Archive for April, 2011

The Scoop

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

By Dalton Del Don

After an 0-for-5 game Wednesday, Hanley Ramirez’s average is down to .197 on the year, and he’s yet to homer and has been caught stealing as often as he’s been successful (three). As someone who was drafted as a top-three pick in almost every fantasy league, I’d be stating the obvious calling him a buy-low candidate, but it’s worth looking at why he’s gotten off to such a terrible start to the season. Ramirez’s current walk rate (13.4%) is a career-best and his K rate (16.9%) is the second lowest of his career. However, when he’s making contact, that’s when things have gone south. His 13.6 LD% is easily the worst of his career, and disturbingly, his groundball rate continues to climb, a trend dating back to last year. After posting a 1.56 GB/FB ratio in 2010, which was his highest ever by far, Ramirez has hit 2.19 grounders to every fly ball this season. That rate improved greatly after the All-Star break last season, and there’s little reason not to believe it won’t get better over the rest of 2011 as well, but it’s an interesting career trend nevertheless. Ramirez’s .254 BABIP is sure to rise, but don’t just point to bad luck when it comes to his highly disappointing start.

Monkey rodeo? Monkey rodeo.

Pretty cool story about a girl who faked being pregnant for 6.5 months for a school project as a senior in high school.

Adrian Gonzalez swears his early lack of power is a mechanical issue and has nothing to do with his surgically repaired shoulder, but at what point do we start worrying? Those types of injuries sometimes can take a full year to recover from. He should compile nice counting stats regardless hitting in the middle of Boston’s lineup and in Fenway, but there’s a good chance Gonzalez’s HR output falls well short of expectations during his first year away from Petco Park. Holder of a career 16.8 FB/HR% during his career, Gonzalez has seen just 4.0% of his fly balls go over the fence so far in 2011.

Funny, I actually went fishing for the first time in years this past weekend. Apparently I was in the wrong lake, as this seems more my style (I’m lazy).

Fascinating idea about someone who was a complete novice at golf testing the Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours theory to see if he can become a professional.

Kyle Lohse has now tossed 20.1 straight scoreless innings and has a 1.64 ERA and a ridiculous 0.73 WHIP over five starts this season. His K rate (5.6) isn’t anything special, but his control has been (1.2 BB/9). Lohse has been in the league for more than 10 years now, and he owns a career 4.73 ERA and 1.42 WHIP, so there’s even more reason than normal to call this start a fluke. And even if you want to credit pitching coach Dave Duncan for the transformation, this is his fourth year in St. Louis, so that has its flaws as well. That said, I’m something of a believer. Before the year, I drafted Lohse in the reserve round of NL LABR (a 13-team NL-only format that is as deep as it gets. The reserve rounds consist mostly of fourth outfielders if you’re lucky and middle relievers) and also in WCOF. I say this not to brag, believe me I got plenty wrong during draft season and have no problem admitting as much, but I bring it up only to mention why I was buying Lohse in March, which is because I read a couple of articles with both Duncan and him talking about how he was pitching hurt the last couple of years, and he’s never felt better, something that will allow him to throw a sinking fastball that simply wasn’t in his arsenal last season (this might explain the fact that his average fastball velocity is actually a career-low so far. That or he’s going to start getting hit hard soon). While there are a lot of “best shape of my life” stories every spring training, not all should be ignored (I’d argue this even if Lohse turns into a bum from here on out. Have you seen Pablo Sandoval this year? He lost the equivalent of a 10-year old child over winter). Lohse has admittedly had an easy schedule early on, but Duncan has turned worse pitchers useful, and he keeps the ball on the ground. Also, I find it humorous when someone brings up things like BABIP and strand rate regarding pitchers like Lohse and Jered Weaver who have ERAs south of 1.75. It’s literally impossible (well maybe not literally, I guess you could post a K/9 of like 20.0 or something) to record an ERA that low without a lot of “luck” coming into play. It’s wasted breath.

Fast food lasagna – if nothing else it looks healthy.

I’ve had some messy roommates before, but this takes the cake.

