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As we head into the home stretch, this scoring period will offer a nice opportunity to make up some innings with quality options. The National League will feature 22 two-start options, including at least a dozen that range from “definitely start” to “suuuure, close enough for jazz.” The AL should have 21, on account of the unfortunate development that the Red Sox will apparently roll with a six-man rotation next week with Rick Porcello slated to return, so all of my jokes about would-be two-starter Joe Kelly will have to wait for another day. We’re in wait-and-see mode for the Tigers’ Monday slot after Daniel Norris suffered an oblique injury in his last start, but otherwise all options as they stand at press time should be present and accounted for below.

As far as the nuts and bolts guidelines for what lies within, the pitchers will be split by league and then by categories:

Auto-Starts – These are your surefire fantasy aces. You paid a handsome sum for these guys, either with an early draft pick, high dollar auction bid, or significant haul of prospects or MLB talent. These are the top 20 or so starters in baseball, so you’re starting them anywhere, anytime. Guys can emerge onto or fall off of this list as the season evolves. There won’t be many—if any—notes associated with these groupings each week, unless a player has just moved up or is in imminent danger of moving down.

Starts – These are the guys I’m recommending you put into your lineup this week. Some will be obvious, but not quite auto-start excellent, while others will be waiver-wire fodder who find themselves with a pair of favorable outings that you can take advantage of in your league.

Considers – As mentioned earlier, these guys will be on the fence and your league settings and position in the standings will really be the decider here. A pitcher in this category can be your number two starter with a tough week of matchups in Boston and Colorado. Or conversely if the Cincinnati Reds’ fifth starter is slated to face the Braves at home followed by a stop-over in Philadelphia, he will appear on this list because the matchups are great even though he might not be. Your particular league settings will have a lot to say here; if you are in a 10-team mixed league you probably don’t need to take the risk, but a 10-team AL-only leaguer might see it as a nice opportunity to log some quality innings from a freely available resource.

Sits – These are the guys I’m staying away from this week. They will range in talent from solid to poor. With mixed leagues smaller than 16 teams my default position for all two-start pitchers who rank outside of the top 60 or so is to sit them unless the matchups dictate otherwise. Additionally, mid-rotation starters who face a couple tough draws will find themselves in this category more often than not.

At the season’s outset the majority of these recommendations will come to pass as a combination of ADP/auction price and PECOTA projections for opponent strength. As the season rolls on and we get some more concrete data points for how both the pitchers themselves and their opponents are actually performing, the formula will gradually evolve into a performance-based projection.

As a general frame of reference, when I talk about “deep” leagues I’m talking very broadly about mixed leagues with at least 16 teams and –only leagues with at least 10. “Medium-depth” leagues refer to mixed 12- and 14-teams and –onlies with eight or nine. “Shallow leagues” will refer to mixed 10-teamers and –only leagues with less than eight teams.

As always the standard disclaimer applies to these match-up previews that all start schedules are subject to unfortunately frequent change on account of rainouts, injuries, managers arbitrarily shuffling their rotations, etc. And of course, if you have questions about any of the starters I don’t expand upon in the body of the article feel free to inquire in the comments.

With that, on to the Starting Pitcher Planner!

NATIONAL LEAGUE

AUTO-START

Jon Lester

@SFG, @LAD

Jake Arrieta

@SFG, @LAD

Jacob deGrom

@PHI, BOS

START

Noah Syndergaard

@PHI, BOS

Patrick Corbin

STL, OAK

Jaime Garcia

@ARI, @SFG

Stephen Strasburg

SDG, MIA

Notes:

Somehow, in an odd twist of scheduling fate, this coming period will be just the second in which Noah Syndergaard will line up for two. He’s a borderline auto-start candidate at this point, as he sits 22nd in cFIP with all of the requisite strikeout and hit-suppression bells and whistles you want to see in a frontline fantasy starter. Despite Boston’s recent hot streak, these matchups shake out well for Syndergaard, and he should be run in all formats.

Patrick Corbin has looked great since his return to the major-league mound, morphing into a pitcher who showcases two fastballs and a slider, using his four-seamer more often and more effectively now. cFIP is a fan of the profile, as his 92 mark would crack the top 40 among starters if he had enough innings under his belt to qualify. The Cardinals have struggled to string together production of late, and have really struggled against southpaws all year, while the A’s are currently one of the weakest offenses in the league, and that combination makes Corbin one of the more-solid plays you’ll find this week.

I don’t quite know what to make of Jaime Garcia, and neither do our metrics, really. He’s been an absurd ground-ball monster when he’s taken the mound, and he gets enough whiffs with his slider that his whiff rate, while below average, is solid enough given the peripherals he’s putting up. He’s pitching over his head—cFIP projects him as a roughly league-average pitcher—but he’s sustained the performance for the entirety of his 74 healthy innings and counting, and managers employing his services might as well run him while they’ve got him.

