Maine deserves fantasy start vs. Nats
When you need help making those tough calls on questionable pitching matchups, who you gonna call?
Nope, not the Ghostbusters, but it makes for a good opening line. Or maybe you're more of a Disney fan, so picture me as Aladdin, holding your hand and asking if you trust me. In other words, today's pitcher rankings might look a little wonky to you at first, or even second, sight, but there is always a rationale behind our actions. Whether you agree or not is another story, but don't tell me you aren't already enticed
Starting pitcher rankings for May 10
• John Maine joins the elite pitchers -- for a day, at least. Despite his still-ugly numbers, Maine has fanned a batter per inning and has a 2.25 ERA in his past two starts. Even better, he has owned the Nationals, with the current roster hitting a lowly .150 off of Maine in 100 total at-bats, a decent enough sample size. And since the Nationals haven't been great against right-handers anyway (.720 OPS, 19th in the majors), this is an irresistible matchup.
• I suppose ranking Bronson Arroyo fourth is also going out on a limb a bit, but heck, if dude can't pitch well against the Pirates, I'll gladly eat crow. The Pirates lack a stout presence in the middle of their lineup -- there's a reason they rank near the bottom of the league in OPS -- and Arroyo is also a much better pitcher than he has shown thus far. But it also speaks to the lack of solid options available today, and Arroyo looks like a solid bet for a quality start, at the very least.
• Patience is a virtue that many fantasy players don't have, apparently, considering a whopping 15.3 percent of Ted Lilly owners in ESPN standard leagues have dropped him in the past week. It's not time to panic, however; he's still building arm strength coming back from his shoulder surgery and back injury, and he bounced back well against the Pirates after a couple of troublesome early frames. As for his recent pounding at the hands of the Diamondbacks, they have the fourth-ranked offense in both runs scored and OPS in the majors. If he runs into a lot of trouble against the Marlins, there should be some concern, but considering Lilly has a 3.70 ERA in 588 2/3 innings since joining the Cubs in 2007 this is probably much ado about nothing.
• I am not a fan of starting most pitchers against elite offenses, especially in tough environments such as Fenway Park. You could easily make the case that Brandon Morrow has pitched well enough to risk throwing out there, but it takes two to three good starts to erase one pounding, so why risk it? He ranks sixth for Monday only because many of the other options are even worse bets than he is, not because he should be started with confidence.
• That bit about the D-backs having one of the majors' top offenses this season? That's a bit of foreshadowing as to why Chad Billingsley is ranked below Arroyo and Lilly for Monday's games. To rank him any higher would be to rank him solely off his name and reputation, because he hasn't traditionally pitched well against the Diamondbacks anyway. In 182 at-bats against Billingsley, the current crop of D-backs hitters are slugging .473 against him, and they're even more dangerous at home (league-leading .846 OPS). And since Billingsley isn't mowing down hitters left and right, there's too much risk for too little reward to keep him active in daily mixed leagues on Monday.
• John Lackey's peripherals still look a bit too ugly to trust against the better hitting teams in the league, and would you believe the Blue Jays rank first in OPS against right-handers? Lackey has just been too hittable to risk against all that power; against right-handers, the Jays have a .511 slugging percentage and have hit 12 more home runs than any other team in the majors.
• Speaking of tough offenses, Joel Pineiro has just faced a murderers' row of insanely good offenses recently. In his past five starts, he has matched up against the Yankees on the road, the Tigers, the Yankees again, the Tigers on the road and the Red Sox on the road. All three of those teams rank in the top five in OPS versus righties, and on Monday, Pineiro must face the team that ranks eighth, the Rays. That may make him an ideal buy-low candidate in the long-term, but in the short-term, it means he should once again be stuck on your bench.
Hitter matchup ratings for May 10
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Johnny Damon, OF, Tigers: Despite a gaudy .409 on-base percentage, Damon has attempted just one steal, so maybe the 36-year-old is slowing down. But he's also yet to face former teammate Jorge Posada, who is expected to be behind the plate Monday and who has thrown out just 21 percent of would-be thieves. And if Posada doesn't suit up? Well, his backup, Francisco Cervelli, is 0-for-6 in throwing out runners.
