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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Mad Max Beyond Tiger Dome

June 1, 2010

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

Other apocalyptic happenings from around the league…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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