Thursday, April 29, 2010

Juan Cruz to the Cubs?

Over the past week, the Kansas City Royals have taken the steps required to release blog favorite Juan Cruz. Fangraphs' R.J. Anderson raises some good points, while wondering aloud why the Royals made this move.

From R.J.'s post:
"So far this season, he’s appeared in five games, pitched five innings, and the strikeouts have been there. The walks have too, mind you, but his FIP to date is 2.66. Heck, even his ERA is a solid 3.38. Cruz’s velocity is slightly down – from 94 MPH to 93.2 – but I don’t see that as an issue.


Maybe he’s unhealthy, or maybe he’s a huge jerk. I don’t really know."
I love Anderson's writing because he's direct, and he'll throw things in like maybe he's a jerk; I don't know.

I've been a fan of Juan Cruz since he made his Major League debut with the Cubs, as a starting pitcher, on August 21, 2001. That season, he started all eight (8) games he appeared in and finished with a nice 3-1 record and 3.22 ERA. He showed the ability to miss bats, and looked like a poor man's Pedro. As a Cubs fan in 2001, you can imagine the excitement of having the 22-year old version of a poor man's Pedro Martinez.

In 2001, Pedro was the reigning CY Young Award winner, having won it 3 of the last 4 years, and finished the 2000 season with an incredible 1.74 ERA. And, those were prime steroid years.

The important thing to remember is that no-one knows the player like #1 the player himself, and #2 his team. Maybe the Royals did have a good reason to tell Cruz to take his 93 MPH fastball and 3.38 ERA home, while they keep paying him. As R.J. wrote, maybe he's hurt.

If all it takes from the Cubs is a minimum salary to sign Cruz, they need to pick him up. Their bullpen is in such a catastrophic state that Lou Piniella used their futility as the reason to move the $91,500,000 Carlos Zambrano into the bullpen.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Drew Storen's Best Teammate

Stephen Strasburg and Drew Storen were drafted in the 1st round by the Washington Nationals last June.

We expect both of them to contribute with the big club in Washington later this year, but they have begun the season with the Nationals' double-A affiliate in Harrisburg, PA. Strasburg's amazing performance last night truly emphasizes how remarkable he's been, so far.

In 4 games (all starts), Stephen Strasburg has a 3 – 0 record, pitched 17 1/3 innings, and given up only 7 hits. He has given up only 1 earned run (5 total), with 23 strikeouts and 3 walks.

The 21-year old ace of the Harrisburg Senators has very unique ERA and WHIP numbers: 0.52 ERA and 0.577 WHIP.

I really just needed to write out some of these numbers because they are that spectacular.

A couple more… his H/9 is a divine 3.6, and his K/BB ratio is a laughable 7.62.

He’ll probably wind up pitching around 45 innings in the minors and 105 in the majors.

Let’s hope Jim Riggleman doesn't have him out there on 130-pitch pitch counts, like he did for Kerry Wood in 1998. At least Riggs has said that there is a difference between the importance of winning individual games for the '98 Cubs and these Nationals. The Nationals are not making a run at the pennant.

Still, I can't stop worrying about Jim Riggleman's dog-gon' competitiveness. He doesn't like to lose! If Riggs has any doubts about what he should do, or he's becoming concerned with his perception of 'what the fans want', he should have a Tom Trebelhorn inspired firehouse chat with Nationals fans and realize that everyone just wants these guys to stay healthy.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Managerial Rise of Enyr Grebdnas

Harry Caray, bless his heart, had a fascination with names. Players, teams, countries, no-one was safe from his imagination. He would criticize people who's last name sounded better to him as a first name. For example, he thought Jose Felix would sound better if his name were Felix Jose. Harry thought the Florida Marlins should be called the Miami Marlins because they play in Miami. Harry did not seem to care that the Marlins actually play outside of Miami. His hotel was in Miami, and he ate dinner with Steve Stone and Arnie Harris in Miami.

At one point early in the 1998 season (I think), the Cubs' Henry Rodriguez and Sammy Sosa were both leading the National League in Home Runs. They both are from the Dominican Republic. Harry thought it would be a great idea if the Dominican Republic changed the name of their whole country to "Sosa Rodriguez". Harry's other memorable move was to spell names backwards. Greg Maddux was Gerg Xuddam, Shawon Dunston was (of course) Nowahs, and Ryne Sandberg was Enyr Grebdnas.

Harry was the best.

He would work 162 games for a consistently bad team every year and still seemed like he was having the most fun in the world. Sure, the losing got to him. He wanted the Cubbies to win, and it got pretty sad towards the tail end of his career, when he began to accept the fact that the Cubs wouldn't be winners in his lifetime. On the air, he would say some pretty heartbreaking things during the postgame shows after tough losses. Unfortunately, this chain of love and madness between Cubs fans and losing cannot be broken until the Cubs of the future actually win a World Series. To take a page out of the Billy Crystal playbook, it's not funny. It's not fun. It's not funny anymore. There are millions of Cubs fans who have not been able to outlive the Cubs futility.

This post was actually written last night, on the subway to Citi Field to see the Cubs. I thought it may be a few notes anticipating the game, as Carlos Zambrano faced off against Mike Pelfrey. Who knew they had such similar nicknames? Big Z vs Big Pelf? Anyway, I thought about anticipating the game, but went on a tangent that got me all the way to the ballpark...

It seems like my beloved Chicago Cubs are running in place this young season. On the Mets' broadcast Monday Night, Keith or Ron mentioned that they weren't seeing any life from the Cubs.

