August 2013

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Stock Watch: Strength of Schedule (Part 2)

Welcome to a very special crossover edition of Stock Watch Just days ago on RotoAuthority Unscripted, we examined the September schedules of the first fifteen MLB teams, on the premise that within such a small section of the season, the strength (or weakness) of any team’s opponents can have a huge impact on all its players.

We left off with the Milwaukee Brewers, so any team before them in the alphabet (by location, not nickname) can be found in Thursday’s post.

 Note that I'm taking 2013 park factors from ESPN and team pitching (sorted by xFIP) and hitting (sorted by wOBA) stats from Fangraphs.com. Each team’s name is a link to their schedule, so you can see for yourself if my suggestions are good.

 Minnesota Twins

Total: 28 games (17 home) Athletics 7(3), Indians 4(4), Blue Jays 3(3), Tigers 3(3), Rays 3(3),White Sox 3, Astros 3, Rangers 1, Angels 1

Home park factor: 1.075

Pitching: Fourteen games against top-third lineups, with only 6 against bottom-third hitting.

Hitting: Only 6 games against top-tier pitching (Rays and Tigers), but 10 against bottom-third pitching staffs (Blue Jays, Astros, Angels, Athletics)

Analysis: If you have any Twins pitchers (besides Glen Perkins), now is the perfect time to let them go. The hitters, however, have a mildly favorable schedule, and play a lot of games in their run-increasing (though homer killing) home park.

New York Mets

Total: 27 games (15 home) Nationals 5(4), Brewers 4, Marlins 4, Braves 3, Indians 3, Giants 3(3), Reds 3, Phillies 3

Home park factor: 0.878

Pitching: Six games against top-tier offenses (Braves and Indians), which all come in the first week of the month; after that 10 games against bottom-third offenses.

Hitting: Eleven games against top-third pitching; only the 3 Phillies games are against bottom-tier pitching staffs.

Analysis: Wait a week before picking up or starting Mets pitchers, but after that, they should encounter a mostly favorable schedule. Their hitters aren’t so lucky—cut ties with any fringy hitter you can spare.

New York Yankees

Total: 27 games (14 home) Red Sox 7(4), Orioles 5(1), White Sox 3(3), Blue Jays 3, Giants 3(3), Rays 3(3), Astros 3

Home park factor: 1.034

Pitching: The Yankees draw 12 games against the second and third best hitting teams in baseball (Red Sox and Orioles), plus 6 more against top-third lineups; they do have 9 games against lower-third teams.

Hitting: Three Rays games are the only top-third pitchers the Yanks will face, and they have 11 against bottom third pitchers.

Analysis: Pitching has been New York’s brightest spot, but this is a bad month to be a non-ace Yankee—if you can find similarly talented pitchers on other teams on the waiver wire, trade in your Yankee arms. The hitters, however, enjoy a very favorable month.

Oakland Athletics

Total: 27 games (15 home) Twins 7(4), Rangers 6(3), Angels 6(3), Astros 4(4), Mariners 3, Rays 1(1)

Home park factor: 0.881—with the 3 Seattle games and one in Tampa Bay, the A’s have 19 games in very pitcher-friendly parks.

Pitching: Thirteen games against top-third hitting, with only 4 against bottom-third hitters.

Hitting: Only 4 games against top-third pitching (Mariners, Rays), with 17 against bottom-third pitching.

Analysis: Though not helped by the parks they’ll be playing in, the Athletics’ hitters have extremely good matchups. The pitching staff will need the help from those park factors and are not recommended.

Philadelphia Phillies

Total: 26 games (15 home) Braves 7(3), Nationals 6(3), Marlins 6(3), Padres 3, Mets 3, Cubs 1

Home park factor: 1.117

Pitching: The 7 Braves games are the only top-third matchups, while they play 13 against bottom-third teams.

Hitting: Phillies hitters face 13 games against top-quality pitching, and only 4 against bottom-third teams.

Analysis: Thanks to the park factor, Phillies pitchers come out more or less neutral with their schedule (maybe a little negative), but it’s probably not enough to recommend their hitters against tough opposition.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Total: 27 games (11 home) Cubs 7(4), Reds 6(3), Cardinals 4(1), Padres 4(4), Rangers 3, Brewers 3

Home park factor: 0.927

Pitching: Seven games against top-third lineups (Cardinals and Rangers), but 11 games against bottom-third hitters.

Hitting: Seven games against top-tier pitching staffs, but 11 against lower-tier pitchers (Padres and Cubs).

Analysis: Pittsburgh’s schedule is pretty balanced.

San Diego Padres

Total: 27 games (13 home) Giants 6(3), Dodgers 4(3), D-Backs 4(4), Pirates 4, Braves 3, Rockies 3(3), Phillies 3

Home park factor: 0.830. With the 13 games of lowest park factor in baseball, plus 7 more in strong pitchers’ parks (Giants, Dodgers, Pirates), Padre pitching should benefit at the expense of their hitters.

Pitching: Only 6 games against top-third offenses, with 9 against bottom-third clubs.

Hitting: Eleven games against top pitching staffs, with only 6 against bottom-third teams.

Analysis: Padre pitchers are in for a good month, but feel free to drop your Padre hitters.

San Francisco Giants

Total: 27 games (13 home) Dodgers 7(3), Padres 6(3), D-Backs 5(4), Rockies 3(3), Mets 3, Yankees 3

Home park factor: 0.848 The Giants play 23 games in the four strongest pitchers’ parks in baseball. That should tell you more than the matchups will.

Pitching: Only the 3 Rockies games are against top-third hitting, but 9 games are against bottom-third lineups.

Hitting: The Giants get 10 games against top-third pitching, and 9 against lower-tier pitching.

Analysis: The Giants’ schedule is dominated by their September park factor. Drop their hitters and pick up any of their pitchers you can.

Seattle Mariners

Total: 27 games (12 home) Royals 7(3), Astros 4(3), Tigers 4, Rays 3(3), Cardinals 3, Angels 3, Athletics 3(3)

Home park factor: 0.936

Pitching: Seattle pitchers have 13 games against top-flight hitting 11 against bottom-tier hitters (Astros and Royals).

Hitting: The M’s have 10 games against high-quality pitching, and 14 against lower-third pitchers.

Analysis: The best part of the Mariners’ schedule for pitchers is in the first two weeks—after that, the competition is brutal. The hitting schedule is pretty balanced.

St. Louis Cardinals

Total: 27 games (15 home) Brewers 6(3), Pirates 4(3), Reds 4, Rockies 4, Nationals 3(3), Cubs 3(3)

Home park factor: 0.904

Pitching: Cards pitchers face only 4 games (Rockies) against top-third hitting, and only 3 (Cubs) against bottom-third hitting.

Hitting: Eleven games against top-third pitching, 7 against bottom-third pitching.

Analysis: This schedule is mostly balanced—Cardinal players are recommendable.

Tampa Bay Rays

Total: 28 games (11 home) Rangers 4(4), Angels 4, Orioles 4(4), Mariners 3, Blue Jays 3, Red Sox 3(3), Twins 3, Yankees 3, Athletics 1

Home park factor: 0.921

Pitching: Rays pitchers have 18 games against top-quality hitting, with only 6 (Yankees and Twins) against bottom-third hitting.

