Sat May 23 03:39pm EDT
Known as the Sacagawea of fantasy primers, the Weekly Rundown guides head-to-head owners through a forest of obscure stats and exploitable matchups in an attempt to help solve lineup conundrums. While reading, keep in mind matchups are subject to change due to managerial moves, unforeseen injuries and Mother Nature's influences. (Note: Since we're headed up I-57 to the home of Wayne and Garth (Aurora, IL), this week's Rundown is posted a day early. We'll be back next week at our normal Sunday AM time. Have a great Memorial Day weekend.)
Just five short seasons ago, Pavano was one of fantasy's brightest producers. As a member of the Florida Marlins in 2004 he racked 18 wins along with a 3.00 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 139 strikeouts. The performance earned him a sixth-place finish in the NL Cy Young race.
Signed by the Yankees for the GDP of a small island nation the following season ($39.95 million), it seemed he would carry the previous year's momentum into the Big Apple.
Unfortunately, subsequent campaigns, marred by injury and ineptitude, turned the once dependable hurler into a colossal failure. When Hideki Irabu accomplishes more in his Yankees career than you, retirement should be mandatory. At least he had lascivious thoughts of Alyssa Milano to occupy his mind while on the DL.
Because of his often abrasive attitude toward Yankees teammates, few organizations expressed interest in the beleaguered 33-year-old this past offseason. However, the Indians decided he was worth the risk. So far, their gamble has paid off.
Outwardly, his 6.10 ERA and 1.50 WHIP suggest he's an avoidable nightmare, but his underlying numbers and recent string of quality starts tell a different story. Pavano's .370 BABIP implies he's been terribly unlucky. Match that with his 3.74 FIP, much improved K/9 ('08: 3.93, '09: 7.40), pinpoint command (2.03 BB/9) and savory 1.33 GB/FB ratio, and it's clear his superficial numbers are grossly inflated.
Since May 1, Pavano's respectable 4.11 ERA, 1.27 WHIP and four wins rank in the same territory (No. 4 SP in 12-team mixed leagues) as rotation titans Josh Johnson(notes), Cliff Lee(notes) and Chad Billingsley(notes) per Baseball Monster. He even out-dueled alien life-form Zack Greinke(notes) in his last start posting an 8:1 K:BB in six innings. Though Eric Wedge was anxious to pull him once he reached his perceived upper-pitch limit, Pavano encouraged his skipper to back off:
"They were going to take me out after five. They say my stuff starts falling off after 90 pitches. But I asked for the extra inning. Traditionally, I've always got stronger the longer the season goes."
Slated to face Tampa and, appropriately, his former employer this week, the 10 percent-owned Indians anchor will need that deep-inning strength to emerge unscathed. Based on his recent returns and general misfortune, he's worth streaming in deep mixed leagues. That is, unless you're a certain super-hot, fantasy-playing eighties TV starlet.
• Ricky Romero(notes), who was mass-dropped less than two weeks ago after a lengthy DL stint, was recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas Friday. He is scheduled to take the ball Tuesday at Baltimore. Robert Ray(notes), and shockingly, Brett Cecil(notes) were optioned back to Sin City.
Prior to his oblique derailment, the 43 percent-owned Romero was one of April's biggest surprises. The former '04 first-round pick, exuding renewed confidence and an aggressive approach, went 2-0 with a marvelous 1.71 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 1.41 GB/FB in three starts. For his achievements, he received a hyperbolic Noise tongue-bath. Billy Butler(notes) and Nelson Cruz(notes) were extremely jealous.
The southpaw was noticeably unrefined in his lone effort with the 51s, conceding four earned in just five innings. But if he can recapture the form he exuded earlier this year, it's a safe assumption he will pick up where he left off.
Because the Jays will provide bountiful run support, he should be a solid across-the-board contributor over the remainder of the season. Assuming he staves off the injury imp, he's more than capable of tallying numbers over the remainder of the season around 8 W, 3.95 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 100 Ks. Scour the wire in 12-team and deeper mixed leagues.
•Future Pinstripes Prince, Austin Jackson(notes) continues to wreak havoc on Triple-A opposition. The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre outfielder, who is ranked as the Yankees top hitting prospect per Baseball America, has posted an eye-catching .341/.430/.860 line in 135 at-bats. Although he has yet to register a round-tripper, his improved eye, 20-25 SB wheels and general maturation have drawn the attention of upper management. New York GM Brian Cashman particularly has been impressed by the youngster's opposite field hitting. He also isn't worried about Jackson's sluggish power development:
"I don't think he's gotten the comfort level of turning on the ball up there at Triple-A yet. He's just getting a feel, staying within himself, taking the ball the other way, and staying nice and compact. Soon you'll start to see the guy turn on the ball. That's when you expect the power numbers to rise up."
Jackson should be a center-field fixture in the Bronx at the latest next year. With Johnny Damon(notes) and Xavier Nady(notes) slated for free agency, he's clearly the future. However, if Brett Gardner(notes) continues to struggle at the dish and/or Melky Cabrera(notes) suffered a long-term injury, he could see regular action with the senior club at some point this season, especially given his superb leather. His rubber-burning wheels and appreciable contact yields would make him useful in very deep mixed and AL-only formats.
• Battered, bruised or should not be used: Rich Harden(notes) (back, 15-day DL), Scott Kazmir(notes) (toasted shoulder/quad strain, 15-day DL), Vladimir Guerrero(notes) (chest, slated to start Monday), Michael Young(notes) (sprained foot, day-to-day), Pat Burrell(notes) (neck, expected to be activated Wednesday), Jose Reyes (calf, condition worsening), Kelvim Escobar(notes) (shoulder, touched 95 mph in rehab start, early June return possible), Travis Hafner(notes) (shoulder, may return Monday), Joey Votto(notes) (ear infection, should return to the lineup sometime over extended weekend), Chris Davis(notes) (Rob Deeritis)
For stream conscious owners who want to push the innings-pitched envelope this is the list for you. Run support, ballpark factors, historical and recent trends, opposing offenses, opposing SPs, managerial tendencies and meteorological influences are painstakingly taken into account to give you the top double dippers of each week.
Other AL Double Dippers: Jarrod Washburn(notes), Sea (at Oak, at LAA), Jeremy Guthrie(notes), Bal (Tor, Det), Brian Tallet(notes), Tor (at Bal, Bos), Nick Blackburn(notes), Min (Bos, at TB), Dallas Braden(notes), Oak (Sea, at Tex), Chris Jakubauskas(notes), Sea (at Oak, at LAA), Brett Anderson(notes) (Sea, at Tex)
FEAST OR FAMINE?
Torn between two stat-similar infielders this week? Use the pitching and hitting staff sorters below to help you decide whether or not Adam LaRoche or Rick Porcello(notes) is fantasy feast or famine. Stats are for games played through May 22:
Image courtesy of Getty