Fantasy Forecaster updated Monday, Aug. 6 at 1:00 p.m. ET.
On tap: A mediocre road trip that involved series losses at Cleveland, Toronto and Boston (six of nine games overall) puts the Detroit Tigers under the microscope, as they're 2½ games back in the American League Central race (through Aug. 2) with series against the AL East-leading New York Yankees (four home games) and AL West-leading Texas Rangers (three road games) due up this week. Both the Yankees and Rangers have stumbled lately, comparatively speaking to their full-season records, and the Tigers have an ace in the hole: Justin Verlander is a two-start pitcher scheduled to face each team. Look at those Tigers hitting ratings further down the column; they reflect the fact that both the Yankees' and Rangers' rotations have had some issues recently. Consider this a pro-Tigers week, both hitting and pitching wise, at least in comparison to what you might have expected had they faced these matchups a month ago.
Healing fantasy stars are the week's other storyline: Sluggers David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox, Giancarlo Stanton of the Miami Marlins and Evan Longoria of the Tampa Bay Rays are scheduled to return early in the week. Ortiz is the one most in question; he's therefore the riskiest fantasy starter in leagues with weekly transactions.
There might not be a more important start to monitor as rest-of-the-season evaluation is concerned than that of Chris Sale, who will return to the mound Monday after sitting since July 27 due to arm fatigue. That'd represent a nine-day absence for a pitcher who allowed 10 earned runs on 13 hits in 13 1/3 innings combined in his previous two turns, though in his defense those were challenging matchups (at Detroit and Texas). Sale gets another generous rating in this week's Forecaster and is too talented to sit facing the Kansas City Royals in a home game, but the extended absence makes him riskier than usual.
The Stephen Strasburg "innings cap" chatter will only intensify with each passing week, and this might be a week in which he's under the microscope more than usual. He's coming off the worst outing of his career, and pitches once: Friday at Arizona's Chase Field, a hitter-friendly venue. If Strasburg indeed will be shut down once he reaches 160 innings for the season, he has exactly 38 2/3 frames to go. That means seven more starts, going by his year-to-date, per-start average.
ESPN leagues: Week 17
It's another Monday-evening deadline for fantasy owners in weekly-transaction leagues, as the week's opener, Yankees at Tigers (Monday Night Baseball on ESPN and ESPN3), begins at 7 p.m. ET. 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. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Mon-@OAK (Parker), Sun-SEA (Vargas)
2. Matt Cain (SF) -- Mon-@STL (Westbrook), Sat-COL (Pomeranz)
3. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Mon-NYY (Nova), Sat-@TEX (Holland)
4. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Fri-@LAA (Santana)
5. David Price (TB) -- Sat-@MIN (Blackburn)
6. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Fri-@MIA (Buehrle)
7. Johnny Cueto (CIN) -- Tue-@MIL (Fiers), Sun-@CHC (TBD)
8. Zack Greinke (LAA) -- Wed-@OAK (Straily)
9. Madison Bumgarner (SF) -- Thu-@STL (Wainwright)
10. Stephen Strasburg (WAS) -- Fri-@ARI (Cahill)
11. Adam Wainwright (STL) -- Thu-SF (Bumgarner)
12. Gio Gonzalez (WAS) -- Wed-@HOU (Galarraga)
13. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Mon-CIN (Arroyo), Sun-@HOU (Lyles)
14. Jordan Zimmermann (WAS) -- Thu-@HOU (Harrell)
15. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Tue-ATL (Minor)
16. R.A. Dickey (NYM) -- Thu-MIA (Johnson)
17. James Shields (TB) -- Tue-TOR (Happ), Sun-@MIN (Diamond)
18. Cliff Lee (PHI) -- Sat-STL (Westbrook)
19. Josh Johnson (MIA) -- Thu-@NYM (Dickey)
20. Wade Miley (ARI) -- Mon-@PIT (Bedard), Sat-WAS (Jackson)
21. C.J. Wilson (LAA) -- Tue-@OAK (Colon)
22. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Wed-@DET (Sanchez)
23. Roy Halladay (PHI) -- Fri-STL (Lohse)
24. Chris Sale (CHW) -- Mon-KC (Mendoza)
25. Jarrod Parker (OAK) -- Mon-LAA (Weaver), Sun-@CHW (Liriano)
26. Jake Peavy (CHW) -- Tue-KC (Chen)
27. Ryan Vogelsong (SF) -- Wed-@STL (Kelly)
28. Ben Sheets (ATL) -- Mon-@PHI (Worley), Sun-@NYM (Niese)
29. Hiroki Kuroda (NYY) -- Thu-@DET (Fister)
30. Phil Hughes (NYY) -- Tue-@DET (Porcello), Sun-@TOR (Happ)
31. Lance Lynn (STL) -- Tue-SF (Zito), Sun-@PHI (Worley)
32. Matt Moore (TB) -- Thu-TOR (Romero)
33. Doug Fister (DET) -- Thu-NYY (Kuroda)
34. Wei-Yin Chen (BAL) -- Thu-KC (Smith)
35. Jonathon Niese (NYM) -- Tue-MIA (LeBlanc), Sun-ATL (Sheets)
36. Yu Darvish (TEX) -- Mon-@BOS (Cook), Sun-DET (Porcello)
37. Mat Latos (CIN) -- Wed-@MIL (Wolf)
38. Tim Hudson (ATL) -- Wed-@PHI (Kendrick)
39. Vance Worley (PHI) -- Mon-ATL (Sheets), Sun-STL (Lynn)
40. Ian Kennedy (ARI) -- Wed-@PIT (Correia)
41. Chris Capuano (LAD) -- Mon-COL (Pomeranz), Sun-@MIA (LeBlanc)
42. Erik Bedard (PIT) -- Mon-ARI (Miley), Sat-SD (Marquis)
43. A.J. Burnett (PIT) -- Fri-SD (Volquez)
44. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Fri-COL (Chatwood)
45. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Tue-TEX (Dempster), Sun-@CLE (Kluber)
46. Mike Fiers (MIL) -- Tue-CIN (Cueto)
47. Dan Haren (LAA) -- Sat-SEA (Iwakuma)
48. Jeff Samardzija (CHC) -- Wed-@SD (Richard)
49. Clay Buchholz (BOS) -- Fri-@CLE (Seddon)
50. Johan Santana (NYM) -- Sat-ATL (Medlen)
51. Ross Detwiler (WAS) -- Tue-@HOU (Lyles), Sun-@ARI (Corbin)
52. Jeremy Hellickson (TB) -- Fri-@MIN (De Vries)
53. Scott Diamond (MIN) -- Mon-@CLE (McAllister), Sun-TB (Shields)
54. Edinson Volquez (SD) -- Fri-@PIT (Burnett)
55. Jason Vargas (SEA) -- Mon-@BAL (Tillman), Sun-@LAA (Weaver)
56. Mike Minor (ATL) -- Tue-@PHI (Hamels)
57. Edwin Jackson (WAS) -- Mon-@HOU (Keuchel), Sat-@ARI (Miley)
58. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Fri-@TEX (Feldman)
59. Chad Billingsley (LAD) -- Wed-COL (Francis)
60. Bronson Arroyo (CIN) -- Mon-@MIL (Gallardo), Sat-@CHC (Wood)
61. Wandy Rodriguez (PIT) -- Thu-ARI (Saunders)
62. Homer Bailey (CIN) -- Fri-@CHC (Germano)
63. Bartolo Colon (OAK) -- Tue-LAA (Wilson)
64. Zach McAllister (CLE) -- Mon-MIN (Diamond), Sat-BOS (Cook)
65. Kris Medlen (ATL) -- Sat-@NYM (Santana)
66. Trevor Cahill (ARI) -- Fri-WAS (Strasburg)
67. Tommy Milone (OAK) -- Sat-@CHW (Floyd)
68. Matt Harvey (NYM) -- Fri-ATL (Maholm)
69. Paul Maholm (ATL) -- Fri-@NYM (Harvey)
70. Ryan Dempster (TEX) -- Tue-@BOS (Lester)
71. Patrick Corbin (ARI) -- Tue-@PIT (Karstens), Sun-WAS (Detwiler)
72. Kyle Lohse (STL) -- Fri-@PHI (Halladay)
73. Jake Westbrook (STL) -- Mon-SF (Cain), Sat-@PHI (Lee)
74. Joe Blanton (LAD) -- Sat-@MIA (Nolasco)
75. Anibal Sanchez (DET) -- Wed-NYY (Sabathia)
Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
Zach Britton (BAL) -- Tue-SEA (Beavan), Sun-KC (Chen)
Jeff Karstens (PIT) -- Tue-ARI (Corbin), Sun-SD (Stults)
Wade LeBlanc (MIA) -- Tue-@NYM (Niese), Sun-LAD (Capuano)
Ivan Nova (NYY) -- Mon-@DET (Verlander), Sat-@TOR (TBD)
Drew Pomeranz (COL) -- Mon-@LAD (Capuano), Sat-@SF (Cain)
Eric Stults (SD) -- Mon-CHC (Wood), Sun-@PIT (Karstens)
Chris Tillman (BAL) -- Mon-SEA (Vargas), Sat-KC (Mendoza)
Travis Wood (CHC) -- Mon-@SD (Stults), Sat-CIN (Arroyo)
No-thank-yous, among two-start pitchers:
Bruce Chen (KC) -- Tue-@CHW (Peavy), Sun-@BAL (Britton)
Aaron Cook (BOS) -- Mon-TEX (Darvish), Sat-@CLE (McAllister)
J.A. Happ (TOR) -- Tue-@TB (Shields), Sun-NYY (Hughes)
Dallas Keuchel (HOU) -- Mon-WAS (Jackson), Sat-MIL (Estrada)
Corey Kluber (CLE) -- Tue-MIN (Deduno), Sun-BOS (Lester)
Jordan Lyles (HOU) -- Tue-WAS (Detwiler), Sun-MIL (Gallardo)
Luis Mendoza (KC) -- Mon-@CHW (Sale), Sat-@BAL (Tillman)
Rick Porcello (DET) -- Tue-NYY (Hughes), Sun-@TEX (Darvish)
Barry Zito (SF) -- Tue-@STL (Lynn), Sun-COL (White)
• It's a six-game week -- granted, in a week where 14 other teams play seven times -- but the Los Angeles Angels' pitching staff is far and away my Baseball Challenge pitching staff pick for Week 17, and it's because of who they have starting most often: Jered Weaver and, should they use Thursday's off day to skip Ervin Santana, C.J. Wilson. The six-game week affords them the luxury of skipping Santana if they desire -- take note if you're his owner in an AL-only league, as Santana is scheduled to pitch Friday but there have been whispers he might be passed over -- which would put Weaver and Wilson in line for starts against both the Oakland Athletics and Seattle Mariners, the two lowest-scoring teams in the American League. Combine the track records of the Angels' top four, and they have a 3.08 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in 82 career games (49 starts) against the Athletics and a 2.94 ERA and 1.15 WHIP in 101 career games (62 starts) against the Mariners. Among other recommended BBC pitching staffs: Rays (TOR-3, @MIN-3), Arizona Diamondbacks (@PIT-4, WAS-3), St. Louis Cardinals (SF-4, @PHI-3).
There are no games scheduled at Colorado's Coors Field, the No. 1 ballpark in runs scored on our Park Factors page and home to the Colorado Rockies, baseball's No. 1 team in terms of runs scored per game and OPS in home games.
The following pitchers are scheduled to pitch at San Diego's Safeco Field, No. 25 in runs scored on our Park Factor page and home to the San Diego Padres, No. 29 in both runs scored per game and OPS in home games:
• Travis Wood (Monday): 2 career GS, 2.63 ERA, 1.10 WHIP. Start, at least in deep mixed and NL-only leagues.
• The Cubs have not announced a starter for Tuesday's game.
• Jeff Samardzija (Wednesday): Has never started a game at Petco. Start, as back-to-back quality starts have his value on the upswing.
There are no games scheduled at Seattle's Safeco Field, No. 28 in runs scored on our Park Factor page and home to the Mariners, baseball's worst team in terms of runs scored per game and OPS in home games.
• Keep exploiting Houston Astros matchups, as the rebuilding Astros have .224/.292/.342 triple-slash rates while averaging 2.97 runs per game in their past 32 contests. Three Astros opponents -- Gio Gonzalez (Wednesday), Jordan Zimmermann (Thursday) and Yovani Gallardo (Sunday) -- are owned in 100 percent of ESPN leagues, but three others are available in more than 90 percent: Ross Detwiler (Tuesday), Mark Rogers (Friday) and Marco Estrada (Saturday). Detwiler and Estrada each have exactly one career start against the Astros, and each was a quality start; Estrada's was on July 30 (7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 6 K). Detwiler, meanwhile, has three quality starts in his past four outings overall.
• Jonathon Niese, available in more than 50 percent of ESPN leagues, might be the sleeper two-start pitcher of the week. He has three quality starts in four tries since the All-Star break, and in his past 11 starts overall, he has a 3.11 ERA, 1.06 WHIP and 6.10 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Niese also has a 3.99 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in 10 starts this season at Citi Field, where he'll make both his turns, and one of them will come against the Marlins, who have averaged just 2.45 runs per game since the break.
