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Fantasy Forecaster: Previewing Week 20

8/11/2008

On tap: In Week 20, we witness our first five-game schedule since Week 7, when the Orioles had a light week. This week, two teams have the light schedule! That's a terrible disadvantage for owners of Angels and Mariners players, and despite Los Angeles drawing favorable matchups across the board (SEA-2, @CLE-3), it's tough to make the case to use many of their players in a week in which 16 other teams will play a full seven games. Those two teams basically play 28.6 percent less than 16 teams.

Athletics rookie sensation Gio Gonzalez gets his first two-start week, and recent wonder Jeff Karstens, new to the Pirates, does as well. Not that I'm recommending either, but if you're the gambling type, that's plenty of opportunity for each.

Among the healing players we could expect back this week: Rocco Baldelli, a potential platoonmate for the Rays; John Maine, scheduled to return from a shoulder injury on Wednesday; Adam Wainwright, who might not be back until later in the week but is rumored to be a potential closer candidate; and Vernon Wells, who began a rehabilitation assignment in Triple-A and might be back as soon as Monday.

Quick click by section:

Game breakdowns | Hitters' matchups | Comfort Zone: Hitter value plays

Base stealers' 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 recent statistical data (2005 to 2008) comparing home/road performance, much the same method as our Park Factor page. Some personal opinion does go into making ballpark selections.

Comfort Zone: Hitter value plays

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

Run like Hayes: Base stealers' matchups

Note: Matchups are determined by examining both an opponent's catcher and pitching staff. Obviously, teams like the Cardinals (catcher: Yadier Molina) and Rays (Dioner Navarro) rate as tough teams to run on, while teams like the Phillies (Chris Coste/Carlos Ruiz) and White Sox (A.J. Pierzynski) rate as easy teams to run on.

Give 'em the heater: Pitchers' matchups

Note: As with the hitter-friendly ballparks, pitcher-friendly ballparks are based mostly on 2005 to 2008 data, with some personal opinion involved.

Two-start notes: Shaun Marcum, No. 20, represents a fair estimation of the mixed-league cut-off point for Week 20, not because I doubt his talent, rather because his matchups are treacherous, at Detroit and at Boston. Depending on the depth of your staff, I might be willing to go as many as three pitchers deeper than that, or perhaps even one more shallow; but most of the guys ranked around Marcum pitch twice on the road, and I'm not typically fan of double road starts. … Unless the Angels skip a starter -- Jered Weaver seems most likely if that happens, though it probably won't -- they won't have a single two-start pitcher in Week 20. If Weaver (or someone else) gets skipped, Jon Garland, listed in the one-start standouts below, would work twice. … Like the Angels, the Mariners might not have a single two-start pitcher in Week 20, unless they skip someone, like Carlos Silva or Ryan Rowland-Smith. Jarrod Washburn would pitch twice in that instance, and be a respectable AL-only two-start candidate, perhaps barely making my rankings cut-off. … Thanks to this past Wednesday's rainout, the Nationals will need Garrett Mock to make a spot start on Monday, eliminating one of their two-start options despite the seven-game schedule. … … The Rangers' rotation is entirely in flux with Kevin Millwood perhaps coming back this week. I wouldn't touch a single one of their pitchers, even Vicente Padilla. … It appears either Michael Bowden or Devern Hansack will start Tuesday's game for the Red Sox in place of injured Tim Wakefield, giving one a two-start week. … There's a chance the Yankees skip Dan Giese in the rotation thanks to Thursday's off day, giving both Sidney Ponson and Mike Mussina two starts apiece.


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