Buchholz to make his 2009 debut
Starting pitcher rankings for Friday, July 17
Selected notes: We'll grant Ricky Nolasco a mulligan for his trouncing at the hands of the Diamondbacks. He allowed nine hits and seven runs in six innings, but he still had eight strikeouts to one walk and threw better than 70 percent of his pitches for strikes. Good pitchers are able to last five or six innings even without their best stuff, and seven runs in six innings hurts much less than, say, eight runs in two innings (his May 22 outing versus the Rays). More importantly, it was his sixth consecutive start with at least as many strikeouts as innings pitched, with a 49-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He has a tough matchup versus the Phillies, but he should bounce back. It's always tempting to start your hurlers against the Athletics, but Joe Saunders has too many red flags to ignore. He has allowed a ridiculous 11 home runs in his past six starts, and it has caught up to him. He has allowed eight, five and five runs his past three outings. A pitcher who allows 1.68 home runs per nine innings is one you have to avoid until he gets it together, especially when they don't balance that out with an appreciable number of strikeouts. As a team, the Padres hit .210 at home, which, as you might imagine, is dead last in the majors, by a full 27 points. That's a mark of futility of which Ubaldo Jimenez should take full advantage, and when you toss in his favorable strikeout rate, the matchup makes Jimenez a must-start. Mark Buehrle's blowup against the Twins shines the spotlight on the fact that Buehrle just hasn't been impressive recently. Since June, he has 24 strikeouts while allowing 10 home runs and 14 walks in 51 2/3 innings. The homers are particularly disconcerting, as he simply doesn't strike out enough batters to get away with an elevated home run rate. Although he may be able to get by versus the Orioles -- their .691 OPS against left-handers ranks second-to-last in the league -- his mediocre ranking on the day reflects his inconsistent pitching the past six weeks. Ricky Romero may be returning to Earth soon, as he's walked 10 batters in his past three starts, spanning 22 1/3 innings. He has managed to piece together three quality starts anyway, but the goal is to predict and avoid the poor starts, not throw him out there until after the fact. Sure, he has faced the Rays and Yankees in two of his past three starts, but the schedule won't get any easier when the Red Sox come to town. This time it's best to play it safe and bench him. Given Roy Oswalt's recent success, you may be surprised to see him ranked relatively low for the day, but given the offenses he has faced -- the Royals, Padres, Giants and Nationals -- you would expect that kind of success. The Dodgers will be a much stiffer test. They lead the National League in on-base percentage and are buoyed by the return of Manny Ramirez, and they're sporting a .298 AVG/.379 OBP/.496 SLG in July, the second-best OPS in the majors. Meanwhile, Oswalt rarely has had success against the better offenses in the league.
• Adam Dunn, OF, Nationals: Dunn has pretty much been all-or-nothing versus Carlos Zambrano with a .232 average in 56 career at-bats that is buffered by a .625 slugging percentage. Of the 13 hits Dunn has accumulated, however, seven have left the park, which is a ratio most owners can live with.
• Joey Votto, 1B, Reds: Jeff Suppan has had trouble against left-handers all season, as his .323 average against indicates, and Votto is 6-for-15 (.400) with two long balls off Suppan.
• J.J. Hardy, SS, Brewers: Hardy has taken Bronson Arroyo deep four times in 23 at-bats, so even though his other three hits have been singles, that's still a slugging percentage north of .800. Only two pitchers have allowed more home runs this year than the 21 that Arroyo has tossed up, so Hardy could be in store for a big day.
• Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves: Jones has suffered a bit of a power outage this season, but he hasn't had much trouble taking Mike Pelfrey out of the park, with two home runs in 13 at-bats.
• Kendry Morales, 1B, Angels: More than half of Morales' hits against right-handers have gone for extra bases, giving him a robust .592 slugging percentage in 238 at-bats. Although he's a switch-hitter, virtually of his production has come from the left side, and that trend should continue when he faces Trevor Cahill, who has allowed lefties to slug .621 en route to 15 home runs allowed in 195 at-bats.
• Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Cubs: Although Ramirez has started a five-game hitting streak, he's still yet to hit an extra-base hit since returning from the disabled list. Scott Olsen, however, is a great candidate to change that, as hitters are slugging .564 against him, while Ramirez is 5-for-12 (.417) with a double and a homer against the lefty.
• Curtis Granderson, OF, Tigers: The center fielder has been able to muster only a single hit in 11 at-bats versus A.J. Burnett, fanning three times along the way.
• Dan Uggla, 2B, Marlins: It's not good when a hitter has twice as many strikeouts as hits against a pitcher, as Uggla does against Cole Hamels. Uggla's 3-for-23 (.130) with six K's, two walks and one extra-base hit, so feel no shame in sitting him against the Phillies' ace.
• Carlos Pena, 1B, Rays: So how much worse is it when a hitter has more than three times as many whiffs as hits? Pena has two hits while fanning seven times in 15 at-bats versus Zack Greinke, and in case you're curious, those at-bats occurred before this year's breakout from Greinke.
