Saturday, May 29, 2010

Observations (by the numbers)

Scanning the baseball globe, numerically.

1: Number of hits Matt Cain gave up over 9 innings vs. the D'backs. The Giants RHP added 9 Ks and lowered his ERA to 2.50. Almost as shocking, the Giants scored five runs.

3: Number of home runs by Tigers 1B Miguel Cabrera against the A's in a losing effort. Cabrera now has 13 slow trots and a league-leading 44 RBI.

5: Orioles OF Adam Jones was detained for several hours early Friday morning until 5 a.m. at the Torono Airport. Jones was told he had a "criminal record." It was unknown whether authorities were looking for former Cowboy Adam "Pacman" Jones. And there's no validity that the crimes were related to his rise in strike outs (39) or drop in on-base-percentage (.278).

8: Nationals Savior RHP Stephen Strasburg's uber-anticipated (if that's a word) debut is all but certain for June 8. If he's not taken, grab him, but if that's the case you're league is not any fun because you're probably lapping the field.

11: Earned runs given up by Tim Lincecum, matching his previous 8 outings. Do I need to hire a sky-writer with a buy-low sign to fly over Charlotte Motor Speedway? His price may never be lower.

18: Home runs hit this year by Jacksonville Suns' Michael Stanton, called the best Marlins prospect since the aforementioned Cabrera by all the important people in South Florida who would know these things. Stanton, 20, who hit 37 HR as an 18-year-old, hit one earlier this year that went an estimated 500 feet. The current Florida Marlins OF has a combined 10 HR and 54 RBI. Stanton now has 47 RBI.

30: Number of consecutive scoreless innings by the Phillies offense before Raul Ibanez's triple in the fourth inning Friday. Proof that anything can happen in baseball.

51: Hitting streak by Florida Internationals' Garrett Wittels that's still alive, just seven games short of Robin Ventura's Divison I 23-year-old record. This may be the most PR Ventura has gotten in a decade.

.286: Highest average for any Angels regular (Kendry Morales). In fact, five starters are hitting .258 or less. Think they miss Figgy and Vladdy?

.278: We're almost two months in and guess who leads the America League in hitting. That's right. The Royals, buoyed by Billy Butler (.349) and Mike Aviles (.341). What is this season coming to?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Should we send interleague out to pasture?

Interleague play has always been a little strange. But this weekend, so many things happened that borderlined on the ridiculous you wonder if baseball should do away with this 15-year experiment.

Attendance, sure, is great. And frankly, that's why we'll probably never see interleague go away. And actually, I like the natural rivalries (Cubs-Sox for one) that we'd never see otherwise (I know, baseball purists will shoot me down for this).

But from a fantasy perspective, everything we've known to accept as truth have shaken our core a little. Mainly from the top-shelf pitching department.

Seven of the preseason top 10-ranked pitchers (according to Yahoo), gave up at least 4 earned runs over the past three days. Several were lit up for their worst outing of the year. Here's just a sampling.

Roy Halladay: Normally untouchable, was rocked by the Red Sox: 5 2/3 IP, 8 hits, 7 runs, 6 ER, 2 BB.

Zack Greinke: Rocked by Rockies in K.C. Just 3 1/3 IP, 9 hits, 8 runs, 7 ER,

C.C. Sabathia: Was hit by the Subway in Queens: 5 IP, 10 hits, 6 runs, 5 ER, 2 BB.

Cliff Lee: Wait. This was against San Diego. At home? 6 1/3 IP, 11 hits, 8 runs, 7 ER.

So what can we surmise? A couple things.

For starters, each blowup was accompanied by at least one error, which may have been from a little added juice from the game. Certainly the Subway Series and the Phillies-Red Sox had playoff-type atmosphere in May. Not sure folks were patting down the goose bumps in the hyped Padres-Mariners duel.

Secondly, fuggetaboutit. Interleague throws a lot of things out of whack. Teams may be facing the opposing team's stud for the first time for several years. They may have to hit without the DH. There is added pressure that they weren't prepared for. The list goes on.

It's more than a coincidence, that almost all the top-flight aces in the league scuffled.

But it does open just a crack into a potential buy-low trade window. Just that seed of doubt that the owner may have now. Wouldn't hurt to float a decent offer to the Grienke owner in your league who may be short on power. Maybe a serviceable sell-high pitcher like Ricky Romero or Matt Latos and a near-top tier hitter like Kendry Morales or Pablo Sandoval.

Think outside the box. This may be the only bad outing these guys will have all year.

