Looking ahead to 2011? Take a close look at Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers. Since the All-Star break, the right-handed strikeout artist has an ERA of only 2.43 and has held opposing hitters to a .235 batting average. On Sept. 6, he did allow four runs to Friday's opponent, the Chicago White Sox , but if he makes the necessary adjustments to win Friday's game -- and looks good doing it -- it will speak volumes about his progress as a professional pitcher.
Starting pitcher rankings for Sept. 17
Rk.: The author's ranking of that pitcher for that day only. T: Pitcher throws left-handed or right-handed. Opp: The pitcher's opponent for the day. Rating: The starting pitcher's matchup rating -- separate from the author's ranking -- 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. 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.
Top options: Combine the solid work of Mat Latos with the awfulness of his opponent, Kyle Lohse -- 1-3 against the San Diego Padres with a 6.25 ERA -- and he's the best bet for a Friday victory. Ubaldo Jimenez (5.23 lifetime ERA against the Los Angeles Dodgers) and Felix Hernandez (0-3 against the Texas Rangers in 2010 with a 6.38 ERA) simply raise too many red flags to best Latos in the rankings.
Hoping for déjà vu: Johnny Cueto threw a four-hit shutout for eight innings against the Houston Astros back on July 24. Madison Bumgarner did Cueto one better with a three-hitter in eight scoreless innings versus the Milwaukee Brewers on July 6.
Bad ideas: Nick Blackburn's career 0-3 record and 7.24 ERA against the Oakland Athletics were not helped by his June 6 start in which he allowed five runs on 10 hits in less than three innings. Kevin Millwood has lost twice to the New York Yankees this year, with a pathetic 7.56 ERA. Jason Marquis is 0-3 in 2010 when the Philadelphia Phillies come calling, with an 8.78 ERA.
Hitter matchup ratings for Sept. 17
Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days) as well as ballpark factors. "LHB" and "RHB" ratings account only for left- and right-handed batters, respectively.
Miguel Montero, C, Diamondbacks: Montero is working on a seven-game hitting streak and has a .333 batting average to go along with eight RBIs against the current Pirates staff.
Jack Cust, DH, Athletics: Cust has five RBIs since last Saturday and is batting .533 (8-for-15) when Nick Blackburn is on the hill.
Humberto Quintero, C, Astros: Sure, part-time catchers are a risky pick, but he does have a home run off of Johnny Cueto to go along with a .333 batting average in their brief encounters.
David Wright, 3B, Mets: Tommy Hanson has fanned Wright five of 10 times, and held the slugger to a .100 batting average.
Matt Holliday, OF, Cardinals: Holliday has been hot this month with a .386 average, but is hitting only .167 facing the Padres in 2010.
Ian Kinsler, 2B, Rangers: Kinsler has never found success against King Felix, with a .186 batting average in 43 career at-bats against the Mariners ace.
Jason Kubel, OF, Twins: Not only is Kubel nursing a sore wrist, but he's managed to go only 4-for-23 (.174) against the Athletics this year.
Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day
Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees: Cano went 7-for-12 against the Rays and now he gets personal whipping boy Kevin Millwood. The second sacker is hitting .440 lifetime against the Orioles starter.
Injury list: Out
Rommie Lewis, P, Blue Jays (60-day disabled list, left shoulder)
Bobby Jenks, P, White Sox (elbow, forearm)
Andres Torres, OF, Giants (appendectomy)
Scott Podsednik, OF, Dodgers (plantar fasciitis)
Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers (ribs)
Frank Francisco, P, Rangers (ribs)
Injury list: Day-to-day
Jenrry Mejia, P, Mets (right shoulder)
Homer Bailey, P, Reds (dizziness)
Jose Guillen, OF, Giants (neck)
Ryan Franklin, P, Cardinals (personal issue)
Chris Getz, 2B, Royals (concussion)
Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies (hamstring)
Julio Lugo, 2B, Orioles (sinus infection)
Nick Swisher, OF, Yankees (knee)
Scott Rolen, 3B, Reds (stiff back)
Weatherproof games: Angels at Rays, Reds at Astros and Rangers at Mariners. As the temperatures drop to the mid-70s on the coasts, rain joins the fray in Boston and New York, with Minnesota joining in on the fun, or lack thereof, for Friday as well.