MLB Championship Series Preview | SYFFAL

October 15, 2010

As I’ve gotten busy with other endeavors, my baseball writing time has taken a hit. The Division series was a great way to usher in the 2010 MLB Playoffs though so here’s a piece I wrote today for http://www.shutyourfuckingfaceandlisten.com, where you can find many a musing from yours truly.

he division series have come and gone in momentous fashion. We said goodbye to Atlanta skipper Bobby (“Scourge of Flushing”) Cox, whose Bravos fell to the mastery of Tiny Tim, Brian Wilson and the S.F. Jints in 4. The Phils crushed the Red Leggings three straight with stupid starting pitching including Doc Halladay tossing only the 2nd no-hitter in post season history. In the A.L., Tampa fought back from a 2-0 deficit but fell to the left arm of the human adverb, Cliff Lee and his Rangers of Tejas in the first playoff series in baseball history where the road team won every game. Up in the Boogie Down, the Yanks once again dominated the Twins as expected, sweeping away Minnesota’s hopes “down the banks of the Mississippi River,” as Hold Steady frontman (and big Twins fan) Craig Finn would say.

Oh by the way, Finn loves the Twins so much, he recently penned an ode to his hardball idols: “Please Don’t Call Them Twinkies.” Peep the dissing of the Atlanta Tomahawk Chop at around 2:50. When the Braves play my boys in Flushing, we like to mock the chop while chanting “fuck the braves,” to the tune of their stupid cheer…

http://www.youtube.com/v/DAxVNQTqU1s?fs=1&hl=en_US

 

Now to review my picks from last week: Got both NL series correct. Picked the Yanks, but in 5 and I had Tampa in 5. Pretty close. My 5-star, triple crown locks for the League Championship round:
American League
These aren’t your father’s Texas Rangers. They aren’t just a bunch of gigantic juice heads (see Juan Gonzalez, Rafael Palmeiro, Jose Canseco and later A-Rod) golfing homers into the short porches of Arlington stadium. Ron Washington’s boys have the good shit and they’re running wild! The Jorge, Cervelli NY catching duo’s got their work cut out for them and Yankee pitchers will have to work extra hard to keep the deer antlers off base. Of course they still hit homers, with Vlad the Impaler, The Natural, Nellie Boomstick and the Jewish Guy, Kinsler all swinging for the seats. Of course the Yanks can run up the score with anyone and their bats were hot in the first round too. With Lee going in the deciding game against Tampa, the Yanks won’t see him until Game 3, so the pressure is on Texas starters C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis tomorrow and Saturday. If they’re not careful, they could be down 2-0 by the time Lee takes the mound. Yanks ace, C.C. Sabathia hasn’t pitched in 8 days and NY’s hoping he hasn’t been hitting the buffet too hard. Yanks starters Philly Hughes and Andy Pettite have their work cut out for them in Games 2 and 3, but Hughes has had success against the Rangers and Pettite hold runners better than anyone. This is going to be a tough series between two teams that are very evenly matched up and down the roster. I’ll say Yanks win in 7. Why? Mariano. ‘Nuff Said.
National League
It’s David versus Goliath, Sparta versus Persia, Vietnam versus America… you get the idea. As much as it pains me to say it, the Phillies are the most complete team in baseball right now. They have an American League style lineup that hits from 1-8 and they have the best 1-2-3 starting pitching punch in the game. The Giants bats have woken up some but they’re going to need a minor miracle to touch up the Halladay/Oswalt/Hamels three-headed monster. They have a pretty potent 1-2-3 starting pitching combo too and Lincecum/Cain/Sanchez are all going to have to be lights out in order to give their team a shot. While Doc Halladay was almost perfect, Timmy was just as dominating in his game one appearance, throwing a 2-hit, 14 K gem. In a baseball nerd’s wet dream, Saturday the two aces face each other in what may be the best playoff pitching duel in recent memory. If you watch only one game the rest of October, watch this one! These two guys will be enshrined in Cooperstown one day and you’ll be able to tell the kids about this game. Phils are too deep. They beat S.F. in 5.

MLB Championship Series Preview via SYFFAL.


REPEAT!

October 5, 2010

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The Cortizone Kids

September 22, 2010

It’s been a month to remember for Team Donkey Punch. Never thought you’d see that sentence in writing did you? After closing out the regular season with a scorching 30-3-3 record, I ultimately finished in 2nd place, 1/2 game out of the top spot. I actually held first going into the furious final day of play, that saw three teams in first, before the dust settled and The Thirsty Monster stood atop the standings for the second straight year.

With the additions of pitchers Yovanni Gallardo and Ryan Dempster via trade and young phenom Daniel Hudson and veterans Joe Blanton and Jake Westbrook off of waivers, the starting pitching that was a weakness earlier in the season became a strength down the stretch. I patched the speed-hole in my offense as well by adding Brett Gardner to the mix and seeing Chone Figgins come on in the second half. With a team more well-rounded than ever and a first-round playoff bye, Donkey Punch was ready to battle it out for another championship.

