Stephen Strasburg Leads The Rookie Parade

June 10, 2010

…And on the eight day, God created Stephen Strasburg and he was very good. As baseball followers know, the Capitol City phenom made his first entry into Baseball’s history books last night with a scintillating 14 strikeout, zero walk victorious debut against the hapless Pirates. The first overall pick of last year’s draft exceeded all expectations, gunning down the Pittsburgh batters with prodigious power, precision and a maturity perhaps never before seen in a pitcher so young. Across the Maryland border, Matt Wieters scoffed at another player being The Chosen One and immediately got three hits in defiance.

While Strasburg worked his magic before a rabid D.C. crowd (nice to see that kind of excitement in Washington) another youngster was making a splash a short trip up I-95 in Philidelphia. Mike Stanton premiered with the Florida Marlins after decimating AA this year. The hulking outfielder who lead all of minor league baseball in homers with 21 in 52 games, picked up three singles in five plate appearances in the Fish’s 10-8 loss to the Phillies.

But wait, there’s more! You may have missed the above players in your league, or whiffed on Heyward, Jaime Garcia or Leake, but don’t cry with one eye like the Indian in the old PSA. there are more rookies who’ve just arrived, or on the way, who can help your fantasy teams this season. Here are a few…

Jose Tabata made his big league debut for Pittsburgh against Washington tonight, going 2 for 4 with a run scored and a steal. Good timing for the Pirates, since everyone’s still talking Strasburg. Tabata lead the International league in stolen bases and contributed a 42R/3HR/19RBI/25SB/.318/.385/.436 line in 247 PA at AAA Indianapolis. His base stealing prowess is something of a new development, but Tabata has always displayed an advanced plate discipline, which sets apart the good speedy guys from your average fast whoshisface.

Brad Lincoln made his debut the above mentioned game for the Buccos tonight and had a rather inauspicious start to his major league career, surrendering five runs on two BB, seven hits and a homer, while striking out three in six innings to take the loss. Lincoln, the 4th overall pick in the 2006 draft had solid numbers in AAA prior to his arrival in the show, going 6-2 3.16/.99/14BB/55K in 68 2/3 innings of work. He’s not more than a streamer in 12 team right now, but keep an eye on the kid.

While we’re talking Pirates, we can’t pass up an opportunity to mention hometown hero in the making, Pedro Alvarez, who I hope to see with the big club soon. The red hot Washington Heights native has picked up his numbers and currently posts a line of 37/11/48/3/.283/.374 over 246 PA. Expect Andy LaRoche to be traded and hard-hitting young slugger to move on up to the big time soon.

Jake Arrieta makes his first big league start tomorrow against the Yankees. The O’s 2008 5th round pick out of Texas Christian University (so he’s got god on his side, along with Matt Wieters) has been almost Strasburg-like in his domination of AAA hitters, going 6-2 with a 1.85 ERA, 1.12 WHIP and a 34/64 BB/K split in 73 innings before being pegged as a human sacrifice, so Jeremy Guthrie can get an extra day of rest. The Baltimore Orioles saw how Washington lined up Strasburg against the weak hitting Pirates and said, “Pfft. That’s too easy. We want our young star in the making to have a challenge!” So Arrieta gets to have his young spirit horse crushed by the Bronx Bombers in their series finale tomorrow. Way to ease a kid into the show Charm City.

Carlos Santana is still in AAA, which hurts my heart. It’s like having Christmas come late. Only worse, because I have money the on the pagan celebration falling on Jesus’ birthday. C.S. Smooth keeps making AAA pitchers wish they were never born with nary a peep about an arrival date in Cleveland. Oh he’s raking by the way, to the tune of 36R/12HR/47RBI/6SB(!)/.314/.447 (best in the minors)/.580

Andrew Cashner got his call to the bigs last week, as Epic Beard Lou and the Cubbies continue to throw shit against the wall to see what sticks in the bullpen. Not to say Cashner’s shit by any means. To the contrary, by Cubs 2008 first round pick (19th overall) was dynamite in AA and AAA before being sent to Chi-Town. Over the two levels, Cashner racked up an impressive line: 6-1/15BB/59K/2.05 ERA/.95WHIP in 57 innings (9 starts in 11 appearances). Cashner’s racked up four scoreless innings in the majors so far and looks to be in line to become the Cubs setup man, which would mean closer if Marmol screws the pooch.

