Commentary

Matsui, Ortiz expected to lose at-bats

Updated: June 21, 2009, 9:46 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

Fantasy Forecaster updated Sunday, June 21 at 9:46 p.m. ET.

Fantasy Forecaster
On tap: Interleague play wraps up this week with a host of "traditional rivalries," which includes Cubs-White Sox (the "Crosstown Classic"), Giants-Athletics (the "Battle of the Bay"), Marlins-Rays (the "Citrus Series"), Nationals-Orioles (the "Beltway Series"), Reds-Indians (the "Battle of Ohio"), Twins-Brewers and Yankees-Mets (the "Subway Series"). 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 loses out because he's unable to play right field. Bobby Abreu is also a candidate to sit the one game versus a lefty.
Cubs: (Gain DH for 6) Jake Fox, recently recalled from Triple-A Iowa, would be a natural to DH all six games.
Dodgers: (Gain DH for 3) So far the DH has gotten Brad Ausmus one extra start (Russell Martin DHed that one) and Mark Loretta two. Sigh. What a waste.
Giants: (Gain DH for 3) Jesus Guzman would be a natural, but he's in the minors, so the Giants are rotating different players to fill the role (or bump others into it). Among the candidates: Rich Aurilia, Nate Schierholtz and Juan Uribe.
Indians: (Lose DH for 3) Travis Hafner sits, it's as simple as that.
Mariners: (Lose DH for 3) Since Ken Griffey Jr. has apparently been up to task in left field, the losers are the Wladimir Balentien-Endy Chavez platoon.
Marlins: (Gain DH for 3) Ross Gload and Wes Helms should continue to be used in a straight platoon with Jorge Cantu at DH. The Marlins face one lefty.
Nationals: (Gain DH for 3) Adam Dunn has been the DH most often, leaving the outfield open for more Willie Harris and Corey Patterson starts.
Orioles: (Lose DH for 3) With the Marlins set to throw two lefties in these games, Luke Scott should sit both, but maybe he'll play over Nolan Reimold in left field when Ricky Nolasco is on the mound Wednesday.
Padres: (Gain DH for 6) Kyle Blanks, reportedly promoted Friday, would be a natural choice, and the Padres do face four left-handed starters. Cliff Floyd might start the two games against lefty starters.
Phillies: (Gain DH for 6) With Raul Ibanez on the shelf, it's hard to imagine Matt Stairs sitting even against what's likely to be at least three left-handed opponents. He might not play every game, but who else would, Eric Bruntlett?
Rangers: (Lose DH for 3) They face all right-handers, so Hank Blalock and Chris Davis will battle for first-base at-bats. Davis probably has the edge.
Red Sox: (Lose DH for 6) David Ortiz did play a game at first base June 12 and the Red Sox do face mostly right-handers, but I'd be surprised if he played more than once or twice this week. Expect Kevin Youkilis to play third base if Ortiz is at first.
Reds: (Gain DH for 6) Jonny Gomes was the team's DH in the three games at Kansas City from June 12 to 14, in which the Royals threw only right-handed starters. He went 3-for-10 with two doubles and a home run. Sounds good enough to me.
Rockies: (Gain DH for 6) If there's any perfect solution to their Garrett Atkins-Ian Stewart conundrum at third base, this is it.
Royals: (Lose DH for 6) Mike Jacobs sat two of three games at St. Louis from May 22 to 24 and played first base ahead of Billy Butler in the other. The Royals face five right-handed starters, so it might be an even split between the two at first base this week.
Tigers: (Lose DH for 3) With the news that Magglio Ordonez has been benched "indefinitely," if that's even rescinded by the weekend, he might rotate with Josh Anderson, Don Kelly, Ryan Raburn and Marcus Thames at the outfield corners.
Twins: (Lose DH for 6) Jason Kubel played right field in all three games at the Cubs from June 12 to 14 and the Twins haven't been afraid to jeopardize their outfield defense. (See: June 12 game in which Michael Cuddyer played in center.) It's a full week versus righties, so Cuddyer might be fighting Carlos Gomez for at-bats.
Yankees: (Lose DH for 6) Hideki Matsui sits because he's incapable of playing in the field.

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: Giants (Saturday, @MIL); Indians (Saturday, CIN); Phillies (Sunday, @TOR); Pirates (Saturday, KC); and Tigers (Saturday, @HOU).

