Shooting Blanks

April 25, 2010

Not a good week for the Uptown Ham Fighters. With Albert, San Quentin and The Captain struggling this week and Hill coming back from injury with a 1 for 12, production fell off across the board. Add in some lousy starts by Gavin Floyd, Mark Buerhle and Cole Hamels, who’s looking more like ’09 than ’08 and I’m looking at a 10-1 drubbing at the hands of “My Boomstick.” Changes are in order…

If only there were lemon-laws in fantasy baseball. I take a flyer on what I think is a cream-puff of a ballplayer and within two weeks, the wheels have fallen off and he’s sitting on cinder blocks on my front lawn. Happens all the time I suppose. Most rookies are hard to figure.

Kyle Blanks has been living up to his name at the plate, putting up zeros in the box scores on just about a nightly basis. While his San Diego Padre teammates have jumped off to a surprisingly hot start (admittedly on the strength of pitching and defense), the power hitting behemoth has been firing blanks. With an abysmal 62.7% contact rate and 11.7/39.2 BB/K in 60PA, going into today’s game, Blank Man has done nothing for his fantasy owners aside from his 3/6 1HR 5RBI day in the Pod Peeps’ 17-2 beating of The Bravos on April 12th. While I think he could very well deliver some serious power, Blanks just does not look like he has a major league batter’s eye quite yet. Perhaps a year or so of struggles may be in front of the young bopper, before he develops into a viable middle-order slugger.

With a good deal of power production already in my lineup and a need for some speed, I think Blanks is getting the heave-ho, in spite of his 1-4 2RBI effort today’s 5-4 loss to Cincy. Two homers every three weeks are not going to cut it for a hitter who’s going to be such a BA drain, especially since I’m already rostering three true outcomes champs, Nick Swisher and Carlos Quentin. I know that he’s not going to be confused with Tony Gwynn (the elder), but Will Venable‘s power/speed mix is intriguing. Hopefully he’ll perform a little better than the fellow whose place in the order he’s taken.

Sorry kid. I may regret cutting Blanks one day, but I have games to win now. H2H fantasy baseball is a cruel mistress.

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Blowing Smoak?

April 23, 2010

This was supposed to be Chris Davis‘ break-out year. The experts touted him, tantalized by the thought of his monstrous power, nestled in that potent Rangers lineup. So many fantasy owners followed suit in spite of a lifetime .302 OBP and 6.1%/34.6% BB/K rate. Sorry guys but I have to share a little schadenfreude, since now I know I’m not the only miserable fantasy owner in my leagues this week. I guess it was inevitable. If you carry a line of .200/.265/.311, you’re not going to stick around in the majors too long. And that’s with a .300 BABIP no less! The Texas Rangers waited and waited for Chris Davis to develop into a solid hitter. After another 0 for day, The Rangers decided they couldn’t wait anymore.

Enter: *POOF* Justin Smoak! (How’s he do that?!)

Ranked the #13 prospect by Baseball America, the switch-hitting first baseman has been absolutely pwning the PCL with a line of 326/.500/.587 and a gaudy 16/6 BB/K ratio. That said, I’ve been hearing comparisons between Smoak and former Ranger, Mark Texiera for a couple of years now and frankly, I’m not buying it. The power numbers just aren’t there to make such lofty projections. While he may not have a ton of pop (10 HR in 464 2009 AA & AAA PA) Smoak does possess the sort of advanced plate discipline that should keep him out of severe slumps and keep him in the Texas lineup for a long time to come. Since Arlington is a homer haven, Smoak’s power should get a little boost playing at home.

Rotoworld dropped the story at 11:15 PM apparently. I heard the news, while on Razzball, about an hour later. In the Big Ballers League, he was gone by 12:03 AM. Gotta move quick to catch Smoak!

I don’t think I’m going to make a claim on him in my Keeper League, as my corners are deep and I have Carlos Santana waiting for his call up. Smoak looks like an excellent pickup in that format however, as I suspect he will develop his power and turn into a solid hitter and on base machine. I really do want to take him though, just to stick it to Davis’ owner… like Pinella stuck it to me yesterday. Yeah I’m still bitter.

Welcome to the bigs kid. Don’t go blowing Smoak up our asses now.

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Zambranooooooo!

April 21, 2010

That’s me screaming his name and shaking my fists at the sky. I don’t have enough expletives to hurl at Lou Pinella’s inane decision to put his opening day pitcher, Carlos Zambrano into the bullpen. Couldn’t he at least asked my opinion? Lou must have thought I was booing, rather than Loooooouing back when I saw him play so many moons ago.

