Archive for April, 2011

Monday: 04.18.2011

Middle Reliever Update

Back in February I outlined the Middle Reliever Methodology and recommended the best pitchers for employing that strategy.  Though we are just two-plus weeks in, it appears as though the exercise has uncovered some really nice gems including Jordan Walden (now a full-time closer), Tim Collins (just dominating hitters) and Ernesto Frieri (latest in a long line of strong middle relievers in San Diego) among others.

While samples are admittedly small at this point in the season, we are still seeing names emerge who weren’t found on the original listing back in February.  Here are a handful for your consideration if you’ve soured on the likes of Kenley Jansen or Bobby Jenks.

Aaron Crow (KC) – Collins isn’t the only impressive rookie in that Royals bullpen as Crow has looked great in his 8.7 innings across six appearances.  He has 10 strikeouts and two walks and perhaps the bullpen suits him best going forward.  Of course as a guy who was starting just last year, he could pile up innings with several multi-inning appearances.  He already has five such occasions in his six games.

Guillermo Mota (SFG) – The 37-year old appears rejuvenated with a career-high 8.8 K/9 in 12.3 innings thus far.  The Giants aren’t afraid to use him either as two of his stints have gone three and four innings, respectively.  He’s shown a rubber arm tendency in his career, although it was seven and eight years ago when he totaled 105 and 97 innings entirely out of the bullpen.

Michael Dunn (FLO) – Ridiculously live arm (12.2 K/9 in 121 minor lg innings as reliever), but walks EVERYBODY (5.3 BB/9) and that has translated in the majors as well with 12.8 and 8.2 rates, respectively in 27 innings.  But his absurd strikeout potential is too hard to ignore and if he limits hits, then the walks won’t matter much in the overall picture when it comes to WHIP.

Al Alburquerque (DET) – He’s only pitched 2.7 innings, but he has struck out four and his stuff is positively electric.  I’ve seen both of his outings and I was thoroughly impressed (and that isn’t just a homer talking).  This kid has got the stuff to be a high strikeout asset in AL-Only leagues and he will cost nothing.

Matt Reynolds (COL) – He showed a glimpse of his capability in 18 innings last year and he has picked up right where that left off in 5.7 innings so far this year.  There is a bit of a ceiling on his potential as he is definitely a lefty specialist.  His 5.7 innings have come in eight appearances so Jim Tracy picks his spots with Reynolds.

Pedro Strop (TEX) – A hyper version of Dunn with seven strikeouts in his 3.7 innings (17.2 K/9), but also four walks (9.8 BB/9).  He’s very raw as he rarely knows where the ball is going to end up, but he’s definitely one to monitor.

Mitchell Boggs (STL) – He is a bit more high profile right now as Ryan Franklin has been awful this year leading to speculation about his successor.  There is no clear option so Boggs has thrown name into the ring with nine brilliant innings including 12 strikeouts and just two runs allowed.  Also a former starter, he is capable of logging plenty of innings having done his work in six appearances.

Kameron Loe (MIL) – The ERA is a tick high at 4.32, but that’s essentially blown up by one bad outing when he allowed three runs in a third of an inning on Sunday, April 17th.  More importantly, he looked strong out of the pen in 53 appearances last year and has gotten better early on in 2011.  He is also a good bet to fill in for John Axford if he should prove unable to hold the job this year.

Sunday: 04.17.2011

Trolling the Wire: Week 3 Monday-Friday

Spotty internet access as I awaited my setup to be transferred from my old apartment made for a spotty and abbreviated version of what I intend to become a weekly staple with the spot starter recommendations.  In a moment, I will unveil the list of week three recommendations as well as how the week two pickups performed, but first a bit more about the goal behind these recommendations.

The idea is that there is enough useful pitching on the waiver wire of a large swath of leagues (generally, 10-14 team mixers) that you can play the matchups with one or two spots in the backend of your rotation and get some very quality work out the spots instead of sticking it out with a run of the mill third or fourth starter.

