Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Waiver Wired: Grab Cameron, Smith



Every team has a guy on his roster that just reading his name makes you yawn. Mike Cameron is usually this guy on my team. I almost get bored reading the name Cameron.

But there's no reason to continually pass on Cameron, as you scan the waiver wire. He's no spring chick at age 35, but Cameron is coming off back-to-back 20+ HR seasons in cavernous Petco Park in San Diego and stole 25 and 18 bases the past two years.

Perhaps the unsexiest 20/20 guy in baseball, Cameron's value is deflated because of a career .251 average. But he's hitting in a primo spot, behind speedster Rickie Weeks (he'll see lots of fastballs) and ahead of vegetarian Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun.

He's particularly a must-add in 5x5 leagues, as he'll likely score 90+ runs, even though he was just reinstated from his 25-game suspension for testing positive twice for a banned stimulant.

In his first game back Tuesday night, Cameron went 3-for-5 with a double and 2 RBI. Expect another 20/20 season from Cameron with a dog average, but unless he gets caught with another "banned" substance, he's likely the best option on your wire right now.



One of the chips that Oakland GM Billy Beane fetched in the Dan Haren trade has already paid off handsomely for the new-look Athletics. Smith isn't overpowering as his fastball usually tops out at 90, but he has a four-seamer that can reach 93 on occasion.

Smith was attractive to the Athletics after two seasons of minor league ball where he compiled a 3.27 ERA and 1.19 WHIP and a 3-1 K/BB rate in 352 innings.

Tuesday night, facing a tough Angels lineup on the road, Smith threw 8 strong innings, giving up just 3 hits and 3 BB, while striking out 5.

The lefty won't strike out more than 150 this year and he's likely not going to keep up the 2.73 ERA and 1.09 WHIP. But think of Smith as this year's Tom Gorzelanny, a guy with an ultra-smooth delivery and good command who will continue to rack up quality starts but probably win only 12-13 games playing on an Oakland team due to come back to earth.

Still, there's probably room for a Smith on almost every mixed-league roster.

Check out this clip of the 6th-round draft pick warming up during his stint in AAA Tuscon last year. Notice the effortless delivery, like he's playing catch with a neighbor.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Live Blog 5: Fields tossed, walkoff HR

FORT MILL -- After a relatively quiet day at the ballpark (if you don't count screaming school children screeching at every foul ball), the Knights gave fans some 9th-inning drama.

First, Josh Fields strikes out on a pitch that looked right down the middle, possibly a little low, but from my view behind home plate, appeared right down main street.

Fields, apparently not thrilled about the call - or maybe his 0-for-4 day with 2 Ks - dropped his bat right beside home plate and walked to the dugout. Nothing appeared to be said, but home plate ump David Rackley sent him to the showers anyway.

But if anyone has a right to be frustrated about the White Sox/Knights personnel struggles this spring, it's Fields. Sure, Owens lost out on his opportunity, but Fields has an All-Star caliber second half last season, only to get sent back down to Charlotte because the White Sox re-signed Joe Crede and couldn't find a suitable trade partner in spring training.

Fields hit .308 with 23 HR and 67 RBI in 2007 after Crede's season was cut short by back surgery. Those are solid numbers, but when you realize they came on 100 games and 373 at-bats, they're outstanding. Fields has to be thinking what do I have to do to get a big league gig?

Not to give Fields a pass on showing up an umpire, there's no place for this in baseball, but you can understand Fields' frustration. Currently, he has 3 HR and 6 RBI and his average dropped to .262 after today.

Two batters later, though, Brad Eldred sent Knights fans home happy, drilling one over the left field wall for a 3-1 victory. The HR was Eldred's 4th of the season and the 1B now has 20 RBI, but his average is still well below his weight (.231) and with Konerko in front of him, Eldred might need a trade to get a call any time soon.
Fantasy spin: Eldred has brute strength (he hit 15 HR in 311 at-bats in 2007), but he struggles elsewhere, hitting .209 last year with a .275 obp. 
Fields, however, will be a fantasy factor soon. His number is likely on Kenny Williams' speed dial. But it'll take an injury or trade to Crede for Fields to get an opportunity. He's a must own in keeper leagues or formats with a bench spot. If the White Sox decide to keep Crede long-term, Fields is too good to stay down. He'll end up starting at 3B somewhere in 2009.

Live Blog 4: Owens bides time

FORT MILL - From starting White Sox CF to playing in front of a thousand or so screaming school kids.

Such is life for Jerry Owens.

In this cruel world of baseball, one injury can close the window on opportunity. And that's what happened to Owens, who had a small tear in his groin and started the season on the DL.

Meanwhile, Carlos Quentin has jumped right through this open door and after jacking his 6th HR Monday evening in Chicago's rain-suspended game, Quentin has his average near .300. That's bad news not just for Owens, but for all his owners who drafted him, counting on his self-proclaimed "65 steals" goal.

Owens walked twice today and was caught stealing second in the first. The speedster has shown good plate discipline and hit a rocket into left field that was caught. In the 8th inning, he grounded harmlessly to 2nd base, but encouraging was watching him hustle down the line hard, an indicator he's not hanging his head in this situation.

Fantasy spin: Unless you have a bench spot, it's probably time to pull the plug on Owens. He's hitting .293 and has stolen 4 bases in 7 attempts through 44 at-bats, but also has 7 BB. Still, unless Quentin, Nick Swisher or Jermaine Dye suffer an injury or the White Sox severely slump, Owens will continue to be a Charlottean.

Live Blog 3: Knights' Broadway show

FORT MILL - Lance Broadway can't win.

I'm not talking about today, although if the Knights don't get their bats moving (it's a 1-1 tie, headed into the 8th), then he won't get the win today either.

But Broadway's in a tough spot, trying to crack a White Sox rotation that's as strong as it's been since the 2005 World Series team. All five Chicago starters are humming right now. Javier Vazquez, Mark Buerhle, John Danks, Jose Contreras and Gavin Floyd are simply dealing, which is a big reason the White Sox are 3 games ahead of the Indians and 4 ahead of the Tigers.

You'd think, with a name like Broadway, he'd be destined for greatness. And he just may be. 

In his only major league start last September, Broadway struck out 8 Royals, the first White Sox pitcher to accomplish that feat in his debut since Ravelo Manzanillo in 1988.

Broadway has pitched a masterful game today, striking out 6 and walking none through 8 innings, giving up just the Cintron HR. His ERA this season is now at 1.26.

Fantasy spin: Barring a White Sox injury or meltdown, Broadway won't have any significance this year. It's possible Chicago brings him up for bullpen help later in the season, but if you're in an AL-only league, keep your ear to the ground on the White Sox rotation. Broadway appears first in line for a phone call.

Live Blog 2: Cintron making his case

FORT MILL - Remember Alex Cintron.

The year was 2003 and Cintron was the hot rookie SS in Arizona who hit .317 with 13 HR in 117 games and was a targeted SS the following season by many fantasy "experts."

Alas, Cintron hit .262 with 4 HR in fulltime duty as the Diamondbacks SS in 2004 (I bought into the hype) and fell into the Desert Doghouse. He was later shipped to the White Sox before the 2006 season.

The White Sox released Cintron, who was picked up by the Cubs, but he couldn't quite crack the Cubs' logjam of infielders in spring training this year and Cintron signed a minor league deal with Baltimore.

Cintron is quietly making a case to become fantasy relevant again, hitting .310 with the Norfolk Tides. Cintron jacked his 2nd HR in 4 days today and with Luis Hernandez batting .222 and Brandon Fahey .200 it's just a matter of time, maybe days, before the Orioles bring up Cintron to help rescue the position. Hernandez and Fahey have combined for 0 HR and 4 RBI this year, splitting time at short.

