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One of the keys to a successful fantasy season is not just identifying which players are about to catch fire and embark on an impressive hot streak, but your ability as an owner to ride that streak and cut bait when it’s all said and done. All too often, we fall in love with our players, particularly the ones who are massively exceeding our expectations, and we tend to put false hope in numbers that, deep down, we know won’t last. We may hope they last, but we need to be realistic and understand that the law of averages is in play here and what goes up, usually comes back down. Sure, there are always exceptions to the rule, but for every one legitimate breakout, you’re looking at dozens of guys playing over their heads who will eventually see their lofty numbers normalize over time, some shorter than others. Understanding that fact and the ability to simply cut these hot players once they go cold is almost as much an art form as identifying the breakouts before they happen.
If you play in multiple fantasy leagues, there’s nothing worse than hitching your wagon to a particular player and watching him struggle to open the year. More often than not, if you believe in the player enough, you’re going to end up with him on as many teams as you can and once you do that, you’re fairly committed to him for the season. A slow start hurts you across the board in your leagues. A major injury can be devastating. For me, that player was Jason Heyward, and while the rest of my team has been working hard to cover for his early-season shortcomings, news of an emergency appendectomy just put everything into, for lack of a better way to say it, a whole new stratosphere of suck.
Roy Halladay says he is healthy and ready to put last season behind him. Should you believe that? Will Mike Napoli be able to overcome concerns about his hips, get 500+ at-bats, and be a dominating fantasy catcher in 2013? With Frank Francisco's elbow barking, who are the Mets targeting to work the 9th inning in his place? Finally, what will the Indians do at the end of their rotation, and should you even care?
Every year we get the rush of people who, acting like it's a holiday sale at Walmart, aren't afraid to run over their competitor to add the hot new toy to their basket (in this case we're talking hot shot youngster to their fantasy team). Believe me I understand the temptation. Just look at what guys like Trout and Harper did last season. But for every successful rookie standout there are tons of youngsters who fail to live up to the overblown expectations of many in the fantasy game. I'll try to lend some sanity here. I'll then touch on some of the news of the day including will Manny Ramirez play in 2013? Is Joe Saunders a reliable innings eater? What were the Phillies thinking signing an unreliable veteran righty? Is Mike Napoli every going to sign with the Red Sox? Is Jose Valverde's career as a closer over even though he had 35 saves last year?
The ninth inning has been a minefield this season. Everyone knows it an it's been that way since Day 1 this season. Given that we're in the home stretch of the 2012 campaign there has never been a more important time to have that position locked down because the saves category is likely one of those in which you can make a move over the final few weeks. Today we'll breakdown the Reds 9th inning situation and touch on three men that are rocking it in the 9th inning. After that discussion how about we take a look at a handful of bats that are on the edge of returning to game action just in time to provide that finishing kick to your fantasy season.
Aroldis Chapman has been shut down for a while with shoulder fatigue. How long will that rest period be? Chapman himself guessed at 5-7 days. Is that timeframe accurate? Time will tell. With the Reds rolling to the NL Central title, they have a 10.5 game lead, there is no reason for the club from Cincinnati to rush Chapman back into action so I personally wouldn't be remotely surprised to see him miss twice as much time as he expects. Who steps up in the 9th until he comes back for the 86-57 Reds? Tuesday night it was Jonathan Broxton who picked up his first save with the Reds and his 24th of the season. Tuesday night also signified the 9th straight scoreless outing for Broxton who lowered his ERA to 2.49 on the campaign. Being that he is right-handed, and that he has had success in the 9th before (he had 36 saves back in 2009), he would figure to get the majority of work until Chapman returns. Sean Marshall, the clubs' top lefty, could also be in the mix for 9th inning work after filling that spot early in the year for the Reds before Chapman finally took over the role. Marshall has had an impressive season yet again with a 2.83 ERA, 64 Ks in 54 innings, an a 4.64 K/BB ratio.
The last 30 days two men have 10 saves to lead baseball, an I bet that if you were given 10 guesses you wouldn't be able to tell me who they are. One is an NL arm, one an AL arm. Neither pitches for a big market team. Both are righties. Both are averaging more than 11 Ks per nine innings the past month. Neither has allowed a homer the past month. They are Greg Holland and John Axford. Here are the numbers.
