Hamels, Harden, Peavy look to rebound
It's the second time around for pitchers this week, and every fantasy owner worth his salt is awaiting the results with bated breath. Knowledge is power, especially early on in the season, and whoever makes the most accurate judgments based off minimal information stand to make the most gains in their league. So did Cole Hamels prove that he's not an ace last week, or will he set things right in his rematch versus the Washington Nationals? And will the Detroit Tigers' love of big, hard-throwing righties pay off with Max Scherzer, or is there just not much to gain from a pitcher facing the Royals twice? And guys like Jake Peavy, Rich Harden and Fausto Carmona have some 'splaining to do after last week's uninspired performances. With careful consideration not to overreact after just one start, our rankings tell all:
Starting pitcher rankings for April 12
Selected notes: At times it seems Jair Jurrjens gets by on smoke and mirrors, but as long as he keeps producing, you have to keep throwing him out there, matchup permitting. And as far as matchup goes, he draws the best matchup of the day: a road start against the San Diego Padres. Considering they had the worst home OPS by a whopping 57 points last season, there's nothing to suggest Jurrjens will have any trouble. For Monday, at least, he's about as safe a pitcher as you can find. No team in baseball posted a worst OPS against left-handers than the .674 number the St. Louis Cardinals put up, but it's a somewhat misleading stat: They didn't have Matt Holliday for two-thirds of the year. That said, Holliday is just one player, and as a whole Wandy Rodriguez didn't mind: In five starts against his division rivals, Rodriguez had a 3.72 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP. It won't be a walk in the park, as Rodriguez also tends to struggle a lot more on the road, but he should be started with confidence despite his mediocre outing versus the San Francisco Giants last week. Cole Hamels was inefficient in his first start, needing 103 pitches in five innings thanks to four walks, but let's hope the second time is the charm. As a whole, the Nationals don't do well against Hamels, so for now I would be more inclined to chalk up the poor start as a fluke. There's risk here, as there is with any pitcher who just got touched up by the same offense a week ago, but there's also top-tier upside, and Hamels has earned a bit of a cushion. Matt Garza dominated the Baltimore Orioles last week, as his eight-inning, one-run performance gives him a career 2.67 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in nine starts. A rematch on the road still favors Garza, but not by as much as you would think: In Camden Yards, his ERA rises to 3.54 and his WHIP to 1.32. He has only 13 strikeouts in 28 innings, too, so it's not a perfect match, yet, when you toss in the chances of a win, is still enough to make him a decent bet even in the shallowest of leagues. You know, Barry Zito did have a sterling 2.83 ERA after the All-Star break, and a less sterling, but still solid, 1.29 WHIP, so maybe we should afford him more respect after he shut down the Houston Astros on the road in his initial start. Since he draws the weak-hitting Pittsburgh Pirates next -- and is still available in 61 percent of ESPN leagues -- now sounds like a good time to get him. Like him or not, Zito is quite capable of taking care of business against the lesser teams in the league.
Hitter matchup ratings for April 12
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Jim Edmonds, OF, Milwaukee Brewers: The veteran outfielder has hit Ryan Dempster hard enough (two home runs and a .348 average in 23 career at-bats) to warrant a spot start on Monday. After all, he did show he could still hit right-handed pitching back in 2008, when he had 19 home runs and a .521 slugging percentage versus righties in 292 at-bats.
Josh Hamilton, OF, Texas Rangers: Fausto Carmona is known to struggle against lefties (.818 OPS allowed in the past three seasons), and Hamilton has taken full advantage. He's whacked six hits (including five of the extra-base variety) in 10 at-bats versus Carmona in his career.
Josh Willingham, OF, Washington Nationals: Willingham has had a lot of success versus Cole Hamels, as he went 2-for-3 off the southpaw last Monday to bring his career numbers up to 7-for-22 (.318). He even swiped a base from Hamels and Carlos Ruiz last week for the cherry on top.
Hunter Pence, OF, Houston Astros: While Pence is off to a slow start, keep plugging him in there. Yes, even against Adam Wainwright. Pence is a career .346 hitter (9-for-26) versus Wainwright, even taking him deep once.
Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, Oakland Athletics: Might getting out of Petco Park be all Kouzmanoff needed to do to blossom as a hitter? He's off to a solid start to begin the season and at the very least we know he can hit left-handers: he's hit .289 with 17 home runs in 495 career at-bats. Not out of this world but it will play, and since he's 2-for-3 with a double against Ryan Rowland-Smith, another left-hander, make sure he's playing on your team.
Carlos Pena, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays: There's a lot of talk about how slow a starter Pena is, so make sure you're not sitting him when he goes up against Jeremy Guthrie. He has his way with the righty, batting .400 (8-for-20) with two doubles and a home run. And if you're in an OBP league, even better: He has eight walks as well, giving him a gaudy .571 on-base percentage.
