Commentary

Ubaldo returns; Phils' aces hit Petco

Updated: April 17, 2011, 10:58 AM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

Fantasy Forecaster updated April 17 at 10:58 a.m. ET.

On tap: Pitching -- specifically National League pitching -- out west is the storyline, the headliner being the anticipated return of Colorado Rockies ace Ubaldo Jimenez (cuticle) on Tuesday. Jimenez's return sets up quite the battle of NL West strikeout artists; he'll battle the San Francisco Giants and Jonathan Sanchez at Coors Field. Jimenez's matchup is one his fantasy owners shouldn't fear, being that his injury wasn't significant, his spring was solid (3.26 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) and he reached 97 mph and averaged 94 mph with his fastball during a rehab start on April 13, according to the Rockies' official website. (For comparison's sake, Jimenez averaged 96.1 mph with his fastball in 2010, and 95.7 in his career.)

Fantasy Forecaster

The Philadelphia Phillies and their "four aces" travel to San Diego's Petco Park, meaning the game's best rotation visits the game's best pitchers' park, Thursday to Sunday. So far, the Phillies' rotation -- the sum total -- has been as good as advertised, with seven wins, eight quality starts, a 3.00 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 9.57 strikeouts-per-nine ratio in 10 turns, so you obviously know what to do: Expect continued greatness from Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Cole Hamels during that Petco series, and if your opponent in a head-to-head league this week owns any of them, you should cringe in fear.

A housekeeping reminder: Don't forget to set your Monday (and Week 3 in weekly formats) lineups early, as the Boston Red Sox's annual Patriots Day game begins at 11:05 a.m. ET that morning. This season the Red Sox host the Toronto Blue Jays, with Daisuke Matsuzaka getting the start. The reason: He's 6-1 with a 3.80 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 8.87 K's-per-nine ratio in 11 career starts versus the Blue Jays, including 2-0 with a 3.71 ERA in four starts in 2010 alone. The opposing Ricky Romero, meanwhile, is 2-4 with only one quality start, a 7.42 ERA and 2.04 WHIP in nine career starts versus the Red Sox.

Be mindful of teams' total games played in weekly formats, as 15 -- half of the majors' 30 -- teams play seven times. The New York Yankees, meanwhile, are the lone team to play just five times, as they're off both Monday and Thursday. Remember the quantitative advantage of a seven-game week versus a five-game week.

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 3 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

• The Seattle Mariners get a pitching thumbs-up for the second consecutive week, despite the fact their rotation is 2-8 with a 4.63 ERA through 13 games. Seven of those, however, have been quality starts, and the ERA has been largely tainted by the performance of Erik Bedard (9.00 ERA, 1.89 WHIP in two starts) and one ugly outing by ace Felix Hernandez (6 IP, 12 H, 7 ER on April 11). Bedard, naturally, is too risky to use against the right-handed-heavy Detroit Tigers, but every other Mariners starter should have a place in AL-only -- and some mixed -- leagues. That includes two-start pitchers Jason Vargas, 9-7 with a 3.12 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 28 career games (24 starts), and Doug Fister, 7-11 with 3.56/1.16 ratios in 25 games (24 starts) at Safeco Field, and rookie Michael Pineda, who has back-to-back quality starts to begin his big league career. Consider all three if you're digging deep.

• The Mariners' weekend opponent, the Oakland Athletics, should also put up superb pitching numbers, in spite of a two-game home series versus the Boston Red Sox to begin their week. We all know about the Red Sox's offensive struggles to date, and remember, they managed but 18 runs in their six games at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in 2010. Athletics starters already have the game's second-lowest ERA (2.56) and eight quality starts in 13 games, and all five current members of their rotation have no higher than a 4.15 ERA or 1.38 WHIP. Two-start pitcher Brett Anderson has a 2.29 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 6.50 K's-per-nine ratio, diminishing any fear of that Tuesday Red Sox matchup, and even noted fly ball pitcher Brandon McCarthy should be worth using at spacious Safeco Field on Thursday.

