Commentary

Carp and Cards a great bet

Updated: June 28, 2009, 10:27 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

Fantasy Forecaster updated Sunday, June 28 at 10:27 p.m. ET.

On tap: Intraleague play returns in Week 13, with three battles of current first- and second-place teams within their division on the docket. Mets-Phillies highlights that list; they'll square off in Philadelphia from Friday to Sunday. But we'll also get compelling Tigers-Twins games in Minnesota from Friday to Sunday and Angels-Rangers games in Texas from Monday to Wednesday. From a rescheduling angle, there's one makeup game: Mets-Pirates in Pittsburgh on Wednesday.

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: Rockies (Saturday, ARI).

Weather report

July arrives Wednesday, and that's good news on the weather front. Since 2001, there have been only 13 postponements in the month of July in more than 3,000 scheduled games; a microscopic 0.6 percent of those contests were either postponed, shortened or suspended. Here's an odd fact: Baltimore has accounted for seven of those 13 rainouts, plus one suspended game last July 23. Fortunately, the weather in Baltimore isn't at all worrisome during the Boston series to open the week. The two cities facing slim chances of rain: Cleveland and Miami.

Weatherproof games: Rays at Blue Jays (3, Mon-Wed); Mets at Brewers (3, Mon-Wed); Tigers 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.

Angels (@TEX-3, BAL-4): They dropped a three-game series at Rangers Ballpark from May 15 to 17, totaling 11 runs, but for the previous half-decade, the Angels had the Rangers' number when the two squared off in Texas. From 2004 to 2008, they won 28 of 48 games, averaging 6.0 runs per contest, including seven of nine in 2008 in which they averaged 6.9. Vladimir Guerrero's presence in the lineup has been key in those games; the Angels have won only two of five games at Rangers Ballpark missed by Guerrero since he signed with them in 2004. He's a .387 hitter with 13 homers, 32 RBIs and a 1.181 OPS in 44 career games there. The Angels have also batted .300 with 22 homers, an .890 OPS and 75 runs in their past 12 games (6.3 per), with Guerrero making at least a pinch-hit appearance in every one.

Marlins (WAS-3, PIT-3): Home games suit the Marlins well, especially those against mediocre pitching staffs, and especially those against the Nationals. Florida has won 22 of 30 meetings with Washington at Land Shark Stadium (previously Dolphin Stadium) since 2006, averaging 6.0 runs per game, and between this and last season the Marlins have won 20 of 23 games against the Nationals, averaging 6.6 runs per contest. A stat you might love to hear: As a team, the Marlins have hit 20 home runs and scored 77 runs in their past 17 home games.

Mets (@MIL-3, @PIT-1, @PHI-3): In Citizens Bank Park's six-year history, the Mets and Phillies have played to almost an even split there -- the Mets have taken 26 of 48 meetings (54.2 percent) -- but what matters for fantasy is that the Mets get an offensive boost any time they sail south down the New Jersey Turnpike. They have averaged 5.3 runs per game all time at Citizens Bank and scored 12 there in two previous games this year. With three of the team's four most potent offensive weapons, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and Jose Reyes, sidelined, it's schedules like this that can help keep a Mets "B" lineup fantasy-worthy. Another thing in their favor: They're 15-6 all time at Milwaukee's Miller Park, averaging 6.7 runs per game, and have won every season's series there except in 2006 (1-2 record).

Rangers (LAA-3, TB-3): I know what I just said about the Angels' success in Texas the past half-decade, but it's not pitching that has driven L.A. to such consistent victory at Rangers Ballpark; it's offense. The Rangers come out swinging at home, and again, they swept the Angels there, scoring 18 total runs from May 15 to 17, beating Joe Saunders and Jered Weaver, both expected to pitch again in this division showdown. Saunders, in fact, is 0-4 with a 10.29 ERA in four career starts at Rangers Ballpark. The Rangers might have the American League's worst team OPS in June (.626), but there's no greater cure for what ails them then a full week at home.

