Phew. An MRI on Cole Hamels’ throwing shoulder has revealed only mild inflammation, so my staff ace will avoid the DL. This is about the only good news to report when it comes to my NL-only non-keeper league squad, which actually looked very strong on paper back in April. But as the old cliché goes, games aren’t won on paper, and they certainly aren’t won when the majority of your team is either injured, underperforming, or both injured and underperforming. My Opening Day infield? Adam LaRoche, Kelly Johnson, Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval. You get the point. Oh yeah, and I also own (or owned) both Carlos Zambrano and Logan Morrison, whose bonehead decisions have set me back even further. I’m an optimist at heart, but at this stage of the season with a roster full of role players with minimal upside and my available FAAB dollars dwindling, there’s little I can do but, like those old Brooklyn Dodgers clubs, wait till next year.
Wednesday, August 17 – 10:16 AM
I was very close to picking up Ivan Nova late last week, but resisted. Why? Because I had a feeling that the moment I’d add him to my roster he would implode. And apparently my league mates also had Nova phobia, as it’s pretty rare to find a starting pitcher who had gone 3-0 with a 2.61 ERA, 1.02 WHIP and 16 strikeouts over his last three starts hanging around on the waiver wire. Ivan was due for a stat correction. No doubt about it. So I figured I’d wait until he had at least one poor outing. There’s nothing more irritating for a fantasy owner than picking up a starter at the wrong time and being stuck with the worst part of his season. But as the days went by, I warmed up to the idea of adding Nova and starting him in a favorable matchup vs. the Royals. “Take some chances, have some fun,” I told myself. Besides, a game is a lot more interesting to watch when one of your fantasy starting pitchers is involved. I’d plop myself in front of the TV and enjoy the sight of Nova breezing through an inexperienced Kansas City lineup.
Or so I thought. 5 1/3 innings pitched, seven earned runs. Well, at least I got a win out of this, but was it worth it? Nope.
Friday, August 19 – 6:12 PM
Back in 2009, when the Yankees won the World Series, I remember reading somewhere that the reason why GM Brian Cashman was nowhere to be seen during the on-field festivities following the Game 6 clincher was that he was busy in his office planning for 2010. At the time, I found this explanation both ridiculous and humorous. And while I still consider it odd, it’s not as crazy as it once sounded.
Playoffs start next week in my other NL-only league, the head-to-head keeper league. With a first-round bye locked up, I have the luxury of devoting some time towards planning ahead. Don’t get me wrong, I have a long way to go before I can call myself a champion, but I’m a little concerned about the future of my squad beyond 2011. Joey Votto’s $10 contract expires at the end of this season, and after dealing Kyle Blanks for Colby Rasmus, I have very few attractive contracts left on my roster. Hopefully, I just took one step towards addressing this issue by winning Drew Pomeranz for a buck. Acquired from the Indians as part of the Ubaldo Jimenez trade, Pomeranz is widely viewed as one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. While the thought of him playing half of his games at Coors Field is somewhat scary, I took on absolutely no risk by making this move. He’ll cost me $6 to keep for next year, but I could then sign him at that price through the 2014 season. Honestly, I’m shocked that nobody outbid me here. Alright, enough of this long-term stuff. On to the more immediate task at hand: booking my own on-field celebration.
Wednesday, August 10 – 10:45 PM
Really, who would have expected this? A 31-game hitting streak? For the first three months of the season, my decision to keep Dan Uggla in a 12-team mixed 5-keeper league was looking like perhaps my worst decision in a decade of playing fantasy baseball. I knew that last year’s .282 average was likely an aberration considering his track record in that department, but a .250 mark to go along with his usual 30-plus homers seemed like a lock. And his move away from that cavernous ballpark in Miami was supposed to help his overall production, not hurt it. So April came and went, then May, then June, and Uggla was batting .178 with a decent, but for his standards, disappointing 12 home runs. The fact that his average still stands at a lowly .220 despite the longest hitting streak in the Majors this year goes to show just how awful a first half he had. But unlike fellow first half bust Mr. Dunn, Uggla is actually rewarding his owners for their patience. If Yogi was right in saying that 90 percent of the game is half-mental, maybe Uggla can pass along his shrink’s contact info to Dunn. Barring a World Series meeting, the Braves and White Sox will not play each other this year. No conflict of interest whatsoever.
