Challenge Week 12: Ortiz will play, who will sit?
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: Some players simply thrive during interleague play, some don't, and the Mariners' Kenji Johjima (4.5 price tag) certainly fits the former classification. He's 9-for-28 (.321 AVG) in eight interleague games this year (through Thursday), and 34-for-84 (.405) with seven home runs and a 1.213 OPS in 24 career interleague contests. Guess what? He gets six more of them this week. Also consider: Russell Martin (5.7).
FIRST BASE: Though his team certainly hasn't been following suit, the White Sox's Paul Konerko (5.1) has heated up of late, batting .318 (28-for-88) with six home runs in his last 26 games (through Thursday). In addition, he's pummeling left-handed pitchers -- of whom he'll face three in Week 12 -- with a .308 average and .975 OPS against them. Also consider: Albert Pujols (6.4), Casey Kotchman (5.2), Conor Jackson (4.7).
SECOND BASE: The Indians' Josh Barfield (4.5) has long been known for handling left-handed pitching, with .299/.863 career rates against them, and this week, he'll face three of them in six games. In addition, while he finishes his week with three road games against the Nationals pitching staff, with whom he is quite familiar; he was 6-for-11 (.545) in three games at RFK Stadium in 2007. Also consider: Robinson Cano (5.0), Mark DeRosa (4.4).
THIRD BASE: He's only 2-for-14 (.143) with one home run in four games since his return from the DL (through Thursday), but the Diamondbacks' Chad Tracy (4.6) did face tough pitching on the road. He should be closer to full form in Week 12, more comfortable back home, where he's a .309/.869 career hitter, and ready to feast on Devil Rays and Orioles pitching. Also consider: Eric Chavez (5.1), Ryan Braun (4.0).
SHORTSTOP: The Rangers' Michael Young (5.7) regularly heats up around this time of year, and sure enough, he's a .426 hitter (29-for-68) in his last 16 games (through Thursday). Now he gets six interleague games at Rangers Ballpark, where he has .325/.863 career rates, and keep in mind he has the highest average of any player in interleague history (.350 through Thursday). Also consider: Jhonny Peralta (5.7), Rafael Furcal (5.1).
LEFT FIELD: Since returning from a sore back on May 24, the Mariners' Raul Ibanez (5.1) has been on a hitting tear, batting .318 (27-for-85) with 21 RBIs in 21 games (through Thursday). He's particularly skilled in games at Safeco Field (.290/.837 career rates) and during interleague play (.289/.880), and in Week 12, he gets six interleague contests at home. Also consider: Luis Gonzalez (5.1), Pat Burrell (4.7).
CENTER FIELD: Save yourself some dough this week by taking a flier on the Cubs' Felix Pie (3.3). He's 15-for-48 (.313) with five extra-base hits in 12 games since his recall (through Thursday), and a .303/.870 hitter against right-handers, of whom he'll see five in six games. In addition, he'll get three games apiece at two hitter-friendly destinations; Rangers Ballpark and U.S. Cellular Field. Also consider: Johnny Damon (4.8), Aaron Rowand (5.2).
RIGHT FIELD: What visiting team gets the benefit of a three-game trip to Coors Field in Week 12? That's right, the red-hot Yankees, for whom Bobby Abreu (5.3) is 22-for-50 (.440) with 12 RBIs in 13 games in June. He's a .344/1.105 career hitter at Coors, and then on Saturday, he'll face old foe Matt Morris, against whom he's got a lifetime 8-for-23 (.348) average with two home runs. Also consider: Casey Blake (5.6), Juan Encarnacion (5.1).
DESIGNATED HITTER: The Brewers' Kevin Mench (2.8) doesn't play every day, but to date he has played every one of his team's games against a lefty, and managed .299/.752 numbers against them. Mench should be able to pad his career .302/.911 rates against lefties as the Brewers face four left-handers in a span of six games in Week 12. Also consider: Hideki Matsui (5.5).
PITCHING STAFF: Barring a relief apparence by Yovani Gallardo on Sunday, the Milwaukee Brewers (4.5) will toss their rookie right-hander into the rotation on Monday, likely granting him a two-start week. It wouldn't be at all a bad matchup for him with games against the Giants and Royals, as the Giants rank only 23rd in the majors in total offense (4.26 R/G), while the Royals are the 26th-ranked road offense (4.00 R/G). Also consider: Los Angeles Angels (5.6).
CATCHER: The Twins' Joe Mauer (5.5) hasn't been his usual self since returning from the DL, going 4-for-22 (.182) in five games. He's also quite a bit less productive against left-handers, with .281/.685 career rates, which is an issue since he'll face three of them in a span of six games. Also avoid: Michael Barrett (4.1), A.J. Pierzynski (4.0).
FIRST BASE: The concern with the Red Sox's Kevin Youkilis (6.0) is that he's been slumping the most out of the team's corner infielders, going 11-for-44 (.250) without a home run in his last 13 games. The team faces five right-handers this week, so he could sit a game or two in favor of David Ortiz. Also avoid: Carlos Pena (4.5).
SECOND BASE: For as good a season as the Blue Jays' Aaron Hill (5.2) is having, keep in mind he's only ordinary against right-handers this season(.260/.749). In Week 12, the Blue Jays will face right-handed starters in all six games, including Brad Penny, Derek Lowe and Jason Schmidt. Also avoid: Mark Ellis (4.1).
