Rather than toss Joba Chamberlain into the bullpen down the stretch, the New York Yankees have opted to give him extra rest between his starts; he'll take his next turn on Wednesday, eight days after his most recent start. The practice highlights how cautious teams will be with their precious young pitchers, as more and more prospects and rookies could be shut down in the near future as they approach and exceed career-highs in innings pitched.
Derek Holland will face the Boston Red Sox on Sunday, and has pitched quite well in recent starts. But he's only a rookie, and has already tossed 91 innings in the majors. It will be interesting to see what route the Texas Rangers organization takes with Holland, especially considering club president Nolan Ryan famously claimed to ban pitch counts in the organization. While innings are obviously not the same as pitch counts, it falls under a similar umbrella of conservation when dealing with pitching prospects. It's just another wrench thrown into the plans of fantasy players. That's just some food for thought as we present our rankings for the weekend.
Starting pitcher rankings for August 15, 2009
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
Selected notes for Saturday: John Lackey has been rounding into ace form in recent weeks, and with at least six strikeouts in eight of his past nine starts, you're kicking yourself if you sold low on him. He pretty much owns the Baltimore Orioles -- as a team they're hitting .196 off him -- and no team has scored more runs since the All-Star break than the Los Angeles Angels, so all systems are go for another lights-out start. Ten of Edwin Jackson's 17 home runs allowed have come in his past seven starts, and luckily he's come away mostly unscathed, allowing more than three runs just once. With a mediocre 36-20 strikeout-to-walk rate in that span, he needs to get it together or his dream season could suffer a few bumps down the road. Since the Kansas City Royals are hitting fairly well this month, Jackson is going to have to shape up or he might be roughed up a bit. His owners should be on alert. Aaron Cook will make his first start in a week against the Florida Marlins, as he had his most recent start pushed back due to a case of turf toe. He's been chugging along recently, with quality starts in four of his past five, but could be in for a rude awakening, as the Marlins' .887 OPS this month is second in the league. The team has only 67 at-bats against him, but they've hit him hard, batting .388 against him. Since Cook doesn't strike out very many batters, being conservative with him is the way to go. A complete game shutout opens a few eyes, especially when it's the division-leading Angels you shut out. When Derek Holland is on, it seems there are few lineups equipped to stop him, and his strikeout potential has owners buzzing. Holland also might be drawing the Red Sox at the right time, too, as they've struggled offensively in recent weeks and are down one of their best hitters, Kevin Youkilis, due to suspension. It's a risk, but we like Holland as a high-upside play. Tim Stauffer has allowed two runs or fewer in five of his six starts, and is earning consideration in NL-only or deep mixed leagues. Pitching in Petco Park always helps. He'll have to deal with poor run support, but if he can keep getting strikeouts -- he has 24 in 31 innings -- it's a problem you can live with. He doesn't walk many batters or allow many home runs, making him perfect for his home park, and at 27 he's pretty much a finished product, so there shouldn't be the usual inexplicable inconsistency you find with other young pitchers. A former fourth overall draft pick, he obviously has talent and could make a decent fourth or fifth starter for fantasy purposes. See how he does against the St. Louis Cardinals. Gio Gonzalez has been superb his past three starts, but he's also known for maddening inconsistency; even in the minor leagues he often followed up a brilliant start with a clunker. A tough matchup against his former team, the Chicago White Sox looms, so make sure he's inactive.
Starting pitcher rankings for August 16, 2009
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).
