2023 SABR Analytics Conference Research Awards: Voting Open Now!

Every Friday I’ll be previewing the hurlers scheduled for two starts in the upcoming week. Hopefully that will give enough insight to make educated lineup moves and FAAB decisions over the weekend. As the old wrestling promoters would always say “Card Subject to Change," because lots can happen between the time this goes up and first pitch. Unfortunately, weather, injuries, and tinkering managers make this less than a science. I’ll do my best, though, and should new information present itself after this posts, we can go over it in the comments. We’ll crowdsource this as well, so if you hear anything, feel free to comment and we all can offer our takes, hot or not.

Here’s how this works. The pitchers will be split by league using these categories:

Auto-Starts: These are your aces, your studs, and your guiding lights. You paid big to acquire these guys, whether via early draft pick, high-dollar auction bid, or hefty trade package. You’re likely starting these guys anywhere, anytime, on a train, and on a plane. You get it. The list is fluid, and guys can pitch their way into or out of this category. You know all about these guys, so there won’t be as many notes associated with this group.

Starts: As the name suggests, this group won’t quite be as much of a slam-dunk decision, but I’m still recommending you give them the ball. Some will still be easy decisions due to pedigree, but others will be based mostly on favorable matchups that you can take advantage of.

Considers: This category will be populated by guys that are really 'tweeners, and your league settings and position in the standings will be a key factor in your ultimate decision. These pitchers can range from an SP2 or SP3 with a week of tough matchups to No. 5 starters pitching against bad teams in good ballparks. Your league context will be important here; if you are in a shallow mixed league, you probably have better options, and don’t need to take the risk. However, in an AL- or NL-only league, these guys could provide a nice opportunity to log some innings at a cheaper price.

Sits: These are the guys I want no part of this week. This group will run the gamut from mid-rotation starters with tough matchups (or trips to Coors Field), to just flat-out uninspiring options.

At this point of the season, the majority of these recommendations will be based on a combination of ADP/auction price and PECOTA projections for opponent strength. As the season progresses and we get more concrete data points for how the pitchers themselves and their opponents are actually performing, the formula will gradually evolve into a performance-based projection.

National League


Bumgarner is 0-3, drop him. Kidding. He’s matchup-proof at this point, but he’s an especially tasty option against a Dodgers lineup that struggles with lefties, and the—ahem—Padres. Normally it’s wise to treat starters heading into Coors Field with kid gloves, but Strasburg is one of your studs, so you’re starting him.

As for Kershaw…*singing* AND I-I-I-I-I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU. That’s all.


Amir Garrett


Zack Greinke


Robert Gsellman


Julio Teheran


Through three starts, Garrett was solid. Then he decided it would be cool to not let the other team make contact, striking out 12 Orioles in his most-recent start, with 19 swinging strikes. He did so by increasing his slider usage, giving him a more balanced three-pitch mix. Sure the Orioles strike out a lot, but he’ll face two of the top 10 most strikeout-prone lineups this week, so why not ride the hot hand?

Greinke is still learning to live with diminished velocity, but starts like his most-recent bout with the Padres (six strikeouts, 13 swinging strikes in eight innings) should help push him back toward ace-level status. Despite a couple of rocky starts early, Greinke’s 2.91 DRA indicate that better times could be ahead.

Apparently all it took was a start against the Phillies to cleanse the pitching palate. Gsellman looked like the guy we thought he could be against the Phils, striking out seven while surrendering only one walk in seven innings. His strikeout numbers have been good, even with his struggles, so if he can find a way to limit walks and homers, he should be back in our good graces for a long time.

Teheran doesn’t have to face Bryce Harper this week. That alone is a reason to start the 26-year-old Colombian with confidence.


Matt Cain


Wei-Yin Chen


Patrick Corbin


Chad Kuhl


Joe Ross


Hyun-Jin Ryu


Vincent Velasquez


Michael Wacha


Despite the fact that Cain hasn’t been good since the beginning of Obama’s second term, he’s getting a start against the Padres in AT&T Park. This is strictly a matchup play.