Then the injury bug struck.

On the first day of my semi-final match up with the commissioners team and 2007 champ, The Devil Wears Prado, I had Albert Pujols, Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner all receive cortizone shots to various aching body parts. Three days later, the Cardinals would shut down rookie sensation Jaime Garcia. Lead by a resurgent pitching staff and big weeks by Jason Werth, Angel Pagan and Derek Jeter, Donkey Punch overcame the odds to earn a trip to the finals to face The Thirsty Monster. Which is where we are today, currently leading 8-3 (no thanks to lousy performances by Cole Hamels and Trevor Cahill today) going into the second week of the championship series. With the offense clicking (I’m ahead in all offensive categories) and the rotation loaded with 15 starts for the final week, we might be sipping bubbly once in October once again.
Some notable moves: I finally let go of the Panda. Lets call him F.U. Panda, shall we? He’s been bad enough to land on the bench as the Giants battle it out with the Padres and Rockies in the final weeks. Panda get sent off to waivers in place of Marlins rookie Logan Morrison. Had I rostered Morrison instead of F.U. a month ago, I’d have probably finished in first. Now that I pick him up, he cools off, going 5 for 28 in the past week. At least he’s playing and not terrorizing Bay area buffet tables, unlike the disappointing Panda.

Mike Aviles on the other hand has done serious work the past week, with 7R/2HR/5RBI/2 SB and a .333 BA. Aviles replaced Emilio Bonnafacio who I rostered to give me a speed boost while Brett Gardner was out with his recent wrist injury. Aviles is a perfect example of playing the hot man in H2H as he’s hit 6 of his 8 homers in the month of September.

That’s all for now. I’ve got some writing to do for SYFFAL.com, a music/culture/variety blog that I write for now but I’ll be back next week either celebrating another championship season or licking my wounds after a monumental collapse.


Doctoring The Ball

August 23, 2010

I just wanted to give those readers out there in fantasy land (hi ma, get well soon!) a reminder that while I have been a bit too busy with my day (and often night) job to write much here lately, I am still following the games as closely as ever and keeping up my teams and I will most certainly keep TTO going when in the future. I just got one of them new-fangled smart phones, an HTC Incredible, so I’m fully mobile now. I spend a lot of my working days on location and away from WiFi interwebs, so mobile access to my fantasy teams will give me that much better a chance at glory as we head down the stretch. Currently the renamed “Donkey Punch!” (12 team h2h keeper league) sits in 4th place and is looking good for the playoffs, while the Harlem Hangovers seem to have been stuck in neutral and are mired in 7th, 29 points out of the top spot. Barring a miraculous come-back, it looks like it’s time to start looking forward to next year for the Uptown faithful…

So just a reminder, if you’ve got roster questions, comments, suggestions for future pieces you’d like to see or whatever else, do comment here on the site. You can also go to Advanced Fantasy Baseball to get the 411 from John, Paul and myself in one tidy package. We schmooze like Steve Somers on the overnight.


Doris From Rego Park

August 16, 2010

I hadn’t commented on Razzball in about a week or so, which actually feels like a long time to me since I started checking out the site on a daily basis back in March. Saying the site’s main voice, Grey Albright, is a great writer baseball writer is like saying Albert Pujols can hit. That he’s just about always connected to the site and giving specific fantasy feedback and advice – for free – is unprecedented in the fantasy baseball world. What makes the site special is in no small part the commenter however, whose comments usually number well into the triple digits for every post. The same names always appear day in and day out: Royce!, Wilsonian, ThePoonTycoon, Howie Met Your Mother, and many more offering wit, wisdom and obsessive comradery during the long and often grueling months of the fantasy baseball season.

Today I dropped a comment on the site, starting it by jokingly channeling Doris From Rego Park with a trade offer of Benny Agbayani and Masato Yoshi for Luis Gonzalez. It got a few laughs and this response from Grey, which I thought I’d share:

I wish I could have met Doris. When she died in 2003, I felt like I lost an aunt, whose raspy voice comforted me on many a sleepless summer night. Here’s to you Doris. Thankfully for your sake, you were spared the horrors of watching those two colossal Met collapses in ’07 and ’08.

Here’s a posthumous fan page on Facebook for Doris Bauer. Check it out and spread the love.


Film Review: “The Lost Son of Havana”

August 2, 2010

Born in 1975, I didn’t get to see Luis Tiant at the peak of his pitching prowess. In fact, my few memories of Tiant consisted of his unique, whirl-wind windup and his affable, cigar-chomping post-game interviews with the press after pitching for the Yankees. Only a few years removed from some incredible years pitching for successful Red Sox teams that seemed to come up just short year in and year out through the mid to late 70’s, my father would tell me how Tiant was a fierce competitor with impeccable control and a pure joy to watch on the field. In that era, some would say that if you had a must-win game, the man you’d pick to start it would be Luis Tiant.

