Plenty of aces take mound this weekend
Consider this a weekend of aces, as the pitchers in our top 10 can usually be counted on to right any sinking ship. But therein lies the problem. With so many top pitchers going, a number of starters are bound to be left robbed of a win, scorning fantasy owners in the process. So why not buoy your chances with a couple of spot starters, too? There are also a lot of middle-of-the-rotation starters with favorable matchups this weekend. The only real problem is stuffing them all into your rotation at once. So while these pitchers may end up ranked in the mid-teens this weekend, it's all relative -- they would be near the top on most other days.
Starting pitcher rankings for Aug. 8, 2009
Starting pitcher rankings for Aug. 9, 2009
Selected notes for Saturday: Dan Haren has struggled a bit in recent weeks, but his ERA had to creep above 2.00 sometime. There should be some concern about the Nationals, whose offense is extremely hot right now (.933 OPS in August), but with a guy like Haren, you just throw him out there and take his lumps if they come, as more times than not he rewards you even against the best offenses. Five of the past six teams Brett Anderson has faced -- the Red Sox (twice, both on the road), Yankees (road), Angels (home) and Rays (road) -- all rank in the top 4 for OPS. Toss in the Rangers in his last start (10th), and the fact that he's allowed only nine runs in 32 1/3 innings is, frankly, amazing. Anderson is on quite the roll and gets a reprieve on the schedule when he faces the Royals, a team he should handle easily. Amazingly enough, Mat Latos has yet to allow more than two runs in any start despite allowing a home run in each one. He's been the beneficiary of some luck in that sense, assuredly, but there's no denying he's a tremendous talent. Latos has even gone seven innings in his past two starts, needing only 94 and 86 pitches, after there were concerns when he was called up whether he would be allowed to pitch deep into games. Leave him active when he draws the Mets at Petco Park. So goes the life of a fly-ball pitcher: Jered Weaver allowed 70 fly balls to 25 ground balls in June, allowing only three home runs, but allowed a slightly lower ratio in July, 78-32, yet saw seven balls leave the park. Allow that many fly balls and eventually things will catch up to you, so yes, there should be concern over his recent outings. Fortunately, he's usually done well versus the Rangers, and doesn't have to face them in Arlington, where things would be much tougher. The Rangers rank 22nd in road OPS, so expect a rebound of sorts. A favorable schedule couldn't have come at a better time for Ricky Romero, who allowed two runs in seven innings against the A's in his last start. He's walked only two batters his past 13 innings, which is progress. That, and the fact that his next opponent, the Orioles, aren't much better than the A's, should give his owners enough confidence to throw him out there again. Barry Zito has walked more than two batters in just one of his past six starts. That positive trend helps explain how he's also allowed two runs or fewer in five of his past six outings, and for the time being, Zito looks like a decent fourth starter. The schedule continues to do Zito favors, as he'll face the Reds on Saturday, so he deserves a look in most leagues. Kevin Millwood is just awful against the Angels -- the team is hitting .307 against him in 352 at-bats. He's allowed 13 runs in his past two starts against the Angels, so by now you should know to keep him on your bench whenever they show up on the schedule.