Usually, that is a fatal blow to a manager's tenure with a club. Of course, no one should accuse Lou Piniella of anything because of this. Sometimes, there is little a manager can do, even should do. At this point in the season, the veteran Cubs don't need a manager trying out crazy theories from his laboratory. Fans used to say "In Dusty We Trusty", and it's evident that the fans, front office, and ownership also trusty Sweet Lou.

Can I get started on my feelings about Ryne Sandberg as future manager of the Cubs? When it comes to matters as dear as this, it is hard for me to open up. I'll try anyway.

It seems the Cubs organization is providing adequate training for Ryno. A few years ago, he started out riding buses, while managing a rookie ball team. He progressed up the ranks and is currently the manager at Triple-A Iowa. If/when he takes the reigns from Lou Piniella, he will presumably have relationships with some homegrown players on the big club. This is not a case where a team takes a legendary player and throws him in the dugout, as manager, trying to see if he may revive old team glory. For these reasons, and others, I think Sandberg might actually be the manager who eventually brings a title to the Northside.

Part of me is less optimistic about the Hall of Famer as the next Cubs' manager and feels, deep down, that we could be talking about a 110+ year drought if he's next in line after Piniella's deal expires.

In my youth, I grew up with Sandberg at 2nd base every day. He was the NL starting 2nd baseman every season, too. This, of course, meant that he would have the All-Star sticker in those baseball sticker magazine books my Mom would get me at the supermarket every year. He won the gold glove every year. He led 2nd basemen in Home Runs every year. In my opinion, he never seemed to want to get his uniform dirty and dive for a ball in the hole. There were rumors that Rafael Palmeiro was traded for Mitch "Wild Thing" Williams because Raffy did the Wild Thing with Sandberg's wife. I'm not holding that against Ryno, but maybe, just maybe, he wasn't the greatest teammate. It was evident, because of the Gold Gloves, All Star starts, and unprecedented home run totals, that he was a Hall of Famer at the end of his career. Ryno admirably left millions of dollars on the table, walking away from guaranteed money, retiring when he didn't think his performance was worth his gaudy salary. See if anyone born after 1990 has ever heard of an athlete doing that. By any estimation, that was an extremely classy thing to do.

Of all those facts above, I can't get over the fact that I wanted him to dive more. Most fans didn't care because he seemed to have great range and kept winning gold gloves.

In Cuban baseball speak, there is a term call a "postalita". That is someone who thinks he's cool, thinks he looks good, peacocks around, doesn't want to get dirty, basically think he's hot stuff. My dad thinks A-Rod is a postalita. I think Cristiano Ronaldo is a postalita. I thought Ryno was a postalita. I never want a postalita managing my team. I want a good teammate to be the manager of my club. I guess that's basically what it boils down to.

Morning After Notes, i.e. a few things I noticed on my 2nd trip ever to Citi Field...

The food at Citi Field is tremendously overrated. Maybe Shake Shak is a great fast food burger, but the line during the game is obnoxious and frankly it just looks and smells like a boatload of salt.

The Caesars Club at Citi Field was really strange. There's nothing there but some furniture, TV's, and a bar. It looked like a lousy sports bar in a mediocre suburb's shopping mall.

Seeing former Cubs in the Mets' starting lineup, Angel Pagan and Henry Blanco, brought back lots of memories. Geovany Soto and I both miss Henry Blanco very much. The Mets should get rid of Rod Barajas and trade for Geovany Soto because he would be great again with Blanco mentoring him.

Carlos Zambrano looked much better than I expected. He barely gave up a couple of runs with 2 out, but it could have been a different story. I blame outfield defense for allowing too many hits/bases. TV announcers say that Marlon Byrd is good at defense, but I don't buy it. There isn't enough data for me to trust defensive metrics on this season, but my eyes tell me that he is not even an above average defensive Centerfielder. He's a 4th Outfielder, or the #8 hitter on a really good team.

Mike Pelfrey looked shaky at first, then really settled down. The first three hitters in the game took him to a full count, and he had 57 pitches with a runner on and two out in the 3rd inning. His next pitch got him out of the third. A 1-2-3 inning in the 4th really settled him down, and the Mets cruised to an easy victory after that. It's not a good sign for the hopes of Cub fans in 2010. This veteran team may just be 'running in place', but they're getting worked by the Mets. And, the Mets stink. We'll get a closer look tonight, sitting in box seats for my personal nightmare pitching matchup of Carlos Silva vs Oliver Perez. Anything is possible.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Breaking Up is Hard to Do...

Ever since I started playing fantasy sports, I've had a compulsive habit of adding and dropping players. I despise having open slots on my roster, when normal starters have days off. I love spotting and riding a hot streak. And who doesn't like picking up a starting pitcher with a favorable match-up? Most of the time, this "strategy" hurts my team more than it helps. For every random guy I pick up who gets a win or pops a home run, I have two or three pitchers that can't get out of the 5th and too many hitters that go 0 for 4 or 1 for 4.

One of the difficult times for an add/drop junkie like me are those occasions when you fall in love with your roster and can't find anyone to drop. Breaking that bond with someone you value on your roster can be tough. However, is it not true that the human psyche craves something new? Something spontaneous? Wasn't there a time - just a little before my time, when playboys called new conquests "strange"? As an old friend of mine* said many years ago, when he was growing tired of his current girlfriend "I need new p***y".

*to protect the innocent, let's call this friend Ben Korn.

