Tuesday, May 19, 2009

David y los Muchachos

Before my time, the 1969 Mets had the storybook postseason that eluded the careers of Cub greats Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, and "Mr. Cub" Ernie Banks. On a fun note, all-time great afro grower, Oscar Gamble, was a 19-year-old rookie on the 1969 Cubs.

The past fortnight for the 2009 edition of the Metropolitans has seemed pretty dramatic.

Going back to Sunday, May 3rd, they were rained out at Philadelphia. One of the ballplayers in the prophetic Bull Durham said, "We need a night off just to stop our losing streak. We need a rainout." If you believe in such superstitions, then something can be said for the rainout propelling the Mets to victories in seven consecutive games, and eleven of their next thirteen, before suffering two baffling losses in a row the past two nights.

No-one on the Mets, this side of Oliver Perez, needed to change his production more than David Wright. After the May 2nd game at Philly, Wright was slashing a respectable .284/.385/.398, but he was taking heat from the fans and media for having only 1 HR and 10 RBI while looking overmatched at the plate. The cliches were flying around, like he's pressing or he's trying too hard. The rainout definitely helped something click with David. We haven't seen any deadspin.com reports about any road meat contributing as a slump buster, but I'd bet that was going on, too. Since May 3rd, he is batting .474 with 17 RBI in 15 games. Those are numbers fans and reporters usually like, batting average and RBI. Remarkably, Wright's slash numbers for the season have improved to .359/.447/.545.

No-one on the Mets, this side of Oliver Perez, had his fortunes change more than Carlos Delgado and Alex Cora, due to injuries. Sure, Jose Reyes has been out of the last five starting lineups, but his return is expected any day now. Delgado and Cora are each probably out for the next couple of months, with hip and thumb injuries, respectively. Suddenly, the Mets lost their utility middle infielder and are faced with pressure to improve the lineup at first base, to go along with all the concern there is about the corner outfielders.

In their most recent victory, this past Saturday night, the Mets denied Randy Johnson his 299th victory. The only reason anyone may care is because interleague play is taking the Giants, and RJ's turn in the rotation, to Seattle this weekend. It would have been cool to see the Big Unit try to win his 300th in Seattle, but I don't really care. I'll be rooting for the Mariners in that one, regardless.

The end of our pointless story takes us to the last two Mets games, including the last game in San Francisco and the series opener in Los Angeles.

In the game by the bay, Matt Cain outpitched Mike Pelfrey as the Giants won 2-0. I don't know how to say it, so I'm just going to say it: Pelfrey balked three times. According to this AP article, Pelfrey said he was fighting off the yips, which is a bad word in baseball, particularly New York. Didn't the Mets have a catcher who couldn't throw it back to the pitcher's mound? We know the Yankees had Steve Sax and Chuck Knoblauch unable to throw to first base, due to the yips. It's incredibly implusive and reactionary, but Minaya should probably consider trading this Pelfrey guy at the next hint of trouble. Too bad Oliver Perez stinks.

In last night's "exasperating loss", Tim Redding miraculously pitched relatively well. However, his lineup and defense would not allow a victory. The Mets committed what has to be a season high five errors. The Dodgers only had five hits, and the Mets made five errors. The Mets' 6, 7, and 8, hitters went 0 for 15, while Luis Castillo and Fernando Tatis combined to leave ten men on base. The Top of the 11th produced a gut-wrenching lost run, by a Ryan Church gaffe, where he failed to touch 3rd base while rounding 3rd and heading for home.

In Church's words: “I just feel terrible,” Church said. “I mean, touching the bag is a simple thing to do. But obviously, I didn’t. I think it might have turned the momentum a little bit.”

I can imagine how hard it must have been for Mets fans, who stayed up late, to sleep after a loss like that. Where are the '09 Mets headed? It should be another exciting September, and at least they don't have Steve Phillips in charge of the roster anymore.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Getting Drafty

This could be the first time we've checked with ESPN's MLB Draft Blog, but we found something remarkable in Sunday's post by Jason A. Churchill.

One assistant scouting director's expectation for the top half of the MLB draft's first round includes:

"I do not have any confidence after the top pick that any player is going to be taken at any point. I wouldn't be surprised if the No. 2 player on our board went 15th or the No. 15 player went No. 2."

We all know Stephen Strasburg is going #1. Then, there is discussion as to the next 14 players being, for many reasons, somewhat interchangeable? That seems pretty, um, exciting? I don't know; I mean, this is the MLB draft. Is it compelling to any reasonable fan who follows his Major League team as often as he or she can, but doesn't have the time or interest to know about minor leaguers? Probably not.

The NBA Draft is probably the most popular draft for fans to follow because it's only two rounds, fans (used to) know college players who are getting drafted, and rookies traditionally contribute - or at least given the opportunity to contribute - more rapidly and consistently in the NBA.

The ESPNization of the NFL Draft has supposedly made it really popular, but I don't think the average NFL fan like to watch it on TV. They like to find out the results, but not necessarily sit through the broadcast and ESPN talking heads.

Seven years ago, I watched the entire first day of the 2002 Draft, while recovering from a Friday night. I didn't really have the strength to change the channel on the remote, so I decided to give in and commit to leaving the draft on, with commercials and everything.

Interestingly, Albert Haynesworth, the NFL's newest 100 Million Dollar Man was taken with the 15th pick of the first round.

I also had a feeling that the Bears' best pick was their 4th Round pick of Alex Brown. Looking back, he has had a more productive career than Marc Colombo, Terrence Metcalf, and "the other" Adrian Peterson, not to mention a group of busts lead by Roe Williams. Overall, watching the NFL draft was enjoyable and insightful. Still, I do not believe that the NFL Draft is as good, from a fan's perspective, as the NBA Draft and a higher percentage of average NBA fans enjoy the NBA draft, than the percentage of average NFL fans enjoy theirs.

Back to the MLB draft post, Churchill and an area scout he's speaking with continue...

