Archive for May, 2011

The Scoop

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

By Dalton Del Don

Zack Greinke currently has a 5.79 ERA, but you don’t need me to tell you he’s pitched far better than that with an accompanying 39:3 K:BB ratio over 28.0 innings. Entering 2011 and before he suffered broken ribs while playing pickup hoops, I debated having Greinke either fourth or fifth (versus Cliff Lee) on my starting pitcher rankings, and after his start to the season, I see no reason why he shouldn’t be currently viewed as such. It’s one thing to note his peripherals as strong, suggesting a correction in ERA, but it’s another to recognize his component stats as possibly the best in baseball, albeit over just a five-start stretch. His 12.5 K/9 ratio is more than 1.5 strikeouts per nine innings more than any other starter, and that’s combined with a 0.96 BB/9 rate! I’m also not too worried about his high BABIP (.370) and HR/FB% (21.1), since throughout his career the former has been around league average (.308) and the latter has been far better than that (8.7%). One year removed from winning the Cy Young in a truly dominant season, don’t underestimate the impact the move to the National League can have on Greinke. Teammate Shaun Marcum was a nice pitcher for the Blue Jays over the past two years, and he himself is in Cy Young contention with the move to the N.L. so far in 2011, as he’s currently sporting a 2.37 ERA and 1.02 WHIP with a 4.1:1 K:BB ratio. Joe Posnanski, who’s one of the best sports writers alive and knows Greinke from his days covering the Royals, suggested Greinke would actually thrive during a pennant race while playing in meaningful games for once, which is counterintuitive to those who point to the pitchers’ past problems with social anxiety disorder. So far, Posnanski hasn’t exactly been proven wrong. Other than Roy Halladay, there’s a pretty strong argument for Greinke as the No. 2 fantasy pitcher moving forward.

This car escape was pretty epic.

This guy wanted to join the mile-high club all by himself.

After an 0-for-4 Wednesday, Alex Rios is hitting .206/.265/.317 on the year, which is about as ugly as it gets. He’s also been caught on nearly half his stolen base attempts (4-for-7), so he’s been one of fantasy baseball’s biggest busts so far in 2011. Rios has always been a difficult player to evaluate, as he’s generally considered overpaid since he hasn’t reached an OPS of .800 since 2007, although he’s gone from a strong right fielder defensively to an average one in center, which makes his production at the plate over the past couple of years much more acceptable. And in fantasy terms, even during his down year in 2009, he produced 17 homers and 24 steals. But there’s no doubt owners expected much more in 2011 (and they used a much higher draft pick) after Rios hit .284 with 21 home runs, 34 stolen bases, 89 runs and 88 RBI last season. Looking deeper, his walk rate is the second best of his career, and his K rate is actually a career-low by a wide margin. Moreover, his line drive percentage is a healthy 20.6%, yet Rios’ BABIP (.219) is nearly 100 points lower than his career rate (.312). According to The Bill James Handbook, U.S. Cellular Field had a HR park index of 179 for right-handed batters last season, which means it was 79% easier to hit home runs there than the rest of the parks in the league, easily leading MLB; it’s also been the most favorable HR hitting park for RHB over the past three years, if you want a bigger sample. Go ahead and target Rios as a buy low.

Randy Savage’s recent death reminded me of this American Gladiators clip, which is a classic.

Was Dennis Rodman one of the best NBA players ever? The study included in this article argues it’s closer than you think.

Acquired from the Giants as part of the Jason Schmidt deal in 2001, Ryan Vogelsong was once considered a decent prospect, but he suffered injuries, wasn’t effective and was eventually designated for assignment by Pittsburgh in 2006. He pitched in Japan before signing a minor league deal with the Phillies last year, and while all other aspects of his performance were pedestrian, he posted a 10.4 K/9 ratio over 33 starts in Triple-A (after recording a 12.1 K/9 rate in Japan the year before). After the Phillies released him, the Giants, who severely lacked pitching deep in their organization (at the time Jeff Suppan was the team’s No. 6 starter) signed him on a flier, and he proceeded to strike out 17 batters over 11.0 innings in Triple-A, earning him the call when Barry Zito went down with a foot injury. Vogelsong’s control, while improved, was still a poor 4.0/9, so that aspect has been a surprise so far during his stint with his former team in 2011 (it’s down to 2.76/9). While the suddenly newfound control may not be sustainable, it’s hard not to like the way Vogelsong has been throwing this season. We could obviously point to Vogelsong’s fortunate BABIP, LOB% and HR/FB%, but then again, the same would be true for any pitcher with a 1.93 ERA. But as a Giants fan (who’s currently in clinical depression regarding Buster Posey), with Vogelsong’s 8.0 K/9 and 2.9:1 K:BB ratios, I hope Zito doesn’t get another start this season.

