Print and Go Back ESPN.com: 2007 [Print without images]

Saturday, August 25, 2007
Challenge Preview Week 22: Great week for both Chicago teams

By Tristan H. Cockcroft
ESPN.com

Each week, Tristan H. Cockcroft offers his strategies for the Baseball Challenge game. Look for his best bargains, busts and daily specials every Sunday. All statistics are through the games of Thursday, Aug. 24.

Good team matchups

Chicago Cubs (MIL-3, HOU-3): First baseman Derrek Lee (4.8 price tag) is a .366 hitter with a .450 on-base percentage and .620 slugging percentage in 58 games at Wrigley Field this season. He's also a combined 8-for-20 (.400) with three doubles this year alone against probable Brewers opponents Dave Bush (Tuesday), Jeff Suppan (Wednesday) and Claudio Vargas (Thursday). ... Chicago White Sox (TB-1, @TEX-3, @CLE-3): Third baseman Josh Fields (4.3) is hitting .267 (20-for-75) with seven home runs and 17 RBIs in his last 18 games. ... New York Mets (@PHI-4, @ATL-3): Left fielder Moises Alou (4.0) is hitting .303 (27-for-89) with seven homers and 18 RBIs in 23 games since his return from the DL on July 27. He's also a .327/.438/.596 hitter against left-handers this season, with his Mets scheduled to face three lefty starters in their seven games this week. In eight career games at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park, Alou is a .296/.387/.741 hitter. ... St. Louis Cardinals (@HOU-3, CIN-3): Center fielder Jim Edmonds (3.1) is hitting .371 (23-for-62) with two homers and 10 RBIs in his last 17 games. He's also a .290/.382/.543 hitter in 60 career games at Houston's Minute Maid Park. ... Tampa Bay Devil Rays (@CHW-1, @BAL-3, @NYY-3): First baseman Carlos Pena (4.4) is a .276/.393/.578 hitter against right-handers, and his Devil Rays will battle six righty starters in their seven games this week.

Individual bargains

Bobby Abreu, RF, Yankees (5.4 price tag): He continues to tear it up, batting .340 (52-for-153) with 10 home runs and 46 RBIs in 39 games since the All-Star break, 18 of those multi-hit efforts. He's also a .306/.389/.501 hitter against right-handers this season, with his Yankees scheduled to see nothing but righty starters in their seven games this week. Six of those contests are at home; Abreu hits .340/.417/.504 at Yankee Stadium this season.

Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees (5.1): Like Abreu, Cano hits right-handers extremely well, with .324/.350/.524 rates against them for his career. He's also a .313/.356/.502 hitter at Yankee Stadium this season, compared to .303/.359/.468 on the road, the first time in his career he has really taken advantage of his lefty-friendly home ballpark. Don't worry about Cano's three-game series against the Red Sox, either; he's a combined 16-for-44 (.364) with two homers lifetime against probable opponents Daisuke Matsuzaka (Tuesday), Josh Beckett (Wednesday) and Curt Schilling (Thursday).

Curtis Granderson, CF, Tigers (5.4): As always, use Granderson in weeks heavy on right-handed opponents, such as this one, when his Tigers face nothing but righty starters in their seven games. He's a .319/.380/.592 hitter against that side this season, and a .300 hitter (24-for-80) with six homers and 19 RBIs in 19 career games at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium, where he'll play three games Tuesday-Thursday.

J.J. Hardy, SS, Brewers (4.2): After a bit of a midseason cold spell, Hardy has heated back up, batting .317 (33-for-104) with five homers and 12 RBIs in his last 25 games, nine of those multi-hit efforts. He's also a .281/.348/.554 hitter against left-handers, with his Brewers slated to battle three of them in their six games this week.

Orlando Hudson, 2B, Diamondbacks (4.3): He's hitting .357 (41-for-115) with three homers, 15 RBIs and four stolen bases in his last 29 games, 14 of them multi-hit efforts. Hudson is a .309/.396/.452 hitter against right-handers this season, .288/.354/.446 for his career, and his D-backs face nothing but righty starters in their seven games this week.

