How do you solve a problem like Dan Haren? On the one hand, he's a pitcher with a 4.79 ERA who has allowed 12 home runs in 10 starts so far this season. On the other hand, he has struck out 70 batters in 67 2/3 innings while walking only 15, a ratio of 4.67-to-1. That's good enough for second in K-BB in the National League, a category Haren has led since arriving in Arizona back in 2008. Perhaps it's simply the fact he's been incredibly unlucky. He's got a BABIP of .337, which could explain why batters have a .280 average against him so far in 2010, up from .224 last season. I think maybe he's just getting his second-half swoon out of the way early, and he's about to turn things around. I'll rank him second for Thursday in our slightly shortened slate of starters. The complete list, submitted for your approval, is below:
Starting pitcher rankings for May 27
Rk.: The author's ranking of that pitcher for that day only. T: Pitcher throws left-handed or right-handed. Opp: The pitcher's opponent for the day. Rating: The starting pitcher's matchup rating -- separate from the author's ranking -- 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. W-L: Pitcher's win-loss record. ERA: Pitcher's earned run average. WHIP: Pitcher's average number of walks plus hits surrendered per inning.
At the top: Tim Hudson sits on top of the mountain for Thursday, as he's 8-2 with a 2.92 career ERA against the Florida Marlins. You don't always know which Cole Hamels you're going to get, and he's been generally miserable against the New York Mets (4.12 lifetime ERA). Still, he's on a three-game winning streak and Mike Pelfrey suffered his only defeat of the season in a lousy outing (6 ER in 4 IP) against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Barry Zito has certainly had a rebirth in 2010, but has never quite figured out the Washington Nationals, as evidenced by the 4.33 career ERA against them. Similarly, Jeff Niemann has struggled in the past against the Chicago White Sox, 1-2 with a 4.67 ERA. While that might keep both pitchers out of the top few spots, it certainly doesn't preclude them from being strong plays Thursday.
Rounding out the top 10: Gio Gonzalez pitched six shutout innings in his only previous encounter against the Baltimore Orioles, who have finally bailed on David Hernandez as a starter and will likely insert Brad Bergesen, coming off of two straight starts in which he allowed double-digit hit totals. Johnny Cueto is 7-2 lifetime against the Pittsburgh Pirates and has a 1.93 ERA in his two previous appearances against them in 2010.
Middle-of-the-road options: Roll the dice on Daisuke Matsuzaka, as he gets the Kansas City Royals, a team against which he's 2-0 lifetime with a 2.84 ERA. Additionally, Brian Bannister (0-4, 5.87 ERA versus the Boston Red Sox) is his opponent. Gavin Floyd is also undefeated in his career against the team he's facing on Thursday. Floyd is 2-0 with a 3.21 ERA against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Streamers on alert: Ted Lilly is 3-1 lifetime against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Brett Myers is 4-1 with a 1.77 ERA when going up against the Milwaukee Brewers. If you're playing the guessing game with this pair, today might be a good day to throw them against the wall in the hopes they stick.
Stay away: Dave Bush is 6-1 against the Houston Astros for his career, but he's been so miserably awful this season, I think you have to choose to ignore any past history in his case. Jason Hammel has a 4.87 ERA against the Arizona Diamondbacks for his career, and already lost to them in 2010, allowing five runs in only three innings pitched. With Brad Penny hurt, P.J. Walters gets the spot start after allowing two runs in four innings of relief against the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday.
Hitter matchup ratings for May 27
Hitter ratings account for the opposing starting pitcher's past history (three years' worth as well as past 21 days) as well as ballpark factors. "LHB" and "RHB" ratings account only for left- and right-handed batters, respectively. "Steals" is a base stealing matchup rating, which accounts for the opponent's catchers' ability to gun down opposing base stealers.
• Matt Kemp, OF, Dodgers: Kemp is a .429 hitter in his career against Ted Lilly, including a pair of home runs in his past three at-bats against him.
