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Top 70 starters for Week 22

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With just over a month left in the season, most Fantasy owners are either looking at a title run or looking towards next year.

This week's top 70 rankings are geared for both groups. As always, we have the matchup information for each of the 70 starting pitchers who look to be viable options in standard mixed leagues, as well as some statistical nuggets and analysis. Added to the mix are some year-to-year comparisons for selected pitchers on the list. Now that we have roughly five months worth of data in the books, we can put those robust sample sizes to good use and see how some of Fantasy's better pitching options have changed -- or not -- since we drafted them back in the spring.

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The comparisons focus on four specific measures: strikeout rate per nine innings (K/9), walk rate per nine innings (BB/9), ground ball rate and xFIP. The first three are among the most stable stats for pitchers from year to year, so a change in those measures is usually more meaningful than a change in ERA, wins or batting average against for example. (Research by Keith Woolner and CBSSports.com blogger Dayn Perry established the relative stability of these stats.)

xFIP is a good catch-all measure of pitcher performance that largely weeds out the influence of events that are out of a pitcher's control. In looking at these metrics, we can not only gain a better sense of what to expect from our Fantasy pitchers for the rest of the season, but for those of us already thinking about next year's roster, it can give us some hints about where they are headed long-term.

One thing you won't see on this week's top 70 is Josh Beckett. His move back to National League alone won't make him worth using outside of deeper leagues, so he remains a wait-and-see proposition.

Here are the 70 starters you can trust in standard mixed leagues for Fantasy Week 22 (Aug. 27 - Sept. 2).

Starting Rotation breakdown for Fantasy Week 22
Rank Player Start 1 Start 2 Stat of note
1 Felix Hernandez @MIN (Hendriks) LAA (Santana) xFIP: 3.36 in 2012, 3.21 in 2011
King Felix is basically the same pitcher now that he has been for each of the previous three seasons, but he has rebounded from last season's 73 percent strand rate. Ignore the year-to-year ERA fluctuation; Hernandez is as consistent as they come.
2 Justin Verlander @KC (Mendoza) CHW (Sale) Ground ball rate: 42 percent in 2011 and 2012
Verlander is still not much of a ground ball pitcher, but with a career HR/9 of 0.8, he has proven that he is not a risk to give up home runs.
3 David Price @TEX (Holland) @TOR (Romero) Ground ball rate: 53 percent in 2012, 46 percent in 2011
Price became an excellent pitcher by cutting back his walks, but now he is an elite pitcher, as he has become much better at inducing grounders.
4 Matt Cain @HOU (Norris) @CHC (Wood) K/9: 8.2 in 2012, 7.3 in 2011
Sometimes substantial jumps in a pitcher's K-rate get washed out the following year, but Cain coulid just as easily sustain this improvement for years to come.
5 Stephen Strasburg @MIA (Nolasco) STL (Westbrook) Opponents' .175 SLG in August
Strasburg has been a little wild of late, but it hasn't hurt his production at all, as he hasn't been allowing much besides singles and walks.
6 Clayton Kershaw ARI (Kennedy) N/A 47 Ks over last 46 1/3 innings
Kershaw had been a little disappointing for strikeouts for much of the season, but he has been dominant for a solid month now.
7 Jered Weaver BOS (Buchholz) @SEA (Iwakuma) K/9: 6.9 in 2012, 7.6 in 2011
For the second straight season, Weaver has seen his strikeout rate dip, but he is still good enough at minimzing walks and getting easy flyouts that he can enjoy a high level of success.
8 Chris Sale @BAL (Gonzalez) @DET (Verlander) Four starts with more than 10 Ks
Sale's strikeout moxie has carried over from his bullpen role, and for those concerned about late-season decline, two of Sale's 10-plus strikeout efforts have come in his last three starts.
9 CC Sabathia TOR (Villanueva) N/A BB/9: 2.2 in 2012, 2.3 in 2011
In his first two years with the Yankees, it looked as if Sabathia's control was slowly slipping, but back-to-back low walk rates show that there is plenty of gas left in the tank.