Roseanne Barr writing a provocative and informative article about the sexist nature of the TV community in Hollywood.

Crazy sad read about sex trafficking in the United States.

Paying the price at draft tables for Dan Uggla after he came off a season in which he produced career-highs in batting average, on-base percentage, home runs and RBI probably wasn’t the best move, although the only real concern was a fall in BA. That’s come to fruition, but his owners can’t be blamed for not expecting a drop this precipitous. Uggla is actually striking out at a significantly lower rate than at any point of his career since his rookie season, so while his LD% and IFFB% are both up, his .197 BABIP is especially perplexing when you consider his GB% is a career-high, and his FB% and HR/FB% are both career-lows. Put differently, expect all this batted ball noise to even out. He’s another strong buy-low candidate who’s very likely to see an unusual set of eight weeks change in his favor over the rest of 2011.

I had no idea what a “Tiger Mom” was, but this setup is pretty funny.

Interesting story about a man who was cured of HIV.

I have no idea what to make of Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who continues to show poor plate discipline and has ugly overall numbers this season despite it being his fifth in the league. But he now has four homers over his past six games with a 2:3 K:BB ratio over that stretch. It’s probably meaningless, but as a former top prospect playing an extremely shallow fantasy position, he’s worth a flier. Salty hit 11 homers over 308 at-bats as a 22-year-old during his first stint in the minors, but he’s never really validated his worth as a top prospect since then. Still, clearly scouts have seen tools of a future star, and he now has the benefit of hitting in Fenway Park and in Boston’s lineup. Might as well see if this recent outburst is a sign of things to come for the 26-year-old who’s just now surpassing 900 career ABs at a position that typically develops slower.

This first person view of the Joplin tornado features almost zero visual footage, but that makes their ordeal no less terrifying.

A truly inspiring story regarding conjoined twins.

A few thoughts on some closing situations: Frank Francisco is still probably the best pitcher in the Blue Jays’ pen, but with a 6.23 ERA and with plenty of competition, his job as closer is in jeopardy. He should obviously not be dropped, but in deeper leagues, Jon Rauch should also be owned along with Jason Frasor and Octavio Dotel. Frasor has been the team’s best reliever this season and would likely get the next closing opportunity if lefties were due up, while Dotel, who has struck out 17 batters over 12.1 innings, would possibly get the next save chance against a right-handed heavy lineup…The Dodgers’ bullpen situation might be an even bigger crap shoot, since it involves more unknowns. An area that projected as a strength before the season started, Los Angeles has had to place Jonathan Broxton, Hong-Chih Kuo and Vicente Padilla on the disabled list. Kenley Jansen has a ridiculous K rate, but an equally crazy walk rate and is seemingly unready to be trusted in such a role. Mike MacDougal has a career 4.81 BB/9 ratio. Matt Guerrier is an option, but he’s uninspiring and took the loss Wednesday. Enter Javy Guerra and Rubby De La Rosa? My guess is one of those two will have the most value moving forward. No clue which one…Matt Capps is dealing with forearm soreness, which is rarely a good sign, but there doesn’t appear to be a viable alternative in Minnesota. Although I do think Joe Nathan is the Twins’ reliever to own during the second half of the season.

Pretty legit comeback in a race.

I’m a Werner Herzog fan to begin with, and this interview only reinforced that.

Closers continued: Kevin Gregg deserves credit for the career he’s made for himself as a closer over the past five years, but he’s currently sporting a 1.64 WHIP thanks largely to 13 walks over 18.1 innings. That type of control will be especially problematic in the A.L. East, and while Koji Uehara is a very real injury risk, he’s clearly the team’s best reliever (and also best used one inning at a time), so I’d give him about even odds to lead Baltimore in saves from here on out…Francisco Rodriguez has been fantastic this season, and while his crazy contract provisions make him a prime trade candidate for the Mets, it also makes him undesirable to potential buyers, unless they are willing to make him a setup man, which could lead to a poisonous situation. Either way, Jason Isringhausen is an NL-only league stash…The Cardinals’ bullpen has been as volatile as it gets, but Fernando Salas clearly is the guy to own now and from here on out. I dropped him in both Yahoo F&F and my home league, naturally…Aroldis Chapman being a threat to Francisco Cordero’s job seems like such a distant memory…Also, remember when some considered the Rays’ bullpen a weakness before the season? I won’t go into details (you can ask any Tigers fan for verification), but let’s all try to remember this example of just how fickle relief pitching is.

