Dan Haren, ARI (vs. PIT, vs. ATL): Haren could be the hottest pitcher in the game; he's won his last three starts, striking out 22 against only two walks over 22 innings. Add in his opponents' depleted lineups, and Haren is the best play on the board this week.
Brandon Webb, ARI (vs. PIT, vs. ATL): After a brief visit with the regular folk, Webb has returned to the elite with a 2.10 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP over his last four starts, covering 30 innings.
Roy Halladay, TOR (vs. OAK, vs. CLE): Mr. Consistent just keeps rolling along. With any support at all, Halladay should pad his wins total this week.
Joe Saunders, LAA (vs. BAL, vs. NYY): Saunders continues to take advantage of a line-drive rate that ranks well below the Major League average, and his superb walk rate helps to further minimize baserunners. Still, someone with a K/9 of only 4.7 has to be considered a bit of a risk, especially since his 1.2 HR/9 rate will haunt him if the line drives start to increase.
Jair Jurrjens, ATL (@ SF, @ ARI): Jurrjens pitched well enough to earn more than a single victory in his last three starts, as he produced a 15/5 K/BB ratio over 21 1/3 innings. Expect more of the same fine peripherals, though his wins potential is limited with the Braves offense missing several key pieces.
Matt Cain, SF (vs. ATL, vs. LAD): Cain's annual second-half surge is well under way with a 1.64 ERA over his last three outings, though he has only one win to show for it. He's a must start; just hope his offense can lend him some support at home.
Matt Garza, TB (vs. CLE, @ SEA): While Garza is still prone to the occasional stinker, the good has far outweighed the bad. He is a strong play this week against a pair of second-division opponents.
Edinson Volquez, CIN (vs. MIL, vs. HOU): Volquez has coughed up six homers in his last four starts after allowing only four in his first 19 outings. He has at least temporarily reverted to being a fly-ball pitcher after riding a high ground-ball rate to success in the first half. Consider this a yellow flag; nothing to be alarmed out, but worth monitoring.
Cliff Lee, CLE (@ TB, @ TOR): Lee continues to amaze; he's fanned 26 against one walk over his last four starts, encompassing 28 innings. It is time to start including Lee in American League Cy Young Award discussions, though he will be challenged with these road starts.
Joba Chamberlain, NYY (@ TEX, @ LAA): Chamberlain has been nothing short of phenomenal over his last three starts, winning two while allowing only two earned runs, walking two and fanning 23 in 19 innings. While he will be hard pressed to match that effort vs. a pair of potent offenses on the road, he is an automatic play in all formats.
Ryan Dempster, CHC (vs. HOU, vs. STL): Dempster continues to limit hits, as he's allowed only 110 in 145 2/3 innings in spite of a line-drive rate that ranks around the ML average. But even if more hits begin to fall in, Dempster's other peripherals are strong enough for him continue enjoying success.
Aaron Cook, COL (vs. WSH, vs. SD): Cook has collected a remarkable 28 percent of Colorado's victories this season. He's done it by limiting walks, inducing grounders and keeping the ball in the yard. His 4.2 K/9 would usually drop him to the second tier, but neither of these offenses is particularly staunch.
Some risk involved
Edwin Jackson, TB (vs. CLE, @ SEA): The matchups dictate playing Jackson, but his lowered strikeout rate compared to previous seasons is a little worrisome, as is his still inconsistent control.
Chad Billingsley, LAD (@ STL, @ SF): Billingsley has improved his peripherals across the board, as he's striking out more batters and allowing fewer walks and homers than he did last season. In general, he still walks too many to be considered elite, not unlike Scott Kazmir circa 2005. His control issues and a matchup against the Cardinals at Busch relegate him to the second tier.
Jamie Moyer, PHI (vs. FLA, vs. PIT): Normally, a pitcher with a 2.84 ERA over his last three starts is a strong option for a pair at home, though Moyer has fared decidedly better on the road (3.05) than at Citizens Bank Park (4.70) this season. That said, splits over small samples are often misleading, and Moyer pitched better at home in his first two seasons with the Phillies, so the risk is not as great as others may suggest.
Gil Meche, KC (vs. BOS, vs. MIN): Meche has been a bit fortunate of late, as he's allowed only 22 hits with one home run in his last 27 innings. Still his 2.3 K/BB for the season is certainly strong enough to compensate for when his luck normalizes.
Manny Parra, MIL (@ CIN, vs. WSH): Parra's last three starts were a little rough, as he allowed 23 hits with eight walks in 19 innings, resulting in 10 earned runs. He did whiff 19, so it was more a matter of the hits coming in bunches. The outing in Cincinnati is a risk, but the home start vs. the Nationals is a favorable matchup.
Glen Perkins, MIN (@ SEA, @ KC): Perkins has really not pitched as well as his 8-3 record suggests. He is a bit fortunate that his 1.43 WHIP has not resulted in an ERA above 4.20, as he has allowed a generous 12 homers in 96 1/3 innings. The good news is he is facing a pair of scuffling offenses, so the correction is not likely to occur just yet.
Andy Pettitte, NYY (@ TEX, @ LAA): Pettitte had been on a bit of a roll until he ran into the Angels, who torched him for 11 hits and nine earned runs in 5 1/3 innings last time out. He gets another shot at the AL's best after another tough road tilt in Arlington.
Mike Pelfrey, NYM (vs. SD, vs. FLA): Pelfrey was knocked around for eight hits and five earned runs in only four innings last time out. But he also walked none and fanned three, so owners shouldn't worry; this was just the blip that non-dominant pitchers sometimes encounter when the batted balls find holes. He should bounce back fine with a pair at Shea.
