Monday, May 31, 2010

Sizemore's sad story

Remember when Grady Sizemore was a fantasy stud?

It wasn't that long ago. In fact, as recently as 2008 he became only the 14th American League player to put up a 30-30 season.

Then came the elbow/groin injuries and a subpar 2009 campaign (18 homers, 64 RBIs, .248 average). And we don't even need to remind you of those ill-advised, somewhat scandalous photos that ended up in the blogosphere.

Sizemore's stock fell along with his numbers, but there was speculation he might have a bounce-back season for the Indians this year. He was kept in my league this year by a leaguemate who boldly predicted Sizemore would be a top-20 player this year.

That leaguemate dropped Sizemore today.

A stat line of .211/0 HR/13 RBIs and the announcement of left knee surgery made the choice a lot easier for him. I'm not sure I'd drop Sizemore outright if I could afford to stash him on my bench - the timetable for his return is said to be 6-to-8 weeks - but it looks increasingly likely Sizemore won't come close to the lofty expectations many had for him in 2010.

Can he still be a useful fantasy commodity this year? Possibly. Will he ever return to being a fantasy stud with a rare blend of speed and power? That's an open question at this point.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Rolling the Dice

So I decided to roll the dice (pardon the awful pun) on Daisuke Matsuzaka for a spot start Thursday night against the Royals.

After all, he was coming of a near no-hitter in his last start, the Red Sox had won five straight and, hey, it's the Royals.

The good news: Dice-K had a two-hitter this time out.

The bad news: He only lasted 4 2/3 innings, gave up three runs and, oh yeah, walked eight batters.

Go figure. Matsuzaka has to be one of the most maddening pitchers in the major leagues when it comes to fantasy. The way he fluctuates from season-to-season and game-to-game is almost impossible to read. The talent's there, but he's just not worth the roller-coaster ride.

I think I'm done with the start-and-dump strategy for a while now after getting burned by Joel Pineiro (nine runs) and now Dice-K (eight walks) in the past week.

And whatever happened to that darn "gyroball" anyway?

Photo by The Associated Press

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Did you know?

Did you know that ...

Washington Nationals reliever Tyler Clippard has as many wins (7) as Felix Hernandez (2), Cliff Lee (2), Josh Beckett (1), Zack Greinke (1) and Carlos Zambrano (1) combined?

Nats closer Matt Capps has as many saves (16) as Mariano Rivera (8) and Francisco Rodriguez (8)?

The Blue Jays' Jose Bautista has as many homers (14) as Matt Holliday (5) Aramis Ramirez (4), Jason Bay (3) and Manny Ramirez (2)?

The Brewers' Casey McGehee has as many RBIs (39) as Derrek Lee (20) and Prince Fielder (19)?

Just saying.

Fantasy's a funny game.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Feeling LOST

So I've been feeling a little lost lately ... and it's not just because I just finished watching the LOST series finale (sooooo were they dead the whole time or what? In purgatory? My head hurts) ...

No, I'm feeling lost because it seems like every move I've made with my fantasy team the past few days has horribly backfired.

Case in point: I'm in desperate need of some power, so I traded for Carlos Pena last week, figuring he's due to snap out of it and smash some round-trippers sooner or later. But I figure I'll keep him on my bench for a while since he hadn't even been hitting .100 this month.

Of course he goes and hits not one but two homers Thursday against the Yankees that are of absolutely no use to me.

Oh, I had him in my lineup Friday, Saturday and Sunday after that - when he went a combined 1-for-11 with no homers.

Similar story with Jason Bay, who had gone deep just once all year and was killing my HR total. Finally benched him Saturday against the Yanks and he goes 4-for-4 ... kept him on the bench Sunday figuring he wouldn't do much damage against CC Sabathia (1-for-9 lifetime) and he jacks not one but two homers. Foiled again.

Rough time with my pitching, too, where I'm in just as desperate need of wins. Figured I'd do the grab-and-start thing with Joel Pineiro - picked him up off the waiver wire as he was coming off a complete-game, four-hit shutout and was pitching at St. Louis (where he put up some great numbers both with the Cardinals and as an opposing pitcher - up until Friday, that is). Of course he lasts just three innings, coughing up nine earned runs on nine hits, including a grand slam to Brad Penny of all people.

