Kazmir no longer sure-fire start in Boston
Four season-opening series conclude on Wednesday, and three others resume after a Tuesday off, as we enter the third day of a streak of 15 consecutive days featuring at least one daytime game. Wednesday is a special day for two foreign imports who will be making their major league debuts: Koji Uehara of Japan, the Orioles' No. 2 starter, who battles the mighty Yankees; and Walter Silva of Mexico, the Padres' No. 3 starter, who faces the Dodgers.
Uehara's opponent, Chien-Ming Wang, will be making his first start since having his 2008 season cut short by a foot injury last June 15. Meanwhile, two other notable names will be making their season debuts for new teams, as Javier Vazquez toes the hill for the Braves and Randy Johnson for the Giants.
Starting pitcher rankings for Wednesday, April 8 (* all stats listed are from 2008)
Key: Rk. = The author's ranking of that pitcher for that day only. T: pitcher throws left-handed or right-handed. Record: pitcher's win-loss record. ERA: pitcher's earned run average. WHIP: pitcher's average number of walks plus hits surrendered per inning. K/9: pitcher's average number of strikeouts per nine innings. OPSA: pitcher's on-base plus slugging percentage surrendered to opponents. OPS: pitcher's opponent's composite team on-base plus slugging percentage. CT%: pitcher's opponent's success rate putting the ball in play (versus striking out).
Selected notes: Billingsley at Petco Park is about as automatic as it gets. So he lost there last June 11, so what? He has a 2.53 ERA in eight career appearances at Petco, and the matchup presents him with tons of strikeout potential. Though Yovani Gallardo had the second-worst start of his career at AT&T Park on Aug. 25, 2007 (his worst came at Coors Field three weeks earlier), it's tough to ignore that he's 9-4 with a 3.38 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 21 career starts, and facing one of the game's more ordinary offenses. There was once a time I'd have believed in Scott Kazmir facing the Red Sox, but not after he had a dreadful 9.00 ERA, 2.11 WHIP and allowed a 1.123 OPS and six home runs to them in four starts in 2008. Battling Jon Lester makes him even less attractive as a fantasy option, especially in a road start. Speaking of Lester, before losing both his ALCS starts to the Rays last October, he was 3-0 with a 0.90 ERA in three regular-season starts against them. Ted Lilly dominated the Astros to a tune of a 2-0 record, 1.40 ERA and 0.83 WHIP in three starts in 2008. Zack Greinke has never won a game at U.S. Cellular Field. He's 0-6 with a 7.78 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in eight games (six starts) there, and was soundly pounded for a 15.00 ERA and five home runs in two starts at "The Cell" in 2008. If there's a perfect time to use Todd Wellemeyer, it's in a home game versus Pittsburgh. He was 3-0 with a 3.45 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in five starts against the Pirates in 2008. Mike Pelfrey had an ERA almost a run and three-quarters higher and a WHIP more than 50 points higher on the road than at home in 2008, and he's a pitch-to-contact type who served up three home runs at Great American Ball Park last July 20. No thank you. Food for thought: Fausto Carmona, a ground-ball pitcher, has won both his career starts at Rangers Ballpark, one in 2007 and one in 2008 while tallying 14 innings and allowing one unearned run and a 1.07 WHIP. He also had a 2.67 spring ERA. Sneaky-good start, anyone? Daniel Cabrera has been soundly crushed during his interleague career -- 2-11 record, 6.08 ERA in 17 games (16 starts) -- and he's no longer the strikeout pitcher he once was. Don't be fooled by that low Marlins contact rate.
• Melvin Mora, 3B, Orioles: 9-for-20 (.450 BA) lifetime versus Chien-Ming Wang.
• Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox: 14-for-25 (.560) with four extra-base hits and four walks lifetime against Scott Kazmir.
• Jermaine Dye, OF, White Sox: 12-for-33 (.364) with three doubles and three home runs in his career against Zack Greinke.
• Joe Crede, 3B, Twins: 11-for-33 (.333) with two doubles and three home runs lifetime versus Carlos Silva.
• Ryan Spilborghs, OF, Rockies: 3-for-7 (.429) with two doubles lifetime versus Doug Davis, and batted .357 in eight games at Chase Field in 2008.
