Fantasy Forecaster updated Sunday, May 8 at 3:29 p.m. ET.
On tap: It's a week of "do-you-or-don't-you" decisions with starting pitchers, as the Milwaukee Brewers' Zack Greinke and Chicago White Sox's Jake Peavy, both fresh off the disabled list, are under the fantasy microscope. Greinke pitches twice at home against mediocre offenses, once each versus the San Diego Padres and Pittsburgh Pirates, while Peavy returns to the rotation Wednesday at the Los Angeles Angels. Should you start either one? Read on to find out
Division rivalries are the focus of weekend matchups, as the Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves battle in Atlanta, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees tangle in New York, the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds clash in Cincinnati and the Los Angeles Angels and Texas Rangers square off in Texas, all of those Friday-Sunday series. Six of the top 11 starting pitchers on our Player Rater will work during those series, led by Nos. 1 and 3 starters Jered Weaver and Dan Haren of the Angels. Not that their owners should sit either of them, but it'll be a bit of a challenge for each: Weaver has won two of 11 career starts with a 3.93 ERA at Texas' Rangers Ballpark, while Haren's career ERA there is 4.97 in five starts.
Reminder: For those of you in weekly-transactions leagues, first pitch of Week 6 is 7:05 p.m. ET on Monday. Here are this week's other scheduled first pitches by day: Tuesday 7:05 p.m. ET, Wednesday 1:10 p.m. ET, Thursday 12:05 p.m. ET, Friday 2:20 p.m. ET, Saturday 1:05 p.m. ET, Sunday 1:05 p.m. ET.
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 gray/beige boxes.
P: The starting pitcher's matchup rating, which accounts for past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days), opponent and ballpark. Ratings range from 1-10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst.
• Have you begun taking the Cleveland Indians' rotation seriously yet? If not, you should. Amazing as it seems, if you forget about their dreadful first two games to begin the regular season, Indians starters have amassed 22 quality starts in their past 28 tries, have allowed five or more runs in an outing only twice and are 14-4 with a 2.78 ERA and 1.14 WHIP during that time. Their bullpen also has a 3.31 ERA and 1.21 WHIP, those numbers good for sixth and fifth in baseball, led by the No. 12 relief pitcher in fantasy, Chris Perez. The Indians spend the week at home in Progressive Field, where they're 13-2 with a 3.43 ERA as a team, and they're set to host the Tampa Bay Rays and Seattle Mariners, who both rank in the bottom half in baseball in runs per game (Rays 4.13, 18th; Mariners 3.75, 23rd) and team OPS (Rays .687, 20th; Mariners .644, 28th). Suddenly, hot-starting Josh Tomlin, the Indians' two-start pitcher this week, doesn't look like such a bad choice. Both he and Justin Masterson, who battles the Rays on Thursday, have thrown nothing but quality starts in each of their six appearances so far.
• As with the Indians, don't so casually dismiss the Baltimore Orioles' starters, either, and keep in mind that their closer, Kevin Gregg, has converted five consecutive save opportunities and limited opponents to an .053 batting average in his past six appearances. Wednesday starter Chris Tillman -- the Orioles' No. 5 starter -- might be the lone scary choice, but the other five starters have combined for a 3.74 ERA, 1.28 WHIP and 10 quality starts in their past 15 tries. Two-start pitcher Jake Arrieta in particular has five consecutive quality starts, two of those against the Yankees, and a 3-0 record, 3.00 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in them.
• I don't care that one of their opponents is the rival Phillies, I'm not about to bet against the Braves' pitching staff given a six-game week played entirely at home. Keep in mind the Braves have a team 3.14 ERA and 1.18 WHIP at Turner Field since the beginning of last season, and their current five starters have a 3.39 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 215 games (212 starts) combined there, not one of them owning a lifetime ERA at Turner Field higher than 3.92 (that's Derek Lowe's). As is, Braves starters have a 3.13 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 12 games at Turner Field versus the Phillies since the beginning of last season; the matchups of Saturday starter Lowe (3.15 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 3 GS) and Sunday starter Tim Hudson (3-1, 3.38 ERA, 4 GS) shouldn't be remotely feared. Also continue riding Brandon Beachy's hot streak when he battles the Washington Nationals on Wednesday; in addition to a 1.44 ERA and 0.64 WHIP, he has a sparkling 7.00 strikeouts-to-walk ratio in his past four turns.
