Saturday, July 30, 2011

Line of the Day: Nick Swisher: July 30th, 2011

Nick Swisher was a combined 6-for-10 with two home runs, five RBI, four runs and 13 total bases as the New York Yankees swept a doubleheader from the Baltimore Orioles. (video recap)

Line: 10 AB | 4 R | 6 H | 5 RBI; 2B | 2 HR

My fantasy perspective: Swisher is quietly on pace for a .270/20/90 season with an OBP near .380 and a wOBP over .360. Not bad for a player who has batting in seven spots in the Yankee lineup.

After hitting just .213 with three home runs and 20 RBI over his first 49 games played, Swisher has rebounded by hitting .326 with 11 home runs and 42 RBI over his last 50 games. Can someone explain to me how he's only owned in 75% of Yahoo! leagues?

Question: Swisher is a free agent come 2012. Will the Yankees bring him back or will he chase the dollars?

Agree? Disagree? Check out ESPN's formula for determining the best daily performances and nominate your own Line of the Day player using the comments section or hitting me up on Twitter.

Be sure to check out the past winners of COSFBA's Line of the Day awards and subscribe to its feed, too.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Line of the Day: Jeff Niemann: July 29th, 2011

Jeff Niemann of the Tampa Bay Rays allowed just three hits and struck out a career-high 11 in 6 2/3 innings in a 8-0 victory over the Seattle Mariners. (video recap)

Line: 6.2 IP | 3 H | 0 ER | 3 BB | 11 K; W | QS

My fantasy perspective: In 13 starts this season, Niemann is 5-4 with a 3.51 ERA, a 7.0 K/9 ratio and career-low 2.3 BB/9. Since returning from a DL stint in late-June, he is 4-0 with a 1.88 ERA. Over his last three starts he has a 0.87 ERA.

deeper look into his numbers show a FIP of 3.58 and an xFIP of 3.68, validating what you see is what you get. Plus his 18.2 K% and 6.0% have led to a career-best 3.05 K/BB ratio. Even a .291 BABIP and 73.4 LOB%  show he's putting up legit numbers. Not bad for a number four starter.

Question: Is Niemann trade bait or part of the long-term plans for the Rays' rotation?

Agree? Disagree? Check out ESPN's formula for determining the best daily performances and nominate your own Line of the Day player using the comments section or hitting me up on Twitter.

Be sure to check out the past winners of COSFBA's Line of the Day awards and subscribe to its feed, too.

Special Trade Recap: Fukudome to Cleveland

As the local Cleveland Indians apologist, I was asked to give my slant on the trade that sent Kosuke Fukudome to the Tribe today. Now this is obviously outside of my "area of expertise", being the late-inning relief guy here. But I think getting out of one's element every once in a while isn't necessarily a bad thing.

So here goes.

The Details: Chicago Cubs OF Kosuke Fukudome was sent to the Indians yesterday for two minor league players: OF Abner Abreu (Class A Kinston) and RH RP Carlton Smith (Class AAA Columbus). Fukudome, who has $4.7 million left on his contract for 2011, will have all but $775,000 of it picked up by the Cubs. Fukudome is in the last year of his contract and is potentially worth free-agent compensation this coming offseason. This means if the Indians offer Fukudome arbitration and he declines in favor of free agency, he would qualify as a Type B free agent (and would be worth one compensatory pick in '12). To make room on the 40-man roster, OF Travis Buck was designated for assignment.

The Breakdown: Fukudome was reasonably solid in the lead-off spot for the Cubs, contributing a .275 BA / .374 OBP / .742 OPS. The 13 RBIs is a little misleading, as he hit lead-off for a National League team. He's an extremely patient hitter, sporting an average of 4.33 pitches / AB this year. While he's not going to impress with his power (3 HR this season, 13 HRs tops in his MLB career, and a .141 ISO for his MLB career leans towards him being naturally light on power), his bat-handling is relatively good (.330 BAbip, 5-for-5 in sac bunts, only 2 GIDP, and a 5.1 AB/K ratio). He has plus speed (2-for-4 in steals this year, 27-for-51 on his MLB career), and is a flexible outfielder (he's played both RF and CF in three of the four years of his career).

The Positives:
  • Fukudome is stats-wise instantly the best outfielder on the Indians not named Michael BrantleyWith Grady Sizemore and Shin-Soo Choo on the shelf for at least the next month (Choo is hopeful for mid-August, but that should be taken with a grain of salt), the Tribe has been platooning Travis Buck, Austin Kearns, Ezequiel Carrera, and Shelley Duncan (currently in AAA Columbus)... We'll forget that little "experiment" with Luis Valbuena in the outfield. Both Sizemore and Choo were picking up their games (they were a combined 20-for-63 with ten walks and 20 RBIs in their last ten games played) before they were hurt, so their losses were at the worst time possible. Since the All-Star Break, the platoon mentioned above (minus Duncan, who had not played since July 8th and was sent back down to Columbus July 17th) has gone 14-for-73 (.192) with 12 walks and five RBIs. Fukudome by himself went 9-for-35 (.257) with four walks and an RBI. Travis Buck was by far the weakest link of the platoon (2-for-24, 2 BB, 2 RBI), and he was designated for assignment to get Fukudome a spot on the 40-man roster.
  • Fukudome gives the Indians a legitimate contact bat that is sorely needed. How sorely? In the 13 games (5-8 record) since the All-Star Break, the Indians are dead last in the AL in BA (.216) and OBP (.285), second-to-last in hits (91) and RBIs (43), and third-to-last in runs (46). This year, Fukudome is batting .311 with RISP, with an impressive OPS of .982, and a .394 BAbip. That's actually an improvement on his solid career marks (.274 / .871 / .306). And while his bat isn't a power right-handed bat like the Indians fans insist they need, it's a marked improvement over what they have available.
The Negatives:
  • The biggest (and only real) negative can be distilled down to two words. Two simple words make all of the above stats on Fukudome pale instantly: League Change. All of the numbers are including NL pitching, whom he's dealt with for the last 4 years. With this lovely invention of Interleague Play, we can see how he's stack up against the pitchers of the AL. The stats are not-so-hot. In 53 games (200 PA) against the AL in his career, he's batting .217, sporting an OPS of .594, but does have a .282 BAbip. He's hit a home run, driven in eight... But his K/BB ratio is just a touch over 2.00 (43 Ks, 21 BBs).
  • He's going to be coming into a situation with the Indians where he's going to be asked to produce pretty much immediately. He's made a more drastic change of scenery before, coming from the Chunichi Dragons of the Japan Central League to join the Cubs in '08 (a campaign that saw him as an All-Star Starter and in the running for the Rookie of the Year). This time, he at least has some familiarity with the pitching coming in, and might be able to bring the professionalism and solid skillset to bear quickly.
The Verdict: In my mind, we won't know the full effect of this trade for about 2-3 weeks. Fukudome will need an adjustment period to full-time AL pitching staffs, but he has solid experience and a good eye to back him up. I feel he'll hit a good stride in September, producing near his career averages in the important categories. He is a low-risk, medium-reward move that doesn't have the "Wow!" factor of a Carlos Beltran to the San Francisco Giants. However, he is one of the pieces that the Indians needed to fill the gaping holes of Sizemore and Choo.