Raul Ibanez, LF, Mariners (4.1): He's batting a scorching .397 (31-for-78) with nine homers and 22 RBIs in 19 games in August, 11 of those multi-hit efforts. Plus, he's a .282/.348/.508 hitter against right-handers, with his Mariners scheduled to see six righty starters in their seven games this week. Among them: The Angels' John Lackey (Monday), Ervin Santana (Tuesday) and Jered Weaver (Wednesday), against whom Ibanez is a combined 27-for-67 (.403) with two homers in his career.

Mike Lowell, 3B, Red Sox (4.4): He's hitting .355 (27-for-76) with two homers and 13 RBIs in 21 games in August, six of those multi-hit efforts. Lowell is also a .296/.369/.529 hitter against left-handers since 2003, including .313/.388/.477 rates this season, and his Red Sox will face three lefty starters in their six games this week.

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Rangers (2.4): Finally he's starting to get comfortable as a member of the Rangers, batting .321 (9-for-28) with five homers and 10 RBIs in his last seven games, including that two-homer effort in the Rangers' 30-run game on Aug. 22. He's also playing often enough to make a fantasy impact, starting 20 of the Rangers' 21 games since his trade from the Atlanta Braves on July 31.

Poor team matchups

Arizona Diamondbacks (@SD-4, COL-3): Right fielder Justin Upton (3.7 price tag) is hitting .152 (7-for-46) with no home runs and 17 strikeouts in his last 13 contests, five of those multi-strikeout games. He's also a .200/.234/.289 hitter against right-handers, and his D-backs will battle six righty starters in their seven games this week. ... Houston Astros (STL-3, @CHC-3): Center fielder Hunter Pence (4.2) has hit safely in each of his first three games off the DL, batting .286 (4-for-14), though it'll take him some time to recapture the magic that saw him bat .330 in his first 73 MLB contests. Keep in mind he was also 2-for-10 (.200) in three games for Triple-A Round Rock. ... Los Angeles Dodgers (WAS-3, @SD-3): Shortstop Rafael Furcal (4.3) is hitting .241 (20-for-83) with one homer and two stolen bases in 21 games in June. He's also a .174/.250/.209 hitter in 21 career games at San Diego's Petco Park. ... Oakland Athletics (TOR-3, DET-3): Designated hitter Mike Piazza (3.7) is batting .237 (18-for-76) with two homers in 19 games in August. He's also a .264/.313/.445 hitter against right-handers since the start of last season, and his Athletics will face five righty starters in their six games. ... Seattle Mariners (LAA-3, @CLE-1, @TOR-3): Third baseman Adrian Beltre (4.4) is a .272 hitter (41-for-151) with six homers in his last 37 games, good numbers, but not great ones. He's also a combined 10-for-54 (.185) with two homers and 15 strikeouts lifetime against the Angels' John Lackey and Ervin Santana, his probable opponents Monday and Tuesday.

Individual busts

Carlos Delgado, 1B, Mets (4.7 price tag): He's hitting .217 (13-for-60) with one homer and 15 strikeouts in 16 games in August, and his .247/.324/.426 rates this year represent his worst in all three categories in any of his 12 full MLB seasons. Delgado is also a .253/.303/.367 hitter against left-handers this season, and .238/.308/.422 since 2005, and his Mets are scheduled to face three lefty starters in their seven games this week.

Travis Hafner, DH, Indians (4.2): Knee problems continue to limit him, and could explain his .186 batting average (16-for-86) and two homers in his last 25 games. Hafner has only .234/.337/.383 rates in 66 games since June 1, and he'll have to face two tough left-handers this week, the Twins' Johan Santana (Wednesday) and the White Sox's Mark Buehrle (Friday), against whom he's a combined 14-for-71 (.197) with six homers lifetime.

