We don’t have the excitement of a Stephen Strasburg debut, but we do have a full slate of inter-league games in the week ahead.  Cincinnati and Los Angeles and Milwaukee and Colorado are the match-ups that don’t cross borders.  There are some interesting options in both leagues that can serve to help with a pair (one in each league) that really stand out.  

As usual, the list of two-start pitchers comes courtesy of Heater Magazine and is subject to change.  The asterisk denotes the starter is owned in under 50% of ESPN or Yahoo leagues.  You can download a color-coded copy of the list featuring each starter’s match-ups and a breakdown of his three previous starts.

Jon Garland – vs TOR, vs BAL
*Aaron Harang – vs LAN, @ SEA
Josh Johnson – vs TEX, vs TB
Jonathan Sanchez – vs BAL, @ TOR
Johan Santana – @ CLE, @ NYA
Adam Wainwright – vs SEA, vs OAK

After a rocky start, Harang has stabilized the ship, posting a 3.93 ERA over his last 55 innings.  That’s right in line with his 3.82 SIERA.  He’s also getting plenty of support of a Red offense that is scoring 5.1 runs per game, the highest rate in the NL.  At this point, he would be a quality waiver pickup.  A pair at home for Garland where he owns a 1.15 ERA and is limiting opponents to a .213 batting average in six starts.  I’m looking forward to the Johnson match-up against Price in the weekend battle for the hearts of south Florida.  Wainwright is poised for a big week on the West Coast.

*Kenshin Kawakami – vs TB, vs KC
*Ian Kennedy – @ BOS, @ DET
Hiroki Kuroda – @ CIN, @ BOS
*Brad Lincoln – vs CHA, vs CLE
*Felipe Paulino – @ KC, vs TEX

Thirteen starts into the season and Kennedy posted a Game Score less than 50 just twice.  He owns a solid 3.85 SIERA and a 2.4 SO/BB ratio… What’s not to like?  The guy has been outstanding this year and should be owned in more leagues.  Despite my raves, he earns a “consider” this week for the simple reason he’s returning to the AL for both his starts, one of which comes in Boston.  Look at this week as a litmus test.  If he passes this to your satisfaction, grab him for the rest of the season.

Missed in this week’s Strasburg Mania, the Pirates called up their best pitching prospect Lincoln for a start the following evening in Washington.  In 23 career Triple-A starts, he owns a 1.16 WHIP and 3.89 ERA covering 130 innings.  He has a pair of attractive starts at home against the White Sox and the Indians, two of the five lowest scoring teams in the AL.  Kawakami’s ratios are almost exactly identical from last year, but the poor guy just can’t find a win.  The Atlanta offense isn’t helping his cause, scoring four or fewer runs in nine of his 12 starts.  

Paulino owns a 1.75 ERA over his last five starts covering 36 innings.  Since he has the Astro bats behind him, he has only a single win to show for that effort.  Nearly 54% of all balls in play are staying on the ground for Kuroda.  He’ll need those worm burners if he’s to survive the Cincinnati-Boston gauntlet he’s up against this week.  Plus, he draws a pair of difficult head to head assignments.

*Aaron Cook – @ MIN, vs MIL
*Kyle Kendrick – @ NYA, vs MIN
*John Lannan – @ DET, vs CHA
*Randy Wolf – @ LAA, @ COL
*Carlos Zambrano – vs OAK, vs LAA

Over 78% of all plate appearances end the the ball in play against Kendrick, so he’s fortunate the Phillie defense is better than average.  He’s struggled against the AL in the past though, with a 5.87 ERA and 1.37 WHIP in 30 career innings and draws a pair of difficult assignments in the Yankees and Twins.

Cook’s walk rate at 3.9 BB/9 is well past his career rate of 2.7 and is a large reason his WHIP is a lofty 1.50.  Looking for positives, he’s dropped his free pass rate to 3.1 BB/9 over his last seven starts.  The negative says his strikeout rate over that time is 3.3 K/9.  The Twins are one of the most patient teams in the game, so they’ll make him work for a win this week.  Plus, the AL has worked him over for a 4.81 ERA and 1.56 WHIP in 15 career starts.  Wolf has struggled with his control since the start of May, with a total of 29 walks in 45 innings to go along with 27 strikeouts.  His 1.63 WHIP is the third highest in the NL.  Lannan just can’t miss bats.  He’s getting a swinging strike in just 8% of all strikes and his 3.0 SO/9 is the lowest strikeout rate in the NL.

