<
>

Santana battles Phils and Yanks

6/8/2009

Fantasy Forecaster last updated Monday, June 8 at 9:49 a.m. ET

On tap: Next week features some notable division stories. The Red Sox and Yankees meet in Boston for a three-game series (Tuesday-Thursday) to vie for American League East supremacy; they are tied for the division lead heading into Friday's games. The Mets host the Phillies for three games at Citi Field (Tuesday-Thursday); New York is four games behind first-place Philadelphia in the National League East (heading into Friday's games). And in the American League Central, the Tigers and White Sox battle in a rare five-game series in Chicago (Monday-Thursday; a Monday doubleheader adds the extra game). It's the first time all season we'll see an eight-game week -- both Chicago and Detroit play eight games in Week 10 -- and remember, in a number of fantasy leagues, the quantity of games is a definite advantage.

Then, for the weekend of June 12-14, we get the return of interleague play, which extends through Week 12 of the fantasy season. The only two teams that play entirely within their league during Week 10 are the Astros and Diamondbacks, and they will play over the weekend. As always, the most notable fantasy ramification of interleague play is the addition or subtraction of the designated hitter. Here's a quick one-liner on the playing-time impact for each team that will either gain or lose the DH:

Athletics: (Lose DH) Jack Cust and Jason Giambi must sneak in time at right field and first base, but considering Oakland's alternatives at those positions...
Braves: (Gain DH) Though Greg Norton DH'ed for them most in 2008, his poor performance this year might mean more Garret Anderson and Matt Diaz in the role.
Cardinals: (Gain DH) Theoretically, they finally have a way to get Rick Ankiel, Chris Duncan, Ryan Ludwick and Colby Rasmus into the same lineup. But since they'll face nothing but lefties, expect more Nick Stavinoha and less Ankiel and Duncan.
Dodgers: (Gain DH) Blake DeWitt, freshly promoted from the minors, seems a natural choice to play regularly this weekend.
Mariners: (Lose DH) Might Ken Griffey Jr. play in the field for the first time since April 12? I'm betting he sits out a game or two.
Marlins: (Gain DH) They might DH Hanley Ramirez, slide Emilio Bonifacio to shortstop and plug Wes Helms in at third base. Ross Gload is another DH candidate.
Mets: (Gain DH) When they visited Boston May 22-24 Carlos Beltran was the DH, which most benefited Jeremy Reed (he played center field), but the Mets' DH this weekend might come down to who's least healthy. Might be the same arrangement.
Nationals: (Gain DH) Expect Adam Dunn to DH, leaving the outfield open for Elijah Dukes, Willie Harris, Austin Kearns and Josh Willingham. With the Nationals facing only right-handers, count on more Harris than Kearns.
Padres: (Gain DH) Kyle Blanks will be everyone's sleeper choice, but it's only a three-game series at an AL park before the team returns home. Will Venable is the prospect you should look at with the extra lineup spot.
Red Sox: (Lose DH) This one's easy. David Ortiz has a .570 OPS and hasn't played first base since June 24, 2007. That Boston bench will get quite warm.
Reds: (Gain DH) They could start both Jerry Hairston Jr. and Adam Rosales by adding the DH, but more likely will get all four outfielders -- Jay Bruce, Chris Dickerson, Laynce Nix and Willy Taveras -- into their lineup. They do face all righties.
Tigers: (Lose DH) Magglio Ordonez will simply slide back into right field, leaving left field to a mix of Josh Anderson, Ryan Raburn, Marcus Thames and Clete Thomas.
Twins: (Lose DH) Jason Kubel could bump Delmon Young from left field or Michael Cuddyer from right in a game or two, but the Cubs will throw one lefty (Ted Lilly) and possibly two (Sean Marshall), in which case Kubel sits those days.
White Sox: (Lose DH) Jim Thome has played four games in the field in his White Sox career, and none since June 13, 2007. He'll have to pinch hit.

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: Twins (Saturday, @CHC).

Weather report

As always with interleague play, teams make the best effort to get those games in due to the difficulty of rescheduling them; think how the Nationals waited forever this past Wednesday simply attempting to squeeze in Randy Johnson's shot at 300 career wins. But it's the early-week games that are of concern, and those worries come in the cities of Baltimore, Miami, New York and Washington. The chance of rain is 40 percent or greater in games hosted by the Mets, Nationals and Orioles, and in Florida the Marlins have a 60 percent chance of rain on Monday and 40 percent on Wednesday.

