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Cy Young candidates take mound

9/25/2009

At this point in the season, especially in rotisserie-style leagues, it might be better to focus on what you don't need, rather than what you do. Sure, guys like Dan Haren and Zack Greinke are certain to help your team ... but with so many innings pitched under your roster's belt, it is far better to avoid pitchers who could blow up, giving up 10 runs in 1/3 of an inning. That could cost you far more than the aces could help. So take our rankings to heart, and avoid gambling on pitchers like Justin Lehr, David Purcey, Edward Mujica and Daniel Hudson. Sure, there could well be seven shutout innings in them, but the alternative would be far more crippling to your championship dreams.

For starters

Starting pitcher rankings for Saturday, Sept. 26

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 for Saturday:

Dan Haren is pitching at home, where he has a career ERA of 2.96, and he is 4-1 lifetime against the San Diego Padres, who are countering with Wade LeBlanc, who has nice numbers, but the 4.98 K/9 ratio isn't exactly formidable. As such, Haren claims top Saturday honors. … Adam Wainwright could be on his way to a Cy Young Award, and if he can escape Coors Field with his ERA intact, he'd get my vote. However, Ubaldo Jimenez has a 2.25 ERA versus the Cardinals this season and is no slouch himself. A victory is no foregone conclusion for St. Louis today. … CC Sabathia is 2-0 in his past three starts with a 1.71 ERA and has done well against the Red Sox this year (2-1, 2.95 ERA). Not only that, he's facing Daisuke Matsuzaka, whose career 6.35 ERA versus the Yankees is not exactly confidence-inspiring. … John Lackey has already thrown 17 shutout innings against the A's this season, what's eight or nine more? Plus, his counterpart Dana Eveland has a 6.35 ERA at Angel Stadium. … Randy Wolf has always performed well against the Pirates, as his 7-1 career mark indicates, but more than that, he's 3-0 lifetime at PNC Park. … Barry Zito has been a solid fantasy pitcher in the second half, with a 2.58 ERA, and we look for the Giants to give him plenty of run support off Tom Gorzelanny, and his 4.70 ERA in his past three starts. …Scott Baker failed to beat the Tigers in his last time out, but is looking for redemption against the Royals. Color us optimistic, especially with Lenny DiNardo, who has an 8.18 ERA at Kauffman Stadium. … Matt Garza might just get back to .500 by the time this season is over, as he's posted a 1.29 ERA in his past three outings. Kevin Millwood may not keep his head above water, as his ERA has been a disappointing 5.74 in his past three starts, and for his career, he's 1-2 with a 7.23 ERA against the Rays. … Tommy Hanson rounds out our top 10. The Braves' rookie sensation has a 1.32 ERA against Washington, and Garrett Mock with his 0-2 record and 6.50 ERA in his past three isn't going to pose too much of a threat to Atlanta's lineup. … Pedro Martinez still has something left in the tank, so we'll put him next. It really depends on which Braden Looper shows up for Milwaukee: the one who has a 6.51 ERA in September, or the one who held the Phillies scoreless for six innings back in April. … Middle-of-the-pack options include: Ian Snell, who has done well to keep his ERA under 4.00 for his past three starts; John Maine, who is 2-0 with a 1.06 ERA against the Marlins this season; and Felipe Paulino, who despite the 2-10 record has actually pitched well in September, with a 3.52 ERA -- and has a 2.55 ERA against the Reds in 2009.

Starting pitcher rankings for Sunday, Sept. 27

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

Selected notes for Sunday:

Zack Greinke may not going too deep into games as the season draws to a close, but for the six or so innings he does throw, he's likely to be unhittable. We'll take the guy who is 2-0 with an 0.50 ERA in his past three starts over anybody else throwing today. … Josh Johnson not only has a mastery over the Mets -- 7-0 lifetime and 3-0 this season with a 2.89 ERA -- but he also goes against Pat Misch, whose 12.41 ERA in his past three is the reason he's last in our rankings for today. … Wandy Rodriguez has been more than solid against the Reds this season, posting a 1.13 ERA in four starts. We like him to continue his recent success and do far better than Johnny Cueto, who has a 7.43 ERA at Minute Maid Park. … Matt Cain has been, in a word, awful in losing three straight divisional rivalry games. But the Cubs are a horse of a different color and we expect to see the Cain of old, the one with a lifetime 2.81 ERA against Chicago. Randy Wells steps into the revamped Cubs rotation, as Rich Harden has been shut down for the year, and with a 2.49 ERA on the road, we have placed him in our top 10 as well. … Jorge De La Rosa continues his roll, winning six of his past seven decisions, and assuming the Cardinals have clinched by Sunday, he could well be facing a less-than-stacked lineup. … Edwin Jackson has slowly declined each month of the season, but his 3.75 ERA against the White Sox is a step back in time to a Jackson worth starting. … Andy Pettitte has struggled in September with a 5.29 ERA, after a standout 4-0 August. But drawing Paul Byrd in the Red Sox's rotation leaves us optimistic for his chances of getting the victory. … Derek Lowe is winning games, although not without a heck of a lot of run support (2-0 in his past three, 7.11 ERA), but it's hard not to like any pitcher's chances of victory against the 100-loss Nationals. Add to the mix Livan Hernandez is going for Washington, and his 4-15 lifetime record of futility against Atlanta, and you'll see why we're high on Lowe. … Joe Blanton is 1-1 with a 3.32 ERA in his past three appearances against the Brewers, and we're simply throwing out Dave Bush's fluky flirtation with a no-hitter back in Philadelphia earlier this season. … Middle-of-the-pack options to consider: Clayton Kershaw has a 1.80 ERA in his past three starts, but it is not entirely sure he's definitely getting the call on Sunday. Double-check the Dodgers' rotation before locking in your lineup. Also recommended are Joe Saunders, 2-0 in his past three with a 2.14 ERA and a 2.79 ERA against Arizona in 2009; David Price, who has won two straight decisions with a 2.75 ERA in his last 20 innings pitched; and Ryan Rowland-Smith, who already bested the Blue Jays this season back in July, 3-2.

