Fantasy Forecaster updated Sunday, May 29 at 11:11 a.m. ET.
On tap: How about those Cleveland Indians? They're the American League's top team in terms of overall record (30-17, through May 26) and winning percentage at home (19-6, .760), and have swept five of their eight home series of three games or more. But they're coming off an embarrassing, 14-2 loss to the Boston Red Sox at Progressive Field on May 26, and face another challenge when the AL West-leading Texas Rangers visit for a four-game series Thursday-Sunday. It's series like these that test the Indians' mettle; success against the Rangers might cement their contender status or a poor performance against the suddenly healthy Rangers offense might signal the end of the magic.
Speaking of tests, the Los Angeles Angels' pair of fantasy aces, Dan Haren (third among starting pitchers on our Player Rater) and Jered Weaver (fourth), each make weekend starts versus the visiting New York Yankees. Interestingly enough, despite their lofty rankings, Haren hasn't recorded a win since April 17, Weaver since April 25. Of course, Haren has a 2.92 ERA during his seven-start non-win streak, Weaver 4.35 during his five-start string. Wins aren't everything!
Over in the National League, two of the five best staffs in terms of ERA square off in a four-game series at St. Louis, as the San Francisco Giants (3.22 team ERA, third in NL) and St. Louis Cardinals (3.36, fifth) should engage in a series in which pitchers are in the spotlight. Four of the top 50 starting pitchers on our Player Rater -- Tim Lincecum (10th), Jaime Garcia (11th), Kyle McClellan (38th) and Ryan Vogelsong (41st) -- are scheduled to pitch during the series.
The Atlanta Braves expect to get Tim Hudson (back stiffness) back in their rotation on Monday versus the San Diego Padres, setting him up for a two-start week with a pair of phenomenal-on-paper matchups (Sunday at New York Mets is the other). It's quite the risk/reward conundrum for fantasy owners. On one hand, despite his miserable May 20 outing (3⅔ IP, 7 H, 8 ER), Hudson still has a 1.12 WHIP for the season and was an every-start option before getting hurt. On the other, the back issue probably directly contributed to that dreadful statistical performance and we have no idea what kind of short-term effect it might have.
Reminder: For those of you in weekly-transactions leagues, there are day games to begin Week 9 on Monday, Memorial Day. First pitch Monday is 1:05 p.m. ET. Here are this week's other scheduled first pitches by day: Tuesday 6:40 p.m. ET, Wednesday 1:05 p.m. ET, Thursday 1:10 p.m. ET, Friday 7:05 p.m. ET, Saturday 4:10 p.m. ET, Sunday 1:05 p.m. ET.
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 gray/beige boxes.
P: The starting pitcher's matchup rating, which accounts for past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days), opponent and ballpark. Ratings range from 1-10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst.
• There's talk that the Chicago White Sox might soon ditch their six-man rotation, with "No. 6" Philip Humber rumored the most likely man out. That puts their starting assignments in flux for Week 9 and, coupled with a three-game road series against the Boston Red Sox, means the White Sox's pitching matchups overall look especially poor. The Red Sox are baseball's hottest-hitting team, leading the majors in all of the "triple-slash" rate categories in May with .298/.360/.481 numbers, and have averaged 6.77 runs per game with .310/.378/.513 rates during an 11-2 hot streak from May 13-26. In addition, the Detroit Tigers, the White Sox's weekend opponent, batted .350 and scored 21 runs as a team in a three-game sweep of the teams' head-to-head series April 22-24. Something the White Sox might want to consider: If they drop Humber from their rotation and pitch Mark Buehrle at Fenway on Wednesday, they'll be chancing a guy who hasn't won in three straight Fenway starts, his ERA 8.20 there during that span.
Of course, Gavin Floyd, scheduled for Tuesday at Fenway, is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in three career starts there. So it's not all bad.
