With every passing season, it seems that the amalgamation of starting pitching talent in the major leagues has gotten both progressively deeper and more dominant. Most of the speculation on the topic centers around the idea that the harshening regulations and increased testing of PEDs led to less runs being scored because hitters were physically weaker, and therefore worse at hitting.
That response to this trend feels narrative-driven at best, and I’ve found that most of the time, the simplest explanation is the best explanation. And the simplest explanation for the recent dominance of pitchers is: there just happens to be an inordinately large number of really good starters in the major leagues right now. Tonight’s games are no exception.
This might not be the most high profile pitching matchup of the night, but the showdown I’m most looking forward too is Chris Archer versus Ubaldo Jimenez, partially because their game last night technically ended earlier this morning. This start marks Chris Archer’s major league debut, and I’m optimistic about his chances to excel (but also mildly concerned about an implosion if he loses his control). Also, most casual fans probably don’t realize that Ubaldo actually has the best strikeout rate of his career so far this year at 9.23 K/9.
A ton of perceived aces or number two starters are pitching tonight, like James Shields, Zack Greinke, Gio Gonzalez, Jeff Samardzija, and Madison Bumgarner, yet Twins starter Kevin Correia has more wins than any of those superior pitchers with five. Don’t look at wins when judging your daily fantasy lineups folks, just look at the potential to get a win on that specific day. They’re fluky.
Jose Fernandez is only twenty years old, but through ten starts the Cuban righty is more than holding his own in the show, striking out almost a batter per inning. Fernandez should excel against the Mets, whose current team leader in batting average is Daniel Murphy and leader in homers is John Buck. I’m projecting a monster eight or more strikeout outing to three or fewer walks for Fernandez tonight.
Gio Gonzalez actually has the second highest DraftStreet price among starting pitchers today, which seems like a gross misevaluation of his performance this season. The submerged walk rate last year was clearly a fluke, and Gonzalez has a very spotty track record against the Braves, allowing an .829 OPS against their lineup for his career. By no means would I start him today, and in an era of continually improving pitching, Gio is one guy who has definitely regressed this season.
The Daily Five
Martin Prado – $6,174
Jeff Samardzija is a very good pitcher. That being said, the one tool he still seems to struggle against is really quick bat speed, and Prado still has that in spades. Additionally, one of the big improvements in Samardzija’s game this season has been the fact that he’s been garnering significantly more In Field Fly Balls (from a 3.8 percent IFFB% last season to 16.7 percent so far this year) which is something Prado has done only 3.8% of the time this year. For the money, Prado is great value.
Justin Upton – $8,054
Gio Gonzalez has faced Justin Upton nine times in his career—in those plate appearances, Upton reached base five times one of which was a home run. Given his pricing and the pricing of the Braves batters, Gio Gonzalez seems to still be valued as an ace starter, and that makes this price on Upton about a thousand bucks too low for me.
Starlin Castro – $6,454
I had Castro rated as my number one shortstop option today, so you can imagine my delight when I saw he was only the sixth most expensive guy on the list. Sure, the young pseudo-shortstop has struggled this season, but in his 16 career at bats against Ian Kennedy Castro has a .375 OBP and a .625 SLG including two doubles and a triple in that span. Given how awful shortstop is today, Castro seems like an easy option for the money.
Felix Doubront – $11,406
Pitching is expensive, and Doubront seemed like a nice middle ground between not overly pricy while still having a decent shot to put up a lot of points. In an extremely limited sample of 76 at bats against, Doubront has been spectacular against the current Yankees roster holding them to a .250 OBP and .316 SLG. The biggest factor here though is that I think Phil Hughes is going to blow up in this start, allowing Doubront the chance to pick up an easy win.
Russell Martin – $4,657
Catcher is oftentimes the position I look to in the money saving department, and that’s mostly because the depth at the position often leads to lower-down guys being undervalued. In a small sample this year Martin is 4 for 10 off of Mike Leake, and at that price, even an indicator as weak as that is worth investing in.
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