Week 18 Pitching Forecaster

This is a week that Fantasy players should approach with a bit of trepidation. Two-start pitchers can be wiped out by a deadline deal. New, tantalizing one-start options may pop up as rotation room is cleared by these deals. Matchup strength can be altered as players like Alfonso Soriano arrive to bolster lineups.

In short, it's a fine time for your regular pitching guru, Al, to go on vacation.

Most Added Starters (as of 7/29)
Player Name % change
1. Scott Kazmir, SP, Indians 30
2. Alex Wood, SP, Braves 29
3. Wei-Yin Chen, SP, Orioles 13
4. Juan Nicasio, SP, Rockies 13
5. Chris Archer, SP, Rays 12
6. Felix Doubront, SP, Red Sox 10
7. Mark Buehrle, SP, Blue Jays 9
8. Jorge De La Rosa, SP, Rockies 7
9. Brandon Beachy, SP, Braves 6
10. Jake Westbrook, SP, Cardinals 6

This column won't be wildly different than what you've seen all season. Perhaps we'll see some more strikeout pitchers higher in the rankings (if any still exist, considering youngsters like Dan Straily, Gerrit Cole, and even Tony Cingrani apparently hate striking out batters these days). And I can promise you that Chris Archer (SPOILER ALERT) will be in the top 70.

As for Brandon Beachy -- the pitcher on everyone's minds -- I was a little reluctant to put him in the top 70 after the first-go round of ranks, just because it's not official that he'll be starting this week. However, he leads the "honorable mention" category, and official word of his start will likely bump him into the top 70 by Monday. For now, though, I wouldn't be able to forgive myself if I put him at No. 65 (just eyeballing the list) and he ended up not starting, leaving your Fantasy team with a Beachy in the starting lineup while you're off on vacation.

In short, stay tuned. And enjoy this week's Top 70: Update coming Monday.

Monday Update: Beachy is in the Top 70, and will be making two starts this week. I added him at 66, with a mixture of optimism (plenty of pitchers coming off the DL this season have put together some early brilliance upon their return) and trepidation (we don't know if he'll be taken out after a certain number of pitches). I also ran Chris Archer up 11 spots, from 53 to 42, after another dominant performance this weekend. A couple other notes, just to answer some of the comments from over the weekend:
1. We can't be sure Cliff Lee will start, but I'm guessing that he will, so I don't want to drop him down too much.
2. Keep an eye on Jake Peavy, whose two-start week may be thwarted by a possible trade.
3. CBSSports.com is fully staffed by robots. "Michael Hurcomb" is really just a hotwired Intellivision.
4. No Chris Tillman this week against Houston. His tendency to sometimes give up four or five runs here and there still scares me a little bit. But point taken about his recent hot streak (3.42 ERA in July), and he is now in honorable mention.
5. Matt Cain is ranked relatively high because he's a very good pitcher who is due for a turnaround. On top of that, the Phillies could be a different ("bad") offensive team by the time Cain faces them.
5a. Just to give an idea of how I worked this list -- I realize some pitchers have been bad recently, but this is to help teams plan for the week ahead, so I think some risk-taking and ranks based on historical data should come into play.
6. Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez will be added to the database after the signing is made official. Stay tuned!
7. flemdaphantom actually had a good point. I moved Harvey up a few spots.

