Commentary

Carpenter-Vazquez duel caps weekend

Updated: September 11, 2009, 2:04 PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com

Daily Notes

Although this Sunday is the start of the NFL season, and we know many of you will have your attention focused elsewhere, you really should take some time to check out some of the baseball action scheduled that day. Although Saturday has a relatively unimpressive allotment of arms, Sunday showcases some of the game's best and brightest, with nine pitchers who have a dozen or more victories, including a terrific showdown between Chris Carpenter and Javier Vazquez. To help you figure out which pitchers to start and which starters to leave on your bench, we'll kick things off with our complete rankings for the weekend below:

For starters

Selected notes for Saturday: John Danks gets a rare top spot, at least for him. Although he's had a solid season, it's been less than spectacular. However, he is 6-3 since July and has a career ERA of 2.19 at Angel Stadium. We're willing to go out on a limb for him this Saturday. … Edwin Jackson at home is an easy recommendation, as he's 8-1 with a 3.30 ERA at Comerica Park. Plus, his opponent, Scott Richmond, has been shaky of late, going 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in his past three starts. … Josh Beckett comes in next, even though the Rays have managed to hit him well in 2009. Beckett is 1-1 against Tampa Bay this season with a 5.70 ERA. However, he is 8-1 at Fenway Park this season. … Randy Wells has defeated the Reds twice already this season, and is going up against a struggling Johnny Cueto, who is 1-3 at Wrigley Field for his career. … Ross Ohlendorf has a 2.66 ERA in his past three starts, and could be able to string a few solid innings together against a Houston team that may be showcasing young newcomers from here on out. … Strikeouts may not be as plentiful for Tim Hudson against the hot-hitting Cardinals as they were against the Reds and Marlins, but we still are optimistic that his third time out will be a successful one. … Mike Pelfrey has already defeated the Phillies three times this season, so it looks like he has their number. Jamie Moyer returns to the rotation, with J.A. Happ sidelined, but the Mets have handled him very well (7.08 ERA) in 2009. … Jonathan Sanchez's record isn't indicative of his performance this season. He's failed to win in his past three starts despite a 2.37 ERA. However, we do hesitate to rank him higher as the Dodgers have defeated him twice already in 2009. Vicente Padilla takes the mound against him, and although he's 2-0 with the Dodgers, we worry the luster is about to wear off a bit. … Brian Moehler rounds out our top 10, as we're hoping that the 5.86 ERA in August was an isolated stretch and he will continue recording a sub-3.50 ERA as he did in July, as well as so far in September. … A.J. Burnett has always done well against the Orioles, with a 9-1 career mark, but although he's 2-0 against them this season, his ERA is 5.09. Plus, there's an outside chance Sergio Mitre makes this start instead, so we'll err on the side of caution. … Brett Anderson has slightly better stats away from Oakland, but the main reason we like him to win is that he's going up against converted Twins reliever Jeff Manship who won't likely go more than five innings. … Wade Davis looked good in his Tampa Bay debut, but facing the Red Sox in Fenway is a horse of a different color. We'll see how he handles a hostile road crowd. … Kyle Lohse has an ERA of 6.97 in his past three starts while Doug Fister has a 2.38 ERA away from home. Advantage to the Mariner. … The rest of the bunch includes risky propositions like Esmil Rogers for the Rockies, simply because the team wants to move Ubaldo Jimenez to Tuesday against the Giants; Marco Estrada of the Nationals, who had a 7.82 ERA in 2008 with the team; and Kevin Mulvey who just recently joined the Diamondbacks off waivers from the Twins.

