Commentary

Hamels among talented hurlers

Updated: June 9, 2009, 1:25 PM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

Daily Notes
It's a good day to be a young pitcher, as 20 of Wednesday's 30 scheduled starters have yet to celebrate their 30th birthdays, 12 are 25 or younger and among my rankings, every member of my top six has yet to turn 28. (In addition, No. 7 man Carlos Zambrano turned 28 within the past two weeks.) Further down the list of young standouts, you've got Francisco Liriano (age 25) looking to build upon a decent most recent start in a game at Oakland; Cole Hamels (25) attempting to lead the Phillies to victory in a road game versus their division rivals the Mets; Jeff Niemann (26) attempting to extend his hot streak versus the Angels; and Chris Volstad (22) getting a bit of a challenge in a game against the Cardinals and 27-year-old ace Adam Wainwright.

Here's a fun one for fantasy owners: The Yankees and Red Sox will have Chien-Ming Wang and Tim Wakefield squaring off. Your guess is as good as mine how either will fare; Wang has pitched terribly all year and Wakefield, as a knuckleballer, can be unpredictable in these games. As you'll see below, I'm advising avoiding both starters, and loading up on hitters in that game.

For starters

Selected notes: Justin Verlander's eight consecutive quality starts, during which time he's 6-0 with a 1.12 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 72 K's in 56 1/3 innings, dictates that you throw his career numbers versus the White Sox (2-9 record, 5.90 ERA in 14 starts) out the window. It's not like Chicago is the potent offense it was back in the days those numbers were accrued anyway. … Clayton Kershaw is 2-0 with a 2.70 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in five career starts versus the Padres, including a 0.75 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in two starts against them this season (though he had a no-decision in each). Coming off a stretch of seven starts during which he has a 2.68 ERA and has limited opposing batters to a .182 average and working at home, Kershaw is about as strong a fantasy choice as you can find. … John Lackey seemed much more his typical self in his most recent start, a seven-inning, two-run, six-strikeout performance at Toronto on June 4, which makes him a safer choice despite another challenging matchup at Tampa Bay. Besides, he's 9-1 with a 2.36 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in 11 career starts against the Rays, most recently tossing a quality-start victory against them on June 11, 2008. … I choose to evaluate Francisco Liriano's most recent start (6 IP, 3 H's, 1 ER, 5 K's on June 5 at Seattle) as a promising sign and as such advise him in this turn at Oakland. The matchup favors him and it's not unthinkable that he's simply a guy who needs several weeks to get up to peak form. To that end he notched his first career quality start on May 31, 2006, and extended it for seven more in a row in what turned out to be a breakout year for him; and last year between the majors and minors he was 16-1 with a 2.71 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 22 starts from June 1 forward. … Carl Pavano has a string of four consecutive quality starts and is 6-1 with a 3.00 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in his past eight turns. He defeated the Royals on May 21 (6 IP, 6 H's, 3 ERs, 8 K's) and pitched effectively in a loss to them on April 14 (6 IP, 8 H's, 4 ERs, 8 K's), and because this start is at home, he's an intriguing spot-start option. … Sure, I'll start Jeff Niemann, he of the 3-1 record, 2.03 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in his past five starts. After all, it's not like the Angels' offense is especially scary; they have totaled 69 runs with a .698 team OPS in their past 17 games (4.1 runs per contest). If there's anything to dislike about Niemann's matchup, it's that he might struggle to get the "W" going up against Lackey. … Wandy Rodriguez's 7.90 ERA and .426 opponents' batting average in his past three starts is a bit of a concern, so approach his matchup against the Cubs with a bit of caution. His four-homer nightmare against the Rockies on Thursday represented his worst start at home (in terms of game score) since June 2, 2006. It's just not Wandy-like. … Mike Pelfrey is about as tough a start-him-or-sit-him call as there is for Wednesday. On one hand he has won both of his starts versus the Phillies this season and will be pitching at home, where he's 2-0 with a 3.62 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in five starts. On the other, he is coming off a miserable performance in Pittsburgh on Thursday (3 2/3 IP, 9 H's, 9 R's, 8 ERs), will be facing a Phillies offense that murders right-handers (.815 team OPS versus that side) and has surrendered a career OPS 138 points higher to left-handed hitters than right-handers. My verdict: Sit him. … I refuse to even consider activating Chien-Ming Wang until I see a start from him this season in which he lasts at least five innings and allows fewer runs than he completes innings. Oh, by the way, he's 3-3 with a 5.11 ERA and 1.52 WHIP in seven career starts at Fenway Park. Bleagh.

