Print and Go Back ESPN.com: 2010 [Print without images]

Sunday, June 13, 2010
Good day to start Angels' Juan Rivera

By Adam Madison
ESPN.com

Daily Notes

Does offense really increase when the weather warms up? We're sure seeing evidence of it this month, especially in the American League, where the average team OPS has gone up 20 points so far in June. With only four contests on the schedule for Monday, we turn our eye to hitting, where the increase in temperature has coincided with a few hot streaks. You know about Carlos Pena's ridiculous tear (seven home runs in six games … it's about time!) but there are a few widely available options also swinging a hot bat. Let's preview the games:

For starters

Selected notes:

• To anyone who doubts the validity of playing the matchups, I mention Shaun Marcum, who has suffered his worst two outings of the season versus the Rays, a top-5 offense against right-handed pitching. Oddly enough, that somehow triggered a 4.6 percent drop in Marcum's ownership, so consider this a formal message to call off the dogs. Marcum is just fine and should bounce back against the Padres.

• Joe Saunders has allowed one run or fewer in five of his past seven starts, but with a mediocre 22-to-20 strikeout-to-walk ratio, he hasn't exactly been dominant. He has dominated two weak offensives in consecutive starts, but see how he does versus the Brewers first before rolling with him. One of the NL's better teams, the Brew Crew has a .809 OPS against left-handed pitching, so I'd pass on starting a hittable lefty against a team with so much power (.460 slugging percentage, third in the majors).

• Don't let Jon Garland pitching in Petco Park persuade you to start him versus the Blue Jays, the major league leader in slugging percentage against right-handers (.489). Garland does possess a 1.15 ERA at home, but a 19-to-19 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 39 innings suggests it's a fluke.

Now batting

Hitters' count:

Juan Rivera, OF, Angels: Call it coincidence, but with the summer months approaching, Rivera is heating up, batting .333 with four home runs since May 31. This is of note considering some of the monster months Rivera has put up in past summers, and if he stays hot, he should be moved up in the order to a prime RBI position considering the Angels' dearth of hitting. Considering his 4-for-11 record against Randy Wolf (one home run), he's worth starting Monday.

Tony Gwynn, OF, Padres: It's not a great matchup in terms of the opposing pitcher (Marcum), but with noodle-armed John Buck back there (7-for-35 success rate in throwing out would-be thieves), Gwynn, who has nine steals in 11 attempts, is still a great option if you're looking for cheap speed.

Aubrey Huff, 1B/OF, Giants: The return of Freddy Sanchez and his .400 OBP near the top of the lineup has been great for Huff, who is hitting third and batting .315 with six homers against right-handers. That means, in the right matchup, Huff is a solid option if you're in need of RBIs and average. And with rookie Chris Tillman struggling against lefties (small sample size, of course), now is as good a time as any to buy stock in Huff.

Pitchers' count:

Franklin Gutierrez, OF, Mariners: Gutierrez is never going to hit for power anyway, but he also has 59 strikeouts in 60 games as well, particularly struggling against righties. With Yadier Molina controlling opposing base runners (55 percent caught-stealing rate) and Adam Wainwright on the mound, there's little upside to starting Gutierrez on Monday.

Jose Bautista, 3B/OF, Blue Jays: Who didn't see this coming? Whatever magic beans Bautista ate, well, they're now expired; the outfielder is now hitless in his past seven games (0-for-23). So it makes a whole lot of sense to bench a struggling slugger in the best pitchers' park in the majors, right?

Luke Scott, OF, Orioles: The obscene power display has ceased, but Scott is still hitting enough against righties to be worthy of ownership. It's his troubles against lefties that you need to be wary of. Still floating near the Mendoza Line (.205) against southpaws, make sure to sit him versus Jonathan Sanchez since he mows down lefties like nobody's business (.130 batting average against).

Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day

Casey McGehee, 3B, Brewers: He has slumped a bit in June but has been fantastic against lefties this season, so it wouldn't be surprising to see him regain his mojo against Joe Saunders. He's batting .291 with four home runs and seven doubles in 55 at-bats versus lefties, slugging .636 along the way.

Triage

Injury list: Out

None

Injury list: Day-to-day

Alfredo Simon, RP, Orioles (15-day DL, hamstring)

Weather concerns

No weatherproof games are scheduled for Monday. St. Louis (Mariners-Cardinals) is the only city at risk of rain, with a 60 percent chance.

Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.