When it comes to Islands in the Stream, the sharp fantasy players generally know where to go. They point to San Diego, take advantage of the Padres and Petco. They aim at the Mariners, the club that went 27 up and 27 down against Phil Humber's wipeout slider this weekend. They have a blast in Oakland, parlaying a big park into bagels by the bay.
But there's another stream target that doesn't get the same type of anemic hype. Let's stop and consider just how punchless the Pittsburgh Pirates have been through the opening two-and-a-half weeks of play. This is a team that lowers the streaming bar; you can at least consider lesser pitchers against the Slumber Company:
• The Pirates currently rank last in runs, with a meager 30 in their 15 games. Maybe it's a Pennsylvania thing; the Phillies have just 43 runs. Every other club in the majors has 52 or more.
• The Bucs are last in batting average, at .202. Hey, we're over the Mendoza.
• Clint Hurdle's Hurdlers are last in on-base percentage, at .249. Maybe that's why they're not sweating Pedro Alvarez and his .108/.132/.270 start; it blends in with everyone else. Andrew McCutchen is the only every-day starter who has an OPS over .630.
• Pittsburgh is last in slugging percentage, at .281. Heck, Don Robinson retired with a career slugging percentage of .330.
Miraculously, the Bucs are 6-9 despite their lack of offense. The pitching staff hasn't allowed more than five runs in any game all year, leading to a 2.63 ERA, and the Pirates have the best bullpen in baseball. The wiseguys in Vegas must be having a field day with this setup; 13 of the first 15 Pittsburgh games have gone under the total.
Our goal, of course, is to help the fantasy wiseguys, the people looking to dominate in our numbers racket. With that in mind, let's look at who's facing Pittsburgh this week (consider all starters probable; double check the info before you point and click):
-- Monday at Pittsburgh: Jamie Moyer
-- Tuesday at Pittsburgh: Juan Nicasio
-- Wednesday at Pittsburgh: Jhoulys Chacin
Skinny: I can't get behind Moyer as a streamer, as much as I'll be rooting for him. He has no strikeout upside and heck, a 49-year-old pitcher has to be knocked around sometime. Nicasio's an interesting play: his one bad start was in Colorado, and his best turn was a seven-inning beauty at Houston. He's out there in 93 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Chacin (49 percent) has a similar profile; he was sharp in Milwaukee, after a pair of choppy efforts in Coors Field.
PNC Park isn't a graveyard for offense — the park has been neutral for runs scored and batting average over the last three years — but it does keep suppress power. Right-handed power has been taxed by 16 percent over the last three years, with the lefties hit by eight percent (hat tip, Bill James Handbook).
-- Friday at Atlanta: Tommy Hanson
-- Saturday at Atlanta: Randall Delgado/Jair Jurrjens
-- Sunday at Atlanta: Jair Jurrjens/Mike Minor
-- Monday at Atlanta: Mike Minor/Brandon Beachy
Skinny: Hanson's schedule has been cushy to open the year; other than the Arizona turn, he's faced the Mets twice and the Astros once. If he goes off Friday, it might be a good time to deal him; I still don't trust that he'll hold up, physically, for a full season.
The weekend starters will depend on how the Braves handle Delgado their weakest starter. The Braves don't play Thursday, so they have some options. If they skip Delgado, Minor gets one of those much-coveted two start weeks. If they don't skip Delgado, Minor has to wait until Monday. (Why is Minor available in 48 percent of Yahoo! leagues? Time to fix that, amigos.)
If you're looking past this week, the Bucs play three games at St. Louis starting on May 1, then settle in for an extended homestead (Cincinnati, Washington, Houston). They've already been shut down by Chris Capuano, Joe Saunders, Lance Lynn and Kyle Lohse. Let's have some fun with this.
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