Commentary

Busy Memorial Day highlights Week 8

Games throughout the day, good pitching matchups make for a great start to the week

Updated: May 24, 2009, 2:13 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

Fantasy Forecaster last updated Sunday, May 24 at 2:13 p.m. ET.

Fantasy Forecaster
On tap: With interleague play making only a brief Memorial Day weekend appearance, it's back to "regular" intraleague games in Week 8. Kudos to Major League Baseball, though, for scheduling a full slate of games on Memorial Day. It's the first time that has happened since 1997, and there's a nice array of times on the holiday; two games in the 1 p.m. ET hour, four around 2 p.m., two around 4 p.m. and even one at 6 p.m. That'll give us plenty to watch; well done! That 6:05 p.m. ET game is the headliner; it's the 2009 debut of Rays phenom David Price.

It's a good week to be a pitcher on the mend, apparently. The Cardinals' Chris Carpenter and the Angels' Ervin Santana, who each returned to their teams' respective rotations in the past few days, become two-start pitchers in Week 8. The Yankees should also welcome Chien-Ming Wang to their rotation by week's end.

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

Team advantages

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: Some teams' totals versus right- and left-handed pitchers exclude games against teams with unclear starters. They include: Indians (Sunday, NYY); Tigers (Sunday, @BAL); Rays (Wednesday, @CLE); Blue Jays (Tuesday, @BAL); and Phillies (Wednesday, FLA).

Weather report

Rain seems like it'll be most problematic in Cincinnati, Colorado and Kansas City this week, as the Astros-Reds, Dodgers-Rockies and Tigers-Royals series, each a three-game set Monday-Wednesday, faces a 30 percent or greater chance of precipitation. Baltimore and Philadelphia are also cities that bear watching.

Weatherproof games: Red Sox at Blue Jays (3, Fri-Sun); Cardinals at Brewers (3, Mon-Wed); Reds at Brewers (3, Fri-Sun); Padres at Diamondbacks (3, Mon-Wed); Braves at Diamondbacks (4, Thu-Sun); Twins at Rays (3, Fri-Sun); Red Sox at Twins (4, Mon-Thu).

Load up: Hitters

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

Phillies (FLA-3, WAS-3): In addition to six games at hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park -- and that's a bandbox no matter what our Park Factor page tells you -- the Phillies benefit by facing two of the 11 worst pitching staffs in the game, including the bottom-ranked Nationals (both in terms of their 5.79 ERA and 1.65 WHIP). Better yet, the six starters Philadelphia is slated to face have a combined 1.40 WHIP, meaning it won't be hard to get on base against them, and they have averaged just 5.9 strikeouts per nine innings, meaning they allow a decent number of balls to be put in play (a bad mix at a ballpark like Philly's). This offense is in the midst of a 10-game road trip in which it totaled 50 runs, 74 hits and 12 home runs in its first seven contests. I'd call that a pretty decent hot streak, and one that should easily extend into the homestand.

Mets (WAS-3, FLA-3): It's the same set of opponents and another six-games-at-home schedule, but there are two slight differences between this one and Philadelphia's more appealing set of matchups. One is that the Mets must face Florida's Josh Johnson, the 11th-ranked starting pitcher on our Player Rater, while the Phillies do not. The other is that the Mets' ballpark has favored pitchers more thus far than Citizens Bank Park has in its more extensive history (again, putting aside what the Park Factor page tells you about 2009). Not that the "big three" of Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and David Wright have seemed to mind; they've combined to bat .308 with an .861 OPS in 20 games at Citi Field.

Rays (@CLE-4, MIN-3): Any four-game series against the Indians that excludes Cliff Lee as a scheduled starter has to get fantasy owners giddy; while Lee has a 2.90 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in his nine starts, the Indians' other four current starters have combined to go 6-10 with a 6.53 ERA and 1.60 WHIP in 25 turns. Lee misses the Rays this time around, just as he did in the Indians' recent four-game series at Tampa Bay from May 14-17, a series in which the Rays totaled 26 runs. Then Tampa Bay hosts the Twins, who have a 5.30 ERA and 1.45 WHIP in 19 road games and are set to throw Scott Baker, Francisco Liriano and Nick Blackburn, who have a combined 3-7 record with a 6.21 ERA in 12 road starts.

