Welcome to Week 20 (Monday 8/21 to Sunday 8/27). Wow, week 20. That means you only have a match, maybe two left to claim a playoff spot. If you are on the outside looking in this is no time to play it safe. You need a few spotters to come through big for you. If you are in ROTO, you know by now if you have a shot or not, but if so, you only have a few weeks to catch up if there is going to be a dogfight at the end. As I said in last week’s article, I tend to lean on the veterans over the more flashy rookies this time of year when there is no room for error. If on the other hand, you are a longshot and need to jump pretty far, then all bets are off and you should go for the HR. Keep innings limits top of mind while scanning the wire.
A couple of important injury notes:
Some bad news: Max Scherzer went on the 10-day with a neck issue, John Lester went on the 10-day with a lat muscle & shoulder issue, and Adam Wainwright went on the DL with an elbow issue. At this point, none are considered
season-ending and Lester is already being penciled in when he is eligible. Guys like A.J. Cole & Mike Montgomery should benefit from these injuries. Corey Kluber, back from the DL recently left his game the other day with a sprained ankle. No DL announcement yet so keep an eye on that one. Scott Feldman may have to miss some starts opening the door again for Asher Wojciechowski. There is still no timetable for Aaron Sanchez who still has blister issues or King Felix.
Some returning arms: A lot of big names coming back in or near Week 20. Scheduling is still tentative, but Steven Strasburg, (edit: Robbie)Johnny Ray, CC Sabathia (Sat 19th vs Red Sox), Masahiro Tanaka, Alex Cobb, Hector Santiago, Adalberto Mejia, Dietrich Enns, & Joe Biagini should see action soon. These returns should bump Jordan Montgomery (again), & Blake Snell (again). James Paxton is playing catch and hopes to be back soon. The White Sox need an arm for Monday’s doubleheader and have to choose between Mike Pelfrey & Lucas Giolito. Raise your hand if you hope it is Giolito.
WEEK TWENTY: 8/21 to 8/27: Trivia Question: What 36-year-old pitcher from the AL West has gotten his first six major league starts in 2017 after an MLB career that started in 2008?
If you play DFS, don’t forget to look at my picks at the bottom of the article. I especially love my Contrarian picks this week.
Spotters from the <50% owned crowd: ( has finally graduated, now owned by over 70% of Fantrax Leagues.)
AJ Griffin, RHSP, TEX (4.6 owned ESPN, 37% Owned in Fantrax) @ OAK, FRI 8/25: Am I the only one who knows the 29-year-old AJ Griffin is pitching pretty well for the past month or so? Well, no, I guess 37% of the rest of you do as well. Overall, in his 55 innings, he’s 6-3 and pitching to a 46/18 K/BB leading to a 1.280 WHIP, although his ERA is 5.07 during that stretch due to his opponents launching 15 HR off him during that time. He also owns a complete game shutout. In his last three starts, all QS, he is 2-1 over 16 IP with 6 R on 11 H and 3 HR and an 11/6 K/BB lowering his ERA by a full run over that stretch. However, in his last start out against the Tigers, he gave up no homers, two walks, and five hits in five innings, with four strikeouts and one run for a W. He made me look smart for the 2nd week in a row. He still has a game Sunday (today) home vs CHW so grab him if he is still there for today. The ChiSox are 20th in the MLB in wOBA away vs. RHP of .307. For week 20, the A’s have a wOBA of .327 vs righties at home which is good for 17th in the MLB. These offenses are not the worst of the worst, but Griffin is really on fire over the last few games.
Martin Perez, LHSP, TEX (20.5% owned in ESPN, 39% owned Fantrax) @ LAA, THU 8/24: The 26-year-old Perez has very quietly put together a decent season, going 8-10 overall. He has an ERA north of five and a WHIP north of 1.5, with a K/BB of only 87/48 with 167 hits in 137 IP. However, Perez has been pretty reliable with the right matchups lately, as evidenced by two QS (3 runs total), but three clunkers in his last five games. He is not overpowering or dominant and has to have his sinker working to be successful. In the three clunkers, he was torched for 21 runs. His GB/FB rate is pretty good at 1.69, however, it has averaged nearly 3.00 over the past three years. This week he gets the Angels, in Anaheim where they are hitting a woeful .288 wOBA at home vs LHSP, good for 27th in the MLB, although they have been hot of late.