• The Phillies, naturally, have the week's most attractive pitching matchups, obviously because four of their seven games will be played at San Diego's Petco Park, but how about the Atlanta Braves, who head west to play series in two other West Coast pitchers' parks, Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium and San Francisco's AT&T Park? Braves starters might not have league-leading numbers -- their rotation has a 4-7 record, 3.74 ERA and only six quality starts in 13 games -- but it's not like any of their current five has endured a disastrous start, either; Mike Minor (4 1/3 IP, 7 H, 5 ER), set to be replaced by Jair Jurrjens this week, is the only one close. Two-start pitcher Tim Hudson continues to turn out reliable start after reliable start and Brandon Beachy has tantalizing strikeout potential, so both are worth slotting in. Ace-of-the-future Tommy Hanson is also coming off one of the team's better outings of 2011 (7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER), and remains a must-start.

For more insight into Week 3 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 lone "perfect-10" rating this week belongs to the Cleveland Indians, who are off to an 8-4 start thanks in part to their having averaged 4.92 runs per game. Asdrubal Cabrera (.286/.333/.612 rates, 10 RBIs in 12 G) has been a fantasy sensation so far, Michael Brantley and Orlando Cabrera have been contributing at low cost in terms of draft picks/pickups, and the team even has Grady Sizemore, a 30/30 man as recently as 2008, back for this week. And here's the kicker: Two of their most valuable hitters, Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Santana, have yet to really heat up. Choo, incidentally, is a lifetime .402/.462/.652 hitter with 21 RBIs in 24 games at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium, where the Indians play Monday through Thursday. Perhaps this will be the week the top-40 preseason selection finally breaks out?

• Returning to the topic of the Yankees' short week, that they still managed a "6" rating despite only five games demonstrates a few things: the potency of their offense, how sketchy their opponents' projected starters are and how hitter-friendly the two venues they'll visit (Toronto's Rogers Centre on Tuesday-Wednesday, Baltimore's Camden Yards on Friday-Sunday) are. In recent history, the Yankees have treated Camden Yards in particular as somewhat of a "Yankee Stadium South," given some of these offensive numbers their hitters have there: Robinson Cano .376/.414/.624 rates in 48 games; Curtis Granderson .281/.346/.562 in 23; Alex Rodriguez 25 HRs, 86 RBIs, .256 ISO in 97 games; Nick Swisher .315/.392/.717, 38 RBIs in 36 games. But where the Yankees' short schedule matters is its two slow starters, Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter. There will be cases where there are more worthy alternatives with seven-game weeks.

• The Kansas City Royals' offense is off to a scorching start; their 67 runs ranks fifth in the majors and they have .282/.344/.416 team rates through 12 games. While they'll be facing two hot-starting pitching staffs -- the Indians' team ERA is 3.45; the Texas Rangers' ERA is 2.55 -- let's not forget that the Indians' rotation wasn't advertised as one of the game's best, and three games at Texas' Rangers Ballpark is still a favorable schedule for an offense. Billy Butler (.382/.478/.491 in 16 games) and Alex Gordon (.289/.325/.421 in nine) have standout numbers during their careers in Texas, and speedy Royals like Alcides Escobar and Chris Getz should be able to capitalize upon the Rangers' so-so catchers.

Weather report

Here's your early look -- as of Sunday -- at Week 3 games with at least a 40 percent chance of precipitation (per weather.com and the National Weather Service): Pirates at Reds (50 percent, Monday); Padres at Cubs (80, Tuesday); Diamondbacks at Reds (50, Tuesday); Indians at Royals (40, Tuesday); Astros at Mets (50, Tuesday); Nationals at Cardinals (80, Tuesday); Diamondbacks at Reds (50, Wednesday); Indians at Twins (40, Friday); Reds at Cardinals (40, Friday); White Sox at Tigers (50, Saturday); Yankees at Orioles (50, Saturday); Nationals at Pirates (60, Saturday).

Weatherproof games: Yankees at Blue Jays (2, Tue-Wed); Rays at Blue Jays (3, Fri-Sun); Astros at Brewers (3, Fri-Sun); Tigers at Mariners (3, Mon-Wed); Athletics at Mariners (4, Thu-Sun); White Sox at Rays (4, Mon-Thu).

