Commentary

Forecaster: April 30-May 6

Updated: April 29, 2012, 10:48 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

Fantasy Forecaster updated Sunday, April 29 at 10:48 p.m. ET.

On tap: Fresh off his 8 1/3-shutout-inning, 10-strikeout masterpiece versus the New York Yankees, Yu Darvish headlines the list of Week 4's two-start pitchers. He and his Texas Rangers take to the road to battle the Toronto Blue Jays and Cleveland Indians. The Rogers Centre game is the tricky one; the Blue Jays' 115 home runs there are fifth-most among home teams since the start of 2011.

Fantasy Forecaster

Darvish isn't the only hot-starting starter to be tested with a tricky two-start week. Among the top 30 starting pitchers on the Player Rater (as of April 27): The Baltimore Orioles' Jason Hammel pitches both at New York and Boston; the Oakland Athletics' Tommy Milone pitches at Boston and Tampa Bay; both the Atlanta Braves' Brandon Beachy and Mike Minor make their second starts of the week at Colorado's Coors Field; and the Chicago White Sox's Chris Sale makes his second start of the week at the Detroit Tigers.

ESPN leagues: Week 4

Week 4 in ESPN leagues begins earlier than usual, due to the Arizona Diamondbacks at Miami Marlins concluding game of a four-game set, Monday at 12:40 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 4 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 4 pitcher rankings: Top 75

