Michael Pineda, Wandy Rodriguez and Danny Salazar please their teams and fantasy owners with redeeming performances on the mound, and more in the fantasy baseball pitching report.

By Michael Beller
May 11, 2015

While this is the Pitching Report, the batters on the other side of the field are important to pitching success, as well. Let’s take a look at which lineups have been the most generous to pitchers through the first five weeks of the season.

Lowest wOBA

  1. Phillies, .272
  2. Angels, .282
  3. Pirates, .285
  4. Brewers, .289
  5. Mets, .293
  6. Rangers, .294
  7. White Sox, .297
  8. Mariners, .302
  9. Twins, .306
  10. Tie-10. Giants, Rays and Red Sox, .307

There are a few surprises on that list. No one would ever figure a team with Mike Trout would be as bad offensively as the Angels have been this season, but unfortunately he can’t hit in all nine spots. The Red Sox were supposed to surge back to the top of the AL East after adding Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval this offseason, but they’ve instead been among the most disappointing offenses in the league. Andrew McCutchen’s struggles, meanwhile, have pushed the Pirates into the bottom three in the league in wOBA.

Highest strikeout rate

  1. Cubs, 26.3%
  2. Astros, 24.4%
  3. Orioles, 22.8%
  4. Brewers, 22.4%
  5. Marlins, 22.3%
  6. Rays, 21.8%
  7. Nationals, 21.6%
  8. Rangers, 21.2%
  9. Twins, 21.1%
  10. Pirates, 21%

The Cubs offense as a whole may be much improved this year, but they’re still swinging and missing with the best of them. Same goes for the Astros, thanks to major individual contributions from Evan Gattis, Chris Carter and George Springer. The Orioles are fourth in wOBA and second in slugging percentage, but when they make outs, they frequently do it by whiffing. Take the two above statistics together, and you can make an argument that the Brewers and Rangers have had the two worst offenses in the majors this year.

It’s always helpful for fantasy owners to know which offenses pitchers can exploit, especially in weekly leagues or for streaming purposes. With more than a month of the season in the books, we can start taking these numbers at face value, as well. Keep them in mind as you set your lineups this week.

MLB Power Rankings: Cardinals, Dodgers fighting for the No. 1 spot

Pitchers of the Week

Michael Pineda, New York Yankees: 15 IP, 2 W, 22 K, 0.60 ERA, 0.80 WHIP

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This is the week Pineda and the Yankees have been anticipating for three years. Pineda’s entire career in New York has been beset by injury, but he’s finally putting all of that in the rear-view mirror. He drove that home with two dominant performances in the last seven days. Pineda started his week by tossing eight shutout innings against the Blue Jays, allowing five hits and one walk while striking out six. That was all prelude to Sunday, however. Pineda set a career high by striking out 16 Orioles in seven innings, becoming the first pitcher to fan at least 16 batters in a start since Anibal Sanchez did so in April 2013. The 26-year-old Pineda is now 5-0 with a 2.72 ERA, 2.18 xFIP, 1.01 WHIP and 54 strikeouts against just three walks in 46 1/3 innings this year. What’s most encouraging is that he isn’t doing it with overwhelming power. In fact, he hasn’t thrown one four-seam fastball this year. Instead, he’s relying on a cutter-slider-change combo that is slowly becoming the envy of the league.

Wandy Rodriguez, Texas Rangers: 14 IP, 1 W, 14 K, 1.29 ERA, 0.50 WHIP

Apparently it’s redemption week in the Pitching Report. Rodriguez appeared to be on his way out of baseball before this season. Injuries had limited him to 18 starts over the last two seasons, and when he was healthy enough to get on the mound he was a shell of his former self. The Rangers threw a one-year deal at him just months after a failed physical cost him a contract with the Phillies. At this point, it’s safe to say the Rangers are happy he failed that physical. Rodriguez shined in starts against Houston and Tampa Bay last week. He held the hot-hitting Astros to one run on three hits in eight innings, striking out eight in his first win of the season. He took a no-decision against the Rays, but again allowed just one run, this time on two hits, and fanned six more batters. This isn’t going to last forever, especially while he’s getting just a 9.2-percent whiff rate on his curveball, which has always been his best pitch. At this point, though, owners in deeper mixed leagues should be wiling to trust him on their roster.