As a mixed-race child of divorce, who grew up often feeling alone and displaced in the world, Tiant’s mystique as a Cuban exile captivated me. Even then, there was something about a man with no place that struck a chord with me. The pitcher I saw in his final years was but a shadow of his former self, but the numbers on the back of his baseball card didn’t lie. There was a time when Tiant was about as good as any pitcher in the game. In fact his 1.60 ERA in 1968 was the lowest in the American League since Walter Johnson’s 1.49 ERA in 1919, second in baseball that year behind Bob Gibson’s mark of 1.12, which still stands as the lowest in the modern era. Opposing batters hit .168 off of Tiant in ’68, a Major League record, as he notched 9.22 K/9 over 258 innings pitched. With his funky wind-up, his fu-manchu moustache and his ever present post-game cigar, he was a larger than life figure and his legacy of excellence inspired me to emulate his trademark delivery when I pitched out in the courtyard in front of our little garden apartment in Flushing. Even though he was on his last legs as a professional pitcher, he was one of my first baseball idols, a few years before a young flamethrower named Dwight Gooden would come along to sweep New York City off of its feet.

In 1961 Tiant was a young amateur, touring America as part of a traveling exhibition of Cuban players. Then the Bay of Pigs invasion occurred and Fidel Castro gave those players in the states an ultimatum: return home to play in Cuba or never return home again. Spurred by his father, Luis Tiant Sr., himself a fantastic pitcher in the American Negro League, who never had the opportunity to pitch off of a Major League mound before returning to a working class life in Cuba, young Luis stayed in America and carved out a name for himself as one of the era’s finest hurlers. In 2007, after 46 years spent in exile, Luis Tiant returned to his native Havana, followed by a film crew, lead by director Jonathan Hock. “The Lost Son of Havana” documents Tiant’s bitter-sweet return home.

Tiant’s journey back to Havana is a touching and poignant tale, which shows a side of El Tiante that we’ve never seen before – a man torn with regret, as he returns to find an aged and impoverished extended family that he felt in some ways he abandoned when he decided to stay in America. As much about Tiant’s family as it is about the pitcher himself, Hock does a great job skillfully weaving the stories of both Tiants, father and son, together. With a photo of his old man in tow, his only tangible connection to his past, he reminisces about his youth and talks with others of his generation who saw both him and his father play. We’ll never know, but many say that “Lefty” Tiant, the senior, with his confounding array of pitches was better than his son. Said by some to have invented the screwball, he once struck out the mighty Babe Ruth in an exhibition game and held him to lone single while facing him as a starter in both games of a doubleheader.

With Cubans living and breathing baseball, many in the streets of Havana knew of Tiant’s triumphs in the majors and welcomed him home like a conquering hero. A fun moment occurs when they visit a Havana park where men gather to talk baseball. When asked “who is the greatest Cuban pitcher of all time,” the mostly young crowd rattle off names familiar to current baseball fans, such as Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez and Jose Contrares, before one young man knowingly barks out, “Luis Tiant,” as the aged legend stands their behind them with a grin. As testament to Tiant’s tremendous success, Hock intercuts the film with a wealth of old footage from Tiant’s playing days, as well as interview clips from former teammates such as Carlton Fisk and Carl Yastrzemski. Along the way we hear of all the highs and lows of Tiant’s career, from his early days with the Indians, where he threw his hardest stuff, to his reinvention as a pitcher and the development of his tornado wind-up, after he suffered an injury plagued campaign in 1969. From his return to dominance in the 1970’s to his multiple comebacks in the early 80’s, Tiant comes across as a man who loved nothing more than to take the mound and pitch. Of course, we see his greatest on-field moments with the Red Sox, where Tiant became one of Boston’s most beloved athletes, averaging an astounding 280 innings pitched a season from 1973 through 1976 and ultimately leading them to a World Series appearance against the Big Red Machine in 1975. There Tiant put the team on his aching back, going the distance in complete game victories in Game 1 (a five-hit shutout) and Game 4 and received a no-decision in Game 6.

Perhaps the high point of the film comes as we look back at Game 1, before which Fidel Castro allowed Luis’ parents to go to America to watch their son pitch in the World Series. Before a frenzied Fenway Park crowd, Luis Sr. proudly took the hill to throw out the game’s ceremonial first pitch – a strike – that brought a thunderous ovation from the Boston fans. Denied the chance at his beloved sports ultimate glory because of the color of his skin, the father then got to watch the son pitch the game of his life on baseball’s biggest stage. Seeing that footage brought me to tears, as my father, a scouted high-school star, also once dreamed of pitching off that big league hill before his career was curtailed by injury. It’s times like those when the game transcends provincial, generational and cultural boundaries and becomes something greater than what we simply see on the field. It becomes more than just a pastime, but a link to our past itself, both personally and as a nation.

