The dog days of August mean we are entering the stretch run for head to head fantasy leagues.  There’s little middle ground in the National League this week, which means it’s going to be difficult to find value options.  You’ll find a few more opportunities in the American League.

As always, this list is provided by Heater Magazine and is subject to change.  Starters marked with an asterisk are available in at least 50% of ESPN or Yahoo leagues.  Usually, we have a pdf for you to download, but that won’t be available until late in the weekend.  We will update as soon as it becomes available.    

We’ll begin this week in the National League.

Chris Carpenter – @ CIN, vs CHN
Ryan Dempster – @ SF, @ STL
Ubaldo Jimenez – @ NYN, vs MIL
Tim Lincecum – vs CHN, vs SD
Roy Oswalt – vs LAN, @ NYN
Anibal Sanchez – @ WAS, @ CIN
Stephen Strasburg – vs FLA, vs ARI

It’s been a rocky start in Philly for Oswalt, but that shouldn’t deter keeping him in the lineup.  Sanchez is inching his strikeout rate ever so higher.  He’s whiffing seven batters per nine over his last nine starts.  He owns a 3.69 ERA over that time and is limiting hitters to a line of .263/.322/.357 while surrendering just three home runs in 54 IP.  The Cubs have backed Dempster by scoring four runs or fewer in 14 of his 23 starts.

Strasburg reportedly looked great in a mid-week simulated game, so he should be good to go on Tuesday.

*Madison Bumgarner – vs CHN, vs SD
Johnny Cueto – vs STL, vs FLA
*Wade LeBlanc – vs PIT, @ SF
Vicente Padilla – @ PHI, @ ATL

Both Cueto and Padilla could be in the “start” category, but both own home/road splits that put their week in peril.  Cueto makes both starts at home this week, where he has a 3.90 ERA compared to a 2.69 road ERA.  Meanwhile, Padilla has benefited from throwing half his games at Dodger Stadium where he has a 1.61 home ERA against a 4.86 ERA when traveling.  

For a more in depth look at Padilla, read my article on him from earlier in the week.

Bumgarner was roughed up in his last start against the Rockies and has fallen out of favor with fantasy owners, so it will be interesting to see how he responds.  He’s made only two starts this season at AT&T Park.  Both of LeBlanc’s opponents fare better against left-handed starters and after a great beginning of the season, he’s settled into mediocrity with a 4.62 ERA and a 2:1 SO:BB ratio in his last eight starts.  

*Barry Enright – @ MIL, @ WAS
*Jeff Karstens – @ SD, @ HOU
*Ian Kennedy – @ MIL, @ WAS
*Mike Minor – @ MIL, @ WAS
*Chris Narveson – vs ARI, @ COL
*Bud Norris – vs ATL, vs PIT
*Manny Parra – vs ARI, @ COL
*Mike Pelfrey – vs COL, vs PHI
*Carlos Zambrano – @ SF, @ STL

After being touted as a “start” in previous Planners, the bloom is off the rose of Kennedy, who has a 5.51 ERA and 1.38 WHIP over his last 11 starts.  He doesn’t induce enough ground balls (he has about a 35% GB rate), gives up far too many home runs (1.6 HR/9) and has surrendered four or more runs in five of his last seven starts.

Pelfrey has been horrible since the start of July, with a 9.24 ERA in six starts covering only 25 innings. Opponents are crushing him for a .420/.489/.630 line and he’s struck out just one batter in three of those six starts.  Something isn’t right…

Norris is getting plenty of strikeouts (9.5 SO/9), but his lack of command (4.2 BB/9) and inability to pitch out of trouble – hitters own a .333/.420/.476 line against him with runners on base – means success is elusive.  His control is improved, but Karstens remains hittable.  The opposition has pounded him for a .301 BA against and a .516 slugging percentage.  He’s allowed 18 home runs in just over 100 IPMinor, the Braves first round pick (7th overall) in the ’09 draft, posted a 1.89 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in 33 innings in Triple-A. Nice pedigree, but I’m always leering of starting a pitcher with so little Triple-A experience.  Same could be said about Enright, who has pitched well in seven starts for the Diamondbacks despite never throwing a single pitch at the Triple-A level.  (See my take on Matusz below.)

