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Circling the Bases: Stretch Run Suggestions

Ray Flowers

The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: M-F at 5-8 PM EDT), Ray Flowers has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. You can follow Ray on Twitter (@BaseballGuys), he never sleeps, and you can also find more of his musings at

Alfredo Aceves will no longer be working the ninth inning for the Red Sox, that job belongs to Andrew Bailey (as it should). It sounds like the Red Sox plan to stretch Aceves out, either to start or handle some long relief, or maybe just to give him an out after he has bombed so miserably of late to close games. Aceves did start four games last year and, honestly, he's not a closer and probably more useful to a team with his ability to handle multiple innings at a time shifting between roles as needed.

Elvis Andrus has had a strong season, and there isn't anyone out there that wouldn't take him over Alcides Escobar (at least I think there isn't). After all, Andrus has had the better year, or has he? Escobar is actually hitting one point better than Andrus - .301 to .300. Escobar has stolen eight more bases (27) while being caught four less times (four). Escobar has also doubled up Andrus in the homer category (four to two). Andrus has scored 18 more times - 74 to 56 - and he has walked twice as many times (48 to 24) leading to a .023 point edge in OBP (.365 and .342). Still, the comparison leaves no doubt at all that Escobar has been the vastly superior fantasy player this year if you consider the return on investment (Escobar was likely drafted 20 rounds later than Andrus back in March).

Howie Kendrick is a frustrating player to own. If you see him on the right day you are impressed, sometimes to the point that you think this guy must be a yearly member of the All-Star team. Catch him on another day and you may wonder if he is even worthy of playing on a regular basis. In the end, most end up disappointed in Kendrick, but he is almost always a solid contributor even with the prevailing thought being that he is a disappointment. Kendrick has hit .292 for his career. He is batting .291 this year. He had 10 homers and 14 steals in 2010. He had 18 homers and 14 steals in 2011. He has only gone deep seven times with 10 steals this year, but a strong final month would still afford him a chance to match his 2010-11 average of 14 homers and 14 steals. Okay, who am I kidding, he has no shot at 14 homers, but if he reaches .290-10-50-50-10 this year he would still be viewed as a boring middle infield option in mixed leagues as he wouldn't offer one outstanding skill. Still, that fantasy effort was only matched by two second basemen last year - Dustin Pedroia and Brandon Phillips. Kendrick is lightyears from being a difference maker, but he still has his uses (keep an eye on Howie's sore right knee that caused him to be removed from action Thursday, though it seems to be a minor thing).

Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez are both closing in on re-runs for the Yankees. A-Rod could return from his hand issue as soon as Monday, though issues with hands/wrists often curtail a batter's ability to drive the ball in the short-term. Teixeira is hopeful to return from his calf injury in about a week, though it could still be longer. The Yankees began play Friday with a three-game lead on the Orioles in the AL East, so you can imagine they would like to have these two sluggers back as soon as possible. Since I'm talking Yankees I might as well mention Andy Pettitte, who tossed 20 pitches off a mound Friday. That is the first time he has been able to take the mound to throw since he injured his ankle in June. At this point, the Yankees are hoping he will be able to return to action at some point in the middle of September, but given how inactive he has been, that would seem like a long shot to me, that is unless they planned to use him out of the bullpen.

Looks like the Reds will allow Joey Votto (knee) a few more rehab games before activating him. The hope had been that he would return this weekend, but the Reds are now shooting for a Monday return for their slugger. Votto says his knee is still hampering him a wee bit when he runs, and he hasn't done some baseball-related things such as sliding as of yet.


.311: The batting average of Luis Valbuena in August as he has also gotten on base at a .440 clip. Why does that matter? The Cubs announced that Josh Vitters will be spending a lot more time in the dugout than on the field the rest of the season as he has hit .093 in 54 at-bats this season. That means Valbuena, he of the mighty career slash line of .232/.319/.384, will be seeing the vast majority of the playing time at the hot corner for the Cubbies in the month of September.

.344: The batting average of Chris Nelson since he returned to action on August 6. In that time he has also knocked in 12 runners while scoring nine times. Nelson has appeared at third base 62 times this year and 21 times at second base giving him a lot of versatility in NL-only leagues heading into next season. Teammate Jordan Pacheco is also on the edge of pulling off the double-double as he has appeared in 81 games at third base and 17 at first.

.366: The batting average of Brandon Belt for the month of August, quite the turnaround for a guy who hit .186 in July. Belt, who is batting .269 on the year, also sports a solid .362 OBP this season, but he has just not been driving the ball with any frequency as he is in possession of a mere .402 SLG. Even with all of his success in August, he also has a .429 OBP and .500 SLG, driven in just seven runs, and scored nine times in 26 games for the Giants.

.412: The batting average of James Loney over his five games since joining the Red Sox (he has seven hits in 17 at-bats). Loney also has a six-game hitting streak at the moment. Hey, when you're James Loney that's big news. He figures to see a ton of work against righties in September and he is highly motivated given that he is set to become a free agent at the completion of the 2012 campaign.

0.77: The WHIP of Casey Janssen this season. Not many seem to have noticed just how good he has been. In addition to that historically good WHIP, Janssen has also posted a 2.26 ERA, the same mark he posted last season in 55 outings. In fact, among pitchers who have thrown at least 100 innings since the start of last season that 2.26 mark of Janssen's is the eighth best in baseball. Rather amazingly, four men have thrown 100 innings since the start of last season with an ERA under 2.00: Eric O'Flaherty (1.43), David Robertson (1.53), Craig Kimbrel (1.73) and Mike Adams (1.84).

1.18: The WHIP of Jeremy Guthrie since he joined the Royals (eight starts, 49 innings). That WHIP is a full half-point below the 1.68 mark that Guthrie posted while with the Rockies in 90.2 innings. On the year, Guthrie has a 1.51 WHIP over 139.2 innings, well above his 1.32 career mark.

1.35: The difference between the current ERA of Jaime Garcia (4.52) and the mark he posted in 2010-11 (3.17). Garcia has also seen his WHIP go from 1.32 (in 2010-11) to 1.42 this year, a minor announcement compared to the significant hit his ERA has been saddled with. After 26 victories the last two years he has won only three games this year, so it's pretty safe to comment that this hasn't been a year that Garcia will look back fondly upon when he retires.

1.57: The difference between the ERA of Ian Kennedy at home (5.19) and on the road (3.62). Oddly, his performance wouldn't lead you to think that there would be that much of a gap in his ERA.

Home: 5-3, 1.37 WHIP, 8.70 K/9, 4.19 K/BB
Away: 7-8, 1.29 WHIP, 7.61 K/9, 3.23 K/BB

As we often write about, ERA is often a poor way to judge a pitcher's performance.

2.08: The ERA of Matt Moore in the second half of the season. In nine starts the young lefty, who was on so many people's disappointing list after a rather blah first half (5-6, 4.42 ERA, 1.45 WHIP), has been dynamic in the second half. Oh, it's more than the 5-2 record or the 2.08 ERA, it's pretty much everything. Moore has a 1.12 WHIP over his last 56.1 innings, has held batters to a .213 batting average, and has 56 K's - a K per inning. This is the type of pitching that led so many to take Moore early in drafts this season. Given his run to the finish, barring an unforeseen meltdown in September, Moore will be on everyone's must own list next season.

Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87 from 7-10 PM EDT, Monday through Friday. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.