It appears owners of Drew Stubbs are going to be very happy this year. He strikes out too often to hit better than .260-.270, and as a leadoff hitter in the National League, his RBI upside is limited, but he should approach 100 runs scored even with a modest OBP while hitting atop a potent Cincinnati lineup. He’s also on pace to finish with 33 homers and 52 steals. Stubbs has always had good speed, and he’s become a much better base stealer with age, but his power development is the big surprise. He hit just 28 homers over 1,588 at-bats throughout the minors, and while he’s unlikely to keep up his HR pace in 2011, it’s looking more and more like last year’s 22 long balls weren’t a fluke. After averaging one homer every 56.7 ABs in the minors, he’s hit one home run every 22.5 ABs in the majors. Stubbs plays in a favorable home park for hitters and is just now entering his prime at age 26. Few others can match his power/speed combo.

Pretty crazy explosion at a strip mall.

Terrific explanation about the recent poker debacle. Again, how is that illegal with so many poker rooms accessible in any city?

I feel like captain obvious calling Jeff Francoeur someone to sell-high, but it seems like there have been quite a few glowing reports about his improvement so far. Also, Scott Pianowski, whom I respect as much as anyone in the industry, recently offered Brett Gardner straight up for him in the Yahoo Friends & Family league (regardless of my opinion of that specific deal, I think Scott is onto something being willing to “sell-low”). So let’s take a look at Frenchy, who is currently batting .330 and knocked out his fifth homer of the young season Wednesday. He’s even added three steals and has already racked up 19 RBI over 24 games. Maybe it’s anecdotal, but Francoeur has seemingly always been a streaky hitter, so it’s important not to let when that hot streak occurs cloud our judgment, and in this case, it happening over the first month of the season makes it easier to do so. Last year he ended April with an .886 OPS only to finish the season with an OPS of .683. Of course, that really doesn’t mean much, and at age 27, it’s possible his skills have improved. It’s just the numbers don’t show that. He entered Wednesday with a .262/.313/.361 line against right-handers, and while he’s always hit southpaws fairly well, counting on his 1.483 OPS to continue against them this year is probably unrealistic. He’s also hitting more groundballs than ever (1.50 GB/FB), and most telling, his plate discipline, which has always been Francoeur’s biggest issue, has actually taken a step back. While he’s swinging at fewer pitches overall, his swing percentage at pitches in the strike zone is a career-low 63.3%, while his swing percentage at pitches outside the strike zone (38.0%) is actually higher than his career average. Let him turn back into a pumpkin on someone else’s team.

This garage is pretty legit.

Interesting debate (albeit one with a fairly obvious answer) about whether a death row inmate should be able to donate his organs.

Horseplay gone wrong, which is an understatement.

Placido Polanco is currently leading major league baseball with a .389 batting average, thanks in no small part to a ridiculous 5:10 K:BB ratio over 95 at-bats. He doesn’t offer much power or speed (although he is 22-for-25 in SB attempts since 2008, so it wouldn’t shock if he reached double digits), limiting his fantasy potential, but few hitters can help you in batting average like Polanco. And while hitting in front of Chase Utley would be more favorable, his spot in the Phillies’ lineup remains advantageous. In fact, despite having only two homers this season, he’s still on pace to finish with 108 runs and 108 RBI. Polanco remains a pretty big injury risk, considering his lingering elbow problem and age, but he’s also eligible at second base in Yahoo formats and could go down as one of the bigger fantasy steals of the year since he likely came at quite a discount.

Of course he’s a Raiders fan (I kid, but this did happen dangerously close to where I live).

An in depth look and worthwhile read about “selling junk online.”

Is 3D nothing but a total scam?

I have no idea what to make of Sam Fuld, but in my experience, guys like him without a track record are typically looked at with extreme skepticism by those who don’t own him, so I wouldn’t even bother trying to trade him. It’s easy to say he won’t sustain his early pace, but the question is how much will he regress. There have certainly been bigger long shots to come out of nowhere and be a big help to fantasy teams over the course of an entire season. It’s odd to see Fuld already have 10 steals after never eclipsing 23 stolen bases over six seasons in the minors, but that’s a category dealing mainly with effort and decision-making, so it’s not necessarily “luck.” Fuld never hit more than six homers in a season in the minors, and especially while playing in Tropicana Field, his HR upside is low. Still, he’s clearly established himself as a part of the team’s plans, and this is someone who walked more times (302) than he struck out (254) throughout the minors, so he can retain plenty of value batting leadoff in Tampa Bay even when the inevitable regression occurs.

