There might not be a more valuable fantasy pitcher over the last 6 weeks than Roy Oswalt. Oswalt continued his tear throwing a 1 hitter on Thursday night and making it look quite easy. He needed just 102 pitches (70 of which he threw for strikes) and allowed just 3 base-runners in his 9 shutout innings while striking out 6. Oswalt now has 7 consecutive quality starts and is 6-1 in that span with a sparkling 1.33 ERA and 0.83 WHIP. Oswalt’s poor early season peripherals continue to normalize and the results have been spectacular for fantasy owners. I’ve been down on Oswalt for 3 years running now but much of that had to do with an inflated value in which he was perceived as a number 1, despite providing K and WHIP numbers more of a #2. The good news for Oswalt this year after 3 consecutive years of declining K Rates, Oswalt has ticked up in the K department in ’08. The slight up-tick is encouraging but stopping the sliding peripherals is even more important. Oswalt looks like a reliable #2 heading into next year and one that’s currently producing like an ace. He finishes with the Marlins, Reds, and Braves in what all should be considered favorable matchups down the stretch.
.272/.349/.372 if I told you that was the line of a 1B, you’d probably ask who is employing Doug Mientkiewicz as an everyday 1B again. Instead it’s Derrek Lee we’re talking about. I’ve harped on the sharp drop-off in the power numbers from DLee in the 2nd half spurred on by a rising GB Rate and overall power rate drops across the board. The reason I keep harping on it is not because I’m a frustrated Cubs fan (I still love DLee), but because he’s going to be the most overrated 1B heading into 2009 for fantasy purposes. Lee’s big name and the Cubs likely loaded offense again will push Lee into the first 6-7 rounds of drafts as owners bet on a bounce-back for Lee similar to his 2007 season after a lost 2006. The difference here is Lee simply hasn’t been good since April, as he’s posted an OPS below .790 in each of the 5 months since his magnificent April and has posted an overall line of .279-62-10-58 in 117 games. There’s a chance he comes back and posts a rebound 2009 season in which the power comes back, but even if he does it’s only likely to result in production EQUAL to his draft value, and there’s enough downside to make him a borderline FA candidate. I’m warning you now, for those in keeper leagues, look to make an off-season trade early in the year before fantasy analysts hop on board next spring proclaiming the end of DLee, and remember I told you it was the end back in August of ’08.
I’m not sure if I scared off the rest of the staff with my negativity on Phillips heading into the season but it seems like I’ve been the only one to touch on him this year. Phillips season came to an end early this week with a broken finger. He finished the year with a .261-80-21-78-23 that certainly won’t classify him as a bust but his 75th overall ranking on ESPN’s player rater, suggest I was accurate in calling him vastly overrated in the pre-season. Phillips is what he is, a good fantasy option because of the position he plays and the power speed combination he brings to the table, but his inconsistent plate discipline keeps him from being a truly elite offensive player and fantasy owners should be sure to value him accordingly. Next year he’ll likely settle back into the mid round range he should’ve been drafted in as opposed to the early rounds he went in this season.
Paul and I have touched on some of the warning signs in Cain’s performance since the middle of August, noting the high pitch counts, increasing BB Rate, and decreasing K Rate. While Cain’s performance initially didn’t suffer much, things appear to have caught up with him in his last 3 starts: 0-3, 9.00 ERA, 2.27 WHIP, 0.53 K/I, 0.47 BB/I. Even worse this recent poor performance has come against some of the league’s bottom-feeders offensively: CIN, PIT, SD. Cain’s lined up for two starts next week against ARZ and the LAD, but at this point it doesn’t seem as if he can be trusted. In points-based leagues or leagues where ratio categories aren’t a big concern at this point in the season, I’m reluctantly rolling the dice on Cain and hoping for better results, but those looking to protect ratio categories late in the season, or those with similar alternatives may want to avoid using Cain who appears to have worn down and finally felt the effects of Bruce Bochy’s abuse on the young arm.
I talked about Velez starting to creep into more playing time in mid August, but things have only improved for the youngster since then. With Emmanuel Burriss strained oblique injury, Velez has no competition for playing time and he seems to be making the most of it. Velez has sneaky gap power for a guy with his wiry frame, but most importantly for the youngster and for fantasy owners are his tremendous wheels. He’s swiped 12 bags in just over 200 AB’s and now that he’s getting on base much more frequently I’d expect a few more down the stretch. A .190 BHIP% has dragged down his value throughout the season, but that seems to be normalizing a bit here in September (up to .240). Since he doesn’t take walks, he’s BA dependent and the low BHIP% has hurt his overall value, but in August and September he’s hit over .300 and the power seems to be coming along nicely. His September line of .364/.348/.636 has boosted his overall extra base hit rate to 9.4%, which is pretty impressive. He’s getting more playing time and he’s making the most of it by getting on base with more consistent gap power, once the singles start falling a bit more he’ll have some opportunities to swipe bases, which is where he can really make a nice contribution over the final 2 weeks.