Lee, Haren, Carpenter start Wednesday
Two pitchers' duels highlight Wednesday's action, and the three National League division leaders are three-quarters of the teams involved. Out in Los Angeles, the Central-leading Cardinals will send Adam Wainwright to the mound to take on Clayton Kershaw and the West-leading Dodgers. In Philadelphia, the Phillies will start recently acquired Cliff Lee against the Diamondbacks, though Arizona will present a challenge by pitting Lee against ace Dan Haren. Which one of these four aces is the one I call a so-so fantasy option? Read on
Starting pitcher rankings for August 19, 2009
Selected notes: Cliff Lee is already a perfect 3-0 with the Phillies including a 1.12 ERA and 0.92 WHIP, and he did it against some pretty decent teams (Giants, Rockies, Cubs). Arizona isn't quite as the stiff competition those squads are, and the left-hander is riding a personal six-start win streak. Roy Halladay might have a 4.33 career ERA versus the Red Sox, but narrow the time span to just 2008 and 2009 and he's 4-2 with a 2.27 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in six starts against them, three of them complete games. He most recently dominated Boston behind a complete-game, one-run performance at home July 19, and he shouldn't be expected to be any less effective in the rematch. Since July 1, Adam Wainwright has been practically untouchable, with a 6-2 record, 1.21 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in nine starts. That includes a victory versus the Dodgers on July 28 that spanned eight shutout innings, so while the road matchup against Clayton Kershaw does increase the difficulty of his matchup, Wainwright does remain a must-start. After all, he has nine wins in 11 road starts this season. One day after Wainwright shut down the Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw shut out the Cardinals for eight innings on four hits on July 29. L.A. did lose that game in extra innings, but Kershaw confounded the St. Louis bats all day. There's a reason I listed this one as one of the more appealing pitchers' duels of the day. A quick glance at Zack Greinke's 1-6 record, 6.70 ERA and 1.49 WHIP in nine career games (seven starts) at U.S. Cellular Field might indicate he should be benched for his Wednesday matchup. Not so. He tossed six shutout innings of three-hit baseball April 8 for his first career win there, and in four starts versus the White Sox this season, he is 2-1 with a 1.61 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and 30 strikeouts in 28 innings in four starts. Jair Jurrjens has quality starts in both of his matchups versus the Mets this season, including a 7 2/3-inning, two-run, seven-hit effort at Citi Field on May 12. For his career he's 3-1 with a 2.84 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in five starts versus New York. Jason Marquis is 7-4 with a 3.27 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 12 road starts this season, and he defeated the Nationals behind eight shutout innings of seven-hit baseball back at Coors Field on July 6. He continues to rack up quality start after quality start, seven in his past eight appearances, so keep him in there. Since the All-Star break, Scott Baker is 3-0 with a 2.29 ERA and 0.94 WHIP in six starts, including a victory at Rangers Ballpark on July 18, when he went eight innings and limited Texas to one run on six hits. If the matchup scares you at all, that should help alleviate your fears. Though Randy Wells did lose at Petco Park on May 23, in his third start of the season, he did manage a quality start of seven innings, five hits, three runs and seven strikeouts. Fantasy owners would be happy with that level of effort again here, because it would almost assuredly mean a Cubs win this time. Dan Haren has never defeated the Phillies in three career starts (4.76 ERA, 1.24 WHIP), and none of those games were pitched at hitter-friendly Citizens Bank Park. Another concern: He has only two quality starts in six tries since the All-Star break, during which time he has a 4.15 ERA and 1.18 WHIP. Don't be so hasty to expect an elite performance. Sleeper alert: Sean West just defeated the Astros in his most recent start, behind six innings of one-run, five-hit baseball Thursday. His command has been much better since his demotion to Double-A earlier in the season than it was in his previous stint in the big leagues; he has 22 strikeouts compared to eight walks in his past six starts between the majors and minors. The Brewers seem to have Paul Maholm's number; he's 0-3 with a 5.51 ERA and 1.53 WHIP in eight starts against them between this and last season. Most recently Milwaukee pounded the lefty for seven runs on seven hits, two of them home runs, in 4 2/3 innings July 22. Sit him.
• Scott Podsednik, OF, White Sox: He's 7-for-10 with three doubles and one triple versus Zack Greinke this season alone, and 16-for-30 (.533 BA) in his career against the right-hander, though one negative is that he has been caught stealing in both of his two attempts against Greinke so far this year.
• A.J. Pierzynski, C, White Sox: He's 16-for-37 (.432 BA) with two home runs in his career against Greinke, including a 7-for-11 (.636 BA) performance with one double and one homer against him this season.