It was tough for me a few days ago to let go of some players that I think will be very useful this season and beyond. With conflicting emotions, on April 15th, I relented and let go of Gio Gonzalez, Brandon Wood, and Mat Latos. My reasonings for letting these guys go slightly differ, but the main theme is that I don't think anyone else is going to gobble them up right away. So, I have the chance of getting them back in the next few days, if it seems like I gave up too soon.

As any degenerate in Atlantic City or Windsor will tell you, it is fun to gamble. In fantasy sports, it's no different. If you crave the action, but don't place bets on games, then betting on individual players in fantasy can scratch that itch. For example, let's say you're an accidental tourist in St. Louis one evening before a business meeting the following day. Serendipitously, your hotel is directly across the street from the ballpark, and an off duty cop in the lobby just gave you a free ticket to sit in Big Mac Land. If you want a little action for the game, why not pick up Skip Schumaker or Kyle McClellan and try to catch lightning in a bottle.

Just for fun, let's talk about th risk/reward of the newest members of Good Friends and where our thoughts are for the future of our roster.

We dropped Gio Gonzalez for Tom Gorzelanny. I still love Gio, but he struggled last time out and faces the Yankees next. I don't think anyone is picking him up in the next 5 days. Unless Gorzelanny does something like strikeout 9 or more Astros, I think we will drop him for someone else who can help us right away. Perhaps, we'll find another starter, a relief pitcher who has SP eligibility, or another hitter to take a flyer on.

Mat Latos was dropped for Ryan Sweeney. As long as Ryan Sweeney is batting 3rd in a Major League lineup, he has value to us. I don't think we will drop him unless he goes into a significant slump. I still like Mat and Gio a lot. I'm not sure how it'll happen, but I hope they both find a way back on our team.

We are keeping a very focused eye on Brandon Wood. If he shows signs of getting hot, like a multiple hit day, or hits in 4 of 5 games, we will try to scoop him back up. I just could not compete in the short term of our roto league with him, Alexei Ramirez, and Chris Davis dragging our team down. We have basically benched Davis until he shows more, but Alexei is in our lineup every bleeping day. We picked up Jose Bautista to replace Wood as our backup third baseman and platoon partner with Chris Davis at Corner Infield. Bautista's historical performance is relatively abysmal, particularly in the most important part of not making outs.

We are gambling on Bautista because he is entrenched in the leadoff spot for the Blue Jays, and he's never really had a chance to blossom as a starter for an entire season. Remember how Marco Scutaro shocked the world with his career year at age 34 atop the Jays' lineup last season? Well, Bautista is only 29 1/2 years old. He was born in the '80s for crying out loud, so he can't be "old" yet.

They say the best trades you make, sometimes, are the ones you don't make. Last night, we almost dropped Mike Leake for Corey Hart. Hart has shown a little life in the early part of the season, and he credits hitting coach Dale Sveum for working with him. That's a good sign from someone with 20-20 potential, in a potent lineup. It also sounds a little like Milwaukee hype. Mike Leake was almost off our roster because he gave up three runs in the first to innings, against Pittsburgh, no less. He settled down to throw five more scoreless and leave after seven inings, saving his role on our squad. It's a funny thing. This whole fantasy baseball thing.

If you get a chance, enjoy some of the games today. The ones I'm looking forward to are...

Astros @ Cubs: It's Tom Gorzelanny Time!

Giants @ Dodgers: The Freak vs The Knuckleballer

Mets @ Cardinals: Johan vs Phat Albert Pujols

Marlins @ Phillies: Cy Young Pick Nolasco @ Philly

Rays @ Red Sox: Tampa Bay has been playing very well, and Boston has been jogging to a 4 and 5 record. Last night's game was supended in the middle of the 9th Inning, so they'll pick up today with the bottom of the 9th of a tied 1-1 game. That's always fun. The Red Sox lost Cameron and Ellsbury to injuries, so their Outfield has JD Drew, Bill Hall, and Jeremy Hermida. Clay Buchholz is on our rotisserie team. Should we bench him today? Here we go again...

Friday, April 16, 2010

Does Bad Hitting Beat Bad Pitching?

The old adage is "Good pitching beats good hitting." We usually see it in the playoffs and All Star Games, when potent lineups are held to reasonably low run totals.

Today, fans have a chance to watch the opposite effect. Carlos Silva is facing the Astros right now at Wrigley Field.

There are advanced stats to show how ineffective Silva has been in recent history... 1.9 HR/9 innings in 2006, 66 ERA+ in 2008, 51 ERA+ & 0.91 K:BB ratio last season, ... and there are mainstream stats that tell the same story... a league-leading 38 Homeruns given up in 2006, 13-14 record with a 4.19 ERA in 2007, 4-15 with a 6.46 ERA in 2008, only 1 Win and an 8.60 ERA last season.

I don't want to be negative, and I don't want to put Carlos Silva down with words. The numbers, frankly, speak for themselves.

To say something nice about Carlos Silva, he was really good at not giving up homeruns his first two seasons in the league, with Philadelphia in 2002 & 2003, his HR/9 was 0.6. However, that was primarily as a reliever (only 1 start). He became a starter the next season, with the Twins, and through last season his HR/9 is 1.2.

And, so the Astros are really bad, especially on offense. Coming into today's action, they've played 9 games and scored 19 runs. That's 2.11 runs per game.

They have 8 walks and 56 strikeouts. Yikes.

