- Sean Allen
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As starting pitchers on nonplayoff-bound teams wrap up their 2008 seasons, you can't help but look back at where they were drafted compared to what they did. On Friday's slate, we have Daisuke Matsuzaka, who looks to have made good on his lofty expectations now that he has some experience. We also have Ryan Dempster, who was a late-round steal in many leagues, with many of his owners picking him expecting saves, not wins.
Then there is Justin Verlander.
Verlander hits the mound one last time, this time trying to avoid being saddled with his 18th loss, a dubious mark for a pitcher. He was selected in virtually all leagues as a low-tier No. 1 pitcher, an investment that certainly seemed safe at the time. He'll wind up with nearly 20 more walks and about 25 fewer strikeouts than last season, a certain swing in his K/BB rate but not overly significant. It looks as though he'll surrender fewer home runs than in any season of his career. His fastball was still being clocked in the high 90s in recent games. I can't tell you what is wrong with him, other than it just seems he has been punished for every extra player he walked or didn't strike out when compared with last season.
Do you start him here against the Rays in his 2008 swan song? I don't think you can. Not with an 8.05 ERA in September.
Matchups for Friday, Sept. 26
All times are ET.
Andy Pettitte, SP, Yankees(shoulder)
Mark DeRosa, 3B, Cubs (calf)
Yunel Escobar, 2B/SS/3B, Braves (hamstring)
Jody Gerut, OF, Padres (finger)
Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves (shoulder)
Mike Lowell, 3B, Red Sox (hip)
Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals (quadriceps)
Jack Wilson, SS, Pirates (finger)
Start 'em, sit 'em
Hitters: Grady Sizemore struggles with John Danks' stuff. He has just two hits in 18 at-bats (.111 average) against him. Chipper Jones managed a pinch-hit three-run home run Wednesday. So even though he might not be in perfect health, he is still contributing to fantasy teams. Mike Lowell could serve as a DH as early as Thursday, so watch his status for Friday's game. Robinson Cano is just 1-for-15 against Daisuke Matsuzaka and can safely be benched. Start your Angels. Garret Anderson, Vladimir Guerrero, Gary Matthews Jr. and Chone Figgins all hit better than .300 in significant career at-bats versus Vicente Padilla. Derrek Lee will look forward to this meeting with Jeff Suppan. In 42 at-bats, Lee has four home runs and is hitting .476 against him. J.J. Hardy isn't a great start versus Ryan Dempster. Hardy is 1-for-16 (.063) against the former closer. That's not as bad as Corey Hart's 0-for-12 mark, though. Slip Jayson Werth into your lineup with lefty John Lannan on the docket. Werth is hitting .300 with a 1.007 OPS against southpaws this season. Aaron Rowand is a nice 10-for-19 (.526) against Derek Lowe.
Pitchers: A home date for Mike Pelfrey means you start him. He has a 2.94 ERA at Shea Stadium this season. Back away from using Ryan Dempster if you are in a close finish to the season. The Cubs lifted him after just 67 pitches in his last outing as they reserve him for the postseason. John Danks has a 2.89 ERA in three starts against the Indians and is on a 13-inning scoreless streak heading into this contest. Dan Haren has his good stuff heading into what could be his final start of the season. He had a quality start in Coors Field in his last outing, and that followed a shutout of the Giants. Start him at home against the Rockies. John Lackey gets a date with the Rangers, whom he held scoreless for seven innings in his last start, striking out seven in a row to finish with a career-high 12 K's. Since a poor Aug. 6 start, Derek Lowe is 6-1 with a 1.66 ERA in nine starts, and in his past four outings he's 3-0 with a 0.66 ERA. The Giants should be no trouble for Lowe.
Hitters: Feel free to use Jason Kendall for his average here. He is 15-for-35 (.429 BA) versus Cubs starter Ryan Dempster. Mike Napoli has three home runs and two stolen bases in the past week and has 13 hits in his past 20 at-bats (.650 average). Ridiculous. Shin-Soo Choo continues to knock in runs, with nine RBIs over his past 25 at-bats. Use him. Cameron Maybin is making a September impression with his legs, swiping three bags already. Filling in for Florida behind the plate, John Baker has seven runs and seven RBIs in seven days. Not a bad start at all. Finally getting some playing time for the clinched Angels, Kendry Morales has three dingers since Sept. 16. He doesn't do much else, but if stolen bases are your biggest concern right now, Cesar Izturis has stolen four bags in the past week.
Pitchers: Scott Lewis just keeps on winning. A hole in his armor showed when he allowed three runs in five innings against the Tigers in his past start, yet he still got the win, and his ERA is still just 1.42 on the season. He has a tough opponent in John Danks and the fighting White Sox but has shown the ability to log quality innings. Chris Waters might be the final losing pitcher to grace Yankee Stadium, but he also tossed a shutout against the Blue Jays in his start prior to that one and gets this Toronto team again Friday. The lefty has certainly showed some composure at times, and the Blue Jays definitely are weaker against southpaws. It's not a bad combination for a win. Chris Volstad has emerged as a young pitcher to own next year, but you still have a chance in 90 percent of ESPN leagues to try him out now. He already has a quality start under his belt against the Mets, and you can be sure the Fish will want to play spoilers in this series. Jorge Campillo seemed to snap out of an adjustment period in his past start. After going 0-3 with a 6.88 ERA over six starts, Campillo allowed just two runs over six innings in a win against the Mets. Kyle Davies is coming off two great starts and credits a quickened pace to his pitching for the turnaround. This will be a big game for his opponent, the Twins, but his last start came against the team Minnesota is chasing (White Sox), so he can handle the pressure. Davies is in tough against Francisco Liriano when it comes to getting a win, but a quality start with some strikeouts isn't too much to ask. Ian Snell's slight resurgence at the end of this season could end on an even better note as his final date is against the Padres at pitcher-friendly Petco Park. Available in 70 percent of ESPN leagues, Brandon Morrow could get you a quality start win with half a dozen strikeouts as he tangles with the offensively challenged A's.
Big news in the north Atlantic states as the Friday forecast calls for a 100 percent chance of heavy rain. Games in New York (Marlins-Mets) and Boston (Yankees-Red Sox) are seriously threatened by this. Moving southwest from there, the chance of heavy rain is 60 percent in Baltimore (Blue Jays-Orioles) and 50 percent in Philadelphia (Nationals-Phillies). Be prepared to deal with some scheduling jumbling this weekend. Weatherproof games will be played in Milwaukee (Cubs-Brewers), Houston (Braves-Astros), Minnesota (Royals-Twins), Arizona (Rockies-Diamondbacks) and Seattle (A's-Mariners).
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
Sean Allen looks at Friday's games for fantasy matchups to exploit and avoid.