THIRD BASE: Like Youkilis, the Red Sox's Mike Lowell (5.8) stands a chance at losing a couple starts to David Ortiz, whom the team will assuredly want to get in there against a few right-handers. Plus, all of the Red Sox's games come in pitcher-friendly parks (Petco Park, Turner Field). Also avoid: Adrian Beltre (5.0), Freddy Sanchez (4.6).
SHORTSTOP: With the Brewers' J.J. Hardy (5.8) in the midst of a dreadful slump, it's probably safer to keep him on the sidelines where possible for Week 12. He's hitting only .198 (16-for-81) with two home runs and 17 strikeouts in his last 20 games. Also avoid: Julio Lugo (4.9), Khalil Greene (4.6), Troy Tulowitzki (4.5).
LEFT FIELD: Throughout his career, the Pirates' Jason Bay (6.7) has not thrived during interleague play; he's 2-for-24 (.083) in six games this year, and has .245/.771 rates for his career. A weekend series at the Angels looms as a a tough one for him. Also avoid: Chris Duncan (4.6), Geoff Jenkins (4.0).
CENTER FIELD: What a disappointment the Blue Jays' Vernon Wells (5.0) has been, and when he's not performing, he ends up almost anemic against right-handers (.239/.668 rates this year, .274/.788 career). Considering he'll face five righthanders in a span of six games, he's a prime benching candidate. Also avoid: Curtis Granderson (6.1), Mike Cameron (5.3).
RIGHT FIELD: You can't ask for a much weaker matchup than when a right-handed slugger like the Pirates' Xavier Nady (4.6), who has .246/.712 career rates against righties, gets six games against right-handers in pitcher-friendly ballparks (Safeco Field, Angel Stadium). Also avoid: Nick Markakis (5.7), Jeff Francoeur (5.5).
DESIGNATED HITTER: The Indians' Travis Hafner (6.6) has also ranked among the bigger disappointments of the year, and his .247/.786 rates against left-handers are pretty ordinary. Since the Indians will likely face two of them at RFK Stadium in Week 12, Hafner might sit a game or two. Also avoid: Frank Thomas (4.5).
PITCHING STAFF: It's not much fun for a staff like that of the San Francisco Giants (4.3) to have to travel to Miller Park to face a Brewers team averaging 4.82 runs per game at home, then battle the Yankees, one of the game's hottest teams. With neither Tim Lincecum nor Noah Lowry pitching that well of late, this is a week to steer clear of Giants pitchers. Also avoid: Houston Astros (4.0), Atlanta Braves (3.9).
MONDAY: Athletics third baseman Eric Chavez (5.1) has been hitting rather well of late, batting .290 (18-for-62) with six home runs in his last 16 games (through Thursday), and in his career he remains a lethal hitter when facing a right-hander (.283/.890 rates). He has seen the Reds' Kyle Lohse before, and is 5-for-13 (.385) with two homers against him.
TUESDAY: The recent hot spell of Yankees right fielder Bobby Abreu (5.3) has already been discussed, but what hasn't yet been talked about is his track record against the Rockies' Josh Fogg, whom he has hit at a .556 clip (5-for-9) with one homer in his career. Abreu has seen Fogg in four different games and has an extra-base hit in each of them.
WEDNESDAY: For a potential money-saver, go with Indians left fielder David Dellucci (3.6), who returns to Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park, where he had .289/.921 rates last season. The Phillies' Jon Lieber is susceptible to lefty hitters (.287/.809 rates this year) and bad games at home (.317/.824 there), and Dellucci is 3-for-9 (.333) lifetime against him.
THURSDAY: He's pricey but Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter (6.0) has a positively unreal track record against the Rockies' Rodrigo Lopez. Jeter is a lifetime .446 hitter (25-for-56) against Lopez, with four homers and a 1.196 OPS. Don't forget, Jeter went 8-for-16 (.500) the only other time in his career he has played at Coors Field, June 18-20, 2002, when the Yankees as a team scored 31 runs in three games.
FRIDAY: RFK Stadium hasn't seemed to bother Nationals first baseman Dmitri Young (5.0) at all; he's a .398/1.049 hitter in 29 games there this season. Since May 18, Young is a .478 hitter (43-for-90) with 18 RBIs in 24 games (through Thursday), and in his career against the Indians' Paul Byrd, he's a .375 hitter (6-for-16) with three homers and a 1.313 OPS.
SATURDAY: Blue Jays third baseman Troy Glaus (4.9) has faced the Rockies' Aaron Cook in two separate interleague games in his career, and in those, he's a combined 4-for-7 (.571) with two home runs and a 2.142 OPS. Sure, this time their meeting won't be at Coors Field, but the Rogers Centre is hitter-friendly too. Glaus has .313/.936 rates there this year.
SUNDAY: Diamondbacks center fielder Eric Byrnes (6.1) has been a terror against right-handed pitching this season (.327/.872 rates), and he'll face a familiar such foe in the Orioles' Steve Trachsel. Last year Byrnes played two games against Trachsel; he went 2-for-6 (.333) with two homers, both of them at Shea on May 29, against the righty.
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
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