Hock’s crew takes us along with Tiant through his native city, who’s 1950’s architecture and automobiles seem so alien to him now. Sometimes shown in grainy images, as though frozen in time, the city of Havana itself comes alive for the audience as we are lead down its boulevards and alleyways, meeting people such as Juan Carlos Oliva, the brother of former Major League star, Tony Oliva. Juan Carlos was a talented ball-player himself but decided to stay in Cuba and served in Castro’s army as a tank commander before later becoming a baseball coach. Together he and Tiant talk of the many greats who never got a chance to prove their meddle and reap the rewards of glory and wealth in America. We also meet a childhood friend, named Fermin, who while taking a sentimental look at their youth, cannot help but convey his anger and envy at Tiant, whose career brought him riches beyond the wildest dreams of most Cubans. Of course we meet Luis’ extended family, living an impoverished life, far removed from that which Luis came to enjoy in The States. From the old aunts who last days draw near to the young ones who seem somewhat puzzled by all the commotion, it is a bittersweet scene as Luis feels the pain of having stayed away so long and finds out that many of the care packages he had sent home never made it to his family. Haunted by regret, we see Tiant give them necessities in short supply, such as needle and thread and toothpaste, before peeling off dollar bills.

As reviewer Michael Janusonis of the Providence Journal artfully pointed out, the film is indeed two tales. One is the story of Luis’ catching up with a family that he had lost touch with after all those years away. The other story is the tale of Tiant the pitcher and his triumphs in America, succeeding in ways that his father, denied the opportunities he was afforded, could not. The two stories are woven together masterfully and serve to make the film an engaging and rewarding viewing for fans and non-fans alike. Even my wife – who’s hardly a fan of the game and is truthfully sick of it, since it’s always on in our living room – enjoyed this film. If you are a fan of baseball, do yourself a favor and see this film immediately.


Welcome To Splitsville Part 2

July 16, 2010

Originally published on Advanced Fantasy Baseball. Stats current as of the All-Star break.

…Continued from Part One

Here’s the rest of my 2010 All-Splits team for players owned by 50% or fewer teams according to Yahoo.

Vs. Righties

C: John Jaso (6% owned) Although he’s cooled considerably since May, the 26 year old catcher came seemingly out of nowhere to perform admirably behind the plate for the Rays. Jaso has put together nice numbers against righties, going .295/.412/.397 in 177 PA, while struggling against lefties in limited action. Interestingly enough, Jaso’s MiLB Splits are pretty even throughout his five years on the farm. With enough plate appearances against big league lefties (since returning from injury, the struggling Kelly Shoppach has been getting a lot of appearances against southpaws), Jaso might be able to prove he’s deserving of a full-time gig.

1B: Lyle Overbay (4% owned) It seems like you could pencil Overbay into this list every year and still somehow he manages to hold down a full-time job in Toronto. The veteran first baseman has always done better against right-handers (.264/.353/.443 in 269 PA so far in 2010) while doing little against lefties, but that split is even more dramatic this season as he’s stunk it up to a tune of .192/.232/.308 so far. With first base so rich in talent, there’s no reason to have to roster Overbay outside of the deepest of leagues. If you do however (maybe you own Kendry Morales and Todd Helton, both shelved with injuries), you’d do well to sit him against lefties or platoon him with a guy like Daric Barton or Adam Rosales.

2B: Omar Infante (9% owned) The man who may forever be known (through no fault of his own) as the worst All-Star selection ever is the only 2010 All-Star to also make my All-Splits team. The jack-of-all-trades has been consistently mediocre from both sides of the plate through out his nine years of mostly part-time, MLB play. This season however, the right-handed Infante has shown infinite prowess if not power against righty hurlers, posting a .364/.384/.447 in 138 PA in while disappearing against lefties in limited time (.262/.303/.311 in 67 PA). If he receives regular playing time, I would expect that gap to close quite a bit before season’s end.

SS: Wilson Valdez (3% owned) Wait, what? Yeah I put Valdez on this list, what of it? That’s how shallow SS is and the 32 year old journeyman plays in a hitter’s paradise. While starting in place of the injured Jimmy Rollins at short and now Chase Utley over at second, Valdez has proved useful against righties (.283/.300/.449 with all 4 of his HR in 133 PA), while doing next to nothing against southpaws. Outside of a hot streak, I don’t think he’s rosterable in 12 team mixed, but I did have him for a cup of coffee on my 15 team mixed league a few weeks ago.

