Forecaster: Lineups, matchups, two-start pitchers


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.

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

They got chili dogs over there? -- Game breakdowns

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.

Hit like Mays -- Hitters' matchups

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.

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.

Run like Hayes -- Basestealers' matchups

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.

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.

Give 'em the heater -- Pitchers' matchups

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

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.

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