Thanks for playing, Joel.

Maybe I'm the one who's stuck in purgatory, and my team isn't going anywhere until I make the right choice.

I just hope there's some kind of bright light for my team at the end of all this.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

No way, Jose! Contreras a closer

Talk about a blast from the past: Jose Contreras is a legit fantasy contributor.

Yup, that Jose Contreras, the guy listed in your Philadelphia Phillies media guide as a 38-year-old but who may be 5 or even 10 years older than that.

The Phillies picked him up off the scrap heap this year and, as luck would have it, they had to turn to him as their de facto closer after Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson ended up on the DL. Contreras has responded by going 2-for-2 in save opportunities in the past week while sporting a 0.63 ERA and 20/2 K/BB ratio for the year.

Not bad for an old guy who's learning on the job.

With Madson on the 60-day DL and the always-shaky Lidge still not having a timetable for his return from elbow inflammation, Contreras is a must-grab fantasy option. JC Romero did earn a save Friday against Boston, but Contreras had pitched the night before and still looks like the Phils' go-to guy in the ninth for the time being, so get him while you can.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Is a 135.00 ERA bad?

Had Kerry Wood in my lineup Wednesday night against the Kansas City Royals.

He entered the top of the ninth with the Indians ahead 4-3.

I'm feeling good.

Then this happened:

M Aviles tripled to deep right.
D DeJesus reached on infield single to pitcher.
B Butler doubled to deep right, M Aviles scored, D DeJesus to third. GAME TIED 4-4.
J Guillen struck out looking.
A Callaspo intentionally walked.
M Maier walked, D DeJesus scored, B Butler to third, A Callaspo to second. ROYALS 5, INDIANS 4.
Y Betancourt doubled to deep center, B Butler, A Callaspo and M Maier scored. ROYALS 8, INDIANS 4.
J Wright relieved K Wood.

That's four hits, five runs, 1 out, one blown save, one loss and a 135.00 ERA for the night.

Not 1.35 ... 135.00.

Is Wood in danger of losing his job so quickly after coming off the DL? It's possible. But remember, this is essentially Wood's spring training, and while he probably won't morph into an elite closer, he could round into form and at least be serviceable.

I'm probably picking up Bradenton's Chris Perez though, just in case.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Pat Burrell, Hank Blalock & Ronnie James Dio

I was trolling around YouTube and thinking about Ronnie James Dio tonight and wondering how I could incorporate the late metal legend into a fantasy blog post. Then it hit me: the title of the tune posted above perfectly sums up the Pat Burrell Experience the past two seasons - and it also gives me a great excuse to post a video of the funny little old dude with the huge voice, who lost his battle to cancer over the weekend at age 67.

OK, so maybe it's a stretch, but it's the best I could come up with - I'm not even sure what a Holy Diver or a Neon Knight is, so this is all I've got.

Anyway, back to Burrell, who was designated for assignment the other day by the Rays after nearly a year-and-a-half of disappointment. Burrell was batting .202 with two homers and 13 RBIs for Tampa Bay this season on the heels of a .221/14/64 season last year - paltry numbers for an American League DH who signed for big bucks. In fact, Burrell ended up clearing $16 million from the Rays, or $1 million per home run, before falling off the edge of the world.


Those who gambled that 2009 was an aberration and took a flier on Burrell this year have to be sorely disappointed, and probably dropped "Pat the Bat" by now. There's a decent chance Burrell will clear waivers and get picked up by another team desperate for another bat, but it's hard to envision a scenario where Burrell will have any real fantasy value from here on out. And that's amazing for a guy who hit 33 homers and knocked in 134 runs just two seasons ago with the Phillies.

