Sunday, July 12, 2009

Cain Goes Down

After watching John Smoltz finally earn his first victory of the season for the Boston Red Sox, I considered benching Matt Cain.

Sure, Smoltz getting the W has nothing to with Cain would perform well or not in his home start vs the freshly no-hitted San Diego Padres, but having witnessed some uncanny fantasy-team-related behaviors (win, saves, homer, and hitless streaking by multiple players, too orchestrated to be completely coincidental) on my fantasy team, I had an undeniable and utterly illogical apprehension towards leaving Cain in the starting slot.

Wouldn't you know it, Cain gets smacked by a come-backer on what appears to be his right and throwing arm elbow, off the bat of the opposing starter. Unbelievable.

His first and lone practice toss to the plates sails about six feet above his catcher, Eli Whiteside, prompting a simultaneous universal gasp.

Post-X-ray reports have indicated that there's no structural damage on Cain's right elbow, but I can't imagine it feels good.

I was pretty amazed that Cain tried to convince his trainer and manager of allowing him to continue pitching in the game. Perhaps he wanted to get the third and final out of the second inning with runners at the corners, but as the San Francisco broadcast on NBC 11 kept showing in slow motion, the ball definitely appeared to strike Cain right on his throwing elbow, as he reacted to the line-drive shot right back at him.

Luckily, Cain appears to have escaped with just a bruise and Justin Miller was able to relieve him by stranding the two men Cain had allow on base.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Rolling with Smoltz

John Smoltz has burned me twice already.

His first game back from right shoulder injury at Washington: 4 H, 1 BB, 1 HBP, and 4 ER in the first inning en route to opening his season to the tune of 9.00 ERA and a loss.

Smoltz@BAL? I passed on the action, fearing the lefty bats of Orioles would have a hit parade at my expense.

Home opener at Boston for Smoltz? Yes. Against the lowly Oakland Athletics? A resounding YES. No: 5 H for 4 ER in the fourth inning resulting in the second loss of the season.

Tonight vs the Kansas City Royals? Third time is the charm?

With forty-five minutes before tonight's 7:30 PM KC@BOS, I decided to give Smoltz's awful outing against the Oakland Athletics a review, hoping to have a better idea of whether to slot Smoltz into the starting lineup or not.

Smoltz left pitches up in the zone for a handful of well-struck doubles in the ugly fourth. He also had decent splitter and change-up going for him. A few of the singles were perhaps due to poor fielding on the Red Sox infielders or Smoltz mistakes that eluded the fielding positions.

In referencing, Smoltz's BABIP was way over the league average and FIP lower than his career average.

In needs of wins, the only reason I would start Smoltz would be that he notches the W while not killing me in ERA and WHIP.

Gil Meche starts for the Royals, against a Boston team that he's had relative success with.

In the past seven games, the Royals have been hitting the ball better than the slumping Red Sox.

Basically, I have to admit that all signs point to benching Smoltz, other than that he's been rather unlucky in his return to the majors.

What am I going to do? Roll the dice with Smoltz.

If you hear screaming stemming from Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, NY, please realize that I am pulling out my hair and attempting to torture myself to death in the most painful way possible as Smoltz further ruining my fantasy baseball season.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Summoning the Closer in the 8th


Why bring in your closer in the 8th inning, risking his effectiveness in the 9th?

OK, fine, because the set-up or the mop-up guy has gotten himself and the team into a nasty jam and your closer is the steel-nerved savior.

How many times have you painfully witnessed your closer trotting out into the diamond in the 8th with runners in scoring position only to watch helplessly as your fantasy baseball team's ERA and WHIP ballooned?

In the past three days, Chad Qualls and Jason Frasor were called upon to get four outs to earn a save. Both closers came through, but Frasor's outing yielded ugly numbers of 13.50 ERA and 3.00 WHIP.

After Jeremy Accardo plunked two Yankees in-a-row on Monday (7/6) in the 8th to load the bases, Frasor came in and promptly walked in a run before giving up two earned runs of his own (a bloop single by Hideki Matsui) in the 9th for the save. Phew. When is Scott Downs coming off the DL?

