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Avoid Barry Zito, Livan Hernandez

9/13/2010

It's now or never to cut bait with veteran pitchers who are destroying your staff ERA and WHIP. Barry Zito is 0-6 with an 8.87 ERA and 2.06 WHIP in his past six starts, but he is still owned in 55 percent of ESPN leagues. Livan Hernandez is owned in nearly one-quarter of all ESPN leagues despite a 6.26 ERA and 1.70 WHIP in his past seven starts. Read on to see which future stars should replace these way-past-their-prime pitchers.

For starters

Starting pitcher rankings for September 14

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:

Must Start: This is the third straight time I'm imploring fantasy owners to pick up Daniel Hudson, who is still owned in less than 60 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues. Hudson is 5-1 with a 1.91 ERA in his eight starts since being traded to the National League. … ESPN fantasy leaguers have wisely increased the ownership of Gio Gonzalez by nearly 14 percent this past week. His success over his past seven starts (5-1, 1.58 ERA, 1.03 WHIP) has lowered his season ERA to 3.16, good for seventh-best in the American League. … R.A. Dickey, owned in fewer than 40 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues, is 6-1 with a 1.85 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in eight starts at Citi Field this season.

Strong Play: Jair Jurrjens is no longer an automatic start because of his recent struggles, but he is a strong win candidate against the lowly Washington Nationals. Jurrjens is 3-1 with a 2.86 ERA in eight career starts versus the Nats. … Travis Wood is making his 14th start, but just the third at Great American Ball Park this season. He should improve upon his strong 3.27 home ERA when he faces Arizona. … Ivan Nova has fared pretty well in his four starts (3.32 ERA, 1.34 WHIP), especially considering three of those outings were against strong hitting clubs (Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago White Sox).

Worth Considering: Jason Hammel is 7-1 with a 3.43 ERA at Coors Field this season, and the red-hot Colorado Rockies are always strong win candidates in September. … In his major-league debut against the Philadelphia Phillies, Adalberto Mendez threw six shutout innings, allowing just one hit. Based on his mediocre minor-league numbers this season (5-5, 3.98 ERA, 1.40 WHIP) he will not likely shut down the powerful Philly lineup twice in a row.

Stay Away: Shawn Hill might be a tempting AL-only win grab against the lowly Baltimore Orioles, but he's just not a good pitcher. In 16 starts over the past three seasons, Hill is 2-7 with a 5.69 ERA and .330 opponents' batting average. … Same reasoning for avoiding Trevor Bell, who has been even worse than Hill (2-5, 6.45 ERA, .349 opp. BA) in 11 career starts.

Now batting

Hitter matchup ratings for September 14

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:

Michael Cuddyer, OF/1B/3B, Minnesota Twins: He has owned John Danks in his career, batting .467 (21-for-45) with four doubles, five homers, 12 RBIs and a 1.389 OPS against Danks. Cuddyer is also eating up White Sox pitching with a stat line of .355 BA/.394 OBP/.500 SLG in 15 games against Chicago this year.

Nick Hundley, C, San Diego Padres: Over the past month, Hundley has hit safely in 10 of 11 starts and carries a .341 batting average (15-for-44) overall since Aug. 14. He has also had success when facing Jason Hammel, going 6-for-12 with three doubles and a homer.

Torii Hunter, OF, Los Angeles Angels: After his 5-for-12, two-homer series against the Cleveland Indians last week, Hunter's season stat line against the Indians (six games) is quite impressive: .478/.571/1.043.

Matt Kemp, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers: If you demoted Kemp to your bench due to his
September slump (.194 average, 0 RBIs), Tuesday is the day to get him back into your lineup. Kemp is 17-for-41 (.415 average) with seven walks in his career versus Barry Zito and a .300 hitter in 250 at-bats lifetime against the Giants.

Pitchers' count:

Edgar Renteria, SS, San Francisco Giants: He has been struggling since his return from the DL, batting .227 with just one run in eight games (five starts). Renteria is 1-for-11 with four strikeouts in his career versus Clayton Kershaw and 5-for-35 with 10 K's against the Dodgers this year.

Alex Gonzalez, SS, Atlanta Braves: I don't usually recommend benching hot hitters like Gonzalez (.364, six RBIs in last five games), but his career numbers against Livan Hernandez (6-for-46, 10 K's, .152 SLG, .332 OPS) are enough to scare me off.

Kosuke Fukudome, OF, Chicago Cubs: Look elsewhere for a right fielder on Tuesday. Fukudome is 4-for-22 with six strikeouts lifetime versus Adam Wainwright.

Dan Uggla, 2B, Florida Marlins: I told you on Sept. 8 to bench Uggla because of his career futility against Cole Hamels, and Uggla proved me right by going 0-for-3 against the lefty. I'm going back to the well today considering these numbers look even ugg-lier now (5-for-35, 11 K's, .257 sl-ugg-ing percentage). Ugg!

Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day

Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Detroit Tigers: Now that his shoulder is fully healed and Josh Hamilton is still bothered by his ribs injury, Cabrera has a great opportunity to take hold of the AL MVP race. Cabrera loves facing Hamilton's Rangers. Check out his eye-popping numbers over the past two seasons against Texas pitching (28-for-67, .418, 5 HRs, 21 RBIs).

Triage

Injury list: Out

Scott Mathieson, P, Philadelphia Phillies (15-day DL, strained lat)

Trever Miller, P, St. Louis Cardinals (left forearm strain, not with team)

Aaron Cook, P, Colorado Rockies (broken fibula, likely done for season)

Ricky Nolasco, P, Florida Marlins (60-day DL, torn meniscus)

Donnie Murphy, SS, Florida Marlins (60-day DL, dislocated wrist)

Injury list: Day-to-day

Josh Hamilton, RF, Texas Rangers (ribs)

Nick Swisher, RF, New York Yankees (sore left knee)

Carlos Silva, P, Chicago Cubs (strained right elbow)

Chris Iannetta, C, Colorado Rockies (right calf strain)

Justin Upton, RF, Arizona Diamondbacks (shoulder)

Chris Johnson, 3B, Houston Astros (back)

Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, Oakland Athletics (back)

Josh Bell, 3B, Baltimore Orioles (right hand)

Jimmy Rollins, SS, Philadelphia Phillies (hamstring)

Jose Valverde, P, Detroit Tigers (tender elbow)

Bobby Jenks, P, Chicago White Sox (forearm)

Weather concerns

Weatherproof games: Yankees at Rays, Brewers at Astros and Red Sox at Mariners. Tuesday will bring more sun to most parts of the country, but the Midwest could see considerable amounts of rain. Cubs-Cardinals, Diamondbacks-Reds, Twins-White Sox and A's-Royals are all PPD possibilities.

Brian Gramling is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.