DOUBLE DIPPIN': September 16-22

We are down to the final two weeks of the season, and time is running out to make up ground in the standings. It's the time of year where rotations are really getting shuffled and pitchers are getting shut down, so pay close attention to news, and check out our 8-day scan for updated probable pitchers for the week. Best of luck, and on to the two-start pitchers for this week.

 

Strong two-start options

  SP Rating1 Opp1 Rating2 Opp2 Week Rating
  Justin Verlander 3.64 vTEX 3.51 vLAA 3.58
  Stephen Strasburg 1.95 @STL 3.24 @MIA 2.60
  Yu Darvish 2.41 vCIN 1.73 vSTL 2.07
  Matt Boyd 1.02 @CLE 1.60 vCHW 1.31
  Sonny Gray 1.55 @CHC 0.73 vNYM 1.14
  Dylan Bundy 0.82 vTOR 1.00 vSEA 0.91
  Steven Matz 0.62 @COL 1.10 @CIN 0.86
  Mitch Keller 0.95 vSEA 0.69 @MIL 0.82
  Jose Berrios 0.79 vCHW 0.83 vKC 0.81
  Dallas Keuchel 0.77 vPHI 0.65 vSF 0.71

Matt Boyd (LHP, DET) owns a 5.73 ERA in 18 starts since the beginning of June, and a 7.18 mark in his last seven starts, as he has been extremely prone to the long ball, but he's remained a strong source of strikeouts through it all. This week, he'll take on a Cleveland team that is 18th in wRC+ vs lefties and 10th in wRC+ over the past month, followed by the White Sox, who are 11th and 12th, respectively, in those categories. Boyd has made two starts against each team this season, allowing 16 ER in 23.1 IP, with 36 K, 3 BB, and 7 HR. He is a great example of someone that carries significant ratio risk but a lot of strikeout upside, but I would be using him in most cases this week.

Dylan Bundy (RHP, BAL) owns a pretty ugly 4.99 ERA on the year, but if you're looking for strikeouts, he is an attractive option this week. His opponents are the two highest in K% in September, including a Toronto team with the 4th lowest wRC+ for the month. As usual, Bundy comes with some ratio risk, but owners should feel pretty good about throwing him out there for this two-step.

Steven Matz (LHP, COL) has been coming through for his owners lately, as he's put up a 1.94 ERA across his last seven starts. His skills have been good but not great during that time, though, and he's been aided by an 87 percent strand rate and 27 percent hit rate. Matz will head to Coors Field Monday, a place where he's made just two career starts, with 8 ER allowed in 10.2 IP, and he'll take on an offense that leads the league with an .885 home OPS. He'll then get a Cincinnati offense that ranks 25th in wRC+ both against LHP and over the last 30 days. The ratings support Matz, as does the weekend matchup, but he boasts a 6.08 ERA on the road this year, and has a start in Colorado, so owners relying on him this week are taking on a huge risk.

Mitch Keller (RHP, PIT) disappointed owners this past week when he allowed 5 ER in 5 IP against the Giants, pushing his ERA up to 8.29 over his first nine starts. But a 28 percent K% and 4.02 xERA show there's still reason for optimism, as his 49 percent hit rate and 55 percent strand rate normalize. Keller can't be trusted to help your ratios, especially in Miller Park, but should continue to rack up plenty of whiffs against two teams that own a top five K% in September. 

 

Judgment calls

  SP Rating1 Opp1 Rating2 Opp2 Week Rating
  Miles Mikolas 0.12 vWAS 0.79 @CHC 0.46
  Nathan Eovaldi 0.62 vSF -0.05 @TAM 0.29
  Robbie Ray 0.33 vMIA 0.17 @SD 0.25
  Luis Severino 0.07 vLAA 0.12 vTOR 0.10
  John Means 0.71 @DET -0.59 vSEA 0.06
  Reynaldo Lopez -0.43 @MIN 0.43 @DET 0.00
  Zach Plesac 0.34 vDET -0.38 vPHI -0.02
  Cole Hamels 0.32 vCIN -0.38 vSTL -0.03
  Trent Thornton -0.01 @BAL -0.32 @NYY -0.17
  Vincent Velasquez -0.54 @ATL 0.15 @CLE -0.20
  Jorge Lopez -0.36 @OAK -0.11 @MIN -0.24
  Marco Gonzales 0.03 @PIT -0.66 @BAL -0.32
  Dakota Hudson -0.94 vWAS 0.21 @CHC -0.37

Nathan Eovaldi (RHP, BOS) missed three months with an elbow injury and returned in a relief role, but he jumped back into the rotation about a month ago, and has been getting stretched out. He has averaged 83 pitches per start in his last three outings, including 93 last time out, and has recorded 17 K in 13.1 IP during that time. Eovaldi opens this week with a home start against a San Francisco offense that is 27th in wRC+ vs RHP before heading to Tampa to take on a team that is 7th in the category. He looks like a good bet for double digit strikeouts with a pretty good chance of getting through five innings at least once, making him an attractive option in many situations.

The volatility of Reynaldo Lopez (RHP, CHW) has been on full display in his last four starts, which has included two starts with no earned runs allowed, including a complete game one-hitter with 11 K, but 12 ER in 5.1 IP in the other two. He'll kick this week off against a Minnesota offense that he has surrendered 11 ER in 9.2 IP against this season, and one that ranks 4th in wRC+ vs RHP. Over the weekend, Lopez will get a Detroit team that is dead last in wRC+ vs righties, with the highest K%. Count on one blowup and one gem, and figure out if that is worth having in your lineup this week.

