Commentary

Good week to "Get Low-e"

Updated: April 19, 2009, 10:00 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

Fantasy Forecaster last updated Sunday, April 19 at 10:00 p.m. ET.

On tap: Week 3 gets an early start, as the annual Patriots' Day game in Boston kicks off at 11:05 a.m., with the Red Sox hosting the Orioles. Get your lineups in early!

Quick click by section, if you're seeking advice in a specific area:
Team advantages | Weather report | Load up: Hitters
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Projected starters | Two-start rankings | One-start bargains

The chart below lists each of the 30 MLB teams' number of games scheduled ("Gm"), home games ("Hm"), games versus right- and left-handed pitchers ("vs. RHP" and "vs. LHP") and games at either hitter- or pitcher-friendly ballparks.

* Note: Mariners' totals versus right- and left-handed pitchers exclude Saturday game against the Angels, whose opposing starter is unclear.

Northeastern, Great-Lakes and on-the-Mississippi cities are the ones generally at most risk for rainouts in April, as evidenced by the 10 postponements apiece in March and April in the cities of Chicago and New York, nine in Boston, six apiece in Cleveland, Detroit and Pittsburgh and five each in Philadelphia and St. Louis since 2003. All of those cities except Detroit will host at least one series this week; the Cardinals (6), Cubs (3), Indians (6), Mets (3), Phillies (4), Pirates (3), Red Sox (6), White Sox (3) and Yankees (3) will all be at risk for problems in the weather department.

In fact, as of Sunday morning, the chance of precipitation was greater than 50 percent in Boston on Tuesday (Twins-Red Sox); Chicago on Tuesday (Reds-Cubs); Cleveland on Tuesday (Royals-Indians); New York on Monday (Athletics-Yankees); Philadelphia on Monday (Padres-Phillies); and Pittsburgh on Monday and Tuesday (Marlins-Pirates). Washington also falls into that category on Monday (Braves-Nationals).

Weatherproof games: Brewers at Astros (3, Fri-Sun); Dodgers at Astros (3, Tue-Thu); Reds at Astros (1, Mon); Rangers at Blue Jays (3, Tue-Thu); Giants at Diamondbacks (3, Fri-Sun); Rockies at Diamondbacks (3, Mon-Wed); Rays at Mariners (3, Tue-Thu).

The teams listed below have the most favorable overall hitting matchups, accounting for recent performance, strength of opponents and ballpark factors.

Blue Jays (TEX-3, @CHW-3): What an offense this has been thus far. Through their first 11 games, the Blue Jays led the majors in team batting average (.317), runs scored (77), hits (128) and total bases (218), only three times failing to score at least five runs. So is there such a thing as a poor matchup for Toronto's offense right now? If so, this is the antithesis of it, with three against the softer part of the Rangers' rotation and three at homer-friendly U.S. Cellular Field. Check out Marco Scutaro's career numbers at "The Cell": 10 games, .475 batting average, two home runs, 11 runs scored, 1.283 OPS.

Braves (@WAS-3, @CIN-3): The Braves walloped the Nationals in three home games from April 10 to April 12, scoring 19 runs in the process, and averaged 4.6 runs per game in 18 meetings in 2008. In addition, in the 23 games they have played at Great American Ball Park, the Braves have averaged a healthy 6.3 runs per game. This is a week in which the Braves will face mostly right-handed starters -- five in six games -- and they boast a good number of left-handed hitters, including less-obvious names like Garret Anderson, Kelly Johnson and Casey Kotchman.

Brewers (@PHI-3, @HOU-3): Though Cole Hamels (their scheduled Wednesday opponent) and Brett Myers (Thursday) present challenges for the Brewers, neither one looks close to being in midseason form, and as a team the Phillies sport an ERA just shy of seven. With those games scheduled at hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park, where, granted, Milwaukee played terribly in 2008 (13 runs in six games, counting the postseason), they qualify as favorable matchups, as does battling Astros spot starter Felipe Paulino (Friday) and mediocre veteran Russ Ortiz (Sunday).

White Sox (@BAL-3, TOR-3): The White Sox will face two spot starters in the course of a week, Baltimore's Brad Bergesen (scheduled for Tuesday) and Toronto's Brian Tallet (Friday), generally a recipe for offensive success. Toss in the always-hittable Adam Eaton (Thursday) and six games at hitter-friendly ballparks and the White Sox should pick up their offensive pace after scoring 37 runs in their first nine games. A.J. Pierzynski has always enjoyed playing at Camden Yards; he's a .376 hitter with four home runs in 24 career games there.

