Around this time of the year you’ll hear a lot of experts proclaim the importance of remaining focused on your Fantasy Baseball team even with the Fantasy Football draft season ready to get started. Well this year, due to the NFL lockout, it will be harder than usual to follow this edict. The end of the lockout, which should occur in a matter of days, will bring about a crazy free agency period, the start of training camps and Fantasy Football drafts all within a few weeks. Even with an unusual amount of excitement around the NFL, you can’t ignore your Fantasy Baseball team. The homestretch has just begun and success in the coming weeks will go a long way toward making the playoffs and bringing home a championship. If you need to open up some free time to fully invest in two Fantasy sports, I suggest slacking on chores, date nights with your girlfriend/wife and Reality TV.
Who’s Hot and Who’s Not
Eric Thames’ hot streak is for real and he is an excellent pick up right now in deeper mixed leagues. Thames is hitting .337 with four HRs, 10 RBIs and 17 runs scored over his last 83 at-bats. While an average near .350 won’t last, the power and run production numbers should. Thames averaged 24 HRs, 95 RBIs and 87.5 runs scored per season in his last two full minor league seasons. He also plays half his games in a solid hitter’s ballpark and he has great protection batting second in front of all of the Blue Jays big boppers. He is widely available in mixed leagues so pick him up for a boost in three of the five main hitting categories.
Don’t get too excited about Juan Pierre‘s hot July because the same issues that concerned his owners all season still remain. Despite hitting .353 this month with a .411 OBP Pierre has only stolen four bases and scored eight runs. If he can’t get a significant boost in what used to be his two best categories when he is hitting this well what will happen when he comes back to earth? The same disappointing production he has been providing all year long. Expect Pierre to cool down and lose playing time to prized prospect Dayan Viciedo at some point in the second half.
Here is the good news with John Lackey‘s last four starts; three of them have been good and he is averaging 8.34 strikeouts per nine innings (K/9) while only allowing 1.19 walks per nine innings (BB/9). The bad news? The other start was terrible, seven earned runs and nine hits in 2 1/3 IP, which means his ERA (4.76) and WHIP (1.46) during this stretch are not much better than his season averages. The conclusion? He is still not worth picking up as a permanent solution in any format but he can be looked at as a good two start streaming option in head to head leagues if he has favourable matchups in a particular week. He can also be a decent one week fill-in for rotisserie leagues with the right matchup(s).
With Seth Smith a full-time starter for the first time in his career we will finally find out if this guy can be productive when given over 500 at-bats. The early returns are not good. After a strong June, Smith is hitting only .240 in July with no HRs, two RBIs and two runs scored. We may be seeing why Smith never played every day in the major leagues before. Don’t be surprised if he puts up underwhelming numbers the rest of the way.
With Jhoulys Chacin in the midst of a rough stretch (0-3 with a 6.17 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in his last four starts) talk of a possible shutdown has heated up if the Rockies fall completely out of the NL West race. This is a legitimate concern for his owners considering that Chacin is only 23 years old and will likely pass his career high of 137 1/3 IP by his first start in August. Packaging Chacin in a trade before your league’s deadline is highly recommended.
Doug Fister only has one win since May 1 but he is still a useful pitcher in deeper mixed rotisserie leagues. Despite being a detriment in the wins category he sports a healthy 3.18 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. He’s also improved his K/9 from 4.9 in 2010 to 5.4 this season. Not good, but at least it is moving in the right direction. My only concern is that the losing, he is 3-11 on the season, will start to affect his psyche which in turn will send his ratios in the wrong direction. For now, enjoy his strong two-category production if strikeouts and wins are a luxury for your team.
Closer Phenoms and Follies
Bobby Parnell will likely get the closer role all to himself at some point in the next few weeks but whether he will thrive as the saves guy for the Mets is up for debate. Parnell performed terribly in April after being named the primary set up guy for then-Met closer Francisco Rodriguez coming out of spring training. He has subsequently pitched well largely under the radar since returning from a DL stint in late May. If Parnell is named the full-time closer, the New York pressure cooker will be all over him as he tries to become the first home grown closer for the Amazins in 25 years. My gut says he will buckle under the increased attention and scrutiny.
As for Joe Nathan being named the Twins closer, expect him to keep the job for the rest of the year and perform better than Matt Capps. That, however, is all I’m giving new Nathan owners. Expect a fair share of blown saves and ratios that will neither help nor hurt your Fantasy squad.
Category Winners and Losers
Mark Trumbo won’t hit for average and won’t score or drive in many runs at the bottom of the Angels lineup but he is a legitimate source of power. He has 18 home runs on the season and should be good for another 12-15 dingers the rest of the season. He is also capable of swiping a base every now and then witnessed by his eight steals on the year. If you need home runs, it is worth picking up Trumbo in moderate to deeper mixed leagues.
Stat of the Week
Below are the five pitchers with the lowest ERA plus WHIP for the month of July. A minimum of 20 IP, a sub-three ERA and a sub-one WHIP are necessary to qualify. Success in these two categories usually means that a pitcher is carrying a strong win/loss record. It is not surprising then that the five pitchers who qualified for this stat have a combined record of 13-1 this month.
ERA + WHIP Total
*All Stats up to date as of 07/18/11
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