The results for Zambrano since his return from bullpen exile have been less than impressive – 2 starts, 9.1 IP, 8 H, 8 BB, 5 SO and a 5.79 ERA.  Plus, he’s always struggled against the AL.  In 122 innings, his 4.86 inter-league ERA is a full run higher than his career 3.58 mark.

On to the AL…

Clay Buchholz – vs ARI, vs LAN
Shaun Marcum – @ SD, vs SF
*Carl Pavano – vs COL, @ PHI
David Price – @ ATL, @ FLA
CC Sabathia – vs PHI, vs NYN
C.J. Wilson – @ FLA, @ HOU

Marcum’s control has been impeccable (1.9 BB/9) and he’s limiting the opposition to a .241 batting average against.  Both his starts this week figure to be low scoring affairs.  His SIERA of 4.34 could give you caution, but I’m sold on Buchholz – at least for this week.  He’s getting a ground ball 52% of the time, has a quality defense behind him and has been keeping the ball in the park.  The danger is a 4.5% HR/FB rate that is just asking for a correction and the fact he’s walking 3.8 batters per nine.  If he’s going to run into trouble, it will be after inter-league.

Pavano is having his best season since he won 18 games for the Marlins in 2004.  He’s keeping the ball in the park, is leaving 72% of all runners stranded on the bases and is walking a career low 1.5 batters per nine.  His splits are fairly level as far as home and road are concerned and his 3.82 SIERA says he’s for real.  He has a pair of favorable match-ups as well.  Pick him up for this week and keep him around.

*Dallas Braden – @ CHN, @ STL
*Kyle Davies – vs HOU, @ ATL
*Justin Masterson – vs NYN, @ PIT
*Joe Saunders – vs MIL, @ CHN

Fantasy owners are a fickle group where yesterday’s news is quickly forgotten in the search for the Next Big Thing.  Or sometimes people hop on the bandwagon just a little too late and quickly give up when they don’t get the results they expect.  In the case of Braden, owners probably should have just let well enough alone.  Since his perfecto on May 9, he’s 0-4 with a 4.75 ERA and a 1.42 WHIP.  He still has the exceptional control with a walk rate of 1.75 BB/9, but a pitcher who spends so much time around the zone has to miss bats.  With just 6% of his strikes the swing and a miss variety, that’s not happening enough.  In his last six starts, the opposition is battering him for a line of .303/.340/.462.  The fact the A’s can’t score a run when he starts doesn’t help his cause.  They have given him five or more runs in a start exactly once this year.

Following three decent starts with three stinkers, Davies remains a fantasy enigma.  He’s chopped his walk rate and is now at 3.7 BB/9, but he gives back those gains in an increase in his hit rate to 9.8 H/9. His 4.68 SIERA says he’s a bit unlucky, but he’s throwing a strike 60% of the time which is below league average of 63%.  If he can’t handle Houston, he’ll never get a “consider” again.

Saunders is walking 10% of all batters.  And with an 85% contact rate, when they’re not walking, they’re putting the ball in play.  He’s been hugely inconsistent this season, but his 5.52 SIERA says if he finds consistency, it won’t be good.  Having said that, he draws a couple of attractive match-ups this week.  He’s a weak “consider,” though.  Masterson has become a ground ball machine.  A full 64% of all batted balls against him have come on the ground, the highest percentage in the AL.  Imagine if he had a decent infield defense behind him.  Next on the agenda should be improving his walk rate of 4.6 BB/9.  

*Freddy Garcia – @ PIT, @ WAS
*Rick Porcello – vs WAS, vs ARI
*Chris Tillman – @ SF, @ SD

Listening to the White Sox broadcast the other day and the announcers were extolling the virtues of Garcia, who has now apparently “learned how to pitch.”  His 3.1 BB/9 and 1.5 HR/9 would beg to differ.  We know his velocity isn’t near what it was during his glory days, but aside from the dip in strikeout rate, it’s affected his ground ball percentage as well.  Hitters are putting the ball on the ground only 37% of the time, the lowest rate of Garcia’s career.

His 0.86 SO/BB ratio screams sit, and Tillman comes up against a couple of quality starters this week. No reason to even think about it.  Since throwing seven shutout innings against the Yankees a month ago, Porcello has stumbled badly over his next five starts with a 6.11 ERA and a .322 batting average against.  He’s pitching to contact – 80% of all plate appearances end with the ball in play – and opponents own a .346 BABIP on those.  It’s just not happening for him this season.


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