I really thought Zambrano turned the corner last night against The Mets as he went 6 and gave up 2.  Aside from his usual opening day blow-up, he’s been alright. Not good, not bad but alright, giving up a lot of cheap hits that have marred his numbers. He’s mowed down hitters at a blistering clip of 12.9 K/9 and even kept his cool when he’s gotten shoddy D behind him or squeezed by the ump. Now I understand that outside of Marmol, The Cubs pen has been Hatchet-Face ugly. I’ve seen a lot of ugly bullpens, but never before have I seen a club ask it’s supposed ace (who’s making about $18 million this year by the way) to go out there and earn his money… by getting out three batters?!

Now I’m left with some decisions to make. Aaron Hill is supposed to come off of the DL on Friday, which means I have to drop someone. It was going to be Ian Desmond and it still might be. Meanwhile, I’m trailing or tied in all of the pitchers counting categories and my opponent’s got at least 3 more starts than me scheduled for the remainer of the week. I may be picking up Mister Fister after all.

Bad day all around for the Uptown Ham Fighters. First the Z news, then Buerhle goes and gets rocked and to top it off, nobody’s hitting aside from Fat Ichiro and J-Will tonight. Not fun. Better luck tomorrow boys.


Next In Line…

April 21, 2010

A few quick notes about some high profile prospects, who are not “The Last In line,” like Ronnie James Dio:

  • Giants prime-time pitching prospect, Madison Bumgarner has seemed to regained the form that earned him a ton of hype over the past couple of seasons. In his last start, Bumgarner’s velocity had improved greatly, reaching into the low-90’s, rather than topping out in the 80’s, as he had been doing in his previous starts this season. Giant’s GM, Brian Sabean claims that Bumgarner’s struggles had a lot to do with his spending the off-season preparing for his wedding, rather than preparing for the 2010 season where he was expected to be S.F.’s 5th starter. Todd Wellemeyer has been awful so far in the starting role so Bumgarner getting back on track is fantastic news for the Giants and fantasy owners in 16 team keeper leagues that might own Bumgarner.
  • 2008 saw Armando Galarraga emerge as a fantastic sleeper for fantasy owners, as he posted 13 Wins and a 3.73 ERA over 178 1/3 IP. With a FIP of 4.88 in ’08 however, it was plain to see that Galarraga would take a step backwards in ’09. After a predictably forgettable campaign last year, the 28 year old righty began this season in AAA, where he has been pounding the K zone at eye-popping rates (18/1 K/BB with a 1.96 ERA in 3 starts). If he keeps this up, you can bet that The Tigers will find a place for him if one of their starters falters.
  • Cleveland’s stud catching prospect Carlos Santana, collapsed in agony after fouling a ball off of his leg in a AAA game this afternoon. Scary stuff for the promising young backstop, who should be getting the call up to Cleveland some time in late May to early June. Also scary for fantasy owners like me, who have already hitched a lot of hope on the kid. Santana is currently mashing Independent League pitching to the tune of .727 SLG. Early reports say that Santana is not seriously hurt. With Lou Marson and Mike Redmond hitting a combined .125 with 1 XBH so far, Santana has a clear path to an everyday catching job when he arrives in the bigs.
  • Chris Davis is still swinging at everything and what he is hitting is not leaving the yard. In 40 PA’s this season, the Texas 1B has actually swung at slightly more pitches outside the zone, than he did last season (34.4% O-Swing % currently, 34.1% in ’09). While it’s a small sample size, it’s a bit alarming, especially when you consider that the young slugger has yet to hit a HR. As Justin Smoak keeps progressing, it looks more and more likely that he will be replacing Davis at first sooner, rather than later. On Saturday, ESPN’s Buster Olney wrote:

“Chris Davis is off to a terrible start that is a lot like his start in 2009… Meanwhile, Smoak is off to a strong start in Class AAA, hitting .300; he drew a walk on Friday night in Oklahoma City’s victory over Memphis, his 10th this season, in nine games; he’s got just three strikeouts, and four extra-base hits.


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Vic, They’re Stealing!

April 21, 2010

Remember back in the day when you’d be walking down 34th Street and all of a sudden like 20 kids would rush out of Macy’s with armloads of stolen goose downs and knit sweaters and jeans and what not? That’s how shit went down back when I was growing up in The City. If shit wasn’t nailed down, somebody would steal it. You’d be driving up the Harlem River Drive and all of a sudden it would be pitch black, not a lit street lamp in sight, because crack heads have stripped the wires and sell the copper for scrap. Back in the 80’s and 90’s base runners stole a lot more too. Guys like Ricky and Vince would rack up bags like a posse of hoods hitting the Coach store. As the 90’s wore on, guys started juicing up and jacking off like never before, leading managers to give their burners the stop sign, since they figured someone would probably go yard behind them.

