- Tristan H. Cockcroft, Fantasy
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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, July 12.
Good team matchups
Atlanta Braves (CIN-3, STL-4): Third baseman Chipper Jones (5.0 price tag) hasn't had any problems since his return from the disabled list, batting .382 (34-for-89) in 23 games. He's especially productive against right-handed pitching, with a .356 batting average and 1.066 OPS this season, and his Braves will see five (perhaps even six depending on the Reds' Monday starter) of them in seven games. ... Florida Marlins (STL-3, CIN-4): If his performance against right-handed pitching could have been considered a weakness of shortstop Hanley Ramirez's (5.7) last year, it's surely not the case now; he has .302/.833 rates against them in 2007. Don't worry about the Marlins' six (perhaps seven, again depending on the Reds' fifth starter on Saturday) of seven games against righties. ... Cleveland Indians (CHW-3, @TEX-4): Catcher Victor Martinez is a .375 hitter (18-for-48) with nine RBIs in 14 career games at Rangers Ballpark. ... Colorado Rockies (@PIT-3, @WAS-4): Center fielder Willy Taveras (3.9) is a .348 hitter (55-for-158) with 10 stolen bases in his last 38 games. He's also a .375/.873 hitter against left-handers, of which his Rockies will see three in seven games. ... New York Yankees (TOR-4, TB-4): Right fielder Bobby Abreu (4.2) might be in the midst of a terrible season, but since June 1, he's a .360 hitter (32-for-89) with a 1.090 OPS against right-handers. His Yankees will face six righties (perhaps seven depending on the Devil Rays' Saturday doubleheader spot starter) in eight games. ... Oakland Athletics (TEX-3, BAL-3): Third baseman Eric Chavez (4.4) has batted a respectable .263 (35-for-133) with eight homers and 22 RBIs in his last 36 games, including a .300 mark (12-for-40) with seven RBIs in his last 11 contests. ... Washington Nationals (HOU-3, COL-4): First baseman Dmitri Young (4.2) doesn't seem at all bothered by RFK Stadium; he's a .386/1.023 hitter in 41 games there. He's also a .330/.878 hitter against right-handers, and his Nationals will see only righties in their seven games.
Craig Biggio, 2B, Astros (3.5 price tag): His chase for 3,000 career hits seems to have rejuvenated him at the bat, as he's a .359 hitter (33-for-92) with 11 RBIs and 16 runs scored in his last 22 games. That's good news for Week 16, as his Astros face three left-handers in their six games, and he's a .354/.937 hitter against that side.
Ryan Braun, 3B, Brewers (4.5): You can't get much hotter than Braun, a .417 hitter (30-for-72) with seven homers, 20 RBIs and six stolen bases in his last 17 games. He's particularly strong against left-handed pitchers, hitting them for .537/1.795 numbers (50 plate appearances) thus far, and his Brewers face three southpaws in seven games.
Mike Fontenot, 2B, Cubs (3.6): Since his promotion from the minors in early June, he's a .353 hitter (36-for-102) with 16 RBIs and 18 runs scored in 26 games, but, more importantly, he has started 25 of the Cubs' 28 games during that span. Keep riding the hot streak with Fontenot, especially accounting for his .382/1.031 rates against right-handers, and the fact that his Cubs will see six of them in seven games.
J.J. Hardy, SS, Brewers (4.1): He's another of the Brewers' many lefty killers, with .294/.953 numbers against that side this year, .282/.909 for his career. Many owners are already jumping off the Hardy bandwagon, but consider that he finished the season's first half batting .286 (20-for-70) with two homers in 18 games, respectable numbers.
Corey Hart, RF, Brewers (3.9): Keep loading up on Brewers lefty killers in Week 16, including Hart, a .304/.967 hitter against that side this season. He's a .312 hitter (34-for-109) with seven homers, 18 RBIs and 26 runs scored in 24 games since being permanently shifted to the leadoff spot. He's also a .353/.972 hitter in home games this year.
Jeff Kent, 2B, Dodgers (4.1): At this stage of his career, the one aspect of his game that remains at an All-Star caliber level is his performance against left-handers; he's a .333/.979 hitter against that side. The Dodgers face three of them in seven games in Week 16, perhaps four if the Mets use Jason Vargas or Dave Williams on Saturday. Kent is also a .357 hitter (25-for-70) with 15 runs scored in his last 17 games.
Hunter Pence, CF, Astros (4.7): He has been nearly as surprising a rookie as Braun, and has maintained his performance in a similar fashion, batting .341 (56-for-164) with seven homers and 24 RBIs in his final 35 games of the season's first half. Pence hits .373/.986 against left-handers, and his Astros will face three in six games.
Vernon Wells, CF, Blue Jays (4.7): It's about time Wells started producing, as he has batted .278 (27-for-97) with eight homers and 20 RBIs in his last 23 games. He's a .312/.888 hitter against left-handers this year, and his Blue Jays see three of them in seven games. He should also feast off Mariners Saturday starter Jeff Weaver, against whom he's 10-for-33 (.303) with three homers in his career.
