Commentary

Target Field opens; Yanks return home

Strategy, matchups and pitcher rankings for Week 2

Updated: April 11, 2010, 2:12 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

Fantasy Forecaster

On tap: The New York Yankees play at home for the first time this season on Tuesday, raising their championship banner, distributing rings and meeting up once more with their former teammate and 2009 World Series MVP Hideki Matsui, now with the visiting Los Angeles Angels. Why is that relevant? It'll be the first series of 2010 at Yankee Stadium, and if you recall last April, the new Yankee Stadium was easily baseball's most hitter-friendly environment in the opening month. In the park's first 13 regular-season games, the Yankees and their opponents averaged 12.8 runs, 3.6 home runs and 21.1 hits per contest. Will it repeat? Only time will tell.

Speaking of new ballparks, 2010's newest venue opens its doors on Monday, as the Minnesota Twins debut Target Field by hosting the Boston Red Sox for three games. Many sources hint that Target Field will be more hitter-friendly than its predecessor, the Metrodome, especially in terms of the shorter power alley in left-center field. But couldn't the Twins have found a better starting pitcher to open their new park than Carl Pavano? He battles Jon Lester in the opener, so while the park factors will be interesting to watch, consider the starting-pitching advantage to the Red Sox.

Quick click by section, if you're seeking advice in a specific area:
Projected starting pitchers | Pitching strategies
Team advantages | Hitting strategies
Weather report | Week 2 pitcher rankings

Projected starting pitchers

The chart below lists each of the 30 MLB teams' schedules and projected starting pitchers, and provides a matchup rating for each day's starter. Pitchers scheduled to start twice this week are in color-coded boxes.

Tristan's pitching strategies

It'll be a big help for the Oakland Athletics once they get Michael Wuertz and Joey Devine back healthy and filling out their bullpen, but despite their absences the A's boast arguably Week 2's most impressive pitching schedule. This one's a seven-gamer including three at Seattle's Safeco Field and four at home versus the Baltimore Orioles, and if you've been paying attention, you might realize that, through Thursday, the Seattle Mariners were 19-for-98 (.194 AVG) through their first three games, while the Orioles had totaled six runs in two. Tiny, tiny sample sizes those are, but keep in mind that both teams also ranked among the bottom six in team OPS during spring training (Mariners .749, 25th; Orioles .747, 26th). Gio Gonzalez might have the only unsavory matchup of the bunch, yet even he has a 3.96 ERA in five career games (three starts) versus the Mariners. … The Detroit Tigers also benefit from a three-game stop at Safeco during the weekend, and their three-game, week-opening series hosting the Kansas City Royals also qualifies as favorable. After Dontrelle Willis managed a quality start in his first outing of 2010, if Jeremy Bonderman can follow suit on April 10, this rotation might be solid across the board. Or, at least those two could be AL-only worthy. … Returning to the topic of Yankee Stadium, you shouldn't necessarily fear Yankees pitchers working at home, being that the team had a 4.03 home ERA, 14th-best in the majors in 2009. But it's the visiting Angels and Texas Rangers pitchers who should worry you. Of course, battling those two above-average offenses does also make Yankees starters' matchups a whole lot less appealing if you're rich in alternatives. … Both the Arizona Diamondbacks and Atlanta Braves make three-game stops at San Diego's Petco Park, which makes their weekly matchups strong. The Braves get the advantage of three home games versus the Colorado Rockies, however, while the Diamondbacks open the week with three at the Los Angeles Dodgers. Still, most Braves pitchers are probably owned in your league already, particularly the three slated to pitch at Petco, while a two-start sleeper like the Diamondbacks' Ian Kennedy is readily available in ESPN formats. … Six home games apiece for the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals stack their matchups very much in their favor, as the Dodgers had baseball's best ERA at home in 2009 (3.10), while the Cardinals ranked fourth (3.44). Judging the individual matchups, the Cardinals have things arranged nicely with Brad Penny, who looked strong in his 2010 debut, and Kyle Lohse each working a game versus the Houston Astros. Lohse, incidentally, is 14-7 with a 3.40 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 33 career starts at Busch Stadium.

For more insight into Week 2 pitching matchups, see my rankings for every scheduled starter at column's end.