10 Cole Hamels NYM (Harvey) N/A xFIP: 3.35 in 2012, 2.95 in 2011
Hamels' xFIP shows that, if he has declined this season, it hasn't been by much, but if the erosion of his ground ball rate persists, he could feel the effects a little more in the future.
11 Adam Wainwright @WAS (Gonzalez) N/A 0.92 WHIP over last seven starts
Pounding the strike zone, fanning batters, getting popups, avoiding the long ball...Wainwright has been doing everything right over the last five weeks.
12 R.A. Dickey @PHI (Kendrick) N/A K/9: 9.0 in 2012, 5.8 in 2011
No starting pitcher has turned in a more unexpected performance than Dickey, but who knew he would be able increase his knuckleball whiffs by 45 percent (per BrooksBaseball.net)?
13 Roy Halladay @ATL (Minor) N/A xFIP: 3.53 in 2012, 2.75 in 2011
Halladay's K-rate is down from last year, but his decline is probably not as great as xFIP makes it out to be. Breaking from his perennially-high strand rates, Halladay has left only 66 percent of his runners on base this season.
14 Yovani Gallardo @CHC (Wood) PIT (Burnett) BB/9: 3.5 in 2012, 2.6 in 2011
Think Gallardo's control has deteriorated since last season? Don't worry just yet, as he has typically cut back on his walks in the second half, and with a 2.0 BB/9 since the break, he's doing it again.
15 Jake Peavy @BAL (Arrieta) N/A 4.2 K/BB (leads AL)
Peavy's strong command of the strike zone is nothing new. It just didn't show in his results last season, as he was saddled with a 61 percent strand rate that he is unlikely to repeat in the future.
16 Cliff Lee @ATL (Hudson) N/A Ground ball rate: 46 percent in 2012, 49 percent in 2011
Lee has already allowed four more homers than he did all of last year, but his ground ball rate hasn't decreased much. His 12 percent home run per flyball ratio is the highest of his career and is likely to take a U-turn going forward.
17 Brett Anderson @CLE (Hernandez) BOS (Doubront) 72 percent strikes thrown vs. MIN on Tues.
Anderson has been very good at getting called strikes over his career, and with 21 of them in his season debut against the Twins, he's off to a fine start.
18 Johnny Cueto @ARI (Skaggs) N/A K/9: 7.2 in 2012, 6.0 in 2011
After three consecutive years of a sagging K-rate, Cueto is giving owners hope that he can recapture the strikeout potential he showed in his rookie season.
19 Gio Gonzalez STL (Wainwright) N/A BB/9: 3.4 in 2012, 4.1 in 2011
As Gonzalez has increased his strike-throwing rate, we have to stop thinking of him as a wild pitcher who puts our WHIP category at risk.
20 Madison Bumgarner @CHC (VOlstad) N/A 2.00 ERA in last four road starts
Overall, Bumgarner hasn't been all that good on the road (3.70 ERA), but he has been solid since mid-July, even with visits to Atlanta, Colorado and St. Louis on his schedule.
21 James Shields @TEX (Darvish) @TOR (Happ) 3 BBs over last 37 2/3 innings
Shields has dished out a surprisingly high number of walks at times this season, but he has made free passes a scarce commodity over his last five starts.
22 Francisco Liriano @BAL (Chen) @DET (Scherzer) 16 percent swinging strike rate, last 10 starts
Liriano has piled up more strikeouts than innings pitched in seven of his last 10 starts, as he has been whiffing batters at a phenomenal rate.
23 Mat Latos @ARI (Corbin) N/A K/9: 8.1 in 2012, 8.6 in 2011
The fact that Latos' K-rate is as close as it is to last year's is a testament to how well he has rebounded after a slow start. By the end of April, Latos had accumulated only 18 strikeouts in 28 2/3 innings.
24 A.J. Burnett STL (Lohse) @MIL (Gallardo) .436 BABIP over last three starts
Though Burnett has not helped owners much in his recent starts, it's still safe to use him. He has allowed a freakishly high rate of hits on balls in play, even though he has posted decent line drive and popup rates.