Poor team matchups
Arizona Diamondbacks (@MIL-4, @CHC-3): Center fielder Chris B. Young (3.7) might have seven homers in 34 games since June 1, but he's also a .178 hitter with 29 strikeouts in 129 at-bats during that span. ... Kansas City Royals (@BOS-3, @DET-3): Right fielder Mark Teahen (4.2) is an ordinary .250/.672 hitter against left-handers this season, and his Royals will see three of them in six games. He's also a .222 hitter (12-for-54) with 16 strikeouts in his last 14 contests. ... Minnesota Twins (DET-3, LAA-3): Center fielder Torii Hunter (5.4) is generally too valuable to bench, but in the Baseball Challenge, he's a bit overpriced for the schedule. He'll face two top pitching staffs, and he's a .272 hitter (25-for-92) with five homers in his last 24 games, which aren't stud-caliber numbers. ... New York Mets (@SD-3, @LAD-4): Center fielder Carlos Beltran is merely a .238/.703 hitter in eight career games at Petco Park, and a .205/.736 hitter in 13 career games at Dodger Stadium. He's also a .212 hitter (29-for-137) with eight homers in his last 33 contests. ... Philadelphia Phillies (@LAD-3, @SD-4): Center fielder Aaron Rowand finished the season's first half with a .250 batting average (16-for-64) with one homer and five RBIs in 19 games. He's also in the midst of a 35-game road homerless drought, during which time he has 11 RBIs. That's not a trend likely to change at San Diego or Los Angeles. ... Tampa Bay Devil Rays (LAA-3, @NYY-4): Second baseman B.J. Upton (4.3) should be back as a regular before Week 16, but don't be so hasty to plug him back in. He'll likely need some time to get back to full speed after missing more than a month, and before he hit the DL, he batted .268 (30-for-112) with four homers and 10 RBIs in 30 games.
Lance Berkman, 1B, Astros (5.3 price tag): One area in which Berkman has never thrived throughout his career is batting from the right side of the plate; he's a .236/.675 hitter in those situations this year. The Astros battle three left-handers in their six games, the Nationals' Mike Bacsik (Monday) and Pirates' Tom Gorzelanny and Paul Maholm, against whom Berkman is a combined 3-for-20 (.150) without an extra-base hit lifetime.
Brad Hawpe, RF, Rockies (5.0): He's a weaker fantasy option in road games, with .287/.813 rates this year, compared to .331/1.076 at Coors Field, but of more concern is his performance against left-handers. Hawpe is a .205/.576 hitter against that side this year, .219/.657 for his career, and his Rockies face three lefties in seven road games.
Andruw Jones, CF, Braves (4.5): It simply doesn't seem to get any better with Jones the deeper we get into the season, does it? He finished the first half a .179 hitter (17-for-95) with four homers and 25 strikeouts in 25 games, and on the year he has only 13 multi-hit efforts in 87 contests. Jones is also a combined 13-for-57 (.228) with three homers against scheduled opponents Bronson Arroyo (Tuesday) and Aaron Harang (Wedensday) of the Reds and Braden Looper (Saturday) of the Cardinals.
Nick Markakis, RF, Orioles (4.4): What has held back Markakis' numbers in 2007 has been his performance against left-handers; he has .262/.694 rates against them. The Orioles face four left-handers in their seven games, and against the ones he'll see, the Mariners' Horacio Ramirez (Monday) and Jarrod Washburn (Wednesday) and the Athletics' Lenny DiNardo (Saturday) and Joe Kennedy (Sunday), he's a combined 3-for-13 (.231) lifetime.
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals (4.8): He's a .219/.637 hitter against right-handers this season, and his Nationals will face nothing but righties in their seven games. Zimmerman is also a .246/.719 hitter at RFK Stadium this year.
MONDAY: White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko (5.0 price tag) has been heating up of late, batting .339 (40-for-118) with 11 homers in his last 34 games. He batted .438 (7-for-16) with two homers against Indians left-hander Cliff Lee in 2006, and is a lifetime .371 hitter (13-for-35) with four homers and 12 RBIs against the southpaw.
TUESDAY: Angels right-hander Ervin Santana struggles mightily in his road starts, allowing .321/1.030 rates this season, .295/.914 for his career. That bodes extremely well for Devil Rays left fielder Carl Crawford (4.8), a lifetime .333 hitter (4-for-12) with a double, two triples and a 1.083 OPS against him.
WEDNESDAY: Yankees catcher Jorge Posada (4.3) is a lifetime .444 hitter (4-for-9) with three homers and a 1.944 OPS against Blue Jays right-hander Shaun Marcum. He's also a .301/.839 hitter at Yankee Stadium this season.
THURSDAY: Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee (4.5) is a .377/1.042 hitter at home this season, hitting all of his six home runs at Wrigley Field. He's also a lifetime .357 hitter (10-for-28) with four homers against Giants right-hander Matt Morris.
FRIDAY: Mets right fielder Shawn Green (3.4) has four plate appearances against Dodgers right-hander Derek Lowe this season, and in those, he's 3-for-3 with a home run and a walk. For his career, Green is a .417 hitter (10-for-24) with three homers against Lowe. He's also a .283/.884 hitter in 417 career games at Dodger Stadium.
SATURDAY: Yankees designated hitter Johnny Damon (3.7) was 1-for-3 against Devil Rays right-hander James Shields on July 12, and he's 4-for-7 (.571) with two homers in his career against Shields. Damon is also a .291/.791 hitter at home this season.
SUNDAY: Red Sox left fielder Manny Ramirez (4.8) is a lifetime .529 hitter (9-for-17) with two homers against White Sox right-hander Jon Garland. He's also a .296/.881 hitter at Fenway Park this season, and a .336 hitter (48-for-143) with five homers, 23 RBIs, 25 runs scored and a 1.012 OPS in his last 42 games.
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
Tristan Cockcroft analyzes the best Week 16 options for the Baseball Challenge game.