Week Nine Stream Team

The Stream Team feature is designed to help you identify the best pitching matchups for each week of the fantasy baseball season.  All pitchers with an average ownership below 40% in Yahoo! and ESPN Leagues are assigned a Matchup Score (MS), a score that weighs multiple factors in an effort to quantify how successful any pitcher will be on any given night.  You can learn more about how Matchup Scores are calculated by scrolling to the bottom of the page. If you’re looking for a breakdown of two-start pitchers for week nine, Tommy Landseadel has you covered here.

As I prepared my notes for week nine, I realized that an alarming trend was starting to take shape.  Each week, we are seeing fewer and fewer pitchers with Matchup Scores above 7.5, which is the number where I start to feel very confident about streaming pitchers. To date, thirteen pitchers with Matchup Scores above 7.5 have started games, and those thirteen pitchers have maintained a sparkling 2.53 ERA and 1.09 ERA while averaging nearly six and two-thirds innings per start.

While this is a trend we’d rather not see, plenty of strong streaming options are still available. In the last seven days, 28 recommended pitchers have toed the mound. Those 28 pitchers, despite an average Matchup Score of just 6.35, went 15-7 with a 3.29 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, and 7.5 K/9. Part of the reason for this success is that as we accumulate more data on players, it becomes easier to separate luck from skill, which in turn makes it easier to project player performance.

So while Charlie Morton is the lone week nine pitcher with a Matchup Score of 7.5, I’m confident that we can still find plenty of strong streaming options this week. After all, there are six additional pitchers with Matchup Scores above 7.0 and twenty pitchers with Matchup Scores above 6.0 scheduled to start in week nine. Certainly, there are pitchers here who will help push your team towards the top of the standings.

This week’s Stream Team, which consists of the best daily pitching matchups available in 60% of Yahoo! and ESPN Leagues, is as follows:

Monday – Tyler Skaggs at Mariners (7.4 MS, Yahoo! 20%, ESPN 15%)

Tuesday – Jonathan Niese vs Pirates (7.0 MS, Yahoo! 33%, ESPN 28%)

Wednesday – Charlie Morton at Mets (7.5 MS, Yahoo! 6%, ESPN 2%)

Thursday – Matt Shoemaker at Mariners (5.9 MS, Yahoo! 3%, ESPN 1%)

Friday – Miguel Gonzalez at Astros (6.8 MS, Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 1%)

Saturday – Kyle Kendrick vs Mets (6.2 MS, Yahoo! 2%, ESPN 1%)

Sunday – Jose Quintana vs Padres (6.4 MS, Yahoo! 35%, ESPN 9%)

 

IN-DEPTH DAILY ANALYSIS

MONDAY’S OPTIONS

Day Pitcher MS Yahoo% ESPN% Opp Team Opp K% Opp wOBA
Monday Tyler Skaggs 7.4 20 15 at Sea 18.8% 0.332
Monday Tanner Roark 7.1 30 11 vs Mia 22.6% 0.292
Monday Brandon McCarthy 7.0 7 1 vs SD 21.6% 0.294
Monday Nick Tepesch 6.1 3 1 at Min 22.6% 0.315
Monday Drew Hutchison 5.9 25 8 vs TB 18.5% 0.322
Monday Jose Quintana 5.8 35 9 vs CLE 18.6% 0.324
Monday Jacob deGrom 5.5 4 1 vs PIT 21.1% 0.311

 Monday offers plenty of streaming options, including three pitchers with Matchup Scores above 7.0. Tyler Skaggs draws arguably the best matchup a lefthander can have when he faces the Mariners at Safeco Field. Tanner Roark, who has a 1.13 WHIP in 2014 and has only given up only four earned runs in his last three starts (18.2 IP) should be able to turn in another gem versus the Marlins. However, despite a lower Matchup Score than both Skaggs and Roark, Brandon McCarthy is actually my favorite play on Monday. McCarthy started the season with three rough outings (SF, @COL, LAD) but he has been terrific since, striking out 44 batters with a 3.21 ERA and 1.21 WHIP across 42 innings of work. McCarthy faced the same Padres on May 3 and was absolutely brilliant, yielding just three hits and a walk while striking out six over seven scoreless innings. While I think McCarthy carries more risk than Skaggs or Roark, I think he also has the highest upside of these three starts. I plan to use him heavily.

