week. While many will use him and feel ok about it, I will pass. I put him middle shelf because many players smarter than me will make a better argument for using him, while I look at the opponents and pass this week.
Aaron Civale @ Minnesota, @ New York Yankees (10-3 3.25): Civale came back from the IL last week and gave us almost five innings of three hit ball and six strikeouts against the Twins, who he gets again this week. He’s not going to help much with Ks (20.9%) but limits walks well. I know there are many flaws with xERA, but it is a full run higher at 4.24 than his actual ERA. Be careful. I would use him but keep expectations in check while hoping for wins.
Jon Gray @ Atlanta, @ Washington (7-10 4.18): I feel as if Gray does not always get the respect I feel he deserves. The record and ERA look mediocre. But he’s averaging a strikeout per inning, and his xERA is nearly a half-run lower than his actual. Tough luck? Maybe, but in reality, he has been far better at home (3.79 ERA) than on the road (4.68 ERA). Both of these are on the road. You like the Washington matchup, but not the Atlanta game. If you have daily lineups using him against Washington would be ok. Tough call here, and I would not fault you either way.
Nestor Cortes Jr. @ Baltimore, vs. Cleveland (2-2 2.67): Cortes is a 36th round draft pick that is paying huge dividends this summer for the Yankees. He is pitching deeper into games and helping teams with a few more strikeouts even though he only has two wins in ten starts for the Bronx Bombers this year. That being said, looks like he could add two wins fairly easily this week just by pitching as he has been. Cortes is about league average in K% (25.8) and limits walks. Good guy to use this week in the back end of your rotation.
Kyle Gibson vs. Chicago Cubs, @ New York Mets (10-6 6.29): I used Gibson as a revelation early in the season, but he has not been good lately; 9.90 ERA in September, granted a small sample size, but he has been prone to getting blown up every third or fourth start. But, on the flip side (and there almost is one, right?), he gets two starts against beatable competition this week, despite the recent flourish on the North Side for the Cubs. I’m edging towards using him despite the risk. He was 4-2 with a 3.16 ERA in August, but only 22 Ks in 37 innings. If you have better, use them, but I will have little choice but to use him this week but feel kind of ok about it based on matchups.
Logan Gilbert vs. Boston, @ Kansas City (5-5 5.10): After three dud starts in a row in August, many dropped Gilbert and moved on. However, small sample size, granted, he’s got nine Ks in nine September innings, with a 1.93 ERA, and has two decent matchups this week. Do you trust him? Crapshoot here, and if you roll the dice, you never know what can happen. I tend to be more conservative in my starts down the stretch. Can see an argument for starting him here, and it depends on your league context.
A.J. Alexy vs. Houston, vs. Chicago White Sox (2-0 0.00): True and I feel funny story. I have had my son Jack helping me compile stats for this weekly piece, in order to help him learn more about the game he is becoming addicted to. When looking at Alexy he said, “Whoa…is this guy the best pitcher in baseball? I have never heard of him.” I responded with, “Who does he have this week?” Jack: “Houston and the Sox.” Me: “Well that ERA is about to jump big-time.” That being said, he has done well in the minors this year, but do you risk your season on a mid-level prospect against two potentially explosive offenses? Maybe you do, and I admire you if you do, but I do not take this risk.
Alek Manoah vs. Tampa Bay, vs. Minnesota (5-2 3.71): Manoah has run on harder times lately and has been moved to many waiver wires. Do you believe in a bounce-back this week? The walks have been up but driving the one-run spike in ERA since mid-August are really two bad outings. I say that because I think he may deserve to be on your roster especially with the paucity of guys out there. I snatched him up in one league and will use him this week.
These are risks that largely I would not be willing to take, but depend on the level of desperation and need.
Touki Toussaint vs. Colorado, @ San Francisco (3-2 4.11): I like Touki, but you are not going to get what you need from his stats when he only goes three innings. Pass.
E. Rodriguez @ Seattle, vs. Baltimore (11-8 5.15): Another gem from Jack: “How does this guy have 11 wins when his ERA is that high?” Good question, buddy. The159 Ks help you out, but the ratios do not. Giving me pause: these matchups. Boston is fighting for their playoff lives and has been decimated by Covid and ineffectiveness. Truth be told I have not been a fan of ERod and I will not stake my potential fantasy titles on his back. However astute fantasy players could use him this week and get sneaky wins and Ks. Up to you. He’s not for me.
Wandy Peralta Vs. Milwaukee, @ Tampa Bay (3-3 3.60): The guy is a master of limiting hard contact (95% percentile in average exit velocity), but has done this in a setup role. Now he gets two starts this week, allegedly, and you can bet the house he won’t go enough innings to allow you to get the benefit. Pass.
Jake Odorizzi @ Texas, vs. Arizona (6-7 4.28): He gives you about five innings per start and few strikeouts. I probably need to take a deeper dive and find out what I have against Odorizzi. I shrivel my nose up every time I read his name. Yet he’s got a rotation spot for one of the best teams in the game. Good matchups this week too. Just know what you are getting, which is average at best most starts.
Packy Naughton @ Chicago White Sox, vs. Oakland (0-1 2.57): Besides having a great name, what else does Naughton have? He sounds like a sailor or something of that sort. It’s hard to say. But he only has two MLB starts under his belt, and only shows us a 14.5 K% going into matchups with two offenses that can put up runs in a hurry. Pass.
Rich Hill vs. St. Louis, vs. Philadelphia (6-6 3.82): I love Hill more in real life than fantasy baseball. Love guys nearly as old as me still getting it done. Here is what you are going to get most times: about five innings, a handful of strikeouts (maybe more if the curveball is really biting that day), and no walks. Sounds ok, right? But he’s also prone to giving up home runs in bunches. I could see using him at the back end of your rotation this week, but I hope to have better options, and will likely pass. The risk feels high here.
Drew Rasmussen @ Toronto, vs. Detroit (2-1 3.24): If you’re anything like me (and let’s hope you are not), you are always intrigued by Tampa Bay pitchers. Rasmussen has been great at limiting runs and damage in his handful of late summer starts but does not go long enough in most games to get you a win or too many counting stats. Love the idea of him, but I need more this week.
I cannot see using these guys (maybe Gant if desperate) for anything this week.
Adrian Sampson @ Philadelphia, @ Milwaukee (0-2 2.20): xERA of 5.74? Get a couple of innings, a couple of strikeouts. Not enough bang for your buck. Pass.
John Gant @ New York Yankees, @ Toronto (5-9 3.78): I have little confidence in him.
Jake Arrieta @ San Francisco, @ St. Louis (5-12 7.03): As Jack was helping me gather stats for this piece, he said, “why is this guy getting starts? Is he the worst starter in baseball?” The kid isn’t wrong. There is nothing to recommend here.
S. Nolin vs. Miami, vs. Colorado (0-2 5.60): Nah.
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