Cory Schwartz and Mike Siano over’s Fantasy 411 popularized the phrase “pitch or ditch” for this strategy.  You will also hear it called streaming or spot starting.  I am not for a second pretending like I created this strategy, I am merely offering my solutions on the best way to maximize it.  Let’s see how last week’s picks worked out:

Not too bad on the whole as only one of the nine gave up more than three runs (Brandon Beachy) and he softened the blow by striking out eight.  Of course he had to make up for Jeff Francis’ lame one strikeout in six and a third innings of work.  If there is one thing that sticks out as less than desirable, it’s the two wins in nine starts, but you can’t chase wins and a lot of these are available because they aren’t on the high profile teams that would generally be more conducive to wins.

Who’s on tap for week 3?


Chris Tillman (BAL v. MIN) – He has had an uneven start to the season with a dominating six inning no-hit effort against Tampa Bay followed by two poundings at the hands of the Tigers and Yankees.  The best medicine is a shot against the league’s worst offense in the midst of getting used to being without their best player.  They weren’t very good with Joe Mauer and it would be quite a shock if they were without him.

Travis Wood (CIN v. PIT)Wood’s skills have remained intact from last year which is to say they are pretty good and facing the anemic Pirates should only accentuate them.  The fly in his ointment remains a severe flyball rate in a terrible park for such an affliction.  He was extremely lucky when it came to home runs last year (6.3 HR/FB) and he’s been even luckier this year (4.5%) so while I like him in this favorable matchup, I wouldn’t stick with him beyond that.


Jonathon Niese (NYM v. HOU) – A 3.0 strikeout-to-walk ratio powered by nearly eight strikeouts per game coupled with a 51% groundball rate is enough for me to remain optimistic in Niese despite a 6.88 ERA.  He is getting tagged by a 56% LOB% and 14% HR/FB rate so a date with the lowly Astros is welcomed by Niese and owners of his services.  Depending on who you cut for him, this may be someone to hang onto going forward.

Phil Coke (DET @ SEA) – Through two starts totaling 13.7 innings, Coke has allowed just two runs.  The six hits allowed are definitely a plus while the six walks are neither good nor bad.  In his debut start against Kansas City, he struck out seven, but followed that up with just two in seven innings against Oakland.  So we are left wondering what kind of strikeout capability he will offer as a starter.  The Mariners strikeout 2nd-most in the American League, but they are also tied for the most walks in baseball.  It’s a terrible lineup in a favorable park, so Coke should be a nice play here (and in his next start when he draws the Mariners at home).


Bud Norris (HOU @ NYM) – He worked out well last week so let’s hit the well again.  He has improved start to start and posted strikeout totals of 7-6-7 in the process.  This is a very talented young arm who could become a permanent asset for fantasy owners sooner than later.

Philip Humber (CHW @ TB) – Picking on the Rays again who Humber already thwarted back on April 9th allowing a run in six innings with four strikeouts en route to a win.  This is purely a hot streak/matchup play as I don’t like Humber much going forward.


Brandon McCarthy (OAK @ SEA) – To drive home the point about not chasing wins, the A’s will face Felix Hernandez during this start, but I still really like McCarthy.  Like Norris, he has improved start to start (all of which came against teams much better than Seattle) yet his ownership rate remains very low.  He could definitely become a long-term hold going forward so you might want to his secure his services sooner than later if you have the spot available.

Chris Capuano (NYM v. HOU) – He just can’t stay this unlucky, especially against a bad team like the Astros.  He’s getting groundballs and strikeouts while limiting walks, but his BABIP is nearly .400 (.385) and over 20% of his flyballs have left the yard leaving him with an ugly 61% LOB%.  Those numbers begin their correction with this start.


