Each Saturday, this column will rank the upcoming week’s best streaming targets by evaluating all pitchers with an average ownership below 40% in Yahoo! and ESPN Leagues and ranking those pitchers based on a Matchup Score (MS). To learn more about how Matchup Scores are calculated, scroll down to the bottom of the page. If you’re looking for 2 start options for week 7, Tommy Landseadel covered those here on Monday.
On paper, week six projected as an excellent week for streaming pitchers, and as of Friday morning, it certainly hasn’t disappointed. The fifteen recommended pitchers who made a start between Monday and Thursday averaged 6.7 IP with a 7.1 K/9, a 2.59 ERA, and a 0.99 WHIP. Five pitchers — Henderson Alvarez, Tom Koehler, Charlie Morton, Jonathan Niese, and Zach McAllister – didn’t allow a single run to cross home plate, and four more pitchers – Jose Quintana, Josh Beckett, Jacob Turner, and Robbie Ray – allowed only one run to score during their outings. Put another way, 60% of the recommended starters in week six allowed one run or less.
Just as impressive is that thirteen of the fifteen recommended starters allowed three runs or less. Nate Eovaldi was one of those pitchers. The Mets dinged him up early by hitting two solo home runs off of him in the first inning of his May 5th start, but he settled down afterwards and set a career mark with ten strikeouts in the contest. This performance has finally propelled him out of the streamer ranks and into the loving arms of welcoming owners. He is now owned in 55% of Yahoo! Leagues and 73% of ESPN Leagues. While these numbers better reflect his value, I continue to contend that Eovaldi should be owned in all formats. He faces a terrible Padres’ lineup this weekend and is scheduled for a week seven matchup with a Giants team that has been very underwhelming versus right-handed pitchers. Two weeks ago, I wrote that he could easily have 50 strikeouts and single digit walks come mid-May. He currently has 45 strikeouts and six walks, so my prediction is more likely to occur than not at this point. He’s a 24-year-old pitcher who throws in the upper 90’s. His slider and curveball are improving. Put it this way: even though I’m not sold on the idea that Eovaldi is going to end the year as a top twenty pitcher, if he continues to look like one for another week or two, it won’t be too hard to convince someone else that he is. If he’s still available in your league, add him now.
OVERALL STREAMING PERFORMANCE TO DATE
In my previous articles, I’ve suggested that pitchers with Matchup Scores below 5.5 shouldn’t be used because at that point, the potential reward no longer outweighs the risk. After reflecting on my data, perhaps the cut-off point should be slightly higher. To this point in this season, I have recommended 30 pitchers with Matchup Scores of 6.1 and higher. Those pitchers average nearly six and two-thirds innings of work with a 3.19 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, and 7.4 K/9. Meanwhile pitchers with Matchup Scores of 6.0 or less have averaged less than six innings of work with a 4.94 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and 6.6 K/9 across 24 starts.
The following chart breaks down all recommended starts for pitchers owned in less than 40% of Yahoo! and ESPN Leagues. As the data suggests, Matchup Scores continue to do a fine job of projecting pitcher performance.
WEEK 7 STREAM TEAM
While week 6 was a terrific week for streaming pitchers, with five different streaming options earning Matchup Scores of 7.9 or higher, week seven is going to be more challenging. There is not a single pitcher with a Matchup Score above 7.7 this week, and there are only three options with Matchup Scores above 7. Not only that, I have to impose the “Eric Bedard” rule on not one, but two nights this week, as there isn’t a single streaming option with a Matchup Score above 5.5 available on Wednesday or Thursday.
Mike Leake (vs SD, @ Phi) and Tyler Lyons (vs ChC, vs Atl) are the only pitchers for week seven with ownership under 40% and multiple Matchup Scores above 5.5. Dan Straily’s ESPN ownership of 65% disqualifies him for consideration, but he figures to be a decent two start option (vs ChW, @ Cle) and is available in 70% of Yahoo! Leagues.
