Results tagged ‘ fantasy baseball ’

Pirates Have Their Ace in Right-hander James McDonald

 

Twitter: @RobShawSports and @BloombergSports

 

If the Pirates are finally going to creep above mediocrity this season it will require James McDonald to evolve into a staff ace.  The Pirates hurler who touches the low 90s went 9-9 last season with a 4.21 ERA.  He would have been much better if he was able to do better than a walk every other inning. 

 

This season McDonald has been better.  The opposition has had a hard time hitting him, to the tune of a .213 average.  Plus, his walks are way down this season resulting in a 1.09 WHIP and a 2.70 ERA.  He is riding a hot streak, allowing just one hit in seven innings in a tough no decision against the Rockies, then picking up a win with 10 K’s in Atlanta, followed by another win with one crossing the dish against him by a solid Reds offense. 

 

McDonald’s success is entirely dependent on his control.  He has the stuff to keep batters off edge at the plate, but he has to keep them off the bases via free passes.  With the Pirates looking to develop young talent with the hope of contending in the short-term, McDonald will have to lead a staff that is comprised of retreads such as Erik Bedard and AJ Burnett.

Mets Starting Pitcher RA Dickey Is More Than Just a Good Story

 Twitter: @RobShawSports and @BloombergSports

 

Mets starting pitcher RA Dickey is more than just a great a story.  He is a solid hurler who earned his billing as the number two pitcher in the Mets rotation.  April is traditionally not a good month for the knuckleball, and yet Dickey has five brilliant performances and one disastrous outing.  On that note, he is 4-1 with a 3.76 ERA and 1.20 WHIP.  Though he remains susceptible to the home run (seven in six starts), Dickey is also something of a strikeout artist this season with 32 K’s in 38.1 innings of work. 

 

Considering the knuckleball is an all-or-nothing pitch, ERA and WHIP may not be the best indicators for his performance.  After all, when a knuckleballer doesn’t have his pitch, he is left with a very hittable fastball.  That explains why after six starts, half of Dickey’s earned runs came in one ugly implosion. 

 

A statistic that is better in tune with Dickey’s performance is quality start percentage.  It requires six or more innings while allowing three or fewer runs to score.  In his breakout 2010 season, Dickey offered a quality start in 18 of his 26 starts (69%).   Last season he finished on a tear and offered a solid 68% quality start percentage.  Finally, this season Dickey has taken it to a whole new level at 83%. 

 

Dickey’s next two starts won’t be slam dunks.  He faces the Marlins in Miami, then heads north for the Blue Jays in Toronto.  What’s interesting is that both games could be played indoors.  This could have an impact for a knuckleballer who relies on the wind to keep the ball moving.  Regardless, Dickey has proven to be an every week start in fantasy baseball leagues, and now that he is also getting strikeouts there are very few holes in his game.   

 

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Mike Minor Making A Home On the Fantasy Waiver Wire

 

Twitter: @RobShawSports and @BloombergSports

 

After a rough opening start against the Mets, Mike Minor responded with three consecutive quality starts.  Minor was suddenly a fantasy star on the rise, which was much-needed for a Braves team that had already demoted hurler Jair Jurrjens to the minor leagues. 

 

Through four starts, Minor boasted respectable numbers including a 2-1 record with a respectable 3.42 ERA.  Most impressive was the 0.99 WHIP as a result of his fine control and .233 opposing batting average.  Minor had not walked a batter in the previous two games and allowed just one home run all season.  Then he hit a rocky road.

 

The Pirates were supposed to be an easy win for Minor.  Instead, the contest marked his second loss of the season, as after hurling two shutout innings he surrendered two runs in three of the next four innings and then another run in the seventh before he was removed.  The good news for fantasy managers were the nine strikeouts, but he also walked three batters and allowed two home runs. 

