Commentary

Many aces among two-start options

Updated: June 6, 2011, 12:59 AM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

On tap: It takes two to make it outta sight. Two-start pitchers -- premier ones -- are the storyline of Week 10. Seven of the top 19 starting pitchers on our Player Rater (through June 2), four of the top five and six of the top 11 in terms of preseason average draft position and nine of the 30 opening-day starters will each work twice this week. Among those under the spotlight: Rookie sensation Michael Pineda, who gets another "second time around" test when he faces the Detroit Tigers on the road Saturday; he previously battled the Tigers on April 28. Ubaldo Jimenez, coming off a four-hit shutout against the Los Angeles Dodgers, draws a pair of outstanding matchups; he pitches Tuesday in San Diego's Petco Park before a rematch with the Dodgers at home on Sunday.

Fantasy Forecaster

Reminder: For those of you in weekly transactions leagues, first pitch of Week 10 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 12:05 p.m. ET, Thursday 4:10 p.m. ET, Friday 7:05 p.m. ET, Saturday 1:05 p.m. ET, Sunday 1:05 p.m. ET.

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 10 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 gray/beige boxes.

Tristan's pitching strategies

• So are the Chicago White Sox smarter to go with a six- or five-man rotation? Better question: Who cares? Their pitchers feasted on home cooking during May, the collective group combining for six wins, eight quality starts, a 2.61 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 10 May games at U.S. Cellular Field. The venue's homer-friendly confines have hardly bothered them; here are the career ERA/WHIP numbers at U.S. Cellular for their six current starters: Mark Buehrle 3.76/1.27 in 194 games (179 starts); John Danks 4.23/1.28 in 66 starts; Gavin Floyd 3.74/1.20 in 58 games (55 starts); Philip Humber 4.34/1.24 in seven games (4 starts); Edwin Jackson 3.71/1.38 in 15 starts; Jake Peavy 3.09/1.06 in 11 starts.

Danks (0-4, 6.89 ERA in his past five starts) is the only one of the six really struggling, and while he's a risky fantasy play he's also the team's lone two-start pitcher, barring his removal from the rotation following his Monday turn. His opponents are the light-hitting Seattle Mariners and Oakland Athletics, both of whom are averaging fewer than four runs per game with a sub-.675 team OPS on the road. He's also a combined 4-2 with a 2.47 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in nine starts against those two teams since 2009, meaning this might very well be the week he finally fills the win column. Certainly, I'd risk him in an AL-only league.

• Though the New York Yankees have received surprisingly good starting-pitching performances recently -- their starters have 12 wins, 16 quality starts, a 3.67 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in their past 26 games -- their schedule this week is littered with risk factors. Most notably, there's the week-opening series against the Boston Red Sox, a team that outscored them 18-9 combined during a three-game sweep in Yankee Stadium May 13-15. The Yankees unfortunately don't have their rotation ideally aligned for those three games. They can push Ivan Nova back and get CC Sabathia into the Thursday game, but even then, Sabathia is a mere 4-3 with five quality starts, a 3.43 ERA and 1.13 WHIP and an average of 6.56 innings in his 10 career Yankees starts against the rival Red Sox. Freddy Garcia (Tuesday's starter), A.J. Burnett (Wednesday's) and Nova (Thursday's) combined have a lifetime 4.80 ERA and 1.40 WHIP against the Red Sox, and bullpen use might be up in the series, which could adversely impact them during the weekend Cleveland Indians series. Be cautious and don't be surprised if one week from now everyone's saying, "Boy, the Yankees really need to trade for another starter."

• If the defending-champion San Francisco Giants are to successfully survive Buster Posey's season-ending injury, the way they'll do it is with elite pitching, which unsurprisingly was their winning recipe in 2010. Here's a week in which the Giants should thrive as a staff; it's a seven-game week including three against a Washington Nationals offense with a .655 road OPS and four against a Cincinnati Reds team that has scored just 54 runs (3.60 per game) with .236/.303/.345 team rates while losing 11 of its past 15 games. Look at some of those all-time Giants ERAs/WHIPs at AT&T Park: Matt Cain 3.20/1.18 in 94 starts; Tim Lincecum 3.02/1.19 in 66 starts; Jonathan Sanchez 4.09/1.32 in 84 games (52 starts); Ryan Vogelsong 3.83/1.22 in 17 games (five starts). Madison Bumgarner (1-5, 4.76 ERA and 13 starts) is the only one of the five who hasn't historically thrived at AT&T, but he also has an active seven-quality start streak. Load up.

