Commentary

Haren no sure thing

Updated: May 11, 2010, 4:07 PM ET
By Adam Madison | Special to ESPN.com

Daily Notes
Dan Haren is supposed to be a first-half pitcher (career 3.15 ERA before the All-Star break and a 4.21 mark after), but maybe he's thinking about doing a switch. Right now his ERA sits just north of 4.00 and he's got a tough matchup with the Dodgers to deal with next. It's probably one of the few times this season Haren will be as low as No. 5 in our daily rankings, and even more surprising is which pitchers are on his tail. I won't spoil the surprise, but suffice to say if you combined their ESPN universe ownership at present time they would still be available in close to three-fourths of leagues. Prepare to fire your missives in the comments below as you peel back Tuesday's layer of pitching rankings:

For starters

Selected notes:

• Dan Haren hasn't been quite the elite pitcher he usually is and has a test versus the rival Dodgers. It depends which numbers you look at, though, since in four starts last year he posted a 2.22 ERA and 0.92 WHIP. But as a team the Dodgers hit .298 off him in 255 at-bats, with lineup mainstays Casey Blake, Andre Ethier, Manny Ramirez and Matt Kemp putting in some serious work. He's still quite capable of posting another dominating start but it's going to take him pitching a lot better than he has to this point; let's just hope he doesn't get knocked around again like he was earlier in the season versus the Pirates and Cardinals.

• Look out for Scott Olsen, who has settled down after a couple of rough starts (albeit against two tough opponents in the Phillies and Rockies) and struck out 20 batters in his past 20 1/3 innings, allowing just one run in that span. He has the talent to keep it up, too, posting a 9.7 K/9 in the minor leagues, and he has a manageable matchup against the Mets. Lefties with strikeout potential don't come along every day, so you should make it a point to pick him up either to stream him or to hang on to him for a while and see how this all shakes out.

Wade LeBlanc is another lefty who has come on since mid-April, and you definitely want to be on the forefront of any hurler with potential who has the luxury of tossing half of his games in the comfy confines of Petco Park. LeBlanc's matchup may not be as tasty as Olsen's -- the Giants quietly rank 10th in OPS against left-handed pitching thanks in part to the addition of Mark DeRosa -- but considering his 20 Ks in 23 1/3 innings there's definitely some upside here.

• The raw numbers of Jeff Niemann and Tim Hudson look great, but buyer beware: They're due for some regression sooner or later. Both have batting average on balls in play way below average (Niemann is at .214 while Hudson is at .231) to go along with middling strikeout rates. While Niemann is striking out more batters than Hudson, the latter has a perennially high ground-ball rate to lean on (Hudson's 66.4 percent leads the majors by more than 3 percent). Both have to go on the road, which might be more troublesome for Niemann; in his career his ERA increases by more than a run on the road. The Brewers, however, rank second in the NL in OPS, so it's not a walk in the park for Hudson, either. As a result they could both be in for rude awakenings Tuesday, and depending on how risk-averse you are, even sitting them could be an option.

• Meanwhile, let's go out on another limb with Scott Kazmir, who will face his former team, the Rays, who rank third in runs scored. But their .736 team OPS, which ranks 16th, suggests they're not quite that good, and they're even worse against lefties (.654 mark, 22nd). And then of course there's the human factor; there's a good chance Kazmir is going to be riled up to face his former team, so despite the bloated 7.11 ERA it's a good calculated risk to leave Kazmir in your active lineups.

Ricky Nolasco and Randy Wells are the best left of a fairly mediocre crop. Nolasco offers strikeout potential (32 in 39 2/3 innings) but is at risk of the gopher ball (seven home runs allowed), especially dangerous since the Cubs rank seventh in slugging percentage. Wells, meanwhile, is facing the amusing conundrum in which his peripherals are more impressive than his raw numbers. That is particularly apropos for Wells, considering how long he skirted around disaster with mediocre peripherals last season. I would probably start both of them, with Nolasco possessing more risk -- and more reward -- while Wells is the safer bet for a solid quality start.

Now batting

Hitters' count:

Ryan Doumit, C, Pirates: Of course after everyone picks him up, Doumit decides to start off May going 2-for-18. Fortunately both of those hits were doubles, so it's not all bad, and Doumit, like the rest of the Pirates, rakes against Johnny Cueto. He's 4-for-11 (.364) with a pair of walks, a double and a home run off the righty, so keep him in your lineup in hopes he gets back on track.

Jay Bruce, OF, Reds: Relative to his talent Bruce has been quite the disappointment, but don't fret: Charlie Morton makes most left-handers look like Babe Ruth. Over the past three seasons lefties are hitting .312 off him, and it's even worse this year, with southpaws batting .378 with four homers in 45 at-bats.

Johnny Damon, OF, Tigers: On top of the steal potential mentioned Monday, Damon has no problem slapping around Javier Vazquez to the tune of a 1.201 OPS in 21 at-bats. He's 7-for-21 (.333) with four doubles and two homers, so you'll want him in your lineup when he goes off.

J.D. Drew, OF, Red Sox: Sure, some more home runs would be nice, but how can you argue with a .448 average through 29 at-bats this month? Drew rakes against Dana Eveland too (5-for-9 with two doubles) and at home (career .906 OPS at Fenway Park), so this is an easy call, especially considering he's available in about a third of ESPN leagues.