3B: Chase Headley (45% owned) The Padres every day third baseman started off like a ball of fire in April, only to come back down to earth with a thud in May and June. He’s been picking it up again lately however, and remains solid against right-handed pitching going .306/.351/.427 with 5 of his 6 homers in 251 PA. His weakness against left-handers remains glaring however, as he’s been shut down to the tune of .197/.258/.248 in 129 PA. His sneaky speed makes you want to pencil him in every day in case he swipes a bag, but his ineptitude while facing lefties removes that option unless you like zeros. Cavernous Petco Park saps his power and that weak Padre lineup does him no favors either, so unless you’ve got another 3B eligible guy to platoon him with, I’d stay away from Headley in all but deep leagues.

OF: Hideki Matsui (37% owned) Godzilla is a shell of the player he was a few years ago with the Yankees and he’s been absolutely dreadful against lefties this year – .188/.224/.366 in 107 PA. Against righties however, Matsui can still hit and he’s put up a useful .281/.381/.408 line in 231 PA. Consider him rosterable in deeper leagues, when platooned with an outfielder who can rake lefties like Matt Diaz, Jeff Francoeur or Cody Ross.

OF: J.D. Drew (44% owned) The captain of my all-splits team, J.D. Drew is the epitome of a platoon player – when healthy, of course. Drew demolishes right-handers with a .315/.400/.586 line, along with 9 of his 10 home runs in 210 PA. Conversely, he’s atrocious against lefties, going .185/.265/.235 in 91 PA. If you’ve got Drew on your team, platoon him or else!

OF: David DeJesus (50% owned) The Royals outfielder is quietly having a very nice year all around – 45 R/5 HR/ 36 RBI .326/.395/.460 and his career splits aren’t that far apart, however this season he’s really shined against right-handers, going .344/.403/.478 in 275 PA. I’ve currently got him in my 12 team mixed league and I sit him against lefties in favor of Dexter Fowler, since his .272/.372/.407 line with little pop or speed in 95 PA doesn’t offer much in that format. DeJesus has been mentioned in trade talks with the Red Sox, where I see him in a platoon with Mike Cameron, once Jacoby Ellsbury gets back, which would certainly help his counting numbers against righties.

UTL: Angel Pagan (50% owned) Currently the Mets leader in batting average (.315), Pagan will get the bulk of the playing time in a platoon with Jeff Francoeur, once Carlos Beltran gets back. His speed makes him playable every day right now, but if you can afford to, it’s best to platoon him to take advantage of his splits. Against lefties Pagan has been pretty underwhelming with a .273/.309/.386 line in 96 PA. Facing righties though, Angel has been heavenly, belting out it out at a .335/.398/.512 clip. Platooned with a lefty killer and you’re looking at steady production in the second half.

I’m ending my list here, but there are lots of other players around, who if platooned properly can provide your fantasy team with a nice lift. Who do you think are some other players who could have made the Splitsville All-Stars?

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Welcome To Splitsville Part 1

July 13, 2010

Reprinted from an article that I originally wrote for Advanced Fantasy Baseball

It’s common knowledge in baseball today that hitters generally find it easier to bat against pitchers of the opposite hand. It’s easier for the hitter to pick up the pitch as it leaves the pitchers hand and most breaking balls will break into the center of a hitter’s field of vision, rather than away from it. When a team’s roster allows, managers regularly deploy platoons to gain the upper hand on the day’s opposing starter.

Ever since Bob “Death To Flying Things” Ferguson (how’s that for a great nickname?) first took to hitting from both sides of the plate, back in the formative days of our pastime, players and managers alike have understood the advantage that a hitter has when facing a pitcher of the opposite hand – even if teams were not actively platooning players to get the most out of this advantage until years later. According to Bill James’ essay, “A History Of Platooning,” featured in “The Complete Armchair Book of Baseball” the first manager known to utilize the lefty/righty platoon was Detroit Tigers manager, Bill Armour, who juggled catchers to take advantage of their handedness in his final year in The Bigs, 1906. As roster size expanded and the dead-ball era waned, managers such as John McGraw and later Casey Stengel would popularize the strategy and make it common practice in modern baseball.

In deeper fantasy baseball leagues, owners often roster players whose splits are extremely weighted to one side or another. With awareness of these splits, astute owners can make daily lineup decisions (if league rules allow of course) just as real managers do to get the most out of their players strength and minimizing their weakness.

In keeping with this week’s All-Star theme, I present to you my position player picks for the 2010 all-left/right-splits team, based on a pool of players who are generally rostered on approximately 50% or fewer teams according to Yahoo. So without further ado, or a profanity-laced Ichiro speech, here are some guys to consider platooning when the opportunity arises.

Note: In a one catcher league, I would not recommend rostering two catchers unless one is also playing another position and his currently catcher eligible.

