Just as I did for much of last season, each Sunday I will provide a look ahead at favorable pitching matchups for fantasy owners who utilize the "streaming" method (pulling mediocre starters off the waiver wire in an effort to win counting categories in H2H leagues). If the preceding parenthetical makes no sense to you, you should probably move on to the next post. I use the player pool from a 12-team 5X5 mixed league at ESPN. Since all the owners in the league have previously won ESPN leagues (a qualification for entry), the competition is at least fairly stiff and the teams fairly active. However, just because a player is available in that league, doesn't necessarily mean he'll be available in your league. Remember, the idea of "streaming" is to win strikeouts and wins, while remaining as competitive as possible in ERA and WHIP.
Monday, 5/24: Brett Cecil (Blue Jays) @ Los Angeles Angels (Joe Saunders)
After ten consecutive fifteen-game days, almost everybody gets a day off on Monday. Cecil has only had one bad start so far this season, but it was a massive clunker against Texas (2 IP, 8 ER). He recovered with a win in Seattle this past week and now heads to Anaheim. Saunders is also coming off two straight quality starts, including a complete-game shutout against the Athletics, but I favor Cecil mainly because the Blue Jays offense has been very, very hot of late, while the Angels has been mediocre.
Back-Up Plan: Justin Masterson (Indians) v. Chicago White Sox (John Danks)
Tuesday, 5/25: Anibal Sanchez (Marlins) v. Atlanta Braves (Kenshin Kawakami)
The Braves offense does seem to be coming around slightly, but Sanchez has been among the best pitchers in the league over the course of the last month. He hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in any of this last six starts and is coming off seven strong scoreless innings against the Cardinals. He's got nineteen strikeouts in his last eighteen innings and a 3.28 ERA for the season.
Back-Up Plan: Ervin Santana (Angels) v. Blue Jays (Ricky Romero)
Wednesday, 5/26: Jeremy Bonderman (Tigers) @ Seattle Mariners (Jason Vargas)
First, a word of warning: the last time Bonderman pitched in Seattle, he gave up eight earned runs. However, that was his second start of 2010, and since that moment he's pitched 32 innings with a 3.13 ERA. Maybe the Mariners have got his number, but more likely he was still developing the strength in his surgically repaired shoulder the last time they faced off.
Back-Up Plan: Bronson Arroyo (Reds) v. Pittsburgh Pirates (Ross Ohlendorf)
Thursday, 5/27: Daisuke Matsuzaka (Red Sox) v. Kansas City Royals (Brian Bannister)
There's not denying that Dice-K has laid some turds during his first month back in the Boston rotation, but in his most recent start he one-hit the mighty Phillies over eight innings on the road. In two out of the last three starts he's dominated a very good offense (7 IP, 3 H, ER, 9 K v. TOR on 5/11). In between, he got torched by the Yankees in New York (4 2/3 IP, 7 ER). There's still a like risk, but I like his chances against the Royals. If they're available in your league (they aren't in mine), you could also take a long look at Gio Gonzalez in Baltimore and John Ely in Chicago.
Back-Up Plan: Dave Bush (Brewers) v. Houston Astros (Brett Myers)
Friday, 5/28: Clayton Richard (San Diego Padres) v. Washington Nationals (Craig Stammen)
There are a number of quality option on Friday, so if you have roster flexibility, this is a good day to load up. Edwin Jackson goes to San Francisco. Streaking Homer Bailey gets the lowly Astros at home. Zach Duke, Derek Lowe, and Gio Gonzalez are all tempting as well. It's getting harder and harder to deny the ascendency of Clayton Richard, who now possesses a 2.94 ERA for the season. He has yet to allow more than three earned runs in a start. And, while his last two wins have come against a mediocre Giants offense, he has also shut down some of the NL's best lineups: Milwaukee, Cincinnati, and Colorado. It is time to trust Richard, especially when he's at home against a middle-of-the-road offense like Washington's.
Back-Up Plan: Homer Bailey (Reds) v. Houston Astros (Wandy Rodriguez)
Saturday, 5/29: Mat Latos (Padres) v. Washington Nationals (Stephen Strasburg?)
Latos isn't far from universal ownership, so this will probably be his last appearance for the Stream Team (especially if it goes well). There has been significant rumor that this might mark the arrival of Strasburg, as Scott Olsen's place in the rotation needs to be filled and the Nats haven't yet announced who his replacement will be. I doubt Washington would introduce their phenom on the road, but perhaps. Regardless, it doesn't effect the fact that Latos is in the process of proving he is also one of the most promising young pitchers in the league.
Back-Up Plan: Kris Medlen (Braves) v. Pittsburgh Pirates (Brian Burres)
Sunday, 5/30: Brett Cecil (Blue Jays) v. Baltimore Orioles (Jeremy Guthrie)
Another big day for rookies (or near-rookies), as Mike Leake, Jhoulys Chacin, Ian Kennedy, and Justin Masterson are all also on the mound (only Chacin and Masterson have unfavorable match-ups). I'll endorse Cecil for the second time this week, as he'll face the sputtering Orioles in the Skydome. If Kennedy is available, I'd actually prefer him against the Giants, a team whose lack of power plays to Kennedy's strengths. Note that in the last month, a string of seven starts, Kennedy is 3-1 with a 2.20 ERA, a 1.00 WHIP, and a 3.0 K/BB rate.
Back-Up Plan: Mike Leake (Reds) v. Houston Astros (Felipe Paulino)
Week Seven Results:
Gio Gonzalez (v. Mariners): W, 7 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 4 K
Mat Latos (v. Giants): ND, 6 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
Justin Masterson (v. Royals): ND, 5 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 3 K
Ervin Santana (@ White Sox): W, 7 IP, 7 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 6 K
Trevor Cahill (v. Giants): W, 6 2/3 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K
Edwin Jackson (v. Blue Jays): W, 7 2/3 IP, 6 H, 5 ER, 0 BB, 9 K
Mat Latos (@ Mariners): W, 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K
Week Seven Totals: 5-0, 2.78 ERA, 1.17 WHIP, 36 K, 45 1/3 IP (38 H, 14 ER, 15 BB)
With all those wins, it's arguably my best week of the year so far. Latos and Gonzalez were both masterful in two starts this week and will likely be universally owned within a couple more weeks, as they should be. Get while the getting is good. Likewise with Edwin Jackson, who piled up 21 K this week. Because he's such a horse, A. J. Hinch has a tendency to leave him out there too long, which has had a somewhat detrimental effect on his stats, as has some bad luck (.332 BABIP, 16.4% HR/FB), and one truly horrific week when he may have been tipping his pitches. He's pitched into the eighth in his last two outings and into at least the seventh in his last four. Jackson may still be a pitcher who's better in real life than in fantasy, but he's darned good either way.
2010 Totals: 19-11, 3.46 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 228 K, 296 1/3 IP (274 H, 114 ER, 114 BB)