So far, Silva has been holding his own to make a case for Bad Pitching beating Bad Hitting. It's an interesting case study. I think a few of the 'Stros will find a way to break out of their slumps today. (I'm looking at you, Carlos Lee.)

Enjoy the action if you're in Houston, Chicago, or you get the MLB Network. Tune in. It's on right now!

Anyway, I'm just kidding around... it doesn't matter... BTW, I love Tom Gorzelanny as a pickup to face these Astros tomorrow. Have a good weekend.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Super Bowl XX, Naked Gun, & Wimbledon

I have journals (usually travel journals), but I don’t have a diary. So, there will be times when I have to use this space to get some personal stuff off my chest. This season’s first installment of introspective reflection involves Dick Enberg.

Dear Diary: I’m sorry, but I really thought Dick Enberg had passed away. I didn’t hope for it. In fact, I’m relieved to believe that he is still alive. I’ve always been a fan of Enberg’s, most notable with his fabulous performance in The Naked Gun: Files from Police Squad, his annual, gracious hosting of Breakfast at Wimbledon in the ‘90s, and of course he was the play-by-play man during the ’85 Bears’ undressing of the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX on January 26, 1986.*

*Is it cool, or lame, that I don’t need to look that up?

What’s most embarrassing is that, for some reason, I thought Enberg passed away. I think it was because I was watching some awards show, like the Academy Awards, and they had a Dick Enberg montage. Maybe it was a montage because he was in his last season of doing Wimbledon or the Men’s NCAA basketball tournament.

The interesting thing is that all week, I’ve been hearing his voice during Padres’ broadcasts and saying to myself, “Man, that guy sounds a lot like Dick Enberg. If Dick Enberg hadn’t died, I would think he’s doing Padres’ games these days.” So, I’m sitting here, thinking it again and again until finally, I check out Enberg’s credentials on the Interweb. Eureka, according to the unsourceable Wikipedia, and the more sourceable IMDB, he’s still alive.

Please let me know if I’m making a grave mistake right now, but at my current level of confusion and exhaustion, I’m relishing the relief that Enberg is still with us. (I hope I'm right. This is really embarrassing, either way.)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

2010 Power Arms Pro Debut

Today was a memorable day due to the professional debuts of Mike Leake, Stephen Strasburg, and the mysterious Aroldis Chapman.

All three performances were impressive. Here are a few notes from those that are in the know...

First, the pride of Fallbrook, California & Arizona State University, Mike Leake, bypassed the Minor Leagues to make his professional debut for Dusty Baker's Cincinnati Reds. As Gabe Lacques, of USA Today writes:
"Leake nearly completed seven innings in his debut with the Cincinnati Reds today, holding the Chicago Cubs to one run and four hits over 6 2/3 innings. Reds manager Dusty Baker finally lifted him after he issued walks in the seventh to Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez; the Reds trailed 1-0 at the time.

Leake was erratic at times - he walked seven and had to pitch out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the first inning - and dominant at others. Showcasing a changeup mature beyond his experience, Leake struck out five and threw 106 pitches."
Dusty Baker wanted Leake to have a chance to earn a win and let him pitch the 7th Inning, while too fatigued to be effective. Even the Reds broadcast team, Thom Brenneman and someone he kept calling "Cowboy*", mentioned that they noticed Leake's arm slot dropping. They said he was not finishing his pitches & his breaking pitches weren't tumbling like before, both sure signs of fatigue.

*Could Cowboy be Jeff Brantley?

The second pro debut, was Aroldis Chapman pitching for Triple-A Louisville. From Jeff Wallner's piece:
Chapman allowed just one earned run on five hits, walked one and struck out nine in 4 2/3 innings. He threw 85 pitches, 55 for strikes, and left the game with Louisville leading, 2-1.

Four of the five hits he allowed did not leave the infield.

Nine (9) strikeouts, out of fourteen (14) outs! I can't wait for this kid to get to the big leagues.

Finally, we conclude with the debut of last season's #1 Overall draft pick, the golden boy, Stephen Strasburg. As blog favorite, Keith Law, eloquently describes in his ESPN blog:
"Strasburg's velocity was incredible; he hit 99 with his first pitch and reached that mark two other times in the third inning. He didn't throw a fastball under 97 until the fourth. Over his final two innings, he was 94-97, although he threw several pitches in the 94-96 range that had the slight tail of a two-seam fastball. His fastball command wasn't great, although that may have been more a function of situation than inability to locate. His best, most consistent pitch was his curveball, 78-83 mph with incredibly sharp two-plane break and a downward finish, and he threw it for strikes most of the day. His worst pitch was, as before, his changeup, still a work in progress, although he threw several that were plus in the 87-88 mph range with hard downward tail; he overthrew several changeups, some as hard as 92, and didn't locate the pitch well, throwing many (if not most) below the zone.

Strasburg ran into trouble in the first and fourth innings, and it's worth looking at exactly how that trouble occurred. In the first, Alex Presley cheated on a 97 mph fastball and ripped a double to right; had Strasburg gone to the changeup there against the left-handed hitter, Presley would have chopped himself into the ground and the inning would have ended without a blemish. (Cheating on a fastball means starting your bat early -- essentially, an all-or-nothing bet that the pitcher is throwing a fastball on the next pitch.) After Presley's double, Strasburg became more tentative with his fastball, working down or away but not in for the next few hitters, an inexcusable approach for a guy who couldn't throw anything under 97. The combination of a hitter getting lucky and Strasburg becoming passive when he needed to be aggressive led to the first run. The fourth inning was almost entirely the fault of a showboating infielder who turned a makable double-play ball into zero outs with men on first and second, after which Strasburg returned to the tentative approach he had in the first after Presley's double. He gave up a run-scoring single to the opposing pitcher, Rudy Owens (see below), after throwing too many fastballs in a row and giving Owens reason to cheat -- throwing a changeup to the other pitcher might seem like overkill, but Strasburg needed an out there and Owens was swinging at whatever was coming.