Now batting

Hitters' count

Freddy Sanchez, 2B, Pirates: He was 1-for-3 with a triple versus Jair Jurrjens in their most recent matchup on April 17, and in his career is 4-for-8 with one double, one triple, one walk and three RBIs against the right-hander.
Nick Markakis, OF, Orioles: He's 9-for-20 (.450 BA) with one double, three walks and five RBIs in his career against Felix Hernandez.
Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Indians: In two previous games versus Gil Meche this season, Choo was 2-for-5 with one double, one walk and one RBI. For his career he's a .545 hitter (6-for-11) with three RBIs against the right-hander.
Jhonny Peralta, SS, Indians: He has always loved hitting against Meche, too, batting .368 (14-for-38) with two homers against the right-hander in his career.
Nick Johnson, 1B, Nationals: He was 3-for-3 with two doubles and one home run against Aaron Harang in the only meeting they've ever had, and it came at a time when Harang was in the midst of perhaps the best season of his career, on May 10, 2006.
Carl Crawford, OF, Rays: He's 11-for-30 (.367 BA) with one double, one triple and one home run in his career versus John Lackey, and as a baserunner has two stolen bases compared to one pickoff against the right-hander.
David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox: Sluggish start or not, he remains a lifetime .444 hitter (16-for-36) with four doubles, two home runs and six walks against Chien-Ming Wang.
Johnny Damon, OF, Yankees: He's 19-for-60 (.317 BA) with four home runs in his career against Tim Wakefield. Remember, always play the track record against a knuckleballer.
Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers: He's 5-for-6 (.833 BA) with one double, one home run and six RBIs in his career against Jorge De La Rosa.
Garrett Atkins, 1B/3B, Rockies: Sure he has struggled all season, but perhaps Atkins' success versus Yovani Gallardo will inspire him to a good game; he's 3-for-4 with one double and four RBIs in his career against the right-hander.
Lyle Overbay, 1B, Blue Jays: He homered against Kevin Millwood in their April 23 meeting, and that one was played at the Rogers Centre. For his career, Overbay is a .385 hitter (5-for-13) versus Millwood, with one double, one triple and two home runs, and not one of those games was played at hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark.
Miguel Tejada, SS, Astros: He's 7-for-15 (.467 BA) with one double and one home run in his career against Carlos Zambrano.
Derrek Lee, 1B, Cubs: He's a lifetime .500 hitter (12-for-24) with three doubles, two home runs and six walks versus Wandy Rodriguez, including a 1-for-2, one-walk, one-RBI performance on April 7.
Ryan Theriot, SS, Cubs: Another Cub with success against Rodriguez, Theriot is 9-for-18 (.500 BA) with four doubles and one home run versus the lefty. He doubled and walked off "Way-Rod" in the aforementioned April 7 contest.
Jermaine Dye, OF, White Sox: One of the few trusty White Sox choices for Wednesday, Dye, is 14-for-40 (.350 BA) with three doubles, four home runs, eight RBIs and two walks in his career against the red-hot Justin Verlander.
A.J. Pierzynski, C, White Sox: He's swinging the bat well lately, batting .405 (17-for-42) with one home run in his past 12 games, and is a lifetime .314 hitter (11-for-35) with three doubles, three homers and 12 RBIs versus Verlander.
Magglio Ordonez, OF, Tigers: He's a whopping 10-for-17 (.588 BA) with three doubles, one home run and one walk in his career versus John Danks.
Chris Snyder, C, Diamondbacks: He's 8-for-16 (.500 BA) with two doubles, six RBIs and four walks in his career against Barry Zito.
Mark Reynolds, 3B, Diamondbacks; He's a career .455 hitter (5-for-11) with one home run and six RBIs versus Zito.
Edgar Renteria, SS, Giants: This entire team has handled Doug Davis nicely historically, but no one has a stronger track record than Renteria. He's 6-for-14 (.429 BA) with one double and two home runs versus the left-hander.
Bengie Molina, C, Giants: Not much less effective than Renteria, really, Molina is 16-for-41 (.390 BA) with three home runs in his career against Davis.
Randy Winn, OF, Giants: He's 14-for-41 (.341 BA) with two doubles and two homers in his career against Davis and, perhaps more importantly, a .348 hitter with nine homers and a 1.028 OPS in 34 career games at Arizona's Chase Field.

