Can Ricky Romero stop Yankees?
Should you be concerned about Ricky Romero's 6.08 ERA in July? In a word: no. Even though he's buried on our pitching rankings for Tuesday, that says painfully little about the pitcher's talent and much more about the brutal matchup -- and division -- he is forced to play in. Remove his two starts against the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, and his July ERA turns into a worry-free 2.12 mark. Romero has faced his toughest rivals just three times all year, yet they make up nearly 30 percent of all the earned runs he's allowed this season. Romero is still a budding ace, but it just goes to show you that even great pitching is subject to a lot of variance.
Starting pitcher rankings for August 3
• The best thing about baseball is that it keeps on surprising, and a 35-year-old retread turning in a career year definitely qualifies as a surprise. And while his home run rate will eventually increase, R.A. Dickey's performance is pretty legitimate. He's in the top 10 in groundball rate, and while that's not a guarantee for success -- Justin Masterson and Aaron Cook are second and third in groundball rate -- it's a great head start. Until Dickey's peripherals slip or he runs into some elite offenses, there's no way you can bench him. How is he owned in just a fourth of leagues again?
• And if Vicente Padilla didn't give us a hint of what he was capable of last year in Dodger Blue, he would be in contention for surprising retread of the year. It seems a move to the National League is a strong impetus towards a turnaround; maybe Joe Saunders wasn't lying to us when he said he's as good as Dan Haren. In all seriousness, aside from the 11 home runs in 72 2/3 innings Padilla has allowed this season -- and thankfully he's allowed just one in his past four starts -- Padilla too is pitching legitimately well. The ESPN universe doesn't believe, however, as he's owned in just a few more leagues than Dickey. Someone's turning Padilla into one of their best waiver-wire pickups; why not make it your team? He lasted just four innings his last outing due to racking up a high pitch count, but he's still a great option for the rematch versus the San Diego Padres.
• And now we get to the tough decisions. As mentioned the other day, the Minnesota Twins have been one of the best offenses against right-handers, and despite Jeff Niemann's sterling results, his peripherals suggest a regression is looming. In his past three starts he has a 14-to-9 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 17 1/3 innings and has also allowed four home runs. In the end, however, the potential absence of Joe Mauer is a strong point in Niemann's favor, as well as his improved numbers (2.75 ERA, 1.14 WHIP) at home.
• Derek Lowe has been the definition of a league-average innings-muncher this season, which in fantasy terms translates to treading water. He's a decent option versus the New York Mets, primarily because he's at home, where his 4.15 ERA and 1.29 WHIP are playable, but the 3.65 ERA and 1.38 WHIP he's posted against them in two starts serve as a decent expectation of what he'll deliver Tuesday. If you own him, feel free to keep him active, but don't go out of your way to do so.
• You could make a case that Mike Leake is worth a start almost solely due to the matchup against the Pittsburgh Pirates. Take a look at his numbers in two starts against them, though: a 2.51 ERA, yes, but a bloated 1.60 WHIP comes attached. It's nothing that inspires confidence, and that's without mentioning the mediocre strikeout rate (six in 14 1/3 innings), or his general decline over the past two months. Sometimes fantasy owners need to be happy with what positive production they did get and cut the cord before they ruin said production; Leake is a perfect example.
• Starting -- or even owning -- Mark Buehrle is merely playing with fire. The guy is barely striking out four batters per nine innings and is allowing fly balls 30 percent of the time yet has a fairly low 0.75 HR/9; of the 45 pitchers with a fly ball rate of 30 percent of higher, only two have a lower home run rate than Buehrle. Count your lucky stars things haven't gotten as ugly as they could've and avoid him.
Hitter matchup ratings for August 3
Jhonny Peralta, SS/3B, Detroit Tigers: Peralta has walloped 20-plus home runs three times in his career, so maybe we should pay a little more attention to him considering his nifty position eligibility. He's done well against Mark Buehrle, batting .288 with a .470 slugging percentage (six doubles and two home runs) in 66 career at-bats, so the shortstop-needy may want to take the plunge, especially considering you may get two games for the price of one.