David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox: Does hitting three home runs in five games qualify as a sign of life? You bet, and let's hope Ortiz can still squeeze out some usefulness against right-handers. It's a good sign that he's 1-for-3 with a homer and a walk against Brandon Morrow in his career.
Cody Ross, OF, Marlins: A 10-game hitting streak has helped Ross' average up to .270, and don't forget the work he (normally) puts in against lefties. He's hitting only .233 against southpaws in 30 at-bats this season, but in his career he's batting .287 with a monstrous .939 OPS to go along with 37 home runs in 491 at-bats.
Troy Glaus, 1B/3B, Braves: Those who own Glaus -- he's on a roster in only 6 percent of ESPN leagues -- need to throw him out there against Doug Davis. He's 5-for-20 (.250) versus Davis, but all of those hits have gone for extra bases, including a home run. And OBP leagues will love him; he has worked eight walks as well, giving him an impressive .464 on-base percentage.
Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies: If Helton can't step it up against Kyle Kendrick, then there might be no hope. Not only is Helton a solid 4-for-9 (.444) with three walks and a double off Kendrick, but the righty pitcher also has been tattooed by opposing lefties, allowing 10 extra-base hits in 57 at-bats to go along with a .333 opponent batting average.
J.D. Drew, OF, Red Sox: Here's the good: Drew has drawn four walks against the wild Brandon Morrow in eight plate appearances against him. The bad: He has struck out three times in those eight plate appearances. Unless you're in an OBP league, you'll probably want that kind of futility on your bench.
Aaron Hill, 2B, Blue Jays: So was that career year a fluke or what? We have about five more months to know for sure, but right now all that matters is Hill is in a severe 0-for-17 slump in his past four days. His woeful 1-for-12 career line versus John Lackey definitely won't help matters.
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals: You might think I'm crazy, but history speaks for itself: Maine has owned Zimmerman, limiting him to a .176 average (6-for-34), accumulating seven strikeouts to zero walks. Maybe it's time to give Zimmerman a "virtual" day off.
Nyjer Morgan, OF, Nationals: Nearly worthless against southpaws (career .308 OBP, and how can you steal bases if you can't get on base?), Morgan's a bad start against Chicago's Lilly. Cubs catcher Geovany Soto has also been solid at preventing steals, having thrown out 31.8 percent of those who have tested his arm this season.
Justin Upton, OF, Diamondbacks: It's easier to bench your studs when they're slumping, right? Well, expect the slump to continue against Chad Billingsley, as Upton is a woeful 3-for-17 (.176) with four K's against the hard-throwing right-hander.
Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day
Joey Votto, 1B, Reds: On a seven-game hitting streak since the start of the month, Votto has also hit two home runs in his past four games and is a scorching 4-for-5 with a home run, a double and a triple against Ross Ohlendorf.
Injury list: Out
Brad Hawpe, OF, Rockies (15-day DL, quad): Hawpe is currently on a rehab assignment and is expected to return for the May 10-12 series versus the Phillies.
Maicer Izturis, 2B/SS, Angels (15-day DL, shoulder): Placed on the disabled list Saturday with a bum shoulder. The move is retroactive to May 6.
Nick Johnson, 1B, Yankees (15-day DL, wrist)
Andy Pettitte, SP, Yankees (elbow): Pettitte will miss his scheduled start Monday, with Sergio Mitre taking his place. Javier Vazquez will be pushed to Tuesday. Pettitte will avoid the disabled list, however, and should make his next start over the weekend.
Injury list: Day-to-day
Luis Castillo, 2B, Mets (foot)
Carlos Gomez, OF, Brewers (hand, shoulder)
Jason Heyward, OF, Braves (groin; available to pinch-hit)
The Braves-Brewers and Dodgers-Diamondbacks contests will both be weatherproof. The only major weather concern is in Chicago (Marlins-Cubs), where a 50 to 70 percent chance of showers will persist throughout the evening. A rain-shortened, or even postponed, game could be in the cards.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.
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