Please tell me I'm not the only one reading this column who was born before Short Circuit came out (I can live with being the only one who saw the movie). Regardless, we're past the point where you need to be told which top of the rotation pitchers to start. We're now facing the last quarter of the season and you're likely doing one of three things: (1) looking for guys to fill holes created by injuries; (2) trying to decide who your keepers are; or (3) engaging in mock fantasy football drafts. For those of you still playing fantasy baseball, it's time to run through the end of the rotation pitchers and see if there's any value out there.
ARI: Yusmeiro Petit (2-3, 41.2 IP, 30 K, 3.02 ERA, 0.86 WHIP)
Petit is a nice stealth candidate I've been plugging all year and it looks like he's finally lived up to that billing. If his ratios stay down and his strikeouts come up, he might just make D-backs fans say "Micah who?" Pick him up.
ATL: Jo-Jo Reyes (3-9, 82.2 IP, 64 K, 5.33 ERA, 1.57 WHIP)
He's baaa-ack! With Tom Glavine done for the year (and perhaps forever), and the Braves in no position to make the postseason, Reyes will get the call again. The knock on him is his control, and unlike the Braves, you don't have the luxury of letting him work out his issues on your team. Stay away.
CHC: Jason Marquis (8-7, 129.0 IP, 68 K, 4.67 ERA, 1.44 WHIP)
The only thing Marquis has going for him is that he pitches for the best team in the NL, which means he'll win a couple of games he shouldn't (his start against the Astros earlier this month comes to mind). If you absolutely need a warm body in your rotation, Marquis is your guy. However, realize he won't help in K, and he'll kill your ratios, and might even re-transmit games without the express written consent of the Commissioner.
CIN: Josh Fogg (2-5, 65.1 IP, 38 K, 7.71 ERA, 1.64 WHIP)
Fogg is 0-3 in his last eight starts. Don't be an enabler to this type of behavior.
COL: Jorge De La Rosa (6-6, 87.2 IP, 95 K, 6.16 ERA, 1.60 WHIP)
De la Rosa has officially kicked Glendon Rusch out of the rotation and Jorge will likely finish out the year as a starter. While those ratios are as scary as they look, keep in mind Jorge pitches very well against the teams he should beat, namely, the Padres, Nationals and Pirates. If the matchup is favorable, pick the lefty up for a spot start as he has the potential for 6+ Ks per outing.
FLA: Anibal Sanchez (2-2, 23.0 IP, 2 K, 3.52 ERA, 1.39 WHIP)
Sanchez is in the "you snooze, you lose" category as I've been touting picking him up since July. If he's not gone, he may be the strongest No. 5 pickup in the NL right now. Expect his control to be a little shaky as he continues to recover from surgery, but the real impact is he may have just pitched Andrew Miller out of a starting job.
HOU: Brian Moehler (8-4, 111.0 IP, 58 K, 3.97 ERA, 1.30 WHIP)
Moehler is quietly putting together some career numbers, and he hasn't given up a walk in his last three starts. And while Ty Wigginton does his best Carlos Lee imitation, this team is winning games. They have no shot at October, but they could be one of the hotter teams in September, and for those of you that need wins (read: all of us), Moehler is looking like a good six-week pickup.
LAD: Clayton Kershaw (2-3, 72.2 IP, 64 K, 3.59 ERA, 1.51 WHIP)
While Kershaw's strikeouts are fantasy-worthy, that WHIP means that his ERA should be well over 4.00. His walks aren't terrible, but he's pitching to a lot of contact, and righties are killing him. Since the All Star Break he has looked sharper and has only given up five ER in his last five starts. Pick up Kershaw well before someone like Marquis, but just after Moehler.
MIL: Dave Bush (7-9, 139.1 IP, 90 K, 4.26 ERA, 1.12 WHIP)
In Milwaukee it's been "CC and Ben, and pray they can go again." But at the far end of the bench Bush has pushed Seth McClung back into the shadows, and is working on a mini-hot streak. In his last seven games, he's 3-1 and has thrown 44 K in 48.2 IP, which are numbers worthy of most fantasy teams. And note that his ERA appears to be a bit high for his WHIP (in seven of his last ten starts, his WHIP has been below 1.00 for the game), so he could see the good kind of correction in the near future. If Bush is hanging around on your waiver wire, grab him and ride him until the streak ends.
NYM: Mike Pelfrey (11-8, 145.0 IP, 83 K, 3.91 ERA, 1.44 WHIP)
Quick, what's the Mets biggest problem? Rhymes with "awful bullpen." So even though the Mets have great run support, the relief staff will still blow some games. Pelfrey has shown impressive control by giving up only five walks in his last eight starts, but during that same stretch he has yielded more than a hit per inning (53 hits in 51.1 IP), which sounds a little too much like Carlos Silva. Yes, Pelfrey will get you wins (seven in his last 10 starts), but look elsewhere if you have ratio or strikeout needs.