Matt Carson had a cup of coffee in Oakland last season, as well as this past April, getting one start before being sent back to AAA Sacramento. Down on the farm he went 25/6/19/9/.293/.362 in 138 PA before getting recalled today. Carson who turns 29 next month, started in center tonight, going 0-3. The Swiss Army Knife of an outfielder is an under the radar kind of player, who can do a little bit of everything. If you asked me before the season, which Oakland outfield prospect would make an impact in 2010, I’d have gone with Michael Taylor. The more heralded outfielder and presumed heir-apparent in center has struggled however and if Carson makes his presence felt, he can have some value for the A’s and fantasy owners alike.

Mike Moustakas has been such a hit in the Texas League that he got a burger named after him. With Stanton making the jump from double at to the majors, and Moustakas hitting at a similarly ridiculous clip at AA, could the Royals bring their young third base prospect up sooner rather than later? Moustakas certainly deserves to be promoted as much as anyone as he’s put up some gaudy numbers with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals: 35/13/49/.368/.441 in 177 PA. Somewhere Alex Gordan waits above the stage, like the Phantom of the Opera (or Park if you will) waiting for the curtain to fall. The former 2nd overall pick of the 2005 draft has had his difficulties in the bigs but is currently leading the PCL in OBP at 1.196, since getting sent down early last month.

Which newcomers do you think will make an impact in the final two thirds of 2010?

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Mad Max Beyond Tiger Dome

June 1, 2010

With his 14 strikeout effort in Oakland yesterday, Max Scherzer showed his naysayers (myself included) that he’s still capable of displaying the same filthy stuff that got fantasy owners giddy two seasons ago. I along with many other fantasy baseball writers who will remain nameless, left Max for dead on the waiver wire after his May 14th debacle against the Red Sox. Yesterday Mad Max returned for payback, gunning down A’s hitters as though they were a leather-clad motorcycle gang in the Aussie Outback. There’s no silver lining here folks, only schadenfreude in watching this years version of the one that got away. That 14 K outing was most strikeouts thrown by a pitcher in under six innings since 1920 for a little perspective. I should have done my due diligence instead of acting off of raw emotion and giving Scherzer the boot. Now I’ll get to watch him perform for another owner. If I end up losing this thing because of this move, it’ll be tough to talk me down off of the ledge.

Other apocalyptic happenings from around the league…

As everyone knows by now, Roy “Mr. Perfect” Holiday perfect-plexed Florida bats on Saturday night, throwing the 20th Perfect Game in baseball history. I watched the last three innings of the game, and I can’t remember seeing a pitcher so surgically dissect a lineup. Halladay hardly broke a sweat. He looked like he could have gone another perfect nine.

Albert Pujols showed and proved, giving the finger to ESPN Hindsighter and snapping out of his recent power outage with three jacks on Sunday. It was just a matter of time before El Hombre got it going. I’m happy to have grabbed up Cards lead-off man Felipe Lopez in my 12 team league, as he stands to benefit from a Pujols power surge.

Derek Jeter ended his torrid May on a sour note, leaving yesterdays game in the 7th inning with a strained hamstring. Jeter was hit in the leg with a pitch earlier in the 11-2 victory over Cleveland, but continued to play, going 2 for 3, before getting lifted for a pinch runner after the leg tightened up. After a sizzling end to the month that saw The Captain go 12 for 27 (.444) with 6R/1HR/4RBI/1SB/ and a .483 OBP, lets hope this isn’t a serious issue going forward.

Another scalding hot Yankee bat belongs to right fielder Nick Swisher. While Jeter wasn’t available for comment after leaving today’s game, according to MLB.com, Swish offered,

“I bet you $1 million he’ll be in the lineup tomorrow,” Swisher said to a group of reporters. “He’s tough. He’ll be back.”

Hopefully D.J. took Swish up on that bet. Swisher went nuts in May, with a strained bicep no less and enters today’s action with a .317/.395/34 R/9 HR/28 RBI/0 SB line on the season, good for 44th best in our 6×6 format according to Yahoo. While Swisher’s average may regress some, he is a .249 lifetime hitter after all and that bloated 25.2% liner rate and the .368 BABIP (career .280) scream unsustainable, the Yankee lineup offers ample opportunity for the switch hitting, TTO hero to rack up plenty of counting stats.

Ubaldo Jimenez continues his domination of opposing batters, upping his record to an MLB best 10-1 to go along with a sub-atomic .78 ERA, out-dueling a shaky Tim Lincecum in a 4-0 Rockies victory in San Francisco. While the defending two-time NL Cy Young winner continued to struggle, Jimenez once again made his claim for this years honor. Jimenez’ arsenal of high-90’s heat and plus breaking stuff has made batters looked silly all season long but a 3.58 xFIP suggests that Jimenez should ultimately come down to Earth somewhat in the coming months. Not including yesterday’s game, he carries a garish 91.7% LOB and has only allowed one homer over 71 1/3 innings of work. Expect that number to rise with the temperatures as we head into summer.

