No-Hitters and Bum ShouldersSunday, June 29, 2014
Tim Lincecum’s second career no-hitter - on Wednesday against the Padres - was fun and all, but we mustn’t forget either who Lincecum is now, or the lineup of misfits he made look just a little bit worse than usual.
There are numerous contradictions surrounding Lincecum’s 2014 performance that make him no better than a matchup play in mixed formats: He’s logged quality starts in six of his last nine starts, collecting a 3.60 ERA over that span. But wait! In those nine outings, he had an ugly 48/25 K/BB rate over 56 innings and profited greatly from a fluky .224 BABIP. This is where a Giant fan might say: “Sure, sure. But he’s had a 3.00 ERA over his last four starts, which coincides with his 30th birthday on June 15. I knew a dominant performance was coming. He’s transitioning to the second, more mature phase of his career.” To which I’d fire back: His BABIP was an even luckier .194 over those games!
Lincecum’s ERA was greater than 5 as recently as June 7. It’s down to 4.42 now, with a 6-5 record. It’s nice to see him string together a few nice starts, but let’s not forget that this is a guy who went 69-41 with a 2.98 ERA in his first five MLB seasons from 2007-2011, and then 26-34 with a 4.70 ERA in the two-plus years since then.
There are very, very few scenarios in which I could foresee starting Lincecum in a weekly mixed league going forward. We just so happen to be staring down the barrel at one such scenario: The hot right-hander has a two-start week coming up in which he faces the Cardinals (25th in the league in offense) and then the Padres again. I can’t understate this: San Diego’s offense is a joke, almost bad enough to make every opposing starter a must-start matchup play going forward. The Padres have one hitter with more than 150 plate appearances who has an on-base percentage above .300. Take a bow, Seth Smith. Without you, that would be a Double-A offense.
Here’s my suggestion: Trot Lincecum out in weekly leagues this week. Pray he doesn’t have one of his patented seven- or eight-run disasters. Work the phones all week: If he has two more good starts, I imagine you’ll find a sucker to give you something of worth in return (which, by definition, is a sound trade). If he sputters, release him immediately. Lincecum is a grenade that you want going off in the living room of one of your fellow owners. Stay safe, reader!
- The Angels-Pirates my-trash-for-your-trash swap of fallen ninth-inning heroes Ernesto Frieri and Jason Grilli had all sorts of fantasy bullpen implications. First off, Joe Smith and Mark Melancon are the undisputed closers in Los Angeles and Pittsburgh, respectively, for the first time this season. The Angels believed in Frieri perhaps a little too much before throwing up their hands and deciding to sell low, eschewing the more tenable plan of letting Smith run with the closer’s job for another month while giving Frieri all the time he needed in low-leverage situations to iron out the kinks that were allowing opposing batters to square up mistakes at inopportune moments with costly extra-base hits. Frieri is flying under the radar as the presumed seventh-inning man behind Mark Melancon and Tony Watson with the Pirates. He’s not ownable in mixed leagues at the moment, but I’m happy to hold onto Frieri in my AL-only league, or snatch him up in NL-only formats. I’m banking on good stats as a setup man and think he’s a realistic prospect for saves later this season either through a spell of Melancon ineffectiveness or an injury. The Angels are making kissy eyes at Huston Street and Joaquin Benoit, so Smith’s time as closer may be short. Until he or Melancon are displaced, both must be owned across all formats.
- Speaking of disgraced former inhabitants of the ninth inning, the White Sox kicked Ronald Belisario, his goggles and his 7.36 June ERA out of the closer’s job late last week. Chicago skipper Robin Ventura vows to antagonize fantasy owners and utilize a closer-by-committee. That approach gave Zach Putnam his first save Saturday against Toronto (allowing one run on three hits over 1 1/3 innings). Jake Petricka, an intriguing young Minnesotan right-hander, and former Dodgers’ closer Javy Guerra are two other good bets to get saves over the next month until this situation stabilizes.
- David Wright’s ailing left shoulder will not require surgery. A Saturday MRI revealed a bruised rotator cuff, leading doctors to recommend rest and anti-inflammatory medication. He might only get the latter, since Wright wants to avoid a trip to the disabled list. Because he’s riding a 10-game hitting streak while nursing the non-throwing shoulder injury, it might be difficult for general manager Sandy Alderson to convince his star to take a few weeks off. "I would say it's fairly painful," Wright said Friday. "The issue is that these last three weeks I felt like I've been able to be productive and go through normal baseball things without feeling hesitant. [Thursday] night wasn't the case. I felt like it was prohibiting me from doing certain things on a baseball field."