Absolutely loved this true story penned by the writer of “A History of Violence.” I don’t want to give anything away, but I found it because of this recent news regarding the “issue.”

This article is long. Really long. But it’s more than worth it. Funnily, I found out it just won the Pulitzer Prize last week right after I read it. Above any of my other links, I recommend this one the most.

Matt Garza has had, without question, one of the strangest starts to a year you’ll ever see. His 12.03 K/9 ratio leads major league baseball by a wide margin, and his walk rate (2.64 BB/9) and groundball ratio (50.6 GB%) are both strong as well. He’s also been extremely fortunate that zero of his fly balls have gone for homers. Yet his ERA is a pedestrian 4.11 (and it could be much worse thanks to already giving up four unearned runs) and his WHIP is an atrocious 1.47. This is thanks to a .414 BABIP and 60.0 LOB%. Garza’s xFIP is currently an MLB-best 1.94. Last year’s leader in that category was Roy Halladay at 2.80. Garza’s hit rate will obviously come crashing down (his marks over the past three years were .270, .273 and .272, which is well below league average), but it’s also worth noting the Cubs’ current -9.0 UZR ranks fifth worst in baseball, so that area might be a problem throughout 2011. Also, playing in Wrigley, that HR/FB rate correction might come in a drastic way. Still, Garza, who is using his slider, curveball and changeup at much greater frequencies while dramatically cutting back on his fastball usage, has clearly demonstrated the ability to dominate NL hitters. I wouldn’t rule out him leading the National League in strikeouts this season.

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The Scoop

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

By Dalton Del Don

It’s easy to say Jose Tabata is playing over his head and unlikely to finish with his current .303/.410/.500 line, but fantasy owners have to be excited in what they have nevertheless. Maybe the spring training stories about him bulking up over winter should have been taken more seriously, as he’s already hit three homers after totaling just four last season. Tabata’s eight steals are also tied for the major league lead, and he’s only been caught once. His walk rate is more than two times better this year (13.9%) compared to last (6.3%), and he’s also nearly doubled his ISO (.197 compared to .101) in 2011. Tabata isn’t going to rack up the RBI hitting atop Pittsburgh’s lineup (he’s knocked in just one batter other than himself this year despite the scorching start), and there are accompanying red flags a regression is forthcoming, but he’s still just 22 years old and is a candidate to be one of the true breakout fantasy players this season.

This car thief isn’t going to let oncoming traffic or a speeding train get in his way. But he is cautious enough to have his flashers on.

This made me laugh. Someone posted the first page of David Foster Wallace’s “Infinite Jest” asking for feedback. The responses are priceless.

Josh Johnson is off to a ridiculous start, recording a 1.00 ERA, 0.59 WHIP and .112 BAA over four outings. Guys who can combine his current 9.0 K/9 ratio with a 57.4 GB% who also limit homers to such a degree (5.9 HR/FB%) are as rare of a deadly combination as you’ll find. While the latter may be a bit unsustainable, realize Johnson’s career HR/FB% is 7.1, as he’s about as tough to homer off as any pitcher in baseball. And while Chris Coghlan’s surprisingly strong defensive showing in center field so far is probably just sample size noise, it appears Florida is fielding a better defense overall than in years past. Johnson, who has even added a curveball this season, remains something of a health risk, as he’s surpassed 185.0 innings just once during his career, but he’s also perfectly capable of winning the Cy Young in 2011.

The location of this market may not be ideal.

Best resume ever.

Jose Bautista may not quite be on pace to match last season’s 54 homers, but he’s actually played even better in 2011. He entered Wednesday with a stellar .308/.455/.558 line while walking more often (14) than he’s struck out (13). Bautista has now hit 68 home runs over his past 719 at-bats. Despite being a slugger, his K rate isn’t so bad, so a .260-.280 BA should be expected. And with Toronto running like crazy this season (second-most SB in MLB) under new manager John Farrell, even 15 steals aren’t out of the question. When it came to Bautista, I was agnostic entering the year, but I’m now officially a believer. I’d currently consider him a top-15 player.