Hitting: Six games against top-third pitching, with 15 against bottom-third pitching.

Analysis: It’s time to let go of those Rays pitchers who were so good all year long, but expect good things from Tampa Bay’s hitters.

Texas Rangers

Total: 27 games (14 home) Angels 7(4), Athletics 6(3), Rays 4, Pirates 3(3), Royals 3, Astros 3(3), Twins 1(1)

Home park factor: 0.985—yes, Ballpark at Arlington has been a slight pitchers’ park this season.

Pitching: Eleven games against top-third hitting, with 7 against bottom-third hitters.

Hitting: Seven matchups against top-level pitching staffs, with 14 bottom-third pitching.

Analysis: Mostly a balanced schedule, with some good news for the hitters.

Toronto Blue Jays

Total: 26 games (13 home) Orioles 6(3), Yankees 3(3), Red Sox 3, Rays 3(3), D-Backs 3, Twins 3, Angels 3(3), Royals 1(1), White Sox 1

Home park factor: 1.149

Pitching: Fifteen games against top-tier lineups, including 9 against the number two and three lineups (Red Sox and Orioles); 8 games against bottom-third lineups.

Hitting: Six games against top pitching, with 10 against low-level pitching.

Analysis: The pitching matchups spell big trouble for Toronto hurlers, but their hitters have a somewhat favorable month.

Washington Nationals

Total: 27 games (11 home) Marlins 7(4), Phillies 6(3), Mets 5(1), Braves 3(3), Cardinals 3, D-Backs 3

Home park factor: 0.981

Pitching: Six games against top-third lineups, 18 against bottom-tier hitters.

Hitting: The Nats have 6 games against top-level pitching staffs, and 6 against bottom-level staffs (all against the Phillies).

Analysis: Though the hitters have a very neutral schedule, the pitchers should look great facing the Marlins, Phillies, and Mets for so many games.

Final MatchupsOverview

Pitchers 

These teams have such favorable matchups that even thier mediocre pitchers are worth picking up off the waiver wire: the Nationals, Braves, Giants, Tigers, and Indians have the best schedules; next are the Padres, Reds, Dodgers, Marlins, Mets (wait a week into the month), and Mariners (drop after two weeks).

Avoid or even release pitchers from these teams: the Orioles, White Sox, Royals, and Blue Jays have the toughest schedules; the Red Sox, Cubs, Angels, Twins, Yankees, and Rays aren't far behind. Cut ties with any questionable pitcher on these squads.

Pitchers on unlisted teams can be selected or avoided the old-fashioned way: on their personal merit.

Hitters

Look for hitters on these teams when perusing the waiver wire: Yankees, A's, Rays, Braves, Reds, Indians, Tigers, and Angels.     

You can drop non-stars (and stay away from waiver bait) from these teams: Cubs, Royals, Marlins, Mets, Padres, and Giants.

Good luck navigating the playoffs. Next week, Stock Watch will be back to its regular format with specific advice for specific players.



Closer Updates: Angels, Astros, Orioles, Pirates, & Rockies

Welcome back! This week we’ll take a look at two position battles and provide some insight into other happenings in the closer world. Without “hold”ing you up, it’s time to “close” the introduction and “save” you from any more of these puns...

Angels

The Battle for Los Angeles Angels closer continued this week with yet another save split. Ernesto Frieri had two saves in three innings, looking good in his quasi-triumphant return to the ninth inning. In those appearances, Frieri gave up no runs, allowed one hit and one walk, with a K/9 of 9.0. On the other hand, Dane De La Rosa has pitched well with one save in 2.3 innings over the same time span. Although not as flashy, he’s been effective by scattering groundballs and popping batters up, giving up two walks, no earned runs and no hits. Although we’re not quite sure if Frieri has re-taken the reins out west, he’s well on his way to having the gig back.

Astros

If you’re looking for another closer job up for grabs, take a gander at Houston. This week, Jordan Lyles has the Astros' only save and he started against the Mariners on Thursday. While Chia-Jen Lo struggled in one appearance, Josh Fields has steadily made a strong case for himself. Since our last column, Fields has had four appearances and impressed with his consistency (2.2 innings pitched, two hits, four strikeouts, no walks or earned runs). Right now, Fields seems like the guy to own. If you’re really looking for a sleeper, Kevin Chapman has been a good reliever for Houston and, despite his atypical closer profile (groundball guy, low K/9), he could inherit the role by default.

Orioles

Despite last week’s Tommy Hunter scare, it seems that Jim Johnson is still the guy to own in Baltimore. The closer-by-committee approach may have just been a motivation tactic, or may still prove to be true once the O's get a few more save opportunities, but Johnson has both of their saves in the last week and has pitched well since his struggles a few weeks ago.

Pirates

First-half stud Jason Grilli is still rehabbing from his forearm injury, but his progression is coming along nicely. On Wednesday, Grilli completed a simulated game and could return to Pittsburgh within the next two weeks. That being said, his promotion to the big leagues depends on his performance in AA (Saturday) and back-to-back gigs in AAA (early next week). If Grilli performs well, he’ll be back in the majors and pressuring Mark Melancon for his job back. Whether or not Grilli is given the ninth inning immediately is still unclear, but you’ll be in the loop when we find out.

Rockies

This just in, Rafael Betancourt’s injury was as serious as everyone thought. It appears he’ll undergo Tommy John surgery and the rest of his career may be in doubt. That being said, Rex Brothers is still the guy to own here and moving forward (especially if you’re in a keeper or dynasty league). It’s been clear in Denver that Brothers was their closer-of-the-future, but that time is now. With a career 11.1 K/9, Rex has the stuff and will be a good-to-great closer for quite some time.

Add-Vice

While it may have snuck past some, do not think that we haven’t noticed Drew Storen’s slow and steady return to the Nats’ bullpen. After struggling mightily at the beginning of the season and spending some time in the minors (5.47 ERA in 2013), Storen has regained a spot in the 7th inning. Since his return at the beginning of August, he’s had a very serviceable 7.0 innings (2.57 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 2 Ks). While Tyler Clippard is still ahead of him in the depth chart, Washington has always preferred to keep Clippard in a setup role. The Nationals are definitely not paying Rafael Soriano for long relief, but if he continues to struggle (giving up at least one run in five of his last nine appearances) and Storen keeps on keeping on, don’t be surprised to see him get a shot at the ninth.

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or drop, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



RotoAuthority Unscripted: Strength of Schedule (Part 1)

I know. Strength of schedule is for football and basketball, and all those other, lesser sports. Baseball is pure, and played over 162 games that the quality of opponents balances out for everyone but those in the American League East. 

But there aren't 162 games in September, just 28. A great schedule might make a mid-rotation starter seem (and score) like an ace (preview: pick up some Nationals), while a terrible one may take a big bite out of a great pitcher's value. The same thing can be said for hitters, and since we enter our final stretch run or our playoffs when the calendar turns to September, this one small, skewed sample is what will make or break fantasy seasons.

It's happened to all of us before, for better or for worse. I remember once setting a league record for regular season wins, thanks to Chris Carpenter's 28 consecutive 2004 quality starts. Tanked in the playoffs because that streak ended in September. I've also ridden amazingly lucky final months all the way to the league championship, and if you don't like all your chips riding on all that luck...play roto style next year. For now, take advantage to the one part of luck we know in advance: the schedule.

