Fantasy daily notes for Sept. 20
It just so happens that the two top-line aces going on Saturday -- Max Scherzer and James Shields -- are squaring off against each other. It also just so happens that the game is a noon start, meaning it won't be included in the cash-game slates on most sites. Nonetheless, for those who invest heavily in head-to-head contests, these two deserve strong consideration. We'll start with Scherzer, whose 10.3 K/9 rate is second in the AL only to Chris Sale. This matchup is somewhat of a mixed bag for the hard-throwing right-hander, as the Royals don't have anything close to a high-powered offense (ranked last in the majors in ISO and second-to-last in hard-hit average), but they also strike out less than any team in baseball (16.0 percent). So while Scherzer is one of the few hurlers who can rack up double-digit K's at any time, it's not likely to happen in this start.
As for Shields, he's developed a reputation for getting up for big games, and Saturday's tilt against the Tigers is certainly a big one, as the two teams continue to battle for the AL Central lead. The Tigers have been stinging the ball lately, sporting a top-three wOBA (.340) over the last month, but Shields has been pretty darn good by his own right. Over his last nine starts, he owns a 2.35 ERA and 0.95 WHIP. And when he faced Detroit earlier this month, he dealt seven innings of shutout ball while allowing only two hits and striking out eight. So, yes, while the Tigers are always a difficult opponent, Big Game Shields should come through with a quality performance.
With the Scherzer-Shields matchup happening in the afternoon, Yusmeiro Petit looks like the top cash-game option of the day, and it's hard to say he doesn't deserve it. The right-hander owns a 6.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio this season, which would rank top six in baseball if he qualified, and he's fanned eight or more in three of his last four starts. The best thing about Petit on Saturday, however, is that he's facing the San Diego Padres, who have scored the fewest runs in baseball this year and rank last in the majors in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, wOBA and hard-hit average, just to name a few categories. It's worth noting that Petit has struggled on the road this year (5.27 ERA), but starting at pitcher-friendly Petco Park is a positive, not a negative.
Since Aug. 1, Jordan Zimmermann holds a 2.11 ERA and 0.97 WHIP over his last nine starts. In fact, he's surrendered more than two runs in a start just once in his last seven outings. With the Miami Marlins on the schedule for Saturday, the Washington right-hander shouldn't miss a beat. The Marlins have struck out 23.8 percent of the time against right-handers this year (the worst mark in baseball), rank middle-of-the-road in wOBA (.303) and are without Giancarlo Stanton. There's no reason to fear this matchup.Solid (can be considered for both daily cash games and tournament play)
Jered Weaver was originally positioned to start on Thursday, but the Angels pushed him back after they clinched the AL West on Wednesday. The right-hander is coming off arguably his most impressive performance of a season, in which he pitched seven innings of one-run ball against the Seattle Mariners while striking out a season-high 12 batters. It was the first time he racked up double-digit K's since April 2012, and it was his highest strikeout total since he whiffed 15 Blue Jays back in April of 2011. Another high-strikeout performance from Weaver is obviously unlikely, but he's still a strong bet against a Rangers team that ranks 25th in the majors with a .293 wOBA versus right-handed pitching.
The Mets don't hit left-handed pitching well. They rank bottom three versus lefties this season with a .286 wOBA, and they've been even worse over the last month, managing a .263 wOBA against them. This is good news for lefty Mike Minor. The Braves hurler was touched up by the Rangers his last time out (5 ER in 4.2 IP), but he still sports a 3.18 ERA and 1.08 WHIP over his last six outings and carries plenty of strikeout potential against a Mets team that whiffs 24.1 percent of the time when facing left-handed pitchers.
If you're looking for high-end strikeout potential, you won't find it with Chris Tillman, who has a 6.4 K/9 this year and has fanned more than seven batters just twice in 32 starts in 2014. However, he's still a rock-solid cash-game option who has a favorable matchup and should be reasonably priced. Since the All-Star break, Tillman sports a 2.01 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in 12 outings, and only once in his last six starts has he allowed more than one earned run. The Red Sox, meanwhile, strike out 21.1 percent of the time versus right-handers (bottom three in the AL) and sport a .297 wOBA against righties (also bottom three).
Andrew Cashner has made multiple trips to the disabled list this season, but when he's been healthy he's been pretty darn good. He holds an ERA of 2.65 or lower in every month this year, and he's been pitching his best ball of late, sporting a 1.85 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in five starts since his last activation. It's also important to note that this start takes place at Petco Park, where Cashner holds a 1.34 ERA this season. The San Francisco Giants have been a tough customer lately, as they have produced an MLB-best .357 wOBA against righties over the last 30 days, but I'm still siding with the 6-foot-6 right-hander in this one.
Dallas Keuchel has been on a nice little run. He's delivered a quality start in six straight outings, and in his last start he held the Angels, who lead the majors in runs, to just one run over seven frames. The whiffs are lacking, as he hasn't fanned more than five in any of his last five starts, but he helps make up for it by limiting walks (2.2 BB/9) and keeping the ball on the ground (his 64.4 ground-ball rate is tops in baseball). Against a Seattle Mariners team that has baseball's lowest wOBA against left-handed pitching (.287), Keuchel is a solid mid-tier option who won't take up much cap space.Value plays (best used in tournaments or on multiple-pitcher sites)
With Jason Hammel away from the A's for the birth of his child, Drew Pomeranz will fill in and make a spot start on Saturday. The left-hander has been up and down as a starter this year, but he misses enough bats (8.2 K/9) and is in a pretty good spot against a Philadelphia Phillies team that whiffs 21.9 percent of the time versus lefties and owns a .296 wOBA against southpaws (bottom five in the majors). There's a good amount of profit potential here.
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