Commentary

Fantasy Forecaster: What a weak selection of two-start pitchers

Updated: July 20, 2008, 1:50 PM ET
By Tristan Cockcroft | ESPN.com

On tap: Things get back to normal in fantasy Week 17, though the four- (or, in some cases, three-) game Week 16 means that, in most cases, back-of-the-rotation starters are the ones getting two turns this week. As you'll see below, it's a bad week for two-start options, so don't be hasty to strategize around quantity of starts. Quality is your best bet.

Among Week 17's more notable storylines: Yankees-Red Sox in Boston for three games beginning Friday, coincidentally (or perhaps not) the day David Ortiz is scheduled to return from the disabled list; Phillies-Mets in New York for three games beginning Tuesday; the Blue Jays' Shaun Marcum returns Tuesday following a one-month absence; Joe Blanton makes his Phillies debut Tuesday (making him a two-start pitcher) and Brett Myers returns to the Phillies' rotation a day later; and Alfonso Soriano returns in time for the Cubs' four-game series against the Marlins beginning Thursday.

Quick click by section:

Game breakdowns | Hitters' matchups | Hitters in their Comfort Zone

Base stealers' 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 games
Blue Jays (@BAL-4, SEA-3)Orioles (TOR-4, LAA-3)
Brewers (@STL-4, HOU-3)Padres (@CIN-3, @PIT-4)
Cardinals (MIL-4, @NYM-3)Pirates (@HOU-3, SD-4)
Cubs (@ARI-3, FLA-4)Rays (OAK-3, @KC-4)
Marlins (ATL-3, @CHC-4)Royals (DET-3, TB-4)
Six games, all homeSix games, all road
Giants (WAS-3, ARI-3)Braves (@FLA-3, @PHI-3)
Mets (PHI-3, STL-3)Nationals (@SF-3, @LAD-3)
Reds (SD-3, COL-3)Rangers (@CHW-3, @OAK-3)
Twins (@NYY-3, @CLE-3)
Good weather (* -- weatherproof)Riskier weather
Astros * (PIT-3, @MIL-3)Mets (PHI-3, STL-3)
Athletics (@TB-3, TEX-3)Orioles (TOR-4, LAA-3)
Diamondbacks (CHC-3, @SF-3)Phillies (@NYM-3, ATL-3)
Giants (WAS-3, ARI-3)Royals (DET-3, TB-4)
Mariners * (BOS-3, @TOR-3)
Nationals (@SF-3, @LAD-3)

Note: Hitter-friendly ballparks are based primarily on recent statistical data (2005-08) comparing home and road performances, a similar method to our Park Factor page. Some personal opinion does go into making ballpark selections.

Good for hittersPoor for hitters
Angels (CLE-3, @BAL-3) Cardinals (MIL-4, @NYM-3)
Dodgers (@COL-3, WAS-3) Mariners (BOS-3, @TOR-3)
Padres (@CIN-3, @PIT-4) Nationals (@SF-3, @LAD-3)
White Sox (TEX-3, @DET-3) Rangers (@CHW-3, @OAK-3)
Games at hitter-friendly ballparks
Chase Field (ARI): Cubs, July 21-23
Citizens Bank Park (PHI): Braves, July 25-27
Coors Field (COL): Dodgers, July 21-23
Great American Ball Park (CIN): Padres, July 21-23; Rockies, July 25-27
Rangers Ballpark (TEX): No games
U.S. Cellular Field (CHW): Rangers, July 21-23
Wrigley Field (CHC): Marlins, July 24-27
Lefty-heavyRighty-heavy
Angels (3 LHP, 3 RHP)Brewers (6 RHP, 1 LHP)
Cubs (3 LHP, 3 RHP, 1 TBD)Indians (6 RHP, 0 LHP)
Diamondbacks (3 LHP, 3 RHP)Marlins (7 RHP, 0 LHP)
Dodgers (3 LHP, 3 RHP)Orioles (6 RHP, 1 LHP)
Phillies (3 LHP, 3 RHP)Pirates (6 RHP, 1 LHP)
Rays (3 LHP, 4 RHP)

Looking for a decent hitter value pick for this week? Here are 10 strong matchup choices among the beneath-the-elite crop:

