Commentary

Orioles, Pirates get eight-game weeks

Updated: August 21, 2011, 10:17 AM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

Fantasy Forecaster updated Sunday, Aug. 21 at 10:17 a.m. ET.

On tap: Rain, rain, go away, baseball teams are gonna pay … and dearly, beginning with this week and for the remainder of the year, as those 30 rainouts in the first seven weeks of the 2011 season are now coming back to haunt teams in the form of doubleheaders and off-day make-ups.

Fantasy Forecaster

There are three scheduled doubleheaders this week -- Milwaukee Brewers at Pittsburgh Pirates on Monday, Seattle Mariners at Cleveland Indians on Tuesday and New York Yankees at Baltimore Orioles on Saturday -- marking this as one of two remaining "weeks"/scoring periods the entire year where, at the time of our fantasy league lineup deadlines, there were at least that many; Week 25 (or the extended 10-day, season-ending scoring period that concludes championship matchups in ESPN standard leagues) is the other. There is, in fact, only one more week all season in which there isn't a scheduled doubleheader: Week 24 (Sept. 12-18), the first half of those aforementioned ESPN championship matchups. (Quick tip: Tuck that away as a confidence builder in the event you struggle in Week 24, as there'll be a lot more baseball played in Week 25 to potentially catch you up.)

What this does is skew the balance of total games in weekly leagues -- especially this week -- meaning more quantitative advantages. For example, this week, two teams, the Pirates and Orioles, will play eight times, whereas three teams, the Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Angels and San Diego Padres, will play only five times. In daily leagues it provides quantitative advantages on Monday, Tuesday and Saturday, hittingwise to the Indians, who draw the Mariners' Blake Beavan and a spot starter as Tuesday opponents, and the Yankees, who most likely face the Orioles' Zach Britton and Alfredo Simon on Saturday. Pitchingwise it again benefits the Indians, who host the light-hitting Mariners, and the Brewers, who travel to Pittsburgh for two favorable Monday matchups.

Reminder: Fantasy owners get a fortunate deadline extension on Monday, as Brewers-Pirates, the first game of the week, begins a straight doubleheader with a 5:05 p.m. ET start. Here are this week's other scheduled first pitches by day: Tuesday 1:05 p.m. ET, Wednesday 12:05 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 20 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 Indians continue to hang in the American League Central race, and it's weeks like this in which they need to pile on the W's in order to make up ground. They play all seven games at home, where they have nine quality starts, a 2.66 ERA and 1.05 WHIP as a pitching staff in their past 13 games, and the opposing Mariners and Kansas City Royals hardly sport the most threatening offenses. The Mariners this season rank dead last in baseball in runs per game (3.39) and team OPS (.635), while the Royals have so-so, 4.06-.709 numbers in those categories in their past 88 contests. Two-start pitcher Fausto Carmona has restored much of his fantasy stock since the All-Star break; he has five quality starts, a 2.63 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in six starts. Closer Chris Perez's stock is also trending upward; he's 4-for-4 in save chances with 6 1/3 shutout innings in his past six appearances.

But it's David Huff who is one of the week's most attractive one-start sleepers. Between the Indians and Triple-A Columbus, the left-hander has a 7-2 record, 2.62 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in his past 13 starts. The Royals, meanwhile, have a team OPS 19 points lower against lefties (.710) than righties (.729).

• Avoid Oakland Athletics pitchers at all costs, not only because they have a 4.98 ERA as a team since the All-Star break, but because their matchups -- three apiece at New York's Yankee Stadium and Boston's Fenway Park -- are most precarious. Trevor Cahill and Gio Gonzalez, the Athletics' hottest starters in the first half, are a combined 2-10 with a 7.00 ERA and 1.73 WHIP In 13 second-half starts, and are clear no-gos this week. Look at the career ERAs of the team's six starters at their scheduled venues: Brandon McCarthy (13.50, 1 GS at Yankee Stadium; 4.22, 3 G's, 2 GS at Fenway Park), Cahill (27.00, 2 GS), Rich Harden (6.00, 2 GS), Gonzalez (5.23, 2 GS), Guillermo Moscoso (3.00 ERA, 2 relief appearances). Yuck.

