Looking beyond the obvious ...

Updated: May 30, 2012, 2:13 PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com

There's a commercial airing right now in which Zooey Deschanel asks her iPhone, "Is that rain?"

Vantage Point

For those of you who have not seen the ubiquitous spot, Zooey happens to be staring out her window while making her inquiry, a window that is being pelted with giant water droplets falling from the sky. Of course, "Siri" is far more patient than I'd be; she simply responds, "Yes, it appears to be raining, Zooey."

Deschanel is the poster child for "adorkability," so for her this occurrence is supposed to pass itself off as quirkiness. Personally, I'd prefer hanging out with someone who has a bit more going on "upstairs" than someone who cannot recognize a form of precipitation. (Amy Dallen, recently seen on Wil Wheaton's "Tabletop," comes to mind.)

But when it comes to fantasy baseball, it might not be such a stupid question to see a pitcher like Ted Lilly, who has a 5-1 record and 3.14 ERA, and ask, "Is this pitcher good?" A win-loss record and an ERA do not tell the whole story, especially in points leagues.

Pitchers earn points for each batter they retire, so the longer a pitcher works into games on a regular basis, the less impact those hits and walks will have on his final point total. In order to have that wiggle room for error, you need to be throwing at least 90 pitches per start. Anything less than that and the odds of a pitcher giving you a quality start drop to around 50-50.

Here is a list of those pitchers with at least eight starts in 2012 who have averaged between 80 and 90 pitches per appearance:

As you can see, Lilly is the only member of this group with a winning record, in no small part because his offense has scored a lofty 6.32 runs per game for him. But we can't count on that run support average remaining that high over the long haul.

Generally speaking, in points leagues, I'd look to avoid pitchers who reside in this neighborhood. In any given week, they may do well for you, but if left in your rotation for too long, the best you can hope for is some "(.500) Days of Summer."

Pointing up

Giancarlo Stanton, OF, Marlins: Stanton is slugging .696 since May 15 and even went 2-for-2 in steals during that stretch, sweetening an already-sweet stat line even more. More importantly, perhaps, is that opposing pitchers are finally beginning to fear him a bit. Stanton has walked 10 times in his past 13 games after earning only 11 free passes in the previous 35 contests.

Melky Cabrera, OF, Giants: Earlier this month, Cabrera had an 11-game hitting streak in which he posted a .468 batting average. It ended, and some people jumped off the bandwagon. Four days later, he started a nine-game hitting streak and proceeded to post a .487 batting average. Then on Saturday, he went 0-for-4. Did you jump off then? I hope not, because Sunday he went 4-for-4 with a home run. Let the new streak continue.

Joel Hanrahan, RP, Pirates: In case you hadn't noticed, the Pittsburgh Pirates went 4-2 last week and are now just one game below .500. Pitching the ninth inning for a team that is starting to win games, including five walk-off victories in 2012, one must like the chances for increased success for this closer. In his last six appearances, he has five saves and a win, no earned runs allowed and a .143 batting average against. It's time to buy in.

Shane Victorino, OF, Phillies: The "Flyin' Hawaiian" has kept his weekly points total between 15 and 25 all season long, but last week he finally surged higher. Thanks to a .400 OBP and seven RBIs over the course of the week, the outfielder earned 29 points in Week 7. Victorino has fanned just once in his past nine games, not surprising for a batter ranked 11th in the majors with only a 10.2 swing-and-miss percentage so far in 2012.

Johan Santana, SP, Mets: It's time to believe in Johan as well. He's one Michael McKenry home run away from having seven straight quality starts under his belt, during which time opposing hitters have just a .261 on-base percentage. Regardless of the opponent, when you fire a shutout with only 96 pitches, 74 of which go for strikes, you're in a groove, and fantasy owners need only sit back and enjoy it. Nobody knows how long his shoulder will stay healthy, but clearly he's back.

Mark Buehrle, SP, Marlins: With a K/9 rate of just 4.4 and a BB/9 rate of only 1.4, it's no secret that Buehrle allows the opposition to put the ball in play more often than most pitchers. As such, his BABIP is going to dictate his success, and at .262, that number is the best it has been in more than a decade. Considering he's doing that with one of the worst defenses in the league (in terms of UZR), we're going to have some faith that what he's doing well right now will overcome any regression due to luck and the lack of glovework behind him.

Pointing down

Josh Willingham, OF, Twins: A "golden sombrero" on May 26 was just the latest embarrassment for Willingham in a stretch that has seen him fan 16 times and post just a .182 batting average since May 18. He may have been hitting over.300 as recently as just a few weeks ago, but when about one of every two at-bats ends in a slow walk back to the dugout, you're points-league poison.

Derek Lowe, SP, Indians: In his last start, Lowe didn't walk a single batter, and he matched his second-highest strikeout total for 2012 (three). He also allowed 10 hits and eight earned runs in just 2 1/3 innings of work. Since May 5, opposing hitters are batting .331 against Lowe. There's just not enough upside here, even when he does manage to last into the seventh inning, something he has done just three times all year.

Wei-Yin Chen, SP, Orioles: This is a case of Chen hitting a wall in terms of potential fantasy value. You can pretty much pencil him in for a stat line of six innings pitched, six hits, one walk and five strikeouts every time he takes the mound. That means if he gives up three runs and wins, you're maxing out at 11 points for the day. Decent? Sure. But as a ceiling for his success, there are far bigger apartments you might want to rent. Plus, all this assumes he doesn't lose his effectiveness on his second trip around the league.

Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves: They always say that you can't hit what you can't see. Usually that refers to the heat that a pitcher is dishing out. In this case, it's all about Freeman's poor eyesight. After a 2-for-25 stretch since May 19, the first baseman was pulled from the Atlanta lineup due to blurriness caused by dry eyes. Until he finds a remedy for this recurring condition, the eyes of his fantasy owners will continue to be filled with tears.

Ben Zobrist, 2B/OF, Rays: Just when it looked like Zobrist was taking some steps forward, he made like MC Skat Kat and took "two steps back." With a .111 batting average since May 16, including an 0-fer in the series against the Boston Red Sox, Zobrist can't even stay on base when he does get on. He has been caught stealing twice over the past two weeks.

Roy Halladay, SP, Phillies: Even before Sunday's start, you could tell there was something not quite right with Doc. His control was still solid, as evidenced by a 10.7 K/BB rate, but with an ERA of 5.40 and a.305 batting-average against, there was reason for concern. After seeing Halladay leave after just two innings against the St. Louis Cardinals and shoulder soreness being blamed, it's time to get a little bit concerned, even if no MRI is currently in the works.

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