Fantasy Forecaster updated Monday, Sept. 23, at 2:25 p.m. ET.
On tap: This is it, the final week of the 2013 Major League Baseball regular season, and with it, the final week of the fantasy baseball season. It's a week where playoff races are decided, playoff teams begin squaring up their rosters for the postseason and teams out of contention often audition players for 2014. In short, expect the unexpected, especially during the final weekend (Sept. 27-29).
It is all too common, for example, for a team already locked into playoff position to alter, skip or shorten starting pitchers' assignments. For example, during the final week last season, the Cincinnati Reds, whose nine-game differential in the National League Central standings was the largest of any individual playoff race, altered their rotation to keep Johnny Cueto out of the final regular-season series, and they shortened Bronson Arroyo's and Mat Latos' outings during that three-game set to five innings. They were the team's 1-2-3 starters during the division series.
Now look at the Week 25 projected rotations for this season (listed below). The Boston Red Sox have Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz, the Detroit Tigers have Anibal Sanchez and Justin Verlander, the Los Angeles Dodgers have Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke and the St. Louis Cardinals have Adam Wainwright scheduled to pitch during that final weekend; all of these teams seem likely either to alter their rotations or shorten these starters' outings, considering they are all virtual locks to make the playoffs. And with the wild-card games scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 1 (NL) and Wednesday, Oct. 2 (American League), any pitcher who works after Thursday for an NL team, or Friday for an AL team, would have to pitch such a game on short rest.
The two-start pitching strategy, therefore, isn't a reliable one for this final week; there is both a dearth of quality pitchers on track to pitch twice in the first place, and the ones who are quality run the risk of having their second turns skipped. A good rule of thumb: Assume your pitcher will make only his first start of the week, and only an uncapped (pitch count) outing if it's before Friday, and consider anything more gravy.
But there is an exception to this …
Teams still in the quest for the postseason usually play with a full deck right up to the clinching date, so those are the teams whose players you can trust in fantasy … if you can predict the ones that will be motivated until the final day. We are effectively down to two races still up for grabs: the AL's two wild cards, and the NL Central's three-team race for the division title and the two wild cards. Entering the week, six teams were within 4 1/2 games in the AL wild-card races: The Tampa Bay Rays (half-game lead for AL Wild Card 1), Cleveland Indians (half-game behind for AL Wild Card 1, 1 1/2 games ahead for AL Wild Card 2), Texas Rangers (1 1/2 GB for AL Wild Card), Kansas City Royals (3 1/2 GB), New York Yankees (4 GB) and Baltimore Orioles (4 1/2 GB). The St. Louis Cardinals (NL Central leader), Cincinnati Reds (2 GB in NL Central, tied for NL wild cards) and Pittsburgh Pirates (2 GB in NL Central, tied for NL wild cards), meanwhile, were separated by two games in the NL Central standings, though all three teams were almost guaranteed to qualify for at least a wild card.
Every other team has either clinched its playoff entry or been eliminated from contention, or it faces a magic number of five or less on either side.
Quick click by section, if you're seeking advice in a specific area:
ESPN lineup deadlines | Interleague impact | Projected starting pitchers
Pitching scuttlebutt | Week 25 pitcher rankings | Pitching advantages
Hitting ratings | Hitting advantages
Round 2/the League Championship round of ESPN's standard head-to-head leagues concludes, as do consolation games for all other seeds, this week. You can see all our playoff rules for ESPN standard leagues right here. Be aware that MLB tiebreaker games -- these are games scheduled after Sunday, Sept. 29, that the league plays and counts in their regular-season statistics to break playoff-spot ties -- do not count in the standings in any ESPN league. The ESPN season, therefore, concludes Sept. 29.
If you play offsite, check your league's rules to determine whether these games count in your standings, or whether in a league with weekly transactions you'll be able to make add/drops or lineup adjustments after Monday. In many weekly leagues, Monday will represent your final lineup deadline.
