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Fantasy Forecaster updated Sunday, Sept. 9 at 3:27 p.m. ET.
On tap: Root, root, root for the pennant races. In fantasy baseball, there's nothing better than owning players from teams that remain in the playoff hunt. We want motivation. It means players playing hard, regulars remaining regulars and a maximum of at-bats and innings, which are what count right now.
To that end, Week 22 is chock full of playoff-relevant series, particularly in the American League. Five of the 14 AL series involve teams no worse than 3½ games out of a wild-card spot, with the Baltimore Orioles (TB-3, @OAK-3), Oakland Athletics (@LAA-4, BAL-3) and Tampa Bay Rays (@BAL-3, @NYY-3) playing nothing but contending competition this week. There's also a critical AL Central showdown in Chicago, as the Chicago White Sox, up by a game in the division (through Sept. 6), host the Detroit Tigers for four games.
A rising number of six-man rotations will continue to frustrate fantasy owners seeking volume of innings and two-start candidates, and as you'll see below, this is an unfortunately poor week in terms of quality two start options. Five teams will start six pitchers in Week 22: the Houston Astros, Miami Marlins, Minnesota Twins, New York Mets and San Diego Padres. The Cleveland Indians might do the same, depending on the health of Roberto Hernandez. The Seattle Mariners might go six deep as they find available assignments for Hector Noesi and Erasmo Ramirez (starting Tuesday). A curious case to watch (and we will with our weekend Forecaster update): Mets knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, two wins away from 20 for the season, who has been starting every fifth game but could be shuffled in order to work twice this week.
This is the second and final week of Round 1 of ESPN's standard leagues' head-to-head playoffs, with the winners at the conclusion of Sept. 16's games matched up to compete for their leagues' championships in the final two scoring periods (Weeks 23-24, Sept. 17-Oct. 3, plus any necessary Oct. 4 tiebreakers).
There is a late lineup deadline Monday despite one weekend wrap-around game -- the Monday finale of the Indians at Twins series has an 8:10 p.m. ET start time -- meaning a 7:05 p.m. ET first pitch in Week 22 (Marlins at Philadelphia Phillies). Here are the scheduled start times of the first games each day:
Quick click by section, if you're seeking advice in a specific area:
Projected starting pitchers | Week 22 pitcher rankings | Pitching notes
Streamer's delight | Hitting ratings | Hitting notes
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 at least twice this week are in gold/beige boxes.
1. Gio Gonzalez (WAS) -- Mon-@NYM (McHugh), Sun-@ATL (Minor)
2. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Sat-STL (Garcia)
3. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Thu-@TOR (Alvarez)
4. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Thu-@CHW (Sale)
5. Roy Halladay (PHI) -- Tue-MIA (Eovaldi), Sun-@HOU (Keuchel)
6. Mat Latos (CIN) -- Mon-PIT (Rodriguez), Sun-@MIA (Nolasco)
