Be wary of rain altering rotations
One of the deeper pitching reservoirs of the past few weeks might be ruined -- or at least hampered -- by what could end up being of the wettest days all season. A whopping nine of the 16 scheduled games may end up covered by a tarp at some point -- in other words, every single dome-less game outside of the West Coast. That includes the Philadelphia Phillies-Florida Marlins doubleheader -- good luck fitting in two games in one day in the Miami wetlands. Fortunately, there are more than enough starters to go around, especially if you like streaming, as a trio of starters owned in fewer than 10 percent of leagues get a recommendation in today's rankings:
Starting pitcher rankings for Sept. 22, 2009
|6||Jorge De La Rosa||L||15-9||4.17||1.37||9.22||.747||SD||.700||78.3%|
Selected notes: Despite walking 12 batters, Jorge De La Rosa has allowed only two runs in his past 20 innings, thanks mostly to three starts against weak NL West offenses. Sure, De La Rosa is still prone to occasional blowups, regardless of opponent, but more times than not he's going to rack up the K's and pitch six to eight strong innings against the weaker offenses in the league. He has another favorable opponent Tuesday, the San Diego Padres, a team that has hit only .213 off him in four starts. Matt Cain's results have far outstripped his peripherals, and finally it seems some correction has taken place. Cain has allowed four runs in three of his past four starts -- not exactly disastrous, mind you, but not what owners have come to expect five months into the season. Don't be surprised if the worse is yet to come; Cain still has the fifth-lowest batting average on balls in play this season (minimum 100 innings), and while some of that is due to the great defense playing behind him, a lot of it is just luck. Cain is fanning less than seven batters per nine since the All-Star break, and with five home runs allowed in his past four starts, there are a lot of red flags here. Lower your expectations when he faces the Arizona Diamondbacks in Chase Field. The Cincinnati Reds have hit decently enough this month to climb out of the basement; they no longer possess the worst OPS since the All-Star break, instead tying the Giants for second-to-last. Of course, decent is relative -- the .731 OPS the team has posted this month may rank 13th, but would rank only 21st on the season, so it's still a nice matchup for Zach Duke. You might be worried that the Reds pounded Duke for nine hits and five runs (three earned) in six innings earlier in the month, but it should be a different story when they go on the road, where the Reds hit a league-worst .234. It has been seven starts since Trevor Cahill has allowed more than three runs, capped off by his dominating the Texas Rangers -- in Arlington, no less -- for seven shutout innings in his last start. That's a lot easier to do when they're missing Josh Hamilton and Michael Young, but those two don't seem to be coming back anytime soon anyway. The Rangers might not do any better in the rematch considering their road struggles -- their OPS is 80 points higher at home -- so Cahill should extend his streak to eight consecutive starts. Jamie Moyer has dominated the Marlins throughout his career, and has continued that trend, with a 2.63 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in four starts this season. Hanley Ramirez and Wes Helms are the only Marlins hitters with a slugging percentage above .400 against Moyer (minimum 10 at-bats), so Moyer is a worthy spot start even in mixed leagues. Quietly, Ryan Rowland-Smith has a 2.90 ERA in his past four starts, going at least eight innings three times and hurling seven innings the other time. He has allowed no more than one walk in each start, and makes a sneaky option in AL-only or even desperate mixed leagues when he faces the faltering Tampa Bay Rays, whose offense has collapsed since Carlos Pena broke his fingers. With a 5.73 ERA in his past eight starts, Edwin Jackson's luck has done a 180 during recent weeks. Like Cain, his peripherals never matched the raw totals he was putting up, and Jackson has paid the piper recently. However, Jackson's ERA is still about a run lower than it "should" be, and with 10 home runs allowed in those eight starts -- and going back to July, 18 home runs in his past 14 starts -- he's lucky his ERA isn't much higher. If you haven't already, it's probably time to consider dropping him.
• Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B/SS, Indians: Despite striking out four times in 12 at-bats against Edwin Jackson, Cabrera has made the hits count, with three of his four hits going for extra bases. He's slugged two doubles and a home run off of Jackson, and it's not as if Jackson, who has a 6.12 ERA this month, is getting any better.
• Rafael Furcal, SS, Dodgers: With hits in 13 of his past 14 games, Furcal has been moderately productive this month, a nice change of pace. Chances are Livan Hernandez won't be the one to put a stop to Furcal's productivity, and the shortstop has actually hit .361 versus Hernandez over 72 career at-bats. He's slugged four home runs, too, and is 4-for-6 with a pair of doubles against Hernandez this season.
• Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, Blue Jays: With three home runs in his past six games, Encarnacion is doing his best to salvage what has mostly been a lost season. A streaky hitter, he could easily go on a tear to end the season. Righties are hitting .309 and slugging .520 against Mark Hendrickson, so another big game wouldn't be very surprising.
• Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Cubs: Six of Ramirez's eight hits against Dave Bush have gone for extra bases, including three home runs. Ramirez could make contact a little more often, with a .276 average that could be improved on, but his owners won't mind if he can make a trip around the bases.
• Carlos Lee, OF, and Lance Berkman, 1B, Astros: Both sluggers have no problems hitting off of Joel Pineiro, as both are batting well over .400 against him. Both have also gone yard twice, although not this season; instead, Lee is 4-for-6 against Pineiro, and Berkman is 3-for-6 with a double.
• Mike Napoli, C, Angels: Napoli is actually the second Angel to hit three homers against Chad Gaudin, the first being Vladimir Guerrero. Napoli has needed four fewer at-bats to hit his three homers, though; overall, Napoli is 5-for-14 (.357) with a slugging percentage over 1.000.
