This past weekend, I attended the bat mitzvah of my niece, Ruby. As part of the ceremony, she spoke about the concept of "purification." Every once in a while, she explained, it is essential that we all take time to reflect on the past and then to simply let it all go and start fresh.
For such a young girl, she is quite wise.
Of course in the baseball season, there's a natural break in the action that comes each year. It's the All-Star break, when teams get a few days off and, hopefully, your underperforming players will use the lull to rejuvenate their season.
But the truth is that if you wait another two scoring periods to try to go after those players who have proven themselves to be "second-half studs" in the recent past, odds are other owners will have seen the same splits as you by then and your quest to get a hold of these guys on the cheap will be gone.
You'll also find it a lot harder to "purify" your own roster by unloading some first-half overachievers who have shown a tendency to stumble down the homestretch in the past once everybody starts keying into those darn post-ASB statistics.
The time to act is now.
Here then, in order to get the ball rolling for you, are the starting pitchers who have posted the best ERA in the second half since 2007:
Best Post All-Star Break ERA, Since 2007
Obviously, the best pitchers in the game tend to be good for entire seasons, and splits don't really matter. However, if you're looking past some of the top-tier names, you'll also find winless Cliff Lee, Tim Hudson, Hiroki Kuroda, Jake Peavy and Bronson Arroyo among the best pitchers from mid-July on in the past half-decade.
On the other side of the coin, many pitchers are points-league poison down the stretch. Here are some of the worst of the bunch since the 2007 season:
Worst Post All-Star Break ERA, Since 2007
Certainly, this shines a light on why you might want to sell high on Jason Hammel, even if he has been a "different" pitcher so far in 2012 with an 8-2 record. Other "name" pitchers who fall into the bottom of the second-half ERA discussion include Jonathan Sanchez, Homer Bailey, A.J. Burnett, John Danks and Derek Lowe.
TOP 100 OVERALL PLAYERS
Note: AJ Mass' top 100 overall players are ranked based on statistics that have already been accrued in ESPN standard points formats and should be used as a supplement to the ESPN Player Rater.
Nobody is suggesting you need to cut your entire team and start from scratch, but perhaps, it is a good idea to take a moment to take stock of your team's makeup with an eye toward the future. If history shows that some of the arms in your rotation are bound to cause you stress going forward, why not begin your own purification ritual.
If you do, an October celebration may well be in your fantasy team's future.
Andrew McCutchen, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates: In the month of June, McCutchen has hit .358 with five home runs and 20 RBIs. More importantly, his 0-for-4 on Sunday against the Detroit Tigers was the first game since June 8 that he failed to reach base and only the second all month. He's going to get you positive points on a regular basis.
Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Milwaukee Brewers: What's exciting about Ramirez is that his slugging percentage is .706 since June 12 and his K/BB ratio is a not-too-shabby 1.6 in that stretch. Considering that he's played nine of his past 12 on the road, where his season-to-date slugging numbers have been 88 points lower than at home, we're expecting the surge to continue.
Felix Hernandez, SP, Seattle Mariners: Pitching is all about adjustments, and clearly Hernandez has made the right ones of late. With 17 strikeouts in his past two games, including 10 on Saturday against a San Diego team that knocked him around a bit just 11 days earlier, it appears the King is back on track. After a very rocky stretch, he's also now gone 20 innings without allowing a home run.
Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels: After spotting the rest of the league about 20 games thanks to starting the season in the minors and an 8-for-33 start to the season once he did get the call, Trout has finally arrived in the Top 100 list. In this last scoring period, Trout hit .440 with four walks and five stolen bases thrown in for good measure as the the outfielder had his third 30-plus point week in the past month. What's not to like?
Aaron Hill, 2B, Arizona Diamondbacks: There's no question that a hitter who hits .462 for the week with three homers and a 1.000 slugging percentage is going to rise in the rankings. But this is far from a one-week fluke occurrence. In his past 27 games, Hill is hitting .375. It may have been only recently that those hits have translated into RBIs, but with only one strikeout since June 13, Hill isn't going to hurt you even when those runs don't come.
Jonathan Broxton, RP, Kansas City Royals: Playing for a winning team certainly helps any closer's value. In Broxton's case, the fact that Kansas City has been playing close to .500 ball since May started is far better than the .286 winning percentage they posted in April. Seven saves in eight tries this month and a win in the one game when he did stumble is certainly proof that as go the Royals, so goes Broxton. Right now, that's a good thing.
Adam Dunn, 1B, Chicago White Sox: Dunn not only went just 2-for-22 this past scoring period, but added 11 strikeouts for a negative-value week. He does have seven home runs and 16 RBIs this month, which only adds to the frustration. Dunn is an all-or-nothing kind of guy, and as such, the consistency you need on a weekly basis is just never going to be there.
Dan Uggla, 2B, Atlanta Braves: Perhaps his .146 batting average since June 8 can be attributed to an Atlanta schedule that pitted the team against nothing but AL East foes. However, with only six extra-base hits in 84 plate appearances this month, it's going to be hard to put the second baseman in your lineup when you add in the fact that almost 30 percent of those PAs ended in a point-deducting whiff.
C.J. Wilson, SP, Los Angeles Angels: On the surface, a 4-0 record with a 1.31 ERA and .193 BAA since May 22 seems like a ringing endorsement of Wilson's performance of late. Yet here he is "pointing down." What gives? It's a little bit the .315 OBP in June that has us concerned, along with the fact he's now topped 100 pitches in four straight starts while failing to complete the seventh inning twice. Small cracks, not a reason for panic, yet worthy of keeping an eye on.
Andre Ethier, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers: Though he showed signs of life by going 6-for-11 over the weekend versus the Los Angeles Angels, Ethier has had just four extra-base hits -- and only one homer -- in his past 15 games. In fact, he's had just one home run in his past 126 plate appearances and has averaged just 1.6 fantasy points per game in the past 30 days.
Christian Friedrich, SP, Colorado Rockies: A cautionary tale for those owners who like to grab unproven arms after small stretches of success. After going 3-0 with 4.0 K/BB ratio in three starts leading up to June 4, Friedrich has since gone 0-3 with a 1.4 K/BB ratio, which led to an ERA of 8.40 and negative-15 fantasy points. The moral of the story? Try to stick with those you know.
Aroldis Chapman, RP, Cincinnati Reds: We knew the odds of him remaining perfect all season were slim, but after lasting all the way to June 6 without allowing an earned run, Chapman has now given up runs in five of his past seven appearances, including three blown saves and an 0-4 record. Eventually, the pendulum may well swing back in his favor, but when there's a hole in the bucket, your boat always begins to sink.