Lyle Overbay set up for good weekend
Another big weekend ahead as the playoff races get tighter. By now, there are plenty of unproven (read: risky) pitchers in rotations around baseball, but as long as horses, such as Roy Halladay and CC Sabathia, and emerging options, such as Brett Myers and Jake Westbrook, make their starts, most fantasy owners don't need to bother with the lesser options outside of deep leagues.
For starters: Saturday
Starting pitcher rankings for Aug. 7
|10||Jorge De La Rosa||L||@PIT||5||4-3||5.01||1.45||1-2||5.09||1.43|
• Jorge De La Rosa has posted three consecutive quality starts, bouncing back nicely from the twin shellings he had following his activation from the disabled list. Don't let his season (or career) numbers deceive you; De La Rosa is a fantastic spot starter against the lowly Pirates, especially in regards to strikeout potential.
• Is it possible the Rich Harden of 2009 is the best that fantasy owners will get out of him? He has rarely been dominant this season, and although he came off the disabled list to limit the Angels to one run in seven innings, he struck out only three batters, not very Harden-esque. Sure, he'll be fired up for a meeting against his old club, and the pitcher-friendly confines of Oakland Coliseum helps the road pitchers, too, but consider him a good, but not great, option.
• Consider his home confines and strikeout potential, lefty Gio Gonzalez has a bit more upside than your usual spot starter.
• Ya know, we could just say James Shields is a middle-of-the-road option and leave it at that. But no, in today's wishy-washy, choose-your-own-adventure society, we need to come down firm on one side of the ledger, and being the slave to matchups that I am, I say it's just best to bench Shields against the Blue Jays. And the reason is simple: power, in that the Jays have a lot of it (.457 slugging percentage, second in the majors) and James isn't all that good at preventing it (22 home runs allowed).
• Command continues to be a bugaboo for Edinson Volquez, but the potential is there, as his 22 strikeouts in 17 innings show. He can't be started against the Cubs, but consider this a reminder not to give up on him, assuming you can afford the roster space.
• The latest intelligence we had from the Angels was that Scott Kazmir would start for them Saturday. He is expected to have a bullpen session Friday evening to make sure he's up to the task, as expected. If he is, he'll return from the DL to make the start. But considering how much he has struggled this season, his owners (the few of them left?) have every reason to leave him inactive.
For starters: Sunday
Starting pitcher rankings for Aug. 8
• Oh, Thomas Diamond, what an apology I owe you! The comeback kid threw egg on my face for ranking him dead last in his season debut by striking out 10 batters in six innings versus a good Brewers offense. So he should be the new hottest thing in your league, right? Not necessarily, but the fact is he was a top prospect for a reason. Now that he's starting to do it at the major league level means the whole industry needs to take note of this because we could have the next big thing on our hands. Look, no one knows just how real Diamond is. He could flame out in a couple weeks, but for the purpose of Sunday's pitcher rankings, I've set my expectations high.
• Every now and then, even we fantasy analysts are put into tough spots, in which we really have no idea what to do. Jeff Niemann's matchup against the Blue Jays is like that. He has limited the team to a .655 OPS in his career, but we're talking about a small sample size (105 at-bats) here. And we know the Jays pack a punch against right-handers because it's a point I've beaten into anyone willing to listen all season long. And no matter how blessed Niemann's owners are to have squeezed such results out of him to this point, they too have to realize he's simply not this good of a pitcher. Try to put that in writing and you realize you don't know much of a leg to stand on, so this would probably have to be labeled as one of those "gut" decisions. Hey guys, trust me! You don't want to play with fire and start Niemann here.
Hitter matchup ratings for Aug. 7
Hitters' count: Saturday
Adam Lind, OF, Blue Jays: Although Lind has just one hit in his past 17 at-bats, expect him to bounce back this weekend against James Shields and Jeff Niemann. Lind is 9-for-27 (.333) with three home runs off Shields and is hitting an even-better .412 (7-for-17) off Niemann, adding three extra-base hits (one home run) as well.
Carlos Pena, 1B, Rays: The big first baseman could be back in the lineup as soon as Saturday, and what better way to celebrate his return than to have him do what he does best: launch moon shots! Stop me if you've heard this before about Pena, but he's batting a weak .200 against Jesse Litsch (3-for-15) in his career. But since he has gone deep twice, he's slugging .600, and still should be in your lineup.
Hideki Matsui, OF, Angels: Matsui has been losing playing time recently, but it's a safe bet that he'll be in the lineup versus Jeremy Bonderman, whom he simply crushes. With 13 hits in 29 at-bats (.448 average), including three home runs and a double, "Godzilla" should be in for a big day.
Brian Roberts, 2B, Orioles: Still looking for his first home run of the season, Roberts should be kept active versus Gavin Floyd. He's 3-for-11 (.273) off Floyd, but two of those hits have left the park.
Jason Kubel, OF, Twins: Kubel has just five extra-base hits in 78 at-bats since the break, but that could change versus Fausto Carmona, whom he's slugging .655 against. Admittedly, much of that is because Kubel is 11-for-29 (.379) versus Carmona, but he also has gone deep twice against him, so his owners will take what they can get.
Jim Edmonds, OF, Brewers: The good news for Edmonds is that if Carlos Gomez hits the disabled list, Edmonds should have no problem getting playing time against right-handers. He's 7-for-21 (.333) against Saturday's opponent, Brett Myers, including four extra-base hits (one home run), so it might be worth taking a weekend flier on him if Gomez does, indeed, hit the disabled list.
Pitchers' count: Saturday
Jason Bartlett, SS, Rays: A pinch-hit home run Thursday marked Bartlett's first extra-base hit since July 20, but a matchup versus Jesse Litsch should stifle any forward momentum that results. Bartlett is just 1-for-7 (.143) against the righty, and Bartlett wasn't exactly on fire before his homer, mired in a 3-for-21 slump.