Hitter (Team)ScheduleRecent stats (since?)
Jay Bruce (CIN)SD-3, COL-3(July 1) 13 G's, .239 BA, .721 OPS
2008 home: 23 G's, .298 BA, 5 HRs, .927 OPS ... 2008 versus RHP: 118 PAs, .296 BA, 6 HRs, .857 OPS
Mark DeRosa (CHC)@ARI-3, FLA-4(June 24) 18 G's, .277 BA, .898 OPS
Career at Chase Field: 8 G's, .286 BA, 1 HR, .824 OPS ... Career versus LHP: 791 PAs, .301 BA, .843 OPS
Ben Francisco (CLE)@LAA-3, MIN-3(June 29) 12 G's, .319 BA, .981 OPS
Career versus RHP: 261 PAs, .298 BA, 9 HRs, .849 OPS ... 2008 versus MIN: 6 G's, 7-for-25, 1 HR
Jeff Francoeur (ATL)@FLA-3, @PHI-3(July 8) 5 G's, .238 BA, 1 HR
Career at Dolphin Stadium: 23 G's, .317 BA, .808 OPS ... Career at Citizens Bank Park: 25 G's, .304 BA, .801 OPS
Brian Giles (SD)@CIN-3, @PIT-4(May 30) 33 G's, .300 BA, .821 OPS
Career at Great American Ball Park: 17 G's, .338 BA, 6 HRs, 20 RBIs ... 2008 versus RHP: .286 BA, .798 OPS
Conor Jackson (ARI)CHC-3, @SF-3(June 14) 27 G's, .307 BA, .735 OPS
April 14-16, 2008 at AT&T Park: 4-for-11, 2 HRs, 6 RBIs ... 2008 versus LHP: .360 BA, 1.024 OPS
Jeff Kent (LAD)@COL-3, WAS-3(June 15) 22 G's, .289 BA, .809 OPS
Career at Coors Field: 74 G's, .367 BA, 20 HRs, 70 RBIs, 1.122 OPS ... 2008 versus LHP: .275 BA, .784 OPS
Adam LaRoche (PIT)@HOU-3, SD-4(June 30) 13 G's, .455 BA, 1.451 OPS
2008 versus RHP: .269 BA, 8 HRs, .786 OPS ... Career second half: 966 PAs, .297 BA, 46 HRs, .895 OPS
Joey Votto (CIN)SD-3, COL-3(June 15) 26 G's, .309 BA, .801 OPS
Career home: 57 G's, .298 BA, 12 HRs, .918 OPS ... Career versus RHP: 288 PAs, .289 BA, 11 HRs, .841 OPS
Josh Willingham (FLA)ATL-3, @CHC-4(June 24) 19 G's, .179 BA, .649 OPS
Career at Wrigley Field: 6 G's, .400 BA, 2 HRs, 1.406 OPS ... 2008 versus RHP: 125 PAs, .291 BA, .912 OPS
All hitters statistics are through the games of Thursday, July 17.

Note: Matchups are determined by examining both an opponent's catcher and pitching staff. Obviously, teams like the Mets (catcher: Brian Schneider) and Tigers (Ivan Rodriguez) rate as tough teams to run on, while teams like the Braves (Brian McCann) and White Sox (A.J. Pierzynski) rate as easy teams to run on.

Good for stolen basesTop speedsters
Blue Jays (@BAL-4, SEA-3)Alex Rios (23 SBs), Scott Rolen (5), Marco Scutaro (5)
Braves (@FLA-3, @PHI-3)Gregor Blanco (9), Kelly Johnson (7)
Reds (SD-3, COL-3)Brandon Phillips (19), Corey Patterson (10)
Tigers (@KC-3, CHW-3)Carlos Guillen (10), Ivan Rodriguez (6)
Poor for stolen basesTop speedsters
Brewers (@STL-4, HOU-3)Corey Hart (13), Rickie Weeks (13), Mike Cameron (8)
Cardinals (MIL-4, @NYM-3)Cesar Izturis (8), Skip Schumaker (7)
Rays (OAK-3, @KC-4)B.J. Upton (27), Carl Crawford (23), Eric Hinske (7)
Royals (DET-3, TB-4)Joey Gathright (19), David DeJesus (7)
All base stealers' statistics are through the games of Thursday, July 17.

Note: As with the hitter-friendly ballparks, pitcher-friendly ballparks are based mostly on 2005-08 data, with some personal opinion involved.