I try to include mostly sophisticated links, but sometimes, a good old-fashioned “fail” deserves a look, especially when the recorder gives us a Mario laugh.

To further my proclamation of only using sophisticated links, I give you a man found chained to a box of sand in a life raft.

Closers, Part 3: What is wrong with Joakim Soria and Neftali Feliz? Both have seen their fastball velocity dip about 1.5 mph, but that hardly explains the sudden lack of control. Dave Cameron mentioned this stat over at Fangraphs last week, and it’s only gotten crazier since then. Feliz has faced 31 right-handed batters this year. He’s posted a 0:11 K:BB ratio against them. Please read that again. This only reinforces just how truly special Mariano Rivera’s career has been. There’s only one fantasy closer who can be compared right now, and that’s Jonathan Papelbon, who has posted an ERA under 2.35 in five of the past six years since he took over closing duties (and his peripherals remained strong during his down year in 2010). With his K rate, there’s an argument he should currently be viewed as the No. 1 fantasy closer. More saves, and likely plenty of them, are sure to follow.

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Moving The Needle

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

New post up. Check it out.

The Scoop

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

By Dalton Del Don

As a 34-year-old constantly dealing with knee injuries playing half his games in a park tough to homer in, Carlos Beltran wasn’t exactly a target of mine entering 2011. Not only has he managed to stay healthy, he’s hit about as well as any point in his career so far this season. Beltran really is a health risk, so it might be worth shopping him around, but there’s certainly nothing fluky about his performance. In fact, his walk and K rates are both better than his career norms, and his current BABIP is just .288. While no longer close to the same terrific defender he once was, the move to right field may keep Beltran’s legs fresher, and it’s hard to argue with the results. He won’t help as a base stealer like he used to, but after totaling 17 home runs over the past two injury-riddled seasons, Beltran is on pace to finish with 31 homers, 81 runs scored and 91 RBI – not bad for someone with such a low ADP.

Here’s a clip of the Marlins’ announcers making fun of an emotional fan who also happens to be a man baby.

I know I tell myself this every time, but I swear, next time I go to Las Vegas, I’m being more responsible.

Jake Peavy pitched far better than his ERA indicated during his first start of the season last week, and after spinning a complete game shutout Wednesday against an Indians team that leads the American League in runs scored, he’s now sporting a 12:0 K:BB ratio. Peavy, who underwent surgery for an injury never before suffered by a pitcher, says he’s just about 80 percent right now, and we likely won’t see the 100 percent version until 2012 if at all, but his fastball has shown plenty of velocity, and his changeup and slider remain terrific pitches. He’s without question one of the bigger injury risks there are, and he’ll have to deal with a poor White Sox’s defense behind him, but Peavy can pitch like a top-20 fantasy starter while his health permits.

If you’re going to run on the field, at least make it noteworthy like this guy.

Man licking shoes on subway? Man licking shoes on subway.

I was worried about Adrian Gonzalez’s power this season coming off shoulder surgery, but apparently the effects were only a slow April, because he sure looks fully recovered in May. Over his past 15 games, Gonzalez has hit eight homers while racking up 22 RBI – a category in which he leads major league baseball. In fact, he’s on pace to finish with 143 runs batted in. It sure helps switching from an anemic San Diego lineup to Boston’s. Gonzalez’s walks are way down this season, and while that fundamentally makes sense considering opposing pitchers can’t pitch around him the same way they could while he was wearing a Padres’ uniform, it’s interesting to note he’s actually seen just 40.3 percent of pitches inside the strike zone, which is by far a career-low. Nevertheless, Gonzalez’s willingness to be aggressive is a welcome sight to his fantasy owners. He’s easily a top-five fantasy commodity.

While I’d prefer a burger from a legit restaurant, I’m a fan of In-N-Out Burger, but these people and this lady take it to the next level.

Speaking of hamburgers, this guy is a little nutty.