Rangers (NYY-3, OAK-3): It's not like this is news to fantasy owners, but any time the Rangers play an entire week at home, their hitters look good, regardless of opponent. In this case, though, the fact that Oakland is one of their opponents bodes well, seeing as Texas has totaled 122 runs in 20 home games against the Athletics since 2007 (6.1 per contest). Yes, the Yankees present a bit of a challenge, but it's unlikely Phil Hughes, Monday's starter, is going to throw another 6 1/3 no-hit innings as he did in Texas in his second career start on May 1, 2007. Also, the Yanks needed 8 1/3 innings of relief to get through Thursday's game and now face the loaded Phillies lineup over the weekend, so it seems they're likely to begin the road trip with a worn-down bullpen.

Tristan's sleeper hitters

Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers: .340 BA, .933 OPS in 16 home games; .300 BA, .900 OPS versus left-handers
John Baker, C, Marlins: 4-for-11 (.364 BA), 5 BBs in four career games at Citizens Bank Park; .271 BA, .815 OPS versus right-handers
Andre Ethier, OF, Dodgers: .317 BA, .888 OPS in 17 games at Coors Field from 2007 to 2009; .391 BA, 1.005 OPS in seven games at Wrigley Field in 2007 and 2008
Pedro Feliz, 3B, Phillies: .290 BA, 12 RBIs, .819 OPS in 20 home games in 2009; .281 BA, .831 OPS versus left-handers in 2008 and 2009
Jason Giambi, 1B, Athletics: .297 BA, 10 HRs, 20 RBIs, 21 BBs, 1.199 OPS in 25 games at Rangers Ballpark from 2002-09
Scott Hairston, OF, Padres: .298 BA, 1.027 OPS in 20 career games at Coors Field; 6-for-22 (.273 BA), 3 HRs, .988 OPS in seven games at Chase Field in 2008
James Loney, 1B, Dodgers: .363 BA, 4 HRs, 30 RBIs, 1.039 OPS in 22 career games at Coors Field; 8-for-29 (.296 BA) in nine career games at Wrigley Field
Felipe Lopez, 2B, Diamondbacks: .333 BA, 3 HRs, .933 OPS in 23 home games in 2009; .325 BA, .862 OPS versus right-handers
Luke Scott, OF, Orioles: (likely to be activated on Tuesday; check his status) .280 BA,.871 OPS in 90 home games 2008-09; .277 BA, .874 OPS lifetime versus right-handers

Load up: Stolen bases

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

Phillies (FLA-3, WAS-3): In addition to a hitter-friendly set of matchups, the Phillies stack up especially well on the basepaths, with three games against the team that has allowed the most stolen bases in the National League (Florida, 43), and another three against a Nationals team counting on a Josh Bard-Wil Nieves catching tandem, with the two having allowed 107 steals on 131 tries (81.7 percent success rate) in 1,024 2/3 innings (one attempt per 7.8 innings) between this and last season. The Phillies, by the way, have swiped 12 bags on 15 attempts in their past nine games, Jayson Werth tallying five of those and Jimmy Rollins four.

Mets (WAS-3, FLA-3): Again, if the Phillies' matchups are favorable, then by the same token so are those of the Mets. The difference between the two teams: The Mets already have 20 more steals than the Phillies this season. You already know Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and David Wright can steal bases, having totaled 28 on 38 attempts thus far, but be aware that Luis Castillo is also a solid choice, with six in seven tries. Two sleeper speedsters: Fernando Tatis has two steals so far this year, and Gary Sheffield has 32 since 2007.

