Archive for April, 2009

Not Your Sons Rays….

April 30, 2009

Through the first 22 games of the season, the Rays have played more like your father’s Devil Rays of 1999-2007 rather than your son’s Rays of 2008. The Rays are currently in last place with a 8-14 record in the very tough AL East and really have not played well all season. For a team that is supposed to be one of the best in the American League, everyone is asking what is wrong with the Rays?

The Rays might go back to this logo of they keep this up

The Rays might go back to this logo of they keep this up

First you can start with the hitting. Despite getting hot starts from Longoria and Bartlett, the Rays rank towards the bottom of the AL in most offensive categories. They are 10th in runs (97), 12th in avg (.260), 9th in OBP (.334), 8th in avg with RISP (.270) and 3rd in K’s (169). The Rays aren’t getting on base and when they do, nobody can get a clutch hit. That is a recipe for disaster.

Second you can look at the pitching staff and in particular the starters. Shields, Garza, Kazmir and Sonnanstine were so good for the Rays last year and well so far this year…not so good. The Rays starters are 9th in the AL with a 5.08 era. Sonnanstine has an era of 7.78, Kazmir has a 5.40 era and Garza has a 4.97 era. Only Shields has had a decent start so far. His era is 3.74. The bullpen, despite meltdowns from Grant Balfour (7.50 era and 7 BB in 6 IP) and Dan Wheeler (8.59 era and 3 HR’s in just 7.1 IP) is in the middle of the pack in the American League with a 3.92 era. They only have blown 1 save opportunity so far and Troy Percival hasn’t broken down yet. The fact that Percival is still healthy is probably more of a positive than only blowing 1 save so far because the Rays have only had 4 save opportunities.

It seems like a perfect storm of inconsistant hitting and pitching for the Rays so far. I asked one of the foremost authorities on the Rays, Cork Gaines of RayIndex.com what is wrong with the Rays and here is what he had to say about the team….

“Right now the Rays are the exact opposite of the Blue Jays. Everybody on the Jays is playing above their norms and it is highly unlikely that this will continue for the entire team.

Nobody thinks Pat Burrell is only going to hit 8 home runs (his current pace). Nobody thinks Dioner Navarro is going to hit under .200. And nobody thinks BJ Upton is going to hit .158 with no home runs all season. Same thing with the pitching staff. Matt Garza and Scott Kazmir are not 5.00 ERA pitchers and Andy Sonnanstine is not a 7.50 ERA pitcher.

Law of averages says there are a lot of hits remaining in those bats and a lot of good innings in those arms.

At the same time, the Rays had better start finding those hits and innings, or they are in danger of digging a hole that is too big to come out of. “

So there you have it Rays’ fans, there is some hope. Here are some other things that should make you feel better as well. The Rays were only 11-11 after 22 games last year and according to Bill James’ Pythagorean Theorem of Winning % (Runs Scored^2/Runs Scored^2 + Runs Allowed^2 = Winning % for those of you scoring at home), the Rays are more of a .470 or .500 team rather than the .364 team they currently are.

The Rays kick off a 4 game home stand starting tonight against the first place Red Sox, a team that has won 11 out of their 12 games. I feel this is a huge series for the Rays. They can back on track with a good series or if they lose 3 out of 4, they might be digging themselves a hole they might not get out of.

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Is Hamels Walking Under A Black Cloud?….

April 30, 2009

Phillies ace, Cole Hamels is finding out real quickly that the baseball gods are a fickle bunch. Since winning the NLCS and WS MVP last year, Hamels has experienced nothing but bad luck this year. Seriously, who did Hamels upset? Unless the ultimate baseball god is a Mets fan, it’s almost hard to believe what has happened to Hamels since the start of spring training.

Hamels suffered from a sore elbow in spring training which kept him sidelined most of camp. There was no structural damage found but it was definitely a scary time for both Hamels and Philly fans. After an extended spring training Hamels made his season debut against the Rockies on April 10th and got torched to the tune of 7 runs and 11 hits in 3.2 innings. Not a good start to the season for my predicted Cy Young award winner.

