Friday offers a slate full of solid pitching options but light on elite hurlers, making for a tricky night. Lets dig right into the daily notes for a closer look at all the possibilities.
Jake Arrieta is one of the more perplexing players in the game to analyze. Known for his pinpoint control, the Chicago Cubs right-hander is walking hitters at an elevated 3.5 BB/9 clip, his highest mark with the club. In fact, since the break, the rate jumps to 3.8. On the other hand, over that span his hard contact rate is miniscule, rendering a tiny .178 batting average on balls in play. Conventional analysis points towards Arrieta enjoying ridiculously good luck. However, with the growing ability to characterize batted ball data, we're in the process of learning how much, if any, control a pitcher exerts over the type of contact induced and whether this is a sustainable and repeatable skill.
Complicating matters for Arrieta's date in Wrigley Field with the St. Louis Cardinals is the Redbirds recent performance versus right-handers is vastly different from their season-long output. This is another area that's being investigated, especially with the boon of DFS: how long of a team sample is needed for current performance to be considered predictive?
Specifically, if you look at the entire 2016 campaign, the Cardinals are the fourth most productive club in terms of weighted on base average (wOBA) with a righty on the hill. However, since the break, they're the twelfth worse. Splitting the difference and calling it average, we're still left with the original conundrum pitting off Arrieta being incredibly lucky versus wonderfully good.
As a numbers-driven analyst, I prefer to base decisions on what I know and quite frankly, I don't know which is the real Arrieta. I do, however, believe he's facing a team struggling to score runs so Arrieta checks in as my top cash game option on the card, admittedly buoyed by the dearth of other options. I'm looking elsewhere for my GPP lineups, not wanting to pay up for the risk Lady Luck is on his side and she decides to lend her powers elsewhere.
Chris Archer leads off the solid tier. In his favor is a home affair in pitcher-friendly Tropicana Field along with a stellar post-break run featuring a 3.20 ERA and 0.95 WHIP with 91 whiff to only 15 walks. On the other hand, Archer will be challenged by the hot-swinging Boston Red Sox. Despite his excellent second half numbers, facing the Red Sox will likely keep his GPP ownership low, making the right-hander an intriguing contrarian tournament option. The Texas Rangers shuffled their rotation, lining it up for the playoffs. Expected Game 2 starter Cole Hamels with take the hill in O. Co Coliseum against the Oakland Athletics.
The Rangers are battling for the top seed in the American League so at least for now, there's no threat of Hamels being lifted early. Still, there's limited strikeout upside, rendering the southpaw better for cash games than GPP action.
One of the advantages of calling the Great American Ballpark home is when you have a road date in Miller Park, you're not fazed by the homer-friendly tendencies of the venue. Such is the case for Anthony Desclafani as the Cincinnati Reds battle the Milwaukee Brewers. The Reds righty is a strong GPP candidate, facing one of the most generous lineups in the league in terms of strikeouts.
With Clay Buchholz's resurgence, Drew Pomeranz may be pitching for a spot in the Boston Red Sox playoff rotation when he takes the hill in St. Petersburg against the Tampa Bay Rays. The home team hits southpaws well, but they're also punch-out prone, putting Pomeranz in play for GPPs.
Jon Gray is coming off the best effort of his fledgling career, recording a 95 Game Score, tied for the fourth best this season. Some are reticent to go right back to a pitcher after he tossed 113 pitches but research published at Baseball HQ concludes there's no concern. In fact, odds are the pitcher has another solid outing. Gray's gem came against the Padres. This time he squares off with the Los Angeles Dodgers in Chavez Ravine, a tough foe. Still, Gray is in play, especially since he'll be unjustly faded by others.
Continued concern with Steven Matz's throwing shoulder keeps Gabriel Ynoa in the New York Mets' rotation. If you'll recall the last time out against the Twins, Ynoa was throwing well, whiffing eight with only one walk, but was lifted one out shy of the requisite five innings needed for the win. The likely short leash keeps Ynoa from DFS consideration and tempers potential in leagues counting quality starts, since six innings isn't assured. But if you need a handful of frames against a beatable Philadelphia Phillies offense with a chance to steal a win, Ynoa's in play.
