Can Haren avoid second-half 'jinx'?
It's the second half of the season, and Dan Haren owners are already looking to get as much trade value as they can for the Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher who is infamous for post-break disasters. However, I think the reputation is a tad unfair. Yes, his career ERA after the break is 4.21 as opposed to 3.08 before, but his K/9 rate is actually better in the second half. And, this year, he's given up just three homers in June and July after allowing 16 in April and May, plus his ERA has dropped by a run. I'm buying, not selling. As for the complete Friday rankings, here they are:
Starting pitcher rankings for July 16
• At the top: CC Sabathia pretty much owns the Tampa Bay Rays, boasting an 8-3 record that included 7 2/3 shutout innings on April 10 at Tropicana Field. ... Felix Hernandez has struggled against the Los Angeles Angels in the past -- 4-6, 4.40 career ERA -- but after a few days off for the hitters, The King's fastball is sure to look a few miles per hour faster than normal.
• Zack Greinke has never lost to the Oakland Athletics. He's 4-0 with a 2.88 ERA. ... Dan Haren is a lifetime 5-1 with a 2.89 ERA against the San Diego Padres, including a win against them back in his first start of 2010.
• Ricky Nolasco's ERA when facing the Washington Nationals is fairly high at 4.37, but he often gets the run support he needs. His career record against the Nats is 7-2. ... The last time Tommy Hanson faced the Milwaukee Brewers on May 10, he threw eight shutout innings of four-hit ball.
• Middle-of-the-road options: Francisco Liriano hasn't won since June 11, and has never won -- 0-3, 6.84 ERA -- against the Chicago White Sox. ... Chad Billingsley, Barry Zito and Gavin Floyd each have career ERAs above 4.00 against their Friday foes.
• Streamers on alert: Brett Myers has a career ERA of 2.68 against the Pittsburgh Pirates and defeated them back in April. ... Max Scherzer is 4-0 since June 15, but did lose to the Cleveland Indians in May, allowing five runs in five innings.
• Stay away: James Shields is 2-7 against the New York Yankees with a 5.54 ERA. Don't expect a victory, especially against Sabathia. ... Ted Lilly's career mark versus the Philadelphia Phillies is 1-4 with a 6.43 ERA. ... Gio Gonzalez is the not-so-proud owner of a 7.71 ERA against the Kansas City Royals.
• Zach Duke comes off the disabled list for a start against the Houston Astros. He lost four in a row before the strained elbow finally sidelined him. ... With Clay Buchholz pitching in a rehab assignment for Triple-A Pawtucket on Friday, Felix Doubront tackles the Texas Rangers instead.
Hitter matchup ratings for July 16
Vernon Wells, OF, Toronto Blue Jays: The best way to shake off the disappointment of leaving the home runs out of the Home Run Derby is to face a pitcher whom you're hitting .444 against for your career. Sorry, Brad Bergesen.
Alfonso Soriano, OF, Chicago Cubs: Against Joe Blanton, Soriano is 6-for-16 with a .625 slugging percentage. He additionally hit two home runs over the last week of the first half; perhaps the bat is coming around.
Yuniesky Betancourt, SS, Kansas City Royals: The shortstop owns a lifetime .778 slugging percentage against Gio Gonzalez.
Scott Rolen, 3B, Cincinnati Reds: Rolen limped into the break with a 1-for-14 stretch and a bad back. However, after watching him go first-to-third in the All-Star Game, I think it's clear he's ready to go.
Carlos Pena, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays: You can't have Pena without pain, and today that comes in the form of a .138 batting average against Sabathia, with 14 whiffs in 29 at-bats.
Alex Gonzalez, SS, Atlanta Braves: Congratulations! You've been traded to a first-place team. Now get thrown into unfamiliar surroundings, with new teammates to get comfortable with, and drive in five runs or else! This debut is not shaping up to be a grand one.
Rafael Furcal, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers: Just a hunch: July has been great for Furcal, who hit .333 before the break, but once you break up the everyday rhythm of a hitter in a groove, it may take a few days to get it back.
Erick Aybar, SS, Los Angeles Angels: Aybar has also been solid this month, but in his case, it's the 4-for-23 (.174) lifetime lack of success against Felix Hernandez that is a reason for him to ride to fantasy pine.
Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day
Ty Wigginton, 2B, Baltimore Orioles: With nine hits in his past seven games, Wigginton is ready to pick up where he left off in the first half. He's also a career .364 hitter against Ricky Romero of the Toronto Blue Jays.
With the All-Star Break, there are no new injuries to report since play ended on Sunday. Additionally, many players with bumps and bruises have had ample time to get rest in order to be back in their lineups by Friday's play.
Weatherproof games: None. Aside from possible rain in St. Louis and Cincinnati, and those dreaded summer thunderstorms in the southeast corner of the country, it's a pretty uneventful day from the meteorological standpoint.
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