Sunday, May 15 – 11:28 PM
Wait it out or cut my losses? That’s the decision I’m now faced with in regards to Edwin Encarnacion. The injury to Pablo Sandoval has left me with a gaping hole at third base, and I had hoped that the streaky Encarnacion would at least fill part of it by catching fire at the right time. Well, in the two weeks I’ve been using him as my starter, Edwin is batting .250 with no homers and just three RBIs. In fact, after clubbing 21 home runs in only 332 at-bats last season, Encarnacion has yet to launch a single homer this year, and considering his poor defense, if he’s not hitting he is of little use to the Blue Jays. I’ve had enough, and it wouldn’t surprise me if his playing time soon gets drastically reduced. But there’s also a part of me that remains convinced that he’ll go on a tear as soon as I drop him. I don’t care. I’m making a switch. Scott Rolen? Chase Headley? The available third base pool is far from exciting. I’ll go with the injury-plagued Rolen. He’s still a fairly productive hitter when able to take the field. The only drawback is the inevitable “Zach, it’s not 2004 anymore” comments from my league mates.
Wednesday, May 18 – 2:15 PMI’m a big believer in giving my struggling players plenty of time to get their act together. After all, I drafted these guys because I had faith in them, so the least I can do is hold off for a couple months before making a rash decision to either trade them at a discount or drop them altogether. That said, I’m losing patience with Kelly Johnson and, to a lesser extent, his teammate Chris Young. At least Young is hitting homers to make up for his meager .225 batting average and disappointing three stolen bases. Johnson, on the other hand, is looking like an absolute bust.
Johnson’s career-best season last year, his first with Arizona, got me thinking he had turned the corner following his inconsistent run with the Braves. I drafted Johnson in three leagues, seeing him as someone who could possibly put up comparable numbers to Brandon Phillips but could be had at a fraction of the cost. Johnson would provide me with power, some speed and plenty of runs hitting near the top of a solid Diamondbacks’ lineup. As it turns out, I was really living in a fantasy world and am probably one of the 20 or so owners in the country who still has Johnson in their starting lineup. I don’t know, maybe I’ve been too loyal to Kelly. Let’s see how the next week goes.
Friday, May 20 – 3:24 PM
There are few things more demoralizing for a fantasy owner than rushing to the waiver wire to add a player only to learn that someone else had snatched him up just a few minutes earlier. This is exactly what happened to me moments ago as I missed out on Domonic Brown by a mere 12 minutes in one of my daily mixed leagues. I’ve served as the commissioner of this league for nine years now, and since I started working at MLB.com, my friends have been quick to point out that I’m at a huge advantage when it comes to making pickups as many of them are not even allowed to access fantasy sports sites from work. And they were right. So last season I changed the waivers process to FAAB, and although I thought it worked well, the majority voted to switch back to the old system of first-come first-serve for players who clear waivers and become free agents. “Fine. No more complaining then,” I said. Well apparently, this owner either took the day off from work or risked getting fired just so he could add the Phillies’ top prospect to his roster! If the latter is the case, he more than deserves to have Domonic.
Saturday, May 21 – 12:46 PM
I might finally be on the verge of putting an end to my month-long quest for a proven closer. The deal currently on the table is Chris Young for Huston Street. On the surface, it may seem like I’m giving up too much, but hear me out. First, I would replace Young in my lineup with either Johnny Damon or Jason Kubel, both more than capable alternatives. Second, although I’ll miss Young’s power, I won’t miss his mediocre batting average and will probably gain a couple of points in that department just by getting rid of him. And then there’s the Desmond Jennings factor. He’s my prime $1 keeper and it won’t be long before he gets the call. Right now, I don’t even have an open starting spot for Jennings, so making this trade would clear the way for the eventual stolen base boost as Young for Jennings has to be considered a speed upgrade. Taking into account Street’s less than stellar health record, I know this is a bit risky, but I think it’s a risk worth taking. Chasing saves can get quite exhausting.
Tuesday, May 10 – 10:33 PM
A quick glance at Homer Bailey’s stat line from tonight and my initial reaction is frustration. Why on earth did I not start this guy coming off a stellar season debut in which he held the Astros to one run on four hits over six innings? I had my reasons though. First, I wanted to see a little more. One start simply wasn’t enough of a sample size to make me feel comfortable pitching someone who missed the season’s first month due to a shoulder injury. But even more importantly, I had a feeling that Bailey might struggle facing Houston for the second time in less than a week. The Astros’ hitters would surely make adjustments now that they could file away a scouting report on Homer Bailey version 2011. So I took the cautious approach and sat him. Well, it didn’t work out. Bailey was even more effective this time around, tossing seven shutout innings. Slowly but surely, however, my disappointment is turning into hope as I’m beginning to think that my $1 draft day investment in Bailey could turn out to be a brilliant move.