Good for pitchersPoor for pitchers
Giants (WAS-3, ARI-3) Braves (@FLA-3, @PHI-3)
Pirates (@HOU-3, SD-4) Cardinals (MIL-4, @NYM-3)
Rays (OAK-3, @KC-4) White Sox (TEX-3, @DET-3)
Red Sox (@SEA-3, NYY-3) Yankees (MIN-3, @BOS-3)
Games at pitcher-friendly ballparks
Busch Stadium (STL): Brewers, July 21-24
Dolphin Stadium (FLA): Braves, July 21-23
McAfee Coliseum (OAK): Rangers, July 25-27
Metrodome (MIN): No games
Petco Park (SD): No games
Safeco Field (SEA): Red Sox, July 21-23
Shea Stadium (NYM): Phillies, July 22-24; Cardinals, July 25-27

Two-start notes: As noted above, it's a weak week for two-start pitchers, with only a handful clearly worth using ahead of a favorable one-start matchup. I'd put Week 17's cutoff around either Randy Johnson or Javier Vazquez in mixed formats; anyone after that becomes increasingly risky. ... The Tigers could use Thursday's off-day to push Zach Miner's Sunday start back to July 29, in which case Kenny Rogers would get two starts. He'd probably rank in the high teens in that event. ... Shaun Marcum is expected back on Tuesday, but he'll probably be on a strict pitch count. He'd rank higher if not for workload and health concerns. ... There's a chance the Reds could push Homer Bailey's Sunday start back to July 29 due to Thursday's off-day, which would grant Johnny Cueto two starts in Week 17. They'd be great matchups for him if so, and he'd certainly crack the top 10 in my rankings. ... The Marlins have yet to announce a starter for Tuesday, but it'll probably be either Mark Hendrickson or Doug Waechter. Whomever they choose will be on track to start twice, though neither should be a fantasy option. ... The Brewers are seriously considering a "platoon" approach to their fifth starter role with Jeff Suppan due back Tuesday; Dave Bush would start home games, Seth McClung road contests. I'm projecting the team's rotation as such, which is why Bush appears in my one-start chart even though his spot in the rotation technically will work twice this week.