25 Ryan Vogelsong @HOU (Lyles) N/A XFIP: 4.18 in 2012, 3.88 in 2011
xFIP is still skeptical of Vogelsong's sub-3.00 ERAs, but I no longer am. Last year, Vogelsong defied expectations by stranding 81 percent of his baserunners, and this year, that rate has fallen just three percentage points.
26 Josh Johnson NYM (Hefner) N/A 23 percent line drive rate
Johnson's strikeout, walk and ground ball rates are all near their normal levels, but his 4.00 ERA and 1.33 WHIP are not just products of a fluke. His high liner rate is not a good sign, but it's more liable to change than his aforementioned skill stats, so there is still reason for hope.
27 Zack Greinke BOS (Lester) N/A 17 flyballs allowed vs. DET on Fri.
Greinke has to do a lot more wrong to lose must-start status, but he doesn't belong back in the top 10 just yet. He may have dodged a bullet against the Tigers, having allowed so many flyballs without sustaining more damage.
28 Jonathon Niese @MIA (Eovaldi) N/A 7.0 innings per start over last 14 starts
Niese has suddenly become a workhorse, as he rarely fails to finish at least seven innings.
29 Jon Lester @LAA (Greinke) N/A 12 percent swinging strike rate, last five starts
As Lester has been getting more whiffs, he's been inching his strikeout rate closer to its normal resting point. Now the biggest worry owners have is whether he'll be ready start next week after leaving with hamstring cramps the last time out.
30 Jordan Zimmermann STL (Lohse) N/A Ground ball rate: 47 percent in 2012, 41 percent in 2011
Last season, Zimmermann appeared to be fortunate to have allowed only 12 home runs over 161 1/3 innings. He's on a similar pace this year, but with stronger ground ball tendencies, Zimmermann hasn't needed luck.
31 Clay Buchholz @LAA (Weaver) N/A 17 percent line drive rate, last 11 starts prior to Wed.
Buchholz has generally been good at avoiding line drives in his career, so the nine he allowed this week against the Angels was a stark aberration.
32 C.J. Wilson BOS (Morales) N/A 48 percent strand rate in August (per FanGraphs)
Wilson has allowed too many homers lately, but his results shouldn't have been nearly as bad as they have been. It's only a matter of time before the lefty starts stranding runners again.
33 Anibal Sanchez @KC (Chen) N/A K/9: 7.8 in 2012, 9.3 in 2011
Maybe last season's strikeout rate was a tease, but if this year represents the worst-case scenario, Sanchez is still a decent source for Ks.
34 Brandon Morrow TB (Moore) N/A 11 swinging strikes vs. BAL on Sat.
In his first start off the DL, Morrow didn't get out of the fifth inning, but he had no problem keeping the Orioles from making contact.
35 Kyle Lohse @PIT (Burnett) @WAS (Zimmermann) BB/9: 1.7 in 2012, 2.0 in 2011
After two years of stellar walk rates, we can no longer doubt Lohse's viability in standard mixed leagues. However, boosted by favorable BABIP (.264) and strand rates (79 percent), his 2.61 ERA and 1.08 WHIP aren't exactly legit.
36 Hiroki Kuroda BAL (Tillman) N/A Ground ball rate: 54 percent in 2012, 47 percent in 2011
With Kuroda's ground ball and home run rates moving in the wrong direction last season, it looked as if his move to the Bronx could have had disastrous results. It hasn't worked out that way.
37 Wade Miley CIN (Arroyo) @LAD (Beckett) Allowed no more than 1 ER in five of last seven starts
Miley has benefited from some friendly scheduling in recent weeks, but he hasn't disappointed, as he continues to be a reliable strike-thrower.
38 Brandon McCarthy BOS (Cook) N/A Opponents' .319 SLG at home
McCarthy's ground ball rate has sagged from 48 to 44 percent this year, and he's been vulverable to extra base hits on the road. At home, though, he has enjoyed a 2.55 ERA.
39 Matt Moore @TOR (Morrow) N/A Six quality starts in last seven tries
Moore has developed some consistency, though it might have helped that he hasn't pitched in a hitter's park since mid-May. With a trip to Rogers Centre, Moore ranks a little lower than he would otherwise.
