Fantasy Baseball

2016 Fantasy Baseball Pitching Planner Week 17: Janet’s Inquiry

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pitching planner

Credit: phoca2004

Janet Jackson just had one question for her main man in her hit 1986 single (and, shamelessly, my favorite song of hers).

What have you done for me lately?

She didn’t care about how well she was treated in the early parts of the relationship. She could feel his effort tailing off towards the end and knew that something had to have changed.

In many ways, that  sort of relationship can be felt between a fantasy player and a starting pitcher drafted or picked up. We are holding onto guys who haven’t been as effective in the last few starts as they were in the first few months. Meanwhile, that hot new bachelor, err, starter on the waiver wire is firing bullets and shutouts all of a sudden.

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How can you tell if a waiver wire starter can be trusted to continue a recent string of success? Or, on the flip side, how do you know when it’s time to finally cut bait on a pitcher?

The key thing to remember is to avoid having recency bias. With the sample size we have over the last 16 weeks of baseball, it’s important not to inflate the importance of one or two weeks in that time frame. A pitcher who has thrown three straight ultra-quality starts (at least 7IP and less than 2ER allowed) but has a 4.75 ERA in 20 starts is still a pedestrian pitcher most likely.

Keeping this in mind, let’s look at pitchers with recent success or failure and make the case for them returning back to their old form.

Theme of the Week: Recency Bias

Fantasy Baseball Pitching Planner

Set & Forget – Sure-Fire Starters

  • Jake Arrieta (@CWS/SEA)
  • Madison Bumgarner (CIN) – The Reds rank in the bottom five in both wOBA and wRC+ versus left-handers. Bumgarner likes that. MadBum is going to go mad… bum? I’m Ron Burgundy?
  • Corey Kluber (OAK)
  • Jose Fernandez (STL)
  • Carlos Carrasco (WSH)
  • Jon Lester (SEA) – I wanted to point out his favorable matchup against Seattle.The Mariners seem like an offense to avoid on both nights, but let’s look at the splits. They are 17th in wRC+ and 23rd in wOBA against southpaws this season.Lester could be a sneaky play in DFS since people will probably fade the matchup and strikeout potential.
  • Johnny Cueto (WSH)
  • Julio Teheran (PHI)
  • Noah Syndergaard (STL/COL)
  • Chris Sale (@CHC) – Sale has been very inconsistent lately, including a start against the Braves in which he yielded eight runs. You read that right, the BRAVES tore him up.Let’s calm down though, even a blind squirrel can find a nut sometimes and that can be a worthy reason as to why the Braves were able to get to him. Baseball can be weird sometimes! Speaking of slumping, the Cubs offense hasn’t been as hot as they were early on this season and I’m expecting Sale to continue his season-long success.
  • Danny Salazar (WSH)
  • Max Scherzer (@SF)
  • Stephen Strasburg (@CLE)
  • Dallas Keuchel (NYY/@DET) – The 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner has stepped out of the shadows to pitch six straight quality starts!Now here is a scenario where I can allow recency bias to take over. We have seen two seasons of this level of performance and I’m inclined to believe that he has turned a corner and turned back into a top 25 SP. I hope you held onto him or bought low earlier in the season!
  • Jacob deGrom (COL)
  • Marco Estrada (SD)
  • Drew Pomeranz (DET/@LAA)
  • Trevor Bauer (OAK) – His ERA hasn’t really suffered from it yet, but the walksies are coming back for Bauer. Not to the level where it was in 2015, but still something worth monitoring.Right now he is inducing an elite level of ground balls and leaving runners on base at crazy rates. I expect him to be able find his groove again, especially in a matchup here with Oakland, and I wouldn’t sell him off your team just yet.
  • Steven Matz (COL)
  • Vincent Velasquez (@ATL)
  • Carlos Martinez (@NYM/@MIA)
  • Yu Darvish (OAK) – Control issues cut Darvish’s last start short as he issued four walks in just 4+ IP.His strikeout upside is just too juicy to ever sit and he has to played in every game he is healthy for this season if you are an owner.It’s not like the A’s are going to really threaten for a blowup. Expect Darvish to continue to gradually work his way back up to elite form with each start.
  • Kyle Hendricks (@CWS/SEA)
  • Masahiro Tanaka (@HOU)
  • Jose Quintana (@MIN)
  • Adam Wainwright (@NYM) – One would only need fire emojis (plural) to describe how well he has been throwing lately. It’s been vintage Waino since the start of June: 2.30 ERA, 2.16 FIP, 24.2 K%, 6.6 BB%, 1.02 WHIP, and 50 GB%.Like Keuchel, we’ve seen plenty more good Wainwright than bad over his career. This makes me feel comfortable moving him back to the top section. A start against the Mets doesn’t faze me either!
  • Aaron Sanchez (SD/BAL)
  • Kenta Maeda (ARI)
  • Aaron Nola (@ATL)
  • Jason Hammel (CWS) – His numbers have been pretty brutal in July, but super-inflated by a start against the Mets (yes, the ones that didn’t faze me) in which he gave up 10 runs. That’s never good for an ERA.However, despite that start, his season ERA still lies at 3.34. That should tell you how dominant he’s been so far and he shouldn’t lose your trust based on one clunker of a start.
  • Cole Hamels (KC)
  • John Lackey (CWS)
  • Gerrit Cole (@MIL)
  • Tanner Roark (@SF) – Does this story sound familiar? Anyone remember back in 2014 when the Nationals called upon Roark to make a start out of the bullpen and he ended up leading their staff?Well, he doesn’t have to ace the staff this time around considering his rotation mates are all-stars. Don’t tell him that though – he is the 19th rated fantasy SP for 2016 on ESPN’s Player Rater. No comment on his recency bias – just wanted to show how impressed I have been by him this season! He deserves a spot at the cool kids table AKA the Set & Forget group.
  • Michael Fulmer (@BOS)

