Fantasy Baseball

2016 Fantasy Baseball Pitching Planner Week 8: Oddities Aplenty

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fantasy baseball pitching planner

Credit: slgckgc

We’ve completed the first quarter of the season and now it’s time to start taking statistics a little more seriously. I would say probably 75% of the pitchers out there have stats that would reflect their previous performance in years past and can be fairly easy to project moving forward. What about the other 25%?

To quote the great Vince Lombardi: “What the hell’s going on out here!”

We have had our fair share of preseason aces who are starting to regain form after rough starts (i.e. Chris Archer, David Price) as well as overachieving starters who have finally regressed back to preseason expectations (i.e. Mat Latos). However, there are still so many aces and sleepers out there that are producing very differently than how we imagined it at the start of the year.

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I have to adjust accordingly when producing my weekly pitching planner and take the first quarter stats a little more to heart than I have been doing in the first seven versions of the article. So you’ll see some odd names show up this week along with some well-known names a little further down than normal. I will try to use all my descriptions this week on players who have notably over/underperformed thus far into the season and whether or not I buy or sell (or hold, I guess?) on the player.

Theme of the Week: Buy, Sell, or Hold

Fantasy Baseball Pitching Planner

Set & Forget – No Brainer Starters

  • Clayton Kershaw (CIN/@NYM)
  • Chris Sale (CLE/@KC)
  • Jake Arrieta (@STL)
  • Jon Lester (PHI) – So Lester has had a marvelous season thus far highlighted by his 1.88 ERA. However, a 91.1 LOB% scares the hell out of me and his FIP/xFIP both point towards ~3.20. Granted, that’s still not bad, but if you can flip him at top ten SP value rather than the top 20-25 range that he will be in after regression then I would say explore it! It’s not a hard ‘sell’, but a ‘sell’ nonetheless.
  • Stephen Strasburg (NYM/STL)
  • Noah Syndergaard (LAD)
  • Felix Hernandez (MIN)
  • Jacob deGrom (LAD)
  • Taijuan Walker (OAK/MIN) – I can only say ‘wow’ at how high has this guy climbed in the rankings. I was a buyer before the season, but not that he would reach SP2 status. There’s two things that I love about his stats: lowered walk rate and increase in ground balls induced. Because of these two improvements, I feel that he will maintain this pace of 3.00 ERA and 9 K/9 throughout the year. Pat yourself on the back for drafting him as a SP4!
  • David Price (COL/@TOR)
  • Jose Fernandez (@TB)
  • Masahiro Tanaka (@TB)
  • Zack Greinke (SD)
  • Johnny Cueto (SD/@COL)
  • Gio Gonzalez (NYM/STL) – The answer is no, I don’t buy him as a 1.86 ERA (!) pitcher. However, I don’t see any reason why he won’t pitch to the tune of a low-3.00 ERA with decent K/BB and elite GB%. If you can flip him for a weakness/need at other positions, go for it, but odds are you drafted this guy as a SP5 in drafts and I would hold onto him at that value.
  • Jose Quintana (CLE)
  • Max Scherzer (STL)
  • Corey Kluber (@CWS)
  • Chris Archer (NYY)
  • Rich Hill (@SEA/DET) – We couldn’t have an ‘overachievers’ article without mentioning Rich Hill, who has taken the fantasy world by storm in 2016. Look, he’s an elite strikeout pitcher, period, and has the peripherals to back up his numbers. There’s a baby elephant in the room sitting in the corner trying to hide, but I see him. His name is ‘injury-prone’ and I suspect that this elephant will be noticed at some point this season. Your move, Hill owners, but if I owned him anywhere I would be selling.
  • Kenta Maeda (@NYM)
  • Jeff Samardzija (SD)
  • Drew Smyly (NYY)
  • Gerrit Cole (ARI)
  • Danny Salazar (BAL)
  • Madison Bumgarner (@COL)
  • Vincent Velasquez (@DET/@CHC) – Speaking of injury-prone guys, Velasquez has pitched more than 90 innings in a season only once in his young career. I’m not saying that we should judge someone’s injury proneness based on 5 years, but shouldn’t young arms with no mileage be able to withstand more heat? It’s a shame that he has already experienced issues with longevity this early but facts are facts. It would be wise to sell on Velasquez, who you likely picked up off waivers for next to nothing.
  • John Lackey (@STL/PHI)
  • Justin Verlander (PHI)
  • Adam Conley (@ATL)
  • Kyle Hendricks (PHI)
  • Jordan Zimmerman (@OAK)
  • Drew Pomeranz (@SF/@ARI) – Honestly, I have nothing else to say that I didn’t say about Gio Gonzalez. His ERA is incredibly low to be matched with some of his other stats, but his K/BB is bonkers, he’s got a knuckle curve that I would throw in as one of the best hooks in the game, and he pitches half of his games in PETCO. I would hold onto Pomeranz, as I plan to do in many leagues where I was happy to use my last draft pick on him (patting myself on the back, I’m sorry).
  • Jason Hammel (@STL)
  • Jaime Garcia (@WSH) – Quick thought on Garcia – who would’ve thought this guy would be the ace of the staff here a quarter of the way into the season?
  • Steven Matz (@WSH)

