Fantasy Baseball: Ranking Best Starting Pitcher Matchups for September 16-22
The 2013 season is in the home stretch, both in terms of the MLB regular season and fantasy baseball.
Fantasy players all over are preparing for their respective playoffs with the hopes of being the kings (or queens) of their leagues.
So, to help give you fantasy owners a boost, here is a list of the best pitching matchups for the week ahead. If you have some of these pitchers on your staff, make sure they are in your starting rotation for the week.
If your opponent owns any, stock up on some offense.
1. Clayton Kershaw: Sept. 18 at Arizona Diamondbacks
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Why wouldn't you start Clayton Kershaw? The favorite to win the NL Cy Young Award, Kershaw has been absolutely dominant in 2013. He owns a league-best 1.94 ERA and 214 strikeouts.
And on Wednesday, he draws the Arizona Diamondbacks in Phoenix. As he has against many other clubs, Kershaw has been very successful against the division rivals. In 2013, the ace left-hander has made three starts against the Snakes, sporting a 2.11 ERA and recording 18 strikeouts. However, he's been left with a 0-1 record, as the Dodgers have been unable to give him much support.
Still, roll with Kershaw as you normally would. He's the best pitcher going in the game today.
2. Zack Greinke: Sept. 17 at Arizona Diamondbacks, Sept. 22 at San Diego Padres
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There are few starters who draw a better week than right-hander Zack Greinke of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Greinke has been excellent for the Dodgers this year, and over his last nine starts, he has been red hot. Over that stretch, he's 6-0 with a 1.58 ERA.
He starts next week off with a matchup against the Diamondbacks in Arizona. In two starts against the D-Backs in 2013, Greinke is 1-0 with just two earned runs allowed in 14 innings. Looks like he should keep his recent string of success on Monday.
Then, on Sunday, he takes on another division rival, as the Dodgers visit the Padres in San Diego. Greinke has made three starts against the Padres in 2013 and has a 2-0 record with a 1.80 ERA.
Don't hold back here...roll with the right-hander.
3. Anibal Sanchez: Sept. 16 vs. Seattle Mariners, Sept. 22 vs. Chicago White Sox
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Anibal Sanchez draws a two-start week, facing two fairly easy opponents. Sanchez, who has had a remarkable 2013 campaign (he leads the league with a 2.50 ERA), starts the week off on Monday taking on the visiting Seattle Mariners.
Sanchez hasn't faced the Mariners since 2011, but in that lone start, he threw six innings, allowing just one earned run.
On Sunday, he takes on the division-rival Chicago White Sox. He's made three starts against the Sox in 2013, leading to a 2-1 record with a sub-2.00 ERA. Make sure the right-hander is slotted into your rotation next week.
4. Jon Lester: Sept. 20 vs. Toronto Blue Jays
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Jon Lester is on a roll for the Boston Red Sox. He's gone at least six innings in each of his last eight starts, compiling a 4-2 record over that stretch. He was brilliant his last time out, on Friday against the Yankees, twirling eight innings of one-run ball as the Sox stretched their already-large AL East lead.
Next week, the left-hander will face another divisional foe, as the Red Sox play host to the Toronto Blue Jays. Lester has faced Toronto more than any other club during his career and owns a 14-7 lifetime record against the Jays.
In five 2013 starts against the Blue Jays, Lester is 3-0 with a 2.80 ERA. He remains a terrific play for next week's schedule.
5. Cliff Lee: Sept. 16 vs. Miami Marlins, Sept. 22 vs. New York Mets
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When the Philadelphia Phillies open a three-game series against the visiting Miami Marlins on Monday, the team will have Cliff Lee to kick things off. And who better to have start the series than the left-hander, who owns a 4-1 record over nine career starts against the fish?
In fact, Lee's 2.30 lifetime ERA against the Marlins is the lowest against any team he's faced with at least nine starts. Earlier this year, Lee twirled a complete-game shutout against the Marlins, scattering just three hits.
Lee gets a second start on Sunday against another sub-.500 team, the New York Mets. For his career against the division rivals, Lee has a 6-2 record with a 2.40 ERA in 11 starts.
However, 2013 hasn't been as kind for the southpaw when facing the Mets, against whom he has a 3.18 ERA over three starts this season.