My Top 70 Starting Pitchers for Week 18
Rank Player Start 1 Start 2
1 Stephen Strasburg @DET (Sanchez) @MIL (Gallardo)
2 David Price @BOS (Doubront) SF (Zito)
3 Clayton Kershaw @CHC (Wood) N/A
4 Max Scherzer CHW (Danks) N/A
5 Felix Hernandez @BOS (Dempster) N/A
6 Mat Latos @SD (Volquez) N/A
7 Cliff Lee ATL (Medlen) N/A
8 Adam Wainwright @PIT (Morton) N/A
9 Matt Harvey @MIA (Alvarez) N/A
10 Justin Verlander WAS (Gonzalez) N/A
11 Jered Weaver @TEX (Garza) TOR (Rogers)
12 Matt Cain @PHI (Hamels) N/A
13 CC Sabathia @SD (Cashner) N/A
14 Cole Hamels SF (Cain) N/A
15 Zack Greinke NYY (Kuroda) @CHC (Villanueva)
16 Yu Darvish ARI (Delgado) N/A
17 Chris Sale @CLE (Masterson) N/A
18 Madison Bumgarner @TB (Archer) N/A
19 Matt Moore SF (Lincecum) N/A
20 Jeff Samardzija MIL (Lohse) LAD (Ryu)
21 Gio Gonzalez @DET (Verlander) N/A
22 Francisco Liriano STL (Westbrook) COL (Chacin)
23 R.A. Dickey @OAK (Colon) N/A
24 Jon Lester ARI (Corbin) N/A
25 Hisasahi Iwakuma @BOS (Lackey) N/A
26 James Shields @MIN (Diamond) N/A
27 Matt Garza LAA (Weaver) @OAK (Parker)
28 Jordan Zimmermann @MIL (Hand) N/A
29 Yovani Gallardo @CHC (Villanueva) WAS (Strasburg)
30 Lance Lynn @PIT (Burnett) @CIN (Leake)
31 Doug Fister CHW (Santiago) N/A
32 A.J. Griffin TOR (Rogers) TEX (Holland)
33 Shelby Miller @CIN (Arroyo) N/A
34 Kris Medlen PHI (Lee) N/A
35 Anibal Sanchez WAS (Strasburg) N/A
36 Tony Cingrani STL (Westbrook) N/A
37 Hiroki Kuroda @LAD (Greinke) N/A
38 C.J. Wilson @TEX (Holland) TOR (Buehrle)
39 Jeremy Hellickson ARI (Miley) N/A
40 Homer Bailey @SD (Stults) N/A
41 Jose Fernandez CLE (Jimenez) N/A
42 Chris Archer SF (Bumgarner) N/A
43 Jake Peavy @CLE (Kazmir) @DET (Porcello)
44 Josh Johnson @LAA (Richards) N/A
45 Mike Minor COL (Chatwood) N/A
46 A.J. Burnett STL (Lynn) COL (De La Rosa)
47 Kyle Lohse @CHC (Samardzija) WAS (Haren)
48 Hector Santiago @DET (Fister) N/A
49 Patrick Corbin @BOS (Lester) N/A
50 Gerrit Cole COL (Chacin) N/A
51 Andrew Cashner NYY (Sabathia) N/A
52 Dan Straily TOR (Buehrle) N/A
53 Hyun-Jin Ryu @CHC (Samardzija) N/A
54 Ervin Santana @MIN (Pelfrey) @NYM (Wheeler)
55 Jose Quintana @CLE (Kluber) N/A
56 Jeff Locke STL (TBD) COL (Nicasio)
57 Tim Lincecum @TB (Moore) N/A
58 Derek Holland LAA (Wilson) @OAK (Griffin)
59 Wei-Yin Chen HOU (Norris) SEA (Saunders)
60 Mike Leake @SD (O'Sullivan) STL (Lynn)
61 Jacob Turner NYM (Hefner) CLE (McAllister)
62 Zack Wheeler @MIA (Eovaldi) N/A
63 Bartolo Colon TOR (Dickey) N/A
64 Dillon Gee @MIA (Koehler) N/A
65 Justin Masterson CHW (Sale) N/A
66 Brandon Beachy COL (De La Rosa) @PHI (Pettibone)
67 Julio Teheran COL (McHugh) N/A
68 Felix Doubront TB (Price) ARI (Corbin)
69 Alex Wood COL (Nicasio) @PHI (Lannan)
70 Jorge De La Rosa @ATL (Beachy) and @PIT (Burnett)

Honorable mention: Ivan Nova @SD (Ross), Jarrod Parker vs TEX (Garza), Chris Tillman vs HOU (Lyles), Ian Kennedy @TB (Price) and @BOS (Doubront), Alexi Ogando @OAK (Milone), Travis Wood vs. LAD (Kershaw), Jhoulys Chacin @PIT (Liriano), Ricky Nolasco vs. NYY (Pettitte) and @CHC (Jackson), Jeremy Guthrie @MIN (Correia), Kyle Gibson vs HOU (Cosart), Miguel Gonzalez vs. HOU (Bedard).

Two-Start Options to Consider
Listed by ownership percentage

Kyle Lohse, Brewers (TOR, TEX): Lohse is in the midst of another reliably Lohse-y season: a solid ERA, low WHIP, and a relatively low strikeout rate. He makes for a good option in a two-start week because of the near-guarantee that you'll get nice ratios over 13-14 innings. His strikeouts should get into the double digits, and while wins may be hard to come by as the Brewers play out a lost season, Lohse pitches effectively deep enough into games to give himself a nice shot at the victory -- Lohse had a decision in each of his last five starts, four of which were wins.
This week's rank: 47
My take: Solid standard mixed league start