There is an afternoon game Monday, the finale of the four-game, weekend wrap-around Baltimore Orioles at Tampa Bay Rays series, which begins at 3:10 p.m. ET. Fantasy owners in weekly leagues need set their lineups somewhat earlier as a result. On three days this week, however, there are nothing but night games: Tuesday (games begin at 7:05 p.m. ET), Thursday (6:40 p.m. ET) and Friday (7:05 p.m. ET). In another oddity -- though understandable considering MLB's desire to put enough time between final-day and tiebreaker-day contests (if necessary) -- no game begins after 4:10 p.m. ET on Sunday, Sept. 29. The season might well be in the books by dinnertime that night.
Best of luck to the contenders!
What a nightmare, American League games in National League parks during the final week, meaning the loss of the designated hitter for those teams. It affects two of the three most productive pure DHs in the game: David Ortiz of the Red Sox and the Tigers' Victor Martinez. What's worse? The Red Sox have already clinched a playoff spot and the Tigers will probably have done so before the start of their series in Miami, increasing the probability that either team rests them rather than play them in the field.
A five-game week during which he might miss two contests is miserable news for Ortiz, but at least he stands a chance of starting either game at Colorado's Coors Field at first base because the opposing Rockies are starting right-handers. That said, Ortiz started only four of Boston's previous eight interleague games in NL ballparks at first base, including three of the five that were against a right-handed starter. In a league with weekly transactions, this might be a week to avoid him in shallow mixed. Heck, the five-game week, coupled with their playoff seeding -- their magic number to clinch home-field advantage throughout the postseason is seven -- might make all Red Sox hitters dicey starters in shallow formats in Week 25.
As for the Tigers, though Martinez has made 11 starts at first base and two at catcher -- both starts behind the plate were his only starts during interleague games at NL ballparks (Aug. 23 and 25) -- the team is much less likely to risk injury to their regular DH with a playoff spot in hand and only days until the playoffs begin. And if you think the Tigers would simply not have him catch, but rather play first base, keep in mind that Prince Fielder has started 496 consecutive games (479 at first base), 522 if you count the postseason. Expect only three starts for Martinez this week.
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.
• The Chicago White Sox, Houston Astros, Minnesota Twins and Milwaukee Brewers are currently utilizing six-man rotations, with no indication of reverting to five for the final week.
• The Baltimore Orioles tentatively plan to start Bud Norris (elbow) on Wednesday and Miguel Gonzalez (groin) on Thursday, though Jason Hammel could be called upon for a spot start on either day if needed.
• The Boston Red Sox, who have six starters from which to choose, will spend the week aligning their playoff rotation. According to the Boston Globe, John Lackey will be granted two starts (Tuesday and Sunday) in order to afford him a chance to finish with a .500 record, while Clay Buchholz and Jon Lester will pitch the first two games of their three-game, season-concluding series in Baltimore. In addition, Ryan Dempster has been moved to the bullpen. All of this is subject to change; the Red Sox have already changed this at least twice in the past four days.
• According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Danny Salazar's start on Wednesday will be his final one of 2013. Justin Masterson (oblique) was scheduled for a bullpen session on Sept. 20, and is only a remote possibility to make a start sometime this week.
• Expect the Detroit Tigers either to shuffle their weekend rotation or shorten those starters' outings, as both Anibal Sanchez (Saturday) and Justin Verlander (Sunday) are likely to rank among their top three playoff starters.
• Danny Duffy (forearm) is eligible to be activated by the Kansas City Royals on Monday, which is Yordano Ventura's spot in the rotation, but it is unclear whether he'll replace Ventura for either of the rookie's two starts this week.
• Jered Weaver (forearm) was scratched from his Sept. 20 start, and it is unclear if he'll be ready to pitch either the next time his turn comes up on Wednesday, or sooner with his Los Angeles Angels pushing everyone else back by a day.
• Cole De Vries was scheduled to start for the Minnesota Twins on Sept. 22, and he'll probably start again in place of Liam Hendriks on Saturday.
