Many of you are preparing for the head to head playoffs, which often involves looking at the worst couple of pitchers on your roster and thinking about what you want those spots to look like in two weeks. Even those of you in roto leagues are getting down to it and wondering how best to use the remaining innings you have available. In either case, a look at the schedule can be huge.
My method is to look at the free agents in my shallowest league, sort them by ownership, and move through the pitchers. It’s not the most rigorous method. I fail the people around me often.
Andrew Cashner (74% owned)
vs LAD, vs ARI, @LAD, @ARI, vs SF, vs COL
All those Dodger matchups are a little scary. And Cashner is always scary, injury wise. His velocity was down under 95 instead of over 96 in his first start, and that sort of thing tends to even out fairly quickly. Watch the gun next time out. At least Cashner threw all his pitches (but kept the change in his back pocket more than usual). And 95 is still pretty sexy. In general, this is a good list of matchups, particularly if you can maneuver around the two Dodgers games.
Shelby Miller (74% owned)
vs CHN, vs PIT, @MIL, vs COL, vs MIL, @CHN
Miller’s strikeout and walk totals in his return to the rotation are as worrisome as his matchups. Milwaukee twice, plus a date in Wrigley, which can play big or small, means there’s risk there. So do the 25 strikeouts agains 11 walks in the 35.2 innings he’s had since he’s returned to the rotation. I’d rather own Cashner, easily.
A.J. Burnett (55% owned)
vs WAS (today), @NYN, @WAS, vs PIT, @SD, @OAK, vs ATL
Burnett is a tough guy to roll out there right now — he’s given up six home runs in his past eight outings, with a 43 to 23 K to BB ratio in 47 innings — but then he’ll put up a good game like his eight shutout innings with six strikeouts against the Giants. He’s still usable in the right situation. How many ‘right situations’ are left? Maybe two? I’d comfortably (or actually nervously) roll him out there against the Mets and Padres (9/16), and that’s probably it. Maybe the Braves with all their strikeouts.
Jake Peavy (45% owned)
vs COL (today), vs MIL, @DET, vs ARI, @ARI, @LAD, vs SD
Peavy is coming off one his best starts of the year, and he gave up ten hits. So he’s not who he used to be. But the end of the year turns out favorably for him, especially if the Giants change the schedule so that Peavy can pitch against the Padres in San Diego (he’s currently slated for the first game of the Dodger series). But even as is, he looks like a decent start against the D-Backs at home and the Padres in the last week of the season. The two starts in between are a bit scary.
Danny Salazar (42% owned)
@KC, vs DET, vs LAA, @DET, @HOU, vs KC, (vs TB)
We’re going to cheat because Bartolo Colon is owned more often, but he’s very likely to get traded. If it’s to Anaheim, then that’s good news despite going to the AL. His only problem (other than lack of Ks) is homers and Anaheim is homer-suppressing. Instead, let’s look at another guy who’s had homer problems but isn’t going anywhere. If you can spot start Salazar against the Royals and Angels, and avoid those two Detroit starts, he’s got a great schedule coming up. He also slots in to pitch on the day after the last day of the season, so he could add a start at the end there somehow. I like that he’s throwing the slider more, and he has more upside than any other pitcher named here so far.
Justin Masterson (41% owned)
vs CHN, @MIL, @CIN, vs COL, vs CIN, @ARI
I wanted to say you could use Masterson against National League teams, but then the Phillies and Reds took him to town. So maybe there’s no great matchup here for Masterson. Maybe those two starts at home in the middle could be useful. Maybe.
James Paxton (39% owned)
vs TEX, @OAK, @TEX, vs OAK, @LAA, @TOR, vs LAA
Paxton is dealing and is right there with Salazar as the best upside on this list. The schedule isn’t great — Oakland is super patient and can score runs, and that Toronto start on the 22nd of September hurts those of you in weekly lineups. Still, if you can avoid that Toronto start, Paxton is sitting 95 with the fastball right now and needs to be owned. Even his change is working (15% whiffs).
Marcus Stroman (34% owned)
vs BOS, @TB, vs CHN, vs TB, @NYY, vs SEA
Straight off two of the worst starts of the year (10 earned runs in his last 5.2 innings), Stroman is suddenly available again. He’s been using his four-seam a lot less in his recent five starts, but it’s still averaging 94. The changeup, slider and curve are all above-average pitches in his most recent six starts (the ones with fewer four-seamers), so it can’t all be bad. For some reason, his fastballs and cutters don’t get whiffs (all around 5% in the recent six starts), but usually those with gas can figure it out. He’s got movement and a history of command. With a decent schedule left — if the team stays in it and allows him to pitch the rest of the season — he’s just behind Paxton and Salazar as an interesting pickup.
Jorge De La Rosa (25% owned)
@SF, @ARI, vs SD, @STL, vs LAD, @SD, @LAD
I actually like this schedule a fair amount. De La Rosa is now throwing his splitter as much as his fastballs, and his second half K-BB has been great. Now he gets to go on the road for the most part, and when he’s home he gets the Padres. I might only avoid that home start against the Dodgers, which makes him a great pickup in the right leagues.
Carlos Carrasco (22% owned)
@CHA, vs DET, vs CHA, @DET, @HOU, vs KC, vs TB
I’ve loved Carlos Carrasco for a long time. I know he’s got his faults — shaky fastball command, shaky makeup — but he has three good pitches and a mid-nineties fastball. Now he’s got a rotation spot. If you can leave him on your bench until the 14th of September, he’s even better. Cause then, if he’s still in the rotation, then he gets three cookies to end the year. It’s just the matchups between now and then that are super shaky.
Jon Niese (21% owned)
vs ATL, @MIA, vs COL, vs WAS, @ATL, @WAS
Dillon Gee (21% owned)
Vs ATL, vs PHI, @CIN, vs WAS, vs MIA, @WAS, vs HOU
Two guys on the same team, with about similar talent levels, but different schedules. I suppose you might like Niese a bit better, but it’s Gee’s schedule that’s better. Maybe with his slight homeritis, you could avoid that start against the Reds, but the Reds offense has been pretty bad without Votto. I prefer getting the extra starts against the Phillies and the Astros, and would take Gee based on schedule here.
Wade Miley (21% owned)
vs LAD, @SD, @LAD, vs SD, @COL, @MIN
For every gem left on Miley’s schedule lies a turd. If you can afford a roster spot for two starts against the Padres and one against the Twins, it’s worth it, though. Miley has used his slider more this year and his curve and change less, but he still has a three-pitch mix. The slider (19% whiffs), change (16%) and sinker (8%) all get good whiffs. If he could command the three pitches just a little better, he might be a legit mixed leaguer. But for now he’s the guy you circle days on the calendar and spot the heck out of, even if you have to pick him up a few days early to make sure you get him.
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