Sep 24, 2012
When it comes to the last week of baseball’s regular season, there is very little that is a given regarding probable pitching matchups. Similar to the NFL’s infamous “Week 17”, most teams have nothing to play for, either because they have already clinched their standing in the playoffs, or that they are simply a week away from teeing off at their country club of choice. Teams will often save their young pitcher’s arms after a long, grueling season or they will have them on a pitch count in preparation for their upcoming playoff series. However, with the addition of an extra wild card in each league, more teams than normal are slated to be in contention until the last series of the season. In 2012, the MLB regular season ends on a Wednesday, meaning that there could potentially be a handful of starting pitchers making two starts before the end of your fantasy championship. With that in mind, let’s break down each team’s current situation and whether their most prominent hurlers will take the hill.
The Playoff Contenders
The New York Yankees and Baltimore Orioles are in a heated battle for the AL East crown that could very well come down to the last day of the regular season. Both teams will likely make the playoffs, but MLB’s new one-game playoff for the qualifying wild card teams makes the division crown a vital claim to have. CC Sabathia is slated to go on Wednesday the 26th and Monday the 1st, and should make those two starts restriction-free. From a fantasy perspective, the one concern in the Yankee rotation is Hiroki Kuroda – the likely number two pitcher in their rotation come playoff time. He is scheduled to make his second start of the period on the final day of the season. If the Yankees have clinched the division prior to that, expect Kuroda to see limited action in that start.
The White Sox and Tigers are going head-to-head for the AL Central crown with the loser likely finding themselves falling short of the playoffs. Detroit currently holds a slim 1.5 game lead over Chicago. For Detroit, Justin Verlander is scheduled to take the mound on Monday and
Saturday, and should make two full starts regardless of what the standings look like. Max Scherzer was pulled early from his Tuesday start due to inflammation in his shoulder but will make his scheduled Sunday start. Unless the division crown comes down to the final day, expect him to only make one start in the upcoming scoring period. Doug Fister is slated to take the hill on Thursday the 27th and Tuesday the 2nd. He is likely to start both, as he would be unlikely to be called upon in the playoffs until Sunday at the earliest. Chris Sale is scheduled to two-step this week, and fantasy owners shouldn’t be too worried about the southpaw being shut down early. That being said, if going into Saturday, the White Sox have been eliminated from playoff contention, there’s a good chance that Sale will be pulled from action. The White Sox announced that they will not exercise Jake Peavy’s 2013 option, meaning that he will hit the free agent market in the offseason. He can be started with confidence.
While highly unlikely, the Angels and Rays still have a chance to catch the A’s for the final AL Wild Card spot. Dan Haren, Zack Greinke, and Jered Weaver are all durable veterans that should make their final starts of the season regardless of whether they fall out of contention. C.J. Wilson has endured a terrible second half in his first season with the Angels, and there are many who are speculating that his high usage in the past two seasons has caught up to him. Wilson was a reliever-turned-starter, who threw over 425 innings in his first two seasons combined as a major league starter. If the Angels fall out of contention early in the week, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them call his season early. If the Rays fall behind early in the week, don’t be surprised to see them rest their young duo of Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson. James Shields on the other hand, has topped the 200 innings mark for the 6th straight season and should make both of his starts this week.
While the National League division races are all but wrapped up, there are a handful of teams that are still in contention for the second wild card position. The Cardinals currently hold a 2.5 game lead over the Dodgers and Brewers, with the Phillies lurking 3.5 games back. The
Brewers and Dodgers could potentially fall out of contention early, which is why Shaun Marcum, Yovani Gallardo, Mike Fiers, Josh Beckett, and Chris Capuano owners should pay attention to the playoff races in case their second starts are skipped. Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels are no strangers to pitching upwards of 200 innings and should make their final starts of the season. Despite missing part of the season due to injury, Roy Halladay falls under the same category as his Philadelphia counterparts. Adam Wainwright is currently scheduled to take the hill on Friday the 28th, which would line him up to pitch on the last day of the season if necessary. If the Cards have clinched by then, expect their ace to be pulled in preparation for the one-game playoff against the Braves. Speaking of which, Atlanta will have a tough decision to make should they fail to make up five games on the Nationals in the next week and a half – who should start in the crucial one-game playoff? Veteran Tim Hudson has been consistently solid this season, but Kris Medlen has easily been the best pitcher in baseball since the start of August. Medlen is scheduled to start on Monday the 1st against the Pirates, but you can expect him to be on a tight pitch count should the Braves decide that they want him available for their crucial Thursday matchup.
