Big time veteran pitching performances and a potential major injury highlight this week.
So, before we jump in to the analysis, allow me a bit of promotional time – I am thrilled to say that Rick Wolf and I will debut our new show on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio this Tuesday (April 17) from 8-11pm eastern time. Tune in for some fun, laughs and of course information, analysis and fantasy sports strategy that can help you navigate yet another twisting and turning baseball season.
Ok, now back to business . . . .
Josh Beckett: Josh Beckett recovered from a disastrous first outing against the Tigers to toss eight innings of one-run ball Friday against the Rays. Beckett was efficient and effective. Yes, he struck out only one hitter, however, with only 5 hits and one walk allowed, I will take that any day. Many will still harp on the single K as a sign that Beckett is not what he was. Well, I don’t know about that but I do know that this veteran presents a huge buying opportunity. For some reason folks are just down on Josh. Take advantage now. Excluding the injury marred 2010 (not an arm injury), Beckett has posted no fewer than 172 K, walked no more than 52, had an ERA above 4 only once (4.03) and his highest WHIP was 1.19. The bottom line is simple. Beckett is still ace quality and despite being one of the best big game pitchers of this generation, he is underrated in most fantasy leagues. Buy.
Jake Peavy: Jake Peavy was really good yesterday, tossing 6 2/3 innings with eight k’s against the Tigers’ slugging lineup. So far, Peavy has a very solid 3.55 ERA and 0.95 WHIP. Just like Josh Beckett, Peavy remains an underrated, high upside AL pitcher. Remember, like Beckett, Peavy has been around a long time but is far from old. Like Beckett he is so talented that he made the bigs at the ripe young age of 19. While he carries more injury risk than Beckett, there are real reasons for my optimism. Last year Peavy was much better than the 4.94 ERA would indicate. He kept runners off base with a very respectable 1.268 WHIP and had a K/BB ratio of 4/1. Buy.
Joe Blanton: Sticking with veteran pitchers who did not get enough love in fantasy drafts, “Officer” Joe Blanton tossed a gem Thursday, giving up just one run on three hits in seven frames. Blanton does not have the upside of a Beckett or Peavy, but because he toils in the shadow of Doc, Lee and Hamels, he is better than people think. Yes, there is an injury risk but with next week’s two starts against the Giants and Padres, he should be on your roster.
Hiroki Kuroda: Hiroki Kuroda was brilliant yesterday, shutting out the Angels over eight innings to lead the Yankees to a home opening win. Kuroda, who has a 2.63 ERA thus far is another veteran who has been overlooked or at least undervalued in fantasy circles. Yes, Yankee Stadium is a tougher place to pitch than LA. Yes, he has to face the AL East rather than the NL West. However, he has an offense that will get him wins and a team that fields the ball very well – a key fact since Kuroda keeps the ball on the round. The consistent righty should win 15+ easily and could approach 20 if things fall right. Buy.
Jacoby Ellsbury: My goodness Jacoby Ellsbury is unlucky. In 2010, he ran into then teammate Adrian Beltre and basically missed the season. Yesterday, the reeling Sox lost Ellsbury for what looks like 6-8 weeks after he collided with Rays SS Reid Brignac. This is just one of those bad luck moments in real and fantasy baseball. The Sox can do little other than to play all of Ross, Sweeney and McDonald until Carl Crawford returns. None of those players is more than a 5th OF type in anything other than the deepest league. That said, two roto side effects may occur that are currently going unstated. First, when Carl Crawford returns, he is likely to be slotted in his comfortable leadoff role (the role Ellsbury vacated). That could help him hit the ground running. If you can prospect on Crawford at a discount, do it. Second, there are good hitters out there the Sox could think about. Don’t be shocked if Derrick Lee or Hideki Matsui rumors start circulating. [Or, maybe a return of Jason Bay – ok, I went too far].
Ryan Raburn: On to the hitting front (or non-hitting front), Ryan Raburn continues to well . . . er . . . not hit. He went 0-3 Thursday to reduce his average to a lowly .105. Yuck. This is one of those situations in fantasy where fielding DOES count. If Raburn had a great glove, the Tigers would leave him at 2B and he would have a chance to hit his way out of a slump. However, they have a ton of offense without him and two 2B who are better fielders (Santiago and Inge). Bottom line – Raburn’s ABs are in grave danger. Act accordingly.
