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.
8/17/2007 04:40:00 PM
On the move
Cameron Maybin needed just six games at Double-A before the Tigers called him up to the majors.
Ed Wolfstein/Icon SMI
Some quick transactions notes heading into the weekend:
-- The Red Sox gave up on Wily Mo Pena, shipping him to the Nationals for a player to be named later. Pena has good power, but only had five homers and an anemic .218 average this season, and was definitely on his way out. However, a change of scenery, even to Washington, might get his bat going again. He'll take at-bats away from guys like Nook Logan, Ryan Langerhans and Ryan Church. Don't go breaking the bank for him, but he might be worth a look in NL-only leagues if you need some power.
Meanwhile, the Red Sox will probably go with rookie Jacoby Ellsbury and recently acquired Bobby Kielty to fill that fourth outfielder role. Along with that move, Boston called up another one of its top pitching prospects in Clay Buchholz to start the first game of a doubleheader against the Angels. Buchholz was adequate in his major-league debut, going six innings, allowing four runs (three earned) and eight hits, walking three but striking out five to get the victory. Not bad, not great, but at least it's something to build on.
-- Speaking of top prospects, the Tigers called up their top young hitter Cameron Maybin from the minors despite playing just six games in Double-A, but homering four times and hitting .400. At Single-A Lakeland, Maybin hit .304 with 10 homers and 25 steals. More surprising than the callup was that the Tigers designated Craig Monroe for assignment to open up a roster spot. Monroe had struggled this year, hitting .222 with an anemic .264 on-base percentage, although he did have 11 homers and 55 RBIs. And he was coming off a career-high 28 homers and 92 RBIs last season.
Maybin will probably share time with Marcus Thames, and he'll also have to hold off Ryan Raburn for at-bats as well. Still, with such a huge prospect now up, it'll be tough to just keep him on the bench, so they'll give Maybin plenty of chances to succeed, even though the Tigers are in the midst of the playoff chase. If you've stashed Maybin on your roster all year, I guess now is the time to use him.
-- Finally, Carlos Zambrano got his contract issues all squared away, agreeing to a five-year, $91.5 million deal. Zambrano has been somewhat up and down all year, struggling in April, but then pitching like the All-Star we expect him to be for much of the season before going on a recent slide just before agreeing to the deal. Maybe some players just don't need the contract pressure, so with the deal all settled, Zambrano can go pitching like the top star he is.
Matt Cain has just five wins but as many quality starts as Josh Beckett, Justin Verlander and Roy Halladay.
Sure, wins can be a fickle stat (explain how Matt Cain has half as many wins as Jon Rauch or Luis Vizcaino) and quality starts is a bit bogus (three earned runs in six innings is a 4.50 ERA, or 10th place in both my AL- and NL-only leagues), but it is interesting to see a correlation between the two this season. Or at least in terms of one of my NL-only league mates, how has Matt Cain screwed over his team.
Because the standards for a quality start (three runs or less in at least six innings) are pretty average at best, most starting pitchers will have more of them than wins. However, making the most of the quality starts is good if you're looking to build up your win totals, even if they're not always mutually exclusive.
The league leaders in quality starts are also among the league leaders in wins, not surprisingly. Heading into Thursday's games these were:
Dan Haren, A's: 25 starts, 23 quality starts, 13-4 record Brad Penny, Dodgers: 25 starts, 22 quality starts, 14-3 record Erik Bedard, Orioles: 26 starts, 20 quality starts, 12-4 record (the O's pen jobbed from a win on Wednesday against the Yankees) Tim Hudson, Braves: 26 starts, 20 quality starts, 14-5 record Jake Peavy, Padres: 24 starts, 20 quality starts, 13-5 record Fausto Carmona, Indians: 24 starts, 19 quality starts, 14-7 record Johan Santana, Twins: 25 starts, 19 quality starts, 12-9 record
Nothing terribly crazy here, other than Santana having nine losses already despite all the quality starts. These are all among the top fantasy pitchers this season. But digging just a little deeper into the stats and you do turn up some intriguing numbers:
-- Josh Beckett has 15 wins, but he also has 15 quality starts (in 22 appearances). Great run support has helped keep those numbers close to even. However, Cain is just 4-13 despite the same number of quality starts (in 24 appearances) and an ERA just slightly a half-run higher than Beckett's (3.77 vs. 3.24).
