- Tristan H. Cockcroft, Fantasy
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Fantasy Forecaster updated Monday, May 20, at 9:10 a.m. ET.
On tap: The Tony Cingrani-or-Mike Leake debate reached its resolution on Saturday, as the Cincinnati Reds demoted Cingrani in order to open up a rotation spot for their ace and Opening Day starter, Johnny Cueto, who will be activated to pitch twice in fantasy's Week 8, Monday at Citi Field and Sunday at home versus the Chicago Cubs. Leake remains in Cincinnati, starting Tuesday. Though Cingrani led Leake in both Wins Above Replacement (0.7-0.6) and Player Rater standing (No. 54 starting pitcher, compared to 96), Leake is the one with the lower May ERA (2.79-5.40) and the greater amount of big-league experience, and Cingrani was the one recently dealing with a sore shoulder.
It's a week of potential revenge for two ex-Los Angeles Angels teammates -- though one of them isn't necessarily getting revenge against the Angels. Ervin Santana, who has a 2.79 ERA and five quality starts in his past six appearances for the Kansas City Royals, indeed battles those Angels for the first time since his Oct. 31, 2012, trade. Zack Greinke, meanwhile, returns to Milwaukee for the first time since last July 24; don't underrate the significance seeing as he has never lost at Miller Park in 24 career games (23 starts, 15-0 record), his ERA there 2.89.
Patrick Corbin, currently 6-0 with a 1.52 ERA, gets the test of a Coors Field start on Monday, one of his two turns in Week 8 (the other is Sunday at home versus the San Diego Padres). He was hit hard in both of his starts there in 2012, his ERA in those games 11.00 (11 ER in 9 IP), but don't overlook that he has pitched quality starts in both of his Chase Field games against the Colorado Rockies. Is it a ballpark thing? Perhaps, but Corbin's 48.3 percent ground ball rate in eight starts this season says he might have the arsenal to succeed the third time around there.
Sunday presents us another compelling pitching matchup: Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, the No. 1 starting pitcher on our Player Rater, hosts the St. Louis Cardinals and Shelby Miller, the No. 8 starter and, per ESPN Stats & Information, only the third pitcher since earned runs were first compiled in both leagues in 2013 to allow eight or fewer earned runs in his first nine career starts. Wednesday also provides us another: New York Mets sophomore sensation Matt Harvey hosts the Cincinnati Reds and Mat Latos.
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ESPN lineup deadlines | Interleague impact | Projected starting pitchers
Pitching scuttlebutt | Week 8 pitcher rankings | Pitching advantages
Hitting ratings | Hitting advantages
A weekend wraparound series as well as the Toronto Blue Jays' Victoria Day contest gives fantasy's Week 8 another early start: The Cleveland Indians host the Seattle Mariners in the finale of their four-game weekend set at 12:05 p.m. ET on Monday, while the Blue Jays host the Tampa Bay Rays at 1:07 p.m. ET. Make sure to set your lineups early if you play in a league with weekly transactions, as it's the second consecutive week in which we have that early a Monday start time.
For those in daily leagues, there are day games scheduled for every day of Week 8 except for Tuesday and Friday. First pitch on Wednesday is at 12:10 p.m. ET (Minnesota Twins at Atlanta Braves), while first pitch Thursday is at 12:35 p.m. ET (Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates, Thursday's only day game).
It's a light week for interleague play, just six games scheduled, three of them pitting two of the three lowest-scoring teams in baseball (Marlins, 30th; and White Sox, 28th) against one another. Fantasy owners must surely be excited at the prospect of the paper-thin Marlins' offense gaining the designated hitter spot. Yay, more at-bats for Chris Coghlan, Matt Diaz, Nick Green and/or Miguel Olivo!
It's the loss of the DH for the Twins that is the most relevant interleague storyline of Week 8, because it means that catcher-DH partners Joe Mauer and Ryan Doumit must squeeze into one spot. That's significant for Doumit's owners, because Doumit has made the greater number of starts at DH (15-10), the fewer number behind the plate (12-25) and he has played only 2 2/3 innings anywhere else in the field (left field, on May 6). Doumit's best chance at serving as more than a pinch hitter in Atlanta is a possible start against lefty Paul Maholm on Wednesday; it'd be the first time the former teammates have ever faced one another.
