One of the biggest problems in terms of trying to improve your fantasy team is the "apples to oranges" comparison that you have to make when deciding what value to place on a hitter versus that of a pitcher.
In points leagues, it's crucial to be able to find some way of collating these two groups of players since your team's overall performance each week does not segregate your results into hitters and pitchers the same way that rotisserie or other category-based leagues do.
However, the process is far more complicated than simply seeing which of the two players you are considering has scored more points this season thus far and using that as some sort of bellwether for making your decision.
The best pitchers typically average around 17 points per start, with well more than 20 points when they win. The best hitters will earn you around 3.5 points per game. However, if they play six games in a week, that means you can expect 21 points for the top hitters. But of course, the waiver wire is not likely to be filled with any of the top-tier options.
The best course of action, I have found, to try and determine the best available option for your squad is to look not at the pitchers' point totals, but their expected points per start (XPS) given how they've fared so far this season. If we were to take all the starting pitchers with between 50 and 80 innings pitched and look at their PPS, we'd certainly get a better idea at which players to snare off the wire:
Obviously, Roy Halladay is only in this group of names because of his time on the disabled list this season, but having him there does give you an idea of exactly how good some underrated names like Jose Quintana and Travis Wood, his two nearest neighbors, have been this season in terms of points league performance.
When we do the same for hitters who have had between 150 and 225 at-bats in 2012, a group which generally consists of either part-time platoon-type players or those who have missed significant time at some point during the season due to injuries (a la Matt Kemp), we get the following list:
If you assume that these players will end up seeing action four times a week, we get the XPW column listed above, which is what we will then use to compare these hitters to the pitchers' list above in order to find some sort of artificial common ground for comparison.
Naturally, some of these players may play all seven days in a given week, just as a pitcher might well get a second start added to his "to-do list" depending on how his team's rotation maps out for a particular scoring period. You should always use your judgment and adjust accordingly when setting your lineups.
TOP 100 OVERALL PLAYERS
Note: AJ Mass' top 100 overall players are ranked based on statistics that have already been accrued in ESPN standard points formats and should be used as a supplement to the ESPN Player Rater.
But when it comes to deciding which player to have on your roster in the first place? This is the quickest and most efficient way to cut through the statistical noise to assist in getting your proverbial fruit basket in order.
Buster Posey, C, San Francisco Giants: How hot can somebody get? With at least three hits in four of his past nine games, the Giants catcher has raised his batting average from .289 at the break all the way up to .312 in just one scoring period. A .486 stretch with 13 RBIs makes Posey far and away the best backstop in points leagues right now.
Alex Gordon, OF, Kansas City Royals: Another hot hitter, Gordon is batting .422 since the midseason festivities, with all of his action coming in Kansas City, where the outfielder has hit .314 overall this season. While there are some lingering rumors of him being moved at the trade deadline, so as long as he doesn't get dealt, his value should continue to climb.
Max Scherzer, P, Detroit Tigers: In his past seven starts, Scherzer is 4-1 with two no-decisions. In his wins, he averaged 26.25 points, but what is more impressive is that in his other three starts he had 20 total points, avoiding any negative value in any of those games. Even though his ERA is a gaudy 4.61 on the season, in points leagues, Max has left his owners anything but mad.
Jhonny Peralta, SS, Detroit Tigers: Detroit is hot at the bat as well as on the mound. An OBP of .400 in his past 10 games and a batting average surge of 18 points since July 7 have made Peralta the highest-scoring shortstop over the past 15 days, a good 11 fantasy points ahead on Rafael Furcal in second at the position.
Cody Ross, OF, Boston Red Sox: More than just the .313 batting average, three home runs and 10 RBIs, the biggest reason to have confidence in Ross going forward is that since the return of both Jacoby Ellsbury and Carl Crawford, he has been in the lineup either in right field or at DH in all but one game. With the fear of reduced playing time not being an issue, Ross' star continues to rise.
Joe Blanton, P, Philadelphia Phillies: Quality starts in four of his past five and a K/BB rate of 6.8 have helped Blanton's stock immensely. In fact, he's now had at least six strikeouts in nine consecutive appearances. His team may be 6-14 in its past 20 games and 14 games under .500 since the start of June, but that only makes the fact Blanton is 4-2 since June 8 all the more impressive.
Jon Lester, P, Boston Red Sox: In his past three starts, Lester has gone 0-3 and cost your fantasy team 43 points in the process. To put that in perspective, if you had Jason Kubel over that period of time, you pretty much would have ended up back at zero. In his seven starts prior to this rough patch, Lester was 2-1 with a 3.83 ERA, so we hold out hope for a rebound, but you have to be concerned.
A.J. Pierzynski, C, Chicago White Sox: He has just one extra-base hit and one RBI since July 7, and none of either since the first game back from the All-Star hiatus. Like many players, his power can come in bunches, as evident by the four homers in five games prior to this recent dry spell, but for Pierzynski, the pop tends to vanish almost as quickly as it comes.
Tommy Hanson, P, Atlanta Braves: Pitch burning is going on in Atlanta. In Hanson's past seven starts, he's been throwing an average of 16.9 pitches per inning, which is part of the reason his ERA is 6.30 over that time. Too many walks and deep counts, and a pitcher is bound to get into trouble, which is exactly what has befallen Hansen, who is consistently finding it difficult to even finish the sixth inning of starts.
Lucas Duda, OF, New York Mets: He's hitting just .140 in July, with 16 strikeouts in just 43 at-bats, and it's hard to justify even having him on a fantasy roster right now. Many owners seem to agree as his ownership rate has fallen 13.8 percent down to 44.9 percent overall over the past week. With a .225 batting average against lefties this season, playing time is likely to be sparse going forward.
Logan Morrison, 1B/OF, Miami Marlins: Has it come down to this? A platoon with Austin Kearns? As the Marlins' fortunes have plummeted in a recent 3-9 streak, so too have LoMo's. He's hitting just .200 with only one extra-base hit to his name in that run, and in the three games he sat out, the Marlins won twice. Food for thought.
Bobby Parnell, P, New York Mets: With Frank Francisco looking to start a rehab assignment this week, Parnell's days as the Mets' closer are already numbered. That's even more the case after his past four outings, which included two blown saves and a 5.79 ERA. He was cut in 16.3 percent of leagues over the past scoring period, and we expect that number to grow with each lousy outing going forward.