Week Eight Stream Team

Each Saturday, this column ranks the upcoming week’s best waiver wire pitching targets by evaluating all pitchers with an average ownership below 40% in Yahoo! and ESPN Leagues. All matchups are ranked based on a Matchup Score (MS), which is calculated using a formula that considers a number of variables, including the quality of the pitcher, the quality of his opponent, and ball park data. You can learn more about how Matchup Scores are calculated by scrolling to the bottom of the page. If you’re looking for information on two-start pitchers, Tommy Landseadel has you covered each and every week in his “Aces in the Hole” series.  Find his analysis of week 8 pitchers, including a breakdown of Dallas Keuchel, here.

Two of my recommended pitchers imploded Monday night. Cesar Ramos, whose 5.6 Matchup Score was barely above the limit for recommendations, gave up five earned runs and 11 hits over 6.2 innings. I doubt many readers took a chance on Ramos. I actually suggested in my analysis that you should avoid him. Unfortunately, Tyler Lyons had a Matchup Score of 6.8 and had an enticing matchup against the strikeout prone Cubs. Lyons was worse than Ramos, giving up nine earned runs over just four innings of work. A day later, Lyons was on the DL with a shoulder injury and your team was trying to dig out of the whole that Lyons had dug for you.

While we obviously hope to avoid performances such as these, they happen to all of us, whether we stream pitchers or not. The good news is that if this happens and you play in weekly leagues, it can still be fairly easy to salvage your week.

For example, most of my teams had ERAs in the 20s when I looked at them on Tuesday morning; nevertheless, it looks like I will win three of five pitching categories in each of these leagues. Starting Tuesday, I simply decided to punt ERA and WHIP. This meant instead of streaming pitchers like Tom Koehler or Jose Quintana, I targeted pitchers with high strikeout and win potential – pitchers like Felix Doubront and the 2014 strikeout per inning version of Brandon McCarthy. By doing so, I was able to accumulate enough wins and strikeouts to put myself in the lead in these two categories, and because I always draft and keep a lot of closers, I’m still a favorite to win three categories during the week. The fact that you can pull this off despite Lyons’ performance is just one more reason that streaming pitchers is such an effective strategy.

Of course, if you play in season long rotisserie leagues, there isn’t such an easy fix. For this reason, you want to do everything you can to avoid disaster starts such as Lyons’. Based on trend line data for my recommended pitchers this season, pitchers with a Matchup Score of 7.0 are expected to have a 3.49 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, and 7.0 K/9. While you will certainly want more than seven strikeouts per nine innings in rotisserie formats, the 3.49 ERA and 1.19 WHIP will be plenty helpful. For example, Justin Masterson was the 26th ranked starting pitcher according to Yahoo’s 2013 Player Rater, and he had a 3.45 ERA and 1.20 WHIP for the 2013 season. Those are numbers I could live with in rotisserie leagues, so 7.0 seems like a good baseline for streaming under these circumstances.

Of course, I probably would still have started Lyons versus the Cubs due to the potential for a lot of strikeouts, and I’m sure pitchers with Matchup Scores of seven and higher will have plenty more disastrous starts this season. The point is simply that if you use this as a rough cut-off, you’re at least going to decrease the odds of these terrible outings, and it rotisserie leagues, this is far more important to do.

 

OVERALL STREAMING PERFORMANCE TO DATE

Mike Leake, Josh Beckett, and Brandon McCarthy all pitched great games in week seven. Even still, poor starts by Tyler Lyons, Cesar Ramos, and Matt Harrison has the overall data trending downward for the week. Pitchers in the range of 6.5-7.49 took the biggest hit on account of Lyons (6.8 MS) and Harrison (6.6 MS). After 78 recommended starts, the data breakdown looks like this:

Grouping Starts Wins Winning% IP/Start K/9 ERA WHIP
All MS 78 19 24 5.9 7.0 4.08 1.20
7.5+ MS 12 4 33 6.7 6.7 2.24 1.03
6.5-7.49 MS 26 5 19 5.4 7.1 4.56 1.31
5.3-6.49 MS 39 10 26 5.9 6.9 4.54 1.20

