Beef, pork, mechanically separated turkey, water, corn syrup cubes, hydrolyzed beef stock, sodium phosphates, questionable "flavorings," bat shards, broken dreams and extractives of suck — these are ingredients that comprise baseball's biggest wieners. Just ask the poor bastard who's choked on Justin Verlander.
Coming off savory 2013 campaigns, this year's soured group of tubed meats were expected to exceed or at least meet last year's totals. Acquire them, experts and seasoned owners professed in March, and investors were sure to relish consistent production. As the old saying goes, players, in terms of statistical contribution, are supposed to get plumper when you draft 'em.
However, these Lil Smokies have shriveled in the Crock-Pot.
Swollen strikeout rates, dramatic GB/FB shifts and pedestrian stolen base paces have charred their reputations. No amount of mustard or, for the evildoers in attendance, ketchup (Smothering a hot dog in communist sauce should be a capital offense. Ask Brandon Funston.), have masked the bitter taste. Suffice it to say, for the millions who sank their teeth into the once bun-length commodities, persistent heartburn, and 0-fers, have followed.
In honor of holiday barbecues and Joey Chestnuts everywhere, here is the Ninth Annual All-Wiener Team with an over/under twist (Note: To weed out the injury ridden, each All-Wiener selection had to log at least 200 ABs, 75 IP) :
Catcher: Joe Mauer, Min (Preseason O-Rank: 59, Current: 281)
Over/Under: Owners shelled out big smackaroos for a top-flight BA from the career .320 hitter, but he's fallen well short of expectations tallying a .271 mark. Rest of season average from the backstop – .2999.
Dalton – OVER. Mauer currently has a career-high 18.9 K% but also a healthy 27.9 LD%. He hasn't hit a single pop up this season. Expecting Mauer to bat around .300 over the rest of the year seems about right.
Brandon – OVER. He's a career .320 hitter and he's still somewhat in his prime at 31. A little time off to rest his oblique injury will be a good way for him to hit the reset button and come back stronger in the second half.
Scott – All the bad luck indicators are flashing with Mauer's average, so I'll give him the OVER benefit of the doubt. But will he hit any homers? Will his run production wake up? As soon as he comes back to your roster and rings up a couple of 5-0-2-0 lines (both singles), trade him. Don't get hung up on name brands.
First Base: Eric Hosmer, KC (66, 278)
Over/Under: For the past decade it seems, believers have predicted 20-20 numbers from the perennial talent tease, however, the still only 24-years-young "slugger" never quite measures up. This year, with only six combined homers/steals, he's provided little category juice. Rest of season combined HRs/SBs – 12.5.
Brandon – UNDER. He's not only sitting on a mere four home runs but he's failed to even collect an extra-base hit in his past 16 games. And he has just seven steals in his past 162 games played, so I'm not counting on the steals side of this O/U to carry him over the number here.
Andy – OVER. There's no way he continues at this dreadful pace. I'm gonna say we get nine more homers and six additional steals, assuming good health. The history here suggests modest improvement.
Second Base: Dustin Pedroia, Bos (29, 152)
Over/Under: Widely perceived to be a top-five pivot-man on draft day, he ranks well-outside the top-10 in value at his position, largely due to his ongoing power outage and absent steals. Rest of season rank among 2Bs – 7.5.
Scott – OVER. The average might come back nicely (and he still hits lefties well), but where's the pop? Where's the willingness to run? I wonder if the hand and wrist issues from the spring are still bothering him.
Andy – UNDER, barely. I'll admit to being somewhat shaken, but I'd still draft him top-7 at his position. Run-scoring and average will probably need to carry him, but I'm a sucker for players with long, productive histories.
Brad – OVER. The power regression started last season when he belted an unappetizing 9 home runs. This year, his SBs have followed suit, not atypical for a player in his 30s. Lucky to finish with double-digits in homers or steals and on pace for just 65 RBI, he's basically a pricier version of Scooter Gennett.
Shortstop: J.J. Hardy, Bal (135, 399)
Over/Under: Hardy has reached the bleachers at least 22 times in three consecutive seasons. This year, however, he hasn't eaten his Wheaties, clearing the outfield wall shockingly only twice in 290 at-bats. Rest of season long-balls – 9.5.
Andy – Weird player, weird season. Dude is batting 30 points higher than his career norm, yet slugging just .374. He's been all singles and doubles thus far. I'll say UNDER here, projecting maybe 8-9 additional bombs.
Dalton – UNDER. Hardy easily led all shortstops in homers over the past three seasons entering this year, so it's odd to see the huge power outage combined with a career-high .294 BA. I'd project right around 10 bombs ROS, but that's assuming he'll stay healthy.
Brandon – OVER. Hardy's power often comes in binge bunches, and he's had a few runs in his career where he basically reached double digit home runs in a one month span. The fact that both his home runs have come in the past 12 games is encouraging that he's starting to get his power pointed back in the right direction.
Third Base: Manny Machado, Bal (93, 783)
Over/Under: The cold corner is another hyped Oriole who's failed to take flight this season. Terribly mediocre across the board, the freshly suspended 3B is practically dead roster weight, even in deeper leagues. Combined RBI/runs rest of season – 74.5.
