Fantasy Baseball waiver wire guide for MLB season's stretch run

Although full-season stats have plenty of value, so much has changed since play began more than five months ago. Many teams are working with revamped rosters, either due to injuries or because of trades that were primarily made in late July.

For fantasy managers who need to make intelligent streaming moves with hitters or pitchers in the final weeks, here are trends to note from the date following the Trade Deadline through to today.

Most effective lineups

Blue Jays (.839 OPS), Red Sox (.804 OPS), Rays (.803 OPS)

This certainly hasn’t a good time to be an AL East starter. The division boasts the three best stretch-run lineups, with Tampa Bay showing significant improvement after the summer additions of Wander Franco and Nelson Cruz. With many divisional games scheduled for the second half of September, AL East hurlers are unlikely to be enticing options. The best NL OPS since August 1 surprisingly belongs to the Rockies. Colorado may have fallen out of the postseason race, but it continues to reap the benefits of a hitter-friendly home park, where the team has posted a .908 OPS down the stretch.

Least effective lineups

Angels (.647 OPS), Pirates (.654 OPS), Padres (.665 OPS), Marlins (.670)

Without Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon, the Angels are easy fodder despite the incredible success of Shohei Ohtani. Along with the Rangers and Royals, the Angels are the best streaming target in the American League. Over in the Senior Circuit, the Pirates and Marlins have continued their season-long ineptitude. The D-backs also continue to be a good streaming target, ranking last in the NL in overall record and having posted a .693 OPS since August 1. The Padres are the surprising team on this list. Although pitching problems have been regularly discussed as the reason for San Diego’s fade, the offense has played a major role.

HOUSTON, TEXAS - SEPTEMBER 12: Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Angels bats in the first inning against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on September 12, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)
Even with Shohei Ohtani having an amazing season, the Angels offense has struggled to produce. (Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images)

Most effective pitching staffs

Dodgers (2.21 ERA), Giants (2.98 ERA), Brewers (3.44 ERA)

The addition of Max Scherzer has more than made up for the loss of Clayton Kershaw, enabling the Dodgers to hold a massive lead in stretch-run ERA. I have been avoiding Los Angeles with my hitters in most circumstances, using only true impact bats during those matchups. The Giants continue to limit the opposition and have lately been led by the summer emergence of Logan Webb. In the American League, the Astros and Blue Jays have the lowest ERA since August 1. But there is very little separation between those two clubs and several other AL pitching staffs.

Least effective pitching staffs

Orioles (7.25 ERA), Cubs (6.37 ERA), Nationals (5.65 ERA), Pirates (5.53 ERA), Rockies (5.16 ERA)

I included all staffs who have a post-August 1 ERA north of 5.00. The story on the Rockies continues to be to target them at home but not on the road. It is also notable that the National League has four of the weakest late-season staffs. Overall, the three best staffs and seven of the bottom-9 staffs are in the Senior Circuit. This means that the NL is mostly where you need to look when streaming hitters. However, no team is better to stream hitters against than Baltimore. When setting my September lineups, my first step is to look for free-agent bats who are about to start a series against Baltimore.

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Most stolen bases allowed

White Sox (30), Yankees (28), Nationals (27), Tigers (25)

Fantasy managers who need to accumulate September steals may wish to target players who are facing the four teams listed above. The White Sox are an especially appealing target, as they rank among the MLB leaders in steals allowed down the stretch and overall in 2021. The Dodgers have allowed the most swipes this season but have been more effective of late.

Fewest stolen bases allowed

Phillies (6), Royals (7), Cardinals (7)

A trio of veterans are keeping opposing base stealers in check, as J.T. Realmuto, Sal Perez and Yadier Molina regularly work behind the plate for the three clubs listed above. Unless you roster a truly elite speedster, you should hesitate on any plan to look for steals when facing these three teams. They all rank among the four best at limiting swipes overall this season and are joined by the Orioles on that list.