Pitching Forecaster: A state of Fantasy flux

We get asked this a lot: What criteria do you use to determine the Fantasy starting status of a pitcher from week to week?

At no time is that more important than the crucial final weeks of the Head-to-Head playoffs. You have to have a starting rotation built to win, preferably one loaded with extra starts.

How in the world am I getting beat by Robinson Tejeda this week? They ask. They want to know the magic formula for guessing right on the marginal pitchers.

Well, we don't have one. But we do have a way to limit your risk, perhaps.

1. Look at a pitcher's past three starts

Pitchers tend to be streaky just like hitters, but their streaks are a lot harder to spot, especially since they only go once or twice a week. We like the industry standard of past three starts.

We don't tend to bother with the win-loss record, but we like to see quality starts. Those are important. They give them a chance to win in the average matchup, all things being equal.

The strikeout-to-walk and hits-per-inning ratios are real important, too. As are pitch counts and how deep they are going into games.

The Tejeda case study: He has only made two starts this season, but he had allowed only four hits and four walks in 11 1/3 innings, striking out 14. Clearly he was hot. Check.

2. Consider their potential run support

It isn't always about how you pitch, but when you pitch. Look at the Rangers rotation. Brandon McCarthy has gotten 9.97 runs per game, Kevin Millwood 6.92 and Scott Feldman 6.83. It becomes real easy to win when you're getting runs.

It also happens to be a lot easier to pitch. Reach back and throw strikes.

A few more interesting well-supported pitchers: Joba Chamberlain 10.09, Pedro Martinez 9.08, Jorge De La Rosa 8.96 and Braden Looper 8.50. It is not a coincidence when you consider the offenses getting them support are the Yankees, Phillies, Rockies and Brewers.

The Tejeda case study: Tejeda's Royals haven't been an offensive juggernaut, but Billy Butler and David DeJesus have been hot and so has the team of late, winning six of seven.

3. Consider their matchups

This is the most obvious piece of advice. Anyone facing the Padres, Pirates, Mariners, Reds, Giants, Royals, Astros and Mets are candidates to win with a quality start. Those are the eight worst offenses in baseball and they don't scare many pitchers at this point.

The Tejeda case study: He is facing the Tigers and White Sox this week. While the Tigers are in the middle of the pack in runs scored, the White Sox are in the bottom half. Neither team has been lighting it up of late either. Again, look at recent history just as much as big picture numbers.

4. Consider your format

There are times to look at pitchers because they figure to pitch well. And times to look at a pitcher because he can merely win.

For example, a struggling Yankees pitcher like A.J. Burnett is still a good play in a Head-to-Head points-based league if his matchup is against a back-end Mariners starter. He is still a candidate to win, even if he pitches poorly. Reading the Las Vegas betting lines can be helpful with this.

In Rotisserie, obviously, your focus is more on how the pitcher is pitching than whether or not their team is a heavy favorite in the game. Many times you cannot sacrfice the punishment in ERA and WHIP to chase the potential for a W.

The Tejeda case study: Tejeda has been pitching lights out for a cellar-dweller and facing a first-division club (the Tigers) and another one a long shot in the wild-card race (the White Sox). He was a great play in Rotisserie and more of a risk in Head-to-Head. We didn't have the guts in either to consider him advisable in last week's Pitching Forecaster or Pitching Planner, though.

5. Look at their full-season numbers and career resume

It is a strategy that might override all. In Fantasy crunch time, we advise you stick with the pitchers that have gotten you this far and ones that have been trustworthy for years.

That is why we continually preach to run Josh Beckett out there while he is struggling. That is why we figured Cole Hamels would kick his slump. You don't want to lose with aces like that wallowing on your bench.

The Tejeda case study: Here is where it takes a huge leap of faith to trust the spot-starting reliever in Fantasy crunch time. He has started just two games this year and once last year. But, he has been a starter before and has been a strong reliever the past two seasons (1.33 WHIP in 2008 and a 1.38 WHIP in relief in 2009).

All told, it took a lot of guts to start Tejeda in your Head-to-Head playoffs. Only 7 percent of CBSSports.com's leagues had those guts, err, strategic intuition.

One of those few leagues feature this writer's opponent in a Head-to-Head semifinals. Yours truly entered the postseason as the No. 1 seed and was coming off a BYE -- only to see this Tejeda-led genius stack up 11 starts among six pitchers en route to what will be a sure victory. Not bad for a shaky No. 5 seed that barely made the playoffs.

We have to assume it was more than just luck. But good luck setting up your rotation for the final two weeks.