This week’s Stream Team is as follows:
Monday – Tyler Lyons vs Cubs (6.8 MS, Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 0%)
Tuesday – Mike Leake vs Padres (7.5 MS, Yahoo! 32%, ESPN 13%)
Wednesday – No one
Thursday – No one
Friday – Jonathan Niese at Nationals (7.2 MS, Yahoo! 31%, ESPN 36%)
Saturday – Tanner Roark vs Mets (6.7 MS, Yahoo! 26%, ESPN 26%)
Sunday – Mike Leake at Phillies (6.6 MS, Yahoo! 32%, ESPN 13%)
WEEK 7 INDEPTH STREAMER ANALYSIS
Dan Straily at White Sox (7.7 MS, Yahoo! 30%, ESPN 65%) Although Straily’s ESPN ownership continues to keep him from being a Stream Team candidate, he is still widely available in Yahoo! leagues. While Straily struggled mightily with his control on May 2 versus the Red Sox (he threw less than half of his pitches for strikes), he hasn’t had command problems in the past. If he’s available in your league, make him your first streaming option not only for Monday, but for the week in general.
Tyler Lyons vs Cubs (6.8 MS, Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 0%) Tyler Lyons has been the beneficiary of a Joe Kelly hamstring strain, and with Kelly suffering a setback in his rehab this week, Lyons figures to make at least a handful of additional starts. On Monday, he’s scheduled to face a Cubs team whose struggles versus lefties is emphasized by their 26.1 K% versus southpaws (2nd worst in MLB). Lyons has been averaging a strikeout per inning while maintaining a highly attractive 1.05 WHIP in 2014. He has the potential to turn in a dominant performance versus the Cubs.
Colby Lewis at Astros (6.4 MS, Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 2%) We will be picking on the Astros heavily this week, starting with Colby Lewis. Lewis has been serviceable over 21.1 innings this season, racking up 20 strikeouts to only five walks and maintaining a tolerable 4.22 ERA. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this matchup is that Jason Castro and Marc Krauss are the only regular left-handed bats in the Astros lineup, which should allow Lewis’s drastic reverse splits (.351 wOBA vs LHB and .272 wOBA vs RHB since 2011) to work to his advantage.
Cesar Ramos at Mariners (5.6 MS, Yahoo! 1%, ESPN 0%) If you play in weekly leagues, you want to be more conservative in your streaming choices early in the week. By Friday or Saturday, you’ll know if you can punt ERA and WHIP to chase strikeouts and wins, and at that point in time, a pitcher like Cesar Ramos becomes a much better option. Ramos has a 2.91 ERA over 21.2 innings, but he also has fourteen walks to only fifteen strikeouts. He barely exceeds the 5.5 MS cut-off for recommended starters, and the only reason he squeaks in above that line is that Safeco Field is a haven for pitchers and the Mariners were arguably the worst team in baseball versus left-handed pitching last season. You can roll the dice here if you’d like, but know that there’s a significant amount of risk involved. I won’t be using Ramos.
Mike Leake vs Padres (7.5 MS, Yahoo! 32%, ESPN 13%) According to Matchup Scores, Josh Beckett should be the top streaming option on Tuesday, but I’m overriding the formula and choosing Mike Leake as my pitcher of choice. The reason why is simple: he faces the Padres. Last season the Padres had one of the worst offenses in baseball. This season, they’ve managed to perform even worse. Their current wOBA versus right-handed pitching is .259. To get an idea of how bad that is, consider that last season, the Marlins .279 wOBA was the lowest mark in 41 years. Right now, I’d suggest streaming my grandmother against the Padres, and Mike Leake figures to do a little better than she might. While Leake isn’t a dominant pitcher, I expect him to improve upon his current 3.40 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. Start him with confidence.
Josh Beckett vs Marlins (7.7 MS, Yahoo! 24%, ESPN 25%) Beckett is scheduled for a rematch against a Marlins team that he just faced on May 2 (6.2 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 8 K, 1 BB). While Beckett was charged with the loss in that contest, his 8:1 K:BB ratio in the game is certainly encouraging, and he followed this performance by holding the Giants to one run across six and one-third innings. As for Beckett’s opponent, don’t put too much stock into the Marlins’ impressive .347 wOBA versus RHP this season. Their .347 wOBA versus RHP has been aided by a .347 BABIP, which is 17 points higher than any other team in baseball and 49 points higher than their .298 mark last season. It’s only a matter of time before the Marlins luck runs out. Expect Beckett to improve upon his May 2 line versus the Marlins.
