Commentary

Cy Young candidates make final pitch

Updated: September 30, 2009, 2:34 PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com

Daily Notes

Last time around the rodeo! With the season coming to a close this weekend, we're going to be seeing starting pitchers making their last appearances of the year, save for the select few headed to the postseason. But while that means fantasy players in non-keeper leagues can simply cut their entire staff after today and pick up a whole new one for tomorrow, it doesn't mean the bad apples in our pitching bunch will suddenly strike out 20 on Thursday if they've stunk up the joint all 2009 long. A leopard doesn't change his spots simply because the calendar changes to October. With that in mind, here are the rankings for the final Thursday of the season:

For starters

Selected notes: A terrific head-to-head showdown in San Francisco highlights the day's action. Tim Lincecum (1-0, 0.56 versus Arizona in 2009) and Dan Haren (0-1, 2.08 ERA versus the Giants this season) square off in what should be an exciting pitcher's duel. With a 20-8 record at AT&T Park, we'll give the edge to the home team's Lincecum. … Chris Carpenter is 3-0 with a 1.57 ERA against the Cincinnati Reds this season, and there's no reason we expect the result to be any different this time around. … Cliff Lee has hit a bit of a rough patch lately, with a 3.79 ERA in his past three starts, and only one victory, but he's at home, and up against Felipe Paulino, 0-3 with a 7.31 ERA in his past three. We like Lee's chances. … Similarly, Jon Lester rarely loses at Fenway Park, with a 22-5 career record there, and with a date against Carlos Carrasco and his 7.31 ERA in his past three outings, the odds are definitely in Lester's favor. … Tommy Hanson also has a favorable matchup, facing the lowly Washington Nationals, against whom he's 2-0 with a 2.61 ERA. Garrett Mock, on the other hand, is 0-2 with a 6.43 ERA against Atlanta this season. … Brett Anderson has been strong to close out the season, the proud winner of three straight, with a 1.45 ERA. He gains entry into our top 10. … In what amounts to a must-win for the Minnesota Twins, Scott Baker needs to leave it all out on the mound. He's had some difficulties against the Detroit Tigers, though, with a 4.57 career ERA against them, and a 4.32 ERA at Comerica Park. We do like him better than Nate Robertson, who has an ERA over six against Minnesota the past two seasons, but not more than the other options we've already listed. … The pressure is off for the Los Angeles Angels and John Lackey, so he'll have room to experiment if he chooses to against the Texas Rangers. He hasn't had a good year against the Rangers, with a 1-2 record and a 6.75 ERA, so perhaps he truly needs to try something new. His opponent, Kevin Millwood, has not enjoyed playing at Angel Stadium, with a 2-4 record and 4.18 ERA lifetime. … Matt Garza has been a sub-.500 pitcher this season but has done well against the Baltimore Orioles: 6-0 lifetime and 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA this calendar year. … Paul Maholm is 4-1 in his career against the Chicago Cubs and 3-1 at Wrigley, but it's never been pretty. His 8.13 ERA in Chicago isn't anything to write home about. … Aaron Cook and the Colorado Rockies still have something to play for, but his 0-2 record and 9.58 ERA is super scary to start in the final week of the season. Manny Parra has done well of late, with a 2-0 record and 1.88 ERA in his past three, but at Coors Field, with the Rockies needing a win? No thanks. … The rest of the day's pitchers are too risky, in our opinion, and should be started only if you've got nothing to lose by doing so.

Now batting

Hitters' count:

Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers: Braun is closing out the season in solid fashion with a .349 average for September, and he's 3-for-5 against Aaron Cook of the Rockies.
Hank Blalock, 1B, Rangers: Blalock has had plenty of time to learn the ways of John Lackey, with a .343 career average against the Angels' pitcher in 70 at-bats.
Vladimir Guerrero, DH, Angels: Vlad has five home runs and 17 RBIs to go along with a .381 lifetime average against Kevin Millwood.
Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox: He'd be hitting 32 points higher this month if you ignored his games against the Yankees, and he's hit .375 against the current Cleveland staff for his career.
Carlos Guillen, DH, Tigers: Guillen has a .413 OBP in September and a 1.201 OPS against the Twins' Scott Baker.
Geovany Soto, C, Cubs: As the Cubs' season comes to a close, Soto's play has been spotty at best, but he does have a .500 average against the Pirates this season and is hitting .429 lifetime against Paul Maholm.
Fred Lewis, OF, Giants: Lewis is hitting .421 for his career against Dan Haren, which bodes well for a final-week surge in Lewis' stats.

