The Kung Fu Panda kicking butt highlights this week’s edition.
Timeout for a shameless piece of self-promotion: Don’t forget to tune in to hear Rick Wolf and me on Colton and the Wolfman on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio (Sirius 210 XM 87) Tuesday nights from 11pm-1am Eastern time. We will have fantasy baseball pennant races, fantasy football week 3 recaps and more.
Now back to why you clicked this column to begin with . . . .
Pablo Sandoval : The Kung Fu Panda had another big night last night, going 3-3 with a two-run homer. That's 3 jacks in three days for the Panda. Overall, he has a solid .291 average, but because of his DL time, only 12 HR and 59 RBI. Here is the good news: over the last week, Panda has 4 HR, 9 RBI and a SB. If you can, ride the Panda because he should stay hot for the last two weeks. As for next year, if you see the Panda come into camp heavy, cut his auction price by 40% as he will get hurt again. However, if it looks like he has finally grown up and taken conditioning seriously, then you could have a serious bargain on your hands. Next year he will be only 27 and in his 6th major league season -- a prescription for success IF, IF, IF he stays healthy. [Note: I still think "Kung Fu Panda" is the best nickname in sports].
Hisashi Iwakuma: Hisashi Iwakuma continued to prove he belongs by holding the big bats of the Texas Rangers to three runs on eight hits in seven innings Friday. Overall, Iwakuma has a pretty 3.41 ERA and respectable K/BB over 2.0. If you are looking for a star, this is not your guy. However, if you need cheap pitching late in your draft or auction next year, this pitcher is one to keep on your radar screen. As for this year, the next start in Anaheim is not one I would feel very good about. Just sayin.
Justin Masterson: Justin Masterson was, well . . . not good Friday giving up four runs in six innings to the Royals. Add in that he struck out just 3 and gave up 8 baserunners and you have an unhelpful roto outing. Yes, every now and again he looks great. However, for the year, the inaptly named Masterson has a pretty ugly 4.97 ERA, an equally ugly 1.45 WHIP and a K/BB below 2.0. In his four years as a starter between 2009 and 2012, he has been roto positive in only one of those four. Paying anything other than flyer money for Justin next year is hoping rather than evaluating. And, as the Wolfman always says "hope is not a management strategy."
Jonathan Niese: Unlike Masterson, Jonathan Niese added more personal positive to yet another bad season for the NY Mets. Niese struck out seven while walking only one to get the win. Overall, Niese has a sweet 3.49 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 152/46 K/BB ratio. I like him to finish strong, so grab Niese if you need a good start or two (but not necessarily if you need a win as the Mets still cannot hit). As for next year, he will be 26 and seems to have established a new and higher level of play. There is a very good chance Niese will be a bargain in 2013.
Tyler Clippard: Things are not good if you are Tyler Clippard. Not only did you lose half your closer role, you responded by blowing a game in your first outing as half closer. Overall, Clippard has had yet another strong season with 32 saves and 79 K in fewer than 70 innings. However, over the last two weeks, he has a 7.94 ERA and 1.76 WHIP. Perhaps the huge workloads have worn him down. Bottom line -- Clippard is not a good bet for many saves down the stretch. Even if he straightens out, the Nats will do all they can to keep him fresh for the playoffs.
Eric Hosmer: Eric Hosmer got the big hit Thursday helping the Royals deal a tough defeat to the division leading ChiSox. There is no question that Hosmer has fallen victim to the sophomore slump this year, hitting a paltry .240 with just 14 HR. That said, the question remains -- will Hos help you down the stretch? Probably not. His .189 average over the last two weeks looks good only compared to the .167 over the last week. However, when 2013 rolls around, you will have a player in his third year with a world of talent who has the requisite 1000 AB under his belt. Translation: Hosmer could be a bargain at next year's draft table.
B.J. Upton: BJ Upton continued his scalding September this week. Thursday, BJ hit a clutch 3-run walkoff home run to beat the Red Sox. 17 HR and 15 SB in the second half have made Upton one of the fantasy stars of the second half. Ride him to a pennant if you can but don’t overpay next year. He will be on a new team with a big contract and suffer both from "new team/big contract-itis" and maybe even some customary lack of focus.
Now, because so many of you are now focused on fantasy football, I provide here some thoughts for this week and weeks to come:
1. Yes, it is a passing league, but remember that when fantasy playoff time comes, it will be cold and wet in December and the good teams will run the football. Don’t give up on those running backs any time soon!
2. Injury prone players get hurt. If you are betting that Ryan Matthews plays the next 14 games, well, shame on you.
3. Don’t save FAAB money when yearlong quality is there for the taking. Get while the getting is good!
And last and but not least, this from the Baron of the Bottom of the Page -- Schultz says: “Like politicians and advertising executives, roto-sports writers are partial to short pithy phrases that seem to convey much knowledge in a modicum of words (unlike your humble narrator here that has never opted to say in two words what he could say mellifluously in ten). While I know my not-so-humble overlord did not invent the phrase, it's probably time to address the folly of following the logic of "injury prone players get injured" as it oversimplifies a slightly more complicated issue of discerning which players are at-risk for missing time and which are not. In lumping any player that has suffered more than one injury into the category of injury prone, it's easy to mistake a player that has a chronic injury or bad workout habits with one that is simply unlucky.
Mark Prior will likely go down in history as being an injury prone player, a misnomer if there ever was one. After being overworked by Dusty Baker as a 22-year-old, Prior suffered a shoulder injury which led to the elbow issues that effectively ended his career. Prior wasn't injury prone - he was simply injured. He wasn't prone to injury, he was simply already injured. Those who are wondering whether the Nationals made a smart move in shutting down Steven Strasburg should remember the ghost of Prior's past. It may hinder the Nationals chances for winning a World Series but it's keeping Strasburg from becoming an injured pitcher. It's also the reason Brett Anderson consistently gets mentioned in the same sentence as "potential." On the other hand, Roy Halladay had the unfair reputation of being injury prone early in his career. However, he was only unlucky, his "injury proneness" the result of two errantly hit balls that broke his leg and gave him a concussion and an emergency appendectomy. Those that could tell the difference between injury prone and bad luck likely got the best pitcher in baseball for the second half of the last decade for a bargain. That wouldn't have happened by blindly following pithy maxims.
An outfielder that habitually runs into walls? That's likely an injury prone player until he stops. Once that happens, likely injury prone no more. A base stealer that consistently pulls leg muscles? That's a sign of an athlete not properly stretching before games and likely an injury prone player until his work habits change. A pitcher with a habitually bad shoulder? Not injury prone - just injured and you could probably do well to let others take the risk. Don't let your roto-life be guided by catchy phrases. Dig deeper and make educated choices. Knowledge is power and knowing is half the battle."
Response: Quality advice from Schultz. Yes, one cannot say ARod is injury prone because he got hit on the hand or Andy Pettitte because he got hit on the leg. However, Nick Johnson, he is the poster boy for injury prone, no?
Final thoughts: Two requests of the Dallas Cowboys this week. 1) Jason Garrett please remember to stick with the run and 2) Felix Jones, when you find yourself 5+ yards deep in the end zone, kneel down and take the 25 yards you get by automatic placement at the 20 rather than run out, risk a fumble and get only to the 15. Please!