***TWO START PITCHER*** Clayton Richard, LHSP, SDP (21% owned in ESPN, 31% owned Fantrax) @ STL TUE, 8/22 & @ MIA, SUN 8/27: Richard is a 33-year-old lefty barely known outside of San Diego. The Phillies know him also as he pitched a three hit complete game shutout against them, his 2nd complete game of the season, lowering his ERA from 5.40 to 4.84 in the process. Richard can be a scary pitcher to start as he will often sandwich a huge clunker in between a group of solid starts. These two matchups look prime for Richard. He gets the Cards in STL where they have a .302 wOBA vs LHSP at home and then the Marlins in Miami on Sunday 8/27 where they have a .294 wOBA vs lefties at home.
James Shields, RHSP, CHW (28% owned in Fantrax) vs MIN, WED, 8/23: Shields has been on a seesaw the past few starts alternating between 4 and 5 run outings with shutout ball several times. He is due for a good one this
week if that pattern continues. More importantly, he gets the Twins at home. In his past three starts, he’s logged 17.1 IP with 17 H, 8 ER and a 20/5 K/BB. Overall, in eight starts since his injury, Shields is 3-1 in 50.2 IP, 3.02 ERA and 1.184 WHIP giving up only four HR. He is an extreme groundball pitcher playing in a big park but is pitching to a career-worst 2.6 HR/9. 18 of his earned runs and seven of the homers have come in just three of his games started. In his past 42 IP, he has a 38/18 K/BB. So, if he keeps it down and avoids any long ones, he should be ok in this one. The Twins are 26th in wOBA away vs RHSP with a .298 wOBA. Again, when it is late in the year and there are slim pickins, I lean to the vets.
Not for the faint of heart. Pitchers from the abyss:
Jake Junis, RHSP, KC (7.7% owned ESPN & 28% owned Fantrax) vs COL, THU, 8/24: I thought Junis would now stay in the Royals rotation for the foreseeable future, at least until Trevor Cahill is healthy. In his last two starts, vs the A’s & Mariners he’s gone 2-0 giving up 3 R, 8 H, no BB or HR and logging 9 K’s. Overall he is 4-2, 4.70 ERA & 1.386 WHIP in his brief MLB career. Instead of starting vs the Indians this weekend he pitched in relief of Corey Kluber on Friday getting hit hard for four runs in two innings raising his ERA half a run against a blazing hot Indians lineup. But he does have a decent 42/17 K/BB in 52 IP. The bulk of the problem has been HR’s, however of his 10 HR, all but one have come in just three games, and that one was in the relief stint. He is a 24-year-old rookie learning on the job and has been improving every week. Colorado is 26th in the MLB in wOBA away with a .292 mark. If he keeps the ball in the park he should be ok, especially in KC. (NOTE: There may be some confusion in Junis’ place in the rotation as the Royals just skipped his start today. I’ll update as soon as I know if he keeps the Colorado start)
***TWO START PITCHER***Chris Smith, RHSP, OAK (6.5% owned in ESPN, 6% owned Fantrax) @ BAL, MON, 8/21 & vs TEX, SAT, 8/26: We are digging really deep here, but some of us will have to, and he is on over 90% of our waiver wires. What a story for Mr. Smith. He’s pitched a QS in four of his six starts and in his last start went 5.1 IP giving up three ER on Three H, one BB & no HR with three K’s. Smith has been on my radar for a while now, and lately, he seems ready to be used as a two-start starter with these two matchups. No, these are not slam dunks, but if you need a two start pitcher and it is a deep league with slim pickins this is where I would go. First, he is in BAL where the O’s have a .316 Woba vs RHSP and then at home vs the Rangers where they have a .322 wOBA vs RHSP on the road. He is also RP primary which makes him a painless add in leagues that have position roster limits. This week’s Trivia Question Answer: Smith’s career in the MLB started in 2008 with the Red Sox. Between a few years of being used in relief exclusively, years in the minors and years lost to injury, Smith is now 36 years old. In 2017 he has gotten his first chance to start at the MLB level and now has six MLB starts, four of which have been quality starts. Like I said earlier, this close to the end I start leaning heavily on the more experienced, longer track record pitchers for my spot starting needs down the stretch. If you have better options out there, use them, but if not this may be safer than a rookie making his first start.
