All statistics are through Thursday, Sept. 4.
On tap: With two doubleheaders on the schedule for Saturday, there's a real contrast in number of games played for teams in Week 24, and that's something you should note. The Blue Jays and Indians will play eight games apiece, while the Mets and Nationals will each play five. Interestingly enough, in spite of the short week, the Mets' matchups are awfully attractive for fantasy, both hitting- and pitching-wise.
Tampa Bay, currently leading the American League East, gets its toughest test yet in September: three games apiece at the Red Sox and Yankees. If the Rays are going to be division champions, this will be a week for them to make a statement as such. The Yankees, meanwhile, continue their seemingly futile run at the wild card with those three home contests but also a week-opening three-game series at the Angels. Ouch.
Quick click by section:
Note: Weather reports are based on upcoming weather forecasts (through Friday), as well as historical trends in those cities. "Poor weather" doesn't guarantee rainouts; those are merely the teams with the highest probability of one or more.
Note: Hitter-friendly ballparks are based primarily on recent statistical data (2005-2008) comparing home/road performance, much the same method as our Park Factor page. Some personal opinion does go into making ballpark selections.
Looking for a decent hitter value pick for this week? Here are 10 strong matchup choices, among the beneath-the-elite crop:
Note: Matchups are determined by examining both an opponent's catcher and pitching staff. Obviously, teams like the Astros (catcher: Brad Ausmus/Humberto Quintero) and Rays (Dioner Navarro/Shawn Riggans) rate as tough teams to run on, while teams like the Padres (Nick Hundley/Josh Bard) and Orioles (Ramon Hernandez/Guillermo Quiroz) rate as easy teams to run on.
Note: As with the hitter-friendly ballparks, pitcher-friendly ballparks are based mostly on 2005-2008 data, with some personal opinion involved.
Two-start notes: Picking "safe" two-start pitchers will only get tougher from here as teams play makeup games, shut down young or injured starters early or shuffle their rotation to align pitchers against prime opponents, so don't lean too heavily on the two-start pitcher strategy these final three weeks. Assuming they all indeed work twice in Week 24, I'd dig as deep as No. 15, Dave Bush, in mixed formats. The Angels bumped Jered Weaver back to Monday, and presumably will keep everyone else in rotation, making him and Jon Garland their two-start pitchers. There is some question as to whether Wandy Rodriguez will be healthy enough to start Saturday's game, and if he is not, then the Astros likely will slide up their rotation. In that case, Randy Wolf would be pushed up to Monday's game (yet still start twice), and either Rodriguez or a spot starter would go Tuesday (and then presumably Sunday, too). The Braves are apparently looking to get both Jair Jurrjens and Charlie Morton additional rest in September, so since Morton is the one on track for a two-start week, don't expect much from Braves pitchers in Week 24. Considering the importance of the series, I'm expecting the Cardinals' Adam Wainwright to pitch Tuesday's game against the Cubs (as opposed to Sunday's game), making him a two-start pitcher. If he pitches Sunday instead, either Kyle Lohse could be the Cardinals' two-start pitcher for the week, or Joel Pineiro could get that assignment. After Yusmeiro Petit pitched poorly on extended rest in his most recent start, expect him to remain where he's slotted and get a two-start Week 24. The Mets could go with either Jon Niese or Oliver Perez on Tuesday; I'd bank on it being the veteran. Then there's the question of whether anyone will start twice in a five-game week. I'm thinking yes, and Perez will be that man. The Nationals have only announced that Collin Balester will pitch Tuesday's game, but since it's a five-game week, that's another rotation to avoid, and one that might lack a two-start pitcher. Jeremy Guthrie is tentatively scheduled to start for the Orioles either Monday or Tuesday, assuming his arm is healthy enough to do so. He missed his previous turn due to fatigue. The Phillies bumped back Kyle Kendrick in their rotation, and presumably he'll need to pitch Monday or Tuesday unless the team goes with a spot starter. I'm thinking he's pitching Monday, but he'd be a two-start pitcher either way as long as he's not skipped outright. The Red Sox are toying with the idea of using Bartolo Colon for one game of Saturday's doubleheader, but they also could use Thursday's off day to keep Jon Lester and Daisuke Matsuzaka on regular rest. I'm forecasting their rotation as such, but Matsuzaka is the one who would lose a second start if Colon works one of Saturday's games. The White Sox's game notes listed John Danks as their starter Sunday, presumably putting Clayton Richard in Tuesday's spot in the rotation. Richard could yet get that Sept. 7 assignment, though, in which case both Danks and Javier Vazquez would be two-start pitchers for Week 24. Vazquez will be one regardless.
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.