Part One: Vs. Lefties

C: Ivan Rodriguez (20% owned) The man who’s caught the most baseball games in history has shown slightly more aptitude hitting left-handers over his career. In 2010 however, his splits are quite notable in an admittedly small sample size. Against lefties, Pudge has raked to the tune of a .383/.413/.500 line in 63 PA, while posting a pedestrian .263/.291/.346 triple slash against righties in 166 PA.

1B: Gaby Sanchez (34% owned) In his first year as a starter in Florida, the 27 year old first baseman is showing surprising hitting prowess against both lefties and righties. His .285/.347/.434 line against right-handers is nothing to sneeze at for a guy who you probably took a late-round flyer on or possibly even picked up off of waivers. Against lefties however, Sanchez has raked up a gaudy .350/.416/.563 line in 89 PA. He’s good enough to start every day in my league, but against lefties he’s been money.

2B: Clint Barnes (47% owned) With a .289/.337/.496 career line against lefties versus .247/.290/.384 against righties, The Rockies middle infielder has always displayed lefty-heavy splits. Seeing more playing time since Troy Tulowitzki has been on the shelf, Barnes has used the opportunity to display even more extreme splits this year. Against lefties Barnes has gone .304/.371/.430 in 89 PA while posting a pedestrian .238/.301/.386 against right-handers.

SS: Orlando Cabrera (45% owned) We may not find more extreme splits than those of the the Cincinnati Reds shortstop. Cabrera has been stellar against lefties – .344/.394/.427 in 105 PA and absolutely awful against righties – .207/.241/.291 in 272 PA. I wouldn’t roster him with your team, but you have him in a very deep league, I’d pair him up with another SS capable of hitting righties well, such as Mike Aviles or Omar Infante – both of whom hit right handed but do their best work against hurlers coming from the same side.

3B: David Freese (20% owned) In his first full year in the majors, Mr. Freese was offering the Cardinals and fantasy owners alike surprisingly solid offensive numbers through the first three months of the season, before hitting the DL on June 28, with a deep ankle bruise. He’s hit lefties at a .357/.416/.457 clip in 78 PA, while posting a respectable .271/.339/.382 against righties. You’re likely to want more out of your hot corner, but paired with Chase Headley (who can only seem to hit right-handers), you have a potent 3B duo that can do damage.

OF: Cody Ross (41% owned) With an honorable mention to Rajai Davis – who’s 27 steals makes him pretty much an every day player on most rosters even with his struggles against righties. Ross makes for a good platoon candidate, going .303/.354/.513 with three of his seven homers coming in 82 PA against southpaws. His power numbers are markedly improved facing lefties, as he’s hit 40 career jacks against lefties and only 39 against righties in more than twice as many plate appearances.

OF: Dexter Fowler (13% owned) Since coming back to the big club from AAA, the Rockies outfielder has been a huge spark for the resurgent Rox. With only 773 PA in the majors since debuting with a cup of coffee in 2007, we’ll use his entire MLB resume here to find that Fowler’s noticeably more effective against lefties with a .314/.388/.462 line versus the paltry .221/.338/.354 he’s posted against righties. At 24, Fowler’s still young though and his recent success leads me to believe he’ll close that gap enough to give him full-time playability in 12 team mixed leagues.

OF: Lastings Milledge (3% owned) Once thought to be a “can’t miss” prospect, Milledge has just about disappeared off of the fantasy radar the past couple of years. In 2010 however, Milledge makes an appearance on my all splitsville team. While righties are still giving Lastings a hard time (.255/.297/.327 in 177 PA) the 25 year old has found his stroke against the southpaws going .318/.431/.518 in 102 PA. Notably, he’s hit all three of his homers against lefties and perhaps even more telling he has a 17/11 BB/K ratio, a lot better than the lousy 8/36 BB/K split that he’s posted against righties.

UTL: Jeff Francoeur (27% owned) Free swinging Frenchy has always hit lefties much better (.302/.345/.484 in 924 career PA versus an anemic .256/.297/.406 in 2341 PA against righties). With Carlos Beltran returning to Flushing to roam centerfield, it seems that the sizzling hot Angel Pagan will slide over to right and form a potent platoon with Francoeur. With the switch-hitting Pagan wielding a better bat from the left side of the plate, Francoeur will be relegated to taking his cuts against lefties, who he’s pounded this season (.348/.403/.449 in 77 PA). In deeper leagues where he might rostered, this could be used to a fantasy owners’ advantage by pairing him with a righty killers like Pagan or David DeJesus.

No this isn’t an NL only team, that’s just how it worked out. I assure you that when we see who’s carrying the righty heavy splits, you’ll see some A.L. players. Tomorrow, I’ll flip around and swing from the other side in Part Two…


What’s Killing Pablo?

July 7, 2010

Is it lefty pitching or his not being able to find a Fatburger on the road? You be the judge. After posting a monster 2009, Pablo Sandoval has been a huge disappointment to both the San Francisco Giants and fantasy owners alike in 2010. Keeping him for the cost of 12th round pick, I thought I was getting a steal, only to find that Panda’s kung-fu has looked awfully weak so far. So what on earth is happening that can make even the Giants faithful turn on S.F.’s favorite cartoon-character?