Selected notes for Sunday: Wandy Rodriguez has been nearly perfect recently, so no doubt his owners cringed when he left his last start because of hamstring tightness. He had his start pushed back a couple of days, so he'll be going on eight days of rest. Fortunately, Rodriguez returns at home, where he has consistently posted better numbers throughout his career, so he should return to his perch as one of the league's top pitchers. The blowup everyone was waiting for finally happened, as Joel Pineiro allowed 11 hits and seven runs in his last start versus the Mets. That said, it still wasn't so bad; only three of his hits went for extra bases, he didn't allow a home run, and he still refused to walk a batter, lasting five innings in all. It's the two- or three-inning blowups that really kill you, so grant Pineiro a mulligan and keep him active against the Pirates. John Lackey has logged quality starts in seven of his past eight outings, the lone exception coming in his matchup versus the Rangers. The team hits .346 off Lackey, so you'll want to keep him plugged to your bench this time around, too. Jarrod Washburn has limited the Twins to a .584 OPS in 202 at-bats, with their top sluggers -- Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau, Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel -- combining for one extra-base hit in 57 at-bats. It's safe to say Washburn has their number, and the rest of the Twins' lineup can't carry the team. It shouldn't come as a surprise, then, that Washburn has posted a 0.64 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in two starts, so he may well be one of the day's top pitchers once again. Jamie Moyer has continually done well against the Marlins, who are hitting a weak .234 in 248 career at-bats. In three previous starts, Moyer has two wins with a 2.37 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in 19 innings, making him a prime spot-start candidate when they come around again Sunday. Jose Contreras has been roughed up his past four starts, but the last gem he pitched -- the last two gems, in fact, since he faced the Indians in consecutive starts -- was versus the Indians, a team he has a 1.88 ERA against this season. The Tribe have hit .217 in 129 at-bats against Contreras in their careers, so don't be shy about spot-starting Contreras, either. Make sure to avoid Andy Pettitte when he faces his bitter rivals, since the Red Sox light him up; they're batting .345 against him in 267 at-bats. Seven regulars hit over .300 against him, so there won't be very many easy outs. Since 13 of Pettitte's 16 home runs have been given up in the new Yankee Stadium, there's a risk that things could get a bit ugly.
Now batting (Saturday)
• Hideki Matsui, OF, Yankees: He's hitting only .246 since the break, but Matsui is starting to come alive again, going 11-for-33 his past 10 games and piling up four doubles and a homer. He should be one of the many Yankees who hit Clay Buchholz hard; he's already 3-for-4 with a double against him lifetime.
• David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox: It's assumed Ortiz will sit more often against left-handers in the future to help get Victor Martinez's bat in the lineup -- even though he's hitting slightly better against them this year than he is versus righties, his career numbers heavily favor right-handed pitching -- but not versus CC Sabathia, against whom he's 7-for-21 with two home runs.
• Vladimir Guerrero, OF, Angels: Guerrero already hit a home run in his third game back since returning from the disabled list, a feat he accomplished only three times in the previous 38 games before he was activated. That's a good sign he's feeling better, and he has a particularly great match versus Kevin Millwood to exploit -- he's hitting a robust .370 off Millwood lifetime, with four home runs in 81 at-bats as well.
• Hank Blalock, 1B/3B, Rangers: It shouldn't be particularly surprising that Jered Weaver has struggled against Blalock, as Weaver is a fly-ball pitcher who tends to have the most trouble versus left-handed hitters with power. That's been no exception this season, as 12 of his 19 home runs allowed have been hit by lefties, who are slugging .481 against him; Blalock, who has already taken Weaver deep this season and is 11-for-27 (.407) against him lifetime, could add to the damage.
• Jorge Cantu, 1B/3B, Marlins: Three of Cantu's four hits off Cole Hamels have left the park, and considering they have faced each other only 16 times, that is quite the feat.
• Jason Varitek, C, Red Sox: Varitek is only 1-for-13 against CC Sabathia, although Varitek did take Sabathia deep with that one hit. A .077 batting average won't cut it, however, and as a result, Victor Martinez could replace him behind the plate.
• Chone Figgins, 3B, Angels: Kevin Millwood has owned Figgins in their career at-bats, Figgins fanning as many times (nine) as he's reached base. He's just 6-for-36 (.167) overall, with nary an extra-base hit.
• Michael Young, SS/3B, Rangers: Young may be hitting .289 versus Jered Weaver, but it's an empty .289, as all of his hits have been singles, he's earned just one walk, and he's struck out five times in 38 at-bats. So in the end, his OPS is still under .600, making Young an uninspiring play.
• Dan Uggla, 2B, Marlins: He's only 3-for-23 (.130) versus Cole Hamels, with twice as many strikeouts as hits.
• Michael Cuddyer, OF, Twins: He has slugged a home run off Justin Verlander, but that's about the extent of his success, and the .167 average that home run comes attached with isn't worth it in the grand scheme of things. Overall, Cuddyer is 4-for-24 with four strikeouts versus Verlander.
If you're hardcore
• Ty Wigginton, 1B/3B/OF, Orioles: Wigginton's gone 12-for-35 (.342) since July 25, and when he is hitting, his versatility -- he's played at five different positions -- helps get him into the lineup, especially with Melvin Mora struggling, making him a good utility player in deep leagues.
