Buzzing on Yahoo Sports:

Roto Arcade

Opening Time: When it comes to scoring, AL East still rules the world

Scott Pianowski
Roto Arcade

View gallery


Brandon Morrow's LA start was a snap (US Presswire)

The AL East narrative is something I talk about often in this space, the idea that it's very dangerous to try to make a mixed-league living with pitchers in this division. Four of the five parks in the group are friendly with runs and/or homers, and there are some loaded bats with these teams besides.

But every so often you need to go to the numbers and make sure everything is calibrated properly, verify the compass is set right. That's today's assignment. And as it turns out, the narrative holds; the division is as dangerous as ever. The crooked number is alive and well in the big-boy division.

You won't find the AL East represented at the very top of the runs board (that's where Texas sits), and the Cardinals currently are second in the majors in scoring (it will be interesting if they can stick there as injuries keep hammering them). But once those two clubs are out of the way, the east-coast bias starts kicking in.

Boston is tied for third in the majors, sitting at 200 runs; if the Red Sox sputter out in 2012, it won't be on account of the bats. The Orioles and Yankees (177 runs) are tied for fifth, followed by the Blue Jays (175 runs, eighth) and Rays (171 runs, ninth). There's no easy mark in this group, no day off, no matchup to exploit. All five teams are in the Top 8 in homers as well, with Baltimore (60 home runs) and New York (58 John Sterling monologues) showing the way.

Don't be tripped up by antiquated ways of evaluating offense as you look at team stats. The Jays are 24th in batting average, but so what? The name of the game is crossing home plate. Tampa Bay (16th) and Baltimore (14th) also lag in average, but it doesn't matter.

Speed can also be an overrated commodity, especially in the slow-pitch softball league. The Orioles are the worst stolen-base team in the majors, both in bags swiped (11) and success rate (50 percent). Big deal, they're still putting up crooked numbers. Boston isn't much better, sitting 13-for-23. But the entire division grades out well if you look at on-base percentage, slugging percentage, or (naturally) OPS. Get on base regularly, and knock the ball far when you do make contact — that's what moves the needle.

If you're looking for offenses to pick on, the usual rules of thumb apply. Ten of the 15 teams at the bottom of the runs page are NL clubs. Pitching-friendly parks still do the trick: the Padres are 29th in scoring, the Athletics 27th, the Giants 26th. We talked about the Pirates early in the year as a cushy matchup and that hasn't changed; they're dead last in scoring. Minnesota is another soft spot that's been documented; despite an 11-run explosion in Detroit on Wednesday, the Twins are still the worst-scoring club in the AL. Minnesota welcomed Justin Morneau back to the lineup this week, but it's offset by Ryan Doumit's calf strain (though Doumit might not need a DL stint, as initially feared).

View gallery


Big Time in the Bronx (USP)

Some star pitchers are going to be able to beat the AL East environment; they're simply too talented. It would be foolish to try to talk fantasy owners out of CC Sabathia, David Price or James Shields. All my Boston pessimism to the side, Jon Lester is a solid fantasy play, even if he might fall short of his national reputation. There will be others who run uphill and still come out ahead.

But can someone like Brandon Morrow handle the rough-and-tumble division? His splits thus far show a clean break: he's 4-0 outside the division and 0-2 inside the pool; he's allowed 16 runs in the AL East (11 earned) as opposed to four runs (two earned) in the easier draws. Morrow's K/BB ratio is 13/8 against the big kids, and 33/8 against everyone else.

Morrow should be fine against the Mets in his next start, but then he draws the Rangers (in Arlington), Orioles and Red Sox. Do you feel confident he can handle that type of schedule? I'd sell high on the pretty numbers while they're still there.

If you want the 180-degree opposite of Morrow, take a look at Tommy Milone in Oakland. While Morrow is a hard-throwing righty who makes scouts drool, Milone is a soft-serving lefty who does surgery in the 80s. Morrow has to dodge a bunch of risky parks, while Milone enjoys the pitcher-friendly environment of Oakland's gigantic stadium (and regular visits to Seattle and Anaheim). Milone's ERA is a sterling 0.39 in his three Oakland turns, but it swells to 7.16 on the road. Trips to Fenway Park (eight runs, seven earned) and Tampa Bay (five runs) did the most damage to Milone's bottom line; there's that east-coast swing again.

Milone probably shouldn't be used in Arlington, either — that's the most dangerous place in the majors right now — though he held up admirably in his Wednesday start there (7 IP, 9 H, 4 R, 1 BB, 4 K). If you can hang in against these ridiculous Rangers, you move up on the trust clipboard. Mayday's next three starts look reasonable enough: at home against the Angels (good), at home against the Yankees (you call it), and on the road at Kansas City (that works).

One reason I'm prepared to slot Milone fairly high with the stream police  is his ability to get batters to swing at his pitch. He's currently getting hitters to offer at 34.3 percent of his tosses outside the strike zone; that's third-best in the majors. In a nutshell, that's what knowing how to pitch really means. I'm also in on the NL leaders in this stat, Jeff Samardzija and Ryan Dempster.