• Considering how poorly he has pitched this season, Phil Hughes was pushed back in the New York Yankees' rotation thanks to Monday's off day, giving Hiroki Kuroda a second start. It is unclear whether Hughes or David Huff will start when that rotation spot is next needed on Saturday.
• Several Oakland news sources report that the Oakland Athletics will give Tommy Milone a spot start on Monday, pushing everyone else in their rotation back by a day and giving them six starters this week. It's a plan that makes sense, as it'd put projected Saturday and Sunday starters Jarrod Parker and Sonny Gray on a five-days'-rest schedule for the Division Series' first two games.
• Felix Hernandez (oblique) threw a bullpen session with no issues Sept. 19, and is tentatively expected to rejoin the Seattle Mariners' rotation on Sept. 22. Coupling that with news that Hisashi Iwakuma's next start will be his last of 2013, it seems likely that Brandon Maurer will be pushed to Monday and the team will use a six-man rotation for the season's final week.
• The Atlanta Braves have demoted Alex Wood to the bullpen for the remainder of the season, installing Freddy Garcia in his place on Tuesday. It looks likely that the team will use five starters this week, but with the NL East already theirs, they might rest, shorten or skip Julio Teheran's or Mike Minor's weekend outings.
• The Chicago Cubs have shut down Scott Baker for the season and will go with a five-man rotation for the final week.
• The Cincinnati Reds' projected rotation above comes directly from their press notes, and it hints that the team wants its best starters saved for playoff positioning in the weekend series against Pittsburgh. Greg Reynolds will make a spot start Wednesday, but he could always be skipped if the playoff picture settles before then.
• The Los Angeles Dodgers could skip or shorten Clayton Kershaw's (Friday's projected starter) or Zack Greinke's (Saturday's) final starts, just as they pushed back Kershaw this past week to provide him additional rest.
• Brad Hand is listed as Wednesday's starter in the Miami Marlins' press notes, so it seems that Jacob Turner might have already made his final start of the year. Turner could pitch Friday, however, in which case the Marlins would go with a six-man rotation this week and Nate Eovaldi would get only one turn.
• The New York Mets have shut down Zack Wheeler for the season, due both to shoulder stiffness and an impending innings cap. It seems likely that the team will use just five starters as projected above for the final week.
• Kyle Kendrick (rotator cuff) has been shut down for the season, meaning Zach Miner will probably take those two-start turns for the Philadelphia Phillies.
• The St. Louis Cardinals are almost guaranteed to skip Adam Wainwright's Sunday start, if that game isn't relevant in the playoff standings, as he'd be needed to start an Oct. 1 wild-card play-in game.
• The San Diego Padres have shut down Andrew Cashner for the season -- his Sept. 22 game was reportedly to be his last -- meaning they'll go with a five-man rotation for the final week.
• Stephen Strasburg (forearm) has already had a start scratched, a subsequent one pushed from Sept. 19 to Sept. 21 by the Washington Nationals, and another one pushed back from Sept. 21 to 22 due to a rainout, so he's no guarantee to avoid another change in his schedule. He's lined up to pitch Friday's game, but he could be pushed back or shut down altogether.