1. Matt Cain (SF) -- Tue-MIA (Nolasco), Sun-MIL (Wolf)
2. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Mon-@TB (Hellickson), Sat-MIN (Marquis)
3. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Tue-@ATL (Beachy), Sun-@WAS (Zimmermann)
4. C.J. Wilson (LAA) -- Mon-MIN (Blackburn), Sat-TOR (Drabek)
5. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Wed-KC (Mendoza)
6. Roy Halladay (PHI) -- Wed-@ATL (Hanson)
7. Jordan Zimmermann (WAS) -- Tue-ARI (Cahill), Sun-PHI (Hamels)
8. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Wed-MIN (Hendriks)
9. Brandon Beachy (ATL) -- Tue-PHI (Hamels), Sun-@COL (Nicasio)
10. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Wed-@COL (Pomeranz)
11. Stephen Strasburg (WAS) -- Fri-PHI (Kendrick)
12. Jeremy Hellickson (TB) -- Mon-SEA (Hernandez), Sat-OAK (Colon)
13. Chris Sale (CHW) -- Tue-CLE (Jimenez), Sun-@DET (Below)
14. David Price (TB) -- Fri-OAK (Ross)
15. Zack Greinke (MIL) -- Sat-@SF (Bumgarner)
16. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Fri-@KC (Chen)
17. Yu Darvish (TEX) -- Mon-@TOR (Drabek), Sun-@CLE (Jimenez)
18. Gio Gonzalez (WAS) -- Sat-PHI (Worley)
19. Cory Luebke (SD) -- Wed-MIL (Gallardo)
20. Adam Wainwright (STL) -- Tue-PIT (Morton), Sun-@HOU (Norris)
21. Vance Worley (PHI) -- Mon-CHC (Volstad), Sat-@WAS (Gonzalez)
22. James Shields (TB) -- Wed-SEA (Beavan)
23. Matt Garza (CHC) -- Fri-LAD (Billingsley)
24. Ubaldo Jimenez (CLE) -- Tue-@CHW (Sale), Sun-TEX (Darvish)
25. Tommy Hanson (ATL) -- Wed-PHI (Halladay)
26. Jake Peavy (CHW) -- Fri-@DET (Smyly)
27. Madison Bumgarner (SF) -- Sat-MIL (Greinke)
28. Matt Moore (TB) -- Tue-SEA (Noesi), Sun-OAK (Milone)
29. Shaun Marcum (MIL) -- Tue-@SD (Volquez)
30. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Fri-MIL (Estrada)
31. Neftali Feliz (TEX) -- Tue-@TOR (Hutchison)
32. Mike Minor (ATL) -- Mon-PIT (McDonald), Sat-@COL (Moyer)
33. Ian Kennedy (ARI) -- Thu-@WAS (Detwiler)
34. Ricky Nolasco (MIA) -- Tue-@SF (Cain), Sun-@SD (Wieland)
35. Dan Haren (LAA) -- Thu-TOR (Morrow)
36. Hiroki Kuroda (NYY) -- Mon-BAL (Hammel), Sat-@KC (Sanchez)
37. Johnny Cueto (CIN) -- Fri-@PIT (Correia)
38. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Fri-BAL (Chen)
39. Lance Lynn (STL) -- Wed-PIT (Burnett)
40. Josh Johnson (MIA) -- Fri-@SD (Bass)
41. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Wed-@SD (Luebke)
42. Trevor Cahill (ARI) -- Tue-@WAS (Zimmermann), Sun-@NYM (Dickey)
43. Ricky Romero (TOR) -- Wed-TEX (Harrison)
44. Philip Humber (CHW) -- Wed-CLE (Tomlin)
45. Anibal Sanchez (MIA) -- Thu-@SF (Vogelsong)
46. Tommy Milone (OAK) -- Mon-@BOS (Buchholz), Sun-@TB (Moore)
47. Wandy Rodriguez (HOU) -- Wed-NYM (Schwinden)
48. Mat Latos (CIN) -- Sat-@PIT (McDonald)
49. Jaime Garcia (STL) -- Sat-@HOU (Lyles)
50. Josh Beckett (BOS) -- Sat-BAL (Hunter)
51. Mark Buehrle (MIA) -- Mon-ARI (Corbin), Sat-@SD (Richard)
52. Colby Lewis (TEX) -- Fri-@CLE (Gomez)
53. Jeff Samardzija (CHC) -- Tue-@CIN (Arroyo), Sun-LAD (Harang)
54. Chad Billingsley (LAD) -- Fri-@CHC (Garza)
55. Daniel Bard (BOS) -- Wed-OAK (McCarthy)
56. R.A. Dickey (NYM) -- Mon-@HOU (Norris), Sun-ARI (Cahill)
57. Johan Santana (NYM) -- Sat-ARI (Corbin)
58. Jeff Niemann (TB) -- Thu-SEA (Millwood)
59. Bronson Arroyo (CIN) -- Tue-CHC (Samardzija), Sun-@PIT (Morton)
60. Ryan Vogelsong (SF) -- Thu-MIA (Sanchez)
61. Jonathon Niese (NYM) -- Tue-@HOU (Happ)
62. John Danks (CHW) -- Thu-CLE (Masterson)
63. Brandon Morrow (TOR) -- Thu-@LAA (Haren)
64. Bud Norris (HOU) -- Mon-NYM (Dickey), Sun-STL (Wainwright)
65. Jake Westbrook (STL) -- Thu-PIT (Bedard)
66. Barry Zito (SF) -- Wed-MIA (Zambrano)
67. Matt Harrison (TEX) -- Wed-@TOR (Romero)
68. Jason Vargas (SEA) -- Fri-MIN (Pavano)
69. James McDonald (PIT) -- Mon-@ATL (Minor), Sat-CIN (Latos)
70. Derek Holland (TEX) -- Sat-@CLE (Lowe)
71. Edwin Jackson (WAS) -- Wed-ARI (Saunders)
72. Bartolo Colon (OAK) -- Sat-@TB (Hellickson)
73. Ross Detwiler (WAS) -- Thu-ARI (Kennedy)
74. Kyle Lohse (STL) -- Fri-@HOU (Harrell)
75. Ivan Nova (NYY) -- Wed-BAL (Arrieta)

Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
Duane Below (DET) -- Mon-KC (Sanchez), Sun-CHW (Sale)
Clay Buchholz (BOS) -- Mon-OAK (Milone), Sun-BAL (Hammel)
Kyle Drabek (TOR) -- Mon-TEX (Darvish), Sat-@LAA (Wilson)
Jason Hammel (BAL) -- Mon-@NYY (Kuroda), Sun-@BOS (Buchholz)
Juan Nicasio (COL) -- Mon-LAD (Harang), Sun-ATL (Beachy)
Jonathan Sanchez (KC) -- Mon-@DET (Below), Sat-NYY (Kuroda)
Joe Wieland (SD) -- Mon-MIL (Wolf), Sun-MIA (Nolasco)
Randy Wolf (MIL) -- Mon-@SD (Wieland), Sun-@SF (Cain)

No-thank-yous, among two-start pitchers:
Nick Blackburn (MIN) -- Mon-@LAA (Wilson), Sun-@SEA (Noesi)
Patrick Corbin (ARI) -- Mon-@MIA (Buehrle), Sat-@NYM (Santana)
Aaron Harang (LAD) -- Mon-@COL (Nicasio), Sun-@CHC (Samardzija)
Luke Hochevar (KC) -- Tue-@DET (Porcello), Sun-NYY (Hughes)
Phil Hughes (NYY) -- Tue-BAL (Matusz), Sun-@KC (Hochevar)
Drew Hutchison (TOR) -- Tue-TEX (Feliz), Sun-@LAA (Williams)
Charlie Morton (PIT) -- Tue-@STL (Wainwright), Sun-CIN (Arroyo)
Hector Noesi (SEA) -- Tue-@TB (Moore), Sun-MIN (Blackburn)
Chris Volstad (CHC) -- Mon-@PHI (Worley), Sat-LAD (Capuano)
Jerome Williams (LAA) -- Tue-MIN (Liriano), Sun-TOR (Hutchison)

Pitching notes

• Expect big things from the Tampa Bay Rays' pitching staff, my Baseball Challenge pick for Week 4. The five current members of the Rays' rotation have combined for a .608 winning percentage, 3.24 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 209 career games (205 starts) at Tropicana Field, where the team will play all seven of its games. Four of those are against the Seattle Mariners, whose .656 team OPS ranks 23rd in the majors, and the other three are versus the Oakland Athletics, whose .591 OPS ranks dead last. Among other recommended BBC pitching staffs this week: St. Louis Cardinals (PIT-3, @HOU-3), Washington Nationals (ARI-3, PHI-3), Los Angeles Angels (MIN-3, TOR-4) and Boston Red Sox (OAK-3, BAL-3).

• Among the aforementioned two-start pitchers, Hammel's matchups -- and his career history against his opponents -- are the most challenging; he's a combined 1-4 with a 6.88 ERA and 1.80 WHIP in 20 career games (eight starts) versus the Red Sox and New York Yankees. There isn't much history regarding the matchups of pitchers Darvish, Milone, Beachy, Minor or Sale. Beachy has pitched at Coors; he surrendered six runs on nine hits, two of them home runs, in 4 2/3 innings there last July 19. These five are ranked accordingly.

• It's time to get Adam Wainwright back into your lineup, right in time for a pair of matchups versus the Pittsburgh Pirates and Houston Astros. He's coming off his best outing of the year -- one run on six hits in six innings, including seven strikeouts, on April 24 -- one in which he broke out more curveballs (30.4 percent of all thrown), his signature pitch. Wainwright will also be facing a Pirates team with a .594 collective OPS, not to mention one that hasn't scored more than five runs in a game yet this season; and then he'll head to Houston's Minute Maid Park, where he's 3-0 with a 1.95 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in eight career games (four starts).

• Speaking of capitalizing upon favorable matchups against the Pirates -- even in road games at PNC Park -- take a look at these three Cincinnati Reds starters: Friday starter Johnny Cueto is 6-1 with a 2.34 ERA and 0.96 WHIP in eight career starts at PNC; Saturday starter Mat Latos has won both of his starts there with a 2.77 ERA and 1.08 WHIP; and Sunday starter Bronson Arroyo has a 2.94 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in eight starts at PNC since joining the Reds in 2006.

