Two weeks ago I suggested giving Ubaldo Jimenez a start in Atlanta. He responded by tossing the first no-hitter of the season. Last week I liked Jonathan Sanchez against the Padres; he allowed one hit over seven innings in a tough-luck loss. Of course, I also liked Derek Lowe against the Phillies, and he got knocked around a bit. I touted Rafael Furcal in this column and he's continued his hot streak. I did the same for Chris Young, and he left me hanging. At least I had Andre Ethier's performance to lift my spirits.
Let's take a look at the upcoming week in the National League, with a little help from the legendary Johnny Cash.
Ride this train
Ryan Dempster vs. WAS: Dempster has been outstanding in 20 games (12 starts) against Washington, boasting a 7-0 record, 3.15 ERA, and .224 BAA (batting average against). In 14 IP (innings pitched) against the Nats last year, Dempster only allowed three ER (earned runs). Dempster is a much better pitcher at home, where his career winning percentage is .278 higher than on the road, and his K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings) improves by one.
Roy Oswalt vs. CIN, @ ATL: Oswalt's stat line against the Reds is ridiculous: 23-1, 2.58 ERA, .235 BAA, .291 OPB (on-base percentage), .357 SLG (slugging percentage), 3.24 K:BB (strikeout to walk ratio), 7.2 K/9 (strikeouts per nine innings). He's had some struggles against Atlanta, but I still like him at pitcher-friendly Turner Field, especially with the way he's been throwing this year. Oswalt has been much better than his 2-2 record indicates; 2.42 ERA, 1.00 WHIP (Walks plus Hits per Innings Pitched), and a .219 BAA.
Jeff Suppan vs. PIT: Suppan has more career wins against the Buccos than any other team; he's 14-3 with a 4.32 ERA and .262 BAA. Suppan is 13 games above .500 at home, and 14 games under .500 on the road. If you're ever going to use Suppan, who's available in 100 percent of Yahoo leagues, now is the time; April is his best month in terms of both career ERA and BAA.
Chad Billingsley vs. PIT: 3-0, 9.6 K/9 in seven games (three starts) vs. Pittsburgh. One ER, seven Ks in 5.1 IP in his first start against the Pirates this year.
Tyler Clippard @ CHI, @ FLA: Chicago and Florida hitters are a combined 8-for-45 (.178 AVG) against Clippard. In 13.2 IP in 2010: 1 ER (0.66 ERA), 0.80 WHIP, .140 BAA, 11.85 K/9, and two holds.
Doug Davis @ SD: Career at Petco Park (seven starts): 4-1, 3.18 ERA, .217 BAA, .286 SLG, 7.1 K/9. Overall, he's 10-3, 2.91 ERA vs. San Diego.
Brad Penny vs. CIN: 7-2, 3.18 ERA, .220 BAA, 7.1 K/9 vs. Cincinnati. One ER in six IP in one start vs. the Reds in '10.
Clayton Richard vs. MIL: Significantly better at Petco: 4-1, 2.27 ERA, .196 BAA, .282 OPB, .292 SLG, 7.9 K/9. Five ER in 16.2 IP (2.70 ERA) vs. Milwaukee.
Cry, Cry, Cry
Homer Bailey vs. STL: Bailey is a guy who doesn't like pitching at his hitter-friendly home. His career ERA, BAA, OBP and SLG all improve when he's away from the Great American Ball Park. In five outings against the Cardinals, Bailey is 1-3 with a .315 BAA, and he's allowed 17 ER in 21.2 IP (7.06 ERA). In 15.2 IP this season, he's allowed 13 ER and 23 hits.
Johnny Cueto @ HOU: Cueto has had absolutely no success against Houston. In seven career starts against the Astros he's 0-4 with a 5.22 ERA. Houston has hit .294 against him, and he's walked 20 versus 28 strikeouts. Things get even worse for Cueto when he's in Houston. In four careers starts at Minute Maid Park he's 0-3, with 14 ER in 20.2 IP (6.10 ERA) and 12:15 K:BB ratio. He's matched up against Reds-killer Roy Oswalt, so even if the weak-hitting Astros don't get to Cueto, walking away with a win is going to be a tall order.
