On tap: The New York Yankees, assuming both that they win the American League East as well as the league's top seed, will preview potential American League Championship Series matchups in playing three games at the Los Angeles Angels followed by three versus the Boston Red Sox. Fortunately for the Yankees, they should have already clinched at least a playoff spot by Monday, and have a seven-game lead in the division and a 6½-game lead for home-field advantage. Chances are, this week that once looked treacherous might be one in which the Yankees don't have much motivation, instead perhaps resting players for the postseason.
The Florida Marlins and Philadelphia Phillies, who had a Monday contest moved to July 16 to accommodate "Monday Night Football," had a game from that July series postponed and moved back to this week. Though both teams are off on Monday, they'll have to play a doubleheader on Tuesday, though at least the day off beforehand will ensure minimal tinkering to their respective rotations.
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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: White Sox (Saturday, DET), Tigers (Sunday, @CHW), Twins (Monday, @CHW), Cubs (Wednesday, @MIL), Cardinals (Friday, @COL) and Giants (Saturday, CHC).
Watch for rain in the cities of Cleveland, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Miami and Washington, D.C., this week, as each of them has at least one game with a 40 percent chance or greater of precipitation. Reds-Pirates and Phillies-Marlins will have to deal with the elements for their entire series.
Weatherproof games: Cardinals at Astros (3, Mon-Wed); Reds at Astros (3, Fri-Sun); Orioles at Blue Jays (3, Mon-Wed); Mariners at Blue Jays (4, Thu-Sun); Cubs at Brewers (3, Mon-Wed); Phillies at Brewers (4, Thu-Sun); Giants at Diamondbacks (3, Mon-Wed); Padres at Diamondbacks (3, Fri-Sun); Mariners at Rays (2, Tue-Wed)
The teams listed below have the most favorable overall hitting matchups, accounting for recent performance, strength of opponents and ballpark factors.
Indians (DET-3, BAL-3): One automatic these days in fantasy baseball is "always start your hitters when they face the Orioles." (That goes double when the Orioles are the visitors.) Just to throw some numbers at you, the O's have the American League's worst team ERA in a multitude of categories: since the All-Star break (5.28), in September (5.93), starting pitching (5.30) [e] heck, probably even with men on second and third with two outs in games played on Tuesday, if we tracked that stat. Brian Matusz has already been shut down for the season and Chris Tillman might be soon, leaving the Orioles scratching for arms. It's not like the Tigers have been pitching that well lately, either, with a 5.35 ERA in the month of September. Michael Brantley is a .353 hitter in his first eight home games; Shin-Soo Choo and Travis Hafner each have an OPS better than .800 at home; and Asdrubal Cabrera is a .294 hitter in 58 home games. All four should be in your lineups in deeper leagues.
Dodgers (@WAS-3, @PIT-3): Getting away from pitching-friendly Dodger Stadium will be a good thing for this offense, particularly because it'll be facing two pitching staffs that have combined for a 5.70 ERA and 1.58 WHIP in the month of September. The Dodgers actually boast baseball's third-best road OPS (.783), easily tops in the National League, and have a team mark in the category 47 points higher on the road than at home. An interesting tidbit: James Loney might be a below-average regular at home (.249 BA, .629 OPS), but he's a virtual all-star on the road (.311/.881).
Blue Jays (BAL-3, SEA-4): Hey, guess what? Orioles matchups, at home no less! Besides, this isn't nearly the weak offense you might think, in spite of the midseason departures of Alex Rios and Scott Rolen, as the Blue Jays rank among the game's top 10 offenses for the season in terms of team OPS (.765, ninth) and runs per game (4.8, ninth). What's more, the Blue Jays have been hitting for more power lately, with 25 home runs in their past 18 games, during which time their OPS is .786. Jose Bautista is one sleeper; he has four home runs and a 1.080 OPS in his past 14 games.
Braves (@NYM-3, @WAS-3): With seven consecutive wins, the Braves actually find themselves back in the thick of the wild-card race, and while pitching has primarily been what has carried them lately, they'll need a strong week with their bats to keep pace with the Rockies. During their winning streak the Braves have batted .333 with a .906 OPS, and since the All-Star break they're 10-2 versus these particular opponents, with a combined .322 batting average, .948 OPS and 20 home runs in those games. Nate McLouth (.413 BA, 1.152 OPS in 12 games) has shown no signs of being slowed by his hamstring issues since his return from the disabled list, and Adam LaRoche is a .344 hitter with a 1.058 OPS in 41 games since his trade from the Red Sox.