7. Cliff Lee (PHI) -- Wed-MIA (Johnson)
8. R.A. Dickey (NYM) -- Tue-WAS (Zimmermann)
9. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Fri-TB (Price)
10. Hiroki Kuroda (NYY) -- Tue-@BOS (Lester), Sun-TB (Moore)
11. Kris Medlen (ATL) -- Fri-WAS (Detwiler)
12. Brandon Morrow (TOR) -- Tue-SEA (Ramirez), Sun-BOS (Lester)
13. Dan Haren (LAA) -- Mon-OAK (Parker), Sat-@KC (Guthrie)
14. Johnny Cueto (CIN) -- Sat-@MIA (Buehrle)
15. Doug Fister (DET) -- Tue-@CHW (Peavy), Sun-@CLE (Jimenez)
16. Matt Cain (SF) -- Fri-@ARI (Skaggs)
17. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Fri-@HOU (Norris)
18. Adam Wainwright (STL) -- Tue-@SD (Volquez), Sun-@LAD (Blanton)
19. Zack Greinke (LAA) -- Fri-@KC (Chen)
20. Brett Anderson (OAK) -- Thu-@LAA (Wilson)
21. Jake Peavy (CHW) -- Tue-DET (Fister), Sun-@MIN (Deduno)
22. Matt Moore (TB) -- Tue-@BAL (Gonzalez), Sun-@NYY (Kuroda)
23. Yu Darvish (TEX) -- Fri-SEA (Iwakuma)
24. Ryan Dempster (TEX) -- Wed-CLE (Gomez)
25. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Tue-NYY (Kuroda), Sun-@TOR (Morrow)
26. James Shields (TB) -- Sat-@NYY (Garcia)
27. Josh Johnson (MIA) -- Wed-@PHI (Lee)
28. Matt Harrison (TEX) -- Tue-CLE (Jimenez), Sun-SEA (TBD)
29. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Wed-@CHW (Liriano)
30. David Price (TB) -- Fri-@NYY (Sabathia)
31. Wandy Rodriguez (PIT) -- Mon-@CIN (Latos), Sun-@CHC (Volstad)
32. Jaime Garcia (STL) -- Mon-@SD (Stults), Sat-@LAD (Kershaw)
33. Mike Minor (ATL) -- Mon-@MIL (Peralta), Sun-WAS (Gonzalez)
34. Wade Miley (ARI) -- Sat-SF (Zito)
35. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Wed-ATL (Maholm)
36. Tim Hudson (ATL) -- Tue-@MIL (Estrada)
37. Edwin Jackson (WAS) -- Sat-@ATL (Hanson)
38. Madison Bumgarner (SF) -- Tue-@COL (Chacin)
39. Jarrod Parker (OAK) -- Mon-@LAA (Haren), Sat-BAL (Britton)
40. Chris Sale (CHW) -- Thu-DET (Verlander)
41. Zach Britton (BAL) -- Sat-@OAK (Parker)
42. C.J. Wilson (LAA) -- Thu-OAK (Anderson)
43. Ian Kennedy (ARI) -- Tue-LAD (Blanton)
44. Hisashi Iwakuma (SEA) -- Fri-@TEX (Darvish)
45. Clay Buchholz (BOS) -- Sat-@TOR (Laffey)
46. Kyle Lohse (STL) -- Wed-@SD (Richard)
47. Mike Fiers (MIL) -- Fri-NYM (Niese)
48. Marco Estrada (MIL) -- Tue-ATL (Hudson)
49. Shaun Marcum (MIL) -- Sat-NYM (Hefner)
50. Ross Detwiler (WAS) -- Fri-@ATL (Medlen)
51. Wei-Yin Chen (BAL) -- Thu-TB (Hellickson)
52. Anibal Sanchez (DET) -- Fri-@CLE (Kluber)
53. Kyle Kendrick (PHI) -- Mon-MIA (LeBlanc), Sat-@HOU (Gonzalez)
54. Derek Holland (TEX) -- Thu-CLE (McAllister)
55. Jordan Zimmermann (WAS) -- Tue-@NYM (Dickey)
56. Trevor Cahill (ARI) -- Wed-LAD (Harang)
57. Jeremy Hellickson (TB) -- Thu-@BAL (Chen)
58. Carlos Villanueva (TOR) -- Fri-BOS (Matsuzaka)
59. Ryan Vogelsong (SF) -- Mon-@COL (White), Sun-@ARI (Corbin)
60. Ervin Santana (LAA) -- Wed-OAK (Griffin)
61. Josh Beckett (LAD) -- Thu-STL (TBD)
62. Homer Bailey (CIN) -- Wed-PIT (Burnett)
63. Bud Norris (HOU) -- Fri-PHI (Hamels)
64. Lucas Harrell (HOU) -- Thu-PHI (TBD)
65. Jonathon Niese (NYM) -- Fri-@MIL (Fiers)
66. Bronson Arroyo (CIN) -- Fri-@MIA (Turner)
67. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Wed-@COL (Francis)
68. A.J. Burnett (PIT) -- Wed-@CIN (Bailey)
69. Ricky Nolasco (MIA) -- Sun-CIN (Latos)
70. Eric Stults (SD) -- Mon-STL (Garcia)
71. A.J. Griffin (OAK) -- Wed-@LAA (Santana)
72. Jhoulys Chacin (COL) -- Tue-SF (Bumgarner)
73. Tommy Hanson (ATL) -- Sat-WAS (Jackson)
74. Phil Hughes (NYY) -- Thu-@BOS (Doubront)
75. Alex Cobb (TB) -- Wed-@BAL (Hammel)
Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
Samuel Deduno (MIN) -- Mon-CLE (Masterson), Sun-CHW (Peavy)
Miguel Gonzalez (BAL) -- Tue-TB (Moore), Sun-@OAK (Straily)
Justin Masterson (CLE) -- Mon-@MIN (Deduno), Sat-DET (Porcello)
Wily Peralta (MIL) -- Mon-ATL (Minor), Sun-NYM (Young)
Rick Porcello (DET) -- Mon-@CHW (Quintana), Sat-@CLE (Masterson)
Jose Quintana (CHW) -- Mon-DET (Porcello), Sat-@MIN (Vasquez)
Dan Straily (OAK) -- Tue-@LAA (TBD), Sun-BAL (Gonzalez)
Chris Volstad (CHC) -- Mon-@HOU (Keuchel), Sun-PIT (Rodriguez)
No-thank-yous, among two-start pitchers:
Joe Blanton (LAD) -- Tue-@ARI (Kennedy), Sun-STL (Wainwright)
Luke Hochevar (KC) -- Tue-@MIN (Diamond), Sun-LAA (TBD)
Ubaldo Jimenez (CLE) -- Tue-@TEX (Harrison), Sun-DET (Fister)
Dallas Keuchel (HOU) -- Mon-CHC (Volstad), Sun-PHI (Halladay)
Alex White (COL) -- Mon-SF (Vogelsong), Sun-@SD (Werner)
• Hey, remember those Phillies? You know, that team that was supposed to make a run at a sixth consecutive National League East title, and perhaps more? I haven't, and you shouldn't either, not with them so far and away my Baseball Challenge pitching staff pick of Week 22. The Phillies, since Aug. 1, have the majors' seventh-most wins (20), fifth-best ERA (3.32) and fifth-most strikeouts (281) as a team, and in their past 23 games, they have 19 quality starts and a 2.93 starters' ERA. They'll also play three games against a Marlins team that has averaged 3.58 runs per game with .249/.307/.372 rates since the All-Star break and four at the Astros, which have averaged 2.98 runs with .225/.289/.349 rates during that span. For fantasy owners seeking individual gems from the Phillies' starting five, take a look at Kyle Kendrick, who has five consecutive quality starts and works twice this week, and Tyler Cloyd, who has begun his big league career with back-to-back quality starts and could get a weekend assignment at Houston. Among other recommended BBC pitching staffs: Texas Rangers (CLE-3, SEA-3), Orioles (TB-3, @OAK-3), Cincinnati Reds (PIT-3, @MIA-3), St. Louis Cardinals (@SD-3, @LAD-3).
The following visiting pitchers are scheduled for starts at Colorado's Coors Field, No. 1 in runs scored on our Park Factor page and home to the Colorado Rockies, baseball's No. 1 team in terms of runs scored per game and OPS in home games:
• Ryan Vogelsong (Monday): 2 career GS at Coors, 4.63 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 0 QS. Sit. A shaky recent run limits him to merely NL-only consideration.
• Madison Bumgarner (Tuesday): 5 career GS at Coors, 2.59 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 4 QS. Start. He is in a mini-funk but is still too talented to sit.
