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Friday, May 14, 2010
Lopez, Gutierrez to feast on lefties

By Tristan H. Cockcroft
ESPN.com

On tap: Interleague play begins, with all but the Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates engaging in interleague series Friday through Sunday, and teams will return to their intraleague schedules the following week. The three-game, mid-May, stand-alone interleague series has become common in baseball in recent seasons, but what is uncommon about Week 7 is the busy schedule overall. All 30 major league teams are slated for full seven-game weeks, with all of them playing pairs of two-game intraleague series Monday through Thursday before interleague play kicks off. That means picking players for quantitative purposes goes out the window; it's the quality of matchups you want this week.

The addition and/or subtraction of the designated hitter, depending upon hosting site, is an important angle of evaluating interleague matchups. Among the designated hitters likely to sit for the vast majority of those weekend games: Pat Burrell, David Ortiz and perhaps Hideki Matsui, with Matsui the only one of the three with a chance at sneaking in a start in the field (left field?). The Detroit Tigers might also bench Brennan Boesch in order to squeeze usual DH Johnny Damon into the lineup in left field, while the Toronto Blue Jays might bench Fred Lewis in order to open up left field for usual DH Adam Lind. Among National League bench players who might sneak in a couple of starts at DH during the weekend: Brett Carroll, Tyler Colvin, Jim Edmonds, Jason Giambi and Matt Stairs.

Quick click by section, if you're seeking advice in a specific area:
Projected starting pitchers | Pitching strategies
Team advantages | Hitting strategies
Weather report | Week 7 pitcher rankings

Projected starting pitchers

The chart below lists each of the 30 MLB teams' schedules and projected starting pitchers, and provides a matchup rating for each day's starter. Pitchers scheduled to start twice this week are in color-coded boxes.

Tristan's pitching strategies

• The San Diego Padres-Seattle Mariners interleague series should be low-scoring, with pitching matchups ripe for the plucking. The Mariners' full-week schedule, however, stands above the rest, adding a pair of two-game series at the Oakland Athletics and versus the Toronto Blue Jays. That means seven games total at nothing but pitchers' parks and five of seven versus teams that rank among the bottom five in baseball in team OPS (Padres 26th, .688; Athletics 27th, .680). Jason Vargas, who has a 3.00 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in six starts, stands out especially Thursday versus the Blue Jays, whose .560 OPS versus lefties ranks dead last.

• The San Francisco Giants play two games in San Diego's Petco Park and three in the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, getting the same schedule benefit as the Mariners. Two games in Arizona's Chase Field are a bit less attractive, but with Tim Lincecum scheduled to start one (Thursday's game), the Giants should get through the week with some lofty pitching statistics.

• Avoid the Boston Red Sox if possible. Besides their bloated 4.90 ERA that ranks 25th in the majors, they suffer the misfortune of playing two games at the New York Yankees, two versus the Minnesota Twins and three at the Philadelphia Phillies. That's a full week of games played at hitter-friendly ballparks, as well as against only teams that rank among the top five in baseball in team OPS.

• The Chicago Cubs don't have it much easier, playing two games apiece versus top-10 offenses (Rockies 10th, .761; Phillies fourth, .796) before making a three-game trek to Texas' Rangers Ballpark, one of the most hitter-friendly venues in baseball. Might this finally be the week the Carlos Silva hot streak ends? He's 1-2 with a 9.09 ERA and 1.96 WHIP in seven career starts at Rangers Ballpark.

• The Los Angeles Dodgers have been piecing together their rotation of late, relying on such types as John Ely, Carlos Monasterios and Ramon Ortiz to fill two spots. Still, a seven-game week played entirely at home favors them, especially since four of those games come against the Houston Astros, whose .599 team OPS ranks last in the majors, and the Padres.

For more insight into Week 7 pitching matchups, see my rankings for every scheduled starter at column's end.

Team advantages

The chart below lists each of the 30 teams' total number of scheduled games, home games and games versus right- and left-handed pitchers, and provides a matchup rating for the week's games in terms of overall offense, offense versus left- and right-handed pitchers and base stealing. Matchup ratings for each individual game are listed under the corresponding date.

Tristan's hitting strategies

• The Mariners' schedule also favors their hitters, particularly their righties, who will face five lefty starters. Jose Lopez is a .357/.367/.464 (AVG/OBP/SLG) hitter versus southpaws so far this season, while Franklin Gutierrez has .357/.455/.536 rates well against that side. Both should be active in all formats.

• The Athletics have arguably the worst schedule hitting-wise, not that many fantasy owners will notice considering their aforementioned low ranking in team OPS. If you're a Rajai Davis, Cliff Pennington or Kurt Suzuki owner, however, you might want to look for alternatives, considering that five of their games will be played against teams that rank among the top eight in the majors in ERA (Mariners eighth, 3.64; San Francisco Giants fourth, 3.04), while all seven will be played at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, one of the game's most pitching-friendly venues.

