Commentary

Forecaster: Lineups, matchups, two-start pitchers

Updated: March 29, 2008, 7:37 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

Celebrate, folks, Opening Day is finally here!

If you're anything like me, you're pretty excited. I'm finishing up my last-minute drafts, setting my Opening Day TV-viewing schedule, cracking open my copy of "Major League," all to help get into full, obsessive, in-season baseball mode.

You'll find this year's Forecaster has a bit of a "Major League" theme to it; fitting, wouldn't you say? Hey, we've got to have our fun doing the nitty-gritty, weekly lineup-setting. It's a chore, for sure, but a necessary one on our quest to a championship.

It's not too late! You have until April 18 to sign up and draft your own free fantasy baseball team!
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Check back each Saturday, as in this space I'll provide you all the information on schedules, ballparks, hitter, pitcher and baserunner matchups, as you look to set your fantasy lineups. Fortunately, if you're targeting a specific area of your lineup -- say, steals guys -- each week I'll list a handy "quick-click" link below:

Quick click by section: Game breakdowns | Hitters' matchups | Basestealers' matchups | Pitchers' matchups | Two-start pitchers

Note: Weather reports are based on upcoming weather forecasts (through Friday), as well as historical trends in those cities. "Poor weather" doesn't guarantee rainouts; those are merely the teams with the highest probability of one or more.

Seven gamesFive games
Angels (@MIN-4, TEX-3)Athletics (BOS-2, CLE-3)
Astros (@SD-4, @CHC-3)Red Sox (@OAK-2, @TOR-3)
Braves (@WAS-1, PIT-3, NYM-3)
Nationals (ATL-1, @PHI-3, @STL-3)
Padres (HOU-4, LAD-3)
Twins (LAA-4, KC-3)
Six games, all homeSix games, all road
Cardinals (COL-3, WAS-3)Diamondbacks (@CIN-3, @COL-3)
Cubs (MIL-3, HOU-3)Giants (@LAD-3, @MIL-3)
Marlins (NYM-3, PIT-3)Mets (@FLA-3, @ATL-3)
Orioles (TB-3, SEA-3)Pirates (@ATL-3, @FLA-3)
Reds (ARI-3, PHI-3)Rangers (@SEA-3, @LAA-3)
Tigers (KC-3, CHW-3)Rays (@BAL-3, @NYY-3)
Yankees (TOR-3, TB-3)Royals (@DET-3, @MIN-3)
White Sox (@CLE-3, @DET-3)
Good weather (* -- weatherproof)Bad weather
Angels (@MIN-4, TEX-3)Cubs (MIL-3, HOU-3)
Mariners (TEX-3, @BAL-3)Indians (CHW-3, @OAK-3)
Red Sox (@OAK-2, @TOR-3)Rockies (@STL-3, ARI-3)
Twins * (LAA-4, KC-3)Tigers (KC-3, CHW-3)
White Sox (@CLE-3, @DET-3)

Note: Hitter-friendly ballparks are based primarily on three-year statistical data (2005-07) comparing home/road performance, much the same method as our Park Factor page. Some personal opinion does go into making ballpark selections.

Good for hittersPoor for hitters
Diamondbacks (@CIN-3, @COL-3)Astros (@SD-4, @CHC-3)
Mariners (TEX-3, @BAL-3)Dodgers (SF-3, @SD-3)
Phillies (WAS-3, @CIN-3)Rangers (@SEA-3, @LAA-3)
Tigers (KC-3, CHW-3)White Sox (@CLE-3, @DET-3)
Games at hitter-friendly ballparks
Chase Field (ARI): No games
Citizens Bank Park (PHI): Nationals (March 31, April 2-3)
Coors Field (COL): Diamondbacks (April 4-6)
Great American Ball Park (CIN): Diamondbacks (March 31, April 2-3); Phillies (April 4-6)
Rangers Ballpark (TEX): No games
U.S. Cellular Field (CHW): No games
Wrigley Field (CHC): Brewers (March 31, April 2-3); Astros (April 4-6)
Facing mostly leftiesFacing mostly righties
Athletics (3 LHP, 2 RHP)Angels (6 RHP, 1 LHP)
Braves (4 LHP, 3 RHP)Blue Jays (6 RHP, 0 LHP)
Brewers (3 LHP, 3 RHP)Cubs (6 RHP, 0 LHP)
Cardinals (3 LHP, 3 RHP)Dodgers (5 RHP, 1 LHP)
Diamondbacks (3 LHP, 3 RHP)Giants (5 RHP, 1 LHP)
Indians (3 LHP, 3 RHP)Padres (6 RHP, 1 LHP)
Marlins (3 LHP, 3 RHP)Phillies (5 RHP, 1 LHP)
Mets (3 LHP, 3 RHP)Rangers (5 RHP, 1 LHP)
Pirates (4 LHP, 2 RHP)Rays (5 RHP, 1 LHP)
White Sox (3 LHP, 3 RHP)Red Sox (5 RHP, 0 LHP)
Reds (5 RHP, 1 LHP)
Rockies (5 RHP, 0 LHP, 1 TBD)
Royals (5 RHP, 1 LHP)
Tigers (5 RHP, 1 LHP)
Yankees (5 RHP, 0 LHP, 1 TBD)