This gymnast is not messing around.

Interesting article about the possible advancement in pitcher evaluation.

Thanks to Ryan Franklin’s epic collapse to start the year (four blown saves over his first six appearances), Mitchell Boggs is an obvious add in all fantasy leagues, although he’s surely long gone by the time you read this. Still, as impressive as Boggs’ start has been (13:3 K:BB ratio over 10 innings), it’s worth noting his extreme splits could be problematic if he’s going to be used strictly in the ninth inning. For his career, Boggs has posted a 34:46 K:BB ratio over 64.0 innings against left-handers, resulting in a .328 BAA and an ugly 2.09 WHIP. He’s still developing and could improve in this area, so this isn’t necessarily a death knell, but opposing managers are going to load up on lefties when Boggs is being used in the closer’s role. Still, it’s not like the Cardinals have some great alternative right now anyway. Speaking of speculative closers, I recently spent $536 of my FAAB in WCOF on Kyle Farnsworth. Wish me luck, I’ll surely need it.

The craziest balk of all-time.

Fastest soccer goal ever.

What has gotten into Jonny Gomes? After walking just 39 times over 511 at-bats last season, he’s already taken 15 free passes over just 53 ABs so far this year. He’ll always be a batting average risk as a high strikeout, extreme fly ball hitter, but the power has always been there. Last year he actually slipped in that department, finishing with just 18 homers. The year prior, he hit 20 bombs over just 281 at-bats. Gomes has even already added three steals this year. As such a poor defender, he’s no guarantee to last as a regular, but the newfound ability to take a walk is pretty eye opening, even if it’s come in a small sample. Gomes is an interesting player right now.

An officer told him he’d never seen anyone fight someone with “a pitchfork and a pan of potatoes.”

Mouthless methhead? Mouthless methhead.

Two middle infielders who look like they can be major contributors this year who likely went undrafted in many leagues are Jed Lowrie and Jonathan Herrera. Lowrie might be the hottest hitter in all of baseball, as he’s batting .462 with three homers, nine runs scored and 11 RBI despite starting just eight games this season. The middle infielder posted a .907 OPS with a 25:25 K:BB ratio last year, and it sure helps playing in Fenway Park and in Boston’s lineup. The upside here is immense. Lowrie, who is a switch-hitter, has always fared better against southpaws, and it’s worth noting his early season production has come against a disproportionate amount of left-handers, but there’s little doubt he’s a superior hitter to Marco Scutaro. Lowrie has been injury prone throughout his career, and it should be interesting to see if he can remain a regular once his first slump strikes with Scutaro’s presence, but he has the potential to finish as a top-10 fantasy middle infielder. As for Herrera, his strong spring training has carried over into the regular season, resulting in him becoming Colorado’s everyday second baseman. With his defense and ability to take walks (he has a 4:12 K:BB ratio), it’s a job he just might keep all year. Herrera stole only two bags over 222 at-bats with the Rockies last season, but he’s got speed, so it’s encouraging to see him already have four stolen bases without getting caught in 2011. The benefits of Coors Field remain, making Herrera a legitimate option at MI even in shallow mixed leagues.

For those of you in search of a good backscratcher, this man has the answer for you.

If this doesn’t convince you of extraterrestrial life, nothing will.

Brett Anderson sure looks impressive in the early going. It’s tempting to say this is what a fully healthy Anderson can do, but strangely, he’s posted a 1.63 ERA and 1.05 WHIP despite his average fastball velocity dipping from 92.1 mph last year to 90.5 mph this season. His slider has seen an even bigger decrease (83.6 mph compared to 80.8 mph). However, Anderson has thrown his curveball with much greater frequency, as he’s tossed it 20.9% of the time versus just 9.3% last season, and it’s been his most effective offering so far in 2011. His groundball rate is way up (65.0%), and while his early pace is obviously unsustainable, there’s a real benefit to playing home games in the Coliseum. Oakland’s defense has struggled so far (-10.1 UZR/150), but they project to be a strong unit moving forward (they had a 4.8 UZR/150 last season), which should lead to a downtick in his BABIP. Teammate Trevor Cahill is also fascinating, as he’s somehow gone from a poor strikeout pitcher (5.4 K/9) last year to an elite one (9.59 K/9) this season while maintaining a terrific groundball rate. I’m far less interested in his sparkling ERA than I am his sudden ability to miss bats. What do we make of it over four starts?

