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The Week That Was: “Rumors of Papelbon’s Demise Highly Exaggerated”

Jonathan Papelbon proving doubters wrong highlights this week’s Week That Was: 

Jonathan PapelbonJonathan Papelbon is on fire.  Friday night he tossed another clean inning, striking out one and earning his 10th save of the year.  Remember all the noise we heard after Pap blew the save on April 2?  Well it is now May 10 and he has saved 10 straight games and has not given up a run since April 2.  Remember all that preseason nonsense about how his velocity is down (from 95 in 2011 to 92 in 2013)?  Well, good pitchers can pitch without throwing 95 and Pap is one of them.  All in all, he has a solid 1.88 ERA and 0.98 WHIP.  If you drafted the Phillies closer with confidence, good for you.  If someone still does not believe, seize the opportunity! [Note – I am not discounting velocity as an indicator, I am just stressing that other factors must be considered including quality of the pitcher, mental makeup, track record, and the fact that a falling K rate is bad BUT if it is still close to 9 per 9, there is no reason to run around town saying the sky is falling. Chicken Little has no place in fantasy baseball.  Ok, enough said.]

Tommy Milone:  Tommy Milone repaid his manager’s faith by tossing eight scoreless innings while giving up just two hits and striking out seven against Drew Phelps’s Nationals Friday.  Many believe that the A’s should have replaced Milone with Pomeranz and left Straily in the rotation.  I am not one of them.  In real baseball, Milone is solid innings eater who is really good at home.  In fantasy baseball (the reason many of you are reading this), Milone is the classic streaming option.  WHIP at home last three years:  1.00; 1.26; 1.05 v. 1.57; 1.28; 1.52 on the road.  ERA at home last three years: 1.93; 3.44; 2.74 v. 6.23; 4.69; 4.83 on the road.  These stats and trends are so powerful they cannot be ignored.  Start him at home this week against the ChiSox.  Fantasy managers SMART enough to stream Milone at the back end of their rotation this spring and summer will be smiling come October.

Kurt SuzukiKurt Suzuki continues to just flat out rake.  Friday the Twins backstop went 2-5 and drove in both runs in a 2-1 win over Kate Upton’s boyfriend and the Tigers Friday.  There is no denying what Suzuki has done so far: 302, 24 RBI, and a sweet.381 OBP.   Can he keep this up?  Yes, albeit maybe not so white hot.  Suzuki is only 30 and has been bounced around over the last couple of years.  Now secure in a new home and removed from family tragedy (reportedly the death of his grandfather a couple of years ago hit him hard), the human element says things should remain strong.  On the numerical side, Suzuki is showing far greater patience than he had in prior years while keeping his contact rate up to his lofty standards (92% this year as compared to a career level of 87%).  Question two, should we have seen this success re-emerging?  Actually, yes.  In 2013, Suzuki was very unlucky with only a .249 BABIP.  Add in the fact that his BB rate went up 50% from 2012 to 2013 and his K rate went down 33% in that same period, and you have all the evidence you need that there was value to be had.  Suzuki is a big reason Rick Wolf and I are in triple digits in Tout Wars AL competition (he says with fingers crossed while rubbing rabbit’s foot and warding off evil spirits)

Neil WalkerNeil Walker had a big night Friday, going 3-4 with a dinger, 4 RBI and 2 Runs.  His big night last night just continued his recent torrid hitting ways – he has reached base safely in 22 of his last 40 plate appearances.  On the year, Walker has 7 HR, 22 RBI and 20 Runs.  Not too shabby.   Given that 2B is such a weak position in fantasy, Walker should have been on your radar screen.  With a 3 year average of 14HR, and 65+ RBI and Runs, Walker was a pretty sure thing to provide at least solid MI numbers.  Looking carefully, one would have seen that his 2013 BABIP was 40 points below career average despite having a higher walk rate, lower K rate and increased contact rate.  All that pointed to an upswing.  Rick Wolf, Stacie Stern and I are glad to be riding that upswing in LABR NL (all jinx protection repeated from above here).