I feel that the Indians aren't done making moves, but this first one is a good step in the right direction.

Warming In The 'Pen: NL Edition

Well, well, well...Wednesday was a big day in the land of baseball. A bombshell of a deal sending Carlos Beltran to the World Champion San Francisco Giants, a massive three-way exchange involving 11 players in all. Yesterday had Kosuke Fukudome heading to Cleveland to shore up the outfield (a move on which I might have more to say). With just two days left til the Trading Deadline, there's bound to be plenty more 'shock and awe' to come. I'm sure there will be updates as we go along.

As it is, let's go over last week's names:
  • John Axford continues to impress, knocking out three saves in three games. Three innings of work saw him give up two hits, striking out three and walking no one. A very solid week for the youngster as the Brew-Crew fight off three other teams for the top spot in the NL Central.
  • Jason Isringhausen appeared in two games and saved both. He now has 296 saves on his career. He gave up a hit, a walk, and two knockouts in two innings of work. Bobby Parnell has been rocky over the past few games, so I believe that Izzy is going to be the go-to closer. That is, unless a move gets made. Beltran's already been let go by the Not-So-Mighty Mets. We won't know if they're in full fire-sale mode until Sunday.
  • Fernando Salas worked two innings this past week, allowing one hit and one walk, fanning four and notching two saves. The Cards are only a half-game out from the above-mentioned Brewers, and so long as Fernando continues his solid performances, St. Louis will be in the race for the rest of the season.
  • Carlos Marmol was seen in three games (2.2 IP), giving up three hits, one walk, and four strikeouts. Sean Marshall seems to have the lead as the "closer for the moment" on the Cubs staff, and it looks like Carlos will be in a set-up role until his mechanics are right. He could be good for a few cheap and easy holds in the interim.
With all that said and done, here's this week's award "winners":
  • "Doing Work" - Brian Wilson (SF): Since his little dugout meltdown on the 1st of the month, "The Beard" has been on a tear. In his last ten appearances (ten innings pitched) since he threw down with that Gatorade cooler, he's saved eight games, giving up two runs on seven hits in the process. He's walked four, but stuck out nine in the span. With the Giants' acquisition of Carlos Beltran, the front office is showing its seriousness and intent on thinking "repeat" this year. Contention, especially late-season, will depend on Wilson being his freaky self (all apologies to the REAL Freak, Tim Lincecum) at the back-end of the San Fran 'pen. Career-wise, Brian's heading into his best month of the season: He carries a 1.26 ERA in the month of August on his career, .555 OPS, .286 BAbip, and a strong 1.158 WHIP. This is very promising for a team that's picked up a huge bat for an offense looking desperately for help. While a boost in offense might trim down The Beard's save chances, Beltran will not solve all the Giants' O woes. Wilson will still be in the top five in saves, and likely be a catalyst to another push to the Playoffs for the City By The Bay.
  • "Unsung Hero" - Mike Adams (SD): Though the Padres are well-removed from playoff contention, but you wouldn't know it by looking at Adams. He has been having a sensational year, along the lines of Joakim Soria for the Royals on the AL side of the fence. In the last week of work, Mike didn't allow a single run, gave up two hits, and no walks. He's also notched four knockouts and two holds. Sporting a 1.15 ERA on the season, Adams deeper numbers are equally impressive: 0.723 WHIP, 5.33 K/BB ratio, a .451 OPS, and a BAbip of a microscopic .200. His FIP of 2.07, while less solid than his ERA, is still extremely sweet and indicative of a pitcher that's solid enough to not need the backing of his defense (mid-ranked in the MLB). With the trade winds swirling around San Diego closer Heath Bell (and even Adams himself), the situation in the Padres' camp is fluid. If Bell is traded, I would expect Adams to move into the closer role and be a pick-up of value in most leagues. If Adams were to get traded however, it would be to a team with an immediate need for a solid set-up man. That'd help his value in deep or 5x5/6x6 leagues. Either way, Adams is worth looking into for shoring up your fantasy staff.
  • "Heart Attack Award" - Antonio Bastardo (PHI): Yet another story about another closer in another pennant chase not exactly getting things done lately. Bastardo has slipped a bit off a solid season over the last seven days. He's only notched one save in three appearances (2.2 IP), giving up two runs on two hits and two walks. On a good note, he did fan three. Antonio has been having a career year, with an ERA of 1.38, FIP of 2.52, OPS of .422, and BAbip of .159. However, there's the case of another young arm possibly starting to fold under the pressure of a tight race. Bastardo's numbers over the last 14 days (ERA of 4.50, OPS of .568, BAbip of .286) are a little troubling. While there's not really a whole lot to go off of (he's only worked one game in August in his career), a sudden falloff during a pennant race is never a good thing. My recommendation is to hang onto Bastardo until we get an idea of how at least the first half of August goes for him.
  • "ZOMBIE!" - Henry Rodriguez (WSH): The Nats, while realistically in the Wild Card hunt, are going to have some issues while Rodriguez is in their 'pen. His last seven days read like a pitching coach's nightmare: two games, 1.1 IP, six runs on four hits (including a blast), six walks, no strikeouts. A 4.25 ERA on the year, combined with a paltry 1.32 K/BB ratio, 1.639 WHIP, and .313 BAbip are the epitome of "stay away". There are a few pluses to his game: Only one homer allowed in 36 innings, a GO/AO ratio of 1.48 is solid, he has five holds on the season, and he's only allowed 27% of his inherited runners to score (3-for-11). While those kinds of things may hold promise for future considerations (say, the next year or two), he is of no help now, and should be avoided at any and all opportunities.
That's all that's fit to print for the moment. As always, comments below, or hit me up on Twitter: @JCPronkFan48

Line of the Day: Desmond Jennings: July 28th, 2011

Desmond Jennings was 3-for-4 with four RBI and hit his first career home run to lead the Tampa Bay Rays to a 10-8 comeback victory over the Oakland Athletics. He also stole his fourth base in just six games. (video recap)

Line: 4 AB | 2 R | 3 H | 4 RBI; HR | SB | BB

My fantasy perspective: Jennings' 2011 arrival sure has been worth the wait. In just six games, he's batting .500 (11-for-22) with three doubles, a triple, a home run, seven RBI, five runs scored, four walks and four stolen bases. Phew! That's a lot of offense in a very short period of time. I'm pretty sure he has more total bases and runs created than Adam Dunn has in 90 games this season. Not really, but sure feels like it.

Question: Jennings is here to stay. What kind of numbers does he put up in 2012?

Agree? Disagree? Check out ESPN's formula for determining the best daily performances and nominate your own Line of the Day player using the comments section or hitting me up on Twitter.

Be sure to check out the past winners of COSFBA's Line of the Day awards and subscribe to its feed, too.

In The Sabermetric Spotlight: Andrew McCutchen

Let's quickly recap the Sabermetric Spotlight targets so far...

Since Jair Jurrjens was featured in the Spotlight's debut article, he's posted a 5.50 ERA, 1.44 WHIP and no wins. I don't think he's this bad, but expect the regression to continue.