***LATE ADDITION – Potential two start pitcher***Dillon Gee, RHSP, MIN (3% owned Fantrax & less than 1% ESPN) @ CHW, MON, 8/21: Gee, his ownership is the lowest ever in this series of articles. Gee, is he really 31 years old already? Gee, these are bad puns here. The truth is I like Gee tomorrow in one of the doubleheader games in Chicago vs the Sox. To me, the main risk is that he does not go enough innings to get you a W or QS but I doubt the Sox will blow him out and he is a good bet to have a good game. The Sox are 29th in the MLB in wOBA (.305) vs RHSP at home and tied for last in runs scored (165 vs 289 for league leader) in that match-up combo as well. Gee has a 3.16 ERA mostly in relief for the Twins with his one start being a not so stretched out 4 runs over 3.1 IP. I realize he had a 5.55 ERA in 14 2016 starts, but this feels like one of those moves that will leave your opponent scratching his head, one way or another. In 17.2 innings of long relief for the Twins this season, Gee has a 15/3 K/BB, zero HR allowed, and 5 Earned Runs helping that 3.16 ERA. We will have to ignore the 1.519 WHIP as the cost of doing business off the deepest portion of the waiver wire. Whichever pitcher on the Twins excels in tomorrow’s doubleheader will likely continue in the rotation going forward as the Twins are down to four SP. The Sox offense is barren enough after losing Melky, Frazier, et al, so a further diluted doubleheader squad could be just what the Doctor ordered. If he sticks he’ll be a two-start pitcher getting the Blue Jays in Toronto Saturday or Sunday where they are 18th in the MLB with a .315 wOBA vs righties at home. Gee, I hope their son gets his looks from Mom and not Dad.
DFS PLAYERS: You may want to re-think starting these guys:
Gio Gonzalez, LHSP, WAS vs NYM, SAT, 8/26: The Mets have a .371 wOBA away vs LHSP. That mark is best in the MLB. (NOTE: This mark was compiled prior to the purge of Bruce, Granderson, and Walker)
Steven Strasburg, RHSP, WAS vs NYM, FRI, 8/25: The Mets have the 3rd best wOBA vs RHSP in the MLB @ .331. (NOTE: This mark was compiled prior to the purge of Bruce, Granderson, and Walker)
Madison Bumgarner, LHSP, SFG @ ARI, SAT, 8/26: The D’Backs hit LHSP at home at a .329 wOBA, good for 10th MLB.
DFS CONTRARIAN MOVE: Scary Contrary, Don’t let your kids try this at home:
Jimmy Nelson, RHSP, MIL @ SFG, TUE, 8/22: Are you a gambler? Then don’t push your luck unless you can handle the stress. The Giants are dead last in the MLB in wOBA vs righties at home with a .291 mark. Wow your league mates!
J.A. Happ, LHSP, TOR vs MIN, FRI, 8/25: The Twins wOBA vs LHSP on the road is .277 or 28th in the MLB. Wow your league mates twice this week!
DFS PLAYERS: Match-ups of the week:
Zack Greinke, RHSP, ARI vs SFG, FRI 8/25: The Giants are 26th in the MLB with a .298 wOBA vs righties on the road.
Carlos Rodon, LHSP, CHW vs MIN FRI, 8/25: The Twins are 28th in MLB wOBA vs lefties away at .277.
Cole Hamels, LHSP, TEX @ LAA, MON 8/21: The Angels are 27th in the MLB vs lefties at home at .288.
Thanks for reading and good luck in week twenty, especially with your pitching. If you have a question about these or any other SP match-ups next week don’t hesitate to leave a message in the comments, write me, or check out my “Pick Your Spots” thread every Sunday on the /r/fantasybaseball Sub-Reddit where I’ll talk starting pitching all day.
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What to expect in 2017: (If you read this part in last week’s article, skip the next few paragraphs.
Criteria Used: Platoon splits, LH/RH, Day/Night, Month, Half, stadium splits, team batting against splits, metrics like GB/FB rate, K & BB rates, Babip, wOBA, FIP, Trends, etc. Sources are Fan Graphs, Baseball-Reference, Fantrax, ESPN and more.
Pitchers from the under 50% ownership group – I’ll list three or four pitchers, less than 50% owned who I believe are primed for a good start the following week, or better yet two good starts. I’ll list two or so pitchers that are less than 20% owned and look like a good choice based on the above criterion.
DFS Suggestions – I’ll pick out a few aces to avoid in DFS and a couple who should be in your lineup, especially if I see a great contrarian start.
My crusade for 2017/2018: Pitchers and other players seem to be getting injured so fast that most leagues don’t have enough DL spots to accommodate them all. Roster limits force tough decisions which are a good thing for competitive league balance and showcasing owner skills, but this season’s overcrowded Disabled-Lists have proven to test traditional capacity at times. I think it is a combination of pitchers being more injury prone, but also the abundant use of the new in 2016 7 day concussion DL, and the new in 2017 10 day DL rule that has MLB teams easing their own roster limitations at the expense of our fantasy limitations and resources. In light of the 7-day & 10-day DL rules, I recommend any owners who have 2 to 4 DL spots to petition the League Manager to increase the number of DL spots to whatever is appropriate for that format. Most good LM’s won’t change rules or settings once the season starts, and rightly so, but at least it will be in place for 2018. Don’t feel victimized by the new rule. Adjust to it.