Wednesday is a particularly poor day for starting pitchers. All 30 teams are scheduled to play, but of the 30 scheduled starters, the highest-ranked name on the Player Rater at the position is Edwin Jackson, and he's 17th. Next-best? That'd be J.A. Happ at No. 37 -- and he has made only 13 starts! If you're beginning to near your starts or innings cap in your fantasy league, this might be a good day to take a pass entirely; it's a day where most owners need to dig deep and speculate.
Among the specific storylines, Francisco Liriano returns to the Twins' rotation after missing a start due to forearm soreness; Kyle Davies rejoins the Royals' rotation after a stint with Triple-A Omaha in which he had a 2.14 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in eight starts; and Joe Martinez, whom you might remember as the reliever who was drilled in the head by a Mike Cameron line drive in April, returns to the Giants but this time as a spot starter.
Starting pitcher rankings for Aug. 5, 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: Rich Harden's cumulative statistics might not impress, but since the All-Star break, he's 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA, 0.75 WHIP and 32 strikeouts in 24 innings in four starts. Though this will be his first appearance at Great American Ball Park, his 4-0 record, 2.59 ERA, 0.70 WHIP and 34 K's in 24 1/3 innings in four career starts versus the Reds paint the picture of a must-start pitcher.
Edwin Jackson has but one win in his past eight starts, but he has fallen into some hard luck during that time, as seven of them were quality starts. He mastered the Orioles to the tune of eight shutout innings of two-hit, seven-strikeout baseball on May 31, and is 4-1 with a 2.86 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in nine starts at home this year.
Since his so-so big league debut, Tommy Hanson is 5-2 with a 2.62 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in nine starts. A matchup at San Diego's Petco Park, against a Padres team that has averaged 3.1 runs per game with a .653 OPS in its past 18 home games, couldn't look any more attractive.
So what happens when two unstoppable forces collide? The Angels might be one of the hottest offenses in baseball, with 13 instances of double-digit runs in their past 45 games and an .883 OPS during that span, but then Gavin Floyd is one of the hottest pitchers in baseball, with 11 quality starts in his past 13 turns and a 6-2 record, 2.33 ERA and 0.94 WHIP during that span. Tough call for fantasy owners, but I'd side with Floyd, who has eight straight quality starts at home and hasn't lost there since April 24. Many of those games came against potent offenses (Yankees, Rays, Dodgers, Tigers).
John Lannan is 4-1 with a 1.91 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 12 starts at Nationals Park this season, including 6 1/3 innings of one-run, three-hit, eight-strikeout baseball against the Marlins on April 17. Eleven of those home starts were quality starts. Between the Royals and their Triple-A affiliate, Kyle Davies is 11-10 with a 4.00 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in his past 27 starts, numbers that sound a lot worse than they are. They paint the picture of a matchups type, and this is a favorable matchup. Seattle's offense has averaged 3.4 runs per game with a .674 OPS since the All-Star break. Doug Davis might be no WHIP specialist, with a frightening 1.50 mark in the category for the season, but he has six quality starts in his past eight tries, during which time he has a 3.74 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 45 2/3 innings. He'll be facing a Pirates team that has averaged 3.6 runs per game with a .685 OPS since July 1, so if you're seeking a spot-start candidate, he's worth a look. Unstoppable forces, Part 2: The Rockies' Jorge De La Rosa has nine wins, eight quality starts and 60 K's in 62 2/3 innings in his past 11 games (10 starts), and he'll pitch in Philadelphia, against a Phillies offense ranked first in the National League in runs per game (5.3), OPS (.784) and home runs (143). Three of the Phillies' most potent offensive forces are left-handed -- Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez and Chase Utley -- and De La Rosa has limited lefties to a .490 OPS this season. That supports his case as a spot starter, though those owners in shallow mixed leagues might want to take a conservative approach. AL-only owners looking for a sneaky spot-start candidate might want to consider Aaron Laffey. He defeated the Twins behind 6 1/3 innings of two-run, five-hit baseball at home on April 26, and is 7-4 with a 2.80 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 15 career games (14 starts) at Jacobs Field. J.A. Happ is a noticeably riskier pitcher in home games, where his career ERA is 4.91 and his WHIP 1.53 (1.53 and 0.87 on the road), and the Rockies boast the game's No. 7 offense against left-handers going by team OPS (.799). Colorado might yet pull off the upset in this one. I need to see better from Francisco Liriano in his past three turns, during which time he's 0-2 with a 5.94 ERA and 1.62 WHIP, before I'd consider using him at possibly less than 100 percent. He just skipped his most recent turn; there are no guarantees here.
