Fantasy Forecaster updated Monday, Aug. 12 at 11:00 a.m. ET.
On tap: It is a week of last-ditch efforts for several teams trailing in the playoff standings, and that's important from a motivational standpoint in coming weeks. The Washington Nationals, 15 1/2 games back in the National League East and 9 in the wild-card standings through Aug. 8, visit the East-leading Atlanta Braves for three games Friday-Sunday. The New York Yankees, 11 games back in the American League East and 7 in the wild-card standings, host the Los Angeles Angels for four games before heading to Fenway Park to battle the East-leading Boston Red Sox for three games. And the Arizona Diamondbacks, 5 1/2 games back in the NL West and 4 1/2 in the wild-card standings, host the Baltimore Orioles for three before heading to PNC Park to battle the Pittsburgh Pirates. These are critical weeks for these three teams; expect them to bring maximum effort.
A Friday doubleheader, which includes a rescheduling of their April 23 rainout, between the Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals at Comerica Park grants both teams a rare eight-game week. That provides an especially large benefit to the Tigers, one of the game's two best offenses and the team with the majors' best ERA (2.10) and WHIP (0.98) since the All-Star break.
Mathematically speaking, the three-quarters pole of the 2013 regular season arrives on Saturday. Assuming no postponements between Aug. 9 and then, three-quarters of all scheduled contests will be in the books once four games become official on Saturday (there are 15 scheduled that day). As always, quarter-poles tend to be good times to evaluate your team's standing. That's especially true in head-to-head leagues; there are three more weeks in the regular season in ESPN leagues.
Quick click by section, if you're seeking advice in a specific area:
ESPN lineup deadlines | Interleague impact | Projected starting pitchers
Pitching scuttlebutt | Week 19 pitcher rankings | Pitching advantages
Hitting ratings | Hitting advantages
A pair of weekend wrap-around series presents us with an earlier deadline than usual. The fourth and final game of a four-game, Oakland Athletics at Toronto Blue Jays, series begins at 12:37 p.m. ET, and the similar finale of the Texas Rangers at Houston Astros four-gamer begins at 2:10 p.m. ET. Make sure to set your lineups earlier accordingly, and if you play in an NL-only league, check your rulebook or with your commissioner to see whether the earlier deadline applies to you. The first National League contest of the week, after all, is the Philadelphia Phillies at Atlanta Braves game, beginning at 7:10 p.m. ET.
There are day games scheduled on every day but Tuesday this week, for those of you in leagues with daily transactions. Saturday's games, however, have an oddly later start: The first games of the day begin at 4:05 p.m. ET.
This week's interleague series:
• Baltimore Orioles at Arizona Diamondbacks (3 games, Monday-Wednesday)
• Miami Marlins at Kansas City Royals (3 games, Monday-Wednesday)
• Milwaukee Brewers at Texas Rangers (2 games, Tuesday-Wednesday)
• Colorado Rockies at Baltimore Orioles (3 games, Friday-Sunday)
Only one American League team suffers the loss of the designated hitter during a trip to National League parks this week, the Orioles, and that's not a devastating loss considering the team has been using a Henry Urrutia/Danny Valencia platoon at the position. Urrutia is a .282 hitter against right-handers, yes, but he hasn't walked all year and has .051 isolated power against that side. Valencia, meanwhile, has two homers and .240 isolated power against left-handers in 52 plate appearances, but also a mere .260 batting average and .288 on-base percentage. Fantasy owners -- besides those in deeeeeep AL-only leagues -- shouldn't be affected.
There also aren't as many opportunities as a result of NL teams visiting AL venues and gaining the designated hitter, either, not with the Brewers "apparently putting the brakes" on Aramis Ramirez's return to the lineup, that per the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, and the Rockies placing Carlos Gonzalez on the disabled list. Ramirez could return in time for the Brewers' two games in Texas, but it's entirely possible that he won't, leaving some mix of Yuniesky Betancourt, Jeff Bianchi, Khris Davis, Juan Francisco, Caleb Gindl and/or Martin Maldonado to divvy up the probable 8-9 additional plate appearances.
With Gonzalez on the DL, the Rockies already had an extra outfield spot in which to play their part-time outfielders, Charlie Blackmon, Charlie Culberson and Chris Dickerson. Those three will presumably divvy up the Rockies' additional DH at-bats, with Dickerson gaining the most value in deeper NL-only leagues.