Adrian Gonzalez, since being featured in the Spotlight, has been on a 7 game hitting streak, hitting .533 with eight runs and nine RBI. The problem has been the complete lack of power, as he only has one XBH in that span. Still, I don't think anyone is complaining.

Adrian Beltre got thrown on the DL immediately after I posted my article on him. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I take full responsibility for jinxing him.

Last week, I touched on three relievers who have been flying under the radar and providing solid fantasy value. Of the three, only Vinnie Pestano has pitched. He had a rough outing the day before the article posted, but on 7/27 he struck on the side against the Angels on 14 pitches. I still feel all three are worth looks in deeper leagues.

Enough about the past, on to the future! One of the brightest stars in baseball today is Andrew McCutchen. He seemed to burst onto the scene on a bad Pittsburgh team, but now with the Pirates playing at a high level, where is his value going. This week, we shine The Sabermetric Spotlight on...

Andrew McCutchen, OF Pittsburgh Pirates

I have to start the article out with a fascinating comparison I came across. Take a look at the below chart. This is McCutchen's fantasy performance in his first three seasons (2011 is pace):

Not bad counting stats, especially for the first three years of a young man's career. If not for McCutchen's slow week, these numbers would all appear higher (and I actually expect them all to be slightly higher). The interesting thing about these numbers is the stark resemblance they have to the first three years of another Pirate outfielder who started his career in Pittsburgh. Andrew McCutchen is 5'9" and 190 lbs, and the player I'm referring to was 6'1" and 185 lbs his rookie season. Can you guess who it is? His numbers are below:

I'm sure that many of you guessed it by now, but here is one final clue. This outfielder went on to become the All-Time Home Run King. Yes, that's right. The numbers in the table above are from none other than former Pirate Barry Bonds. The numbers speak for themselves, and the similarities are somewhat startling. In a lot of ways, McCutchen's numbers are better. I'm not saying McCutchen will ever hit more than 40 HR or become the All-Time HR King, but the potential for a perennial All-Star is there.

But what makes McCutchen so good? He's a smaller player than your usual outfielder, and that hair has to slow him down in the OF and on the basepaths, right?

Let's quickly compare his spray chart from last year (to 7/26) to this year. Both of the images are pasted below. The easiest way to see the point I'm trying to make is to open each image in a new tab and cycle through them. Images courtesy of

Do you see what I see? In 2010, McCutchen was hitting the ball to all fields pretty consistently but in 2011, it looks like he's pulling the ball more, especially on ground-ball outs. I'm not sure if this is a result of higher pressure situations due to the Pirates being in a divisional race or an adjusted approach at the plate. The but data is interesting, nonetheless.

This is all well and good but what does it mean for his future production? With McCutchen playing for a team that scores more runs, his numbers are bound to increase simply based on opportunity. So far, he has shown the ability to adjust to big league pitchers as they try to figure him out, and he's done a fantastic job.

Even with McCutchen's slump the last week or so, he still ranks 3rd in WAR in the National League, only behind Fantasy studs Jose Reyes and Matt Kemp. Another interesting fact is that McCutchen's BABIP of .308 is the second lowest he's posted at any level in his entire career. The only year McCutchen posted a lower BABIP was in 2007 when he played in AA. McCutchen's other numbers suggest he will continue to improve as he goes on, shown by his stable LD%, increasing BB% and others.

I would take this week's slump as an opportunity to grab McCutchen, if the price was right. I usually try not to toot my own horn, but shortly before I wrote the Spotlight article on Jair Jurrjens, I made a trade straight-up for McCutchen, and I could not be happier. If you have the opportunity to make this type of deal, it should be a no brainer, especially in keeper and dynasty formats.

Do you have a comment about the article? Do you have a suggestion for the next player featured In The Sabermetric Spotlight? Hit me up on twitter @SillyLittleGame or leave a comment below!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Happy Birthday To Me! Trade Deadline Edition

Every year, Major League Baseball delivers me the best birthday presents trades. You see, I have the extreme pleasure of being a baseball/fantasy baseball/Yankees fan whose birthday falls on July 30th...the eve of the Trade Deadline. And it looks like my presents are starting to roll in early this year.

The Francisco Rodriguez-to-Milwaukee trade on July 13th came a couple of weeks early, you know, like the card from your aunt or grandmother that includes a $5 bill, even though you're turning 40 and five dollars can barely buy you a foofoo, non-fat, mocha-choca latte you've come to love over the past few years of your life. Ok, I think I've said too much about that.

This trade did give fantasy baseball GMs plenty to talk about, too. What would K-Rod's role be with the Brewers and how would that effect John Axford's role as their current closer. Who would close for the Mets? Would it be the young fire-baller, Bobby Parnell or the gritty veteran, Jason Isringhausen? I'd say this kind of trade was just the sort of thing to get me excited for the weeks ahead.

Fast forward to July 27th and you've got the kind of present I'm talking about for a 40th birthday. It's like the wife just handed me the "emergency" credit card and told me to go to
Best Buy to by myself something pretty. And by pretty, I assume she meant something with the letters HDTV in it.

Chicago White Sox trade Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahen to the Toronto Blue Jays for Jason Frasor and Zach Stewart. Then the St. Louis Cardinals trade Colby Rasmus, Trever Miller, Brian Tallet and P.J. Walters to the Toronto Blue Jays for the aforementioned Edwin Jackson, Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynski and Corey Patterson. I haven't seen that kind of hot, three-way action since the last time I unexpectedly got a free preview weekend of Cinemax! My computer Twitter'ed all over itself. The fantasy baseball repercussions of trades of this magnitude are still being felt across the airwaves of talk radio and in 140-characters-or-less blurbs.

And the day wasn't even done delivering me presents, yet. News of the Carlos Beltran-to-SF Giants-for-prospect(s) trade had everyone on Twitter speculating for hours until it was announced the uber-prospect was Zack Wheeler. Quick! Get me some Gatorade, caffeine and oysters. This could be a long and exciting day.

Late news broke of a Wil Nieves-to Atlanta trade as a result of the Braves having to put All-Star catcher Brian McCann on the DL. Come on. Really? This kind of trade is the equivalent of receiving a birthday card from your boss. You both know he didn't want to but his secretary made him do it anyway. Thanks for nothing, boss man. At least include a gift card next year.

Thursday, July 28th, got us back into the spirit of gift giving for my birthday with a Kosuke Fukudome-to-Cleveland trade. There could be some positive benefits to this deal for Fukudome (.282 BA vs RHP) in deeper, mixed leagues and AL-only ones. I won't be sending a thank you card for this trade, though. I deserve better.

So here we sit, heading into what's expected to be a weekend filled with buyers buying, sellers selling and some teams leaving their fans wondering what the future holds for their home teams. As a life-long New York Yankees fan, I know there's a present or two headed my way. The only question is, "What's in the box?"