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.
• The Los Angeles Angels will push back their fifth starter spot to Saturday, at which time Tommy Hanson (bereavement) is expected to be ready.
• With the New York Yankees' May 19 game being rained out, Vidal Nuno, their current fifth starter, seems likely to be skipped in the rotation this week due to Thursday's off day.
• It is unclear whether the Texas Rangers will use Thursday's off day to push back fill-in starter Josh Lindblom in their rotation. If they do, Yu Darvish would pick up a second start.
• The Toronto Blue Jays have pushed back Chad Jenkins to at least Thursday due to their May 19 rainout. He is projected above as their Friday starter.
• Ted Lilly (ribs) is in the midst of a rehabilitation assignment and might return to the Los Angeles Dodgers' rotation sometime this week.
• Tyler Lyons will assume Jaime Garcia's open rotation spot for the St. Louis Cardinals, beginning on Wednesday.
• Ryan Vogelsong's Monday assignment was already in jeopardy, and the San Francisco Giants might address his status before his second start on Sunday.
• Ross Detwiler (back) is expected to miss at least one start in the Washington Nationals' rotation, with Zach Duke filling in. The team can then use Thursday's off day to bring back Stephen Strasburg for a second turn on Sunday.
1. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Mon-@MIL (Gallardo), Sun-STL (Miller)
2. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Sat-TEX (Holland)
3. Stephen Strasburg (WSH) -- Tue-@SF (Cain), Sun-PHI (Hamels)
4. Jordan Zimmermann (WSH) -- Fri-PHI (Kendrick)
5. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Tue-@CLE (Kluber), Sun-MIN (Pelfrey)
6. Yu Darvish (TEX) -- Tue-OAK (Straily)
7. Shelby Miller (STL) -- Mon-@SD (Marquis), Sun-@LAD (Kershaw)
8. Matt Harvey (NYM) -- Wed-CIN (Latos)
9. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Mon-@MIA (Sanabia), Sun-@WSH (Strasburg)
10. Adam Wainwright (STL) -- Tue-@SD (Volquez)
11. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Mon-@CWS (Axelrod), Sat-CLE (Kazmir)
12. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Wed-@CLE (Jimenez)
13. Chris Sale (CWS) -- Wed-BOS (Buchholz)
14. Madison Bumgarner (SF) -- Wed-WSH (Gonzalez)
15. Hisashi Iwakuma (SEA) -- Mon-@CLE (Kazmir), Sun-TEX (Lindblom)
16. Mat Latos (CIN) -- Wed-@NYM (Harvey)
17. James Shields (KC) -- Wed-@HOU (Lyles)
18. Anibal Sanchez (DET) -- Fri-MIN (Hernandez)
19. Cliff Lee (PHI) -- Wed-@MIA (Slowey)
20. Clay Buchholz (BOS) -- Wed-@CWS (Sale)
21. Lance Lynn (STL) -- Fri-@LAD (Capuano)
22. Jake Peavy (CWS) -- Sat-MIA (Nolasco)
23. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Mon-@BAL (Garcia), Sat-@TB (Moore)
24. Patrick Corbin (ARI) -- Mon-@COL (Garland), Sun-SD (Marquis)
25. Gio Gonzalez (WSH) -- Wed-@SF (Bumgarner)
26. Jeff Samardzija (CHC) -- Wed-@PIT (Liriano)
27. Matt Cain (SF) -- Tue-WSH (Strasburg)
28. A.J. Burnett (PIT) -- Fri-@MIL (Estrada)
29. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Mon-LAD (Kershaw), Sun-PIT (Rodriguez)