Flash forward to today, the post-P.E.D. era (lets play pretend here) and you’ll find that runners are stealing again. In fact The Texas Rangers ran like crazy last night, racking up a team record 9 stolen bases, against the Bean-town battery of ageless knuckler Tim Wakefield and spaghetti armed Victor Martinez. Elvis Andrus and Nelson Cruz lead the way with 3 steals a piece in the wild affair that The Sawx would ultimately go on to win 7-6, on a walk off hit by newly called up OF Darnell McDonald.

For fantasy purposes, it’s helpful to know that base runners have been swiping bags from Boston batteries like Thirstin Howl III swipes Polo gear, and not just the soft-tossing Wakefield. In fact Boston catchers have throw out only 1 would-be base stealer in 32 chances. Something to remember when you see that your guys are playing Boston.

Also of note: Boomstick left the game in the 9th with a cramped hammy. He woke up today feeling better and says he will play tonight.

For a look at the easiest (and toughest) teams to run on, check out the Fangraphs advanced team fielding chart. rSB means runs saved while defending against the Stolen Base. You’ll notice that Boston tops the list of teams that are easiest to steal against so far this season.

Enjoy Mr. Howl’s ode to thievery, “John, They’re Stealing”:

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The Lineup Card: Baseball Reads From Around The Triple Dubs

April 20, 2010

Interesting reading from around the baseball world:

  • When New York Magazine isn’t sipping Champagne with Astors and giving the mayor hand-jobs for gentrifying NYC, it’s now talking about… defensive metrics?
  • Derek Carty at THT sums up the “Intuitions vs. Quants,” debate, ongoing at the Cardrunners League site. Fascinating discussion between fantasy baseball experts and poker pros, going at it mano y mano in a high stakes fantasy league.
  • Roto Rob says that help is on the way for the Houston Space Monkeys. A peek at some young guys who are primed for take off.
  • Eriq Gardner has something to say about the folly of “Buy low/sell high” advice.
  • The incomparable Grey Albright at Razzball brings the heat on the regular. Today he made a Willie McGee ugly joke that had me spitting up my morning coffee.
  • The Wall Street journal is an interesting place to find a good piece on Jerry Manuel’s rather strange usage of Frankie Rodriguez, during Saturday’s 20 inning marathon in St. Louis.

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Hitting The Cut-Off Man: Fist Of Fury

April 20, 2010

A few interesting players to consider as we scour the deep league waiver wires…

  • Until Angel Pagan‘s HR in the 7th inning of last night’s 6-1 win over The Cubs, The Mets had gone 117 plate appearances without an extra base-hit. I’m feeling pretty good about the combustible Zambrano going to the mound tomorrow. The Mets have been swinging at everything, particularly with runners in scoring position. If Pagan gets regular playing time in favor of Gary Matthews Jr., he could be worth a flier for those in need of speed in 12 team or bigger mixed-leagues. I actually drafted Pagan in the reserve draft of The Big Ballers League, but dropped him when Manuel started the season playing Sarge Jr. in center. If he keeps playing, he’ll be on someone’s roster again soon.
  • The star pitcher of my all-porno name team, Doug Fister, put together another tremendous start tonight. With 6 no-hit innings tonight against clueless Baltimore bats, Fister strung together a total of 10 straight innings without a hit, dating back to his last start against Oaktown 357. There’s a lot to like about the big sinker-baller, as Fister has pounded the strike zone to the tune of 9K’s and only 3BB, over his first 18 innings this season. While the White Sox bats have been chilly so far this season, they should provide a tougher challenge than his previous two opponents. We’ll see if the Fist of Fury continues to beat down the competition.
  • Will the real Brandon Morrow please stand up? Was tonight’s 7 inning (5 1/3 without a hit), 1 run, 8 K, 2 BB, 3 hit performance, against The Royal Tenenbaums a taste of things to come, or will he go back to walking the world (5.84% career BB rate) in his next start? There has never been a question of Morrow’s ability, rather it’s been health and questions over his role that have been at issue. With his starting job clearly defined, it will be interesting to see if Morrow can develop into the quality starter that scouts projected. I’m not overly optimistic. We’ve seen flashes of brilliance before from Morrow, only now he’ll start facing much stiffer competition in the AL East, in front of a defense that is hardly has proficient as the one he left behind in Seattle.
  • With The D-Backs placing Conor Jackson on the 15-day DL with a strained hammy. Gerardo Parra should be seeing more time in the Arizona OF. Bill James gave a preseason projection of 70/8/64/13/.297/.351/.428 for Parra, which is a nice improvement over his 2009 numbers. Obviously those numbers are contingent on about a full season of playing time. He won’t get that if Jackson’s healthy, but he’s playing now and he could be a valuable run scorer in a strong D-Back lineup. Parra won’t wow anyone in any particular category, but deep league owners might be able to find some use for the soon to be 24 year old outfielder. At his best, I think he could be Franklin Gutierrez-lite with the bat.

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