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 – 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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Anatomy Of A Trade: Goodbye Boomstick

June 22, 2010

After a long and arduous road, it’s done. Weeks of back and forth negotiations proved fruitful, when I divested myself of my last share of Nelly “Boomstick” Cruz. Last week in my keeper league, I finally dealt the injury prone Texas Ranger outfielder, along with the disappointing tandem of Blue Jays second baseman, Aaron Hill and Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters, in exchange for Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth and San Francisco catcher of the future, Buster Posey. Hear that? That’s me giving a dramatic sigh of relief as I feel like I can finally start to set my team towards a late summer playoff run.

Don’t get me wrong, Cruz is a phenomenally talented player. His per-game numbers are unmatched by anyone in baseball this season. The Texas Ranger outfielder has hit for tremendous power, good average and has been quite the thief on the basepaths. I bet the multi-talented slugger can even make a mean margarita! Unfortunately, Cruz has one major flaw to his game, he cannot seem to stay healthy. Hounded by a balky hamstring, Cruz, who returned today from a second stint on the disabled list, has proven to be injury prone through out his career, an absolute albatross around the neck in a head-to-head league. After drafting him in the third round in my 12 team keeper league, I quickly came to regret the decision as I saw my team plummet in the standings without Cruz’ potent bat in the lineup.

Thankfully, I’ll no longer have to go scrambling for a roster replacement the next time Cruz visits the doctor. In Werth, I have a player whose numbers should come close to approximating Cruz’ production. He hasn’t stolen as much as he did in the past, but Werth has a ton of pop and hits in a bandbox of a stadium, while nestled comfortably in the five hole of the best lineup in the National League. Along with Werth, comes hard hitting Giants catcher/first baseman, Buster Posey. While the rookie has slowed down his torrid pace in recent days, he provides my team some flexibility, allowing me to play him at the corner infield position or at catcher when rookie sensation Carlos Santana gets a day off. This ability to add more counting numbers from the C slot, proved invaluable to me last season when I had both Wieters and then catcher eligible, Pablo Sandoval alternating at the position. Perhaps more importantly, it gives me valuable better bargaining chip, which I’m already trying to flip – I’ve just offered this weeks opponent, the surprising Jamaica Beef Patties Posey and reliever Jon Rausch for disturbingly ineffective Arizona starter, Dan Haren.

Moving the offensive black holes of Aaron Hill and Matt Wieters seems like a case of addition by subtraction right now, as neither have been producing much aside from goose eggs in the box scores. In fact their horrifying numbers have been a terrible drain on my ratios, one of the main reasons my team carries a .264 team batting average, third worst out of the 12 teams in the league. To be fair Hill has provided decent power with 10 homers on the year, while his .182 BABIP is the lowest of all qualifying hitters in baseball. That number simply has to rise as the season progresses. With my team flush with power and needing run scorers, base stealers and batting average, Hill was just not a good fit for my lineup. Wieters was an even bigger disappointment after coming into the league with such fanfare last season. While his hot September played a key role in my playoff success, the young Baltimore backstop has looked clueless at the plate this year, seeming to regress more and more with each passing game. I have little doubt that the talented youngster will one day be a star, his lack of production was hurting my team too much to continue to hold him. Frankly, I was pleasantly surprised to get anything for him. With Carlos Santana proving to be every bit the hitter he was advertised as so far in his young career, Wieters became expendable.

Filling in at the second base hole for Hill right now is Cardinals utility man Felipe Lopez, who has hasn’t been doing much either in recent weeks. The versatile Lopez has seen a lot of time at the top of the St. Louis batting order, which has been eerily quiet as of late. As the Cardinals heat up (as Matt Holiday has begun to do) look for Lopez to be crossing the plate with greater regularity. Along with taking Lopez off of waivers, I also grabbed injured San Diego Padre shortstop, Everth Cabrera for a much needed speed boost. I had originally drafted the light hitting infielder in the 21st round of this years draft, but quickly sent him and Reds outfielder, Drew Stubbs to the Patties in exchange for White Sox work horse Mark Buerhle, in what may go down as the most futile trade in our leagues history. The Patties ultimately cut Cabrera and Stubbs and I sent Buerhle off to waivers after his inauspicious start to 2010. Now the EverCab is back  in the fold and looks to return from the disabled list on Friday.

