Archive for June, 2009

Tuesday: 06.9.2009

Matchups Set for the 2009 East Coast Extravaganza

Tomorrow I leave for my summer vacation to the East Coast where I will watch five games in five days in four different stadiums. I haven’t been this excited for a trip since my first time to Vegas, and my second time to Vegas… and my third time to Vegas. Anyway, here are the probable starters for the games I’ll be enjoying:

DAY 1
Philadelphia Phillies (Cole Hamels) @ New York Mets (Mike Pelfrey), Citi Field – Originally, we were going to go to Citi Field on Thursday and start off with the Nationals-Reds in D.C. My friend called me and said it’d work better logistically to hit NY on night 1 and then head down the coast and do the D.C.-Baltimore combo on Thursday-Friday staying overnight on Thursday. This logistical change ended up being remarkably beneficial for us in terms of our matchups. Instead of Jamie Moyer/Tim Redding, we one of game’s elite in Hamels and the youngster Pelfrey. Of course that could’ve stayed as Redding and I wouldn’t care as Hamels is obvious treat here. Imagine if Johan Santana hadn’t gone tonight and was scheduled to face Hamels!? Man, that would’ve been something. Ah well, I’ll settle for Hamels vs. the Mets. Of course the downside to our logistical change is that I could’ve worn my Stephen Strasburg Nationals t-shirt jersey the NIGHT AFTER he was drafted to the park! I know I’ve talked about this article of clothing ad nauseum, but I really like it! 🙂

DAY 2
Cincinnati Reds (Micah Owings) @ Washington Nationals (Shairon Martis), Nationals Park
OK, so I’ll just have to wear it TWO nights after the Nationals drafted Strasburg. Of course, it could be the only time a Strasburg Nationals jersey is seen in Nationals Park if superdouche Scott Boras meddles too much and keeps a deal from being completed. This matchup certainly isn’t turning any heads with Owings toting a 4.90 ERA and Martis up at 5.31. That said, it’ll probably end up as the pitcher’s duel in the quintet. My biggest regret for this game is that I won’t get to see Joey Votto, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite players in the game. I just hope he uses his time off to get his mind right and come back as good as ever. He’s an incredible talent and too often we pretend like these non-physical injuries aren’t important or somehow not serious which couldn’t be further from the truth. When you look how mental blocks impacted the careers of guys like Chuck Knoblauch and Steve Blass, two of the more famous ones, it’s easy to see how impactful these injuries can be to a player’s career. I will still get to see a handful of guys I really enjoy watching play: Jay Bruce, Brandon Phillips, Elijah Dukes, Adam Dunn and Ryan Zimmerman. And I’m really excited about going to Nationals Park… that’s not a phrase you see very often.

DAY 3
Atlanta Braves (Tommy Hanson) @ Baltimore Orioles (Jason Berken), Camden Yards
This is great. With the new schedule, it ends up that I will get to see arguably the top two prospects in all of baseball, but certainly two of the top five. Hanson will have his work cut out for him against that Oriole lineup. I don’t think many realize how stacked that lineup is throughout and that’s without the Chosen One, Matt Wieters, hitting much yet. The Braves have a pretty awful lineup, but hopefully Chipper Jones is in the lineup along with Brian McCann and Nate McLouth. If I see Jeff Francoeur signing autographs for the fans, I don’t know whether I’ll punch him in the neck or have him sign my chest. He continues to burn me in the fantasy baseball realm, but I keep coming back for me so I’ll probably have a Sharpie’d chest if I come in contact with him.

DAY 4
Boston Red Sox (Daisuke Matsuzaka) @ Philadelphia Phillies (Antonio Bastardo), Citizen’s Bank Park
This is the only one of the four parks that I have already been to and it’s also the only one we’ll be hitting twice. My best friend lives in Philly so it only makes sense. Neither of us are Philly fans yet we’ll see them in three of the five games. If I see Matsuzaka, I’m likely to have the Francoeur reaction. I picked Dice-BB as the AL Cy Young and he’s been a total flameout. The silver lining is that I was SO HIGH on him that all of my leaguemates tried to get him before I could so his poor performance hasn’t impacted me in the fantasy realm. Citizen’s Bank is beautiful and I’m excited to head back there. Since I’m wearing something for every home team, I’ll bust out my Hamels t-shirt jersey here instead of during his start. I don’t want New York fans shivving me in the neck for wearing away team garb, especially if it’s not for my actual favorite team. At least if I got shanked in the temple for wearing a Curtis Granderson jersey during interleague or in a World Series, I’d bleed to death much happier than if my blood just seeped into my Hamels shirt changing it from their current bright reds to the maroon tint of yesteryear.