Selected notes for Sunday: Can you believe the Oakland A's have scored more runs than any team in the majors -- save the Angels -- since the All-Star break? Their .789 OPS isn't impressive, but it's above-average, which is more than you can say for the Athletics' offense. That's not to say we don't like John Danks when he faces them on Sunday, but he also isn't the most consistent of pitchers, and might not do as well as you would expect him to against a team that, on the season, only has a .713 OPS. For a pitcher with eight quality starts in his past nine outings, Randy Wolf is a bit underrated. While he might not be striking out as many batters as he was earlier in the season, he's been a pretty consistent performer against the nonelite offenses in the league. That leaves us with a dilemma. The Diamondbacks aren't an elite offense, but they've been hitting like one in August with a .901 OPS that paces the majors. They sport a .220 average in 100 at-bats against Randy Wolf, and while that's not the biggest sample size, they're also a team that tends to strike out a lot, which plays into Wolf's hands. Speaking of teams that strike out a lot, the Marlins are one of the few teams that whiff more often than the Arizona Diamondbacks. Jorge De La Rosa has taken advantage of that already as he racked up 12 K's in his most recent start against them. Since the Marlins hit significantly worse against left-handers, he should mitigate much of their hot hitting and make a fine spot starter. AL-only leagues might want to take a chance on Chad Gaudin, who is starting in place of Joba Chamberlain. While Gaudin leaves the pitcher-friendly confines of Petco Park -- not that he had much luck there, with an ERA worse than six -- he draws another pitchers' park. A road matchup in Safeco Field is assuredly much better than playing in the bandbox that is the new Yankee Stadium. Toss in the benefit of pitching for the Yankees -- you tend to win a lot of games -- and his already-high strikeout rate, and Gaudin looks like a decent option against a weak offense. While it may look like John Lannan is pitching over his head -- he has a 3.58 ERA despite a 65-48 strikeout-to-walk rate -- he gets out of trouble because of his 55.1 percent ground ball rate, which ranks ninth in the majors. It's not sexy but it gets the job done, especially against the weaker offenses in the league that can't help but hit the ball on the ground. Enter the Reds, who possess the fourth-worst OPS against left-handers in the league. Since the Nationals are actually scoring a lot of runs, Lannan could pick up a win for his troubles, making him a sneaky spot start.
Now batting (Saturday)
• Milton Bradley, OF, Cubs: Although he came away hitless versus Cliff Lee, ending his seven-game hitting streak, Bradley is still hitting .333 against left-handers and is 5-for-10 with three doubles and a triple versus Zach Duke. His .433 on-base percentage since the All-Star break has also led to 15 runs in 24 games.
• Alexei Ramirez, SS/2B, White Sox: For his career, Ramirez hits 82 points better against southpaws, with a .342 average and 10 home runs in 234 career at-bats. He currently has a modest four-game hitting streak, but two of those hits left the park. The streaky Ramirez could be ready to add to those numbers against Gio Gonzalez.
• Travis Hafner, DH, Indians: Hafner might be struggling, but with eight extra-base hits -- four of which were long balls -- versus Scott Baker in only 24 at-bats, he's worthy of a start.
• Vernon Wells, OF, Blue Jays: He's very comfortable against Scott Kazmir, batting .400 with three home runs in 30 at-bats. As putrid as he's been this season, he still managed to go 2-for-3 with a dinger in a previous game against Kazmir.
• Michael Cuddyer, OF, Twins: With five extra-base hits through his first eight games in August, Cuddyer has found his power stroke again and is a good bet to keep it up against the lefty David Huff. Cuddyer is slugging .623 against southpaws this season, with 10 homers in just 106 at-bats.
• Derrek Lee, 1B, Cubs: Lee is 0-for-5 against Zach Duke this season, lowering his career average against Duke to .250. He has just three extra-base hits in 40 at-bats as Duke has had his number over the years.
• Nick Markakis, OF, Orioles: He has more strikeouts (seven) than hits (five) in 20 at-bats against John Lackey. Worse is that all five hits were singles.
• Aubrey Huff, 1B/3B, Orioles: Huff is even worse as he's just 2-for-28 (.071) against Lackey, and is also without an extra-base hit.
• Mark Reynolds, 3B, Diamondbacks: The all-or-nothing hitter has been a bunch of nothing in 11 at-bats against Hiroki Kuroda, with just a single while striking out six times.
• Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers: Kemp is still looking for his first hit versus Yusmeiro Petit. He's failed to convert nine previous opportunities, without even a walk to his name. He's struck out in a third of his at-bats, including going 0-for-2 with two K's in a game earlier this season.
