Chris Carpenter was traded. Tommy Hanson has a concussion. Matt Moore won’t have an innings pitched limit. The Dodgers named their closer, an it’s not who you think. Raul Ibanez is a Yankee. Katharine McPhee is… well you have to keep reading for that.
RHP Chris Carpenter was traded to the Red Sox today. I know, crazy isn’t it? Oh wait, we’re talking about the 26 year old former Cub, not the Cy Young winning Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals. How made are you at me right now?
Tommy Hanson, who is attempting to return from shoulder woes, has reworked his mechanics to take better advantage of his lower half (i.e. his legs). While that sounds like a good thing, mechanical alterations for pitcher’s always make me a bit nervous. Now we get word that Hanson was involved in a car accident yesterday and that he received a Grade 1 concussion that will likely preclude him from doing anything for a few days. I know it’s early, but are you getting the unsettling feeling that things may not go Hanson’s way this year?
Raul Ibanez signed a one year deal for $1.1 million to join the Yankees. The 39 year old Ibanez is nothing more than an AL-only play at this stage of his career. The expectation at this point is that he will form a solid DH duo with Andruw Jones. If we combine the 2011 production of Jones against lefties and Ibanez against righties the result would be a “player” who produced the following 5×5 line: .263-24-85-36-2. The homer and RBI production is solid, but what is it with these guys aversion to crossing home plate?
Ever do situps first thing in the morning? I tried it today, an I gotta tell ya, not a huge fan. Of course, I have to keep the temple that is my body in shape, so I did it anyway while reading the newspaper (yeah I’m one of those dinosaurs who actually gets a newspaper).
Don Mattingly told Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times Tuesday that “I’m going into camp thinking Javy Guerra is the guy.” Of course he meant the 9th inning arm for the Dodgers. I know that Kenley Jansen has a huge arm, and I’m a big proponent of the record setting fireballer (see the October 6th Around the Horn), but Guerra did stabilize a Dodgers’ bullpen that was a disaster last year and in the process he only blew two of 23 save chances. With the announcement today I wonder if people will change their drafting strategy since Jansen’s ADP is 176, roughly 60 picks ahead of Guerra (233) – numbers are from MockDraftCentral.
Big news out of the Rays camp Tuesday is that the club will not have an innings pitched limit for phenom Matt Moore. Executive VP Andrew Friedman said that the arm of Moore has been “built up in a pretty systematic way” which would seem to signal that he could be allowed to toss 200-innings this year. The Rays have certainly shown the ability to develop pitching over the years so I’m inclined to trust them here. If Moore does throw 200 innings he’ll finish the year as a top-10 AL strikeout arm who could live up the billing that has his current ADP sitting at 102.4.
Manny Ramirez will arrive at Athletics camp on Friday. He’ll make $306,000 on his pro-rated contract which tells you that he really is intent on returning to the game because a guy who has made nearly $207 million in his career certainly doesn’t need a few more bucks. He’s an AL-only grab, but he did hit .298 with a .870 OPS in 90 games in 2010 so he might be worth a reserve round add.
I admit it, I’ve watched the first two episodes of Smash (albeit with the controller in my hand to fast forward the slow parts). I know that Katharine McPhee never really made it as a singer, but something about her persona on screen is certainly enticing.
Johan Santana is throwing without pain, an everyone is getting excited. Let me say it again – don’t be one of that group. He’s coming back off major shoulder surgery and his performance has dipped year over year the past few seasons. Let him be a headache for someone else.
Don’t forget to pick up a copy of the 2012 Fantasy Baseball Draft Guide.
By Ray Flowers
Johnny Damon, Raul Ibanez and Hideki Matsui have all been solid performers for years (each was a fantasy star at one point, even if you’ve forgotten because it was a while ago). Do any of the three enough residual skill to be of use in the fantasy game in 2012 as anything other than single league options (NL or AL Only)? That’s what we’re going to investigate.