Casey Blake, 3B, Dodgers: .321 BA, 2 HRs in eight career games at Coors Field
Chris Dickerson, OF, Reds: .345 BA, 4 HRs, 1.155 OPS in 18 career home games; .315 BA, 7 HRs, 1.092 OPS in 113 career PAs versus right-handers
Mike Fontenot, 2B, Cubs: .297 BA, .857 OPS lifetime versus right-handers; .280 BA, .935 OPS versus righties in 2009
Kosuke Fukudome, OF, Cubs: .375 BA, 3 HRs, 1.268 OPS in 39 PAs versus right-handed pitchers so far this season
Daniel Murphy, OF, Mets: .301 BA, .827 OPS in 177 career PAs versus right-handers
Luke Scott, OF, Orioles: .269 BA, 12 HRs, .847 OPS in 78 career games at Camden Yards; .273 BA, .874 OPS lifetime versus right-handers
Ryan Spilborghs, OF, Rockies: 14-for-41 (.341 BA), 6 2Bs, 5 RBIs in 11 games at Chase Field in 2008-09

Favorable matchups listed below are selected based upon opponents' catchers allowing a high rate of steals attempted and/or having low caught-stealing percentages.

Braves (@WAS-3, @CIN-3): Brian McCann stole a base against the Nationals in these teams' April 10 to April 12 series, and six different Braves managed at least one steal against Washington in 2008, including Matt Diaz (2). Atlanta might have been a bottom-10 team in the stolen base category in each of the past three seasons, but this is a week where you might be able to sneak a steal or two out of Yunel Escobar (check his health), Kelly Johnson or Jordan Schafer.

Orioles (@BOS-1, CHW-3, TEX-3): Adam Jones hasn't run nearly as freely on the basepaths during the regular season (zero attempts) as he did during spring training (perfect 7-for-7 on steal attempts), but here's a week where he might fill the category nicely. Chicago's A.J. Pierzynski had the worst caught-stealing percentage of any qualified catcher in 2008 (17.9), while Texas' Jarrod Saltalamacchia nailed only 18.4 percent of opposing runners in less than half the number of innings Pierzynski accrued.

Pirates (FLA-3, @SD-3): Strange to see Nate McLouth without a steal attempt thus far, but he did start slowly in the category last year, too, swiping two bags on five tries in the month of April. Perhaps a schedule like this will jump start him, and help the fleet-footed Nyjer Morgan pad his number, too.

White Sox (@BAL-3, TOR-3): What a set of matchups this is, as Baltimore's Gregg Zaun and Toronto's Rod Barajas rank among the game's least effective catchers at throwing out opposing baserunners thus far. They have surrendered a combined 14 steals in 13 games, and the White Sox do have quick types who can take advantage, like Brian Anderson, Chris Getz and Jerry Owens.

The teams listed below have the most favorable overall pitching matchups, accounting for recent performance, strength of opponents and ballpark factors.

Braves (@WAS-3, @CIN-3): Normally a series at Great American Ball Park would lead to a recommendation to avoid a visiting pitching staff, but through five games of 2009 the Reds as a team have batted .225, scored 20 runs and managed a .672 OPS there. (The Reds haven't performed much better on the road, either -- .216, 16 and .723 in three games.) So call this one of those safe times to exploit a Reds opponent in Cincinnati, especially since the Braves' other three games come against the Nationals, only a middling offense. Jair Jurrjens and Derek Lowe are off to hot starts, and both Kenshin Kawakami and Javier Vazquez had strong strikeout rates in each of their first two turns.

Diamondbacks (COL-3, SF-3): Having a healthy Brandon Webb by mid-week would have helped Arizona's cause, but even without him available, six home games against the light-hitting Giants and mediocre-in-road-games Rockies shouldn't pose them much trouble. The Diamondbacks are off to a rocky start, with a team ERA of 6.04, but expect that to come down as pitchers like Doug Davis, Yusmeiro Petit and Max Scherzer match up nicely this week.

Indians (KC-3, MIN-3): Another case of a pitching staff off to a miserable start -- the Indians' ERA is a major league-high 7.31 -- but perhaps Cliff Lee's gem in the Yankee Stadium opener this past Thursday will provide the jump start this staff so desperately needed. Aaron Laffey is the team's two-start pitcher, but have no fear, as he has a 2.87 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 11 career starts at Jacobs Field. Six home games against so-so offenses only bolsters Cleveland's cause. Anthony Reyes, incidentally, enjoyed modest success against the Royals in 2008, with a 2.25 ERA in two starts.

Rays (@SEA-3, @OAK-3): The rule of thumb might generally be "use your Rays pitchers at home," but when they get a schedule like this, three games apiece at pitching-friendly ballparks Safeco Field and McAfee Coliseum, I'll make an exception. Consider that the last time the Rays made this particular West Coast trip with stops in those cities (which was followed by a three-game stop in Texas), they allowed a combined 32 runs in 10 games. Not one of the Rays' top four starters had a sub-three ERA on the road in 2008, but then not one had one higher than five, so it's not like they were poor road performers.

The chart below lists each of the 30 MLB teams' schedules and projected starting pitchers. Those pitchers scheduled to pitch twice this week are color-coded.

Note: As of most recent update, the Angels' Saturday starter was expected to be either Anthony Ortega, Sean O'Sullivan or Jordan Walden, with the likelihood of each in that order.

Three must-starts: Roy Halladay, Derek Lowe, Jake Peavy.

4. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Tue-@HOU (Ortiz), Sun-@COL (Marquis)
5. Andy Sonnanstine (TB) -- Tue-@SEA (Washburn), Sun-@OAK (Eveland): 1.26 ERA, 0.91 WHIP in 2 career GS at Safeco Field
6. Rich Harden (CHC) -- Tue-CIN (Owings), Sun-@STL (Wellemeyer)
7. Kenshin Kawakami (ATL) -- Tue-@WAS (Martis), Sun-@CIN (Owings): Win, 6 IP, 4 H's, 3 ERs, 8 K's versus Nationals 4/11 (MLB debut)
8. Andy Pettitte (NYY) -- Mon-OAK (Eveland), Sun-@BOS (Masterson): 6-2, 3.53 ERA, 1.49 WHIP in 15 career G's (13 GS) at Fenway Park
9. Armando Galarraga (DET) -- Tue-@LAA (Weaver), Sun-@KC (Ponson): 8-4, 3.32 ERA, 1.09 WHIP in 19 career road G's (15 GS)
10. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Tue-DET (Galarraga), Sun-SEA (Washburn): 19-9, 3.36 ERA, 1.21 WHIP in 37 career home GS
11. Bronson Arroyo (CIN) -- Mon-@HOU (Hampton), Sat-ATL (Lowe)
12. Jamie Moyer (PHI) -- Mon-SD (Correia), Sat-@FLA (Volstad): 6-0, 1.59 ERA, 0.88 WHIP in 6 career GS at Dolphin Stadium
13. Justin Masterson (BOS) -- Mon-BAL (Hendrickson), Sun-NYY (Pettitte): 5-0, 3.04 ERA, 1.21 WHIP in 22 career G's (5 GS) at home
14. Oliver Perez (NYM) -- Tue-@STL (Wellemeyer), Sun-WAS (Zimmermann)
15. Joe Blanton (PHI) -- Tue-MIL (Parra), Sun-@FLA (Miller)
16. Jarrod Washburn (SEA) -- Tue-TB (Sonnanstine), Sun-@LAA (Weaver): 1.69 ERA, 1.10 WHIP in 6 GS versus Rays 2005-08
17. Manny Parra (MIL) -- Tue-@PHI (Blanton), Sun-@HOU (Ortiz)
18. Todd Wellemeyer (STL) -- Tue-NYM (Perez), Sun-CHC (Harden)
19. Jon Garland (ARI) -- Mon-COL (Marquis), Sun-SF (Johnson)
20. Jordan Zimmermann (WAS) -- Mon-ATL (Lowe), Sun-@NYM (Perez)
21. Aaron Laffey (CLE) -- Tue-KC (Ponson), Sun-MIN (Perkins): 5-4, 2.87 ERA, 1.13 WHIP in 11 career home GS
22. Micah Owings (CIN) -- Tue-@CHC (Harden), Sun-ATL (Kawakami)
23. Andrew Miller (FLA) -- Mon-@PIT (Ohlendorf), Sun-PHI (Blanton)
24. Mike Hampton (HOU) -- Mon-CIN (Arroyo), Sat-MIL (Suppan)
25. Brandon McCarthy (TEX) -- Tue-@TOR (Halladay), Sun-@BAL (Bergesen)

Nine "no thank yous": Brad Bergesen, Jose Contreras, Kevin Correia, Dana Eveland, Mark Hendrickson, Jason Marquis, Ross Ohlendorf, Russ Ortiz, Sidney Ponson.

Bargain selections remain available in at least 50 percent of ESPN.com leagues, and are listed in alphabetical order.

Bartolo Colon (CHW) -- Thu-@BAL (Eaton): 3.76 ERA, 1.36 WHIP in 10 career GS at Camden Yards
Zach Duke (PIT) -- Sat-@SD (Correia): 2-0, 0.59 ERA, 0.85 WHIP through 2 GS in '09
Kyle Lohse (STL) -- Fri-CHC (Dempster): 11-3, 3.04 ERA in 23 career GS at Busch Stadium
Paul Maholm (PIT) -- Wed-FLA (Nolasco): 4.40 ERA, 0.91 WHIP in 5 career GS at Dolphin Stadium
Yusmeiro Petit (ARI) -- Tue-COL (Morales): 3.86 ERA, 0.86 WHIP in 9 G's (5 GS) at home in 2008
Anthony Reyes (CLE) -- Thu-KC (Meche): 2-0, 1.32 ERA in 3 career GS versus KC
Anibal Sanchez (FLA) -- Tue-@PIT (Karstens): 1.64 ERA, 1.64 WHIP through 2 GS in '09
Ian Snell (PIT) -- Fri-@SD (Hill): 1.50 ERA, 0.67 WHIP in 2 career GS at Petco Park
Wandy Rodriguez (HOU) -- Thu-LAD (Wolf): 2.86 ERA, 1.15 WHIP in 30 GS at home 2007-09
Tim Wakefield (BOS) -- Tue-MIN (Baker): 7-4, 3.10 ERA in 14 GS at home in 2008

Tristan H. Cockcroft is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com and a two-time champion of the League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR) experts league. You can e-mail him here.