This week’s two-start piece features a trio of veterans, followed by a pair of rookies with accommodating matchups.
Jake Westbrook (16.0 percent ESPN/19 percent Yahoo!) – @MIA (.297), v. PIT (.282)
It’s a good time to be Westbrook, especially when considering he faces a pair of weaker-than-average offenses and is backed by the always-mighty Cardinals offense, which has been a top-five group for pretty much the entire season. But let’s talk about the 34-year-old groundball wizard for a moment. With a worm-burning rate in the vicinity of 60 percent and his best whiff-rate since the first W. administration, Westbrook has been downright awesome, if a bit underrated. He’s managed a solid 3.83 ERA, but is still somehow pitching below his peripherals (3.60/3.50 FIP/xFIP split) on his way to already beating his 1.1 WAR from last year (1.3 presently). Strangely enough, the Marlins and the Pirates carry exactly the same groundball rate (44.8 percent, somewhere in the middle of the pack), so despite not being particularly good offensively this season, it isn’t due to comebackers and choppers (more so a lack of line drives, but we’ll save that for another day). Westbrook is coming off a complete game victory over the Tigers, and has only failed to go five innings once this season, so he’ll give a fantasy team innings, probably a decent number of Ks, and a good shot to win each time out. What more can you ask for?
Erik Bedard (9.9 percent ESPN/35 percent Yahoo!) – @PHI (.311), @STL (.342)
Traditional stats may not bear it out — as he’s supported by a historically-bad offense — but Bedard is really having a nice season in the Steel City. The WHIP is a bit unsightly (1.42), but the strikeout rates are starting to return to those posted by a younger, harder-throwing Bedard when he was dealing just down the coast in Baltimore. The Phillies haven’t shown a semblance of discipline against southpaws all season long, so despite decent whiff rates Bedard shouldn’t see much resistance in reducing his WHIP or BB/9 (4.0 presently, his highest since ‘08). The Cardinals provide a different set of issues for Bedard, since as a group the Red Birds have the second best wOBA versus lefties (trailing division foe Cincinnati). However, Bedard has fared relatively well against the thumping Cards this season in two starts, with a 1-1 record, 3.00 ERA, and 18 whiffs in only 12 frames tossed. He may not get a ton of help from his offense this week — the Bucs are still the worst offense in baseball with a .287 wOBA — but the offense has really perked up over the past two weeks, to the tune of a .334 wOBA over that time frame.
Francisco Liriano (12.0 percent ESPN/29 percent Yahoo!) – v. CWS (.304), v. KC (.283)
Liriano has been one of the hottest pitchers over the last 30 days, slotting in between Lance Lynn and Zack Greinke at sixth in the MLB in K/9 over that time period (10.6). In that time frame, Liriano has allowed only one home run, and has been worth exactly one win to the Twins. He gets a couple of accommodating matchups this week as the White Sox — whom he no-hit last season — and the Royals come to town, neither of whom are particularly adept against port-siders. Oddly enough, the White Sox’ line against lefties is nearly 20 points worse than its overall line, whereas the Royals are nearly 30 points worse. A sizzling Liriano, a couple scuffling offenses, and a Twins offense that is markedly better at home (.340 wOBA) than on the road (.283) would suggest that Liriano could finally improve that sad 1-7 mark he’s currently sporting.
Rated Rookies (Worth a Look in Deeper Leagues):
Jordan Lyles (0.0 percent ESPN/0 percent Yahoo!) – v. SD (.289), @CHC (.307)
No, Lyles isn’t technically a rookie — and probably isn’t technically owned in 0 percent of leagues worldwide either — but this might be the week young Lyles needs to finally get on track. Both of the opposing offenses aren’t particularly good, and Lyles has been a bit better (4.37 June ERA) of late. Expect the Ks to return for Lyles against the Padres, who have the highest whiff rate against righties this season.
Chris Archer (0.5 percent ESPN/2 percent Yahoo!) – @KC (.318), v. DET (.328)
Archer was impressive in his big-league debut, hurling six innings of seven-strikeout ball in a loss to the Nationals. However, these two offenses are considerably better than the Nats, and will provide a good test for the 23-year-old right-hander, whom carried a 10.6 K/9 mark this year in Durham.