Weak day for starting pitchers


It's interesting that, in the middle of a pennant race, the Tampa Bay Rays chose to keep Wade Davis over Jeremy Hellickson. If nothing else, it's prudent -- Hellickson has tossed a combined 146 1/3 innings, and he'll be needed in the bullpen in September and presumably the playoffs afterward -- but fantasy players have no use for prudence. Davis has an option left, too, so he could be sent down to the minors at no cost. In the end, however, assuming Hellickson misses out on an opportunity to join the rotation again, it might be a good thing even for fantasy owners; it sure will help keep his price down on draft day.

For starters

Starting pitcher rankings for Aug. 24

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.

Selected notes:

• Despite walking more than four batters per nine innings, Gio Gonzalez has managed to boast a 3.39 ERA and, perhaps more impressively, a 1.29 WHIP. Don't fall in love with him yet -- he benefits quite a bit from his home park -- but he's turned into an auto-start against the weaker offenses in the league, like the Indians.

Travis Wood has allowed three or fewer runs in all but one of his starts, and the fact that all but one of his starts have come on the road makes it even more eye-popping. He'll face the Giants on the road, too, but so far the league hasn't figured him out in the slightest, so keep throwing him out there.

• You know it's a brutal day for pitching when, despite his immense struggles in recent outings, Josh Beckett ranks 10th. But what can you do when he's facing the weakest offense in the entire major leagues? Beckett still is striking out batters and you have to figure he's just too talented not to turn it around, so if you're not going to drop him, you have to keep him active.

• There's not a pitcher after Beckett I would feel comfortable playing, however. Wade Davis and Jeremy Guthrie rank highly not due to their own performance but the lack of decent alternatives. Colby Lewis is great, but it seems the Twins rough up pitchers left and right, so there's little upside.

• And the rest of the bunch? Don't even think about it. Carlos Zambrano has allowed just five runs in his three starts since returning to the rotation, but he's also walked an insane 15 batters. Carl Pavano has been quite hittable recently, and faces the Rangers and the aforementioned Lewis in Arlington. Ervin Santana has allowed home runs in six consecutive starts and has walked eight batters in his past two outings. The hittable Derek Lowe in Colorado? Pass!

Now batting

Hitter matchup ratings for Aug. 24

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:

Jack Cust, DH, Athletics: The always-erratic Cust has followed up his superb July with a brutal August -- he's struck out 27 times in 17 games -- but has feasted on Fausto Carmona, going 5-for-10 with five walks and a pair of dingers.

Nick Markakis, OF, Orioles: Apparently, nearly 96 percent of ESPN standard leagues roster Markakis. He has had a brutal season and is batting just .233 with two home runs since the break, but the good news is he has shown life against Gavin Floyd in the past, going 3-for-10 with a pair of doubles and a homer.

Austin Jackson, OF, Tigers: A robust 14-for-35 (.400) during his eight-game hitting streak, Jackson also has been active on the basepaths, going 3-for-4 in steal attempts. He's a threat to run wild on the likes of Jason Kendall, who has thrown out 28 percent of attempted steals out of a whopping 135 attempts.

Russell Branyan, 1B, Mariners: In the midst of one of his power binges, Branyan has four dingers in the past week. Expect him to keep it coming against the struggling Josh Beckett, against whom he's 6-for-13 (.462) with four extra-base hits, including two long balls.

Pitchers' count:

Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals: Still looking for his first extra-base hit against Carlos Zambrano, the slugger has mustered three hits total in 17 career at-bats (.176).

Ryan Doumit, C, Pirates: The good news: Seven of Doumit's nine hits since the All-Star break have gone for extra bases, including two home runs. The bad news: He has just nine hits. A .173 average since the break won't win anyone over, but his catcher eligibility means you should remain patient in the long term. In the short term, however, avoid him versus Adam Wainwright, against whom he's 5-for-21 (.238).

Matt Holliday, OF, Cardinals: Despite the fact righties have hit .301 with a .363 OBP lifetime against Paul Maholm, the left-hander has had Holliday's number in his career, limiting the outfielder to just one hit, a home run, in 14 at-bats.

Carlos Beltran, OF, Mets: Baseball's all-time stolen base thief in terms of success rate, it's hard to believe he's at full strength when he's attempted just one stolen base and was caught at that. It's time to cut bait. Now's as good a time as any: Beltran is 3-for-21 (.143) with zero extra-base hits and five strikeouts against Josh Johnson.

Alexei Ramirez, SS, White Sox: The shortstop is searching for his first hit against Jeremy Guthrie, putting up a donut in 12 career at-bats.

Stephen Drew, SS, Diamondbacks: Drew has always been a nonfactor against southpaws, and that trend has continued this season, as he's batting .188 in 101 at-bats off lefties. Is it any surprise, then, that he is 0-for-4 lifetime versus Clayton Richard?

Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day

Manny Ramirez, LF, Dodgers: Is Manny ready to rake now that he's finally healthy? Let's hope so. He's extremely cheap (just 3.4 on the market), valuable when inflation is so rampant this late into the season, and is 4-for-7 with four walks and two extra-base hits (one home run) against Dave Bush.


Injury list: Out

Maicer Izturis, 2B/3B/SS, Angels (15-day DL, shoulder)
Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox (15-day DL, foot)
Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees (15-day DL, calf)

Injury list: Day-to-day

David Aardsma, RP, Mariners (ribs)
Corey Hart, OF, Brewers (hamstring)
Colby Rasmus, OF, Cardinals (calf)
Matt Thornton, RP, White Sox (forearm)

Weather concerns

Weatherproof: Yankees-Blue Jays and Dodgers-Brewers. Showers in the nation's capital (60 percent chance) are quite likely, but Washington D.C. is the only city at significant risk of precipitation.

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