While getting out of Chase Field is generally a good thing for pitchers, I figured the move from the N.L. to A.L. would more than negate that, so I didn’t treat Dan Haren as an elite fantasy starter entering 2011. As a result, one of the best hurlers in baseball isn’t on any of my teams, as Haren has been mighty impressive so far. His 3.9 FB/HR% and .243 BABIP are obviously going to regress, but no one should expect a pitcher to finish with a 1.93 ERA. And as for that hit rate, his career BABIP is .290, and the Angels currently have the second-best UZR in major league baseball, so that number won’t necessarily take a massive jump. Moreover, Haren’s 8.4 K/9 combined with a 1.1 BB/9 is about as good as it gets. He’s actually thrown his cutter more frequently than his four-seam fastball this season for the first time in his career, and it just shows you don’t need extreme velocity (his average fastball velo has been 89.8 mph) to be a successful pitcher. Over Haren’s last three starts, which have come against @BOS, CLE and @TEX, he’s recorded a 23:1 K:BB ratio. The Angels’ top-two starters can match any in baseball.

Through rain, sleet or snow, this guy’s lawn will be mowed.

For the second week in a row, I give you a lacrosse clip, this one a pretty sick trick play.

It’s becoming clear Ben Zobrist’s outlier season was last year and not 2009, as he’s off to a .289/.379/.566 start. After playing as the toughest hitter’s park in baseball last season, Tropicana Field has been the third hardest place to hit so far in 2010 (fun with small sampling with Park Factors: Yankee Stadium has actually played as a pitcher’s park, including home runs, over the first seven weeks of the season), so he has that working against him. While mostly the same hitter, the two glaring differences between Zobrist’s 2009 and 2010 campaigns were BABIP and HR/FB%, and both are back up this year. Since he continues to be a terrific base stealer (80.3 percent success rate in his career) and is also a run producer, few middle infielders are as well rounded as Zobrist. He’s a perfect example of a last year’s bum paying off in a big way.

I’ll let the next two links’ headlines speak for themselves:

Maniac decapitates elderly British tourist on holiday island of Tenerife.

87-year-old Nigerian faith healer has 86 wives.

Rajai Davis is hitting .245 with zero homers and just five RBI on the year and has even been platooned a bit recently, but he’s not a bad target for owners in need of speed. An injury kept him out of action for 20 days, but if you were to prorate his stolen bases on a per game basis, he’d be on pace to finish with 85 steals over a full season. And that’s with just a .284 on-base percentage! Davis is likely to start hitting better, and one hot streak would probably get him back in the leadoff spot. Manager John Farrell’s perpetual green light combined with that speed (he’s been successful on 80.1 percent of his SB attempts since his rookie year), Davis could make a major impact in fantasy leagues over the rest of the year.

I doubt Mentos and Diet Coke really killed this man, but this doesn’t look like it felt good.

I won’t get into any politics behind it, but I’d sure be onboard with this project coming to fruition.

Bud Norris has always been interesting thanks to a strong K rate, but it looks like he’s taken the leap this season, as he’s really improved his control. His current 3.06 BB/9 rate isn’t great, but it’s significantly better than last year’s 4.51 mark, and it plays just fine with a 10.80 K/9 rate that is the second highest in all of baseball. While his walk rate was one area of concern, another was Norris’ problems with left-handed batters, as he relies heavily on his slider. In fact, he’s thrown the pitch 37.5 percent of the time this year, which is second only to Brett Anderson in major league baseball. It’s a devastating offering to righties, who have hit just .151 off Norris in 2010, but southpaws have batted .316 and have connected on five of the seven homers he’s allowed this year. Looking deeper, Norris’ line drive percentage jumps from 8.9% against right-handers to 23.9% versus lefties, so he’ll typically be more reliant on matchups than most pitchers, meaning teams who can stack their lineup with left-handers pose a problem. Still, there’s a lot to like about the 26-year-old, and his future looks bright, assuming all those sliders don’t tax his arm too much.

Planking? Really?

This lady is having a bit of trouble exiting the ocean.

I was once treated like a criminal for accidentally having a bottled water in my carry on, so I’m not exactly impressed airport security eventually caught this guy, but his ambition was pretty outrageous.

