Commentary

Interleague DH issues come into play

Adjust lineups accordingly as teams gain, lose DH for long stretches

Updated: June 19, 2011, 9:43 AM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

Fantasy Forecaster updated Sunday, June 19, at 9:43 a.m. ET.

On tap: Week 12 is the first of two comprised almost entirely of interleague games; Philadelphia Phillies at St. Louis Cardinals (Tuesday-Thursday) and Atlanta Braves at San Diego Padres (Friday-Sunday) are the only two intraleague series. That means six-game weeks for all 30 squads, and the fact that 20 of those teams will play Monday-Wednesday and be off Thursday means there might be some rotation shuffling before those weekend series.

Fantasy Forecaster

The impact of the designated hitter -- or lack of it -- is always a significant fantasy storyline during interleague play. These American League teams will lose their DH due to all six games being played at National League parks:

Los Angeles Angels (@FLA-3, @LAD-3): They'll face two left-handed starters, so Bobby Abreu should sit those days, but Abreu might start at any of the three outfield positions in 2-3 of the others. Still, that's a sit in shallow mixed leagues.
Minnesota Twins (@SF-3, @MIL-3): The primary impact here is that the Twins won't have the DH to protect the fresh-off-the-DL Joe Mauer.
Oakland Athletics (@NYM-3, @PHI-3): At least two of their games are against lefty starters, so Hideki Matsui will sit those. He's expected to make two starts in right field, despite having not appeared in the field in 2011. Certainly he should sit in all fantasy leagues, having batted .211/.289/.447 so far in June.
Seattle Mariners (@WAS-3, @FLA-3*): Jack Cust -- who, like Matsui, has yet to play in the field -- sits, and Mike Carp and the defensively challenged Carlos Peguero will duke it out for left-field at-bats. Keep moving, nothing to see here.
Tampa Bay Rays (@MIL-3, @HOU-3): Johnny Damon played two of three games in left field in the May 20-22 series at Florida, but the fact that the Rays face three lefties in six games means he might sit on those days. Consider benching him.
Toronto Blue Jays (@ATL-3, @STL-3): Adam Lind is the name you care about, and the Blue Jays face four righty and two lefty starters. It might be obvious: Adam Lind gets the four at first versus righties, Juan Rivera the other two. (I'd start Lind even if that happens.)

Note: Due to a U2 concert in Miami, the weekend Marlins-Mariners series will actually be played at Seattle's Safeco Field, but with the Marlins the "home team" and the games played under NL rules.

These AL teams will lose the DH for only three games:

[+] EnlargeAlex Avila
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesThe Tigers will find ways to get Alex Avila's bat in the lineup even if he's not catching.

Baltimore Orioles (@PIT-3, Mon-Wed): Vladimir Guerrero has yet to play in the field in 2011, so unless he sneaks in some games there in Washington from June 10-12, count on him only pinch-hitting in this series. A .283/.327/.391 hitter so far in June, Guerrero should be benched in most leagues.
Boston Red Sox (@PIT-3, Fri-Sun): David Ortiz could play first base, except that's Adrian Gonzalez's position, and Gonzalez is more valuable all around. But even given three starts, Ortiz is useful in AL-only and deeper mixed leagues.
Cleveland Indians (@SF-3, Fri-Sun): It's possible Grady Sizemore might sit the two games against lefty starters, because he can't touch them (.114/.200/.286 rates against left-handers in 2011).
Detroit Tigers (@LAD-3, Mon-Wed): The Tigers are considering using Alex Avila at third base, so there might not be much to worry about here. If Avila does sit, it'll only be because of the two opposing lefty starters. Still, he hits lefties.
New York Yankees (@CIN, Mon-Wed): It's difficult to imagine Jorge Posada starting at first base ahead of Mark Teixeira, so expect him to only pinch-hit.

