Tag Archive | "Jered Weaver"

A Pair Of Aces

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A Pair Of Aces

Posted on 15 April 2013 by Nick Schaeflein

In poker a pair of aces is nowhere near the best hand, but on the diamond a pair of aces can lead a team to the promise land. The old adage is pitching and defense wins championships and good pitching always beats good hitting. The one thing better then having an ace of a staff is having two.

DavidPriceMattMoore

In the 90’s the Atlanta Braves were well known for having two and sometimes three aces in Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, and Tom Glavine. The trio led Atlanta to yearly division titles, personal accolades, and a world championship. The 2001 season saw the Arizona Diamondbacks enjoy a season headlined by one of the most dominant duos ever in Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. The two only combined for 52 wins regular season and post season, a CY Young, co Sportsman of the Year, and co World Series MVP’s. In short, that is not too shabby.

Currently, the top ten pitching duos are:

#10 – Atlanta Tim Hudson and Mike Minor. Hudson is the elder ace who is still getting the job done. He will eat up innings and touch that 15 win mark. Minor is up and coming and seems to be finding his stride toward the end of last year and starting off this season. They also have a third wheel in Paul Maholm whose 2013 is on a good start.

#9 – Chicago White Sox Chris Sale and Jake Peavy. They are another duo featuring a veteran and youngster. Both are capable of racking up strikeouts and dominant starts. However, there is the occasional DL stint or rough outing.

#8 – Los Angeles Angels Jered Weaver and CJ Wilson. Both have been very consistent and productive. However, walk rates are subpar and strikeout rates are middle of the road.

#7 – Tampa Bay David Price and Matt Moore. Together they are two young guns with great out pitches that throw from the left side. Price is a yearly CY Young contender and Moore has yet to allow a run in 2013.

#6 – Boston Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz. Both have high potential that is waiting to be tapped. Injuries have held back both at times but 2013 could finally be the year. They both had excellent springs and are a combined 4-0 thus far this season.

#5 – Detroit Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer. If you are a hitter, close your eyes and swing early. Both have well above average fastballs and dominate the strikeout leader board. They both also collect a ton of innings and can save a bullpen.

#4 – Los Angeles Dodgers Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. Both are CY Young winners that do not lose on their home mound. Each is capable of building long winning streaks and carrying the team for the night.

#3 – Philadelphia Cole Hamels and Cliff Lee. Suddenly this duo is seemingly under the radar within the division. They are two left hand pitchers with the x factor of pitching well in the post season. They are two trustworthy guys come late in the season and in October.

#2 – San Francisco Matt Cain and Madison Bumgarner. The Giants earn the 1990’s Atlanta Brave award as it is not just a duo. These two are also complimented with Ryan Vogelsong, Tim Lincecum, and a resurgent Barry Zito. The offense does not need to score a ton of runs when any of them take the mound as they are all capable of winning 1-0 games. They all can be stoppers in their own way and it is the most balanced rotation top to bottom.

#1 – Washington Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg. This is the duo that could most rival the 2001 Diamondbacks. This season each is likely to be in the CY Young running and at the top of all major pitching categories. The one question remains, can they pitch in October?

The pitching duo most likely to be next on this list comes out of New York. Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler are young and ready to help the Mets contend. Harvey is off to a blistering start in 2013 looking like an up and coming ace. Wheeler is the pitcher that was apart of the Carlos Beltran trade a few seasons ago. He is likely to join the big club sometime this year and is one of the top prospects in all of baseball.

Each of these teams has the ability to avoid long losing streaks and stay in contention thanks to these duos. Aces are wild. Shuffle up and deal.

