Fantasy Forecaster updated Saturday, May 12 at 10:12 p.m. ET.
On tap: Interleague play arrives -- at least the brief, single-weekend preview before it gets fully underway in June -- causing that annually odd mid-May week in which all 30 teams play seven games and three series apiece: a pair of two-game series on Monday-Tuesday and Wednesday-Thursday followed by an interleague series Friday-Sunday. It is a true "quality over quantity of matchups" week because of the equal number of games by team, the only exception being that, as a result of interleague play, National League teams visiting American League parks get three days' worth of additional at-bats thanks to the designated hitter, while AL teams visiting NL parks lose those DH at-bats.
There are more of the latter than the former this week, but remember, it's only three days, so the impact of those lost DH at-bats won't be felt as much as they might in June, when two entire weeks (fantasy Weeks 10-11; June 8-10, the weekend of Week 9, is also interleague play) are consumed by interleague play. Still, the Baltimore Orioles, Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Angels, Minnesota Twins, Oakland Athletics, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers head to NL parks and lose their DHs, while the Arizona Diamondbacks, Atlanta Braves, Cincinnati Reds, Miami Marlins, New York Mets and Pittsburgh Pirates head to AL parks and get the DH. Doug Mittler examined in detail the NL players most likely to benefit from DH at-bats, and you can also find a general overview of DH/no-DH fantasy impact in the Hitting notes section below.
Among the interleague series of interest: White Sox at Chicago Cubs is always one packed with intensity, and don't overlook that the White Sox have won 12 of their past 18 meetings. They'll throw John Danks and Jake Peavy on Saturday and Sunday, and those two are a combined 5-1 with a 2.64 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and five quality starts in seven career Crosstown Classic games.
Reds at New York Yankees sets up a rematch of the 1976 World Series and is only the fourth interleague meeting between the two. Andy Pettitte will make his second start of the season Friday, then interleague dynamo CC Sabathia, 11-2 with a 2.53 ERA and 1.02 WHIP in 17 interleague starts the past five seasons, will pitch Sunday.
Finally, one of the most anticipated interleague series entering the season, Red Sox at Philadelphia Phillies, now represents a meeting of teams that have failed to meet expectations. Struggling right-hander Josh Beckett, 12-5 with a 3.11 ERA and 0.99 WHIP in 20 career interleague starts, will be challenged yet again at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park, where he's 2-3 with a 6.52 ERA and 1.48 WHIP in five career starts.
ESPN leagues: Week 6
Thanks to the packed schedule with nothing but new, two-game series beginning Monday, you have extra time to set your lineups this week, as the first game of Week 6, the Cubs at St. Louis Cardinals "Monday Night Baseball" game on ESPN, begins at 7 p.m. ET. It's quite the patterned -- mostly -- week as a result: Night games, getaway days, night games, getaway days, weekend series. These are the specific start times of the first game each day:
The chart below lists each of the 30 MLB teams' schedules and projected starting pitchers and provides a matchup rating for each day's starter. Pitchers scheduled to start at least twice this week are in gold/beige boxes.
P: The starting pitcher's matchup rating, which accounts for past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days), opponent and ballpark. Ratings range from 1-10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst.
1. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Mon-ARI (Kennedy), Sat-STL (Westbrook)
2. Stephen Strasburg (WAS) -- Tue-SD (Bass), Sun-BAL (Chen)
3. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Tue-@BAL (Chen), Sun-CIN (Cueto)
4. Zack Greinke (MIL) -- Tue-@NYM (Gee), Sun-MIN (Marquis)
5. Jake Peavy (CHW) -- Tue-DET (Scherzer), Sun-@CHC (Maholm)
6. David Price (TB) -- Tue-@TOR (Alvarez), Sun-ATL (Hudson)
7. Cliff Lee (PHI) -- Tue-HOU (Harrell), Sun-BOS (Beckett)
8. Dan Haren (LAA) -- Mon-OAK (Ross), Sat-@SD (Stauffer)
9. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Fri-@SD (Suppan)
10. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Fri-PIT (Burnett)
11. Brandon Morrow (TOR) -- Mon-TB (Niemann), Sat-NYM (Batista)
12. Anibal Sanchez (MIA) -- Mon-PIT (Lincoln), Sat-@CLE (Gomez)
13. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Wed-@CLE (Jimenez)
14. Johnny Cueto (CIN) -- Tue-@ATL (Hudson), Sun-@NYY (Sabathia)
15. Roy Halladay (PHI) -- Thu-@CHC (Volstad)
16. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Mon-SEA (Vargas), Sat-@PHI (Blanton)
17. Ian Kennedy (ARI) -- Mon-@LAD (Kershaw), Sat-@KC (Chen)
18. Gio Gonzalez (WAS) -- Wed-PIT (McDonald)
19. C.J. Wilson (LAA) -- Thu-CHW (Sale)
20. Matt Cain (SF) -- Thu-STL (Wainwright)
21. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Tue-COL (Guthrie), Sun-OAK (Colon)
22. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Fri-BOS (Bard)
23. Brandon Beachy (ATL) -- Thu-MIA (Nolasco)
24. Ervin Santana (LAA) -- Tue-OAK (Colon), Sun-@SD (Bass)
25. Matt Garza (CHC) -- Wed-PHI (Worley)
26. Yu Darvish (TEX) -- Wed-OAK (Milone)
27. Tim Hudson (ATL) -- Tue-CIN (Cueto), Sun-@TB (Price)
28. Adam Wainwright (STL) -- Thu-@SF (Cain)
29. Madison Bumgarner (SF) -- Wed-STL (Garcia)
30. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Tue-@CHW (Peavy), Sun-PIT (Correia)
31. Jordan Zimmermann (WAS) -- Thu-PIT (Morton)
32. Josh Johnson (MIA) -- Tue-PIT (Correia), Sun-@CLE (Lowe)
33. Drew Smyly (DET) -- Mon-@CHW (Danks), Sat-PIT (TBD)
34. Mat Latos (CIN) -- Thu-@NYM (Dickey)
35. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Mon-@NYM (Batista), Sat-MIN (Pavano)
36. Ricky Romero (TOR) -- Fri-NYM (Niese)
37. Colby Lewis (TEX) -- Tue-KC (TBD), Sun-@HOU (Harrell)
38. Lance Lynn (STL) -- Fri-@LAD (Lilly)
39. Neftali Feliz (TEX) -- Fri-@HOU (Rodriguez)
40. James Shields (TB) -- Fri-ATL (Hanson)
41. Johan Santana (NYM) -- Wed-CIN (Leake)
42. Doug Fister (DET) -- Thu-MIN (Walters)
43. Shaun Marcum (MIL) -- Thu-@HOU (Happ)
44. Henderson Alvarez (TOR) -- Tue-TB (Price), Sun-NYM (Gee)
45. Gavin Floyd (CHW) -- Wed-@LAA (Williams)
46. Ryan Vogelsong (SF) -- Mon-COL (Friedrich), Sat-OAK (Ross)
47. Ted Lilly (LAD) -- Fri-STL (Lynn)
48. Tommy Hanson (ATL) -- Fri-@TB (Shields)
49. Ross Detwiler (WAS) -- Mon-SD (Stauffer), Sat-BAL (Hammel)
50. Vance Worley (PHI) -- Wed-@CHC (Garza)
51. Ryan Dempster (CHC) -- Mon-@STL (Westbrook), Sat-CHW (Danks)
52. Jeremy Hellickson (TB) -- Wed-BOS (Buchholz)
53. Jeff Niemann (TB) -- Mon-@TOR (Morrow), Sat-ATL (Delgado)
54. Wei-Yin Chen (BAL) -- Tue-NYY (Sabathia), Sun-@WAS (Strasburg)
55. Josh Beckett (BOS) -- Tue-SEA (Beavan), Sun-@PHI (Lee)
56. Ubaldo Jimenez (CLE) -- Wed-SEA (Hernandez)
57. Derek Holland (TEX) -- Sat-@HOU (Rodriguez)
58. Jeff Samardzija (CHC) -- Fri-CHW (Humber)
