Pitching Forecaster: A state of Fantasy flux
Some starters are being shut down, others are being skipped or rested for the postseason and some just are not advisable in Fantasy crunch time. Our Eric Mack runs through all 30 rotations in his latest Pitching Forecaster.
We get asked this a lot: What criteria do you use to determine the Fantasy starting status of a pitcher from week to week?
At no time is that more important than the crucial final weeks of the Head-to-Head playoffs. You have to have a starting rotation built to win, preferably one loaded with extra starts.
How in the world am I getting beat by Robinson Tejeda this week? They ask. They want to know the magic formula for guessing right on the marginal pitchers.
Well, we don't have one. But we do have a way to limit your risk, perhaps.
1. Look at a pitcher's past three starts
Pitchers tend to be streaky just like hitters, but their streaks are a lot harder to spot, especially since they only go once or twice a week. We like the industry standard of past three starts.
We don't tend to bother with the win-loss record, but we like to see quality starts. Those are important. They give them a chance to win in the average matchup, all things being equal.
The strikeout-to-walk and hits-per-inning ratios are real important, too. As are pitch counts and how deep they are going into games.
The Tejeda case study: He has only made two starts this season, but he had allowed only four hits and four walks in 11 1/3 innings, striking out 14. Clearly he was hot. Check.
2. Consider their potential run support
It isn't always about how you pitch, but when you pitch. Look at the Rangers rotation. Brandon McCarthy has gotten 9.97 runs per game, Kevin Millwood 6.92 and Scott Feldman 6.83. It becomes real easy to win when you're getting runs.
It also happens to be a lot easier to pitch. Reach back and throw strikes.
A few more interesting well-supported pitchers: Joba Chamberlain 10.09, Pedro Martinez 9.08, Jorge De La Rosa 8.96 and Braden Looper 8.50. It is not a coincidence when you consider the offenses getting them support are the Yankees, Phillies, Rockies and Brewers.
The Tejeda case study: Tejeda's Royals haven't been an offensive juggernaut, but Billy Butler and David DeJesus have been hot and so has the team of late, winning six of seven.
3. Consider their matchups
This is the most obvious piece of advice. Anyone facing the Padres, Pirates, Mariners, Reds, Giants, Royals, Astros and Mets are candidates to win with a quality start. Those are the eight worst offenses in baseball and they don't scare many pitchers at this point.
The Tejeda case study: He is facing the Tigers and White Sox this week. While the Tigers are in the middle of the pack in runs scored, the White Sox are in the bottom half. Neither team has been lighting it up of late either. Again, look at recent history just as much as big picture numbers.
4. Consider your format
There are times to look at pitchers because they figure to pitch well. And times to look at a pitcher because he can merely win.
For example, a struggling Yankees pitcher like A.J. Burnett is still a good play in a Head-to-Head points-based league if his matchup is against a back-end Mariners starter. He is still a candidate to win, even if he pitches poorly. Reading the Las Vegas betting lines can be helpful with this.
In Rotisserie, obviously, your focus is more on how the pitcher is pitching than whether or not their team is a heavy favorite in the game. Many times you cannot sacrfice the punishment in ERA and WHIP to chase the potential for a W.
The Tejeda case study: Tejeda has been pitching lights out for a cellar-dweller and facing a first-division club (the Tigers) and another one a long shot in the wild-card race (the White Sox). He was a great play in Rotisserie and more of a risk in Head-to-Head. We didn't have the guts in either to consider him advisable in last week's Pitching Forecaster or Pitching Planner, though.
5. Look at their full-season numbers and career resume
It is a strategy that might override all. In Fantasy crunch time, we advise you stick with the pitchers that have gotten you this far and ones that have been trustworthy for years.
That is why we continually preach to run Josh Beckett out there while he is struggling. That is why we figured Cole Hamels would kick his slump. You don't want to lose with aces like that wallowing on your bench.
The Tejeda case study: Here is where it takes a huge leap of faith to trust the spot-starting reliever in Fantasy crunch time. He has started just two games this year and once last year. But, he has been a starter before and has been a strong reliever the past two seasons (1.33 WHIP in 2008 and a 1.38 WHIP in relief in 2009).