• Scott Rolen, 3B, Cincinnati Reds: Rolen has certainly slowed down of late, with a 2-for-17 run, but he's still at .300 for the month and is 3-for-8 against Charlie Morton for his career. Take the chance.
• Hunter Pence, OF, Astros: Dave Bush brings out the best in Pence, as he's 7-for-14 against the Brewers starter lifetime, including a home run.
• Kelly Johnson, 2B, Diamondbacks: Johnson has hits in four of his past five starts and seems to like to pick up what Jason Hammel is putting down. He's batting .750 against the Rockies righty.
• Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, San Diego Padres: Gonzalez is batting .385 against the current Cardinals staff, so regardless of how long P.J. Walters lasts in his sport start, the first baseman should be able to get his licks in.
• Alex Rios, OF, White Sox: Rios is hitting only .207 against the Rays since 2007, and has never managed a hit in limited action against Jeff Niemann.
• Jason Kubel, OF, Minnesota Twins: The Twins continue to trot Kubel out there, but that doesn't mean you need to be as stubborn. Kubel is a mere 4-for-23 (.174) against Javier Vazquez for his career.
• Josh Willingham, OF, Nationals: You'd need a willing suspension of disbelief to start Willingham against Barry Zito. He's a lifetime 0-for-7 hitter against the Giants pitcher, with four strikeouts.
• Jason Bartlett, SS, Rays: Bartlett is in a 4-for-19 funk and his May average (.215) is on the dark side of the moon. Gavin Floyd is not the answer, as Bartlett's 1-for-7 against him.
• Cody Ross, OF, Marlins: Ross is hitting only .180 against possible pitchers from the Braves, and is only 1-for-10 when facing Tim Hudson.
Baseball Challenge Pick of the Day
Rajai Davis, CF, Oakland Athletics: With Coco Crisp likely headed back to the disabled list, there should be no fear that Davis will be the Athletics' main source of speed. He's had three steals since May 17 and swiped two bases back in April against Matt Wieters & Co.
Injury list: Out
Alfredo Simon, P, Orioles (15-day DL, left hamstring)
George Sherrill, P, Dodgers (15-day DL, tight back)
Brandon Wood, 3B, Angels (15-day DL, hip flexor)
Brent Clevlen, OF, Atlanta Braves (15-day DL, sprained right toe)
Tony Abreu, 2B, Diamondbacks (15-day DL, left wrist)
Steve Pearce, 1B, Pirates (15-day DL, sprained ankle)
Homer Bailey, P, Reds (15-day DL, right shoulder)
Ivan Rodriguez, C, Nationals (15-day DL, back strain)
Scott Olsen, P, Nationals (15-day DL, left shoulder)
Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies (15-day DL, right calf)
Brad Penny, P, Cardinals (15-day DL, strained right lat)
Eric Chavez, 3B, Athletics (15-day DL, neck)
John Maine, P, New York Mets (15-day DL, right shoulder)
Gregg Zaun, C, Brewers (15-day DL, right shoulder)
Brandon Medders, P, San Francisco Giants (15-day DL, right knee)
Injury list: Day-to-day
Jacoby Ellsbury, OF, Red Sox (sore left side)
Coco Crisp, OF, Athletics (right intercostal)
Fred Lewis, OF, Toronto Blue Jays (bunion)
Mark DeRosa, OF, Giants (wrist)
Luke Scott, DH, Orioles (left shoulder)
Nick Punto, 3B, Twins (finger)
David DeJesus, OF, Royals (birth of child)
Weatherproof games: Astros at Brewers and White Sox at Rays. The watchword for the day is rain, with a little bit of the wet stuff in the forecast for San Francisco and Chicago. Heavier thunderstorms are possible in Denver, Miami, Cincinnati, Baltimore and New York. In other words, odds are at least one of these games will see some tarp before the night's done.