• Still doubt the Seattle Mariners' rotation? Bullpen problems or not -- their 3.96 team relief ERA ranks 22nd in the majors -- the Mariners' rotation has excelled, its 3.14 ERA the second-best mark in the game. It's not entirely a Safeco Field thing; their home ERA is 3.68 and road ERA 3.09. The Mariners are also on a monstrous starting-pitching hot streak: In 21 May games, their rotation has 15 quality starts, a 2.39 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 8.04 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio. Erik Bedard, available in 45.6 percent of ESPN leagues (as of May 27), is your Week 9 standout: He has the motivation of a matchup with his former team, the Baltimore Orioles, on Tuesday, and hasn't allowed a run in either of his past two starts.
• St. Louis Cardinals at home, St. Louis Cardinals at home, St. Louis Cardinals at home. I can't stress those matchups enough; this team has the second-lowest home ERA in the majors (2.80), and since Busch Stadium opened in 2006, the Cardinals' home ERA (3.65) is third best. And check out the career ERA/WHIPs of their individual five starters at Busch: Chris Carpenter 2.48 and 1.06 (54 starts), Jaime Garcia 1.74 and 1.07 (24 G's, 19 GS), Kyle Lohse 3.60 and 1.21 (48 starts), Kyle McClellan 2.92 and 1.10 (102 G's, 4 GS), Jake Westbrook 3.93 and 1.24 (11 starts). Those five are also riding a 10-start streak during which time they have nine quality starts, a 1.62 ERA and 0.88 WHIP. Load up.
• Pick and choose your Houston Astros matchups, but there are four awfully good weekend ones: That four-game set at San Diego's Petco Park. Petco starts -- especially for opponents -- are pretty much automatic this season; in 29 games, visiting starters have 23 quality starts, a 16-4 record, 1.89 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 8.54 K's-per-nine ratio. In other words, this the perfect week for the big-league debut of Jordan Lyles, who had a 3.20 ERA and 1.24 WHIP in 10 starts for Triple-A Oklahoma City, and as you'll see below, he's a recommended two-start pitcher option in deeper leagues. In addition, the other three pitchers scheduled to start at Petco -- Bud Norris, J.A. Happ and Aneury Rodriguez -- might have small career samples at Petco, but they also have combined for a 3.89 ERA and 1.31 WHIP in 16 starts in the month of May. Brett Myers, whose only start of the week comes Wednesday at Chicago's Wrigley Field, is the Astro to avoid.
For more insight into Week 9 pitching matchups, see my rankings for the top 75 starting pitchers, as well as every two-start pitcher, at column's end.
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.
Some of the data used to generate this chart is derived from Baseball Musings' Day-by-day database.
H: Hitters' matchup rating, which accounts for the opposing starting pitcher's past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days) as well as ballpark factors. L: Hitters' matchup rating accounting only for left-handed hitters. R: Hitters' matchup rating accounting for only right-handed hitters. S: Base stealing matchup rating, which accounts for the opponent's catchers' ability to gun down opposing base stealers. Ratings range from 1-10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst.
• Though I've listed the Athletics' pitching matchups as "also unfavorable," and offered cause for concern with those Angels fantasy aces, above, pressed to pick, I'm sticking by the Athletics and Angels' pitchers getting the upper hand on the vaunted Yankees lineup. Yankees hitters might struggle as they complete their nine-game, West Coast swing this week, as in addition to Haren and Weaver, they'll also have to battle Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez and Ervin Santana. There is not a breather here. That's not to say you should sit guys like Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Alex Rodriguez or Mark Teixeira. But sluggish starters like Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Nick Swisher? That's another story.
• Get this: Minnesota Twins hitters are actually fantasy-worthy this week! Keep in mind that perfect-10 rating is a mere measure of matchups; in no way does it take into account the strength of the team's individual hitters. Matchups-only, remember that. That in mind, the Twins do have two players who have picked up the pace in May: Michael Cuddyer (.324/.387/.441 rates in 18 games) and Denard Span (.291 AVG, 12 R in 22 G). A couple of other useful nuggets: Danny Valencia is a .400/.462/.629 hitter in nine career games at Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium, where the Twins visit for a four-game weekend series; while Jason Kubel is a .299/.377/.417 lifetime hitter in 37 games at Detroit's Comerica Park, where the Twins begin their week with a three-game set.
