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Flames: Motorin’ Davis worth price for flight

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The art of the stolen base is more than just speed. How fast a player gets from Point A to Point B is often overstated. It's a cerebral exercise steeped in awareness, foresight, timing and precision. Dozens of elements are observed, analyzed and processed before a burglar makes his break.

Toronto's Rajai Davis has it down to a science.

At 30-years-old, an age when many prolific base-stealers are slowly grinding to a halt, the Jays drag racer continues to be an annoying nuisance to pitcher/catcher batteries across the AL. After missing two weeks with a sprained ankle, Davis put the league back on notice. In a three game series in the Bronx, the speedster easily pick-pocketed Russell Martin, who threw out a respectable 38.5 percent of runners a season ago, swiping five bases in six opportunities.

Similar speed exhibitions should be expected.

North of the border a significant shift in methodology has occurred. Last season, hitting coach Dwayne Murphy powered up the offense by encouraging players to attack favorable pitches earlier in counts, which resulted in one of the most unpredictable long-ball campaigns in big league history, Jose Bautista's MLB-best 54 homers. A year later, first-year manager John Farrell has taken a similar approach to the basepaths. {YSP:MORE}

The pressing skipper apparently isn't a man who has time to beat around the bush. He's the type of individual who's always rooted for the hare, prefers drinking beer from a bong and, in his days as a bachelor, probably attempted to attract the opposite sex with audacious pick-up lines (e.g. "Nice shoes, want to..."). Employing aggressive tactics is imprinted on his DNA.

So far, Farrell's breakneck personality has rubbed off on his team, and heightened tension in opponent clubhouses. Don't expect the flighty Jays to slam the brakes anytime soon. From the Toronto Sun:

"We know that we are going to get thrown out but that's not going to deter us," says Farrell. "We don't want to run scared because we get a guy thrown out at third base or if we get a guy thrown out after an aggressive move on the basepaths. We want to force the issue."

Often times, infielders get a little twitchy trying to keep a runner close and that can open up holes on the infield for a hitter to hit the ball through.

"Anytime you create holes on the infield, either through movement or the threat of movement, you're creating opportunities not only for the guy at the plate but you're probably creeping into the thought patterns of the guy on the mound," said Farrell. "More times than not when you see pitchers get relaxed and into their rhythm and their groove, they become more difficult. But if you can keep that from happening, maybe it lends to a mistake or two on the plate at some point in the game."

Through the season's first month, the Jays have engineered havoc, routinely causing pitchers to become distracted and flustered. The throwback strategy, akin to the golden days of thievery in the 1980s, has attracted favorable results. Widely perceived snail Aaron Hill, for example, has seized a whopping six bags in just 16 games, four more than what he totaled over 138 appearances in 2010. In total, Toronto has swiped 33 bases, the third-most in the bigs.

With Davis healthy and prepared to unleash hell on the AL East, expect that number to climb rapidly.

Noise readers asked to provide their fearless steals forecast for Davis earlier this week via Twitter submitted varying projections ranging from 36 to 77. Assuming he staves off the injury imp, falling somewhere fairly close to the high-end appears likely. Dave Collins' club record 60 steals established in 1984 is in serious jeopardy. If Davis really revs the engine, it's conceivable he could finish second to Jose Reyes (78 in '07) for the most steals in a season this century. He will be to SBs what Bautista is to HRs, a consistency king. Throw in 90-plus runs, a healthy average and handful of homers, and he's more Jose Tabata than Juan Pierre or Michael Bourn.

The 47-percent owned leadoff man is long gone in competitive formats, but, based on his homely exterior profile (.191 BA, 0 HR, 2 RBI, 7 R, 6 SB), he can still be acquired on the cheap through trade. In one-for-one industry deals executed this week, he was swapped for Alexi Ogando, Francisco Liriano, Corey Hart and Kyle Farnsworth. Owners with a need for speed should send out a signal.

Captain Chaos is about to take off.

Fearless Forecast (rest of season): .287 BA, 5 HR, 51 RBI, 84 R, 55 SB

Interesting commodities owned in 20-percent or less of Yahoo! leagues.

Corey Patterson, Tor, OF (one-percent owned) — For the most part, Peppermint Patterson has walked an ambiguous line during his career. At times, he's flashed All-Star potential. In other instances, he's endured long, painful slumps. With Jose Bautista nursing a neck injury over the next few days, the former Cub should exude his spicy side. When thrust into the lineup, Patterson has generated serviceable production. In his past six starts, he's collected 10 hits with a homer, four RBIs and seven runs, working primarily out the two-hole. His past vulnerabilities to strikeouts is a concern, but consistently turning on more inside offerings this year, his zeal hasn't caused harm. Similar to Jason Bourgeois, the Toronto outfielder is a short-term statistical jolt capable of contributing sound across-the-board totals. Deep-thinking Charlie Browns looking for a temporary spark plug should give him/her a call.

Todd Helton, Col, 1B (11-percent) — Most would immediately dismiss Helton solely based on his advanced age (37). Though it's true the long-toothed first baseman once roamed the land alongside triceratops where Coors Field now stands, his bat hasn't quite fossilized. He's hit safely in six of his past seven games with three multi-hit performances, two homers and three RBI. This past spring, the five-time All-Star worked diligently on his swing and stance mechanics in an attempt to revive his fading production. Last season, he tallied a career-worst .256 BA. With his current contact rate almost identical to his 2007 mark (92.5) and cemented third-spot in the Rockies order, he should deliver an average at or above .300 with 80-plus RBIs. Though his power will remain modest, he's at worst a reliable corner infielder in deeper mixers. Dust off a classic.

Jason Marquis, Was, SP (11-percent) — Recommending a pitcher whose output has melted corneas in recent years may seem 10 shades of Rashard Mendenhall crazy, but only Marquis' nonbelievers are nutty. So far this season, the crafty veteran has logged a quality start in all five turns, including a complete game five-hit shutout of the reigning World Champs on April 29. Striping back the layers of the onion, the 'Nats' torrid start appears legitimate. His pinpoint control (4.80 K/BB), sterling 1.97 GB/FB, fairly normal BABIP (.306) and 3.12 xFIP all arrow to continued success. His remarkable emergence is mainly due to an increased reliance on his change. As a result, he's thrown more "quality strikes," enticed more outside swings, missed more bats and drawn considerable weak contact.  Toss in a favorable pitching environment, and the lightly owned righty is capable of 13-15 wins, a 3.85 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 140 Ks, a useful back-of-the-rotation line in deeper mixers. A take-charge effort Wednesday in Philadelphia will surely swell his ownership.

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Image courtesy of AP

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