We promised to see baseball through to the finish line, and though most have moved on to their NFL pools, these final three days of the baseball schedule will be treated as the most important of the entire season. And for a handful of fantasy owners, they are.
You’d be surprised at how much the final three of 162 games can affect a fantasy league’s standings. They may seem like a drop in the bucket, and that trying to, say, regain a full point in AVG even on the last day would be impossible, but it’s not.
Hypothetical example: Your team is batting .2571 for the season, going 1,800-for-7,000. Should your hitters finish hot, going 15-for-45, that actually bumps your AVG a full half-point, to .2576. Should the team you are chasing stumble, going 8-for-45, you’ve caught him. Same goes for pitching, where just one strong start (seven innings, one run) will actually improve a 4.16 ERA to 4.14.
Do the math yourself. I did. Before online stats services made it easy to follow your standings in real time, I would sometimes spend the final weekend of the season with roster printouts and a calculator, actually keeping track game-by-game of where my team stood. Occasionally late Sunday afternoon, I’d do it inning by inning.
What struck me was how much fluctuation there still is. The reason the daily stats don’t always seem to move as much is that the one quality start that moved you up, is often balanced out by a reliever who later gives up two runs in his one inning.
So, the final three days can matter, and the moves you make today could have a bigger impact than you might think.
-- What you want right now is for your best players to still be in a playoff chase. Teams that already have clinched will rest their stars and juggle their rotations over the final three days to set them up for the post-season. And while there’s really no way to predict who plays and who sits among the hitters, knowing which pitchers are starting over the final few days can be used to your advantage:
-- Saturday and Sunday’s starting pitchers were, in all probability, making their final appearances of the season and can be reserved (in keeper leagues) or dropped in favour of a reliable reliever on your bench. It makes sense. That starter is now an empty roster spot while the reliever could vulture a win or a save. Keep in mind, however, that top-end SPs on playoff contenders who threw Saturday could come back on short rest for a Wednesday start or possible sudden-death game on Thursday to determine the wild-cards. Names that fall into this possible scenario include Tigers’ Justin Verlander, Cardinals’ Kyle Lohse, Rangers’ Derek Holland and Angels’ resurgent Ervin Santana. Others could make emergency relief appearances in the final couple of days. The key is to make a last-minute check before your final transaction deadline to see which teams still have a shot at the post-season.
-- Rotation notes: Though he is still dealing with that nagging hip, Clayton Kershaw returned to the hill Friday — and tossed an eight-inning shutout — putting him in line for a possible Wednesday start, should the Dodgers need him … The Braves have positioned their rotation so that rookie Kris Medlen would start the NL wild-card game. Atlanta is 21-0 when Medlen starts … Wily Peralta, who has four strong starts in five tries since being called up early this month, may be skipped on Tuesday if the Brewers are out of playoff contention. He left Thursday’s game with a tender biceps, though an MRI proved negative.
-- Next week, we’ll do our season wrapup, including a look ahead at how the 2013 first round should unfold and who the top rookies and sleepers might be.
I fear a late run in my AL-only, that lifted me from 10 points out of first place two weeks ago to within just three as of Saturday morning, may come up just short. It may come down to Sunday’s pitching — when I have David Price, Zack Greinke and Josh Beckett going. On Tuesday, they combined for 33 Ks and just four ERs in 19.2 IPs, two big wins and a four-point jump in the standings. Asking for an encore is a lot, but anything short and that elusive title may be lost.
HOT AND NOT
Willin Rosario, COL
11-for-22, 2 HRs, 1.424 OPS
Raul Ibanez, NYY
10-for-25, 3 HRs, 6 RBIs
Aaron Hill, ARIZ
9-for-26, 8 runs, 8 RBIs
Jose Reyes, MIA
4-for-23, 0 runs, 0 SBs
Desmond Jennings, TB
4-for-21, 1 HR, 1 SB
Matt Holliday, STL
3-for-21, 0 HRs
A sprained shoulder has likely ended Josh Willingham’s season … Justin Ruggiano is done for 2012 with a sore shoulder … Max Scherzer (shoulder) was scratched from his start on Friday and may not throw again until the playoffs, should the Tigers make it ... Eric Hosmer (shoulder) may be shut down … Same with Jacoby Ellsbury (shoulder) … Asdrubal Cabrera has a strained back … Randy Wolf has a torn tendon in his elbow … The Pirates have shut down Neil Walker (back) … Mercifully for his owners, Ubaldo Jimenez (ankle) won’t make his last start … Still no word if Mark Teixeira (calf) or Carlos Gonzalez (hamstring) will get into any of their final regular-season games … Michael Brantley (groin) hopes to be back this weekend … Kendrys Morales hurt his ribcage Friday … Michael Bourn (thumb) should return any day, now … Yu Darvish (neck) looks good to go for Sunday … J.D. Martinez had hand surgery this week.
We’re not going to bother with the fantasy rating out of five with just a few games remaining, but here are some names to consider if you are looking for last-second mixed-league help in a specific category.
Russ Canzler, 1B/OF, Indians
He is 8-for-16 with a pair of homers in his past four games and could be in the mix for a starting 1B job next year.
Matt Carpenter, 1B, Cardinals
The lefty, hitting .300 with six HRs, has regained his everyday ABs at third a week ago after David Freese twisted his ankle.
Corey Kluber, SP, Indians
Righty gets the White Sox again on Monday at home after holding them to two solo HRs in seven innings on Tuesday at U.S. Cellular.
Bobby Parnell, RP, Mets
With Frank Francisco still out, he earned a save Thursday after Jon Rauch stumbled and, despite what the Mets’ closer depth chart says, is still their best ninth-inning option.
Francisco Peguero, OF, Giants
He’s just 2-for-3 the past week, but that comes with three SBs. First off the Giants bench for pinch-running duties.
Darin Mastroianni, OF, Twins
Re-activated off the DL on Friday, he has 21 bags in just 163 ABs this year, including four in September before getting hurt.
LINES OF THE WEEK
Jeremy Hefner, NYM
Sept. 20 start — IPs: 0 ERs: 7 Ks: 0
Sept. 26 start — IPs: 7 ERs: 0 Ks: 7