Can you believe it? The last day of the regular season is always bittersweet, as it marks the end of a 26-week marathon, but also signifies playoff baseball is right around the corner.
As someone who has won and lost championships on the final Sunday, I know how important this day can be. The key is maximizing at-bats by focusing on players likely to play the entire game. This means avoiding hitters on playoff-bound clubs since they'll get an at-bat or two, then be lifted. In certain scenarios, benching a top batter on a playoff team could be prudent, if it means getting more trips to the dish.
Pitching is similar. You want starters with no innings restrictions. Obviously, dropping anyone not scheduled is in play if you're chasing wins or strikeouts. If you're trying to grab a point or two in ERA and WHIP, going with all relievers is an option, again releasing all your starters in redraft leagues.
Before getting to the featured players, I'd like to thank you for hanging with us to the hopefully not-so-bitter end. Finally, a heartfelt thank you to ESPN Research Associate Kyle Soppe for his diligence and reliability every day of the season, providing Mike Sheets, Paul Sporer, Tim Heaney and yours truly with valuable facts and figures to pass onto you.
Good luck everyone and see you next spring!
Pitchers to stream
Jose Urena (R), 46 percent rostered in ESPN leagues, Miami Marlins vs. Atlanta Braves: Urena established himself as a bonafide big league starter. His 3.77 ERA is artificially low, but if he figures out how to increase his 6.1 K/9, he can counter the likely regression. He ends the season at pitcher-friendly Marlins Park, facing a below-average lineup versus right-handers, both down the stretch and for the season.
Josh Tomlin (R), 29 percent, Cleveland Indians vs. Chicago White Sox: Because he allows so many balls in play, it's never comfortable leaning on Tomlin. However, he doesn't beat himself with walks and has cut down on homers, especially lately. In fact, since July, Tomlin has surrendered only five homers in nine starts, covering 49 2/3 innings. In those outings, Tomlin is an undefeated 5-0. If you're chasing wins, Tomlin is your guy, taking on one of the worst teams in the league.
Nick Pivetta (R), 13 percent, Philadelphia Phillies vs. New York Mets: Pivetta has pitched better than his 6.62 ERA indicates. His 4.22 xFIP suggests if the 24-year old right-hander can find a cure for his gopheritis, his ratios could fall to a point his 9.4 K/9 would be a fantasy asset. With the Phillies facing Noah Syndergaard for a frame and then a parade of relievers, Pivetta should get run support, putting him in play for whiffs and a possible win.
Anibal Sanchez (R), 8 percent, Detroit Tigers at Minnesota Twins: Count the Twins as a team likely to get their starters an at-bat, maybe two, then send them to the showers. Sanchez has strung together three consecutive six-inning efforts, allowing just four total runs with 25 whiffs along the way.
Pitchers to avoid
Noah Syndergaard (R), less than 1 percent, New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies: Just a reminder, Syndergaard will be on a 25-pitch limit. It's fine to start him, but obviously look elsewhere for a win.
As discussed in the introduction, Sunday could be a day to drop all starters and pick up all relievers in an effort to capture ERA and WHIP points. Teams to target include the Red Sox, Indians, Astros and New York Yankees, all playoff teams with strong bullpens and an incentive to keep their better relievers sharp.
Projected game scores
GS is the projected game score for the pitcher. A "*" means the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate rating; these are the author's ratings.
Russell Martin (R), 9 percent, Toronto Blue Jays at New York Yankees (LHP Jordan Montgomery): Martin may sit, but it's not like he doesn't have a few months to rest. While it's been a down year for the veteran, he continues to hit high in the order, giving him an advantage over most of the available backstops. Leadoff hitter Teoscar Hernandez is another option.
Dominic Smith (L), 6 percent, New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies (RHP Nick Pivetta): Pivetta's issue with the long ball was discussed earlier. Smith had six homers in September, including two in the past week. Norichika Aoki, Brandon Nimmo, Jose Reyes and Asdrubal Cabrera are also in play.
Willie Calhoun (L), 3 percent, Texas Rangers vs. Oakland Athletics (RHP Daniel Mengden): Also eligible in the outfield, Calhoun entered Saturday's action with a modest three-game hitting streak, including a homer. Mengden tossed a couple good games down the stretch, but with a 5.3 K/9 and 1.5 HR/9, I'll take my chances.
Brian Anderson (R), less than 1 percent, Miami Marlins vs. Atlanta Braves (LHP Max Fried): Despite showing some pop in the minors, Anderson is still searching for his first big league homer. With a 6.3 K/9 and 1.3 HR/9, Fried could be Anderson's first victim.
Jose Peraza (R), 23 percent, Cincinnati Reds at Chicago Cubs (LHP Mike Montgomery): For many, the last day of the season is about chasing specific categories. If you need a steal or two, find a place for Peraza. He's 23-for-30 on the season, with six pilfers in the last month.
Cesar Hernandez (B), 26 percent, Philadelphia Phillies vs. New York Mets (RHP Noah Syndergaard): In what will be a bullpen game for the Mets, Hernandez and double-play mate Freddy Galvis are in great shape. As switch-hitters, they'll enjoy the platoon edge regardless of who the Mets bring in after Thor.
Michael Brantley (L), 47 percent, Cleveland Indians vs. Chicago White Sox (RHP Chris Volstad): It's not a guarantee that Brantley will play, but it's worth checking out. The Indians want to get him some swings before the playoffs.
Nicky Delmonico (L), 5 percent, Chicago White Sox at Cleveland Indians (RHP Josh Tomlin): There's a good chance Delmonico doesn't play, as he strained his shoulder Friday night and was held out of Saturday's contest. If he plays, he's in a good spot, hitting cleanup. If he doesn't play, don't hesitate to use Rymer Liriano, his likely replacement.
Alex Presley (L), 2 percent, Detroit Tigers at Minnesota Twins (RHP Bartolo Colon): It's fitting we're ending the season on a Kyle Soppe special. Soppe notes Presley is slashing an impressive .327/.367/.433 versus righties this season, while Colon is allowing .321/.366/.561 decimals to lefty swingers, including 12 homers over his previous 42 1/3 frames.
Hitter matchup ratings
Notes: Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's history (three years' worth, as well as the past 21 days) and ballpark factors. "LH" and "RH" 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 to 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, whereas 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.