Base-running blunders aside, simply put, since a productive April, Panda has been awful at the plate.

I suppose we have to begin any discussion of Sandoval’s hitting woes with a look at his BABIP, since his biggest asset is his ability to make contact. In ’09, his first full season in the bigs,¬† Sandoval’s gaudy .350 average on balls in play lead to a .330 batting average, good for second in the league behind Hanley Ramirez. As of today, he’s currently mired with a .266 batting average, due to a BABIP that has fallen to .287. Meanwhile, Sandoval has actually seen an uptick in his contact rate (from 82.6% to 83.2% from ’09 to ’10) and a decrease in swinging strikes (currently 8.9% compared to 9.8% in ’09).

Panda is hitting the ball, he’s just not hitting it well.

Digging a little deeper, we find that Sandoval’s LD% has fallen from 18.6% in ’09 to his current 15.9%. Along with the decrease in liners, we’ve seen an increase in grounders, up to 46.2% now versus 44.9% last season, to go along with a marked increase in infield pop-ups: 10.5% now against only 7.9% in the previous campaign. His fly-ball rate has increased from 36.5% to 37.9%, but that hasn’t helped him get the ball out of the yard, as his HR/FB rate is down dramatically from 14% in ’09 to a paltry 5.7% today. Indicative of that loss of power, his ISO has gone done nearly .100 points, from .226 to a surprisingly anemic .127. For some perspective, that nestles him right between Howie Kendrick and Cliff Pennington in league-wide isolated power ranking. While I didn’t believe Sandoval would reach 25 jacks, like he did last year, I figured he’d blast about 20. Going into play today, Sandoval’s only hit 6 HR and none since June 15th.

The Panda has seen some pretty extreme splits so far this season and a lot has been made of Sandoval’s struggles against left-handed pitching. Batting from the right side, the switch hitter has gone 17-91 with 6 BB, 15 K and no HR, equaling a putrid .205/.253/.277 line. Those numbers are in stark contrast to the .379/.428/.600 marks he set last year, when he ate lefties like bamboo shoots. Against righties, he’s been more effective, going .288/.346/.433. He’s even brought down his K rate against righties by over 4%, from 15.9% in ’09 to his current 11.6% mark. Across the board those BB and K rates haven’t changed very much, in fact he’s actually cut down his K’s (8.2%BB/14.5%K last year compared to 7.8%/13.3% now), surprising when you consider his lack of production. Another interesting split are his home and road numbers. In the city by the bay, the Panda’s hitting .316/.374/.865. On the road however, Sandoval’s been a no-show, going .217/.271/.298.

So what’s my prognosis on the Panda? Well ZiPS says he’ll put together a 9 HR/41 R/48 RBI/.306/.356 line from here on out. I’d be as happy as Pablo at an all-you-can-eat buffet to see that and due to his past success against left-handed pitching, I believe he can exceed those marks. I would wager that those road numbers have to pick up well as the season wears on. He’s still young (he turns 24 next month) and I believe the best is still ahead for the talented hitter. If the Giants add a bat, which they have been discussing, that might give him a little bump as well.

I recently offered up Panda and a choice of Jaime Garcia, Kris Medlen or Jason Hammel to an opponent in my keeper league in exchange for either Tim Lincecum, Felix Hernandez or Jered Weaver (good move or bad?). I didn’t even get a response – this from a guy who was supposedly interested in the hefty third infielder, with Kevin Kouzmanoff holding down his CI slot. Obviously, I’m not looking to give Sandoval away, but in need of pitching help, I’d move him for the right price.

In the end though, the best trade may be the one not made, since I can see Pablo killing the ball in the second half and going a long way towards helping my playoff push. I have few high average hitters on my keeper squad and his ability to hit for average is something that I’ve been banking on all year. If I didn’t have him and needed CI help, I’d throw some offers out to his frustrated owner and see if he’s done his homework. All signs point to improvement, but that’s hard to believe when a player has looked so lost at the plate for two-plus months.

