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Closing Time: The Juan Pierre conundrum

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One of my favorite elements of the roto games we play is the gap between what constitutes real-life value and fantasy value. In particular, there's a certain joy in getting fantasy production from a player who really isn't anything special in the real-life game.

With that theme in mind, let's talk about Juan Pierre(notes). In Chicago, he's a limited player, but for our make-believe teams, he's doing what he can.

It's not much fun watching Pierre stride to the plate these days. He's carrying a .218/.288/.218 line – that's no extra base hits, friends. He's found a way to walk seven times, which is a little ridiculous when you consider that pitchers can throw strikes to Pierre with no real risk; the ball obviously isn't going out of the park. For a brief moment Ozzie Guillen considered benching Pierre or slotting him in the No. 9 spot in the order, but Pierre is back hitting leadoff for Chicago's struggling offense.

So if you're a White Sox fan, you're probably annoyed by Juan Pierre (and several other struggling hitters). But on the fantasy side, he's keeping us at least somewhat placated by using his own bankable offensive skill – his legs.

Pierre stole a couple of bases Tuesday night, giving him a MLB-leading 14 on the season. Most of those steals have come recently, 11 bags from April 18 to present What's amazing about that stretch is that Pierre is hardly getting on base; he's got just 17 hits and three walks over those 15 games. In short, he's running almost every time he reaches base.

I've got Pierre in the Yahoo! Auction League and although I've wanted to bench him for a while, I can't do it while he's giving me this sort of categorical push. My roster has enough power elsewhere, and I can absorb the average hit. If he's going to dominate in one area, it makes him worthwhile, no matter how miscast he might be as Chicago's leadoff man (or heck, as a starter, period).

Let's not be frustrated by the gap between fantasy and reality; I say we embrace it. Our make-believe game isn't a perfect simulation of real baseball, and I've got absolutely no problem with that. Heck, it seems like you can usually get a good deal on the Pierres of the world because so many roto players hate rostering someone they don't value in real life. But at the end of the day, it's all about grabbing the right numbers, even if, in this case, they're mostly coming in just one column.

Continuing to mine this fantasy/reality gap, how about Jose Bautista(notes) in Toronto? In real life, not much of a player – he's got a .221 average, a .320 OBP, he's striking out a quarter of the time. When the Blue Jays dream of a better future, it's with the idea that they'll have better players than Bautista in the lineup. But let's appreciate the other numbers he's grabbing for us: six homers, three steals, 16 runs, 20 RBIs. According to Baseball Monster, he's been a more productive fantasy player thus far than Johnny Damon(notes), Alex Rios(notes), Matt Holliday(notes) and Pablo Sandoval(notes), to name a few.

In a perfect world, sure, give me stars who are good in both games, real and imaginary. But in our roto environment, I'm fine going ugly if I can get some inexpensive category fills out of it.

The Adam Wainwright-Cole Hamels duel in Philly Tuesday night was a beauty, baseball as it oughta be. You know what you have with those guys, no need to get into a long discussion on them. The fantasy takeaway from this game concerns Brad Lidge(notes), and for once, the news is promising.

Charlie Manuel allowed Hamels to start the ninth, ahead 1-0, and given how Hamels looked, you couldn't blame the Philly skipper. And by the time Lidge entered the game, the score was already tied, no save situation to deal with. Lidge ultimately worked out of the jam he inherited, retiring three of four men and showing a very tight slider; in short, this looked like the 2008 Lidge, not the 2009 horror show we all endured. I'll be stunned if Lidge isn't fully reinstated to the closing gig this week.

The Red Sox won their second ballgame in a row, no thanks to the slumping David Ortiz(notes) (two strikeouts, two double plays). If Mike Lowell(notes) (.317/.391/.512) doesn't get a shot at taking over Ortiz's spot soon, there might be another Tea Party in the Boston Harbor.

I'm surprised Ian Kennedy's(notes) current ownership level sits at a modest 12 percent. He's put up a positive line in five of his six starts this year, the latest coming Tuesday night (6.2 IP, 8 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 3 K) in a nifty duel against Roy Oswalt(notes). Kennedy's gopher problem (seven homers) is something to be aware of, but he's also got a solid walk/strikeout rate (10:30) and he's done a decent job of avoiding solid contact (16.5 percent line drive rate). This looks like a classic post-hype sleeper case, a former No. 1 pick finally putting it all together with a new organization.

Handshakes: With Mariano Rivera(notes) still on the shelf, Joba Chamberlain(notes) got the final three outs against Baltimore, striking out two. … Kevin Gregg(notes) continues to baffle us all, picking up save No. 7 and lowing his ERA to 0.69. … Octavio Dotel's(notes) scoreless ninth looks better in the box than it did on the set; although he allowed just one baserunner, only eight of his 17 pitches were strikes. … Chad Qualls(notes) worked a perfect inning at Houston and now has four conversions in a row. … Bruce Bochy was aggressive with his relievers in Florida, despite being on the road, and I applaud that move. Too many skippers would save their closer for a save chance that often never comes. Jeremy Affeldt(notes) and Brian Wilson(notes) worked the ninth to preserve a tie (Sergio Romo(notes) collapsed in the eighth), which is why Guillermo Mota(notes) eventually got the save chance in the 12th. … Matt Capps(notes) has now saved 11 of Washington's 14 wins. His value gets a boost from the superb set-up work Tyler Clippard(notes) is doing. … Andrew Bailey(notes) recorded another four-out save and still hasn't allowed a run this year. … Rafael Soriano(notes) struck out two of the four men he faced in Seattle. What's Horacio Ramirez(notes) doing these days, anyway? … Francisco Rodriguez looks so hittable these days, but with a 0.71 ERA and 1.03 WHIP, why worry?

Speed Round: Joe Mauer(notes) (heel) got good news with his Tuesday MRI and should be able to avoid the disabled list. … Brad Hawpe(notes) (quad) might be able to return early next week. … Ian Desmond(notes) went 2-for-4 with a homer, pushing his average up to .260. Now if the Nats would commit to him every day and maybe let him bat somewhere in the top six in the order, then we'd be onto something. … James Shields(notes) worked eight strong innings in Seattle (2 R, 0 BB, 10 K) and very quietly leads the American League with 43 whiffs. If you're in the mood for some morning trivia, try to name the three pitchers directly behind Shields on the AL strikeout parade. … Evan Meek(notes) remains Pittsburgh's best reliever (by far), but he continues to be used in front of Joel Hanrahan(notes) and Dotel. If and when Dotel blows up, it would be interesting to see if Meek's skills landed him in the ninth. … A.J. Burnett(notes) looks more like Nuke LaLoosh with every passing year. … As expected, Yunel Escobar(notes) (groin) went on the disabled list Tuesday. … Although Tim Lincecum(notes) struck out a season-high 13 in Florida, he also allowed a season-high three runs and had to settle for a no-decision. … Jorge Posada(notes) (calf) rested again Tuesday and will not play Wednesday. … Huston Street(notes) had a clean throwing session Tuesday, while temporary stopper Franklin Morales(notes) took a loss at San Diego, working in a tie game in the ninth inning. … Baseball lost a kind and decent man Tuesday with the passing of announcing legend Ernie Harwell. Rest in peace, Ernie.

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