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Setting the Trends: King Felix, 2.0?

Senior Fantasy Writer
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In Back to the Future Part II, an old Biff Tannen travels to the past to deliver a copy of the Grays Sports Almanac to himself, in order to help him win a bunch of money gambling and live a more comfortable life.

Most Added Players (as of 5/30)
Player % increase
1. Ernesto Frieri, RP, Angels 30
2. Roy Oswalt, SP, Rangers 28
3. A.J. Ellis, C, Dodgers 25
4. Felix Doubront, SP, Red Sox 21
5. Homer Bailey, SP, Reds 20
6. Dayan Viciedo, OF, White Sox 19
7. Tyler Clippard, RP, Nationals 17
8. Carlos Quentin, OF, Padres 15
9. Andy Pettitte, SP, Yankees 14
10. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Red Sox 14

We often talk about predicting the future in Fantasy, but here's a harsh fact: even if we knew the results of every baseball game this season, it still might be tough to take that information and use it to win a league.

Say, for instance, that we discover Tom Wilhelmsen manages 20 saves on the season. Unless we know which game he started getting the saves, the information could turn out to be useless. Should we start him every game? Should we have picked him up as a Draft Day guess and kept him activated? Wilhelmsen, it might turn out, went nutty in August and set a record in 2012 for saves in a month (20). But if all we knew was that he gets those 20 saves -- and not when -- it could do more harm than good having him sit in our lineups every day.

So what's the point of this sci-fi digression? That situational and split stats matter, to a degree. Hidden beneath 162 games of data are little quirks that can help us divine some Fantasy knowledge. For a pitcher like Ervin Santana, who has massive home/road splits buried beneath his overall numbers, knowing where the good numbers came from could be a tremendous boost for a Fantasy owner, and could help explain why some players are seeing jumps in ownership at otherwise random-looking times during the season.

On to the Roster Trends!

Most Added Highlights

Less than 50, more than 50
Players owned in less than 50% of leagues who should be owned in more than 50%
Player % owned
1. Jordan Schafer, OF, Astros 49
2. Brian Fuentes, RP, Athletics 48
3. A.J. Burnett, SP, Pirates 46
4. Stephen Drew, SS, Diamondbacks 41
5. Casey Janssen, RP, Blue Jays 36

Felix Doubront, SP, Red Sox
Jump in ownership: 20 percent (from 45 percent to 65)
Reason for the jump: Doubront is 5-2 with a 3.86 ERA through 10 games and is in the midst of a two-start week.
Why you should join the crowd: Besides getting off to a spectacular start in 2012, Doubront has relief pitcher eligibility in most CBSSports.com formats, allowing owners in H2H points leagues to rack up starting pitcher value from a RP slot. For those owners looking at Doubront as a starter, he's been surprisingly effective so far this year. He has also managed to throw a little over one strikeout per inning.
Devil's Advocate: Doubront's minor league numbers were good, but they didn't indicate anything that would translate to wild success in the majors. Additionally, his 1.36 WHIP suggests that his ERA may currently be a bit low, meaning he could be due for a correction. On top of all that, the Red Sox have Daisuke Matsuzaka and Andrew Bailey coming back from injury soon, which could create a crunch of both a direct (Matsuzaka will require a spot) and indirect (Bailey could push Alfredo Aceves to the rotation, sending Doubront to long relief) nature.

Jeff Francoeur, OF, Royals
Jump in ownership: 14 percent (from 60 percent to 74)
Reason for the jump: Francoeur has four multi-hit games in his last six.
Why you should join the crowd: Blink and you missed Francoeur's batting average rise from .235 (on May 19) to .282 (on the 28th). Of his five home runs on the season, four have come in the last seven games. He even picked up his first steal of the season against the Orioles. Francoeur put up a 20-20 campaign in 2011 and has as many as 29 home runs in a single season.
Devil's Advocate: Those 22 bases he stole last year marked the first time in Francoeur's career that he produced double-digits in the category. And while he has a lifetime batting average of .271, that number has dipped as low as .239 during his career. He's streaky and can be one of the more frustrating players in Fantasy, rotating from extremely cold to extremely hot without warning. So beware. His season may look great in September, but there may be plenty of peaks and valleys along the way.