 

 

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Playing the Name Game: Spring Training edition, Part Two

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Playing the Name Game: Spring Training edition, Part Two

Posted on 21 March 2013 by Chris Caylor

This is the 2nd of a two-part Spring Training edition of Playing the Name Game. In Part 1, I listed some infielders for you to focus on during your AL-only or NL-only drafts or auctions. As a reminder, I am not advocating that Player B is better than Player A; I am simply pointing out some players that may produce elite numbers at a less-than-elite cost. Now, let’s take a look at some pitchers and outfielders:

Toronto Blue Jays Jose Bautista is brushed back by a pitch in the third inning against the New York Yankees in their American League MLB baseball game in Toronto August 23, 2010. Bautista homered on the next pitch.  REUTERS/Fred Thornhill  (CANADA - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)

Outfielders

Player A: .303/.371/.510, 22 HR, 85 RBI, 20 SB, 89 R, 119 OPS+

Player B: .283/.373/.441, 16 HR, 67 RBI, 21 SB, 88 R, 131 OPS+

Player A is Carlos Gonzalez of the Rockies. Player B is the Reds’ new centerfielder, Shin-Soo Choo. CarGo suffered in 2012, along with the rest of the Rockies (and their fans), clearly missing Troy Tulowitzki to protect him in the lineup. However, it remains questionable whether Gonzalez will reach the mid-30s in home runs again, as he did in 2010. Choo, meanwhile, bounced back from in injury-plagued 2011 season and to post solid numbers for a mediocre Cleveland team. Now that he is leading off for the deep, talented Reds, Choo could post career-high numbers. Projections I have seen have Choo virtually equaling Gonzalez in home runs, stolen bases and batting average, while besting Gonzalez in runs scored. Gonzalez will retain the edge in RBI, but Choo is being drafted 3-4 rounds later and is going for much cheaper in auction leagues.

Player A: .241/.358/.527, 27 HR, 65 RBI, 5 SB, 64 R, 137 OPS+

Player B: .242/.305/.463, 32 HR, 85 RBI, 11 SB, 85 R, 110 OPS+

Player A is Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays. Player B is the Athletics’ Josh Reddick. Joey Bats’ 2012 season was marred by his wrist injury, which disabled him in July and eventually required surgery. Before that, he led the AL in home runs two consecutive seasons. Reddick came out of nowhere to mash 32 homers for the A’s in 2012. At age 26, his prime years are ahead of him. Bautista might – I repeat, might – drop of the 2nd round in some leagues due to fears about his wrist sapping his power stroke, but he won’t fall much further than that. Reddick, meanwhile, is ranked 20+ spots lower in ESPN leagues. Don’t that let deter you. The power is real and still developing. If Reddick played in a park other than the cavernous Oakland dump, he might threaten for the league home run title.

Pitchers

Finally, we come to the pitchers. In over 20 years of playing fantasy baseball, I have found it much more challenging to consistently build a good pitching staff than to construct a strong lineup. Is it because so many pitchers are one wrong pitch away from a trip to the disabled list? Or is it more that many pitchers who succeed one year struggle the next? Or is it something else entirely? Perhaps a combination of all three?

In any event, I subscribe to two theories when it comes to fantasy baseball and pitching: 1) pitchers with a solid WHIP rarely steer you wrong, and 2) do not punt the saves category. That is not to say that you should spend excessively on saves, but judiciously. Example:

Player A: 3-1 W-L, 42 Sv, 116 K, 0.65 WHIP

Player B: 2-1 W-L, 42 Sv, 69 K, 1.16 WHIP

Player A is Craig Kimbrel of the Braves. Player B is Rafael Soriano of the Nationals. Obviously, Kimbrel put together one of the most dominating seasons we have seen from a closer not named Mariano Rivera in many years. If you put aside the staggering difference in strikeouts, however, Kimbrel is not much more valuable than Soriano in standard fantasy baseball leagues. They compiled the same number of saves. The wins total is negligible. Both WHIP ratios are outstanding. But would you rather have Kimbrel (whom you would have to select in the early rounds of a draft or pay Rivera-like prices for at an auction), or would you rather use that early draft pick/big auction money on a starter like Cole Hamels or Johnny Cueto, knowing you can pick up Soriano several rounds later? I’d take the latter.

