August 23, 2009
Oh, Boston, this one's gotta hurt. After wasting eight months of time, resources and millions of dollars in an effort to return John Smoltz(notes) to form, so as to give the Red Sox a second-half boost, the team cut him loose after eight starts produced a foul-smelling 8.32 ERA. But, as many in the fantasy community pointed out, some of the 42-year-old Smoltz's peripheral numbers, including an excellent 33:9 K-to-BB ratio in 40 IP, were much better than his overall line indicated. And his fastball velocity was only roughly one mile per hour slower than what he'd worked with in his previous four seasons.
Making his return to the Senior Circuit on Sunday against San Diego, Smoltz was finally everything that Boston hoped he could still be. At one point early in the game, he fanned seven straight hitters. Of course, this wasn't Carl Hubbell striking out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons, and Joe Cronin consecutively in the 1934 All-Star game. In fact, it was more like what you could conceive of if Smoltz had been asked to make a Triple-A start in advance of joining the Cardinals. After all the Padres are, without much argument, the worst offensive team in the league – Smoltz didn't face a hitter with a batting average north of .275. But that said, you can't help but be impressed. He threw strikes more than 70 percent of the time. His fastball was working regularly in the lower 90s, and his off-speed stuff seemed to vanish in thin air just as Padres hitters started into their swings. Smoltz was pulled after five shutout innings, having allowed just three hits and no walks while striking out nine.
St. Louis pitching coach Dave Duncan has been known to work magic with reclamation projects and I think Smoltz still has plenty to offer. His upcoming schedule sets up nicely, with Washington and Pittsburgh next on his starting agenda.
I'm almost 100 innings ahead of pace in the 12-team Yahoo! Friends and Family League, but I made the move for Smoltz after watching him for just two innings – and immediately traded him along with Max Scherzer(notes) to notorious Smoltz fetishist Craig Falzone in a deal for saves (Toronto's Jason Frasor(notes) and Scott Downs(notes)). Be it in your lineup or someone else's, there's still some life left in Smoltz, something Theo Epstein is finding out the hard way.
• Another notable senior citizen of the Senior Circuit, Pedro Martinez(notes), also took the hill on Sunday, and he beat his former New York Mets squad with six innings of four-run ball. There was nothing overly impressive with his performance, as he allowed seven hits and two home runs. But, he was able to pick up his second victory in three starts thanks to another highly supportive effort from the Philly offense. The top scoring unit in the NL picked up Martinez with eight runs through the first six innings of the game. Martinez has now been helped by 23 runs of support in his 14 innings pitched this season. He may get hit around a bit, but so long as he keeps the walks to a minimum (just two, thus far), he's got good enough stuff left and plenty of firepower behind him to continue picking up victories on the cheap.
• In his first save opportunity since replacing Kevin Gregg(notes) as closer, Carlos Marmol(notes) retired the Los Angeles Dodgers in dominating 1-2-3 fashion (fanning two) to preserve the Cubs' 3-1 lead. It was his fifth consecutive outing without allowing a walk or a run. For a pitcher with the highest BB/9 rate (8.16) in the league among those with 50-plus IP, that's a very encouraging trend.
• Fausto Carmona(notes) is playing himself back into roto spot-start consideration. In limiting the Mariners to one run through seven innings, he's now been serviceable, if victorious only once, in each of his past five outings. In that span (combined 29 innings), he's produced a 2.79 ERA. The rub here remains the same, however, as shaky control keeps the WHIP unsavory and he doesn't strike many hitters out, save a season-high eight whiffs and a season-low one walk today. His confidence seemed to grow by leaps and bounds with each passing inning against Seattle. He had great movement on his off-speed pitches and was able to spot them in the right places. The Mariners hitters didn't do themselves any favors, either, by showing a lack of patience. After the game, manager Eric Wedge said, "Fausto's stuff has always been good, but he's doing a better job of monitoring himself. He controls his emotions. He was more of a thrower two years ago. Now, he's more efficient." Of course, two years ago, Carmona won 19 games and produced his lowest ERA, WHIP and BB/9 rate of his career, so don't read too much into that comment. Just know that things are starting to take a turn for the positive and we'll leave it at that.
• I have no idea what Cleveland management is thinking, but the way things are going, I'm guessing there's a pretty good chance Chris Perez(notes) will be closing out games for the Indians at some point next season. In his past 15.1 IP, he has allowed just five hits and no runs while posting a 19:4 K-to-BB ratio. He set down the Mariners in the ninth on Sunday with relative ease, fanning two while giving up just a double to Jack Hanrahan. He was spotting his 95-96 mph fastball and he also showed very nice control of his biting curveball. The 32-year-old Kerry Wood(notes) has been a wild ride this season with blown saves in 25 percent of his opportunities (15-for-20) and an ERA sitting at 4.70. With the Tribe in the midst of a major youth movement, Wood sticks out like a sore thumb. The team owes him $10.5 million next season, and would owe him another $11 million in 2011 if an option gets triggered as the result of 55 games finished in either 2009 or 2010 – he has 39 GF this season. I'm betting that the Indians will make every effort to avoid such a situation. And it wouldn't be surprising if the team looks to work some kind of deal where it would be willing to absorb some of his salary if another team agrees to take him off their hands.
