Commentary

Forecaster: April 23-29

Updated: April 22, 2012, 6:42 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

Forecaster updated Sunday, April 22 at 6:42 p.m. ET.

On tap: Pitching, pitching, pitching. It's the storyline of Week 3, be it from a team or individual angle. Two hot-starting pitching staffs, those of the Washington Nationals and Los Angeles Dodgers, battle in Dodger Stadium, where the Dodgers are 6-0 already this season (through April 19). The Nationals also make an early-week stop at San Diego's Petco Park, giving them an excellent chance at extending their string of outstanding starting pitching: Their starters have nine quality starts, a 2.08 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and an 8.10 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio through their first 14 games.

Fantasy Forecaster

Among individuals, Jamie Moyer, fresh off setting the record as the oldest pitcher in baseball history to win a game, actually gets two starts that might warrant a look in NL-only leagues: He'll pitch at Pittsburgh's PNC Park on Monday, then return home to Coors Field as he and his Colorado Rockies host the New York Mets. Meanwhile, Tim Hudson is on track to rejoin the Atlanta Braves on either April 29 or 30, the former falling within this scoring period.

ESPN leagues: Week 3

Week 3 in ESPN leagues will start slightly earlier than anticipated, due to the straight doubleheader on Monday between the San Francisco Giants and New York Mets, beginning at 4:10 p.m. ET. These are the start times of the first games each day:

Quick click by section, if you're seeking advice in a specific area:
Probable starting pitchers | Week 3 pitcher rankings | Pitching notes
Streamer's delight | Hitting ratings | Hitting notes

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 at least twice this week are in gold/beige boxes.

Tristan's Week 3 pitcher rankings: Top 75

1. Zack Greinke (MIL) -- Mon-HOU (Harrell), Sun-@STL (Garcia)
2. Roy Halladay (PHI) -- Fri-CHC (Maholm)
3. Madison Bumgarner (SF) -- Mon-@NYM, Gm. 2 (Gee), Sun-SD (Richard)
4. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Fri-@NYY (Nova)
5. Gio Gonzalez (WAS) -- Tue-@SD (Richard), Sun-@LAD (Capuano)
6. Matt Garza (CHC) -- Mon-STL (Garcia), Sun-@PHI (Kendrick)
7. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Fri-@CLE (Masterson)
8. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Mon-@TEX (Holland), Sun-DET (Scherzer)
9. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Fri-WAS (Detwiler)
10. Matt Cain (SF) -- Tue-@CIN (Latos)
11. Jordan Zimmermann (WAS) -- Wed-@SD (Wieland)
12. Stephen Strasburg (WAS) -- Sat-@LAD (Billingsley)
13. David Price (TB) -- Tue-LAA (Santana), Sun-@TEX (Lewis)
14. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Mon-@NYM, Gm. 1 (Batista), Sat-SD (Bass)
15. C.J. Wilson (LAA) -- Wed-@TB (Hellickson)
16. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Mon-@MIN (Marquis), Sat-@CHW (Peavy)
17. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Wed-@DET (Wilk)
18. Josh Beckett (BOS) -- Tue-@MIN (Blackburn), Sun-@CHW (Floyd)
19. Mat Latos (CIN) -- Tue-SF (Cain), Sun-HOU (Harrell)
20. Ricky Romero (TOR) -- Fri-SEA (Beavan)
21. Jake Peavy (CHW) -- Mon-@OAK (Colon), Sat-BOS (Lester)
22. Jaime Garcia (STL) -- Mon-@CHC (Garza), Sun-MIL (Greinke)
23. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Wed-@ARI (Cahill)
24. Shaun Marcum (MIL) -- Wed-HOU (Happ)
25. Josh Johnson (MIA) -- Tue-@NYM (Santana), Sun-ARI (TBD)
26. Dan Haren (LAA) -- Sat-@CLE (Gomez)
27. Brandon Beachy (ATL) -- Wed-@LAD (Lilly)
28. Brandon Morrow (TOR) -- Mon-@KC (Chen), Sat-SEA (Millwood)
29. Tommy Hanson (ATL) -- Fri-PIT (Burnett)
30. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Sat-@STL (Lohse)
31. Chris Sale (CHW) -- Wed-@OAK (TBD)
32. Daniel Bard (BOS) -- Fri-@CHW (Danks)
33. Jeremy Hellickson (TB) -- Wed-LAA (Wilson)
34. Neftali Feliz (TEX) -- Sat-TB (Niemann)
35. Bartolo Colon (OAK) -- Mon-CHW (Peavy), Sun-@BAL (Hunter)
36. Gavin Floyd (CHW) -- Tue-@OAK (Milone), Sun-BOS (Beckett)
37. Ubaldo Jimenez (CLE) -- Thu-KC (Mendoza)
38. Cory Luebke (SD) -- Fri-@SF (TBD)
39. Chad Billingsley (LAD) -- Sat-WAS (Strasburg)
40. Johan Santana (NYM) -- Tue-MIA (Johnson), Sun-@COL (Moyer)
41. Ian Kennedy (ARI) -- Sat-@MIA (Sanchez)
42. Johnny Cueto (CIN) -- Sat-HOU (Rodriguez)
43. James Shields (TB) -- Fri-@TEX (Harrison)
44. Anibal Sanchez (MIA) -- Sat-ARI (Kennedy)
45. Yu Darvish (TEX) -- Tue-NYY (Kuroda)
46. Henderson Alvarez (TOR) -- Tue-@BAL (Hunter), Sun-SEA (Vargas)
47. Ted Lilly (LAD) -- Wed-ATL (Beachy)
48. Mike Minor (ATL) -- Tue-@LAD (Harang)
49. Jair Jurrjens (ATL) -- Mon-@LAD (Capuano), Sun-PIT (Correia)
50. Ervin Santana (LAA) -- Tue-@TB (Price), Sun-@CLE (Lowe)
51. Trevor Cahill (ARI) -- Wed-PHI (Hamels)
52. Jonathon Niese (NYM) -- Thu-MIA (Nolasco)
53. Colby Lewis (TEX) -- Sun-TB (Price)
54. Dillon Gee (NYM) -- Mon-SF, Gm. 2 (Bumgarner), Sat-@COL (Guthrie)
55. Edwin Jackson (WAS) -- Thu-@SD (Volquez)
56. Erik Bedard (PIT) -- Sat-@ATL (Delgado)
57. Lance Lynn (STL) -- Wed-@CHC (Volstad)
58. Wandy Rodriguez (HOU) -- Sat-@CIN (Cueto)
59. Justin Masterson (CLE) -- Fri-LAA (Weaver)
60. Kyle Lohse (STL) -- Sat-MIL (Gallardo)
61. Vance Worley (PHI) -- Tue-@ARI (Collmenter)
62. Derek Holland (TEX) -- Mon-NYY (Sabathia)
63. Jake Arrieta (BAL) -- Fri-OAK (McCarthy)
64. Chris Capuano (LAD) -- Mon-ATL (Jurrjens), Sun-WAS (Gonzalez)
65. Brandon McCarthy (OAK) -- Fri-@BAL (Arrieta)
66. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Tue-SEA (Vargas), Sun-@NYY (Sabathia)
67. Matt Moore (TB) -- Thu-LAA (Williams)
68. Ricky Nolasco (MIA) -- Thu-@NYM (Niese)
69. Danny Duffy (KC) -- Fri-@MIN (Pavano)
70. Bruce Chen (KC) -- Mon-TOR (Morrow), Sat-@MIN (Liriano)
71. Rick Porcello (DET) -- Thu-SEA (Noesi)
72. Tommy Milone (OAK) -- Tue-CHW (Floyd)
73. Ivan Nova (NYY) -- Fri-DET (Verlander)
74. Matt Harrison (TEX) -- Fri-TB (Shields)
75. Jhoulys Chacin (COL) -- Wed-@PIT (Morton)

Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
Kyle Kendrick (PHI) -- Mon-@ARI (Miley), Sun-CHC (Garza)
Derek Lowe (CLE) -- Tue-KC (Sanchez), Sun-LAA (Santana)
Jamie Moyer (COL) -- Mon-@PIT (Correia), Sun-NYM (Santana)
Jonathan Sanchez (KC) -- Tue-@CLE (Lowe), Sun-@MIN (Marquis)
Jason Vargas (SEA) -- Tue-@DET (Scherzer), Sun-@TOR (Alvarez)

No-thank-yous, among two-start pitchers:
Kevin Correia (PIT) -- Mon-COL (Moyer), Sun-@ATL (Jurrjens)
Lucas Harrell (HOU) -- Mon-@MIL (Greinke), Sun-@CIN (Latos)
Tommy Hunter (BAL) -- Tue-TOR (Alvarez), Sun-OAK (Colon)
Jason Marquis (MIN) -- Mon-BOS (Lester), Sun-KC (Sanchez)
Clayton Richard (SD) -- Tue-WAS (Gonzalez), Sun-@SF (Bumgarner)

Pitching notes

• It's the aforementioned Nationals who are far and away my Baseball Challenge pitching staff of the week. Three games at San Diego's Petco Park and three at Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium represent six outstanding matchups, especially for road games. In addition, their one starter who struggled most in the past 10 days, Edwin Jackson, pitches Wednesday at Petco, where he has a 2.60 ERA in three career starts. Among other pitching staffs to consider, in ranked order: San Francisco Giants (@NYM-1, @CIN-3, SD-3), Oakland Athletics (CHW-3, @BAL-3), Boston Red Sox (@MIN-3, @CHW-4), Toronto Blue Jays (@KC-1, @BAL-3, SEA-3).