Ian Kennedy: Ian Kennedy IS that good. Coming off his 21 wins in 2011, Kennedy has continued to shine. Thursday, the DBack ace struck out nine in just six innings. Like Beckett and Peavy, Kennedy made the majors at a very young age. So, while he seems to have been around a long time, he is just 27 – an age where pitchers are not even fully at their peak. Add in the fact that he gets to face the Giants, Padres and Dodgers often and you get a pitcher who is undervalued. Buy with confidence if you can.
Matt Cain: Matt Cain was simply great yesterday, striking out 11 in a one-hit shutout. Oddly, the opposing pitcher had the only hit. Cain is constantly overshadowed by the Freak (Tim Lincecum) in the Giant rotation. However, I will go out on a limb here and say, with substantial confidence, that Cain will have a much better year than the Freak and will reward those fantasy owners who invested.
Omar Infante: On the sell high front, Omar Infante continued his torrid April, going 2-4 with a double on Thursday. So far, Omar is hitting .367 with 3 dingers in just 30 AB. Yes, MI is thin and Omar has value. However, that value will never be as high as it is today. Will he hit .360? No. Will he continue to homer once every 10 AB? No. Over the last two years, he hit a dinger once every 70 AB. You get the point. These April stats are nice and he will be a serviceable fantasy MI but if you can sell high, sell high.
Matt Capps: Matt Capps got it done, but boy was it ugly. Thursday, Capps protected a three run ninth inning lead bye giving up only two runs in his one inning of work. Given his lowly K rate in 2011 and the emergence of Glenn Perkins, there are two likely scenarios. First, Capps loses the closer job before the summer solstice or two, he pitches better than expected and is traded into a set-up role before July ends. Either way, don’t expect a full year of saves here.
And last and but not least, Schultz says: “While walking through the Pai Gow poker and roulette tables of the Trump Taj this weekend I was struck by two things: there appear to be no discernible rules to Pai Gow poker (as well as an innumerable number of insensitive jokes to be made about it) and the list of previous results of the roulette wheel are about as useful as an early season box score. Before you think Schultz has gotten too deep into the open bar, let me channel my inner Desi Arnaz and do some splainin. The sucker move at any roulette table is to bet with a mindset that the previous rolls provide you with any useful information. All it tells you is what came before. Since the ball possesses no knowledge of what transpired before its recent departure from the croupier's hand, it has the same odds of red or black on each throw. The equivalent of that sucker move in rotisserie baseball is to look at the batting average of any player after the first week of the season and think it means anything significant for the other 25 weeks of the season. It is simply too little of a sample size to make any reasoned conclusions.
This is important to keep in mind when wondering whether your gambles on the likes of Mike Moustakas, Colby Rasmus or Jason Kipnis are going to pay off. Not only is there too little data to make an informed decision, it will also drive you into a deep and immediate depression. By that same token, don't break your arm patting yourself on the back for the Carlos Pena, Carlos Beltran or Frank Francisco gambles just yet. It's not unreasonable to retain you optimism but keep it in check, there always the double zero lurking around the corner.
Now enough pontificating and back to the tables. Like roto-baseball, I have been led to believe that there are only degrees of winning here and no other options.”
Response: Odd but accurate. If there is an owner in your league who doesn’t read what Schultz says, you should fleece the fool.
Final notes: Because it is my column, I get to rant and rave. So, here goes. I am watching the Yankees the other night (big shock) and what do I see? A rally is building in a tie game. Nick Swisher is on first and Robbie Cano at the plate. Robbie laces a double down the left field line. Endy Chavez (he of the great glove) races over and plays the ball in the corner. Now what happens? Yankee 3b coach Rob Thompson decides to risk sending Swisher (he of the known speed – not) rather than being happy to have second and third and no out with the cleanup hitter to follow in a tie game where a one run lead plus Robertson and Mariano is often a very good place to be. Nice work Rob. Swish gets gunned down, the rally gets killed and a game was almost lost. Major league 3B coaches who have little to do but follow simple rules should never, ever make that kind of mistake. Never.