On the flip-side, you have to love the less-than-an-inning saves. Especially the one-out save.

On Sunday (7/5), MacDougal had to save Scott Olsen's 116-pitch outing against the Atlanta Braves, and he did it in the most interesting fashion by allowing two runners of his own after Olsen served-up three runs on a long home-run by Nate McLouth with two outs.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Mike MacDougal's K/B Ratio is Scary

Ever since I brought up the whole lack-of-saves issue, my 'pen has posted the following line:

6.2 IP, 1 W, 5 SV, 5 K, 0.00 ERA, and 0.75 WHIP

(With Mike MacDougal contributing four out of five base-runners allowed.)

Not bad. After getting a surprising day off on Friday (minor back stiffness), David Aardsma came back on Saturday to close it out against the Red Sox, his former team, Kevin Gregg capped off a drama-less week after the fugly BS@DET (6/23), and MacDougal and Chad Qualls (in an apparent response to my last post) picked up a pair of saves each.

All right, it was better than not bad, it was f'ing brilliant.

But as mentioned above, MacDougal is having some issues throwing strikes, and his saves are not pretty.

Have you ever watched this guy pitch? I didn't get to check him out back in 2003 and 2005 when he was closing for the Kansas City Royals, but when he throws for the Washington Nationals, you can totally understand why the Chicago White Sox let him go after just 4.1 IP earlier in the year.

Donning the White Sox black, the man posted a K/B ratio of 1:1, doling out exactly seven hits and seven walks to a tune of 12.46 ERA, numbers that look more like a lunch hour indicator rather than that of a major league pitcher.

MacDougal throws heat: 93-98 with movement. He also throws with his eyes closed. Or he might as well. In an at-bat against Matt Diaz with a runner on first with just an out, MacDougal fired cheese near Diaz's face, bounced a couple, and threw one away, allowing a walk on five pitches.

With two-on, he was able to induce a line-out and a ground-out, "earning" the save, but his inability to command his fastball, not to mention his inability to strike batters out (still posting nearly a perfect 1:1 K/B ratio with the Nationals at 12:11) makes you wonder how long this charade can last.

Obviously, I am hoping for at least until the end of the year, since he's one of the five closers I have on Team Inchon (along with Aardsma, Qualls, Gregg, and Scott Downs/Jason Frasor), but I am certainly afraid. Very afraid.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Qualls Must be a Bad Word in Some Countries

When I moved Alex Rios for Chad Qualls about a month ago, I thought I got a sweet deal. One of my manager friends in our dynasty league still calls it a "slam dunk" in my favor, but I still have to cry about him today.

Since the acquisition, he's posted the following line for Team Inchon (Not including this afternoon's BS):

12 IP, 2 SV, 4 K, 6.75 ERA, 1.31 WHIP

Okay, honestly, I still feel that I got a sweet deal. But I'd be lying if I said that I've been impressed with Qualls. I'd still be lying if I said that I'm content with Qualls. I'm starting to basically hate the man. I definitely fully resent him right now.

Going into the ninth with the Diamondbacks nursing a single-run lead, I IM'd the above mentioned friend:

Watch Qualls fuck up this one, too.

Sure, I dearly hoped that I'd be wrong and I was just protecting myself from the coldest, most heartless closer known to fantasy baseball owners, but I honestly believed that Qualls was not going to be able to protect the one-run lead.

After starting out the bottom of the ninth with a nice 1-2 count, Qualls allowed a single, as he wasn't able to coax Jerry Hairston to swing out of the strike zone. The 2-2 pitch was very close to a called strike but of course, it was not, and on the 8th pitch of the at bat, Qualls served up a fastball high and middle of the zone and Hairston pulled it into left for a single.

After Hairston got on, Joey Votto blasted a fly ball all the way to the wall that Alex Romero flat-out missed. I mean, the man, filling in for the injured Eric Byrnes, simply lost track of the ball as he backed into the digital scoreboard in left. Where do I write hatemails to Romero?