 

Minor’s next start might as well have been at death row.  He visited the Rockies in Coors Field and while the good news was that the Braves eventually won, the bad news including 10 hits, four walks, and eight earned runs in just five innings of work.  His ERA has skyrocketed to 5.97 and the once impressive WHIP has lost its luster at 1.35. 

 

Things may get worse before they get better as Minor next takes on a very good Cardinals offense.  This is a pitcher that may have a bright future, but for now should make his home on the waiver wire. 

 

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Dodgers Southpaws: Clayton Kershaw and Ted Lilly

Twitter: @RobShawSports and @BloombergSports

The Dodgers are thriving this season, sitting alone in first place in the National League West.  A great deal of credit is certainly owed to Andre Ethier and NL MVP favorite Matt Kemp.  The two outfielders have been prolific run producers and Kemp is fresh off one of the most dominant months in recent history.

While offense is certainly important, it has been the team’s pitching that has let the leads stand.  While Chad Billingsley has returned to form this season and Chris Capuano has been a pleasant surprise, the key arms in the rotation have been southpaws Clayton Kershaw and Ted Lilly.

Kershaw and Lilly could not be more different.  Kershaw is a phenom, who at not even 25 years old is already a Cy Young winner and on the fast track to Cooperstown.  Lilly is a 36-year-old veteran hurling on his sixth Major League team.  While both left-handers have very different pasts, they are both a part of an important present for the Dodgers.

Kershaw was as good as it gets last season with 21 wins, 248 K’s, and a 2.23 ERA.  What’s even more promising is that he is on a better track this season.  Though six starts, Kershaw was just 2-3 with a 3.52 ERA and 15 walks a season ago.  This season, Kershaw remains a perfect 2-0, while his walks have been nearly cut in half and his ERA is just 2.63.

Aside from comparing Kershaw to his own personal milestones there are few other peers who have enjoyed his level of excellence.  Of course, his dominant stuff coming from a left-handed arm slot may remind some of Dodgers Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax.  Truth is, Kershaw is very different than Koufax.  Kershaw could end up having a far greater impact than Koufax.

Koufax was a late bloomer who did not hone his control until he was 25 years old.  He then went on to have six of the most impressive seasons in baseball history before an arm injury prematurely ended his career.  Kershaw has been pitching at a high level since he broke into the league in 2008.  Here’s a comparison of both Dodgers aces through 24 years old.

Year Record IP K BB ERA Games
Kershaw 49-28 754 779 286 2.86 124
Koufax 36-40 691.2 683 405 4.10 174

To put Kershaw’s early performance in even greater perspective, consider that while the 24-year old southpaw’s next win will be his 50th of his career, Ted Lilly, a two-time All-Star, had just five wins at the age of 25.  In many ways, Lilly is more similar to Koufax based on his late bloomer status.  Of course, Lilly never quite had the glory days of Koufax, but when you look at his career trends he does resemble a fine wine that gets better over time.

Age Games Record IP K ERA
20-25 42 5-7 152.1 151 5.73
26-30 143 54-51 783.2 648 4.38
30+ 161 69-52 1001 848 3.67

The Dodgers have a nice blend of young talent and proven veterans.  While the hope is that Kershaw will remain effective far longer than Koufax did and perhaps remain as relevant in his mid-30s as Lilly, what matters most for Dodgers fans is the present.  Right now, the two southpaws are as good as any tandem in baseball.

Fantasy Baseball Stock Report: Jason Bay, Francisco Cordero, and Henry Rodriguez

Twitter: @RobShawSports and @BloombergSports

Watch Bloomberg Sports Anchors Julie Alexandria and Rob Shaw breakdown the top players to buy low and sell high on the fantasy baseball stock report.

 

Selling Jason Bay:

With the Mets in rebuilding mode, they really needed a hot start from Jason Bay to take the pressure off the veteran and highly paid left-fielder.  Though he did sock three home runs through the first 15 games, Bay still lacked consistency as his average was .240 and he is fanning more than once per game.  Alas, another tough break for Bay will take him off the field.  A fractured left rib suffered on a diving play in left field lands him on the DL.  Zach Lutz, a nice power prospect was called up, but I see Kirk Nieuwenhuis likely taking over in left-field once Andres Torres returns and Lucas Duda stays in right field.  Bay may return to a platoon situation.