1. Yu Darvish (TEX) -- Tue-HOU (Peacock), Sun-LAA (Vargas)
2. Cliff Lee (PHI) -- Fri-@ATL (Teheran)
3. Madison Bumgarner (SF) -- Wed-LAD (Nolasco)
4. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Wed-@MIA (Hand)
5. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Fri-COL (Chacin)
6. Homer Bailey (CIN) -- Sat-PIT (Locke)
7. Zack Greinke (LAD) -- Sat-COL (De La Rosa)
8. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Wed-@MIN (Correia)
9. Anibal Sanchez (DET) -- Sat-@MIA (Flynn)
10. Chris Sale (CWS) -- Fri-KC (Shields)
11. Mike Minor (ATL) -- Mon-MIL (Estrada), Sat-PHI (Halladay)
12. Ubaldo Jimenez (CLE) -- Tue-CWS (Santiago), Sun-@MIN (Pelfrey)
13. Adam Wainwright (STL) -- Mon-WSH (Roark), Sun-CHC (Samardzija)
14. Hisashi Iwakuma (SEA) -- Wed-KC (Santana)
15. David Price (TB) -- Wed-@NYY (Sabathia)
16. Mat Latos (CIN) -- Fri-PIT (Burnett)
17. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Mon-@MIN (Pelfrey), Sun-@MIA (Eovaldi)
18. Stephen Strasburg (WSH) -- Sat-@ARI (McCarthy)
19. James Shields (KC) -- Fri-@CWS (Sale)
20. Hyun-Jin Ryu (LAD) -- Tue-@SF (Cain), Sun-COL (Nicasio)
21. Kris Medlen (ATL) -- Thu-PHI (Cloyd)
22. Marco Estrada (MIL) -- Mon-@ATL (Minor), Sun-@NYM (Niese)
23. Gerrit Cole (PIT) -- Tue-@CHC (Rusin)
24. Matt Cain (SF) -- Tue-LAD (Ryu), Sun-SD (Ross)
25. Chris Tillman (BAL) -- Tue-TOR (Redmond), Sun-BOS (Lackey)
26. Yovani Gallardo (MIL) -- Fri-@NYM (Torres)
27. Chris Archer (TB) -- Mon-BAL (Chen), Sat-@TOR (Happ)
28. Sonny Gray (OAK) -- Sun-@SEA (Hernandez)
29. Alex Cobb (TB) -- Thu-@NYY (Nova)
30. Matt Moore (TB) -- Tue-@NYY (Kuroda), Sun-@TOR (Redmond)
31. Ricky Nolasco (LAD) -- Wed-@SF (Bumgarner)
32. Gio Gonzalez (WSH) -- Tue-@STL (Wacha)
33. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Wed-OAK (Straily)
34. Ervin Santana (KC) -- Wed-@SEA (Iwakuma)
35. Clay Buchholz (BOS) -- Fri-@BAL (Feldman)
36. R.A. Dickey (TOR) -- Fri-TB (Hellickson)
37. Michael Wacha (STL) -- Tue-WSH (Gonzalez)
38. Jake Peavy (BOS) -- Wed-@COL (Oswalt)
39. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Sat-@BAL (Chen)
40. Jordan Zimmermann (WSH) -- Wed-@STL (Miller)
41. Francisco Liriano (PIT) -- Wed-@CHC (Arrieta)
42. Hiroki Kuroda (NYY) -- Tue-TB (Moore), Sun-@HOU (Bedard)
43. Julio Teheran (ATL) -- Fri-PHI (Lee)
44. John Lackey (BOS) -- Tue-@COL (Chatwood), Sun-@BAL (Tillman)
45. Tanner Roark (WSH) -- Mon-@STL (Wainwright), Sun-@ARI (Miley)
46. Andy Pettitte (NYY) -- Fri-@HOU (Oberholtzer)
47. Jarrod Parker (OAK) -- Sat-@SEA (Saunders)
48. Bartolo Colon (OAK) -- Fri-@SEA (Ramirez)
49. A.J. Burnett (PIT) -- Fri-@CIN (Latos)
50. Brandon McCarthy (ARI) -- Mon-@SD (Stults), Sat-WSH (Strasburg)
51. A.J. Griffin (OAK) -- Tue-@LAA (Vargas)
52. Yusmeiro Petit (SF) -- Sat-SD (Stults)
53. Dan Straily (OAK) -- Wed-@LAA (Weaver)
54. C.J. Wilson (LAA) -- Fri-@TEX (Ogando)
55. Dillon Gee (NYM) -- Thu-MIL (Hellweg)
56. Jhoulys Chacin (COL) -- Fri-@LAD (Kershaw)
57. Jonathon Niese (NYM) -- Tue-@CIN (Leake), Sun-MIL (Estrada)
58. Scott Feldman (BAL) -- Fri-BOS (Buchholz)
59. Danny Salazar (CLE) -- Wed-CWS (Danks)
