Join SI.com's James Quintong in a discussion of some of the latest news in football, baseball and other sports and how it relates to fantasy teams and leagues.
4/19/2007 12:05:00 PM
Agony and euphoria
Mark Buehrle had plenty to celebrate after throwing the White Sox's first no-hitter since 1991.
Congratulations have to go out to Mark Buehrle for throwing the first no-hitter of the season. He fell off badly in the second half last season (including an 0-5 mark in July) and probably was not much of a factor in most fantasy leagues. But at least you know that Buehrle still has something left.
But while Buehrle's no-hitter was the big news in baseball on Wednesday, fantasy owners probably are more concerned that Felix Hernandez left his start in the first inning with tightness in his elbow after allowing his first runs of the year. That's not good news after two dynamite starts to begin the season. You don't want to see him break down so quickly; at least Francisco Liriano put in more than half a dominating season before he went down in 2006.
Similarly, the Rockies' Rodrigo Lopez left his start early Wednesday with elbow inflammation that could land him on the DL after some impressive outings to begin his season. He won't draw as much attention as Hernandez, but NL-only owners should be concerned.
And if you're looking for one of the stranger stories this season, Brett Myers is headed to the bullpen as a setup man with veteran Jon Lieber taking his place in the Phillies rotation. There were rumblings that Myers might do relief work as a closer, and it seemed out of sorts since he's supposedly the ace of the staff. But with Philadelphia struggling, Charlie Manuel looked to make a move, and that was it. Myers' value plummets because of this move, although it should be a matter of time before he returns to the rotation.
Beside Hernandez and Lopez, a handful of players landed on the DL or got hurt, opening up all sorts of roster possibilities: -- Howie Kendrick broke his finger and will be out 4-6 weeks, which means Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis have more places to play. Chone Figgins still isn't ready to return or else he'd be a possibility there as well. It's possible that Kendry Morales could get called up. -- Ryan Howard left Wednesday's game with a knee injury and is sitting out Thursday's contest, adding to the Phillies' woes. Keep an eye on the situation. It appears Greg Dobbs or Chris Coste could play first in Howard's place. -- Alejandro de Aza is on the DL with a sprained ankle, giving the duo of Cody Ross and Alfredo Almezaga time in center. The Marlins also put Jorge Julio on the DL with a calf injury, giving the last fantasy owners an excuse to drop him. It appears Henry Owens is going to be the official closer, but that's always subject to change.
And for a little good news: Brandon Webb struck out a career-high 13 on Wednesday, but just like many other top pitchers this year, got a no-decision as the Diamondbacks beat the Padres in 12. Also, Albert Pujols had his first three-hit game of the season on Wednesday and raising his average 40 points to .200. Give it time -- he's on his way to his usual stats.
Matt Cain has allowed just three hits in his last 14 innings and has just a loss to show for it.
If you need more examples of why predicting wins and losses can often be frustrating, just look at Matt Cain and Daisuke Matsuzaka, who both pitched well Tuesday but have little to show for it.
Cain is currently 0-1 with a 1.80 ERA and 0.85 WHIP, and it's not a fraudulent low ERA like Dan Haren's was before his start against the Yankees last week. Cain flirted with a no-hitter last week and allowed just one hit over seven innings but still got the loss against the Padres. On Tuesday, he was probably even better, striking out seven and allowing just two hits over seven innings in Coors Field but got a no-decision as the Giants bullpen allowed five runs to the Rockies in the eighth. Cain has great stuff and is pitching better than Barry Zito at this point (although nine walks in three starts is a concern), but you'd like to see more wins under his belt.
While there's still plenty of time to rack up wins (Johan Santana had 19 after April last year), Matsuzaka has just one win in his first three starts for the Red Sox, and it's not for a lack of effort. After outdueling Zack Greinke in his major league debut, Matsuzaka has been outpitched by Felix Hernandez and now Gustavo Chacin. He's already put together two 10-strikeout games and hasn't allowed more than three runs in any of his starts. But the Red Sox have scored just five runs in his three starts (and four were in that Royals game). It's hard to believe that he and Chase Wright will have as many major league wins when they face off Sunday night.
And speaking of Wright, he got off to a rocky start in his big-league debut, walking his first two batters before settling down to pitch five decent innings against the Indians to earn his first win. It helps that the Yankees bats were clicking again, with Alex Rodriguez hitting yet another homer. Speaking of long balls, Ian Kinsler is doing his best to keep up with A-Rod, hitting his seventh homer, just one behind the AL lead.
Another player to make his major league debut Tuesday was prized Cubs prospect Felix Pie, who took over in center and at the leadoff position with Alfonso Soriano sidelined with a hamstring injury. Pie went 1-for-6 with a double, a run scored and an RBI. Plus, he threw out a runner at the plate. Not a bad first day for Pie, who'll get most of the playing time in the next week as Soriano recovers.
An update on a couple of pitchers who made their 2007 debuts Tuesday: -- Freddy Garcia lasted just 4 2/3 innings, allowing three runs, eight hits and two walks but striking out six in a loss against the Mets. -- Jered Weaver also picked up a loss against the A's, allowing four runs (three earned), four hits and two walks with four strikeouts in six innings. There's still a little rust to be shaken off, but neither performance should scare off owners who are holding on to them.