If you're hardcore
• Rajai Davis, OF, Athletics: With seven stolen bases in his past nine games -- and an eight-game hitting streak -- Davis thumbs his nose at "Moneyball," and since he's 11-for-12 on the base paths since the All-Star break, he'll continue to have the green light. He's a good bet to run on noodle-armed A.J. Pierzynski, who has already allowed 73 stolen bases at an 81 percent conversion rate.
• Ryan Garko, 1B, Giants: Johan Santana thought a move to the National League would end the nightmare, but Garko has returned to torture him some more. Garko is a lefty masher and makes no exceptions as he's taken Santana deep thrice in just 23 at-bats.
• Ian Stewart, 2B/3B, Rockies: While Rick VandenHurk has only five major league starts, he's already allowed lefties to kill him. Twelve of the 15 hits he's allowed to left-handers have gone for extra bases resulting in a .603 slugging percentage in 58 at-bats. That may scream small sample size, but he also had trouble with lefties in the minors allowing a home run rate of 1.20 compared to .68 against righties. Stewart, who slugs .502 against righties and is hitting .346 in August, could be primed to take advantage of VandenHurk's susceptibility.
• Elijah Dukes, OF, Nationals: Dukes has taken Johnny Cueto deep twice in his career -- including once earlier this year -- needing just five at-bats to do it.
• Andruw Jones, OF, Rangers: Jones has crushed Brad Penny over the years batting .333 with six homers in 45 at-bats, so let's hope manager Ron Washington takes a look at their history and gives Jones a start.
Now batting (Sunday)
• Curtis Granderson, OF, Tigers: In 14 at-bats versus Kyle Davies, Granderson has five hits, including two homers and a double. He's also walked six times and stole a base.
• Alex Gordon, 3B, Royals: Gordon has been heating up with eight runs, three multi-hit games, two doubles, two homers and even two stolen bases in his past seven contests. Armando Galarraga is awful against lefties (.316 AVG/.405 OBP/.547 SLG allowed), so the former No. 2 overall draft pick has a great opportunity to keep rolling Sunday.
• Bobby Abreu, OF, Angels: Abreu has taken Jeremy Guthrie deep twice this season in four at-bats. Overall he has three homers in 19 at-bats. He's hitting only .211 versus Guthrie, but all four of his hits have been of the extra-base variety. Since Guthrie is allowing southpaws to slug .558, that trend could continue.
• Hank Blalock, 1B/3B, Rangers: Don't look now but Blalock has put together a decent eight-game hitting streak going 10-for-34 (.294) with three homers and two doubles. More impressive, it's been all on the road, where he's a career .247 hitter. Now that he's back in Arlington, the streaky Blalock could be just getting started.
• A.J. Pierzynski, C, White Sox: Pierzynski is quietly hitting .324 versus right-handers, and he's previously taken Trevor Cahill deep. That's not surprising when you take a look at Cahill's numbers against lefties, as they're slugging nearly .600 against him.
• Brandon Inge, 3B/C, Tigers: As great as Inge looked in April, he's just as awful now. He has a 14-2 strikeout-to-walk rate in August, hitting a woeful .214. Inge isn't productive against righties normally and he's just 3-for-13 with zero extra-base hits against Kyle Davies.
• Marco Scutaro, 2B/3B/SS, Blue Jays: He's only 6-for-26 (.231) versus Matt Garza with zero power, as all of his hits have been singles.
• Prince Fielder, 1B, Brewers: It's rare to see Fielder under this category, but Roy Oswalt has thoroughly owned him throughout their careers holding Fielder to four hits in 31 at-bats. That's a .129 average, and with only one extra-base hit and one walk earned, his .318 OPS won't get it done.
• Carlos Lee, OF, Brewers: It is always odd to see a very good hitter rendered useless by a mediocre pitcher, but the numbers don't lie. Lee is 6-for-28 with zero extra-base hits versus Braden Looper.
