I’ve been slacking on my streamer picks, so let’s cut straight to the chase.
Tyson Ross, SD @ CIN
Mr. Ross is the real deal, my friends. He’s 10th of all pitchers in batters’ contact on pitches in the zone, sandwiched between the unfamiliar names of Jose Fernandez and Zack Greinke (and the players who precede him include Michael Wacha, Yordano Ventura, Julio Teheran and Max Scherzer). He doesn’t make batters chase pitches at an overwhelming rate, but they make contact on such pitches only half the time, which ranks Ross fourth only to Ervin Santana, Garrett Richards and Masahiro Tanaka. At 7.99 K/9, his K-rate should actually improve. You can really only bash him for his walk rate, but it’s no worse than Gio Gonzalez or Justin Verlander. I don’t care if it’s a road game; Ross should be owned in all leagues at this point.
Drew Hutchison, TOR @ TEX
I’ll be honest with you: I’m not totally sold on this matchup. Hutchison hasn’t been very impressive, but there are simply not many matchups worth exploiting on Friday. I like Hutchison for his strikeouts, and before his last start (during which he walked four), he had only walked five guys across 32-1/3 innings. His control escaped him, but if it comes back, he should be able to control a miserable Texas offense that ranks 26th of 30 teams in extra-base hits.
Bartolo Colon, NYM @ WAS
Again, not crazy about this one, either. But Colon has been incredibly unlucky. The dude is walking fewer than a batter per nine innings (0.9 BB/9), so all the baserunners (and, consequently, earned runs) he has allowed are a largely a function of an elevated batting average on balls in play (BABIP). It’s hard to trust a guy who’s mired in a slump, but the luck should eventually turn in his favor. Who’s to say it won’t be this weekend? I’d take a chance. The Nationals don’t score a ton of runs, either. It’s not the best play, but it’s safer than most.
Travis Wood, CHC vs. MIL
After a hot start, albeit a brief one, Wood has since collapsed in spectacular fashion, sporting a 4.91 ERA and 1.43 WHIP. So why would I ever vouch for this guy? Check out his home-road splits:
The splits are ridiculous. They speak for themselves, although I’ll highlight the ones that are most impressive. With that said, he’s starting at home. Enough said.
Good luck and happy streaming!
I’m sitting in an airport so I’ll make this brief. The San Diego Padres’ Tyson Ross is pitching at home against the absolutely miserable Arizona Diamondbacks. You really couldn’t ask for more. He’s only owned in about 15 percent of ESPN leagues.
Another streamer, who doesn’t count as a “streamer” based on my criteria I’ve laid out, is the man pitching the night before (aka tomorrow, aka Saturday, May 3): Ian Kennedy. He has been excellent this season, with a 3.16 ERA and 0.95 WHIP with 37 strikeouts in 37 innings. Maybe he’s due for some regression — he’ll start allowing a few more hits eventually — but I would bet the house it won’t come against the lowly Diamondbacks. It’s worth noting that Kennedy has only walked eight batters so far this season, making for a 1.9 BB/9 and 4.6 K/BB — both career bests. It’s these adjustments that make Kennedy look like he’s shaping up for an encore of his 2011 performance, a year during which he finished 4th in the National League Cy Young voting.
We’re too deep into the season for me to have a good excuse as to why I haven’t posted any streamer recommendations yet. Sorry! Considering this is the marquee feature after which this website is named, I think it’s high time I give some recommendations, especially now that we’ve got a feel for what guys are made of, veterans and no-namers alike.
The idea is that I only choose pitchers owned in 30 percent or fewer of ESPN leagues. The exercise is pointless if I tell you to stream guys who are 100-percent owned because you can’t pick them up on a whim to stream them into your lineup for the starts the next day.
I keep track of the ongoing stats of streamer starts here, and the streamer for the day will be listed in the right-hand module above the links.
Sat. 4/26: Vidal Nuno, NYY (v. LAA)
Nuno’s first start was ugly, but his second was much better, striking out six in five innings and allowing only three hits (zero runs). I’m not a huge fan of Nuno, but it’s all about the matchup, as the Angels’ Hector Santiago is homer-prone and headed into a very hitter-friendly ballpark. Get past the fact that the Angels spanked the Yankees tonight and you won’t feel so bad.
Sun. 4/27: Ian Kennedy, SD (@ WAS)
A road game in Washington is not as threatening as it may have once seemed. The Nationals are sluggish right now, and Kennedy has been a bright spot on an otherwise lackluster Padres team. He has posted a 3.60 ERA and 1.07 WHIP through five starts with 28 strikeouts in 30 innings. He’s also facing Taylor Jordan, who has been incredibly hittable through his first four starts. Whether or not you think Kennedy is legit, I’m riding the hot hand on this one.