59. Chad Billingsley (LAD) -- Tue-ARI (Miley), Sun-STL (Lohse)
60. Jake Westbrook (STL) -- Mon-CHC (Dempster), Sat-@LAD (Kershaw)
61. Jaime Garcia (STL) -- Wed-@SF (Bumgarner)
62. Jason Hammel (BAL) -- Mon-NYY (Nova), Sat-@WAS (Detwiler)
63. John Danks (CHW) -- Mon-DET (Smyly), Sat-@CHC (Dempster)
64. Chris Capuano (LAD) -- Wed-@SD (Richard)
65. Carlos Zambrano (MIA) -- Fri-@CLE (Masterson)
66. Chris Sale (CHW) -- Thu-@LAA (Wilson)
67. Ricky Nolasco (MIA) -- Thu-@ATL (Beachy)
68. Joe Blanton (PHI) -- Mon-HOU (Rodriguez), Sat-BOS (Lester)
69. James McDonald (PIT) -- Wed-@WAS (Gonzalez)
70. Edwin Jackson (WAS) -- Fri-BAL (Arrieta)
71. Derek Lowe (CLE) -- Tue-@MIN (Marquis), Sun-MIA (Johnson)
72. Jerome Williams (LAA) -- Wed-CHW (Floyd)
73. Hiroki Kuroda (NYY) -- Wed-@TOR (Drabek)
74. Jarrod Parker (OAK) -- Fri-@SF (Zito)
75. Jake Arrieta (BAL) -- Fri-@WAS (Jackson)
Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
Anthony Bass (SD) -- Tue-@WAS (Strasburg), Sun-LAA (Santana)
Bartolo Colon (OAK) -- Tue-@LAA (Santana), Sun-@SF (Lincecum)
Randall Delgado (ATL) -- Mon-CIN (Bailey), Sat-@TB (Niemann)
Christian Friedrich (COL) -- Mon-@SF (Vogelsong), Sat-SEA (Vargas)
Dillon Gee (NYM) -- Tue-MIL (Greinke), Sun-@TOR (Alvarez)
Jeanmar Gomez (CLE) -- Mon-@MIN (Pavano), Sat-MIA (Sanchez)
Kyle Lohse (STL) -- Tue-CHC (Maholm), Sun-@LAD (Billingsley)
Wade Miley (ARI) -- Tue-@LAD (Billingsley), Sun-@KC (TBD)
Ivan Nova (NYY) -- Mon-@BAL (Hammel), Sat-CIN (Bailey)
Tim Stauffer (SD) -- Mon-@WAS (Detwiler), Sat-LAA (Haren)
Jason Vargas (SEA) -- Mon-@BOS (Lester), Sat-@COL (Friedrich)
No-thank-yous, among two-start pitchers:
Homer Bailey (CIN) -- Mon-@ATL (Delgado), Sat-@NYY (Nova)
Miguel Batista (NYM) -- Mon-MIL (Gallardo), Sat-@TOR (Morrow)
Blake Beavan (SEA) -- Tue-@BOS (Beckett), Sun-@COL (Guthrie)
Bruce Chen (KC) -- Mon-@TEX (Feldman), Sat-ARI (Kennedy)
Kevin Correia (PIT) -- Tue-@MIA (Johnson), Sun-@DET (Scherzer)
Jeremy Guthrie (COL) -- Tue-@SF (Lincecum), Sun-SEA (Beavan)
Lucas Harrell (HOU) -- Tue-@PHI (Lee), Sun-TEX (Lewis)
Paul Maholm (CHC) -- Tue-@STL (Lohse), Sun-CHW (Peavy)
Jason Marquis (MIN) -- Tue-CLE (Lowe), Sun-@MIL (Greinke)
Carl Pavano (MIN) -- Mon-CLE (Gomez), Sat-@MIL (Gallardo)
Aneury Rodriguez (HOU) -- Mon-@PHI (Blanton), Sat-TEX (Holland)
Tyson Ross (OAK) -- Mon-@LAA (Haren), Sat-@SF (Vogelsong)
• My Baseball Challenge pitching staff pick of Week 6 is the Los Angeles Angels, and it's not especially close. Few teams all season, not merely this week, can ask for a schedule more favorable than a pair of two-game series at home versus the Athletics and White Sox followed by a three-game interleague series at the pitching heaven that is San Diego's Petco Park. Angels pitchers have managed 14 quality starts in their past 15 games (through May 10), including a no-hitter by Jered Weaver and a 2.36 ERA and 1.01 WHIP during that span. Among individual Angels starters, two-start pitcher Ervin Santana is the standout. In addition to a weekend Petco start, he'll face the Athletics, against whom he's 13-4 with a 2.15 ERA in 24 career games (22 starts), on Monday. Here are my other recommended BBC pitching staffs: Detroit Tigers (@CHW-2, MIN-2, PIT-3), Washington Nationals (SD-2, PIT-2, BAL-3) and Milwaukee Brewers (@NYM-2, @HOU-2, MIN-3).
