We’re officially into September now, which means the fantasy baseball playoffs have finally arrived. If you did well enough this season to make it to the postseason, congratulations! However, don’t spend too much time celebrating because now is when the real work begins, as every seemingly insignificant decision you make could make or break your entire season. Just one of your pitchers blowing up could be all it takes to knock your team out of the running, so it’s incredibly important to make sure you are confident in everyone on your staff. Therefore, in this week’s edition of Patience or Panic, we’re going to take a look at three struggling pitchers to figure out whether or not you should be starting them when the stakes are highest.
Jose Berrios (SP, Minnesota Twins) – 11-7, 3.57 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 163 K, 169 IP
After pitching to a fantastic 2.80 ERA through the end of July, Jose Berrios has somewhat fallen apart in the last month. In that time, he has made five starts, posting a hideous 7.57 ERA while allowing 51 base runners. In this time, batters are making hard contact 41.4% of the time, compared to just 35.3% throughout the first half of the season. Berrios is also struggling to keep the ball on the ground, as his ground ball rate has dipped from 47.5% to 39.1% just from July to August. The fact that batters are hitting the ball harder and in the air more has led to him allowing six home runs during this recent five-game skid. Possibly the biggest concern here is that his velocity has been down and there are no signs of this being corrected before the season is over. His 93.4 mph average fastball this season is the slowest of his career, and has certainly played a key factor in his strikeout rate regressing from 25.4% last season to 22.9% this year. Aside from that, Berrios doesn’t exactly have the friendliest postseason schedule, as he faces the Red Sox high-powered offense tonight at Fenway, followed by starts against the Nationals and Indians next week. Between this difficult schedule, his velocity problems, and his recent string of blow ups, this is not a guy I want pitching for me in the playoffs.
Caleb Smith (SP, Miami Marlins) – 8-9, 4.30 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 148 K, 127.2 IP
After what was looking like a strong breakout season for Caleb Smith, he has been roughed up of late, allowing five or more earned runs in four of his last five starts. A number of comparisons to Chris Paddack‘s recent collapse have been made recently, with both young pitchers seemingly running out of gas as the season nears an end. I had initially felt this was an entirely different situation, but after his most recent implosion against the Nationals, perhaps he won’t find his early season form until the 2020 season begins. Over the course of the second half of the year, his K/9 has dropped dramatically, falling from 11 to 9.7. He is also giving up fly balls 55% of the time, and 12 of them have left the park in his last seven starts. Batters seem to have no trouble squaring the ball up against him either, as his 11.1% barrel rate allowed is in the bottom 5% of the league. While his next matchup at home against the Royals is just about as good as it gets, his next start would come against the Brewers, followed by a pair of road starts, where his ERA has been a full point worse this season compared to pitching at home. Offering minimal opportunities for wins as a pitcher for the Marlins, the risk here is much greater than the potential reward.
Alex Wood (SP, Cincinnati Reds) – 1-3, 5.80 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 30 K, 35.2 IP
After missing the first several months of the 2019 season recovering from a back injury, Alex Wood was a popular stash or waiver wire addition upon his return. Since his return however, just two of his seven outings have gone for quality starts, while batters have hit .291 against him. His velocity on all of his pitches have been down this season, while his 19.6% strikeout rate is his lowest since 2015. Batters are simply punishing him at the plate, crushing a whopping 11 homers against Wood in his 35.2 innings of work. Their barrel rate against him currently sits at 9.7%, twice as high as his career average, while their 87.8 mph exit velocity against him is also the worst of his career. On top of that, he was scratched from his start yesterday with more back issues. Having been on the shelf for so long with the same injury, and the Reds firmly out of playoff contention, it is entirely possible that Wood is shut down for the remainder of the season. Even if not, he would be coming back at likely less than 100%, still trying to find his form from previous seasons. The middle of the fantasy playoffs is no time to be gambling on a pitcher in hopes that he has his first truly strong outing of the entire year. He should be nowhere near your fantasy team for the remainder of the 2019 season.
(Photo by Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire)