Fantasy Forecaster updated Sunday, Aug. 12 at 9:49 a.m. ET.
On tap: It's a week of east meets west, as in, the East Division leaders in the American League (New York Yankees) and National League (Washington Nationals) take on the leaders from the West Division (Texas Rangers in the AL, San Francisco Giants in the NL).
Consider them a pair of possible playoff-series previews, and in the Yankees' case, this begins an especially challenging week at home, beginning with the four games against the Rangers and concluding with three against their division rival the Boston Red Sox. That's the reason Yankees starters have somewhat low ratings in this week's Forecaster, and it represents particularly poor timing for the injury to CC Sabathia, who landed on the 15-day disabled list on Saturday and will be replaced for his two turns by David Phelps. Yankee Stadium is known as one of the more hitting-friendly venues in baseball, so expect offense, offense, offense from the three teams to play there this week. The Rangers head to Toronto's Rogers Centre for the weekend, and the Red Sox begin the week at Baltimore's Camden Yards.
The Giants, meanwhile, could welcome Pablo Sandoval back to their improving offense, right in time for that week-opening Nationals series. San Francisco has scored a major league-high 59 runs in August (through Aug. 9), not to mention it picked up Hunter Pence and Marco Scutaro before the trade deadline. Don't be quite so quick to exploit starters' matchups against them, though no fantasy owners should sit the Nationals' three, Gio Gonzalez (Monday), Jordan Zimmermann (Tuesday) and Stephen Strasburg (Wednesday). It's San Diego Padres starters like Ross Ohlendorf (Friday) and Eric Stults (Saturday) who shouldn't be scooped up as streaming options, and it might be worth avoiding struggling Nationals closer Tyler Clippard as well.
ESPN leagues: Week 18
It's another Monday-evening deadline for fantasy owners in weekly-transaction leagues, as the week's opener, Rangers at Yankees ("Monday Night Baseball" on ESPN2 and ESPN3), begins at 7 p.m. ET. Here are the scheduled 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 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. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Mon-@MIA (Eovaldi), Sat-@MIL (Fiers)
2. Mat Latos (CIN) -- Tue-NYM (Young), Sun-CHC (Volstad)
3. Josh Johnson (MIA) -- Tue-PHI (Kendrick), Sun-@COL (Pomeranz)
4. Gio Gonzalez (WAS) -- Mon-@SF (Vogelsong), Sun-NYM (Young)
5. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Wed-@PIT (Rodriguez)
6. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Fri-BAL (Hunter)
7. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Wed-TB (Hellickson)
8. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Fri-TB (Shields)
9. Zack Greinke (LAA) -- Tue-CLE (Jimenez), Sun-TB (Moore)
10. Matt Moore (TB) -- Tue-@SEA (Millwood), Sun-@LAA (Greinke)
11. Ryan Vogelsong (SF) -- Mon-WAS (Gonzalez), Sun-@SD (Richard)
12. Madison Bumgarner (SF) -- Tue-WAS (Zimmermann)