• Jonny Gomes, OF, Reds: He was destined to slump sooner or later, but for Gomes all that means is he's no longer useful against right-handed pitching. He's still worth starting against lefties, as his power -- 29 career home runs in 474 at-bats -- is legitimate. Thirteen of the 15 home runs Zito has allowed have come against right-handed batters, too.
• Marlon Byrd, OF, Rangers: Byrd is 2-for-6 with two doubles off Jered Weaver this season, bringing up his career totals to six hits in 17 at-bats with three doubles. The matchup will give Byrd a good chance to extend his hitting streak, which is at eight games entering Friday.
• Cody Ross, OF, Marlins: He's gone deep against Cole Hamels two times in 21 at-bats, even if he hasn't been the greatest hitter, with a .238 average, otherwise. This season, however, Hamels has been a little more mortal, allowing right-handers to hit over .300 and slug over .500.
• Marcus Thames, OF, Tigers: Another matchup with a lefty, another recommendation for Thames, who is 3-for-11 with a double and a homer versus Glen Perkins in his career.
• Billy Butler, 1B, Royals: He has refused to cool down, accumulating seven more hits in his past three games, including two home runs, his seventh and eighth dingers of the season against left-handed pitching. That boosts his average to .338 against southpaws, with a .615 slugging percentage, and lo and behold, another lefty, Brett Anderson, is on tap for Saturday.
Now batting (Sunday)
• Magglio Ordonez, OF, Tigers: With nine hits in his past 10 games, maybe this won't be a lost season for Ordonez after all. He showed signs of life in July, with seven of his 13 hits going for extra bases, and now he's off to a 6-for-16 start in August. He gets to step into the batter's box against one of his favorite pitchers Sunday, Scott Baker, against whom he's 13-for-31 (.419) with two home runs.
• Luke Scott, OF, Orioles: Scott has been in an offensive freefall lately, so who better to right the ship against than Roy Halladay? Scott is 6-for-12 with three home runs against Halladay, including 4-for-7 with a home run this year.
• Juan Rivera, OF, Angels: His numbers against righties have lowered, but he's still hammering left-handers, hitting .363 with six homers in 80 at-bats. Chances are Rivera goes off on Derek Holland, who has allowed a .877 OPS against right-handed hitters.
• Michael Young, SS/3B, Rangers: Young is batting a convincing .380 in 79 at-bats versus John Lackey, adding a pair of home runs as well.
• Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers: A matchup against Lackey may be what Hamilton needs, as he's 7-for-16 with three dingers against him, including a 3-for-3 mark this season.
• J.D. Drew, OF, Red Sox: Although Andy Pettitte has struck him out 12 times in 29 at-bats, Drew has made the most out of the hits, with three doubles and home runs among his 10 hits. That's led to an uncharacteristic .759 slugging percentage, making Drew the rare left-hander who hits Pettitte so hard.
• Brandon Inge, 3B/C, Tigers: Inge homered Thursday, but that was just his first home run since reports about his knee bothering him were released. He's never been particularly adept against right-handers anyway, and he's hitting only .242 against them this season, so it would be a good idea to bench him against most right-handers to begin with. Scott Baker has been particularly rough on him, however, limiting him to six hits -- none of which has gone for extra bases -- in 28 at-bats and striking him out six times.
• Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins: This has been Morneau's best season yet against left-handers -- he's hitting over .320 with nine home runs -- but that hasn't helped him against Jarrod Washburn, against whom he's 1-for-6 with two strikeouts, bringing his career average against him down to .190. Dominating lefties is nothing new for Washburn, as he's limited southpaws to a paltry .184 average in 136 at-bats this season.
• Michael Cuddyer, OF, Twins: Of course, Washburn wouldn't have a 2.93 ERA if it had been just lefties, and Cuddyer can't claim any more success against Washburn than Morneau could, as Cuddyer is also 1-for-6 off him. Career-wise, Cuddyer has been even more befuddled by Washburn, with just three singles in 17 at-bats while fanning seven times. Heck, if we really wanted to, we could probably add Jason Kubel (0-for-6, .211 average versus lefties), too.