• Need to take care of that power headache? Just like the pursuit of 222s, you may have to look for a solution north of the border. Randy Ruiz(notes) and Travis Snider(notes), both called up in the past couple weeks, have been providing pop to the Blue Jays lineup since their arrivals. On Sunday, Ruiz hit a three-run double, the 11th game he's collected a hit in his dozen games in a Blue Jays uniform. Snider also joined the party, hitting his second home run in the six games since his August 18th return to Toronto. Snider is the more popular of the two in Yahoo! Plus leagues, where he is 17 percent owned compared to just two percent employment for Ruiz. But the elder Ruiz, who has a more desirable spot in the batting order and substantially more minor-league seasoning, might prove to be the better short-term play. The 31-year-old landed just his second Major League promotion by virtue of 25 home runs and a .320 batting average in 114 games at Triple-A Las Vegas this season. In his past 247 games at the Triple-A level, he's hit .311 with 46 home runs. In fact, despite striking out at a per game clip throughout his professional career, he's managed to hit near .300 at every step of the way.
• A recent blog post in the Seattle Times contends that Seattle's Felix Hernandez(notes) is, along with Roy Halladay(notes), Zack Greinke(notes), Josh Beckett(notes) and CC Sabathia(notes), squarely in the mix for the AL Cy Young Award. But he won't be for long if he continues to pitch with the lack of focus that allowed Cleveland to score six times against him (three earned) on Sunday. While he didn't walk an Indians hitter in his six inning loss, he did not do a very good job of locating his pitches when it counted. The Indians struggled with Hernandez's off-speed stuff all day, but the "King" was hurt by the carelessness of leaving pitches out over the plate when he had a hitter against the ropes. This was Hernandez's fourth consecutive start without earning a victory. He probably needs at least five more wins to have a serious shot at the Cy Young hardware. I think this is a pretty good conversation topic for the comments section. Throwing Justin Verlander(notes) into the mix, which AL pitcher (Hernandez, Halladay, Greinke, Beckett, Sabathia or Verlander) do you think ends up with the award when all is said and done? As a Seattle fan, I'm rooting for Hernandez. But something tells me that Beckett is going to win out in the end.
• Unlike the pitchers above, Texas' Scott Feldman(notes) won't get much Cy Young consideration. But, of those six pitchers mentioned as contending for the AL's top pitcher award, only Sabathia has been better than Feldman in August. Feldman shut out Tampa Bay on Sunday for seven innings, amassing a career-high 11 strikeouts in the process. The victory was his fourth straight and he's now tied for sixth in the league with 13 victories on the season.
• Adam Jones(notes), who is hitting just .236 post-break, hit a double off White Sox starter Mark Buehrle(notes) in the first inning, but he had to leave the game in the bottom half of the first because of back spasms. It wouldn't be surprising if this leads to another game or two of R&R.
• Jeremy Hermida(notes) had a very nice at-bat against Rafael Soriano(notes), who closed out Atlanta's win against Florida with his typically nasty stuff. Hermida fought off 96 mph heat and some strong breaking balls before shooting the ball back up the box off Soriano to keep the Marlins' comeback hopes alive. His strikeouts are down this month and he has a couple recent home runs. Nobody can accuse me of being a Hermida proponent through the years, but something tells me he's in for a nice run to close out the season. Available in more than half of Yahoo! Plus leagues, he's someone I'd buy stock in right now if I needed an outfield facelift.
• Atlanta outfielder Matt Diaz(notes), owned in 10 percent of Y! Plus leagues, picked up four more hits today. In his past nine games he's hitting .483 with three home runs, eight runs batted in and nine runs scored. Since August 15th, BaseballMonster.com rates him the No. 5 most valuable 5x5 offensive player in the league.
• Hot catcher pickup of the week? Carlos Ruiz(notes) (it was a good day for Ruiz's). The Phillies backstop hit his third home run in his past five games in the victory over the Mets. He's just five percent owned in Yahoo! Plus leagues.
• I made the move for Arizona's Ryan Roberts(notes) in the Y! Friends and Family League after his four-hit performance today. I like his three-position versatility (2/3/OF), his No. 2 spot in the D-Backs batting order and his .358 batting average in August.
• New York Mets outfielder Angel Pagan(notes) hit two home runs off Pedro Martinez out of the leadoff spot. He's now hit in each of the past eight games. Mets first baseman Daniel Murphy(notes) added three hits, which means he now has a nine-game hitting streak. But both pale in comparison to what teammate Luis Castillo(notes), just 22 percent owned in Yahoo! Plus leagues, has done of late. Castillo collected three hits today, giving him six consecutive multi-hit performances. And in his past 18 games, he's hitting a scorching .452.
Alright, there were some other notable performances, but this should serve as a good conversation starter. Let's hear what you have to say …