Fantasy Spin: Cintron won't light the world on fire, but he's still got some pop in the bat and could help in some deeper AL-only leagues. 

Live Blog 1: Liz blanking Knights

FORT MILL - It's a beautiful, albiet windy, day for a baseball game out here, just south of the border.

Through three innings, Norfolk's Radhames Liz, one of the Orioles top pitching prospects, has only given up one walk (a first-inning job to former White Sox Jerry Owens) and a sharp single to left to Francisco Cortez through four quick innings.

Liz throws heat (he's been clocked at 99 mph) and has a nasty slider, but so far, he's been effectively wild. When he misses, he misses bad. And this is probably why he's in Norfolk, not Baltimore. He may be able to throw through a brick wall, but the question remains, which wall.

After Daniel Cabrera's 7-walk performance Monday in Chicago, all the Orioles need is another starter who struggles with his command. 

Fantasy Spin: Liz has the raw tools to be a pro starter, if he can hone his control. His minor league walk rate is 4.62/9 innings, which needs improvement. He's worth a gamble in deep keeper leagues. Liz may be a factor the second half of 2008. But with 24 K's in 21 2/3 innings pitched going into today's game, he could give your lagging strikeout totals a Lincecum-type effect, but he could drain your WHIP.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Weekend Wrap: Lannan quiets Cubs

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Random thoughts after watching 23-year-old John Lannon humiliate a once-potent Cubs lineup from the cheap seats at sparkling Nationals Park in D.C.

  • First, let's talk about Lannon. I know, it's hard not to throw in a Yoko Ono joke here, but i'll refrain. Lannon, who had a 1.66 ERA for the AAA Columbus Clippers last year, is a 6-foot-5 lefty, who doesn't have the most overpowering stuff, but don't tell the Cubs this. Lannon, who according to his manager didn't have his best stuff on Sunday, scattered 4 hits and 4 BB, striking out 3 Cubs, but he kept them off-balanced all day, and induced a key bases-loaded DP in the 5th from Ryan Theriot. Lannon's scoreless inning streak is up to 19 and he should now be considered in all formats, although more valuable in a 4x4.

  • One of Lannon's four hits surrendered seemed like a routine fly ball to left field off the bat of Kosuke Fukudome, but because of awful conditions and grey skies, Willy Mo Pena appeared never to see it and it went right over his head. Aramis Ramirez, with calendar speed, was conservatively held at third and stranded. Willy Mo! Yes, he's back and still carrying the big stick. Mo's probably worth a gamble in some deeper leagues.

  • Ryan Zimmerman looks like he could be a guest star on "Lost" right now. He's not just striking out a lot (3 times Sunday and 22 times in 26 games), but the 3B stud and face of the Nats is just looking bad as he's whiffing. Might be time for a day off (Zimmerman is currently second on the consecutive games played list behind Jeff Francoeur after Grady Sizemore missed a game with an ankle injury).

  • Felipe Lopez, who recently won the regular 2B job over Ronnie Belliard is too frustrating to own on any of my teams. I suppose every NL-only roster can use a Lopez, but after an 0-for-4 day Sunday, he's hitting .254 and hasn't attempted a SB since April 18.

  • Ted Lilly appears to have found his groove, giving up just 4 singles and walking 2 while striking out 7. It'll take a couple more decent starts to recommend a dip into the Lilly pond, but keep an eye on the Cubs lefty who is usually a good source of K's, regardless.

  • Jon Rausch looks like a closer. Whether he'll finish the season as the Nats closer depends a lot on the health of Chad Cordero, but at 6-11, Rausch comes out in the 9th and you get the feeling that the game's over. And after disposing of the Cubs in about 90 seconds, it was over on Sunday, 2-0 Nationals. I think 40 percent of a closer's effectiveness is the intimidation factor.  Rausch has that covered.

  • The jumbo screen at the Nationals Park is simply outstanding. It may even be HD. More to come later in the week, when I talk more about the new park and why you should plan a trip this summer to check it out.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Mailbag: K-Rod chasing Thigpen?

Fantasy Mailbag:

K-Rod (pictured) got another save last night. Any chance he threatens Thigpen's season record?

- Matt

Bobby Thigpen. Wow. That's a blast from the past.

For those of you wondering about Thigpen's whereabouts, he's currently managing for the Bristol (Tenn.) White Sox in the Appalachian Rookie League.

It was 18 years ago when Thigpen recorded a MLB-record 57 saves for the White Sox. Of course, three years later, he had lost the closer job to Roberto Hernandez in 1993 and defying the laws of aging, Hernandez is still pitching today for the Dodgers.

Thigpen played a couple more years for the Daiei Hawks in Japan before fading into the sunset.

But say the name Thigpen nearly two decades later (and after clarifying you're saying Thigpen, not pig pen), most baseball enthusiast knows exactly what MLB record he holds.

K-Rod, aka Francisco Rodriguez, the Angels formerly-goggled wonder who exploding on the scene for the 2002 World Series champs, has been almost automatic since taking over as full-time closer in 2004. The past three seasons he's piled up save totals of 47, 45 and 40.

But 57?

Surprisingly, K-Rod has 10 saves already, including 7 in the last 12 days, despite fighting an ankle injury for most of April. Any other tweaks with that injury and the record is completely out of reach.

Saves, as you know, is a tricky stat to predict. To make a run at Thigpen, you not only need to be a dominate closer, but also have a good setup guy on a team that wins a lot, but plays a lot of nip-and-tuck games. The Angles may be the perfect storm.

They play more like an NL team, utilizing small ball, stealing bases, hit-and-runs, etc. K-Rod would need 60-62 save opportunities in order for this to happen, which is nearly impossible. Especially, considering he's never had more than 67 appearances in any season.

But never say never. I do see a healthy K-Rod finishing with a fantasy-best 51 saves this year.

Find a worried K-Rod owner and see what it'll take to get the "banged up" closer.

And don't mention the word "Thigpen."

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Did you see this catch?

A quick plug for Cubs OF Reed Johnson, who sacrificed his body - and risked a neck injury - to catch this line shot off the bat of Felipe "I'll screw with your fantasy team" Lopez.

Johnson's diving rationale: "I didn't realize the wall was that close. I knew I had to dive to catch it. I left my feet and hit the wall pretty soon thereafter."

The Cubs lost, but not lost is the effort.

Worth a shout-out.


BRIAN BURRES, SP, ORIOLES: Threw 8 shutout innings, giving up 3 hits and 0 BB against the White Sox. Word on the street is the O's new pitching coach Rick Kranitz is making a big difference. Kranitz, who managed the Charlotte Knights in 1990 and '91, was hired in the offseason to replace longtime Braves pitching wizard Leo Mazzone. Anyone who can get Daniel Cabrera to cut down on his walks has to be taken seriously.
Fantasy spin: After a 5.95 ERA last year, Burres has a 2.45 ERA and has held teams to 1 ER or less in 3 of his 4 starts. He's not quite a mixed-league certified pitcher (his WHIP is still high) but he's worth an AL-only roster spot and consider him in deeper mixed leagues.

JEREMY SOWERS, SP, INDIANS: Gave up just 3 ER against the Yankees, all inherited runners, going 5 1/3 innings, giving up 7 hits and 1 BB.
Fantasy spin: As tempting as it is, Sowers just can't be trusted yet. After a strong rookie campaign (7-4, 3.57 ERA/1.19 WHIP), the wheels fell off in a hurry in 2007 (1-6, 6.42/1.56). The rest of the league adjusted to Sowers and his stuff is borderline big league. He'll be Westbrook's replacement for a month or so, but only go there if you're real desperate.

