Commentary

White Sox pitchers face friendly foes

Updated: July 3, 2011, 3:15 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

Fantasy Forecaster updated Sunday, July 3 at 3:15 p.m. ET.

On tap: Baseball's traditional "first half" -- remember that we already passed the mathematical midway point on June 30 -- concludes, as we return to intraleague play with a full slate of games for 28 of the 30 teams; the Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates are the only two that will play six. That means a slew of two-start pitchers, and as is sometimes the case in the week directly preceding the All-Star break, midweek starters could sneak in relief work during the first-half-concluding weekend. Wednesday workers like Josh Collmenter, Kyle Kendrick, Dustin Moseley, Justin Masterson and Tim Wakefield, all of whom have past relief experience, seem like obvious candidates. This is a week where you'll want to pick quality of matchup over quantity with your pitchers.

Fantasy Forecaster

Derek Jeter, six hits away from 3,000 for his career, is expected to rejoin the New York Yankees on Monday, giving him ample time to set the milestone both before the All-Star break and probably during the team's weekend series at home versus the Tampa Bay Rays. Jeter, who is expected to play two minor league games in Double-A Trenton July 2-3, is ticketed for the top spot in the lineup upon his return, and the chase for 3,000 could be a motivational factor.

The Cincinnati Reds, two games back of the National League Central-leading Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals (those two teams are tied for first) as of the morning of July 1, get a crack at both of their division rivals this week, making a three-game stop in St. Louis, followed by a four-game trip to Milwaukee. That division race could tighten, being that the Reds are 7-2 against the Brewers this season (and 18-5 dating back to 2010), and 4-2 against a Cardinals team that is in the midst of a 6-12 funk (71 runs scored, or 3.94 per game, during that time).

Reminder: For those of you in weekly-transactions leagues, there is an early start time to Week 14, as the Monday holiday brings with it 10 games (out of a full 15) that begin earlier than the traditional 7:05 p.m. ET start; this week's Monday deadline is at 1:05 p.m. ET. Here are this week's other scheduled first pitches by day: Tuesday 7:05 p.m. ET, Wednesday 1:10 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 14 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

• Here's a fact that might surprise you: The Chicago White Sox, as a team, have a 3.42 ERA and 1.23 WHIP at home, both of those 12th in the majors, and both of those quite a bit better than their 4.23/1.34 road numbers in the categories. That 0.81-ERA differential is actually sixth-greatest in baseball and remember, the White Sox call a homer-friendly ballpark, U.S. Cellular Field, their home. (For specifics, U.S. Cellular ranked fourth in terms of homers on our Park Factor page as of July 1.) This is a staff that knows how to succeed in its cozy venue, with every single one of their current five starters boasting a lifetime ERA of at least 3.85 (that's Gavin Floyd's) and four of their five with a WHIP of 1.27 or better (Edwin Jackson's is 1.39). Jake Peavy, a so-so performer in that June 30 assignment at Colorado's Coors Field (6 IP, 7 H, 4 ER), gets a pair of bounce-back matchups this week; he's 4-2 with a 3.89 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in six career starts versus the Kansas City Royals, whom he'll face Tuesday, and has a 2.84 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in a pair of quality starts in his career against the Minnesota Twins. This is a week to roll with all five White Sox starters.

• Whoa, the Texas Rangers, another team that calls a hitter-friendly ballpark its home, also gets a nod for its pitching matchups in a seven-game week entirely at home? In one bold word: Yes. And that's despite the fact that their 4.55 ERA at home ranks 28th, while their 1.39 WHIP places 25th. Remember, my advice regarding matchups exploitation is relative; this means that I see the Rangers' prospects being better than in a typical week, not that I see them out-pitching, say, the San Francisco Giants. Consider that in the month of June, the Rangers' current five starters had 16 quality starts in 26 tries (61.5 percent) with a 3.91 ERA and 1.33 WHIP, with those numbers mostly held back from the "elite" class due to the occasional implosion by Colby Lewis or Alexi Ogando. Ogando is the pitcher to fear of the five; two of his past three outings were mediocre and the Rangers are considering resting him leading up to the All-Star break, meaning his Wednesday assignment could in fact be in jeopardy. Matt Harrison gets the spotlight: He has seven quality starts in his past nine tries, has a respectable 3.86 ERA at home and of his two matchups, the tougher one (Tuesday versus the Baltimore Orioles) is against an O's team that has a lower OPS against lefties (.717) than righties (.728) and that has scored only 41 runs in its past 11 games (3.73 per) against a left-handed starter.

