That will conclude the column for 2015. Thanks to everyone who took the time to post comments and questions here and on Twitter @RealChrisOlson.
Last Week's Picks
Game: TB at BOS
Umpire: James Hoye
Recommendation: Xander Bogaerts, SS: 2-for-3, 2B, BB, R
The Red Sox got off to a strong start in this one, tagging Tampa Bay starter Matt Moore for two runs and two hits in the first inning, but he was able to wiggle off the hook by striking out the side, and did not allow another run before his departure with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. Hoye has been stingy with his run totals in his last three games, seeing 16 over that span, while averaging 20 strikeouts per game.
Game: ARI at LAD
Umpire: Hunter Wendelstedt
Recommendation: Alex Wood, LHP: 6.1 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 6 K
It was looking like Wood was going to hand us back-to-back outstanding performances, as he entered the seventh inning having allowed just one run, but a homer surrendered to A.J. Pollock resulted in a quick hook. Wendelstedt has seen just 5.7 runs per game and 4.0 walks per game over his last three contests.
Game: ATL at NYM
Umpire: Paul Schrieber
Recommendation: Lucas Duda, 1B: 1-For-2, 2B, 2 BB, R
Duda's nice offensive day Wednesday was the beginning of an absolutely torrid stretch, which has seen him collect six hits (three home runs) and 12 RBI over four games. Schrieber has kept the runs coming to close out the season, having seen at least nine tallies in six of his last seven games.
Game: MIL at CHC
Umpire: Paul Nauert
Recommendation: Kyle Hendricks, RHP: 6 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 8 K
The mediocre ERA is a bit disappointing in what was a favorable matchup, but Hendricks atoned a bit by notching what was at the time his highest strikeout total since July 22 against the Cincinnati Reds. Nauert's run totals have fluctuated a bit lately, but he has managed to keep the scoreboard to single digits in eight of his last nine outings.
Game: ARI at LAD
Umpire: David Rackley
Recommendation: Clayton Kershaw, LHP: 5 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, BB, 9 K
In an unfortunate turn of events, both of our Dodger pitchers received quick hooks from manager Don Mattingly last week, with Kershaw being pinch hit for after just 80 pitches. The nine strikeouts and the win still made the day productive for Kershaw, but he may not have returned what owners were expecting based on his hefty price tag. Rackley has seen the scoreboard light up lately, as he is seeing .11.7 runs per game and 10.7 walks per game in his last three outings.
This Week's Picks
Game: MIN at CLE
Umpire: Alan Porter
Recommendation: Carlos Santana, 1B
Opposing starter Kyle Gibson is fairly consistent against both sides of the platoon, but has trouble finding the zone against lefties, having walked 3.5/9 across 96.2 innings. Porter hasn't seen an explosion of offense lately, with just 21 runs crossing the plate in his last three outings, but his 6.9 walks per game ties him for the second-highest mark in the league over 26 contests. This combination should yield a nice result for Santana and his 16 percent walk rate, but be sure to check lineups to see which players are resting on teams like the Indians, who have all but been eliminated from playoff contention.
Game: BOS at NYY
Umpire: Mike Everitt
Recommendation: Mookie Betts, OF
Michael Pineda looked as though he could be the ace of the Yankees' staff through the first two months of the season, but injuries and ineffectiveness have taken their toll, leaving the 26-year-old with a 4.84 ERA and a pedestrian 7.3 K/9 rate over 44.2 innings in the second half. Everitt has emerged as a hitter-friendly umpire as we head into the last week of the season, having seen double-digit run totals in six of his last eight games.
Game: MIN at CLE
Umpire: Jeff Kellogg
Recommendation: Jason Kipnis, 2B
We head back to Minnesota for another hitter-friendly ump, as Kellogg leads the league with 7.0 walks per game this season. He is also tied for the third-fewest strikeouts seen (13.3), which could spell trouble for starter Mike Peltry against lefties like Kipnis, as he has notched just a 41:38 K:BB ratio against his opposite hand in 73.1 innings.
Game: HOU at SEA
Umpire: Andy Fletcher
Recommendation: Franklin Gutierrez, OF
Fletcher's inclusion makes four hitter-friendly umpires in a row, which is something I'd rather avoid, but the schedule has provided us with some of the best umpires for run scoring, while those that skew towards pitcher-friendly are mediocre at best. Fletcher is tied for the third-most runs seen per game this season (9.7), and also calls the fourth-most walks (6.6). Houston starter Scott Kazmir was seen as an elite option for most of the season, but the workload may be getting to be a bit too much for him, as he has been smashed in September to the tune of a 6.20 ERA in 24.2 frames.