N.L. weekly fantasy planner

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There's a line in a song by this week's musical guest that goes "I never really been so I don't really know". Now, he was singing about Mexico, but it was on my mind as I was thinking about this week in fantasy baseball. By now, most players have faced this week's opponents already this season, and thus we have more current data to analyze. They've "been" there so to speak. However, those recent numbers aren't the be-all, end-all of the story. In fact, as you'll see, that type of thinking can sometimes lead you down the wrong fantasy road. So join me and my musical guest, Sweet Baby James (aka James Taylor), as we crunch the numbers so you don't have to.

You make it easy

Chad Billingsley @SD, @ SF: Although Billingsley is on the road for both starts, he's still my two-start pitcher of the week. The fact that he's staying on the West Coast for both outings mitigates my anxiety, while his complete game shutout in his last starts fills me with confidence. Billingsley's first start is at Petco Park, where he's pitched very well. In 12 games (eight starts) at Petco he's 4-2 with a 2.43 ERA, 1.028 walks plus hits per innings pitched, .199 Batting Average Against, and 8.0 strikeouts per nine innings. In 19 total games against the Padres, Billingsley sports a 2.69 strikeout to walk ratio, which is his best against any opponent he's faced more than eight times. His second start is in San Francisco, where in nine games (six starts) he's 2-1 with a 3.12 ERA. His career BAA (.307) and WHIP (1.463) at AT&T Park aren't great, but he's pitched well in his two starts against the Giants this season (which includes the aforementioned shutout): 1-0, two ERs in 15 IP (1.20 ERA), .196 BAA. The Giants are the third-lowest-scoring home team in the National League (4.09 runs/game).

Tim Hudson @ WAS: Hudson flat-out owns the Nationals; in 15 career starts he's 9-1 with a 1.51 ERA, .224 BAA, 0.991 WHIP, and a 4.0 K/BB ratio. His dominance has been on display in his two starts against Washington this season, during which Hudson has allowed only two ERs in 14 IP (1.29 ERA), with 10 Ks/three BBs and a .234 BAA. Hudson's 2010 home/road splits are almost identical, so don't worry about starting him on the road.

Mat Latos vs. FLA: After missing some time due to a strained oblique, Latos is ready to rejoin the Padres rotation. Latos' career numbers against the Marlins appear to make him a candidate for benching this week. In three starts against Florida, Latos is 0-2 with a 9.26 ERA and 2.229 WHIP. So why on Earth am I suggesting giving him a go this week? Well, for starters, all three of Latos' starts against the Marlins have come in Florida, which is a decided disadvantage for a pitcher who calls Petco Park home. Don't get me wrong, Latos fares pretty well away from Petco, but his ERA this season improves by 0.37 when he's at home. Sun Life Stadium favors the hitter, while Petco is a pitcher's paradise. Bottom line, Latos is a better pitcher than he's shown against the Marlins, and he gets it done this week.

Mike Pelfrey vs. ARZ: 0-5 with a 6.75 ERA. That's Pelfrey's career stat line against Arizona. 1.1 IP, six ERs, seven hits. That's what happened when Pelfrey faced the Diamondbacks earlier this year. Seems like an easy decision; sit Pelfrey. Not so fast. Granted, Pelfrey hasn't pitched well recently, but he has pitched well at home this season, and that's where he faces the D'backs. Pelfrey is 6-2 with a 3.71 ERA through his first 11 home starts this year, and while his .267 home BAA isn't that great, it's much better than his .333 road BAA. It also helps that Arizona is one of the worst road-hitting (.232 BA) and lowest road-scoring teams (3.08 runs/game) in the National League. I expect the Mets to score some runs off Ian Kennedy and Pelfrey to finally get in the win column against the Diamondbacks.

Clayton Richard vs. LAD: Richard's two career starts against the Dodgers have yielded a 1-0 record, 3.18 ERA (four ERs in 11.1 IP), seven hits/four BBs (0.971 WHIP), and a .189 BAA. His three Ks/four BBs in those two starts leaves something to be desired, but given that he's got a 2.06 K/BB ratio, I'd expect that to improve with this start.

Johan Santana vs. STL: The Cardinals have yet to solve Santana; in his four career starts against the Redbirds he's 2-0 with a 2.03 ERA (seven ERs in 31 IP), .226 BAA, 1.000 WHIP, and 23 Ks against only five BBs. Although he didn't get a win in his only outing against St. Louis this season, he did pitch seven scoreless innings of four-hit ball, with nine Ks and only one walk. Santana is facing Jeff Suppan, the owner of an 0-5 record and 6.05 ERA through his first eight starts this season with Milwaukee and St. Louis. Santana, the best second-half pitcher in baseball, will continue his post All-Star break dominance.

Everybody has the blues

Tom Gorzelanny @ COL: His last visit to Coors Field was an unmitigated disaster. Gorzelanny only made it through 1.1 IP and got blasted to the tune of six ERs, six hits, and two HRs. Although he's been pitching well since rejoining the Cubs' rotation, he's still only a .500 pitcher with a 1.413 WHIP, and I just don't trust him at Coors Field. Things are bound to even out.

