Commentary

Harang gets two favorable starts

Updated: June 13, 2009, 11:13 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

Fantasy Forecaster last updated Saturday, June 13 at 11:13 p.m. ET.

Fantasy Forecaster
On tap: We're now in the thick of interleague play, one of two full weeks of interleague action (Week 12 is the other), as there are only six intraleague games in Week 11 out of 90 scheduled. 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, along with how many games will be affected for that team:

Angels: (Lose DH for 3) Vladimir Guerrero probably still can't play in the field, so he suffers most. But Bobby Abreu might also sit twice against Giants lefties Monday and Tuesday; he sat against lefties May 22-24 at the Dodgers.
Astros: (Gain DH for 6) Lance Berkman and/or Carlos Lee will shift to DH, but who steps into the lineup at their positions then, Darin Erstad? Jeff Keppinger? Jason Michaels? Matt Kata? Better question: Does it matter?
Athletics: (Lose DH for 6) Jason Giambi and Jack Cust are capable of playing first base and right field, but each might sit once with two lefties on the schedule.
Blue Jays: (Lose DH for 6) Adam Lind played left field in the team's May 22-24 series at Atlanta, but that was all against righties. With Toronto set to face three lefties, we might see more Jose Bautista in left (not to mention Kevin Millar at first base).
Braves: (Gain DH for 3) It's a hunch, but Barbaro Canizares might benefit most, with Chipper Jones shifting to DH and Martin Prado to third base.
Brewers: (Gain DH for 6) Mat Gamel, Mat Gamel, Mat Gamel. Oh wait, it's six games, not three? All the better.
Cardinals: (Gain DH for 3) They'll face all righties in Kansas City, meaning Rick Ankiel, Chris Duncan, Ryan Ludwick and Colby Rasmus should all play.
Diamondbacks: (Gain DH for 6) Eric Byrnes and Gerardo Parra benefit most, but Ryan Roberts might sneak in an extra start or two.
Dodgers: (Gain DH for 3) Too bad Manny Ramirez isn't eligible to play yet. Instead, expect Blake DeWitt to benefit most.
Indians: (Lose DH for 3) Travis Hafner probably isn't in any condition to play first base, not to mention he hasn't played there since June 24, 2007.
Mariners: (Lose DH for 3) It's a hunch, but even though the Mariners face only right-handers in Petco Park, the park's spacious outfield, and therefore the amount it taxes defenders, makes me think Ken Griffey Jr. sits at least twice.
Marlins: (Gain DH for 3) Ross Gload and Wes Helms will likely share the duties, or man first base while Jorge Cantu DHs.
Mets: (Gain DH for 3) Jerry Manuel has made it crystal-clear Gary Sheffield is his DH in these games, so that clears things up at first base and left field, allowing Fernando Martinez, Daniel Murphy and Fernando Tatis more at-bats.
Nationals: (Gain DH for 3) This just clears up the Nationals' outfield logjam; Elijah Dukes, Adam Dunn, Willie Harris and Josh Willingham can all start with the DH added. Austin Kearns might pick up a start (over Harris?) against CC Sabathia.
Orioles: (Lose DH for 3) Luke Scott was on the DL the last time Baltimore played in an NL park. The Phillies will start three lefties, so I bet he sits.
Pirates: (Gain DH for 3) Eric Hinske and Craig Monroe should continue to platoon at DH, and two of those games will be played against righties.
Rangers: (Lose DH for 3) When the Rangers visited Houston May 22-24, Hank Blalock was the one who suffered most; he started once and sat against a lefty, while Chris Davis manned first base. This time, the Rangers face two lefties, so I'd be cautious with either player, but especially so with Blalock.
Rays: (Lose DH for 6) Odd that the Rays would want to activate Pat Burrell just before their road trip to all NL parks. He's probably not an option in the field. Otherwise, just expect fewer at-bats for Willy Aybar, Gabe Gross and Gabe Kapler.
Tigers: (Lose DH for 3) Magglio Ordonez can shift to right field, leaving Josh Anderson, Ryan Raburn and Marcus Thames to duke it out for at-bats in left field.
White Sox: (Lose DH for 6) Ozzie Guillen has already ruled out using Jim Thome at first base, so sit the veteran DH.
Yankees: (Lose DH for 3) For the first time we'll get the answer to this question: Can Hideki Matsui play in the field? (My guess: No. He sits.)

