There is a statistical jungle in baseball, filled with so many numbers it’s easy to get lost. You’re a busy person – there’s no time for you as a fantasy owner to go out and discover the statistical gold. That’s where I come in. Every week, I’ll be out there for you, looking through stats and information databases to find the three starting pitcher matchups that stand out from the rest. They won’t always be the best pitchers and won’t always be streamers, but these are my “Matchups of the Week.”
I swear, Mike Fiers is like the ex-girlfriend that you want to forget, but you always come back to her eventually. This will be my fourth time recommending this guy in the short time I’ve been writing this column and every time I select him, I’m always cautious of a possible implosion. Home runs and walks have always been a big deal to Fiers since he can only reach the low 90s on his Fastball and when he can’t locate, everything seems to go wrong. I feel dirty liking a pitcher with that makeup. But like always, I fall in love with the strikeouts as he ranks ninth in the NL in K/9 with a 9.32 rate. Many have been hopping on the Fiers bandwagon because of his ability to strike out and an excellent WHIP, but he never really has lived up to the hype. I could be the only one left on the bandwagon, but I will always be intrigued with this guy. This week, he gets to face a Giants team that 20th in the league in home runs hit and Fiers will get to pitch in pitcher haven AT&T Park. They don’t strike out a bunch, but the other factors of not possessing pop and pitching in San Francisco limits the potential to blow up with the longball. It’s not going to be a game where Fiers will strike out ten Giants, but it could be one where he lasts into the 7th and provides a solid start.
Joe Ross is way ahead of pace for a 22 year old starting pitcher. Before this season, Ross was acquired in the Wil Myers–Steven Souza deal when he was considered a great grab for the Nationals and all he has done was exceed expectations. Ranked 8th in the Nationals’ prospect rankings according to Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel, Ross has simply dominated in the nations’s capital. The young right-hander started the year in AA and was phenomenal, striking out more than a batter an inning in nine starts. He was promoted to AAA and pitched well in a small sample size, earning a big league promotion when Doug Fister went down with an injury. And oh man has Ross been great in his five starts as a big leaguer. He has put up the more WAR than Trevor Bauer, James Shields, and Anibal Sanchez all while having 80-100 innings fewer than those three. Ross gets the job done with two pitch mix of a Sinker and Slider that has left hitters shaking their heads. While the strikeouts may be a little more of a fluke because of the groundballs his Sinker generates, Ross has shown the ability to display outstanding command in almost every level he faces. Case in point, across his first five starts, Joe has issued only three free passes. The best part of the whole package is that he is lined up with a faceoff against the the Mets this week. While Ross was handed a loss when he faced New York a week ago, he was unlucky and possessed a WHIP of 0.63. He gets to feast on them again this week and should be an excellent option for owners this week and in the future.
Call this one more of a hunch, but I believe that there can be some value found in this atypical matchup. There’s no getting around it, without Mike Bolsinger in the Dodgers rotation, they would be nowhere near as good as they are today. Once thought of as the deepest rotations in the league, the Dodgers got hit by the injury bug as it sent pitcher after pitcher to the DL and soon trotting out players such as Carlos Frias and Bolsinger, but the 6’2” righty has become one of the most reliable options for the Dodgers and streamers alike. What makes Bolsinger so different that other pitchers is he doesn’t have a fastball that he relies upon; he is the definition of a junkballer. However, this was not always the case as last year in Arizona Bolsinger threw his fastball 27% of the time – a number which he has lowered this year to under 7% usage which is smart as it only averages 87 MPH. In it’s place, Bolsinger has relied on his Cutter while mixing in more of his Curveball and he started to throw a Slider that has propelled him to success. In his fifteen starts, his ERA and FIP are essentially the same at 2.79 while posting about a league average BABIP. The only arguably unsustainable stat would be a HR/9 0.32 (three homeruns in 84 innings), but that can be attributed to his junkballing ways of keeping hitters off balance. What I find intriguing about this matchup is it seems as if teams that face Bolsinger for the very first time struggle facing him. All these batters want the right-hander to throw something straight, but Bolsinger refuses to give in. The Los Angeles Angels have never faced the Dodger righty and lose the benefit of a DH since this game will be played in Dodger Stadium. If Bolsinger can get through the two-headed monster of Trout and Pujols, there could be some great value in this match.