July 2013

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The Proof Is In The Peripherals: August 1-7

Good news, everyone!  I'm not going to be leaving Roto Authority at the trade deadline.  The RA general manager tried to work out a deal to move me to Yahoo! Sports for cash considerations, two minor leaguers and a UFC writer to be named later, but I scuttled the deal with my no-trade clause.  I'd only be willing to discuss waiving the clause if I could somehow be traded to Old Hoss Radbourn's Twitter feed, www.creedthoughts.gov.wwwcreedthoughts and any cat-related Tumblr page.

Onto this week's look at the advanced metrics...

Bourn Ultimatum.  Basically, my ultimatum boils down to, "Hey Michael Bourn!  What happened to your so-called speed?  Start stealing more bases or else!"  *shakes fist*  Bourn has a mere 13 steals this season (and been caught eight times), a big disappointment to fantasy owners expecting the player who averaged 51 swipes a year from 2008-12.  Bourn has suffered big drops according to Fangraphs' baserunning statistics (speed score and Ultimate Base Running) and in terms of weighted stolen base runs, Bourn is actually costing the Indians runs this season with his -0.8 number.

The plain fact about Bourn is that if he isn't stealing bases, he has very little fantasy value.  He'll score runs atop a good Tribe lineup, but his decent .284 average is propped up by a .368 BABIP and his power numbers (four homers, 32 RBIs) are nothing special.  In one of my shallower fantasy leagues with 20-player rosters, Bourn even recently popped up on the waiver wire.  I don't know if Bourn is finding stolen bases harder to come by in the American League or if he's starting to lose his wheels at age 30, but whatever the case, the Bourn era in Cleveland has been about as blah as The Bourne Legacy.

Starting To Simmer.  This week's "better than you'd think" guy is kind of an odd candidate since his overall batting line (.249/.287/.373 heading into Tuesday's action) is atrocious.  That said, Andrelton Simmons has quietly been on a roll this month, posting an .820 OPS in July and making himself into a stealth pickup if you're looking for help at a thin shortstop position.  I wouldn't suggest picking him up and then feeling comfortable enough to trade your more established starting shortstop, but if you're hurting at SS or, say, if you're Jhonny Peralta owner worried about a Biogenesis suspension, then the Drel is your man!  Have we settled on "The Drel" as Simmons' nickname yet?  No?  Ok, just checking.

After hitting .299/.352/.397 in 1092 minor league plate appearances (none above Double-A), Simmons hasn't matched that kind of hitting prowess in the bigs but he does have 11 homers.  That's pretty decent for any shortstop but it's jaw-dropping for Simmons himself, who had nine professional homers total coming into this season.  Since Fredi Gonzalez inexplicably keeps putting a guy with a sub-.300 OBP in the leadoff spot, Simmons is also a solid run-scorer, notching 54 touches of home plate.  Simmons doesn't walk much (5.1 BB%) but he also rarely strikes out -- his 7.6% strikeout rate is the fourth-lowest of any player in baseball this season.  Combine this with a .247 BABIP and it could suggest that Simmons will post something closer to his July numbers the rest of the way rather than the .609 OPS he posted over the first three months. 

Across The Sea.  Speaking of infielders who are on fire in July, Simmons can't hold a candle to Kyle Seager, whose .384/.455/.605 line has made him a strong Player Of The Month candidate.  Seager put up good numbers in 2012 and has taken another step forward this year to become one of the better third basemen in baseball, hitting .293/.356/.481 with 16 homers, 48 RBI and 59 runs over the course of the full season.  Seager has comfortably turned himself into a top-10 fantasy third baseman for 2014 and might even crack the top five if he keeps swinging the hot bat.

Mariners fans, you've suffered through a tough few seasons now with a lot of losses, historically-poor hitting and a lot of underachieving hitting prospects.  The good news is that Seager looks like he may be a keeper, as his 2013 stats bear a strong resemblance to his 2010-11 minor league numbers, so while there was no question he has hitting ability, it was just a question of if he (unlike so many others) could handle Safeco Field.  Seager's contact, walk, line drive and HR/FB rates are all up from 2012 and while his BABIP is .318, that's not too crazy a number.  The only drawback is a lack of success against left-handed pitching, as the left-handed hitting Seager has just a .680 OPS against southpaws.  Still, if you have another third base option on days when the Mariners face a lefty, Seager has undoubtedly been a boon for his fantasy owners.

Time To Get Off The BART.  I've been hesitant to even bring up this whole Bartolo Colon thing since it seems like it's beyond statistical understanding.  This living affront to advanced metric analysis has been one of baseball's best pitchers is 12-1 with a 1.53 ERA over his last 13 starts, and for the season has a 2.54 ERA and a 4.28 K/BB ratio that is buoyed by an AL-low 1.14 BB/9.  All of this at age 40 and getting by on one pitch --- 84.8% of Colon's pitches this year have been fastballs, by far the most any pitcher in the game relies on their heater, and "heater" is a relative term given Colon's 90.1 mph average speed.

So you have a guy who barely strikes anyone out, plus he's allowing homers and walks at less than half his career rates.  Colon has a 3.25 FIP, 4.02 xFIP and 4.25 SIERA, not to mention a below-average BABIP (.280) and an abover-average strand rate (81.6%).  Since he likely isn't facing a Biogenesis suspension, my suggestion would be for Colon owners to sell high as soon as you can....yet geez, isn't fantasy baseball fun when you have a guy on your roster who's outperformed all possible expectations?  Errrrgh, no!  No, Mark!  Stop being romantic!  This is a factual, logic-based column only, darn it!  Check your heart at the door!



RotoAuthority League Update: Roster Makeover

The RotoAuthority League is a highly competitive 12-team fantasy baseball league run by Tim Dierkes. The settings consist of standard 5 X 5 Rotisserie scoring and 23-man lineups along with 3 bench spots. In an effort to keep owners interested as well as to infuse new blood into the league, the teams that finish below 8th place are kicked out of the league each year. The author of this column just hopes he’s not one of them.

Poker player Dutch Boyd once said, "Poker is like sex - everyone thinks they're the best, but most people don't have a clue what they're doing." Well, fantasy baseball is no different. I'd like to think I know a little about this game, but you only need to look at the standings in the RotoAuthority League to see that I'm far from an expert. 

Why I am telling you this? Well, there's nothing more annoying than hearing someone talk about his or her fantasy team, but you'll have to excuse me this week, readers. With all due respect to the other owners in the league, I'm going to be selfish this week and focus on my squad, A Century of Misery. As I mentioned last week, I've been very active this month in shaking up my roster. All told, I've made five trades over the past three weeks. At the risk of self-indulgence, let's see what I had in mind with each of these deals.

