Fantasy Notes: The Cliff’s Edge
On Thursday afternoon, Cliff Lee will look to strengthen his Cy Young hopes with his 18th win of the season against the KC Royals. Although the Royals have done slightly better lately, they remain among the weakest hitting teams in the AL, so Lee winning his seventh straight decision is a very good bet. Since taking a bitch slapping at the hands of the Tigers on July 30, Lee has gotten right back into a sweet groove, going 3-0, 1.50 so far in August. He’s headed for a career high in innings pitched, but is showing no signs of wearing down, and remains tough to hit. It looks like one of our mid-season picks for Cy Young remains on track for the hardware.
Mike Pelfrey’s had a few hiccups lately, but after tossing his first career complete game Wednesday – his second straight strong outing – I’m left scratching my head as to why he’s actually being dumped in plenty of fantasy leagues. Granted, the beginning of the month was ugly for Pelfrey – especially considering how he was rolling in July, but those couple of rough outings appear to be a blip now. Finally healthy, he’s enjoyed a tremendous breakout season, and if he’s not owned – like he is in almost half the leagues out there – I’d definitely consider him as a solid option down the stretch.
Last month, we mentioned that there was a sliver of a chance that A.J. Pierzynski was still out there on the wire in some leagues. That possibility looks even more remote given his current tear. After homering, driving in three runs and recording his second straight three-hit game, Pierzynski has now hit in five straight, turning around a somewhat bland July and beginning of August. Pierzynski had probably his worst full season as a major leaguer in 2007, but he’s recovered nicely this year. He remains among the most durable catchers in the game, with solid gap power, decent productivity and strong batting averages. Nothing wrong with that in my books.
One other name that could potentially be available in those more shallow leagues is J.J. Hardy. What a roll he’s been on. After going 2-for-4 with a homer, two runs and two RBI Wednesday, he’s now hit in seven straight games, leaving an August slump in the dust. While he’s endured more health woes this season, Hardy’s power continues to develop and he’s also become more patient. Next season, if he can avoid major injury, I think he’s poised for a major power breakout, possibly topping 30 homers and hitting close to .300.
How about taking another look at Brett Myers? Hello? If this dude is available in your league, you need to jump now. Have you seen what he’s done since the Phillies brought him back last month? After Wednesday’s nine-hit shutout, he’s now 3-1 through six starts and 41 2/3 IP with just 30 hits and ten runs – nine earned – allowed. He’s walked only ten and fanned 30. A .171 BAA in July and a .189 mark in August? Uh, why is this guy out there in any league now?
What’s gotten into Derek Jeter lately? We questioned whether he was done earlier this month, but man, has he kicked it up a notch in the past week. On Wednesday, he had three hits, homering and driving in a pair to run his hit streak to six games – a stretch that includes five multi-hit games, four games of at least three hits and one four-hit effort. This 16-for-28 run suddenly has Jeter knocking on the door of yet another .300 season. For the month, he’s batting almost .400 and has started running again, swiping three bases in August. As bad a year as everyone has said it’s been for Jeter, he’s still on pace to drive in more runs than he did in 2007.
Kevin Millwood, who has slipped almost entirely off the map from a fantasy perspective, turned in a vintage effort Wednesday, tossing a complete game six-hitter, This snapped a streak of five straight bad outings, and it came against the inconsistent Tigers, so I wouldn’t get excited yet. Still, after getting shelled for four homers in his last start, Millwood was able to keep the ball in the park, and that’s going to be a key for him if he hopes to salvage this season. My call: take a chance on him down the stretch. September has been Millwood’s best month of the season over the last three years, and if Wednesday’s effort was any indication, he’s going to finish strong again.
Back at the beginning of August, we told you it was time to throw some love Garret Anderson’s way. Well, he hasn’t been nearly as hot as he was in July, but he continues to scratch out the hits, Wednesday waiting until the ninth inning but smacking an infield hit to run his hitting streak to 23 games and deliver the game-winning hit for the Angels. He’s no longer an extremely productive fantasy outfielder, but he definitely has proved he still deserves a place on most teams.
How about some love for Francisco Rodriguez? He got burned by the Mariners last week, suffering a rare blown save, but has bounced right back with a pair of clean saves, Wednesday adding to his major league lead with save No. 48, a new record for the Angels, breaking the mark he set in 2006. August hasn’t been the prettiest of months for K-Rod, with a pair of blown saves, but overall he’s been excellent this season despite the lowest strikeout rate of his career. Oh, and perhaps you’ve heard that the MLB saves record is squarely in his sights, as he remains on pace to shatter Bobby Thigpen’s mark by five saves.
Can you believe it’s been nine years to the day since Sammy Sosa reached 50 homers for the second straight season, making him just the fourth player ever to do that (joining Mark McGwire, Ken Griffey Jr. and Babe Ruth). Remember when Sosa and McGwire “saved” baseball a decade ago? My, how times change.