Fausto Carmona (CLE @ MIN) – Many of you may know that I’m not a fan of Carmona at all, but he’s done some impressive work in his last two starts (v. BAL, @LA) against better teams than the Twins including 11 strikeouts over 14.7 innings which is high for him.  He’s still inducing a crapton of groundballs, too.  He gets hot in stretches and after a horrific Opening Day starts (10 ER in 3 IP) he’s allowed four runs in 21.7 innings (the other start was against BOS), so ride the wave.

Jo-Jo Reyes (TOR v. TB)Even with a small sample size, his .438 BABIP is kind of unbelievable.  It has definitely fueled his 6.75 ERA, but I like that he’s still striking out nearly a batter per inning (12 in 13.3 IP) and maintaining a 1:1 groundball/flyball ratio.  I hate to keep picking on Tampa Bay, but until they get Evan Longoria back and/or sort out their lineup woes, it will continue to happen.

I will give out the Saturday and Sunday picks midweek as those are going to be the repeat starters and I’d like to see the first starts of those guys before making another decision on them.   Plus it guards against injury that may occur in those initial starts.

Friday: 04.15.2011

Trolling the Wire: The Weekend

Wrapping up the week on Spot Starters, here is who I like today and through the weekend:


Chris Narveson (MIL v. Washington)Narveson has been brilliant this year striking out more than a batter per inning and toting a 0.00 ERA through his first two starts.  He can’t really be any better, but I see no reason he can’t continue to excel matching legitimate skills with a favorable matchup in Washington.  With his first two starts, his ownership rate is definitely on the rise, but some leagues still aren’t hot to this hidden gem.

Kyle Lohse (STL v. Los Angeles) – Lohse is well on his way to recapturing the magic of 2008 when he went 15-6 with a 3.78 ERA in 200 innings having netted a 3.00 ERA over 15 innings in his first two starts amassing 10 strikeouts with just a single walk.  Even more importantly, he has a ridiculously strong 58% groundball rate which could be the driving force to a resurgent season.  Today he draws the lowly Dodgers who you may think are doing well enough because of Matt Kemp’s excellent start and their passable 6-7 record, but even with Kemp they have a paltry .679 team OPS.


Scott Baker (MIN v. Tampa Bay) – He has some interesting numbers in his stat line so far this year.  He has an uncharacteristically high 4.9 BB/9 (well away from his 2.1 career mark), an 82% LOB% which is about 10% above league average and generally helps a guy’s ERA, but not when you have a 3.3 HR/9 rate!!!  That is just absurd, even for Baker who struggles with the long ball.  Exactly 1/3rd of his flyballs are leaving the yard at this point.  I’m willing to bet all three of those numbers will come down and while the LOB% dropping isn’t necessarily helpful, the evening out of the other two will hack several runs off of his 6.55 ERA.  The best remedy for a rough start is drawing the Longoria-less Rays.

Jeff Niemann (TB v. Minnesota) – Like his opponent, Niemann has some odd figures through two starts with a similar 3.1 HR/9 rate matched with an ugly BABIP (.344) and LOB% (55%).  His strikeout-to-walk rate of 1.7 is less than impressive as his strikeout rate of 5.2 sits well below his 6.5 career mark.  An even better remedy than Niemann facing his own team is facing the now Mauer-less Twins.  They weren’t any good with him and without him they can’t possibly be better.  It’s odd to favor both guys in a matchup since at best you can only get one win, but I don’t chase wins.  Plus not everyone plays BOTH guys I recommend, so pick your favorite between (I’d lean Baker) the two and enjoy.


Jeff Francis (KC v. Seattle)With a groundball rate even better than Lohse’s (57%), Francis is off to a great start through three starts in his first tour of the American League.  He doesn’t offer overwhelming strikeout totals as his 5.7 K/9 is about what you should expect across a full season, but he could receive a boost facing the Mariners, who strikeout 3rd-most in the American League.