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NBA Playoff Predictions

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

By Dalton Del Don

WESTERN CONFERENCE

SPURS over Grizzlies 4-1.

NUGGETS over Thunder 4-2.

MAVERICKS over Trail Blazers 4-3.

LAKERS over Hornets 4-1.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

BULLS over Pacers 4-0.

MAGIC over Hawks 4-0.

CELTICS over Knicks 4-1.

HEAT over 76ers 4-0.

ROUND TWO

SPURS over Nuggets 4-3.

LAKERS over Mavericks 4-1.

BULLS over Magic 4-3.

HEAT over Celtcis 4-3.

WEST FINALS

LAKERS over Spurs 4-2.

EAST FINALS

HEAT over Bulls 4-2.

NBA FINALS

LAKERS over Heat 4-3.

The Scoop

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

By Dalton Del Don

It sure was nice to see Tommy Hanson deliver seven scoreless innings Tuesday, because his start to the season was becoming a bit worrisome. Not so much the 6.00 ERA but the continued downward trend with his strikeout rate. After posting a 9.2 K/9 through July last year, Hanson fanned just 5.5 batters per nine innings over the final two months of the season. He recorded a 2.51 ERA and a 0.98 WHIP after the All-Star break, so it didn’t affect his performance, but it was an alarming drop regardless, only enhanced by the fact he totaled just three strikeouts over his first two starts in 2011. Hanson is clearly one of the game’s brightest young pitchers, but his velocity is average, and he’s now recorded more than five strikeouts just once over his past 17 starts, and he only struck out six during that outing. It’s something to keep your eye on moving forward.

This guy will laugh at getting tased multiple times, but that combined with a billy club to the face/neck is a line in which he won’t let crossed.

Josh Hamilton’s injury is obviously quite unfortunate, and it was interesting to hear him throw his third base coach under the bus afterward, although no one can blame him for being upset with the prospect of missing the next eight weeks. Hamilton’s on field game has become as volatile as his life off it once was, with his talent good enough to easily win the AL MVP despite missing an entire month last year. Forget the prodigious power, the guy hit .359 last season! He’s also a plus baserunner and very good defensively. But there’s no doubting Hamilton is also probably the single biggest health risk compared to what he’ll cost in fantasy terms. David Murphy is the obvious beneficiary, but he’s likely already rostered in your league. Despite no clear path to at-bats, Chris Davis should be grabbed in deeper formats. There remains legitimate power potential there.

This vacation didn’t go quite as planned.

I recently bet my friend, let’s call him Adam (because that’s his name) $100 that Tiger Woods wouldn’t finish with more majors than Jack Nicklaus. I don’t follow golf, but at even odds, I felt like he was being his usual clueless self. But after my buddy Scott Pianowski later gave Tiger 70/30 odds to do so (not to mention his Master’s performance), I’m now more than a little hesitant. Your guys’ thoughts?

I wrote a long paragraph recommending Brian Wilson as a buy-low Wednesday afternoon, which only looks lame now after two straight perfect innings. The gist? His horrible start (MLB-worst 33.75 ERA and a moderately subpar 5.25 WHIP at the time) could be partially blamed on missing the final couple of weeks of spring training, and while down a tick, his average fastball velocity has been fine (95.0 mph), and although it’s interesting he’s thrown his cutter (64.9%) far more often than his heater (35.1%), essentially the opposite of his career usage, that’s probably nothing to look into long-term. As a Giants fan I can tell you Wilson had been squeezed on a couple of close calls that turned an otherwise clean inning into a disaster, and while that doesn’t excuse his poor pitching after the questionable call, it reveals just how fickle relief pitching can be. After his first two appearances this year (totaling 1.1 innings), Wilson needed to toss 24 consecutive scoreless innings to match his ERA from last season. And seriously, dude looks like a completely different human being in his Yahoo photo.

