The message for the weekend is simple: Maximize your opportunities. Players sitting on the bench will not help you win. If you are in the semifinals, do not go out and drop necessities, but certainly drop those you feel could be picked up again later. Often times, the players dropped can be filled in with someone of equal caliber.
Strikeouts and stolen bases are easiest to find, as other categories require dependence on others. If you are close in those two, make some moves. The points today will highlight some of those that are widely available and can help you out this weekend.
Have playoff questions? Need some last minute advice? Do not be afraid to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or a message to me on Twitter @TheRoundtable. We will get through this and on to the titles.
On to the notes.
- Yovani Gallardo owners should be ready to make other plans. With the Brewers out of the race, they are looking at shutting down the pitcher. Gallardo is still recovering from surgery he had last season, and has thrown 3,125 pitches this year. That number is sixth in the league. The Brewers have purchased the contract of a minor league pitcher that is throwing on the same schedule as Gallardo. Could be a monkey wrench on Sunday.
- Steals are widely available in many leagues. The easiest name, and the one that provides some value in other categories is Rajai Davis. Davis has nine steals in the last two weeks, which is best in the majors. To boot, he is hitting .386 with 12 runs scored. If he is not around, check out Carlos Gonzalez of Colorado. Gonzalez has seen his bat slow down, but he still has six steals in the last two weeks.
- Rich Harden will be skipped by the Cubs this time around. Harden has been injury prone over his career, and with the Cubs not ready to make post-season plans, the team is being careful down the stretch. He will pitch again this season, but has certainly had a rough go of it even prior to this missed start.
- Zack Greinke was removed from the game after the fifth inning yesterday. He was struck during the fifth with a line drive off the bat of Miguel Cabrera. There was no major damage, but the team will monitor him over the next few days to determine if he can make his next start. Greinke did not allow a run over five innings, lowering his ERA to 2.14 this season.
- The best effort of the night came from Wade Davis. Davis struck out 10 batters last night in a complete game effort against the Orioles. Davis shut the team out and allowed just four hits all night long. This is what the Rays were hoping he would bring to the table. Look to him as a spot start next week for strikeouts alone.
- Victor Martinez extended his hitting streak to 16 games with a single in his second at-bat last night. Martinez returned to the lineup after missing two games, and will likely find himself behind the plate some this weekend. After the disasters that happened the last two nights for Jason Varitek, it would only make sense. Martinez is 8-for-16 this season against the Orioles, Boston's next opponent.
- Bobby Jenks spoiled another impressive White Sox pitching performance last night. John Danks had worked eight innings, allowing only one run on four hits and a walk. Jenks undid all of it in the manner of two pitches, allowing back-to-back home runs in the ninth to send the game to extra innings. The lesson, as always, you cannot predict wins.
- Cole Hamels has now allowed either zero or one earned run in four of his last five outings. At home, he has allowed just two earned in his last 23.2 innings of work. Hamels improved to 3-1 in September with a 1.82 ERA in these starts. He certainly has turned away from the early problems that had owners questioning their draft pick.
- Dan Murphy is getting hot for the Mets. In his last 25 at-bats, Murphy is hitting .320 with five extra-base hits. He is not the greatest play in more shallow leagues, but he could give a slight boost in deep leagues and NL-only formats. Murphy could find himself as a starter next season, and this is how he will prove worthy.
- Owners should look to start Lyle Overbay against James Shields. Overbay is 10-for-33 with three home runs against Shields. Adam Lind is always a start, and he has three home runs in 24 at-bats against the Tampa starter. Only other major option would be Kevin Millar, and that is only in deeper leagues.
- Health and availability are turning out to be issues for the Red Sox, so the team likely does not have an option other than Mike Lowell. If you do, though, sit him. Lowell is 4-for-19 against Jeremy Guthrie. Otherwise, all your Red Sox end up being solid options in this matchup.
- Mark Buehrle does own the Royals, but there are several in that lineup Buehrle has to at least pay rent to. Billy Butler is swinging a hot bat, and he has gone 10-for-32 against Buehrle. Others to start would be Willie Bloomquist, who checks in at .464 in 28 at-bats, and Mark Teahen, who is available again and has hit .453 in 53 at-bats against the lefty.
- Rick Porcello has struggled on the road this season, only having gone 5-5 with a .280 BAA and 4.35 ERA in 13 starts. He does have a win against Minnesota this season, and has been pitching better of late. Still, he has given up nine earned runs in his last two starts, covering 11.1 innings, on the road.
