Fantasy Forecaster updated Monday, June 4 at 10:13 a.m. ET.
On tap: Interleague play resumes Friday, but not before four days' worth of intraleague play from Monday-Thursday. It's a busier week for the National than American League; six of the 16 NL teams play a full seven games, whereas the Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers, thanks to a week-opening four-game series at O.com Coliseum, are the only AL squads to play seven times.
Once interleague play begins, it will dominate the schedule for 17 consecutive days, spanning the second half of this fantasy Week 9, as well as Weeks 10-11 in their entirety. As always, the most significant fantasy impact of interleague play is the designated hitter: AL teams lose theirs during trips to NL parks, while NL squads gain the DH when traveling to AL venues. With interleague play encompassing only three of the seven days this week, the impact won't be felt as much as in the subsequent two weeks, but it's worth pointing out that there are more AL teams visiting NL parks (8) than NL teams visiting AL parks (6) this week. For an overview of the DH/no-DH fantasy impact on specific players, see the Hitting notes section below.
Philadelphia Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee is winless in eight starts despite a 3.00 ERA and six quality starts, and but thanks to the impending return of Vance Worley, perhaps Lee will fill that stat column in one (or both) of his two turns this week. Worley will pitch Monday, sparing Lee a matchup against reigning NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw, affording Lee a Tuesday matchup against Chad Billingsley. The Rangers and San Francisco Giants battle at AT&T Park during the weekend, in a rematch of the 2010 World Series, and the Rangers will be out for revenge against two of the Giants' five worst starters to date, including Tim Lincecum, who defeated them twice during that Fall Classic. And the Cleveland Indians, still second in the American League Central race despite an 11.89 ERA from their starting pitchers from May 25-30, play an important series at the Detroit Tigers to begin the week. Remember, they swept the Tigers at Progressive Field during a May 22-24 series.
ESPN leagues: Week 9
Two weekend wrap-around series concluding Monday create an early start time to fantasy's Week 9, as the St. Louis Cardinals and New York Mets, only slightly more than 12 hours after appearing on "Sunday Night Baseball," conclude a four-game set at Citi Field with a 1:10 p.m. ET start time. Chicago Cubs at Giants is another Monday day game, with a 3:45 p.m. ET start time. Here are the scheduled start times of the first games 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-@PHI (Worley), Sat-@SEA (Millwood)
2. Cliff Lee (PHI) -- Tue-LAD (Billingsley), Sun-@BAL (Hammel)
3. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Fri-@CIN (Latos)
4. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Tue-CHC (Dempster), Sun-SD (Bass)
5. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Thu-LAD (Harang)
6. Matt Cain (SF) -- Thu-@SD (Volquez)
7. Madison Bumgarner (SF) -- Wed-@SD (Richard)
8. Anibal Sanchez (MIA) -- Tue-ATL (Hudson), Sun-TB (Shields)
9. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Wed-@LAA (Williams)
10. Ricky Romero (TOR) -- Tue-@CHW (Humber), Sun-@ATL (Hudson)
11. Adam Wainwright (STL) -- Wed-@HOU (Norris)
12. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Thu-TB (Hellickson)
13. Brandon Beachy (ATL) -- Fri-TOR (Drabek)
14. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Tue-BAL (Hammel), Sun-WAS (Zimmermann)
15. Stephen Strasburg (WAS) -- Fri-@BOS (Doubront)
16. Chris Sale (CHW) -- Sat-HOU (Lyles)
17. Gio Gonzalez (WAS) -- Sat-@BOS (Bard)
18. Zack Greinke (MIL) -- Wed-CHC (Maholm)
19. Jordan Zimmermann (WAS) -- Tue-NYM (Young), Sun-@BOS (Lester)
20. Tim Hudson (ATL) -- Tue-@MIA (Sanchez), Sun-TOR (Romero)
21. C.J. Wilson (LAA) -- Fri-@COL (White)
22. Jeff Samardzija (CHC) -- Mon-@SF (Vogelsong), Sat-@MIN (Diamond)
23. Dan Haren (LAA) -- Sat-@COL (Friedrich)
