What to expect from Pedro
The fantasy baseball world is abuzz with Pedro Martinez talk, as the one-time fantasy megastud makes his return to a major league mound when he joins the Phillies' rotation on Wednesday. The right-hander, now 37 years old, had a 5.11 ERA in three minor league tune-up starts, but also a 0.97 WHIP, .200 batting average allowed and 16 K's in 12 1/3 innings in them. He also whiffed 11 hitters in six innings in his most recent turn for Double-A Reading on Aug. 5. But is that enough to make him a fantasy option in his 2009 debut? Read on
Starting pitcher rankings for August 12, 2009
Selected notes: Not that you'd ever sit him, but to point out how it's not one bit a scary matchup, Tim Lincecum is 3-0 with a 2.70 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 38 strikeouts in 30 innings in five career games (four starts) against the Dodgers. In every sense of the word Josh Beckett has been dominant, both lately and in his career against the Tigers. He's 8-2 with a 2.06 ERA and 0.89 WHIP in his past 12 starts, and 2-1 with a 2.61 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in three career starts versus Detroit. Can you say "must-start"? After a bit of a rocky stretch, Ricky Nolasco has bounced back with four exceptional starts, during which time he's 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA, 0.88 WHIP and 30 K's in 27 1/3 innings. He also has a 4.00 ERA and 1.22 WHIP in 10 starts at home, far superior to his 5.75/1.34 numbers on the road, so keep him in there. New Yankee Stadium has actually impacted A.J. Burnett the least of any of the Yankees' top four starters, at least in terms of home/road ERA differential, as he's 4-1 with a 3.30 ERA and 1.37 WHIP in his 11 starts at home, the best ERA of any Yankees pitcher with 50 or more innings. He has six consecutive quality starts at home during which time he hasn't lost, including a seven-inning, two-run, six-hit defeat of these Blue Jays on July 3. No ballpark-factor fears here. Ubaldo Jimenez is 3-0 with a 3.12 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in his past five starts, and for his career he has an impressive 3.53 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 36 games (35 starts) at Coors Field. This Pirates team ranks among the game's 10 weakest offenses, so consider the right-hander a must-start. So long as you can live with his meager contributions in the strikeout category, Jon Garland warrants matchups consideration versus the Mets. He has a 3.17 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in his past eight starts, including a complete-game, 5-2 victory at Citi Field on Aug. 2. If you're looking for a deep sleeper, consider Tommy Hunter, 4-2 with a 2.32 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in his past seven starts. Two of his three best starts (going by game score) during his hot streak came on the road, and Progressive Field in Cleveland does profile as a pitcher-friendly venue. Vin Mazzaro defeated the Orioles behind 7 1/3 shutout innings of two-hit baseball on June 7, in his second career start, but since then he's 1-8 with a 7.06 ERA in 11 turns. So which Mazzaro seems more likely to toe the hill on Wednesday? That it's a road start against a team with an .816 OPS at home, sixth-best in baseball, has me thinking sit him. Besides the fact that this is Pedro Martinez's first major league start since Sept. 25, 2008, the guy averaged a measly 5.5 innings per start a year ago and we have no idea how much of his old stuff he still possesses. Ultimately he's a fly-ball pitcher making a road start at Wrigley Field, which isn't a good matchup at all. Take a wait-and-see approach. Oliver Perez is 0-2 with a 6.61 ERA and 1.71 WHIP in three career starts at Chase Field, and he's 0-2 with a 7.28 ERA and 1.85 WHIP in six road starts this season. That's a terrible mix, and keep in mind that Arizona also has a team OPS 84 points higher in home games than road.
• Nick Swisher, 1B/OF, Yankees: It's a small sample size, sure, but Swisher is 2-for-2 with one double and one walk in his career against Ricky Romero.
• Jeff Francoeur, OF, Mets: He's 5-for-8 (.625 BA) with one double and one home run in his career against Jon Garland, and a .281 hitter with 17 RBIs in 25 games since the All-Star break, including a 2-for-3, one-homer performance against Garland himself on Aug. 2 at Citi Field.