Zack Wheeler, Mets (@MIA, KC): The counter to Lohse's inconsistency is the almost unbridled throwing-caution-to-the-wind attitude Wheeler's owners will take with him. Yes, he's talented. Yes, he's 4-1. Yes, he has a 3.72 ERA. But pull back a layer or two and you're looking at a pitcher with a 1.40 WHIP and just three starts where he's gone a full six innings. Still, Miami and Kansas City have rather lackluster offenses, which could be even more lackluster depending on what happens at the trade deadline. So Wheeler gets a little nudge up his normal spot in the Top 70.
This week's rank: 59
My take: Solid standard mixed league start

Ricky Nolasco, Dodgers (NYY, @CHC): Since his trade to the Dodgers, Nolasco has put up a 3.13 ERA, sporting a 1-1 record. But his walk rate has gone up significantly with the Dodgers (3.5 BB/9 from 2.0 with the Marlins), leading to a 1.35 WHIP over the four game stint. While the Yankees and the Cubs have been in the bottom half of the league this season in walks, they're actually 10th (Yankees) and 12th (Cubs) in July. It's not like a freight train is coming at him, but Nolasco could run into some trouble if the teams take advantage of his recent tendency to throw balls.
This week's rank: N/A
My take: Marginal standard mixed league start

Jorge De La Rosa, Rockies (@ATL, @PIT): De La Rosa has a 2.97 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in 121 1/3 innings this season. Both of his games this week are on the road, away from Coors. And De La Rosa has been great recently -- a 2.42 ERA in July. I just worry that we've seen what De La Rosa is capable of over the past nine years (a career 4.69 ERA and 1.47 WHIP), and a correction is on its way. His strand rate (78.7 percent) is a career-high, his HR/FB rate (7.1 percent) is well below his career average, and his xFIP suggests a rise is on its way. Still, when you're hot, you're hot, and he deserves a spot in the top 70 based on what he's been able to accomplish so far this season.
This week's rank: 70
My take: Solid standard mixed league start

Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks (@TB, @BOS): Kennedy has been a massive disappointment this season, posting an ERA (5.22) nearly double his 2.88 from 2011, when he finished fourth in Cy Young voting. Strikeouts are down, walks are up, and his owners are left with a talented pitcher who remains a tantalizing option -- especially in two-start weeks -- without much to go on outside of his 2010 and 2011 seasons. His recent run (3.27 ERA over his last two games) gives some hope, but two interleague road games against the Rays and Red Sox help to squash it.
This week's rank: N/A
My take: Marginal standard mixed league start

Wei-Yin Chen, Orioles (HOU, SEA): Chen has come back from his DL stint without missing a beat, sporting a 2.18 ERA in his last three games, managing two wins in that span. He's not going to strike out a lot of batters, but the two starts this week should give his owners enough to keep up with the studs, while offering a low ERA and WHIP.
This week's rank: 64
My take: Solid standard mixed league start

Felix Doubront, Red Sox (SEA, ARI): Doubront really only has two disastrous starts this season, and they came in back-to-back games in May, when he gave up 12 runs over two games (against Texas and Minnesota). Since then, Doubront has been pretty spectacular, with a 2.71 ERA over 79 2/3 innings (spanning 13 starts). I have a feeling the bottom is due to come out at some point, but Doubront, right now, is a very sneaky two-start play, with a sustained run of really good starts.
This week's rank: 68
My take: Solid standard mixed league start

Jeremy Hefner, Mets (@MIA, KC): Speaking of sustained runs of really good starts, I give you Hefner -- who may end up being a sneak preview of Felix Doubront, just two weeks ahead. From May 13 to July 12 (73 IP, over 12 starts), Hefner produced a 2.71 ERA. Everything looked rosy. And then that bottom came out. In his last two games, Hefner has gotten hammered, giving up 13 earned runs in 6 1/3 innings. Even with two starts against the Marlins and Royals, Hefner isn't strongly recommended.
This week's rank: N/A
My take: Deeper standard mixed league start

Jacob Turner, Marlins (NYM, CLE): Turner's 3-3 record is largely the result of the Marlins' run-scoring incompetence. The 22-year-old has actually been one of the better pitchers in baseball this year, with a 2.49 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in his 10 starts. A former top prospect -- acquired before the Marlins went into fire-sale mode -- Turner has decent matchups this week and continues to be one of Fantasy's best-kept secrets.
This week's rank: 62
My take: Solid standard mixed league start

Scott Kazmir, Indians (CHW, @MIA): Over his last seven starts, Kazmir has a 1.60 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 45 innings. Why do we just go back seven starts? Because in the three starts before that, Kazmir had a 7.98 ERA, allowing batters a .998 OPS. Kazmir is on a hot streak, and he does have some really nice matchups this week, but I've come to fear the hiccups too much to trust him in a two-start week. But, in the interest of fairness, for those of you who like Kazmir, here's a reason to like him more -- the White Sox will likely have shed some offense by the time Kazmir takes the mound against them.
This week's rank: N/A
My take: Marginal standard mixed league start