That’s it for Sunday.  I don’t want to recommend someone I don’t really believe in just to have 2 guys.

I should have the full week 3 spot starters out this weekend.

Friday: 04.15.2011

Cliff Lee’s Amazing Game

I don’t think even the most over-reactionary of fantasy owners had any major concerns about Cliff Lee after his second start where he managed just 3.3 innings allowing six runs on 10 hits and a walk in Atlanta.  Seeing that line for your ace is never fun, but every pitcher takes some beatings over the course of 32 starts.  Even Lee’s teammate Roy Halladay gave up six runs in two separate outings last year.

Just in case anyone was worried about Lee in the slightest, his performance on Thursday alleviated any and all fears a million fold.  He put together an effort so ridiculous that it has only been done 11 times (2 of which were no-no’s) in baseball history (or at least the history tracked by Baseball-Reference).  A complete game 3-hit effort with 12 strikeouts and a walk is excellent enough as is, but when you factor in that Lee performed the feat in just 99 pitches, it’s kind of mind-blowing.

Lee’s control has never been in doubt and it was hyperactive last night with 74 strikes out of the 99 pitches.  He just dismantled the Nationals, that’s all there is to it.  He induced four or more swinging strikes on four of his five offerings (two & four seam fastballs, cutter and curveball) with the curveball generating five swings and misses on just seven thrown!

He had three single digit pitch innings (2nd, 4th and 6th) and topped 12 just twice (3rd w/15 and 8th w/16).  It probably won’t get the fanfare it deserves because it’s not a perfect game or a no-hitter, but it’s a brilliant effort without question.  As I mentioned before, Lee’s sub-100 pitch complete game with 10+ strikeouts has happened just 10 other times and only one other matched his 12 strikeouts (Sandy Koufax, 1964).  Lee’s 74 strikes were 2nd to Terry Mullholland’s 76 which came in one fewer pitch during his 98-pitch gem back in 1991.

Here is the list in full thanks to’s Play Index (sorted newest to oldest):

Rk Player Date Tm Opp Rslt App,Dec IP H R ER BB SO HR Pit Strks GmSc
1 Cliff Lee 4/14/2011 PHI WSN W 4-0 SHO9 ,W 9 3 0 0 1 12 0 99 74 92
2 Chris Carpenter 9/7/2009 STL MIL W 3-0 SHO9 ,W 9 1 0 0 2 10 0 99 64 93
3 Chris Carpenter 6/14/2005 STL TOR W 7-0 SHO9 ,W 9 1 0 0 1 10 0 95 68 94
4 Roy Halladay 5/29/2005 TOR MIN W 4-0 SHO9 ,W 9 2 0 0 0 10 0 99 72 93
5 Roy Oswalt 4/16/2004 HOU MIL W 2-0 SHO9 ,W 9 3 0 0 0 10 0 94 66 91
6 Mike Mussina 5/1/2001 NYY MIN W 4-0 SHO9 ,W 9 3 0 0 0 10 0 99 69 91
7 Curt Schilling 4/10/2001 ARI LAD W 2-0 SHO9 ,W 9 2 0 0 0 10 0 93 73 93
8 David Cone 7/18/1999 NYY MON W 6-0 SHO9 ,W 9 0 0 0 0 10 0 88 68 97
9 Terry Mulholland 9/18/1991 PHI MON W 1-0 SHO9 ,W 9 2 0 0 0 10 0 98 76 93
10 Tim Belcher 8/30/1991 LAD CHC W 2-0 SHO9 ,W 9 4 0 0 0 10 0 99 70 89
11 Sandy Koufax 6/4/1964 LAD PHI W 3-0 SHO9 ,W 9 0 0 0 1 12 0 97 68 98
Thursday: 04.14.2011

Prospect Spotlight: Keyvius Sampson

We already know that anyone pitching in San Diego’s PETCO is instantly a bit better thanks to the spacious dimensions of the yard.  The Padres are grooming some legitimately talented arms that can pitch anywhere to the point that the Petco Push will make them nearly unbeatable.  Most recently it has been ace Mat Latos while Simon Castro and Casey Kelly are rocketing through the minor leagues, but one of the prospect we might soon see destroying hitters regardless of venue is Keyvius Sampson.