07/13 - A Century of Misery trades Mike Napoli and Koji Uehara to UP for Michael Cuddyer and Carl Crawford

After analyzing the standings a couple weeks ago, I made the choice to punt HR going forward due to a sizeable gap in the category. Accordingly, sluggers like Napoli hve no place on my roster. Uehara has been excellent this season, but I chose to mitigate the slight chance that Boston trades for a closer before Wednesday's deadline. In exchange, Cuddyer is having a career year and should continue to provide production across the board. Finally, Crawford has once again had his share of bumps and bruises, but I have to take some gambles if I'm going to get my squad out of the bottom four. 

07/14 - A Century of Misery trades J.P. Arencibia to Men With Wood for Salvador Perez

After trading Napoli, I had an empty roster slot at catcher, so I quickly grabbed Arencibia off the waiver wire. I made this pickup despite the fact that JP is precisely the type of hitter that doesn't belong on my squad since I'm punting HR. However, I'm not the only one in the league punting a category, as Men With Wood has given up on AVG. As such, I offered up Arencibia for Perez, a player who's far less valuable to an owner who doesn't care about AVG. Men With Wood quickly accepted, and this trade is a classic example of putting yourself in your leaguemate's shoes before making an offer.

07/18 - A Century of Misery trades Chase Headley and Jhonny Peralta to Forty 2 Twenty 4 for J.J. Hardy and Nick Markakis

Like Napoli, Peralta has been one of the luckiest hitters this season, so I wanted to cash in on him, especially given that he's been linked to Biogenesis. Meanwhile, I don't see Headley turning his season around anytime soon, so I was content to move him. In return, I picked up a pair of productive Orioles in Markakis and Hardy. A multi-categorical contributor, Markakis fits well with my strategy going forward. I actually had no interest in acquiring Hardy, as his power is useless to me; however, I was relatively confident that I could flip him, given his solid season. 

07/21 - A Century of Misery trades Albert Pujols and Yoervis Medina to Yu at the Animal Zoo for Anibal Sanchez, Leonys Martin, Mitch Moreland, and Jarrod Dyson

After foolishly selecting Pujols over CarGo in the first round, I've tried to be patient with the Angels first baseman all season long, but I just couldn't hold out any longer. In choosing to punt HR, Pujols had no place on my squad, as he's simply no longer an elite hitter in AVG. Based on the news yesterday, I may have traded him just in time. Medina was simply a throw-in whom Yu at the Animal Zoo dropped immediately after the trade. I've been light on innings all season, so I needed to add another arm in Sanchez. He's displayed stellar skills this year, and I'm bullish on him down the stretch as he'll pitch mostly against weak AL Central opponents. For me, Martin was the highlight of the deal, though. Todd Zola is one of the best minds in this game, and he recently ranked Martin as a top 40 player overall. Moreland has decent pop, and I may be able to flip him for help elsewhere. Finally, Dyson doesn't play everyday; when he does, however, he's one of the top speedsters in the game. Unfortunately, I got roster-crunched over the weekend and had to let go of him.

07/25 - A Century of Misery trades J.J. Hardy to E-Z Sliders for Mark Melancon

It took a week, but I was indeed able to flip Hardy for Melancon. At the time of the deal, news on the severity of Jason Grilli's injury had yet to be released, so I was gambling a tad here. Still, the skills that Melancon has displayed this season have been too good to pass up the chance to acquire him. As long as he has the job, Melancon is easily a top ten closer. Following this deal, I now have six closers. More importantly, entering play Sunday, just 16 saves separated 4th place from my current position of 9th place in the category, so there are certainly points to be had.

OK, no more posts written solely about my squad, I promise...



Stock Watch: More of What You Need

So, you're in the top three of your Roto-style league, but you just can't seem to crack the real money spots. Your pitching is pretty good, but nothing you do seems to help you climb up the standings in Runs. Time to make a trade.

You're in the lower half of your Head-to-Head league, with a couple good players on the DL. You know your team should be competitive in September...but getting there might be another story. Each week you seem to split, winning most of the hitting but always falling short in WHIP. Time to make a deal.

Last week on Stock Watch we checked out some players you should target if you're in need of Homers, Batting Average, Wins, or ERA. This week we check out Runs, RBIs, Strikeouts, and WHIP and highlight trade and pickup candidates that might fly just under the radar. 

Runs

Runs are a tough category to win--indeed, the best most common strategy is to draft good hitters and hope things work out. That's what I usually do, at least. So if you're stuck in a Runs rut, here are some hitters to target in trade. Unfortunately this category is unlike stolen bases (or even home runs) in that there are some pretty bad (and therefore cheap) players who can help you a lot; no, you'll have to target players who can actually hit a little.

When searching for potential high-scorers, I went looking for players who hit at or near the top of powerful lineups, like those of the Rays, Tigers, Red Sox, Cardinals, and Orioles. Also the Braves, somewhat, but they need better top-of-the-order hitters.

Austin Jackson has sort of become the Runs poster boy, and RA's Mark Polishuk has a great write-up on him, so I won't say any more. Fellow Tiger Torii Hunter might as well be Jackson's elder clone this season--something tells me that hitting in front of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder is good for your runs total.

The Rays sit Desmond Jennings and Ben Zobrist on the top of their batting order most days, and while both have proved disappointing this year, both should keep scoring runs. Matt Joyce doesn't play every single day, but he tends to score when he does.

Shane Victorino and Daniel Nava benefit from hitting before David Ortiz. If Nava gets to keep hitting on top of the order, he'll have Runs value.

Matt Carpenter is one of the hottest names at second base for his batting average, but if you need to help yourself in two categories, he's your guy. Matt Holliday ought to be coming off the DL soon and he may come at a discount. 

Nate McLouth and Nick Markakis have been setting the table for the O's, while Chris Davis and Adam Jones have been among the best in clearing it. McLouth's steals will drive his price up, but, as with Carpenter, at least you get to help yourself in multiple categories.

In the last month, Chase Utley and Jason Werth have been high-scorers. In fact, Werth has been hitting the cover off the ball.

Alex Rios keeps hearing his name in trade rumors, and I'd bet that if he gets moved, it will be to a team that puts him at the top of the order, making him a good Runs candidate. Of course, this advice could backfire when he gets stuck hitting sixth and scoring RBI's...but maybe you need those too.

RBIs

Jay Bruce, Shin-Soo Choo, and Joey Votto are all among the league's top run scorers. Why do we care in the RBI section? Because you should pick up or trade for anyone who hits behind these guys. Brandon Phillips is having a perfectly pedestrian season--and yet he's among the league leaders in RBIs with over 80. Why? Just look at the names above.