• The Los Angeles Dodgers have been in a bit of a pitching funk of late, going 10-15 with only nine quality starts (36.0 QS%), a 4.38 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in their past 25 games, but in their defense, a rough schedule has contributed: Three at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park, three at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park, four at Colorado's Coors Field, then three more each at home against the Reds' and Detroit Tigers' lineups. (That's 16 of the 25 games, or 64.0 percent, in other words.) A return trip home to host the New York Mets for four and San Diego Padres for three should suit them; and that's despite the fact that the Mets are coming off an outstanding June. The two-start pitchers, Ted Lilly and Rubby De La Rosa, are the risky ones; in NL-only leagues they could be worth your while. But it's two of the midweek workers who stand to bounce back: Chad Billingsley has six quality starts in eight tries at home, with a 2.81 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in those games; and Hiroki Kuroda is 6-of-9 in quality starts with a 3.34 ERA and 1.16 WHIP at home.

• Speaking of trickier schedules, one of the reasons the Houston Astros were 8-19 as a team with a 4.61 ERA in June, that ERA third-worst in baseball, was their schedule: Three apiece against the pre-Albert Pujols-injury Cardinals and Rays, and six against the Rangers, who have scored the fifth-most runs in the majors. Their rotation is lined up perfectly in fantasy: Their two-start pitchers are Brett Myers, who has three consecutive quality starts, the past two against those very same Rangers, and Wandy Rodriguez, who has a 1.80 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in four starts since returning from the disabled list on June 13. Incidentally, Myers won both of his starts at Pittsburgh's PNC Park, where he'll pitch Monday, in 2010; Rodriguez, who starts there on Tuesday, won his May 6 start there already this season. As for those Florida Marlins matchups? Well, those are no-brainers for an opposing starter right now. The Marlins, after all, scored the fewest runs in the majors in June (81).

Also favorable: Giants, Phillies, Seattle Mariners
Unfavorable: Arizona Diamondbacks, Cleveland Indians, Orioles

For more insight into Week 14 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

• Just because the White Sox know how to pitch at home doesn't mean their opponents do; why else do you think U.S. Cellular rates among the best home-run parks in baseball? It's simple: White Sox hitters have belted 47 home runs at home, ninth-most in the majors, compared to 35 on the road; and 404 at U.S. Cellular since 2008, compared to 274 on the road. The White Sox's six projected opposing starters have combined for just 10 quality starts in 23 career tries (43.5 percent) at U.S. Cellular, plus a 4.53 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 4.90 strikeouts per nine -- and, get this, 1.74 home runs allowed per nine -- in their 28 games there overall. Yes, White Sox hitters like Gordon Beckham, Adam Dunn, Juan Pierre and Alex Rios have struggled for most if not all of the season, but if there's any set of matchups that could help each of them, it's these. But it's red-hot hitters like Paul Konerko (major league-leading 10 homers, plus .369 AVG, 20 RBIs in June) and A.J. Pierzynski (.351 June AVG) who should thrive. Digging deep, Brent Lillibridge has starts in each of the White Sox's past nine games against a left-handed starter, he's a .265/.345/.510 hitter against lefties in 2011 and the White Sox are slated to face three southpaw starters.

• Though they don't have the Rogers Centre -- a top-five venue in baseball both in terms of runs scored and home runs -- to help them this week, the Toronto Blue Jays still match up well during their road trip to Boston (three games) and Cleveland (four). Jon Lester is the toughest starter the Blue Jays will face; the other six are all right-handed, which bodes well for left-handed Blue Jays Adam Lind, Corey Patterson and Eric Thames. Thames is a major sleeper, having hit safely in five games since his call-up (.318/.318/.682) after managing .352/.423/.610 rates in the minors. An added nugget for fantasy owners: The Blue Jays have 15 stolen bases in 19 tries in nine games against the Boston Red Sox this season.

• The Washington Nationals might be struggling initially under their new leadership, dropping three games at Los Angeles under new manager Davey Johnson, but one bad series should hardly erase what was an encouraging 17-10 June. It was during that month that: Michael Morse hit eight home runs with 22 RBIs and 21 runs scored, all of those top-10 numbers in the majors; Danny Espinosa had his best month as a big leaguer, managing .274/.345/.472 rates with five homers and steals; and Roger Bernadina got back on the fantasy map with .278/.327/.412 rates, three homers and four steals. All three should be in your lineup in a seven-games-at-home week, as should Laynce Nix, being that the Nationals face nothing but right-handed starters. Nix is a .306/.331/.571 hitter against righties this season.

• It's a stat that bears repeating, especially if you were of the belief that the Astros were one of the game's worst-hitting teams: They rank 18th in runs scored (328) and 19th in OPS (.700), so theirs is hardly a barren wasteland of an offense. Speedy Michael Bourn is the No. 11 hitter on our Player Rater and Hunter Pence ranks 28th, but it's more than just those two who should grab your attention. Carlos Lee is coming off a .303/.388/.505 June, Jeff Keppinger has restored his NL-only and deep-mixed appeal with .300/.317/.370 June numbers and Matt Downs can be of help if you're particularly mindful of lineups in daily leagues.

