- AJ Mass, Rumor Central
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What's this? A full slate of 15 games on a Thursday? Looks like baseball just got serious. And with a dozen pitchers with ERAs better than 3.50 scheduled to be on the mound and another trio with three wins already in 2009, this is going to be one difficult day to handicap. Still, that's what we're here for: to separate the men from the boys, the pretenders from the contenders, Jason Marquis from the likes of Jose Contreras. Let's get ready to rumble! Our starting pitcher rankings for May 7 are here for your review.
Starting pitcher rankings for Thursday, May 7
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: The terrific Dan Haren gets our top spot for the day with his 3-1 record and 2.70 ERA against the Padres, but we really love Jason Marquis, especially with his lifetime 4-1 mark and 1.98 ERA against the Giants. Ted Lilly has done well against the Astros recently with a 2-0 record in his past three starts against them. Plus, as a team, the Astros have hit only .216 against Lilly over his career. We're still going to ride Jarrod Washburn and his track record at Kauffman Stadium, 6-1 with a 2.30 ERA. Besides, Brian Bannister has never beaten the Mariners in his career. Andy Pettitte is 15-4 against the Rays and gave up only three runs in 7 1/3 innings against them in a no-decision earlier this season. Todd Wellemeyer has struck out more Pirates in his career than he has any other team and is 4-2 with a 3.93 ERA against Pittsburgh. On the negative side of the ledger, Anibal Sanchez has a 7.71 ERA against the Braves in his past three outings, which is why he's at No. 20 in our rankings. Even more painful is Brandon McCarthy's 0-2 record and 9.39 ERA in four games versus Oakland. Micah Owings has never beaten the Brewers, watching them rack up a .339 batting average against him in three failed starts, and Glen Perkins can almost equal his awfulness, facing the Orioles. Baltimore has hit .444 against Perkins in four outings. Still, based on the 2009 numbers, we'll give Perkins a little more benefit of the doubt -- but only a little.
• Jorge Cantu, 1B, Marlins: Cantu hit .375 against the Braves in their first series earlier this season and has been an RBI machine, with 17 since April 25.
• Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals: Sure, Pujols is always a good play, but check out his .402 average with nine home runs against the current crop of Pirates pitchers over the years. Smokin'!
• Curtis Granderson, OF, Tigers: In addition to his .333 on-base percentage against Jose Contreras, Granderson has six career home runs and 13 RBIs at U.S. Cellular Field.
• Torii Hunter, OF, Angels: Hunter has 14 home runs in 70 career starts against Toronto, nine of them in 40 home games, like Thursday night's contest.
• Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins: Morneau is 26-for-83 (.313) with three home runs and 18 RBIs at Camden Yards, including a 5-for-13 series this past September.
• Alfonso Soriano, OF, Cubs: His average at Minute Maid Park isn't great (.213), but Soriano traditionally displays some power against the Astros there, with seven home runs and 16 RBIs for his career.
• Pablo Sandoval, 3B, Giants: His recent eight-game hitting streak ended with a failed pinch-hit attempt, but a trip to Coors Field is a recipe for a fantasy feast. Plus, he has homered off Jason Marquis.
• Coco Crisp, OF, Royals: Crisp is going to stay crunchy with Jarrod Washburn delivering the milk, as evidenced by his .455 lifetime average against Washburn.
• Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds: Phillips is a career 1-for-14 against Brewers' starter Braden Looper. That's not so super duper.
• Chris Iannetta, C, Rockies: True, he has started to turn it around with four home runs in his past five games, but we can't quite forget his sub-.200 average and 22 strikeouts in 26 career games versus the Giants.
• Ryan Garko, 1B, Indians: In Boston, Garko is a career .200 hitter, which coincidentally matches his lifetime output against Tim Wakefield. Double your displeasure, double your lack of fun.
• Nyjer Morgan, OF, Pirates: Morgan has little power, so if he's not on base, he's not important to a fantasy owner. That's why his .273 OBP against Todd Wellemeyer scares us a bit ...