ARMANDO GALARRAGA, SP, TIGERS: The 26-year-old rookie turned in his third strong performance, taking a no-hitter into the 6th inning. He held the Angels to 3 hits, 2 BB and 1 ER in 6 innings.
Fantasy spin: A tough case-study, as there doesn't appear to be a spot in the Detroit rotation. But don't be so sure. The Tigers are worried about Willis' recovery and Nate Robertson is falling apart before our eyes. Jim Leyland seems to be the only one who thinks Robertson shouldn't be shipped to the bullpen. Worst case, Galarraga is a nice speculative add in shallow leagues or those with bench spots.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Fantasy Faceoff: Punting a category?

Editor's note: Today's post is the first in a series of Faceoff questions with other fantasy "experts" in the Observer newsroom. News/features reporter Peter St. Onge goes toe-to-toe on the somewhat delicate subject of punting a category to win your league.


It’s April. Your closers are blowing saves. Your co-owners are picking up your closer’s replacements. You think: “I’m going to finish at the bottom in saves. Why not punt the category?”



Punting a category in April is like paying off one credit card with another. It feels good momentarily, but it only puts you further behind.

This is a matter of basic math. In a 12-team, 5x5 league, the winner usually finishes in the high 90s. If you punt a category in such a league, you will need to average better than a top 3 finish in every other category. One big injury, a few slumps, and you’re done.

In 4x4 leagues, the math is worse.

Here’s your solution. If the want-to-punt category is saves - and it almost always is - replace your bad closers with the best possibilities for new saves. Right now, that’s Mota/Turnbull in Milwaukee, Bell in San Diego, Fuentes in Colorado.

Wait. Fuentes just got named closer. See how easy it is?

Those names will change, especially at the trading deadline, when the closers of bad teams become the setup men of better teams. Pay attention. Be ready to pounce.

Or, suck it up and make a trade.

There’s always someone else ready to punt.


Don't punt saves. It's too early. You'll never win that way.

Where have I heard this broken record before?

Oh yeah, from Mr. St. Onge, about five years ago, when I first put my ingenious category-punting theory to the test.

So, how did it work? Well, that's not important to talk about right now.

What's important is that I strongly believe punting a category can work, but there are a few rules you must abide by:

1). For best results, decide before your draft to punt a category and tailor your picks this way. So if saves is the category of choice, you don't spend 3 of your top 12 picks on closers, instead, you snatch up Jonathan Braxton, Scott Linebrink and Pat Neshek in the 23rd, 24th and 25th rounds to fill out your RP slots. Or, forget your average and stock up on Adam Dunn-type players.

2). If you don't draft with scrapping a certain category in mind, decide as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the harder it is to gain in every other category. If you decide your team just doesn't have any speed besides Jose Reyes, and you're destined for last, then cash him out for a big bat and completely tank the category. Go big. You'll still get the same 1 point.

3). If you're going to punt a category, and this is the most important tip, you must go all out. There's no halfway punting. That's called a shank. It's an all-or-nothing proposition. Last year, I had the trio of Alfonso Soriano, Derek Lee and Mark Teixeira, who had combined for 0 home runs as of April 24. I made the rare decision to punt my power categories (HR, RBI) in a 5x5 and wthing a week I sold every power bat I had for speed and pitching. Jim Thome? Troy Glaus? Gone.

So how'd it work out for my team, the Frozen Sporks?

OK, I admit I've never been able to win the championship punting a category. I finished third twice (last year and punting wins in a 4x4). I've also finished 5th and 7th, punting saves.

But I know it's possible. Mathematically, anyway. It just puts more pressure everywhere else. But it's fun to try to beat the system sometimes.

Just because St. Onge is sticking to mutual funds, doesn't mean you shouldn't roll the dice on some international stocks.

But now's the time. Punting season only lasts so long.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

P.M. Update: Fuentes named closer

Breaking news for those in need of saves.

The Colorado Rockies have given up on the Manny Corpas Project, giving Brian Fuentes back the closer job he lost to Corpas in 2007.

Corpas (7.50 ERA/1.58 WHIP) has been guilty of giving up a lot of crooked numbers lately, blowing three of his last four save chances, all in the past week.

Unfortunately, as a fellow Corpas owner, this doesn't sound like a temporary move either, so feel free dropping Corpas for Fuentes, if you don't have an obvious drop.

BIG HURT PLAYING: Recently released from Toronto, Frank Thomas has been signed by the Oakland A's and is starting at designated hitter today. It's unclear who loses at-bats here. Jack Cust may lose some DH at-bats. Cust has 25-HR power and despite being defensively challenged could still get a lot of time in left field, but he has to start hitting his weight (currently at .161). Other Oakland OF will probably lose at-bats for those in AL-only leagues. Especially after signing Raja Davis.

LIRIANO ROCKED: For all those looking at Liriano as a great comeback player of the year not. Liriano gave up 5 hits, 3 BB and 6 ER in the first inning at Oakland this afternoon, knocking the lefty out of the game after 2/3 of an inning. Sounds like he can't find the plate and his velocity was sporatic at best. In deeper mixed leagues without bench spots, it's time to let go.

GOMEZ HOMERS: Twins speedster Carlos Gomez led off the game with a home run off Greg Smith. Gomez actually has 18 career minor league HR in just under 1,300 at-bats, so Gomez could come close to double digits in HR. Think poor man's Jose Reyes.

Mailbag: Sell high on D-Lee?

Fantasy Mailbag:

I am trying to decided whether to cash in on Derrick Lee's success, or ride him to hopefully a great season. I want to upgrade at SS. I have Edger Renteria right now, but i would like to try to upgrade to either Rollins or Reyes.

I was just rejected for a straight up trade of Lee for Reyes. Do I give up more than this, or just be content with Renteria and enjoy Lee?

Adam R., Albania

Thanks for the overseas question, Adam.

I knew fantasy baseball was a growing sport, but didn't realize it had reached Albania.

As for your question, the short answer is don't trade Derek Lee.

The long answer is only trade him for first or second round value. I'm not saying we're seeing the 2005 version of Lee, but the way he's starting this season (7 HR, 18 RBI, .378 in 21 games) makes you think that he could come close to the near-triple crown stats.

A lot depends on your team's needs. If you're short in steals, then you might want to make another push for Reyes. But those 78 steals and all those head-first dives into second and third last year may have taken a toll on Reyes' body and he's been banged up early.

Rollins is still nursing the sprained ankle and has been limited to pinch-hitting duties, and with speed such an integral part of his game, an injury like that could suck his value to fourth or fifth round stuff.

Renteria wasn't projected to be a top-5 SS, but the way he's swinging the bat, in such a packed lineup, there's an outside chance he could end up there at year's end, so don't give him away.

The thing with Lee is that he had such an awful first half last year, power-wise (only 6 HR before the All-Star break), but he was coming off wrist surgery in 2006. Once the wrist started healing, Lee hit 16 HR in the final 68 games, possibly sparked by this altercation with Padres SP Chris Young. Or not. But it's fun to watch again.

Lee looks to be on pace for a 35-40 HR season. And while his running days are all but over (you may get a half dozen swipes), his average and RBI totals in one of the best Cubs lineups this side of the goat can't be discounted. He's almost a lock to get 100 knocks and hit over .315.

I say keep Lee and Renteria and ride their great lineups to the Albania Fantasy Championship. If there is such a thing.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Waiver Wired: Add Olsen, Stairs



If you're not concerned with having role models on your team - and this goes for everyone who's ever owned Barry Bonds, at any point - then Florida Marlins lefty Scott Olsen is your man.

Our crack research team here at Fantasy Baseblog came up with the following offenses against Olsen, and this with one simple Google search.

  • Drunken driving charge and getting tasered while arrested last July.
  • A two-game suspension without pay for getting into a fight with teammate Sergio Mitre, also last July.
  • Fined for making an obscene gesture toward fans in Milwaukee last June.

But I bring these up not to make Olsen owners feel guilty or to make you think twice about picking up someone with questionable moral character. Our teams may be half-empty if we subscribed to that rule.