CONSIDER

James Shields

@WAS, @PHI

Lance Lynn

@ARI, @SFG

Robbie Ray

STL, OAK

Julio Teheran

COL, NYY

Alex Wood

@CIN, CHC

J.A. Happ

@MIA, COL

John Lamb

LAD, @MIL

Jorge de la Rosa

@ATL, @PIT

Adam Morgan

NYM, SDG

Notes:

James Shields continues to be weave together one of the odder seasons of the big-name pitchers around town. For some time now, cFIP has been enamored with the massive jump in strikeout rate Shields has produced (and maintained) all year, but he hasn’t quite managed to marry that skill development with superior and consistent run prevention. If I may interject an anecdotal note as an owner of Shields in a couple of leagues, there’s a particular blend of exhilaration and unease heading into each one of his starts that’s tough to explain. Like when you were a little kid and your mom caught you peeing in the garbage can a couple of days before Christmas and you weren’t sure if it would be enough to knock you onto the naughty list or not. So it goes for James Shields owners in 2015.

See everything I wrote about Patrick Corbin above, downgrade the stuff and performance by a notch, and you’ve got yourself Robbie Ray for the week. I don’t trust him to command his stuff through two starts quite as much, but all the other advantages of the schedule are there in spades for Ray as well.

Julio Teheran has finally shown signs of starting to right the ship, with a 2.45 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and 24 strikeouts to four walks over his last four starts, though it’s important to note that his recent upswing has coincided with some favorable matchups. Regardless, it’s about time as far as Teheran owners are concerned. He’s shown some increased effectiveness with his changeup during the run, and that’s something to keep an eye on going forward. This week he’ll see the de-clawed road versions of two of the scariest sights on the ledger for a visiting pitcher, and both squads have struggled mightily to produce of late. It’s about as solid a two-start draw as a guy like Teheran could see, and he should be run in more formats than not.

Alex Wood has been pretty much the textbook definition of a league-average starter this year. Since arriving in Los Angeles, he’s moved notably away from a previously fastball-dominant strategy, and he also appears to have tweaked his changeup to where he’s generating more horizontal movement and generating more empty swings with it. He remains a high WHIP risk, however, as his control has been spotty all year and increasingly so of late; he’s walked three in each of his past three starts and 14 in 31 2/3 innings since the break. He draws a Cubs offense that’s looked a lot more dangerous lately, especially against lefties, and a Reds offense that’s looked the opposite of dangerous lately. It’s a true toss-up scenario, where deep-mixed and NL-only managers should weigh the risks. If you need innings, strikeouts, and win potential, he’s an option if you can handle the likely WHIP hit and possible ERA knock as well.

I’ll reiterate pretty much everything I wrote about J.A. Happ ahead of his scheduled two-start week a couple of periods ago: I’m intrigued by his union with Ray Searage, but I need to see a bit more before I go running off to get him into my starting lineups far and wide. He’ll get a nice schedule this week in spacious Marlins Park and at home against a terrible-of-late Rockies offense, so NL-only and deep-mixed-league managers may consider jumping the gun and taking a leap of faith. Charlie Morton is in largely the same boat, with a noteworthy addendum that he’s been throwing significantly more curveballs lately and in turn generating significantly more strikeouts. That’s a not-insignificant development for him, as the extreme ground-ball tendencies have remained largely intact.

I feel a little queasy just typing Adam Morgan’s name in the consider column, but this is a pretty rad set of matchups and Morgan’s been able to tiptoe along the tightrope with impressive moxie so far in his brief big-league career. Still, extreme fly-ball pitchers with whiff rates as poor as his don’t tend to make great fantasy assets by trade, and the home-and-home starts in a small park for a guy with Morgan’s profile is pretty terrifying. In NL-onlies where you need to gamble, he’s at least on the board, but certainly not a preferred choice.

SIT

Brad Hand

PIT, @WAS

Tom Koehler

PIT, @WAS

Wily Peralta

@CLE, CIN

Jerome Williams

NYM, SDG

Matt Cain

CHC, STL

Keyvius Sampson

DET, @MIL

Notes:

You could theoretically make a case for Tom Koehler to round out the “consider” category, but I really can’t envision a scenario in which he’s a viable option for two starts in any league. He had a nice run of quality starts in the middle of the season, but over his past five turns now he’s given up five-plus earned runs three times en route to a 7.48 ERA. The Pirates have been raking, and Bryce Harper (7-for-21 with five homers) is almost single-handedly reason enough to sit Koehler against the Nats.

By our advanced metrics Wily Peralta has been one of the worst pitchers in baseball this year. His DRA checks in 148th, his cFIP 146th. The topline fantasy numbers haven’t been quite that bad, but they certainly haven’t been good either. Most notably, his strikeout rate has fallen into the toilet. His pitches move on one of two trajectories, and the slider just hasn’t shown the kind of tilt or bite needed to miss bats this year. The matchups aren’t disqualifying here, but the player performance is, even in the deepest of –only formats at this point.

