DOUBLE DIPPIN': August 5-11

With just eight weeks left in the season, it's time to take a close look at all of the categories in roto leagues, and decide where you need to focus most of your attention in free agency and in setting lineups. Ratios can still change pretty quickly, and it's too early to start picking up just anyone with two starts, but if it looks like a lot of ground can be made up in wins and strikeouts, it may be time to start taking some chances. On the flip side, if you're stuck in tight ratio battles, and wins and strikeouts aren't that close, scooping up high-skilled middle relievers, even in shallow leagues, could be a wise move.

Daniel Norris has been pitching better lately, and has a couple of attractive matchups this week. He's currently available in 74 percent of NFBC 15-team leagues, and that number is likely to go down quite a bit tonight. We'll go more in-depth on him and several other two-start pitchers below, and a list of all of the week's matchups can be found in our 8-day scan.

Strong 2-start options

  SP Rating1 Opp1 Rating2 Opp2 Week Rating
  Jacob deGrom 3.4 vMIA 1.90 vWAS 2.65
  Luis Castillo 1.88 vLAA 1.77 vCHC 1.83
  Charlie Morton 1.64 vTOR 2.01 @SEA 1.83
  Lucas Giolito 1.83 @DET 0.47 vOAK 1.15
  German Marquez 0.19 @HOU 1.49 @SD 0.84
  Jakob Junis 0.56 @BOS 1.10 @DET 0.83
  Michael Soroka 0.13 @MIN 1.53 @MIA 0.83
  Dinelson Lamet 0.89 @SEA 0.40 vCOL 0.65
  Jeff Samardzija 0.39 vWAS 0.79 vPHI 0.59
  Kyle Hendricks 0.74 vOAK 0.43 @CIN 0.59
  Vincent Velasquez 0.46 @ARI 0.71 @SF 0.59
  Chris Bassitt 0.15 @CHC 0.98 @CHW 0.57
  Jose Berrios 0.51 vATL 0.53 vCLE 0.52

 

Jakob Junis (RHP, KC) will face a tall task to begin the week, as he'll square off against a Boston offense that leads the league in runs scored over the past month, and who rank 4th in wRC+ vs RHP on the year. Up next is a Detroit team that is 29th in OPS and 30th in wRC+ vs RHP, with the highest K% in the league. Junis allowed 5 ER in 4.2 IP in his lone start vs Boston this season, while two starts against the Tigers has yielded 5 ER in 13 IP, with 13 K and 3 BB. It wouldn't be surprising if Junis struggles Tuesday, but the weekend start should make him worth the risk.

Dylan Cease (RHP, CHW) has been a little shaky in his first four starts, as the control issues he displayed in the minors have, not surprisingly, carried over to his initial exposure to big league hitters. He'll kick off this week against a Detroit offense that walks at the 3rd lowest rate vs RHP, while whiffing at the highest rate and ranking dead last in wRC+. Cease faced them once already, in his debut, and surrendered 3 ER in 5 IP, with 6 K and 4 BB. We don't have a Sunday starter listed yet for the White Sox, but Cease seems most likely, and he would get an Oakland team that walks at the 8th highest clip vs RHP, ranks 13th in wRC+ against them, and one that has been a little worse on the road, with a 3% higher K% and 14 point dip in OPS (.767 to .753). The second start is a little scary, given Cease's mediocre skills to date, but the Detroit start should make him worth the gamble in many formats, especially if you need strikeouts.

According to his 4.46 xERA, Chris Bassitt (RHP, OAK) hasn't been quite as good as his 3.84 ERA would suggest, but he has struck out nearly a batter per inning, and after struggling with control early on, has a 31/6 K/BB ratio in his last six starts. He takes to the road this week, where his ERA is nearly a run and a half higher (4.53) than at home (3.06), thanks to a 1.9 hr/f. Bassitt's first opponent is the Cubs, who rank 10th in wRC+ and 6th in ISO against right-handers, and 11th in home OPS. The White Sox are 28th in wRC+ and 29th in ISO vs RHP, with the 2nd highest K%, and also own a top 5 K% and 6th lowest ISO at home. The long ball could plague Bassitt on Monday, but he should be worth using in most formats.
 

Judgment calls

  SP Rating1 Opp1 Rating2 Opp2 Week Rating
  Masahiro Tanaka 0.4 @BAL 0.30 @TOR 0.35
  Max Fried -0.25 @MIN 0.77 @MIA 0.26
  Rick Porcello 0.2 vKC 0.13 vLAA 0.17
  Daniel Norris 0.17 vCHW 0.09 vKC 0.13
  Wade LeBlanc -0.05 vSD 0.30 vTAM 0.13
  Merrill Kelly 0.45 vPHI -0.25 @LA 0.10
  Jon Lester 0.06 vOAK -0.06 @CIN 0.00
  Zach Plesac 0.26 vTEX -0.56 @MIN -0.15
  Jake Arrieta -0.54 @ARI 0.07 @SF -0.24
  Michael Wacha -0.61 @LA -0.39 vPIT -0.50
  Trent Thornton -0.65 @TAM -0.35 vNYY -0.50

 

Masahiro Tanaka (RHP, NYY) has been pretty bad lately, with five PQS-Disasters in his last seven starts, during which time he's posted a 9.19 ERA and 22/12 K/ BB ratio in 32.1 IP, including a couple of drubbings at the hands of the Red Sox. He'll look to right the ship against a Baltimore team that he's allowed just 1 ER against in both starts this season, and who rank 26th in wRC+ vs RHP, though they are better at home (.737 OPS) than on the road (.685 OPS). Tanaka's weekend matchup will be against a Toronto team with the 5th lowest home OPS, and 8th lowest wRC+ against RHP. He's no longer an every week starter, but should be worth using in most formats this week, thanks to the attractive matchups.

It's been an ugly ride for Rick Porcello (RHP, BOS) owners lately, as he is the owner of a 9.73 ERA and 3.1 hr/9 over his last six starts. He at least gets a nice matchup to start the week, as the Royals own the 6th lowest OPS on the road and 8th lowest vs RHP, as well as the 7th highest K% on the road. The Angels whiff less than anyone in road games, and at the 2nd lowest rate vs RHP, and they are 6th in wRC+ vs RHP. The weekend start seems a little scary (though he gets a positive rating) given Porcello's recent struggles, but he still looks like a pretty decent play overall, particularly for owners trying to make up ground in the wins category. 

Daniel Norris (LHP, DET) still owns a 4.67 ERA, but he's been better lately, allowing just 8 ER in 21 IP in his last four starts, with 24 K and 6 BB. This week, he'll see two teams that are just inside the top 10 in K% vs LHP. First will be a White Sox team that owns the 4th lowest Eye ratio and 5th lowest ISO vs southpaws, followed by the Royals, who sport the 4th lowest ISO and 2nd lowest wRC+. This looks like a good week to gamble on Norris.

After getting bombed by the Orioles two starts ago, Merrill Kelly (RHP, ARI) got off to a similar start against the Marlins last time out, serving up 6 ER in the 2nd inning, before somewhat salvaging the start by lasting 6 IP with 7 ER allowed. This week, he'll start off against the Phillies, who are 19th in wRC+ vs RHP, followed by the Dodgers, who are 3rd in the category, along with the 2nd highest ISO. Kelly could help in strikeouts this week, but given the recent results, I think there's a lot more risk than the ratings suggest.

Jordan Lyles (RHP, MIL) delivered in his first start with the Brewers, and now gets to return to Pittsburgh to face his old team, one that ranks 10th in wRC+ vs RHP, with the 3rd lowest K%. We still have "TBD" listed for Sunday, but it will likely be Lyles,  and he'll see a Ranger team that strikes out at the 4th highest rate vs righties and highest in road games, while ranking 14th in wRC+ against RHP. Lyles has been plagued by inconsistency lately, leading to an 8.64 ERA over his past 10 starts, and one good start with his new team doesn't mean he's out of the woods just yet. He may get double digit strikeouts this week, but it comes with plenty of blowup risk.

Jordan Yamamoto (RHP, MIA) didn't allow more than 2 ER in any of his six starts before the break, but then allowed 11 ER in 8 IP in his next two. He bounced back in his last outing, though, against a potent Minnesota offense, recording 8 K and 14 swinging strikes, while not walking a batter across 6 IP. Though we don't have his second start listed yet, Yamamoto seems likely to get two starts this week, first against the Mets, who are 15th in wRC+ vs RHP, and 14th in home OPS, followed by an Atlanta team that is 9th in wRC+ vs RHP, and 13th in road OPS. Both teams are slightly better than league average in terms of K% vs RHP 18th and 19th highest), and Yamamoto's 25 percent K% isn't supported by his 9% SwK, but he still looks like a decent play who is a good bet for double digit strikeouts.