Arizona Diamondbacks

  1. Dan Haren
  2. Max Scherzer
  3. Doug Davis
  4. Billy Buckner
  5. Kevin Mulvey
Potential two-start SPs for Week 25
Pitcher TM Own % Start %
Zack Greinke ARI 98 92
Dan Haren KC 98 87
Matt Cain SF 97 85
Cole Hamels PHI 97 85
Josh Johnson FLA 97 83
Rich Harden CHC 96 78
Gavin Floyd CHW 95 68
Jason Marquis COL 87 66
Joel Pineiro STL 87 64
Derek Lowe ATL 93 63
Jorge De La Rosa COL 82 60
Joe Blanton PHI 85 58
Randy Wells CHC 81 53
Joe Saunders ANA 82 48
Barry Zito SF 72 45
Hiroki Kuroda LA 65 33
Nick Blackburn MIN 49 23
Ryan Rowland-Smith SEA 33 19
Derek Holland TEX 41 17
Braden Looper MIL 31 16
Aaron Laffey CLE 30 11
Chris Tillman BAL 28 10
Dave Bush MIL 20 7
Livan Hernandez WAS 14 6
Brian Tallet TOR 12 6
Wade LeBlanc SD 9 5
Justin Lehr CIN 8 3
Daniel McCutchen PIT 3 1
David Purcey TOR 4 1
Edward Mujica SD 2 1
Edgar Gonzalez OAK 1 0
Lenny DiNardo KC 0 0

Week 25 two-starter(s): Haren. He is a must-start in all leagues.
Starters on the DL: Brandon Webb (shoulder, out for the season).

Atlanta Braves

  1. Javier Vazquez
  2. Jair Jurrjens
  3. Derek Lowe
  4. Tommy Hanson
  5. Tim Hudson

Week 25 two-starter(s): Lowe. He hasn't been great of late, so he is far less advisable than usual. He could regain his must-start status with a quality start Wednesday vs. the Mets, though.
Starters on the DL: Jorge Campillo (shoulder, out for the season).

Baltimore Orioles

  1. Chris Tillman
  2. Jeremy Guthrie
  3. David Hernandez
  4. Jason Berken
  5. Mark Hendrickson

Week 25 two-starter(s): Perhaps Tillman. The O's have already shut down fellow rookie Brian Matusz in his first full pro season, but Tillman could follow. Tillman is likely to start at least once at Toronto, though, so he could be a sleeper for deeper leagues with a quality start Wednesday vs. the Rays.
Starters on the DL: Brad Bergesen (leg, out for the season), Rich Hill (shoulder, out for the season) and Alfredo Simon (elbow, out for the season).

Boston Red Sox

  1. Josh Beckett
  2. Jon Lester
  3. Clay Buchholz
  4. Daisuke Matsuzaka
  5. Paul Byrd or Tim Wakefield (out, back, might return Sunday, Sept. 20 or Monday, Sept. 21)

Week 25 two-starter(s): Byrd, Wakefield or Dice-K and Beckett. Beckett has likely regained his must-start status, while the other one is a TBD sleeper for deeper leagues. Wakefield is rumored to be ready to return Sunday or Monday, which could also push Dice-K back to Monday for a two-start week. After a solid start Tuesday and with a Wakefield return Sunday, Matsuzaka would be an advisable two-start option in any league.
Starters on the DL: None.

Chicago Cubs

  1. Carlos Zambrano
  2. Rich Harden
  3. Ted Lilly
  4. Ryan Dempster
  5. Randy Wells

Week 25 two-starter(s): Harden and Wells. They haven't been going well recently, but they could make themselves advisable options in all leagues with quality starts Wednesday and Thursday vs. the Brewers.
Starters on the DL: None.

Chicago White Sox

  1. Mark Buehrle
  2. John Danks
  3. Gavin Floyd
  4. Freddy Garcia
  5. Jake Peavy (out, ankle/elbow, expected to return Saturday, Sept. 19)

Week 25 two-starter(s): Floyd. He will be a must-start option with a quality start Wednesday at Seattle.
Starters on the DL: Jake Peavy (ankle) and Bartolo Colon (elbow, out for the season).

Cincinnati Reds

  1. Bronson Arroyo
  2. Johnny Cueto
  3. Homer Bailey
  4. Justin Lehr (groin, expected to return Wednesday, Sept. 16)
  5. Kip Wells

Week 25 two-starter(s): Lehr. He returns from injury Wednesday, but he figures to be a questionable option at best.
Starters on the DL: Aaron Harang (appendectomy, out for the season) and Edinson Volquez (elbow, out for the season).