So with the team retooled and ready to go, we managed to dispose of last place Animal House by a score of 9-2 last week, as we closed the first half of the 2010 fantasy season on a high note after an excruciatingly slow start. Next up, a rematch with The Patties and a push towards another playoff berth.

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Bizarro World: Where’s Panda?

June 7, 2010

We’re a third of the way through what has been a historically crazy season of baseball. From extremes of perfection and incompetence to umpires gone wild and a new crop of fantastic rookie pitchers, I dare even the games most knowledgeable experts to try and predict what will happen in the remaining four months of the season. I double dog dare you! Grady Sizemore worthless. Jose Bautista leading the bigs in bombs. Jaime Garcia staking a claim to NL ROY honors. Cries of “replay!” from every mountain top, seas boiling, rain of toads, dogs and cats living together as Yogi would say, “Who’d have thunk it?” Here’s a little round up of what’s been going down are the diamond…

Ken Griffey Jr. had a fantastic career that came to an end 23 years to the day from when the Seattle Mariners first drafted him. Whether at the plate or gliding across the outfield, Griffey was as close to a fucking rock star as baseball had in the 90’s. Injuries cut short his claim to the all-time homer crown, but in an age of ‘roided out freaks, Junior took the high road and accepted his body’s natural limitations. Had he been so deranged as to jack himself up like The Hulk, he probably would have out-banged Bonds. Thanks for the memories Griff, we’ll see you in Cooperstown.

Props to Bruce Bochey from putting his best hitter in the eight hole on Saturday night. It stands to reason that a guy like Panda, who swings at everything, would prosper with the pitcher hitting behind him. That’s sarcasm. Sandoval was back hitting third today and went 2-5 with an RBI and a run scored in todays 6 – 5 Giants win over the Pirates. Sandoval’s been scuffling lately, largely due to a .306 BABIP, handcuffed to a paltry 15.5% LD rate. Last year those numbers were .350 and 18.6% respectively. His power has dropped as well, from a .226 ISO last season to a pedestrian .145 ISO coming into Sunday. While that sounds grim, his .59 BB/K rate isn’t far off of the .63 he posted in ’09 and his contact rate remains high at 82.4% versus 82.6% in the last campaign. While he may not reach 25 homers, like last season, his average should pick up with runs and RBI to go with it. If I could do it again, would I have kept Sandoval? No. However I’m not looking to dump him as he should still prove to be a solid contributor in the remaining two thirds of the season.

Kevin Correia isn’t right. Padre manager, Bud Black isn’t worried, but I am. His latest debacle in Philly cost me dearly in my H2H league. Little surprise here actually. How could he be right after the recent death of his brother? I can’t imagine being able to maintain the focus needed to perform at the major league level, while dealing with such a catastrophic loss. After the 2008 season, much was written about how the death of his father affected Pedro Martinez‘ pitching perhaps more than the injuries he was recovering from. Having lost people close to me, I know how hard it can be to put on a mask of sanity and go out one’s business. Since returning to the mound after the tragedy, Correia’s only had one Quality Start and he walked six in that game. I’m giving Correia one more start, next week against a soft Mariners lineup. We’ll see where we go from there.

Buster Posey is good at hitting baseballs. Not this good however. I see him as a .290 hitter at season’s end and that may be generous. Drawing only his first walk as a 2010 Giant today doesn’t bode well. If I owned Posey in a redraft league, I’d sell while his value is at it’s peak.

Hey Tex, it’s June. You can start hitting now…

I’m really really happy that I traded Nelson Cruz for Kevin Youkilis in the Big Ballers League.

I’m shocked that Armando Galarraga is still on waivers in the BBL. Does a guy have to throw a perfect game to get some respect? I was pretty surprised to pick up Dallas Braden off of waivers this week too after he was dropped. I’m thinking of taking Galarraga over Hisanori Takahashi, who’s been dreadful in his last two starts against the less than intimidating Padres and Fighting Fish. The gracious Galarraga isn’t as good as he was last week against Cleveland, but he showed some positive signs in 2008. Gotta be worth a flyer in a league so deep!

Mike Stanton will bring his minor league leading HR power to The Show this week, showing either Cody Ross or Cameron Maybin to the pine. Maybin’s been a disappointment and it’s easy to see why he’d be benched. After being the centerpiece of the deal that sent Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis (who made his presence felt in his D-Backs premiere this weekend) to Detroit however, I feel the Marlins have to give Maybin every shot to succeed. Hopefully for The Harlem Hangovers, I’m right, but Ross has definitely been the one deserving of playing time.

