Print and Go Back ESPN.com: 2009 [Print without images]

Friday, June 12, 2009
You heard me, the Reds and the Mariners staffs

By Tristan H. Cockcroft
ESPN.com

For even more statistics and advice to help you set your Baseball Challenge lineup, check out Tristan's Week 11 Fantasy Forecaster!

Interleague play continues through Week 11 -- and lasts into Week 12 -- and as always, it creates nothing but headaches as far as the designated hitter position is concerned in the Baseball Challenge. I've made it a tradition over the past couple seasons to rank my DHs (listed DHs in the game, that is), and why break from that, right? So here we go:

Ian Stewart, Rockies (3.9): The Rockies are making a commitment to using their hot hands, giving Stewart nine consecutive starts (the past five at Garrett Atkins' expense), and he has responded with 61 BBC points during that nine-game span. Oh, by the way, those were all road games. This week? All his games are at home.
David Ortiz, Red Sox (3.8): You know what? Why not? His miserable season-long funk has his value at an all-time low, yet "Big Papi" has been respectable in the month of June, with 34 BBC points in eight games. Maybe those two homers during the series against the Yankees will serve as a confidence-builder? Plus, Boston is at home for this week of interleague play, so he's no threat to sit.
Colby Rasmus, Cardinals (3.5): The Cardinals face nothing but right-handed starters, and get three games at Kansas City, where the addition of the DH almost guarantees Rasmus will play every day. His performance, of course, is the best guarantee of that; he has 39 BBC points in his first 10 games in June.
Jason Kubel, Twins (4.0): I'm big on Twins players this week, as they've historically stepped up during interleague play, not to mention they save their best baseball for games at the Metrodome. Kubel, in particular, is a more productive hitter at home; he has a .309 batting average and .909 OPS at home since the start of 2008.
Nick Johnson, Nationals (4.7): One of the more consistent performers at the position, Johnson has 73 BBC points in his past 22 games, and looking at his game log, that seems like one of the weaker stretches of his season.

Tristan's top three pitching staff values

1. Seattle Mariners (@SD-3, ARI-3 -- two-start pitcher Felix Hernandez), 6.1 price tag: My top three pitching staff choices this week rank so ridiculously close, I'm breaking the otherwise virtual tie by going in order of most BBC points per game since May 24, which is about the time when each of these staffs began its current hot streak. Seattle has averaged 18.0 BBC points during that time, a noticeable bump up from either of the next two staffs. It also bodes well for the team that not only does "King Felix" pitch twice, but strikeout artist Erik Bedard will face the whiff-prone Diamondbacks, while fly-ball pitcher Jarrod Washburn gets an assignment at spacious Petco Park. Neither of these opponents presents a threatening offense, and with Seattle's lineup struggling as it is, matchups like these are about the only safe times to grab this staff.

2. Cincinnati Reds (ATL-3, CHW-3 -- two-start pitcher Aaron Harang), 5.8: No. 2 with 14.9 BBC points per game since May 24, the Reds actually shape up as a surprisingly decent pitching staff despite having only home matchups, and much of that is because they'll be getting three combined starts from their two best pitchers in home games this year, Harang and Johnny Cueto. But the other advantage for the Reds is that their opponents are mired in horrific slumps. In the month of June the Braves have averaged 3.3 runs per game with a .640 team OPS, while the White Sox have averaged 3.2 runs per game with a .663 team OPS. The ballpark advantage can improve an offense only so much; I wouldn't worry about its chances to significantly boost those teams.

3. Minnesota Twins (PIT-3, HOU-3 -- two-start pitcher Francisco Liriano), 5.8: The Twins haven't trailed the Reds by much in BBC points per game since May 24, with 14.7, but Liriano's 5.99 ERA does detract from the team's matchups a bit more than Harang's does for the Reds. Still, let's just say it's a gut call of mine that Liriano will extend his streak of back-to-back quality starts, as these two offenses aren't worlds more potent than those from Seattle or Oakland, his previous two opponents. OK, maybe Houston can get to him, but these are also home games for Liriano, and his career ERA at the Metrodome is under 3.00. In fact, the Twins' staff as a whole has seemed right at home at the Dome, and this is a historically sound interleague team to boot.

Smack talk!

Want to talk smack? Feel free: E-mail me. And don't be afraid to bust my chops. I can take it.

Donald Morgese of Northport, N.Y., writes: No smack this time, just a legitimate question. In cases where there appear to be great matchups but a player has been poor in a split, which controls for you? Take Jay Bruce this coming week: six away games, three against Washington and three against KC (and Greinke is not pitching in the series). Now those are good hitting matchups, but Bruce has been woeful on the road. Pretend there is no option in which you can just take someone better. There will probably be many weeks in the future where there are close calls, where matchups look good but a player hasn't hit in a certain ballpark, etc. So would you lean toward picking the hitter with good matchups or staying away from him with a bad road split? (Bruce is probably an extreme example.)

Tristan: Obviously, the Bruce example was based on Week 10 matchups, but it's still a relevant question. I don't think one split alone should be the basis for your decision; it's the entire package of matchups, opponents and hot/cold streaks (both Bruce himself and his opponents' projected starting pitchers). Here's a nugget that would have played even more against Bruce: He has a lifetime .545 OPS and has averaged one strikeout per 3.1 at-bats in his career versus left-handers, and on Tuesday and Thursday in Washington, the Nationals were scheduled to throw lefties. Sure enough, on Tuesday and Thursday, Bruce went a combined 0-for-7 with one walk, and in the Wednesday game started by Shairon Martis, he went 2-for-4 with a double and a home run. Yes, the week's other games all come against righties, but in a case like that, you'd have to account for only four of his six games falling on the favorable side of his righty/lefty splits and none at all on the favorable side of his home/road splits. Just doesn't seem enough to me, and that applies for similar matchup options in the future.