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: Angels (Saturday, LAD); Athletics (Saturday, @SD); and Nationals (Saturday, TOR).

Weather report

Teams do everything in their power to squeeze in interleague contests no matter the weather reports, as the difficulty in rescheduling them means typically a grit-it-out or instant, next-day-doubleheader approach. (It's either that or keep your fingers crossed the teams have a common off day later in the year.) Interestingly, among the only "problem cities" in terms of weather, Cleveland is the only one with an open date Thursday in the event of rain, but the only day Brewers-Indians will see a 40 percent chance of rain is Wednesday. Chicago, Cincinnati and New York (Yankees) are the other cities most at risk. The Cubs face a 40 percent chance of rain each day for much of the early half of the week; the Reds range from 20 to 40 percent in the early week; and the Yankees have a 40 percent chance in their series finale versus Washington on Thursday.

Weatherproof games: Diamondbacks at Mariners (3, Fri-Sun); Pirates at Twins (3, Tue-Thu); Astros at Twins (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.

Cubs (CHW-3, CLE-3): Though this offense is suffering from the loss of Aramis Ramirez coupled with disappointing years by Milton Bradley, Mike Fontenot and Geovany Soto, six games at Wrigley Field nevertheless qualify as hitter-friendly matchups. Take a gander at the home OPS by these Cubs hitters this season: Ryan Theriot .993, Reed Johnson .976, Micah Hoffpauir .959, Kosuke Fukudome .873, Bradley .867, Derrek Lee .861. Plus, consider how the team has fared in its past 12 games at Wrigley Field (two home stands): .295 team batting average, .880 OPS, 64 runs (5.3 per game), 15 home runs.

Yankees (WAS-3, @FLA-3): You could extract those three Nationals games and have a standout offensive week right there. Washington is 6-20 with a 6.42 ERA and 1.88 WHIP on the road this season, every one of those numbers rating the team dead last in baseball. And since it's Forecaster tradition to recite the per-game averages at new Yankee Stadium, here they are: 11.4 runs, 19.2 hits, 3.6 home runs. Not that the three games at Florida aren't at least respectable from a matchups perspective. The Marlins, widely considered one of the better pitching staffs in the game, have nevertheless had a 4.63 ERA, 1.46 WHIP and have served up 31 home runs in their past 29 games.

Twins (PIT-3, HOU-3): Did you know this team has the third-highest winning percentage in interleague play history (.571), and had the highest winning percentage during interleague play in 2008 (.778)? Yeah, me neither. Throw in the Twins' .810 team OPS and 5.6 runs-per-game average at home and you've got the makings of a stellar week of matchups, and that's before looking at the opponents. And what of those Houston and Pittsburgh pitching staffs? Well, they both rank among the 10 worst teams in baseball in terms of road ERA and WHIP; Houston has a 4.93 ERA (25th) and 1.57 WHIP (28th) and Pittsburgh has a 4.72 ERA (21st) and 1.47 WHIP (21st). Delmon Young, incidentally, is a .353 hitter with an .888 OPS in 33 career interleague games.

Rockies (TB-3, PIT-3): It's about time the Rockies started playing some home games -- they have played a major league-low 23 -- and if there's any time you'd prefer to see games played at Coors Field, it's during the hot summer months. Offense tends to be at its peak at that park around this time of year; in 2008 the Rockies scored 125 runs and hit 30 home runs in 20 games (averages of 6.3 and 1.5) at Coors between June 1 and the All-Star break. Colorado as a team has scored 107 runs and hit 23 homers in its past 21 games (averages of 5.1 and 1.1), 15 of which were played on the road. Expect big things from Clint Barmes (.920 OPS at home in 2009), Chris Iannetta (.908) and Troy Tulowitzki (.832).