Blue Jays (@BAL-3, BOS-3): Besides simple statistical evidence, the Blue Jays have an advantage in the Orioles series in that they're familiar with the arm of Gregg Zaun, who served as their catcher from 2004-08. His arm, as well as that of Boston's Jason Varitek, continues to weaken with time, which is not a shock considering they're both past their 37th birthdays. This season alone, Varitek and Zaun have combined to allow 62 successful steals on 78 attempts (79.5 percent success rate) in 61 games, so expect Toronto, a typically conservative team on the basepaths, to try some things. Case in point: Aaron Hill swiped a bag off Zaun on May 1.

Twins (BOS-4, @TB-3): Again, Varitek can't seem to gun anyone down on the basepaths this season, and apparently neither can Tampa Bay's Dioner Navarro, who has surrendered the fifth-most steals in baseball (25). The Twins actually racked up four steals off Navarro in their April 27 meeting alone; Denard Span stole two bases, and even Michael Cuddyer had one. In fact, Cuddyer has four stolen bases this season alone, and at least five in each of the past three seasons. He's capable of exploiting matchups like these.

Load up: Pitchers

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

Diamondbacks (SD-3, ATL-4): Though this was a more productive staff when Brandon Webb was healthy, even a Webb-less Diamondbacks squad can be a matchups play, especially in weeks like these. The Padres, a red-hot team in April, have gone quiet in May; despite their 19 home runs in 18 games in the month, they've totaled 54 runs (3.0 per game) and batted .203. Arizona also held San Diego to five runs in their two games May 6-7, and Atlanta to four runs in their two games May 15-16. Doug Davis has a 2.89 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in his past six starts, Jon Garland is 3-1 with a 3.65 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in his past six starts, Dan Haren has eight consecutive quality starts to begin his season and Max Scherzer has a 2.79 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 29 innings in his past five starts. All four are worth using this week, as is closer Chad Qualls, who has 17 saves, a 1.78 ERA and 0.91 WHIP in 24 appearances since taking over the role full-time last Sept. 12.

Angels (CHW-3, SEA-3): With John Lackey and Ervin Santana back in tow, the Angels' staff is suddenly more potent than its current No. 16 ranking in ERA (4.49) and No. 13 in WHIP (1.39). We just got a glimpse of what the Angels' pitchers can do when healthy in their past two games at Seattle, when they limited these Mariners to one run total. In fact, in their past 12 games, the Angels have a 3.67 ERA and 1.14 WHIP, including 2.32/1.02 numbers in the seven of those games that were played at home. Los Angeles draws two of the three worst offenses in the American League in terms of team OPS (White Sox 12th, .700; Seattle 13th, .682), so expect more of the same.

Mariners (@OAK-3, @LAA-3): Hey, I never said the Angels were going to win those games against Seattle. Chris Jakubauskas out-dueled the aforementioned Santana in a 1-0 victory on May 20, and he'll draw the Angels again. But it's not like the Angels series is the primary fantasy attraction for Seattle; it's the three-game series at Oakland, where this staff has already held the A's to nine runs in three games April 10-12. Even last year, a terrible one for the Mariners, this team limited the Athletics to 31 runs in nine games in Oakland.

Brewers (STL-3, CIN-3): This staff -- and team, for that matter -- is about as hot as it can be, winners of 17 of its past 21 games, with a 3.16 ERA and 1.12 WHIP during that span. So when you see these opponents and think "potent offenses," don't immediately be scared off. The truth is that St. Louis isn't the same offense without Ryan Ludwick; since the last time he appeared in a game, the Cardinals have totaled 21 runs, batted .206 and managed a .587 OPS in eight contests. Also take into account the career ERAs at Miller Park of four of the Brewers' five current starters: Yovani Gallardo 2.88, Manny Parra 3.45, Jeff Suppan 3.67 and Dave Bush 3.77. Braden Looper (5.76) is the only one who has not pitched well there.

Projected starting pitchers

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.

