Commentary

Irene clouds up the forecast

Updated: August 29, 2011, 11:00 AM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

Fantasy Forecaster updated Monday, Aug. 29 at 11:00 a.m. ET.

On tap: Hurricane Irene has clouded the upcoming fantasy week, not because of the threat of it washing out Monday games, but because of its impact on Aug. 27-28 games that will in turn affect teams' rotations. Two Aug. 28 games have already been moved up to become Aug. 27 doubleheaders -- Oakland Athletics at Boston Red Sox and Florida Marlins at Philadelphia Phillies -- and both the New York Mets' Aug. 27-28 games have been postponed. There's also little chance we'll make it through the weekend without at least one more postponement in Baltimore, Boston or Philadelphia. Expect pitching rotations to change; we'll keep you updated, but this is one week in which they might be as fluid as any.

Fantasy Forecaster

Another reason that's true: Rosters expand from 25 to 40 players Thursday, at which point we'll see an influx of prospects and players currently on the disabled list, meaning roles might change midweek and even more rotations might endure further adjustments.

Speaking of postponements, there is yet another doubleheader this week, Marlins at Mets on Monday, which creates an eight-game week for both teams. Fortunately, there is no five-game week on the schedule; 14 teams, however, play only six times and another 14 play seven.

Reminder: Despite the Marlins-Mets doubleheader Monday, fantasy owners get a fortunate deadline extension, as that is a single-admission/straight doubleheader with a 4:10 p.m. ET start; that is your first lineup deadline of the week. Here are this week's other scheduled first pitches by day: Tuesday 7:05 p.m. ET, Wednesday 1:05 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.

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 21 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 Los Angeles Angels might have pushed their top starting pitchers -- Dan Haren, Ervin Santana and Jered Weaver -- during their Aug. 26-28 series at Texas, using both Santana and Weaver on three days' rest, but the move becomes all the more understandable when you realize that they begin this week with a four-game series at Seattle's Safeco Field. The Angels' current five starters -- Haren, Santana, Weaver, Joel Pineiro and Jerome Williams -- are a combined 48-36 with a 3.88 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 128 career games (104 starts) at Safeco; Haren (4-1, 2.26 ERA in 8 GS) is their greatest standout there. Having their best three go in the weekend prior sets up Pineiro and Williams as the team's two-start pitchers, something that detracts from this staff's appeal in, say, Baseball Challenge, but it also presents owners in deeper leagues a chance at two widely available sleepers; Pineiro is owned in 7.2 percent of ESPN leagues and Williams 0.4 percent.

• The Detroit Tigers return home for a full week of soft matchups, hosting a Kansas City Royals team that has averaged 4.25 runs per game since the All-Star break, 16th in the majors, and Chicago White Sox team that has averaged 4.03, 22nd-most. Tigers pitchers are hitting a favorable portion of the schedule at the right time; they have six wins, zero losses, seven quality starts, a 2.38 ERA and 1.11 WHIP during their past nine games, Rick Porcello (3 2/3 IP, 7 H, 5 ER on Aug. 21) the only one to fail to record a quality start during that time. Brad Penny is your sleeper: He has defeated the White Sox, his Friday foe, in all three of his starts with a 2.89 ERA this season.

• New York Yankees starting pitchers have finally hit a rough patch in their season, and it's finally time to approach the individuals with a degree of caution. In August, they have 10 wins and 10 quality starts in 22 games, plus a 5.29 ERA and 1.39 WHIP. After completing a difficult weekend on the weather front in Baltimore -- an unexpected Monday doubleheader is always possible -- they head to Boston's Fenway Park, a venue at which Yankees starters have zero wins and one quality start in their past 11 games, plus a 7.14 ERA and 1.95 WHIP. Games against the rival Red Sox always means rotation shuffling, so we can't even be sure the assignments will remain in place. For example, A.J. Burnett is 0-for-6 in quality starts with three losses, a 10.61 ERA and 2.14 WHIP in his Yankees career at Fenway. Do the Yankees really want him starting there on Wednesday? Certainly fantasy owners don't. Phil Hughes, Tuesday's starter, has an 8.81 ERA in 17 1/3 career innings at Fenway. Freddy Garcia (Friday's starter) is 1-2 with a 6.06 ERA in three starts against the Toronto Blue Jays this season. This might be a week where it's CC Sabathia, Mariano Rivera [e] and nobody else.

• The Atlanta Braves will enter the week with plenty of rest -- they played Aug. 26 then aren't scheduled again until Tuesday, four days later -- but perhaps that's a plus. Brandon Beachy, Tim Hudson and Jair Jurrjens have spent time on the disabled list, and Jurrjens and Derek Lowe have dealt with some struggles in the past two months. Assuming the Braves remain on rotation following their weekend postponements, Jurrjens would line up as their two-start pitcher, getting both turns at home against weak-hitting opponents (Washington Nationals, Los Angeles Dodgers). He has a 3.15 lifetime ERA at Turner Field, compared to 3.54 everywhere else, and while his career ERA against the Nationals is a so-so 4.27 (11 GS), he's 3-1 with a 3.06 ERA and six career starts versus the Dodgers. Mike Minor is the Braves' sleeper; he has three consecutive wins with a 3.24 ERA, 1.26 WHIP and 11.34 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio.