"The ball drops once Aaron Crow or Tanner Scheppers is off the board," the area scout said. "Or both. But as long as one of them is there, things are a little gray.

"They each provide clubs with a signable player, and Crow brings no significant injury risks, too. Even someone like Cincinnati [at No. 8], Colorado [No. 11] or Kansas City [No. 12] has to consider them." Crow tossed five shutout innings Friday night for the independent Fort Worth Cats, allowing just two hits and two walks while recording nine strikeouts.

Scheppers produced a similar outing for the St. Paul Saints, lasting five innings and giving up a run on five hits. He walked two and fanned three, sitting 92-93 mph on the radar gun. Both right-handers are considered top-10 talents.


I have to respectfully and slightly disagree that five shutout innings, with two hits, two walks, and nine strikeouts is a similar outing to going five innings, with one run, five hits, two walks, and only three strikeouts. The strikout difference is a lot, and five hits & one run is much more than two hits/no runs. Sorry, but if my math is correct, their Bill James Game Scores are 70 for Crow and 54 for Scheppers.

Read the rest of Churchill's post to hear more about college center fielders. Sacramento State's Tim Wheeler and Notre Dame's A.J. Pollock look like the top two college center fielders, and there is an interesting perspective on Florida center fielder, Matt den Dekker.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Greetings from Mahopac

We are spending the weekend with friends in Mahopac, NY.

Quickly, I wanted to make note of a few things that we've noticed the last few days.

Rich Hill is Back!
Congratulations to the Orioles. Rich Hill came back yesterday, pitched well, and earned a win. He's always been a favorite of ours. Embarrassingly, he cost us a championship last year because we actually decided to keep him over Tim Lincecum. We thought the Giants would give no run support, while the Cubs were ready to turn Hill into a 19-game winner with 190+ strike outs. Big mistake.

Joe Mauer hit his 6th Homerun
Where is this power coming from? Keep it up, bud!

Our Darling Ace
Rick Porcello won his third straight game last night, giving us more reasons to love Jim Leyland.

One More Chance...
We picked up Luke Hochevar and Jordan Zimmermann again to give them a start today. We will probably drop them tonight, but we have our fingers crossed that they'll contribute with Wins. Masterson is going for us today, too. This is a big day for our pitching staff.

Value of a Roster Spot
We made a choice yesterday that will show us a lot about strategy. As regular readers will note, we have a somewhat unhealthy fascination with prospects, upside, and potential. Due to this affliction, we have carried Tommy Hanson & Matt Wieters all season. It is great to have flexibility of roster spots, but our impulsiveness can hurt us when we are picking up guys like Orlando Cabrera, who contribute 0 for 4's. The risk we decided to go with yesterday was to tie up a roster spot in a player who will probably not help us for over a year: Stephen Strasburg. We decided to cut bait on Chris B. Young, who is doing NOTHING. He'd been killing our OBP, so at least Strasburg won't do that. Also, I feel that we can carry him if we will be activating Hanson and Wieters in the next couple of weeks. Oh jeeze, I'm so nervous.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Return of Good Friends

Early this morning, while reviewing today's starting lineup for our team, I felt the need to create a stir. So, as we periodically do, we went back to "Good Friends", and our photo went from being a smiling Chris Young, to that of a smiling Yuniesky Betancourt.

No, Yuniesky is not a full-time member of "Good Friends". His career OBP is abysmal, and there is negligible power or speed reflected in his HR and SB numbers.

Last night, however, we awkwardly & silently answered a few of the questions from our last, embarrassing post, by dropping the highly touted Luke Hochevar and for the Mariners' Shortstop from Santa Clara, Cuba. Hochevar certainly did not have everything clicking in his season debut Tuesday night. His 8 earned runs in 2 innings were extremely embarrassing for us, especially considering that this probably won't be his last chance with our squad. Why can't we stay away? Will he "figure it out" and be good? Or, will Luke Hochevar take us down the same disastrous path we meandered through with Daniel Cabrera three seasons ago?

It has come down to this. With Alexei Ramirez's day off, we chose to gamble on Yuniesky Betancourt having a fluke day in Texas' bandbox stadium. Aside from Yuniesky's perpetual drawbacks, he does have a few things going for him. This is a day game, and my guess is that the ball travels even better in day games @ Texas. He is facing a lefty. I actually checked yesterday, and he's better versus lefties. Again, it's @ Texas. That's really it. We like guys who hit @ Texas, with the strong side of their splits pitching especially. Yuniesky has been struggling and was just benched, but we feel that players often come back hot from situations like this.

Anyway, it is just one game and the best news is that we now have carte blanche to pick up anyone we want, with no remorse because we are dropping Yuniesky Betancourt.

Before we get into the cooky fantasy strategies that will direct our waiver requests for tonight, I'd like to briefly discuss a couple of managerial ejections that occurred last night. Blog favorites Jim Leyland and Ozzie Guillen had contrasting dust-ups with the homeplate managers.

In Leyland's case, he came to the defense of his player, Magglio Ordonez, who was arguing a called 3rd strike. As can be seen in this video: Leyland objects to contact made by the home plate umpire, Paul Schrieber, when he places his hand on Ordonez's back to gently guide him back to the dugout. Leyland probably could have let it slide, but he brings up a good point that if a player cannot touch an umpire, then the umpire should not be able to nudge a player.

Ozzie, on the other hand, was having a miserable time watching his team stink up the enclosed Metrodome. He was not enjoying the strike zone of umpire Mike DiMuro. The White Sox had already lost Jermaine Dye for arguing a called third. Later on, Ozzie was so disgusted that he was ejected after he fealt his own pitcher was given a questionable strike when pitching to Jhonny Peralta. Ozzie's money quote...

''I was protecting Peralta,'' Guillen said. ''I asked Peralta if that pitch was low and in, and he said, 'Yes.' They thought I was crazy because I wasn't protecting [Dye], I was protecting the opposition. I was here to protect baseball. Really crazy-type argument when the manager argues for someone else. Like I say, [DiMuro] was really inconsistent behind the plate.''

