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Sunday, August 22, 2010
Avoid starting Brandon Morrow

By Adam Madison
Special to ESPN.com

Daily Notes

What is the shelf life on that subset of pitchers who have fabulous stuff, racking up a ton of strikeouts yet not a ton of innings? I'm thinking of guys like Rich Harden, Scott Kazmir and, seemingly their heir apparent, Brandon Morrow. At their peaks, Harden and Kazmir were fantasy monsters; now they are fantasy enigmas, guys you wish you could discard but whose former strikeout potential may manipulate your behavior. Is Morrow resigned to a short but intense peak? Just some food for thought before we're off to the races:

For starters

Selected notes:

• It looks like a rough day for pitching Monday, as even the day's top options have mediocre matchups. Matt Cain faces the first-place Reds, Tim Hudson traverses the dangerous Coors Field and Brett Myers goes on the road to face a suddenly healthy Phillies team. You can't help but keep them active, as their track records speak for themselves, but temper expectations.

• Am I crazy for ranking James Shields second? It's open to interpretation, but he looked great in shutting down a good Rangers offense, pitching seven strong innings while allowing just one extra-base hit. I feel like he's ready to get back on track against a solid but unimposing Angels team.

• The Astros started the month off hot but have quickly cooled off, which is what you would expect from a team ranking dead last in the National League in OPS. The adventurous, therefore, might want to consider Joe Blanton, who has been an average performer (4.00 ERA, 1.38 WHIP, 35 strikeouts in 45 innings) since the break. That may not sound very enticing -- and it's not, really, for shallow mixed leagues -- but an average pitcher against a well-below-average offense often results in a tidy little performance for the hurler.

• One of the things you may often hear repeated during a game is that the first thing to go when a pitcher is tired is his command. So we must ask ourselves, is Francisco Liriano, whose walk rate has jumped from 2.5 walks per nine to 4.1 since the break, wearing down? He has pitched 15 more innings than he threw all of last season and he's now walked 12 batters in his past three starts without reaching the seventh inning in any of them! He simply has to be benched against the Rangers as a result.

• Do Brandon Morrow's past two starts sum him up as a player perfectly or what? After dominating the Rays for nine innings, he followed that up with a mediocre four-inning, three-walk, two-run performance against the A's. Don't be too hard on him, though, as the Jays let him throw only 82 pitches, a good idea after his 136-pitch affair versus the Rays. His upside is always tempting, but don't play with fire by throwing him out there versus the Yanks.

Now batting

Hitters' count:

Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Cubs: It's been a home run parade for Ramirez in recent weeks and that trend could very well continue against Livan Hernandez. In just 32 at-bats, the slugger has blasted four homers and three doubles off the right-hander.

Johnny Damon, OF, Tigers: Awfully quiet in August (.221 average), here's hoping a tasty matchup against Bruce Chen (against whom Damon's 10-for-19 with two home runs) provides a kick in the rear.

Gregor Blanco, OF, Royals: With five multihit games in his past eight and the starting center-field job on lock, Blanco is worth a look, especially if you need speed. The Royals have not been shy about giving him the green light, either, as he's nabbed four steals in those eight games.

Brett Gardner, OF, Yankees: Not only is Gardner 3-for-7 with a home run and a triple off Brandon Morrow, he's a threat to run on John Buck, who has thrown out just 27 percent (13-for-48) of attempted thieves.

Pitchers' count:

Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies: The shortstop has nabbed 12 stolen bases in 32 games since the break, but is batting just .239. He's a diminished threat to steal a base against the backstop duo of Jason Castro and Humberto Quintero, however, as the two have combined to throw out 39 percent of would-be thieves this season.

Curtis Granderson, OF, Yankees: Going down on strikes two-thirds of the time won't get it done. Brandon Morrow has struck out Granderson six times in nine at-bats, allowing just one hit, a single.

Franklin Gutierrez, OF, Mariners: Sporting a paltry .286 on-base percentage since the break, things may get worse before they get better. Gutierrez is 0-for-3 versus John Lackey this season, lowering his career average to .143 (2-for-14 with zero extra-base hits) against the right-hander.

Orlando Hudson, 2B, Twins: Harden's stuff has overpowered Hudson in the past, with the second baseman just 2-for-11 (.182) with zero extra-base hits or walks.

Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day

Hideki Matsui, DH, Angels: Godzilla is on fire! He's accumulated 10 hits during a six-game hitting streak (.455), adding in two home runs and a pair of doubles for good measure. James Shields better be careful: Matsui is 8-for-19 (.421) with three dingers and two doubles off him.

Triage

Injury list: Out

Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Red Sox (15-day DL, foot)

Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees (15-day DL, calf)

Injury list: Day-to-day

David Aardsma, RP, Mariners (ribs)
Maicer Izturis, 2B/3B/SS, Angels (shoulder)
Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies (knee)
Colby Rasmus, OF, Cardinals (calf; doubtful): It remains to be seen if Rasmus ends up on the disabled list, but as of Saturday he's unable to run full speed.

Weather concerns

Yankees-Blue Jays is the lone weatherproof affair. Scattered thunderstorms could make their presence felt in Boston and Denver, with high humidity in both cities and the former also dealing with winds up to 18 miles per hour.

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