Fantasy Football Live on YSR:

Roto Arcade

Closing Time: Ernesto Frieri and Scott Downs jostle for position; can the schedule fix Adam Wainwright?

View gallery

.

Señor Smoke (USP)

Sometimes we try to paint a pretty picture in this space. Other times, it's a color-by-numbers job. Load up the bullets and let's see where they take us.

• Jordan Walden is one player I'd completely walk away from in any mixed league, as I don't anticipate him getting the closing gig back. First and foremost we have to consider how quickly the Angels demoted him from the post — perhaps Walden's 10 blown saves from 2011 left a mark — but the bigger problem for Walden is that his teammates are a lot better than him, at least through the opening quarter of the season.

Jered Weaver cruised through seven San Diego innings Friday (3 H, 2 R, 3 BB, 4 K), then handed the ball to his capable bullpen. Scott Downs worked a perfect eighth (1K, just 12 pitches) and Ernesto Frieri locked up (1BB, 2 K). A stress-free night for Mike Scioscia, especially after the Angels scored three ninth-inning runs to extend the margin (and negate any possible save).

Is there any significance to Downs pitching ahead of Frieri in what was, at the time, a close game? Or was it was a matter of matchups, with Will Venable (lefty, earlier homer) and Chase Headley (better as a lefty) due up first and third in the eighth? The order of pitchers isn't always a flashing red light for us to consider, but I get the idea Frieri has become trustable to the point that he might be sharing the save assignments soon.

The stats back up both of these pitchers. Downs hasn't allowed a run over 12 innings (8 H, 2 BB, 7 K), and Frieri's combined time between the Angels and Padres has been electric (17.1 IP, 9 H, 3 ER, 8 BB, 30 K). It's an interesting contrast between the two — Downs is the control lefty who pitches to a lot of contact, while Frieri is a fireballing righty who piles up the strikeouts but occasionally comes into problems with walks. I wouldn't be surprised if they both get past double-digit saves from here on out, with Scioscia free to play the matchups (something he seems prepared to do). Either way, they're doing a good job blocking Walden from any fantasy relevance.

• A few readers were asking about Adam Wainwright in the previous edition, so let's take up the case here. I'm still in on Wainwright, all the way in. His K/BB rate sits at 2.5 (more than acceptable) and he's inducing ground balls 55.6 percent of the time. His biggest problems have been sequencing (63.6 strand rate) and the gopher ball (21.9 HR/FB). Even if you want to tax Wainwright somewhat for the misplaced fastballs or rolling curves that have left the park, that clip has no shot at continuing.

And then there's the schedule, which opens up nicely next week (home starts against the Padres, who can't hit, and the Phillies, who scare no one in 2012). Other than facing Roy Halladay (projected) in the second turn, that's a nice setup for Wainwright. This might be your last chance to get him at a collapsed price. Not only am I not concerned here, but I heartily encourage you to investigate possible Wainwright trades. A slow start from a pitcher off Tommy John surgery comes as no great surprise, and I've always admired Wainwright's work ethic and competitiveness. Expect a turnaround.

View gallery

.

Hats off to you, Kerry (USP)

• From a human standpoint, the only story that matters from Friday's matinee at Wrigley is the Kerry Wood farewell. What a perfect final scene for Wood: a three-pitch strikeout, an emotional sendoff from the home fans, and then best of all, a run-up hug from his son, Justin. You couldn't script it much better than that. Here's your must-see video; be sure to stick with it until the end.

History probably won't remember the White Sox actually won Friday's game, but rotoheads have to pick through it and see what we can learn. Robin Ventura enjoyed eight scoreless outs from his bullpen, with Matt Thornton relieving in the seventh (and vulturing Phil Humber's win), underrated Nate Jones handling the eighth and Addison Reed wrapping the ninth. Dare I say it, we might just have some definition in the South Side bullpen, with Reed taking the closing job and running with it. It's encouraging that Ventura and Don Cooper didn't bury the rookie after the six-run mess against Detroit last weekend.

• I don't see any great reason to write a book about the Justin Verlander one-hitter (2 BB, 12 K, 109 pitches). He's the American League's best pitcher and a threat to no-no anyone, and the Pirates have been the worst offensive club in the majors, by far, in 2012. We haven't learned anything new. If you had to predict a no-hitter on the schedule ahead of time, this might have been the game you selected; if there's one pitcher who could throw a below-the-fold no-hitter in 2012, it's Verlander. One random takeaway from Josh Harrison's hit that spoiled the party — why didn't Jhonny Peralta dive on the play? I'll never understand you, Jhonnycakes.

Delmon Young had a double, homer and three RBIs for the Tigers, pushing his average up to .235. Maybe he's ready to start producing on a regular basis. Jim Leyland has the patience of a saint; he keeps running Young out in the No. 5 slot, working after Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Run-producing opportunities will be there. For all the obvious fleas in Young's game, he did clock 13 homers in 202 Detroit at-bats (playoffs included) after joining the club late in 2011.

• On the subject of bullpen sequencing, let's make a note of what the Mets did in their Thursday win at Cincinnati: slumping Jon Rauch took the seventh inning, with Bobby Parnell working the eighth. Parnell's ERA is significantly lower than Rauch's (2.00 against 4.32), and he can also point to a tidy 18 strikeouts against three walks. If you have a need to hedge against Frank Francisco these days, Parnell is probably the guy.

The Jays were rude hosts in the YYZ, crushing five homers and spanking the Mets, 14-5. So much for the Jonathon Niese new-nose bandwagon. The buzzy names in the Toronto lineup were absent from the power show: J.P Arencibia found the seats twice, Rajai Davis also hit a pair, and Yan Gomes added a fifth.

The power is completely out of character for Davis, but he's nonetheless an interesting mixed-league player to consider now that Adam Lind is out of the mix (and Brett Lawrie is on temporary holiday). Davis is one of those high-volume rabbits who will try to steal almost every time he reaches base (he has six steals this year in very limited time), and the flexible Toronto roster plays to his advantage — if John Farrell wants Davis in the lineup, the movable legos will allow it. Davis has picked up four starts over the last week, scoring four times and swiping three bases. He's currently unowned in 97 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

View gallery

.

Chugga-chugga . . . (USP)

When Yadier Molina graduated to full-appreciation status, Carlos Ruiz probably inherited his slot as the NL's most underrated catcher. Alas, the way Ruiz is hitting, his cover might be just about blown, too. Ruiz is off to a crazy .371 push through the opening quarter, with 20 runs, seven homers, 29 RBIs and even a couple of steals. Heck, I wish my corner infielders would hit like this.

Ruiz is 100 points over his career average, so obviously some regression is on the way, but the under-the-hood stats don't spit on his blistering start. A .360 BABIP is lucky but it's not insanely lucky, and some of the batting gains have come from a career-best line-drive rate and a push forward in his ground-ball rate. The homers are the biggest fluke to this profile: I'd be shocked if he got to 20 by season's end, given that he's never had more than nine in a season. But Ruiz is a rare backstop who can handle the six-month grind of the position: his career OPS is 83 points higher in the second half. Keep chugging along, Chooch.

View Comments (22)