• Tim Lincecum (Wednesday): 12 career GS at Coors, 4.08 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 7 QS. Sit. That Coors WHIP, plus his declining strikeout rate (8.6 per nine since the All-Star break), makes him a risky play except in NL-only leagues.
The following visiting pitchers are scheduled for starts at San Diego's Petco Park, No. 27 in runs scored on our Park Factor page and home to the Padres, No. 29 in terms of runs scored per game and OPS in home games:
• Jaime Garcia (Monday): 1 career GS at Petco (May 26, 2010), 6 IP, 3 H, 0 ER. Start. Since his return, he has pitched two gems at home, Busch Stadium being another pitching-friendly venue, and his two so-so outings were on the road against tougher matchups than this.
• Adam Wainwright (Tuesday): 1 career GS at Petco (May 25, 2010), 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 12 K's. Start. Is he tiring, coming off back-to-back stinkers? Perhaps, but he deserves one more chance facing a Petco matchup.
• Kyle Lohse (Wednesday): 3 career GS at Petco, 3.93 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 1 QS. Start. He is effectively a no-brainer at this point.
• Tyler Chatwood (Friday): Has never pitched at Petco. Sit. He has a 1.72 WHIP this season. Enough said.
• Drew Pomeranz (Saturday): 2 career GS at Petco, 15.00 ERA, 2.83 WHIP. Sit. Unless you own him in an NL-only league, his inability to consistently pitch five-plus innings limits his value.
• Alex White (Sunday): 2 career GS at Petco, 4.76 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 1 QS. Sit. He has averaged 3.95 innings with 18 K's compared to 20 walks in his past seven starts combined.
There are no games scheduled this week at Seattle's Safeco Field, No. 30 in runs scored on our Park Factor page and home to the Seattle Mariners, baseball's worst team in terms of runs scored per game and OPS in home games.
• One of the reasons the Orioles remain in the race this deep into the season is surprisingly productive starting pitching. Their starters have 16 wins, 19 quality starts, a 3.69 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in their past 31 games and nine quality starts and a 2.58 ERA in their past 13 games. Take a look at the matchups of Jason Hammel (Wednesday, TB) and Zach Britton (Saturday, @OAK), both of whom are available in more than 65 percent of ESPN leagues. Britton has four consecutive quality starts with a 0.94 ERA and 29 K's, which came during a somewhat challenging portion of his schedule (@DET, TOR, CHW, @TOR), while Hammel limited the New York Yankees to one run on six hits in five innings in his first start back from the disabled list on Sept. 6.
• Consider Rangers pitchers as outstanding choices this week as well, what with the two opponents they'll be hosting at Rangers Ballpark, the Indians and Mariners, averaging 3.48 runs per game with .234/.298/.360 rates combined since the All-Star break. Matt Harrison (Sunday, SEA, to go along with Tuesday, CLE) has nine wins, 10 quality starts and a 2.25 ERA in 16 career games (12 starts) against the Mariners. Ryan Dempster (Wednesday, CLE) has four consecutive quality starts and a 9.69 K's per nine innings ratio since his rocky first three turns for the Rangers. Yu Darvish (Friday, SEA) is their only starter with a troubling track record in his matchup. He has a 9.00 ERA and 2.13 WHIP in three starts against the Mariners.
• Who has the advantage in Tigers-White Sox matchups? History says the Tigers. The White Sox haven't won a season series since 2008, and they won't this year either. Jake Peavy (Tuesday, also starts Sunday @MIN) is the only one of the four White Sox scheduled to pitch in the series who has a quality start against the Tigers this season, and he is 2-for-5 with a 5.79 ERA in those matchups. As for the Tigers, Max Scherzer (Wednesday) has 10 quality starts and a 2.58 ERA in 12 career starts against the White Sox, while Rick Porcello (Monday, also starts Saturday @CLE) has six consecutive quality starts against the White Sox and a 1.23 ERA this season.