Damon (.261-16-73-79-19) is one of the more stable performers in the history of the game. Really. Damon has appeared in 140 games in 16-straight years to tie Hank Aaron, Brooks Robinson and Pete Rose for the longest such run in big league history. He’s also had 11 seasons of at least 90 runs scored and 15 steals, the third most such seasons in history. Those aren’t phenomenal numbers, but they have long made him a draft day target after the bigger names were taken. However, Damon has seen his average dip the last three years (.303, .282, .271 and .261) as his bat speed slips, and last year was the first time since 1998 that he posted a BB/K rate under 0.70 (it was 0.55). His GB/FB ratio was pretty standard fair for him at 1.08 (career 1.25), and his line drive mark of 20.2 percent was right on his career rate of 20 percent, so it’s not like he’s totally lost it at the dish. Damon even upped his steals mark to 19 after totaling just 23 in 2009-10. Damon can still produce, an if given 500+ at-bats he still seems capable of replicating the fantasy line he posted last season (though I’d expect the steals to dip even if his bat remained on track).
Ibanez (.245-20-84-65) looked lost last April hitting .161 with a homer before rebounding in May to hit .315 with seven homers. Alas, his production was all over the place as he had three months with an OPS under .600 last year, and that’s just unacceptable. He was also a complete liability against left-handed pitching with a .211/.232/.353 line that made him look like a good hitting pitcher. Yeah, it was pretty brutal. He also hit a mere .210 with a .577 OPS on the road, so it appears that he is in desperate need of an offensive ballpark if he want’s to stave off Father Time for another year. To be fair did record 20 homers and 84 RBI, the 7th straight year he has hit at least 16 homers with 83 RBI, but those numbers were merely the result of playing everyday in a strong lineup in Philly. Ibanez posted an 18.4 K-rate which isn’t awful, but it was his second worst numbers since 1998. He also posted his lowest walk rate since that 1998 season, and the result was a 0.31 BB/K mark that was a drastic fall from his career mark of 0.54. Ibanez also hit more balls into the ground than at any point in his career (46 percent) as his fly ball rate dipped to 35.0 percent, it’s lowest mark since 2005. Can Ibanez still drive in a run? Certainly. But with his declining skill set, and the fact that he will be 40 years old on 1972, any slump at all will likely lead to him being replaced by a younger player up the upswing, not to mention the fact that even in a best case scenario he may be forced into a platoon.
Matsui (.251-12-72-56) can no longer play the field, his knees can’t take the pounding, so his outlook is even more limited than the other two. When he hit just .209 in the first half with a .617 OPS for the A’s, many an epitaph was written for his tombstone. Seemingly finding the fountain of youth, Matsui rebounded to hit a whopping .369 with 22 RBI in July to propel him to a .295 average and 38 RBI over his last 65 games. While that was a great improvement on the first half, those are still middling numbers for a DH. Matsui has failed to hit .275 for three years running, an at this point 20 homers might be a reach as well. Matsui is coming off his career worst HR/F ratio mark of 7.4 percent (career 12.6), and twice in four years that number has been in the single digits. He also hit more grounders last season than he has in three years, and that’s not going to help him reach the seats. Matsui also took fewer walks than he had since 2005, and his K-rate last season was a percentage point above his career rate. If he was 27 years old the outlook wouldn’t be dire, but as a 37 year old, the tires have almost been worn down to the tube. Given that he has appeared in only 46 games in the field the last four years, and that his bat is clearly slowing, it’s nearly impossible to think he’ll be able to appreciably improve upon last years effort.
You can find out where all of the three geezers rank in terms of their projected draft position at Fleaflicker and you can find out how I rank all three players if you purchase the BaseballGuys 2012 Fantasy Draft Guide.
By Ray Flowers
I know the NFL season got underway last night with a barn burner between the Saints and the Packers, but I’m still all about baseball even though my Giants have completely fallen apart. Here are some players who are flashing a strong finishing kick as the season nears the finish line.
Raul Ibanez is old, boring, and if he wasn’t on the Phillies you might have forgotten that he was still playing major league baseball. Still, the guy is on fire of late, and once again is an option in mixed leagues. Ibanez has seven hits in his last 17 at-bats, and over his last 10 games he is batting .378 with two homers and seven RBI. He’s also three doubles from a 10th straight season of 30, and with 37 RBI in his last 43 games he needs just nine RBI to push his season total to 80 for the 7th straight year and ninth time in 10 years. The old guy is still producing despite a .293 OBP an a .720 OPS, but make sure you buy a ticket to watch him play right now. This is likely his last hurrah.
