- AJ Mass, Rumor Central
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On tap: The MLB trade deadline is fast approaching; if there are to be any blockbuster deals involving Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Jarrod Washburn or anyone else, for that matter, they must be done by Friday, July 31. The buildup to the deadline could be much ado about nothing, or perhaps we'll see a uniform-swapping extravaganza of heretofore unseen proportions. We predict it'll be more of the former than the latter, so we'll project out the next week of games accordingly. Still, stay open to the possibility that the recommendations we make based on the rosters as they stand today might well turn out very differently thanks to any wheeling and dealing that does come to fruition.
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
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: Cubs (Saturday, @FLA).
A quick check of the weather map on the extended forecast front shows nothing but carton drawings of dark clouds with lightning bolts running from Maine to Florida, all the way from the Atlantic Ocean to the Rocky Mountains. If you're not indoors, or in California, you're looking at the potential for bad weather in the form of a passing thunderstorm at any time, all week long.
Weatherproof games: Nationals at Brewers (4, Mon-Thu); Phillies at Diamondbacks (3, Mon-Wed); Blue Jays at Mariners (3, Mon-Wed); Yankees at Rays (3, Mon-Wed); Royals at Rays (3, Fri-Sun); White Sox at Twins (3, Mon-Wed); Angels at Twins (3, Fri-Sun).
The teams listed below have the most favorable overall hitting matchups, accounting for recent performance, strength of opponents and ballpark factors.
Brewers (WAS-4, @SD-3): The Brewers get four games against the Nationals, but get to avoid John Lannan. Both Mike Cameron and J.J. Hardy hit two home runs against Washington last season, while Jason Kendall hit .313 in seven games. Then the Brew Crew gets three against the Padres and their 4.67 July ERA, which includes 12 games at Petco. The Pads might have a pitcher-friendly park, but you still need to have good pitchers for that to matter.
Giants (PIT-3, PHI-4): As a team, the Giants are hitting .274 at home, as compared to .243 on the road. With a full week of home cooking, that's bound to help kick-start this offense big-time. Plus, over the past two weeks, Randy Winn (.324), Juan Uribe (.310) and Pablo Sandoval (2 HR, 6 RBIs) have all been showing signs of life despite the team's overall offensive slump.
Angels (CLE-3, @MIN-3): 5.48, 6.39, 4.27. Those are the ERAs of the three Indians pitchers the Angels will face to start the week. Then they head to the Metrodome, where they've scored an average of 4.14 runs per game over the past two seasons. So we like the team to continue its hot-hitting ways. The Angels as a team are hitting .321 with 11 home runs over the past two weeks.
Tigers (@TEX-3, @CLE-3): In six games against the Rangers this season, the Tigers have hit .306 as a team, with eight home runs. Expect more of the same from guys such as Miguel Cabrera (.435) and Placido Polanco (.417) to start the week. Then, after a day off to catch their collective breath, the offense stars can continue to shine in Cleveland. Brandon Inge has three homers and even Clete Thomas is hitting 9-for-21 (.450) against the Tribe this year.
Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees: Hitting .302 BA, 6 HR, 25 RBI on the road in '09; hitting .333 in his past seven games.
Brandon Inge, 3B, Tigers: .358 OBP, 12 HR, 30 RBI away from home in 2009; despite a bad set of knees, still has 3 HR in July.
Vernon Wells, OF, Blue Jays: .332 BA, 105 TB, 22 RBI away from home in 2009; hit .303 versus Oakland from 2006 to 2008.
Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies: .322 BA, 84 TB, 30 RBI away from home in 2009; has a .423 OBP over the past week.
Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers: .343 BA, 6 HR, 27 RBI away from home in 2009; has hit .316 since the All-Star break with 2 HR.
Adam Dunn, OF, Nationals: .313 BA, 13 HR, 32 RBI away from home in 2009; hitting .417 in his past seven games.
Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals: At Busch Stadium in 2009, .304 BA, 5 HR, 13 RBI; hitting .412 since the All-Star Break.
Nick Markakis, OF, Orioles: At Camden Yards in 2009, .328 BA, 90 TB, 27 RBI; bashed 3 HR in the past week.
Joey Votto, 1B, Reds: At the Great American Ballpark in 2009, .351 BA, 8 HR, 25 RBI; has a 1.008 OPS since July 17.
Favorable matchups listed below are selected based upon opponents' catchers allowing a high rate of steals attempts and/or having low caught-stealing percentages.