 I wrote earlier in the year that I didn’t expect the data to remain as clean and orderly as it was for the first few weeks of the season, and a few statistical outliers at this point in this season make it appear as if the 6.5-7.49 range is performing worse than the 5.3-6.49 grouping. In reality, five of the eight worst starts this season have simply fallen in this range, and there aren’t currently enough quality to starts to pull the numbers back where we would expect them to be. Because of these outliers, I think it’s worth taking a look at what the data suggests based on the overall trends for all 78 starts. Using trend lines to capture performance, we can say an expected start for pitchers of various Matchup Scores would look like this:

Matchup Score IP K ERA WHIP
8.5 6.6 5.1 2.93 1.15
8.0 6.5 5.0 3.2 1.16
7.5 6.3 4.9 3.49 1.17
7.0 6.2 4.8 3.79 1.19
6.5 6.1 4.7 4.10 1.20
6.0 6.0 4.6 4.42 1.22
5.5 5.9 4.6 4.75 1.23
5.0 5.8 4.5 5.10 1.25

Based on this data, we should expect pitchers in the 7.5+ range to be slightly worse than they have been to this point and we should expect pitchers in the 6.5 – 7.4 range to perform significantly better.

 

WEEK 8 STREAM TEAM

Josh Beckett (@NYM, @PHI) squeaks under the 40% average ownership this week to be the top rated pitcher for streaming. With a solid two-start week approaching, don’t expect him to be on your waiver wire much longer. Add him as soon as possible. Dallas Keuchel draws a tough matchup Monday against the Angels, but he has a great second matchup against the Mariners on Saturday. Keuchel has made a believer of both myself and fellow Fantasy Assembly writer Tommy Landseadel. Landseadel broke down Keuchel’s matchup in his weekly “Aces in the Hole” series. If you haven’t read it yet, you should do so now.

The rest of our week 8 Stream Team looks like this:

Monday – Jason Vargas vs White Sox (6.5 MS, Yahoo! 27%, ESPN 29%)

Tuesday – Josh Beckett at Mets (7.8 MS, Yahoo! 34%, ESPN 45%)

Wednesday – Phil Hughes at Padres (7.1 MS, Yahoo! 18%, ESPN 8%)

Thursday – Henderson Alvarez at Phillies (6.5 MS, Yahoo! 16%, ESPN 7%)

Friday – Robbie Erlin vs Cubs (6.7 MS, Yahoo! 4%, ESPN 1%)

Saturday – Dallas Keuchel at Seattle (7.6 MS, Yahoo! 18%, ESPN 7%)

Sunday – Rafael Montero vs Diamondbacks (6.4 MS, Yahoo! 13%, ESPN 0%)

 

WEEK 8 INDEPTH STREAMER ANALYSIS

 

MONDAY

Pitcher MS Yahoo! % ESPN % Opp Team Opp Pitcher Opp K% Opp wOBA Park Factor
Jason Vargas 6.5 27 29 vs CHW Carroll 20.7% 0.308 0.99
Dallas Keuchel 5.5 18 7 at LAA Richards 18.6% 0.335 1.04

*Opp K% and Opp wOBA are active roster data since 2013

Vargas has seen his ownership dip back below 40%, where it should be, and he has the best start on Monday. That said, if you want to take on some risk, I don’t mind using Keuchel on Monday against an Angels team that hits lefties well. If you need to be convinced that Keuchel is the real deal, consider this: of the 131 pitchers who had thrown at least 30 innings prior to May 16, Keuchel had the 5th lowest line drive rate (13.1%), the best ground ball rate (65.1%), the 14th best swinging strike rate (11.5%), and the 25th best K/BB ratio (4.27). When projecting pitcher performance, these are four of the best indicators of success, and Keuchel is near the top of the league in all of them. He might not maintain a 3.06 ERA and 1.11 WHIP throughout the course of an entire season, but based on these indicators, it’s a definite possibility. I’m planning to add Keuchel wherever available and use him for both of his starts. If he can continue pitching this well for another week or two, the fantasy community will start to take notice and you’ll see his value skyrocket.