Dream Stream – Streaming Options to Employ

  • Cole Hamels (PIT)
  • Nate Karns (OAK) – Karns is someone I’m buying in leagues where he is available on waivers. He marks off all the checklists for a SP5/SP6 type for the rest of the season with his ~3.50 ERA, great K/BB ratio, team and ballpark factors, etc. Check to see if he is available in your league and reap the benefits.
  • Julio Teheran (MIL/MIA)
  • Jimmy Nelson (@ATL/CIN)
  • Aaron Nola (@DET) – Another buy target, Nola has shocked everyone this year not with the success he’s had, but specifically with the drastically increased K%. Everyone points to the increase in curveball usage as the key ingredient and, I get it, it’s a great pitch. But one pitch type has to decrease in usage for the curveball usage to go up 8%. That pitch – change up. It’s not a bad pitch, but using it less makes it harder to detect for hitters, making it another ‘plus’ pitch in his repertoire. Count me in as a buyer on Nola and his spiked K-rate.
  • Marcus Stroman (BOS)
  • Ian Kennedy (@MIN/CWS)
  • Joe Ross (STL)
  • Dallas Keuchel (@LAA) – Here’s the biggest conundrum of the 2016 season on the pitching front (or maybe the second biggest one, see my next description victim) – how did Keuchel lose his ability to pinpoint all of his pitches? After two years of ~2 BB/9, he’s at 3.99 BB/9 so far this year and when he does find the strike zone, opponents are hitting to the tune of a 0.336 BABIP. This is what worries me about pitchers who can’t bail themselves out with K’s, but I would be willing to hold onto Keuchel and bet on his AL Cy Young location skills to return. Remember last year when Corey Kluber had a Cy Young slump? He bounced back and so too can Keuchel.
  • Chris Tillman (@HOU/@CLE)
  • Francisco Liriano (ARI/@TEX)
  • Matt Harvey (@WSH) – Now here is the biggest conundrum of the entire fantasy season so far – Matt Harvey’s ERA is what?! Nothing sounds good about a 5.73 ERA and a much worse K/BB than last season, but I would absolutely buy low on Harvey. His FIP/xFIP point towards a huge improvement, his LOB% is astoundingly low and should at least approach league average, his velocities on each pitch aren’t that far off from last year. This tells me that a change in mental approach or pitch calling needs to take place and he will be back on track. I really shouldn’t even rank him this low this week but I keep hearing ghosts of the dreaded ‘skipped start’ circling the Twitterverse.
  • Alex Wood (@NYM)
  • Matt Wisler (MIL)
  • Edinson Volquez (@MIN/CWS)
  • Marco Estrada (@NYY) – You know what, I admit it – I have been wrong about Estrada this season. I thought surely he would regress after last year, but some pitchers are just well-known ‘FIP-beaters’ and Estrada leads the pack. I still think he’s more of a 3.50 ERA pitcher and a 8.71 K/9 is not sustainable for his style of play, but he’s still a valuable enough pitcher to where I would hold him in most formats barring a pretty good trade offer.
  • Carlos Martinez (CHC)
  • Junior Guerra (@ATL)
  • Tanner Roark (NYM)
  • Aaron Sanchez (@NYY)
  • Tyler Duffey (KC) – Okay, can I apologize really quick? I haven’t once talked about Duffey in the form of streaming, picking up, or even sitting! He certainly deserves being mentioned at the very least and, if he has been this sneaky good under the radar for you too, I would suggest looking for his services on the waiver wire. With a 3.17 ERA and 3.00 K/BB (4.71 K/BB this year) over 88 innings pitched the last two seasons, he has proven that this could be a sustainable feat for him to achieve going forward. Those numbers are on par with Nate Karns without the wins and that can be valuable in leagues that use quality starts in place of wins.
  • Ross Stripling (CIN)
  • Hisashi Iwakuma (OAK)
  • Steven Wright (COL)
  • Carlos Rodon (@KC)
  • Wei-Yen Chen (TB/@ATL)
  • Bartolo Colon (@WSH/LAD)
  • Michael Wacha (CHC/@WSH) – Wacha hasn’t gotten off to the worst start ever or anything, but most people were expecting better than 4.03 ERA and two wins. I just checked out his stats over the last three years and he is one of the most consistent pitchers stats-wise I have seen in awhile! The only extreme difference I saw was the BABIP increase this year from 0.288 and 0.272 in 2014 and 2015 (respectively) to 0.338 so far this season. Surely that will fall back to his career norm and we will start seeing the 3.30 ERA that gets him the many wins for the Cardinals. I would be a sneaky buyer on Wacha if someone is frustrated with him.
  • Lance McCullers (BAL)
  • Jake Odorizzi (@MIA)
  • James Shields (@SF)
  • Mike Foltynewicz (MIL)
  • Chase Anderson (CIN) – I wanted to quickly mention how good he looked in his almost no-hit bid against the Cubs last week. The Reds should be an easier opponent to handle, but I may be overreacting to how ‘wowed’ I was last week by his stuff.
  • Kevin Gausman (@HOU)