Below, I summarize each team's upcoming schedule, and give a recommendation for their pitchers and hitters based on the parks they'll play in and the quality of their opponents. I'm taking 2013 park factors from ESPN and team pitching (sorted by xFIP) and hitting (sorted by wOBA) stats from Fangraphs.com. I especially recommend taking a look at that park factors list, because there are some surprises. Also, each team name is a link to their September schedule, in case you don't trust my report. Or want to buy tickets, I guess.

Small caveat: I am neither a statistician, nor a mathematician, so I didn't turn this research into a fancy and useful algorithm because I really don't know how.

Arizona Diamondbacks 

Total: 28 games (14 at home--shown in parentheses throughout this post), Dodgers 7(4), Rockies 6 (3), Giants 5, Padres 4, Blue Jays 3 (3), Nationals 3(3).

Home park factor: 0.952. A surprisingly neutral park.

Pitching: no games against baseball's best offenses, though the Blue Jays, Rockies and Dodgers are in the upper half (and the Dodgers are on the upswing). They have 9 games (Padres and Giants) against low-ranked offenses.

Hitting: they play 10 games against top-tier pitching staffs (Dodgers and Nationals), and 7 against bottom-tier staffs (Padres and Rockies).

Analysis: Balanced schedule

Atlanta Braves

Total: 28 games (14 home) Phillies 7(4), Marlins 5(1), Mets 3(3), Padres 3(3), Nationals 3, Cubs 3, Brewers 3(3).

Home park factor: 0.966

Pitching: Zero games against average or above-average offenses. Eight games against the worst two offenses in baseball, with 14 more against bottom-third offenses.

Hitting: Three games against a top-third pitching staff, 13 against bottom-third staffs.

Analysis: Pick up every unowned Braves pitcher you can. Even the relievers in some formats. Don't be afraid to keep your hitters in the lineup too.

Baltimore Orioles

Total: 28 games (14 home) Blue Jays 6(3), Red Sox 6(3), Yankees 5(4), White Sox 4(4), Rays 4, Indians 3

Home park factor: 1.017 

Pitching: Nineteen games against top-third offenses. Only the Yankees and White Sox (both in bottom-third) give any respite.

Hitting: Only 4 games agaisnt top-third pitching, and 6 against bottom-third.

Analysis: Stay away from O's pitchers, but their hitters have a balanced schedule.

Boston Red Sox

Total: 25 games (13 home) Yankees 7(3), Orioles 6(3), Tigers 3(3), Blue Jays 3(3), Rays 3, Rockies 2, White Sox 1(1)

Home park factor:  1.048. Another park that hasn't played as hitter-friendly in the past.

Pitching: Fourteen games against top-hitting teams, including 9 against two of the top four offenses. Eight games against bottom-third offenses.

Hitting: Ten games against top pitching; nine against bottom-tier pitching.

Analysis: Expect streaky hitters (take it series by series in daily leagues), and reserve pitchers except when playing the Yankees and White Sox.

Chicago Cubs

Total: 27 games (13 home) Pirates 7(3), Brewers 7(3), Marlins 3(3), Reds 3, Braves 3(3), Cardinals 3, Phillies 1(1)

Home park factor: 1.160 (2nd highest in MLB)

Pitching: Six games against top-third hitting; 4 against bottom-third teams.

Hitting: Sixteen games against top-third pitching staffs; only one against bottom-third pitching.

Analysis: Drop your Cubs hitters, despite the extra-Friendly Confines. It's not like they were hitting anyway.

Chicago White Sox

Total: 28 games (15 home) Tigers 6 (3), Indians 6(4), Royals 4(4), Twins 3(3), Orioles 4, Yankees 3, Red Sox 1, Blue Jays 1

Home park factor: 1.042

Pitching: Eleven games against the top three offenses; seven against bottom-third opponents.

Hitting: Nine games against top-third pitching; 11 against bottom-third.

Analysis: Sox pitchers could be getting crushed in September. Avoid them, and even pick your spots with Chris Sale.

Cincinnati Reds

Total: 26 games (16 home) Pirates 6(3), Cardinals 4(4), Mets 3(3) Dodgers 3(3), Cubs 3(3), Brewers 3, Astros 3, Rockies 1

Home park factor: 1.102. 

Pitching: Five games against top offenses; 9 games against bottom-third teams.

Hitting: Ten games against tough pitching staffs, but 7 against low-quality pitching. 

Analysis: The number of home games and strong park factor should help Reds hitters, while the below average offenses they face should keep the park from hurting their pitching too much. Reds pitchers and hitters get favorable schedules.

Cleveland Indians

Total: 27 games (15 home) Royals 6(3), White Sox 6(2), Twins 4, Astros 4(4), Orioles 3(3), Mets 3(3), Tigers 1

Home park factor: 0.953

Pitching: Four games against top offenses, but 21 against bottom-third offenses.

Hitting: Only one game against top pitching, but 11 against bottom-third pitching staffs.

Analysis: Pick up Indians, as they have great schedules for pitching and hitting--the first four games of September are their only matchups against contenders.

Colorado Rockies

Total: 25 games (13 home) Dodgers 6(3), D-Backs 6(3), Cardinals 4(4), Padres 3, Giants 3, Red Sox 2(2), Reds 1(1)

Home park factor: 1.186--by far the highest factor in baseball (but you knew that).

Pitching: You know you don't want Coors starts, so we'll focus on their road matchups, where they have 6 games against low-quality opponents.

Hitting: Ten games against top pitching staffs.

Analysis: The park factor is so strong here that it takes a scheduling miracle for me to suggest picking up random Rox starters--no miracle here. 

Detroit Tigers

Total: 26 games (11 home) White Sox 6(3) Royals 6(3), Mariners 4(4), Red Sox 3, Twins 3, Marlins 3 Indians 1(1)

Home park factor: 1.104

Pitching: The 3 Red Sox games, and the one against the Indians are the only ones against good hitting. With 18 games against bottom-third teams, the Mariners' series will be one of the Tigers' biggest challenges.

Hitting: Those 4 Seattle games are the Tigers' only ones against top-third pitching, but they have nine against low-quality staffs.

Analysis: Even the back of the Tigers' rotation should shine in September, as should their whole lineup. 

Houston Astros

Total: 27 games (13 home) Indians 4, Mariners 4(1), Athletics 4, Angels 3(3), Reds 3(3), Rangers 3(3), Yankees 3, Twins 3(3)

Home park factor: 1.086

Pitching: Ten games against top-third lineups (Rangers, Angels, and Indians), but only 3 (Yankees) against bad lineups.

Hitting: Seven top-third pitching matchups (but none against elite pitchers); seven against bottom-third pitching (Athletics and Angels).

Analysis: Not nearly a good enough schedule to make up for the Astros players' weaknesses.

Kansas City Royals

Total: 27 games (13 home) Mariners 7(4), Tigers 6(3), Indians 6(3), White Sox 4, Rangers 3, Blue Jays 1

Home park factor: 1.046

Pitching: With 16 games against top-level offenses (including 6 against the league-best Tigers), KC pitchers will have a tough time of things.