Player A: 20-5 W-L, 2.81 ERA, 142 K, 1.02 WHIP

Player B: 8-14 W-L, 3.81 ERA, 165 K, 1.28 WHIP

Player A is Jered Weaver of the Angels. Player B is Josh Johnson of the Blue Jays. Weaver has finished in the Top 5 in Cy Young balloting each of the past three seasons. Johnson was acquired as part of that massive trade between Toronto and Miami. Although the transition from NL to AL is typically more difficult for pitchers, that in this case is cancelled out by Johnson moving to a much better team. Forget the win-loss totals from last season; Johnson is still getting plenty of swings and misses when he pitches. Weaver missed almost a month in 2012 with back pain. Johnson is an injury-risk himself, but he is a year younger than Weaver and offers ace-like potential at No. 2 starter value. I’ll take my chances here.

Opening Day is rapidly approaching. If you’re like me and have your draft or auction coming up in the next 7-10 days, I hope this article proves helpful to you.

Follow me on Twitter: @ccaylor10

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The Other Felix

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The Other Felix

Posted on 13 March 2013 by Will Emerson

Well you poor, poor souls are still several weeks away from the much-anticipated season premiere of Field of Streams. That does not mean, however, I cannot give you a quick look at some starting pitchers who are most likely not going to be drafted in many leagues, but could be viable streaming options for fantasy fanatics as the season progresses. These pitchers are not necessarily sleepers, per se. As I said, they probably won’t be drafted, but who knows? Anyways, over the next few weeks I will be throwing some future streaming options at ya, starting this week with the one, the only, Felix Doubront. Or as I like to call him, ”The Other Felix”, as in not ”King” Felix. I am also not comparing them in anything regards, other than by their names.

Felix Doubront

The Other Felix put up a decentish 2012 season with the BoSox, going 11-10 with a 4.86 ERA and a WHIP of 1.45. What? I said decent-ish, didn’t I? Doubront was by no means a world beater or even an unsung hero in Boston’s rotation, but I like how he gets things done. Felix’s xFIP was a shade under four at 3.81, which is certainly respectable, I would say, wouldn’t you? Well, of course if you know me at all, and you probably don’t, you should probably know the main reason I like Mr. Doubront. No? Ummm, Ks/9, folks! Doubront sported a more than  impressive 9.34 K/9 last season. 9.34, for crying out loud! Who knew? Just for a fun little comparison Jered Weaver had a K/9 of 6.77 and an xFIP of 4.18. Yeah, you read right, in those two categories, Doubront was better than Jered Weaver. Now, before you get all riled up, I am not saying that Duobront is a better pitcher than Jered Weaver or anything, especially in fantasy where that xFIP is not a factor during the season, but I just found that to be an interesting little tidbit of sports information I would share with you, my beloved reader(s). Anyways, combine that K rate with a decent ground ball rate around 43% for Doubront and it seems like he is headed in the right direction. Doubront certainly finished 2012 strong at least in the advanced stat categories.

Mr. Doubront posted his best xFIP of the season in the months of September and October, at 3.53. Of course his actual ERA during that stint was just over five, but still, there is big time potential there. Felix also induced more ground balls, getting batters to knock the ball into the ground at a rate of 47.1% during those months. Coupled with a K/9 of 11.07 and you are looking at what should have even looked like a strong finish, right? So what was with that high ERA? Was the Red Sox defense just plain bad? Some might think this, but much to my surprise, the BoSox had the third best UZR in the majors. See? Surprise! So if not the defense behind Felix, what then. Well, Felix did walk almost four batters per nine innings, which will never really help a pitcher’s overall numbers so much. On top of that Doubront’s BABIP was .312, which is not grossly unlucky, but was a fair 19 points higher than the league average. So, if he gets a bit more luck going his way and can cut down on the walks, The Other Felix could really turn some heads in 2013. Especially with a pitching minded manager at the helm, right? Well, there we hit a bit of a gray area.

John Farrell had very good success as the Red Sox pitching coach before becoming Toronto’s manager, but how does his pitching knowledge translate when he is the head honcho in the dugout? Well, in 2012, the Blue Jays were 27th in xFIP, 26th in K/9, 29th in K/BB, 26th in ERA and 25th in WHIP. Hmmm, not exactly anything to write home about. So maybe Farrell won’t help Doubront harness his control and potential, but wait, hope is not quite lost yet, folks! Former Red Sox ace and Cy Young Award winner Pedro Martinez is a special assistant with the Sox this season, and he should be able to really help the 25-year-old lefty hone his craft. At least I think so. Plus the new pitching coach, Juan Nieves has been under the tutelage of White Sox pitching coach over the last several seasons. Working with long-time pitching coach Don Cooper, Nieves helped guide a White Sox pitching staff that posted the 6th best ERA in the American League from 2008-12. The White Sox pitching staff set club records in Ks each of the past 3 years, including a franchise-best 1,246 K’s in 2012, so if Nieves brings a little of that magic mentoring with him to Boston, Doubront should be good to go!