Cleveland Indians

  1. Roberto Hernandez
  2. Justin Masterson
  3. Aaron Laffey
  4. David Huff
  5. Jeremy Sowers
  6. Struggling Carlos Carrasco is getting skipped before Fantasy Week 25 (Sept. 21-27) and might not start again

Week 25 two-starter(s): Laffey. His hot streak ended in his past start, so it is going to take a dynamite outing Wednesday at Minnesota for Laffey to be anything better than a questionable option.
Starters on the DL: Jake Westbrook (elbow, out for the season) and Anthony Reyes (elbow, out for the season).

Colorado Rockies

  1. Ubaldo Jimenez
  2. Jason Marquis
  3. Jorge De La Rosa
  4. Jason Hammel
  5. Jose A. Contreras (out, groin) getting skipped until at least Sept. 26

Week 25 two-starter(s): De La Rosa. He is an amazing 2-0 with a 1.50 ERA through three September starts. He could be a must-start in all leagues with another quality outing Wednesday at San Francisco.
Starters on the DL: Aaron Cook (shoulder), Jeff Francis (shoulder, out for the season), Greg Smith (shoulder, out for the season), Greg Reynolds (shoulder, out for the season). Cook is resuming throwing and is a long shot to take a turn the next time the No. 5 spot comes up Sept. 26. Contreras could take that turn, too, but he is also nursing an injury. Avoid whoever makes that start for the Rockies in Fantasy Week 25 (Sept. 21-27).

Detroit Tigers

  1. Justin Verlander
  2. Edwin Jackson
  3. Rick Porcello
  4. Jarrod Washburn (questionable, knee) or Armando Galarraga (elbow) / Nate Robertson (elbow)
  5. Eddie Bonine

Week 25 two-starter(s): Bonine or Jackson. It is Bonine's turn and he will be a questionable option even with a quality start Wednesday vs. the Royals. He could be skipped, though, and Jackson could go on regular rest. Manager Jimmy Leyland hasn't been one to skip starters to keep the veterans on regular rest, though, so we expect Bonine to make the start. Jackson is a must-start even as a one-start pitcher.
Starters on the DL: Dontrelle Willis (hip, out for the season).

Florida Marlins

  1. Josh Johnson
  2. Ricky Nolasco
  3. Sean West
  4. Anibal Sanchez
  5. Chris Volstad or Rick VandenHurk (questionable, back)

Week 25 two-starter(s): None. Johnson is Tuesday's starter in a five-game week and it is unlikely the Marlins skip the No. 5 starter to keep him on regular rest. The Marlins are already limiting his innings.
Starters on the DL: None.

Houston Astros

  1. Roy Oswalt
  2. Wandy Rodriguez
  3. Bud Norris
  4. Brian Moehler
  5. Felipe Paulino
  6. Yorman Bazardo likely to be skipped

Week 25 two-starter(s): Rodriguez. He is a must-start in all leagues after getting bumped off his two-start week this period due to the insertion of Bazardo for a spot start this Wednesday.
Starters on the DL: Mike Hampton (shoulder, out for the season).

Kansas City Royals

  1. Zack Greinke
  2. Kyle Davies
  3. Luke Hochevar
  4. Robinson Tejeda
  5. Lenny DiNardo

Week 25 two-starter(s): DiNardo and Greinke. DiNardo is high-risk even in the deepest of AL-only leagues, while Greinke is a must-start in Fantasy crunch time.
Starters on the DL: None.

Los Angeles Angels

  1. John Lackey
  2. Jered Weaver
  3. Scott Kazmir
  4. Ervin Santana
  5. Joe Saunders

Week 25 two-starter(s): Saunders. He has won all four starts after returning from the DL. He will be a must-start in all leagues with a quality start Wednesday at Boston.
Starters on the DL: Dustin Moseley (elbow, out for the season) and Kelvim Escobar (shoulder, out for the season).

Los Angeles Dodgers

  1. Chad Billingsley
  2. Clayton Kershaw (out, shoulder)
  3. Randy Wolf (elbow, expected to return Tuesday, Sept. 15)
  4. Hiroki Kuroda
  5. Jon Garland
  6. Vicente Padilla

Week 25 two-starter(s): Perhaps Wolf. He would be on schedule to pitch next Tuesday, but the Dodgers could go a number of different ways with their six-man rotation, which is currently skipping Kershaw. The Dodgers also have days off Thursday and Monday before Wolf is next slated to start.
Starters on the DL: Eric Milton (shoulder, out for the season).

