Commentary

Quality can offset quantity

Updated: May 9, 2010, 10:46 AM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

Fantasy Forecaster updated Sunday, May 9 at 10:46 a.m. ET.

On tap: We've got our first five-game weeks, as both the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins play five games apiece in Week 6, thanks to a two-game series between the two teams Tuesday and Wednesday sandwiched by a pair of off days. It's a schedule that typically sends fantasy owners scurrying away, but as this week's Forecaster reveals, one of those teams' schedules is sneaky good.

Fantasy Forecaster

The Detroit Tigers and Houston Astros certainly have their work cut out for them this week. The Tigers might play a full slate of home games, but four of those come against the New York Yankees, the other three versus the Boston Red Sox. The Astros, meanwhile, make stops in both St. Louis and San Francisco, taking on two division leaders in the St. Louis Cardinals and San Francisco Giants.

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 6 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

• A five-game week is rarely favorable in fantasy, especially not on the pitching side when three of those games are to be played at Yankee Stadium versus the New York Yankees, who ranked first in the majors in team OPS (.822) through this past Thursday's games. The Minnesota Twins have the unfortunate honor of that schedule, and while it might help their chances of winning to skip Nick Blackburn's turn this time around, don't count on it happening. Francisco Liriano and Scott Baker might be too talented to reserve facing any matchup, but this week each will face arguably his toughest test in weekend starts at the Yankees.

• Both "Sans" -- the San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants -- rank among the top five in baseball in team ERA (Padres 2.89, 4th; Giants 2.79, 2nd), and should continue their fine pitching work into Week 6. They'll battle each other, meaning only three possible wins combined for pitchers on those teams from Tuesday through Thursday, but weekend home games for the Padres (versus the Los Angeles Dodgers) and Giants (versus the Houston Astros) bode well for each. Two-start pitchers Wade LeBlanc (Padres) and Barry Zito (Giants) might not strike you as solid fantasy plays, but as well as they're pitching, they qualify as such.

• The St. Louis Cardinals get the honor of three games versus the Houston Astros and Cincinnati Reds (those three played on the road), a favorable schedule considering both of those opponents rank among the bottom 11 in the game in team OPS. Like the Padres and Giants, the Cardinals' staff is off to a red-hot start, sporting the game's lowest team ERA (2.71). Their starters' ERA is 2.61, in fact, and there isn't a Cardinals starter with a poor matchup the entire week.

• Though the Baltimore Orioles' starters might not strike you as viable matchup plays, primarily due to their combined 4-15 record and 4.72 ERA in 29 games, keep in mind they face easily the most favorable schedule in baseball in Week 6, accounting for the strength (or lack thereof) of their opponents. Both the Seattle Mariners and Cleveland Indians rank among the three worst in the game in team OPS (Mariners .623, 29th; Indians .683, 28th), and all six of the Orioles' games will be played at home, where their youngsters might feel more comfortable. Brad Bergesen is coming off back-to-back strong outings following a brief demotion to the minors, Kevin Millwood sports a 3.15 ERA thus far and Brian Matusz is in a streak of four consecutive quality starts. Give each one a look.

For more insight into Week 6 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

• Let's tackle the two five-gamers first, because those, at least traditionally speaking, are ones to avoid when targeting hitters in weekly formats. As with their pitching matchups, the Minnesota Twins' hitting matchups aren't any stronger, particularly because they're slated to face the red-hot John Danks and A.J. Burnett, not to mention possibly Andy Pettitte if he's healthy enough to start Sunday. But the Twins will get an opportunity to fatten up against Freddy Garcia and potentially Javier Vazquez, too, so be choosy in daily formats. As for the Chicago White Sox, who sport the other five-game schedule, have no fear if you traditionally trust one of their more valuable hitters (say, a Paul Konerko, Andruw Jones or Alex Rios), and consider keeping even a Juan Pierre, Carlos Quentin or Mark Teahen active in a deeper league (like AL-only). This team will face nothing but right-handers, three of them from the Kansas City Royals' 27th-ranked staff (5.21 ERA). That'll be a sort of homecoming for Teahen, who spent the first five years of his major league career with the Royals; he has .279/.348/.424 (AVG/OBP/SLG) career numbers at Kauffman Stadium.