Carlos Silva vs. WAS, vs. ARZ: Silva has been one of the biggest surprises of the season, but his bubble is about to burst. In 21 IP against Washington (14 games, one start), he's allowed 18 ER (7.71 ERA), 33 hits/seven walks (1.905 WHIP), .367 BAA, and .418 OBP. In 9.2 IP versus Arizona (six games, one start), Silva has allowed six ER (5.59 ERA), .333 BAA, .404 OBP. Eventually Silva is going to revert back to his old self, which looks like this: 62-64, 4.66 ERA, .302 BAA, 1.396 WHIP.
Kris Benson @ COL: Three starts at Coors Field: four HRs, 5 2Bs, .295 BAA, nine Ks in 19.1 IP (4.2 K/9).
Aaron Harang @ HOU, @ STL: 0-3, 8.31 ERA, 1.615 WHIP in 2010. 5-5, 4.09 ERA, 11 HRs in 12 games in Houston. 3-4, 4.11 ERA in eight career starts at the new Busch Stadium.
John Maine vs. LAD: 1-4, 4.54 ERA in six career starts vs. the Dodgers.
Nick Masset @ HOU, @ STL: Don't get tempted by his strikeouts; he's allowed 11 ER, 14 hits, and two HRs in eight IP.
Chad Qualls @ COL, @ CHI: Just got the dreaded vote of confidence from manager A.J. Hinch. He's blown two saves and has allowed eight ER and two HRs in seven IP.
For the good times
Chris Carpenter vs. ATL 4/27; vs. CIN 5/2Roy Halladay @ SF 4/26; vs. NYM 5/1Dan Haren @ COL 4/26; @ CHI 5/1Yovani Gallardo vs. PIT 4/26; @ SD 5/1Hiroki Kuroda @ NYM 4/26; vs. PIT 5/1Roy Oswalt vs. CIN 4/27; @ ATL 5/2Jonathan Sanchez vs. PHI 4/26; vs. COL 5/2
One more ride
Zach Duke @ MIL 4/26; @ LAD 5/1Jon Garland @ FLA 4/27; vs. MIL 5/2Tom Gorzelanny vs WAS 4/27; vs ARZ 5/2Tim Hudson @ STL 4/26; vs. HOU 5/1Edwin Jackson @ COL 4/27; @ CHI 5/2Josh Johnson vs. SD 4/26; vs. WAS 5/2Mat Latos @ FLA 4/26; vs. MIL 5/1Derek Lowe @ STL 4/27; vs. HOU 5/2Jamie Moyer @ SF 4/27; vs. NYM 5/2Ross Ohlendorf @ MIL 4/27; @ LAD 5/2Vicente Padilla @ NYM 4/27; vs. PIT 5/2Randy Wolf vs. PIT 4/27; @ SD 5/2
Jason Hammel vs. ARZ 4/26; @ SF 5/2Aaron Harang @ HOU 4/27; @ STL 5/2John Lannan @ CHI 4/26; @ FLA 5/2Kyle Lohse vs. ATL 4/26; vs. CIN 5/1Oliver Perez @ LAD 4/26; @ PHI 5/2Carlos Silva vs. WAS 4/26; vs. ARZ 5/1
How great thou art
Stephen Drew, SS: In Drew's last 11 games, he's batting .350 (14-for-40), with a .447 OBP, and a .997 OPS (on base plus slugging). Last season at Coors Field, Drew was 10-for-27 with two HRs, two 2Bs, one 3B, six RBIs, five BBs, and was 2-for-2 in stolen base attempts. For his career, Drew has a .311 AVG against Colorado pitching. In his 12-game career at Wrigley, Drew boasts a .340 AVG, 1.032 OPS, two 2Bs, two 3Bs, three HRs, and nine RBIs.
Andrew McCutchen, OF: McCutchen is almost impossible to catch stealing on the road; he's 15-for-16 in stolen base attempts. In 10 games against Milwaukee, McCutchen is 17-for-51 (.333) with 2 HRs, six RBIs, six 2Bs, and six runs. In ten games vs. LA, he's 16-for-44 (.364) with 10 runs, a double, and a triple.
Josh Willingham, OF: Willingham is traditionally a fast starter, and this year is no exception. He's hitting .327 with a .486 OBP, 1.063 OPS, and three SBs. In 13 games at Wrigley Field, he's batting .372 with a .509 OBP, 1.253 OPS, four HRs, and 17 RBIs. Willingham has average numbers in Florida, but he did play there for five years, so he's bound to be comfortable in those surroundings. Willingham is available in 40 percent of Yahoo! leagues, and would make a solid addition to any team looking to upgrade its offense.