Line of the Day: Ervin Santana: July 27th, 2011

Ervin Santana pitched the first no-hitter of his career, striking out 10 and walking one in a 3-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians. It was the ninth no-hitter in the history of the Los Angeles Angels franchise and the third thrown in the majors this season. (video recap)

Line: 9 IP | 0 H | 0 ER | 1 BB | 10 K; W | QS | CG

NOTE: ESPN's formula for Top Performances of the year ranks this as tied for the best individual pitching performance of 2011.

My fantasy perspective: Other than his 6-8 record, Santana has been a very good pitcher to own in fantasy baseball. His 3.47 ERA (3.68 FIP; 3.58 xFIP) and 1.16 WHIP are both below his career averages as well as his 20.2 K% and 6.6 BB%.

Over his last six starts, he's gone 3-0 with a 1.77 ERA and a 36/7 K/BB ratio in 45.2 innings pitched. Batters are hitting just .183 against him over that span with a .219 BABIP against. All of that is good enough to rank him as the seventh-best fantasy starting pitcher over the last 30 days.

His ownership numbers are low enough in some formats (64.5% ESPN; 65% Yahoo!; 91% CBS) that he might be sitting out there on waivers but not for long and not in any truly competitive leagues, so good luck.

Question: Where does the Angels' trio of Jered Weaver, Dan Haren and Santana rank among baseball's front end of pitching staffs?

Agree? Disagree? Check out ESPN's formula for determining the best daily performances and nominate your own Line of the Day player using the comments section or hitting me up on Twitter.

Be sure to check out the past winners of COSFBA's Line of the Day awards and subscribe to its feed, too.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Line of the Day: Vance Worley: July 26th, 2011

Vance Worley pitched a three-hitter, allowing two runs, a walk and striking out five to lead the Philadelphia Phillies to a 7-2 victory over the San Francisco Giants. It was his fifth straight win and first career complete game. (video recap)

Line: 9 IP | 3 H | 2 ER | 1 BB | 5 K; W | QS | CG

My fantasy perspective: Worley is 5-0 in his last five starts with a 1.24 ERA. Batters are hitting just .148 with a .179 BABIP over that span. He's allowed just 18 hits over those 36.1 innings pitched with a 27/11 K/BB ratio (6.73 K/9). It helps that he's throwing 67% of his pitches for strikes, too.

There are some numbers to be concerned with, like a very low overall ERA of 2.02 but a nearly-double xFIP of 3.99 with an 80.5 LOB%. Also, his 18.2 K% and 9.3 BB% translate to a 1.96 K/BB ratio.

Worley's ownership numbers are all over the place (93% ESPN; 58% Yahoo!; 86% CBS), so check your league's waiver wire to see if he's somehow available. There's no reason to believe he can't be an effective starter for the Phillies the rest of the way, it's just hard to believe he will continue to be THIS good.

Question: Who's the odd man out of the starting rotation when Roy Oswalt and Joe Blanton return: Kyle Kendrick, Worley or Blanton?

Agree? Disagree? Check out ESPN's formula for determining the best daily performances and nominate your own Line of the Day player using the comments section or hitting me up on Twitter.

Be sure to check out the past winners of COSFBA's Line of the Day awards and subscribe to its feed, too.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Warming Up In The 'Pen: AL Edition: July 26th, 2011

Greetings and salutations!

This is likely to be a shorter article than usual this week; Outside-of-COSFBA considerations are taking precedence. However, I'm going to try and get as much goodness out with a few less words than normal. So with that out of the way, here's a quick review of last week's performers:
  • Neftali Feliz saw only one game of work in the last week (yesterday). He gave up a hit and a walk in one inning in an absolute pummeling of Minnesota. Manager Ron Washington stated that the long layoff for Feliz wasn't by design, with an off-day and only one save opportunity cropping up (in the 6th on July 20th against the Angels). Feliz was working on the side during the stretch. It's interesting to note that Feliz had a six-day 'vacation' which included the All-Star Break last year, and was lights-out in his remaining performances. Could we be due for a repeat?
  • Speaking of the Twins, closer Joe Nathan saw two games this past seven days. He allowed a run on two hits in two innings, striking out one. He was 2-for-2 in the save chances to give him a total of seven on the year. If the Twins have any chance of competing once more in the suddenly-clogged AL Central, Nathan will need to continue to be steady and solid in the back of the 'pen like he has been lately. He has the opportunity to show that the early season was just "knocking off the rust".
  • Vinnie Pestano also worked two games and was roughed up for two runs on four hits, including a longball in last night's dramatic Indians comeback win against the Angels. He had only one strikeout in his two innings of work this past week. He blew the save last night on a 1-0 four-seamer Bobby Abreu promptly deposited in the right field seats. The recent streak of work for the "Bullpen Mafia" has been troubling, and I'm starting to wonder (like last week) if the number of innings is starting to wear on the young arms. Pestano and the rest need to right the ship if the Tribe is going to stay in competition.
  • Kevin Gregg served his three-game suspension but did work two games against LA over the past week. He notched a save in two innings pitched, giving up two hits and two walks, but two strikeouts as well. It'll be interesting to see if the "cooling of his heels" helps his game any going forward.
 Now let's move forward with this week's guns:
  • "Doing Work": Jonathan Papelbon (BOS) - Paps once more makes an appearance in the 'Pen, and this time it's on the "good" side of the ledger. Since giving up the solo run against the Rays, Paps has been dominant. Five innings of work has seen him allow a grand total of one hit. He's also notched three saves and five strikeouts. He's always had solid months of July and August in his career, notching career ERAs under 2.25 each month (2.24 in July, 1.92 in August), WHIPs under 1.100 (0.980 / 1.067), OPSs under .585 (.566 / .584) and BABIPs under .300 (.262 / .293). Careerwise, his FIP has actually been worst in the month of June (3.26), steadily dropping in July (2.91) and even more dramatically in August (2.27). In my opinion, Paps has turned the corner with the turn of the calendar month. The fact that he has full ownership in ESPN leagues shows that the rest of the fantasy owners are keeping the faith in Paps and the Red Sox fight in the AL East race.
  • "Unsung Hero": Grant Balfour (OAK) - The Athletics set-up man has been having a stellar campaign, and the last seven days have been no exception. In three outings (3.1 innings total), Balfour is 3-for-3 in holds (18 on the season), giving up three hits, walking one and fanning one. The 2.03 ERA he's accumulated on the year is the second best in his career (his 1.54 ERA with the '08 Rays the only one better). His FIP overall this year (3.11) is better than his career average (3.42), and there are other numbers that are better this year versus his career averages (.237 BAbip vs. .281, 2.56 K/BB ratio vs. 2.38, 1.05 WHIP vs. 1.26, .541 OPS vs. .647). He's coming off of a strained right oblique, and has shown no lingering or ill effects. The fact that he's not seemingly well-known (1.6% ESPN league ownership, only up 0.3% from last week) means he might be more of a depth league pick. However, he's well worth the grab even in your more standard leagues if he's available.
  • "Heart Attack Award": Andrew Bailey (OAK) - Bailey's last seven days haven't been horrible. He's given up one run on two hits in three innings, walking three and striking out five. While grabbing saves in each of those appearances, allowing base runners is never a good sign. His FIP throughout his career has exceeded his ERA (2.44 FIP vs. 2.25 ERA this season alone, a more dramatic 2.96 vs. 1.47 last season). Interestingly, he's been throwing more fastballs than ever in his career (78.2% vs. a 65.0% career average), but with a one-MPH drop in average speed. It might not be much of a change, but combine that with a similar drop across the board with all his pitches, and you start to wonder if there might be an issue with Bailey's mechanics. Be it an actual flaw or hitch in his delivery, or perhaps wear and tear, there could be cause for future concern. This isn't enough for me to say to stay away from Andrew; I'm no expert in the medical sciences or the 'sciences' of pitching. However, it's safe to say there's something more here than what's on the surface. Be wary, and only grab Bailey for depth. I have a feeling that Oakland, being out of the race as far as they are, may begin relying on the above-mentioned Balfour for saves sooner rather than later.
  • "ZOMBIE!": Jordan Walden (LAA) - The Angel's All-Star closer has been having a good season, but his recent outings have been a mixed bag. Last night, he blew a save (and got the loss) by giving up two runs on two hits (one of which was a game-tying double by Travis Hafner! Sorry, boss.), along with a walk and a strikeout. In the last week, those are the only runs he's given up. However, since June 22, he's gone 2-2, 6/10 saves, five runs, nine hits, three walks, and six strikeouts. This 'wilting under the pressure' during the Angels' attempt to keep up with the Rangers. During the last three months of the season in his (albeit short) career, his WHIPs (1.33 and 1.30), BABIPs (.429 and .333), and BB/9 ratio (3.00 and 4.38) are elevated. While this may be nothing, the fact that it's happening to a closer (whose entire purpose is to 'seal the deal' under pressure) on a team competing for a playoff spot against the AL Champions really brings into question the mental character of Walden in my mind. I can't cry 'fire sale' on him in your leagues, but I firmly believe that his recent performances are a prelude to a full-blown meltdown as the Angels continue to try to hang in the pennant race.
While there's been no major trade fires burning as of yet, we continue to keep an eye on things. We'll report what we find, and I'll have the NL side of the house on Thursday.