Hitting: They'll play 13 games against top-ten pitching staffs, including 6 against those Tigers. At least one game against the Jays should be favorable.

Analysis: The Royals have terrible matchups on both sides of the ball. Drop or trade any KC players you can.

Los Angeles Angels

Total: 28 games (13 home) Rangers 7(3), Athletics 6(3), Rays 4(4), Mariners 3(3), Astros 3, Blue Jays 3, Twins 1, Brewers 1

Home park factor: 0.974

Pitching: Fourteen games against top-third offenses; only 4 against bottom-third teams.

Hitting: Seven games against top-quality pitching, but 10 games against the worst three pitching staffs.

Analysis: Angels hitters are fair game, but cut ties with any questionable Angels pitchers, even relievers.

Los Angeles Dodgers

Total: 27 games (11 home) D-Backs, 7(3), Rockies 6(3), Giants 6(3), Padres 4(1), Reds 3

Home park factor: 0.854

Pitching: Only the 6 Rockies games are against top-third lineups, but the Dodgers get to play 10 games against the bottom-third Padres and Giants.

Hitting: Only the 3 Reds games are against high-quality pitching, while the Padres and Rockies offer 10 games of bottom-third pitching.

Analysis: With an off-balance home/road split for the month, Dodger hitter should benefit from playing away from home...except that 6 of those road games are in San Francisco and San Diego. Parks aside, the Dodgers have great matchups on both sides of the ball.

Miami Marlins

Total: 28 games (13 home) Nationals 7(3), Phillies 6(3), Braves 5(4), Mets 4, Cubs 3, Tigers 3(3)

Home park factor: 1.081

Pitching: Eight games against top-quality offenses; 13 against bottom-third lineups.

Hitting: Fifteen games against top-third pitching is bad news for a bad lineup--3 games against the Cubs won't make up for that.

Analysis: Feel free to drop Marlins hitters not named Giancarlo. If you're desperate, the pitching has a pretty favorable schedule, provided you release the Fish from you net before their final series against Detroit.

Milwaukee Brewers

Total: 27 games (14 home) Cubs 7(4), Cardinals 6(3), Mets 4, Braves 3, Pirates 3(3), Reds 3(3), Angels 1(1)

Home park factor: 1.067

Pitching: The Brew Crew faces top-third offenses 7 times, but has 11 games against bottom-third clubs.

Hitting: With 15 games against top pitching staffs, and only 8 against low-quality staffs, the Brewers hitters could be in for trouble.

Analysis: The schedule is mostly balanced, but that isn't enough to recommend many players on this team.

Join us on Saturday for a very special episode of Stock Watch...in which we evaluate the schedules of the remaining fifteen teams and provide a quick summary of who to target, who to avoid, and who to drop.



The Proof Is In The Peripherals: Aug. 29-Sept. 4

What's that?   You want to know how I'm doing in my fantasy leagues?  Oh, thanks for asking, you're too kind!  In my five leagues, I'm currently sitting 4th and 10th in my head-to-head leagues (position is kind of moot just as long as you're in the playoffs) and in my roto leagues I'm in 3rd, 5th and....ugh, 11th.  That's the league I'm in with all my old buddies from my hometown, so I'm going to hear a lot of trash talk over the winter and/or offers to take over the writing of this column.

The biggest reason I'm not leading all five leagues is because I follow my advice from these columns mostly just bad luck, I figure.  My fantasy BABIP is probably no bigger than .220 for the season, plus my strand rate is through the roof.  Yes, that's the ticket.  All just bad luck.  Anyway, for those of you who still have a shot in most/all/any of your leagues, here's a peek into the peripherals....

Bend It Like Gordon  With "Gordon" being such a British-sounding name, you'd think the British soccer legend would be named "Gordon Beckham" and the American baseballer would be "David Beckham" rather than the other way around, wouldn't it?  (And if it was just "Gord Beckham," he'd be Canadian.)  That's just one bit of misfortune that has befallen the White Sox second baseman in life.  Another is the .255 BABIP he's carried around for the last month that is primarily responsible for his .245/.336/.368 line over his last 29 games.  I do like Beckham as a sleeper for your last fantasy month and since he's available in a measly 11% of Yahoo leagues, you'll likely to able to add him for nothing.

Beckham has shown glimpses of his vaunted potential, and while he hasn't truly broken out, he's at least been on the radar.  Beckham has enjoyed a couple of hot streaks (including a .303/.337/.447 line over in 20 July games) and he's doing a better job of putting bat to ball, increasing his contact rate to a personal high of 86.4% and cutting his strikeout rate to a career-low 12.4% this season.  This increased contact has been apparent even in the last month of struggle, as Beckham has actually had a higher walk rate (9.8%) to strikeout rate (9.0%).  If this better contact manifests itself into some more balls finding empty spaces in September, Beckham will be a nice little boost to your 2B/MI situation.

We Called The Dog 'Indiana'  I'm not going to argue with my Roto Authority colleague Alex Steers McCrum when he suggests that you should pick up Junior Lake.  Given Lake's numbers and his multi-positional value at third base and outfield, he certainly has enough momentum for you to take a flier on him.  What I wouldn't do, however, is expect Lake Superior when you're more likely to get Lake E(e)rie.

/pauses for laughter

/none comes

Ahem, uh, okay.  Since Lake made his Major League debut on July 19, he has hit an impressive .312/.345/.459 in 166 PA, with four homers and 16 runs.  While this roughly mirrors what he was doing in Triple-A Iowa, however, it should be noted that Lake isn't exactly an elite prospect --- he was rated as only the No. 15 prospect in the Cubs' system by Baseball America's preseason guide.  Not to say that the guy can't pick up his game, but this isn't a case of a touted phenom bursting onto the scene.  Turning to the advanced metrics, Lake has only a 68.1% contact rate, an ugly 0.18 BB/K ratio and a whopping .391 BABIP that is letting him get away with his lack of consistency at the plate.  As I said earlier, it's fair game to pick Lake up since hey, stranger things have happened than a guy retaining BABIP luck over a couple of months.  That said, if you own Lake now and your league's trade deadline hasn't passed yet, you should definitely try to sell high.  If you can work "T-t-t-t TODAY, Junior!" in your trade pitch, all the better.

Half-Eagle, Half-Lion, All-Homer  It has to be frustrating being an A.J. Griffin owner given the right-hander's propensity for shooting himself in the foot.  Over the last 30 days Griffin has allowed precious few hits (.210 BABIP), stranded an above-average number of his runners (79.7%) and yet he has just a 4.33 ERA to show for it.  In fact, despite those nice peripherals, Griffin actually should be doing worse given his 6.37 FIP and 5.25 xFIP.  

The problem is Griffin's tendency to allow home runs.  He's allowed a league-leading 32 longballs this season, nine of them in the last month alone for a 2.29 HR/9 since July 29.  These are high numbers for anyone, especially a guy who pitches his home games in the Coliseum.  Griffin has had good peripheral luck all season (.243 BABIP, 77.5% strand rate) which has been the only thing keeping him from having a worse home run rate than Charlie Brown.

