Photo credit: By Julie Fennell on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.
Championship week is upon us. Some of us may already be playing in championship series in Head-to-Head leagues, but for many, this weekend will be our last chance to upgrade our rotations.
It’s not a good time to try your luck with waiver-wire two-start pitchers. I am talking to myself as much as to anyone reading this. Even as I’ve offered this advice over the last few weeks, I have failed to resist the temptation of starting Kendall Graveman, A.J. Cole and Matt Garza in two-start weeks, and I’ve been punished for it. Week 26 offers me one last opportunity to exercise some discipline.
Fortunately, there aren’t many waiver options who are all that tempting. I want nothing to do with the yet-again resurgent Clay Buchholz and Ubaldo Jimenez. If not for matchups against the Cubs and Cardinals, I might give Chad Kuhl a try. I’ve stashed Luke Weaver and Tom Koehler, but I’m only certain that I will start Weaver, who gets home starts against the Reds and Pirates. There is the usual caveat of not counting on any pitcher making two starts in the final week, and Koehler is just not viable as a one-start option.
It’s a long shot, but it’s worth a minute or two of your time to see if Bartolo Colon and Collin McHugh are available. Even though he is finishing strong, I still don’t completely trust Colon because of all the contact he allows, but starts at the Marlins and Phillies are highly reassuring. McHugh at home against the Mariners worries me a little, but I like his final scheduled start at the Angels (again, assuming he makes it). Also, on the off chance that someone discarded Kevin Gausman (intercostal), thinking he would only make one start next week, he needs to be picked up. There is some chance he could start against both the Blue Jays and Yankees.
If you come up empty on two-start pitchers, and let’s say you need to fill the void left by a no-longer-two-start Garza or Cole (or any one else you’re ready to waive), there are three one-start options to explore. Seth Lugo has yet to issue a sub-quality start since joining the Mets’ rotation, and if he keeps the streak going Thursday night against the Phillies, he could finish the season with the string intact. His lone Week 26 start will be at the Marlins, who have scored the fewest runs in the majors over the last 30 days. The offense has continued to sputter, even with the returns of Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna, as they have scored 16 runs over the last six games.
Francisco Liriano’s quality start streak is only at two, but over his last three appearances (including a two-inning relief appearance), he has compiled an uncharacteristically-high 70 percent strikes-thrown rate. He was helped out by facing the Yankees and Rays in the first two of those outings, as both teams have been chasing pitches outside of the strike zone at a high rate since the All-Star break. He will face another aggressive lineup next week when he goes up against the Orioles. Not only could the O’s suppress Liriano’s walk rate and per-inning pitch count, but they have also not hit left-handed pitching especially well (.298 wOBA). If Liriano is available and you plan to claim him, it’s best to do so before Friday’s start against the Yankees, just in case he fares well against them again.
Ariel Miranda has put together a strong September (4-0, 2.16 ERA), though he has benefitted from making all four of his starts in good pitching environments. He will make his fourth home start of the month next week against the Athletics. While they have been a productive offense lately, they have been one of the weaker offenses against lefties this season.