Dream Stream – Streaming Options to Employ

  • Felix Hernandez (@PIT) – In his first start back since late May, the King labored through 6 2/3 innings against the White Sox and gave up five runs while only striking out two.This is why I leave him in the stream section for now by the smallest of margins. However, I’m ready to insert him back into the auto-start group after seeing him back to his normal self. This week against the Pirates will be a good test to see how close he is to regaining form.
  • David Price (@LAA)
  • Steven Wright (DET/@LAA)
  • Josh Tomlin (OAK)
  • Matt Moore (@LAD) – Well, I gotta admit I didn’t see this coming.In six of his last eight starts, he has given up two runs or less. He’s gone 6+ IP in each of those games and averaged over five strikeouts a contest. It’s clear to see here how he’s been successful: consistency. There’s no shutout performance followed by a crazy blowup with several walks.I’m encouraged by the stretch here, but I still need to watch the tape and dive into the statistics a little further. I have never been a believer in Moore, so I will need a little more proof to completely turn the corner (pitch usage and percentages, heat maps, etc.) As for now, ride the wave! Especially do so against a Dodgers team that fears left-handed pitchers.
  • Rich Hill (@TEX)
  • Sonny Gray (@TEX)
  • Jerad Eickhoff (@MIA/@ATL)
  • Ervin Santana (ATL/CWS) – ‘Mr. Quality Start’ as I call him is on quite a tear lately. His last six starts have yielded a 2.03 ERA over 40 IP and a couple of wins. However, the strikeout total is low and it’s surprising that you can spell ‘Twins’ without ‘wins’.I’m not feeling fantastic about Santana in the long run, but look at his starts this week! We know the ineptitude of the Braves offense and the White Sox have been average at best with the bats. This week is a perfect week to pickup/stream Santana, but I wouldn’t be afraid to drop him right after (even with two good starts).
  • Adam Conley (PHI)
  • Mike Foltynewicz (@MIN)
  • Jameson Taillon (@MIL)
  • Danny Duffy (LAA) – Duffy started off firing when called into the starting rotation midseason. Lately though, he’s been hot and cold.The strikeouts have been prevalent in most of his starts, so no worry there. However, the walks have been an issue in his blowup starts.I’m inclined to trust him though given the total body of work this season and I’m enamored with strikeout guys. The Angels are a scary matchup this week, no doubt about it. Against lefties, they are in the top 5 in BB/K, wOBA, and wRC+. Duffy is likely not someone you would sit though and the Angels don’t really have major power bats other than Trout and Pujols that scare you.
  • Jaime Garcia (@NYM/@MIA)
  • Tyler Anderson (@NYM)
  • Blake Snell (NYY)
  • Matt Shoemaker (@KC) – Opposing Duffy next week will be Shoemaker, who has had a bounce back season after a rough 2015 campaign.I love when it’s super easy to see how a pitcher has turned a corner – makes my life easier! The truth lies in the pitch selection. According to FanGraphs, he has seen a 12% increase in split-finger fastball use in lieu of the curveball (almost disappeared completely from his repertoire). His split-fastball has been his only ‘plus’ pitch over his four year career, so naturally it makes sense to up the usage a bit! I’m curious if opposing offenses will adjust or if the pitch is just that nasty!
