Daily Notes: Jeff Francis looks to stay hot
Chad Gaudin, RHP (6-2, 3.05 ERA, 1.41 WHIP) versus
Cliff Lee, LHP (4-4, 5.46 ERA, 1.46 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: The other shoe has dropped for Gaudin, as he has a 5.16 ERA, 1.99 WHIP and more walks (15) than strikeouts (11) in June. Against one of the league's elite offenses, expect those ratios to become even worse. Cliff Lee has been serviceable in his last three starts -- a 3.50 ERA and 1.16 WHIP --and the Athletics are by no means a fearsome offense. While Travis Buck (.385 average, four home runs) and Mark Ellis (five homers) have been better against lefties than righties, the A's aren't getting much production from half their lineup, which should be enough for Lee to log a quality start.
Kameron Loe, RHP (3-6, 6.34 ERA, 1.55 WHIP) versus
Jeremy Bonderman, RHP (8-0, 4.01 ERA, 1.18 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Loe has put in two nice performances his past two starts against NL teams. He really isn't as bad as his ERA suggests; he's had a very tough schedule for most of the season. Loe again faces the Tigers, who earlier in June put up nine runs in 2 2/3 innings on Loe. Unfortunately for Loe, the Tigers haven't cooled down much since then. The Rangers offense is quite weak against righties -- they have fallen to the bottom third of the majors in terms of OPS -- with perhaps Kenny Lofton as their only regular who is noticeably better against them. Bonderman should resume being the elite pitcher he was in April and May. June's brief struggles are nothing to worry about.
John Danks, LHP (3-6, 4.61 ERA, 1.59 WHIP) versus
J.P. Howell, LHP (1-1, 4.26 ERA, 1.42 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: Jermaine Dye, OF (quadriceps, likely DL-bound)
Game Story: Only two teams have been more adept at hitting lefties than the Devil Ray, and with most of their lineup on fire, they are especially dangerous. Brendan Harris and Ty Wigginton are rapidly becoming more owned, as they have been on fire this month, and both perform much better against left-handers. Akinori Iwamura and Jonny Gomes shouldn't be forgotten, either. Danks hasn't lasted six innings in five starts, so the D-Rays should see a lot of the White Sox's atrocious bullpen. Howell is a marginal major league starter, and although I would like to see more starts under his belt before recommending him, he is facing the worst offense in baseball, so he's worth the risk.
Roy Halladay, RHP (8-2, 4.08 ERA, 1.21 WHIP) versus
Kevin Slowey, RHP (2-0, 4.43 ERA, 1.61 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: Justin Morneau, 1B (chest, questionable)
Game Story: Halladay has logged quality starts in all but three of his outings. It just so happens he has allowed more than half of his total earned runs in those three starts, making his ERA inflated by Halladay standards. He has been dominating in his past three starts, so there's no reason to doubt him as an elite pitcher. Morneau looks doubtful to play on Monday, and that obviously helps. The Jays offense has improved recently, getting life out of Frank Thomas (three homers, .308 average) and Matt Stairs (four homers, .306 average) this month; exercise patience and bench Slowey.
Julian Tavarez, RHP (5-4, 4.50 ERA, 1.34 WHIP) versus
Jeff Weaver, RHP (1-6, 8.56 ERA, 1.85 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: Raul Ibanez, OF (hamstring, day-to-day)
Game Story: Tavarez has surprisingly been on a very nice run in his past seven starts, with a 3.06 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP in that time. The Mariners have cooled off a bit offensively but are still moderately potent, and this will be Tavarez's first start against an above-average offense in a month. I wouldn't put too much trust in Tavarez, but the results do speak for themselves, and with Ibanez potentially out -- every little bit helps -- he's a solid spot start. Weaver has had two good starts in a row, but they were against the NL, and he is Jeff Weaver. Consider it open season for the Red Sox regulars.
John Thomson, RHP (season debut) versus
John Lackey, RHP (10-4, 2.96 ERA, 1.22 WHIP)
Game Story: This will be Thomson's first start since July 9, 2006. And if the layoff itself wasn't enough reason to steer clear of him, he's facing an offense that is hitting .333 in June. Reggie Willits (hitting .391 with seven steals in June) is keeping up his hot hitting for now, and Mike Napoli is playing well enough that he should be owned in more than 11 percent of ESPN leagues. John Buck has five home runs in June, and had four in each of the first two months. He has only 26 RBIs, but now that he's hitting fourth in the lineup, more should be on the way. He is one of the few consistent Royals, but that doesn't mean he should be owned in less than 38 percent of ESPN leagues.
Jason Bergmann, RHP (1-3, 2.76 ERA, 1.00 WHIP) versus
Tim Hudson, RHP (6-5, 3.43 ERA, 1.15 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Bergmann is returning from elbow inflammation, and though his stats look great, keep in mind he had the lowest batting average on balls in play (.183, 117 points below average) in the majors before he hit the disabled list. Fortunately, he faces one of the league's weakest offenses at this point -- the Braves have a .676 OPS as a team in June, 29th in the majors. In two previous starts against the Braves, Bergmann allowed one run in 14 innings. All signs point to one of the day's best spot starts. Hudson has struggled since his hot April -- he has a 4.95 ERA since then -- but he has owned the Nationals in his two previous starts this season. It looks set up to be one of the day's best pitching duels.
