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.
The Elite (ranked for use in daily cash games such as 50/50s and double ups)
The stars are aligned for Madison Bumgarner to hurl another gem, as he'll take the mound in pitcher-friendly AT&T Park and face a Milwaukee Brewers club that is subpar on the road. Their .299 road weighted on base average (wOBA) versus southpaws is the 11th worst in the league, while their 23.3 percent strikeout rate means they fan the sixth most overall in this scenario. The Giant's left-hander is on a serious roll, as he has tossed at least seven frames in his past five starts and fanned 49 while walking just two in that span of 40 innings.
Hisashi Iwakuma checks in next, as he's also working in his favorable home digs. The Washington Nationals are in Safeco Park for an interleague tilt and bring with them a .293 wOBA and 21.4 percent whiff rate when facing righties on the road. Iwakuma was hit hard by the Boston Red Sox the most recent time out, but in his 10 games before that, he hurled 70 innings with 65 punchouts and just four free passes.
Even though the next two highest game scores are close to that of Bumgarner and Iwakuma, both Johnny Cueto and Matt Shoemaker have risky matchups and should be faded. Cueto visits PNC Park, where the Pittsburgh Pirates handle right-handers to the tune of a .337 wOBA while fanning in only 17.7 percent of plate appearances. Shoemaker is tasked with holding the Oakland Athletics in check, and while it is true they've cooled down as a team, the A's are still dangerous. For those questioning Shoemaker's name in the elite tier, a 108:21 strikeout to walk ratio in 110 2/3 innings warrants inclusion.
Solid (can be considered for both daily cash games and tournament play)
After walking 10 in his first three starts in August, over 19 1/3rd innings, Alex Wood's control has been sharp lately, as he's walked only one batter in each of his past two starts and tossed seven stanzas each time. The Atlanta Braves' southpaw has a date with the Miami Marlins in Turner Field on tap. The Fish swim in with a slightly below average .305 road wOBA versus lefties along with a generous 22.6 percent strikeout rate. Their walk rate is the 11th lowest in this situation, which should help Wood keep his roll going.
It's with some reticence that Francisco Liriano is deemed solid, but his home date with the Cincinnati Reds could be a solid contrarian plan, as many will shy away with Cueto working for the visitors, plus the fact that Liriano has had issues at PNC Park this season. The visitor's .292 wOBA traveling versus left-handers is the fourth-lowest in the Majors. The Reds aren't particularly patient either and sport a six percent walk rate, which is tied for second worst overall. This should help Liriano stay in the game longer and let his 9.8 strikeouts per nine innings mark rack up some whiffs.
On paper, Alex Cobb has a favorable matchup, as the Boston Red Sox wrap up a series in Tropicana Field. The visitors sport a meek .287 road wOBA versus right-handers, along with an above average 21.9 percent strikeout rate. That said, there's some risk in that the visitors still possess some veterans looking to salvage a disappointing season along with some youngsters looking to jump-start their career.
John Lackey is in a similar boat as Cobb as the St. Louis Cardinals conclude a weekend set with the Chicago Cubs in Busch Stadium. For the season, the visitors hit road right-handers to the tune of a rather non-harmonious .289 while fanning a healthy 22.5 percent of the time. But that was mostly before Jorge Soler and Javier Bez hit the scene. On one hand, a veteran such as Lackey should be able to teach the youngsters a lesson. But on the other, there's something to be said for playing loose.
If you're looking for textbook solid, Wood is the play. Liriano, Cobb and Lackey are more high risk, very high reward plays, as their price in daily contests preclude being a value play.
Value Plays (best used in tournaments or on multiple-pitcher sites)
Part of the problem with identifying value plays is pitcher pricing on daily sites is all over the place. Some sites favor a pitcher's history, some what he's done this season and still others lean to recent performance. For lack of a better filter, the value plays will rank those hurlers with projected game scores below 50. Another quick note before moving to the value plays: There are several solid starters left off the notes today, primarily because the focus is on daily games where strikeouts are paramount. Starters such as Danny Duffy, Kyle Lohse, Rick Porcello and Tanner Roark all have favorable matchups but aren't as dominant as some of the others discussed.