While, I can see Felix having a breakout season in 2013, I am still not quite to the point where I can recommend drafting him as a sleeper, even in deep mixed or AL-only leagues. But I feel he will be a very viable stream option, if not a straight up waiver wire pickup in many, many, many leagues. The Red Sox offense should still put up a decent amount of runsin 2013, so, this should, should, translate into double-digit wins for The Other Felix. I would say you can get at least 10-12 wins out of Doubront this season and while the K rate may not be quite as high as it was in 2012, I would still expect it to at least be in the high to mid eights. For ERA, there is the potential to land in the vicinity of 3.50, but more realistically I would look for a 3.75- 3.85 range. The biggest detractor for Doubront could be his WHIP if the walks don’t fall in line, but I think you can get it in the 1.3s which may not hurt you too much. Currently Doubront’s average draft position is 260 in ESPN (owned in 1.6% of leagues drafted) and 239.5  in Yahoo! (owned in 6% of leagues drafted) so it is pretty clear he is headed for the waiver wire in a majority of leagues, making him an extremely viable streaming option in leagues with daily roster moves. So keep him on your post draft radar and look for him to appear in Field of Streams on a regular basis. Tune in next time, when I actually write about a player or team not in the American League East!

Well, maybe.

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2012′s Luckiest Pitcher

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2012′s Luckiest Pitcher

Posted on 06 February 2013 by Will Emerson

I should start by saying, I cannot definitely label this pitcher the luckiest pitcher in baseball, per se. I may be just a bit too hyperbolic, but this pitcher was darned lucky on the bump in 2012 and it looks like his luckiness may be tough to beat. I  have not gone through every pitcher’s numbers from 2012 though so I can’t say with absolute certainty. Really, I haven’t! Anyways, let’s start with one of my, and I am sure your, favorite things in the whole wide world, a blind player comparison! Yay!

JeredWeaver2blur

Player A: 9.35 K/9, 3.06 FIP, 3.32 xFIP

Player B: 6.77 K/9, 3.75 FIP, 4.18 xFIP

So which pitcher would you rather have? Choose your answer wisely, grasshopper. Of course you would most likely choose Player A, but, as you are probably guessing, as with most blind player comparisons, there is a bit of a twist. So before the big reveal let’s look at a couple of, what I like to call, superficial numbers for the same two players:

Player A: 13-12,  3.01 ERA

Player B: 20-5, 2.81 ERA

So the ERAs are not monstrously far apart, but I would guess Player B would have received more Cy Young votes wouldn’t you? So who are these two pitchers? Well, here’s the big twist moment for ya….Player A is Jered Weaver in 2010 and Player B is, well, Jered Weaver….in 2013. Yes, that’s right folks, Jered Weaver had to be one of, if not the, luckiest pitchers in baseball last season.

Come on, you have to admit it is hard to argue the luck here for Jered Weaver. 20-5? 2o and frickin’ 5! With an FIP of 3.75 and a K/9 under seven you would hardly expect a sub three ERA and 20 wins. I’ve been over this before, but it bears reiterating (I think?), strikeouts per nine innings, as much as I love ‘em, are not the end all be all. However, pitchers with a low K/9 are generally crafty pitchers who keep the ball on the ground and such. Jered Weaver on the other hand? Well, he is not. Jered was inducing worm burners about 36% of the time, which is kind of low for a pitcher that is not striking guys out.  In fact, in looking even deeper into his numbers, almost 75% of batters that faced Weaver last year put the ball in play and of those balls in play close(ish) to twice as many were in the air. Generally not great percentages, so naturally Weaver would need a wee bit of luck.