The Marlins benefit most from gaining the DH, considering they have two fantasy-worthy players now stuck on their bench in Juan Pierre and Justin Ruggiano. They might rotate in the role in a straight platoon -- that means two starts for Pierre, and one for Ruggiano -- putting them back on the deep NL-only map for a 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.
• Though the Detroit Tigers have made no such announcement, Jose Alvarez is a logical candidate to start one of Friday's doubleheader games, being that his rotation turn for Triple-A Toledo lines up with that day.
• The Houston Astros are expected to stick with a six-man rotation.
• Danny Duffy, who allowed two runs in 3 2/3 innings of an Aug. 7 spot start for the Kansas City Royals, is the leading candidate to start one of the team's Friday doubleheader games.
• Scott Kazmir was scratched from his scheduled start on Wednesday, Aug. 14 with a "dead arm" and will be replaced by Carlos Carrasco. It's possible Kazmir could start on Sunday, Aug. 18, and make Danny Salazar a one-start pitcher for the week.
• Jason Vargas (blood clot) made his first rehabilitation start for Triple-A Salt Lake, a 72-pitch outing, on Aug. 8, setting him up to rejoin the Los Angeles Angels' rotation on Tuesday. It is unclear, however, whether he will merely push back Tommy Hanson, the originally scheduled Tuesday starter, or replace Hanson altogether.
• The Oakland Athletics recalled Sonny Gray for an Aug. 10 spot start, giving them two mid-week options: Gray could remain in the team's rotation in the order listed above; or he could return to the bullpen or Triple-A Sacramento with Tommy Milone taking a start between Tuesday and Thursday. For now, it appears Gray will remain in the rotation.
• Erasmo Ramirez wasn't among the Seattle Mariners' Aug. 9-11 starters, so the team is pushing him back until Tuesday. Ramirez will also pitch on Sunday, Aug. 18.
• Chris Archer (forearm) is expected to make his next start for the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday, but the team could have options, with Alex Cobb (concussion) and Matt Moore (elbow) on the mend. After making three rehabilitation starts for Class A Charlotte, Cobb is slated to return on Thursday, while Moore was scheduled to play catch on Aug. 9, giving him an outside chance of returning by week's end.
• The Arizona Diamondbacks started Zeke Spruill on Aug. 11, rather than pushing him back until Tuesday, but they could always use Thursday's off day to push back his following turn. It's also possible that Trevor Cahill (hip), who was scheduled for an Aug. 10 rehabilitation start, might be ready to take Spruill's spot in the rotation by the weekend.
• Jeff Manship allowed two runs in five innings' work as a fill-in for injured Tyler Chatwood (elbow) on Aug. 8, making him the leading candidate to take that spot again for the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday.
• With Jonathon Niese (shoulder) rejoining the New York Mets' rotation on Aug. 11, the team plans a six-man rotation for the week.
1. Max Scherzer (DET) -- Tue-@CWS (Santiago), Sun-KC (Chen)
2. Yu Darvish (TEX) -- Mon-@HOU (Oberholtzer), Sun-SEA (Ramirez)
3. Madison Bumgarner (SF) -- Tue-@WSH (Gonzalez), Sun-@MIA (Koehler)
4. Clayton Kershaw (LAD) -- Sat-@PHI (Kendrick)
5. Matt Harvey (NYM) -- Tue-@LAD (Ryu), Sun-@SD (Stults)
