It's really crunch time now, with just a bit more than three weeks left in the season. Whether you are fighting in your head-to-head (H2H) playoffs or pushing for a couple more wins to gain roto points, I wish you the best of luck.
Or at the very least, I hope your luck is better than mine (as you'll read shortly).
I will also leave you with one last update on the umpire numbers for the season for the hard-core spot starters out there.
Need to Know
Erik Bedard, SP, Orioles: So Bedard's oblique strain is more serious than was first suspected. An MRI on Tuesday reportedly revealed no further damage, and Bedard could work his way back this season. Or he could be shut down just as easily. Oblique strains take a varying amount of recovery time, and for pitchers it tends to be longer. The Orioles are nowhere near contention and have no reason to rush Bedard. There will be an announcement by week's end, but you should start making plans on how to finish the season strong without Bedard. Now that I'm in my H2H playoffs, I'm just trying not to cry without Bedard. You should consider streaming a roster spot to make up some strikeouts and wins (or see if you are one of the 25 percent of leagues that can still pick up Pedro Martinez). An oblique strain shouldn't hurt Bedard's future, unless he tries to pitch at less than 100 percent (a la Rich Harden).
Roger Clemens, SP, Yankees: I'm not only at wit's end in my H2H playoffs because I don't have Bedard, I also have Clemens in that league. The Rocket will more than likely miss his scheduled start this weekend in favor of Chien-Ming Wang or Mike Mussina. Clemens had a cortisone shot, will rest at home and rejoin the Yankees next week. What happens beyond then depends on how Clemens feels. New York has the luxury of having a lot of arms to march out for a start, and the Yankees will want Clemens ready for the postseason. Similar to Bedard, there is a chance Clemens is shut down for fantasy purposes (to return in October). Has he been that great for owners this season? Well, no, he hasn't. So if you are fighting tooth and nail to place in your league, feel free to drop him. There are still many options on your wire, especially if you spot start with a discerning eye.
Pedro Martinez, SP, Mets: The much-awaited debut of Pedro went relatively well. Considering he was in Great American Ball Park against a hot Reds team and on a low pitch count, five innings and two earned runs is nothing to sneeze at. Pedro may be allowed to throw closer to 90 pitches on Sunday after tossing only 76 in his first outing. Things may be looking up for Martinez, but take note that he topped out at 90 mph on the radar gun. If Pedro can't find his mid-90s fastball, he won't fool major league hitters with just his breaking stuff for long. If nothing else, his WHIP will be detrimental from an elevated walk total as he tries to make batters chase. I'm not pushing you to cut Pedro loose; I just want to make it clear that he won't be back as one of the league's elite pitchers until next season, and you shouldn't just march him out there expecting a strong outing every time.
Bartolo Colon, SP, Angels: Available in 93 percent of ESPN leagues, Colon could be a boon to fantasy owners during the final few weeks. As long as Colon and the Angels are being honest with themselves about his health, he should pitch well. Logically, the Angels have no reason to rush Colon back given their solid rotation without him and their eight-game lead over Seattle in the AL West. He'll be activated this weekend and should be a welcome addition for Bedard and Clemens owners.
Clay Buchholz, SP, Red Sox: In case you didn't hear the news, Buchholz may be one of the first pitchers ever to toss a no-hitter and then get moved to the bullpen. Boston's top pitching prospect is going to be on a specific innings count as the season winds down. He could be effective in relief, but if you added him after Saturday's no-hitter looking forward to his next start, you'll be waiting until 2008.
Kenny Rogers, SP, Tigers: In the search for some help from the waiver wire, check out the Gambler. He returned to the Tigers on Wednesday and struck out six while allowing one run in five innings. He should last longer in his next outing, as he was pulled after 83 pitches in his first game off the DL.
Behind the Mask
Updated umpire statistics will appear here every month. These statistics can be used in deciding whether to spot start a pitcher who has a decent K/BB ratio. To use them, you have to wait until after the first game of a series because the umpiring schedule is not publicly available. Check the box score for which umpire was at which base. The umpires will rotate around the diamond clockwise during a series, so the plate ump will go to third for the next game, and the first-base ump will call the balls and strikes.
These charts identify the umpires who call the most or fewest strikeouts per game. Remember it's for both teams' pitchers.
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com and TalentedMrRoto.com. He can be reached at alla_rino@TalentedMrRoto.com.