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I've spent a lot of time looking at how players have done against their upcoming opponents and using that as a major part of my recommendations. Now, while I think that is a viable strategy and one I'll continue to use going forward, this week several players have jumped out at me who buck that trend. So join me and my musical guest, prog-rockers turned arena-filling superstars, Genesis, as we look for the edge in this week's matchups.
Feeding the fire
Matt Cain vs. CHC: Cain has been a little streaky this year, and he's riding a hot one now. I expect that to continue when the Cubs hit town, as Cain has been lights-out at home (6-3, 2.43 ERA, .187 batting average against, 0.96 walks plus hits per innings pitched). In eight career starts against the Cubs, Cain is 5-2 with a 2.41 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 8.2 strikeouts per nine innings, .168 BAA, and one complete game. The Cubs are an average road-hitting team at best, so the stars are aligning for Cain.
Kevin Correia vs. PIT: When Correia faced the Pirates earlier this season, he didn't strike out a single hitter. You know what that means? He's due. His 6.7 K/9 indicates he's capable of missing bats. Correia had been decent against the Buccos in his career (2-1, 3.20 ERA, 1.46 WHIP), and the Pirates' horrendous road hitting and the inexperienced James McDonald opposing him make Correia a good value start.
Tim Lincecum vs. CHC, vs. SD: Two home starts against teams he's dominated make the Giants' ace my two-start pitcher of the week. Lincecum is only 3-2 in six career stars against the Cubs, but his 2.55 ERA, 1.101 WHIP, 9.8 K/9, .199 BAA, and 3.54 K/BB ratio are all excellent. Lincecum faces Ryan Dempster, who is 3-7 with 4.11 ERA and 1.44 WHIP in 21 career games against the Giants. In his second outing, Lincecum faces the Padres, who he flat out owns. In 11 career starts against San Diego Lincecum is 4-2 with a 1.67 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 10.1 K/9, and .196 BAA. He is facing Wade LeBlanc, who's been very good against San Francisco (2-0, 1.93 ERA), but at home Lincecum has the decided edge.
Clayton Richard @ SF: Richard's career numbers in San Francisco look horrendous thanks to a beating he took there in 2009 (four IP, six ERs, eight hits, two HRs, two doubles, one triple). However, he bounced back nicely in his return this season, securing a victory after allowing only two ERs and seven hits over seven IP. Richard also beat the Giants once in San Diego this year, allowing only one ER and three hits over seven IP. The Giants have trouble scoring at home, making Richard a smart fantasy play.
Wandy Rodriguez vs. ATL: I've beaten up on Wandy a lot in this column, and it's time to give him some love. He's been pitching very well lately (3-0, 2.14 ERA in his last three starts), and he's been vastly superior at home this season. Rodriguez allowed 10 hits and five runs in his only outing against the Braves this season, but when you consider that only one of those hits was for extra bases, three of those runs were unearned, he had five Ks/one BB, and he was on the road, that start doesn't look quite so bad. Look for Wandy to find the win column this week.
There must be some other way
Ian Kennedy @ MIL, @ WAS: Where to begin? Kennedy hasn't been great anywhere this year, but he's a much better pitcher at Chase Field. His ERA, BAA, K/9, and K/BB are all better at home, in some cases substantially better. Kennedy did have a solid outing against Milwaukee earlier this year, taking a tough loss after tossing seven innings of six-hit, two-run ball. However, he's facing Chris Narveson, who was solid when he faced Arizona this year, allowing only one ER and three hits over 5.2 IP. I don't think Kennedy will be able replicate his performance on the Brew Crew's turf. Kennedy got destroyed in his start against Washington this year, which was also at home. Eight of the 18 batters he faced got hits, three for extra bases (two HRs, one double), and four ERs crossed the plate before Kennedy was pulled after four innings. All of this is adding up for a long week for Kennedy ... and any fantasy owner who starts him.
Jason Hammel @ NYM: Hammel has been solid, if unspectacular, this season, but this is not the week to give him a shot. His only start at Citi Field was a 1.1 inning, seven-hit, five-ER disaster, and while that's a small sample size, it's certainly not a good sign. The fact that he'll be squaring off against arguably the best second-half pitcher in baseball, Johan Santana, is another bad sign. And when you toss in Santana's seven-inning, four-hit, no-run, eight-K gem in his only career meeting with the Rockies, you have a recipe for disaster for Hammel.
Clayton Kershaw @ PHI: Kershaw is sort of the inverse-Wandy; a guy I've loved in the past that I'm down on this week. Kershaw hasn't had much success in his four starts against the Phillies, going 0-3 with a 6.64 ERA and 1.51 WHIP. As much as reclamation projects are the theme this week, I don't think Kershaw fits the bill considering he's better at home and the Phills have been raking lately.