Weatherproof games: Cubs at Astros (3, Tue-Thu); Marlins at Blue Jays (3, Fri-Sun); Rockies at Brewers (3, Tue-Thu); White Sox at Brewers (3, Fri-Sun); Giants at Diamondbacks (3, Tue-Thu); Astros at Diamondbacks (3, Fri-Sun); Angels at Rays (3, Tue-Thu); Nationals at Rays (3, Fri-Sun)

Load up: Hitters

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

Rays (@NYY-1, LAA-3, WAS-3): The Rays tend to play significantly better baseball at home, where they've won 73 of 108 games and averaged 5.1 runs per contest in 2008-09, than on the road, where they're 52-58 and have averaged 4.8 runs. Sure, they'll have to tangle with an Angels staff that is healthier today than a month ago, but there's still an Ervin Santana matchup in there on Thursday; opponents are batting .373 with a 1.025 OPS against him in his four starts. But the main reasons you'd pick Tampa Bay this week are the one game in New York and the three at home against Washington, ranked dead last in baseball with a 5.67 team ERA. (And, again, that Santana matchup.) Hey, five out of seven isn't bad.

Cardinals (COL-1, @FLA-3, @CLE-3): Both the Marlins and Indians staffs have fallen on some hard times. Cliff Lee is Cleveland's only elite starter; things are so bad within in their rotation that Carl Pavano's 5-1 record and 3.60 ERA in his past seven starts has generated a bit of fantasy excitement. But let's not forget that Pavano's full-season ERA remains 5.29, he's not slated to face St. Louis and besides, he's Carl Pavano. Florida, meanwhile, just got Anibal Sanchez back from the disabled list and promptly lost him to the same shoulder trouble following his return start. Plus, as a team, the Marlins have a 4.83 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in their past 22 games. St. Louis recently got Rick Ankiel and Ryan Ludwick back from the DL; it's a good week to expect an uptick in their offensive production.

Mets (PHI-3, @NYY-3): The Phillies might have lined ace Cole Hamels, red-hot J.A. Happ and crafty Jamie Moyer up for their key road series against their division rivals, but that's not necessarily an advantage. After all, the Mets have batted .311 with an .862 OPS against left-handers this season, noticeably better than their .270/.745 numbers versus righties. They'll also draw southpaw Andy Pettitte during the "Subway Series." Besides, any game at Yankee Stadium is a favorable one for hitters; the per-game averages there are now 11.5 runs, 19.9 hits and 3.7 home runs between the Yankees and their opponents.

Mariners (@BAL-3, @COL-3): Is it safe to begin calling Coors Field "Yankee Stadium West" yet? (Kidding, though the Coors per-game averages this year actually are no better: 11.7 runs, 19.8 hits and 2.0 home runs.) This will be the Mariners' first trip to Coors since 2001, but it's not like their hitters are unfamiliar with the venue; the eight members of their active roster who have played there have combined to bat .336 with a 1.007 OPS in 121 career games at Coors. Adrian Beltre and Ken Griffey Jr. are the two most familiar; each has batted at least .314 with a 1.147 OPS in his career there. Throw in three games at hitter-friendly Camden Yards against the Orioles, ranked 28th in team ERA (5.16), and you've got a pretty hitter-friendly schedule for a typically light offense.

Tristan's sleeper hitters

Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers: .310 BA, .820 OPS in 21 home games in 2009; .293 BA, .822 OPS versus left-handers in 2009
Russell Branyan, 1B/3B, Mariners: .312 BA, .955 OPS in 25 road games in 2009; .327 BA, 1.071 OPS versus right-handers in 2009
Marlon Byrd, OF, Rangers: .327 BA, .917 OPS in 143 career games at Rangers Ballpark; .329 BA, .960 OPS in 21 games there in 2009 alone
Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Indians: .348 BA, .978 OPS in 20 games versus Royals 2008-09; .326 BA, .909 OPS versus right-handers in 2009
Cristian Guzman, SS, Nationals: .299 BA, .783 OPS in 38 interleague games 2007-09; .309 BA, .786 OPS versus right-handers in 2009
Magglio Ordonez, OF, Tigers: .354 BA, .915 OPS in 33 career games at U.S. Cellular Field as visiting player; .310 BA, .824 OPS versus left-handers in 2009
A.J. Pierzynski, C, White Sox: .319 BA, .836 OPS versus right-handers in 2009; .297 BA, 16 RBIs, .890 OPS in 16 games versus Tigers 2008-09
Gary Sheffield, OF, Mets: .378 BA, 1.060 OPS versus left-handers in 2009; 6-for-22 (.273 BA), 2 HRs, 1.044 OPS in six games versus Yankees in 2008

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.