Chase Headley, 3B/OF, Padres: .300 BA, .795 OPS in 120 career road games; .321 BA, .906 OPS in 16 career games at Coors Field
Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies: .336 BA, .946 OPS in 67 home games in 2009; .332 BA, .992 OPS versus right-handers in 2009
Jose Lopez, 2B, Mariners: .291 BA, .787 OPS versus left-handers in 2009; .310 BA, .886 OPS in 73 home games in 2009
Ryan Ludwick, OF, Cardinals: .500 BA, 3 HRs, 1.600 OPS in eight career games at Coors Field; 5-for-12 (.417 BA), 1 HR at Minute Maid Park July 20-22
Hideki Matsui, OF, Yankees: .340 BA, 1.017 OPS in 13 games versus Red Sox in 2009; .400 BA, 1.014 OPS in 13 games in September
Casey McGehee, 2B/3B, Brewers: .360 BA, 1.083 OPS in 16 games in September; .304 BA, .858 OPS versus left-handers in 2009
Seth Smith, OF, Rockies: .358 BA, 1.115 OPS in 15 games in September; .366 BA, 1.109 OPS in 60 home games in 2009
Delmon Young, OF, Twins: .385 BA, 15 RBIs, 1.060 OPS in 17 career games at U.S. Cellular Field; .303 BA, .792 OPS versus left-handers in 2009
Favorable matchups listed below are selected based upon opponents' catchers allowing a high rate of steals attempts and/or having low caught-stealing percentages.
Yankees (@LAA-3, BOS-3): Having a healthy Brett Gardner has added another dimension to the Yankees, as he has two stolen bases in nine games since his return from the disabled list. AL-only owners should look to him for steals, especially facing a set of weak-armed catchers like these. All told, the Yankees have 10 steals in 11 chances in their 15 games against the Red Sox so far this year; Gardner has two of them, Derek Jeter three, Alex Rodriguez two and Melky Cabrera one.
Padres (@PIT-1, @COL-3, @ARI-3): Though the Padres have their share of offensive problems, they do bring speed to the table, with eight stolen bases in 14 games in the month of September. Everth Cabrera leads the way with three in the month and 23 for the season, and in road games he has 19 steals in 21 chances all year. He's not the only player NL-only owners should look at; Tony Gwynn Jr. and Will Venable each have four steals since the All-Star break.
Giants (@ARI-3, CHC-4): This isn't exactly the quickest of teams -- the Giants rank 24th in the majors in stolen bases (69) -- but the Giants do have three players capable of exploiting what are two sets of favorable matchups. Randy Winn has picked up his pace on the basepaths, stealing four bags in 11 September games; Edgar Renteria has one steal in two previous meetings with the Cubs this season; and Eugenio Velez has two steals in 13 games in the month of September.
Red Sox (@KC-4, @NYY-3): The Yankees won't do all the damage on the basepaths in their series versus the Red Sox; the Sox also run a fair share, capitalizing upon Jorge Posada's so-so, aging arm. Jacoby Ellsbury has nine steals in 10 chances in 12 games against the Yankees, and Jason Bay is a perfect 2-for-2 in the category in 12 games versus the division rival. Don't be surprised, too, if Joey Gathright sneaks in a pinch-running appearance or two in the series and swipes a base.
The teams listed below have the most favorable overall pitching matchups, accounting for recent performance, strength of opponents and ballpark factors.
Blue Jays (BAL-3, SEA-4): Besides just their hitters, Blue Jays pitchers stack up rather nicely facing this set of matchups, especially the four-game series versus a Mariners offense that has managed only a .702 OPS since the All-Star break. The Blue Jays have a team ERA almost a half-run lower at home (4.20) than on the road (4.67), and their closer, Jason Frasor, has a sparkling 1.33 mark at Rogers Centre compared with 3.91 on the road. That's good news for a group of starters trying to fill in the gaps for Blue Jays youngsters already shut down for the year (Brett Cecil and Mark Rzepczynski, to name two); it means more leads protected and therefore more win potential. Roy Halladay, Ricky Romero and Scott Richmond are a combined 20-15 with a 3.81 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 41 home games (39 starts).