Burrell's replacement on the Rays' roster is a familiar face: Hank Blalock, last seen swatting 25 homers for the Texas Rangers in 2009. Tampa Bay signed signed Blalock to a minor-league deal in the offseason, and he was tearing it up in Triple-A (.349, four homers, 24 RBIs) before his call-up. There's still some life left in his bat, but his appearances could be sparse as a DH/backup corner infielder. But he's sleeper who might be able to help you for a stretch if he's on a hot streak. You might even call him ... a Rainbow in the Dark.

Or not.

I tried.

R.I.P. Ronnie.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Is Todd Helton toast?

Todd Helton's hitting .257.

Terrible? No. But not what you bargained for, either. Not when we're talking about a career .327 hitter you drafted specifically for batting average help.

Helton's not a home run hitter anymore - that 49-homer season in 2001 during Coors Field's heyday as a hitter's haven seems like ages ago. Helton managed just 15 homers last year and hasn't gone deep yet this year, so he's not going to help you in that department. He's not a big run-producer anymore either (he hasn't topped 90 RBIs since 2007), and he sure isn't a base stealer (six in the past eight seasons). Which means it's average or nothing for Helton when it comes to fantasy.

Now, I know what you're saying: Helton hit .325 last year, is he really finished?

The sad truth is he might be. His batting average on balls in play (.310) does suggest he's been a little bit unlucky (that number was .348 last year. But he's also hitting just as many line drives as last year,just without any power (just a .295 slugging percentage).

Oh, and Helton's also on the wrong side of 30 - 36 to be exact. He might still be able to snap out of it and salvage a .300 average, but do you really have time to wait for him? And do you have a spot on your roster for a 1B who doesn't hit home runs anymore? I know I don't.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Pena's power outage

Carlos Pena's .183 batting average got you down?

We all knew going into the season the Tampa Bay Rays slugger wasn't going to win a batting title - after all, he hit .227 last year and carries a .245 lifetime average. But you still had to figure Pena would at least hit his weight (He's listed at 225 pounds, for the record). It's gotten so bad (he was in a 1-for-37 slump entering Friday night's game) that he was benched earlier this week, in part to get a mental break.

Of course, every player goes through slumps, especially one as hot-and-cold as Pena. But the thing that really bothers you is this season's power outage. Pena's got five homers this year, or one per every 23 at-bats. In the past three seasons (his coming-of-age years with the Rays), he's gone deep every 12, 15 and 10 at-bats, respectively.

It's a bit puzzling, considering Pena, a notorious strikeout artist, is still whiffing at just about the same rate he always has. However, he's hitting many more ground balls compared to fly balls than usual, and only 12% of the fly balls he does hit have gone for home runs, compared to 21% last year.

Is Pena pressing, as this week's benching suggests? Is the free-agent-to-be worried about his contract status for next year, as chronicled by Sports Illustrated? Could be. But ultimately, I'm not going to worry about it too much. Pena's one of the league's elite home run hitters and is still in his prime. I believe this is just an unfortunately timed and prolonged slump, and he's still capable of approaching 40 homers this season, which is exactly what you expected out of him. I just pulled off a straight-up trade for him in my main league for Francisco Cordero, and I feel pretty good about it. Pena's power will come.

Photo by The Associated Press

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Listen up: Fantasy Focus podcast

Our first Fantasy Focus podcast of the year is now posted on

Herald staffer Jason Dill and I chatted about some possible buy low and sell high candidates, from Mark Teixeira to David Ortiz to Paul Konerko to Stephen Strasburg. If you've always wondered what my voice sounded like, this is your big chance.

Got a fantasy question? Post a comment here and we may answer it on our next podcast.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Gettin' Wiggy with it

Make a short list of the early 2010 fantasy surprises and Ty Wigginton has to be in the mix.

Wiggy's 10 homers rank him second behind only Paul Konerko in the American League. He's also hitting .299 with 19 RBIs - not bad for a guy who likely went undrafted in your fantasy league.

So is he for real?

Wigginton's always had some pop - he's averaged 23 homers per 162 games in his career. Problem is, he's often been a utility/bench player and was in fact penciled in for that role with the Orioles this year before starting 2B Brian Roberts landed on the DL.

Roberts is supposed to be back in June, which might lead you to believe Wigginton's playing time is endangered. Also, Wigginton won't be able to keep up this HR pace - unless you think he'll be a 50-homer guy this year.