 

TUESDAY’S OPTIONS

Day Pitcher MS Yahoo% ESPN% Opp Team Opp K% Opp wOBA
Tuesday Jonathan Niese 7.0 33 28 vs PIT 21.8% .329
Tuesday Jeremy Guthrie 6.7 4 2 vs HOU 23.9 .300
Tuesday Edinson Volquez 6.0 5 3 at NYM 21.9% 0.299
Tuesday Wade Miley 5.9 15 11 vs SD 21.1% 0.319
Tuesday Henderson Alvarez 5.7 12 4 at WAS 20.0% 0.314
Tuesday Josh Tomlin 5.6 3 3 vs CHW 21.0% 0.311
Tuesday Jorge De La Rosa 5.5 24 17 at PHI 20.3% 0.313

One owner’s trash is a streaming owner’s treasure. After giving up three runs in only four innings to the Nationals on May 16, Jonathan Niese found himself back under the 40% ownership threshold for streaming. He followed his mediocre start with a strong start against the Dodgers (7 IP, 3 ER, 5 K, W), and though I raised concerns about Niese’s peripheral stats a week ago, most of his numbers have since regressed back to his career norms. While I’m not actively targeting Niese as a potential hold, if you have the roster space he’s once again worth long-term consideration. He’s definitely worth a stream start against the Pirates on Tuesday.

Tuesday’s second best option according to Matchup Scores is Jeremy Guthrie. The Astros may strike out a lot, but they can do some damage when they actually connect. Guthrie has only struck out 29 batters in 65.2 innings this season.  I’ve grown leery of using pitch-to-contact pitchers versus the Astros, and I plan to limit my exposure to Guthrie on account of this. Edinson Volquez is next in line according to Matchup Scores, but while his control problems have reawakened, his strikeout rate continues to slumber.  Despite the nice matchup with the Mets, I will pass. Instead, give me Wade Miley versus the Padres. The Padres may be better versus left-handed pitching than they are versus right-handed pitching, but they still aren’t good. I like Miley’s chance to earn a win and turn in a quality start, and out of Guthrie, Volquez, and Miley, Miley clearly has the most upside. On Tuesday, he therefore follows Niese as my second streaming target.

 

WEDNESDAY’S OPTIONS

Day Pitcher MS Yahoo% ESPN% Opp Team Opp K% Opp wOBA
Wednesday Charlie Morton 7.5 6 2 at NYM 21.9% 0.299
Wednesday Danny Duffy 7.3 20 8 vs HOU 23.8% 0.31
Wednesday Bartolo Colon 6.2 24 28 vs PIT 21.1% 0.311
Wednesday Jordan Lyles 6.1 30 37 at PHI 19.5% 0.308
Wednesday Chase Anderson 6.1 2 1 vs SD 21.6% 0.294
Wednesday Scott Baker 5.5 0 0 at MIN 22.6% 0.315

Before you stream Charlie Morton, there is one thing you must always do: determine what left-handed batters he is going to face. From 2011-2013, Morton held right-handed batters to a .278 wOBA. Left-handed batters, however, did whatever they pleased versus him, posting a ridiculous .383 wOBA. So far this season Morton has shown drastic improvements versus left-handed hitters, but don’t go buying into that data just yet. It can take years, not weeks, for pitchers’ split stats to stabilize. For now, I’ll continue to tread Morton as a potential landmine if he is facing a left-handed heavy lineup.  Fortunately for us (and for Morton), the Mets’ only have three regulars who hit from the left side: Daniel Murphy, Curtis Granderson, and Lucas Duda. Morton has a strong chance to continue the string of gems turned in by pitchers with +7.5 Matchup Scores.