Zambrano will step into the void created by the departure of Ted Lilly, which begs the question… What happens when you fill a void with a void?

On to the AL…

Scott Baker – @ CHA, vs OAK
Jon Lester – @ NYA, @ TEX
David Price – @ DET, vs BAL
Ricky Romero – vs BOS, @ LAA

Lester has been a workhorse, throwing at least 100 pitches in 18 of 22 starts.  Even workhorses get tired though, so it’s a situation worth monitoring.  In four starts post All-Star Break, he has a 4.39 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP, but with a 10.1 SO/9.  He left his last start with a leg cramp, but should be ready to take both his turns in the rotation this week.

*Freddy Garcia – vs TB, @ CHA
Phil Hughes – vs BOS, @ KC
*Edwin Jackson – vs TB, @ CHA
Daisuke Matsuzaka – @ TOR, @ TEX
*Justin Masterson – vs BAL, vs SEA
*Vin Mazzaro – @ SEA, @ MIN

Since moving into the rotation in early June, Mazzaro is getting a ground ball around 48% of the time and has a walk rate of 2.9 BB/9.  I’m extremely tempted to put him in the “start” category, but two road starts this week land him here.  Like most A’s starters, he’s much better at home.  

With two starts on the road, Matsuzaka could deliver the goods for owners this week.  He has a career 3.68 ERA away from Fenway versus a 4.33 ERA at home.  His home run rate is down this year, so that will limit some of the potential damage from his elevated walk rate, and he’s been pitching well of late with a 3.18 ERA over his last 11 starts.  At this point, what you see from Garcia is what you get.  His 4.74 SIERA is in line with his 4.54 ERA and for every decent start from him, you get one not so decent.  Fantasy vanilla.

With a solid first start for the Chisox, maybe Jackson did indeed find his AL mojo.  That was his first good start in six since his no-no.  Hughes is another guy to consider when regarding the work load of young pitchers.  Are the innings taking a toll?  With a 5.05 ERA and 1.35 WHIP over his last 66 innings, it would seem to be the case.  A home run rate of 1.6 HR/9 over that time doesn’t help.  Masterson has been frustratingly inconsistent this season, but has a pair of starts at home against two of the worst offenses in the league.  He owns a 3.92 ERA and 1.32 WHIP in 60 IP at home against a 6.68 ERA and 1.89 WHIP in 69 road innings.  

*Jake Arrieta – @ CLE, @ TB
*Kyle Davies – @ ANA, vs NYA
*Douglas Fister – vs OAK, @ CLE
*Armando Galarraga – vs TB, @ CHA
*Brian Matusz – vs CHA, @ TB
*Sean O’Sullivan – @ ANA, vs NYA

Hitters are making contact against Galarraga and his strikeout rate of 4.1 SO/9 is off his career mark by two whiffs per game.  His in play rate of 78% is also a career high.  With an 89% contact rate, it was just a matter of time for Fister’s luck to run out.  His 6.59 ERA in eight starts since his return from the DL confirms that his luck, has indeed, left the building.  O’Sullivan has a nifty 1.09 WHIP on the season, but has a .233 BABIP against and 79% of his plate appearances end with the ball in play.  Tick, tick, tick…

Entering this season, I had high hoped for Matusz.  To say he’s been a disappointment is an understatement.  His 7.1 SO/9 is kind of meh and his 3.5 BB/9 illustrates a lack of command he never really exhibited in the minors.  He’s falling behind in 42% of all batters faced and when he starts those hitters off with ball one, they hit .303/.438/.506 against him.  Is it a case of too much, too soon given he made the jump from Double-A to the bigs?  Probably.  Still, he’s only 23 so I’m not giving up long-term.  Yet.  His teammate Arrieta is walking 5.2 batters per nine.  Pass?  Exactly.

Thank you for reading

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How dare you tempt me to pick Masterson back up.
I know. I can't believe I'm considering him as well. But the splits (and teams) are in his favor. *Fingers crossed this doesn't turn into a fiasco pick.*