Complaining about umpiring inconsistency is usually the most tried and true way to get your point across, but my favorite part is "I was here to protect baseball."

Looking back at the rotisserie world, let's examine ten guys we are considering to replace Yuniesky Betancourt. As a reminder, Free Agent pools differ greatly from league to league, and we are in an 11-team OBP league. To that point, we will also look at ten guys of interest who are owned in less than 50% of ESPN 10-team leagues.

Ten FA's in our league
  1. Randy Wells, SP, Chicago Cubs: This guys would probably only be on the team for a day because his job in real life is not very secure, but he is starting for the Cubs tomorrow. He pitched well in his first game, replacing an injured Carlos Zambrano. He went 5 innings, gave up no runs, on 5 hits, 2 walks, and 5 strike outs. He gets a home start against the Astros tomorrow, so a Win is possible. We're going to decide to stay away.
  2. Eric Stults, SP, LA Dodgers: Stults has had some success this season, going 4-1 with a 3.58. We decided to stay away when we saw a Minor League career 1.50 WHIP.
  3. Derek Holland, SP/RP, Texas: Another exciting, yet poorly timed, event from two nights ago was when Holland got his first ML Win, a couple of days after we released him. We're going to try to get him back. (I'm thinking no-one in my league reads this. We shall see.)
  4. Mat Gamel, 3b, Milwaukee: This guy has expectations. He is the Brewers top offensive prospect. We need to make a claim for him because we are in a keeper league. I'm not sure how long he'll stay with the Brewers, but we will gladly get cut Casey Blake for him.
  5. Chris Coghlan, 3b, Florida: Mr. Coghlan is going to get a long look, versus RHP, with the Marlins. He has some power and some speed, and he will have multiple position eligibility because they will be playing him in the Outfield. We have a claim for him, where we will drop Casey Blake (if we don't get Gamel).
  6. Takashi Saito, RP, Boston: We have an RP position that isn't being used because Soria is on the DL and we haven't found a replacement. I don't want to drop anyone but Betancourt for this guy, but we have a backup claim for him in case others in our league pick up Holland and Coghlan before we get a chance.
  7. Shane Loux, SP, LA Angels: Word just came out that Shane will be moving to the bullpen. Pretty soon, I won't have to write anything other than SP/RP to explain why we're considering adding someone. The moment of consideration for Shane Loux has basically passed after looking at his less than stellar stats.
  8. Ryan Perry, RP, Detroit: Here is another guy that we will consider in place of Saito. I actually think I prefer Perry because we already have Daniel Bard in Red Sox middle relief. Does it make sense to corner the market on Papelbon understudies? Probably not unless you also get Manny Delcarmen. Looking at some of the numbers, we see that Perry has difficulties with WHIP his whole career... even in college! I guess I don't prefer him to Saito. He's off the list.
  9. Nolan Reimold, OF, Baltimore: This is an exciting Major League debut, since Reimold's Triple-A slash numbers are an otherworldly: .394/.485/.743. We aren't hopping on the bandwagon, yet, because he may be a back up if Felix Pie gets another shot to play everyday and Adam Jones comes back from his hamstring tweak. This article, on Reimold, includes encouraging notes on George Sherrill... Left-hander George Sherrill hasn't allowed a run in four appearances since his last blown save May 2. He has two saves in that time. Chalk it up to a tweak in his mechanics and a little old-fashioned motivation. Sherrill said he worked with pitching coach Rick Kranitz to close his body a little more when he comes to the set position, which has helped him get his arm into a higher slot and better finish his pitches. -- snip -- Sherrill also acknowledged that he was somewhat fueled by Trembley's decision to temporarily remove him from the closer spot he held for all of 2008. "I'm glad George is motivated. He has pitched better," Trembley said. "I'm hoping we have more save opportunities. We'll see where it goes from there. But I would agree; he has pitched better."
  10. Luke Hochevar, SP, Kansas City: His next start is at home versus the Orioles, which isn't the world's scariest match-up. That would have to be his last chance, at least for a while if he failed against the O's, right?
Ten FA's in over half of ESPN leagues
  1. Russell Branyan (48.4% ownership): We have never endorsed a guy like Russell Branyan. I really hate the way he would hit a few homers in bunches, while constantly striking out. I would hate him on my fantasy team or real-life team. As Melvin Udall could say, "I'm using the word 'hate' to discribe the way I feel" about the way Russell Branyan would play. Still, if the eye-training program he's on improves his chances to see the ball, maybe he'll be valuable.
  2. Elijah Dukes (37.8%): We love guys like Elijah Dukes. He's a former super prospect who looks like he is big, strong, and fast. From what I hear, his problems are with his attittude and his defense, but if he keeps hitting the ball, he will continue to play and produce for roto teams that don't take defense into account.
  3. Edwin Jackson (36.3%): I was shocked to see that Jackson is owned in such few ESPN leagues because we've been high on him since the Tigers traded for him. We love pitching projects that Leyland gets to "fix" in a Dave Duncan sort of way. Anyway, my shock subsided, when I saw his WHIP the last three years was 1.84, 1.76, and 1.51. Is the change of scenery and new coaching enough to make him a consistent ace? I think he's good.
  4. Juan Pierre (31.8%): He needs to be owned for the next 40-something games. This guy has a lot of pride and will play at the top of his game, while he knows he has this limited window to show what he can do. Pierre is known around the league as one of the hardest workers. He gets the "first to show up, last to leave" tag thrown on him a lot. I think there is no surprise that he has started off red hot since Manny sat down and he'll continue to hit for a high average, score runs, and steal bases.
  5. Ubaldo Jimenez (29.4%): According to Fangraphs, Ubaldo Jimenez had the fastest average fastball speed of any starting pitcher in baseball last season. His sharp performance the last three times out give us confidence that he can have a solid season. One should tread lightly, as there is great risk with the mysterious Ubaldo Jimenez.
  6. Dexter Fowler (25.8%): Another Rockie who should be owned in more leagues is their starting Center Fielder, Dexter Fowler. Here's another guy who may be fooling me, however. Again, he looks great. (Not in that way.) He just looks like the kind of guy who has scouts drooling over his combination of size and speed. Best case scenario, he becomes a Devon White, Mike Cameron, Matt Kemp kind of guy. Worse case, he becomes something between Chris Young and Corey Patterson.
  7. Tommy Hanson (7.4%): Our managing style, sometimes to a fault, leans towards youth and potential over experience and stability. It can cost us, as we pass on consistent producers for the upside of the unknown and a potential breakout. The buzz around Hanson, however, is unmistakeable. He is dominating in Triple-A. The biggest risk with having Hanson on a roto roster was whether they could carry a guy doing nothing for the first 6 weeks of the season. Well, since we are in mid-May, that risk has basically gone away. It's time to stash this guy who, barring injury, will be up in the next three weeks.
  8. Ian Stewart (7.0 %): I think stashing Ian Stewart away is sort of like shorting a stock in Todd Helton. Do you think Helton can avoid the DL this year? How about the struggling Garrett Atkins? Is there really a second baseman on the Rockies who deserves to play over Stewart? Ian Stewart's time is coming, and it's coming sooner than 93% of ESPN fantasy baseball players realize.
  9. Emmanuel Burriss (6.3%): this guy's stock rose in my opinion when I saw that he was a top 40 pick in the 2006 draft. He's also recently been appointed the new leadoff man for the Giants, as Frederic Lewis has been dropped in the order. Burriss certainly has the speed to stay at the top. If the tools that made him a top 40 pick in the draft develop in tandem with this opportunity, he can become a jewel to play at 2b/SS.
  10. Clay Buchhoz (2.0%): Another farm hand that is just going to take up some valuable roster space, right? Well, he has a no-hitter on his resume, an outstanding offensive lineup and bullpen waiting for him in Boston, and he is dominating in triple-A. So, I say yes, he's probably someone to begin to consider highly.
Note: while we were writing this, the starting lineups for the Mariner's game came out. Yuniesky Betancourt was benched again. Typical.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Last Chance Hochevar

