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Friday, June 11, 2010
Updated: June 13, 1:33 PM ET
Interleague play takes over Week 11

By Tristan H. Cockcroft
ESPN.com

Fantasy Forecaster

Fantasy Forecaster updated Sunday, June 13 at 1:33 p.m. ET.

On tap: It's the first of two full weeks of interleague play. With every interleague series exactly three games in length and teams scheduled to play two series apiece in Week 11, all 30 teams will play exactly six games each. You know the upshot of that in fantasy: Quality takes precedence over quantity when it comes to picking your weekly matchups.

Unfortunately, it seems like only the East Coast teams get the most compelling interleague matchups, as the New York Yankees play host to the Philadelphia Phillies in a rematch of last year's World Series, as well as the New York Mets. The Boston Red Sox bring in the Los Angeles Dodgers for what will be Manny Ramirez's first game at Fenway Park since the Red Sox shipped him out at the 2008 trade deadline.

To a lesser degree, the Arizona Diamondbacks-Detroit Tigers series is somewhat appealing in that those teams swapped Edwin Jackson and Max Scherzer during the winter, though the two unfortunately won't square off; Jackson pitches Saturday and Scherzer Sunday. Conversely, the interleague schedulers gave us snore-fests like the Cleveland Indians at the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Houston Astros at the Kansas City Royals. Hey, we can't win them all, right?

With interleague play comes designated-hitter implications. American League teams won't have them in National League ballparks, and NL teams add them in AL venues. Before we start with the matchups, let's do a quick rundown of the hitters potentially affected. AL teams losing the DH are listed first, then NL teams gaining the DH. The number of affected games are in parentheses.

AL teams losing their DH:
Baltimore Orioles (6 games): Luke Scott might sneak in time at first base or in left field. Could ice-cold Ty Wigginton actually lose a couple starts?
Chicago White Sox (6): Kiss Andruw Jones' remaining few at-bats goodbye. At least Mark Kotsay could sneak in a game at first base.
Cleveland Indians (3): It's only three games, but Travis Hafner probably won't start any of them. He hasn't played first base since June 24, 2007.
Kansas City Royals (3): Expect Jose Guillen to lose out, because the Royals can't possibly start him in right field over a hitter as hot as David DeJesus.
Los Angeles Angels (3): They'll face one lefty and two righties, so don't be surprised if Hideki Matsui sits the middle game, and Juan Rivera misses the other two.
Minnesota Twins (3): Jim Thome will be relegated to pinch-hitting duty, and Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel will have to battle for right-field at-bats.
Oakland Athletics (6): Jack Cust is capable of shifting to left field, and the A's do face six righty starters.
Seattle Mariners (3): Milton Bradley or Michael Saunders in left field? Both have been slumping, so fantasy owners reaction will be, "Does it really matter?"
Tampa Bay Rays (6): Will they really roster three catchers through the week? Their DH spot has been like a rotating pinch-hitter lately anyway.
Texas Rangers (6): DH Vladimir Guerrero is hitting .345 with six home runs and 22 RBIs in his past 20 games, but Nelson Cruz is due back in right field Tuesday. Unless the Rangers are willing to play Josh Hamilton in center field over Julio Borbon, this might be a rough week to own Rangers outfielders.
Toronto Blue Jays (3): You'd think Adam Lind would start over Fred Lewis in left field, but Lind is hitting .132 in his past 14 games, while Lewis is hitting .265 in his past 16. These two might split the at-bats evenly.

