Sundays are huge for fantasy baseball matchups, and sometimes the difference between a win and a loss comes down to one last starting pitcher. With that in mind, here are some names to target and some to avoid.
With each passing week, the stakes are getting higher. Your choices for your Sunday rotation might decide whether you advance to a final or a semifinal. You might not be able to count on getting a boost from some popular pitchers.
Garrett Richards is one of the most added pitchers in CBS and Yahoo leagues, but if you are looking for a win or quality start or need to overcome a deficit in strikeouts, scout out some alternatives. To be fair, Richards has been sensational since rejoining the Angels’ rotation this month. He has allowed two runs in 8.1 innings with just six singles, two doubles and a walk. Notice that meager innings total, though. Richards made only 63 pitches in his last start. The Angels are clearly taking no chances with their ace, who has missed most of the season with biceps nerve irritation. Therefore, you cannot take a chance on him pitching deep enough against the Rangers to help you with anything besides ratios.
CC Sabathia has been a popular add in Yahoo leagues, and it’s tempting to use him for Sunday’s home start against the Orioles. The lefty has been on a roll, going 2-0 with a 3.14 ERA over his past five starts. The Orioles will counter with Ubaldo Jimenez, who enters with a 6.75 ERA and has not had a quality start since July 31. However, Baltimore also brings an offense that ranks 10th in wOBA against left-handed pitchers, and is a respectable 11-12 in Jimenez’s starts this season. A win for Sabathia is no sure thing.
To his credit, Sabathia has induced soft contact at an astounding 35 percent rate in his last five starts, but he has also benefited from an 86 percent strand rate. Given the strength of the opponent, it might not be a good idea to count on Sabathia to sustain these extreme stats, especially when he has been allowing contact at 82 percent rate during his recent hot streak.
What about Danny Duffy, who is making his return from a three-week hiatus on the DL to face the Indians? Though he is healthy enough to pitch, Duffy is still dealing with pain in his left elbow. He was inconsistent in the weeks leading up to his DL stint, and now he will try to come back against the red-hot Indians. And by the way, Cleveland will be putting its best foot forward, starting ace Corey Kluber, who has a 1.67 ERA since the beginning of August.
Julio Teheran seems to have turned a corner, but be cautious with him. He has a 2.31 ERA over his past six starts, but his three best starts during that run all came on the road — including seven shutout innings against the Rockies at Coors Field. Teheran might have mastered one of the majors’ toughest parks, but he is still flailing at home. While he has been a little better of late, Teheran is 3-9 with a 6.47 ERA at SunTrust Park. It will be hard to trust him against the Mets, given that the game is at home.
Fortunately, there are several potential waiver options to replace one or more of these risky starters. Eduardo Rodriguez is coming off a pair of starts that produced 17 strikeouts — and just three runs — over 12 innings. On Sunday, he will face the Rays at Tropicana Field. Not only does he get a venue that is generous to fly ball pitchers, but Rodriguez will face the team with the sixth-lowest wOBA against lefties. Rays starter Jake Odorizzi has found the limits of the Trop’s generosity, as he has allowed hard contact at a whopping 37 percent rate. Even at home, he has allowed 18 home runs in 76.1 innings, which has played a role in Odorizzi’s 4.60 home ERA. The matchup gives Rodriguez a good chance at a win, as well as good ratios and a high strikeout total.
If Rodriguez is unavailable, Kyle Gibson is a solid Plan B. He doesn’t have Rodriguez’s strikeout potential, but over his past five starts, he has a 1.38 ERA with three walks over 32.2 innings. He should keep his streak going with a home start against Joe Biagini and the Blue Jays, who rank 26th in wOBA against right-handed pitchers.
If you absolutely need strikeouts, Robert Stephenson should be a good substitute for (or complement to) Rodriguez. Though he had a three-inning clunker against the Cardinals on Tuesday, Stephenson still got 12 swinging strikes in just 68 pitches. Even in defeat, he extended his streak of starts without allowing a home run to four. Over that stretch he has 30 strikeouts in 20.2 innings with a 17 percent swinging strike rate that is more typical of a dominant closer than a starter. Though his Sunday opponent, the Pirates, are not especially prone to striking out, Stephenson recorded 11 Ks against them on Aug. 25.
If it weren’t for the fact that they are facing each other, the Marlins’ Dillon Peters and the Brewers’ Brandon Woodruff would rank among the top waiver options. With 18 strikeouts in 18 innings, Peters has been a pleasant surprise in that category, and especially in spacious Marlins Park he could help with ERA. Woodruff is facing a Marlins team in an offensive rut, so he stands a decent chance of rebounding from a poor start on Monday against the Pirates. Neither pitcher is as poised for a win as Rodriguez or Gibson, but both are viable alternatives as replacements for the likes of Duffy or Teheran.
Statistical credits: FanGraphs, Baseball-Reference.