Bet & Regret – Streaming Options to Avoid

  • Juan Nicasio (@TEX)
  • Sonny Gray (@SEA) – If Coco Crisp is going to play centerfield every night Gray pitches then I’m not buying at all! During Gray’s last start, Crisp ruined a great game from Gray by misplaying two easy outs in the same inning and forcing Gray out of the game. I actually was impressed with his stuff that evening from an eye test standpoint. From a statistical standpoint, Gray’s BB/9 and HR/9 have just about doubled from last year and there’s no way I could see that maintaining throughout the season. I would be interested in buying low, but it’s gotta be at SP4 or SP5 price. Besides, you can only get better from a 6.19 ERA, right?
  • Mike Fiers (@LAA)
  • Rick Porcello (@TOR)
  • Scott Kazmir (CIN) – After a very strong 2015 season, expectations weren’t extremely high for 2016 but most expected some pretty consistent numbers from someone who could be drafted as an SP5. That has been far from the case so far, but I would suggest Kazmir owners to hang tight just a little longer. Dive into his stats on your favorite baseball website and it’s clear as day as to what the issue is – homers. He’s allowing twice as many dingers this year per game this year than last year! Nobody gives up over 2 HR/9 over the course of a season, especially not decent pitchers. He’s not a guy I would buy on necessarily, but if he gets dropped in your league just add him to your bench and give him a couple of starts. He should get back to under 4.00 ERA by season’s end.
  • Wade Miley (MIN)
  • Michael Pineda (@TB)
  • Josh Tomlin (@CWS)
  • Adam Wainwright (CHC/@WSH) – Oh, Waino, you should’ve never called in to doubt fantasy owners in the FSTA draft who passed on you. The “XM Radio Jinx” is in full effect and Wainwright has been way off in 2016. In similar fashion to Keuchel, it scares me when non-strikeout pitchers have issues with control. His major strength in his career has been inducing grounders at an elite level and this year he’s below average in that category at 39%. I have been trying to make myself believe that Waino will get back to normal by reading all these articles on how he’s changing his mechanics or whatever, but I’m just not buying it. At this point, any owners of Waino just have to bench him until he gets it right. If he’s still like this in June I would cut bait.
  • Doug Fister (@LAA)
  • Trevor Bauer (BAL)
  • Colby Lewis (LAA)
  • Jerad Eickhoff (@CHC)
  • Clay Buchholz (COL)
  • Ervin Santana (KC/@SEA) – Well, I wanted to thank Ervin if he’s somehow reading this out there for following me on Twitter out of the blue. First baseball player to follow me so I’m feeling pretty special. I really enjoyed watching you pitch for the Braves a couple years ago. #SMELLBASEBALL