30. Hiroki Kuroda (NYY) -- Wed-@BAL (Hammel)
31. Doug Fister (DET) -- Sat-MIN (Correia)
32. Mike Minor (ATL) -- Sat-@NYM (Gee)
33. Matt Moore (TB) -- Sat-NYY (Sabathia)
34. Alex Cobb (TB) -- Tue-@TOR (Ortiz)
35. Homer Bailey (CIN) -- Sat-CHC (Wood)
36. Jose Fernandez (MIA) -- Tue-PHI (Cloyd)
37. Wandy Rodriguez (PIT) -- Tue-CHC (Garza), Sun-@MIL (Gallardo)
38. Derek Holland (TEX) -- Sat-@SEA (Hernandez)
39. Tommy Milone (OAK) -- Fri-@HOU (Bedard)
40. Dan Haren (WSH) -- Sat-PHI (Pettibone)
41. Kyle Kendrick (PHI) -- Fri-@WSH (Zimmermann)
42. Kris Medlen (ATL) -- Fri-@NYM (Hefner)
43. Chris Tillman (BAL) -- Fri-@TOR (Jenkins)
44. Andrew Cashner (SD) -- Sat-@ARI (Miley)
45. Trevor Cahill (ARI) -- Wed-@COL (De La Rosa)
46. C.J. Wilson (LAA) -- Wed-SEA (Maurer)
47. Hyun-Jin Ryu (LAD) -- Wed-@MIL (Peralta)
48. R.A. Dickey (TOR) -- Mon-TB (Odorizzi), Sat-BAL (Garcia)
49. Johnny Cueto (CIN) -- Mon-@NYM (Marcum), Sun-CHC (Garza)
50. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Fri-COL (Chatwood)
51. Justin Masterson (CLE) -- Fri-@BOS (Lackey)
52. Ervin Santana (KC) -- Thu-LAA (Blanton)
53. Zack Greinke (LAD) -- Tue-@MIL (Burgos)
54. Brandon McCarthy (ARI) -- Fri-SD (Stults)
55. Hector Santiago (CWS) -- Fri-MIA (Koehler)
56. David Phelps (NYY) -- Fri-@TB (Hernandez)
57. Kyle Lohse (MIL) -- Sat-PIT (Locke)
58. Jerome Williams (LAA) -- Tue-SEA (Harang), Sun-@KC (Davis)
59. Tim Hudson (ATL) -- Tue-MIN (Pelfrey)
60. Jeremy Hellickson (TB) -- Wed-@TOR (Buehrle)
61. Ryan Dempster (BOS) -- Thu-CLE (McAllister)
62. A.J. Griffin (OAK) -- Sat-@HOU (Harrell)
63. Jorge De La Rosa (COL) -- Wed-ARI (Cahill)
64. Brandon Morrow (TOR) -- Thu-BAL (Jurrjens)
65. Julio Teheran (ATL) -- Mon-MIN (Correia), Sun-@NYM (Marcum)
66. Travis Wood (CHC) -- Sat-@CIN (Bailey)
67. Paul Maholm (ATL) -- Wed-MIN (Worley)
68. Wade Miley (ARI) -- Sat-SD (Cashner)
69. Marco Estrada (MIL) -- Fri-PIT (Burnett)
70. Matt Garza (CHC) -- Tue-@PIT (Rodriguez), Sun-@CIN (Cueto)
71. Jason Vargas (LAA) -- Fri-@KC (Mendoza)
72. Francisco Liriano (PIT) -- Wed-CHC (Samardzija)
73. Phil Hughes (NYY) -- Tue-@BAL (Gonzalez), Sun-@TB (Odorizzi)
74. Ricky Nolasco (MIA) -- Sat-@CWS (Peavy)
75. Bronson Arroyo (CIN) -- Fri-CHC (Feldman)
Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
Dylan Axelrod (CWS) -- Mon-BOS (Lester), Sun-MIA (Sanabia)
Bartolo Colon (OAK) -- Mon-@TEX (Lindblom), Sun-@HOU (Keuchel)
Felix Doubront (BOS) -- Tue-@CWS (Quintana), Sun-CLE (Kluber)
Miguel Gonzalez (BAL) -- Tue-NYY (Hughes), Sun-@TOR (Ortiz)
Jeremy Guthrie (KC) -- Mon-@HOU (Keuchel), Sat-LAA (Hanson)
Scott Kazmir (CLE) -- Mon-SEA (Iwakuma), Sat-@BOS (Lester)
Jason Marquis (SD) -- Mon-STL (Miller), Sun-@ARI (Corbin)
Jake Odorizzi (TB) -- Mon-@TOR (Dickey), Sun-NYY (Hughes)
No-thank-yous, among two-start pitchers:
Kevin Correia (MIN) -- Mon-@ATL (Teheran), Sat-@DET (Fister)
Wade Davis (KC) -- Tue-@HOU (Norris), Sun-LAA (Williams)
Freddy Garcia (BAL) -- Mon-NYY (Sabathia), Sat-@TOR (Dickey)
Jon Garland (COL) -- Mon-ARI (Corbin), Sun-@SF (Vogelsong)