Pitchers' count:

Willy Taveras, OF, Reds: The leadoff hitter is only 6-for-30 (.200) for his career against tough Chris Carpenter .
Jhonny Peralta, SS, Indians: Peralta is batting only .188 for the month, and .154 against Jon Lester lifetime.
Franklin Gutierrez, OF, Mariners: With only a .182 average and no extra-base hits against Brett Anderson, today's a good day to sit Gutierrez.
Delmon Young, OF, Twins: Young has been surprisingly ineffective against Nate Robertson, with only 3 hits in 16 at-bats, a .188 average.
Garrett Jones, OF, Pirates: Jones has hit only .179 against current Cubs' pitching and is 0-for-3 with two strikeouts against Tom Gorzelanny.
Chris Young, OF, Diamondbacks: We'll pass on Young against Tim Lincecum, with his 36 percent strikeout rate and a batting average of .080.
Melvin Mora, 3B, Orioles: With only a .056 OBP against Matt Garza for his career, it's time to send Mora to your fantasy team's retirement list.

If you're hardcore

David Freese, 3B, Cardinals: Freese has hits in both of his appearances since being called up at the end of the Triple-A playoffs, including a home run.
Eric Young Jr., OF, Rockies: With the Rockies pulling out all the stops as they try to nail down the NL wild card, Young is getting plenty of chances to run on the base paths.
Martin Prado, 2B, Braves: Prado has scored 17 runs in his last 11 games, with at least one in each. That's a kind of consistency rarely seen in fantasy circles.
John Mayberry Jr., OF, Phillies: With the Phillies set to have the division-clinching celebration on Wednesday, it's time for the B-team to take the field on Thursday, Mayberry included.
Rocco Baldelli, OF, Red Sox: Baldelli is hitting .467 against the current Cleveland staff, and with the Red Sox in the playoffs, some of the bench players are sure to get some action so some regulars can rest.
Reid Brignac, SS, Rays: Brignac is 6-for-11 against the Orioles this month, so we wouldn't be surprised to see the shortstop on the field against Baltimore on Thursday.
So Taguchi, OF, Cubs: With a .412 career average against Paul Maholm, the Cubs outfielder is soooooooo Taguchi.

Triage

Injury list: Out

Jack Wilson, SS, Mariners (heel): According to the official team Web site, manager Don Wakamatsu expects Wilson to be shut down by team doctors for the rest of the season.
Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers (back): His back just isn't getting better, so with Texas officially out of the playoffs, they've officially shut Hamilton down, as well.
Chris Getz, 2B, White Sox (hernia): Surgery to repair his sports hernia has ended Getz's rookie season prematurely.
Kevin Gregg, P, Cubs (rib): An MRI has revealed a cracked rib, so the pitcher is not going to throw again in 2009.

Injury list: Day-to-day

Derrek Lee, 1B, Cubs (foot): Returning from neck spasms, Lee fouled a ball off his foot and is once again day-to-day.
Marlon Byrd, OF, Rangers (leg): Byrd fell on his face running out a grounder, and was limping after the base-running incident on Tuesday, which forced him to leave the game early.
Jamie Moyer, P, Phillies (groin): Moyer appeared to injure himself on a clumsy follow-through of a seventh-inning pitch on Tuesday and needed help to walk off the field.
Cody Ross, OF, Marlins (wrist): Ross, with his wrist taped, took batting practice on Tuesday and hopes to return to the lineup for the team's last series of the season.
Chris Dickerson, OF, Reds (ankle): The team plans to activate Dickerson from the disabled list but will probably limit him to pinch-hitting and pinch-running duties, rather than risk reinjury in the outfield.
Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Cubs (shoulder): Ramirez's separated shoulder still is sore after all this time, but no further damage can be done, so he might get a few more at-bats.

Weather concerns

• Thursday's abbreviated schedule features two weatherproof games: Athletics-Mariners and Orioles-Rays. No other games should have issues with the elements, except for the Brewers and Rockies, squaring off at what could be an incredibly windy Coors Field with gusts of upwards of 20 mph expected.

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.

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