- Tristan H. Cockcroft, Fantasy
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Fantasy Forecaster updated Sunday, May 27 at 9:50 p.m. ET.
On tap: Memorial Day kicks off fantasy's Week 8, and it's a Monday that is unusually packed. All 30 teams are scheduled to play, and there's even a scheduled -- as in, planned in advance of the season -- doubleheader, as the Houston Astros and Colorado Rockies tangle at Coors Field before both teams take Tuesday off. The odd schedule also results in only three games being played Thursday, one of those the Astros-Rockies series finale, meaning a greater prospect of midweek rotation shuffling than usual. If you're hanging your hat on a lesser-known two-start pitcher, tread carefully. You wouldn't want to be an AL-only owner taking a chance on Oakland Athletics left-hander Travis Blackley, for example, assuming he's guaranteed two turns. A poor Monday outing could cost him his second turn, not to mention that Brandon McCarthy, on pace for a minimum DL stay, could soon be a candidate to reclaim his rotation spot.
Matt Kemp maintains that he'll return to the Los Angeles Dodgers' lineup when initially eligible on Tuesday. That'd give him six out of the team's seven games for the week, and as three of those will be Coors Field games -- not to mention that 24 teams will play only six games all week -- he's well worth getting into weekly lineups, barring any type of weekend setback with his hamstring.
Manny Ramirez, owner of a lifetime .312 batting average and 555 home runs but only a .271 average with 19 homers and 77 RBIs in his past 162 big league games played, becomes eligible for reinstatement from the suspended list Wednesday, which coincidentally is his 40th birthday. Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin, however, has said that he wants Ramirez to get approximately 40 at-bats during his current rehabilitation stint for Triple-A Sacramento, meaning that a Wednesday return isn't assured. Fantasy owners in weekly leagues might want to wait on activating Ramirez, a .250 hitter (4-for-16) through his first five rehab games, because he's only eligible for a maximum of four of six Athletics games.
Memorial Day tends to be an important date on the fantasy calendar, partly because of the percentage of the season it signifies has been completed. Entering Monday's games, 29.4 percent of the 2012 regular season will already be in the books. It's at this time of year that fantasy league standings should be taken more seriously, and if you're hurting in a particular area, it's as good a time as any to address the weakness with pickups or trades.
ESPN leagues: Week 8
The Memorial Day holiday also causes an early lineup deadline Monday, as there are three games that begin at 1:10 p.m. ET. But as always, it's an excellent day for baseball, with start times scattered throughout the day; you could conceivably watch baseball nonstop from 1:10 p.m. until almost midnight. These are the specific start times of the first games each day:
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.
P: The starting pitcher's matchup rating, which accounts for past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days), opponent and ballpark. Ratings range from 1-10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst.
1. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Tue-@BOS (Bard), Sun-NYY (Hughes)
2. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Mon-@NYM (Niese), Sun-MIA (Zambrano)
3. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Wed-MIL (Gallardo)
4. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Mon-NYY (Hughes), Sun-TEX (Harrison)
5. Jordan Zimmermann (WAS) -- Mon-@MIA (Zambrano), Sun-ATL (Hanson)
6. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Fri-@CHW (Peavy)
7. Brandon Beachy (ATL) -- Sat-@WAS (Gonzalez)
8. Matt Cain (SF) -- Sat-CHC (Garza)
9. Zack Greinke (MIL) -- Thu-@LAD (Billingsley)
10. Roy Halladay (PHI) -- Sat-MIA (Nolasco)
11. Cliff Lee (PHI) -- Wed-@NYM (Gee)
12. Tommy Hanson (ATL) -- Mon-STL (Lynn), Sun-@WAS (Zimmermann)
13. Stephen Strasburg (WAS) -- Fri-ATL (Minor)