You'll notice that a lot of top RBI guys come from the same lineups as the top run scorers. Take Jhonny Peralta. Between his crazy BABIP and the Biogenesis link, there's every reason to trade him away. And yet, he's hitting behind Prince and Miggy, so if you need RBIs and a shortstop upgrade, he could be your guy. Similarly, Mike Napoli and Jarrod Saltalamacchia are hitting behind Ortiz. 

Allen Craig and Freddie Freeman have disappointed in homers, keeping them from truly elite first base production, but don't make the mistake of thinking the RBIs aren't there. Dan Uggla joins Freeman in a Braves lineup that keeps generating runs.

With his trade to the Yankees (and batting cleanup in his first game), Alfonso Soriano just saw his RBI potential go way up. Now, these Yankees aren't exactly Murderers' Row, but they're better than the Cubs. Hitting behind Robinson Cano shouldn't bother anyone.

Strikeouts

You can get to the top of the standings in Strikeouts just by pitching the most games, but there are all kinds of obstacles to that: innings limits, anti-streaming rules, and the poor performance of volume-heavy pitching staffs. So here are some guys who can help you compete in K's. Many of them are widely available, so that's nice too.

Hector Santiago (13% owned in Yahoo! leagues), Corey Kluber (29%), and Tony Cingrani (49%) are all striking out more than a batter per inning without killing your ERA. (They aren't all great for your WHIP, I admit.) As you can see, there's a good chance that one of them is available on your league's waiver wire.

Francisco Liriano, Jeff Samardzija, and Justin Masterson are a step above Santiago and company, and they'll require a trade to go after.  They will probably be better for your rate stats. Ubaldo Jimenez, is a step below, but only owned in 17% of Yahoo! leagues. He will kill your WHIP, though.

In the last month, several pitchers have stepped up their strikeout game: Tim Lincecum and Mat Latos are striking out over 11 batters per nine IP. John Lackey and (to my great surprise) Jeremy Hellickson are whiffing more than a batter per inning. 

On the lower end of the scale, Jose Quintana (18% owned in Yahoo! leagues), Tom Gorzelanny (5%), Jonathan Pettibone (5%), and Erik Bedard (2%) are screamingly available and all generating strikeouts over the last month. If you're in position to play the hot hand in a deep league, these are the guys to look out for.

WHIP

I can't do much about the hits part of WHIP--it's notoriously luck-dependent, all the more so over as short a time span as what remains of the season. So, let's take a look at the BB/9 half instead.

Jordan Zimmermann hasn't pitched well in his last few starts, but he's still got a 1.34 BB/9 on the season. If you want to risk that his recent slump is temporary (I would), he could be a big help to anyone's WHIP category.

Hiroki Kuroda's 1.76 BB/9 looks good, but his ERA is already so lucky that you should be prepared for it to rise even if he helps your WHIP. 

With Tim Hudson's injury, the chatter about Julio Teheran getting dropped from the rotation with Brandon Beachy's return from the DL has ended, though his 1.89 BB/9 suggests that such talk might never have been serious.

Ervin Santana and A.J. Griffin share 1.95 BB/9 marks, though if Santana gets traded he'll lose the benefit of baseball's top defense.

Rick Porcello (1.86 BB/9) is only 14% owned in Yahoo! leagues, and Eric Stults (1.98 BB/9) is only 31% owned. 

Some pitchers who've been hot this month include Bronson Arroyo (49% owned), Bartolo Colon, Kyle Lohse, John Danks (3% ), and Scott Feldman (41%). All five have BB/9 rates of 1.10 or below in the last 30 days, though Colon comes with significant baggage.

Some Guys Worth Picking Up

Christian Yelich is owned in every daily and keeper league, I know. But don't give up on him in weekly formats.

David DeJesus is returning from the DL, as should be half the Yankees' infield. Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez aren't exactly who they used to be, but both could pay dividends for a waiver claim. Long-term, we can expect Biogenesis fallout for A-Rod, but don't be shocked if the appeals process lets him play most of the rest of the season. Whether or no he hits is another story. 

Warning: A previous version of this article contained an unintelligible section. It has been altered from that sorry condition. 



Closer Update: Orioles, Brewers, Pirates, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Angels

Thank you, Trade Deadline! After a couple weeks in which the only things changing the closer landscape were happening in Arizona, we finally get a closer trade. We'll discuss the deal and its fantasy implications, as well as situations arising from injuries and further potential trades.

Orioles
The receivers in the Francisco Rodriguez for prospect deal, the O's have shored up their bullpen and replaced their closer. No, they haven't replaced Jim Johnson, who will continue getting the saves for the O's. Though Johnson isn't a stellar reliever, and he's taken more lumps this season than in the past, he'll hold onto the job as long as he's capable. K-Rod owners, can't be pleased by this arrangement, though the silver lining is that he probably will get the first crack at the job if Johnson gets injured or does manage to blow the job.

Brewers
More fantasy opportunity is to be had here, as Jim Henderson and John Axford are presumed to be sharing the closing duties (for now). While either one might emerge as closer in the coming weeks, both are worth picking up immediately. (Or feeling a bit triumphant about if you've been holding them all this time.)  While Henderson has been great throughout the season, Axford has been pretty stellar in the 18 innings he's pitched since May and could retake the job easily enough. Actually, August has been his only truly bad month of the season.

The bad news for owners of these two pitchers is that either or both may be traded by the giving-it-all-up Brewers in the next couple weeks, and neither is any more likely to close in another location than K-Rod was.

Pirates
Baseball's favorite upstart team (likemost of my fantasy squads) was dealt a huge blow when Jason Grilli left a game in pain and went on the DL. The Pirates are optimistic: their initial forecast is that he'll only be out for seven to ten days. They're also realistic: this is only the initial word, and shouldn't be taken for final knowledge on the extent of Grilli's forearm injury. Fantasy owners will have to wait and see, but he's clearly a pitcher to hang onto in all formats that involve saves, DL slots or not.

Mark Melancon will be sliding right into the closer's role. He's been nearly as goo as Grilli while setting up, so there's no reason not to pick him up for however long he'll be closing. Even if Grilli is out for an extended period of time, don't expect them to make a trade for a ninth inning this easy to fill. 

Rockies
Rafael Betancourt has hit the DL again, leaving owners unsurprised. If you hung onto Rex Brothers assuming that Betancourt wouldn't stay healthy all season, good choice. If not...try picking Brothers up. Of course, getting your appendix removed isn't the most predictable of injuries, so don't feel bad if you didn't see this one coming. The good news for owners is that Betancourt's appendix won't hurt him long-term, affect his delivery, or lead to cascading injuries, or any other of the typical baseball-injury problems that can lengthen the typical stay on the DL. He isn't expected to miss more than three weeks, which is plenty long enough to pick Brothers up for, but certainly not long enough to consider dropping Betancourt. There is currently no reason to think that Betancourt won't get his job back upon his return.