Thursday, August 11 – 10:32 AM
The nightmare that has been Hanley Ramirez’s 2011 season continues as the former consensus top-2 draft pick was placed on the DL last night with a sprained shoulder. Hanley’s second DL trip of the year now ensures that, for the first time in his career, he will fail to reach the 140 games played mark. And the frustrating thing is that Ramirez is coming off a very strong month of July in which he batted .293 with five homers, 21 RBI and five steals. But unlike earlier in the year when I frantically searched the waiver wire for a substitute, I’m surprisingly calm about all of this. I’m so far out of contention in my money league that the emotional Zach has been replaced by a more relaxed version, someone who really doesn’t care whether he finishes seventh, eighth or ninth. I’ll revisit this over the weekend. Lineups aren’t due until Monday and it’s not like there’s a waiver wire shortstop who can make an immediate difference anyway.
I’m feeling like a total hypocrite as I always advise owners to take advantage of this time in the season when many of their league mates will lose interest in their teams altogether and shift their focus to their football drafts. I’ll never be one of those guys, but let me be honest. Right now, I’d rather think about Adrian Peterson vs. Arian Foster than Yuniesky Betancourt vs. Alex Gonzalez.
Friday, August 12 – 11:30 PM
A part of me can relate to Carlos Zambrano. When Anibal Sanchez gave up five runs and couldn’t even make it through the second inning in his most recent outing, I felt like throwing my remote control out the window. But did I come close to doing that? Nope. The most effective fantasy owners are usually the ones who can maintain their cool in all situations, and I like to think of myself as a very even-keeled GM, someone who rarely makes rash decisions. Yet here I am getting ready to drop Big Z in an NL-only league! I’ve truly had enough of his shenanigans. How can someone who quits on his own team deserve a spot on my fantasy team, right? But as much as I want to make this move, something is stopping me. What if this entire incident blows over and Zambrano is back on the mound in five days? Yeah, it’s unlikely, but it’s possible. I’m not ready to clean out my locker just yet. Let’s see what comes of this melodrama.
Saturday, August 13 - 11:02 AM
Looks like the Cubs made my decision for me. That was easy.
It’s about time. The Desmond Jennings Triple-A hostage situation is over! As a Jennings owner in a keeper league, I’ve spent more than a month thinking a call-up was imminent only to be disappointed and see my team sink further and further in the stolen base category. I mean, what were the Rays waiting for? Back-to-back cycles? In 89 Minor League games this season, Jennings posted a .374 on-base percentage with 68 runs, 17 steals and a surprisingly high 12 homers. Jennings will undoubtedly be in my lineup come Monday, but with so much ground to gain in steals, I’m not sure he’ll help me much in 2011.
Saturday, July 23 – 9:33 PMEveryone seems to like Jose Altuve. Standing only 5’ 7’’ and weighing a mere 170 pounds, Altuve has been compared by many to Dustin Pedroia; diminutive in size but makes the most of his ability and plays the game hard from start to finish. I don’t know a ton about him but this all sounds good. His 2011 Minor League numbers (.389-10 HR-59 with 59 runs and 24 steals over 87 games) sound real good. Altuve made his big league debut this past Wednesday and the Astros say he’ll play every day from here on out. The fact that he’s making the jump from Double-A to the Majors is a bit concerning, but a middle infielder who can hit for average and steal bases is plenty appealing, particularly in a non-mixed league. Here’s the problem though. I only have $44 left out of a $200 season budget, and Altuve’s bound to go for big money, even though this NL-only league is a non-keeper. I’m putting in a token bid of $6 but there’s no way I win this unless six of the other nine owners forget that FAAB bidding runs on both Saturday and Sunday.
Tuesday, July 26 – 11:24 AM
With my mixed keeper league’s trade deadline less than a week away and my chances of finishing in the money close to zero, I’m ready to do something drastic. I just proposed a trade that will undoubtedly hurt me for this year but I think will benefit me heading into 2012 and beyond. Matt Kemp is my target. I’ve always been a big fan of Kemp, even before this monster season, and his recent mini-slump (.229-2-7 RBI 1 SB over his last 13 games), if you can even call it that, has done little to change my opinion. In fact, I’m still regretting my decision to pull out of the Kemp bidding on draft day only to see him go for a very reasonable 30 bucks to the team who, coincidentally enough, currently resides in first place. I want Kemp badly, and since my 2011 campaign is all but over, I’m willing to overpay a little to get him. So my offer is this: I give Andrew McCutchen ($28) and Matt Cain ($17) for Kemp ($30) and Daniel Hudson ($10). I like McCutchen a lot but going forward I’m not convinced that he can develop into much more than a 25-home run hitter. Kemp, on the other hand, will be a 30-plus home run guy for years to come and should provide just as many if not more steals. Cain at $17 is actually pretty nice value but since he always flies under the radar due to his routinely low win totals, I don’t think I’ll need to pay much more than 20 bucks to get him back next year. And Hudson is a solid young starting pitcher with tremendous upside. Can I pull off this deal? Stay tuned.
