This is the most wonderful time of the year. Besides being lyrics from a song, it is also how I feel. I love Halloween, I gussie the place all up with scary sounds, figures, even had a fog machine cranking this year, but I still love the Christmas season the most. I even enjoy, and don’t share this with anyone, hot chocolate and those sappy holiday movies that they play on Lifetime (did I just lose my street cred?).
Before I head out to spend the next couple of days with my extended family, I thought I would list a few things that I hope people in the sports world will either find in their stocking or under their tree come Christmas morning (for those of you who don’t celebrate Christmas, Happy Holidays).
To the San Jose Sharks: Playoff success to avoid a mutiny amongst the fans.
To the 49ers and the Raiders: A winning season. Heck, even an 8-8 mark would be terrific.
To Grady Sizemore, Jose Reyes, Coco Crisp, Erik Bedard, Troy Glaus and Josh Hamilton: A full season of health. If you missed my review of the Glaus to Atlanta signing, click on Glaus Signs With Braves.
To Matt Holliday: I hope your agent, the reviled Scott Boras, can deliver the goods on what he surely promised would be a deal approaching $150 million. Right now it doesn’t seem like anyone has any interest in ponying up dollars that even remotely approach that total.
To Brandon Morrow: I hope Santa brings you a heaping helping of control for the holiday. I’m still shocked that the Mariners gave up you so easily. You can read my analysis of the trade in The Other Deal.
To the New York Yankees: I wish you — well my mother told me if I didn’t have something nice to say then I shouldn’t say it, and in the spirit of the season I’m gonna stick to that. I will list a few of my “Tweets” from the Baseball Guys’ Twitter Page that should make what I think pretty obvious.
“Yankees payroll last season was $220 mil, $77.8 mil MORE than any other club. In fact, MORE than 11 other teams payrolls!”
“Yankees only team to pay luxury tax in 2009 – $25.7 mil. They have paid all seven years of existence, $174 of $190 raised overall.”
To the San Francisco Giants: I wish you a heart like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz. Hell, I wish that you also had courage like the Cowardly Lion and a brain like the Scarecrow. Are you really going to just sit there knowing full well that your offense is putrid and do nothing to improve it? Newsflash, 2-years and $12 million for Mark DeRosa likely won’t be enough for a guy who thinks he is worth 3/$30 (even if he isn’t worth that). Do something big will ya Giants? Wait, wasn’t I supposed to keep this positive? Sorry for slipping.
To Garrett Atkins: I wish a return to prominence from the one-time borderline star. I’m not talking a return to his previously phat totals (.329-29-130-117 in 2006), but a nice .285-25-85 season would be great.
To Justin Duchscherer: I wish him peace. I hope he returns to prominence on the field, be it as a reliever or a starter, and I hope he got the help he needed to deal with his clinical depression. In fact, I wish the same for Joey Votto who also dealt with some tough times after losing his father.
At this time of year it’s good to remember what is truly important in life. Homers and shutouts are great, but it’s people that truly matter. So give thanks, wish someone a happy holiday season, and don’t be afraid to extend a helping hand to someone who might need it. Tis’ the season to be jolly remember?
Earlier today I broke down the big deal of the day as the Yankees picked up Javier Vazquez in exchange for Melky Cabrera and a couple of prospects (you can read all about the deal at Breaking Down: Javier Vazquez). Here, I’ll break down “the other deal” dealing with two potentially dominating righties.
Note: You can also read Paul Bruno’s take on the deal at JaysFan.com.
Mariners receive: RHP Brandon League and minor leaguer (either OF Yohermyn Chavez or C Brian Jeroloman)
Blue Jays receive: Brandon Morrow.
We don’t know yet which minor leaguer will be included with Brandon League. Neither option is a top flight, sure fire star at the big league level, but most pundits seem to favor Chavez even though he isn’t amongst the top-10 prospects in the Blues organization (Jeroloman can pick it behind the dish, but his bat is sorely lacking).
League throws a heavy, and I mean power-sinking fastball that has averaged 95.5 mph during his big league career. When you combine that heat with the darting, downward action, it’s hardly a surprise that League has held batters to a .258 batting average in his career (the surprise is that the number is that high). A potentially dominating strikeout arm – he had 76 punchouts in just 74.2 innings last season – League is much, much better than the 3-6 record with a 4.58 ERA that he posted last season. The biggest plus on his side is that he has brought his walk rate down two years running, and last years 2.53 BB/9 mark allowed him to post a strong 3.62 K/BB ratio given his strikeout abilities. And that is just it. If League throws strikes and avoids the walk he could potentially dominate. Don’t forget that this man owns a 3.13 GB/FB ratio in his career, and when you strike out a batter per inning and have a GB/FB mark better than three, well, they usually end up putting your face on the cover of a video game.