40 Scott Diamond SEA (Iwakuma) @KC (Mendoza) Opponents' .287 OBP, last six starts
After stumbling out of the gate coming out of the All-Star break, Diamond has regained his form. Owners should be aware, though, that if Diamond serves his suspension this week, he will lose a start, though he's still worth using in standard mixed leagues.
41 Kris Medlen @SD (Werner) N/A No runs allowed in last 21 innings
Medlen has been baffling batters with his command, and his mastery should continue against a Padres offense that is still looking for consistency.
42 Max Scherzer CHW (Liriano) N/A K/9: 11.3 in 2012, 8.0 in 2011
Scherzer is as vulnerable to hard contact as ever, but the colossal jump in his strikeout rate gives him a much bigger margin for error now.
43 Mike Fiers @CHC (Samardzija) N/A 12 swinging strikes vs. PIT on Fri.
Fiers didn't get many swings-and-misses in his previous two starts, but he got them against the Pirates, and next time out, he will face a similarly agressive team in the Cubs.
44 Jeff Samardzija MIL (Fiers) N/A Ground ball rate: 48 percent in 2012, 43 percent in 2011
Samardzija has given up six homers over his last three starts, but it's encouraging to see that his ground ball rate has actually improved over last year, even though he has been exposed to more innings as a starter.
45 Paul Maholm @SD (Kelly) PHI (Worley) K/9: 6.4 in 2012, 5.4 in 2011
You don't often see a 30-year-old pitcher have a breakout, but maybe that's what we're seeing from Maholm. He has managed to increase his K-rate by a full strikeout, even though he was maintaing his usual pace through the season's first two months.
46 Ryan Dempster @CLE (Jimenez) N/A 16 swinging strikes vs. MIN on Sat.
Dempster had the Twins -- the majors' best contact-hitting team -- flailing at the ball on Saturday, resulting in seven strikeouts. It's just the latest effort that has had Dempster's strikeout rate rising.
47 Shaun Marcum @CHC (Raley) N/A 1.95 ERA over last five starts
Marcum had been coasting along before getting shelved with a tight elbow, but on Saturday, he showed few signs of rust, aside from one bad inning.
48 Ian Kennedy @LAD (Kershaw) N/A 1.2 road HR/9
Kennedy has been better at limiting home runs away from Chase Field, but it's not as if he's been especially good on the road. Though he has shown flashes of his 2011 form at times, Kennedy is a risk to start in shallower leagues.
49 Matt Harrison TB (Cobb) N/A 4 HRs allowed in 65 2/3 home innings
Rangers Ballpark at Arlington can be a tough place to pitch, but home starts haven't been a problem for Harrison, who has been getting plenty of ground ball outs wherever he pitches.
50 Jaime Garcia @WAS (Jackson) N/A 3 XBHs allowed over last two starts
Garcia has emerged from the DL with his ground ball tendencies intact, as a homer and two doubles are the only extra-base hits he's allowed over 14 innings.
51 Mike Minor PHI (Halladay) N/A 2.45 ERA since All-Star break
Minor has been a different pitcher in the second half, and location has been key, as he has been getting more called strikes.
52 Phil Hughes TOR (Happ) N/A 8.3 K/9 vs. righties
Hughes does allow a disproportionate number of his homers to right-handed batters, but he also strikes them out at a high rate. He won't have to face Jose Bautista, but he could manage to keep Edwin Encarnacion in check.
53 Jeremy Hellickson @TOR (Alvarez) N/A Ground ball rate: 43 percent in 2012, 36 percent in 2011
Hellickson has increased his grounder rate dramatically this year, but he hasn't reaped the rewards, thanks to a 12 percent home run per flyball ratio. That should reverse itself, and he could wind up being undervalued going into next season.
54 Bronson Arroyo @ARI (Miley) @HOU (Norris) BB/9: 1.5 in 2012, 2.0 in 2011
Arroyo is at his best when he's painting the corners and getting called strikes, and he's been doing that extremely well this season.
55 Tim Hudson PHI (Lee) N/A .245 BABIP over last seven starts
With most pitchers, such a low BABIP would raise a red flag for an imminent regression, but Hudson is the rare starter who can consistently prevent line drives.