Still, the O's will find ways to get him at-bats, and I'm not sold that Roberts' lingering back troubles will completely go away. Wigginton may turn out to be a valuable player all year, and if you picked him up off the waiver wire and can use him as an occasional fill-in, more power to you. But if you're looking to sell high and ship him off for a steadier commodity, Wiggy's value may never be higher than it is right now.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Strasburg is coming

If you've been waiting for Stephen Strasburg to save your fantasy team, you're in luck. The first overall pick of the 2009 MLB draft was promoted to Triple-A on Tuesday, putting him one step closer to his big league debut.

Strasburg tore through Double-A (3-1, 1.64 ERA, 27 Ks, 6 BBs in 22 innings), and if he can duplicate that performance at the next level, it's only a matter of time before we see the righty in a Washington Nationals uniform. In fact, it's likely the biggest roadblock keeping Strasburg from the majors is the Nats' desire to delay his free agency eligibility, a move we've seen with plenty of other big-time prospects, from Evan Longoria to Matt Wieters.

If you're in a shallow league and Strasburg is still available, now is the time to get him. Sure, expectations will probably be way too high for a first-year pitcher, but he's got more potential to be a difference-maker than most starters you can find on the waiver wire at this point.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Francisco Liriano: Steal of the year?

Francisco Liriano was the AL pitcher of the month for April.

He may end up being the steal of the year in fantasy.

Liriano has sparkled so far for the Twins - 4-0, 1.50 ERA, 36 Ks and 13 BBs in 36 innings. This came on the heels of the left-hander absolutely dominating winter league ball and throwing his name in the hat as a fantasy sleeper for 2010.

We all remember Liriano from that superb 2006, when he looked like the second coming of Johan Santana in a Twins uniform. Unfortunately, we also remember his 2007, which was cut short by major elbow surgery, and his ill-fated 2008 campaign (5-13, 5.80 ERA).

But now, Liriano seems to have regained that magical form as he puts the elbow troubles behind him. His velocity is back up. He hasn't allowed a homer yet this year after serving up 21 longballs in 136 innings last season. He's holding opponents to a .206 average after they raked him at a .279 clip last year. And he's getting almost twice as many ground outs as flyouts this season, a ratio similar to his breakout 2006 but one which withered the past two years.

I believe Liriano's health and consistency will hold up for the long haul this time. If you rolled the dice on him in your draft or picked him up on the waiver wire in the early going, give yourself a pat on the back and don't think about trading him at this point.

Photo by The Associated Press

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Nice guys finish last

"Nice guys finish last."

Somebody told me that once a long time ago (maybe it was Kevin Arnold on "Wonder Years," I'm not certain).

If it's true, I must be one of the nicest darn guys you'll ever meet.

My fantasy baseball team's in last place.

Dead last.

It's an unenviable position - especially when it's a newsroom fantasy league, and you're the newspaper's fantasy sports "expert."

So what's gone wrong?

Well for starters, I currently have four players on the DL - not counting Cliff Lee, who just came off.

I've been without Jacoby Ellsbury, one of my five "keepers" entering the season and a starting OF, for a while now. And I just lost Brett Anderson, who was looking pretty good and for whom I had pretty high hopes this year.

I've suffered through some pretty awful - and I mean awful - pitching by Frank Francisco and Octavio Dotel, two of my "closers."

Didn't count on Adam Jones having 6 RBIs at this point either. Or Jason Bay one HR. Or Zack Greinke zero wins. Or Juan Pierre hitting .184, or Derrek Lee .217.

But it's not all bad.

Cliff Lee looked pretty good in his first start back from the DL, and hopefully he'll regain the Cy Young form I bargained for when I rolled the dice on him.

Ryan Zimmerman is going to have a great year if he can put his hamstring troubles behind him.

Hideki Matsui's been a bargain, and Casey McGehee's been a real find.

And Greinke's got to win a game sooner or later.

If he doesn't, I'm bound to stay stuck in last place for the long haul.

At least I'm a nice guy.