Pitching Primer: Week 26

Sat Sep 24 8:51am ET
Contributing Writer

Week 26 is the final full week of the regular season. That means this will also be the final time that starting pitchers will be able to accumulate two starts in the same week. As we wind down the Pitching Primer column for the season, let’s take one last look at five projected two-start pitchers, and what their matchups could mean for their fantasy production.

Triston McKenzie, Cleveland Guardians: vs. TB, vs. KC

McKenzie steamrolled the White Sox in his last start, allowing two runs and recording 13 strikeouts over eight innings. He’s having a breakout campaign, recording a 3.04 ERA and a 3.71 FIP. His biggest improvement has been with his control, lowering his walk rate from 11.7 percent last season to 6.1 percent this year. That’s also helped him generate a sparkling 0.96 WHIP.

The Guardians have their sights set on the AL Central crown and McKenzie has two great matchups to help get them there. The Rays and Royals both rank inside the bottom-10 in baseball in OPS. It’s also worth noting that McKenzie has a 31.9 percent strikeout rate at home this season, compared to a 21.9 percent strikeout rate on the road. Both of these games will be played in Cleveland, so McKenzie could end up being a league-winner for some lucky fantasy managers.

Kevin Gausman, Toronto Blue Jays: vs. NYY, vs. BOS

Gausman has been everything the Blue Jays had hope for after signing him away from the Giants. His ERA checks in at 3.32, but it could be even better when you consider his 2.37 FIP. He’s been a bit unlucky, with opponents having a .364 BABIP against him that is 50 points higher than his career mark. Strikeouts continue to come in bunches for him, too, leaving him with a 28.2 percent strikeout rate.

In seasons past, matchups against the Yankees and Red Sox in the same week could be disastrous for a starting pitcher. However, the Yankees have struggled to consistently produce in the second half, and the Red Sox only have a .699 OPS on the road, compared to a .764 OPS at home. With his strikeout upside, make sure Gausman is locked into your starting lineup.

Lance Lynn, Chicago White Sox: at MIN, at SD

Lynn has stepped up down the stretch, recording a 1.80 ERA and a 0.88 WHIP across his last eight starts. He logged at least six innings seven times, accumulating 54 strikeouts over 50 innings. His ERA is down to 4.02, so if he can close out the year on a high note, he could finish with an ERA under 4.00 for the 10th time in his 11 seasons in the league.

The Twins and Padres are not easy opponents, by any means. Lynn has faced the Twins two times this season, allowing 11 runs over 10 innings. The Padres also have two dangerous hitters that you might have heard of in Manny Machado and Juan Soto. If you’re in a 10-team league, benching Lynn this week isn’t a crazy idea. If you’re in anything deeper, though, his recent run of success likely still makes him worth taking a chance on.

Luis Severino, New York Yankees: at TOR, vs. BAL

The Yankees have been getting some of their injured played back, with Severino being one of them. He pitched five innings against the Pirates in his return from the IL, allowing one run and recording six strikeouts over five innings. He threw 64 pitches along the way, so he was clearly on a pitch count. He could work that number up to around 80 pitches in his next start, and then be ready to throw around 100 pitches going forward after that.

Severino being out the last two months was probably good for him, given that he was on pace to log a lot of innings after having barely pitched the last three years. He’ll face two familiar AL East foes in Week 26, with the start against the Blue Jays possibly being the bigger trouble spot. The last time he faced them in Toronto, Severino allowed five runs over five innings. The Orioles rank inside the bottom-10 in baseball in runs scored, so his second start is actually a favorable one. Like Lynn, Severino might be best avoided in 10-team leagues, but he’s likely worth starting in anything deeper.

German Marquez, Colorado Rockies: at SF, at LAD

Marquez is unplayable at Coors Field, where he has a 6.70 ERA and a 1.60 WHIP this season. However, he’s been valuable when pitching on the road, recording a 3.50 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP. Of the 28 home runs that he has allowed, only nine of them have come on the road.

With two road start this week, is Marquez worth taking a chance on? Unless your desperate, the answer is probably no. The Dodgers have scored the most runs in baseball, and the Giants also rank inside the top-half of baseball in that category. The one thing that could aid him is if the Dodgers rest some of their regulars, since they have already wrapped up their playoff positioning. Still, when you factor in Marquez’s 18.6 percent strikeout rate, the risk might not be worth the potential limited reward.

Mike Barner has been covering fantasy sports since 2007. His work has appeared in Sports Illustrated, Yahoo, SportsLine and RotoWire. Mike was also a finalist for the 2018 FSWA Basketball Writer of the Year award. Follow Mike on Twitter @rotomikebarner.

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