Starting Rotation is back in action for the sprawling 14 game slate we have going tonight and we have some strong options going for us. There are no fewer than six ace pitchers on the mound tonight and we also have at least one stealth “ace” option. Additionally, we have one of the premier punts of the season on offense in Wander Franco, who will debut for the Rays tonight. DK decided to price him at the minimum salary and we can take the free square, even if this is a pitching article. Let’s not waste any more time since we have a ton to get through in Starting Rotation 6.22 to lay our foundation for green screens!
I’ll admit that to this point, I likely haven’t given Wheeler enough credit for his season so far. The guy has been lights out with a 2.15 ERA, 2.44 FIP, and 2.82 xFIP. The ground ball rate is 47.6% and the K rate is 31.6%. The only real critique is the K rate is so far above his career rates that you would think it has to come back down at some point. Wheeler is using his slider almost 10% more than 2020 and it’s been a very good pitch with a 33% whiff rate and only a .225 wOBA given up.
Zack Wheeler, Filth. pic.twitter.com/K35xZYjKwT— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 17, 2021
Zack Wheeler, Filth. pic.twitter.com/K35xZYjKwT
The slider and the four-seam has 82 of 118 strikeouts and three lefties for the Nationals will accentuate the slider. Wheeler uses that more to the lefties while his sinker is used more to the right side of the plate. Overall, Wheeler features a 13.4% swinging-strike rate and has both sides of the plate at a .250 wOBA or lower. Wheeler has also been better to the right side and still has a 28.6% K rate so I’m not concerned that Washington will likely have five righties. Wheeler has performed like an ace through this season and deserves some recognition for it.
My initial reaction to Peralta was to put him in Honorable Mention because Arizona typically has 5-6 lefties in the lineup. That is the “worse” side for Peralta and he does carry a 4.53 xFIP, but he also still has a 27.9% K rate. The hard-hit rate is identical at 27.3% to either side of the plate and the wOBA to lefties is just .255. Peralta also just hung 34 DK points on this offense, so it’s hard to argue that the ceiling isn’t there for him.
Freddy Peralta, 81mph Slider and 96mph elevated Fastball, Individual Pitches + Overlay pic.twitter.com/Nh78TEJd0A— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 5, 2021
Freddy Peralta, 81mph Slider and 96mph elevated Fastball, Individual Pitches + Overlay pic.twitter.com/Nh78TEJd0A
We also have to like the pitch count has bumped up for Peralta and he has at least 96 in three of the last four starts. The only one he doesn’t was due to rain, and when we get 90+ pitches from a pitcher that sits fifth in K rate at 35.9% we better pay attention. Overall, Arizona is in the midst of just a terrible season and has a K rate of 24.5%. I do have some concerns about the 3.39 xFIP catching up with the 2.28 ERA, but Arizona is 29th in ISO and 30th in OPS. Peralta has a 14.8% swinging-strike rate and I do wonder if the Wheeler/Peralta combo is less popular than Gerrit Cole/Max Scherzer, who we will get to.
If we look at Giolito’s pitch data, the one pitch that you could say holds him back is the four-seam as it’s carrying a .340 wOBA with just a 22.6% whiff rate. It also only has 23 strikeouts and the Bucs ranking dead last against it is somewhat misleading. What I mean by that is not only are they 30th, the rating is a -39.7 on the FanGraphs page. Seattle is 29th at -16.5. That’s more than double the next-worst team and it’s notable. Another facet that works perfectly for Giolito is his splits since he’s far better to the left side so far this season. Lefties have a 32.4% K rate, 0.84 HR/9, and a .246 wOBA. The Pirates are projected for five lefties plus the pitcher spot, a luxury that Giolito isn’t afforded in the AL.
Lucas Giolito, 95mph Fastball (foul) and 82mph Changeup (swinging K), Overlay. pic.twitter.com/WclJdOrlND— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) June 16, 2021
Lucas Giolito, 95mph Fastball (foul) and 82mph Changeup (swinging K), Overlay. pic.twitter.com/WclJdOrlND
The 1.76 HR/9 isn’t really in line with his 3.53 xFIP and even though Pittsburgh isn’t a large K rate team at 22.4%, Giolito is too cheap for the spot. Pittsburgh is also no higher than 25th in slugging, OPS, ISO, wOBA, and wRC+ on the season. Overall, Giolito has a 30.9% K rate on the year to go with a 15.9% swinging-strike rate which is eighth in the league. He has plenty of ceiling potential here and is a great option along with the other aces. We could see the field gravitate to him with the great matchup as well.
