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Give Up on Adam Dunn, But Give These Three Players a Shot

Ubaldo Jimenez (Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

In sports, championships are won on the field and not on paper. If the names in the program were all that mattered then the St. Louis Rams would have won the 2001 Super Bowl, the New England Patriots would have shut Mercury Morris up with a 19-0 season and Vancouver might still be in one piece.

However, as much as Lebron James would prefer we skipped the games and just jumped to the awards ceremonies, we play the games because the games rarely unfold as expected.

Adam Dunn hit exactly 40 home runs each year from 2005 to 2008 and then slugged 38 more in both 2009 and 2010. He has just nine this year. Ichiro Suzuki has never batted less than .303 in any of his 10 seasons in America, but he was batting just .267 at the All-Star Break. Heck, the Pittsburgh Pirates, perennial losers who have spent more time in the cellar than a fine wine or a redneck lovechild, are challenging for the NL Central lead and a potential playoff birth.

Anything can happen, so just because these three players have been scuffling for the majority of 2011 doesn’t mean you should cast them aside and keep running Ryan Roberts (.257, 11 HR, 13 SB) and Kyle Lohse (8-6, 3.32 ERA) out there each and every week. It’s time to cut bait with the over-performers and get these guys before they’re unattainable.

Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, WAS

Most fantasy managers are afraid to cut ties with a big name player like Zimmerman out of fear of getting swindled. Given the state of third base this season (shallower than a kiddie pool) it’s unlikely that a player of Zimmerman’s caliber will be highly available in most leagues, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth casting out a line and seeing if the other manager nibbles.

Zimmerman is batting just .254 with four homers and 15 RBI in 34 games this year, but his 1.35 strikeout-to-walk ratio would be a new career best and his power (as represented by HR/FB rate) is only slightly below where we’d expect it to be. He’s batting .279 in July with an .812 OPS (career .835) and doesn’t look far off the Zimmerman of old.

Angel Pagan, OF, NYM

There’s a pretty good chance you can pick up Pagan for free as he’s owned in just 56 percent of Yahoo leagues, but even if someone already has him rostered it shouldn’t cost you too much to trade for him. Pagan finished 2010 as the 20th ranked outfielder, making him extremely valuable in even the shallowest of leagues, but a terrible start to 2011 has him buried in the rankings.

Thankfully, we began seeing the 2010 version of Pagan in June as the Mets outfielder batted .300 with one homer, 16 RBI, 16 runs scored and seven steals that month. Since he’s a speed-based player, his success comes when he’s not striking out while minimizing the amount of fly balls he hits. When Pagan batted .159 in April he was striking out 11.0 percent of the time while hitting 51.7 percent of his balls in the air. When he batted .300 in June he was striking out 8.6 percent of the time while hitting just 34.2 percent of his balls in the air. Get him before he gets to 20 steals and his perceived value increases as a result of hitting that benchmark.

Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, COL

Jimenez raced out of the gates in 2010 only to slow off considerably in the second half. This year the opposite has been true. After starting the season 0-5 with a 5.86 ERA through the season’s first two months, Jimenez has been a completely different pitcher. He hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in any of his last nine starts and has walked more than two batters just once over that same span. In his nine starts in April and May, Jimenez allowed more than three earned runs five times and walked more than two batters five times.

What’s been behind this stunning turnaround? Jimenez’s walk rate is way down and his ground ball-to-fly ball ratio is way up. Jimenez has always been a ground ball pitcher, and having Coors Field as a home ballpark makes this even more crucial.

FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is a nice indicator of how well a pitcher has actually been pitching because it normalizes for everything pitchers can’t control, basically removing luck from the ERA equation. This season Jimenez’s FIPs have decreased every month from 5.53 In April to 3.63 in May, 3.04 in June and 2.02 in July. Jimenez is back, but judging by his 5-8 record, 4.08 ERA and 1.31 WHIP, your opponent might not know it yet.

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