“Post-hype sleeper” is a common term used in fantasy circles and Bailey fits it to a tee. Expected to be the next great power pitcher upon his initial big league callup back in 2007, Bailey has battled control problems and overall inconsistency ever since, spending plenty of time in the Minors during each of the last four seasons. But something changed late in 2010. Over his final 10 starts, Homer pitched to a solid 3.55 ERA and 1.27 WHIP while posting a very respectable 2.93 BB/9 rate. And don’t forget he’s still just 25. For the time being, I’m fully aboard the Homer Bailey bandwagon, especially for next week when he’s a two-start pitcher.
Thursday, May 12 – 12:30 PM
Rather than sending an e-mail asking if he would be willing to trade Drew Stubbs and Francisco Cordero, I decide to be aggressive and make an offer. The initial proposal is a reasonable starting off point but not quite my best offer: Gaby Sanchez and Chris Young for Stubbs and Cordero. As expected, my league mate rejects it, saying that he might consider a Cordero for Sanchez swap but “Stubbs > Young by a long shot.” OK, fair enough. I don’t view the difference as gigantic but his opinion is understandable. For all his power/speed upside, Young still strikes out way too much, resulting in a mediocre batting average and agonizingly long slumps. Stubbs also goes through his share of cold spells but he runs a lot more and was just about everyone’s answer to the preseason question of “Which mid-round pick is most likely to perform at a first-round level?” So far he has yet to disappoint. Anyway, despite my desperate need for a closer, I’m not sure if I would agree to a straight swap of Sanchez for Cordero. I’m not even sure that he would either. Let me mull this over.
Thursday, May 12 – 10:35 PM
For some strange reason, not one owner in my head-to-head NL-Only league put in a bid for Vicente Padilla last week. I really should have, but with injured players clogging up most of my bench spots and my DL full, I honestly didn’t have the room. Plus, closers are less valuable in this format than they are in roto leagues. But to think that I could have gotten him with a $0 bid is hard to believe. It was almost like everyone was convinced that they would be outbid for Padilla’s services, so they decided not to bother. This week, I have a bit more roster flexibility so I’m seriously considering an aggressive bid. I need to be careful, however. Part of my motivation is a result of losing out on Vicente in a different league. Emotion vs. better judgment. This will be an interesting battle. I need to be wary of overbidding by a wide margin but I’m pretty sure that $0 won’t be the winning bid this time around!
Friday, May 13 – 11:10 AM
I’m at work and have a meeting in precisely five minutes. Gaby Sanchez for Francisco Cordero? Yeah, I’ll do it. OK, I just formally made the proposal. Rising from my desk, I’m convinced that Cordero will be a member of my team in a matter of minutes.
Friday, May 13 – 12:06 PM
My meeting now finished, I anxiously check my e-mail inbox and a trade has been agreed upon. But what? I’m not one of the owners involved. Turns out that Cordero and Stubbs have been shipped off to a different team for Mark Teixeira. As if I’m not bummed out enough by this, I get an e-mail from the guy saying that he would have accepted my proposed trade but needed to include Cordero in the Tex package. Great. Waiting close to 24 hours to make the offer was a big mistake. In the meantime, someone else swooped in and grabbed Cordero. I actually think that my proposal was a better one. Stubbs is a steep price to pay for the upgrade from Gaby to Tex. But that’s beside the point. My quest for closer help will continue and while I’m fairly confident that Sanchez will enjoy a breakthrough season this year, he’ll need to go .300-25-100 for me to forget about this debacle.
Friday, May 13 – 7:30 PM
By a mere one dollar, my $17 bid on Vicente Padilla has proven to be the winning one, and I’m proud of my decision to take an aggressive approach. Enough of this passive stuff! In light of today’s earlier events, I really needed this victory.
Saturday, May 14 – 8:20 AM
Perusing the box scores of last night’s West Coast games, I notice that Kenley Jansen, not Vicente Padilla, picked up the save in the Dodgers’ 4-3 win over the Diamondbacks. After allowing two runs in just 2/3 of an inning, Padilla was yanked in favor of Jansen, who recorded the final out. Here we go again with the closers.
Fantasy baseball is more than just a numbers game. I can spend hours upon hours leading up to my drafts studying statistical projections and even building my own forecasting models, but ultimately, when the time comes to assemble my squads, gut instinct often takes over. I happen to be a very forgiving person and cannot help but give certain players second chances. My logic seems sound; there’s a reason why I liked this guy going into last season, so what are the chances that he disappoints me yet again? Such was the case with James Shields.