All told, it took a lot of guts to start Tejeda in your Head-to-Head playoffs. Only 7 percent of CBSSports.com's leagues had those guts, err, strategic intuition.
One of those few leagues feature this writer's opponent in a Head-to-Head semifinals. Yours truly entered the postseason as the No. 1 seed and was coming off a BYE -- only to see this Tejeda-led genius stack up 11 starts among six pitchers en route to what will be a sure victory. Not bad for a shaky No. 5 seed that barely made the playoffs.
We have to assume it was more than just luck. But good luck setting up your rotation for the final two weeks.
- Dan Haren
- Max Scherzer
- Doug Davis
- Billy Buckner
- Kevin Mulvey
|Pitcher||TM||Own %||Start %|
|Jorge De La Rosa||COL||82||60|
Week 25 two-starter(s): Haren. He is a must-start in all leagues.
Starters on the DL: Brandon Webb (shoulder, out for the season).
- Javier Vazquez
- Jair Jurrjens
- Derek Lowe
- Tommy Hanson
- Tim Hudson
Week 25 two-starter(s): Lowe. He hasn't been great of late, so he
is far less advisable than usual. He could regain his must-start status
with a quality start Wednesday vs. the Mets, though.
Starters on the DL: Jorge Campillo (shoulder, out for the season).
- Chris Tillman
- Jeremy Guthrie
- David Hernandez
- Jason Berken
- Mark Hendrickson
Week 25 two-starter(s): Perhaps Tillman. The O's have already
shut down fellow rookie
his first full pro season, but Tillman could follow. Tillman is likely
to start at least once at Toronto, though, so he could be a sleeper for
deeper leagues with a quality start Wednesday vs. the Rays.
Starters on the DL: Brad Bergesen (leg, out for the season), Rich Hill (shoulder, out for the season) and Alfredo Simon (elbow, out for the season).
Boston Red Sox
- Josh Beckett
- Jon Lester
- Clay Buchholz
- Daisuke Matsuzaka
- Paul Byrd or Tim Wakefield (out, back, might return Sunday, Sept. 20 or Monday, Sept. 21)
Week 25 two-starter(s): Byrd, Wakefield or Dice-K and Beckett.
Beckett has likely regained his must-start status, while the other one
is a TBD sleeper for deeper leagues. Wakefield is rumored to be ready to
return Sunday or Monday, which could also push Dice-K back to Monday for
a two-start week. After a solid start Tuesday and with a Wakefield
return Sunday, Matsuzaka would be an advisable two-start option in any
Starters on the DL: None.
- Carlos Zambrano
- Rich Harden
- Ted Lilly
- Ryan Dempster
- Randy Wells
Week 25 two-starter(s): Harden and Wells. They haven't been going
well recently, but they could make themselves advisable options in all
leagues with quality starts Wednesday and Thursday vs. the Brewers.
Starters on the DL: None.
Chicago White Sox
- Mark Buehrle
- John Danks
- Gavin Floyd
- Freddy Garcia
- Jake Peavy (out, ankle/elbow, expected to return Saturday, Sept. 19)
Week 25 two-starter(s): Floyd. He will be a must-start option
with a quality start Wednesday at Seattle.
Starters on the DL: Jake Peavy (ankle) and Bartolo Colon (elbow, out for the season).
- Bronson Arroyo
- Johnny Cueto
- Homer Bailey
- Justin Lehr (groin, expected to return Wednesday, Sept. 16)
- Kip Wells
Week 25 two-starter(s): Lehr. He returns from injury Wednesday,
but he figures to be a questionable option at best.
Starters on the DL: Aaron Harang (appendectomy, out for the season) and Edinson Volquez (elbow, out for the season).
- Roberto Hernandez
- Justin Masterson
- Aaron Laffey
- David Huff
- Jeremy Sowers
- Struggling Carlos Carrasco is getting skipped before Fantasy Week 25 (Sept. 21-27) and might not start again
Week 25 two-starter(s): Laffey. His hot streak ended in his past
start, so it is going to take a dynamite outing Wednesday at Minnesota
for Laffey to be anything better than a questionable option.
