Eno Sarris

Baseball Daily Dose

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Melting All the Way Down

Monday, August 15, 2011

After a major meltdown both on and off the field for Carlos Zambrano on Friday night, the pitcher finds himself suspended by the Cubs and the subject of a petition by the player's union. After blowing the game, he blew a stack and then claimed he was retired as he cleaned out his locker. It all seems like we've heard it before from the Big Mercurial, but it's beginning to mean less and less every year. This year, Zambrano has the worst swinging-strike and ground-ball rates of his career. Even one of his better walk rates can't hide the fact that he's pretty much deserved his high-fours ERA. There aren't too many fantasy owners out there right now that are upset about his suspension, in other words. The next time he blows up like this, you'll see it in the dot-dots.

There are much smaller pieces of news from a baseball standpoint that mean so much more in fantasy. Like the fact that Alex Rodriguez homered in his rehab stint and is ready to return to his major league team Thursday. Brian McCann homered Saturday on rehab and is back on the major league roster, too. Then, there are the rehab updates where the real and fantasy coverage converge: Stephen Strasburg. Breathless reporting about his strong rehab starts makes baseball in our capital more interesting, and yet knowing Strasburg might be back in September is also important in most leagues. He shouldn't be on any waiver wires by now.

But, yeah Zambrano should be on all waiver wires by now. And, like the fact that Dan Uggla's hitting streak was halted at 33 games, his meltdown marks a difference between baseball reporting and fantasy baseball analysis. One worth pointing out before dropping Carlos Zambrano into the fantasy dustbin.

* The best is when fantasy coverage can stay a step ahead of the regular reportage. For example, Brandon Belt homered two times in his return to the major leagues. Fantasy owners trying to find upside plays for the stretch run would be well aware of the name, and also know that his manager has steadfastly stuck with his veterans for too long in some cases. With Andres Torres on the DL now (nursing a lower leg bruise after fouling a ball off his shin), and Carlos Beltran trying to get healthy (he's still feeling pain in his right hand and missed his sixth straight Sunday), there might be a few at-bats for Belt to show what he can do. In two weeks, Belt might be rosterable in many leagues and the real-life pennant race in the NL West could be effected by this young man with power and patience at the plate. And fantasy owners would be a step ahead if it happened.

* Not all of the medical news was fun over the weekend. Justin Smoak was hit with a ground ball and now gets to deal with a hairline fracture in his cheek, a broken nose, and at least 15 days where he won't be in the major leagues. Now more than 800 plate appearances into his career, Smoak has really only shown a plus walk rate in the major leagues. The power needs to arrive eventually or he'll never be a good fantasy option. He still has the upside to be Derrek Lee without the steals… and speaking of Lee, he's on the DL now with a fractured wrist. Buyer beware. The Braves lost Tommy Hanson to the DL, but there's nothing structurally wrong with him, and with his stint backdated, he's still targeting August 23rd for his return. Another top prospect (Randall Delgado this time) will come up and make a start for him. Jose Reyes probably won't be activated as soon as he is eligible, which is just the way these hamstring things go. Sigh. Rajai Davis just tore his left hamstring, so he's worse off. Probably done for the year.

* How about the pitching? Glad you asked. Edwin Jackson was on his way to a good start when he grabbed his hamstring and left the game. More on that coming. Charlie Furbush got his mojo rising Sunday as he held the Red Sox to one run in seven innings. He struck out six! He's a deep league play at home just because he can be average enough with the strikeout and walk rate that his fly-ball stuff will work in SafeCo. Charlie Morton is in the good paragraph because he held the Brewers to one run in seven plus -- in Milwaukee. Still he's not striking anyone out and he is walking people and some of those ground balls will find holds. He's one to trade, not to hold. Brandon Beachy struck out eight Cubbies, walked none, and gave up two runs in 5 1/3 innings. He racks up the strikeouts, doesn't walk anyone, so who cares about his extremely low ground-ball rate? Beachy's a hold. Ryan Vogelsong struck out eight and walked two Marlins. He only gave up two runs in just short of eight innings. It's time to stop wondering if he can keep this control up all year and start wondering if he can do it again next year. Homer Bailey struck out seven and held the Padres to one run in seven Saturday. He gets some swinging strikes and has been showing the best control of his life, so he could be usable in some leagues, but tread lightly.

Dontrelle Willis more like DON'Trelle Willis, am I right? He gave up four runs while getting eight outs and left with a forearm injury. Matt Harrison was this year's version of Matt Harrison plus two walks a game last year. Sunday, he walked three guys in 5 1/3 innings and allowed the Oakland offense four runs, in Oakland. Don't be too sure that he's awesome this year. Fellow Matt, Matt Garza, is in the bad paragraph because he allowed four runs in five innings against the Braves… but two of them were un-earned. He's been a much better pitcher than his line suggests, and that's because of the defense behind him. Tim Stauffer got roughed up by the Reds (nine runs in three innings). Five home runs will do that to you, so maybe Stauffer is a guy you play in pitcher's parks. Jeremy Hellickson gave up four runs in four-pus, but he also struck out four and only walked two. Oh, and it was the Yankees, in New York.

