Lester-Joba battle not so compelling
A year ago, a matchup between Jon Lester and Joba Chamberlain would have a been exciting matchup of two top young pitching talents who would dominate for years to come. In the present, however, it's about as one-sided as you can get, with Lester sporting an ERA over six runs better than Chamberlain since the beginning of August. Chamberlain just turned 24 on Wednesday, so it's not the end of the world in the long term -- heck, Lester came back from cancer. At this point, it may be more advantageous for Joba to do poorly (as far as we're concerned, anyway) -- anything to make him cheaper next year on draft day!
Starting pitcher rankings for September 25, 2009
Selected notes: Max Scherzer has allowed a whopping 10 home runs in his past eight starts (48 2/3 innings), but has otherwise been valuable, striking out a ridiculous 57 batters in that span. He's been at his best against the San Diego Padres, with a 1.89 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 25 K's in 19 innings in three starts, and the Padres don't have enough quality hitters to deal with his overpowering stuff. The key will be the home runs -- Scherzer has allowed 15 in 88 1/3 innings at home, the main reason his ERA is higher at Chase Field (4.38 ERA) than on the road (3.74 ERA). Only the New York Yankees have hit better than the Oakland Athletics this month, and they've yet to slow down, hitting .305 as a team in the past week. Fortunately, Jered Weaver has a career 2.93 ERA and 1.12 WHIP against the A's, but as his 4.86 ERA since the break will attest to, he's been up and down recently. We'll split the difference and say Weaver is a good, but not great, option against his rivals. Ricky Nolasco may have a 5.54 ERA since August, but he's mainly been undone by two blowups in which he allowed a combined 17 runs in 8 1/3 innings. Take those two out and he has a 2.99 ERA, so he's still pitching pretty well. A quality start should be a safe bet against a middling New York Mets offense. The long ball has been a problem for James Shields, who has allowed nearly as many home runs (13) since the All-Star break as he did before (14) despite throwing 53 1/3 fewer innings. Normally that would make traversing into Rangers Ballpark a huge red flag, but the Texas Rangers' offense just hasn't been the same without Michael Young and Josh Hamilton -- the team's .318 on-base percentage this month actually ranks 25th. They can still hit home runs (22 this month, ninth in the majors), but aren't to be feared. Shields, who has also struck out at least five batters in nine consecutive starts, should also be able to pile up the K's, as only four teams strike out more often against right-handed pitching than the Rangers. The knock on Freddy Garcia was that his stuff always outstripped his results; now, isn't it somewhat ironic that he's getting consistent results with a high 80s fastball? Garcia hurled his sixth straight quality start versus the Kansas City Royals in his past outing, and he has a good shot at making it seven in a row when he faces the Detroit Tigers, a team he's traditionally done well against. Although most of the at-bats took place a few years ago, the team is only hitting .236 off him in 195 at-bats. Garcia should be picked up for the matchup if he's still left unowned in your league. Carl Pavano has quietly churned out six consecutive quality starts, and, with a 28-to-6 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 39 1/3 innings, hasn't looked bad doing it. There's always a chance of regression when you're dealing with Pavano, but you can probably squeeze another productive start out of him when he faces the Royals. Derek Holland may have allowed five-plus runs in five straight starts, but could rebound against a depleted, and possibly discouraged, Tampa Bay Rays offense. With the second-worst OPS in the league on the month, their bats are floundering, and Holland is always a threat to rack up some K's. For the desperate, you could do worse.
• Luke Scott, 1B/OF, Orioles: Scott has been awfully quiet for a couple of months now, but did hit home runs in consecutive games less than a week ago, so let's hope he has something left. Assuming he does, he's a great bet to capitalize versus Fausto Carmona, who is both awful against lefties (.331 average against) and against Scott, allowing a double and a home run -- along with two singles -- in eight at-bats.
• Jose Lopez, 2B, Mariners: Few middle infielders have matched Lopez's power, especially recently, and he's also one of the few players to take one out of the park versus Roy Halladay. He's 3-for-4 with a double and a homer against Halladay this season, and he comes into the contest with hits in 14 of his past 17 games.
• Hank Blalock, 1B/3B, Rangers: Blalock has been brutal since the All-Star break, batting just .220, but he's turned it up in September, hitting .357 with five extra-base hits -- two of them home runs -- in 28 at-bats. Almost all of that production has come in the past five games, and Blalock is 4-for-9 with two dingers against James Shields in his career, and he'll be at home, where he's a career .295 hitter.
• Jermaine Dye, OF, White Sox: The outfielder has been reduced to a .180 hitter since the All-Star break, but there's hope: He has an 11-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio this month and just bopped two home runs in his past start. Furthermore, he'll face his personal punching bag, Nate Robertson, who has served up five long balls to Dye in 42 career at-bats. Dye's added six doubles, too, so overall he is hitting .333 against Robertson with a sick .833 slugging percentage.
• Alexei Ramirez, 2B/SS, White Sox: Seven at-bats usually isn't enough to tell you much of anything, but Ramirez is hitting a perfect 1.000 in seven at-bats versus Robertson. He's done it all, chipping in three doubles and a walk, too, so a big day could be in store.
• Chris Young, OF, Diamondbacks: Despite going 2-for-12 against Kevin Correia this season, Young is still 6-for-24 (.250) with four extra-base hits, three of them home runs. With Young putting together one of his few productive months, with six home runs in 77 at-bats, this is a great opportunity for Young to resume putting the hurt on Correia, especially since he will be pitching on the road, where batters hit .294 against him.
