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.”
For every Mike Fiers that I fall in love with who can’t reach 90 MPH, there are always side pitchers who are easy to enjoy because they possess outstanding stuff. They have great pitches, but they don’t have everything put together and make themselves less attractive options than they should be. Example number one would be Kevin Gausman. If I told you a pitcher possessed a Fastball at 97 MPH and a Split-Change at 84 MPH with 7 inches of arm-side run, you’d be all over that if you look on just the surface. But when you dig deeper and try to know the “personality” of him, you see the flaws pretty easily. Gausman hasn’t had a defined role in the rotation until recently, which is surprising since he started 20 games for the Orioles last year and thus has only started in 7 games in the majors this year. He also falls in love with his Fastball way too much and when he does throw it, he doesn’t attack the high part of the zone even though he possesses one with great vertical “rise”. And as a result, he doesn’t get as many groundballs which could be taken care of by the excellent Orioles infield defense. But, you always have to come back to the pure stuff of the pitcher. Gausman has some of the filthiest pitches that I’ve seen and I do believe he will turn into a great pitcher one day, however, it may come on another team. The biggest key for the young Oriole is to change his usage of pitches and actually get a defined role on the team from the onset of the season. If the Orioles can’t do this, I have confidence another team would be more than happy to do that for Gausman. He faces the Mariners this week in spacious Safeco Field and should benefit from facing a light hitting AL West team.
Jose Quintana (#38) vs. Chicago Cubs (Saturday August 15th)
Jose Quintana may be one of my favorite unheralded pitchers in the league. No one talks about him at all outside of Chicago and yet, he’s been one of the most effective pitchers in the last three seasons. Starting in 2013, when he had his first full season in the rotation of the White Sox at 24 years old, Quintana has posted 11.7 fWAR that would rank him at number 10 out of every starting pitcher. He’s right smack in between Zack Greinke and Jordan Zimmermann and above such names as Cole Hamels, Madison Bumgarner (playoffs not included), and Stephen Strasburg. He’s been excellent at such a young age and the White Sox were very smart and signed the southpaw to a $41.4 million dollar contract over the next 7 years. They made out with a bargain considering the names that Quintana is right around or bested. And what’s so beautiful about is he does it in a hitter’s ballpark, he only throws 92 MPH on his Fastball, and he’s already evolved into another version of himself by relying less on his Fastball and throwing his Sinker more often which has increased his GB% as well. His surface stats may not look as good, but I would chalk that up to his BABIP which is over .330 and partially pumped up because the White Sox are the worst defensive team in baseball. If Quintana was throwing with semi-decent fielders out there, he would be one of the best pitchers in the game and recognized for that. But when there is less buzz, it means we can grab him off waivers if he is available and expect a better start than most other waiver wire finds.
John Lackey (#53) vs. Miami Marlins (Saturday August 12th)
11 straight quality starts. That fact is freaking awesome. Even better than that, he now holds the longest active streak in the major leagues since Clayton Kershaw lost his this past weekend. 11 straight starts! He has gone at least 6 innings and given up fewer than 3 runs in every start since mid-June. Now for the bad news: I have no confidence in him to keep this up for the rest of the season. Lackey’s FIP is significantly higher than his ERA and his xFIP is at 4.00. Not the greatest signs of continued dominance. What really has made Lackey so great this year is he’s stranding baserunners at an 80% rate, tenth highest in major leagues (Also in that top 10, Carlos Martinez and Lance Lynn. How are you doing it Cardinals?). It’s essentially tied as the highest mark in his career. Now for the good news: He’s posting his second lowest WHIP of his career at 1.18 and he’s been one of the best pitchers at home where he has a 1.89 ERA. Well, he’s lucky enough to be playing a punchless Marlins team this week at home and should be a good bet for Lackey to continue his quality start streak. He may not keep this up for the entire season, but if you have had him all this year, he’s been a great bargain for both the Cardinals and you.