I had hopes for Roy Oswalt this year, fantasy hopes that is. I took a stab at him in NL Tout Wars. I selected him as a late-round flier in my hometown mixer, a 12-team league with deep benches. I was dreaming of a NL landing spot, a half season or so in the pitcher's league.
It's time to give up the ghost, time to toss the dreams in the trash. Oswalt signed on with the Rangers on Tuesday, and that just about makes him dead to me in a standard roto league.
If I were cranking out a new Shuffle Up for pitchers right now, I'd probably put a $4 or $5 tag on Oswalt. He's just another guy to me. Allow me to throw some cold water on Tuesday's news; here's why I'm not bullish at all:
-- Arlington is a hitter's paradise. I'm not breaking any new ground with this statement, but for the record let's re-introduce the numbers. Over the last three seasons, Rangers Ballpark has improved runs by 19 percent, batting average by seven percent, and home runs by 26 percent. And lefty power spikes by a ridiculous 31 percent in this jet stream; there's a reason why you really worry about right-handed pitchers in this yard. The southpaws have a better chance of overcoming the park; it's very difficult for righties to do it.
-- The story is still on tape delay. It might be a month before Oswalt is ready to go for the Rangers (he'll work in the minors first), and who's to say how long it will take him to be at peak sharpness? I hate wasting roster space on a wait-and-see player unless the payoff is significant.
-- Oswalt turns 35 in late August. This is no spring chicken. What's a spring chicken, anyway?
-- Oswalt wasn't anything special last year. The veteran righty made 23 starts with the Phillies, a strong club, and returned this: 9-10 record, 3.69 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 93 strikeouts in 139 innings. Do any of those numbers move you in a mixed league? He wasn't even a Top 75 starter in Yahoo! leagues last year when you crunch out the numbers. And why should we expect anything better in 2012, when Oswalt has to deal with an extended layoff, a shift to a new league, and an adjustment to an extreme hitter's park?
If you want to chew up a roster space and daydream about Oswalt the savior, the guy the Phillies saw for half a season in 2010, be my guest. I'm out on this one. I'll come back to Oswalt when he throws a few starts, maybe stream him when the matchup is right, but I have to withhold Circle of Trust privileges on this one. Oswalt's chances for a World Series ring are strong in Arlington, but he doesn't move the needle in our make-believe world.
• While Oswalt's 28-percent ownership tag looks too optimistic to me, I'm curious why Ryan Vogelsong is rostered in just 58 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Vogelsong's 2011 season came out of nowhere, but he's validating the story with another solid year - in fact, his ERA and WHIP have actually improved, slightly, in 2012.
Vogelsong had to settle for a no-decision Tuesday against Arizona, despite seven superb innings (6 H, 1 R, 3 BB, 8 K). It's no shock to see him dominating at AT&T Park: he has a 1.95 ERA and 1.15 WHIP at home since rejoining the Giants last year. The numbers swell to 3.64 and 1.40 on the road.
Wins are a cruel mistress, of course, and Vogelsong is just another case in point. He's 8-8 at home over the last eight months of on-field baseball, compared to 8-1 on the road. His teammates aren't scoring much by the bay, either. But anytime you can get your hands on a Vogelsong home turn, you want him in your lineup.
Looking ahead at the schedule, it's a good time kick the tires on Vogelsong. He'll probably be at home for his next three turns (Cubs, Rangers, Astros), and the schedule is benign when the Giants hit the road for Interleague play in mid-June (Mariners, Angels, Athletics). Even if you're in a thinner pool where Vogelsong isn't worth owning full-time, you need to jump on his upcoming schedule.
You'll enjoy watching him pitch, too; quick worker, nifty breaking ball, competitive nature. Although Vogelsong is roughly the same age as Oswalt (the San Francisco pitcher is five weeks older), his environment makes him the preferred fantasy option.
• Mark Teixeira didn't do much in New York's loss in Anaheim on Tuesday, but he's nonetheless had a terrific road trip out west, a season-fixing trip. He's currently 10-for-20 since the swing started, with four homers. The Yanks have scored 28 runs in the five games he's started.
The buy-low window is likely slammed shut in most leagues, but maybe there's still a chance for the odd deal here or there to sneak through. Teixeira's home stats in 2012 (.213/.291/.321) look like a gigantic fluke to me. Teixeira had a strong home bias in his first three New York seasons, but his OPS is 365 points higher on the road in 2012. If you can get Teixeira for an Adrian Gonzalez or a Freddie Freeman, I'll sign off. While I suspect most Teixeira owners are probably fine with him after this recent binge of production, perhaps some owners will still trade off his seasonal stats and give him away at a nice price.
• We've finally hit some smooth water in the Heath Bell cruise, with a couple of easy saves over the last two games (2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 4 K). But I shake my head when I see some pundits trumpeting the "six consecutive conversions" that Bell has turned in; while that fact is statistically correct, it completely disregards the two ninth-inning save chances Bell was removed from over the weekend. If the ensuing Florida relievers didn't do their job in those emergency spots, there's more red ink on the Bell file. When you're asked to protect a three-run lead in the ninth and you can't do it, fantasy owners should to hold it against you - even if the ghost of Jerome Holtzman doesn't.
Perhaps it's a good time to cut your losses and move Bell to a save-hungry owner. Maybe your opponent will buy into the bogus "six conversion" stat. Perhaps the other guy will ignore the ugly strikeout-walk ratio with Bell (an even 14-14). Maybe your rival hasn't noticed that the ball is jumping in Florida's new park. See what you can do with this one.
• Homer Bailey has been a roto tease for several seasons; if you've chased him in the past, you probably feel like Charlie Brown does after another kicking attempt goes awry. But he's been sharp over his last four turns (three wins, 28 IP, 7 R, 5 BB, 21 K), so it's time to reopen the argument.
Bailey's under-the-hood stats in 2012 don't look much better than his ordinary 2011 haul. Strikeouts are slightly down, walks are slightly up. Ground-ball and HR/FB rates are in normal areas. His BABIP has dropped 24 points. The peripheral-suggested ERAs say he was a better pitcher in 2011. Even if we focus on just the May starts, we're looking at a 4.33 FIP and 4.21 xFIP.
That said, I'm still willing to make Bailey a preferred streamer at the end of the day. The NL Central is a heck of a place to do your business, and the Reds have the best bullpen ERA (2.41) in the National League. Picking on the Pirates and Cubs, good work if you can get it. He draws Pittsburgh again next week, a team he's owned for his entire career (6-0, 1.79, 1.05). Sign me up.
• Rajai Davis isn't much of a treat when it comes to swinging the bat, but we do like one thing about his profile: he'll run as much as possible. He stole 34 bases (on 45 attempts) in just 95 games last year, and he's 8-for-10 in limited action this season.
Davis should be in line for a lot more run in Toronto now that Eric Thames (and his awesome facial hair) has been sent to the minors. Davis got the call Tuesday and stroked three singles, driving in two. Give this guy a shot if you're lagging in the speed column; the Rogers Centre Rabbit is owned in just four percent of Yahoo! leagues.