Diamondbacks
Brad Ziegler has been getting the job done in the desert, but for how long remains to be seen. With a low strikeout rate and the sort of sidearm delivery that leaves him relatively vulnerable to lefties, Ziegler doesn't seem like "closer material." That doesn't mean he can't hold onto the job for the rest of the season (three-run leads aren't that hard to protect), just that he's less likely than others. If he's still available, pick him up and hope for the best.

J.J. Putz will probably get the first crack at the job if Ziegler falters. As bad as Heath Bell has been, I wouldn't expect him to be retaking the ninth anytime soon. In previous years (when Putz was too good to replace) David Hernandez was looked at as a top future closing candidate...now that the D-Backs have a need at closer, Hernandez hasn't been particularly good. Cruel timing...

Angels
Ernesto Frieri endured a brutal outing on Tuesday, but came back for Wednesday's save. What do we learn? Well, pretty much what we already knew: when Frieri is bad, he's really bad. There's no indication that his job is in trouble (seeing as he came back the very next day), but his owners may be leery of him after that. If you need saves, Frieri might come at an affordable price.

Trade Watch
Jose Veras of the Astros is drawing trade interest--consider him more than likely to get dealt at this point. Don't consider him likely to close after a trade. The Tigers are presumed to be still looking for relievers, whether or not their additions close depends on...well, I don't know what it will really depend on, since Joaquin Benoit is better than most relievers on the market. Maybe on how many saves the New Guy has this season, or how hard he throws? Kevin Gregg could be on the move, as could Henderson or Axford. I bet the Padres would deal Huston Street or Luke Gregerson, but there don't seem to be any rumors about the Mariners trying to deal Tom Wilhelmsen.

Add-Vice 
If Brad Ziegler is unowned, he's the top pickup prospect. Possession is 9/10's of the law in closerland. Melancon is a strong, immediate add, given his excellence and the uncertainty of Grilli's timetable. Brothers isn't far behind, since three weeks of a closer is pretty valuable. Henderson and Axford should both be picked up, with Henderson prioritized just above the Ax-Man.

As always, keep up with MLBTradeRumors.com and @CloserNews on Twitter for all the latest information on closers around baseball.



The Proof Is In The Peripherals: July 25-31

This isn't really an "advanced metric" fantasy tip but I'm just sayin', if you've got any of the Biogenesis suspects on your fantasy roster, you might want to trade them ASAP.  Also, "The Biogenesis Suspects" sounds like an awesome Ray Bradbury novel.  Let's check out this week's fantasy yeas and nays...

* Swishing Well.  Nick Swisher's triumphant return to his home state of Ohio hasn't exactly gone as planned.  Swisher is hitting.242/.345/.397 with 10 homers and 32 RBI through 362 PA, and while injuries have no doubt played a role in these poor numbers, Swisher is still on pace for the second-worst full-season OPS of his career.  (His worst came in his lone season with the White Sox in 2008, so maybe Swisher just hates the AL Central?)

You can't blame bad luck, as Swisher's .290 BABIP is only a bit below average.  You can't blame his walk and strikeout rates, which are close to his career averages.  You can't blame his contact rates, as a few are up and a few are down, but overall he's been pretty much the same across the board.  The problem just seems to be a lack of power, as Swisher's .157 ISO is easily his the lowest of his career.  I wouldn't have predicted such a drop given that Swisher's power was hardly a creation of Yankee Stadium (his home/road splits as a Yankee were pretty even), but it might just be that Swisher is falling off that cliff like so many 32-year-old ballplayers before him.  I drafted Swisher in one of my leagues with the intent of playing him every day as a third outfielder, but I abandoned that plan long ago.  Staple Swisher to your bench (barring a hot streak) and start wondering if Swisher's days as a model of fantasy consistency are through.

* Kuroda ErosionHiroki Kuroda has always been a guy who has enjoyed very solid Major League results despite only okay peripheral stats thanks to below-average strand rates (73.7%) and BABIPs (.278) over his career.  This year, however, he's really pushing it.  Kuroda has both the third-lowest strand rate (81.9%) and ninth-lowest BABIP (.251) of any qualified starter in the league, so his 2.65 ERA isn't quite as impressive when seen through the lens of the advanced metrics --- 3.56 FIP, 3.73 xFIP, 3.88 SIERA.  

For a 38-year-old who pitches in Yankee Stadium, of course, even these numbers are still pretty good.  Kuroda has been an underrated fantasy starter for essentially his entire career in North America and while he won't regress much over the final two months, I'd guess he'll still regress a bit.  If you can package Kuroda and another player together in a trade for a more proven ace, I'd make that move. 

* But You Doesn't Hasta Call Me Johnson!  "How have I gone this long in my fantasy column-writing career without referencing Ray J. Johnson?" is a question nobody should ever ask of themselves.  Anyway, Josh Johnson's fantasy value took another big hit after his poor start against the Dodgers on Monday, and the Blue Jays righty is now owned in just 58% of Yahoo leagues.  So naturally, just when Johnson is at rock bottom, I'm going to suggest you pick him up since there's evidence that he isn't actually as bad as he's seemed for much of the 2013 season.

Johnson has a 63% strand rate and a .338 BABIP, which is partially why his ERA is an ugly 5.66 in real life but his advanced metrics (4.26 FIP, 3.60 xFIP, 3.71 SIERA) are all pretty good.  The issue is that he just cannot stop giving up home runs.  Johnson's HR/FB rate is 15.7%, almost twice his career average, and since he's giving up less than his career average of fly balls, you can't blame it all on the move from Marlins Park to Rogers Centre and the AL East.  I'd take a flyer on Johnson if you're trying to fill an injury in your rotation or if you've been streaming your fifth starter spot, since surely things have to improve for him sooner or later, eh?  Also, "Surely Things Have To Improve, Eh?" is also the motto for the 2013 Blue Jays team.

* Austin City LimitsAustin Jackson is just 26 years old and in his fourth season, so it's still a little early for anyone to outright claim they 'know' what kind of player Jackson will ultimately become.  That said, I think I'm safe in proclaming that Jackson's BABIP-fueled monster of a 2012 season will probably end up being the best power year of his pro career.  The .300/.377/.479 line that Jackson put up last year topped any of his on-base and slugging numbers from the minors, so my fantasy dashboard just started flashing the OUTLIER light.