As any regular readers to this space can guess, we are very excited for tonight's season debut by Kansas City Royals starting pitcher, Luke Hochevar. Back in 2005, Hochevar capped off his collegiate career at the University of Tennessee by going 15-3, with a 2.26 ERA and 154 strike outs in just under 140 innings.

Recapping the start of his pro career...

2006: Luke Hochevar was the #1 overall pick in what looks like a very solid draft. I have no idea what "experts" think about this draft class, but just looking at who was taken in the first 42 picks of the draft makes me think it was a good year.

Here are some players the Royals passed on, when selecting Hochevar...

Evan Longoria (#3 overall pick)
Brandon Morrow (#5)
Andrew Miller (6)
Clayton Kershaw (7)
Tim Lincecum (10)
Max Sherzer (11)
Travis Snider (14)
Matt Antonelli (17)
Daniel Bard (28)
Emmanuel Burriss (33)
Chris Coghlan (36)
Joba Chamberlain (41)
Chris Perez (42)

We are not saying that the Royals should have taken all of these guys over Hochevar. In fact, the only guys that we can say they should have definitely taken instead are Evan Longoria and Tim Lincecum.

In any sport, it's easy to look back at a draft a few years down the road and second guess picks that were made with different information. Some players fall in the draft because of "signability". A large majority of players become better as they gain more experience and grow into their bodies, but the players who currently look better than their draft status may have just gotten better faster.

2007: Luke overcame less than impressive minor league stats to earn a September call-up and Major League debut. Luke immediately became a member of our 2007 championship roto team, as a beloved RP with SP eligibility. (Past SP/RP stars we've employed to great success include John Smoltz, Jonathan Papelbon, and Ryan Dempster.)

2008: Hochevar had the honor of being our last round draft pick for the 2008 season, but his contributions didn't last long. Luke was clearly not ready for the show last season. His 22 starts garnered him a 6-12 record and 5.51 ERA, with a K/BB ratio of 1.76 (2009 Triple-A K/BB is 3.00)

2009: After a solid spring training, Luke probably deserved to be in the Royals' Opening Day rotation. Since he had minor league options remaining, the Royals' brain trust decided to relegate him to the purgatorial Pacific Coast League. Unfortunately for Royals' fans, this allowed clowns like Sidney Ponson and Horacio Ramirez to embarrass themselves and the entire Kansas City front office.

Hochevar has really sparkled in Omaha. In six starts and 40 innings this season, he has allowed just 28 hits & 10 walks, while fanning 30 batters on his way to a 5-0 record and 0.90 ERA.

We sit here on the afternoon of Tuesday, May 12th, 2009. Luke Hochevar's entire career is waiting to take off. I'm sure he never wants to be in the Minors again, but what will it take for him to (a) stay with the big club, and (b) be fantasy relevant?

How much patience should we show with Hochevar? We have gone down this road every chance we've had.

Should a poor start tonight have us running to the waiver wire to replace him with George Sherrill or Juan Pierre? If he struggles at Oakland tonight, should we maintain faith that he will right the ship. Some comments he made to Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star give me great confidence in his future...

“Everything is clicking,” he said. “All of the things that I learned last year in the big leagues about attacking hitters. My delivery, I feel, is a lot more repeatable this year. I feel the things I had to think about before, they’re just coming naturally now.

Reading those comments make me feel like Hochevar hasn't really left himself an out, if he struggles. I mean after saying that "everything is clicking", everything better freaking "click" tonight.

Dutton includes insight as to what contributed to Hochevar's struggles in previous seasons...

The issues surrounding Hochevar have always been the peripherals: consistency, pace and command.

“There were times when Luke would just get going too fast,” pitching coach Bob McClure once said. “It was like he was pitching with the house on fire. When that happens, he just needs to slow down and take a deep breath.