24. Ryan Vogelsong (SF) -- Mon-CHC (Samardzija), Sat-TEX (Feldman)
25. Shaun Marcum (MIL) -- Fri-SD (Stults)
26. Josh Johnson (MIA) -- Wed-ATL (Delgado)
27. Andy Pettitte (NYY) -- Tue-TB (Shields), Sun-NYM (Young)
28. James McDonald (PIT) -- Sat-KC (Mazzaro)
29. Chad Billingsley (LAD) -- Tue-@PHI (Lee), Sun-@SEA (Vargas)
30. Johan Santana (NYM) -- Thu-@WAS (Wang)
31. Daniel Hudson (ARI) -- Fri-OAK (Milone)
32. James Shields (TB) -- Tue-@NYY (Pettitte), Sun-@MIA (Sanchez)
33. Jake Peavy (CHW) -- Thu-TOR (Alvarez)
34. Mat Latos (CIN) -- Fri-DET (Verlander)
35. David Price (TB) -- Wed-@NYY (Nova)
36. Brandon Morrow (TOR) -- Wed-@CHW (TBD)
37. Yu Darvish (TEX) -- Thu-@OAK (McCarthy)
38. Tommy Hanson (ATL) -- Sat-TOR (Hutchison)
39. Colby Lewis (TEX) -- Wed-@OAK (Colon)
40. Homer Bailey (CIN) -- Tue-PIT (Lincoln), Sun-DET (Smyly)
41. Johnny Cueto (CIN) -- Wed-PIT (Burnett)
42. Josh Beckett (BOS) -- Wed-BAL (Chen)
43. Ryan Dempster (CHC) -- Tue-@MIL (Gallardo), Sun-@MIN (DeVries)
44. Lance Lynn (STL) -- Thu-@HOU (Happ)
45. Matt Moore (TB) -- Fri-@MIA (Nolasco)
46. Ian Kennedy (ARI) -- Tue-COL (Guthrie)
47. Edwin Jackson (WAS) -- Wed-NYM (Dickey)
48. Matt Harrison (TEX) -- Fri-@SF (Zito)
49. Bud Norris (HOU) -- Wed-STL (Wainwright)
50. R.A. Dickey (NYM) -- Wed-@WAS (Jackson)
51. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Wed-CLE (Gomez)
52. Chris Capuano (LAD) -- Wed-@PHI (Kendrick)
53. Jeremy Hellickson (TB) -- Thu-@NYY (Sabathia)
54. Hiroki Kuroda (NYY) -- Fri-NYM (Niese)
55. Anthony Bass (SD) -- Tue-SF (Lincecum), Sun-@MIL (Gallardo)
56. Matt Garza (CHC) -- Thu-@MIL (Wolf)
57. Philip Humber (CHW) -- Tue-TOR (Romero), Sun-HOU (Harrell)
58. Wandy Rodriguez (HOU) -- Fri-@CHW (Floyd)
59. Luke Hochevar (KC) -- Fri-@PIT (Bedard)
60. A.J. Burnett (PIT) -- Wed-@CIN (Cueto)
61. Ricky Nolasco (MIA) -- Fri-TB (Moore)
62. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Tue-@SD (Bass), Sun-TEX (Holland)
63. Kevin Millwood (SEA) -- Sat-LAD (Kershaw)
64. Gavin Floyd (CHW) -- Fri-HOU (Rodriguez)
65. Erik Bedard (PIT) -- Fri-KC (Hochevar)
66. Ervin Santana (LAA) -- Mon-SEA (Vargas), Sun-@COL (Guthrie)
67. Trevor Cahill (ARI) -- Sat-OAK (Parker)
68. Carlos Zambrano (MIA) -- Sat-TB (Cobb)
69. Felix Doubront (BOS) -- Fri-WAS (Strasburg)
70. Brian Matusz (BAL) -- Thu-@BOS (Buchholz)
71. Felipe Paulino (KC) -- Wed-MIN (Pavano)
72. Francisco Liriano (MIN) -- Tue-@KC (Chen)
73. Jerome Williams (LAA) -- Wed-SEA (Hernandez)
74. Mike Leake (CIN) -- Thu-PIT (Correia)
75. Wade Miley (ARI) -- Wed-COL (Outman)
Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
Scott Feldman (TEX) -- Mon-@OAK (Parker), Sat-@SF (Vogelsong)
Jaime Garcia (STL) -- Tue-@HOU (Harrell), Sun-CLE (Jimenez)
Dillon Gee (NYM) -- Mon-STL (Lohse), Sat-@NYY (Hughes)
Derek Holland (TEX) -- Tue-@OAK (Blackley), Sun-@SF (Lincecum)
Kyle Lohse (STL) -- Mon-@NYM (Gee), Sat-CLE (Masterson)
Joe Saunders (ARI) -- Mon-COL (Friedrich), Sun-OAK (Blackley)
Drew Smyly (DET) -- Tue-CLE (Jimenez), Sun-@CIN (Bailey)
Jason Vargas (SEA) -- Mon-@LAA (Santana), Sun-LAD (Billingsley)
Vance Worley (PHI) -- Mon-LAD (Kershaw), Sat-@BAL (TBD)
No-thank-yous, among two-start pitchers:
Travis Blackley (OAK) -- Tue-TEX (Holland), Sun-@ARI (Saunders)
Cole DeVries (MIN) -- Mon-@KC (Smith), Sun-CHC (Dempster)
Christian Friedrich (COL) -- Mon-@ARI (Saunders), Sat-LAA (Haren)
Jeremy Guthrie (COL) -- Tue-@ARI (Kennedy), Sun-LAA (Santana)
Jason Hammel (BAL) -- Tue-@BOS (Lester), Sun-PHI (Lee)
Lucas Harrell (HOU) -- Tue-STL (Garcia), Sun-@CHW (Humber)
Ubaldo Jimenez (CLE) -- Tue-@DET (Smyly), Sun-@STL (Garcia)
Brad Lincoln (PIT) -- Tue-@CIN (Bailey), Sun-KC (Smith)
Jarrod Parker (OAK) -- Mon-TEX (Feldman), Sat-@ARI (Cahill)
Will Smith (KC) -- Mon-MIN (DeVries), Sun-@PIT (Lincoln)
