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. TheĀ  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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…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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