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Splitsville: Time to stretch

Jeff Lippman
Fantasy Writer
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There aren't too many milestones left to hit for Splitsville this season. The All-Star break is long behind us and now too is the trading deadline. We are in the middle of August, the dog days of summer, and Major League Baseball is coming upon its stretch run.

Now, more than ever, Fantasy owners should be looking for every little advantage when setting lineups each scoring period. If you haven't been visiting Splitsville to see if one of your players is in line for a big week or a big blunder, now is the time. Give Splitsville your tired, your weak and your division-trailing lineups and we'll do our best to put you on the right track. And now, on to the Week 20 splits.

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Five Strikes (Positive Splits)

Anibal Sanchez, SP, Marlins
Upcoming Schedule: Aug. 20 start vs. Houston
Sanchez was 2-1 in his last three starts before Sunday's outing against the Reds, with a 1.80 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 20 innings in that span. Sanchez is definitely throwing well right now for the Fish and that could mean big things in Week 20 against the Astros. Houston has never given Sanchez any issues and the hapless franchise should prove to be another patsy in the upcoming scoring period. Sanchez has made three starts during his career against Houston. He has gone 2-0 with a 0.96 ERA, including defeating the Astros in his lone start against them this season with one run allowed over 6 2/3 innings. Over 18 2/3 career innings versus Houston, Sanchez has allowed only two earned runs with a WHIP of 1.18. He's been striking out batters with much more regularity of late and that bodes very well for another dominating start against Houston in Week 20.

Trevor Crowe, OF, Indians
Upcoming Schedule: Three games at Kansas City, Three games at Detroit
Crowe has one of the more interesting splits you will come across. There are plenty of examples to suggest that sometimes players hit better when playing the field as opposed to being the designated hitter. There is something about being more involved in the action that helps batters keep their heads in the game. Crowe, however, has never been a designated hitter during his young career. Instead, Crowe has a favorite position in the outfield and when he is playing in that spot, his bat really responds. Crowe was recently moved by manager Manny Acta into a more permanent role in left field. He had been playing a lot of center but Michael Brantley changed that. Crowe has played 58 games in center this season compared to 21 in left. He has gone 24 for 71 (.338) when playing left field and has hit just .232 while in center. He slugs .493 from left field compared to .313 in center and his strikeout ratio is far lower. Crowe's career numbers suggest the same things, so Fantasy owners might take a flier on him now that he's become the everyday guy in left.

Nick Markakis, OF, Orioles
Upcoming Schedule: Three games vs. Seattle, Four games vs. Texas
Markakis, the Orioles' best hitter, has been one of the only ones not to really feel the impact of Buck Showalter taking over as manager of the Orioles. The entire team has been playing much better baseball since Showalter became the manager, but Markakis has gone just 12 for 45 (.267) entering Saturday under the new skipper. He has one homer and three RBI over a span of 11 games, to go along with eight strikeouts and a .327 on-base percentage. As long as the rest of the Orioles keep hitting, however, Markakis should heat up very shortly. Week 20 might even be the scoring period he takes off. That is because he's facing two of his favorite AL opponents in the Mariners and Rangers. The only AL team he has greater success against is the White Sox. He has gone 8 for 23 (.348) this year and is a career .319 hitter against the Mariners in 160 at-bats. Against Texas, Markakis is 9 for 25 (.360) this season and is a .333 hitter overall, spanning 165 at-bats with eight homers and 37 RBI in 44 games.

John Lackey, SP, Red Sox
Upcoming Schedule: Aug. 18 start vs. L.A. Angels
Lackey has definitely struggled since the beginning of July. He has made eight starts since Independence Day and has gone just 1-4 over that stretch with a 4.70 ERA. He's already lost two of the three starts he's made in August. Lackey might be struggling, but there is usually one thing that gets him going again. Consider the fact that his only win since the beginning of July has come against the Angels, his former team. He beat Los Angeles back on July 27 in L.A. as he allowed two runs over 7 1/3 innings in that victory. In fact, Lackey has won both starts against his former team this season. He is 2-0 in two starts against the Angels, with three runs allowed and eight strikeouts in 14 1/3 innings. With his former mates missing him more than he's missing them, Lackey stands to have a bounce-back Week 20 and should begin to turn his second half around with a big game against the Angels.

Howard Kendrick, 2B, Angels
Upcoming Schedule: Three games at Boston, Three games at Minnesota
Kendrick recently saw a 12-game hitting streak end but could be in line for another solid scoring period in Week 20. That is because Kendrick is facing two familiar opponents he very much enjoys hitting against. Kendrick is a career .353 hitter against the Red Sox and he hits even better -- .372 -- against the Twins. Kendrick has never hit in Minnesota's Target Field, but Fenway Park has been a source of comfort for him through the years. Hitting .308 with four RBI in four games in Boston this season, Kendrick is a career .411 hitter at the legendary park. Kendrick hits better at Fenway than at any other ballpark in which he's seen at least 50 at-bats.

