Photo credit: By jnashboulden on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
It’s mid-week, and in leagues that run daily waivers, it’s normally the time to get a jump on your league-mates in the hunt for two-start pitchers on waivers.
That quest proved to be fruitless for me last week, as my favorite two-start options all lost their second start even before the weekly scoring period started. With rosters expanding and teams trying to preserve arms and innings, Six-Man Rotation Fever started to spread throughout the majors. As of now, 16 teams are sporting six-man rotations, and with the expected returns of Chris Tillman, Colby Lewis and Gerrit Cole and possible return of Jason Vargas, that number could reach 20 by the start of Week 24.
As rotations are expanding, so are schedules. No teams have a five-game schedule, and only 10 teams have six games. For the seven teams — the Angels, Yankees, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, Phillies, Giants and Cardinals — that look to head into next week with five-man rotations and seven-game schedules, the Monday starter is practically assured of two starts, and the Tuesday starter appears fairly safe, too.
So from these teams, which pitchers might be available and worthy of starting? It’s unlikely that Jeff Samardzija would be on waivers in most leagues, but if that’s the case for you, then snap him up. He’s been ravaged by homers on the road (1.4 HR/9) but has allowed only 0.6 homers per nine innings at AT&T Park. He gets the Padres and Cardinals at home next week. You will have a better chance of finding Jeremy Hellickson available. While he is similarly homer-prone, he gets a pair of good home matchups in the Pirates and Marlins.
Samardzija and Hellickson should be claimed with no hesitation, but you should be more cautious with Mike Leake (vs. CHC, at SF) and Robbie Ray (vs. COL, vs. LAD). Leake had been effective in his last three starts prior to his bout with shingles, and if he picks up where he left off against the Pirates on Wednesday night, he is worth an add. Ray’s last start was his worst of the second half, but it was at the Rockies. If he bounces back against a tough Dodgers lineup, he’s worth a try, given that he’ll face those same Rockies and Dodgers at home.
If Samardzija and Hellickson get the green light, and Leake and Ray get the yellow, then Ricky Nolasco gets the red. He could be a popular target, coming off two good starts in a row. While Nolasco was masterful against the A’s and Reds, I’ll give more weight to the 5.24 ERA he compiled in his previous 26 starts. I’m almost as distrustful of CC Sabathia’s strong three-start run. He faced the Orioles twice and the Mariners, and both teams have not hit lefties well. Even if he manages to ace the Dodgers in his first start, the damage from facing the Red Sox — the team with the highest wOBA against lefties — could be too steep.
After Tuesday’s shelling at the hands of the Dodgers, I probably don’t need to discourage you from using a two-start Shelby Miller, but in case you’re thinking about it, read this.
Being cautious will keep your two-start waiver options limited, and you may wind up going with more one-start pitchers than usual. That might inspire an uneasy feeling when you set your lineups, but those reliable one-start pitchers are likely to help you more than the Ricky Nolascos and CC Sabathias out on the waiver wire.