Since throwing a complete game shutout against the Reds on June 26, Griffin has a 4.55 ERA over his last 11 starts.  It's a tough call to just outright release a guy whose overall numbers (3.94 ERA, 2.79 K/BB ratio, 134 strikeouts in 169 IP) are pretty good but if you're heading into a playoff situation in your fantasy league, you don't want to have That Guy on your staff who gets shelled in his one start in a week and single-handedly blows up your ERA category for the matchup.  Griffin is another guy who I'd quietly be shopping in the final days before your trade deadline.



RotoAuthority League Update: The Stretch Run Has Begun

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 trade deadline behind us in the RotoAuthority League, the only transactions going forward will be waiver wire acquisitions. As such, sadly there will be no more trades for me to analyze down the stretch. For the rest of the season then, you can expect a similar format here from me.

Each week I'll first provide an update of the league standings. Given how the league has played out, I'll break things down into the race for first place, the battle for third place, and the fight to avoid the bottom four (and a boot from the league). Let's see how things stand at the moment.

The Race for First Place

1. Smell the Glove 107

2. Yu at the Animal Zoo 104.5

Manager Tim Dierkes of Smell the Glove began the week with a lead of five points. By Wednesday, however, Yu at the Animal Zoo had tied up Smell the Glove at 104 points. Dierkes has been able to gain back a couple of points since then, though. It's safe to say this is going to be a tight race until the finish line and thus a joy to watch down the stretch. Dierkes made a sneaky pickup this past week, stashing Derek Jeter, who should return shortly. Meanwhile, Yu at the Animal Zoo has grabbed several hitters with some pop like Matt Joyce, Adam Lind, and Brandon Moss in an effort to continue to move in the power categories. When you consider the fact that the highest score in the history of the league is 103.5 points, it's almost a shame that one of these owners won't be walking away with a championship.

The Race for Third Place

3. Gramma Nutt Crushers 76.5

4. Brewsterville Bruins 70.5

5. E-Z Sliders 63.5

6. Say It Ain't So Cano 62.5

7. Philly Cheez 62

The Gramma Nutt Crushers began the week with a relatively comfortable 7.5-point lead for third place and a finish in the money. The Brewsterville Bruins have come on strong lately, and by Thursday the Gramma Nutt Crushers were ahead by just one point. Surprisingly, there have been few waiver wire acquisitions among this tier of teams the past week. It stands to reason to some extent, as this group of teams has little chance to win the title but also is highly unlikely to be kicked out of the league. Of coure, it's always good preparation for future seasons to get some more experience in managing the categories, so I'd still expect these teams to fight for every point until October.

The Race to Avoid the Bottom Four

8. Men With Wood 55

9. A Century of Misery 51.5

10. Reedy 51

11. UP 48

12. Forty 2 Twenty 4 28

Men With Wood has hovered ahead of the bottom four for the past week. Unlike the previous group, this batch of teams has been rather acive. As the saying goes, desperate times call for desperate measures. While I've been scrambling to make up innings with spot starters on daily basis recently, Men With Wood has sought to maximize those games played limits by picking up hitters each day.



Stock Watch: The Best Hitters on Your Waiver Wire (and Mine)

Who you should pick up on the waiver wire or free agent list depends entirely on what your team needs. If you're leading the league by a wide margin in steals (or in dead last by a ton), picking up a speedster won't help you. If you're fighting tooth and nail for every point of batting average, then you don't need the power hitters (who'll kill that average) on the list below.

That said, there are quite a few good players (or players having useful seasons, anyway) on a lot of waiver wires. Maybe this reflects how many owners have given up on their season, as these players might be the most help for those near the bottom of their leagues--those who could use a shot in the arm in one or two categories at the expense of another. Not every hitter on this list will be available in your league, but chances are a few of them are. Hopefully they match up with your team's needs.

Listed in order of Yahoo! league ownership, below are my very scientifically selected* Best Hitters on Your Waiver Wire.

James Loney (50%), 1B, TAM -- It feels very strange to promote Loney, but he's been great this year. I don't know what happened, but he's a BA force again, hitting in a good lineup, and a worthwhile addition for just about every team. Probably he's only available in the shallowest half of leagues, but he's still got value there.

J.P. Arencibia (42%), C, TOR -- Presumably he's owned in all two-catcher formats. If not, it's almost a guarantee that he's more valuable than your second catcher. Of course, he's only useful if you're in a position to trade average for homers.

Kelly Johnson (41%), 2B/3B/OF, TAM -- Though not the ideal starter, Johnson's eligiblity makes him very useful in leagues with MI and CI slots. 2B/3B eligibility is one of the most useful combos in baseball, and he hits for a little power. Perfect for almost anyone's bench or as an injury replacement.

Mike Moustakas (41%), 3B, KAN -- He's cooled off a little since regaining his stroke, but his recent hitting coupled with his prospect history of talent makes him a perfect high-upside add. Especially considering the lack of depth at third.

Will Venable (40%), OF, SDP -- Unless the steals take off in the next month, he'll probably miss going 20/20--but not by that much. As a bonus, he doesn't kill your average. Quite underrated.

Russell Martin (39%), C, PIT -- He's a catcher and he's got nine steals--how is that not better than your current #2 catcher? His average is bad, but not an Arencibia-style disaster.

Jedd Gyorko (33%), 2B/3B, SDP -- Basically Kelly Johnson without the OF eligiblity, but with more promise. He's the kind of young player that could turn a corner and put up a red-hot month without surprising anyone. How many already-useful bench bats have that much upside?

Ike Davis (33%), 1B, NYM -- One of the top bargains to be had. A slow start since returning from minor league banishment has been replaced by good play in the last month. His power history makes him a tremendous upside play. At the very least, he's on a hot streak worth riding out.

Rajai Davis (31%), OF, TOR -- If you need steals, there's no excuse for leaving Davis on the wire. I refuse to believe that 69% of leagues don't have stolen bases as a category. 

Brandon Moss (28%), 1B/OF, OAK -- One of the best power sources widely available. His bad-but-not-terrible average makes him especially useful for those wishing to improve in homers and RBI's without giving up too much BA.

Junior Lake (26%), 3B/OF, CHC -- Young player, hitting well, eligible in the infield and the outfield...hmmm...yes, you should pick him up. Whether his good hitting stays or not, he's certainly worth a shot.

Nick Franklin (24%), 2B/SS -- No, he isn't great. But how good is your starting shortstop? How about your second and short backups? Chances are, the backups are worse than Franklin. If you drafted the likes of Starlin Castro, Jimmy Rollins, or Alcides Escobar, Franklin might be better than your starter.

Chris Carter (23%), 1B/OF, HOU -- Possibly the best of the great homers, terrible average crowd. Surely there's a team in each league that has given up on batting average for the sake of the longball, right? 

Xander Bogaerts (23%), SS, BOS -- This guy's ownership seriously went up three percent while I was writing this article. (Or I looked at the numbers wrong.) An exciting prospect, a shortstop, cool name...pick him up in every league! Shortstops who can hit are few and far between, every team can make use of them.

Justin Smoak (20%), 1B, SEA -- Smoak has been hitting well for a couple months now, far too long for 80% of leagues to leave him on the waiver wire. I don't know if he's really turned into the player Seattle was hoping to get when they dealt Cliff Lee for him, but I do know he'd help any fantasy team that picks him up.