• Check out that left-handed-hitters rating for the Cleveland Indians, who, despite a challenging first two games at the Tampa Bay Rays, should fatten up the remainder of the week versus the Kansas City Royals and Cincinnati Reds. Russell Branyan, Shin-Soo Choo and Grady Sizemore should all be active in most formats.

• The Los Angeles Dodgers can certainly hit, ranking sixth in the majors in team OPS (.779), eighth in home games (.792). Thanks to some fortunate scheduling, they'll also miss Roy Oswalt during the Astros series, Mat Latos during the Padres series and Justin Verlander during the Detroit Tigers series.

• The Milwaukee Brewers also score a perfect-10 offensive rating, mainly because two of their games will be played against the majors' worst pitching staff (Pittsburgh Pirates, 5.80 ERA), while another two will be against the Cincinnati Reds, who rank 24th in team ERA (4.85). Keep in mind the Brewers have averaged 10.17 runs per game in their first six versus the Pirates, including 17- and 20-run outings. Ryan Braun has been a one-man wrecking crew in those games; he's a .423/.545/.769 hitter with five steals in those six contests.

Now, let's take a look at some Week 7 sleepers:

Alberto Callaspo, 2B/3B, Kansas City Royals: He's a .321/.354/.547 hitter versus right-handers this season, and a .320/.333/.520 hitter in the month of May.
David Freese, 3B, St. Louis Cardinals: The Cardinals play all seven of their games at home, and Freese is a .458/.519/.771 hitter in 14 games at Busch Stadium. He's also a .448/.543/.562 hitter versus left-handers, significant in that the Cardinals are slated to face three lefty starters this week.
Raul Ibanez, OF, Philadelphia Phillies: He's finally starting to heat up, batting .268 with two homers and 10 RBIs in his past 16 games, and a full slate of seven games at Citizens Bank Park should keep him on the right track. After all, he was a .260/.351/.511 at that venue in 2009.
Alex Gonzalez, SS, Toronto Blue Jays: He's a .303/.345/.688 hitter versus right-handers this season, and as far as interleague play is concerned, he has historically performed well, with .282/.324/.443 rates. Arizona's Chase Field has always treated him well; he has .315/.354/.472 numbers in 22 career games there.
Brad Hawpe, OF, Colorado Rockies: With four games now under his belt since his activation from the disabled list, Hawpe shouldn't be far off recapturing his former stroke. He and the Rockies are scheduled to face nothing but right-handed starters, and he's a .353/.452/.706 hitter versus that side this year.
Travis Snider, OF, Toronto Blue Jays: It's about time he started hitting; he's batting .375 with three homers and eight RBIs in his past 13 games. Snider and the Blue Jays also face six right-handed starters, and he has hit all 16 of his career homers versus righties, not to mention has a slugging percentage 104 points higher versus righties than lefties.

Weather report

Where are those May flowers, anyway? The Week 7 schedule is littered with games potentially threatened by rain, as there is a 60 percent chance looming over Rockies-Cubs, Brewers-Reds and Mets-Braves on Monday; a 50 percent chance for Red Sox-Yankees, Royals-Orioles and Pirates-Phillies on Tuesday; and a 40 percent chance for White Sox-Tigers, Diamondbacks-Marlins and Nationals-Cardinals on Monday, White Sox-Tigers and Diamondbacks-Marlins on Tuesday, Cubs-Phillies, Brewers-Pirates, Mets-Nationals, Rays-Yankees and Twins-Red Sox on Wednesday and Orioles-Rangers on Thursday.

Weatherproof games: Rangers at Blue Jays (3, Fri-Sun); Braves at Brewers (3, Mon-Wed); Phillies at Brewers (3, Fri-Sun); Dodgers at Diamondbacks (3, Mon-Wed); Mariners at Rays (3, Fri-Sun).

Tristan's Week 7 pitcher rankings: Top 75

Rankings take into account several factors: the pitcher's raw talent, historical and recent performance; number of starts; strength of opponent(s); and ballpark factors. Be aware that different leagues might emphasize different pitching statistics that could change these rankings slightly. These are based upon a fairly standard Rotisserie scoring system, like ESPN's.