The wild thing is, Jackson's .371 BABIP from 2012 wasn't even the highest of his Major League career.  The Tigers outfielder has been kissed by the BABIP gods, as he has a whopping .366 BABIP for his career and a .341 mark this season.  Time will tell if Jackson's luck will eventually turn for but now, he's an absolute run-scoring monster atop that Detroit lineup.  Runs are an underrated fantasy statistic and really no different than the others -- if you have a guy who's a beast in one category, you can overlook any deficiencies in the rest.  Jackson is nothing special when it comes to homers, steals or even average, and a hamstring injury has really put a crimp in his base-stealing ability this year.  Still, don't be down on Jackson's performance if you drafted him expecting a repeat of 2012.  Any power you get from him will be a bonus, so just sit back and bask in the....well, I was about to say 'runny goodness,' but that just sounds kind of gross.  Run-scoring goodness?  Yeah, might as well be grammatically-correct.  #EnglishMajor



This Week In Streaming Strategy

Welcome back from the All-Star break! With the trade deadline approaching, it's never as easy to predict who will be encountering what matchups in the coming days, but here's a look at some currently favorable matchups that are on the horizon...

Jorge de la Rosa, Juan Nicasio -- Streaming Rockies starters, specifically at home, isn't a good plan to win a league championship... unless, of course, they're facing a team that has scored three runs in four games since the All-Star break and just 50 in 17 games this month as a whole. Enter the Marlins. Yes, they get picked on a lot, but they deserve it. The additions of Christian Yelich and Jake Marisnick might improve the offense, but this lineup is still brutal.

After De La Rosa and Nicasio round out the Marlins' series against the Rockies, Charlie Morton will have a go at them on Saturday for the Pirates, and there's no reason not to pounce on that matchup.

Edwin Jackson -- The Giants are doing their best to match Miami's offensive futility, having scored just 52 times this month. More than a third of those runs (19) came in two games against the Padres, as they took advantage of the impossibly bad Sean O'Sullivan and a struggling Edinson Volquez. In their other 15 games, they've touched home just 33 times (2.2 runs per game). For all of Jackson's woes this season, he has a 3.62 FIP and 3.67 xFIP, and over his past four starts he's sporting a 2.45 ERA.

Brandon Moss -- Moss hasn't come close to replicating last season's magic, but he's in the midst of a series with the Astros and will take on the Angels in a four-game set from Thursday to Sunday. He should be kept away from starting lineups on Thursday when he faces C.J. Wilson (Moss is hitting .182/.262/.345 against lefties), but he'll square off against Jerome Williams, Joe Blanton and Tommy Hanson. Four of Moss' 16 homers this season have come against the Halos, and he has an OPS of 1.369 against them (admittedly, in a small 41 plate appearance sample).

Juan Francisco -- Francisco has hit all 12 of his home runs this season against right-handed pitchers, and he's facing a pair of particularly meek ones in Sean O'Sullivan and Edinson Volquez (the same duo that was mauled by the struggling Giants) on Wednesday and Thursday. He then heads to Coors Field to face two more right-handers in baseball's most hitter-friendly park. Francisco is widely available and should punish plenty of marginal pitching this week in hitter-friendly environments.

Carlos Quentin -- Quentin's lack of ownership is still largely a mystery to me, as he's now hitting .277/.367/.496 with 12 homers, but he's available in half of ESPN leagues and 75 percent of Yahoo leagues. On top of that, he's slated to face a pair of hittable starters in Kyle Lohse and Yovani Gallardo before heading to Arizona to face rookies Randall Delgado and Tyler Skaggs. If you're looking at Quentin as a streaming option to add power, however, it may just be better to hang onto him, as he's mashed to a .331/.403/.556 slash line since June 1.

Chris Archer -- Archer has been terrific over the past month, posting a 1.62 ERA and 0.95 WHIP. His ERA should be higher, but Archer's command has gotten considerably stronger over the course of the season, and he'll face a Yankees lineup that he carved up last time he was pitching in the Bronx (6 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 4 K). The Yankees rank 12th in the AL in runs scored and don't pose much of a threat; they've scored a healthy 77 runs this month, but 38 percent of those came in a four-game set against a dreadful Twins pitching staff.

Justin Smoak, Mike Zunino -- Smoak's actually shown some strides at the plate lately, which would be encouraging on its own but is magnified by the fact that he gets a shot at the aforementioned Twins this weekend. Both hitters possesses power and will face Kevin Correia (10.2 H/9, 1.4 HR/9), Scott Diamond (11.4 H/9, 1.5 HR/9), Samuel Deduno and Kyle Gibson. Picking on a Twins rotation that has the worst combined ERA of any starting staff in the Majors is a good way to recoup some offensive ground if you're struggling of late.

Jeff Baker(!) -- Baker has returned from the disabled list, and left-handed pitchers everywhere are cursing, cowering in fear, and/or contemplating retirement. He played in his first game in a month's time after injuring himself on a mighty high five and knocked two hits against Wei-Yin Chen. He's hitting .404/.500/.979 with eight homers against lefties, meaning that Andy Pettitte has nowhere to hide on Wednesday. I'll be throwing an epic party to celebrate Baker's return. You'll all get Facebook invites in the coming days. Promise.


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RotoAuthority League Update: Projected Final Standings

The RotoAuthority League is a highly competitive 12-team fantasy baseball league run by Tim Dierkes. The settings consist of standard 5 X 5 Rotisserie scoring and 23-man lineups along with 3 bench spots. In an effort to keep owners interested as well as to infuse new blood into the league, the teams that finish below 8th place are kicked out of the league each year. The author of this column just hopes he’s not one of them.

With the All-Star break now behind us, I thought it might be a good time to see what the final standings could look like for the RotoAuthority League. I've taken the actual league standings through Friday's games and then added on rest-of-season projections from a mainstream projection system. In this way, we can get a feel for how the standings may shift over the balance of the season.

Before we get to those projected standings, though, a few quick caveats apply here. First, given that there's a 1500-innings limit in this league, I pro-rated the pitching projections for any teams who were expected to go beyond the innings cap. Next, the RotoAuthority League allows for three bench slots, but these projections only take into account each team's best starting lineup. Finally, the rest-of-season projections are just based on current rosters, but there will certainly be plenty of player movement before the trade deadline on August 18 in the very active RotoAuthority League. (Heck, I've made four trades in the past ten days myself. More on that next week.)

With that out the way, let's see what the final standings look like based on roughly 60% statistics accrued and about 40% rest-of-season projections. Current point totals are provided in parentheses to see how each team is expected to move in the standings down the stretch.

