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Friday, April 22, 2011
Updated: April 24, 4:49 PM ET
Another fine week for Rockies hitters

By Tristan H. Cockcroft
ESPN.com

Fantasy Forecaster updated April 24 at 10:24 a.m. ET.

Fantasy Forecaster
On tap: It's a week of injury comebacks. In addition to Jason Bay's recent return to the New York Mets (he was activated Thursday), the Milwaukee Brewers should welcome Corey Hart back to their lineup during Week 4. That's big news if you own either outfielder, as they'll both make three-game stops at ballparks that have historically been favorable for them. Bay's Mets make a three-game trip Friday through Sunday to Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park, where Bay is a lifetime .333/.382/.545 (BA/OBP/SLG) hitter in 18 games, and he'll have had up to seven games by then to regain his timing. Hart, meanwhile, should be back in time for a Friday-Sunday series at Houston's Minute Maid Park, which is big news considering he's a .311/.362/.622 hitter in 18 games there since 2008.

In other injury news, the Tampa Bay Rays could get Evan Longoria back in their lineup sometime during Week 4, while the Seattle Mariners should have closer David Aardsma back in time for their six-game road trip to Detroit and Boston.

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 4 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

• While the Mariners should have Aardsma back to occupy the ninth, it's the opposing Detroit Tigers who have the more favorable set of pitching matchups. The Mariners, after all, rank 23rd in the majors in runs per game (3.55) and 28th in team OPS (.635), and couldn't muster much of an attack against any Tigers starter not named Phil Coke (3 2/3 IP, 6 hits, 6 runs). That three-game road set at the Cleveland Indians is the more threatening series, as the Indians are off to a hot start, but don't forget that this Tigers team had a collective 3.79 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and 7.30 K's-per-nine ratio against the Indians in 2010. Coke and Brad Penny are the only two Tigers who aren't automatic, and in Coke's defense, he's a two-start pitcher with both matchups being favorable on paper, and he did have two outstanding starts before his Mariners meltdown, while Penny is coming off a gem in his most recent outing. AL-only and deep-mixed owners should still take a chance on both.

• Entering play Friday, the Los Angeles Angels boasted the Nos. 1 and 2 pitchers on our Player Rater, Jered Weaver and Dan Haren. One week from now, those pitchers might still occupy those spots, being that the Angels' Week 4 schedule is immensely favorable. The opposing Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays rank among the six worst teams in baseball in both runs per game and team OPS (Athletics 3.47 runs per game, .653 OPS; Rays 3.53 runs per game, .662 OPS). Not that you need us to tell you to use Haren and Weaver, but you might be interested to learn that both Tyler Chatwood (Tuesday versus Athletics) and Ervin Santana (Friday at Tampa Bay) get our OK, too. Incidentally, if you're concerned about Santana's former reputation as a poor road pitcher, consider this: He's 25-12 with a 3.67 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 48 road games (47 starts) since 2008. It's a rep that's entirely undeserved.

• Barring an outstanding performance in his 2011 debut Saturday, the Toronto Blue Jays' Brandon Morrow is a pitcher to avoid. The Blue Jays' schedule is treacherous -- they play four games at Texas' Rangers Ballpark and three at New York's Yankee Stadium -- and Morrow didn't impress during a recent rehabilitation stint. He also has a 5.17 ERA and 1.53 WHIP in nine career appearances at Rangers Ballpark. Granted, most of those were in relief, but it's troublesome nonetheless.

• Sticking with the theme of players fresh off the DL, take a look at the Los Angeles Dodgers' Jon Garland as an under-the-radar two-start option. He tossed a complete-game gem versus the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday (4 hits, 1 ER), and makes his first start of the week at Florida's Sun Life Stadium and his second start at home against the light-hitting San Diego Padres (3.16 R/G, .632 team OPS). The Dodgers' entire rotation, in fact, gets the thumbs-up facing those two opponents, as does closer Jonathan Broxton, despite his shaky command thus far. Hong-Chih Kuo's DL status, plus Kenley Jansen's recent struggles, cement Broxton's ninth-inning status, and neither the Marlins nor Padres should give him much trouble.