Tristan's sleeper hitters

Rick Ankiel, OF, Cardinals: .278 BA, .874 OPS versus right-handers in 2009; .325 BA, 1.007 OPS in 11 games in June
Jay Bruce, OF, Reds: .276 BA, .989 OPS in 28 home games in 2009; .609 BA, 4 HRs, 1.928 OPS in six career games (hit safely in each) versus Braves
Mark DeRosa, 2B/3B/OF, Indians: .307 BA, .864 OPS in 158 career games at Wrigley Field; .338 BA, 4 HRs, 17 RBIs, .942 OPS in his past 21 games
A.J. Pierzynski, C, White Sox: .313 BA, .823 OPS versus right-handers in 2009; .316 BA, 3 HRs, 12 RBIs in 15 career games at Wrigley Field
Colby Rasmus, OF, Cardinals: .314 BA, .901 OPS versus right-handers in 2009; .282 BA, 6 HRs, 16 RBIs, .907 OPS in his past 26 games
Scott Rolen, 3B, Blue Jays: .327 BA, 13 RBIs, .814 OPS in 12 career games at Citizens Bank Park; .392 BA, 1.108 OPS versus left-handers in 2009
Carlos Ruiz, C, Phillies: .348 BA, 3 HRs, 8 RBIs, 1.107 OPS in his past 16 games; .343 BA, 1.178 OPS in 14 home games in 2009
Pablo Sandoval, 1B/3B, Giants: .376 BA, .995 OPS in 24 home games in 2009; .386 BA, 1.042 OPS in his past 13 games
Ben Zobrist, 2B/SS/OF, Rays: .325 BA, 1.049 OPS in 28 road games in 2009; .375 BA, 1.234 OPS in his past 18 games (has played every inning of Rays' past 18)

Load up: Stolen bases

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

Yankees (WAS-3, @FLA-3): Maybe Joe Girardi is just a National League-style manager, because under him, the Yankees have swiped 26 bases in 33 chances in 21 interleague games. That's a 78.8 percent rate and an average of 1.6 attempts per game; by comparison, those numbers are 76.6 and 0.9 in intraleague contests. Another thing Girardi does is gets his baserunners capitalizing upon favorable matchups; case in point the Yankees' 26-for-30 performance (86.7 percent success rate) in 26 games against the Red Sox and weak-armed Jason Varitek from 2008-09. Derek Jeter (12 steals this year), Johnny Damon (5) and Melky Cabrera (4) all stack up nicely.

Giants (LAA-3, TEX-3): The Giants have plenty of players capable of swiping a base, and they'll be facing two teams with No. 1 catchers who rank in the top 10 in baseball in terms of stolen bases allowed (the Angels' Mike Napoli ranks sixth with 30, the Rangers' Jarrod Saltalamacchia 10th with 28). Granted, two of San Francisco's speediest players are in dreadful slumps -- Emmanuel Burris has batted .125 in his past 10 games and Fred Lewis .175 in his past 12 -- but there are plenty of other options on the roster. Randy Winn has eight steals on the season, Aaron Rowand has four and Edgar Renteria has three.

Blue Jays (@PHI-3, @WAS-3): Though not traditionally considered a base-stealing team, Toronto actually ranks a respectable 18th in the majors with 33 steals, higher than in a typical season, and Vernon Wells' perfect 10-for-10 performance in the category demonstrates this team's penchant for running more often and exploiting matchups. Speaking to those matchups, the Phillies have been getting routed on the basepaths of late, serving up eight steals in as many chances in their past six games, while the Jesus Flores-less Nationals have surrendered 12 in their past 14 contests. You know all about Wells and Alex Rios, but Marco Scutaro actually ranks third on the team in the category, with six steals.

Marlins (@BOS-3, NYY-3): Teams have made a living running wild against Boston's Jason Varitek and New York's Jorge Posada; Varitek has surrendered 47 steals, tops in the majors, on 58 chances, while Posada has allowed 63 on 85 chances between 2008-09 in only 50 more innings than Varitek has caught in 2009 alone. This would be a good week for Hanley Ramirez to attempt to boost his current full-season pace of 22 steals, and with Emilio Bonifacio beginning to again show a hint of on-base ability (.322 OBP in his past 13 games, which is OK, but surely not great), perhaps the Marlins will get things done on the basepaths in Week 11.