NL teams gaining a DH:
Arizona Diamondbacks (6 games): They finally have a way to wedge Conor Jackson, Gerardo Parra, Justin Upton and Chris Young into the same lineup.
Cincinnati Reds (3): Jonny Gomes has been the DH in each of their past 12 interleague games. That leaves left field open for Laynce Nix and Chris Heisey.
Colorado Rockies (3): Jason Giambi was their DH during their May 21 to 23 series at Kansas City, so maybe he'll serve in that role again this week. It might be smarter for the Rockies to give Melvin Mora the extra at-bats, though.
Houston Astros (3): As noted last week, Carlos Lee usually serves as the Astros' DH, opening up left field for Jason Michaels or Cory Sullivan.
Los Angeles Dodgers (3): Not that he deserves it, but Garret Anderson will probably get one last chance to find his name regularly listed in the lineup.
Milwaukee Brewers (3): They seem to like using Casey McGehee as their DH, figuring Craig Counsell at third base will shore up their defense.
New York Mets (6): They have yet to make their plans clear, but Chris Carter is such an obvious choice to serve as an everyday DH.
Philadelphia Phillies (3): Ben Francisco in left field and Raul Ibanez at DH is a natural pick, though the Yankees will start two quality left-handers.
San Francisco Giants (3): Pat Burrell would be an obvious choice, opening up a corner outfield spot for Andres Torres and perhaps Nate Schierholtz.
Washington Nationals (3): With the Tigers starting only righties, Adam Kennedy might start at first base, allowing Adam Dunn to DH.

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 10 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

• Maybe getting away from homer-friendly U.S. Cellular Field will help the White Sox pitching get back on track, because during their recent nine-game home stand, they posted a 5.56 ERA and 1.63 WHIP while affording opposing hitters a .301 batting average and eight home runs. Games versus the Pirates and Nationals, who combined have averaged 3.83 runs per game, stack the matchups in the Sox's favor. Two-start pitcher Freddy Garcia, incidentally, has quality starts in six of his past seven outings, going 6-1 with a 4.25 ERA and 1.39 WHIP.

• Now that the Blue Jays are through the rough nine-game portion of their schedule that was made of only games versus the Rays (6) and Yankees (3), things should pick up for their underrated pitching staff. Blue Jays pitching managed only a 4.61 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and blew two of six save chances during those nine games, but those aren't horrible statistics when you consider they were accrued versus the teams ranked first (Yankees, 5.55) and third (Rays, 5.28) in runs per game. The San Diego Padres and Giants, by comparison, rank 25th (4.12) and 23rd (4.20) in that category, and three of the Blue Jays' games will be played at spacious Petco Park. Brett Cecil has five consecutive wins and quality starts with a 1.49 ERA and 0.77 WHIP during that span. Brandon Morrow, meanwhile, actually stood out in starts versus those division rivals; he limited the Rays and Yankees to one run in seven innings in each of his past two outings.

• Remember what we say: Always use St. Louis Cardinals pitchers in games at Busch Stadium, and that's the only place they'll play during their six contests this week. This staff has a 2.74 ERA and 1.12 WHIP at home, good for fourth and first in the majors, respectively. Keep in mind that they've done that despite two-fifths of their Opening Day rotation currently residing on the disabled list (Kyle Lohse and Brad Penny). Here's how automatic the other three have been at Busch this season: In their 17 home starts they've suffered just one loss (by Chris Carpenter), have four no-decisions, 12 wins, a 1.73 ERA and 1.00 WHIP.

• The first thing Padres critics are sure to point out when analyzing their Week 11 matchups is that they play three games versus the Blue Jays, who rank first in the majors in home runs (98). But before you put too much stock into that number, consider this: The Blue Jays also have baseball's highest home run/fly ball percentage (14.0), while the Padres' number in that category is 7.1 percent, fifth-worst. Petco Park is at least somewhat responsible for the Padres' low number, and the venue's dimensions are sure to bring the Blue Jays' number somewhat back to Earth. Mat Latos and Jon Garland will start two of the three games in that series, and the last time either one failed to turn in a quality start at Petco was in April.

For more insight into the Week 11 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 it 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 White Sox's matchups aren't only favorable for their pitchers; their hitters also have an advantage despite playing all of their games away from their homer-friendly venue. Part of the reason is the black hole that is the Pirates' rotation; their starters rank dead last in the majors in ERA (5.77), WHIP (1.67) and BAA (.306). If there's any black mark on the White Sox's Week 11 schedule, it's that they'll have to face Stephen Strasburg in what is certain to be an energetic environment at Washington's Nationals Park. In exchange for that, they'll get soft matchups versus J.D. Martin and John Lannan the following two days.

• If Strasburg is facing the White Sox on Friday, then that means he misses the Tigers during their week-opening series in Detroit. Advantage: Tigers. They've batted .275 with 47 runs and 12 home runs in their past 11 games despite Magglio Ordonez having missed some of that time with an oblique injury. Their other opponent, the Diamondbacks, is a miserable 9-22 with a 5.67 ERA on the road.