Rather, all the off-field problems may have factored into Olsen's awful 2007, when he finished 10-15 with a 5.81 ERA and 1.76 WHIP.

But when you look at his bloated July stats (7.53 ERA/2.09 WHIP), it all starts to make sense.

Now, I can't guarantee you a return of Olsen's 2006 form: 4.04/1.30/166 Ks in 180 2/3 IP. But after a 3-0 start, a 2.60 ERA and 0.98 WHIP, those of you looking for mixed league pitching depth should take notice even if two of those starts came against Washington.

Olsen's next start is Friday at home against Milwaukee. The Marlins' offense has been less than offensive, as they're currently in first place at 12-8.

Grab Olsen quick, before his next altercation.


Matt Stairs, OF/DH, BLUE JAYS

Sure, he looks like the cleanup guy on your softball team, a guy you expect to see at the local watering hole after the game pounding a few down, but don't let the stout Stairs' build fool you.

The guy can rake. But his irregular playing time usually keeps him from most mixed league rosters. That all may be changing.

Thanks to the sudden and rare release of Frank Thomas (after only 60 at-bats), Stairs, already in a left field platoon with Shannon Stewart, will be the proud recipient of many DH at-bats and goes from an average AL-only play to respectable in most mixed-league formats.

A career .268 hitter, Stairs may drain your average like lights on during a long-winded church service. But he packs 20-25-HR power (242 career HRs) and will be hitting 5th most days in a potent Toronto lineup, behind fantasy studs Alex Rios and Vernon Wells. A run at 90 RBI is possible, as 400 at-bats for the rest of the season may be on the horizon, depending on how hot Stairs' bat stays (he's currently on a 10-game hitting streak).

And if you don't want to take my word for it, check out this high-tech clip of Stairs and decide for yourself if he's too good to be true.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Is Hank right about Joba?

A Steinbrenner stirring up the pot in New York City?

Where have we heard this before?

Only this time it's not George, rather, his son and Yankee co-owner Hank, who told the New York Times that only "an idiot" would keep a guy like Joba Chamberlain in the bullpen as a setup man.

That "idiot" at large, is the Yankees GM Brian Cashman who is paid to see the big picture - which is to ease Chamberlain into the starting roll, at midseason, to save his arm from the rigors of a 200-inning season.

As a fantasy owner, where the fire power of Chamberlain looms ominously on our wire, you have to wonder how this is all going to end.

Personally, I wouldn't move the flame-throwing Chamberlain to the rotation, unless there was a pressing need because of injury or simply lack of effectiveness between Ian Kennedy, Phillip Hughes or Mike Mussina. Obviously, with a combined ERA over 7.00 this year, there has been signs of ineffectiveness. But we're not even out of April.

Chamberlain, as Hank may or may not realize, came out of college with some very sketchy medical records. Those red flags dropped him into the supplemental round, where the Yankees took him in 2006. An increased workload would only increase the chances of Chamberlain breaking down.

As it is now, Chamberlain is not just a cult hero in Yankees Stadium (check video below), but he's also an extremely effective bridge to Mariano Rivera and until the Yankees feel comfortable with a replacement, Chamberlain can be an impact in 70-75 games this year, or about triple the number of starts he would make.

Fantasy owners, remember that even if Hank gets his way, the Yankees would have to send Chamberlain to the minors to stretch his arm out, which would take 3-4 weeks before he would reappear in the rotation.

Some scouts compare Chamberlain's array of pitches to Johan Santana, with four nasty pitches, although as an 8th-inning guy, you rarely see anything but his 100-mph heater.

For now, Cashman is holding his ground. Chamberlain's staying in the bullpen.

Chamberlain makes for a nice pickup, if you have a bench spot in your league, or if the infamous "holds" is a category. In AL-only and deep mixed leagues, he's probably long gone.

And if this Steinbrenner-Cashman feud continues, the same could be said for the Yankees GM. Especially if the the pinstripes don't deliver a World Series title soon.


  • Yankees 3B Alex Rodriguez is nursing a sore hamstring and while he's scheduled to rejoin the Yankees in Chicago today, he likely won't play. The Yankees haven't ruled out a DL trip. His wife in Miami is due to deliver their second child any day now, so those of you in daily leagues will need to look for an alternative this week.
  • Red Sox SP Clay Bucholz continued his on-again, off-again season, pitching 6 scoreless innings against the Rangers. He struggled in his first and third outings. Perhaps a little worrisome for fantasy owners is Bucholz was lit up on the road and dominated at home. I'm not calling him Ervin Santana East quite yet, but for now, owners may want to bench him away from Fenway.
  • Astros CF Michael Bourn picked up his 12th and 13th stolen bases against San Diego Monday night and is on pace to swipe over 100 this year. I wouldn't flat out tell you to sell high here, but with a .216 average, you have to wonder how long he'll keep that leadoff job in Houston. Just like free candy from a faulty vending machine, enjoy it while it lasts.
  • Marlins SS Hanley Ramirez hit his 6th HR. After dropping him in my preseason rankings to near the end of the first round, because the Marlins lineup sans Miguel Cabrera was supposed to be weak, I'm starting to think I was wrong about Hanley. The way his power keeps developing, Hanley may soon join the elusive 40/40 club, which coming from a SS, would make him the best fantasy chip in the land, regardless of what uniform he wears.
  • Chase Utley. (explitive of your choice). This is starting to get absurd.
  • Arizona OF Eric Byrnes shaved his mustache after going hitless on Sunday against the Giants. Byrnes, who ragged on himself during his Saturday XM show "Hustle," because he can't grow facial hair, decided not to shave during his 14-game hitting streak. With no impediment on his upper lip, the clean-shaven Byrnes started a new hitting streak with a 2-run HR Monday night.
  • Rockies SS Troy Tulowitzki went 0-for-5 and is now hitting a robust .165. If you're an owner, the lowball offers are probably flooding in right now. But don't sell too low. Tulo's a slow starter (.244 last April) and there's too much talent there. If you need a decent SS, now's the time to pounce. But it might take an Orlando Cabrera or Edgar Renteria to land the preseason top-5 shortstop.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Weekend Wrap: Mr. Utley goes off

Chase Utley, meet 2007 Alex Rodriguez.

Sure, he hasn't been going completely A-Rod on us, but Utley hit his 7th and 8th HRs Sunday night against the Mets, making him the closest thing to last year's April surprise when ARod hit 14 in the first month.

The question is, can Mr. Utley keep this up?

It's very doubtful. The most he's hit on any level was in 2006, when he knocked out 32 for the Phils. And that came while he was 27, when most "experts" think a player's power peaks.

But that's not to say a 29-year-old Utley is over the hill. Look at what Barry Bonds was doing in his late 30s. OK, bad example. But it's very possible Utley exceeds those 32 jacks this year, although he won't get 60. Or probably even 40.

Citizens Bank Park is a crackerjack box and 6 of his 8 taters have come at home, but Utley only gets 81 of his games there. Plenty of his swings will come in cavernous Shea Stadium and Dolphin Stadium.

Look for 35 HR, 112 RBI, 108 runs, 12 SB and a .330 average.

Utley might even be a top-3 pick next year, just like Hanley Ramirez jumped into that fray this year. Selling high really isn't a great option.

