September 21, 2012
And down the stretch they come… it’s the final week of two-start pitchers.
You almost couldn’t ask for a better pair of two-start pitchers in the final full week of the season. These two are bona fide aces, and teams who have been riding them all year get two more shots to make a move with them. The margin between these two is razor thin; they are basically left- and right-handed mirror images with Hamels holding the strikeout edge and Cain holding the WHIP edge. Both are incredible, reliable aces.
Paul Maholm (vs. MIA; vs. NYM) – Maholm has seen his ERA tick up a bit as a Brave (4.09 in 55 IP after a 3.74 mark in 120 1/3 with Chicago), but his WHIP has stayed about the same while his strikeout rate, something he is definitely not known for, has surged from 6.1 in Chicago to 7.4 with Atlanta. Even with the uptick in ERA, that strikeout level takes him into a different level of pitcher. If this is something that is legitimate going forward, we will have to reassess Maholm. For now, enjoy the run and his two starts against a pair of teams who struggle against southpaws.
Wandy Rodriguez (@ NYM; vs. CIN) – Wandy had been on fire before running into the white-hot Brewers on Thursday night. They knocked him around for four runs in four innings on five hits and two walks, pushing his Pittsburgh ERA to 3.71 in 63 innings of work. The Mets matchup is great, though the Reds fare well against lefties in general. He has actually faced them five times this year and has a 5.28 ERA, but that is inflated by a seven-ER outing in five innings back when he was with Houston. In the other four, he has a 3.85 ERA in 25 1/3 innings. His composite strikeout-to-walk ratio against them is a healthy 3.0 too.
Mike Fiers (@ CIN; vs. HOU) – Fiers has been inconsistent down the stretch, starting with a pounding in Coors Field; the Rockies got to him for eight earned in just two innings. Since then he has had three good and three bad, but it is still heartening to see him missing bats with 34 strikeouts in 32 1/3 innings across the six starts. He has fared quite well against Cincinnati this year, and the Houston matchup is obviously very enticing, so I’m comfortable putting him in the lineup for the final full week (:singletear: season is almost over!).
Trevor Cahill (@ COL; vs. CHC) – Cahill is pitching well in September, but even a looming Cubs start late in the week can’t get me to bend my Coors Field rule about non-studs.
Tyler Skaggs (@ SF; vs. CHC) – The matchups simply aren’t enough to overcome the fact that Skaggs just hasn’t been good in his MLB debut. Here is a shocker: perhaps the team actually knew best when they decided to wait until September to bring him up. Hell, I was leading the throng calling for Skaggs back in mid-summer as he knifed his way through Double- and Triple-A, but clearly the Diamondbacks had their reasons, and they appear to have known best.
Chris Rusin (@ COL; @ ARI) – Could you pick Rusin out of a lineup consisting of Barack Obama, a male cast member from the godawful Whitney, and Rusin himself? Sure, it feels like you have a 50/50 shot, but do you? Do you really?
Tyler Chatwood (vs. ARI; @ LAD) – No.
Jorge de la Rosa (vs. CHC; @ LAD) – He was blasted in his return from injury. I’m keeping him on my radar to analyze for next year, but I don’t see much upside with him in these final two starts, which are essentially rehab outings in the majors.
TEAMS WITHOUT A TWO-START PITCHER NAMED YET:
Houston*, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Pittsburgh’s second (they play seven games next week), San Diego, St. Louis, and Washington
*They are using a six-man rotation with only six games, so they won’t have one.
Verlander had a pair of rough outings a few weeks back, but he has bounced back exactly as you would expect him to: with 13 scoreless innings and a pair of wins. He is the American League Cy Young. Or at least he should be if voters want to award the right guy.
Sure, Sale’s ERA has risen from 2.11 at the All-Star break to 2.82 now, but I think there is this perception that he is limping to the finish, and that is simply not the case. He has a pair of five-ER starts and three four-ER starts, but he still has a respectable 3.65 ERA since the break even with those outings making up nearly half of his 12 starts. He has also fanned 83 batters in 79 innings (9.5 K/9) and walked just 21 others (2.4 BB/9). The issue has been home runs. He allowed just five in 102 2/3 innings before the break but has allowed 12 in 79 since, including seven in those five problem starts.
Yu Darvish (vs. OAK; vs. LAA) – Darvish has been similar to Holland in that he, too, struggled through a rough period in the dog days only to come out of it better than ever. His run started with his final start in July and lingered for another two in August, during which he allowed 18 earned runs in 18 innings, pushing his season ERA up to 4.57. He has allowed just 12 earned runs in the subsequent seven starts spanning 50 2/3 innings (2.13 ERA) with 60 strikeouts (10.7 K/9) and, more importantly, just 14 walks (2.5 BB/9). The Rangers’ rotation is coming together at the right time, powered by these two.
Anibal Sanchez (vs. KC; @ MIN) – Sanchez was finally in a groove with a 1.89 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and 7.3 K/BB in 33 1/3 innings before the A’s got to him for five runs in 5 2/3 innings on Thursday afternoon. He still had eight punch-outs, though, so it wasn’t a complete disaster. I expect him to get back on track with favorable matchups this week.
Andy Pettitte (@ MIN; @ TOR) – Pettitte put everyone at ease with five shutout innings in his return from the disabled list on Wednesday, pushing his season ERA down to 2.97 in the process. No one expected anything close to this from a 40-year-old Pettitte after a year out of the game, but here we are and nothing in his game suggests that it can’t continue for another week, especially with a pair of favorable matchups.
Francisco Liriano (vs. CLE; vs. TB) – It’s always a roll of the dice with Liriano, and unfortunately, they seem to be weighted dice leaning toward you crapping out. Still, he has shown flashes of being worthwhile lately and gets two of the worst teams in the league against lefties. You know the risks going in with him, but this a calculated risk that has a probability rating in your favor.
C.J. Wilson (vs. SEA; @ TEX) – He’s just been wildly inconsistent since the break, and it’s too late in the game to feel comfortable trusting him, especially in Texas.
Zach McAllister (@ CHW; vs. KC) – He’s still ironing out the kinks a bit as he adjusts to the league during his second and third times seeing teams. There is legitimate stuff here, but his command needs refinement for him to be successful. He is usually good about not giving up walks, but his penchant for the zone has resulted in a barrage of homers lately (1.7 HR/9 since the break).
Liam Hendriks (vs. NYY; vs. DET) – It’s a tough draw for the youngster who is showing some signs of improvement lately.
Ricky Romero (@ BAL; vs. NYY) – Make it stop, Toronto. It’s been a rough season for one of my favorites. I think we would know by now if Romero’s struggles were injury-related, and if that were the case he would have been shut down long ago, so this just seems like a lost season mechanically. Maybe I’ll see if our own Doug Thorburn can do something on RR in the near future so we can see exactly what’s going wrong (and what improvements we’d need to look for next spring to justify taking the plunge).
TEAMS WITHOUT A TWO-START PITCHER NAMED YET: