-- Can you believe we're looking at the last Sunday of August? After this, there's only one more Sunday before baseball has to share center stage with football. Don't worry, baseball will always be the focus here in the Daily Notes. You've come this far, now it's time to bring home the gold. Here's what you need to head into the last week of August on a roll.
San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner is in a familiar spot, leading the pitching rankings once again. That said, the lefty is in a bit of a rut, tossing just five innings in three of his past five outings, allowing at least four runs in each. Bumgarner is in a great spot to regain momentum with the Atlanta Braves closing out a set in AT&T Park. It should be noted that while the visitors are among the weakest clubs versus southpaws this season, they've picked up the pace over the second half. Still, there should be no reservations using one of the best arms in the game for all DFS formats.
Over the course of the long season, some pitchers morph into high floor types better for cash games, while others become riskier with the high ceiling desired for tournament play. Chris Archer is this season's poster child for GPP action. Sunday is no exception, as the Tampa Bay Rays wrap up a series with the strikeout-prone Houston Astros in Minute Maid Park. Injuries have rendered the hosts very right-handed, feeding even more into Archer's whiff potential.
Chicago Cubs southpaw Jon Lester is a cash game fixture, with ample dominance to be a tournament play in the right matchup. This is a borderline scenario as the host Los Angeles Dodgers fan at a slightly above average pace versus southpaws.
One of the tricks to finding a hurler ready to take the next step is identifying those one skill away. Usually, that entails improving control. For Kevin Gausman, it's doing a better job of keeping the ball in the yard. His ground ball to fly ball ratio is right around league average, suggesting that his home run per fly ball rate (HR/FB) is the culprit. Having Camden Yards as his home park doesn't help, but the fact remains that in three of his four campaigns, Gausman has sported an elevated HR/FB rate, well above league average. Some of that is bad luck, but if he wants to improve and break out, he needs to figure out a way to lower that mark. To that end, something Gausman can do Sunday is work around New York Yankees phenom Gary Sanchez, who has smacked 10 of his 11 long balls off of righties.
Despite whiffing 17 in his last two outings (spanning 11 2/3 innings), Vince Velasquez gave up five runs in those starts. Despite the recent woes, Velasquez checks in as a decent GPP option as he and the Philadelphia Phillies are in Citi Field for the finale of a weekend set with the New York Mets.
Jaime Garcia is also in a tailspin, having allowed 11 earned in just nine frames over his past two contests, spurred by five long balls. Next up for the St. Louis Cardinals' veteran southpaw is a home interleague affair with the Oakland Athletics. The visitors are near the bottom of the charts in homers against lefties over the past month and will be devoid of their designated hitter. Garcia sets up nicely for cash games and could be a GPP candidate at the right price.
Andrew Cashner faces his old teammates for the first time as the Miami Marlins entertain the San Diego Padres in South Beach. This has the makings of a high-strikeout performance as the Friars fan at a 25 percent rate versus righties.
Danny Salazar is owned in 93 percent of ESPN leagues, so why is he getting a mention as a streamer? Averaging fewer than three innings with a 12.30 ERA in his four starts since coming off the disabled list has his owners rightfully concerned. There isn't anything significantly different with his velocity or pitch selection since his return, so while his elbow may still not be right, it's not detectable in that manner. My usual philosophy is not to wait for talented hurlers to have a couple good games, I prefer them on my active roster. However, we're at the point of the week in head-to-head leagues and season in traditional leagues where category math takes precedence. My lean, though, is only to use Salazar if you have no other choice.
After a couple of solid outings, Homer Bailey reminded us that those coming off Tommy John surgery are prone to a shellacking as they work back into form. Last time out, the Cincinnati Reds' righty was knocked around by the Dodgers, allowing nine hits and six runs in just 2 1/3 frames. It won't be easy as Bailey looks to rebound against the Arizona Diamondbacks in the desert. A quality start with a whiff an inning is certainly plausible.
Anibal Sanchez's ownership is creeping back up, though it still sits at 32 percent in ESPN leagues. The rejuvenated Detroit Tigers' right-hander has allowed three or fewer runs in five of his seven outings since being reinserted into the rotation, tossing at least six frames in all but one of those outings. The Los Angeles Angels have been one of the softest clubs versus right-handers for the past month, setting Sanchez up for another solid contest.
Since switching leagues, Ivan Nova has spun a 3.19 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in four Senior Circuit starts. The Pittsburgh Pirates' trade deadline acquisition has also punched out 18 with just one free pass in those 25 1/3 frames. Look for that strikeout total to grow in the desert, with the Diamondbacks and their 25 percent whiff rate against righties.
The numbers land R.A. Dickey in the avoid range, as dictated by his projected game score of 45. However, what the math doesn't take into consideration is the huge variance associated with a knuckleball artist. Especially if you're chasing wins, Dickey is in play despite squaring off against a Minnesota Twins offense that's hitting well over the second half.
There's temptation to also lift Derek Holland from avoid status based on his history. Plus, he looked sharp in his return, punching out five Reds with one walk in six frames. In fact, in seasonal rotisserie formats, I'm starting him. However, it's defensible to leave the veteran lefty on the bench in tight ratio races for those playing in head-to-head leagues, as the Cleveland Indians have several switch hitters to keep Holland from having the platoon advantage over most of their hitters.
Because it's Sunday and start/sit decisions are so contextual, we'll open the floor for questions on any hurler not covered. Please post the details in the comments, or send me a tweet to @ToddZola and I'll guide you through the choice.
Perhaps 23-year-old Archie Bradley is running out of gas, as he's approaching 150 innings after amassing under 70 frames last season. Whatever the reason, August has not been kind to the Diamondbacks' righty as he has surrendered 21 runs with 36 hits in 23 innings this month. This puts the Reds in the top spot, led by Joey Votto. Everyone is hitting against Bradley lately, so don't worry about platoon splits. Adam Duvall, Scott Schebler and Eugenio Suarez are all in play along with Billy Hamilton, Jose Peraza and Brandon Phillips.
With Scott Kazmir on the disabled list, the Dodgers have again summoned Brock Stewart, hoping his minor league success carries over to the bigs this time around. If it were anyone but the Cubs as his foe, there could be a reason for optimism. But the way Kris Bryant is swinging the bat, he's in play against anyone. Joining the Cubs' MVP candidate are the usual suspects: Anthony Rizzo, Dexter Fowler, Ben Zobrist, Addison Russell and Willson Contreras.
The Indians have quietly put together a versatile squad capable of matching up with righties or lefties. With southpaw Derek Holland on the hill, Rajai Davis should lead off, and? Mike Napoli will clean up with lefty-masher Brandon Guyer active as well. Add in switch-hitting stalwarts Francisco Lindor, Carlos Santana and Jose Ramirez and you can understand the lean to sitting Holland in close ratio races.
Chase Anderson has been pitching better lately and holds the platoon edge over a couple of the better Pirates sticks, so consider this your contrarian option. It's not a total shot in the dark as the Bucs hit right-handers well and are enjoying a big park boost in Miller Park. Yesterday, Matt Joyce and Adam Frazier got rare starts, though neither are assured of being in there back-to-back. Expect Gregory Polanco to be back in the lineup, joining switch-hitter Josh Bell, Starling Marte and Andrew McCutchen.
Most likely to hit a home run: I'm not sure anyone can keep Kris Bryant in the yard the way he's swinging the bat lately.
Most likely to steal a base: Along with allowing a plethora of baserunners, Bradley isn't especially adept at curtailing the running game. This gives Billy Hamilton a good shot at getting on and a great shot at taking off when he does.