Many aces dealing this weekend
Head-to-head players rejoice, as this weekend showcases plenty of aces to help you gain ground in the pitching categories. In fact, eight of my personal top 10 pitchers are in action, with only Zack Greinke and Felix Hernandez not taking the mound. Plus, with playoff-relevant matchups on the docket -- including the Los Angeles Dodgers facing the San Francisco Giants, the Detroit Tigers meeting the Minnesota Twins, and the Texas Rangers squaring off against the Los Angeles Angels -- you can bet that many of the pitchers on those teams not among the fantasy elite will ratchet up the intensity a few notches as well. As for where they all fall into place in our rankings, look no further than the lists below and L'shana tova to you all:
Starting pitcher rankings for Saturday, September 19
Selected notes for Saturday: We have to give the top spot to Justin Verlander. Although he has struggled a bit against the Twins this season (0-1, 5.51 ERA), if anyone is going to step up and stop the Detroit slide, it's going to be Verlander. But Carl Pavano is no slouch here either -- with a perfect 4-0 lifetime record and 1.48 ERA against the Motor City Kitties, he's also someone worthy of a top-10 recommendation. Javier Vazquez comes in next. He's 2-0 with a 2.95 ERA in his past three starts and let's be honest -- if the Braves have any chance of making the playoffs, they need to sweep this series. He'll step it up. Meanwhile, we're still waiting for Pedro Martinez's other shoe to drop, and if it is going to, this might be the time, as he possesses a 4.70 ERA at Turner Field. CC Sabathia is 5-1 with a 2.59 ERA at Safeco Field and should make quick work of the Mariners, who counter with a very unappealing option in Doug Fister. Although Fister did beat the Yankees earlier this season, it was the only game this year in which he didn't walk a batter. Jon Lester is 9-0 against the Orioles, including three victories this season and an 0.86 ERA. David Hernandez has been putrid of late, including allowing six runs to Boston in 2 2/3 innings on Sept. 8. This one should be easy pickings. Chris Carpenter has gone 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA against the Cubs this season. No reason to doubt him Saturday, but with Ryan Dempster having posted a 1.69 ERA in his past three, there's a chance Carpenter ends up with an ND instead of a W. Our next two pitchers face off head-to-head: Jered Weaver and Scott Feldman. Feldman is pitching at home, and is 2-0 already in 2009 against the Angels, but we're still leaning toward Los Angeles to take this one. Call it a hunch based on the team's killer instinct, but they can all but lock up the division title this weekend, and we think they'll do just that. Another faceoff to round out our top 10: Ricky Nolasco and Bronson Arroyo meet in Cincinnati. Arroyo gets the slight nod here, as he's been unhittable lately, with a 1.38 ERA since Aug. 13. Nolasco has been up and down all season, and is coming off an awful start versus the St. Louis Cardinals. Still, the Cincinnati Reds' lineup isn't exactly Albert Pujols & Company. Ricky could be OK. In the middle of the pack, we have Matt Garza, 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA against Toronto this season; Max Scherzer, who has a 2.61 ERA in his past three starts; and Ross Ohlendorf, who faces the Padres and has an 8-4 lifetime record at PNC Park with a 3.02 ERA. Other somewhat favorable options include the struggling Ricky Romero, who did beat the Rays earlier this season with eight shutout innings, and Jon Garland, who is 2-0 with a 3.32 ERA since joining the Dodgers' rotation. We'd like Brad Penny (3-0 with a 1.64 ERA with the Giants) a lot more if we thought San Francisco was going to beat Los Angeles, but with a batting average of .228 as a team in September, our confidence has more than worn thin. Finally, we've got Jake Peavy ranked at No. 22. Certainly Peavy is one of the best in the game when healthy, but let's face it. He's making his Chicago White Sox debut after several setbacks during the rehab process for a team that pretty much packed it in a month ago. There's little upside here. We just hope he gets through the outing without incident.