Bobby Abreu, OF, Los Angeles Angels: Abreu has a pair of home runs and a pair of doubles in the past week, which is about as close as he comes to a hot streak nowadays. But a matchup with Jeremy Guthrie has Abreu assuredly licking his chops; while he's only hitting .227 versus Guthrie in 22 at-bats, all five of his hits have gone for extra bases, including four long balls.
Luke Scott, DH, Baltimore Orioles: The question about Scott is not whether he's for real -- he's hit for power against right-handers for the entirety of his career (.872 OPS) -- but whether anyone will remember it on draft day next year. This season, 13 of his 18 home runs have come against right-handers, and he's now slugging .673 since the All-Star break. The overmatched Trevor Bell could be in for a long night.
Jonny Gomes, OF, Cincinnati Reds: Gomes is really struggling, but that's not too much of a surprise; he's a streaky hitter, and the only thing that keeps his value afloat when he's gone cold is his ability against left-handers. He's still batting .283 off southpaws this season, and is 3-for-7 with a pair of doubles versus Paul Maholm.
Adam LaRoche, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks: LaRoche has a promising matchup Tuesday, as he's 6-for-13 (.462) with three blasts off Scott Olsen and, oddly enough, LaRoche has actually displayed a reverse platoon split this season, batting .296 and slugging .571 off southpaws. Considering the two homers he hit Sunday, this could be the second-half breakout many were waiting for.
Alex Rios, OF, Chicago White Sox: His batting average since the break isn't awful (.273), but the 15-to-3 strikeout-to-walk ratio and.348 slugging percentage implies he's a bit clueless at the plate lately. And if you can't reach first base, you can't steal bases, either, so right now Rios' value is at a season-low. Considering he's just 1-for-8 with two strikeouts against Rick Porcello, you should expect the slump to continue.
Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Yankees: Just a reminder that, despite the recent display of power, Granderson is still wholly useless against southpaws. He sports a putrid .214 AVG/.252 OBP/.286 SLG versus southpaws, so it's a minor miracle he's even 2-for-8 (with a home run no less) against Ricky Romero. Don't bet on that modicum of "success" to continue.
Carlos Beltran, OF, New York Mets: Not only is Beltran batting just .172 off Derek Lowe in 29 at-bats, the five hits he has managed have all been singles. He's still only attempted one steal since returning, so there's not even his speed to fall back on either.
Colby Rasmus, OF, Cardinals: It seems Rasmus is heating up again -- he's 7-for-17 with three extra-base hits his past five games -- but it also seems Bud Norris may have his number. Rasmus is just 2-for-13 (.154) off Norris, and although the two hits he has managed have both been doubles, he's also gone down on strikes five times.
Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day
Paul Konerko, 1B, Chicago White Sox: A combined 13-for-41 (.317) versus the Detroit Tigers' scheduled starters for Tuesday's doubleheader, he's made those hits count: nine of those 13 have been of the extra-base variety, including five home runs. You can't really go wrong here, can you?
Injury list: Out
Jason Bay, OF, New York Mets (15-day DL, concussion)
Injury list: Day-to-day
Johnny Damon, OF, Detroit Tigers (back)
Dexter Fowler, OF, Colorado Rockies (rib/hip): The wall and Fowler had a competition, and the wall, as always, won. Fowler is expected to undergo an MRI on Tuesday to determine the extent of the damage after he crashed into a wall Sunday to save a potential home run. He could end up on the disabled list in the coming days.
Troy Glaus, 1B/3B, Atlanta Braves (knee)
Raul Ibanez, OF, Philadelphia Phillies (wrist)
Joe Mauer, C, Minnesota Twins (shoulder)
Ben Zobrist, 2B/OF, Tampa Bay Rays (back): His back feeling "significantly better," Zobrist is aiming for a return sometime during the series versus the Rays, which ends Thursday.
Weatherproof: Twins-Rays, Nationals-Diamondbacks and Rangers-Mariners. Both Chicago and Denver may have t-storms scattered about, but there should be more than enough time to squeeze in both contests.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.
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