While you consider the pros and cons of division and parks, let's take a quick look around some of the other Wednesday-specific happenings around the fantasy world:

• The misses keep coming for Rickie Weeks: he donned a golden sombrero (four punchouts) in Wednesday's loss at Houston, pushing his strikeout rate over 30 percent for the season and pushing his batting average down to .154. All hasn't been lost with Weeks's batting eye this season, mind you — he's walking 14.7 percent of the time, and as Jack Moore notes in this intriguing piece, Weeks laid off some tricky borderline pitches in Wednesday's ballgame. But when you add in the never-ending injury risk of Weeks (he's played one full year in the majors), his career .251 average, and his declining interest in stealing bases, this isn't someone I want to take the chance on. If you have a pro-Weeks stance, you're welcome to offer it up in the comments.

View gallery


Mike Matheny Group (USP)

• If the Cardinals can simply stay reasonably healthy, they look like the clear National League favorites to me, a very deep club that can pile on the runs, beat you with sharp pitching, or both. But the medical file is getting complicated with the Redbirds of late; it's time to see what Mike Matheny is made of in the manager's chair.

Jon Jay (shoulder) landed on the DL on Tuesday, a big hit given the team's lack of options in center field. Carlos Beltran's monster start hit a rough patch this week as he deals with a balky knee, and breakout star Allen Craig (hamstring) is day-to-day after pulling up lame in Wednesday's victory at San Francisco. Lance Berkman (calf) is back in the mix after a DL stint, but at age 36, we can't automatically assume he'll be a set-it-and-forget-it player for the rest of 2012.

I was prepared to give Craig a very lofty rank in the next Outfield Shuffle, which comes to you this afternoon. I'm still of the mindset that he'll play 5-7 times a week, no matter what other Cardinals are healthy — his bat is too valuable. And while Craig is never going to be a plus defender, at least he's capable of taking the field at several different spots (left field, right field, first base, third base, maybe even second in a pinch). Matheny is no dummy: he'll find a way to keep Craig's bat in the middle of the order.

• What do we make of Carlos Zambrano's fast start? Big Z is carrying a 1.88 ERA and 1.04 WHIP after seven turns, and it hasn't really been a story driven by Miami's home park: his numbers are much better on the road. He's still more wild than we'd like (17 walks over 48 innings), but at least the strikeout count (39) keeps the K/BB ratio safely over 2/1. I'm a little leery about Zambrano in an AL park this weekend — even if Cleveland doesn't ordinarily move the needle — but after that he gets two home turns, working against Colorado and Washington. I'll sign up for those assignments.

• Frank Francisco hasn't pitched since Monday's rocky save against the Brewers, but sometimes your stock goes up simply by watching other pitchers kick it around. Jon Rauch's neck tattoo didn't scare the Reds on Wednesday (one out, three runs in the eighth inning) and he wound up saddled with the loss. Bobby Parnell has been reliable as New York's other high-leverage reliever (2.12 ERA, nine straight scoreless outings), so we have to keep him in mind as a possible hedge. Parnell has 17 whiffs against three walks for his 17 innings this year.

Parnell was so-so as the late-season closer at the end of 2011, however; he was handed 10 standard save chances over the final five weeks (ninth-inning work) and converted just 6-of-10. It's not enough to eliminate Parnell from closing at some point this year, but it might be enough to keep Parnell locked into the No. 3 role for now.

Sign up for Yahoo Fantasy Hockey
View Comments (31)

Recommended for You

  • Mark Cuban made comments about the NFL six months ago and he was right

    Peter King of Sports Illustrated looks back at the comments from Maverick owner Mark Cuban about the future of the NFL. ESPN's Marc Stein has a great write up about the premiere of the Berlin Tall's new movie.

    SB Nation
  • Report: Steelers will sign OLB James Harrison this week

    James Harrison will return to Pittsburgh, according to NFLN's Ian Rapoport. The #Steelers will be signing their own former star LB James Harrison over the next few days, I’m told. — Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) September 22, 2014 James Harrison is

    SB Nation51 mins ago
    Sun, Sep 21
    Pittsburgh37 - 19Carolina
    Game Recap
  • DeSean Jackson doesn't realize the Washington Redskins lost to the Eagles

    Apparently Washington Redskins wide receiver DeSean Jackson did not realize his team lost to the Philadelphia Eagles yesterday. Yeah, Jackson scored, he taunted Eagles players and fans, and he got his 'revenge' on this play. Check the scoreboard, DeSean.