• The New York Yankees might have their hands full with talented pitchers like Justin Verlander, Francisco Liriano and Scott Baker this week, but it's the other four pitchers they're scheduled to face who tilt the balance in their favor. In 22 games (21 starts) combined, those four other opponents -- Dontrelle Willis, Rick Porcello, Jeremy Bonderman and Nick Blackburn -- have a 5.76 ERA and 1.61 WHIP.

• Big surprise, Coors Field ranks third in runs scored on the Park Factor page. Hey, guess what, it's a great hitters' park! As such, it should come as no shock that the Colorado Rockies score the week's only perfect-10 rating on the offensive side, but that four of their seven games will be played against the Washington Nationals, whose staff ERA is 4.64, certainly has as much to say about that as does the ballpark factor. Another benefit for the Rockies: While they'll have to face Roy Halladay during the three-game series versus the Philadelphia Phillies Monday through Wednesday, the Phillies' other two projected starters are their Nos. 4 and 5 men, Kyle Kendrick and Jamie Moyer.

• Wrigley Field ranks comparably high on the Park Factor page; again, not that that's surprising. The Chicago Cubs play all six of their games at Wrigley, including three against a Pittsburgh Pirates staff that is in shambles; the Pirates rank last in the majors in team ERA (6.23), and their starters' ERA is 6.80. Take a look at some of these home-game stats for Cubs hitters: Alfonso Soriano .405/.476/.865, Marlon Byrd .370/.370/.667, Ryan Theriot .356/.377/.373, Kosuke Fukudome .289/.408/.500. All four should be active in almost every league.

Now, let's take a look at some Week 6 sleepers:

Alberto Callaspo, 2B/3B, Kansas City Royals: He's on quite a tear, batting .326 (29-for-89) with four home runs and 17 RBIs in his past 22 games, and has historically excelled at Kauffman Stadium, where he has a .314/.375/.446 lifetime line.
Travis Hafner, DH, Cleveland Indians: He's a .290/.393/.556 lifetime hitter versus right-handers, including .256/.411/.535 averages this season, and his Indians are set to face five righty starters in their six games. Those games will be played against the Kansas City Royals and Baltimore Orioles staffs, both of which rank among the bottom half in baseball in team ERA.
Andy LaRoche, 3B, Pittsburgh Pirates: He's batting .375 (18-for-48) with two home runs in his past 12 games, a streak worth riding particularly in NL-only formats. A three-game series at Chicago's Wrigley Field will help; he was 8-for-25 (.320 AVG) with three doubles in seven games there last season.
James Loney, 1B, Los Angeles Dodgers: One thing Loney's owners know about him is that he's historically an excellent hitter away from Dodger Stadium, as evidenced by his .314/.367/.507 career road-game rates. Arizona's Chase Field is one of his most preferred venues; he's a .402/.442/.639 hitter in 25 career games there.
Ronny Paulino, C, Florida Marlins: He has started eight of the Marlins' nine games versus a left-handed starter this season, and the Marlins will face four of them this week alone. Paulino is a .341/.397/.498 lifetime hitter versus lefties, so if you're in an NL-only league, this is a perfect time to activate him.
Ivan Rodriguez, C, Washington Nationals: Sure, most of the numbers were accrued back in his heyday with the Texas Rangers, but Rodriguez does have .394/.449/.549 rates in 17 career games at Colorado's Coors Field, including two successful games there as recently as last season. A four-game trip to Coors would benefit most any Nationals hitter, but in Pudge's case, it makes him a solid play in anything but the most shallow mixed leagues.
Carlos Ruiz, C, Philadelphia Phillies: He has been extremely successful versus left-handed pitching between this and last season, with .292/.393/.500 rates against that side, and his Phillies are set to face four lefty starters in their six games. One of them is Randy Wolf (Friday), against whom Ruiz is 4-for-7 with two doubles, one home run and three walks in his career.

Weather report

It appears rain might be a problem in Week 6, the first week this season to see such high probabilities of precipitation. The threat of rain is 40 percent or greater in five Tuesday games -- Reds at Pirates (40), Marlins at Cubs (60), Yankees at Tigers (70), White Sox at Twins (70) and Astros at Cardinals (50) -- four Wednesday games -- Reds at Pirates (40), Nationals at Mets (40), Blue Jays at Red Sox (40) and Mariners at Orioles (40) -- and two Thursday games -- Indians at Royals (40) and Nationals at Rockies (60).