What more can be said about Jose Bautista at this point? You’ve probably heard most of these, but he’s hit five homers in Target Field this year while the Twins as a team have hit six. He’d easily be on pace to shatter the American League record for walks if not for him missing eight games. His current batting line at home is .429/.571/.1.095. According to hittrackeronline, he leads MLB with six “no doubt” homers and just one was deemed “lucky,” and he’s already matched his HR output to right field from all of last season with one. He entered the week with an .868 slugging percentage, which would be the highest in major league history. Also, objects in Bautista’s mirror appear exactly the size they really are, he’s allowed to bring anything he wants through TSA, he knows the contents of Marsellus Wallace’s briefcase, and people with Alzheimer’s remember him. And he’s doing so in an offensive environment that’s significantly down right now. Unsurprisingly, Bautista is seeing just 35.8 percent of pitches thrown to him inside the strike zone, and with his willingness to remain patient, Adam Lind (when he returns from the DL) and Aaron Hill are going to have serious RBI opportunities from here on out. When you consider his third base eligibility and Toronto’s aggressiveness on the base paths, it’s hard not to rank Bautista as the No. 1 fantasy player right now.

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The Scoop

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

By Dalton Del Don

Anibal Sanchez has recorded just two wins and currently sports a 3.46 ERA with a pedestrian 1.34 WHIP, but he’s become quite interesting if you look deeper. After posting an 11:0 K:BB ratio against the Nationals during his last start, he’s now fanned 43 batters over 41.2 innings this season. Like usual, his control has remained shaky (3.67 BB/9), but that’s really the only area he needs to improve to reach ace potential if this K rate is here to stay (that and staying healthy, of course). Sanchez has always been tough to hit (career BABIP .293) and homer against (career 7.2 HR/FB%), and we’ve yet to truly see how effective a fully healthy version can be. His average fastball velocity is a career-high (91.7 mph), but the real eye opener has been his slider, which he’s thrown at an average of 86.1 mph – a full 2.4 mph faster than his career norm. Sanchez remains highly inconsistent, but he’s on the radar at a minimum, and those in daily leagues should feel confident using him at home, where he posted a 2.65 ERA last year and currently boasts a 31:7 K:BB ratio with a 1.69 ERA and 0.79 WHIP over 26.2 innings.

Charles Barkley with the world’s oddest golf swing. Stanky leg!

Minor league watch: Even in standard 12-team mixed leagues, Dominic Brown, Desmond Jennings and Brandon Belt should be stashed right now. Ben Francisco hasn’t been worthless since he’s getting on base at a decent clip, but it’s come with little power. Meanwhile, Brown is back to health and currently hitting .367/.429/.673 with four homers over 49 at-bats in Triple-A. It should only be a matter of time before the Phillies turn to the former top prospect…Jennings is playing much better than last season, as he’s currently posting a .417 OBP while recording eight steals without being caught. His recall isn’t imminent, since the cash-strapped Rays want to keep his service time down and as an organization always want to be 100 percent certain their prospects are ready before giving them a chance in the bigs, but Sam Fuld, sadly, has just three hits over his past 50 at-bats…Belt is hitting .389/.514/.593 since being sent down to Triple-A Fresno, and while it’s unclear what his role would be back in San Francisco (most likely, he’d play left field), he’s going to get another chance sooner rather than later.

I’m beginning to think this guy may have had too much to drink.

There’s legitimate concern Mat Latos is pitching hurt. After dealing with an arm injury in spring training last year, he followed by tossing 184.2 innings, which was 61.2 more than he had ever thrown before. Then he again dealt with an arm issue in spring training entering 2011, and his walk rate has taken a spike since, sometimes a precursor for someone pitching hurt. Moreover, his average fastball velocity is down from 93.7 mph last season to 91.9 mph this year, and the same is true with his slider (down from 84.7 to 83.3). A pessimist could also point to his 4.86 ERA despite a .275 BABIP. However, if you believe he’s healthy (and he and Bud Black state he is, for what it’s worth), or if you are a gambling type, Latos is an excellent buy-low target. After all, he’s now 0-10 over his last 11 starts. While his average velocity is down, he’s hit 96 mph at times, and more importantly, he’s struck out 34 batters over 33.1 innings. Every pitcher in baseball will have a rough 5-6 start stretch from time to time, his just happens to be amplified because it’s occurred at the beginning of the season, a time in which he actually could be expected to start slow since he missed most of spring training. Trading for him now would take a leap of faith, and there are real health concerns, but Latos is a dominant pitcher when right and calls Petco Park home, so a huge reward could be the payoff.

Count me in for self-driving cars.