Jonathon Niese vs. COL: Niese hasn't pitched well recently (1-1, 5.87 ERA in his last three starts), and I don't think that's going to change much this week despite the home start. Niese does pitch better at home; however, he's struggled both times he's faced the Rockies regardless where they played. In 11.1 IP over two career outings against Colorado, Niese has allowed nine ERs (7.15 ERA), 17 hits (.354 BAA), and has a 1.0 K/BB. Colorado is a poor offensive team on the road, but not enough for me to trust Niese this week.
Barry Zito vs. CHC: Zito has pitched well lately and has been decidedly better at home this season ... so why am I suggesting you take a pass on him this week? Well, for starters, he's facing Tom Gorzelanny, who has owned the Giants in his career (3-0, 1.29 ERA). Second, Zito hasn't fared well against the Cubs (five starts: 1-3, 4.66 ERA, 1.45 WHIP). Finally, the Giants have supported Zito with only 4.52 runs/game at home, which ranks him 45th of 47 pitchers who've thrown at least 60 home innings.
There are some excellent two-start options, as well as some guys who are good for a at least one solid outing.
Madison Bumgarner 8/9 vs. CHC; 8/14 vs. SDChris Carpenter 8/9 @ CIN; 8/15 vs. CHCUbaldo Jimenez 8/10 @ NYM; 8/15 vs. MILTim Lincecum 8/10 vs. CHC; 8/15 vs. SDStephen Strasburg 8/10 vs. FLA; 8/15 vs. ARZ
Mike Leake 8/9 vs. STL; 8/15 vs. FLAWade LeBlanc 8/10 vs. PIT; 8/15 @ SFChris Narveson 8/9 vs. ARZ; 8/14 @ COLBud Norris 8/9 vs. ATL; 8/15 vs. PITVicente Padilla 8/10 @ PHI; 8/15 @ ATLManny Parra 8/10 vs. ARZ; 8/15 @ COLAnibal Sanchez 8/10 @ WAS; 8/15 @ CIN
Land of confusion
Ryan Dempster 8/10 @ SF; 8/15 @ STLBarry Enright 8/10 @ MIL; 8/15 @ WASJeff Karstens 8/10 @ SD; 8/15 @ HOUKyle Kendrick 8/10 vs. LAD; 8/15 @ NYMIan Kennedy 8/9 @ MIL; 8/14 @ WASMike Minor 8/9 @ HOU; 8/15 vs. LADMike Pelfrey 8/10 vs. COL; 8/15 vs. PHICarlos Zambrano 8/9 @ SF; 8/14 @ STL
Aubrey Huff, 1B/OF, vs. CHC, vs. SD: At this point in the season it's time to concede that Huff is for real, and I don't think he slows down this week. Historically August is his best month, and his performance with runners in scoring position (.294 BA, .411 OBP) this year has been solid. In 11 career games against the Cubs, Huff is 17-for-38 (.447) with a .523 OBP, seven doubles, a triple, seven RBIs, and a solid 1:1 K/BB ratio. His career numbers against San Diego have not been good; in 21 career games Huff is batting .207 with a .233 OBP, but with the way he's been playing he's too good to pass up, especially since he won't have to play the Padres at Petco Park.
Chris Johnson, 3B, vs. ATL, vs. PIT: Despite having never faced Atlanta and sporting a .143 BA with seven Ks in six games against the Pirates, I really like the youngster this week. For starters, he's red hot, with 19 hits in his last 42 at-bats (.452), including three HRs and 13 RBIs over that stretch. Second, he absolutely rakes with RISP (.441 BA in 34 at-bats), and men on base (.424 BA in 66 at-bats). And finally, he's long overdue to knock around a dreadful Pirates pitching staff.
Angel Pagan, OF, vs. COL, vs. PHI: One hit. Eleven at-bats. That's what Pagan has done against the Rockies in three games this season ... but I don't care. He posted those numbers on the road, and Pagan's 2010 splits favor his play at Citi Field, so he's due for a few to drop against the Rockies. Philadelphia is a different story, as Pagan has been outstanding against the Phillies. In five games this year, Pagan is 8-for-20 (.400) with a .429 OBP, .979 On Base plus Slugging, two RBIs, three SBs, one BB (no Ks), and three runs.
