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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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.


A Strange Day Indeed

April 18, 2010

Every now and then Baseball gives us a day that makes you realize you really haven’t seen it all. It was as though the ghost of Doc Ellis paid the game a visit today and dropped a couple of sugar cubes in the punchbowl.

As Dave Cameron at Fangraphs so elegantly put it, Baseball Is Amazing.

Ubaldo spat hot fire at The Bravos on his way to the first No Hitter in Rockies history. I really wish Fox or MLB would have cut to the game. Don’t we have split screens and what not in the future? The Dexter Fowler catch in the 7th was incredible. Hopefully his glove will keep him in the lineup, because his bat is swinging like it wants out.

The Mets win over The Cards was one of the most bizarre games I’ve ever seen. Mr. Larussa,  July 4th, 1985 called. Rick Camp says he’s available to pinch hit. Both managers should be fired for the way that game was managed. Larussa, at least, was managing for October. He could have cared less if his team won.

Jerry Manuel was managing for his life and hopefully it doesn’t cost Mike Pelfrey his career. All I could think of was an Aaron Harang extra inning appearance in ’08. His career hasn’t been the same since. Pelfrey only went one inning, but it was one inning too much for my stomach. Oh by the way, WHY IN GOD’S NAME is Castillo bunting against super-futility guy/turned reliever Joe Mather?! Ryan Ludwick played like he was on acid. I felt like I was too after that game. Lost in the madness and mayhem was the scintillating duel between Johan and Garcia.

How about a game in a half in Boston? Two walk off Pirate wins in a row? Livan Hernandez tossing a complete game Shutout? “It’s my scene and it’s freakin’ me out!”

Enjoy this great short commemorating Doc Ellis’ psychedelic day.


Something To Get Excited About In Queens?

April 15, 2010

Last Friday night I watched closely as Mike Pelfrey hung tough through 6 innings and held The Nats to 2 runs on 4 hits, 4 BB and 4 K in the winning effort. Pelfrey had success in his first full season in ’08 but regressed mightily in ’09 as he lost confidence in his off-speed pitches and threw the highest percentage (77.4%) of fastballs of any starter in the league. Obviously you’re not going to get through too many Major League lineups like that.

It’s never been a matter of ability for the hard throwing former 1st round pick of the ’05 draft. This spring, Pelfrey tooled with his approach and developed a new pitch in a splitter that arrives in the 85 MPH range. Replacing his ineffective change-up with the heavy dropping split that tails away from lefties and refining his slider, Pelfrey has looked like an entirely different pitcher so far this season. Today’s start was particularly impressive: 7 innings of shut out ball, striking out 6 and allowing only 5 hits and no walks. He was confident and efficient as he worked his way through a Rockies lineup that was without CarGo, Hawpe or Helton, with little hassle.

With a lilliputian career .69 HR rate and 50% ground ball rate, the big righty impressed me enough today to make me drop Scott Downs in The Big Ballers league and grab up the Big P. Maybe it’s blind homer optimism, but I think Pelfrey has the ability to be a surprisingly productive fantasy start this season. I’d take a wait and see approach in smaller leagues, but don’t wait too long. Another good start and Pelfrey’s going to be a hot name in fantasy circles.

For more on Flushing’s favorite palm-licker, check out this article by Dan Budreika at Rotographs.

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Hitting The Cutoff Man

April 10, 2010

Hitting the cutoff man is a fundamental part of baseball. Thank you very much Captain Obvious, AKA Tim McCarver. I like to draw similarities between real ball and fan ball, so I’m going to run with it anyway

In fantasy baseball, owners have to draw a cutoff point, when looking down the list free agents available. How low can I go down this list to find bargain basement production? Seemingly marginal players are always emerging from obscurity to dazzle experts and casual fans alike. “Mr. Hill, may I introduce you to Mr. Zobrist?” Buried beneath god forsaken lineups, or stuck hurling from mounds in homer happy ballparks, there are always surprises to be found for astute fantasy owners. Since we’re talking fundamentals here, I suppose digging deep into the waiver wires is a fundamental part of fantasy baseball blogging. So this is me throwing my at into the fortune telling ring. Feel free to agree or call me a fucktard.

  • I don’t expect Colby Lewis and C.J. Wilson to be lights out all season long, (although Oliver loves Colby Lewis long time) but both Texas pitchers put up impressive lines this week. Both are gone in my leagues, but are a nice add if you need back of the rotation depth. I’ll get more excited about Wilson when he performs well against a team other that’s not The Blue Jays.
  • Mike Pelfrey was very impressive against The Nationals and could be of fantasy significance very soon. Big Pelf From The Group Home has added a splitter and he had it working last night. If he can continue to use the splitter effectively, Pelfrey could post some surprising numbers this season. I’m totally stalking him now.
  • Luke Hochevar had an impressive start to 2010, by posting 7 2/3 shutout innings against The Tigers. I read that he’s throwing gas, so he might be primed for a breakout. He has the misfortune of pitching for The Royals of course, but maybe Zack Grienke’s taught him the zen of pitching for an awful team.
  • Jamie Garcia has looked real good today against The Brew Crew. Maybe Dave Duncan’s magic pitcher pixie-dust can shape Garcia into a waiver wire gem this year. Definitely a kid to watch closely.
  • Casey Kotchman has a good eye and should see regular playing time. I should have picked him up in my 15 teamer, that uses OBP. Instead, I’m rostering Aubrey Huff as a backup corner guy.
  • I’m really excited about Ian Desmond’s bat. He’s shown some extra base pop and decent plate discipline so far. Desmond seems to have taken his fielding cues from Roberto “Manos De Piedra” Duran, however, booting balls with alarming frequency. I’m really hoping that Desmond’s awful D doesn’t get him yanked from the lineup. It would be pretty cool for fantasy purposes, if he were moved to right though. I have him in my MI right now, and I just picked up Casey McGehee, to provide some depth in case Desmond rides the pine.
  • J.J. Hardy’s name popped up on Razzball last night and it had me rethinking my position on the free swinging, Twins shortstop. He’s got more verified pop than McGehee, but should probably have a lower average and OBP by year’s end. I don’t like AVG killers and to drain both AVG and OBP is criminal, but depending on what you need, Hardy could produce for you. I went with McGehee, since he’s 3B/2B eligible and I could use another guy to cover a corner. I have a feeling Hardy will be grabbed off of waivers in my 12 team league very soon though.
  • Mets rightfielder, Jeff Francoeur smacked two homers on Friday night, instantly putting him on the radar of many deep-league fantasy owners. Another low AVG/OBP guy, he will give you some power and drive in his share of runs. In fact he did a good bit of both of those things back in ’06 and ’07. Frenchy seems to be a very good fit in Flushing, drawing raves about his character and enthusiasm for the game. Unless your league uses grit and determination as categories, that’s meaningless of course. Hearing that leads one to believe that Jerry Manual likes to pencil his name into the lineup every day, which is a good for Frenchy. He’s also a fine outfielder with one of the league’s best arms, so his defense will get him at-bats.
  • Light hitting firstbagger, Daric Barton, is available in my 12 team, OBP league and is an interesting option if you’re really into Sabermetrics. That’s me mocking Billy Beane, like a stodgy, old school baseball guy. I’ll be surprised if Chris Carter hasn’t taken the Oaktown 357 1B job by year’s end, but in the mean time, Barton is getting on base, which we all know is the most important thing a hitter can do. Aside from looking good in his uniform that is.

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