1. Yu at the Animal Zoo 98 (101)

2. Smell the Glove 97 (102)

3. Say It Ain't So Cano 77.5 (81)

4. Brewsterville Bruins 72 (73.5)

5. Gramma Nutt Crushers 72  (75)

6. Men With Wood 68.5 (62)

7. Philly Cheez 59 (48.5)

8. Reedy 56 (55)

9. UP 51 (55.5)

10. E-Z Sliders 49 (53.5)

11. A Century of Misery 43 (40.5)

12. Forty 2 Twenty 4 37 (32.5)

The first takeaway for me is that if things go according to the projections, it's going to be an exciting finish in the RotoAuthority League. Despite currently standing in second place, Yu at the Animal Zoo is projected to take home the title by one point over Tim Dierkes's Smell the Glove. It's also interesting that these two squads are expected to finish 20 points ahead of the rest of the league. It's pretty safe to say this league has become a two-horse race.

The middle of the standings are expected to remain rather stable. On the one hand, this stands to reason, as rest-of-season projections are conservative in nature and thus unlikely to forecast massive jumps in the standings. On the other hand, it's worth keeping in mind that strange things can happen in this game we love over a small sample size of just two-and-a-half months. As always, projections should be taken with a grain of salt. As a quick aside, it's worth noting that the Brewsterville Bruins have been able to amass over 200 at-bats more than any other team in the league. Despite having an offense that doesn't really jump off the page, the Bruins are in the top half of both runs and RBI. This speaks to the power of reaching those games played maximums.

Something else that stands out is that Philly Cheez is projected to move up 14 points over the balance of the season. Upon closer examination, this squad is expected to make up 5 points in the RBI category and another 5 in the Wins column. Given that each of those categories is tightly packed in the middle, this seems plausible. If the projections see Philly Cheez rising out of the bottom four, there naturally must be another team expected to join that unwanted territory. As it turns out, UP would hope that the standings do not finish as seen above, as the projections anticipate this squad slipping a few points into the bottom four.

Once again, they're called projections for a reason. Over a sample size of ten weeks, just about anything can happen in this wonderful game. Still, this is a useful exercise that I recommend any fantasy owner taking the time to do if playing in a Rotisserie league. In this way, you can see specifically which categories to prioritize over the balance of the season.



Stock Watch: Buy What You Need...Even If It's Not Very Good

By the time you read this, Matt Garza will already be a Ranger.

Or he'll be something else, I guess, maybe even a Cub. If Garza does get traded, his value will go up, because he'll be playing for a better team and likely to get wins at a higher rate. (Unless Houston pulls a fast one.) No! His value is sure to go down, since Texas is in the AL and in a hitter's park, as is Boston. Arizona may be in the NL, but it's not a good place to pitch either, so the Dodgers are the only team mentioned in talks that won't kill his ERA and WHIP--deal him while you can! Whether or not you want Garza depends on what you need, and the format of your league. So will it be for any other category.

Instead of the usual breakdown of Buy, Sell, and Pick Up, this week we'll examine some players you should think carefully about and either buy or sell depending upon your needs.

Homers

Chris Carter stands out big time here. He may have the highest K% in the Majors, but he's also got a .240 ISO and 18 HRs. Even better, he's only owned in 45% of CBS leagues and 26% of Yahoo! leagues. Pick him up or trade for him if you're on the cusp of grabbing another point to three in the HR standings. Stay far, far away if you're in the thick of the BA competition, as he could easily give away more from that category than he takes in longballs. He's best if you're at the top or bottom of your league in average, or if you've accumulated a ton of ABs.

Similar players include Matt Reynolds, Mike Napoli, Brandon Moss, and J.P. Arencibia.

Pedro Alvarez profiles similarly, but with higher highs and more complete playing time. He's got the most value of this group, and will probably be the most expensive. Keep that in mind if you need to help your BA category, as Alvarez could be a point of addition by subtraction.

Adam Dunn is probably the most extreme of this type of hitter, but also the most consistent. His homers and his terrible average are both pretty much assured. His name brand and history will probably raise his price, so consider some of the above hitters if you aren't getting a good deal for him.

Batting Average

When you aren't making deals for superstars, you're usually sacrificing power for average, or average for power. That's just how it goes. If you're in need in both categories...hopefully you have some spare pitching or an elite base stealer. Better yet, both. We're plenty far enough in the season to start looking at semi-high BABIPs as short-term trends instead of confusion. Feel free to trade for someone with a BABIP between .320 and .340 if you're hoping for some help in this category.

Austin Jackson has a .347 BABIP and a .280 average; normally that wouldn't be too exciting, but Jackson has a history of better BABIPs than that and could actually add to that number. Of course he (like teammate Torii Hunter) doesn't help you at all in homers. Thankfully, the strength of their lineup allows these Tigers to contribute at least some in Runs or RBIs.

If you like position flexibility, try Marco Scutaro. His .334 BABIP isn't unbelievable, but his .316 BA is great from your MI slot. Also up the middle, Jed Lowrie was supposed to be a power hitter, but he got just seven longballs. Luckily for you, if you need average, as his .330 BABIP has led him to a .295 BA.

Gerardo Parra and Daniel Nava are still getting things done in average, with .329 and .327 BABIPs, respectively, leading to BAs of .285 and .288.

James Loney is a Known Bum, but that will keep his value low as you try to sneak his .315 average onto your team. Even if his .338 BABIP comes down a tad, he's still useful for any team in need of points in this category.

Wins

Matt Garza and his soon-to-change value brought about this column idea, so I'll just quickly reaffirm that you should try to swing a deal for him if you need wins. If his current owner likes him for his ERA, he or she should be pleased to deal him now. There's no reason both teams can't win trades in this part of the season. (It's more valuable to rob your opponents early in April and May anyway.) Let's examine some other pitchers who might be able to help in wins. Unfortunately, there's nothing close to a sure thing in this category, and all the moreso over just a couple months. 

The best ways I've got to predict wins are to combine three things: high IP totals, high-scoring offenses, and being at least a decent pitcher. Since we aren't trying to find the best pitchers in fantasy baseball, let's try to keep that last one to not much more than "decent."

With the Red Sox scoring the most runs in baseball, pitchers like Felix Doubront and Ryan Dempster are good candidates for wins, though neither is among the IP leaders. Tigers pitchers Doug Fister and Rick Porcello profile similarly, as does anyone called up by the Rays.

Somewhat surprisingly, the Angels and Indians are among the leading teams in wRC+, so pitchers like Ubaldo Jimenez and C.J. Wilson might be expect to get some wins. Justin Masterson might be a bit high-end for this exercise, but he could be pried from owners hoping to improve their team ERA.

Bud Norris is expected to be traded, with the Red Sox the destination most often mentioned. If you need wins, trade for him or pick him up before that happens. Even if he's traded elsewhere, it will help his value in this category.