The diminutive (6’0) 20-year old is currently a second tier prospect in the Padres organization, but his talent has top 100 potential.  The 2009 4th round pick out of high school struggled with injuries in his first full season last year pitching just 43 innings in 10 starts.  However, he did impress in the limited sample with mid-90s velocity (sits 91-93, touches 95) that drove his gaudy 12.1 K/9.  The secondary stuff is behind the heater right now which is why he’s an org prospect right now as opposed to a top 100 guy, but it’s on the come.

He has good feel for both a curveball and changeup so while neither is terribly consistent just yet, at least both are in the arsenal as opposed to needing that third pitch which would leave him on the fence between starter and reliever.  Some reports have the changeup a bit ahead of the curve, but then others suggest the curve is a bit better.

So far in 2011, it would appear that the three pitches are firing on all cylinders as he has put together two truly excellent starts amassing 19 strikeouts in 11 shutout innings walking just one and allowing a mere two hits.  His first outing included six no hit innings with 10 Ks while Wednesday’s was nearly as impressive with five innings of 2-hit ball with nine Ks and the lone walk he’s allowed.  His next hurdle is proving health.

Elbow soreness got him shutdown last year and it likely stemmed from a tear in his right labrum, but so far he looks 100% healthy.  I think the Padres would just like to see him stay healthy and spend the season in A-Fort Wayne of the Midwest League as opposed to worrying about a promotion as the next step if the California League where pitchers routinely get destroyed regardless of talent.

If he can pitch a full season in A-ball and continue to excel, then he might be in line to skip High-A and go straight to AA-San Antonio for 2012.  The Padres did just that with Latos and Castro, allowing them to skip the pitcher’s hell that is the Cal League.

He is one to keep on the radar from a fantasy standpoint, but this white-hot start is definitely worth noting.

Thursday: 04.14.2011

Paul Off the Radio

Bumped to next Tuesday… I hope it’s for an interview with Mila Kunis or Barack Obama.  Otherwise, it’s totally unacceptable.

Thursday: 04.14.2011

Paul on the Radio

At 11:30ish AM central today NEXT TUESDAY, I will be talking baseball on 1560 The Game out of Houston.  You can listen online here.

In other news, I finally got my internet setup so I can start posting again.  I’m going to my fourth game of the Round Rock Express/Omaha Storm Chasers series tonight.  I got to see Mike Montgomery throw on Tuesday and tonight Danny Duffy goes for the Storm Chasers.  I’ve seen Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Clint Robinson and Johnny Giavotella, too.  I will have video and reports on all of them soon.

I’m really bummed because if I could’ve posted the entire Spot Starter piece this week, it would have been really helpful to anyone who followed.  Of course, it’s easy to say AFTER THE FACT that I had all the good guys, but you’ll have to trust that I’m not being a total douche just to sound smart.  I gave Jason Hammel and Jesse Litsch on Monday and they acquitted themselves well.  Anyway, enough crying about not getting to share Sam LeCure and Esmil Rogers with you.

Today, I like Bud Norris and Brandon Beachy.

Monday: 04.11.2011

Upcoming at the Site

Some of you who follow me on Twitter and/or are friends with me on Facebook know I have been moving this past weekend.  Unfortunately, I don’t yet have internet access and won’t until Wednesday.  That delayed a piece I wanted to post over the weekend looking at worthwhile spot starters to pick up for the week.  I will try to get Tuesday-Sunday up tonight, but just for the record, here were the Monday guys:


Jason Hammel (COL)Hammel and the Rockies head to Citi Field to take on the Mets.  If you have been coming to this site for any amount of time, you probably know I’m a fan of Hammel’s so a matchup against an OK team in a favorable pitcher’s park for a guy with good skills is one worth utilizing.  He was less than impressive in his season debut against the Dodgers, but managed to get the win.  He’s got sub-4.00 ERA skills and excelling in starts like this are a major part of what will get him there.

