Hot Cole Hamels set for another gem
With just 10 games on the schedule and an average pitcher rating of 5.3 (see chart below), there aren't a whole lot of great options for Monday daily leagues or strong two-start candidates for weekly leagues. But with the season winding down and many owners already in football mode, owners should still find some quality hurlers available on your waiver wire. Keep reading to see which ones are worth picking up.
Starting pitcher rankings for September 20
• Must start: I know Cole Hamels is a no-brainer start in most leagues, but I just wanted to point out his 4-0 record, 0.31 ERA, 0.77 WHIP, 31 K's and six walks in his past four starts. I said this last week, and I'll say it again: Brian Duensing's career numbers as a starter this year are outstanding (6-1, 2.25 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 3.9 K-to-BB ratio). Yet he is owned in just 44.4 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues. He is a stellar two-start pitcher this week going against Cleveland on Monday and Detroit on Sunday.
• Strong play: Gio Gonzalez was roughed up in his last outing (seven runs in only two innings at Kansas City), but his previous seven outings were all quality starts (5-1, 1.58 ERA, 1.03 WHIP). Gonzalez has flourished at home this year with an 8-3 record and a .194 opponents' batting average. Matt Garza pitched well at Yankee Stadium last year (12 IP, 1 ER, 9 K's), but he has just one win in 10 career starts versus the Yankees.
• Worth considering: Jair Jurrjens has been terrible lately, but he has never been fazed by the Philly fans or their hitter-friendly ballpark. Jurrjens is 2-1 with a 1.87 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in five career starts at Citizens Bank Park. Rick Porcello is 5-1 with a 3.45 ERA and 0.98 WHIP in his past seven starts, and his numbers are very similar in eight career starts in September (5-1, 3.51 ERA, 1.11 WHIP). His 5.46 road ERA worries me, but Bud Norris is averaging 9.24 K/9, and the Nationals' hitters rank 10th in the majors in strikeouts.
• Stay away: Daisuke Matsuzaka has been dreadful recently, with an inflated 7.12 ERA and 1.58 WHIP in his past six starts. He might beat the lowly Orioles, but his pitching line probably will be too tough to swallow. Ivan Nova hasn't lost a game as a starter, but he's also not going deep enough to get wins, with just one game of six-plus innings. Nova is 1-0 with a 4.78 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in five starts this year, and was shelled at Tampa Bay his last time out (4 2/3 IP, 6 ER). Chris Volstad has a 9.82 ERA and 2.11 WHIP in his past three starts. He has also been atrocious in both career starts versus St. Louis (7.59 ERA, .349 opponents' BA), and his win chances are not favorable on Monday with Chris Carpenter as his mound opponent.
Hitter matchup ratings for September 20
|No game scheduled||8||8||8||5|
|5||9||1||10||No game scheduled|
|No game scheduled||4||5||3||9|
|5||1||6||8||No game scheduled|
|No game scheduled||No game scheduled|
|3||6||1||4||No game scheduled|
|1||1||1||6||No game scheduled|
|10||5||10||7||No game scheduled|
|No game scheduled||7||7||8||1|
Nick Swisher, RF, New York Yankees: Now back in the Yankees' starting lineup after missing time because of a knee injury, Swisher should certainly be in your fantasy lineup. He is 6-for-13 with three homers and a 1.793 OPS against Matt Garza, and he has 12 homers, 19 RBIs and 23 runs in 29 games against the Rays over the past two seasons.
Matt Wieters, C, Baltimore Orioles: He is 6-for-9 with a homer, five RBIs and a 1.889 OPS against the struggling Daisuke Matsuzaka in his career. Wieters is also finishing his second season with a strong September (.357 BA/.420 OBP/.524 SLG).
Placido Polanco, 3B, Philadelphia Phillies: Although he's a .309 career hitter in September, Polanco's 2010 September numbers have been woeful (.233 BA/.305 OBP/.315 SLG). Look for a big improvement when Polanco faces the Braves, considering he is 9-for-20 with a .700 slugging percentage against Atlanta pitching this season.
Carlos Pena, 1B, Tampa Bay Rays: Ever since he put on a Tampa Bay uniform, Pena has become a Yankee-killer. In his four seasons with the Rays, Pena has 20 homers and a .998 OPS against New York, including six homers and 13 RBIs in just 41 at-bats against the Yankees this season.
J.D. Drew, RF, Boston Red Sox: With his ankle fully healed, it's safe to put Drew back in your lineup, especially since he is facing Baltimore. He is 19-for-50 with six homers, 14 RBIs and a 1.241 OPS versus the Orioles this year, and has 14 homers in the past three seasons against Baltimore pitching.
David Ortiz, DH, Boston Red Sox: Unlike teammate J.D. Drew, Ortiz has dreaded facing the Birds from Baltimore. This season, Ortiz is 9-for-56 with 17 K's against the O's and has been absolutely baffled by Brian Matusz, going 0-for-9 with eight strikeouts against the young lefty.
Shane Victorino, CF, Philadelphia Phillies: He's a must-start in most fantasy leagues, but smaller leagues should seriously consider benching Victorino whenever he faces Atlanta. He is 6-for-50 with 11 whiffs against Braves pitching this year and carries a .150 average (17-for-113) in the past two seasons against Atlanta.
Johnny Damon, LF, Detroit Tigers: He is limping toward the finish of the 2010 season with a .190 average in his past six games. Damon might just want to ride the pine against the Royals based on his .206 average (13-for-63) and 15 K's versus Kansas City this year.
Drew Stubbs, CF, Cincinnati Reds: Look for his recent hot streak (.343 BA, four homers, nine RBIs in past 10 games) to cool off when he faces Milwaukee pitching. Stubbs is 2-for-19 with seven K's against the Brewers this season.
Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day
Joey Votto, 1B, Cincinnati Reds: Since I can't pick Troy Tulowitzki every day, I'll take the next best thing in Votto. He is currently riding an eight-game hitting streak and is 15-for-31 with two homers, 10 RBIs and a 1.374 OPS against the Brewers this season.
Injury list: Out
Lastings Milledge, LF, Pirates (strained left oblique, done for season)
Nyjer Morgan, CF, Nationals (eight-game suspension)
Josh Hamilton, RF, Rangers (ribs)
Jenrry Mejia, P, Mets (shut down for season, right shoulder)
Rommie Lewis, P, Blue Jays (60-day disabled list, left shoulder)
Bobby Jenks, P, White Sox (elbow, forearm)
Andres Torres, CF, Giants (appendectomy)
Injury list: Day-to-day
Russell Branyan, 1B, Mariners (back)
Jose Valverde, P, Tigers (elbow tendinitis)
Aaron Hill, 2B, Blue Jays (hand)
Garrett Jones, RF, Pirates (shoulder)
Erick Aybar, SS, Angels (leg strain)
Justin Upton, RF, Diamondbacks (shoulder)
Weatherproof game: Reds at Brewers. Monday looks to be a very favorable forecast for baseball. Other than slight chances of rain in Detroit for Royals-Tigers, the East Coast games will be sunny with temperatures between 70 and 80 degrees. The West Coast games (Rangers-Angels, White Sox-A's) will be also be sunny with highs in the 60s.
Brian Gramling is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.