• Don't be surprised to see the Arizona Diamondbacks generously rated, being that this has historically been a team far more productive with the bat in home than road games. Since 2008, the Diamondbacks as a team have batted .266/.343/.448 at Chase Field, their .791 OPS sixth best in the majors during that span, but only .235/.307/.382 on the road, their .689 OPS ranking fifth worst. Look at some of the individuals' stats there: Justin Upton (.283/.393/.556 in 2011, .293/.382/.528 career), Juan Miranda (.326/.463/.698 in 2011), Ryan Roberts (.290/.383/.449 in 2011, .297/.382/.447 career), Chris Young (8 HRs, .604 SLG in 2011). Florida's Anibal Sanchez, their scheduled Tuesday opponent, presents the Diamondbacks their toughest challenge; there are five other games in which this team faces opposing starters with "5" ratings or worse.
• The Colorado Rockies are effectively the parallel of the Diamondbacks; they're fantastic at Coors Field and mediocre at best on the road. Since 2008, they're .284/.359/.473 hitters at Coors, their .831 OPS second best in baseball, but only .236/.314/.376 on the road, their .690 OPS sixth worst. That's why six games on the road -- three apiece at pitcher-friendly Los Angeles' Dodger Stadium and San Francisco's AT&T Park -- presents some challenges for this squad. Blasphemous as this is, there are places where even Carlos Gonzalez is a poor matchup -- Baseball Challenge immediately comes to mind -- as he's a .214/.274/.345 road hitter this season who has lifetime .225/.319/.275 rates at Dodger Stadium and .240/.310/.347 rates at AT&T Park.
But it's Chris Iannetta, Dexter Fowler and Seth Smith who are your "scary" plays: Iannetta is a .169/.338/.237 road hitter in 18 games this season; Fowler is a .250/.311/.294 hitter in 17 career games at Dodger Stadium, .182/.262/.218 in 17 at AT&T Park; and Smith is a .279/.380/.326 hitter in 22 games at Dodger Stadium, .140/.173/.220 in 19 at AT&T Park.
Also favorable: Philadelphia Phillies, Texas Rangers
Also unfavorable: Cincinnati Reds, St. Louis Cardinals
Weatherproof games: Indians at Blue Jays (3, Mon-Wed); Marlins at Diamondbacks (3, Mon-Wed); Nationals at Diamondbacks (4, Thu-Sun); Orioles at Mariners (3, Mon-Wed); Rays at Mariners (4, Thu-Sun); Rangers at Rays (3, Mon-Wed).
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 upon a fairly standard Rotisserie scoring system, like ESPN's.
1. Roy Halladay (PHI) -- Mon-@WAS (Hernandez), Sun-@PIT (McDonald)
2. Anibal Sanchez (FLA) -- Tue-@ARI (Kennedy), Sun-MIL (Narveson)
3. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Thu-TB (Shields)
4. Chad Billingsley (LAD) -- Mon-COL (Hammel), Sun-@CIN (Wood)
5. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Wed-@STL (Westbrook)
