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This Week In Streaming Strategy: Sept. 17-23

We're nearing the end of the line of the 2012 season, so hopefully you're holding on tight to your dreams of fantasy success, lest someone bring you down in the final weeks. If you think there are some secret messages within these opening lines, don't feel confusion. I'll get to the point; I listened to a Jeff Lynne compilation last week, and now I can't get it out of my headDon't walk away from this column, I'm getting to the streaming stuff right now, here is the (fantasy baseball) news.

The focus this week is on a few well-known players who you should be streaming OUT of your lineups. We're in the crunchiest of crunch time in the fantasy season, so you have no room for dead weight on your roster when you're in your playoffs or fighting for a league title.  

* Carlos Beltran.  The once-reliable Beltran has quietly become a big fantasy drag over the last few months, posting just a .211/.267/.396 line since July 2.  It's getting to the point where Cardinals manager Mike Matheny is starting to give Beltran more and more days off, beyond just the point of "resting the veteran" and edging into "we need a hotter bat in the lineup if we're going to win the wild card" territory.  You should take it a step further than Matheny and bench Beltran altogether if you have any better outfield options on your roster.  Don't be fooled by the tempting matchups this week (the Cards face the Astros and Cubs), as Beltran has had two and a half months to get himself together with no results, so he's long overdue for a benching.

* Josh Willingham.  The Twins face right-handed starters in five of six games this week, so it's all systems go for such righty-killers as Justin Morneau or Ryan Doumit.  Willingham also holds some pretty nice numbers (.873 OPS) against right-handers this season, but most of that was total was accumulated over Willingham's red-hot first half. Over Willingham's last 39 games and 157 plate appearances, he has hit just .218/.312/.421. That battling line looks pretty similar to Willingham's road splits of .219/.324/.438 and wouldn't you know it, the Twins are away from Target Field all this week.  It all adds up to another down week for the Will Ham, so he's another one you can think about sitting if you have a hotter bat on your bench.

* A.J. Griffin. It occurs to me that 'Icarus Pick' is a great name for my weekly choice of a hot fantasy player who's about to regress. It's a good thing I came up with this exciting new column feature ... uh, by mid-September. Anyway, this week's player who is about to get burned by flying too close to the sun is Griffin, and try as I might, I couldn't quite come up with a decent pun here involving griffins and flying. Ol' Arthur Joseph is scheduled for two road starts this week against the Yankees and Tigers, who respectively rank first and third in team OPS against right-handed pitching. If that wasn't enough, there are lots of warning signs that Griffin's incredible performance is semi-smoke and mirrors -- his 1.94 ERA looks a lot uglier (3.55 SIERA, 3.63 xFIP, .238 BABIP) through the lens of advanced metrics. This week is going to be a big test for the rookie, and I'd advise using caution if starting him or picking him up off waivers, as Griffin is available in 61% of Yahoo fantasy leagues.  If he's still throwing darts against the Tigers and Yankees, then yikes, this really is Oakland's season.

* Shane Victorino. I think we can conclude that Victorino's move to Los Angeles has been a bust. Rather than rise to stardom like so many fresh-faced unknowns in Hollywood, Victorino entered Saturday's action hitting a dinner theatre-esque .247/.314/.329 in 178 plate appearances as a Dodger. Whereas Beltran at least was on fire until the end of June, Victorino has been a big letdown all season long. If you're still giving him regular playing time in your lineup, Victorino provides no victories for your fantasy squad.

* Jonny Gomes, Chris Carter. Not much has changed since the last time we checked in (not an ELO link, I swear) on the Athletics' first base and DH platoons.  The A's are scheduled to face right-handed starters in five of six games next week, which means Gomes and Carter should be riding the pine for much of the week, though it's interesting to note that the right-handed hitting Carter actually has a better OPS against righties (.921) than against lefties (.890).  Normally you wouldn't be thinking of benching a player with splits like that, but Carter has just a .676 OPS overall in the month of September, so the A's are understandably going with hotter hands as they fight for a playoff spot.

* Doug Fister.  The Tigers right-hander has been a solid fantasy option in 2012 but I'll level with you folks, I think Fister is a vampire.  That's the only logical explanation.  Inside sources tell me that Fister just stands around outside the Tigers clubhouse for hours before games until someone invites him in.  He is also NOT a Kristen Stewart fan since, and this is a direct quote from Fister,"what, is she too good for vampires or something?"  The most glaring bit of evidence, however, are Fister's day/night splits.  Fister has a strong 2.93 ERA in 14 night starts this season, as opposed to a 4.63 ERA in eight starts under the sun.  Hmm, it's almost like the sun sapped his abilities or something.  Since Fister is scheduled to pitch twice this week during afternoon games, you're probably best served by putting Count Dougula on the bench and streaming another starter in his place.

(Editor's note: Yeah, Doug Fister isn't a vampire.  That's not true whatsoever.  We're not sure what got into Mark this week.  Maybe since we're nearing the end of baseball season, hockey season may be a wash, and the weather is getting cooler up there in Canada, Mark may be going a little batty.  Wait a minute...BATty?  Mark is a vampire!)

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