• Exploit those Petco Park matchups for San Diego Padres pitchers, too, because while they have a three-game series against the Colorado Rockies to open their week, two of the Rockies' opposing starters -- Clayton Mortensen on Monday, Juan Nicasio on Wednesday -- are beatable spot-starters, meaning the "W" remains in the equation (if you put significant stock in that sort of thing, of course). Four week-ending games against the Nationals also plays right into their hands.

Two-start pitcher Clayton Richard and Thursday starter Aaron Harang are total splits guys; Richard has a 2.79 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 28 starts at Petco, compared to 5.18 and 1.69 in 29 road starts, during his Padres career. Harang, meanwhile, has a 3.40 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in his seven Petco starts so far in 2011 but 4.84 and 1.52 in four road starts by comparison. The Padres have been fortunate to line up so many of the latter's starts at home, but keep enjoying it while it lasts.

Also favorable: Los Angeles Angels, Washington Nationals
Also unfavorable: Boston Red Sox, Dodgers

For more insight into Week 10 pitching matchups, see my rankings for the top 75 starting pitchers, as well as every two-start pitcher, 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 for left- and right-handed hitters and base stealing. Matchup ratings for each individual game are listed under the corresponding date.

Tristan's hitting strategies

• The Giants also stack up well from a hitting standpoint, which is quite a boon for a team that has had considerable trouble at the plate -- even before the Posey injury. During their seven-game week, played entirely at home, the Giants will face three spot-starters: the Nationals' Yunesky Maya on Wednesday and the Reds' Chad Reineke on Saturday and Mike Leake on Sunday. In addition, a few Giants hitters have experienced modest success against the rotation regulars they'll face: Freddy Sanchez is 5-for-14 (.357 AVG) lifetime against Johnny Cueto (Thursday) and has a homer and walk in his only career plate appearances against Travis Wood (Friday); Miguel Tejada has .350/.409/.400 lifetime rates against Cueto; and Eli Whiteside has a home run in two at-bats against John Lannan (Monday).

Sanchez, incidentally, is a .371 hitter with one homer and 11 RBIs in his past 16 games. Cody Ross, meanwhile, has .302/.413/.491 rates in his past 16, securing near-everyday at-bats. Both warrant looks in deeper mixed and NL-only formats.

• The Toronto Blue Jays, however, have the schedule of the week, primarily because they'll play four games against the Kansas City Royals, and any team that plays that many times against Royals pitching is going to generate a high rating. But it's more than that: The Blue Jays are also fortunate that the Red Sox shuffled their rotation, moving Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz into the Yankees series and leaving fresh-off-the-DL John Lackey and spot-starter Alfredo Aceves for the Jays.

This Blue Jays team has batted .292/.353/.478 collectively and won 13 of 21 games since its May 10-11 two-game sweep of the Red Sox, and it's not one-man wrecking crew Jose Bautista responsible for all of that. Here are some of the other hot-hitting Jays since May 10: J.P. Arencibia .279/.333/.515, Rajai Davis .349/.386/.530, Yunel Escobar .346/.442/.538 and Corey Patterson .323/.343/.484. Davis stands out, in particular, thanks to his speed; the Red Sox rank among the worst teams in baseball at throwing out opposing base stealers. And the healthy return of Adam Lind -- expected no later than early this week -- should provide an added boost to this offense.

• You want no part of Tigers hitters this week, that is if you can possibly afford to find better alternatives. (Read: No, this is not advising you to sit Miguel Cabrera.) Look at what the Tigers' seven projected opponents have combined to do since May 15: 23 starts, 11-3 record, 2.03 ERA, 0.98 WHIP and 3.26 K's per walk, and not one individual has had higher than a 3.27 ERA during that span (that's Doug Fister's). Meanwhile, the only Tigers who have an OPS higher than .820 since May 15 are Cabrera (1.057), Jhonny Peralta (1.014) and Alex Avila (.933). Add Victor Martinez (.675 OPS since May 15, incidentally) to those three and that might be about the extent of your Tigers starter considerations.

• The Angels' hitting matchups aren't quite as favorable as their pitching matchups, but they're worth a look, nevertheless. While their offense has been up-and-down lately -- they scored six or more runs in seven of their past 27 games but were also held to one or zero runs eight times during that span -- they do have enough useful pieces to fill the back half of a fantasy lineup. In addition, while they might struggle Monday against Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price, they get a soft matchup to make up for it Wednesday against Rays fifth starter Andy Sonnanstine. Add in a three-game weekend series against the Royals and it's a great week.

Fantasy sensation Erick Aybar has maintained a healthy level of production, with .279/.364/.441 rates and four stolen bases in his past 18 games. Torii Hunter has turned around his season with .262/.360/.508 numbers in his past 18, and Mark Trumbo has settled in nicely as a regular, with .254/.314/.476 rates in his past 18.