    SB Nation
    Sun, Sep 21
    Washington34 - 37Philadelphia
    Game Recap
  • GIF: Brock Lesnar Curb Stomped by Seth Rollins at WWE Night of Champions 2014

    At some point or another it was decided that the finish to the Brock Lesnar vs. John Cena rematch at Night of Champions on Sept. 21, 2014, in Nashville, Tennessee would feature a run-in from Seth Rollins. It was also decided that Lesnar, vulnerable thanks to Cena spamming finishers for the last 10…

    SB Nation
  • Why The Cleveland Browns' Awesome Fake Play For Johnny Manziel Was Illegal

    CBS Johnny's catch didn't count. The Cleveland Browns have used Johnny Manziel sparingly so far, but on Sunday, they attempted a creative fake play that nearly resulted in a 40-yard gain.  After a failed rush play with Manziel as the quarterback, he ran to the sidelines as quarterback Brian Hoyer…

    Business Insider
    Sun, Sep 21
    Baltimore23 - 21Cleveland
    Game Recap
  • Man Told to Sell Lamborghini Golf Cart or Lose Wife

    RELATED: See photos of another great Lamborghini from 1999 – the Diablo GTR The 36-volt Lamborghini golf cart comes fitted with leather seats, which he confirms he will be sure to fart on as much as possible, as well an auxiliary charger, spare seat, manual, spare parts, and a headrest, which he…

  • Darnell Dockett has tickets for Cardinals fan getting in a brawl with 49ers fans

    Sunday was kind of a wild day at the 49ers-Cardinals game. Aside from just the loss, 49ers and Cardinals fans got into a nasty brawl in the stands. It's a really nasty fight, with quite a bit of blood on the ground as the fight wrapped up. It seemed

    SB Nation
  • Play

    LeBron & CP3 -- Train Together By Day ... Party Together By Night

    Work hard, play hard ... that's the way it was for LeBron James and Chris Paul Sunday -- who hit the gym together during the day and the CLUB together at night. LeBron and CP3 spent their Sunday training at the gym at UCLA with Bron's Cleveland Cavs teammate Tristan Thompson ... and even posted a…

  • Seahawks injury report: Kam Chancellor mulled surgery; Seattle heads into their bye relatively healthy

    The Seahawks head into a Week 4 bye and look pretty good on the injury front, especially when compared to some of the crazy attrition that teams are experiencing this season. For Seattle, the main scare this week happened when Russell Okung went down and appeared to be holding his pectoral muscle…

    SB Nation
    Sun, Sep 21
    Denver20 - 26Seattle
    Game Recap
  • Undertaker rumors of poor health seemingly debunked by his wife, Michelle McCool

    Over the weekend, a weird rumor started making the rounds that Undertaker is in poor health or bad shape or whatever other term you want to use to signify someone is not doing well physically. The source for this was, apparently, Limp Bizkit lead singer Fred Durst, who reportedly dedicated a song…

    SB Nation
  • Chris Weidman Sidelined, Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler Rematch Now Headlines UFC 181

    The Ultimate Fighting Championship on Monday announced that middleweight champion Chris Weidman has been injured and forced out of his fight with Vitor Belfort on Dec. 6 in Las Vegas. Weidman, according to UFC officials, suffered a hand injury in training, leaving him unable to compete at UFC 181.…

    MMA Weekly
  • Manning exposed: Seahawks win, Richard Sherman continues his season of subdued dominance

    Not nearly as easy as the Super Bowl, Seattle ended up just being a little better at defense than Denver was. Going into the Seattle Seahawks game against the Denver Broncos on Sunday, we had a very convenient frame of reference as far as what we might expect to see. After all, no other two teams…

    SB Nation
  • Play

    Are the overtime rules fair?

    After the Seattle Seahawks scored a touchdown on their first drive of overtime Sunday, not allowing the Denver Broncos a chance to answer. The "NFL AM" crew debates if the current overtime rules are fair to both teams.

    NFL Highlights
  • Gareth Bale kicks the ball at Luka Modric's face

    You know what hurts more than seeing Gareth Bale and Luka Modric scoring amazing goals and winning trophies like we always hoped they would do for Tottenham Hotspur? Watching them turn on each other. GARETH BALE KICKED THE BALL AT LUKA MODRIC'S

    SB Nation
  • Lakers sign Wayne Ellington

    The Lakers have added depth to their wing rotation with the former Tar Heel. The Los Angeles Lakers have signed unrestricted free agent Wayne Ellington, the team announced via press release. Ellington was traded to the New York Knicks in the deal that sent Tyson Chandler back to the Dallas…

    SB Nation
  • Jim Harbaugh talks offensive game-plan, officiating, adjustments

    San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh met with the media Monday afternoon. We've got a transcript of all he discussed. When you look over the stats at the end of the game and see that RB Frank Gore had only had six carries and RB Carlos Hyde

    SB Nation
    Sun, Sep 21
    San Francisco14 - 23Arizona
    Game Recap
  • Derek Jeter as you've never seen him before, Yankees star finally opens up

    Derek Jeter has done an exceptional job of becoming one of the famous athletes in pro sports without ever revealing too much of himself. In the give-and-take that is the modern press, where you have to expose so much of yourself to get noticed anymore, Jeter's always played his own game. As Jeter…

    Big League Stew