Blake Hawksworth vs. PIT: You might think you can steal a win with Hawksworth this week. After all, he faces the lowly Pirates at home, which is usually a recipe for success. But Hawksworth does face Jeff Karstens. Now, Karstens isn't a guy who you dread seeing matched up against your Fantasy starter, but he has fared well against the Cardinals in his career, including a six scoreless innings in a victory earlier this season. As for Hawksworth, his 4.85 ERA, .328 BAA, 1.770 WHIP, 12.1 hits per nine innings, 3.8 Walks per Nine Innings, and 1.2 Home Runs per Nine Innings this season should be enough to discourage you from trying to pick up a cheap win based on his matchup.

Rodrigo Lopez @ PHI: We've already discussed how poor Arizona's offense is on the road, so just imagine what Roy Halladay is going to do them. In other words, don't expect a lot of run support for Lopez, which is too bad, because last time he faced the Phillies he allowed six ERs and10 hits over six IP, so he'll need all the support he can get. The Phillies' bats have been a bit cold as of late, but they have too much talent to lie dormant for long.

Derek Lowe @ WAS: Lowe is above .500, but that's about the only nice thing I can say about him this season. His 4.39 ERA is alright, but nothing great. His 1.420 WHIP leaves something to be desired. His 5.7 K/9 is pedestrian at best. Lowe's performance on the road this year hasn't been good: 3-5, 4.63 ERA, 1.560 WHIP, .284 BAA, 37 Ks/27 BBs. He faces Craig Stammen, who's been solid in his two outings against the Braves. I guess what I'm trying to say is I just don't like Derek Lowe, and neither should you, especially this week.

Paul Maholm @ COL: A few weeks ago I called out Maholm as a sneaky value pickup in deeper NL-only leagues. I still think Maholm can help some teams in need, and if it wasn't for the Buccos bullpen he'd be a few games over .500. However, this week he faces Ubaldo Jimenez, who has owned the Pirates and will most likely shut down one of the NL's worst offensive teams. Maholm's five-game run at Coors Field (1-4, 6.44 ERA, 1.807 WHIP, .366 BAA, four HRs) is far from impressive, so this isn't the week to take a chance, no matter how desperate you might be for pitching help. Maholm has been a subject of trade rumors, and if he gets dealt to a contender with a solid bullpen, his Fantasy value will obviously improve.

Two-start pitchers

This is a good week for two-start pitchers, and for starters who should give you at least one good outing.

Golden moments

Chad Billingsley 7/27 @ SD; 8/1 @ SFJorge De La Rosa 7/27 vs. PIT; 8/1 vs. CHCJosh Johnson 7/27 @ SF; 8/1 @ SDJaime Garcia 7/27 @ NYM; 8/1 vs. PITCarlos Silva 7/26 @ HOU; 8/1 @ COLStephen Strasburg 7/27 vs. ATL; 8/1 vs. PHIBarry Zito 7/26 vs. FLA; 7/31 vs. LAD

Believe it or not

Bronson Arroyo 7/26 @ MIL; 8/1 vs. ATLMatt Cain 7/27 vs. FLA; 8/1 vs. LADJon Garland 7/27 vs. LAD; 8/1 vs. FLACole Hamels 7/27 vs. ARZ; 8/1 @ WASTommy Hanson 7/27 @ WAS; 8/1 @ CINJonathon Niese 7/27 vs. STL; 8/1 vs. ARZRicky Nolasco 7/26 @ SF; 7/31 @ SDRandy Wolf 7/26 vs. CIN; 8/1 @ HOU

Something's wrong

Joe Blanton 7/26 vs. COL; 7/31 @ WASZach Duke 7/27 @ COL; 8/1 @ STLJason Hammel 7/26 @ PHI; 7/31 vs. CHCWesley Wright 7/26 vs. CHC; 8/1 vs. MIL


Lastings Milledge, OF, @ COL, @ STL: I love Milledge this week. In six career games at Coors Field he's 8-for-26 (.308) with two HRs and six RBIs. Milledge hasn't played in St. Louis in two years, but in nine games at home against the Cardinals over the past two seasons Milledge is 12-for-38 (.316) with four RBIs and two doubles. Milledge has been playing well lately, with hits in nine of his last 10 games, and I like his run to continue.

Nyjer Morgan, vs. ATL, vs. PHI: Morgan has hit in eight of his last nine games, and in 2010 his batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and on-base plus slugging all are better at home. Morgan is in the midst of his best month of the season, already surpassing his monthly highs in RBIs (seven) and stolen bases (seven) with another week of games left in July. It's a good time to work Morgan into your lineup and take advantage of that speed.

Hunter Pence, OF, vs. CHC, vs. MIL: Pence has cooled a bit after a red-hot start to the second half, but a week at Minute Maid Park should help him get back on track, as he is better in virtually every category at home. In 13 games against Chicago and Milwaukee this season, Pence is a respectable 15-for-52 (.288) with seven RBIs and three doubles, but what really caught my eye is his 5-for-5 in stolen base attempts, 10 runs scored, and his 5/5 BB/K ratio. Pence should deliver in multiple fantasy categories this week.