Jake Westbrook, Cardinals (@PIT, @CIN): Since coming off his month-long DL stint in June, Westbrook has a 4.01 ERA in 49 1/3 innings over eight games. His overall numbers look solid, but Westbrook has been fading a bit over this recent run, and even in a two-start week he may struggle to get you strikeouts. So far this season, Westbrook has 14 starts; he has struck out two or fewer batters in eight of them. So even with the possibility of low ERA and WHIP, he has two tough opponents -- lessening the chance of a win -- and may max out at four strikeouts in a two-start week.
This week's rank: N/A
My take: Deeper mixed league start

Bud Norris, Astros (@BAL, @MIN): Over his last four games, Norris has given up one, seven, six, and three runs. Even though his ERA on the season is 3.93, it's a hard 3.93 to predict. Norris has a habit of going on nice runs, then reversing all the good with these six- or seven-run outings. Because of this erratic output, he's tough to recommend in shallower mixed leagues. What makes his value dip even more is the possibility of a trade, which could push back one of his starts.
This week's rank: N/A
My take: Deeper mixed league start

Mark Buehrle, Blue Jays (@OAK, @LAA): Buehrle is still on pace to have his 13th consecutive 200-inning season. He's also on pace to post his highest ERA since 2006. For a brief time this season, Buehrle gave us hope -- from May 22 to June 19, he had a 2.13 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. Then he had two consecutive four-run outings. Two starts later, the Orioles scored eight on him. And then he threw a complete game shutout on Thursday. Without that high-powered Toronto offense we were promised, Buehrle is going to find it tough to get those wins. And he's been disturbingly erratic in 2013. He's usually as dependable as they come, but this bizarro Toronto team seems to have shaken up most of our expectations across the board.
This week's rank: N/A
My take: Marginal standard mixed league start

Alex Wood, Braves (COL, @PHI): Wood didn't have the greatest of performances against the Mets on Thursday, giving up four runs on eight hits over 4 1/3 innings. But Wood is far better than what we've seen from him in his two starts this season. He can supply a low ERA and WHIP and is capable of striking out a batter per inning. In Head-to-Head leagues, he can also boast RP eligibility. It may not seem like the best move, in light of the Mets chasing him early and the Rockies looming in Week 18, but Wood could be a nice two-start play this week, with injuries to Paul Maholm and Tim Hudson opening up at least a temporary rotation spot for the 22-year-old.
This week's rank: 69
My take: Marginal standard mixed league start

Edwin Jackson, Cubs (MIL, LAD): This is the unpopular take on things, but I have perennial hope for Jackson, who teased most of the Fantasy-playing hordes with his 2009 and 2011 seasons. He really wasn't that bad last year, with his 4.03 ERA masking a nice 1.22 WHIP. This season has been different, though. Jackson's been erratic and hittable. While his peripherals haven't been terrible (walk rate is below his career average, strikeout rate is above it, and he has a career-high ground ball rate), he has run into some bad luck, with a very low strand rate (61.4 percent). In fact, Jackson's xFIP is 3.66, suggesting he's due for a correction in his favor. And it may have already started -- over the last four games, Jackson has a 2.45 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. Use this to your advantage -- especially if you're sitting in fifth place and looking to make a big move; while everyone else is holding their noses and avoiding the pitcher with the 5.03 ERA, you can grab him in a two-start week and try to make up some ground.
This week's rank: N/A
My take: Marginal standard mixed league start

Zach McAllister, Indians (CHW, @MIA): Danny Salazar's pre-All-Star break performance blinded most of us to the return of McAllister from the DL. The 25-year old had last pitched on June 2, leaving behind a 3.43 ERA and fuzzy memories of a surprisingly nice early-season run -- he hadn't allowed more than three earned runs until his final start before hitting the DL. McAllister returned where he left off; allowing three earned runs in five innings pitched. He's a decent option in a two-start week, but he has a relatively high WHIP and doesn't have the strongest of track records. At this point in the season, he's not safe enough to start on a first-place team and lacks the big-game potential to help a sixth-place team make a major move.
This week's rank: N/A
My take: Deeper mixed league start

Joe Saunders, Mariners (@BOS, @BAL): Saunders is stuck in a weird McAllister-esque limbo: his 4.48 ERA and 1.47 WHIP are slightly above where they've always been for him, while most of his peripherals are resting right around career norms. Add it all up, and you have a pitcher who won't help and won't hurt, so therefore is probably worth a start in AL-only formats.
This week's rank: N/A
My take: AL-only start

