For the majority of the season, Matt Shoemaker has been an occasional streamer, a matchup play. Perhaps he's finally ready to shed that tag.
Road starts have been a tricky assignment for Shoemaker this year, but he's coming around of late. He was a one-hit wonder at Fenway Park on Thursday night (7.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 9 K), on the heels of a useful victory at Texas. Have a peek at the scouting video. The Shoe now carries a 3.56 ERA and 1.12 WHIP, with almost a strikeout per inning. He's also around the plate, just 19 free passes.
Okay, beating the Rangers and Red Sox doesn't mean a lot this year, no matter where you do it. But Shoemaker also has the advantage of playing on one of the best teams (and highest-scoring teams) in the majors, and in a pitcher-friendly park at that. His fly-ball bias plays well in Anaheim (2.72 ERA), and he's won 10 of his 15 starts overall. This late in the season, we should be trusting these snappy ratios.
The Eastern Michigan University product qualifies as a surprise; he wasn't on anyone's prospect radar before the year. He'll turn 28 next month, and he had just five MLB innings on his ledger into 2014. Shoemaker's extended run at Triple-A reveals a 5.38 ERA, but part of that is life in the Pacific Coast League. Scoring position in the PCL is the batter's box.
Shoemaker is owned in a modest 38 percent of Yahoo leagues, so there's still time to get in on the story. He'll be home for his next two assignments, hosting the Marlins and Athletics.
• Brandon McCarthy might be a Liverpool soccer fan who pitches for the Yankees, but let's not worry about such things. He's doing work for our fake baseball rosters.
McCarthy threw a tidy four-hit shutout at the Astros on Thursday (no walks, eight strikeouts), his fifth New York victory. He's posted a silly 1.90 ERA and 1.13 WHIP since the July trade, getting mileage out of a nifty cutter. AL tested, Salfino approved.
It's refreshing to see McCarthy pitch into some good fortune - his 5.01 ERA in Arizona belied a 1.38 WHIP and excellent component stats (20 walks, 93 strikeouts). Although his overall ERA is a shade over four, the ERA estimators stand in his corner (3.34 FIP, 2.91 SIERA). He's also gained a couple of mph on his fastball this year, forever a welcome development.
Please push the McCarthy ownership tag over 50 percent, so we can move onto new topics. He's currently owned in a modest 45 percent of Yahoo leagues. Even with Detroit and Toronto looming on the schedule, I'm going to keep starting him.
• Speaking of underowned players, what's the deal with Brad Boxberger? The Tampa Bay righty has become an unhittable shutdown reliever for the Rays, but he's still unclaimed in 83 percent of Yahoo leagues.
If you rank all relief pitchers over the last month, Boxberger checks in as the third-most valuable arm in Yahoo leagues - and that's despite the fact that he doesn't get save chances. Over his last 15.1 innings, he's given us 27 strikeouts, a 0.50 ERA and 0.59 WHIP. He's allowed one run and six measley hits in the second half, over 16 ridiculous games. Surely your ratios could use a little massaging.
Boxberger's success isn't a one-month story, of course. For the year he's striking out 14.24 batters per nine innings, and getting a swinging strike 14.8 percent of the time. The league has a laughable .144/.228/.254 slash against him. Have some fun with the Boxman. Make that change.
• If you're in the market for a low-ownership bat, I'm still pitching for Minnesota's Oswaldo Arcia. Serious pop, and he'll play every day. He's clocked five homers in his last nine games, and when he connects, the park absolutely does not matter. He's still just 10 percent owned in our sandlot shop.
Robbie Grossman deserves some love down in Houston. The Astros, to little fanfare, are the highest-scoring club in the second half. Grossman is part of the story, with a .308-11-2-9-1 line over the last two weeks (mostly in the leadoff spot; he's also drawing walks). Grossman's ownership tag sits at a mere two percent.