Tuesday, July 26 – 2:32 PM
Rejected. “Decent offer,” he says, “but there’s not enough separation between Hudson and Cain.” OK. So I’m scanning his roster to find a suitable replacement for Hudson. Jeremy Hellickson? He’s been impressive in his first full big league season but what’s the deal with the low strikeout rate? After whiffing well over a batter per inning during his Minor League career and registering an 8.18 K/9 rate in 10 games with the Rays last year, Hellickson sports a mediocre 5.99 K/9 rate this season. Honestly, I’m a little worried about this. But at 24, the kid is bound to improve in this department. Plus, the former Minor League player of the Year makes for a fine keeper at $9. Since I’m really focused on the future anyway, I’ll go ahead and counter. McCutchen and Cain for Kemp and Hellickson. I’m not bending any more than this.
Tuesday, July 26 – 5:42 PM
Accepted. Now the obligatory post-trade remorse is kicking in. I got the best player in the deal in Kemp, but maybe I gave up too much. Sounds like the Rays will be limiting Hellickson’s innings down the stretch by giving him extra days off between starts. Great. And in a weekly league, this is especially bad news. Forget about those two-start weeks. But I keep reminding myself that this trade was made with the future in mind. I need to calm down.
Thursday, July 28 – 10:26 AM
What should you do when you receive a trade offer that appears too good to be true? Do you accept it immediately or wait an hour or two to make it look like you thought long and hard about it and, while it was a tough call, you ultimately decided to accept. Well, I just hit the “Accept” button on a trade proposal in my NL-only keeper league. I was actually in a meeting when I first saw it while pulling out my Droid to check my e-mail, and couldn’t get back to my desk soon enough. This one owner, who is out of contention, is waving the white flag and dangling some pretty appealing players in return for attractive keeper contracts. So he offers me the newest Blue Jay, Colby Rasmus, for Kyle Blanks, who is signed through next year at a cost of $2. Since I’m currently in first place, this is a no-brainer. Yeah, Rasmus is only a rental, as he will no longer be in the player pool next season, but I think he’ll benefit greatly from a fresh start in a hitter-friendly ballpark and with a manager who doesn’t hate him. Blanks has potential, but he’s yet to live up to it and Petco Park won’t exactly turn those long fly balls into homers. Some owners in the league might question the fairness of this swap, but since he was the one who proposed it and is clearly on a mission to become the fantasy baseball equivalent to Wayne Huizenga, I think I’m in pretty good standing if this somehow leads to a veto discussion.
Friday, July 29 – 3:29 PM
If you’re wondering whether or not I’m still agonizing over the Matt Kemp trade, the answer is yes. I guess the fact that I feel neither overly positive nor overly negative about it means that it was a good deal as risks were taken on both sides. But I’m a little freaked out right now. Why? It happened a few minutes ago while answering a question on the Fantasy 411 blog. My trade advice was “You can do better,” but I made a typo. “You cain do better,” the sentence read.
Sunday, July 31 – 9:35 PM
So much for saving all those NL-only FAAB dollars for a high impact player getting traded from the AL to the Senior Circuit. The MLB trade deadline has come and gone and who’s the big prize? None other than Derrek Lee! What a bummer. Lee’s first career season in the American League has been a rather mediocre one as the veteran first baseman is batting .246 with 12 homers and 41 RBIs through 85 games with Baltimore. I’ve always been a believer that non-mixed league owners shouldn’t go out of their way to conserve most of their FAAB bucks for the trade deadline with the idea that they’ll be greatly rewarded. It’s just too risky and limits their ability to add useful pieces throughout the first four months of the season. Anyway, I might as well just about empty my bank account for Lee. Who knows, maybe he finds his stroke now that he’s back in the more familiar league. I’m bidding 42 out of my remaining 44 dollars on the newest Pirate. First base has been a problem for me ever since Adam LaRoche went down. I could use all the help I can get.
Monday, August 1 – 7:12 AM
Whoa. At first, I wasn’t sure if I was reading this correctly. Late last night, minutes before my money league’s trading deadline, a mega-deal was agreed upon, a 4-for-4 swap between one owner way out of contention and another with an excellent chance of taking home some cash. And the more I break this down, the better I’m feeling about my Matt Kemp trade from last week, because the white flag owner is getting absolutely fleeced. I mean, this was the best he could do? Here’s the trade:
Felix Hernandez ($35)
Ian Kinsler ($26)
Jon Lester ($25)
B.J. Upton ($15)
Jered Weaver ($17)
Michael Brantley ($10)
Neil Walker ($5)
Jordan Zimmermann ($2)
I get it. Weaver is the best keeper in the deal. But did the guy really have to give up two aces, an upper-tier (yet overpaid) second baseman and a quality (yet inconsistent) outfielder for Weaver, two so-so keepers plus Brantley? He’s simply not making the most out of his trade chips. I would’ve saved one or two of those players for use in a second trade rather than pay such a high price for Weaver. Maybe the pressure of working against a rapidly approaching deadline got to him and he figured that any deal was better than no deal. Waiting until the last minute to do something usually doesn’t work out too well in real life, and it certainly doesn’t work out well in fantasy baseball.