Selling Josh Collmenter:

From hero to goat!  Josh Collmenter was being celebrated last season, as he managed 10 wins with a 3.38 ERA and an even more impressive 1.07 WHIP thanks to his incredible control combined with a .237 opposing batting average.  This year he has been slammed by the opposition, surrendering six home runs in four starts.  On top of that, Collmenter is likely standing in the way of Diamondbacks phenom Trevor Bauer.  The DBacks made the tough call of pulling Collmenter from the starting rotation.

 Buying Francisco Cordero:

Talk about a heck of an insurance policy, the Blue Jays happened to buy exactly that when they signed Francisco Cordero as a back up to Sergio Santos as the team’s closer.  Cordero got off to a rough start this season, but now that he is the final line for the Blue Jays he is back in a comfortable spot.  He nailed his first two save opporutnities, but has struggled since, allowing runs in four of his last five outings.  At 37 years old, Cordero is getting up there in years and the strikeouts have declined, but he still gets the job done with 34 or more saves in each of the last five seasons.  He’ll hold down the fort until Santos return in at best a month.

Buying Henry Rodriguez:

The Nationals have been known for their bullpen for a few years now, but when Drew Storen went down with an injury, it was thought that the newly acquired Brad Lidge would fill the role in the interim.  It turns out that Nats have a better option in the 25-year-old Henry Rodriguez who has surrendered a earned runs in just one appearance all season while nailing down five saves.  A certain flame-thrower, Rodriguez does have his control issues, but he also has allowed just five hits so far this season.  We’ll see if he can continue to overcome his control issues, as he is 5-6 in saves.

Hurlers Ross Detwiler and Jarrod Parker Making Their Mark

BY ROB SHAW

Twitter: @RobShawSports and @BloombergSports

The Philip Humber perfect games reminded us that sometimes it takes even first round picks a little while to blossom at the Big League level.  Humber was selected with the third pick of the 2004 draft, but it wasn’t until seven years later and on his fourth franchise with the luster of his amateur career diminished that he stuck as a starter.  He is now a part of MLB history and a player with some fantasy value.

The 2007 draft was stacked with pitching talent.  David Price was the top selection out of Vanderbilt and has been one of the best hurlers in baseball over the last few years.  Madison Bumgarner came in at number 10 and has already made an impact in the Big Leagues.  However, four other pitchers were drafted between Price and Bumgarner.  Daniel Moskos was the fourth overall pick, but he has been converted into a relief pitcher and is currently pitching in the minor leagues after mixed results with the Pirates last season.   The eighth pick Casey Weathers is also a reliever, but has yet to make it past Double-A.

Then there is Ross Detwiler and Jarrod Parker, the sixth and ninth picks respectively.  Detwiler had a bumpy ride to the Major Leagues, but is finally taking hold of a starting spot in the Nationals rotation.  The 26-year-old rotated between the starting rotation and bullpen last season, and at the end of the season had an impressive 3.00 ERA.  Perhaps the best fifth starter in the game, Detwiler calls home to a pitcher’s park and with Nationals sluggers Jayson Werth and Adam LaRoche coming back to life, he should have some run support as well.  It’s looking like tough luck for Chien-Mien Wang, who is currently out with an injury.  With a 1.64 ERA and 1.00 WHIP, Detwiler has been one of the best hurlers in baseball this season.

The ninth pick out of the 2007 draft, Jarrod Parker is the top prospect in the A’s system and they couldn’t hold him out any longer.  After four solid starts at Triple-A, the A’s are ready for Parker in the Big Leagues.  It’s time to get to know the 23-year-old right-hander.