Now batting (Saturday)

Hitters' count:

David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox: Big Papi has 13 RBIs in September, and boasts a .304 batting average against CC Sabathia, with two round-trippers in his career.
Brian Roberts, 2B, Orioles: Perhaps Roberts should be called "Bigger Papi" with his 14 RBIs in September and a .357 against Jeremy Sowers?
Nick Johnson, 1B, Marlins: With a .434 OBP this month, Johnson will be getting on base against the Mets, and with two home runs in 17 at-bats against John Maine, he may be touching them all.
Torii Hunter, OF, Angels: Hunter has owned Dan Eveland, with a .455 batting average against the scheduled starter for Oakland.
Derrek Lee, 1B, Cubs: Although he's currently day-to-day with neck soreness, he may shake it off in order to face Barry Zito, as he's 5-for-10 lifetime against him.
David Murphy, OF, Rangers: He's batting .338 in this final full month of 2009, and is 5-for-15 in his career against Matt Garza.
Jay Bruce, OF, Reds: Batting .300 since returning from his wrist injury, Bruce has two home runs in only six career at-bats against Felipe Paulino.

Pitchers' count:

Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers: Miggy has hit only .245 against the White Sox this season, by far the lowest output against any divisional foe.

Joe Mauer, C, Twins: Hypothetically speaking, if one were to ever sit Joe Mauer, it might be against Lenny DiNardo, against whom he's never recorded a base hit (0-for-5).
Billy Butler, 1B, Royals: The Butler didn't do it! At least not in the case of Scott Baker, as evidenced by the first baseman's 1-for-19 against him.
Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees: Cano tends to hit the Red Sox well, but not Dice-K, who has struck out the Yankees' second-sacker seven times in 17 at-bats, holding him to a. 176 average.
Pedro Feliz, 3B, Phillies: If the .212 average this month wasn't bad enough, how about the .067 against Braden Looper?
Chase Headley, OF, Padres: He's not exactly an All-Star in general, and specifically not against Dan Haren, with a career 3-for-18.
Mark Ellis, 2B, Athletics: He lacks quite a lot against John Lackey, with a .235 career batting average, and a 20 percent strikeout rate in over 50 at-bats.
Lastings Milledge, OF, Pirates: It takes more than a Milledge to beat Randy Wolf, as his .100 slugging percentage against the pitcher won't exactly send the Dodgers into a panic.

If you're hardcore

Kelly Johnson, 2B. Braves: Johnson has hit .364 against the Nationals this season and may see a start if Martin Prado's knee injury causes his difficulty.
Craig Counsell, 2B, Brewers: Counsell loves the sight of Pedro Martinez, and has a .450 lifetime average against him.
Brandon Allen, 1B, Diamondbacks: Allen went 4-for-11 in an earlier series against the Padres this month. Hey, it's a start!
Jeff Francoeur, OF, Mets: Sean West goes south against Francoeur, who is 4-for-5 against the pitcher in his career, including three doubles.
Marcus Thames, DH, Tigers: Thames has seen sporadic action in September, and has still managed to bat a respectable .306 and he's 1-for-3 lifetime with a home run against Freddy Garcia.
Jeff Keppinger, 3B, Astros: Sure, he's 0-for-his-last-8. Don't be so negative! He's also a perfect 3-for-3 with two solo home runs against Justin Lehr.

