At this point of the season all the stars are rostered. Have been for months. Therefore, it's vitally important if your team is struggling, either because of injury of poor performances, that you find a way to work around the inability to bolster your team with stars. In this column we'll list for you the names of five hurlers that can help lead you to success. Two are certainly rostered unless you are in shallow leagues, it's possible four of them are, but if you're in one of those 10 team leagues or a shallow 12 teamers, there's a chance they might still be on waivers. We'll then highlight a group of five batters who have all been crushing it over the last 30 days for their respective clubs.
John Danks is 3-10 with a 4.22 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. The record and ERA are nothing helpful, but the WHIP, that's a surprising number isn't it? Not only is that a strong number and one that is a nice booster in AL-only leagues, but it's also a lower mark than that of stalwarts such as Bartolo Colon (1.19) and Derek Holland (1.23). To add to his value, even though he has only one win in nine starts, he's allowed three or fewer earned runs in seven of those outings as he's lasted at least six innings every time out. He has had one downfall this season – a massive home run surge. In 170.1 innings in 2011 he permitted 19 home runs. Add to that his work last season and we've witnessed Danks allow a total of 26 bombs over 224 innings. This season, in almost exactly half that many innings – 111 to be precise – he's allowed 22 homers. Shocking. A career 1.14 HR/9 mark leads us to believe that if you put your money on a decrease in his homer rate you would likely be placing a wager you would win since his current mark of 1.78 is insanely high.
Jorge De La Rosa has won his last three decisions to improve to 13-6 on the season. In those three outings he's allowed five earned runs to lower his ERA to 3.21. So ends the positive fantasy contributions of JDLR. How can I say that? Well, his WHIP is 1.35 which just so happens to be a smidge above the league average. JDLR has a 3.21 BB/9 mark. Again, league average. He has a, and this is most relevant in the fantasy game, a mere 6.11 K/9 mark which is a full batter below the league average. What happened to the guy who struck out a batter per inning from 2008-10? JDLR has his best ground ball rate in three years at 47.4 percent, and that has helped to keep his HR/9 mark down at 0.48, though that's still a half a point lower than his career mark of 0.98, so some regression might be on the horizon. Amazingly, get this, he's been better in Colorado (8-1, 2.58 ERA, 1.33 WHIP) than on the road (5-5, 3.76 ERA, 1.35 WHIP).
Dan Haren is 8-11 with a 4.64 ERA in a hugely disappointing season. However, here's the positive. He's registered a 1.23 WHIP on the year as he's walked only 23 batters in 24 appearances. He's also struck out at least six batters in seven of his last nine outings (his 7.98 K/9 rate this season is more than half a batter better than his marks the past two seasons). He's also started to bring the big fly under control. After allowing 28 homers last season in 176.2 innings he's permitted 23 in 132 innings this season (compare that to 2011 when he allowed 20 over 238.1 innings), though over his last six starts he's only been taken deep twice. With the homers removed as a roadblock there's been a whole lot of success for Haren of late. He's got four wins an a save in his last six outings, and the last time he gave up more than two earned runs in an outing was back on July 22nd. Moreover, his ERA has come down from 6.15 to 4.64 over his last nine starts with eight of those nine outings resulting in two or fewer earned runs allowed. We're finally cooking. Too bad it took more than three months to get started.
Ivan Nova had a 4.91 ERA on June 23rd. Over his last nine outings he's been so good that he's brought that number all the way down to 3.17. Nova has allowed more than three earned runs just once in nine outings (he allowed four runs Tuesday as he picked up his 7th win of the year). Not just holding the runs down, Nova is giving the Yankees innings. Over his last eight outings only one time has he failed to work at least seven innings (Tuesday he labored through 6.1 innings). That's some pretty good hurling for a guy who was on waivers in most mixed leagues two months ago. He's also carried on a trend he started last season – he's bringing the punchout. Nova has 89 Ks in 93.2 innings this season for the Yankees.