Hamels hasn't been smiling in 09

Hamels hasn't been smiling in 09

In his second start of the season Hamels pitched better than he did in his first outing (6 IP, 8 H, 4 R), but it’s occurrences in Hamels’ last 2 starts that have you questioning whether or not he is walking under a black cloud. Against the Brewers, Prince fielder smacked a line drive off the arm of Hamels which knocked him out of the game in the 4th inning and then in a start against the Nationals, Hamels sprained his ankle fielding a bunt in the 5th inning which knocked him out of the game as well. That’s unbelievable. Think about it, the odds of a pitcher leaving 2 consecutive games because of injuries like this is unprecadented.

Hamels is expected to make his next his next start Monday in St Louis but you have to start wonder what will happen to Hamels this time? Will he strain an oblique swinging the bat? Will he trip over Chase Utley’s bat causing a bruised knee? Hopefully none of these scenarios happen because Hamels is a great pitcher and when he is on, there are few better. Hamels still has about 30 more starts to go baring injury and hopefully May-October will be better for Hamels because it can’t get much worse.

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Simply click on the link to Big Fly Sports and enter the Promo Code:  ICGHOSTS

You Can Never Have Too Much Depth….

April 29, 2009

In my super competitive fantasy league I thought I had the ultimate bullpen. I had drafted Joakim Soria, Jose Valverde and Joel Hanrahan. Then I picked up Jason Motte because he was getting the majority of saves in spring training and he could be used as trade bait during the season. I was figuring with these 4 closers I would have somewhere in the neighborhood of 125-130 saves. I also figured that this was one area of my team that I would not have to worry about throughout the season. Boy was I wrong.

My fantasy closer. Oy Vey

My fantasy closer. Oy Vey

Motte lost his closer’s role seemingly on Opening Day, Hanrahan has a 8.64 era, Soria has a shoulder injury and has pitched once in the last 2 weeks and now Jose Valverde just landed on the DL because of a strained calf. Soria worries me the most because he has a shoulder injury. You never know if that is the start of something more serious down the road.

So what I thought would be a strength at the beginning of the season is now a weakness. My 2 closers are now Scott Downs and LaTroy Hawkins. Awesome!!! My point of this post is not to complain about my closer situation but to make a point that you can never have too much depth at any position on your fantasy team. What you think is a strength could turn into a weakness overnight. Injuries and poor performance can kill a fantasy team in split second.

So go out and pick up an extra OF, pick up a Phil Hughes, or pick up a Dexter Fowler. Get yourself some depth so you don’t get stuck with Scott Downs and LaTroy Hawkins as your closer.

Jason Bay Graduates…..

April 28, 2009

With Jason Bay’s recent game tying 2 run HR against Mariano Rivera on Friday night and with his go-ahead 3 run HR last night against Kerry Wood, Jason Bay has graduated from the Paul Molitor HOF of “Players if they played in New York, Boston or LA they would be superstars” to the Vladimir Guerrero HOF of “Players who played in a small market then moved to New York, Boston or LA and became a superstar.”

Bay is becoming a star in Boston

Bay is becoming a star in Boston

Bay came to the Red Sox last year on the July 31st trading deadline in that famous 3 team trade that involved Manny Ramirez and most people laughed at the Red Sox and their fans saying they couldn’t believe that all the Red Sox got for Ramirez was Bay. Bay played in baseball purgatory in Pittsburgh so nobody really knew how good Bay could be. Is Bay Manny Ramirez? No, few are. But Jason Bay is the real deal. He has been everything the Sox had hoped for and more. He is gritty, he has been clutch (.341/3/9 in 08 postseason), he has played good defense and he plays the game the right way. Most importantly Bay appears to have “it.” The “it” that makes Kevin Youkilis and Dustin Pedroia so good. There is a certain toughness that those players have and Bay looks to have that as well.

