Reds ace Johnny Cueto, a top-20 fantasy pitcher throughout the season, has scintillating 30-day marks in ERA (2.31) and WHIP (0.77).
The following slideshow is a top-10 ranking of two-start pitchers for the week of Sept. 3-9.
The listing does not necessarily account for a pitcher's season-long prospects, nor does it promise sustained dominance from this point forward. It's merely an educated guess of which starters will shine the brightest over the next seven days.
For a full listing of two-start pitchers, click here.
Enjoy the show!
Skinny: At first blush, it doesn't seem right to include a pitcher who's five days removed from a seven-run, 12-hit implosion (Aug. 29 against Tampa Bay) in a countdown of two-start pitchers.
But Matt Harrison gets the weekly nod over Edwin Jackson, Clay Buchholz, Tommy Hanson, Jason Vargas, Wandy Rodriguez and Ricky Nolasco for three reasons:
1. Harrison's seasonal marks (15-8, 3.30 ERA, 1.26 WHIP) are well above board, so much that a No. 10 ranking just one month ago might have been a proverbial slap in the face.
2. The Rangers southpaw has enjoyed four months of three-plus victories (the only dud came in July), with ERA marks of 3.69 or below four times.
3. Of his last 10 starts, Harrison has surrendered just two runs or less six times.
4. Over 20 career appearances in September (starter/relief), Harrison has the following record: 8-1, 4.73 ERA and 45/22 K-BB ratio.
Weekly targets against the Royals and Rays: One win, 3.10 ERA and 12 strikeouts.
Skinny: Patrick Corbin has led a quirky, Noah-esque existence (as in Noah's Ark) the last two months.
For eight consecutive appearances from July 3-Aug. 24, Corbin had "two of everything" in runs allowed, as in back-to-back appearances of one run, zero runs, two runs and four runs.
In his last outing, where Corbin notched eight strikeouts and allowed just one walk against the Reds on Aug. 29, the Diamondbacks rookie surrendered three runs and scattered six hits over 6 2/3 innings.
So, invoking the Noah scale of predictability, how many runs will Corbin allow on Monday against the Giants? (The answer: Three.)
The reasoning for Corbin's countdown inclusion goes deeper than an apt biblical comparison. Of his last six starts, Corbin is a perfect 6-for-6 in yielding three or less walks, and in that span, he has a sterling strikeout-to-walk ratio of 34/8.
Weekly targets: One win, 3.20 ERA and 13 strikeouts.
Skinny: When it comes to young starting pitchers with high ceilings, you never know when that light switch will turn on—and stay on.
For Zach Britton (3-0, 2.36 ERA, 1.20 WHIP in the last 30 days), his transformation into a viable, long-term starter might have begun on Aug. 18, when he blanked the Tigers over seven innings.
In the next two outings, spanning 14.2 innings, Britton tallied two wins, 16 strikeouts, two runs and three hits allowed.
Britton's week offers matchups against the Blue Jays (road) and Yankees (home). With the Orioles in a tight pennant race for the American League East and wild card slots, this two-start slate could be another rite of passage for the talented lefty.
Targets: One win, 3.05 ERA and 13 strikeouts.
Skinny: For the sake of forming a convenient argument to fit this countdown, let's forget about C.J. Wilson's 6.91 ERA for the month of August—which included three starts of six or more runs. (Ouch.)
Instead, we'll hope that Wilson's outings in September will resemble this year's production for April, May and June, when the southpaw posted three consecutive months of three wins and an ERA of 2.84 or less.
Targets against the A's (road) and Tigers (home): One win, 3.10 ERA and 14 strikeouts.
Skinny: In a countdown full of high-strikeout hurlers, Mike Fiers could easily register the most punch-outs for the week.
At the same time, he might surrender the most runs—and home runs, too.
With individual matchups against Giancarlo Stanton (10 homers last month), Jose Reyes, Matt Holliday, Carlos Beltran, Yadier Molina and Allen Craig (5 HR/18 RBI/.336 BA for August), I'm cautiously optimistic that Fiers (five wins, five outings of three runs or less since July 27) will flourish this week against Miami and St. Louis.
But I'd feel a lot better about things if Fiers followed through with seven-plus K's each time.
Targets: One win, 3.20 ERA and 15 strikeouts.
Skinny: For much of this season, fantasy owners have attached a "Yeah, but" label to Yu Darvish's statistical prowess.
As in, Yeah, Darvish went 4-0 with a 2.18 ERA in April, but he didn't even have a 2:1 walk-to-strikeout ratio in that span.
Or, Yeah, Darvish is an outside candidate for 17 victories, but he also had four separate months of a 4.15 ERA or higher.
The following complaints may be rooted in hard numbers, but it doesn't tell the whole story about Darvish (13-9, 4.31 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 182/82 K-BB).
1. Darvish has had 10 high-end outings of nine-plus strikeouts.
2. Darvish has tallied 10 starts of two runs or less.
3. With 20 strikeouts in his last two starts, Darvish has a golden chance to become only the second MLB pitcher this year to record double-digit strikeouts in three consecutive appearances.
The only one to do that? Click on the next pitcher.
Skinny: Since July 31, James Shields (2.52 ERA, 0.76 WHIP, 31/5 K-BB ratio since Aug. 1) is a perfect 6-for-6 in allowing three runs or less and two walks or less.
In that span, he also notched six-plus strikeouts five times.
All this begs the question: Why is Shields (this season's only pitcher to post double-digit strikeouts in three straight outings) ranked a pedestrian fourth for the week?
His two-game slate against the Yankees and Rangers (both at home) is the most difficult run—on paper—of any pitcher here.
Targets: One win, 2.90 ERA and 14 strikeouts.
Skinny: CC Sabathia's early-August stint on the disabled list apparently did nothing to curtail his positive mojo on the mound.
In his last two outings, Sabathia has one win, a 1.88 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and scintillating strikeout-to-walk ratio (17/1).
Now, if only the Yankees could clone Sabathia (13-4, 3.40 ERA in 2012) two or three more times, maybe they could breeze to yet another American League East title.
Weekly targets: Two wins, 2.95 ERA and 13 strikeouts.
Skinny: Kris Medlen's seemingly overnight transformation from Braves bullpen afterthought to dominant starter has been uplifting, but not altogether surprising.
In his 114-game career in the majors, Medlen has a 15-8 mark, 3.10 ERA, 7.6 K/9 ratio and elite-level K/BB rate of 231/69.
From my view in the bleachers here in Atlanta, Medlen had always merited a chance to be a valuable piece of the Braves rotation.
But that's all water under the proverbial bridge now. In his last six starts, spanning 40.2 innings, Medlen has a 5-0 record, 0.25 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and 38/5 K-BB ratio.
You won't find a hotter pitcher in this countdown...or the majors, at large.
Targets against the Rockies (home) and Mets (away): Two wins, 2.60 ERA and 14 strikeouts.
Skinny: Johnny Cueto draws the No. 1 spot here for four reasons:
1. His seasonal output (17-6, 2.48 ERA, 1.12 WHIP) has no peer in this countdown (sorry, Sabathia).
2. Cueto's 30-day marks in ERA (2.31) and WHIP (0.77) are even better than his elite-level seasonal stats.
3. Of his last 10 starts, Cueto has surrendered three runs or less eight times and three walks or less nine times. In that span, he also has eight wins, one loss and one no-decision.
4. On paper, Cueto has an eminently doable weekly slate of the Phillies and Astros at home.
Targets: Two wins, 2.25 ERA and 14 strikeouts.