N.L. weekly fantasy planner

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It's All-Star week, which means a truncated fantasy schedule. With teams only playing three or four games this week there won't be any two-start pitchers. However, there will be plenty of opportunities for fantasy teams to get off to a good start in the second half. So join me and my musical guest, garage-rock icons Mudhoney, as we give you the insights and analysis to help you win your fantasy week and get the second half started off right.

In the winner's circle

Dan Haren @ SD: Petco Park has been kind to Haren; in seven games (six starts) Haren is 2-0 with a 2.60 ERA, 1.067 walks plus hits per innings pitched, .238 batting average against, 8.0 strikeouts per nine innings, and a 4.44 strikeouts to walks ratio. Haren's numbers typically dip in the second half, so use him while you can.

Hiroki Kuroda @ STL: In two career starts against the Cardinals, Kuroda has allowed only two earned runs in 13 IP (1.38 ERA). St. Louis hitters are only 8-for-45 (.178) against Kuroda, and he sports an awesome 11:1 K:BB ratio. In Kuroda's only start against the Cardinals this year he tossed seven scoreless innings with six Ks and only one BB.

Ricky Nolasco vs. WAS: Despite getting shelled in his last outing against the Nationals, Nolasco's career numbers indicate it won't happen twice in a row. Nolasco is 7-2 in his 12 starts against Washington, and his 1.058 WHIP is his lowest against any opponent whom he has more than seven starts. Nolasco also boasts a very impressive 6.25 K:BB (50 Ks/eight BBs) against the Nats.

Mike Pelfrey @ SF: Pelfrey's four career starts against the Giants have only produced one win, but that hasn't been his fault. In 27.2 IP against San Francisco, Pelfrey has allowed only seven ERs (2.28 ERA), 22 hits/three BBs (0.904 WHIP), and 16 Ks (5.33 K/BB). Although Pelfrey is a better pitcher at home, he will get it done this week.

Barry Zito vs. NYM: The Giants' lefty has been outstanding at home this season, posting a 5-1 record, 2.83 ERA, and .226 BAA in nine starts. Zito's career numbers against the Mets aren't great, but he's not the same pitcher he was the last couple years. Zito's numbers historically improve during the second half, and I think that trend continues this week.

Let me let you down

Chad Billingsley @ STL: For his career, Billingsley strikes out about twice as many hitters as he walks. But in six games (five starts) against St. Louis, Billingsley has walked 16 against only 20 Ks. Billingsley's 6.3 K/9 is his second lowest against any team whom he has faced six times. Billingsley has been better on the road this year, but I don't think he gets it done against the Cards.

Jorge De La Rosa @ CIN: After missing a big chunk of the 2010 season, De La Rosa is back in the Rockies' rotation. However, he shouldn't be back in your fantasy lineup, at least not this week. De La Rosa has pitched in eight games against the Reds (two starts) and it hasn't gone well. In 14 IP De La Rosa has allowed 13 ER (8.36 ERA), 15 hits, and 13 BBs (2.00 WHIP).

Ryan Dempster vs. PHI: Dempster has toed the rubber in 22 games against the Phillies, starting 15 of them. For his troubles, Dempster has a 4-4 record with a 5.05 ERA and 1.602 WHIP. In Dempster's only start against the Phillies this season, he allowed five hits (including two HRs) and four ERs in six IP, while striking out three and walking two.

Livan Hernandez @ FLA: Hernandez is having a pretty good season, but most of his success has come at home. In his seven road starts he has a .290 BAA, which is 50 points higher than his home BAA. Hernandez's home ERA is an impressive 2.10, but on the road it climbs to 4.70. His K/9 numbers aren't impressive anywhere, but he strikes out about one less batter per nine innings on the road (3.9 K/9). His road WHIP is 1.432 and his K:BB ratio is slightly worse on the road as well. I guess what I'm saying is if you have to carry Livan on your roster, only use him at home.

Jonathon Niese @ SF: Niese has only pitched on the road eight times in his brief career, but so far, the results aren't promising. Opposing road hitters have lit Niese up to the tune of a .305 BAA and a 1.477 WHIP. Niese's numbers are also stronger in the first half (although the sample size is small). He'll be going against the aforementioned Zito, so it all adds up to a week that Niese should stay on your bench.

Our time is now

Corey Hart, OF, @ ATL: Hart finished the first half strong, batting .319 with three HRs and five RBIs in his last 11 games (with at least one hit in 10 of those games). In 24 July games last season Hart posted a .305 batting average and a .380 on-base percentage, so he's a good bet to keep going strong. Hart hit in six consecutive road games after the All-Star break last season, so despite less than stellar numbers at Turner Field, I've got high hopes for him this week.

Aubrey Huff, 1B/OF, vs. NYM: In his last six games against Mets pitching (2009-2010), Huff is 9-for-22 (.409) with one HR and six RBIs. Throughout his career, Huff has proven to be a better second half player, as his batting average, HR/game, and RBIs/game all increase, while his K/game declines. Huff has exceeded everyone's expectations this season, and he won't slow down this week.