14. Gio Gonzalez (WAS) -- Sat-ATL (Beachy)
15. Madison Bumgarner (SF) -- Fri-CHC (Maholm)
16. Shaun Marcum (MIL) -- Mon-@LAD (Harang), Sat-PIT (Bedard)
17. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Fri-@DET (Porcello)
18. David Price (TB) -- Fri-BAL (Chen)
19. Brandon Morrow (TOR) -- Wed-BAL (Hammel)
20. James McDonald (PIT) -- Mon-CIN (Arroyo), Sun-@MIL (Fiers)
21. Jake Peavy (CHW) -- Fri-SEA (Hernandez)
22. Josh Johnson (MIA) -- Wed-WAS (Wang)
23. James Shields (TB) -- Tue-CHW (Humber)
24. Johnny Cueto (CIN) -- Wed-@PIT (Burnett)
25. Chris Sale (CHW) -- Mon-@TB (Moore), Sun-SEA (Millwood)
26. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Wed-DET (Smyly)
27. Anibal Sanchez (MIA) -- Tue-WAS (Jackson)
28. Dan Haren (LAA) -- Tue-NYY (Pettitte)
29. C.J. Wilson (LAA) -- Sat-TEX (Darvish)
30. Wandy Rodriguez (HOU) -- Mon-@COL, Gm. 1 (Nicasio), Sat-CIN (Latos)
31. Mat Latos (CIN) -- Sat-@HOU (Rodriguez)
32. Adam Wainwright (STL) -- Sat-@NYM (Dickey)
33. Yu Darvish (TEX) -- Sat-@LAA (Wilson)
34. Carlos Zambrano (MIA) -- Mon-WAS (Zimmermann), Sun-@PHI (Hamels)
35. Matt Garza (CHC) -- Sat-@SF (Cain)
36. Ian Kennedy (ARI) -- Wed-@SF (Lincecum)
37. Ted Lilly (LAD) -- Tue-MIL (Fiers), Sun-@COL (White)
38. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Wed-@LAD (Kershaw)
39. Doug Fister (DET) -- Mon-@BOS (Doubront), Sat-NYY (Kuroda)
40. Jeremy Hellickson (TB) -- Sat-BAL (Matusz)
41. Lance Lynn (STL) -- Mon-@ATL (Hanson), Sun-@NYM (Niese)
42. Ryan Vogelsong (SF) -- Tue-ARI (Saunders)
43. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Wed-ARI (Kennedy)
44. Daniel Hudson (ARI) -- Sat-@SD (Volquez)
45. Tim Hudson (ATL) -- Wed-STL (Lohse)
46. Bud Norris (HOU) -- Thu-@COL (Guthrie)
47. Matt Moore (TB) -- Mon-CHW (Sale), Sun-BAL (Hunter)
48. Jaime Garcia (STL) -- Fri-@NYM (Santana)
49. Jeff Samardzija (CHC) -- Tue-SD (Stults)
50. Matt Harrison (TEX) -- Mon-SEA (Millwood), Sun-@LAA (Weaver)
51. Andy Pettitte (NYY) -- Tue-@LAA (Haren)
52. Trevor Cahill (ARI) -- Mon-@SF (Zito), Sun-@SD (Suppan)
53. Colby Lewis (TEX) -- Fri-@LAA (Williams)
54. Gavin Floyd (CHW) -- Sat-SEA (Noesi)
55. Ryan Dempster (CHC) -- Wed-SD (Bass)
56. Phil Hughes (NYY) -- Mon-@LAA (Weaver), Sun-@DET (Verlander)
57. Ricky Romero (TOR) -- Tue-BAL (Arrieta)
58. Bronson Arroyo (CIN) -- Mon-@PIT (McDonald), Sun-@HOU (Lyles)
59. Ubaldo Jimenez (CLE) -- Sat-MIN (Walters)
60. Johan Santana (NYM) -- Fri-STL (Garcia)
61. Edwin Jackson (WAS) -- Tue-@MIA (Sanchez)
62. Ervin Santana (LAA) -- Wed-NYY (Nova)
63. Derek Holland (TEX) -- Wed-SEA (Beavan)
64. Josh Beckett (BOS) -- Thu-DET (Scherzer)
65. R.A. Dickey (NYM) -- Sat-STL (Wainwright)
66. Jonathon Niese (NYM) -- Mon-PHI (Hamels), Sun-STL (Lynn)
67. Felix Doubront (BOS) -- Mon-DET (Fister), Sat-@TOR (Drabek)
68. Felipe Paulino (KC) -- Fri-OAK (Colon)
69. Anthony Bass (SD) -- Wed-@CHC (Dempster)
70. Chad Billingsley (LAD) -- Thu-MIL (Greinke)
71. Alex Cobb (TB) -- Wed-CHW (Quintana)
72. Tommy Milone (OAK) -- Sat-@KC (Hochevar)
73. Scott Diamond (MIN) -- Mon-OAK (Blackley), Sun-@CLE (Tomlin)
74. Wade Miley (ARI) -- Fri-@SD (Richard)
75. Luke Hochevar (KC) -- Sat-OAK (Milone)
Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
Aaron Harang (LAD) -- Mon-MIL (Marcum), Sat-@COL (Nicasio)
Brian Matusz (BAL) -- Sat-@TB (Hellickson)
Kevin Millwood (SEA) -- Mon-@TEX (Harrison), Sun-@CHW (Sale)
Barry Zito (SF) -- Mon-ARI (Cahill), Sun-CHC (Wood)
No-thank-yous, among two-start pitchers:
Nate Adcock (KC) -- Mon-@CLE (Tomlin), Sun-OAK (Blackley)
Daniel Bard (BOS) -- Tue-DET (Verlander), Sun-@TOR (Hutchison)
Travis Blackley (OAK) -- Mon-@MIN (Diamond), Sun-@KC (Adcock)
Michael Fiers (MIL) -- Tue-@LAD (Lilly), Sun-PIT (McDonald)
Drew Hutchison (TOR) -- Mon-BAL (Hunter), Sun-BOS (Bard)
Jordan Lyles (HOU) -- Mon-@COL, Gm. 2 (White), Sun-CIN (Arroyo)
Juan Nicasio (COL) -- Mon-HOU, Gm. 1 (Rodriguez), Sat-LAD (Harang)
Jeff Suppan (SD) -- Mon-@CHC (Wood), Sun-ARI (Cahill)
Josh Tomlin (CLE) -- Mon-KC (Adcock), Sun-MIN (Diamond)
Alex White (COL) -- Mon-HOU, Gm. 2 (Lyles), Sun-LAD (Lilly)
Travis Wood (CHC) -- Mon-SD (Suppan), Sun-@SF (Zito)
