Be wary on Schmidt


Monday features the return of Jason Schmidt, the former ace who has rewarded the Dodgers with just six starts after being handed a $47 million contract. It will be his first start since June 16, 2007, and if nothing else it should be interesting to see how much, if anything, Schmidt has left in the tank. The Dodgers would surely be happy with even a fifth starter's performance, which is apropos considering the day's pitching rankings are full of pitchers who would have trouble making the roster in all but the deepest of fantasy leagues. Have no fear, though, as we dig into the scrap heap and salvage what's left.

For starters

Starting pitcher rankings for July 20, 2009

Rk.: The author's ranking of that pitcher for that day only. T: Pitcher throws left-handed or right-handed. W-L: 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: Kevin Millwood has been getting by on smoke and mirrors -- and defense -- for the majority of the season, but even the second-ranked defense in the AL hasn't been able to save him from getting pounded his past three trips to the mound. He's allowed 23 hits and 17 runs his past three starts, and his ERA is finally catching up to his poor peripherals. While he limited the Red Sox to one run in seven innings in a previous start this season, they normally pound him, with seven regulars hitting at least .300 against him. The 6.3 percent of owners who bailed in the past week may have the right idea. … Twelve of Andy Pettitte's 15 home runs allowed have come in the new Yankee Stadium, which makes him a fairly shaky start. The Orioles, though, are susceptible to left-handers, their .697 OPS ranking second-to-last in the league, and while Pettitte has yet to face the team this season, he does have a 3.50 against them over the past three seasons. … David Price has allowed five, five, one, six and one earned runs in his past five starts, which is a perfect example of the unpredictable nature of most rookie pitchers. He is coming off a gem versus the Blue Jays, striking out seven to give him a robust 47 in 44 innings on the year. But the seven home runs and 31 walks allowed are concerning, and considering how tough the White Sox are on left-handed pitching -- they rank in the top 5 in on-base and slugging percentage -- the risk of a subpar start is just too great. … There's much solace to find in John Smoltz's first four starts, as he's yet to walk more than one batter in a start and has kept the ball in the park. The offenses he has faced have been weak, however, and it remains to be seen whether such impressive peripherals are a by-product of a soft schedule or an indication of the talent he has left in the tank. His start against the Rangers should tell us a lot, since the Rangers are always a tough matchup in Arlington, even though their offensive numbers have been trending downward after they were playing over their heads earlier in the season. The biggest step for Smoltz will be getting through six innings, something he's accomplished just once so far. … Brian Moehler has allowed three runs or fewer in six consecutive starts, piling up five quality starts in the process. He's not someone to trust in the long term, but outside of Albert Pujols, the Cardinals are lacking in reliable bats, making him somewhat of a feasible spot start in deep leagues.

Now batting

Hitters' count

Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pirates: While McCutchen's patience and power could use a little improvement, his rookie season has been a success. He's hitting .287 and, more important, has stolen eight bases without getting caught; six of those steals have occurred in the past month. On Monday he gets a shot to test the arm of Jason Kendall, who has allowed 39 steals while throwing out less than a quarter of runners.
Hank Blalock, 3B, Rangers: As far as part-time players go, Blalock is one of the most valuable, as 15 of his 19 home runs have come against righties. He's scorching hot in July, hitting .333 with five homers in 51 at-bats, making him a must-start against Smoltz.
David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox: Big Papi is a lifetime .364 hitter versus Millwood, launching three long balls in 22 at-bats. Considering the rest of the Red Sox lineup hits Millwood hard as well, Ortiz could be in store for a particularly big day.
Carlos Lee, OF, Astros: Some of Lee's biggest numbers have been posted at Kyle Lohse's expense; he's 19-for-54 (.352) with four home runs against the righty. Over half of his hits have gone for extra bases, resulting in a .685 slugging percentage.
Kendry Morales, 1B, Angels: Lefties kill Sidney Ponson (insert your favorite food joke as a follow-up), and Morales terrorizes right-handers, so sit back and watch the hits rack up for one of baseball's hottest hitters.

Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies: A brief bout with the flu hasn't prevented Helton from compiling a seven-game hitting streak, upping his July average to .419. One has to like his chances to keep it up. He normally struggles against left-handers, but he's been great against Doug Davis, going 5-for-9 with a home run in his career.
Michael Cuddyer, OF, Twins: Since a rough April, Cuddyer is hitting .288 with 14 home runs, and he's even better against left-handers, with a .622 slugging percentage and seven home runs in 82 at-bats. A's lefty Gio Gonzalez has been pounded in most of his appearances, so make sure Cuddyer's active.