  • Padres SP Randy Wolf came down to Earth some, giving up 4 runs and 6 hits in 6 1/3 innings, but he struck out 7 and got the win and makes for a borderline mixed-league pickup.
  • Athletics SP Dana Eveland is now 2-1 after throwing 5 1/3 solid innings (1 run, 3 hits, 4 BB, 3 Ks). He's worth a look in deeper mixed leagues.
  • Diamondbacks SP Randy Johnson is looking old again. After breezing through the opener, The Big Unit gave up 6 runs (only 4 earned), 6 hits and 3 walks in 5 1/3. Johnson did strike out 6 Padres, but sheesh, these are the Padres. Don't expect a miracle here. Johnson's barely worth a mixed-league roster spot moving forward.
  • Mariners SP Miguel Batista threw 7 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out 8 Angels, and afterward told the Seattle Times, "I might have found something that I wish I might have found years ago in my career." Hmmm....wonder what that could be? For the record, I'm still not a believer. Pick him up if you're desperate, but I've gotta think there's a better option on your wire this morning.         
  • Twins SP Scott Baker is looking like the pitching stud he's been projected to be, throwing 7 innings of 1-run ball and striking out 8 Indians in a ND. This may be a top-20 pitcher in next year's draft.
  • The Milwaukee Brewers are currently rummaging through their file cabinet, looking for the receipt of the Eric Gagne purchase. Gagne, who signed for $10 million in the offseason, had his third blown save of the season and now sports an 8.22 ERA. Just think, the Brewers could be 14-4, not 11-7. David Riske is probably the best handcuff option right now.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Who is this Joey Votto?

Joey Votto was 19 and getting eaten up.

The year was 2003 and Votto was paying his dues down in Single-A Dayton and hit .231 in 195 at-bats, striking out 64 times.

So, he worked to shorten his swing and the more compact Votto raised his average to .301 the next year and as a bonus, found a power stroke.

Four seasons later, Votto finds himself on the outside of Dusty Baker's doghouse, looking in, having recently won the first base job from journeyman Scott Hatteberg.

For those of you who don't fully grasp Baker's allegiance to veteran players, look no further than Neifi Perez, a few years back for the Cubs. Simply put, Baker would rather give up his sacred toothpick to help start a camp fire than play a rookie.

But Votto's bat can no longer be ignored.

After hitting 10-for-24 in a seven-day stretch, with 3 HR and 10 RBI, Baker has apparently given Votto the starting gig. Today was his sixth straight start at 1B and Baker even moved Votto up from 7th to 6th place in the order.

Votto also provides a surprising batch of speed for a 1B, swiping 23 in 2006 and 17 last year with AAA Louisville, where he hit 22 bombs.

You know, 20/20 guys don't exactly grown on waiver wires very often.

Fantasy spin: Hit the button. 
Votto, now with regular playing time, should be owned in all formats, mixed, NL-only, keeper, dynasty, roto, head-to-head, leagues with move limits and any other I'm forgetting. Of course, with any rookie, you must temper your expectations as there's bound to be rough patches, and you know Dusty loves the double-switch like it's his own son and Votto's defense can be shaky at times. Still, 22 HR, 15 SB is not that far-fetched but it's the RBI (85+) and a near-.300 average that will set apart Votto en route to a ROY-caliber season.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Mailbag: How to snag the Longorias

Fantasy Mailbag:
So, where do you get all of the late-breaking updates? Are there certain Web sites you use?

I can't divulge all my secrets, now.

There wouldn't be any reason to click on the baseblog, would there?

OK, OK, I'll spill.

For the most up-to-the-minute news, the best source is from the beat writer's blog from the newspaper covering the team.

These guys are hanging around the field every day and their job is to not only report the latest, but also give their spin on how bad a player is injured and what sort of ripple affect it will have on possible call-ups, roster moves, etc.

Case in point: Evan Longoria.

Last Friday evening, around 5:30 p.m., the co-owner of my AL-only team was perusing the Tampa Tribune's Rays blog, when he stumbled across this tasty nugget:

It’s been a busy day already at Tropicana Field. Beyond the Al Reyes fallout, the Rays also put Willy Aybar through some drills during BP, testing his sore hamstring. If they determine he still isn’t where they want him to be, there’s a possibility Evan Longoria may be called up from Durham to take his spot.

Immediately, we picked him up, but we had to drop Nathan Haynes, who has been a nice quick burst of speed for our Ron Cey-slow squad and we knew within an hours, if not minutes, Haynes would get snatched in this very shallow, streamable league, so we wanted to confirm the news, in case it was just all speculation.

We pulled up, which posts minor league box scores online, sometimes up to an hour before the game. The Scranton-Wilkes Barre vs. Durham lineup cards had not yet been posted yet. Refresh. Refresh. Refresh.

There was only one thing to do: Call Michael Scott at the Scranton office? No. We all know Pam leaves the office at 5 p.m.

Call the Durham press box and find out if Longoria was playing.

A quick google search provided the number and after wading through a couple automated menus, I had a live voice on the other end.

"Yeah, this is a little random question, but is Evan Longoria playing tonight?"
Long pause. Evan. Let's see. Ummm....yeah, he's right here on the roster.
Roster? That didn't sound convincing.

"You mean the lineup? What spot is he hitting?"

Ummm... (more scuffling of papers) ... he's hitting third tonight.

Sigh. "Third? Are you sure?"

Yup. Third.

"OK. Thanks for the help."

Now, a guy like Longoria in a mixed league is a borderline pickup. But in an AL-only league, when even the Mark Grudzielaneks are snatched up as soon as you drop him, throwing back a talent like this was too risky to base it on one shaky bit of info.

Maybe he's playing on Friday, then will get called up after the game.

There was only one thing left to do. broadcasts all its games online. Surely, if Longoria got the call, they would be talking about it.

So, after a quick registration, the pre-recorded pregame show was airing.

Finally, the broadcast team came on live and, almost between commas, they mention that the Durham Bulls' offense took quite a hit with Longoria just getting the call.

Longoria got the call? Is that what I heard?

Technology can be a nuisance. But it can also help you win your league.

But I don't recommend going to these lengths.

You won't have a life.

(btw, for anyone interested in watching Longoria's first major league HR, here he is, tying the Yankees 7-7 this week).

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Sabathia, Verlander headaches

How bad has C.C. Sabathia been?


And considering the Indians SP won the Cy Young award last year, it's worse than that.

"I'd boo myself," Sabathia said after his latest implosion Wednesday, giving up 9 runs to the Tigers.

But here's the kicker: Sabathia says nothing's wrong. Everything feels fine. And to support that claim, the burly righty is still hitting 95 on the gun.

Maybe, as Edgar Renteria says, the Tigers just got lucky. Doubt that. Better chance that C.C. just got some bad pizza at CiCi's.

My guess is it has something to do with Sabathia overthrowing in his contract year. Or maybe the 241 IP last year has caught up to him, but I doubt that's the issue.

Whatever the problem, if you're a Sabathia owner this is squarely your problem. What do you do with a pitcher who has an ERA of 13.50 and a WHIP of 2.56?

As hard as it seems, I'd do absolutely nothing.

Unless you can get at least 70 cents on the dollar, don't just give him away. He was likely the first pitcher you drafted and there's no way a pitcher goes from Cy Young to this bad overnight. It's either a mental thing, a mechanical thing or he's hurt.

His control has been awful (14 walks in 18 innings) but worse, his location within the strike zone is what's killing him (32 hits).

I'm watching Sabathia get dealt for less than half of what he's worth and I wonder if owners will be shaking their heads in July, just like I was last year after giving up Carlos Zambrano fairly cheap during his contract-season meltdown.

You can bet the Indians are pouring over his mechanics trying to find out what's wrong and you can bet Sabathia will either turn it around in the next two starts or he'll wind up on the DL, which as an owner may be the best-case scenario.

If you don't own Sabathia, this might be the perfect time to inquire about his availability. It might only take a bottle of water and a bag of peanuts to snag him.