Thanks, But No Thanks
The five most deactivated healthy players
Player decrease in start %
1. Henry Rodriguez, RP, Nationals 31
2. Ricky Nolasco, SP, Marlins 25
3. Hiroki Kuroda, SP, Yankees 24
4. Brandon League, RP, Mariners 24
5. Edinson Volquez, SP, Padres 23

Gordon Beckham, 2B, White Sox
Jump in ownership: 15 percent (from 28 percent to 43)
Reason for the jump: Beckham entered May with a .153 average; as of Tuesday, it sat at .224.
Why you should join the crowd: Beckham, a former first-round pick, has turned his season around in the month of May. He's hit .264, with five home runs and 14 RBI. His OPS jumped .300 points over April, going from .434 to .763. Over the last 14 days, Beckham ranks as the seventh-best second baseman in Fantasy.
Devil's Advocate: Before the recent hot streak, Beckham was experiencing a three-year slide in nearly every offensive category (from 2009 to 2011). His average went from .270 to .252 to .230; His RBI, doubles, OPS, and walk totals all dropped over the three-season span while his at-bats increased. In fact, if the season ended today, his OPS would be only slightly higher than it was last year and his average would be the lowest of his four-season career.

Roy Oswalt, SP, Rangers
Jump in ownership: 10 percent and rising (from 29 percent to 39)
Reason for the jump: Oswalt has signed with the Rangers.
Why you should join the crowd: Oswalt isn't really a big mystery. Over 2,154 innings pitched, he has a career 3.21 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. He's a three-time All-Star who has finished in the top five for Cy Young voting on five separate occasions. The only mystery right now is how long it will take him to get in to playing shape (guessing it will be three or four weeks).
Devil's Advocate: Oswalt's career splits at Rangers Ballpark: 2-5, 4.78 EA and 1.44 WHIP in eight starts. Granted, that's playing against the Rangers, not playing with them, but when you run into a pitcher of Oswalt's caliber, you have to look somewhere for the downside to it all.

More than 50, less than 50
Players owned in more than 50% of leagues who should be owned in less than 50%
Player % owned
1. Delmon Young, OF, Tigers 53
2. Phil Hughes, SP, Yankees 54
3. Russell Martin, C, Yankees 56
4. Jake Westbrook, SP, Cardinals 58
5. Trevor Bauer, SP, Diamondbacks 60

Tom Wilhelmsen, RP, Mariners
Jump in ownership: Nine percent (from seven percent to 16)
Reason for the jump: Wilhelmsen looks to be the favorite for saves in Seattle with Brandon League being demoted to setup duty.
Why you should join the crowd: Besides being an awesome story -- Wilhelmsen was out of baseball for six years, backpacking around the world and serving as a bartender in Arizona -- he does look like the early favorite to get saves in League's absence. So far this season, he has 30 strikeouts in 24 1/3 innings pitched.
Devil's Advocate: Wilhelmsen also has a 4.44 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. Furthermore, League hit a bit of a bump last year and responded by not allowing a run from May 17 to July 5. So while he has a great story (the movie will end with Wilhelmsen pitching in the ALCS with a full count in the bottom of the ninth to Daniel Nava), it's not the most ideal of scenarios: Wilhelmsen has some pretty high ratios, manager Eric Wedge indicated that he would let matchups dictate who comes in for saves, and League could take a week off and come right back into his closer role.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Nando Di Fino at @NandoCBS . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
Nationals' Jonathan Papelbon survives shaky outing for 21st save
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:45 pm ET) Nationals closer Jonathan Papelbon allowed a run to score in the ninth inning, but was able to bounce back and close out the 4-2 victory over the Padres on Thursday. Papelbon picked up his 21st save of the season, and his fourth as a member of the Nationals.

Papelbon has now given up three runs in eight outings since coming to Washington in a trade at the end of July. Overall this season, he is a perfect 21-for-21 in save opportunities and owns an impressive 1.85 ERA.


Padres SP Andrew Cashner effective, but takes loss Thursday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:42 pm ET) Padres starter Andrew Cashner pitched well against the Nationals on Thursday, but the Padres were unable to offer much in the way of offensive support. Cashner allowed three runs on nine hits over 5 2/3 innings. He walked three and struck out six, but the Padres dropped the game 4-2.

Cashner (5-13, 4.05 ERA) kept the Nationals scoreless over the first four innings, and the Padres gave him an early 1-0 lead. But he got into trouble in the fifth inninng, when he hit a batter with the bases load, and then gave up an RBI single. Cashner then gave up a solo home run to Jayson Werth in the sixth.

All-in-all, it wasn't a bad outing for Cashner. In five August starts, Cashner went 1-3 with a 3.72 ERA.


Nationals SP Joe Ross dazzles in victory on Thursday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:36 pm ET) Nationals rookie starter Joe Ross enjoyed an excellent outing against the Padres on Thursday. The young right-hander allowed one unearned run on just one hit over six solid innings. He walked two and struck out seven, en route to the 4-2 victory.