Pretty good timing by the security guard when he finally reaches the cockpit of this runaway tractor.

Sticking with the Walmart theme, there’s also this.

With the season just underway, and nothing to talk about regarding upcoming drafts, yet barely any data to effectively discuss what’s happened so far in the season, this time of year is without question the toughest to write. It’s worthless discussing a player’s hot or cold start, but looking over how they got there is at least somewhat interesting, if not still possibly meaningless moving forward. For instance, Derek Jeter, Buster Posey, Carlos Gonzalez and Joe Mauer’s groundball tendencies. These four are all off to extremely disappointing starts, and we need not look further than their GB/FB ratios as to see why. Jeter “leads” MLB with a stunning 7.67 GB/FB ratio. For comparison, the highest GB/FB rate last season was 3.60 (also Jeter). Posey is currently sporting a 7.33 mark, so it’s no surprise he has just one extra-base hit on the season. With a 3.80 GB/FB ratio, it’s no secret why Carlos Gonzalez is still searching for his first homer of 2011, and Mauer’s 3.50 mark (combined with a 6.9 LD%!) is a big reason for his slow start. No doubt these are extremes that will all normalize, but it does help explain their poor performance thus far.

The cops clearly assessed this situation correctly before leaving the scene.

Toddler drinking alcohol at Applebee’s? Toddler drinking alcohol at Applebee’s.

I’m intrigued by Chris Young (the pitcher). Sure, he remains one of the league’s biggest injury risk and is already dealing with a biceps issue, but he may very well prove to be one of the bigger bargains, as he was a mere pittance on draft day. There’s no denying Petco Park helped him, but Young has been respectable on the road throughout his career, with a 4.12 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and a .221 BAA. An extreme fly ball pitcher (which really helps his WHIP), Young no doubt benefitted from Petco when it came to homers, but his career HR/FB% on the road is a still strong 8.3%, as he’s simply difficult to hit. Besides, Citi Field actually ranked as a harder place to homer than Petco last season according to park factors, and while that’s obviously got some sample size problems, the new Mets’ stadium clearly benefits the pitcher. Young isn’t going to post elite K:BB ratios, and it’s also worth noting his fastball velocity remains down (84.7 mph) compared to the past, but he hasn’t averaged as high as 89.0 mph since 2006, and at 6-10, his release point makes his pitches deceptive, and he can be plenty effective even at modest speeds. Don’t get me wrong, he hasn’t thrown 105.0 innings in a season since 2007 and has never reached 180.0 during his career and is also sure to regress from his hot start, but Young can be useful even in shallow mixed leagues while healthy.

I’m going to go ahead and call the new Foo Fighters my favorite “rock” album over the last decade (and I don’t mean bands like The White Stripes, which right or wrong, I’d call more indie. Think Soundgarden mainstream). Really impressed.

In this lady’s defense, she was probably better than the mohel Elaine hired.

I’ve always been a big Howie Kendrick fan, so it’s going to frustrate me to no end if this is the year he truly breaks out when he’s somehow not on a single fantasy roster of mine. After matching his career-high with 10 home runs over 616 at-bats last season, Kendrick has clubbed four long balls over 12 games so far in 2011. And while it’s probably safe to say his 40.0 HR/FB% will drop, it took him only 374 ABs to hit 10 homers in 2009, and he’s just now entering his power prime at age 27. While his current .355 BABIP is on the high side, it’s not that far off his career rate of .339, and his 11.5 BB% is a career-best by a wide margin. In fact, Kendrick is showing real signs of improvement in the early going, as his O-Swing% (percentage of pitches swung at outside the strike zone) is 24.5%, which is about 10% better than his career average. His power/speed combo is limited, but as I’ve said too many times before, Kendrick is capable of winning a batting title one of these years.

This is a bit dated now, but I can appreciate a good April Fool’s joke. I like how she licked the iPad three seconds after she says “I’m not licking an iPad.”

It’s possible this is the worst article I’ve ever read.