Jesse Litsch (TOR) – After a very impressive debut where Litsch displayed an uncharacteristic penchant for strikeouts (7 in 6.3 IP v. OAK), he gets a chance to keep it going with a trip to Seattle to face the Mariners.  A career 4.5 K/9 pitcher, you shouldn’t expect him to continue missing bats at the clip displayed in his first start, but if there was a team he could keep it up against, it would the uninspiring lineup of the M’s in SafeCo.  Even in the Ks don’t hold, the favorable park and weak lineup should make for a quality start (both literally and figuratively).

Apart from that, I am going to the Round Rock Express series against the Omaha Storm Chasers (Kansas City’s AAA affiliate) the next four days where I aim to get a bunch of video of their top prospects for that team including Mike Montgomery and Danny Duffy who throw Tuesday and Thursday, respectively, as far as I can tell mapping things out.  On the hitting side, I will get to see Eric Hosmer, Mike Moustakas, Clint Robinson, Johnny Giovatella and Lorenzo Cain.  Since I will have spotty at best internet access until Wednesday afternoon, I will probably post the scouting reports Thursday, Friday and throughout the weekend.

There’s a chance that I will be heading down to San Antonio on Saturday where the Kansas City AA affiliate, the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, will be playing the Missions.  That series runs Thursday-Saturday so Saturday would be the only game I can get to realistically.  Unfortunately, I would miss both John Lamb and Chris Dwyer based on the rotation schedule, but on the hitting side they have Wil Myers, Christian Colon, Salvador Perez and Derrick Robinson so it’s probably still worth the trip.

In addition to the Spot Starters, I’ll probably have some more profiles similar to the Trevor Cahill one from last week looking at the starts of some other pitchers.  With only a few games to go off of, it’s dangerous to read too far into anything so I will be mindful of that, too.

Friday: 04.8.2011

Trevor Cahill’s Early Strikeout Surge

Coming into the 2011 season, I had some reservations about Trevor Cahill.  Specifically I was worried that his excellent 2010, namely the 2.97 ERA, would inflate his value higher than I was willing to pay in light of the fact that his skill set didn’t necessarily portend such a gaudy ERA.  He was below the recommended 2.0 K/BB rate at 1.9 thanks to a below average 5.4 K/9 rate.

Instead of missing bats, he utilized his spacious home park (2.18 ERA in 103 home innings) and strong defense (56% groundball rate and .236 BABIP) en route to his surprise season.  Alas Cahill was once the 11th-best prospect in baseball according Baseball America (2009) after an impressive minor league career filled with strikeouts (9.9 K/9 in 247 innings).  I mentioned in my AL West Preview that though Cahill was my regression pitcher, don’t be surprised if he shows some growth and starts missing more bats commensurate with his minor league track record.

Through two starts we are seeing a lot of strikeouts from Cahill with mixed results.  In his first game, he struck out eight but lasted just 4.7 innings (because of pitch count) walking four and leaving with a no decision.  Then yesterday, he continued the strikeout parade fanning seven in eight very impressive innings in Toronto.  Is there a change in Cahill’s approach or are we just seeing two of his better strikeout games early in the year?

Remember that even last year he had a handful of strong strikeout games, including a back-to-back pair in June where he struck out seven St. Louis Cardinals and followed it up by fanning 10 Pittsburgh Pirates.  The importance of that is to suggest that we could just be seeing his best strikeout work at the front end of the season as opposed to the beginning of a trend.