Blue Jays Haul
Brandon Morrow was drafted 5th overall out of the University of California at Berkley in 2006. Standing 6’3″ and weighing about 200 lbs, Morrow has one of those arms that scouts simply fall all over themselves to sign. The owner of a 95 mph fastball, batters have little chance to hit him when he is “on,” a fact reflected in his .223 BAA mark through 197.2 career innings. In that time Morrow has posted a solid 3.96 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning with 204, so why would the Mariners consider trading this 25 year old who most scouts think will either be a #2 or #3 starter? The Mariners must have grown tired of his inability to throw strikes. In his brief career, remember batters hit just .223 against him and he owns a 9.29 K/9 mark, Morrow has handed out free passes like Santa gives out hope during the Christmas season. Morrow posted a 5.68 BB/9 mark last season in 69.2 innings and that was an improvement over his career mark of 5.83.
It should also be pointed out that he has spent time as a starter and reliever (the Mariners yanked him around the past two years which certainly hasn’t helped his development). Here are his numbers in both roles.
Reliever: 3.65 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 10.12 K/9, .217 BAA in 118.1 IP
Starter: 4.42 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 8.05 K/9, .232 BAA in 79.1 IP
The numbers regress a bit when he has starts, hardly a shock given the 100 percent all the time attitude hurlers can take when working only an inning out of the bullpen.
As nice a power arm as League has, and let’s face the Mariners are certainly wise to be hedging their bets with David Aardsma who had a lot of ninth inning success last year despite some rather odd totals in his pitching line (like a sky-high fly ball rate but a miniscule HR/F mark), I just don’t understand this deal at all. Morrow certainly needs to figure out a way to harness his stuff, but if he does this young man is a potential all-star. Not that he will ever amount to anything remotely like guys such as Randy Johnson, Nolan Ryan and Sandy Koufax, but the history of the game is littered with plenty of hard throwers who took a few years to get their barrings (it’s also why a guy like Oliver Perez is making $12 million a year). If Aardsma implodes and League goes on to save 30 games than no one will likely be too upset, but if Morrow locates his control and rips off a bunch of 15 victory, 200 K seasons this is going to look like one awful move. You gotta love what the Blue Jays are doing this off-season as their new front office group clearly is bringing in boatloads of talent to vie for major league jobs.
Besides me, who else is counting on Oliver Perez to have a big second half? From time to time I write about my National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) team, and that league consists of 15-teams with 30 players per roster. Given the depth of the penetration into the player pool, there are always a handful of players on each roster that might cause someone to pause if they are used to traditional 10-12 team leagues. So before you think – Ray is a doofus – realize we are talking about some pretty deep rosters here. Back to Oliver Perez.
Perez is one of the names that I picked up off waivers this season. A risky play? For sure as the man walks more batters per nine than just about any starter in the game, but oh does he look dominating when he is on. Problem is, that rarely occurs. Here’s to hoping it occurs, more often than not, the rest of way. That might be a fairly large wish though — perhaps I’ll leave that wish for the tooth fairy.
Why did I grab Perez? Well, after Andy Sonnanstine seemed to forget that the name of the game wasn’t to allow a run per inning (he has a 6.61 ERA), and Ian Snell thought he would try to pitch his way out of Pittsburgh with some awful work (5.36 ERA, 1.62 WHIP), I realized I needed something other than a staff consisting of names like Jamie Moyer. So I took a shot an picked up Perez, weeks ago, in the hope that he would come through. What other waiver-wire guy in a 15 team league has k-per-inning potential?
Another hurler with a similar skill set down to the potentially prolific K-rate as well as the atrocious walk rate is Brandon Morrow of the Mariners who we also picked up on the cheap off the waiver-wire (by the way, isn’t the picture above one of the best you have ever seen? For those of you that don’t know – a form of rookie hazing in baseball is having the youngsters carry the veterans gear, often in things like little girls backpacks). Possibly the only pitcher in baseball who has a more difficult time throwing strikes than Perez, Morrow has thrown 174 innings in his career while waling 115 batters leading to an embarrassing average of 5.95 walks per nine innings pitched in his brief career. Of course, his stuff is untouchable as his K/9 mark of 9.62 is superb. Obviously the kid has talent to burn, but until he starts throwing strikes more consistently he will be maddening to own (he should return from the minors to make a start of July 25th if everything goes according to plan).
