By Eriq Gardner //
Previously, I described why a player’s overall value during the final few weeks of the season becomes less important than contributions made in specific categories. I recommended some batters available on free agency in many fantasy leagues who could provide targeted value as fantasy competitors seek standings upside.
Let’s look at a few pitching categories:
Jhoulys Chacin is currently striking out 9.66 batters per nine innings. Bud Norris is currently striking out 9.27 batters per nine innings. Among all pitchers in baseball this season with at least 90 innings pitched, Chacin and Norris rank 5th and 9th, respectively, in strikeout rate. Both pitchers are unowned in nearly 75% of fantasy leagues. That may be because both pitchers are quite young, and thus unreliable, and neither sports an ERA under 4.00. But the two have other commonalities: Good prospect pedigree, an xFIP (a measure of ERA based on peripheral stats) under 4, a not-too-intensive workload this season, and most importantly, the ability to throw balls past a bat.
Koji Uehara seems to be the closer du jour in Baltimore after notching an impressive four saves last week. Unlike some past Orioles given that opportunity, Uehara may actually have the ability to hold the job. Uehara came over from Japan last season after a very respectable career there. Most notably, in 2007, Uehara was a shutdown reliever for the Yomiuri Giants with 32 saves and a 1.74 ERA. Last season, the Orioles wanted to try him out in the rotation, and he posted decent numbers before being lost to injury for the season. This year, he moved to the pen, but again lost much of the season thanks to a DL stint. Still, look at the numbers when he’s been active: a 1.91 ERA and 31 strikeouts to only 5 walks in 28.1 innings. He’s owned in less than 10 percent of fantasy leagues, probably because people don’t think that a closer for last-place Baltimore will get many save chances. However, the Orioles actually tie for 14th among the 30 teams in the number of save opportunities generated for the team’s relievers. The Orioles won’t win many games, but when they do, the score is usually close.
Jake Westbrook has been fantastic since coming over to the National League in a trade deadline deal. In five starts for the St. Louis Cardinals, he’s struck out 31 batters and allowed only five walks in 31 innings, which adds up to a 2.58 xFIP. Unfortunately, he only has one win to show for his efforts. That might change soon, however. The St. Louis Cardinals have an extremely favorable schedule the rest of the season, with series against the Astros, Pirates (x2), Padres, and Cubs. The team is locked in tight races for either the NL Central crown or a wild card berth. Westbrook not only gets a favorable upcoming schedule, but also great run support from Albert Pujols and company. The team ranks sixth in the National League in runs scored.
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