Fantasy Baseball: Thursday's Matchups and Spot Starts

Shaun CopseyCorrespondent IAugust 20, 2008

It's almost Thursday again, and besides Monday, it's one day of the week where you find holes to fill in your fantasy baseball lineup. One of the most under-utilized strategies in fantasy baseball is picking up not just pitchers, but hitters as well, for spot starts.

This strategy is very effective when you are able to dig a little deeper, finding the best matchups available on Mondays and Thursdays. Yes, it does work!

For the sake of the readers who are participating in fantasy baseball, the focus will be on hitters who are not in the top-100 rankings for the season. The idea is to mention players that are available in at least some leagues, if not most average-sized, 12-team leagues, so that the spot-start strategy can be utilized.

On Sunday, seven hitters were bolded and focused upon as potential spot-starters for Monday. When I say spot-starter, I mean someone that you necessarily don't want to hang on to; they're simply someone to pick up off of free agency for just that one day because a good matchup presents itself, and you're looking forward to having as complete a lineup as possible.

On Monday, those seven hitters mentioned combined for nine hits in 26 at-bats (.346 AVG), four runs, a home run, and seven RBI. Even more surprising? The average ranking of these players is currently 534.

That means 533 players have better numbers so far on the season. Besides Casey Kotchman's 0-4 performance, every hitter mentioned had at least a hit, and five of the seven mentioned drove in at least one run.

And how about Barry Zito? Mentioned as a possible "sleeper," Zito responded with seven shutout innings and the win. Mind you, coming into the game, Zito was 6-15 with a 5.73 ERA. If anyone actually played the contrarian and picked him up, congratulations, as you had even bigger cojones than I!

Now, with Thursday right around the corner, I only hope I can come close to replicating Monday:

  • The day starts off in Cleveland at 12:05 EDT, when Zach Greinke takes on Cliff Lee. Greinke started off the season 3-0 with an ERA of just 0.75. Now, with the season beginning to wind down, Lee almost has it locked up with a 2.34 ERA on top of a 17-2 record. Anyone think the southpaw might be slightly worn out after last week's complete-game victory over the best team in baseball? Counter with C John Buck and 1B/OF Mark Teahen, who are hitting a combined .352 with five HR and 13 RBI in just 54 AB against the potential 2008 AL Cy Young award winner.
  • A day game at Wrigley Field—one of my favorite parks in baseball—has Josh Fogg challenging Carlos Zambrano. Boasting a 7.71 ERA, Fogg has been in a slump all season. Zambrano has nearly mirrored him in his past two starts. Cubs fans will be watching closely, but look for the extra day of rest to help and for Zambrano to pick up lucky No. 13. If history is any guide, Fogg will be pitching batting practice to OF Jim Edmonds—.429 BA in 21 AB, with two HR and six RBI.
  • Jorge De La Rosa vs. Derek Lowe and the newly revitalized Los Angeles Dodgers. Jorge has his hands full against the Dodgers. Not only is his ERA an unacceptable 7.32 on the road, he's also accumulated five of his six losses away from Coors Field this season. If you're looking for No. 7, like I am, look to one of the newly-acquired Dodgers, 1B/3B/OF Casey Blake, to contribute. With the three guys ahead of him collectively hitting .300 on the season, look for ample RBI opportunities. His 4-12 experience against De La Rosa should pay dividends and propel Derek Lowe to his 10th victory.
  • Josh Johnson is a young lefty that has proven he's the real deal, having beaten divisional rivals, the Mets twice and the Phillies once, in three of his past four starts. The Giants' offense isn't comparable, so look for Florida's hunt to earn a playoff berth in the crowded NL East to continue with another win. They'll be facing Matt Palmer, a 29-year-old career minor leaguer making just his second start. His first start last week ended on short notice after he gave up six ER in just two-and-one-third innings against Atlanta. To make a long story short, Florida has a bit of a better offense then Atlanta!
  • The evening starts off in Philly at 7:05 EDT, as the worst team in baseball will pencil in Tim Redding. Look for OF Geoff Jenkins to rest one of Philly's outfielders, as he is 12-21 against Redding with a HR and two RBI. Pitching for the home team, 45-year-old Jamie Moyer will be making his 577th career start. Counter Moyer with C Jesus Flores and OF Austin Kearns, who are a combined 11-24 with a HR and five RBI off the veteran lefty.
  • There's a Yankee starter that is allowing batters to hit .293 off of him this season? Yes, Sidney Ponson will somehow look to keep his ERA at 4.19 as a Yankee. I don't know how he does it, but he continues to somehow win more games than he loses. Look for Cy-Young contender Roy Halladay to put a wrench in the Yankees' plans as he goes for his 15th win and ninth complete game of the season! Start OF Matt Stairs, who is 9-24 with four HR and seven RBI against the Yankees' Ponson.
  • The next matchup is between players who had their heyday back in 1999, when they went a combined 45-8! Mike Hampton vs. Pedro Martinez, both starters got the win their last time out. Given the Mets' playoff hunger, and the weak offense of the Braves, I'll side with Pedro and the Mets here for the victory.
  • Chad Reineke makes just his second career start for the San Diego Padres. He'll have his hands full against NL Cy Young contender Brandon Webb, who is likely to mow down the opposing teams' lineup. You can almost pencil in Webb for his 19th win already, well on his way to his first 20-win season.
  • What may have been a pitching duel earlier in the season may not be anymore, as both Scott Baker and John Lackey seem to be showing slight wear, heading down the stretch. Counter each with OF Garret Anderson, who is 4-11 with two RBI; and OF Delmon Young, the former first-overall pick of Tampa Bay, who is 3-6 with an RBI against the 10-2 Lackey.
  • Greg Smith looks like the best option off of the free-agent pitcher market. A victim of no run support, as evidenced by his 5-12 record, despite a 3.91 ERA. He'll be facing Ryan Rowland-Smith, who, in four career starts, has yet to get through six innings of work.

Well, there you have it. All players mentioned have been bolded. Hitters have been underlined, and pitchers that are available in a good bit of fantasy leagues have been italicized, all as potential options for spot-starts. And as always, Good luck down the stretch!


Shaun Copsey currently manages 7 fantasy baseball teams, 1 in 4th, 1 in 3rd, 2 in 2nd, and the final 3 in 1st.