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.

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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 – as well as my fantasy team  – could 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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Head To Head Strategy – The Numbers Game

June 23, 2010

An interesting topic came up over on the Razzball comments today, where you can frequently find me talking baseball and trading zingers with the best writers and most knowledgeable readership in the fantasy game. The question regards the validity of punting pitching categories in a head-to-head league. Regular commenter, Mr2Bits posed the following question this morning:

Anyone ever punt pitching categories, specifically QS/W and K’s? Seems as though I’m going against a guy who has 6 more starts than I do this week and is already 3 for 3 on QS. I’ve reached my IP pitched min and he has no closers so I’d only need about 3 more saves to be safe (already have 2). Guess winning 3 out of 5 categories is better than possibly losing more.

I’m in a similar position this week. My opponent is carrying 11 starters right now, compared to my seven. Two of his guys are going twice, while only Jaime Garcia is scheduled to make two starts this week. That’s 13 starts against my eight. My opponent should gain easy victories in wins, quality starts and strike outs this week by virtue of sheer volume. On the flip side however, I have four closers to his two, my pitching has been very solid as of late and his has been rather shaky. This leads me to believe that it’s likely that I’ll take ERA, WHIP and saves. Playing in a league that has an 80 transaction limit, I’m already up to 42 moves after doing a ton of streaming in the early going of this year. Instead of continuing to burn through transactions, I’d like to be able to save them until the stretch run, in case I’m in really dire straights and need to do some heavy duty streaming to win. Thankfully, it seems that I have finally found a good core group of arms, as the recent success of Jason Hammel, Kris Medlen and Trevor Cahill has stabilized my dubious rotation. Garcia, who I grabbed up early on in the year, has continued to perform as well and has even cut down on his walks lately, improving my WHIP along the way. I won’t get too excited about these young guys though, as I know that things can change fast. A steady, veteran arm is definitely needed for a playoff push. Overall though, I’m happy with my current roster after the big Cruz trade and waiver additions of Felipe Lopez, Angel Pagan, David DeJesus and Johnny Damon, there aren’t any pitchers available on waivers right now that I would want to roster over one of my current players.

So the game plan this week is to run quality over quantity and hope that my opponent will continue his poor pitching, while my hurlers keep faring well. If all goes right for me, I should at least get a split of the six pitching categories. With a little luck, I might even be able to steal wins from him, as I’m currently ahead 1-0. Doubtful but possible. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, I have faith that my offense can win all but the stolen base category, as my opponent has a team full of burners. Runs will be close, but I’m currently up by five. Interestingly enough, we’re tied at three homers a piece. I have little doubt that I can take him in jacks though as I have a rather power heavy team – we’re second in the league with 112 bombs, only one behind the leader. With all said and done, I think this strategy gives me a good shot at taking the week overall.

This isn’t a case of punting a category as much as a strategic decision to play my opponent rather than the schedule. Trying to go toe to toe with him in the pitching counting stats would be a fruitless endeavor – wasting transactions by dropping talented players for mediocre pitchers who may not even get me the victories I want. Worse than that, going that route could possibly blow up in my face and lead to a pitching blow out by inflating my ratios.

We’ll see how it pans out. The Patties are managed by a shrewd owner, who will stop at nothing to beat me. I’ve taken four straight match-ups from him, dating back to the beginning of last season and including my victory in the 2009 finals. So far so good as I enter play today up 7 – 2. When this week is finished, I’ll be sure give an update with the final tally.

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Bloops and Bleeders: Stolen Baby Edition

June 10, 2010

Wow, I didn’t realize Pittsburgh’s newest lead-off man, Jose Tabata, thought SB stood for “Stolen Baby.” Yowza! Credit Grey from Razzball for that one. As I said previously, he’s fast and gets on base, so if you need a speedy outfielder go get him. Here’s a run down on some other goings on going on in the baseball mundo both real and fantastic.

I offered a trade of Nick Swisher and Jaime Garcia to SD (not to be confused with wrestler S.D. Jones) from my keeper league, in exchange for Justin Verlander. The response was priceless:

“this is actually a decent offer, but I love Verlander and I think I’ll need him going nuts down the stretch. I’ll take a look and maybe propose something more skewed to only help me.”

I appreciated your honesty Sean.

Delmon Young lost some weight, got in better shape and has looked like an improved player this season. Fortunately, he hasn’t lost his sense of humor.

