Commentary

Don't be fooled by Livan

Updated: April 21, 2010, 2:10 PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com

As a fan of the television show "Lost," it's fun to think about how the writers plan on wrapping up all of these incredibly complicated storylines as the series heads toward its conclusion. One of the big questions on the show right now is the true identity of the mysterious "Man in Black" who has taken up residence inside the body of John Locke. He looks like John Locke. He sounds like John Locke. But he is not John Locke. I feel exactly the same watching Livan Hernandez of the Washington Nationals pitch these days. He looks like Livan Hernandez. He throws like Livan Hernandez. But this is not Livan Hernandez. He's yet to allow an earned run in 2010, but it's only a matter of time before his true identity (career 4.34 ERA) is exposed for the world to see. As for the rest of our rankings for Thursday, here they are:

For starters

Selected notes: CC Sabathia tops the list as he squares off against the Oakland Athletics and their .369 team slugging percentage, a full 100 points lower than the New York Yankees.

• We doubt Ubaldo Jimenez will be the next Johnny Vander Meer, but against the Washington Nationals, we still have confidence he'll do enough to win.

The numbers game: Johan Santana is 2-0 with a 1.71 ERA for his career against the Chicago Cubs. Randy Wolf is 7-1 against the Pittsburgh Pirates, averaging a strikeout per inning. Derek Lowe has had similar success against the Philadelphia Phillies. He's a lifetime 6-1 with a 2.56 ERA.

• Any pitcher going against the Cleveland Indians these days gets a huge bump in the rankings, as the Tribe is the worst hitting team in the American League at .214. Scott Baker is Thursday's lucky beneficiary.

• It may be a gamble to place C.J. Wilson and Dallas Braden in the top 10, but Wilson does have a 2.53 ERA against the injured Boston Red Sox. Meanwhile, Braden has yet to lose in 2010, and his career ERA is a good two runs better at home.

Justin Verlander typically struggles against the Los Angeles Angels, with a 4.82 ERA against them over the years, but his opponent, Joe Saunders, has an even tougher time against the Detroit Tigers. He's got a 5.18 lifetime ERA against the Motor City Kitties.

• As for the rest of the Thursday options, Mike Leake has yet to register a win or a loss in the big leagues. His 2.63 ERA is promising, but he still needs to get a handle on the strike zone. … Clay Buchholz has a 1.50 career WHIP facing the Texas Rangers, and Tom Gorzelanny has always been generous to the New York Mets, as his 5.68 ERA against them would attest. Pass on both. … With Lance Berkman back, the Houston Astros are a much better team, and Anibal Sanchez, with seven walks in 12 innings pitched against the Astros, is simply a pitcher to avoid in this matchup. … Jamie Moyer is also a pitcher who screams for fantasy owners to steer clear. He's got so little room for error these days, averaging just 86 pitches a game, which barely gives him a chance to complete five innings if he struggles in the slightest.

Now batting

Hitters' count:

Lance Berkman, 1B, Astros: Back from the disabled list, the Marlins are a perfect team for Berkman to get into the swing of the 2010 season, as he's batting .316 for his career against the current slate of Marlins pitching.

Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota Twins: The reigning AL MVP is a standout hitter against nearly everyone he faces, but even more so against the Indians, against whom he batted .536 in 56 at-bats in 2009.

Todd Helton, 1B, Colorado Rockies: With a 1.288 OPS and a .478 batting average with Livan Hernandez on the mound, there's no reason to fear starting Helton in your lineup Thursday. He might even get his first home run of the year, as well.

Orlando Cabrera, SS, Cincinnati Reds: His average is on the upswing -- .286 in his past seven games -- and he's a .310 hitter against Thursday's pitcher for the Dodgers, Vicente Padilla, who's nursing an ERA of 8.04.

Jorge Cantu, 1B, Florida Marlins: Cantu can do against the Astros, with a .520 slugging percentage against the team last season, and hey, it's not like we're actually going to sit the NL leader in RBIs anytime soon.

Jose Reyes, SS, Mets: After a disastrous series against the Cardinals, which wasn't helped by an 0-for-7 in the 20-inning game, Reyes is seemingly back on track against the Cubs. He already has a pair of RBIs this series, and more should be on the horizon.

Pitchers' count:

Rajai Davis, OF, Athletics: His recent 4-for-27 slide isn't going to stop against CC Sabathia. Davis is but 1-for-12 in his career against the Yankees' star southpaw.

Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals: Ubaldo Jimenez may not throw another no-no today, but based on Zimmerman's .182 batting average against the Rockies' Thursday starter, we doubt he'll be the one to break it up.

Victor Martinez, C, Red Sox: The way the Red Sox have been hitting so far this season, it's hard to single out just one Boston hitter for this section of the Daily Notes. V-Mart gets the nod, thanks to a .182 career average against C.J. Wilson.

Russell Martin, C, Los Angeles Dodgers: When will April be over? Martin hit just .205 in 2009's first month of action, and is now bringing a 2-for-13 stretch into this series against the Reds. Pass.

Pat Burrell, OF, Tampa Bay Rays: Pat the Bat is flat against Jake Peavy, batting .214 for his career. Even though Peavy has struggled so far this season, Burrell may be in for a long afternoon.

Juan Rivera, OF, Angels: Rivera has hits in all but three games so far this season, but against Justin Verlander those hits never seem to come. The outfielder is 0-for-10 against the right-hander during his career.

Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day

Ryan Braun, LF, Milwaukee Brewers: Braun hit only .260 against the Pirates last season, but he made each and every one of his hits count, as he had 14 RBIs against them -- more than versus any other opponent. Add to that the fact today's pitcher, Daniel McCutchen, is here only as an emergency injury replacement, and you've got yourself a perfect play.

Triage

Injury list: Out

Jeff Mathis, C, Angels (15-day DL, fractured wrist)
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox (15-day DL, left chest contusion)
Mike Cameron, OF, Red Sox (15-day DL, sports hernia)
Chris Johnson, 3B, Astros (15-day DL, strained right intercostal muscle)
Conor Jackson, OF, Diamondbacks (15-day DL, right hamstring)
Aaron Rowand, OF, Giants (15-day DL, fractured cheekbones)
Ross Ohlendorf, SP, Pirates (15-day DL, back spasms)
Jose Mijares, RP, Twins (15-day DL, strained left elbow)
Chris Getz, 2B, Royals (15-day DL, strained right oblique)

Injury list: Day-to-day

Milton Bradley, OF, Mariners (left calf)
Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers (right hamstring)
Mark Ellis, 2B, Athletics (left hamstring)
Ryota Igarashi, RP, Mets (left hamstring)
Mark DeRosa, OF, Giants (hamstring)
Bobby Crosby, 3B, Pirates (left shoulder)

Weather concerns

Weatherproof game: Marlins at Astros. Scattered thunderstorms may be on tap for Fenway Park and the Rangers-Red Sox affair. Other than that, we shouldn't see any significant weather conditions playing havoc with Thursday's already shortened schedule.

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.

ALSO SEE