Overall, Lee is quietly having another terrific season for a disappointing Phillies team. He has 13 wins and a respectable 2.97 ERA. The former Cy Young Award recipient makes for an excellent play this week as we head towards the finish line of the 2013 season.
6. Mat Latos: Sept. 15 at Houston Astros
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Just about any pitcher facing the Houston Astros has a good chance of being on this list. But there might not be any better than the Reds' Mat Latos.
The ace right-hander is certainly in contention for the NL Cy Young Award with his 14 victories (so far) and an 8.2-1 K/9 ratio. He's had trouble with the Astros over his career, but this will be the first time he's faced them since they moved to the American League West—they are a much different club than he's faced in the past.
Even though he only has one start this week, fantasy owners would be wise to make sure that this stud right-hander is active in their rotations.
7. Gerrit Cole: Sept. 19 vs. San Diego Padres
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There seems to be no stopping him now. With the Pittsburgh Pirates aiming towards their first playoff appearance in two decades, the Pirates would be well advised to keep their top young pitcher Gerrit Cole active through the rest of the season.
Cole has had a very impressive rookie season, and he seems to be getting better as the season progresses. This past week, he had the two best starts of his young career, limiting the Texas Rangers and Chicago Cubs to a total of just one earned run.
Next week, he faces the light-hitting San Diego Padres. Cole made a start against the Padres last month, going six innings and allowing just two earned runs, though taking a 2-1 loss in the effort.
With no recent talks of shutting the youngster down, continue to roll with the right-hander as you normally would.
8. Ubaldo Jimenez: Sept. 19 vs. Houston Astros
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Ubaldo Jimenez has started to look like the pitcher the Cleveland Indians wanted when they acquired him from Colorado in 2011. The right-hander has been pretty much awful since joining the Tribe. Last season he finished with a 9-17 record and a 5.40 ERA.
And the 2013 season didn't get off to a much improved beginning. Through the first half of the season, Jimenez registered a 4.56 ERA and a WHIP of 1.49.
That said, he's been much better in the second half, as evidenced by his 1.83 ERA and 10-1 K/9. He was at his best in his last start on Saturday, when he twirled 8.1 innings against the White Sox, allowing just one earned run and striking out eight.
The righty gets another favorable matchup on Thursday, when the Indians host the Houston Astros. He made a start against the 'Stros earlier this year that was forgettable. In five innings, he permitted four earned runs.
But that start took place in April, before Jimenez remembered how to pitch at a quality level. Look for him to continue his recent hot streak, as the Indians are pushing for a playoff spot.
9. Kris Medlen: Sept. 20 at Chicago Cubs
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After dazzling with a 10-1 season in 2012, Braves starter Kris Medlen has been a little more mediocre in 2013. Still, he has 13 wins on the campaign with a cool 3.32 ERA.
Having bounced between the rotation and the bullpen over his career, Medlen has never made a start against the Chicago Cubs, his opponent on Friday. But he has made five appearances against the Cubbies (including four in 2012 as a reliever), and didn't give up a run in any of them.
The weak-hitting, last-place Cubs should present an easy target for the talented right-hander. Make sure he's in your rotation next week.
10. Sonny Gray: Sept. 16 vs. Los Angeles Angels, Sept. 21 vs. Minnesota Twins
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The Oakland A's currently have a 5.5 game lead over the Texas Rangers in the AL West. And rookie right-hander Sonny Gray has been a integral part of their success.
Since debuting back in July, the 23-year-old has a 3-3 record with a 2.63 ERA over nine appearances (seven starts). He's also registered 51 punchouts, compared to just 14 free passes.
He draws two starts next week, with the first coming at home against the division-rival Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim on Monday. Gray has never face the Angels, but the Halos have struggled all season long and are without a couple of their big-name bats.
On Saturday, he gets a rematch with the Minnesota Twins. Gray faced the Twins on Wednesday in Minneapolis, where he struck out seven over five innings, allowing just two earned runs.
The Saturday matchup should be another easy one for Gray, and with the A's entrenched in a playoff race, look for the club to let him pitch to win the rest of the way.
He's a nice play next week.
11. Justin Verlander: Sept. 18 vs. Seattle Mariners
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It's been an interesting season for Justin Verlander in 2013, to say the least. It can be argued that he is in the midst of the worst season of his career since he made his debut with two appearances in 2005.