Still, that magic feeling of hope permeates throughout this opportunity for Luke Hochevar.

“The stuff is there.”

Hochevar’s sinking fastball is a killer pitch capable of making him a ground-ball machine. Throw in a sharp-breaking curve, a four-seam fastball that hits the mid-90s and a chase-pitch slider — it’s an impressive arsenal.

Does Hochevar deserve more or less stability than Jordan Zimmermann? Or, Rick Porcello? Is Daniel Bard wasting space on our roto roster? How can a former roto champion build a pitching staff filled with so many kids? Why did we allow Tommy Hanson, Zimmermann, Porcello, Bard, Hochevar, and Masterson to be on the same roto staff?

When building a roster, fantasy owners must step through an intricate dance that balances patience with a keen sense to avoid becoming paralyzed by hope and expectations.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Painstaking Roto Moves

Yes, this is embarrassing. I am publicly announcing that I care enough about our roto team to think about whether or not it was wrong to cut Juan Pierre and George Sherrill last night.

As we've mentioned before, our league this season has been operating without free agents, but rather everyone in the free agent pool is on waivers every night. We placed a slew of waiver claims last night, and three of them were executed while we slept.

First, the one that got away. Our team has Joakim Soria as one of our closer. We decided to cut George Sherrill because, although he gets occasional saves for the Orioles, his WHIP and ERA may not be good enough to justify the appearances when save opps are going to guys like Chris Ray or Jim Johnson. Our first waiver claim was Sherrill for Juan Cruz, who is stepping in to close while Soria is on the DL. However, we did not get Cruz. Another team in our league, "Blow Me Where the Pampers Is" beat us to the Cruz pickup, by dropping KC teammate Alberto Callaspo.

We still sent Sherrill packing, for another Royal, Luke Hochevar. At least there's a bit of symmetry, as Hochevar joined the Royals to fill in the place of Soria as he goes on the DL. I'm excited with our Hochavar "lottery ticket" because the former #1 overall pick could become a top of the rotation guy immediately. He struggled in the majors the last couple of tries, but he still has undeniable tools and youth on his side.

We also remorselessly dropped David Aardsma to pick up Daniel Bard. Daniel is a Red Sox reliever who is not in line for Saves any time soon, but he does qualify at the SP position and I hope he will improve our standing in W's, K's, WHIP, and ERA.

The third waiver transaction we executed last night is the questionable pick up of Casey Blake for Juan Pierre. I believe that in a vacuum Pierre is much more valuable than Blake. However, the same day that we posted a column celebrating our patience with Chris B. Young, we impulsively dropped two "valuable" players in Sherrill and Pierre because their "value" is not what our team really needs.

When the ManRamRoid news hit the street, I initially thought Pierre was a must-add in all formats. That is probably correct. I considered the fact that my team has more than enough speed and we need HR's and RBI's badly. We already have enough speed with Reyes, Ellsbury, & Figgins in our everyday lineup, with other guys who run a bit like Rickie Weeks, Matt Kemp, Alexei Ramirez, and hopefully Chris B Young contributing.

So, we almost didn't add Juan Pierre, but then we thought that he is better off on our team - even on the bench - than if he's helping someone else. After Pierre's hot start during the first few games of Manny's suspension, we reconsidered again and decided that we need the positional eligibility and occasional HR and RBI production out of Casey Blake more than the SB's and R's from Juan Pierre.

Have I made a mistake? Probably.

Will our team suffer from losing Sherrill? Probably, but I hope not. I sincerely hope that the saves he gets the rest of the year do not outweigh the damage he does to ERA's and WHIP's, when compared to the opportunity cost of having a lights out reliever who gets occasional Wins instead of occasional Saves.

Will our team suffer from losing Pierre? I actually don't think so. I think the only real risk can be known when we see who winds up with him. Hopefully, he will be on a team that does not contend and he can even help by knocking a contending team down a few slots in SB.

Bowden & Bard

We previously wrote in this space about how impressed we were with Red Sox pitching prospect, Michael Bowden. (I heard it pronounced "Bo-den" instead of "Bow-den", like Bobby Bowden.)

Over the weekend, Bowden's teammate, and Pawtucket closer, Daniel Bard, was recalled to make his Major League debut presumably some time this week. Incidentally, I think Bowden & Bard sounds like an ambulance chasing law firm.

We've always been intrigued by what we can expect from talented, but inexperienced, arms of the future. Much has been written and said about guys like these two guys under Red Sox control, their comrades Clay Buchholz and Justin Masterson, Phil Hughes, Rick Porcello, David Price, Luke Hochevar, Jeff Samrdzija, Tommy Hanson, Ricky Romero, Brett Cecil, and even amateurs like Stephen Strasburg, Yu Darvish, and Michael Ynoa have become household names in mothers' basements around the world.

We quickly wanted to compare Minor League pitching stats for Bard and Bowden, at least. Quickly referencing their Baseball Cube (www.thebaseballcube.com) pages, we found...

At first glance, one would think that Mike Bowden is the superior pitcher because one can't help but cringe when seeing Daniel Bard's career minor league BB/9 at 6.03. Upon closer inspection, however, we see that Bard's minor league career should be seen through two different prisms.

His first professional season, split between the South Atlantic League (A) and the California League (A+) in 2007, he was a starter. He struggled mightily with his control as a starting pitcher. That season, in 22 starts & 75 innings he walked 78 batters.


Last season, 2008, used exclusively in relief, Bard made 46 appearances between A and Double A, totalling 77 2/3 innings and showing improved control by walking "just" 30. This season, as the closer for the AAA team, he has pitched 16 sparkling innings, allowing just 6 hits and 5 walks, with 29 strikeouts. As we can see, Bard's numbers are more impressive when including his propensity to strike hitters out.

Daniel Bard's strikeout to walk ratio in the minors, as a starter: 47/78 or 0.60. As a reliever, the K/BB ratio improves to: 136/35 or 3.89. That's more than a world of difference.