Emilio Bonifacio (19%), 2B/OF, KAN -- Bonifacio could lead the league in steals playing half a season. (Especially with Everth Cabrera suspended.) Even on your bench, he steals so often and has such convenient eligiblity that he's a highly valuable spot starter. If you play in a daily changes format and are competing in steals at all, he's almost a must-own. But remember, he gives no other contribution but the steals.

Khris Davis (16%), OF, MIL -- Easily the second best player in baseball with "hris Davis" in his name. Also, he's relatively young, raking this month, and by far the brightest spot on the beleagured Brewers. There's no way Milwaukee stops playing him, and hot streaks like his can help any fantasy team.

Juan Pierre (14%), OF, MIA -- Pierre has 20 steals in under 300 AB. And he's basically an elderly part-timer. A great steals option off the bench. His batting average isn't even awful.

Eric Young (14%), OF, NYM -- The last in our all-speed train (including Rajai Davis, Juan Pierre, and Emilio Bonifacio, for those with short memories), Young has been stealing like crazy for the Mets (28 bags in fewer than 400 AB). With a batting average that won't kill you,  and more playing time than Pierre, Young might be the best of the group, as well as the least-owned. 

Ryan Raburn (11%), 2B/OF, CLE -- Tigers fans remember the cold streaks that ran Raburn out of Motown, but his batting line for this season shows no signs of them. Returning from injury, Raburn is better (while hot) than most second sackers and plenty of outfielders. 

Ryan Ludwick (9%) OF, CIN -- One of my favorite players to target before the season began, Ludwick was hurt on the season's first day. I had to drop him in three or four leagues. Anyway, he's back and not hitting yet. He showed such great power last year, though, that it's almost impossible not to take a chance on him. He could be worthless for the year--but he could also be the best player on the waiver wire in any league.

Hopefully some of these guys are available in your leagues...if not, well, enjoy the fact that you play against sterling competition, I guess. Next week (unless something more urgent comes up) we'll look at the best pitchers widely available.

*I perused my All Players list, sorted by ownership rates and noted the names that stuck out. Like I said, very scientific. If I left out an important player available in your league--let me know who I missed in the comments. (After picking him up, of course--no need to share information with your own league....)


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Closer Updates: Astros, Halos, O's, Pirates, Rockies and White Sox

Welcome back to the wide world of closers. As always, there have been a number of changes in the closer universe this week and we’ll be sure to explore them all. With further ado, to the ninth inning and beyond!

Angels

The battle for the Halos’ closer gig continued this week, with the first full round of Dane De La Rosa vs. Ernestro Frieri. Over the last seven days, De La Rosa has allowed one run in 2.2 innings, with three walks and strikeouts. Far from dazzling, Dane did not earn any saves in that time frame. On the other hand, Frieri has not earned a save either, but has pitched somewhat better than De La Rosa over the same stretch. In 3.0 innings this week, Ernesto has given up no runs, one walk and added six strikeouts. As you read, Ernesto Frieri is on the right track to getting his job back.

Astros

The Astros closer job remains an absolute mystery. At this point, Josh Fields and Chia-Jen Lo  are battling for a baseball rarity, the elusive Houston save opportunity. After appearing for the Astros last Friday night, where he earned the loss (1.1 innings pitched, two hits, one earned run), Josh Fields has not appeared since. Conversely, Chia-Jen Lo has had a similar performance history lately. He also appeared only once in the past week, earning a loss to the Rangers (1.2 innings pitched, one hit, one earned run, two walks). Regardless of which horse you back in this race, tread carefully. Neither of these pitchers have proven themselves in the ninth inning and both could be replaced at the drop of a hat.

Orioles

On Wednesday, Baltimore allowed Tommy Hunter to earn his fourth save of the season. While the Orioles have yet to publicly announce they’ve gone closer by committee, look for Tommy Hunter to continue to have save opportunities if Jim Johnson continues to struggle. The same can be said for Francisco Rodriguez, who will be leaned upon in the ninth if Jim Johnson performance requires it. On a side note, Tommy Hunter has SP-eligibility in a number of leagues if you’re looking for a way to fill one of those spots with a reliever.

Pirates

On Tuesday, injured closer Jason Grilli threw off a slope and he ended the week with a bullpen session. Assuming all has goes well, Jason will be throwing from a full mound within the week and should return to the big leagues by September 1st. While this is not great news for Mark Melancon owners, who has been outstanding in Grilli’s stead, it is great for the Buccos bullpen. Furthermore, Melancon may still have value as a top setup guy once Grilli returns to the ninth.

Rockies

Rafael Betancourt’s return from injury was both brief and not-so-sweet. After returning to the ninth inning role, Rafael left Thursday’s game with a serious elbow injury. While his immediate availability is definitely out of the question, the injury could be season-ending and impact next season if major surgery is necessary. Therefore, look for Rex Brothers to regain the closer’s role and keep it for the rest of the season. Brothers has been great on the year and will be a solid saves option for fantasy owners as the playoffs approach.

White Sox

White Sox closer Addison Reed has been scorching this August (12.1 innings pitched, 0.73 ERA, nine saves). Furthermore, Reed converted a save in six straight games this week, a feat which hasn’t been accomplished since the days of Eric Gagne. Although Chicago is not a lock for regular save chances, Reed may be an elite option for the rest of the season if the White Sox offense can put him in a position to close.

Add-Vice

As you may have noticed, Brian “Fear the Beard” Wilson returned to the mound this week for the Los Angeles Dodgers. While this advice is more speculative than anything else, Wilson may be able to scavenge the occasional save for Los Angeles as we head down the stretch. If he returns to form, consider him a top setup guy from here on out.

If you’re chasing saves in your fantasy league, there’s only one place to check out… For the latest news on closers to grab, stash, start, or bench, be sure to follow @CloserNews on Twitter.



RotoAuthority Unscripted: Good Heavens, I Have an Innings Limit

Nobody should be shocked by seeing their fantasy team run smack into their innings limit at this point of the season but that's exactly what happened to me last year. (This time around, I've been much more discipline: I've only used about 85% of my allocated innings thus far, but that's beside the point.)

Now, I don't write this to admonish more careful innings management over the course of the first five months of the season, nor do I intend to suggest the sort of roster planning that will see you sailing breezily under your limit with space to spare. (That's a good way to kill yourself in Wins and Strikeouts, for one thing.) Quite the contrary, I prefer to rack up a decent amount of starts over the early season, but that also is not the point to which I am meandering.

The point is this: if left on autopilot, all roto format fantasy teams will do one of two things over the course of the next month-and-a-week-or-so: blast through their innings limit and render each of their pitchers completely useless, or leave potential points on the table by missing the limit by a lot. Ugly scenarios, both. Fortunately, the situation is not without its attendant opportunities, which I will now discuss....

'Wait!' yells a chorus of disgruntled readers, 'I don't play in a roto format, I play some sort of head-to-head, and I don't have an innings limit--this article is gonna be totally useless for me. I'm going back to Notgraphs.com!'

Fair point. While those in the most need of late-season roster overhaul are probably in roto formats, those in head-to-head leagues can ask themselves this: are you winning pitching's rate stats more often, or the counting stats? By how much. The tactics I'll outline can be used to great effect in any category-specific format (and many points leagues too, I'll wager, but probably not mine) to provide balance to your team. Or, if you're losing all the pitching categories, unbalance you enough to snag a couple wins.