 

TUESDAY

Pitcher MS Yahoo! % ESPN % Opp Team Opp Pitcher Opp K% Opp wOBA Park Factor
Josh Beckett 7.8 34 45 at NYM Montero 22.0% 0.3 0.93
Tyler Skaggs 6.9 21 6 vs Hou Feldman 23.8% 0.309 1.02
Drew Pomeranz 6.3 30 14 at TB Odorizzi 18.2% 0.322 0.99
Wei-Yin Chen 6.1 9 5 at PIT Liriano 21.9% 0.329 0.94
Robbie Ross 6.0 4 11 at Sea Iwakuma 22.4% 0.286 1.00
Kevin Correia 5.7 0 0 at SD Kennedy 21.7% 0.293 0.94
Rafael Montero 5.4 13 0 vs LAD Beckett 18.9% 0.33 0.93

Josh Beckett has been pitching very well this spring, giving up two or less runs in six of his eight starts. A matchup against the Mets at Citi Field should keep things rolling in his favor. Tyler Skaggs’ has a strong matchup against the Astros. His strikeout numbers have been disappointing this season, but the Astros can usually mask such deficiencies. The rest of Tuesday’s starts carry significantly more risk. Drew Pomeranz has been superb this season, and hasn’t given up a run in either of his two starts since being promoted from the bullpen. He may be able to keep things going against the Rays, and after going five innings in each of his first two starts, he should have his arm strength built up enough to go deeper in this contest. I’ll probably steer clear of the rest of the arms on Tuesday, but it is worth noting that Wei-Yin Chen will be pitching in the N.L., which gives him a slight boost in value.

 

WEDNESDAY

Pitcher MS Yahoo! % ESPN % Opp Team Opp Pitcher Opp K% Opp wOBA Park Factor
Phil Hughes 7.1 18 8 at SD Ross 21.7% 0.293 0.93
Kyle Kendrick 6.8 2 1 at Mia Eovaldi 23.2% 0.291 0.95
Miguel Gonzalez 6.2 5 1 at Pit Rodriguez 21.0% 0.311 0.93
Jose Quintana 6.1 37 9 at KC Guthrie 16.5% 0.314 0.99
Jeremy Guthrie 5.9 5 2 vs CHW Quintana 21.1% 0.311 0.99
Robbie Ray 5.8 6 11 at Cle McAllister 18.7% 0.324 1.00
Tommy Milone 5.8 5 3 at TB Bedard 18.2% 0.322 0.99

Of the 131 pitchers who have thrown at least thirty innings this year, Phil Hughes’ 46.6% fly ball rate ranks as the seventh highest. This was a huge problem for Hughes in Yankee Stadium, but he’s been much better this season since making spacious Target Field his home (his HR/9 was 1.65 in 2012, 1.48 in 2013, and 0.78 this season).   That said, don’t buy into PETCO Park as the pitchers’ haven in once was. Sure, it remains a pitcher park, but home run rates have increased significantly since they moved the walls in prior to the 2013 season. Still, PETCO is easily preferable to Yankee Stadium and the Padres are an awful team. Hughes should pitch well in this one, but temper your expectations a bit.

Kyle Kendrick versus the Marlins is another quality matchup that I will target heavily this week. As I wrote last week, the Marlins’ appear to be hitting much better this season, as their .331 wOBA versus right-handed pitching ranks fifth in the league. However, they are also striking out at a 24.8% clip, which is good for second worst in the league, and their wOBA has been aided by a very fortuitous .327 BABIP, which is the second highest in baseball. This is the same Marlins team we have come to love for streaming matchups, except they strikeout more and have been luckier. Kendrick versus the Marlins makes for a nice start.

 

THURSDAY

Pitcher MS Yahoo! % ESPN % Opp Team Opp Pitcher Opp K% Opp wOBA Park Factor
Jonathan Niese 7.2 42 46 vs LAD Kershaw 21.3% 0.31 0.93
Henderson Alvarez 6.5 16 7 at Phi Hamels 19.6% 0.307 0.94
David Phelps 6.3 3 1 at CHW Noesi 21.1% 0.311 1.01
Chris Young 6.2 5 5 vs Hou Cosart 24.2% 0.3 0.96
Jarred Cosart 5.8 4 1 at Sea Young 22.2% 0.316 0.96
Edinson Volquez 5.5 7 4 vs Was Gonzalez 20.0% 0.316 0.93

Last week I stated that it was only a matter of time before Jonathan Niese left the ranks of streamer options, and one week later he no longer qualifies. In seven starts this season, Niese has never walked more than three batters and he’s walked one batter five times. On top of that, he’s given up three or less runs in all seven starts, and his K% has bounced back to where it was during the 2010-2012 seasons. These numbers had convinced me to hang onto Niese in a few leagues, but I’m starting to have doubts. His 24.8% line drive rate is by far a career worst, yet his .271 BABIP is a career best. Those two stats certainly don’t match up. On top of that, Niese’s strand rate is 12% higher than it’s been at any point in his career. I just don’t see the magic continuing. If he’s available or if you’ve been holding him, I’d still start him against the Dodgers, but if you can get anything for him on the trade market or if a pitcher like Keuchel is available, I’d suggest making a move.