6. Cliff Lee (PHI) -- Tue-@WAS (Marquis)
7. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Sat-@CIN (Cueto)
8. Ian Kennedy (ARI) -- Tue-FLA (Sanchez), Sun-WAS (Marquis)
9. Tommy Hanson (ATL) -- Wed-SD (Richard)
10. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Mon-CHW (Peavy), Sun-OAK (Cahill)
11. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Sat-@CHW (Jackson)
12. Dan Haren (LAA) -- Sat-NYY (Sabathia)
13. Michael Pineda (SEA) -- Wed-BAL (Matusz)
14. Erik Bedard (SEA) -- Tue-BAL (Guthrie), Sun-TB (Sonnanstine)
15. Josh Beckett (BOS) -- Sat-OAK (Moscoso)
16. Mat Latos (SD) -- Tue-@ATL (Minor), Sun-HOU (Lyles)
17. Jhoulys Chacin (COL) -- Sat-@SF (Bumgarner)
18. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Fri-NYY (Nova)
19. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Fri-@PIT (Karstens)
20. James Shields (TB) -- Thu-@SEA (Hernandez)
21. Alexi Ogando (TEX) -- Fri-@CLE (Masterson)
22. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Sat-@LAA (Haren)
23. C.J. Wilson (TEX) -- Tue-@TB (Sonnanstine), Sun-@CLE (Talbot)
24. Jaime Garcia (STL) -- Thu-SF (Sanchez)
25. Kyle McClellan (STL) -- Mon-SF (Bumgarner), Sat-CHC (Dempster)
26. Ervin Santana (LAA) -- Mon-@KC (Hochevar), Sun-NYY (Colon)
27. Matt Cain (SF) -- Fri-COL (Cook)
28. Jeremy Hellickson (TB) -- Fri-@SEA (Vargas)
29. Jair Jurrjens (ATL) -- Sat-@NYM (Gee)
30. Shaun Marcum (MIL) -- Wed-@CIN (Leake)
31. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Sat-@FLA (Volstad)
32. Clay Buchholz (BOS) -- Fri-OAK (Outman)
33. Daniel Hudson (ARI) -- Wed-FLA (Vazquez)
34. Roy Oswalt (PHI) -- Wed-@WAS (Lannan)
35. Ubaldo Jimenez (COL) -- Wed-@LAD (Garland)
36. Ryan Vogelsong (SF) -- Tue-@STL (Carpenter), Sun-COL (Hammel)
37. Zach Britton (BAL) -- Sat-TOR (Romero)
38. Colby Lewis (TEX) -- Wed-@TB (Price)
39. Madison Bumgarner (SF) -- Mon-@STL (McClellan), Sat-COL (Chacin)
40. Chris Carpenter (STL) -- Tue-SF (Vogelsong), Sun-CHC (Lopez)
41. David Price (TB) -- Wed-TEX (Lewis)
42. Brandon Morrow (TOR) -- Tue-CLE (Talbot)
43. Jason Hammel (COL) -- Mon-@LAD (Billingsley), Sun-@SF (Vogelsong)
44. Ricky Romero (TOR) -- Sat-@BAL (Britton)
45. Trevor Cahill (OAK) -- Mon-NYY (Colon), Sun-@BOS (Lester)
46. Jonathan Sanchez (SF) -- Thu-@STL (Garcia)
47. Johnny Cueto (CIN) -- Sat-LAD (Kershaw)
48. Kyle Lohse (STL) -- Fri-CHC (Wells)
49. Ricky Nolasco (FLA) -- Fri-MIL (Wolf)
50. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Tue-MIN (Duensing)
51. Zack Greinke (MIL) -- Tue-@CIN (Reineke)
52. Doug Fister (SEA) -- Mon-BAL (Arrieta), Sat-TB (Davis)
53. Brett Anderson (OAK) -- Tue-NYY (Garcia)
54. Gio Gonzalez (OAK) -- Wed-NYY (Burnett)
55. J.A. Happ (HOU) -- Fri-@SD (Moseley)
56. Jeremy Guthrie (BAL) -- Tue-@SEA (Bedard)
