Commentary

Forecaster: Aug. 20-26

Updated: August 20, 2012, 9:51 AM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

Fantasy Forecaster updated Monday, Aug. 20 at 9:51 a.m. ET.

On tap: Showdowns are the name of the game in the National League this week, as all three first-place teams host the respective second- or third-place teams in their divisions for three games apiece. The East-leading Washington Nationals host the Atlanta Braves; the Central-leading Cincinnati Reds host the St. Louis Cardinals (who are in third place, only a game behind the second-place Pittsburgh Pirates); and the West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers host the San Francisco Giants. Big pitching matchups should dominate those battles, as Stephen Strasburg (Tuesday), Tim Hudson (Monday), Mat Latos (Friday), Adam Wainwright (Sunday), Clayton Kershaw (Monday), Madison Bumgarner (Monday) and Matt Cain (Wednesday) are scheduled to work in those series.

Fantasy Forecaster

We also have a week of schedule oddities. The Arizona Diamondbacks, in order to avoid playing for 23 consecutive days, will play a scheduled doubleheader, the first they've hosted in their 15-year history (remember that they play in a retractable roof stadium), against the Miami Marlins. Meanwhile, the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays will play three games at Tropicana Field from Thursday through Saturday, granting both teams Sunday off, as the Republican National Convention begins events there Sunday.

CC Sabathia is scheduled to return to the New York Yankees' rotation in time for a road start Friday against his original team, the Cleveland Indians. He's not the only pitcher on the comeback trail from an injury; Jaime Garcia and Tommy Hanson will each be making his second start since activation. Garcia will battle Latos in the series opener of the aforementioned Cardinals-Reds series, pitching at Great American Ball Park, where he has a 2-1 record, 3.86 ERA and 1.33 WHIP in four career starts (he also has a 10.13 ERA in two relief appearances there).

ESPN leagues: Week 19

It's another Monday-evening deadline for fantasy owners in weekly-transaction leagues, with games getting under way beginning at 7:05 p.m. ET. Here are the scheduled 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 19 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 19 pitcher rankings: Top 75

1. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Mon-SF (Bumgarner), Sun-MIA (Buehrle)
2. Roy Halladay (PHI) -- Mon-CIN (Leake), Sat-WAS (Gonzalez)
3. Madison Bumgarner (SF) -- Mon-@LAD (Kershaw), Sat-ATL (Minor)
4. Adam Wainwright (STL) -- Tue-HOU (Harrell), Sun-@CIN (Bailey)
5. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Tue-CLE (Carmona)
6. Cliff Lee (PHI) -- Tue-CIN (Bailey), Sun-WAS (Zimmermann)
7. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Thu-TOR (Happ)
8. David Price (TB) -- Tue-KC (Hochevar)
9. Jordan Zimmermann (WAS) -- Mon-ATL (Hudson), Sun-@PHI (Lee)
10. R.A. Dickey (NYM) -- Mon-COL (White), Sat-HOU (Galarraga)
11. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Wed-@BOS (Buchholz)
12. Josh Johnson (MIA) -- Sat-@LAD (Billingsley)
13. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Thu-CIN (Cueto)
14. Tim Hudson (ATL) -- Mon-@WAS (Zimmermann), Sun-@SF (Lincecum)
15. Stephen Strasburg (WAS) -- Tue-ATL (Maholm)
16. Mat Latos (CIN) -- Fri-STL (Lynn)
17. Matt Cain (SF) -- Wed-@LAD (Capuano)
18. Matt Moore (TB) -- Fri-OAK (Parker)
19. Gio Gonzalez (WAS) -- Sat-@PHI (Halladay)
20. Johnny Cueto (CIN) -- Thu-@PHI (Hamels)
21. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Fri-@CLE (Kluber)
22. Jake Peavy (CHW) -- Fri-SEA (Vargas)
23. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Wed-CHC (Wood)
24. Chris Sale (CHW) -- Wed-NYY (Hughes)
25. Hiroki Kuroda (NYY) -- Sat-@CLE (Masterson)
26. Doug Fister (DET) -- Sat-LAA (Haren)
27. Brandon McCarthy (OAK) -- Mon-MIN (Duensing), Sat-@TB (Hellickson)
28. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Tue-@LAD (Blanton), Sun-ATL (Hudson)
29. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Fri-KC (Chen)
30. Kris Medlen (ATL) -- Wed-@WAS (Detwiler)
31. James Shields (TB) -- Wed-KC (Mendoza)
32. Clay Buchholz (BOS) -- Wed-LAA (Weaver)
33. Kyle Lohse (STL) -- Wed-HOU (Norris)
34. Jeremy Hellickson (TB) -- Mon-KC (Smith), Sat-OAK (McCarthy)
35. Ryan Vogelsong (SF) -- Fri-ATL (Sheets)
36. Chad Billingsley (LAD) -- Sat-MIA (Johnson)
37. Ricky Romero (TOR) -- Tue-@DET (Scherzer), Sun-@BAL (Gonzalez)
38. Wade Miley (ARI) -- Wed-MIA, Gm. 1 (LeBlanc)
39. Ross Detwiler (WAS) -- Wed-ATL (Medlen)
40. Alex Cobb (TB) -- Thu-OAK (Colon)
41. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Tue-TOR (Romero), Sun-LAA (Santana)
42. Mike Fiers (MIL) -- Fri-@PIT (Bedard)
43. A.J. Burnett (PIT) -- Tue-@SD (Marquis)
44. Ryan Dempster (TEX) -- Mon-BAL (Gonzalez), Sat-MIN (Duensing)
45. Patrick Corbin (ARI) -- Fri-SD (Stults)
46. Jonathon Niese (NYM) -- Fri-HOU (Lyles)
47. Lucas Harrell (HOU) -- Tue-@STL (Wainwright), Sun-@NYM (Hefner)
48. Scott Feldman (TEX) -- Tue-BAL (Tillman), Sun-MIN (De Vries)
49. C.J. Wilson (LAA) -- Thu-@BOS (Morales)
50. Chris Capuano (LAD) -- Wed-SF (Cain)
51. Trevor Cahill (ARI) -- Tue-MIA (Nolasco)
52. Bartolo Colon (OAK) -- Thu-@TB (Cobb)
53. Joe Saunders (ARI) -- Mon-MIA (Buehrle), Sun-SD (Volquez)
54. Jeff Samardzija (CHC) -- Fri-COL (Pomeranz)
55. Zack Greinke (LAA) -- Fri-@DET (Porcello)
56. Ian Kennedy (ARI) -- Sat-SD (Richard)
57. Jose Quintana (CHW) -- Sat-SEA (Beavan)
58. Wandy Rodriguez (PIT) -- Sun-MIL (Rogers)
59. Erik Bedard (PIT) -- Fri-MIL (Fiers)
60. Wei-Yin Chen (BAL) -- Sat-TOR (Alvarez)
61. Jarrod Parker (OAK) -- Fri-@TB (Moore)
62. Tommy Hanson (ATL) -- Thu-@SF (Zito)
63. Jason Vargas (SEA) -- Fri-@CHW (Peavy)
64. Ervin Santana (LAA) -- Tue-@BOS (Cook), Sun-@DET (Scherzer)
65. Gavin Floyd (CHW) -- Mon-NYY (Garcia), Sun-SEA (Millwood)
66. Paul Maholm (ATL) -- Tue-@WAS (Strasburg)
67. Derek Holland (TEX) -- Wed-BAL (Hunter)
68. Johan Santana (NYM) -- Thu-COL (Chatwood)
69. Edwin Jackson (WAS) -- Fri-@PHI (Kendrick)
70. Carlos Villanueva (TOR) -- Fri-@BAL (Britton)
71. Hisashi Iwakuma (SEA) -- Wed-CLE (McAllister)
72. Dan Haren (LAA) -- Sat-@DET (Fister)
73. Mike Minor (ATL) -- Sat-@SF (Bumgarner)
74. Matt Harvey (NYM) -- Wed-COL (Francis)
75. James McDonald (PIT) -- Wed-@SD (TBD)

Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
Homer Bailey (CIN) -- Tue-@PHI (Lee), Sun-STL (Wainwright)
Mark Buehrle (MIA) -- Mon-@ARI (Saunders), Sun-@LAD (Kershaw)
Jhoulys Chacin (COL) -- Tue-@NYM (Young), Sun-@CHC (Volstad)
Freddy Garcia (NYY) -- Mon-@CHW (Floyd), Sun-@CLE (Jimenez)
Ubaldo Jimenez (CLE) -- Mon-@SEA (Millwood), Sun-NYY (Garcia)
Mike Leake (CIN) -- Mon-@PHI (Halladay), Sat-STL (Garcia)
Mark Rogers (MIL) -- Mon-CHC (Germano), Sun-@PIT (Rodriguez)

No-thank-yous, among two-start pitchers:
Aaron Cook (BOS) -- Tue-LAA (Santana), Sun-KC (Smith)
Cole De Vries (MIN) -- Tue-@OAK (Straily), Sun-@TEX (Feldman)
Brian Duensing (MIN) -- Mon-@OAK (McCarthy), Sat-@TEX (Dempster)
Kevin Millwood (SEA) -- Mon-CLE (Jimenez), Sun-@CHW (Floyd)
Will Smith (KC) -- Mon-@TB (Hellickson), Sun-@BOS (Cook)
Edinson Volquez (SD) -- Mon-PIT (TBD), Sun-@ARI (Saunders)
Alex White (COL) -- Mon-@NYM (Dickey), Sat-@CHC (Raley)

Pitching notes

• The schedule tweak is a boon for the Rays; remember that it forces the Athletics to play baseball for 12 consecutive days, the final three coming on the heels of a cross-country trip following Wednesday's home game. Considering the Athletics represent the Rays' stiffest competition -- the Kansas City Royals are their other three-game opponent (Monday-Wednesday) -- this could be another week of Rays pitching domination at Tropicana Field. That's why they're my Baseball Challenge pitching pick for Week 19, as both opponents rank among the 10 worst in baseball offensively in terms of runs per game, as well as in the bottom half in team OPS. The Rays are also historically outstanding on the pitching side at the Trop; they have a 2.96 ERA and 1.17 WHIP in their home games, which rank third and sixth, respectively. Among other recommended BBC pitching staffs: Giants (@LAD-3, ATL-4), Philadelphia Phillies (CIN-4, WAS-3), Diamondbacks (MIA-4, SD-3).

There are no games scheduled at Colorado's Coors Field, which is No. 1 in runs scored on our Park Factor page and home to the Colorado Rockies, baseball's No. 1 team in terms of runs scored per game and OPS in home games.

The following pitchers are scheduled to pitch at San Diego's Petco Park, No. 26 in runs scored on our Park Factor page and home to the San Diego Padres, No. 29 in terms of both runs scored per game and OPS in home games:
• Pirates TBD (Monday). Sit, likely a spot-start call-up from the minors, following their 19-inning game Aug. 19.
A.J. Burnett (Tuesday): 1 career GS at Petco, 6 IP, 8 H, 4 ER (5/15/05). Start, as he had 10 K's in 5 2/3 against the Padres on Aug. 11.
James McDonald (Wednesday): 3 career G, 2 GS at Petco, 4.26 ERA, 1.18 WHIP. Start, considering the matchup as well as his most recent solid outing at St. Louis.

The following pitchers are scheduled to pitch at Seattle's Safeco Field, No. 30 in runs scored on our Park Factor page and home to the Seattle Mariners, baseball's worst team in terms of runs scored per game and OPS in home games.
Ubaldo Jimenez (Monday): Has never pitched at Safeco. Start, but only in AL-only leagues. He's simply too unpredictable, regardless of matchup.
Roberto Hernandez (Tuesday): 2 career GS at Safeco, 2.40 ERA, 2 QS. Sit. Lengthy absence plus minimal strikeout ability equals a shaky fantasy option.
Zach McAllister (Wednesday): Has never pitched at Safeco. Start, based upon recent performance; 4 quality starts in 6 games since the All-Star break.

[+] EnlargeScott Feldman
Harry How/Getty ImagesRangers starter Scott Feldman has been quietly effective since the All-Star break.