Jon Jay of the Cardinals has 12 hits in his last 23 at-bats leading to a .522 batting average. During that run he has recorded 5-straight games with at least two hits. The recent run has pushed his season average up to .308 which would be the 7th best mark in the NL if he had enough plate appearances. The Cardinals have 19 games left on the year, and Jay currently has 428 plate appearances. Since you need 502 to qualify for the batting title he’ll need 74 plate appearances from here on out to make it. He’d need to average 3.89 PAs per outing. He can do that if he stays healthy.
Since returning from his stint on the DL Joe Nathan has posted a 2.96 ERA with 10 saves over 26 outings. Is he totally “back”? Well, if judged by his batting average against (.178 over 90 at-bats) the answer would certainly be yes.
Derrek Lee has had a down season to be sure, but he has been flat out killing it of late. Since he returned from the DL he has gone 10-for-20 with two bombs and seven RBI. He could still help you out if you need a corner infield boost in mixed leagues.
Carlos Pena has posted a .422 OBP and .993 OPS over his last 32 games thanks in no small part to the 26 walks he has received. He needs two bombs and 12 RBI the final three weeks for a fifth straight season of 28 homers and 84 RBI.
Ryan Roberts owns a .256/.354/.444 slash line which is boring and pretty much a carbon copy of his career numbers (.254/.344/.417). However, he’s been given every day playing time, and as a result some of his numbers are rather impressive. The 54 RBI stink, but the D’back has 77 runs scored. Pretty solid. He has 18 homers, again, pretty solid considering all the issues that third base has had this year. However, when you add in 18 steals, his fantasy value skyrockets. That’s right, this “no-name” is two homers and two steals from one of the most improbable 20/20 seasons in recent memory.
And the one downer of the list…
Rickie Weeks has been activated off the DL for the Brewers. It was thought that he would be able to pinch hit right away as he worked on strengthening his ankle. However, the team is now saying that it might still be a few days before he’s able to do even that. What that means is that you shouldn’t be counting on playing him next week in your H2H matchup. I’ve said it so many times, but it bears repeating: coming into the season he had three seasons of 100+ games and three with less than 100 games. He’s appeared in 104 games up to this point, so don’t come crying to me if you are disappointed. It’s just how it goes with Weeks who is looking more like J.D. Drew by the day.
By Ray Flowers
Here are the answers to some of the quick hitters that I received at the BaseballGuys’ Twitter account.
Is it time to cut bait on Corey Hart?
Hart’s season started late because of injury, and then the Brewers made the mistake of activating him too quickly (he had only 15 at-bats appearances in the minors and produced two hits). “Maybe we could have kept him there longer but some of that has to do with the player… Corey thought he was ready,” said manager Ron Roenicke. Clearly, Hart wasn’t ready. Through 34 at-bats he is batting .176, has a .382 OPS and hasn’t produced a single RBI. So do you drop him? Would you drop Troy Tulowitzki? If you weren’t aware, he has been worse than Hart the past two weeks hitting just .093. Obviously Tulo is a better player than Hart, but the point should be obvious – you don’t want to panic and drop guys with track records of success because of down periods. Coming off a season in which he hit 31 homers, knocked in 102 runs and scored 91 times – something only seven other hitters in the game did last year – it would be pretty darn tough to recommend dropping Hart unless you are desperate or in a really shallow mixed league.
Raul Ibanez off waivers? Yeah, I’m that desperate.
Ibanez had an 0-for-35 stretch recently, and the results of that slump are clearly evident in his .222 batting average for the season. At the same time, the guy has completely turned things around of late with five multiple hit games in his last seven outings. In fact, over the last seven days Ibanez is hitting .462 with two homers and five RBI as he is on his way to putting that massive slump to bed. However, there are concerns with Ibanez. First, he will be 39 years old next month and coming off his worst HR total (16) in six years and his worst RBI mark (83) in seven years. Second, Domonic Brown is closing fast hitting .367 with four bombs, 10 RBI and 11 runs in 13 minor league games as he works his way back from injury. Will Brown eat into Ibanez’s playing time? He may not if Ben Francisco continues to struggle so mightily (he has one hit in 18 at-bats in May), but both Ibanez and Francisco could be put on notice shortly when Brown is called up.
