GS: The pitcher's projected "Game Score," from Bill James' original formula, which accounts for past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days), opponent and ballpark. A Game Score of 50 typically is typically regarded a quality start; anything over 70 is exceptional, anything under 30 poor. A "*" means that the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate projected Game Score; these are the author's projections. T: Pitcher throws left-handed or right-handed. Opp: The pitcher's opponent for the day. W-L: Pitcher's win-loss record. ERA: Pitcher's earned run average. WHIP: Pitcher's average number of walks plus hits surrendered per inning.
Monday's slate might be slightly abbreviated, but it's no less interesting, primarily since it's lacking in both aces and clunkers. In other words, there are a lot of decisions to be made, especially if you're looking to get off to a strong start in traditional fantasy leagues with daily lineups, as there are a lot of streaming options.
While his ERA does not reflect it, David Price has been one of the better pitchers in the league for about a month. Over his past five starts, spanning 38 innings, Price has fanned 43 while walking a scant three. In daily games, depending on the algorithm each site uses to set prices, Price's salary could be suppressed based on his pedestrian 4-5, 4.03 ERA ledger. Now factor in that he's squaring off against the offensively challenged Marlins at the pitcher-friendly Trop and Price is a no-brainer for cash games. If the price is low enough, his potential to go deep the game with double-digit whiffs makes him a viable tourney play as well.
After pitching seven full innings just once in his first seven starts, Stephen Strasburg has failed to pitch seven frames just once in the ensuing six efforts. One reason could be Strasburg is seeking to be more efficient with his pitches, as his K/9 has dropped from 13.1 over the first seven contests to 9.4 over the past six. Still, his owners should take that tradeoff; over a whiff an inning is still outstanding, and the additional stanzas hurled gives Strasburg a better chance at a win, as well as increasing his impact on the ERA and WHIP categories. As for Monday's road tilt at AT&T Park, San Francisco is average in weighted on-base average (wOBA) versus right-handers, but it's among the league leaders in most strikeouts. That should allow Strasburg to both go deep into the game and rack up the whiffs.
It's really a tough call if you're choosing Price or Strasburg for daily play. Taking salaries out of the equation, Price is the better option by a tad since he's at home. And chances are, Price's cost will be a bit lower than Strasburg, facilitating the decision.
Now is where it gets interesting, as there are a plethora of good but not great pitchers with home starts against weaker offenses. They're all no-brainers to start today (and use for two-start weeks in traditional weekly formats).
• Josh Collmenter is decidedly more effective against right-handers, and his opponent, the Houston Astros, are toward the bottom of the league in wOBA versus righties.
• To say they're exempt from conventional analysis is a bit of hyperbole, but knuckleballers aren't always subject to standard evaluation. That said, walks are bad regardless, and R.A. Dickey is walking fewer batters lately (especially at home). Dickey also has been throwing the faster (and more effective) form of the floater of late. Minnesota is middle of the pack in terms of fate against righties, but Dickey isn't a normal righty. It's a high risk but higher reward play, but that's what you want in daily tournament contests.
• After working more than five innings only half of his first six starts, Tony Cingrani has gone past the fifth in three of his past four games. The young southpaw could be pitching for his rotation spot against the Los Angeles Dodgers with the impending return of Mat Latos. Cingrani's crutch has been the long ball, but the Dodgers have hit only 13 homers against lefties, with six coming from Scott Van Slyke and Drew Butera. There's some risk here, too, but he's worthy of a start in traditional roto leagues. Cingrani's not that strong an option in daily games since he's not likely to throw more than six frames, severely limiting his upside.
• This one is going to be fun. Garrett Richards is a ground ball pitcher backed by the spacious Angels Stadium, while the platoon-happy Athletics really don't care where they are, as no fence is out of reach. Oakland tattooed Richards on May 30 at home so the right-hander will be looking for retribution. Most impressive is Richards has worked at least seven innings in eight of his 12 starts. Richards is a great fade play in daily leagues since many could be scared way based on the May 30 debacle.
• Considered a pitch-to-contact control artist, Jason Vargas is sporting an impressive 8.4 K/9 rate his past six games, covering 38 2/3 innings. Working in the cavernous Kauffman Stadium against a Yankees squad that has an anemic .120 ISO, Vargas should be able to remain on his early-season roll.
• It's eerie how closely Charlie Morton's 2014 peripherals and surface stats match last season's. But due to a 2-7 record, it feels like he has disappointed. Don't fret, the wins will come; keep running Morton out there. Monday he faces the Cubs. 'Nuff said.
Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days) as well as ballpark factors. "LHB" and "RHB" ratings account only for left- and right-handed batters, respectively. Weighted on-base average (wOBA) is the primary statistic used in the calculation. Ratings range from 1-10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst. So, for example, a 10 is a must-start rating, while a 1 should be avoided (if possible); a 1-2 is poor, 3-4 is fair, 5-6 is average, 7-8 is very good and 9-10 is excellent. A "*" means that the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate hitter rating; these are the author's ratings.
The flip side of there being an abundance of middle-of-the-road pitching options is a paucity of obvious games to either avoid or stack. Here's where the shortened slate may hurt. The counter in daily games is to find mini-stacks. As opposed to overloading on one squad, deploying four or more hitters (depending on the site rules), instead pair up a couple players on the same team, especially if they are close in the order so you can double-down on their production (one knocks the other in, for instance).
Batters have a .211 batting average against David Price's cutter this season, which is 34 points below the league average among qualified hitters. Since the beginning of 2012, Justin Smoak has a .214 batting average in plate appearances to end with a cutter, which is 58 points below the league average among qualified hitters.
Opposing hitters have a .330 batting average against Stephen Strasburg's fastball this season, which is ninth-worst in MLB among qualified starters. Hunter Pence has a .356 batting average against fastballs this season, which is ninth-best in MLB among qualified hitters.
Jason Vargas has allowed a .310 ISO in plate appearances to end with a curveball this season, which is fourth-worst among qualified starters to end at least 15 plate appearances with the pitch. Yangervis Solarte has a .143 ISO in plate appearances that end with a curveball this year, which is 18 points above the league average among qualified hitters.
R.A. Dickey is allowing a .071 batting average on fastballs up in the zone this season, which leads MLB among qualified starters. However, the Twins have three of the top 20 hitters in MLB at hitting fastballs up in the strike zone among qualified hitters.
Bronson Arroyo is allowing a 1.114 OPS in plate appearances that end with his curveball, which is fourth-highest among qualified pitchers to end at least ten plate appearances with the pitch. Jose Altuve leads the major leagues with a 1.688 OPS in plate appearances that have ended with a curveball this season.