• David Wright, 3B, Mets: He's 7-for-17 (.412 BA) with one double and one home run in his career against Kyle Lohse.
• Mark DeRosa, 2B/3B/OF, Cardinals: The only Cardinal to have faced Jonathon Niese, DeRosa did so as a member of the Cubs last September, going 2-for-2 with a double. He's also a .296 hitter with a 1.002 OPS and eight of his 20 home runs against left-handers this season.
• Randy Winn, OF, Giants: He's 15-for-27 (.556 BA) in his career against Brian Moehler, including six doubles and one triple. Winn also loves hitting at Minute Maid Park; he's a lifetime .400 hitter with a 1.116 OPS in 11 games there.
• Freddy Sanchez, 2B, Giants: He's a .579 hitter (11-for-19) with five doubles in his career against Moehler, familiar with the right-hander from their days as National League Central rivals (Sanchez is an ex-Pirate).
• Joe Mauer, C, and Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins: You shouldn't have any fear of using these two even against the left-handed Aaron Laffey. They're a combined 9-for-18 (.500 BA) in their careers against the southpaw.
• Curtis Granderson, OF, Tigers: He's 4-for-8 (.500 BA) with two doubles and one home run in his career against Jeremy Guthrie, the home run and two of the hits coming in their May 30 meeting in Baltimore.
• Magglio Ordonez, OF, Tigers: He hasn't been hitting many pitchers effectively all year, but did go 2-for-3 against Guthrie on May 30. For his career, he's 4-for-7 (.571 BA) versus the right-hander, including two doubles.
• Nick Markakis, OF, Orioles: No worries with him facing today's top-ranked starting pitcher on the Player Rater; Markakis is 5-for-9 (.556 BA) with one double in his career against Edwin Jackson.
• Carl Crawford, OF, Rays: In addition to a lifetime .750 batting average (6-for-8), with one double and one triple against Brad Penny, Crawford also has six stolen bases in as many tries versus the right-hander. Crawford's six-steal game against the Red Sox on May 3 was a Penny start, and four of those bags he swiped came against the Penny/Jason Varitek battery. Even if Victor Martinez catches on Wednesday, it's quite the favorable all-around matchup for the speedster.
• Jason Bartlett, SS, Rays: He's 4-for-6 with three doubles in his career against Penny, including one stolen base.
• Billy Butler, 1B, Royals: Luke French did face the Royals in a game before his trade to Seattle, and in that July 8 contest Butler torched the left-hander for three doubles in as many at-bats. Small sample size or not, that's significant.
• Franklin Gutierrez, OF, Mariners: He's 5-for-8 (.625 BA) with one double and one triple in his career against Kyle Davies.
• Chone Figgins, 3B, Angels: Besides the fact that he's 3-for-7 with one double and one home run in his career against Gavin Floyd, Figgins matches up ideally on the basepaths. Floyd has surrendered the most stolen bases of any pitcher between this and last year (50), and his catcher for all but two of his starts this year, A.J. Pierzynski, has also allowed the most steals among catchers (161).
• Andre Ethier, OF, Dodgers: Small sample size yes, but he's 3-for-6 with one double and one home run in his career against Braden Looper, not to mention on a huge hot streak since the All-Star break, batting .397 with a 1.177 OPS.
• Jeff Francoeur, OF, Mets: He's 1-for-13 (.077 BA) with four strikeouts in his career against Kyle Lohse, including an 0-for-3 day with three groundouts against the right-hander as a member of the Braves on April 28.
• Edgar Renteria, SS, Giants: Incredibly he's only 2-for-17 (.118 BA) in his career against Brian Moehler, with three strikeouts.
• Garret Anderson, OF, Braves: He remembers Chad Gaudin from their days as American League West foes (Anderson with the Angels, Gaudin the Athletics), but he doesn't like facing the right-hander. He's 2-for-17 (.118 BA) in his career against Gaudin, though one of the hits was a home run.
• Grady Sizemore, OF, Indians: Though Francisco Liriano might not be pitching at 100 percent effectiveness on Wednesday, it remains a concern that Sizemore is 1-for-11 (.091 BA) in his career versus the lefty, with four strikeouts.
• Aubrey Huff, 1B/3B, Orioles: Edwin Jackson has held him to a career 1-for-9 (.111 BA), two-strikeout performance, including zero extra-base hits.
• Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds: He's hitless in eight career at-bats versus Rich Harden, including two strikeouts.