Scott Feldman has been the Texas Rangers' most productive starting pitcher since the All-Star break, with four quality starts, a 2.62 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP in five starts during that span. He's also one of their two-start pitchers, facing both the Baltimore Orioles and Minnesota Twins at home. Feldman has a 3.23 ERA and 1.25 WHIP in 11 games (eight starts) at Rangers Ballpark this season.

• The real Adam Wainwright is back. He has four wins, is a perfect 6-for-6 in quality starts and has a 1.91 ERA and 0.90 WHIP since the All-Star break, ranking him among the most productive starting pitchers in fantasy. But even though he's an automatic this week, his career history against his Tuesday opponent, the Houston Astros, more than makes up for his riskier second turn at Cincinnati's Great American Ball Park. He's 11-1 with 10 quality starts, a 1.73 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in 19 career games (13 starts) against the Astros, and in defense of the Cincy assignment, he's 2-for-4 in quality starts with a 3.42 ERA there since 2010.

• Are the Marlins the new Astros? OK, that's a stretch, but the Marlins have represented one of the more favorable matchups for opposing pitchers since the All-Star break. During that time, they have averaged a major league-worst 3.09 runs per game, have a bottom-ranked .651 team OPS and, perhaps most importantly, have a 21.1 percent strikeout rate that's ninth-highest. That's particularly beneficial for Chad Billingsley, who is 4-0 with a 2.31 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 11.08 strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio in seven career games (six starts) against the Marlins.

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 19, here are my picks by day:

Monday, August 20: Joe Saunders versus Miami Marlins
Tuesday, August 21: Dan Straily versus Minnesota Twins
Wednesday, August 22: Hisashi Iwakuma versus Cleveland Indians
Thursday, August 23: Bartolo Colon at Tampa Bay Rays (another weak day for streaming options)
Friday, August 24: Patrick Corbin versus San Diego Padres
Saturday, August 25: Jose Quintana versus Seattle Mariners
Sunday, August 26: Lucas Harrell at New York Mets

Past picks
Friday, August 10: Erik Bedard -- W, 5 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 6 K (pitched Aug. 12)
Saturday, August 11: Marco Estrada -- 4 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
Sunday, August 12: Patrick Corbin -- W, QS, 7 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K
Monday, August 13: Alex Cobb -- W, QS, 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
Tuesday, August 14: Lucas Harrell -- W, QS, 8 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K
Wednesday, August 15: Justin Germano -- W, QS, 6 1/3 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K
Thursday, August 16: Kris Medlen -- W, QS, 9 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 K

Week's total: 7 GS, 6 W (85.7%), 5 QS (71.4%), 46 1/3 IP, 36 H, 13 ER, 9 BB, 40 K, 2.53 ERA, 0.97 WHIP
Season total: 122 GS, 54 W (44.3%), 66 QS (54.1%), 741 2/3 IP, 703 H, 314 ER, 244 BB, 554 K, 3.81 ERA, 1.28 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

• Citi Field might be the No. 23-ranked venue in terms of runs scored on our Park Factor page, but this might be a week of fireworks for the home team's offense. Look at the New York Mets' opponents: The Rockies and Astros have the game's Nos. 30 (5.92) and 27 (5.21) team ERAs since the All-Star break, and outside of Sunday opponent Lucas Harrell, who has four quality starts in the second half, the six other starters the Mets will face have four quality starts combined since the break. Among the Mets' Citi Field standouts: Daniel Murphy is a .343/.381/.480 hitter in 57 games there this season and Josh Thole has .301/.373/.336 triple-slash rates in 40 games. Digging deeper, Ruben Tejada is a .291 hitter in 35 home games, and Jordany Valdespin has .290/.319/.580 rates in 33 games there.

• The Detroit Tigers have five regular right-handed hitters primed to capitalize upon their week against three left-handed starters: Miguel Cabrera, Omar Infante, Austin Jackson, Jhonny Peralta and Delmon Young are all well worth your consideration this week. Three of them -- Cabrera (.308), Infante (.309) and Jackson (.302) -- have batting averages above .300 against lefties, and the group combined has 23 home runs against southpaws this season. Don't worry about an adverse impact on left-handed hitting Prince Fielder, though. He's a .292/.335/.435 hitter against lefties this season, so he should fare just fine.

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