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Playing Pittsburgh

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - There is one thing, above all else, that you want to see next to the name of your starting pitcher this season. Right next to the small mark that indicates that it's your pitcher's day to throw, under the tab marked opponent, you want to see the letters P-I-T.

Those three letters let you know that your hurler is going to go out and throw up some zeroes because they stand for Pittsburgh. As in Pittsburgh Pirates, by far the worst offensive ballclub in the majors this season.

The Bucs have scored just 27 runs in their first 13 games, an average of 2.1 per game.

The Pirates have done more scuffling than swashbuckling in 2012, putting up one or zero runs in six games while starting out 5-8.

And while Pittsburgh has faced some bonafide aces -- Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Clayton Kershaw and Matt Cain have all shut down the Pirates this season -- they've also made some less-than-stellar characters look like superstars.

Here are the stat lines for the 13 starting pitchers that have opposed Pittsburgh so far:

Halladay - 8 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K

Lee - 6 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K

Vance Worley - 6 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 5 K

Kershaw - 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K

Chad Billingsley - 6 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 4 K

Chris Capuano - 5.1 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K

Cain - 9 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 11 K

Barry Zito - 7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 4 K

Ryan Vogelsong - 6.1 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 7 K

Joe Saunders - 7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 5 K

Ian Kennedy - 6 IP, 8 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 5 K

Daniel Hudson - 7.2 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 3 BB, 5 K

Lance Lynn - 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K

Of these 13 pitchers, 11 tossed quality starts (six innings or more, three earned runs or less) against the Pirates, and the two who didn't, Capuano and Kennedy, didn't exactly get shelled.

Combined, these pitchers averaged 6 2/3 innings per start with an ERA of 1.84 and a WHIP of 0.82 in 88 innings.

There are few sure things in fantasy baseball, but this seems like one of them, which allows fantasy owners to craft a useful strategy around it.

During the 2011 fantasy football season, I employed a defensive strategy I called "whoever's playing Jacksonville," centered around the opponent of the offensively inept Jacksonville Jaguars.

Instead of wasting a high draft pick on a defense, I just picked up the defense that was opposing Jacksonville each week.

While that defense wasn't always available, such as in Week 2 when the Jags played the Jets, or Week 7 when they played the Ravens, more often than not the Jaguars opponent was readily attainable.

With fantasy baseball in full swing, I'd like to propose another strategy, known as the "whoever's facing Pittsburgh" effect.

Over the course of the season, you should be able to add a copious amount of pitchers for their rotation turn against the Pirates and then discard them when they're done handling their business.

In the next week alone, there are several starting pitchers who are available in more than 50-percent of Yahoo leagues.

Jake Westbrook (27-percent owned) will face the Pirates on Saturday, so it's already too late to add him, but Jamie Moyer (one-percent), Juan Nicasio (seven-percent) and Jhoulys Chacin (49-percent) of the Rockies take on Pittsburgh during the week.

Meanwhile, Kyle Lohse (72-percent) faces the Pirates on Sunday. Lohse has dazzled this season, giving up just two earned runs in 20 1/3 innings, so grab him for Sunday if he's still available.

The Pirates travel to Atlanta after their series against the Rockies, so look for Tommy Hanson (zero quality starts this season) to right the ship after a lackluster start to his season.

If all goes well with Tim Hudson's rehab from back surgery, he'll return to start on April 28 or 29, and you know he's going to be licking his chops to get a crack at the Pirates in his first start, so don't hesitate to activate him either.

Barring a nuclear reaction on the banks of the Allegheny River that gives Andrew McCutchen super powers, we should be able to make the Pittsburgh Pirates our whipping boys all season long.



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