Mitch Moreland opened the year batting eighth or ninth and sitting against left-handers. He’s currently hitting fifth and even getting some starts against southpaws, including Wednesday, when he hit a grand slam off Gio Gonzalez before the game was postponed (brutal for his fantasy owners and amazing luck for Gonzalez owners). His OPS is now .925 and if the move up in the order sticks, his counting stats will get a big boost as well. Moreland may not truly be that great of a player (current road OPS is .775), but that doesn’t matter to fantasy owners since he plays half his games in Arlington. It looks like he’s going to go down as one of the better corner infield steals in fantasy leagues.

Crazy lacrosse shot.

I hate to say it, and I know some will argue it’s far too soon to declare any such conclusion, but moving forward, I’m treating Jason Heyward as an injury risk until proven otherwise. Maybe it’s just been bad luck, and he’s admittedly only 21 years old, but this is becoming a concern. And it’s always a different part of his body too. The latest is a sore shoulder that will require an MRI and even worse, numbness in his forearm. That doesn’t sound promising. I hope I’m wrong. It’s encouraging he’s been able to play through these injuries, which shows he’s tough, but there is seemingly always some nagging problem sapping his production.

Maybe the 80th time will be the charm.

Homer Bailey has looked dominant over his first two starts since returning from the disabled list, allowing just one run with a 12:1 K:BB ratio over 13.0 innings. Of course, it’s a two-start sample both coming against the Astros. But this dates back to last year, when he recorded a 9.1/9 K rate and a 3.1:1 K:BB ratio after the All-Star break. The real interesting aspect is just how different he’s pitched so far in 2011. After throwing his slider 9.9% of the time throughout his career, he’s used the pitch a staggering 29.8% this season, with terrific results. The downside is the major increase in slider usage doesn’t exactly instill confidence in a pitcher who’s dealt with past arm injuries staying healthy, but remember Bailey was once considered the top pitching prospect in all of baseball. He’s pretty intriguing.

Just when you think Shake Weight jokes are all played out, there’s this gem. I love the local news.

Gaby Sanchez is off to a fantastic start this season, posting a .331/.412/.534 line with a 19:18 K:BB ratio. He’s also on pace to finish with 28 homers, 102 runs scored and 107 RBI. He’s absolutely crushing fastballs, as his 13.9 runs above average leads major league baseball. Sanchez, who did most of his damage against left-handers last year, is actually hitting righties (.967 OPS) better than southpaws (.854) in 2011. He’s shown great strides at the plate and is just now entering his prime at age 27. Sanchez has established himself as the Marlins’ cleanup hitter, and like Ike Davis, these two seemingly good but not great first base prospects suddenly look like elite ones six weeks into the 2011 season.

Speaking for the first time in 20 years, Charles Manson recently gave his views about global warming. And why wouldn’t we want to know this man’s thoughts on the matter?

Tim Lincecum is just 3-3 on the year, but he’s pitching better than ever over his first eight starts of 2011. His 10.73 K/9 rate and 55.0 GB% are both career-bests, the latter by a wide margin. His walk rate (2.93 BB/9) is also the second-lowest mark of his career, and his 2.11 ERA is all the more impressive when you consider five of his eight starts have come on the road, and the Giants have fielded the third worst defense in baseball, according to their -10.7 UZR/150 rating. Among the top-45 starting pitchers on the GB% leaderboard, only three others (Roy Halladay, Ricky Romero and Matt Garza) also sport a K/9 better than 9.0. Lincecum’s 55.0 GB% is better than those three, and only Garza’s 11.69 K/9 rate is superior. In fact, not one pitcher has finished both with a K rate above 9.0 and a GB% above 50.0 since Fangraphs started recording groundball rates in 2002. To reiterate, Lincecum currently sports a 10.73 K/9 and a 55.0 GB%! After an awful August last year, Lincecum dealt with serious adversity for the first time in his career, so instead of letting his dominant September and World Series win satisfy him, he worked harder than ever during the offseason, including an In-N-Out diet that consisted of a single order typically being three double-doubles, two orders of fries and a shake in an effort to bulk up (he now weighs 169 pounds AFTER gaining 11 lbs over winter), and it’s paying off. His velocity is up with his fastball, curveball and especially his slider (up 2.6 mph from his career level), which he has used with much more frequency this season, finally giving him a true out pitch against righties to counter his deadly changeup versus lefties. Roy Halladay is baseball’s best pitcher, but Lincecum is off to a ridiculously fantastic start this season.