Parker was acquired for Trevor Cahill this off-season.  In his one Major League start with the D-Backs last season, Parker did not allow a single run to score in 5.2 innings of work.  Parker was a tad hittable this season in the minor leagues, but this isn’t about the short-term.  This is supposed to be the start of something special and with the pitcher-friendly confines of the Oakland Coliseum, Parker should be picked up in all formats.

In his American League debut, Parker was brilliant allowing just one run to score while pitching into the seventh inning.  Parker scattered seven hits and fanned five batters, and while he did not get a decision, the A’s did win 5-4 over the White Sox.  On Tuesday, Parker tries on a different group of Sox, as the A’s host Boston.  It should be safe for fantasy managers to try out their brand new fantasy phenom.

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Infielders to Target: Mike Aviles, Bryan LaHair

BY ROB SHAW

Twitter: @RobShawSports and @BloombergSports

The Red Sox willingness to trade away both Marco Scutaro and Jed Lowrie was certainly bold, but really the bigger story was the franchise’s confidence in former Royals middle infielder Mike Aviles.

A career .288 hitter, Aviles has been a fine contributor in the Majors when healthy.  The New York native making himself at home in Boston doesn’t have much power, but in a solid lineup he can pile up many runs.  He is also a sneaky stolen base threat.  Think of Aviles in the same mold as Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick, except for a much lower cost and with shortstop eligibility.

Aviles and the Red Sox played at the hitter-friendly US Cellular in Chicago this weekend.  Though he finished hitless in his final seven at bats, the 31-year-old veteran makes for a great start in the next series against Oakland.  The series will be played in Fenway Park where he already boasts two home runs and a .333 average this season.

The Cubs slugger Bryan LaHair reminds me a bit of Michael Morse, a late bloomer with plenty of power who finally broke out last season with the Nationals.  LaHair, is a 29-year-old slugger who entered the season with just five home runs to his credit.  He spent the last six seasons at Triple-A and last season blasted 38 round-trippers with a .331 average.

So far LaHair is batting .382 with the majority of those hits good for extra bases.  While those numbers will regress quite a bit, that does not mean that he can’t still end up as one of the greatest surprises of the season.  LaHair can blast 25 home runs with 90 RBI.

In many ways, he is an upgrade over Carlos Pena for the Cubbies at first base.  He may not be the defensive gem that Pena is, but with an average .150 better than what Pena has offered the last few seasons, the Chicago fan base is not complaining.  Neither should fantasy managers.

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The Sustainability of the Orioles Big Three: Arrieta, Hunter, and Hammel

 

BY ROB SHAW

Twitter: @RobShawSports and @BloombergSports

 

The biggest surprise in baseball could very well be the Baltimore Orioles and what is most shocking is that the success is not a result of the offense as much as it is the pitching.  Let’s take a look at the three over-performing hurlers to determine whether or not the team’s success is sustainable.

Jake Arrieta is seemingly an innings eater who is in the prime of his career.  He does not have much control, he is not a strikeout artist, and he surrenders too many home runs.  His season got off to a great start with a 7-inning two-hit gem against a weak Minnesota offense.  Since then, he has been quite ordinary.  That’s what fantasy managers should expect going forward, as Arrieta epitomizes the average pitcher. 

Tommy Hunter is a far more interesting pitcher.  The Orioles hurler had some success in 2010 with the Rangers, picking up a 13-4 record with a 3.73 ERA.  Hunter is not a strikeout artist, nor does he try to be one.  The big right-hander makes a living keeping his defense busy.  So far, Hunter has been a bit uneven with two gems that resulted in a combined one earned run.  In the other two starts he surrendered a combined six home runs.  Fantasy managers will and should pass on his services since he does not rack up the K’s, but he’s been a winner so far in his career and should be a solid middle of the rotation hurler for the O’s. 

