April 12, 2010

It does not matter if you are in an AL-only or mixed league, the A.L. Weekly Planner is here to help you become the top dawg in your league.

As the first week of the season comes to a close, hopefully you started Vladimir Guerrero, Rick Porcello and Tim Wakefield ... and sat Edwin Encarnacion and J.D. Drew. Johnny Damon and Jose Bautista did not pan out, but stay the course with those players, as they will pay off in the long run. Let's go ahead and dive in to the analysis of Week 2.

Packin' heat

Dallas Bradenvs BAL: Braden pitched seven sensational innings in his first start against Seattle. He allowed just four hits and a walk, while striking out 10 Mariners. Not a bad springboard to his next matchup against the Orioles at home. He has dominated the Orioles over his five previous meetings, going 4-1 with a 1.29 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 4.64 H/9, 3.0 K:BB and .178 batting average against (BAA). Another factor in Braden's favor is that Oakland Coliseum has the most expansive foul territory in the majors, which could help reduce his BAA even more.

Brian Bannister @ DET: Bannister had a solid box score line against the Tigers, but only had one groundball out (23 batters). While luck was on his side, he was still in line for his first win of the season ... until Luis Mendoza stuck a knife in his back, allowing five earned runs over 1.2 innings. However, all is not lost, as he will get another stab at the Tigers this week at home. In seven games against the Tigers, he is 4-2 with a 2.01 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP. In 2009, Kauffman Stadium ranked third in the majors in hits, and while Bannister allows 9.1 H/9 at Kauffman Stadium, I would not be overly concerned as long as he can keep his runs in check and decrease his fly ball percentage.

Ricky Romero vs CWS: Generally speaking, pitchers have a tough time at hitter friendly Rangers Ballpark, but Romero played it fairly well. He pitched seven strong innings, giving up one earned run, five hits, two walks, while striking out four. Romero will make his first start against the Sox at U.S. Cellular Field, which ranks first in the majors in HRs. Romero has done fairly well at limiting HRs, as he has a 0.9 HR/9 rate, but it remains to be seen how he will fare at The Cell against a team he has never faced.

Shaun Marcum vs CWS: In 15.1 career innings at U.S. Cellular Field, he is 2-0 with a 1.76 ERA, 0.52 WHIP and a .135 BAA.

C. J. Wilson @ CLE: Over 19 games, 1.02 WHIP, .228 BAA. Time to go out on a limb ... he will get his first win of the season, while sporting a solid WHIP and K:BB ratio.

John Lackey @ MIN: Previous two starts; 1-0, 1.74 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, .168 BAA.

Kevin Millwood @ OAK: Previous six starts; 5-0, 1.84 ERA, 1.10 WHIP.

Clay Buchholz vs TB: Four career starts; 2-1, 1.10 WHIP, .202 BAA.

Keep em' in the pen

Kyle Davies @ DET: In eight career games against the Tigers, Davies is 1-6 with a 5.61 ERA, 1.64 WHIP, and a .320 BAA. Davies has always had a hard time keeping the ball in the park, which is evident by his career 1.2 HR/9 rate. Why do I bring this up? While Comerica Park is 15th in HRs allowed, they reduced the distance in left center from 395 to 370 feet. As a result, right-handed hitters had a home run index of 118 from 2007 to 2009. This is bad news for Davies, because eight of the nine players in the Tigers lineup are right-handed. In case you did not get the hint, don't start Davies.

John Danks @ TOR: Danks has had three starts against the Blue Jays at Rogers Centre, two of which were losses. In those three games, he posted a 7.11 ERA, 1.97 WHIP, .364 BAA and 14.75 H/9. Regardless of how Rogers Centre plays (neutral by the way), Danks has had issues there; so you need to stay away, and may want to consider using a middle Rrliever instead ... continue reading below, as I provided a few middle relief options for times like these.

Jeremy Guthrie vs TB; @ OAK: Here we go again! Against the Rays, he is 3-6 with a 4.70 ERA, 1.58 WHIP and 10.7 H/9. Pretty bad right? Wait, it gets worse! In five games against Oakland, he is 1-3 with a 6.23 ERA, 1.65 WHIP and 11.1 H/9. Two-start pitchers are great ... unless you own Guthrie.

