Fantasy Forecaster updated Sunday, May 12, at 10:48 a.m. ET.
On tap: It's yet another week with a wide range of scheduled games per team. Week 7 has three more teams scheduled for five-game weeks, and one scheduled for eight -- the New York Yankees -- thanks to a traditional doubleheader at the Cleveland Indians on Monday that is a makeup of their April 10-11 postponements. Eleven other teams are scheduled for seven games apiece, meaning that for another week, volume comes into play.
Thursday is a particularly intriguing day in terms of pitching matchups. The Detroit Tigers' Justin Verlander, currently the eighth-ranked starting pitcher on our Player Rater after having been picked first overall at the position in the preseason, makes a start at Rangers Ballpark against Texas' Yu Darvish, the No. 4 starter on the Player Rater and the No. 11 starter selected in the preseason. Meanwhile, rookies Tony Cingrani of the Cincinnati Reds and Jose Fernandez of the Miami Marlins tangle at Marlins Park.
Speaking of the Tigers, whose rotation is off to the best start of any American League team (3.17 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 71.9 QS%, 25.6 K%), they experience a week of pitching matchups at both extremes. The majors' best staff at generating swings and misses -- the Tigers' 26.7 overall strikeout rate (calculated as a percentage of total batters faced) and 26 percent miss rate on swings are both tops in the majors -- the Tigers first host the majors' most whiff-prone team, the Houston Astros (major league highs with a 26.9 K% and 28 percent swing-and-miss rate), for three games, and then play four games against the Rangers, the least strikeout-prone offense (16.2 K%), at Rangers Ballpark, where visiting pitchers this season have a combined 26.7 quality start percentage, a 5.49 ERA and 1.56 WHIP.
From a judging-your-standing angle, be aware that the quarter mark of the 2013 regular season arrives on Thursday, May 16. Assuming no postponements between May 10 and then, one-quarter of all scheduled contests will be in the books after six games are played on Thursday (there are 15 scheduled that day). Such milestone markers -- the one-quarter, one-half and three-quarters points -- tend to be good reminders to evaluate your team's standing.
This is also a week of comebacks: Zack Greinke (collarbone) is lined up to return to the Los Angeles Dodgers' rotation in time for a Wednesday start versus the Washington Nationals, three weeks sooner than his initial eight-week timetable for recovery. Jason Heyward (appendectomy), who began a rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Gwinnett on May 9, might be activated in time for the Atlanta Braves' three-game series at Arizona's Chase Field, beginning on Monday. And Curtis Granderson (forearm) and Johnny Cueto (oblique), with some luck during their current rehabilitation assignments, could return late in the week. Yankees manager Joe Girardi, in fact, hinted that Granderson might be activated in time for the team's homestand beginning on Tuesday.
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That Yankees at Indians Monday doubleheader -- this one a traditional doubleheader in which Game 2 will begin approximately 20 minutes after the conclusion of Game 1 -- gives fantasy's Week 7 a surprisingly early start time: First pitch of Game 1 is scheduled for 12:05 p.m. ET. Make sure to set your lineups early, as (barring future makeup games) this is the second-earliest start time to any week in 2013, after Patriots Day in Week 3 (which has an annual 11 a.m. ET start).
For those in daily leagues, there are day games scheduled for every day of Week 7 except for Tuesday, when all games begin after 7 p.m. ET. The presence of day games on Friday might be unexpected; the Chicago Cubs are home during the weekend, though, meaning a 2:20 p.m. ET first pitch Friday.
This week's interleague series:
Cleveland Indians at Philadelphia Phillies (2 games, Tuesday-Wednesday)
San Diego Padres at Baltimore Orioles (2 games, Tuesday-Wednesday)
San Francisco Giants at Toronto Blue Jays (2 games, Tuesday-Wednesday)
Houston Astros at Pittsburgh Pirates (3 games, Friday-Sunday)
A fortunate break in this week's schedule, at least for the two American League teams scheduled for only five games, the Orioles and Blue Jays, is that both teams play all of their games in AL parks, where they'll still have the designated hitter.