1. Chris Carpenter (STL) -- Tue-WAS (Lannan), Sun-LAA (Weaver)
2. Roy Halladay (PHI) -- Mon-PIT (Morton), Sat-BOS (Matsuzaka)
3. Zack Greinke (KC) -- Tue-@BAL (Millwood), Sun-COL (Chacin)
4. David Price (TB) -- Tue-CLE (Huff), Sun-@HOU (Norris)
5. Josh Johnson (FLA) -- Tue-ARI (Valdez), Sun-@CHW (Danks)
6. Matt Cain (SF) -- Mon-@SD (Richard), Sat-@OAK (Gonzalez)
7. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Tue-@CIN (Bailey), Sun-@MIN (Pavano)
8. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Thu-@ARI (Lopez)
9. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Tue-@OAK (Sheets), Sun-SD (Latos)
10. Jonathan Sanchez (SF) -- Tue-@SD (Latos), Sun-@OAK (Sheets)
11. Phil Hughes (NYY) -- Mon-BOS (Matsuzaka), Sat-@NYM (Pelfrey)
12. Ubaldo Jimenez (COL) -- Wed-@HOU (Paulino)
13. Adam Wainwright (STL) -- Thu-FLA (Robertson)
14. Tommy Hanson (ATL) -- Thu-CIN (Leake)
15. Cliff Lee (SEA) -- Fri-SD (LeBlanc)
16. Hiroki Kuroda (LAD) -- Tue-HOU (Norris), Sun-DET (Bonderman)
17. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Tue-@TEX (Wilson), Sun-@STL (Carpenter)
18. Johan Santana (NYM) -- Tue-@ATL (Medlen), Sun-NYY (Vazquez)
19. John Danks (CHW) -- Tue-@DET (Bonderman), Sun-FLA (Johnson)
20. Mat Latos (SD) -- Tue-SF (Sanchez), Sun-@SEA (Hernandez)
21. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Thu-SD (Correia)
22. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Wed-@OAK (Braden)
23. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Thu-MIN (Liriano)
24. C.J. Wilson (TEX) -- Tue-LAA (Weaver), Sun-CHC (Silva)
25. Jhoulys Chacin (COL) -- Tue-@CHC (Silva), Sun-@KC (Greinke)
26. Tim Hudson (ATL) -- Fri-@PIT (Ohlendorf)
27. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Wed-TB (Davis)
28. Matt Garza (TB) -- Fri-@HOU (Myers)
29. Dan Haren (ARI) -- Fri-TOR (Morrow)
30. Francisco Liriano (MIN) -- Thu-@BOS (Lester)
31. Shaun Marcum (TOR) -- Tue-MIN (Pavano), Sun-@ARI (Valdez)
32. Ricky Romero (TOR) -- Thu-@SEA (Vargas)
33. Roy Oswalt (HOU) -- Thu-COL (Smith)
34. Derek Lowe (ATL) -- Mon-NYM (Pelfrey), Sat-@PIT (Morton)
35. Johnny Cueto (CIN) -- Mon-MIL (Bush), Sat-@CLE (Carmona)
36. Wandy Rodriguez (HOU) -- Mon-@LAD (Ely), Sat-TB (Niemann)
37. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Thu-CHC (Dempster)
38. Jake Peavy (CHW) -- Thu-LAA (Santana)
39. Jaime Garcia (STL) -- Wed-FLA (Sanchez)
40. Jeff Niemann (TB) -- Mon-CLE (Carmona), Sat-@HOU (Rodriguez)
41. Rich Harden (TEX) -- Wed-BAL (Guthrie)
42. Clayton Richard (SD) -- Mon-SF (Cain), Sat-@SEA (Rowland-Smith)
43. Randy Wolf (MIL) -- Wed-@PIT (Burres)
44. Mike Leake (CIN) -- Thu-@ATL (Hanson)
45. Josh Beckett (BOS) -- Tue-@NYY (Vazquez), Sun-@PHI (Moyer)
46. Barry Zito (SF) -- Fri-@OAK (Cahill)
47. Gio Gonzalez (OAK) -- Mon-SEA (Rowland-Smith), Sat-SF (Cain)
48. A.J. Burnett (NYY) -- Thu-TB (Shields)
49. Jake Westbrook (CLE) -- Fri-CIN (Arroyo)
50. Chad Billingsley (LAD) -- Fri-DET (Willis)
51. Ricky Nolasco (FLA) -- Fri-@CHW (Floyd)
52. Ted Lilly (CHC) -- Fri-@TEX (Lewis)
53. Wade LeBlanc (SD) -- Fri-@SEA (Lee)
54. Clay Buchholz (BOS) -- Wed-MIN (Baker)
55. Kyle Lohse (STL) -- Mon-WAS (Stammen), Sat-LAA (Kazmir)
56. Colby Lewis (TEX) -- Fri-CHC (Lilly)
57. Wade Davis (TB) -- Wed-@NYY (Sabathia)
58. Ryan Dempster (CHC) -- Thu-@PHI (Hamels)
59. Randy Wells (CHC) -- Mon-COL (Hammel), Sat-@TEX (Holland)
60. Ben Sheets (OAK) -- Tue-SEA (Hernandez), Sun-SF (Sanchez)
61. Justin Duchscherer (OAK) -- Thu-DET (Scherzer)
62. Andy Pettitte (NYY) -- Fri-@NYM (Niese)
63. Ian Kennedy (ARI) -- Wed-SF (Wellemeyer)
64. Justin Masterson (CLE) -- Wed-KC (Meche)
65. Kevin Millwood (BAL) -- Tue-KC (Greinke), Sun-@WAS (Lannan)
66. Brandon Morrow (TOR) -- Fri-@ARI (Haren)
67. Aaron Cook (COL) -- Fri-@KC (Bannister)
68. Jason Vargas (SEA) -- Thu-TOR (Romero)
69. John Lackey (BOS) -- Fri-@PHI (Kendrick)
70. Kris Medlen (ATL) -- Tue-NYM (Santana), Sun-@PIT (Duke)
71. Brett Cecil (TOR) -- Wed-@SEA (Fister)
72. Kevin Slowey (MIN) -- Mon-@TOR (Eveland), Sat-MIL (Bush)
73. Joel Pineiro (LAA) -- Fri-@STL (Penny)
74. Fausto Carmona (CLE) -- Mon-@TB (Niemann), Sat-CIN (Cueto)
75. Daisuke Matsuzaka (BOS) -- Mon-@NYY (Hughes), Sat-@PHI (Halladay)