Load up: Pitchers

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

Padres (SEA-3, OAK-3): Could it be that 16-inning victory over the Reds jump-started this team? OK, so the Padres' current 15-of-24 win streak began the day before that lengthy extra-inning affair, but coincidentally beginning with that three-game sweep of Cincinnati the Padres have a 3.61 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in their past 24 games. In other words, this isn't at all a throwaway staff, especially not with home games ahead against two of the game's weakest offenses (Seattle ranks 27th in team OPS at .707, Oakland 30th at .676). This staff ranks fifth in the majors in ERA at home (3.51), and it helps that Heath Bell has shown no signs of slowing down, with 10 saves and a 2.63 ERA during the Padres' hot streak.

Reds (ATL-3, CHW-3): But let's not condemn the Reds for getting swept out in San Diego from May 15-17. They returned home immediately after that series, and despite a mediocre 11-11 record since then, have a 3.66 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in those 22 games. Games at Great American Ball Park present tougher matchups than in your typical ballpark, but let's account for the strength -- or lack thereof -- of the opponents. Atlanta ranks 22nd in team OPS at .716, while the White Sox rank 25th at .714. Top two starters Johnny Cueto and Aaron Harang plus closer Francisco Cordero, incidentally, have combined for a 2.73 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 89 innings at home this year. Doesn't sound too high-risk, does it?

Mariners (@SD-3, ARI-3): Might we not see a set of 1-0 affairs between the Mariners and Padres? Could happen, as neither offense is remotely threatening, and Seattle will probably throw two left-handers against the Padres, whose team OPS against that side is a miserable .662. Plus, the Diamondbacks, though a bit more potent under manager A.J. Hinch (4.8 runs per game, .746 OPS, both middling numbers), continue to strike out a ton: 8.5 times per game in the Hinch era. The Mariners will throw both Erik Bedard and Felix Hernandez, their two best strikeouts artists, during that series.

Twins (PIT-3, HOU-3): The Twins' offense gets a boost with a set of home games against so-so interleague opponents, but the part of their game that most benefits from this week's schedule is the pitching staff. This team has historically had the advantage at the Metrodome; check out the current rotation members' career ERAs there: Francisco Liriano 2.84, Nick Blackburn 2.98, Kevin Slowey 3.69, Scott Baker 4.19 and Anthony Swarzak 4.76 (but in only three starts). Closer Joe Nathan, meanwhile, has a 1.81 career ERA at the Metrodome. Incidentally, want to know the reason for the Twins' interleague dominance in 2008? Clearly it was pitching; this staff had a 2.44 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 18 interleague contests, not once surrendering more than six runs in a game.

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: If Roy Halladay's groin heals in time, he'll start for the Blue Jays on Saturday. If Eric Stults is ready to return from the DL in time, he'll likely start Saturday for the Dodgers.

Rankings: Tristan's two-starts

Recommended cut-off point for elite one-starts: No. 12 (Rodriguez)
Recommended cut-off point for "under-50" bargains: No. 18 (Meche)

Six must-starts: Yovani Gallardo, Cole Hamels, Felix Hernandez, CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander, Adam Wainwright.