Wei-Yin Chen was touched up by the Tampa Bay Rays his latest time out, but previous to that effort, the Baltimore Orioles' left-hander totaled the target 13 innings plus strikeouts desired for daily play in three of his previous four starts. Since the All-Star break, the visiting Minnesota Twins have scuffled a bit away from Target Field and sport a .280 road wOBA versus southpaws in this span. With the incendiary Ricky Nolasco on the bump for the Twins, Chen should have a good shot at a win.
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.
Ricky Nolasco has allowed 17 homers, split nearly equal between lefty and righty swingers. The Baltimore Orioles lead the league in homers. Everyone with an orange bird on their batting helmet is in play, but if you're swinging for the fences, Chris Davis is your guy, as his cost is low.
The Houston Astros should blast off against Nick Martinez as the Texas Rangers visit Minute Maid Park. Martinez's splits are slightly worse against left-handed hitters, but righties have hit him plenty hard as well. Everyone is in play for the home nine with Chris Carter the lead tourney play.
Similarly, pig-piling on the Chicago Cubs' southpaw Travis Wood isn't advised, but spotting a couple of St. Louis Cardinals' right-handed bats could prove fruitful, as Wood has allowed 12 of his 15 homers to righties while sporting a pedestrian 93:59 strikeout to walk ratio to them. Matt Holliday is the best option, followed by Jhonny Peralta, and if you're feeling frisky and the price is right, Yadier Molina.
Dustin Ackley has a .253 well-hit average (percent of at-bats ending with a well-hit ball) in the second half of the season, second highest among qualified hitters. His first-half well-hit average was .170.
Since the start of 2012, Adrian Beltre is hitting .312 in at-bats to end with a pitch in the lower third of the zone or below, the third-highest such average among qualified hitters. Dallas Keuchel is throwing 57 percent of his pitches down in the zone or below this year, the fourth-highest percentage among qualified pitchers.
Madison Bumgarner is throwing his slider 36 percent of the time this season, tops among qualified left-handed pitchers. The Brewers are hitting an NL-worst .136 and slugging an NL-worst .190 this season in at-bats ending with a slider from a lefty.
Hisashi Iwakuma ranks third in opponent OPS after 0-1 counts and 48th after 1-0 counts. The Nationals have gotten to 1-0 in 40 percent of their plate appearances, the ninth-highest rate in the league.
Steve Pearce, OF, Baltimore Orioles: Pearce left Friday night's game with a strained abdomen and missed Saturday's game. He'll likely be out a few more, but with rosters expanding on Monday, a DL stint is unlikely.
Desmond Jennings, OF, Tampa Bay Rays: Jennings wasn't in the starting lineup for Saturday's tilt. He was a late scratch Friday night with what's being called a bone bruise. While his status is uncertain, the injury isn't considered serious.
Pedro Alvarez, 1B, Pittsburgh Pirates: Alvarez missed his third-straight game with a sprain in his toes. Although his status hasn't been made official, he's wearing a walking boot, so his availability for weekly leagues is up in the air.
Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs: Rizzo is expected to miss the entire weekend series. The hope is the extended rest will have him ready for Monday.
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, New York Yankees: Ellsbury hurt his ankle sliding into home during the ninth inning of Friday night's game and wasn't in the starting lineup on Saturday. He's listed as day-to-day.
Coco Crisp, OF, Oakland Athletics: Crisp strained his neck trying to keep a Chris Iannetta homer in the park Friday night. His status in unclear, but he did miss time earlier in the year with a similar neck injury.
On the Mend:
Cody Ross, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks: Out since July 21 with a calf injury, Ross has been taking batting practice and looks to rejoin the D-backs early this week.
Chris Owings, SS, Arizona Diamondbacks: On rehab for his shoulder, Owings is set to rejoin the Diamondbacks on Monday.
Jed Lowrie, SS, Oakland Athletics: Lowrie has begun a rehab assignment at Triple-A Sacramento with the hopes of rejoining the A's on Tuesday.