• The Athletics have a rough go of it, making three-game stops at both Chicago's Wrigley Field and St. Louis' Busch Stadium. Hopefully you read the note about Cardinals starters' at Busch above, because both Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter will pitch during that series, while the Chicago Cubs will toss Ted Lilly and Carlos Zambrano in theirs. Something else to think about: The Athletics have a lower team OPS in road games (.700) than at home (.713), so don't get the idea that escaping their pitching-friendly park is a plus.

• While the Athletics have a distinct disadvantage in those Wrigley games, the Cubs are decidedly strong in contrast. You might already be aware of their hitters' 2010 Wrigley numbers -- like Alfonso Soriano's .965 OPS there, or Marlon Byrd's .875 -- but what makes it such a fantasy-friendly schedule for them is the benefit of facing four left-handed starters in their six games. The Cubs have a .783 team OPS versus southpaws, 62 points higher than versus righties.

• Load up on Cardinals hitters, too, despite Busch's traditional leaning as a pitchers' park, because their matchups couldn't be much nicer. They'll avoid both Cliff Lee and Felix Hernandez during the week-opening series versus the Mariners. Check out three of the pitchers they will face in their six games: Luke French, Ryan Rowland-Smith and Vin Mazzaro. What's not to like?

Now, let's take a look at some Week 11 sleepers:

Ike Davis, 1B, Mets: Plenty to like about his matchups, as the Indians will throw nothing but right-handed starters during their week-opening series, which plays to Davis' advantage. In the weekend Subway Series versus the Yankees, Davis can take aim at Yankee Stadium's short porch in right field. He has good power to right and, per Inside Edge, has hit 44.6 percent of his balls in play to the right side.
Miguel Olivo, C, Rockies: He's a .294/.390/.618 (AVG/OBP/SLG) hitter versus left-handers this season, and his Rockies will face three lefty starters this week. One of them is Francisco Liriano. If that scares you, be aware that Olivo is 4-for-13 (.308) with two doubles, one home run and two walks in his career versus the Twins stellar southpaw.
Kurt Suzuki, C, Athletics: If there is any Athletics hitter you want, it's Suzuki … and that's it. Interleague play has always treated him well; he's a lifetime .343/.372/.547 hitter in 38 such contests. He's also hitting .364 (16-for-44) with four home runs and 11 RBIs in 10 games in June.
Andres Torres, OF, Giants: He's absolutely killing right-handed pitching this season, with .328/.409/.543 numbers against them, and his Giants will face nothing but righty starters this week. It helps that the Giants have those three DH games; you can be sure they'll want Torres in there every one of those days.
Neil Walker, 2B/3B, Pirates: He now has .322/.365/.492 numbers through his first 15 games of this season, continuing his hot hitting. His splits are evenly balanced from both sides of the plate. Both the White Sox's and Indians' staffs have had their share of struggles lately, so keep riding this streak.
Rickie Weeks, 2B, Brewers: His streakiness meter has shifted back to red -- as in "red hot." He's hitting .318 (21-for-66) with five homers and 11 RBIs in his past 16 games. Perfect timing, as he'll make a three-game trip to Colorado's Coors Field this week, dodging Ubaldo Jimenez to boot.
Delmon Young, OF, Twins: Though there's the risk Jason Kubel might bump him from the lineup once or twice, Young is a name owners in AL-only or daily-transaction leagues must consider. He's a historic interleague standout with .339/.361/.492 numbers in 46 games. He's also in the midst of a hot streak, batting .325 (13-for-40) with three homers and 10 RBIs in his past 10 games.

Weather report

The forecast calls for a little more rain than usual, but keep in mind that interleague games rank among the hardest to reschedule since these teams face each other for only one series per year. That means hastily rescheduled doubleheaders -- typically planned for the next day -- are common. It's worth pointing out the troublesome cities, such as Atlanta, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Miami (Florida Marlins), Minneapolis (Twins) and St. Louis, will all see 30-percent chances of rain or greater for all three games of their week-opening series. Thursday's Rangers-Marlins and Rockies-Twins games are the most worrisome, as they're series-concluding games facing 40-percent chances of rain. None of those teams has a day off Friday for rescheduling, either.