• As hinted above, Zack Greinke's owners -- at least those in mixed leagues who might have a choice of a worthy alternative -- are in quite a pickle this week, having to evaluate his two fantastic-on-paper matchups against the Padres and Pirates. Those teams rank 29th (3.13) and 24th (3.71) in terms of runs per game, respectively, and 29th (.625) and 26th (.655) in terms of team OPS, so Greinke's second and third starts of 2011 sure look like they'll be easy. But his first turn fresh off a rib injury was a rocky one (4 IP, 5 H, 4 ER) and he didn't pitch much better during his rehabilitation stint (4.70 ERA in two Triple-A starts), so there's a clear performance concern here. In Greinke's defense: He whiffed 13 batters compared to two walks during his rehab, then 6 and 1 in his 2011 debut, and generated seven grounders on 12 balls in play during the latter. That Padres matchup might be a 50/50 proposition for a quality start, but it could lead to a stepladder type of performance improvement where his Pirates matchup subsequently winds up a true gem. If you're a risk-taker, go for it; I'm going to. And I'm going to load up my lineup with as many Brewers starters as possible accounting for these matchups.
• Since we covered Greinke, let's discuss Peavy: Where I'm risking Greinke in my lineup, I prefer not to with Peavy. I routinely caution fantasy owners to take a wait-and-see approach with starting pitchers fresh off the DL and Peavy is no different; he had a 5.09 ERA and 1.30 WHIP during a five-start rehabilitation assignment, one that included setbacks. Still, it's a promising sign that he's ready for activation, and his performance will bear watching for future weeks.
For more insight into Week 6 pitching matchups, see my rankings for the top 75 starting pitchers, as well as every two-start pitcher, at column's end.
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 for left- and right-handed hitters and base stealing. Matchup ratings for each individual game are listed under the corresponding date.
Some of the data used to generate this chart is derived from Baseball Musings' Day-by-day database.
H: Hitters' matchup rating, which accounts for the opposing starting pitcher's past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days) as well as ballpark factors. L: Hitters' matchup rating accounting only for left-handed hitters. R: Hitters' matchup rating accounting for only right-handed hitters. S: Base stealing matchup rating, which accounts for the opponent's catchers' ability to gun down opposing base stealers. Ratings range from 1-10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst.
• The Los Angeles Dodgers, slumping mightily in their past 22 games (9-13 record, .255/.312/.380 team hitting rates), could sure use a schedule like this week's to pad their hitting stats as well as boost their standing in the NL West race. They'll face nothing but Pittsburgh Pirates and Arizona Diamondbacks starters, both of those opponents ranking no better than 23rd in terms of their starters' ERA or WHIP (Pirates are exactly 23rd in each, with a 4.43 ERA and 1.41 WHIP). Monday's and Saturday's games against fifth/spot starters Jeff Karstens and probably Josh Collmenter are obviously favorable matchups for Dodgers hitters, but so is Wednesday's against Paul Maholm, who is 0-4 with a 5.65 ERA and 1.65 WHIP in seven career starts versus the Dodgers. Current Dodgers also have combined .321/.364/.486 lifetime rates against Tuesday opponent Kevin Correia, including Juan Uribe's 6-for-12 (.500 AVG) with a homer, James Loney's two homers in 21 at-bats and Andre Ethier's .529/.619/.765 rates in 21 plate appearances.
• The Detroit Tigers stack up awfully well, primarily because their projected Friday (Luke Hochevar) and Sunday (Kyle Davies) opponents are a combined 6-12 with a 5.29 ERA and 1.53 WHIP in 21 career games (20 starts) against them. Catcher-eligibles Alex Avila and Victor Martinez are incredibly attractive choices facing those weak-against-lefties foes, while the the team's "8" rating for right-handed hitters says don't fear Tigers as a whole.
• This hasn't been nearly as potent a Phillies offense as the model we saw in seasons past, ranking ninth in runs per game (4.63) and 11th in team OPS (.728). Look at some of the starters this lineup will face: Josh Johnson (Tuesday), Ricky Nolasco (Wednesday), Derek Lowe (Friday), Tim Hudson (Sunday). In fact, their final five starting-pitching opponents -- excluding Monday foe Javier Vazquez -- are a combined 22-18 with a 3.35 ERA and 1.24 WHIP against the Phillies in their careers. You can load up on Phillies against the struggling Vazquez on Monday in a daily league, and in a weekly league obviously you're not going to sit a Ryan Howard or Shane Victorino, but don't be too bold in the latter format. There's a good chance this week might feature a slew of 3-2 pitchers' duels.
• Some Week 6 individual hitting sleepers you can exploit:
Rajai Davis: He has six stolen bases in as many games since returning from the DL; so much for the ankle issue. The Blue Jays also play two against the Red Sox, against whom they stole nine bases as a team in a four-game series sans Davis from April 15-18, not to mention luck out in facing the Twins while strong-armed catcher Joe Mauer is sidelined due to injury.