Tristan's sleeper hitters

Jay Bruce, OF, Reds: .271 BA, .986 OPS, has hit 11 of his 17 HRs in 34 home games in 2009; .832 OPS, has hit 16 of 17 HRs versus right-handers in 2009
Billy Butler, 1B, Royals: .331 BA, 6 HRs, .920 OPS in 37 home games in 2009; .326 BA, 17 HRs, .966 OPS in 360 career PAs versus left-handers
Alberto Callaspo, 2B, Royals: .372 BA, .908 OPS versus left-handers in 2009; .306 BA, .859 OPS in 36 home games in 2009
Khalil Greene, SS, Cardinals: .323 BA, 3 HRs, 12 RBIs in 16 career games at Great American Ball Park; 3 HRs in his past eight games
Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals: .333 BA (23-for-69) in his past 17 games; .370 BA, .877 OPS in 30 career games at Great American Ball Park
Lyle Overbay, 1B, Blue Jays: .291 BA, .968 OPS versus right-handers in 2009; .393 BA, 3 HRs, 11 RBIs, 1.174 OPS in 17 games versus Rays in 2008
B.J. Upton, OF, Rays: .318 BA, .893 OPS in 21 games in June; .396 BA, 3 HRs, 1.211 OPS in 14 career games at Rangers Ballpark
Randy Winn, OF, Giants: .313 BA, .824 OPS versus right-handers in 2009; .316 BA, 802 OPS in six career games at Busch Stadium
Chris Young, OF, Diamondbacks: .304 BA, 3 HRs, 11 RBIs, .914 OPS in 17 career games at Coors Field; .271 BA, .962 OPS in 18 games in June

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 (BOS-3, @LAA-4): Though the Orioles didn't capitalize upon the favorable matchup against Boston and Jason Varitek during their April 17-20 series earlier in the season, the fact remains that Brian Roberts has seven steals; Adam Jones has two; and Aubrey Huff, Melvin Mora, Luke Scott and Ty Wigginton have one apiece in the team's past 22 games against Boston between this and last season. Roberts is in the midst of a speed hot streak, with five steals in his past 15 games.

Marlins (WAS-3, PIT-3): In addition to matching up splendidly against Washington on offense, the Marlins stack up exceptionally against them on the base paths as well, with 18 stolen bases in 20 chances in 23 games against the Nationals between this and last season. Emilio Bonifacio might be a batting-average killer, with a .227 mark in 19 games in June, but he's a perfect 4-for-4 stealing bases against Washington this season. And it'd sure be nice if Hanley Ramirez, on pace for a career-low 25 steals, capitalized upon matchups like these once in a while, wouldn't it?

Braves (PHI-3, @WAS-3): Bobby Cox has his team a bit more aggressive on the base paths since the team's acquisition of Nate McLouth; the Braves have swiped 11 bags in 12 chances in 20 games since McLouth's first game with the team. McLouth has three of those steals, but he's not the only Brave with multiple steals during that span; Matt Diaz is 2-for-2 and Jeff Francoeur 3-for-3. Yunel Escobar also has two steals in as many chances in the month of June, and the matchups again are stacked in Atlanta's favor.

Mariners (@NYY-3, @BOS-3): Few matchups work more nicely in a base stealer's favor than a set of three apiece against the Yankees and Red Sox, with their aging, weak-armed backstops, Jorge Posada and Jason Varitek. Adrian Beltre and Ichiro Suzuki remain this team's most effective speedsters; they're a combined 7-for-8 stealing bases in the month of June. But Franklin Gutierrez is a sleeper choice for Week 13, successful on 21 of 30 stolen-base chances in his career.

Load up: Pitchers

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

Cardinals (SF-4, @CIN-3): This one comes down to how much you truly fear matchups at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park. I know I don't, at least not lately. The Reds sport baseball's worst team OPS in the month of June (.629), and if we narrow the sample size to just games played since June 4, they have averaged 3.3 runs per game, batted .213 and registered a .613 OPS. The Cardinals will throw three pitchers in that series who actually match up decently despite traditional thinking regarding that ballpark: Joel Pineiro, an apparent extreme ground-baller (at least judging by 2009 numbers); Brad Thompson, who has a 2.57 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in four appearances (two starts) at Great American since 2007; and Chris Carpenter, who has a 3.10 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 33 K's in 29 innings in four career starts at Great American.

Astros (@SD-4, @SF-3): Incredibly, this staff, which has been counting recently on starters like Brandon Backe, Russ Ortiz and Felipe Paulino, as well as dealing with a slumping Wandy Rodriguez, has won 15 of its past 21 games, registering a 3.53 ERA and 1.33 WHIP. A trip to San Diego suits this team well; the Padres have averaged 3.6 runs per game, batted .211 and managed a .637 OPS in their past 26 games at Petco Park. The Giants, meanwhile, have a .691 team OPS, 29th in the majors, and have swatted just 44 home runs, worst in the game. A big help for Houston: Closer Jose Valverde, fresh off the DL, has four saves, a 0.00 ERA, 0.82 WHIP and .179 batting average allowed in his past eight appearances.