It's the Indians who visit a National League venue, meaning that for two of their seven scheduled contests, they won't have a DH in which to rotate Mark Reynolds and Nick Swisher. The two could split the starts at first base -- Swisher facing the right-handed Jonathan Pettibone, Reynolds the left-handed Cole Hamels -- but it's also possible that Reynolds could start at third base or Swisher in right field, meaning Lonnie Chisenhall or Ryan Raburn would lose a start. Considering that it's a seven-game week, no Indians hitter should be significantly impacted.
The Astros, meanwhile, won't have enough spots to play all of Chris Carter, J.D. Martinez and Carlos Pena, who usually man first base, left field and DH in rotation, as they'll lack a DH for three of their six games. Martinez is the one most likely to be affected; the Astros face five right-handed starters and he has an OPS more than 50 points lower than Carter, who like Martinez is right-handed.
The Padres continue their five-game interleague road trip to AL parks; we'll get a better sense of their DH strategy during their April 10-12 weekend series at Tampa Bay. But expect them to use Carlos Quentin -- who started five of the team's six games at AL parks in 2012 at DH and whom the team is carefully managing as he recovers from knee surgery -- at DH, leaving left field open for anyone from Alexi Amarista to Kyle Blanks to Jesus Guzman.
The Giants, meanwhile, used a mish-mosh of DHs between the regular season and World Series in 2012, though Buster Posey (3 starts), Hector Sanchez (2) and Pablo Sandoval (2) were used most often in those 11 games. Posey or Sandoval could shift there, freeing catcher for Guillermo Quiroz or third base for Joaquin Arias. But a more likely scenario might be Francisco Peguero manning DH, with Gregor Blanco, an elite defender, starting in left field.
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.
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.
• With Miguel Gonzalez (blister) on the disabled list, the Baltimore Orioles could go with only four starters this week, as projected above. However, Gonzalez is also eligible to be activated in time for Sunday's game.
• The Cleveland Indians need a sixth starter to pitch one of Monday's doubleheader games, and Trevor Bauer is the leading candidate.
• The Houston Astros only recently restored Erik Bedard to their rotation, and they could skip his turn thanks to Thursday's off day. In that event, Lucas Harrell would pick up a second start this week.
• It's unclear when Tommy Hanson, who missed his May 10 start for personal reasons, will return to the Los Angeles Angels' rotation. His turn would again come up on Wednesday.
• Like the Indians, the New York Yankees will need a sixth starter to pitch one of Monday's doubleheader games. Ivan Nova (triceps) is a candidate, as is CC Sabathia on three days' rest, though Vidal Nuno or Adam Warren could also get the turn. If Nova is activated, he might also take David Phelps' scheduled Saturday start.
• Brett Anderson (ankle) is scheduled for a rehabilitation start on May 12, and he should be activated in time to start for the Oakland Athletics on Friday.
• The Toronto Blue Jays' rotation is in disarray due to numerous injuries, though two off days (Monday and Thursday) allow them to go with only four starters this week. It's unclear whether Ramon Ortiz will get another start, or Brandon Morrow (neck, back) will be ready to pitch on Wednesday.
• There is a chance that Johnny Cueto (oblique) will be ready to rejoin the Cincinnati Reds' rotation on Sunday, should he get through his Tuesday rehabilitation start for Class A Dayton without incident.
• Zack Greinke (collarbone) made a May 10 rehabilitation start for Class A Rancho Cucamonga and is expected to return to the Los Angeles Dodgers' rotation on Wednesday, as projected above.
• The Pittsburgh Pirates are promising Jeanmar Gomez starts on only an outing-by-outing basis, so he's not a guarantee for his Friday assignment.
1. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Tue-@NYY (Sabathia), Sun-@CLE (Masterson)
2. Jordan Zimmermann (WSH) -- Mon-@LAD (Beckett), Sat-@SD (Stults)
3. Adam Wainwright (STL) -- Thu-NYM (Niese)
4. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Tue-WSH (Haren)
5. Matt Harvey (NYM) -- Fri-@CHC (Jackson)
6. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Thu-@TEX (Darvish)
7. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Tue-SEA (Hernandez), Sun-TOR (Dickey)
8. Anibal Sanchez (DET) -- Mon-HOU (Norris), Sat-@TEX (Grimm)
9. Yu Darvish (TEX) -- Thu-DET (Verlander)
10. Lance Lynn (STL) -- Mon-NYM (Hefner), Sat-MIL (Estrada)
11. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Wed-CLE (Kluber)
12. Matt Moore (TB) -- Tue-BOS (Lackey), Sun-@BAL (Tillman)
13. Stephen Strasburg (WSH) -- Thu-@SD (Volquez)
14. Jake Peavy (CWS) -- Tue-@MIN (Correia), Sun-@LAA (Vargas)
15. Mat Latos (CIN) -- Fri-@PHI (Lee)
16. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Wed-HOU (Keuchel)
17. Doug Fister (DET) -- Tue-HOU (Harrell), Sun-@TEX (Holland)
18. James Shields (KC) -- Fri-@OAK (Anderson)
19. Shelby Miller (STL) -- Wed-NYM (Marcum)
20. Mike Minor (ATL) -- Mon-@ARI (Miley), Sun-LAD (Beckett)
21. Cliff Lee (PHI) -- Fri-CIN (Latos)
22. A.J. Burnett (PIT) -- Mon-MIL (Estrada), Sat-HOU (Lyles)
23. Hiroki Kuroda (NYY) -- Fri-TOR (Ortiz)
24. Clay Buchholz (BOS) -- Fri-@MIN (Worley)
25. Homer Bailey (CIN) -- Tue-@MIA (Nolasco), Sun-@PHI (Pettibone)
26. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Wed-@TB (Price)
27. Derek Holland (TEX) -- Tue-@OAK (Colon), Sun-DET (Fister)
28. Tony Cingrani (CIN) -- Thu-@MIA (Fernandez)
29. Madison Bumgarner (SF) -- Fri-@COL (De La Rosa)
30. David Price (TB) -- Wed-BOS (Lester)
31. R.A. Dickey (TOR) -- Tue-SF (Zito), Sun-@NYY (Sabathia)
32. Hisashi Iwakuma (SEA) -- Wed-@NYY (Hughes)
33. Chris Sale (CWS) -- Fri-@LAA (Wilson)
34. Jeff Samardzija (CHC) -- Wed-COL (Garland)
35. Wade Miley (ARI) -- Mon-ATL (Minor), Sun-@MIA (Nolasco)
36. Patrick Corbin (ARI) -- Tue-ATL (Teheran)
37. Ryan Dempster (BOS) -- Sat-@MIN (Diamond)
38. Trevor Cahill (ARI) -- Fri-@MIA (Slowey)
39. Kris Medlen (ATL) -- Sat-LAD (Capuano)
40. Travis Wood (CHC) -- Mon-COL (Nicasio), Sun-NYM (Gee)
41. Alex Cobb (TB) -- Thu-BOS (Doubront)
42. Jose Fernandez (MIA) -- Thu-CIN (Cingrani)
43. Tim Hudson (ATL) -- Wed-@ARI (Kennedy)
44. Kyle Lohse (MIL) -- Tue-@PIT (Locke), Sun-@STL (Westbrook)
45. Hyun-Jin Ryu (LAD) -- Fri-@ATL (Maholm)
46. Ervin Santana (KC) -- Sat-@OAK (Parker)
47. Justin Masterson (CLE) -- Mon-NYY, Gm. 1 (Phelps), Sun-SEA (Hernandez)
48. Tommy Milone (OAK) -- Sun-KC (Mendoza)
49. Jeff Locke (PIT) -- Tue-MIL (Lohse), Sun-HOU (Norris)
50. Andrew Cashner (SD) -- Tue-@BAL (Tillman), Sun-WSH (Haren)
51. Gio Gonzalez (WSH) -- Fri-@SD (Smith)
52. Dan Haren (WSH) -- Tue-@LAD (Kershaw), Sun-@SD (Cashner)