* Dudes doing work at the plate like Lucas Duda deserve recognition. After hitting his fourth homer Sunday night, his line looks useful and it's probably sustainable. The question that he could start to answer is how much upside remains. He'll need to hit a few more fly balls to really take advantage of that Ox-like power. Paul Goldschmidt doesn't please the scouts but he's got wonderful numbers, just wonderful. He had three hits Sunday. Brett Lawrie is owned in your league, right? He better be. He stole a base and tied the game off of Jordan Walden Sunday.

* Kevin Gregg allowed four runs on four hits with two walks without retiring a batter Sunday afternoon, opening the door for the Tigers to load the bases in the bottom of the ninth. Jim Johnson barely shut the door and could be next in line if he wasn't also the sixth starter. With Gregg counting as one of the worst closers in baseball, the Baltimore bullpen bears watching. Brian Wilson's back hurts and that's not good after he missed time at the beginning of the season with the ailment. Sergio Romo might get some saves in the meantime, but he's also dealing with a tweaked elbow. Jeremy Affeldt? No, Ramon Ramirez got the save Sunday. Neftali Feliz also earned his 23rd save. There's no way he could hold the job all year, is there? David Hernandez got a save, but J.J. Putz was just unavailable. Ozzie Guillen used Chris Sale to get a save against two lefty batters in the ninth inning Saturday, and that's been happening. In a way, it makes Guillen one of the most forward-thinking managers in the business.

* A wholesale rumor came down the pipe. Chris Capuano, Bruce Chen, Rodrigo Lopez, Jason Vargas, Chien-Ming Wang, Ted Lilly, Tom Gorzelanny and Carlos Zambrano have all cleared waivers. Almost all of them would suffer in a move, as they would either leave a comfy home park or take a reduced role with their new team. Still, that's your main pool for cross-league pitching movement in deep leagues if you're interested.

National League Quick Hits: Albert Pujols hit the ball a Busch-record (and Pujolsian) 465 feet out Sunday night ... Mike Morse is superman, or so his quick return from his beaning suggests … Cole Hamels says he's dealing with a dead arm phase, and that's why his velocity was down Friday … Brandon Phillips returned to the lineup, but it was Jay Bruce that hit his fifth home run in seven games to steal the headlines … Rickie Weeks (ankle) took grounders and thinks he's ahead of schedule … Hiroki Kuroda held the Astros scoreless in seven with six strikeouts and one walk, but it was the Astros … Placido Polanco (sports hernia) thinks he can aid the disabled list after taking some grounders Sunday … Alex Presley and Jose Tabata both played in rehab games for the first time over the weekend … Chris Nelson is getting the starts at third with Ian Stewart out … Logan Morrison has the second-most home runs on the Marlins and yet was demoted; Now he's thinking about a grievance, so don't drop him yet in those deeper leagues … Barry Zito (foot) sprained his ankle and might be sidelined for a little bit … Don Mattingly admitted that Nathan Eovaldi might hit an innings limit before the year is up … Wade LeBlanc allowed three runs in six innings, with six strikeouts, and that start against the Reds probably makes him a great streamer for his next start at home against the Marlins … Jason Marquis had his leg broken by a come-backer, then pitched a little while longer, bunted in an at-bat, pitched some more, hit Josh Thole, and then figured out his leg was broken; He's out for the year … Jordan Lyles gave up seven earned to the Dodgers, though, and the only skill he's showing right now is control … Jordan Schafer (broken finger) took batting practice, but he's not very ownable, even when he comes back and plays daily in center field for the Astros … The Diamondbacks put Xavier Nady on the DL with a fractured hand (he was hit by a pitch Friday) and then they went out and signed Lyle Overbay.

American League Quick Hits: Jose Bautista took Dan Haren deep, so hopeful that'll get him going again … John Danks held the Royals to two runs in six innings Sunday, but he's borderline enough that he could be a sit against the Rangers at home next week … Trevor Cahill held the Rangers to one earned in seven-plus and has been better, by peripherals, then he was last year (amazingly) … Colby Lewis gave up just one run in 6 2/3 innings, striking out eight and walking none; he's still a mixed-league matchups or bench play because of his combo of fly ball ways and home park … Phil Hughes gave up two runs in six innings against the Rays Saturday, and the loser of the Yankee pitching battle has still not emerged … Brennan Boesch (thumb) should be back Tuesday … Michael Cuddyer (neck) sat out his third straight game and is still day-to-day … J.D. Drew (shoulder) will keep swinging in cages until Friday … Austin Jackson had three hits on Sunday, but he won't hit much better than .250 with all those strikeouts … Michael Brantley (wrist) missed his fifth straight but now the hope is for Tuesday … Jorge Posada had a grand slam Saturday, just his second home run in thirty games … Hideki Matsui reportedly cleared waivers and could be traded, to his benefit … Brandon Allen had three hits Sundays and should take time away from Conor Jackson against right-handers at least … Surprise, Carlos Guillen has a sore wrist and is on the DL … Will Rhymes and Ryan Raburn will get time there … Brent Lillibridge had two hits (one a home run) and is playable in deep leagues against lefties -- really deep leagues … Zach Britton (shoulder) is expected to rejoin the Orioles next weekend … Trevor Plouffe will get an extended look in Minnesota with Alexic Casilla on the DL but doesn't look like a fantasy option.

Eno Sarris is an editor and writer at FanGraphs.com. You can find his work gathered in one place at and enosarris.com. Follow his misadventures in writing on Twitter as well.
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