Mon. 4/28: Tyson Ross, SD (@ SF)
I made a bold prediction about Ross before the season started, so it’s no surprise I’m on board for this matchup against a team that, aside from its decent run total, can’t hit a lick, batting only .234 as a team this season. Ross has shaken off his command problems from his first two starts and has struck out 28 in 31-1/3 innings.
Tue. 4/29: Corey Kluber, CLE (@ LAA)
This isn’t about me loving Kluber as much as it is there just aren’t many options today, with a lot of guys owned in a lot of leagues. It helps, however, that in his last start he allowed no earned runs on four hits with 11 strikeouts and no walks. That’s the Kluber I know and love.
Wed. 4/30: Nathan Eovaldi, MIA (v. ATL)
The Braves aren’t a miserable offense, although they certainly can be when they go cold. Eovaldi appears to have shored up his command problems by walking only four batters over his first five starts while striking out 30 in 31-1/3 innings, waltzing to a 2.87 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. Honestly, the Marlins aren’t terrible, especially with how Giancarlo Stanton is hitting and some dynamism from the young Christian Yelich. Take a chance! It’s not always about the win column; Eovaldi should be able to help in ratios and K’s, too (a win would be nice, however).
Update, 10:45 p.m.: I overlooked it when I wrote this piece, but Drew Hutchison of Toronto is pitching in Kansas City on Wednesday. He has struck out nine in each of his last two starts, and whatever problems he was having at the onset of the season have vanished, at least temporarily. If he has another monster game, I can assure you he will be a hot addition on May 1. He faces a flailing Royals team led by the eternally mediocre Bruce Chen; if the game were in Toronto instead of one the road, I would actually endorse him over Eovaldi.
Thu. 5/1: Josh Beckett, LAD (@ MIN)
He probably will be owned in more than 30 percent of leagues by next week, but whatever. He doesn’t look like vintage Beckett, but he looks good enough to roll out there on a slow day. Also, I didn’t want to have to pick Nuno again.
Man, I don’t like picking streamers this far in advance, especially if offenses start to get hot or go cold, but that’s just the way it goes. I’m going to have to suck it up and deal with the consequences. I can only hope they’re all good consequences.
Thanks for reading! Enjoy some streaming success!
All right. It’s April. It’s horrifying, unless you’re doing well, and then it’s not. But, full disclosure, I’m not. Chicago White Sox staff ace Chris Sale just hit the 15-day disabled list yesterday, joining the Philadelphia Phillies’ Cole Hamels, Seattle Mariners’ James Paxton, Tampa Bay Rays’ Alex Cobb, Cincinnati Reds’ Mat Latos, New York Yankees’ David Robertson and the Detroit Tigers’ Doug Fister on my teams’ DLs. It’s killing me, really. It’s incredibly painful.
What I’m saying is I’ve spent more time than I’d care to admit frolicking in free agency, trying to figure out which early-season studs are legit or not. I’ve been pondering various buy-low situations as well. So I jumped into a pool of peripherals and PITCHf/x data to look for answers.
The list below is not remotely exhaustive. It’s mostly players I am watching or already using as replacements for my teams. Here they are, in no particular order.
Jake Peavy, BOS | 0-0, 3.33 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 9.25 K/9
Peavy’s prime came and went about five years ago, so, full disclosure, I don’t know as much about him off the top of my head as I should. But I do know one thing: he doesn’t strike out a batter per inning anymore. In his defense, batters’ contact rate against him is the best it has been since 2009, his last truly good year. So maybe he will strike out a few more batters than last year, but I think it’ll be closer to 2012’s 7.97 K/9, not 2009’s 9.74 K/9. The WHIP is atrocious; the walk rate is through the roof. If there’s a guy in your league who will pay for what will end up being the illusion of ERA and strikeouts, by all means, trade him. He’s owned in 100 percent of leagues but doesn’t deserve to be.
Verdict: Sell high
John Lackey, BOS | 2-2, 5.25 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 8.63 K/9
Another Boston pitcher, another bad start to the season. I like Lackey a lot more, though, for a variety of reasons. One, last year’s renaissance was legitimate. Two, he’s not walking many batters right now, so his unspectacular ratios are more a result of an unlucky batting average on balls in play (.333 BABIP) than incompetence. Three, his swinging strike and contact rates are currently career bests. Again, we’re working with small sample sizes here, and this could easily regress. But considering his velocity is also at a career high, I don’t find it improbable that Lackey actually does better than he did last season. If an owner in your league has already dropped him, put in your waiver claim now.
Verdict: Buy low
Jesse Chavez, OAK | 1-0, 1.38 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 9.69 K/9
Talk about unexpected. Chavez, who has been relevant about zero times, is making for an intriguing play in all leagues. It’s a given he will regress, especially considering the .242 BABIP, but his improved walk rate could be here to stay, as he is pounding the zone more than he ever has in his career. The strikeouts are somewhat of a mirage, but it looks like he can be a low-WHIP, moderate-strikeout guy, and that’s still valuable.
