We've talked quite a bit about offenses this week from a fantasy baseball aspect, but as we head to yet another weekend -- use your sunscreen, folks! -- it's time to focus on spot starters who can help you win your weekly head-to-head matchups, and others that probably won't. So without further ado, and using 50 percent owned in ESPN standard leagues as a benchmark ...
... Weekend starters to add
Blake Beavan, Seattle Mariners: I realize he's facing the mighty Boston Red Sox, but Beavan faced them three starts ago at Fenway Park and handled himself just fine, allowing three runs and pitching into the seventh inning. He's not walking anyone, and against the brutal John Lackey, he has a shot to win. Beavan is a 6-foot-7 right-hander acquired in the Cliff Lee trade, and while his lack of strikeouts weakens his long-term case, he's the first rookie to begin his career with six or more quality starts since Jered Weaver in 2006. Use him while he's pitching well.
Brandon McCarthy, Oakland Athletics: He has won only five times in 16 starts, but aren't ERA and WHIP categories in your league, too? McCarthy boasts a 2.39 ERA at his spacious home ballpark, but he also fired off eight shutout innings at Tampa Bay in his last outing. Even against the Texas Rangers, I'm using him.
Bud Norris, Houston Astros: OK, so the Astros are a bad team, but you know what? The Los Angeles Dodgers aren't playoff-bound, either, and the last time Norris faced the Dodgers, also in their home, he tossed six innings of one-hit, no-run baseball (and of course, he didn't win). The Dodgers offense still doesn't scare me much, and Norris is on pace for 181 strikeouts. Not too shabby.
Jake Peavy, Chicago White Sox: He still scares me quite a bit in the long term, but his ERA over his past four outings is a useful 3.33, and his strikeout rate is up. Peavy has faced the Kansas City Royals twice since July, with one good and one bad outing.
Kevin Slowey, Minnesota Twins: I've been a fan of this right-hander, who is replacing the injured Scott Baker in the rotation, since the 2008 season, when he posted a 1.15 WHIP. I don't think he's Dave Bush (longtime readers know the deal there). Slowey's ERA never seems to match his WHIP, and he's never going to fan 200 hitters in a season, but I like him in his first start of the 2011 season. I like his Cleveland Indians left-handed foe, David Huff, almost as much. Huff has allowed just one earned run in his three starts.
... Weekend starters to avoid
Bronson Arroyo, Cincinnati Reds: Sure, you see the lowly San Diego Padres coming to town and it looks beautiful for Arroyo, but realize the Padres enter Friday leading all of baseball in runs scored so far in August. No, I'm serious, just click here and you'll see. And Arroyo ranks dead last on fangraphs.com among 109 qualified starting pitchers in WAR (wins above replacement). I'm avoiding fellow right-hander Homer Bailey on Saturday, too; he has permitted 14 earned runs in his past two home starts, over seven innings to the Rockies and Mets! (I am, however, and with a smile on my face, trusting lefty Dontrelle Willis on Sunday!)
John Lackey, Boston Red Sox: Proponents will point out Lackey's best outing over the past month was against the Mariners, and this game is at a pitcher-friendly locale ... but I still can't get on board, even if Lackey wins the game 7-6 (which he shouldn't because Beavan will pitch well). Folks, Lackey should not be owned in 27 percent of ESPN standard leagues. The potential for wins isn't worth it. I realize he hasn't lost in six starts and his ERA in that span is 3.57, but we've been fooled before.
Mike Minor, Atlanta Braves: I have to say I haven't been impressed. He doesn't look to be a future All-Star to me; he has one win in seven starts and a 1.59 WHIP. And Friday's foe, the Chicago Cubs, are fourth in runs scored this month! The strangely unowned Carlos Zambrano, with four consecutive strong outings, is a far better choice.
Kyle Lohse, St. Louis Cardinals: The Colorado Rockies aren't world-beaters on the road, and certainly not with this lineup, but Lohse hasn't completed six innings in a start for more than a month. I'll recommend Edwin Jackson on "ESPN Sunday Night Baseball" against Esmil Rogers, but Lohse's time has passed.
Also avoiding: Brad Penny, Detroit Tigers; Zach Stewart, Chicago White Sox; Paul Maholm, Pittsburgh Pirates; Brian Duensing, Minnesota Twins; Chien-Ming Wang, Washington Nationals; Jeff Francis, Kansas City Royals.
Have a great weekend, everyone!