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Bloops and Bleeders: Midsummer Night Dreams

July 7, 2010

This week, we find the newly renamed “Don’t Fuck DeJesus,” ascending in the standings, thanks to big contributions from Adam Wainwright and a piece-meal pitching staff that features Jason Hammel, Trevor Cahill, Kris Medlen and Jaime Garcia. Along with the resurgent play of Rockies speedster Dexter Fowler and the continuing surprise that is Brew Crew Basher, Corey Hart, my team finally seems to be kicking into gear and rising in the ranks. This week my boys face-off against the “My Boomstick,” the team to which I traded Nelson Cruz, Aaron Hill and Matt Wieters, in exchange for Jayson Werth and Buster Posey some three weeks ago. Since the trade my team has gone 23-10-3, while my trading partner has flailed with a 11-23-2 record, dropping below me in the standings by a game. It’s not as though Werth or Posey have been gangbusters. Both have been contributing, but neither have gone nuts while on my team. The move did allow me the space to reacquire Fowler last week, who I drafted, only to drop him due to his poor play this spring. Now Fowler is doing what I thought he could (4 triple in this past weekend’s series versus The Giants?! Hey Dex, stop at first and get me some steals!) and I seem to have the lead-off/stolen base threat that my team so needed. The players I traded have struggled, as the three have done little for “My Boomstick,” aside from the recent improvement from Weiters – who would have been on my bench anyway, with Carlos “Smooth” Santana swinging serious stick for me behind the plate. I have little doubt that Cruz will get hot again, but I’d rather have a healthy Werth any day.

So it seems like a case of addition by subtraction has pushed my team up the standings, while this weeks opponent juggles playing time between a bunch of mediocre players who bare the “potential” label like a scarlet letter. I’m actually a little bit sorry to see the guys I moved doing so poorly, since it’ll make any further trades with my opponent more difficult in the future. Don’t worry, I won’t lose any sleep over the deal though.

I’ve been working putting more effort into actually generating an income, instead of focusing so much on baseball lately, but I’m still following the game as closely as ever. So while I’ve been working, what’s been happening in baseball land?

*NOTE* I’m not going to get caught up in All-Star Game shennanigans¬† – like how Omar Infante gets picked for the team and Joey Votto doesn’t – as it’ll get me ranting and raving about how much I hate the idea that the Midsummer Classic should decide home-field advantage in the World Series.

The Cliff Lee sweepstakes seem to be in full gear, with the Twins reportedly offering prospects Aaron Hicks and Wilson Ramos for what might amount to a three month rental of the former Cy Young award winner. Today, Peter Gammons reported that the Rays have tossed their hat into the ring and that a three-team deal might be in the works, which would ship disappointing all-hustle-team captain, B.J. Upton off and net the A.L. East contenders the stud pitcher. The Mets, Yanks, Phils and Reds have also been said to have been talking with the Mariners about acquiring the 31-year old lefty. Stay tuned, since where ever Lee goes, his fantasy value is expected to rise – at least as far as W’s go.

Another player possibly on the move is Hart, who sounds like he may be headed to San Francisco. The Brewers need major league ready starting pitching and the Giants have plenty of that. If the Brewers are to resign Prince Fielder, it looks unlikely that they’ll want to shell out the kind of money Hart is likely to earn through arbitration. Hart is making $4.8 million this season and that number is likely to go up in light of the monster year that he is enjoying. As a Hart owner, I’m not particularly excited about the idea of the outfielder calling pitcher-friendly, AT&T Park his new home. I do however also own Kung-Fu Panda and Posey, so their value would increase should the Brewers slugger be inserted into that weak Giants lineup.

The aforementioned Dexter Fowler has put up video game numbers since his return from AAA gulag on June 29th. After going 0-8 with 2 BB and 4 K against San Diego, in his first two games after his recall, Fowler went crazy against The Giants this weekend. Over the four game set, Fowler collected a 10-16 line with 7 BB, 4 K, along with 7 runs scored, 3 RBI and 2 SB. I was very high on the 24 year old outfielder coming into this season and drafted Fowler in the 16th round back in March as a low-cost speed source, but dumped him in May when his poor play lead him to the bench and ultimately back to the minors. A resurgent Fowler is just what the Rockies Рas well as my fantasy team  Рcould use at the top of the lineup.
The Cleveland Indians and fantasy owners alike took a big blow, when the dynamic Shin-Soo Choo hit the DL on Sunday, after spraining his thumb while attempting a diving grab in Oakland on Friday night. MRI results showed that Choo’s thumb was more damaged than originally thought and that the team leader in batting average (.286), homers (13), RBI (43) and OBP (.390) may need surgery. Word now is that Choo will be out until September. This conspiratorially-minded writer wonders if Choo’s injury is a just a ploy to avoid having to fulfill his duties in the South Korean military – sort of like when that black dude in “Platoon,” stabbed himself in the leg to get his ass out of Vietnam. Ok, not really. I just thought that would be funny sub-plot to what looks like a rather sad end to Choo’s season. Young speed merchant, Michael Brantley was recalled and is starting RF in place of Choo, while leading off for the Tribe.

Jake Peavy left the game in the 2nd inning of tonights match-up between the ChiSox and the Halo’s. After delivering a pitch to Mike Napoli, Peavy appeared to be in pain as he shoot his right arm. Peavy headed for the dugout before manager Ozzie Guillen even had a chance to reach the mound and check on him. Doesn’t look good for Peavy – or my opponent this week, who owns him.

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