Weather report

The weather remains sketchy on the East Coast, with games in New York (Cardinals-Mets series) and Washington (Red Sox-Nationals series) facing threats of 30- and 40-percent chances of rain for multiple games. The Orioles-Marlins series in Florida is also one to watch, with multiple games of 30-plus percent chance of rain. But as this past Wednesday's action in Boston and New York demonstrates, Major League Baseball wants as much effort as possible made to play all interleague games, based on the difficulty in rescheduling them.

Weatherproof games: Royals at Astros (3, Tue-Thu); Tigers at Astros (3, Fri-Sun); Reds at Blue Jays (3, Tue-Thu); Phillies at Blue Jays (3, Fri-Sun); Twins at Brewers (3, Tue-Thu); Giants at Brewers (3, Fri-Sun); Rangers at Diamondbacks (3, Tue-Thu); Angels at Diamondbacks (3, Fri-Sun); Padres at Mariners (3, Tue-Thu); Phillies at Rays (3, Tue-Thu); Marlins 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 (PHI-3, FLA-3): This team loves Tropicana Field; it's as simple as that. Beyond just their 78-36 record at home between this and last season, the Rays have averaged 5.2 runs per game with an .810 team OPS at the "Trop" during that time. Plus, they'll avoid the Phillies' Cole Hamels yet still battle three left-handers, and as a team they have a .856 OPS versus southpaws, second-best in the majors. Besides the obvious Rays, Jason Bartlett is a .320 hitter with an .809 OPS in 79 home games between this and last season; and Ben Zobrist has batted .293 and hit nine of his 14 homers this year at home.

Marlins (BAL-3, @TB-3): Those three games at Tampa Bay might be tricky ones, but the Marlins did score 13 runs in a three-game trip to Tropicana Field from June 13 to 15, 2008, and that was against a pretty stout Rays rotation, one I'd rank a notch higher than this year's model. Besides, the reason you'll want to load up on Marlins hitters is those three home games against Orioles starters Koji Uehara, Jason Berken and Rich Hill. That threesome has allowed 30 runs on 42 hits and 13 walks in 29 innings combined in its past eight starts.

Pirates (CLE-3, KC-3): I'm not at all a believer in the Pirates, but when I declare facing them a standout matchup for an opposing pitcher, I'm referring most to Pirates road games (and therefore home starts for the pitcher). By comparison, at PNC Park the Pirates have batted an impressive .293 with a .789 OPS, the latter ranking the team 10th in the majors. Sure, there's a Cliff Lee and a Zack Greinke matchup in here, but Greinke hasn't been quite as dominant of late and I can live with two tough matchups out of six if the other four are soft. (They are.) Adam LaRoche is a .360 hitter with a 1.084 OPS at home this year, Freddy Sanchez has .325/.903 numbers at PNC and Andrew McCutchen, at least so far, has hit well enough to be a quality replacement for Nate McLouth.

Rangers (@ARI-3, SD-3): Four of these matchups, in terms of their opponents' scheduled starters, are standout ones for the Rangers. Sure, there's a Dan Haren matchup in here, but there's also a Jon Garland, and he's 5-8 with a 6.39 ERA in 20 career games (19 starts) versus Texas. Then the Rangers return home to their cozy ballpark to battle a Padres rotation that has Jake Peavy and Chris Young and a bunch of … wait, what's that? They're both hurt? OK, the Rangers return home to their cozy ballpark to battle just a bunch of Padre no-names -- like Walter Silva. This is an offense that touched up Cliff Lee for nine runs on Opening Day. Do you think names like Silva, Kevin Correia and Chad Gaudin scare them?