Danny Salazar, Cleveland Indians: 14 IP, 1 W, 20 K, 3.21 ERA, 0.43 WHIP

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Yep, with Salazar rounding out our Pitchers of the Week, it’s definitely redemption week around here. Salazar didn’t completely shut down both of his opponents last week the way Pineda and Rodriguez did, allowing four runs in seven innings in a loss to the Royals. He did, however, miss a ton of bats, and that counts for a whole lot in fantasy leagues. Salazar fanned nine batters in that game, giving his fantasy owners a useful start even as he surrendered four runs. He then struck out 11 batters while allowing just one hit—a leadoff homer by Brian Dozier—in a win over the Twins on Sunday. Salazar has whiffed at least seven batters in all five starts this year, and has double-digit strikeouts in three of them. The homers are a slight worry, but you can live with a ball leaving the park every now and again when a pitcher has 48 strikeouts and just five walks in 33 innings.

Gene J. Puskar/AP

Pitchers of the Weak

Carlos Martinez, St. Louis Cardinals: 9 IP, 11 K, 14.00 ERA, 2.67 WHIP

Martinez made two starts last week. In both of those starts he allowed seven earned runs. He also dealt with a total of 24 baserunners, eight of which were walks. If something is going to undermine Martinez during his first season in the St. Louis rotation, it’s his control. He has now issued 18 non-intentional walks in 35 innings this year, and his walk rate is up at 12%. He does have a strikeout per inning, and his 11 whiffs last week should not have gone unnoticed by his fantasy owners. Still, no pitcher can succeed when they’re walking one batter every other inning. Martinez undoubtedly has a filthy changeup, but he’s throwing it for a ball more than 45% of the time this season. It’s a pitch designed to miss the strike zone frequently, but he has to be able to command it for a called strike, as well, if it’s going to be an effective weapon.

Julio Teheran, Atlanta Braves: 5 IP, 6 K, 10.80 ERA, 2.60 WHIP

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Teheran hasn’t been right all season, and that point was driven home in his start against the Nationals on Saturday. He allowed 10 hits and walked three batters in five innings, surrendering six runs in his brief outing. His offense got him off the hook, though the Nationals would go on to win thanks to walkoff homer by Bryce Harper. Teheran hasn’t gone longer than six innings in any of his seven starts this year, and has only made it that far three times. Free passes have never been an issue for him in his career, but his walk rate is up to 10% this season, after sitting at 5.8% in both 2014 and 2013. At the same time, his strikeout rate is down to 20%, which would represent a career low. Fantasy owners should not assume a turnaround is in the offing.

Anibal Sanchez, Detroit Tigers: 6 IP, 2 K, 7.50 ERA, 2.00 WHIP

It didn’t take the Royals any time to get to Sanchez on Saturday. Alcides Escobar led off the game with a home run, and Eric Hosmer added an RBI double two batters later. They plated two more runs in the second inning, with Escobar and Hosmer again doing the honors. Sanchez didn’t have a scoreless inning until the fifth, and by then the Royals had built themselves a five-run lead. All told, Sanchez allowed five earned runs on nine hits and three walks while striking out just two batters. It has been an up-and-down season for Sanchez, but there have been more valleys than peaks, and he has yet to have a truly dominant outing. He’ll next take the ball against the Twins on Thursday.


Buy, sell or hold

Buy: Stephen Strasburg, Washington Nationals

This all depends on how much risk you’re comfortable taking. Strasburg is set to start for the Nationals on Tuesday, and the team is insisting that everything is all rainbows and gumdrops with the star right hander, there’s always reason for a concern when a player with an injury history like his has any sort of discomfort in or near his pitching arm. You have to go into any trade negotiation for Strasburg with eyes wide open. At the same time, given this injury scare and his struggles, his value will likely never be at a lower point than it is right now. We all know that Strasbug is a fantasy ace and one of the five best pitchers in the league when he is at the top of his game. We’re more than a month into this season. His owner could be jumpy or toward the bottom of your league, especially given that he had to use one of his first picks on Strasburg. His owner could very well be jumpy and near the bottom of the standings. If you’re willing to roll the dice and bet on Strasburg’s health, now is a great time to try to buy him at a low price.