This is a tougher spot for Skubal and there’s no getting around that for the most part. St. Louis is 11th in OBP, 12th in wRC+, and they only whiff 22.7% of the time. However, I purposely said “tougher” and not any other adjective because the Cards have some flaws as well. They only rank 21st in ISO and the home run ball has been an issue for Skubal. Sure, it has gotten better but the seasonal metrics are still a 2.18 HR/9 and a 4.46 xFIP. Changing his pitch mix continues to show drastic improvements in many facets of his game and the last six to eight weeks have been an eye-opening run for the young lefty. From May through right now, Skubal has sported a K rate of around 33% and has an xFIP under 3.50.
Once the calendar flipped to May, Skubal has made eight starts and has given up more than three earned runs just one time, and has whiffed a minimum of six hitters in seven of those eight starts. That has translated into scores above 15 DK points in six of eight starts and Skubal has shown ceiling with 29, 31, and 25 DK points in this run. There are zero reasons for his salary to drop after another 20 DK point outing. Even though I don’t think we need to spend low on pitching with six aces to pick from, you can if you want to afford high-dollar stacks tonight.
Starting Rotation Special
So I’m going to start featuring a pitcher that is super risky but has a path to success based on the metrics all without telling you who it is until the very end. I’m doing this to take the name value out of it and make the play strictly about the metrics and nothing else. It won’t be in every article because some slates won’t allow us to do it, but it will be “when applicable”.
The Rotation Special for tonight gets a great draw in their opponent as the offense he faces strikes out 25.1% of the time, sits 21st in OPS and wOBA, 28th in ISO, and then 16th in wRC+. The pitcher we’re talking about has a 4.64 ERA which looks poor but the 4.20 xFIP is a bit more comforting. He also has a somewhat surprising 25% K rate against just a 6.9% walk rate and the hard-hit rate is only 29.5%. I have to admit that the pitcher’s .364 wOBA against righty hitters isn’t the best facet of his metrics since the offense he’s facing likely has six righty hitters but the BABIP is .327. He has some fly ball tendencies at about 44% but the park he pitches in tonight helps immensely since the HR Rating is 29th on baseball savant.com. The last five starts for this pitcher have resulted in 26, 12, 15, 17, and 26 DK points and those starts include Tampa, Boston, and Houston.
The Starting Rotation Special for Tuesday is Ross Stripling against the Miami Marlins in Miami at a paltry $5,700.
Starting Rotation 6.22 Honorable Mention
Gerrit Cole – I don’t want to dismiss him, that would be foolish. However, we can’t ignore that the past three games have been a bit iffy and that coincides with Cole basically saying he used SpiderTac. He did generate 28 and 23 DK which isn’t anything poor but last game he only had four strikeouts and complained post-game about his grip on the ball. I’m not exactly sure that’s who I want to spend the top dollar on tonight.
Max Scherzer – He did have a minimum stay on the 10-day IL so it’s not like he’s been out for any serious length, but I don’t always love pitchers coming off an injury. Mad Max lasted 12 pitches last time out and while there’s no reason Washington would let him pitch unless he was fully healthy, I don’t view him as a must-play. I do suspect he could be very popular so he may be a cash game staple and Philly is over 25% in K rate on the season.
Clayton Kershaw – I give a slight lean to Giolito, but Kershaw probably shouldn’t be at this salary. He’s already got the Padres offense for six innings and eight strikeouts earlier in the season and the 3.36 ERA likely is a bit unlucky. His FIP and xFIP are 2.75 and 2.92 to go with a 16.1% swinging-strike rate. The .321 BABIP to the right side of the plate is making the 1.15 WHIP and .311 wOBA look far worse than it is and the K rate to righty hitters is 29%.
Chris Flexen – I honestly don’t have a lot of trust in Flexen here but it’s a righty pitcher against the Rockies’ offense coming out of Coors Field. You guys know that I’m not a huge fan of home/road splits because they can lack context but through 41.2 IP in Seattle, Flexen has a 2.16 ERA, .263 wOBA, 16.3% K rate, and a 2.98/3.90 FIP/xFIP combo.
Starting Rotation 6.22 Stacking Options
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