I’m beginning to grow concerned about Francisco Liriano. After regaining velocity last season, his fastball has averaged just 91.6 mph so far this year compared to 93.7 mph in 2010, a significant drop, especially since that pitch has been a whopping 34.5 runs below average throughout his career, according to Fangraphs. He simply can’t be successful while throwing at that speed since he’s never had pinpoint command to begin with. His slider, which can be one of the best pitches in baseball, is also down 1.2 mph compared to last season. Pitchers typically pick up velocity as the year goes on, and that might absolutely be the case here, but after he dealt with an arm injury in spring training, we simply have no idea how close to full health he is. Anyone who throws a slider at that frequency is always at greater risk for injury anyway. I’m a big fan of Liriano, but while his 2.95 xFIP, which was the second lowest in all of baseball last year, suggests he could have won the Cy Young in 2010 had more luck gone his way, Minnesota currently fields what appears to be one of the worst defenses in the league (which makes this ridiculous comment by Ron Gardenhire even crazier), so his hit rate may not see the expected regression. Having Target Field as his home certainly helps, but Liriano’s nine walks over 13.0 innings this season combined with his decreased velocity may be a sign he’s dealing with yet another arm injury.

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The Scoop

Wednesday, April 6th, 2011

By Dalton Del Don

As someone who owns Ubaldo Jimenez in WCOF, watching his first start of the season was a brutal experience. It’s never fun getting burned in ERA right out of the gate (don’t panic Cole Hamels owners), but that was far from the biggest issue here. After his fastball averaged 96.1 mph last season (a full 0.7 mph faster than any other starter in baseball), it averaged 91.3 during Jimenez’s first start, and his secondary stuff was equally as unimpressive. He faced 26 batters. And struck out one of them. He didn’t allow his second homer of the season until June 6 last year, a feat that lasted all of 5.1 innings in 2011. The following excuse – cut on thumb – seems about the best news possible, and fantasy owners will gladly accept a couple skipped starts if that results in last year’s version returning shortly thereafter. Jimenez looked shockingly ordinary during his first start of the year.

An oldie but goodie. Let’s hope this guy is behind bars by now.

This guy is fearless, and it’s almost as if he’s disappointed at the lack of aggression.

Before injuries ruined his 2009 season, Jose Reyes averaged 14 homers, 65 steals, 113 runs scored and 66 RBI over the previous four years. He wasn’t all the way back last season, but Reyes did hit 11 homers and swipe 30 bags despite missing 30 games. He’s a career .285 hitter still just 27 years old. There’s some uncertainty involved with him a prime trade candidate now in the final year of his contract, but that really only really matters in NL-only formats that lose stats if moved to the American League. I’m not a believer in performance having anything to do with contracts, but stolen bases are the one category based greatly on will, and Reyes should be plenty motivated to rack up the steals with an eye on a monster contract entering his prime. It’s possible Jimmy Rollins and Derek Jeter bounce back, but after Hanley Ramirez and Troy Tulowitzki, the shortstop landscape looks pretty barren in fantasy terms, giving Reyes even more value. His upside (20 homers, 75 steals) might be higher than any player in the league.

Pretty scary car crash.

Fernando Rodney entered the year likely the biggest favorite to lose his closer’s job at some point this season, but it happened sooner than expected, with Mike Scioscia pulling the plug after just two appearances, when he managed to walk as many batters (four) as he retired. Expect the move to be permanent, both because Rodney is a below average reliever, and his replacement Jordan Walden is more than capable of running away with the job (and if he isn’t, Scott Downs or Kevin Jepsen are superior alternatives). With eight walks over 19.2 major league innings, Walden’s hardly a finished product, but with a whopping 30 strikeouts over that span, it’s clear his stuff is electric (his average fastball velocity in the majors is 98.4 mph, and his slider 85.4 mph). Walden’s numbers weren’t overwhelming in the minors, as he finished with a 1.53 WHIP (and a 7.4 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9) over Double and Triple-A last season, but he obviously now has the opportunity to make a major fantasy impact.

I’m not a religious fellow, but I can get behind this idea for Lent.