• Scott Rolen, 3B, Reds: He's hitless in six career at-bats against Harden with three strikeouts, and is a risk to sit besides due to a head injury.
• Jack Wilson, SS, Mariners: Not that many fantasy owners look to Wilson for consistent production, but Wednesday is one day he's a must-sit; he's hitless in eight career at-bats against Kyle Davies.
• Mark Ellis, 2B, Athletics: He's 3-for-14 (.214 BA) with no extra-base hits and three strikeouts in his career against Vicente Padilla.
• Rafael Furcal, SS, Dodgers: Amazingly, he hasn't had a shred of success in his career against Braden Looper, going 3-for-21 (.143 BA) without an extra-base hit, most of that accrued during their time as National League East rivals.
• Mike Cameron, OF, Brewers: Career numbers aren't quite as relevant with Jason Schmidt as they were before all his recent injury issues, as he's a softer thrower today than in the past, but Cameron's 3-for-26 (.115 BA), 9-K career performance against the right-hander might warrant a little bit of attention. It's a road game versus a righty, which isn't the most stellar of Cameron matchups.
If you're hardcore
• Ben Francisco, OF, Phillies: The Phillies have made a firm commitment to play Francisco fairly often, especially against all left-handed starters. He has an .817 OPS versus lefties this season (.800 career), and has hit a home run in his three career at-bats against Jorge De La Rosa.
• Steve Pearce, 1B/OF, Pirates: If there's one thing Pearce can do, and do well, it's mash left-handed pitching. He's a .311 hitter with a .963 OPS in 67 plate appearances against them in his big league career, and had .309/.990 numbers against them in Triple-A this season. He's also already 2-for-4 with one double and one walk in his career against Doug Davis.
• Gabe Kapler, OF, Rays: The Rays have granted Kapler just three starts versus right-handers all season, but they might want to consider it against Brad Penny. He's 3-for-7 (.429 BA) with two home runs in his career versus Penny, and the Rays need to maximize their win potential in every game against their division rivals.
• Ryan Sweeney, OF, Athletics: The "Padilla Floatilla" doesn't fool Sweeney; he's 6-for-10 with one double and three walks in his career versus Vicente Padilla.
• Marlon Byrd, OF, Rangers: Monitor his health leading into game time before activating him, but if Byrd can return to the lineup, the matchup suits him. He's 6-for-16 (.375 BA) in his career against Dallas Braden, with three doubles.
• Eugenio Velez, 2B/OF, Giants: Since his recall on July 27, Velez has started (and completed) all eight of the team's games, hitting safely in each and batting .438 (14-for-32) with one home run and seven RBIs.
Injury list: Out
Injury list: Day-to-day
• Adrian Beltre, 3B, Mariners (shoulder, 15-day DL): Was expected back Tuesday
• Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers (elbow)
• Ryan Church, OF, Braves (elbow)
• Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers (ankle)
• Michael Cuddyer, OF, Twins (back)
• J.D. Drew, OF, Red Sox (groin)
• Kevin Gregg, RP, Cubs (fatigue): He blew back-to-back save chances this past weekend, and had Monday's game off.
• Austin Kearns, OF, Nationals (thumb): He might require a cortisone shot, which would sideline him for at least three days.
• Francisco Liriano, SP, Twins (forearm): He skipped his last start but says he's fine to pitch against the Indians.
• Alexei Ramirez, 2B/SS, White Sox (ankle): Hopes to return Wednesday
• Hanley Ramirez, SS, Marlins (knee): Available to pinch hit
• Scott Rolen, 3B, Reds (head)
• Marco Scutaro, 2B/3B/SS, Blue Jays (heel)
• Geovany Soto, C, Cubs (oblique, 15-day DL): On a rehabilitation assignment with Double-A Tennessee, and might return as soon as Wednesday.
• Shane Victorino, OF, Phillies (knee)
• There are three weatherproof games on Wednesday: Giants-Astros, Yankees-Blue Jays and Red Sox-Rays.
• Six cities face the threat of rain, but not one of them appears to be at significant risk of a washout. New York (Cardinals-Mets) is the most significant, at 40 percent, but that's a day game where the teams can try to wait out the weather. There is a 30 percent chance of rain in Cincinnati (Cubs-Reds), Kansas City (Mariners-Royals), Philadelphia (Rockies-Phillies) and Washington (Marlins-Nationals), and a 20 percent chance in Pittsburgh (Diamondbacks-Pirates).
• Expect winds to gust as high as 20 mph in San Diego (Braves-Padres).
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.