Greetings, fantasy baseball friends. Jersey Joe, a new columnist, here with the low-down on the AL starters who will climb the hill twice this week (Monday-Sunday). Always remember that predicting pitching performance is like predicting the weather, but that said, here are my thoughts for the week…
1. Zack Greinke (KC) – CHW (Colon), @LAA (Loux)
My $.02: He’s the AL shizz right now at the SP spot, no doubt. Don’t need to check any matchups, opponent OPS, etc. Start him until further notice.
2. Felix Hernandez (SEA) – TEX (Millwood), @MIN (Liriano)
My $.02: The King is claiming his throne. 4-0, more than a K per IP, and a manageable walk rate. Like the Zack Attack, start him until further notice.
3. Erik Bedard (SEA) – TEX (Padilla), @MIN (Blackburn)
My $.02: Interestingly enough, Bedard’s getting his act together in a free-agent season. Coincidence? I think not. No offense, but this guy’s not a ballplayer – he’s a Canadian fur-trapper trapped in pitcher’s body. I am fairly confident he doesn’t like baseball most of the time. But he likes it this year, because if he throws well enough, he can convince the Pinstripes or some other team to hand him $53.3 M for 4 years – yup, enough money to build a start-up fur-trapping business into a Canadian conglomerate. This week, he gets a Hamilton-less Rangers O-ffence (sticking with the Canadian theme) in Safeco, and then the Mariners visit the Twinkies. Roll with him. Especially in Canada.
4. Jon Lester (BOS) — Mon-@NYY (Chamberlain), Sat-TB (Kazmir)
My $.02: Let’s play good news/bad news. Bad news: He’s starting in the JetStream and the Yanks’ OPS vs. LHP is 993(!). Good news: He’s pitched extremely well against both the Pinstripers and the Rays in his (short) career. More good news: he beat cancer! If he’s on your team, go get yourself one of those Live Strong yellow bracelets, start him this week, and enjoy life.
5. Matt Garza (TB) — Tue-BAL (Uehara), Sun-@BOS (Beckett)
My $.02: Like most TB starters, Garza is a straight-up homeboy… Yup, he likes pitching in the dome he calls home. Plus, his career numbers versus the boys from Charm City are fantastic. So his first start looks great. Start #2 vs. the Sawx? Yeah, he’s thrown well against them in the past, but I’d like this a lot more if the game was down by the bay (where the watermelons grow…sing it, moms and dads!). With Beckett’s struggles, though, Garza looks a bit better. A solid start in most leagues.
6. Scott Kazmir (TB) — Mon-BAL (Eaton), Sat-@BOS (Lester)
My $.02: Kaz’s been Forrest’s box of chocolates this season – Joe Maddon and fantasy owners are scratching their heads over his inconsistency. I really like Start #1: Baltimore’s OPS vs. LHP is 10th in AL, Adam Eaton isn’t, umm, good, and Kaz feasts at home like his rotation brothers. At Boston against Jon Lester, of course, gives me pause, but the vaunted BOS lineup has struggled vs. LHP in ’09 (OPS: 9th in AL). I’m feeling two nice ones from Scotty this week.
7. Edwin Jackson (DET) — Mon-MIN (Liriano), Sat-@CLE (Reyes)
My $.02: Love him this week. Whatever leagues you play, you should start Edwin and enjoy the bounty a-comin’. He’s pitched extremely well this season despite a dip in his K/9, and the breakout is quietly happening. Minny’s got Mauer back, but the aside from Morneau-Mauer-Kubel, there’s not much there. His opposing starters? Well, Liriano’s not himself, and Anthony Reyes is thisclose to getting sent down – if the Indians had some healthy/good options, he’d be gone already. Don’t leave Eddy on the bench this week, my friends. Please.