Henderson Alvarez was awful in his last start, but the Phillies have been awful versus right-handed pitching. I have no problem banking on a bounce back start from the enigmatic fire baller. I would have liked to see how David Phelps pitched versus the Pirates on Friday night prior to committing to him versus the White Sox, but the game was rained out. Assuming he still faces the White Sox, I think he makes a decent streaming option, especially when you factor in that the White Sox resurgence at the plate versus right-handed hitting has been aided by the highest BABIP in the league.

I don’t plan on using any of the remaining options on Thursday, but I do plan on closing the book on my infatuation with the reinvented Edinson Volquez. In his last two starts, Volquez’s inability to strikeout batters has persisted, but his ability to throw strikes has disappeared. Prior to Friday night’s rain out versus the Yankees, Volquez had walked seven batters in his last 9.2 innings. I’ll be avoiding him moving forward, and so should you.

 

FRIDAY

Pitcher MS Yahoo! % ESPN % Opp Team Opp Pitcher Opp K% Opp wOBA Park Factor
Robbie Erlin 6.7 4 1 vs CHC Jackson 22.2% 0.309 0.94
Chase Anderson 6.4 2 1 at NYM Colon 22.0% 0.3 0.93
Edwin Jackson 6.3 2 1 at SD Erlin 21.7% 0.293 0.95
Charlie Morton 6.1 6 1 vs WAS Zimmerman 20.0% 0.316 0.93
Bartolo Colon 6.1 24 27 vs ARI Anderson 18.5% 0.315 0.92
Roenis Elias 6.0 16 6 vs Hou Peacock 23.8% 0.309 0.96
Tom Koehler 5.8 29 15 vs Mil Estrada 19.3% 0.313 0.95

 I continue to believe that Robbie Erlin has pitched better than his 4.22 ERA or 2-4 record suggests, and he’s been stellar in his last two starts, giving up a single earned run and striking out 12 over 13.1 innings. Even still, I’m a bit nervous about this matchup for two reasons. First, Erlin was the first pitcher from my Stream Team to implode, giving up eight runs in Washington during week four. Second, the Cubs roughed up Lyons for nine runs on Monday. Nevertheless, I always side with numbers over my gut, and the numbers say it’s a good matchup. Use Erlin versus the Cubs.

If you’re considering using Chase Anderson, here’s a fact that might interest you: prior to being demoted to AA for the start of the 2014 season, Anderson maintained a healthy 5.73 ERA at AAA last season. The one positive I can find in Anderson’s profile is that he’s been able to maintain decent strikeout ratios across the minor leagues, so if that’s what you’re looking for he’s a viable option against the Mets. Another option for those seeking strikeouts is Edwin Jackson. Jackson’s struggled so far this season, but his strikeout numbers remain decent and the Padres strike out a lot. If you’re just looking to improve your ratios, I like Charlie Morton’s start against the Nationals. Morton will keep the ball in the park, especially pitching at home, and the Nationals aren’t the same without Harper and Zimmerman in the lineup.

 

SATURDAY

Pitcher MS Yahoo! % ESPN % Opp Team Opp Pitcher Opp K% Opp wOBA Park Factor
Dallas Keuchel 7.6 18 7 at Sea Hernandez 22.4% 0.286 0.97
Josh Beckett 6.8 34 45 at Phi Hernandez 19.6% 0.307 1.02
Josh Collmenter 6.8 2 0 at NYM Wheeler 22.0% 0.3 0.92
Juan Nicasio 6.2 4 2 at Atl Minor 22.8% 0.314 0.98

Dallas Keuchel versus Felix Hernandez is the pitching matchup I’m most looking forward to watching this week. I expect Keuchel to dominate the Mariners’ lineup. I also expect Beckett to pitch reasonably well in his second start when he faces the Phillies. Josh Collmenter has been serviceable this season, and a matchup with the Mets in Citi Field always brings up strong Matchup Scores. I have an aversion to the Rockies’ pitchers even when they are on the road, and Nicasio’s 30/14 K/BB ration will have me steering clear of him. However, if you just need strikeouts and Keuchel and Beckett aren’t available, Nicasio is a better option than Collmentor.