Two-start pitchers -- Tristan's rankings
Pitcher (Team)First start (Opponent)Second start (Opponent)
1. Jake Peavy (SD)July 22, @CIN (Cueto)July 27, @PIT (Maholm)
Past 5 GS: 2-2, 2.10 ERA, 1.17 WHIP ... Career at Great American Ball Park: 4 GS, 3-0, 2.84 ERA, 1.18 WHIP
2. Rich Harden (CHC)July 21, @ARI (Ra. Johnson)July 26, FLA (Volstad)
Past 5 GS: 1-1, 1.55 ERA, 1.14 WHIP ... June 20, 2008 versus FLA: 5 2/3 IP, 5 H's, 1 ER, 5 K's
3. Johan Santana (NYM)July 22, PHI (Blanton)July 27, STL (Lohse)
Past 5 GS: 1-2, 3.30 ERA, 1.27 WHIP ... 2008 home: 9 GS, 4-3, 2.64 ERA, 1.24 WHIP
4. Ervin Santana (LAA)July 21, CLE (P. Byrd)July 27, @BAL (Olson)
Past 5 GS: 3-0, 3.18 ERA, 1.24 WHIP ... April 8, 2008 versus CLE: 6 IP, 6 H's, 2 ERs, 5 K's
5. Scott Kazmir (TB)July 21, OAK (Eveland)July 26, @KC (Hochevar)
Past 5 GS: 1-3, 5.74 ERA, 1.50 WHIP ... Career versus OAK: 9 GS, 5-1, 2.96 ERA, 1.26 WHIP
6. Jon Lester (BOS)July 21, @SEA (M. Batista)July 27, NYY (Ponson)
Past 5 GS: 2-0, 3.28 ERA, 1.26 WHIP ... Career versus NYY: 2 GS, 1-0, 4.97 ERA, 1.42 WHIP
7. Andy Sonnanstine (TB)July 22, OAK (Braden)July 27, @KC (Davies)
Past 5 GS: 3-1, 3.68 ERA, 1.30 WHIP ... July 7, 2007 at Kauffman Stadium: 7 IP, 6 H's, 3 ERs, 5 K's
8. Kyle Lohse (STL)July 22, MIL (Suppan)July 27, @NYM (J. Santana)
Past 5 GS: 3-0, 2.32 ERA, 1.35 WHIP ... 2007-08 versus MIL: 3 GS, 1-0, 3.78 ERA, 1.20 WHIP
9. Randy Johnson (ARI)July 21, CHC (Harden)July 27, @SF (Zito)
Past 5 GS: 2-3, 6.30 ERA, 1.43 WHIP ... Career versus CHC: 13 GS, 12-0, 1.98 ERA, 1.01 WHIP
10. Javier Vazquez (CHW)July 21, TEX (Hurley)July 27, @DET (Bonine)
Past 5 GS: 1-2, 6.68 ERA, 1.48 WHIP ... Career at Comerica Park: 6 GS, 2-4, 5.79 ERA, 1.42 WHIP
11. Paul Maholm (PIT)July 22, @HOU (Oswalt)July 27, SD (Peavy)
Past 5 GS: 2-0, 2.50 ERA, 1.03 WHIP ... Career at Minute Maid Park: 3 GS, 0-3, 13.89 ERA, 2.66 WHIP
12. Nick Blackburn (MIN)July 21, @NYY (Ponson)July 27, @CLE (P. Byrd)
Past 5 GS: 2-1, 3.06 ERA, 0.90 WHIP ... June 11, 2008 at Jacobs Field: Win, 6 IP, 7 H's, 2 ERs, 5 K's
13. Jason Marquis (CHC)July 22, @ARI (Owings)July 27, FLA (TBD)
Past 5 GS: 2-2, 4.22 ERA, 1.16 WHIP ... Career at Chase Field: 5 G's, 4 GS, 0-2, 3.41 ERA, 1.03 WHIP
14. Dana Eveland (OAK)July 21, @TB (Kazmir)July 27, TEX (Hurley)
Past 5 GS: 2-1, 3.30 ERA, 1.50 WHIP ... May 10, 2008 versus TEX: Loss, 6 IP, 6 H's, 3 ERs, 5 K's
15. Joel Pineiro (STL)July 21, MIL (McClung)July 26, @NYM (Pelfrey)
Past 5 GS: 1-1, 5.40 ERA, 1.64 WHIP ... Sept. 27, 2007 at Shea Stadium: Win, 8 IP, 3 H's, 0 ERs, 6 K's
16. Joe Blanton (PHI)July 22, @NYM (J. Santana)July 27, ATL (Campillo)
Past 5 GS: 2-3, 7.67 ERA, 1.63 WHIP ... June 23, 2007 at Shea Stadium: 8 IP, 5 H'S, 0 ERs, 6 K'S
17. Jesse Litsch (TOR)July 21, @BAL (Liz)July 26, SEA (Silva)
Past 5 GS: 1-3, 5.53 ERA, 1.34 WHIP ... Career versus SEA: 3 GS, 0-1, 3.94 ERA, 1.88 WHIP
18. Barry Zito (SF)July 22, WAS (Bergmann)July 27, ARI (Ra. Johnson)
Past 5 GS: 2-2, 4.91 ERA, 1.60 WHIP ... Career versus ARI: 8 GS, 2-5, 3.88 ERA, 1.52 WHIP
19. Shaun Marcum (TOR)July 22, @BAL (Olson)July 27, SEA (M. Batista)
Past 5 GS: 1-1, 2.36 ERA, 1.25 WHIP ... 2007-08 versus SEA: 3 GS, 1-0, 2.41 ERA, 1.39 WHIP
20. Chris Volstad (FLA)July 21, ATL (Campillo)July 26, @CHC (Harden)
2008 FLA: 2 G's, 1 GS, 2-0, 0.84 ERA, 0.94 WHIP ... 2008 Double-A: 15 GS, 4-4, 3.36 ERA, 1.27 WHIP
21. Eric Hurley (TEX)July 21, @CHW (J. Vazquez)July 27, @OAK (Eveland)
Past 4 GS: 1-1, 3.57 ERA, 1.28 WHIP ... 2008 Triple-A: 13 GS, 2-5, 5.30 ERA, 1.54 WHIP
22. Paul Byrd (CLE)July 21, @LAA (E. Santana)July 27, MIN (Blackburn)
Past 5 GS: 0-4, 6.99 ERA, 1.66 WHIP ... Career versus MIN: 19 GS, 10-5, 4.06 ERA, 1.26 WHIP
23. Jason Bergmann (WAS)July 22, @SF (Zito)July 27, @LAD (Park)
Past 5 GS: 0-2, 1.91 ERA, 1.12 WHIP ... 2008 road: 6 GS, 1-4, 3.89 ERA, 1.24 WHIP
Past 5 GS: 0-2, 1.91 ERA, 1.12 WHIP ... 2008 road: 6 GS, 1-4, 3.89 ERA, 1.24 WHIP
No thank you (in alphabetical order): Homer Bailey (CIN), July 21, SD (Banks), July 27, COL (K. Wells); Josh Banks (SD), July 21, @CIN (Bailey), July 26, @PIT (Van Benschoten); Miguel Batista (SEA), July 21, BOS (Lester), July 27, @TOR (Marcum); Jorge Campillo (ATL), July 21, @FLA (Volstad), July 27, @PHI (Blanton); Kyle Davies (KC), July 22, DET (Rogers), July 27, TB (Sonnanstine); Runelvys Hernandez (HOU), July 21, PIT (Van Benschoten), July 26, @MIL (Bush); Luke Hochevar (KC), July 21, DET (Miner), July 26, TB (Kazmir); Radhames Liz (BAL), July 21, TOR (Litsch), July 26, LAA (Garland); Zach Miner (DET), July 21, @KC (Hochevar), July 27, CHW (J. Vazquez); Garrett Olson (BAL), July 22, TOR (Marcum), July 27, LAA (E. Santana); Sidney Ponson (NYY), July 21, MIN (Blackburn), July 27, @BOS (Lester); Eric Stults (LAD), July 21, @COL (K. Wells), July 27, WAS (Bergmann); Jeff Suppan (MIL), July 22, @STL (Lohse), July 27, HOU (R. Hernandez); John Van Benschoten (PIT), July 21, @HOU (R. Hernandez), July 26, SD (Banks); Kip Wells (COL), July 21, LAD (Stults), July 27, @CIN (Bailey).