After back-to-back rough starts, Zach Plesac (RHP, CLE) has turned things around, at least on the surface, over his last four starts, allowing just 6 ER in 21 IP over his last four starts, which includes a rain-shortened outing against the Tigers. His 5.26 July xERA, however, was more than two runs higher than his 3.04 actual ERA, and his last eight starts have included an ugly 27/20 K/BB ratio. Plesac will kick off this week against a Ranger offense that is 14th in wRC+ vs RHP, with the 4th highest K%, a team he held to 1 ER in 7 IP in a previous meeting, albeit with 6 K and 5 BB. His weekend opponent boasts the 5th lowest K% against righties, and 5th highest wRC+. Plesac benefited from a recent six-start stretch in which he only faced the Tigers, Orioles, and Royals, then got roughed up by Houston last time out, and isn't likely to help your ratios during this two-step.

After working out of the bullpen in his last three outings, and limiting the Astros to 1 ER in 4.2 IP in his last appearance, Michael Wacha (RHP, STL) is set to rejoin the rotation on Monday. He'll be faced with a very difficult matchup, as the Dodgers rank 2nd in wRC+ and Eye ratio vs RHP, and knocked him around to the tune of 7 ER in 3.2 IP back in April. A potential second start would be against a Pittsburgh team that is 11th in wRC+ vs righties, with the 3rd lowest K%, but given the Cardinals are off this Thursday and the following Monday, don't be surprised if Miles Mikolas (Tuesday's pitcher) gets the nod on Sunday. Either way, Wacha and his near identical 5.14 xERA and 5.15 ERA make for a risky play.

After struggling with his control for most of the season, Trent Thornton (RHP, TOR) has allowed a total of just 8 BB in his last seven starts. That's about all that has been going well, though, as he boasts an ugly 8.87 ERA in 22.1 IP over his last six starts, with the only two decent outings coming against Baltimore. Unfortunately, he'll see two other divisional foes this week- a Tampa team that is 7th in wRC+ vs RHP, and a Yankee offense that leads the majors in the category. Even with Tampa sporting the 3rd highest K% in home games, Thornton offers much more downside than upside this week.

Weak 2-start options

  SP Rating1 Opp1 Rating2 Opp2 Week Rating
  Andrew Cashner -0.6 vKC -0.42 vLAA -0.51
  Michael Montgomery -1.17 @BOS -0.30 @DET -0.74
  Dario Agrazal -0.79 vMIL -0.74 @STL -0.77
  Jacob Waguespack -0.91 @TAM -0.64 vNYY -0.78
  Sandy Alcantara -0.96 @NYM -0.84 vATL -0.90
  Ariel Jurado -1.27 @CLE -0.69 @MIL -0.98
  Aaron Civale -0.86 vTEX -1.37 @MIN -1.12
  Drew VerHagen -3.63 vCHW -3.70 vKC -3.67

 

Looking Ahead

Sometimes you have to be a step ahead of the game when looking to acquire a player, so it can help to look ahead a little bit. Here is a list of some pitchers that may be available, at least in some mixed leagues, who as of now, are lined up for a two-start week beginning next Monday, August 12. These are subject to change, but we will go into more depth on some of these matchups in next week's column.

 

Lg      Pitcher         Team    Opponents
==  ==================  ====  ==============
AL  Brendan McKay        TAM  at SD, vs DET
NL  Alex Wood            CIN  at WAS, vs STL
NL  Shaun Anderson        SF  vs OAK, at ARI
AL  Brett Anderson       OAK  at SF, vs HOU
                                          

                                                                                             ***

There are roughly 150 starting pitchers in MLB rotations at any given time. For different league sizes, we can estimate the number of SP in the useable pool, and then determine the overall ratings that correspond to worst, 25th percentile, median, and 75th percentile SP.      

                 Overall SP Rating
                    SP      by SP league percentile
League size       Pool*     .00    .25    .50    .75
==============    =====    ====   ====   ====   =====
12-team “only”     120     -.73   -.22   +.22   +.74
10-team “only”     110     -.54   -.11   +.30   +.79
20-team mixed      110     -.54   -.11   +.30   +.79
15-team mixed      105     -.46   -.05   +.34   +.82
12-team mixed       80     -.07   +.22   +.55   +.97
10-team mixed       60     +.22   +.46   +.74   +1.12

So if you’re in a 12-team “only” league, the median start should have a rating of about 0.2. The 120th start is around -0.7. In a shallower, 15-team mixed, the median start is 0.34 and a top pitcher +0.82.


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  For more information about the terms used in this article, see our Glossary Primer.