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:
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.
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.
Looking for a decent hitter value pick for this week? Here are 10 strong matchup choices among the beneath-the-elite crop:
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.
Note: As with the hitter-friendly ballparks, pitcher-friendly ballparks are based mostly on 2005-08 data, with some personal opinion involved.
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.
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.