Around the Diamond

Tomorrow will mark the return of my podcast under a new format that will go “around the diamond” using the positions on a baseball field as the segments to break up the show. While I may cover a few things at some positions depending on how much news there is in a given night, I will do no less than one bit from 1st base, 2nd base, Shortstop, 3rd Base and Catcher; three bit from the Outfield and two-three from the mound generally two about starters and one about a reliever. I had hoped to kick off tonight, but I can barely keep my eyes open after a long day at work so I’m going to post the topics without the accompanying sound tonight:

FIRST BASE
With two more home runs tonight, any chance to buy low on Mark Teixeira has completely vanished. He is hitting .316 since May 4th raising his average 44 points to .239 and he’s hit seven home runs with 18 RBIs in the same span. His OPS is an eye-popping 1.158 thanks to a gaudy .754 SLG. I owned him in four leagues and turned down multiple offers at different points during his slump. Some of the offers were really good, but I just knew he would come out the funk so I passed and it has paid dividends.

SECOND BASE
Over at the Owner’s Edge for fanball.com, I wrote a two-part predictions piece where I made a series of “unconventional” predictions. Essentially, they were supposed to be daring but with some shred of statistical basis. Atop my list for hitters predictions was that Rickie Weeks would hit 20 HRs and nab 30 SBs. And while I’m way off pace as of today thanks to his diminished speed output, my main point for these predictions was to bring the spotlight on to some guys that other fantasy owners could target. So while I wouldn’t have considered the prediction a win, I definitely felt good about pointing out Weeks as a potential breakthrough candidate for 2009… that is until it was announced today that he would be out for the remainder of the season with a torn tendon sheath in his left wrist. He was on pace for .272-39 HR-105 RBI-123 R-9 SB. I’d have settled for 75% of that pace and completely forgiven him for the menial SB output.

As for the Brewers, who knows how they will move forward. Craig Counsell seems to risky as an everyday player having not topped 372 at-bats since 2005. Is Alcides the answer? No, not Escobar-their hot SS prospect. Hernan Alcides Iribarren has hit .314 in 2099 minor league at-bats, but just 14 major league at-bats to his name. No way he can fill the entire void, but quality glove work and a .275 average would be adequate.

SHORTSTOP
With a 3-for-3, 5 RBI performance tonight, Jason Bartlett continued his career year raising his average to .384. More impressive is the massive 1.010 OPS thanks to 16 extra-base hits. With 11 stolen bases, he is already halfway to his 2008 total of 20.

THIRD BASE
I was really impressed with the Adam Dunn signing in Washington this offseason. Not really because they needed an outfielder (of course, they didn’t), but because they had a bunch of quality hitters that fit several different spots in a lineup well except 4th. Absolutely no cleanup hitters in the group which led to the likes of Nick Johnson, Austin Kearns, Lastings Milledge and Dmitri Young manning the role for large segments of last year. I think the notion of protection is definitely overrated by many, but that doesn’t mean it’s completely non-existent. See Ortiz, David post-Manny and Ethier, Andre with Manny. Dunn protects Ryan Zimmerman and the results have been nothing short of amazing. Zimm is hitting .358 so far this season including a 30-game hit streak along with 10 HRs and 31 RBIs. He is on pace to smash his career highs and though his numbers will even out a bit, he is still headed for a banner season.

OUTFIELD
The hard times that have beset Dexter Fowler and the false start to Matt LaPorta‘s major league career will likely bring one of the fantasy baseball world’s biggest flaws: blanket judgments of a player off of small sample sizes. Both prospects rate #1 in their organization according to Baseball HQ’s Minor League Analyst, yet I guarantee you there are throngs of keeper leagues across the nation where their value has shrunk 10-fold since the beginning of the season because they aren’t pulling a Ryan Braun or Evan Longoria. Fowler less so than LaPorta because the 5-stolen base game is a nice landmark that is still fresh in the minds of many. But regardless, neither should have experienced the slightest drop in value thanks to 31 (LaPorta) and 112 (Fowler) at-bats. Keeper league players, test the waters on both and I guarantee the asking price isn’t what it was seven weeks ago.

Speaking of small sample sizes, Nick Swisher was hitting .312 with 7 HR through April 30th. He is now hitting .236 with 8 HRs. He is who we thought he was, well most of us at least. Had I owned him in any league, there is NO chance I’d still own him after that April. He basically had his hot month (June in ’08, May in ’07) in April this season. But he is still the solid power, no average, good OBP guy he’s been FOREVER!

Rick Ankiel could return to the lineup on Wednesday and the Cardinals will welcome him with open arms! In 26 games with him, they average 5.4 runs per game and only 3.7 in the 11 games without him. He has just a .721 OPS with 2 HR so I am not about imply that he was the catalyst driving their offense, but they lost Ryan Ludwick while Ankiel was out and so they need a power bat back in the middle of the lineup to complement Albert Pujols.

CATCHER
A derivation of the phenomenon I discussed earlier is when fantasy baseball players put too much stock into a sample that is counter to a player’s proven record and subsequently over or under value that player severely in the following season. Examples of each in 2009 would be Gavin Floyd and Victor Martinez. Martinez is showing what some, but too few believed to be true: last year was an injury-riddled bust, plain & simple. It was decidedly NOT the beginning of the end as some predicted. A good friend of mine joined my 10-team AL-Only 2-keeper league this offseason and I was having a hard time getting him on the phone to lock in his final keeper with Grady Sizemore. Knowing him rather well and trusting my own instincts, I considered Martinez the no-brainer option.

He objected a bit when he found out saying he might’ve wanted to keep Francisco Liriano or one of the other few worthy options he had on his team. Since it was still a long time until draft day, I offered to let him rollback and get Liriano knowing full well I’d LOVE to get Martinez for myself. He passed and said he’ll see how it goes with Martinez. Needless to say, he is pretty pleased with judgment. Martinez has 3.5x the HR output of 2008 and he is still hitting over .400 thus far. He has been one of the very few bright spots on the lowly Indians thus far. And though there is still PLENTY of time in the season, I’m confident that he is next in the long line of players that proves that you can’t overreact to one aberrational season for better or worse.

PITCHING
The Cardinals are also set to get Chris Carpenter back on Wednesday. At 3-7 in their last 10 and players dropping like flies, getting their ace back along with one of their better power hitters is great news for the Cards who managed not to fall too far behind in the Central despite their bad luck with injuries. Adam Wainwright has been flawed so far this season leaving the rotation without a dominant ace and Carpenter will fulfill that role if healthy.

Wins are a cruel whore. Jorge de la Rosa and Randy Wolf have a combined 2.91 ERA in 99 innings with 91 K and 35 BB yet they’re a combined 2-4 (both wins by Wolf). Bronson Arroyo and Jason Marquis, de la Rosa’s teammate, have a combined 5.16 ERA in 110 innings with 50 K and 37 BB yet they’re a combined 10-6 (5-3 each). Don’t chase wins, they’ll give you chlamydia.

I’ll let you all know when the podcast is back up & running!

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