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Splitsville: Dissecting the dog days of August

Jeff Lippman
Fantasy Writer
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Splitsville reserves the right to make gargantuan mistakes at times. Baseball, as in life, never goes perfectly to plan and Matt Garza certainly went against protocol in no-hitting the Detroit Tigers last Monday. While we're sorry for that transgression, we also told you to start John Danks and sit Dan Haren. Considering Danks was dominant against the Mariners and Haren got injured as a member of the Angels' rotation -- fine, so maybe we got lucky there -- we still think this splits thing has merit.

And with that, Splitsville will visit the month of August for our Week 18 research. We'll still bring you the good and bad matchups, but the dog days of summer are here and this is crunch time for a lot of division races. The splits matter now more than ever. With that, on to the Week 18 splits.

Five Strikes (Positive Splits)

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Denard Span, OF, Twins
Upcoming Schedule: Four games at Tampa Bay, three games at Cleveland
Span has been trying to get his bat going and has been lying in the weeds all season with a batting average in the .250-.280 range. He's been worth using in many mixed and Rotisserie formats thanks to his speed and run-producing ability but he hasn't been as good as many hoped he would be. August could change all that. Span is a career .332 hitter in August over 232 at-bats and that is 13 points higher than his next best month of May. Last season in August, Span went 42 for 112 (.375) and his 37 RBI for his career in the month is his more than he's posted in any other month on the calendar. Span went 5 for 13 (.385) in Cleveland earlier this season with a homer, two RBI and a stolen base in three games.

Bud Norris, SP, Astros
Upcoming Schedule: Aug. 3 start at St. Louis
The Cardinals might be on a roll right now but Norris has been able to stifle them in the past. The Houston starter, complete with a 2-7 record and an ERA over 6.00, has four career wins over the Red Birds, more than against any other major league team. In fact, Norris has gone 4-1 against St. Louis over five career starts and has allowed just six earned runs spanning 33 2/3 innings over that span with 29 strikeouts and a 1.040 WHIP. After going 2-0 in two starts against them last season without allowing a single run over 13 innings, Norris has gone 2-1 this year with a 2.61 ERA. His numbers are so staggeringly one-sided when it comes to the Cardinals versus anyone else that Fantasy owners should really consider giving Norris a whirl in some mixed leagues. The other owners in your league might snicker but they won't be if Norris' career splits have anything to say about it.

Julio Borbon, OF, Rangers
Upcoming Schedule: Three games at Seattle, three games at Oakland
Borbon may only really have Fantasy value in Rotisserie and deeper mixed leagues due to inconsistent playing time for an offensive-minded Texas team, but that could change beginning in Week 18 if manager Ron Washington paid attention last season. Borbon, who made his major-league debut on June 29 of last season against the Angels, went on to have one incredible first full month in the majors during August. Borbon played in 15 games that month and saw 49 at-bats. He batted .388 with a .444 on-base percentage and a .934 OPS. Borbon picked up 19 hits in the 15 games -- 12 starts -- and drove in seven runs while stealing 11 bases. A career .340 hitter against the Mariners with nine RBI over 14 games, Borbon should definitely see a boost in Fantasy value in the upcoming scoring period.

Miguel Montero, C, Diamondbacks
Upcoming Schedule: Four games vs. Washington, three games vs. San Diego
Arizona skipper Kirk Gibson said he plans to start Montero more often going forward in an effort to jump-start his much-needed bat for the offense. That could mean big things beginning in Week 18 for Montero, who has had some amazing Augusts over the last two seasons. Montero is a career .311 hitter in August over 151 at-bats. It is, by far, his best offensive month. Montero's nine homers and 34 RBI for the month are both highs for him and he's homered every 16.8 at-bats. In the last two seasons alone, Montero has gone 42 for 120 (.350) with seven homers and 27 RBI over just 34 games. Few catchers have the offensive potential that Montero brings to the table and Gibson is planning to showcase that down the stretch.

Rajai Davis, OF, Athletics
Upcoming Schedule: Three games vs. Kansas City, three games vs. Texas
Davis has not been seeing consistent playing time with Coco Crisp healthy and patrolling center field, but if manager Bob Geren pays attention to the splits -- and trust us, he does -- Davis might see some added playing time beginning in Week 18. That is because Davis really turns it on in the dog days. Davis is a career .314 hitter in August, eight points better than his next best month of July and 27 points higher than his next best after that. His 33 stolen bases for the month are 11 more than his next highest total and he becomes a doubles machine once July ends. Davis has batted .307, .347 and .316, respectively, in each of the last three Augusts and it could be more of the same this time around. It also helps in Week 18 that he hits better against the Royals (.366) than against any other team in the American League.