Comments below, or hit me up on Twitter at @JCPronkFan48.

In The Sabermetric Spotlight: What a Relief

I'm sorry. I take full responsibility for Adrian Beltre's injury. The power of the Spotlight is a difficult one to control, and I am only beginning to learn to harness it's power.

Today, I'd like to switch things up a bit. The Spotlight will feature three individuals, and you're about to find out why. Today, we shine The Sabermetric Spotlight on...

Birds of a feather

The Orioles bullpen hasn't been a stable source of saves in a long time. The last 4 Orioles to earn 30+ saves in a season are guys by the name of George Sherrill (31 in 2008), Chris Ray (33 in 2006), B.J. Ryan (36 in 2005) and Jorge Julio (36 in 2003). Not exactly names that would strike fear into the hearts of opposing hitters.

Take a look at the below table. One pitcher is obviously having a better year, but isn't closing, so what gives?

Oriole #1 is obviously the ever-stressful Kevin Gregg, but who is behind door #2? That would be none other than Koji Uehara, who is quietly having one of the best seasons of any reliever in the league.

I like to think that I would make a better manager than most of the managers currently out there, but seriously, the stats speak for themselves. The fact that Uehara isn't closing for this team is ridiculous. Not only are all of his numbers miles better than Gregg's, but his peripherals back it up. Uehara has the best xFIP (shown to have the highest correlation with future performance of all the pitching metrics) of any Orioles pitcher, and it's not even close. Uehara's xFIP of 2.35 is more than half that of Gregg's at 4.81. I'm a big Buck Showalter fan, but come on, enough is enough.

Of pitchers with more than 30 IP, Uehara has the second highest LOB% (Left-on-base%) at a whipping 97.4%. That's only second to Nationals All-Star Tyler Clippard, who was very close to making this article.

Uehara's excellent ERA and WHIP, as well as mouth-watering strikeout rate (11.8 K/9), could make him one of the elite closers in the league, if only he were given the chance. It's been rumored that Gregg is on the trading block, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him dealt. With minimal return, the Orioles can dump some salary and become a better team by moving Uehara into his well-earned closing role.

Most fantasy owners are starting to catch on, and he's probably owned in deeper leagues already, but I honestly feel, regardless of trade rumors, that he's worth a look in all formats.

Bullpen Mafia?

The Tribe has affectionately named their surprisingly good bullpen the Bullpen Mafia. I'm not sure if that's an attempt to make the bullpen appear more intimidating, but I will admit it's a catchy nickname.

Much like the Orioles above, the Indians bullpen hasn't been threatening in quite some time. The last 3 Tribe to toss 25+ saves were Joe Borowski (45 in 2007) and Bob Wickman (45 in 2005) and Danys Baez (25 in 2003). Not exactly a who's who of lights out closers.

The Indians are in nearly the same situation the Orioles are in, shown by the table below. It's obvious that Chris Perez is Indian #1, but you might be surprised at who is #2.

Are you stumped? I know that my fellow COSFBA contributor JCPronkFan48 probably has the answer, but can you figure out who it is?

Perhaps the most deserving to be the "don" is Vinnie Pestano, who makes a surprising appearance as out Indian #2. Look at the K's he had compared to the innings pitched, and try not to drool.

Much like the Orioles pen, Pestano is hands down having a better year than the closer that backs him up. Perhaps it's inexperience, but I'm really unsure as to why Pestano isn't given a chance to close the game more often, especially with how shaky Perez is at times.

One fact you might find interesting is that Pestano's xFIP of 2.26 is the 3rd lowest in the league, among qualifying relief pitchers. Who are the two in front of him? Sergio Romo and Craig Kimbrel. That's pretty good company to have if you ask me. Pestano's current xFIP is the lowest since baseball researchers started keeping track of xFIP. It's amazing that he's only owned in 1% of ESPN leagues.

The Tiger goes "Meow"

Finally rounding out today's article is the Tigers bullpen. Jose Valverde has been a great pickup for the Tigers, excelling in the closers role. But in 2011, there is another Tiger, who is having a far more impressive year...and also happens to have one of the coolest names ever. One last time, take a look at the below table.

Jose Valverde is Tiger #1, the current closer. Definitely not a bad season, but not as good a one might hope. So who is Tiger #2, having a stellar season himself, with no love in regards to getting save opportunities?

That's right, Al Alburquerque is our mystery contestant #2. Following suit with Uehara and Pestano, his strike-out rate makes me salivate.

Alburquerque has a team low 2.75 xFIP, lower than fellow Tiger and All-Star Justin Verlander, to go along with his K/9, and strong ERA and WHIP. He can help you in 3 categories right off the bat, and might get some save chances down the road.

One word of caution, Alburquerque is only 25 years old, and has never pitched more than 41 innings at any level, so the Tigers will likely tread lightly with him. However, with the Tigers in the think of a division race, they might lean on him more than they would otherwise.

Do you have a comment about the article? Do you have a suggestion for the next player featured In The Sabermetric Spotlight? Hit me up on twitter @SillyLittleGame or leave a comment below!

