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Speed Week: Mark Buehrle’s soft rock; running wild in Kansas City

Scott Pianowski
Roto Arcade

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Surprising ace (USAT)

The Blue Jays had lofty hopes for their starting staff back in March. Josh Johnson, R.A. Dickey, Brandon Morrow, big names all. Throw in the Jose Reyes deal and pennant fever grips the YYZ.

Toss the expected narrative in the garbage, hoser. We're into September and the big names have crushed every fake dream we had. Meanwhile, the team's most only reliable pitcher is the consummate everyman, Mark Buehrle. Of course.

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Buehrle has taken over the Jamie Moyer mantle, the MLB pitcher who somehow succeeds despite underwhelming stuff. Buehrle's average fastball has been in decline for a few seasons now, checking in at 84.3 mph this year (about 135 kph, Geddy). Nonetheless, Buehrle's had full command of his cutter for most of the summer, turning in a dynamite 14 weeks. Welcome back into the circle of trust, old friend.

The numbers from up north might surprise you. Buehrle's posted a 2.88 ERA and 1.22 WHIP over his last 19 turns, scoring 10 victories along the way. You're never getting him for his strikeout rate, but he's actually been credible in that area since the middle of May (89 whiffs, or 6.4/9). And you know Buehrle rarely walks anyone (29 free passes, 2.1/9).

I'll sign off on Buehrle as a strong play Wednesday at Arizona, and I'm not afraid to dip twice next week, when the Angels and Orioles visit Toronto. Buehrle is still unowned in 67 percent of Yahoo leagues. He works quickly. He's a dog lover. Open your mind, open your roster.

Every spring we see a lofty price put on players like Michael Bourn, and every spring I shake my head. Bourn is a three-category man at his best, and most interesting for the bags he swipes. But why bother paying a premium for a Bourn type (his ADP was 86.6 this year) when you can usually find cheap speed anytime you need it?

A handful of rabbits have emerged in the last few weeks, especially in Kansas City. The Royals are letting Emilio Bonifacio run whenever he wants (11 bags over 19 games) and Jarrod Dyson has 13 steals over the same period. Bonifacio's three-position grab (second, third, outfield) also help the cause, and yet he's still unowned in 65 percent of the Y. Dyson? Ha. He's 95 percent unowned. Sure, they don't hit for power, but one-category dominance is worthwhile in some pockets.

Eric Young Jr. has been a nifty addition for the Mets, on a 12-steal binge over the last month. He's free in three-quarters of Yahoo pools. And then there's Jordan Schafer, the new leadoff man in Atlanta. He has seven steals over six games and he gets on base at a .352 clip. That's a handy man at the top of the order, and yet he's unclaimed in 97 percent of our leagues.

Maybe the Schafer story is on hold for a little bit - he strained his lower back Monday, an unfortunate footnote to a three-steal afternoon. But if he checks out fine, this is certainly someone who can help you. Let's get the ownership tag where it belongs.

• Carlos Ruiz hasn't been on the fantasy radar for most of 2013, and that's entirely reasonable. He started the year on a suspension and didn't hit upon his return; at the break, he held a crummy .268/.321/.291 line with no homers. The supporting cast in Philly wasn't anything to write home about, either.

The story has turned over the last six weeks, without much fanfare. Ruiz is rocking a .300/.339/.500 slash for the second half, with nine doubles and five homers. That's the player we got used to in 2012, a Top 10 backstop. He's moving up in the order as well, batting fourth or fifth over the last week.

Bottom line, Chooch is ready for the stretch run and he seems a lot fresher than most catchers (to be expected, given how his year opened). He's still unclaimed in 75 percent of Yahoo pools. Point and click, gamers.

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