Challenge Week 10: Use Lance a lot
Each week, Tristan H. Cockcroft offers his strategies for the Baseball Challenge game. Look for his best bargains, busts and daily specials every Sunday.
CATCHER: The Orioles' Ramon Hernandez (4.7) has started coming around at the plate, hitting .429 (6-for-14) with one home run, 6 RBIs and 5 walks in his past five games (through Thursday). His three games at Seattle's Safeco Field might seem threatening, but consider that in a four-game set there in 2006, he was 5-for-16 (.313) with two homers. Also consider: Kenji Johjima (4.4), Josh Bard (3.2).
FIRST BASE: The Astros' Lance Berkman (5.9) has to turn his season around sometime, doesn't he? There might not be a better place for the turnaround to begin than Colorado's Coors Field, where he's a career .348 hitter with a 1.061 OPS. He'll play three games there to begin the week, then he'll get three more at homer-friendly U.S. Cellular Field. Also consider: Todd Helton (6.0), Casey Kotchman (4.7).
SECOND BASE: The Indians' Josh Barfield (4.6) is another player whose value is on the rise, after he batted a respectable .278 (30-for-108) with 17 RBIs, four stolen bases and 10 extra-base hits in 28 games in May. This week he'll get three games against the Royals' weak pitching staff, then three more at homer-friendly Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. Also consider: Craig Biggio (4.7), Kazuo Matsui (4.6).
THIRD BASE: Keep riding the Kevin Kouzmanoff (3.3) bandwagon, as in his past 17 games (through Thursday), the Padres third baseman is a .352 hitter (19-for-54) with three homers, 14 RBIs and a 1.077 OPS. Two of those three homers have come against left-handers, which bodes well for him entering Week 10; he'll face lefties in three of his six scheduled contests. Also consider: Mike Lowell (5.9), Adrian Beltre (5.1).
SHORTSTOP: An eight-game week is great for fantasy, but it's even better when a noted lefty killer like the Braves' Edgar Renteria (6.1) winds up facing four lefties as a result. He's a .321/.904 hitter against left-handers in 2007, .301/.843 for his career. In addition, Renteria could be facing three Marlins spot starters between Monday's game and Tuesday's doubleheader. Also consider: Miguel Tejada (5.5), Rafael Furcal (5.4).
LEFT FIELD: The Brewers' Geoff Jenkins (4.6) gets to face five right-handers in six games in Week 10, and remember, he's a .316/.987 hitter against them this season, .292/.895 for his career. Plus, if you're concerned about that Wednesday meeting with the Cubs' Carlos Zambrano, consider that Jenkins is a lifetime .293 hitter (12-for-41) with two homers against him. Also consider: Carlos Lee (6.5), Luis Gonzalez (4.7).
CENTER FIELD: Like Berkman, the Astros' Hunter Pence (4.4) should benefit from a three-game trip to Coors Field to begin Week 10. It's the rookie's first trip to Colorado, though the way he has hit of late, he could be due for a huge week, especially taking into account those weekend games in Chicago. Pence is a .398 hitter (33-for-83) with three homers in his past 22 games. Also consider: Mike Cameron (5.1), Juan Pierre (4.8).
RIGHT FIELD: The Mariners' Jose Guillen (4.9) might not feel like a fantasy standout, but that's more due to his frequent tirades and DL stints than his actual level of talent. He batted .274 (29-for-106) with 24 RBIs in 27 games in May, and it's a good sign that he's a .421/1.239 hitter against left-handers this year, as he'll face three of them in six games this week. Also consider: Jeff Francoeur (6.0), Andre Ethier (4.3).
DESIGNATED HITTER: The Braves' Matt Diaz (3.4) is your money-saver for Week 10, as he starts every game against a left-hander, and he will see four of them this week. He's at .347/.872 rates against them this season, and one has to think that his .310/.779 numbers against right-handers will earn him a start or two in the four remaining games the team has against righties. Also consider: Hideki Matsui (5.4).
PITCHING STAFF: It's a risk because the team's closer position is now in question, but for the price, the San Francisco Giants (4.0) aren't a bad choice. Consider that Barry Zito (4.21) is the only Giants starter with an ERA over 3.42 (through Thursday), and the team will face the 21st-ranked Diamondbacks (4.35 R/G) and 20th-ranked Athletics (4.40). Also consider: Boston Red Sox (5.4), Minnesota Twins (4.6).
CATCHER: The Cubs' Michael Barrett (4.6) is in the midst of a 5-for-31 (.161) slump in his past eight games. This week he gets tough road contests in Milwaukee (three) and Atlanta (four), and he'll face six righties, against whom he has .239/.637 rates this season. Also avoid: Brian McCann (4.5), Bengie Molina (4.4).
FIRST BASE: Though the Mets' Carlos Delgado (5.2) has begun to turn his season around, hitting .344 (11-for-32) with four homers in his past eight games, be cautious. He faces three left-handers in six games, including the tough Cole Hamels, and plays three at Detroit. Also avoid: Nomar Garciaparra (4.3), Rich Aurilia (4.1).