Starters on the DL: Jake Westbrook (elbow, out for the season) and Anthony Reyes (elbow, out for the season).
- Ubaldo Jimenez
- Jason Marquis
- Jorge De La Rosa
- Jason Hammel
- Jose A. Contreras (out, groin) getting skipped until at least Sept. 26
Week 25 two-starter(s): De La Rosa. He is an amazing 2-0 with a
1.50 ERA through three September starts. He could be a must-start in all
leagues with another quality outing Wednesday at San Francisco.
Starters on the DL: Aaron Cook (shoulder), Jeff Francis (shoulder, out for the season), Greg Smith (shoulder, out for the season), Greg Reynolds (shoulder, out for the season). Cook is resuming throwing and is a long shot to take a turn the next time the No. 5 spot comes up Sept. 26. Contreras could take that turn, too, but he is also nursing an injury. Avoid whoever makes that start for the Rockies in Fantasy Week 25 (Sept. 21-27).
- Justin Verlander
- Edwin Jackson
- Rick Porcello
- Jarrod Washburn (questionable, knee) or Armando Galarraga (elbow) / Nate Robertson (elbow)
- Eddie Bonine
Week 25 two-starter(s): Bonine or Jackson. It is Bonine's turn
and he will be a questionable option even with a quality start Wednesday
vs. the Royals. He could be skipped, though, and Jackson could go on
regular rest. Manager Jimmy Leyland hasn't been one to skip starters to
keep the veterans on regular rest, though, so we expect Bonine to make
the start. Jackson is a must-start even as a one-start pitcher.
Starters on the DL: Dontrelle Willis (hip, out for the season).
- Josh Johnson
- Ricky Nolasco
- Sean West
- Anibal Sanchez
- Chris Volstad or Rick VandenHurk (questionable, back)
Week 25 two-starter(s): None. Johnson is Tuesday's starter in a
five-game week and it is unlikely the Marlins skip the No. 5 starter to
keep him on regular rest. The Marlins are already limiting his innings.
Starters on the DL: None.
- Roy Oswalt
- Wandy Rodriguez
- Bud Norris
- Brian Moehler
- Felipe Paulino
- Yorman Bazardo likely to be skipped
Week 25 two-starter(s): Rodriguez. He is a must-start in all
leagues after getting bumped off his two-start week this period due to
the insertion of Bazardo for a spot start this Wednesday.
Starters on the DL: Mike Hampton (shoulder, out for the season).
Kansas City Royals
- Zack Greinke
- Kyle Davies
- Luke Hochevar
- Robinson Tejeda
- Lenny DiNardo
Week 25 two-starter(s): DiNardo and Greinke. DiNardo is high-risk
even in the deepest of AL-only leagues, while Greinke is a must-start in
Fantasy crunch time.
Starters on the DL: None.
Los Angeles Angels
- John Lackey
- Jered Weaver
- Scott Kazmir
- Ervin Santana
- Joe Saunders
Week 25 two-starter(s): Saunders. He has won all four starts
after returning from the DL. He will be a must-start in all leagues with
a quality start Wednesday at Boston.
Starters on the DL: Dustin Moseley (elbow, out for the season) and Kelvim Escobar (shoulder, out for the season).
Los Angeles Dodgers
- Chad Billingsley
- Clayton Kershaw (out, shoulder)
- Randy Wolf (elbow, expected to return Tuesday, Sept. 15)
- Hiroki Kuroda
- Jon Garland
- Vicente Padilla
Week 25 two-starter(s): Perhaps Wolf. He would be on schedule to
pitch next Tuesday, but the Dodgers could go a number of different ways
with their six-man rotation, which is currently skipping Kershaw. The
Dodgers also have days off Thursday and Monday before Wolf is next
slated to start.
Starters on the DL: Eric Milton (shoulder, out for the season).
- Yovani Gallardo
- Braden Looper
- Jeff Suppan
- Dave Bush
- Manny Parra
Week 25 two-starter(s): Looper and Bush. They have been decent of
late and could prove to be nice sleepers in mixed leagues with quality
starts Wednesday and Thursday at the Cubs.