Dallas Keuchel (HOU) -- Mon-KC (Guthrie), Sun-OAK (Colon)
Corey Kluber (CLE) -- Tue-DET (Scherzer), Sun-@BOS (Doubront)
Josh Lindblom (TEX) -- Mon-OAK (Colon), Sun-@SEA (Iwakuma)
Shaun Marcum (NYM) -- Mon-CIN (Cueto), Sun-ATL (Teheran)
Ramon Ortiz (TOR) -- Tue-TB (Cobb), Sun-BAL (Gonzalez)
Mike Pelfrey (MIN) -- Tue-@ATL (Hudson), Sun-@DET (Scherzer)
Alex Sanabia (MIA) -- Mon-PHI (Hamels), Sun-@CWS (Axelrod)
Ryan Vogelsong (SF) -- Mon-WSH (Duke), Sun-COL (Garland)
• Miami Marlins rookie Jose Fernandez, who has made three consecutive quality starts and is available in 44.3 percent of ESPN leagues, makes his third career start -- in his ninth career game -- against the Philadelphia Phillies. Why is that significant? Fernandez has thrown 13 shutout innings of three-hit, 14-strikeout baseball in his previous two games against the Phillies. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Domonic Brown are a combined 0-for-16 with eight K's against Fernandez.
• With the possible exception of fresh-off-the-DL Matt Garza -- my old "sit 'im for start No. 1 back" rule -- Pittsburgh Pirates opponents are advantageous matchups plays this week. Experienced fantasy owners know that PNC Park is a pitching-friendly venue, which supports Jeff Samardzija's and Edwin Jackson's cases. Samardzija, in particular, stands out thanks to his being a perfect 3-for-3 in wins and quality starts with a 0.75 ERA in his career as a starter at PNC. Meanwhile, the Milwaukee Brewers' trio of weekend Pirates opponents has an outstanding track record against them since the beginning of 2012: Marco Estrada has a 2.84 ERA and 10.23 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio in five starts; Kyle Lohse has a 2.55 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in three starts; and Yovani Gallardo has a 3.16 ERA and four quality starts in five games.
• Do you break the fresh-off-the-DL rule and start Garza, or Johnny Cueto, for that matter? As always, it depends upon your league settings -- starts-cap leagues make such pitchers no-gos -- but here are their matchup histories:
Garza at PNC Park: 2 career GS, 3.75 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 9.75 K/9
Garza at Great American Ball Park: 2 career GS, 3.60 ERA, 1.80 WHIP
Cueto at Citi Field: 2 career GS, 3.75 ERA; 7 IP, 1 ER, 8 K's on 6/17/12
Cueto versus Cubs: 4 GS in 2012, 4-0, 0.95 ERA; 18 career GS, 3.01 ERA
Garza is the less highly regarded of the two in fantasy, but he's also the one making both starts on the road -- and Cueto's one road turn is in a pitching-friendly environment -- as well as the one whose pitch count was lower in the minors in his most recent rehab start. Garza's pitch-count pattern in four rehab starts is 42, 54, 66, 75, meaning that he shouldn't work as deep into his first outing, not to mention his second is his significantly tougher matchup.
Cueto, meanwhile, threw 58 pitches in game action, then another 23 in the bullpen afterward, for 81 total, in his recent rehab start. He could push 100 at Citi Field, which explains his significantly higher ranking.
