Fantasy Forecaster updated Friday, July 13 at 10:41 a.m. ET.
On tap: Baseball's traditional "second half" -- mathematically speaking, we're 53 percent of the way through the season -- begins with the first pitch of Friday's Arizona Diamondbacks at Chicago Cubs game, at 2:20 p.m. ET. From there, we've got an extended, 10-day scoring period, running from Friday's games through July 22. ESPN leagues count this entire period as "Week 14," whether in weekly or head-to-head formats, so plan accordingly.
The 10-day scoring period makes it nearly impossible for any individual starting pitcher to start three times; Christian Friedrich, thanks to the Colorado Rockies' four-man rotation, is the only one to do so. Seventeen of the 30 teams play exactly 10 games, 16 of those playing one game on each of the 10 days and another team, the Washington Nationals, playing 11 games in 10 days thanks to a July 21 doubleheader versus the Atlanta Braves. In other words, this is a remarkably balanced schedule for a 10-day week, with almost every starting pitcher starting exactly twice, and the majority of hitters scheduled for the same number of games -- 10. It's a quality-over-quantity week for sure.
Several notable fantasy names will mark their returns from the disabled list in the early stages of the week. On the hitting side, Matt Kemp of the Los Angeles Dodgers, 7-for-16 (.438 AVG) with two doubles in four games of a rehab assignment between Class A Rancho Cucamonga and Triple-A Albuquerque, as well as a lackluster participant in Monday's Home Run Derby, is expected back for the Dodgers' first game of the second half. Andre Ethier, who began a rehab assignment at Rancho Cucamonga on Wednesday, is on track to join Kemp on the same day. Boston Red Sox speedster Jacoby Ellsbury, just 5-for-27 (.185 AVG) with one home run but zero stolen bases in eight games of a rehab assignment between the Gulf Coast League Red Sox, Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket, should rejoin the team in time for their first game of the second half. Meanwhile, the Baltimore Orioles activated Nick Markakis, and the Miami Marlins should have Emilio Bonifacio back in time for their Friday second-half openers, while the Red Sox are likely to get Carl Crawford back on Monday.
On the pitching side, the Philadelphia Phillies will welcome Roy Halladay back to their rotation in time for a Tuesday start at Dodger Stadium, though that is tentatively scheduled to be his only turn of the week. The New York Yankees get CC Sabathia back on Tuesday versus the Toronto Blue Jays, putting him in line for two turns (the second on July 22 at Oakland's O.co Coliseum). Colby Lewis rejoins the Texas Rangers' rotation on Wednesday at Oakland, though that's his only scheduled start. And Clay Buchholz is due back for the Red Sox on Saturday at Tampa Bay's Tropicana Field, setting him up for a two-start week (the second start July 19 versus the Chicago White Sox).
With it being a lengthier week, the hitters -- that is, the ones due back on Friday, excluding Crawford -- warrant activation in all but the shallowest mixed leagues. The pitchers, meanwhile, are riskier choices, with the exception of Sabathia, whose absence will have extended a mere 22 days.
We've also got a compelling rematch: On Sunday, Matt Cain and the San Francisco Giants host the Houston Astros, against whom he threw a perfect game on June 13. While it's highly unlikely he'll duplicate the effort, his track record against current Astros makes another outstanding performance likely: They are a combined 6-for-61 (.098 AVG) with 21 strikeouts against him all-time, and two of those six hits were by pitchers (Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez).
Forecaster note: There will be an update to the Forecaster on Monday to help fantasy owners in leagues that split this 10-day "week" into separate scoring periods.