Cubs (@MIL-3, @SF-4): Though Cubs pitchers seemed to fare better at Wrigley Field than on the road in 2008, this season they're fairly balanced in terms of numbers, so I'll take the chance on these fantasy-friendly matchups. The Giants rank second-worst in baseball in terms of team OPS since the All-Star break (.684), and the Brewers have scored 66 runs in 16 September games (4.1 average) with a .663 team OPS. Randy Wells (2.57 ERA, 1.13 WHIP in 11 starts) and Carlos Zambrano (3.03 and 1.37 in 11) have pitched exceptionally on the road this season.
Braves (@NYM-3, @WAS-3): Again, it's the pitching that has rallied the Braves back into the wild-card hunt, as they have a 2.90 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in their past 20 games. During their seven-game winning streak, the Braves' numbers in those categories are 2.71 and 1.37, and that included a three-game sweep of the Mets in which they allowed eight runs total. It's not like either of these opponents presents much of a challenge for an opposing pitching staff, as both offenses rank in the bottom half in the majors in OPS since the All-Star break (Mets 25th, .719; Nationals 17th, .753).
White Sox (MIN-3, DET-3): Though there's a risk the White Sox will shut down both Gavin Floyd and Mark Buehrle for the season, and they've already announced they'll skip Floyd's turn on Monday, don't be afraid to mix and match from their starters throughout the week. John Danks remains a strong start, with a 5-3 record, 3.19 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in 12 starts since the All-Star break, and Freddy Garcia has actually been a passable AL-only matchups play, with a 2-2 record, 4.41 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in his past six starts.
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. 9 (Saunders)
Recommended cut-off point for "under-50" bargains: No. 16 (Lowe)
3. Wandy Rodriguez (HOU) -- Mon-STL (Pineiro), Sun-CIN (Lehr): 8-2, 1.58 ERA, 0.98 WHIP in 14 home starts in 2009
4. Josh Johnson (FLA) -- Tue-PHI, Game 1 (Blanton), Sun-NYM (Misch): 7-2, 2.45 ERA, 1.06 WHIP in 15 home starts in 2009
5. Josh Beckett (BOS) -- Tue-@KC (Greinke), Sun-@NYY (Pettitte): 1-0, 2.08 ERA, 1.31 WHIP in two career starts at new Yankee Stadium
6. Jorge De La Rosa (COL) -- Tue-SD (Mujica), Sun-STL (Pineiro): 9-2, 2.88 ERA, 1.27 WHIP in his past 12 starts
7. Hiroki Kuroda (LAD) -- Tue-@WAS (Hernandez), Sun-@PIT (McCutchen): 2-0, 1.89 ERA, 0.89 WHIP in three career starts versus Pirates
8. Joe Blanton (PHI) -- Tue-@FLA, Game 1 (Johnson), Sun-@MIL (Bush): 3-1, 3.42 ERA, 1.27 WHIP in four career starts versus Marlins
9. Joe Saunders (LAA) -- Mon-NYY (Pettitte), Sun-OAK (E. Gonzalez): 2-1, 2.79 ERA, 1.24 WHIP in three starts versus Athletics in 2009
10. Andy Pettitte (NYY) -- Mon-@LAA (Saunders), Sun-BOS (Beckett)
11. Randy Wells (CHC) -- Tue-@MIL (Bush), Sun-@SF (Cain)
12. Joel Pineiro (STL) -- Mon-@HOU (Rodriguez), Sun-@COL (De La Rosa): 2-0, 2.45 ERA, 1.09 WHIP in two starts versus Astros in 2009