Locked In and Ready to Go
The Reds, Giants, and Nationals have their respective divisions all but wrapped up and setting their playoff rotation will be their primary concern in the final days of the regular season. The number one seed in the NL will start their series on Sunday while the number two and three seeds will face off in their game one on Saturday. Gio Gonzalez is the likely candidate to start in game one for the Nationals and he is currently slated to pitch on Friday, which should be his last start of the regular season. Jordan Zimmermann is penciled in to two-step on Tuesday and Sunday, but don’t be surprised to see him on a pitch count in his second start. He’s currently at 182.66 innings pitched for the season and Washington may want to give their young right-hander some rest going into what they hope will be a long playoff run. The likely scenario is that Edwin Jackson will get two-starts in the scoring period, with his first being on Thursday. Johnny Cueto is planned to make his last start of the season Monday the 1st, while Mat Latos is scheduled to start on the final day of the season. That would set both hurlers perfectly to make their respective starts in the division series for the Cincinnati. Don’t be surprised if the Reds decide to pull either of them early from their final starts. Matt Cain is the only widely-owned San Francisco starter who is guaranteed two starts in the scoring period. Tim Lincecum will take the mound on Saturday while Ryan Vogelsong and Madison Bumgarner could potentially make shortened second starts on the last two days of the regular season.
The A’s could possibly give the division-leading Rangers a run for the AL West crown. The two teams square off in seven of the final ten games of the season, meaning that Texas’ 4.5 game lead could easily disintegrate in a matter of days. However, if Texas distances themself from Oakland early in the week, Yu Darvish could see some rest in preparation for the playoffs. He is projected to make his second start of the week on Sunday, but has been seen wearing a knee brace during recent bullpen sessions. Ryan Dempster will not start on the final day of the season unless absolutely necessary, as he is likely to be Texas’ game one starter should they win the division. If the A’s are more than three games behind Texas going into the final three game series of the season, you may see them pull A.J Griffin or Jarrod Parker from their final starts in preparation for their one-game playoff.
Better Luck Next Year
It’s been a disappointing season for Ozzie Guillen’s Marlins, but Josh Johnson has managed to stay healthy throughout it. He’s amassed his second-highest career marks in both starts and innings pitched this season. Johnson is under team control for one more year, so don’t be surprised if Miami sits him for his final start of the season. At one point in the season, Pittsburgh was looking to make their first postseason appearance since 1992. Now, their hoping they can climb their way back up to .500. A.J. Burnett has reached the 180 innings mark for the 5th consecutive season and is enjoying his best season in recent memory. There’s a decent chance he makes his final start, which falls on the last day of the season for the Buccos. Wandy Rodriguez has two more years remaining on his contract and is no guarantee to make a second start this week. Before this season, Wade Miley’s career high in innings pitched was 153 in 2010. He currently has thrown 183 innings this season with two starts to go. Chances are he makes one more start. While this year has been disappointing for Ian Kennedy and his fantasy owners, he is currently at 189.66 innings and should break the 200 innings barrier for the second straight season.
While this season has been a lost one for the Red Sox, you can bet that they are going to want to play spoiler in their three game series to end the season against the Yankees. Expect Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester to make their respective starts in that series. Brandon Morrow is slated to start on the final day of the season, but will probably not make it as Toronto’s ace has dealt with his share of injuries this season.
The Cy Young Candidates
The Mets, Rays, and Mariners will all likely be watching the playoffs from home, but they will be sending their respective aces out to the mound this week in an attempt to bring home some hardware. R.A. Dickey holds a slight lead over Gio Gonzalez in the NL Cy Young and will attempt to further the gap as he gets two great starts this week against the reeling Pirates and the disappointing Marlins. David Price and Felix Hernandez are both trying to dethrone Justin Verlander over in the AL and should be started as they normally would in fantasy leagues.