Line of the Day: Ian Kinsler: July 25th, 2011

Ian Kinsler went 4-for-6 with a double, home run and four RBI in the Texas Rangers 20-6 rout of the Minnesota Twins. The Rangers became the first team to scored 20 runs in a game this season. (video recap)

Line: 6 AB | 2 R | 4 H | 4 RBI; 2B | HR | BB

My fantasy perspective: Kinsler is the fourth-ranked fantasy baseball second baseman with his .255/72/16/41/19 line and the 33rd-ranked player, overall. His ADP was 43.8, so he's actually performing better than expected so far this season.

His .255 average may be down from his career .277 average but his OBP (.361) and SLG (.460) are right in line with his career numbers. He's also on pace for 25 HR and 30 SB which would be right in line with the 24 HR and 28 SB he averages per 162 games played.

Question: Do Kinsler's numbers get overlooked when discussing elite fantasy second basemen?

Agree? Disagree? Check out ESPN's formula for determining the best daily performances and nominate your own Line of the Day player using the comments section or hitting me up on Twitter.

Be sure to check out the past winners of COSFBA's Line of the Day awards and subscribe to its feed, too.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Waiver Saviors: Digging Deep Edition

As the season grinds along, managing your rosters in competitive leagues becomes increasingly more difficult as everyone is targeting ways to make a run at the league title or finish in the money spots.

Let's look at a group of players with extremely low ownership rates who can help you in very deep mixed leagues or league-only ones. Shallow mixed leagues aren't worth playing in nor worth talking about. Stick to fantasy football. I hear there could be a season or something. Whatever.
  • OF Hideki Matsui, OAK (10.8% ESPN; 8% Yahoo!) is hitting .469 (15/32) since the All-Star break with two home runs and 11 RBI. He's the kind of player to own while he's on a hot streak and dump the moment he goes cold.
  • OF Dexter Fowler, COL (21.3% ESPN; 18% Yahoo!) is making the most of his recent call-up from AAA. In 10 games, he's hitting .324 with a .439 OBP, three doubles, three triples, three stolen bases and 10 runs scored. With Carlos Gonzalez on the DL, Fowler should get every opportunity to start in center field and prove he's the player the Rockies and fantasy GM's wish he'd become.
  • OF Marlon Byrd, CHC (14.0% ESPN; 17% Yahoo!) is back as the Cubs everyday center fielder and proving he can still hit after suffering multiple facial fractures. In 19 games since his return, he's hitting .329 (23/70) with four doubles, a triple, two home runs and 10 runs scored.
  • 1B/OF Mike Carp, SEA (0.5% ESPN; 1% Yahoo!) has a five-game hitting streak since being recalled from AAA, going 8-for-22 (.364) with two home runs. Expect the Mariners to continue running out their youngsters to see what they're capable of and whether or not they fit in to the team's long-term plans.
  • 2B Mark Ellis, COL (6.7% ESPN; 8% Yahoo!) has produced a .325/16/2/11/2 line in 20 games since being traded to the Rockies and should be considered a viable option at second base or middle infielder position.
  • RP Edward Mujica, FLA (3.3% ESPN; 7% Yahoo!) has been named closer-in-waiting should the Marlins deal current closer Leo Nunez. If you are desperate for saves, now might be the time to pick up Mujica. You can drop him in all non-holds leagues come early next week if Nunez is still with the team.
  • RP Glen Perkins, MIN (2.9% ESPN; 7% Yahoo!) is now the primary setup man for the Twins after Matt Capps recent implosion and Joe Nathan's return to closer. He is a must-own in holds leagues with his 10.01 K/9 ratio.
  • 2B/3B/SS/OF Michael Martinez, PHI (18.1% ESPN; 10% Yahoo!) has filled in quite nicely as the Phillies have dealt with injuries to Shane Victorino and Placido Polanco. In July, he's hitting .296 with two home runs, 15 RBI and three stolen bases. Polanco is due back from the DL this weekend, so keep an eye on his playing time.
  • 3B/SS/OF Willie Bloomquist, ARI (7.3% ESPN; 11% Yahoo!) should be the primary beneficiary as the result of Stephen Drew's horrific injury. Bloomquist is hitting .327 with two stolen bases in July. As long as he is hitting and stealing bases, he should keep Cody Ransom on the bench.
  • 2B Brett Lawrie, TOR (1.7% ESPN; 5% Yahoo!) has returned to the lineup in AAA and hitting .367 with a home run and seven RBI in seven July games. Expect him to be called up soon and inserted into third base as the Blue Jays fade from the playoff picture in the AL East. Lawrie should now be owned in all keeper leagues and dynasty formats.
If your league is still very active heading into August, then the action on the waiver wire should remain fiercely competitive. Dig a little deeper into the statistics (last 7 days, last 15 days, etc.) and keep an eye on injuries, playing time, trades and rookie call-ups to find the players who'll benefit the most from these moves and don't be afraid to anticipate the transactions with a bold move of your own.

Line of the Day: Justin Upton: July 24th, 2011

Justin Upton went 4-for-4 with two doubles, a triple and three RBI to lead the Arizona Diamondbacks to a 7-0 win over the Colorado Rockies. He reached base in all five plate appearances and was a home run shy of the cycle. (video recap)

Line: 4 AB | 2 R | 4 H | 3 RBI; 2 2B | 3B | BB | SB

My fantasy perspective: Upton is in the midst of a six-game hitting streak in which he's hitting .609 (14/23) with five doubles, a triple, two home runs and 11 RBI. I'd say he's in "the zone".

He currently ranks as the 10th-best fantasy player and the 6th-best outfielder with his .301/62/17/57/15 line. At his current pace, the 24 year old would set career-highs in all five of these categories and finish with a .301/98/27/91/24 line.

Question: Is Justin Upton, with his 30/30 potential, worthy of a first round pick in 2012?

Agree? Disagree? Check out ESPN's formula for determining the best daily performances and nominate your own Line of the Day player using the comments section or hitting me up on Twitter.

Be sure to check out the past winners of COSFBA's Line of the Day awards and subscribe to its feed, too.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Line of the Day: July 23rd, 2011

Chase Utley went 3-for-3 with two home runs and four RBI in the Phillies 8-6 victory over the San Diego Padres. It was the 19th multi-homer game of his career. (video recap)

Line: 3 AB | 2 R | 3 H | 4 RBI; BB | 2 HR

My fantasy perspective: In Utley's first 11 games of the season, he hit just .195 with a .189 BABIP. In 38 games since, he's hitting .313 with a .323 BABIP with a .405 OBP and a .535 SLG. I think it's safe to say he's healthy again even though his power numbers are down (2.8 HR%; 6.6 HR/FB%; 30.8 AB/HR).

Overall, he's only ranked as the 20th-best fantasy second baseman but fifth over the last 30 days. With most leagues quickly approaching their respective trade deadlines, now would be a great time to approach Utley owners with a fair trade offer to pry him away for the stretch run.

Question: Will Utley ever return to the MVP-caliber fantasy player he continues to be drafted as or are his best days behind him at only 32 years of age?

Agree? Disagree? Check out ESPN's formula for determining the best daily performances and nominate your own Line of the Day player using the comments section or hitting me up on Twitter.