13. Doug Davis (ARI) -- Mon-SF (Zito), Sun-SD (Mujica): 10-3, 2.91 ERA, 1.29 WHIP in 18 career games (17 starts) versus Padres
14. Aaron Laffey (CLE) -- Tue-DET (Bonine), Sun-BAL (Tillman): 9-5, 2.90 ERA, 1.29 WHIP in 19 career home games (18 starts)
15. Nick Blackburn (MIN) -- Mon-@CHW (TBD), Sun-@KC (Greinke): 3-1, 2.67 ERA, 1.11 WHIP in four starts versus White Sox in 2009
16. Derek Lowe (ATL) -- Mon-@NYM (Misch), Sun-@WAS (Hernandez)
17. Kevin Millwood (TEX) -- Mon-@OAK (E. Gonzalez), Sat-TB (Garza)
18. Barry Zito (SF) -- Mon-@ARI (Davis), Sat-CHC (TBD)
19. Ryan Rowland-Smith (SEA) -- Tue-@TB (Niemann), Sun-@TOR (Purcey): 2-0, 3.12 ERA, 1.21 WHIP in five career games (two starts) versus Rays
20. Braden Looper (MIL) -- Mon-CHC (Gorzelanny), Sat-PHI (Moyer)
21. Paul Byrd (BOS) -- Mon-@KC (DiNardo), Sat-@NYY (Chamberlain)
22. Brandon McCarthy (TEX) -- Tue-@OAK (Cahill), Sun-TB (Price)
23. Chris Tillman (BAL) -- Mon-@TOR (Tallet), Sun-@CLE (Laffey)
24. Brian Tallet (TOR) -- Mon-BAL (Tillman), Sat-SEA (Snell)
25. Patrick Misch (NYM) -- Mon-ATL (Lowe), Sun-@FLA (Johnson)
The 50-to-90 group (owned in 50 to 90 percent of ESPN.com leagues)
Ryan Dempster (CHC) -- Thu-@SF (Penny): 3.62 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 33 K's in 32 1/3 innings in 11 career games (four starts) at AT&T Park
Tommy Hanson (ATL) -- Sat-@WAS (Mock): 1-0, 1.32 ERA, 0.80 WHIP in two career starts versus Nationals
J.A. Happ (PHI) -- Wed-@FLA (VandenHurk): 1-0, 1.00 ERA, 0.78 WHIP in two career games (one start) at Dolphin Stadium
Jason Marquis (COL) -- Wed-SD (Stauffer): 2-1, 2.49 ERA, 1.25 WHIP in three starts versus Padres in 2009
Ervin Santana (LAA) -- Tue-NYY (Mitre): Has seven quality starts in his past eight appearances; 3-2, 3.08 ERA, 1.23 WHIP in those games
Randy Wolf (LAD) -- Sat-@PIT (Maholm): 3-0, 4.94 ERA, 1.23 WHIP in four career starts at PNC Park
The under-50 group (available in at least 50 percent of ESPN.com leagues)
Homer Bailey (CIN) -- Thu-@PIT (Morton): 2-0, 2.70 ERA, 1.35 WHIP in two career starts versus Pirates
Clay Buchholz (BOS) -- Wed-@KC (Hochevar): Has seven quality starts in his past eight appearances; 4-2, 2.77 ERA, 1.13 WHIP in those games
Trevor Cahill (OAK) -- Tue-TEX (McCarthy): 2-1, 2.70 ERA, 0.90 WHIP in three career starts versus Rangers
Scott Feldman (TEX) -- Thu-@OAK (Anderson): 12-1, 2.58 ERA, 1.17 WHIP in 15 road games (14 starts) in 2009
Jon Garland (LAD) -- Fri-@PIT (Ohlendorf): Has three consecutive quality starts; 2-0, 3.32 ERA, 1.26 WHIP in those games
Tim Hudson (ATL) -- Wed-@NYM (Pelfrey): 9-5, 3.82 ERA, 1.21 WHIP in 15 career games versus Mets
Tommy Hunter (TEX) -- Wed-@OAK (Mortensen): Win, 7 IP, 3 H's, 2 ERs, 4 K's at McAfee Coliseum 8/6/09
Jeff Niemann (TB) -- Tue-SEA (Rowland-Smith): 5-2, 2.48 ERA, 1.15 WHIP in nine home starts in 2009
Vicente Padilla (LAD) -- Thu-@WAS (Martin): Win, 7 IP, 5 H's, 3 ERs, 5 K's at Nationals Park 6/22/09
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.