However, a bad season for Detroit's ace can still be a considered a decent season by just about any other pitcher's metrics. This week, he draws a favorable matchup against the Seattle Mariners, against whom he has a lifetime 3.35 ERA in 16 starts. Earlier this season, he took a tough-luck loss against the M's, allowing just two earned runs in seven innings while fanning 12.
It's hard to call starting Verlander a risky move, and I probably wouldn't go as far as calling him "risky." But just be weary that this has not been a typical Verlander-esque season, so anything could happen on Wednesday.
12. Shelby Miller: Sept. 20 at Milwaukee Brewers
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Shelby Miller of the St. Louis Cardinals is making a run for the NL Rookie of the Year Award (though he has tough competition in the name of Jose Fernandez). With 13 wins, a 9.3-1 K/9 ratio, and an ERA just over 3.00, he stands a great chance of at least accumulating some votes.
And he stands a pretty good chance of winning his lone matchup next week, as he takes on the fourth-place Milwaukee Brewers on Friday. He's made four starts this year (accounting for his career total) against the division rivals, and sports a 3-0 record with a 1.08 ERA.
The Cards are in the hunt for October, while the Brew Crew are trying to avoid a last-place finish in the NL Central.
13. Cole Hamels: Sept. 20 vs. New York Mets
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The New York Mets will have a tough weekend next week when they host the Philadelphia Phillies. On Sunday they will square off against Cliff Lee, and on Friday they will open against another tough lefty, Cole Hamels.
It's been a bit of a struggle in 2013 for the Phils, and for Hamels. The 29-year-old currently has a record of 8-13 with a 3.48 ERA, his highest such mark since 2009.
And, for his career, he's actually had troubles against the division-rival Mets. He's made 25 career starts against them and owns a 7-12 record with a 4.29 ERA. And things haven't been much better over four starts in 2013: 2-2, 4.13.
However, the Mets have been falling on some tough luck in the month of September, and Hamels could turn things around against the reeling team from Queens.
With Hamels on the mound, there's always the chance for disaster...but there's also the chance for quality.
Take your chances.
14. James Shields: Sept. 16 vs. Cleveland Indians, Sept. 22 vs. Texas Rangers
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"Big Game" James Shields is about to make two big starts for his Kansas City Royals. The surging Royals find themselves just 3.5 games out of the second wild-card spot in the American League and are making a real playoff run as the season comes to a close.
Shields has been a big component of their success, and he'll look to continue rolling against two clubs also fighting for playoff spots.
First, he'll take on the division-rival Cleveland Indians in KC on Monday. He's had a tough time against the Tribe so far 2013, going just 1-0 in four starts, sporting a hefty 4.07 ERA.
On Sunday, he'll square off against the powerful Texas Rangers. Fortunately for Shields, that matchup will also take place at Kaufmann Stadium and not the hitter-friendly Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. He's made one start against the Rangers this year, twirling seven innings of one-run ball, taking a no-decision.
He has some tough matchups this week, but Shields is a tough competitor. He'll keep the Royals in the games and will keep your fantasy teams in playoff contention.
15. Gio Gonzalez: Sept. 19 vs. Miami Marlins
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It's been somewhat of a down year for left-hander Gio Gonzalez in 2013. He currently owns a 10-7 record with a 3.40 ERA.
However, the Miami native has had great lifetime success against the Miami Marlins, his opponent on Thursday.
In five career starts against the Fish, Gonzalez owns a 1.54 ERA and a 10.5-1 K/9 ratio. In two starts this year, he's 2-0 and hasn't given up a run in 13 innings against his hometown club. Despite some struggles in 2013, Gonzalez makes for an excellent play this week against the weak-hitting Marlins.
16. Patrick Corbin: Sept. 17 vs. LA Dodgers, Sept. 22 at Colorado Rockies
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After a brilliant first half of 2013, Patrick Corbin has been inconsistent in the second half. But he's on the good side right now, having allowed four total runs in his last two starts. Prior to that, he gave up 13 earned runs in two starts. Overall, the 2013 All-Star has had a very nice season for the Arizona Diamondbacks.
He draws two matchups this week, with the first being against the first-place visiting Los Angeles Dodgers. Any start against the offensive-minded Dodgers is going to be a tough one, but the left-hander limited them to just one run in 6.1 innings on Wednesday. Overall, in six career appearances (five starts) against L.A., Corbin owns a 2.27 ERA to go along with a 3-1 record.