Kendry Morales might be done for the season after the mother of all boneheaded injuries, suffered Saturday during his walk-off granny celebration. Who’s on first for the Halo’s? How about Mike Napoli? Or Robb Quinlan? Or Mike Ryan? Well all three have seen time at first since Morales went down. Good times ahead in Anaheim of Los Angeles.

We might have to change Sunglasses At Night’s nickname to The Hitman, as Corey Hart he’s been slapping The Sharp Shooter on NL pitchers in recent weeks. Launching his 13th homer of the year yesterday, his current ZiPs forecast projects 27 HR/ 92 RBI/ 9 SB for the season. Not bad for a guy I got on waivers two weeks ago.

If you say his name like someone from the midwest, he sounds like a hokey Vegas magician. Angel Pagan has been sort of magical for the Mets this year and he’s really been picking it up as of late. .360/.385/5 R/1 HR/ 2 RBI/ 4 SB in the last week. Leading the team with 2 WAR, Pagan should continue to see steady playing time as there has not yet been a time-table set for Carlos Beltran’s return to the Met outfield.

Brandon Morrow has been the starting equivalent of Ricky “Wild Thing” Vaughn this season, posting an 11.7 K/9 and 5.76 BB/9 entering last nights start against Tampa. In the 3-2 victory, Morrow shut down the Rays, not by missing bats as one might expect, but by diplomatically giving his defense some work. I suppose he watched “Bull Durham,” again and decided that “strikeouts are fascist.” In seven innings, Morrow only had one K, while allowing two walks and only three hits for the W.

Buster “Pocket Full Of” Posey went 0-4 today against the above mentioned Ubaldo, in his first hitless game since getting the call on Saturday. He’s garbage. All rookies shudder at the awe inspiring power of soon-to-be-unleashed Carlos Santana. Kneel before Zaun!

I’m being facetious of course, but I do like Santana over Posey this year and in the long term and not because I own Santana. He has the more advanced eye of the two young catchers, which should translate best into immediate impact in the Majors. Two days before Posey was called up, I received a trade offer of Posey and Pirates prize prospect (and Washington Heights native) Pedro Alvarez for Santana. If that were a keeper league, I’d have taken it, but in a redraft I believe the Indians backstop will be the most valuable fantasy producer this year of the three.

With Posey up and the calendar turning to June, the Carlos Santana watch is in high gear. While no one questions if his bat is Major League ready, Jensen Lewis gives Santana a thumbs up for his work behind the plate. We should be seeing Santana in the next week or two.

A final note. With both Kevin Correia and Hisanori Takahashi getting lit up in the Padres 18-6 victory over the Mets in San Diego, I find my pitching ratios so inflated, that I decided to dump Takahashi and pick up Minnesota’s Nick Blackburn, who gets starts on the road against the punchless Mariners later today and The A’s on Sunday. I figure if I’m going to chase counting numbers, I should grab Blackburn, who might possibly provide two W’s and QS by weeks end.

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Holy Diver: Gavin Floyd *UPDATED*

May 17, 2010

In memory of the passing of Metal God Ronnie James Dio, I’m going to discuss another pitcher who’s career has taken a holy dive this season. The White Sox, fans and fantasy owners alike had very high hopes for Gavin Floyd coming into 2010. After a highly successful 2008 campaign, his first as a full-time starter in the majors, Floyd’s results took a dip last season, as he finished 11-11 with a 4.06 ERA and 1.23 WHIP and 163 K’s in 193 innings. Looking deeper at his numbers however, we see his peripherals actually improved, as his FIP went down from 4.77 to 3.77 from 08′ to 09. His 2.76 K/BB ratio was also a dramatic improvement over the 2.07 rate he posted the year before. Down as well were his HR/9, going from 1.31 to .98. So inspite of a drop in Wins from 17 to 11, Floyd actually pitched better, leading me to believe we’d see a solid year out of Floyd in 2010.

1-4 7.00 ERA/1.71 WHIP and 7.2K/3.4BB per 9 over 43 innings in eight, mostly miserable starts. That’s what fantasy owners like me have gotten for thinking Floyd was actually a good buy. The ERA and WHIP are ghastly to say the least, but a K/BB rate like that would lead one to believe that he should be seeing more success. More puzzling is that he’s actually given up less jacks at .8 HR/9, down from .98 and less line drives: 18.2% versus 22.4% last year. In fact his contact rate overall is down from 77.8% in ’09 to 75.7% in ’10. So what’s happened to Gavin Floyd?