• Nick Markakis, OF, Orioles: With a .218 average and a .297 slugging percentage versus Roy Halladay, it's safe to say Markakis has been just another victim. He only has one extra-base hit -- a homer, at least -- in 37 career at-bats, striking out four times.
• Travis Hafner, DH, Indians: If you're able to prevent Hafner from picking up an extra-base hit in 30 at-bats, as Jose Contreras has, you must be doing something right. While Hafner does have eight walks, he has otherwise been dominated by Contreras, hitting .133 with eight strikeouts.
• Casey Blake, 3B, Dodgers: He's struck out in over 37 percent of his plate appearances against Javier Vazquez, with 11 K's in 27 at-bats. Even the few times he's got a hit, they've been mostly singles, with only one extra-base hit.
If you're hardcore
• Marcus Thames, OF, Tigers: Another left-handed pitcher
wait, Scott Baker? We're recommending Thames against a right-hander? Thames is a career .233 hitter versus righties, but Baker has allowed three gopher balls to Thames in just 18 at-bats. Right-handed hitters are also slugging .508 against him, responsible for all but four of the 20 home runs he's allowed.
• Ty Wigginton, 1B/3B/OF, Orioles: We're showing Wigginton love all weekend, as he's also 7-for-22 (.318) with a pair of doubles and a long ball against Roy Halladay, too. As you might expect, the vast majority of his teammates struggle immensely against Doc, so he shouldn't have a problem squeezing his way into the lineup.
• Gerardo Parra, OF, Diamondbacks: Scorching hot the past couple of weeks, Parra is 22-for-58 (.379) with six multi-hit games, four doubles and two home runs since July 23. He's now batting .312 against right-handers, and will go up against J.D. Martin, who has already allowed three home runs to left-handed hitters in just 39 at-bats.
• Wes Helms, 1B/3B, Marlins: Sure, while Helms is 6-for-13 against Jamie Moyer, with two home runs and a double, it's tough to roll the dice on a bench player you're just hoping gets a start. We'd be skeptical, too, if not for the fact that Helms has already taken Moyer out of the park this season, going 2-for-6 in the process. It looks like manager Fredi Gonzalez already knows what's up, and chances are an off day is coming for Nick Johnson (1-for-18 versus Moyer).
• Billy Butler, 1B, Royals: Expect Butler to go to town on another left-hander, this time Gio Gonzalez, a pitcher he's already blasted a home run off in just two at-bats.
• Erick Aybar, SS, Angels: Aybar's hitting .367 since the break, while Derek Holland has been pounded by hitters on the right side of the plate, with 30 extra-base hits allowed in 233 at-bats. That's a .532 slugging percentage. Even worse for Holland, Aybar has already lit him up before, going 2-for-2 with a double and a home run.
• Marlon Byrd, OF, Angels: Byrd crushes John Lackey, too, with two home runs and doubles among his seven hits in 21 at-bats versus Lackey. Since a number of Rangers pound Lackey, and Byrd has been batting third and fourth in the lineup recently, he should contribute in RBIs and runs, too.
Injury list: Out
• Corey Hart, OF, Brewers (15-day DL, appendectomy)
• Roy Oswalt, SP, Astros (back): Oswalt won't start this weekend and will instead aim for a return Tuesday.
• Justin Upton, OF, Diamondbacks (15-day DL, oblique)
Injury list: Day-to-day
• Jason Bay, OF, Red Sox (hamstring; doubtful)
• Luis Castillo, 2B, Mets (ankle)
• Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers (ankle)
• Bobby Jenks, RP, White Sox (kidney stones)
• Jed Lowrie, SS, Red Sox (forearm)
• Kevin Millwood, SP, Rangers (gluteus): This time around, Millwood looks to be on schedule to start Saturday's game against the Angels.
• Alexei Ramirez, 2B/SS, White Sox (ankle)
• Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Rangers (shoulder)
• Gary Sheffield, OF, Mets (hamstring)
• Three weatherproof games for the weekend will be hosted in Toronto, Houston and Seattle.
• Detroit could suffer through thunderstorms all weekend, particularly Saturday. Pittsburgh could also see a few storms here and there, especially Sunday afternoon. Rain is expected to pick up in Philadelphia and New York on Sunday, with a 30 percent chance of storms for each.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.