Chen had a year from hell in 2016, and is slowly working back to his Orioles form. The strikeouts haven’t come back yet (although they were always slightly below average), but he did toss seven no-hit innings against the Mariners his previous time out. So that’s good. The Phillies and Pirates both somewhat struggle against lefties, making Chen a sneaky good play this week.

So far this season, Chad Kuhl has managed to keep his (don’t say it, don’t say it, don’t say it) wits about him en route to 2.60 ERA in three starts. His strikeout numbers aren’t dazzling, but he still gets swinging strikes, and outside of a rocky six-walk performance in his first start, he has nicely avoided the free passes as well.

Outside of a very rocky first inning, Ross looked great in his first big league start against the Braves. I’m not thrilled to have him going to Coors Field to follow up, but if he can survive, he will be pushing the “Start” category for the foreseeable future.

In his last start against the Mets, it appeared as though Velasquez sacrificed some of his strikeout potential for a little more contact and the chance to pitch deeper into the game. He managed to grind out six innings, but only fanned two, with a paltry four swinging strikes. The key for the 24-year-old will be finding a balance.

I’m interested in Wacha’s matchups this week, and he’s been pretty good early this season. Let’s hope he can stay healthy.


Brett Anderson


Tyler Anderson


Jhoulys Chacin


Matt Garza


Clayton Richard


Chris Rusin


Brett Anderson has been healthy, which is the most the Cubs could have hoped for, but he will face two pretty tough matchups this week.

I’m about as big of a Tyler Anderson mark as there is. It hasn’t gone super well, thanks for asking. The lefty has really struggled so far this season, and he’s got more daunting matchups this week. Ugh.

Don’t go Chacin Padre pitchers, Please don’t pick the Richard or the lakes that you’re used to.

Garza is slated to make his first two starts of the season this week. I am not overly excited about it.

Previously a fixture in the Rockies’ bullpen, Rusin will get a couple of spot starts this week. The matchups aren’t great, but the lefty has extreme ground-ball tendencies, which could help make him an interesting option in deep leagues moving forward.

American League


Chris Archer


Dallas Keuchel


Once again, Archer is pitching really well. Once again, Archer’s DRA is much better than his ERA. This guy might be my favorite pitcher to watch.

Yes it’s probably too early to say, but it sure appears as though 2015 Keuchel is back. He hasn’t quite matched even last season’s strikeout rates yet, but he has a 0.96 ERA, a 0.79 DRA, and a 73 (!) percent ground-ball rate. That helps. Even if he’s not 2015 Keuchel, he’s close enough.


Marco Estrada


Felix Hernandez


Rick Porcello


Jason Vargas


At a certain point, we’re all just going to have to accept that Estrada has an inexplicable knack for out-pitching his peripherals (it’s going to be difficult, be we can support each other). Known for a nasty changeup that generates tons of whiffs, Estrada is even getting a little more swing-and-miss on his four seamer this season, which has led to a slight uptick in strikeout totals.

I’m not quite ready to proclaim that The King is back, but Hernandez is at least doing his best King Felix impersonation to start the season. He’s doing by inducing super-weak contact and running a 20:1 strikeout to walk rate. I don’t know if Hernandez will get back to “Auto-Start” territory, but after a tough 2016, he’s trending in the right direction.

I’m not scared off by Porcello’s rocky start to 2017. I’m a little scared by his matchups against the Yankees and Cubs, however.

As Eric Roseberry wrote earlier this week, Vargas has been surprisingly not terrible this year. In his first full season back from Tommy John surgery, he’s been, um, awesome in his first three starts. He has jumped on the “Throw Your Best Pitches More Often” trend, and has ridden an excellent changeup to eye-popping, albeit small sample, numbers. He’s getting two optimal matchups this week.


Kendall Graveman


Francisco Liriano


Luis Severino


Jordan Zimmermann


Graveman added a tick to his fastball and is now throwing a sinker that touches 97 mph. Color me intrigued. The A’s placed him on the 10-day DL with a shoulder strain after his previous start, but barring a setback, he’s still penciled in for two starts this week.

I mean, what do you do with Francisco Liriano? Seriously, I’m asking you. He’s frustrating, sure, but I liked him heading into the season and I’m too stubborn to turn back now. Let’s do this.