One-start pitchers -- value plays (owned in under 50 percent of ESPN.com leagues)
Pitcher (Team)Start (Opponent)
Bronson Arroyo (CIN)July 23, SD (Maddux)
Past 5 GS: 3-2, 8.14 ERA, 1.85 WHIP ... 2004-08 versus SD: 5 GS, 2-3, 3.06 ERA, 1.39 WHIP
Scott Baker (MIN)July 26, @CLE (Cl. Lee)
Past 5 GS: 4-0, 3.09 ERA, 1.13 WHIP ... June 10, 2008 at Jacobs Field: Loss, 7 IP, 8 H's, 1ER, 1 K
Dave Bush (MIL)July 26, HOU (Backe)
Past 5 GS: 3-1, 1.75 ERA, 0.72 WHIP ... 2008 home: 9 GS, 4-2, 2.49 ERA, 0.93 WHIP
Zach Duke (PIT)July 25, SD (Baek)
Past 5 GS: 0-2, 4.97 ERA, 1.78 WHIP ... Career home: 43 GS, 18-13, 3.87 ERA, 1.46 WHIP
Jeremy Guthrie (BAL)July 23, TOR (Halladay)
Past 5 GS: 3-0, 3.90 ERA, 1.36 WHIP ... Career versus TOR: 5 GS, 1-0, 2.65 ERA, 0.88 WHIP
Ubaldo Jimenez (COL)July 22, LAD (Stults)
Past 5 GS: 3-2, 3.26 ERA, 1.45 WHIP ... Career home: 20 G's, 19 GS, 7-5, 3.21 ERA, 1.22 WHIP
Vicente Padilla (TEX)July 26, @OAK (Duchscherer)
Past 5 GS: 3-2, 7.48 ERA, 1.52 WHIP ... May 2, 2008 at McAfee Coliseum: Win, 5 2/3 IP, 5 H's, 1 ER, 6 K's
Manny Parra (MIL)July 25, HOU (W. Rodriguez)
Past 5 GS: 3-0, 2.01 ERA, 1.24 WHIP ... 2008 home: 11 G's, 10 GS, 5-0, 3.02 ERA, 1.36 WHIP
Kenny Rogers (DET)July 22, @KC (Davies)
Past 5 GS: 2-2, 5.34 ERA, 1.69 WHIP ... 2005-08 at Kauffman Stadium: 6 GS, 4-1, 4.23 ERA, 1.38 WHIP
Jarrod Washburn (SEA)July 25, @TOR (Parrish)
Past 5 GS: 2-1, 2.70 ERA, 1.23 WHIP ... June 9, 2008 at Rogers Centre: 6 IP, 5 H's, 1 ER, 4 K's

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

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