Dice-K Revival? If for some reason you were still clinging to hope with Daisuke Matsuzaka, congrats on the near-no hitter Saturday night. But don't be fooled. Dice-K threw four balls and had a couple spectacular fielding plays go his way (one that he made a nice move to cover first base). Yes, it was the Phillies, but I still don't trust him. The WHIP (1.28) hasn't killed you so far, but facing the Blue Jays, Rays and Yankees a million times down the stretch will kill his ERA. Find a taker, if you can.

Waiver Wired: Here's the last 10 pickups in my 11-team league. Mike Napoli, Travis Hafner, Casey Blake, Gio Gonzalez, Alexei Ramirez, Howie Kendrick, Jon Garland, Kris Medlen, Carlos Villanueva, Carlos Santana.

Lima Time over: Jose Lima, the high-energy closer for the Dodgers, Astros, Royals among other teams, died of a heart attack Sunday.

Sure, Lima may have been misunderstood, often times having a spirited two-way conversation with himself in his glove around the pitcher's mound, countless reporters have talked about how vibrant a character he was and the impression he put on the game.

Here's a good read from the Seattle Times' Larry Stone.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sporting News releases Top 50 Player List

Albert's done it again.

As a surprise to almost no one (who follows baseball, anyway), Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols has repeated as the top vote-getter on Sporting News list of the 50 greatest players in baseball today.

Pujols grabbed 67 first-place votes, while Joe Mauer, the Twins new $23 million/year man, was second with 41 first-place votes.

Two Yankees (Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter) along with Tim Lincecum rounded out the Top 5.

The award is selected by a panel of 125 Hall of Famers and other decorated baseball players (for a full list scroll below).


1 Albert Pujols, Cardinals
2 Joe Mauer, Twins
3 Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
4 Derek Jeter, Yankees
5 Tim Lincecum, Giants
6 Roy Halladay, Phillies
7 Hanley Ramirez, Marlins
8 Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners
9 Chase Utley, Phillies
10 Ryan Howard, Phillies
11 Mariano Rivera, Yankees
12 Felix Hernandez, Mariners
13 CC Sabathia, Yankees
14 Evan Longoria, Rays
15 Zack Greinke, Royals
16 Mark Teixeira, Yankees
17 Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
18 Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
19 Justin Verlander, Tigers
20 Chris Carpenter, Cardinals
21 Prince Fielder, Brewers
22 Ryan Braun, Brewers
23 Justin Morneau, Twins
24 Adrian Gonzalez, Padres
25 Carl Crawford, Rays
26 Matt Kemp, Dodgers
27 Johan Santana, Mets
28 Matt Holliday, Cardinals
29 Cliff Lee, Mariners
30 Andre Ethier, Dodgers
31 Torii Hunter, Angels
32 Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies
33 Derrek Lee, Cubs
34 Todd Helton, Rockies
35 Josh Johnson, Marlins
36 Josh Beckett, Red Sox
37 David Wright, Mets
38 Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox
39 Adam Wainwright, Cardinals
40 Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals
41 Brian McCann, Braves
42 Pablo Sandoval, Giants
43 Manny Ramirez, Dodgers
44 Bobby Abreu, Angels
45 Aaron Hill, Blue Jays
46 John Lackey, Red Sox
47 Jason Bay, Mets
48 Dan Haren, Diamondbacks
49 Jayson Werth, Phillies
50 Carlos Pena, Rays


Yogi Berra
Gary Carter
Orlando Cepeda
Bobby Doerr
Dennis Eckersley
Rollie Fingers
Goose Gossage
Ferguson Jenkins
Al Kaline
Harmon Killebrew
Ralph Kiner
Paul Molitor
Joe Morgan
Jim Palmer
Nolan Ryan
Red Schoendienst
Earl Weaver
Dick Williams

Mark Davis
Doug Drabek
Tom Glavine
Pat Hentgen
Orel Hershiser
LaMarr Hoyt
Randy Jones
Denny McLain
Don Newcombe
Steve Stone
Bob Turley
Frank Viola

Don Baylor
Phil Cavarretta
Steve Garvey
Dick Groat
Fred Lynn
Al Rosen
Bobby Shantz
Larry Walker

John Castino
Alvin Davis
Ben Grieve
Ron Hansen
Mike Hargrove
Gil McDougald
John Montefusco
Wally Moon
Gregg Olson
Gary Peters
Tim Salmon
Don Schwall
Roy Sievers
Ted Sizemore
Bill Virdon

