Production without hits

Batting average not as much of liability in points leagues if walks are in play

Updated: August 20, 2012, 2:26 PM ET
By AJ Mass | ESPN.com

When it comes to music, it's all about the hits. Sure, personal taste enters into the mix, but few people would argue that The Beatles and their 20 No. 1 songs (according to Billboard) don't belong in the conversation as one of the best groups of all time.

Vantage Point

But just because a group doesn't have a laundry list of hits doesn't mean that group lacks broad appeal. Take for example The Grateful Dead, who built up one of the biggest followings of any band in the history of the United States, all the while going through a two-decade-long drought in terms of "chartability."

Even when they did finally merit a radio introduction by Casey Kasem with 1987's "Touch of Grey," that was likely due more to the "It's Your Move"-inspired skeleton marionettes in their music video than the song itself. People who didn't already like Jerry Garcia & Co. were still naysayers.

Dan Uggla is the points-league equivalent of the Grateful Dead. Sure, his batting average is going to hell in a bucket. But this isn't rotisserie. You can still enjoy the ride. Uggla may be the 21st-ranked second baseman on the ESPN Player Rater, but at least you know it's the .210 batting average that is to blame.

In points leagues, Uggla has a lot more value due to the fact he leads the National League in walks with 75. In fairness, he also ranks second in strikeouts with 137, one behind Danny Espinosa, but even so, he has a lot more value due to the fact he can still earn you a lot of points without the benefit of any hits.

Players with a much higher on-base percentage when compared to their batting average are always undervalued and underappreciated by owners who aren't die-hard veterans of points-league formats. However, looking at a player's recent OBP-BA calculation is one of the best ways to discover points-league hidden gems.

Here's a list of players who, over the past 30 days, have had the biggest disparity in these two statistical numbers. The list includes studs like Andrew McCutchen, and you don't need this stat to know he's good. But, injuries aside, if you do happen to see any of these names magically appear on your league's waiver wire, you should not hesitate to grab them.

Before we go, some other players who have had success this year "getting by" without the benefit of a hit might be found on the next list headed by our good friend Dan Uggla. No player in all of baseball has had more games this season in which he scored a run despite going 0-for-2 or worse.

Here is the lineup of the 2012 Grateful Dead players who have had enormous success in multiple games this season without the benefit of a hit.

Now that I've got my list out, I've said my piece, so I'll get out.

Pointing up

Nick Markakis, OF, Baltimore Orioles: Not only is he hitting .321 since Aug. 5, but eight of his 17 hits have been for extra bases, including his second triple of the season. With only eight strikeouts in his past 169 plate appearances, there are few negatives to be found in this right fielder, who has been a points-league beast since returning from the disabled list in July.

Jonathon Niese, SP, New York Mets: Not only is he 3-1 with a 1.91 ERA in his past four starts, but he's got a 4.4 K/BB rate to go along with a .214 BAA. The Mets have said they were going to a six-man rotation, which certainly would limit Niese's starts going forward, but if they eventually shut down Johan Santana for the season, Niese's two-start weeks should once again be in effect.

Marco Scutaro, 2B/SS/3B, San Francisco Giants: Sure, the seven-RBI game against the St. Louis Cardinals inflates his recent point totals enormously, but even without that one enormous game, Scutaro has been a solid value. Since leaving Colorado, he's batting .318 and has more walks (six) than strikeouts (five) over 97 plate appearances. The change of scenery has not hurt him one bit.

[+] EnlargeHiroki Kuroda
William Perlman/The Star-Ledger/US PresswireHiroki Kuroda has been one of the hottest pitchers in the past couple of months.

Hiroki Kuroda, SP, New York Yankees: A 60-point scoring period is sure to boost any player's overall ranking, but what really impresses us with Kuroda is the fact he's performing well against strong lineups. Two games with Boston and one each with Detroit and Texas in his past five starts have yielded no negative numbers. With a 1.98 ERA and .213 BAA since July 13, Kuroda is on the climb in a big way.

David DeJesus, OF, Chicago Cubs: Owned in less than 5 percent of leagues, DeJesus is a waiver-wire gem begging to be mined. Since Aug. 1, he's got an OBP-BA differential of .097 and an OPS of .900. The only game he hasn't started since Aug. 7 was the back end of a doubleheader, so the quality at-bats should continue to mount.

Patrick Corbin, SP, Arizona Diamondbacks: A huge leap in ownership to 22 percent is not surprising to us, as Corbin has now won three of his four starts since rejoining the Arizona rotation at the start of the month. Opposing hitters have managed to hit just .048 against his curveball over this stretch, a huge reason his stock is rising steadily.

Pointing down

Josh Beckett, SP, Boston Red Sox: In his past three starts, Beckett has "earned" negative-15 points. You have to go all the way back to July 15, the date of his only win since May 26, in order to get him back into positive production. Seven home runs allowed over his past three starts and a .302 BAA? No, thank you. We shall not be having another.

Dan Haren, SP, Los Angeles Angels: Over the first two months of the season, despite a losing record, Haren was very effective thanks to a 4.71 K/BB. Since returning to action on July 22, however, that ratio has plummeted to 1.67 and he's retired a batter in the seventh inning just once in his past 11 starts. Now he's going to get skipped in the rotation, and while he's promised it's a one-time occurrence, recent performance doesn't lower the worry rate any.

Neil Walker, 2B, Pittsburgh Pirates: Even before the dislocated finger sidelined him for a few days, the writing was on the wall here. Take away a 5-for-5 game against the San Diego Padres and he was hitting just .156 since Aug. 6. He did pinch hit during the Pirates' marathon affair versus the Cardinals, but of course, all that does is minimize the chance of a trip to the disabled list in spite of the fact he may not start again for another few days.

Denard Span, OF, Minnesota Twins: Another guy fantasy owners wish they could put on their disabled list, but can't, is Span. He hasn't played since Aug. 12 and when asked if he could even participate in batting practice on Sunday, he told reporters, "No chance." Limbo for a guy hitting just .200 this month before the injury? It's frustrating to say the least, especially with Chris Parmelee raking at Triple-A.

Jonathan Broxton, RP, Cincinnati Reds: We knew his value would go down post-trade simply because he was moving into a setup role from the closer spot. What we didn't anticipate was the shoulder soreness that limits his workload and the awfulness of his performance when he does take the mound. Saves we knew would be scarce, but a .364 BAA and a 7.20 ERA? Punch out, Maverick!

Ian Desmond, SS, Washington Nationals: Did he come back too soon from his torn oblique? He went 0-for-11 against the Mets over the weekend, and while you do want to give the shortstop the benefit of the doubt and chalk it all up to needing to get his timing back, you have to wonder. Another few games like this and perhaps Davey Johnson will show some concern, as well.

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