Team advantages

The chart below lists each of the 30 teams' total number of scheduled games, home games and games versus right- and left-handed pitchers, and provides a matchup rating for the week's games in terms of overall offense, offense versus left- and right-handed pitchers and base stealing. Matchup ratings for each individual game are listed under the corresponding date.

Tristan's hitting strategies

The Chicago White Sox have an advantageous schedule, and they're not even slated to play a single game at homer-friendly U.S. Cellular Field! They'll battle three Toronto Blue Jays left-handers to open the week, which bodes well for the team that ranked fourth-best in terms of OPS versus southpaws in 2009 (.800), then make a three-game stop at Progressive Field to face the Cleveland Indians' below-average rotation. … In addition to their pitching-friendly schedule, the Athletics also stack up nicely offensively, especially in light of their missing Felix Hernandez during the Seattle series. Games at pitching-friendly ballparks -- Safeco and Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum -- do limit the team's upside, but feel free to pick and choose from their offense to plug the back ends of your lineup. … Is there anything better than an entire week at Wrigley Field for Chicago Cubs hitters? This team typically loves its home venue, and the park factors do lean things noticeably toward offense at Wrigley. Just to give you a sense of some of Wrigley's advantages for Cubs: Derrek Lee is a .313/.395/.575 (AVG/OBP/SLG) career hitter there, Aramis Ramirez .308/.375/.554, Geovany Soto .276/.369/.470 and Ryan Theriot .301/.357/.402. … Ditto the Philadelphia Phillies, and that's in spite of Citizens Bank Park's No. 12 ranking in runs (1.028) or No. 16 in home runs (1.005) on the Park Factor page in 2009. That's still a bandbox ballpark and the Phillies' lineup is loaded, and in the three-game weekend series versus the Florida Marlins they'll face the Marlins' Nos. 4 (Nate Robertson) and 5 (Anibal Sanchez) starters.

Now, let's take a look at some Week 2 sleepers:

Jim Edmonds, OF, Milwaukee Brewers: Heads up, NL-only owners, right field in Milwaukee looks like a straight platoon between Edmonds and Corey Hart, and the Brewers face five right-handed starters in Week 2. By the way, three of those games will be played at Wrigley Field, where he has .249/.370/.568 career numbers, including .242/.354/.617 accrued mostly with the Cubs in 2008.
David Freese, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals: He makes the list for a second straight week, this time helped by three games versus left-handed starters, as well as all six contests at home. Freese routinely clobbered left-handed pitching in the minors, with .324/.390/.574 career numbers, so keep him in there.
Nick Johnson, 1B, New York Yankees: Call it a hunch, but Johnson should feel a lot more comfortable in the cozy confines of Yankee Stadium than he did at Boston's Fenway Park, where he was 0-for-9 to begin the season. The Yankees do face four right-handed starters in their six home games.
Casey Kotchman, 1B, Seattle Mariners: Two games versus left-handed starters out of six overall might mean that Kotchman sits once or twice, but the Mariners do seem committed to giving him a chance to play fairly regularly. He might be able to help you enough with only four starts anyway, boasting .303/.354/.408 lifetime numbers at Safeco Field, and .276/.348/.426 versus righties since 2007.
Cliff Pennington, SS, Oakland Athletics: He just continues to hit, whether it's his 60-game stint with the big club last summer, spring training or his first four games of the 2010 campaign. That "9" rating for stolen bases is particularly attractive; Pennington has the capability to swipe a bag or three.
Carlos Ruiz, C, Philadelphia Phillies: Though typically more of a second-half than a first-half player, Ruiz did thrive in games at Citizens Bank Park in 2009, where he managed .313/.419/.553 numbers in 53 contests.
Gaby Sanchez, 1B, Florida Marlins: After managing a .365 batting average and two home runs in 18 spring-training games, Sanchez has started off the regular season hot, going 4-for-11 (.364 AVG) with three doubles in the season-opening series at New York's Citi Field. A seven-game week including three at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park gives him a good chance at keeping up the hot streak.
Josh Willingham, OF, Washington Nationals: The Nationals face four left-handed starters this week, not to mention play three games at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park. Willingham has .313/.431/.627 numbers versus lefties in 2009-10, and has nine homers and 20 RBIs in his past 31 games at Citizens Bank Park.