I must warn you, though, that if you have already abandoned your baseball teams for the glitzy world of fantasy football (or the equally popular fantasy cricket), than this article may not be of use to you.

For those of us with too many innings (often also called a need in ERA and WHIP)

(All others may feel free to skim quickly through the next sections.)

Step 1 
Drop your worst pitcher. Even if he's good. Don't even pick anyone up, just drop the worst guy. If you've got someone like Felix Doubront who might be good (or at least have potential) in wins and strikeouts but isn't likely to help much in WHIP or ERA, that's who you drop. Alternatively, you can drop whoever helps least in strikeouts, if you have multiple pitchers who do about the same things in ERA and WHIP. Right now, I'm making Rick Porcello that drop in one league, and I think he actually merits more than his 21% ownership.

Unless you're neck and neck with another owner that you know can use a pitcher you're considering dropping, don't worry about how good he might be. If you're flying towards an innings limit in a serious way, all but the best starters will probably hurt your team. 

Step 2
On the free agents list (don't use a waiver pick for this unless you have to), pick up the best relief pitcher available. Since losing innings means losing strikeouts, this really means pick up whoever has the most strikeouts or the best K/9 or K% or whichever measurement you want. Relief margins are pretty small and the luck factor is outrageous over the course of a month, so this doesn't need to be an exact science.

I'm picking up Paco Rodriguez, who has a 10.45 K/9, plus a 1.35 ERA and an 0.76 WHIP. Since the innings started piling up for me a long time ago in this league, that makes him my sixth reliever--and in that quantity, these guys can be a pretty serious force in strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP. Too bad they only add up to about a closer and a half between them....

Step 3
If you're still a long way ahead of where you should be in innings, simply repeat steps one and two. In the example league above, I feel decent about how many innings I'll be pitching for the next couple weeks, but if I'm still ahead of the pace after the first week of September the likes of Doug Fister, Tim Lincecum, and Jeff Samardzija will be fighting for their roster life. 

Useful Relief Pitchers for Your Reference*

The following pitchers have K/9 rates over 10.00, FIP's of 3.00 or lower and are owned in 30% of Yahoo! leagues or fewer: 

Trevor Rosenthal
Cody Allen
David Robertson
Alex Torres
David Carpenter
Jordan Walden
Brett Cecil
Paco Rodriguez
Neal Cotts
Nate Jones

This list doesn't even include guys like LaTroy Hawkins (25% owned), who could plausibly be closing for the rest of the season, J.J. Putz (48% owned), who could get his closing job back, and Dane De La Rosa (12% owned) who may or may not be unseating Ernesto Frieri as the Angels' closer.

The 10.00 cutoff narrowly misses Drew Smyly (25% owned) and Luke Hochevar (just 3% owned), who have the extremely useful distinction of SP/RP eligibility. If and when your team runs out of RP and P slots for relievers, these guys will be quite the assets. If you don't get one of them, you may be stuck with Brian Matusz, which isn't terrible, I guess.

There are droves of other good and great relievers, out there, so if the aforementioned pitchers aren't to your liking, surely you'll find someone you do fancy.

Stop skimming here!

If you need to accumulate more innings for the sake of your Wins and Strikeouts

Choice 1
This option is for those who have trouble throughout their pitching staff and are not having much success in any starter-related category. 

Time to stream.

Not my favorite strategy, but if you're rolling into the last month with something like 700 IP used out of a 1500 maximum and you aren't killing your opponents in the rate stats, it's time to climb the standings in Wins and Strikeouts. How far our you are in the rate stats and how many points you can plausibly gain in the counting stats should determine how much you stream: anything from one pitcher a week to two per day might be appropriate.

When streaming, stream multiple days in advance. Chances are you aren't the only one with this tactic, especially in a public head-to-head league. The farther ahead you stream, the better options you'll have--and the worse that will be available to your opponent.

Option 2
If you're doing decently well in ERA and WHIP, don't sacrifice those hard earned points (or jeopardize categories you count on week-to-week) for the uncertain and possibly immoral benefits of streaming. 

Here you need to take a careful look at the pitchers available to you, with the goal basically being to go for the highest Wins/K's ceiling and the highest floor in ERA and WHIP. You're rate categories will dip a bit, so if there aren't any points to be gained in the counters, maybe you should just stand pat. In head-to-head, take it week by week, start by start.

Some Potentially Available and Yet Decent Starting Pitchers

I actually made a list of quite a few of these guys...and kept seeing more and more names. There are a lot surprisingly decent pitchers owned in 40% or fewer Yahoo! leagues. I'll let you crunch your own numbers and run your own risk/reward assessments, because options abound in all but the deepest leagues.



The Proof Is In The Peripherals: August 22-28

So when you make a franchise-altering fantasy deal to acquire Mike Trout (for Clayton Kershaw and Austin Jackson, no less) in the last few weeks before your league's deadline, the last thing you want to see is a nagging hamstring injury.  Oof.  There's another helpful tip for late-season trading: it's dangerous to acquire players on struggling teams, since any sort of lingering injury might well cause them to be shut down for the entire rest of the season.  Let's hope it doesn't come to this with Trout, since otherwise I'll be one unhappy camper.  Seriously, I'll leave town and just live in a tent out in the middle of a remote forest for a month, staring forlornly at a Mike Trout baseball card.

Onto this week's advanced metrics...

* The Hurt Locker  I warned everyone about Jeff Locke back in May, and now it looks like I was right all along.  Sure, Locke continued to pitch well for two months after that but, uh, still, moral victory for the Markster!  Locke benefited from great peripheral luck for much of the season but the Locke Regress Monster has emerged over his last four starts.  Even if you chalk up his last start (8 ER in 2 2/3 IP against the Diamondbacks on Saturday) as just a random stinker, Locke also posted a 4.70 ERA over his previous three outings.

If you're a Jeff Locke owner, you have to think about cutting your losses and moving on.  Sure, Locke has been a nice boon to your rotation all year long, but given the southpaw's peripherals, you've been playing with fire all season long.  Time to drop the match before you really get burned heading into your postseason.  You might give Locke one more start (he's facing the Giants next, who couldn't hit my grandma's offspeed stuff) and then hope he pitches well enough to boost his trade value so you can pawn him off on another owner in a deadline deal.  If he can't handle San Francisco, however, then it's time to sock the Locke.

* Yeah, I Chacin Her.  That Is To Say, I Chasaw Her.  His 5.6 K/9 over the last two seasons won't impress anyone, but you can still make the case that Jhoulys Chacin is one of the more underrated fantasy pitching options around.  Part of it comes from that low strikeout rate, and part comes from the dreaded "Rockies Starter" stigma, but otherwise, Chacin has been pretty stellar.  He has a 2.23 ERA over his last 13 starts and for the season he's been getting only a smidge of BABIP (.291) and strand rate (72.4%) luck. 

As you might guess given that he's pitched well in a Rockies uniform, Chacin isn't giving up many homers.  His 4.3% HR/FB rate is the lowest of any qualified starter in the majors, and it's a sharp drop from his 9.2% career rate.  It's mildly concerning that Chacin's fly ball rate is only slightly below his career average, but by this point in the season, you have to acknowledge that Chacin has made a solid adjustment to keep his flies from leaving the yard.

