Which Pitchers to Start Today 9/28/15

It’s the last week of the season! And that hopefully means that all our wonderful advice will result in a first place finish after the final pitch is thrown this Sunday. But this also means that I was expecting to spend hours tonight trying to figure out what to write about. How does one dole out advice with just one week left in the season?! So I’ll go with an unoriginal daily starting pitcher start/bench theme. Naturally, with everyone in different league formats and sizes, it’s hard to offer a one size fits all recommendation. So I’ll do my best. Also, you’ll notice these are tonight’s matchups. I believe for some of you, you cannot actually pick up and start a pitcher on the same day, so advice on the following day’s pitchers would be more beneficial. If this is indeed your situation, speak up in the comments!

Zack Greinke @ Jake Peavy

Man, I can’t wait for Greinke to be foolishly drafted as a top three starter next year. Same skills as always, but a .231 BABIP and 86.6% LOB%. But, obviously you start him.

Peavy’s skills continue to tumble and his SwStk% sits at a career low. If an implosion could lose you a point or two in ERA and/or WHIP and you can’t move much in wins and/or strikeouts, I’d prob sit him. But he’s pitching at home, so the odds of that happening are not that high. I’d start him in most situations.

Brandon Finnegan @ Max Scherzer

Finnegan allowed six runs over five innings in his second career start, but he still remains my sneaky two-start pitcher of the week. Control remains an issue, but he has strikeout stuff and a sky high ground ball rate. Unfortunately, the Nationals have posted the fourth highest wOBA against lefties in baseball, and they’ll be at home. This is a risky start, but owners in 15-team mixed leagues and deeper should absolutely roll the dice.

Half season split stats are more interesting than meaningful, but did you know that Scherzer has a 4.41 ERA in the second half? Skills are essentially identical, it was just the result of the luck pendulum swinging the other way. That’s just what happens. Start him, of course.

Justin Verlander @ Colby Lewis

Verlander’s velocity has rebounded slightly from his career low average last year, but it still remains below 93 mph. It has been enough though to yield some better results, but his SIERA is still stuck above 4.00. Pitching in Texas is never an easy task, but ya gotta start him.

Colby Lewis has 17 wins. That sentence alone should be enough to get quoting pitcher wins banned from baseball broadcasts. Pitching at home is usually nice, but not when it comes against a strong offense. Unless you’re in a pitching barren league where you’re essentially forced to start him for the strikeouts and potential for a win (like me in AL Tout Wars), then he shall remain on your bench or a free agent.

Marco Estrada @ Chris Tillman

Estrada is doing his best Chris Young impression by allowing a ton of fly balls and running a tiny BABIP. But this just doesn’t seem sustainable. His BABIP and HR/FB rate are both at career lows, while his LOB% is at a career high. His SIERA sits at a grotesque 4.72, and he hasn’t been one to annually outperform that mark like Young has. I’d be far too nervous to start him in anything shallower than an AL-Only league.

Whatever changed for Tillman in July didn’t stay with him, as his xFIP in each month since has been at typically mid-4.00 levels. Oh, and he’s facing the Blue Jays. I ain’t starting him, probably not even in an AL-Only league if you have daily transactions.

Lance Lynn @ J.A. Happ

Lynn is doing what he normally does, beating his SIERA by suppressing homers and fly balls. Or maybe it’s just a home park thing. His career home HR/FB rate is a small 5.4%, but it nearly doubles in away parks to 10.6%. Lucky for him, fly balls die in PNC Park as well. Start him.

Happ has morphed into a totally new pitcher after joining the Pirates and Jeff Sullivan tried to explain to us what was happening a couple of weeks ago. The Cardinals rank 25th in wOBA against southpaws. The new Happ, at home, against a team that struggles versus lefties. Easy call here to start the Happ(y) man.

Phil Hughes @ Corey Kluber

Well I guess last year was the fluke for Hughes. He has still maintained his suddenly pinpoint control, but his HR/FB rate has doubled and his strikeout rate collapsed. I am strongly considering starting him in my shallow 12-team local league just for the two starts, but I might be too nervous to pull the trigger. I’d bench him for this one except in AL-Only leagues.

Well hey, at least Kluber will be cheaper next year! He has proven that last year’s skills surge was real, but this year has struggled stranding runners. Start him, duh.

Yordano Ventura @ Kyle Hendricks

Ventura has been up and down this year, but his overall skills are almost identical to last year. It’s a road start, but it’s in an NL park where he won’t have to face the DH. Start him.

So Hendricks improves his strikeout rate by like 50%, ups his ground ball rate and only sees a small uptick in walk rate, yet his ERA jumps more than a run and a half? Those darn luck dragons! The strikeout rate jump is driven entirely by an increase in called strikes, which makes it a bit flukier. So I’m almost certainly calling for regression next year. But in this particular start, I’d give him a go, though he’s questionable in shallower leagues if you need to protect your ratios.

Felix Doubront @ Hector Santiago

Doubront isn’t this bad. He has been bitten by an inflated BABIP and supressed LOB%, though his 4.31 SIERA is unattractive. He’s also pitching away, but Angels Stadium does favor pitchers. In addition, the Angels have been awful against lefties this year, ranking 26th in wOBA with a sub-.300 mark. I’d consider this start in AL-Only leagues depending on your situation.

Santiago’s good luck finally ran out when the calendar flipped to August and his skills have just gotten worse and worse. He has walked more than he has struck out in September, which could be a sign of fatigue. He’s currently at a career high in innings pitched for a season and has thrown 30 more innings than last year. Plus, the Athletics have actually been better against lefties this year than the Angels. I’d start him in an AL-Only league if you have to, but anything shallower he gets planted on the bench.

Eduardo Rodriguez @ Ivan Nova

Rodriguez has enjoyed a respectable debut season, but he faces an offense that has been excellent against lefties and gets to face that offense at Yankee Stadium. He probably has to be started in AL-Only leagues, but I wouldn’t trust him in anything shallower.

At the end of July, I shared my pessimism on the short-term prospects of Nova, despite his 3.38 ERA. Since, he has posted an ugly 5.98 ERA. He’s a risky play even in AL-Only leagues.

Lance McCullers @ Roenis Elias

Since returning from the minors after a couple of weeks back on the farm, McCullers’ skills have remained strong and he has posted a 3.22 ERA. The Mariners offense is mediocre against righties. Start McCullers in all leagues.

Elias has posted similarly solid skills as last year and gets a home start. Unfortunately, he’ll be facing off against a team that has posted the eighth highest wOBA against lefties in baseball. I’d keep him benched unless you need him in AL-Only.

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.

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I’d stay away from Lynn, personally. The pirates crush fastballs and Lynn throws a ton of them.