SECOND BASE: One thing the Dodgers' Jeff Kent (5.6) does not like is hitting in San Diego's Petco Park. He's a .257/.711 career hitter at Petco, and he'll get three early-week games there. Plus, he'll have to face six right-handers in seven games; he's at .261/.787 numbers against them. Also avoid: Orlando Hudson (5.5), Ray Durham (4.9).
THIRD BASE: The Cardinals' Scott Rolen (4.4) is a .237/.660 hitter at Busch Stadium this season, and he'll play six games there this week. He hasn't been close to his normal self all year, and in his past 27 games in particular, he's merely a .244 hitter (22-for-90) with one homer and 12 RBIs. Also avoid: Mike Lowell (5.9), Joe Crede (3.6).
SHORTSTOP: The Athletics' Bobby Crosby (4.8) hasn't had a bad season, but against right-handed pitching, he has rather ordinary .258/.669 numbers (through Thursday). He's slated to face six of them in his seven games in Week 10, and among those are the Red Sox's Curt Schilling and Daisuke Matsuzaka, and the Giants' Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum. Also avoid: Julio Lugo (5.5), Juan Uribe (3.7).
LEFT FIELD: The Mariners' Raul Ibanez (4.7) has long been a weaker hitter against left-handers, with .265/.718 career rates, and he'll face three lefties in his six games in Week 10. Plus, he'll finish out the week with three games at Petco Park, a terrible park for lefty sluggers. Also avoid: Shannon Stewart (4.8), Chris B. Young (4.8).
CENTER FIELD: The Diamondbacks' Eric Byrnes (5.7) has merely .246/.715 rates against right-handers since 2005, and he'll see five of them in six games. Against scheduled Giants opponents Matt Cain, Matt Morris and Noah Lowry, he's a combined 6-for-38 (.158) in his career. Also avoid: Alfonso Soriano (5.8), Coco Crisp (4.6).
RIGHT FIELD: The Red Sox's J.D. Drew (4.3) is off to a dreadful start, and coming off a .171/.552 May, and it's a real worry that he's at .227/.647 rates against left-handers this year, .262/.798 for his career. This week, he'll potentially battle four lefties in seven games, and with him struggling, it's possible he could be benched for one of those weekend interleague contests. Also avoid: Carlos Quentin (4.0).
DESIGNATED HITTER: It'll be interesting to see what the Red Sox do with their first-base position during the weekend series at Arizona, as Kevin Youkilis has played too well to bench. He could shift to third base, but more likely, David Ortiz (7.0) could be rested for a game or two. Also avoid: Jim Thome (5.7), Jack Cust (4.3).
PITCHING STAFF: The New York Mets staff (5.3) ranks second in MLB in ERA (3.35, through Thursday), but Week 10 should prove most challenging. First, the Mets play three against the Phillies, the National League's top offense (5.17 R/G) and one that just got slugger Ryan Howard back, and then they get three at Detroit, against the second-ranked Tigers (5.60). Also avoid: Oakland Athletics (5.4), Detroit Tigers (4.3).
MONDAY: Giants 1B Ryan Klesko (3.3) should pick up a spot start facing the Phillies' Jon Lieber, against whom he's a lifetime .390 hitter (16-for-41) with four homers and 15 RBIs. A game at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park should favor him, especially since he's a .385 hitter (10-for-26) with one homer in his past eight contests (through Thursday).
TUESDAY: A doubleheader means twice the chance at gaudy statistics, which is why Braves and Marlins players are so appealing on Tuesday. Second baseman Kelly Johnson (5.5) should pick up starts in both games, each against a right hander -- likely Wes Obermueller and Rick Vanden Hurk -- and he's a .271/.878 hitter against righties this season.
WEDNESDAY: Rockies RF Brad Hawpe (5.2) is a great spot starter in home games, he's a .321/1.053 hitter at Coors this season, and against right-handed pitchers, whom he has hit at .320/1.007 rates. He'll battle the hittable Woody Williams of the Astros, which is a solid matchup for any hitter in a game scheduled at Coors.
THURSDAY: The Rockies are slated to start Taylor Buchholz, who has been hit at .311/.795 rates in 2007, and .369/.908 at Coors Field in particular. That makes for a favorable matchup for Astros 1B Lance Berkman (5.9), a .311/1.026 career hitter against right-handed pitching, and a .348/1.061 lifetime hitter at Coors.
FRIDAY: The Rangers' Robinson Tejeda has performed rather poorly against left-handed hitters (321/1.056) and at home (.301/.846) this season, and the Brewers lineup has the firepower necessary to get to him. Brewers LF Geoff Jenkins (4.6) is a .316 hitter with a .987 OPS against right-handers this year, making for a strong matchup.
SATURDAY: Pirates left-hander Paul Maholm regularly gets hit hard by righties, with .306/.863 rates this year and .300/.842 for his career. That's what makes Yankees 1B Josh Phelps (2.0) an appealing spot start. He's a lifetime .293 hitter with a .841 OPS against left-handers, averaging one homer per 21.0 at-bats.
SUNDAY: Reds 2B Brandon Phillips (6.1) benefits from the hitter-friendly confines of Great American Ball Park, where he's a .288 career hitter with 14 homers in 103 games. He's also familiar with Indians starter Paul Byrd, against whom he's a lifetime .444 hitter (4-for-9) with one homer and a 1.222 OPS.
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
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