Nick Swisher, 1B/OF, Yankees: John Lackey's domination of Swisher dates back to their days in the AL West, so Swisher might have nightmares of what is to come. Lackey has limited the slugger to just five hits in 45 at-bats (.111 average), striking him out a whopping 18 times!
Adrian Beltre, 3B, Red Sox: The resurgent Beltre might be hitting .325 versus southpaws this season, but CC Sabathia isn't your ordinary lefty. In 19 career at-bats against Sabathia, Beltre has mustered just one hit, a double. He has struck out seven times.
Pedro Alvarez, 3B, Pirates: He's striking out in more than a third of his at-bats, including nearly half the time against southpaws, so it's safe to say Alvarez is going through an adjustment period. Don't expect it to get any better against Jorge De La Rosa, who owns lefties and who predictably struck out Alvarez in their two previous matchups.
Corey Hart, OF, Brewers: Hart's average drops an incredible 71 points when facing right-handers rather than lefties, so it stands to reason that some righties, such as Brett Myers, have his number. Hart has just a pair of singles in 12 at-bats against Myers, striking out twice, so keep him reserved.
Hitter matchup ratings for Aug. 8
Hitters' count: Sunday
Lyle Overbay, 1B, Blue Jays: Overbay has been the benefit of quite a few advantageous pitcher matchups recently, and that trend continues this weekend. He rakes against both James Shields and Jeff Niemann, hitting a combined 17-for-54 (.315) versus the right-handers, with five doubles and four home runs.
Nick Markakis, OF, Orioles: Sporting a reverse platoon split, Markakis is batting a robust .349 off southpaws this year in 126 at-bats. Sadly, he has just two home runs off them. But he has gone deep off Buehrle in his career, needing just 16 at-bats to do so, and even if he doesn't launch one Sunday, his .500 career average off the lefty also is a good sign.
Dexter Fowler, OF, Rockies: It is somewhat a leap of faith to assume Fowler will be in Sunday's lineup, but team brass says he could return as soon as Friday, so Sunday doesn't seem to be a stretch. He'll surely be licking his chops to step into the batters' box against Paul Maholm, whom he's 7-for-13 (.538) with three doubles against lifetime.
Carlos Beltran, OF, Mets: Come on, Carlos, show us something! Don't go out like a punk! Those are the bitter words of a man who has stock in Beltran's comeback, but if a challenge is all he needs, maybe he'll get up for his matchup against Roy Halladay. Few batters live to tell the tale, but Beltran, in his former life as a superstar, was 11-for-27 (.407) with a home run and a double off the ace.
David Ortiz, DH, Red Sox: Even though he's only 1-for-6 off A.J. Burnett this year, Ortiz still gets a recommendation because, for pure power potential, it's hard to find better. Lifetime, Ortiz has taken Burnett deep thrice in 39 at-bats, and overall, eight of his 10 hits have gone for extra bases.
Pitchers' count: Sunday
Vernon Wells, OF, Blue Jays: Not only has Jeff Niemann held Wells to a measly single in 17 career at-bats, he's basically owned the Blue Jays' entire roster. Aaron Hill is just 5-for-21 (.238) against him, with zero extra-base hits, while Jose Bautista is 1-for-11 with four strikeouts.
Gordon Beckham, 2B/3B, White Sox: Beckham's .366 post-break average has everyone ready to buy into him again, but make sure to sit him versus Jeremy Guthrie. Beckham is still looking for his first hit against Guthrie, failing to reach base in his first seven opportunities.
Matt Diaz, OF, Braves: Normally a beast against left-handers, Diaz has been conquered by Jonathan Sanchez in their seven at-bats. Sure, you can tell only so much from seven at-bats, but when a hurler strikes you out five times in seven at-bats, it's probably safe to say you're pretty clueless against him.
Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers: The normally reliable Cruz has been limited by the new kid on the block, Trevor Cahill. The slugger is 1-for-10 with a single off the right-hander, striking out twice, so make sure to keep a spot warm for him on your bench Sunday.
Brett Gardner, OF, Yankees: When you can't reach base, you can't steal second, and Gardner has a .278 OBP off Josh Beckett. He even has struck out as many times as he has reached base (five apiece), an alarming trend considering how rarely he strikes out otherwise.
Baseball Challenge Picks of the Weekend
Saturday: Jorge Posada, C, Yankees. Posada won't provide the most pop against John Lackey, but his .387 average in 31 career at-bats more than makes up for it. With three walks, a pair of doubles and a home run, it's not like Posada's secondary skills have exactly been lacking in their meetings.
Sunday: Clint Barmes, 2B, Rockies. For a day, Barmes won't disappoint fantasy owners. He's a sick 11-for-19 (.579) off Paul Maholm, having gone deep twice off the southpaw, with two doubles and a triple, to boot. You won't find a better option for the price.
Injury list: Out
Injury list: Day-to-day
Dexter Fowler, OF, Rockies (ribs/hip)
Carlos Gomez, OF, Brewers (concussion)
Nyjer Morgan, OF, Nationals (hip)
Carlos Pena, 1B, Rays (foot)
Buster Posey, C, Giants (shoulder)
Mark Reynolds, 1B/3B, Diamondbacks (head)
Brian Roberts, 2B, Orioles (shin)
Juan Uribe, 3B/SS/2B, Giants (hamstring; available to pinch hit)
Weatherproof games: Rays-Blue Jays, Astros-Brewers, Royals-Mariners. Aside from the occasional storms in Miami, the rest of the nation's weather should be pretty fair, too.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.