This isn’t a matter of a guy facing tough competition. Floyd’s been given a laser show by Cleveland, Seattle and K.C. twice now. If a pitcher’s not going to get fat off of those bums than who’s he supposed to get right against, the Twins? Floyd’s been the unfortunate recipient of a .381 BABIP, tied for third highest amongst all starters. Couple that with a 57.2% strand rate, fifth worst in the game, and you’ve got a very very sad pitcher. I don’t care how many bats you miss, you’re not going to succeed if the hits are falling in like that. Why has Gavin Floyd suddenly become so hittable?

Unlike our last case study in futility Max Scherzer, the problem here isn’t due to a loss in fastball velocity. Floyd has maintained the pitch speed on his hard stuff. He is throwing his four-seam fastball only 29.6% of the time however, leaning on his two-seamer for 19.2% of his pitches, up from only 2% last season. What about his breaking stuff?

From Yahoo: After Sunday’s lost to the Royals, manager Ozzie Guillen was asked if there is a chance the struggling pitcher could be replaced in the rotation, especially with top pitching prospect Daniel Hudson not disappointing in the minors, and Guillen said not yet. “As long as Gavin is healthy … he’s got only one problem, throwing strikes,” Guillen said. “I think (Sunday) he threw only two or three breaking balls for a strike. You’re not going to win that many games doing that.”

Last season, Gavin Floyd’s slider was a very effective pitch and he threw it 16.3% of the time for a Pitch Value of 7.5 Runs Above Average, according to Fangraphs. This season, that value has dropped to -2.9. His curve, which was downright filthy, has also lost a good deal of effectiveness it seems, slipping from a 14.1 RAA in ’09, down to 1.9 this season. Looking at horizontal movement, we’ll note that his slider which was arriving at -.3 inches off of the X-axis is now coming in at +.7 inches. The curve has flattened out a good deal too from 7.3 to an even 5, below the league average of 5.3 inches. So it seems that Floyd’s lost some feel for his breaking pitches and has tried to compensate with a below average two-seam fastball and change-up combination, which he’s thrown a lot more this season than last.

I wish I could look into the future and say with certainty that Floyd will turn his season around. With every start, those prospects seem to grow dimmer. We seem to have a case of a very mixed up pitcher who also happens to be pitching behind a poor fielding team, with the 6th worst UZR in baseball. Another strike against Floyd is that the ChiSox are not hitting and it never helps a pitcher to constantly feel that he’s walking a tightrope without a net. Chicago’s .313 wOBA is 7th worst in the game and there have been few signs of this team snapping out of it. Changes are in order and how those changes will effect Floyd are anyone’s guess.

As for my stake in Floyd in fantasy land? The clock is ticking on the once promising South Sider and it’s almost time to cut bait. I’m going to try my best to move him via trade in the coming days, which might buy him another start on my team. He could be on waivers in exchange for bat soon, since Nick Swisher’s been day-to-day with a bicep injury and I’m thin for bats as it is.

NOTE: I got so sick of seeing his cancerous name in the Ham Fighters rotation, that I dumped him for San Francisco speedster Andres Torres. I couldn’t even bring myself to mention him in a trade. Let someone else worry about when he’s going to bounce back. In H2H you gotta play the hot hand.

While you contemplate Floyd’s fate, enjoy a performance from the man who popularized the devil horns…

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…It Was The Worst Of Times

May 15, 2010

So while I’ve been busy pursuing gainful employment of various sorts, The Uptown Ham Fighters have been busy sucking it up over in my 12 team mixed head-to-head keeper league. While we entered this week the only team to have won four out of five weeks, we were also one game below .500, due to a Week 3 1-10-1 ass-kicking at the hands of My Boomstick. As we enter the weekend stretch for Week 6 things have really gone south however, as we now trail The Mountain Cats 12 zip! I can take a beat down or two, but a sweep might just push this manager over the edge into Billy Martin punching out his pitcher nutzo territory! Now before I do anything rash and before it’s a dead corpse, lets bring this patient to the roster doctor and try to figure out a course of treatment.

Here’s the team as it’s presently composed. We’ll first look at the frosty bats:

The first major issue of course was Nelson Cruz landing on the DL with a bum hammy. He was absolutely raking when he was injured and it’s not easy to make up for the loss of such a big bat. Filling the hole over the past week, I had Corey Hart and then Nate Schierholtz. Hart did little aside from a lone HR in Boomstick’s absence. Nate The Ok provided me with a Run Scored on Sunday, which gave me a win in the category, but other than that he had little impact over the past week. Now mind you, this is isn’t to say that neither of these guys will be decent fantasy contributors, but in head-to-head, it’s often necessary to play a guy with a hot hand or tailor your lineup to fit your teams immediate needs.