DAY 5
Boston Red Sox (Josh Beckett) @ Philadelphia Phillies (J.A. Happ), Citizen’s Bank Park
Woohoo, another ace! Sure, Beckett is giant bag of douche with the personality of a table, but I’m not hanging out with him, I’m watching him pitch. Happ lacks any legitimate track record, but he’s been brilliant so far this season so this could be a real pitcher’s duel. I really hope I don’t dropkick one of the thousands of worthless “Sawx” fans during the first game on Saturday so that I’m actually around to see this one instead of in jail. Once the Red Sox won the World Series, they acquired 4.7 million vomit-inducing douchebag fans that took them from lovable losers to just as hate-able as the Yankees. There are still some tolerable Sox fans, in fact I know a few, but they are diamonds in the rough these days. Meanwhile, I hope I get to throw out the honorary First Battery at J.D. Drew when he comes out to right field. I really don’t have anything against Drew, I just want to fit in with the Philly fans so after I plant a AA into the side of Drew’s neck, I’m going to shove an old lady down the stairs and steal something from a kid.

I’ll have plenty of pictures and updates from the trip, so stay tuned!!

Monday: 06.8.2009

Roy Halladay: The Complete Picture

It wasn’t always bubblegum and lollipops for the American League’s best pitcher. Roy Halladay notched his major league-leading 10th win of the season on Sunday with a complete game shutout of the Kansas City Royals. The complete game was his third of the season and second of the week as he continues to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is the junior circuit’s best pitcher. In fact he is right on the heels of Johan Santana for baseball’s best overall. It was an up-&-down path to stardom for Halladay, though.

He came to the majors for a cup of coffee in 1998 getting just two starts totaling 14 innings. He made the club the following season as a 22 year old and went 8-7 in 149 innings with an incredibly lucky 3.92 ERA. He had essentially a 1.0 K:BB rate with 82 strikeouts against 79 walks and allowed better than a hit per inning for a 1.57 WHIP. You can understand why I declared his ERA so fortunate. Things came to a head the following season as he maintained his 1.0 K:BB ratio and was decimated to the tune of a 10.64 ERA and 2.20 WHIP in 68 innings of work. He stayed down for the rest of the year save three relief appearances in September.

Then he had to work his way up from High-A at the beginning of the 2001 season. Toronto’s 1999 #1 prospect according to Baseball America was essentially in remedial classes as a 24-year old working his way back to the bigs from High-A, where he was a reliever. He made seven starts between AA and AAA before coming back up in July. In his first appearance (a 1st inning bailout of Esteban Loaiza, who had given up 5 runs in just 1/3 of an inning), he was destroyed, allowing six runs in 2+ innings of work and it looked like all of his hard work was for naught. But the Blue Jays stuck with him. He had come a long way having displayed the best control of his career during the minor league stints of 2000 and 2001. And though just 71 innings of work, his strikeouts were way up, too.

The rest, as they say, is history. He started 16 times the rest of 2001 and put together a 5-3 record with a 2.71 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 8.3 K/9 and 1.9 BB/9 in 103 very strong innings. The next season he made the All-Star team and he followed that up with a Cy Young Award winning performance. His only hiccups in the run up to becoming one of baseball’s elite were a bum right shoulder in 2004 that limited him to 133 innings and a freak accident broken leg the year after that again held him under 150 innings (141.7). Since 2002, he has been the gold standard for complete games with his 40 (including Sunday’s) standing as a major league best in that timeframe (Livan Hernandez and CC Sabathia, 28).

Outside of just being fascinating on its own accord, I wanted to write about Halladay on the heels on my piece of patience that I wrote yesterday. I’m not suggesting you should’ve held over Halladay yearly since 1999 if you owned him, but rather that you can’t just write off young players at the first sign of distress. Halladay was a highly thought of prospect, but it took 336 innings spanning parts of four years for him to really break through. Today’s fantasy owner would’ve discarded him after the 2000 meltdown and then been baffled by his emergence two years later. In fact, it’s unfair to limit it to just fantasy owners. The baseball watching public and media would’ve behaved similarly on both fronts. This is speaking generally of course, as there are pockets of people and certain outlets that don’t hastily judge prospects on minuscule samples.