  • Kevin Gausman (@MIN)
  • Chris Archer (@LAD)
  • Justin Verlander (@BOS/HOU)
  • Lance McCullers (NYY) – McCullers is like that one friend you have that you bring to a party that makes things interesting. Sometimes, it can make the party crazier and more fun. Other times, it can blow up, create unnecessary drama, and ruin the night. But the truth is, you live and die by that guy showing up!McCullers will load the bases at least twice during every start. What’s fun is guessing whether he will strike out the side or allow a bases-clearing double. Yes, he’s had a good recent string of success. However, the walks are just bonkers and extremely worrisome. If he can’t control his pitches, what prevents him from being like a Yordano Ventura-type?
  • Jake Odorizzi (NYY)
  • Brandon McCarthy (ARI)
  • Jon Gray (@BAL)
  • Robbie Ray (@MIL) – If you are reading this and Ray is on waivers in your 12+ team league, go grab him now! I’m buying wherever I can and you should too.All his statistics point to a 2nd half breakout. Strikeout-to-walk differential is great at 17%. Having a 0.359 BABIP and 14% HR/FB should point to being unlucky. His changeup has rated as one of the worst pitches out there as far as the weighted pitch types go and I wonder if there’s potential for him to improve that pitch.FanGraphs has his changeup clocked at about 86 MPH, which is only 7 MPH lower than his fastball. That seems a little odd and not helpful – maybe in the offseason there might be tweaks made to take a little off to create a larger velocity differential.
  • Jeremy Hellickson (@MIA/@ATL)
  • Tyler Duffey (ATL)
  • Bud Norris (TB)
  • Collin McHugh (@DET)
  • Lucas Harrell (@MIN/PHI) – Harrell has found new life in Atlanta after bouncing around between six other teams in the majors. Since joining the rotation, he’s had two good starts and two bad ones. The sample size is small, so I won’t get too deep into anything just yet. Looking at the matchups this week though, I feel pretty comfortable suggesting him as a deep league streamer.
  • Marcus Stroman (SD)
  • Michael Wacha (@MIA)
  • Jake Peavy (CIN/WSH)
  • Matt Wisler (PHI) – It hasn’t been super pretty for Wisler in his last two starts, but still he has had a ‘quality’ season. 12 of his 18 starts this season have been quality starts or better.Nothing fancy, but that’s a good floor to have and then you throw in the matchup against the Phillies this week. He’s probably on waiver wires everywhere and should be used for a spot start this week.
  • Junior Guerra (PIT)
  • Tyler Chatwood (@NYM)
  • Archie Bradley (@MIL)
  • Doug Fister (NYY)
  • Drew Smyly (NYY) – Last chance, Smyly! You know what they say, ’10th time’s a charm’ or something like that.
  • Jimmy Nelson (ARI)
  • Jeff Samardzija (WSH)
  • Hisashi Iwakuma (@CHC)