What are some other culprits of our recent woes? Well for one, my team is pretty damn slow overall. Like mummy slow. I had to change that.

The one recent addition I made to the lineup is Alcides Escobar, who was acquired off of waivers, while Reid Brignac was dropped. Considering Brignac was sitting against lefties, this small lateral move made to address The Ham Fighters lack of team speed. While Escobar has been off to a slow start, a lot of that is due to an abnormally low BABIP of .253 entering play today. With his speed, he’s projected to have a BABIP of around .320 to .330, so I expect correction in that department as the season progresses. Leading me to more optimism is Esco’s 6.6%/13.5% BB/K rate. While this needs to improve for him to really blossom at the Major League level, it’s actually an improvement over the BB/K numbers he posted (3%/14.4%) in his limited time last season. What has really been missing from his game is his speed. The highly touted speedster has yet to swipe a bag, being caught once. This obviously alarmed his previous owners enough for them to let him go. I see Alcides picking up the SB pace however, as he gets more comfortable in the bigs. It doesn’t help that he’s hitting in the 8th hole, with a pitcher behind him, in Milwaukee. I can see him moving down up in the order as his bat heats up though, and I’m still hopeful that he can end the season with over 20 steals, while not killing me with his bat.

Aaron “Benny” Hill and Carlos “Live In San” Quentin have both been disasters so far, but I’m not pressing the panic button on those two yet. Both have slumped hard, but still can provide a lot of pop and it doesn’t take a power hitter long to snap out. I learned that lesson with Derrek Lee, last season, as he may have been my most valuable player in the 2nd half. I also learned this the hard way, by dropping a somewhat slow starting Kendry Morales. That obviously didn’t work out well. Quentin’s still walking and making hard outs, so it’s just a matter of time until he snaps out as he currently has a .180 BABIP, which is better than only Aramis Ramirez in all of baseball. The entire White Sox team has been hitting poorly, so there’s nowhere to go but up on the South Side, which should lead to nice counting numbers for Quentinsity. Hill has been a little more troublesome, due to another balky hamstring. Perhaps I should change my name to the Hamstring Fighters! He’s another guy with a ridiculously low BABIP and solid (in fact career high) BB rate, so I’m not going to get nuts. His power has certainly come down from those heady ’09 numbers, but I’m hoping that should improve as long as he stays healthy.

Derek Jeter and Pablo Sandoval are two guys who’ve hit hard time recently, but both are outstanding hitters and I’m sure they’ll perform at or around their career norms as we progress into the season. With .259/.306 and .238/.291 BA/OBP lines respectively over the past month, needless to say that both of those guys are a lot better. Jeter went 3 for 29 over the last Yankee road-trip. While his walks are down, I don’t expect this kind of lousy hitting to continue. In the case of the Kung-Fu Panda, we have a player who’s yet to reach his potential I believe. His counting numbers are hampered only by his home park and the dubious supporting cast around him, but there’s no reason to believe he can’t exceed 20 HR and at least match the 90 RBI he knocked in last season. His biggest asset is his BA, which of course is a result of him hitting just about everything hard. With a contact rate of 83.8%, that BA will definitely improve.

As for players who’ve outperformed their projections, Austin Jackson has to top that list. You can’t throw a rock without hitting his gigantic .481 BABIP, which has caused every fantasy writer in the blogosphere to simultaneously hit the “Sell!” button, tearing a rip in the space-time continuum. That number leads all of baseball now, so Jackson will undoubtedly slow down his Cobb-ian pace. He’s going to need to continue to adjust in order to maintain success as his luck evens out. I’m pretty confident that he can do that but not so much to be a .300 hitter at year’s end. Maybe .290 though, which would make me very happy.

Another guy who’s been absolutely mashing is Casey McGehee. I picked Ty Wiggy Jr. off of the scrap heap when I first saw him producing in The Brewers 5 slot, shortly after the start of the season. Figuring he should be knocking in runs in his sleep, he’s done a lot more than that though as he’s currently leading my team in RBI and tied in the lead for HR. Pretty nice numbers for a guy who everyone (myself included) pegged for schmo on draft day. I don’t see him sustaining his .323 BA but he’s walking at a career high 11.9% clip, so he should continue to get on base. It’s hard not to like that .245 ISO, hitting behind The Hebrew Hammer and Prince, so it’s easy to see him cracking 100 RBI at years end, even with some regression factored in. There may in fact not be much regression in order for McGehee. His .333 BABIP matches the number he posted AAA back in ’08, so I feel that this guy might be capable of sustaining a pace, not far off from his current one.