Jose Reyes, SS, vs. STL, vs. ARZ: Citi Field suits Reyes just fine; he's hitting .325 at home (.237 on the road) and is 13-for-13 in stolen base attempts (he's 6-for-9 on the road). Reyes absolutely destroys Arizona; in 31 career games Reyes has a .343 BA, .382 OBP, .904 OPS, eight doubles, five triples, two HRs, 16 RBIs, and is 16-for-20 in stolen base attempts. You might be concerned by the fact that Reyes is 0-for-16 against St. Louis this year, but I'm not; all of those at-bats happened on the road, and Reyes is going too well right now not to even things out against the Cards.

Mark Reynolds, 1B/3B, @ PHI, @ NYM: I'm a big fan of players who get the job done with runners in scoring position, and Reynolds certainly fits that bill this season. Reynolds is hitting .295 with RISP with a .427 OBP; compare that to .158/.277 with the bases empty. Against this week's opponents Reynolds is 8-for-18 (.444) this year with three HRs and 10 RBIs. Since Reynolds is better at home and has been hot since tweaking his swing to cut down on the strikeouts, this is an ideal week to have him in the lineup.

Rickie Weeks, 2B, vs. CIN, @ HOU: Weeks is the class of NL second basemen when it comes to power; leading the pack in both home runs (19) and RBIs (62). Weeks plays both at home and on the road this week, but his career splits are almost identical, so that shouldn't factor into your fantasy plans. In addition to his power numbers, Weeks has been cleaning up with RISP (.351 BA), RISP with two outs (.350 BA), and men on base (.309 BA). He's been killing Houston this year with a .417 average (10-for-24), .500 OBP, one HR, and six RBIs in six games. He's only 1-for-9 against the Reds this year, but he's too good to sit, especially given his recent play.

Hard times

Michael Bourn, OF, vs. CHC, vs. MIL: Bourn has been cold lately, and he's not getting on base; his OBP has dropped from .345 at the start of June to .327. If he's not getting on base, then his main source of fantasy value, stolen bases, is going to be hard to come by. Bourn has been decent this season against Chicago and Milwaukee, batting .283 (15-for-53), but that isn't enough to make me forgo production in other fantasy categories in the hopes Bourn will swipe a few bags.

Ian Desmond, 2B/SS, vs. ATL, vs. PHI: Desmond's batting average is better on the road this season (.265 vs. .243), with nine more RBIs in two fewer games than he's produced at home. In 11 games against the Braves and Phillies this year, Desmond is 8-for-34 (.235) with 12 Ks and only one BBs. He does have three HRs in those games, so if you're desperate for power and can take the hit in BA and OBP, then Desmond could be an option; but I'd leave him on the bench because he'll do more harm than good, especially if your league is the rare one that factors in fielding (22 errors, .971 Fielding Percentage).

Chase Headley, 3B, vs. LAD, vs. FLA: It's not just that Headley will be playing at Petco Park all week, although his home/road splits slightly favor the road. I'm also recommending keeping Headley out of your lineup due to his poor performance with RISP (.207 BA) and men on base (.233 BA). If that's not enough, in 11 games against the Dodgers and Marlins this season Headley is 7-for-39 (.180) with eight Ks/two BBs. Most of those games were on the road, so don't expect Headley to improve upon those numbers this week.

Garrett Jones, 1B/OF, @ COL, @ STL: Jones put together a solid May (.302 BA, .327 OBP) and an even better June (.330 BA, .389 OBP), but the bottom has fallen out in July (.229 BA, .257 OBP). Jones' lack of power concerns me as well. In 82 games last season, Jones belted 21 HRs; in 94 games this year, Jones only has 12 dingers.

Ivan Rodriguez, C, vs. ATL, vs. PHI: Pudge has been struggling at the dish lately (one hit in his last 20 at-bats), and throughout his career he's hit for a higher average in the first half of the season. At his age, I would expect that trend to continue. Rodriguez has put up some impressive numbers against the Braves and Phillies this year, but the bulk of that work was done in April and early May. I don't expect him to duplicate that early-season success.

It's time to once again look at the unsung heroes of the fantasy baseball world, the middle relievers. There are a lot of middle-men on the waiver wire, but the key is finding one who does more than just take up space on your roster. Here are a couple of guys who deliver across several categories, all of whom are owned in less than five percent of Yahoo! leagues, making them targets in very deep leagues.

Secret O'Life

Santiago Casilla, SF (1 percent): Three wins, seven Holds, 12.9 K/9Clay Hensley, FLA (3 percent): 15 HLDs, X ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 10.89 K/9Kameron Loe, MIL (2 percent): 10 HLDs, 1.65 ERA, 0.95 WHIPSergio Romo, SF (2 percent): Two wins, 10 HLDs, 2.17 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 9.16 K/9Brian Sanches, FLA (zero percent): Eight HLDs, 2.81 ERA, 1.28 WHIP

* All stats through 7/22/10.

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