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Silver League Update: Into a New ERA (AL Edition)

Sometime soon, September will be upon us. September, with expanded rosters, rookie cups of coffee, real-life playoff chases, and teams jumping into and dropping out of contention left and right. Head-to-head leaguers will be in the thick of their own playoffs, shuffling their pitchers around the machinations of first-place teams who are trying to set their rotations for the postseason, and cellar-dwellers giving AA-level pitchers a look and resting their (and your) rotation regulars. Yeah, fantasy baseball gets a little more complicated next month, and most of us are already past our last chance to make trades.

Last week, I tagged a few NL pitchers whose schedules might help them put up good ERAs over the next few weeks. Some of them are talented enough to deserve ownership on merit ... and others are Joe Blanton. I don't know what's going on with him, but I'm done recommending that pitching in Los Angeles and the NL West will help him be useful. Now that I've admitted that, he'll be pitching a perfect game soon, just watch.

This week, we'll do the same thing, but with AL pitchers. If the Silver League has split into two tiers: the teams that might win (the E-Z Sliders and the Spirit of St. Louis), and everybody else, I'm near the bottom of everybody else. (But not at the bottom!) In recent weeks, my ERA has skyrocketed to just third-worst in the league, and I'd love to keep that trend going. Whether you're playing to salvage pride or win the whole league and a big stack of cash, here are some pitchers that should be able to help out down the stretch. At the least, their schedules are set up for them to succeed.

Carlos Villanueva (26%) 

I wasn't expecting to recommend any Blue Jays in this article, even though Villanueva might be one of the most under-owned pitchers out there right now. I figured their schedule would be a lot tougher looking than it is, but the Orioles (19th best offense, six games against) have been winning with smoke and mirrors, and the Rays (21st, seven games) have been winning with pitching. That actually sandwiches them around the Pirates for runs scored. You've still got the Red Sox (where at least you could get an ugly win) and the Yankees to worry about, so I'd leave your Jays on the bench for those games. As a bonus, the schedule gods granted the Jays three games against Minnesota (15th) and three against Seattle (26th). Oddly, all the favorable games come in September, so you might want to wait a bit before depending on either of these guys, but that's good news for the playoffs.

Brett Anderson (22%), Daniel Straily (6%) and Travis Blackley (3%)
As spacious as O.co Coliseum is, it makes almost every home game a favorable one for A's pitchers. Combine their home games with games at Angel Stadium and Safeco Field--which have been even easier on hitters this year--and they'll play 18 of their 28 September games in friendly confines. Of course, the Angels (5th best offense) have been able to hit this year, so tread carefully. The Mariners (26th, lowest in the AL) are another story, especially at Safeco, so their games are a great bet, and the A's will play them six times in September. They also have three games against Cleveland (22nd) before August ends.

Hisashi Iwakuma (17%), Blake Beavan (6%), and Kevin Millwood (4%)
Just as A's pitchers can be favorable options for the stretch run, so can any pitchers that play them. Their offense is 25th, second-worst in the AL. As I mentioned above, the Mariners will play them six times in September. Safeco Field helps pitchers so much that it really does make any start there a pretty favorable one. Though I'd be wary of playing Iwakuma, Beavan, or Millwood against the Red Sox (3rd best), even at home, the Mariners' other 14 games in Seattle ought to help your ERA. Just don't expect too many wins....

Scott Feldman (11%)
Do you know what's so great about pitching for Texas? It's not their home park of course--it's their homes away from home...and the offenses that live there. They get six games each against the Mariners (26th) and A's (25th), half of which will be on the road. I know, that's not all that impressive. Some Septembers the Rangers get to play all their games against the A's and Mariners. This year's good news comes in the form of a two-week road trip to begin the month against the Indians (22nd), the Rays (17th), and the Royals (23rd). They get three more games against the Tribe at home, leaving them with just three home games that aren't against one of the worst offenses in the league. It's such a good schedule that I'd actually consider trading for Ryan Dempster in leagues that still allow trades. His owner probably won't ask much for him. Derek Holland is owned in 52% of leagues, but if it's not yours, I might just snatch him up.

With all this action in the AL West (thank you Oakland and Seattle), you'd think I'd mention some Angels pitchers...but they're probably all owned in your league, and except for Jared Weaver, going through some serious struggles. If you still have time, go ahead and pry Zack Greinke or Dan Haren from a frustrated owner and watch the waiver wire if any Angels pitchers get hurt.

I wanted to say good things about the idea of picking up Alex Cobb, but there is nothing friendly about the Rays' schedule. Just say no.

Zach McAllister (10%)
The Indians' schedule isn't uniformly favorable, but McAllister has already shown more this year than quite a few of the pitchers I've mentioned so far. Also, Progressive Field has played as a pretty good pitcher's park this year. Starting this week, the Tribe has four games against the A's (25th), and they play seven games against the Twins (15th) and Royals (23rd) before September ends. Unfortunately, they also get six each against the Rangers (1st), White Sox (6th), and Tigers (10th), so you'll have to pick your starts carefully. 

Rick Porcello (8%)
Not being one of the bad teams in the AL Central, the Tigers have a pretty favorable schedule coming up. They'll play the Indians (22nd) six times, the A's (25th) three times, the Twins (15th) six times, and the Royals (23rd) a whopping ten times before the season ends. That's good news if you own any Tiger starter, even one struggling as badly as Anibal Sanchez, and it might just make Porcello--or Drew Smyly, if he stays in the rotation--worth grabbing.

As you might expect, the American League, with its DHs and better "quality of play" isn't as fertile territory for picking up mediocre starters with favorable schedules, but it gives a little better than nothing. There are definitely some names worth thinking about, with McAllister and Villanueva seeming like decent pitchers, Porcello and Feldman having really good schedules, and Brett Anderson just plain intriguing as he returns from injury into a pennant race and a favorable schedule. He'd be my number one choice going forward. Choices like these, and the other ones you'll make for the rest of the season don't come with a lot of certainty, they're about putting yourself in the position to get better luck than your opponents. 


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