Weatherproof games: Rangers at Astros (3, Friday to Sunday); Giants at Blue Jays (3, Friday to Sunday); Reds at Mariners (3, Friday to Sunday)

Tristan's Week 11 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. Adam Wainwright (STL) -- Mon-SEA (French), Sun-OAK (Cahill)
2. Roy Halladay (PHI) -- Tue-@NYY (Sabathia), Sun-MIN (Pavano)
3. Josh Johnson (FLA) -- Tue-TEX (Wilson), Sun-TB (Price)
4. Johan Santana (NYM) -- Tue-@CLE (Masterson), Sun-@NYY (Sabathia)
5. David Price (TB) -- Tue-@ATL (Kawakami), Sun-@FLA (Johnson)
6. Chris Carpenter (STL) -- Sat-OAK (Mazzaro)
7. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Wed-ARI (Willis)
8. Cliff Lee (SEA) -- Fri-CIN (Cueto)
9. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Tue-PHI (Halladay), Sun-NYM (Santana)
10. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Wed-WAS (Hernandez)
11. Ubaldo Jimenez (COL) -- Thu-@MIN (Liriano)
12. Clay Buchholz (BOS) -- Tue-ARI (Kennedy), Sun-LAD (Kuroda)
13. Jaime Garcia (STL) -- Wed-SEA (Vargas)
14. Stephen Strasburg (WAS) -- Fri-CHW (Buehrle)
15. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Wed-BAL (Guthrie)
16. Jonathan Sanchez (SF) -- Mon-BAL (Tillman), Sun-@TOR (Marcum)
17. Ryan Dempster (CHC) -- Wed-OAK (Gonzalez)
18. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Wed-@CIN (Leake)
19. Roy Oswalt (HOU) -- Wed-@KC (Chen)
20. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Sat-CIN (LeCure)
21. Colby Lewis (TEX) -- Fri-@HOU (Rodriguez)
22. Ricky Romero (TOR) -- Wed-@SD (Correia)
23. John Danks (CHW) -- Wed-@PIT (Duke)
24. Phil Hughes (NYY) -- Sat-NYM (Pelfrey)
25. Shaun Marcum (TOR) -- Mon-@SD (Garland), Sun-SF (Sanchez)
26. Mat Latos (SD) -- Tue-TOR (Cecil)
27. Jake Peavy (CHW) -- Thu-@PIT (Ohlendorf)
28. Tim Hudson (ATL) -- Thu-TB (Shields)
29. Matt Cain (SF) -- Sat-@TOR (Litsch)
30. Tommy Hanson (ATL) -- Wed-TB (Davis)
31. Javier Vazquez (NYY) -- Fri-NYM (Takahashi)
32. Zack Greinke (KC) -- Sat-@ATL (Medlen)
33. Matt Garza (TB) -- Fri-@FLA (Volstad)
34. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Sat-@COL (Francis)
35. Jon Garland (SD) -- Mon-TOR (Marcum), Sun-BAL (Tillman)
36. Ervin Santana (LAA) -- Tue-MIL (Bush)
37. Carlos Zambrano (CHC) -- Tue-OAK (Cahill), Sun-LAA (Saunders)
38. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Sat-MIN (Slowey)
39. Randy Wells (CHC) -- Thu-OAK (Braden)
40. Scott Baker (MIN) -- Wed-COL (Chacin)
41. Clayton Richard (SD) -- Sat-BAL (Millwood)
42. Brett Cecil (TOR) -- Tue-@SD (Latos)
43. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Sat-@CHC (Lilly)
44. Ted Lilly (CHC) -- Sat-LAA (Weaver)
45. Justin Masterson (CLE) -- Tue-NYM (Santana), Sun-@PIT (Lincoln)
46. Jhoulys Chacin (COL) -- Wed-@MIN (Baker)
47. Fausto Carmona (CLE) -- Fri-@PIT (Maholm)
48. C.J. Wilson (TEX) -- Tue-@FLA (Johnson), Sun-@HOU (Paulino)
49. Dan Haren (ARI) -- Fri-@DET (Galarraga)
50. Francisco Liriano (MIN) -- Thu-COL (Jimenez)
51. Chad Billingsley (LAD) -- Thu-@CIN (Arroyo)
52. James Shields (TB) -- Thu-@ATL (Hudson)
53. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Tue-WAS (Lannan), Sun-ARI (Kennedy)
54. Johnny Cueto (CIN) -- Fri-@SEA (Lee)
55. Brandon Morrow (TOR) -- Fri-SF (Zito)
56. Freddy Garcia (CHW) -- Tue-@PIT (Lincoln), Sun-@WAS (Lannan)
57. Brett Myers (HOU) -- Thu-@KC (Hochevar)
58. Mike Pelfrey (NYM) -- Sat-@NYY (Hughes)
59. Gavin Floyd (CHW) -- Sat-@WAS (Martin)
60. Andy Pettitte (NYY) -- Thu-PHI (Moyer)
61. Jonathon Niese (NYM) -- Wed-@CLE (Talbot)
62. Hiroki Kuroda (LAD) -- Tue-@CIN (Harang), Sun-@BOS (Buchholz)
63. Mike Leake (CIN) -- Wed-LAD (Kershaw)
64. Jeff Niemann (TB) -- Sat-@FLA (Robertson)
65. Ben Sheets (OAK) -- Fri-@STL (Ottavino)
66. A.J. Burnett (NYY) -- Wed-PHI (Kendrick)
67. John Lackey (BOS) -- Thu-ARI (Lopez)
68. Kevin Correia (SD) -- Wed-TOR (Romero)
69. Randy Wolf (MIL) -- Mon-@LAA (Saunders), Sun-@COL (Cook)
70. Derek Lowe (ATL) -- Fri-KC (Bannister)
71. Ricky Nolasco (FLA) -- Thu-TEX (Feldman)
72. Anibal Sanchez (FLA) -- Wed-TEX (Hunter)
73. Rick Porcello (DET) -- Sat-ARI (Jackson)
74. Wandy Rodriguez (HOU) -- Fri-TEX (Lewis)
75. Barry Zito (SF) -- Fri-@TOR (Morrow)