 

SUNDAY

Pitcher MS Yahoo! % ESPN % Opp Team Opp Pitcher Opp K% Opp wOBA Park Factor
Rafael Montero 6.4 13 0 vs ARI Arroyo 18.5% 0.315 0.93
Scott Feldman 6.2 22 13 at Sea Iwakuma 22.2% 0.316 0.96
Drew Pomeranz 6.1 30 14 at Tor McGowan 19.1% 0.3 1.08
Jake Arrieta 6.1 2 0 at SD Kennedy 21.7% 0.293 0.95
Bronson Arroyo 5.6 15 8 at NYM Montero 22.0% 0.3 0.92
Wei-Yin Chen 5.5 9 5 vs Cle Salazar 18.7% 0.324 1.04

Rafael Montero was serviceable in his Major League debut, and I hope that he’ll be better than that Sunday versus the Diamondbacks. This isn’t a great matchup, as the 6.4 MS suggests, but it’s the best matchup available according to my formula. I’ll use Montero if I have to. Scott Feldman has pitched surprisingly well this season, and his start versus the Mariners is a potential streaming opportunity. I’d rather avoid streaming against the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre, but Pomeranz has been good enough to warrant consideration. I don’t think Jake Arrieta is very good, but he’s facing the Padres at PETCO, so he at least has that going for him. Bronson Arroyo faces the Mets, a team who scored nine runs off of him in 3.1 innings back on April 15. Before you automatically write Arroyo off based on that performance, consider how great he has been since April 26th. In his last 29.2 innings, he’s only given up three earned runs, and he’s only given up one earned run in his last 23.1 innings. If your circumstances are dire, you could do much worse than betting on Arroyo’s quest for redemption at Citi Field.

 

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

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2 thoughts on “Week Eight Stream Team”

  1. Rob,

    Great piece as always! I am officially all in on Keuchel. I had to make an unfortunate choice between Keuchel and Eovaldi in a shallower league and chose Keuchel.

    I know that when you evaluate the matchups, you look at data from 2013 and 2014 due to the small sample size from the current year. At what point does it make sense to drop 2013 from the equation?

    The reason I ask is there are a couple teams (the White Sox in particular) who score fairly well as a matchup play when looking at both seasons, but are not very attractive when looking at 2014 only.

  2. Sorry for the delayed response. I’m having some gmail/phone issues and missed your comment.

    Keuchel looked fantastic last night. I would have ranked him over Eovaldi heading into last night, and after watching him pitch, I don’t think there’s any question. For me, the main difference between the two is Keuchel’s ability to miss bats. Keuchel made Trout look foolish in one of his at bats, and I’ve never seen Trout look bad at the plate. I’m all in.

    As for your question, right now I am using both the data from 2014 and the active roster data from 2013-present in my analysis. With strikeout rates, I weigh both data sets equally because strikeout rates stabilize fairly quickly. (Stabilize, though, is a dangerous word because it seems to imply that nothing will change; what it actually means is that for most players, the data will have only small variation — there will still be outliers.)

    With wOBA, I can’t find any information on stabilization rates, and I don’t have the data to try to figure it out even if I knew how. But based on some studies that looked at OBP, SLG, and OPS, my guess is that it takes somewhere between 400 and 600 PA for wOBA to stabilize. Based on this, I wouldn’t recommend relying solely on the 2014 data until August at the earliest. Even then, since you can look at active roster data, I don’t plan on eliminating the 2013-present data from my analysis until the start of next season.

    Teams like the Marlins and White Sox who have unexpectedly high wOBAs this season also have some of the highest BABIP. BABIP has a large influence on wOBA, and BABIP takes somewhere around 800 PA to stabilize. Since we know the BABIP numbers haven’t stabilized, and since there’s no reason to believe the Marlins or White Sox have made huge gains in that department, I think we can attribute a large portion of their gains in wOBA to some luck in the first two months of the season. Since we want to eliminate luck when evaluating matchups, I think the 2014 wOBA data has to be taken with a grain of salt.

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