Bobby Colton

Week That Was

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Who's Hot, Who's Not?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

This week clearly separated the youth from the veterans, though the results were drastically different for the batters than for the pitchers. Veterans ruled the batting world this week, as Jimmy Rollins, Todd Helton, and Carlos Guillen proved that they can be supreme talents down the stretch again after providing huge value over the course of their careers. Meanwhile, youngsters Justin Smoak and Mike Moustakas showed why you can't rely on unproved players in a playoff run. On the other side of the ball the story was very different. The unproven were the ones providing the most value, as Jeff Karstens, Juan Nicasio, and Nick Blackburn shined when Ricky Nolasco and Dan Haren were absolutely brutal. While you make sense of this divide, see who else is Hot or Not this week.

NL Batters

The Hot: Jimmy Rollins, Phillies, SS

Rollins has come back from the All-Star break looking to improve upon his mediocre .268 average. All he's done is hit .393 over the last seven days and smack 3 homers, tied with Albert Pujols for the most of any National League player this past week. Rollins is always a coveted fantasy player thanks to his lucrative spot in the Phillies' order hitting in front of sluggers Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Shane Victorino. Rollins isn't likely to hit .393 through the end of the year, but he could be well on his way to reverting back to his pre-2009 form. With the fantasy trade deadlines approaching, Rollins is a definite buy as you make your push to the playoffs.

The Hotter: Todd Helton, Rockies, 1B

Helton is in the middle of an absolutely sensational season, hitting a robust .324. This is Helton's 12th time in 14 full seasons that he has hit over .300, a truly remarkable stat. This past week Helton was just as hot as he has ever been. He went 7/17, good for a .417 average, and walked another 5 times on his way to posting the 3rd highest OBP in the NL this week (.542). If that wasn't enough, Helton also knocked in 9 runs in his last 6 games, trailing just the surprising Jesus Guzman last week. Helton has been fantastic all season and there is no reason for his production to slow the rest of the way. With Jason Giambi drawing trade interest, Helton might even end up with more playing time down the stretch.

The Hottest: Cameron Maybin, Padres, OF

For years Cameron Maybin has been one of those guys who just hasn't been able to put it all together at the Major League level, either getting hurt, benched, or demoted every year. This week, Maybin showed why he was the centerpiece of the Miguel Cabrera/Dontrelle Willis deal years ago. Maybin went 12/29, a .414 average which was the 4th best among NL hitters. However, by far the most impressive stat from this past week was Maybin's 7 steals. He had just 12 heading into the week, but he has gotten on and run with gusto of late. Maybin has all the talent in the world, and he is playing in a park that suits his game. Maybin is a guy to keep your eye on in the future, as the Marlins clearly saw something in him when they acquired him from the Tigers.

The Not: Andre Ethier, Dodgers, OF

Andre Ethier has been so cold this month you could get frostbite just from being in the same room as him. Ethier has hit a paltry .190 the month of July, watching his .320 average drop all the way to .299. This week has been especially tough on Ethier. The Dodger's All-Star managed just 2 hits in 20 at bats, making for a .100 batting average that only Brandon Phillips, Ryan Howard, and David Freese did worse than. As if that wasn't enough, in those 20 at bats, Ethier had 0 RBI. Hitting third in the order, there is no excuse for failing to knock in even one run. Ethier will surely turn it around sooner rather than later, but this cold streak is absolutely killing his owners.

The Not-ter: Prince Fielder, Brewers, 1B

You know you're a great player when you have a .300 on-base percentage and are still the Not-ter for the week. Fielder drew 5 walks, but managed just 4 hits in 25 trips for a meager .160 average this week. Oh, and he too managed 0 RBI. The Home Run Derby has been known to hut a player's swing for the second half, but a guy who's done the Derby as many times as Fielder should be immune to such a drop off in production. Fielder should be good as new soon, but this freezing week definitely did its damage to his owners.

The Not-test: Brandon Phillips, Reds, 2B

Brandon Phillips has been absolutely brutal this month. The powerful second baseman has watched his .300 average drop all the way to .278 in the month of July. This week alone it's dropped a full 12 points. Phillips managed just one hit all week. Just one. He walked twice, but that is hardly any consolation. However, Phillips did knock in two runs, something Ethier and Fielder couldn't do. Phillips is an elite fantasy second baseman, so owners can only cross their fingers and hope that he comes around soon. He can't have another week like this if fantasy owners want to make the playoffs.

