- Sean Allen
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Wednesday marks the first day that we see a slate of pitchers who most likely are making their last start of 2008. Certainly we'll see a handful of them pitching in the postseason, but we don't care about the playoffs in our fantasy leagues. A few of them, like A.J. Burnett, might get one more kick at the can on the final day of the season, but he is the exception and not the rule.
What does this mean for fantasy? Well, most of the pitchers who are starting Wednesday can be dropped from your roster after their starts. Depending on how many innings you have remaining in innings-limit leagues, you could try to squeeze in some extra spot starts or add a relief arm to add a few strikeouts and positive ERA innings. You can even add a bat or two since no teams have a day off after Thursday.
Even if you are not in a position where adding some extra spot starters applies to you, it is still a good idea to remain active on the wire. Say you are in first place and your pitchers look like they will finish right up against your innings-pitched limit, so you feel no need to add guys from the wire. Well, what if the owner in second place stands to gain a few points by streaming pitchers over the final days of the season? Do you want him having first dibs on the players available? So even if you have no plans for using another player, why not drop Max Scherzer after Wednesday's start and add Jorge De La Rosa from Thursday's slate?
That's just an example, but the point is you need to remain active until the final day of games. Your fellow owners will be trying to pull off desperation moves to climb the ladder quickly, so why not shake the ladder to make things more difficult for them?
Matchups for Wednesday, Sept. 24
All times are ET.
Jay Bruce, OF, Reds (hand)
Miguel Cabrera, 1B/3B, Tigers (back)
Fausto Carmona, SP, Indians (suspended?)
J.D. Drew, OF, Red Sox (back)
Damion Easley, 2B, Mets (quadriceps)
Nomar Garciaparra, 1B/3B/SS, Dodgers (knee)
Jody Gerut, OF, Padres (finger)
Matt Holliday, OF, Rockies (back)
Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves (shoulder)
Howie Kendrick, 2B, Angels (hamstring)
Adam LaRoche, 1B, Pirates (hamstring)
Mike Lowell, 3B, Red Sox (hip)
Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals (thigh)
Lyle Overbay, 1B, Blue Jays (had)
Troy Percival, RP, Rays (back)
Hanley Ramirez, SS, Marlins (shoulder)
Juan Rivera, OF, Angels (hip)
Jack Wilson, SS, Pirates (finger)
Michael Young, SS, Rangers (finger)
Start 'em, sit 'em
Hitters: Jay Bruce hadn't picked up a bat as of Monday night after leaving Saturday's game because of a wrist injury. Corey Patterson is starting in his place, but you'll want to look elsewhere for a replacement. With Nate Robertson on tap to face the Royals, make sure Mike Aviles, Billy Butler and Jose Guillen are in your lineup. All three are batting better than .300 versus lefties, with an OPS better than .900. Matt Holliday has had a few days off to nurse his sore back, and his status Tuesday would be a good indicator of how he will fare Wednesday, so check the box score, but maybe have a backup plan ready. Chipper Jones is expected back in the lineup Wednesday, but double-check before starting him. Considering that Adam LaRoche's 22 RBIs in September trail only Ryan Howard's 27, be prudent with news concerning LaRoche's availability. He left Sunday's game because of a sore hamstring. Hanley Ramirez started Monday but went 0-for-5. Consider rostering a backup for him and starting that player until Ramirez does something. Alfredo Amezaga has been stealing a few bags while playing in Ramirez's place. Bobby Abreu has a strong history against A.J. Burnett from their time as division rivals in the NL East. In 54 at-bats, Abreu is hitting .352 against Burnett with a .981 OPS. Surely you know by now that a healthy Milton Bradley is a must-play against southpaws thanks to his .325 average and 1.140 OPS versus lefties this season. He has started the past four Rangers contests (entering Tuesday), and lefty Dana Eveland is on tap for Wednesday. You know what to do.
