Challenge Week 14: Cubs Sluggers Worth Their Salary
Each week, Tristan H. Cockcroft offers his strategies for the Baseball Challenge game. Look for his best bargains, busts and daily specials every Sunday. All statistics are through the games of Thursday, June 28.
Chicago Cubs (@PIT-4, @WAS-3): The Cubs face four left-handers in six games, good news for first baseman Derrek Lee (5.8 price tag -- .340 AVG, .973 OPS against lefties), third baseman Aramis Ramirez (5.2 -- .375/1.277) and center fielder Alfonso Soriano (6.5 -- .297/.973), each of whom dominates that side. ... Colorado Rockies (NYM-3, PHI-3): The Rockies avoid tough lefties Oliver Perez (Mets) and Cole Hamels (Phillies) in their six games at Coors. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki (4.7) is a .301/.838 hitter at Coors and a .365/.898 hitter against left-handers this season, and his Rockies face three lefties. ... New York Mets (@COL-3, @HOU-4): Third baseman David Wright (6.1) has been an absolute terror at Coors Field throughout his career; he's a .462 hitter (18-for-39) with four home runs and 15 RBIs in nine games there. ... Oakland Athletics (TOR-3, SEA-4): The Athletics miss Roy Halladay (Blue Jays) in Week 14. Designated hitter Jack Cust (4.3), while streaky, is a .333/1.181 hitter at home and .299/1.043 hitter against right-handers this season, and his Athletics face six right-handers. ... Philadelphia Phillies (@HOU-3, @COL-3): Shortstop Jimmy Rollins (6.6) is in the midst of another hot streak, batting .354 (35-for-99) with four homers, 14 RBIs and a .979 OPS in his last 22 games.
Jason Bay, LF, Pirates (6.1 price tag): Simply look at his track record against his scheduled opponents in Week 14. He's a .421 hitter (8-for-19) with three homers against Chris Capuano (Tuesday), a .545 hitter (6-for-11) with two homers against Claudio Vargas (Wednesday), a .400 hitter (8-for-20) with one homer against Ben Sheets (Thursday), a .419 hitter (13-for-31) with four homers against Jason Marquis (Friday) and a .367 hitter (11-for-30) with four homers against Carlos Zambrano (Sunday).
Ryan Braun, 3B, Brewers (4.6): He's an unreal 14-for-27 (.519) with four homers and 10 RBIs against left-handers this season, and the Brewers see four in their seven games.
Corey Hart, RF, Brewers (4.1): His numbers against left-handers aren't as pronounced as Braun's, but they're good nonetheless, at .325/1.013 rates. He's also a .375 hitter (24-for-64) with six homers and 16 RBIs in 14 games since June 13, which coincidentally was the date he was permanently shifted into the leadoff spot.
Aaron Hill, 2B, Blue Jays (5.1): Against Monday opponent Lenny DiNardo (Athletics), Hill is 5-for-6 (.833) with three doubles and a homer in his career. He's a .329/.956 hitter against left-handers this season, and DiNardo is one of three the Blue Jays face.
Austin Kearns, RF, Nationals (4.3): Though RFK Stadium limits his offensive upside, as he's a .241/.715 hitter in 76 career games there, Week 14 isn't a bad one to gamble on Kearns. After all, he does his left-handers at .315/.956 rates this season, and his Nationals face four in seven games. In his career, he's also a .385 hitter (5-for-13) with two homers against Dave Bush, and a .636 hitter (7-for-11) with one homer against Chris Capuano, his scheduled Brewers opponents on Saturday and Sunday.
Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox (4.0): He's hitting .347 (17-for-49) with nine runs scored in 12 games since being permanently shifted to the No. 2 hole on June 14. He's also a .328/.897 hitter against lefties this year, and the Red Sox face four in Week 14.
Carlos Pena, 1B, Devil Rays (5.0): There aren't many better platoon men than Pena, a .309/1.062 hitter against right-handers this season. Though he'll have to battle the tough Red Sox staff, he'll benefit from his Devil Rays facing right-handed starters only in those games. Pena is also a .400 hitter (10-for-25) with two homers combined in his career against scheduled Royals opponents John Thomson (Saturday) and Gil Meche (Sunday).
Chad Tracy, 3B, Diamondbacks (4.5): He continues to terrorize right-handed pitchers, with .310/.992 rates against them this season, .311/.887 for his career, and his Diamondbacks face six of them in seven games in Week 14. In addition, Tracy has already taken scheduled opponents Anthony Reyes (Monday) and Kyle Lohse (Friday) deep in his career.