Dalton – UNDER. Machado has three homers over his past four games, but he'd have to perform at a much higher level than he has been (and stay healthy) for him to approach this mark. Coming off serious knee surgery, Machado may not be truly 100 percent until 2015.
Brandon – UNDER. He's hit just .240 since last season's All-Star break (114 games) and he had just 57 combined RBI/Runs after the break last season. His recent uptick in power is a good sign, but I still think he'll finish just a bit shy of this number.
Scott – UNDER, sadly. I paid a silly price for Machado on his day of return, a major regret - breaking my own rules on injury returns, in fact. I'll cool my Machado jets until 2015.
Outfield: Allen Craig, StL (52, 283)
Over/Under: Similar to Mauer, owners anticipated more from the high-contact hitter in batting average. His wretched .252 mark in the category is some 60 points lower than where he finished last year. Chip in only modest HR and RBI production at an overloaded position and the Cardinal has investors squarely in the red. Rest of season batting average – .2799.
Brandon – OVER. With the promotion of Oscar Taveras, Craig is going to see more time on the pine. That will allow St. Louis to cherry pick his days off and make sure that Craig is maximizing his matchups.
Scott – OVER, but again, grounders don't go over the fence, so it's going to be a punchless average. He's also likely to miss some time as the Cardinals outfield becomes more crowded.
Andy – Rest of season? OK, I'll say OVER, by just a bit. And I don't really even love this guy. The batted-ball rates have been unusual by Craig's career standards, but I trust him to partially get right.
Outfield: Shin-Soo Choo, Tex (38, 217)
Over/Under: Sweltering temps, a friendly home ball park and success in the AL -- everything was in place for the ex-Indian to deliver a sterling fantasy line. However, a bum ankle and eroding eye has him well short of a 20-20 pace. Combined rest of season homers/steals – 15.5.
Scott – UNDER, UNDER and UNDER. The ankle doesn't look right, and I don't trust his willingness to run while he's hurt. His last stolen base came in the 70s (I think it was on Disco Demolition Night.)
Andy – OVER. Choo obviously hasn't been great, but he's still getting himself on base (.366 OBP). He'll run, eventually. The power numbers haven't actually been terrible. I'll give him seven homers and, say, 10 steals from now until October.
Brad – OVER. Recently moved back to leadoff by Ron Washington, Choo should bounce back. He admitted he's been too aggressive at the dish and plans to be more patient moving forward. With his ankle close to full strength, a second-half surge is on the horizon.
Starting Pitcher: Justin Verlander, Det (37, 981)
Over/Under: The Most Valueless Dog's best work in 2014: Kate Upton. That's quite the accomplishment, but it doesn't translate to statistical success. A velocity drop-off and general control issues have made the former Cy Young winner very hittable, evidenced in his 4.71 ERA. Rest of season ERA – 3.699.
Andy – OVER, slightly. The A.L. is an unforgiving place, and I've seen little to suggest a surge is coming. The year-to-year dip in his K-rate scares me off.
Brandon – UNDER. His average velocity has been living in the 94 mph range for the past month, which is a good sign. He needs to do a better job with pitch location, and I think he will. While I understand he's no longer the ace he once was, I do think he'll figure out a way to keep his ERA under 3.70 the rest of the way, if only slightly.
Starting Pitcher: Matt Cain, SF (76, 769)
Over/Under: One stinkin' win, a 4-plus ERA and substantial rise in WHIP ... it's been a miserable first half for the once dependable SP2. Should you press the eject button? Rest of season rank among SPs – 39.5. (In other words, will he be a top-40 starter?)
Brandon – OVER. His K rate is the lowest of his career and he's won just nine times in his past 43 starts. Plus, can we really assume lockdown ratios from a guy who allowed a FIP-supported 4.00 ERA last season? You either have to be solid across the board or have an outstanding category or two to figure as a top 40 starter. I'm not sure I'm willing to concede that with Cain.
Scott – UNDER. The radar gun is fine, the division is still reasonable. Here's one comeback story I'll supprt, in part because the buy-in is probably reasonable.
Dalton – UNDER. It doesn't look like the Cain of old will ever return, but I'd still rank him as a top-40 starter. It's not a velocity issue, and he's still producing the same amount of swings and misses as he usually does. Count on Cain bouncing back over the rest of the season.
Relief Pitcher: Joe Nathan, Det (83, 288)
Over/Under: They say age is a just a number, but the 39-year-old closer has clearly resembled his. With an unsightly 6.16 ERA and five blown saves in 22 chances to his name, the rocky closer has caused nothing but frustration. Rest of season saves – 17.5.
Scott – UNDER. Owner Mike Ilitch knows the clock is ticking on that elusive Tigers championship dream. Detroit will trade for a closer at the deadline (if not sooner).
Dalton – UNDER. The concern is legit here. Nathan's average fastball velocity is a career low, although at least he has a long leash in Detroit.
Andy – UNDER, maybe by 10. I dropped him last week in a 14-person head-to-head league, and no one has picked him up yet.