Los Angeles Angles pitcher Jered  Weaver throws against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning of a baseball game in Anaheim, Calif., Tuesday, May 13, 2008. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian)

In 2012 Weaver had a BABIP of .241, which is pretty darned low. Just for a quick comparison, the league average in 2012 was .293.  Weaver was over 50 points below the league average, in case you are not quick with the arithmetic. That number right there points to a great deal of luck on Weaver’s side. Obviously BABIP can be subjective and will not always be extremely telling, but generally you would expect a pitcher to, at some point, come back to the mean, right? Well, if anything, Weaver is getting luckier by the season, believe it or not. Weaver’s BABIP has gone down in each of the last five seasons. Take a look for your self:

2007: .312

2008: .298

2009: .278

2010: .276

2011: .250

2012: .241

Quite a unique trend Weaver has going on here. Along with the lower BABIP, his FIP has gone up each of the past two seasons as well. So is regression, in fact on the way for Weaver in 2013? It’s almost tough to say. Really, he should have a fairly large regression, but he has avoided it thus far with that 2010 ERA of 3.01 being the highest in the last three seasons, so who knows? The big question though, is what does all this mean for Weaver’s fantasy value in 2013?

The regression just has to be coming, right? It makes no worldly sense if it doesn’t, right? What I can say for sure is that I am steering clear of Jered Weaver come draft day. The  thinking being that the ERA will float closer to his FIP or xFIP in 2013, due to that BABIP coming closer to the league average. Even if it doesn’t, the high probability of this happening should be enough to scare some people away from Weaver, especially at the price you will more than likely have to pay for his fantasy services.  Fantasy services? Okay, that sounded bad, but you know what I mean. RotoChamp, for instance, has him ranked as the number nine starting pitcher (39th overall) for fantasy. It is early but, barring injury or some sort of Spring Training meltdown, I would wager that is about where he will be drafted in most leagues. I just don’t like that kind of risk, for a guy that will more or less be the de facto ace of whatever fantasy squad he is on. Then again, the luck has been with Weaver consistently and it’s not like most, or probably any, leagues have BABIP or FIP as categories. But is there more to be concerned about with Mr. Lucky than just those advanced statistics with the giant blinking arrow pointing towards regression?

Well, one thing that does count in just about every fantasy baseball league is strikeouts, where Weaver has seen a major decline over the last two seasons. While the three season sample size here could be a fluke, there are some red flags within Weaver’s numbers that lead me to think otherwise. First of all, Weaver’s swinging strike percentage has gone down each season since 2010, from 11.2% to 9.1 % to 8.5%. This could be due in part to him just not fooling hitters as much and or the second red flag…his velocity. Weaver has also been slowly losing miles per hour on his fastballs since 2010. Weaver’s average  four-seamer and cut fastball have both lost about two miles per hour from 2011 to 2012.  What’s also interesting is that his average change-up is up in velocity about a full mile per hour since 2010. So, in reality he has lost three miles per hour difference in velocity between the two pitches over the past few seasons, not a trend you like to see in a pitcher. So, what are we to make of the 2013 Jered Weaver?

Luck, good or bad, can definitely play a huge factor for many, if not all, players and the luck has certainly been on the good side for Jered Weaver. Even with the disconcerting advanced stats, he is still a viable fantasy option though, because the bottom line is he, inexplicably, posts good numbers. Somehow he is getting the job done. Maybe it has something to do with the Danny Glover/ Tony Danza vehicle Angels in the Outfield, I dunno? What I do know, is I just can’t warrant drafting him as high as he will be going this year, especially if I can wait a little longer and land a Max Scherzer or Matt Garza. I know it sounds weird to be down on a guy who finished third in the American League Cy Young Award voting last season, but I just don’t have faith in Jered Weaver. There is an implosion on the way and I want to be far, far away when it happens. Now, I think I want to go watch Angels in the Outfield.