ESPN leagues: Week 14
Friday's Diamondbacks-Cubs game begins at 2:20 p.m. ET, and it's the only game scheduled for the day that begins before 7:05 p.m. ET. ESPN leagues with weekly transactions will lock on that date and remain locked until the games of July 23. 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. Justin Verlander (DET) -- 7/15-@BAL (Tillman), 7/20-CHW (Sale)
2. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- 7/13-SD (Richard), 7/18-PHI (Lee)
3. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- 7/14-TEX (Darvish), 7/19-@KC (Hochevar)
4. Matt Cain (SF) -- 7/15-HOU (Norris), 7/21-@PHI (Hamels)
5. Zack Greinke (MIL) -- 7/13-PIT (McDonald), 7/18-STL (Wainwright)
6. R.A. Dickey (NYM) -- 7/14-@ATL (Hanson), 7/19-@WAS (Gonzalez)
7. Stephen Strasburg (WAS) -- 7/15-@MIA (Nolasco), 7/20-ATL (Hanson)
8. David Price (TB) -- 7/14-BOS (Buchholz), 7/19-CLE (Jimenez)
9. Chris Sale (CHW) -- 7/15-@KC (Mendoza), 7/20-@DET (Verlander)
10. Madison Bumgarner (SF) -- 7/13-HOU (Rodriguez), 7/19-@ATL (Hudson)
11. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- 7/15-@NYY (Nova), 7/20-TEX (Holland)
12. Josh Johnson (MIA) -- 7/13-WAS (Zimmermann), 7/18-@CHC (Samardzija)
13. Gio Gonzalez (WAS) -- 7/14-@MIA (Buehrle), 7/19-NYM (Dickey)
14. Johnny Cueto (CIN) -- 7/15-STL (Westbrook), 7/20-MIL (Estrada)
15. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- 7/15-@COL (Pomeranz), 7/21-SF (Cain)
16. Jordan Zimmermann (WAS) -- 7/13-@MIA (Johnson), 7/18-NYM (Young)
17. Jake Peavy (CHW) -- 7/14-@KC (Hochevar), 7/19-@BOS (Morales)
18. Adam Wainwright (STL) -- 7/13-@CIN (Latos), 7/18-@MIL (Greinke)
19. C.J. Wilson (LAA) -- 7/13-@NYY (Kuroda), 7/18-@DET (Fister)
20. Yu Darvish (TEX) -- 7/14-@SEA (Hernandez), 7/21-@LAA (Santana)
21. Mat Latos (CIN) -- 7/13-STL (Wainwright), 7/18-ARI (Kennedy)
22. James McDonald (PIT) -- 7/13-@MIL (Greinke), 7/18-@COL (Guthrie)
23. Tim Hudson (ATL) -- 7/13-NYM (Young), 7/19-SF (Bumgarner)
24. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- 7/17-TOR (Cecil), 7/22-@OAK (Colon)
25. Johan Santana (NYM) -- 7/15-@ATL (Sheets), 7/20-LAD (Harang)
26. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- 7/15-PIT (Burnett), 7/21-@CIN (Arroyo)
27. Cliff Lee (PHI) -- 7/13-@COL (Friedrich), 7/18-@LAD (Kershaw)
28. Hiroki Kuroda (NYY) -- 7/13-LAA (Wilson), 7/18-TOR (Romero)
29. Tommy Hanson (ATL) -- 7/14-NYM (Dickey), 7/20-@WAS (Strasburg)
30. Matt Harrison (TEX) -- 7/15-@SEA (Iwakuma), 7/22-@LAA (TBD)
31. Matt Garza (CHC) -- 7/15-ARI (Cahill), 7/21-@STL (Westbrook)
32. Wandy Rodriguez (HOU) -- 7/13-@SF (Bumgarner), 7/18-@SD (Richard)