• Carl Crawford, OF, Rays: Crawford has been slightly worse than his teammate when it comes to batting average versus Greinke, going 1-for-13 (.077), although he has struck out only once. As far as steals go, he has never nabbed a bag off Greinke, either, which you might expect considering Crawford has been on base only twice against the right-hander. And only two of the seven runners who have dared to try to steal on Greinke have been successful, so it doesn't look as though there's much hope for Crawford.
• Brian Roberts, 2B, Orioles: With only five hits in 25 at-bats versus Mark Buehrle -- four of them singles -- and no walks, there's not much solace to find in Roberts' matchup against Buehrle. It doesn't help that Buehrle has long been one of the toughest pitchers off which to steal, with 18 of 30 would-be thieves caught in the act since 2006. To that end, Roberts should feel lucky he has stolen even one bag against Buehrle.
• Mark Reynolds, 3B, Diamondbacks: Hitting a paltry .159 in his first 12 games of July, Reynolds is in a rare slump, and you can afford to sit him against Chris Carpenter. The Cardinals' ace has allowed only four home runs all season, and because runners also are 0-for-2 when trying to steal a base off him, it's doubtful you will see a meaningful contribution next to Reynolds' name in the box score.
• Clint Barmes, 2B/SS, Rockies: When Barmes goes on the road or faces right-handers, he's not nearly as effective. On Friday, he'll have both factors working against him, as he'll face Josh Geer in Petco Park. For his career, Barmes has hit .235 on the road and .253 against righties; although those numbers are a bit better this season, it's still nothing to write home about (.266 on the road, .270 versus right-handers).
• Carlos Lee, OF, Astros: Chad Billingsley has been death on right-handers this season, with a dominating .197 average against in 188 at-bats. It's doubtful that Lee, who is 3-for-15 (.200) lifetime against Billingsley, will be able to reverse that trend when he steps into the batter's box Friday.
If you're hardcore
• Josh Willingham, OF, Nationals: Willingham has a hit in each of his 11 July games, and he's reached base safely in 21 straight games. With 13 extra-base hits in that span, he's scorching hot and gets to hit behind on-base machines Nick Johnson and Adam Dunn. And for what it's worth, he's 5-for-7 with two extra-base hits against Carlos Zambrano.
• Garrett Jones, OF, Pirates: The 28-year-old career minor leaguer has caught lightning in a bottle in his time with the Pirates. He boasts an eight-game hitting streak that has him hitting .333 with four home runs and three steals. The ride probably won't last long, but he even has hit third in the lineup the past three games and starts against all right-handers, so it's worth milking it.
• Colby Rasmus, OF, Cardinals: Not only is Rasmus hitting .333 for the second consecutive month, this time, he has a strikeout-to-walk rate you can get behind, with eight K's to six walks. The improved on-base percentage has helped result in 14 runs in 12 games. Hitting in front of Albert Pujols has that effect, too, of course. This time around, more owners are putting stock in Rasmus, as his ownership has increased by nearly 5 percent in the past week, and as always, he's quite valuable when hitting against right-handers (.305 average and 10 homers in 210 at-bats).
• Scott Hairston, OF, Athletics: Hairston didn't have a problem hitting in Petco Park, so his new residence in the Oakland Coliseum -- also a severe pitchers' park -- isn't too bothersome, either. He's hitting .360 with four homers in 75 at-bats versus lefties this season, while his opponent, Joe Saunders, has allowed a whopping 19 home runs in 322 at-bats to righties this season. That is pretty much the textbook example of a favorable matchup.
Injury list: Out
• Jay Bruce, OF, Reds (15-day DL, wrist)
Injury list: Day-to-day
• Yuniesky Betancourt, SS, Royals (15-day DL, hamstring)
• Jonathan Broxton, RP, Dodgers (toe): Broxton's toe is something that will bother him all season, and all owners can do is just hope that it doesn't severely affect his pitching. He has struggled recently, but now that he's had five days off, the hope is he's feeling better and can resume his duties as a closer.
• Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B/SS, Indians (shoulder)
• Alex Gordon, (15-day DL, hip): Gordon has been out for nearly three months but is currently on a Double-A rehab assignment and is expected to join the major league roster in time for Friday's game.
• Mike Gonzalez, RP, Braves (elbow)
• J.J. Hardy, SS, Brewers (shoulder)
• Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies (flu)
• Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays (finger): Longoria missed the All-Star Game Tuesday with an infected ring finger on his right hand, but the injury isn't expected to keep him out of any major league games.
• Mike Lowell, 3B, Red Sox (15-day DL, hip): The plan is for Lowell to be activated from the disabled list either Friday or Saturday.
• Carlos Quentin, OF, White Sox (15-day DL, foot): Quentin could be available as soon as Friday. So far, he's hitting .333 in eight games during his rehab assignment.
• Only the Red Sox-Blue Jays contest will be weatherproof, leaving the other 14 games subject to the whim of Mother Nature.
• On the East Coast, Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh both have a 40 percent chance of storms. Further south, Atlanta (60 percent) holds the day's highest chance of precipitation, while Miami (30 percent) seems to be perpetually at risk of rain. Over in the Midwest, only Cincinnati (30 percent) has a moderate chance of showers.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.
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