Francisco Liriano vs BOS: Two career starts; 0-2, 13.50 ERA, 2.38 WHIP, .405 BAA.

Gil Meche @ MIN: Seven career starts; 3-3, 5.64 ERA, 1.67 WHIP.

Joe Saunders @ TOR: Two career at Rogers Centre; 0-2, 6.57 ERA, .309 BAA.

Jake Westbrook vs CWS: 22 career starts; 8-12, 5.11 ERA.

Scott Kazmir @ NYY: First game since coming off the disabled list, lower your expectations.

Two-start pitchers

You have all heard the saying, "two is better than one," right? There could not have been a truer statement spoken as the two-start pitchers below are excellent options and are must starts this week.

Max Scherzer: vs KC (4/12); @ SEA (4/18)Jon Lester: @ MIN (4/12); vs TB (4/18)Matt Garza: @ BAL (4/12); @ BOS (4/18)Jake Peavy: @ TOR (4/12); @ CLE (4/17)Brian Matusz: vs TB (4/13); @ OAK (4/18)Brett Anderson: @ SEA (4/13); VS BAL (4/18)

The following pitchers are decent options and while you could get a solid game out of them, there is a chance they could burn you during one of their outings.

Ricky Romero: VS CWS (4/13); VS LAA (4/18)Gavin Floyd: @ TOR (4/13); @ CLE (4/18)Andy Pettitte: vs LAA (4/13); vs TEX (4/18)Ervin Santana: @ NYY (4/13); @ TOR (4/18)Rich Harden: @ CLE (4/12); @ NYY (4/18)Carl Pavano: vs BOS (4/12); vs KC (4/18)Ryan Rowland-Smith: vs OAK (4/12); vs DET (4/18)Luke Hochevar: @ DET (4/12); @ MIN (4/18)

Disregard what I said earlier about "two is better than one," in this case, erase that quote from your brain housing group for the moment. You would be better off with one solid pitcher, than these unfulfilling options:

Jeremy Guthrie: vs TB (4/12); @ OAK (4/17)Fausto Carmona: vs TEX (4/12); vs CWS (4/18)Justin Duchscherer: @ SEA (4/12); vs BAL (4/17)Brian Tallet: vs CWS (4/12); vs LAA (4/17)

Start 'em if you got 'em

Vernon Wells, OF: It seems as though offseason wrist surgery is just what Wells needed to get back on track. In 14 at-bats this season, he has four HRs, a .500 batting average (BA), .588 on-base percentage (OBP), 1.357 slugging percentage (SLG) and a 1.945 on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS). While it is unrealistic to think he will keep this torrid pace up, owners have to remember that he has been dealing with his wrist issue since 2008, which has obviously affected his play. Wells next two series are at home against the White Sox and the Angels. He has fared well against both opponents and Rogers Centre plays neutral. The key to starting Wells is that he seems to be healthy for the first time since 2008 ... start him with confidence.

Milton Bradley, OF: I know, why am I recommending you start Bradley? After all, he is sporting a dreadful .059 BA and .238 OBP. On top of all that, he even nonchalantly gave Rangers fans the finger. I am also aware that his next two series against the A's and Tigers are at Safeco Field, a pitcher's paradise. However, in 89 at-bats at Safeco Field, he has a solid .897 OPS. Couple that with his excellent stats against the A's (85 at-bats, .329 BA, .971 OPS) and Tigers (113 at-bats, .345 BA, 1.022 OPS) and you have an opportunity for a coming out party for Bradley; assuming of course that he can mind his manners.

Alex Gonzalez, SS: Gonzalez is off to a solid start as he has belted two HRs (five HRs in 2009) and posted a stout .944 OPS in 18 at-bats. He will get the opportunity to hit at Rogers Centre, which plays neutral, for the first time this season. In 55 career at-bats against the Angels, Gonzalez is hitting .309 with a .509 SLG and .859 OPS. In 54 at-bats against the White Sox, he is hitting .389 with a 1.114 OPS. Gonzalez is bouncing around the lineup, hitting second, seventh and eighth on the season. If he can stay locked in at the second spot, he should continue to impress.