Bill Buckner
Ralph Garr
Al Oliver

Dwight Evans
Graig Nettles
Gorman Thomas

Will Clark
Cecil Cooper
Darren Daulton
Damion Easley
Javy Lopez
Hal McRae
Lloyd Moseby
Lance Parrish
Frank White

Gene Alley
Glenn Beckert
Ken Berry
Del Crandall
Steve Finley
Ray Fosse
Bud Harrelson
Don Kessinger
Jim Landis
Sixto Lezcano
Mike Matheny
Mike Mussina
Amos Otis
Jimmy Piersall
Joe Rudi
J.T. Snow
Mike Squires
Mickey Stanley

Mike Boddicker
Bob Friend
Joe Magrane
Dennis Martinez
Stu Miller
Frank Tanana

Scott Brosius
Ron Cey
Bobby Richardson
Ralph Terry

Jeff Brantley
Jeff Montgomery

Jim Frey
Tom Kelly
Jack McKeon
Buck Rodgers
Buck Showalter
Jeff Torborg
Eric Wedge

Frank Cashen, former Orioles and Mets G.M.
Fred Claire, former Dodgers G.M.
Dallas Green, former Cubs G.M.
Peter Ueberroth, former commissioner
Fay Vincent, former commissioner

Steve Hirdt, Elias Sports Bureau
Bill James, writer/historian
John Kuenster, Baseball Digest editor
Will Lingo, Baseball America co-editor
John Manuel, Baseball America co-editor
George Will, author

Bert Blyleven, Twins
Tom Candiotti, Diamondbacks
Jim Deshaies, Astros
Ricky Horton, Cardinals
Jeff Huson, Rockies
Dave O’Brien, Red Sox
Pat Tabler, Blue Jays
John Wehner, Pirates
Chris Welsh, Reds

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

After no-hitter, Strasburg is a must-add

You've heard about the 103 mph heater. The No. 1 pick in last year's draft. The big contract. The hype.

So, how good will Stephen Strasburg be? This year?

According to Curt Schilling, Strasburg may be MLB's best. Right now.

Can that be true? And if it is, does it make any sense for Strasburg to be toiling away in AAA, where he no-hits teams over 6 innings, like he did tonight?

No. Not one bit.

Although it does make cents. And that's why Washington is going through one of the most painful penny-pitching episodes we've seen. The Super 2 rule is keeping the young phenom in Syracuse right now pitching for the Chiefs.

Most conventional wisdom think Strasburg will start three more games with Syracuse, with an extra day of rest in between each start and make his debut on June 4 to kick off a homestand against Cincinnati. He'll then be able to pitch another home game against Pittsburgh.

But in the meantime, it's time for you to act. If you're still skeptical, look at Strasburg's minor league numbers. Hint: You'll need a microscope to locate his ERA and WHIP.

Go grab him from the wire, if he happens to be still sitting around. According to Yahoo, he's only owned by 72 percent of owners with some 9 percent already starting the future National.

Those 9 percent are likely leagues without a bench spot. The 28 percent of leagues that he's not owned may be primarily leagues without a spot to stash him away. Or perhaps a league without a pulse.

In any case, he's worth riding in a live spot for 3 weeks, I'm almost certain.

And if he's not available, make his owner an offer right now. Offer him any hitter outside a third-round value and see what happens. This kid has a plus fastball, change and curve.

Sure, he could get lit up like Tim Lincecum did in his 2007 debut. But the Nationals are a solid team, with a fine back end of the bullpen (see Tyler Clippard) and even in 17-18 starts, Strasburg could post 10-12 wins along with 120Ks, if Washington keeps his innings down like they say they will. He'll almost certainly lower your ERA and WHIP as well.

The real shame will be if to the Nats fans, if they miss the playoffs by a handful of games or less and Strasburg had 10 starts in the minors before they promoted him.

Remember, their reason: He needs to work on his stretch delivery? Ha. Yeah. Sure.

Here's a clip from his San Diego State University days when he struck out 23 in a game.

Yup, 23.

Publish Post

Friday, May 7, 2010

Starlin gives Cubs jolt with 6-RBI debut

Barely 20 years old, Starlin Castro made his MLB debut to give the Cubs a much-needed jolt.

Consider the Cubbies fully zapped with defibrillators.

Castro, on his first major league swing, mashed a 3-run home run, then added a 3-run triple on his way to a 6-RBI debut.

Quick, go pick him up. Oh wait. He's not on Yahoo's waiver wire yet.

Yahoo (in the voice of Seinfeld's "Newman).

He will be soon, and if you're struggling at short, he's worth a flier. But be cautious. Moderate power and speed contributions are about all you can expect from Castro, who is a 5-tool guy, who is being rushed to the parent club because of a combination of offensive struggles and lack of energy/excitement.