AL Batters

The Hot: Carlos Guillen, Tigers, 2B

Not only has Guillen actually come back from the injury that knocked him out last August 16th, but also he has come off hitting at an absolutely insane clip. Guillen has gotten a hit in all 6 of his games off the DL. Guillen has struck out just once in his 6 games. Guillen has knocked in four runs in his 6 games. And Guillen is hitting .412 over the last week, 9th in the AL over that span. Guillen has been on an absolute tear and considering he plays second base, an extremely scarce position, he is a great mixed league option. If Guillen is still floating around the waiver wire, you need to pick him up now.

The Hotter: Brett Gardner, Yankees, OF

I am not a big Gardner fan, but I have to admit that the Yankees' speedster is hitting like a machine of late. He is clearly the Yanks' best option hitting in the leadoff spot. Gardner is 12/25 since the break, good for a .480 average trailing just Joe Mauer in the AL over that stretch. Not only is Gardner hitting, but also he's running like a man possessed, stealing 7 bases in 7 chances. Getting on at a .552 clip, Gardner must be started in all leagues while he's on his hot streak.

The Hottest: Joe Mauer, Twins, C/1B

Mauer's hot streak has breathed life into the Twins team that has been missing Delmon Young, Jason Kubel, Denard Span, and Justin Morneau. Mauer is the only player in the Majors to hit over .500 since the All-Star break (.519). With four runs and four RBI, he has been filling the stat sheet. Mauer's only drawback has been his lack of power. Out of his 14 hits, Mauer has just one extra base hit, a double. That being said, with Mauer's part-time move to first, he now will play day after nights with no issue and will lessen the strain on his body. Mauer is back to his old self.

The Not: Justin Smoak, Mariners, 1B

The days of Justin Smoak hitting well are long over. The M's first baseman hasn't been over .250 since June 27th. Since the All-Star break, Smoak is hitting just .150 and has an OBP of just .190. However, worse than the average, worse than the OBP, is the fact that Smoak has neither a run nor an RBI in the last week. That absolutely mind-numbing fact is why Smoak should be nowhere near fantasy lineups for the time being.

The Not-ter: Torii Hunter, Angels, OF

Hunter's tough season took an even tougher turn this week. He was hitting a meager .247 before the week started, but now sits at an even worse .235. Hunter managed just one hit in 25 trips to the dish, resulting in a .040 average. That one hit was a homer, but that made his only RBI of the week and scored just one other run. The most shocking is that out of his 25 at bats, 10 ended in strikeouts. Hunter's putrid season means he should be on the sidelines of any team trying to make the playoffs.

The Not-test: Mike Moustakas, Royals, 3B

The kid might have a bright future, but the time certainly isn't now the for the Royals' third baseman. He is down to .190 on the season, and with Wilson Betemit out of town, he will continue to start, but he cannot be seriously trusted in any format right now. Over the past week, Moustakas has gotten zero hits. 0 for 20. If there is such thing as a silver lining to such a week, I guess it's that he had only one strikeout out of his 20 outs, so he is at least making contact. He is not ready for the big leagues yet and you shouldn't be resting your fantasy team's hopes on him.

NL Pitchers

The Hot: Jeff Karstens, Pirates, P

Jeff Karstens hasn't had a winning record since 2006 with the Yankees when he went 2-1. Now, Karstens is enjoying a phenomenal year, sporting a 2.28 ERA and an 8-5 record. This past week in particular Karstens has been otherworldly. Against the Astros Karstens went the distance, not allowing a run on 5 hits with no walks. His next start against the Reds Karstens was undone by some shoddy defense, allowing 3 runs, just one earned, in an eventual 3-1 loss. With the way he's pitched all season, Karstens is a good bet to keep up his success throughout the second half.

The Hotter: Juan Nicasio, Rockies, P

Nicasio was effective in his two starts this week, going 7 shutout innings against the Brewers to earn the win, then another 7 of one run ball against the Braves in which he eventually got the no decision. Nicasio fanned 8 in 14 innings and walked just one batter. For the most part Nicasio has been pretty strong this season, but it is still hard to trust the rookie in anything outside NL only leagues. His success might not last all season, but with Nicasio throwing this well it is impossible to leave him on benches.