Starting pitcher rankings for Sunday, September 20
Selected notes for Sunday: Adam Wainwright rises to the top of a very impressive heap for Sunday. The Cardinals' pitcher is 3-0 with a 2.43 ERA already this season against the Cubs, and should get win No. 4 (and No. 19 overall) against Carlos Zambrano, who has struggled the past three times he's faced St. Louis, posting an 11.05 ERA. Dan Haren is 2-1 against the Rockies this season with a 1.38 ERA. We like his chances to at least keep the Rockies off the board, although he may not get the run support he needs if Ubaldo Jimenez has another solid day at Chase Field, where his lifetime ERA is just 1.31. Roy Halladay comes in third, basically because the Rays have had his number this season, beating the ace three of four decisions, despite his reasonable 3.50 ERA in those games. David Price is better at home, but has a 4.42 ERA in his past three starts, so we're not so high on him today, especially given his opponent. Tim Lincecum is 3-0 versus the Dodgers with a 2.56 ERA, and there's certainly no reason to bench him, but we do think Randy Wolf, who held the Giants to one run in eight innings back in August, will be stiff competition. Cliff Lee is quite the enigma, as his 7-2 record with the Philadelphia Phillies is reason enough for optimism, but then again, he did allow six runs and 10 hits to the Atlanta Braves in only five innings a few weeks back. Still, he's got plenty of bats behind him, and although Tommy Hanson has been lights out in his past three starts, with a 0.45 ERA, he's not fared as well against the Phillies. The edge goes to Lee. With Nate Robertson subbing in for a banged up Jarrod Washburn, you have to like Scott Baker's chances for a victory. Even though he's had a few bumpy starts against Detroit this season, with the Twins' playoff hopes on the line, if he's ever going to throw a gem, this is the time. If you're surprised that Yovani Gallardo is not anywhere near our top 10, it's only because he might be shut down for the season before Sunday comes around. Josh Butler would go if the team decides to pull the 2009 plug on Yo-Ga, and quite frankly, we think that's what will end up happening. John Lackey has been fantastic in his past three appearances, with a 1.05 ERA, but that 0-2 record and 7.15 ERA against the Rangers does plant the seed of doubt in our minds. Having said that, Derek Holland is 2-0 with a 3.29 ERA against the Angels, but we can't get past his disastrous September so far: 0-2 with a 10.61 ERA. Don't laugh, Kevin Correia is a solid pick today. The San Diego Padres' pitcher is 1-0 with a 2.25 in his past three starts and is facing the Pirates, 14th in the National League in hitting at .252. Of course, the Padres are hitting only .243 as a team, which is why Paul Maholm also gets much love in our list. Joba Chamberlain has a 6.55 ERA in his past three starts against the Mariners, so we're a bit reluctant to recommend him, even though he goes against Ian Snell, whose 12.00 ERA versus the New York Yankees is nothing to write home about. Other so-so selections include: John Maine of the Mets, more for Garrett Mock's 9.64 ERA in his past three than for Maine's own stats; Jason Berken of the Baltimore Orioles, pitching at home against Daisuke Matsuzaka, who looked good in his return from the disabled list; and Felipe Paulino of the Astros, who despite having lost his past three starts, has only a 2.65 ERA in those contests.
Now batting (Saturday)
• Joe Mauer, C, Twins: Batting .423 for the month of September, and with two home runs and a .400 career average against Justin Verlander, the Twins shouldn't worry about getting some production from the MVP candidate on Saturday.
• Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Padres: Gonzalez has hit .357 against the current Pirates staff, including an .833 OBP against Ross Ohlendorf.
• Ryan Howard, 1B, Phillies: The super slugger has a lifetime 1.154 slugging percentage against Javier Vazquez. Let the fireworks display commence.
• Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox: He has hit .413 against the Orioles in 2009 and has three home runs in eight at-bats facing David Hernandez.
• Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox: With Kyle Davies on the hill for the Royals, Konerko hits more than he misses, with a .533 batting average.
• Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees: Jeter is hitting .393 against the Mariners this season, including two homers and five RBIs at Safeco Field.
• Prince Fielder, 1B, Brewers: Fielder gets an upgrade to King against Brian Moehler -- 6-for-11 lifetime, with two home runs.
• Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers: Detroit wants to put Minnesota away once and for all, but Miggy's .091 career success rate (or lack thereof) against Carl Pavano isn't a good omen.
• Nick Markakis, 1B, Orioles: No home runs in September and a .219 batting average against Jon Lester? No thanks.
• Yuniesky Betancourt, SS, Royals: He's hit only .231 in the second half of the season, and is a .167 hitter against Jake Peavy. We're looking someplace else at shortstop.
• Kosuke Fukudome, OF, Cubs: Fukudome is 1-for-25 since last Friday and 0-for-7 against Chris Carpenter.
• Randy Winn, OF, Giants: Winn is quite familiar with Jon Garland, but that's not necessarily a good thing, as he's got only a .192 OBP against the Dodgers' scheduled starter.
• Ian Kinsler, 2B, Rangers: Mired in an 0-for-12 slump, Kinsler faces Jered Weaver, against whom he's hitting only .214 for his career.
• Chone Figgins, 2B, Angels: Figgins is hitting only .225 against the current Texas pitching staff, and a mere .167 versus Scott Feldman in 24 at-bats.
If you're hardcore
• Drew Macias, OF, Padres: Macias is 5-for-12 in his past four games and the Padres outfielder did double off Ross Ohlendorf in their only prior meeting.
• Rajai Davis, OF, A's: Still hard to believe Davis, hitting .407 in September, is owned in less than half of ESPN standard leagues.
• Matt Diaz, OF, Braves: Diaz is hitting .529 against the Phillies this season, with four home runs and 10 RBIs. Looking for a weekend waiver-wire pick? He's the one.
• Josh Willingham, OF, Nationals: With a .385 batting average against Tim Redding, including two dingers, we like Willingham's chances for success this Saturday.
• Jeff Francoeur, OF, Mets: He's slugging .688 against John Lannan and hitting .321 so far in baseball's final full month of play.
• Geoff Blum, 3B, Astros: Jeff Suppan brings out the best in Blum, who is batting a not-so-glum .536 (15-for-28) against the Brewers' starter, with nine RBIs.
• Skip Schumaker, 2B, Cardinals: Not only is he in the midst of a 10-for-15 hot streak, but he's a .407 lifetime hitter against Ryan Dempster.
Now batting (Sunday)
• Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox: The speedster has a .397 OBP in September, and he's reached base in 5 of 7 plate appearances against Jason Berken.
• Ben Zobrist, SS, Rays: Zobrist is 8-for-21 over his past six games and has a .404 average against the Blue Jays so far in 2009.
• Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Cubs: In addition to a .320 average this month, Ramirez has the benefit of a .379 career average against Adam Wainwright.
• Ryan Ludwick, OF, Cardinals: When a hitter has a .636 success rate against a pitcher, as Ludwick does against Carlos Zambrano, you have to take notice.
• Orlando Hudson, 2B, Dodgers: One of the few hitters who actually is happy to see Tim Lincecum on the hill, Hudson is a .438 hitter against the young ace.
• Mark Reynolds, 3B, Diamondbacks: Reynolds has victimized Rockies pitching with the long ball more than any other team this season, with six home runs to go along with a .326 batting average.
• Travis Hafner, DH, Indians: Hafner is hitting .293 in September, a huge improvement from his .247 average in August. Hafner just might have a little more pop left in 2009.
• Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals: Zim gets close to zip against John Maine, as he only has a .182 OBP against the Mets pitcher.
• Lyle Overbay, 1B, Blue Jays: Hitting only .149 against the Rays this season, including 15 whiffs in 47 at-bats, makes Overbay a bad play.
• Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox: Konerko giveth, and Konerko taketh away. We like him on Saturday, but his 0-for-8 against Robinson Tejeda makes the recommendation good for one day only.
• Shane Victorino, OF, Phillies: He left Thursday's game with food poisoning. Maybe he was worrying about the trip to Atlanta, as he's hitting only .164 against the Braves this season.
• Kazuo Matsui, 2B, Astros: In 43 at-bats against Milwaukee this season, Matsui has been fairly awful -- only a .163 batting average. Bleah!
• Jason Kubel, OF, Twins: With Nate Robertson taking this start, Kubel is probably none too pleased. He's 0-for-11 against him, with five strikeouts.
• Pablo Sandoval, 1B, Giants: The Panda has little punch in his kung fu against the Dodgers, hitting only .226 against them in 2009, which coincidentally is his batting average against everybody in September.
If you're hardcore
• Matt Wieters, C, Orioles: Maybe we're stretching the definition of hard-core here, but Wieters is still available in close to 30 percent of leagues. With that said, hard-core or not, the .406 batting average against the Red Sox speaks for itself.
• Billy Butler, OF, Royals: Butler, a .333 hitter in September, is a perfect 4-for-4 against Freddy Garcia.
• Kenji Johjima, C, Mariners: He's batting .500 against the Yankees this season, and is 3-for-8 against Joba Chamberlain.
• Martin Prado, 2B, Braves: Two straight three-hit games got our attention. The .455 average against Philadelphia in 2009 kept it.
• Felipe Lopez, 2B, Brewers: Lopez is hitting .487 against Houston this season and has hits in seven of his past eight games.
• Alex Avila, C, Tigers: Five home runs in 56 at-bats is a pretty good rate. If he's in the Tigers' lineup, you could do worse for yours.
• Jamie Burke, C, Nationals: Burke is 37 years old and was just acquired by the Nationals since all three of their other catchers are injured to some extent. How hard-core can you get?
Injury list: Out
• Brett Tomko, P, Athletics (arm): Tomko has been shut down for the rest of the year after being diagnosed with nerve damage in his throwing arm.
• Chan Ho Park, P, Phillies (hamstring): Park will miss at least two weeks, and possibly the rest of the season (and playoffs) as he attempts to rehab his injury at the Phillies' spring training complex.
• Vin Mazzaro, P, Athletics (shoulder): With nothing to play for, the Athletics will shut Mazzaro down for the remainder of the season.
Injury list: Day-to-day
• Wil Nieves, C, Nationals (leg): Nieves hurt himself running the bases on Thursday and needed to leave the game.
• Gavin Floyd, P, White Sox (hip): Floyd has been scratched from his scheduled start Monday, and may well be done for the year, though that decision has yet to be made.
• Milton Bradley, OF, Cubs (knee): Brittle Bradley left Thursday's game with inflammation in his knee.
• Vladimir Guerrero, DH, Angels (ribs): Vlad got hit in the ribs by a Takashi Saito fastball on Wednesday and missed Thursday's game as a result. If the soreness lingers, he could well be sidelined longer.
• Nick Green, SS, Red Sox (leg): Green has been diagnosed with something called "dead leg," which speaks to weakness in his leg, but not a lot of pain. He could play through it, but the lack of strength might limit him to pinch hitting for now.
• The weekend's weatherproof games: Rockies at Diamondbacks, Astros at Brewers, Tigers at Twins, Yankees at Mariners and Blue Jays at Rays.
• Rainy Saturday weather is in store for Texas, Atlanta and St. Louis. While the skies over Arlington should clear up by Sunday, the other two cities will continue to see heavier rains, and Chicago and Cincinnati could join in on the watery fun, as well.
FANTASY TOP HEADLINES
- Hard Count: Make choices you can live with
- Matthew Berry's Love/Hate for Week 16
- Week 16 flex ranks: Trust your Bears
- Kaiser: More playing time, more value