Michael Bowden has been a starter his entire career. Even though he has much more professional experience, he is actualy younger than Bard. Bowden came out after high school, which Bard spent three seasons pitching for the North Carolina Tar Heels.

Bard turns 24 next month, while Bowden doesn't turn 23 until this September. Michael Bowden's number are right there with Bard. In 432 1/3 minor league innings, his K/BB is 408/117 or 3.49.

I would like to think that a 3.49 as a starter may be even more impressive than a 3.89 as a reliever.
We will go more in depth with these guys and others later, but for now, we must open the floor to discussion in our virgin comment section and move on.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Patience

In rotisserie baseball, there comes a time when you have to cut someone that you thought would be a key to your squad. It is critical to be correct when recognizing the difference between a player who will bounce back and a got's-to-go situation, which brings us to Chris B. Young.

As with any important decision, it can be prudent to make a list of pros and cons. This is an informal brainstorm, and nothing is too ridiculous to be left out.

Chris B. Young Pros:
  1. Steve Stone raved about Chris Young when he was a minor league in the White Sox farm system. Steve Stone.
  2. He has a rare combination of power & speed and does not turn 26 until September.
  3. HR/162 games (Minors): 27.4; (Majors): 25.6
  4. SB/162 games (Minors): 35.7; (Majors): 20.3
  5. Rookie MLB season (2007) hit 32 HR's and stole 27 bases
  6. Slow start and strong 2nd Half last season: In 94 games before the all-star break, he had a .296 OBP, 13 HR's and 5 steals. In just 66 games after the break, he hit 9 HR's and 9 SB's, with a .343 OBP.
  7. The D'backs just fired their manager and hitting coach, so a new approach may help.

Chris B. Young Cons:

  1. Career Major League OBP: .301
  2. Career Major League OPS+ 86
  3. In 368 career Major League games, he has 350 strike outs.
  4. He even struck out too much in the minors: 449 K's in 490 games
  5. All of our bench hitters, besides Matt Wieters, are outfielders. We could use some more versatility.
  6. I'm not even in a batting average league. I'm in an OBP league, and maybe Young will never get a solid OBP. Maybe he's Jeff Francoeur. After taking a closer look at their numbers, I'm just not sure. Francoeur had a worse minor league OBP and better major league OBP. So, maybe this means Young can get better.
Every competitive roto team should be able to carry a guy who's hurting you in OBP or Batting Average, if he can get some of the other counting numbers: R, HR, RBI, SB. It looks like my team has two guys that are really bringing us down in OBP, and they haven't been powerful enough at the plate or productive enough on the base paths to pay off... yet. We have Chris Young and Alexei Ramirez, who recently was benched for a few days to clear his head.

I think we are going to let it roll with these guys a bit longer. I'm not so concerned that Alexei is going to be a long term problem, but this Chris Young guy really needs to get it together. Buster Olney mentioned he could be sent to the minors. He had a triple two nights ago and had another hit and a walk last night, so I'm hoping he snaps out of it soon.

Does anyone else out there have guys who they thought would be steady contributors and are currently on thin ice?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

In the Box Scores

I'll admit that I didn't watch any baseball last night, but still here is a quick recap of last night's action, straight from one of our Nation's free gifts to the world, daily box scores...

First, what we were looking forward to...

Rich Harden's performance? I think we should be pleased that he was able to get 7 innings out of his 99 pitches. In fact, Sweet Lou said just about the same thing after the game. - "[Harden] did a heck of a job," manager Lou Piniella said. "He maintained his velocity. We thought if we get seven we were going to be pleased." - I was also pleased that Carlos Marmol shut down the Astros in the 8th, and Kevin Gregg seems to pitch decently when I don't watch. Fine by me.
*~*~*~*~*

It looks as though we are in the last days of the Felix Pie Orioles Era. He has not been producing and cannot catch a break. Last night was his first start in three days, and he hasn't started back-to-back games since April 26th. In this dreadful performance, he struck out looking in the second inning and popped out a bunt attempt in the fourth. The game was called in the 6th inning, due to rain. Could Felix Pie be the person sent down when Matt Wieters gets called up?
*~*~*~*~*

Unfortunately, I didn't act on my instinct to bench Justin Masterson versus the Indians. He gave up 6 earned runs in 6 1/3 innings. I'm not worried about him, but I thought that was a tough match up, especially since the Red Sox were short handed without Youkilis or Ellsbury.

*~*~*~*~*

It's official. I will never expect Carlos Silva's team to win one of his starts. Unless he is squaring off against Oil Can Boyd's team, I'll expect Silva's team to lose. Last night, Silva gave up 6 earned runs in 3 innings, and the Mariners failed to punish the Royals for employing and starting Sidney Ponson. Sir Sidney must have thought it was 2003 all over again as he threw 7 1/3, gave up only 1 run, and waddled away with his first victory of the season.

Now, some things we didn't think about but still happened...

After 1 1/2 innings, Joe Posnanski called a Johan Santana no-hitter versus the Phillies. He was close. Santana gave up only 2 hits in 7 innings. It seems to me that the way the Mets handle Santana, he would have to get his no-no in less than 120 pitches and with a comfortable lead. It is incredibly impressive to realize just how good Santana is. This is the 6th time in his career that he has won a game with a final score of 1-0.

*~*~*~*~*

The Brewers pounded the Reds early and late, with 5 runs in the 1st, 4 in the 2nd, and 5 more in the 9th inning, on their way to a 15-3 shellacking. Bronson Arroyo gave up the first nine runs and now has to carry around a 7.15 ERA until his next start. At least the five runs in the 9th were given up by backup shortstop, Paul Janish. Unfortunately for him, he probably has to carry his 45.00 ERA for the rest of his career. The lesson again: not everyone is as blessed as Nick Swisher.

