April 19, 2010

Fantasy baseball prognostication is a tricky business. Sometimes you get it right: Tommy Hanson was lights-out against San Diego, Martin Prado is still ripping it up, and Jonathon Niese didn't get it done in Colorado. Sometimes you get it wrong: Edgar Renteria came back to earth and Andy LaRoche seems to have forgotten that he's terrible. I think of statistics as a game of Mad-Libs; they give you enough to build an outline, but a random bounce here or there fills in the blanks and completes the story.

Let's take a look at the upcoming week in the National League, with a little help from indie-rock heroes Archers of Loaf.

Greatest of all-time

Dan Haren vs. STL, vs. PHI: In two career starts against the Cardinals, Haren is 2-0, allowing only three earned runs in 15 IP, while striking out 16 against only five walks. Haren has been solid so far this year, posting a 3.60 ERA, 1.10 Walks plus hits per innings pitched (WHIP), and 9.00 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9). His history against the Phils hasn't been as productive, but I like the way he's been throwing and his historical early-season historical metrics. Haren has had quality starts in two of his three outings, batters are only hitting .228 against him, and he's allowed just four walks compared to 20 strikeouts.

Derek Lowe vs. PHI: In 14 career games (10 starts) against the Phillies, Lowe is 6-1 with a 2.56 ERA. He won't get you much in the way of strikeouts (4.6 K/9 vs. Philadelphia), but he doesn't let many runners reach base either (.279 on-base percentage (OBP)). In three starts against Philadelphia last season, Lowe was 2-0, allowing only three earned runs in 19.2 IP, with a .227 batting average against (BAA), and 13 strikeouts vs. three walks. The fact that Lowe will be at pitcher-friendly Turner Field only sweetens the deal. Lowe's career ERA improves by about a run when he's in his home ballpark (wherever it may be), and his winning percentage improves by over .140.

Mike Pelfrey vs. CHI, vs. ATL: Pelfrey's career ERA (3.93 vs. 5.46), BAA (.271 vs. .303), and WHIP (1.36 vs. 1.66) all improve when he's at home. He's been outstanding so far this season, and may be moving up in the rotation. Pelfrey has won his first two starts, and allowed only two earned runs and nine hits in 13 IP. He handled pitcher-killing Coors Field with ease, tossing seven scoreless innings against the Rockies. He's only had one career start against the Cubs, but it was a good one: eight IPs, one ER, five hits, five Ks, one BB. He hasn't fared as well against Atlanta, but I think he's too hot to sit right now, especially at home.

Kevin Correia @ CIN: 5-1 lifetime record against the Reds (3-1 at the Great American Ball Park). Nine Ks in his first 11.2 IP.

John Garland vs. SF: 2-0, .242 ERA (six ERs in 22.1 IPs), 12:3 K:BB career vs. San Francisco. Due for a break after a couple of tough losses.

Carlos Marmol @ NYM, @ MIL: 3-for-3 in save opportunities, no runs, nine Ks, one hit allowed in 4.1 IP. Career BAAs: Mets .083, Brewers .127.

Brad Penny @ ARZ, @ SF: 9-3, 1.96 ERA, .220 BAA, 1.033 WHIP vs. Arizona. 6-2, 3.05 ERA, .226 BAA in San Francisco.

Jonathan Sanchez @ SD: Seven career games at Petco: .194 BAA, 8.5 K/9. 1-0, three earned runs, 17 Ks, five BBs, 10 hits in 12.1 IP this year.

Underachievers march and fight song

Brett Myers vs. FLA, vs. PIT: Myers has appeared in 32 games against Florida, starting 24 of them. His career record against the Marlins stands at 6-11, and he sports at 5.64 ERA. The Marlins have hit .300 against Myers, and his career WHIP is 1.63. Myers' four games against Florida last season (two starts) were about as successful as Chris Kattan's post-Saturday Night Live career: 13 IP, nine ER, 16 hits, eight BBs. Myers has been better against the Pirates, but still has a losing record against them. If you are a Myers owner and you're dying to use him, at least hold out until he faces the Cubs; he's been great against them in 13 career games.