Two-start pitchers for deep leagues:
Homer Bailey (CIN) -- Tue-MIL (Gallardo), Sun-@CLE (Huff)
Brad Bergesen (BAL) -- Mon-KC (Davies), Sat-@WAS (Stammen)
Derek Holland (TEX) -- Mon-LAA (Kazmir), Sat-CHC (Wells)
Scott Kazmir (LAA) -- Mon-@TEX (Holland), Sat-@STL (Lohse)
Bud Norris (HOU) -- Tue-@LAD (Kuroda), Sun-TB (Price)
Carl Pavano (MIN) -- Tue-@TOR (Marcum), Sun-MIL (Gallardo)
Mike Pelfrey (NYM) -- Mon-@ATL (Lowe), Sat-NYY (Hughes)
Rick Porcello (DET) -- Mon-CHW (Garcia), Sat-@LAD (Ely)
Ryan Rowland-Smith (SEA) -- Mon-@OAK (Gonzalez), Sat-SD (Richard)
Javier Vazquez (NYY) -- Tue-BOS (Beckett), Sun-@NYM (Santana)
Chris Volstad (FLA) -- Mon-ARI (Jackson), Sat-@CHW (Garcia)

One-start sleepers:
Bronson Arroyo (CIN) -- Fri-@CLE (Westbrook)
Trevor Cahill (OAK) -- Fri-SF (Zito)
Scott Feldman (TEX) -- Thu-BAL (Matusz)
Aaron Harang (CIN) -- Wed-@ATL (Kawakami)
Scott Olsen (WAS) -- Fri-BAL (Hernandez)
Greg Smith (COL) -- Thu-@HOU (Oswalt)
Mitch Talbot (CLE) -- Thu-KC (Hochevar)

No-thank-yous, among two-starts:
Jeremy Bonderman (DET) -- Tue-CHW (Danks), Sun-@LAD (Kuroda)
Dave Bush (MIL) -- Mon-@CIN (Cueto), Sat-@MIN (Slowey)
Kyle Davies (KC) -- Mon-@BAL (Bergesen), Sat-COL (Hammel)
Zach Duke (PIT) -- Tue-@PHI (Moyer), Sun-ATL (Medlen)
John Ely (LAD) -- Mon-HOU (Rodriguez), Sat-DET (Porcello)
Dana Eveland (TOR) -- Mon-MIN (Slowey), Sat-@ARI (Jackson)
Freddy Garcia (CHW) -- Mon-@DET (Porcello), Sat-FLA (Volstad)
Jason Hammel (COL) -- Mon-@CHC (Wells), Sat-@KC (Davies)
David Huff (CLE) -- Tue-@TB (Price), Sun-CIN (Bailey)
Edwin Jackson (ARI) -- Mon-@FLA (Volstad), Sat-TOR (Eveland)
John Lannan (WAS) -- Tue-@STL (Carpenter), Sun-BAL (Millwood)
Charlie Morton (PIT) -- Mon-@PHI (Halladay), Sat-ATL (Lowe)
Jamie Moyer (PHI) -- Tue-PIT (Duke), Sun-BOS (Beckett)
Carlos Silva (CHC) -- Tue-COL (Chacin), Sun-@TEX (Wilson)
Craig Stammen (WAS) -- Mon-@STL (Lohse), Sat-BAL (Bergesen)
Cesar Valdez (ARI) -- Tue-@FLA (Johnson), Sun-TOR (Marcum)

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, or follow him on Twitter @SultanofStat.