Player tips: Matt Diaz (ATL) is a lifetime .330 hitter with an .889 OPS against left-handers, and .329/.842 in 128 career games at Turner Field. ... Conor Jackson (ARI) is a lifetime .302/.873 hitter against left-handers, and .303/.809 in 19 career games at Coors Field. ... Geoff Jenkins (MIL) is a lifetime .288/.883 hitter against right-handers, and .312/1.016 in 38 career games at Great American Ball Park. ... Jacque Jones (DET) batted .294/.825 against right-handers in 2007, and is a .287/.820 hitter in 47 career games at Comerica Park. ... Chris Snyder (ARI) is a lifetime .278/.824 hitter against left-handers, and .362/.923 in 20 career games at Coors Field.

Note: Matchups are determined by examining both an opponent's catcher and pitching staff. Obviously, teams like the Tigers (catcher: Ivan Rodriguez) and Cardinals (Yadier Molina) rate as tough teams to run on, while teams like the Padres (Josh Bard/Michael Barrett) and Indians (Victor Martinez) rate as easy teams to run on.

Good for stolen basesPoor for stolen bases
Astros (@SD-4, @CHC-3)Angels (@MIN-4, TEX-3)
Athletics (BOS-2, CLE-3)Nationals (ATL-1, @PHI-3, @STL-3)
Blue Jays (@NYY-3, BOS-3)Rockies (@STL-3, ARI-3)
Cardinals (COL-3, WAS-3)Royals (@DET-3, @MIN-3)

Player tips: Michael Bourn (HOU) cracked double digits in steals this spring (10), while the Padres allowed more steals (189) and steals attempts (209) than anyone in 2007. ... Travis Buck (OAK) is my sleeper pick of the week, playing five home games against weak-armed catchers Jason Varitek and Victor Martinez. ... Torii Hunter (LAA) might have made a commitment to run more often this season, but the Twins' Joe Mauer has a cannon for an arm, helping his team allow the second-fewest steals (65) in MLB in 2007. ... Felipe Lopez (WAS) begins the year as a reserve, and the Cardinals allowed the fewest steals in MLB (58) in 2007 besides. ... Alex Rios (TOR) swiped three of his 17 bases in 2007 against the Yankees.

Note: As with the hitter-friendly ballparks, pitcher-friendly ballparks are based mostly on 2005-07 data, with some personal opinion involved.

Good for pitchersPoor for pitchers
Angels (@MIN-4, TEX-3)Blue Jays (@NYY-3, BOS-3)
Cardinals (COL-3, WAS-3)Diamondbacks (@CIN-3, @COL-3)
Dodgers (SF-3, @SD-3)Reds (ARI-3, PHI-3)
Mariners (TEX-3, @BAL-3)White Sox (@CLE-3, @DET-3)
Games at pitcher-friendly ballparks
Busch Stadium (STL): Rockies (March 31, April 2-3); Nationals (April 4-6)
Dolphin Stadium (FLA): Mets (March 31-April 2); Pirates (April 4-6)
McAfee Coliseum (OAK): Red Sox (April 1-2); Indians (April 4-6)
Metrodome (MIN): Angels (March 31-April 3); Royals (April 4-6)
Petco Park (SD): Astros (March 31-April 3); Dodgers (April 4-6)
Safeco Field (SEA): Rangers (March 31-April 2)
Shea Stadium (NYM): No games

Player tips: John Danks (CHW) had a 5.73 ERA and 1.55 WHIP in two starts at Jacobs Field in 2007. ... Jason Isringhausen (STL) had 20 saves and a 2.57 ERA in 35 games at Busch Stadium in 2007. ... Greg Maddux (SD) was 8-5 with a 3.59 ERA in 16 starts at Petco Park in 2007, and is scheduled to start there on April 2. ... Micah Owings (ARI) had a 4.96 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 13 road games (12 starts) in 2007, and is scheduled to start at Coors Field on April 4. ... Joe Saunders (LAA) won his only career start at the Metrodome, on July 22, 2007 (7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 5 K's), and is scheduled to start there on April 2.