If I can put the peripherals aside for a second, I'll note that the Rockies have a tough remaining schedule.  Twenty-one of Colorado's final 27 games are against big-hitting clubs like the Dodgers, Red Sox, Diamondbacks, Cardinals and Reds, so if you pick up Chacin for your stretch drive, you'll be doing so in the face of stiff competition.  That said, Chacin has pitched well all season long and there's enough evidence for me to believe that he isn't a fluke.  I guess you could say that Cha-seeing (puts sunglasses on) is Chac-believing.  YEAHHHHHHH

* Werthwhile  You may have missed this in the wake of the Nationals' ultra-disappointing season but 34-year-old Jayson Werth has been having one of the best seasons of his 11-year career.  Werth missed a month on the DL but is otherwise hitting .330/.403/.524 with 17 homers, 53 RBI and 61 runs through 375 PA and just for kicks, he's even 7-for-8 in stolen base attempts.  "Wow, signing Werth to that seven-year, $126MM contract was a great move for the Nationals after all!" said nobody, but even still, for all that's gone wrong for the Nats in 2013, Werth has been a nice bright spot.  Of course you could argue that since the club wasted this great year from a 34-year-old thought to be on the decline, it just makes the season even more depressing, but...uh, sorry Washington fans.

Werth hasn't carried the Nationals this year, but can he at least carry your fantasy team to glory?  I'd doubt it.  While Werth has indeed been hitting the ball with more authority, posting his highest line drive rate (24.8%) since 2007 and his highest HR/FB rate (18.5%) since 2009, he's also been finding a lot of holes with those hard-hit balls.  The veteran outfielder has a .382 BABIP for the season and a league-leading .452 BABIP since the All-Star break.  That latter stat is bound to regress as we head into September and Werth might be one of those "guys who get a nagging injury and are shut down since their teams are out of it" that I noted earlier, especially given Werth's age and injury history.  There's no reason Werth can't be a contributor to your fantasy playoff run but if you get a late chance to sell high for a more reliable hitter, it wouldn't be a bad move.



RotoAuthority League Update: Deadline Deals

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.

The trade deadline passed last night in the RotoAuthority League. Let's take a look at the deals that took place over the past week.

08/11 Smell the Glove trades Domonic Brown to UP for Austin Jackson

Sitting atop the stangings as manager of Smell the Glove, Tim Dierkes sure has been busy over the past month fine-tuning his roster with a title in mind. With insurmountable leads in both HR and RBI, Dierkes could certainly afford to move a slugger like Brown to acquire one of the top contributors in the runs category in Jackson. While I view Brown as considerably more valuable than Jackson in a vacuum, this is a clever move here. After all, Smell the Glove currently sits neck and neck in the runs category with Yu at the Animal Zoo, currently in second place overall. If Dierkes is able to pass up his closest competitor in runs then, it would in effect be a two-point swing in the standings. Meanwhile, UP sits at the bottom of the pack in RBI, so Brown should give this team a boost as it seeks to avoid finishing in the bottom four.

08/12 Brewsterville Bruins trade Prince Fielder to Yu at the Animal Zoo for David Price

Speaking of Yu at the Animal Zoo, I've pointed out previously that this owner has remarkably locked up four of the five pitching categories. On the other hand, this roster could use some power. Well then, this trade naturally makes a ton of sense then for this second-place squad. Fielder has certainly struggled this season, he but remains a good source of RBI hitting behind the otherworldly Miguel Cabrera. Coincidence or not, it's also interesting that Yu at the Animal Zoo chose to make this deal with the Brewsterville Bruins. The Bruins just happen to be close to Smell the Glove in the WHIP category. By assigning Price to this roster then, Yu at the Animal Zoo might gain another point in the standings in a rather sneaky fashion. The Bruins have had a mediocre staff for much of the season, so the acquisition of an ace like Price at a rather affordable cost should help a team poised to make a run at third place. Since returning from the DL, Price has a 51-to-3 K/BB ratio. Uhhh yeah, that's pretty good.

08/12 Brewsterville Bruins trade Jose Bautista and Edward Mujica to Yu at the Animal Zoo for Miguel Cabrera and Mitch Moreland

Less than a half hour later, these same two clubs actually agreed to another deal. In this case, Yu at the Animal Zoo had saves in mind. Not surprisingly, that just happens to be the one pitching category this team isn't running away with from the rest of the league. More importantly, Yu at the Animal Zoo is in second place in saves to none other than Smell the Glove. Just like with the trade Dierkes made to obtain Jackson then, we could see a two-point move in the standings if this owner is indeed able to climb to the top of the saves category with the addition of Mujica. In order to acquire the Cardinals closer, though, this owner did have to downgrade from Miggy to Joey Bats. While Miggy is undoubtedly the best hitter on the planet, this may not bring down the offensive point total for Yu at the Animal Zoo as much as it looks like on the surface. For one, this squad cares more about the power categories than AVG, which is clearly what separates Cabrera from Bautista. Besides, we're only dealing with a sample size of six weeks at this point, so Joey Bats could easily have as many as HR and RBI as Miggy for the balance of the season. For the Brewsterville Bruins, the loss of Mujica should only cost at most a point in the standings. Once again, the HR and RBI categories are rather close, so this deal should result in a net gain in the standings for the Bruins. 

08/13 Gramma Nutt Crushers trade Billy Butler to Yu at the Animal  Zoo for Jordan Zimmermann

Similar to the Price for Fielder swap, here again Yu at the Animal Zoo dealt an arm for a bat. Once more, this owner looked to buy low on a hitter who's in the midst of a disappointing season. Although his power has dipped this season, Butler has been on fire since the All-Star break. The deal for Butler came at the expense of Zimmermann. Currently in third place, the Gramma Nutt Crushers have a strong staff, but their one flaw is the strikeout category. From a real baseball perspective, Zimmermann is a borderline ace. His sub-7 strikeout rate, however, does hurt his fantasy value a tad. Given that he's near the bottom of the league in K/9 then, this owner has wisely prioritized the other pitching categories in an effort to secure a third-place finish.

08/14 A Century of Misery trades Rex Brothers and Danny Farquhar to Say It Ain't So Cano for Rajai Davis

Here's the only trade I made over the past week. As I've noted previously, I made the decision to punt HR around the All-Star break. I gave particular attention to the SB category because it was closely stratified at the time, and I've been fortunate to gain several points in steals over the past month. With this deal, I wanted to acquire one final speedster. The date of the trade is certainly no coincidence. Before I agreed to the deal, news broke that day not only that Colby Rasmus was headed to the DL, but also that Emilio Bonifacio had been dealt to Kansas City. With this news in mind, I felt more confident in the playing time for Davis down the stretch. From the perspective of Say It Ain't So Cano, it made sense to acquire Brothers, as this owner also has Rafael Betancourt. It was actually tough for me to give up Farquhar, as his high ERA belies truly elite skills. That being said, I still had five closers after this trade, so I should be able to stay afloat in the saves category. Meanwhile, Say It Ain't So Cano should be able to gain a couple points in saves due to this deal.





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