• Jermaine Dye, OF, White Sox: Between this and last season he's 8-for-18 (.444 BA) with one home run versus Greinke, and in his career against the right-hander he's 16-for-41 (.390 BA) with three homers.
• Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Indians: He's 5-for-12 (.417 BA) with three doubles and one walk in his career versus Jered Weaver.
• Grady Sizemore, OF, Indians: Besides boasting a lifetime .313 batting average (5-for-16) and two home runs versus Weaver, Sizemore has stolen three bases in as many opportunities against the right-hander.
• Aubrey Huff, 1B/3B, Tigers: He's 2-for-2 with one walk in his career against Ian Snell, and naturally he's going to want to impress his new team in his second game on the active roster. Huff is typically a much better hitter versus righties (.849 career OPS) than lefties (.744), so the matchup suits him.
• Placido Polanco, 2B, Tigers: He's 5-for-10 with two doubles and one walk in his career versus Snell.
• Shane Victorino, OF, Phillies: He's 2-for-3 with one double and one home run in his career versus Dan Haren, and while that's a small sample size, the fact that he's a .342 hitter with an .893 OPS in his home games this season also bolsters his case.
• Mike Cameron, OF, Brewers: This guy must drool when he sees Paul Maholm's name on the opposing scorecard; he's a lifetime .423 hitter (11-for-26) with three home runs and two walks versus the left-hander.
• Lyle Overbay, 1B, Blue Jays: He's 5-for-7 with one double in his career versus Clay Buchholz, including a 3-for-3 performance against the right-hander at the Rogers Centre on July 17.
• Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox: Few Red Sox hitters can handle Roy Halladay, but Ellsbury is a .286 hitter (6-for-21) with two homers in his career versus the right-hander. Perhaps more importantly, he's 3-for-3 in steals against Halladay.
• Nick Markakis, OF, Orioles: He's 4-for-9 (.444 BA) with one double, one home run and one walk in his career versus Jeff Niemann, and a .343 hitter (23-for-67) with four homers in 19 games at Tropicana Field since 2007.
• Orlando Cabrera, SS, Twins: He's a lifetime .322 hitter (28-for-87) versus Kevin Millwood, and narrowing that time span to just games played since 2007, he's 9-for-19 (.474 BA) with five walks against the right-hander.
• Michael Cuddyer, OF, Twins: He's a .444 hitter (8-for-18) with three doubles and one home run in his career versus Millwood, and he has two home runs and five RBIs in his past six games at Rangers Ballpark.
• Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins: Presuming his dizziness doesn't keep him out of the lineup, Morneau matches up nicely against Millwood, as he's 6-for-16 (.375 BA) with three homers in his career versus the right-hander. He's also a .333 hitter with eight homers, 25 RBIs and a 1.123 OPS in 24 career games at Rangers Ballpark.
• Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees: He's 3-for-7 with one home run this season versus Brett Anderson, and is batting .424 with a 1.088 OPS versus left-handers in 2009.
• Rafael Furcal, SS, Dodgers: He's 7-for-13 (.538 BA) with one triple in his career versus Adam Wainwright.
• Russell Martin, C/3B, Dodgers: He's a .636 hitter (7-for-11) with two doubles and one walk in his career versus Wainwright.
• Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox: He's 6-for-48 (.125 BA) with 14 strikeouts and only two extra-base hits (one double, one homer) in his career versus Zack Greinke. This season alone he's 1-for-11 with four K's against the right-hander.
• Alexei Ramirez, 2B/SS, White Sox: Greinke has limited him to a 3-for-17 (.176 BA) career performance including three strikeouts.
• Yuniesky Betancourt, SS, Royals: Not that fantasy owners are eager to slide Betancourt into their lineups, but they definitely shouldn't Wednesday; he's 1-for-14 (.071 BA) with three K's in his career versus Jose Contreras.
• Travis Hafner, DH, Indians: He's hitless in 11 career at-bats versus Jered Weaver, including two strikeouts, though he does have three walks.
• Pedro Feliz, 3B, Phillies: He's a must-sit, as Dan Haren has mastered him to the tune of a lifetime .120 batting average (3-for-25), one extra-base hit (a double) and five strikeouts. Heck, the Phillies should regard Feliz a must-sit!
• Prince Fielder, 1B, Brewers: Few fantasy owners can afford the luxury of sitting a slugger like Fielder, but Baseball Challenge players might want to know that he's 3-for-30 with zero extra-base hits and nine strikeouts in his career against Paul Maholm. It makes sense; Maholm has limited left-handed hitters to a .205 batting average and .558 OPS in his career.