• Jayson Werth, OF, Phillies: Werth has two singles in 16 at-bats versus Javier Vazquez, striking out five times. He's hitting only .243 against right-handers this season.
• Russell Branyan, 1B, Mariners: Normally six poor at-bats wouldn't be enough to deserve a mention, but Branyan has struck out five times against Chad Gaudin, which sure seems convincing enough. Branyan does have a hit, but it's just a single.
• Miguel Montero, C, Diamondbacks: Montero might be hitting .289 versus left-handers, but it's an empty average, as he's drawn just one walk and 10 of his 13 hits are singles. He's often benched against them, and since lefties are hitting only .143 off Randy Wolf, assume that to be the case for Sunday and leave him on your bench.
If you're hardcore
• Jonny Gomes, OF, Reds: Just when Gomes was on life-support -- he was 7-for-43 his past 13 games before entering Thursday -- he swats three home runs to kick back to life with authority. He's hitting only .221 since July, but with 10 homers in 95 at-bats. Fortunately, he hits .323 against lefties, so maybe he can put together another big day against John Lannan.
• Geoff Blum, 3B, Astros: Blum, since July, is hitting .275 with seven homers in 120 at-bats. For him that qualifies as hot, and those numbers play in deep leagues. He's 6-for-20 with two doubles and two homers against Braden Looper, too, so don't be shocked if he has another big day.
• Scott Hairston, OF, Athletics: Hairston might be hitting only .256 since the break, but as long as he's up against a left-hander he gets some love as he has a career .892 OPS against lefties. Despite his post-break struggles, he's still hitting for power with three doubles and two home runs this month.
• Cody Ross, OF, Marlins: Assuming his back injury is as minor as he says it is, Ross will get another chance to wail on a lefty when he faces Jorge De La Rosa on Sunday. Ross is slugging .587 with eight home runs against southpaws in 109 at-bats, while De La Rosa struggles a bit versus right-handers, with a .837 OPS allowed.
• Matt Diaz, OF, Braves: A .356 hitter against lefties this season, it might look like Diaz is over his head, but in 582 career at-bats versus left-handers, he's a .333 hitter. Make sure he's in your lineup when he faces J.A. Happ on Sunday.
Injury list: Out
• Adrian Beltre, 3B, Mariners (15-day DL, groin): Beltre doesn't wear a protective cup, so when a one-hopper clipped his groin, he had to be placed on the disabled list due to tearing and internal bleeding. If he needs surgery, he could be out for the rest of the year. If not, two weeks should do the trick.
• Rick Porcello, SP, Tigers (suspension): Armando Galarraga will toe the mound Sunday, while Porcello will rejoin the Tigers on Tuesday, when he will face the Mariners.
• Scott Rolen, 3B, Reds (15-day DL, head)
• Kevin Youkilis, 1B/3B, Red Sox (suspension)
Injury list: Day-to-day
• Nelson Cruz, OF, Rangers (ankle)
• Orlando Hudson, 2B, Dodgers (groin)
• Maicer Izturis, 2B/SS, Angels (elbow)
• Ian Kinsler, 2B, Rangers (hamstring)
• Nate McLouth, OF, Braves (hamstring)
• Jorge Posada, C, Yankees (hand)
• Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Cubs (shoulder)
• Alex Rodriguez, 3B, Yankees (elbow): A-Rod was beaned in his elbow in the 11th inning of Wednesday's game, although X-rays were negative. Manager Joe Girardi hopes he can return Friday after a pre-scheduled day off on Thursday.
• Cody Ross, OF, Marlins (back): Ross left Thursday's game in the seventh inning with a stiff back. He claims it was merely a precaution and doesn't expect to miss any time.
• Games played in Tampa Bay, Milwaukee, Minnesota, Arizona and Seattle are weatherproof.
• Only Miami, which has a 40 percent chance of rain on Saturday and a 30 percent chance on Sunday, and Atlanta, which only has Sunday to worry about (30 percent), have any weather risks.
Adam Madison is a fantasy baseball analyst for ESPN.com.