6. David Price (TB) -- Wed-SEA (Harang)
7. Adam Wainwright (STL) -- Tue-PIT (Morton), Sun-@CHC (Wood)
8. Mike Minor (ATL) -- Sat-WSH (Strasburg)
9. Hiroki Kuroda (NYY) -- Mon-LAA (Richards), Sat-@BOS (Lackey)
10. Julio Teheran (ATL) -- Mon-PHI (Hamels), Sun-WSH (Gonzalez)
11. Jose Fernandez (MIA) -- Tue-@KC (Chen)
12. Chris Sale (CWS) -- Mon-DET (Fister), Sat-@MIN (Albers)
13. Jered Weaver (LAA) -- Wed-@NYY (Nova)
14. Felix Hernandez (SEA) -- Sat-@TEX (Perez)
15. Doug Fister (DET) -- Mon-@CWS (Sale), Sat-KC (Davis)
16. Francisco Liriano (PIT) -- Wed-@STL (Miller)
17. Cole Hamels (PHI) -- Mon-@ATL (Teheran), Sun-LAD (Nolasco)
18. Zack Greinke (LAD) -- Fri-@PHI (Lee)
19. Homer Bailey (CIN) -- Tue-@CHC (Samardzija), Sun-@MIL (Estrada)
20. Anibal Sanchez (DET) -- Thu-KC (Guthrie)
21. Mat Latos (CIN) -- Mon-@CHC (Wood), Sat-@MIL (Peralta)
22. Stephen Strasburg (WSH) -- Sat-@ATL (Minor)
23. Matt Cain (SF) -- Sat-@MIA (Alvarez)
24. Gio Gonzalez (WSH) -- Tue-SF (Bumgarner), Sun-@ATL (Teheran)
25. A.J. Burnett (PIT) -- Thu-@STL (Lynn)
26. Ervin Santana (KC) -- Wed-MIA (Turner)
27. Matt Garza (TEX) -- Wed-MIL (Thornburg)
28. Cliff Lee (PHI) -- Fri-LAD (Greinke)
29. Wade Miley (ARI) -- Mon-BAL (Feldman), Sun-@PIT (Morton)
30. Derek Holland (TEX) -- Fri-SEA (Iwakuma)
31. Hisashi Iwakuma (SEA) -- Fri-@TEX (Holland)
32. Justin Masterson (CLE) -- Sat-@OAK (Straily)
33. Patrick Corbin (ARI) -- Wed-BAL (Tillman)
34. C.J. Wilson (LAA) -- Thu-@NYY (Hughes)
35. Chris Archer (TB) -- Tue-SEA (Ramirez), Sun-TOR (Redmond)
36. Tony Cingrani (CIN) -- Thu-@MIL (Lohse)
37. Lance Lynn (STL) -- Thu-PIT (Burnett)
38. Jhoulys Chacin (COL) -- Mon-SD (Volquez), Sun-@BAL (Feldman)
39. Justin Verlander (DET) -- Fri-KC, Gm. 1 (Shields)
40. Bartolo Colon (OAK) -- Tue-HOU (Lyles), Sun-CLE (Salazar)
41. Hyun-Jin Ryu (LAD) -- Tue-NYM (Harvey)
42. Samuel Deduno (MIN) -- Tue-CLE (McAllister), Sun-CWS (Santiago)
43. Ricky Nolasco (LAD) -- Mon-NYM (Mejia), Sun-@PHI (Hamels)
44. Tim Lincecum (SF) -- Wed-@WSH (Zimmermann)
45. Kyle Lohse (MIL) -- Thu-CIN (Cingrani)
46. Shelby Miller (STL) -- Wed-PIT (Liriano)
47. Jenrry Mejia (NYM) -- Mon-@LAD (Nolasco), Sat-@SD (Volquez)
48. Felix Doubront (BOS) -- Fri-NYY (Pettitte)
49. Gerrit Cole (PIT) -- Fri-ARI (McCarthy)
50. Jake Peavy (BOS) -- Thu-@TOR (Buehrle)
51. CC Sabathia (NYY) -- Tue-LAA (Vargas), Sun-@BOS (Dempster)
52. Ivan Nova (NYY) -- Wed-LAA (Weaver)
53. Jordan Zimmermann (WSH) -- Wed-SF (Lincecum)
54. Jarrod Parker (OAK) -- Wed-HOU (Cosart)
55. Danny Salazar (CLE) -- Mon-@MIN (Albers), Sun-@OAK (Colon)
56. Jon Lester (BOS) -- Wed-@TOR (Johnson)
57. Zack Wheeler (NYM) -- Thu-@SD (Ross)
58. Bruce Chen (KC) -- Tue-MIA (Fernandez), Sun-@DET (Scherzer)
59. Kris Medlen (ATL) -- Tue-PHI (Martin)
60. R.A. Dickey (TOR) -- Fri-@TB (Hernandez)
61. John Lackey (BOS) -- Sat-NYY (Kuroda)
62. Hector Santiago (CWS) -- Tue-DET (Scherzer), Sun-@MIN (Deduno)
63. A.J. Griffin (OAK) -- Fri-CLE (Jimenez)
64. Garrett Richards (LAA) -- Mon-@NYY (Kuroda), Sat-HOU (Keuchel)
65. Travis Wood (CHC) -- Mon-CIN (Latos), Sun-STL (Wainwright)
66. Tyson Ross (SD) -- Thu-NYM (Wheeler)
67. Chris Tillman (BAL) -- Wed-@ARI (Corbin)
68. Jacob Turner (MIA) -- Wed-@KC (Santana)
69. Marco Estrada (MIL) -- Tue-@TEX (Ogando), Sun-CIN (Bailey)
70. Dan Haren (WSH) -- Thu-SF (Vogelsong)
71. Alex Wood (ATL) -- Fri-WSH (Jordan)