33. Ubaldo Jimenez (CLE) -- 7/14-@TOR (Laffey), 7/19-@TB (Price)
34. Jarrod Parker (OAK) -- 7/15-@MIN (Duensing), 7/21-NYY (Hughes)
35. Ivan Nova (NYY) -- 7/15-LAA (Weaver), 7/20-@OAK (Milone)
36. Francisco Liriano (MIN) -- 7/13-OAK (Griffin), 7/18-BAL (Hammel)
37. Max Scherzer (DET) -- 7/14-@BAL (Chen), 7/19-LAA (Williams)
38. Kyle Lohse (STL) -- 7/14-@CIN (Leake), 7/20-CHC (Dempster)
39. Ian Kennedy (ARI) -- 7/13-@CHC (Maholm), 7/18-@CIN (Latos)
40. Tommy Milone (OAK) -- 7/14-@MIN (De Vries), 7/20-NYY (Nova)
41. Ryan Dempster (CHC) -- 7/14-ARI (Saunders), 7/20-@STL (Lohse)
42. Ryan Vogelsong (SF) -- 7/18-@ATL (TBD)
43. Chris Capuano (LAD) -- 7/16-PHI (Blanton), 7/22-@NYM (Niese)
44. Jason Hammel (BAL) -- 7/13-DET (Fister), 7/18-@MIN (Liriano)
45. Phil Hughes (NYY) -- 7/16-TOR (Alvarez), 7/21-@OAK (Parker)
46. Justin Masterson (CLE) -- 7/13-@TOR (Romero), 7/18-@TB (Hellickson)
47. Trevor Cahill (ARI) -- 7/15-@CHC (Garza), 7/20-HOU (Norris)
48. Jose Quintana (CHW) -- 7/13-@KC (Chen), 7/18-@BOS (Doubront)
49. Chad Billingsley (LAD) -- 7/15-SD (Marquis), 7/21-@NYM (TBD)
50. Jon Lester (BOS) -- 7/17-CHW (Humber)
51. Jonathon Niese (NYM) -- 7/17-@WAS (Detwiler), 7/22-LAD (Capuano)
52. Matt Moore (TB) -- 7/17-CLE (Tomlin), 7/22-SEA (TBD)
53. James Shields (TB) -- 7/15-BOS (Beckett), 7/20-SEA (Iwakuma)
54. Anibal Sanchez (MIA) -- 7/17-@CHC (Wood), 7/22-@PIT (Karstens)
55. Derek Holland (TEX) -- 7/13-@SEA (Millwood), 7/20-@LAA (Weaver)
56. Jair Jurrjens (ATL) -- 7/17-SF (Zito), 7/22-@WAS (Detwiler)
57. Chris Young (NYM) -- 7/13-@ATL (Hudson), 7/18-@WAS (Zimmermann)
58. Josh Beckett (BOS) -- 7/15-@TB (Shields), 7/21-TOR (Villanueva)
59. Edwin Jackson (WAS) -- 7/16-@MIA (Zambrano), 7/21-ATL, Gm. 1 (Sheets)
60. Wade Miley (ARI) -- 7/16-@CIN (Arroyo), 7/21-HOU (Happ)
61. Lance Lynn (STL) -- 7/16-@MIL (Wolf), 7/22-CHC (Wood)
62. Doug Fister (DET) -- 7/13-@BAL (Hammel), 7/18-LAA (Wilson)
63. Edinson Volquez (SD) -- 7/14-@LAD (Harang), 7/19-HOU (Harrell)
64. Clayton Richard (SD) -- 7/13-@LAD (Kershaw), 7/18-HOU (Rodriguez)
65. Drew Pomeranz (COL) -- 7/15-PHI (Hamels), 7/20-@SD (Marquis)
66. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- 7/14-HOU (Harrell), 7/20-@PHI (Worley)
67. Lucas Harrell (HOU) -- 7/14-@SF (Lincecum), 7/19-@SD (Volquez)
68. Jeremy Hellickson (TB) -- 7/13-BOS (Morales), 7/18-CLE (Masterson)
69. Colby Lewis (TEX) -- 7/18-@OAK (Blackley)
70. Vance Worley (PHI) -- 7/14-@COL (Guthrie), 7/20-SF (Lincecum)
71. Bronson Arroyo (CIN) -- 7/16-ARI (Miley), 7/21-MIL (Gallardo)
72. Roy Halladay (PHI) -- 7/17-@LAD (Eovaldi)