• Stephen Strasburg has been officially shut down for the season, locking in Gio Gonzalez as a top-shelf two-start pitcher. John Lannan will assume Strasburg's rotation spot, beginning Wednesday at New York.
Among streaming starters -- something I define as single-start options in daily leagues among pitchers owned in 25 percent of ESPN leagues or fewer -- for Week 22, here are my picks by day:
Monday, Sept. 10: Eric Stults versus the Cardinals
Tuesday, Sept. 11: Jhoulys Chacin versus the San Francisco Giants
Wednesday, Sept. 12: Trevor Cahill versus the Los Angeles Dodgers
Thursday, Sept. 13: Lucas Harrell versus the Philadelphia Phillies
Friday, Sept. 14: Andrew Cashner versus the Colorado Rockies
Saturday, Sept. 15: Rick Porcello at the Indians
Sunday, Sept. 16: Miguel Gonzalez at the Oakland Athletics
Friday, Aug. 31: Mike Leake -- W, QS, 6 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 2 BBs, 6 K's
Saturday, Sept. 1: Luke Hochevar -- 1 2/3 IP, 6 H, 8 ER, 4 BBs, 3 K's
Sunday, Sept. 2: David Phelps -- 4 2/3 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 6 BBs, 3 K's (pitched Sept. 1)
Monday, Sept. 3: Ricky Nolasco -- W, QS, 7 IP, 9 H, 1 ER, 0 BBs, 4 K's
Tuesday, Sept. 4: Rick Porcello -- 5 2/3 IP, 8 H, 3 ER, 2 BBs, 2 K's
Wednesday, Sept. 5: Aaron Harang -- 5 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 3 BBs, 1 K
Thursday, Sept. 6: Marco Estrada -- 5 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 0 BBs, 5 K's
Week's total: 7 GS, 2 W (28.6%), 2 QS (28.6%), 35 IP, 47 H, 23 ER, 17 BBs, 24 K's, 5.91 ERA, 1.83 WHIP
Season total: 142 GS, 62 W (43.7%), 74 QS (52.1%), 851 1/3 IP, 830 H, 369 ER, 279 BBs, 625 K's, 3.90 ERA, 1.30 WHIP
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 for left- and right-handed hitters and base stealing. Matchup ratings for each individual game are listed under the corresponding date.
• Along with the Phillies' pitching matchups, their hitting ratings are also healthy. They have several lesser-known individuals performing at a high level: John Mayberry Jr. is a .301/.355/.513 hitter with six home runs and 15 RBIs in 32 games since Aug. 1; Erik Kratz is a .270/.327/.528 hitter with six homers and 18 RBIs in 27 games during that span; and Kevin Frandsen is a .331 hitter with 17 runs scored in 32 games in that time. Pay particular attention to their left-handed hitter and stolen base ratings, which are great news for a player like Juan Pierre, who has started 14 of the team's past 18 games against right-handed starters and has seven steals in his past 28 contests.
• Remember when Target Field was an extreme pitchers' park? No longer, as after back-to-back seasons in 2010 and 2011 in which it leaned toward the pitching side, the venue ranks 10th on our Park Factor page in terms of runs scored (1.047, where anything over 1.000 leans toward hitters) and 17th in home runs (0.997) this season. Twins hitters have performed better than you might have expected. Since the All-Star break, they have averaged 5.22 runs with .288/.344/.421 rates at home. Their rating this week reflects this, and it's also influenced by facing nothing but bad Kansas City Royals pitching and the back end of the White Sox's staff. Josh Willingham has .305/.410/.637 rates, 20 home runs and 56 RBIs in 62 home games, Joe Mauer is a .332 hitter in 64 games, Ben Revere is a .320 hitter with 16 stolen bases in 46 games, and Ryan Doumit is a .273/.329/.443 hitter with 32 RBIs in 56 games. And here's a deep-league gem: Recent call-up Chris Parmelee has started eight consecutive Twins games, and he is a .406/.441/.781 hitter with three homers and eight RBIs in those contests.