James Shields (SP-TB)- Shields improved his record to 12-7 on Wednesday afternoon after holding the Royals to three runs in 7.2 innings of work. He allowed five hits and one walk while striking out seven and lowered his ERA to 4.01 for the season. Shields came into the game with a 2.57 ERA during the month of August as he has increased his fastball usage over the course of the month. His DIPS, currently 3.68 FIP and 3.38 FIP were indicating that he would have a strong finish to the end of the season. His 8.64 K/9 and 52.2 percent ground ball rate are both career highs, but a career worst 14.1 percent HR/FB ratio has continued to keep his ERA hovering around 4.00. I expect Shields to finish another strong month in September and get his ERA close to 3.80 by the end of the year.
Tom Wilhelmsen (RP-SEA)- Wilhelmsen earned his 19th save of the season on Wednesday against the Indians. He allowed just one walk in his scoreless inning of work with a strikeout to lower his ERA to 2.37. With a 2.72 FIP, 3.27 xFIP, 10.29 K/9 and 2.82 BB/9, Wilhelmsen has been one of the more consistent closers in the majors since he was installed in the role in early June. Armed with a fastball that averages 96.2 mph, strong overhand curveball and decent 88-90 mph change-up. His 16.9 percent line drive is below average, and his 10.3 percent swinging strike indicates that he should be able to maintain a strong rate for the rest of the this season. He is name is not mentioned among elite closers because of his short history in the role, but he might be a steal heading into the 2013 season.
Colby Rasmus (CF-TOR)- Rasmus went hitless in four plate appearances with three strikeouts in last night's game against the Tigers. He still has 20 home runs and 66 RBI for the season, but his slash line dropped to .235/.297/.434. Rasmus has struggled during August producing a .196/.237/.321 line with two home runs in 59 plate appearances, and he has mostly been hurt by a 30.5 percent strikeout rate during the month despite having the lowest strikeout rate for a season since 2008. A .263 BABIP is his lowest average of balls in play of his career despite producing the highest line drive rate of his career (20.1 percent). Despite the underwhelming slash line, Rasmus is likely to produce a new career high in home runs. Owners in daily leagues should sit him against left-handed pitching considering his OPS of .601 is significantly lower. Even with his recent struggles making contact, Rasmus should be able to produce an average of .240 by the end of the season. His .263 BABIP only has room to grow.
Howie Kendrick (2B-LAA)- Kendrick went 2-for-4 with a double, a home run and two runs scored to help lead the Angels to a 7-3 win over the Red Sox on Wednesday night. The home run was his seventh of the season, and he was able to improve his slash line to .285/.327/.398 for the year to go along with his ten stolen bases. As expected, Kendrick's home run numbers have taken a hit from last season as his HR/FB ratio dropped from a career best 16.5 percent to 9.6 percent (8.9 percent for career). However, his career low ISO of .113 can be attributed to a career high ground ball rate (58.7 percent) and career low fly ball rate (22.2 percent). The good news for owners is that he has produced his highest line drive and lowest ground ball rates of any month this year in August, which has lead to his .323./380/.508 line in 73 plate appearances.
Chris Sale (SP-CHW)- Sale dominated the Yankees lineup on Wednesday night to improve his overall record to 15-4 and lowered his ERA to 2.65 for the year. He allowed just one run on three hits (one home run) and one walk while striking out 13 in 7.2 innings pitched. There is no doubt that Sale has turned into an elite fantasy starter, and the only thing that worries me about his future is a possible torn UCL down the line. His numbers have been absolutely fantastic producing a strikeout rate of 8.82 K/9 and having the lowest walk rate of his career at 2.12 BB/9. DIPS will not rate him as highly (3.11 FIP and 3.22 xFIP) since his .271 BABIP is actually on par with his career rate of .269. His strand rate of 81.5 percent is likely to regress at some point, but the left-hander is likely to finish with an ERA below 2.90 and have 18-20 wins by the end of the year. For many owners he was probably the steal of many drafts back in March.
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