53. Matt Cain (SF) -- Thu-@COL (Chacin)
54. Kyle Kendrick (PHI) -- Sat-CIN (Arroyo)
55. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Wed-@PIT (Rodriguez)
56. Paul Maholm (ATL) -- Fri-LAD (Ryu)
57. C.J. Wilson (LAA) -- Fri-CWS (Sale)
58. Hector Santiago (CWS) -- Mon-@MIN (Hernandez), Sat-@LAA (Blanton)
59. Chris Tillman (BAL) -- Tue-SD (Cashner), Sun-TB (Moore)
60. Jaime Garcia (STL) -- Fri-MIL (Peralta)
61. Alexi Ogando (TEX) -- Wed-@OAK (Straily)
62. David Phelps (NYY) -- Mon-@CLE, Gm. 1 (Masterson), Sat-TOR (Buehrle)
63. Phil Hughes (NYY) -- Wed-SEA (Iwakuma)
64. Jeremy Hellickson (TB) -- Fri-@BAL (Hammel)
65. Wei-Yin Chen (BAL) -- Sat-TB (Hernandez)
66. Ross Detwiler (WSH) -- Wed-@LAD (Greinke)
67. John Lackey (BOS) -- Tue-@TB (Moore), Sun-@MIN (Hernandez)
68. Carlos Villanueva (CHC) -- Tue-COL (Francis)
69. Andy Pettitte (NYY) -- Thu-SEA (Harang)
70. Jason Vargas (LAA) -- Tue-KC (Guthrie), Sun-CWS (Peavy)
71. Scott Feldman (CHC) -- Sat-NYM (Hefner)
72. Ricky Nolasco (MIA) -- Tue-CIN (Bailey), Sun-ARI (Miley)
73. Brandon Morrow (TOR) -- Wed-SF (Vogelsong)
74. Jake Westbrook (STL) -- Tue-NYM (Gee), Sun-MIL (Lohse)
75. Zach McAllister (CLE) -- Sat-SEA (Saunders)
Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
Josh Beckett (LAD) -- Mon-WSH (Zimmermann), Sun-@ATL (Minor)
Marco Estrada (MIL) -- Mon-@PIT (Burnett), Sat-@STL (Lynn)
Dillon Gee (NYM) -- Tue-@STL (Westbrook), Sun-@CHC (Wood)
Justin Grimm (TEX) -- Mon-@OAK (Griffin), Sat-DET (Sanchez)
Juan Nicasio (COL) -- Mon-@CHC (Wood), Sat-SF (Lincecum)
Bud Norris (HOU) -- Mon-@DET (Sanchez), Sun-@PIT (Locke)
Jonathan Pettibone (PHI) -- Tue-CLE (Kazmir), Sun-CIN (Bailey)
No-thank-yous, among two-start pitchers:
Joe Blanton (LAA) -- Mon-KC (Mendoza), Sat-CWS (Santiago)
Jeff Francis (COL) -- Tue-@CHC (Villanueva), Sun-SF (Zito)
Jeremy Hefner (NYM) -- Mon-@STL (Lynn), Sat-@CHC (Feldman)
Pedro Hernandez (MIN) -- Mon-CWS (Santiago), Sun-BOS (Lackey)
Luis Mendoza (KC) -- Mon-@LAA (Blanton), Sun-@OAK (Milone)
Barry Zito (SF) -- Tue-@TOR (Dickey), Sun-@COL (Francis)
• How does one handle Greinke's impending return from the DL? Simple: It depends upon your league's settings. Do you have a starts cap, or is it a shallow mixed league? Is it a daily league or one where maximizing starts matters? Or is it a 12-team, NL-only league? Greinke threw 80 pitches during his May 10 rehabilitation start in Class A, with mixed results, and he'll probably be on a pitch count of approximately 90-100 on Wednesday. Consider that the Washington Nationals' 34 opposing starters (through May 9) have averaged 16.2 pitches per inning; at the 90-pitch threshold, that's an average of only 5.6 innings. My rule of thumb is never to start any pitcher but the elite -- meaning a top-20 starter at the bare minimum -- so Greinke is fine for you to use, so long as you can accept the possibility of a less-than-six-inning outing.
