Decisions seem fairly cut and dried among the pitchers who will make a pair of starts in the American League this week.  Meanwhile, there are many more shades of grey in the NL, with plenty of opportunities to grab and extra starter or two.  

As always, the information provided here is provided by Heater Magazine, is current through Friday and subject to change.  For our purposes, the fantasy week begins on Monday and runs through Sunday.  Players marked with an asterisk are owned in fewer than 50% of ESPN or Yahoo leagues. You can download a pdf featuring all the starters discussed in this entry.

Matt Cain – vs CIN, vs ARI
*R.A. Dickey – vs FLA, vs HOU
Cole Hamels – vs HOU, @ SD
Tim Hudson – @ COL, vs FLA
Josh Johnson – @ NYN, @ ATL
Hiroki Kuroda – @ MIL, @ COL
Adam Wainwright – @ PIT, @ WAS

Yes, that’s the knuckleballer in the “start” category.  We have a love-hate relationship.

*Joe Blanton – vs HOU, @ SD
Jaime Garcia – @ PIT, @ WAS
*Jason Hammel – vs ATL, vs LAN
*Livan Hernandez – vs CHN, vs STL
*John Lannan – vs CHN, vs STL
*Derek Lowe – @ COL, vs FLA
Brett Myers – @ PHI, @ NYN
*Clayton Richard – vs ARI, vs PHI

Myers is getting a grounder in over 50% of the time when the ball is put in play, which is the highest GB rate of his career.  So it should follow his 0.8 HR/9 is also the best rate of his career.  However, he’s very much enjoying the benefits of pitching in Houston as three of the 14 home runs he’s surrendered this year have come at home.  He makes both starts on the road this week.

It’s difficult to say what Lannan is doing differently since returning from his Triple-A exile.  His velocity and approach (the types of pitches he’s throwing and their frequency) are unchanged, although he is getting more swings and misses on his change-up and slider.  Maybe that’s enough, because now his strikeouts are up (5.8 K/9 since his return) and his walks are way down (1.9 BB/9).  Worth a look.  Richard may be fading down the stretch.  His strikeout rate is slightly down and his walk rate is creeping higher over his last nine starts.  Still, like most Padre starters, he loves the home cooking where his ERA is 3.24 and his WHIP is 1.23 compared to a 4.12 ERA and 1.57 WHIP on the road.  He gets a pair of home starts this week.

Even though he’s still throwing strikes 62% of the time, Lowe isn’t pitching deep into games – he’s thrown into the seventh inning in just two of his last 10 starts.  He’s either racking up high pitch counts or getting into hot water in close contests.  There will always be better options.  Suddenly, Garcia is allowing too many base runners and with an insanely low 42% strand rate in August, he’s not helping his cause.  Of course, that follows a month where he stranded 80% of all runners and two months after he was at 88%.  Corrections are a pain.  He gets a pair of starts on the road this week where his ERA is almost two runs higher than his home mark.

Hammel hasn’t built upon his strong showing from last season, but he hasn’t regressed either.  He’s still getting ground balls on 45% of all balls put in play and is keeping the ball in the yard with a 0.7 HR/9.  Even though he’s been tagged with only two unearned runs, the Rockies defense – ranked 19th in Defensive Efficiency – doesn’t appear to have helped.  After struggling in the first half of last season, Blanton made 14 starts in the second half of 2009 and posted a 3.62 ERA and 1.25 WHIP.  After struggling in the first half of this season, he has made seven starts and posted a 4.00 ERA and 1.38 WHIP.  The gap between his actual ERA of 5.54 and his 4.26 SIERA says his improvement (however slight) hasn’t been totally unexpected.  With a start against the light hitting Astros this week and another in the pitcher’s paradise of San Diego, he’s worth thinking about.