Rays (@NYY-1, LAA-3, WAS-3): The game's speediest team -- Tampa Bay leads the majors in both steals (90) and percentage of successful steals attempts (86.5) -- won't show any signs of slowing up drawing these matchups. The Nationals just learned they'll be without starting catcher Jesus Flores for at least three months and perhaps for the remainder of the season, the drop-off to Josh Bard and Wil Nieves hurting them most in this particular area. Carl Crawford (34 steals) and B.J. Upton (17) are obvious speed demons, but also look to Matt Joyce (7-for-8 in steals chances between the majors and minors) and Ben Zobrist (6-for-8 for the Rays) as sleeper contributors.

Tigers (@CHW-5, @PIT-3): Five games against the White Sox and A.J. Pierzynski is about as favorable a speedster's schedule as you can get, and sure enough, since 2007 the Tigers as a team have successfully stolen on 35 of 40 attempts in 39 games versus Chicago. Detroit's best base stealers this season are Josh Anderson (10) and Curtis Granderson (9), the matchups keeping Anderson AL-only worthy in spite of the loss of the designated hitter during Detroit's weekend trip to Pittsburgh. But here's another juicy nugget: Miguel Cabrera stole a bag against Pierzynski on April 15, as sure a sign as any that practically anyone on the roster might contribute in the category.

Mets (PHI-3, @NYY-3): When you're having a hard enough time keeping your stars healthy, sometimes you need to take a few more chances on the base paths in order to generate runs; that's kind of where the Mets are at these days. They've been reasonably successful in recent "Subway Series," and surely will aim to exploit weak-armed Yankees backstop Jorge Posada, as they did in 2007 when they amassed 15 steals in 19 tries in six games. David Wright is 4-for-4 in his past 12 games against his crosstown rivals; Luis Castillo can still contribute, with six steals in his past 25 contests; and even Gary Sheffield can exploit the matchups, going 3-for-3 in 10 games against the Yankees the past two years.

Dodgers (SD-2, @TEX-3): Though they have the shortest schedule of any team in Week 10, the Dodgers match up extremely nicely in one area, and that's on the base paths. San Diego's Nick Hundley probably has nightmares from all the players who run wild on him; he has gunned down only 18 of 93 career attempted base stealers (19.4 percent), and that's in only 95 games behind the plate. Los Angeles as a team has swiped 24 bags in 27 attempts in 26 games against San Diego between this and last season, and Orlando Hudson is already 3-for-3 in eight head-to-head matchups in 2009. Another useful tidbit: The Dodgers have attempted 34 steals in the first 27 games of Manny Ramirez's suspension; that's up from 25 in their first 29 contest when Ramirez was on the active roster.

Load up: Pitchers

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

Giants (@FLA-1, @ARI-3, OAK-3): That Matt Cain was forced to throw only 82 pitches in the rain-shortened second game of this past Thursday's doubleheader will have him plenty fresh for his two scheduled starts, and quite the matchups they are for San Francisco. In a three-game series at Chase Field April 24-26, San Francisco totaled 28 strikeouts in 29 1/3 innings while limiting the Diamondbacks to nine runs. Oakland, meanwhile, ranks 27th in team OPS on the road (.665), and the loss of the designated hitter won't do them any favors offensively, especially if it means either Jack Cust or Jason Giambi sits at all.

Tigers (@CHW-5, @PIT-3): You might think Detroit's rotation rates as below-average, but the numbers would inform you you're wrong. Tigers starters as a whole rank sixth in the majors in ERA (3.99) and fifth in WHIP (1.30), and that includes Armando Galarraga's horrible 0-6 record and 7.61 ERA in his past seven starts. No matter; Jeremy Bonderman is due back from the disabled list to start the second game of Monday's doubleheader, and he can simply bump Galarraga or Dontrelle Willis, whose spurts of wildness seemed to return this past Thursday, to the bullpen come the weekend. An eight-game week against two teams that rank in the bottom 10 in the majors in OPS (White Sox 23rd, .714; and Pirates 21st, .732, and that was with Nate McLouth) is quite the favorable schedule.