James McDonald might be the two-start sleeper of the week. He's coming off his best start of the season, he has a 2.78 ERA and 1.01 WHIP through his first four starts, and he'll face the Atlanta Braves, against whom he has a 0.81 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in five career games (three starts) and Reds, against whom he has a 3.06 ERA and 1.36 WHIP in eight career games (five starts).

• Two members of the American League East have outstanding matchups against a familiar foe: the Baltimore Orioles. Yankees right-hander Ivan Nova, who faces the Orioles on Wednesday, is 3-0 with a 3.34 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in five career starts against them. Meanwhile, Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester, who battles the O's on Friday, is 14-0 with a 2.36 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 18 career starts against them. Lester's matchup might be the prime rebound opportunity he needs.

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 4, here are my picks by day:

Monday, April 30: Randy Wolf at San Diego Padres
Tuesday, May 1: Felix Doubront versus Oakland Athletics
Wednesday, May 2: Carlos Zambrano at San Francisco Giants
Thursday, May 3: Jeff Niemann versus Seattle Mariners
Friday, May 4: Drew Smyly versus Chicago White Sox
Saturday, May 5: James McDonald versus Cincinnati Reds
Sunday, May 6: Bronson Arroyo at Pittsburgh Pirates

Past picks Friday, April 20, Jonathon Niese: QS, 6 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
Saturday, April 21, Philip Humber: W, QS, 9 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 9 K
Sunday, April 22, Joe Blanton: QS, 6 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 2 K
Monday, April 23, Jake Peavy: W, QS, 9 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
Tuesday, April 24, Randy Wolf: W, QS, 6 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 4 K
Wednesday, April 25, Trevor Cahill: 5 1/3 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 3 K
Thursday, April 26, Rick Porcello: 6 2/3 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 3 K

Week's total: 7 GS, 3 W (42.9%), 5 QS (71.4%), 48 IP, 34 H, 17 ER, 14 BB, 31 K, 3.19 ERA, 1.00 WHIP
Season total: 22 GS, 10 W (45.9%), 14 QS (63.6%), 140 2/3 IP, 109 H, 45 ER, 46 BB, 88 K, 2.88 ERA, 1.10 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

• The New York Yankees face a familiar foe in the Baltimore Orioles; they have quite a track record of offensive success against that team. Toss in a favorable set of weekend matchups at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium, and Yankees hitters should rank among your top choices on the hitting side. Among the less obvious choices: Russell Martin is a lifetime .308/.392/.462 hitter in 18 games against the Orioles, Nick Swisher is a .269/.380/.580 hitter -- the slugging percentage fueled by 24 home runs in 286 at-bats -- in 84 games against them, and Raul Ibanez is a .291/.338/.485 hitter in 235 career games at Kauffman Stadium.

Incidentally, that the Yankees face four left-handed starters in their seven games supports Andruw Jones' candidacy as a worthwhile one-week fill-in.

• The Atlanta Braves benefit from a weekend three-game series at Coors Field. Freddie Freeman has two home runs in four career games there, Chipper Jones is a .323/.421/.592 hitter in 56 career games and Martin Prado is a .333 hitter in 13 career games there. Jones in particular has a standout week's worth of matchups; incredibly, he's a lifetime .294/.415/.588 hitter against Tuesday opponent Cole Hamels and .538/.538/1.231 against Wednesday foe Roy Halladay.

Albert Pujols' struggles continue, but considering his Los Angeles Angels have seven home games against weak competition, perhaps this is the week he'll break through. He has faced only three of his scheduled opponents; he's a combined 4-for-20 (.200 AVG) with zero home runs against the Minnesota Twins' Francisco Liriano and Carl Pavano and the Toronto Blue Jays' Brandon Morrow. Pujols isn't the Angels player who stands out from a matchups perspective, however. That's Kendrys Morales, who is a lifetime .303/.350/.524 hitter in his home games, and .296/.353/.533 versus right-handers (the Angels face six righty starters).

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