Strasburg's final line: 5 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K. He threw 82 pitches, 55 for strikes."
Stephen Strasburg is going on a Nationals Minor League team tour, to increase their businesses with sellouts, sponsorships, etc. They'll also be slowing down his service clock, which will basically help them keep him for an extra year before he hits mega free agency. The other two guys are both in the Reds rotation, and it'll be interesting to see who gets booted from the Reds rotation when Chapman is ready. Please Dusty, don't hurt 'em.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

85% Available All-Stars

In Matthew Berry’s column this past Thursday, he lists (in his words): “The first non-pitchers that I would pick up for each position that are available in at least 85 percent of leagues.” I thought it would be a good idea to check the player pool and see if my opinions differ.

The idea is not very different from my 20 under 20% column from last week, but this time we’re looking at it by position.

First, Mister Berry’s list…

1. Chris Iannetta, C, Rockies (10%)
2. Casey Kotchman, 1b, Mariners (1.4%)
3. Sean Rodriguez, 2b, Rays (7.9%)
4. Ian Desmond, SS, Nationals (4%)
5. Troy Glaus, 3b, Braves (11.8%)
6. Carlos Gomez, OF, Brewers (14.8%)
7. Austin Jackson, OF, Tigers (13.6%)
8. Skip Schumaker, 2b/OF, Cards (8.1%)
9. Clint Barmes, 2b, Rockies (9.6%)
10. Jhonny Peralta, SS/3b, Indians (13.8%)

Okay well, his list is a little messed up because it’s not clear what the “positions” are after #7. He chose, for some reason, to exclude pitchers. I’ll include one Starting Pitcher and one Relief Pitcher, and that will get us a nice and easy 10 positions.

Even though I prefer Sportsline data, I am using ESPN league numbers for consistency.

C: Jeff Clement, Pirates (2.2%)
He’s playing 1st base, so his body won’t wear down like a real catcher. He’s been an excellent hitter at every level, so I expect him to outperform most catchers.

1b: Gaby Sanchez, Marlins (3.1%)
Kotchman is an intriguing option as the #3 hitter for the Mariners, but he is not exactly expected to improve much or even approach 20 homeruns. I’ll take the chance Gaby shows more power.

2b: Chris Getz, Royals (1.6%)
Speed + opportunity = steals

SS: Jhonny Peralta, Indians (13.4%)
He’s got power and slid over to 3rd base, which could make him even stronger.

3b: Brandon Wood, Angels (4.4%)
I’m beginning to lose patience with Brandon Wood, but considering he’s still on my own team, he should be on this list. I’m not about to drop him for Scott Rolen.

OF: Mike Cameron, Red Sox (12.3%)
He’s one of those freaky athletes who’s body doesn’t age at the same rate as everyone else. I guess he could also be on HGH, but anyway, he’s 37 years old and arguably still the best athlete on his team.

OF: Luke Scott, Orioles (2.4%)
There is a really creepy Luke Scott promo commercial on local Orioles broadcasts. He is also a good source of cheap power.

OF: Michael Brantley, Indians (0.9%)
Only zero-point-nine percent owned is crazy low for Michael Brantley. He’s not just one-dimensional for speed. He won’t hit a lot of homeruns, but he is a decent hitter.

SP: Gio Gonzalez, A’s (0.7%)
He looked in control last night in Anaheim. Get on the bandwagon, plenty of seats available!

RP: Matt Thornton, White Sox (7.0%)
Bobby Jenks could lose his job, or at the very least visit the DL once or twice this year. Even if he doesn’t, Thornton will lower your team ERA & WHIP (slightly), while adding a few strikeouts each week.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Oh Man, Sorry Sammy G!!

Less than 24-hours after taking the early season lead as our 2010 Lester "The Molester" Lancaster Award Winner, Sammy Gervacio is going on the 15-day DL with posterior rotator cuff starin in his throwing shoulder, according to Bernardo Fallas of the Houston Chronicle. That's really unfortunate.

Who's going to win the blog award for best non-closing reliever this season? So far, we'll be keeping an eye on...

Sammy Gervacio, Astros
Neftali Feliz, Rangers
Daniel Bard, Red Sox
Matt Thornton, White Sox
Henry Rodriguez, Athletics
Esmailin Caridad, Cubs
Jennry Mejia, Mets
Brian Bruney, Nationals
Blaine Boyer, Diamondbacks

Fans, please nominate anyone you can think of in the comments section, after this GIANT picture of Esmailin Caridad in Arizona.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

New Favorite Non-Closer

Warning notice: I'm sorry. This post should only interesting to me and, maybe, longtime friends. Proceed with caution...

For some reason, I've always been a fan of flame-throwing relief pitchers who don't get the glory of closing out games. Often times, they are closers-in-waiting, like when Mariano Rivera pitched the 8th innings to set up for John Wetteland. In my lifetime, I've had candid appreciation for underrated relievers, starting with Les Lancaster.

In fact, if my "favorite non-closer reliever" was something of a reigning-championship situation, the lineage would go something like this...