• Adam LaRoche, 1B, Pirates: ... but it's not nearly as terrifying as LaRoche's .174 batting average against the St. Louis right-hander.
• Vernon Wells, OF, Blue Jays: Jered Weaver is far from spectacular against the Blue Jays, but he never seems to have a problem with Wells, who has never had a hit against him in nine career at-bats.
• Orlando Cabrera, SS, Athletics: Cabrera has only two hits in 11 at-bats against Brandon McCarthy, putting him squarely on our list of hitters to avoid for Thursday.
• Miguel Tejada, SS, Astros: Don't expect miracles with Tejada facing Ted Lilly. He's a lifetime .194 hitter against the Cubs' scheduled starter, with eight strikeouts.
Deep inside the matchups
Get inside scouting knowledge from ESPN Insider, including more on Matt Cain's trip to Colorado and Brandon McCarthy versus the Athletics.
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If you're hardcore
• Mike Fontenot, 2B, Cubs: Fontenot has homered once in two at-bats versus Russ Ortiz and is a career 13-for-39 (.333) at Minute Maid Park.
• Kendry Morales, 1B, Angels: The switch-hitter, who is owned in only 16.1 percent of ESPN standard leagues, is a career .364 hitter against the Blue Jays.
• Ryan Spilborghs, OF, Rockies: His ownership is up nearly 8 percent in the past week, and he has a great track record versus Matt Cain: two homers and three hits in four career at-bats.
• Scott Hairston, OF, Padres: The three home runs he hit last season against the Diamondbacks were his most against any opponent.
• Willie Bloomquist, OF, Royals: If you're looking for a hot bat against Jarrod Washburn, you've come to the right place. Bloomquist is .478 for his career against the lefty.
• Gregorio Petit, 2B, Athletics: Petit had five hits in his first 11 at-bats this season, and since he's not owned in any ESPN standard leagues so far, let's assume he's available if you want to take a shot on him against Texas.
• Denard Span, OF, Twins: Span was 4-for14 with two round trippers against the Orioles last season. Not bad for a guy with only seven career dingers.
Injury list: Out
• Jorge Posada, C, Yankees (15-day DL, hamstring)
• Carlos Guillen, OF, Tigers (15-day DL, shoulder)
• Carlos Zambrano, P, Cubs (15-day DL, hamstring)
• Josh Hamilton (15-day DL, ribs)
• Brandon Morrow (15-day DL, biceps)
Injury list: Day-to-day
• Matt Capps, P, Pirates (elbow): A Tuesday MRI showed no structural damage, so Capps might be able to return by the weekend.
• Kevin Youkilis, 1B, Red Sox (left side): Apparently, this has nothing to do with his back and has been flaring up off and on all season, which means the pain could show up again at any time.
• Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox (hamstring): Ellsbury left Tuesday's game against the Yankees with a tight right hamstring.
• Ken Griffey Jr, OF, Mariners (illness): He's still suffering from the same type of recurring ailment that had him out for a week in 2007. Once it passes, he'll be just fine.
• Bill Hall, 3B, Brewers (hamstring): Hall hurt himself making a diving catch against Pittsburgh and could be back in the lineup as early as Wednesday.
• Rick Ankiel, OF, Cardinals (collision with wall): He's sore all over, but thankfully, he suffered no significant injuries from his made-for-YouTube head-first crash into the outfield fence.
• Thursday's weatherproof game: Only the Cubs-Astros game is safe from the elements.
• A 60 percent chance of thunderstorms in Kansas City threatens the Mariners-Royals contest, and the nearby Pittsburgh-St. Louis and Detroit-Chicago games might suffer the same fate, although the chance of rain in those two cities is not nearly as great.
• Cincinnati also is in the midst of a rainy spell, with a 40 percent chance of rain threatening on Thursday.
• Light showers are possible in New York and Boston, but all three games scheduled for Thursday should get played.
AJ Mass is a fantasy baseball, football and college basketball analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
AJ Mass previews Thursday's matchups in the majors and ranks the best starting pitchers, topped by Dan Haren.