Starters on the DL: None.
- Scott Baker
- Carl Pavano
- Nick Blackburn
- Brian Duensing
- Jeff Manship expected to be skipped until Sept. 22
Week 25 two-starter(s): Blackburn. He is a questionable option
who likely needs to be lights out Wednesday vs. the Indians to be
advisable in mixed leagues.
Starters on the DL: Boof Bonser (shoulder) and Kevin Slowey (wrist, out for the season). Bonser will merely return in relief, if at all.
New York Mets
- Mike Pelfrey
- John Maine
- Tim Redding
- Bobby Parnell
- Nelson Figueroa
- Pat Misch
Week 25 two-starter(s): Perhaps Misch. The Mets currently have a
six-man rotation, but they could choose to skip one of their back three,
which would allow Monday's projected starter, Misch, to be a two-start
pitcher. He is will be risky one, though, especially since he won't be
guaranteed to start twice in the six-game week, if the Mets keep a
Starters on the DL: Johan Santana (elbow, out for the season), Oliver Perez (knee, out for the season), Jonathon Niese (hamstring, out for the season) and Fernando Nieve (quadriceps, out for the season).
New York Yankees
- CC Sabathia
- A.J. Burnett
- Andy Pettitte (out, shoulder, expected to return Sept. 22)
- Joba Chamberlain
- Chad Gaudin or Sergio Mitre
Week 25 two-starter(s): Pettitte. The Yankees moved him back due
shoulder fatigue, but he is expected to slot again Monday at Anaheim. He
is a questionable option for mixed leagues due to the uncertainty at
this point, especially since he could be skipped off his second start
the following weekend due to a Thursday off day.
Starters on the DL: Chien-Ming Wang (shoulder, out for the season).
- Brett Anderson
- Trevor Cahill
- Gio Gonzalez
- Brett Tomko
- Clayton Mortensen
- Edgar Gonzalez or Vin Mazzaro (out, shoulder)
Week 25 two-starter(s): Perhaps E. Gonzalez. The A's have a
seven-game week and a six-man rotation. Edgar is Monday's tentative
slated starter, but he is nothing more than a high-risk option for the
deepest of the AL-only leagues at this point.
Starters on the DL: Dallas Braden (foot, out for the season), Justin Duchscherer (elbow/depression, out for the season) and Josh Outman (elbow, out for the season).
- Cole Hamels
- Cliff Lee
- Pedro Martinez
- Joe Blanton
- J.A. Happ (oblique, might return Friday, Sept. 18) of Jamie Moyer
Week 25 two-starter(s): Blanton of Hamels. The Phillies could go
with a six-man rotation with the potential return of Happ this Friday,
which could move Lee back to being a must-start, two-start pitcher.
Blanton is coming off a bad start and will need a good one Wednesday vs.
the Nationals to be an advisable option in mixed leagues for Fantasy
Week 25 (Sept. 21-27). Hamels will also start in next Tuesday's
doubleheader, so he could be a two-start pitcher in their seven games in
Starters on the DL: None.
- Zach Duke
- Paul Maholm
- Ross Ohlendorf (might be shut down after Saturday, Sept. 19 start)
- Charlie Morton
- Kevin Hart
- Daniel McCutchen
Week 25 two-starter(s): McCutchen and perhaps Duke. They will be
questionable options. McCutchen is pretty sure to get double starts,
while Duke might as well in the Pirates' seven-game week if they go back
to a five-man rotation after Ohlendorf gets shuts down. Ohlendorf is
expected to after Saturday's start because he has reached his innings
could be No. 6 starter replacements. All of the
Pirates options are questionable in Fantasy Week 25 (Sept. 21-27), with
or without double starts.
Starters on the DL: None.
San Diego Padres
- Kevin Correia
- Tim Stauffer
- Clayton Richard
- Wade LeBlanc
- Edward Mujica
Week 25 two-starter(s): LeBlanc and Mujica. They figure to be
questionable options in any format, no matter how well they do against
the D-Backs this week.
Starters on the DL: Chris Young (shoulder, out for the season), Cha Seung Baek (elbow, out for the season) and Shawn Hill (elbow, out for the season).