• Adam Dunn, 1B/OF, Nationals: As one might expect, Dunn has had a lot of problems making contact against Javier Vazquez, striking out nearly 40 percent of the time. He's 1-for-12 overall, and doesn't even have any walks, making this a very one-sided matchup.
• Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees: Jon Lester has actually done better against righties rather than lefties, but the southpaw has had no problems versus Cano. The slugger is hitless in nine at-bats versus Lester this season, fanning three times, which brings his career line against Lester to a lowly 3-for-20 (.150).
• Franklin Gutierrez, OF, Mariners: Outside of two productive months in June and July, Gutierrez has been ineffective against right-handers all season, hitting .257 with a .369 slugging percentage in 374 at-bats. He's 0-for-7 lifetime versus Roy Halladay, so don't expect a turnaround, and is better served as a platoon option against left-handed pitching.
• Mark DeRosa, 1B/2B/3B/OF, Cardinals: DeRosa is slugging a paltry .396 against right-handers, and Aaron Cook, a ground-ball specialist, probably isn't the pitcher to face to improve on that. DeRosa will probably be happy just to pick up his first hit off Cook -- he's been held hitless in eight career at-bats.
• Scott Podsednik, OF, White Sox: To put it mildly, Podsednik has struggled against Nate Robertson, with just two hits in 23 at-bats. Although he's chipped in three walks, he's without a steal because opportunities are few and far between when you have a .185 on-base percentage.
• Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Cubs: Striking out four times as often as you pick up a hit isn't a good sign, especially considering the one hit Ramirez got off Tim Lincecum was just a measly single. Lincecum has been stingy, not even allowing a single walk, and you can just add Ramirez to the list of the numerous hitters Lincecum has slayed.
If you're hardcore
• Matt Diaz, OF, Braves: His eight-game hitting streak just interrupted, Diaz responded by picking up a stolen base and then starting his streak anew, going 2-for-5 in his last game. Diaz is batting .400 against John Lannan in 15 career at-bats and is hitting .410 off lefties this season, so another multi-hit game should be on the way.
• Ryan Church, OF, Braves: Church has only two at-bats against Lannan this year, going 1-for-2 with a double, but has typically owned him in his career. He's 5-for-13 (.385) with three extra-base hits: two home runs and a double.
• Chris Coghlan, OF, Marlins: Can't stop, won't stop: Coghlan has piled up three consecutive multi-hit games, and four of his past five, and faces Tim Redding, a pitcher he's blasted two home runs against this season. Lefties are slugging .522 off Redding, so Coghlan, who is batting over .380 for the second straight month, should keep firing on all cylinders.
• Alberto Callaspo, 2B, Royals: Callaspo already has 11 extra-base hits this month, just one away from a season high. He's hitting .352 in September and owns Carl Pavano, going 5-for-13 (.385) with a pair of doubles and a home run.
• Daric Barton, 1B, Athletics: Taking advantage of consistent playing time, Barton is hitting .306 with two home runs this month, with an impressive 10-to-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio to boot. Surprisingly, Barton also has two career home runs in 10 at-bats versus Jered Weaver, who isn't the greatest against left-handed hitting (.489 slugging allowed).
Injury list: Out
• Milton Bradley, OF, Cubs (suspension; out for the season)
• Joe Crede, 3B, Twins (back; out for the season)
• Bobby Jenks, RP, White Sox (calf; out for the season)
• Marco Scutaro, 2B/SS, Blue Jays (heel; out for the season)
• Freddy Sanchez, 2B, Giants (knee): Sanchez needs to undergo surgery on his left knee, but the Giants are hoping he can put it off until after the season.
• Gary Sheffield, OF, Mets (back; limited to pinch-hitting)
• Michael Young, 3B/SS, Rangers (hamstring)
Injury list: Day-to-day
• John Baker, C, Marlins (hand; available as a pinch-hitter)
• Casey Blake, 1B/3B, Dodgers (leg)
• Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies (hamstring)
• Scott Hairston, OF, Athletics (hip, quadriceps)
• Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers (back, glute): Hamilton participated in baseball activities Tuesday and looked good enough to return this weekend.
• Jeremy Hermida, OF, Marlins (oblique): The plan is for Hermida to take some more BP on Friday and gear up to play this weekend versus the Mets.
• Orlando Hudson, 2B, Dodgers (wrist)
• Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves (back)
• Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, Padres (back): Kouzmanoff may be in danger of missing the rest of the season as now his back is acting up in addition to his calf. "But now it is hard for me to reach down and touch my toes," Kouzmanoff said, which doesn't sound promising.
• Matt LaPorta, OF, Indians (hip)
• Melvin Mora, 3B, Orioles (legs)
• Martin Prado, 1B/2B/3B, Braves (knee)
• Carlos Ruiz, C, Phillies (wrist): Ruiz did indeed play in the second game of Tuesday's doubleheader, but flew back to Philadelphia to have his wrist examined. General manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said he'd return in 3-5 days, and Ruiz could be available sometime this weekend.
• Denard Span, OF, Twins (head): According to MLB.com, Span should return Friday.
• Games played in Toronto, Houston, Milwaukee and Arizona will all be weatherproof.
• The weather is slowly improving, as only a couple of cities in the Midwest, and Miami of course, could end up wet. Miami only has a 30 percent chance of storms, while the odds in Kansas City (30 to 40 percent) and Chicago (40 percent) are only slightly worse.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.