Commentary

Daily Notes: Liriano's matchup makes him tough call

Updated: April 21, 2009, 9:05 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

Mother Nature continues to wreak havoc on the baseball schedule; the first three days of this week have seen treacherous weather throughout the Northeast and Great Lakes regions, including a Tuesday postponement in Boston that will force a Wednesday Twins-Red Sox doubleheader. Wednesday isn't much more promising on that front than Monday or Tuesday have been, but at least it is slightly more promising.

If the skies cooperate, Wednesday will bring us CC Sabathia's first start since his 122-pitch effort in the new Yankee Stadium opener, Francisco Liriano's first career start at Fenway Park, Paul Maholm's going for his fourth consecutive quality start to begin the season and Randy Wolf's return to Minute Maid Park, where he managed a 4-0 record, 1.71 ERA and 1.14 WHIP in five late-season starts for the Astros in 2008.

For starters

Selected notes: CC Sabathia has a 3-7 record, 6.12 ERA and 1.63 WHIP in 15 career starts against the Athletics, but there's reason to ignore those numbers and trust him to dominate. First of all, Oakland is off to another atrocious start against left-handers this year, with a .581 team OPS, fourth-worst in baseball. Last year, the A's posted an MLB-worst .643 OPS against lefties. Also, in Sabathia's five 2008 starts that followed a start in which he threw 120-plus pitches, he had a 3-1 record, 3.00 ERA and 1.18 WHIP, and that includes his NL Division Series stinker against the Phillies. … Dan Haren suffered a frustrating loss to the Rockies on April 7 (seven innings, three hits, one earned run), but in five career starts against them, he has four quality starts, a 3-1 record, 2.91 ERA, 1.03 WHIP and 38 strikeouts in 34 innings. And yes, that includes his numbers at Coors. … Cliff Lee was a perfect 5-0 with a 2.63 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in five starts against the Royals in 2008. You know what to do. … John Danks is off to a stunning start, with a 0.75 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in his first two turns, and the Orioles do lean somewhat left-handed, what with Nick Markakis and Aubrey Huff being two of their better hitters. … Jair Jurrjens has made two career starts at Nationals Park, and although he hasn't won either of them, he has a 2.77 ERA, 0.77 WHIP and .156 batting average allowed in the two turns. He's off to a hot start and the Nationals are not, so he'll have a great chance at his first career win at that ballpark. … Chris Young already has defeated the Giants once this season (he threw seven shutout innings on April 12), and he has a 3.55 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in nine career starts against them. … As mentioned above, Randy Wolf was extremely successful pitching at Minute Maid Park last season, and the Astros came into Tuesday's games having scored the second-fewest runs (39) and sporting the seventh-worst team OPS (.703) in the majors. Even facing Roy Oswalt, he's worth a look in most leagues. … Although it's tough to justify sitting Francisco Liriano, pitching at Fenway Park against a team with a .289 batting average and .849 OPS against left-handers this season (.294 and .849 in 2008) does not qualify in any way as a favorable matchup. Keep it in mind as you pick and choose your Wednesday starters. … Counting the postseason, Joe Blanton has a 2.77 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in two career starts versus the Brewers, both of them after his trade to the Phillies last year. Citizens Bank Park hasn't seemed to bother him yet, as he's 3-0 with a 4.50 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in nine career starts there (playoffs included), so take a look at him in NL-only and most mixed leagues. … Ted Lilly was 0-4 with an 8.15 ERA and 1.58 WHIP in four starts against the Reds in 2008, and Wrigley Field is a hitter-friendly venue, so owners in shallow mixed leagues should take a moment to explore stronger options before using him.