8. Joba Chamberlain (NYY) — Mon-BOS (Lester), Sat-@BAL (Eaton)
My $.02: Ahh, Joba. The hype machine (not the blogosphere – let’s get that straight) is disappointed you’re not throwing 97 mph anymore. Me? I’m not as demanding – 93 mph is fine by me, friend. Just watch the walks (13 BB in 23.1 IP) – you can’t rely on the Yanks’ infield D to keep bailing you out with double plays, unless Mark Teixiera can play all 4 spots at the same time (which, incidentally, he should be able to do, for all that dough he’s getting). Not crazy about his start against the Sawx, who are patient enough to wait pitchers out and then pounce. (That’s essentially what happened in his start vs. BOS last week.) But with Papi’s struggles and Francona’s insistence on letting him work through them in the heart of the order, I’m less concerned. He can handle the O’s top-heavy lineup in Start #2, and with Adam Eaton on the other end, he should have run support (over/under NYY runs: 7?). Take a shot with Joba this week.
9. Francisco Liriano (MIN) — Mon-@DET (Jackson), Sat-SEA (Hernandez)
My $.02: Picture this – A sunny day in Fantasy Land. All is not well, however. Cries ring in the streets, as I call out in desperation for a familiar name. “2006 Francisco Liriano? Where are you? 2006 Francisco Liriano? Come on home, please! Where are you?” “I’m sorry, Jersey Joe. We found him, but he’s lost an arm.” “Which one?” I ask, hoping for the best. “The one with the devastating slider and fastball, I’m afraid.” This week: A righty-heavy DET lineup at Comerica (4th in AL OPS vs. LHP) and then the punch less M’s at home (though he opposes King Felix). Classic “one good start, one bad start” situation. I’d probably start him in most leagues, but don’t expect 2006 again. Like, ever.
10. Josh Beckett (BOS) — Tue-@NYY (Burnett), Sun-TB (Garza)
My $.02: 2009 hasn’t been kind to Josh. 36 H in 28.2 IP…not so good. But what really gives me the willies about him? 16 BB in those same 28.2 IP. He walked 34 last season… in 174.1 IP. Yikes. This week, he slings the hardball in the JetStream (New Yankee Stadium) against a rejuvenated Yankee offense before heading home to face Garza and the Rays. Another pertinent note about Beckett – his ERA at Fenway the last 3 years: 5.65, 4.17, 4.84. So what am I saying? You probably can’t bench him, but he doesn’t look poised for much success this week
11. Brett Anderson (OAK) — Mon-LAA (Loux), Sat-TOR (Tallet)
My $.02: He’s a nice young SP who has thrown much better than his numbers attest, and he’s at home in the cavernous Oakland Mausoleum (where hitters go to die… just ask Matt Holliday!) for both starts. Plus, his opposing starters stink. On the flip side – the Toronto offense is raking these days, and LAA can dink and dunk their way to keeping it close. But I’m feeling B.A. this week, so if you trust a random fantasy blogger you’ve never met, take a chance on Brett (and me) and start him. ***Injury note: Anderson is dealing with a blister, but it apparently shouldn’t be a problem. Just be careful here
12. A.J. Burnett (NYY) — Tue-BOS (Beckett), Sun-@BAL (Uehara)
My $.02: Look, the guy’s got nipple rings. That, to me, says “No Fear”. I mean, my nipples chafe when I wear a tight t-shirt, and I consider that painful enough to take a sick day. So, we know he’s not intimidated by the mighty Sawx hitters, and the numbers bear that out, as he’s traditionally pitched well against them (at least until he was bombed by them this season). But something’s not quite right with A.J. this season. Adjusting to a new team? New piercings in sensitive places? Vandalizing school property? Blowing up a car? Whatever the reason, Tony and Carmella would ground him – should you? Well, with BOS at home, and then a second start against the O’s, a team he’s struggled against in his career, I’m not very confident. If you do start him, you might receive a fantasy purple nurple from the Nipple King. Be prepared
13. Kyle Davies (KC) — Tue-CHW (Floyd), Sun-@LAA (Ortega)
My $.02: Yeah, he’s basically become a usable starter in AL Only and deep mixed leagues, as scary as that sounds. This week, two so-so offenses challenge Kyle’s trip up the AL Starter ranks. The White Sox don’t hit RHP well and fare much better at home, and while the Angels of LA can bleed a pitcher to death with Mike Scioscia’s version of small ball, I’m just not afraid of that lineup without Bad Vlad. Borderline, but I’d probably start him in AL Only leagues