David DeJesus, OF: Career against DET; .304 BA, .382 OBP. Career against MIN; .315 BA, .372 OBP.

J.D. Drew, OF: Slow start to the 2010 season, but he is solid against MIN (.330 BA, .978 OPS) and TB (.303 BA, .964 OPS). Injury concerns aside, he has the opportunity to get it going.

J.J. Hardy, SS: Came ready to play this season, with two HRs, .333 BA and 1.010 OPS. I see no reason why he cannot replicate his 2008 numbers.

Daric Barton, C/1B: Solid start to the season (seven RBIs, .438 BA, 1.128 OPS). Plays well at Safeco Field (.900 OPS). While I doubt he can continue his solid play, you should use him while he is hot.

Rick Ankiel, OF: 6-for-16 with a 1.040 OPS this season. Plays solid at Comerica Park (12 at-bats, two HRs 1.233 OPS).

Look away ... far away

Edwin Encarnacion, 3B: It is obvious that Encarnacion did not get enough spring at-bats, as he has a horrendous .083 BA and .235 OBP. Life will not get any easier for Encarnacion when he faces the Angels on the road (.167 BA, .333 OPS) and the White Sox at home, a team he has never faced. In 75 career at-bats at Rogers Centre, he has a .227 BA, .294 OBP and a .373 SLG. Maybe Encarnacion will be a better options as the season wears on, but right now, he does not need to come anywhere near your lineup.

Carlos Quentin, OF: Yes, Quentin is having a solid start to the 2010 season (.333 BA, 1.222 OPS), but he has been horrible against the Indians and Blue Jays. He starts in pitcher friendly Progressive Field, where he is batting .197 with a .538 OPS and has only one HR in 66 at-bats. He follows that up with a trip to Toronto, where he is hitting a putrid .115 with a .465 OPS. Don't let Quentin stray too far, he is in line for a solid season and could replicate his 2008 stats.

Brian Roberts, 2B: During the spring, Roberts battled back trouble, now he may be looking at a trip to the disabled list with an abdominal strain. As a result of his injury problems, he is 2-for-14 with no HRs or RBIs. While he plays fairly well against the A's and the Rays, your best bet would be to stick him on your bench if you have a decent option. The last thing you need is for Roberts to hit the DL mid-week and you are not able to to anything about it.

Marco Scutaro, SS: Decent start on the season and while he is surrounded by a solid lineup, he struggles against TB (.235 BA, .624 OPS) and MIN (.244 BA, .588 OPS).

Brandon Wood, 3B: Horrible start to the season with a .063 BA and six strikeouts in 16 at-bats.

Julio Borbon, OF: Is he even playing? It is hard to rack up SBs with no hits in 16 at-bats.

David Ortiz, DH: Has solid upcoming matchups, but he is horrible in April (.214 BA) and he has obviously lost some bat speed.

Luke Scott, OF/DH: Slow start to the season (.143 BA, .250 OBP) will not get any better against TB (.186 BA, .620 OPS).

Middle relievers are often overlooked in fantasy drafts, except in leagues that score holds, but they should not be. Middle relievers are a great way to balance out your pitching categories as they will help with your ERA, WHIP, and will even get you a few wins and strikeouts. Who knows, from time to time they may even net you a save. In no particular order, here are 2009 stats from a few middle relievers who may be on your waiver wire:

Matt Thornton, CWS: Six wins, four saves, 2.74 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and a 10.8 K/9.Daniel Bard, BOS: Two wins, 3.65 ERA and a 11.5 K/9 rate.Hideki Okajima, BOS: Six wins, 53Ks, 3.39 ERA and 1.26 WHIP.David Robertson, NYY: Two wins, 3.30 ERA and a terrific 13.1 K/9 rate.Robinson Tejeda, KC: Four wins, 87Ks, 3.54 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP.Alfredo Aceves, NYY: 10 wins, 69Ks and a 1.01 WHIP.Matt Guerrier, MIN: Five wins, 2.36 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP. Who knows, we may even see him as the closer this season.

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