Be sure to check out the past winners of COSFBA's Line of the Day awards and subscribe to its feed, too.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Line of the Day: July 22nd, 2011

Nelson Cruz went 4-for-4 with a home run and a career-high eight RBI as the Texas Rangers routed the Toronto Blue Jays 12-2. He had only one RBI in his previous 11 games. (video recap)

Line: 4 AB | 1 R | 4 H | 8 RBI; 2B | HR

My fantasy perspective: Cruz now has 22 home runs and 64 RBI in 81 games and could make a strong run at 40/100 be season's end. Problem is, he's never stayed healthy enough to play more than 128 games in a season.

His numbers show he's striking out more (25.7 K%) and walking less (6.6 BB%) than his career rates. As a result, his batting average (.252) and on-base percentage (.302) are down but his slugging percentage is up (.524), leading to a robust .272 ISO.

Question: How many home runs and RBI do you expect Cruz to finish with this season?

Agree? Disagree? Check out ESPN's formula for determining the best daily performances and nominate your own Line of the Day player using the comments section or hitting me up on

Be sure to check out the past winners of COSFBA's Line of the Day awards and subscribe to its feed, too.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Line of the Day: July 21st, 2011

C.J. Wilson allowed just two hits, a walk and a hit by pitch but ended up on the losing end of a 1-0 game against Jered Weaver and the Los Angeles Angels. It was the fifth complete game of  Wilson's career. Four have come in a losing effort. (video recap)

Line: 8 IP | 2 H | 1 R | 0 ER | 1 BB | 8 K; CG | L

My fantasy perspective: Wilson continues to improve on what was a break-out season as a starter in 2010. This season, he's on pace for 200+ strikeouts due to a 8.08 K/9 ratio and a 22.0 K%. He's also establishing career-best numbers when it comes to limiting walks, allowing 2.82 BB/9 for a 7.7 BB%, leading to a career-best 1.16 WHIP.

Question: Is C.J. Wilson the ace of the Texas Rangers' pitching staff and a legitimate American League Cy Young candidate?

Agree? Disagree? Check out ESPN's formula for determining the best daily performances and nominate your own Line of the Day player using the comments section or hitting me up on Twitter.

Be sure to check out the past winners of COSFBA's Line of the Day awards and subscribe to its feed, too.

In The Sabermetric Spotlight: Adrian Beltre

Yesterday, @RedSox tweeted "Gonzo went 4-5 w/ a run in 4-0 win over the O's. This season, he has 4 games w/ 4 hits - most by a #RedSox 1B since Mo Vaughn in '96." I can feel the power of the Spotlight growing each week...

Boy, 2004 sure feels like a long time ago. In September of 2004, "My Goodies" by Ciara (feat. Petey Pablo) was the number one song on the Hot 100 Chart. Passion of the Christ and Fahrenheit 9/11 were tops in the box office. Hurricane Jean was pounding Florida. Adrian Beltre was having the season of a lifetime when he managed to hit .334 with 48 HR and 121 RBI. He's come a long way. Had his ups and downs. And changed teams three times. This week, we shine The Sabermetric Spotlight on...

Adrian Beltre, 3B Texas Rangers

After finishing 3rd on ESPN's Player Rater for thirdbaseman in 2010, Beltre was poised to have another big year, moving to another hitters park in Arlington. Currently, in ESPN standard leagues, Beltre ranks 2nd among fantasy thirdbaseman, only behind the other-worldly Jose Bautista. Let's take a look at his current line.

Comparing these numbers to last year in Boston, the average is down a little, but there is a huge power boost and run production is also up. Beltre is having a fantastic year no matter which way you look at it. In fact, Beltre is on pace for career highs in R and RBI, with the second highest career number in HR (second only to the fantastic 2004 season). Isn't this the same guy that hit only 8 HR over 111 games in the 2009 (albiet injury-riddled) season?

Where is all this production coming from? If you simply look at his counting stats, everything but average looks like an improvement over his stellar 2010 campaign, and a significant upgrade over the dismal 2009 season.

Any fantasy owner would be thrilled with these numbers. Even the batting average wont hurt you. Considering that you didn't expect any speed out of Beltre, you would most likely consider this a draft-day success. But hang on a second. Several of Beltre's peripherals look fishy, and contradict the solid season he's been having.


First of all, why was 2009 such a bad season for Beltre? Injuries aside, his numbers were much lower than expected, across the board (save his SB total). His BABIP wasn't terrible (in fact, better than his career average), so it's not like he was unlucky, he genuinely had a bad year. Perhaps injuries played a more significant role than we originally thought. Beltre's K% was significantly higher than is has been the last two years, but at that point in his career it was right on line with his career average. His ISO was significantly down, but that alone couldn't account for his lack of production?

What sticks out to me about 2009 was his unusually high O-Contact% (percent contact made on pitches outside the zone) and SwStr%, meaning he swung and missed at a lot of pitches. His FB% was slightly down, and his HR/FB rate was at a career low. He obviously wasn't getting the pitches he wanted, and was rolling easy grounders to infielders it seems. I think this is a season that Beltre and his fantasy owners in 2009 want to forget.

Back to the present. Take a look at the BABIP numbers in the table. 80 points below last season, and more than 40 points below is career average, not to mention he's in what is considered a very hitter friendly ball park. Beltre's LD% is right on line with his career numbers, so he's making good contact at the plate. His GB% is a little lower than previous years, but nothing too out of the ordinary. It's clear that Beltre is having awful luck this year when it comes to putting the ball in play. In fact, of all qualifying Rangers, Beltre has the second lowest BABIP, only behind Ian Kinsler.

So your telling me, ballpark factors aside, Beltre was luckier in 2009 (his worst season) than he is in 2011? Your telling me that Beltre, despite being on pace for some career highs, could improve? Bingo.

Beltre's ISO is nearly exacty where it was last year, and higher than his career average. Where are all these HRs coming from? His HR/FB rate is nearly the same as last year, so it's not like he's found a new power stroke. The FB% for 2011 (so far) does stick out, however. It's higher than years past, and higher than his career average. How much of this is attributed to his approach at the plate in Texas, is hard to say, but the fact remains the same. Beltre is hitting more HRs because he's hitting more fly balls.

This thought could also explain why his batting average is down slightly, and his BABIP is lower than usual. When you are hitting more fly balls, you are bound to record more outs. The longer the ball is in the air, the more likely it is that you'll be headed back to the bench. You live by the long ball; you die by the long ball (doesn't really apply here, but I just thought it sounded good).

Another number that caught my eye was Beltre's career low K%. Perhaps he is seeing the ball better, or is getting better at adjusting to pitchers in his early 30s. Beltre's Contact% is at a career high, and his SwStr% is at a career low. He's not missing many pitches, and going deep into counts. This gives him the opportunity to look for the pitch he's waiting for and drive it somewhere.

I think Beltre, even after the stellar first half, could have an even better second half. Will he hit 40 HR? Probably not. I think 35 HR is something you could reasonably expect from him. I believe he will post career highs in Runs and RBI, eclipsing 100 in both, and I also think his batting average will come up. If I had a chance to trade for him, I would definitely pull the trigger.