Tristan's sleeper hitters

Casey Blake, 3B, Dodgers: .295 BA, .895 OPS in 51 career games at U.S. Cellular Field; .386 BA, 1.044 OPS versus left-handers in 2009
Jake Fox, OF, Cubs: Was batting .409 with 17 HRs and 53 RBIs in 45 games at Triple-A Iowa, and the Cubs have the DH for six of seven games
Jonny Gomes, OF, Reds: .270 BA, .876 OPS in his career versus left-handers
Scott Hairston, OF, Padres -- check status, obviously: .379 BA, 1.187 OPS versus left-handers in 2009; .342 BA, 1.003 OPS in 23 road games in 2009
Casey Kotchman, 1B, Braves: .327 BA, .944 OPS in 26 career games versus Red Sox; .298 BA, .834 OPS versus right-handers in 2009
Jason Kubel, OF, Twins: .333 BA, 1.003 OPS in 42 career interleague games; .353 BA, 1.065 OPS versus right-handers in 2009
Gerardo Parra, OF, Diamondbacks: .307 BA, .879 OPS versus right-handers in 2009; .333 BA, .945 OPS in 11 home games in 2009
Nolan Reimold, OF, Orioles: .289 BA, 1.018 OPS in 15 home games in 2009; .360 BA, 1.107 OPS versus left-handers in 2009
Scott Rolen, 3B, Blue Jays: .312 BA, .831 OPS in 26 home games in 2009; .368 BA, 1.040 OPS versus left-handers in 2009

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.

Orioles (@FLA-3, WAS-3): Brian Roberts might be on pace for a disappointing 34 steals -- that'd be his worst total since 2005 -- but drawing a set of matchups as this might help inspire him to get that number back over 40. The Marlins and Nationals have surrendered 32 stolen bases combined in 31 games in the month of June, Washington suffering especially because of the absence of usual starter Jesus Flores. Another thought: Wouldn't it be nice if Adam Jones, only 5-for-7 stealing this year, saw these matchups and tried to capitalize?

Braves (CHC-1, NYY-3, BOS-3): Neither the Yankees nor the Red Sox are known for their prowess in gunning down opposing base stealers, not with their catchers being the aging Jorge Posada and Jason Varitek. In fact, after the Braves' division rivals the Marlins, Boston and New York rank tied for second in stolen bases allowed so far this season. That's good, because Atlanta isn't a team that tends to take chances with steals, so the only time to expect much production from this roster in the category is when it faces favorable matchups like these. Nate McLouth (two steals with the Braves, 9-for-9 overall) brings the team some much-needed quickness, and Matt Diaz and Jeff Francoeur each have two steals in the month of June.

Diamondbacks (TEX-3, LAA-3): This team is on quite a roll in the base-stealing department in June; Arizona has swiped 18 bases in 19 tries in 16 games so far this month. It sure helps that the team has been getting on base more effectively than in April or May, with a .344 on-base percentage in June that easily bests the team's .314 mark through the season's first two months. Mark Reynolds has three of the team's steals this month and Justin Upton another three, but the bounce-back speedster to watch right now is Chris Young, who has a team-high seven in June thanks to a .400 on-base percentage.

Rays (PHI-3, FLA-3): There might be only one man in baseball who can keep this team down on the base paths, and that's Joe Mauer, who gunned them down on their only two attempts in a May 29-31 series. But Mauer isn't a Phillie and he isn't a Marlin; those teams rate on the opposite side of the spectrum in that department. The Rays rank first in the majors in steals by a substantial margin and have swiped 63 of their 109 bags in home games (57.8 percent). This team was also a perfect 6-for-6 stealing against the Marlins from May 22 to 24 -- Carl Crawford had three, Jason Bartlett two and B.J. Upton one.

Load up: Pitchers

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

Dodgers (@CHW-3, SEA-3): The Dodgers sport baseball's best record, and much of the reason for that is their major league-best 3.57 team ERA (not to mention MLB-best .681 OPS allowed). Facing mostly meaty matchups, this staff has combined for a 3.03 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in its past 18 games, and that's in spite of squeezing only six quality starts out of its rotation. The Dodgers are better than that, though, and are primed to capitalize upon matchups against two offenses that haven't provided a lick of trouble to most opposing staffs this year. The White Sox rank 23rd with a .718 team OPS, and the Mariners rank 27th at .698.

Rangers (@ARI-3, SD-3): Mike Maddux, who hopped aboard as Texas' pitching coach this past winter, has worked wonders for this staff so far. I know that a 4.43 team ERA that ranks the team 19th in the majors might sound mediocre at best, but when you consider that the Rangers were once routinely called one of the game's worst pitching staffs, it's progress. Both Kevin Millwood and Scott Feldman are entirely fantasy-worthy right now, effectively as they have pitched and facing these matchups against light-hitting offenses. And I'm tempted on Matt Harrison, too, though more so in his scheduled Sunday start against the Padres, whose team OPS versus left-handers is .662. Plus, Texas might get a boost this week with the potential return of closer Frank Francisco from the disabled list.