Ibanez is a veteran run producer and manager Charlie Manuel is nothing if not supportive, sometimes to a fault, of his veterans. There isn’t much reason to think that Ibanez can’t replicate the numbers he posted last season (.275-16-83), even with his slow start, so you’ll have to decide how much value there would be in your league for an outfielder like that.
Chris Iannetta and John Buck are on a tear lately. Which would you rather own?
Back in January I broke down Buck in How to Evaluate a Player. You can read that piece to find out why I felt that Buck didn’t appear likely to replicate the numbers he posted last season (.281-20-66-53). So far this season I’ve been sort of right. Buck is hitting a poor .236, though predicting a regression in his batting average was the easy to do after last season, but the counting numbers have been solid. If Buck were to maintain his current pace over 409 at-bats, the total he received last year with Toronto, here is how his 2011 effort would stack up.
While admitting my initial thoughts of a regression appear to be taking hold, I’m surprised at the fact that Buck has done as well as he has this year. At the same time, Buck has three homers and eight RBI in his last 10 games, or his numbers would look awful. He still isn’t getting on base (.317 OBP), but I will commend him for his BB/K mark which is 0.52. Of course, only once in his career has that mark been 0.40, and for his career it’s 0.28, so it’s doubtful to hold up. So in the end, I’m still sticking with the regression I predicted three and a half months ago.
I’ve long been a fan of Iannetta. He’ll never hit for a strong average, he is currently batting .247 and striking out 35 percent of the time, but he has always had plenty of power (five homers in just 77 ABs) and he has always known how to work the count (his OBP is a whopping .414). The difference between these two backstops boils down to this for me. Iannetta is younger (by three years), hits in a better park and knows how to take a walk. Sooner or later those factors will overcome a grip it and rip it hitter like Buck. While their numbers look pretty similar at this point, I’d offer this slant. Let’s compare each hitters career numbers, per 400 at-bats, and see what we end up with.
J. Buck: .243-15-56-47 with a .302 OBP and .723 OPS
Iannetta: .235-19-67-55 with a .358 OBP and .799 OPS
Give me Iannetta who has slightly more power, a much better eye, is younger and hits in the better ball park.
I need Closer. Would you deal Robinson Cano for Heath Bell and Grady Sizemore?
Cano was drafted as the best second baseman in fantasy baseball. He’s done little to dissuade anyone from that view as he is hitting .290 with eight homers, 24 RBI and 18 runs scored. For those of you who love “pace” talk – that would equate to a season long fantasy line of .290-40-121-91-10. Uh yeah, that’s pretty good. Clearly you would only move Cano if the return was substantial.
Bell just lost his streak of 41-consecutive save chances converted, but he has still been dynamite yet again. Through 14 appearances Bell has posted a 1.29 ERA, 1.07 WHIP and has converted eight of nine save chances. His strikeout mark is down almost two full batters from his career mark (7.71 compared to 9.45) and he is walking more batters than ever before (his current BB/9 mark of 3.86 is well above his career rate of 3.03), but I would take those two numbers to be more of a reflection of a small sample size than declining skills. With all the turnover in the 9th inning this year, there can’t be any argument whatsoever that Bell is one of about 10 “locks” at the backend of bullpens right now.
Sizemore started out on fire (he hist .378 in April), and then slumped miserably of late (.143 in May). In total, he’s hitting .288 with a .342 OBP. For his career he has hit .273 with a .363 OBP, so he’s pretty much right on track there. However, he’s really upped the homer pace with five bombs in 73 at-bats leading to a mark of one homer every 14.6 at-bats. Given that he hit one every 25.3 at-bats over his first 3,259 at-bats, you’d have to assume that rate will regress moving forward. However, the biggest concern with Sizemore is his utter lack of thefts. Sizemore has attempted only one steal and he was unsuccessful. It’s no a shock that he has curtailed his running since he is coming back off major knee surgery, but there is a massive difference in terms of the value of a player if he is swiping 20+ bases, as Sizemore did from 2005-08, compared to the a guy who just isn’t running.