Through 19 games this year Bay has hit .344/5/19 with 20 walks and a .506 OBP. Not bad for a guy who was traded for Brandon Moss and Craig Hansen. Speaking of trades, Bay has also been traded from the Expos for Lou Collier, from the Mets for Jason Middlebrook and Steve Reed and from the Padres for Brian Giles. Ouch!!! How does a guy who has a 162 game average of .283/31/104 slip through the cracks like that and gets traded for mostly garbage? Puzzling.

Jason Bay is going to be a star in Boston and is a legitimate MVP candidate this year. Nobody is laughing now.

Diamondbacks In Trouble….

April 28, 2009

Despite beating the Giants on Sunday in a game where they were trailing 4-2 heading into the 9th, I believe the Diamondbacks are in trouble. I know it’s only 18 games into the season, but there a lot of things I am seeing from the Diamondbacks that have me doubting my World Series pick.

Upton is off to a slow start

Upton is off to a slow start

  1. Losing Brandon Webb is a big blow. Webb is one of the 10 best pitchers in the NL and not to have your ace for almost 2 months is hard to recover from.
  2. There young hitters are not developing. One of the reasons I predicted the Diamondbacks would make the World Series is because I thought their young hitters would blossom this year. For whatever reason Bob Melvin is not getting through to these guys. Conor Jackson, Justin Upton, Chris Young and Stephen Drew should all be coming into their own and instead, none of them are batting higher than .227. I look at Jackson and I see a guy who should be a .300/25/100 guy. Instead he is a .275/15/75 guy. Puzzling to me.
  3. Not only are their young hitters not hitting, all of their hitters are not hitting. The Dbacks are 15th in the NL in runs scored (63), last in avg (.223) and 14th in OPS (.690).
  4. The Dbacks record is 7-11. Normally that wouldn’t be of concern only 18 games into the season. However, the Dbacks in April play 18 out of their 22 games at home. If the schedule makers are going to be that friendly to you in April, you better to get off to a fast start. If they are not going to win their games at home, how are they going to win on the road?
  5. Bob Melvin might be dead man walking. One of the more interesting prop bets is who will be the 1st manager to be fired? Well, if the Diamondbacks keep up their lackluster play it might be Melvin. I watched the recent series with the Giants and the Dbacks looked in a daze and uninspired. Not only that but their are 2 big strikes against Melvin. One, the Dbacks have regressed since Melvin led them to a 90-72 record and a division title in 2007 and two, the rise of Carlos Quentin is really a black eye for Melvin and his ability to develop young players.

Now the good news is the Diamondbacks play in the NL where mediocrity reigns supreme. If the Diamondbacks can hang on until Webb comes back, 88-90 wins should be good enough to win the Wild Card. Maybe the comeback win on Sunday will inspire the Diamondbacks? Maybe if Melvin gets fired the Diamondbacks will get inspired? But right now things aren’t looking good for the Diamondbacks.

Please not this article was written before last nights Cubs vs Diamondbacks game.

Fantasy Week In Review 4/20-4/26…

April 27, 2009

As the first month of the season closes, we should be getting a better feel for our fantasy teams and what our needs are. Do I need pitching? Do I need another bat? These are the questions we should start asking ourselves heading into May.

Here are the players who are hot, the players who are giving reasons for concern and some injury news for the week of 4/20-4/26.

Fantasy Studs

Ryan Braun – .565/3/8. Braun really hit the cover off the baseball this week and has officially started his push towards an MVP season.

Albert Pujols – .450/3/11. Single handily beat the Mets and Cubs in 1 week. Pujols was so dominate he even stole a couple of bases jsut for fun. You know that Dos Equis commercial where they feature the “Most Interesting Man In The World?” I think Pujols has an awkward moment on the baseball field just to see what it feels like.

Jay Bruce – .455/4/8. Bruce and Votto might make the best 1-2 punch in the NL in a couple of years.

Mike Lowell – .435/2/11. Some of the best moves are the ones you don’t make. Lowell has come back better than the Sox ever expected from hip surgery.

