It's time for the clutch players to step up. Jimmy Rollins is suddenly wreaking havoc on opposing pitchers, and Carlos Delgado is a one-man wrecking crew. Alex Rodriguez has flopped on the big stage in New York once again, and C.C. Sabathia refuses to lose. Though it is impossible to predict the mettle of a player without throwing them in the midst of a playoff race, we can take a look at the statistics of the players reaching their peak with their seasons on the line to know who's worth starting on your fantasy squds for the final stretch. Do you know who's hot? It's time to Name That Game!
92 at-bats, 18 runs, 8 HR, 20 RBI, 7 SB, .359 AVG
Which outfielder is this?
Mike Cameron, OF, Milwaukee Brewers
Long known as a good guy in the major leagues, Cameron surprised a great deal of baseball fans when he was suspended for a failed steroid test. Cameron has long been a 20-20 guy who reached a career high of 30 home runs in '04 with the Mets, and has stolen as many as 38 bases with the Reds before getting traded for Ken Griffey Jr. in 1999. After a head-on collision with Mets centerfielder Carlos Beltran prematurely ended his season in '05, Cameron was traded to the Padres for Xavier Nady during the offseason. In his first season with the Padres, Cameron was solid with 22 home runs, 83 RBIs and 25 steals to complement a .268 average. Last season, Cameron struggled a bit more with 21 home runs and 18 steals to go with a .242 average. Nonetheless, Cameron still offered solid defense, and in need of a veteran presence, the Milwaukee Brewers signed Cameron as a free agent this offseason.
When Cameron returned to the diamond after missing time due to a steroid suspension, he was little more than a one-dimensional power bat as he hit 12 home runs with a .209 average through the first 47 games of his season. However, since the All Star break, the power has been complemented by seven steals and a .308 average. In fact, in the last month, Cameron has blasted eight home runs, stolen seven bases, and hit at a .359 clip. For the season, Cameron is showing no signs of slowing down at the age of 35, as he has 23 home runs, 15 steals and a .260 average that sits nine points above his career average. While Cameron is clearly a great pickup for the remainder of this season, he can also be depended upon for 20-20 output for '09.
107 at-bats, 20 runs, 6 HR, 27 RBI, 1 SB, .327 AVG
Which second baseman is this?
Dustin Pedroia, 2B, Boston Red Sox
At Arizona State, Pedroia was a huge prospect, even beating out current Texas Rangers star Ian Kinsler for a starting spot. Pedroia hit the ground running in his professional career. In his first season of pro ball, Pedroia hit .357 with 34 runs in 42 games while competing at the lower minor league levels. The next season, Pedroia split between Double and Triple-A. He blasted 13 home runs with a .293 average, but struggled a bit at Triple A. In '06, Pedroia adapted well to the increased competition and hit .305, leading to his first taste of the major leagues. The 31-game stint was not pretty, as Pedroia hit just .191, but did belt two home runs and only fanned on seven occasions. The next season, Pedroia was a major leaguer for good, as he earned the AL Rookie of the Year honors thanks to a .317 average, eight home runs, seven steals, and 88 runs scored. Nonetheless, due to his lack of outstanding power or speed, Pedroia was a middle round selection in most fantasy drafts for the '08 season.
After a strong rookie campaign, Pedroia seemed to play to the low expectations of fantasy managers early in the season. In April, his .306 average was solid, but he managed just 13 runs, 1 home run, and 13 RBIs. In May, the middle infielder belted three home runs, but his average slid to .260 for the month. Ever since, Pedroia has been as good as any second baseman in the majors. In June, the 24-year old blasted four home runs to complement a .356 average. In July, Pedroia hit just one home run, but his .350 average more than made up for it. In August, Pedroia suddenly developed a power stroke with six home runs and 20 RBIs in 22 games. Pedroia already has career highs across the board with 101 runs, 15 home runs, and 68 RBIs to complement a .317 average. By next season, Pedroia will likely be off the draft board within the first few rounds.
4 wins, 43.2 IP, 36 K'S, 1.24 ERA, 1.01 WHIP
Which starting pitcher is this?
Brett Myers, SP, Philadelphia Phillies
A first round pick out of high school in '99, Myers has had an up-and-down career in the major leagues. After a 4-5 start to his career, Myers shined bright during his first full major league season, as he set a career high with 14 wins with 143 Ks and a 4.43 ERA. The next season Myers regressed with just 11 wins and a 5.52 ERA. Perhaps his best season to date followed as Myers went 13-8 in '05 with a career best 3.72 ERA and a career high 208 strikeouts. Myers was solid again in '06, as he went 12-7 with a 3.91 ERA and 189 Ks. Last season, the Phillies moved Myers to the bullpen, where he nabbed 21 saves, but his ERA ballooned to 4.33. The Phillies opted to return Myers to their rotation by acquiring closer Brad Lidge during the off-season. Myers was expected to form a devastating 1-2 punch with ace Cole Hamels.
Myers' return to the rotation has been anything but smooth. In his first four months of the season, Myers ERA was well over 5, as his record was just 3-9. To his credit, Myers accepted a demotion to the minor leagues to build up some confidence, and since July, he has pitched like an ace. In seven starts since the All-Star break, Myers is 4-1 with 38 strikeouts and a 1.66 ERA. At just 28 years old, the Phillies hurler has 66 career wins. In addition, Philadelphia fans are quick to point out that his clutch pitching has allowed the Phillies to contend with the Mets in the NL East. In fantasy circles, Myers may be far from a sure bet, but he has proven capable of hanging with the elite when he's at his best.