13. Matt Cain (SF) -- Fri-@SD (Ohlendorf)
14. David Price (TB) -- Thu-@LAA (Haren)
15. Tim Hudson (ATL) -- Tue-SD (Richard), Sun-LAD (Billingsley)
16. Hiroki Kuroda (NYY) -- Tue-TEX (Harrison), Sun-BOS (Beckett)
17. Adam Wainwright (STL) -- Wed-ARI (Saunders)
18. Roy Halladay (PHI) -- Wed-@MIA (Buehrle)
19. Jake Peavy (CHW) -- Mon-@TOR (Villanueva), Sat-@KC (Chen)
20. Jordan Zimmermann (WAS) -- Tue-@SF (Bumgarner)
21. C.J. Wilson (LAA) -- Mon-CLE (Masterson), Sat-TB (Cobb)
22. Mike Fiers (MIL) -- Mon-@COL (Francis), Sat-PHI (Hamels)
23. Johnny Cueto (CIN) -- Sat-CHC, Gm. 1 (Raley)
24. Cliff Lee (PHI) -- Thu-@MIL (Estrada)
25. Chris Sale (CHW) -- Fri-@KC (Mendoza)
26. Ian Kennedy (ARI) -- Tue-@STL (Kelly), Sun-@HOU (Galarraga)
27. R.A. Dickey (NYM) -- Wed-@CIN (Leake)
28. Doug Fister (DET) -- Tue-@MIN (Duensing)
29. Mike Minor (ATL) -- Mon-SD (Stults), Sat-LAD (Harang)
30. Wade Miley (ARI) -- Fri-@HOU (Keuchel)
31. Stephen Strasburg (WAS) -- Wed-@SF (Lincecum)
32. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Fri-PHI (Worley)
33. Jarrod Parker (OAK) -- Tue-@KC (Guthrie), Sun-CLE (Masterson)
34. Wei-Yin Chen (BAL) -- Tue-BOS (Beckett), Sun-@DET (Sanchez)
35. Dan Haren (LAA) -- Thu-TB (Price)
36. Jeff Samardzija (CHC) -- Mon-HOU (Galarraga), Sat-@CIN, Gm. 2 (TBD)
37. James Shields (TB) -- Fri-@LAA (Weaver)
38. Chad Billingsley (LAD) -- Tue-@PIT (Correia), Sun-@ATL (Hudson)
39. Kris Medlen (ATL) -- Thu-SD (Marquis)
40. Clay Buchholz (BOS) -- Thu-@BAL (Tillman)
41. Scott Diamond (MIN) -- Sat-@SEA (Vargas)
42. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Wed-WAS (Strasburg)
43. Alex Cobb (TB) -- Mon-@SEA (Beavan), Sat-@LAA (Wilson)
44. Ben Sheets (ATL) -- Fri-LAD (Capuano)
45. Clayton Richard (SD) -- Tue-@ATL (Hudson), Sun-SF (Vogelsong)
46. Bartolo Colon (OAK) -- Sat-CLE (Kluber)
47. Jeremy Hellickson (TB) -- Wed-@SEA (Hernandez)
48. A.J. Burnett (PIT) -- Fri-@STL (Westbrook)
49. Jason Vargas (SEA) -- Sat-MIN (Diamond)
50. Wandy Rodriguez (PIT) -- Wed-LAD (Kershaw)
51. Edwin Jackson (WAS) -- Fri-NYM (Santana)
52. Ryan Dempster (TEX) -- Mon-@NYY (Phelps), Sat-@TOR (Villanueva)
53. Johan Santana (NYM) -- Fri-@WAS (Jackson)
54. Ross Detwiler (WAS) -- Sat-NYM (Niese)
55. Lance Lynn (STL) -- Sat-PIT (Bedard)
56. Kyle Lohse (STL) -- Thu-ARI (Cahill)
57. Paul Maholm (ATL) -- Wed-SD (Volquez)
58. Anibal Sanchez (DET) -- Mon-@MIN (Deduno), Sun-BAL (Chen)
59. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Sat-@NYY (Phelps)
60. Brandon McCarthy (OAK) -- Thu-@KC (Hochevar)
61. Erik Bedard (PIT) -- Sat-@STL (Lynn)
62. Tommy Milone (OAK) -- Fri-CLE (McAllister)
63. Jonathon Niese (NYM) -- Sat-@WAS (Detwiler)
64. Phil Hughes (NYY) -- Fri-BOS (Morales)
65. Francisco Liriano (CHW) -- Thu-@TOR (Laffey)
66. Trevor Cahill (ARI) -- Thu-@STL (Lohse)
67. Patrick Corbin (ARI) -- Sat-@HOU (Lyles)
68. Chris Young (NYM) -- Tue-@CIN (Latos), Sun-@WAS (Gonzalez)
69. Justin Germano (CHC) -- Wed-HOU (Norris)
70. Bronson Arroyo (CIN) -- Fri-CHC (Wood)
71. Ricky Romero (TOR) -- Wed-CHW (Floyd)
72. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Wed-@MIN (De Vries)
73. Joe Blanton (LAD) -- Thu-@PIT (McDonald)
74. Vance Worley (PHI) -- Fri-@MIL (Gallardo)
75. Bud Norris (HOU) -- Wed-@CHC (Germano)
Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
Blake Beavan (SEA) -- Mon-TB (Cobb), Sun-MIN (Deduno)
Josh Beckett (BOS) -- Tue-@BAL (Chen), Sun-@NYY (Kuroda)
Samuel Deduno (MIN) -- Mon-DET (Sanchez), Sun-@SEA (Beavan)
Jeremy Guthrie (KC) -- Tue-OAK (Parker), Sun-CHW (Quintana)
Jeff Karstens (PIT) -- Mon-LAD (Harang), Sun-@STL (Kelly)
Joe Kelly (STL) -- Tue-ARI (Kennedy), Sun-PIT (Karstens)
Justin Masterson (CLE) -- Mon-@LAA (Wilson), Sun-@OAK (Parker)
David Phelps (NYY) -- Mon-TEX (Dempster), Sat-BOS (Lester)
Drew Pomeranz (COL) -- Wed-MIL (Rogers), Sun-MIA (Johnson)
Jose Quintana (CHW) -- Tue-@TOR (Alvarez), Sun-@KC (Guthrie)
Carlos Villanueva (TOR) -- Mon-CHW (Peavy), Sat-TEX (Dempster)
No-thank-yous, among two-start pitchers:
Henderson Alvarez (TOR) -- Tue-CHW (Quintana), Sun-TEX (Harrison)
Tyler Chatwood (COL) -- Tue-MIL (Wolf), Sat-MIA (Eovaldi)
Nate Eovaldi (MIA) -- Mon-PHI (Hamels), Sat-@COL (Chatwood)
Jeff Francis (COL) -- Mon-MIL (Fiers), Fri-MIA (LeBlanc)
Armando Galarraga (HOU) -- Mon-@CHC (Samardzija), Sun-ARI (Kennedy)
Aaron Harang (LAD) -- Mon-@PIT (Karstens), Sat-@ATL (Minor)
Matt Harrison (TEX) -- Tue-@NYY (Kuroda), Sun-@TOR (Alvarez)
Kyle Kendrick (PHI) -- Tue-@MIA (Johnson), Sun-@MIL (Wolf)
Eric Stults (SD) -- Mon-@ATL (Minor), Sat-SF (Zito)
Chris Volstad (CHC) -- Tue-HOU (Harrell), Sun-@CIN (Latos)
Randy Wolf (MIL) -- Tue-@COL (Chatwood), Sun-PHI (Kendrick)
• Removing Jair Jurrjens -- he is on the disabled list -- from their rotation and acquiring Paul Maholm from the Chicago Cubs couldn't have worked out much better for the Atlanta Braves. In their past 16 games, Braves starters have nine combined wins, nine quality starts, a 2.68 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. Since the All-Star break, four of the five active members of their rotation -- Maholm, Kris Medlen, Mike Minor and Ben Sheets -- have ERAs under two, as do all seven current members of their bullpen. The Braves play a full seven games, all of them at home, with four against the Padres, the fourth-lowest scoring offense in baseball (3.76 runs per game). They are my Baseball Challenge pitching staff pick for Week 18. Among other recommended BBC pitching staffs: Cincinnati Reds (NYM-3, CHC-4), Giants (WAS-3, @SD-3), Tampa Bay Rays (@SEA-3, @LAA-4) and St. Louis Cardinals (ARI-3, PIT-3).
The following pitchers are scheduled to pitch at Colorado's Coors Field, No. 1 in runs scored on our Park Factor page and home to the Colorado Rockies, baseball's No. 1 team in terms of runs scored per game and OPS in home games:
• Mike Fiers (Monday): Has never pitched at Coors. Start. No-brainer, considering his active streak of nine consecutive quality starts.
• Randy Wolf (Tuesday): 7 career GS, 4 QS, 4.04 ERA, 1.46 WHIP at Coors. Sit.
• Mark Rogers (Wednesday): Has never pitched at Coors. Sit.
• Ricky Nolasco (Thursday): 4 career GS, 3 QS, 5.40 ERA, 1.48 WHIP at Coors. Sit. Remember his last outing at Coors (11 runs on Aug. 17, 2011)?
• Wade LeBlanc (Friday): 3 career GS, 0 QS, 6.06 ERA, 1.78 WHIP at Coors. Sit.
• Nate Eovaldi (Saturday): 1 career GS at Coors, 5 2/3 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 2 ER. Sit.
• Josh Johnson (Sunday): 1 career GS at Coors, 8 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 5 K's. Start. Pitching too well of late -- 3.37 ERA, 1.10 WHIP since the All-Star break -- to sit.
The following pitchers are scheduled to pitch at San Diego's Petco Park, No. 26 in runs scored on our Park Factor page and home to the Padres, No. 28 in terms of runs scored per game and No. 29 in OPS in home games:
• Matt Cain (Friday): 14 career GS, 11 QS, 2.59 ERA, 1.11 WHIP at Petco. Start.
• Barry Zito (Saturday): 9 career G, 8 GS, 3 QS, 4.93 ERA, 1.60 WHIP at Petco. Sit. Maybe he is NL-only worthy, but he is too unpredictable regardless of the venue to trust in mixed leagues.
• Ryan Vogelsong (Sunday): 2 career G, 1 GS, 0 QS, 34.71 ERA at Petco. Start. He hasn't pitched at Petco since 2005, so don't read too much into his track record.
The following pitchers are scheduled to pitch at Seattle's Safeco Field, No. 29 in runs scored on our Park Factor page and home to the Seattle Mariners, baseball's worst team in terms of runs scored per game and OPS in home games.
• Alex Cobb (Monday): 1 career GS at Safeco, 6 1/3 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 9 K's. Start. He has three straight quality starts.
• Matt Moore (Tuesday): Has never pitched at Safeco. Start. He has a 1.43 ERA since the All-Star break.
• Jeremy Hellickson (Wednesday): 2 career GS, 2 QS, 1.26 ERA, 0.70 WHIP at Safeco. Start. He has five quality starts in his past six games.
• Nick Blackburn (Friday): 5 career GS, 3 QS, 4.02 ERA, 1.31 WHIP. Sit, except in the deepest of AL-only leagues.
• Scott Diamond (Saturday): Has never pitched at Safeco. Start. He has a 3.57 ERA and 1.16 WHIP since the All-Star break.
• Samuel Deduno (Sunday): Has never pitched at Safeco. Start, at least in deep-mixed/AL-only leagues.
• Chris Sale keeps on rolling, regardless of the threat of an innings cap, questions about his health or the Chicago White Sox's occasionally pushing him back in the rotation as off days allow. Coming off poor back-to-back outings at Detroit's Comerica Park and Texas' Rangers Ballpark, he limited the Kansas City Royals to two runs on eight hits in eight innings to win on Aug. 6. And who does he face this week but those same Royals, against which he is 2-1 with a 2.57 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in three starts this season.
• Dan Haren's owners can rest easier knowing that he is in the midst of a three-quality-start streak and that his one scheduled start of the week comes against a team he routinely dominates, the Rays. Eleven of his 12 career starts against them have been quality starts, and he is 7-3 with a 2.60 ERA and 0.87 WHIP against them overall. He tossed a quality start against Tampa Bay as recently as July 27.
• Ryan Dempster's matchups continue to challenge him, as he'll pitch at New York's Yankee Stadium and Toronto's Rogers Centre this week. The first assignment is the most treacherous. He is 0-3 with a 6.45 ERA and 2.10 WHIP in four career games against the Yankees, and current Yankees hitters combined have .295/.385/.455 career triple-slash rates against him. That Toronto Blue Jays matchup, however, might represent a turning point in the difficulty of his schedule. Dempster has dominated Edwin Encarnacion and Colby Rasmus, the Blue Jays' two most productive active hitters, throughout their careers, limiting them to a combined 2-for-22 (.091 AVG) with seven strikeouts. Daily-league owners might want to bench him Monday and reactivate him Saturday.
Among streaming starter options -- something I define as single-start options in daily leagues among pitchers owned in 25 percent of ESPN leagues or fewer -- for Week 18, here are my picks by day:
Monday, Aug. 13: Alex Cobb at Seattle Mariners
Tuesday, Aug. 14: Lucas Harrell at Chicago Cubs
Wednesday, Aug. 15: Justin Germano versus Houston Astros
Thursday, Aug. 16: Kris Medlen versus San Diego Padres
Friday, Aug. 17: Hisashi Iwakuma versus Minnesota Twins
Saturday, Aug. 18: Patrick Corbin at Houston Astros
Sunday, Aug. 19: Clayton Richard versus San Francisco Giants
Friday, Aug. 3: Clayton Richard -- W, QS, 7 IP, 8 H, 1 ER, 2 BBs, 2 K's
Saturday, Aug. 4: Mark Rogers -- 5 IP, 7 H, 5 ER, 1 BB, 5 K's
Sunday, Aug. 5: Freddy Garcia -- W, 5 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 4 BBs, 2 K's
Monday, Aug. 6: Chris Tillman -- W, QS, 7 1/3 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K's
Tuesday, Aug. 7: Ross Detwiler -- QS, 7 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BBs, 2 K's
Wednesday, Aug. 8: Clayton Richard -- W, QS, 9 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 2 BBs, 5 K's
Thursday, Aug. 9: Mike Leake -- QS, 6 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 2 BBs, 5 K's
Week's total: 7 GS, 4 W (57.1%), 5 QS (71.4%), 46 1/3 IP, 39 H, 14 ER, 14 BBs, 26 K's, 2.72 ERA, 1.14 WHIP
Season total: 115 GS, 48 W (41.7%), 61 QS (53%), 695 1/3 IP, 667 H, 301 ER, 235 BBs, 514 K's, 3.90 ERA, 1.30 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.
• Giancarlo Stanton, who returned from knee surgery Aug. 7, played only two of three games in his first series back from the disabled list. The more time he has to regain his timing, however, the better. His (and the Miami Marlins') schedule reaches a high point late in the week with a four-game series at Colorado's Coors Field. Stanton has hit a home run in each of his three career games at Coors, and if you're worried about that week-opening series against the Philadelphia Phillies, consider that he has lifetime .280/.308/.640 triple-slash rates against Cole Hamels (Monday's starter). Get him into your lineup, and consider other Marlins right-handed hitters such as Carlos Lee and Justin Ruggiano, as the Marlins face three left-handed starters in their seven games.
• The Milwaukee Brewers are the other team to visit Coors, and they face a league-high four left-handed starters in the week. That's a plus for Jonathan Lucroy, a .463/.511/.805 hitter against lefties this season, his 1.316 OPS against them the third highest in the majors among players with at least 25 plate appearances. It's also good news for right-handed sluggers Ryan Braun and Aramis Ramirez, both of whom have a career OPS at Coors greater than .850. Rickie Weeks, available in 13.9 percent of ESPN leagues, also warrants a start in all formats. He is a lifetime .327/.403/.618 hitter in 13 games at Coors.
• Kevin Youkilis has turned out to be a good acquisition for the White Sox thus far, as he is a .252/.373/.496 hitter with nine home runs and 27 RBIs in 36 games for his new team. He has hit three home runs in six games in August after a bit of a mid-July slump. Consider this another good week to use him, as the White Sox face three left-handed starters against whom Youkilis has favorable histories. He is a lifetime .360/.485/.960 hitter (33 PAs) against Ricky Romero (Wednesday), 3-for-7 versus Aaron Laffey (Thursday) and 6-for-18 against Bruce Chen (Saturday). As a team, the White Sox match up well from the left-handed side of the plate, so don't be afraid of those three lefty foes if you're an owner of Alejandro De Aza or A.J. Pierzynski.
• Speaking of favorable performances against individual opponents, Brian McCann should enjoy another big week if history is any indication. He is a combined 15-for-33 (.455) with six doubles, one home run and six walks against the Padres' scheduled four and 19-for-48 (.396) with six doubles, three home runs and six walks against the Los Angeles Dodgers' scheduled three.