60. Tyson Ross (SD) -- Tue-ARI (Miley), Sun-@SF (Cain)
61. Jose Quintana (CWS) -- Mon-TOR (Happ), Sun-KC (Chen)
62. Trevor Cahill (ARI) -- Thu-@SD (Erlin)
63. Travis Wood (CHC) -- Fri-@STL (Lynn)
64. Shelby Miller (STL) -- Wed-WSH (Zimmermann)
65. Alexi Ogando (TEX) -- Fri-LAA (Wilson)
66. Charlie Morton (PIT) -- Mon-@CHC (Samardzija), Sun-@CIN (Arroyo)
67. Rick Porcello (DET) -- Fri-@MIA (Koehler)
68. James Paxton (SEA) -- Tue-KC (Chen)
69. Jeff Samardzija (CHC) -- Mon-PIT (Morton), Sun-@STL (Wainwright)
70. Mike Leake (CIN) -- Tue-NYM (Niese)
71. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Sun-OAK (Gray)
72. Ivan Nova (NYY) -- Thu-TB (Cobb)
73. Matt Garza (TEX) -- Thu-LAA (Williams)
74. Doug Fister (DET) -- Tue-@MIN (Diamond)
75. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Wed-TB (Price)
Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
Bruce Chen (KC) -- Tue-@SEA (Paxton), Sun-@CWS (Quintana)
Roy Halladay (PHI) -- Mon-@MIA (Eovaldi), Sat-@ATL (Minor)
J.A. Happ (TOR) -- Mon-@CWS (Quintana), Sat-TB (Archer)
Derek Holland (TEX) -- Mon-HOU (Lyles), Sat-LAA (Richards)
Wade Miley (ARI) -- Tue-@SD (Ross), Sun-WSH (Roark)
Garrett Richards (LAA) -- Mon-OAK (Milone), Sat-@TEX (Holland)
Yordano Ventura (KC) -- Mon-@SEA (Maurer), Sat-@CWS (Johnson)
No-thank-yous, among two-start pitchers:
Wei-Yin Chen (BAL) -- Mon-@TB (Archer), Sat-BOS (Lester)
Nate Eovaldi (MIA) -- Mon-PHI (Halladay), Sun-DET (Verlander)
Freddy Garcia (ATL) -- Tue-MIL (Thornburg), Sun-PHI (Miner)
Aaron Harang (NYM) -- Mon-@CIN (Cueto), Sat-MIL (Peralta)
Zach Miner (PHI) -- Tue-@MIA (Alvarez), Sun-@ATL (Garcia)
Mike Pelfrey (MIN) -- Mon-DET (Verlander), Sun-CLE (Jimenez)
Todd Redmond (TOR) -- Tue-@BAL (Tillman), Sun-TB (Moore)
Eric Stults (SD) -- Mon-ARI (McCarthy), Sat-@SF (Petit)
Jason Vargas (LAA) -- Tue-OAK (Griffin), Sun-@TEX (Darvish)
• With news that Andy Pettitte has announced his retirement, effective at the conclusion of the season, he represents one of the rare examples of player-specific motivation. Pettitte -- and teammate Mariano Rivera, for that matter -- would surely like to go out on a high note, and he had two projected remaining starts at press time: Sept. 22 at home versus the San Francisco Giants (that's part of fantasy's Week 24), and at Houston's Minute Maid Park, which was his home ballpark from 2004 to '06 and is in his hometown. Pettitte hasn't pitched there since 2006, but he has 20 wins, a 60.5 quality start percentage, 3.38 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in his career there. He's also riding an active streak of seven consecutive quality starts, during which time he has three wins, a 2.01 ERA and 1.21 WHIP.
Couple that series with the last-ditch one at home versus the Tampa Bay Rays, among their wild-card competition, and Yankees pitchers could step up their game overall. Rivera has two wins, five saves and a 2.70 ERA in eight appearances in September, four of which have been of greater than three outs. He's in a workhorse-type role entering his final week, so enjoy it.