Matt Harrison at Astros (6.6 MS, Yahoo! 8%, ESPN 4%) Minute Maid Park is a hitter friendly environment, and as noted in my analysis of Colby Lewis, the Astros have a right-handed dominant lineup that hits left-handed pitching better than right-handed pitching. On top of that, Harrison has just 15.2 innings of work under his belt since missing the near entirety of 2013 with a back injury and multiple setbacks during his rehab. For a Tuesday start, this matchup has more risk than I’d usually like to take on, but at the end of the day, Harrison was a reliable pitcher for several years prior to his injury and the Astros are reliably bad. With a Matchup Score of 6.6, I’ll have little to no reservations about streaming Harrison.
Felix Doubront at Twins (6.0 MS, Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 1%) In 2012, Doubront captured my imagination with a strikeout rate that was better than a punch out per inning. Since 2012, his strikeout numbers have been in steady decline. He has only 24 strikeouts in 35.1 innings of work this season. Making Doubront even less attractive as a streamer option is that his declining strikeout numbers haven’t been offset by an improvement in control. While I don’t love Doubront, the Red Sox should be a heavy favorite in this game, and the Twins 23.9 K% and .302 wOBA vs LHP are even worse than last year. With the lack of good streaming options available this week, Doubront may come into play, but his high risk of imploding makes him a candidate I’d prefer to steer clear from, especially early in the week.
Brandon McCarthy vs Nationals (5.3 MS, Yahoo! 7%, ESPN 1%) McCarthy’s Matchup Score is below the 5.5 threshold I typically use for this article, but I’ll list him here since he is the best Wednesday option. On the plus side, McCarthy has struck out 40 hitters and walked only ten batters across 44.1 innings so far this year. I don’t expect his strikeout rate to stay at such a high level, but his 4.67 ERA can be chalked up to the lowest strand rate of his career and the highest HR/FB rate he’s had since 2006. The Nationals have struggled versus RHP this season (22.6 K% and .308 wOBA in 2014), and they will be without both Ryan Zimmerman and Bryce Harper. While McCarthy is unlikely to get a win with Stephen Strasburg on the mound, I like this matchup more than the 5.3 MS would suggest.
Edinson Volquez at Brewers (5.4 MS, Yahoo! 11%, ESPN 8%) Like Brandon McCarthy, Volquez is below the 5.5 MS threshold I use for recommendations, but I’m listing him here because he is the best streaming option on Thursday. Over the past few years, you could count on Volquez for two things: problems with his control and a strong strikeout rate. This year, Volquez has seemingly reinvented himself. The three batters he walked over six innings in his last appearance – a night that would have been considered a stellar performance in the past – is Volquez’s worst outing of the 2014 season. His BB% currently sits at an impressive 5.7%, down from a career mark of 11.6%. Unfortunately, his strikeout rate has plummeted from a career mark of 20.7% down to a minuscule 13.3%.
Volquez’s swinging strike rate sits at the same level as last season when he was striking out over 18% of the batters he faced, so I’d expect to see his strikeout rates improve, at least modestly. As for the walks, I’ve watched Volquez pitch too many times to make any predictions suggesting that he can continue throwing strikes. One thing I can tell you for certain is that Volquez has already faced the Brewers twice this year, and he pitched well on both occasions (13.1 IP,1 W, 7 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 7 K). I don’t know if you can ever feel comfortable streaming Volquez, and his Matchup Score suggests he should be avoided, but there are worse matchups imaginable than this one.
Jonathan Niese at Nationals (7.2 MS, Yahoo! 31%, ESPN 36%) Like Nathan Eovaldi and Dillon Gee, both of whom no longer qualify for the Stream Team, it’s only a matter of time before Niese sees his ownership rise above the 40% threshold. His 1.82 ERA and 1.01 WHIP are phenomenal, and he’ll have plenty of plus matchups as an N.L. East pitcher. Facing a Nationals team that is without their two best hitters, including Ryan Zimmerman who mashes left-handed pitching, makes this one of those matchups. Continue to stream Niese with confidence as long as you can, and consider holding onto him if you can make room for him on your roster.
Jose Quintana at Astros (6.7 MS, Yahoo! 36%, ESPN 11%) Coming into this season, I thought Quintana was one of the more intriguing pitchers. In 2013, his velocity, his swinging strike rate, his walk rate, his line drive rate, and his BABIP all improved. He’s just 25 years-old, so there’s a chance he could continue to make strides. So far in 2014, his velocity has dipped a bit, but nothing to be alarmed about, and his walk rate and strikeout rates have remained relatively the same. His FIP has even improved from 3.82 to 3.53. Unfortunately, while Quintana’s fantasy stats suggest everything is business as usual, his underlying stats tell a different story. His swinging strike rate of 7.8% is a career worst (2012: 8.1%, 2013: 8.8%), and hitters are making contact at a 91.4% rate when swinging at Quintana’s offerings inside the strike zone, also a career worst (2012: 88.7%, 2013: 87.9%). Making matters worse, Quintana’s line drive rate has also sky rocketed to a career worst 24.6% (2012: 21.7%, 2013: 20.1%).