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Who’s Hot: Tampa Bay Rays rotation

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Who’s Hot: Tampa Bay Rays rotation

Posted on 21 August 2012 by Chris Caylor

Let’s throw a little change of pace into this week’s edition of Who’s Hot, Who’s Not. Instead of individual players, we will touch on the starting rotations that have been the best (and worst) of the past month. Not surprisingly, the teams with quality starting pitching the past few weeks are in the playoff mix (with one exception), while the team on the “Not” list slides into oblivion for 2012.

Hottest of the Hot: Tampa Bay Rays

It has nearly become as certain as death and taxes: great pitching by the Tampa Bay Rays. Over the past month, the Rays’ starters have compiled a 6.2 WAR – far above any other team in baseball. Thanks to the sturdy starters, they were able to tread water until Evan Longoria returned from injury; since then, the Rays have made their move, soaring into first place in the Wild Card standings (and only five games behind the New York Yankees entering Monday’s games). This past weekend, the Rays crushed the Los Angeles Angels, outscoring them 37-14 in a four-game sweep.

At the front of the rotation, David Price has to be considered a leading candidate for the AL Cy Young Award, with a 16-4 record, 1.10 WHIP and WAR of 5.0. Price has been particularly dominant in the past month, going 3-0 while averaging over 7 innings, 10 strikeouts and under two walks per start. It’s safe to say he has blossomed into the ace folks envisioned as a rookie during the 2008 World Series run. At 26, he will only get better.

Matt Moore tantalized everyone in 2011 with his shutout of the Texas Rangers in the ALCS, but 2012 had been a roller coaster ride for 23-year-old southpaw. Until the All-Star Break. Since then, Moore has been nearly as unhittable as Price, winning 4 of 5 starts and averaging 9 Ks per start. A 1-2 punch like that would be tough enough to beat, but the Rays have more pitching to throw at their opponents.

“Big Game” James Shields has shaken off the trade rumors that swirled in July and lived up to his nickname, winning 3 of 5 starts with 9.25 K/9 and 1.75 BB/9 ratios. Last Wednesday, when the Rays were prey to Felix Hernandez’s perfect game, Jeremy Hellickson pitched seven terrific innings of his own, giving up five hits and the game’s only run. Earlier this year when injuries struck the Rays’ rotation, Alex Cobb came up from the minors and held his own. His xFIP (Expected Fielding Independent Pitching) is 3.29, which is well above league average and more than a run lower than his ERA.

All five Rays’ starters have a HR/9 ratio of 1.00 or less. Further, Moore’s BB/9 ratio of 2.31 is the highest of the bunch. When you keep the ball in the park and don’t issue free passes, good things happen. Fantasy owners have no doubt appreciated their consistency all season.

The Rays have still more pitching depth. One of the pitchers Cobb replaced is Jeff Niemann, who currently is on a Triple-A rehab assignment recovering from a broken right fibula. When healthy, Niemann is a proven major-league starter. Finally, let’s not forget about Wade Davis, who likely would be starting for about two dozen major league teams. Davis is averaging over a strikeout per inning (and has done so all season). He is a weapon out of the bullpen and valuable insurance in case of injury.

Who Else is Hot?

Seattle Mariners – The Mariners are turning into a classic spoiler team. They might be too far out of contention for 2012, but with their rotation pitching as well as it has for the past month, they will be a thorn in their opponents’ sides. At the top of the rotation, of course, is Felix Hernandez, who pitched a brilliant perfect game against the Rays last week. He is a nightmare for anyone, but he has had help. Jason Vargas has been every bit as good as King Felix the past month, averaging over 7 innings per start and winning 4 of 6 outings. However, Vargas’ run is likely unsustainable, given his too-good-to-last home run to fly ball ratio of 2.4%. He might have good control, but that type of luck is bound to run out. If you own him in your fantasy league, hopefully you have reaped the benefits of Vargas’ good fortune. Blake Beavan has turned his season around after a difficult start, while Hisashi Iwakuma has also pitched well. Kevin Millwood hasn’t been great, but he hasn’t been terrible, either.