Five 7-10 Splits (Negative Splits)

Corey Hart, OF, Brewers
Upcoming Schedule: Two games at St. Louis, Three games vs. San Diego
Fantasy owners cannot argue with Hart's .287 batting average, 23 homers and 76 RBI as of Saturday. Hart has been a Fantasy stud all season with the Brewers. However, if there were ever a Fantasy scoring period to consider benching him, Week 20 would be the one. That is because Hart and the Brewers only play five games, with a two-game set at Busch Stadium. Hart has gone 8 for 28 (.286) in St. Louis this season over seven games but has just a career .222 average at Busch over 117 at-bats. Worse than that, the Padres afford Hart his second-lowest batting average against any NL team, as he's hit just .225 against them over 71 career at-bats. This season against San Diego's surprising pitching staff, Hart has managed to go just 2 for 11 (.182) with three strikeouts.

Chad Billingsley, SP, Dodgers
Upcoming Schedule: Aug. 16 start at Atlanta, Aug. 21 start vs. Cincinnati
Billingsley has gone 0-2 in his last three starts for the Dodgers but that comes with a highly respectable 2.41 ERA. It has been the Dodgers who have had trouble winning lately and that is one of the reasons Billingsley might be on several Fantasy owners' benches in Week 20, despite pitching twice. Billingsley remains a solid mixed-league option but his Week 20 schedule should prove intimidating. Billingsley has gone 1-3 for his career against the Braves (seven appearances and five starts) and brings a 3.82 ERA. He has made one start against them this season and took the loss as he allowed three earned runs in six innings. Billingsley has gone 3-2 against the Reds for his career (seven appearances and six starts) with a 3.21 ERA. While that isn't bad, he did give up seven runs -- four earned -- and lasted just three innings in his only start against them this season. Billingsley has given up 13 runs -- 10 earned -- in his last three starts against Cincinnati, spanning 14 innings for an ERA of 6.43.

Yadier Molina, C, Cardinals
Upcoming Schedule: Two games vs. Milwaukee, Three games vs. San Francisco
Granted, what Molina did in the Brandon Phillips brawl game was pretty impressive. He didn't take Phillips' shenanigans and homered in the contest. Plus, Molina, before Saturday, had gone 17 for 40 (.425) in his last 11 games with seven RBI. Yes, Molina has never looked better, but Week 20 looks like it might prove to be the beginning of a cool down period for the Cardinals' backstop. Molina will play only five games, with a two-set against the Brewers upcoming. A career .231 hitter (242 at-bats) against the Brew Crew, Molina has gone just 5 for 34 (.147) against them this season, with one homer and four RBI in 10 games. With a career average of .247 against the Giants, Molina hasn't done much better against them. He's played three games against San Francisco this season and has gone just 2 for 10 (.200) with no hits of the extra-base variety.

Ryan Dempster, SP, Cubs
Upcoming Schedule: Aug. 20 start vs. Atlanta
Dempster has thus far looked very good in August after his first two starts. He's gone 2-0 with a 0.71 ERA. He also has eight strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings. We understand completely why Fantasy owners would be chomping at the bit to start him against the Braves in Week 20. We might suggest avoiding it, however, considering his splits against the Braves. Although his ERA against Atlanta isn't terrible at 4.94 over 27 appearances and 16 starts, Dempster has a career record of just 2-11 against the Braves. His last win against Atlanta came back in 2008 and the only other victory was back in 2001. He's had a few solid starts against them since 2008, but the wins have still been elusive and the Braves are playing very good baseball right now as they are currently in first place in the NL East.

Chase Headley, OF, Padres
Upcoming Schedule: Four games at Chicago Cubs, Three games at Milwaukee
Headley hasn't posted pretty stats lately and we feel his struggles could end up carrying into Week 20, especially considering the splits don't highlight his brighter numbers for the upcoming scoring period. Headley hits over .300 for his career against the Brewers, but that number has dropped to 4 for 15 (.267) this season with, six strikeouts in four games. For his career at Miller Park, Headley has gone just 8 for 30 (.267) with two RBI in seven games. Wrigley Field is home to his worst batting average at any major league park. Headley has gone just 3 for 22 (.136) over the years, with eight strikeouts and just a .182 slugging percentage. With 37 career at-bats against the Cubs overall and a .189 batting average, Headley hits worse against Chicago than any other NL team.

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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