The lackluster skills have started to catch up to Zach Plesac (RHP, CLE), at least until his last start, when he tossed a complete game shutout against the Angels. His xERA sits at 5.00 and his SwK is down to eight percent over the past month, but a start against the Tigers should allow him to deliver a second straight quality outing. Plesac may even make it three in a row, as the Phillies are 18th in wRC+ vs RHP and 22nd in road OPS, though they are 9th in wRC+ over the past month. We're still not sold on his long-term success, but the start against the Tigers is reason enough to give him a shot this week in most situations.

Trent Thornton (RHP, TOR) owns a pretty ugly 5.04 ERA that has full support from his 5.12 xERA, but has at least provided strikeouts for his owners, with 134 of them in 139 innings. He has been pitching a little better lately, too, with a 3.23 ERA in his last six appearances, with a 30/10 K/BB ratio across 30.2 IP, despite games against the Astros, Yankees, and Red Sox during that time. It's not clear yet if Thornton will follow an opener, as he did in his last outing, but he'll face a Baltimore team against whom he has allowed 4 ER in 17 IP this season, but just 11 K, and a team that is 26th in wRC+ vs RHP and 20th in wRC+ over the past month. He'll then face the Yankees again, a team that is 3rd and 6th, respectively, in those categories. Thornton is always highly flammable, and should be avoided in tight ratio battles, but he at least offers a decent chance of double digit punch outs and a win.

Marco Gonzales (LHP, SEA) has helped owners with his 15 wins this season, but his skills have been pretty shaky, including a drop in his SwK down to eight percent and K% to 17 percent. He'll take to the road for two starts this week, where he owns just a 6.0 Dom, 2.0 Cmd, and 1.5 hr/9 this season. Gonzales did tie a season high with 15 swinging strikes against Toronto in his last outing, and should keep rolling in his next start, against a Pittsburgh team that is dead last in wRC+ vs southpaws, with the league's highest K%. He'll then get a Baltimore team that is 20th in wRC+ vs lefties and 18th in home OPS. All told, Gonzales looks like a pretty solid play for the upcoming week.

The skills of Dakota Hudson (RHP, STL) don't match the results, but the ground ball tilt typically helps minimize the damage, and after surviving Coors Field last week, has surrendered just 6 ER in 38.1 IP in his last six starts. As the ratings show, he's not the safest of plays with a couple of tough matchups on the docket, but owners in need of wins and/or strikeouts will be hard-pressed to bench him.

 

Weak two-start options

  SP Rating1 Opp1 Rating2 Opp2 Week Rating
  Pablo Lopez 0.09 @ARI -1.16 vWAS -0.54
  Martin Perez -0.99 vCHW -0.34 vKC -0.67
  Zachary Davies -0.79 vSD -0.69 vPIT -0.74
  Gio Gonzalez -1.3 vSD -0.66 vPIT -0.98
  Glenn Sparkman -1.27 @OAK -1.25 @MIN -1.26
  Jose Suarez -1.04 @NYY -1.66 @HOU -1.35
  Antonio Senzatela -1.29 vNYM -1.58 @LA -1.44

Pablo Lopez (RHP, MIA) has been pretty shaky since returning from a shoulder injury, as one solid start (6.1 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 6 K) against the Royals has been accompanied by three others in which he totaled 16.1 IP with 11 ER, 6 K, 5 BB, and 5 HR. This week, he'll first see a Diamondback team that is 22nd in wRC+ vs RHP and 24th in wRC+ over the past month. His weekend test will be very tough, as the Nationals have already touched him up for 10 ER in 6.2 IP in two starts this year, and they're 3rd in wRC+ over the last 30 days (though 11th in the last 14). Lopez's recent struggles make him a pretty risky play for the upcoming week, but two starts is two starts if it's all coming down to strikeouts in your standings.

Zach Davies (RHP, MIL) still boasts a 3.77 ERA on the season, but a 5.34 xERA, and he hasn't been working deep into games lately. He has lasted less than 5 IP in five of his last eight starts, and never more than 5 IP, and in that span, has given up 27 ER in 36 IP (6.75 ERA) with a 26/13 K/BB ratio. The matchups against the Padres and Pirates aren't bad, but Davies can't really be counted on for strikeouts or good ratios, and it would be surprising if he makes it through 5 IP in both starts. 

Gio Gonzalez (LHP, MIL) is limping to the finish line, as he is sporting an ugly 26/21 K/BB ratio in 30.2 IP over his last seven starts, and he's failed to top 75 pitches in any of his last three outings. His first opponent this week is the Padres, who strike out at the 9th highest rate vs lefties, but they are 10th in wRC+ with the 3rd highest BB%. Gonzalez is currently lined up to face Pittsburgh over the weekend, a team that is dead last in BB% and wRC+ vs LHP, but his recent struggles make him extremely difficult to lean on down the stretch.

Garrett Richards (RHP, SD) is set to make his season debut on Monday, and could potentially get a second start over the weekend. While it's exciting to have him back, short-term expectations should be tempered. He has really struggled with his control during his rehab assignment, and the 63 pitches he threw in his last outing was his most of the season. Richards will also get a tough matchup in his first start back, as he travels to Milwaukee, before getting a little softer matchup against the Diamondbacks over the weekend. Richards will be worth monitoring next spring, but owners deploying him this week are playing with fire.

 

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, September 23. 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  Kyle Gibson          MIN  at DET, at KC
NL  Alex Young           ARI  vs STL, vs SD
NL  Tyler Mahle          CIN  vs MIL, at PIT
NL  Adam Wainwright      STL  at ARI, vs CHC
NL  Joe Musgrove         PIT  vs CHC, vs CIN
NL  Zach Eflin           PHI  at WAS, vs MIA
NL  Sandy Alcantara      MIA  at NYM, at PHI
AL  Brett Anderson       OAK  at LAA, at SEA
AL  Adam Plutko          CLE  at CHW, at WAS
                                          

                                                                                             ***

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.