So Quintana has clearly regressed and we should expect a major correction to his current ERA, WHIP, and K%, right? I thought so, until I realized that he’s faced the Tigers twice, the Rockies in Colorado, the Rangers in Arlington, and a Cleveland team that was top-five in the league last season versus left-handed pitching. After running through that gauntlet of teams in the first six weeks of the season, maybe we should expect Quintana to take a major step forward.
Long story short, I don’t know what to expect from Quintana in the long-term, but I do know what to expect from him against the Astros. Start Quintana with confidence.
David Phelps vs Pirates (6.4 MS, Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 1%) Whenever Phelps breaks into the Yankees’ rotation, I’m always intrigued. He has a career K/9 of 8.6, and his 3.6 career BB/9 isn’t terrible, even if it’s not good. Phelps’ biggest drawback is that he is an extreme fly ball pitcher with a career flyball percentage of 38. Yankee Stadium isn’t exactly a great place to allow hitters to put the ball in the air, but PNC Park is, and while the Pirates’ have cut back on their strikeouts this season, I still like Phelps in this matchup versus a National League opponent.
Henderson Alvarez at Giants (6.1 MS, Yahoo! 11%, ESPN 5%) As of this writing, Alvarez has two shutouts in his past three starts. He also threw a no-hitter on the final day of the 2013 season. While Alvarez has had a great deal of success recently, he remains a statistical enigma. If you can throw mid-90’s heat, you can strike people out. Alvarez can throw mid-90’s heat, so logic would dictate he can strike people out. The problem is, he can’t. Mike Petriello wrote an absolutely fascinating article on Alvarez titled “The Absolutely Fascinating Henderson Alvarez.” It’s a great read if you’re looking for more information on Alvarez.
If you’re looking for more information on whether or not to stream Alvarez versus the Giants, consider this. Last year, the Giants had a 17.8 K% versus right-handers, good for the fifth best in baseball. This year, they are striking out at a 23.5% clip versus right-handed pitching, which is the fifth worst in baseball. Strikeout rates for hitters stabilize at 60 plate appearances, and while it would presumably take longer for a team’s strikeout rates to stabilize, it’s starting to seem like the Giants are going to be significantly more prone to swing and miss this season. I think seven innings and three runs is a fair expectation for Alvarez in this contest. Maybe he’ll even find a way to strike a few batters out.
Tanner Roark vs Mets (6.7 MS, Yahoo! 26%, ESPN 26%) The Mets .283 wOBA versus RHP and 22.5 K% are even worse than the miserable numbers they managed in 2013. In their three games heading into Friday night’s action, they’ve only managed to score three runs, and they’ve only scored one run in their last 26 innings. If they have something going for them right now, I suppose that it’s that they’re not the Padres. For his part, Tanner Roark has a 31:10 K:BB ratio across 36.2 innings and he’s already held the Mets to two runs over six innings of work once this season. While scoring two runs would be a step in the right direction for the Mets, it would also be a great stream start for Roark. We call that a win-win folks. I’ll start Roark with confidence.
Bartolo Colon at Nationals (6.7 MS, Yahoo! 31%, ESPN 21%) Colon may have a 5.36 ERA and a 1.37 WHIP, but most of that damage came in two starts, a seven-run debacle at Coors Field which we can easily forgive, and nine-run debacle against the Angels on April 13. He has an impressive 34:5 K:BB ratio over 43.2 innings, and faces a depleted Nationals’ lineup that should allow him to start earning some of the $20 million the Mets will pay him over the next two seasons.
