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Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Dodgers staff gets 10 straight at home

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 15 Fantasy Forecaster!

What can I say? I've succumbed to peer pressure.

(Tristan's very special aside: Kids, don't ever give in to peer pressure unless, of course, it's 100 percent related to playing ESPN fantasy baseball games.)

After much taunting during the season's first half -- the portion known as "Segment 1" in our Baseball Challenge -- I'm officially listening. Many of you spoke up, saying, "Come play the daily BBC, it's where the big boys play!"

"Where the big boys play" … it's actually the slogan of our office group, and while I don't necessarily agree that daily BBC is any more challenging than weekly BBC (I think it's only trickier in that you can't afford to miss a single lineup deadline, and there are seven times as many of them), I heed your calls. Beginning in Segment 2, the traditional second half of baseball's season, I have added a team in the daily BBC format, under the name "BBC Columnist -- Tristan" and in the "Fantasy Editorial Group." Due to the nature of the frequent lineup changing, I won't list my daily lineups in the column, but I'll add a few more intriguing tidbits for you daily-game BBC players to try to make up for that.

Among those: Pitching staffs I'm targeting based on the scheduled starter's matchup, as well as a team's offense that matches up nicely against its opposing starter. You can find those below in the "Daily Dips" section, in a quick-hit format by date.

Thus begins my quest to take down the Segment 1 champion from the daily BBC game: Matthew Pouliot of Rotoworld. Congratulations, Matthew, but time for me to bring you some healthy second-half competition!

Segment 2 initial lineup deadlines

Segment 2 of the Baseball Challenge begins on Thursday, with eight games on the schedule. Those BBC owners who play in the weekly format must have their lineups set no later than Thursday at 7:05 p.m. ET. If you play in the daily BBC format, lineups remain due, as always, at 2:59 a.m. ET each day, meaning Thursday's Segment 2 opening lineups lock at that time Thursday morning.

Remember that the first scoring period for the weekly BBC game comprises an 11-day span, from Thursday through Sunday, July 26.

Tristan's top three pitching staff values

1. Los Angeles Dodgers (HOU-4, CIN-3, FLA-3 -- all five starters likely to pitch twice, though Randy Wolf could get three starts), 6.7 price tag: Ah, how refreshing, the Dodgers' staff is affordable again. That's 10 home games for the BBC's best pitching staff thus far, and they come against three offenses that rank no higher than 19th in road OPS. But this one's all about the Dodgers' year-to-date performance anyway; they rank first at home in ERA (3.04), batting average allowed (.229) and OPS allowed (.643), and second in WHIP (1.21).

2. Colorado Rockies (@SD-4, ARI-3, SF-3 -- all five starters will pitch twice), 5.4: I wrote in my Forecaster how much I like the Rockies' four-game series at Petco Park to begin the season's second half, but even though the team's fortunes on the mound become riskier back at Coors Field after that, the fact remains that Colorado has won 16 of its past 22 home games. Arizona ranks 28th in the majors in road OPS (.664) and San Francisco 30th (.659), and neither offense has averaged more than 4.2 runs per game in road contests thus far. Wins should continue to be at a premium, and BBC owners, who get five points for each, love to hear that.

3. Atlanta Braves (NYM-4, SF-4, @MIL-3 -- Derek Lowe will pitch three times, everyone else pitches twice), 6.4: Another staff I love for its first four games fresh out of the break, as the Braves have historically dominated the division-rival Mets in games played at Turner Field, even if they lost both games against New York there earlier in the year. The Mets rate as one of the majors' lightest-hitting teams, the Giants again rank dead last in road OPS (.659) and while that series in Milwaukee is a tad challenging, I like that the Braves have currently lined up Javier Vazquez, Tommy Hanson and Lowe to pitch there.

Daily dips

Thursday, July 16 -- Aaron Cook doesn't get many strikeouts, so while Colorado's pitching staff matches up well at San Diego, I'd prefer the Angels and Joe Saunders at Oakland. He's a perfect 3-0 in three career starts at McAfee Coliseum. … Milwaukee's offense stacks up extremely nicely in a game at hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park and against Reds right-hander Homer Bailey.

Friday, July 17 -- San Francisco, behind right-handed ace Tim Lincecum, is a no-brainer in a game at Pittsburgh, against the Pirates' 22nd-ranked offense (.722 OPS). But St. Louis, behind Chris Carpenter, makes a strong choice against the Diamondbacks. … The Yankees have clobbered lefties to the tune of a major league-leading .878 OPS, and they'll be at home against Luke French. Load up. I'd also warm to the Cubs, a righty-heavy lineup, against shaky left-hander Scott Olsen.

Saturday, July 18 -- I'm so tempted to go White Sox and John Danks, but the last time Joe Blanton faced the Marlins, he struck out 11 hitters. It's a good matchup in the strikeout column, so go Philadelphia. … The White Sox do, however, shape up perfectly on offense in a home game against struggling right-hander Jeremy Guthrie. But I'd take a look at a few Mariners against Tomo Ohka, too.

Sunday, July 19 -- Hard to imagine anyone picking a team other than Atlanta or San Francisco. Javier Vazquez takes on the light-hitting Mets and Matt Cain the light-hitting Pirates, and both pitchers are strikeout artists. … The Dodgers shape up well in a home game against Russ Ortiz, who has a 10-26 record, 6.33 ERA and 1.77 WHIP in 80 games (51 starts) since 2005.

