Mat Latos has earned the top spot
On this Labor Day preview edition of Daily Notes, I'd like to thank Mat Latos for all his hard work this season. I'm sure all of you lucky enough to have him on your fantasy squad appreciate the 6-foot-6 right-hander allowing two or fewer runs in 14 straight starts and three or fewer runs in 21 straight starts (both Padres records, by the way).
But other than Latos, Roy Oswalt and Ubaldo Jimenez, there is a lot of uncertainty about how the 29 other starters (it's a full slate, plus one doubleheader Monday) will fare on the holiday docket. I will try to make your decisions less painful below.
Starting pitcher rankings for Sept. 6
• Must start: Jon Lester's .156 opponents' batting average in three starts versus Tampa Bay this year is enough to overlook his numbers during the past 21 days. Tommy Hanson has just two wins in his past 14 starts, but he allowed just one hit in seven innings against the Mets in his last outing and is 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA in six career September starts. Edwin Jackson is 3-0 with a 1.47 ERA in five starts since joining the White Sox. The former Tiger has enjoyed his 19 outings at Comerica Park, posting a 10-3 record. His opponent, Max Scherzer, also has pitched well at Comerica this year (7-3, 2.87 ERA in 12 home starts) and has been masterful in his past three weeks. Wandy Rodriguez is 5-1 with a 1.61 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in his past nine starts and has a 3.26 ERA in 11 starts against the Cubs since 2006.
• Strong play: Dan Haren has pitched better since his return to the American League (3.50 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, compared with a 4.60 ERA, 1.35 WHIP in the NL), but he's not in the first section because of his 4.22 career ERA in September. Ricky Romero might not appear to be a smart play Monday, but considering his 0.81 ERA in three career starts versus the Rangers, who likely will be without Josh Hamilton on Monday, Romero becomes a viable option. Don't let Tommy Hunter's win-loss record fool you into thinking he's pitching well. In his past seven starts, Hunter has a 5.89 ERA and 1.61 WHIP. Kevin Slowey is returning from a disabled list stint (triceps), but he is 5-1 with a 2.77 ERA in six career starts versus K.C. Slowey has held current Royals starters to a combined .234 OBP (Jason Kendall 0-for-17, Billy Butler 1-for-14 and Alex Gordon 1-for-9).
• Worth considering: For the 36 percent of you in ESPN.com leagues who own Brian Matusz, don't automatically bench him because of his opponent (the Yankees). I'm not expecting a win, but Matusz is 4-1 with a 3.35 ERA in his past seven starts and carries a 1.37 ERA in three starts at Yankee Stadium. Yovani Gallardo is a quality hurler, but he's 0-2 with an 8.22 ERA this season against the Cardinals. Vance Worley, with just one inning of major league experience, will make his first career start. Considering he was 10-7 with a 3.36 ERA in 27 minor league starts this season, Worley is a decent win candidate Monday.
• Stay away: Madison Bumgarner carries a 5.17 ERA in his past seven starts, Jordan Zimmermann has a 5.23 ERA career versus the Mets and Adalberto Mendez is a career minor leaguer with pedestrian numbers between Double- and Triple-A this year (5-5, 3.98 ERA, 1.40 WHIP).
Hitter matchup ratings for Sept. 6
Carlos Pena, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays: You don't see many stat lines like this against Jon Lester, especially from left-handed hitters, but Pena is 10-for-33 with five home runs and 12 RBIs in his career against the tough lefty.
Vladimir Guerrero, DH, Texas Rangers: He apparently loves facing the Blue Jays in his career, racking up a .324 batting average, including a recent 22-for-47 (.468 BA) ride during the past two seasons. He is also 6-for-10 in his career versus Ricky Romero, although all six hits are singles.
Hanley Ramirez, SS, Florida Marlins: Of course you would start Hanley Ramirez in any league, but I just wanted to point out his 10-for-25 (with two homers) career mark against Oswalt. He also gets two games on Monday and will face the unproven Vance Worley in the nightcap.
Nick Swisher, RF, New York Yankees: Monday would be a good day to sit Swisher, considering the switch hitter is 0-for-12 with one walk in his career versus Baltimore left-hander Brian Matusz. He's also battling a knee injury, so Yanks manager Joe Girardi might sit him.
Matt Wieters, C, Baltimore Orioles: Sticking with the oh-fer theme, Wieters is 0-for-14 with four strikeouts and just one walk in his career versus A.J. Burnett. In fact, you might just sit Wieters for the whole series based on his .162 BA/.250 OBP/.265 SLG numbers in 76 career plate appearances against Yankees pitchers.
Johnny Damon, LF, Detroit Tigers: Damon is 6-for-33 career with a .212 slugging percentage (just one extra-base hit) versus Edwin Jackson. Since rejecting Boston's waiver claim on Aug. 24, Damon is 8-for-40 with one RBI in 10 games.
Alfonso Soriano, LF, Chicago Cubs: Sure, he has 20 career homers against Houston in 73 games, but none has come this season and none has come against Wandy Rodriguez. Soriano is 2-for-23 with one RBI and eight strikeouts in his career versus Way-Rod.
Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day
Chase Utley, 2B, Philadelphia Phillies: With a doubleheader on tap Monday, Utley could have a six-hit day. He is 9-for-23 (.391 BA) lifetime versus Anibal Sanchez and will also face minor league journeyman Adalberto Mendez in Game 1. Utley is 8-for-20 with nine RBIs in his past five games.
Injury list: Out
Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers (bruised ribs)
Ricky Nolasco, SP, Marlins (60-day DL, torn meniscus)
Donnie Murphy, SS, Marlins (60-day DL, dislocated wrist)
Jose Lobaton, C, Rays (15-day DL, foot)
Laynce Nix, OF, Reds (15-day DL, sprained left ankle)
Craig Gentry, OF, Rangers (15-day DL, broken wrist)
Ian Stewart, 3B, Rockies (15-day DL, strained right oblique)
Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, Blue Jays (15-day DL, sprained left wrist)
Kanekoa Texeira, P, Royals (15-day DL, right elbow strain)
Injury list: Day-to-day
Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers (hamstring)
Jay Bruce, OF, Reds (ribs)
Justin Upton, OF, Diamondbacks (shoulder)
Adam Dunn, 1B, Nationals (hamstring)
Nyjer Morgan, OF, Nationals (possible suspension)
Franklin Gutierrez, OF, Mariners (illness)
Adam Jones, OF, Orioles (shoulder)
Johan Santana, P, Mets (strained pectoral)
Jason Kubel, OF, Twins (left wrist)
Nick Swisher, 1B, Yankees (knee)
Weatherproof games: Rangers at Blue Jays, Cardinals at Brewers, Giants at Diamondbacks. Royals-Twins and Astros-Cubs could be affected by heavy winds. With the majority of Monday's games being played on the East Coast (sunny and low 80s) and West Coast (sunny and high 70s), the probability of Labor Day rainouts is very low.
Brian Gramling is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.
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