Alex Wood:  According to reports, Alex Wood will pitch out of the bullpen and Gavin Floyd will take his place in the rotation.  Floyd makes sense to me.  What you should be thinking is how did Aaron Harang keep his spot?  Yes, Aaron Harang, beat out Wood for the last rotation spot.  Maybe it was alphabetical order by spelling of first name.  Yeah, that works.  Well, no.  Ok folks, here is the answer:  Wood threw 139 innings in 2013 and 52 in 2012.  So, is it really a surprise that the team would look for a way to limit his innings?  He was on pace for 228 innings – 47 more than the last two years combined!  Those berating Freddi, stop it.  Those playing fantasy baseball, reserve Alex Wood but do not trade him as he will surely return to the starting rotation for another 100 innings or so – innings you will likely want to have count for your team. 

Hector SantiagoLike Alex Wood, Hector Santiago is headed to the pen.  Like Alex Wood, I think this is temporary.  Has Hector been good?  Well the surface stats say no:  5.19 ERA; 1.59 WHIP.  Should you try and buy low here?  I say the answer is yes.  Why you ask?  Good question.  Well, here goes.  First, the K rate and velo have been pretty steady.  Second, Santiago has a history of pitching well away from his old home on the South Side of Chicago.  Now that he calls Anaheim home, his road record (3.12; 1.26 in 2013 and 2.61; 1.16 in 2012) should result in better overall numbers for 2104. Third, Anaheim has few realistic long term replacements.  Finally, with the offense the halos should post once they get fully healthy, the wins should come even on off days.  I am buying.

Wilmer FloresThat the Mets are desperate for offense is not news.  That they have installed Wilmer Flores at shortstop is news.  Those in NL only leagues should be buying.  Those in mixed leagues should wait and see.  The good news is that Flores was hitting .307 with a .360 OBP in AAA, albeit in the PCL.  The bad news is that he hit .211 in his first foray at Citi Field last year.   If he can hit .250+ with some pop he will be a big upgrade for the Mets on offense and should be one at MI for your deep NL-only league team as well.  Just do not get carried away. 

And last and but not least, this from the Baron of the Bottom of the Page.  Schultz says:  “When the season started, roto-wags were all cautiously optimistic that a speedster taking his rightful place at the top of a stacked NL lineup would quickly become a roto-force and carry teams, at the very least, in stolen bases. As it turns out, there was such a player, only it wasn't everyone was paying attention to. Anyone who passed on Billy Hamilton and decided to take a flyer on the Dodgers former-phenom Dee Gordon gets to stand proud as they are reaping rewards at half the price . . . and in keeper leagues may have strongly hedged their bets for the near future.
All roto-pundits pontificate about the benefits to be reaped from acquiring post-hype prospects. Like all good adages, maxims and rules-of-thumb, it is oft-repeated because it is true. In 2011, Gordon looked every bit of the budding superstar the Dodgers thought they had drafted, hitting .304 and swiping 24 bases in only 56 games. However, his next two years were dreadful. Gordon's batting average plummeted to the point where Los Angeles felt comfortable spending big for Hanley Ramirez and highly regarded Cuban second baseman Alex Guerrero. This pre-season, Gordon projected as nothing more than a placeholder at 2B until Guerrero was ready for the majors. By hitting .328, good for 9th highest in all of baseball, and stealing a major league leading 21 bases, Gordon is finally living up to his potential and rewarding those who didn't mistake growing pains for a lack of talent.
In this regard, pay close attention to the transaction wire in Cleveland for the imminent arrival of Trevor Bauer. Once thought of the headstrong pitcher who would one day throw a no-hitter while walking ten, the former #3 overall pick of the 2011 draft has matured into a dominant strikeout pitcher. In his 6 starts with Columbus, he's struck out a batter an inning while going 4-0 with a 1.12 ERA and sub 1.00 WHIP. Bauer looked great in his one major league outing this year and it's only a matter of time before The Tribe call him up to take his rightful place in the rotation. Ignore the past and enjoy the future.”

Response:  I had put the following in as a placeholder awaiting the weekly Schultz-ism “what drivel!”  Unfortunately, I cannot write that in good conscience because the Carlton the Doorman of Fantasy Sports is right on this week.  Nice work!

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