These National League teams will benefit from the addition of the DH in American League parks. Number of games in AL parks listed first in parentheses:

Arizona Diamondbacks (6 games, @KC-3, @DET-3): Finally, a way for both Juan Miranda and Xavier Nady to start. The Diamondbacks could, however, rotate regulars at DH to open up a space for Willie Bloomquist.
Chicago Cubs (6, @CHW-3, @KC-3): Alfonso Soriano can be eased back in slowly as a DH, but there's nothing of note among the players who should receive additional at-bats as a result (Blake DeWitt types).
Cincinnati Reds (3, @BAL-3): Instead of a three-man rotation between Jonny Gomes, Chris Heisey and Fred Lewis in left field, now it's a three-man rotation at both left field and DH.
Colorado Rockies (6, @CLE-3, @NYY-3): Maybe DH winds up Jason Giambi's gig, but the Rockies would be smart to promote the hot-hitting Ian Stewart to eat up these additional at-bats.
Houston Astros (3, @TEX-3): Jason Bourgeois, come on down! Carlos Lee is a natural DH, opening up three starts for Bourgeois in left field.
New York Mets (3, @TEX-3): Carlos Beltran, at this stage of his career, is a natural DH, so who does that open right field for? Lucas Duda? Jason Pridie?
Padres (3, @BOS-3): Brad Hawpe, a .273/.362/.512 career hitter during interleague play, is the obvious choice to DH.
Washington Nationals (3, @CHW-3): Matt Stairs was born to DH, but Ivan Rodriguez might get the Friday start against lefty John Danks.

Among other Week 12 storylines are two "reunions": Red Sox slugger Adrian Gonzalez faces his former team, the Padres, during their week-opening series at Fenway Park. Meanwhile, struggling Chicago White Sox DH Adam Dunn battles his ex-mates, the Nationals, during their weekend series at U.S. Cellular Field.

Reminder: For those of you in weekly-transactions leagues, first pitch of Week 12 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 12:35 p.m. ET, Thursday 1:05 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 12 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

• The Red Sox are probably happy they traded for Adrian Gonzalez, because that move depleted the opposing Padres' offense to the point that they have .231/.301/.335 team rates so far this season, which ranks them 29th, 29th and 30th in the majors. Advantage: Red Sox pitching, especially if you add in that the Pittsburgh Pirates, whom the Red Sox face during a weekend road series, don't rank much higher in those categories (.240/.312/.356). Andrew Miller is slated to make his Red Sox debut Monday, setting him up for a two-start week, and despite his 5.84 ERA and 1.74 WHIP during his five-year big league career, he's actually an AL-only sleeper accounting for those matchups. Consider this: Miller had a 22-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his past three starts for Triple-A Pawtucket, displaying a level of command he never showed in the majors (5.32 career walks per nine, 1.37 K's per walk). John Lackey, the only other Red Sox starter you'd question starting in fantasy, also warrants your attention, partly because he's facing the Padres. Another reason: He's 14-5 with a 2.96 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in 29 career interleague games (28 starts).

• The Braves are the other team that benefits from facing the Padres, and they get a considerable pitching advantage in that their three-game series will be played at Petco Park. Opposing starters have 20 wins, 30 quality starts, a 2.36 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 8.05 K's-per-nine ratio in 40 turns at Petco this season, with the only one to allow more than four runs being Livan Hernandez (5 1/3 IP, 9 H, 6 ER on June 9). It's prime time for the three Braves starters assigned there -- Derek Lowe (Friday), Jair Jurrjens (Saturday) and Tim Hudson (Sunday) -- to buck their career trends at Petco; they have a 4.13 ERA and 1.47 WHIP in 14 games (13 starts) combined there. Mike Minor, the fill-in left-hander, is one Braves starter who is a shaky fantasy play. He'll be matched up with the Blue Jays, who have the majors' leading OPS against lefties (.839); they're .292/.363/.475 hitters as a team against that side. Brandon Beachy, likely to return from the disabled list on Wednesday, could be of use in NL-only leagues, though the smart play is to keep him benched for at least a turn for evaluation purposes.