Travis Wood vs Brewers (6.6 MS, Yahoo! 51%, ESPN! 19%) I recommended Wood as my top starter on Wednesday of week six, and he turned in the worst performance of any recommended starter yet this season (4 IP, 8 H, 5 BB, 8 R, 3 K). I’d expect his ownership rates to drop over the next several days, but if Wood is someone you were counting on, I’d advise you to hold tight. If you’re in a deep league or an N.L. only league, I’d even suggest actively seeking trades to acquire Wood. Wood’s ERA may sit at 4.75, and his WHIP may be a bloated 1.44, but we can attribute those statistics to the lowest strand rate of his career and a .341 BABIP that is nearly 100 points higher than the .244 and .248 numbers he posted in 2012 and 2013. His line drive rate is up a tick to 22.9% from 22.3% a season ago, but he’s inducing more groundballs this year which should ultimately help him lower his ERA.
The Brewers’ offer a rather neutral matchup, but because Wood’s skill set is better than the majority of pitchers you can find on your league’s waivers, Wood is someone I’ll continue to use.
Tyler Lyons vs Braves (6.2 MS, Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 0%) On Monday, Lyons is scheduled to face the Cubs, a team whose 26.1 K% versus LHP is good for 2nd worst in baseball. Naturally enough, his second start of the week will be against the team who leads the league in this dubious category. The Braves 27.9 K% is atrocious, and Lyons’ ability to get hitters to swing and miss makes him an attractive two-start streamer option this week.
Mike Leake at Phillies (6.6 MS, Yahoo! 32%, ESPN 13%) Right now, there isn’t a team that I’d rather stream against than the Padres, so this matchup is a downgrade from Leake’s scheduled start on Tuesday by default. That said, if you have room on your roster, I’d have no problem hanging onto Leake for a second start in week seven versus the Phillies. The Phillies are worse against right-handed pitching than left-handed (.298 wOBA, 21.3 K% in 2014) and if Cole Hamels continues to struggle (11 runs in his last two starts), Leake could be in line for a win and some quality ratios.
Dan Straily at Indians (6.4 MS, Yahoo! 30%, ESPN 65%) Again, Straily’s ownership places him outside of my limits for the Stream Team, but he’s worth mentioning because he may be available in your league, and if he is, he’s one of the better options available on Sunday. That said, this isn’t a great matchup. The Indians’ .308 wOBA versus right-handed pitching is close to the league average of .312 for teams, but their 17.1 K% is good for fifth best in the league. Further, Straily is a fly ball pitcher and Progressive Field won’t be nearly as forgiving as the Oakland Coliseum is. I don’t love this matchup, but if Leake isn’t available and Straily is, Straily’s worth a shot.
Ryan Vogelsong vs Marlins (6.1 MS, Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 1%) I’ve never been a Ryan Vogelsong supporter. Even when he was pitching well in 2011 and 2012, I never owned him because his peripherals suggested his numbers were unsustainable. Then, when Vogelsong would inevitably sustain his performance, I’d throw things and pout. Now that Vogelsong is struggling (4.6 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, and 4.3 BB/9 prior to holding the Dodgers to one run on Thursday), don’t get the wrong idea and think that I’m endorsing him. I’m not. I’m simply endorsing starting pitchers against the Marlins and Vogelsong is doing just that.
John Danks at Astros (6.0 MS, Yahoo! 0%, ESPN 1%) Danks has managed to pitch as poorly as the aforementioned Vogelsong this season, posting a 4.93 ERA, and 1.48 WHIP. Prior to his eight strikeout and one walk performance on Wednesday night, Danks was the owner of a terrible 21:20 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Ratios withstanding, I recommended Danks for his eight strikeout gem against the White Sox, and being that the Houston’ lineup is worse than Chicago’s, I see no reason not to go to the well again for this one.
How Matchup Scores are Calculated
When evaluating pitcher matchups, there are a number of important factors to consider, including
- A pitcher’s strikeout and walk percentages
- A pitcher’s batted ball profile
- A pitcher’s wOBA
- The opposing team’s wOBA vs either LHP or RHP
- The opposing team’s K% vs LHP or RHP
- The likelihood that a pitcher earns a win in the contest
- The effect that the ball park will have upon the pitcher’s performance
Matchup Scores attempt to take all of these factors into consideration, assigning a weight to each factor that is proportional to each factor’s impact and predictive power. Perhaps the easiest way to think of a Matchup Score is as a rating for how well a pitcher is expected to perform against a specific opponent, in a specific park, at a specific time.
While I have been evaluating pitcher matchups based on these factors for some time, I only began the process of quantifying these factors into a single score in April of 2014. This is an ongoing process and changes to the formula are continually being considered and implemented in an effort to make Matchup Scores more predictive.
Matchup Score Ratings