Verdict: Sell really high, or just ride the hot hand
Nathan Eovaldi, MIA | 1-1, 3.55 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 8.17 K/9
I wouldn’t call Eovaldi a trendy sleeper, but he certainly was a sleeper coming into 2014. It was all about whether he could command his pitchers better — and, like magic, it appears he has, walking only 1.07 batters per nine innings as opposed to 3.39-per-nine last year. The swinging strike and contact rates are concerning, as they are the lowest of his career, so it’s hard to see his strikeout rate going anywhere but down. However, he’s throwing 65 percent of his pitches in the strike zone, highest of all qualified pitchers. So there are two ways to look at this. His control has probably legitimate improved. Unfortunately, even the masterful Cliff Lee only threw 53.3 percent of pitches in the zone last year, and I am hesitant to claim Eovaldi has better control than Lee. This could be a “breakout” year of sorts for Eovaldi, but I’m using that term liberally here. He’s only owned in 20.5 percent of leagues, so this makes him more of a ride-the-hot-hand type, like Mr. Chavez above.
Verdict: Eventually drop, ideally before he does damage to your team
Mark Buehrle, TOR | 4-0, 0.64 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 6.11 K/9
Look, I have had a long-standing man crush on Buehrle, but this is ridiculous. You know better than I that these happy dreams will soon become nightmares, not because Buehrle is awful or anything, but because regression rears its head in occasionally very brutal ways.
Verdict: Sell high
Alfredo Simon, CIN | 0.86 ERA, 0.81 WHIP, 5.57 K/9
Something isn’t right here. A 0.81 WHIP and… fewer than six strikeouts per nine innings? As you become more familiar with sabermetrics, you quickly realize certain things don’t mesh. A low WHIP combined with the low strikeout rate is one of those things. I can tell you without looking that his BABIP is impossibly low — and, now looking, I see I’m right: it’s .197. Tristan H. Cockcroft of ESPN is all about Simon, and in his defense, Simon’s PITCHf/x data foreshadows some positive regression coming his way in the strikeout department. But it can only get worse from here for Simon. However, I think he has a bit of a Dan Straily look to him, and that’s certainly serviceable.
Verdict: Sell high, or just ride the hot hand
Yovani Gallardo, MIL | 1.46 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 6.93 K/9
This is a disaster waiting to happen. Like Simon, his strikeout rate is low, but for Gallardo, it is deservedly so: his swinging strike and contact rates are, by far, career worsts. Meanwhile, his ratios are buoyed by a .264 BABIP and 89.8% LOB% (left-on-base percentage), despite his 74.7% career LOB%. The Brewers will fall with him. Sell high, and sell fast.
Verdict: Sell high
Shelby Miller, STL | 3.57 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 8.34 K/9
Miller is the first pitcher on this list in whom owners actually invested a lot. Be patient. The 98.3-percent of owners who didn’t cut bait before his last start were surely rewarded. I imagine he’s leaving his pitches up in the zone, given his increased percentage of pitches thrown in the zone coupled with his home run rate. Speaking of which, he shouldn’t be walking five batters per nine innings when he’s throwing more than 50 percent of his pitches in the zone. He’ll be fine.
Verdict: Buy low
Homer Bailey, CIN | 5.75 ERA, 1.87 WHIP, 11.07 K/9
Two words: .421 BABIP. Yowza. Again, owners invested way too much in this guy. Perfect buy-low opportunity here if you know your fellow owner is impatient.
Verdict: Buy low
Drew Hutchison, TOR | 3.60 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 10.80 K/9
I’ll be honest, I was surprised to see Hutchison’s xFIP stand at 3.43. It seems like he has been much worse — but has he really? The walks are problematic but not unmanageable (see: Matt Moore), and they’ve actually shored up a bit in his last couple of starts. Moreover, he is still striking out batters at an elite rate, and the PITCHf/x data supports his success, albeit probably not with quite as much success as he’s having now. As for the WHIP? A .365 BABIP sure doesn’t help. Hutchison was once a highly-touted prospect. Your window of opportunity to gamble on this live arm may be closing if he can keep his ERA down.
Verdict: Add via free agency, sooner rather than later
I have updated the starting pitcher rankings to reflect offseason signings, rotation battles and spring training injuries — and holy cow, have there been a lot of spring training injuries.
I also truncated the list to the top 90 pitchers. I will write about my favorite pitchers outside the top 90 because a lot of them are really good; they simply won’t get enough get enough starts or pitch enough innings for them to crack the top 90 in value. In terms of stuff, though, there are plenty of diamonds to find in the rough.