On the injury front: -- Micah Owings left his start early after hurting his leg running the bases. If the injury is serious, he could lose his spot in the rotation when Randy Johnson returns. -- Jason Schmidt lands on the DL with a shoulder injury. Mark Hendrickson takes his spot in the Dodgers rotation. -- Scott Podsednik is on the DL with pulled groin. Darin Erstad gets more time in the lineup and will lead off, although the White Sox bats have been quiet this season. -- Torii Hunter hurt his shoulder trying to make a catch against the Mariners on Wednesday after earlier hitting a grand slam.
B.J. Ryan's early woes probably resulted from the elbow issues that will keep him out at least a month.
I guess my list of disappointing starters energized a few players, as Bill Hall hit a grand slam and Barry Zito earned his first win with the Giants. Meanwhile, Alfonso Soriano hurt his hamstring, so it's a mixed bag. And with Soriano out about five days, the Cubs did call up top prospect Felix Pie to play center in his place.
-- And speaking of DL stints, the Blue Jays got hit hard in the past couple of days with players going down. First, there was B.J. Ryan, who will now miss 4-6 weeks, with rumblings of Tommy John surgery. I've already mentioned that Jason Frasor likely gets the saves in Toronto, but Shaun Marcum got the nod on Sunday.
Now both Reed Johnson and Troy Glaus are out of the lineup. Johnson has a herniated disk in his back and will undergo surgery, knocking him out until July. The Blue Jays have called up top prospect Adam Lind, and he could do a lot of damage this year. Mixed leaguers should keep an eye on him, but AL-only players should pick him up now.
As for Glaus, a heel injury has him on the disabled list, probably for just two weeks to rest up. Unlike in the outfield, there isn't anyone enticing behind him. Backup infielders Jason Smith and John McDonald are already on the roster, and Ryan Roberts was brought up from the minors to take Glaus' roster spot. Keep those names in mind in AL-only leagues if you need to fill a spot (or if you're like me in a very deep AL-only league, looking for any warm body who's actually getting at-bats).
-- The slew of early-season rainouts have really wreaked havoc with starting rotations, and those of you making daily transactions are probably already worn out trying to figure out if your guys are actually going to appear. And even worse are the injured starters hoping to make their 2007 debuts sooner rather than later. However, if all things stay the same (a big if), here's the timetable for a number of notable pitchers ready to make their debuts in the next couple of weeks:
Freddy Garcia: Monday's scheduled start was rained out, but is expected to go Tuesday. Jered Weaver: Sunday's rainout pushed the Angels rotation back a day, so Weaver also will pitch Tuesday. Bartolo Colon: The shift in the Angels rotation now has Colon making his 2007 debut on Saturday. Randy Johnson: It appears that he'll need another rehab start in the minors this week, so it's possible he'll be back on the 24th. Chien-Ming Wang: Despite all the injuries to the Yankees staff, Wang might not be ready to go until next Tuesday as well.
It took nearly two weeks for Mariano Rivera to get a save chance and it ended badly.
Albert Pujols may finally be finding his way out of an early-season slump as he slugged two homers against the Brewers on Sunday. However, for owners of some other players, it has been a frustrating couple of weeks. Of course, while it might not be pleasant to be at the bottom of the pack right now, it's more important to be in first at the end of the season (but it's nice to be in first no matter what).
So while my colleague Greg Ambrosius has highlighted the early top performers, here are some players who have been major disappointments so far. Feel free to add in other names of players who have yet to live up to expectations:
-- Mariano Rivera: He finally got his first save opportunity on Sunday, and blew it by allowing Marco Scutaro's two-out, three-run walkoff homer. Of course, with the Yankees' starting staff a mess (both Carl Pavano and Mike Mussina landed on the DL on Sunday), it's been tough to get into a save situation.
-- B.J. Ryan: He does have three saves but blew two more before landing on the DL with an elbow injury. Jason Frasor appears to be the next in line for saves in Toronto, although Shaun Marcum got the save Sunday.
-- Jorge Julio: It didn't take long for him to falter and fall into that group of early overpaid closers (depending on when your draft was) to lose the job in April. I cringed each time I bid him up in an NL-only league before he was taken by the guy who also had Brad Lidge.
-- Carlos Zambrano: Sure, Chris Carpenter's injuries have flared up again, but Zambrano hasn't gotten off to a good start either with 11 walks and just 10 strikeouts in his first three starts. Not great with the contract talks still looming, but at least Rich Hill has shown up for the Cubs.
-- Barry Zito: He has a chance to redeem himself today, but going 0-2 with an 8.18 ERA isn't a good start with such a big contract for a new team.
-- Alfonso Soriano: Speaking of players with huge contracts, Soriano is hitting just .234 with no homers, one RBI and one steal so far. No wonder Lou Piniella already had an outburst.
-- Mark Teixeira: A .233 average, no homers and two RBIs is not a great way for a guy supposedly ready to make a big leap this season.
-- Lance Berkman: While Carlos Lee burst through with a three-homer game Friday, Berkman is stuck at .188 with a homer and three RBIs.
-- Gary Sheffield: He has a homer and a steal, but he's been a major disappointment early with his average down to .122. Oddly enough, he did score three runs Friday, but that was thanks to two walks.
-- Bill Hall: He raced out to a quick start with a homer on Opening Day and hits in his first four games. Since then, he has just one hit in his last 14 at-bats.
And of course, there's plenty of frustration from people owning their share of Mariners, Indians and other teams who have their share of games postponed because of weather. It's probably more of an issue for head-to-head leagues, but it's still frustrating when you're only getting a handful of at-bats or starts from your top players. Remember that while Felix Hernandez has been lights out so far, he does have just two starts.