Brad Hawpe, RF, Rockies (4.9): In leagues with weekly lineups, don't bother with Hawpe in weeks where his Rockies face at least three left-handed starters in an entire week on the road. Out of their six games this week, three of them come against lefty starters, the Giants' Barry Zito (Monday) and Noah Lowry (Wednesday) and the Diamondbacks' Doug Davis (Friday), against whom Hawpe is a combined 1-for-11 (.091) this season alone.

Brian McCann, C, Braves (3.7): He's a .259/.281/.446 hitter against left-handers this season, .271/.321/.465 for his career, and his Braves will see three lefty starters in six games this week. He's also 2-for-17 (.118) with seven strikeouts in six games at Florida's Dolphin Stadium, where he'll play three games Monday-Wednesday, this season.

Freddy Sanchez, 2B, Pirates (4.7): He's a .285/.326/.398 hitter against right-handers this season, far weaker rates than his numbers against lefties (.370/.411/.556), and his Pirates are slated to see nothing but righty starters in their six games this week. Among them: the Reds' Bronson Arroyo (Tuesday) and Aaron Harang (Thursday) and the Brewers' Ben Sheets (Friday), against whom he's a combined 11-for-54 (.204) lifetime.

Daily Specials

MONDAY: Braves third baseman Chipper Jones (5.8 price tag) has homered in each of his two games this season in which he faced the Marlins' Scott Olsen; he's a lifetime .500 hitter (5-for-10) with two homers and nine RBIs against the left-hander. Jones is also a .300/.391/.491 hitter in 89 career games at Florida's Dolphin Stadium.

TUESDAY: Padres left fielder Milton Bradley (3.2) is one of the few players with a great track record against the Diamondbacks' Brandon Webb; he's 4-for-6 (.667) against the right-hander this year, and 10-for-18 (.556) with a homer lifetime against Webb. Bradley also isn't bothered by the pitching-friendly dimensions at San Diego's Petco Park; he's a .292/.376/.528 hitter in 25 career games there.

WEDNESDAY: In a bad week of matchups for him otherwise, Mets first baseman Carlos Delgado (4.7) is actually a standout choice for Wednesday. He's a .382/.463/.742 hitter in 25 career games at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park, and a lifetime .419 hitter (26-for-62) with seven doubles and seven homers against Phillies left-hander Jamie Moyer.

THURSDAY: Since stepping in as the Reds' starting catcher against right-handers when David Ross landed on the DL, Javier Valentin has batted .355 (11-for-31) with four doubles and five RBIs in eight games. He's already 3-for-5 (.600) against the Pirates' Ian Snell this season, and 8-for-13 (.615) with two homers lifetime against the right-hander. Valentin also has .371/.463/.400 rates in 15 career games at Pittsburgh's PNC Park.

FRIDAY: When you're talking about facing a knuckleballer, it's usually your safest bet to trust a hitter's favorable career track record. Certain hitters simply hit the knuckler better than others, such as Orioles first baseman Kevin Millar (3.9), 6-for-15 (.400) with two homers against the Red Sox's Tim Wakefield since the start of last season. It also helps that Millar is in the midst of a 50-game streak of reaching base safely.

SATURDAY: Rockies first baseman Todd Helton (4.4) is a lifetime .476 hitter (30-for-63) with two homers and 16 RBIs against Diamondbacks right-hander Livan Hernandez. He's a .294/.419/.532 hitter in 73 career games at Arizona's Chase Field, not that far off his lifetime rates at Colorado's Coors Field (.367/.464/.664), and he's already 9-for-21 (.429) with two doubles and a homer in six games there this season.

SUNDAY: White Sox designated hitter Jim Thome (4.3) is a lifetime .412 hitter (7-for-17) with two homers against Indians right-hander Jake Westbrook. He's also rather familiar with Cleveland's Jacobs Field, where he called home from 1994-2002. Thome is a .308/.441/.629 hitter in 643 career games there, .476/.593/.619 in six games this season.

Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.