San Francisco Giants
- Tim Lincecum
- Matt Cain
- Barry Zito
- Jonathan Sanchez
- Brad Penny
Week 25 two-starter(s): Zito and Cain. Cain is a must-start in
all leagues, while Zito is again advisable in all leagues after a
quality start Tuesday vs. the Rockies.
Starters on the DL: Randy Johnson (shoulder) and Noah Lowry (shoulder, out for the season). Johnson still hopes to pitch out of the bullpen with a partial shoulder tear. He might return this weekend, but his Fantasy value will be limited by his lefty relief role.
- Felix Hernandez
- Ryan Rowland-Smith
- Brandon Morrow
- Ian Snell
- Doug Fister
Week 25 two-starter(s): Rowland-Smith. He is a nice sleeper for
deeper leagues. He has been surprisingly good. Heck, another quality
start might even make him a must-start option for you.
Starters on the DL: Carlos Silva (shoulder), Erik Bedard (shoulder, out for season) and Ryan Feierabend (elbow, out for the season). Silva has been activated from the DL now and could make some starts, but we see him as a high-risk option even in the deepest of AL-only leagues.
St. Louis Cardinals
- Chris Carpenter
- Adam Wainwright
- Joel Pineiro
- John Smoltz (out, shoulder, might return Saturday, Sept. 19)
- Kyle Lohse (elbow, out until at least Tuesday, Sept. 22)
Week 25 two-starter(s): Pineiro. He will be a must-start in all
leagues with a quality outing Wednesday vs. the Marlins.
Starters on the DL: None.
Tampa Bay Rays
- James Shields
- Matt Garza
- David Price
- Jeff Niemann
- Wade Davis
- Andy Sonnanstine likely to be one-and-done after Tuesday, Sept. 16 start
Week 25 two-starter(s): None. The Rays play only five games in
Fantasy Week 25 (Sept. 21-27).
Starters on the DL: None.
- Kevin Millwood expected to return Sunday, Sept. 20 or Tuesday, Sept. 22
- Scott Feldman
- Tommy Hunter
- Brandon McCarthy expected to next pitch whichever day Millwood doesn't above.
- Derek Holland getting skipped until Monday, Sept. 21
Week 25 two-starter(s): Holland and McCarthy or Millwood. Holland
is getting skipped until next Monday and is a questionable option in any
league in Fantasy Week 25 (Sept. 21-27). McCarthy could prove to be a
sleeper for deeper leagues, while Millwood is a risk next week, unless
he pitches Sunday, does well and shapes up to be a decent one-start
Starters on the DL: Matt Harrison (shoulder, out for the season) and Eric Hurley (shoulder, out for the season).
Toronto Blue Jays
- Roy Halladay
- Ricky Romero
- Scott Richmond
- Brian Tallet
- David Purcey getting skipped until Monday, Sept. 21
Week 25 two-starter(s): Perhaps Purcey and Tallet. The Blue Jays
game notes list Halladay as the starter for Sunday, Sept. 20, which
moves Purcey back to a two-start week in Fantasy Week 25 (Sept. 21-27).
He is a potential sleeper in deeper leagues, mostly AL-only formats,
after his decent return outing Monday. Tallet is at best a questionable
two-start pitcher even with a quality start Wednesday at the Yankees.
Starters on the DL: Shaun Marcum (elbow, out for the season), Dustin McGowan (shoulder/knee, out for the season), Jesse Litsch (elbow, out for the season) and Robert Ray (shoulder, out for the season).
- John Lannan
- Livan Hernandez
- Garrett Mock
- J.D. Martin
- Marco Estrada or Ross Detwiler
Week 25 two-starter(s): Hernandez. He is a high-risk option even
in the deepest of NL-only leagues down the stretch. He is merely around
to eat innings and save the Nationals' young arms.
Starters on the DL: Jordan Zimmermann (elbow, out for the season) and Scott Olsen (shoulder, out for the season).
You can e-mail us your Fantasy Baseball pitching questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com. Be sure to put Pitching Forecaster in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state. Be aware, due to the large volume of submissions received, we cannot guarantee personal responses to all questions.
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