Before we get into baseball, how about Tottenham Hotspur? Four wins on the strength of a +7 goal differential, and Spurs are sitting at the top of the standings with Chelsea. They’ve got a big match next week, taking on Manchester United at home. Can they keep the fire going? Speaking of keeping the fire going, how about the Tigers? They look like they might run away with the Central — a usually-competitive division — in September. With only two division leaders within five games of their second-place teams, it looks like it’ll be up to the Wild Card to provide the drama this year. But who are the Tigers of fantasy baseball? And who are the Pirates (lost 7 straight) and Nationals (lost 8 straight)? We’re going to break things down categorically and find out.
Stats as of 09/04/09
Carlos Pena – Last 2 Weeks: 17/48, 14 R, 7 HR, 19 RBI, 1 SB, .354 AVG
Carlos Pena is your major-league leader in HRs and RBIs over the past two weeks. Pena has an interesting race going on this season — he hit his 39th home run of the season on September 1, following that up with his 39th and 40th singles of the season on September 4. His .228 average is the highest it’s been since the All-Star game. His ISO (isolated power) is at .315 this season — only Albert Pujols (.352) has a higher mark. With Adam Dunn’s shiny .282 average on the season, it appears that Pena is now the go-to example for high-power, low-contact players.
Scott Podsednik – Last 2 Weeks: 16/53, 8 R, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 7 SB, .302 AVG
Even with the trade for Alex Rios, Podsednik has been able to stay in the lineup on a regular basis. His seven steals over the past two weeks are three more than anyone else. That pack of players with four steals, incidentally, includes Jason Kendall of all people. Months ago, both I and John Sherwood expected Podsednik to cool off at some point, and that happened in July, when Podsednik hit .267 and stole only four bases. But Podsednik went right back on a tear, hitting .283 with eight steals in August and hitting .353 in his first 17 September at-bats.
CC Sabathia – Last Month: 6 starts, 5-0, 44.1 IP, 53/7 K/BB, 1.83 ERA, 0.90 WHIP
After back-to-back five-run efforts on July 28 and August 2, Sabathia owners were probably tearing their hair out at the lackluster performance of their ace. Since then he’s been phenomenal, giving up only nine earned runs in 44.1 innings. His 53 strikeouts over the last month are way ahead of the pack, with Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez sitting at 44. With injuries to several fantasy aces, Sabathia is currently the most valuable of the SP1s, and his numbers make him the top starter over the past month by a wide margin.
Ryan Franklin – Last Month: 12 games, 11 IP, 12 Sv, 0 BS, 5/7 K/BB, 1.64 ERA, 1.18 WHIP
After not sticking as a starter, Franklin has come into his own in the ninth-inning role for St. Louis. He’s scored saves in 12 consecutive chances, and after not allowing a run in August, Franklin gave up two runs in a September 1 game against the Brewers (although he did escape with the save). The runs were just his seventh and eight allowed in 52.2 innings this year, good for a 1.37 ERA on the season. His 36 saves are tops in the National League. He’s been one of the great late-round success stories this fantasy season, and serves as proof that saves can always be found late in a draft and on the wire. Also killing it in August was Andrew Bailey, who allowed no runs, four hits and no walks the entire month.
Carl Crawford – Last 2 Weeks: 6/38, 4 R, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 1 SB, .158 AVG
Where are the steals, Craw? Since August 16, Crawford has only one SB, spanning the course of 15 games. With many H2H playoffs starting or ongoing, now is the worst time to see a speedster slow down. Sure, Crawford wasn’t going to steal 21 bases in a month again, but you have to expect more from a guy with 55 SBs this season. To top it off, Crawford hasn’t had a multi-hit game since mid-August, and his average has dropped to .306 — only the second time it’s been that low since early May, with the other time coming in mid-June. You have to play him and hope he catches fire like he did in 2007 (.358 average, 27 steals after the All-Star break).
Alex Rios – Since trade: 12/69, 4 R, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 1 SB, .174 AVG
Since crossing the border into the States, Rios has been awful. After securing 14 homers and 19 SBs with the Blue Jays in 436 at-bats this season, Rios only has one of each in 69 Chicago at-bats. He’s struck out a whopping 18 times and has only drawn one walk, so his OPS is down to .458. Before a 2 for 5 game against the Red Sox on September 4, Rios was hitless in 15 at-bats in his last five games, which sunk his average to .250, his lowest mark since the beginning of May. I’ve already cut bait with Rios in my league — I can’t imagine his performance with his new team has inspired any confidence in manager Ozzie Guillen.
Joba Chamberlain – Last 2 starts: 6 IP, 0-1, 3/2 K/BB, 6.00 ERA, 2.00 WHIP
The Joba Rules have reared their ugly head. The Yankees have put Chamberlain on a strict pitch count, letting the young starter throw only three innings in each of his last two starts. With an 8.22 ERA and 2.00 WHIP in five August starts, he wasn’t exactly helping your fantasy team anyway. His 18/15 K/BB ratio for that month is his worst this season. At this point, there’s absolutely no reason to still have him on your team — yet he’s owned in over 85% of leagues! Do yourself a favor and give up on Joba for this season.
J.P. Howell – Since August 1: 14 games, 1-3, 14 IP, 5 Sv, 3 BS, 16/12 K/BB, 6.43 ERA, 1.57 WHIP
After inheriting the closer job in June, Howell looked like he was born to close. He allowed no runs in June and had just one bad outing in July. It all fell apart after that. Howell has been scored upon six times in his 14 appearances since the beginning of August, with three of those games including multiple runs scored — including a three-run, two-out loss to Detroit on September 4. He had his ERA down to 1.52 at one point in July, but it’s currently sitting at 2.83. I hope you enjoyed the ride while it lasted, as Howell has three blown saves and just one save in his last six appearances.
That’ll be it for this week. Expect the return of Ray next week!
R.J. White is a fantasy blogger at the sports site FanHouse. Check out his work both here and there, and feel free to talk to him in the forums, where he posts under the name daullaz.
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