• Consider it good time for the Florida Marlins to be matched up with the Angels; the Angels are baseball's coldest team in June, averaging 2.54 runs per game with .227/.285/.308 team rates in 13 games, their .592 OPS dead last in the majors. Top that off with a three-game home series against the light-hitting Mariners and it's a "load-up" situation. Anibal Sanchez, a two-start pitcher who is 3-0 with a 3.18 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 9.93 K's-per-nine ratio in seven home starts this season, ranks among the most valuable individual choices for Week 12. Even Brad Hand and Javier Vazquez -- neither of whom has been consistently reliable -- are streaming considerations. The risky play: Ricky Nolasco, though a matchup with the Mariners is about the best bounce-back assignment a pitcher could get.

Also favorable: Chicago White Sox, San Francisco Giants
Also unfavorable: Mets, Padres, Yankees

For more insight into Week 12 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

• A quick look at the team OPS leaders in the month of June reveals some familiar names: The Red Sox (1st, .870), Yankees (2nd, .852), Rockies (6th, .763), Brewers (7th, .759) … but did you know that the Orioles currently rank eighth (.750)? That's largely due to the hot hitting of left-side infielders J.J. Hardy (.404/.462/.723 in 12 games) and Mark Reynolds (.243/.378/.703, 5 HR, 11 RBI in 12 games), but familiar fantasy names like Adam Jones, Luke Scott and Matt Wieters have also been productive so far in the month. The Orioles face nothing but right-handed starters, two of them with historically extreme platoon splits (Charlie Morton on Monday, Bronson Arroyo on Saturday), so look to the left-handers wherever you can: Nick Markakis, Scott and Wieters. But use any of the aforementioned righties as well.

• The Reds get a bit of favorable scheduling this week, facing the soft sides of both the Yankees' and Orioles' rotations; they'll battle both opponents' No. 5 starters (Brian Gordon, Chris Jakubauskas). All due respect to Yankees fill-in Gordon, who pitched well in his June 16 start, but he still allowed 12 baserunners in his 5 1/3 innings, which isn't going to fly most times out. Total the Reds' six scheduled opposing starters and they've got a 4.30 ERA, 1.48 WHIP and 1.53 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 2011, mediocre numbers in this year's pitching-rich game. Both of their catchers continue to hit despite splitting the starts almost evenly: Ryan Hanigan is a .333/.455/.333 hitter in 11 games in June, Ramon Hernandez a .333/.480/.389 hitter in six games in the month. And in Hernandez's case, he's a .318/.385/.564 hitter against right-handers, significant in that the Reds are scheduled to face five righty starters. In two-catcher leagues, both are worth considering.

• Avoid Cardinals hitters if you can, with the obvious exception of Albert Pujols. Pujols is a .308/.419/.788 hitter in the month of June; the rest of the team has .213/.271/.339 rates combined in 14 games. The healthy return of Matt Holliday helps, but this is a week when the Cardinals will face Phillies aces Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Roy Oswalt, not to mention two talented Blue Jays in Brandon Morrow (Friday) and Ricky Romero (Sunday). Pujols and Holliday are musts -- that's regardless of matchup in any given week -- and Lance Berkman (6 HR, 12 RBIs in 12 games in June) is worth using in all but the shallowest leagues, but outside of those three, there isn't much here worth activating this week.

Also favorable: Cubs, Giants, Red Sox, White Sox
Also unfavorable: Blue Jays, Nationals, Twins

Weather report

Weatherproof games: Rays at Astros (3, Fri-Sun); Rays at Brewers (3, Mon-Wed); Twins at Brewers (3, Fri-Sun); Mariners at Marlins (3, Fri-Sun).