Don’t look now, but Jerome Williams has posted three consecutive starts allowing just one earned run in each! No, really though, don’t look at Jerome Williams. Not even for this schedule. No. No! I see you peeking, cut it out.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

AUTO-START

Corey Kluber

@CHC, LAA

Dallas Keuchel

@NYY, @MIN

STARTS

Hisashi Iwakuma

OAK, @CHW

Notes:

Hisashi Iwakuma’s back, baby! No-hitters are obviously awesome, but I’ve always found them slightly terrifying from a full-season fantasy perspective. Some of the highest of high-leverage innings, extended pitch counts… basically the full host of ingredients for wear and tear, and especially for a guy with shoulder issues coming off a lost half-season, that’s a big deal. Much to his owners’ relief, he came through his subsequent start fine from a performance standpoint, though it’s very much worth noting that his velocity was off by two miles per hour. He’ll have an extra day of rest heading into the week though, and he’ll face a tasty little schedule for the two-start week. Fire away, though keep an eye on the radar gun and release point after you do.

CONSIDER

Jose Quintana

BOS, SEA

Mark Buehrle

@TEX, DET

Nate Eovaldi

HOU, @ATL

Jered Weaver

@DET, @CLE

Nate Karns

MIN, KCR

Derek Holland

TOR, BAL

Ubaldo Jimenez

@KCR, @TEX

Miguel Gonzalez

@KCR, @TEX

Jeff Samardzija

BOS, SEA

Notes:

Bracketing the 13-2 record courtesy of his Will to Win, Eovaldi has actually been pitching sneakily alright for a while now. In 11 starts since his implosion against the Marlins on June 16th he’s cobbled together a 3.29 ERA and 1.25 WHIP (along with eight wins). His 56 percent ground-ball rate during that stretch reflects a dramatic uptick in his splitter deployment, as that pitch has induced worm-burners over 70 percent of the time and transformed Eovaldi into a legitimate groundballer. The Astros will make for a difficult foil for Eovaldi’s newfound skillset, but he’s shown that his whiff rate can spike in favorable circumstances. Coupled with a trip to Atlanta to visit with one of the most groundball-prone offenses in baseball, this week shapes up pretty decently for Eovaldi owners in medium-depth mixed leagues.

Mark Buehrle had a streak of 13 starts without allowing more than three earned runs snapped by the Phillies of all teams last time out, and he’ll run into tough draws in both of his starts this week. I spoke effusively of my Buehrle love before his last two-start week back in early July, and all he did was rip off 15 innings with two earned runs allowed. So let’s double down for no analytical reason other than Mark Buehrle being awesome.

Derek Holland got some good results in his first start back from the DL, though he did so against a mediocre Seattle offense that struggles against left-handed pitching. That won’t be the case this week, when he’ll draw the scariest lineup in baseball against lefties, along with a pretty good Baltimore crew to boot. I wouldn’t go nuts here just yet until we get a couple more looks at him to see what exactly we’re dealing with for the stretch run.

The shine has finally started to wear off Ubaldo Jimenez’s strong season, as he’s been knocked around to the tune of a 7.16 ERA and 1.41 WHIP over his last six starts. He’s given up four-plus earned runs in four of those six turns, and the volatility in his profile right now is not particularly conducive to a two-start engagement. Both starts will be on the road as well, where Jimenez’s control has abandoned him all year; he’s walked more than twice as many batters away from Camden in roughly the same number of innings. Rotation-mate Miguel Gonzalez makes for a similarly unappealing option outside of deeper AL-onlies. He’s been consistently inconsistent for the majority of the past few months now, with just three quality starts in his last ten. The matchups grade out as moderately difficult, and I’d have a hard time signing off on either of these guys in most formats.

SIT

Felix Doubront

@SEA, @ARI

Alfredo Simon

LAA, @TOR

Jeremy Guthrie

BAL, @TAM

Danny Duffy

BAL, @TAM

Phil Hughes

@TAM, HOU

Notes:

Danny Duffy has managed to cobble together a respectable enough set of topline numbers this year, but there’s a whole lot of ugly under the hood. His already-suspect strikeout rate has plummeted into the depths on the back of a swinging strike rate that checks in near the bottom of the barrel. His 120 cFIP is 149th out of 162 pitchers who have logged at least 60 innings, his 124 DRA- 141st. Both Baltimore and Tampa Bay have been raking of late, and there’s just not a lot to like here outside of AL-only formats where you need to fill out a rotation.

Man, Phil Hughes has given up a lot of home runs this year, hasn’t he? He’s scheduled to come off the DL (back) in time to slot in for a two-start week, and unfortunately those starts will come against a Rays team that’s been hitting in the second half and an Astros lineup that leads that majors in long balls. The second matchup is the real problem here. Hughes’ swinging-strike rate has cratered by three-and-a-half percentage points this year, leading to a loss of almost three full strikeouts-per-nine. So not only do the Astros do the thing that Hughes is terrible at stopping offenses from doing (hitting home runs), Hughes is also one of the least-capable starters you’ll find to take advantage of Houston’s Achilles heel (strikeouts). Add in the injury concerns, and he’s a pass this week.