If you followed the advice found in this column last week, you’ve been rewarded for your faith. Going into Friday’s actions, my thirteen recommendations picked up five wins while averaging six and a third innings of work with a 3.07 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and a 7.8 K/9. The five starters who I considered the best options over the first half of the week fared even better, maintaining a stellar 2.59 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 8.0 K/9 over an average of six and one-third innings per start. For a collection of pitchers available in 60% or more of Yahoo! and ESPN leagues, these are fantastic numbers.
At the same time, I need to perfectly honest. Notice that I wrote, “If you followed the advice found in this column.” Last week, I listed Erik Bedard as part of my “Stream Team,” a collection of pitchers widely available who have the best pitching matchups for each day of the week, yet I excluded Bedard from my final stat line noted above. Foul play, you say? Perhaps, but hear me out on this. Bedard was awful, to be sure, allowing four earned runs, five hits, and five walks in only four innings of work, but I more or less told you that I expected him to be awful. As I wrote in the column, “I plan to avoid Bedard.” In other words, I didn’t use him, and if you followed my advice, you wouldn’t have used him either.
The only reason I even included Bedard in the column was that he was the best of a few terrible options available on Thursday night. I therefore chose to highlight him as the pitcher to use if you were going to stream, while basically telling you it’d be foolish to do so. Moving forward, I’ll only include pitchers who I would use. If there isn’t a quality option on a certain night, such as this Thursday, I’ll simply say so. This way, when one of my pitchers implodes, it will be because he had a bad night and not because I had to choose someone.
Eliminating mandatory streamer picks is only the first of two changes I’ve made to this column. The second change is that I will now include a Matchup Score for each pitcher. As always, my analysis take into consideration a number of factors, including:
- The quality of the pitcher
- The opponent’s K% splits since 2013 (using active rosters rather than last year’s stats)
- The opponent’s wOBA splits since 2013 (again, using active rosters)
- Park factor, weighted towards hitters most likely to have success against the pitcher (typically, opposite handed hitters)
- The probability a start results in a win for the pitcher
Instead of simply weighing these qualities and choosing the pitcher I deem the best, I’m now created a formula that assigns a value to each pitcher based upon the above criteria. The end result is what I’m calling a pitcher’s Matchup Score, or his MS. I’ll continue to revise my formula over the course of the season. At times, I’ll shift scores based on things that my spreadsheet either cannot or does not account for (such as the Twins’ dominance versus right-handed pitching this season or the Blue Jays ability to pepper their lineup with left-handed bats versus Charlie Morton), but most of the time, I’ll simply roll with the Matchup Scores that my spreadsheet suggests.
In order to make sense of Matchup Scores, the first thing you’ll want to know is that the higher score, the better. Matchup Scores could potentially go into the low teens (think Clayton Kershaw versus the Marlins), but for the purpose of streaming pitchers, it’s doubtful we will ever see scores much higher than a nine. Anything approaching eight should be considered an elite streaming opportunity, and scores above a seven should be considered very strong. As we get closer to Matchup Scores around 6, things start to get a bit risky, and I won’t consider anyone with a score below a 5.5 (last week, Bedard’s matchup would have scored in the low 5s).
With all of that said, I can’t promise the same amount of success as our week four team has had thus far, but I can promise that the matchups included below offer a lot of potential. Remember that to qualify, each pitcher must have an average ownership under 40% in Yahoo! and ESPN Leagues, and remember that you can read in-depth analysis of matchups below.
WEEK FIVE STREAM TEAM
- Monday – Wade Miley vs Colorado (7.0 Matchup Score)
- Tuesday – Jonathan Niese at Philadelphia (7.5 Matchup Score)
- Wednesday – Nate Eovaldi vs Atlanta (8.0 Matchup Score)
- Thursday – None
- Friday – Paul Maholm at Miami (7.5 Matchup Score)
- Saturday – Ian Kennedy vs Arizona (6.75 Matchup Score)
- Sunday – Wade Miley vs San Diego (7.75 Matchup Score)
WEEK FIVE STREAMER ANALYSIS
Wade Miley vs Colorado (7.0 MS, Yahoo! 24%, ESPN: 21%) Miley has been dominant at times this year, striking out 34 batters in 35 innings. Miley’s use of the slider, which he is throwing 29% of the time (up from only 17% last season) gives us a reason to be optimistic that his dominance may continue. His matchup against Colorado isn’t a great one, but the Rockies’ dominant .328 wOBA versus left-handers is aided by Coors Field. Making Miley even more attractive is his two-start status as he picks up an even better matchup Sunday versus the Padres.
