Sixty Feet, Six Inches: Late-season pickups
You need pitching help this late in the year? I think you need to consider talking to a miracle worker, not a fantasy analyst.
That said, I won't leave you hanging; I will bring you what information I can that might help you find some starters. Just know that you will have to micromanage every aspect of your team in order to improve dramatically at this point.
With your trading deadline likely past, the waiver wire virtually picked clean and a September call-ups list that likely doesn't include any game-breakers for pitching, we are between a rock and a hard place when it comes to finding starters.
One thing you need to pay extra close attention to is your innings-pitched limit in rotisserie leagues. There are a couple of sound strategies you can use right now, depending on your situation.
• If you have a ton of remaining innings and need aggregate stats (wins and strikeouts), start reading ESPN's Fantasy Daily Notes and look for some suggested starters every day. Our team will recommend a few starters who are on your waiver wire.
• If you have a ton of remaining innings and need to protect your ratios (ERA and WHIP), just ignore the maximum innings and keep doing what you have been doing. The maximum is nothing more than a cutoff point to prevent streaming. You don't necessarily need to be close to it. If you are doing just fine by staying well below it, don't sweat it.
• If you are running low on innings and need to protect your ratios, it's time to jettison those marginal starters and pick up strong middle-relief guys. They will maximize the efficiency of those innings. You still should keep any No. 1 starters you have, but if you are really low on innings, even take a close look at those No. 2 starters. If you need to do a quick estimate, assume your starters will throw about 35 innings and your relievers will throw another 15. Stop by Eric Karabell's Relief Efforts on a regular basis, and you quickly will find some lesser-known middle-relief guys who can help you down the stretch.
I'll keep bringing you names here, but you have to realize it takes a lot of work at this point in the season to make up ground in the pitching categories.
Ian Kennedy, SP, Yankees: It's somewhat fitting that there is a quote out of the Yankees' front office comparing Kennedy to a young Mike Mussina. Kennedy will be taking Mussina's rotation spot on a trial basis this Saturday. Lost in the Phil Hughes-Joba Chamberlain talk about the future of the Yankees' rotation, Kennedy has strong stuff and has been dominating the minors this year. He actually started this season in Class A, but after ten starts and a 1.29 ERA, he was promoted to Double-A. Nine starts and a 2.59 ERA later, the Yankees brought him up to Triple-A. All Kennedy has done there is have a 2.08 ERA in six starts. Simply put, he has been vicious everywhere he has pitched. Overall this season, Kennedy has 163 strikeouts in 146 1/3 innings, while walking only 50 batters. Kennedy's numbers indicate good control and the ability to dial up the strikeouts. He definitely is worth a close look in re-draft leagues because he is pitching for the best offense in the majors. It's going to take a strong start Saturday for him to stay in the rotation, but if Kennedy mows down the Devil Rays, stash him on your bench right away.
Esteban Loaiza and David Wells, SP, Dodgers: The Dodgers have some holes to plug, and they hope these two veterans can help close them. It's hard to anticipate anything new from Wells. His numbers were atrocious in San Diego, and he didn't even leave the division by moving to Los Angeles. His performance Sunday looked inspired, but I'd be hesitant to go looking for fantasy pitching help from Boomer. Loaiza, on the other hand, appears intriguing. After having shoulder surgery in the offseason, he has made only two starts this year -- both against Toronto -- and has a 1-0 record with a 1.84 ERA and 0.95 WHIP. Given the fact that the Blue Jays are pretty weak against right-handed pitching, I think all we can safely say is that Loaiza at least is pitching on a level that can be considered league average. However, "league average" doesn't win fantasy leagues. I want to go back to 2005 and look at Loaiza's numbers while he was in the National League. He managed a 12-10 season with a 3.77 ERA and a 1.30 WHIP for the lowly Washington Nationals. Those numbers aren't half bad, and Loaiza was in a tougher NL division, as far as opposing offenses, than he is now. If I needed pitching in an NL-only league, I'd use my free-agent acquisition budget on Loaiza over any of the September call-ups. All you have to do is avoid the two series with Colorado, and Loaiza will be pitching against offenses in the league's bottom half. Bottom line: if you need pitching in an NL-only league, go after Loaiza and stay the heck away from Wells.
Erik Bedard, SP, Orioles: Bedard will skip one turn in the rotation with a strained oblique muscle. If nothing else, it should make his owners say, "That explains Sunday's start." I wouldn't worry too much about the strikeout leader, and unless we get more bad news, count on having a 100 percent healthy Bedard back next week.
Ben Sheet, SP, Brewers: Since it was an injury to the fingers, he was expected to be back at 100 percent when he returned. It certainly looks like he was, so make sure he is activated and ready to pitch for you down the stretch.
Brandon Backe, SP, Astros: For those leagues that are deep enough that you just are looking for a warm body, I offer Backe. He showed a lot of potential back in 2005 and will be joining the Astros as a September call-up.
Kenny Rogers, SP, Tigers: Rogers had three great starts before having three lousy starts and heading back onto the DL with elbow problems. He could be ready to come back next week, and Detroit is going to need some crafty, veteran pitching to run out the season. If you just need wins, Rogers is available in 90 percent of ESPN leagues.
Chuck James, SP, Braves: James was one of the league's best pitchers in July, before his "tired arm" forced him to the DL. He has tremendous upside for a team fighting for a playoff spot. If I were to add one player this week in NL-only to try to boost my starting staff, it would be James. He is available in 95 percent of ESPN leagues.
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com and TalentedMrRoto.com. He can be reached at alla_rino@TalentedMrRoto.com.