Two-start pitchers -- the top 25
Pitcher (Team)First start (Opponent)Second start (Opponent)
1. Johan Santana (NYM)March 31, @FLA (Hendrickson)April 6, @ATL (Smoltz)
Spring: 1-1, 3.15 ERA, 1.05 WHIP ... June 24, 2007, at Dolphin Stadium: Win, 6 IP, 1 ER, 8 K's
2. Erik Bedard (SEA)March 31, TEX (Millwood)April 6, @BAL (Burres)
Spring: 2-2, 8.63 ERA, 1.79 WHIP ... 2007 at Camden Yards: 13 GS, 2.81 ERA, 1.13 WHIP
3. Justin Verlander (DET)March 31, KC (Meche)April 6, CHW (Buehrle)
Spring: 2-1, 5.85 ERA, 1.65 WHIP ... Career versus KC: 8 GS, 6-0, 2.26 ERA, 1.05 WHIP
4. Jake Peavy (SD)March 31, HOU (Oswalt)April 5, LAD (Penny)
Spring: 1-2, 9.39 ERA, 1.96 WHIP ... Career at Petco Park: 89 GS, 2.95 ERA, 1.11 WHIP
5. C.C. Sabathia (CLE)March 31, CHW (Buehrle)April 5, @OAK (Eveland)
Spring: 3-0, 4.50 ERA, 1.32 WHIP ... Career versus CHW: 23 GS, 14-3, 3.48 ERA, 1.23 WHIP
6. Chris Young (SD)April 1, HOU (Backe)April 6, LAD (Lowe)
Spring: 1-0, 3.79 ERA, 1.00 WHIP ... 2007 at home: 13 GS, 1.69 ERA, 0.96 WHIP
7. Roy Oswalt (HOU)March 31, @SD (Peavy)April 5, @CHC (Marquis)
Spring: 1-2, 3.42 ERA, 1.44 WHIP ... Career at Petco Park: 3 GS, 2-0, 2.50 ERA, 1.28 WHIP
8. Aaron Harang (CIN)March 31, ARI (Webb)April 6, PHI (B. Myers)
Spring: 2-1, 2.86 ERA, 0.91 WHIP ... 2007 at home: 18 GS, 8-4, 3.41 ERA, 1.15 WHIP
9. Brad Penny (LAD)March 31, SF (Zito)April 5, @SD (Peavy)
Spring: 2-0, 0.95 ERA, 1.00 WHIP ... 2007 versus SF: 4 GS, 3.12 ERA, 1.50 WHIP
10. Brandon Webb (ARI)March 31, @CIN (Harang)April 5, @COL (Francis)
Spring: 1-0, 8.50 ERA, 1.94 WHIP ... Career at Coors Field: 13 GS, 4.24 ERA, 1.51 WHIP
11. Carlos Zambrano (CHC)March 31, MIL (Sheets)April 6, HOU (Backe)
Spring: 1-0, 2.37 ERA, 0.84 WHIP ... Career versus HOU: 20 GS, 10-6, 2.65 ERA, 1.13 WHIP
12. Jered Weaver (LAA)March 31, @MIN (L. Hernandez)April 5, TEX (Millwood)
Spring: 5-0, 1.37 ERA, 0.80 WHIP ... 2007 versus TEX: 3 GS, 1.89 ERA, 1.21 WHIP
13. Daisuke Matsuzaka (BOS)April 1, @OAK (Blanton)April 6, @TOR (Halladay)
March 25: 5 IP, 2 H, 2 ER, 6 K's ... 2007 at Rogers Centre: 2 GS, 2.08 ERA, 1.08 WHIP
14. Derek Lowe (LAD)April 1, SF (Cain)April 6, @SD (C. Young)
Spring: 0-1, 5.73 ERA, 1.41 WHIP ... 2007 versus SF: 3 GS, 2.25 ERA, 1.40 WHIP
15. Roy Halladay (TOR)March 31, @NYY (Wang)April 6, BOS (Matsuzaka)
Spring: 1-2, 4.00 ERA, 1.33 WHIP ... Career at Yankee Stadium: 13 GS, 2.93 ERA, 1.28 WHIP
16. Brett Myers (PHI)March 31, WAS (Chico)April 6, @CIN (Harang)
