The Cortizone Kids

September 22, 2010

It’s been a month to remember for Team Donkey Punch. Never thought you’d see that sentence in writing did you? After closing out the regular season with a scorching 30-3-3 record, I ultimately finished in 2nd place, 1/2 game out of the top spot. I actually held first going into the furious final day of play, that saw three teams in first, before the dust settled and The Thirsty Monster stood atop the standings for the second straight year.

With the additions of pitchers Yovanni Gallardo and Ryan Dempster via trade and young phenom Daniel Hudson and veterans Joe Blanton and Jake Westbrook off of waivers, the starting pitching that was a weakness earlier in the season became a strength down the stretch. I patched the speed-hole in my offense as well by adding Brett Gardner to the mix and seeing Chone Figgins come on in the second half. With a team more well-rounded than ever and a first-round playoff bye, Donkey Punch was ready to battle it out for another championship.

Then the injury bug struck.

On the first day of my semi-final match up with the commissioners team and 2007 champ, The Devil Wears Prado, I had Albert Pujols, Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner all receive cortizone shots to various aching body parts. Three days later, the Cardinals would shut down rookie sensation Jaime Garcia. Lead by a resurgent pitching staff and big weeks by Jason Werth, Angel Pagan and Derek Jeter, Donkey Punch overcame the odds to earn a trip to the finals to face The Thirsty Monster. Which is where we are today, currently leading 8-3 (no thanks to lousy performances by Cole Hamels and Trevor Cahill today) going into the second week of the championship series. With the offense clicking (I’m ahead in all offensive categories) and the rotation loaded with 15 starts for the final week, we might be sipping bubbly once in October once again.
Some notable moves: I finally let go of the Panda. Lets call him F.U. Panda, shall we? He’s been bad enough to land on the bench as the Giants battle it out with the Padres and Rockies in the final weeks. Panda get sent off to waivers in place of Marlins rookie Logan Morrison. Had I rostered Morrison instead of F.U. a month ago, I’d have probably finished in first. Now that I pick him up, he cools off, going 5 for 28 in the past week. At least he’s playing and not terrorizing Bay area buffet tables, unlike the disappointing Panda.

Mike Aviles on the other hand has done serious work the past week, with 7R/2HR/5RBI/2 SB and a .333 BA. Aviles replaced Emilio Bonnafacio who I rostered to give me a speed boost while Brett Gardner was out with his recent wrist injury. Aviles is a perfect example of playing the hot man in H2H as he’s hit 6 of his 8 homers in the month of September.

That’s all for now. I’ve got some writing to do for SYFFAL.com, a music/culture/variety blog that I write for now but I’ll be back next week either celebrating another championship season or licking my wounds after a monumental collapse.


…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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Week 2 Review: Floyd And The Damage Done

April 19, 2010

I woke up Sunday morning, trailing 4-7 in my H2H league, with a few categories still up for grabs. Poor starts earlier in the week by Big Z and Gavin Floyd set me back, but I still felt good about my prospects of still pulling out a win against The Men On A Mission. I trailed by a Win and a Quality Start and a little bit of WHIP, with Hamels going against The Fish, Wainwright up against The Mets and Floyd facing the The Indians. Three starts, three wins, three quality starts in the bag, right? Well thinking like that is why I don’t bet anymore. Well ok, maybe one more bet…

The Phils bats went quiet in support of Hamels. Got the QS there, but no W. Encouraging nonetheless, as Hamels made his best start of the young season. Floyd on the other hand threw up an epic stinker, against a decidedly bad Indians team. Floyd allowed seven runs before being chased in the 2nd without even getting an out. Forget about WHIP. Not quite what I planned when I drafted him in the 9th round. As Stephen Colbert would say, “Floyd, you and Z are on notice!”

That left me with Wainwright, the same guy that I watched crush my dreams in ’06 with that mighty curve that sent The Mets packing and The Cards off to win a World Series. Yeah it’s an ugly route to go but playing with your heart will get you last place. Anyway, by the second inning I was cursing my TV as Wainwright was coughing up a crooked number and it seemed my team would go down without a fight. Alas, Wainwright held the line, kept The woeful Mets bats at three runs and managed to go the entire game for the victory! A bit of redemption for Ryan Ludwick, with the game-winning home run that almost erased the memory of his prior day’s idiocy. Nice way to end the week. A little disappointing the way I started off the week on fire, but we got the W and that’s what counts.

Notable players for week 2:

The Captain, Derek Jeter continues to defy naysayers with his stellar play atop the vaunted Yankee lineup. 11/22 with 5 runs scored, 3 dingers and 7 RBI. He’s currently the 16th ranked player in Yahoo, tops amongst SS.

Casey McGehee has been huge for me in the absence of Aaron Hill. Since picking him up last Sunday, he’s hit 10/22 with a 5 runs, 2 jacks and 6 RBI while posting a .519 OBP. Not bad for a replacement utility guy. With Hill possibly returning at the end of the week, there’s no way I can ditch this guy. Looks like Baby Jete’s going to get kicked to the curb, unless I can make a move…

Over in The Big Ballers League, “Whaddya know” Robbie Cano has been smacking laser beams all over The Stadium. The two jacks he laced on Jackie Robinson night were a nice touch to honor his namesake. I can easily see Cano breaking career highs in HR and RBI this season, vaulting him into elite 2B status alongside Utley.

Cameron Maybin looked awful in the first series against The Mets this season. 3 K’s against Johan will do that to you. Well he’s had a much better run of things this week and he looks like The Marlin’s centerfielder is on track. On base at a .412 clip, Maybin had a homer, 6 runs scored, 3 RBI and 2 steals for the week. With a move up to the lead-off slot, he should get more opportunities to use his modest speed a little more. Look for 20 – 25 steals by years end.

Kevin Correia, ace of the often-ridiculed Hodge-Pad‘s staff, came through big for both of my teams this week. In 11 1/3, he posted 2 wins, 11 K, a 1.59 ERA and a tidy 1.15 WHIP. With my H2H team getting healthy, I want every reason to send Correia packing, but he’s pitching too well to even consider that. Go out there and throw kid. Don’t worry, you’ve got a job.

So a wild and woolly week ended and another begins. As of this writing, The Uptown Hamfighters sit at 13-9-2, good for 2.5 games out of first place. In the Big Ballers League, The Harlem Hangovers are currently tied for first with 107.5 points. So far so good.

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