James Paxton is going to be a mainstay on sleeper lists and the like heading into the 2017 fantasy baseball season. The astute will cite his actual ERA, presently 3.88 will in all likelihood be higher than his expected ERAs. As of now, Paxton sports a 2.91 FIP and 3.51 xFIP. The Seattle Mariners southpaw draws a Minnesota Twins club that's in the lower half of the league with respect to production versus lefties since the break.
It's never comfortable starting Francisco Liriano but if you're chasing wins, you could do worse than the enigmatic southpaw leading the Toronto Blue Jays against the New York Yankees in Rogers Centre. Evaluating Liriano is akin to analyzing a knuckleball pitcher; you never know what to expect, regardless of matchup. But, at home, facing Bryan Mitchell, the run support should be there.
Like his mound foe DeSclafani, Zach Davies has enjoyed a solid campaign. Both will be under-the-radar fantasy assets next season. DeSclafani is the better DFS choice but don't be afraid to use Davies in seasonal play. He should provide innings with some whiffs.
Sometimes the best trades are those you don't make. It was assumed the Philadelphia Phillies would move Jeremy Hellickson at the deadline but instead there's talk of signing him in part to serve as veteran presence on a young staff but also on the heels of a career best season. Hellickson is in a good spot for another strong effort taking the hill in Citi Field against a New York Mets squad that's struggled putting points on the board as of late.
Matt Wisler has often made this space as one to avoid or stack hitter against but today, he's in play for a spot start, taking on the Miami Marlins in South Beach. The Atlanta Braves have been much better over the second half and draw Andrew Cashner, who's been a mess lately. It's odd to recommend a 7-12 pitcher to pick up a win, but that's September baseball.
Miguel Gonzalez and Doug Fister fall in the automatic range. No one else will be added, though there are some borderline candidates. If you need additional analysis on anyone not profiled, please take advantage of the comments section or send a tweet to @ToddZola. Just remember, all I can do is analyze the matchup. The decision to start or sit is all yours.
Lefty swingers in Marlins Park take the top spot on the Friday night slate as both sides face righties with decent platoon splits. We'll start with the visiting Atlanta Braves facing Andrew Cashner. Ender Inciarte leads things off with Freddie Freeman in the three-hole. Nick Markakis has been very productive since the break and deserves a look. The way Cashner is throwing, Adonis Garcia and Matt Kemp are in the mix despite lacking the platoon edge.
The Fish to target include Dee Gordon, Christian Yelich, Justin Bour and if he's playing, Ichiro Suzuki as they all enjoy the platoon bump over Matt Wisler. The Braves' righty is better versus right-handed batters but at least this season has allowed some homers to same-side hitters so don't be afraid to find a spot for Marcell Ozuna or Giancarlo Stanton.
It's a good day to step into the left-handed batter's box as that unit for the Los Angeles Angels are in a good spot against Doug Fister. Stacking Halos isn't the best ploy but finding a spot for Kole Calhoun could pay off as the new Dad is back with the club, returning from paternity leave. Rafael Ortega or Nick Buss join Calhoun as a cost-efficient mini-stack.
So as not to be accused of southpaw bias, let's tab the right-handed brethren of the Toronto Blue Jays as the final club to highlight. The Jay are at home against the New York Yankees and impressive but still raw rookie Bryan Mitchell. With a playoff spot in the balance, you know the standard fare of Josh Donaldson, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Russell Martin and Troy Tulowitzki are threats to go deep. Ancillary parts include Devon Travis, Kevin Pillar and the left-handed Michael Saunders.
Most likely to hit a home run: Buster Posey
The Giants don't have a ton of power hitter to take advantage of Edwin Jackson penchant for delivering the long ball but since Jackson displays reverse splits, this seems like a great time for Posey to hit his second homer this week, after not leaving the yard since July 16.
Most likely to steal a base: Trea Turner
Not only has Turner snagged 17 bags in less than half a season, he's only been caught four times. Like most of his mound brethren Jameson Taillon can be run on so look for Turner to take advantage.