The X-Factor here of course is Carlos Santana, who hasn’t been great since fouling a ball off of his knee back a few weeks ago. With a little luck, the young catcher will feel alright by the time he’s called up, which should be within the next month or so. That frozen roster spot has cost me some numbers and it would be nice to have another solid bat in the lineup.

On the other side of the ball I have a pitching staff with a a few issues and a lot of question marks. Check it out.

Lead by Adam Wainwright and his devastating curve, I’ve got a couple of guys in Gavin Floyd and Kevin Slowey, who have really underperformed. Floyd’s peripherals suggest major improvement’s on the way as his numbers are just not nearly this bad. A 4.16 FIP, along with .371 BABIP against and sorry 57.7% LOB rate tell us he’s been seriously unlucky. Combine that with a BB/K rate of 3.69/7.38, an improved GB rate of 47.6% (up from 44.3% last season) and a .92 HR rate, down from .98 and you see a pitcher who is doing things right but getting poor results. With a tough schedule and little run support from the ChiSox lineup, we’re bound to see Floyd get much better results before long.

Kevin Slowey on the other hand has been an enigma, seemingly incapable of getting past the 5th inning. His increased walk rate has been alarming and he’s getting hit hard, so those guys are scoring, leading to some early knock outs for the Minnesota starter. While I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, I would have to think that Slowey’s still recovering from the complex wrist surgery that he endured last September.

While Cole Hamels may never be a fantasy ace, he’s striking out batters at a career high pace. The bad news is he’s also walking more batters (3.30 per 9) and allowing more dingers (1.44 per 9) than ever before. Hopefully he can get that HR rate down, because his BABIP of .372 tells us that better days are ahead for Hamels.

Mark Buerhle has been less than stellar, also giving up more walks than usual. He’s had to endure some awful offensive support as well as a brutal run of games against the AL East, so I’m on the fence as to whether or not to keep sending Buerhle out there. The five straight hits he gave up to the hopeless Royals this evening give me even more reason to worry.

On the positive side, we have Jaime Garcia and Wade LeBlanc, two young lefties who’ve seen tremendous success in the early going of 2010. Garcia has just been magnificent and has shown little signs of slowing down. LeBlanc, like the rest of his Padre cohorts, has been doing a lot of LeBlanking of opposition hitters. While he’s left a very high, 87.8% of baserunners on, he’s also been the victim of an inflated .356 BABIP.

Kevin Correia has been pitching pretty well in spite of only throwing one quality start so far. We can only wish for the best for the Correia family in light of the tragic loss of his younger brother, Trevor Brent Correia. He goes against The Dodgers tomorrow in his first start since returning from the bereavement list.

2/3 of my budget bullpen has been effective with surprisingly stellar performances by Jon Rausch and Kevin Gregg. Brian Fuentes on the other hand has been pretty shaky, but I knew that he’d be trouble when I drafted him. Hopefully he can save enough games to keep his job. If he doesn’t, I’ll be back playing that familiar game of closer musical chairs.

So that’s it for this exhaustive recap of The Uptown Hamfighters season to date. If you’ve made it this far, kudos. I know there is little less exciting than hearing someone bitch about their fantasy teams but perhaps you have some of these guys and you’re wondering what to do with them. I obviously need some guys to play the way they are capable of playing, but I do feel that if they do, I may only be an arm away from turning this thing around. In fact, I may already have that arm in Kris Medlen, who’s been moved into the Braves rotation in place of the injured Jair Jurrjens. I can also use another speedy guy and have been actively going after Brett Gardner. If I can’t get Gardy, I’m confident that I can find someone else off of waivers or via trade. In the mean time I’ll call this week a wash, hope that I can just avoid a sweep and look forward to getting it together next week.

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Lights, Camera, Action… Jackson!

May 5, 2010

Flashback to 2006: Your fantasy baseball team is in first place, riding high on hot starts by names that strike fear into the hearts of fantasy opponents… like Chris Shelton and Chad Tracy. Maybe you had a venerable Tom Glavine holding down your rotation by leading the league in ERA after a month of play. You see where this is going, don’t you fair reader?

Exactly. Don’t get too excited about what a player does during one mere month of baseball. While you’re riding high on Ivan Rodriguez’s gaudy Average or Livan Hernandez freakishly lucky run, just remember that Baseball is a marathon, not a sprint. With a 162 game schedule, there is no greater equalizer than time.

So who are some of baseball’s surprise performers in the early going?