1989: Les Lancaster, Cubs
1990: Norm Charlton, Reds
1991: Randy Myers, Reds
1992: Denny Neagle, Pirates
1993: Xavier Hernandez, Astros
1994: Mel Rojas, Expos
1995: Pedro Borbon, Braves
1996: Mariano Rivera, Yankees
1997: Armando Benitez, Orioles
1998: Terry Adams, Cubs
1999: Amaury Telemaco, Phillies
2000: Scott Williamson, Reds
2001: Juan Cruz, Cubs
2002: Carlos Zambrano, Cubs
2003: Octavio Dotel, Astros
2004: Juan Cruz, Braves
2005: Scot Shields, Angels
2006: Scott Proctor, Yankees
2007: Carlos Marmol, Cubs
2008: Jose Arredondo, Angels
2009: Neftali Feliz, Rangers
2010: Sammy Gervacio, Astros

With Neftali Feliz's implosion yesterday, we were on the search for a new favorite non-closer. While watching the Tim Lincecum game last night, we were treated to the most eccentric performance by a relief pitcher since old favorite, Mike Fetters. After a full day of being cooped inside, watching baseball, Houston Astros reliever, Sammy Gervacio, was a breath of fresh air.

MLB Properties loves to take baseball videos off the interweb, but for as long as it remains, we can try to enjoy this video here.

Opening Day Channel Surfing

The following consists of a few rambling observations while flipping through the MLB package on Timer Warner Cable in Manhattan.

What can be said about Albert Pujols? He starts the year with four hits and two homeruns.

Gaby Sanchez doesn’t look like much of a player, but he’s got a sweet righty swing.

Orlando Cabrera looks really bad defensively, which used to be his strength. He couldn't make a play on a relatively routine hopper a few steps to his left.

What a play by Buehrle! A kick-save turns a comebacker into a dribbler down the line, near 1st base. He shovels the ball with his glove, through his legs, while he’s falling out of bounds. Check out the video here...

More observations…

Dodgers are getting spanked by the Pirates, 8 to 2 in the 6th. What kind of photographs or other blackmail device does Vicente Padilla have over Joe Torre?

Kyle McClellan is showing very good stuff as the Cardinals’ primary set-up man. He may be next in line for saves, and I thought Jason Motte was Ryan Franklin’s understudy all along.

Greg Zaum looks like an ax murderer, with a long mountain man beard.

Troy Glaus looks really tall, which I think is a good thing. Maybe his posture has improved.

Jason Heyward is impressive, even when he strikes out looking.

The Cubs are just horrible.*

Inside the Park Homerun for Stephen Drew, wow.

Tim Lincecum looked great, going 7 scoreless innings with 4 hits, 0 walks, and 7 strikeouts.

Felix Hernandez looked unhittable, as well. Unfortunately, he has not found his groove to maintain impeccable control. He only gave up 3 hits, but walked 6 batters before leaving with 2 out in the 7th inning.

Delmon Young did in fact start his season off on the right foot, with two hits, including a Homerun.

Oh man, someone had an amazing mullet, but I can't remember right now who it was. Let's keep an eye out for this mullet. I know it's on a white guy with dark brown or black hair. I can't wait to remember or see him again; let's hope he doesn't get a haircut.

"Thank you" to Good Friends players with Homeruns yesterday: Colby Rasmus, Ian Stewart, Jason Heyward, and Kyle Blanks.

*I think the Cubs were only down two or three runs when I wrote that they are horrible. Marlon Byrd’s 3-run Homerun was a pleasant surprise, but his lack of range in the outfield is disgusting.

No Day Games today, which is a good thing for the American work force. Tonight, I’ll be keeping my eye on the NY/Boston game and want to see how Carlos Gonzalez and Ian Stewart do against a left-handed starter I Milwaukee. Now, let’s get to work and enjoy the light schedule of contests tonight.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Blue Jays Moving On

Shaun Marcum is going for a no hitter, with 1 out in the 6th inning. Elvis Andrus shows a bunt on the 1st pitch, fouls off the 2nd pitch, eventually running to count to 2-2 before striking out looking. The no-no is still a go. Travis Snider makes a nice play to retire Julio Borbon on a shallow ball down the line. Wouldn’t it be something if the Blue Jays got an Opening Day no-hitter after trading Roy Halladay?

2010 MLB Predictions

This post was started on March 29th, on a Path train to Hoboken, and a NJ Transit train from Hoboken to Millburn. It was continued on a Metro North train roundtrip between Grand Central and North White Plains. My thumbs and blackberry have never been so agreeable.

We're hoping it'll be a fantastic season, filled with intrigue, joy, and fair competition. It's hard being a Cubs fan these days because I can't get psyched about Marlon Byrd and Ryan Dempster types anymore. We're in the middle of a 101+ year quest for another World Series title. Our team is getting worse, while getting older. The window of opportunity to win a World Championship with this core of players is just about completely shut. Is it unreasonable to be a little perturbed at this point? I'm downright distraught.

Enough about me, though. We have a lot to look forward to with 2010 baseball, including but not limited to... the Major League Debuts of Aroldis Chapman, Jason Heyward, Mike Leake, & Stephen Strasburg, the probable debuts of Michael Stanton, Noel Arguelles, & Desmond Jennings, the emergence of Ian Stewart, Matt Weiters, & Buster Posey, and as always, the daily tribulations of America's greatest reality soap operas. I'm looking forward to the drama of teammates competing for jobs, veterans trying to salvage their careers, and young players establishing themselves as stars.

