Bench Astros Justin Verlander and Yankees Luis Severino during Fantasy Baseball playoffs?
Challenging pitching decisions ahead for the Fantasy playoffs
It’s coming up on win or go home time in Fantasy Baseball and that means owners have to make the tough calls on the big names. Small Sample Size is like a four letter word in baseball these days, but when you must win, then it must matter. It’s extremely difficult to sit a star with a track record of success, especially pitchers, but when your season and the prize pool is on the line owners need to make the tough call and that often means benching the big-timers. It means sitting aces with significant recent struggles and sometimes that means inserting lesser names with steely confidence. That’s the challenging call, this is the tough part of the season. It’s what being a Fantasy manager is all about.
Here are some aces whose places may be on the bench when it matters most along with some lesser alternatives that have earned their place in your starting lineups for the must-wins in late August and early September.
Disappointing Big Timer
Noah Syndergaard, SP New York Mets
32 IP - 32 Hits Allowed - 16 Earned Runs Allowed - 28 Ks - Three Wins -
Vs. Cubs (Jon Lester)
Vs. Giants (Undecided)
In his last five starts Syndergaard hasn’t had a “Syndergaard/Thor” like outing. His command has been acceptable while his strikeouts have been below average and he has allowed a hit per inning, resulting in an ERA of 4.50.
He hasn’t been a “must-sit”, but he hasn’t been the ace owners paid for either. Use him while on double-starts, but monitor him before automatically inserting Syndergaard to start in September when he could face the Philadelphia Phillies, bringing well below his best stuff.
Less Heralded Alternative
Zach Wheeler, SP New York Mets
39 IP - 40 Ks - 26 Hits Allowed - Six Earned Runs Allowed - Five Wins - 1.38 ERA - .85 WHIP
Vs. Giants (Andrew Suarez)
Vs. Dodgers (Clayton Kershaw)
All you have to do is look in Noah Syndergaard’s own dugout to find a more dominant alternative. From strikeouts to Wins, ERA or WHIP, Wheeler has been as good or better than Cy Young favorite Jacob deGrom, never mind Thor. Wheeler won’t have a double-start in the next two weeks, but he is a must-start even though he pitches for the lowly Mets and could face Clayton Kershaw in a Fantasy playoff series.
Disappointing Big Timer
Justin Verlander, SP Houston Astros
26 IP - 40 Ks - 33 Hits Allowed - 15 Earned Runs Allowed - Two Wins - 5.19 ERA - 1.38 WHIP
Vs. Angels (Andrew Heaney)
Vs. Twins (Jake Odorizzi)
Vs. @Red Sox
The ratios and wins have not been “starter worthy” recently, but the swings-and-misses have been a saving grace for the Astros ace. The Angels and Twins starts won’t accurately tell the tale unless he continues to struggle, but they could matter nonetheless.
Regardless of the ratios, owners could be misled into starting Verlander against the Red Sox because of the dominant strikeouts, but they shouldn’t. The Red Sox lead Major League Baseball in OPS against right-handed pitching (.817) and Verlander isn’t deserving of a start on a playoff caliber Fantasy rotation with the season on the line. If I had to decide today, I would declare Verlander a SIT against the slugging Red Sox at Fenway Park. If he dominates in the next two, then the strikeouts are sexy enough to flip the script and make him a START. A name like Verlander should not be on the bubble like this. He needs to earn it in his next two outings.
Safer, Softer Alternative
Tanner Roark, SP Washington Nationals
38.2 IP - 28 Ks - 29 Hits Allowed - Seven Earned Runs Allowed - Five Walks - 1.63 ERA - .88 WHIP
Vs. Brewers (Chase Anderson)
Vs. Cubs (Jon Lester
The case for Tanner Roark isn’t a sexy one and the more I edit this the less compelling it sounds in my head as I tippy-tap the keyboard. He doesn’t have “filthy stuff” or dominant strikeouts. The Nationals claim to be fighting for the playoffs with one hand while they sell everything that could help him win with the other. If neither of those things are unflattering enough, he faces two playoff caliber opponents and doesn’t have a two-start week until mid-September.
All that being said, the ratios have been dominant and the strikeouts, while not overwhelming, have been respectable. Roark has the ratios of a must-start pitcher while being owned in only 66% of Yahoo! standard leagues. Roark is on the bubble for teams with a strong staff. If an owner doesn’t have a great staff, he is an easy call: START.
Disappointing Early-Season Ace
Luis Severino, SP New York Yankees
31 IP - 37 Ks - 46 Hits Allowed - 25 Earned Runs Allowed - Two Wins
Vs. Tigers (Michael Fulmer)
Severino has earned “must-sit” status with a brutal stretch of outings going back to July 1, when he pitched one of only two six inning starts. He has allowed seven hits or more in six of his last seven starts, including one where he allowed nine and another when he allowed 11.
The strikeouts have been persuasive, even while the ratios have been painful, making him a must-start in the Fantasy playoff week beginning on September 3rd. Even though he faces the A’s and Mariners, it’s a two-start week. Against the Tigers, a juicy matchup, I struggle to be bullish on him. He is on the bubble. Owners that have strong alternatives or respectable two-start options, Severino is a SIT. If not ... roll the dice with caution and strikeouts and wince when you must.
Other Lesser-Name, High-Performance Must-Starts
* Jhoulys Chacin
* Carlos Rodon
* German Marquez
* Jack Flaherty
* Clay Buchholz
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