Shields’ impressive 2008 campaign in which he went 14-8 with a 3.56 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 4.00 K/BB ratio had me convinced that he was a star in the making. So I draft him in ’09 only to see his ERA rise by over a half-run and his WHIP skyrocket to 1.32. Unfazed, I take him again in 2010, using his still strong K/BB ratio as a way to rationalize my questionable decision. “Big Game James” rewards me with the worst season of his career, a 5.18 ERA and American League-high 34 home runs allowed. That’s it! I vow to never again draft Shields, cutting off all emotional ties to the Rays’ righty and focusing solely on his dreadful stat line.
Earlier today, Shields notched his second consecutive complete game victory, tossing a four-hit shutout. Through five starts this year, he boasts a 2.35 ERA and 0.97 WHIP, and has served up just three homers. Maybe I should start giving players third chances.
Tuesday, April 26 – 4:45 PM
It’s official, the Dodgers’ closer situation is an absolute mess, and thanks to my $7 draft day investment in Jonathan Broxton, which at the time seemed like a steal, I’m tracking the drama very closely.
A short while ago, GM Ned Colletti announced that the team will go with a closer-by-committee system until Broxton straightens himself out. Will that ever happen? I’m not so sure. Although he has converted five of his first six save chances, Broxton has done so in nail-biting fashion, looking very much like the pitcher who posted a 7.13 ERA and 2.13 WHIP following last year’s All-Star break. His velocity is not what it used to be, he’s walking hitters at a frighteningly high rate and he has yet to throw a clean inning this season. Although I was not assuming that he would return to elite status, I was expecting him to pitch well enough to hold onto the ninth inning gig and register 30-plus saves. I did not foresee this happening, and so soon. The good news is that with Hong-Chih Kuo still on the DL, the team is short of realistic alternatives. Vicente Padilla will be a hot pickup over the next 24 hours, but I don’t see him netting more than a handful of saves. He’s only got two career saves to his name! I’m debating whether or not to put in a claim for Padilla but I don’t want to drop any of my current players. If I had a way to contact the Indians’ front office right now I would. Their delay in officially placing Carlos Carrasco on the DL is costing me a roster spot. I have a feeling that this decision could come back to haunt me, but I’m passing on Padilla.
Tuesday, April 26 – 6:30 PM
Now word comes out that Dodgers’ Manager Don Mattingly has reassured Broxton that he’s still the club’s closer. A GM and manager not being on the same page is nothing new, but this situation is getting stranger by the hour.
Wednesday, April 27 – 10:30 PM
I wish there was such a thing as a fantasy sports shrink because I’m in desperate need of one. A common phrase of advice used on the MLB.com Fantasy 411 show is to never confuse the outcome with the decision. In other words, don’t beat yourself up if a well-informed decision turns out to be the wrong decision. Easier said than done. Prior to last night’s dreadful outing vs. the Angels, Brandon McCarthy had been red-hot, coming off a three-start stretch in which he pitched to a 1.23 ERA and 0.95 WHIP. So I go ahead and snatch him off the waiver wire, and in his debut start for my team he gives up seven runs on 14 hits over 5 1/3 innings. Meanwhile, Jeremy Guthrie, who I benched for the week in favor of McCarthy, goes out and tosses six shutout innings vs. the hard-hitting Red Sox. I know, these things tend to balance out over the course of a six-month long season, but still, this is tough to swallow.
Thursday, April 28 – 7:40 PM
The Indians just placed Carlos Carrasco on the 15-day DL, giving me an open roster spot. Too bad Vicente Padilla was claimed Tuesday night.
I have to admit, these past few days have been rough for a number of my teams, but I still have faith in my guys. They’ll turn things around, and at this early stage of the season, all it takes is a few days to get right back in the thick of things. I’ve got to believe that good stats come to those who wait.
Tuesday, May 3 – 6:46 AM
I’m still only half-awake so maybe I’m misreading this. So I read it again, and again. Nope. A trade was just agreed upon which happens to involve our good friend James Shields. His owner, obviously sensing that now is a great time to sell high, trades Shields ($4) for Chad Billingsley ($14) and, get ready for this, Josh Hamilton ($31). Now, I never like to be the one who makes a big fuss over the fairness of a trade, but I’m really having a tough time with this one. I understand that Shields is looking like a great keeper and that Hamilton is always hurt, but he’s expected back in a couple weeks and is without question a top-20 player. Not to mention Billingsley, who is far from a throw-in. Actually, considering Shields’ ridiculous start to the season, I would not be surprised if Billingsley posts the better stat line from here on out. The law of averages has to catch up with Shields at some point, right?
