How do you even begin to approach pitchers with game score (an all-in-one metric that measures pitching performances) logs like these?
74, 62, 66, 42, 59, 22, 68, 40
79, 40, 64, 82, 34, 54, 56, 70, 37
The first pitcher seems like he figured something out, and then has fallen off in recent starts. Four starts out of five with a game score of 59 or higher is nice, but a 22 and a 40 in his past three doesn’t bode well.
The second pitcher doesn’t seem to have any sort of rhythm or tempo and would be a very risky fantasy option, right? The highs are very high, but the lows are very low.
Both of these pitchers are starting on Monday, and one is a strong option for fantasy players while the other is probably best left on the bench in DFS and shallower season-long leagues.
The first pitcher is Chris Archer of the Tampa Bay Rays. An elevated home-run-to-fly-ball ratio and a poor walk rate has hurt what is an otherwise sterling resume for a starting pitcher. He’s striking out more than 10 batters per nine innings, and generating a swinging strike rate of just under 11 percent.
However, even the strikeouts are fading in recent outings, as he continues to struggle with walks and elevated pitch counts without the upside of whiffs. After recording double-digit K's in two of his first five games, he has struck out five or fewer batters in four of his past seven appearances.
And while the homer-to-fly-ball ratio will likely regress back to the mean, his walk rate isn’t some luck-based stat we can expect to fix on its own. He’s missing his spots, and that means more baserunners and fewer outs.
Also of note is Archer’s reduced chase rate on the season, meaning batters aren’t swinging at balls out of the zone as often as they have in the past. Hitters are just waiting for a fastball in the zone, then hammering it, rather than chasing something breaking out of the zone; as a result, there are more walks being issued.
Monday’s game against Arizona, a top-10 offense in baseball, isn’t a wise spot to invest in the Tampa Bay starter for fantasy purposes.
His game score log features a 31, 34, 37 and 40, all at home. His remaining starts are 54 or better, including a 79 and 82, recorded in road tilts.
He’s a solid pitcher with the best road ERA in baseball, as well as the best well-hit average (the number of well-hit balls relative to total at-bats). Monday's opponent, the Dodgers, play in a pitcher-friendly park and have a bottom-five offense in the majors.
Chatwood is a top-two pitching option Monday, right up there with Jon Lester as a building block for season-long and daily lineups.
If the Shoe fits, use him
After seven starts, Matt Shoemaker had an ERA of 8.49 and had no outings with more than five strikeouts. In his past four starts, he has dropped his ERA to 5.50 thanks to 7 1/3 innings of shutout baseball followed by two lengthy outings of two-run ball.
The difference for Shoemaker? He’s getting strikeouts, not issuing walks and keeping the ball on the ground.
Pitching heat maps indicate that he’s pounding the bottom of the zone more often in his past three starts, while he spent most of his time in the middle of the zone for the first handful of starts this year.
He’s a pitcher with several offerings designed to break down in the zone, so ground balls are ideal for him. He wants to generate swings and misses on pitches that fall off the table, or induce weak contact on the top of the ball when a player tries to drop the bat to make contact with his sinking throws.
During his impressive 2014 campaign, he generated a 43.2 percent ratio of ground balls to balls put in play. In his impressive past three starts? 44.6 percent.
There are more extreme ground-ball pitchers in the league, but when Shoemaker is able to combine decent ground-ball inducing ability with a strong swinging strike rate (the best of his career), there’s a lot to like about the Angels starter moving forward.
He's worthy of a stash in season-long leagues, and is a strong SP2 or tournament option in DFS on Monday.
Only around 10 percent of humans are left-handed, but Monday’s pitching probables may have you thinking otherwise. Nine of the 20 men currently slated to take to the mound will do so with a glove on their right hands and the ball in their left.
That means batters who specialize in hitting against southpaws are going to get their chance to get some at-bats, while strong left-handed bats lose their standard platoon advantage. We won’t want to pick players against Lester or Steven Matz, but the remaining left-handers could have trouble dealing with these hitters:
Danny Duffy has looked good in his recent starts, and Joey Rickard has been essentially benched, but roles could reverse if the right-handed Rickard gets the start and can take swings with the platoon advantage.
Logan Morrison is a left-handed batter, but has been smashing left-handed pitching so far this season. The Tampa Bay first baseman may remain in the lineup to try to keep his hot streak alive against Robbie Ray of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Looking for a more traditional matchup in this game? Evan Longoria ranks 14th in baseball in well-hit average against southpaws.