Daily dips

Monday, June 15 -- Robb Quinlan, RF, Angels (versus Barry Zito), 3.0 price tag: Not a lot of options on this day, which has only two games scheduled, so I'm going deep. Quinlan tends to sneak in a start somewhere when the Angels face a lefty, and I'd presume in this game it'd come at either first or third base. Plus, he's a lifetime .318 hitter (7-for-22) versus Zito, with one double, three home runs and three walks.

Tuesday, June 16 -- Mike Jacobs, 1B, Royals (versus Doug Davis), 3.8: He might have a whole host of trouble versus left-handers, with a .667 career OPS against that side, but if there's any one he can handle, it's Davis. Among pitchers against whom he has amassed at least five career plate appearances, Jacobs' 2.500 OPS is his best, and that includes right-handers. He has done it by going 6-for-8 with two doubles and two home runs against Davis in his career, and since the Royals will be playing at home, where they'll have the DH, there's no reason for him to sit.

Wednesday, June 17 -- Alex Rios, RF, Blue Jays (versus Jamie Moyer), 4.6: Strangely, Toronto has visited Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park in each of the past two seasons and Moyer has battled the Blue Jays each year. The Blue Jays have had the advantage overall; Moyer has surrendered 10 runs on 15 hits in 10 innings combined in those two starts. Considering the hitter-friendly nature of the ballpark and Moyer's 6.11 season ERA, Toronto hitters make useful BBC options Wednesday. Rios stands out in particular; he's a lifetime .474 hitter (9-for-19) versus the lefty, with four doubles, one triple, one home run, two walks and a 1.471 OPS.

Thursday, June 18 -- Lance Berkman, 1B, Astros (versus Vicente Padilla), 5.1: He always tends to bring his best to these "Lone Star Series," especially the ones played at Rangers Ballpark, where he has batted .333 with a 1.013 OPS in 23 career games. Berkman has been especially proficient at crushing the struggling Padilla; he's a lifetime .556 hitter (10-for-18) with five doubles and two home runs against the Rangers right-hander, most recently going 2-for-2 with a homer against him on May 17, 2008.

Friday, June 19 -- Derrek Lee, 1B, Cubs (versus Tomo Ohka), 3.6: He's a lifetime .350 hitter (7-for-20) with three home runs and five walks versus Ohka, but the other reason to use him is that lately he seems to have snapped out of his early-season funk. In his past 20 games, Lee has batted .364 with a 1.046 OPS.

Saturday, June 20 -- Magglio Ordonez, RF, Tigers (versus Braden Looper), 3.7: Looper can't seem to escape annual interleague matchups against Ordonez and the Tigers, and his results in starts against them in 2007 and 2008 suggest he wishes he could; he has allowed 11 runs on 16 hits, five of them home runs, in 10 innings combined. Ordonez has been one of the more successful Tigers in those games; he was 3-for-5 with one home run and one walk against the right-hander.

Sunday, June 21 -- Nelson Cruz, RF, Rangers (versus Barry Zito), 5.7: After a brief hot spell Zito has appeared to revert to his old hittable self, with a 5.09 ERA and 1.74 WHIP in his past four starts that included some pretty favorable matchups. It might have been three years since these two faced each other, but back in 2006, when Zito was still an upper-tier pitcher and Cruz was an up-and-coming, free-swinging youngster, the outfielder went 3-for-6 with two homers against the left-hander. Today Cruz is one of the better power sources in the game; Zito is only a so-so starter.

Tristan's Week 10 lineup

Total points: 2,769 (through Thursday).
Percentage: 98.8. Overall rank: 643rd.
Ranking in Fantasy Editorial Group: 65th.

C -- Joe Mauer, Twins (PIT-3, HOU-3), 5.6 price tag: He has been an out-and-out terror in home games this year, batting .492 with a 1.501 OPS.
1B -- Mark Teixeira, Yankees (WAS-3, @FLA-3), locked at 5.0, 5.9 market: Three home games against baseball's worst pitching staff (Washington) is reason enough to stick with him.
2B -- Ian Kinsler, Rangers (HOU-3, @SF-3), locked at 5.3, 5.6 market: He has a 1.109 OPS in 17 career games in the annual "Lone Star Series."
3B -- David Wright, Mets (@BAL-3, TB-3), locked at 4.7, 5.4 market: I can't believe anyone is complaining about his lackluster home-run production, especially BBC owners. Look at his other numbers!
SS -- Hanley Ramirez, Marlins (@BOS-3, NYY-3), locked at 5.0, 5.3 market: Yes, I've noticed that Ben Zobrist has more BBC points than him for the season.
LF -- Ryan Braun, Brewers (@CLE-3, @DET-3), locked at 4.8, 5.2 market: It seems odd to me that his BBC price tag has been in decline despite his racking up 62 points in his past 13 games (4.8 per contest).
CF -- Adam Jones, Orioles (NYM-3, @PHI-3), 5.1: He's going to face three left-handed starters when the Orioles travel to Citizens Bank Park. Wow.
RF -- Andre Ethier, Dodgers (OAK-3, @LAA-3), 4.5: Now there's the Ethier I was hoping to see this season. No shame in hopping the bandwagon a few days late.
DH -- Ian Stewart, Rockies (TB-3, PIT -3), 3.9: We know he can hit on the road. Now he just needs to capitalize upon some Coors Field matchups.
Pitching staff -- Mariners (@SD-3, ARI-3), 6.1: Terrible offense, but underrated pitching staff.

Tristan H. Cockcroft is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com and a two-time champion of the League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR) experts league. You can e-mail him here.