Los Angeles DodgersClayton Kershaw is well established as the Dodgers’ ace, but Chad Billingsley has been better than Kershaw the past month. Billingsley has teased the team (and fantasy owners) for years; has he finally turned the corner? The jury is still out, in my opinion. Billingsley needs to be active in all fantasy formats while he pitches this well. In the meantime, the Dodgers’ relatively low-profile offseason signings have paid off handsomely. Chris Capuano has a 24-to-5 K/BB ratio over his past 22 innings pitched, while Aaron Harang has tossed three straight quality starts this month. Both Capuano and Harang have greatly benefited from pitching their home games at Dodger Stadium. They aren’t as easy on ERA or WHIP for fantasy owners, but they are great matchup plays. With Ted Lilly’s return delayed, the Dodgers acquired Joe Blanton from Philadelphia, but his two starts have been atrocious. Blanton isn’t worth owning in any leagues right now.

St. Louis Cardinals – The Cardinals are one of baseball’s more enigmatic teams. Over the past month, they have gotten outstanding starting pitching from Adam Wainwright, Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook, yet they have actually lost ground in the NL Central. Wainwright struggled at times in the first half of the season, but he has come on strong the past month. He hasn’t allowed more than two runs in a start since July 18, with an ace-like 40-to-6 K/BB ratio. Lohse boasts a microscopic 0.46 ERA in the month of August to go along with a 1.11 WHIP. Pretty good time for a career-best year, what with Lohse being a free agent at season’s end. I consider him a must-start in all formats. Lance Lynn has struggled the past month – probably due to his workload increasing drastically – but he has been a rock of consistency for St. Louis through the year. Not much was expected of rookie righty Joe Kelly when he took Jaime Garcia’s place in the rotation, but Kelly has been respectable. Garcia’s return to the rotation Sunday couldn’t have gone much better – 8 shutout innings, career-high 10 strikeouts. If he is able to maintain that type of quality, the Cardinals will be a dangerous team over the season’s final six weeks. Starts like that would be a huge boost to fantasy owners over the remainder of the season.

Washington Nationals – With the Nats, it’s been all Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper this season. But the rest of the rotation has been terrific for Washington this season. Before Strasburg, Jordan Zimmermann was the stud young pitcher on the team. He has returned from his own Tommy John surgery to post numbers every bit as strong as Strasburg. Zimmermann has no innings restriction this season. Over the past month, he has averaged a strikeout an inning, while walking just one batter per 9 innings. Strasburg, of course, has been sensational, striking out 10 batters per 9 innings. There has been plenty of debate about the impending shutdown, but Strasburg has helped pitch the Nationals to the best record in the National League. Gio Gonzalez has tailed off a bit from his first half, but he still has been worth 1.0 WAR over the past month. Edwin Jackson has pitched well (10 Ks per 9 innings, 3.05 xFIP), but has been especially prone to the long ball over the past month, with a 22% HR to fly ball ratio. His strikeouts make him a worthy start, especially in rotisserie leagues. Ross Detwiler has pitched much better than an average fifth starter, despite a low K/9 ratio.

Who’s Not: Los Angeles Angels

Okay, I give up on this team. A few weeks ago, Albert Pujols was on fire and the Angels were seemingly primed to make a move in the AL West after trading for Zack Greinke. Instead, it’s been all downhill. Greinke has been terrible since switching leagues, getting lit up to the tune of a 6.19 ERA and 20% HR to fly ball ratio. In fact, the Angels pitching staff as a whole has been the worst in either league the past month. Worse than the Rockies, the Astros, the Twins. Everyone. Even Jered Weaver has not been immune. The Rays pounded him for 9 ER during the four-game sweep over the weekend. C.J. Wilson has averaged less than 6 innings per start while his BB/9 has gone up. Dan Haren has been so awful that the Angels are going to skip his turn in the rotation in an attempt to “work on his release point,” according to the Orange County Register. In terms of WAR, the Halos’ best pitcher over the past month has been reliever Kevin Jepsen, who has pitched only 12 1/3 innings. Not a good sign for the team. You have to believe that Weaver and Wilson will improve, but Greinke and Haren are larger conundrums for fantasy owners. Do you risk cutting them or trading them, only to watch them get it together for the final few weeks of the season? Or do you watch them torpedo your season? Situations like this are tricky for fantasy owners. The Angels don’t have a choice but to keep running them out there and hope the results improve.

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