And down the stretch they come… it’s the final week of two-start pitchers.

Cole Hamels and Matt Cain

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.

Marco Estrada
(@ WAS; vs. HOU) – Estrada was slated for two starts last week but got bumped, so I will simply reiterate what I said last week because it remains relevant: “Estrada has seen his ERA plummet lately because he has quelled his biggest issue: home runs. He has a 2.82 ERA in 44 2/3 innings over his last eight because he has allowed just a single home run. His peripherals have remained great, too: 44 strikeouts and 10 walks. He allowed 16 HRs in his previous 74 2/3 innings, which is why he had a 4.34 ERA before August.” Since then, he has added seven more homerless innings, and they happened to be shutout innings too, lowering his season ERA to 3.56 with a 2.44 mark in his last nine starts.

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!).

Mike Leake
(vs. MIL; @ PIT) – I liked Leake last week when he was slated to face Chicago and the Dodgers—two teams who were less likely to take advantage of his homer-allowing way—but Milwaukee leads the NL in bombs and Pittsburgh is fourth in the NL, so I’m wary.

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.


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.

Auto-Starts: Justin Verlander and Chris Sale

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.

Derek Holland
(vs. OAK; vs. LAA) – Holland battled through a rough patch in late July seeping into August when he allowed six earned in three of four outings, but since then he has been dialed in with a 2.93 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 8.1 K/9, and 5.0 K/BB in 55 1/3 innings of work over eight starts. He has been even better in September with four starts of seven or more innings yielding a 2.17 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 29 innings.

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.

Phil Hughes
(@ MIN; @ TOR) – I love the Minnesota matchup, but the Jays one worries me even with their neutered lineup. They still have plenty of home run hitters and Hughes loves to give them up, so it could get ugly.

Tommy Milone
(@ TEX; vs. SEA) – He’s similar to Hughes with only one good matchup, but his other one is much more dangerous, so I’m passing on him altogether this week.

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).

Henderson Alvarez (@ BAL; vs. NYY) – His stuff is way too good for him to be Aaron Cook 2.0, but his peripherals just haven’t progressed as planned.

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).

Baltimore, Kansas City, Oakland’s second (they play seven games next week), Seattle, and Tampa Bay


Auto Starts















































de la Rosa






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Trying to set my rotation for the 10-day championship week in a 5x5 H2H. Since it's it's the last 10 days, pretty much every starter has 2 starts.

1) My opponent will go with 7 starters (14 total starts) and 2 closers (Soriano & Rodney).  I have the option of going 6 starters (12 starts) with 3 closers (Motte, Kenley J, G. Holland), or 7 and 2.  His rotation goes 7 deep w/ quality (Verlander, Hamels, Peavy, Medlen, Kennedy, D. Holland, Carpenter, or Kershaw if he plays).  Should I match the starts or take the edge w/ closers?

2) Greinke, Darvish, and Gallardo are definite starts for me.  Here are my other options:

4.Marco Estrada (@WAS, vs.HOU)
5.Phil Hughes (@MIN, @TOR)
6.Mike Minor (vs.NYM, @PIT) - his 2nd start is scheduled for the last day of the reg season, presumably the Braves will have it wrapped up & he might not start or might only go 3-4 IP.
7.Ivan Nova (@TOR, vs. BOS)
8.Andy Pettitte (@MIN, @TOR)
9.Carlos Villanueva (@BAL, vs.MIN)
10.Wei-Yin Chen (vs.TOR, vs. BOS)

I'm guessing you would say Estrada and Pettitte. Who would you take 3rd, and would you take a fourth?
Yes, I do like Estrada & Pettitte. I like Minor, too. I understand your concern, but the starts are just too appealing. With the depth of his rotation (though Kershaw isn't likely to play at least), I think I'd take the closers edge if I were you.