Having watched both of his starts, one thing that has stuck out to me that says we might be seeing legitimate growth is the emergence of his curveball, especially yesterday in his duel with Ricky Romero.  Four of his seven strikeouts came on swings & misses of the curveball.  Only two of his eight in the season opener came on swinging curves, but across the two starts it has been a significantly improved pitch.

Coming into the big leagues, the curveball was supposed to be his strikeout pitch according to his scouting reports, but it didn’t play out that way during his first two seasons.  In 2009 he threw it just 102 times (3%), 28% of which were swung at and just 7% of those missed altogether.  Last year he threw the curve 414 times (14%) generating a swing 30% of the time, the lowest of any of his five offerings.  Batters missed 11% of the curve swings; improved results, but hardly in line with what was expected of him as he progressed through the minors.

Early on, it seems he is set on improving his success with the pitch and looking to use it a lot more.  In the first outing he threw it 23% of the time inducing swings 54% of the time, 13% of which were missed.  As I mentioned, only two of his strikeouts came with the curve, but the increased usage was noteworthy.  Yesterday, he took another step forward with it throwing it 31% of the time, 52% of which were swung at and 18% of those missed and another 18% fouled off.

Going back to that pair of strikeout-heavy games from 2010, we see that Cahill was not reliant upon the curveball to amass those 17 punch outs across two starts.  In the first against St. Louis, just two of the seven came on swinging curves.  The same was true in the 10-strikeout effort against Pittsburgh giving him four in 17 (24%) as opposed to his six in 15 (40%) for the first two starts of this year.  In fact in the two interleague games he only threw 30 curveballs (nearly half the total of what he’s thrown so far this year) out of 203 pitches (15%) only 1/3rd of which were swung at and eight of those were missed entirely.

So where does all of this leave us?  With just two games of data, it would be foolish to make definitive statements about Cahill’s strikeout ability, but in the small sample we are seeing a change in approach that marries well with past history from the minor leagues.  He is just 23 this year so it isn’t at all out of the question to expect some growth, especially with his pedigree as a prospect.  From a fantasy perspective, I would be heartened by the change if I owed him, but if I was in need of strikeouts I wouldn’t rush out to trade for him just yet.

I will continue to watch Cahill closely and see if the curveball usage and its ability to induce swings & misses is an early season aberration or true change in skill making him more of a strikeout pitcher and thus a much greater fantasy baseball asset.  I will post an update on Cahill in about a month.


Thursday: 04.7.2011

It’s Been a Week…

Today marks the one-week anniversary of the 2011 MLB season.  Yes, a whole week.  Of course that essentially meaningless sample of data hasn’t kept pockets of the baseball community from wildly overreacting.

“Oh my jeezorz, are the Orioles & Royals kontindurz?!?”

“Ummm, why do the Red Sox suckzorz so much?  I want mah money back!”

“Should I drop Jon Lester for Kevin Correia in mah fantuhsee leeg?”

Let’s all just take a step back and enjoy these first couple of weeks of play and realize you can’t attach too much meaning to the events on the field, especially those that heavily go against expectations.  Sure, some of the surprises will stick, but it’s virtually impossible to know which will at this juncture.  You have to trust talent whether when looking at your favorite team as a whole or at individual players on your fantasy roster.

I’ll cover more on the fantasy angle later, but today I wanted to go through an exercise to show just little we can glean not only from the first week of play, but from the first four.  There’s obviously going to be tons of variance from the first week of standings to the end of the season, but I think many would believe that May 1st is enough data to start making judgments about ballclubs, even if they run contrary what we would have expected coming into the season.

However, even a month’s worth of data isn’t always a great indicator that fans of a good team who is underperforming should begin flipping out or that fans of a poorer team who is overachieving should crack open the piggy bank for that playoff ticket deposit.  Over the last four years,  look at how little the May 1st standings have actually told us about how the season would play out.