Jaime Garcia continues to throw Quality Starts as he dances between raindrops. I’m not looking forward to his crash back to Earth.

Kevin Gregg’s best chance to keep his closer job involves not pitching. Nobody in the Blue Jay pen seems to want the gig, so Gregg keeps it by default.

Harlem Hangovers fall to 92 points, down to 5th place. Lima Time Forever loses 7 – 4 and finishes the week 15 games under .500, tied for second to last place. It’s not looking good. Changes are in the wind.

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Back In The Swing

May 31, 2010

I’ve been busy working on some other writing projects lately, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been obsessing over my fantasy baseball teams. The  Ham Fighters suffered through an abysmal May, going 18-27-3 for the month and prompting me to change the team’s name to “Lima Time Forever,” in an effort to gain back favor with the baseball gods. With a whopping 17 HR week, it looks like some of that sleeping lumber is starting to wake up and not a week too soon.

While The Harlem Hangovers hit a rough patch last week, dropping down to as far as fourth place, the team has since bounced back into fine form. Uptown’s Finest finished the week atop the standings with 104.5 points, four better than the second place Osaka Outsiders. Here’s a look at the Hangovers roster as it currently stands.

The biggest news to come out of the Big Ballers League is my trade of Nelson Cruz for Kevin Youkilis. I had been wanting to move Cruz since he reinjured his hamstring last week. I could see the writing on the wall for Mr. Boomstick and it wasn’t pretty. Essentially he’s become the Ian Kinsler of the Texas Outfield: great when he plays but ultimately disappointing due to his reoccurring injuries. To be honest, this deal doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me from the other owners prospective. While the offer was made before Cruz was placed on the 15-day DL, last night, the slugger was well-known to be damaged goods. Perhaps his new owner is more of an optimist than I, but it just doesn’t add up to me, particularly in light of how well Youk has been playing. We count OBP, so Youk and his gaudy .445 clip gain even more value. This move allows me to play the “Greek God of Walks,” at third, bench Gordan Beckham’s anemic bat and move Chase Headley to the outfield as needed.

Another interesting development that gives my team a boost is the arrival of Buster Posey to the big show in SF. But you don’t have Posey, so how’s that help you? Well my disembodied friend, Posey has been playing first base (and hitting the crap out of the ball) since his arrival to the Majors on Saturday. This has prompted manager Bruce Bochey to move first base incumbent, Aubrey Huff into left field, meaning that I’ll soon be able to play Huff in the outfield and bench one of my current OFs for added flexibility – Cameron Maybin, I’m looking at you.

Another move that I made was dumping OBP black hole, A.J. Pierzynski for Greek demigod of Walks, George Kottares. With Greg “Kneel Before” Zaun done for the year with a torn ulner collateral ligament, Kottares becomes Brew-Town’s starting catcher and should generate decent counting numbers and OBP where ever he hits in the Brewer lineup. Kottares and D-Back squatter, Chris Snyder will do fine keeping the catchers seat warm for the impending arrival of Indians top prospect, Carlos Santana.

With all the position shuffling, I now find myself with a log jam in my middle infield. With stalwart Robinson Cano entrenched at second base, Yunel Escobar swinging better for the Braves, Reid Brignac asserting himself for playing time in Tampa and Cubs rookie Starlin Castro continuing to open eyes, I suddenly have a good problem: too many playable middle infielders. It would be nice to be able to trade one of these guys for another bopper or an upgrade in my starting rotation at some point.

On the other side of the ball, The Hangovers pitching staff has been pretty solid. I could stand to use another high quality arm, but who can’t? With a little luck, I already have one in Brandon Webb, who will hopefully see action in the 2nd half.

Unfortunately, let Max Scherzer go now seems like a terrible miscalculation, but I still believe I have enough good arms to win. Scherzer of course was sent down to the minors after performing horribly in his first eight starts for Detroit. Disgusted with yet another bad start, I ditched Mad Max in a fit of rage as my team began to slide in the standings. At AAA Toledo, Scherzer tweaked his delivery and rediscovered his lost velocity, turning in two stellar performances before returning to the big club yesterday. Well it was quite a return for Max, dispatching of 14 A’s batters by strikeout over five and 2/3 innings. Of course he threw that gem just to spite me as he now sits on Georgetown Gigolos roster. Maybe Max is the karmic retribution for stealing Chris Carpenter and Chase Headley for Carlos Lee, Tim Hudson and Brandon Lyons from the New Phila Phenoms earlier this season.