PHI: Brett Myers (5-10, 134.1 IP, 109 K, 5.02 ERA, 1.41 WHIP)
When big leaguers get sent done to "work on mechanics" (which is a euphemism for "get mental help"), it sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. I still maintain the Braves needed to show tougher love than they did with Jeff Francoeur. For Myers, it appears to have worked. In five starts since returning from Lehigh Valley, he's 2-1, with 21 K in 32.2 IP, and a 2.48 ERA. Myers is back to being fantasy relevant, should be taken in every league, and is a keeper at a decent price.
PIT: Jeff Karstens (2-2, 28.0 IP, 11 K, 2.25 ERA, 1.11 WHIP)
The Yankees' cast off got our attention by blanking the Cubs, but he really exploded onto the fantasy scene by almost pitching a perfecto against the Diamondbacks. He has since lost to the Reds and Mets and is on the fast track to mediocrity. There are many names on this list I would place in front of him for waiver wire pickups. In fact he'd likely be fourth from the bottom in the NL ahead of only the Giants, Reds and Nationals. See if he can regain some control in his September starts to decide if he's worth keeping.
SD: Cha Seung Baek (4-8, 106.1 IP, 71 K, 4.99 ERA, 1.37 WHIP)
Did anyone out there really think the Padres would be the worst team in baseball this year? Did anyone think it was possible to get traded from the Mariners and not be happy about it? On a good team, "Shake and Baek's" (my name for him) 3-7 record with the Padres becomes 8-5. His skill set has been solid, and he's given up two or less walks in 12 NL starts. So while he's not a pickup for this year, if you have him cheap, think seriously about making him a keeper for '09 with the hope the Padres get back to .500 baseball.
SF: Matt Palmer (0-1, 2.1 IP, 23.14 ERA, 4.71 WHIP)
I was all set to write about Kevin Correia and then Jonathan Sanchez hit the DL. And no, those ratios aren't misprints. So whether it's Palmer or Correia, stay away from the Giants' end of the rotation for any sort of fantasy help.
STL: Todd Wellemeyer (10-4, 142.1 IP, 95 K, 3.79 ERA, 1.26 WHIP)
With the uncertain injury status of Chris Carpenter, Mark Mulder and Adam Wainwright, it's hard to say where this rotation starts and where it ends. But with the odds being Carpenter only gets in a few more starts, Mulder is done, and Wainwright goes to the bullpen, Wellemeyer should be able to hang onto his job. The problem, though, is that it's hard to pin Wellemeyer down. He shuts out the Marlins, but gives up five runs to the Padres. Wellemeyer is worthy of your team for the rest of year, unless strikeouts are a high priority.
WAS: Colin Balestar (2-5, 42.2 IP, 28 K, 5.05 ERA, 1.38 WHIP)
Nothing personal, Colin, but you're the last starter on the Nationals, where winning is not an option. "Balestar Galactica" (again, my name for him) has a decent skill set, so keep him in mind (but don't have a mind to keep him) next year.
BAL: Chris Waters (1-0, 16.2 IP, 9 K, 4.32 ERA, 1.38 WHIP)
Waters is a Braves castoff that's a little too old (28) to be a rookie. His debut against the Angels was a thing of beauty (W, 8.0 IP, 0ER, 1 H, 3 BB, 3 K), but his next start against Texas was hideous ("Don't look at me ..."). In his third start he couldn't get out of the fifth inning, but that was likely just a quick hook for a young arm. So Waters is not worth a pickup this year as there are some big losses waiting in that arm, but if he shows the Anaheim game wasn't as big a fluke as we thought, he could be worth a pickup as a keeper in deep AL-only leagues.
BOS: Clay Buchholz (2-8, 73.2 IP, 72 K, 6.35 ERA, 1.74 WHIP)
Those strikeout numbers have my attention, but so does that 2-8 record pitching for the strongest AL team not in Anaheim (sorry, Tampa Bay, you have too many key injuries right now). I'd like to say he's worth the risk, but even the Red Sox are skipping him when they can. Consider '08 to be a lost year for Buchholz and don't keep him unless he has a huge September turnaround.
CWS: Clayton Richard (0-2, 14.0 IP, 13 K, 9.64 ERA, 2.07 WHIP)
Odds are Richard will not be in the rotation for very long, which creates a problem for Ozzie Guillen, as the cupboard appears to be bare for that fifth spot. He could keep stretching out D.J. Carrasco but he's seemed reluctant to do so. While Richard isn't worth a pickup, keep an eye on whom Guillen eventually uses in this role, which could even be Horacio Ramirez.
CLE: Jeremy Sowers (2-6, 84.0 IP, 44 K, 5.46 ERA, 1.54 WHIP)
There's not much to like here. He's 0-1 in two starts against the Twins, and Minnesota always has trouble with lefties. Move along.
DET: Zach Miner (6-4, 75.1 IP, 41 K, 3.94 ERA, 1.47 WHIP)
With Miner you know what you're going to get: a WHIP over 1.40 and not enough strikeouts. But he does have three wins in his last six starts. He's perhaps worth a spot start if the matchup is good (and apparently, a good matchup for him is the White Sox).