JUSTIN VERLANDER: For a guy routinely hitting 100 mph last year, the Detroit righty topped out at 94 two starts ago, then 93 last night. No wonder the Indians treated Verlander like a piƱata, with 7 hits, 4 BB and 5 runs in 5 innings. “I’ve been throwing the ball decent, but things haven’t been going my way,” Verlander said. “Tonight was the first night I felt I didn’t throw the ball well.” This is a mini-Sabathia crisis, but considering the lost velocity, it might end up being more devastating. Might wanna see if someone will take him off your hands for a James Shields or Zack Grienke.

FAUSTO CARMONA: Throwing against Verlander, Carmona had to work out of several jams, but the Indians SP, after tweaking his delivery, made just enough pitches and finished with a 7-hit, 6 2/3-inning. The headline buried here is Carmona only walked 1 batter, after issuing 17 free passes in his first three outings.

FRANCISCO LIRIANO: I've not checked into seat availability on the Liriano bandwagon, but some potentially encouraging news came out of Twins camp. Pitching coach Rick Anderson said he made a slight adjustment to Liriano's delivery, which helped him throw his slider in a side session. "He was a totally different guy," Anderson said. Totally different? I'm not sure I buy that. But if you rolled the dice on Liriano, this is at least reason for hope and for daily move leagues, you might wanna take a chance on him tonight against Cleveland. You can check out this clip of Liriano throwing a bullpen session in spring training to see if you can spot his so-called mechanical flaw.

ROY OSWALT: Roy O dropped his ERA from 9.00 to 6.65 with a 7-inning, 1-run masterpiece, the stuff Oswalt fans have come to expect. Supposedly, a flat arm angle was the culprit to his first three rotten starts.

TIM HUDSON: Of all the pitching news in the last 48 hours, Hudson's velocity topping out at 85 mph may be the most cause for concern. Bobby Cox yanked the Braves ace after he gave up 4 runs in 3 innings (58 pitches), as the fastball was at least 5 mph slower than usual. Hudson entered the game with a 2.14 ERA, so the only thing that makes sense is an injured shoulder or arm, although there's no talk of Hudson getting an MRI. Hudson's puzzled by the power outage. That's not encouraging news.

EVAN LONGORIA: I know, he's not a pitcher, but breaking news out of Tampa, as the Rays sign hot prospect Longoria to a six-year, 17.5 million deal. This is one of the spring's most baffling stories. The Rays kept him off the Opening Day roster so they could have cheap control until he became a free agent after the 2014 season and not have to sign him to a lucrative deal. Then, they bring him up last Friday after 3B Willy Aybar gets hurt. And now, they've decided to sign him on a deal that could be worth $44 million, with incentives, and run through 2016, with options. Nothing makes sense about this franchise.

ROCKIES 2, PADRES 1 (22 INNINGS): In the longest MLB game in 15 years, Troy Tulowitzki finished a 2-for-10 night with an RBI-single, scoring Willy Taveras, who was 3-for-10 in the 6 hour, 16-minute affair that finished at 4:21 eastern, or over an hour after Yahoo! updates their nightly standings. You may not have got credit for Tulo's RBI, but hopefully this will get last year's ROY runner up started, as he's only hitting .167. Of fantasy relevance, Jake Peavy struck out 11 in 8 scoreless innings and Jeff Francis threw 7 scoreless, fanning 7. Matt Holliday stole 2 more bases and is up to 4. He says he's trying to steal 20, which would be like ordering a steak and getting free appetizers and dessert. You think you're tired today? The Rockies were due to land in Houston at 9 a.m. today.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Dealing with Trader Joe

There may be worse things in life than ending a proposition with a preposition.

But when that proposition is a lopsided trade proposal, few things are quite as irritating.

Sure, Magglio Ordonez is off to a slow start and Mike Jacobs has 6 HR, but no, I'm not about to make that deal.

Yes, C.C. Sabathia looks like he's cooked, but no, I'm not giving him away for Paul Byrd.

If you've played long enough in a league that has so much as a pulse, you've probably encountered one of the following traders. Shoot, you may even be one yourself.


No, not the your-mommy's-so-ugly trash talker; rather, this owner has a way of trashing the guy he wants from your team, pointing out all of the negatives. You know, A-Rod hasn't stolen any bases this year, he's really slowing down. Or, Aramis Ramirez is hitting .222 with only 7 RBI. He's a bust. Only you know Aramis doesn't really start hitting until it hits 70 degrees. It might even be in his contract.


It's one thing to pay retail for a guy; it's another to buy a pair of $400 pair of shoes on Fifth Avenue. Yes, I know who Julio Lugo is. And no, he's not worth Erik Bedard. These owners are the hardest to deal with.


This may be the most offensive of all the offensive traders. You make an offer and it sits to rot like a rotten log floating down the Yucatan. Nobody likes the non-responder
, and nothing earns you less respect than being an inactive owner. You don't have to like the offer. You don't even have to say anything. Just hit the Reject button. Or if you wanna think about it, write a note and say you're deliberating. But giving another owner crickets will ultimately lead to no trade offers and unless you drafted with a crystal ball, you'll need some trade help to win your league. So keep those lines open.


No matter what kind of math you use, Ty Wiggington, Ryan Garko and Ryan Theriot does not equal B.J. Upton. This may be a common misconception for rookie fantasy players, but quantity rarely equals quality. The only exception is if a team is ravaged with key injuries. Bottom line, don't expect to exchange your trash into someone else's treasure. Rule of thumb, if you want a stud player, you have to give up a stud.


They know you are one of three Florida Marlins fans north of Port St. Lucie, so they insist on pushing Jeremy Hermida on you, as if you'll really give up Hideki Matsui. Yes, you'd rather have guys from your favorite team as it makes it more fun to follow, but you can't mortgage your season and you shouldn't be expected to overpay.


So, you already have speedsters Carlos Gomez, Michael Bourn and Rickie Weeks on your roster and someone offers you Jose Reyes for a Ryan Howard, even though you're sitting in the RBI cellar. Yeah, right. You're not dealing with a savvy owner. The best advice in getting a deal done is to specifically address an owner's need. So before you propose, scour the categories. Your odds of getting a deal done increases tenfold.


You start the trading talks by offering Carlos Zambrano for Joe Nathan and after four or five e-mails, the owner is offering Nathan, Abreu, Patterson and Lackey for Zambrano, Hudson, Rios and Velez. It's like buying a house in an older neighborhood. The bigger the deal, the harder it is to assess value. You feel as if you need an engineering degree to break it down. This owner generally hates his team and is trying to shake things up.


Burning bridges is never a good idea at the workplace. In fantasy, it's no different. Maybe you didn't quite bring your best offer to the table, but in your eyes, Jason Bay for Vernon Wells seemed reasonable. However, the owner responds with a simple "Yeah, right." or maybe a counter of Wells for Matt Holliday. As much as you might wanna type in "do you think I'm an idiot or I was born at night, but not last night," I urge you not to. OK, type it in, but count to 10, then hit delete. Snarky responses may feel warranted, but they can cut off trading relationships that you wish you had in August.

Anyone 'Guy' I missed?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Waiver Wired: Floyd, Owings

It's Wednesday, which can only mean one thing.

American Idol is on tonight.

I'm joking. But you can hit up Theoden Janes' Just You Watch entertainment blog. He's got that covered.

It's Waiver Wired Wednesday, where we break down two players (one from each league) that might be sitting on your waiver wire, just waiting to be plucked.

Do you feel plucky?


Gavin Floyd, SP, White Sox

Floyd's stock took a Google-like surge after his near no-no on Saturday, leaving with a 1-hitter after 7 1/3 innings against a Detroit lineup that was preseason considered one of the best in the bigs.

By the 6th inning, I added him in my AL-only league. On Sunday, he was snatched in my 18-team mixed league (that's right, 18 teams, don't get me started) and on Monday an owner took a flyer on him in the 10-team mixed league.

While I can't support him being a solid pickup option in all formats, Floyd is definitely ownable in any league 12 teams and larger.

