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Let's face it, this week for the first time in a long time, maybe ever; the baseball world is going to have its focus on the nation's capital. The phenom that is Stephen Strasburg will make his debut Tuesday, June 8 against the lowly Pirates. There have been a lot of hyped rookies over the years, but Strasburg's hype has really been ratcheting up since before last year's amateur draft. At this point, he's basically an iPad with a change-up. Find out how I think Strasburg and a few other two-start pitchers will do in this week's NL primer, as I fill in for Dallas Reed.
Chris Carpenter @ LAD, @ ARZ: The veteran Carpenter is the featured two-start pitcher of the week, mainly due to outstanding numbers over the last two seasons against his two opponents this week. In 15 innings last season against the Dodgers, Carpenter only allowed three earned runs, had a 1.13 walks plus hits per inning pitched (WHIP) and 10 strikeouts. He's got even better numbers against Arizona, a team he's already defeated once this season. Over his last 18 innings pitched versus the Diamondbacks, he's given up three runs to go along with 19 strikeouts. With these numbers it's likely to be a great week for Carpenter owners.
Mike Pelfrey vs. SDG, @ BAL: Not only has Pelfrey allowed just three earned runs over his last 23 innings, but he also has drawn two outstanding matchups for this week. Pelfrey first faces off against the Padres, a team he just recently shut down. In eight innings he allowed one run on four hits and struck out eight Padres in San Diego. This week he faces them in New York. His other matchup is against a team he doesn't have much of a history with, but Baltimore has one of the worst offenses in baseball, putting him in line for a second great start this week.
Roy Halladay vs. FLA: This week, Halladay gets another shot at perfection against the Florida Marlins. In his two starts against the Marlins this year, Halladay has allowed just two runs on eight hits, with zero walks in 17 innings. That gives him a miniscule WHIP of only 0.47, and as a bonus he's tossed in 15 strikeouts as well. He'll match up against Josh Johnson, a difficult opponent. But the Marlins obviously haven't figured out Doc Halladay yet, so he should easily cruise to another victory.
Anibal Sanchez vs. PHI: Someone forgot to tell Sanchez that it's not 2006, because lately he's been pitching like it is. Some may have forgotten his great rookie campaign, when he went 10-3 with a sparkling 2.83 ERA and a filthy 1.19 WHIP. This season his ERA is back under three at 2.89, and in six May starts he's compiled a 1.93 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 37 innings. This week he gets the Phillies again, a team he shut out over six and two-thirds innings with seven strikeouts a couple of weeks ago.
Stephen Strasburg vs. PIT, @ CLE: Hey, who doesn't want to get in on the fun with this guy? His reputation obviously precedes him, but his minor league stats speak for themselves. In just over 50 innings he had 60 Ks, a 1.43 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, and a ridiculous batting average against (BAA) of .157. The Nationals picked a great spot for him to make his debut, as Pittsburgh and Cleveland aren't exactly contenders.
Tim Hudson @ MIN: This season Hudson has been one of the real surprises in the National League and has yet to allow more than three runs in any start. He also leads the Braves with nine quality starts on the season. Add to that his career 2.12 ERA and 1.05 WHIP against the Twins, and it looks like he could be in line for another quality start.
Chad Billingsley @ LAA: Just when you thought he was a bust, Billingsley put together a pretty decent May. Over the past month, Billingsley had 38 strikeouts in 39 innings, a 3.00 ERA and 1.13 WHIP. This week he heads across town to face the rival Angels, against whom he has a career ERA of 2.89 in 28 innings and a batting average against of .238.
Randy Wolf vs. CHC: In two 2009 starts against the Cubs, Wolf threw 14 innings and allowed only two runs on seven hits with 12 strikeouts. Also, this will be in Milwaukee where Wolf's ERA is nearly two runs better, at 3.76 compared to 5.40 on the road.
Take a seat
Barry Zito @ CIN, vs. OAK: Unfortunately, Zito gets to face a hot Reds team and draws another chance to face his former team, the Oakland A's, against whom he has yet to notch a win. Against the Reds, Zito holds a career ERA of 7.13 in just over 35 innings, which is pretty horrible for that large a sample size. What's worse, the game is being played at Great American Ballpark, where the Reds are 19-11 on the season. Things don't get much better when he squares off against Oakland. In 20 innings against them he has an 8.85 ERA, 2.11 WHIP, and Oakland hitters are batting .370 against him. Now might be a good time to sell Zito, before reality sets in. But at the very least you should keep him benched for these matchups.
Wandy Rodriguez @ COL, @ NYY: Another two-start pitcher to stay away from this week is Houston starter Rodriguez. Not only does he have two fairly brutal road games against the Rockies and Yankees, but he also went 1-5 in May, including a meltdown against the Reds in which he surrendered eight runs in three innings of work. He has a minor chance of success in Colorado, but all bets are off when he faces New York in the Big Apple.
