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Steve Schwarz - MLB Fantasy Analysis
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - I have a friend who's first rule of thumb when it comes to his pitching staff is - the pitcher must be a strikeout-per-inning guy. Or at least really, really close.

Starter, bullpen, it doesn't matter.

Hey Rob, as we head into this Fourth of July holiday weekend, there are 20 starting pitchers performing at a 9.0 strikeouts-per-nine innings level.

At the top of the list is left-hander Chris Sale, who is averaging 12.3 strikeouts-per nine innings. That puts him just ahead of Clayton Kershaw and any time you are better than Kershaw in something you are doing pretty good.

He's the same guy who missed much of spring training with an avulsion fracture in his foot and began the season on the disabled list.

Sale has a mediocre 6-4 record, but that's for the less-than-mediocre 34-42 Chicago White Sox.

However, it's the numbers behind the record that excites fans and fantasy owners.

Despite missing two starts in April, Sale leads the majors in strikeouts at 141. (OK, he's actually tied for the lead with Cleveland's Corey Kluber, but Kluber has made 17 starts to Sale's 15 starts). Sale has struck out 10 batters or more in eight straight games tying Pedro Martinez's mark.

In 14 of his 18 outings, he's yielded two earned runs or less. He owns a 2.87 ERA and a 0.968 WHIP. And he should be the AL starting pitcher in the All-Star game.

If Sale doesn't get the nod, it could be because another 26-year-old, Chris Archer has put up numbers that rival Sale's resume. Maybe better.

Archer has a 9-5 record for the Tampa Bay Rays with a 2.31 ERA and 0.954 WHIP. He's striking out 11.0 batters per nine. The extra wins and lower ERA and WHIP have Archer ranked higher in the fantasy world (No. 10 vs. No. 27).

Of course, both men are likely owned in every league on the planet ... except NL-only leagues.

The NL version of Sale and Archer are Kershaw and Max Scherzer. We all know Kershaw's resume and even while being a disappointing 5-6 this season, he's still striking out 11.8 per nine innings with a 3.20 ERA and 1.037 WHIP.

And then there is Scherzer.

Scherzer in a machine, a robot, a cyborg. He's been unbelievable this season going 9-6 with unearthly statistics. He owns a 1.82 ERA, 0.775 WHIP and 10.5 strikeouts every nine innings. Just recently he backed up a one-hitter with a no-hitter.

For those of you who will say his record is mediocre with six losses already, know that in five of the losses his team produced one run or less.

If you own any of these four hurlers, you shouldn't trade them. Period. Sorry, not for Sale (pun intended)!

On the other hand, looking at the Yahoo numbers, I see that another Indians' pitcher,Danny Salazar, is available in 15 percent of all league. That shouldn't be.

Salazar is a solid 7-3 with a 3.80 ERA, 1.160 WHIP and 101 strikeouts in 85 1/3 IP. If he was available in my friend's league, I guarantee you he'd be scooping him up as we speak. And he always "finishes in the money."

Have a great holiday everyone!
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