• Don't write off those American League Central wild-card contenders -- specifically the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals -- as their pitching, accounting for their Week 25 matchups, gives them both an outstanding chance at sneaking into either spot. As you'll see below, the Cleveland Indians still have a favorable pitching schedule, just as they did this past week, and they have the majors' third-best team ERA (3.00) and eighth-best strikeout rate (22.5 percent) in the month of September.
But it's the Royals whose pitching matchups stand out in the final week: They play a full seven games, three at Seattle's Safeco Field and four at Chicago's U.S. Cellular Field, playing a Chicago White Sox team that has the majors' third-worst team wOBA (weighted on-base average) in the month of September (.279), and fifth-worst since the All-Star break (.295). Royals starters might not be as widely available as Indians starters as a whole, but they're also more reliable: James Shields is 2-for-2 in quality starts at "the Cell" this season; Ervin Santana has five quality starts and a 3.16 ERA in his past seven outings, with six wins, a 2.92 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in 11 starts at Seattle's Safeco Field since the beginning of 2008; and Jeremy Guthrie has three quality starts in his past four appearances.
Rookie Yordano Ventura is the potential right-off-the-wire grab of Week 25, however. He has filthy stuff: He threw six pitches 100 mph or faster during his Sept. 17 major league debut; keep in mind that there have been only 735 pitches thrown at that speed in all the majors this season. Command is a question for the rookie righty, but he surely wants to make a good impression for 2014 with his Royals still in the fight.
• While the Detroit Tigers and Cincinnati Reds are almost assured of making rotation alterations this week, knowing they need to align their starters for the playoffs, their Week 25 matchups are so favorable that they might warrant the risk of shortened outings ahead of some of the streaming alternatives out there. In the Reds' case, they might be compelled to keep and Mat LatosHomer Bailey and Bronson Arroyo in order for their weekend series versus the Pittsburgh Pirates, so long as doing so grants them the opportunity either to capture home-field advantage for the wild-card game, or overtake the NL Central lead itself and score a five-game division series berth. Shortened outings might be the way the Reds go; they'd still have Johnny Cueto or Mike Leake lined up to pitch an Oct. 1 wild-card game or the opener of a division series, and since the NL Division Series begins Thursday, Oct. 3, Latos would be on regular rest for Game 1, and Bailey on regular rest for Game 2.
Besides, were you aware of this: The Pirates have the majors' eighth-worst team wOBA (.298) and have scored the eighth-fewest runs (63) in the month of September? Even in five-inning outings, Reds pitchers would remain rather attractive fantasy starts.
As for the Tigers, games at Miami's Marlins Park represent about the most favorable matchups a pitcher could want, certainly worth the start, even in a shortened outing. As the Tigers' magic number to clinch the AL Central is four -- they might have this wrapped up before Week 25 even begins -- the team is almost guaranteed a division series berth, and since the AL's doesn't begin until Friday, Oct. 4, even Sunday starter Justin Verlander would be on regular rest for a Game 1. Besides, Max Scherzer (scheduled Wednesday) would be on hand for any playoff opener, if needed. There's an excellent chance that the Tigers will also go the shortened-start route.
• What fantasy owners should not do, however, is put that much trust in the Boston Red Sox. They play a five-game week where their rotation is padding in extra rest, they might be shortening their starters' outings, and they play in two hitter-friendly venues (Colorado's Coors Field on Tuesday and Wednesday, Baltimore's Camden Yards from Friday through Sunday). Two-start pitcher John Lackey grants the only "volume" advantage of the bunch. The only motivation they'll have in Week 25 is attempting to capture home-field advantage throughout the playoffs; but their magic number of seven says that they might have that wrapped up before the weekend. When making choices accounting for shortened or altered schedules, trust only matchups on the extreme end of the "favorable" scale, and avoid those on the opposite extreme.