• Go, go Arizona Diamondbacks! The Diamondbacks continue to maintain a stronghold on the National League West race, and much of it is attributable to their pitching, which combined has 16 wins, a 3.86 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in their past 24 games. Ian Kennedy continues to play the leading-man role, with a 6-1 record, six quality starts, a 2.60 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in seven starts since the All-Star break, but there are also other individual matchups to exploit this week. Two-start pitcher Joe Saunders has a 3.00 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in his two starts versus the Padres (his Saturday opponent) this season, and a 2.05 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in three career turns against the Washington Nationals (his Monday foe). Josh Collmenter, who faces the Padres at Chase Field on Friday, has a 6-3 record, 3.02 ERA and 0.85 WHIP in 12 home games (8 starts). Even rookie Wade Miley, who had a stunning 9.28 K's-per-nine ratio to go along with a 3.64 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in eight starts for Triple-A Reno, warrants a look against the Nationals (his Thursday opponent), who have the majors' fourth-worst team OPS against lefties (.660).

• This is a week in which the Brewers could take a commanding lead in the NL Central race, with a favorable schedule ahead: a four-game set at Pittsburgh's PNC Park, followed by three at home versus the Chicago Cubs, whom the Brewers swept in a three-game series at home July 26-28. Remember when the Brewers, behind Yovani Gallardo, got pounded in a 12-3 loss in their first game after the All-Star break? Since then, this team has 24 wins, 24 quality starts, a 2.41 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 32 games, with nary a weak link in the bunch. You read that correctly: Tuesday starter Marco Estrada has back-to-back solid outings, including five shutout frames against these Pirates on Aug. 13; and if it's prospect Wily Peralta who gets the call for one of Monday's doubleheader starts -- though it appears that Chris Narveson will be ready to take that turn -- even Peralta warrants a look. After all, he has a 3.32 ERA, 1.24 WHIP and 9.09 K's-per-nine ratio in 23 starts between Double- and Triple-A, and 2.08-0.77-11.77 numbers in those categories in his first two starts for Triple-A Nashville.

Also favorable: Colorado Rockies, Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Cardinals, San Francisco Giants
Also unfavorable: Angels, Pirates, Padres

For more insight into Week 20 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

• Eight games is a substantial advantage for an offense in a weekly fantasy league, especially one like the Orioles, who rank first in home runs (46) and 12th in runs per game (4.58) since the All-Star break. Orioles hitters bring some thump, especially the two hottest hands since the break, Adam Jones (.318/345/.566 in 33 games) and Nick Markakis (.273/.336/.492 in 30). They are hardly the only viable fantasy choices this week. J.J. Hardy, who has five homers and 13 RBIs in 13 games in August, remains a must-start. Freshly healed Vladimir Guerrero is a .357 hitter with five RBIs in 10 games against the Yankees this season. And Matt Wieters, in spite of his season-long struggles, is a respectable .278/.339/.420 hitter in 58 home games. All five are worth slotting into your lineup for the extra at-bats.

• The Indians' bats match up every bit as nicely as do their arms; they face the team with the worst ERA (Mariners, 5.16) and ninth-worst ERA (Royals, 4.35) since the All-Star break, all at home, where they have an OPS 40 points higher (.731) than on the road (.691). This is a team that needs to pick up the pace following the unexpected loss of Jason Kipnis; this is a fantastic opportunity for Jason Donald. Donald is a .310/.414/.488 lifetime hitter in 99 plate appearances against left-handers and, sure enough, the Indians will face three of them this week. Another sleeper note: Jack Hannahan is a .500/.600/1.083 hitter in 15 career PAs against Wednesday opponent Felix Hernandez.

• As with the Indians, the Diamondbacks get the thumbs-up for their matchups on both sides of the ball. Sure, their bats ran cold during their Aug. 16-18, three-game series at Philadelphia, but they also faced Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee in two of the three contests, so forgive them their mediocre numbers. Matchups against Nationals and Padres pitching are far softer by comparison, and that they'll face four left-handed starters presents good news for Willie Bloomquist (.308/.370/.385 against that side), Ryan Roberts (.277/.402/.545) and Chris Young (.296/.373/.583). All three of them have struggled so far in August, but this is the ideal week to get each of them back into your active lineup.

• It's a recurring theme this week that the teams with the best pitching matchups are the ones with the best hitting matchups as well, and the Brewers are the third such example. Why so surprised? When you're facing such bottom-feeders as the Mariners, Padres and Royals, and in this case an ice-cold foe in the Pirates, of course you're going to stack up well across the board. Generally speaking, Brewers hitters are obvious fantasy decisions, but there are three hot hands you might not be aware of: Yuniesky Betancourt, a .306/.333/.452 hitter in 16 games in August; Jonathan Lucroy, a .292/.358/.438 hitter in 15 games in the month; and Casey McGahee, .293/.349/.517 in 15 games during the same time span.

