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Friday 15th Dec 2017

As I write, the Athletics just swept the Marlins over three days, giving them 51 wins, and sealing the first half of the season for the team.

It has indeed been an intriguing run thus far, and while it is clear the Athletics are the best team going right now, the Fish have a very good young team, and they will get even better. In fact, Seattle, Kansas City and Houston have taken what appear to be steps forward which is just great.

Locally, it has been a fun week, and I must start by giving a nod to Tim Lincecum, who just tossed his second no-hitter earlier in the week. I saw the bulk of the game and Timmy did a great job, moving the ball around, changing speeds and showing that he can indeed be one of the best pitchers in the league.

I have always enjoyed watching Timmy and his game, so I truly hope this success indeed pushes Lincecum forward to the next big phase of his career.

Lincecum had his way with the Padres Wednesday, but San Diego tossed a couple of interesting pitchers out against the Giants the first part of the week, starting with Odrisamer Despaigne, the newest Cuban on the scene, and one who has caused a lot of virtual chatter largely because of his 1-3, 7.61 record over 23.6 innings at Triple-A El Paso.

Despaigne was the picture of command, changing speeds and fooling hitters with a giant curve ball, throwing very little more than 89 MPH, if that. I have to confess that the right hander reminded me a lot of Orlando Hernandez in that he looked hittable and wily at the same time. I am not sure about the prolonged success of the 27-year-old, but I would surely pick him up and watch him go through the league once, taking advantage accordingly, dropping him when and if he is figured out. But, for now, I think what he did to the Giants (four hits and nothing else over seven frames), he will do to his next half dozen victims.

The Padres also pushed Jesse Hahn, a sixth-round pick of the Rays in 2010 who was traded early this year as part of the Alex Torres deal to Petco land. Hahn has pitched well in the Majors thus far, going 3-1, 2.38, with 27 strikeouts over 22 innings and four starts. In the Minors over 45 games and 42 starts, he has been 6-4, 2.32, with 155 whiffs over 159.6 innings (1.117 WHIP). Probably, the 24-year-old has a longer potential career ahead of him than Despaigne, but hey, this is baseball, so who really knows what the future holds?

For the immediate future, however, I like Despaigne.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Red Sox promoted Mookie Betts (though I wonder just what Rubby de la Rosa did wrong?). Betts was hitting .345-8-48 over 77 games this year, split between Portland and Pawtucket, with 29 steals and a fantastic 51 walks to 33 strikeouts, good for a .437 OBP. In fact, Betts has recorded 164 walks to 120 whiffs over his 276 minor league games with a .408 OBP and .869 OPS. He can play the infield, but can also do the outfield, which is likely where he will get most of his time this time through. But, with Brock Holt, Xander Bogaerts, Garin Cecchini and now Betts up, the Sox have an exciting bunch of young players who will be fun to watch coalesce into a very good team.

Well, let's see, let's trade our crappy closer for yours, said the Pirates and the Angels.

That means Ernesto Frieri (0-3, 6.19, 11 saves) gets back to the National League (he started in San Diego). Frieri has 38 whiffs over 33 innings, which is good, but he has allowed eight homers, one about every four frames, which is not very good, especially for a closer. I have always liked Frieri, but the homers and strikeouts tell me he still throws hard, but in an Armando Benitez/it goes pretty straight way. Not good.

As for Grilli, his numbers seem better (0-2, 4.87, 11 saves and 22 whiffs over 21 innings, with just four dingers surrendered). But, Grilli  is seven years older than Frieri, and he moves in behind Joe Smith, who probably owns the closer role for now. If I were to gamble on one of the two, it would be Frieri.

Note that I took them both in the monthly Shandler Park format as they were each $2 (of a $300 cap) and holds count as do saves.

How tough are things in Texas? Well, the team just brought forth Carlos Pena to fill the Prince Fielder/Mitch Moreland first base abyss. If your league favors OBP, Pena could be an OK source of power. He hit .207-8-25 last year over 280 at-bats, but managed a .324 OBP. If you go average though, unless you can take the hit there, Pena probably is not worth the gamble.

To say that Oakland works miracles with pitchers is a bit of an understatement this year. And, he did have a good start, but I would draw the line with Brad Mills, no matter how much you need a starter or were impressed with his game the other day in New York. The guy has a 7.21 career ERA and though he has 59 whiffs over 63.2 innings, he has a WHIP of 1.696 (73 hits, 35 walks, 11 homers). I am not saying Oakland won't figure a way to get the most out of Mills, but I don't think the numbers will work out the same for your team.

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