ERA

The formula for getting a better than expected ERA from you pitchers is similar to the one used to acquire a few extra wins, though it's rather more dependent on the pitcher actually being good. Team fielding and park factors take the place of pitching deep into games or getting run support. 

This year's All-Star venue, Citi Field in New York has been the strongest pitcher's park. Though this is probably accentuated by the fact that they have some good pitchers and a terrible offense, their staff is still a good place to start looking for ERA help. The Indians, Cardinals, Pirates, Padres, Giants, Dodgers, A's, and--shockingly--the Diamondbacks all play in parks with factors of 0.899 or less. (Maybe trading for Garza is an even better idea than we thought, especially when we note that Wrigley Field has been the worst place to pitch in 2013.)

With four of the five NL West teams showing pitcher-friendly park factors this season, pitchers from that division are even more attractive thanks to the unbalanced schedule.

Of the teams above, the D-Backs, Giants, Pirates, and A's have notably above-average UZRs.

We can see that there's some method to the madness of luck-leader Jeff Locke's success, but I still wouldn't count on someone whose ERA-FIP difference is that extreme. Patrick Corbin looks more reasonable though. Bartolo Colon and A.J. Burnett should be able to help as well. Strugglers like Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum have good environments for improvement, though I'm not prepared to guess what might happen with those guys. 

Worth noting is that the Royals have baseball's best defense by that measure (by a lot), so pitchers like Jeremy Guthrie and Ervin Santana might be more able to post good ERAs than you'd normally expect, not to mention ace James Shields.

With under three months left in the season, you don't have to have the best players on your team to win your league--you just have to have the ones in the best position to capitalize on this year's particularities. If a hitter is putting up a great BABIP in April, it's luck. In July, there might be a reason, and that reason could very well carry through September. If a pitcher is overperforming his peripherals, there's probably a reason for that--and it could continue too. Use the trends you see and offer trades accordingly.

 



Closer Updates: 14 Saves

Sometimes I get an idea for a column before I even set out to research it. (Yes, I do research.) Usually, this works out fine, just like it did in college. So today, when I set out to find hidden gems of the relief world via Fangraphs.com's Steamer projection system, I expected to find a small cadre of pitchers that could be projected for more saves than most over the final two-and-a-half months of the season. (Why can't the All-Star break just be in the middle?)

That's not what I found. In fact, I discovered that the opposite was true: pretty much everyone is predicted to get about 14 more saves over the course of the season. Obviously, this isn't what will happen, but it speaks to the unpredictability of saves and the pitchers who earn them. Not only was there low variation, but the number itself seems pretty conservative--the system isn't willing to assume that any closer or team will have particularly good luck getting save opps. Some pitchers will have that good luck--just as Jim Johnson and Jason Grilli had in the first half--but it's impossible to know which ones will.

The saves category is the One Main Reason why we bother with closers, and the only reason to take them over the best of the overall relief pitching market, but if there's no way to tell who might get the most saves for the rest of the season, then the only thing to do is try to get the best 14 saves you can...or the cheapest.

There is a caveat: Steamer may not know much about Kevin Gregg's or Joaquin Benoit's job security,* but we do and we can price them accordingly.

*Actually, Steamer seems to, as neither pitcher is projected to accumulate many more saves. The point remains that you are free to use your baseball knowledge and common sense to weed out any pitchers unlikely to get a full complement of saves for the rest of the season.

The Best 14 Saves

Notice that this is not a list of the best 14 closers--simply your high-end trade targets. If you need saves but also want to shore up your rate stats, these are the guys to go for. Teams in Roto leagues with high IP totals may be most interested in these players, and most able to pay for them with high-level starters.

A relatively simple sorting by 2013 xFIP gives us these top closers:

Greg Holland (1.37)
Jason Grilli (2.08)
Craig Kimbrel (2.14)
Kenley Jansen (2.24)
Glen Perkins (2.25)
Koji Uehara (2.35)
Aroldis Chapman (2.57)
Joaquin Benoit (2.64)

If strikeouts are your main concern, worry not: each of these pitchers has a K/9 of 11.74 or better. Of the group, Benoit is by far the most worrisome, as the Tigers remain a prime candidate to deal for an outside closer. Why they aren't satisfied by Benoit is beyond me. The production from him should be great, so if the trade deadline passes, pounce on him. Or, if you need a big risk, go for it early and expect his cost to be low. Uehara also poses some threat to be removed from the role, as he wasn't the first (or second, or third) choice for the job. The latest trade chatter suggests that Perkins will not be traded, so he looks like a risk worth taking.

Obviously, no closer is a sure bet for anything (except, basically Mariano Rivera), but this Squad of Seven is poised to pitch extremely well in the second half. Once you've got that, all you can do is hope that the saves fall into place.

If you don't like Benoit, but still want this list to round out to seven, feel free to add Fernando Rodney. Seriously, he's next on the list with his 2.91 xFIP, and his K/9 is 12.50. Go figure.

Worth noting: when I sort the Steamer projections by end-of-season FIP, Bobby Parnell and Sergio Romo  insert themselves into this list. Neither has the strikeout rate to match the Seven above, but both have more job security than Benoit. Parnell's low current save total could make him a good bargain play, which helpfully brings us to....

Bargain Bin Saves

Just as the list above wasn't necessarily the "best" closers, and certainly not the ones with the highest save totals, this list isn't the worst, or those with the lowest. It's simply the closers whom you should expect to be able to pay a little less for. In head-to-head formats, these might be the best closers to target; similarly, if you need saves in a Roto league, but don't have the luxury of shedding all your starting pitchers (or base stealers, or home run hitters, or whatever) to get them.

Fernando Rodney was a surprise mention above, but he makes it here because of his intense struggles early in the season, not to mention the impossible expectations he could never have lived up to. His ERA sits at 3.79, and his FIP at 3.11, but his 2.91 xFIP suggests better things are still to come. Having weathered problems that would have gotten most pitchers demoted, Rodney has a lot of job security now that he's pitching well. It doesn't hurt that the Rays are in a pennant race.

Steve Cishek has spent the season dealing with trade rumors, but the Marlins want a top prospect for him, which isn't going to happen. The Fish won't win a lot of games, but Cishek could still get his 14 saves. Trade rumors, a bad team, a low save total, and the fact that he isn't even an elite reliever should keep his price pretty low.

Bobby Parnell is only projected by Steamer for four more saves over the course of the season, but his low profile and high job security make him a good trade candidate.

Casey Janssen has kept a pretty low profile too, after returning from injury and sparring with Sergio Santos in Spring Training. Playing north of the border probably doesn't help.