Brandon Phillips is another example. He was a highly touted prospect for several years ranking 9th, 2nd, 1st and 1st in his organization from 2000-2003. He was in the top 20 for all baseball in 2002 (20th) and 2003 (7th). After a 31 AB stint in 2002, he came up for over 100 games in 2003, but struggled mightily in 370 at-bats. In fact, he put up a .206/.246/.310 line in his first 432 at-bats spanning parts of four seasons, but 86% of those at-bats came in one season as a 22 year old. Alas, the Indians gave up on him and let him go in a trade at the beginning of the 2006 season. He finally got a full season’s worth of work at the age of 25 and performed quite well with 17 HR, 25 SB and a .276/.324/.427 line. He got even better in his age 26 season, going 30-30 and garnering a shred of MVP consideration. He had paid dividends on the prospects from the early 2000s and it’s not like he was a late bloomer at 25, just that the Indians were wildly impatient.

The latest iteration could be happening before our eyes in the form of Edwin Jackson. Drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers at age 17 back in 2001, it feels like Jackson has been around forever. The Dodgers afforded him a whopping 75 innings in the big leagues before discarding him at the age of 22 to the Rays for Danyz Baez and Lance Carter. The Rays gave him a sample even larger than Halladay’s 336 innings as they saw him through 381 innings spanning three seasons with varying degrees of success. The only thing is, they didn’t stick around for the payoff. Instead they dealt him to Detroit for Matt Joyce. Jackson is enjoying a career year at age 25 (just like Halladay) thanks in large part to massively improved control (just like Halladay). In fact, Jackson has improved his walk rate four straight seasons going from 6.2 BB/9 in 2006 to 2.1 BB/9 through 83 innings in 2009. I’m not saying Jackson is going to be the next Roy Halladay based on 83 excellent innings of work, but there are some nice similarities.

In fact, when I started this piece, it was for the sole purpose of showing Halladay’s path and how it had bumps in the road to stardom. As many of you may know, I’m a diehard Detroit Tigers fan so I don’t want this coming off as a spin job to say my favorite team’s new shiny toy is headed towards the top 3 starting pitchers in all of baseball in the coming years. Jackson is just one of many examples that shows that major league teams are sometimes hasty in their judgment of youngsters and expect too much of kids that haven’t fully matured. That effect trickles down to the fantasy baseball community and creates these seasons deemed as “out of nowhere” that shock everyone even if the player was highly thought of coming up through the minors and is still very young. They are actually just breakouts due to the maturation of mid-20s players. Not everyone will come up and be Ryan Braun, Tim Lincecum or Evan Longoria.

Ervin Santana went through this last year. His breakout was seen as a “rising from the dead” because he had been solid if unspectacular in his first two seasons and then hit a major road bump in season three with a 5.76 ERA in 2007. That season included a trip back to AAA to try and “fix” him. The thing is, his skills hadn’t just fallen off of a cliff that year. He was actually striking out more than ever (7.6 K/9) leading to his career-best K:BB ratio of 2.2. The walks were up a tick at 3.5 BB/9, but he wasn’t nearly as broken as was perceived. Then last year, his control improved dramatically and he had a breakout season at age 25. So far this year he has stumbled out of the gate after starting the season on the disabled list. Two flameout starts have inflated his numbers, but he took a huge step forward on Friday with 8 and 2/3rds of 1-run ball against the Detroit Tigers. It was the first start I had seen of his all year and he looked so 2008 as he brought the boom, boom pow on the Tigers. (I really won’t blame if you stop reading and never come here again after that…)

Who will be the next player written off at far too young an age only to meet or exceed his prospect promise?

Sunday: 06.7.2009

Patience is a Virtue

We’ve all heard that adage a million times in our lives, but fantasy baseball players would be well served to take it to heart. I grant that it is easier said than done, but that doesn’t make it any less important or given anyone an excuse for not adhering to the notion. In this day and age where you can get up to the second standings, it’s easy to see hpow fantasy owners could be prone to impatience. They add a player to their roster and watch him go 0-for-4 for three straight days and they think he’s a bum.

When I first got introduced to this game, it was a league with my parents and my dad’s co-workers. The league was 10 teams, AL-Only and they updated the statistics weekly via the USA Today stats dump every Tuesday. The anticipation for the standings each week accompanied by an expansive team-by-team statistical readout was intense. I couldn’t WAIT for my dad to get home from work. And heaven forbid their actual jobs get in the way and prevent the update until Wednesday. This was before I even got a team, once I actually joined the league, I was off the walls eager on summer Tuesday afternoons. I would ride my bike to the convenience store and grab the USA Today and begin to compile my team’s stats and then try to guess how I was doing in the standings (a futile exercise to be sure).