Jason Hammel is looking like a star in Baltimore.  Now that he escaped Colorado, the air is a little bit thicker and the ball is finding gloves in the field.  Additionally, the K’s are coming twice as frequently as last season.  Part of the reason for the sudden success is the addition of a new pitch to the arsenal.  Hammel now throws a sinker and he is getting a lot of ground balls with the new pitch.  The question is whether this type of success is sustainable or if a new scouting report will allow the hitters to make adjustments.  Considering he is already 29 years old and has been in the leagues for several years, it is unlikely a radical change will unfold this late in his career.

The Orioles do have some stars in the lineup as Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, and Matt Wieters should all be in their prime.  The starting rotation is another matter and the problem here is that the team is loaded with overachieving middle of the rotation hurlers.  It is very unlikely that they will be able to sustain this success. 

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Has the Regression begun for Blue Jays SP Kyle Drabek?

 

BY ROB SHAW

Twitter: @RobShawSports and @BloombergSports

 

Kyle Drabek was a top prospect when the Blue Jays acquired him from the Phillies for perennial Cy Young contender Roy Halladay.  The Blue Jays fan base was hoping that Drabek would be able to make an immediate impact, but that did not occur at all in 2010, as the son of former Pirates All-Star Doug Drabek found some success at Double-A, while also walking four batters per nine innings.  That is a statistic that Drabek could get away with in the minor leagues, but a different story in the Majors.  Drabek lost all three starts in 2010.

 

Last season, it was assumed that Drabek would hold a spot in the starting rotation, and sure enough he did open the season with the Blue Jays.  The stay did not last long as he ended the season with just 14 starts and a 6.06 ERA.  The main issue was his lack of control, as he ranked as the worst in the Major Leagues in BB/9 as well as BB/K. 

 

Now 24 years old, Drabek is getting another opportunity this season and he shined bright in the first two games.  In fact, Drabek walked just one batter in his second start as he pitched into the eighth inning and surrendered just one earned run to a solid Orioles offense.  Suddenly, Drabek was again en vogue and was a hot pickup in fantasy baseball. 

 

Alas, doubt has returned to the mind of this fantasy expert.  Even though Drabek remains undefeated with a 2-0 record and the Blue Jays have won all three of his starts, his control was lost in his last start, as he issued six walks in 5.1 innings.  The fact that the Royals did not capitalize has a lot to do with Drabek’s ability to miss bats (he boasts 15 K’s in 18 innings) and a little bit of luck. 

 

On Thursday, the Orioles face Drabek for the second time this season.  In many ways, Drabek remains a wild card as he has great stuff, including a 94 MPH heater with movement, but if his control is lost the numbers could take a hit.  I’d expect a bit of regression for the next few months of the season.  I see Drabek offering up an ERA closer to four and could end up on a career path similar to fellow Blue Jays hurler Brandon Morrow.  In other words, Drabek is not for the risk adverse.  He will have moments of glory, but also fits of frustration.

Rookie Southpaw Drew Smyly Bringing Smiles to Detroit

BY ROB SHAW

Twitter: @RobShawSports and @BloombergSports

Get to know Drew Smyly, a 22-year-old southpaw nabbed out of Arkansas with a second round pick in 2010. Smyly made his Major League debut last week and the nerves were obvious as he surrendered three walks and gave up four hits in just four innings of work. More impressively, Smyly did fan four batters and allowed just one run as he was removed with a no decision.

In his one year of minor league service, Smyly was dominant. He finished 11-6 with a 2.07 ERA with more than a strikeout per inning and impeccable control. Smyly took the mound on Tuesday against the Royals and was sensational. He this time only walked one batter, and though he surrendered seven hits, they did not lead to any earned runs. Unfortunately, a lack of run support in the early innings led to another no-decision for the rookie.

A true test follows this weekend, as Smyly is slated to face the Rangers on Sunday. Considering how well the Rangers have been hitting, it may be a good idea to keep the southpaw on your fantasy bench. On the other hand, Smyly is becoming a must-start these days with a 0.90 ERA through his first two starts.

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