James Loney, 1B: .310 AVG, three SBs (2nd among 1B); .299 career AVG vs. NYM
Ryan Ludwick, OF: Taken off since he moved in front of Albert Pujols in the batting order. .311 AVG, .400 OBP this season; .412 AVG, .565 OBP in his last five games.
Bengie Molina, C: With lots of catchers struggling, Molina makes a decent play against the Phillies and Rockies, especially at home. He's struggling of late, but he's batting .318 on the season.
Martin Prado, 1B/2B/3B: Becoming a fixture here; 9-for-27 in six games in St. Louis. Batting .406 this year.
Ivan Rodriguez, C: Off to a typical hot start: ,423 AVG, 1.004 OPS. It won't last, so get it while the getting's good (just make sure his back injury isn't serious).
I hung my head
Rod Barajas, C: Barajas has been absolutely dreadful against Los Angeles. In 28 games he's only managed a .159 AVG, .191 OBP, .222 OPS, with one HR, seven RBIs, and 15:3 K:BB ratio. Barajas has fared a little better in 34 games at Citizen's Bank Park, with a .253 AVG; but his .196 AVG on the season (and the two hits in his last 18 at-bats) doesn't inspire much confidence.
Ryan Doumit, C: The Pirates are on the road all week, and that's not a good thing for Doumit. He hits .41 points higher at home, and has 20 more strikeouts on the road in 20 fewer games. His career numbers in Milwaukee have been very pedestrian: 17 games, .210 AVG, .234 OBP, .492 OPS, zero HRs, five RBIs, 14 Ks, 2 BBs. His overall numbers at Dodger Stadium are pretty good, but last year he was only 2-for-8 with three strikeouts. Doumit has been fighting it of late; he's 5-for-28 in his last nine games.
Troy Glaus, 1B: Glaus hasn't done much since he joined the Braves, and I don't expect him to turn it around this week. In three games at the new Busch Stadium last season, Glaus was only 1-for-9 with 5 Ks. In 21 games against the Astros, Glaus is a .230 career hitter. Overall this season, he's 9-for-54 (.167) with 16 Ks.
Luis Castillo, 2B: Last season vs. LA: .222 AVG with one RBI in five games; 29 games at Citizen's Bank Park: .217 AVG, .258 OBP, and 9:6 K:BB ratio.
Raul Ibanez, OF: Dreadful start: .200 AVG, zero HRs in 16 games; 1-for-11 in four games at AT&T Park.
Nate McClouth, OF: Not historically a slow starter, so this slump is a little baffling: 6-for-40 (.150) with 16Ks.
Derek Lee, 1B: Four for his last 27; average numbers against Washington and Arizona.
Aramis Ramirez, 3B: 8-for-63 (.127 AVG), .188 OBP, 22 Ks this season.
The beauty of fantasy baseball is that it's a long season. Just because you've gotten off to a bad start doesn't mean you can't fight your way back to the top. If you've got some players who aren't having the kind of starts you'd hoped for, you can always find some value on the waiver wire. Here are some players to take a look at if you could use a spark, or need an injury replacement. All of these players are available in over 80 percent of Yahoo! leagues; but that doesn't mean they don't bring anything to the table.
From an offensive perspective, Florida catcher John Baker is batting .302 this season ... Padres outfielder Will Venable has three HRs and four SBs ... St. Louis third baseman David Freese is batting .298 and hits in a stacked lineup ... Astros triple-threat Jeff Keppinger (2B/3B/SS) is batting .333 with several clutch hits.
If you need someone to fill the Carlos Zambrano-sized hole in your rotation, Pirates' lefty Zach Duke has put up three very good outings to start the season, and if you take away the rough go he had against Milwaukee last week, he's got some solid numbers; he just needs to cut down on the free passes ... The surprising Livan Hernandez has been dealing in D.C., with a tough-luck loss to Colorado (two ER in eight IP) the only blemish on his otherwise excellent record ... Florida's Nate Robertson is 2-0 with a 2.20 ERA (four ER in 16.1 IP) ... In the bullpen, Juan Gutierrez could be taking Chad Qualls' closer job in Arizona.
* All stats through 4/23.