To make things worse, Jose Lopez was not able to turn a possible double play, as he dropped the ball (!) while transferring it from the glove to his throwing hand, after Mark Reynolds made a great diving stop of a sharply hit ball by Brandon Phillips.

And the tying run scored on a grounder up the middle that Qualls got a piece of with his foot and, well, that was that. I couldn't even finish watching the inning.

Sure, it wasn't entirely Qualls's fault, but I can still blame him for refusing to strike out anyone. The decrease on his K-rate is alarming to say the least (less than 5 per 9).

On a related note (another downer), I lost the arms race for the sole SP-qualified closer-type in Dan Meyer, as another owner moved about half his team for Adrian Gonzalez and Meyer.

On a positive note (but with a slight downer), Derrek Lee took it out of Wrigley Field twice tonight, appeasing the pain of the open wound that was the homer Reynolds ripped on my bench.

Winless on Team Inchon

Trick Question: How many wins do you get on Team Inchon when your staff and 'pen combines for the following line on the day?

22.2 IP, 24 K, 2.38 ERA, and 1.15 WHIP
Answer: None.

Yeah, you saw that one coming.

I was confident with my calls of giving out starting nods to Yovani Gallardo hosting the lowly Mets, Justin Verlander at Oakland, and Matt Cain at St. Louis.

Sure, Cain in Cardinals land could have been rather ugly, but after looking at the head-to-head numbers, I was compelled to proceed forward with his start.

I knew the Verlander call could be a mistake, based on the home-road splits and the general pesky nature of the Athletics, but once again, I couldn't bare the thought of a Verlander gem on the bench.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Of Spot-Starts and Chasing Saves & Steals

Every year, there is always at least one category that I'm chasing. Most often than not, I end up not only never catching-up, but also ruining other statistics due to the desperation.

While chasing wins last year, I ended up absolutely exploding my ERA and WHIP - and went from a second place finish in 2007 to dead last in 2008. Sure, the no.1 overall pick is nice, but not when you've already traded away the pick hoping to win now. On Team Inchon, there is no tomorrow, only now.

The same win now mentality has prompted me to trade away all of my prospects - Lars Anderson, Andrew McCutchen, Matt LaPorta, and David Price - and my first round pick of next year. Yes, we are hanging on to the first place right now, but an injury here or a bad streak there and everything can fall apart.

In addition to having a solid everyday squad, one of the more risky business of fantasy baseball is spot-starting. Especially on days when there are just a handful of games and you'd like to see some action.

Kendry Morales at Rangers and Emilio Bonifacio at home against the Nationals worked out well, as they combined for 5/11, 3 R, 1 HR, and 3 RBI. I really wanted at least a steal from Bonifacio, but I had to be content with a run and a batted-in. Morales impressed with a dinger.

Speaking of steals, my plan of going with Podsednik may eventually backfire on me. I have benched Nelson Cruz - I won't get started on his major slump, for now - in favor of Pods and the result has been lukewarm. Sure, he's all right, but not amazing. He needs to swipe bags at double the current rate for me to be ecstatic about him.

Saves, saves, saves. After starting out way back in the pack in the category, I stand at bottom of the third tier, with about two to three points to be gained if my crew of new closers (and their teams) can get their act together.

Let me just say this: Thank God the Joe Beimel and Kip Wells disaster is over and we've all moved on.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

BA Slumpin'

Three days after I had the following IM exchange with a friend/competitor in my 10-team dynasty fantasy baseball league:
inchon x: d00d, weak: my ba went from like 286 to 280 in the past week
swishernotabellyitcher: bad slumpin
My team's BA went up six points.

