Hopefully you enjoyed San Diego's three-day stop in Colorado, where Chase Headley is a golden god and the runs flow freely. We're now back to Petco Park for a while, where offense is frowned upon and most games come down to penalty kicks. Keep your phone charged and have your clipboard ready; we want to take full advantage of the upcoming schedule.
The Friars were in tiptoe mode as they opened a homestand Thursday night, managing just four hits in a 2-0 loss to Philadelphia. Vance Worley had his good stuff from the opening pitch (7 IP, 4 H, 3 BB, 11 K), but good stuff isn't a requirement when you're up against an underwhelming offense in a gigantic park. The punchless Padres are slashing at .213/.308/.333 for the season, with just 48 runs in 14 games. If you take the Coors Field trip off the spreadsheet, the Padres are averaging 2.5 runs per match. And they've also struck out a league-high 121 times.
The next 15 San Diego games will be played in big yards: 12 home dates, and a three-game trip to San Francisco. And there will be plenty of big-name pitchers who get to take advantage of the matchup. Cole Hamels and Doc Halladay are ready to go the next two nights, the Giants will have their Big 3 (yes, that includes Timmy) in line for the AT&T series, and Jordan Zimmermann also makes a visit to Southern California. No strategy required on those names, it's plug-and-play.
But what about the fringe pitchers, the streamable one-night-only types? There are some of those coming, too.
Joe Blanton doesn't have any impressive skills, but you might want to dial him up Sunday, especially if you're behind the pitching 8-ball in a head to head league. Edwin Jackson deserves a start next week, no matter that the Astros just kicked him around. If you're in a deep pool, Ross Detwiler might be clickable prior to next Thursday's turn. Why run uphill when you don't have to?
There's another Petco takeaway to consider as we dive into this extended home schedule: visiting batters have to deal with the wide expanses, too. If you're on the fence between a couple of similar bats, you can use Petco Park as your tiebreaker. Left-handed power is a notable drain here, taxed 37 percent over the last three seasons (thanks, Bill James Handbook). Righty power is closer to neutral (just a two-percent drop), but hitters from both sides of the plate deal with a 12-percent hit on batting average. Numbers are your friend, and in the end, gravity always wins.
• Outcome bias might have you believe that Yu Darvish made significant gains with his third start (6.1 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 5 BB, 5 K), a win at Detroit, but I'm curbing my enthusiasm. The walk total absolutely has to come down, of course, and he needs to get ahead of hitters more often (he threw just 13 of 26 first-pitch strikes against the Tigers). He's only getting swinging strikes 7.5 percent of the time, below the league average. Darvish's pitches are still moving like crazy, but until he has more of a sense of where they're going, he won't be a special fantasy commodity. Call him a No. 3 or a No. 4 arm for mixed-league purposes; if someone wants to treat him as a Top 20-25 starter, start selling right away.
Darvish can't complain about the offensive support he's receiving, of course: the Texas juggernaut leads the majors in a host of key categories (runs, average, OBP, slugging). The Rangers have piled up 27 runs in Darvish's three starts, pushing him to 2-0. He's up against the Yankees next week, an intriguing matchup (I can only imagine how many runs Phil Hughes might give up in Arlington).
• With Lance Berkman (calf) landing on the disabled list, Matt Carpenter is in line to play every day for a while. Carpenter's off to a strong push in part-time duty this spring (.321, one homer, 11 RBIs), though a big chunk of that production (four hits, five RBIs) came in one game. He was known for his average and batting eye in the minors, but not for power (it slashes out to .300/.408/.451 over 333 bush-league games). And given that he's already 26, this isn't some young, high-upside prospect we should be hot and bothered for. Go ahead and sign Carpenter to a temporary contract in the deeper pools, but in medium and shallow mixed, you need to aim higher.
• In theory you want to be impartial on this line of work, bit sometimes you can't help it: favorites are going to emerge. I'd blow off a friend's wedding if Fred Couples were in contention for a major, but I'd root for Botulism before Tiger Woods. Nathan Horton, I'm in. Roberto Luong, I'm out (and these days, so is he). Kevin Durant's personality works for me, but I hope LeBron James never wins a thing. On and on it goes.
Curtis Granderson is one of the good guys, one of my pet players. He earned a favorable rep as a grounded, salt-of-the-earth guy when he broke in with Detroit, and it doesn't seem like New York has changed him at all. I know we're just in this roto game for the numbers, but I can't help but enjoy it more when the good guys post the big stats.
Granderson gave us the signature moment of the young season in Thursday's victory over Minnesota, crushing home runs in the first, second and fourth inning. I'm happy to steer you to the Granderson video, just make sure you mute your computer first (no one wants to listen to Michael Kay's stupid home run call). Granderson added a couple of singles later in the game, finishing 5-for-5. Other than a pickoff in the eighth inning, it was a perfect night.