Selected notes for Sunday: CC Sabathia tops the Sunday list, not only because he's 3-0 with an 0.78 ERA against the Orioles the past three times they met, but also because he's had a minuscule 1.71 ERA in his past three outings. … Chris Carpenter and Javier Vazquez are both 2-0 in their past three, with ERAs under 2.50. Vazquez will probably have more strikeouts, but we simply can't side against Carp at home. … Cliff Lee has had three rough outings in a row, but did handle the Mets the last time they squared off, with no earned runs allowed in seven innings. Expect a return to form in the doubleheader on Sunday as the Mets likely look ahead to a matchup with Pedro Martinez in the nightcap. … Felix Hernandez has done well against the Rangers this season, with a 2-1 record and a 2.89 ERA. However, he does have a 4.58 career ERA at the Ballpark, so we'll keep him just out of our top three, even though we think he completely outshines Tommy Hunter, whose 7-3 record looks more and more like a mirage with each time he takes the mound. He has a 5.59 ERA in his past three starts. … Against the Padres, it's hard not to like Jason Marquis, as he's 2-0 against them with an 0.56 ERA in 2009. That's why we rank him higher than Chad Billingsley (1-1, 2.53 ERA versus the Giants this year). … Ted Lilly has been nearly unhittable, with a 1.69 ERA in his past three outings, and Max Scherzer should strike out enough Brewers -- he's had 37 K's in his past 37 IP -- to contribute significantly to your fantasy team. They're the back end of our top 10. … Scott Kazmir's 1.35 ERA in his past three starts moves him ahead of former teammate Matt Garza, who has defeated the Red Sox twice this season, and five of six times in his career. But Clay Buchholz, going for Boston, tops them both thanks to a 3-0 stretch with a 1.69 ERA and his 3.03 ERA at home. … We're going to play it cautious with Pedro Martinez. We'd certainly start him if we owned him, but the extra motivation from his old Mets mates might end up giving him his first bad outing since he joined the Phillies. … After Pedro on our list, because there's so much quality at the top, we're not sure we'd let any of these guys go for us. Only Clayton Richard is more than a game over .500, and he's got a 9.00 ERA in his past three San Diego starts. Jeremy Guthrie does have a 1.35 ERA in his past three, but has already lost three times to the Yankees this season. Kyle Davies is 3-0 with a 2.12 ERA in his past three, but has a 5.06 ERA in Cleveland. Then there's those pitchers who simply haven't been good at all lately -- John Lannan, 4.87 ERA since the All-Star break; Gio Gonzalez, with a 5.71 ERA in his past three; and Tim Redding, who has let opposing batters hit .280 off him for the season. If you're planning on starting any of these guys, or the rest of the bottom half of this list, perhaps you are indeed more than ready for some football.

Now batting (Saturday)

Hitters' count:

Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins: Morneau is batting .429 against the A's this season, with four home runs and 10 RBIs.
Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals: Even for Albert, a .471 average so far in September is impressive, and he's 7-for-17 lifetime off Tim Hudson.
Carl Crawford, OF, Rays: If any Tampa Bay hitter is going to hit against Josh Beckett, it will be Crawford, who is .333 against him in 33 at-bats.
Brandon Phillips, 2B, Reds: Phillips is batting .361 this month and he's hit .375 against Randy Wells this season.
David Wright, 3B, Mets: Wright rarely goes wrong against Jamie Moyer, collecting three home runs and a .432 lifetime batting average against the veteran.
Ryan Howard, 1B, Phillies: Howard has four home runs against the Mets this season, and 22 since 2006. He brings his stick when the New Yorkers come to town.
Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers: Kemp has a 1.178 OPS against Jonathan Sanchez, including five RBIs in 13 at-bats.

Pitchers' count:

Brian Roberts, 2B, Orioles: Roberts has 17 strikeouts against the Yankees this season and is only hitting .231 in September.
Justin Upton, OF, Diamondbacks: He was 0-for-10 against the Dodgers and only 1-for-9 against Dave Bush of the Brewers. Not exactly stats that inspire confidence.
Seth Smith, OF, Rockies: Consider this one law of averages, as we can't see Smith keeping up his torrid run -- .447 for the month. Besides, he's already slowing down, going .286 against the Reds in the past four games.
Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, Padres: He's "out indefinitely" with a strained calf, but that's probably for the best as he's hit just .170 against the Rockies in 2009.
Paul Konerko, OF, White Sox: Expect some struggles against Ervin Santana, as Konerko is only a .211 hitter against the Angels' pitcher lifetime.
Kendry Morales, 1B, Angels: Morales is hitting only .138 for his career against the current crop of Chicago arms, and .143 against the White Sox in 2009.
Lyle Overbay, 1B, Blue Jays: With only four hits in 25 career at-bats against Edwin Jackson, it's hard to see Overbay getting back into a groove this weekend.

If you're hardcore

Billy Butler, DH, Royals: Butler is hitting .640 since Sept. 5, so it's hard to believe he's still only owned in 20.7 percent of ESPN standard leagues.
Ryan Church, OF, Braves: Church preys on Kyle Lohse, with a .462 batting average against the St. Louis pitcher.
Alberto Gonzalez, SS, Nationals: He has a .318 batting average in September and has driven in six runs against Florida in 2009.
Garrett Jones, OF, Pirates: He has 19 home runs in only 239 at-bats, but has yet to hit one against the Astros this season, despite a .364 batting average. He's due.
• Tommy Manzella, SS, Astros: The shortstop of the future was called up from Triple-A, and it wasn't to sit on the bench behind Miguel Tejada in meaningless games.
Koyie Hill, C, Cubs: Hill is 2-for-5 facing Johnny Cueto and has a .379 OBP against the Reds this season.
Edgar Renteria, SS, Giants: Renteria is 8-for-16 with two career home runs off Vicente Padilla. Not bad for the usually light-hitting shortstop.

