Welcome back! In our first Daily Notes following the All-Star Game, we'd like to take a moment to remind you the purpose of this column.
What we do here is rank the scheduled starters for the day, taking into account their record-to-date in 2009 and the lineups they are going to face, along with any performance trends or injury concerns we might have. Then we attempt to highlight any hitters who have a personal history against those starters, or some other stand-out statistic that might encourage you to alter your starting lineups for the day.
There are only eight games on tap for Thursday, and you'll find my complete pitcher rankings below, followed by some statistic that justifies placement in that list. Remember, these stats are not the only reason for these rankings, but just one factor in the overall equation. With these points in mind, on to the list:
Starting pitcher rankings for Thursday, July 16
Rk.: The author's ranking of that pitcher for that day only. T: Pitcher throws left-handed or right-handed. W-L: Pitcher's win-loss record. ERA: Pitcher's earned run average. WHIP: Pitcher's average number of walks plus hits surrendered per inning. K/9: Pitcher's average number of strikeouts per nine innings. OPSA: Pitcher's on-base plus slugging percentage surrendered to opponents. OPS: Pitcher's opponent's composite team on-base plus slugging percentage. CT%: Pitcher's opponent's success rate putting the ball in play (versus striking out).
Wandy Rodriguez entered the All-Star break on fire, with a 2-0 record and a 2.05 ERA in his last three starts. Although the Dodgers have a strong offense, we'll give Wandy the nod and hope their timing is a bit off with a few days having passed since they last faced big league pitching. The Angels have a number of bats out of the lineup (Torii Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero are on the DL, Juan Rivera is day-to-day with a tight hamstring), and with a makeshift lineup, we like Dallas Braden to have a strong outing. It also helps that Braden is going up against Ervin Santana, who has an 0-3 record with a 9.88 ERA in his last three outings. Cliff Lee has historically pitched well against Seattle, with a 7-1 lifetime record against the M's. Yes, we're quite aware that lineups change over the years, and the Mariners of 2009 are not the Mariners of 2004, when Lee first faced them. But don't think Lee isn't aware of that 7-1 record. Part of pitching is the mental aspect of the game, and if Lee thinks he's a better pitcher against this opponent based on past history, no matter how long ago, then there's every chance he will be. Lately we've been liking every pitcher who faces the Mets, as long as their last name isn't Cueto. Derek Lowe certainly qualifies in that not-so-exclusive club. Meanwhile, Randy Wolf should have a good game against the Astros, who are 12th in the NL in runs scored. Chris Volstad is facing the hot-hitting Phillies, but since pretty much everyone in their starting lineup went to the All-Star Game, we're going to bet on their having just a little less spring in their step on Thursday. We like Volstad to beat the Phillies for the second time this season, even factoring in Jamie Moyer's career mark of 7-0 at the Shark. There's a new skipper in Washington, with Manny Acta out and Jim Riggleman in. It's not going to get the Nationals out of the cellar anytime soon, but the team might muster up enough fight to propel John Lannan to a victory over the Cubs in Riggleman's debut. Plus, Rich Harden is 1-2 with a 7.71 ERA in his past three starts. Garrett Olson starts instead of recently demoted Brandon Morrow, and has a 2.16 ERA in his last three appearances. He's worth a flier, especially in a short week. Braden Looper has already faced the Reds three times in 2009, and the 5.51 ERA he has against them doesn't exactly make us feel comfortable starting him the fourth time around. Homer Bailey goes for the Reds, and although he's only 2-5 lifetime at the Great American Ballpark, considering the fact that he has won just one more game on the road in his career, that stat doesn't seem nearly as bad. Finally, there's Oliver Perez. Despite winning his last start on July 8, he went only five innings and needed 108 pitches to get that far. Sorry, Ollie. We're just not that into you.
• David Wright, 3B. Mets: Power numbers aside, Wright is still hitting .324 on the season and kicks off the second half against Derek Lowe, against whom he has a .500 career batting average.
• Chipper Jones, 3B, Braves: Oliver Perez hasn't exactly been a world-beater this season, and facing Jones won't help change that tide. Chipper is 11-for-26 (.423) lifetime against him.
• Ken Griffey Jr., OF, Mariners: With three home runs and a .357 batting average off Cliff Lee, it's time to get The Kid back in your lineup, at least for Thursday.
• Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies: He's hot, with a .378 batting average in July, and has hit .385 against Chris Volstad.
• Hanley Ramirez, SS, Marlins: Ramirez should come out of the second-half gate strong while facing Jamie Moyer. Han-Ram has four career homers and a .722 slugging percentage against the veteran.
• Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Padres: There's not much support in his lineup, but Gonzalez has had plenty of success against Aaron Cook on his own, including a .393 average and two career home runs.
• Miguel Tejada, SS, Astros: Tejada is a .308 hitter against Randy Wolf and is riding an eight-game hitting streak.
• Manny Ramirez, OF, Dodgers: Hitting .379 since his return from suspension, Manny didn't exactly need any extra time off. On Thursday, expect him to pick up right where he left off.
• Alfonso Soriano, OF, Cubs: Hopefully the second half will be a better one for Soriano and his fantasy owners, but we don't like the matchup against the Nationals. He's batting only .208 against the current Washington staff.
• Victor Martinez, 1B, Indians: Martinez had to catch in the All-Star Game, so it was hardly a "break" for him. Rest him against Garrett Olson and the Mariners, since there's a good chance the Indians will.
• J.J. Hardy, SS, Brewers: His shoulder was hurting before the break, so we're a bit skeptical as to how well he'll perform in the first game back.
• Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, Reds: The .170 batting average is sure to get better, but not necessarily right away. Encarnacion is only a .136 hitter against Braden Looper.
• Shane Victorino, OF, Phillies: No worries in the second half for Victorino, who is hitting .400 in July. However, in addition to the extra travel All-Stars must do, Shane comes back to face a pitcher he's only 2-for-13 against in Chris Volstad.
• Jason Giambi, 1B, Athletics: He already has missed three games in July, and is only 1-for-14 in his career against the Angels' scheduled starter, Ervin Santana.
• Todd Helton, 1B, Rockies: Helton has only a .125 batting average against Chad Gaudin.
If you're hardcore
• Gary Sheffield, OF, Mets: He's 8-for-17 against Derek Lowe with eight RBIs, and what's not to like about a .941 slugging percentage?
• Ryan Church, OF, Braves: A little revenge against the team that traded him away, perhaps? He was hitting .313 away from Citi Field in 2009 before being sent to Atlanta.
• Nyjer Morgan, OF, Nationals: He's hitting .302 since joining the Nationals, and went 3-for-4 against Rich Harden in their previous encounter.
• Ramon Hernandez, C, Reds: He's a Looper lover, with a .625 average, including a home run, against the Brewers' starter.
• Chris Coghlan, OF, Marlins: He has a .462 OBP against the Phillies so far this season. That's worth a roll of the dice, especially on a light day for games.
• Gary Matthews Jr., OF, Angels: He's going to see a lot more playing time with Hunter and Guerrero hurt, and he's 3-for-6 lifetime against Dallas Braden.
• Sam Fuld, OF, Cubs: Hey, if we don't like Alfonso Soriano and recommend benching him, we're kind of hoping Lou Piniella feels the same way.
Injury list: Out
• Eric Milton, P, Dodgers (15-day DL, back surgery)
• Geovany Soto, C, Cubs (15-day DL, oblique strain)
• Jay Bruce, OF, Reds (15-day DL, fractured wrist)
• Pedro Martinez, P, Phillies (15-day DL, shoulder): Pedro signed with Philadelphia, but will need to start a few games in the minors before he's going to be ready to actually face major league hitters again after the long layoff.
Injury list: Day-to-day
• Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays (infection): Longoria missed the All-Star Game because of an infection in his finger, but all signs point to his being able to return to the Rays' lineup Friday.
• Jonathan Broxton, P, Dodgers (toe): Another All-Star who couldn't go, Broxton's toe has an irritated nerve, and the pitcher has received a cortisone shot to help the healing process.
• Carlos Quentin, OF, White Sox (foot): Currently rehabbing in the minors, Quentin could be back with the White Sox as soon as the team is willing to pull the trigger on his activation.
• Carlos Guillen, OF, Tigers (shoulder): Guillen, out since May 5, is probably still a week away from returning to the Tigers, and even then, he might be limited to DH duty.
• Alex Gordon, 3B, Royals (hip): Gordon is expected to rejoin the Royals on Friday, but it remains to be seen if he'll be thrust right back into the starting lineup or eased into the swing of things.
• Rick Ankiel, OF, Cardinals (shoulder): His shoulder is still "weak" after he crashed into the outfield wall back on May 4. The All-Star break probably did him some good, but if it continues to bother him, a trip to the DL might be in the offing.
• There are no weatherproof games on Thursday's limited schedule.
• Five games in the states of Ohio and California all look to be in the clear for a dry start to the second half of the season. However, that's not the case for the games scheduled in Florida, Atlanta and Washington. All three of those games should expect some interruptions or delays of the thunderstorm variety.
AJ Mass is a fantasy baseball, football and college basketball analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.