Carlos Beltran – .542/1/7. With Citi Field being bigger than Yellowstone, if Beltran keeps hitting linedrives he could lead the league in hitting.

Ross Ohlendorf – 2-0 with a 1.93 era and 7 K’s in 14 IP. Time to start giving some love to the Pirates. Ohlendorf pitched 7 quality innings against the Padres yesterday and has a 3.24 era for the season.

Rich Harden – 2-0 with a 3.00 era and 17 K’s in 12 IP. If only this guy could stay healthy he would be a Cy Young candidate every year. Right now he is just a 5 or 6 inning pitcher but if he keeps striking out more than a batter per inning he is worth starting on your fantasy team every time out.

Armando Galarraga – 1-0 with a 3.27 era and 11 K’s in 11 IP. Galarraga has really come into his own this year. With the improved Tigers D and O, Galarraga could win 15+ games this year.

Reasons for concern

David Wright – .240/2/8. 2 HR’s and 8 RBI isn’t bad for a week but Wright is striking out a ton. 2 things concern me about Wright.

Wright has me concerned

Wright has me concerned

  1. I am starting to wonder if the pressure is starting to get this guy. He looks so tight right now
  2. Wright’s power is to right field. With right field in Citi Field being a place where HR’s go to die (415 ft in some parts), I am concerned Wright’s power #’s will be down.

Mike Aviles – .111/1/1. Aviles came on the scene last year but it is starting to look like pitchers are starting to figure out Aviles who hasn’t seen a pitch he hasn’t liked all season.

Oliver Perez – 0-1 with an 11.00 era, 8 BB and 15 H in 9 IP. I am not going to sugar coat it…Perez stinks. He is a .500 pitcher in his career. I am still trying to figure out A. Why it is was a given he would resign with the Mets? and B. Why the Mets gave him a 3 year $36MM contract when nobody else was bidding on him? Perez might even be sent down to the minors so bench him or release him.

Jake Peavy – 0-2 with a 9.00 and 13 H in 11 IP. I know Peavy is perhaps the biggest advocate of the WBC and that is good for the game. However, it is not good for fantasy owners who suffer through the season after Peavy pitches in this event. The numbers don’t lie. In 2006 Peavy was 11-14 with a 4.09 era and so far this year Peavy is 2-3 with a 5.74 era.

Injury Updates

Brian McCann – Was placed on the 15 Day DL with blurred vision in his left eye. This is a big loss to the Braves and a big loss if McCann was on your fantasy team. The Braves have nobody worthy of picking up at the catcher position.

Stephen Drew – Placed on the 15 Day DL with a strained hamstring. Any time a top SS goes down with an injury it hurts your fantasy team because there are so few good hitting SS. Drew should be back in a couple of weeks. But this isn’t the worst news for the DiamondBacks…..

Brandon Webb – Webb will be shut down for 6 weeks. Ouch!! Webb is one of the best 10 pitchers in baseball so losing him hurts. Keep him stashed away on your fantasy and hopefully he can contribute in the 2nd half.

Chien-Ming Wang – Placed on the 15 Day DL. I told you this would happen last week and that Phil Hughes will replace Wang in the rotation. Hughes might get 2-3 starts so he is worth the pickup, especially in keeper leagues.

Jose Guillen – Activated from the 15 Day DL over the weekend. This move will move Teahan back to 3rd on a full time basis until Gordon comes back.

Trevor Hoffman – Activated from the 15 Day DL. He will start closing ASAP. Charlie Villanueva will moved back to a setup role.

Joe Mauer – The target date for Mauer was supposed to be May 1 but Mauer may come back this week. Mauer is a stud and should be put in your lineup as soon as he comes back.

The Rangers Derek Holland….

April 26, 2009

By all accounts the Texas Rangers currently have the best minor league system in baseball. They are just loaded with front end prospects. This week the Rangers started dipping into that loaded system and called up LHP Derek Holland.

So far the Rangers have used Holland in a relief role which I absolutely love. Instead of just throwing him into the fire, let Holland get his feet wet by pitching a couple of innings at a time. The Blue Jays did this with Halladay and the Twins did this with Santana. I think it worked out well for both of them and Holland is off to a good start giving up just 1 run and 4 hits in 5.1 IP.

