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When do you bail on guys like R.A. Dickey? You know the type: retreads or Quadruple-A types outperforming their past in every possible way. But as the scouting reports make the rounds, and the holes are found and exploited, they can often regress as quickly as they burst onto the scene. What's Brennan Boesch doing nowadays anyway?
Like anything in life, there is not one single answer, but there are convenient rules of thumb. Don't fall in love with the past! If I'm in a shallow mixed league and got 10 starts of a 2.00 ERA out of Dickey, I'm not going to suddenly become loyal to him and stick with him when the times get rough. I'm going to cut bait and be happy I got anything out of him to begin with! There's always another pitcher to pick up, either long-term or short-term, so remember: you're only as good as your next start.
• If you're only as good as your next start, then why did 0.6 percent of ESPN owners cut Jonathan Sanchez? Sure, he got touched up by the Atlanta Braves in his last outing, allowing eight base-runners and four runs in four innings. But if those people took a gander at his next start and saw a home matchup versus the San Diego Padres, would they have still dropped him? It would be foolish, right? Seven or eight out of 10 times, Sanchez is going to bounce back with a sterling performance given the matchup. Start him with the utmost confidence.
• Whatever St. Louis Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan is selling, I am buying. Jake Westbrook may be the next pitcher he turns into a stud, and could be the next Joel Pineiro. It's a testament to just how important keeping the ball down and inducing ground balls really is. Westbrook is owned in only eight percent of ESPN leagues, but if he delivers for a third straight start, he'll becomes an overnight sensation. Get him now and save yourself the headache.
• Fausto Carmona is a good example of what can happen when you don't obey the matchups. He's allowed 13 runs in his past 17 innings, encompassing three starts against the New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Minnesota Twins. Just as you should not have let his previous success convince you into starting him against any of those three teams, you shouldn't let his recent troubles prevent you from keeping him active versus the Seattle Mariners, against whom he should bounce back nicely.
• James Shields is a good -- but not great -- option versus the Baltimore Orioles. As a team they've actually done quite well versus Shields, cobbling together a .274 AVG/.331 OBP/.456 SLG batting line. And that's including Corey Patterson's 2-for-22 mark, notable considering he probably won't start. Shields has enough talent -- assuredly more than his current 4.91 ERA implies -- that he's worth gambling on here, but if he does falter, it shouldn't change your perception of him too much.
• A matchup against the Texas Rangers in Arlington isn't as impossible as it used to be, but do you really trust Josh Beckett in one of the tougher matchups he'll come across? Sure, you expect the Yankees to rough him up a little, but to crush him? Let him earn your trust before throwing him out there.
• The past couple of starts for R.A. Dickey are giving some indication that the league may be finally catching up to him. He's not going to finish the year with a 2.65 ERA, and things will get worse before they get better. It's important to remain conservative with smoke-and-mirror guys like Dickey, because you can get railroaded quite quickly. Keep him reserved in his rematch versus the Philadelphia Phillies.
• Edinson Volquez is showing little improvement with his control in recent starts, so if he can't show and prove versus the Florida Marlins on Friday, it's time to look for other options.
Ben Zobrist, 2B/OF, Tampa Bay Rays: Mired in quite the slump, Zobrist has just one extra-base hit, a double, in his past 49 at-bats. So throw him a bone here against Jeremy Guthrie, against whom he's hitting 4-for-12 (.333) with two extra-base hits.
Ty Wigginton, 1B/2B/3B, Baltimore Orioles: Wigginton has four multi-hit games, two doubles and a home run during his eight-game hitting streak, and is a must-start versus James Shields. In just six at-bats, Wigginton has gone deep off Shields twice.
Carlos Beltran, OF, New York Mets: Did you know that Beltran was 33? Me neither. Is this the end of the line for him? Obviously, 82 at-bats is a little too soon to write off such a great player, but for the purposes of this season, it might be. He's worth a play against Cole Hamels, whom he's taken deep twice in 24 career at-bats, but Beltran won't get the benefit of the doubt for much longer.
Adam Jones, OF, Baltimore Orioles: Hitting safely in nearly half of his at-bats against Shields, Jones has made his them count: six of his 10 hits have gone for extra bases, including one home run. Overall, he's batting .455 off Shields in 22 career at-bats.
Alex Rios, OF, Chicago White Sox: He's only batting .263 -- with zero walks -- in 19 at-bats against Jeremy Bonderman, but four of his five hits have been of the extra-base variety, including two homers.
Curtis Granderson, OF, New York Yankees: He's done it all versus Kyle Davies, batting .333 (6-for-18), walking a whopping eight times and slugging four extra-base hits, two home runs included. In short, Granderson owns Davies, so expect a big game out of him Friday.
Adam LaRoche, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks: Here's a lefty LaRoche can't hit! John Lannan has held LaRoche hitless in nine career at-bats, sending him down on strikes four times.
Brandon Phillips, 2B, Cincinnati Reds: It's never surprising when an ace like Josh Johnson dominates even a good hitter like Phillips. Though they've only faced each other eight times, I'm inclined to believe Phillips' ineffectiveness -- one single in eight at-bats, as well as one strikeout -- is merely the beginning of a trend.
Michael Young, 3B, Texas Rangers: Young is just 2-for-19 (.105) versus Josh Beckett, with three strikeouts and zero extra-base hits or walks, so keep him reserved.
Jason Kubel, OF, Minnesota Twins: Kind of odd putting Kubel here, as he is 2-for-4 with a home run versus Gio Gonzalez, but southpaws have been helpless against Gonzalez this season, hitting .183 and slugging .283. Kubel went deep off Gonzalez last year; he's gone 0-for-2 off him this season. I'd say Gonzalez is a better pitcher this season than in 2009, and Kubel has never been good against lefties, so I'd bench him.
Alfonso Soriano, OF, Chicago Cubs: Jake Westbrook has done a great job of shutting Soriano down in their 16 plate appearances. Just twice has Soriano mustered a hit, and both were singles. He's walked once and struck out twice, leaving him with a paltry .321 OPS in 15 career at-bats against Westbrook.
Paul Konerko, 1B, White Sox: He's 2-for-3 with a home run off Jeremy Bonderman this season, the kind of line you should almost expect when these two meet. In Konerko's career, he's 11-for-36 (.306) with five long balls, adding in five walks and two doubles for good measure.
Injury list: Out
Chipper Jones, 3B, Atlanta Braves (15-day DL, knee, out for season)
Edgar Renteria, SS, San Francisco Giants (15-day DL, biceps)
Injury list: Day-to-day
Ryan Braun, OF, Milwaukee Brewers (wrist; probable)
J.J. Hardy, SS, Minnesota Twins (wrist)
Jason Heyward, OF, Atlanta Braves (knee)
Matt Lindstrom, RP, Houston Astros (back)
Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Chicago Cubs (rib cage)
Shane Victorino, OF, Philadelphia Phillies (abdomen): Victorino was activated from the disabled list Thursday and is expected to cut into much, if not all, of Domonic Brown's playing time.
Weatherproof: Orioles-Rays and Pirates-Astros.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.