73. Luke Hochevar (KC) -- 7/14-CHW (Peavy), 7/19-SEA (Hernandez)
74. Travis Wood (CHC) -- 7/17-MIA (Sanchez), 7/22-@STL (Lynn)
75. Ross Detwiler (WAS) -- 7/17-NYM (Niese), 7/22-ATL (Jurrjens)
76. A.J. Griffin (OAK) -- 7/13-@MIN (Liriano), 7/19-NYY (Garcia)
77. Mark Buehrle (MIA) -- 7/14-WAS (Gonzalez), 7/19-@CHC (Maholm)
78. A.J. Burnett (PIT) -- 7/15-@MIL (Gallardo), 7/21-MIA (Zambrano)
79. Trevor Bauer (ARI) -- 7/17-@CIN (Bailey), 7/22-HOU (Lyles)
80. Ricky Nolasco (MIA) -- 7/15-WAS (Strasburg), 7/20-@PIT (Correia)
81. Bud Norris (HOU) -- 7/15-@SF (Cain), 7/20-@ARI (Cahill)
82. Marco Estrada (MIL) -- 7/14-PIT (Correia), 7/20-@CIN (Cueto)
83. Scott Diamond (MIN) -- 7/16-BAL (Gonzalez), 7/21-@KC (TBD)
84. Gavin Floyd (CHW) -- 7/16-@BOS (Cook), 7/21-@DET (Porcello)
85. Alex Cobb (TB) -- 7/16-CLE (McAllister), 7/21-SEA (Vargas)
86. Ricky Romero (TOR) -- 7/13-CLE (Masterson), 7/18-@NYY (Kuroda)
87. Homer Bailey (CIN) -- 7/17-ARI (Bauer), 7/22-MIL (Wolf)
88. Joe Blanton (PHI) -- 7/16-@LAD (Capuano), 7/22-SF (Zito)
89. Mike Leake (CIN) -- 7/14-STL (Lohse), 7/19-ARI (Saunders)
90. Clay Buchholz (BOS) -- 7/14-@TB (Price), 7/20-TOR (Laffey)
91. Ervin Santana (LAA) -- 7/16-@DET (Porcello), 7/21-TEX (Darvish)
92. Freddy Garcia (NYY) -- 7/14-LAA (Williams), 7/19-@OAK (Griffin)
93. Wei-Yin Chen (BAL) -- 7/14-DET (Scherzer), 7/19-@MIN (De Vries)
94. Jeff Samardzija (CHC) -- 7/18-MIA (Johnson)
95. Bartolo Colon (OAK) -- 7/17-TEX (Oswalt), 7/22-NYY (Sabathia)
96. Jake Westbrook (STL) -- 7/15-@CIN (Cueto), 7/21-CHC (Garza)
97. Michael Fiers (MIL) -- 7/17-STL (Kelly)
98. Franklin Morales (BOS) -- 7/13-@TB (Hellickson), 7/19-CHW (Peavy)
99. Jason Marquis (SD) -- 7/15-@LAD (Billingsley), 7/20-COL (Pomeranz)
100. Carlos Villanueva (TOR) -- 7/15-CLE (Lowe), 7/21-@BOS (Beckett)
• There's no better time to rely on the Nationals pitching staff than now, when the team hasn't yet reached the point of capping Stephen Strasburg's innings, nor has the luxury of doing so due to their league-high 11-games-in-10-days week. The Nationals play nothing but division foes -- at Miami for three, followed by four-game home sets versus the New York Mets and Braves -- meaning an opportunity to open up some space in the National League East race. It's for that reason the Nationals are my Baseball Challenge Week 14 pick; combined, they have 12 wins and a 3.07 ERA in 19 games against those teams this season. Other recommended Baseball Challenge pitching staff picks: Dodgers (SD-3, PHI-3, @NYM-3), Tampa Bay Rays (BOS-3, CLE-4, SEA-3), Giants (HOU-3, @ATL-3, @PHI-3).