The Hottest: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, P

Kershaw is going to win many Cy Young Awards in the future. The kid is just 23 years old, yet he is in his third straight year of having an ERA below 3.00. Kershaw is having a typical fantastic season, but his last two starts have been particularly great. Against the Diamondbacks, the Dodgers let Kershaw down by allowing 4 unearned runs, but Kershaw still managed to get the win thanks to not allowing any earned runs and fanning 8 over his 7 innings of work. His next start against the Giants was an absolute gem. Kershaw went 8 shutout innings striking out 12 while allowing just 4 men to reach base. Kershaw is a super star and should be in all lineups at all times. There aren't many other people I'd rather have in keeper leagues.

The Not: Tommy Hanson, Braves, P

You know you're having a good year when after two stinkers in a row you still have a 3.06 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. Hanson struggled against he Nationals, despite striking out 8 in just 5.1 innings. Hanson allowed 5 runs on 8 hits while taking the loss. In his next start against the Rockies wasn't any better, allowing 6 runs on 7 hits over 6 innings despite striking out another 7. Hanson had his usual pinpoint control, walking just 3 over the two starts, but he was just ridiculously hittable. Hanson is a star and will turn it around soon, so just hang in there if you own him.

The Not-ter: Jhoulys Chacin, Rockies, P

As good as Juan Nicasio has been, Chacin has been just as bad. He was mediocre against the Brewers, allowing 5 runs on 7 hits over 6.1 innings while taking the loss. Against the Braves he was downright bad. He allowed the same 5 runs, but he lasted just 4.2 innings. Chacin allowed 4 hits, half of which were homers, but he was undone by just total lack of control, issuing 7 free passes. Chacin has bee solid on a whole this year, but he is definitely prone to stretches like these, so it is hard o trust him in anything outside NL only leagues.

The Not-test: Ricky Nolasco, Marlins, P

Nolasco's second start of the week was so miserable, that his win against the Cubs was more than negated to the point where he was the Not-test for the week. Nolasco actually allowed only 2 unearned runs against the Cubs over 7 innings while striking out 7. Then came his start against the light hitting Padres. Nolasco lasted just 1.1 innings, and he got smacked for 9 earned runs on 9 hits. He just kept allowing hit after hit after hit after hit until there was just no coming back for the Marlins. Nolaco's ERA jumped from 3.51 all the way to 4.08. Nolasco has some good talent, but he falls into tough stretches. Nolasco is still a solid play in NL only leagues, but he cant be trusted in mixed leagues right now.

AL Pitchers

The Hot: Nick Blackburn, Twins, P

Nick Blackburn's solid week drops his ERA from 4.24 down to 3.87, yet he managed not to pick up a win. In his first start, Blackburn went 7 shutout innings against the Royals, allowing just 4 hits and two walks. Then, against the Indians, Blackburn allowed 4 runs, just one earned, over 6 innings, still allowing just 4 hits and two walks. This game was almost better than the first because he fanned 7 in just 6 innings. Blackburn wasn't having a great year before this strong week, so he can't be trusted outside AL only leagues. With Kevin Slowey headed to AAA, there isn't much competition for his rotation spot.

The Hotter: C.C. Sabathia, Yankees, P

C.C. Sabathia is still a very, very good pitcher. Even though his control was subpar, allowing 7 walks in the 16 innings this week, he still managed two brilliant starts. His start against the Blue Jays was brilliant, allowing just 3 hits while going 8 innings of 1 run ball with a strong 8 strikeouts. Then, against the Rays, Sabathia went 8 more innings of 2 run ball on just 5 hits, again fanning 8. Sabathia is an elite pitcher and needs to be started in all formats.

The Hottest: C.J. Wilson, Rangers, P

I would have been the first guy to say last year that I didn't think CJ Wilson had what it took to be a starting pitcher after he struggled in the 'pen in 2008, even though he was good in '09. I am even more surprised Wilson has been able to continue last year's success into this season. Wilson was absolutely brilliant this past week. In his start against the Mariners, Wilson went 7 innings of 1 run ball, allowing just 5 hits while striking out 7. After winning against Seattle, Wilson was an extremely tough-luck loser against the Jered Weaver led Angels, despite allowing just an unearned run. Wilson allowed just 2 hits and 1 walk while striking out 8. He has defied the odds in making the jump to the rotation and becoming a borderline elite pitcher. If for some reason his owners are willing to trade him, buy.

