Avoiding Late-Season Bear Traps

With only two weeks left in the season, every decision for starting pitchers can be crucial, whether trying to close things out in roto, or surviving another week of the playoffs in point leagues. Your hand is often forced in roto, as categorical needs will often be driving your decisions, and sometimes you can only be so conservative. But in H2H points with a typical playoffs setup, a format for which I have great affection, you can often be a lot more creative with your start/sit decisions, making choices you typically wouldn’t at any other time besides the playoffs.

In most leagues, you’re not only dealing with a limit on starts per week but (depending on your scoring system) the worry of the equalizing effect of a pitcher going negative in any given start. This makes every start choice supremely important, as playoff upsets are often built on the backs of unexpected blowups. And sometimes you need to play defense, playing the opponent as much as the pitcher.

Because there is really nothing worse than strolling happily along through your season before being snatched up by a Dallas Keuchel-shaped beartrap right before the finish line. Crack! No more fantasy season.

With that in mind, let’s look at some offenses that you might not want to trifle with, given their post-deadline numbers.

Detroit Tigers vs LHP since August 1:

.331 wOBA (12th)

.309 xwOBA (16th)

22.4% K% (20th-lowest)

Opposing LHP This Week:

Carlos Rodón, CHW (@ DET, @ CLE)

Dallas Keuchel, CHW (@ DET, @ CLE)

Kris Bubic, KC (@ DET)

The Tigers don’t have as impressive of numbers as other teams today but their improvement from the early in the season (.308 wOBA vs LHP in the second half) is enough to give them some bear-trappiness.

None of that sneakiness applies to Carlos Rodón, who is a must-start in all formats and Kris Bubic has been quietly solid over his four starts in September, posting a 2.84 ERA (3.69 FIP) over 19 IP, striking out 15.

But trying to get cute by sneaking in a two-start week from Dallas Keuchel might cost people leagues. Detroit has been improved vs LHP but so has Cleveland, posting a .341 wOBA (9th) and .323 xwOBA (12th) vs LHP since August 1.

Don’t be fooled by Keuchel “bouncing back” against the Angels in his last start, allowing 2 ER in 6 IP, as that 3.00 ERA was backed by five walks and a 5.16 FIP. Plus, it was against the Angels, who’ve been one of baseball’s worst offenses in the second half. In his previous four starts, Keuchel allowed 21 ER in 14.2 IP, striking out just eight batters.

Oakland Athletics vs LHP since August 1:

.331 wOBA (13th)

.348 xwOBA (3rd)

17.5% K% (3rd-lowest)

Opposing LHP This Week:

Marco Gonzales, SEA (@ OAK, @ LAA)

Tyler Anderson, SEA (@ OAK, @ LAA)

Yusei Kikuchi, SEA (@ OAK)

Those numbers are for left-handers but I’m not messing with Oakland with either hand if I can help it, as they also have a .330 xwOBA (5th) and 20.1% K% (3rd-lowest) vs RHP since the start of August.

Of the lefties above, Kikuchi is an easy write-off but Gonzales and Anderson are trickier, as they also both get the Angels too, who have a .289 wOBA (27th), .290 xwOBA (26th), and 22.0% K% (18th) since August 1. It’s an easy decision for daily leagues but it’d be a pass for me in weekly leagues, as the bad of Oakland would outweigh the good of Los Angeles.

Washington Nationals vs LHP since August 1:

.350 wOBA (5th)

.330 xwOBA (9th)

18.7% K% (5th-lowest)

Opposing LHP This Week:

Wade Miley, CIN (vs WSN)

Trevor Rogers, MIA (vs WSN)

Jesús Luzardo, MIA (vs WSN, vs TB)

The wheels have come off of Wade Miley in September, allowing 5+ ER in three of his past four starts. That’s been good for an 8.35 ERA (7.36 FIP) over 18.1 IP, with 13 K and a 2.18 WHIP. Combine his recent poor performance with a Nationals team that has been rolling against lefties and you have a hard pass for betting on a bounceback.

While the Nationals have been hot vs LHP, Rogers handled them well enough in his last start, allowing 1 ER on seven hits in 4 IP, while striking out three. The worry with Rogers remains his workload, as he has yet to complete five innings in his three starts since returning after missing August due to a series of family emergencies.

If your fantasy anxiety gets high this week, just take a deep breath and remember that at least you don’t have to rely on starting Jesús Luzardo for the diciest of two-steps. I mean, you don’t, right?

In his last start, against these same Nationals, Luzardo allowed 4 ER in 4.1 IP, picking up just one strikeout. Oh, and got served a 442-ft side of oppo-taco beef from Ryan Zimmerman:

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Boston Red Sox vs RHP since August 1:

.357 wOBA (1st)

.343 xwOBA (1st)

22.3% K% (11th-lowest)

Opposing RHP This Week:

Gerrit Cole (@ BOS)

Marcus Stroman (@ BOS)

Tylor Megill (@ BOS)

Even coming off of a blowup versus Cleveland (5.2 IP, 7 ER), it’s going to be hard getting away from Cole unless you’re playing the most defensive of games. But Boston has been absolutely punishing right-handed pitching and is currently on a five-game winning streak in which they’ve scored at least seven runs in each victory, so it’s hard to expect a classic Cole outing. In his two starts in Boston this season, Cole has allowed a total of 8 ER in 10 IP, striking out 14 batters and giving up four home runs.

Megill is an obvious avoid but I’m fine rolling with Stroman given both his recent performance (3.07 ERA, 2.07 FIP over his past five starts) and his general avoidance of blowup starts. In 31 starts, he’s allowed five earned runs in one start and four earned runs in two others. Everything other start has been 3 ER or less.

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Brian Louchis
1 year ago

Great advice. Going to sit Gonzales Tuesday night and then see if he’s needed Sunday (daily lineups). Playing against Cole and Luzardo this week.