72. Eric Stults (SD) -- Tue-@COL (Manship), Sun-NYM (Harvey)
73. Ian Kennedy (SD) -- Fri-NYM (Niese)
74. Brandon Beachy (ATL) -- Wed-PHI (Lannan)
75. Rick Porcello (DET) -- Wed-@CWS (Danks)
Two-start options for AL-/NL-only leagues:
Ryan Dempster (BOS) -- Tue-@TOR (Redmond), Sun-NYY (Sabathia)
Jason Vargas (LAA) -- Tue-@NYY (Sabathia), Sun-HOU (Oberholtzer)
Tom Koehler (MIA) -- Mon-@KC (Davis), Sun-SF (Bumgarner)
Brett Oberholtzer (HOU) -- Mon-TEX (Darvish), Sun-@LAA (Vargas)
Dan Straily (OAK) -- Mon-@TOR (Happ), Sat-CLE (Masterson)
No-thank-yous, among two-start pitchers:
Andrew Albers (MIN) -- Mon-CLE (Salazar), Sat-CWS (Sale)
Wade Davis (KC) -- Mon-MIA (Koehler), Sat-@DET (Fister)
Scott Feldman (BAL) -- Mon-@ARI (Miley), Sun-COL (Chacin)
J.A. Happ (TOR) -- Mon-OAK (Straily), Sat-@TB (Hellickson)
Charlie Morton (PIT) -- Tue-@STL (Wainwright), Sun-ARI (Miley)
Erasmo Ramirez (SEA) -- Tue-@TB (Archer), Sun-@TEX (Darvish)
Todd Redmond (TOR) -- Tue-BOS (Dempster), Sun-@TB (Archer)
Edinson Volquez (SD) -- Mon-@COL (Chacin), Sat-NYM (Mejia)
• Avid Fantasy Focus (#06010) podcast listeners might recall Friday's edition, during which I agreed with colleague Nate Ravitz that I'd start Bruce Chen versus the Miami Marlins over Tim Lincecum against the Washington Nationals, and wonder whether I've changed my mind in the hours since. Not so; what must be remembered is that Chen's weekly schedule includes an unattractive matchup -- the most unattractive matchup a pitcher could ask -- at the Detroit Tigers, which weighs in my rankings. It is a matter of weekly-versus-daily transactions strategy, as is the case with several two-start pitchers in Week 19, who get the benefit of one favorable and one unfavorable start. Consider how polarizing Chen's matchups, going by team weighted on-base average (wOBA) in either home/road games:
Chen gets the extremely rare combination of the best and worst matchups for a pitcher, and I'd argue that the Detroit matchup potentially eliminates any benefit of the Miami matchup. Consider that Chen has a 6.49 ERA and 1.67 WHIP in eight games (six starts) at Comerica Park during his five-year Royals career; current Tigers also sport combined .318/.396/.581 lifetime rates against him. Though I ranked him 59th -- that mostly a product of his impressive recent pitching -- I'd exercise extreme caution with him in weekly formats.
• Among the other two-starts-at-either-extreme pitchers for this week are Wade Davis (MIA, @DET), Ryan Dempster (@TOR, NYY), Gio Gonzalez (SF, @ATL) and Eric Stults (@COL, NYM). Davis, Dempster and Stults are far riskier choices than even Chen, based on both their more challenging assignments as well as so-so recent performances, but Gonzalez could be one who rises above his tricky matchup at Atlanta's Turner Field. Keep in mind that Gonzalez's 6.14 second-half ERA is almost entirely a product of a 10-run, 3 1/3-inning disaster [e] at Detroit, which as listed above is the game's most treacherous matchup.
Forgive Gonzalez that one game and he has 10 quality starts in his past 11 tries, a 2.11 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 81 strikeouts in 72 2/3 innings. Even with that game, his ERA is 3.20. What's more, he tossed a quality start at Turner Field on June 1 (7 IP, 3 H, 1 ER) that kicked off that hot spell, so expect more good things from him this week.
