Draft month is now behind us and the real opening day finally arrived even as the last vestiges of winter still had a stranglehold on part of the country. It was with excitement that fantasy players eagerly checked the box scores to see the first returns of real baseball games. Some owners were pleasantly surprised and yet others were lamenting the performance of the players they drafted. I don’t have to tell you it’s a marathon, not a sprint, yet it never hurts to say be patient – especially when there have been too many calls in my estimation to SiriusXM shows from fantasy players asking if they should trade or drop a slow starting player.
It’s not always as simple as looking at the box score, however. One has to perform due diligence in researching the underlying reason or reasons for bad games. In today’s age of statistical overload, there are many resources a fantasy player can use to get the information that is needed as opposed to the dark days of fantasy when the only places to turn to were beat writers and broadcasters. Obviously, that was before the dawn of Sabremetrics and any other metrics you can think of that we have at our disposal in this advanced fantasy age. Sometimes, we just have to swallow a bad performance and other times it’s just plain bad luck.
In many drafts, Clayton Kershaw was obviously the first pitcher off the board. He lived up to his draft position by pitching very well in the Dodgers' first game of the season down under in Australia and his owners were thinking ahead to another dominating season. Those hopes were dashed a mere four days later when it was announced the 26-year-old ace would miss his next start with inflammation in his back, and the news got exponentially worse when he was placed on the DL a few days after that. Initially, it was expected Kershaw would miss only a game or two, but that has changed since he was shut down after resuming throwing at the end of last week. Understandably, Los Angeles is going to be extremely careful with their star, who will be on a rehab program for two to three weeks. Since Don Mattingly said Kershaw would need some minor league rehab starts before returning, the best current estimate for his second start of 2014 seems to be the second or third week of May at this point. That would subtract about ten starts from his season total, which would be a very big hit to his real and fantasy teams since not only would they be missing his production but would have to replace those stats with something of much lesser quality.
Moving across the country, we get to the Big Apple, where the New York Mets were playing host to the Washington Nationals. When you’re facing a team in the Mets that finished 22 games out of first place and 12 games behind you in the final 2013 standings and you have your ace going to the mound, you’d think your chances would be pretty darn good for an overpowering performance. However, that’s not how things worked out for Stephen Strasburg and the Nats even though Washington pulled the game out in ten innings. The hard-throwing right-hander tossed six innings, allowing four earned runs even though he only surrendered five base hits and two bases on balls, including a 424-foot bomb off the bat of Andrew Brown. His velocity was down from last year, but it is much too early to make any claims of this being a trend. After allowing all four runs in the first two innings, the 26- year-old settled down and was lights out the rest of the way with seven of his ten strikeouts coming in innings 3-6. It would seem that this was just a case of Strasburg not hitting his stride early in the game and he should be fine going forward.
Moving just across the diamond on the same day brings us to Bobby Parnell of the Mets. After being given the closer’s role in 2013, Parnell’s season was cut short at the end of July due to a herniated disc in his neck that eventually required September surgery. The 29-year-old reliever was again anointed the Mets’ closer for 2014 and entered the same game in which Stephen Strasburg allowed four earned runs in the first two innings – opening day. With a one- run lead, he blew the save, allowing the tying run to score. The velocity on his pitches was down during the spring and was during this game as well. It was reported the following day that he had tightness in his forearm and a visit to a doctor revealed a partially torn MCL in his right elbow. The right-hander will rest the arm for a few weeks in the hopes that rest will take care of the problem, but the threat of season-ending Tommy John surgery is a definite possibility. After touting Parnell as one of my sleepers just one week ago and personally owning him in a couple leagues, the likelihood of Parnell being a personal fail is quite high.These are just some of the examples of what makes fantasy so utterly frustrating and alluring at the same time. Frustrating in that we have to deal with the unknown injury factor as we go through our drafts and the games start. Alluring in that if we manage our way through the injuries and poor performances, the gratification of having a successful fantasy season is that much greater.