Weatherproof games: Rangers at Blue Jays (3, Fri-Sun); Braves at Brewers (3, Mon-Wed); Phillies at Brewers (3, Fri-Sun); Dodgers at Diamondbacks (3, Mon-Wed); Mariners at Rays (3, Fri-Sun).

Tristan's Week 6 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 on a fairly standard rotisserie scoring system, like ESPN's.

1. Tommy Hanson (ATL) -- Mon-@MIL (Davis), Sun-ARI (Lopez)
2. Matt Garza (TB) -- Mon-@LAA (Pineiro), Sun-SEA (Lee)
3. Barry Zito (SF) -- Tue-SD (LeBlanc), Sun-HOU (Myers)
4. Cliff Lee (SEA) -- Tue-@BAL (Hernandez), Sun-@TB (Garza)
5. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Sat-HOU (Oswalt)
6. Ted Lilly (CHC) -- Mon-FLA (Robertson), Sun-PIT (Ohlendorf)
7. Ricky Nolasco (FLA) -- Tue-@CHC (Wells), Sun-NYM (Niese)
8. Chris Carpenter (STL) -- Thu-HOU (Norris)
9. Adam Wainwright (STL) -- Sat-@CIN (Leake)
10. Zack Greinke (KC) -- Thu-CLE (Huff)
11. Ubaldo Jimenez (COL) -- Fri-WAS (Hernandez)
12. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Sat-@SD (Correia)
13. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Wed-ATL (Lowe)
14. Colby Lewis (TEX) -- Tue-OAK (Cahill), Sun-@TOR (Morrow)
15. Jaime Garcia (STL) -- Fri-@CIN (Harang)
16. Josh Johnson (FLA) -- Thu-NYM (Santana)
17. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Thu-@DET (Verlander)
18. Roy Halladay (PHI) -- Tue-@COL (Cook)
19. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Thu-@BAL (Millwood)
20. James Shields (TB) -- Sat-SEA (Vargas)
21. Chad Billingsley (LAD) -- Mon-@ARI (Lopez), Sun-@SD (LeBlanc)
22. Jake Peavy (CHW) -- Sat-@KC (Hochevar)
23. Wade Davis (TB) -- Fri-SEA (Fister)
24. Phil Hughes (NYY) -- Wed-@DET (Bonderman)
25. Matt Cain (SF) -- Wed-SD (Richard)
26. Ryan Dempster (CHC) -- Sat-PIT (Maholm)
27. Johan Santana (NYM) -- Thu-@FLA (Johnson)
28. John Lackey (BOS) -- Mon-TOR (Morrow), Sun-@DET (Porcello)
29. C.J. Wilson (TEX) -- Thu-OAK (Sheets)
30. Hiroki Kuroda (LAD) -- Wed-@ARI (Jackson)
31. David Price (TB) -- Wed-@LAA (Weaver)
32. Jonathan Sanchez (SF) -- Thu-SD (Latos)
33. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Sat-@DET (Willis)
34. Francisco Liriano (MIN) -- Fri-@NYY (Burnett)
35. Doug Fister (SEA) -- Fri-@TB (Davis)
36. Dan Haren (ARI) -- Tue-LAD (Ely)
37. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Wed-TB (Price)
38. Brad Penny (STL) -- Tue-HOU (Myers), Sun-@CIN (Arroyo)
39. Roy Oswalt (HOU) -- Sat-@SF (Lincecum)
40. A.J. Burnett (NYY) -- Fri-MIN (Liriano)
41. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Sat-@MIL (Narveson)
42. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Thu-NYY (Sabathia)
43. Clay Buchholz (BOS) -- Fri-@DET (Scherzer)
44. John Danks (CHW) -- Wed-@MIN (Pavano)
45. Tim Hudson (ATL) -- Tue-@MIL (Bush)
46. Wandy Rodriguez (HOU) -- Wed-@STL (Lohse)
47. Joel Pineiro (LAA) -- Mon-TB (Garza), Sun-OAK (Cahill)
48. Mike Leake (CIN) -- Sat-STL (Wainwright)
49. Shaun Marcum (TOR) -- Wed-@BOS (Beckett)
50. Ervin Santana (LAA) -- Sat-OAK (TBD)
51. Jake Westbrook (CLE) -- Tue-@KC (Bannister), Sun-@BAL (Hernandez)
52. Rich Harden (TEX) -- Fri-@TOR (Cecil)
53. Brandon Morrow (TOR) -- Mon-@BOS (Lackey), Sun-TEX (Lewis)
54. Wade LeBlanc (SD) -- Tue-@SF (Zito), Sun-LAD (Billingsley)
55. Randy Wells (CHC) -- Tue-FLA (Nolasco)
56. Mark Buehrle (CHW) -- Fri-@KC (Meche)
57. Kevin Slowey (MIN) -- Tue-CHW (Garcia)
58. Tom Gorzelanny (CHC) -- Fri-PIT (Karstens)
59. Jhoulys Chacin (COL) -- Thu-WAS (Lannan)
60. Ian Kennedy (ARI) -- Sat-@ATL (Jurrjens)
61. John Maine (NYM) -- Mon-WAS (Atilano), Sat-@FLA (Robertson)
62. Brett Myers (HOU) -- Tue-@STL (Penny), Sun-@SF (Zito)
63. Mike Pelfrey (NYM) -- Wed-WAS (Stammen)
64. Ricky Romero (TOR) -- Sat-TEX (Feldman)
65. Josh Beckett (BOS) -- Wed-TOR (Marcum)
66. Kyle Lohse (STL) -- Wed-HOU (Rodriguez)
67. Gavin Floyd (CHW) -- Sun-@KC (Bannister)
68. Kevin Correia (SD) -- Sat-LAD (Kershaw)
69. Fausto Carmona (CLE) -- Wed-@KC (Davies)
70. Kevin Millwood (BAL) -- Thu-SEA (Hernandez)
71. Brian Matusz (BAL) -- Sat-CLE (Talbot)
72. Javier Vazquez (NYY) -- Tue-@DET (Porcello), Sun-MIN (Blackburn)
73. Justin Masterson (CLE) -- Fri-@BAL (Guthrie)
74. Jonathon Niese (NYM) -- Tue-WAS (Olsen), Sun-@FLA (Nolasco)
75. Trevor Cahill (OAK) -- Tue-@TEX (Lewis), Sun-@LAA (Pineiro)