Vicente Padilla @ CIN: Padilla has been shelled in two visits to the Great American Ball Park. In 9.2 IP he's allowed 11 earned runs and a .422 BAA. These numbers are not the result of one bad outing; he was horrendous in both starts. Despite a good game his last time out, Padilla hasn't been very good this year, and his history in the Queen city should keep him on your bench this week.

Wandy Rodriguez vs. PIT: Rodriguez hasn't done much in his first two starts (seven ER, 14 hits, six BBs vs. four Ks in 10.1 IP), and was pulled in his second game due to shoulder stiffness. The Astros' offense hasn't done him any favors, lavishing him with exactly zero runs of support in his first two outings. He's been OK against the Pirates (4-4, 4.60 ERA, .289 BAA), but the combination of a slow start, bum shoulder, and no run support make him a risky play right now.

Tim Hudson vs. PHI: Only two Ks in 12.2 IP. 4-6 career vs. Philadelphia with a meager 5.0 K/9. Ryan Howard, Raul Ibanez, Shane Victorino, and Jayson Werth are a combined 37-for-112 (.330) against Hudson (Howard has five dingers).

Kyle Lohse @ ARZ: 0-1 in four career starts in Arizona with a .299 BAA. Four Ks vs. three BB in 13 IP this season.

Jamie Moyer @ ARZ: The old guy still has some use on the mound, but in fantasy his lack of strikeouts hurt his value. Chase Field is a hitter's park.

Clayton Richard vs. SF, @ CIN: Usually a good bet at Petco, but lost his last start there. One career start vs. the Giants: four IP, six ER, two HR. Not crazy about him at the hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park either. One career start vs. the Reds: three IP, three ER, six hits, one HR.

George Sherrill @ CIN, @ WAS: Still owned in about 1/5 of Yahoo! leagues, but I can't figure out why. Could lose the eighth inning job, which would negate his already minimal value.

Two-start pitchers

Some guys you're going to want to double up on this week; some guys you're going to want to stay far away from; and some guys are a little bit from column A and a little bit from column B.

Perfect time

Chad Billingsley @ CIN 4/20; @ WAS 4/25Matt Cain @ SD 4/19; vs. STL 4/25Jorge De La Rosa @ WAS 4/20; vs. FLA 4/25Tommy Hanson vs. PHI 4/20; @ NYM 4/25Dan Haren vs. STL 4/20; vs. PHI 4/25Mike Pelfrey vs. CHI 4/20; vs. ATL 4/25Brad Penny @ ARZ 4/19; @ SF 4/25Randy Wells @ NY 4/19; @ MIL 4/24


Homer Bailey vs. LAD 4/20; vs. SD 4/25Dave Bush @ PIT 4/20; vs. CHI 4/25Aaron Cook @ WAS 4/19; vs. FLA 4/24Kyle Kendrick @ ATL 4/20; @ ARZ 4/25Chris Volstad @ HOU 4/20; @ COL 4/25Carlos Zambrano @ NYM 4/20; @ MIL 4/25

The worst has yet to come

Rodrigo Lopez vs. STL 4/19; vs. PHI 4/24Charlie Morton vs. MIL 4/20; @ HOU 4/25Brett Myers vs. FLA 4/20; vs. PIT 4/25Jonathon Niese vs. CHI 4/19; vs. ATL 4/24Scott Olsen vs. COL 4/20; vs. LAD 4/25Clayton Richard vs. SF 4/19; @ CIN 4/25Craig Stammen vs. COL 4/19; vs. LAD 4/24

Bombs away

Jorge Cantu, 1B/3B: Cantu is off to a magnificent start, with at least one hit and one RBI in his first 10 games. He begins this week at Minute Maid Park, where he's only 4-for-20 lifetime. However, Cantu is 9-for-22 with two HRs and five RBIs against Astros' probable starters Brett Myers, Bud Norris, and Felipe Paulino. Cantu then travels to Coors Field, where he is 7-for-20 with one HR, four RBIs, and five runs scored in eight career games (four starts).

Jeff Francoeur, OF: Francoeur is a lifetime .310 hitter in 45 games at Citi Field. His career on-base plus slugging (OPS) of .878 at Citi Field is .129 points above his career average, and is his second highest at any stadium where he's played 10-plus games. He's off to a great start (.457, three HRs, seven RBIs, nine runs), and I expect his roll to continue.