Matt Joyce: His Rays face nothing but right-handed starters, he's a .384/.420/.575 hitter against righties in 81 plate appearances this season and the Rays have been using him as their cleanup hitter against righties.
Laynce Nix: With Michael Morse struggling, the Nationals have granted Nix starts in left field against each of their past four right-handed opposing starters, primarily due to Nix's .325/.341/.575 rates against that side. The Nationals face nothing but righty starters this week, so Nix could be prominently featured.
Mark Trumbo: He's 11-for-33 (.333 AVG) with three home runs versus left-handers already this season, has started all 11 Angels games against lefties and gets the advantage of three games at hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark.
Weatherproof games: Reds at Astros (3, Mon-Wed); Mets at Astros (3, Fri-Sun); Tigers at Blue Jays (1, Mon); Red Sox at Blue Jays (2, Tue-Wed); Padres at Brewers (3, Mon-Wed); Pirates at Brewers (3, Fri-Sun); Orioles at Rays (3, Fri-Sun).
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-@FLA (Johnson), Sun-@ATL (Hudson)
2. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Tue-ARI (Kennedy), Sun-@CHC (Zambrano)
3. Tim Hudson (ATL) -- Tue-WAS (Marquis), Sun-PHI (Halladay)
4. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Wed-@BAL (Tillman)
5. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Tue-@TOR (Drabek), Sun-@NYY (Garcia)
6. Trevor Cahill (OAK) -- Mon-@TEX (Wilson), Sun-CHW (Jackson)
7. Josh Johnson (FLA) -- Tue-PHI (Halladay)
8. Cliff Lee (PHI) -- Wed-@FLA (Nolasco)
9. Tommy Hanson (ATL) -- Wed-WAS (Lannan)
10. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Fri-@ATL (Lowe)
11. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Mon-@TOR (Morrow), Sun-KC (Davies)
12. Chad Billingsley (LAD) -- Mon-@PIT (Karstens), Sat-ARI (TBD)
13. Jhoulys Chacin (COL) -- Mon-NYM (Capuano), Sat-SD (Harang)
14. David Price (TB) -- Wed-@CLE (Gomez)
15. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Fri-KC (Hochevar)
16. Brandon Morrow (TOR) -- Mon-DET (Scherzer), Sun-@MIN (Blackburn)
17. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Sat-BOS (Beckett)
18. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Fri-@TEX (Holland)
19. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Fri-ARI (Saunders)
20. Ian Kennedy (ARI) -- Tue-@SF (Lincecum), Sun-@LAD (Lilly)
21. Michael Pineda (SEA) -- Tue-@BAL (Arrieta), Sun-@CLE (Tomlin)
22. Shaun Marcum (MIL) -- Tue-SD (Richard)
23. Brandon Beachy (ATL) -- Thu-WAS (Zimmermann)
24. Zack Greinke (MIL) -- Mon-SD (Latos), Sun-PIT (Correia)
25. Dan Haren (LAA) -- Sat-@TEX (Ogando)
26. C.J. Wilson (TEX) -- Mon-OAK (Cahill), Sun-LAA (Santana)
27. Matt Garza (CHC) -- Wed-STL (Westbrook)
28. Hiroki Kuroda (LAD) -- Wed-@PIT (Maholm)
29. Chris Carpenter (STL) -- Tue-@CHC (Zambrano), Sun-@CIN (Wood)
30. Jorge De La Rosa (COL) -- Fri-SD (Moseley)
31. Mat Latos (SD) -- Mon-@MIL (Greinke), Sun-@COL (Hammel)
32. Ubaldo Jimenez (COL) -- Wed-NYM (Niese)
33. Josh Beckett (BOS) -- Mon-MIN (Blackburn), Sat-@NYY (Sabathia)
34. Jaime Garcia (STL) -- Thu-@CHC (Coleman)
