This week’s two-start piece is an even balance of righties and lefties, with one legend and a trio of relative unknowns.
RHP Marco Estrada (21.9 percent ESPN/19 percent Yahoo!) – @PIT (.304), @WAS (.322)
This marks the third time Estrada has been featured in the weekly two-start pieces, and while he only has three wins to show for it, the 29-year-old has been sensational for the Brew Crew. Almost nothing about Estrada’s season is a mirage, either, as his 3.77/3.48/3.47 pitching slash would attest. He’s got a reasonable strand rate, low but sustainable groundball and home run rates, and a BABIP that’s perfectly comfortable at .301. As a strikeout fiend, however, it’s the whiffs and K/BB that boost my affinity for Estrada, as he’s whiffed over a quarter of the hitters he’s faced this season — 25.6 percent — while walking about one of every 20 — 5.1 percent — and giving up just a .246 batting average (identical to his career mark). As far as matchups this week, the Pirates offense has been uneven all season — and more often bad than good despite an impressive run — and is thus a pretty good inter-divisional matchup for the northpaw. Washington provides a different set of challenges, but the Nationals have also shown a propensity for whiffs as an offense this season (21.1 percent whiff rate, sixth-highest in MLB), so I would tend to give Estrada a slight bump value-wise there.
LHP Andy Pettitte (7.6 percent ESPN/16 percent Yahoo!) – v. TOR (.311), v. OAK (.300)
Skipper Joe Girardi announced Pettitte would be coming off the 60-day DL to make a start Tuesday, and it couldn’t have come at a better time for all parties involved. The Yankees are 14-16 in their last 30, which has completely evaporated what was at the time (30 games ago, that is) a five-game lead. And while there’s a 12-game difference in the clubs’ pythagorean records (!!), the only record that matters at the end of the day is real-life Ws and Ls. Enter Pettitte, who is virtually unowned in mixed leagues across the board, and was sensational in his brief stretch after returning from retirement earlier this year. Seriously, the venerable lefty racked up a 1.4 WAR despite only making nine starts! That’s nearly a 5.0 WAR pace prorated over 200 innings for a guy who took the entire 2011 season off. Pettitte gets two very accommodating matchups, as Toronto is fully in tailspin mode (12-18 last 30), and Oakland is fighting like hell but hasn’t done much versus lefties all season.
RHP Miguel Gonzalez (6.9 percent ESPN/12 percent Yahoo!) – @SEA (.285), @BOS (.319)
Gonzalez gets a nice bump from me due to the intangibility that is the Orioles. What a great story. But Gonzalez has been a fine pitcher this season, and has really been a great story over all. More on that another time. Like his team, Gonzalez has pitched a bit over his head, with a pitching-slash of 3.57/4.64/4.76, which can be largely attributed to an unsustainable 82.3 percent strand rate and a .270 BABIP. Still, Gonzalez makes it work with a 91.4-mph fastball that has generated nearly seven whiffs per 9. Slightly below average, especially in this the year of the reliever/whiff, but thus far good enough to garner Gonzalez six wins and a spot in the Orioles late-season rotation in what can only be deemed as completely improbable for both the club and the righty. Isn’t baseball great? Seattle is a terrific matchup; no team has been worse against righties all season long. And the Red Sox, oh the Red Sox, who are 8-22 in their last 30 contests. Gonzalez is surely slated to regress at some point, but don’t bet on it being this week.
Deep League Consideration
LHP David Huff (0.0 percent ESPN/0 percent Yahoo!) – v. MIN (.318), @KC (.307)
Huff is taking Jeanmar Gomez’ rotation slot after making 22 starts this season in Columbus. He’s not a terrific option on his own merits, but he gets a couple of winnable matchups this week against other clubs battling with his for the AL Central cellar. He’s virtually unowned, so if you’re scrambling down the stretch he could be a capable option.