Rafael Furcal, SS: You can expect Furcal to have a blast on his upcoming road trip. Furcal is a career .331 hitter in 56 games against Cincinnati, and he averages more RBIs per game against the Reds than any other NL team. He's even better against Washington, with a career .325 AVG, including an amazing 10-for-14 with three doubles and five RBIs at Nationals Park, as well as his second highest RBI/game ratio. Furcal is batting .341 with 10 runs and four SBs on the season.

Andre Ethier, OF: .306 lifetime hitter vs. Cincinnati. Owns Livan Hernandez (7-for-20), but you might want to sit him against Jason Marquis (1-for-17). Hitting .387 with three HRs and 12 RBIs this season.

Chase Headley, 3B/OF: Ride his hot start while you can; .310 hitter in April vs. .203 in May. Makes a great play on the road (.308 career AVG), but won't help you with his glove.

Kelly Johnson, 2B: Great numbers at a weak position. More home runs against Philadelphia than any other team.

Scott Rolen, 3B: Spending the week in the Great American Ball Park; career .311 average against Los Angeles. Just make sure his back holds up.

Chris Young, OF: Two series in the hitter-friendly confines of Chase Field. .333 AVG, three HRs, 15 RBIs.

One slight wrong move

Jay Bruce, OF: Bruce has made headlines lately, but for an obscene gesture and not his play, which could also be classified as obscene (.158 AVG, .238 OBP, .184 OPS) until he broke out a bit Sunday. Things won't get any easier when the Dodgers and Padres come to town. In 12 career at-bats against Los Angeles pitching, Bruce has struck out seven times (with only two base hits). Against San Diego he fares a little better, with a 7-for-31 career mark. In nine career games against the two, Bruce has delivered only one HR and three RBIs.

Hunter Pence, OF: Pence is a far better player than his recent numbers indicate, but since he's been a slow starter throughout his career, I'd keep him on the bench until he shows some signs of life. He'll spend this week at home, but his career home/road splits are near identical, so don't expect that to magically snap him out of his funk. He hasn't set the world on fire against either of this week's opponents: .244 AVG, .306 OBP vs. Florida; .237 AVG, .299 OBP vs. Pittsburgh. He's already been sat down once due to his performance, so don't take any chances with him right now.

Jose Reyes, SS: I'm not totally sold on Reyes being back to his old-self just yet; after all, he has been basically out of action for 11 months. Since his return to the lineup, he's hitting .154 and has struck out 10 times in 39 at-bats. This week he faces Chicago and Atlanta, and he has not fared well against the pitchers he's scheduled to face. He's 6-for-31 lifetime against the Cubs' probables, and especially struggles against Carlos Zambrano (3-for-18). He hasn't fared much better against the probable Atlanta starters (3-for-15). There is also a little bit of controversy around where he'll hit in the batting order; manager Jerry Manuel wants him to hit third, but Reyes feels he isn't ready and wants to hit leadoff. I'm always leery of guys who aren't comfortable with their role.

Adam Dunn, 1B: Finally hit his first home run on Thursday, but he's still got eight Ks and only five hits. At least he's getting on base (11 BBs).

Chipper Jones, 3B: Named his son Shea because he loved hitting there, but won't be naming his next kid Citi Field (5-for-26, four Ks). Struggling with back problems.

Carlos Lee, OF: Nothing of value for fantasy owners yet this year: 5for-480 HRs, 0 RBIs. Stay away until he shows any signs of life.

Mark Reynolds, 1B/3B: 15Ks/eight hits. Better career power numbers on the road...and he'll be home all week.

Alfonso Soriano, OF: Getting pulled late in games for defensive replacement Tyler Colvin (two errors in six chances), which is costing him at-bats. Batting average vs. the Mets and Brewers is .20 less than his career average.

Many closer's jobs are only as safe as their last outing. Already this year several closers are on the hot seat and could be losing the ninth inning. As a service to my loyal readers, I present the following chart, which will give you the "guy behind the guy"... in case one of your closers starts to struggle or is lost to injury.

* All stats through 4/16.


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