I had the opportunity to watch Holland pitch on Saturday night against the Orioles and he showed a good fastball that was between 90-93 and a pretty decent slider which was around 83. Holland also has a change that he threw around 80 mph but doesn’t look to be a strike out pitch at the major league level just yet.

With Holland being left handed and with his long arm motion he reminds me of former Braves pitcher, Steve Avery.

Here are some other facts about Derek Holland….

Age

22

College

Wallace State Community College

Drafted

25th Round of the 2006 Draft

Minor League Stats

2007

Single A-: 4-5 with a 3.22 era, 57 H and 83 K’s in 67 IP

2008

Single A: 7-0 with a 2.40 era, 77 H and 91 K’s in 93.2 IP

Single A+: 3-1 with a 3.19 era, 20 H, just 5 walks and 37 K’s in 31 IP

Double A: 3-0 with a 0.69 era, 14 H and 29 K’s in 26 IP

Keith Law Ranking and Analysis

Ranking: #21 out of 100 best prospects in baseball

Analysis: “Holland’s isn’t the biggest jump on to the list this year, but it might be the most surprising. Texas wasn’t on Holland when he was in junior college until they saw him at the NJCAA World Series a few weeks before the 2006 draft, and they took a flier on him in the 25th round as a draft and follow. His velocity has since increased; he was 88-91 mph the following spring, then was 90-93 in the summer of ’07 in Spokane. By the middle of 2008, he was already in Double-A, sitting 93-95 and touching 98, with natural bore and cut to the pitch and uncanny command. His changeup is already an above-average pitch, and he held right-handed hitters to a .215/.268/.305 line across three levels this year. His slider is still a work in progress, but it’s improving, and he has enough command and deception to get left-handed hitters out in the minors. He doesn’t have the raw upside of Feliz, but he’s not far behind him in potential and is ahead of him in command and feel for pitching, and is the most likely of Texas’ horde (pun intended) of pitching prospects to contribute to the big club in 2009. “

Why Do Teams Pitch To Gonzalez?…

April 26, 2009

I am not going to use graphs, charts or any fancy advanced statistics. I am just going to use my degree from Common Sense University. My degree tells me that when a team only has 1 player who can beat you, don’t let him beat you. I think we would all agree with this thinking. However, 15 teams in the National League don’t subscribe to this. That is the only reason I have for teams pitching to Padres 1B, Adrian Gonzalez.

The only star on the Padres

The only star on the Padres

Adrian Gonzalez currently is second in the NL in HR’s with 6 through the first 2 weeks of the season and is a star. Is he Barry Bonds, Albert Pujols or Manny Ramirez? No, he is not but he is already in the Paul Molitor Hall of Fame for “players if they played in NY, Boston, Chicago or LA they would be considered the greatest players ever.” He is the best player on one of the worst lineups in baseball. Gonzalez hits 4th in the Padre’s lineup and is surrounded by 7 other guys (pitcher not included)  that are all average at best or below average major league hitters. Yet, teams still pitch to him. Why? Someone needs to explain to me why Gonzalez doesn’t get the Barry Bonds treatment? Why do teams continue to let Gonzalez beat them? It’s one thing if the Padres are losing and it doesn’t really matter what Gonzalez does like last year when he had 36 HR’s and 119 RBI on a last place team. But the Padres are winning right now and teams still pitch to him. It makes no sense.

At least Pujols has Ludwick, Arod will have Teixeira and Longoria has Pena. Adrian Gonzalez has Chase Headley. I will take my chances pitching to Headley in any situation rather than pitching to Gonzalez. Gonzalez is on pace for 111 walks this season. He really should be on pace for 162 walks and for the life of me, I can’t figure out why teams pitch to Gonzalez.

What Are The Angels Thinking?….

