A funny thing happened as we did our rankings for the nine-game schedule on Thursday. When we were done, we noticed that our top nine pitchers are throwing on the road. Weird. Looks like there's no place like the road if you're looking for a spot starter to help you out as the fantasy baseball season heads into the final handful of games. So pack your suitcases and check out our complete breakdown.
Starting pitcher rankings for Thursday, September 24
Rk.: The author's ranking of that pitcher for that day only. T: Pitcher throws left-handed or right-handed. W-L: Pitcher's win-loss record. ERA: Pitcher's earned run average. WHIP: Pitcher's average number of walks plus hits surrendered per inning. K/9: Pitcher's average number of strikeouts per nine innings. OPSA: Pitcher's on-base plus slugging percentage surrendered to opponents. OPS: Pitcher's opponent's composite team on-base plus slugging percentage. CT%: Pitcher's opponent's success rate putting the ball in play (versus striking out).
Selected notes: Felix Hernandez gets our top spot for the day. Not only is the King rocking a 0.75 ERA in his past three starts, but his career ERA at the Rogers Centre is 2.89. Justin Verlander is a very close second. Although he has struggled of late (0-2, 4.87 ERA in his last three), he has been near perfect against the Indians in 2009, with three wins and a 0.39 ERA. At 8-1 since the start of August, we like Scott Feldman next, as he seeks to beat the Oakland Athletics to win his 18th game of the season, and we're also high on Bronson Arroyo, who has eight innings of shutout ball against the Pittsburgh Pirates under his belt already this season. Ryan Dempster has never won at AT&T Park, but he is 2-0 with a 2.07 ERA in his past three and has held the San Francisco Giants to a 2.57 ERA this season. With J.A. Happ, the concern is both his sore ribs and perhaps the fear that he has over-reached in terms of innings pitched this season. However, with a 1.91 ERA on the road, he's still a better option than most pitchers going Thursday. Vicente Padilla has discovered something magic in the water in the Los Angeles Dodgers' clubhouse, going 3-0 since putting on the new uniform. Against the Washington Nationals, who are probably already dreaming of the offseason, he should do well again Thursday. Clay Buchholz has been great. What's not to like in a 0.90 ERA over his past three appearances and a 3-0 September? Still, he's a better pitcher at Fenway than on the road, so we need to lower him a bit at Kauffman Stadium, where he has a 6.00 career ERA. Rounding out our road warriors crew is Clayton Richard of the San Diego Padres. He struck out eight Rockies in five innings when he faced them about a week ago and is coming off a six-inning, no earned-runs allowed outing against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Brett Anderson is our favorite homeboy as he's gone 3-0 with a 2.50 ERA in his past three starts, but he was woefully ineffective in three previous outings against the Rangers this season. Ricky Romero did beat the Seattle Mariners earlier this season, but allowed four runs and 10 hits in the process. We're not so sure his lineup will bail him out against Felix Hernandez this time around. As for the rest of the bunch: Jason Hammel has only a 5.89 ERA at Coors Field, Brad Penny has a 5.94 ERA in his past three starts, and Jeff Suppan has a 7.90 ERA over his past three matchups with the Phillies. Everyone else on the agenda is either inexperienced or have proven to be ineffective this season.
• Aaron Hill, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays: Hill is working on a six-game hitting streak and has a .417 career OBP against Felix Hernandez.
• Alex Gordon, 3B, Kansas City Royals: Gordon has done well this month, batting .306, plus he homered against Clay Buchholz in a prior meeting last season.
• Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Chicago Cubs: In 69 September at-bats, Ramirez is batting .333 with 17 RBIs. The production should continue against Brad Penny, against whom the Cubs third baseman is hitting .385 lifetime.
• Edgar Renteria, SS, San Francisco Giants: True, he's had a nagging shoulder injury that has kept him sidelined a lot lately, but if he makes it into the lineup against Ryan Dempster, he should do well, with a career .318 average and two homers against the Cubs pitcher.
• Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies: In addition to a nine-game hitting streak, Utley is batting .474 versus Jeff Suppan.
• Brandon Inge, C, Detroit Tigers: Inge may only have hit two home runs this September, but one of them did come off Carlos Carrasco.
• Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, San Diego Padres: Gonzalez has surged of late, with five homers and 15 RBIs so far this month, and he has more RBIs this season against the Rockies (11) than any other pitching staff.
• Ronny Cedeno, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates: Playing every day isn't a good thing when your batting average for the month is .229. Facing Bronson Arroyo with a .200 lifetime average against him isn't going to help.
• Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Cleveland Indians: With eight strikeouts in 22 at-bats against Justin Verlander, and only five hits -- all singles -- we'll bench Choo today.
• Mark Ellis, 2B, Oakland Athletics: Batting 18 points below his season average this month is sad, but a 1-for-13 lifetime record against Scott Feldman is even more depressing.
• Manny Ramirez, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers: Manny's being "fanny" -- striking out nearly as often as he gets hits this month to go along with a .255 average. Something tells us he's shutting the effort down until the postseason starts.
• Mike Cameron, OF, Milwaukee Brewers: Not a lot of track record with the Brew Crew and J.A. Happ, but with a .250 average against Philadelphia this year, and only .197 over the previous three, Cameron might not fare so well.
• Dexter Fowler, OF, Colorado Rockies: He's 0-for-3 against Clayton Richard, and only hitting .146 against the current Padres staff.
If you're hard-core
• Hank Blalock, 1B, Texas Rangers: Blalock is owned in less than half of ESPN Standard leagues, but you might want him in your lineup against Brett Anderson given Blalock's unconscious .714 batting average.
• Craig Tatum, C, Cincinnati Reds: With hits in six of his past seven appearances, and four career RBIs against Charlie Morton, Tatum might be a surprising success story on Thursday.
• Rob Johnson, C, Seattle Mariners: Johnson is a perfect 3-for-3 in reaching base against Ricky Romero, so he may be worth a flier on a day when your regular catcher might be off.
• Mark Teahen, 3B, Kansas City Royals: After missing nine games with a bad back, Teahen himself is back, and not so bad against Clay Buchholz: 2-for-3 with an RBI in their last meeting.
• Dusty Brown, C, Boston Red Sox: Honestly, will he play? Probably not. But how can you resist the hard-core nature of starting a guy named Dusty against a pitcher named Dusty (Hughes)?
• Pete Orr, 3B, Washington Nationals: Apart from a .300 batting average on the season, Orr is 3-for-6 in his career against Vicente Padilla.
Injury list: Out
• Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, San Diego Padres (back): He was all set to return to action after battling a sore calf when his back went out. Chase Headley will replace him in the lineup, perhaps for the rest of the season.
• Bobby Jenks, P, Chicago White Sox (calf): After hearing a dreaded "pop" during a pregame workout Tuesday, Jenks is done for the season.
• Edgar Gonzalez, OF, San Diego Padres (shoulder): The elder Gonzalez dislocated his shoulder in a failed effort to corral a fly ball and will miss at least a few days of action as he waits for the pain to subside.
Injury list: Day-to-day
• Josh Hamilton, OF, Texas Rangers (back): Hamilton has taken batting practice and looks ready to return by this weekend, at the very least as the Rangers' designated hitter.
• Matt LaPorta, OF, Cleveland Indians (hip): LaPorta hurt himself sliding home in the second inning of Tuesday's game, eventually leaving two innings later.
• Brian McCann, C, Atlanta Braves (wrist): McCann got hit in the wrist with a foul ball on Tuesday and was replaced by David Ross. As a catcher, this might keep him out of the lineup longer than at other positions.
• John Baker, C, Florida Marlins (bruised hand): Baker had a mini-collision with Ryan Howard's glove while running to first on Tuesday. X-rays showed no break.
• Denard Span, OF, Minnesota Twins (head): Post-beaning, Span will remain out of the lineup until the "fog" lifts. Concussions are tricky, and this could be a day, a week, or even longer. Only time will tell.
• Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Colorado Rockies (hamstring): Gonzalez strained his hamstring legging out a triple on Tuesday and may miss a game or two, especially if the weather in Colorado remains chilly.
• Thursday's short schedule features two weatherproof games: Phillies-Brewers and Mariners-Blue Jays. As for the games that are subject to the elements, there's a slight chance of showers in Colorado, but the threat of thunderstorms in both Pittsburgh and Washington is far more severe.