If Morton isn’t available or you find yourself seeking two spot starts on Wednesday, Danny Duffy is another intriguing option. It’s a bit shocking that Duffy is still owned in just 20% of Yahoo! and 8% of ESPN leagues after he took a perfect game into the seventh inning last Saturday versus the Orioles. He has a 1.42 ERA, and since moving into the rotation, he has only given up two runs in 17 innings of work. Those numbers are all the more impressive since two of his first three starts came against the Tigers and Orioles. While those are some exciting numbers, there’s nothing in Duffy’s profile to make me believe he is this good. In fact, I don’t believe he is nearly this good. But if you have a roster spot, he’s worth adding for this spot start, and he’s worth hanging onto for a week or two just to see if you can trade him to another owner if the magic happens to continue for a few more starts.

 

THURSDAY’S OPTIONS

Day Pitcher MS Yahoo% ESPN% Opp Team Opp K% Opp wOBA
Thursday Matt Shoemaker 5.9 3 1 at SEA 21.9% 0.315
Thursday Roberto Hernandez 5.7 1 0 vs NYM 21.9% 0.299
Thursday Nick Martiniez 5.5 1 0 at MIN 22.6% 0.315

Another Thursday and another week I’d like to impose the“Eric Bedard Rule.”  Matt Shoemaker earns the top Matchup Score for Thursday, but before you get too excited, consider that he pitched two full seasons in AAA: in 2012, he had a 5.65 ERA and in 2013, he had a 4.64 ERA.  Last season he did manage a somewhat intriguing 7.8 K/9 versus just 1.4 BB/9, but there’s simply not enough here to make me feel comfortable using him, even against the Mariners. Your next option is Roberto Hernandez, who is currently scheduled to face the Mets. Prior to being demoted to the bullpen, Hernandez’s last start also came against the Mets.  He held them to one run by finding a way to scatter six hits and three walks across just five innings of work.  Hernandez now figures to face the Mets again as he returns to the rotation.  You could do worse than this, but it’s certainly not inspiring.  Your third option on Thursday is Nick Martinez. Martinez barely pitched 40 innings above A-ball before his promotion to the Rangers’ rotation. He actually skipped AAA completely, but so far the big stage hasn’t been too much for him. He currently holds an impressive 2.28 ERA. Much less impressive, Martinez has walked fourteen batters while striking out only 16 in 27.2 innings of work. Expect some serious regression to that ERA, possibly starting this Thursday versus the Twins.

So who do I like on Thursday? If you’re hell-bent on streaming someone on Thursday, I suppose I’d heed to the Matchup Scores and use Matt Shoemaker, but I would highly recommending avoiding all of these options and looking ahead to Friday when making your roster changes.

 

FRIDAY’S OPTIONS

Day Pitcher MS Yahoo% ESPN% Opp Team Opp K% Opp wOBA
Friday Miguel Gonzalez 6.8 4 1 at HOU 23.9% 0.3
Friday Travis Wood 6.8 40 9 at MIL 20.9% 0.329
Friday Mike Leake 6.5 39 29 at ARI 17.7% 0.309

Miguel Gonzalez was a recommended pitcher against the Astros on May 10. He pitched seven strong allowing two earned runs and striking out six in that outing. Hope for more of the same as he travels to Minute Maid Park this week.

Two weeks ago, I broke down Travis Wood’s numbers before strongly recommending him versus the same Brewers team he will face again on Friday. At the time of my previous recommendation, Wood had given up 12 earned runs in his previous two starts and his season long numbers were terrible. Despite this, a close look at Wood’s profile suggested that he had pitched well, he’d just been terribly unlucky. Math prevailed, as Wood pitched seven strong innings versus the Brewers, giving up only two earned runs and striking out seven. Look for another quality start from Wood in this Friday’s matchup.

The final option on Friday is Mike Leake versus the Diamondbacks. I was surprised Leake’s Matchup Score was as high as it was for this matchup, but there’s a good reason we use numbers to predict performance rather than our guts. As it turns out, the Diamondbacks are striking out 21.4% of the time this season versus RHP, up from only 17.7% since last season. Further, Chase Field is far more conducive to right-handed hitters than left-handed hitters. Since Leake performs significantly better versus right-handed hitters, this helps negate his weakness versus southpaws while Chase Field’s dimensions help negate his weakness versus right-handed pitching.  I think you call that a win-win.  At the end of the day, if Leake happens to be available or if you have him, this is a matchup worth exploring.

