|ESPN.com: Eric Karabell||[Print without images]|
As we wind down the fifth of six months in the fantasy baseball season, owners should be looking at recent statistical trends rather than full-season numbers, and several pitching performances from Tuesday night remind us how quickly things can change. For example, the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Mets were joined Tuesday by a trade that sent Marlon Byrd and John Buck to the contending Bucs for a prospect. Later that evening, the teams' left-handed starting pitchers continue to show they’re heading in different directions. The Pirates’ Jeff Locke was an NL All-Star last month and ERA leader. The Mets’ Jonathon Niese had a high ERA and a partially torn rotator cuff. On Tuesday, Locke was pounded yet again while Niese spun a three-hit shutout. Who’s owned in more leagues?
And it’s not just those fellows streaking, but the best advice when choosing replacement pitchers for the final month is to check on recent performance. Locke still boasts a 3.22 ERA for the season, but you don’t want any part of it. He will finish August with a 7.94 ERA and 2.25 WHIP, failing to reach six innings in any of his six starts, culminating in Tuesday’s five-run outing which is more fact than fluke. Locke was always living on the edge when it came to the walks and fortunate BABIP, and now he’s not worth owning at all.
|Can Jonathon Niese step up his game now that Matt Harvey is injured?|
Niese finished among the top 30 starting pitchers on the Player Rater last season, but shoulder woes held him back in 2013. Now he’s thriving again, inducing 13 ground ball outs Tuesday and even driving in three runs by himself with a double. Niese has made four starts since coming off the DL and he has won three of them, compiling an impressive 1.93 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. In two of those outings he fanned nine hitters. There’s little question that Niese is trending in the right direction for fantasy owners, and Locke is not. Recent performance tells us that.
There were other solid Tuesday performances from ignored starters that can help fantasy owners. New York Yankees lefty Andy Pettitte has had his ups and downs this season, but he fired seven shutout innings against the Toronto Blue Jays. Pettitte has permitted two earned runs in his past four outings, covering 24 innings, and he’s available in nearly 80 percent of ESPN standard leagues. St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Joe Kelly beat the Cincinnati Reds, has a 2.08 ERA in August and has won six of eight starts. He’s not a big strikeout guy, but his team scores runs. Atlanta Braves rookie lefty Alex Wood, Boston Red Sox lefty Felix Doubront and Miami Marlins right-hander Nate Eovaldi also pitched effectively Tuesday. Fantasy owners should look closer at their teams and ask if these guys can help.
Box score bits (NL): As for the Pirates acquiring Byrd and Buck, don’t get too excited in fantasy. Byrd is worth owning, as he has hit a career-high 21 home runs, but it’s hard to make a case his value rises much. It’s bad news for prospect Andrew Lambo, who hit two singles Tuesday. Buck will back up Russell Martin. … Don’t ever bet against Milwaukee Brewers third baseman Aramis Ramirez. He delivered four hits and four RBIs Tuesday, and has nine RBIs in his past seven games. … Recent Braves acquisition Elliot Johnson knocked in both the team’s runs Tuesday, and is a stolen-base threat for deep leagues, but he won’t play much when incumbent second baseman Dan Uggla comes off the DL Wednesday. Uggla had corrective eye surgery and is worth adding. … Chicago Cubs lefty Travis Wood had not been pitching well, but he topped Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers Tuesday, allowing one unearned run in seven strong innings. Wood is available in roughly half of ESPN’s leagues, which seems odd since his August (4.17 ERA, 1.23 WHIP) hasn’t been that awful. … San Diego Padres third baseman Chase Headley succumbed to back stiffness Tuesday, and could miss some time. Headley has been a major disappointment, hitting .240 with eight home runs after emerging in 2012 with 31 blasts. Next season? Well, he’ll likely come cheap and if healthy hit for enough power to matter again. … Padres right-hander Ian Kennedy pitched poorly against his former Arizona Diamondbacks teammates Tuesday, permitting six runs in 4 1/3 innings. Kennedy’s problem has been the walks; in five Padres outings he has issued 18 of them in 29 2/3 innings. It’s just not worth it.
Box score bits (AL): The Yankees and fantasy owners got a big scare Tuesday when awesome second baseman Robinson Cano was hit on the left hand by a J.A. Happ first-inning pitch, and left soon after for X-rays. They were negative. Cano is day to day. … Meanwhile, for those in one-game eligibility formats, Yankees corner infielder Mark Reynolds played an inning at second base. Reynolds, who homered in the game, is capable of being valuable, but it’s premature to add him now. … Boston Red Sox outfielder Shane Victorino blasted a pair of home runs and knocked in seven Tuesday. Victorino hit the home runs off lefty pitchers, but he has made news lately for abandoning batting left-handed, he claims because of a sore hamstring. Victorino has hit a few home runs recently batting right-handed against right-handers as well. He might want to hit that way at all times. … If you own Chicago White Sox lefty Jose Quintana, you know he’s the king of no-decisions this season, with a league-high 16 of them. Still, his August numbers were fine (3.82 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, strikeout per inning) and wins can never be predicted. … If you’re looking for a spot starter option Thursday, Tampa Bay Rays right-hander Jake Odorizzi is capable of good things. Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson and his 5.21 ERA were demoted Tuesday.