Anyway, transactions were weekly within your team and bi-weekly free agent buys were the means for replacing players outside of trades. So you were looking at giving players at least 7-14 days to perform and you generally wouldn’t make a hasty decision based on one scoring period so fantasy owners were by and large much more patient pre-Internet age, mostly because they had to be unless they had some insane commissioner interested in updating the numbers daily, but I’m sure it prevented a lot of the horror stories we hear yearly about people releasing players in April or May who end up having brilliant seasons. If you’ve read this site in 2009 or any of my work for Owner’s Edge at fanball.com, you’ve seen me talk about the impatience of fantasy owners on many levels: discarding top prospects when they don’t perform instantly, giving up on starters with good skills after a bad start or two and judging hitters on tiny at-bat samples.

This doesn’t mean you have to sit on the team you drafted until a certain date in the season and let a sinking ship sink. But make sure your decisions come from the right place. Knee-jerk reactions to an established player struggling will never serve you well. Dumping a hot prospect you drafted three years ago because his first go at the league as failed to launch is dumb. And trying to fix your pitching by streaming 15 pitchers in and out every single day is unlikely to payoff and lower that Wang’d ERA. Staying the course with your core and preying on the owners that do the above is the way you should go about fixing a rough start or even enhancing a well-performing squad. In the aforementioned AL-Only league (that is in the midst of its 20th season by the way), I am the reigning champion and I desperately want to defend my title. We also had two new owners come in this year and they happen to be two very good friends of mine so I don’t to want fizzle out in front of them either.

Alas, that’s precisely what I did out of the gate. By week 3, I was 9.5 and 22.5 points behind my two friends and buried in last. I had 6.5 points in front of me just to make a move out of the cellar. I didn’t panic. Even though Scott Baker and Andy Sonnanstine LOVED to ruin every nice outing by Dallas Braden and Felix Hernandez making it feel impossible to fix my 5.49 ERA. Keep in mind, we use just six pitching slots: 4 SP/2 RP and I was using 5/1 mix because Braden had relieved in 2008 and I only had one closer (Joakim Soria). I stayed patient and didn’t make panic moves. And like I mentioned earlier, I wanted to take advantage of people that would fall victim to impatience.

At the beginning of week 7 (May 18th) I made my first trade of the season dealing away of hot hitting Shin-Soo Choo for a struggling Kevin Slowey. He had an ugly 4.50 ERA, but he had a 35 to 4 K/BB ratio so he still had the impeccable control he displayed in 2008. I was very confident in a rebound for Slowey. Mind you, I didn’t necessarily prey on this other owner by giving him Choo for Slowey. Choo is no slouch and has hit .319 with 3 HR, 10 RBI and 3 SB since the trade. Meanwhile, Slowey is 3-0 with a 2.70 ERA and 1.15 WHIP for me in 20 innings. He has struck out 14, too, but this is a 4×4 league.

I wanted to use the free agent buys as another means to plug holes and see if I could on a roll. I really liked my team coming out of the draft and I wasn’t willing to blow it up because of a horrible April/early May. We have a five-man reserve roster that is integral to the strategy of using the bi-weekly buys to my advantage. I could put some of my early flameouts on the bench and try some other hands. I technically had a four-man reserve because I had The Chosen One taking a spot until his recent call up to the Orioles. That is of course Matt Wieters.

When Soria got hurt, I decided to go with a 6-man rotation after acquiring more starter/reliever combos in the form of Scott Feldman and Josh Outman. I hate Texas pitchers so I was mighty skeptical of Feldman, but I love Oakland pitchers so I was pleased to see Outman throwing well. I still had a few of their outings ruined by Sonnanstine, but I was definitely trending the right way. From week 6 to 7, I moved the ERA from 4.98 to 4.60 and moved up 2 spots to 8th in the category. The WHIP was moving rapidly in tandem. I added Carl Pavano to the mix in favor of Sonnanstine and eventually woke up to one of the best sights a CBS owner can see:

hot SPs

Those little orange squares are better than porn in the middle of summer as fantasy baseball owner. From week 3 to 9, I gained 12.5 points and moved from 10th to 5th. A lot of the winning formula was patience as my first move didn’t even come until mid-May which is the time I usually suggest you wait until before moving major pieces from your draft. My ERA is now at 4.34, the WHIP is 1.33 and I lead the league with 23 wins. Soria is now back, which is great since I’m dead-last in saves. To accommodate, I traded Feldman and Aaron Hill for Joe Nathan and Placido Polanco.

Back to the original point, this isn’t the first time that patience has helped me get through a tough early season. And I only learned that patience was the key by making mistakes in the past. Outside of a team decimated by injuries, I can’t imagine any reason for giving up on a season even at this point. I could have easily quit on my team early on when the staff was failing as described above Mark Teixeira, Jose Lopez, Jhonny Peralta and B.J. Upton couldn’t hit their way out of wet paper bags.