Yorvit Torrealba, C, vs. PIT, @SF: Torrealba's home/road splits are pretty even, which is exactly what you want to see from a guy who's got both a home and road series this week. Torrealba is absolutely raking right now, with nine hits in his last 19 at-bats (.474), and has delivered all year with RISP (.449 BA in 49 at-bats). In eight combined games against the Pirates and Giants he's 8-for-25 (.320) with three RBIs, one SB, and three BBs (six Ks).
Dan Uggla, 2B, @ WAS, @ CIN: One hit in eleven at-bats ... sound familiar? That's Uggla's line at Nationals Park this season. However, based on his career performance at the Nats' new digs (.267 BA, .404 OBP, .964 OPS, five HRs, 16 RBIs, seven doubles, ten runs in 20 games) I think he'll right those wrongs. No such issues for Uggla at the Great American Ball Park this year (7-for-16 (.438) with three RBIs, three doubles, and three runs), and his career numbers there are almost identical to those I just quoted in Washington, which makes me very confident his recent tear will continue.
Fly on a windshield
Jay Bruce, OF, vs. STL, vs. FLA: Bruce has been flat-out awful lately. He has two hits in his last 20 at-bats, with no HRs and one RBI. You might think a homestand would be just thing Bruce needs, but while he does show a little more power at the Great American Ball Park, he's actually hitting about 10 points better on the road this year. Historically Bruce has struggled against St. Louis, with a career .199 BA, .259 OBP, .619 OPS in 37 games (although he has gone 11-for-45 against the Redbirds this year). Bruce has been better against Florida, with a .286 BA, .386 OBP, .712 OPS in 13 games (no HRs); and he has killed the Marlins to the tune of 5-for-16 this season. However, based on his current struggles I don't think the tide is due to turn.
Andre Ethier, OF, @ PHI, @ ATL: I'm down on Ethier this week, and not just for that silly photo shoot he recently did. I don't like the fact that he's on the road, as his splits favor his play at home. I also don't like the fact that he's been ice cold recently (8-for-his-last-41). In 10 career games in Philly he's been alright (.243 BA, .349 OBP), but last season he was only 1-for-13. He's had success at Turner Field (.381 BA, three HRs, 11 RBIs in 12 games), so if he does start to show some life he might be worth a shot late in the week; but I'm not holding my breath.
Miguel Olivo, C, @NYM, vs. MIL: Olivo has never played at Citi Field, but his exploits at the Mets' former home were pretty poor. In 14 games at Shea Stadium, Olivo hit .196 with a .478 OPS and a very troubling 13K/zero BB ratio. Things haven't been much better for Olivo against the Brewers. In 18 games against Milwaukee he's hit .209 with a .232 OBP, .575 OPS, and 14K/two BBs. Although we're all about bucking the trends this week, I haven't seen enough from Olivo lately to make me feel good about his prospects.
Garrett Jones, 1B/OF, @ SD, @ HOU: Jones has been struggling mightily, with no hits in five straight games (a span of 19 at-bats), until finally breaking through with two hits on Thursday. Despite this breakthrough, and the fact his batting average improves on the road, I don't trust him this week. Jeff Clement is back in the Burgh, and if Jones doesn't pick up the pace, he might find himself a spectator. Jones has never played at Petco Park, but unlike some girls I knew in college, that place isn't exactly a slump-buster. Jones has hit well at Minute Maid Park, going 15-for-47 (.319) in six career games; however, I have no confidence in him right now to keep up that pace.
Neil Walker, 2B/3B, @ SD, @ HOU: Walker has played pretty well for the Pirates, but the bulk of that success has come at PNC Park. In 28 home games, Walker is hitting .357 with 19 RBIs. In 28 road games, Walker is hitting .255 with 12 RBIs. He's never played at Petco either, but in three games against Padres pitching he's 0-for-12 with three Ks. He's hit Houston pretty well this year, but more so at home; in three games in Houston he's 3-for-12 (.250) with three Ks. Walker is a nice young player with dual eligibility at two thin positions, but if you have other options this week I'd go that route.
On-base plus slugging percentage is obviously a strong indicator of a player's offensive production, as well as a key stat in just about every fantasy league. In my never-ending quest to unearth some bottom-of-the-roster options, below are the five highest OPS players with at least 110 at-bats who are owned in less than 20 percent in Yahoo! leagues.
Tyler Colvin, OF, CHC (14 percent): .854 OPS in 256 ABsJohn Jay, OF, STL (11 percent): .968 OPS in 110 ABsJason Giambi, 1B, COL (one percent): .823 OPS in 126 ABsJason Michaels, OF, HOU (zero percent): .827 OPS in 114 ABsSeth Smith, OF, COL (eight percent): .869 OPS in 253 ABs
* All stats through 8/4/10.
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