• This is the week for the Philadelphia Phillies to get themselves in order, as they battle the two teams directly ahead of them in the National League East, the New York Mets (Monday-Wednesday at Citi Field) and the Washington Nationals (Friday-Sunday at Citizens Bank Park); two teams that, while sporting middle-of-the-pack offensive ratings for both the month and season, haven't exactly been lighting up scoreboards in recent games. Having Cole Hamels as their two-start pitcher gives the Phillies the kind of advantage Baseball Challenge owners love; that alone provides them the edge they need to be my Week 8 pick. Hamels has eight consecutive quality starts, and while his four losses and 4.43 ERA in seven career starts at New York's Citi Field might be troubling, he's more than capable of snapping that funk in his first turn there this year. Among my other recommended Baseball Challenge pitching staffs: Cincinnati Reds (@PIT-3, @HOU-3), Texas Rangers (SEA-3, @LAA-3), Arizona Diamondbacks (@SF-3, @SD-3) and Cleveland Indians (KC-3, MIN-3).
• The Pittsburgh Pirates remain one of the most attractive matchups for an opposing pitcher, and recently they've been especially so: Opposing starters have 16 quality starts, a 3.03 ERA, 0.94 WHIP and 9.63 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio in 22 games in the month of May. Four of the past eight starters to face the Pirates, in fact, managed both a quality start and double-digit strikeouts. Among this week's standouts with at least one Pirates matchup: Bronson Arroyo (Monday), who has a 2.94 ERA in eight career starts at PNC Park; Homer Bailey (Tuesday), who is 3-0 with a 2.00 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in four career starts at PNC; Johnny Cueto (Wednesday), who is 7-1 with a 2.14 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in nine career starts at PNC; and Shaun Marcum (Saturday), who has three quality starts in four career games versus the Pirates.
• Diminishing fastball velocity and a rising walk rate might ultimately be unraveling Ubaldo Jimenez's season, but his owners should afford him one more chance -- at least in AL-only or deep mixed leagues -- considering the strength of his Saturday matchup. He's a perfect 3-for-3 in quality starts in his career versus the Minnesota Twins with a 2.11 ERA and 1.27 WHIP, and current Twins are a combined .245/.344/.302 with only three extra-base hits, all doubles, against him.
• It's the strength of Matt Harrison's first matchup that supports his candidacy as a two-start standout. He has eight consecutive quality starts versus the Seattle Mariners, his Monday opponent, and a 1.95 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in those games, and tossed seven innings of one-run, seven-hit baseball to defeat them at Safeco Field on May 22. And in defense of Harrison's second start, Sunday at the Los Angeles Angels, being a non-scary matchup, he won his only career start at Angel Stadium last Sept. 28, and has afforded .247/.319/.420 lifetime triple-slash rates to current Angels hitters, numbers that are within range of the major league averages.
• Derek Holland, Harrison's Texas Rangers teammate, also warrants consideration in all formats in his one start versus the Mariners. Holland has five wins, five quality starts, a 3.00 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 9.00 K's-per-nine ratio in his seven career starts against the Mariners, including a 7 1/3-inning, two-run, five-hit, eight-strikeout performance for a victory April 12.
• Take a look at Trevor Cahill among more under-the-radar two-start pitchers. Between his 64.0 percent ground-ball rate and his two turns coming at two of the 10 best pitchers' parks for runs scored and two of the top five for home runs, San Francisco's AT&T Park (Monday) and San Diego's Petco Park (Sunday), he's a lower-risk deeper-league option than you might think. Giants hitters, incidentally, are a combined .200/.314/.267 in their careers versus Cahill, while Padres hitters are a combined .222/.417/.278 versus the right-hander.