Also favorable: Boston Red Sox, Brewers, Texas Rangers
Unfavorable: Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Angels, Rays

Weather report

Weatherproof games: Diamondbacks at Brewers (3, Mon-Wed); Reds at Brewers (4, Thu-Sun).

Tristan's Week 14 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. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Tue-@LAA (Haren), Sun-@KC (Francis)
2. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Mon-SD (Richard), Sat-NYM (Capuano)
3. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Tue-@OAK (Cahill), Sun-@LAA (Haren)
4. Matt Cain (SF) -- Tue-SD (Stauffer), Sun-NYM (Pelfrey)
5. James Shields (TB) -- Tue-@MIN (Baker), Sun-@NYY (Sabathia)
6. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Tue-TOR (Cecil), Sun-BAL (TBD)
7. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Tue-@CLE (Carrasco), Sun-TB (Shields)
8. Cliff Lee (PHI) -- Sat-ATL (Hanson)
9. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Tue-@FLA (Volstad), Sun-ATL (Lowe)
10. Roy Halladay (PHI) -- Fri-ATL (Beachy)
11. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Thu-SEA (Fister)
12. Scott Baker (MIN) -- Tue-TB (Shields), Sun-@CHW (Peavy)
13. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Thu-NYM (Gee)
14. Jordan Zimmermann (WAS) -- Mon-CHC (Dempster), Sun-COL (Chacin)
15. Chris Carpenter (STL) -- Mon-CIN (Cueto), Sat-ARI (Hudson)
15. Daniel Hudson (ARI) -- Mon-@MIL (Marcum), Sat-@STL (Carpenter)
17. Johnny Cueto (CIN) -- Mon-@STL (Carpenter), Sat-@MIL (Marcum)
18. Michael Pineda (SEA) -- Mon-@OAK (McCarthy), Sat-@LAA (Pineiro)
19. Tommy Hanson (ATL) -- Mon-COL (Jimenez), Sat-@PHI (Lee)
20. David Price (TB) -- Mon-@MIN (Duensing), Sat-@NYY (Burnett)
21. Anibal Sanchez (FLA) -- Wed-PHI (Kendrick)
22. Wandy Rodriguez (HOU) -- Tue-@PIT (Karstens), Sun-@FLA (Volstad)
23. Tim Stauffer (SD) -- Tue-@SF (Cain), Sun-@LAD (Lilly)
24. Colby Lewis (TEX) -- Mon-BAL (Jakubauskas), Sat-OAK (McCarthy)
25. Dan Haren (LAA) -- Tue-DET (Verlander), Sun-SEA (Hernandez)
26. Jaime Garcia (STL) -- Tue-CIN (Volquez), Sun-ARI (Duke)
27. Josh Beckett (BOS) -- Fri-BAL (Britton)
28. Brett Myers (HOU) -- Mon-@PIT (Maholm), Sat-@FLA (Nolasco)
29. Trevor Cahill (OAK) -- Tue-SEA (Hernandez), Sun-@TEX (Harrison)
30. Tim Hudson (ATL) -- Thu-COL (Nicasio)
31. Ubaldo Jimenez (COL) -- Mon-@ATL (Hanson), Sat-@WAS (Marquis)
32. Carlos Carrasco (CLE) -- Tue-NYY (Sabathia), Sun-TOR (Cecil)
33. Ryan Dempster (CHC) -- Mon-@WAS (Zimmermann), Sat-@PIT (Correia)
34. Ian Kennedy (ARI) -- Fri-@STL (Lohse)
35. Brandon Beachy (ATL) -- Fri-@PHI (Halladay)
36. Gio Gonzalez (OAK) -- Fri-@TEX (Wilson)
37. Jake Peavy (CHW) -- Tue-KC (Paulino), Sun-MIN (Baker)
38. Jhoulys Chacin (COL) -- Tue-@ATL (Lowe), Sun-@WAS (Zimmermann)
39. A.J. Burnett (NYY) -- Mon-@CLE (Tomlin), Sat-TB (Price)
40. Bud Norris (HOU) -- Wed-@PIT (Morton)
41. Matt Harrison (TEX) -- Tue-BAL (TBD), Sun-OAK (Cahill)
42. C.J. Wilson (TEX) -- Fri-OAK (Gonzalez)
43. Ervin Santana (LAA) -- Fri-SEA (Beavan)
44. Jason Vargas (SEA) -- Wed-@OAK (Moscoso)
45. Ricky Nolasco (FLA) -- Mon-PHI (Worley), Sat-HOU (Myers)
46. Ricky Romero (TOR) -- Wed-@BOS (Wakefield)
47. Shaun Marcum (MIL) -- Mon-ARI (Hudson), Sat-CIN (Cueto)
48. Ryan Vogelsong (SF) -- Fri-NYM (Dickey)
49. Brandon Morrow (TOR) -- Mon-@BOS (Lackey), Sat-@CLE (Tomlin)
50. Jair Jurrjens (ATL) -- Wed-COL (Cook)
51. Matt Garza (CHC) -- Thu-@WAS (Hernandez)
52. Randy Wolf (MIL) -- Tue-ARI (Duke), Sun-CIN (Volquez)
53. Chad Billingsley (LAD) -- Fri-SD (Latos)
54. Edwin Jackson (CHW) -- Wed-KC (Chen)
55. Zack Greinke (MIL) -- Fri-CIN (Leake)
56. Philip Humber (CHW) -- Thu-MIN (Pavano)
57. Hiroki Kuroda (LAD) -- Wed-NYM (Niese)
58. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Wed-ARI (Collmenter)
59. Gavin Floyd (CHW) -- Fri-MIN (Blackburn)
60. Madison Bumgarner (SF) -- Wed-SD (Moseley)
61. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Thu-@KC (Duffy)
62. Mat Latos (SD) -- Fri-@LAD (Billingsley)
63. Derek Lowe (ATL) -- Tue-COL (Chacin), Sun-@PHI (Hamels)
64. Bartolo Colon (NYY) -- Thu-TB (Niemann)
65. Mike Leake (CIN) -- Fri-@MIL (Greinke)
66. Mike Pelfrey (NYM) -- Tue-@LAD (Lilly), Sun-@SF (Cain)
67. Doug Fister (SEA) -- Thu-@LAA (Weaver)
68. Francisco Liriano (MIN) -- Wed-TB (Davis)
69. Freddy Garcia (NYY) -- Fri-TB (Hellickson)
70. Mark Buehrle (CHW) -- Mon-KC (Francis), Sat-MIN (Duensing)
71. Dillon Gee (NYM) -- Thu-@LAD (Kershaw)
72. Ted Lilly (LAD) -- Tue-NYM (Pelfrey), Sun-SD (Stauffer)
73. Jeff Karstens (PIT) -- Tue-HOU (Rodriguez)
74. Chris Narveson (MIL) -- Thu-CIN (Bailey)
75. Wade Davis (TB) -- Wed-@MIN (Liriano)

Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
Chris Capuano (NYM) -- Mon-@LAD (De La Rosa), Sat-@SF (Lincecum)
Brian Duensing (MIN) -- Mon-TB (Price), Sat-@CHW (Buehrle)
Charlie Furbush (DET) -- Mon-@LAA (Pineiro), Sat-@KC (Hochevar)
John Lackey (BOS) -- Mon-TOR (Morrow), Sat-BAL (Jakubauskas)
Joel Pineiro (LAA) -- Mon-DET (Furbush), Sat-SEA (Pineda)
Clayton Richard (SD) -- Mon-@SF (Lincecum), Sat-@LAD (De La Rosa)
Josh Tomlin (CLE) -- Mon-NYY (Burnett), Sat-TOR (Morrow)

No-thank-yous, among two-starts:
Brett Cecil (TOR) -- Tue-@BOS (Lester), Sun-@CLE (Carrasco)
Rubby De La Rosa (LAD) -- Mon-NYM (Capuano), Sat-SD (Richard)
Zach Duke (ARI) -- Tue-@MIL (Wolf), Sun-@STL (Garcia)
Jeff Francis (KC) -- Mon-@CHW (Buehrle), Sun-DET (Verlander)
Chris Jakubauskas (BAL) -- Mon-@TEX (Lewis), Sat-@BOS (Lackey)
Paul Maholm (PIT) -- Mon-HOU (Myers), Sun-CHC (Ortiz)
Brandon McCarthy (OAK) -- Mon-SEA (Pineda), Sat-@TEX (Lewis)
Ramon Ortiz (CHC) -- Tue-@WAS (Detwiler), Sun-@PIT (Maholm)
Edinson Volquez (CIN) -- Tue-@STL (Garcia), Sun-@MIL (Wolf)
Chris Volstad (FLA) -- Tue-PHI (Hamels), Sun-HOU (Rodriguez)

One-start sleepers:
Kevin Correia (PIT) -- Sat-CHC (Dempster)
R.A. Dickey (NYM) -- Fri-@SF (Vogelsong)
Derek Holland (TEX) -- Thu-OAK (Harden)
Kyle Lohse (STL) -- Fri-ARI (Kennedy)
Cory Luebke (SD) -- Thu-@SF (Zito)
James McDonald (PIT) -- Fri-CHC (Lopez)
Guillermo Moscoso (OAK) -- Wed-SEA (Vargas)
Barry Zito (SF) -- Thu-SD (Luebke)

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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