Franklin Morales at Arizona (5.75 MS, Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%) Arizona isn’t a great team versus lefthanders (.303 wOBA since 2013) and Morales has pitched well on the road in this young season (12.1 innings, 2.92 ERA, 8.0 K/9). This isn’t a matchup I’m in love with, but it does come in above my 5.5 MS cutoff point. If Miley wasn’t available, I’d consider playing Morales, but I’d be more likely to target Niese on Tuesday instead.
Jonathan Niese at Philadelphia (7.5 MS, Yahoo! 10%, ESPN 5%) Niese is a great streaming option against an average Phillies lineup (20.8% K Rate and .309 wOBA versus lefties since last year). I’m confident Niese can turn in a quality start. The main drawback here is that Cole Hamels will likely stifle the Mets’ bats, making a win doubtful.
Eric Stults at San Francisco (5.75 MS, Yahoo 2%, ESPN 1%) San Francisco is stingy when it comes to striking out, and Matt Cain should make the Giants a heavy favorite in this contest. That said, Stults has a good chance to throw a quality start. Simply don’t expect much beyond some decent ratios. I prefer Eovaldi, Kendrick, and Erlin on Wednesday.
Nate Eovaldi vs Atlanta (8.0 MS, Yahoo! 29%, ESPN 25%) A week after dominating the free swinging Braves in Atlanta (6.0 innings, 5 hits, 1 BB, 0 ER, 7 K), Eovaldi gets a chance to do it again, this time in Miami. With 30 strikeouts and only four walks across 31.1 innings this season, Eovaldi deserves to be owned in all formats. While I warned last week that his fastball lacks movement, and I wasn’t convinced his dominance would continue, two significant changes are starting to appear in Eovaldi’s profile which suggest he may be here to stay. First, Eovaldi’s throwing his slider more often (24.1%, up from 18.5% last season) and he’s also pounding the strike zone (66.3%, up from a career best 48.5%). While other owners have been quick to jump in on Wily Peralta and Aaron Harang, Eovaldi’s hot start is the one which is most likely to continue. He’s certainly worth streaming, and almost certainly worth a fulltime roster spot into we see how everything plays out.
Kyle Kendrick vs New York Mets (7.5 MS, Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 2%) The Mets can’t hit. With a 21.9% K rate and a .301 wOBA versus right handers since last season, they will be a team we target often. Kendrick is far from being a great pitcher, but he won’t need to be Wednesday. Start him with confidence.
Robbie Erlin at San Francisco (6 MS, Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 2%) Erlin, much like Eovaldi, is being overlooked early in the season because he pitches for a terrible team. With 17 strikeouts and four walks in his first 17.1 innings, Erlin’s 4.15 ERA can be mostly attributed to bad luck (he has a 2.53 FIP). AT&T Park is a pitcher’s park, and it’s even more challenging on right-handed bats than it is on left-handed bats. Look for this southpaw to turn in strong performance Wednesday night.
[EDIT: After Erlin was rocked for eight runs and 13 hits by the Nationals on Friday night, I’ve downgraded him. I no longer recommend using him versus the Giants on Wednesday. — April 26, 9:02 A.M. ET]
Josh Beckett at Minnesota (5.9 MS, Yahoo! 13%, ESPN 17%) Left to its own devices, Becket’s Matchup Score is an intriguing 6.75. The problem is that the Twins have been raking against right-handed pitchers (.352 wOBA in 2014). I’m not completely sold on the Twins’ offensive prowess just yet, but neither am I sold on the likes of Josh Beckett. I’ve therefore downgraded this matchup to a 5.9. Beckett has good strikeout and win potential in this one, but if you’re looking for ratios on Thursday, I’d suggest trying Vidal Nuno.
Vidal Nuno versus Seattle (5.9 MS, Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%) Nuno has excellent command, and the Mariners are awful against lefthanders. If Nuno wasn’t squaring off against Felix Hernandez and if this game was being played in Seattle rather than New York, I’d be all in on Nuno. As it stands, this game carries enough risk for me to shy away from using Nuno. At the very least, I’ll be sure to limit my exposure to him.