• Safeco Field starts, at least this season, have become every bit as favorable matchups as Petco Park starts: Road teams have played 41 games at Safeco, and their starters have 29 quality starts (70.7 percent), a 2.87 ERA and 1.09 WHIP there. That's a plus for the Rangers, who have the week's shortest schedule -- eight games -- but whose three starters during the opening weekend at Safeco nevertheless still possess matchup advantages. Matt Harrison is the standout, having won all four of his career starts at Safeco, each a quality start, while posting a 1.26 ERA in six games there overall. Meanwhile, Yu Darvish, owner of an 8.38 ERA in two starts versus the Seattle Mariners so far, should fare better in matchup No. 3 against them. His first two games against them were ruined by poor control -- he walked 10 in 9 2/3 innings combined -- but he displayed improvement in that department during a four-start hot streak heading into the All-Star break, walking just nine in 30 innings. Additional rest during the break -- he hasn't pitched since July 1 and didn't appear in the All-Star Game -- also should benefit him.
• Cliff Lee, fresh off a "first" for him (first win of 2012), gets another first: His Friday start at Coors Field will mark the first time he has ever pitched there. He's also going to be facing a Rockies team that performs considerably better at Coors than on the road -- as a team, they have .275/.339/.497 triple-slash rates versus left-handers in home games -- then he'll head west to Los Angeles to face a Dodgers team that will probably be six games into the healthy returns of Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. This is a week where the quality-start minimums -- that's six-plus innings, no more than three earned runs -- are more realistic expectations from Lee, but that might benefit fantasy owners, as it'll extend his buy-low window.
• Though Mat Latos rode a streak of three consecutive starts into the All-Star break, his first matchup of the second half is a doozy. He has a 11.37 ERA, 2.11 WHIP and has allowed a .386 batting average in four career starts versus the St. Louis Cardinals, three of those resulting in a Bill James Game Score beneath 25 (50 is essentially a "quality start"). Current Cardinals are lifetime .414/.477/.724 hitters against Latos. Fortunately, his second start is at home versus the Diamondbacks, against whom he has three quality starts, a 2.22 ERA and 11.47 K's-per-nine ratio in four career meetings. Both turns are at Great American Ball Park, where Latos is 6-1 with seven quality starts, a 3.18 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in 11 games in his career, which means he should get the benefit of the doubt.
• Chad Billingsley begins his second half with the same matchup that resulted in his career-best 87 Game Score on April 6 of this season; he and the Dodgers host the San Diego Padres. He has a 2.62 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in 26 games in his career against the Padres, and he has 13 quality starts in his past 19 tries against them.
• The Rays haven't been nearly as threatening an offense without Evan Longoria this season, and that's a plus for Josh Beckett, who has battled injuries and ineffectiveness of late. Beckett has six quality starts, a 2.75 ERA and 0.84 WHIP in eight career starts at Tropicana Field, including a pair of masterpieces there in 2011, and he has limited current Rays hitters to lifetime .217/.272/.380 triple-slash rates with a 23.7 percent strikeout rate.
• Luke Hochevar concluded the season's first half with a 3-1 record, 2.57 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in his final five starts, and now he gets a pair of home starts with favorable matchups. First, he faces the Chicago White Sox, against whom he's 4-2 with a 3.69 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in even starts since 2009, then the Seattle Mariners, against whom he's 2-1 with three quality starts, a 3.16 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in four career starts.