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The Scoop

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

By Dalton Del Don

Ubaldo Jimenez is off to a rough start this season, and many are concerned about his drop in velocity (his average fastball is down from 96.1 mph last year to 92.5 mph so far this year), and his control has been downright awful (4.95 BB/9), but I view him as much more of a buy-low candidate than someone to be overly worried about. After ending May last season with a 0.78 ERA, Jimenez has posted a 4.46 ERA since, a span stretching 161.1 innings. Still, just as he wasn’t truly as good as he was over the first two months last year, he’s certainly much better than he’s been over the five months since then. Jimenez’s drop in velocity this season can mostly be blamed on his first start, when he was regularly working in the high 80s thanks to a cut on his thumb. That start still greatly influences his velo numbers since he’s only made four total this year. During his last two outings, he’s been working in the mid 90s, even reaching 100 mph in his last start, so those pointing to that being the main culprit for his struggles are off base. Jimenez’s control is a concern, but his stuff isn’t. His current K rate is a career-best, as is his contact% (percentage of contact made when swinging at all pitches). It would be easy to point to his low LOB% (57.1), but any pitcher with a 7.20 ERA is obviously going to look unlucky in certain areas. He still has Coors Field working against him (a park that plays much more hitter-friendly in the summer months too), but it’s important to remember Jimenez is one of the toughest pitchers to hit in baseball (career .279 BABIP and 7.5 HR/FB%), and you’ll want him on your fantasy team when he gets his mechanics straightened out.

This security guard must have played safety in high school.

Lance Berkman has to be one of the craziest stories so far in 2011. His current line is .402/.477/.773, and just for fun, he’s also on pace to finish with 49 homers, 130 runs scored and 146 RBI. He’s walked more times (14) than he’s struck out (13) – all while playing the outfield for the first time in nearly five years. It’s clear we should have taken his “best shape of career” stories during spring training more seriously (he worked hard over the offseason thinking his career would be over if he repeated such a poor 2010 performance). But in the four years before last season, he posted OPSs of 1.041, .896, .986 and .907, so his bat shouldn’t have been written off at age 35 (not that I realized this, because he ended up on zero of my fantasy teams). Clearly Berkman won’t sustain this pace, and durability, especially while playing the outfield, was his biggest concern entering 2011, so sure, he’s a sell-high candidate if possible. But if he manages to stay healthy, there’s every reason to expect him to continue being a good to great hitter from here on out.

The diverse food options at Nationals’ games are apparently second to none.

The NFL Draft was compelling as usual, although the lockout remains frustrating. As a Beanie Wells and Jahvid Best owner in a dynasty league, things could have gone better for me, although I did trade Pierre Thomas for the former. My immediate fantasy reaction is that Daniel Thomas looks like the clear No. 1 rookie. As for real life ramifications, I’ve lately become the believer that grading drafts truly is a useless exercise. SI’s Peter King agreed during his latest MMQB, but it was quite confusing to see him later criticize the Patriots’ draft in the very same column. A dissonance is here.

Rick Porcello was clearly due to regress last year after posting an ERA south of 4.0 during his rookie campaign despite a 4.69 K/9 ratio no matter how many groundballs he produced unless he seriously changed as a pitcher. He didn’t, and the results were predictable (4.92 ERA), although he did show signs of improvement after the All-Star break (33:22 K:BB ratio beforehand, 51:16 afterward). Still, there’s real reason for optimism so far in 2011. While hardly elite, his K rate is up markedly (6.98 K/9), and he’s actually fanned 17 batters over the past 19.2 innings. That plays plenty well with such strong control, as he’s walked just one batter in three of his four outings and currently sports a terrific 3.3:1 K:BB ratio to go along with the fantastic GB rate (51.0%). Porcello hasn’t had an overly difficult schedule, but three of his four starts have come on the road. He’s not going to have a Justin Verlander type leap in strikeouts, and his fastball velocity will apparently never be what it once was when he was drafted, but he’s throwing his changeup twice as often this season compared to last, and it’s been highly effective. Porcello is intriguing.

This is one of the saddest, most ridiculous stories I’ve read in a while.

Actually, this isn’t exactly uplifting either.

Well, as long as we’re going down the depressing route, there’s also this story, which is also a pretty compelling read.

There’s an argument Mike Adams is the best relief pitcher in baseball. Adams not only posted a 0.73 ERA and 0.59 WHIP in 2009, but he held opposing batters to a .251 OPS while pitching at home, with a .110 slugging percentage. He followed that up with a dominant 2010 season and has been even better so far this year, recording a 14:0 K:BB ratio. He gave up a hit during his last outing, raising his WHIP to 0.27 in the process. Sure Petco Park helps, but he could pitch in the Grand Canyon, and these numbers would still impress. Especially since the Padres are off to such a slow start, Heath Bell looks like a prime trade candidate come July, and if he’s moved, patient owners who stashed Adams will suddenly have a top-three closer on their hands.