-- While Cain's win-loss total barely reflects the way he's been pitching this year, Bronson Arroyo also has the same number of quality starts as Beckett and Cain (15 in 25 starts). However, he has just a 5-13 record but a 4.63 ERA. Of course, that ERA is hurt by six outings where he's given up at least six runs. So he can be pretty good at times or pretty awful in others. His teammate Aaron Harang is also 15-for-25 in quality starts, but his numbers look vastly different: 12-3 with a 3.50 ERA.
-- That 15 number reflects all sorts of pitchers like Beckett, Cain and Arroyo. Chris Young also has 15 (in 22 starts like Beckett), but he's just 9-4 even though his ERA in under 2. Other aces at this point include Justin Verlander and Roy Halladay. It also includes Scott Kazmir and James Shields, who are a combined 18-15 despite 30 quality starts between the two -- the bullpen has cost them a handful of wins this season. It even includes both Orlando and Livan Hernandez, although El Duque is by far the better bet despite one fewer win than this half brother (8-7).
-- A few tough-luck pitchers on bad teams also rank high in the quality starts list despite being under .500. The Royals' Gil Meche is 16-for-26 in quality starts, but has just a 7-11 record to show for it despite a passable 3.90 ERA. The Pirates' Ian Snell has a similar mark (7-10, 3.87 ERA) despite going 16-for-24 in quality starts.
-- On the other end of the spectrum, some top winners who have nearly as many wins as quality starts include: Tim Wakefield (14-10, 12 QS), Carlos Zambrano (14-9, 14 QS), Jeff Francis (13-6, 13 QS), Ted Lilly (13-7, 15 QS), Chien-Ming Wang (13-6, 13 QS), Noah Lowry (13-7, 13 QS), John Maine (13-7, 14 QS) and Miguel Batista (12-8, 13 QS). In most of these cases, their ERAs are in the high 3-low 4 range, meaning they're often hitting that bare minimum a lot as well as getting pounded in a few starts to offset some of their great outings.
You probably could've gotten Kevin Gregg and his 26 saves very cheap at the start of the season.
If the current standings from both my AL-only and NL-only leagues are any indication, saves aren't the make-or-break stat that many of us would like to believe. I'm in first place in an NL-only league despite being tied for last in saves (although I've made moves recently to get a couple of closers). Among the top four teams in the AL-only league, two of them are among the bottom four in saves (I'm in the top five of saves in this case).
Some people decided to spend money on a guy like Mariano Rivera or Trevor Hoffman, and that's fine, although Mo's early struggles frustrated many owners. However, if you punted saves at the draft, you still might've been fine if you were the first to jump on Al Reyes, Kevin Gregg or Jeremy Accardo. There were plenty of those types of fill-in closers throughout the league this year.
No matter how you did or didn't spend money on closers, you had to draft correctly elsewhere (loading up on offense, getting the right starting and middle relief pitchers) to get the points be competitive. You just have to do a lot more in other places to offset the potential lack of saves. Of course, it's one thing if you've intentionally passed on saves and spent the money on a bunch of sluggers. It's another when you're stuck with nothing because the Blue Jays misled people about B.J. Ryan's arm issues during spring training or that Armando Benitez would be Armando Benitez again.
That is not to say that there weren't some great draft-day bargains at closer that might have catapulted some teams to the top spot (or at least led to a good trade for other positions to take advantage of the excess saves). Jose Valverde and Francisco Cordero have been fighting it out for the major-league in saves, while J.J. Putz was better than even his most ardent supporters believed. All of them have performed at times better than higher-priced closer talent like Rivera, Francisco Rodriguez and Joe Nathan.
Another way to play the system well with regards to relief pitching is loading up on solid setup guys like Scot Shields, Pat Neshek and Scott Linebrink (although he's been a minor disappointment this season). However, that market can be really fickle, and just like saves, some guys come out of the woodwork to put up good numbers like Heath Bell, Hideki Okajima and Carlos Marmol. You can build up a strong ERA and WHIP that way.
And now that we're at the point in the season where you're paying as much attention to roto points around you as much as raw stats, the middle guys might end up getting dealt for closers, especially if a team has stopper with a somewhat lofty ERA (Joe Borowski and Todd Jones, for example).
Obviously somebody has to have a bunch of saves, but it's also very possible to get by with the bare minimum for a long time and still succeed. It's much harder to do so if you're at the bottom of a category like homers, batting average or ERA.
Some other notes for Wednesday: -- Prince Fielder was suspended three games for his confrontation with umpire Wally Bell over the weekend.
-- Shea Hillenbrand may get more time at third base after all for the Dodgers with Nomar Garciaparra going on the disabled list.