Ervin Santana was bombed for six runs on August 9th, and back on July 11th he allowed eight runs. Remove those two outings from his last 10 starts and he's permitted 12 earned runs over his last eight outings. Of course, we can't really do that, even though you get the point. Still, through 25 games the guy owns a 3.13 ERA that is a full run below his career mark (4.21) while it's two full runs below his 5.16 mark from 2012. That ERA would be a career best, he posted a 3.38 mark in 2011, while his 1.13 WHIP would be one hundredth off his career best mark of 1.12 set back in 2008. There are a few keys to his success. His 7.01 K/9 mark is the highest the mark has been in five years. Second, his 2.16 BB/9 mark is a five year low. Third, after posting HR/9 marks of 1.09 and 1.02 in 2010-11 that mark flew up to 1.97 last season, an insane mark. The old regression monster is back and his current mark is now 1.02. Fourth, he's done something he's never done before – he's become a ground ball hurler. After posting a career low 35.2 percent line drive rate in 2010 that number climbed to 43 percent the past two years before moving to a career best 47.7 percent this season. If he keeps that up, or better yet if he keeps the ball down, success will likely continue.
Numbers are for the last 30 days
Robbie Grossman: .348-3-13-14-4
John Jay: .340-2-18-13-1
Wilson Ramos: .321-4-14-8-0
Jayson Werth: .422-5-18-21-4
Will Venable: .365-6-10-16-5
Grossman, an outfielder for the Astros by the way, has had a solid rookie season overall with a .265 average and .344 OBP. He's also struck out 56 times in 50 games this season, and he's sporting a sickly .360 SLG. All three of his homers have come the last 30 days, he has only three in 50 games this season, and though he has six steals he's been caught five times. Ride the wave in mixed leagues, but it's very possible that his hot streak will end at any moment relegating him to AL-only league usage in September.
Jay is a career .292 hitter who has hit at least .297 each of his previous three years. He's only at .270 this season, but obviously he's trending in the right direction with his recent play (he's also hitting .327 over his last 32 contests). He only has seven homers and four steals so he had better keep producing hits to maintain his fantasy value. Regardless, the season is going to be a seen as a bit of a down turn compared to last season given that he hit .305 with 19 steals for the Cards.
Ramos has been hot for a while now, and though injury has hidden his effort a bit, the guy is batting .299 with eight homers and 31 RBIs over the course of a mere 45 games. That's elite production for a backstop. Period. Ramos has been scalding of late with at least two hits in five of his last eight games. He's still walked only seven times on the year though he's been making solid contact with just 23 punchouts.
Venable is that guy you add in the last round of the draft and say 'oh what the heck.' He's been much more than that of late. With his recent surge he is on the cusp, get this, of at least a 20/15 season as he's parked 17 balls while swiping 14 bags. He never walks, he has only 20 this season, and the 89 Ks in 354 innings aren't exactly a positive, but he's surging and news has come down that Cameron Maybin (knee) will be shut down for two weeks with lingering issues securing Venable's spot in the daily lineup for at least another three weeks.
Werth has been hot for a lot longer than 30 days. Folks may not have realized it cause he has missed time with injury, but Werth is currently batting .330 on the year. He has 380 plate appearances, you need 502 to qualify for the batting title, so he's got a shot to get enough work to qualify (he would need to average 3.30 plate appearances per team game the rest of the way). His level of production that last 30 days isn't even the whole stor4y. Over his last 44 games he's been a total beast batting .403. Yep, you read that right. He's also gone deep nine times with 32 RBIs and 31 runs scored (he's thrown in five thefts just for the heck of it). The only thing that might be able to stop him is injury (he's appeared in 94 of the 125 Nationals games this season).
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Friday. For more of Ray's analysis you can check out BaseballGuys.com or the BaseballGuys' Twitter account where he tirelessly answer everyone's questions
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