Even before the season started, eccentric White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen praised Floyd, saying he has good enough stuff to be a No. 1 starter, although putting your faith in Ozzie is about as safe as having the beer guy watch your kids.

But it's true. Floyd's always had the stuff to be a top pitcher, although he may never hit ace status. Last year with the Charlotte Knights, Floyd sported a 3.12 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP and 96 Ks in 106 innings.

Here's some footage of Floyd pitching against Pawtucket, including some close-up shots, which makes you wonder if his maybe it was Floyd's mom that posted this on YouTube:

But what about Floyd's numbers after his callup last year? A 5.27 ERA and 1.49 WHIP in 70 innings?

Well, the learning curve can be steep sometimes and even the best struggle their rookie season, ala Cole Hamels and Tim Lincecum.

You could instead take a gamble on high upside guys like Greg Smith of Oakland or Tampa Bay's Jeff Niemann but both those guys could lose their spot due to injury once their staff is fully healed.

Floyd's spot is secure.


Micah Owings, SP, Arizona

Best known for his 2-HR game last year, Owings batted .333 in 60 at-bats and actually pinch-hit five times for the D'backs.

But the only thing this shows you is he's an excellent athlete, which may bode well for his stamina toward the end of the season.

Two spring trainings ago, I saw Owings mow down the Cubs in impressive fashion in Tuscon and thought to myself, some day this guy's going to be a fantasy factor, even though he was a long shot to make Arizona's Opening Day roster.

Now, he's a fixture and after he pitched 6 innings of 3-hit ball in San Francisco, striking out 6, Owings is currently tied for 10th in the majors with 19 Ks. Although it was the Giants, possibly the 30th best offense, or first most pathetic, depending on your view. And don't expect more than 150 strikeouts, but the Tulane product has the stuff (low 90s fastball, great command) and stature (6-foot-5) to anchor the back end of your pitching staff.

Sure, the Padres' Randy Wolf is on fire right now and will probably be good for another month or so, and Mike Pelfry is another young guy who seems to be figuring it all out, but given the choice, I'd still take a chance on Owings.


  • Yes, it's true, Alfonso Soriano was injured last night, taking that girly hop, right before he caught a flyball in the first inning. Official word is a strained right calf and Soriano's already on the DL. Eric Patterson has been called up, but knowing Lou Piniella, it'll be more like a combination of Patterson, Mike Fontenot, Ronny Cedeno and Reed Johnson who will all see more at-bats.
  • Albert Pujols seems fine after injuring his wrist, staying in the game, but owners can't be loving highlights of Pujols writhing in pain.
  • Almost like two ships passing in the night, Erik Bedard was quietly shifted to the DL Tuesday and the Mariners aren't saying much, other than he wouldn't miss any more starts this way and they could pull up another pitcher. If we're keeping score, I'm officially in the concerned camp, but not yet worried.
  • Rich Harden says he's thinking about throwing soon. As a Harden owner in one league, I've learned to take whatever positive news I can get.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Moylan on DL; grab Acosta

First Joe Borowski, and now Peter Moylan.

The Braves closer followed suit, landing on the DL just hours after Borowski was shelved with a strained right triceps after he topped out at 83 on the gun and blew another save Monday night.

Moylan, who was the surprise closer fill-in for Rafael Soriano, has been sidelined with a right elbow strain and Manny Acosta, who was originally thought to fill in for Soriano, will now get his chance.

So, if you missed out on Cleveland setup guru Rafael Betancourt, or don't fill like rolling the dice with other closer candidates Masa Kobayashi or Rafael Perez, go grab Acosta, who's probably just been dropped in the last 48 hours.

This is why you don't pay retail for saves at your draft. It's too much fun trying to steal them for cheap along the way.

Borowski hits DL; who's next?

Joe Borowski makes me nervous.

Every time Dusty Baker handed him the ball during that magical 2003 Cubs run, Chicago fans didn't just hold their collective breath, they had oxygen masks standing by.

But as dramatic as Big Joe can make things in the 9th, he converted 33 of 38 save chances, including 13 in a row. And Cubs fans loved the guy with the Polish-sounding name.

That is, until he failed.

Five years later, enter the city of Cleveland, who by most accounts are pulling for the 36-year-old to succeed, but it appears the mystical dust may be gone after last season's 46-save, .5.07-ERA wonder.

After Monday night's meltdown against Boston and Manny Ramirez, his second in a week, Borowski's ERA sits at a cool 18.00, leaving Indians fans to wonder if Borowski's root meaning is blown save.

For those wondering, what's wrong, join the club. A big problem is his velocity is in the low-80s, which almost qualifies Borowski as a knuckleballer or a guy at a carnival.

The Indians' worries were justified today, as Borowski has been diagnosed with a strained right triceps and has already been put on the DL.

For proof, click on walkoff Torii Hunter's grand slam last week in Anaheim, specifically how Borowski hangs it over the plate like leftover lasagna, and you start to agree, something's not right.

So, with Borowski on the shelf, who's next in line for the Indians' closer job.

On the surface, Rafael Betancourt looks like the odds-on favorite. Betancourt (1.47/0.76) had three times as good of numbers as Borowski as the Indians 2007 setup guy, but 2008 hasn't been as kind (5.14/1.71), after giving up a solo shot to Kevin Youkilis Monday night.

But even with Betancourt's struggles, he should be in the mix at first, however, don't count out Masahide Kobayashi (not the hot-dog-eating Kobayashi), who has 200-plus saves in Japan.

Another guy to stash, if those two guys are missing from the wire, is Rafael Perez, the lefty who also had a dazzling 2007 (1.78/0.92) and held batters to a .187 batting average. Perez has had one bad outing, giving up a 3-run shot to Oakland's Bobby Crosby on Saturday, but he closed out the 9th on Monday, striking out J.D. Drew.

Perez also has a far better strikeout rate than either Borowski or Kobayashi.

The Indians would rather not have to decide.

They still want Joe B. to come back strong and be their man, just like all Cub fans did.

But in a city with expectations, sometimes you're only as good as your last pitch.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Weekend wrap: Is Papi hurt?

Nothing feeds a rumor mill faster than sitting out a Yankees-Red Sox Sunday night ESPN game.

So is the fate of Boston's David Ortiz, who is hitting .070 with a .140 slugging percentage.

Big Papi had gone hitless in his previous 17 at-bats, prompting manager Terry Francona to give him a night off.

But is there something more?

Ortiz had offseason knee surgery and his batting stance is much more upright this year, leading to speculation that he's favoring the knee.

And there may be some truth to this.

But don't hit the panic button. It's not even tax day (which reminds me) ...

No, you probably won't see 50 HR, or maybe even 40 this year. But I say he repeats last year's subpar power numbers of 35 HR and 117 RBI, which makes Papi a solid buy low option right now.

Find your Ortiz owner and start talking up his night off. Against the Yanks. Talk about the knee surgery. The upright stance. 

Then see if you can get him for 70 cents on the dollar.