Sell: Dallas Keuchel, Houston Astros

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The very idea of even thinking about placing Keuchel on the trading block may be anathema to his owners. It’s also quite prudent, given his production this year and the manner in which he is finding success. First and foremost, we know Keuchel isn’t going to get many strikeouts. He had an 18.1% strikeout rate last season, and while he’s up to 19.1% this year, that doesn’t move the needle very much. That alone puts a limit on his fantasy value. Keuchel induces plenty of soft contact, he’s an extreme-ground ball pitcher, and he doesn’t beat himself with walks. Those are all great traits that make him a very good real-life pitcher. That he surrenders so few fly balls will naturally keep the ball in the park. Having said all that, his owners have to realize that he has a .199 BABIP and 84.5% strand rate, neither of which can sustain for an entire season. Keuchel could see the BABIP increase by 100 points and the strand rate come down by 10 percentage points and still be among the best pitchers in the majors. If and when that happens, however, his rates will go up, and that’s where he has turned a profit for his fantasy owners. This is the time to cash in on Keuchel’s monster performance in the first five weeks of the season.

Hold: Tyson Ross, San Diego Padres

Ross is walking too many batters. There’s no way around that. He has 23 non-intentional walks in 40 2/3 innings this year, good for a touch more than five per nine innings. His walk rate is an absurdly high 12.6%. He also has 48 strikeouts, a 26.4% strikeout rate and a 12.3% whiff rate, while allowing just three homers. In other words, it hasn’t been all bad. Ross is getting 60% of his balls in play on the ground, and his slider remains among the most effective breaking pitches in the league. If he can just cut his walk rate back, even to last year’s 8.9%, he’ll be pitching like a top-20 starter. Even with all the walks, he has a 3.34 xFIP. Don’t feel like you need to sell out on Ross.

Prospect Watch

Aaron Nola, Philadelphia Phillies

It’s going to be an ugly year in Philadelphia. The Phillies are 11-21, and already face the second-largest division deficit of any team in the majors (only the Brewers are further out of first place). Any hope for optimism in the future rests on the 21-year-old shoulders of Nola, the team’s top pitching prospect. Specifically, the hope rests on his right shoulder, which unleashes a three-pitch arsenal. Nola features a fastball in the low-90s, and a slider and changeup that have both proven capable of getting hitters to swing and miss.

Nola started the year with Double-A Reading, where he is 4-2 with a 2.04 ERA, 3.13 FIP and 0.83 WHIP in 39 2/3 innings. He fanned a career-high eight batters in his last start, and has been nearly unhittable for Double-A competition since allowing four runs in his first start of the year. In the five outings since, he has allowed just four runs total on 24 hits, striking out 27 in 35 innings. Nola spent three years at LSU, and was considered the most advanced pitching prospect in the 2014 amateur draft. Given that, as well as the success he has had this season, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him with the Phillies later in the year. They definitely won’t call him up before the Super Two deadline, but if he continues to throw the ball this well, we could see him in Philadelphia at some point this summer. Keep an eye on his development in the minors and be ready to pounce if and when the Phillies bring him up to the majors.

GIF of the Week

If not for Garrett Richards’ knee injury, the Angels may have gone a whole lot deeper in last year’s playoffs. Richards is back at the top of the Angels’ rotation this year, and had his best start of the season over the weekend, taking a no-hitter into the seventh and striking out 10 Astros while allowing one run. Below, he makes Chris Carter look silly with a devilish slider.

Two-start pitchers

  1. Max Scherzer
  2. Gerrit Cole
  3. Jake Arrieta
  4. Zack Greinke
  5. Jacob deGrom
  6. Carlos Carrasco
  7. Chris Archer
  8. Stephen Strasburg
  9. Lance Lynn
  10. Scott Kazmir
  11. Collin McHugh
  12. Jon Lester
  13. A.J. Burnett
  14. Shelby Miller
  15. Ian Kennedy
  16. Jeff Samardzija
  17. Dan Haren
  18. Ubaldo Jimenez
  19. Noah Syndergaard
  20. Mike Leake
  21. Edinson Volquez
  22. Danny Duffy
  23. Alex Colome
  24. James Paxton
  25. CC Sabathia
  26. Wily Peralta
  27. Josh Collmenter
  28. Nathan Eovaldi
  29. Nick Martinez
  30. Chris Heston
  31. Mark Buehrle
  32. Carlos Frias
  33. Rick Porcello
  34. Alfredo Simon
  35. Colby Lewis
  36. Tom Koehler
  37. Kyle Gibson
  38. Sean O’Sullivan
  39. Justin Masterson
  40. Marco Estrada
  41. Jerome Williams
  42. Kyle Kendrick

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