National League
NL East

Back-to-back reigning NL Champs don't usually have a brand new Ace, who's favored by many to win the Cy Young Award. I like the Braves, Mets, and Marlins to all compete for the Wild Card, with pitching and health being the most important variables, as always. The Nationals will get another good draft pick and look to compete around 2014.

NL Central

If Cub fans are force fed more than 21 innings of Carlos Silva, we may find a reason to unite a civil protest. For there to be peace on Addison and Clark, fans may need to channel the energies of lost seasons in the '80s and '90s when all that mattered was drinking beers, listening to Harry, and looking at bikini tops in the bleachers. Sadly, the Cardinals should coast to an easy divisional victory, as long as an intoxicated Tony LaRussa doesn't take his players on a Barrett Robbins tour of Tijuana. The Reds could be about as exciting as the 2003 Cubs, if Chapman, Leake, and Harang pitch as many expect. Dusty Baker should be a fun manager to follow this season.

NL West
SF Giants
Colorado Rockies
LA Dodgers
San Diego Padres
Arizona Diamondbacks

The Dodgers and Rockies are the more popular picks to win the West. I'm counting on a strong 1/2/3 with Lincecum, Cain, and Jonathan Sanchez. All in all, I think the National league is in good shape. The worst teams are the Pirates and the Nationals, but they're improving. It feels like the only teams getting worse are the Cubs and Astros. Sigh.

NL MVP: Albert Pujols
NL Cy Young: Ricky Nolasco
NL RoY: Jason Heyward
NL Mgr: Bruce Bochy
NL Comeback PoY: Tim Hudson

American League
AL East
NY Yankees
Blue Jays

The Orioles are getting better and a year or two away from making this division very interesting. Currently, there is a fantastic argument to make in keeping Boston or New York out of the postseason, like they did in 2008. I just think that the Red Sox and Yankees are the teams to pick in 2010. If Desmond Jennings, Mark Hellickson, or Tim Beckham get called up early and make an impact, we could be jumping on Cinderella's bandwagon with full force. In the meantime, I love several additions made by the Red Sox (Scutaro, Cameron, Beltre, & Lackey) and defending champion Yankees (Curtis Granderson, Nick Johnson, and Chan Ho Park).

AL Central
White Sox

The AL Central is a bit of a jumbled, perhaps below average, division. At the same time, I have tremendous respect for all five front offices. The Twins seemed to upgrade their infield and depth, by adding Orlando Hudson & Jim Thome. It sounds like Delmon Young could actually have a breakout season, hitting .300 with 40 or 50 extra base hits. They need to solidify the pitching staff and make up for losing the best regular season closer of the last five years. A revitalized Francisco Liriano, with steady performances from Scott Baker and Carl Pavano, will go a long way to get them close to the 89 wins it could take to win this division. For the fans, there is a lot to like in this division. Greinke & Verlander will likely be in another Cy Young conversation. Jake Peavy is trying like crazy to win in the post-season while he has a chance. The Tigers seem like they are another year away from being really dangerous. Still, they have a punchers chance; gambling on Max Sherzer could pay off in a big way. I think I placed the Royals above the Indians because I simply have no faith in Fausto Carmona's spring training numbers being legit. The Royals are a fascinatingly confusing organization that can be followed by some of baseball's best writers. Stay tuned.

AL West

I hadn't made up my mind on this division until about 5 minutes before first pitch in Washington, DC today. I don't know why I'm taking the Angels. I have a lot of faith in Mick Scioscia, I suppose. A few weeks ago, I thought the Mariners' fantastic offseason was going to get them the division title. Then, I saw that their offense was really poor last season, and projections don't show much improvement. So, they have very good pitching & great defense, but how far will that take them? I think the A's could win the division if blog favorites Ben Sheets, Trevor Cahill, and Gio Gonzalez pitch up to their capabilities. The Rangers have been doing a lot of things right, but someone has to finish 4th. Actually, I really want to take the A's to win the Division. This is going to be a close one.

AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera
AL Cy Young: Felix Hernandez
AL RoY: Brian Matusz
AL Mgr: Joe Girardi
AL Comeback PoY: Ben Sheets

Post Season
NL Div Srs
Giants over Phillies
Braves over Cards

AL Div Srs
Yankees over Tigers
Red Sox over Angels

NLCS: Giants over Braves

ALCS: Yankees over Red Sox

World Series: Yankees over Giants
World Series MVP: Mariano Rivera

Enjoy the action with today's openers and this opening week of the National Pastime. We'll try to be back as often as possible with observations, thoughts, and questions as we witness living history. Please submit thoughts, updates, requests, and inquiries to our comments section or email me at baguilera[at]gmail[dot]com.

Let's go Cubs; let's do it for Harry!

Friday, April 2, 2010

20 under 20%

The other consideration for title of this post was the sophomoric How Deep is Too Deep. As is commonly said, in "shallow" leagues teams need big time studs to win, and in deeper leagues teams need to find lesser known players to produce. Suffice it to say that I looked at players owned in less than 21% of leagues and picked an interesting player from 20%-1% ownership. It'll be interesting if any of these guys become everyday starters for fantasy players.

Fernando Rodney, RP, Angels (20%)
Anaheim’s closer, Brian Fuentes’s contract contains a 9 million dollar vesting option for 2011 if he finishes 55 games. There’s a good chance they brought Rodney in to close games, and Fuentes will be the situational lefty or 8th inning guy.