The break-down of the week-long slump is highlighted below:
Bengie Molina: 5/25
Mark Reynolds: 3/28
Chase Utley: 5/26
Alex Rodriguez: 2/18
Derek Jeter: 5/23
Ryan Braun: 8/24
Ichiro: 13/31
Nelson Cruz: 4/25
In the past three days the starting lineup has combined for 12/26, 10/28, 19/43 (in reverse-chronological order), restoring the team BA to .286, where it was a week and a half ago.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


With just four games on the MLB schedule on Monday - one of them being a make-up game for the Cubs and Braves (with most of the Cubs starters sitting) - I grabbed Skip Schumaker and Kahlil Greene for some plug and play action on Sunday.

Being a handful of games behind in 2B and SS - with Chase Utley and Derek Jeter getting breathers here and there - I figured that the St. Louis middle infielders, with the Cardinals offensive rolling (39 runs in the past three games) could help.

I picked up Kahlil Greene before the season started, during the league's free agent and rookie draft, thinking the move from the spacious PETCO Park and to Busch Stadium would do Greene some good.

Wrong. But I'm guessing this social anxiety disorder issue with Greene has probably always existed, back in San Diego, and even prior. Most mental/social issues don't just manifest all of a sudden in your mid-twenties.

Schumaker and Greene combined for two hits in seven at-bats, and notching an RBI and a run, respectively. Fine. But nothing exciting. Yawn.

Is it so horrible that at times I feel like baseball action is the only thing I look forward to on a given day?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Launch Party on the Bench

On the day Team Inchon bats for a combined 6/38 for a lousy BA of .158 with just two runs, no homers, three RBI, and a stolen base, guess what type of production is left on the bench?

Mark Reynolds & David Ortiz combined: 3/8, 3 R, 2 HR, and 4 RBI

In an apparent child-like tongue-wagging response to my decision to bench them after their lack-luster first two games of the weekend series, both Mark Reynolds and David Ortiz homered, as their replacements (Derek Lee and Nelson Cruz, respectively) managed just a single run and RBI (News Flash: Nelson Cruz still refuses to show up since his huge May).

I have to admit that I've been pretty lucky this year with regards to Bencher's Regret. But then again, for the most of the first two and a half months of this MLB season, I had perhaps the shallowest bench in the league, with the DL-stints of Vladimir Guerrero and Alex Rodriguez, and prospects Andrew McCutchen, Matt LaPorta, Lars Anderson, and David Price taking up valuable roster space.

Well, here come the pain. Even before the two-homer launch party on the bench between Reynolds and Ortiz that I wasn't invited to, I nearly lost it when Yovani Gallardo gave up a three-run bomb to Brandon Inge. My original idea was to just start Verlander and hope for the best, but the Yovi-temptation was too much for me to deny.

Ummm, I think I very much preferred it when Gallardo was up by a run and would have been very happy to have taken the Gallardo win at 1-0 as opposed to the Verlander win at 3-2.

In the end, I just couldn't bare the thought of making the wrong win-call between Gallardo and Verlander. I didn't think I would have been able to handle a good but winless outing by Verlander and see an even better performance by Gallardo on the bench. In the end, I should have stuck with my initial gut-feeling of Verlander win at home, despite the temptation and the possibility of serious Bencher's Regret.

On the flip side to all these regrets and second guesses, Alex Rodriguez's two-RBI return to the starting line-up was mildly reassuring at best, while I was thankful that my Mariners got the win without scuffing the stats of Chad Qualls - thanks to Tony Clark's inability to catch the baseball with his glove.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Out of Nowhere Nice

I'm all for out of nowhere success stories, especially in fantasy sports. Well, let me rephrase that: I'm all for out of nowhere success stories, especially in fantasy sports, only when it benefits my team.

Take for example, the season Mark Reynolds is having:

.267 BA, 18 HR, 47 R, 44 RBI, 13 SB

OK, there were talks going into the season of Reynolds becoming even more of a solid contributor this year, so it may not completely be out of nowhere, but after the gawdawful first month of the season, you have to admit that it is definitely out of somewhere close to nothing.

Despite the fact that I missed out on Reynolds's heroics of May 20th (two dingers and four swipes in a double header at Florida), he has contributed the following line, in 160 at-bats or roughly 40 games, as of June 2:

.256 BA, 10 HR, 26 R, 32 RBI, 5 SB

I didn't trust Reynolds until mid-May and I benched him all through the first month of the season, when he's defensive woes and propensity to swing at pitches he couldn't connect on didn't sit too well with Bob Melvin.