The “everything now”, Internet society we live in has made it harder for fantasy baseball owners. Well wait, it hasn’t actually made it hard, but it is perceived to be harder. When the team you brought into the season doesn’t lead the league instantly and stay on fire all year, the natural inclination for most is to throw up their hands and say, “this year is sunk!”, but in actuality very few of those teams should be abandoned as early as they are because the deficit isn’t nearly as large as the owner erroneously perceives.

If you’re the guy with all of the “I traded/cut Player X in early May and he ended with a great season” stories, then you’re not practicing enough patience. And those “Buy-Low Candidate” lists published by the 100s every season? Those are guides of how to take advantage of you. Wise up and trust you initial draft day and give a guy a legitimate chance to sink or swim with your team.

Thursday: 06.4.2009

Trade Targets – Pitching

This was the final part of what ended up being a 3-part series that appeared on Owner’s Edge at fanball.com –

Infield
Outfield
Pitching

Finishing up my series of trade targets leaves me with just the mound men to cover. As a refresher or for anyone that didn’t read either of the first two installments that covered the infield and outfield: this isn’t just a group of buy low targets; there are some buy at-cost and even some buy high, too. This group just brings value in some form or fashion to your team, so let’s get to them.

Scott Baker, Minnesota Twins – Since about late April, I have been furiously beating the drum to buy low on Baker and his teammate Kevin Slowey. The window has closed on Slowey, as he is 4-0 with a 2.40 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in five starts since May 12th. His season ERA is now below 4.00 at 3.97. But Baker hasn’t quite gotten on track like Mr. Slowey. He appeared to be turning the corner with a May 8th outing that included seven shutout innings but followed that up with nine earned runs allowed in his next two starts spanning 11 innings of work. Then he threw 8.1 strong against Milwaukee, but followed it up by allowing four in 5.2. That has been his “thing” thus far for 2009. Four runs in 5.2 equates to a 6.32 ERA, which is his season ERA. But alas, he finds himself on this list. I’m a sucker for anyone with ridiculous control. Baker walked six in 38 innings during May; Daniel Cabrera walks six during the National Anthem. Baker is also striking out 6.7 batters per nine, which is a very reasonable rate. His numbers are in line, but he is being punished by a ridiculous home run rate that WILL come down. He’s at 2.4 HR/9 so far this season, but his career number through 2008 is 1.1 HR/9.

A.J. Burnett, New York Yankees – The haters and naysayers are out in full force screaming, “I TOLD YOU SO!!!” regarding the Burnett signing. But the Yankees may (and probably will) have the last laugh. Burnett hates the first half of the season for some reason. From 2006-2008, Burnett has a 4.64 ERA before the All-Star Break, yet a 3.28 after. He is coming off of back-to-back nice starts and three strong out of his last four, so his cost probably isn’t as low as it was after his May 22nd start when his ERA reached a sky-high 5.28, but his overall numbers are still unappealing at 4.69 for the ERA and 1.39 for the WHIP. In leagues counting strikeouts, he has at least been delivering some value during his struggles. If you get him now, you’re looking at 130 strikeouts and an ERA around 3.20 with a chance at a boatload of wins in 140 or so innings. One key factor is health, as he has never had back-to-back 200-inning seasons, but health aside, I think he will improve his numbers without question.

John Danks, Chicago White Sox – It would appear as though Danks’ 2008 bubble has burst when you look at his 4.80 ERA/1.47 WHIP combo, but the skills are in line for a strong rebound. His strikeouts are up (8.3), as are the groundballs (0.99 G/F ratio), both of which are great indicators. The walks are up too much at 3.6, but that is inflated by two terrible outings in which he yielded six and four runs, respectively, in separate six-inning outings. Though I’m not a huge fan of this practice, if you take those out, his BB/9 is back at the 2.6 it was at last year. With the outings, it’s at 3.6. Simply put, everything points to a journey back into the 2008 realm for Danks, and soon. Acquire confidently.

Jorge De la Rosa, Colorado Rockies – de la Rosa was one of “my guys” coming into the season. Ya know, the guys that you love that aren’t getting much pub so you can usually get them cheaply; in other words – a sleeper, but a legitimate one unlike a Nelson Cruz that touched every radar out there by the time draft season hit. Through his May 15th start, I was looking like a genius. I hadn’t counted my chickens before they hatched given how early into the season we were, but I was enjoying his success on several of my fantasy teams. Then the wheels came off. De la Rosa has been thrashed in his three starts since May 15th, allowing 18 runs in 12 innings while walking 10 and allowing 18 base hits. He has struck out 12, but even that can’t cover the damage he has done in a short time. His season ERA is now up to 5.43 and the WHIP is at 1.43. He is still striking out better than a batter per inning at 9.5 K/9, which keeps him above the 2.0 threshold aimed for in K:BB ratio despite a 4.3 BB/9 rate. I would probably hold off in mixed leagues without reserve lists, but he is probably dirt cheap in NL-only leagues and makes for a nice addition to the strikeout totals even while he works out the kinks elsewhere in the arsenal.

Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox – This is one of the more higher profile buy low candidates due to name, past success and the team he plays for, but he is still coming at a discount thanks to a 5.65 ERA and 1.55 WHIP. His peripherals suggest neither of those numbers should be anywhere near that high. He is striking out batters at an amazing 10.2 per nine clip while walking just 3.3, good for a 3.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Home runs have eaten him alive so far, as he is just three away from his 2008 total. His HR/9 (1.5) rate is 2.5x his 2008 mark of 0.6. A correction in that figure combined with these peripherals would yield a sharp drop in his ugly ERA and WHIP totals. Take him at any discount you can get right now, because he is not long for this level of ineptitude. In fact, he has two strong outings sandwiching a dud over his past three, so the wheels of the turnaround may already be in motion. He does have a worthy opponent Saturday in his next start when the Texas Rangers head to Fenway.

Roy Oswalt, Houston Astros – They say that history has a way of repeating itself and Oswalt’s beginning to 2009 when compared to 2008 seems to play that adage out. Oswalt posted a 4.68 ERA and 1.38 WHIP during the first half last year spanning 115 innings. He has been similarly shaky again in 2009 with a 4.28 ERA and 1.34 WHIP through 69-plus innings of work. Yet his indicators are very strong and almost identical to 2008’s first half indicators. He is striking out 7.2 batters per nine (7.3 in ’08) and walking 2.5 (2.1 in ’08). Like several others covered already, the home run ball has been the bane of existence so far in 2009 and it was in 2008, too. Only once had Oswalt posted a HR/9 rate at or above 1.0 and that was an injury-shortened season in 2003 in which he pitched just 127 innings. He posted a 1.4 HR/9 rate in the first half but cut it back down 0.5 during his incredible second half run. With his skills in order, that once again appears to be the sticking point to success for Oswalt and once he gets that in order he will return to the elite class of bankable starting pitchers. His value may never be lower, so now is the time to buy, especially since his price probably jumped a tick after his latest outing in which he threw seven innings of one-run ball with eight strikeouts.

Carl Pavano, Cleveland Indians – How hard is it to erase a one-inning, nine-run shellacking? Pavano threw 45 innings of 3.60 ERA work in the month of May and his ERA is still sitting at 5.29. That opening week abomination is likely still overshadowing the progress Pavano has made into a viable fantasy starter. He has a sparkling 3.9 K:BB ratio thanks to a career-high 7.1 K/9 rate. His ability to hold those strikeout gains will determine how far he goes in 2009 since the control has never been in question. He is in a no-pressure situation in Cleveland and it almost seems as if he relishes sticking it to the Yankees with every passing successful start. He gave up more than three runs just once in May and has walked more than two only once since the ugly debut. Pavano might still be on the wire in many leagues, which, of course, would obviously eliminate the need to trade for him, but it shouldn’t be hard to spin a discount from any owner looking at his gaudy ERA and factoring his injury history and lack of a legitimate track record outside of that magical 2003. Of course, that means there is also an inherent risk involved for you if you acquire him, but his skills support an ERA comeback.

CC Sabathia, New York Yankees
– Most of the names included on this list have qualified as buy-low candidates in some form or fashion, which wasn’t always the case on the two hitter lists. Those lists had guys performing well that I still recommended chasing down and CC is probably the first to fit that bill for the pitchers. That said, there is still a legitimate upside in that strikeout rate that you’re buying low on. He is at 6.5 K/9 right now, a figure he hasn’t touched since 2004. The best has yet to come for him in 2009 despite his 3.46 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. He is a top dollar ace that will command a premier hitter or a package of 2-3 quality talents, but he can begin to repair a broken down pitching staff. If he gets on the kind of run he had with Milwaukee last year, he can single-handedly lead you up your league’s standings.

Also Look Into:


— Aaron Harang, Cincinnati Reds
– He appears to be all the way back from 2008’s washout, yet the ERA isn’t as pretty as it should be with a 4.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. I’d pay full price, but you might be able to get a bargain thanks to a 4.19 ERA.