His second start comes in Coors Field against the Rockies on Sunday. In 2013, he's made three starts against the divisional foe and has a 1.52 ERA. One of those starts came in Denver when he twirled a complete game, allowing just one earned run and striking out 10.
Corbin should be a good play next week. Those in daily leagues may want to consider other options on Monday, but there probably aren't many better.
17. Julio Teheran: Sept. 21 at Chicago Cubs
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Julio Teheran follows teammate Kris Medlen with a start on Saturday against the last-place Cubs at Wrigley Field.
Despite some inconsistencies in 2013, the right-hander has had a very nice campaign for the Braves. He sports a 12-7 record with a 3.05 ERA.
He's only been in one game against the Cubs, and that was a start earlier this year which was rather forgettable. He lasted just five innings, allowing five earned runs on the day. But that was his first start of the season, way back in April. One can assume that the results will be a little better this time around with a full season under his belt.
Roll with the right-hander with confidence.
18. A.J. Burnett: Sept. 16 vs. San Diego Padres, Sept. 21 vs. Cincinnati Reds
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The Pittsburgh Pirates are in the midst of their first meaningful September in over 20 years. They find themselves in a pennant race with the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds. (Entering Sunday, the Buccos find themselves tied with the Cards for first in the NL Central.)
Needless to say, the Pirates will have to be at their best for the rest of the way to capture the division title. And they have a decent chance next week with right-hander A.J. Burnett on the bump twice.
Though he does not have great career numbers against his two opponents this week (Padres on Monday and Reds on Saturday), he's been very good in three of his last five starts, including a seven-inning gem against the same Padres club.
Burnett is a competitor, and he's always good for a good number of strikeouts, if nothing else. He's been in playoff hunts before and knows how to win.
He's not a great play for fantasy this week, but you could do much worse.
19. A.J. Griffin: Sept. 17 vs. Los Angeles Angels, Sept. 22 vs. Minnesota Twins
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With the Oakland A's looking head on at a second consecutive playoff appearance, a lot of attention should be paid to the right arm of A.J. Griffin. Griffin has 14 victories so far on the season and has somewhat quietly put together a fine campaign.
Next week, he gets two starting assignments.
Tuesday, he takes on the visiting Angels. Griffin has made two starts so far this year against the Halos, going 1-1 with a 3.46 ERA. They weren't great starts, but Griffin has been able to keep the A's in the game against their division foes.
On Sunday, Griffin gets a rematch with the Minnesota Twins, a team which he was dominant against on Wednesday. He fired seven innings, allowing just one earned run on two hits, collecting eight whiffs. There's no reason not to expect a similar result when he takes them on next weekend.
20. Hyun-Jin Ryu: Sept. 16 at Arizona Diamondbacks, Sept. 21 at San Diego Padres
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After dealing with some back stiffness, rookie right-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu took the mound on Wednesday for the first time since August 30. He made the start against the Arizona Diamondbacks, which is the same team he'll make one of two starts against this week.
In that game on Wednesday, Ryu went six innings and allowed three earned runs on 10 hits. He struck out just one and took the loss.
There was definitely some rust showing in that start.
But he gets a rematch on Monday in Phoenix. Overall, however, the Japanese import has not had good fortunes against his division rivals. In four starts, he has an ugly 5.48 ERA.
His second start next week comes at the pitcher-friendly PetCo Park in San Diego. In his only start against the Padres, Ryu shined through 6.1 innings, allowing just one earned run and striking out six in the victory.
The first start of the week should prove to be a challenge. But if Ryu can get back into a groove, he should prove to be a quality start next week.
21. Mike Leake: Sept. 16 at Houston Astros, Sept. 22 at Pittsburgh Pirates
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Mike Leake has had a story of two seasons in 2013. After going 8-4 with a 2.69 ERA in the first half of the season, Leake has regressed to a 5-2 with 4.52 ERA so far in the second half. With his Cincinnati Reds in pursuit of a division title, they will need their right-hander to be in his first-half form.
Next week, Leake starts off with a bout in Houston against the Astros on Monday. It should be an easy matchup to start the week. He has not faced off against the Astros yet this year, but you can expect a good output from this battle.
