More than half the league has the day off, as only 14 teams are action as we commence Week 18. Short slates mean two things: It’s hard to find streamers and the demand for replacement hitters is huge.
As will be discussed, one of the ways to combat the paucity of starting pitching is to pick up some middle relievers. An interesting ploy for hitting is to borrow a trick from DFS and use a couple of batters from the same team that is facing a weak pitcher. Either pair up someone currently on your club with an available batter or double-hit the free agents, since you likely have multiple open spots on your roster with so many teams not in action.
Pitchers to stream
Brent Suter (L), 23 percent ownership in ESPN leagues, Milwaukee Brewers at Minnesota Twins: To say Suter’s success is due to smoke and mirrors is unfair, as his strikeout rate is just a tick below average and his walk rate is very good. However, his 3.96 xFIP compared to his 3.04 ERA suggests there’s been some good fortune with respect to homers. To wit, Suter’s 8 percent home run-per-fly ball rate is well below league average, especially when Miller Park is factored in. The bottom line is that Suter is likely to see an ERA correction down the stretch, but as long as he maintains his current whiff and walk rates, the landing should be soft. The Twins are in the bottom five with respect to home runs versus lefties, with a good chance Miguel Sano misses his third consecutive game with a bruised hand.
JC Ramirez (R), 19 percent, Los Angeles Angels vs. Baltimore Orioles: The Orioles are incurring a huge park hit, traveling to Anaheim. Ramirez has pitched well in the second half, allowing just two homers in 37 2/3 innings since July 1. Walks are an issue, although Baltimore is one of the least-patient teams in the league.
Trevor Williams (R), 4 percent, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Detroit Tigers: The Tigers are a lower-third offense versus righties and will be without their designated hitter, playing in more of a pitcher’s park than their home digs. Williams is just an average pitcher, but if you want some innings, the matchup is favorable on paper.
Pitchers to avoid
None of the better arms are in any danger.
As alluded to in the intro, a way to grab some extra innings on a day when you likely have a couple of open pitching spots is grabbing a couple high-strikeout middle relievers, assuming there aren’t any closers available. Some of the better options with a chance to toss an inning or two on Monday are Mychal Givens, Juan Nicasio, Daniel Hudson, Jacob Barnes, Justin Wilson, Carl Edwards Jr., Joakim Soria, Brett Cecil, Pedro Strop, Kirby Yates and Blake Parker.
Projected game scores
GS is the projected game score for the pitcher. A “*” means that the pitcher lacks requisite career major league data to produce an accurate rating; these are the author’s ratings.
Chris Gimenez (R), less than 1 percent, Minnesota Twins vs. Milwaukee Brewers (LHP Brent Suter): Suter may be in a favorable spot, but a shutout isn’t likely to happen. Not only has Gimenez been playing versus southpaws lately, he’s been hitting fourth or fifth. In the event Sano is out again, there’s even more of a chance Gimenez is hitting in the meat of the order.
Luis Valbuena (L), 1 percent, Los Angeles Angels vs. Baltimore Orioles (RHP Dylan Bundy): Perhaps Bundy’s stellar effort last time is a harbinger of a solid final two months, but until that gem, he was in a major tailspin. Speaking of tailspins, Valbuena’s had a horrible beginning of August, coming off an excellent July. Still, historically, Valbuena hits righties well, so on a day with a low supply but high demand for fill-ins, you may have to settle for a less-than-optimal matchup.
Adam Frazier (L), 4 percent, Pittsburgh Pirates vs. Detroit Tigers (RHP Jordan Zimmermann): Frazier, on the other hand, has been surging. Zimmermann is one of the weaker arms on the slate. Hitting from the 2-hole, Frazier should have plenty of chances to keep it rolling.
Pablo Sandoval (B), 1 percent, San Francisco Giants vs. Chicago Cubs (RHP Jake Arrieta): Remember that note about sub-optimal lineups? Actually, while the primary purpose of this space is to identify players to help you that day, we do like to work in some other notes. So consider this as much of a note pointing out Sandoval is back than it is a recommendation. That said, he’s hit righties much better than lefties. However, also note that Arrieta has quietly gotten things in gear, sporting a 3.04 ERA and 1.07 WHIP the past two months.
Tim Beckham (R), 20 percent, Baltimore Orioles at Los Angeles Angels (RHP JC Ramirez): When Beckham was first acquired, the plan was for J.J. Hardy to reclaim his job at shortstop. Considering the former Ray started his Orioles career with 13 hits in his first 20 at-bats, including three homers and two doubles, that decision could be a bit premature.
Yangervis Solarte (B), 12 percent, San Diego Padres at Cincinnati Reds (RHP Tim Adleman): Solarte went hitless in his first three games off an extended disabled list stint, but the rust is wearing off, as he had a pair of two-hit games including a homer. Adleman was removed from the Reds’ rotation due to poor performance, but an injury to Robert Stephenson forces him back in.
Eric Sogard (L), 2 percent, Milwaukee Brewers at Minnesota Twins (RHP Ervin Santana): The pixie dust has worn off Sogard. Regression has also caught up to Santana, although the veteran righty did twirl a gem last time, albeit against the offensively challenged Padres.
Howie Kendrick (R), 14 percent, Washington Nationals vs. Miami Marlins (LHP Chris O’Grady): Kendrick was perhaps the most important deadline acquisition no one talks about. He’s hitting .419/.446/.651 over the past month, excelling against left-handed pitching.
Seth Smith (L), 1 percent, Baltimore Orioles at Los Angeles Angels (RHP JC Ramirez): Smith hasn’t taken advantage of Camden Yards as much as many thought. Even though this game is in Angels Stadium, his history versus right-handers is worth a grab.
Albert Almora Jr. (R), 2 percent, Chicago Cubs at San Francisco Giants (LHP Matt Moore): Almora’s OPS versus lefties is a hearty .961. In a season chock full of disappointing pitching, Moore has to be in the conversation for the most disappointing.
Hitter matchup ratings
Notes: Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher’s history (three years’ worth, as well as the past 21 days) and ballpark factors. “LH” and “RH” ratings account only for left- and right-handed batters, respectively. Weighted on-base average (wOBA) is the primary statistic used in the calculation. Ratings range from 1 to 10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst. So, for example, a 10 is a must-start rating, whereas a 1 should be avoided (if possible); a 1-2 is poor, 3-4 is fair, 5-6 is average, 7-8 is very good and 9-10 is excellent.