Now batting (Sunday)

Hitters' count:

Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Mariners: Hits in 11 of 12 games is par for the course for Ichiro. The .556 average against the Blue Jays this season is the icing on the cake.
Lance Berkman, 1B, Astros: Johnny Cueto is quite the elixir for what ails Lance Berkman, as the Big Puma is 5-for-10 against him with two homers and five RBIs.
Mike Cameron, OF, Brewers: While it is true that Cameron has been unable to get on base lately (.233 OBP in September), his.556 lifetime OBP against Joe Blanton is promising.
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Padres: Gonzalez has driven in 17 runs so far this month, and has hit home runs off six different pitchers currently on Arizona in his career, including Billy Buckner.
Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees: A-Rod is swinging a hot bat, with a .347 average in September, and has driven in 19 runs as well. It's not October yet, so we expect the hot bat to continue for a few more days.
Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals: Even hotter than A-Rod, Molina is batting .349 since Sept. 1. Plus, he's 5-for-8 overall against Jorge De La Rosa.
Jorge Cantu, 1B, Marlins: Cantu is closing in on a 100-RBI season and may get even closer against Pat Misch, against whom he is a .571 hitter.

Pitchers' count:

Jose Bautista, OF, Blue Jays: He's never had a hit off Ryan Rowland-Smith, but more troubling a stat: After hitting .235 so far this month, Bautista has actually raised his overall average five points.
Josh Willingham, OF, Nationals: Willingham has only managed a .183 batting average in September, and his lifetime mark versus Derek Lowe is even worse at .176.
Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox: It's feast or famine with Konerko, who has gone hitless in four of his past eight games. Expect another taste of famine against Edwin Jackson, as Konerko is 1-for-10 against him.
Jason Bartlett, SS, Rays: Bartlett has hit only .191 since Sept. 15 and squares off against Brandon McCarthy of the Rangers, against whom he's never had a hit.
Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers: He's planning to return to action this weekend, but after such a long layoff, it's hard to have much faith in Hamilton, especially factoring in the his .205 average against the current Rays pitching staff.
Carlos Beltran, OF, Mets: With a 3-for-21 track record -- and no extra-base hits -- against Josh Johnson, we're not expecting much from Beltran on Sunday.
Yuniesky Betancourt, SS, Royals: Rocking a .280 OBP this month, Betancourt goes up against Francisco Liriano, and brings an .063 lifetime average with him.

If you're hardcore

Lou Montanez, OF, Orioles: A complete flier, as Montanez wasn't activated from the 60-day disabled list at this stage of the season to sit on the bench for two weeks straight.
Matt LaPorta, OF, Indians: His hip should be good enough for him to give it a try by Sunday, and he's 2-for-2 against Chris Tillman.
Darnell McDonald, OF, Reds: Why not? He's hitting .400 in limited appearances against Wandy Rodriguez. That's what being hardcore is all about!.
Matt Stairs, OF, Phillies: Maybe the Phillies give him more than just a pinch-hit appearance with Dave Bush on the hill. Stairs has been a .357 hitter against him over the years.
Ian Desmond, SS, Nationals: He's hitting .333 in this current cup of coffee, with six extra-base hits.
Mitch Maier, OF, Royals: Maier has hit .321 over the past week and is batting 55 points higher at home than on the road.
Bobby Crosby, 1B, Athletics: With five hits in 15 at-bats against Joe Saunders, including five RBIs, Crosby might give your team some hope on Sunday.

Triage

Injury list: Out

Milton Bradley, OF, Cubs (suspension): Bradley has actually apologized for his comments and behavior that caused the team to decide to remove him from its dugout for the rest of the season. Miracles do happen …
• Rich Harden, P, Cubs (arm fatigue): … but not for his teammate Rich Harden, who has been officially shut down for 2009. We'll see if either is back in Chicago next year, but it's not the greatest bet.

Injury list: Day-to-day

Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies (hamstring): He's pinch hitting but not starting, and not doing a great job at that either.
Casey Blake, 3B. Dodgers (hamstring): This injury doesn't seem to be going away, and with the Dodgers comfortably ahead in the NL West, there's no reason to press the issue.
Jerry Hairston Jr., 3B, Yankees (wrist): It's never good to hear a pop in your wrist, as Hairston did on Wednesday, but an MRI determined it was tendinitis and nothing more serious.
Jeremy Hermida, OF, Marlins (oblique): He's been out since Sept. 3, but is taking batting practice and hopes to return this weekend against the Mets.
Bengie Molina, C, Giants: Molina took a foul ball off the glove on Thursday, injuring his left finger. There's no fracture, but he may cede time to Eli Whiteside for a few games.

Weather concerns

• The weekend's weatherproof games: Padres at Diamondbacks, Reds at Astros, Phillies at Brewers and Mariners at Blue Jays.

• Saturday's forecast is for showers in Washington, Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Chicago. There's also rain on the horizon in Kansas City, but that's for early in the morning, and it should be long since gone when the 7:10 p.m. first pitch is ready to be thrown.

• On Sunday, the rain remains in Pittsburgh, but also works its way to New York, threatening the Yankees and Red Sox. While it should be dry in Cleveland and Chicago, strong winds of 20-plus mph threaten to wreak havoc in the games played in those ballparks.

• And of course, no weather forecast would be complete without the thunderstorms in Florida that could result in delays at any point during the weekend.

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.