These fantasy baseball starting pitcher rankings were pulled Friday morning. Please be aware the matchups are subject to change. The data is up to date as of Thursday night. Also, player comments were written Friday morning.
Top 101 starting pitchers for week 15
James Shields has hit a run of bad luck in his last nine starts (5.43 ERA and 1.60 WHIP). All the underlying statistics and PITCHf/x data suggest he’s the same pitcher as previous years. Eventually, the bad luck will positively regress, and I’m banking on his long track record. I recommend buying low. A reader on Twitter asked me if I would trade Doug Fister for Shields and I said “yes” without hesitation because Fister scares me. It’s not Fister’s fault, I don’t trust ground ball pitchers where Ryan Zimmerman is at third base.
Stream options in 10-team & must-starts in 12-team
Matt Cain is striking out less batters and is walking more batters, but I’m still a believer. The days of sub-3.00 ERAs are gone, but he still pitches in a great home ballpark and the weakest division in the majors. The decline in his velocity has been well documented, but that’s not why I wasn’t high on him entering drafts. Last year, he threw the fastball up in the zone 49 percent of the time, which is the same rate in 2008-09. When the velocity is 94-96 mph, he was able to get away it, but when it’s only 91-92 mph, that pitch is extremely hittable. This year, he’s only throwing the fastball up in the zone 45 percent of the time and is throwing it down in the zone a career high pace. … If you drafted and/or acquired C.J. Wilson, you had to expect his hot and cold streaks because his command comes and goes from start to start. Right now, he’s on a cold streak. In his last five starts, he has a 5.97 ERA, 1.61 WHIP and a 12 percent walk rate. The start at home against the Blue Jays is not as scary as it sounds because the Jays are only 15th in the majors in wOBA against lefties. … Henderson Alvarez has been on an unbelievable stretch in his last eight starts (1.01 ERA, 1.11 WHIP). He has a lot of ingredients I like from a starting pitcher: good stuff, generate lots of ground balls and few walks. His kryptonite is left-handed batters. Lefties have a career .777 OPS compared to .675 from righties, and this year, there isn’t much a difference in the numbers. The Cardinals offense has struggled this year, but with Oscar Taveras back in the majors and playing center field, it provides another left-handed batter for the lineup. … Since joining the rotation, Marcus Stroman has a 2.48 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 22.1 percent strike out rate and a 5.5 percent walk rate. Obviously the ERA will regress, but I expect his ERA to be in the 3.10-3.25 range. The only question I have is how many innings will he throw this year? He only threw 123.1 innings last year, and I find it hard to believe he’ll throw more than 180 innings. The Blue Jays have playoff aspirations, which lead me to believe they’ll put him on the DL with a phantom injury to give him time off to limit his innings.
Stream options in 12-team & must-starts in 15-team
For the year, Drew Hutchison has a 2.23 ERA and 1.04 WHIP on the road compared to a 6.75 ERA and 1.59 WHIP at home. Tampa’s offense has not been as anemic as you think. In the last month they are 17th in the majors in runs scored and 12th in wOBA. … I’ve seen a lot of hype surrounding Taijuan Walker after his first start, which is warranted because his ceiling is a number two starter, but ceiling and what he is right now are completely different. He has a great fastball and cutter, but they’re both thrown at the same velocity (more or less). If he is going to have sustained success, the command of the curveball or change-up is going to have to jump a full grade; the fastball command can be extremely loose, but he can get away with it because of the velocity and movement. If not, batters are going to sit on the fastball and they will eventually time it.
Stream options in 15-team
In 36 home starts, Tommy Milone has a 3.19 ERA and 1.16 WHIP. The start is in San Francisco, another big ballpark that suppresses power. The Giants are 10th in the majors in wOBA against lefties, which is why he’s not a must-start in 15-team mixed leagues.
Pitchers to start only in dire circumstances
In five starts, Tyler Matzek only has seven walks, which is remarkable considering his inability to throw strikes in the minors. If you’re in daily leagues, he has a lot of upside, considering he’s facing the Padres. If he can go six innings, he could provide a quality start and a win. … Travis Wood was extremely effective last year, and fantasy owners had to expect him to regress in 2014. However, I didn’t think he would regress this poorly. In his last start (at Boston), he looked terrible and has not pitched well on the road. For the year, he has a 6.16 ERA and 1.73 WHIP on the road (in nine starts). Last year, he had a 2.70 ERA and 1.09 WHIP on the road (in 14 starts). Both those numbers are extremes, and his true talent is somewhere in the middle. For the year, the Reds have the lowest wOBA against lefties.