Pitchers: Arguably the worst start of his career, Brett Myers' 10-run debacle against the Marlins was a sour note after he posted a 1.80 ERA in his 11 starts leading up to the outing. We'll give him the benefit of the doubt because of the dominance he has shown since the All-Star break. Besides, the Braves aren't exactly setting the world afire lately. Jonathan Sanchez might be a nice option for those seeking extra strikeouts, but his 5.25 ERA in four starts against Colorado make him a poor bet in terms of ERA and WHIP. The Cubs have the fifth-best OPS in the majors versus southpaws this season (.812), and Oliver Perez hasn't exactly been too useful lately. His September ERA is 5.82. Also, judging by their lineup Monday, the Cubs won't take it easy on the Mets despite having clinched the NL Central. I'd back away from Perez. Even pitcher Carlos Zambrano is a threat to Perez with his .476 average against southpaws this season. A.J. Burnett catches a Yankees club that will most likely be eliminated from playoff contention by Wednesday. Not that I'd start him based solely because of that, but Burnett is also 6-3 with a 2.58 ERA in his career versus the Yankees. One start after pitching a no-hitter, Zambrano lasted only 1 2/3 innings, surrendering eight runs on six hits and three walks. What to expect against the Mets? I wish I could tell you. His only start this year against the Mets was April 21, when he earned the win with a seven-inning, one-run outing. You can't read too much into that, though, considering it was five months ago. I think Big Z will be useable here, but I am looking at the career batting average of several prominent Mets versus Zambrano to make that call. David Wright (.154 BA in 13 at-bats), Carlos Beltran (.077 in 13 at-bats) and Jose Reyes (.188 in 16 at-bats) have all struggled versus Zambrano. It's not immediately known if Fausto Carmona will appeal his suspension and be available to pitch Wednesday, but even if he does, his consistency hasn't been good enough to use him. Of course, you use Max Scherzer against the Cardinals. Anyone who has the potential to strike out nearly two batters per inning (28 strikeouts over his last 17 innings) is a must-start.
Hitters: His .295 average and .812 OPS against lefties make Emil Brown a known commodity to use against lefties. Hold him back in this matchup, though, as he is 1-for-7 against the Rangers' Matt Harrison. Bill Hall (13 percent owned) and Mike Cameron (56 percent owned) are must-starts against Paul Maholm. Hall is 14-for-23 (.609) with two home runs, and Cameron is 10-for-15 (.667) with three home runs. Nelson Cruz has had only 17 at-bats against lefties but has managed 11 hits (.471 BA). Jerry Hairston Jr. and Jeff Keppinger are both hitting better than .350 versus left-handers, and Randy Wolf is the Astros' starter on Wednesday.
Pitchers: Clayton Kershaw is only 25 percent owned in ESPN leagues and is a great spot-start pitcher for those who are trying to maximize their innings down the stretch. Kershaw has had issues lately with running up his pitch count in the early innings, but this matchup with the Padres is too good to pass up. San Diego has the second-worst OPS in the league versus left-handers (.673), and Kershaw already has a quality-start win against them (Sept. 2). In fact, in two starts against the Padres, he has kept their combined lineup to a .195 average (8-for-41). Almost as attractive for spot-start purposes, Matt Harrison faces an A's team that is the worst in the league in OPS against lefties (.638). Harrison is 2-0 with a 0.65 ERA in 14 innings against the A's this season, including a five-hitter just two starts ago. Keep Paul Maholm reserved. The Brewers have the third-best OPS against left-handers (.822), and sure enough, they smacked two home runs and nailed Maholm for six runs in his last outing against them. They also managed 12 hits against Maholm in the outing prior to that one. It's Jeff Suppan's turn in the Brewers' rotation, so that's who I listed, but he might not be the final choice. CC Sabathia on short rest or even Yovani Gallardo in a return from a season-long knee injury are both options.
The only baseball city with inclement weather forecast for Wednesday is one of the weatherproof contests. So the White Sox and Twins won't be affected by the rain being called for in Minnesota. Nothing can happen to games in Toronto (Yankees-Blue Jays), Milwaukee (Pirates-Brewers), Houston (Reds-Astros) or Seattle (Angels-Mariners), either.
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
Sean Allen looks at Wednesday's games for fantasy matchups to exploit and avoid.