The third arm in our Trifecta of Terror is Joba Chamberlain (and yes I’m still not sure if the terror will be most acutely directed toward opposing batters or my blood pressure). Joba clearly hasn’t performed as hoped for in his transition to the starting rotation as he has only four victories, a 4.25 ERA and a 1.56 WHIP through 17 starts this year. Still, his K/9 rate is 7.89 which is a strong mark, and if you add in his work out of the bullpen he has a 9.70 K/9 mark over 213.1 career innings. However, like the other two mentioned above, he is walking far too many batters, though by comparison his 4.25 BB/9 mark actually isn’t that awful.
So is rostering these three guys a risk worth taking? My club need wins and strikeouts, and these three could bring that. In fact, I can pretty easily dream up a scenario with the trio striking out nearly a batter per inning the rest of the way, but the key is will they be able to locate their pitches better, because without that, there ratios could be outright destructive. I know it’s a risk, but sometimes you have to take that leap of faith when the alternatives are guys like Vincente Padilla, Jeff Suppan and Micah Owings. I’m going to close my eyes, pray really hard, and hope these three potentially dominating arms are in fact dominating and not destructive to my fantasy squad. One can hope can’t he?
We all can whine about the plight of our teams. I’m sure you all have a story about how you missed on the guy you wanted to draft by one selection, or the guy you drafted seems to think that the aim of the game is to swing and miss rather than ripping line drives all over the field. I get it, believe me. So I’m gonna let the tears flow today and let you know how upset I’ve become with a few of the guys I have selected for my various fantasy baseball teams in 2009.
Mike Aviles: I certainly didn’t think he was going to hit .325 again, but .183? Currently on the DL with a strained right forearm, Aviles will only need to go 20 for his next 20 to raise his average up to .300 when he returns. I feel that’s doable – you?
Grant Balfour: Last year 1.54 ERA and a 12.65 K/9. This year, 5.48 ERA and a 8.61 K/9. A regression was coming, but to half of last year’s value?
Chris Davis: Twelve home runs is great. A .194 batting average, not so much. He could set a record for futility as well as he is whiffing 46.7% of the time. That’s right, he already has 77 Ks this season in 165 ABs, or more strikeouts that Albert Pujols has had in any of the last seven seasons.
Joey Devine: The potential closer a year after posting a 0.59 ERA and a 0.83 WHIP, Devine didn’t throw a single regular season pitch before being sent to the DL and ultimately requiring elbow surgery costing him the entire season. Thanks Joey, not like I was counting on you for 30 saves or anything.
Rafael Furcal: Glad you had him in your top-5 at shortstop now that he is hitting .253 with one home run and three steals?
Corey Hart: What happened to that breakout campaign? After back-to-back 20/20 seasons he is barely on pace to go 20/10, though he is almost certain to set a career high in Ks with 50 in 48 games, almost halfway to last year’s worst of 109 in 157 games.
Howie Kendrick: The man can hit .300 in his sleep. He must be in a coma since he is batting .225.
Brandon Morrow: The Mariners’ reliever has a strong 8.22 K/9 mark. Oops. That’s his walks per nine inning mark. How amazingly putrid is that? By the way, his K/9 mark is 10.57.
Ricky Nolasco: So bad he was demoted to the minors where he has dominated in two starts. He has been exceedingly unlucky as his BABIP is astronomical at .402, but that doesn’t help to wick away the tears after he has posted a 9.07 ERA and a 1.81 WHIP through nine starts.
Alexei Ramirez: How had has he been this year? Despite the fact that he is batting .329 over his last 70 at-bats, the man is still hitting just .253 on the year. He is on pace for 30 steals, but the 10 home run pace is pretty awful for a guy who hit 21 last year in just 480 at-bats.
Alex Rios: Is he ever going to put it all together? His career best numbers across the board are .302-24-85-114-32. Currently he is on pace to hit about .275-22-80-80-12.
Jimmy Rollins: Hitting just .230 on the year, Rollins has only three home runs giving him 14 taters in his last 769 at-bats dating back to the start of 2008. Will you finally believe now that his 30 home run season of 2007 was a fluke?
Andy Sonnanstine: Luckily for him I drafted Nolasco or he would be feeling a lot more of my wrath for going 3-5 with a 7.66 ERA and a 1.78 WHIP.
Rickie Weeks: Out for the year with wrist surgery. What could have been considering he was on pace to hit more than 30 home runs with about 100 RBI and 100 runs.