Milwaukee Brewers

  1. Yovani Gallardo
  2. Braden Looper
  3. Jeff Suppan
  4. Dave Bush
  5. Manny Parra

Week 25 two-starter(s): Looper and Bush. They have been decent of late and could prove to be nice sleepers in mixed leagues with quality starts Wednesday and Thursday at the Cubs.
Starters on the DL: None.

Minnesota Twins

  1. Scott Baker
  2. Carl Pavano
  3. Nick Blackburn
  4. Brian Duensing
  5. Jeff Manship expected to be skipped until Sept. 22

Week 25 two-starter(s): Blackburn. He is a questionable option who likely needs to be lights out Wednesday vs. the Indians to be advisable in mixed leagues.
Starters on the DL: Boof Bonser (shoulder) and Kevin Slowey (wrist, out for the season). Bonser will merely return in relief, if at all.

New York Mets

  1. Mike Pelfrey
  2. John Maine
  3. Tim Redding
  4. Bobby Parnell
  5. Nelson Figueroa
  6. Pat Misch

Week 25 two-starter(s): Perhaps Misch. The Mets currently have a six-man rotation, but they could choose to skip one of their back three, which would allow Monday's projected starter, Misch, to be a two-start pitcher. He is will be risky one, though, especially since he won't be guaranteed to start twice in the six-game week, if the Mets keep a six-man rotation.
Starters on the DL: Johan Santana (elbow, out for the season), Oliver Perez (knee, out for the season), Jonathon Niese (hamstring, out for the season) and Fernando Nieve (quadriceps, out for the season).

New York Yankees

  1. CC Sabathia
  2. A.J. Burnett
  3. Andy Pettitte (out, shoulder, expected to return Sept. 22)
  4. Joba Chamberlain
  5. Chad Gaudin or Sergio Mitre

Week 25 two-starter(s): Pettitte. The Yankees moved him back due shoulder fatigue, but he is expected to slot again Monday at Anaheim. He is a questionable option for mixed leagues due to the uncertainty at this point, especially since he could be skipped off his second start the following weekend due to a Thursday off day.
Starters on the DL: Chien-Ming Wang (shoulder, out for the season).

Oakland Athletics

  1. Brett Anderson
  2. Trevor Cahill
  3. Gio Gonzalez
  4. Brett Tomko
  5. Clayton Mortensen
  6. Edgar Gonzalez or Vin Mazzaro (out, shoulder)

Week 25 two-starter(s): Perhaps E. Gonzalez. The A's have a seven-game week and a six-man rotation. Edgar is Monday's tentative slated starter, but he is nothing more than a high-risk option for the deepest of the AL-only leagues at this point.
Starters on the DL: Dallas Braden (foot, out for the season), Justin Duchscherer (elbow/depression, out for the season) and Josh Outman (elbow, out for the season).

Philadelphia Phillies

  1. Cole Hamels
  2. Cliff Lee
  3. Pedro Martinez
  4. Joe Blanton
  5. J.A. Happ (oblique, might return Friday, Sept. 18) of Jamie Moyer

Week 25 two-starter(s): Blanton of Hamels. The Phillies could go with a six-man rotation with the potential return of Happ this Friday, which could move Lee back to being a must-start, two-start pitcher. Blanton is coming off a bad start and will need a good one Wednesday vs. the Nationals to be an advisable option in mixed leagues for Fantasy Week 25 (Sept. 21-27). Hamels will also start in next Tuesday's doubleheader, so he could be a two-start pitcher in their seven games in six days.
Starters on the DL: None.

Pittsburgh Pirates

  1. Zach Duke
  2. Paul Maholm
  3. Ross Ohlendorf (might be shut down after Saturday, Sept. 19 start)
  4. Charlie Morton
  5. Kevin Hart
  6. Daniel McCutchen

Week 25 two-starter(s): McCutchen and perhaps Duke. They will be questionable options. McCutchen is pretty sure to get double starts, while Duke might as well in the Pirates' seven-game week if they go back to a five-man rotation after Ohlendorf gets shuts down. Ohlendorf is expected to after Saturday's start because he has reached his innings limit. Donnie Veal , Jeff Karstens , Virgil Vasquez or Phil Dumatrait could be No. 6 starter replacements. All of the Pirates options are questionable in Fantasy Week 25 (Sept. 21-27), with or without double starts.
Starters on the DL: None.

San Diego Padres

  1. Kevin Correia
  2. Tim Stauffer
  3. Clayton Richard
  4. Wade LeBlanc
  5. Edward Mujica

Week 25 two-starter(s): LeBlanc and Mujica. They figure to be questionable options in any format, no matter how well they do against the D-Backs this week.
Starters on the DL: Chris Young (shoulder, out for the season), Cha Seung Baek (elbow, out for the season) and Shawn Hill (elbow, out for the season).