Ross (5-5, 3.24 ERA) posted the finest start of his young career, as this was the first time he did not allow an earned run in any of his 11 outings. 

Ross made six starts in August and did not fare all that well. He went 3-2 with a 5.03 ERA in August.


Nationals CF Denard Span (hip) going back to DL on Thursday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:30 pm ET) Two days after being activated from the disabled list, Nationals center fielder Denard Span is heading back to the DL on Thursday. The Nationals placed the oft-injured Span on the 15-day DL with left hip inflammation. 

Span missed about six weeks with back tightness, and this latest ailment appears to be related to that injury. It is not yet clear if Span will need more than the minimum 15 days before returning.

The Nationals will announce a corresponding roster move on Friday.


Rays RP Brad Boxberger K's the side for 31st save Thursday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:25 pm ET) Rays reliever Brad Boxberger needed 14 pitches to strike out the side, preserving the 5-4 win over the Twins on Thursday. Boxberger picked up his 31st save of the season with the impressive showing.

This was a solid outing for Boxberger, who had allowed a run in each of his previous three appearances.


Rays' Drew Smyly knocked around but gets no-decision Thursday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:21 pm ET) Twins starter Drew Smyly was bailed out by his offense on Thursday, though he did not factor in the final decision. Smyly went 4 1/3 innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on eight hits. He walked two and struck out five.

Smyly was given a 2-0 lead in the first inning, but he allowed the Twins to creep back into it. He allowed a run in each of the second and third innings to tie the game. Then he gave up two runs in the fourth, including a solo home run to Eduardo Escobar. Smyly left the game trailing 4-2.

But the Rays were able to rally back and get Smyly off the hook, as they went on to win 5-4.

In three starts since returning from the disabled list, Smyly is 1-1 with a 5.14 ERA.


Twins' Tommy Milone unable to hang on to lead in loss Thursday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:14 pm ET) Twins starter Tommy Milone was roughed up a bit in his outing against the Rays on Thursday. The left-hander allowed five runs (four earned) on eight hits over 5 1/3 innings, as the Twins lost by a score of 5-4. 

Milone (6-4, 3.86 ERA) got off to a bad start, as he allowed the Rays to score twice in the first inning, including a solo home run by Logan Forsythe.

The Twins rallied to take a 4-2 lead over the next few innings. But Milone gave up another run in the fifth and two more in the sixth.

Milone last pitched on Sunday, working the 12th inning and picking up his first-career save in a 4-3 win over the Orioles. In three starts since returning from the disabled list, Milone is 1-1 with a 4.93 ERA


Pirates RP Mark Melancon shuts the door for 41st save Thursday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:07 pm ET) Pirates closer Mark Melancon did what he does best on Thursday, as he protected a 2-1 victory over the Marlins. Melancon worked around a hit in a scoreless ninth inning, picking up his MLB-leading 41st save.


Marlins SP Justin Nicolino shines, takes tough loss on Thursday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:03 pm ET) Marlins rookie starter Justin Nicolino was excellent in his outing against the Pirates on Thusday. The young left-hander allowed two runs on six hits over six strong innings. He struggled a bit with his command, as he walked four and struck out just one. But it was still an impressive outing against a strong offense.

Nicolino was stuck with a hard-luck loss however, as the Marlins were unable to do much against Gerrit Cole. The Marlins were defeated by a score of 2-1.

Nicolino (2-2, 3.65 ERA) allowed a run to score in the second inning, and then served up a solo home run to Pedro Alvarez in the fourth. That was all the damage done against the rookie, as he was able to limit the scoring despite the control issues.

The youngster has been impressive lately. He has allowed exactly two runs in each of his last three starts, pitching into the eighth in his last two. But he has just one win over that three-start stretch.


Pirates SP Gerrit Cole terrific against Marlins on Thursday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(10:00 pm ET) Pirates ace Gerrit Cole was brilliant in his start against the Marlins on Thursday. The right-hander allowed one run on five hits over 7 1/3 solid innings. He struck out four and did not walk a batter. Cole's strong start earned him a victory, as the Pirates held on for the 2-1 win.

The only run Cole allowed came on a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning. Cole improved to 15-7 and lowered his ERA to 2.44 with the dominant effort.

After giving up three runs or more in three straight starts, Cole has allowed a total of two runs over his last two starts. Overall, in six August starts, Cole went 1-3 with a 3.14 ERA.


 
 
 
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