Red Sox (@BAL-3, SEA-3): Despite the chatter about Daisuke Matsuzaka's problems, Brad Penny trade rumors and the threat of a six-man rotation, Boston has actually risen above all that and ranked as one of the most successful staffs of the past month. The Red Sox are winners of 16 of their past 22 games, but more importantly, they have a 3.49 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and .246 batting average allowed as a staff during that span. Besides, most of Boston's questions have recently been answered: Dice-K is now on the DL, solving both his issue and the cluttered-rotation issue, and Penny has an impressive 1.62 ERA and 1.38 WHIP in his past three starts. Boston also swept a four-game series versus Baltimore from April 17 to 20, allowing 14 runs total, and has won 11 of its past 12 against the Orioles, limiting them to 41 runs (3.4 per game).

White Sox (@CLE-3, @KC-4): This staff continues to succeed, with a team 3.23 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and .230 batting average allowed in 32 games since the Sox were obliterated by the Twins, 20-1, on May 21. During that time, the White Sox swept the Royals in Kansas City from May 29 to 31, limiting them to nine runs and a .228 batting average. Pitching at Kauffman Stadium has never seemed to bother the White Sox; check out the career numbers of Thursday's and Friday's scheduled starters: Mark Buehrle is 9-6 with a 3.68 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 19 starts, and John Danks is 1-0 with a 2.21 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in three starts. Clayton Richard, who starts Sunday, also won there on seven innings of two-run, five-hit baseball May 29.

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.

Rankings: Tristan's two-starts

Recommended cut-off point for elite one-starts: No. 19 (Johnson)
Recommended cut-off point for "under-50" bargains: No. 30 (Arroyo)

Eight must-starts: Chad Billingsley, Chris Carpenter, Roy Halladay, Dan Haren, Cliff Lee, Jon Lester, Tim Lincecum, Johan Santana.

9. Roy Oswalt (HOU) -- Mon-@SD (Geer), Sat-@SF (Lincecum): 2-1, 3.09 ERA, 1.50 WHIP in four career starts at Petco Park
10. Rick Porcello (DET) -- Mon-@OAK (Anderson), Sat-@MIN (Liriano): 7-1, 2.53 ERA, 1.35 WHIP in his past 10 starts
11. Ted Lilly (CHC) -- Tue-@PIT (Ohlendorf), Sun-MIL (Burns)
12. Ricky Nolasco (FLA) -- Mon-WAS (Olsen), Sun-PIT (Ohlendorf): 6-1, 4.14 ERA, 1.05 WHIP in 10 career games (eight starts) versus Nationals
13. Gavin Floyd (CHW) -- Mon-@CLE (Pavano), Sat-@KC (Hochevar): 3-1, 1.60 ERA, 0.91 WHIP in his past seven starts
14. Derek Lowe (ATL) -- Tue-PHI (Blanton), Sun-@WAS (Olsen)
15. Ubaldo Jimenez (COL) -- Mon-@LAD (Wolf), Sun-ARI (Haren): 1-1, 2.18 ERA, 1.09 WHIP in five career starts versus Diamondbacks
16. Rich Harden (CHC) -- Mon-@PIT (Duke), Sat-MIL (Looper): 1-0, 1.50 ERA, 1.00 WHIP in three career starts versus Brewers
17. Nick Blackburn (MIN) -- Mon-@KC (Hochevar), Sun-DET (Galarraga): 4-1, 1.90 ERA, 1.15 WHIP in his past seven starts
18. Joba Chamberlain (NYY) -- Tue-SEA (Morrow), Sun-TOR (Richmond): 1.83 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 29 K's in 19 2/3 innings in nine career games (two starts) versus Blue Jays
19. Randy Johnson (SF) -- Tue-@STL (Carpenter), Sun-HOU (Hampton)
20. Zach Duke (PIT) -- Mon-CHC (Harden), Sat-@FLA (Miller): 4-5, 3.03 ERA, 1.37 WHIP in 14 career starts versus Cubs
21. Randy Wolf (LAD) -- Mon-COL (Jimenez), Sat-@SD (Geer): 5-5, 3.46 ERA, 1.30 WHIP in 12 starts at Petco Park 2008-09
22. Joe Blanton (PHI) -- Tue-@ATL (Lowe), Sun-NYM (Santana): 1-0, 2.14 ERA, 0.95 WHIP in three career starts versus Mets
23. Brian Bannister (KC) -- Tue-MIN (Baker), Sun-CHW (Richard): 8-10, 3.81 ERA, 1.22 WHIP in 23 home starts 2008-09
24. Vicente Padilla (TEX) -- Mon-LAA (O'Sullivan), Sat-TB (Price): 3-0, 2.16 ERA, 1.32 WHIP in his past four starts
25. Fernando Nieve (NYM) -- Mon-@MIL (Looper), Sat-@PHI (Moyer): 3-0, 1.45 ERA, 1.02 WHIP in his past three starts
26. Luke Hochevar (KC) -- Mon-MIN (Blackburn), Sat-CHW (Floyd)
27. Ross Ohlendorf (PIT) -- Tue-CHC (Lilly), Sun-@FLA (Nolasco): Win, 7 IP, 2 H's, 0 ERs, 5 K's versus Marlins on April 20
28. Joe Saunders (LAA) -- Tue-@TEX (Feldman), Sun-BAL (Hill): 5-0, 4.15 ERA, 1.64 WHIP in six career starts versus Orioles
29. Scott Feldman (TEX) -- Tue-LAA (Saunders), Sun-TB (Niemann)
30. Bronson Arroyo (CIN) -- Tue-ARI (Haren), Sun-STL (Carpenter): 12-9, 4.49 ERA, 1.28 WHIP in 25 home starts 2008-09
31. Clayton Richard (CHW) -- Tue-@CLE (Lee), Sun-@KC (Bannister): 1-0, 1.80 ERA, 1.00 WHIP in two games (one start) at Kauffman Stadium in 2009
32. Josh Geer (SD) -- Mon-HOU (Oswalt), Sat-LAD (Wolf): 3-0, 4.39 ERA, 1.20 WHIP in 10 career games (eight starts) versus Petco Park
33. Braden Looper (MIL) -- Mon-NYM (Nieve), Sat-@CHC (Harden): 1-2, 3.12 ERA, 1.19 WHIP in four starts at Wrigley Field 2007-08
34. Brad Thompson (STL) -- Mon-SF (Lincecum), Sat-@CIN (Owings): 2.25 ERA, 0.90 WHIP in seven career games (two starts) at Great American Ball Park
35. Scott Richmond (TOR) -- Tue-TB (Garza), Sun-@NYY (Chamberlain)
36. Carl Pavano (CLE) -- Mon-CHW (Floyd), Sat-OAK (Mazzaro): 2-0, 2.35 ERA, 0.98 WHIP in two starts versus White Sox in 2009
37. Armando Galarraga (DET) -- Tue-@OAK (G. Gonzalez), Sun-@MIN (Blackburn)