Anyway, I’m debating whether or not to send out a message to the league. I know that the general rule of thumb when considering a trade veto is to let it pass as long as there is no evidence of collusion or if the trade is so lopsided that it would dramatically affect the league’s balance of power. This deal does not fit either of those categories and will most certainly go through. But personally, I don’t feel good about it. I decide to speak up, if for no other reason than to start a dialogue and find out if anyone else feels the same way I do. My e-mail will have to wait though, as I’m running late to work
Tuesday, May 3 – 2:14 PM
The hardest part about playing in a fantasy league with friends is that you don’t want to let this game, that is supposed to be fun, damage a friendship. Minutes after sending the e-mail, I get an angry response from the new Hamilton owner, suggesting that I didn’t bother to look up how unlucky Shields was last season (I work in baseball, I remind him, so I’m well aware) and several other owners rattle off the “You can’t legislate against stupidity” slogan. The trade will stand. As the commissioner put it, “Some people may believe this is a bad trade, but it’s not an illegal trade.” Fine. I’m glad I let my voice be heard, but I would have liked it if a few more people at least conceded that I had a point.
Wednesday, May 4 – 4:00 PM
I realize that I’ve been overly negative recently and promise that I will soon bring plenty of positive energy to this diary, but not quite yet. What exactly was I thinking drafting the closer duo of Jonathan Broxton and Brandon Lyon? The Dodgers announced today that Broxton has been shut down with pain in his throwing elbow and Lyon just blew another save chance, allowing three runs without recording a single out in a loss to the Reds.
I own Lyon in two leagues, including one NL-Only, and although I have never been a big fan of the guy, due in large part to his shaky track record when thrust into the closer role, I did see the value in drafting him for a cheap price, particularly in non-mixed leagues, since he faced virtually zero job competition. He also pitched exceptionally well down the stretch in 2010, registering a 2.51 ERA while nailing down 19 saves in 20 chances from the start of August through the end of the season. But he’s been an absolute bust so far in 2011. My disastrous experience with closers this year is slowly but surely converting me to the “draft top-tier closers” camp. Who needs the headache?
Thursday, May 5 – 2:08 PM
Now on to the good news; my NL-Only head-to-head points keeper league that I just joined it this season. Fortunately, I inherited a roster that includes Joey Votto and Troy Tulowitzki, so it’s not like I’m starting from scratch here. In fact, I’ll make the non-scientific claim that 95 percent of fantasy teams featuring this duo currently reside in the top half of their league’s standings. But I will give myself some credit for making a number of fine draft day selections, snagging Jonny Gomes for a buck, adding Jason Hammel for $4 and snatching up the Mets’ Chris Young in the reserve draft. Well, through four weeks I’m a perfect 4-0 and lead the league in total points.
A few minutes ago, I was chatting with a league mate and we started talking about the strengths and weaknesses of our rosters. “Outside of Justin Upton and Gomes, my outfield is a mess,” I said. He had some depth at outfield and, as a Broxton owner, was hot after Hong-Chih Kuo. Here’s what he just proposed to me: Fred Lewis and Wilson Valdez for Kuo. I’m not too enthused about this offer. I really need an outfielder who is getting fairly regular at-bats, and Lewis simply doesn’t cut it. He just came off the DL and will be hard-pressed to find much playing time in a crowded Cincinnati outfield. Valdez, who has recently been losing some at-bats to Pete Orr, doesn’t excite me either. I reject the offer and instead propose Kuo for Emilio Bonifacio. Considering the high-probability that Kuo picks up at least a handful of saves while Broxton is sidelined, this is a pretty fair offer, I think.
Friday, May 6 – 11:16 AM
My counteroffer has been rejected. He seriously thought about it but Bonifacio was too much for him to give up. Although I’m a little disappointed, holding onto Kuo isn’t such a terrible thing. But above all, I’m proud of how these negotiations were handled. Both of our offers were reasonable and we were honest with each other. I wasn’t trying to outsmart him and he wasn’t trying to outsmart me. It just didn’t work out, and that’s OK. Now I’ll have to address my needs through FAAB. This week’s deadline is less than five hours away.
Sunday, April 17 – 12:10 PM
What’s wrong with this picture? Recently, I’ve been spending a good chunk of my time at work calming down frantic owners of underperforming teams. "The season is six months long," I say, "not two weeks." I use terms like “sample size” to support my true belief that Hanley Ramirez will not finish the year with a sub-.250 batting average or that Andrew McCutchen will exceed his current pace of 12 stolen bases. Now these predictions are rather simple, but it’s still not easy to ignore the early-season league standings. I know I shouldn’t really pay attention to the standings until at least mid-May, but as I’m setting my lineup for one of my five teams, I’m beginning to get a sick feeling in my stomach that perhaps this team just isn’t as good as it looked on paper.
