This week’s two-start bunch is a group of high-ceiling arms — most of them with tough matchups this week — many of whom I’ve already recommended a time or two this season.
RHP Jeff Samardzija (26.0 percent ESPN/36 percent Yahoo!) – @PIT (.300), v. STL (.331)
Shark’s performance has been a bit uneven this season, which isn’t altogether surprising considering prior to this season as a starter, he was a reliever, and prior to that, a wide receiver. Samardzija was super through May (3.09 ERA, 9.1 K/9, 3.4 K/9), roughed up in June (10.41 ERA, 7.7 K/9, 1.3 K/BB), and then back to terrific thus far in July (2.37 ERA, 11.4 K/9, 4.0 K/BB). It’s altogether possible that Shark went through a bit of a dead fin period, and is regaining his steam as we head toward the dog days of summer. I would wager on him cruising again through another handful of starts — say, early-to-mid August — before wearing down late considering he hasn’t gone much past 140 innings before in any season in his career. The Pirates aren’t as good of a matchup as they appear, because as you’ll astutely remember, they were historically bad prior to going on a pretty good run the past month or so (.353 wOBA last 30 days is third in MLB, perhaps coinciding with the monster run Andrew McCutchen is on). The Cardinals are tough against everyone — though Shark beat them in April — and oddly enough, this is the first time he’s facing the Bucs, a Central division foe.
LHP Felix Doubront (31.9 percent ESPN/39 percent Yahoo!) – @TEX (.328), @NYY (.347)
I’ve lost count, but this has to be the third or fourth time I’ve recommended picking up the Red Sox southpaw. Doubront has been relatively good all season long, with only three starts (out of 18) resulting in more than four earned runs. In 12 of those starts, he’s fanned more than five, and only twice has he walked more than three. That’s basically Doubront in a nutshell, as when he struggles, he’ll dish out free passes by the dozen and the walks will flatline a bit. One thing to keep an eye on in workload, as Doubront has thrown 80 or more pitches in every start, 90 or more pitches in 15 starts, and 100 or more pitches in eight of them. Doubront only tossed about 90 innings last season, so like Samardzija, keep an eye on early-to-mid season wear down, as Felix just exceeded 100 innings on his last time out. It’s a tough week for the hard-throwing lefty this week, as he gets arguably the two finest offenses in the junior circuit, though he’s handled the Yankees quite well in two starts (1-1, 12.1 IP, 4 ER, 13 K) and has yet to face the Rangers. Similar to Shark again, look to ride Doubront for another handful of starts before flipping him down the stretch. I’m still surprised that he’s only owned in about a third of leagues overall, however.
LHP Mike Minor (24.6 percent ESPN/19 percent Yahoo!) – @MIA (.305), v. PHI (.301)
Minor’s peripherals don’t seem to suggest he’s a nearly 6.00 ERA pitcher; he’s fanned nearly eight per 9, carried a passable 1.39 WHIP, and has a healthy 2.0 K/BB rate. So what gives? Well, in short, Minor has a major problem with the long ball, having allowed 20 (!) in just under 100 innings pitched. Among qualified hurlers, Minor’s 15.7 percent HR/FB rate is seventh, behind the likes of fellow dong aficionado Joe Blanton. Moreover, his HR/9 rate of 1.84 trails only Hector Noesi, who has been banished to Tacoma. But Minor’s xFIP is 4.57 — a full run below his ERA — and his last two weeks (12.1 IP, 13 K/4 BB, 2.19 ERA) have been encouraging. The Miami and Philly matchups should help Minor continue his quest back to fantasy relevance, where most people believed he should have been all along.