 

SATURDAY’S OPTIONS

Day Pitcher MS Yahoo% ESPN% Opp Team Opp K% Opp wOBA
Saturday Kyle Kendrick 6.2 2 1 vs NYM 21.9% 0.299
Saturday Andre Rienzo 6.1 2 1 vs SD 21.6% 0.294
Saturday Tyler Skaggs 5.8 20 15 at OAK 18.8% 0.333
Saturday Nick Tepesch 5.8 3 1 at WAS 20.0% 0.314
Saturday Drew Hutchison 5.6 25 8 vs KC 15.7% 0.305
Saturday Tommy Milone 5.6 5 2 vs LAA 18.8% 0.332
Saturday Brandon McCarthy 5.5 7 1 vs CIN 19.6% 0.317

There are a lot of options on Saturday, but there aren’t a lot of particularly good ones. This will be the fourth time I’ve recommended Kyle Kendrick this season, and it will be the third time I’ve recommended him against the Mets. He was rained out in one of those starts and gave up ten runs in eleven innings in the other two.

Rather than using a poor pitcher like Kendrick versus an awful offense like the Mets, I would prefer to use a decent starter versus an average offense. Drew Hutchison is therefore my favorite streaming option on Saturday. Hutchison will be forced to pitch at home in the Rogers Centre, but there’s enough in his skill set for me to overlook the ballpark data. Perhaps most impressive is a double digit swinging strike percentage, a ratio he has achieved in part because he’s getting batters to chase nearly one third of the pitches he throws outside the zone. And why are batters chasing against him? Because he’s throwing a hard 85 mph once out of every five pitches. That’s enough to suggest to me that Hutchison could continue striking out nearly a batter an inning while maintaining an ERA in the mid-threes. If he can do that, no only would he be worth streaming versus the Royals, he’d be worth rostering for the entire season.

 

SUNDAY’S OPTIONS

Day Pitcher MS Yahoo% ESPN% Opp Team Opp K% Opp wOBA
Sunday Jose Quintana 6.6 35 9 vs SD 21.1% 0.319
Sunday Jonathan Niese 6.1 33 28 at PHI 20.3% .313
Sunday Wei-Yin Chen 6.0 12 7 vs HOU 23.8% .310

While the Padres have a putrid .273 wOBA versus RHP this season, their .300 wOBA versus south paws is decent. U.S. Cellular Field is also a far cry from PETCO Park. Still, I expect Quintana to turn in another quality start versus the Padres, and even if he struggles, he should be able to limit the damage. In ten starts this season, Quintana has only given up more than three runs once (on April 19, Texas scored five runs on him). Start Quintana with confidence.

While Mile Leake’s 6.5 MS versus the Diamondbacks surprised me because it was so high, Jonathan Niese’s 6.1 MS versus the Phillies surprised me because it was so low. The reason for the low score? The Phillies have hit .340 versus southpaws this season and Citizens Bank Park favors hitters. I will trust the scores on this one and consider Niese an average option, but it’s worth noting that he’s already faced the Phillies twice this year and his combined line for the two starts is 13 IP, 12 H, 2 BB, 11 K, 3 ER, 1 W.  The better start was also at Citizens Bank Park.

Wei-Yin Chen presents yet another decent option on Sunday when he faces the Astros.  Chen was a recommended target when he faced the Astros two weeks ago on May 9. He turned in a two run, seven inning effort while picking up a win and four strikeouts in that start. Hope for more of the same on Sunday.

 

STREAMING PERFORMANCE TO DATE

Below is a breakdown of how several sets of recommended starters have performed so far this season.

GS W% ERA WHIP K/9
Last 7 Days 28 54% 3.29 1.21 7.5
Season 107 33% 3.82 1.20 7.1
+6.1 MS 71 37% 3.53 1.19 7.2
-6.0 MS 36 25% 4.40 1.23 7.0

 

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

Matchup Score Rating
12.0 Excellent
10.0 Great
8.0 Very Good
7.0 Good
6.0 Average
5.0 Poor
4.0 Awful

.