Spring: 3-0, 1.13 ERA, 0.75 WHIP ... 2007 versus WAS: 9 G, 4 SV, 9 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 10 K's
17. James Shields (TB)March 31, @BAL (Guthrie)April 5, @NYY (TBD)
Spring: 3-1, 2.41 ERA, 1.34 WHIP ... Career at Camden Yards: 4 GS, 3.41 ERA, 1.17 WHIP
18. Ben Sheets (MIL)March 31, @CHC (Zambrano)April 6, SF (Zito)
Spring: 0-1, 9.56 ERA, 1.81 WHIP ... Career versus SF: 6 GS, 2.68 ERA, 0.87 WHIP
19. Jon Garland (LAA)April 1, @MIN (Bonser)April 6, TEX (Padilla)
Spring: 1-0, 2.57 ERA, 1.21 WHIP ... Career at Metrodome: 16 GS, 3.80 ERA, 1.39 WHIP
20. Adam Wainwright (STL)March 31, COL (Francis)April 5, WAS (Chico)
Spring: 2-1, 3.38 ERA, 1.46 WHIP ... 2007 at home: 17 GS, 3.66 ERA, 1.39 WHIP
21. Ian Snell (PIT)March 31, @ATL (Glavine)April 6, @FLA (VandenHurk)
Spring: 2-3, 4.01 ERA, 1.26 WHIP ... 2007 on road: 16 GS, 3.65 ERA, 1.34 WHIP
22. Tim Hudson (ATL)March 30, @WAS (Od. Perez)April 4, NYM (Maine)
Spring: 2-0, 1.47 ERA, 1.25 WHIP ... 2007 versus NYM: 4 GS, 3.33 ERA, 1.11 WHIP
23. Jeff Francis (COL)March 31, @STL (Wainwright)April 5, ARI (Webb)
Spring: 0-0, 3.00 ERA, 1.17 WHIP ... Career versus ARI: 14 GS, 7-2, 3.54 ERA, 1.26 WHIP
24. Chien-Ming Wang (NYY)March 31, TOR (Halladay)April 6, TB (TBD)
Spring: 2-2, 8.04 ERA, 1.85 WHIP ... 2007 at home: 16 GS, 10-4, 2.75 ERA, 1.13 WHIP
25. Gil Meche (DET)March 31, @DET (Verlander)April 6, @MIN (Bonser)
Spring: 3-2, 3.74 ERA, 1.25 WHIP ... Career at Comerica Park: 9 GS, 4-1, 3.35 ERA, 1.32 WHIP
The rest (in alphabetical order): Brandon Backe (HOU), April 1, @SD (C. Young), April 6, @CHC (Zambrano); Joe Blanton (OAK), April 1, BOS (Matsuzaka), April 6, CLE (Cl. Lee); Boof Bonser (MIN), April 1, LAA (Garland), April 6, KC (Meche); Mark Buehrle (CHW), March 31, @CLE (Sabathia), April 6, @DET (Verlander); Matt Chico (WAS), March 31, @PHI (B. Myers), April 5, @STL (Wainwright); Tom Glavine (ATL), March 31, PIT (Snell), April 5, NYM (TBD); Jeremy Guthrie (BAL), March 31, TB (J. Shields), April 5, SEA (M. Batista); Mark Hendrickson (FLA), March 31, NYM (J. Santana), April 5, PIT (Maholm); Livan Hernandez (MIN), March 31, LAA (Weaver), April 5, KC (Tomko); Kevin Millwood (TEX), March 31, @SEA (Bedard), April 5, @LAA (Weaver); Vicente Padilla (TEX), April 1, @SEA (F. Hernandez), April 6, @LAA (Garland); Odalis Perez (WAS), March 30, ATL (T. Hudson), April 4, @STL (Looper); Rick VandenHurk (FLA), April 1, NYM (P. Martinez), April 6, PIT (Snell); Barry Zito (SF), March 31, @LAD (Penny), April 6, @MIL (Sheets).

Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.