- Sean Allen
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Fantasy Game Notes for Sunday: American League
Jacobs Field (outdoor) 1:05 p.m. ET (partly cloudy, high 76 degrees)
Jorge De La Rosa, LHP (7-9, 5.16 ERA, 1.56 WHIP) versus
Fausto Carmona, RHP (10-4, 3.85 ERA, 1.35 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: De La Rosa has been quite useful in his last three starts and I would normally say "watch out" as he is facing a team that is in the top 10 for OPS versus southpaws, however his last three starts came against three teams who also happen to be top 10 for OPS versus left-handers (Seattle, Tampa Bay, Los Angeles Angels). That said, asking for a fourth straight gem against a tough offense is asking for a lot. You better be in a deep league to spot-start De La Rosa here. It looks like Carmona's brutal June 27 outing was just a bump in the road, as his next two starts were solid. Feel free to use him against this Kansas City offense. Alex Gordon is 5-for-6 in two games versus Carmona this year and can be picked up for a spot start in 77 percent of ESPN leagues.
Camden Yards (outdoor) 1:35 p.m. ET (30 percent chance of showers, high 92 degrees)
Jose Contreras, RHP (5-10, 5.19 ERA, 1.50 WHIP) versus
Garrett Olson, LHP (0-0, 4.15 ERA, 2.31 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: Melvin Mora, 3B (foot, out)
Game Story: Don't be fooled by the overall low ranking of Chicago's offense; the Sox are third in team OPS for July (.873) and have 19 home runs this month (the most in the majors). This is not the time to try out a rookie in his second major league start. Especially after he walked five in 4 1/3 innings in his debut against, oh, that's right, these same White Sox. Olson may have some long-term upside, but now is not the time to look for it. Look for Josh Fields to do some of the damage against Olson, as he has maintained a .343 average against lefties. This is actually a rematch against Olson for Contreras and he didn't fare any better than Olson back on July 4, giving up six runs in five innings. He is not a safe bet, either. Jay Gibbons took Contreras deep in that game and has a .455 career average against him. He's available in virtually all of ESPN leagues. Kevin Millar could also provide a cheap average or RBI boost, as he is hitting .410 over the last month with a team-best 14 RBIs during that span.
Tropicana Field (indoor) 1:40p.m. ET
Mike Mussina, RHP (4-6, 4.62 ERA, 1.28 WHIP) versus
Edwin Jackson, RHP (1-9, 7.23 ERA, 1.89 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Mussina continues to have success with Wil Nieves catching him, and I have complete faith in that trend to continue. He has also had success against the Rays' top hitters in his career: Carlos Pena 1-for-10 (.100), Ty Wigginton 2-for-12 (.167), Delmon Young 1-for-6 (.167) and Carl Crawford 10-for-40 (.250). One note of caution is that the Giants realized they could run wild on Mussina and Nieves back on June 24, and Tampa Bay definitely has the legs to pull off a similar strategy. I still think Mussina has success here, but you can feel free to start your Devil Rays speedsters against him. Jackson hasn't maintained an ERA better than 6.10 or a WHIP better than 1.74 in any month this season and it should be a field day for Yankees hitters.
Fenway Park (outdoor) 2:05 p.m. ET (30 percent chance of showers, high 88 degrees)
Jesse Litsch, RHP (1-3, 4.74 ERA, 1.62 WHIP) versus
Josh Beckett, RHP (12-2, 3.44 ERA, 1.14 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: J.D. Drew, OF (hamstring, day-to-day)
Game Story: Although his home splits aren't very pretty, Beckett fares well enough at Fenway considering how much of a hitter's park it has been this season. At the very least you can bet on a win and a quality start (if not something close to it). Turn him loose. Troy Glaus and Frank Thomas are hitting below the Mendoza Line in their careers against Beckett (27 combined at-bats), and should maybe ride the pine for your team if you can find a suitable replacement. Make sure you start Vernon Wells, though (8-for-18, .444, 4 HRs versus Beckett). Litsch shouldn't garner much attention here, as he is making just his fifth career start. Start all your usual Sox, except maybe Manny Ramirez. His OPS goes from 1.203 versus lefties to a measly .728 versus righties.