• Shane Victorino, OF, Phillies: Even though Victorino's primary value lies in his steals, there's no point in playing him if he can't hit enough to get on base in the first place. Against Josh Johnson, at least, that has become commonplace, as Victorino has managed just three hits in 18 career at-bats, a .167 batting average.
• Dan Uggla, 2B, Marlins: The slugger isn't anything special against Joe Blanton (2-for-9), but is downright horrible against Jamie Moyer, batting .184 lifetime in 38 at-bats. Uggla has twice as many strikeouts (14) as hits (seven), so he should get comfortable on your bench.
• Kelly Shoppach, C, Indians: Sporting a sub-Mendoza Line batting average against right-handers (.191) this season, it's only right (no pun intended) that Edwin Jackson get in on the action. Jackson has owned Shoppach in limited at-bats, striking him out five times in 11 at-bats while holding Shoppach to two hits, resulting in a .182 average.
• Russell Martin, C, Dodgers: Martin has just one extra-base hit versus Livan Hernandez in 21 at-bats, and three hits overall, leaving him hitting a paltry .143. Martin has also struck out four times, and still has trouble with Hernandez to this day, witnessed by his 1-for-6 mark against him this season.
• Derrek Lee, 1B, Cubs: Over his career, Lee has struggled immensely whenever he's faced Dave Bush, with just four hits to his name in 30 at-bats. With a double as his lone extra-base hit, there's little solace to be found as Lee has also gone down on strikes four times.
• Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Padres: Gonzalez has one home run in 14 at-bats versus Jorge De La Rosa, but that dinger is looking more and more like a fluke considering all the other evidence. That is Gonzalez's only extra-base hit against De La Rosa as he's only hitting .214 overall versus the left-hander, and De La Rosa has managed to strike him out five times. In fact, De La Rosa has struck out left-handed hitters in more than a third of their plate appearances, so expect Gonzalez to struggle.
If you're hard-core
• Nick Johnson, 1B, Marlins: Johnson has cooled off seemingly overnight, as he's now hitless in his past four games, but will face his personal slump-buster, Joe Blanton. Johnson is 7-for-13 versus Blanton for his career, and 6-for-10 with a home run this season.
• Wes Helms, 1B/3B, Marlins: Now, if the Florida Marlins are smart, they'll sit Johnson when he faces Jamie Moyer in the second game of the doubleheader since he's 1-for-18 against the southpaw. Helms, meanwhile, is 7-for-16 (.438) with two homers, including going 3-for-9 with a home run this season. Sure, it may seem like a leap of faith to trust a team to make the correct decision, but it's something they did on Aug. 9, starting Helms over Johnson when they ran into Moyer.
• Drew Stubbs, OF, Reds: The rookie is now officially hot, going 8-for-22 (.364) over his past five starts, picking up three home runs, two steals and a double. Stubbs is also hitting .355 with two home runs against left-handed pitching (small sample size applies), and he's already 3-for-7 against Zach Duke, taking him out of the park once before, so he's an extremely strong play.
• Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies: With a pair of doubles and a home run in his past three games, Gonzalez ended a run in which he had just one extra-base hit in 10 games. Now Gonzalez will be in the comfort of Coors Field, where his average increases about 30 points, and out of any Rockies outfielder, he's probably the safest bet for at-bats considering his superb defense in the outfield.
• Cody Ross, OF, Marlins: While Ross may do most of his damage against left-handers, he's actually 3-for-6 with a double and a home run against Joe Blanton this season. Indeed, Blanton allows righties to slug .485 against him, so Ross could do some damage. In the second game, he will face Jamie Moyer, and is hitting 6-for-11 against him this season, so Ross, who has slumped recently, has a pretty good opportunity to get back on track.
Injury list: Out
• Milton Bradley, OF, Cubs (suspension; out for the season): Oh, so maybe that's what manager Lou Piniella meant. The Cubs, as you probably know by now, suspended Bradley for the rest of the season for conduct detrimental to the team.
• Nolan Reimold, OF, Orioles (15-day DL, Achilles; out for the season)
• Gary Sheffield, OF, Mets (back; limited to pinch-hitting)
• Michael Young, 3B/SS, Rangers (hamstring)
Injury list: Day-to-day
• David DeJesus, OF, Royals (ankle)
• Yunel Escobar, SS, Braves (elbow)
• Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers (back)
• Garrett Jones, 1B/OF, Pirates (shoulder)
• Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, Padres (calf)
• Adam LaRoche, 1B, Braves (back)
• Andy LaRoche, 3B, Pirates (illness)
• Miguel Olivo, C, Royals (stomach; available to pinch-hit)
• Carlos Ruiz, C, Phillies (wrist)
• Marco Scutaro, 2B/SS, Blue Jays (heel): Scutaro aggravated his plantar fasciitis and could be done for the season. "Maybe we're going to have to shut him down the rest of the year," manager Cito Gaston said.
• Mark Teahen, 3B/OF, Royals (back)
• Domes will afford protection from the weather in five cities: Toronto (Orioles-Blue Jays), Tampa Bay (Mariners-Rays), Milwaukee (Cubs-Brewers), Houston (Cardinals-Astros) and Arizona (Giants-Diamondbacks).
• Even including the five weatherproof games, more than half of the day's games could end up wet. In the Northeast, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., both have a 40 percent chance of showers. Some showers could also crop up in Flushing, N.Y., right around game time.
• Getting in both games of the Phillies-Marlins doubleheader may prove a challenge due to Miami's perpetual storms, with a 30 percent chance of thunderstorms throughout the day. Showers may also strike in Denver (40 percent chance), putting the Padres-Rockies contest at risk.
• And in the Midwest, Chicago, Cleveland and Kansas City all have a 30 percent chance of rain. Chicago could see some thunderstorms, while Cleveland and Kansas City should see only a few showers.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.