Felipe Lopez, 2b/SS, Cardinals (19%)
Runs will be scored in a lineup with Albert Pujols & Matt Holliday, and Lopez still has enough power/speed to be a valuable fantasy contributor.

Gio Gonzalez, SP, A’s (18%)
Less than 20% of Sportsline Rotisserie players think Gio is unrosterable. I feel it’s a huge mistake, as his home games reside in a pitcher’s park, and he has excellent strikeout ability.

Adam Kenneydy, 2b/3b, Nationals (17%)
Kennedy is probably just a stopgap player to fill in at 2b or Middle Infied, if you have someone like Brian Roberts or Jose Reyes, who won’t be ready on April 5th.

Gaby Sanchez, 1b, Marlins (16%)
20+ Homerun potential and a lifetime .300 Batting Average in the minor leagues make Gaby a legitimate sleeper.

Jake Fox, 3b/OF, A’s (15%)
I worry about Fox’s strikeouts leading to a problem with playing time, but his power will help and he can play 3rd, LF, RF, DH, and even emergency Catcher.

Michael Brantley, OF, Indians (14%)
We all heard about him from this post, I’m sure.

Chris Getz, 2b, KC (13%)
I think Getz has a chance to play every day and steal 35+ bases. As a second baseman, the pickings get pretty slim if you have an injury or two.

Drew Storen, RP, Nationals (12%)
Storen is really just someone to put on your scout team. If you’re in a league that rewards holds, you’ll want to pick up Storen as soon as you hear that they will likely call him up. He is the closer of the future in Washington, being selected nine picks after the golden boy: Stephen Strasburg.

Colby Lewis, SP, Rangers (11%)
He dominated for 2 seasons in Japan. In spite of his home ballpark, he’s probably worth a gamble.

Tom Gorzelanny, SP, Cubs (10%)
The Cubs are probably not going to be as terrible as I make them out to be. Moving Soriano to an RBI spot, like 5th or 6th, is going to be a huge improvement over his old spot leading off. His OBP is just too low to be hitting ahead of Lee and Aramis. Anyway, I think Gorzelanny will be good. He won’t strike out a ton of people, but he could be a cheap source of wins when playing the waiver wire.

Mat Gamel, 3b, Brewers (9%)
Unless you are Joe Mauer, beginning the season on the DL is usually not the precipice to having a career year. But, if your DL spot is not occupied, and you can freely drop someone, why not take a chance that this power-hitting prospect will come back in May and take the 3b job from Casey McGahee?

Fernando Martinez, OF, Mets (8%)
Only for long-term keeper leagues because he likely won’t make an impact in 2010.

José Bautista, 3b/OF, Blue Jays (7%)
I like all leadoff hitter for fantasy. They get more plate appearances and score lots of runs for having the team’s best hitters behind them. Bautista is a curious case, with his sub-.300 career OBP.

Tim Beckham, SS, Rays (6%)
Big-time prospect. For deep, deep, long-term keeper leagues where you have a minor league slot. I still like Desmond Jennings more, from the Rays’ system.

Mike Jacobs, 1b, Mets (5%)
Jacobs has power and is starting the season at 1b for the Mets. Their season begins hosting the Marlins and Nationals. I could see Jacobs hitting a few long balls versus right-handed pitchers of both of those clubs. Then, the Mets are in Colorado for three games. If your team uses daily substitutions, you could get a few cheap homers from Jacobs on days he faces righties.

Felix Pie, OF, Orioles (4%)
As a heart-battered Cubs’ fan, I can provide no comment on Felix Pie’s success.

Randy Ruiz, DH, Tor (3%)
Ruiz is sort of another Jake Fox… lots of power, no speed, and unstable playing time.

Dana Eveland, SP, Tor (2%)
If you sit him against New York, Boston, and Tampa Bay, you’ll probably get some pretty good performances on the other days.

Jemile Weeks, 2b, A’s (1%)
If Jemile Weeks is to Rickie Weeks, as Justin Upton is to BJ Upton, we’ll all want to have Jamile Weeks when he’s eventually called up.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Mister Michael Brantley

If your fantasy team needs steals, Michael Brantley might help.

He'll be starting in Left Field for the Indians on Opening Day.

Last season in Triple-A, he stole 46 bases in 51 attempts.

Rotisserie Pillars

Anticipation for the new season is abundant. As the creative juices of the ol' blog percolate on the hot stove, we should have a few blog posts in the next several days. This is just a collection of quick notes to, as the dude would say, keep our minds nimble...

Nate McLouth might be a platoon partner loser. Melky Cabrera is supposed to be the platoon partner for Matt Diaz, but I think there's a good chance that McLouth sits versus southpaws.

From the skewed perception of my scouting beliefs, these are the guys I suggest as the best bets or most undervalued players in typical fantasy drafts/auctions... (Average Draft Position, according to CBS Sports roto drafts, in parenthesis)

Ian Stewart, 2b/3b (ADP: 127)
Alexei Ramirez, SS (#129)
Ryan Zimmerman, 3b (#35)
Jorge Cantu, 1b/3b (#183)
Nelson Cruz, OF (#86)
CB Young, OF (#245)
Felix Hernandez, SP (#25)
Clayton Kershaw, SP (#80)
Diasuke Matsuzaka, SP (#201)
Ricky Nolasco, SP (#112)
Stephen Strasburg, SP (#196)
Matt Capps, RP (#208)
Matt Lindstrom, RP (#224)
Mike Gonzalez, RP (#188)
Brad Lidge, RP (#192)

From the what will they think of next dept... Corey Patterson is a free agent.