Also favorable: Red Sox, Chicago Cubs
Also unfavorable: Houston Astros, St. Louis Cardinals

Weather report

Weatherproof games: Cardinals at Astros (3, Tue-Thu); Braves at Astros (3, Fri-Sun); Red Sox at Blue Jays (3, Fri-Sun); Mets at Brewers (3, Tue-Thu); Cardinals at Brewers (3, Fri-Sun).

Tristan's Week 10 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. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Mon-WAS (Lannan), Sat-CIN (Reineke)
2. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Tue-@CHW (Humber), Sun-@DET (Porcello)
3. Tommy Hanson (ATL) -- Tue-@FLA (TBD), Sun-@HOU (Myers)
4. Shaun Marcum (MIL) -- Tue-NYM (Capuano), Sun-STL (Westbrook)
5. David Price (TB) -- Mon-@LAA (Chatwood), Sun-@BAL (Matusz)
6. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Tue-@NYY (Garcia), Sun-@TOR (Drabek)
7. Michael Pineda (SEA) -- Mon-@CHW (Danks), Sat-@DET (Scherzer)
8. Cliff Lee (PHI) -- Mon-LAD (Lilly), Sat-CHC (Garza)
9. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Thu-SEA (Fister)
10. Roy Halladay (PHI) -- Fri-CHC (Zambrano)
11. Zack Greinke (MIL) -- Mon-@FLA (Vazquez), Sat-STL (Carpenter)
12. Ubaldo Jimenez (COL) -- Tue-@SD (Stauffer), Sun-LAD (Garland)
13. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Fri-CLE (Carmona)
14. Dan Haren (LAA) -- Tue-TB (Shields)
15. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Wed-TB (Sonnanstine)
16. Jonathan Sanchez (SF) -- Tue-WAS (Zimmermann), Sun-CIN (Leake)
17. Daniel Hudson (ARI) -- Tue-@PIT (Correia), Sun-@FLA (TBD)
18. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Wed-LAD (Kuroda)
19. Roy Oswalt (PHI) -- Tue-LAD (Garland), Sun-CHC (Lopez)
20. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Thu-@COL (Chacin)
21. Colby Lewis (TEX) -- Mon-DET (Scherzer), Sat-@MIN (Baker)
22. Gio Gonzalez (OAK) -- Mon-@BAL (Matusz), Sat-@CHW (Peavy)
23. Jhoulys Chacin (COL) -- Thu-LAD (Kershaw)
24. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Thu-NYM (Niese)
25. Matt Cain (SF) -- Wed-WAS (Maya)
26. Anibal Sanchez (FLA) -- Fri-ARI (Saunders)
27. Mat Latos (SD) -- Fri-WAS (Marquis)
28. Jair Jurrjens (ATL) -- Thu-@FLA (Volstad)
29. Ted Lilly (LAD) -- Mon-@PHI (Lee), Sat-@COL (Mortensen)
30. C.J. Wilson (TEX) -- Fri-@MIN (Duensing)
31. Josh Beckett (BOS) -- Thu-@NYY (Nova)
32. James Shields (TB) -- Tue-@LAA (Haren)
33. Jaime Garcia (STL) -- Thu-@HOU (Happ)
34. Jordan Zimmermann (WAS) -- Tue-@SF (Sanchez), Sun-@SD (Stauffer)
35. Alexi Ogando (TEX) -- Wed-DET (Oliver)
36. Brandon Morrow (TOR) -- Mon-@KC (Paulino), Sat-BOS (Aceves)
37. Tim Hudson (ATL) -- Fri-@HOU (Rodriguez)
38. Jeremy Hellickson (TB) -- Fri-@BAL (Arrieta)
39. Scott Baker (MIN) -- Mon-@CLE (Tomlin), Sat-TEX (Lewis)
40. Gavin Floyd (CHW) -- Wed-SEA (Vargas)
41. Jake Peavy (CHW) -- Sat-OAK (Gonzalez)
42. Trevor Cahill (OAK) -- Thu-@CHW (Buehrle)
43. Kevin Correia (PIT) -- Tue-ARI (Hudson), Sun-NYM (Capuano)
44. Ian Kennedy (ARI) -- Sat-@FLA (Vazquez)
45. Ricky Romero (TOR) -- Thu-@KC (Hochevar)
46. Philip Humber (CHW) -- Tue-SEA (Hernandez)
47. Tim Stauffer (SD) -- Tue-COL (Jimenez), Sun-WAS (Zimmermann)
48. Zach Britton (BAL) -- Wed-OAK (Outman)
49. Justin Masterson (CLE) -- Wed-MIN (Pavano)
50. Brian Matusz (BAL) -- Mon-OAK (Gonzalez), Sun-TB (Price)
51. Erik Bedard (SEA) -- Fri-@DET (Penny)
52. Chad Billingsley (LAD) -- Fri-@COL (Hammel)
53. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Mon-@TEX (Lewis), Sat-SEA (Pineda)
54. Hiroki Kuroda (LAD) -- Wed-@PHI (Hamels)
55. Bartolo Colon (NYY) -- Sat-CLE (Talbot)
56. Madison Bumgarner (SF) -- Thu-CIN (Cueto)
57. Brett Anderson (OAK) -- Fri-@CHW (Jackson)
58. Joel Pineiro (LAA) -- Sat-KC (Paulino)
59. Ryan Vogelsong (SF) -- Fri-CIN (Wood)
60. Josh Tomlin (CLE) -- Mon-MIN (Baker), Sun-@NYY (Garcia)
61. Ricky Nolasco (FLA) -- Wed-ATL (Lowe)
62. Ervin Santana (LAA) -- Fri-KC (Francis)
63. Chris Carpenter (STL) -- Sat-@MIL (Greinke)
64. Jeremy Guthrie (BAL) -- Sat-TB (Davis)
65. Johnny Cueto (CIN) -- Thu-@SF (Bumgarner)
66. Rick Porcello (DET) -- Tue-@TEX (Harrison), Sun-SEA (Hernandez)
67. Aaron Harang (SD) -- Thu-WAS (Hernandez)
68. Javier Vazquez (FLA) -- Mon-MIL (Greinke), Sat-ARI (Kennedy)
69. Kyle Lohse (STL) -- Fri-@MIL (Narveson)
70. Clay Buchholz (BOS) -- Wed-@NYY (Burnett)
71. Jake Westbrook (STL) -- Tue-@HOU (Myers), Sun-@MIL (Marcum)
72. Travis Wood (CIN) -- Fri-@SF (Vogelsong)
73. Randy Wolf (MIL) -- Wed-NYM (Pelfrey)
74. Matt Harrison (TEX) -- Tue-DET (Porcello), Sun-@MIN (Swarzak)
75. Derek Lowe (ATL) -- Wed-@FLA (Nolasco)

Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
Chris Capuano (NYM) -- Tue-@MIL (Marcum), Sun-@PIT (Correia)
John Danks (CHW) -- Mon-SEA (Pineda), Sun-OAK (Moscoso)
John Lannan (WAS) -- Mon-@SF (Lincecum), Sat-@SD (Richard)
Brett Myers (HOU) -- Tue-STL (Westbrook), Sun-ATL (Hanson)
Felipe Paulino (KC) -- Mon-TOR (Morrow), Sat-@LAA (Santana)
Clayton Richard (SD) -- Mon-COL (Mortensen), Sat-WAS (Lannan)

No-thank-yous, among two-starts:
Matt Garza (CHC) -- Mon-@CIN (Reineke), Sat-@PHI (Lee)

Kyle Drabek (TOR) -- Tue-@KC (O'Sullivan), Sun-BOS (Lester)
Freddy Garcia (NYY) -- Tue-BOS (Lester), Sun-CLE (Tomlin)
Jon Garland (LAD) -- Tue-@PHI (Oswalt), Sun-@COL (Jimenez)
Mike Leake (CIN) -- Tue-CHC (TBD), Sun-@SF (Sanchez)
Clayton Mortensen (COL) -- Mon-@SD (Richard), Sat-LAD (Lilly)
Guillermo Moscoso (OAK) -- Tue-@BAL (TBD), Sun-@CHW (Danks)
Sean O'Sullivan (KC) -- Tue-TOR (Drabek), Sun-@LAA (Pineiro)
Chad Reineke (CIN) -- Mon-CHC (Garza), Sat-@SF (Lincecum)
Anthony Swarzak (MIN) -- Tue-@CLE (Carrasco), Sun-TEX (Harrison)

One-start sleepers:
Carlos Carrasco (CLE) -- Tue-MIN (Swarzak)
Josh Collmenter (ARI) -- Thu-@PIT (Karstens)
Dillon Gee (NYM) -- Fri-@PIT (Morton)
Jason Hammel (COL) -- Fri-LAD (Billingsley)
Livan Hernandez (WAS) -- Thu-@SD (Harang)
Jason Marquis (WAS) -- Fri-@SD (Latos)
James McDonald (PIT) -- Sat-NYM (Dickey)
Charlie Morton (PIT) -- Fri-NYM (Gee)
Juan Nicasio (COL) -- Wed-@SD (Moseley)
Brad Penny (DET) -- Fri-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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