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Fantasy Forecaster updated Sunday, May 5 at 9:38 p.m. ET.On tap: There is going to be a lot of baseball to make up, and some busy weeks ahead, the way this 2013 schedule is pacing.
Fantasy's Week 6 features an inordinate number of five-game team schedules; there are a whopping five teams scheduled to play only five times, the most in at least three years, and before the Chicago White Sox and Kansas City Royals had a May 3 postponement rescheduled for Monday, there were six teams scheduled to play only five times. All in all, there are 93 games scheduled this week, and while that's more than the 88 played in Week 2 and 90 in Week 3 earlier this year, remember that those shortened schedules were the result of postponements (the initial Weeks 2 and 3 schedules had 93 and 95 games, respectively). This is the lightest planned week in quite some time, and it'd have been even lighter if not for those White Sox-Royals and Texas Rangers at Chicago Cubs makeup games on Monday. The White Sox, Rangers and Cubs were initially scheduled for five games apiece, and now they each play six.
What does this mean to fantasy owners? Simple: Volume is a strategy, at least on the hitting side. There's little doubt that any of the six American League teams, or four National League squads, scheduled to play seven times have an advantage over the three AL and three NL teams to play just five games. That's especially true for a team like the Tampa Bay Rays, the only team to play seven games all in weatherproof environments, and all of their games are at home.
On the pitching side, however, quality still reigns supreme. As you'll see below, there are only 20 two-start pitchers in my top 75 rankings, and only five of the top 25 starting pitchers on our Player Rater are among this week's dual starters. Three of the preseason's top 25 starters, meanwhile, start twice this week.
Returning to the topic of interleague play, Week 6 is the busiest such week thus far in 2013, and that partly explains the light schedule: There are four interleague series of two games apiece -- each of them scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday -- and five of the eight teams involved get those five-game schedules.
This is a week of injury recoveries: The Atlanta Braves expect to get Brian McCann (shoulder surgery) back in time for Monday's series opener in Cincinnati, televised on ESPN's Monday Night Baseball. Meanwhile, third basemen Aramis Ramirez and Ryan Zimmerman are expected to be healthy again and able to play their first full weeks since activation. One thing of note: Both the Milwaukee Brewers and Washington Nationals are scheduled for five-game weeks.
Quick click by section, if you're seeking advice in a specific area:
ESPN lineup deadlines | Interleague impact | Projected starting pitchers
Pitching scuttlebutt | Week 6 pitcher rankings | Pitching advantages
Hitting ratings | Hitting advantages
The White Sox-Royals makeup game gives fantasy's Week 6 a surprise early start: That game's first pitch is scheduled for 2:10 p.m. ET. There is nothing but night games on two days this week: Monday, Wednesday and Friday (7:05 p.m. ET first pitches on the latter two days). There are especially early games on both Wednesday and Thursday. Wednesday's first game begins at 12:35 p.m. ET, Thursday's first game is at 12:05 p.m. ET.
This week's interleague series:
Texas Rangers at Chicago Cubs (1 game -- makeup date -- Monday)
Chicago White Sox at New York Mets (2 games, Tuesday-Wednesday)
Detroit Tigers at Washington Nationals (2 games, Tuesday-Wednesday)
Seattle Mariners at Pittsburgh Pirates (2 games, Tuesday-Wednesday)
Texas Rangers at Milwaukee Brewers (2 games, Tuesday-Wednesday)
New York Yankees at Colorado Rockies (3 games, Tuesday-Thursday)
San Diego Padres at Tampa Bay Rays (3 games, Friday-Sunday)
Five-game weeks for the White Sox and Tigers specifically are awful news for their designated hitters, Adam Dunn and Victor Martinez. While either could sneak in a start at first base -- Dunn's advantage is that the opposing Mets are throwing two right-handed starters -- there's a very real possibility that these two might start only three times all week (those weekend series), while having only two other contests in which to pinch-hit. Mariners DH Kendrys Morales is somewhat in the same boat; but he's much more likely to get both starts at first base over Justin Smoak. A three-start week is quite a quantitative disadvantage for a hitter.
Meanwhile, the six-game Rangers schedule hardly benefits their DH, Lance Berkman. Expect him to sit all three Rangers interleague games, making him the same three-start, three-pinch-hit hitter as the names above, as he has yet to play a single one of his 23 games in the field.
The Padres used Carlos Quentin as their DH in five of their six games in American League parks in 2012, and they're likely to do the same in Tampa Bay this week, opening up an outfield spot for Alexi Amarista, Kyle Blanks or Jesus Guzman. Considering the Rays are starting only right-handers in those games, Amarista might most benefit; he could play center field with Will Venable in right, leaving left field open to any of Blanks, Guzman or Chris Denorfia.
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.
|Anibal Sanchez ranks 10th among all pitchers on the ESPN Player Rater.|
• Anibal Sanchez's mastery of the Washington Nationals is nothing short of extraordinary. The ex-Miami Marlins hurler has four consecutive quality starts at Washington's Nationals Park (0.92 ERA), and he has five wins, seven quality starts, a 1.24 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and 25.8 percent strikeout rate in 10 starts against them since the beginning of 2010. It's good to face the Nationals, too, considering they're hitting .214/.269/.323 in their past 10 games (April 23-May 2).