Now batting

Hitters' count:

Randy Winn, OF, Giants: He's a lifetime .323 hitter (10-for-31) with two doubles and two walks against Chris Young.
Edgar Renteria, SS, Giants: He's 4-for-6 with two doubles and a home run in his career versus Young.
Brian Giles, OF, Padres: That Barry Zito is left-handed doesn't seem to bother Giles; he's 6-for-15 (.400 BA) with seven career walks against Zito.
Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox: Most of the White Sox have hit Jeremy Guthrie well, but he and Jermaine Dye have been most successful. Konerko is 3-for-8 (.375 BA) with two home runs lifetime against the right-hander.
• Jermaine Dye, OF, White Sox: He's 4-for-5 with a home run versus Guthrie.
Mark Teahen, OF, Royals: He always has handled lefty Cliff Lee nicely, going 13-for-34 (.382 BA) with four doubles, two home runs and 11 RBIs in his career against him.
Jeff Francoeur, OF, Braves: Off to a hot start, "Frenchy" is also 4-for-9 (.444 BA) with one home run in his career against John Lannan
Kelly Johnson, 2B, Braves: He's 5-for-11 (.455 BA) with two doubles and a home run in his career against Lannan.
Ryan Howard, 1B, Phillies: Braden Looper has retired him precisely one time in seven career plate appearances; Howard has four home runs and two walks in the other six.
Mike Cameron, OF, Brewers: Speaking of homer-friendly matchups in that Brewers-Phillies game, Cameron has two homers in four career at-bats against Joe Blanton.
Ryan Theriot, SS, Cubs: He's 7-for-13 (.538 BA) with two doubles in his career against Johnny Cueto.
Geovany Soto, C, Cubs: He's 5-for-11 (.455 BA) with two doubles, one triple and one home run lifetime versus Cueto.
Ramon Hernandez, C, Reds: He's 6-for-14 (.429 BA) with two home runs and six walks in his career against Ted Lilly.
Joey Votto, 1B, Reds: Lilly hasn't posed any problem for him, either, despite their both being left-handed. Votto is 5-for-13 (.385 BA) with two home runs and eight RBIs in his career versus the Cubs starter.
Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals: He's 4-for-9 (.444 BA) with two home runs, one of them a grand slam, in his career against John Maine.
Jose Reyes, SS, Mets: He's 6-for-9 (.667 BA) with two doubles, one triple and one home run lifetime versus Joel Pineiro.

Pitchers' count:

Adam LaRoche, 1B, Pirates: He's 3-for-17 (.176 BA) without an extra-base hit in his career against Ricky Nolasco, and his career OPS in the month of April is more than 100 points lower than it is in any other month.
Orlando Cabrera, SS, Athletics: He's 4-for-26 (.154 BA) with one double and a .407 OPS in his career against CC Sabathia.
Jason Giambi, 1B, Athletics: Sabathia has limited him to a 2-for-11 (.182 BA) performance without an extra-base hit in their careers.
Brad Hawpe, OF, Rockies: Although he has three doubles in his career against Dan Haren, they are his only three hits against the right-hander in 18 career at-bats (.167 BA), and Haren has struck him out eight times.
Clint Barmes, 2B/SS, Rockies: He's 2-for-14 (.143 BA) with five strikeouts lifetime versus Haren.
Aaron Rowand, OF, Giants: He's hitless in 10 career at-bats versus Chris Young.
Pedro Feliz, 3B, Phillies: He's 1-for-13 (.077 BA) lifetime versus Braden Looper.
Lance Berkman, 1B, Astros: He's 3-for-20 (.150 BA) with only two extra-base hits, both doubles, in his career against former teammate Randy Wolf.
Orlando Hudson, 2B, Dodgers: He's 2-for-13 (.154 BA) with three strikeouts and no extra-base hits lifetime versus Roy Oswalt.
Chone Figgins, 3B, Angels: He's 1-for-8 (.125 BA) with four strikeouts in his career against Justin Verlander.

