MistaBernadina, Mista Roger Bernadina

June 17, 2010

While he isn’t a stuffy, suit wearing, white-bread office drone, you can say that Nationals outfielder Roger Bernadina, is cut from a particular mold of player. Bernadina has little pop and won’t hit for a ton of average but he runs well and should net you a few steals in exchange for a waiver flier without really hurting your ratios. He’s your basic speed model, playable when he’s hot, SAGNOF option. Since he’s shown a decent walk rate through out his minor league career, I picked him up in the Big Ballers League while searching for some outfield depth. Just in time it seems, since Bernadina hit his second homer in the past three games and threw in a steal for good measure tonight. Would I roster him in 12 team mixed? Not quite yet, but as Mr. Selaticia from Metalocalypse might say, “We shall wait and see…”

What else is going on around the league?

With his first homer in the bigs, Jose Tabata stole the thunder from Pedro Alvarez‘s MLB debut yesterday. I don’t expect many more from the speedy rook, but I’m looking forward to deploying him as a speed option in my 12 team mixed keeper. Actually, the steady John Danks (8 IP 2 ER 6 K 3 BB), struggling Carlos Quentin (2-4, 2 RBI)  and the ChiSox were the story, beating the Pirates 7-2. The Heights’ own Alvarez, the most anticipated young Buc to come up in the game since Barry Bonds, went 0-2 with a BB, a K and a run scored.

Another, slightly more accomplished Pedro was making some news yesterday as Phillies GM, Ruben Amaro was said to have started up preliminary talks with future Hall O’ Famer, Pedro Martinez‘ agent about having him rejoin the Phils after the All-Star break. While it breaks my heart to think about Pedro again pitching for those inbred douche-nozzles in Philly, I’ve always loved watching Pedro work and look forward to seeing him later in the season. As talks heat up and old Pedro comes out from under the mango tree to get into fighting shape, I’d say he’ll soon be worth a flier as the chatter picks up, on the chance he can contribute like he did last year down the stretch.

The fallout from the Conor Jackson for Sam Demel blockbuster continues. In his Oaktown premiere, Jackson batted lead-off and went 2-3 with a BB and a run scored in the 6-2 loss to the Cubbies. Meanwhile, the Diamond Backs sent Demel out against the Red Sox for some mop-up duty in the 6-2 Sawx victory. Demel threw a clean inning, striking out Mike Cameron in the process. I have absolutely no confidence in Aaron Heilman keeping his newly appointed closer gig. His numbers may seem alright on the surface, but he’s got a 4.52 xFIP next to his low 2.83 ERA. Heilman’s never passed the eye-ball test for any Mets fan who’s had the misfortune to witness his many spectacular meltdowns during his time in Flushing. The man’s just not good in a big spot. Demel has had outstanding numbers in the minors and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him closing in the not too distant future. Hoping I’m right about Heilman, as I put in a FAAB bid on Demel in the Big Baller’s League, as he was just added to the Yahoo player list.

The Mets keep winning on the strength of solid starting pitching. Two lesser known hurlers who’ve stepped up are knuckle miester, R.A. Dickey and young lefty, Jonathan Niese. 36 year old Dickey has been a huge surprise for the Flushing faithful, logging four wins and four QS over his 5 starts. Currently holding a 4-0 record with a 2.78 ERA, 1.38 WHIP and a 24/10 K/BB split, I’m expecting a blow up somewhere down the road, but he remains a solid streaming option, especially in the friendly confines of Metco Park. I don’t trust knucklers for fantasy purposes, but Dickey throws his fastball a little harder than your average float-baller, clocking in at an average of 84.2 MPH. If his fastball can remain effective, he could continue to keep hitters off balance and induce weak contact (49.5% GB and 9.4% IFFB rates in 2010), which we like.

As primarily a two pitch, fastball-curveball chucker, Niese struggled in his limited time with the big club through ’08 and ’09, before having surgery to repair a torn hamstring last August. Reemerging with an effective cut-fastball as a third pitch and a tad more zip appearing on the fastball, Niese has stepped up, as an effective back-end starter for the Mets this season. In 11 starts (64 1/3 IP) Niese has a line of 4-2, with a 3.64 ERA, 1.43 WHIP and a 48/21 K/BB split. Since returning from the DL, after suffering a strained hamstring, Niese has come back stronger than ever. Over his last three starts, Niese is 3-0, coughing up only 4 ER in 25 innings (including a 1-hit gem of the Padres that saw Niese face one above the minimum 27 batters) while striking out 15 and walking only three. Niese induces a lot of grounders (50% of batted balls he’s given up have been hit on the ground) and few homers (.7 per 9 IP) and currently carries a somewhat unfortunate .331 BABIP against. Look for that number to come down and Niese to remain a nice streaming option for 12 team leagues.