Of course I have to lead off with the blazing hot lead-off man that everyone’s talking about, Austin Jackson. I gushed about Action Jackson a few weeks ago and he hasn’t disappointed. In fact Austin Jackson currently leads all of baseball in hits with 44 going into today’s action, leading to a surprising early line of .376/.430/.521. Of course his .521 BABIP will not remain at such a ridiculous level, but with 38.8% of his contact going for liners, Jackson is hitting the ball hard and that’s all a hitter can hope to do. While he’s whiffed out at a 29.1% rate, Jackson has only struck out twice, while walking three times in his last eight games. While just about every fantasy expert in the game is telling people to sell high on Jackson, I’m not in any hurry to get rid of him (although I had an offer of Jackson and Kevin Gregg for A.J. Burnett rejected in my keeper league). Perhaps Action read Joe Pawlikowski’s article in Fangraphs, because it looks like the studious young outfielder is proving to be a quick learner as he adjusts to Major League pitching.

Fantasy baseball zombie extraordinaire Barry Zito has been in vintage form as he mows down hitters with his devastating curve-ball. The curse of Alissa Milano has been lifted and Zito is pitching as though he were back in an Athletics uniform. With a 1.53 ERA and 2.67 FIP, Zito is finally performing like the $126 million pitcher that The Giants paid for. While he carries a microscopic .209 BABIP against and he has yet to give up a HR in 35 1/3 IP, his 2.18 K/BB ratio and 44.7% GB rate should help maintain the crafty lefty’s continued success.

Another lefty who has channeled his past to out-preform his expectations is Yankee stalwart Andy Pettite. Pettite entered his start against Baltimore this afternoon with a 3-0 record with a 2.12 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. While Pettite has lost quite a bit of velocity over the years, his solid command and ability to keep the ball on the ground (48% GB rate) keep Pettite running strong. Having one of the most potent offenses in the game behind him should help his Win totals as Andy builds his credentials for a possible Hall Of Fame call in a few years.

Two of the biggest surprises in the early going of 2010 have been Toronto Blue Jays teammates, Alex Gonzalez and Vernon Wells. The Blue Jays tandem have displayed impressive power, with eight HR each so far. Gonzalez will never be accused of being a contact hitter, and his .279 BA is held aloft by a .307 BABIP (he carries a career .284 BABIP). Even with some correction dropping his average and power, he should continue to be a solid play for someone who you probably found off of waivers. Vernon Wells’ career looked about to hit rock bottom last season but he too has risen from the dead, much to the chagrin of American League pitchers. After posting a paltry 84/15/66/17/.260/.311 line in 2009, Wells has already posted nearly half that homer total and a third of last season RBI. A seriously hefty .310/.360/.660 line has made Wells’ owners feel like the smartest guys in their league for having probably drafted him in the late going or picking him up for peanuts at auction. In the past Wells has displayed 30+ HR power and if his present health holds, there’s no reason why he shouldn’t approach those totals again.

Any talk of power cannot exclude the ridiculous power surge that South Sider favorite Paul Konerko has shown so far. Leading the universe with a 1.066 OPS and .460 ISO, Paul Konerko has turned back the clock to a time when he was one of the most dangerous hitters in the game. Three True Outcomes lovers swoon over his lovely 17.4%/11.5% BB/K split, as they’ve watched him leave the yard 15 times in 109 PA. Strangely enough, while Konerko’s been jacking off like a horny teenager, his .179 BABIP tells us that he’s been rather unlucky when his balls don’t leave the yard. While I don’t imagine Konerko keeping up this colossal power pace, Paulie Walnuts could certainly see his .279 BA improve a bit. While his Chicago White Sox have been pretty poor offensively in the early going, they should improve, which will boost Konerko’s Run and RBI production.

The last guy I’ll talk about makes me cringe. In fact every time he hits a HR, I curl up into a ball in my bathtub and cry, traumatized by what Kelly Johnson did to my fantasy team last season. After losing his gig in Hotlanta last year, Johnson came to the desert to beat baseballs like a guy who’s really pissed off at having a girl’s name. Channeling his inner Chase Utley, Johnson has tormented National League pitchers with a 1.066 OPS and .376 ISO, both second in the game behind Konerko. With an 18/9/18/2/.301/.389 line so far, Johnson, at 27, seems to be finally developing into an upper-tier second baseman, like many of us thought he would in the past. While Johnson will K his fair share (he’s done it in 22.6% of his PA), his 13% BB rate matches his career high, more than making up for his whiffs. Great. Why couldn’t you be half this useful last season Kelly?

