Target Practice

A few bumps in the road, but back onto posting regularly once again. I took a break from doing mixed leagues last year to catch back up on my NL knowledge a tad, but a month ago signed up for several mid-season leagues in addition to my MLB.com 2007 Open teams (although I don’t really consider those because of their obscure format). I’m currently sitting at 2nd in both leagues, although I’ve lost two solid starts from Yovani Gallardo due to carelessness. Daily fantasy leagues can sometimes be a chore, folks.

With the All-Star break looming in San Fransisco right around the corner, that means we’re almost at the second half. Everyone knows that Johan Santana and Adrian Beltre come alive in the second half, or in Beltre’s case simply start playing. Here are a handful of guys I believe that are either strong second-half performers, or players who are struggling and show signs of righting the ship.

  • Aramis Ramirez, 3B CHC – He’s not falling up short of last years numbers like, say, Alfonso Soriano. But the trend shows that aside from his average, Ramirez other numbers in the stretch make him a good buy. Did you know that Ramirez has played nearly 130 more second half games, but has hit four MORE home runs in the second half? While his average may only sit at .280 or .285 from here out, look for around 17 HRs and 54 RBIs. His current numbers put him at less than 100 RBIs for the season, so look to capitalize on owners who are expecting those kind of numbers here on out.
  • Scott Kazmir, SP TB – The Devil Rays ace did not pitch a complete second half in 2006 after being shut down, but what he did throw helps illustrate his split. Analysts have pointed to high pitch counts as being his problem. Kazmir threw several more strikes per outing in 2006, so that might be more accurate. Nevertheless, in his last two years he soared through summer. In his five starts in ’06, Kazmir posted a 3.10 ERA, slightly better than the first half. The previous year is much more drastic; a 4.59 ERA and a 1.49 WHIP in the first half, followed by a dazzling 2.79 ERA and 1.43 WHIP. Keep in mind, Kazmir’s career ERA for the month of June is an abysmal 5.23, though every other month it is under four.
  • Kevin Milwood, SP TEX – Is this really the guy who led the American League in ERA just a few seasons back? If he can get that fastball down in the zone and be effective with his breaking ball, we’re going to see similar numbers. Milwood is traditionally a second-half performer; his career ERA is a full run lower in the second half. But his split was even stronger his first year in Texas. In an equal 17 starts per half in ’06, Milwood yielded almost an equal amount of hits, though it was his K/BB ratio that improved. That helped him go from a 5.38 ERA in the first 81 to a 3.74 ERA in the later. Bank on a return to form, and if he was cut in AL-Only leagues, pick him up immediately.
  • Zach Duke, SP PIT – Call this one a hunch. If I was in a mixed league, I’d start looking for good matchups the sinkerball pitcher has coming up. Duke is less valuable because of his lack of strikeouts, but NL owners will want to keep an eye on Duke. His pitches per IP (P/IP) are still in the top 50, but before his last start were even better, similar to numbers from Roy Oswalt, Cole Hamels and Dan Haren. A first-half ERA of 5.17 in ’06, he improved in the second half and ended with an ERA of 3.65.
  • Curt Schilling, SP BOS –  Nothing really shows that Schilling is a stronger second half performer by splits. Owners may be frusterated by his starts that ballooned his ERA to 4.20. Before he comes back, now is the time to acquire the veteran if possible. Chipper Jones publicly speculated that he suspected Schilling was pitching injured due to decreased velocity on his pitches. His last two starts severely inflated his numbers, and when he returns he’ll be a workhorse for a team that will continue to give him ample run support. If you have security in the standings, acquiring from a team who is struggling may be a good deal.
  • I thought of adding Carlos Beltran to this list, but even after his 2 HR night yesterday, I’m still skeptical. He still has a career .255 average in Shea Stadium despite being a slightly stronger hitter in that category as the season wears on.

That’s it for now. Keep enjoying the games before the break, I’ll be back with more in a couple days.

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