Notes: The Orioles have yet to name their Tuesday (and therefore Sunday) starter, but Jason Berken is considered a top candidate. The Indians have yet to name their Wednesday starter, but Jeremy Sowers is the leading candidate. The Yankees have named Phil Hughes their Monday starter, but Chien-Ming Wang might replace him in the rotation by week's end, slotting in Friday, Saturday and Sunday and shuffling the other starters accordingly.

Rankings: Tristan's two-starts

Recommended cut-off point for elite one-starts: No. 21 (Sanchez)
Recommended cut-off point for "under-50" bargains: No. 30 (Stults)

Four must-starts: Yovani Gallardo, Zack Greinke, Javier Vazquez, Justin Verlander.

5. Wandy Rodriguez (HOU) -- Mon-@CIN (Harang), Sun-@PIT (Maholm): 3-0, 3.62 ERA, 1.24 WHIP in five career starts at Great American Ball Park
6. Matt Garza (TB) -- Tue-@CLE (Pavano), Sun-MIN (Blackburn)
7. Aaron Harang (CIN) -- Mon-HOU (Rodriguez), Sat-@MIL (Bush): 4-1, 3.55 ERA, 1.32 WHIP in seven career starts at Miller Park
8. Ryan Dempster (CHC) -- Mon-PIT (Maholm), Sat-LAD (Stults): 16-3, 2.96 ERA, 1.21 WHIP in 23 home starts 2008-09
9. Chris Carpenter (STL) -- Mon-@MIL (Gallardo), Sun-@SF (Sanchez): 28-9, 3.79 ERA, 1.14 WHIP in 50 career road games (49 starts) as a Cardinal
10. Max Scherzer (ARI) -- Tue-SD (Correia), Sun-ATL (Medlen): 1-0, 9 2/3 shutout innings, 1.03 WHIP in three career games (one start) versus Braves
11. Ervin Santana (LAA) -- Mon-CHW (Danks), Sun-SEA (Jakubauskas): 30-14, 3.40 ERA, 1.17 WHIP in 59 career home starts
12. John Maine (NYM) -- Mon-WAS (Lannan), Sun-FLA (Volstad): 4-1, 2.49 ERA, 0.91 WHIP in eight career starts versus Marlins
13. Doug Davis (ARI) -- Mon-SD (Gaudin), Sat-ATL (Vazquez): 5-1, 2.40 ERA, 1.11 WHIP in six starts versus Padres 2007-08
14. Francisco Liriano (MIN) -- Mon-BOS (Penny), Sat-@TB (Price)
15. Edwin Jackson (DET) -- Tue-@KC (Greinke), Sun-@BAL (TBD): 2-1, 1.33 ERA, 0.96 WHIP in four road starts in 2009
16. Chris Volstad (FLA) -- Mon-@PHI (Moyer), Sun-@NYM (Maine): 5-2, 2.35 ERA, 1.16 WHIP in 11 career road games (10 starts)
17. Paul Maholm (PIT) -- Mon-@CHC (Dempster), Sun-HOU (Rodriguez)
18. John Danks (CHW) -- Mon-@LAA (Santana), Sun-@KC (Greinke): 1-0, 0.60 ERA, 0.67 WHIP in two career starts at Kauffman Stadium
19. Jamie Moyer (PHI) -- Mon-FLA (Volstad), Sun-WAS (Lannan): 12-1, 2.84 ERA, 1.07 WHIP in 13 career starts versus Marlins
20. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Tue-@MIN (Blackburn), Sun-@TOR (Tallet)
21. Jonathan Sanchez (SF) -- Mon-ATL (Vazquez), Sun-STL (Carpenter): 4.43 ERA, 95 strikeouts in 91 1/3 innings in 17 home starts 2008-09
22. Brad Penny (BOS) -- Mon-@MIN (Liriano), Sat-@TOR (Richmond)
23. David Price (TB) -- Mon-@CLE (Carmona), Sat-MIN (Liriano): 1-4, 3.97 ERA, 1.35 WHIP in eight starts for Triple-A Durham
24. John Lannan (WAS) -- Mon-@NYM (Maine), Sun-@PHI (Moyer)
25. Jorge De La Rosa (COL) -- Mon-LAD (Stults), Sun-SD (Gaudin): 6-4, 4.58 ERA, 1.33 WHIP in 18 home games (15 starts) 2008-09
26. Kevin Millwood (TEX) -- Tue-NYY (Chamberlain), Sun-OAK (Braden)
27. Gil Meche (KC) -- Mon-DET (Verlander), Sat-CHW (Buehrle)
28. Matt Harrison (TEX) -- Mon-NYY (Hughes), Sat-OAK (Anderson): 3-0, 1.35 ERA, 1.20 WHIP in three career starts versus Athletics
29. Fausto Carmona (CLE) -- Mon-TB (Price), Sat-NYY (Sabathia)
30. Eric Stults (LAD) -- Mon-@COL (De La Rosa), Sat-@CHC (Dempster)
31. Kris Medlen (ATL) -- Tue-@SF (Lincecum), Sun-@ARI (Scherzer): 5-0, 1.21 ERA, 0.80 WHIP in eight games (six starts) for Triple-A Gwinnett
32. Jeremy Guthrie (BAL) -- Mon-TOR (Tallet), Sat-DET (Verlander)
33. Sean Marshall (CHC) -- Tue-PIT (Snell), Sun-LAD (Milton)
34. Nick Blackburn (MIN) -- Tue-BOS (Lester), Sun-@TB (Garza)
35. Micah Owings (CIN) -- Tue-HOU (Oswalt), Sun-@MIL (Gallardo)