Mike Maroth, LHP (5-2, 5.06 ERA, 1.66 WHIP) versus
Jorge Sosa, RHP (6-3, 4.05 ERA, 1.18 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Few teams are struggling as badly as the Mets, so they are ripe to pick a spot start against. Unfortunately, Maroth has been every bit as bad as his numbers suggest. He has 33 walks to 28 strikeouts, and 15 home runs allowed in 78 1/3 innings; moving to the senior circuit will help those numbers, but he allowed four earned runs in five innings against the Nationals in his last start, too. Sosa's ERA has increased nearly a run and a half in his last two starts against two of the poorer offenses in the majors. The Cards have been hot this month -- Chris Duncan and Juan Encarnacion have five home runs, and So Taguchi is hitting .393 -- so it looks like Sosa owners lost their chance to sell high.
Jeff Francis, LHP (7-5, 3.44 ERA, 1.29 WHIP) versus
Jason Marquis, RHP (5-4, 3.38 ERA, 1.23 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: Mark DeRosa, 2B (head, day-to-day)
Game Story: Francis has quietly been on fire the last two months, with a 2.18 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in his past 10 starts. His peripherals are good, too, with 50 strikeouts, 14 walks and just four home runs allowed in a streak that spans 70 1/3 innings. Although his schedule has been extraordinarily easy, he did dominate the Yankees and Red Sox in his last two starts. The Cubs are 25th in OPS against lefties, and Francis has been even better on the road. Surprisingly, Francis is available in more than 93 percent of ESPN leagues. Marquis has been consistently unraveling since early May -- he has a 5.61 ERA since May 9 -- and the Rockies are on fire this month. Troy Tulowitzki has finally warmed up, with three homers in his past three games.
Jason Jennings, RHP (1-1, 3.63 ERA, 1.31 WHIP) versus
Ben Sheets, RHP (8-3, 3.19 ERA, 1.17 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: J.J. Hardy, SS (back, day-to-day)
Game Story: Jennings hasn't been quite himself since coming off of the disabled list, and that is easily seen in two categories: his home runs allowed (five in 39 2/3 innings, compared to 17 in 212 innings last season), and his innings per start (less than 5 2/3 this year compared to 6 2/3 last season). Keep in mind he is pitching with, as he admits, shoulder tendinitis, but I wouldn't want to start an injured pitcher against the streaking Brewers. It has been 12 starts since Sheets allowed more than three runs; he has a 2.48 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP in that time. Save your Astros for another day.
Brad Penny, RHP (9-1, 2.12 ERA, 1.16 WHIP) versus
Micah Owings, RHP (5-1, 4.06 ERA, 1.41 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: Nomar Garciaparra, 1B (flu, questionable)
Game Story: Penny has allowed one earned run or less in a whopping 11 starts this season. In two previous outings against the D-backs, Penny went a combined 13 innings, allowing just one run. The D-backs' offense is not up to par in June -- only Eric Byrnes and Orlando Hudson are providing any value this month -- so Penny is a solid bet to make this start No. 12. Owings has a 4.58 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in June through three starts, but it's important to note he was facing AL lineups. If Andre Ethier (8-for-18 with one home run in his last seven games) is what qualifies as "hot" for the Dodgers, Owings should do well.
Justin Germano, RHP (5-1, 2.63 ERA, 0.96 WHIP) versus
Tim Lincecum, RHP (2-2, 5.88 ERA, 1.35 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Germano held his own in his three AL starts -- a combined 4.23 ERA -- that is more than most people expected of him after his infinitesimal strikeout rate screamed fluke. He has upped that strikeout rate to 7.4 K/9 in his last three starts, so there is improvement. Germano has a soft schedule for the forseeable future, including Monday, so consider him a plus spot start. Lincecum's brief major league career has been a mixed bag -- he's been hit hard only by good offenses -- but the strikeouts and home run rate are promising. The Pads are weak against righties, and this game is in a pitchers' park, so roll the dice with Lincecum again.
Travis Buck, OF, OAK @ Cleveland Indians
Mark Ellis, 2B, OAK @ Cleveland Indians
Akinori Iwamura, 3B, TB versus Chicago White Sox
Jonny Gomes, OF, TB versus Chicago White Sox
J.P. Howell, SP, TB versus Chicago White Sox
Frank Thomas, DH, TOR @ Minnesota Twins
Matt Stairs, 1B, TOR @ Minnesota Twins
Julian Tavarez, SP, BOS @ Seattle Mariners
Reggie Willits, OF, LAA versus Kansas City Royals
Jason Bergmann, SP, WAS @ Atlanta Braves
Juan Encarnacion, OF, STL @ New York Mets
Jeff Francis, SP, COL @ Chicago Cubs
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, COL @ Chicago Cubs
Micah Owings, SP, ARI versus Los Angeles Dodgers
Justin Germano, SP, SD @ San Francisco Giants
Tim Lincecum, SP, SF versus San Diego Padres
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com and TalentedMrRoto.com. He can be reached at Adam@TalentedMrRoto.com
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