• Coming off a poor debut for the Rangers, Ryan Dempster faces a second consecutive treacherous matchup: He's scheduled to start Tuesday at Boston's Fenway Park against a Red Sox team that has averaged 5.37 runs per game at home this season. It will be the second in a string of four consecutive awful matchups for Dempster, who's also on pace to pitch Aug. 13 at New York's Yankee Stadium and Aug. 18 at Toronto's Rogers Centre.
• When he takes the mound Wednesday at St. Louis' Busch Stadium, Ryan Vogelsong will be trying to kick-start a new quality-starts streak. He just snapped a streak of 16 consecutive quality starts, most of any pitcher in baseball this season (no one else has a streak longer than 11) and the sixth-lengthiest such streak since 2000. He has pitched there precisely once in his career, limiting the Cardinals to one run in five innings on May 31, 2011.
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 17, here are my picks by day:
Monday, August 6: Chris Tillman versus Seattle Mariners
Tuesday, August 7: Ross Detwiler at Houston Astros
Wednesday, August 8: Clayton Richard versus Chicago Cubs
Thursday, August 9: Mike Leake at Chicago Cubs
Friday, August 10: Homer Bailey at Chicago Cubs
Saturday, August 11: Marco Estrada at Houston Astros
Sunday, August 12: Patrick Corbin versus Washington Nationals
Friday, July 27: Carlos Zambrano -- 5 IP, 3 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 4 K
Saturday, July 28: Barry Zito -- 5 1/3 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 K
Sunday, July 29: Clayton Richard -- 5 1/3 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 K
Monday, July 30: Marco Estrada -- QS, 7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 6 K
Tuesday, July 31: Kris Medlen -- W, 5 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K
Wednesday, August 1: Bronson Arroyo -- W, 6 IP, 7 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 1 K
Thursday, August 2: Barry Zito -- 4 1/3 IP, 6 H, 7 ER, 3 BB, 1 K
Week's total: 7 GS, 2 W (28.6%), 1 QS (14.3%), 38 IP, 38 H, 24 ER, 13 BB, 22 K, 5.68 ERA, 1.34 WHIP
Season total: 108 GS, 44 W (40.7%), 56 QS (51.9%), 649 IP, 628 H, 287 ER, 221 BB, 488 K, 3.98 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.
• The Orioles' offense has picked it up since the All-Star break, averaging 4.59 runs per game with .269/.328/.438 triple-slash rates in their past 17 contests (their seasonal numbers are 4.18 and .244/.306/.407). Having a healthy Nick Markakis back has helped; he is a .368/.404/.506 hitter in his past 20 games and, despite lackluster numbers in terms of home runs (2), RBIs (6) and stolen bases (0) during that span, he warrants activation in all formats. Yes, that's in spite of the three left-handed starters the team is expected to face, as he's a .299/.365/.455 hitter against southpaws this season. That lefty-heavy schedule is a plus for another well-known Oriole, however: Matt Wieters, who has .337/.398/.528 triple-slash rates versus lefties this season. It's also big news for J.J. Hardy, who has broken out of a midseason funk by batting .305 (18-for-59) with two home runs and nine RBIs in his past 15 games.
• Besides the aforementioned David Ortiz, Giancarlo Stanton and Evan Longoria, two other start-worthy fantasy names are scheduled to return from the disabled list early in the week: The Minnesota Twins expect to get Trevor Plouffe back sometime during their week-opening series versus the Indians, while the Angels might have Erick Aybar back in time for their week-opening series at Oakland.
• Don't underestimate the value of the Los Angeles Dodgers' trade acquisitions in terms of how much they boost their lesser-known starters' runs/RBI potential. Mark Ellis is an excellent example; he has been fitting in as a handy No. 2 hitter, posting a .341 on-base percentage out of that spot. He's also a .365/.427/.581 hitter versus left-handers this season, which is a huge plus considering the Dodgers are scheduled to face four lefty starters this week.
• Expect a challenging week for Cardinals hitters, and they're rated accordingly because of the strength of the individual starters they're scheduled to face. Though the Cardinals as a team have averaged 4.95 runs per game with .279/.360/.440 triple-slash rates since the All-Star break, this team is set to face Matt Cain (Monday), the aforementioned Vogelsong (Wednesday) and Madison Bumgarner (Thursday) in three of the four San Francisco Giants games, then Roy Halladay (Friday) and Cliff Lee (Saturday) in two of the three Philadelphia Phillies games. This is a week where, in a shallow mixed league, it's well worth considering benching Allen Craig, Rafael Furcal and Jon Jay.