Milton Bradley was a popular late round pick by me this year, and in most leagues I didn’t grab him, I’ve since added him via the waiver wire. Of course, we are talking about deeper formats, and he’s coming off a year in which he hit .205/.292/.348. But he posted a .378 OBP in 2009 and was a monster the year before that (.321/.436/.563). That was in Texas, and he’s now in Seattle and soon to be 33 years old, but Bradley is currently hitting third in the lineup and capable of producing before his next inevitable injury strikes. Even while hitting .205 in a miserable season last year, he was on pace for 20 homers and 20 steals over a 600 AB projection. Bradley deserves to be on most rosters right now.

Your everyday love story between a man and a…goose?

Ya that’s real normal.

Curtis Granderson was already an interesting target this year coming off a disappointing first season in New York, but since his health status was in question when many drafts were held the final weekend leading up to Opening Day, he could prove to be a real bargain in 2011 with him being ready since day one. He’s hit .249 and .247 over the past two years, as he continues to struggle mightily against lefties, but he’s also averaged 27 home runs and 16 steals over that span, and that’s included just 69 games in new Yankee Stadium. Granderson has been successful on 81 percent of his SB attempts during his career, and manager Joe Girardi encourages running, so he’s fully capable of swiping 20-25 bags, especially while hitting at the bottom of the lineup. Batting eighth is hardly ideal otherwise, but with the Yankees that’s like hitting third in a normal lineup. According to the Bill James Handbook, Yankee Stadium had a home run index of 170 for left-handers last season, which led the majors. Put differently, it was 70 percent easier to hit homers there than the rest of the parks in the league. The HR index is 141 for LHB since the stadium’s inception. Granderson is a career .268 hitter, and don’t be surprised if he sets a career-high in homers this year.

So basically, members of the Phillies’ rotation are A-holes?

Man barks at dog. Gets arrested.

Sean Burnett is a former first round pick (back in 2000) and was very good last season, recording 62 strikeouts with 20 walks over 63.0 innings, resulting in a 2.14 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. Maybe he’s finally figured it out, but it’s worth noting he was essentially the pitcher he’s always been when looking at velocity and pitch type, which is someone with a career 1.6:1 K:BB ratio. In fact, Burnett has recorded 102 strikeouts to 76 walks over 157.0 career innings versus right-handers, and the lefty won’t be protected there in the closer’s role. Drew Storen had a shaky spring, posting an 11.12 ERA, and he’s allowed two runs (one earned) over 2.2 innings since the season started, but that’s all been accompanied by a 12:4 K:BB ratio over 14.0 innings, so he hasn’t pitched as poorly as the cosmetic stats suggest. His stuff is better than Burnett’s, so while fully aware we are paying for roles as much as skills in fantasy baseball, I’d still be targeting Storen in trade talks right now. He’s the guy the franchise wants to see runaway with the job anyway…As for other middling fantasy closers, could things have started better for Joel Hanrahan? Not only has he already recorded four saves, but Evan Meek has been tattooed for seven runs (four earned) over 2.2 innings, further solidifying Hanrahan in the ninth inning role.

I’m pretty obsessed with the new TV On The Radio. It’s now official – they are one of my three favorite groups over the past decade.

Zach Britton is probably long gone in your league by now, but even with all the normal pitching in the A.L. East caveats applying, the rookie was a must-add. His opportunity came earlier than expected with Brian Matusz’s unfortunate injury, and Britton didn’t disappoint during his first career start, holding the Rays scoreless over six innings despite lacking his normal sinking fastball, usually his go-to pitch. He allowed just three hits nevertheless, and his ability to induce groundballs in the minors should translate well in the big leagues. But as far as rookie pitchers go, Brandon Beachy looks to be the better guy to own this year, and not just because he plays in the easier league. At first I thought the Braves were crazy for choosing him over Mike Minor, and while the latter still has a bright future himself, maybe the former isn’t just keeping the seat warm in Atlanta. Beachy went undrafted, but that looks like a huge mistake now, as his strong spring training was backed by absolutely dominant numbers over Double and Triple-A as a 23-year-old last season (11.2 K/9, 2.1 BB/9). I ignored him during my fantasy drafts, and it looks like it’s going to be at my own peril.

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Saturday, April 2nd, 2011

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