Weather report

The baseball world was remarkably lucky during opening week, experiencing warmer-than-usual weather in many northeastern cities and not once succumbing to a postponement. Can that streak survive Week 2? Perhaps, though temperatures do appear to be dropping slightly, with a chance of rain, strangely, in cities like Denver, Miami, San Diego and San Francisco. And what of the weather in Minnesota, where talk all winter has been how cold it might be for the Twins' opener at Target Field? It seems that, in spite of a 30 percent chance of rain Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, temperatures there should range from highs near 70 degrees to lows in the low 50s. Not bad at all!

Weatherproof games: White Sox at Blue Jays (4, Mon-Thu); Angels at Blue Jays (3, Fri-Sun); Athletics at Mariners (3, Mon-Wed); Tigers at Mariners (3, Fri-Sun).

Tristan's Week 2 pitcher rankings: Top 75

Rankings take into account several factors: The pitcher's raw talent, historical and recent performance; number of starts; strength of opponent(s); and ballpark factors. Be aware that different leagues might emphasize different pitching statistics that could change these rankings slightly. These are based upon a fairly standard Rotisserie scoring system, like ESPN's.

1. Adam Wainwright (STL) -- Mon-HOU (Rodriguez), Sun-NYM (Maine)
2. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Mon-@MIN (Pavano), Sun-TB (Garza)
3. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Tue-ARI (Kennedy), Sun-SF (Zito)
4. Jake Peavy (CHW) -- Mon-@TOR (Tallet), Sat-@CLE (Westbrook)
5. Brett Anderson (OAK) -- Tue-@SEA (Fister), Sun-BAL (Matusz)
6. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Mon-WAS (Marquis), Sun-FLA (Robertson)
7. Ricky Nolasco (FLA) -- Mon-CIN (Cueto), Sat-@PHI (Halladay)
8. Ryan Dempster (CHC) -- Mon-MIL (Davis), Sun-HOU (Rodriguez)
9. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Mon-KC (Hochevar), Sun-@SEA (Rowland-Smith)
10. Jair Jurrjens (ATL) -- Mon-@SD (Correia), Sun-COL (Smith)
11. Wandy Rodriguez (HOU) -- Mon-@STL (Wainwright), Sun-@CHC (Dempster)
12. Matt Garza (TB) -- Mon-@BAL (Guthrie), Sun-@BOS (Lester)
13. Gavin Floyd (CHW) -- Tue-@TOR (Romero), Sun-@CLE (Carmona)
14. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Sat-@LAD (Haeger)
15. Tommy Hanson (ATL) -- Wed-@SD (Richard)
16. Roy Halladay (PHI) -- Sat-FLA (Nolasco)
17. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Sat-@SEA (Snell)
18. Bronson Arroyo (CIN) -- Tue-@FLA (Robertson), Sun-@PIT (Maholm)
19. Josh Johnson (FLA) -- Thu-CIN (Harang)
20. Chris Carpenter (STL) -- Sat-NYM (Santana)
21. Dan Haren (ARI) -- Thu-@LAD (Kuroda)
22. Tim Hudson (ATL) -- Thu-@SD (Latos)
23. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Fri-DET (Bonderman)
24. Zack Greinke (KC) -- Fri-@MIN (Baker)
25. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Fri-TEX (Harrison)
26. Justin Duchscherer (OAK) -- Mon-@SEA (Rowland-Smith), Sat-BAL (Guthrie)
27. Ubaldo Jimenez (COL) -- Sat-@ATL (Kawakami)
28. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Fri-@WAS (Lannan)
29. Ryan Rowland-Smith (SEA) -- Mon-OAK (Duchscherer), Sun-DET (Scherzer)
30. Johan Santana (NYM) -- Sat-@STL (Carpenter)
31. Josh Beckett (BOS) -- Fri-TB (Davis)
32. Matt Cain (SF) -- Tue-PIT (Maholm)
33. Andy Pettitte (NYY) -- Tue-LAA (Santana), Sun-TEX (Harden)
34. Rick Porcello (DET) -- Wed-KC (Davies)
35. Javier Vazquez (NYY) -- Wed-LAA (Pineiro)
36. Chad Billingsley (LAD) -- Wed-ARI (Lopez)
37. Johnny Cueto (CIN) -- Mon-@FLA (Nolasco), Sat-@PIT (Ohlendorf)
38. Jonathan Sanchez (SF) -- Wed-PIT (Morton)
39. Ben Sheets (OAK) -- Thu-BAL (Hernandez)
40. Scott Baker (MIN) -- Fri-KC (Greinke)
41. Barry Zito (SF) -- Mon-PIT (Ohlendorf), Sun-@LAD (Kershaw)
42. Randy Wells (CHC) -- Wed-MIL (Bush)
43. John Lackey (BOS) -- Wed-@MIN (Slowey)
44. Roy Oswalt (HOU) -- Sat-@CHC (Gorzelanny)
45. Brad Penny (STL) -- Wed-HOU (Myers)
46. J.A. Happ (PHI) -- Thu-WAS (Olsen)
47. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Fri-@TOR (Marcum)
48. Randy Wolf (MIL) -- Sat-@WAS (Hernandez)
49. Jorge De La Rosa (COL) -- Thu-NYM (Pelfrey)
50. Mat Latos (SD) -- Thu-ATL (Hudson)
51. David Price (TB) -- Wed-@BAL (Bergesen)
52. Shaun Marcum (TOR) -- Fri-LAA (Weaver)
53. Rich Harden (TEX) -- Mon-@CLE (Carmona), Sun-@NYY (Pettitte)
54. Mark Buehrle (CHW) -- Fri-@CLE (Talbot)
55. C.J. Wilson (TEX) -- Wed-@CLE (Masterson)
56. Hiroki Kuroda (LAD) -- Thu-ARI (Haren)
57. Brian Matusz (BAL) -- Tue-TB (Niemann), Sun-@OAK (Anderson)
58. Mike Leake (CIN) -- Fri-@PIT (Duke)
59. A.J. Burnett (NYY) -- Sat-TEX (Feldman)
60. Kevin Correia (SD) -- Mon-ATL (Jurrjens), Sat-ARI (TBD)
61. Carlos Zambrano (CHC) -- Fri-HOU (Paulino)
62. Edwin Jackson (ARI) -- Fri-@SD (Garland)
63. Phil Hughes (NYY) -- Thu-LAA (Kazmir)
64. Kyle Lohse (STL) -- Thu-HOU (Norris)
65. Dallas Braden (OAK) -- Fri-BAL (Millwood)
66. Ian Kennedy (ARI) -- Tue-@LAD (Kershaw), Sun-@SD (TBD)
67. Tim Wakefield (BOS) -- Thu-@MIN (Liriano)
68. Nick Blackburn (MIN) -- Sat-KC (Meche)
69. Jon Garland (SD) -- Fri-ARI (Jackson)
70. Fausto Carmona (CLE) -- Mon-TEX (Harden), Sun-CHW (Floyd)
71. John Danks (CHW) -- Wed-@TOR (Morrow)
72. Brad Bergesen (BAL) -- Wed-TB (Price)
73. Jamie Moyer (PHI) -- Fri-FLA (Sanchez)
74. James Shields (TB) -- Sat-@BOS (Buchholz)
75. Homer Bailey (CIN) -- Wed-@FLA (Volstad)