• Fresh off a four-game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers on the road, becoming the first visiting team to do that in 19 years, the Milwaukee Brewers return home for a pair of three-game series with excellent pitching matchups. Games versus the Cubs (Tuesday-Thursday) and San Diego Padres (Friday-Sunday) are what make the Brewers my Baseball Challenge pitching staff pick of Week 9. Those opponents have combined to average 3.57 runs per game on the road this season, and both have sub-.700 team OPS in road games. Two-start pitcher Yovani Gallardo is coming off a string of six consecutive quality starts, and the Brewers' rotation as a whole has 15 quality starts and a 3.30 ERA in its past 22 contests. Among my other recommended BBC pitching staffs: Rangers (@OAK-4, @SF-3), Arizona Diamondbacks (COL-3, OAK-3), Cincinnati Reds (PIT-3, DET-3).
• The aforementioned Tim Lincecum, a two-start pitcher this week, has two of the most polar matchups a pitcher could ask for: He begins the week at the game's most pitching-friendly ballpark, San Diego's Petco Park, on Tuesday, before returning home to face the game's most potent offense, the Rangers, on Sunday. To add to the complexity: Lincecum is 10-4 with a 1.84 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 19 career starts versus the Padres, including four consecutive quality starts against them capped by an eight-inning gem against them April 28 (3 H, 1 R, 0 ER). Meanwhile, he's only 7-5 with a 3.47 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 15 career interleague starts, numbers considerably worse than those against NL foes. Lincecum's Padres matchup is an attractive one, making him a useful daily-league choice, but those in weekly leagues should approach him with caution. After all, since that April 28 start, he's 0-4 with a 5.88 ERA and 1.57 WHIP in six turns.
• Another questionable starter this week, Jaime Garcia, is also lined up for a two-start week, should his sore elbow be healed in time for him to pitch Tuesday. Accounting for the injury, as well as his history against his scheduled foes, however, he's smarter to avoid in shallow formats. Garcia has never managed a quality start against the Houston Astros, whom he'll face on the road Tuesday, and he's 0-4 with a 6.89 ERA and 1.60 WHIP in six career starts against them. He's also 2-3 with a 5.02 ERA and 1.41 WHIP in seven career interleague starts.
• Exploit those Pittsburgh Pirates, exploit those Pirates, exploit those Pirates. They're a team, after all, that has scored more than five runs only once in 25 games between May 4-30, and has .202/.257/.341 team triple-slash rates and an average of 2.92 runs per game during that span. This week, these Pirates foes stand out: Homer Bailey (Tuesday), 6-0 with seven quality starts, a 1.79 ERA and 1.05 WHIP in eight career starts against them; Johnny Cueto (Wednesday), 5-2 with seven quality starts, a 1.65 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in nine starts against them since 2010; Mike Leake (Thursday), who has a 3.60 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and is 3-for-4 in quality starts against them since the beginning of last season; and Luke Hochevar (Friday), who has a 2.96 ERA and 9.25 strikeouts-per-nine innings ratio in his past four starts and will be facing a Pirates team that has never before seen him. Also, in leagues with daily transactions, keep tabs on the Kansas City Royals' rotation, as Jonathan Sanchez, if he's healthy enough to pitch and throws well Monday, would warrant a look during Sunday's game at Pittsburgh.
• John Danks might be ready to return to the Chicago White Sox's rotation Wednesday, but he's not recommended in his first start fresh off the DL. He's 1-4 with a 6.46 ERA and 1.63 WHIP in six career starts versus the Toronto Blue Jays, and current Blue Jays have lifetime .288/.383/.462 triple-slash rates against him.
• In a two-start week for the left-hander, Jon Lester is an automatic simply considering the strength of his Tuesday matchup. He has never lost to the Baltimore Orioles in 19 career starts, going 14-0 with 14 quality starts, a 2.47 ERA and 1.26 WHIP against them. He's also 10-4 with a 2.99 ERA and 1.26 WHIP in 18 career interleague starts, including wins in both career turns versus the Washington Nationals (in 2006 and '09).
