While we always want to place great weight on the largest samples of data, exceptions can be made at this stage of the season for pitching.
Let's look only at the last 30 days production for some pitchers who are not widely owned in Yahoo! fantasy baseball. We're going to focus primarily on K/IP but the averages matter, too – and may even matter most for owners in leagues with generous innings caps. But the caveat is that guys who strike out the most batters are more likely to have the best averages, too.
Here's the list, in no particular order, for the last 30 days:
|| Y% owned
| Homer Bailey
| Zach McAllister
| Hisashi Iwakuma
| A.J. Griffin
| Joe Blanton
| Wei-Yin Chen
| Jeff Samardzija
| Mike Minor
These aren't necessarily buys. But they should be in the buy conversation. The main thing is that their recent performance shows they are healthy, no small factor heading into the home stretch. Pitching, remember, is a war of attrition. So far, these guys are winning.
Bailey's numbers include a rocking and then five walks in his last start. He's a tease. But he has a very good bullpen to help him hold onto leads if wins matter. And his season WHIP is actually better. He's still only 26. And you get the advantages of being in the NL, too. I do not think there is upside here but the floor is pretty high if you need wins and decent K/9.
McAllister has improved his K and BB rates in the majors. His control provides consistency – not more than three earned runs in eight straight starts. He walks so few and obviously the K rate is good, too. He should not be capped below 200 innings even if the Indians buy the Verducci snake oil. So I like him over Bailey.
Iwakuma had a 13-strikeout game, which skews the stats, yes. But he had a 13-strikeout game! That's an automatic add, no? He's in a pitching-friendly park. And he has a lot of professional experience. Bottom line: 13 Ks is an automatic add so that 2 percent ownership is a joke.
Griffin is a soft-tossing righty (89 mph average heater). But he has that A's magic going for him when it comes to BABIP and just generally pitching above expectations. So if you have a need (and at those averages, who doesn't?) what are you waiting for?
No one really likes Blanton. But a 115-to-18 K:BB ratio is elite. He will give up homers, but his rate now seems a little unlucky. If you need WHIP more than ERA, grab Blanton over, say, Bailey. I'd bet on a WHIP below 1.20 for rest of season.
Chen's K-rate has been ridiculous of late but is just okay for the season. He had a 12 K game. But he pitches in the AL East. So, Iwakuma probably gets you the same upside with less risk. Still, Chen should be at least average for a starter even in mixers.
Samardzjia was recommended before and then the commenters and people on Twitter (@michaelsalfino) were chirping about my misfire. And now they of course are very quiet as the returns lately have been good. He's a roller coaster, though. But so are most young flame throwers. I would definitely still take the plunge if he's out there for you. Note that the Cubs and Theo Epstein are not putting an innings limit on Samardzjia this year unless his arm tells them otherwise because they are smart and do not believe in injury voodoo.
Someone asked me on Twitter this week if they should drop Jonathan Niese for Minor but now I see why. I still wouldn't do that. But maybe Minor is finally going to return some value. Move first, though, on most of the others.