Holland: 10 saves, 13.50 K/9, 1.35 ERA, 1.05 WHIP
Axford: 10 saves, 11.68 K/9, 2.19 ERA, 1.30 WHIP
Holland has taken over since Jonathan Broxton was sent to the Reds, and the Royals haven't missed a beat in the 9th. As for Axford, he's had a tough season. It's pretty amazing to think given all his struggles and the often employed 9th inning carousel that the Brewers have employed that Axford has 28 saves on the season. However, he's also blown eight games and has seven loses after totaling five blown saves and four loses the last two years. Still, he's on a bit of a roll right now as he's converted his last 10 save chances in a row. He's also allowed just one hit over his last 8.1 innings pitched. I know, I know, it's hard to trust him, but right now there just aren't that many arms that are pitching better at the end of games than Axford.
Carlos Marmol has been his typical spotty self at times this season even being demoted for a time after a series of poor outings, but look up and you notice that Marmol has converted 18-straight save chances for the Cubbies. It's not really his fault that that Cubs are having issues winning games, so he's just not getting a ton of save chances to convert. His last blown save? How about April 24th. It's hard to remember that long ago isn't it? Though Marmol has 59 Ks an a 3.88 ERA over 46.1 innings, decent numbers to be sure, but oh those walks. Marmol has issued 40 free passes leading to a 1.66 WHIP. How many walks is that? The guy has only allowed 37 hits this year leading to a .214 BAA. Really Carlos? You are just about the hardest guy in the game to square the ball up against but you insist on walking every other guy who comes to the dish. For his career Marmol has issued 6.05 walks per nine innings, a number that has skyrocketed to 7.77 this season. Amazingly that would end up being just the second worst number of his career – he had a 7.91 mark in 2009.
Close to a Return?
Jose Altuve (abdominal strain) entered the game for the Astros Tuesday night as a defensive replacement, and the hope is that he could return to the starting lineup as early as Wednesday. A .290 hitter this season with 29 steals the 5'5”, yes that's how tall he really is, Altuve has been a solid addition to fantasy squads this season because of his ability to keep the ball on the ground and then to steal a base when he's gotten on. However, he's performance has dipped, rather markedly, over his last 51 games as he has hit .268 with no homers and six RBIs. Obviously his game isn't to be a middle of the order thumper, but six RBIs in 51 games? That's horrible. There's also this. His OBP since the All-Star Game is .336 but his SLG is a mere .325. At least he is still running with 14 steals in 16 attempts.
Asdrubal Cabrera is dealing with a wrist injury, one that has caused him to miss two games. Sounds like that number will grow as he's expected to be out of action until Friday. “It's something he's battled through," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. “...he's not going to do additional damage by playing. It's a question of how much he can tolerate.” While it might be nice to give him kudos for trying, it's pretty obvious that whether it's the wrist or something else, Cabrera has been awful of late, and that is a totally applicable adjective at this point. Here are the numbers:
.300/.379/.495/.874, 11 HR, 40 RBI first 69 games.
.228/.281/.321/.602, 3 HR, 16 RBI in next 59 games.
What that slump has done is cost him any chance to repeat a myriad of the totals he posted in 2011.
2011: 25 HR, 92 RBIs, 87 runs, 17 SBs
2012: 14 HR, 56 RBI, 69 runs, 7 SBs
2012 is also the second year in a row that his performance has drastically dipped in the second half. Here are his first half, and second half marks, the past two years.
First Half: .290-25-93-98-14 in 662 ABs
Second Half: .242-14-56-49-10 in 443 ABs
That's not enough data for a trend to be firmly established, but it's enough for me to be thinking that if Cabrera gets off to another strong start in 2013 that he might be someone you consider dealing in the second half.
Corey Hart (foot) hopes to return to the lineup for the Brewers Friday. Hart has admitted to changing his stroke a bit to compensate for what he described as significant pain. On the year Hart has done his normal thing going deep 27 times with 77 RBIs, 86 runs scored an a .278 batting average. There's a chance if he gets back out there this week that he can set a career best for runs scored, he's five off his career best of 90, and he's four homers short of his career best of 31 long balls. He's been a rough play this year on the road hitting .248 with seven homers, but he's been death on hurlers at home with a .309 average and 20 homers in 68 games. He's also sporting an elite .995 OPS with the home cooking and he was hot before being sidelined with the foot issue as he has hit .316 with a .916 OPS over his last 54 games.
Mike Napoli (quadriceps) hopes to return by the weekend as he's been sent to Double-A Frisco to play a couple of games to prove the soundness of his bum wheel (he went 0-2 in his first game Tuesday night). How much will he play when he returns? That's an open question, especially after Ron Washington stated that Geovany Soto and Napoli will share work behind the dish. Don't take that as a death blow to Napoli's value the rest of the way, he can obviously play first base or fill the designated hitter role even if he's not donning the tools of ignorance. We all know how hot Napoli can get when he's locked in. Look no further than his 2011 September when he hit .429 with eight homers and 19 RBIs in 21 games.