White Sox (LAD-3, CHC-3): Just do the math. In the month of June, the Dodgers have averaged 3.1 runs per game with a .660 team OPS; the Cubs have averaged 3.2 runs with a .638 OPS. The White Sox, meanwhile, have a 3.09 team ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 26 games since that 20-1 drubbing at the hands of the Twins on May 21. Getting a healthy, effective Jose Contreras back has provided a big boost to this rotation, and it's worth pointing out that in seven starts in the month of June, slow-starting John Danks and Gavin Floyd have combined for a 2.40 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. Oh, if only this team could hit …

Cubs (@ATL-1, @DET-3, @CHW-3): Another team with a great, red-hot rotation, but whose offense can't hit a lick. The Cubs as a team have a 2.34 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in their past 19 games, and much of the reason is that they have a healthy Rich Harden and Carlos Zambrano back and contributing, as well as Randy Wells doing an admirable job out of the fifth-starter role. Here's what's most amazing: Generally known as a better home team than road, the Cubs rank third in baseball in road ERA (3.79) and first in WHIP (1.31) this season. Both the Tigers and White Sox rank in the bottom 10 in the game in OPS in June, so expect continued good things from Cubs pitchers, even if wins are a bit of a problem.

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: After demoting Kyle Davies, the Royals might choose between Bruce Chen and Sidney Ponson for their open rotation spot on Saturday. Roy Halladay is eligible to return from the DL on Sunday, and he claims he'll be ready to pitch for the Blue Jays, though an official announcement has yet to be made. If Felipe Paulino is ready in time, he'll start for the Astros on Saturday; otherwise it'll be Brandon Backe. Manny Parra is a popular pick by most to return to the Brewers' rotation when they need a fifth starter on Saturday.

Rankings: Tristan's two-starts

Recommended cut-off point for elite one-starts: No. 9 (Liriano)
Recommended cut-off point for "under-50" bargains: No. 18 (Miller)

Two must-starts: Zack Greinke, Carlos Zambrano.

3. Javier Vazquez (ATL) -- Mon-CHC (Dempster), Sat-BOS (Wakefield): 6-8, 3.54 ERA, 1.03 WHIP In 18 career starts at Turner Field
4. Ryan Dempster (CHC) -- Mon-@ATL (Vazquez), Sat-@CHW (Buehrle): 4-6, 3.38 ERA, 1.23 WHIP in 21 road starts 2008-09
5. Edwin Jackson (DET) -- Tue-CHC (Zambrano), Sun-@HOU (Ortiz): 5-2, 1.92 ERA, 1.03 WHIP in his past eight starts
6. John Danks (CHW) -- Tue-LAD (Kuroda), Sun-CHC (Zambrano): 2-1, 2.78 ERA, 1.35 WHIP in eight career interleague starts
7. Aaron Cook (COL) -- Mon-@LAA (Palmer), Sun-@OAK (Cahill): 17-7, 3.61 ERA, 1.34 WHIP in 37 road starts 2007-09
8. Trevor Cahill (OAK) -- Mon-SF (Sanchez), Sun-COL (Cook): 3-4, 3.67 ERA, 1.18 WHIP in eight home starts in 2009
9. Francisco Liriano (MIN) -- Tue-@MIL (Suppan), Sun-@STL (Pineiro): 5-1, 2.36 ERA, 0.83 WHIP in six career interleague starts
10. Max Scherzer (ARI) -- Tue-TEX (Harrison), Sun-LAA (Palmer): 4-1, 3.27 ERA, 1.40 WHIP in his past seven starts
11. Brad Penny (BOS) -- Tue-@WAS (Lannan), Sun-@ATL (Hanson): 4-1, 3.61 ERA, 1.42 WHIP in his past eight starts
12. David Price (TB) -- Tue-PHI (Moyer), Sun-FLA (Miller): 1-1, 3.16 ERA, 1.53 WHIP in six career starts
13. Matt Palmer (LAA) -- Mon-COL (Cook), Sun-@ARI (Scherzer): 5-0, 3.91 ERA, 1.24 WHIP in his past nine games (eight starts)
14. John Lannan (WAS) -- Tue-BOS (Penny), Sun-@BAL (Uehara)
15. Tommy Hanson (ATL) -- Tue-NYY (Wang), Sun-BOS (Penny)
16. Hiroki Kuroda (LAD) -- Tue-@CHW (Danks), Sun-SEA (Olson)
17. Joel Pineiro (STL) -- Tue-@NYM (Hernandez), Sun-MIN (Liriano)
18. Andrew Miller (FLA) -- Tue-BAL (Uehara), Sun-@TB (Price): 2-2, 3.86 ERA, 1.46 WHIP in his past seven starts
19. Jeff Suppan (MIL) -- Tue-MIN (Liriano), Sun-SF (Sanchez): 18-9, 3.76 ERA, 1.42 WHIP in 42 career starts at Miller Park
20. Jamie Moyer (PHI) -- Tue-@TB (Price), Sun-@TOR (TBD): 12-5, 3.52 ERA, 1.27 WHIP in 23 road starts 2008-09
21. Ian Snell (PIT) -- Tue-CLE (Huff), Sun-KC (Greinke)
22. Livan Hernandez (NYM) -- Tue-STL (Pineiro), Sun-NYY (Wang): 2-0, 3.55 ERA, 1.30 WHIP in four home starts in 2009
23. Todd Wellemeyer (STL) -- Mon-@NYM (Redding), Sat-MIN (Slowey)
24. Micah Owings (CIN) -- Tue-@TOR (Mills), Sun-@CLE (Huff)
25. Garrett Olson (SEA) -- Tue-SD (Gaudin), Sun-@LAD (Kuroda)
26. Matt Harrison (TEX) -- Tue-@ARI (Scherzer), Sun-SD (Gaudin)