— Rich Harden, Chicago Cubs – Unsurprisingly on the DL right now, Harden has a surprisingly mammoth (for him) ERA of 4.74. Yes, he has walked 4.4 per nine, but that’s tolerable when you’re striking out 11 per nine innings. He’s ALWAYS going to be an injury risk, but the reward can be huge as fantasy owners learned last year in his 25 brilliant starts.

— Koji Uehara, Baltimore Orioles – Slated to be back in a week, Uehara has displayed pinpoint control (1.9 BB/9) and solid ability to miss bats (6.7 K/9). Though much lesser heralded than Kenshin Kawakami in terms of imports, he has definitely outshone him to date.

— Jordan Zimmermann, Washington Nationals – He won’t be too discounted in keeper leagues despite a 6.07 ERA, but he’s worth targeting either way. He just can’t keep an ERA that high while striking out more than a batter per inning (9.2 K/9) and walking fewer than 3.0 batters per nine (2.7 BB/9).

Wednesday: 06.3.2009

Trade Targets – Offense

This appeared as a two-part piece on Owner’s Edge at fanball.com –

Infield
Outfield

CATCHER

Bengie Molina, San Francisco Giants – Molina started the 2009 season on fire with a .329 average, four home runs and 18 RBI, but he has since fallen on hard times with a .194 average in May with another four home runs and still three days left in the month. Molina has been a viable hitter at the catcher position since 2003, averaging 16 home runs, 71 RBI and a .284 batting average. In virtually all six of those seasons, he has had at least one flameout month. Last year he had an awful July. Two years ago, it was also July. He just so happened to have his bad month early on this year, but that creates a potential buying opportunity with his average down to .253. Now with the eight home runs and 30 RBI, which pace out to 29 and 107, respectively, he won’t be free, but it is definitely worth looking into his cost from your league’s Molina owner. Just don’t accidentally email the owner that has Jose Molina.

Also look into: Joe Mauer – I realize he’s the world’s hottest hitter right now, but he’s not a fluke. I know he won’t continue to hit .425, but he can hit .350 as he did in 2006 and that alone is worth investing in even if you don’t think the power is legit. Assuming he gets about 360 more at-bats, hitting .350 for the season would leave him hitting .333 the rest of the year. Hitting .324 for the year, so a 100-point drop from where he is, would still leave him as a .300 hitter from here on out. If the price isn’t obscene, get him.

FIRST BASE

Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies – With his batting average at .263, there is little risk at him hurting you there. He’s likely to stay steady there and in a dream scenario, he could improve. Regardless, you’re getting Howard for the power. His 12 home runs is a fine number, but at a pace of 43, it’s well off of his three-year average of 51. That number is inflated by the 58 from his MVP season, but he has averaged 48 the last two years, so any way you slice it he is a bit off of his usual home run pace. There are 32-35 home runs coming from Howard over the remainder of the season and there are few players offering that kind of production two months into the season. Howard is the Carl Crawford or Jacoby Ellsbury of home runs. Generally one guy can’t carry you through the home run leaderboard, but Howard is capable of it.

Also look into: Lance Berkman – His run production paces are strong at 37 home runs and 104 RBI, but the .229 batting average should offer a discount.

SECOND BASE

Placido Polanco, Detroit Tigers – He has been a batting average machine throughout his career, but especially so in Detroit. He came over from Philadelphia in the middle of 2005 and hit .338 in 86 games. From there he hit .295, .341 and .307 in his three full seasons with the Tigers. He is currently at just .269, but he’s been 22 points better from April to May and he improved his average 10 points in the three-game set with Kansas City. He reminds me of Freddy Sanchez last year. It just didn’t make sense for Sanchez to be struggling so much, so I targeted him in the 2nd half and he went on to .346 after the All-Star break.

Also look into: Jose Lopez – He’s like a penny stock at this point. He can’t get much worse, so if you have a reserve roster, you might as well scoop him up for a song and stash until to see if he gets right over the next 5-7 weeks. I recommend him primarily for AL-only leagues and mixed leagues with more than 12 teams.

SHORTSTOP

Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox – The 4-for-7 showing in Chicago’s thrashing of the Angels on Monday might’ve caught his owner’s attention and given him hope of a turnaround, but he is still definitely not going for full price. Remember folks, he did this last year, as he was hitting .244 through May. From June on he hit .303 with 19 home runs and 70 RBI. He hit .355, .341 and .308 during the summer months before again falling on hard times in September with a .211 average, but he still hit six home runs and stole three bases that month. He is a streaky player. We have seen this type of player before and we will see it again, yet for some reason the fantasy baseball community still falls for it and counts the player out when they are down and then puts them in the Hall of Fame when they’re at their peak. These guys are nauseating in head-to-head leagues, but roto owners just need to display patience and they will be rewarded. Take advantage of the fact that so many fantasy owners can’t practice that
patience.