- Gerrit Cole coughed up five runs on seven hits over four innings to the Mets in his return from the disabled list on Saturday. He’d been out nearly a month with a sore shoulder, and his highly shaky performance, including three first-inning runs, begs the question: Was he activated too early?
- Hanley Ramirez’s Thursday MRI revealed no structural damage in his achy right shoulder. Clayton Kershaw, who knows the intellectual pain of losing a perfect game by the error of a shortstop, has no sympathy for Han-Ram’s physical struggle. We do, and are pleased to report Ramirez was a late addition to Saturday’s lineup after missing his previous four.
- For a pitcher with a career 4.48 ERA, Carlos Martinez sure does garner a lot of attention. If you’ve ever watched him pitch, you know why. The 22-year-old, thrust into the rotation a few weeks back, has allowed four earned runs in 13 1/3 innings with a 12/8 K/BB ratio over his first three starts. He lasted just 4 1/3 frames Friday against the Dodgers in another not-quite-there outing, but should be owned in all formats on upside alone anyway. The electric right-hander will get an extended look in the rotation with both Michael Wacha and Jaime Garcia on the disabled list with shoulder issues, and he’s still in the process of getting stretched out. C-Mart is a far better reliever at present moment due to his ridiculous splits, with a dirty .191/.269/.213 slash line allowed to right-handed batters but a Yasiel Puig-like .304/.404/.481 line versus left-handers. His 100 mph gas and 86 mph slider are too difficult for same-sided batters to reconcile, but the distance to the other batter’s box gives lefties more patience to lay off and wait to tee off on his as-yet-mediocre changeup. Most believe Martinez will develop that changeup into an above-average offering, which would give the young pitcher a chance to become an ace or a top-shelf No. 2. Will it happen this year? I dunno. But I’m like Lloyd in Dumb and Dumber - I get excited about the prospect of theoretical possibility, especially when the upshot is a fantasy front-liner.
- C.J. Cron homered twice on Friday against the Royals. At this point, Angels management should be mortified that they gave Raul Ibanez 190 plate appearances to hit .157 while Cron wasted away in the minors or on the bench. One cannot atone for a $2.75 million mistake by trotting out an inferior player day after day, a lesson Los Angeles learned the hard way. While Ibanez is enjoying a well-deserved retirement, Cron is slashing .299/.326/.567 with eight homers and 22 RBI over 132 plate appearances. That’s serious power, folks. Cron is owned in 11% of ESPN leagues, which doesn’t speak well for the fantasy community. The 24-year-old needs to be owned in all formats.
- It’s time to take Josh Beckett for real. The 34-year-old fired seven shutout innings Thursday against the Reds to complete June with a superb 1.66 ERA. Beckett went 0-5 with a 5.19 ERA while pitching hurt last year, and he went 5-11 with a 5.23 for the Red Sox pitching discontented the season before that (he posted a 2.93 ERA in seven 2012 starts for the Dodgers after coming over in that blockbuster August 25 trade). A 7-19 record and 4.76 ERA in 36 starts across two years in your mid-30s will inevitably lead the public to write you off. It’s been enjoyable to watch the resurrection, but I should caution that Beckett’s 3.77 FIP in 2014 isn’t ridiculously lower than the 4.26 FIP he logged during the aforementioned nightmarish 2012-2013 stretch. He was unlucky then, and he’s cashed in all that bad karma to become enlightened in the way that isn’t sustainable for the rest of the season. All that being said, Beckett must be started across formats until he shows signs of running out of gas. His performance this month suggests an indefinite delay in that timetable.
- Also on Thursday, boring Rick Porcello hurled a three-hitter against the Rangers, which the fantasy community regarded like that moment when Rachel Leigh Cook takes off her glasses in She’s All That. Had a 25-year-old with a 10-4 record, 3.41 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 62/24 K/BB ratio in 97 2/3 innings really been hiding under painter’s overalls this whole time? When I was 25 I was just pumped to be able to rent cars - Rick Porcello just completed his sixth straight double-digit win season. I present my knuckles, Mr. Porcello. Respect. He’s a must-start in mixed leagues for the first time in his career.
- Buy low if you still can!: Since Rangers manager Ron Washington returned Shin-Shoo Choo to the top of the Rangers' lineup on Friday, the outfielder has five hits in two games. He’s now collected three multi-hit games out of four. After pressing all season to justify a new contract, and being miscast as the No. 3 hitter in a ravaged Texas lineup, Choo is finally settling in.
- Two sentences ending in deserved exclamation marks shall end this week’s edition: Bryce Harper (thumb) is (reportedly) coming back from the disabled list on Monday! Happy July 4 Week That Was Nation!