Monday, July 20 -- I'm a Tommy Hanson fan, so Atlanta it is, in a home game against San Francisco. He's 3-0 with a 1.53 ERA and .175 BAA in his past five starts, and as noted earlier in the column, the Giants don't hit in road games. … The Rockies stack up rather nicely in a Coors Field contest against the Diamondbacks' Doug Davis, whose walk rate makes him a high-risk proposition at that ballpark.

Tuesday, July 21 -- The Dodgers, behind Randy Wolf, stand out, mainly due to the strength of the matchup. It's a home game against a Reds offense ranked 26th in team OPS on the road (.672), one that averaged 3.4 runs per game with a .657 OPS in its final 35 games of the first half. … Red Sox hitters get a tasty matchup against a Rangers fifth starter, perhaps Dustin Nippert, at hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark. The Yankees also match up well at home against lefty Rich Hill. But I'd also take a look at some of those Orioles left-handed hitters if the Yankees spot start Sergio Mitre, who has allowed a .312 average and .843 OPS to lefties in his career.

Wednesday, July 22 -- Again, San Francisco behind Tim Lincecum is a natural choice, as are the Dodgers behind Chad Billingsley. But my sleeper pick of the day has to be Florida, priced at a modest 5.6 and set to throw Josh Johnson at Petco Park. What a matchup that is! … Load up on Brewers against the struggling Paul Maholm. In particular, Mike Cameron is a .458 career hitter (11-for-24) with three home runs against the left-hander.

Thursday, July 23 -- The Yankees will throw ace CC Sabathia in a home game against Oakland that they should by all rights win. Oakland's offense isn't all that threatening. … Both the Blue Jays and Mariners match up favorably against their opponents' left-handed starters; Toronto will face David Huff and Seattle Luke French. Considering both offenses perform noticeably better against lefties than righties, it's a good day to pick players from either squad.

Friday, July 24 -- Doubleheader days mean double the point potential, and I'm picking Tigers on both ends of things to be your big point producers. The Tigers will throw Edwin Jackson in a home game against the White Sox in one of the games, and that matchup alone warrants consideration. … If you're looking for some other hitter-friendly matchups, the Red Sox at home against Jeremy Guthrie stands out. Guthrie has a 5.09 ERA and 1.83 WHIP in four career starts at Fenway.

Saturday, July 25 -- No doubt it's Boston at home against Baltimore. Jon Lester, Saturday's scheduled starter for the Red Sox, is 8-0 with a 2.18 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 10 career starts against the Orioles. I would only have doubts about who I'm using on this day if Boston keeps Clay Buchholz in a six-man rotation, because it'd push Lester back to Sunday; but then Lester would be my clear pick on that date instead. … Load up on Rangers against Brian Bannister, who has allowed a .291 average and .812 OPS in his career against left-handed hitters. Texas has enough lefties -- Hank Blalock, Josh Hamilton -- to take the right-hander deep.

Sunday, July 26 -- Sunday's starters are the sketchiest of this scoring period, and that makes sense; it's the furthest date from today. Washington, behind John Lannan, actually is a sleeper selection if you want to go cheap; he'll battle the Padres in a home game. … Conversely, the Rockies should benefit from facing Ryan Sadowski at home, and the Phillies match up well at home against Todd Wellemeyer.

Tristan's Week 15 lineup

Total Segment 1 points: 3,965.
Percentage: 95.7. Overall rank: 2,407th.
Ranking in Fantasy Editorial Group: 181st.

C -- Joe Mauer, Twins (@TEX-3, @OAK-3, @LAA-4), 4.9 price tag: About time I can lock this guy in at a reasonable price. Until he shows me significant signs of his slowing down, this is right where he'll remain.
1B -- Mark Teixeira, Yankees (DET-3, BAL-3, OAK-4), 5.2: After the All-Star break in his career, he has averaged 4.1 BBC points per game. Buy in cheap.
2B -- Chase Utley, Phillies (@FLA-4, CHC-3, SD-1, STL-3), 5.2: I like this schedule, with seven of 11 games at home and probably as many as 10 of these coming against right-handed starting pitchers.
3B -- Alex Rodriguez, Yankees (DET-3, BAL-3, OAK-4), 5.3: Were you paying attention to how strongly he finished the first half? He batted .375 with eight homers, 20 RBIs and a 1.335 OPS in his final 16 games.
SS -- Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies (@SD-4, ARI-3, SF-3), 4.4: I'm a believer in these Rockies, and you don't bet against the hot streak.
LF -- Adam Dunn, Nationals (CHC-4, NYM-3, STL-1, SD-3), 5.0: It's a full 11 days' worth of home games without a day off, and at least eight of them are likely to come against right-handed starting pitchers.
CF -- Matt Kemp, Dodgers (HOU-4, CIN-3, FLA-3), 4.6: He finished the first half batting .351 with 13 RBIs and a .957 OPS in his final 20 games.
RF -- Ryan Ludwick, Cardinals (ARI-3, @HOU-3, @WAS-1, @PHI-3), 4.0: Like A-Rod, Ludwick finished the season's first half strong, batting .481 with four homers, 15 RBIs and a 1.605 OPS in his final seven games.
DH -- David Ortiz, Red Sox (@TOR-3, @TEX-3, BAL-3), 4.9: Count me among those who believe the "Big Papi" of old is back; he's hitting .278 with 11 home runs, 29 RBIs and a .986 OPS in 35 games since June 1.
Pitching staff -- Braves (NYM-4, SF-4, @MIL-3), 6.4.

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.