The other day, while looking for starting pitchers to stream in one of my leagues, I stumbled across Michael Wacha on the waiver wire. (This league only has one DL slot, so players who miss considerable time are often dropped.) I was pretty pumped about this and picked him up immediately.
I told my co-owner Seth, and he was significantly less excited than I was. “He’s not going to pitch enough to matter,” he said. Wacha’s rehab assignment after missing nearly three full months was limited to just one 34-pitch start in Double-A, and he tossed just 50 pitches in his return to the major-league rotation. With so little time left in the season, I figured we should probably look into whether Seth was right. Would that roster spot have more value if we continued to use it for streaming?
As you likely know, Wacha’s original injury was a stress reaction in his right shoulder, also known as Brandon McCarthy Syndrome. Upon returning, the Cards have decided to essentially let him rehab in the majors. His first start had basically zero fantasy value, as his 50 pitches got him through just three innings. If we expect Wacha to continue following a traditional rehab workload ramp-up, we can probably project an additional 15 pitches per start.
It looks like Wacha should get four starts throughout the remainder of the regular season. Assuming this to be the case, here’s a rough estimate for his pitch counts in each start:
- @CIN – 65 pitches
- vs COL – 80 pitches
- vs CIN – 95 pitches
- @ARI – 110 pitches
In his major-league career, Wacha has averaged 15.7 pitches per inning. He’d have to be very efficient to get through five innings and qualify for a win in that next start at Cincy, but after that, it doesn’t look like it will be much of an issue.
The other thing that jumps out here is how insanely favorable those matchups are. Wacha has two meetings with the Reds, who have posted the worst team OPS in the entire league since the All-Star break. Cincinnati is so extremely bad that maybe 65 pitches can get Wacha through five innings after all. They’ve been so hapless in the second half that their team OPS (.605) is a full 31 points worse than the next-worst team, the Mets. This is a team that’s hit .222/.276/.330 over the last two months.
The start against Colorado is another great matchup, seeing as the Rockies have a .638 team OPS on the road. I’d rather see a home start in that Arizona matchup, but the D-Backs are bad enough in general that I’m not exactly concerned either.
What I’ve done here isn’t exactly rocket science, but to be perfectly honest, my gut reaction was that Seth was likely right, and that Wacha would not pitch enough to have significant fantasy value down the stretch. However, he has a dream month regarding matchups, to the point where the poor lineups he’ll face give him a good shot at efficiently navigating enough innings to pick up wins. Fear not, Wacha owners. He’s still got plenty to offer in 2014.
Scott Strandberg started writing for Rotographs in 2013. He works in small business consultation, and he also writes A&E columns for The Norman Transcript newspaper. Scott lives in Seattle, WA.