• The Twins and Pirates have become remarkably favorable matchups for opposing starting pitchers this season -- the Twins particularly for ERA/WHIP and the Pirates for strikeouts. In their past 10 games, Twins opposing starters have nine quality starts, a 1.78 ERA and 0.86 WHIP, while Pirates' foes during their past 10 have seven quality starts, a 1.04 WHIP and 8.82 K's-per-nine ratio.
That's a plus for both the Marlins' Josh Johnson and the Tigers' Max Scherzer, two strikeout pitchers coming off recent solid outings who will face the Pirates during the upcoming week. Johnson, incidentally, tossed seven shutout innings of two-hit, 9-K baseball versus the Pirates on April 19, 2011, against a lineup that was largely the same as the one he'll face this week. Rookie Drew Smyly, who will face the Pirates in his second turn of the week, gets a considerable advantage as a strikeout pitcher the Pirates have never seen.
Among Twins foes, take a look at Wednesday opponent, Rick Porcello, who has seven quality starts, a 2.86 ERA and 1.30 WHIP in 12 career starts against them. They represent one of the few matchups for which he can be deemed trustworthy. Derek Lowe also warrants consideration for his Tuesday Twins matchup. Lowe and Porcello share an important, common bond: They're two of the 41 qualified pitchers with at least a 50 percent ground ball rate this season. Those 41 ground ball pitchers have combined to make 10 starts versus the Twins this season and have eight quality starts, a 2.19 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in them.
• Johnny Cueto should be the least scary fantasy option of the three Reds starters scheduled to pitch at New York's Yankee Stadium, as he has a 1.50 ERA in two career starts (both since 2008) versus the Yankees and has limited current Yankees to combined .191/.216/.362 career triple-slash rates in 53 plate appearances. Cueto also has posted a quality start in each of his two career appearances at Atlanta's Turner Field (1.93 ERA), one in 2009, the other in 2011.
• A.J. Burnett has three solid starts and one stinker so far this season, but his career history facing the Tigers hints at something much closer to another stinker. He has a 6.33 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in eight career starts against them, and current Tigers hitters have .273/.365/.443 lifetime rates in 106 PAs against him.
• Kyle Lohse, despite his torrid streak to begin the season, is an unexpectedly risky fantasy option this week. He's coming off a hamstring injury that cut short his most recent outing (May 9), and while his Tuesday matchup versus the Cubs might be favorable, his Sunday turn at the Los Angeles Dodgers is not. Lohse has a 5.45 ERA in eight career games versus the Dodgers, and he was pounded for 10 runs on 14 hits in 10⅓ innings in two starts against them last season. Between that and the health risk, he's probably better to avoid if your roster can afford it.
• Ryan Vogelsong, meanwhile, is a more palatable fantasy option than Lohse in what is also his return start from injury; he's coming off a back issue. Vogelsong has also gotten off to a hot start, but it's the strength of his Monday matchup versus the Colorado Rockies that stands out. He was 4-0 with a 0.96 ERA and 0.71 WHIP in five games (four starts) against them last season. The Saturday start versus the Athletics also represents a favorable matchup for the right-hander.
Among streaming starter -- something I define as single-start options in daily leagues among pitchers owned in 25 percent of ESPN leagues or fewer -- options for Week 6, here are my picks by day:
Monday, May 14: Vogelsong versus Colorado Rockies
Tuesday, May 15: Lowe at Minnesota Twins
Wednesday, May 16: Jerome Williams versus Chicago White Sox
Thursday, May 17: Aaron Harang at San Diego Padres
Friday, May 18: Jarrod Parker at San Francisco Giants
Saturday, May 19: Vogelsong versus Oakland Athletics
Sunday, May 20: Henderson Alvarez versus New York Mets
Friday, May 4: Smyly - QS, 6 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K
Saturday, May 5: James McDonald - W, QS, 6⅓ IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K
Sunday, May 6: Bronson Arroyo (pitched Monday) - W, QS, 6⅔ IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K
Monday, May 7: Carlos Zambrano - W, QS, 9 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 9 K
Tuesday, May 8: Joe Blanton - 6⅔ IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 3 BB, 7 K
Wednesday, May 9: Anthony Bass - 5⅔ IP, 9 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K
Thursday, May 10: Henderson Alvarez - W, QS, 7 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 2 K
Week's total: 7 GS, 4 W (57.1 percent), 5 QS (71.4 percent), 47⅓ IP, 43 H, 10 ER, 11 BB, 45 K, 1.90 ERA, 1.14 WHIP
Season total: 32 GS, 14 W (43.8 percent), 18 QS (56.2 percent), 201 IP, 170 H, 67 ER, 69 BB, 138 K, 3.00 ERA, 1.19 WHIP
The chart below lists each of the 30 teams' total number of scheduled games, home games and games versus right- and left-handed pitchers and provides a matchup rating for the week's games in terms of overall offense, offense for left- and right-handed hitters and base stealing. Matchup ratings for each individual game are listed under the corresponding date.