*~*~*~*~*

Rockies flame thrower, Ubaldo Jimenez, probably gave the dinosaur, Randy Johnson, a flashback to what it was like to throw in the upper 90's. Ubaldo had very good results, going 7 innings, allowing 1 run, on 5 hits, with 1 walk and 6 strikeouts. Randy Johnson, on the other hand, gave up 7 earned runs, with two home runs, including Matt Murton's first of the season. Hey, Matt Murton is on the Rockies. Cool!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Walk in the Park

Was our anticipation to Tuesday's matinees rewarded with results matching up to our prognostications? I doubt it. However, our expectations were exceeded by a few memorable surprises. Let's recap.

What Happened to Roy Oswalt?
The first thing I saw yesterday morning was that Oswalt was facing the Nationals on a getaway day matinee. I thought Astros fans should be salivating at the idea of Roy-O throwing up seven or eight goose eggs on the board.
Instead, their ace gave up 4 earned runs before a bone bruise on his right index finger forced him to leave the game in the top of the 6th. What's wrong with Oswalt? Is he going to be okay? At least, with all his injury history, he hasn't really had debilitating arm problems. I am still giving him the benefit of the doubt that he will right the ship and become a force again, but that benefit has a propensity to expire unexpectedly.

One of yesterday's memorable surprises: the Astros are actually still tied with the Nationals, as the game was postponed due to rain in the 11th.
3rd Place Blue Jays?
The way Canada's club continues to develop impactful rookie starters could potentially save J.P. Ricciardi's job. I think that if they were to leapfrog just one of the preseason perceived "Top 3" (Red Sox, Rays, & Yankees), that would be a positive enough accomplishment that they Blue Jays would have hope that in 2010, they could be next year's 2008 Rays! In fact, it might even give the Orioles hope that they can make the playoffs in 2010.

Brett Cecil posted promising numbers with six hits allowed, two runs (one earned), six strikeouts, and zero walks, in six innings. Anthony Reyes battled, allowing three runs in his six innings of work. Cecil was in line for a win, in his Major League debut, but his bullpen blew it. At least the offense came back and vultured a win for Brian Wolfe, in his first appearance of the season.

Matt LaPorta had a rough day. 0 for 3 with a run scored and a strikeout (looking). In his first plate appearance, LaPorta took one for the team, from Cecil, and later scored the first run of the game.

The Legend of Bobby Scales
Tim Lincecum let me down yesterday, but it was my fault. Why did I expect him to tie a Major League record for 20 strikeouts? Was it because of weather similarities to Kerry Wood's 20 strikeout day eleven years ago? That had a lot to do with it. I didn't realize until right now that I was off by one day. Kerry's masterpiece was on May 6, 1998. Maybe Rich Harden can strikeout 20 Astros, just like Kerry Wood did eleven years ago today. I would settle for 6 or 7 solid innings with less than 95 pitches.

Anyway, the delightful surprise that yesterday was all about is the Major League debut of Bobby Scales, a man that people would call, for literal and obvious reasons, "a career minor leaguer". In an uncanny form of symmetry, this happens to be Scales' eleventh year in professional baseball.

Some of his minor league numbers: 1,013 games / 3,303 at bats / .375 OBP / .432 SLG

According to some reports, his questionable defense is one of the reasons he never advanced to MLB until now.

According to Bob Brenly, his versatility to play around the infield is one of the reasons he was called up to replace Carlos Zambrano on the 25-man roster.

In my opinion, the .432 slugging is why he hasn't had anyone carrying his luggage until now.

None of that matters, though. The special part of this story is that Bobby Scales is no longer a "career minor leaguer". He's had his cup of coffee, and he's had his moment in the sun. He got a hit off of freaking Tim Linecum!

I didn't know Bobby Scales was a position player until after the game started. In the bottom of 5th inning, Scales inside-outed a fastball down the left field line. This sparked an unexpected 2-out rally. Number 8 batter, Koyie Hill, drew a walk, and Sean Marshall drilled an RBI single to straight away center field. The outfield defense obviously shaded the opposing pitcher away, so the shot up the middle landed in the outfield grass. The next thing that came to mind was that Bobby Scales already looks better than Aaron Miles.

I love that Scales' first hit came off the reigning Cy Young winner. It feels like a shame that he is expected to be sent back down when in a couple of days, when they need a pitcher to step in for Big Z. At least no-one will ever be able to take this moment away from Mr. Scales.

AL East UnRivalry
Does anyone at your office have Rays/O's fever this week? Haven't people been talking about how if the Blue Jays finish in 3rd place this season that the Orioles will have enough confidence to make the playoffs next year?

Felix Pie did not even play in the game, and the rest of yesterday's match up between the Rays and the Orioles went pretty much as expected.

Matt Garza continues to impress, throwing 8 innings, giving up 3 runs (2 earned), on 4 hits and 2 walks. He was touched for homers by Brian Roberts and Greg Zaun, but survived.

Koji Uehara pitched better than his number would indicate. He struck out eight, only walked one, but he gave up 7 hits and 6 runs (3 earned).

Carl Crawford, Evan Longoria, and Adam Jones continue to shine on the field and in the box scores.

Extras in Seattle
Vicente Padilla and Erik Bedard engaged in a pitcher's duel at Safeco Field. Bedard and the Mariners had a 1-0 lead that could have held up if not for the heroics of Nelson Cruz who tied it up with a solo shot in the 7th.

With the game tied 1-1, a fellow by the name of Denny Stark came in to pitch the Top of the 10th for the Mariners. He promptly gave up six runs, capped off by a Grand Slam to Jarrod Saltalamacchia.

Perhaps the Mariners need a healthy Brandon Morrow to be serious competitors.

PTI Big Finish Style...
  • Rick Porcello's box score looks terrific! 7 innings, 0 runs, 4 hits, 3 walks, 3 strikeouts
  • Edinson Volquez's numbers are even more impressive: 8 innings, 0 runs, 3 hits, 4 walks, 7 strikeouts. If he pitched in a neutral or pitchers park, forget it.
  • Colby Rasmus went 1 for 3, with an RBI double. He also had an outfield assist, nailing Raul Ibanez at second. Is Rasmus starting to make a difference?
  • Jeff Weaver surprised me by getting good results. I was not surprised that Max Sherzer pitched admirably well and the Dodgers still won.