• Orlando Hudson, 2B, Dodgers: So long as he's healthy enough to play, he's one of the few Dodgers who routinely has succeeded versus Tim Lincecum. He's 7-for-15 (.467 BA) with two doubles in his career against the right-hander.
• Adam LaRoche, 1B, Braves: He was 2-for-3 with one double and one home run versus Craig Stammen in their May 21 meeting, and since coming to the Braves, LaRoche has batted .344 with a .905 OPS in nine games.
• Cristian Guzman, SS, Nationals: He's 11-for-29 (.379 BA) with five RBIs in his career against Derek Lowe.
• Nyjer Morgan, OF, Nationals: He's 5-for-9 (.556 BA) with one double in his career versus Lowe, and more importantly, he has successfully stolen a base versus the Lowe-Brian McCann battery in each of their two meetings this season.
• Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers: Limited sample size, yes, but Hamilton's 4-for-7, two-double, one-triple career performance against Fausto Carmona warrants a bit of attention nonetheless.
• Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers: There's no guarantee he'll be ready to play Wednesday, and if he doesn't it'd be a shame, as he's 3-for-6 in his career against Carmona, two of those hits home runs.
• Kevin Youkilis, 1B/3B, Red Sox: He's 3-for-5 with two home runs and one walk in his career against Armando Galarraga.
• Hunter Pence, OF, Astros: He has two hits in five at-bats in his career against Ricky Nolasco, and both of them were home runs.
• Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins: He's 8-for-22 (.364 BA) with three doubles and two home runs in his career against Brian Bannister.
• Michael Cuddyer, OF, Twins: He's a lifetime .385 hitter (5-for-13) with one home run and three RBIs versus Bannister.
• Ryan Ludwick, OF, Cardinals: Most any Cardinals hitter makes a great fantasy option facing Homer Bailey -- the team has combined to bat .326 with a 1.092 OPS versus the right-hander -- but Ludwick is the team's biggest standout. He's 3-for-8 with two doubles and one homer against Bailey.
• Jim Thome, DH, White Sox: Thome has one of the most remarkable track records of any hitter against Felix Hernandez; he's 5-for-8 with two doubles, three home runs and three walks in his career versus the right-hander.
• Lyle Overbay, 1B, Blue Jays: No way you want him in your lineup; he's 1-for-15 (.067 BA) in his career against A.J. Burnett, including seven strikeouts.
• David Wright, 3B, Mets: Surprisingly, he's hitless in seven career at-bats against Jon Garland. Not that fantasy owners ever want to sit Wright, but Baseball Challenge players might want to take those numbers into account.
• James Loney, 1B, Dodgers: He's 2-for-12 (.167 BA) in his career against Tim Lincecum, with five strikeouts and one extra-base hit (a double).
• Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers: He's hitless in seven career at-bats versus Lincecum, including four strikeouts.
• Russell Martin, C, Dodgers: Ditto Kemp's numbers, as Martin is also 0-for-7 with four strikeouts in his career against Lincecum.
• Adam Dunn, 1B/OF, Nationals: He has historically had trouble with the sinkerballer Derek Lowe, going 2-for-19 (.105 BA) with five strikeouts and zero extra-base hits in his career against the right-hander.
• Marlon Byrd, OF, Rangers: He's hitless in nine career at-bats against Fausto Carmona, including four strikeouts.
• Hank Blalock, 1B/3B, Rangers: Carmona has also held him hitless in eight career at-bats, including two strikeouts.
• Curtis Granderson, OF, Tigers: One of the Tigers who has struggled most historically against Josh Beckett is Granderson; he's 2-for-11 (.182 BA) with seven strikeouts in his career versus the right-hander.
• Felipe Lopez, 2B, Brewers: He's 4-for-22 (.182 BA) with only one extra-base hit, a double, in his career against Kevin Correia.
• Alfonso Soriano, OF, Cubs: Pedro Martinez has positively owned Soriano in their careers, limiting the slugger to a .163 lifetime batting average (7-for-43), three extra-base hits (all doubles) and striking him out 15 times. Sure, many of those numbers came during their days as Red Sox and Yankees rivals, but Soriano did go 1-for-6 against Martinez as recently as the 2006 season.