Metrodome (indoor) 2:10 p.m. ET
Dan Haren, RHP (10-3, 2.30 ERA, 1.00 WHIP) versus
Boof Bonser, RHP (5-6, 4.70 ERA, 1.49 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Maybe I'm just a pessimist, but I'm avoiding Haren here. His strand rate of .81 is starting to tumble towards his career strand rate of .59. I do think he is a better pitcher, but .81 is just too high. That's almost Johan Santana good (.82). I completely understand if you feel you have to use him, but I am off the bandwagon until he strings together a couple solid starts in a row to prove the first half wasn't a fluke. Bonser has an ERA worse than 5.00 in every month except for May, but should be safe in AL-only leagues, as the A's have a July OPS of .643. Not among the silent Oakland bats is Shannon Stewart. His average is .400 during the last month and he's chipped in five home runs and two steals during that same time frame. He's available for a start in 92 percent of ESPN leagues. If you need some steals to finish the week in head-to-head leagues, use Jason Bartlett. Only Jose Reyes and Juan Pierre top Bartlett's nine steals during the last month.
Angel Stadium (outdoor) 3:35 p.m. ET (clearing, high 84 degrees)
Brandon McCarthy, RHP (4-6, 5.70 ERA, 1.57 WHIP) versus
Jered Weaver, RHP (6-5, 3.67 ERA, 1.47 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: Howie Kendrick, 2B (finger, DL)
Game Story: As long as McCarthy is walking almost as many batters as he strikes out (35-30 K-BB), he remains off the watch list for possible spot starts. He didn't strike out a single Angel in his first start of the season against them and in two starts since coming off the DL has walked five and struck out four. The Angels' .556 team OPS in July should start to turn around after Friday's inspiring win. Weaver has a quality start and a near-miss this season against Texas and the Rangers aren't doing much better than the Halos for July OPS (.638). Weaver should be good for a start in medium leagues and anything deeper. Remember that Mark Teixeira has been activated and should be reinserted into lineups everywhere. In a related note, watch the series this weekend to see what the Rangers do with Brad Wilkerson. His eight home runs over the past month have been a real boon to fantasy owners and he did not get the start Friday in Teixeira's return.
Safeco Field (outdoor/retractable roof) 4:10 p.m. ET
Justin Verlander, RHP (10-3, 3.14 ERA, 1.15 WHIP) versus
Jeff Weaver, RHP (2-6, 6.34 ERA, 1.64 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: Placido Polanco, 2B (back, day-to-day)
Game Story: Unlike his brother, this Weaver should be benched. He has been on a one heck of a roll during his last four starts, allowing no more than one earned run in each. This is, however, the all-powerful Detroit Tigers lineup. They still have a commanding lead in the overall team OPS department (.824) and have been keeping up that pace in July (.819). Magglio Ordonez (36 at-bats), Carlos Guillen (16 at-bats), Curtis Granderson (five at-bats) and Brandon Inge (seven at-bats) all hit Weaver at better than a .300 clip. Despite Seattle's winning ways of late, they sport a team OPS in July of .695 (23rd in majors). You should have no qualms about marching out Verlander. The Mariners' regulars have only managed three RBIs versus Verlander in 48 career at-bats. You might want to give your lesser Seattle players the day off.
Fantasy Game Notes for Sunday: National League
Turner Field (outdoor) 1:05 p.m. ET (60 percent chance of showers, high 86 degrees)
Paul Maholm, LHP (5-11, 4.76 ERA, 1.33 WHIP) versus
Buddy Carlyle, RHP (3-2, 4.50 ERA, 1.24 WHIP)
Game Story: Two very underappreciated pitchers square off in this game. Going back nine outings, Maholm has five quality starts and the other four games were only off by either a run or an inning. Atlanta is below average against lefties and you can bet Maholm's ground ball-inducing tendencies should pay off against a relatively-slow Atlanta team. I like him to achieve the quality start here. Carlyle has been equally as strong lately, surrendering more than four earned runs only once in his past seven starts. Pittsburgh seems to be good medicine for pitchers and this game shapes up to be a poor man's pitching duel. A poor man's duel still isn't enough to bench your stars in this game though; start all the usual suspects.