• The Philadelphia Phillies, despite six road games, have a favorable set of pitching matchups, getting the exact right time to face the Washington Nationals -- during a period of time that Jayson Werth and Wilson Ramos are on the disabled list and the team has the majors' worst OPS in the month of May (.620). Cole Hamels is a no-brainer most any week, but especially this: He's 4-for-4 in quality starts with a 1.55 ERA and 1.03 WHIP in his career at Miami's Marlins Park, and 3-1 with a 1.96 ERA and 1.04 WHIP in six career starts at Washington's Nationals Park. And what of their lesser-known options? Rookies Tyler Cloyd and Jonathan Pettibone warrant NL-only consideration; Cloyd has four quality starts in seven career appearances and Pettibone two in five albeit with a solid 3.41 ERA and 1.28 WHIP.
• 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. Jorge De La Rosa (ARI, Wednesday): He is 6-for-8 in quality starts this season, two of those coming in his two starts versus the Arizona Diamondbacks.
2. Hector Santiago (MIA, Friday): He has a 2.00 ERA and 1.06 WHIP in his three starts of 2013, and now faces the majors' lightest-hitting offense.
3. Scott Kazmir (SEA, Monday): His changeup has been his forte thus far, and the Seattle Mariners have been the majors' worst at hitting changeups (.448 OPS).
4. Julio Teheran (@NYM, Sunday): He's riding a 3-QS-in-4-starts streak, and the New York Mets have ghastly .216/.301/.362 rates at Citi Field this year.
5. David Phelps (@TB, Friday): Available in 98.8 percent of ESPN leagues, Phelps isn't getting enough credit for his career 3.69 ERA and 1.24 WHIP as a starter.
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:
Home games: Toronto Blue Jays 7, Chicago White Sox 6, Houston Astros 6, Milwaukee Brewers 6, New York Mets 6, San Francisco Giants 6
Los Angeles Angels, Pittsburgh Pirates, St. Louis Cardinals
Versus RH: Toronto Blue Jays 7, Baltimore Orioles 6, Los Angeles Angels 6, Minnesota Twins 6, Atlanta Braves 6, Philadelphia Phillies 6, Pittsburgh Pirates 6
Versus LH: Milwaukee Brewers 4, Boston Red Sox 3, Seattle Mariners 3, Miami Marlins 3, San Diego Padres 3
• Respectable rating aside -- their "6" is more of a product of John Lackey and Felix Doubront matchups as well as their hot start -- the Cleveland Indians don't have the easiest set of hitting matchups this week. Five of their seven opponents rank among the 40 best pure starting pitchers on our Player Rater: Hisashi Iwakuma (Monday), Max Scherzer (Tuesday), Justin Verlander (Wednesday), Ryan Dempster (Thursday) and Jon Lester (Saturday). Perhaps the Indians hitter of greatest concern is their highest-rated on our Player Rater, Mark Reynolds. He's 0-for-8 with five strikeouts in his career against Scherzer, 3-for-15 (.200 AVG) with one home run but also nine K's against Verlander, 3-for-14 (.214 AVG) with four K's against Dempster, and 1-for-8 (.125 AVG) with four K's against Lackey.
• Weeks -- pun unintended -- chock full of games against left-handed pitching as well as at Miller Park are a tremendous plus for the Milwaukee Brewers: They have an OPS 81 points higher against lefties (.796) than righties (.715), and 162 points higher at home (.815) than on the road (.653). The rationale for the former is simple: Brewers like Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy, Aramis Ramirez and Rickie Weeks are right-handed hitters with strong track records against southpaws. Though the Brewers -- and specifically players like Gomez, Ramirez and Weeks -- have been slumping in recent days, much of the reason is a considerably tougher Week 7 schedule that included games against A.J. Burnett, Wandy Rodriguez and Lance Lynn all on the road. Burnett and Rodriguez face the Brewers again this week, but home-field advantage should give these guys a better shot.
Tristan H. Cockcroft breaks down the Monday-through-Sunday schedule and offers helpful tips for Week 8 of the fantasy baseball season, noting that Johnny Cueto and Matt Garza are both returning from the DL in time for two-start weeks.