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Stephen Strasburg returns to action

8/9/2010

Now that Ubaldo Jimenez has come down to Earth, can we now start debating just how good Stephen Strasburg is? Sure, he's thrown just 54 1/3 innings, but how many innings did he throw before we named him the next big thing? He's striking out nearly 12 and a half batters per nine innings, yet he's just four months older than yours truly. The best pitcher in the game? For a day at least:

For starters

Starting pitcher rankings for Aug. 10

Rk.: The author's ranking of that pitcher for that day only. T: Pitcher throws left-handed or right-handed. Opp: The pitcher's opponent for the day. Rating: The starting pitcher's matchup rating -- separate from the author's ranking -- which accounts for past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days), opponent and ballpark. Ratings range from 1-10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst. W-L: Pitcher's win-loss record. ERA: Pitcher's earned run average. WHIP: Pitcher's average number of walks plus hits surrendered per inning.

Selected notes:

• Without Kevin Youkilis (.411 OBP) and Dustin Pedroia (.370 OBP) in the Boston Red Sox's lineup you definitely have to keep Ricky Romero active. It's still a strong lineup, but the tiebreaker is that Romero is pitching at home, where he has a 2.18 ERA and 1.03 WHIP.

Jaime Garcia is still a recommended play against the Cincinnati Reds, but his days as an elite option appear to be over. He has a 4.22 ERA and 1.59 WHIP since the All-Star break, and while he's likely better than that, the scouting reports have made their rounds and he's more like a solid No. 2 starter. Don't feel like you have to start him every time out just because he has a sub-3.00 ERA.

• Consider Wade LeBlanc a safe spot start pitching at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He has a 2.67 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in Petco Park, and while the WHIP and the strikeouts aren't exactly ideal, every little bit helps.

Scott Baker's peripherals have lagged behind his results all season but he's still a guy I would hang my hat on against the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday. He sports a 55-10 strikeout-to-walk ratio since June 16 (55 1/3 innings), so it's only a matter of time before he starts producing.

• The St. Louis Cardinals are becoming the one NL team you really don't want to face, so I have a hard time recommending Johnny Cueto. In three starts against the Redbirds, Cueto has a 6.75 ERA and 1.56 WHIP. Since the All-Star break, the Cardinals' .777 OPS ranks seventh in the majors. Pass.

Now batting

Hitter matchup ratings for Aug. 10

Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days) as well as ballpark factors. "LHB" and "RHB" ratings account only for left- and right-handed batters, respectively.

Hitters' count:

Raul Ibanez, OF, Philadelphia Phillies: Ibanez is scorching hot, sporting a 16-game hitting streak while batting a robust .390 since the break. He'll try to keep the good times rolling against Vicente Padilla, against whom he's 9-for-28 (.321) with a pair of home runs.

Andre Ethier, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers: He's baaack! Ethier is off to a 9-for-25 (.360) start this month, with five extra-base hits (two home runs). Expect him to really lay into Kyle Kendrick, as he's 3-for-8 with two home runs and a double off the rightie.

Jonny Gomes, OF, Cincinnati Reds: Gomes has shown a little something recently, batting .353 during the past week with five walks, two doubles and a home run. Jaime Garcia has been mortal recently, so don't give up on the slugger quite yet.

Colby Rasmus, OF, St. Louis Cardinals: It's hard to argue with Rasmus' production versus Johnny Cueto: 4-for-11 (.364) with three extra-base hits, including a home run, and two walks. As a result he's slugging .818 off the right-hander, so make sure you don't have Rasmus benched due to his recent slump.

Matt Diaz, OF, Atlanta Braves: Still slugging .611 against left-handers, Diaz is a great low-cost option versus J.A. Happ. Diaz is 5-for-7 off the southpaw with a home run and a double, keep in mind 13 of his 17 extra-base hits this season have come against lefties.

Pitchers' count:

Mike Stanton, OF, Florida Marlins: In the battle of one phenom against another, we're taking Stephen Strasburg in a no-contest. Stanton has gone down on strikes 66 times in 50 games; meanwhile, Strasburg has struck out over 45 percent of right-handed hitters this season.

Adam Lind, OF, Toronto Blue Jays: It seems like at least once a week Lind runs into a starter who just flat-out owns him, and this time it's Daisuke Matsuzaka who does the honors. Matsuzaka has limited Lind to one single in 20 at-bats, striking him out eight times.

Jay Bruce, OF, Cincinnati Reds: A complete nonfactor against southpaws, Bruce turns into a .238 hitter against lefties, with just three home runs in 126 at-bats. Left-handed hitters are slugging .289 against Jaime Garcia, so don't expect much out of Bruce.

Jorge Cantu, 1B/3B, Texas Rangers: Cantu is still looking for his first hit against Burnett, failing to reach base in his first 12 at-bats. His teammate Julio Borbon is also hitless in seven at-bats, striking out three times.

Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Yankees: It's no surprise he's 0-for-6 with three strikeouts versus C.J. Wilson in his career, as southpaws are "hitting" .105 against Wilson on the season.

Alex Rios, OF, Chicago White Sox: With just four extra-base hits and one steal since the All-Star break, Rios is in quite the funk, and a matchup versus Scott Baker should only further contribute to it considering Rios' .154 (2-for-13) lifetime batting average against him.

Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day

Luke Scott, DH, Baltimore Orioles: If it ain't broke, don't fix it. With eight home runs and a .333 average since the All-Star break, Scott has been a savior, and one can only imagine the damage he'll inflict on Justin Masterson. Lefties are batting .310 off Masterson, and Scott is 5-for-10 with two doubles against him.

Triage

Injury list: Out

Torii Hunter, OF, Los Angeles Angels (suspension; eligible to return Aug. 11)

Carlos Pena, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays (15-day DL, foot)

Injury list: Day-to-day

A.J. Burnett, SP, New York Yankees (back)

Rafael Furcal, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers (back)

Bobby Jenks, RP, Chicago White Sox (back)

Brandon Phillips, 2B, Cincinnati Reds (foot)

Mark Reynolds, 1B/3B, Arizona Diamondbacks (head)

Alex Rodriguez, 3B, New York Yankees (shin)

Cody Ross, OF, Florida Marlins (neck)

Gaby Sanchez, 1B, Florida Marlins (hamstring)

Geovany Soto, C, Chicago Cubs (shoulder)

Vernon Wells, OF, Toronto Blue Jays (toe)

Weather concerns

Weatherproof: Red Sox-Blue Jays, Braves-Astros, Diamondbacks-Brewers and Athletics-Mariners.

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