14. Kevin Millwood (TEX) — Mon-@SEA (Hernandez), Sat-@CHW (Colon)
My $.02: Believe it or not, he’s a decent option this week. The mighty (lucky, so far) M’s sport an OPS vs. RHP under .700 (which puts them next to last in the AL in that category), and Ozzie’s boys are just one spot better. If you need him, use him
15. Dallas Braden (OAK) — Tue-LAA (Ortega), Sun-TOR (Cecil)
My $.02: Every year, there’s a few SP that come out of nowhere and give you stats for a stretch. Braden’s been one of those guys this season. Yeah, there’s some talent here, but its not clear how much. Regardless, with both starts in Oakland, I think you should roll the dice, as the Angels don’t hit lefties much and the Jays are starting a rookie (Brett Cecil) who clearly isn’t read for prime time against Braden in Start #2
16. Gavin Floyd (CHW) — Tue-@KC (Davies), Sun-TEX (Padilla)
My $.02: I was more bullish on this guy than most, because: 1) he was a 1st round pick and has some talent; and, 2) he had a lights-out spring training. Now, I know what you’re thinking: spring training doesn’t matter. Hold on, I say; for a young guy trying to consolidate his skill development, I think it does. Unfortunately, Gavin’s struggled in the early going and I don’t have a clear sense of what to expect. KC stinks against righties, and TEX doesn’t hit well away from Arlington…but again, this one’s a crapshoot. I’d probably sit him this early in the season for a safer option
17. Rick Porcello (DET) — Tue-MIN (Blackburn), Sun-@CLE (Carmona)
My $.02: Not a terrible slate this week for the young star. His problem seems to be command; he loses his stuff after a few innings, and once he falls behind, he can’t seem to figure out how to work his way out of it. Until he strings together a few solid starts, I’d bench him except in deep AL Only leagues. But he is coming, folks. Be patient
18. Nick Blackburn (MIN) — Tue-@DET (Porcello), Sun-SEA (Bedard)
My $.02: Are you chasing wins? Because there’s no other reason to have this guy in your lineup otherwise. His ERA might be passable, but he doesn’t K anyone and his WHIP won’t help you any. Not the worst matchups in the world, I guess, as the Tigers and Mariners don’t exactly hammer righties, so if he’s on your roster, you can use him. Just know what you’re getting – a shot at two wins. Nothing more, and possibly, a lot less (meaning damage to your ERA and WHIP could hurt you. To me, the down outweighs the up, but it’s your team, right?
19. Bartolo Colon (CHW) — Mon-@KC (Greinke), Sat-TEX (Millwood)
My $.02: Don’t call it a comeback! Yes, the Chubby One (and look at that hair!) has returned, but that doesn’t mean you need to get on the bus. Because if you did, it would likely tip over. Or, he’d try to eat you. Do you want that? I didn’t think so.
20. Koji Uehara (BAL) — Tue-@TB (Garza), Sun-NYY (Burnett)
My $.02: I don’t speak Japanese, but if I could, I’d draw/write characters that translate into the following description for Koji’s chances this week: a major typhoon and Godzilla crushing Tokyo – at the same time. Look, could he surprise me? Sure. But I just don’t think his stuff (caution: ScoutSpeak) is good enough to handle AL East lineups. I’m issuing a hold on Koji for this week. Wait for the right matchups with this guy, or you shall suffer the consequences
21. Fausto Carmona (CLE) — Tue-@TOR (Cecil), Sun-DET (Porcello)
My $.02: It seemed like just yesterday that Fausto was licking those green midges off his lips like some leftover poppy seeds from a toasty bagel, mowing down Yankee hitters while Joe Torre slept, err, sat stone-faced on the bench. Fast-forward to 2009, and it appears that he’s become one of those midges on the mound. If you like pain, I invite you to allow Fausto to throw home run balls for you to the Toronto Bomb Jays and the Detroit Tigers this week. Otherwise, please bench him
22. Anthony Reyes (CLE) — Mon-@TOR (Tallet), Sat-DET (Jackson)
My $.02: Don’t start him. Under any circumstances.
23. Brian Tallet (TOR) — Mon-CLE (Reyes), Sat-@OAK (Anderson)
My $.02: Nope.