KC: Kyle Davies (5-4, 70.2 IP, 41 K, 4.71 ERA, 1.67 WHIP)
Yes, I know Davies got sent down, but the Royals are planning to skip the fifth spot the next time around, and they're not tipping their hand as to the end of the rotation. Regardless, we are talking about the Royals, so it doesn't matter if it's Davies, Nuke Laloosh or Cy Young -- you don't want the Royals' fifth starter on your team.
LAA: Ervin Santana (13-5, 162.2 IP, 157 K, 3.49 ERA, 1.14 WHIP)
And this is why the Angels are the toughest team in the majors this year. Their rotation top-to-bottom is the best around, and their No. 5 pitcher has 13 wins. Santana shouldn't be available in any league anywhere.
MIN: Francisco Liriano (3-3, 29.0 IP, 22 K, 4.97 ERA, 1.59 WHIP)
Yes, Liriano was likely drafted, dropped and then picked up again in your league, so there's a what, one-in-twelve chance you have him. And those season numbers are a composite of two different Liriano's. In his three starts since his return he's pitched five strikeouts each time, and won all three games. While he won't go undefeated the rest of the way, he should be solid. And for those of you lucky enough to have him as a keeper for '09, you're already winning in pitching.
NYY: Sidney Ponson (7-3, 109.2 IP, 46 K, 4.19 ERA, 1.53 WHIP)
I could have easily selected Darrell Rasner, but this one is more interesting. Ponson started the year with the Twins, was picked up by the Rangers, and now finds himself on the Yankees. In a perfect world, I wouldn't be writing a column telling you to consider Sir Sidney for your team, but this month he has a 2.96 ERA and, well, he's playing for the Yankees. I say that puts him in the upper half of AL No. 5 starters. Yeesh, I hate myself now.
OAK: Gio Gonzalez (1-2, 14.1 IP, 11 K, 7.53 ERA, 1.81 WHIP)
Those numbers likely speak for themselves, but let me just throw this out there. Gonzalez is a better pitcher than he's shown so far. He's been nibbling around the plate, which explains the 11 walks to go against his 11 strikeouts. He also had to face his former White Sox teammates, and he got killed by them. When he calms down and isn't pitching like he might be sent back to Sacramento at any second he'll be worthwhile. It won't happen in 2008, but he's a good keeper for next year.
SEA: Ryan Feierabend (0-1, 3.0 IP, 1 K, 18.00 ERA, 3.67 WHIP)
Wow. Almost word for word what I said about Sowers above relates to Feierabend. I will add that Ryan was unhittable in AAA this year and at 22 does have a higher ceiling (Sowers is 25). But having said that, I wouldn't consider him a keeper.
TB: Edwin Jackson (9-8, 143.0 IP, 83 K, 3.97 ERA, 1.42 WHIP)
Regular readers will remember that I have given up on Jackson and cannot get myself to recommend him. But in his last five games he's 4-1, and that one loss would have been a win if he had any run support. But that's also an issue we can't ignore. The Rays have too many injuries and there's no way they win relying on Eric Hinske and Gabe Gross (yes, I realize both did well Monday night). So let's say this: yes, Jackson is worth a pickup, but expect the occasional ratio blowups, and try not to get too frustrated if his team can't score for him. And yes, like you, I'm waiting for David Price's callup.
TEX: Matt Harrison (5-2, 43.2 IP, 15 K, 5.77 ERA, 1.56 WHIP)
And who beat Jackson in his most recent loss? Harrison, who blanked the Rays and is trying to show why the Braves saw so much promise in him even though he didn't deliver (last year a certain four-letter major sports outlet wrote a fantasy column saying Harrison was impressing everyone, which was very far from the truth -- and hence ended my reading of that site's fantasy analysis). He's 3-0 in his last three starts, but he didn't deserve one of those wins. He's alternated between great and horrible, but the bottom line is he's getting crushed by lefty hitters (1.148 OPS vs. lefties, .757 vs. righties) and doesn't strikeout enough batters. If the matchup looks good (say against a team with no lefties like the Diamondbacks), take a chance on him (take-a-chance, take-a-chance, take-a-chicka-chance-chance).
TOR: David Purcey (2-3, 30.1 IP, 23 K, 5.93 ERA, 1.45 WHIP)
Purcey pitched a gem against Detroit last week, and since his recall in July, he's thrown 20 Ks in 23.0 IP (in the minors he had a little more than 1.0 K/IP). And as a lefty, he will have some favorable matchups along the way. He's worth a spot start when the matchup is right (pitch him against the Rays but sit him against the Red Sox).
David Young is a fantasy baseball expert who has written weekly columns for, among others, ESPN and Sports Illustrated's websites. He also won KFFL's Expert League in 2007. Send him a comment or question at firstname.lastname@example.org.