In fantasy baseball we are all lost when it comes to getting a handle on closers. A microcosm of that lost feeling this season can be found when we look at the White Sox pen as the club from Chicago has zero idea what they are doing. Should you be targeting Sergio Santos if you're looking for some bullpen help (who isn't)? Josh Hamilton made history Tuesday night. Does that mean now is the perfect time to deal him? What about Andre Ethier of the Dodgers – a just how well is he performing this year? Is A.J. Burnett worthy of being on your roster? What about the perpetually struggling Adam Lind? Finally, Cliff Lee is back and ready to dominate hitters once again.
White Sox Totally Lost
The bullpen situation across baseball is the most confounding that it has ever, an I mean EVER, been. Take the case of the White Sox as a microcosm of what is going on in bullpens across the league.
Anarchy reigns in Chicago in Robin Ventura's first season as manager of the Sox, at least when it comes to the 9th inning.
Ventura named Hector Santiago as the White Sox closer coming out of camp. As I wrote back on April 4th in Lunacy in Chicago:
“Santiago has never thrown a pitch above Double-A in the minors. Speaking of that, he's only thrown 83.1 innings above A-ball. Furthermore, he made 23 appearances in the minors last season and all 23 of them were as a starting pitcher. Oh he worked as a relievers from 2007-10, but every appearance last year was a start. As for his relief work, he had all of four saves to show for his four years pitching out of the bullpen.”
Shocker that he failed to hold on to the 9th innings role as he was demoted after blowing two saves while posting an ERA of 8.53 through April.
The White Sox then should have turned to Matt Thornton or Addison Reed to work the 9th inning. Of course, they didn't, instead turning to Chris Sale. And so begins the dizzying run of events that follows.
Drafted as a starter and looked at as a top of the rotation arm, Sale enters the big leagues as a bullpen arm so that he can get a taste of the big leagues. He posts a 1.93 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and has 32 Ks in 23.1 innings in 2009.
Year two has Sale working out of the pen again as he is again excellent with a 2.79 ERA, 1.11 WHIP and 79 Ks in 71 IP.
Year three, this year, begins with the Sox committing to Sale as a starter. He went out and posted a 2.81 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 29 Ks in 32 innings successfully making the transition back into the role he was always looking to fill. However...
Santiago can't handle the 9th inning so the Sox turned to Thornton or Reed to work the 9th... wait, they didn't. They decided to put Sale back in the bullpen and then crown him the closer. At the same time they do that they admit that Sale is dealing with some lingering arm issues in his elbow and the belief is that the best way to make sure he isn't injured is for him to avoid starting by using him in short bursts out of the bullpen. The team said that Sale would be their closer for the 2012 season, and then they would revisit the issue in the future. Well, turns out they, shockingly, have changed their minds. Here's what pitching coach Don Cooper had to say.
“For this moment, right now, he’s in the bullpen. We’re going to continue to watch it. Who knows what we may do? Right now, we just kind of backed off him a little bit. In effect, we’ve missed a start.”
Sale said this.
“Starting is something I hope I can get back into. We’ve been kind of talking back and forth. There’s a possibility of it. Not ruling it out is the best way to say it.’’
So is he or isn't he the closer?
Now comes work in the Chicago Tribune that Sale will have an MRI to make sure his arm is sound. The test isn't expected to show anything abnormal but Sale won't be available to pitch Wednesday so any save chance is likely to go to Reed.
At this point, you'll need to add Reed cause it certainly appears like he might end up leading this team in saves this season.
When teams lie, obfuscate, mislead... what are we left to do? When it comes to bullpens this year there is nothing any of us can do. It's never been more important to roster skills over role because it seems like half the teams in baseball have no idea what they are doing when it comes to the 9th inning.
I give up.
Hamilton Makes History
Josh Hamilton made history Tuesday night as he socked four homers, knocked in eight runs, and produced 18 total bases (the total bases are an AL record, one off the record of 19 total bases by Shawn Green who hit four homers for the Dodgers in 2002). With that effort, how amazing is it to think that Josh Hamilton has actually been as good as Matt Kemp this year? He's actually been a slightly better fantasy performer. Here are the numbers.
Hamilton: .406-14-36-25-2 with a 1.298 OPS
M. Kemp: .404-12-27-29-2 with a 1.305 OPS
So I'm recommending that you deal Hamilton. Have I finally lost it? Why on earth would I recommend selling a guy who has been spectacular all season long and coming off one of the greatest offensive performances the game has ever seen? First, there is common sense. There is no way that Hamilton will be able to keep up his current pace in AVG, OBP, SLG, HR, RBI or runs. That much should be obvious to all, but in an of itself it's not enough to move a guy since Hamilton could still vie for the AL MVP award, so it's not like he will be a middling option the rest of the way or anything like that. The reason reason I suggest trading Hamilton is two fold. (1) His value can never, an I mean ever, be higher than it is right now. Why not try and capitalize on that? (2) The guy has averaged 114 games played the last three years. Not last year, not the last two years, but the last three years the guy has been active for an average of 70 percent of the Rangers' games. Give all of that, and I'm not just trying to be sensational to get attention here, I'd give some rather serious thought to moving Hamilton if I owned him.