-- Congratulations to Dontrelle Willis for finally ending his losing streak. Meanwhile, Chris Capuano has now lost 10 straight decisions after opening the season 5-0. Ouch.
-- The Rockies keep on trotting out more top prospects every day. Ubaldo Jimenez and Ian Stewart are already up, and it looks like lefty Franklin Morales is on his way to start later this week. Meanwhile, Willy Taveras is headed to the DL with a quad injury, opening up even more playing time for Ryan Spilborghs, who has 10 homers in just 154 at-bats this season.
-- Maybe Eric Gagne has found his way after he struck out the side in the ninth around a hit to the Devil Rays on Tuesday, and then earned the win when the Red Sox rallied in the bottom of the inning.
Jeremy Guthrie's ERA has risen by more than a run since the end of June.
Rookie pitchers are often a crapshoot, and even if a youngster puts up big numbers over a long stretch of time, there's always that fear that they'll run out of gas just when you need them the most. That could be the case with the Orioles' Jeremy Guthrie, one of this year's most surprising young pitchers.
Guthrie failed to get out of the fifth inning for the second straight start, allowing six runs and nine hits in just 4 2/3 innings against the Yankees on Monday. The only reason he didn't get the loss was because Mariano Rivera blew the save, although the Yankees bounced back to win. Guthrie went four innings, allowing six runs (five earned), in a loss to the Mariners last Wednesday. And before that, he gave up three runs and nine hits in 5 1/3 innings in a no-decision against the Red Sox. So far in August, Guthrie is 0-1 with a 9.00 ERA in 14 innings, but more disconcerting is his 2.29 WHIP in that time (26 hits, six walks).
The big increase in workload could be catching up to Guthrie now, and it might not be a bad idea to deal him in non-keeper leagues, especially if someone is paying more attention to season-long numbers instead of more recent stats.
Seeing young pitchers hit a rough patch late and decline the rest of the way is nothing new. Last year's terrific trio of rookie pitchers in the AL: Justin Verlander, Francisco Liriano and Jonathan Papelbon all ran into trouble late in the season. Papelbon had arm issues that shut him down for much of September, Liriano only pitched twice after July before undergoing Tommy John surgery, and Verlander was 4-5 with a 5.82 ERA in August and September. If you sold high on them in re-draft leagues, you probably cleaned up.
Surprisingly, it seems like Guthrie is the only big-time rookie pitcher hitting that wall right now. Phil Hughes' hamstring injury may have actually saved his arm and kept him fresh down the stretch. Homer Bailey has been ordinary since returning the minors and may not return until September.
You may want to watch out for Tim Lincecum after he gave up six runs to the Pirates on Saturday, but that's been his only really awful outing since the middle of June. As for Daisuke Matsuzaka, he already has a history of heavy workloads in Japan, so he probably isn't as prone to the same late-season fade.
Other notes for Tuesday:
-- Chien-Ming Wang has also struggled recently, allowing five runs in 6 1/3 innings Monday after getting torched for eight runs in 2 2/3 innings in his previous start. He was hit hard in the first inning Monday but seemed to find his groove after that. Still, keep a close eye on Wang in his next start to see how he holds up.
-- So much for Johan Santana's huge post-break stats. After a no-decision in Monday's showdown with Felix Hernandez, Santana is just 2-3 with a 3.72 ERA since the break. However, the WHIP is still fantastic as well as his strikeout numbers.
-- A couple of interesting names just called up, although neither has the same sense of excitement of guys like Joba Chamberlain or Ian Stewart. First, the Orioles called up J.R. House, the former prep quarterback star in West Virginia who turned to baseball only to get a cup of coffee with the Pirates and Astros. He did return to football for the Mountaineers briefly before returning to baseball. He's more of a curiosity than someone to pick up.
Also, Shea Hillenbrand is back in the majors with the Dodgers who picked him up after the Angels let him go. Hillenbrand probably isn't going to be much more than a spot starter or pinch hitter with James Loney and Nomar Garciaparra at the corners. His callup comes at the expense of prospect Delwyn Young, who was 7-for-14 in a brief stint with the team.
-- Finally, rest in peace, Phil Rizzuto. I grew up watching him calling Yankees games as well as those Money Store commercials, and he was always a riot. Plus, I can remember signing a petition in the early '80s at my Catholic grammar school in New Jersey to get the Scooter into the Hall of Fame -- which eventually happened in 1994. So for one last time: Holy Cow!