35. Alexi Ogando (TEX) -- Sat-LAA (Haren)
36. Randy Wolf (MIL) -- Wed-SD (Stauffer)
37. Carlos Zambrano (CHC) -- Tue-STL (Carpenter), Sun-SF (Lincecum)
38. Jair Jurrjens (ATL) -- Sat-PHI (Blanton)
39. Jake Arrieta (BAL) -- Tue-SEA (Pineda), Sun-@TB (Sonnanstine)
40. Ted Lilly (LAD) -- Tue-@PIT (Correia), Sun-ARI (Kennedy)
41. Matt Cain (SF) -- Thu-ARI (Hudson)
42. Gavin Floyd (CHW) -- Fri-@OAK (McCarthy)
43. Jason Hammel (COL) -- Tue-NYM (Pelfrey), Sun-SD (Latos)
44. Ricky Romero (TOR) -- Fri-@MIN (Duensing)
45. Justin Masterson (CLE) -- Thu-TB (Shields)
46. Josh Tomlin (CLE) -- Tue-TB (Sonnanstine), Sun-SEA (Pineda)
47. Daniel Hudson (ARI) -- Thu-@SF (Cain)
48. Scott Baker (MIN) -- Wed-DET (Coke)
49. Colby Lewis (TEX) -- Tue-OAK (Anderson)
50. James Shields (TB) -- Thu-@CLE (Masterson)
51. Anibal Sanchez (FLA) -- Sat-@WAS (Hernandez)
52. Ricky Nolasco (FLA) -- Wed-PHI (Lee)
53. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Fri-PIT (McDonald)
54. Brian Duensing (MIN) -- Fri-TOR (Romero)
55. Jonathan Sanchez (SF) -- Wed-ARI (Galarraga)
56. Brett Anderson (OAK) -- Tue-@TEX (Lewis)
57. Fausto Carmona (CLE) -- Sat-SEA (Bedard)
58. Wade Davis (TB) -- Sat-BAL (Bergesen)
59. John Danks (CHW) -- Tue-@LAA (Pineiro)
60. Wandy Rodriguez (HOU) -- Wed-CIN (Volquez)
61. Ervin Santana (LAA) -- Mon-CHW (Jackson), Sun-@TEX (Wilson)
62. Derek Lowe (ATL) -- Fri-PHI (Hamels)
63. Zach Britton (BAL) -- Thu-SEA (Vargas)
64. Edwin Jackson (CHW) -- Mon-@LAA (Santana), Sun-@OAK (Cahill)
65. Tom Gorzelanny (WAS) -- Fri-FLA (Volstad)
66. Bud Norris (HOU) -- Fri-NYM (Gee)
67. A.J. Burnett (NYY) -- Wed-KC (Chen)
68. Madison Bumgarner (SF) -- Fri-@CHC (Dempster)
69. Erik Bedard (SEA) -- Sat-@CLE (Carmona)
70. Jeremy Guthrie (BAL) -- Fri-@TB (Hellickson)
71. Bartolo Colon (NYY) -- Fri-BOS (Matsuzaka)
72. Edinson Volquez (CIN) -- Wed-@HOU (Rodriguez)
73. Jeremy Hellickson (TB) -- Fri-BAL (Guthrie)
74. Gio Gonzalez (OAK) -- Wed-@TEX (Harrison)
75. Kyle Lohse (STL) -- Fri-@CIN (Arroyo)
Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
Joe Blanton (PHI) -- Mon-@FLA (Vazquez), Sat-@ATL (Jurrjens)
Kevin Correia (PIT) -- Tue-LAD (Lilly), Sun-@MIL (Greinke)
Freddy Garcia (NYY) -- Tue-KC (Davies), Sun-BOS (Lester)
Travis Wood (CIN) -- Mon-@HOU (Rodriguez), Sun-STL (Carpenter)
No-thank-yous, among two-starts:
Nick Blackburn (MIN) -- Mon-@BOS (Beckett), Sun-TOR (Morrow)
Chris Capuano (NYM) -- Mon-@COL (Chacin), Sun-@HOU (Rodriguez)
Kyle Davies (KC) -- Tue-@NYY (Garcia), Sun-@DET (Scherzer)
Jeff Karstens (PIT) -- Mon-LAD (Billingsley), Sat-@MIL (Narveson)
Jason Marquis (WAS) -- Tue-@ATL (Hudson), Sun-FLA (Vazquez)
Aneury Rodriguez (HOU) -- Mon-CIN (Wood), Sun-NYM (Capuano)
Andy Sonnanstine (TB) -- Tue-@CLE (Tomlin), Sun-BAL (Arrieta)
Javier Vazquez (FLA) -- Mon-PHI (Blanton), Sun-@WAS (Marquis)
Homer Bailey (CIN) -- Tue-@HOU (Myers)
Mark Buehrle (CHW) -- Sat-@OAK (Ross)
Jon Garland (LAD) -- Thu-@PIT (Morton)
J.A. Happ (HOU) -- Sat-NYM (Dickey)
Chris Narveson (MIL) -- Sat-PIT (Karstens)
Joel Pineiro (LAA) -- Tue-CHW (Danks)
Alex White (CLE) -- Fri-SEA (Fister)
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.