Sticking with the Padres, San Diego is currently batting .217 with a .320 slugging percentage, both the lowest in MLB. And yet, their 114 walks lead the National League. I’m not sure if this confirms the theory of hitters having more control of walks than pitchers or disputes it. Common sense would suggest pitching in Petco Park would lead to fewer walks (why not attack the zone in the toughest place to hit?), but according to Park Factors, it’s favored the hitter when it comes to base on balls each of the past four years, including this one. In fact, it ranked No. 1 in 2009 and No. 3 in 2010! I’m not sure what to make of this, but it’s interesting nevertheless. Got any theories?

What a terrific MMA card over the weekend. The kick that knocked out and ultimately ended Randy Couture’s career was one of the best you’ll ever see, made even better by Steven Seagal once again taking credit for it. The Jose Aldo v. Mark Hominick fight, which resulted in someone who looked like this dominating the fifth and final round and nearly winning, was an instant classic. And let’s hope Georges St-Pierre’s vision problem isn’t long-term, because his next fight against Anderson Silva might very well be the biggest in UFC history.

Eric Hosmer is currently hitting .430/.518/.581 with 18 walks compared to 15 strikeouts over 93 at-bats in Triple-A. The PCL is a hitter-friendly environment, but the 21 year old’s already high stock continues to climb. Hosmer has officially passed the likes of teammate Mike Moustakas among others as the No. 1 minor leaguer to stash in fantasy leagues. With Kila Ka’aihue struggling mightily (he’s become the poster boy for current Quad-A players), there’s apparently a clear path for playing time as well. The Royals likely won’t call up Hosmer until the end of May or early June thanks to service time issues, but he’s worth stashing until then if you can afford the bench spot. He’s even capable of stealing 10-15 bases, and Kansas City currently leads MLB in that category, as they have been aggressive running. Hosmer is capable of making an impact immediately at the major league level, even at such a young age.

I’ve tried to make a point not to post videos featuring animals, but my wife sent me this, and I must admit, I smirked.

The NBA is usually the most predictable of all the main sports but not so much this year. Could we really be looking at the Mavericks, Grizzlies and Hawks as three of the final four teams? Pretty insane. Almost as crazy as Dirk Nowitzki finishing sixth in MVP voting. I may have looked foolish betting over 64.5 wins for the Heat before the year (and doing so boastfully), but am I vindicated if they ultimately win it all?

I wrote about Gordon Beckham here, but he’s hardly the only player on the White Sox struggling. The team I picked to win the A.L. Central has had its share of bullpen trouble, but the offense deserves plenty of blame as well. Alex Rios, who had a .458 OPS on May 1, has homered in three of his past five games, so the window to buy-low on him is closing fast, but Adam Dunn is hitting .153 and has just three home runs after reaching at least 38 long balls in each of the past seven seasons. Meanwhile, Juan Pierre has been caught stealing more times (eight and he’s also been picked off once) than he’s been successful (six) this year. What a disaster. I’d need odds, not only because the Indians are currently 10.5 games up, but I also am somewhat of a believer in them, but I still expect the White Sox to contend for the division title. I’d be surprised if they finish lower than second.

If you’ve seen a crazier headline than this, I’d like to hear about it. If you’re interested in more depth with this story (and really, who wouldn’t be), click here.

I understand the Cardinals’ closing situation is extremely frustrating in the fantasy community (including to me, as I thought I made a savvy grab of Fernando Salas for about five minutes), but other than us, baseball fans shouldn’t be complaining. Tony LaRussa is playing matchups, and while we can’t really point to him using his best relievers in the highest leverage situations (he did the opposite in fact when he called on Ryan Franklin with the bases loaded during a tie game with two outs in the eighth inning right after removing him from the closer’s role), we also can’t expect to have it both ways. From a fantasy perspective, if forced to choose, I’d probably want to own Eduardo Sanchez most, but he just turned in a dud Wednesday. If I were to rank current murky closer situations, here’s how I’d do so: 1) Sergio Santos 2) Frank Francisco 3) Brandon League 4) Vicente Padilla 5) Mark Melancon 6) Eduardo Sanchez.

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NYT Column

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

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