Tad Iguchi has revived his game after moving to the Phillies just before the trade deadline.
While Eric Gagne's fantasy value took a big hit at the trade deadline because he wasn't going to get many saves in Boston, I'm not sure many people expected the league to be hitting .455 against him since joining the Red Sox. Sometimes you throw closers into a non-closer mix and they'll struggle, so maybe Gagne's recent meltdown wasn't as surprising as you might think.
On the other side of the deal, Kason Gabbard left Sunday's start with an injured forearm, although he was 1-1 in his previous two starts with the Rangers after the trade deadline. So while the deadline didn't produce a ton high-profile moves, a number of the trades that did go down have been helped out fantasy owners (Gagne aside).
The most notable performer since the trade deadline is Mark Teixeira, who's given the Braves yet another jolt of power in the middle of the lineup. He's hit four homers for Atlanta, including three in his first three games for the club. Quietly, the other part of the trade, Ron Mahay, has allowed just one earned run and picked up a win in 7 1/3 innings in the Braves pen. However, rookie Jarrod Saltalamacchia is just 8-for-44 since going to Texas in that deal. It also isn't good news for Octavio Dotel, the Braves' other big pickup at the deadline, who headed to the DL with a shoulder injury but expects to be back in a couple of weeks.
Tad Iguchi could be one of the more pleasant surprises at the trade deadline. While many expected Teixeira to produce, Iguchi was struggling with the White Sox when he was shipped to Philadelphia to replace Chase Utley. Since joining the Phillies, Iguchi is hitting .339 with a homer and a couple of steals. Luis Castillo is hitting .326 since joining the Mets as the NL second base pool got a nice boost after the deadline.
While the Pirates' acquisition of Matt Morris was a bit of a head-scratcher (he's allowed 10 runs in two starts since the trade), the Giants have already cleaned up with speedy outfielder Rajai Davis, who already has six steals for San Francisco. Davis is probably still best suited as a backup outfielder, but when he gets on the bases, look out.
Scott Linebrink has allowed just one run and struck out eight in seven innings of work in the Brewers bullpen, which is better than incumbents Derrick Turnbow and Francisco Cordero have done in that span, although Linebrink still isn't the running for saves yet. But don't look for Dan Wheeler to be in the saves mix in Tampa Bay, as he's 0-1 with 9.64 ERA since he was dealt for Ty Wigginton, who's doing just fine with a .325 average and a homer since joining the Astros.
Scott Proctor has jumped into a similar setup role with the Dodgers, getting a win and allowing just three runs in 9 1/3 innings (including two on Sunday). Meanwhile, the Yankees have already put Wilson Betemit to good use at third and first, and he's already hit a homer with a surprisingly decent .316 average in limited action. Betemit can at least provide a little more pop in a utility role, at least compared to Miguel Cairo.
Other notes for Monday: -- While we all marvel over the Rick Ankiel story, a bigger question is what happened to Brian Giles over the weekend? I guess playing in Cincinnati against the Reds staff can do wonders for one's power. Giles hit five homers in three games, including two each in the last two games of the series. That brought his number for the season to seven. It's been a down season for Giles because of injuries, but he's still hitting in the .300 range and walking more than striking out, but the decreasing power numbers will bring down his fantasy value. But maybe this trip to Cincinnati will get his game going. Or else, it's a hint to look at other players heading to Cincinnati for the week.
-- Welcome back, A.J. Burnett. The Blue Jays righty had been out since late May but came back to shut down the Royals for just one run and three hits over 7 1/3 innings. If he can stay healthy, he can still be a good help to fantasy pitching staffs down the stretch.
-- It was also a nice welcome back for Jason Giambi, who hit two homers over the weekend against the Indians. But it will still be tough for Giambi to find regular at-bats with so many good hitters itching for playing time at first base, DH and all the outfield spots.
-- As if it weren't a great season already for Magglio Ordonez, he hits two homers in one inning in the wild game against the A's.
-- It seems hard to believe that Jeff Weaver is tied with Brandon Webb for the major league lead in shutouts with two, but that's what happened after he shut down the White Sox with a five-hitter plus eight strikeouts. Maybe Weaver is one of his "hot" streaks to get his numbers back to something respectable. He was miserable in April and May, going 0-6 with a 14.32 ERA. He bounced back in June with two wins and cutting the ERA in half. Then he went 0-4 in July with a couple of awful outings in the mix, but now he's won his August starts. If you're feeling really frisky, you could pick up Weaver, especially since he'll draw the White Sox again for his next start.