• Here are this week's Streamer's Delight picks -- players need to be available in at least 75 percent of ESPN leagues as of our publishing time (Fridays):
1. Andy Pettitte (@HOU, Saturday).
2. Scott Kazmir (@MIN, Friday): He's 4-for-4 in quality starts with a 1.44 ERA, 0.96 WHIP and 25.5 percent K rate against the Minnesota Twins this season.
3. Rick Porcello (@MIA, Friday): He's the one starter I don't see the Detroit Tigers utilizing in the playoff rotation, who therefore could be tasked with a full outing against a poor offense in order to take any strain off the other starters.
4. Yordano Ventura (@SEA, Monday).
5. Brandon McCarthy (@SD, Monday): He's 2-for-2 in quality starts with a 0.64 ERA against the San Diego Padres this season; neither of those games came in San Diego's Petco Park, a much more pitcher-friendly venue than Chase Field.
6. Corey Kluber (@MIN, Saturday): He's a strikeout pitcher who is facing a Minnesota Twins with the second-worst K rate since the All-Star break (24.7 percent).
7. Randall Delgado (@SD, Wednesday): Though his road ERA (5.01) is considerably higher than his home number (3.32), Petco Park is about the best road matchup that he could want; he also shut out the San Diego Padres on three hits on July 26.
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.
• Here are this week's "volume plays" -- defined as the teams that play the most home games, or games against left- or right-handed starters:
Home games: Minnesota Twins 7, Texas Rangers 7, Atlanta Braves 7
Versus LH: Cleveland Indians 4, New York Yankees 4, Houston Astros 3, Kansas City Royals 3, Tampa Bay Rays 3, Texas Rangers 3, Milwaukee Brewers 3
Versus RH: New York Mets 7, Minnesota Twins 6, Atlanta Braves 6, San Diego Padres 6
• The Texas Rangers' best shot at hanging on in the wild-card race rests with their bats; they have arguably the majors' best set of hitting matchups thanks to seven home games at hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark, three against the Houston Astros and four against the Los Angeles Angels. Calling the Astros a favorable matchup is obvious, but were you aware that the Rangers have .299/.363/.490 team triple-slash rates, a .365 wOBA and a 6.07 runs-per-game average in 15 meetings with the Angels this season?
As odd at this might sound -- he's hardly a shallow-mixed option, for instance -- platoon man Jeff Baker (owned in only 0.3 percent of ESPN leagues) warrants a look in larger leagues considering the matchups. He has been a true lefty-killer this year, with .320/.405/.690 triple-slash rates and 10 of his 11 home runs this season against that side, and he has started each of the team's past 17 games against left-handers. However, the reason Baker might not be a "go" in a 10-team mixed league with daily transactions is that he has made only seven starts all year against a righty. The same goes for Craig Gentry, a .261/.378/.403 hitter against left-handers this season.
These Rangers also have better-than-league-average (that average is .711) OPS against left-handers this season: Adrian Beltre (100.0 percent owned), Ian Kinsler (100.0), A.J. Pierzynski (74.6) and Alex Rios (100.0). All should be in any fantasy lineup.
• The Milwaukee Brewers, even sans Ryan Braun, have actually been one of the majors' most productive offensive teams against left-handed pitchers this season. For the year, they have .266/.318/.421 triple-slash rates and a .318 wOBA, ninth best in the majors, against left-handers. Since Braun's suspension took effect July 22, however, they have .294/.361/.491 rates and a .362 wOBA, third best in the majors, against that side.
This is mostly the product of two things: Continued success from noted lefty-killers Carlos Gomez, a .308/.364/.583 hitter against them this season, and Jonathan Lucroy, a .310/.365/.483 hitter; and the motivation of some of their more unproven options fighting for 2014 playing time. That's a group that includes Khris Davis, who has six homers and a .769 slugging percentage against lefties; Scooter Gennett, a .348/.386/.533 hitter in 42 games since July 22; and Sean Halton, who has three homers and 13 RBIs in 16 games since his August recall.