• Tim Hudson's mastery of the Arizona Diamondbacks is nothing short of extraordinary. He's a perfect 5-for-5 in quality starts in his career at Chase Field -- though, to be fair, all of them occurred in 2007 or earlier -- and he has a quality start in each of his starts against them the past three years (0.78 ERA in those three).
• Ervin Santana possesses a similar -- and actually more extensive -- track record of success at Oakland's O.co Coliseum. He's 6-1, is 9-of-10 in quality starts, has a 2.08 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in his career at that venue.
• That Verlander-Darvish matchup should indeed be a game to watch, if you consider either pitcher's track record against the opposing team. Verlander is a perfect 4-for-4 in quality starts, three of them wins, with a 1.29 ERA and 10.93 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio at Rangers Ballpark, including seven innings of one-run, eight-strikeout baseball last Aug. 11. Darvish, meanwhile, has won all three of his starts against the Detroit Tigers, two of them quality starts, with a 3.60 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 10.35 strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio. Who gets the win is anyone's guess; there's no question that both pitchers are must-starts even in that hitter-friendly ballpark.
• In that other marquee Thursday pitching matchup, however, Tony Cingrani has the edge despite being the one of the two pitching on the road. Keep in mind that the opposing Miami Marlins have the majors' worst numbers against fastballs (.225/.287/.321 triple-slash rates), and that's almost entirely what Cingrani throws. He'll also be the one fighting to stick in the Cincinnati Reds' rotation following Johnny Cueto's activation, so there's plenty of motivation in this one.
• Here are this week's Streamer's Delight picks -- players need to be available in at least 75 percent of ESPN leagues as of our publishing time (Fridays):
1. Chris Tillman (SD, Tuesday): He has four consecutive quality starts and will be facing a San Diego Padres team ranked in the bottom 10 in road OPS.
2. Bud Norris (@PIT, Sunday): He had a 2.33 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in four starts at Pittsburgh's PNC Park in 2011-12 combined.
3. Brandon McCarthy (@MIA, Saturday): Few things can cure a pitcher's struggles more than a Miami Marlins matchup. His May 7 start was solid.
4. Ubaldo Jimenez (SEA, Friday): He has back-to-back solid outings, and current Seattle Mariners combined have .224/.306/.329 lifetime rates against him.
5. Scott Feldman (NYM, Saturday): Ride this hot streak -- three straight quality starts -- against a New York Mets team with a mere .696 OPS.
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.
• Here are this week's "volume plays" -- defined as the teams that play the most home games, or games against right- or left-handed starters:
7 home games: Los Angeles Angels, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals
Versus RH: New York Yankees 7, Texas Rangers 7, New York Mets 6, Pittsburgh Pirates 6, St. Louis Cardinals 6
Versus LH: Boston Red Sox 4, Atlanta Braves 4, Milwaukee Brewers 4
• Melky Cabrera, who has four multihit games in his past five, has an opportunity to exact revenge upon his former teams this week. He first battles a San Francisco Giants team that let him depart via free agency last winter, then plays three games at New York's Yankee Stadium, where he has two home runs and an .816 OPS in seven games as a visiting player. Remember, it's matchups advantages like these that you need to support using a player with a mere five-game schedule.
• Speaking of the Yankees, that seven of their eight games are scheduled against right-handed starters, with six contests at hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium, suits them well offensively. No team has a wider split favoring hitters versus lefties; the Yankees' team OPS against left-handed pitchers (.804) is 177 points higher than that against right-handers (.627). This is the week to get players like Ichiro Suzuki (.261 AVG, 2 SB in May), Travis Hafner (.317/.427/.603 rates against righties) and Lyle Overbay (.306/.359/.597 against righties) into your lineup.
• The Milwaukee Brewers, meanwhile, experience an advantage -- comparative to their low rating -- due to their schedule heavily favoring the opposite side: They have .289/.339/.474 triple-slash rates against left-handed pitchers, their .813 OPS against ranks second best in the majors, and they'll face four lefty starters this week. Pay heed to that "3" rating, but don't let it scare you from hot-hitting right-handed Brewers like Carlos Gomez (.438/.471/.813 versus lefties) or Yuniesky Betancourt (.267 AVG, 2 HR against lefties in 30 at-bats).