“Second base seems like it’s in left center when I get to first sometimes,” he said. Where did it seem last year? “I never really got on base until September, he said, so I couldn’t tell you.”

Thanks J.D. for that one. For more Delmania, check out Dave Golebiewski’s piece on the former can’t miss prospect’s reemergence.

With G.M. Kenny Williams waving the white flag on the South Side, the ChiSox are open for business. A few of the high salary names bandied about as possible trade bait are Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzinski, Bobby Jenks, J.J. Putz and Scott Linebrink. Jake Peavy says that if the pale hose look to rebuild, he’ll ask for a trade. That doesn’t seem likely though as Williams was quoted as saying:

“If we do something it will be along the lines of shuffling the deck with the expectation that we’re going to add impact guys to win,” said Williams, adding: “I have to listen. It’s not that I want to, but I’m not blind.”

From the sound of it, Williams hasn’t really given up on this year and Peavy’s is owed $33 million over the next two seasons with either a $4 million buy out or another $22 million in 2013. There aren’t many teams that are willing to come up with that kind of scratch, so he’d be very tough to move regardless.

Another front line pitcher who’s name is appearing frequently in trade rumors is Cliff Lee. With the Mariners mired in last place and showing little signs of life, it’s expected that they’ll deal the former Cy Young winning lefty at some point before the July 31 deadline. Of course the Yankees are the first team who’ve been mentioned as a destination for Lee. The Yanks however say they have no intention of going after a starter, in spite of having the prospects (Jesus Montero, Eduardo Nunez, Austin Romine) that could bring in such a quality arm.

Needing a bat to replace DH Nick Johnson, who shockingly is spending his Yankee cash on the DL, The Yankees are said to have scouts looking at Lance Berkman. Berkman would be a nice fit in that lineup but he is making $14.5 million this year, which might be a stumbling block to any move for the Big Puma. It seems like Puma and fellow Astros stalwart Roy Oswalt, are not long for Houston, which is about as much of a surprise as Johnson getting hurt.

While the Yankees are usually the first team mentioned when other teams make their top-tier talent available, the Mets as usual are setting their sights a little lower. Such illustrious names as Kevin Millwood, Jeremy Guthrie and Jake Westbrook have been said to be scouted by Queens’ Finest. Exciting stuff for Mets fans. Don’t expect to see any deal coming out of Flushing until we approach the July 31 trade deadline, when prices will drop.

St. Louis added some depth to their battered pitching staff today, by reacquiring Jeff Suppan who had been recently waived by the Brewers. The Cards will pay Suppan the prorated minimum, while the Brew crew get the pleasure of picking up the rest of the $10.5 million they owed the disappointing pitcher. After a successful run in St. Louis from 2004-2006, culminating with a starring role in their post season surge (Mets fans remember that well), Suppan signed with Milwaukee for 4 years and $42 million, then the richest contract in team history. Perhaps Dave Duncan can sprinkle his magic pixie dust on Suppan and turn him back into a serviceable hurler.

One pitcher that I left out of the last rookie round-up is Madison Bumgarner. With Todd Wellemeyer-wiener making a preemptive leave from his start today in Cincy with a strained quad, we may see the highly touted lefty arriving in San Francisco soon. Word is Wellemeyer may need a trip to the DL. Bumgarner posted a nano-tastic 0.94 ERA in May, but has come back to Earth in his two June starts. On the year, he’s 6-1 with a 3.13 ERA/1.37 WHIP, 47K/20BB in 69 innings at AAA Fresno. I wrote a little already about the 20 year old’s return to form after a poor spring and the addition of a cutter to his repetoire. Bumgarner’s numbers look nice on the surface, but his BB/K rate isn’t great and he’s got a 3.99 FIP. Expect that number to jump if he’s called up. While he might be a asset in deep leagues, I don’t see him as more than a streaming option in 12 team mixed right now.

Note: Madison Bumgarner was suspended three games and fined for blowing up at an umpire during his Monday loss. He’ll serve his suspension tomorrow, Sunday and Monday, making him eligible to pitch by the next time Wellemeyers turn in the rotation comes up, next week against Baltimore.

Because everyone loves to mock failure, I’ll leave you with this video from last night of Oakland outfielder, Matt Carson face-plant into the wall from yesterday’s 7-1 Angels win over the A’s.

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