Nationals (@MIL-4, @PIT-3): Nyjer Morgan headed back to Pittsburgh? You have to think he'll have two green lights each time he reaches base. And his presence on Washington has rubbed off a bit on Willie Harris and Josh Willingham, each a perfect 3-for-3 in steals over the past month.
Twins (CHW-3, LAA-3): A.J. Pierzynski throws out less than one in five baserunners attempting to steal, and Mike Napoli isn't much better. Speedy Alexi Casilla already has two steals since returning to the team on July 17, and Carlos Gomez and Denard Span should also be able to run wild this week.
Royals (@BAL-4, @TB-3): Let's try to put 2 and 2 together here. The past 12 games, the Royals are 1-11. During that time, they've attempted just one steal. They were 7-7 in their previous 14 games. During that time, they attempted 15 steals, 11 of which were successful. Attention, Trey Hillman! Unleash David DeJesus!
Padres (@CIN-4, MIL-3): It's true that the Padres haven't been a great source of steals of late. After all, as the saying goes, "you can't steal first," and a .216 batting average over the past month isn't exactly going to cut it. However, neither the Reds nor the Brewers are the greatest at preventing steals, and Everth Cabrera and Chase Headley are both more than due for a few swipes.
The teams listed below have the most favorable overall pitching matchups, accounting for recent performance, strength of opponents and ballpark factors.
Red Sox (OAK-4, @BAL-3): First they get the A's, who get F's in all hitting categories (they're last in the American League with a .250 batting average and next-to-last in home runs with 78). Then the Red Sox get the O's at home. Boston is already 6-1 this season against Baltimore, and even struggling John Smoltz allowed just one run to them earlier this year. It should be a good week for Beantown.
Rockies (@NYM-4, @CIN-3): Four games against a Mets lineup with names like Angel Berroa, Cory Sullivan and Alex Cora? At Citi Field no less? That in and of itself might be enough to recommend this staff. Throw in three games against the slumping Reds (.238 over the past two weeks) and this is a lock.
Brewers (WAS-4, @SD-3): Against these two teams, both of whom the Brewers are seeing for the first time in 2009, the staff had a 2.24 ERA. Sure, some of that was "Sabathia-influenced" but still, these Padres are the worst-hitting team in the league (.230), and who knows how many Nationals will be traded over the weekend as that team's fire sale continues.
Blue Jays (@SEA-3, @OAK-3): Not only do the Blue Jays get a week's worth of games in pitcher-friendly stadiums, with six contests evenly divided between Safeco Field and McAfee Coliseum, but Wednesday might well be Roy Halladay's last hurrah in a Toronto uniform. After he goes, all bets are off for this staff.
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.
Recommended cut-off point for elite one-starts: No. 17 (Burnett)
Recommended cut-off point for "under-50" bargains: No. 24 (Arroyo)
10. Chad Billingsley (LAD) -- Tue-@STL (Wainwright), Sun-@ATL (Jurrjens)
11. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Tue-@TB (Kazmir), Sun-@CHW (Buehrle): 7-1, 2.63 ERA facing the Rays; 14-4 against the White Sox.
12. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Tue-CLE (Huff), Sun-@MIN (Perkins)
13. Chris Carpenter (STL) -- Mon-LAD (Wolf), Sat-HOU (Rodriguez): 2-0, 2.05 ERA in his past three starts.
14. James Shields (TB) -- Mon-NYY (Burnett), Sun-KC (Bannister): 1-2, 1.77 ERA in his past three starts versus the Yankees; 5-0 lifetime versus the Royals.
15. Ubaldo Jimenez (COL) -- Mon-@NYM (Perez), Sat-@CIN (Bailey): 1-1, 2.57 ERA past three times facing the Mets; 1-0, 1.50 ERA lifetime versus the Reds.
16. Jarrod Washburn (SEA) -- Tue-TOR (Rzepczynski), Sun-@TEX (Padilla): 3-0, 0.87 ERA over his past three starts.
17. A.J. Burnett (NYY) -- Mon-@TB (Shields), Sat-@CHW (Danks): 2-0, 3.26 ERA in his past three starts.
18. Randy Wolf (LAD) -- Mon-@STL (Carpenter), Sat-@ATL (Lowe)
19. Carlos Zambrano (CHC) -- Tue-HOU (Oswalt), Sun-@FLA (Nolasco): 3-0, 3.57 ERA in his past three starts.
20. Ricky Nolasco (FLA) -- Tue-ATL (Jurrjens), Sun-CHC (Zambrano): 23 strikeouts in his past 18 1/3 IP.
21. John Danks (CHW) -- Mon-@MIN (Perkins), Sat-NYY (Burnett): 2-0, 3.50 ERA in his past three starts.
22. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Tue-@ARI (Haren), Sun-@SF (Zito): In 12 2/3 IP versus the Diamondbacks, has a 2.13 ERA; 3-0 overall against the Giants.