I acquired Reynolds by moving A.J. Burnett in a one-for-one deal before the season started, hoping to alleviate the pain of Alex Rodriguez's butt cyst or whatever. Yeah, after watching Burnett toss a few gems early in the season, of course I was kicking myself a bit. But then agin, Burnett will always be Burnett - bases on balls . . . ooops, homer - not to mention perhaps the darker-side of Burnett, with the new Yankee Stadium being a launching pad, but can Mark Reynolds really set the record for most strike outs in a season and have a great fantasy baseball year?

During that time I was starting Derek Lee at 1B, while doing everything (cursing, sweet-talking, teasing, begging, etc) in my power to get the former NL MVP - oh, so long ago, in 2005 - going again.

As you may know, Derek Lee hasn't been the Derek Lee of 2005 since, well, 2005. More accurately, he hasn't looked like the homer-machine of 2005 since he broke his wrist in 2006, colliding with Rafael Furcal during a mid-April game against the Dodgers.

After I dropped Lee from my squad back in May 14 - to pick up David Aardsma (do I owe a thank you to Lee for having such a stinky start of a season? No, since I would've picked up Aardsma one way or another) - Lee's been on two other teams, both of which promptly dropped him after seeing what I saw during the month of April: lack of plus-power and not a whole lot of runs and RBI opportunities.

Nonetheless, you couldn't help but to be enticed by the valiant OBP and slugging numbers in the second half of May and the way they ballooned in June. Can Lee finally bounce back from two broken bones in his right wrist? Sure, I had hopes of Lee coming back into form, but honestly, I had very little to completely no faith in the resurgence of Lee. Not after two years of sub-par seasons at a power-required position of 1B.

After 15 games in June, Lee stands with six homers and 16 driven-in, along with a lofty .375 BA. The batted-in number isn't overly impressive, but what he's doing with his at-bats are obviously nice and definitely encouraging.

Coming back aboard Team Inchon and getting the starting nod at 1B - due to the two-day sitting of Alex Rodriguez (hey, if you were A-Rod and you had two days off back in your home town, wouldn't you be embarrassed if you weren't spotted at a club in the wee hours of the dawn? Personally, I'd hope to be sporting a hotter female than a mere Kate Hudson, though) - yesterday, Lee continued to hammer away, homering for the third straight day for his fourth home run in three days. Of course, Reynolds, in the 3B slot - also, how lovely and out of nowhere is it that Reynolds now qualifies as 1B? - failed to get a hit for the second day in a row against my Mariners. Can't really scold him too much for that, since the M's can now sweep the Diamondbacks.

If you really want to talk about a player coming out of nowhere - and contributing to Team Inchon - let's talk about Aardsma. Aard-what?! Right.

What prompted me to stick with Aardsma despite the Korean-soaps-like closing times drama for Seattle was the way J.J. Putz turned into an elite closer after years of mediocrity - save the first half of 2005 - coming out of the bullpen in both minors and majors. I wasn't about to make the same mistake of not pouncing on the player that may step-up and flourish in a new role.

Juan Pierre definitely impressed in the absence of Manny Ramirez, but I think the curtains have come down on him, even though July 3rd is still a couple of weeks away. It's been real nice, but Pierre, you're just not fulfilling my needs.

Other bounce-back candidates on Team Inchon include Scott Podsednik, David Ortiz, Vladimir Guerrero, and Jorge Julio. Ummm, what? Yes. Even Julio.

At AAA Durham, Julio's been brought into tight situations - two to be precise - and both times he failed to stop the bleeding: hit a batter and gave up a grand slam after coming in with the bases loaded, and gave up a single after coming in with two runners in scoring position with the score tied. So, he sucks, big deal. Well, so do the rest of the 'pen in Tampa Bay. I get the feeling that Joe Maddon doesn't fully trust one particular arm and that's why he's been mucking around with the closer-by-committee idea. J.P. Howell finally has started to look pretty good among the crowd, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Rays are looking at Julio to be that guy who can come up from Durham as the designated closer, so that Maddon can have his match-up fun with the rest of his relief pitchers. Yes, just like that the Washington Nationals did with Mike MacDougal.