Granderson's monstrous 2011 season was as much about balance as anything else: he had a breakout year against left-handed pitching, and his home and road splits were very similar. His early 2012 returns are slanted in the areas you might guess - all of his six homers have come against right-handed pitching and almost all of his production has been in New York - but based on what we saw last year, I'm not expecting this significant slant to continue. The Yankees have been steering him to sixth in the order against most lefties, a little annoying for Granderson's run count, but there's no reason to downgrade the stock. If you were redrafting for your mixer this afternoon, Grandy would make sense in the Top 12-15 picks; three areas of dominance (and a few stolen bases thrown in) are worth it, no matter what you make of the batting-average risk.
• While I don't want to be too hard on Jeff Samardzija's messy turn at Miami (there were some cheap runs scored off him, most notably on Logan Morrison's broken-bat single in the first inning), his control never showed up Thursday and that's always going to be the bottom line with him. When you see five walks against three strikeouts from this kind of pitcher, the rest of the linescore doesn't even matter (for the record: 3.2 IP 8 H, 5 R, 88 pitches). I can't trust Samardzija next week against a Cardinals team that's scoring runs by the truckload, no matter that he beat this group last week.
The Marlins are suddenly feeling good about themselves, grabbing four straight wins and letting the Ozzie Guillen story fade away. Heath Bell recorded his second save in as many games, striking out two of the three batters he faced. Emilio Bonifacio is enjoying the green light, rolling up nine quick steals and a .340 average out of the No. 2 slot.
• A mental day to refresh has done wonders for Freddie Freeman; he's on a 7-for-13 binge with three homers over the last three games. Why was he selected 60 picks later than Eric Hosmer this spring, on average? Their slash lines from 2011 were very similar. I see the case for Hosmer having a higher upside, but I don't think it's big enough to justify this sort of gap.
Mike Minor was another Braves kid wowing them in Arizona, rolling through the Snakes over eight terrific innings (5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 9 K). He's rebounded nicely from a bad opener in New York (wins over Milwaukee and Arizona boost your credibility), and you'll certainly want to play the lefty at Chavez Ravine next week (perhaps linking with the Vin Scully broadcast). Here's some scouting video to add to your files. Circle of Trust? You bet.
The Josh Collmenter start for Arizona was a mixed bag; he was in a 2-2 tie beginning the sixth inning, then ran out of gas (final line: 5.1 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 1 BB, 4 K). While that's not a dominant effort by any means, it's not bad enough to force the team to make an immediate move. The Arizona bats didn't do a lot in this game, but I'd like to point out Gerardo Parra's third stolen base. The Snakes face three Atlanta righties over the weekend, which should push Parra near the top of the lineup. He's available for pickup in 97 percent of Yahoo! Nation.
• Brandon League started the year off 5-for-5 on save conversions (without allowing a run), so we can't get that upset over his choppy blown save Thursday against Cleveland (2 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 1 K). He's earned some leash. That said, it's possible League might on the trading block later this summer — non-contending clubs really don't need a closer — so make sure you keep an eye on intriguing set-up reliever Tom Wilhelmsen, a 6-foot-6 righty who's already collected 12 strikeouts (against just three walks) over 10 strong innings. You want a late-inning reliever who looks the part, this is your guy.
I was in the mood for a Chris Perez giveback in the bottom of the ninth (it's a little like rooting for overtime in the Stanley Cup Playoffs), but the controversial closer strolled through the middle of Seattle's order on just 10 pitches. He's now clicked on four straight save chances after his public meltdown on opening day. Perez's handshake made a winner out of Josh Tomlin, while brilliant Felix Hernandez (8 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 12 K) was forced to accept a no-decision.
• At what point might the Angels hit the panic button, or at least shake things up a little? The Halos are off to a 4-9 start and they haven't looked good getting there. Los Angeles outhit Oakland 10-3 on Thursday, but the Angels couldn't get a key knock with runners on base. Albert Pujols did come through with three doubles (the second one missed a home run by about two inches), but the three batters in front of him combined to go 1-for-14. It will be interesting to see how Baltimore fares in the OC this weekend.
Soft-serve lefty Tom Milone got the win for the Athletics, dodging trouble through five innings (7 H, 2 R, 1 BB, 3 K). I'm concerned at how he'll hold up the second and third time through the league, once batters have had a good look at him. Grant Balfour hasn't been piling up strikeouts (just five over nine innings of work), but with a 1.00 ERA and four straight conversions, his job is plenty secure.
Oakland middleman Fautino De Los Santos is struggling to find his way; although he hasn't allowed a run yet this year, he's put five men on base through three innings and he didn't retire either batter he faced Thursday. Maybe he's a stealth closer candidate later in the season (Balfour will be shopped), but right now De Los Santos is just another pitcher looking for command and a consistent release point.