I’d hold on to Cano. He’s as certain as any hitter in baseball to meet his lofty projections as an elite option. Sizemore, until he starts running, simply isn’t close to being an elite level fantasy outfielder. Bell is elite, but with seemingly half the teams in the league switching things up in the 9th inning on a daily bases you have, and will have, plenty of options to turn to if you need save help moving forward.
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive, 5-8 PM Eastern, on Sirius 210 and XM 87.
(1) Roy Oswalt requests trade from Astros.
(2) Coco Crisp and Carlos Gomez return to action from injury. Willy Taveras placed on waivers on waivers.
(3) John Maine placed on DL with shoulder issues.
(4) Curtis Granderson about a week from returning from hammy injury.
(5) Breaking down early season struggles of Aaron Hill and Raul Ibanez.
(6) Luke Scott to play first during interleague playing sending Garrett Atkins to bench. David Ortiz to play some first as well.
(7) Fanball.com will have a daily, 3-hour fantasy sports show from 5-8 PM EST. Starting on June 21st Fanball’s Fantasy Drive will appear daily on Sirius Channel 125 and XM channel 210. Yours truly will be a co-host.
By Ray Flowers
Which team will emerge victorious in the 2009 World Series between the Phillies and the Yankees? In what follows I’ll give my thoughts on who it looks like will win this battle of two potent offenses.
Phillies: The fourth highest scoring team in the regular season (820 runs), the Phils also hit 224 home runs, tied for second overall with the Rangers.
The Phils boast four 30-homer bats in Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, Raul Ibanez and Chase Utley. Howard and Ibanez are traditional slugger types whereas Werth (20 steals) and Utley (23 steals) bring a 20/20 game to the party. The Phillies also boast two solid table setters in Jimmy Rollins (100 runs, 31 steals) and Shane Victorino (102 runs, 25 steals). There is no finer group of six offensive weapons in the game in one lineup.
Yankees: The highest scoring team in the regular season (915), the Yankees also led baseball with 244 home runs.
Like the Phillies, the Yankees boast a powerful lineup with two 30-100 guys in Mart Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. Nick Swisher also went deep 29 times with 82 RBI while Hideki Matsui (28-90), Robinson Cano (25-85),Johnny Damon (24-82) and Jorge Posada (22-81) are all also members of the 20-HR, 80-RBI club. And to think, I didn’t even mention their most important player yet in Derek Jeter.
Both of these teams can bash, and both yards are clearly made for offensive explosions. Given the depth of both lineups this is almost a toss up, but I’ll go with the Yankees who figure to have an advantage when using the DH in the Yankees’ home park for up to four games.
Phillies: Finished eighth in ERA (4.16), 8th in WHIP (1.3520) and tied for 12th in K (1,153) during the regular season.
Cliff Lee is amazing, and Brad Lidge has apparently figured things out at the back end of games. Pedro Martinez has also dialed back the calendar some seven or eight years. Joe Blanton and J.A. Happ can start or relieve at this point, but the key to this unit is twofold. (1) Can Cole Hamels recapture last year’s success? (2) Will that bullpen be able to get leads from the starters into the hands of Mr. Lidge, and will he be able to convert if they do?
Yankees: Finished 12th in ERA (4.26), 7th in WHIP (1.3517) and 4th in K (1,260) during the regular season.
The Yankees didn’t give CC Sabathia the keys to Fort Knox to waste away on the bench, so it looks like he might be asked to go in Games 1, 4 and 7. Andy Pettitte continues to come through in big games, and A.J. Burnett might be erratic, but the man has no-hit stuff every time he takes the mound. There are no concerns here about the bullpen as Mariano Rivera is the all-time playoff reliever, and with Joba Chamberlain on hand to help Phil Hughes to get the ball to Mariano, things are looking pretty good.
The bullpen will likely be the difference here, and as long as the Yanks can get Hughes back on track, they have the advantage.
