• There's a reason starting pitchers make everyone pull their hair out. James McDonald couldn't get anyone out over a month-long slump, and it was logical to bench McDonald in advance of his Friday start at St. Louis. Heck, dropping McDonald in a shallow or medium mixer was worth considering. And the Cardinals are merely the top-scoring offense in the National League.
All of that makes sense on the spreadsheet, but it was a different story on the field. McDonald got his groove back, posting six smooth bagels (2 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 7 K) and pushing his ERA back down to 3.61. He doesn't return to the Circle of Trust off one strong outing, but we at least have to use him next week at San Diego. If that start goes well, then we'll consider the rematch against the Cardinals in two weeks.
• There's not much left to say on Oakland's bullpen situation: Grant Balfour has clearly grabbed the job and isn't letting go. He recorded his third handshake in seven days on Friday, a clean ninth against Cleveland, and he hasn't allowed a baserunner in any of these appearances. Balfour's control can be dicey at times (22 walks over 56 innings), but his last walk came at the end of July. Thanks for the memories, Ryan Cook. Balfour is still unowned in half of Yahoo! leagues, a surprisingly-low number given the intensity of the saves chase.
• And then there's Todd Frazier, one of the NL's most underrated commodities. Frazier had a homer and a steal in Friday's win, and over the last month he's posted a zesty .304-14-6-21 line for the rampaging Reds. With three positions of eligibility in his back pocket (first, third, outfield) and a clear spot in the lineup, why is Frazier still unclaimed in two-thirds of Yahoo! leagues?
Don't worry about Joey Votto pushing Frazier to the bench anytime soon; Votto's rehab continues to progress at a snail's pace, and even when he does come off the DL, the Reds can always slot Frazier over at third. This looks like a full-season story to me, even when the summer wind turns to autumn wind.
• Even when Eric Chavez is going well — and he's been tearing the cover off the ball in the second half — the guy has just about no luck. A run of lefty starters has kept Chavez stapled on the bench for most of this week, and the southpaw stream isn't over yet. Boston throws Jon Lester at the Yankees on Saturday, and New York will face Chris Sale and Francisco Liriano in the upcoming Chicago series. Bottom line, Chavez remains a continual maintenance player, someone you need a caddy for.
Garrett, Garrett Jones (USP)• A rich-man's Chavez these days is Garrett Jones in Pittsburgh, a slugging lefty who rocks as someone you can trust about 70 percent of the time. Jones offers a .298 average and .567 slugging percentage against the northpaws (along with 17 homers), but he's essentially a free out when the lefties come out (.186/.200/.349). You'll probably want to rest Jones on Sunday against Jaime Garcia (the Pirates might do the same), but he doesn't face another platoon drain until next weekend, when Randy Wolf comes calling.
The expanses of PNC Park haven't bothered Jones at all: he's slugging .881 at home. He covers two positions (first base, outfield) and is still addable in 63 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
• Pitch-to-contact stories can be hard to trust at times, but Blake Beavan is worth considering as a Sunday streamable. He's posted a 3.41 ERA and 0.93 WHIP over the last month — here it is, men, go ahead and hit it — and he's working at Safeco Field against the Twins. You'll find him freely available, unowned in 94 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Anyone want to try this Emerald City rental? (Okay, fine, rent Singles instead. Enjoy the Westerberg.)
Mike Minor (42 percent) is another reasonable option, working at home against Los Angeles. Otherwise, I'm throwing a lot of cold water on this slate. I still don't trust Jeremy Guthrie, even released from Colorado purgatory. Wei-Yin Chen has his positive points, but a Detroit start is risky. Jose Quintana's strikeout rate is microscopic, a deal-breaker in a lot of capped leagues. I'd like to see one outing from Garcia before I fully endorse him; I rarely start anyone fresh off the DL, especially when it's been a lengthy stay.
• The Hisashi Iwakuma story has been a fun one because it's an outlier, a nonsensical set of results. It's common for pitchers to show excellent ratios in relief but then struggle to keep those numbers in a starting role, but Iwakuma has been the opposite. His relief stats don't move anyone (4.75 ERA, 1.42 WHIP over 30.1 innings), but he's been gold as a Seattle starter (3.19/1.25, 41 strikeouts in 48 innings). Here's some tape to review, see what you make of it.
You'd like to see Iwakuma's control improve (he's issued 16 unintentional walks over his eight starts), but so long as the K/BB rate stays over 2/1, you can at least put him into the streaming pool. I used him Friday night against the Twins, and I'll go back to the well for Wednesday's home start against Cleveland. Safeco Field is a beautiful thing.