Some of the data used to generate this chart is derived from Baseball Musings' Day-by-day database.
H: Hitters' matchup rating, which accounts for the opposing starting pitcher's past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days) as well as ballpark factors. L: Hitters' matchup rating accounting only for left-handed hitters. R: Hitters' matchup rating accounting for only right-handed hitters. S: Base stealing matchup rating, which accounts for the opponent's catchers' ability to gun down opposing base stealers. Ratings range from 1-10, with 10 representing the best possible matchup, statistically speaking, and 1 representing the worst.
• With the designated hitter out of the picture from Friday-Sunday -- a span of three of a team's seven Week 6 games -- for eight AL teams, a handful of meaningful fantasy names might lose at-bats and therefore be somewhat less attractive options. The Red Sox's David Ortiz is the most notable, as he played only two games at first base during the team's nine road interleague contests in 2011. The White Sox's Adam Dunn -- he's a virtual lock to sit Sunday against left-hander Paul Maholm -- and the Angels' Kendrys Morales are two others who might find themselves glorified pinch hitters for nearly one-half of the week's schedule.
• NL hitters who stand to receive a few extra at-bats thanks to the DH include the Reds' Chris Heisey, who now has a place to play for an entire series; the Pirates' first-base platoon of Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee; and the Mets' Jordany Valdespin, who could play in the field while Daniel Murphy or Lucas Duda gets some at-bats in the DH spot.
• How convenient is it that two of the three teams to face as many as four left-handed starters this week rank among the top two in the majors in team OPS versus lefties? The St. Louis Cardinals (.856 OPS, first) and Boston Red Sox (.846, second) are the teams, and in the case of the Cardinals, two of their hitters in the more "questionable" category this week rank among their most prominent lefty killers: Allen Craig and Yadier Molina. Craig, seven games removed from knee surgery, is a lifetime .278/.319/.571 hitter versus lefties (4-for-11, 1 HR this season) who is too valuable for the Cardinals -- or his fantasy owners -- to bench due to the matchups. Molina, battling a bruised left hand he suffered May 8, is a .308/.396/.521 hitter versus left-handers since the beginning of last season, not to mention that the specific pitcher matchups suit him well. He's a combined .343 hitter (23-for-67) in his career versus Cubs starters Ryan Dempster (Monday) and Paul Maholm (Tuesday), .357 (5-for-14) versus San Francisco Giants starters Madison Bumgarner (Wednesday) and Matt Cain (Thursday) and .357 (5-for-14) versus Dodgers starter Chad Billingsley (Sunday).
Among Red Sox hitters, spark plugs Mike Aviles (.371/.436/.686 versus lefties this season) and Will Middlebrooks (4-for-12, 2 HRs) need to be kept active in a week full of left-handed competition. In the case of Middlebrooks, his at-bats remain secure for at least this week with news that, as of May 10, Kevin Youkilis (back) had not yet resumed baseball activity.
• The Diamondbacks are the third team to face four left-handed starters, and it's weeks such as this that favor fantasy megastud Justin Upton, he of the .913 lifetime OPS against southpaws. But Upton isn't the only hitter who benefits from such a schedule; Aaron Hill stands out as a strong Week 6 matchups play. Hill is 9-for-28 (.321 AVG) with three home runs versus lefties this season, and it's the individual opposing starters who make him an attractive option. He's a lifetime .423/.464/.808 hitter versus Wednesday starter Jamie Moyer and a .300/.364/.600 hitter versus Saturday starter Bruce Chen.
• Assuming he's cleared to play by your league's lineup deadline, Desmond Jennings should be started with confidence in all formats. He has two of his most attractive individual matchups right off the bat. He's 3-for-7 with two home runs in his career versus each of the Toronto Blue Jays' two scheduled starters, Brandon Morrow (Monday) and Henderson Alvarez (Tuesday).