Tristan's Week 3 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. Roy Halladay (PHI) -- Tue-MIL (Wolf), Sun-@SD (Moseley)
2. Josh Johnson (FLA) -- Tue-PIT (Maholm), Sun-COL (Rogers)
3. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Mon-@COL (Rogers), Sun-ATL (Beachy)
4. Tim Hudson (ATL) -- Mon-@LAD (Lilly), Sat-@SF (Bumgarner)
5. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Thu-ATL (Jurrjens)
6. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Thu-OAK (McCarthy)
7. David Price (TB) -- Mon-CHW (Jackson), Sat-@TOR (Litsch)
8. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Sun-@BAL (Arrieta)
9. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Fri-CHW (Buehrle)
10. Brett Anderson (OAK) -- Tue-BOS (Lackey), Sun-@SEA (Fister)
11. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Wed-@TEX (Harrison)
12. Cliff Lee (PHI) -- Wed-MIL (Narveson)
13. Dan Haren (LAA) -- Fri-BOS (Lester)
14. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Fri-@LAA (Haren)
15. Shaun Marcum (MIL) -- Mon-@PHI (Blanton), Sun-HOU (Rodriguez)
16. John Danks (CHW) -- Tue-@TB (Shields), Sun-@DET (Scherzer)
17. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Fri-@SD (Richard)
18. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Mon-@SEA (Vargas), Sun-CHW (Danks)
19. Ubaldo Jimenez (COL) -- Tue-SF (Sanchez)
20. Chris Carpenter (STL) -- Sat-CIN (Wood)
21. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Fri-HOU (Figueroa)
22. Hiroki Kuroda (LAD) -- Tue-ATL (Beachy), Sun-@CHC (Zambrano)
23. Roy Oswalt (PHI) -- Thu-@SD (Latos)
24. Ted Lilly (LAD) -- Mon-ATL (Hudson), Sat-@CHC (Dempster)
25. Mat Latos (SD) -- Thu-PHI (Oswalt)
26. Jaime Garcia (STL) -- Wed-WAS (Zimmermann)
27. Trevor Cahill (OAK) -- Sat-@SEA (Vargas)
28. Tommy Hanson (ATL) -- Fri-@SF (Zito)
29. Travis Wood (CIN) -- Mon-PIT (Correia), Sat-@STL (Carpenter)
30. Matt Cain (SF) -- Wed-@COL (De La Rosa)
31. Ricky Romero (TOR) -- Mon-@BOS (Matsuzaka), Sun-TB (Shields)
32. Jhoulys Chacin (COL) -- Fri-@FLA (Sanchez)
33. Matt Garza (CHC) -- Wed-SD (Harang)
34. Carlos Zambrano (CHC) -- Mon-SD (Stauffer), Sun-LAD (Kuroda)
35. Chad Billingsley (LAD) -- Fri-@CHC (Coleman)
36. Wandy Rodriguez (HOU) -- Tue-@NYM (Niese), Sun-@MIL (Marcum)
37. Ryan Dempster (CHC) -- Sat-LAD (Lilly)
38. Edwin Jackson (CHW) -- Mon-@TB (Price), Sat-@DET (Penny)
39. Josh Beckett (BOS) -- Thu-@LAA (Chatwood)
40. C.J. Wilson (TEX) -- Mon-LAA (Santana), Sun-KC (Chen)
41. Francisco Liriano (MIN) -- Mon-@BAL (Tillman), Sat-CLE (Carrasco)
42. Derek Lowe (ATL) -- Wed-@LAD (Garland)
43. Carl Pavano (MIN) -- Tue-@BAL (Arrieta), Sun-CLE (TBD)
44. Ricky Nolasco (FLA) -- Wed-PIT (Morton)
45. Alexi Ogando (TEX) -- Sat-KC (Davies)
46. Colby Lewis (TEX) -- Tue-LAA (Palmer)
47. Gio Gonzalez (OAK) -- Wed-BOS (Buchholz)
48. Ervin Santana (LAA) -- Mon-@TEX (Wilson), Sat-BOS (Matsuzaka)
49. Daniel Hudson (ARI) -- Thu-@CIN (Leake)
50. Dallas Braden (OAK) -- Fri-@SEA (Pineda)
51. Jason Vargas (SEA) -- Mon-DET (Scherzer), Sat-OAK (Cahill)
52. Brett Myers (HOU) -- Sat-@MIL (Estrada)
53. Jonathan Sanchez (SF) -- Tue-@COL (Jimenez)
54. Doug Fister (SEA) -- Tue-DET (Coke), Sun-OAK (Anderson)
55. Michael Pineda (SEA) -- Fri-OAK (Braden)
56. Edinson Volquez (CIN) -- Fri-@STL (McClellan)
57. Brian Duensing (MIN) -- Fri-CLE (Carmona)
58. Clay Buchholz (BOS) -- Wed-@OAK (Gonzalez)
59. Phil Coke (DET) -- Tue-@SEA (Fister)
60. Gavin Floyd (CHW) -- Thu-@TB (Niemann)
61. Jeremy Guthrie (BAL) -- Thu-MIN (Baker)
62. Jorge De La Rosa (COL) -- Wed-SF (Cain)
63. R.A. Dickey (NYM) -- Wed-HOU (Norris)
64. Jordan Zimmermann (WAS) -- Wed-@STL (Garcia)
65. Zach Britton (BAL) -- Wed-MIN (Blackburn)
66. Kyle McClellan (STL) -- Fri-CIN (Volquez)
67. Kyle Drabek (TOR) -- Tue-NYY (Burnett)
68. Brandon Beachy (ATL) -- Tue-@LAD (Kuroda), Sun-@SF (Lincecum)
69. Bronson Arroyo (CIN) -- Wed-ARI (Kennedy)
70. Wade Davis (TB) -- Wed-CHW (Humber)
71. Kevin Correia (PIT) -- Mon-@CIN (Wood), Sat-WAS (Hernandez)
72. Jeremy Hellickson (TB) -- Fri-@TOR (Reyes)
73. Esmil Rogers (COL) -- Mon-SF (Lincecum), Sun-@FLA (Johnson)
74. Brandon McCarthy (OAK) -- Thu-@SEA (Hernandez)
75. Jair Jurrjens (ATL) -- Thu-@LAD (Kershaw)

Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
Joe Blanton (PHI) -- Mon-MIL (Marcum), Sat-@SD (Stauffer)
Carlos Carrasco (CLE) -- Mon-@KC (Davies), Sat-@MIN (Liriano)
John Lackey (BOS) -- Tue-@OAK (Anderson), Sun-@LAA (Palmer)
John Lannan (WAS) -- Tue-@STL (Westbrook), Sun-@PIT (Maholm)
Sam LeCure (CIN) -- Tue-ARI (Galarraga), Sun-@STL (Westbrook)
Paul Maholm (PIT) -- Tue-@FLA (Johnson), Sun-WAS (Lannan)
Daisuke Matsuzaka (BOS) -- Mon-TOR (Romero), Sat-@LAA (Santana)
Jonathon Niese (NYM) -- Tue-HOU (Rodriguez), Sun-ARI (Galarraga)
James Shields (TB) -- Tue-CHW (Danks), Sun-@TOR (Romero)

No-thank-yous, among two-starts:
Jake Arrieta (BAL) -- Tue-MIN (Pavano), Sun-NYY (Sabathia)
Bruce Chen (KC) -- Tue-CLE (TBD), Sun-@TEX (Wilson)
Kyle Davies (KC) -- Mon-CLE (Carrasco), Sat-@TEX (Ogando)
Armando Galarraga (ARI) -- Tue-@CIN (LeCure), Sun-@NYM (Niese)
Dustin Moseley (SD) -- Tue-@CHC (Russell), Sun-PHI (Halladay)
Matt Palmer (LAA) -- Tue-@TEX (Lewis), Sun-BOS (Lackey)
Tim Stauffer (SD) -- Mon-@CHC (Zambrano), Sat-PHI (Blanton)
Chris Tillman (BAL) -- Mon-MIN (Liriano), Sat-NYY (Garcia)
Jake Westbrook (STL) -- Tue-WAS (Lannan), Sun-CIN (LeCure)

One-start sleepers:
Chris Capuano (NYM) -- Thu-HOU (Happ)
Jason Hammel (COL) -- Sat-@FLA (Vazquez)
Derek Holland (TEX) -- Fri-KC (Francis)
Kyle Lohse (STL) -- Thu-WAS (Gorzelanny)
Jason Marquis (WAS) -- Fri-@PIT (Karstens)
Justin Masterson (CLE) -- Wed-@KC (Hochevar)
Bud Norris (HOU) -- Wed-@NYM (Dickey)
Rick Porcello (DET) -- Wed-@SEA (Bedard)

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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