• Among this week's more intriguing two-start pitchers is Trevor Cahill, who has three wins, five quality starts, a 2.31 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 3.44 strikeout-to-walk ratio in six games against the Los Angeles Dodgers since the beginning of last season. That includes, incidentally, 7 1/3 innings of shutout ball on April 14. Plus, considering Cahill has a 2.61 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in five starts at Arizona's Chase Field this season, even his second start (PHI, Sunday) is a worthwhile matchup.
• Lance Lynn is off to another outstanding start, with a 5-0 record and 2.75 ERA in his first six games after he posted a 6-0 record and 1.40 ERA in his first six games in 2012. He'll look to rebound from his poor July 27, 2012, start at Chicago's Wrigley Field (5 IP, 8 H, 6 ER), though in his defense, he's 4-0 with a 2.73 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in five career games (four starts) versus the Chicago Cubs despite the inclusion of that poor outing in those stats. Expect another solid outing.
• Though Hiroki Kuroda is reasonably ranked for the week, be aware that his matchups this week don't come without any risk. His first start is Tuesday at Colorado's Coors Field, where he has a 6.85 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in four career starts, though at least current Colorado Rockies are a combined .261/.313/.420 against him, meaning some of the players responsible for his poor ratios at Coors are now off the roster. If not for the Coors matchup -- let's say that game was at Yankee Stadium -- Kuroda would rank closer to 12th than 27th.
• That seven-game schedule is a plus for two-start pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, historically a better pitcher at Tropicana Field than in his road games. He has 25 quality starts, a 2.87 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 38 career games (36 of them starts) at The Trop, and he tossed seven shutout innings of three-hit baseball in his last turn there (April 20). He also has a 2.89 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in six career starts versus the Toronto Blue Jays, in case that assignment in particular concerns you.
• Here are this week's Streamer's Delight picks. Note that players need to be available in at least 75 percent of ESPN leagues as of our publishing time (Fridays) to be included here:
1. Chris Tillman (KC, Wednesday): His is a streak worth riding; he has three straight quality starts with a 1.31 ERA and 1.02 WHIP.
2. Andrew Cashner (MIA, Monday): The Marlins have by far the worst team OPS against fastballs (.617), and Cashner's heater averages 95.2 mph.
3. Ricky Nolasco (@SD, Wednesday): Every single one of his five career starts at Petco Park were quality starts; he has a 2.27 ERA there.
4. Jason Vargas (@HOU, Thursday): He has back-to-back quality starts and the Houston Astros have averaged 3.75 runs and 10.9 K's in their past eight games.
5. Roberto Hernandez (SD, Sunday): He has shown massive improvement with his command this season (3.00 K/BB, up from 1.55 previously in his career), and he'll be facing a San Diego Padres team with a .659 OPS on the road.
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.
• Here are this week's "volume plays," which are defined as the teams that play the most home games, or games against right- or left-handed starters:
7 home games: Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, San Francisco Giants
Versus RH: Cleveland Indians 6, Atlanta Braves 6
Versus LH: Boston Red Sox 4, Tampa Bay Rays 4, Arizona Diamondbacks 4, New York Mets 4.
• If his scheduled Monday return remains on track, Brian McCann is picking the perfect day to return: He's a lifetime .500/.625/1.167 hitter with four home runs against Cincinnati Reds right-hander Bronson Arroyo, including two home runs in his past four plate appearances against Arroyo. The problem, however, is that McCann's return gives the Braves three catchers -- the defensive minded Gerald Laird and power-hitting Evan Gattis are the other two -- and McCann might be worked in slowly, sitting between two and four of the week's games. Owners in leagues with daily transactions can activate McCann for the Arroyo matchup, as well as any others for which you see his name in the early lineup. In weekly leagues, however, his value is more limited, though the Braves' six scheduled games against right-handed starters at least make him a viable No. 2 catcher in those 12-teams-or-more formats.
Gattis, meanwhile, might suffer as a result of McCann's return, as well as the six-righty-starters schedule. Gattis is a .222/.279/.444 hitter against right-handers thus far, so his value is likely limited to NL-only leagues, or as a No. 2 option in 12-teams-or-more mixed leagues, upon McCann's activation.
• Though the Reds' overall Week 6 schedule isn't especially favorable for their hitters -- not to mention that the Braves are throwing two left-handed starters in their week-opening three-game series -- their three-game weekend series against the Milwaukee Brewers is a plus for slow-starting Jay Bruce. Bruce is a combined .419 hitter (18-for-43) with six home runs in his career against Brewers right-handers Yovani Gallardo (Friday) and Marco Estrada (Saturday).
• Those going the "volume" route on the hitting side might want to consider right-handed Rays hitters. Players like Yunel Escobar (.296 AVG, 2 HR against lefties), Ryan Roberts (.370/.393/.630) and Sean Rodriguez (.318/.423/.591). Both Roberts and Rodriguez have started all eight Rays games against left-handed starters, and Escobar has started seven of eight.