Dave of Jesus has been performing miracles in K.C., with that gaudy .329 BA and .403 OBP. While he’ll give you nice ratios, DeJesus is basically Freddy Sanchez in the outfield, with a few more counting numbers. I like to think of him as FraGu-lite. That’s not bad if it fills your needs, but as Grey at Razzball said, “the downside is no upside.” One ray of hope for the son of man is that he’s in his walk year and could conceivably be moved by the Royals, as they once again start thinking about next year. I’m going to hazard a guess and say the Bravos would be buyers, since Nate McClouth has been god awful. The Sawx might bite too, since they’ve suffered numerous OF injuries and are currently looking up at the Rays and Yanks in the A.L. East standings. When I asked Grey if he thought DeJesus might be worth adding to in my 12 team mixed league, his response was something to the effect of, “then you’d be stuck watching Royals highlights.” Needless to say I didn’t add him, going for Angel Pagan instead.

So that’s it for now. Next entry, I’ll take a look at a major trade that I made a few days ago in the 12 team mixed keeper league…

In the mean time, enjoy this classic Del video…

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Under The Weather

May 19, 2010

I seem to have been struck with the same stomach ailment that plagued Carlos Quentin over the weekend but like Quentinsity, I’m breaking out! With that in mind, I’ll turn to a few of the latest ballers to nursing injuries and how it might open up playing time and create some interesting fantasy options.

Ass-suck Cabrera fractured a wing the other day. Chief Wahoo calls up Jason Donald to fill in at short. Donald went 2-3 with a BB and a run scored last night in his MLB debut, while hitting in the nine-hole. Yeah that sounds dirty but with uninspired duo of Trevor Crowe and Mark Grudzielanek setting the table in Cleveland, it’s safe to imagine Donald leading off in the not too distant future. Donald is a cheap speed play if you’re in need of swipes and shouldn’t kill your ratios, as he has exhibited decent plate discipline in the minors.

Josh Beckett was sent to the DL with pain in his lower back. Fantasy owners trying to trade him (like my man JP) collectively bury their heads in their hands. I’m not sure what’s more painful, Red-State-Jeter’s bum back or having to watch him pitch. Tim Wakefield will take Beckett’s place in the Sawx rotation. I wouldn’t roster Wakefield with your team. Instead go grab some schmo who pitches in the NL West, like John Ely, Jason Hammel, Jon Garland or Jeff Francis for a safe play. You could also go with…

Atlanta Braves pitcher. Kris Medlen, who looked solid in his start against the Mets last night. Going in place of Jar Jar “I told you he’d end up on the DL” Jurrjens, Medlen cruised through five before giving up solo jacks to Ike and Frenchy and ultimately getting chased in the 7th.  He finished with a no-decision but a tidy 6K, 2BB, 4H and 2ER in 6 1/3IP. There’s a lot to like about the young righty who started the season in the bullpen and now holds a 26/5 K/BB rate in 29 1/3 IP through 2010. With a mix of plus fastballs and a very effective change, he’s sustained that 5-1 K/BB rate through his minor league career so those numbers are not a fluke. I’m looking forward to seeing him go deeper into games and raking up Quality Starts for the Uptown Ham Fighters, as he stretches out and gets more acclimated to starting.

Of course the biggest injury to hamper the hopes of Dodger fans and fantasy owners alike, is the fractured pinky that Andre Ethier suffered in batting practice a few days ago. The hottest hitter in baseball couldn’t swing through the pain, so he was placed on the DL yesterday for some R & R. In his place the Trolley Dodgers call up intriguing power-speed combo, Xavier Paul. Paul was raking for the AAA Isotopes over the last few weeks, before getting the call. He didn’t reach base in three plate appearances while hitting out of the two-hole last night for Los Angeles.

One of the surprise stars of my Ham Fighter squad is Yankee right fielder Nick Swisher. Swish has been a steady producer in 2010, hitting well from both sides of the plate on his way towards approaching the numbers he posted in his career year in 2005. Nagged by a strained left bicep for the past few weeks, the arm flared up last week during the Yanks-Tigers doubleheader split. Making it painful to swing from the left side, he’s been sitting the past two nights, after coming out of the game on Sunday against the Twins. Consider him day-to-day, but be ready to grab a bat if he hits the DL. That bat should not be Randy Winn or Marcus Thames, unless you’re playing in a deep AL-Only league or you hate yourself. Thames might give you a little pop against lefties or Jon Paplebon, but neither are really rosterable.

Back off of the DL is Cardinal infielder, Felipe Lopez. The versatile, if unspectacular utility man hit a two-run bomb in his second game leading off for St. Louis last night. Brendan Ryan will ride the pine as Lopez should see consistent playing time. The holder of a career .269/.338/.401 line has shown flashes of goodness through out his 10 seasons in the bigs but has had nagging injuries that have hampered him. If he could get hot, Lopez could be a good source of runs at with occasional speed and power, that won’t murder your ratios. Leading off for the Cards has its benefits and you could do worse as far as middle infielders go.

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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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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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