Also favorable: Cleveland Indians, Athletics, Chicago Cubs, Dodgers, Mets
Also unfavorable: Red Sox, Texas Rangers, Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals

For more insight into Week 21 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

• Who needs white shirts? Sure, the Toronto Blue Jays are a noticeably more productive home than road team, averaging 5.00 runs per game with a .773 OPS at Rogers Centre compared to 4.38 and .699 on the road this season, but that still ranks them ninth and 14th in the majors, meaning they're still noticeably above average away from home. After finishing their weekend wraparound series versus the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday, they head to Baltimore's Camden Yards and New York's Yankee Stadium for three games apiece. In 12 games at those parks this season, they have .268/.323/.420 combined rates, their .743 OPS 44 points higher than their overall road number, and have scored 57 runs (4.75 per game). Rookie sensation Brett Lawrie began his big-league career in the Aug. 5-7 series at Baltimore; he was 5-for-11 with a home run. Edwin Encarnacion is a .311/.373/.590 lifetime hitter in 17 games at Camden Yards; Yunel Escobar is a .311/.364/.492 hitter in 15 games there. Meanwhile, at Yankee Stadium, Adam Lind is a .292/.346/.528 hitter in 19 career games, while J.P. Arencibia is 6-for-17 (.353 AVG) with a homer in five games.

• The Tigers also match up well on the hitting side, no surprise considering they have a team OPS 59 points higher at Comerica Park (.780) than on the road (.721), and have averaged 4.58 runs per game there, compared to 4.41 on the road. They have totaled 96 runs in 24 games against the Royals and White Sox so far this season, and these have been some of their standouts in those games: Alex Avila (.381/.426/.524 in 12 games versus the White Sox, .242/.324/.455 in 10 versus the Royals), Austin Jackson (.366/.395/.537 in nine versus White Sox), Jhonny Peralta (.410/.429/.692 in 11 versus Royals, .342/.409/.395 in 11 versus White Sox).

• Eight games is a substantial advantage for the Mets, who actually rank 10th in the majors in runs per game since the All-Star break (4.66). This isn't a barren landscape of an offense by any means; Lucas Duda (.321/.405/.589 since the All-Star break), Angel Pagan (.288/.321/.432), Ruben Tejada (.309/.397/.397) and Josh Thole (.280/.357/.413) are just four lesser-known names from this squad who belong in your lineup this week. But the sneaky Mets play this week is first baseman Nick Evans, a .409 hitter (9-for-22) with one home run in 10 games so far in August.

Also favorable: Angels, Yankees, Tampa Bay Rays, Phillies
Unfavorable: Minnesota Twins, Rangers, Reds, Colorado Rockies, Cardinals

Weather report

Weatherproof games: Pirates at Astros (3, Mon-Wed); Brewers at Astros (3, Fri-Sun); Rays at Blue Jays (1, Mon); Cardinals at Brewers (3, Tue-Thu); Rockies at Diamondbacks (3, Mon-Wed); Angels at Mariners (4, Mon-Thu); Orioles at Rays (3, Fri-Sun).

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

Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
Brett Cecil (TOR) -- Tue-@BAL (Guthrie), Sun-@NYY (Garcia)
Dillon Gee (NYM) -- Mon-FLA, Gm. 2 (Nolasco), Sun-@WAS (Hernandez)
Luke Hochevar (KC) -- Mon-@DET (Scherzer), Sat-CLE (Huff)
Edwin Jackson (STL) -- Tue-@MIL (Marcum), Sun-CIN (Arroyo)
John Lackey (BOS) -- Tue-NYY (Sabathia), Sun-TEX (Harrison)
Charlie Morton (PIT) -- Tue-@HOU (Sosa), Sun-@CHC (Wells)
Joel Pineiro (LAA) -- Mon-@SEA (Beavan), Sat-MIN (Duensing)
Alex White (COL) -- Mon-@ARI (Hudson), Sun-@SD (Latos)

No-thank-yous, among two-starts:
Blake Beavan (SEA) -- Mon-LAA (Pineiro), Sun-@OAK (Cahill)
Jeff Francis (KC) -- Tue-@DET (Fister), Sun-CLE (TBD)
Freddy Garcia (NYY) -- Mon-@BAL (Simon), Sun-TOR (Cecil)
Livan Hernandez (WAS) -- Tue-@ATL (Jurrjens), Sun-NYM (Gee)
David Huff (CLE) -- Mon-OAK (McCarthy), Sat-@KC (Hochevar)
Ross Ohlendorf (PIT) -- Mon-@HOU (Rodriguez), Sat-@CHC (Coleman)
Kevin Slowey (MIN) -- Mon-@CHW (Buehrle), Sun-@LAA (Williams)
Jerome Williams (LAA) -- Tue-@SEA (Vasquez), Sun-MIN (Slowey)

One-start sleepers:
Bruce Chen (KC) -- Fri-CLE (Masterson)
J.A. Happ (HOU) -- Wed-PIT (McDonald)
Kevin Millwood (COL) -- Fri-@SD (Harang)
Brad Penny (DET) -- Sat-CHW (Floyd)
Henry Sosa (HOU) -- Tue-PIT (Morton)
Anthony Swarzak (MIN) -- Tue-@CHW (Stewart)

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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