7. Carlos Zambrano (CHC) -- Tue-CHW (Danks), Sun-CLE (Pavano): 8-3, 3.94 ERA, 1.30 WHIP in 20 home starts 2008-09
8. Aaron Harang (CIN) -- Tue-ATL (Jurrjens), Sun-CHW (Danks): 16-13, 3.87 ERA, 1.21 WHIP In 40 home starts 2007-09
9. Tim Wakefield (BOS) -- Tue-FLA (Volstad), Sun-ATL (Jurrjens): 12-4, 3.15 ERA, 1.11 WHIP in 19 home starts 2008-09
10. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Tue-OAK (Braden), Sun-@LAA (Lackey)
11. John Lackey (LAA) -- Mon-@SF (Zito), Sun-LAD (Kershaw): 11-3, 2.59 ERA, 1.11 WHIP in 22 career interleague games (21 starts)
12. Wandy Rodriguez (HOU) -- Tue-@TEX (Millwood), Sun-@MIN (Perkins): 3-2, 3.50 ERA, 1.08 WHIP in seven interleague starts 2007-08
13. Jair Jurrjens (ATL) -- Tue-@CIN (Harang), Sun-@BOS (Wakefield): 10-7, 3.06 ERA, 1.16 WHIP in 23 career road starts
14. Chris Volstad (FLA) -- Tue-@BOS (Wakefield), Sun-NYY (Sabathia)
15. Mike Pelfrey (NYM) -- Tue-@BAL (Guthrie), Sun-TB (Niemann)
16. Kevin Millwood (TEX) -- Tue-HOU (Rodriguez), Sun-@SF (Zito): 6-4, 4.13 ERA, 1.25 WHIP in 11 career starts versus Astros
17. Doug Davis (ARI) -- Tue-@KC (Meche), Sun-@SEA (Hernandez): 2-2, 3.77 ERA, 1.40 WHIP in five road starts in 2009
18. Gil Meche (KC) -- Tue-ARI (Davis), Sun-STL (Wainwright): 13-4, 3.50 ERA, 1.20 WHIP in 22 career interleague games (21 starts)
19. Carl Pavano (CLE) -- Mon-MIL (Bush), Sun-@CHC (Zambrano)
20. Barry Zito (SF) -- Mon-LAA (Lackey), Sun-TEX (Millwood): 0-2, 2.70 ERA, 1.20 WHIP in five home starts in 2009
21. Dave Bush (MIL) -- Mon-@CLE (Pavano), Sat-@DET (Willis): 4-3, 3.63 ERA, 1.16 WHIP in 10 interleague starts 2006-09
22. John Danks (CHW) -- Tue-@CHC (Zambrano), Sun-@CIN (Harang): 1-1, 3.05 ERA, 1.46 WHIP in seven career interleague starts
23. Kevin Correia (SD) -- Tue-SEA (Hernandez), Sun-OAK (Braden)
24. Jeff Niemann (TB) -- Tue-@COL (De La Rosa), Sun-@NYM (Pelfrey)
25. Dallas Braden (OAK) -- Tue-@LAD (Kershaw), Sun-@SD (Correia): 5-5, 3.72 ERA, 1.38 WHIP in 17 road games (12 starts) 2008-09
26. Charlie Morton (PIT) -- Tue-@MIN (Perkins), Sun-@COL (De La Rosa)
27. Glen Perkins (MIN) -- Tue-PIT (Morton), Sun-HOU (Rodriguez): 8-4, 3.76 ERA, 1.30 WHIP in 19 starts at the Metrodome 2008-09
28. Jeremy Guthrie (BAL) -- Tue-NYM (Pelfrey), Sun-@PHI (Hamels)

Three "no-thank-yous:" Jorge De La Rosa, Shairon Martis, Ricky Romero.

Tristan's one-start bargains

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

Scott Baker (MIN) -- Sat-HOU (Moehler): 6-2, 4.38 ERA, 1.22 WHIP in eight career interleague starts
Randy Johnson (SF) -- Fri-TEX (Feldman): 7-4, 3.02 ERA, 1.11 WHIP in 13 career starts at AT&T Park
Hiroki Kuroda (LAD) -- Thu-OAK (Mazzaro): 6-3, 3.45 ERA, 1.07 WHIP in 16 career home starts

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

Nick Blackburn (MIN) -- Thu-PIT (Snell): 10-3, 2.98 ERA, 1.26 WHIP in 22 career home games (19 starts)
J.A. Happ (PHI) -- Sat-BAL (Bergesen): 3-1, 3.51 ERA, 1.21 WHIP in nine career starts
Ubaldo Jimenez (COL) -- Thu-TB (Garza): 12-9, 3.58 ERA, 1.28 WHIP in 30 career home games (29 starts)
Jason Marquis (COL) -- Fri-PIT (Duke): 6-2, 4.01 ERA, 1.37 WHIP in 10 career games (nine starts) at Coors Field
Josh Outman (OAK) -- Fri-@SD (Young): 4-0, 2.31 ERA, 0.97 WHIP in his past six starts
Brian Tallet (TOR) -- Fri-@WAS (Zimmermann): 3.12 ERA, 1.06 WHIP in his past eight starts
Randy Wolf (LAD) -- Wed-OAK (Cahill): 2-1, 3.34 ERA, 1.18 WHIP in his past nine starts

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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