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, May 31: Ervin Santana (Angels) @ Kansas City (Luke Hochevar)
Including a ten-strikeout complete game against the thumping Blue Jays last week, Santana has now strung together three consecutive wins and has quality starts in five of his last six appearances. Ervin was a serious Cy Young candidate as recently as 2008, when he went 16-7 with a 3.49 ERA and 1.20 WHIP. He remains homer-prone (his 12 dingers allowed leads the A.L.), but his strikeout rate close to his pre-injury level and his walk rate is headed in the right direction as well. Pick this 27-year-old up now and hang on.
Back-Up Plan: Bronson Arroyo (Reds) @ St. Louis Cardinals (Jaime Garcia)
Tuesday, June 1: Jeremy Bonderman (Tigers) v. Cleveland Indians (Jake Westbrook)
Continuing with the "return to glory" theme, I turn to another 27-year-old who, not that long ago, was considered among the top young pitchers in the American League. Bonderman is owned in less than 5% of ESPN leagues, but he leads the AL in ERA for May (1.33). He's had trouble getting decisions, both because of a lack of run support and because he's still on a rather limited pitch count (he's been allowed to throw 100+ pitches only twice in eight starts), but in his last five starts he's got a 1.11 WHIP, a 8.67 K/9, and a 2.33 BB/9.
Also, I bet you didn't know that in May Minnesota's Nick Blackburn averaged 7 1/3 innings per start and went 5-0 with a 2.65 ERA and 1.21 WHIP (though only 10 K in 37 innings).
Back-Up Plan: Nick Blackburn (Twins) @ Seattle Mariners (Jason Vargas)
Wednesday, June 2: John Lannan (Nationals) @ Houston Astros (Wandy Rodriguez)
Not many great options on humpday, but I'd take a long look at Mr. Lannan, who's had a run of three straight strong starts, after suffering a rough stretch in late May and early April. Lannan doesn't get too much fantasy love, because he can't punch hitters out (18 K in 56 IP), but he's proven himself capable of dominant stretches over the course of his young career and he gets a lightweight opponent.
Back-Up Plan: Fausto Carmona (Indians) @ Detroit Tigers (Armando Galarraga)
Thursday, June 3: Tim Wakefield (Red Sox) v. Oakland Athletics (Brett Anderson)
If Colby Lewis is still unowned in your league, he's got a fairly favorable matchup against King Felix and the Mariners. Otherwise, we're in a bit of trouble. I like Kevin Millwood and Kris Medlen well enough, but not against the Yankees and Dodgers. And the other luminaries who're taking the mound on this travel day include Manny Parra, J. D. Martin, Brian Moehler, and David Huff. Eek. Wakefield isn't a dramatic step up, especially coming off a start in which he surrendered nine runs to the Royals, but prior to that had thrown eleven straight scoreless innings against the Yankees and Phillies, so I guess he's the best of a bad situation.
Back-Up Plan: Freddy Garcia (White Sox) v. Texas Rangers (Colby Lewis)
Friday, June 4: Max Scherzer (Tigers) @ Kansas City Royals (Bruce Chen)
I may change my mind based on Scherzer start this afternoon against the Athletics (his first since being promoted), but I generally like the idea of a young fireballer with something to prove following a rather embarrassing demotion going up against a weak-willed, free-swing offense.
Back-Up Plan: Justin Masterson (Indians) @ Chicago White Sox (John Danks)
Saturday, June 5: Ervin Santana (Angels) @ Seattle Mariners (Doug Fister)
Going back to the well for two-start weeks has served me well recently and I like this stretch of confidence-building opponents for Santana. Following K.C. and Seattle, he will probably get Oakland (on the road). I highly recommend picking him up for the duration. You may even choose to hold onto him thereafter, although it will mean taking your chances against some great NL offenses (Milwaukee, L.A., Colorado) during the interleague schedule.
Back-Up Plan: Jhoulys Chacin (Rockies) @ Arizona Diamondbacks (Ian Kennedy)
Sunday, June 6: Bronson Arroyo (Reds) @ Washington Nationals (Craig Stammen)
Arroyo hasn't lost since April 23rd. In that string of half a dozen starts he's gone 5-0 with a 2.66 ERA and is averaging 7 1/3 innings per start. As I've pointed out before, ignoring a three-start rough patch in April, Arroyo's streak of dominance not extends all the way back to the All-Star Break in 2009. From my perspective, he's a better bet than guys like Jake Peavy and Rich Harden, who hare universally owned, but have been ravaged by injury and inconsistency.
Back-Up Plan: Jeremy Bonderman (Tigers) @ Kansas City Royals (Brian Bannister)
Week Eight Totals:
Brett Cecil (@ Angels): W, 7 1/3 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 3 K
Anibal Sanchez (v. Braves): W, 6 1/3 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 6 K
Jeremy Bonderman (@ Mariners): ND, 7 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 K
Daisuke Matsuzaka (v. Royals): L, 4 2/3 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 8 BB, 1 K
Clayton Richard (v. Nationals): L, 7 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 5 K
Mat Latos (v. Nationals): W, 6 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 8 K
Brett Cecil (v. Orioles): W, 8 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K
Week 8 Totals: 4-2, 2.53 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 36 K, 46 1/3 IP (26 H, 13 ER, 20 BB)
My hot streak continues thanks in large part to Brett Cecil and Mat Latos. Latos has now reached universal ownership, but oddly, Cecil is still owned in less than 20% of ESPN leagues. That's patently insane.
2010 Totals: 23-13, 3.34 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 264 K, 342 2/3 IP (300 H, 127 ER, 134 BB)