Do you have a comment about the article? Do you have a suggestion for the next player featured In The Sabermetric Spotlight? Hit me up on twitter @SillyLittleGame or leave a comment below!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Warming Up In The 'Pen: NL Edition: July 21st, 2011

Greetings once more, folks!

While we haven't had that blockbuster of a deal involving the back-end of anyone's 'pen like last week (trade deadline's only 10 days away!), there is a bit of news that's worthwhile to report about one of my picks from the last NL article. Let's get to that previous week review:
  • Drew Storen was straight dominant in two appearances this last week, both saves. He only allowed one hit in two innings of work, fanning four in the process and walking none.
  • Logan Ondrusek and Nick Masset saw a good amount of work this past week (three appearances for Masset, four for Ondrusek). Each added a hold to his line, working 5.1 innings of scoeless ball combined. Each man allowed a hit, a walk, and a strikeout over the last seven days.
  • Francisco Cordero seemed to recover nicely from being the co-"Heart Attack Winner" this past week, notching two saves in two perfect innings of work...
  • ...But Carlos Marmol went pure nuclear, giving up six earned runs in 1.2 innings of work. He only gave up three hits, but allowed an astounding seven walks in three outings. The Cubs are working Marmol on the side to fix up a "mechanical flaw" centered around his slider, and have installed Sean Marshall as the go-to closer for the team in the interim.
  • Zach Braddock continued to be, well, Zach Braddock, giving up four runs on two hits and two walks in his only appearance over the last week. Oh, by the way, did I mention he didn't even record a single out? I think that's enough about Mr. Braddock for now.
 So onto this week's fun!
  • Our "Doing Work" star is none other than John Axford from the Milwaukee Brewers. Since the Francisco Rodriguez trade, Axford has doled out three saves in four outings, giving up two runs (one earned) on four hits in four innings. He walked two in those outings, but also punched out four. If K-Rod's arrival on the scene has phased the young right-hander, it hasn't shown. The Brew-Crew have stayed the course using Axford as their closer, even after acquiring K-Rod, and it's not hard to see why: 26/28 Saves, 1.52 GO/AO ratio, 3.00 K/BB ratio, and a 73% Contact Percentage. He's a strike-thrower, pitches to contact, and lets his defense help him. Even though the defense behind him is the third worst in the NL, his stats say that he's perfectly capable of doing things himself (reference the K/BB ratio, and his FIP of 2.28 versus his ERA of 2.78). But the stats also tell us that he could be walking a fine line. His WHIP (1.368), H/9 (8.5), and BAbip (.353) are all pretty hefty numbers. While a sub-par defense (and gracious scorers) could be driving numbers like those upward, it could be indicative of a younger arm starting to tire and lose the control that contact pitchers need to be effective. Axford is on-pace to work more innings (74.1) than he's ever pitched in the Majors, and the second most in his career as a whole (his most being his '08 stint with Milwaukee's A+ club at 95 IP).The K-Rod deal could easily have been one to bolster the 'pen and save Axford's arm. K-Rod's a proven commodity and could help down the stretch while the club eases Axford into more innings, instead of sacrificing a solid "future considerations" arm. Fantasy owners should read that as: the Brewers will likely ease off using the young phenom as the season soldiers on, bringing K-Rod in for more save opps come August and September, especially if the Brew-Crew finds themselves in an NL Central dogfight near the end. And for those of you wondering, K-Rod's line since coming to the Brew-Crew: 1-0, 6.00 ERA, 0/1 Saves, 1 Hold, 3 IP, 3 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 4 K.
  • This week's "Unsung Hero" has been mentioned in my previous article: Jason Isringhausen of the New York Mets. Post K-Rod, Izzy has been dubbed the closer in this MacGyver'ed back-end of the Mets' 'pen, and he's come out strong. He worked three games this week, notching save #294 in his career (and win #47). Through four shutout innings (including two innings of work last night), he allowed two hits and two walks, but sat down six. The 38 year-old northpaw gets a lot of help from his defense nowadays (0.58 GO/AO, .221 BAbip, 2.76 ERA vs 4.28 FIP), but does still have something left in the cannon (1.80 K/BB with 27 Ks in 32.2 IP). The big thing with Izzy will be stamina. Terry Collins has stated that Izzy will get a day or two off after pitching two innings last night, and that likely means any save opportunities will fall to Bobby Parnell (who, incidentally, got the hold in Izzy's save). There are rumblings that Izzy could be dealt by the Trade Deadline, which would be a blow to Mets fans and baseball at large (Izzy has a chance to hit 300 saves with the same club he broke in with), but could be an interesting twist for fantasy leagues with Holds as a stat as Izzy could fit into the eighth inning plans of several staffs. I would say grab Izzy up if he's available in free agency or the waiver wire in your 5x5 or 6x6 league, but I also wouldn't mortgage the farm to get him. His age may put him as only a temporary solution in whatever bullpen he's in.
  • The "Heart Attack Award" for today goes to Fernando Salas of the St. Louis Cardinals. The Cards have scuffled of late, losing three straight, and seven of their last ten. Salas hasn't exactly helped right the ship in his last three outings, saving one, blowing one, and losing two (including the blown save). He gave up three runs in three innings, allowed five hits (including two longballs), and only struck out two. While Fernando's numbers this season are no slouch (2.68 ERA, 17/20 Saves, 0.915 WHIP, 4.18 K/BB, .569 OPS, .227 BAbip), the fact that he's melted down in the last week when the Cards have been desperate to stay atop their division is distressing. Though there's not many numbers to back this up (he only made his ML debut in late May of '10), Salas could be in for a rough second half. Cards fans will be hoping for a turn-around from Salas and a quick return to his "old" form. Otherwise, Jason Motte is waiting in the wings for a shot to get the Cards back into the thick of the hunt. Fantasy owners may want to be aware of things like these: 4.78 ERA, 1 Save, 1.595 WHIP, 1.93 K/BB, .859 OPS, .324 BAbip. Those are Salas' second-half numbers. Again, Salas is only 26, and is pitching in his first FULL season with the Cards, so take the numbers as you will. My opinion is one of cautious optimism in Salas' youth and current production, but keep other options on your roster in case the bottom does (once again) fall out.
  • My "ZOMBIE!" is the aforementioned Carlos Marmol of the Cubs. His season has seemed to go from bad to worse. Now the Cubs are trying to get his mechanics back in shape with his slider. The Cubs are hoping to platoon Sean Marshall and Kerry Wood in the closer's role while Marmol gets right, but neither one of those men has been exactly lighting things up (3.18 and 3.45 ERAs respectively, with 2/7 Saves between them). Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) the Cubs are 14 games out, and can take the time to get Marmol back to form. To fantasy owners who still have Marmol, I think it's safe to let go at this point and attempt to get someone that'll be more useful to the depth of your rotation.
Next week is looking to be a doozy. Not much in the way of big moves just yet, but the way the trade winds are swirling, it could be the calm before the storm.

As always, comments are welcome below or reach out to me on Twitter @JCPronkFan48.