On Sunday, he'll get a tougher assignment against the division-rival Pittsburgh Pirates. Leake has made four starts so far against the Buccos, leading to a 3-0 record and a 3.28 ERA.
With the Reds sitting 2.5 games behind the Pirates and Cardinals for the top of the rotation, they will be relying on Leake to handle the Bucs next weekend in Pittsburgh.
22. Matt Garza: Sept. 16 at Tampa Bay Rays, Sept. 21 at Kansas City Royals
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After getting off to a good start with his new ballclub (he was acquired earlier this season from the Cubs), Matt Garza has struggled for the Texas Rangers. In 10 starts since moving to Texas, Garza is 3-4 with a 4.46 ERA.
With the Rangers fighting for a playoff spot, Garza will make two starts next week, both against opponents who are also trying to squeeze into October appearances.
On Monday, the right-hander will take on the Tampa Bay Rays, the team with which he reached the World Series in 2008. Garza has never pitched against his former club, which could prove to be an advantage for him.
On Saturday, he'll take on the red-hot Kansas City Royals, against whom he's made eight career starts (though he hasn't faced them since 2010).
Garza has the ability to put together two quality starts. But he is a bit of an enigma, as he can blow up at times.
Proceed with caution, but you could do worse for your rotation.
23. Jeff Samardzija: Sept. 17 at Milwaukee Brewers
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Like his Chicago Cubs, tall right-hander Jeff Samardzija has had a poor 2013 campaign. He currently owns a 4.44 ERA, and his 72 walks issued are a career high.
However, two of his better starts this year have come against the team he will be facing on Tuesday, the Milwaukee Brewers. This season, Samardzija owns a 2.57 ERA against his division rival, though he has an 0-1 record to show for it. He pitched seven innings in each of the two appearances.
With a 3.87 road ERA, his 2013 splits seem to indicate that he has had more success away from Wrigley Field. His matchup with the Brew Crew on Tuesday occurs at Miller Park, so it may not be that unwise to give "Shark" a start next week.
24. Dan Haren: Sept. 16 vs. Atlanta Braves, Sept. 21 vs. Miami Marlins
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Dan Haren's first season in the nation's capital certainly has not gone very well. After signing a one-year deal with the Washington Nationals in the offseason, Haren has disappointed, to say the least. So far, Haren has a 9-13 record with a 5.02 ERA. He's also surrendered 26 home runs, the most in the league.
However, in recent starts, he has shown slight improvement. In four of his last seven starts, he has pitched at least six innings, allowing no more than four earned runs among them.
Next week, the right-hander gets two matchups. The first occurs on Monday against the visiting Atlanta Braves, which should pose a challenge for the veteran. Haren has made two appearances against the division leaders this season (including a brief relief appearance last month). Overall against Atlanta in 2013, Haren boasts a 1-0 record with only one earned run (a home run) allowed in nine innings pitched.
His subsequent matchup comes at home against the Miami Marlins, a much more favorable opponent.
If he can duplicate his success against the Braves and can stifle the light-hitting Marlins, Haren may provide fantasy owners a surprising benefit.
25. Scott Kazmir: Sept. 16 at Kansas City Royals, Sept. 21 vs. Houston Astros
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There was a time when it seemed Scott Kazmir's career was in jeopardy. Between 2011 and 2012, he made just one start, and that was following a very poor 2010 season.
However, Kazmir latched on with the Cleveland Indians this past winter and has had somewhat of a resurgent campaign in 2013, sporting a 4.24 ERA in 26 starts.
Next week, he makes two starts.
First, he'll face the Royals in Kansas City on Monday. The left-hander has already made four starts against the divisional opponent and has not faired all that well. He'll go into Monday's bout with a 1-2 record and a 4.43 ERA. One of those starts occurred on Wednesday, when he lasted just four innings, surrendering three runs on nine hits.
Then, on Saturday, Kazmir takes on the visiting Houston Astros, a very favorable matchup.
However, Kazmir's lone 2013 start against the Astros was not a pretty one. In just 3.1 innings, he allowed six earned runs and was fortunate to escape with a no-decision.
Keep in mind, though, that start was his first of the season after missing the first three weeks with a rib-cage injury. The Indians are pushing for a playoff spot, and Kazmir is looking to maintain his comeback season. Proceed with caution, but do proceed.