Chris Young: 25/25 as a rookie. 20/10 as a second year player. On pace for 10/10 as a third year player. Flipping great.
Every team needs saves. Some take the chance on draft day and roster “locks” like Mariano Rivera and Joe Nathan, while others take the chance on guys with good skills that have yet to prove themselves (names like Frank Francisco, Joey Devine and Chad Qualls). Others wait to roster closer off of the waiver-wire knowing full well that saves can be had, in standard 12 team leagues, virtually all season via free agency. In fact, according to our friends at Baseball HQ, roughly 1/3 to ½ of all closers who open the year as their teams top ninth inning ace failed to return even 50% of their draft day value by seasons end (that means if you spent $20 on a reliever he would be just as likely to earn $20 as he would be to earn $10 or less in production). Think that’s off the mark? Just look at names that little last years save leaders and think back as to how many of these guys could have been had off waivers in the month of April, 2008.
George Sherrill- 31 saves Salomon Torres- 28 Ryan Franklin- 17 Fernando Rodney-13 Dan Wheeler- 13 Jensen Lewis- 13 Brad Ziegler- 11
My bet is that every one of those guys were available in your league last April.
The point is that guys with saves can certain be found on waivers, in fact early season breakout candidates in this realm include the likes of Ryan Franklin (seven), and Fernando Rodney (six). The question becomes, how much do you spend on guys if you are in a league that uses free agent acquisition budget’s (FAAB) and your are looking at in season moves? Here are my thoughts on the four biggest names that were likely picked up weekend.
LaTroy Hawkins, Astros
With Jose Valverde likely to miss at least four weeks with a calf injury, Hawkins will likely hold down the ninth inning for the Astros, and this position was further enhanced when Doug Brocail was forced to the DL with a hamstring injury. Hawkins hasn’t recorded double-digit saves since 2004 and he has just 10 saves and 20 blown saves in that time. In fact, since 2005 Hawkins has a 3.87 ERA, a 1.34 WHIP and a 5.77 K/9 mark. That’s league average across the board, but at least you know you should get a month of save chances out of him. VALUE: Medium
Joe Beimel, Nationals
Julian Tavarez is also in the mix for saves, and Beimel is actually in the minors right now on a rehab assignment for a left hip flexor strain (he hopes to be back this week). Beimel has appeared in 224 games since the start of the 2006 season, and in that time he has only thrown 193.2 innings as more often than not he wasn’t asked to face right-handed batters. In this time frame he also owns a 4.83 K/89 mark and a 1.55 K/BB rate, terrible numbers for a reliever and putrid for a closer. He will likely get a few saves, but I just can’t see him being the answer as Joel Hanrahan certainly should get a shot to reclaim his lost job at some point. VALUE: Low
Ryan Madson, Phillies
Only a closer if Brad Lidge is out with injury. There are concerns with Lidge’s knee, but Madson is clearly the second option even though at this point his ability to accrue saves is nil. Still, Madson is a fine addition given that his fastball has gained three mph this season (94.6) leading to a huge boost in his K/9 mark (13.09) while working with a tremendous 1.83 G/F ratio. If Lidge goes down, still a possibility, Madson gains a ton of value. VALUE: Medium
Michael Wuertz, Athletics
Joey Devine is out for the year. Brad Ziegler is missing time with an illness. Santiago Casilla is on the DL with a calf strain. That means Wuertz has picked up a couple of saves while sporting a solid 8.56 K/9 marl and a scintillating 6.50 K/BB. Don’t expect it to continue as his control has never been remotely this good (2.18 K/BB career). When Ziegler and Casilla are healthy look for Wuertz to be nothing more than a solid middle reliever option, especially with Andrew Bailey also pitching lights out (1.53 ERA, 0.74 WHIP, 20 K in 17.2 IP). VALUE: Low
The bottom line is that saves are available and will continue to be on there on waivers through the course of the season. Just make sure you invest wisely so as to avoid picking up a handful of saves while imploding your ratios.
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About Ray Flowers...
The co-host of The Drive on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio (Sirius 210, XM 87: M-F at 5-8 PM EDT), Ray has spent years squirreled away studying the inner workings of the fantasy game to the detriment of his personal life. Specializing in baseball, football and hockey, some consider him an expert in all three. Ray's work can also be found as feature writer for: Fantasy Alarm, Rotoinfo, Rotowire and Sports Illustrated.
You can contact Ray through e-mail at fantasyfandom@yahoo(dot)com or on Twitter.