Five 7-10 Splits (Negative Splits)

Brian Bannister, SP, Royals
Upcoming Schedule: Aug. 2 start at Oakland, Aug. 8 start at Seattle
Bannister is reeling right now and Fantasy owners are going to want to think very carefully before giving him the nod in mixed leagues for Week 18. Yes, Bannister pitches twice, but it comes against two American League West opponents that he's struggled with over the years -- and struggled badly. Bannister is a combined 2-9 against the Mariners and Athletics over 15 career starts. He is 1-5 against Oakland with a 5.29 ERA and 1-4 versus the Mariners with a 4.46. Pitching in Oakland, as he will Monday, Bannister has gone 0-3 through four starts over his last two seasons with 12 runs allowed over 17 innings with a WHIP bordering on 2.000. He has not been any better at Safeco Field, where he's gone 0-2 over three career starts with a 5.31 ERA. He gave up four runs over seven innings in a no-decision there earlier this year. Oh, and this is one of his worst months as he's gone 5-11 with a 5.66 ERA over 18 career August starts.

Curtis Granderson, OF, N.Y. Yankees
Upcoming Schedule: Three games vs. Toronto, three games vs. Boston
Granderson has popped a few homers recently and is trying to make the Yankees' investment in him pay dividends but with the calendar turning to August, it doesn't bode well for his continued progress. Instead, Granderson could take a step back beginning in Week 18. Granderson hit .248 last season in August with the Tigers and his .319 on-base percentage was one of the lowest of his career. That said, Granderson has been a .239 hitter in August overall, his worst month by almost 20 percentage points. Furthermore, the Blue Jays have given him more fits than any other American League team. Over 131 career at-bats against them, Granderson has just 26 hits (.198 average) with a .274 on-base percentage and a .625 OPS, also his worst against any American League franchise.

Clint Barmes, SS, Rockies
Upcoming Schedule: Two games vs. San Francisco, four games at Pittsburgh
Barmes' splits entering Week 18 are screaming for Fantasy owners to keep him benched if possible. Not exactly hitting all that well at the moment anyway, Barmes deserves to be inactive in mixed Fantasy leagues in the upcoming scoring period for a number of reasons. The first of which are his career numbers in August. Barmes has a .227 batting average in August, 15 points lower than his next worst month of May. His 30 RBI and 32 runs scored for the month, as well as his .272 on-base percentage and .636 OPS, are also career-low figures. Barmes hit just .191 last season in the eighth month over 94 at-bats, but at least he did slug pretty well with seven homers and 17 RBI. Barmes also has not hit well over his career against the Giants with a .226 batting average and Pittsburgh's PNC Park has been especially tricky for him as he has gone 9 for 46 (.196) there over the course of five seasons.

John Buck, C, Blue Jays
Upcoming Schedule: Three games at N.Y. Yankees, three games vs. Tampa Bay
Buck has his average hovering around .280 and has been an offensive force behind the plate all season for Fantasy owners in mixed formats. Owners should be hoping that his splits don't hold true to form going forward because if they do he could be in for some rough times in August. A career .192 hitter for the month, Buck's August average is almost 40 points lower than his next worst month of July. Clearly not a second-half performer, Buck has seen 369 at-bats in August and has fewer RBI than in any other month of the season. In fact, every single one of his offensive numbers takes a dive and Buck has only managed to hit over .200 once -- .224 in 2006 -- since the 2004 season. He hits .196 against the Yankees and the Rays will surely put one or more elite pitchers on the hill in their three-game set.

Josh Beckett, SP, Red Sox
Upcoming Schedule: Aug. 3 start vs. Cleveland, Aug. 8 start at N.Y. Yankees
Pop quiz: What is Beckett's worst month? If you guessed August, step up and claim your prize. In fact, Beckett has a winning record over every month of the season except for August as he's gone 14-16 with a career-worst 4.43 ERA. His ERAs over the last two Augusts were both over 5.00. While we know we're leaving ourselves wide open to another Garza-like split breaker, especially after Beckett performed admirably in his first two starts since May after coming off the disabled list, his numbers simply do not lie. The other big reason that Beckett could be in for a rough Week 18 is that his first start of the scoring period comes against the Indians. Not exactly dangerous, Cleveland has still been a thorn in Beckett's side as he's gone 2-4 with a 6.56 ERA against them over six career starts. Beckett generally gets up against the Yankees but does have a 10.43 ERA and an 0-1 record over three starts against them this season prior to getting injured.

You can e-mail our staff your questions at DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com. Be sure to put Splitsville in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state. We'll get to as many as we can.

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