Verlander no guarantee to bounce back
What's wrong with Justin Verlander? Four starts into the season and he has an ERA near seven, while opponents are hitting .289 off of him. Then again, he did something similar in April 2009, with a 6.75 ERA and a .291 opponent batting average through five starts. In fact, Verlander has a career 5.22 ERA in April but a sterling 2.78 ERA in May, so maybe he really is just a slow starter. Verlander admits he has some mechanical issues to work out, but at least he's pinpointed the problem. Should you gamble your team's ratios on whether Verlander has worked out the kinks yet, or do you need to sit him until he shows us something? Let our rankings help simplify your decision:
Starting pitcher rankings for April 27
• After kicking off the season with four straight wins, no home runs allowed and a 0.95 ERA, the question is whether Ubaldo Jimenez is a budding ace or a pitcher on a hot streak. His 12 walks in 28 1/3 innings indicate he's no Zack Greinke, but on Tuesday at least it will be difficult to tell the difference: He has a career 2.75 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in eight starts against the Arizona Diamondbacks, so Jimenez could make it five consecutive wins. No team in the league strikes out more often than the D-backs, too, so Jimenez should keep rolling.
• As mentioned at the top, Verlander has been awful, and there's not a ton of solace to find in his peripherals, especially considering he's faced some mediocre offenses to this point. Worse, he's coming off a 125-pitch outing against the Los Angeles Angels, not exactly the best setup for a comeback. And the cherry on top: The Minnesota Twins have traditionally blasted Verlander; the team is slugging .511 off him lifetime and he had a 5.20 ERA against them in four starts last season. Verlander has enough talent to turn it around at any given time, but it would be reckless to count on that happening Tuesday.
• Mark Buehrle is in a similar boat to Verlander -- proven vet off to a mediocre start -- although people are much faster to jump ship on Buehrle because he doesn't get strikeouts. Hold your horses, however, and wait to see how he does against the Texas Rangers. The Rangers are no offensive powerhouse -- they rank in the bottom third in OPS, and are even worse against lefties -- and Buehrle actually has an outstanding track record against them. Even in Arlington he has pitched well, with a robust 3.62 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in six lifetime appearances. It's a bit risky but the Rangers are hitting only .212 versus lefties, so it's a smart gamble nonetheless.
• After conquering a murders' row of lineups -- the Toronto Blue Jays at home and the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox on the road -- it's virtually impossible not to start C.J. Wilson versus the Chicago White Sox, who are batting a weak .219 against lefties this season. It would be nice to see more strikeouts from Wilson, though; after fanning nine Blue Jays in his first start, he's added only seven K's in his past 12 2/3 innings.
• It will be tempting to start Clay Buchholz against the Blue Jays when he's coming off a 6 2/3-inning, 10-strikeout performance, but his owners should resist that urge. The Jays slug .481 against right-handers, tied for first in the majors, while Buchholz has pitched much worse on the road (career 5.75 ERA) in his brief career. He still has a propensity to walk batters, so it's best to exercise caution with his tougher matchups to ensure he doesn't kill your ratios.
• It's both a good and bad thing that Wade Davis has allowed nearly double as many walks (seven) as base hits (four) in his past two starts. It's nice to see that his stuff is definitely filthy enough to dominate major league lineups; now it's about mastering command. That's what makes him such a tantalizing option against the light-hitting teams in the league, though, since you can afford to get away with a few more walks and the batters won't punish your mistakes as hard. A home start versus the Oakland Athletics is exactly what the doctor ordered, and since he's still available in more than half of ESPN leagues, he can be used as a high-upside spot start, too.
Hitter matchup ratings for April 27
Magglio Ordonez, OF, Detroit Tigers: Ordonez has cooled off recently, but in just 11 at-bats against lefties this season he's batting .364 with a home run. He's also a .381 hitter lifetime against Francisco Liriano, including five extra-base hits, two of which have left the park.
Jim Thome, DH, Twins: Boy, is Thome happy to see Justin Verlander. He's batting only .244 versus the righty, but seven of his 10 hits have been homers.
Adam Jones, OF, Baltimore Orioles: With home runs on consecutive days, it seems Jones is ready to really heat up. He could continue to do damage against Phil Hughes, against whom he's gone 4-for-8, with two doubles and a home run.
Nick Swisher, 1B/OF, Yankees: In 29 at-bats versus Kevin Millwood, Swisher has three long balls, producing a .724 slugging percentage. Toss in five walks and two doubles and Swisher has been quite productive, hitting .345 overall.
Vladimir Guerrero, DH, Rangers: Vladdy has had his way with Buehrle, hitting .320 in 25 at-bats to go along with four home runs.