Eight "no thank yous": Orioles TBD (Tuesday and Sunday), Brett Anderson, Dallas Braden, Chad Gaudin, Chris Jakubauskas, Eric Milton, Carl Pavano, Brian Tallet.

Tristan's one-start bargains

The 50-to-90 group (owned in 50-90 percent of ESPN.com leagues)

Jair Jurrjens (ATL) -- Fri-@ARI (Garland): 2.78 ERA, 1.16 WHIP in 20 road starts 2008-09
Brett Myers (PHI) -- Wed-FLA (TBD): 3.21 ERA, 1.23 WHIP in 18 home starts 2008-09

The under-50 group (available in at least 50 percent of ESPN.com leagues)

Bronson Arroyo (CIN) -- Wed-HOU (Paulino): 4.08 ERA, 1.26 WHIP in 54 home starts 2006-09
Dave Bush (MIL) -- Sat-CIN (Harang): 7-4, 3.59 ERA, 1.04 WHIP in 22 home games (21 starts) 2008-09
Trevor Cahill (OAK) -- Wed-SEA (Bedard): Has a quality start in each of two turns versus Mariners, and has a 1.38 ERA, 1.15 WHIP in those games
Scott Feldman (TEX) -- Fri-OAK, Game 1 (E. Gonzalez): 4.34 ERA, 1.17 WHIP in five starts versus Athletics 2008-09
Mike Hampton (HOU) -- Sat-@PIT (Karstens): Win, 6 IP, 4 H's, 0 ERs, 8 K's at PNC Park 4/15/09
Ubaldo Jimenez (COL) -- Wed-LAD (Kershaw): 9-5, 3.41 ERA, 1.25 WHIP in 19 home starts 2008-09
Jason Marquis (COL) -- Fri-SD (Young): 2-1, 3.42 ERA in four starts versus Padres 2007-08
Joel Pineiro (STL) -- Sat-@SF (Zito): 2.95 ERA, 1.05 WHIP in his past six starts
Jeff Suppan (MIL) -- Tue-STL (Wainwright): 5-0, 1.62 ERA, 1.26 WHIP in six starts versus Cardinals 2007-09
Tim Wakefield (BOS) -- Fri-@TOR (Janssen): Win, 8 IP, 1 ER versus Blue Jays 5/19/09; 10-4, 2.95 ERA, 1.12 WHIP in 15 starts versus Blue Jays 2004-09

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.

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