Pitchers' count

Aubrey Huff, 1B/3B, Orioles: A career .138 hitter against Andy Pettitte, with seven strikeouts versus four hits in 29 at-bats, Huff has been susceptible to lefties this season anyway (.230 average), so look for a replacement for the day.
Nick Johnson, 1B, Nationals: After a monthlong slump in June, Johnson's bat has been revived in July, as he's hitting .373 through 51 at-bats. Livan Hernandez, however, has owned him in his career, as all Johnson has been able to muster in 16 at-bats are two hits. He's also struck out a whopping seven times, which is especially alarming considering Hernandez is the furthest thing from a strikeout pitcher.
Michael Bourn, OF, Astros: Kyle Lohse is exceedingly difficult to run on, as he's allowed just 23 stolen bases his past 2,258 at-bats, while helping catch 15 would-be thieves. Add in the defensive prowess of Yadier Molina, who has thrown out 12 in 29 attempts, and it's unlikely you'll see Bourn nabbing any bases, and since he's a one-dimensional player, you can use that opportunity to bench him for a hitter with a better matchup.
Ryan Ludwick, OF, Cardinals: Ludwick went 0-for-7 against Brian Moehler last season, striking out three times, numbers that make Moehler as good a bet as any other pitcher to put an end to Ludwick's 11-game hitting streak.
Stephen Drew, SS, Diamondbacks: It's just not wise to start left-handers versus Jorge De La Rosa, who is limiting them to a .189 average this season. It should come as little surprise, then, that Drew is just 2-for-10 with five K's against De La Rosa in his career.

If you're hardcore

Pedro Feliz, 3B, Phillies: The third baseman has been particularly quiet of late, but he does have two home runs in 13 at-bats against Ted Lilly, hitting .308 overall versus the southpaw.
Josh Willingham, OF, Nationals: It seems like Willingham has taken up permanent residence in this space, and since he's 8-for-19 with three extra-base hits -- including a long ball -- against Livan Hernandez in his career, he requires another mention.
Jeff Francoeur, OF, Mets: Scott Olsen is one of the few pitchers Francoeur has the decisive advantage against. Six of his seven hits have been of the extra-base variety, including two dingers. Even then, however, that leaves him with a .241 average in 29 at-bats, but since he's hitting fifth in the Mets' depleted lineup, that power could translate into RBIs.
Gordon Beckham, SS/3B, White Sox: It seems Beckham is adjusting well to major league pitching, and during his current five-game hitting streak, he's 11-for-19 (.579) with three doubles and a stolen base. And while it's a tiny sample size, he's hitting .353 against southpaws, with six extra-base hits in 34 at-bats.
Adam Kennedy, 2B/3B, Athletics: With hits in 11 of his past 12 games, Kennedy has come alive again, and one shouldn't discount the fact that he's hitting .329 against right-handers this season. As icing on the cake, Nick Blackburn does tend to struggle versus southpaws, with a .289 average against them, so count on another productive game for Kennedy.


Injury list: Out

Carlos Quentin, OF, Rockies (15-day DL, foot): It looks like Quentin is not, in fact, ready to return from the disabled list and may need another week of rehab in the minor leagues before he's activated.

Injury list: Day-to-day

Lance Berkman, 1B, Astros (calf; available to pinch-hit)
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox (illness): Ellsbury has fallen victim to the flu and missed his second consecutive game Saturday. He should be back in a couple of days.
Mike Gonzalez, RP, Braves (elbow/forearm): Gonzalez was diagnosed with elbow tendinitis last week and says inflammation has moved up to his forearm. That doesn't sound like a good sign, but he hopes to be able to pitch Sunday, so hopefully it's just a short-term issue.
Cristian Guzman, SS, Nationals (foot)
Scott Hairston, OF, Athletics (wrist): Hit by a pitch Friday, Hairston missed Saturday's game and is still considered questionable.
• Ted Lilly, SP, Cubs (knee): Lilly was scratched for his scheduled start Saturday and instead will take the mound two days later.
Juan Rivera, OF, Angels (leg)
Gary Sheffield, OF, Mets (hamstring; available to pinch-hit): Thankfully for the Mets, Sheffield's injury isn't considered serious, and he should be back in the lineup soon.
Ian Stewart, 2B/3B, Rockies (hamstring)

Weather concerns

• The Astros host the only weatherproof game of the day.
• In the Northeast, storms are a threat in Washington, D.C. (50 percent chance), and Pittsburgh (40 percent), so watch for delays. And in Texas, the Red Sox-Rangers contest has a 30 percent chance of showers.

Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.