A.J. Burnett Does It Again
See if this sounds familiar.
You draft A.J. Burnett late hoping he'll be a nice source of punchouts in his move to the NL. When he ends up taking a ball off the eye, your ticked off and forget about him while stashing him on the DL.
You get the news that he will be activated, but being a bit leery you figure why not leave him on the DL for his first start. He goes out and tosses seven shutout innings. For start two you look at the matchup with the Braves and leave him benched giving him one more game to make sure he is back in the groove. As a result, you miss out on two runs allowed in six innings. Certain that he's now good to go, you start him against the Cardinals and he goes out and has the second worst fantasy outing, arguably, in the history of the game (he allowed 12 runs while pitching 2.2 innings, slightly less embarrassing, of course it's relative, to the outing of Vin Mazzaro from May 16th last year when he permitted 14 ER in just 2.1 innings). Disgusted by the effort you then send Burnett back to the bench. So what does he do Tuesday? He works 10 innings against the Nationals, allows only two runs and strikes out 10 batters.
Sound about right to you?
(That's what happened to me in Tout Wars by the way).
All told, even with that historically pathetic outing, Burnett still has 27 Ks in 23.2 innings and his 3.86 K/BB ratio is pretty impressive. I bet when it's all said and done that if you remove that one outing against the Cardinals that Burnett's 2012 effort won't be that bad at all. Add him if he's floating on the waiver-wire.
Francisco Cordero – Dog Meat
When Sergio Santos went down with an arm issue, one that he appears on track to return from by the end of the month of May, I warned everyone to avoid counting too heavily on his replacement, Francisco Cordero. Boy was I right. Cordero has two saves on the year but he's also picked up two loses and three blown saves (the three blown saves have come in his last three save opportunities). Cordero has seen his ERA skyrocket to 9.53 and his WHIP is ghastly at 2.29. Toss in his 1.33 K/BB ratio and you have to be d-e-s-p-e-r-a-t-e to be running him out there for save chances. If Santos was released when injured pick him up now. All he needs to do is to prove that he is healthy to resume working the 9th inning for the Jays.
Is Andre Ethier Hot?
Andre Ethier leads the NL with 30 RBI, and since he's appeared in 30 games, to say he has been blazing is certainly an understatement. At the same time, let's not get too far ahead of ourselves. First off, no one produces 150 RBI in a season (since 1963 it's happened a total of eight times with Sammy Sosa being the only guy to do it twice). Second, Ethier has only one season of 85 RBI in his career (106 in 2009). Third, he's only had one season of 25 homers – he had 31 in 2009 – so it's no lock that he continues at his current pace of 32 homers. Fourth, though he's drive in a lot of runs, he's still on pace to score 86 times since the Dodgers lineup isn't exactly overflowing with offensive stars beyond Ethier and Kemp (Ethier has scored 90 runs twice in his career back in 2008-09). Fifth, Ethier is currently hitting .277. His career average is .277. Sixth, Ethier is getting on base at a .349 clip. His career OBP is .364. Seventh, though his .876 OPS is certainly impressive, it's only a few tenths above his career rate of .844.
So in the end, what should you make of Ethier? Driving for a new contract he's certainly put himself in position to have a career best season, but really, other than the slight uptick in his homer rate, and the unsustainable RBI pace, he's been the hitter he's always been through 30 games
Cliff Lead Ready to Return
The Phillies have activated Cliff Lee from the DL and he'll toe the rubber against the Mets Wednesday night. Lee had been out with a strained oblique but he looked as dominant as ever when he was on the hill. In his three starts he posted a 1.96 ERA, 0.70 WHIP an a 9.00 K/BB ratio. It's never a sure thing to start a guy in his first outing back from the DL, but if I was a Lee owner, an I am, I'd have him active.
Adam Lind Blows Chunks
What an interesting saying right? Doesn't it draw up images of that night of Peach Schnapps back in college when your gal friend decided to evacuate her stomach all over your pants? Love it.
Adam Lind was dropped to 8th in the Blue Jays batting order Wednesday, hardly a shock given his woeful work at the plate. A one time .305 hitter with 35 homers (2009), it's time to put visions of that guy out of your head. Hitting .186 with a .585 OPS through 109 plate appearances, Lind has been abysmal this year. Unfortunately, his efforts this season continue a trend that he's displayed the past two years leading a ton of credence to the position that Lind will never replicate his '09 effort. Consider that Lind has hit, an I loosely use the term “hit,” .239 with a .290 OBP and .421 SLG over 1,165 at-bats. How awful are those numbers? The average AL hitter has gone .259/.325/.437. It's time to move on if you're in a 12 team or shallower mixed league – he's just lost at the dish.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday through Friday, 5-8 PM EDT. Ray's baseball analysis can be found at BaseballGuys.com and his minute to minute musings can be located at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.
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