Pitchers' count:

Adrian Beltre, 3B, Mariners: In 15 career at-bats versus Jeremy Guthrie, Beltre has zero hits, two walks and four strikeouts. Talk about mastery!
Miguel Olivo, C, Royals: He's hitless in his career against Carl Pavano, though in his case it's in only eight at-bats. Four of those were strikeouts.
Carlos Pena, 1B, Rays: He has hit a home run against John Lackey, but outside of that has been entirely unsuccessful; he's 3-for-20 (.150 BA) with eight strikeouts and no other extra-base hits in his career versus the right-hander.
B.J. Upton, OF, Rays: Like Pena, Upton has had limited success versus Lackey, going 1-for-13 (.077 BA) with the one hit a double and five strikeouts.
Jason Varitek, C, Red Sox: He's 2-for-20 (.100 BA) with one double and one home run in his career against Chien-Ming Wang.
Hideki Matsui, OF, Yankees: Tim Wakefield has limited Matsui to eight hits in 47 career at-bats (.170 BA), though two of them were home runs.
Dan Uggla, 2B, Marlins: In eight career at-bats versus Adam Wainwright, Uggla has one hit (.125 BA) and four strikeouts.
Marco Scutaro, 2B/3B/SS, Blue Jays: It's a good day for you -- and perhaps the Blue Jays -- to sit him; he's 3-for-22 (.136 BA) lifetime versus Kevin Millwood, with no extra-base hits and four strikeouts.
Vernon Wells, OF, Blue Jays: He hasn't been much more successful against Millwood historically, at 3-for-16 (.188 BA), albeit with one home run.
Lance Berkman, 1B, Astros: He's 4-for-30 (.133 BA) with one home run and eight strikeouts versus Carlos Zambrano since 2006 alone, and for his career has a .651 OPS in 80 plate appearances against the right-hander.
Milton Bradley, OF, Cubs: He's not guaranteed to play, but even if he does you don't want him; he's 1-for-9 in his career against Wandy Rodriguez.
Alfonso Soriano, OF, Cubs: Rodriguez has been surprisingly efficient at getting Soriano out, too; the left fielder is 1-for-12 in his career versus the left-hander.
Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox: He's 4-for-27 (.148 BA) with nine strikeouts and zero extra-base hits in his career against Justin Verlander, and remember, most of those numbers were accrued in times when Verlander wasn't pitching this effectively.
Curtis Granderson, OF, Tigers: He's hitless in 12 career at-bats versus John Danks, with three strikeouts.
Marcus Thames, OF, Tigers: Expect the Tigers to sit him versus a left-hander for once -- a rarity for Thames -- as he can't hit this one (Danks). He's 0-for-11 with seven strikeouts in his career against the southpaw.
Eric Byrnes, OF, Diamondbacks: One of the few Diamondbacks who has trouble hitting Barry Zito, Byrnes is 3-for-21 (.143 BA) in his career versus the lefty.
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Padres: Not that fantasy leaguers should sit him -- this applies more to Baseball Challenge daily-game players -- but Gonzalez has had some real trouble with Clayton Kershaw historically, going 2-for-12 (.167 BA) with one double and six strikeouts in his career against the left-hander.