Recent acquisition, Hisanori Takahashi has taken his new starting job in Flushing and run with it, having not yet allowed a run over his 12 innings as a starter. What’s most impressive is that the two starts came against the Yankees and the Phillies. I expect continued success his first go through opposing lineups, before scouting reports catch up with his less than awe-inspiring stuff.

Another recent piece that I picked up was reliever J.C. Romero, who I grabbed when Alfredo “Shutdown SauceSimon went down with a hamstring injury. While Jose Contrares is the primary closer in Illadelph, Romero has closed two games where a lefty heavy lineup batted in the 9th. I can see this sort of usage continuing as the Phils have been struggling and cannot afford to mess with a working bullpen formula.

Overall I’m thrilled with this team’s performance. With the hot Youk injection and Huff’s moving to the outfield, I’ll have added flexibility which will allow me to spot start some of my more dubious players. If Santana performs upon his call-up to Cleveland, I’ll have a new weapon hitting out of my catching slot to improve power numbers. On the bump, I expect some regression from Pelfrey, Cueto and Marcum but not too much. These guys are simply pitching their asses off. Zack Grienke‘s luck has to improve right? The Crown Royals can’t blow every game he pitches and he should continue to be in line for plenty more W’s down the road. The bullpen has suffered from The D.A.’s recent rough patch and the loss of Simon, but Heath Bell continues to rack up Saves fortunately. It would be a nice luxury to have another good closer, so that might be something worth looking soon.

Well there’s the wrap up of The Harlem Hangovers after two months of play. Lets hope that my boys can keep this up!

Here are the standings going into today’s games:

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Stealing Signs: Good Reads From Around The Web

May 15, 2010

In honor of The Philistines and their eagle eyed coach, Mick Billmeyer, I’m going to steal a few notable links from around the baseball blogosphere in an effort to get a few cheap hits.

  • Eriq Gardner at Fantasy Baseball Junkie leads off with a great piece, breaking down the various types of trades that occur in fantasy baseball.
  • Stephan at Razzball threw down a fantastic article breaking down Minor League ballpark factors. Take a look at where the prospects are playing before deciding whether or not to buy into the hype! Read Part One before Part Deux, or so I’m told.
  • Mets fans, don’t hold your breath for Roy Oswalt to be coming to Flushing this season. Mike Puma (that can’t be his real name. Is he a porn star? A mercenary?) of the NY Post says the Mets have enough reservations about eating the $1.8 million owed to replacement player extraordinaire Sarge Jr., let alone taking on the additional $15 million Oswalt is owed this season. Now that I’ve cited The Post, I’m going to go pull up The World Weekly News (“The world’s only reliable news”) to find out where LeBron James will end up next.
  • If you’re wondering what I’m doing inside on a beautiful Saturday afternoon, perhaps you should pay a visit to Fangraphs to read Carson Cistulli’s series entitled, “Why We Write.” Me? I’ve taken up baseball writing to justify my anti-social behavior to my friends and family. Oh and as Ice Cube perhaps said best, “I’m only out for one thing: the pussy, the money and the M-I-C.”
  • Derek Ambrosino dropped science as usual over at THT Fantasy. Part one of his series, “What Should Fantasy Baseball Be About?” was posted last week, discussing the cause and effect of league parameters and the arguments for and against the legitimacy of streaming. Part two, where he digs into keeper league dump trades was just posted for your reading pleasure.
  • Speaking of pleasure, I’ve recently began reading, “The Yankee Years,” Joe Torre’s memoirs of his era in pinstripes, written with Tom Verducci. I’m thoroughly enjoying the read so far, thanks D! Gotta love that “Clueless Joe,” headline that the NY Daily News ran after his first press conference as Yankee Manager. I knew he was the players union rep but I never realized one of my all-time favorite players, David Cone, took such a large leadership role in that mid-90’s Yankee clubhouse. As a Mets fan with plenty of schadenfreude, I’m looking forward to reading about the Kevin Brown years of Torre’s tenure.