Twins (@OAK-4, @CHC-3): Has this rotation finally turned the corner? In their past eight games the Twins have five wins, a 2.88 ERA and 1.19 WHIP, getting healthy contributions from Scott Baker, Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey. Those three are a combined 11-5 with a 3.83 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 20 starts since May 1, and rookie Anthony Swarzak has a 2.08 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in his first two starts since replacing the injured Glen Perkins. That leaves "ace" Francisco Liriano as the rotation's only weak link, but at least his matchup is a light one, Wednesday at Oakland against a team with a .595 OPS versus lefties.

Brewers (COL-3, CHW-3): Like a broken record I keep saying it, but keep using Brewers pitchers when they're scheduled for home games. As a staff Milwaukee ranks third in baseball with a 1.18 WHIP, and in their past two home stands the Brewers are 9-3 and have a team 3.39 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. Manny Parra and Jeff Suppan might strike you as slumping starters, but NL-only owners at the very least need account for their favorable track records at Miller Park. Parra has a 3.48 ERA and 1.43 WHIP in 27 career games (20 starts) there, and 3.65/1.38 numbers in four starts in 2009, while Suppan is 17-9 with a 3.79 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in 41 career starts at Miller Park.

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.

Note: The Cubs might get Rich Harden back in time to start on Saturday, but if he's not ready, Sean Marshall will likely pitch that day.

Rankings: Tristan's two-starts

Recommended cut-off point for elite one-starts: No. 16 (Baker)
Recommended cut-off point for "under-50" bargains: No. 26 (West)

Note: I'm assuming Jeremy Bonderman will get two starts this week though that has yet to be announced; if he does I'd rank him 29th, after Kenshin Kawakami. Jose Contreras has an outside shot at a two-start week if he bumps Clayton Richard from the rotation, but I wouldn't start him even if he did.

Seven must-starts: Josh Beckett, Chad Billingsley, Matt Cain, Chris Carpenter, Cliff Lee, Jake Peavy, Johan Santana.

8. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Tue-@TB (Niemann), Sun-SD (Peavy): 1-0, 3.75 ERA, 0.83 WHIP in two career starts at Tropicana Field
9. Johnny Cueto (CIN) -- Tue-@WAS (Zimmermann), Sun-@KC (Bannister): 4-1, 1.80 ERA, 0.93 WHIP in six road starts in 2009
10. Josh Johnson (FLA) -- Tue-STL (Carpenter), Sun-@TOR (Tallet)
11. Mark Buehrle (CHW) -- Tue-DET (Willis), Sun-@MIL (Looper): 14-8, 2.86 ERA, 1.13 WHIP in 27 career games (26 starts) versus Tigers
12. Ted Lilly (CHC) -- Tue-@HOU (Moehler), Sun-MIN (Baker): 3-0, 4.01 ERA, 1.13 WHIP in five interleague starts 2007-08
13. Derek Lowe (ATL) -- Tue-PIT (Ohlendorf), Sun-@BAL (Bergesen)
14. A.J. Burnett (NYY) -- Tue-@BOS (Beckett), Sun-NYM (Santana)
15. Zach Duke (PIT) -- Mon-@ATL (Kawakami), Sat-DET (Galarraga): 1-1, 2.57 ERA, 1.29 WHIP in three career starts at Turner Field
16. Scott Baker (MIN) -- Tue-@OAK (Anderson), Sun-@CHC (Lilly): 2-0, 3.27 ERA, 1.18 WHIP in two career starts at McAfee Coliseum
17. Josh Outman (OAK) -- Mon-MIN (Swarzak), Sat-@SF (Johnson): Has five consecutive quality starts, 1.91 ERA, 0.97 WHIP during that span
18. Scott Feldman (TEX) -- Mon-TOR (Janssen), Sat-LAD (Wolf): 4.05 ERA, 1.31 WHIP in 56 career games (16 starts) at Rangers Ballpark
19. Andy Pettitte (NYY) -- Mon-TB (Sonnanstine), Sat-NYM (Hernandez): Has five consecutive quality starts versus Mets; 5-2, 2.44 ERA, 1.13 WHIP in past 11 starts versus Mets
20. Randy Johnson (SF) -- Mon-@FLA (West), Sat-OAK (Outman): 4-1, 1.50 ERA, 1.06 WHIP in seven career starts at Dolphin Stadium
21. Jon Garland (ARI) -- Mon-@SD (Peavy), Sat-HOU (Paulino): 2-0, 0.64 ERA, 0.93 WHIP in two career starts at Petco Park
22. Braden Looper (MIL) -- Tue-COL (Hammel), Sun-CHW (Buehrle): 3-1, 4.25 ERA, 1.25 WHIP in six home starts in 2009
23. Andy Sonnanstine (TB) -- Mon-@NYY (Pettitte), Sat-WAS (Stammen)
24. Brandon McCarthy (TEX) -- Tue-TOR (Tallet), Sun-LAD (Billingsley): 7-5, 4.11 ERA, 1.26 WHIP in 22 career games (21 starts) at Rangers Ballpark
25. Brian Bannister (KC) -- Tue-@CLE (Lee), Sun-CIN (Cueto): 3-0, 1.44 ERA, 0.92 WHIP in four career starts at Jacobs Field
26. Sean West (FLA) -- Mon-SF (Johnson), Sat-@TOR (Janssen)
27. Jason Marquis (COL) -- Mon-@STL (Thompson), Sat-SEA (Olson)
28. Kenshin Kawakami (ATL) -- Mon-PIT (Duke), Sat-@BAL (Hill): 2-3, 3.19 ERA, 1.36 WHIP in his past six starts
29. J.A. Happ (PHI) -- Tue-@NYM (Santana), Sun-BOS (Beckett)
30. Jeff Niemann (TB) -- Tue-LAA (Weaver), Sun-WAS (Zimmermann)
31. Clayton Richard (CHW) -- Mon-DET-2 (Galarraga), Sat-@MIL (Parra)
32. Billy Buckner (ARI) -- Tue-SF (Cain), Sun-HOU (Moehler)
33. Anthony Swarzak (MIN) -- Mon-@OAK (Outman), Sat-@CHC (TBD)
34. Jordan Zimmermann (WAS) -- Tue-CIN (Cueto), Sun-@TB (Niemann)
35. Brett Anderson (OAK) -- Tue-MIN (Baker), Sun-@SF (Cain)

Ten "no thank yous": Armando Galarraga/Dontrelle Willis (I'm assuming only one will start twice with Bonderman likely to get two turns), Brad Bergesen, Jason Hammel, Casey Janssen, Brian Moehler, Ross Ohlendorf, Brian Tallet, Brad Thompson, Jason Vargas.

Tristan's one-start bargains

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

Jeremy Guthrie (BAL) -- Wed-SEA (Hernandez): 3.48 ERA, 1.16 WHIP in five career starts versus Mariners
Joe Saunders (LAA) -- Sat-SD (Peavy): 3-1, 2.76 ERA, 1.10 WHIP in five career interleague starts

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

Nick Blackburn (MIN) -- Thu-@OAK (Cahill): 3-2, 3.89 ERA, 1.30 WHIP in six road starts in 2009
Dave Bush (MIL) -- Wed-COL (De La Rosa): 2-1, 2.50 ERA, 0.83 WHIP in three career starts versus Rockies
Trevor Cahill (OAK) -- Thu-MIN (Blackburn): 2-4, 3.75 ERA, 1.19 WHIP in six home starts in 2009
Tommy Hanson (ATL) -- Fri-@BAL (Berken): 1.50 ERA, 0.86 WHIP in 11 starts for Triple-A Gwinnett
Rich Hill (BAL) -- Sat-ATL (Kawakami): 3-0, 0.94 ERA, 0.84 WHIP in four career starts versus Braves
Ubaldo Jimenez (COL) -- Fri-SEA (Bedard): 12-9, 3.58 ERA, 1.28 WHIP in 30 career home games (29 starts)
Rick Porcello (DET) -- Fri-@PIT (Snell): 3-2, 3.72 ERA, 1.14 WHIP in five road starts in 2009
Randy Wells (CHC) -- Fri-MIN (Slowey): Has four consecutive quality starts; 1.69 overall ERA

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.