Now batting (Sunday)

Hitters' count:

Pedro Feliz, 3B, Phillies: With a .370 career average against the two Mets hurlers on tap for Sunday's doubleheader, Feliz has plenty of opportunity for fantasy goodness.
Adam Dunn, 1B, Nationals: Dunn has been hitting .303 this month, and .346 with four homers and 12 RBIs against the Marlins this season.
Chris Davis, 1B, Rangers: Davis has driven in 10 runs in September thus far and has a lifetime average of .357 against Felix Hernandez.
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Padres: Gonzalez has hit three home runs in his past four games and now gets to face Jason Marquis, against whom he has a .526 OBP this season.
Mark Reynolds, 3B, Diamondbacks: Reynolds has hit .302 against the Brewers over the past four seasons, right in line with his second-half batting average of .301.
Curtis Granderson, OF, Tigers: Granderson has hit .313 against the Blue Jays in 2009, with two home runs.
• Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins: He's hit against Gio Gonzalez twice in his career -- a grand slam and a three-run blast were the results.

Pitchers' count:

Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees: With a .185 career mark facing Jeremy Guthrie, breaking out of his 2-for-16 slump isn't looking good.
Nick Markakis, OF, Orioles: With only a .143 lifetime average against CC Sabathia, this might be a good day to give Markakis a day off.
Lance Berkman, 1B, Astros: Paul Maholm has done a good job keeping Lance Berkman in check, as the Astros first baseman is hitting only .154 against him lifetime.
Nate McLouth, OF, Braves: Six-game hitting streaks are nice, but nobody is hitting Chris Carpenter these days, least of all McLouth -- 1-for-12 against Carp in his career.
Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers: Braun is hitting .143 against the Diamondbacks in his career, and has never had a hit off Max Scherzer.
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox: Ellsbury has stolen seven bases against the Rays this season, but has struck out 10 times and only has a batting average of .229 against them.
Alex Rios, OF, White Sox: Rios hasn't taken to the new uniform, hitting just .111 in September. Plus, he's only a .212 lifetime hitter against Scott Kazmir.

If you're hardcore

Anderson Hernandez, SS, Mets: Hernandez is hitting .309 against the Phillies this season, and will give you two games for the price of one on Sunday.
John Baker, C, Marlins: Baker has hit three of his nine home runs this season against Nationals pitching, including one off John Lannan.
Michael Saunders, OF, Mariners: True, he's 0-for-21 since Aug. 28, but exactly how hardcore are you?
Jhonny Peralta, 3B, Indians: Any Cleveland hitter these days is a tough name to insert in your lineup, but against Kyle Davies, Peralta is hitting .444 lifetime.
Robb Quinlan, 3B, Angels: A rare start might be in order if anyone else notices his 11-for-26 (.423) career success rate against Mark Buehrle, including three home runs.
• Eric Young Jr., 2B, Rockies: He went 5-for-10 against the Reds with two stolen bases and is a solid contributor to the Colorado playoff run. Why not make him part of yours?
Ryan Sweeney, OF, Athletics: Sweeney has quietly posted a .355 average in September, which should see him on far more rosters than his current 1.5 percent.

Triage

Injury list: Out

Jeremy Hermida, OF, Marlins (oblique): He hasn't yet seemed to get any better from the injury suffered on Sept. 2, and there's been talk that he might not be able to return at all in 2009.
Carlos Pena, 1B, Rays (fingers): After surgery to repair his two broken fingers, the result of getting hit by a CC Sabathia pitch, Pena's season is over.
Gil Meche, P, Royals (shoulder): With nothing to play for, the Royals are ready to shut Meche down for the remainder of the season.
Ian Stewart, 3B, Rockies (back): The team will likely rest Stewart this weekend in the hopes he is ready to resume play against the Giants on Monday.

Injury list: Day-to-day

Jose Contreras, P, Rockies (right quad): Contreras hurt himself running out a ground ball on Thursday, and will miss his next scheduled start on Tuesday.
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies (back): Tulowitzki may see some action as a pinch hitter, and once that is successful, should hopefully be able to return to the starting lineup.
Geoff Blum, 3B, Astros (shin/ankle): X-rays came back negative after Blum left Wednesday's game with multiple injuries suffered sliding into second base.
Gerardo Parra, OF, Diamondbacks (leg): He should be back in the Arizona lineup this weekend after getting a few days off to rest a sore leg, but check to make sure before locking in your lineup.

Weather concerns

• The weekend's weatherproof games: Brewers at Diamondbacks, Pirates at Astros and Athletics at Twins.
• Saturday could see some residual showers in the Northeast, which may affect the start times in New York, Philadelphia and Boston, although all those teams will do their best to get the games in -- especially the Phillies, who already have a doubleheader scheduled with the Mets on Sunday.
• All the wet weather should be gone by Sunday, save for the games in Miami and Arlington, which as you probably know by now if you're a fan of meteorology, could both see a thunderstorm rear its ugly head any day of the week during the baseball season.

AJ Mass is a fantasy baseball, football and college basketball analyst for ESPN.com. You can follow AJ on Twitter or e-mail him here.