• David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox: Time to get into Roy Halladay's specific mastery of Red Sox hitters; Ortiz is 9-for-41 (.220 BA) with two extra-base hits (both doubles) versus the right-hander since 2006.
• Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox: He's a lifetime .200 hitter (7-for-35) with two doubles and one homer in his career versus Halladay.
• Jason Varitek, C, Red Sox: He's a .213 hitter (16-for-75) with two homers but also 22 strikeouts in his career versus Halladay.
• Willy Taveras, OF, Reds: He's 2-for-15 (.133 BA) with one double in his career against Barry Zito, including only one stolen base.
• Randy Winn, OF, Giants: He's a lifetime .182 hitter (4-for-22) versus Bronson Arroyo, with two extra-base hits (both doubles) and three strikeouts.
• Orlando Hudson, 2B, Dodgers: He's hitless in eight career at-bats versus Adam Wainwright, including two strikeouts.
• Ryan Ludwick, OF, Cardinals: He's hitless in seven career at-bats versus Clayton Kershaw, including four strikeouts.
If you're hardcore
• Robb Quinlan, 1B/3B/OF, Angels: The Angels typically find a way to slot him into their lineup versus a left-hander, and they should on this day, considering he's 6-for-12 with two doubles in his career versus Jeremy Sowers.
• Kenji Johjima, C, Mariners: Here's a bizarre one. Johjima is 4-for-8 with one double in his career versus Justin Verlander. Go figure.
• Ronnie Belliard, 1B/2B/3B, Nationals: He has been getting more playing time of late, and should Wednesday, too, considering he's a lifetime .385 hitter (5-for-13) with one double and one home run versus Jason Marquis.
• Nick Punto, 2B/SS, Twins: He's rarely a fantasy consideration, but should be in deeper leagues Wednesday, as he's a lifetime .412 hitter (7-for-17) with two doubles and three walks versus Kevin Millwood. Punto is also a .302 hitter with 10 walks in 16 career games at Rangers Ballpark.
• Melky Cabrera, OF, Yankees: He's 4-for-5 with one double, one home run and one walk versus Brett Anderson this season, and has scorched Oakland's pitching for a .421 batting average (8-for-19), two doubles, two home runs, five walks and a 1.384 OPS overall this season.
Injury list: Out
• Alex Cora, 2B/SS, Mets (thumbs): He'll soon have surgery on his right thumb, then have surgery on his left thumb five weeks later. He's out for the season.
• Mike Hampton, SP, Astros (shoulder): Will skip his scheduled Wednesday start; Yorman Bazardo is filling in.
• Nate McLouth, OF, Braves (hamstring, 15-day DL): Should be back after a minimum 15-day stay on the DL.
• Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Rangers (arm, 15-day DL)
• David Wright, 3B, Mets (post-concussion symptoms, 15-day DL): Only reported a slight headache Monday; could he be back in the minimum 15 days?
Injury list: Day-to-day
• Bobby Crosby, 1B/3B/SS, Athletics (calf)
• Trevor Crowe, OF, Indians (oblique)
• J.D. Drew, OF, Red Sox (groin)
• Nick Johnson, 1B, Marlins (hamstring)
• Hideki Matsui, OF, Yankees (knee)
• Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins (dizziness)
• Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds (hand)
• Martin Prado, 1B/2B/3B, Braves (fatigue)
• Ryan Theriot, SS, Cubs (flu)
• Jim Thome, DH, White Sox (foot)
• Jack Wilson, SS, Mariners (hamstring): Expected back by Wednesday
• Only three Wednesday games are weatherproof: Red Sox-Blue Jays, Orioles-Rays and Marlins-Astros.
• Rain might prove a problem for every other city hosting a baseball game except Oakland, Los Angeles, San Diego and Texas (Arlington), as there's at least a 30 percent chance of precipitation threatening each of the other eight contests.
• Cities in the Great Lakes region are most problematic; Cleveland faces the highest chance of rain during its scheduled game time (50 percent). Detroit has a 60 percent chance, but showers might not start until after midnight.
• Chicago is the only city hosting a day game (Royals-White Sox), and a 40 percent chance of rain there after 1 p.m. increases to 70 percent by night.
• The East Coast might deal with showers and thunderstorms for much of the evening, though it's possible games in New York (Braves-Mets), Philadelphia and Washington will go off without a hitch nevertheless. The chances of rain in those respective cities are 30, 30 and 40 percent.
• Pittsburgh will also tangle with a 50 percent chance of rain.
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.
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