Alfonso Soriano, OF, Chicago Cubs: Off to a 3-for-17 (.176) start to begin the season, things don't figure to improve much against Doug Davis, a pitcher he's just 5-for-21 (.238) against lifetime. He has as many strikeouts as hits, and only one of his hits went for extra bases.
Corey Hart, OF, Milwaukee Brewers: The presence of Jim Edmonds has helped limit Hart to just two starts this season, and he'll probably be on the bench again: He's 2-for-23 (.087) against Ryan Dempster, Monday's scheduled starter.
Elvis Andrus, SS, Texas Rangers: Cleveland Indians catcher Lou Marson does a great job at shutting down the running game -- opponents had a measly 11-for-21 (52.3 percent) success rate when they tested his arm -- and without the threat of a stolen base, Andrus becomes quite a liability in fantasy leagues.
Adam Dunn, OF, Washington Nationals: Dunn was 0-for-1 against Cole Hamels last Monday, but the two walks he picked up doesn't help most of his owners. That brings him to 1-for-13 (.077) versus Hamels, including going down swinging seven times.
Jason Kubel, OF, Minnesota Twins: Unsurprisingly, Kubel is 0-for-5 lifetime against Jon Lester. Mowing down lefties is Lester's biggest strength, while facing left-handed pitching is Kubel's greatest weakness.
Colby Rasmus, OF, St. Louis Cardinals: Rasmus is off to quite the start and could be en route to a big year, but one thing to keep an eye on are his struggles against lefties. So far he's hitting a woeful .160 in 106 career at-bats against southpaws, including a 0-for-7 mark against Wandy Rodriguez.
Carlos Lee, OF, Houston Astros: This is about as one-sided as these batter-pitcher matchups get: In 20 at-bats Lee has been able to muster only one hit against Adam Wainwright. You know what to do from here.
Chone Figgins, 3B, Seattle Mariners: Figgins has eight strikeouts and just two hits against Justin Duchscherer in 22 career at-bats. All three of his hits have been singles and he's worked just one walk, so don't throw him out there just to risk a goose egg.
Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day
Injury list: Out
Carlos Beltran, OF, New York Mets (15-day DL, knee)
Lance Berkman, 1B, Houston Astros (15-day DL, knee)
Russell Branyan, 1B, Cleveland Indians (15-day DL, back)
Coco Crisp, OF, Oakland Athletics (15-day DL, finger)
Joey Devine, RP, Oakland Athletics (15-day DL, elbow)
Mat Gamel, 3B, Milwaukee Brewers (15-day DL, shoulder)
Alex Gordon, 3B, Kansas City Royals (15-day DL, thumb)
Ian Kinsler, 2B, Texas Rangers (15-day DL, ankle): Kinsler wants to try running Sunday or Monday, and if he is able to successfully accomplish that, he could go on a rehab assignment shortly thereafter.
Brad Lidge, RP, Philadelphia Phillies (15-day DL, knee)
Freddy Sanchez, 2B, San Francisco Giants (15-day DL, shoulder)
Huston Street, RP, Colorado Rockies (15-day DL, shoulder)
Kerry Wood, RP, Cleveland Indians (15-day DL, back)
Michael Wuertz, RP, Oakland Athletics (15-day DL, shoulder)
Chris Young, SP, San Diego Padres (shoulder): Young was scratched from his Monday start and will be out until at least April 18. Kevin Correia will take his spot Monday, with Clayton Richard moving to Wednesday and Mat Latos to follow.
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Washington Nationals (hamstring): Zimmerman is out of the lineup Sunday, and MLB.com's Bill Ladsen reports he won't play Monday, either. The Nationals have Tuesday off, so cross your fingers and hope he's ready by Wednesday.
Injury list: Day-to-day
Aaron Hill, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays (hamstring)
Chipper Jones, 3B, Atlanta Braves (oblique): Jones hopes to return Sunday, but if he's out of the lineup then, he could be out until Wednesday since the Braves have an off day Tuesday.
Felix Pie, OF, Baltimore Orioles (shoulder; probable)
Brian Roberts, 2B, Baltimore Orioles (abdominal): Roberts is more "doubtful" than "questionable." The earliest he is expected to return is Tuesday.
The Athletics-Mariners and White Sox-Blue Jays games have the benefit of being weatherproof. While San Francisco (Pirates-Giants) is expecting rain for much of the day, the worst of it should be cleared by game time. Miami, however, might not be so lucky: The Reds-Marlins game has a 50 percent chance of storms, so rain delays are possible.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.
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