57. James McDonald (PIT) -- Tue-@NYM (Dickey), Sun-PHI (Halladay)
58. Charlie Morton (PIT) -- Mon-@NYM (Gee), Sat-PHI (Worley)
59. Tim Hudson (ATL) -- Mon-SD (Harang), Sun-@NYM (Dickey)
60. Jason Vargas (SEA) -- Fri-TB (Hellickson)
61. Ted Lilly (LAD) -- Tue-COL (Mortensen)
62. Derek Lowe (ATL) -- Fri-@NYM (Niese)
63. Hiroki Kuroda (LAD) -- Fri-@CIN (Arroyo)
64. Francisco Liriano (MIN) -- Thu-@KC (O'Sullivan)
65. Jordan Zimmermann (WAS) -- Thu-@ARI (Duke)
66. Bud Norris (HOU) -- Thu-@SD (Stauffer)
67. Ryan Dempster (CHC) -- Sat-@STL (McClellan)
68. Jake Peavy (CHW) -- Mon-@BOS (Lester)
69. Travis Wood (CIN) -- Mon-MIL (Narveson), Sun-LAD (Billingsley)
70. Rick Porcello (DET) -- Wed-MIN (Baker)
71. Jake Arrieta (BAL) -- Mon-@SEA (Fister), Sun-TOR (Reyes)
72. Jake Westbrook (STL) -- Wed-SF (Lincecum)
73. Bartolo Colon (NYY) -- Mon-@OAK (Cahill), Sun-@LAA (Santana)
74. Gavin Floyd (CHW) -- Tue-@BOS (Aceves)
75. Carlos Zambrano (CHC) -- Tue-HOU (Lyles)
Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
Nick Blackburn (MIN) -- Mon-@DET (Penny), Sat-@KC (Hochevar)
Wade Davis (TB) -- Mon-TEX (Holland), Sat-@SEA (Fister)
Dillon Gee (NYM) -- Mon-PIT (Morton), Sat-ATL (Jurrjens)
Derek Holland (TEX) -- Mon-@TB (Davis), Sat-@CLE (Carmona)
Jordan Lyles (HOU) -- Tue-@CHC (Zambrano), Sun-@SD (Latos)
Chris Narveson (MIL) -- Mon-@CIN (Wood), Sun-@FLA (Sanchez)
Brad Penny (DET) -- Mon-MIN (Blackburn), Sun-@CHW (Danks)
Aneury Rodriguez (HOU) -- Mon-@CHC (Lopez), Sat-@SD (Harang)
Joe Saunders (ARI) -- Mon-FLA (Volstad), Sat-WAS (Hernandez)
No-thank-yous, among two-starts:
Fausto Carmona (CLE) -- Mon-@TOR (Reyes), Sat-TEX (Holland)
R.A. Dickey (NYM) -- Tue-PIT (McDonald), Sun-ATL (Hudson)
Brian Duensing (MIN) -- Tue-@DET (Scherzer), Sun-@KC (Francis)
Jeff Francis (KC) -- Tue-LAA (Pineiro), Sun-MIN (Duensing)
Aaron Harang (SD) -- Mon-@ATL (Hudson), Sat-HOU (Rodriguez)
Livan Hernandez (WAS) -- Mon-PHI (Halladay), Sat-@ARI (Saunders)
Luke Hochevar (KC) -- Mon-LAA (Santana), Sat-MIN (Blackburn)
Rodrigo Lopez (CHC) -- Mon-HOU (Rodriguez), Sun-@STL (Carpenter)
Jason Marquis (WAS) -- Tue-PHI (Lee), Sun-@ARI (Kennedy)
Jo-Jo Reyes (TOR) -- Mon-CLE (Carmona), Sun-@BAL (Arrieta)
Andy Sonnanstine (TB) -- Tue-TEX (Wilson), Sun-@SEA (Bedard)
Mitch Talbot (CLE) -- Tue-@TOR (Morrow), Sun-TEX (Wilson)
Chris Volstad (FLA) -- Mon-@ARI (Saunders), Sat-MIL (Gallardo)
Alfredo Aceves (BOS) -- Tue-CHW (Floyd)
Josh Collmenter (ARI) -- Fri-WAS (Maya)
Freddy Garcia (NYY) -- Tue-@OAK (Anderson)
Mike Minor (ATL) -- Tue-SD (Latos)
Joel Pineiro (LAA) -- Tue-@KC (Francis)
Tim Stauffer (SD) -- Thu-HOU (Norris)
Randy Wolf (MIL) -- Fri-@FLA (Nolasco)
Vance Worley (PHI) -- Sat-@PIT (Morton)
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.