• Justin Upton, OF, Diamondbacks: 3-for-5 with a home run against Franklin Morales in their brief careers, and has a .967 career OPS at home.
• Raul Ibanez, OF, Phillies: Two home runs and five hits in 14 career at-bats against Javier Vazquez.
• J.J. Hardy, SS, Brewers: In five career at-bats versus Randy Johnson, he has two home runs and a single.
• Rick Ankiel, OF, Cardinals: Four hits, one of them a home run, in five career at-bats against fellow left-hander Zach Duke.
• Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals: 6-for-17 (.353) lifetime versus Duke.
• Ryan Doumit, C, Pirates: 5-for-11 (.455) with a double and a home run in his career against Todd Wellemeyer.
• Kevin Youkilis, 1B/3B, Red Sox: 7-for-35 (.200) with three doubles and 13 strikeouts lifetime against Scott Kazmir.
• Mark Teahen, OF, Royals: 2-for-12 (.167) with one extra-base hit -- a home run -- but five strikeouts versus Gavin Floyd.
• Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox: Zack Greinke has limited him to five hits in 37 career at-bats, striking him out 10 times.
• Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies: Two home runs lifetime versus Javier Vazquez, but in 43 at-bats; has batted .186 with 12 K's against the right-hander overall.
• Miguel Tejada, SS, Astros: Has batted .182 (6-for-33) with no home runs and eight strikeouts in his career against Ted Lilly.
• Brian Giles, OF, Padres: 3-for-21 (.143) in his career against Chad Billingsley.
• Mike Cameron, OF, Brewers: Though both hits were doubles, he's 2-for-29 with 18 strikeouts in his career against Randy Johnson.
• Bill Hall, 3B, Brewers: 0-for-13 with eight K's versus the "Big Unit."
• Freddy Sanchez, 2B, Pirates: Two hits in 18 career at-bats against Todd Wellemeyer.
• Russell Branyan, 3B, Mariners: In six career at-bats versus Kevin Slowey, he has two doubles and hasn't struck out.
• Jeff Keppinger, SS, Astros: Should get a start at third base over Geoff Blum, and is 5-for-15 (.333) in his career against Ted Lilly. Keppinger also has a .904 OPS against left-handers since the beginning of the 2006 season.
• Edgar Gonzalez, 2B, Padres: He's 4-for-7 with a home run in his career against Chad Billingsley, if he can just sneak in a start at second base.
• Gabe Kapler, OF, Rays: He'll presumably start in right field in this game (and versus most left-handers), seeing as he has an .886 OPS against them since 2006.
• Dexter Fowler, OF, Rockies: The Rockies would be smart to play him every day against a left-hander, as he managed a 1.098 OPS against that side in the minors in 2008.
Injury list: Out
• Jamey Carroll, 2B/3B, Indians (15-day disabled list, hand)
• Cliff Floyd, DH, Padres (15-day DL, shoulder)
• Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners (15-day DL, ulcer)
• Delwyn Young, OF, Dodgers (15-day DL, elbow)
Injury list: Day-to-day
• Vladimir Guerrero, OF, Angels (chest): Playing, but might serve as the designated hitter on occasion
• Carlos Guillen, 1B/3B, Tigers (hamstrings): Playing, but might DH on occasion
• Matt Lindstrom, RP, Marlins (rotator cuff): Active and available to close
• Mike Redmond, C, Twins (groin)
• Rafael Soriano, RP, Braves (oblique): Active and available in the bullpen
• Willy Taveras, OF, Reds (illness): Missed Opening Day
• Wednesday's weatherproof games: Tigers-Blue Jays, Rockies-Diamondbacks, Mariners-Twins and Cubs-Astros.
• Incredibly there's a chance of rain in San Diego -- between 20 and 40 percent -- but be aware that only once since 1999 has a Padres game in that city been postponed. For the record, it happened in April (April 4, 2006), so it can't be declared impossible.
• The forecast calls for it being a bit breezy in Philadelphia, with winds of 11-20 mph and a 20-percent chance of rain.
• The low temperature in Boston is expected to be 38 degrees.
• Expect winds of 20 mph in Texas, with gusts of up to 30 mph.
• There is a 50 percent chance of rain in Cincinnati and the low is expected at 36 degrees, though the detailed forecast suggests the rain might not arrive until overnight.
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.
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