- Ted Lilly suffered his only loss to the Cardinals this season on the road, where he has had little success this season. Away from home, Lilly is only 4-7 with a 4.62 ERA. He has been dominant in September, but two starts were at home with the third on the road against Pittsburgh.
- Jason Marquis has been one of the better spot-start options this season, but he has struggled of late. While he has had two solid outings against the Giants and Reds, he has also given up five runs in three of his last five starts. One start was against the Padres, another against the Mets, not two offensive powerhouses. On the road here, look elsewhere. Batters are hitting .318 against him this month.
- A.J. Burnett has been a disaster on the road this season. His 6-6 record is ok, but the 5.12 ERA should scare owners off, even against Seattle. Burnett has given up six runs in two of his last three starts overall, and has an ERA of 7.50 in his last five starts on the road. Nothing about this screams "start me in the playoffs."
- J.A. Happ will return to the rotation tonight, sending Jamie Moyer back to the bullpen. Happ has been very good this season, but struggled in his two outings before the injury. Against Atlanta, he has thrown 16.1 innings and allowed only 11 hits. That history likely outweighs the last outings. Still, an oblique injury is not easy to come back from. Be careful in this one, as he does not provide enough strikeouts and could backfire.
- Avoid Andre Ethier against Jonathan Sanchez. The outfielder is only 3-for-19 against the starter lifetime. Keep normal Dodgers active otherwise. Russell Martin, Matt Kemp, and Manny Ramirez are all over .400 against Sanchez and Orlando Hudson sits at 7-for-22.
- Need strikeouts? Look to Homer Bailey. He is averaging nearly a strikeout an inning over his last 32 innings of work, covering the last month.
- Spot Starts: Tim Stauffer, Tim Hudson, J.A. Happ
- You likely will not find much help in the Baltimore lineup against Jon Lester. Lester has held down the better bats, including Nick Markakis. The outfielder is just 7-for-32 against Lester. Luke Scott is 0-for-8 in his at-bats. The bright spot? Ty Wiggington, who is 5-for-10.
- It is slightly surprising that the Pirates are continuing to use Ross Ohlendorf, but if he pitches at home than you should use him as well. Ohlendorf has had two rough outings in his last three, but both were on the road. At home he is 8-2 with a 2.74 ERA and .232 BAA in 15 games this season. Great spot start.
- John Lannan has dominated the Mets this season, going 2-1 with a 1.96 ERA in three starts. He has had complete games in two of those outings. Lannan had both of those come at home, and has struggled some on the road this season. Still, in deeper leagues, Lannan has some upside.
- Speaking of dominance, look at Carl Pavano against the Tigers. Pavano is 4-0 against them this season between his time with Cleveland and Minnesota. In 30.1 innings, he has allowed only 23 hits and one walk, holding batters to a .215 average. Against the Tigers, he has a 1.48 ERA this season.
- Really, you do not want to ignore Bronson Arroyo on Saturday against the Marlins. Arroyo has been nearly unhittable in September and has worked into the seventh inning in all of his last 10 starts. In his last seven, he has not allowed more than two earned runs in any single outing.
- Outside of Orlando Hudson, look to avoid your Dodgers against Tim Lincecum on Sunday. Juan Pierre would be a good reach play, as he is 6-for-12 and could get a start as well as provide a couple steals late in the game. Beyond that, the entire Los Angeles roster is only hitting .232 against Lincecum.
- Ryan Spilborghs and Seth Smith are going to be the best options available to owners against Dan Haren. These two are the only Colorado starters over .290 against Haren. Spilborghs is 9-for-21, while Smith is 6-for-18. Troy Tulowitzki is just 4-for-24, but does have two home runs.
- Roy Halladay has dominated most of the Rays lineup. Look to avoid Ben Zobrist in this one, as he is 3-for-20 against Halladay. Akinori Iwamura and Dioner Navarro would be other major problem spots in this one. Other regulars would be good to go. Halladay has largely suffered from run support issues, as he is 1-3 against Tampa this season but only has a 3.50 ERA.
- Scott Baker could be a problem against the Tigers. He has been awful in two outings against them this season. He has been pitching much better of late, allowing three or fewer earned runs in each of his last five home starts while working into the sixth in every outing. Baker is not great against the Tigers you are likely to play. Keep them active as normal.
- The Rangers have simply raked against John Lackey. Any you are likely to have in the lineup is hitting over .300, and the team checks in at .332 in 319 combined at-bats. If Michael Young is back, he is a fantastic play. Only beware of the .231 of Nelson Cruz.
- Spot Starts: Robinson Tejeda, Ross Ohlendorf, Bronson Arroyo, Carl Pavano, Ubaldo Jimenez