Quickly, looking forward to tonight...

  • Can Rich Harden strike out 20 Astros? Or, at least, can he match Rick Porcello's line from last night.
  • Felix Pie is starting. Can he hit Kevin Slowey and stay in the big leagues?
  • Justin Masterson is facing a real challenge against Cleveland tonight.
  • Two of the worst starting pitchers in all of baseball are sharing the hill in Kansas City tonight. Carlos Silva and Sidney Ponson. I never thought that I would expect Carlos Silva's team to win a game.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tuesday Matinees

Here are a few things that I will be looking for in today's action.

12:35pm EST
Houston Astros @ Washington Nationals
Roy Oswalt vs Scott Olsen

I'm looking for Roy-O to have a very good game. He was winless in April, but hasn't pitched that badly. In his last start, a 97 minute rain delay knocked him out after the first inning, so I expect his arm to be rested and ready to perform. I have sky high expectations for Oswalt, when I think of his track record and competitiveness, combined with the expected production from a lethargic Nationals team looking forward to a long flight to Los Angeles.

12:37pm EST
Cleveland Indians vs Toronto Blue Jays
Anthony Reyes vs Brett Cecil

Six weeks ago, I thought Anthony Reyes was going to be good. I thought he was one of those guys who was starting the year as a #5 starter who would elevate himself to #2 or 3 position on his staff. Now, I'm convinced this will not happen. He doesn't strike enough guys out, walks too many, and gives up too many home runs.

Brett Cecil is a 22-year-old left-hander, making his Major League debut. At first thought, I didn't expect much from him because it feels like the Blue Jays shouldn't be able to pull out so many good young pictures from their system. After looking at his minor league numbers, however, I think he can be very successful at the Major League level. In his minor league career (185 innings, he has given up "only" 7 home runs, has a 9.4 K/9ip ratio, and a 1.18 WHIP.

The other thing to look for is if Matt LaPorta will take Cecil deep. LaPorta is supposed to at least start versus lefties. He hit his first Major League home run yesterday, and facing a southpaw today, who happens to be making his major league debut, makes me think that he'll feel right at home in the batters box again.

2:20pm EST
San Francisco Giants @ Chicago Cubs
Tim Lincecum vs Sean Marshall

Tim Lincecum is pitching a day game at Wrigley Field. I think he might strike out 20 guys.

The other thing I want to look at is Pablo Sandoval. I want to see if his approach at the plate will bring up some wonderful Randall Simon flashbacks.

The Cubs are a disaster. Maybe I am more anxious than I should be, but I still do not see a bullpen. Sean Marshall needs to at least get into the 6th inning because that bullpen will deteriorate rapidly if they get overused. Marmol pitched yesterday, and given his recent struggles, I'd like to give him this afternoon off. Maybe Marshall can pitch six and Samardzija can throw an old-school three innings of relief.

4:08pm EST
Baltimore Orioles @ Tampa Bay Rays
Koji Uehara vs Matt Garza

I'm looking to see if Koji Uehara is good enough to start every five days. Of course, if he's not, that is a big problem for the O's because he is at least better than Adam Eaton and Mark Hendrickson. These Orioles have a horrible rotation and a terrible bullpen. I think the bullpen will be much better if they can actually get someone to close games, and a lights out 8th inning guy. George Sherrill is a very good reliever, but he should really be used as an incredible LOOGY who can occasionally throw to a few righties.
This also may be one of my last chances to see Felix Pie starting in a Major League uniform. He, of course, was going to make all Cubs fans forget about the failures of Corey Patterson and missed opportunities with Lou Brock. Instead, he gets a chance to remind Orioles fans of the failures of Corey Patterson. I hope they keep throwing Pie out there until for at least another month. He has the "tools" to be successful and is too fast to be given up on. Lastly, I haven't checked the UZR numbers, but his defense is a plus. His range factor is above average.

Will Matt Garza maintain the roll he was on last time out? He pitched 7 2/3 with 1-hit, 1-walk, and 10 strike outs against the mighty Boston Red Sox.
4:40pm EST
Texas Rangers @ Seattle Mariners
Vicente Padilla vs Erik Bedard

We dropped Josh Fields and picked up Adrian Beltre in our roto league last night. I didn't want to give up on Fields and may pick him up if he shows a glimmer of getting hot. The fact that he was hit by a pitch in the arm was the last straw for us, and we are thrilled that Beltre was available. I cannot believe someone gave up on Beltre so soon. He has no home runs, and in a contract year, I could see him still topping 20 bombs for the season. Looking at this from a team dynamic, I find it exciting for the Mariners that they have been so successful early this year with almost no offensive production from 3rd base. As a team, they are doing it with pitching, defense, and (I'm guessing) timely hitting.

I feel that every Erik Bedard performance is a statement game for Seattle. If he is great, they will be competitive. If he reverts back to being the sourpuss who doesn't want to compete, the M's are going to struggle on days King Felix doesn't pitch. But, having two guys at the top of the rotation being successful has a way of permeating confidence throughout the pitching staff and lineup.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
The rest of the games are night games. In a P.T.I. Big Finish kind of way, there are the things that interest me the most tonight...
  • Twins @ Detroit. Let's go Rick Porcello!!
  • Edinson Volquez @ Florida. The Marlins have a nice lineup, but I want to see if Volquez can dominate in a pitcher's park like Joe Robbie.
  • Philadelphia @ St. Louis. Rick Ankiel face planted into a wall last night. I'm thinking that if he needs a few days to get the cobwebs out, this could open the door to regular at bats for Colby Rasmus. Is he going to perform like Jay Bruce, or not?
  • Arizona @ Dodgers. I still get excited to see Max Sherzer. He's one of our favorites. Jeff Weaver, on the other hand, hasn't been one of our favorites since he was on Detroit about three lifetimes ago.

Enjoy the games, go Cubs!