Two-start pitchers for deep leagues:
Paul Maholm (PIT) -- Tue-@SF (Cain), Sun-CIN (Arroyo)
John Maine (NYM) -- Tue-@COL (Smith), Sun-@STL (Wainwright)
Ross Ohlendorf (PIT) -- Mon-@SF (Zito), Sat-CIN (Cueto)
Ricky Romero (TOR) -- Tue-CHW (Floyd), Sun-LAA (Santana)

No-thank-yous, among two-starts:
Doug Davis (MIL) -- Mon-@CHC (Dempster), Sun-@WAS (Marquis)
Jeremy Guthrie (BAL) -- Mon-TB (Garza), Sat-@OAK (Duchscherer)
Luke Hochevar (KC) -- Mon-@DET (Scherzer), Sun-@MIN (Pavano)
Jason Marquis (WAS) -- Mon-@PHI (Hamels), Sun-MIL (Davis)
Carl Pavano (MIN) -- Mon-BOS (Lester), Sun-KC (Hochevar)
Nate Robertson (FLA) -- Tue-CIN (Arroyo), Sun-@PHI (Hamels)
Ervin Santana (LAA) -- Tue-@NYY (Pettitte), Sun-@TOR (Romero)
Greg Smith (COL) -- Tue-NYM (Maine), Sun-@ATL (Jurrjens)
Brian Tallet (TOR) -- Mon-CHW (Peavy), Sat-LAA (Saunders)

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, or follow him on Twitter @SultanofStat.