We’re still waiting for the collapse of Hernandez we all thought was inevitable back in May.  After stumbling a bit in the middle part of the season, he’s reeled off six strong starts in his last seven, posting a 2.30 ERA while allowing just one home run.  As his 4.96 SIERA suggests, there’s just no way he can keep this going.  Right?
*David Bush – vs LAN, vs PIT
*Casey Coleman – @ WAS, @ CIN
*Rodrigo Lopez – @ SD, @ SF
*Bud Norris – @ PHI, @ NYN
*Ross Ohlendorf – vs STL, @ MIL
*Edinson Volquez – @ SF, vs CHN

Coleman keeps the ball on the ground – he has a 52% GB rate in 12 innings this year after posting a 56% GB rate in 120 innings in Triple-A – but has been touched for 16 hits since his debut.  He’s added eight walks to the base running tally, as well.  Nobody has allowed more home runs in the NL this year than Lopez, who has surrendered 30 in 156 IPVolquez has been punching out batters at a rate of 9.2 K/9 since his return from elbow surgery but has yet to find his command, walking 24 in 34 innings (6.3 BB/9).  Just 56% of his pitches have been thrown for strikes.  Until he finds a better semblance of control (althoguh we are talking about a guy who owns a career 4.8 BB/9) I would avoid.

Since returning from the DL where he was sidelined with bicep tendonitis, Norris has posted a 4.14 ERA and punched out 58 batters in 63 innings.  I would lean toward putting him in the “consider” category, but he goes head to head with a pair of tough customers in Hamels and Dickey.  Bush was pulled from his last start after throwing six innings with a blister on his right index finger.  Word is, he won’t miss a start… But you didn’t want him on your roster before.

On to the AL…

Gavin Floyd – vs BAL, vs NYA
Colby Lewis – vs MIN, vs OAK
Francisco Liriano – @ TEX, @ SEA
Brandon Morrow – vs NYA, vs DET
Ervin Santana – vs TB, vs BAL
James Shields – @ LAA, vs BOS
Carl Pavano – @ TEX, @ SEA

Pavano has mixed a couple of stinkers in his last 10 starts, but he’s continuing what has been a fine season.  He owns a 3.13 ERA and stellar 1.07 WHIP in 92 IP on the road this year.  Compare that to his 3.95 ERA and 1.27 WHIP at home.  

This is the first time all year Morrow is in this column without the asterisk next to his name. About time.   

*Gio Gonzalez – @ CLE, @ TEX
John Lackey – vs SEA, @ TB
*Marc Rzepczynski – vs NYA, vs DET

No pitcher has given up more base knocks than Lackey this year.  Opponents are hitting .291/.354/.443 against him, across the board the worst rates of his career.  Gonzalez has been on quite the roll as of late, but he’s still giving away too many free passes.  He’s walked 4.2 batters per nine over his last 10 starts while throwing a strike just 59% of the time.  He’s surviving on a .267 BABIP in this stretch.

Rzepczynski throws enough grounders (50% GB rate on the season) and strikes out enough batters (7.5 K/9) that he’s worth consideration.  He’s been a bit unlucky with a .338 BABIP in just 22 innings.  

*Jeremy Bonderman – vs KC, @ TOR
*Fausto Carmona – vs OAK, vs KC
*Bruce Chen – @ DET, @ CLE
*Douglas Fister – @ BOS, vs MIN
*Jeremy Guthrie – @ CHA, @ LAA
*Derek Holland – vs MIN, vs OAK
*Scott Kazmir – vs TB, vs BAL
*Dustin Moseley – @ TOR, @ CHA
*Rick Porcello – vs KC, @ TOR

After pitching 10 games in relief early in the season with a 2.89 ERA, Chen has posted a 4.81 ERA and 1.49 WHIP in 15 starts covering 82.1 IP.  Plus, he’s been touched for 11 home runs.  Guthrie had a streak of six consecutive starts where he posted a Game Score of 57 or better snapped his last time out against the Mariners.  Small sample size, but he had a .227 BABIP in those six starts.  He’s run hot and cold all season, so start looking for your winter coat.

Holland was roughed up making a start in place of Rich Harden this week.  Another bum start like that and he’ll be bumped in favor of Scott FeldmanMoseley hasn’t pitched very well since joining the rotation, surrendering seven HR in 29 IP while getting a swing and a miss in just 4% of his strikes.  The sluggers of Toronto and Chicago await.

Carmona has endured a brutal five start stretch.  His struggles were understandable early on since he faced the Yankees, Red Sox and Twins in order, but then the Mariners and Royals piled on.  His control is fine, but he doesn’t miss enough bats – just 6% of his strikes have been a swing and a miss.  At least his 55% GB rate is solid, but Cleveland’s defense does him no favors.  Too risky for a pair of starts this week.  Bonderman has now posted a 7.36 ERA over his last eight starts which include 11 home runs in 44 IP. I would imagine his late week match-up against the Blue Jays will be electric. For the wrong reasons.

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