Putting Big Z in the bullpen gave the team a charge but lasted only about a half hour. The Castro movement will hopefully last a lot longer. Take a look at the pedigree:

In 3 levels of minors, Castro hit .302 with a .349 on-base-percentage. Then in the fall league he hit a cool .376 over 101 at-bats. That's against some of the best young pitching prospects.

Castro did swipe 22 bags in 358 at-bats at Class A Daytona and hit six extra-base hits in 35 spring training at-bats this spring before posting 8 doubles, 5 triples and a HR (and 20 RBI) in 109 AA at-bats at West Tenn.

And, did I mention he was hitting a cool .376 before Friday's call?

He's been compared to a lighter-hitting ARod. And who gave Alex Rodriguez his call, as a 19-year-old with Seattle.

Sweet Lou Piniella.

Maybe he's onto something.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

On Jake, Joe, closers

If you hung onto Jake Peavy long enough to take interest in Monday night's gem, congrats. Both of you.

Peavy whirled 99 mostly-masterful pitches Monday, 66 of them strikes, and finished with a line of 9 Ks, 1 BB, 4 hits, 0 ER and most importantly, the win.

"Just have the season start from May on," Peavy said.

Of course, that doesn't quite work in Fantasyland. You were on the hook for that horrendous April. But Monday showed more than signs of life, even if it came at the expense of the Kansas City Royals, who has possibly the lightest hitting bottom third of any AL team in recent memory.

"We ran into the wrong Peavy," Royals manager Trey Hillman said.

So what changed? Those at the game said Peavy just looked different. He wasn't trying to coil his delivery, as if he was trying to throw every pitch through a brick wall.

Peavy tweaked his delivery after injuring his ankle last year and has been trying to get back to his pre-tweak delivery this spring, using more of his legs.

If you're an owner, be encouraged, but don't consider Peavy fixed unless he does this sort of thing 2-3 more times.

Joe Mauer: The report from Twins Nation (if there is such a thing) is Mauer's heel is improving, but still sore. An MRI proved no structural damage. If you're in a league without a bench, this situation is possibly the definition of worst-case scenario. Day-to-day is what they're calling it, but three factors lead to Mauer missing at least another week in my opinion.

1). The Franchise: He's their money player and they don't want to rush him back and have him deal with the injury all year.

2). Wilson Ramos: Backup catcher pounded 7 hits in his first two games, reason enough not to rush Mauer back.

3). The Orioles: It's a small thing but having struggling Baltimore on the schedule makes it even less imperative to expedite Mauer's rehab.

Be patient, Mauer owners, as hard as it may be. Remember last year, when Mauer missed all of April then hit 28 HR? Just because he's missing time, doesn't mean he won't produce in the end. We haven't seen the power this year yet, but we want a near-100 percent Mauer out there, even if it cost us a couple weeks. Exhale....

Closer report: Lots of closing situations that are fluid right now. Here's a quick update.

Texas: As close to a 2-headed monster as there is, but Neftali Feliz still has the upper hand. Feliz closed 2 of 3 vs. Seattle over the weekend, then came on Monday night and closed out Oakland for his first back-to-back saves. More importantly, Frank Francisco gave up two runs in 1/3 of an inning in the 8th.

Pittsburgh: Evan Meek picked up a save over the weekend, but only because Octavio Dotel was unavailable. Dotel closed off the Cubs on Tuesday after missing a few days to be at the birth of his child, so there's no real controversy. Meek, however, is the Pirates closer of the future and could be worth an add in NL-only leagues and pick up a handful of saves as they groom him for the job.

San Francisco: Guillermo Mota closed off Tuesday night's extra-inning affair in Miami, but only because Brian Wilson (groin) pitched a tied 9th inning.

Milwaukee: Trevor Hoffman grabbed the save Sunday after one of his worst months of all time. Look for Hoffman to keep his job, but NL-only teams could add LaTroy Hawkins if you're looking for a speculative pick. Sure, Hawkins hasn't been great and middle reliever Carlos Villanueva has been lights out. But Hawkins did well in the role with the Astros last year and has nailed down 87 saves over his career while Villanueva has just five.

Philadelphia: Brad Lidge is back and the Phillies are easing him back into the roll. With Ryan Madsen on the shelf, look for Jose Contreras to get a save chance or two, while Lidge gets up to speed. If Lidge falters, then reshuffle the deck. Contreras got the win last night, pitching the 10th after Lidge pitched a fairly clean 8th.