Dolphin Stadium (outdoor) 1:05 p.m. ET (30 percent chance of showers, high 89 degrees)
Jason Simontacchi, RHP (6-6, 6.11 ERA, 1.58 WHIP) versus
Scott Olsen, LHP (6-7, 5.23 ERA, 1.66 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: Brian Schneider, C (knee, probable)
Game Story: Simontacchi has thrown a couple gems lately, but is still way too inconsistent to be trusted. If you are looking for some power, go with Josh Willingham. He hits righties very well and Simontacchi has been a fly-ball pitcher this year. When Olsen is healthy I endorse him as much as possible, but he is dealing with back issues and should not be started in this game. Ryan Zimmerman and Dmitri Young both hit lefties better than .350, meaning the power bats of the Nationals should get to Olsen. Felipe Lopez and Ronnie Belliard are both 4-for-9 (.444) lifetime against Olsen and your starting lineup can be expanded for them if need be, especially Belliard who is hitting .324 over the last month.
Shea Stadium (outdoor) 1:10 p.m. ET (50 percent chance of showers, high 87 degrees)
Kyle Lohse, RHP (5-10, 4.47 ERA, 1.33 WHIP) versus
Oliver Perez, LHP (7-6, 3.14 ERA, 1.16 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Lohse's stats are polished by a sparkling April and you shouldn't be fooled, as he stunk in May and June. His complete game on July 6 is also just there to fool you into picking him up. He has a career 6.31 ERA versus the Mets and the Carloses could make this an ugly outing for him. Carlos Beltran is 13-for-22 (.591) with four home runs against Lohse and Carlos Delgado is 6-for-12 (.500) in his career against him. Norris Hopper should get into the game for Cincinnati against the southpaw, Perez; Hopper is batting .346 against lefties. Perez, by the way, is coming off a stiff back and should be held out of this one to see where he is health-wise.
Miller Park (indoor/retractable roof) 2:10 p.m. ET
Aaron Cook, RHP (5-6, 4.68 ERA, 1.39 WHIP) versus
Jeff Suppan, RHP (8-8, 5.00 ERA, 1.50 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: Willy Taveras, OF (hamstring, questionable)
Game Story: You'd be crazy to start any pitcher against this Rockies team right now (team OPS of .962 in July, 1st in majors), let alone Suppan. Start all your Rockies, though, most notably Cory Sullivan who is hitting everything that comes near him lately (.429 average during the past month). If there is one exception, maybe sit Brad Hawpe who is 2-for-16 (.125) lifetime against Suppan. As always, Cook will destroy your fantasy WHIP if given the opportunity, so don't let him have it. Start your usual Brewers, even though home runs might not be abundant with Cook inducing ground balls all day. Ryan Spilborghs remains a waiver-wire option as long as Taveras is nursing his hamstring and Spilborghs gets to lead off.
Wrigley Field (outdoor) 2:20 p.m. ET (sunny, high 81 degrees)
Wandy Rodriguez, LHP (6-7, 3.87 ERA, 1.18 WHIP) versus
Jason Marquis, RHP (6-5, 3.67 ERA, 1.26 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Rodriguez is on fire. Use him here. He is likely the best spot start of the day, available in 96 percent of ESPN leagues. He has tossed two straight scoreless games, the last one a complete outing. The Cubs rank 29th in the majors for team OPS in July (.638) and hadn't hit a home run this month until Saturday. The Cubs' team OPS of .689 versus southpaws also ranks 29th in the majors. Rodriguez hasn't faced the Cubs yet this year, but his only outing against them last season lasted seven scoreless innings. The numbers don't usually line up so nicely; take advantage of it. I'd almost limit myself on the Cubs to only Aramis Ramirez, who rakes lefties at a .367 clip. As for Marquis, he doesn't offer enough strikeouts to make starting him -- in an almost certain loss -- worthwhile. Besides, how well can you do when the opponent's No. 3 hitter (Lance Berkman) is 17-for-29, .586 and the cleanup guy(Carlos Lee) is 6-for-17, .353 in their careers against you.