• This is one of the weaker weeks for two-start pitchers, but to take a closer look at a few of the lower-ranked, yet intriguing, individuals: Bartolo Colon had a 1.15 ERA and 0.70 WHIP in his two starts at Baltimore's Camden Yards last season. Derek Holland has a 5-0 record, six quality starts, a 3.15 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in eight starts at Rangers Ballpark since the 2011 All-Star break. (Be aware that with the April 20 rainout, there is a chance the Rangers won't pitch Holland twice this week.) Bruce Chen had a 2.77 ERA in his two starts at Minnesota's Target Field in 2011. Max Scherzer is a perfect 4-0 with a 2.00 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in four career starts versus the Seattle Mariners. And Derek Lowe, who won his first home start of 2012, has a lifetime ERA in home games (3.49) nearly a run lower than on the road (4.37).

• Chad Billingsley, Kyle Lohse and Jonathon Niese, each of whom is off to an outstanding start, is an effective must-start this week, even in ESPN standard mixed leagues. One of the reasons is that each of them pitches a home game, which makes a big difference for each. Billingsley, for example, has a 2.98 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 16 games at Dodger Stadium since the beginning of last season. Lohse has a lifetime 3.66 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 58 starts at Busch Stadium, numbers considerably better than his career 4.60 ERA and 1.39 WHIP at any venue. And Niese has a 3.61 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in 14 starts at Citi Field since the beginning of last season.

• If there is any matchup that can get San Francisco Giants ace Tim Lincecum back on track, it's a home game versus the San Diego Padres. He's 9-4 with a 1.96 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 18 career starts against the Padres.

Streamer's delight

Among streaming starter -- something I define as single-start options in daily leagues among pitchers owned in 25 percent of ESPN leagues or fewer -- options for Week 3, here are my picks by day:

Monday, April 23: Bartolo Colon versus Chicago White Sox
Tuesday, April 24: Juan Nicasio at Pittsburgh Pirates
Wednesday, April 25: Trevor Cahill versus Philadelphia Phillies
Thursday, April 26: Rick Porcello versus Seattle Mariners
Friday, April 27: Danny Duffy at Minnesota Twins
Saturday, April 28: Wei-Yin Chen versus Oakland Athletics
Sunday, April 29: Chris Capuano versus Washington Nationals

Past picks
Friday, April 13, Bartolo Colon: W, QS, 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
Saturday, April 14, Carlos Zambrano: QS, 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 6 BB, 4 K
Sunday, April 15, Henderson Alvarez (pitched April 14): QS, 7 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 K
Monday, April 16, Joe Saunders: W, QS, 7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
Tuesday, April 17, Kevin Millwood: 4 IP, 9 H, 6 ER, 1 BB, 1 K
Wednesday, April 18, Juan Nicasio: W, 6 1/3 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 5 K
Thursday, April 19, Phil Hughes: W, 5 1/3 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K

Week's total: 7 GS, 4 W (57.1%), 4 QS (57.1%), 42 2/3 IP, 41 H, 17 ER, 13 BB, 26 K, 3.59 ERA, 1.27 WHIP
Season total: 15 GS, 7 W (46.7%), 9 QS (60.0%), 92 2/3 IP, 75 H, 28 ER, 32 BB, 57 K, 2.72 ERA, 1.15 WHIP

Hitting ratings

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.

Hitting notes

• Anyone still have any lingering questions about David Wright's pinkie? You shouldn't. He's 10-for-22 (.455 AVG) with one home run in five games since returning from the injury, not to mention he's a lifetime .364/.425/.657 hitter in 26 games at Colorado's Coors Field. In addition, he has a career OPS 179 points higher versus left-handers (.847) than right-handers (1.026), and his New York Mets are scheduled to face four lefty starters this week.

• As with Wright, Corey Hart has hit extremely well -- especially for power -- since returning from injury. Hart also gets a favorable set of matchups, including games against three starters he has historically hit well: He's a lifetime .462/.563/.846 hitter in 16 plate appearances versus the Houston Astros' J.A. Happ; he's a .385/.500/.923 hitter in 16 PAs versus the St. Louis Cardinals' Jake Westbrook; and he's a .462/.533/.500 hitter in 30 PAs versus the Cardinals' Jaime Garcia.

• Shin-Soo Choo has a set of favorable matchups as well: He's a lifetime .600/.643/1.120 hitter in 28 plate appearances against the Kansas City Royals' Luke Hochevar; he's a .440/.481/.640 hitter in 27 PAs versus the Los Angeles Angels' Jered Weaver; and he's 4-for-10 in his career against the Angels' Ervin Santana.

• Keep an eye on Omar Infante's status, but assuming he gets the OK to play, he faces a number of pitchers against whom he has a track record of success: He's a lifetime .500 hitter (11-for-22) against R.A. Dickey, the New York Mets' scheduled Wednesday starter; and he's 10-for-22 (.455 AVG) against Arizona Diamondbacks starters Joe Saunders and Ian Kennedy, whom he and the Marlins will face on Friday and Saturday.

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