Also favorable: Cincinnati Reds, Yankees
Unfavorable: White Sox, New York Mets, Athletics, Padres

Weather report

Weatherproof games: Royals at Blue Jays (3, Tue-Thu); Rays at Blue Jays (3, Fri-Sun); Cubs at Brewers (3, Fri-Sun); Padres at Diamondbacks (3, Fri-Sun); White Sox at Mariners (3, Fri-Sun); Tigers at Rays (4, Mon-Thu).

Tristan's Week 20 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) -- Mon-@TB (Niemann), Sat-@MIN (Pavano)
2. Zack Greinke (MIL) -- Mon-@PIT, Gm. 1 (Karstens), Sun-CHC (Coleman)
3. Matt Cain (SF) -- Tue-SD (Latos), Sun-HOU (Norris)
4. Chris Carpenter (STL) -- Mon-LAD (Eovaldi), Sat-PIT (Karstens)
5. David Price (TB) -- Tue-DET (Penny), Sun-@TOR (Morrow)
6. Johnny Cueto (CIN) -- Tue-@FLA (Nolasco), Sun-WAS (Zimmermann)
7. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Wed-SD (Stauffer)
8. Roy Halladay (PHI) -- Sun-FLA (Nolasco)
9. Cliff Lee (PHI) -- Mon-NYM (Niese)
10. Ian Kennedy (ARI) -- Tue-@WAS (Zimmermann), Sun-SD (Luebke)
11. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Tue-@STL (Lohse)
12. Brandon Morrow (TOR) -- Tue-KC (Chen), Sun-TB (Price)
13. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Wed-@CLE (Tomlin)
14. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Wed-OAK (Cahill)
15. Ricky Romero (TOR) -- Wed-KC (Hochevar)
16. Tim Hudson (ATL) -- Fri-@NYM (Capuano)
17. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Fri-OAK (Gonzalez)
18. Mat Latos (SD) -- Tue-@SF (Cain)
19. C.J. Wilson (TEX) -- Mon-BOS (Bedard), Sat-LAA (Pineiro)
20. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Wed-CHW (Stewart)
21. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Sat-CHC (Dempster)
22. Ryan Dempster (CHC) -- Mon-ATL (Jurrjens), Sat-@MIL (Gallardo)
23. Justin Masterson (CLE) -- Tue-SEA, Gm. 1 (Beavan)
24. Madison Bumgarner (SF) -- Fri-HOU (Sosa)
25. Jeff Niemann (TB) -- Mon-DET (Verlander), Sat-@TOR (Perez)
26. Dan Haren (LAA) -- Fri-@TEX (Holland)
27. Ubaldo Jimenez (CLE) -- Sat-KC (Duffy)
28. Jhoulys Chacin (COL) -- Mon-HOU (Myers), Sun-@LAD (Eovaldi)
29. Ervin Santana (LAA) -- Tue-CHW (Buehrle), Sun-@TEX (Lewis)
30. Shaun Marcum (MIL) -- Wed-@PIT (Correia)
31. John Danks (CHW) -- Sat-@SEA (Pineda)
32. Daniel Hudson (ARI) -- Wed-@WAS (Hernandez)
33. James Shields (TB) -- Fri-@TOR (Alvarez)
34. Colby Lewis (TEX) -- Tue-BOS (Lackey), Sun-LAA (Santana)
35. Jordan Zimmermann (WAS) -- Tue-ARI (Kennedy), Sun-@CIN (Cueto)
36. Jake Peavy (CHW) -- Fri-@SEA (Furbush)
37. Ryan Vogelsong (SF) -- Thu-HOU (Lyles)
38. Kyle Lohse (STL) -- Tue-LAD (Kershaw), Sun-PIT (Ohlendorf)
39. Hiroki Kuroda (LAD) -- Wed-@STL (Garcia)
40. Josh Beckett (BOS) -- Wed-@TEX (Harrison)
41. Gavin Floyd (CHW) -- Sun-@SEA (Vargas)
42. Jair Jurrjens (ATL) -- Mon-@CHC (Dempster), Sat-@NYM (Dickey)
43. Brandon Beachy (ATL) -- Thu-@CHC (Garza)
44. Josh Tomlin (CLE) -- Wed-SEA (Hernandez)
45. Matt Garza (CHC) -- Thu-ATL (Beachy)
46. Randy Wolf (MIL) -- Fri-CHC (Lopez)
47. Phil Hughes (NYY) -- Thu-OAK (Harden)
48. Cory Luebke (SD) -- Sun-@ARI (Kennedy)
49. Erik Bedard (BOS) -- Mon-@TEX (Wilson), Sat-OAK (Moscoso)
50. Roy Oswalt (PHI) -- Sat-FLA (Sanchez)
51. Ricky Nolasco (FLA) -- Tue-CIN (Cueto), Sun-@PHI (Halladay)
52. Ted Lilly (LAD) -- Fri-COL (Rogers)
53. Jason Vargas (SEA) -- Mon-@CLE (Carmona), Sun-CHW (Floyd)
54. Jaime Garcia (STL) -- Wed-LAD (Kuroda)
55. Jeremy Hellickson (TB) -- Thu-DET (Fister)
56. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Wed-@TB (Davis)
57. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Fri-FLA (Hensley)
58. Tim Stauffer (SD) -- Wed-@SF (Lincecum)
59. Fausto Carmona (CLE) -- Mon-SEA (Vargas), Sun-KC (Chen)
60. Mark Buehrle (CHW) -- Tue-@LAA (Santana)
61. Anibal Sanchez (FLA) -- Sat-@PHI (Oswalt)
62. Javier Vazquez (FLA) -- Wed-CIN (Arroyo)
63. Mike Leake (CIN) -- Sat-WAS (Detwiler)
64. Bartolo Colon (NYY) -- Tue-OAK (McCarthy), Sun-@BAL (Guthrie)
65. Homer Bailey (CIN) -- Thu-@FLA (Volstad)
66. Alexi Ogando (TEX) -- Thu-BOS (Wakefield)
67. Michael Pineda (SEA) -- Sat-CHW (Danks)
68. Brett Cecil (TOR) -- Thu-KC (Francis)
69. Chad Billingsley (LAD) -- Sat-COL (Millwood)
70. Mike Minor (ATL) -- Tue-@CHC (Coleman), Sun-@NYM (Niese)
71. Vance Worley (PHI) -- Tue-NYM (Gee)
72. Wandy Rodriguez (HOU) -- Wed-@COL (Cook)
73. John Lackey (BOS) -- Tue-@TEX (Lewis), Sun-OAK (McCarthy)
74. R.A. Dickey (NYM) -- Sat-ATL (Jurrjens)
75. Derek Holland (TEX) -- Fri-LAA (Haren)

Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
Bruce Chen (KC) -- Tue-@TOR (Morrow), Sun-@CLE (Carmona)
Nate Eovaldi (LAD) -- Mon-@STL (Carpenter), Sun-COL (Chacin)
Brandon McCarthy (OAK) -- Tue-@NYY (Colon), Sun-@BOS (Lackey)
Brett Myers (HOU) -- Mon-@COL (Chacin), Sat-@SF (Sanchez)
Jonathon Niese (NYM) -- Mon-@PHI (Lee), Sun-ATL (Minor)
Bud Norris (HOU) -- Tue-@COL (White), Sun-@SF (Cain)
Carl Pavano (MIN) -- Mon-BAL (Britton), Sat-DET (Verlander)
Brad Penny (DET) -- Tue-@TB (Price), Sun-@MIN (Duensing)
Joe Saunders (ARI) -- Mon-@WAS (Detwiler), Sat-SD (Harang)

No-thank-yous, among two-starts:
Zach Britton (BAL) -- Mon-@MIN (Pavano), Sat-NYY, Gm. 1 (Nova)
Casey Coleman (CHC) -- Tue-ATL (Minor), Sun-@MIL (Greinke)
Ross Detwiler (WAS) -- Mon-ARI (Saunders), Sat-@CIN (Leake)
Brian Duensing (MIN) -- Tue-BAL (Guthrie), Sun-DET (Penny)
Jeremy Guthrie (BAL) -- Tue-@MIN (Duensing), Sun-NYY (Colon)
Jeff Karstens (PIT) -- Mon-MIL, Gm. 1 (Greinke), Sat-@STL (Carpenter)
Ross Ohlendorf (PIT) -- Tue-MIL (Estrada), Sun-@STL (Lohse)

One-start sleepers:
Josh Collmenter (ARI) -- Fri-SD (LeBlanc)
Marco Estrada (MIL) -- Tue-@PIT (Ohlendorf)
David Huff (CLE) -- Fri-KC (Paulino)
Edwin Jackson (STL) -- Thu-PIT (Morton)
Wade Miley (ARI) -- Thu-@WAS (Lannan)
Ivan Nova (NYY) -- Sat-@BAL, Gm. 1 (Britton)
Felipe Paulino (KC) -- Fri-@CLE (Huff)
Esmil Rogers (COL) -- Fri-@LAD (Lilly)
Jake Westbrook (STL) -- Fri-PIT (McDonald)

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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