Jim Johnson might be leading the league in saves, but that's probably all the more reason for his owners to want to trade him. He's had more rough patches than most closers, and he's really not an elite pitcher--but he isn't bad and Buck Showalter hasn't shown any sign of wanting to replace him in the role.

Warning: Stay Away

Even at a good price, I don't advise these powder kegs:

Rafael Soriano (6.53 K/9, 4.07 xFIP)
Tom Wilhelmsen (6.80 K/9, 4.49 xFIP, tenuous job security)
Huston Street (5.34 K/9, 4.65 xFIP, 6.95 FIP)

Just say no. And if you happen to own them, deal them for pennies on the dollar if you have to.

As always, follow @CloserNews on Twitter for all the latest information on closers and relievers around MLB and keep up with MLBTradeRumors.com as the trading deadline approaches.



The Proof Is In The Peripherals: July 18-24

Since the All-Star Break is all about celebrating the first 3.5 months of the baseball season, let's look back on a couple of my starworthy picks of the first half.  For instance, I told you in early May that Matt Carpenter was the real deal, and just last week, I praised Tim Lincecum's underrated season just before he no-hit the Padres.  Yep, I guess you could say it was a pretty darn perfect first half for the ol' Shukster...uh, except for writing off Ian Desmond or thinking Chase Headley's slump was no big deal.  The moral of the story is, I'm a human coin flip.  Actually, if I was a human coin flip, I'd usually come up heads due to my giant cranium.  Seriously, I can't wear adjustable ballcaps even if they're on the last notch on the strap.  It's a curse.  Forget my being a human coin flip, I'm really a human bobblehead doll.

Enough of that nonsense.  Let's look at this week's advanced metric All-Stars and No-Stars!

* Porce Of A Different Color.  If it weren't for the Los Anaheim Angels, Rick Porcello would be looked on a lot more favorably by fantasy managers.  Porcello has a 4.80 ERA in 99 1/3 innings, but if you subtract the 16 runs in five innings (!) that Porcello allowed in two starts against the Halos, Porcello's ERA drops down to much more respectable 3.53 mark.  I'm forced to conclude that Porcello has been targeted by a Christopher Lloyd-esque spirit, a la Angels In The Outfield.  For instance, Porcello has a career-best 57.3% ground ball rate this season but also a 15.7% home run rate, so even though he's allowing fewer fly balls, more of them are inexplicably leaving the park.  It's almost as if those flies are being carried over the fence by a winged figure, HMMMM???

Whether it's vengeful spirits or just bad luck, Porcello hasn't caught many breaks this season given that his 3.52 FIP, 3.07 xFIP and 3.15 SIERA all indicate that he should be seeing much better results on the ERA front.  The Tigers righty has posted new career bests in K/9 (7.2), BB/9 (1.7) and K/BB ratio (4.21) but hasn't had much to show for it thanks to a .317 BABIP and a below-average 65.4% strand rate.   Unless the supernatural phenomena continues, I'd expect Porcello to be a solid fantasy contributor in the second half.  He'll likely be available for a cheap price in a fantasy trade or he could even be on the waiver wire.  Since the Tigers don't play the Angels again, you're set.

* Not On A Roll.  It's been a long and distinguished run for Jimmy Rollins as a major fantasy contributor, but at age 34, I think J-Roll is about done.  Rollins is hitting .258/.317/.345 with 38 runs, 30 RBI and just four homers in 403 PA.  It's been a total power outage for Rollins, as his .088 ISO is the 14th-lowest of any player with a qualified number of plate appearnces.  Even his base-stealing has gone to pot, as Rollins is just 9-for-15 in stolen base attempts and he's registering only a 3.8 in Fangraphs' "speed score" statistic, barely half of his 7.4 career total.

Rollins owners have undoubtedly been looking for upgrades for several weeks now and all I can say is keep searching, since there's nothing to suggest that Rollins can turn things around.  He is what he is, a lower-tier shortstop whose former pluses of speed and homers have both seemingly left him.

* Colby Beware.  "Hey, would you be interested in Colby Rasmus?  He only has a .695 OPS against lefties but his .866 OPS against righties is terrific, and since you shuffle your lineup every day, you'll know when the Blue Jays face a southpaw.  Rasmus is having a sneaky-good year, on pace to recapture the promise he showed in his big 2010 season.  He'd help your outfield and since you already have an excess of (insert stat here), you can spare a (insert position here).  Think about it!"  

There, I just provided your sales pitch for your upcoming trade offer.  You openly admit Rasmus' splits, you butter up your rival manager by implying that he's both already smart enough to know about the splits and how to play Rasmus correctly, and you plant the seed about Rasmus' would-be breakout season from three years ago.  The best part is that this description is truthful, as Rasmus has indeed been a great streaming play against right-handed pitching.  That said, move now to sell high on Rasmus.  Almost all of Rasmus' contact rates are down from last year and below his career averages, so I'd say his .344 BABIP indicates that Rasmus has been lucky to find open spaces when he has been making contact.  Not that seasonal splits are a good forecaster, but for his career Rasmus has a .615 OPS after the All-Star Break, for what it's worth.  I'd cut bait on Rasmus now and let another owner deal with his probable regression.  Would you really let my brilliant sales pitch go to waste?  If there was a Pulitzer Prize for trade offer notes....

* Stop.  Hamels Time.  Cole Hamels isn't really having a bad season, but he's just the victim of high expectations (not unlike his team itself).  Like many of you, I drafted Hamels in one of my leagues with the expectation that he'd be a rotation-carrying ace, but the Phillies southpaw has instead performed more like an okay #2 or good #3 starter.  Is it ideal?  No, but it's not like Hamels is being rocked every time out.  It's fine to have just a "solid" ace if the rest of your fantasy rotation has been smartly constructed and hey, Hamels does have a 2.95 ERA over his last eight starts, so maybe his best is yet to come.

Most of Hamels' 2013 peripherals aren't appreciatively different from his past numbers except when it comes to leaving men on base.  While Hamels' 70.8% strand rate is roughly average, Hamels has never been "roughly average" in this category, as he's enjoyed a 76.5% strand rate over his career.  Simply put, more of Hamels' runners are scoring than usual, and that's the likely culprit behind his 4.05 ERA.  Given that his strand rate isn't low by any means, this might simply be a case of Hamels' good luck running out.  If he regains his strand rate mojo, look out, the vintage Hamels might yet re-emerge.  It'd be ridiculous to try and trade Hamels simply because he isn't pitching like a Cy Young candidate so don't even think about throwing Cole Hamels down the Camel Hole.  Basically, it's that pit from Return Of The Jedi, except instead of a Sarlacc, it's a bunch of wild bloodthirsty camels.  You're right, it doesn't make sense.





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