The Not: Josh Tomlin, Indians, P

The Indians' starting pitching is heading in the wrong direction as the Tribe is trying to make the playoffs. Tomlin faced the Orioles and managed a win, despite allowing 5 runs over just 5 innings, including being burned by the long-ball 3 times. Then, against the Twins, he was just slightly better, going 6 innings of 4 run ball. His only issue was his 8 hits allowed. He didn't lose this weak, but that doesn't mean he was any good. Tomlin is a low rate option in AL only leagues, despite playing for a solid team.

The Not-ter: Andrew Miller, Red Sox, P

Andrew Miller is still not a good pitcher. Unlike Cameron Maybin, he has yet to prove why the Marlins made him the centerpiece of the blockbuster a few years back. Miller was brutal in his first start of the week, lasting just 2.2 innings before the Rays chased him after allowing 7 earned runs and issuing 5 free passes without striking out a single batter. Against the Orioles he pitched better, and even earned the win after going 5.2 innings of shutout ball. Now, you might be wondering how he is a Not-ter after such a performance. The answer is his whopping 6 walks allowed. Unless Miller figures out his terrible control issues, he'll never be a successful major league pitcher.

The Not-test: Dan Haren, Angels, P

Dan Haren is having a very good year, but this week was a huge step back. His ERA jumped all the way up to 3.10 from the miniscule 2.75 he was at before the week. Against Oakland Haren wasn't terrible, allowing 4 runs in 6.1 innings, but he got tagged for 10 hits in the outing and ended up taking the loss. Against the Rangers Haren was downright terrible. He got battered for 7 earned runs over just 4.1 innings, allowing 9 hits. Yet, he was spared the loss. Haren is an ace in every sense of the word, but he just couldn't find his stuff coming out of the All-Star break. If you own Haren, you must keep him in your lineups, as he will revert back to his superstar self any start now.

And of course, the column would not be complete without what Schultz says: "No one else offered me anything", "It was the best deal that I could find" and "What does it matter, I wasn't keeping him anyway." These are statements made by the people that ruin your league. Given human nature, the person who gives any one of the above excuses when they make a dumbass dump deal trade has usually uttered those phrases before in past years. As these people are usually your friends, no one ever really says anything or stages an intervention to let them know how much their foolhardy selfishness ruins your enjoyment of roto-baseball. Here in this little corner (or more properly subsection, columns really don't have corners) of The Week That Was, Schultz (who loves referring to himself to the third person - only in print though, if you do that in person, you are self indulgent, uninventive or Rickey Henderson) likes to perform the occasional public service . . . and no, it's not court ordered.

Since you are reading a rotisserie baseball column, Schultz is going to presume that you don't need the reasons that each league sets a trading deadline explained to you. If you do need an explanation, go read Too Big To Fail, this roto-stuff isn't for you. With the major league and most keeper leagues trading deadlines approaching, teams that have bollixed up 2011 try to plan ahead for 2012 by trading everything that isn't nailed down for low-priced bargains. In and of itself, there's nothing wrong with that concept. It's the team owner that takes it too far and trades Albert Pujols and Justin Verlander for Ryan Vogelsong and Derek Lee and makes excuses for why he thinks that's a justifiable trade that threatens to tip the competitive balance of any league. While no one has the obligation to consult with every team owner in their league before making a trade to see if they are making the best trade possible (cause lets be honest, some owners are just jerks), they do have the obligation to not bring down an entire league from the inside by making objectively horrific deals out of laziness or friendship with the team in third place.

Nothing can ruin a league quicker or sabotage friendships than a dump deal that makes the entire league wonder if one team has suffered a brain hemorrhage or engaged in drunk trading. The laissez faire aspect of any league - one of the core reasons why winning a fantasy baseball league can be a satisfying challenge - doesn't justify or excuse trades made for the sake of making trades. So as Sgt. Esterhaus would say, "Let's be careful out there."

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