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.