Bet & Regret – Streaming Options to Avoid

  • Gio Gonzalez (@CLE/@SF)
  • Joe Ross (@SF)
  • Rick Porcello (@LAA)
  • Ian Kennedy (LAA/@TEX)
  • James Shields (CHC/@MIN) – Big Game James! Where has this guy been? Over his last five starts, dude has a 2.10 ERA with a 1.05 WHIP. What’s changed? Well, he’s faced the Braves, Yankees, Twins, and struggling Tigers in home starts along with a start at Anaheim.The strikeouts have dipped massively from even the start of the season and his FIP/xFIP of 5.14/4.97 yell regression. Even more bad news, both opponents have been producing well over the last month. Don’t be biased by recency!
  • J.A. Happ (@BAL)
  • A.J. Griffin (KC)
  • Zachary Davies (ARI)
  • Mike Leake (@MIA)
  • Zach Eflin (@MIA) – Of all the names I didn’t think I would ever see in my Pitching Planner at the start of this season, I think Eflin takes the cake.This really came out of nowhere for me and I don’t even know what his throwing style looks like. He’s deserved it though – excluding a poor start against the Blue Jays, he’s had a 2.56 ERA to go with a 0.99 WHIP. Craziest part is that three of those starts were at San Francisco, at Arizona, and at Colorado. I mean, the dude is killing it even at Coors Field!I’m still not comfortable streaming him this week, especially with the lack of strikeouts and the skill of the Miami offense. Nevertheless, I can’t deny that he should be a pickup in 12+ team leagues looking for any sort of speculative boost to their ratios.
  • Sean Manaea (@CLE)
  • C.C. Sabathia (@HOU)
  • Wei-Yen Chen (PHI/STL)
  • Francisco Liriano (SEA)
  • Kendall Graveman (@CLE)
  • Anthony DeSclafani (@SF)
  • James Paxton (@CHC) – This guy has has an inconsistent couple of months in the starting rotation. The good news is that you can have safe guesses on which starts will be good and bad. He pitched really well against the Royals, Rangers, and Indians – all teams that don’t hit lefties well. He threw poorly against the Padres, Cardinals, and Astros – they mash southpaws. Had quality-ish starts against the Tigers (2) and Rays (which actually surprised me).You could do worse than stashing him on your bench, starting him against teams that struggle against lefties, and see if his talent and baseball acumen can help him overcome and become more matchup-proof as the season progresses. I’m buying in for upside wherever I can.
  • Bartolo Colon (STL/COL)
  • Chris Tillman (COL/@TOR)
  • Yordano Ventura (@TEX)
  • Chad Kuhl (@MIL)
  • Nathan Eovaldi (@TB)
  • Scott Kazmir (ARI) – Kazmir is about where I had him in the preseason, largely in part to a recent string of good starts. It’s good to see the strikeouts coming back for him this season, especially lately. I think he will be a little more consistent moving forward, but this week I’m sitting him if possible. It’s not a fantastic matchup against the Diamondbacks.
  • Mike Fiers (@DET)
  • Edinson Volquez (@TEX)
  • R.A. Dickey (BAL)
  • Tommy Milone (CWS)
  • Michael Pineda (@HOU/@TB)
  • Nick Tropeano (BOS)
  • Cody Reed (@SF/@SD) – Reed has had a statistically dreadful rookie stint. I mean, it really can’t get worse. However, when your 3.72 xFIP is a full three runs less than the 6.75 ERA, something’s gotta give.This week isn’t the time to buy on the guy – the Giants and Padres are scary good against left-handers – but down the road you will want to buy super low on Reed. He’s got major upside and could help you win a fantasy championship down the stretch.
  • Andrew Cashner (@TOR)
  • Ivan Nova (@TB)
  • Ricky Nolasco (CWS)
  • Martin Perez (OAK/KC)
  • Dan Straily (@SD)

About Tyler Thompson

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