Tuesday, August 2 – 11:42 PM
Want to get me in a bad mood? Mention the name Paul Goldschmidt. Yesterday, the kid made his big league debut and tonight he hits his first homer, a towering shot off a pretty good pitcher named Tim Lincecum. With Brandon Allen now in Oakland, Goldschmidt will receive everyday at-bats for the rest of the season and most likely the rest of his Major League career. And I let him slip right through my fingers.
Friday, August 5 – 4:36 PM
Never underestimate the power of hype. Not to say that Brett Lawrie won’t be a very good big league hitter. Hey, he could be a perennial All-Star. But for now, he’s just an ultra-talented prospect who has yet to play a game in the Majors. That will change tonight as the 21-year-old is set to don a Blue Jays uniform for the first time. And fantasy owners should be excited. But let’s not get carried away.
Here’s a sampling of Lawrie-related questions sent to us at the MLB.com Fantasy 411 this week. Some are reasonable, others are pushing it, and the last one is flat-out crazy. Keep in mind that these are all for non-keeper leagues.
•Lawrie or Freese?
•Lawrie or Kelly Johnson the rest of the way?
•Am I foolish for sticking with Ackley and not rushing to the waiver wire to pick up Lawrie?
•Pick up Lawrie and drop Valencia?
•Howie Kendrick or Brett Lawrie?
•Between 2B and SS I have Tulo, Rollins, Utley, and Kinsler. Would you swap any for Lawrie?
Now let’s see how long it takes for everyone to jump off the Lawrie bandwagon after he starts off 1-for-15.
What can I say…… I love my job.
Monday, July 11 – 2:45 PM
It’s a strange feeling not having to set my lineups today for my weekly leagues, but it’s also a nice feeling, even though I don’t really know what to do with all this new found free time. What did I used to do before I started playing fantasy baseball? The scary thing is that I don’t really remember. I know a lot of “fantasy experts” advise people to use the All-Star break to assess your team to identify strengths and weaknesses, explore trade possibilities and send out some offers, but I’m going to try something different. I’m going to attempt to not even look at any of my teams for the next 48 hours, until I have to start thinking about my lineups for Thursday. I’ll let you know how this goes.
Wednesday, July 13 – 12:08 AM
Mission failed. Thanks to the Mets’ decision to trade Francisco Rodriguez to the Brewers, I’m staring at my lineup right now and wrestling with a monumental decision. My decision to add Bobby Parnell last week has proven to be a brilliant one, but there’s also the possibility the Amazin’s turn to the more experienced Jason Isringhausen (293 career saves) to handle closing duties. I’m in a very nice position right now as waivers get processed at around 1 AM each night. I doubt that anyone else in the league has already learned of this breaking news story and will put in a claim for Izzy in the next 52 minutes. So I have an opportunity here to secure a monopoly on the Mets’ closer market. But the more I scan my roster the more I’m realizing that I simply cannot afford to drop any of my current players. I’ll pass on Izzy and just hope that the Mets opt for Parnell’s upside over Isringhausen’s track record. There’s also the distinct possibility that the club trades Isringhausen. I say the chances are greater than 50/50 that Parnell will be the guy.
Saturday, July 16 – 11:40 AM
You know the type. He’s the owner in last place who can’t help but find an excuse. “Ah, I stopped paying attention to that league a long time ago,” he would explain. Or he might say something like “This is the league I care about the least of all my leagues because it’s not for money.” And it’s even worse when this owner is your commissioner! I mean, why did you start up this league if you knew you wouldn’t be able to put 100 percent effort into it? Well, in one of my NL-only leagues (which is billed as an experts league), our commish, who at this time finds himself in the cellar, posted a mid-season message last night wishing everyone good luck in the second half, apologizing for his team’s poor performance and vowing to right the ship. And that’s all fine and dandy. But then he goes on to say “Of course, like most of us I’m sure, I prioritize the time and effort I put into my leagues, and $ leagues naturally tend to take precedence.” Now, the funny thing is that this guy totally doesn’t fit the “bitter owner” label. He hasn’t abandoned his team, he doesn’t have any injured players in his active lineup. He’s doing the best he can with an underperforming roster that includes the likes of Dan Uggla, Casey McGehee and the injured Josh Johnson. No further explanation needed. This just isn’t his year. And that’s OK. I really wonder why he chose to make that statement. Sometimes, it’s better to just not say anything.