Atlanta Braves (@LAD-4, @SD-3): The Braves face tough right-handers Derek Lowe, Brad Penny (Dodgers) and Greg Maddux (Padres), playing all their games in pitcher-friendly ballparks. Center fielder Andruw Jones (5.2) is hitting only .137 (13-for-95) with four homers and 22 strikeouts in 25 games in June. ... Florida Marlins (@SD-4, @LAD-3): The Marlins face the aforementioned Maddux and Lowe, but also the Padres' Jake Peavy and Chris Young. Left fielder Josh Willingham (5.4) is only a combined 1-for-14 (.071) lifetime against those four pitchers. ... Houston Astros (PHI-3, NYM-4): The Astros have to face two tough left-handers in Cole Hamels (Phillies) and Oliver Perez (Mets). First baseman Lance Berkman (5.6) is a combined 3-for-15 (.200) with six strikeouts lifetime against them. ... Texas Rangers (@BOS-1, LAA-3, BAL-3): The Rangers battle the Angels' Jered Weaver and Kelvim Escobar and the Orioles' Jeremy Guthrie and Erik Bedard in a four-game stretch from Wednesday-Saturday. Shortstop Michael Young (5.7) is a combined 15-for-64 (.234) with two homers lifetime against the quartet. ... Washington Nationals (CHC-4, MIL-3): Second baseman Felipe Lopez (4.7) is only a .242/.580 hitter in 36 home games this season, and a .270/.647 hitter in his career at RFK Stadium. He has yet to hit a home run in 79 career games (356 plate appearances) at that ballpark.
Chris Duncan, LF, Cardinals (4.8): He's only a .216/.639 hitter against left-handers this year, and his Cardinals see four in seven games. Of those four, Duncan is 0-for-6 with three strikeouts combined against scheduled opponents Doug Davis (Thursday) and Noah Lowry (Friday). The other two: Randy Johnson (Tuesday) and Barry Zito (Sunday).
Brad Hawpe, RF, Rockies (6.0): That his Rockies spend all six of their games at Coors Field might fool you into thinking Hawpe is a fine fantasy option. His Rockies battle three left-handers in their six games, and they've afforded him only nine starts against lefties in 20 opportunities all year, probably a result of his .183/.552 rates against that side.
David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox (6.2): Though he's hardly the kind of player most fantasy owners would ever bench when facing tough matchups, in challenge-style games, Week 14 isn't a bad one to avoid Ortiz. His Red Sox face four left-handers in their seven games, and Ortiz is only a .264/.693 hitter against that side this season. Incredibly, he has yet to hit a home run against a left-hander in 91 at-bats (105 plate appearances).
Mark Teahen, 3B, Royals (5.4): He's a .235/.659 hitter against left-handers this season, .235/.690 for his career, and his Royals face three in six games. Teahen is only 2-for-10 (.200) with three strikeouts lifetime against scheduled Sunday opponent Scott Kazmir.
MONDAY: Athletics third baseman Eric Chavez (5.3 price tag) is a lifetime .524 hitter (11-for-21) with three homers and a 1.613 OPS against Blue Jays right-hander Josh Towers. He's also a .267 hitter (27-for-101) with seven homers in his last 27 games.
TUESDAY: The last time Indians right fielder Casey Blake (5.3) and Tigers left-hander Nate Robertson battled, on May 25, Blake had a home run and two walks. For his career, Blake is a .346 hitter (9-for-26) with five homers against the lefty. He also has 10 homers at Comerica Park in his career, his most at any road ballpark.
WEDNESDAY: Cardinals right fielder Juan Encarnacion (5.3) is a lifetime .385 hitter (20-for-52) with three homers and 14 RBIs against Diamondbacks right-hander Livan Hernandez. He's also a .289 hitter (26-for-90) with five homers in 24 games in June.
THURSDAY: Though it's not the best week for him in terms of matchups, this is a game in which Braves center fielder Andruw Jones (5.2) warrants a look. He's a lifetime .341 hitter (15-for-44) with six homers against Dodgers right-hander Brad Penny.
FRIDAY: Few hitters over the course of their careers have demonstrated the kind of mastery against one opposing pitcher as Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez (7.7) has against Angels right-hander Bartolo Colon. He's a lifetime .444 hitter (20-for-45) with eight homers against the righty, and has homered in five of his last eight at-bats against Colon.
SATURDAY: Orioles center fielder Corey Patterson (2.9) was 2-for-2 with a home run in his only two appearances against Rangers right-hander Brandon McCarthy last season. He's also 10-for-29 (.345) with three stolen bases in his last 10 games.
SUNDAY: Check his health first, but White Sox right fielder Jermaine Dye (4.5) is a lifetime .350 hitter (7-for-20) with two homers against Twins right-hander Carlos Silva. He's also a .280/.873 hitter in 201 career games at U.S. Cellular Field.
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
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