There are still rumblings as to whether Severino can stay in the rotation long term, but he’s been downright filthy so far in 2017, striking out 27 batters in 20 innings. He garnered 17 swinging strikes in his last start against the White Sox, and despite a somewhat inflated 4.05 ERA, his 0.47 DRA is breathtaking.

Zimmermann hasn’t been very good in his first three starts. His strikeout numbers have dipped to a Jered Weaver-ian level, and now he’s giving up almost four walks per nine innings. That’s not a great combo. His matchups this week are at least interesting, and despite his poor performance, Zimmermann could be used in a pinch.


Josh Tomlin


Miguel Gonzalez


Ubaldo Jimenez


Phil Hughes


Ricky Nolasco


Martin Perez


J.C. Ramirez


Tomlin will go through stretches where he feels usable (and he works super fast, so that’s fun), but ultimately he just gives up too many dingers to feel comfortable starting regularly.

Gonzalez has been pretty decent with a 2.84 ERA through three starts. That might not tell the full story (not to mention it’s a pretty small sample). His 4.36 DRA and inflated WHIP numbers paint a picture that looks awful foreboding. And we all know that a picture is worth a thousand words. Or something.

No thanks, Ubaldo. You’re not fooling me with that start against the Reds.

Ramirez has performed his role as a swingman fairly admirably thus far this season. Even so, I’m probably not starting him this week.

Thank you for reading

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Aren't Matt Shoemaker OAK, @TEX and Jesse Hahn @LAA, @HOU set up for 2 starts?
It looks like they're tossing Ramirez in there so Shoemaker wouldn't start again until Wednesday 4/26. That'd line him up for 2 starts next week, though.

For Hahn, it will depend on what they do with Graveman. I heard he's coming back, which would push Hahn by a day. If Hahn makes those starts, I'd have him in the same category. I'm definitely intrigued so far.
Thank you; actually I have Graveman, so I should have known that. Sit which two?: Hahn @LAA, Shoemaker OAK (against each other?) Colon @NYM, Skaggs OAK...or Graveman?
I'd probably go Shoemaker, Skaggs, Hahn and then sit Graveman and Bartolo (unless your league has points for sexiness).

I like Graveman, but relying on him is assuming everything goes according to plan with his DL return.
Much appreciated!
The Waterfalls reference: So horrible, so delightfully wonderful.
Feels like the perfect description there.
CBS has Wade Miley pitching Tues, Sun.
cFIP: 80
dra: 0.95
Would you start him?
Do they have a makeup game on Thursday? I can't seem to find how he'd have two starts. I think home for TB and @NYY would be tougher matchups for him, though. He's been a surprise, but I'm not sold that he's a different guy. I'd look elsewhere if possible.
CBS believes that someone else in the rotation will get skipped - or they made a mistake.

Thanks for the feedback. Or pitchers are OK, but that dra/cfip looked enticing. His BB-Rate is 15.2% which is high.
Gotcha, ok that would make a little more sense. Yeah, those numbers are interesting at least, but I'm not sure what's different just yet. I'm probably staying away, but reserve the right to be pleasantly surprised when I'm wrong.
I'm guessing Bumgarner is no longer an Auto-Start, right?
Yep, I think that's a safe assumption. Bummer.
"Drop Bumgarner" was at first LOL funny and is now eerily prescient. Well done, Mark. My fantasy team hates you. (What can go wrong drafting Bumgarner? He never gets injured.)

Since you now owe me one, is Gsellman a good replacement pickup?
Man, I kinda forgot I wrote that. Brutal.

I like Gsellman and think his last start was encouraging, even though it came against the Phillies. I know our prospect guys are really high on him too. As always, it depends who is on the wire, but I think you could definitely do worse than Gsellman.
Not much out there. The Usual Suspect guys like Chase Anderson, Hector Santiago, Wade Miley, Jimmy Nelson, Patrick Corbin. Eduardo Rodriguez and Jaime Garcia are moderately interesting.

Sad to say but part of my decision hinges on the Mets getting to play a lot more games against that Phillie lineup.
Yeah i agree with you that Gsellman is probably your best bet. Some of those guys are interesting, but they're more of the streaming variety.