Phillies: There is little depth here for the Phillies who were lucky enough to have pretty much every offensive weapon suit up for at least 130 games during the regular season. Matt Stairs will likely be called on to try and hit a ball to the moon, and Greg Dobbs and Ben Francisco are also on hand for some added depth.
Yankees: When the game moves to Philadelphia, the Yankees will have a huge advantage with Hideki Matsui, an everyday slugger, able to pinch hit at a moments notice. That gives them the advantage on the road, and at home they will also be in the same position rolling Matsui as DH with the Phillies likely using someone like Dobbs, Stairs or Francisco. That’s not a favorable matchup.
Phillies: 5th in fielding percentage (.987).
Manager Charlie Manuel has a World Series Championship under his belt from last season, but the guy just scares the hell out of me with the use of his pitching staff.
Yankees: 16th in field percentage (.985).
Manager Joe Girardi will look to emulate his former manager, Joe Torre, and return the Yankees to the realm of World Champions.
RAY’s PICK: Yankees in Six
I almost want to puke. In fact, I might if I was picking the Dodgers here. Still, the Yankees are my second most hated club, cue the vomit bags, and given that their player’s salary is something like the GNP of a few countries in the world, it’s hard to like the Evil Empire. However, it looks like they will win their first World Series since 2000 and their 27th overall championship.
By Ray Flowers
There continue to be a bevy of news stories each day pertaining to a host of injured players on the diamond. Today, I’ll deal with a few of the more intriguing issues that were in the news on Monday.
Carlos Beltran is visiting the same clinic that A-Rod used for his hip surgery. The problem for Beltran is his knee, obviously nothing to do with his hip, but the doctor that he is seeing is a micro-fracture surgery specialist. Still, the Mets are downplaying the visit saying that Dr. Richard Steadman is merely going to review Beltran’s test to make sure everything is progressing as it should. I don’t know about you, but this injury has me mighty nervous. First it was nothing. Then something minor. Then something he could play through. Then it was something that sent him to the DL. And now he is visiting specialists? I get the sneaking feeling that someone isn’t being honest here, and that would make me ready to hit the bottle if I was a Beltran owner.
Raul Ibanez, currently on the DL with a groin injury, was said to be on track to return as soon as his 15 day stint on the sidelines was up. Oh well, that’s apparently out the window now. Ibanez will most likely not be ready to go on Friday despite the fact that the groin has improved. “One day he can be doing great, and another day not as great,” GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “We have to keep our minds open there. We’ll reevaluate him and see whether he’s physically able to start some type of rehab.” Given his time on the shelf he will likely need at least a couple of games in the minors to get his timing back, so don’t plan on seeing him in a Phillies uni until at least next week (that last part was Ray Flowers talking, not anyone with the Phillies organization). To read just how effective Ibanez has been this year when compared to every other major league player, make sure you give the MLB Player Rater a read.
Mike Lowell is another case of a mysterious injury situation. We know that it’s his surgically repaired hip that was giving him problems, but as in the case of Beltran, the condition has seemingly grown worse as the days have passed. First Lowell just needed some time off after playing virtually every game in the early going. Then it was noted that he has some pain, so the club was going to give him some time off in interleague play with Kevin Youkilis sliding over to third with David Ortiz playing first. Now we get word that Lowell might end on up on the DL if he doesn’t respond to some Dr. Frankenstein type of injection he just received in his hip. OK, that might not quite be were we are at, but the injection of Synvisc sure seems pretty out there to me. Apparently the material is meant to lube up the joint, kind of like oil for your car, though even Lowell seems a bit mystified at the procedure. “They took the bad stuff out and put the good stuff in. I’m a little bruised from the injection itself but I do feel I have a lot more mobility. I think I’ll be able to tell more tomorrow when I get stretched out and stuff.” The best case scenario at this point appears to be a mid-week return, though as I mentioned a DL stint is still a possibility. Too bad to since Lowell was humming along pretty well with 41 RBI and 10 home runs in just 68 games to make him one of just seven third baseman to reach both of those levels in the early going.
Jake Peavy says that he will be ready to return to the hill in three weeks as he continues to recover from an ankle injury. You can read more about Peavy, and what the rest of the Padres are up to in my most recent National League Review.
By Ray Flowers