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 two 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.”
Jimmy Nelson (#77 on The List) vs. San Diego Padres (Tuesday August 4th)
Now that Mike Fiers has been traded to the Houston Astros, I naturally have to find the next Milwaukee starting pitcher that I have irrational love for. I’ll admit it, I was also a fan of Nelson at the beginning of the year and acquired him in my draft for cheap. I thought there was a chance that he could be a solid back of the fantasy rotation starter and contribute because of what he did last year at AAA and in his 12 starts in the majors. Of course Nelson couldn’t keep up his AAA stat line when he was leaving over 80% of runners left on base and a BABIP of .241, but he performed way worse than expected in Majors with a BABIP of .344 so I was buying on the hype that we’d find a happy medium. To be honest, I think we have reached that medium with Nelson and it’s not that exciting. However, the types of pitchers that we highlight here are not always perfect pitchers and they have their flaws, but it’s about finding hidden value and Nelson may have that right now. In the right-hander’s last 4 starts, he’s posted an ERA below 1.00 while striking a batter and inning. Yes, the walks were still there and that will be a problem with Nelson, but it’s hard to argue with the results in his last few starts. You could point to the fact that he hasn’t faced any good teams in his last four starts and I would agree for the most part, but he did also shut down a Dodger’s offense that has posted a wRC+ against right-handed pitchers of 112. Is this a new Nelson that we’re finally seeing? No, I don’t think this more than a little hot streak, but you can always try to find some short term value in hot streaks and Nelson is the perfect guy to buy in to for the short term.
Jake Odorizzi (#33) vs. New York Mets (Friday August 7th)
For some reason, Odorizzi and his other Rays teammates have flown under my radar for the entire season. Maybe it’s because I’m located on the other side of the country and don’t catch their games as often, but I am now recognizing the fact that I probably should have found Odorizzi much sooner than I have. Probably the most interesting fact that I have found on Odorizzi on his success this season is he’s increased his GB rate by 11%. So the first thing I do is to check if there has been any change in a pitcher’s repertoire and sure enough there is. Always a Fastball-Splitter pitcher, Odorizzi has dropped the usage of his Fastball and started to throw his Cutter, Splitter, and Sinker more often resulting in more groundballs. It’s an obvious change in pitch selection and one that could be considered a good change. The question is if this is really a new Odorizzi or just a long term hot streak for the season so let’s take a look at his BABIP. Right now, he’s at .269 which would be a career low for him even while looking at minor league stats, but that number might not mean regression is coming because Tampa Bay is considered the second best defending team in baseball behind the Royals an would deflate BABIP for their pitcher. Ok, let’s move onto FIP. Odorizzi’s ERA stands at 2.86 and his FIP is at 3.28, pretty good numbers for a pitcher if we’re trying to determine if he has staying power. His xFIP stands at 3.82, but because Odorizzi is generating more groundballs this year with a new arsenal, we can’t really determine if he will give up more HRs without seeing for a longer period of time. If you want to look at projections, they all are fairly negative of the Rays right-hander, but no projection system can take into account the adjustments that a pitcher has made to his mechanics or pitch selection. So, all of these numbers point to positive signs or we’ll have to wait and see, but I’m seeing that there is potential that Odorizzi can be a really good pitcher. So far in 17 starts, Odorizzi has posted a fWAR of 2.0 and I fully believe he can reach 3.0 by the end of the year which would place him in the upper half of the pitching leaderboards. He gets the Mets this week, but I’d feel confidant in him every week.