If you're hard-core

Kelly Shoppach, C, Indians: He has caught all 12 of Carl Pavano's starts this season, so expect him to do so for Pavano's 13th. That's good news for the Cleveland offense, too; Shoppach is 3-for-8 with two homers in his career against Gil Meche.
Kevin Millar, 1B, Blue Jays: Toronto might think about slotting him in against a right-hander, accounting for his career .390 batting average (16-for-41), four doubles, one triple and one home run versus Kevin Millwood.
Jamey Carroll, 2B/3B, Indians: He's getting a decent share of playing time with Asdrubal Cabrera sidelined and is hitting .394 (13-for-33) in his past nine games.
Andruw Jones, OF, Rangers: He has started each of Texas' past five games versus a left-handed starter and has a .928 OPS versus lefties this season. Meanwhile, he'll be facing a left-hander (Ricky Romero) who has served up eight homers in six starts, five of those to right-handed hitters (.865 OPS versus that side).
Laynce Nix, OF, Reds: He's mashing right-handers to the tune of a .295 batting average, seven homers and a .964 OPS in 116 plate appearances so far this year, and has actually had a higher OPS on the road (1.080) than at home (.743).

Triage

Injury list: Out

Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers (abdominal, 15-day DL): Required surgery that will now cost him 4-6 weeks
Travis Ishikawa, 1B, Giants (bereavement): Out until at least Friday
Casey Kotchman, 1B, Braves (calf)
Luis Perdomo, RP, Padres (knee, 15-day DL)
Ryan Sweeney, OF, Athletics (knee, 15-day DL)
Joe Thurston, 2B/3B/OF, Cardinals (personal): Not expected back before Thursday
Yorvit Torrealba, C, Rockies (bereavement): Might return this weekend

Injury list: Day-to-day

Willy Aybar, 1B/2B/3B, Rays (migraine)
• Milton Bradley, OF, Cubs (calf): Available at least to pinch hit
Joe Crede, 3B, Twins (calf)
Coco Crisp, OF, Royals (shoulder): Was expected back Tuesday
Bobby Crosby, SS, Athletics (bereavement): Might return by Wednesday
Aaron Cunningham, OF, Athletics (head)
J.D. Drew, OF, Red Sox (shoulder): Was hoping to return Tuesday
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox (shoulder)
Frank Francisco, RP, Rangers (shoulder)
Torii Hunter, OF, Angels (groin)
Chris Iannetta, C, Rockies (hamstring, 15-day DL): Might be activated Tuesday or Wednesday
Chad Qualls, RP, Diamondbacks (forearm)
Justin Upton, OF, Diamondbacks (shoulder)
Josh Willingham, OF, Nationals (viral infection)

Weather concerns

• Four games scheduled for Wednesday are weatherproof: Angels-Rays, Rockies-Brewers, Cubs-Astros and Giants-Diamondbacks.
• Rain appears to be most problematic up and down the East Coast on Wednesday. In Washington (Reds-Nationals), there's a 60 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. In Baltimore (Mariners-Orioles), there's a 40 percent chance of the same. In New York (Phillies-Mets), there's a 60 percent chance of showers, though the threat is less so around game time and more so around midnight. And in Boston (Yankees-Red Sox), the chance of rain is 50 percent.
• Cleveland (Royals-Indians) is the only other city at significant risk of delays or a postponement. There's a 60 percent chance of showers and a possible thunderstorm.
• Chicago (Tigers-White Sox) has a 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms, but the threat doesn't sound great enough to wash the game out.

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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