23. Paul Maholm (PIT) -- Mon-@SF (Lincecum), Sun-WAS (Balester): 0-0, 2.25 ERA in his past three starts against San Francisco.
24. Bronson Arroyo (CIN) -- Tue-SD (Correia), Sun-COL (Marquis): 2-1, 2.11 ERA over his past three trips to the mound.
25. Kevin Correia (SD) -- Tue-@CIN (Arroyo), Sun-MIL (Suppan): Beat the Reds earlier in 2009, allowing only five hits in 7 IP.
26. Brian Bannister (KC) -- Tue-@BAL (Berken), Sun-@TB (Shields)
27. Ricky Romero (TOR) -- Mon-@SEA (Hernandez), Sun-@OAK (Mazzaro)
28. Braden Looper (MIL) -- Mon-WAS (Stammen), Sat-@SD (Geer)
29. Joe Saunders (LAA) -- Mon-CLE (Pavano), Sat-@MIN (Swarzak): career record against the Indians is 2-0, 2.03 ERA; against the Twins, he's 2-1, 3.54 ERA.
30. Barry Zito (SF) -- Tue-PIT (Morton), Sun-PHI (Hamels): Allowed only 2 ER versus Pittsburgh earlier in 2009; 2-1 in his career facing the Phillies.
31. Jamie Moyer (PHI) -- Mon-@ARI (Garland), Sat-@SF (Lincecum): career record at Chase Field is 2-0, 3.00 ERA.
32. Mike Pelfrey (NYM) -- Tue-COL (Marquis), Sun-ARI (Garland): 2-1, 3.24 ERA versus the Rockies lifetime.
33. Rich Harden (CHC) -- Mon-HOU (Rodriguez), Sat-@FLA (TBD): 1-1, 2.50 ERA in his past three starts.
34. Gil Meche (KC) -- Mon-@BAL (Hill), Sat-@TB (Niemann)
35. Vicente Padilla (TEX) -- Tue-DET (French), Sun-SEA (Washburn)
36. Jon Garland (ARI) -- Mon-PHI (Moyer), Sun-@NYM (Pelfrey): 1-1, 2.57 ERA over his past three appearances.
37. Clay Buchholz (BOS) -- Tue-OAK (Mazzaro), Sun-@BAL (Berken): 1-1, 3.72 ERA in his past three outings.
38. Armando Galarraga (DET) -- Mon-@TEX (Hunter), Sun-@CLE (Huff): 1-0, 1.29 ERA in 2009 against the Rangers.
39. Jeff Suppan (MIL) -- Tue-WAS (Balester), Sun-@SD (Correia): 0-1, 1.59 ERA past three outings against the Nationals.
40. Craig Stammen (WAS) -- Mon-@MIL (Looper), Sat-@PIT (Vasquez): 2-1, 2.42 ERA in his past three starts.
The 50-to-90 group (owned in 50 to 90 percent of ESPN.com leagues)
Scott Baker (MIN) -- Tue-CHW (Buehrle): 2-0, 3.72 ERA in his past three starts.
Chris Volstad (FLA) -- Fri-CHC (Dempster): Threw a three-hitter over 7 IP earlier this year against the Cubs.
Tommy Hanson (ATL) -- Fri-LAD (Schmidt): Still unbeaten at 5-0 for his young career.
Ryan Dempster (CHC) -- Fri-@FLA (Volstad): 1-1, 2.70 ERA over his past three appearances.
The under-50 group (available in at least 50 percent of ESPN.com leagues)
Jorge De La Rosa (COL) -- Thu-@NYM (Niese): 3-0, 1.69 ERA over his past three starts.
Scott Feldman (TEX) -- Wed-DET (Verlander): 2-1, 2.89 ERA in his past three outings.
Jose Contreras (CHW) -- Wed-@MIN (Liriano): 18 strikeouts in 18 1/3 IP, and a 2-1 record in his past three starts.
Jonathan Sanchez (SF) -- Thu-PHI (Lopez): 23 strikeouts in his past 20 1/3 IP, and there's always the chance of another no-hitter, right?
AJ Mass is a fantasy baseball, football and college basketball analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
AJ Mass previews the 17th week of the major league season and notes that the Brewers and Giants have favorable matchups for their hitters.