Barry Zito, Giants (@PHI, @TB): Zito is a man defined by splits this season. At home, he's been brilliant -- 4-1 with a 2.45 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. On the road, though, Zito has put up some pretty harsh numbers -- 0-6 with a 9.39 ERA and 2.37 WHIP. With two road starts in Week 18, Zito owners should keep him benched.
This week's rank: N/A
My take: NL-only start

Esmil Rogers, Blue Jays (@OAK, @LAA): Since being handed a starting role in early June, Rogers has been a surprisingly effective pitcher for his Fantasy owners, sporting a 3.71 ERA. While he hasn't been without hiccups -- two starts with four runs allowed, one disaster with seven allowed against Detroit -- he has his flashes of good. And they come more often than the bad. As the anti-Zito of sorts, Rogers is actually better on the road (3.10 ERA) than at home (4.33), which could work to his advantage in Week 18.
This week's rank: N/A
My take: Deeper mixed league start

John Danks, White Sox (@CLE, @DET): Since his three-year stretch from 2008 to 2010, when he had a 3.61 ERA over 608 1/3 innings, Danks has been a bit of an unreliable Fantasy asset. In the 300 2/3 innings since that span, Danks has a 4.70 ERA and a 13-24 record. Cleveland and Detroit, meanwhile, are AL Central foes who are familiar with Danks' repertoire. In 16 career starts, he has a 4.94 ERA against the Indians. And in 17 starts against the Tigers, Danks has a 5.53 ERA.
This week's rank: N/A
My take: Deeper mixed league start

Nate Eovaldi, Marlins (NYM, CLE): After an ugly start last weekend against the Brewers (six earned runs in four innings) brought his ERA from 2.93 to 4.15, Eovaldi bounced back in grand fashion Thursday against the Rockies, throwing six shutout innings and bringing his ERA back down to 3.54 (with a 1.20 WHIP). You'd like to see Eovaldi bring up the strikeouts, but his relative steadiness with the ratios makes him a deep league option this week.
This week's rank: N/A
My take: Deeper mixed league start

Juan Nicasio, Rockies (@ATL, @PIT): Tucked away in Nicasio's 4.73 ERA this season is a stellar run since his recall: one earned run in his last three starts, with a 2-0 record. The strikeouts are iffy -- his nine Ks Thursday against the Marlins bucked his 6.0 K/9 trend so far this season, but as long as Nicasio's shutting opponents out -- no big deal. Nicasio's second chance gives us reason to believe, but doesn't make him a safe start just yet.
This week's rank: N/A
My take: Deeper mixed league start

Carlos Villanueva, Cubs (MIL, LAD): Villanueva started eight games in April and March, getting bumped from the rotation with a 3.93 ERA -- not exactly a terrible start to the season. While a bit of a risky start, Villanueva could produce a decent/passable outing without warning. It's just tough to make a case for him in anything but NL-only leagues right now.
This week's rank: N/A
My take: NL-only start

John Lannan, Phillies (SF, ATL): Lannan has made seven starts since his return from the DL, sporting a 3.43 ERA. But there are some disturbing numbers hiding behind that number. He has a 1.40 WHIP and he's allowed four runs in three of his seven starts. The inconsistencies in his starts can really hurt someone looking to make something out of a two-week period. Lannan can be good, but those four-run bumps in the road can negate the better starts.
This week's rank: N/A
My take: NL-only start

Mike Pelfrey, Twins (KC, HOU): Here's something you may not know about Pelfrey: he's been pretty good lately. In four July starts (following a DL stint), Pelfrey has a 2.28 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. That's not to say he won't dip back into old habits (he has a 5.15 ERA on the season and 4.43 ERA over an eight-year career), but AL-only owners desperate for starts might want to consider Pelfrey over other lower-end options. It could always be a disaster, but there's at least a slight chance it could also extend his little-recognized hot streak.
This week's rank: N/A
My take: AL-only start

Sean O'Sullivan, Padres (CIN, NYY): In O'Sullivan's two starts this season, he's shown glimpses of a good pitcher, carrying a 3.18 ERA over 11 1/3 innings. However, O'Sullivan has a 1.68 WHIP in those two starts, and his minor league stats aren't very encouraging: a 3.92 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 879 2/3 innings pitched. Granted, more than half of those innings came in the hitter-friendly PCL, and O'Sullivan is still just 25 years old (despite playing his eighth season of professional baseball), so there may be some room to grow. It's just tough, based on what we've seen so far, to plug O'Sullivan into lineups even in the two-start week.
This week's rank: N/A
My take: NL-only start

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