Also look into: Troy Tulowitzki – He is also very streaky and it is hard to believe he could suck this bad all year long. The only way to go is up for him.

THIRD BASE

David Wright, New York Mets – There is so little star power at the hot corner that I considered just putting “The Stars” despite the fact that they are all performing remarkably well. Wright is hitting .345 with 11 stolen bases, so he is offering big value despite just three home runs and he won’t come cheaply, but given the dearth of bankable talent at third right now, it’s worth looking into his price tag. With Aramis Ramirez on the shelf and Alex Rodriguez fresh off of it, Wright is in slim company with Evan Longoria, Ryan Zimmerman, Michael Young and Chipper Jones standing as the stars of the position. Other contributors have stepped up, but it’s uncertain how they will hold up: Casey Blake (nine homers), Pedro Feliz (.307 average), Brandon Inge (12 homers) and Mark Reynolds (13 homers/10 steals). I’d prefer the star power at position where it is thin.

Also look into: Alex Gordon – He is still out until late June/early July and it’s always risky acquiring players that are on the disabled list, but his price could be rock bottom and he could deliver a nice boost in the second half of the season.

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OUTFIELD

Carlos Lee, Houston Astros – Lee is the model of consistency, an undervalued skill in the fantasy landscape. He is a bankable .300-30-100 line the only deviations being a .265 average in 2005 and 28 home runs last year, but that came in just 115 games, so he’d have easily smashed the 30-homer mark had he met his five-year average games played figure of 159. As it is, he has averaged 151 games over the past six seasons with a line of .295, 32 HR, 110 RBI, 90 runs and 12 steals. He’s just a tick off the power numbers at a pace of 29-99 and the speed is way down with just one stolen base, but his remarkably steady history suggests he will get back on track. There is no discount to be had, but if you’re looking to implant a star into your lineup, go for Lee.

B.J. Upton, Tampa Bay Rays – A cursory look at Upton suggests he has been awful this season with a .212 average, two home runs and a worthless nine RBI. It’s been awful, there is no denying that, but the speed has kept him fantasy-relevant. His 16 steals put him on pace for 54 this season and there is nothing to suggest he won’t continue to run. If he gets everything else back on track, the OBP will shoot up and increase his stolen base opportunities, giving him a legitimate shot to top 60 bags. He has also scored 32 runs putting him on pace to net 107. Runs are often overlooked and a 100+ pace for someone doing this horribly is pretty good. Like the stolen bases, imagine the potential for runs scored as he improves and begins to get on pace more often. The ugly .212-2-9 line leads to a discount on the appetizing 32 runs and 16 steals.

Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers – Like Lee, Braun isn’t struggling and definitely doesn’t qualify as a buy-low candidate, but his career to date would suggest that a huge four months is on the horizon. He has “just” nine home runs so far with months of five and four to start the season, respectively. It isn’t unreasonable to believe he has 24+ home runs in the bank, as seven of his 10 months prior to 2009 saw Braun hit six or more home runs. That baseline alone would be good 24, but within those 10 months are four with 9+ homers, meaning he could have as many as 30 on deck without it being a huge stretch. Like Lee, Braun also runs a good bit and he’s on pace for 10 right now after seasons of 15 and 14 in 2007 and 2008, respectively. Essentially, Braun shapes up as a younger Lee, meaning the ceiling could even be a tick or two higher. Buy!

Also Look Into:

Matt Holliday, Oakland A’s – The naysayers couldn’t WAIT to pump their chest about Holliday after a horrid April that saw him hit .240 with just one home run, but that shortsighted foolishness was obliterated in May as he put up a .291/.416/.456 line with five homers. He’s NOT going to put up Colorado numbers, but he’s not just going to become Endy Chavez, either. He might still carry a discount.

Magglio Ordonez, Detroit Tigers – Still in the throes of a power outage, Maggs hit .315 in May after a .241 April. He has averaged 24 homers per year for the past three seasons and there doesn’t appear to be any discernible injuries that would lead me to believe he won’t display 20-homer power this season. He should also end the season at or above .300, leaving some nice growth there, too. Play up the seven-homer, 66-RBI pace to depress his cost.

Andre Ethier, Los Angeles Dodgers – By now most realize the impact that Manny Ramirez has on Ethier and the proof is in the pudding, as Ethier dropped from a .976 OPS in April to .601 in May. You could probably parlay Ethier’s struggles into a discount and ride it out for the next month until Ramirez comes back in early July.