It's late summer. Baseball has been going for nearly six months. Fantasy football is in full swing, sucking your attention, and the college football season is right around the corner.
It's just plain hard to focus on Fantasy Baseball at this time of the year, yet that's exactly what you need to be doing in order to win your league. One of the simplest ways to avoid getting fooled by full-season statistics and catch on to recent trends is looking at stat splits, over the past 30 days for example.
Did you know Edwin Jackson has a 0.96 Earned Run Average (ERA) over that time? How about Max Scherzer's 1.29 figure? Or Wandy Rodriguez's 1.34?
Here are some other interesting trends over the past 30 days in Fantasy pitching:
• Brandon Morrow's Strikeouts per Nine Innings rate (K/9) is 14.54. More impressively, his Walks per Nine Innings rate (BB/9) is 2.97. Morrow is getting shut down for the season this week, so he's no good to you in 2010. Put a big star next to his name for 2011. His Expected Fielding Independent Pitching rate (xFIP) is 3.61 and his ratios aren't quite as pretty over the complete season (10.93 K/9, 3.96 BB/9), but consider this: Morrow has better numbers in K/9, BB/9 and xFIP than Clayton Kershaw this season. Granted, Morrow is four years older than Kershaw so his upside isn't as big, but he's certainly a guy to target in drafts next season.
Now with a stable spot in the rotation, Morrow has grown into his talent in 2010.
• Cole Hamels' K/BB is 12.00. Hamels has been downright Cliff Lee-like with his outstanding 48:4 K/BB ratio in the past 30 days. Hamels is a decidedly different pitcher in 2010 than he has been for the past two years. His BB/9 is 2.59 (2.10, 2.00 past two years) and his K/9 is 9.10 (7.76, 7.81). Hamels also has a career-low 3.47 xFIP.
Hamels is throwing his changeup a career-low 22.0 percent of the time this season, while he's using his new cutter 14.6 percent of the time. His fastball is also averaging 92.0 mph, the highest of his career (he hasn't topped 90.4 since 2006).
Whether it's the influence of Roy Halladay (adding the cutter), or better offseason conditioning after a disappointing 2009, Hamels looks like his old self. That's something Fantasy owners certainly can buy into for 2011.
• Daniel Hudson, C.J. Wilson and Johan Santana all have 40 strikeouts. Hudson is a particularly interesting pitcher, as he's just 23. Hudson's 8.49 K/9 is outstanding, though his 4.01 xFIP suggests the 3.03 ERA is a little bit of a mirage.
Wilson meanwhile refuses to tire despite pitching 171.2 innings this season. His previous career high was 73.2 out of the bullpen last season. While just 7.34 for the season, his K/9 is 9.39 in the past 30 days - he's just getting better.
Santana has 47 strikeouts in his past 46.1 innings, but his season K/9 is still a middling 6.54. If anything, that shows how much he struggled to start the season. His 4.36 xFIP is the worst of his career. Santana isn't an ace anymore, but he's been strong as 2010 has progressed. Keep him in mind in 2011 as a guy who was better in the second half than his overall numbers showed.
• Jackson's peripherals aren't that great, but he's now struck out 10 or more batters in three straight games. His K/9 is 12.17 over that span and 11.05 in the past 30 days.
Jackson's 3.86 xFIP is the best of his career and more than half a run better than he produced in his breakout 2009. His biggest problem has been walks. He holds a 3.58 BB/9 this season, though that rate has also been much better in the past 30 days, at 1.96.
At 27, Jackson is still too streaky to invest in heavily next season. He is a guy to acquire after a couple of solid starts and ride the streak.
Rick Porcello - Look who's back! Kind of. Porcello has allowed two earned runs or fewer in four of his past five starts. That's something Fantasy owners can use. However, he hasn't struck out more than four batters in a start since July. He's a smart matchup pitcher.
Hiroki Kuroda - Kuroda needs to be owned in every active league, it's as simple as that. The steady pitcher hasn't walked more than two batters in a start since June 26 and he flirted with a no-hitter against the Phillies Aug. 30.
Jered Weaver's Z-Contact% (percentage of pitches outside the zone batters make contact with), the best in baseball by over three percent. Weaver is having a breakthrough season, mostly because of his ability to make batters miss pitches in the zone.
UP: Jorge De La Rosa - De La Rosa is doing exactly what he is expected to do: Post useful starts with a lot of K's and a lot of walks. His xFIP is 3.61, his K/9 is 8.96 and his GB% is 58.1. De La Rosa will allow his fair share of walks and hurt your WHIP, but he is very useful.
UP: Ian Kennedy - Kennedy dominated the Padres August 26. In seven innings, he struck out 12 and allowed just one hit. He's very inconsistent (he allowed 10 hits the previous start on August 20), but he's a great option for deep leagues.
DOWN: Ricky Nolasco - With a 3.58 xFIP and 4.45 K/BB, Nolasco is producing the second-half excellence Fantasy owners have come to know and love. So why is his stock down? He tore the meniscus in his knee and is attempting to pitch through it. The results (two innings, six earned runs on August 28) aren't encouraging.
DOWN: A.J. Burnett - Burnett's poor 6.72 K/9 makes him someone to avoid. Strikeouts are all he's provided most of the time and if he's not brining in those, he's not worthy of a roster spot. His xFIP is 4.71.
Statistics are current through August 31.
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