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Hitting The Cut-Off Man: Existentialist Edition

April 28, 2010

“He who fights with monsters should be careful least he thereby becomes a monster. When you stare at the abyss, the abyss stares back at you.” Nietzsche was addressing the human condition, man’s struggle for self-determination and enlightenment. Old Freddy could just as easily been talking about baseball though because such is the price of hedging your bets players of ill repute and dubious integrity. Sometimes we have to do things we aren’t proud of when we’re struggling for our very fantasy existence in deep leagues.

The Uptown Ham Fighters are struggling to find their way in the absence of two monsters that I drafted. One monster was the maleficent Carlos Zambrano, who I need waste no more virtual ink on here. What stares back at me in the void in strikeout production, which I hope to address at some point. The other, more terrifying (to opponents and now myself) monster was Nelson Cruz. With his absence, I stare into the abyss that are my waiver wires and here are a few uber-menchen who stare back at me.

There was a time not long ago when Andy LaRoche was actually a somewhat ballyhoo’d (he was hip hipĀ  hoorayed as well) prospect believe it or not. Between two season in AA and AAA for The Dodgers, LaRoche averaged .300 BA/.400 OBP lines while hitting a modest 37 HR over those 818 PA. He’s never projected as a power guy, which hurts his value at 3B, but he’s always displayed a major league eye. Perhaps in his 27th year LaRoche will put his skills together and approach the .285 – .290 BA level that he’s capable of. I know he’s carrying an inflated .459 BABIP into today, but I’m going to give him a run while he’s hitting well, as his 9.8%/15.6% BB/K rate are encouraging and he’s posted 10 hits in his last 18 PA. With big time prospect, Pedro Alvarez waiting in the wings down in AAA, there’s little future for LaRoche in a Pirate uniform. The Pirates would love to get something of value for LaRoche in a trade, so they’re going to run him out there and hope he can increase his stock by hitting well. I think he can do just that and give me the little boost in BA that I need.

Another face that stares at me from the void is that of Pinella’s Spring Training favorite, Tyler Colvin. Colvin’s a 25 year old rookie who came into the league with little hype, but now finds himself pushing both Kosuke Fukudome and Alfonso Soriano for playing time in The Cubs outfield. While Colvin has displayed some pop in the early going, he’s also has a 27% K rate. Fortunately for him, he’s also walking at an 11.6% clip, but those K’s will have to go down if he is going to make a name for himself. He’s currently hitting .324 with a ridiculous .378 ISO in the early going of 2010, but will that change as those numbers are buoyed by a .375 BABIP. If you’re going to play a hot hand, I suppose you could do worse, but I’m not buying.

Between the devil and the deep blue sea that stretches into the distance beyond the Rightfield wall, stands a Giant named Nate Schierholtz. While his numbers have hardly been gigantic through his young career, Nate The Ok (as opposed to The Great) has been a pretty decent contact hitter. With an 85.9% contact rate and a 29% O-Swing rate (percentage of pitches swung at outside the zone) so far in 2010, Nate’s cut down on his K’s (15% down from 20.4%) and been selectively hacking at the plate and it’s paid off as he carries a .300 BA, held aloft by his .353 BABIP going into today. He won’t show much pop, being a left handed hitter in AT&T Park and he’s been buried deep in the 8th hole in the S.F. lineup, which never helps, but The Giants lineup will change with whoever possesses the hot bat and Schierholtz won’t be getting on base with a pitcher behind him much longer. Look for a shift down in the order soon, increasing his value as an BA helping outfield option in deep leagues, such as the Big Ballers League, where he was snagged moments before I could take him yesterday.

As far as that noxious void in starting pitching that Zambrano took with him to the bullpen, I’ve taken to trying to stream starters against my opponent this week, since I am definitely out-classed in that area. With an impending loss in ERA and WHIP, I’m focusing my starting pitching on winning Wins, K and Quality Starts. With Saves up in the air, I might be able to win the counting categories.

After Grandpa Moyer‘s predictably lackluster effort in S.F. last night, I’m going with the old “Hodgepads at home” mantra that Grey at Razzball professes. That sees me throwing Padre lefty, Wade LeBlanc out there against The Brew Crew at Petco Park. A former 2nd round pick by San Diego back in 2006, LeBlanc carried a 8.3/2.4 K/9 split in 462 2/3 Minor League innings, with short rather unspectacular call-ups to the show in 2008 and 2009. In his first two starts in 2010, LeBlanc has allowed only one run in 11 innings, with a 10/4 K/BB ratio and no homers. With few better options in the days to come, I’ve got to hope for the best as LeBlanc looks to Leblank The Brew Crew in the cavernous confines of Petco.

NOTE: Schierholtz went 5-5 with 3R/1RBI/1BB in S.F.’s 7-6 loss against The Phils this afternoon.

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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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