The tough road ahead for some starters could be less from the opponents they face, and more from the disruptions to the 2020 schedule.
Due to the situation facing the Marlins and MLB’s East, many teams have an unpredictable schedule moving forward. Some pitchers, like Gerrit Cole, could be out of a standard five-day cycle for a while. With further disruptions in the Central, a similar fate could fall upon more starting pitchers: the Cardinals have been told to self-isolate, and their next two games with the Brewers have been postponed.
Based on what we know from 2019 trends and brief 2020 action, several pitchers are still looking at a good and poor schedule ahead. Here’s the weekly breakdown, starting with the good ones:
Luis Castillo (Cincinnati Reds)
Castillo showed put-away stuff in his last start: he struck out 11 over six innings. He faces the Tigers this evening, and they have the highest strikeout percentage in the league (32.3%).
He looks ahead to the Indians after today, a team ranking 19th in wOBA so far but a team some predict near the top of the AL Central. He looks further to the Royals after that, and their strikeout rate is high (26.2%).
German Marquez (Colorado Rockies)
In two starts, Marquez has allowed two earned runs in 11.2 innings. He will look ahead to the Giants and Mariners; both are projected by FanGraphs to finish last in their divisions.
Marquez’s previous two starts were inside pitcher-friendly Globe Life Field and the Oakland Coliseum. His first work at Coors Field this year will come against the Giants.
Jose Berrios (Minnesota Twins)
Berrios will look to face the Pirates at home early next week, followed by the Royals in Kansas City. His WHIP is currently 2.00, but his opponents haven’t been getting on base particularly well. Pittsburgh currently has the worst on-base percentage in baseball, while Kansas City ranks 29th.
Mike Minor (Texas Rangers)
Changeup wizard Mike Minor will take on the Giants on the road this evening. Texas will spend seven consecutive days in the Bay Area, and Minor’s next start will come against Oakland. The A’s currently rank 26th in WRC+ and 27th in wOBA, but Oakland’s offense could pick up by the time they see Minor. (They ranked 10th and 5th in those figures last year.)
Lance McCullers Jr. (Houston Astros)
McCullers might not pitch in Houston’s series with Oakland, as his next three starts correspond with the Angels, Diamondbacks, and Giants. None of those three opponents made the postseason last year.
The Angels currently rank 10th in offensive WAR this year, while the Giants rank 16th. The Diamondbacks rank 30th.
Joey Lucchesi (San Diego Padres)
Lucchesi avoids a Dodger series next week by starting Saturday in Colorado. While Coors Field can be an easy place to hit, the Rockies’ bats have been cold with the fourth-worst offensive WAR this year. Lucchesi will likely take on the Diamondbacks after a day off on Wednesday.
Yu Darvish (Chicago Cubs)
The Cubs are scheduled to see the Pirates and Royals over their next two series, and Darvish’s schedule corresponds with each. Both of his opponents are projected near the bottom of their divisions, according to FanGraphs. Both have struck out at a relatively high pace this year, and Darvish has a lot of pitches to keep them off balance.
Walker Buehler (Los Angeles Dodgers)
Buehler’s first start came in Houston on Tuesday. Manager Dave Roberts has yet to announce his starters beyond Saturday, but Buehler could be seeing the 2-5 Diamondbacks on Sunday. Buehler could see some extra rest in a few days, as the Dodgers have a day off on Thursday. Roberts has also said Buehler could be pushed back another day, depending on the timetable of Clayton Kershaw’s return.
Tony Gonsolin (Los Angeles Dodgers)
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts announced that Gonsolin will make his season debut against the Diamondbacks this evening. With the unknowns surrounding Buehler’s schedule and Kershaw’s back healing, Gonsolin could be used more as a spot starter rather than a staple in the routine. If he stays in the rotation, however, he will have Arizona and San Francisco on the horizon.
TBD: Mike Fiers or Chris Bassitt (Oakland Athletics)
Manager Bob Melvin has yet to announce Oakland’s starters beyond this evening, but their starter on Saturday will have an easier road ahead. Fiers or Bassitt will presumably avoid a series with Houston. If a start against the Angels is included after that, their next three starts will be against the projected bottom three in the AL West.
Jose Urena (Miami Marlins)
Urena is reportedly one of the Marlins that has tested positive for COVID-19. The entire Miami pitching staff is facing a serious disruption to their schedule, which will make it hard for any of them to fall back into some rhythm.