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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The Chase Is On: Chase Headley And The Hangovers Lead The Pack

April 26, 2010

Over in the Big Ballers League, I’m pretty freakin’ happy to see my Harlem Hangovers on top of the standings. With Nelly Boomstick‘s grand theft in Boston leading the way, The Hangovers have been burning up the base paths and scoring a lot of runs on their way to a +5.5 point week. That makes a total of 105, up 6 on the next best team, The Hillsboro 5 Tooler’. Pretty good for a team that hasn’t heard a peep from Mark Texiera or Gordan Beckham. With The Supernatural‘s call-up looming and a possible return of Brandon Webb, it looks like The Hangovers have a lot of winning to look forward to this year.

One big contributor to my success so far has been Chase Headley. He along with Chris Carpenter came over in a preseason deal for Carlos Lee, Tim Hudson and Brandon Lyons, in what’s looking like the kind of robbery I almost feel bad to have carried out. Carrying a gaudy .371/.421/.500 line coming into play on Monday, Headley’s been on an absolute tear, spearheading The Father’s resurgence out in SD, with 15 Runs scored in 76 PA. Little wonder he’s scoring so much when he’s on base over 42% of the time! While he’s been the beneficiary of a very lucky .417 BABIP, his lifetime BABIP sits at .344 due to his propensity for hitting line drives. In fact Chase is what fielders do a lot of when he’s up at bat, as he’s been hitting liners at a 26.2% clip. What can we attribute his recent success to? It seems like he’s taking a different approach to the plate, as he’s cut down his K rate by an amazing 50% in the early going of 2010. Currently his BB/K rates sit at 7.9%/12.9%, in contrast to his career 9.3%/26% rates. This is particularly noteworthy, since he’s swinging at pitches outside of the strike zone 4.3% more frequently than in the previous year. While he’s swinging more at pitches outside the zone, he’s also making more contact, with an increase in his O-Contact (percentage of contact made on pitches outside the K zone) from 52% to 59.5% between 2009 and 2010. What has been most surprising about Headley’s emergence is his speed. Even the most optimistic fan projections listed on his Fangraphs entry, see Headley with 12 swipes. Headley already has 8, including 3 in a game last week, against the SF battery of Dirty Sanchez and Eli Whiteside. I can easily see Headley knocking on 20 before the season is done.

I knew Carpenter was going to be lights out, little did I know that the $2 Chase Headley would develop into this kind of fantasy baseball stud. I’m not going to say, I thought so, but I did in fact take Chase off of waivers when he returned to the bigs in his second call-up, back in ’08. What’s not to like about a guy who posted a .330/.437/.580 line in AA ball back in ’07? With slick fielding Kevin Kouzmanoff manning the hot corner, Headley spent more time in LF rather than at his natural position of 3B. With Kouz shipped off to Oaktown, Headley seems at home back at third, providing solid defense along to go along with his solid stick. While I don’t believe Headley can sustain this otherworldly pace and I believe that some regression is due to catch up with him, if Headley keeps performing anywhere near as good as this, he’ll be a familiar name among upper tier third basemen for years to come.

Other notable Hangover contributors this week:

Robinson Cano: 9/21 7R/1HR/4RBI/1SB/.538OBP I’m getting tired of talking about how awesome a year he’s having. On second thought, I’m not. Robbie lives to hit baseballs. When he’s on, he makes hitting lasers all over the park look downright easy. He’s streaky, so I imagine he’ll slump at some point but right now he’s the best hitter in the Yankee lineup.

Mike Pelfrey continues to roll goose eggs out there, contributing 12 more this week. That’s 24 innings since he’s given up a run in total now, after his rain shortened victory against Atlanta last night. With 2W/9K/0.00 ERA/1.33 WHIP, The Mets sinkerballer is proving to be a fantastic waiver pickup for me.

Franklin Gutierrez has been anchoring the Mariner lineup as well as my own so far in 2010. With a 6/20 4R/2HR/4RBI/.375 week, he finally got into the HR column. Is there nothing The Big FraGu can’t do?

Added: Pittsburgh 3B Andy LaRoche. 6 for 8 since returning to the lineup, LaRoche Minor’s hot stick will provide a little corner depth.

Dropped: It was nice while it lasted, but I think Brett Myers‘ hot streak will end soon. Let him be on someone else’s roster when it does.