56 Wei-Yin Chen CHW (Liriano) @NYY (Garcia) 2.84 ERA vs. NYY
It's not an easy schedule for Chen this week, but he has held his own in his first two starts against the Yankees.
57 Tommy Milone @CLE (McAllister) BOS (Matsuzaka) 0.3 home HR/9
Milone has been tripped up in some of his recent home starts, but he is still making it hard for opponents to reach the seats at O.co Coliseum. He should be similarly stingy in his start at Progressive Field.
58 Matt Harvey @PHI (Hamels) N/A 65 percent strikes thrown, last three starts
Harvey's biggest weakness is his sometimes-erratic command, but he has had no problem finding the strike zone over his last three turns in the rotation.
59 Derek Holland TB (Price) @CLE (McAllister) xFIP: 3.98 in 2012, 3.80 in 2011
Holland's ERA (4.92) is nearly a full run higher than last year's (3.95), but his more modest xFIP hints at the potential improvement in his home run per flyball ratio that has already to started to occur.
60 Marco Estrada @CHC (Germano) PIT (Bedard) Opponents' .123 Isolated Power over last five starts
Estrada has been getting more grounders over the past month, and that has helped to stop the deluge of extra-base hits that were plaguing him earlier in the year.
61 Jason Vargas @MIN (Deduno) N/A 4 HRs allowed over last 48 innings
Aside from three homers allowed at U.S. Cellular Field and one allowed at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Vargas has not allowed any long balls over his last seven starts. Pitching in favorable venues has helped, but he goes to yet another one in Week 22.
62 Ross Detwiler @MIA (Turner) N/A Ground ball rate: 55 percent in 2012, 46 percent in 2011
Pitch-to-contact types generally don't have much appeal in standard mixed leagues, but as long as Detwiler can sustain the improvement in his grounder rate, he profiles as a left-handed Tim Hudson.
63 Tommy Hanson @SD (Stults) N/A 1 HR allowed in 19 career innings at SD
Home runs have put a damper on Hanson's ERA over the last two seasons, but like most pitchers, he has enjoyed a reprieve when visiting PETCO Park.
64 Justin Masterson OAK (Parker) N/A BB/9: 3.9 in 2012, 2.7 in 2011
Last season, Masterson showed that he is capable of posting a decent walk rate, but he has fallen back into a bad pattern this year. If not for his high ground ball rate, Masterson would not be a viable option in standard mixed leagues.
65 Miguel Gonzalez CHW (Sale) @NYY (Phelps) 64 percent strikes thrown, last four starts
The strikeouts have been drying up for Gonzalez, but he continues to keep himself in games by maintaining his strong command.
66 Dan Haren @SEA (Millwood) N/A 5 percent swinging strike rate, last four starts
Haren had his best start in weeks on Saturday against the Tigers, but he still struggled to avoid contact. He remains a low-end option for now.
67 James McDonald STL (Westbrook) N/A 63 percent strikes thrown, last four starts
Coming out of the All-Star break, McDonald went back to his old tricks, walking far too many batters. His most recent start (5 BBs vs. SD) notwithstanding, he seems to be turning a corner.
68 Chris Capuano @COL (Chatwood) ARI (Skaggs) xFIP: 3.71 in 2012, 3.56 in 2011
Capuano is basically the same pitcher that he has been for much of his career, but he has gained popularity due to a career-best nine percent home run per flyball ratio. With two starts, he is worth using this week, but Capuano's start rates have generally been too high.
69 Jhoulys Chacin SD (Volquez) N/A 50 percent ground ball rate vs. NYM on Tues.
Especially at Coors Field, Chacin's ability to induce grounders has been critical to his success, but that was missing prior to his DL stint. His first performance after getting activated was an encouraging one.
70 Tyler Skaggs CIN (Cueto) @LAD (Capuano) 55 percent strikes thrown vs. MIA on Wed.
Skaggs has a sparkling minor league record, a successful debut on his resume, and a two-start week ahead, but doubts raised by his sketchy command in Wednesday's start makes him a borderline option this week.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs . You can also e-mail us at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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