Gary Gramling
Thursday July 7th, 2011

There's a name for people who don't make trades during the year, but it's not fit to print on a family-friendly column. A healthy league is one with many trades, and all season long you can come here to get the kind of edge you need to get ahead (majority of advanced stats from the fine folks at fangraphs.com) ...

Billy Butler, Royals: Because he broke into the bigs as a 21-year old, it only seems like Butler has been in Kansas City since the days of Joe Randa. In reality, he's a 25-year old who's still trying to find his power stroke, but plenty of owners are losing patience with a first baseman/DH who hit just 15 homers last year, and has only six so far in 2011. While his isolated power has dropped significantly for a second straight year (from .191 in 2009, to .151 in '10, to .129 this year) there's still hope for his second half. From '08-10, he hit a home run every 46.5 at-bats pre-All-Star break, and a HR every 27.3 at-bats after the break. Considering Butler should at least continue to hit for average in the second half of the year, he's the kind of low-risk, high-reward bat you should be trying to pry from an impatient owner.

Max Scherzer, Tigers: The All-Star break can't come soon enough for Scherzer, who's seen his ERA balloon nearly two runs over the past 40 days or so. But while he's posted a nasty 7.84 ERA over his last eight starts, he hasn't exactly been a disaster. Sure, he's missing within the strike zone way too much. But he's also struck out 34 while walking only 14 in 41.1 innings during that span. The dismissal of pitching coach Rick Knapp isn't a big impact move, but putting a new voice in Scherzer's ear, plus a few days off at the break, may be just what he needs. This is a guy who posted a 2.47 ERA after the break a year ago, so while he's risky, the top 20 SP upside is worth rolling the dice on, especially if you can get him for next to nothing.

A.J. Burnett, Yankees: There will always be a market for Yankees starters, even one as erratic as Burnett. But while Burnett's line is solid so far (8-7, 4.12 ERA, 1.26 WHIP), there's not a whole lot of difference between this year's Burnett and the guy who posted a 5.26 ERA and 1.51 WHIP a year ago. His strikeout and walk rates are pretty much the same -- 6.99 K/9 and 3.76 BB/9 last year, 7.21 K/9 and 3.88 BB/9 this year. His line drive rate is an identical -- 17.6 percent.. He has seen a slight uptick in ground ball rate (47.0 percent from 44.9 percent), but that's not necessarily a good thing considering the Yankees' infield defense up the middle. So what's been the difference? An opponent batting average on balls in play that sits at an incredibly lucky .246 right now. Burnett's FIP is 4.47, and his tERA is 4.79. Split the difference, and you figure Burnett's actual ERA should be about a half run higher than it is (let's say about 4.60), and his WHIP should be around a 1.40. Then factor in his stretch run performance since joining the Yankees in '09: 4-12 with a 5.65 ERA and 1.53 WHIP. It all adds up to an ugly second half coming for Burnett.

Do you have questions? Concerns? Unflinching boredom? Following me on Twitter (@GGramling_SI) won't help, but you should do it anyway.

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