[EDIT: Both Beckett and Nuno had their starts moved back a day, changing their projected opponent. Beckett now faces Miami, and his Matchup Score score has improved to an intriguing 7.1. Vidal Nuno, on the other hand, now faces a Tampa Bay team that has only managed a .282 wOBA versus southpaws in 2014. Still, his MS has fallen to 5.5 and he is no longer a recommended target. — May 2, 9:03 A.M. ET]
Paul Maholm at Miami (7.5 MS, Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0 %) Maholm has struggled mightily to begin this year, with eight walks and six strikeouts across 17.2 innings. If either Travis Wood or Rick Porcello is available in your league, I’d certainly take either over Maholm. If you are forced to use Maholm, the Marlins’ putrid offense (22.7% K rate and .295 wOBA vs LHP, favorable park) provides ample reason to give him a shot.
Tyler Lyons at Chicaco Cubs (6.5 MS, Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 0%) While I have plenty of questions as to how well Lyons will pitch, I’m pretty confident that I know how the Cubs will hit. Target Lyons due to the Cubs 21.7% K rate and .304 wOBA versus right-handed pitching since 2013.
Brandon Maurer at Houston (6.25 MS, Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%) Read the above note on Tyler Lyons. Replace Lyons with Maurer, replace the Cubs with Astros and replace the Cubs’ splits with a 24.2% K rate and a .297 wOBA.
Zach McAllister vs Chicago White Sox (6.0 MS, Yahoo! 22%, ESPN 21%) McAllister’s string of favorable matchups continues when he draws the White Sox on Friday. McAllister’s pitched well, heading into his weekend start with a 2.28 ERA and 1.18 WHIP over 23.2 innings. If he pitches well in San Francisco Sunday, the White Sox will offer opportunity for him to run his streak of quality starts to five games. The White Sox have been surprisingly productive at the plate this season, especially versus right handers (.350 wOBA). For that reason, I’ve down graded McAllister’s matchup from a 6.75 to 6.0 MS.
Ian Kennedy vs Arizona (6.75 MS, Yahoo! 58%, ESPN 21%) Kennedy is a flyball pitcher, so pitching in San Diego should boost his season long numbers. Ball park aside, the rest of this matchup versus his former team is fairly neutral. Still, I expect a rejuvenated Kennedy to turn in a quality outing. His stellar 28 strikeouts and 1.07 WHIP over his first 30 innings has already convinced 58% of Yahoo! managers to grab him. If he’s available in your league, you should add him for at least this one start.
Edinson Volquez vs Arizona (6.75 MS, Yahoo! 20%, ESPN 20%) Volquez has always had good stuff. What he never has had is control. His career BB/9 is an abysmal 4.65, so I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t buy into his 1.65 BB/9 he’s posting this year. At the same time, I am buying it, at least until he proves me wrong. The reason is that Volquez appears to be pitching to contact this season, and his stuff is good enough to limit the damage when doing so. His first pitch strike percentage is up nearly three points, and 51.9% of his pitches are being thrown in the strike zone this year, as opposed to 39.7%, 44.5%, 44.6%, and 44.9% the previous four seasons. At the same time, I’ve been burned by Volquez enough in the past that I’m still skeptical. If he implodes on Sunday versus St. Louis, I won’t be streaming him, and neither should you.
Wei-Yin Chen at Minnesota (6.75 MS, Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 1%) Minnesota hasn’t been as effective against left-handed pitching this season as they have been versus righties, and Chen is in line to potentially get a win, a quality start, and a handful of strikeouts. I don’t love this matchup as much as the 6.75 MS score that it received, but I’m not afraid to use Chen if need be.
Dallas Keuchel Vs Seattle (6.0 MS, Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 1%) I listed Keuchel as a potential stream target last week versus the Mariners and he delivered with an eight strikeout, two run effort over six innings. His Matchup Score has been slightly downgraded this week since he’ll be pitching in Minute Maid Park rather than Safeco Field, but I still like Keuchel’s chances to dominate a Mariners team which can’t hit lefties (23.9% K rate and .307 wOBA since last season).
Tanner Roark at Philadelphia (5.6 MS, Yahoo! 14%, ESPN 1%) Although Saturday doesn’t offer a great streaming matchup, it offers plenty of decent action. Tanner Roark’s start at Citizens Bank Park rounds off the options I’d consider. With the other options available Saturday, I don’t foresee myself using Roark, but I would feel comfortable using him if the previous four options were already rostered.
Wade Miley at San Diego (7.75 MS, Yahoo! 24%, ESPN 21%) While I like Miley on Monday versus Colorado, I love him Sunday at PETCO Park. As I outlined previously, Miley has been sharp this season, and the Padres continue to struggle at the plate (23% K rate and .258 wOBA versus lefties in 2014).
Chris Young at Houston (6.25 MS, Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 0%) You can’t expect Young to go deep in the game, but he could rack up a decent amount of strikeouts and get a win Sunday in Houston.