Among streaming starters -- something I define as single-start options in daily leagues among pitchers owned in 25 percent of ESPN leagues or fewer -- options for Week 14, here are my picks by day:
Friday, July 13: Chris Young at Atlanta Braves
Saturday, July 14: Aaron Harang versus San Diego Padres
Sunday, July 15: Carlos Villanueva versus Cleveland Indians
Monday, July 16: Alex Cobb versus Cleveland Indians
Tuesday, July 17: Jordan Lyles at San Diego Padres
Wednesday, July 18: Bruce Chen versus Seattle Mariners
Thursday, July 19: Luke Hochevar versus Seattle Mariners
Friday, July 20: Drew Pomeranz at San Diego Padres
Saturday, July 21: Alex Cobb versus Seattle Mariners
Sunday, July 22: Homer Bailey versus Milwaukee Brewers
Monday, July 2: Daisuke Matsuzaka -- 1 IP, 4 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 0 K
Tuesday, July 3: Jair Jurrjens -- W, 5 IP, 9 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 2 K
Wednesday, July 4: Jake Arrieta -- 3 2/3 IP, 5 H, 6 ER, 3 BB, 3 K (pitched July 5)
Thursday, July 5: Rick Porcello -- 3 2/3 IP, 12 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 0 K
Friday, July 6: Tommy Milone -- QS, 7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K
Saturday, July 7: Dillon Gee -- W, QS, 8 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K
Sunday, July 8: Jonathon Niese -- 7 IP, 9 H, 7 ER, 0 BB, 3 K
Week's total: 7 GS, 2 W (28.6%), 2 QS (28.6%), 35 1/3 IP, 52 H, 23 ER, 7 BB, 21 K, 5.86 ERA, 1.67 WHIP
Season total: 87 GS, 36 W (41.4%), 46 QS (52.9%), 524 1/3 IP, 506 H, 227 ER, 180 BB, 399 K, 3.90 ERA, 1.31 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.
• Jim Thome, hitting only .238 without an extra-base hit in his first six games for the Orioles, returns to a familiar ballpark: Target Field, where the Orioles will play four of their 10 games. That's significant because he's the all-time leader in home runs at the venue, with 24, and he has .264/.392/.588 triple-slash rates in 99 games and 337 plate appearances there. To put that into perspective, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, combined, have nine home runs in 1,083 career PAs at Target Field. Though the only two left-handed starters Thome and the Orioles will face all week pitch during that series -- Scott Diamond on Monday and Francisco Liriano on Wednesday -- Thome does have a homer in four career at-bats versus Diamond.
• All-Star Bryan LaHair and the Cubs get the advantage of a week in which they'll face seven right-handed starters in nine games, including a familiar trio during the July 20-22 series at St. Louis' Busch Stadium. He's 8-for-13 (.615 AVG) in his career against Kyle Lohse (July 20), Jake Westbrook (July 21) and Lance Lynn (July 22), including one home run against each. LaHair is also a lifetime .311/.376/.524 hitter versus right-handers, and he's 9-for-27 (.333 AVG) with three homers in seven career games at Busch. Left-handed rookie Anthony Rizzo is another Cubs hitter who stands out, thanks to his .407 batting average (11-for-27) and two homers thus far versus righties.
• LaHair's All-Star teammate, Chipper Jones, begins the second half of what will be the final year of his storied big league career with two series against division rivals: The Mets (July 13-15) and Nationals (July 20-22). Jones has been successful in his career against the Mets' Chris Young (his July 13 opponent) and R.A. Dickey (July 14), going a combined 9-for-17 (.529 AVG) with three home runs against them. Jones has also been successful at Washington's Nationals Park in his career, with .313/.382/.513 triple-slash rates there in 29 games.
• Ten home games, specifically at Great American Ball Park, is a favorable schedule for Reds hitters. The venue ranks seventh in runs scored and tops in the majors in home runs on our Park Factor page, and in addition to the obvious -- Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto -- Todd Frazier is a .269/.333/.513 hitter in 27 games there this season. Consider it a good week to get Frazier; Chris Heisey, a .357/.438/.786 hitter in his past seven games; and Zack Cozart, a .273/.333/.424 hitter in his past eight games, into your lineup.