AT&T Park (outdoor) 4:05 p.m. ET (clearing, high 67 degrees)
Brett Tomko, RHP (1-7, 6.18 ERA, 1.63 WHIP) versus
Noah Lowry, LHP (9-6, 3.35 ERA, 1.41 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: Matt Kemp, OF (hamstring, questionable)
Game Story: Tomko is sliding out of the bullpen for this start against his former team. He'll be on a tight pitch count, meaning you don't want the thought of a spot start to even cross your mind. Lowry is still walking too many batters, but the Dodgers are 21st in the majors in drawing walks versus left-handers and he should be relatively safe here. Lowry's career strand rate is .63, which makes this season's .71 slightly high, but not so high as to sound alarm bells. It makes me believe it is his WHIP that will come down, not his ERA that will go up, to even things out. Watch out for Jeff Kent, who has three home runs and a .375 career average against Lowry. Try to slide Rich Aurilia into your lineup on the other side, as he is 9-for-24 (.375) versus Tomko.
Chase Field (indoor/retractable roof) 4:40 p.m. ET
Justin Germano, RHP (5-3, 3.90 ERA, 1.13 WHIP) versus
Brandon Webb, RHP (8-6, 3.37 ERA, 1.27 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: none
Game Story: Would the real Germano please stand up? Yeah, the outings of five and seven earned runs we have seen in July are a little more accurate as far as what you can expect from Germano from here on out. I wouldn't touch him in this hitter's park. If you can stomach the atrocious average, Chris B. Young is hitting for power during the past month with five home runs. I could see him taking Germano deep, as 12 of his 13 long balls have come versus righties. Webb has dominated the Padres this season with 16 innings of three-run ball, 19 strikeouts and three walks. Look for him to mow this team down.
Citizens Bank Park (outdoor) 6:05 p.m. ET (30 percent chance of showers, high 90 degrees)
Adam Wainwright, RHP (7-7, 4.66 ERA, 1.53 WHIP) versus
Adam Eaton, RHP (8-5, 5.69 ERA, 1.50 WHIP)
Notable Injuries: David Eckstein, SS (back, return from DL)
Game Story: Only the Rockies have a higher OPS in July than the Phillies' team OPS of .946. Shane Victorino, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Aaron Rowand, Ryan Howard and even part-time players like Abraham Nunez, Wes Helms and Greg Dobbs are all hitting better than .300 during the past month. In other words, Wainwright doesn't stand much of a chance. He handled the Phillies on June 23, but Philadelphia's momentum has really been building lately. NL-only league owners that have been using him will want to send him to the bench for this one. Eaton was rocked by the Cardinals in that same June 23 game to the tune of six runs and home runs from Juan Encarnacion and Chris Duncan. You might want to sit both pitchers and supplement your offense with the Phillies and Cards.
Waiver Wire Pickups
Alex Gordon, 3B, KC @ Cleveland Indians
Josh Fields, 3B, CHW @ Baltimore Orioles
Jay Gibbons, OF, BAL versus Chicago White Sox
Kevin Millar, 1B, BAL versus Chicago White Sox
Mike Mussina, SP, NYY @ Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Shannon Stewart, OF, OAK @ Minnesota Twins
Jason Bartlett, SS, MIN versus Oakland Athletics
Paul Maholm, SP, PIT @ Atlanta Braves
Buddy Carlyle, SP, ATL versus Pittsburgh Pirates
Ronnie Belliard, 2B, WAS @ Florida Marlins
Josh Willingham, OF, FLA versus Washington Nationals
Norris Hopper, OF, CIN @ New York Mets
Cory Sullivan, OF, COL @ Milwaukee Brewers
Wandy Rodriguez, SP, HOU @ Chicago Cubs
Noah Lowry, SP, SF @ Los Angeles Dodgers
Rich Aurilia, 3B/1B/SS, SF @ Los Angeles Dodgers
Please Note that the notable injuries are not meant to be a comprehensive report of each team's disabled list. For brevity, we include only day-to-day injuries or new DL additions for players you might otherwise consider using in these games. Long-term DL or day-to-day injuries to starting pitchers who were not scheduled to appear are omitted.
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com and TalentedMrRoto.com. He can be reached at alla_rino@TalentedMrRoto.com