Two-start pitchers for deep leagues:
Bronson Arroyo (CIN) -- Mon-@PIT (Ohlendorf), Sun-STL (Penny)
Aaron Cook (COL) -- Tue-PHI (Halladay), Sun-WAS (Olsen)
David Hernandez (BAL) -- Tue-SEA (Lee), Sun-CLE (Westbrook)
Rodrigo Lopez (ARI) -- Mon-LAD (Billingsley), Sun-@ATL (Hanson)
Scott Olsen (WAS) -- Tue-@NYM (Niese), Sun-@COL (Cook)

One-start sleepers:
Homer Bailey (CIN) -- Wed-@PIT (Duke)
Brad Bergesen (BAL) -- Wed-SEA (Rowland-Smith)
Dave Bush (MIL) -- Tue-ATL (Hudson)
Johnny Cueto (CIN) -- Tue-@PIT (Morton)
Kyle Davies (KC) -- Wed-CLE (Carmona)
Joe Saunders (LAA) -- Fri-OAK (Braden)
Mitch Talbot (CLE) -- Sat-@BAL (Matusz)

No-thank-yous, among two-starts:
Luis Atilano (WAS) -- Mon-@NYM (Maine), Sat-@COL (Smith)
Brian Bannister (KC) -- Tue-CLE (Westbrook), Sun-CHW (Floyd)
Doug Davis (MIL) -- Mon-ATL (Hanson), Sun-PHI (Kendrick)
Kyle Kendrick (PHI) -- Mon-@COL (Smith), Sun-@MIL (Davis)
Ross Ohlendorf (PIT) -- Mon-CIN (Arroyo), Sun-@CHC (Lilly)
Rick Porcello (DET) -- Tue-NYY (Vazquez), Sun-BOS (Lackey)
Nate Robertson (FLA) -- Mon-@CHC (Lilly), Sat-NYM (Maine)
Greg Smith (COL) -- Mon-PHI (Kendrick), Sat-WAS (Atilano)
Dontrelle Willis (DET) -- Mon-NYY (Mitre), Sat-BOS (Lester)

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.

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