Carlos Quentin continues to miss time with a knee injury, he missed time early in the year recovering from knee surgery, and the latest estimates place him out of action until likely Friday. Quentin returned home to San Diego this offseason, and while there was a hope that returning home would improve his production, it really hasn't. Not only has he continued to miss time, he will fall short of 100 games played this year for the second time in four years, and he's still failed to have ever appeared in 135 games in a season (his career best was 131 in 2010). Considering that he's appeared in 80 games for the Padres he is on pace for a 32 homers, 90 RBI season which anyone would take, especially since he's also hitting .262 with a .370 OBP (career .253 and .349). Still, if we push out his current 279 at-bat total and given him 421 at-bats to match last years total, given his current levels of production, he would have 24 homers and 68 RBIs which is nearly a match for his totals of 24 and 77 last year. Quentin has been what he always is – a solid run producer with power who simply cannot stay healthy long enough to be someone you can count on in mixed leagues.
Neil Walker (back) hopes to return to the starting lineup for the Pirates Friday after being out for about three weeks (he last played August 26th). Walker's overall number this year look pretty standard when compared to his previous two seasonal efforts – he's hitting .280 with as .777 OPS (career .280 with a .766 OPS) – but that obscures the fact that Walker was killing it at the plate for large portions of the year. Over his last 46 games Walker had gone deep 10 times with 35 RBIs and 29 runs scored, pretty much elite level production for a second sacker. There's obviously no way to know what type of hitter he will be when he returns due both to the injury and the layoff, so here's to hoping you get the July version (1.097 OPS) and not the August one (.645 OPS).
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday-Thursday 7 PM EDT, and Friday 9p-12a. You can read more of Ray's work at Baseballguys.com and you can follow his work on Twitter at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.
Well, with no feel-good story, no big rookie call-up, and no big trade to report, it makes me just want to sit here and start gushing about Mike Trout some more. I happened to be watching Friday’s Angels/Mariners game and again, this kid just does it all. The Angels are down 5-0 in the third because for some inane reason they still let Ervin Santana start games, and in the bottom half of the inning, Trout steps up with two men on and BAM! Smacks a three-run shot over the fence to put the Angels back into the game.
With the July31st non-waiver trade deadline rapidly approaching, we’ve been seeing a few deals pop up recently that obviously have some effect on the fantasy baseball world. It’s not like we’ve seen any real big blockbusters that are sending owners into some panicked frenzy, but, rest assured, those will certainly be coming soon. For now though, there are some that are having a bit of an impact that we should probably be taking a look at as they are happening. So let’s just do a quick rundown here and see what’s been going on.
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure is how the old adage goes, and it couldn’t be any more perfect a phrase when discussing the trade of Kevin Youkilis to the Chicago White Sox just a few short weeks ago. Bobby Valentine may have won the Battle of Beantown, but it is the White Sox who have won the war and it is Youkilis who is enjoying the last laugh here. As the Red Sox try to fight their way out of last place and a 9 ½ game deficit in the AL East, the White Sox are sitting atop the AL Central, 3 ½ games ahead of heavily favored Detroit, and Youkilis has played a tremendous role in the process.
Have you ever heard that story about the baby bull sitting atop a hill with his father overlooking the valley strewn with cows? The son looks up to his father and says, “Hey dad! How ‘bout we run down that hill and grab one of them cows and have our way with her?” And the father looks down at his son and responds, “How about we just quietly walk down that hill and have our way with them all?” It’s a story about patience and maturity and it’s a story about thinking before you act. It popped into my mind here this early, early Sunday morning when I turned on my laptop to see a series of emails from both Giants fans and Tim Lincecum owners deriding me for my blasphemous statements regarding the one they belovedly refer to as The Freak.
So the big story as we jumped into the second half of the 2012 season was that Zack Greinke became the first pitcher since 1917 to start three consecutive games for his team in one season. Impressive? Maybe. I’m still sifting through data trying to find box scores and pitching lines for Red Faber, the pitcher for the White Sox who accomplished the feat back in the days of yore, but am still coming up empty. My assumption, though, is that he threw more than eight innings in total for the three starts thus rendering Greinke’s accomplishment a pretty lame technicality more than an impressive feat.