• Despite six road games, the Cleveland Indians have a favorable set of pitching matchups. The Minnesota Twins, despite the activation of Josh Willingham from the disabled list, represent one of the game's worst offenses of late; they have the majors' worst batting average (.219), second worst strikeout rate (25.9 percent), third worst wOBA (.276) and fifth fewest runs scored (63) since the All-Star break. It's that strikeout rate that should stand out, as Danny Salazar (Monday's scheduled starter) is a strikeout artist who should benefit.
The Oakland Athletics, meanwhile, have the majors' 10th worst wOBA since the All-Star break (.295), and they play in one of the game's most pitching-friendly environments. But here's where things get interesting: Justin Masterson has an 0-4 record, 9.13 ERA and 2.03 WHIP in five career games (four starts) at O.co Coliseum. Can he buck that trend? My rankings above hint yes.
• 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. Ricky Nolasco (@PHI, Sunday): He has six quality starts, a 3.25 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in nine career starts at Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park.
2. Danny Salazar (@MIN, Monday): His strikeout potential is legit; he has 17 K's in 13 2/3 innings in the bigs, and had 11.83 K's per nine at the Triple-A level.
3. Bruce Chen (MIA, Tuesday): How good has he been lately? He has five straight quality starts with 23 strikeouts compared to four walks.
4. Felix Doubront (NYY, Friday): He's 6-for-6 in quality starts with a 2.17 ERA and 1.21 WHIP against the New York Yankees since the beginning of 2012.
5. Rick Porcello (@CWS, Wednesday): He has 4 quality starts, a 2.41 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in his past five starts at Chicago's U.S. Cellular Field.
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, Oakland Athletics 6, Tampa Bay Rays 6, Atlanta Braves 6, Chicago Cubs 6
Versus LH: Detroit Tigers 5
Versus RH: Kansas City Royals 7, Chicago White Sox 6, Houston Astros 6, Toronto Blue Jays 6, Chicago Cubs 6
• No team in baseball has enjoyed greater success against left-handed pitching than the Detroit Tigers, who lead the way against them in batting average (.271), home runs (44), slugging percentage (.443), wOBA (.340) and well-hit average (.200). Much of that is a product of Miguel Cabrera's torrid hitting against southpaws; he has by far the majors' best wOBA (.552) against them.
That said, the Tigers have several other opportunities for fantasy owners in deeper mixed or AL-only leagues, thanks to their week heavy on left-handed opponents. Torii Hunter has the majors' eight-best qualified wOBA against lefties (.416), batting .343/.395/.583 against them, and is a must-start in all formats. Matt Tuiasosopo, who has started each of the Tigers' past 13 games against a left-handed pitcher, also warrants attention in deep mixed and AL-only leagues, thanks to .263/.398/.487 rates against lefties.
• If motivation is going to rally the Yankees -- or to a lesser extent the Diamondbacks (they're the ones closer to the race) -- this week, it'll be a product of their hitting. Though the Yankees have scored the second-fewest runs since the All-Star break (55), and hardly looked like a deeper offense since Alex Rodriguez's Aug. 5 activation from the disabled list, there's little doubt that their lineup is stronger than it was, say, three weeks ago. This team struggled in Chicago mostly because it faced left-handed pitching -- this team lacks viable platoon partners for Lyle Overbay and Ichiro Suzuki -- but this week the Yankees face four right-handers in seven games.
At the very least, returning home to face the struggling Angels could rejuvenate somewhat this lineup, making Brett Gardner, Alfonso Soriano, Rodriguez and Curtis Granderson worth activating in all formats. Among deeper choices: Eduardo Nunez should continue to handle the shortstop duties, while Lyle Overbay warrants your attention in leagues that allow daily transactions.
The Diamondbacks, meanwhile, have an offense full of opportunities, though only three true "full-time" performers: First baseman Paul Goldschmidt, second baseman Aaron Hill and third basemen/left fielder Martin Prado. Their part-timers, however, become stronger starters in weeks with more favorable matchups as these; and nine of their other 10 active hitters have each started at least three of the team's past eight contests. Backup catcher Tuffy Gosewisch is the only player who is a clear no-go, even in NL-only leagues. In deep-mixed or NL-only formats, however, it could be a good week to use Matt Davidson, Adam Eaton or Cody Ross.