Dan Haren vs. ATL, vs. STL: The Arizona ace has already faced both Atlanta and St. Louis this season, and neither start was what you'd call a gem. Against the Cardinals, Haren earned a win but gave up seven runs, including three home runs, in a six-inning slugfest. He didn't fare much better against the Braves, as he couldn't make it out of the fifth inning after giving up six earned runs on three more jacks. Start him if you have to, just be prepared for disappointment.
Chris Volstad @ PHI, @ TAM: The Marlins starter has been a decent-to-average pitcher this season, but this week's schedule pits him against Philadelphia and Tampa Bay, two teams with dangerous lineups. Over the last two seasons against the Phillies, he has given up seven home runs in 26 innings. With the game being played at Citizens Bank Park, it could get ugly. Volstad has made only one career appearance against the Rays, allowing two runs over five innings. But the Rays have hammered far better pitchers than Volstad this season, making him someone you should bench this week.
Kenshin Kawakami @ ARZ: Somehow, the Braves' Kawakami is still owned in 28 percent of Yahoo! Leagues, despite his record of 0-7. This week he faces an Arizona team that has had his number over the last three seasons. In just over nine innings against them, he has a 5.79 ERA and hitters are batting .270 against him. If you use Kawakami strictly as a match-up play, this would be a good week to bench him.
Dave Bush vs. TEX: Bush is as streaky as they come, but when he's bad he's really bad. Although he does have six quality starts, he also has two starts in which he gave up seven runs before the fourth inning. A career 5.56 ERA against the Rangers means the bench for Bush in this interleague match-up.
Two start pitchers
Break out the brooms
Chris Carpenter 06/08 @ LAD; 06/13 @ ARZCole Hamels 06/07 vs. SD; 06/12 @ BOSMike Pelfrey 06/08 vs. SD; 06/13 @ BAL|Stephen Strasburg 06/08 vs. PIT; 06/13 @ CLEMatt Cain 06/08 @ CIN; 06/13 vs. OAKJohnny Cueto 06/07 vs. SF; 06/12 vs. KCYovani Gallardo 06/08 vs. CHC; 06/13 vs. TEXClayton Richard 06/08 @ PHI; 06/13 vs. SEA
A split would do
Wade LeBlanc 06/07 @ PHI; 06/12 vs. SEAJeff Francis 06/07 vs. HOU; 06/13 vs. TORJason Hammel 06/07 vs. HOU; 06/12 vs. TORKyle Kendrick 06/08 vs. SD; 06/13 @ BOSDerrick Lowe 06/07 @ ARZ; 06/12 vs. STL
This could get ugly
Barry Zito 06/07 @ CIN; 06/12 vs. OAKDan Haren 06/07 vs. ATL; 06/12 vs. STLKris Medlen 06/08 @ ARZ; 06/13 @ MINChris Volstad 06/08 @ PHI; 06/13 @ TAMWandy Rodriguez 06/07 @ COL; 06/12 @ NYYEdwin Jackson 06/07 vs. ATL; 06/13 vs. STLBrian Moehler 06/08 @ COL; 06/13 @ NYYSam LeClure 06/08 vs. SF; 06/13 vs. KC
Raking in the Rockies
Carlos Gonzalez, OF: The Colorado outfielder came into the season with high expectations, and two months into the season he's right on schedule. Gonzalez is on pace for over 100 runs scored, 100 RBIs and he should get close to a 20 HR/20 SB season as well. Is that something you'd be interested in? This week he gets seven home games where he's batting a cool .354, with six home runs and 18 RBIs. For me, he's turning into Grady Sizemore circa 2006.
Matt Holliday, OF: Oddly enough our previous player was the key piece in getting Holliday from Colorado to Oakland a couple of years ago. Well a few trades later and Holliday is still raking a few states over in St. Louis. On the road he's batting .351, which is where the Cards will be all week. This week's opponents have given Holliday no problems at all, as he's a combined 12-for-21, with four home runs and seven RBIs against the starters he'll see in Arizona. Against two of the Dodgers starters he'll see, he's 11-for-24 with one home run and six RBIs.
Hunter Pence, OF: The Astros' offense was in a virtual death spiral for most of April, and Pence was a big part of the problem. But, over the last month it appears Pence has turned things around, batting .377 with seven home runs and 19 RBIs. This week, Pence will be in Colorado, where in 38 career at-bats he's batting .368. He'll get to play in hitter- friendly Yankee Stadium over the weekend. For those of you who waited out the slump, enjoy the continued production over the next week.
Miguel Olivo, C: The Rockies catcher must have a really comfortable bed, because when he wakes up in the Mile High City, he becomes Denver's version of Joe Mauer. In 66 home at-bats this season, Olivo is batting .455 with six home runs and 20 RBIs. The Rockies play seven home games this week; so take full advantage of Olivo while he's home.