• Forgive Anibal Sanchez his mediocre May 24 start, because his Tuesday matchup versus the Washington Nationals is about as automatic as they come for him. He's 7-0 with a 2.10 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in 18 career starts against the Nationals, and in fact has six quality starts, a 1.17 ERA, 0.87 WHIP and 9.67 K's-per-nine innings ratio in eight games against them since the midway point of 2010.
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 8, here are my picks by day:
Monday, May 28: Matt Harrison versus Seattle Mariners
Tuesday, May 29: Homer Bailey at Pittsburgh Pirates
Wednesday, May 30: Anthony Bass at Chicago Cubs
Thursday, May 31: Jeremy Guthrie is the only under-25-percent-owned pitcher scheduled on this date; he is not a recommended streaming option.
Friday, June 1: Felipe Paulino versus Oakland Athletics
Saturday, June 2: Tommy Milone at Kansas City Royals
Sunday, June 3: Trevor Cahill at San Diego Padres
Friday, May 18: Jarrod Parker -- 2 IP, 4 H, 6 ER, 4 BB, 0 K
Saturday, May 19: Ryan Vogelsong -- W, QS, 7 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
Sunday, May 20: Henderson Alvarez -- 5 IP, 9 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 3 K
Monday, May 21: Tommy Milone -- W, QS, 7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K
Tuesday, May 22: Phil Hughes -- W, QS, 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 7 K
Wednesday, May 23: Jonathon Niese -- W, QS, 7 2/3 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
Thursday, May 24: Philip Humber -- 4 1/3 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 3 BB, 4 K
Week's total: 7 GS, 4 W (57.1%), 4 QS (57.1%), 39 IP, 35 H, 21 ER, 15 BB, 27 K, 4.85 ERA, 1.28 WHIP
Season total: 44 GS, 22 W (50.0%), 29 QS (65.9%), 278 IP, 233 H, 92 ER, 87 BB, 201 K, 2.98 ERA, 1.15 WHIP
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.
Some of the data used to generate this chart is derived from Baseball Musings' Day-by-day database.
H: Hitters' matchup rating, which accounts for the opposing starting pitcher's past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days) as well as ballpark factors. L: Hitters' matchup rating accounting only for left-handed hitters. R: Hitters' matchup rating accounting for only right-handed hitters. S: Base stealing matchup rating, which accounts for the opponent's catchers' ability to gun down opposing base stealers. Ratings range from 1-10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst.
• Coors Field games tend to suit Dodgers hitters and, as mentioned above, the team is expected to have Matt Kemp back in the lineup before their weekend series begins in Colorado. Kemp, incidentally, has six homers in his past 14 games at Coors, and he's a .322/.400/.612 lifetime hitter with 11 homers there in 48 contests, if you had any doubt about whether he's worth immediately slotting back into your lineup. Among other Dodgers with impressive career Coors stats: James Loney (.331/.378/.569 triple-slash rates in 49 games), Andre Ethier (.290/.371/.452 in 47 games) and A.J. Ellis (.375 AVG in 7 games). Dee Gordon, incidentally, hit his only career home run (397 career plate appearances) at Coors, on May 1.
• The Tampa Bay Rays are a team that likes to exploit platoon splits, which is why their league-high four games versus left-handed starters puts two of their players under the microscope: B.J. Upton is a .324/.405/.618 triple-slash hitter versus lefties this season, .266/.373/.434 in his career; while Sean Rodriguez is a .316/.426/.342 hitter against them this season, .266/.367/.414 in his career. Upton is an obvious start in all formats this week, but it's Rodriguez who could be a handy plug-in if you're in an AL-only or deep mixed league. He's typically best used in weeks with at least three lefty starters scheduled.
• It's a rare week where the New York Yankees' hitting matchups are questionable, as they'll face both Jered Weaver (Monday) and Justin Verlander (Sunday), both of whom rank among the top five starting pitchers on our Player Rater, as well as three more talented right-handers in Dan Haren (Tuesday), Ervin Santana (Wednesday) and Doug Fister (Saturday). Couple that schedule with the team's recent offensive funk -- .226/.320/.383 team rates in their past 11 games -- and you can feel free to be picky with your Yankees for once. One who should not sit, however, is Raul Ibanez. Though he's a better fantasy play in Yankee Stadium games, he'll almost assuredly start all six games against right-handed starters, he's a .272/.333/.592 hitter versus righties this season, and he's an absurd .519/.606/1.037 lifetime hitter versus Weaver.
Tristan H. Cockcroft breaks down the schedule for the week of May 28-June 3 for the best hitter matchups, two-start pitchers and streaming opportunities.