Andrew McCutchen, OF, @ HOU: In three games against Houston this year, McCutchen is 4-for-13 (.308). The second half of McCutchen's 2009 rookie season was solid: .283 BA, .376 OBP, 10 HRs, 31 RBIs, 15 SBs, 17 doubles, and four triples in 72 games. I expect him to be even better his second time around.

Martin Prado, 1B/2B/3B, vs. MIL: In 14 career games against the Brewers, Prado is batting a cool .300 with two HRs and 11 RBIs. In three 2010 games against the Beer Men, Prado is 5-for-16 (.313) with one HR and five RBIs. Although his average dropped in the second half last season, Prado's HR and RBI numbers both dramatically improved.

Shane Victorino, OF, @ CHI: Throughout his career, Victorino's bat has been hosting its own July fireworks display; his .326 BA, .387 OBP, .526 Slugging Percentage, and .913 OPS are all monthly highs. The Flyin' Hawaiian's home/road splits are pretty even, so expect him to get off to a good start at Wrigley Field this week.

Here comes sickness

Marlon Byrd, OF: vs. PHI: Byrd's old mates have his number. In 22 games against the Phillies, Byrd is a .210 hitter with a .282 OBP and only one HR and seven RBIs. In 2010, Byrd is 0-for-7 against Philadelphia pitching. Byrd traditionally picks up the pace in the second half, but it won't start this week.

Stephen Drew, SS, @ SD: Yes, Drew is a better second half player, and yes, July is his best month. However, I don't think he'll get off to a good start given that he has to visit San Diego. In 32 games at Petco Park, Drew has a .216 BA with one HR, 11 RBIs, and 30 Ks. In eight at-bats at Petco this season, Drew is only 1-for-8 (.125).

Jeff Francoeur, OF, @ SF: With Carlos Beltran set to return on Thursday, it looks like Angel Pagan will shift to right field, with Francoeur getting some playing time against lefties. If Francoeur does play this week, don't expect much. In 15 games by the Bay he's only batting .200 with a .250 OBP and 10 Ks vs. three BBs. In 13 at-bats against the Giants this season, Francoeur has only managed one hit and has struck out six times (with no walks). Unless you're in a deep NL-only league, it's probably time to drop Francoeur altogether.

Justin Upton, OF, @ SD: It's just not in the cards for Upton this week. July is one of his worst hitting months, he hits much better at home, and in San Diego this season he's 1-for-11 with four Ks.

Juan Uribe, 2B/3B/SS, vs. NYM: Mets pitching has always seemed to baffle Uribe; in 19 games he's batting .188 with a .273 OBP, .188 SLG, .461 OPB, 18 Ks vs. six BBs. Although the rest will do his injured finger some good, I wouldn't expect Uribe to turn things around this week; July is his worst month in terms of BA, OBP, SLG, and OPS.

It's been a while since we talked starting pitching in the Hidden Gems section. As usual, we'll look at players owned in less than 20 percent of Yahoo! leagues who can help your roster. Granted, pickings are thin, but there is some value if you look hard enough.

Beneath the valley of the underdog

Madison Bumgarner, SF (20 percent): If you caught my appearance on the Fantasy War Room last week, you heard my colleague, Bill Root, gush over Bumgarner, and with good reason. Bumgarner's four starts have produced a 2.57 ERA, 1.036 WHIP. The knock on Bumgarner was his dip in velocity last season, but he's looking sharp so far in 2010.

Dave Bush, MIL (three percent): Bush has been on a bit of a roll of late, allowing two or fewer ERs in his last five starts. Take out two seven-ER disasters (one each in April and May), and Bush's ERA drops from 4.14 to 2.98. Pitching in the NL Central means plenty of outings against the Pirates and Astros, the two lowest-scoring and worst hitting teams in the National League.

Paul Maholm, PIT (17 percent): Maholm's overall numbers aren't great, but he should have more than just five wins; the Pirates' bullpen has blown leads in five of Maholm's starts. If you're in a deep NL-only league, Maholm might be worth a flyer in the second half, especially since overall the Buccos bullpen isn't as bad as it has been when Maholm pitches. Maholm's numbers improve across the board in the second half.

Jamie Moyer, PHI (20 percent): I couldn't believe it when I saw it, but Moyer is still on the waiver wire in many leagues. He may not be flashy, but it's hard to ignore his nine wins, 1.08 WHIP, and .234 BAA. Moyer's numbers are remarkably consistent between the first and second halves, but do slightly favor the latter.

Brett Myers, HOU (18 percent): Despite only five wins, Myers has 11 Quality Stars and 3.57 ERA. The long ball has historically been Myers' nemesis, but in 121.1 IP this season Myers has allowed only 11 HRs (0.8 Home Runs per Nine Innings); in 70.2 IP last season, Myers gave up 18 dingers (2.3 HR/9). Myers first and second half splits are also pretty even, but he is 11 games over .500 in the second half (he's one game under .500 in the first half).

* All stats through 7/11/10.

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