Cristian Guzman, SS: Washington's shortstop has surprisingly been near the top of the batting average charts for most of the season. This week he gets three home games, where he's batting .397. Also, against the two teams he'll be playing, over the last three seasons he has a .372 average against the Pirates in 78 at-bats, and a .364 average against the Indians in 11 at-bats.
Andrew McCutchen, OF: It's rare that you see a player only hit home runs away from home, but that's case with McCutchen. This season, on the road McCutchen is batting .298 with six home runs, while at home his average remains high at .325, but he still hasn't gone deep. Well this week you're in luck, because McCutchen has six road games, three at Washington and three at Detroit.
Rafael Furcal, SS: Furcal is back from an early season hamstring injury and he's back to killing right-handed pitchers. On the season, Furcal is batting .330 in 88 at-bats against righties, compared to a paltry .167 against lefties. This week, five out of the six starters the Dodgers face are right-handed.
A cold week in June
Chipper Jones, 3B: Could we finally be seeing the end of the Jones era in Atlanta? Well, his numbers continue to slide and the injuries continue to pile up, leaving the Braves with a question mark in their infield. This week the Braves are on the road for all seven games, which is not good news for Jones' owners. In 69 road at-bats, Jones is batting .217 with zero home runs and only four RBIs. Plus, he's dealing with a bruised finger. A few DNP's would not be a shock.
Raul Ibanez, OF: We've now almost reached a full season's worth of slump for Ibanez. If you include last year's post All-Star break numbers with his current stats you'll discover he's gone 96-for-403 (.238 AVG) with 15 home runs and 54 RBIs. When you compare that to the 22 home runs and 60 RBIs he had before last year's All-Star break, it becomes even clearer. There's no relief this week, as he's 1-for-16 (.063 avg.) against Florida this season, and only 2-for-9 (.222 avg.) against Boston.
Chase Headley, 3B: There's no telling where the Padres would be without Headley this season, but this week could be a struggle for him. The Padres will face four lefthanders this week. In 67 at-bats against lefties this season, Headley is only batting .224. Throw in the fact that Cole Hamels, Johan Santana and Cliff Lee are involved, and it smells like a slump could be on the way.
Cameron Maybin, OF: The Marlins and fantasy owners keep waiting for Maybin to turn it on, but he's still struggling to find consistent success at the plate. This week will not get any easier, as he faces the Phillies, a team he's batting just .222 against this season, and a trio of talented starters from Tampa Bay's staff. As the old saying goes, "You can't steal first base."
Derrek Lee, 1B: The Cubs will be away from Wrigley at the beginning of the week, which could lead to a slow start for Lee, only batting .176 on the road in 91 at-bats. A match-up against Jake Peavy also looms. Lee has only three hits of off Peavy in 18 career at-bats.
Rickie Weeks, 2B: Weeks has struggled at home, batting only .232, and with six games on tap there this week, he could leave you with a few too many zeros in the box score. He'll also face some pitchers he's struggled with in the past in Ted Lilly (2-for-15 with two K's), Carlos Zambrano (8-for-35 with 14 K's) and Rich Harden (1-for-6 with four K's).
Bengie Molina, C: Bengie Molina ended May in a brutal 2-for-41 slump, and also welcomed catching prospect Buster Posey up to the big club from Triple-A. For now, Posey is playing first base and Molina is catching, but expect Molina to get a few more off days throughout the season. He's most likely to sit against some right-handed pitchers, whom he's only 20-for-105 (.190 AVG) against this season.
Everybody loves saves, but there's still plenty of value from those middle relievers who aren't running out to their own song before the ninth inning. For those of you in leagues that count holds, these guys should all be long gone. For everyone else, grab one of these guys if you need help with strikeouts or ERA and WHIP.
Luke Gregerson, RP: In 28 innings, Gregerson has compiled 32 strikeouts, a 0.45 WHIP and 1.57 ERA. Throw in the 14 holds and it's not hard to see how valuable these innings could be to most rosters.
Arthur Rhodes, RP: Rhodes has become much more than just a left-handed specialist, with 21 K's, a 0.42 ERA and a 0.69 WHIP in just over 21 innings.
Tyler Clippard, RP: Clippard has been one of the most used relievers this season, throwing over 34 innings in 26 appearances. He leads the Nationals in wins with seven, and in strikeouts with 40. He also carries great ratios with a 1.82 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and batting average against of .177.
Evan Meek, RP: Meek has clearly established himself as a closer in waiting if and when Octavio Dotel blows up. In just over 30 innings, Meek has racked up 31 strikeouts with a 0.89 ERA and 0.96 WHIP.
Takashi Saito, RP: The former closer has found a home in Atlanta, setting up for Billy Wagner. In 24 innings this season Saito has 34 strikeouts, a 3.00 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP.
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