Jeff Francoeur, OF, Mets: A lot of us wanted to believe Francoeur's April was for real, but a 2-for-22 start to May makes you think twice. But if you're willing to eat some batting average for power potential, the 59 percent of you who are still clinging to him should have him active versus Scott Olsen. He's batting only.245 against the lefty, but all seven of his hits have gone for extra bases, including two home runs.

Ryan Ludwick, OF, Cardinals: While Ludwick has been struggling, he is a streaky hitter, and is 4-for-14 with a double and a triple in his past three games. The even better news is he's 6-for-11 with a pair of doubles and two dingers off of Brett Myers, so Ludwick could bounce back with a vengeance Tuesday.

Pitchers' count:

Nick Markakis, OF, Orioles: This one seems simple enough. Cliff Lee, a left-hander, is pitching as well as anyone in baseball, and goes up against Markakis, who is also a lefty, and one who has struggled against southpaws in his career. So far this season Markakis has been solid against left-handers, but that 10-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio suggests it might be a fluke. Let's hope it turns out in Lee's favor for no other reason than it makes me look smart.

Adam Lind, OF, Blue Jays: Daisuke Matsuzaka may have allowed 11 runs in 10 innings so far but something about Lind's career 0-for-14 line versus Dice-K suggests Lind's problem runs a little deeper than whether Matsuzaka is pitching well or not. He's struck out in a third of his plate appearances, too, so there's little hope to cling to.

Rickie Weeks, 2B, Brewers: Come on down and join the club, Weeks! Like Lind, Weeks is also hitless against the starter he'll face Tuesday, in this case Tim Hudson. With an 0-for-12 mark and four K's, Weeks' futility is quite comparable indeed. Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins: Believe it or not Freddy Garcia has had great success against nearly every Twin, so it's a tough exercise to pick who has been the worst. But let's settle on Morneau, who, although he has gone deep against Garcia, is still just 4-for-27 (.148) with four strikeouts.

Scott Podsednik, OF, Royals: Jake Westbrook and Podsednik faced off often back when Podsednik was with the White Sox and it's rarely come out well for Pods. In 34 at-bats he's hitting well below the Mendoza Line, at .173; three walks helps, but seven strikeouts and zero extra-base hits means you should greatly temper your expectations.

Shane Victorino, OF, Phillies: Not only has Aaron Cook limited Victorino to a lone single in 12 at-bats but Miguel Olivo possesses one of the majors' best arms behind the plate, gunning down 10 of 19 attempted steals. Carlos Pena, 1B, Rays: Pena's batting a woeful .159 against southpaws this season and is in the midst of a brutal 1-for-34 slump, so sitting him against Scott Kazmir (0-for-3 with three K's) is a no-brainer.

Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day

Nick Swisher, RF, Yankees: When he's hot Swisher can rake with the best of them, and boy is he hot, especially against righties. All six of his homers have come off of right-handed pitching, and with three doubles and two triples on top of those long balls there's been no shortage of power. And there are few pitchers as hittable as Rick Porcello right about now.

Triage

Injury list: Out

Everth Cabrera, SS, Padres (15-day DL, hamstring): Cabrera will begin a rehab assignment Monday. He should return in about a week.
Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers (15-day DL, hamstring): Cruz will begin his rehab assignment Tuesday and should return Thursday or Friday.
Rafael Furcal, SS, Dodgers (15-day DL, hamstring): Furcal could begin a rehab assignment Tuesday and could be on track to join the team by the weekend.
Maicer Izturis, 2B/SS, Angels (15-day DL, shoulder)

Injury list: Day-to-day

Luis Castillo, 2B, Mets (foot): Castillo didn't start Sunday but was inserted later in the game and went 1-for-1. He'll probably start Monday.
Carlos Gomez, OF, Brewers (shoulder): Gomez will be re-evaluated Monday and that's when we'll likely learn if he'll land on the disabled list or not. Gomez has not suited up since May 5.
J.J. Hardy, SS, Twins (wrist): Hardy has been out since last Tuesday and could be headed for the disabled list if he's not ready to go by this Tuesday.
Jason Heyward, OF, Braves (groin; available to pinch-hit): Heyward has pinch-hit the past few days and claims he'll be ready to enter the starting lineup Tuesday.
Matt Holliday, OF, Cardinals (groin): Holliday didn't play over the weekend but the injury isn't thought to be serious. The Cards have Monday off so they could just be stacking his days off; look to see if he's in the starting lineup Tuesday.
Orlando Hudson, 2B, Twins (shoulder)
Torii Hunter, OF, Angels (knee; doubtful)
Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves (groin): Jones was supposed to play Sunday but pushed that return back to Monday. He'll probably stay true to his word but just in case we'll list him here.
Bengie Molina, C, Giants (hamstring)
Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies (quadriceps): Tulowitzki hopes not to miss any time, but we've heard that before. Quad injuries are nothing to play with when you play a demanding position, so it wouldn't be surprising to see him miss a game or two. Keep an eye out for updates.

Weather concerns

There are three weatherproof games for Tuesday: Braves-Brewers, White Sox-Twins and Dodgers-Diamondbacks. Threats of rain exist in Pittsburgh (50 to 70 percent), Flushing (50 to 70 percent), Detroit (50 to 60 percent) and Denver (50 to 60 percent), with Baltimore also having the chance of a few showers (40 percent). That means games involving the Reds-Pirates, Nationals-Mets, Yankees-Tigers, Phillies-Rockies and Mariners-Orioles, respectively, could potentially be at risk.

Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.

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