Seven "no thank yous": Chad Gaudin, David Huff, Russ Ortiz, Tim Redding, Jonathan Sanchez, Koji Uehara, Chien-Ming Wang

Tristan's one-start bargains

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

Scott Baker (MIN) -- Thu-@MIL (Bush): 6-2, 4.15 ERA, 1.15 WHIP in nine career interleague starts
Zach Duke (PIT) -- Wed-CLE (Pavano): 5-2, 2.77 ERA, 1.06 WHIP in seven home starts in 2009
Randy Johnson (SF) -- Wed-@OAK (Outman): 8-3, 3.54 ERA, 1.16 WHIP in 12 career starts at McAfee Coliseum
Kevin Millwood (TEX) -- Sat-SD (Correia): 5-1, 2.08 ERA, 1.22 WHIP in eight home starts in 2009
Brandon Morrow (SEA) -- Wed-SD (Geer): 4-2, 2.92 ERA, 1.11 WHIP in 60 career home games (two starts)
Ricky Nolasco (FLA) -- Wed-BAL (Berken): 1-1, 2.50 ERA, 1.11 WHIP in his past three starts
Joe Saunders (LAA) -- Wed-COL (Marquis): 4-1, 2.41 ERA, 1.07 WHIP in six career interleague starts

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

Brad Bergesen (BAL) -- Fri-WAS (Detwiler): 4-1, 3.30 ERA, 1.25 WHIP in seven home starts in 2009
Jason Hammel (COL) -- Fri-@OAK (Anderson): 3-1, 2.06 ERA, 1.20 WHIP in seven road games (five starts) in 2009
Ubaldo Jimenez (COL) -- Tue-@LAA (Santana): 2-4, 3.67 ERA, 1.35 WHIP in eight road starts in 2009
Paul Maholm (PIT) -- Sat-KC (TBD): 9-3, 3.00 ERA, 1.17 WHIP in 21 home starts in 2008-09
Vin Mazzaro (OAK) -- Tue-SF (Lincecum): Four career quality starts to begin MLB career
Josh Outman (OAK) -- Wed-SF (Johnson): 4-1, 3.58 ERA, 1.38 WHIP in seven career home starts
Jarrod Washburn (SEA) -- Thu-SD (LeBlanc): 2-0, 3.33 ERA, 1.11 WHIP in five career games (four starts) versus Padres
Randy Wells (CHC) -- Fri-@CHW (Contreras): Five quality starts in his past six 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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