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Collette Calls: Running Down a Dream

Jason Collette

Jason has been helping fantasy owners since 1999 at RotoJunkie, Fanball, Baseball Prospectus and now here at RotoWire. He covers the Tampa Bay Rays at You can hear Jason weekly on many of the Sirius/XM Fantasy channel offerings throughout the season as well as on the Towers of Power Baseball Hour Podcast on iTunes. He was selected as the Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year by FSWA in 2013.

With less than eight weeks left in the baseball season, you are running out of time to close gaps in your standings to win your fantasy league. I am right there with you as I am 3.5 points out of first in my local AL-only league and several categories are very tightly packed. Any of us that are in competitive races likely spent the last week or two selling off attractive keeper contracts for immediate help, but now it is time to see just how much of an impact players can have over the final two months of the season.

When I get down to the final third of the season, I tend to ignore the ratio categories simply because most of that goodwill or damage has already been well-established. For example, in my league, my staff has a 1.226 WHIP this season. If I were to have two pitchers go today and both throw perfect games, it would improve my WHIP to 1.200 even. My team is hitting .265 on the season; if they were to go 20 for 40 tonight, they would be hitting .267. Simply put, it is just easier to focus on the counting categories because they are easier to track and you can only gain in those categories and not lose ground as you can in ratio categories.

I took a look over the past four seasons to see what the best performance was in any counting category over the final two months of the season as well as the average best score in each area. These results may lead you to adjust your own expectations.

Stat2009201020112012Avg Best

Jose Bautista's 23 home runs in 2010 is the best home run performance we have seen down the stretch in recent years while the average best performance is 20. The current leader in home runs for August is Justin Upton who has hit four home runs after taking most of May, June, and July off from the power department. He hit 12 home runs in April so 16 the rest of the way is not impossible, but given what we have seen over the past three months, beggars cannot be choosers. We are one week into the month and just 26 players have multiple home runs this month.

Upton also leads the RBI department with nine, which is about 20 percent of what the closing weeks average has been. The concern in Atlanta is that they may start resting guys in September a bit because they have already all but clinched the NL Least, errr, East. If you want to look for someone who may try to get to 60 RBI over the final two months, St. Louis is not a bad place to look. They are the best team in baseball in terms of hitting with runners in scoring position and Allen Craig already has seven runs driven in this month keeping up with his awesome work all season.

Last season, Angel Pagan exploded for 53 runs in August and September, eclipsing the improbable effort by Chris Coghlan from two seasons ago by one run. They are the only two players in recent seasons to score at least 60 runs over the final stretch of the season. Upton also leads this effort with eight runs scored but Shane Victorino, Matt Holliday, Justin Smoak, Jason Heyward, and Jacoby Ellsbury are right behind them with seven runs scored each. A concern I would have with Boston is that they have more road games remaining than home games and despite the 15-spot they put up in Houston on Tuesday night, their offense is less potent on the road than at Fenway Park.

The perennially underrated Juan Pierre swiped 29 bases two seasons ago helping a few fantasy owners seal the deal in stolen bases that season. This season, that player could be Jonathan Villar. The rookie is running whenever he reaches base and is getting all of the playing time he can handle in Houston due to a lack of any competition. He could steal 20 bases the rest of the way as he already has five despite a low on base percentage. His teammates Robbie Grossman and Jose Altuve each have three already this month as Bo Porter loves to push the pedal with the running game. Leonys Martin could also sneak in there now that a lot of outfield playing time opened up due to the suspension of Nelson Cruz. Elvis Andrus has run all season, but with Cruz out of the lineup, Texas may decide to manufacture more runs given Cruz's absence.

On the pitching side, nobody in recent years has won double-digit games down the stretch. Four guys are 2-for-2 in August so far: Yu Darvish, Julio Teheran, Joe Kelly, and Bud Norris. The Rangers have a very easy schedule the rest of the way so it is possible Darvish could get there. Teheran may have some starts shortened or even skipped down the stretch as Atlanta gets ready for the postseason. If your pitchers win at least six games the rest of the way, be thankful for what you can get. No, decisions moving forward do not get any less painful.

Justin Verlander's 89 strikeouts in 2009 down the stretch is the high-water mark for strikeouts. Not surprisingly, Darvish is 22 percent of the way there with 20 strikeouts in 14 August innings. Teheran is next with 15 and Jose Fernandez comes in at 14. Fernandez has the stuff to do it, but he will not have the opportunities as he is being shut down at some point in September. Outside of Darvish, I do not expect anyone to strike out more than 75 batters the rest of the way this season.

Jim Johnson was a machine down the stretch last season for both the Orioles and fantasy players, making it the second consecutive season we have seen a closer get 20 or more saves over the final two months of the season. Craig Kimbrel is surging already with four saves but after the debacle of 2011, there is a good chance he will be used more sparingly down the stretch. A guy to watch is Joaquin Benoit who has that job in Detroit and Jim Leyland has always given his closers a lot of leash. Benoit has the skills and is 3-for-3 already in August and Detroit has a nice schedule the rest of the way. It is worth noting that of the 11 closers that have multiple saves in August, six of them come from teams with sub-.500 records. Saves come from everywhere, even from guys like Danny Farquhar in Seattle.

As each week goes by, counting category stats become even more important but level-setting your expectations about what can happen in these final weeks is even more critical.