Two-start pitchers for deep leagues:
Trevor Cahill (OAK) -- Tue-@CHC (Zambrano), Sun-@STL (Wainwright)
Aaron Cook (COL) -- Tue-@MIN (Pavano), Sun-MIL (Wolf)
Kyle Davies (KC) -- Tue-HOU (Paulino), Sun-@ATL (Kawakami)
Aaron Harang (CIN) -- Tue-LAD (Kuroda), Sun-@SEA (French)
Kenshin Kawakami (ATL) -- Tue-TB (Price), Sun-KC (Davies)
Ian Kennedy (ARI) -- Tue-@BOS (Buchholz), Sun-@DET (Scherzer)
Felipe Paulino (HOU) -- Tue-@KC (Davies), Sun-TEX (Wilson)
Joe Saunders (LAA) -- Mon-MIL (Wolf), Sun-@CHC (Zambrano)

One-start sleepers:

Jeremy Bonderman (DET) -- Thu-WAS (Atilano)
Jeff Francis (COL) -- Sat-MIL (Gallardo)
Armando Galarraga (DET) -- Fri-ARI (Haren)
Luke Hochevar (KC) -- Thu-HOU (Myers)
Paul Maholm (PIT) -- Fri-CLE (Carmona)
Brian Matusz (BAL) -- Fri-@SD (LeBlanc)
Kris Medlen (ATL) -- Sat-KC (Greinke)
Kevin Millwood (BAL) -- Sat-@SD (Richard)
Adam Ottavino (STL) -- Fri-OAK (Sheets)
Jake Westbrook (CLE) -- Thu-NYM (Dickey)

No-thank-yous, among two-starts:

Luke French (SEA) -- Mon-@STL (Wainwright), Sun-CIN (Harang)
John Lannan (WAS) -- Tue-@DET (Scherzer), Sun-CHW (Garcia)
Brad Lincoln (PIT) -- Tue-CHW (Garcia), Sun-CLE (Masterson)
Carl Pavano (MIN) -- Tue-COL (Cook), Sun-@PHI (Halladay)
Chris Tillman (BAL) -- Mon-@SF (Sanchez), Sun-@SD (Garland)

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.