  • Nathan Eovaldi (TOR/@TB)
  • Brandon Finnegan (@LAD/@MIL)
  • R.A. Dickey (@NYY/BOS)
  • Anibal Sanchez (PHI)
  • Collin McHugh (BAL) – I’m not really sure what people were expecting out of McHugh coming into the season, but I wasn’t ever really interested. He just doesn’t do any one thing above average, which seems really mean to say but I’m sticking to it. Strikeouts, walks, batted ball data, everything is just bland! His ERA should drop back down to like 4.00, which is what it was last year, which is not cutting it for someone drafted as an SP4. I’m selling on McHugh the second he puts together a string of good starts.
  • Hector Santiago (@TEX)
  • Nick Tropeano (@TEX/HOU)
  • Ivan Nova (TOR)
  • Yordano Ventura (CWS) – When your walk rate is almost equal to your strikeout rate, you know your season is going poorly. When you have a Yordano heater and those numbers exist, you know the problem’s gotta be bigger. I read an article on FanGraphs by Owen Watson that pointed out that, though Ventura has been known for lack of control, it hasn’t been to this extreme. Watson goes on to say that release point could be an issue, which actually has me sorta relieved. Release point is a natural thing and it’s quite possible that he could slip back into his old habit, which is the good one! Perhaps hold onto him for a little while longer and see if he can autocorrect his mechanics like my phone autocorrects curse words to totally unrelated words (too much of a stretch?)
  • Jesse Hahn (DET)
  • Matt Andriese (MIA)
  • Jeremy Hellickson (@DET)
  • Tyler Chatwood (SF) – Let’s just get this out of the way – he will have to be sat for all starts in Denver. Now that we got that cleared up, I want to explain why I think he is a perfect streaming option for your squad. In 27 2/3 innings on the road, Chatwood sports a 0.33 ERA (!), 2.22 FIP, and 15.5K-BB% that stems from his four-pitch repertoire. Did I say four-pitch? I meant five-pitch repertoire because as I was watching him pitch this weekend I saw that he had movement in on fastballs to both righties and lefties to denote a clear cutter/2-seamer distinction. I look at his stats to see that he has developed a cutter this season that hasn’t been around in his previous three seasons. I like pitchers who can work in with heaters on any batter and believe that Chatwood can be an auto-stream in road starts.
  • Jon Gray (@BOS)
  • Matt Moore (@MIA/NYY)
  • Jhoulys Chacin (@TEX)
  • Patrick Corbin (@PIT)
  • Doug Fister (BAL)
  • Cesar Vargas (@ARI)
  • Chad Bettis (SF)
  • J.A. Happ (BOS)

About Tyler Thompson

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