Can we really believe in Podsednik? I've always felt that Ozzie Guillen - in addition to being certified - is the type of a guy who gives freedom on the base paths. Pods continued his improbably comeback atop of the White Sox order and scored two and drove in a pair yesterday, not to mention hitting his second bomb of the season. Obviously, the power numbers are gravy, but is it possible that he can continue to get on base and keep swiping bags - seven in 19 games in the month of June? Right. Until he goes and injures himself. Seems like we have yet another one-trick-pony to replace Pierre.

As for Ortiz and Guerrero . . . well, I picked up Ortiz after everyone else in my league gave up on him. Then he went on a minor power surge, enough pa-zazz for me to note and plug him in at Util. Not much excitement. Takers, anyone? Guerrero, on the other hand, I believe will return to form, that form being 90-30-100, once he gets his pectoral muscle issue out of the way. Perhaps in a few years? Ugh. Takers, anyone, please?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Frasor Frasor Frasor Why Why Why?!?!?!

As if it wasn't bad enough that Scott Downs went on the DL with a bum toe - any injuries that have to do with feet makes me feel very somber inside - Jason Frasor not only did not step-up to instill confidence in his ability to be the Toronto Blue Jay's interim closer, but he disgraced himself (along with my ERA and WHIP) with the following line:

0.1 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 2 BBJason Frasor wonders why he's not throwing strikes

I turned on the game with the Jays hanging on, in the bottom of 11th, with one out and runners on first and second. I said to myself, "Please do not let it be Frasor."

Once feed came in from Washington DC, I saw number 54 on the mound. "No," I said. As my futile word was heard by no one, Frasor completed issuing his second walk of the inning, to loaded the bases for . . . Adam Dunn.

"Double play," I muttered. Then I stared chanting, "Dou-ble play. Dou-ble play."

I was determined to will Frasor through this inning without tarnishing any more of my fantasy baseball statistics with my Dou-ble Play Chant.

Frasor issues the second base on balls of the inningTwo swinging strikes for an 0-2 count. "Is the chant working?" Too early to tell! Do not jinx it!

As soon as the third pitch of the at-bat ricocheted off Dunn's lumber down the first base line, past Lyle Overbay, I reached for the trackball. Game over. Next game.

I regretted plugging in Frasor and benching Mike MacDougal - in a partially reactionary move after Frasor's 0.1 IP victory the night before - and felt let down by Frasor. How the hell do you come into an extra-inning ballgame and start issuing walks like you're a parking meter attendant desperate to make quota?

As hard as the 27.00 ERA and 12.00 WHIP was to swallow, I had to be thankful that the game was in Washington and the Nationals needed only the lone run to end the game. Mercy. Thank you.

Do I flip the switch tonight and bench Frasor in favor of MacDougal? Battle of young arms of the 2007 draft in DC, as Cecil returns to the Jays rotation and Detwiler vies for his first career MLB win. Impossible to predict for sure.
Chad Billingsley joins the BB2LB (base on balls to load bases) Club
On a related note, the grand return of Jeremy Accardo continued, as he tossed two innings of shut-out ball while striking out four and giving up a hit and base on balls. What is Cito thinking? Accardo or Frasor? God forbid, not B.J. Ryan, right?

In addition to the Frasor failure, Chad Billingsley crumbled in the sixth inning at Anaheim, capping yet another rough outing versus the Angels. Of course I should've benched Billingsley: Angels hosting the Dodgers while toting a gaudy .350 BA and having knocked around Billingsley at Dodger Stadium last time around.

Fantasy baseball issues all-around. Down 3.5 points to 68.5, dropping two spots from the top of the standings, trailing by 4.5 points.