As I said, I’m in five leagues this year, some more competitive than others, three mixed and two NL-Only, three weekly and two daily. I care a great deal about all of my teams, but the one I care about the most is my lone money league, a 13-team mixed weekly. Comprised of friends from college, the roster format is quite simple: nine hitters and nine pitchers. Three outfielders, one utility, no corner infielder and no middle infielder. I’m a big believer in going hitter-heavy on draft day as we all know that starting pitchers tend to be more inconsistent from year-to-year. But, I’m starting to think that I’ll need to slightly adjust my strategy next season due to the smaller number of starting bats. What’s wrong with this picture? I’m already thinking about next season, come on Zach, you know better than that! I always feel a ton of pressure to do well in this league. Everyone knows that I work in the fantasy industry, so how can they take advice from someone who they can beat?
Did I mention that I own both Ramirez and McCutchen and that I’m in 12th place out of 13 teams? Good thing it’s only mid-April.
Tuesday, April 19 – 1:40 PM
I take a great deal of pride in being a hands-on fantasy owner: someone who is constantly scouring the waiver wire looking for ways to improve his squad and someone who checks his lineups multiple times each day to make sure that the right guys are playing and the right guys are riding the pine. This is why the events of the past few days are so troubling.
First, I forget to make a FAAB bid on the great Jonathan Herrera, who prior to yesterday’s 0-for-4 effort was batting .400 on the year with 10 runs scored and four steals through 10 games. Coming into the season, Herrera was viewed as just a backup, but the struggles of Jose Lopez and Ian Stewart have opened the door for close to regular at-bats, and he’s certainly taking advantage. Can he keep up the hot hitting to the point where he sees 500 plate appearances? Considering his far from jaw-dropping Minor League record and his merely pedestrian production as a part-timer for the Rockies last season, I have my doubts. But still, in a non-mixed league, playing time counts for a lot, particularly when talking about middle infielders.
Then, as if I had not learned my lesson from the Herrera blunder, I make another, this time in one of my daily mixed leagues. Carlos Zambrano was nearly flawless last night, holding the Padres to just three hits over eight shutout innings while striking out 10. Too bad Big Z was sitting on my bench. Yup, I forgot to play him. Sometimes it’s tough to decide whether or not to pitch someone in a certain matchup, but this one was a no-brainer. The Padres?
I’m starting to wonder if five leagues is too much for me to handle. I think I’ll go down to four next year to prevent these terrible things from happening.
Thursday, April 21 – 10:30 PM
Some might disagree with me on this, but I love it when two of my fantasy starting pitchers go up against each other. I know, I know, it’s impossible to earn two wins, but there’s a very good chance you’ll get one, and there’s nothing more gratifying than a 1-0 final where one of the pitchers tosses a complete-game shutout. OK, maybe that’s a bit unrealistic, but tonight I’m ecstatic that I chose to start both Scott Baker and Jeremy Guthrie in my money league. The two have rewarded me with a combined 1.29 ERA and 0.86 WHIP, and Baker has netted me that all-important win! My team’s ERA has dropped by over one-third of a run, to a sparkling 4.70. By the way, I really like Baker this year. I’m a sucker for the K/BB ratio, and Baker’s been one of the game’s more consistent hurlers in that department. If he can only do a better job limiting homers (and spacious Target Field should provide him with that opportunity), he could turn out to be a draft day steal. I got him for a buck!
Friday, April 22 – 9:45 PM
My pitching prowess continued tonight as Anibal Sanchez, whom I own in four different leagues, came three outs away from turning his 85th career start into his second career no-hitter, cooling off a red-hot Rockies’ lineup. Dexter Fowler spoiled things with a seeing-eye single on Sanchez’s first pitch of the ninth inning, but Anibal briskly retired the next three batters, finishing with a one-hit gem. After opening the season with one shaky outing and one disaster start, Sanchez has now pieced together two straight impressive performances and seems ready to build on last year’s breakout campaign.
But all is not well for the Fish, who today placed Logan Morrison on the DL. As a Morrison owner in an NL-only league, this presents me with the tough task of finding an outfield replacement. Although there are some slightly appealing names on the wire (Emilio Bonifacio, Laynce Nix, Ryan Spilborghs), it’s nothing too exciting. Ugh, I’ll revisit this in the morning when my head is a bit clearer.