Ten "no thank yous": Brett Anderson, Josh Banks, Jason Berken, Mike Burns, Mike Hampton, Rich Hill, Jeff Niemann, Sean O'Sullivan, Scott Olsen, Brandon Morrow.

Tristan's one-start bargains

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

Scott Baker (MIN) -- Tue-@KC (Bannister): 3.04 ERA, 1.16 WHIP in four career starts at Kauffman Stadium
John Danks (CHW) -- Fri-@KC (Greinke): 1-0, 2.21 ERA, 1.03 WHIP in three career starts at Kauffman Stadium
Hiroki Kuroda (LAD) -- Fri-@SD (Gaudin): 2-1, 4.29 ERA, 1.33 WHIP in four career starts at Petco Park
Gil Meche (KC) -- Wed-MIN (Perkins): 2-1, 3.34 ERA, 1.27 WHIP in his past five starts
Kevin Millwood (TEX) -- Wed-LAA (Weaver): 5-1, 2.08 ERA, 1.22 WHIP in eight home starts in 2009

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

Trevor Cahill (OAK) -- Fri-@CLE (Huff): 5-3, 3.15 ERA, 1.22 WHIP in his past 11 starts
Jose Contreras (CHW) -- Wed-@CLE (Sowers): 3-1, 2.68 ERA, 1.38 WHIP in six career starts at Progressive Field
Kevin Correia (SD) -- Thu-HOU (Rodriguez): 3-1, 2.02 ERA, 0.56 WHIP in his past four starts
Tommy Hanson (ATL) -- Sat-@WAS (Lannan): 11 1/3 shutout innings, .175 BAA in his past two starts
David Huff (CLE) -- Fri-OAK (Cahill): 3-0, 3.20 ERA, 1.07 WHIP in his past four starts
Andrew Miller (FLA) -- Sat-PIT (Duke): 2-0, 3.11 ERA, 1.22 WHIP in eight home games (six starts) in 2009
Brad Penny (BOS) -- Sat-SEA (Olson): 4-2, 3.81 ERA, 1.42 WHIP in his past 10 starts
Tim Wakefield (BOS) -- Fri-SEA (Hernandez): 1.80 ERA, 0.80 WHIP in two starts versus Mariners 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.

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