San Francisco Giants

  1. Tim Lincecum
  2. Matt Cain
  3. Barry Zito
  4. Jonathan Sanchez
  5. Brad Penny

Week 25 two-starter(s): Zito and Cain. Cain is a must-start in all leagues, while Zito is again advisable in all leagues after a quality start Tuesday vs. the Rockies.
Starters on the DL: Randy Johnson (shoulder) and Noah Lowry (shoulder, out for the season). Johnson still hopes to pitch out of the bullpen with a partial shoulder tear. He might return this weekend, but his Fantasy value will be limited by his lefty relief role.

Seattle Mariners

  1. Felix Hernandez
  2. Ryan Rowland-Smith
  3. Brandon Morrow
  4. Ian Snell
  5. Doug Fister

Week 25 two-starter(s): Rowland-Smith. He is a nice sleeper for deeper leagues. He has been surprisingly good. Heck, another quality start might even make him a must-start option for you.
Starters on the DL: Carlos Silva (shoulder), Erik Bedard (shoulder, out for season) and Ryan Feierabend (elbow, out for the season). Silva has been activated from the DL now and could make some starts, but we see him as a high-risk option even in the deepest of AL-only leagues.

St. Louis Cardinals

  1. Chris Carpenter
  2. Adam Wainwright
  3. Joel Pineiro
  4. John Smoltz (out, shoulder, might return Saturday, Sept. 19)
  5. Kyle Lohse (elbow, out until at least Tuesday, Sept. 22)

Week 25 two-starter(s): Pineiro. He will be a must-start in all leagues with a quality outing Wednesday vs. the Marlins.
Starters on the DL: None.

Tampa Bay Rays

  1. James Shields
  2. Matt Garza
  3. David Price
  4. Jeff Niemann
  5. Wade Davis
  6. Andy Sonnanstine likely to be one-and-done after Tuesday, Sept. 16 start

Week 25 two-starter(s): None. The Rays play only five games in Fantasy Week 25 (Sept. 21-27).
Starters on the DL: None.

Texas Rangers

  1. Kevin Millwood expected to return Sunday, Sept. 20 or Tuesday, Sept. 22
  2. Scott Feldman
  3. Tommy Hunter
  4. Brandon McCarthy expected to next pitch whichever day Millwood doesn't above.
  5. Derek Holland getting skipped until Monday, Sept. 21

Week 25 two-starter(s): Holland and McCarthy or Millwood. Holland is getting skipped until next Monday and is a questionable option in any league in Fantasy Week 25 (Sept. 21-27). McCarthy could prove to be a sleeper for deeper leagues, while Millwood is a risk next week, unless he pitches Sunday, does well and shapes up to be a decent one-start option.
Starters on the DL: Matt Harrison (shoulder, out for the season) and Eric Hurley (shoulder, out for the season).

Toronto Blue Jays

  1. Roy Halladay
  2. Ricky Romero
  3. Scott Richmond
  4. Brian Tallet
  5. David Purcey getting skipped until Monday, Sept. 21

Week 25 two-starter(s): Perhaps Purcey and Tallet. The Blue Jays game notes list Halladay as the starter for Sunday, Sept. 20, which moves Purcey back to a two-start week in Fantasy Week 25 (Sept. 21-27). He is a potential sleeper in deeper leagues, mostly AL-only formats, after his decent return outing Monday. Tallet is at best a questionable two-start pitcher even with a quality start Wednesday at the Yankees.
Starters on the DL: Shaun Marcum (elbow, out for the season), Dustin McGowan (shoulder/knee, out for the season), Jesse Litsch (elbow, out for the season) and Robert Ray (shoulder, out for the season).

Washington Nationals

  1. John Lannan
  2. Livan Hernandez
  3. Garrett Mock
  4. J.D. Martin
  5. Marco Estrada or Ross Detwiler

Week 25 two-starter(s): Hernandez. He is a high-risk option even in the deepest of NL-only leagues down the stretch. He is merely around to eat innings and save the Nationals' young arms.
Starters on the DL: Jordan Zimmermann (elbow, out for the season) and Scott Olsen (shoulder, out for the season).

You can e-mail us your Fantasy Baseball pitching questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com. Be sure to put Pitching Forecaster in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state. Be aware, due to the large volume of submissions received, we cannot guarantee personal responses to all questions.

Crave freelancer Eric Mack is a writer, radio producer, and podcaster based in Taos, N.M., but he lives in Google+. He's also managing editor of Crowdsourcing.org... Full Bio

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