If you're hardcore

Deep inside the matchups

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Cody Ross, OF, Marlins: He's 3-for-8 (.375 BA) with one double and one home run in his career against Paul Maholm.
Eugenio Velez, 2B, Giants: This would be a good time for manager Bruce Bochy to give him his second start of the season; he's 5-for-9 with two doubles and a triple in his career against Chris Young. Also, Nick Hundley, 0-for-8 in catching opposing baserunners stealing, has caught each of Young's first three starts of the season.
John Buck, C, Royals: Kansas City manager Trey Hillman essentially has to start him versus Cliff Lee, seeing as Buck is 12-for-34 (.353 BA) with three doubles, three home runs and five walks lifetime versus the left-hander, while Miguel Olivo is 2-for-19 (.105 BA) with seven strikeouts.
Matt Diaz, OF, Braves: He's 4-for-7 in his career versus John Lannan and has an .865 career OPS against left-handers. Plus, Garret Anderson is nicked up.
Alex Gonzalez, SS, Reds: Hey, at least he has as many hits (five) as strikeouts (five) in 15 career at-bats (.333 BA) versus Ted Lilly, and one of them was a home run.
Geoff Blum, 3B, Astros: There aren't many matchups in which he excels, but here's one, as he's 5-for-10 with two doubles in his career against Randy Wolf. Manager Cecil Cooper might make an exception and start him versus a lefty, especially with Jeff Keppinger (back) hurting.
Mark Loretta, 2B, Dodgers: Noting Orlando Hudson's problems against Roy Oswalt, maybe Hudson will get his first rest of 2009, especially accounting for Loretta's .400 lifetime batting average (6-for-15), two doubles and one home run versus Oswalt.
Marcus Thames, OF, Tigers: The Tigers might need his bat in the lineup to generate some power against Joe Saunders, and he has started all four games in which the team faced a lefty starter. Thames has two homers in nine career at-bats versus Saunders, so he's cheap power in an AL-only league, but be aware those were his only hits.

Triage

Injury list: Out

Roger Bernadina, OF, Nationals (15-day DL, ankle)
Everth Cabrera, SS, Padres (hand): Out for up to two months
Jesse Crain, RP, Twins (15-day DL, shoulder)
Ryan Freel, OF, Orioles (15-day DL, head)
Doug Waechter, RP, Royals (15-day DL, elbow)

Injury list: Day-to-day

• Garret Anderson, OF, Braves (quadriceps): Atlanta will face a left-hander anyway, so Matt Diaz should start in left field if there's any doubt with Anderson's health.
Rocco Baldelli, OF, Red Sox (hamstring)
Ronnie Belliard, 1B/2B/3B, Nationals (back)
Milton Bradley, OF, Cubs (groin): was expected back Tuesday
Russell Branyan, 1B/3B, Mariners (back)
Jay Bruce, OF, Reds (hand): was expected back Tuesday
Ryan Doumit, C, Pirates (wrist)
Stephen Drew, SS, Diamondbacks (hamstring)
Nomar Garciaparra, SS, Athletics (calf)
Adam Jones, OF, Orioles (hamstring)
• Jeff Keppinger, SS, Astros (back)
Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays (foot): available for DH duties at least
Brian McCann, C, Braves (eye)
Hideki Matsui, OF, Yankees (knee): trying to play through his injury, but missing more time than anticipated and limited to DH duties
B.J. Upton, OF, Rays (quadriceps): was expected back Tuesday

Weather concerns

• Among Wednesday's weatherproof games are Rockies-Diamondbacks, Rangers-Blue Jays, Dodgers-Astros and Rays-Mariners.
• As noted above, rain will continue to be a problem throughout the Northeast, in most cases continuing throughout the day before easing up in the evening. Fortunately, the only rain-threatened games scheduled during the day are Marlins-Pirates and Athletics-Yankees, so a good number of them might yet be squeezed in. Athletics-Yankees faces a 30 percent chance of thunderstorms after noon.
• Twins-Red Sox is in the greatest jeopardy of postponement, as the chance of rain increases from 20 percent during the day to 50 at night, and wind could be an issue, gusting to 26 mph at times. Royals-Indians will see the chance of rain drop from 60 percent during the day to 40 at night, and wind might present problems there too, gusting up to 21 mph. There is a chance of small hail in Philadelphia (Brewers-Phillies) at night, though the chance of precipitation drops from 30 percent during the day to 20 at night.
• White Sox-Orioles and Braves-Nationals will be played in cities with a 30 percent chance of rain during the day, but none is forecasted at game time. The main threat in those cities would be fields too wet for play.

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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