Urena was scheduled to start in Philadelphia last Sunday but was scratched. If he is able to return in two weeks, he will have missed about a third of the season. Miami could fill their schedule with seven-inning doubleheaders, but it could mean their starters go every six or seven games, rather than every fifth.
Miami’s last game was five days ago; their scheduled games have been postponed at least through the weekend. While their immediate schedule could be changing heavily, they look to close out the month of August against the Mets, Nationals, and Rays.
Gerrit Cole (New York Yankees)
Cole’s road ahead is challenging, not because of his next opponent, but because of his disrupted schedule. The Yankees are currently off on Monday and Tuesday after adjusting their schedule around the Miami postponements. Unless he pitches on four days of rest or the Yankees reschedule some games, he will have to wait a whole week to pitch again.
Cole will presumably pitch against the Orioles on Wednesday. With another day off on August 10, Cole may not see a standard five-day cycle for a while. His next start would then be against a tough Braves lineup.
Jacob DeGrom (New York Mets)
The future opponents for the Mets are the Braves, Nationals, Marlins, Nationals, and Phillies. DeGrom’s next outing is scheduled for Monday in Atlanta.
If the Marlins resume their normal schedule by August 7, deGrom would be in line to face them. If not, he could instead match up against the Nationals. Again, the schedule unpredictability is what could make deGrom’s road ahead challenging—but the unknown lies a little further ahead than Cole.
David Peterson (New York Mets)
After a strong MLB debut last Tuesday in Boston, 2017 first-rounder David Peterson looks ahead to an Atlanta Braves lineup over the weekend.
The road ahead for Mets pitching takes an interesting turn after the Atlanta series: Peterson likely won’t pitch in their two-game series against the Nationals, and with an off-day scheduled for August 6, the Mets could bump up a start for Jacob DeGrom or Steven Matz.
Peterson could face the Marlins after he sees the Braves, assuming Miami is back in action by August 7. If they aren’t, Peterson’s start could get pushed back to the later series against the Nationals.
Hyun-Jin Ryu (Toronto Blue Jays)
Ryu faced the Nationals on Thursday, and his road ahead doesn’t look much easier. He will likely face the Braves next week.
Atlanta hasn’t been as hot at the plate as they were last season, however. They ranked 7th in offensive WAR last year; they rank 16th so far in 2020.
Beyond Ryu’s next start, it is again hard to pinpoint when he will pitch again. Toronto has days off on August 10th and 13th, which bookends a two-game scheduled series against the Marlins. He could see Tampa Bay or Baltimore beyond that.
Madison Bumgarner (Arizona Diamondbacks)
His next outing will be on a presumable six days of rest, but the Astros will oppose him in Phoenix. He will look to take on the Padres after that; they currently have the fifth-best wOBA in the league (.346).
Bumgarner holds a 4.09 ERA through 11 innings in his debut season with the Diamondbacks. He has expressed frustrations with a drop in fastball velocity this year and is looking to prove himself to a new fanbase for the first time in his career.
Garrett Richards (San Diego Padres)
The Rockies have their home opener this evening and Garrett Richards will take on a Colorado team with the best record in the National League. Coors Field presents a fair set of challenges for pitchers, as does the Dodger lineup that Richards could be seeing next Wednesday.
Kyle Freeland (Colorado Rockies)
Freeland is scheduled to face San Diego on Saturday. The Padres currently lead all NL West teams in wOBA, wRC+, and offensive WAR, and they will take those numbers into Coors Field. Freeland will likely pitch again on Thursday, at altitude, with 92-degree forecasted heat. That outing would be against the Giants though, and their offensive numbers aren’t quite as strong as the Padres.
TBD: Drew Smyly or Jeff Samardzija (San Francisco Giants)
Giants manager Gabe Kapler hasn’t announced his starters beyond today, but his Sunday starter against Texas has the toughest road ahead. A Friday outing against the Dodgers and a Wednesday appearance against the Astros is what one of them—likely Smyly or Samardzija—has to look forward to. This road ahead even avoids a four-game set in Colorado from Monday to Thursday.
Any Pitcher for the Phillies
MLB.com’s schedule for Philadelphia says ‘Postponed: COVID-19’ for all games between July 27 and August 2. They are scheduled to face the Marlins after those postponed dates if Miami is cleared to play by then (August 4-6), but a routine for several Phillies arms has already been disrupted. Four makeup games against the Yankees could be played soon.
Graphic by J.R. Caines (@JRCainesDesign on Twitter)