Tristan's Week 12 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-@STL (McClellan), Sun-OAK (Outman)
2. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Mon-@FLA (Sanchez), Sun-@LAD (Kershaw)
3. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Mon-DET (Penny), Sun-LAA (Weaver)
4. Anibal Sanchez (FLA) -- Mon-LAA (Weaver), Sun-SEA (Fister)
5. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Sat-ARI (Collmenter)
6. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Fri-OAK (Moscoso)
7. Cliff Lee (PHI) -- Wed-@STL (Lohse)
8. Josh Beckett (BOS) -- Tue-SD (Latos)
9. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Fri-@FLA (Nolasco)
10. Jhoulys Chacin (COL) -- Tue-@CLE (Talbot)
11. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Sat-COL (Cook)
12. Matt Cain (SF) -- Sat-CLE (Masterson)
13. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Fri-@PIT (Maholm)
14. Madison Bumgarner (SF) -- Tue-MIN (Pavano), Sun-CLE (Carmona)
15. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Thu-MIN (Duensing)
16. Shaun Marcum (MIL) -- Wed-TB (Price)
17. Tim Hudson (ATL) -- Mon-TOR (Romero), Sun-@SD (LeBlanc)
18. C.J. Wilson (TEX) -- Tue-HOU (Lyles)
19. Ricky Romero (TOR) -- Mon-@ATL (Hudson), Sun-@STL (McClellan)
20. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Sat-MIN (Liriano)
21. Johnny Cueto (CIN) -- Mon-NYY (Nova), Sun-@BAL (Arrieta)
22. Erik Bedard (SEA) -- Wed-@WAS (Lannan)
23. Zack Greinke (MIL) -- Tue-TB (Hellickson)
24. Jair Jurrjens (ATL) -- Sat-@SD (Moseley)
25. David Price (TB) -- Wed-@MIL (Marcum)
26. Jaime Garcia (STL) -- Sat-TOR (Villanueva)
27. Ryan Vogelsong (SF) -- Wed-MIN (Blackburn)
28. Chris Carpenter (STL) -- Thu-PHI (Oswalt)
29. Alexi Ogando (TEX) -- Sat-NYM (Niese)
30. Tim Stauffer (SD) -- Fri-ATL (Lowe)
31. Gavin Floyd (CHW) -- Mon-CHC (Zambrano), Sun-WAS (Hernandez)
32. Dan Haren (LAA) -- Fri-@LAD (De La Rosa)
33. Daniel Hudson (ARI) -- Thu-@KC (Paulino)
34. Jordan Zimmermann (WAS) -- Fri-@CHW (Danks)
35. Ian Kennedy (ARI) -- Wed-@KC (Francis)
36. Jonathan Sanchez (SF) -- Fri-CLE (Carrasco)
37. Roy Oswalt (PHI) -- Thu-@STL (Carpenter)
38. Carlos Zambrano (CHC) -- Mon-@CHW (Floyd), Sun-@KC (Hochevar)
39. John Danks (CHW) -- Fri-WAS (Zimmermann)
40. Philip Humber (CHW) -- Sat-WAS (Gorzelanny)
41. Jeremy Hellickson (TB) -- Tue-@MIL (Greinke)
42. Francisco Liriano (MIN) -- Sat-@MIL (Gallardo)
43. Ted Lilly (LAD) -- Wed-DET (Porcello)
44. Michael Pineda (SEA) -- Thu-@WAS (Marquis)
45. Dillon Gee (NYM) -- Tue-OAK (Outman), Sun-@TEX (Holland)
46. Bud Norris (HOU) -- Sat-TB (Shields)
47. Derek Lowe (ATL) -- Fri-@SD (Stauffer)
48. Hiroki Kuroda (LAD) -- Sat-LAA (Chatwood)
49. Randy Wolf (MIL) -- Fri-MIN (Baker)
50. Wandy Rodriguez (HOU) -- Fri-TB (Davis)
51. Doug Fister (SEA) -- Tue-@WAS (Hernandez), Sun-@FLA (Sanchez)
52. Ubaldo Jimenez (COL) -- Fri-@NYY (Burnett)
53. Scott Baker (MIN) -- Fri-@MIL (Wolf)
54. Gio Gonzalez (OAK) -- Wed-@NYM (Dickey)
55. Mat Latos (SD) -- Tue-@BOS (Beckett)
56. Jake Arrieta (BAL) -- Mon-@PIT (Morton), Sun-CIN (Cueto)
57. Jason Vargas (SEA) -- Sat-@FLA (Volstad)
58. Carlos Carrasco (CLE) -- Fri-@SF (Sanchez)
59. Chris Narveson (MIL) -- Mon-TB (Niemann), Sun-MIN (Pavano)
60. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Tue-@LAD (Billingsley)
61. Matt Garza (CHC) -- Tue-@CHW (Buehrle)
62. James Shields (TB) -- Sat-@HOU (Norris)
63. Ryan Dempster (CHC) -- Fri-@KC (Mazzaro)
64. Carl Pavano (MIN) -- Tue-@SF (Bumgarner), Sun-@MIL (Narveson)
65. Chris Capuano (NYM) -- Thu-OAK (Godfrey)
66. Justin Masterson (CLE) -- Sat-@SF (Cain)
67. Zach Britton (BAL) -- Wed-@PIT (Correia)
68. Ricky Nolasco (FLA) -- Fri-SEA (Hernandez)
69. R.A. Dickey (NYM) -- Wed-OAK (Gonzalez)
70. Edinson Volquez (CIN) -- Fri-@BAL (Matusz)
71. Trevor Cahill (OAK) -- Sat-@PHI (TBD)
72. A.J. Burnett (NYY) -- Fri-COL (Jimenez)
73. Chad Billingsley (LAD) -- Tue-DET (Scherzer)
74. John Lackey (BOS) -- Wed-SD (Richard)
75. Colby Lewis (TEX) -- Wed-HOU (Myers)

Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
J.A. Happ (HOU) -- Mon-@TEX (Holland), Sun-TB (Niemann)
Livan Hernandez (WAS) -- Tue-SEA (Fister), Sun-@CHW (Floyd)
Derek Holland (TEX) -- Mon-HOU (Happ), Sun-NYM (Gee)
Kyle McClellan (STL) -- Tue-PHI (Halladay), Sun-TOR (Romero)
Andrew Miller (BOS) -- Mon-SD (LeBlanc), Sun-@PIT (Morton)
Jeff Niemann (TB) -- Mon-@MIL (Narveson), Sun-@HOU (Happ)
Josh Outman (OAK) -- Tue-@NYM (Gee), Sun-@PHI (Halladay)

No-thank-yous, among two-starts:
Fausto Carmona (CLE) -- Mon-COL (Nicasio), Sun-@SF (Bumgarner)
Luke Hochevar (KC) -- Tue-ARI (Saunders), Sun-CHC (Zambrano)
Wade LeBlanc (SD) -- Mon-@BOS (Miller), Sun-ATL (Hudson)
Charlie Morton (PIT) -- Mon-BAL (Arrieta), Sun-BOS (Miller)
Juan Nicasio (COL) -- Mon-@CLE (Carmona), Sun-@NYY (Nova)
Ivan Nova (NYY) -- Mon-@CIN (Cueto), Sun-COL (Nicasio)
Brad Penny (DET) -- Mon-@LAD (Kershaw), Sun-ARI (Saunders)
Joe Saunders (ARI) -- Tue-@KC (Hochevar), Sun-@DET (Penny)

One-start sleepers:
Mark Buehrle (CHW) -- Tue-CHC (Garza)
Kevin Correia (PIT) -- Wed-BAL (Britton)
Jeremy Guthrie (BAL) -- Tue-@PIT (McDonald)
Jason Hammel (COL) -- Wed-@CLE (Tomlin)
Matt Harrison (TEX) -- Fri-NYM (Pelfrey)
John Lannan (WAS) -- Wed-SEA (Bedard)
Jason Marquis (WAS) -- Thu-SEA (Pineda)
Randy Wells (CHC) -- Sat-@KC (Duffy)

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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