And if all else fails, you can speculate Papi may have got injured filming this:

  • Twins SP Francisco Liriano lumbered through 4 2/3 innings in his first start 17 months after undergoing "Tommy John" surgery in 2006. His final statline: 6 hits, 5 BB, 4 ER and 4 Ks. I warned you not to activate him Sunday, but even if you did it wasn't the worst outing. Scouts, however, aren't seeing the same stuff and even Royals OF Mark Teahen (who went 0-for-3) noticed there wasn't the same zip on the ball. Time to lower those expectations and try to use name value for trade bait.
  • Mariners SP Erik Bedard was scratched for the second time this year with inflammation in his left hip. Seattle says it's not worrying. I might be, if I were you. One or two more good start and you might wanna cash Bedard out.
  • All you disgruntled Roy Oswalt owners out there, and I'm sure that's all of you, word is Oswalt's arm angle has been too low and his pitching have been coming in flat. I know, that sounds like hogwash. But since nothing's wrong with his velocity, it does make sense. Take comfort in Carlos Zambrano, who had similar problems last year and made huge strides once he figured it out.
  • What's up with ARod? After going 0-for-8 on Saturday and Sunday, Rodriguez's average is now at .260 with just 2 HR and 7 RBI. Owners surely weren't expecting an April repeat, but after his 56 jacks last year, 2 HR through 13 games is a little disappointing. But don't do anything drastic. May, July and August have traditionally been better power months for ARod, even factoring in last year's sick April.
  • A trio of top SS have been out, but fear not. Derek Jeter (quad) is due back tonight with Jose Reyes (hammy) and Jimmy Rollins (ankle) are all due back Tuesday night, although Rollins return seems less certain. Good news for owners, but considering they're all speed-hindering injuries, might need to lower SB expectations 15 percent.
  • The Flying Hawaiian is grounded.  Phillies OF Shane Victorino strained his left calf, the same injury that cost him three weeks last year, then limited his final five weeks to pinch hit/part-time duty and his SB took a hit. If you can get any value at all, it's time to say aloha.
  • A couple of hammy tweaks for owners in daily-move leagues to keep an eye on. Angels 2B Howie Kendrick and Tigers 1B Carlos Guillen both injured their hamstrings over the weekend, but neither are expected to hit the DL and Kendrick said he didn't hear a pop. And as someone who's had hammy issues, that news is significant.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Mailbag time; weekend update

Fantasy Mailbag:

What do you think about this trade? I'm offered Kazuno Matsui for Radhames Liz. It's a 5x5 keeper league and you can keep as many players as you want. Any thoughts?
- Andrew M., Hickory

Ahhh yes, the rarely-seen Kaz for Liz offer.

This is an interesting proposal.

But before I answer this, I couldn't help but think how remarkable it wouldbe if you could use either one of these players name when you're stuck witha 'Z' at the end of a Scrabble game. But that's not important right now.

Most readers may have never heard of Radhames Liz. Or if they have, they can't remember who he plays for.

It's the Baltimore Orioles and Liz got a cup of coffee last year, posting the forgettable ERA/WHIP numbers of 6.93/1.95 in 24 2/3 innings. Liz does, however, have some real talent.

The Dominican Republic product signed as a free agent in 2003 and in three minor league seasons, he's posted a 3.34 ERA, a 1.29 WHIP with a sick 11 K/9 inning rate. But he's still a prospect.

And he averages a walk every other inning, which is reason for concern.

And, pitching prospects have a way of taking a long time to figure everything out, not to mention the inevitable arm problems you see every time you turn around.

In Matsui, you're helping yourself with a 3-category guy (runs, SB, avg.) and you know he's going to be playing almost every day, after the Astros signed him to a 3-year, $16.5 million deal.

Although Matsui has been sidelined, recovering from a painful-to-think-about anal fissure surgery.

There's so many jokes here, but this is a family show, after all. If you're really that curious about the procedure, click here.

Matsui goes from hitting in one of the best lineup spots, ahead of Matt Holliday/Todd Helton/Garrett Atkins, to perhaps an even better spot - in front of Lance Berkman/Carlos Lee/Miguel Tejada. The runs will be flowing in and he stole 32 times in 410 at-bats.

It's possible, on a run-happy, green-light Astros team, Matsui racks up 40SB/100 runs and as a bonus, he will likely be activated Tuesday (go sniff your wire, if you need some speed).

Bottom line philosophy when it comes to comparing prospects to current fantasy contributors: unless it's a can't-miss David Wright/TimLincecum type, go with the proven commodity.

Gimme Kaz over Liz.

And, hey, that's a double-word score, and I'm out.

  • Tigers SP Dontrelle Willis hyperextended his knee on the 6th pitch of Saturday's Detroit-Chicago game. He was put on the DL before most of the Tigers had hit Mike Ditka's Steakhouse.
  • White Sox SP Gavin Floyd had a no-hitter broken up in the 8th inning with a lazy single to right by Edgar Renteria. Floyd, unowned in our very skimpy AL-only league, was probably widely available in about 95 percent of leagues before Saturday afternoon. There's still time to take a flyer on Floyd, who coach Ozzie Guillen says has 1-2 pitcher stuff. He's probably more of an AL-only pickup right now.
  • The Royals moved DH Billy Butler and his .385 average to cleanup yesterday, which is only relevant if you're A) a Butler owner, B) a distant relative or C) you live in the Kansas City metro area. Either way, it could mean 10 more ribbies.
  • Batting 5th against lefties, Braves OF Jeff Francoeur racked up 2 HR and a career-high 7 RBI Saturday against the Nationals. Anyone else smelling a breakout season for this 24-year-old? His price tag is only getting higher, so act now if you're interested.
  • Rays 1B Carlos Pena hit his 6th HR Saturday, a day after he belted 2 jacks for 6 RBI. If anyone has both Pena and Francoeur, I'm expecting to see RBIs on eBay this afternoon.
  • Speaking of Rays, Evan Longoria made his pro debut and went 1-for-3 with an RBI single to left and a walk. Naturally, he said he was nervous. And as expected, Manager Joe Maddon praised him like a prospect that should've made the Opening Day roster. He's probably dangling in a few mixed leagues still, if you wanna hop on the bandwagon. There won't be good seats long.
  • Even more Rays news, SP Scott Kazmir played catch a day after throwing a 46-pitch practice session and is scheduled to throw two extended spring training games on Tuesday. At this rate, he should be activated by Labor Day. OK, it just seems that long.
  • Boof Bonzer is kinda like your game of golf. So many times you're frustrated with it, but every once in awhile you see a glimmer of hope that keeps you coming back. That inspiration was Saturday's 6 innings of 3-hit shutout ball ... aka a beautiful 4-iron from 190 out that rolls 3 feet from the pin.
  • Twins SP Francisco Liriano is pitching his season debut today, so consider activating him for the 2:10 start. I only say consider because Liriano had mixed results in rehab and the extra weight he's carrying has messed up his slider some. And after getting shutout Saturday, the K.C. bats aren't likely to be quiet again today. Go ahead and slide him to an active spot, if you feel lucky. Just don't say I didn't warn you.
  • Who woke up Raul Ibanez? That's 3 HR in 2 nights and triple what the Mariners OF hit in all of April and May of 2007. I'm still setting the over/under at 24 HR.
  • Angels SP John Lackey threw a fastball-only bullpen session and Mike Sciosca was predictably thrilled. On the ubersophisticated rehab scale, this is slightly better than throwing on flat ground but not quite as good as throwing BP. But for Lackey owners, news of a possibly early-May return has to give hope to that last-place 1.48 WHIP right now.
  • The news on Athletics SP Rich Harden just keeps getting worse and his shoulder injury could keep him out longer than expected. He's firmly planted in the DL garden. Is there anyone who hits his insurance deductible quicker every year? As a Harden owner, I'm hoping for the best, but when your own manager says he's not holding his breath, it's time to quit holding yours.
  • Cubs SP Rich Hill, who was throwing more like Rich Little on Wednesday, has been temporarily assigned to the bullpen for this weekend's Philly series, which is sort of like punishing your kid until he proves he's really sorry and then he can go out and play again. You'll probably see Hill today and if he throws the ball to coach Lou Piniella's liking, he'll start Thursday. Otherwise, it might be time to invest in a little Jon Lieber stock. If they still sell it.
  • Can someone get OnStar installed on the bill of  Fausto Carmona's hat? The Indians SP needed sever turn-by-turn navigation on his pitches Saturday night against Oakland, walking 8 batters in a 3 1/3-inning outing that made Dontrelle Willis look like he was Tom Glavine, circa 1995.