April 24, 2009

I always believed the Angels were one of the 2 or 3 best run organizations in baseball. They are right up there with the Red Sox and Twins. They have a solid owner in Arte Moreno, they have one of the best minor league systems in the game which has produced John Lackey, Joe Saunders, Francisco Rodriguez, Mike Napoli and Howie Kendrick, they have who I consider the best manager in the game in Mike Scioscia and they have been consistently one of the best teams in baseball over the last 6 years. Have they made their share of mistakes? Sure, every team in baseball makes mistakes. You give me a GM and I will name 5 bonehead moves they have made.

However, it’s a move the Angels are making now that has me beyond confused and has me seriously questioning the Angels. Earlier in the week the Angels called up 3B/SS Brandon Wood. With Vladimir Guerrero on the DL, Wood is exactly what the Angels need – A guy who can hit the ball out of the ballpark. So it makes perfect sense that the Angels, who are desperate for offense called up Wood to put him in the lineup and to let him rake right?  Wrong.

What are you thinking??

What are you thinking??

I turned on the Angels game Wed. night and Wood is on the bench. I turned on the Angels game last night and Wood again is on the bench. What? Why would the Angels call up Wood just to have him sit on the bench? It literally makes no sense. Even my sister who knows less about baseball than any other human being on the face of the earth thinks this makes no sense. This is the equivalent of the Rays calling up Longoria and putting him on the bench, the Brewers putting Braun on the bench when he was called up and if and when the Orioles call up Wieters and putting him on the bench.

Here’s the worst part. He is not playing because of Erick Aybar (.262/4/65/.297 in 4 seasons) and Maicer Izturis (.272/16/154/.336 in 6 seasons). So a team that is struggling to score runs has a guy sitting on the bench who has legit 30 HR power because he is being blocked by 2 guys who have a combined 20 HR’s and a .317 OBP? The only explanation I have is that Aybar has some incriminating pictures of Scioscia with the Rally Monkey.

In all seriousness I think this is Scioscia and the whole organization falling too much in love with small ball. The Angels won the World Series back in 2002 playing small ball and that has been their philosophy ever since. However, sooner or later common sense has to prevail and even the master of small ball, Whitey Herzog would realize that Brandon Wood has to be in the lineup everyday. As good as the Angels have been, you really just have to wonder what the Angels are thinking on this one.

What’s Gotten Into Washburn?…

April 23, 2009

One of the first posts I wrote for this blog was called “Looking at 2010 to predict 2009.” It was a post that tried to predict players who are free agents in 2010 that might have a career year in 2009. This type of career year I dubbed an “Adrian Beltre” year.

Washburn is off to a fast start

Washburn is off to a fast start

Even though we are only 2 weeks into the season, Jarrod Washburn has become the frontrunner for the player to have an “Adrian Beltre” year. Washburn has been pitching in the majors for 12 years and as far as I can tell he has only had 1 good year in his career. That year was 2002 when Washburn was 18-6 with a 3.15 era and finished 4th in the Cy Young award voting while pitching for the Angels. Take out that 2002 season and coming into this year Washburn was 81-94 with a 4.50 era. Not very impressive. 

This year however, Washburn has been a buzzsaw. In his first 3 starts Washburn has gone 3-0 with a 1.71 era and has only given up 14 hits, while striking out 17 in 21 innings pitched. Washburn has been so dominate his first 3 starts that remarkably at the age of 35 he has increased his K/9 from 5.1 last year to 7.3 this year. Washburn’s best K/9 you ask? Again, back in his 2002 season where he had a 6.1 K/9.

Can Washburn keep this up? Well, he has 2 inportant things in his favor…

  1. He is a free agent at the end of the season so the motivation is there.
  2. The Mariners look so far to be a much improved team from last season so the opportunity for wins will be there.

So yes, I think Washburn can keep up with the wins and era (not 1.71 but somewhere in the mid-3’s) but I would be shocked if at the age of 35 he keeps up his K/9. I am sure Washburn has been picked up in most fantasy leagues so whoever has him your league might have picked up the guy who will have the “Adrian Beltre” year.