Plenty of mediocre starters available
Unlike Tuesday's ace-packed schedule, Wednesday's slate has a lot of mediocre-to-bad starting pitchers. Only five of the 32 starters (the Milwaukee Brewers-New York Mets doubleheader adds two starters to the mix) have over a dozen wins this season. But when you look at the voluminous injury report below, there are a lot of star hitters who will not be in their team's respective lineups, giving more value to some of these mediocre pitchers.
Starting pitcher rankings for September 29
• Must Start: Andy Pettitte was roughed up in his last outing against the Boston Red Sox, but he has held the Toronto Blue Jays to a .201 opponents' batting average over the past two seasons. The Jays are dead-last in the majors in runs (127), batting average (.214) and on-base percentage (.284) against left-handed pitching this season. Yovani Gallardo has been masterful recently (3-0, 1.74 ERA, 1.06 WHIP in past three starts) and has had great success on the road this year (7-2, 2.98 ERA). On the flip side, Gallardo's mound opponent, R.A. Dickey, has been tremendous at home (7-2, 2.09 ERA, 1.12 WHIP) and is also a must start.
• Strong Play: Joel Pineiro has nine quality starts in his past 10 outings, going 6-1 with a 2.65 ERA and 1.05 WHIP over that span. He is 7-2 with a 2.25 ERA at home this year, and will be opposed by Bobby Cramer, who has already served up five gopher balls in 17 major-league innings. He may not get much run support facing Clayton Kershaw, but Jhoulys Chacin has been tremendous in his past seven starts (4-1, 1.20 ERA, 1.11 WHIP). Since he's owned in just 27 percent of ESPN leagues, chances are good that you can still pick him up. Derek Lowe is 4-0 with a 1.08 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 20 K's and just two walks this September. Lowe has always pitched well in the season's final month with a 26-16 record and 3.18 ERA in his career in September.
• Worth Considering: Josh Beckett has been terrible this season, but his strikeout rate has been strong recently (53 K's in past 55 1/3 innings). He is 4-1 with a 3.38 ERA in seven career starts against the Chicago White Sox. Johnny Cueto has been roughed up recently, but has had great success against Houston over the past two seasons (2.18 ERA, .202 opponents' BA in five starts). For NL-only leaguers desperate for wins, Joe Blanton could be worth gambling on for Wednesday's game in Washington. Blanton is 4-0 with a 3.12 ERA in his past eight starts, but has a 1.75 WHIP in 11 career starts versus the Nationals. A big plus for Blanton is that Washington's lineup will likely be without the injured Ryan Zimmerman, who carries a 1.157 OPS in 24 career at-bats versus Blanton.
• Stay Away: Jeff Niemann has six straight non-quality starts, posting a jaw-dropping 12.24 ERA and 2.00 WHIP over this span. P.J. Walters could be a tempting play against the Pittsburgh Pirates, but he has been terrible in three career major-league starts (6.92 ERA, .327 opponents' BA). Jason Vargas is 0-7 with a 6.59 ERA in his past seven starts and is 2-12 with a 6.23 ERA in his past 20 road starts.
Hitter matchup ratings for September 29
Ian Desmond, 2B, Washington Nationals: The sample size isn't large, but Blanton is quickly becoming Desmond's favorite pitcher to hit against. He is 6-for-11 with two doubles, a homer and five RBIs when facing the Philly hurler.
Vernon Wells, CF, Toronto Blue Jays: In 50 career at-bats against Pettitte, Wells has posted an impressive .340 BA/.411 OBP/.540 SLG stat line. Wells has feasted on New York Yankees pitching this year, with a .317 BA, seven homers, 19 RBIs and 13 runs in 15 games, including a single, double and homer in Monday's series opener.
Brian Roberts, 2B, Baltimore Orioles: He is 8-for-19 with four doubles and two homers in his career versus Niemann. He is trying to finish his disappointing season on a high note with hits in seven of his past eight games.
Jimmy Rollins, SS, Philadelphia Phillies: Rollins is expected to be in the lineup on Tuesday and Wednesday, so make sure you get him back in your lineup too. Rollins is 6-for-9 with three doubles in his career against Ross Detwiler.
Aaron Hill, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays: Hill is 3-for-33 with eight K's and one walk in his past 10 games. The horrendous numbers are quite similar to his career futility against Pettitte (4-for-30 with eight K's and no walks).
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, Cleveland Indians: I'm not sure why Cabrera is owned in more than 30 percent of ESPN fantasy leagues, but please do not have him in your starting lineup on Wednesday. Cabrera is 4-for-26 with 10 K's in his career versus Justin Verlander, who has been dominant in his past seven starts (5-0, 1.96 ERA, 57 K's, 7 BBs in 55 innings).
David Ortiz, DH, Boston Red Sox: He is 5-for-26 with seven strikeouts in his career versus Freddy Garcia, and hasn't fared well against Chicago White Sox pitching in the past two seasons (9-for-44, 13 strikeouts, no walks).
Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day
Rickie Weeks, 2B, Milwaukee Brewers: You have to pick a Brewers player or Mets player here with Wednesday's doubleheader, so I'm choosing Weeks, who is hitting .395 with 12 runs in his past 11 games. Weeks is 5-for-7 with three homers combined against Dickey and Jonathon Niese.
Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers (likely done for season, ankle)
Hanley Ramirez, SS, Marlins (limited to pinch-running duties, elbow)
Martin Prado, 2B, Braves (day-to-day, hip)
Alex Rios, CF, White Sox (day-to-day, left knee bruise)
Adam Wainwright, P, Cardinals (may miss final start, elbow)
Joe Mauer, C, Twins (expected to play Thursday, back)
Jim Thome, DH, Twins (day-to-day, back)
Will Venable, RF, Padres (day-to-day, sore back)
Josh Hamilton, RF, Rangers (hopes to return this week, ribs)
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals (season likely over, strained intercostal)
Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays (day-to-day, strained left quad)
Mark Reynolds, 3B, Diamondbacks (likely done for season, sore right hand)
Justin Upton, RF, Diamondbacks (could be done for season, shoulder)
David Aardsma, P, Mariners (day-to-day, left oblique strain)
Freddy Sanchez, 2B, Giants (day-to-day, right shoulder strain)
Orlando Cabrera, SS, Reds (day-to-day, sore left side)
J.J. Hardy, SS, Twins (day-to-day, knee)
Jay Bruce, RF, Reds (day-to-day, oblique)
Ian Stewart, 3B, Rockies (day-to-day, flu)
Andres Torres, CF, Giants (day-to-day, appendectomy)
Jay Gibbons, LF, Dodgers (day-to-day, sore right calf)
Jason Giambi, 1B, Rockies (likely out for season, sore left bicep)
Michael Bourn, CF, Astros (likely will not bat anymore this season, lower oblique strain)
Gavin Floyd, P, White Sox (likely out for season, shoulder)
Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals (out for season, sore knee)
Weatherproof games: Yankee-Blue Jays and Orioles-Rays. Rain chances are much lower for East Coast games on Wednesday. Phillies-Nationals have a 30 percent chance of evening showers while Brewers-Mets and Tigers-Indians have just a 20 percent chance of rain. The Midwest and West Coast games should have perfect baseball weather, sunny in the high-70's.
Brian Gramling is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.
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