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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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.