• Forgive Bud Norris for his awful May 31 start; it came at Colorado's Coors Field, where he now has a 17.55 ERA in two career turns. He has a tremendous bounce-back opportunity Wednesday, against a Cardinals team he has owned throughout his career. Norris is 7-2 with seven quality starts, a 2.17 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 11 career starts versus the Cardinals, and current Cardinals combined have .248/.318/.380 lifetime triple-slash rates against him.
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 9, here are my picks by day:
Monday, June 4: Scott Feldman at Oakland Athletics
Tuesday, June 5: Homer Bailey versus Pittsburgh Pirates
Wednesday, June 6: Jerome Williams versus Seattle Mariners
Thursday, June 7: Mike Leake versus Pittsburgh Pirates
Friday, June 8: Luke Hochevar at Pittsburgh Pirates
Saturday, June 9: Trevor Cahill versus Oakland Athletics
Sunday, June 10: Philip Humber versus Houston Astros
Friday, May 25: Anthony Bass -- 5 1/3 IP, 8 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 4 K
Saturday, May 26: Jerome Williams -- W, QS, 6 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
Sunday, May 27: Felipe Paulino (pitched 5/26) -- 5 2/3 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 5 BB, 5 K
Monday, May 28: Matt Harrison -- W, QS, 8 IP, 7 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 5 K
Tuesday, May 29: Homer Bailey -- W, QS, 9 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
Wednesday, May 30: Anthony Bass -- 4 2/3 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 4 BB, 2 K
Thursday, May 31: No pick.
Week's total: 6 GS, 3 W (50.0%), 3 QS (50.0%), 38 2/3 IP, 35 H, 20 ER, 15 BB, 26 K, 4.66 ERA, 1.29 WHIP
Season total: 50 GS, 25 W (50.0%), 32 QS (64.0%), 316 2/3 IP, 268 H, 112 ER, 102 BB, 227 K, 3.18 ERA, 1.17 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 to Sunday -- a span of three Week 9 games -- for eight AL teams, a handful of meaningful fantasy names might lose at-bats and therefore be somewhat less attractive options. Defensively challenged Tigers DH Delmon Young might not start at all at Cincinnati, as the Reds' rotation is entirely right-handed. The Royals will face a decision at first base between usual DH Billy Butler and Eric Hosmer, and a guess is that Butler might sit the two games versus right-handed starters. Los Angeles Angels DH Kendrys Morales is expected to get his first game action of 2012 at first base during the series at Colorado's Coors Field, meaning the Alberto Callaspo and Maicer Izturis will most likely take a seat, with Albert Pujols shifting to third base. The Athletics might be holding Manny Ramirez back in the minors with an eye on their interleague schedule; as the A's games at NL parks finish on Thursday, June 14, midway through fantasy Week 10, he wouldn't have a place to play for those six games anyway. Tampa Bay Rays DH Luke Scott hasn't played in the field yet this season, and might not at Miami, either, especially not with fellow DH candidate Hideki Matsui also on the roster. The Rangers might rotate usual DH Michael Young around the infield, with first baseman Mitch Moreland most in jeopardy of sitting multiple times. And Blue Jays rookie David Cooper will probably sit as Edwin Encarnacion mans first base.
• Among NL hitters who stand to receive a few extra at-bats thanks to the DH: Cubs speedster Tony Campana, if not Reed Johnson, might sneak in a couple of starts with Alfonso Soriano shifting to DH. Bobby Abreu is a natural DH for the Dodgers, opening up outfield spots for some mix of Tony Gwynn Jr., Elian Herrera and Scott Van Slyke. The Mets could sneak Mike Baxter in for two or more starts, as they did in Toronto in May. John Mayberry Jr. makes sense as a DH for the Phillies. And Michael Morse, due off the DL sometime within the week, can be eased back as a DH, allowing the Nationals to play both Morse and Adam LaRoche.
• Things have picked up for the Angels of late; they have .267/.323/.405 triple-slash rates as a team and have averaged 4.24 runs per game in their past 25 contests, and their .725 team OPS in the month of May significantly improved upon their .650 number in April. Much of that was the performances of Pujols, Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo, but all three should continue their stellar hitting with three games versus the Seattle Mariners -- only one against Mariners ace Felix Hernandez -- followed by three at Colorado's Coors Field. Even lesser options like Erick Aybar, Torii Hunter and Howard Kendrick warrant a look.
• Unsurprisingly, the White Sox have been one of the most productive teams in baseball in home games this season; they have averaged 5.16 runs per game at U.S. Cellular Field, their .779 OPS there is eighth-best among home teams. Red-hot Dayan Viciedo is a lifetime .307/.340/.520 hitter with 11 of his 17 home runs at U.S. Cellular; A.J. Pierzynski is a .333/.388/.654 hitter in 23 games there this season; and Alejandro De Aza is a lifetime .316/.391/.505 hitter in 68 games there.