Andruw Jones, DH, White Sox: Eight of Jones' 14 hits are of the extra-base variety, and versus left-handers specifically, he's 8-for-20 (.400) with four home runs, making him a serious threat against C.J. Wilson on Tuesday. He has even added two steals in the past five games as we're seeing what a fully healthy and rejuvenated Jones can do.
Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Chicago Cubs: Livan Hernandez may have a sub-1.00 ERA, but Ramirez has still taken him deep four times in 29 at-bats. Overall he's 11-for-29 (.379), adding in three doubles, too, giving him an impressive .897 slugging percentage lifetime versus Hernandez.
Michael Cuddyer, OF, Twins: Being division rivals, Cuddyer and Justin Verlander meet often, but Verlander has the decisive edge: He has more strikeouts (eight) than hits allowed (five) in 34 at-bats. All in all, Cuddyer is hitting a frail .147.
Andre Ethier, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers: Ethier is swinging the bat well but will unfortunately run into one of the premier lefties in the majors, Johan Santana. They haven't faced each other yet, but judging by Ethier's perennial struggles against southpaws -- he hit .194 against them last year and .243 in 2008 -- it seems safe to assume Santana has a significant edge.
A.J. Pierzynski, C, White Sox: Still showing little signs of life, Pierzynski has just one hit in his past 17 at-bats, lowering his average to .140 on the year. Unfortunately, the left-handed C.J. Wilson tends to dominate southpaws -- lefties are 3-for-20 against him this year after batting .206 off him last year -- so expect Pierzynski to get worse before he gets better.
Franklin Gutierrez, OF, and Chone Figgins, 2B/3B, Seattle Mariners: Not that it comes as much of a surprise, but Gutierrez has been able to muster only a lone single against Zack Greinke in 17 plate appearances, striking out three times. Figgins has been slightly worse, going 0-for-14 with no walks and four strikeouts.
Mark Reynolds, 1B/3B, and Chris Young, OF, Diamondbacks: As you might expect, Reynolds and Young have big issues making contact versus Ubaldo Jimenez. They have combined for twice as many strikeouts (19) as hits (nine) in 43 at-bats, with Reynolds hitting .227 and Young .197.
Juan Uribe, 3B/2B/SS, San Francisco Giants: Uribe has gone deep against Jamie Moyer but hasn't done enough in the rest of his at-bats to make that worth keeping him active. In fact, he hasn't done much at all, with just two hits in 17 at-bats, leaving him with a paltry .118 average.
Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day
Randy Winn, RF, Yankees: It's a bit crazy, but some matchups are too tempting to resist, and Winn is a robust 11-for-18 (.611) with two home runs against Kevin Millwood, and he should get the start over Brett Gardner or even Curtis Granderson (6-for-28 versus Millwood).
Injury list: Out
• Brad Hawpe, OF, Colorado Rockies (15-day DL, quad): The Rockies have decided to place Hawpe on the disabled list and ensure the injury doesn't linger, keeping him out until mid-May.
• Ian Kinsler, 2B, Rangers (15-day DL, ankle): Kinsler will begin a rehab assignment Monday, giving him a chance to return by the end of April.
• Brad Lidge, RP, Philadelphia Phillies (15-day DL, knee/elbow): Lidge is on a rehab assignment and is expected to be activated off the disabled list within the next week.
• Vicente Padilla, SP, Dodgers (15-day DL, forearm soreness)
Injury list: Day-to-day
• Rick Ankiel, OF, Kansas City Royals (quad)
• Daric Barton, 1B, Athletics (finger)
• Milton Bradley, OF, Mariners (calf)
• Everth Cabrera, SS, San Diego Padres (knee): Despite saying he would play, Cabrera missed Sunday's contest. He did steal a base as a pinch-runner, so he probably isn't too far away.
• Nick Johnson, 1B, Yankees (back): Johnson hasn't played since April 23, but is planning a Tuesday return.
• Chipper Jones, 3B, Atlanta Braves (hip; probable)
• Felipe Lopez, 2B, Cardinals (elbow)
• Cameron Maybin, OF, Florida Marlins (headaches)
• Dioner Navarro, C, Tampa Bay Rays (leg)
• Martin Prado, 1B/2B/3B, Braves (oblique)
• Ivan Rodriguez, C, Washington Nationals (back)
• Kurt Suzuki, C, Athletics (side): Suzuki missed his second consecutive game Sunday, but plans to play Tuesday; the team had Monday off.
• Justin Upton, OF, Diamondbacks (shin)
• Juan Uribe, 2B/3B/SS, Giants (elbow)
• Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals (hamstring)
The weatherproof games of the day include the Red Sox-Blue Jays, Athletics-Rays, Reds-Astros and Pirates-Brewers. Meanwhile, San Francisco (Phillies-Giants) is the lone city with a significant threat of rain, with a 60 percent chance of showers.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.
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