Again, a surprise or two may stick, but I can tell you that even if the Orioles are somehow playing .600 ball by May 1st, I’m still projecting them to finish near the bottom of that division with third place as a stretch goal.  They don’t have the talent to stick with the Red Sox and Yankees for sure and it’d be an upset for them to beat the Jays and Rays.

The same goes for the Royals.  Their team as currently constructed is one of the worst in the AL from strictly a talent measure and while they have a throng of blue chip prospects who are on the cusp, the chances of all of them coming up and performing at an above average clip are scant.  So even if they closed the month 20-10 or something, I would still have the White Sox, Tigers and Twins finishing ahead of them assuming those three teams hadn’t suffered a severe injury or three during April.

Cream rises to the top.  We’ve seen it before (as you’re about to see) and we’ll see it again.

On May 1st, 2007…

The New York Yankees were 10-14; finished 94-68 and wildcard winner by season’s end.

The Philadelphia Phillies were 12-14; finished 89-73 winning the division by a game over the New York Mets (who were 15-10).

The Chicago Cubs were 11-14; finished 85-77 winning the division by 2 games over the Milwaukee Brewers (who were 17-9).

The Pittsburgh Pirates were 12-13 and went on to finish 68-94, 2nd-worst in baseball.

The Colorado Rockies were 11-16, five games out; finished 90-73 winning game 163 against San Diego to win the wildcard and eventually play in the World Series.

On May 1st, 2008…

The Toronto Blue Jays were 12-17; still only finished fourth in the division, but with an 86-76 record (74-59 after April).

The Oakland A’s were 18-12 and tied for the division lead with the Los Angeles Angels; finished 75-86 while the Angels went 100-62.

The St. Louis Cardinals were 18-11 and atop their division; finished 86-76 good for fourth place.

The Arizona Diamondbacks were 20-8 and held the best record in baseball by a decent margin; finished just 82-80, two games out of first in the division.

On May 1st, 2009…

The Toronto Blue Jays were 16-9, good for the best record in the AL, thanks in large part to a favorable schedule; finished 75-87 as the schedule evened out resulting in a fourth place finish.

The New York Yankees were 13-10; finished a league-best 103-59.

The Kansas City Royals were 12-11, hardly world beating, but above expectations for them; finished 65-97 which tied for 2nd-worst in the AL.

The Seattle Mariners were 14-9 leading the AL West by 3.5 games; finished 85-77 which is plenty respectable, but put them 12 out and in third place.  The team that defeated them? …

The Los Angeles Angels were 9-13 sitting 4.5 behind those Mariners; finished 97-65 good for 2nd-best in baseball.

The Florida Marlins were 14-9 leading the NL East by 2 games; finished 87-75 six games out of first.

The Philadelphia Phillies were 11-10 trailing those Marlins; finished 93-69 good for 2nd-best in the NL.

The Pittsburgh Pirates were 11-11, like the Royals an achievement for them given expectations; finished 62-99 fulfilling the low preseason expectations set for them.

The Colorado Rockies were 8-13, 2nd-worst in the NL and 6.5 in the West; finished 92-70 winning the wildcard by a five game margin over those Marlins.

On May 1st, 2010…

The Chicago White Sox were 10-14 in total disarray as talks of firing the manager swirled overhead; finished 88-74 which was still six games out, but they contended for most of the summer until the Twins pulled away.

The Texas Rangers were 12-12, a half game out of first; finished 90-72 winning the division by nine games, the biggest margin in baseball.

The New York Mets were 14-10 atop the NL East; finished 79-83, 18 games out of first place.

The Washington Nationals were 13-11, just a game back of the Mets; finished 69-93, 28 games out of first place.

The Cincinnati Reds were 12-12, four games back in the NL Central; finished 91-71 winning the division by five games over the Cardinals.

The St. Louis Cardinals were 16-8; finished 86-76 losing out to the Reds.

On May 1st, 2011…

To be determined, but I bet we have at least a few cases to add for next year’s column.