• Jason Kubel, OF, Twins: You'd think he matches up nicely in a home game versus a right-hander, but you'd be wrong. Kubel is 3-for-17 (.176 BA) with four strikeouts and zero extra-base hits in his career against Brian Bannister.
• Willy Taveras, OF, Reds: He's 5-for-26 (.192 BA) with only one walk in his career against Chris Carpenter, and as they say, you can't steal first base, meaning Taveras might not even be much of a help in the steals department.
If you're hardcore
• Adam Kennedy, 2B, Athletics: Back when the Athletics faced the struggling Jason Berken in June, Kennedy went 2-for-3 with two doubles and two RBIs. Kennedy is also a .314 hitter with an .845 OPS versus right-handers this year.
• Luis Castillo, 2B, Mets: He's 7-for-16 (.438 BA) in his career against Jon Garland, including one double and one walk.
• Miguel Olivo, C, Royals: He's 4-for-10 (.400 BA) with two doubles, one home run and one walk in his career against Francisco Liriano.
• Andy LaRoche, 3B, Pirates: Very few Pirates have faced Ubaldo Jimenez all that often and even fewer have succeeded against the young right-hander. LaRoche is one of them; he's 4-for-9 in his career against Jimenez.
• Mark Kotsay, OF, White Sox: Might the White Sox consider handing him a spot start? He's 6-for-14 (.429 BA) with three doubles and one walk in his career against Felix Hernandez.
Injury list: Out
• Jed Lowrie, 3B/SS, Red Sox (wrist, 15-day DL)
• Glen Perkins, SP, Twins (shoulder): With Carl Pavano now in the rotation, the Twins will bump Perkins and send him for an MRI
• Scott Rolen, 3B, Reds (concussion): Will sit out this series in St. Louis and be re-examined in Cincinnati on Thursday
• Carlos Zambrano, SP, Cubs (back, 15-day DL): Jeff Samardzija will take Zambrano's spot in the rotation on Wednesday
Injury list: Day-to-day
• Lance Berkman, 1B, Astros (calf, 15-day DL): Might be activated Tuesday or Wednesday
• Chad Billingsley, SP, Dodgers (hamstring): Will miss his scheduled start Wednesday and might need a DL stint
• Joe Crede, 3B, Twins (shoulder): Hopes to return to the lineup Wednesday after receiving a cortisone shot this past Friday
• Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers (ankle)
• Chris Dickerson, OF, Reds (shoulder): Was expected to be activated Tuesday
• Mark DeRosa, 2B/3B/OF, Cardinals (back): Available to pinch hit
• Dexter Fowler, OF, Rockies (knee)
• Carlos Gomez, OF, Twins (calf)
• Orlando Hudson, 2B, Dodgers (groin): Was likely to miss Tuesday's game, status for Wednesday unclear
• LaTroy Hawkins, RP, Astros (shingles, 15-day DL): Expected to be activated from the DL on Wednesday, barring any Tuesday setbacks
• Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves (oblique)
• Nate McLouth, OF, Braves (hamstring)
• Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Cubs (shoulder): Might require a cortisone shot that would cost him a few days' action; could require a DL stint
• Aaron Rowand, OF, Giants (hamstring): Available to pinch hit
• Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Rangers (shoulder)
• Nate Schierholtz, OF, Giants (hip, 15-day DL): Expected to be activated Tuesday
• Four Wednesday games are weatherproof: Mets-Diamondbacks, Padres-Brewers, Royals-Twins and White Sox-Mariners.
• There isn't another game on the schedule that seems in severe danger of a rainout, though many of those East Coast contests face a slim chance of showers. Blue Jays-Yankees faces a 20 percent chance of rain, Athletics-Orioles 30 percent and Tigers-Red Sox 30 percent. Most of the forecasts indicate more of a passing-showers thing than any prolonged downpour, though.
• The Southeast also has some prospects of precipitation, including Nationals-Braves, which faces a 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms, and Astros-Marlins, which is at 20 percent. Wow, potential sporadic thunderstorms in south Florida in the middle of the summer? Shocking.
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.