• Digging really deep, Garland opponent Dustin Moseley, a fellow two-start pitcher, isn't a bad choice in an NL-only league. Moseley's problem has been run support; the Padres have scored just one run as a team in his four starts thus far, each of which was a quality-start effort on his part. The Braves rank 27th in runs per game (3.45) and the Dodgers 28th (3.24), and both rank among the 10 worst in team OPS, so this might be the week Moseley finally notches his first win. And browsing the remainder of the Padres' rotation, hot-starting Aaron Harang is a must against the Braves on Tuesday, while Tim Stauffer, who threw seven shutout innings in his most recent start, warrants a look Saturday at Dodger Stadium.

For more insight into Week 4 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 Baltimore Orioles might have only five stolen-base opportunities all season, but perhaps this week will jump-start them in that department. They face the Boston Red Sox's messy catching duo of Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Jason Varitek, who have allowed a combined 20 stolen bases so far, third most among big league teams. Then they face the Chicago White Sox and weak-armed A.J. Pierzynski; 17 team steals allowed rank the White Sox seventh worst. Brian Roberts and Adam Jones have the speed to exploit favorable matchups. Roberts is 9-for-9 in steals against the Red Sox alone over the past three seasons (2008-10), while Jones has attempted more steals (8) against the Red Sox than any other team during that same time, although only four were successful.

• Speaking of speedy squads, the "run-run" Blue Jays play seven games at nothing but hitter-friendly ballparks -- Texas' Rangers Ballpark and New York's Yankee Stadium -- and get an above-average set of base-stealing matchups to boot (8 rating). It's those steals ratings that maintain our trust in the lighter-hitting Aaron Hill (check the reports on his hamstrings, of course), Corey Patterson and Travis Snider, but the reason you'll invest in Blue Jays is their homer and RBI potential. Stick with hot-starting J.P. Arencibia and Yunel Escobar.

• The Colorado Rockies score the week's only perfect-10 rating, and that's despite only three of their six games being played at Coors Field. A three-game set at Chicago's Wrigley Field isn't much less favorable, especially with both James Russell (Tuesday) and Casey Coleman (Wednesday) set to pitch for the Cubs. Something else to consider: Paul Maholm, the Rockies' Saturday opponent, is 1-5 with a 7.53 ERA and 1.93 WHIP in six career starts at Coors Field. This is a prime week for lesser Rockies to begin padding their stat sheets, including Chris Iannetta, Dexter Fowler, Jose Lopez and Ty Wigginton.

• The San Francisco Giants will make three-game stops at both Pittsburgh's PNC Park and Washington's Nationals Park, facing nothing but middling-to-mediocre starters. The Giants are projected to face five right-handed starters in six games; that's good news for lefty-hitting Giants such as Aubrey Huff and Pablo Sandoval. In Huff's case, perhaps returning to first base following the demotion of Brandon Belt will do him some good. He has two home runs and five RBIs in his past four games, and should further pad his offensive totals in these matchups.

Weather report

Weatherproof games: Cardinals at Astros (3, Tue-Thu); Brewers at Astros (3, Fri-Sun); Reds at Brewers (3, Mon-Wed); Phillies at Diamondbacks (3, Mon-Wed); Cubs at Diamondbacks (4, Thu-Sun); Angels at Rays (3, Fri-Sun).

Tristan's Week 4 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 on a fairly standard rotisserie scoring system, like ESPN's.

1. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Mon-OAK (Gonzalez), Sun-@TB (Davis)
2. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Tue-@DET (Coke), Sun-@BOS (Buchholz)
3. Cliff Lee (PHI) -- Mon-@ARI (Kennedy), Sun-NYM (Young)
4. Matt Cain (SF) -- Tue-@PIT (Morton), Sun-@WAS (Zimmermann)
5. Jaime Garcia (STL) -- Tue-@HOU (Norris), Sun-@ATL (Lowe)
6. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Thu-@PIT (Karstens)
7. Roy Halladay (PHI) -- Sat-NYM (Niese)
8. Dan Haren (LAA) -- Wed-OAK (Ross)
9. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Wed-SEA (Bedard)
10. Josh Johnson (FLA) -- Sat-@CIN (LeCure)
11. Derek Lowe (ATL) -- Mon-@SD (Moseley), Sun-STL (Garcia)
12. David Price (TB) -- Fri-LAA (Santana)
13. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Thu-CHW (Jackson)
14. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Tue-@FLA (Volstad)
15. Chris Carpenter (STL) -- Fri-@ATL (Hudson)
16. Ubaldo Jimenez (COL) -- Sat-PIT (Maholm)
17. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Thu-@BAL (Bergesen)
18. Colby Lewis (TEX) -- Mon-TOR (Drabek), Sat-@OAK (Anderson)
19. Tommy Hanson (ATL) -- Wed-@SD (Latos)
20. Jhoulys Chacin (COL) -- Wed-@CHC (Coleman)
21. Hiroki Kuroda (LAD) -- Sat-SD (Stauffer)
22. Shaun Marcum (MIL) -- Fri-@HOU (Myers)
23. Gio Gonzalez (OAK) -- Mon-@LAA (Weaver), Sun-TEX (Harrison)
24. Mat Latos (SD) -- Wed-ATL (Hanson)
25. Ted Lilly (LAD) -- Fri-SD (Richard)
26. Tim Hudson (ATL) -- Fri-STL (Carpenter)
27. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Wed-@ARI (Saunders)
28. Matt Garza (CHC) -- Mon-COL (Rogers), Sat-@ARI (Kennedy)
29. Trevor Cahill (OAK) -- Fri-TEX (Wilson)
30. Brett Anderson (OAK) -- Sat-TEX (Lewis)
31. Ricky Nolasco (FLA) -- Mon-LAD (Garland), Sun-@CIN (Arroyo)
32. Chad Billingsley (LAD) -- Wed-@FLA (Sanchez)
33. Roy Oswalt (PHI) -- Tue-@ARI (Hudson)
34. Jonathan Sanchez (SF) -- Fri-@WAS (Marquis)
35. Justin Masterson (CLE) -- Tue-KC (Hochevar), Sun-DET (Coke)
36. John Danks (CHW) -- Fri-BAL (Arrieta)
37. Gavin Floyd (CHW) -- Tue-@NYY (Nova), Sun-BAL (Britton)
38. Josh Beckett (BOS) -- Wed-@BAL (Guthrie)
39. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Wed-CIN (Volquez)
40. Jordan Zimmermann (WAS) -- Tue-NYM (Young), Sun-SF (Cain)
41. C.J. Wilson (TEX) -- Fri-@OAK (Cahill)
42. Kyle McClellan (STL) -- Thu-@HOU (Figueroa)
43. Clay Buchholz (BOS) -- Tue-@BAL (Britton), Sun-SEA (Hernandez)
44. Jair Jurrjens (ATL) -- Tue-@SD (Harang)
45. Wade Davis (TB) -- Tue-@MIN (Liriano), Sun-LAA (Weaver)
46. Brett Myers (HOU) -- Fri-MIL (Marcum)
47. Bronson Arroyo (CIN) -- Mon-@MIL (Narveson), Sun-FLA (Nolasco)
48. Alexi Ogando (TEX) -- Thu-TOR (Morrow)
49. Daniel Hudson (ARI) -- Tue-PHI (Oswalt), Sun-CHC (Russell)
50. Tim Stauffer (SD) -- Sat-@LAD (Kuroda)
51. Jon Garland (LAD) -- Mon-@FLA (Nolasco), Sun-SD (Moseley)
52. Brandon McCarthy (OAK) -- Tue-@LAA (Chatwood)
53. Matt Harrison (TEX) -- Tue-TOR (TBD), Sun-@OAK (Gonzalez)
54. Scott Baker (MIN) -- Thu-TB (Hellickson)
55. Francisco Liriano (MIN) -- Tue-TB (Davis), Sun-@KC (Hochevar)
56. Michael Pineda (SEA) -- Thu-@DET (Penny)
57. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Fri-@CLE (Carrasco)
58. Kyle Lohse (STL) -- Wed-@HOU (Happ)
59. Chris Narveson (MIL) -- Mon-CIN (Arroyo), Sun-@HOU (Norris)
60. Anibal Sanchez (FLA) -- Wed-LAD (Billingsley)
61. Dustin Moseley (SD) -- Mon-ATL (Lowe), Sun-@LAD (Garland)
62. Ervin Santana (LAA) -- Fri-@TB (Price)
63. Aaron Harang (SD) -- Tue-ATL (Jurrjens)
64. Derek Holland (TEX) -- Wed-TOR (Reyes)
65. A.J. Burnett (NYY) -- Mon-CHW (Humber), Sat-TOR (Drabek)
66. Wandy Rodriguez (HOU) -- Sat-MIL (Wolf)
67. Brian Duensing (MIN) -- Fri-@KC (Davies)
68. Travis Wood (CIN) -- Fri-FLA (Vazquez)
69. Jorge De La Rosa (COL) -- Tue-@CHC (Russell)
70. Phil Coke (DET) -- Tue-SEA (Hernandez), Sun-@CLE (Masterson)
71. Clayton Richard (SD) -- Fri-@LAD (Lilly)
72. Daisuke Matsuzaka (BOS) -- Fri-SEA (Vargas)
73. Carlos Zambrano (CHC) -- Fri-@ARI (Galarraga)
74. Rick Porcello (DET) -- Sat-@CLE (Gomez)
75. John Lackey (BOS) -- Sat-SEA (Fister)

Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
Zach Britton (BAL) -- Tue-BOS (Buchholz), Sun-@CHW (Floyd)
Kyle Drabek (TOR) -- Mon-@TEX (Lewis), Sat-@NYY (Burnett)
Luke Hochevar (KC) -- Tue-@CLE (Masterson), Sun-MIN (Liriano)
John Lannan (WAS) -- Mon-@PIT (Maholm), Sat-SF (Vogelsong)
Bud Norris (HOU) -- Tue-STL (Garcia), Sun-MIL (Narveson)

No-thank-yous, among two-starts:
Philip Humber (CHW) -- Mon-@NYY (Burnett), Sat-BAL (Tillman)
Ian Kennedy (ARI) -- Mon-PHI (Lee), Sat-CHC (Garza)
Paul Maholm (PIT) -- Mon-WAS (Lannan), Sat-@COL (Jimenez)
Charlie Morton (PIT) -- Tue-SF (Cain), Sun-@COL (Rogers)
Ivan Nova (NYY) -- Tue-CHW (Floyd), Sun-TOR (TBD)
Esmil Rogers (COL) -- Mon-@CHC (Garza), Sun-PIT (Morton)
James Russell (CHC) -- Tue-COL (De La Rosa), Sun-@ARI (Hudson)

One-start sleepers:
Brandon Beachy (ATL) -- Sat-STL (Westbrook)
Tyler Chatwood (LAA) -- Tue-OAK (McCarthy)
Bruce Chen (KC) -- Sat-MIN (Pavano)
Jeff Francis (KC) -- Thu-@CLE (Carmona)
Freddy Garcia (NYY) -- Fri-TOR (Romero)
Jason Hammel (COL) -- Fri-PIT (Correia)
Brad Penny (DET) -- Thu-SEA (Pineda)
Josh Tomlin (CLE) -- Wed-KC (O'Sullivan)

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.