Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Risk of C.C. the Hut

Please accept my apologies for the long posting break. Perhaps, the sad news that the King Kaufman column at salon was ending threw me off. Anyway, I've returned from Chicago and am back to the land of the Metropolitans and the Yankee Swishers.

In fact, yesterday I caught glimpses of televisions around town
during the Yankees and A's 5-hour, 14-inning game.

In the bottom of the 14th, M
elky Cabrera hit a 2-run Homerun, his second of the day. Robinson Cano seemed exceptionally happy for him. Matsui looked like he didn't want to get hurt in the celebration. Nick Swisher did the on-field, post-game interview, which made me feel prophetically minuscule about calling them the New York Yankee Swishers a few days ago. This guy is embracing the bright lights, and the city is eating him up.

I saw Cano was hitting over .380 today. When he starts the season hot, he's likely to contend for the batting title. The question is whether some serious power will come from his sweet Panamanian Rod Carew
swing. I think if the Yankees really want to get more power from Cano, they should move him to a corner spot. Maybe he should play 3rd, and they can make A-rod a complete psycho freak by making him the DH. Oh wait, they can't do that because they have Matsui, and in a year or two, Jorge Posada will be there. Maybe they should trade Cano to a National League team. Or, they could be more logical and hang on to him because he's a great hitter, leave him at second base, and don't ask for much power from him. They really need a better defensive Shortstop, then. Is it possible to feel bad for the Yankees?

Between my time spent sitting on subway trains and buses, coffe
e shops, bars, and more time wasted while waiting to meet others, I find myself reading a lot... books, blogs, newspapers, status updates, or the rare magazine... I've spent the last few days jotting notes into my notebook whenever possible, and those should turn into some posts this week. In fact, here's one now... (Note: this post will contain no math, and will probably be pointless...)

I've been thinking about my strange fascination with rookie starting pitchers. Tommy Hanson, Jordan Zimmermann, Rick Porcello, Derek Holland, and Ricky Romero
are all on our rotisserie team.

There is a pending waiver claim to pick someone up and drop Romero. The only reason we're dropping Romero is because he has just been placed on the DL, and our three DL spots are being used by Alex Gordon, Chris Carpenter, and John Smoltz. We even have Joe Mauer, still on the DL, on our bench, while Tommy Hanson, Matt Weiters, and recently out/ineffective Milton Bradley take up three of our four bench spots.

While our team is getting next to nothing from its bench, we are in 2nd place. Not too bad. I think the team will be impressive if we can hit on all cylinders for at least seven to ten weeks.

What I was wondering is, why do I have so many inexperienced arms on my squad? Is there a subconscious strategy here that is shouting at us for recognition?

Pitchers are the most volatile commodities in Baseball. In fantasy baseball, I try to get a solid, consistent lineup before worrying about pitching because a solid, consistent pit
cher is much more likely to get hurt than a solid, consistent hitter. What are the warning signs?

  • Too many Innings Pitched in the past season(s)
  • Too many pitches thrown in any game(s) before a noticeable drop in performance
  • A drop in velocity from the player's usual average fastball speed
  • Any euphemisms like: "forearm strain", "tired arm", "inflammation", or "bicep or triceps soreness/tendinitis"

About a week ago, Buster Olney wrote a piece about how Cole Hamels' struggles this year may not be that different from other starting pitchers who carried their teams to greatness, with an extra workload through October.

From Buster's April 11 blog post...

Cole Hamels has made only one start, and it may be that he will rebound from his awful first start and have a fine season. Or it may be that he will join the run
ning list of aces who couldn't bounce back after leading their respective teams to championships, the cost of greatness.

Curt Schilling bled through his sock and helped end 86 years of Red Sox Nation frustration in 2004, and in 2005, he was a mess, working just 93.1 innings, racking up a 5.69 ERA. Mark Buehrle led the White Sox to their first championship in almost 100 years in 2005, and in 2006, his ERA rose by almost two runs. Chris Carpenter hoisted the Cardinals onto his broad shoulders in the fall of 2006, and pitched just six innings in 2007. Josh Beckett was dominant for the Red Sox in 2007, as they won their second title in four seasons, and he never seemed to fully recover in 2008, his stuff much flatter.

It is awfully believable that pitchers who are overworked will struggle and/or get hurt. Most would also agree that pitchers who are hurt will get rocked. So, we have taken the strategical leap to say that we need to try to minimize our injury risk, especially with pitchers.

So, why are Chris Carpenter, John Smoltz, or Josh Johnson on your team? You ask...

We feel that giving pitchers with tremendous past performance like Smoltz and Carpenter opportunities to come back from injuries is wise. I mean, Carpenter missed all of last season. I can't think of many non-Pavano/Prior's who need two seasons off in a row. If Carpenter allows his oblique injury be the start of another lost season, he may get to share club naming rights with Carl and Mark.

Our Smoltz gamble was also a lot of trusting the Red Sox front office to usually make
smarter decisions. Maybe we are being foolish, following Theo's hunch with Smoltz, but the best argument I heard is that Smoltz is just like that mid-season acquisition a good team makes through a trade in July, but the Sox don't have to give anyone up for him this summer.

Josh Johnson? This is a case of thinking/hoping he has had enough time to recover from Tommy John Surgery. After all, he came back strong at the end of last year, going 7 - 1 for the Marlins.

Our strategy is most definitely flawed. We thought that limited innings from guys who are young or recovering from injury, but are "lights out" when healthy would give us better fantasy stats than a team full of healthy, but not spectacular results. We could call it the Rich Harden strategy. However, I would be surprised if this lightning in a bottle strategy will actually work for us this season. To borrow from an earlier point, we need to find solid, consistent starting pitchers. At least this is fun to try because we get to throw out there the guys that we like, who have power arms and dominant stuff. Hopefully, someday I'll be able to put together more thoughts on this topic, the right way to implement the strategy, and what can be done to identify experienced pitchers who will continue to succeed.

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