Wandy Rodriguez, HOU (@ CHC, @ CIN): Rodriguez's fine season has hit a bump, as he has allowed 29 hits with five homers over his past four outings, spanning 22 2/3 innings. His walk and strikeout rates are still fine, though the increased homers are unsettling.
Only in deeper formats
Clay Buchholz, BOS (@ KC, @ CWS): Buchholz's hit rate is higher than the ML average and he walks 4.5 batters per nine innings. He will supply strikeouts, but they could come at expense of your ratios.
Gavin Floyd, CWS (vs. DET, vs. BOS): Floyd was excellent in his last outing, but he's allowed a whopping 37 baserunners in 22 1/3 innings over his last four starts. With his 18 homers permitted in 131 1/3 innings, he is a risk vs. these powerful offenses.
Chris Carpenter, STL (vs. LAD, @ CHC): As expected, Carpenter was not sharp in his return from Tommy John surgery, and it is likely he will not regain the form owners have come to expect until 2009. In addition, the Cardinals have a mediocre bullpen, which further diminishes his wins potential. He is worth a shot if you held onto him this long in deep formats and need a boost, but don't rely on the name and reputation.
Chris Young, SD (@ NYM, @ COL): Young seemingly was not mentally affected in his first start since catching an Albert Pujols shot in his face, as he fanned eight and walked only two in five solid innings of work. The matchups here are not favorable, however, so owners in mixed formats may want to wait a week another before activating him.
Greg Smith, OAK (@ TOR, @ DET): Home runs have been a thorn in Smith's side lately, as he's allowed five in his last 16 2/3 innings.
Sean Gallagher, OAK (@ TOR, @ DET): Gallagher has allowed 12 walks in his last 15 2/3 innings. He'll need to reduce the free passes if he hopes to enjoy any measure of success, especially since he won't get to enjoy his friendly home confines for this pair.
Bronson Arroyo, CIN (vs. MIL, vs. HOU): Arroyo has exhibited great control with just one walk over his last 21 1/3 innings, but he continues to be plagued by the long ball.
Jeff Francis, COL (vs. WSH, vs. SD): Though it is not definite, it is likely Francis will return from left shoulder irritation and take over for the struggling Jorge De La Rosa. The opponents are weak so roll the dice if you need wins, but otherwise wait and see if the stint on the disabled list was what Francis needed to help cure Francis' control woes.
Keep on reserve
Mike Hampton, ATL (@ SF, @ ARI): While Hampton should be commended for his hard work to finally make his recent 2008 debut, he should not be rewarded with a spot in your lineup with his six walks and only one strikeout in nine innings.
Dennis Sarfate, BAL (@ LAA, vs. TEX): Sarfate and his 9.50 K/9 have been promoted to the rotation, where he'll replace Brian Burress. While the strikeouts are nice, Sarfate will have to do something about his 7.0 BB/9, as he has been extremely lucky with respect to outs on balls in play. Only deploy if all you care about are strikeouts, as these offenses have the potential to do some serious damage.
Nate Robertson, DET (@ CWS, vs. OAK): There is no logical explanation as to why Robertson has allowed a bloated 165 hits in 127 2/3 innings, as his line-drive percentage is below average and his 2.1 K/BB is quite reasonable. It appears he's beginning to press, however, as control problems have led to him blowing large leads in recent outings. Robertson should see better days, but he takes a seat for now.
Josh Johnson, FLA (@ PHI, @ NYM): Not surprisingly, Johnson is still shaking off the rust after returning from Tommy John surgery last month. It is still too early to trust him with these two road starts vs. divisional foes.
Brian Moehler, HOU (@ CHC, @ CIN): Moehler has managed to limit the damage even though he's struck out only six batters in 18 innings over his last three starts. This trend is not likely to continue unless he misses a few more bats, and these are the wrong offenses to roll the dice with.
Yoslan Herrera, PIT (@ ARI, @ PHI): Allowing 31 hits and nine walks with only 10 strikeouts in 19 innings isn't going to get the job done.
Miguel Batista, SEA (vs. MIN, vs. TB): Batista really has no business remaining in the rotation, but the Mariners have no better options. Hopefully, you do.
R.A. Dickey, SEA (vs. MIN, vs. TB): Dickey allows far too many baserunners for someone with a pedestrian 4.96 K/9 rate.
Vicente Padilla, TEX (vs. NYY, @ BAL): On the surface, it looks as if Padilla's 3.60 ERA and 1.35 WHIP over his last three starts are reasonable. But a closer look reveals he did not yield a homer in that 20-inning span, after surrendering 19 in his first 107 1/3 innings. His luck is about to run out.
Matt Harrison, TEX (vs. NYY, @ BAL): All you need to know is that Harrison has fanned only four batters and walked 14 in 24 1/3 innings.
Scott Richmond, TOR (vs. OAK, vs. CLE): Richmond, who is beyond the prospect stage at 28, is getting a look in the Blue Jays rotation. The opposition is weak, so he is worth consideration in deep leagues.
Tim Redding, WSH (@ COL, @ MIL): Redding has not pitched as poorly as his 1-3 record over his last four starts would suggest, as he fanned 15, walked only four and allowed an unlucky 30 hits in that in 22-inning span. That said, Redding is not dominant, and these venues are risky for a pitcher like him even when he's going well.
John Lannan, WSH (@ COL, @ MIL): Lannan had a real rough go of things his last time out, and he is in line for more of the same against a couple of strong lineups on the road.
Seven games: ARI, ATL, CIN, COL, HOU, NYY, OAK, SEA, TB, TEX, TOR, WSH
Six games: BAL, BOS, CWS, CHC, CLE, DET, FLA, KC, LAA, LAD, MIL, MIN, NYM, PHI, PIT, SD, SF, STL