Sporting arguably the deepest roster in MLB, the Dodgers have the best record in baseball at the halfway point of the season. With so many spectacular performances, even some of their superstars have come under the radar. Young ace Walker Buehler is one player who should be garnering far more attention than he’s received.
Even after a disastrous outing at Coors Field on Thursday, Buehler’s cumulative numbers are tremendous this year. Among starting pitchers, he ranks third in FIP (2.84), fourth in WHIP (0.97), third in BB/9 (1.3), and second in K/BB (7.43).
The control Buehler has shown is staggering. Since 2000, only 27 different pitchers have made at least 16 starts with a BB/9 of 1.3 or better in a season. Among them, Buehler’s average fastball velocity (97 mph) is easily the best. The only other pitchers of that group to even average 93 mph were David Price (2013) and Clayton Kershaw (2016).
It’s so rare that we see power pitchers with elite control, and Buehler’s control has only gotten better as we’ve progressed through 2019. Since the start of May, Buehler has an unbelievable 80/5 K/BB in 67.2 innings. That’s helped him produce a 2.62 ERA and 0.87 WHIP over those 10 starts, even after allowing 13 hits and seven earned runs in 5.2 innings on Thursday night.
Buehler still has a shot to earn major Cy Young consideration if he’s able to throw strikes as consistently as we’ve seen in the first half. Even if he fails to win the award this year, it’s a fair bet to win the award soon.
-Speaking of pitching at Coors Field, Buehler shouldn’t be ashamed of his struggles based on what we’ve seen at the launching pad in June. There have now been four straight games at Coors Field with at least 20 runs scored, and eight straight games with double-digit runs totals. The hitter’s haven has averaged 15.9 runs scored per game this month. Fantasy owners are always hesitant to use pitchers at Coors Field, and the recent results and juiced ball could provide even more reason to steer clear. Colorado has only two home games next week, but visiting starters Brad Peacock and Wade Miley look like scary plays in their starts.
-Nick Pivetta owners are used to inconsistency, but his inconsistency since returning from the minors has been excessive. Over his first three starts after returning, Pivetta had a 1.80 ERA and 21/2 K/BB in 20 innings. However, he’s regressed back to being the pitcher we saw early in the year in his last three outings, with a 7.13 ERA, 11/8 K/BB, and seven home runs allowed in only 17.2 innings, all against NL East opponents. Pivetta was a popular sleeper coming into this season, but he’s much too difficult to trust and looks droppable in 12-team mixed leagues.
-Joe Musgrove has also had his fair share of inconsistency this season, but there are signs he’s finally turned a corner this month. After throwing six scoreless innings at Houston on Thursday, Musgrove has a 3.51 ERA and 23/3 K/BB in 25.2 innings this month, showing the elite control that has made him successful in the past. Musgrove also has a 3.59 FIP for the second straight year, with the help of his continued excellent ability to keep the ball in the park. Musgrove has a difficult two-start week ahead vs. the Cubs and Brewers, but he’s given reason to stick with him.
-Rangers starter Ariel Jurado has been mentioned in this spot before, and is coming off an outstanding seven scoreless inning outing at Detroit that pushed his ERA below 4.00. That will probably give him waiver pickup consideration in some leagues, but this might be the wrong time to use him. He enters a brutal week against an Angels lineup that’s finally fully healthy, followed by the powerful Twins lineup. Both of those teams rank in the top six in OPS vs. right-handed pitching.
-Dallas Keuchel owners should give him time to work his arm into shape considering that he still only has two MLB starts this season, but the early results haven’t been great with a 5.06 ERA and three home runs allowed. We should expect the lefty to bring his home run rate down based on his history and extreme groundball rate that’s near 60 percent again, but his average velocity has been down significantly, about two mph lower than last season. That’s especially a concern for a pitcher who already saw his strikeout rate decline to 6.7 K/9 last year, a full strikeout lower than 2016 and 2017. The lefty’s upcoming two-start week is still enticing since it includes Miami, but there could be some short-term hiccups as Keuchel works to get his arm in midseason form.
Note: Probable pitchers as of Friday, June 28, and are subject to change.
At Your Own Risk
At Your Own Risk
The following pitchers are generally available in over 50 percent of fantasy leagues and have favorable match-ups this week:
Thursday, July 4: Ivan Nova vs. DET
As mediocre as Nova has pitched this season, he’s been markedly better over his last seven starts with a 4.17 ERA and sub-2.0 BB/9. Detroit is an easier opponent than he’s had during that stretch, ranking second worst in MLB with a .659 OPS against right-handers.
Friday, July 5: Andrew Cashner @ TOR
Cashner has been a league-average starter this season, but he’s also made three straight quality starts and has another good opportunity on the road at Toronto. The Jays have the fourth worst OPS against right-handed pitching this season (.684).
Saturday, July 6: Brian Johnson @ DET
Johnson is coming off a good start vs. Toronto and has another great matchup at Detroit, who rank fifth worst in OPS against lefties (.704).
Wednesday, July 3: Eric Lauer vs. SF
Pitchers have feasted on the Giants lineup, particularly against lefties. San Francisco is dead last in OPS against southpaws (.610), while Lauer has allowed three earned runs or fewer in six of his last seven outings.
Thursday, July 4: Anibal Sanchez vs. MIA
Sanchez is trying to get his ERA below 4.00 heading into the All-Star break, and has an excellent opportunity against the worst lineup in baseball (.652 OPS vs. right-handers).
Friday, July 5: Austin Voth vs. KC
Voth is now Washington’s fifth starter, and the soft-tossing right-hander should be able to keep his momentum going against the Royals, who rank 22nd in OPS against right-handers and will be without the aid of the DH in an NL park.
5: CLE, HOU
6: BAL, BOS, CHW, MIN, NYY, OAK, SEA
7: DET, KC, LAA, TB, TEX, TOR
5: ARI, COL, NYM
6: ATL, CHC, CIN, LAD, MIA, PHI, SF, STL, WAS
7: MIL, PIT, SD
Here’s some injuries to prominent players from the last week, and other players to watch for in the coming week. You can get a full listing of injured players at Rotoworld's Injury Page.
Yordan Alvarez: Day-to-day (knee)
Tim Anderson: Placed on IL (ankle)
Willians Astudillo: Placed on IL (oblique)
Tucker Barnhart: Placed on IL (oblique)
Andrew Benintendi: Day-to-day (legs)
Diego Castillo: Placed on IL (shoulder)
Steven Duggar: Placed on IL (back)
David Freese: Placed on IL (hamstring)
Jordan Hicks: Out for the season (elbow)
Kevin Kiermaier: Day-to-day (calf)
Yoan Moncada: Day-to-day (knee)
Frankie Montas: Suspended 80 games (PEDs)
Gregory Polanco: Placed on IL (shoulder)
Daniel Robertson: Out 4-6 weeks (knee)
Brendan Rodgers: Placed on IL (shoulder)
Eddie Rosario: Day-to-day (ankle)
Kyle Seager: Day-to-day (hand)
Giancarlo Stanton: Out until August (knee)
Charlie Tilson: Day-to-day (illness)
Blake Treinen: Placed on IL (shoulder)
Spencer Turnbull: Status uncertain (shoulder)