By Andy Behrens
May 7, 2007
The fourth annual Roger Clemens Sweepstakes ended over the weekend, and we now have answers to these two questions: "For whom will he pitch?" and "How much will he cost?" It's the Yankees and approximately $26 million, including salary and luxury tax.
Only two important Clemens questions remain: "When will he make his first start?" and "How long before the Astros dump Koby?" Early indications are that Roger will leave the B12 Ranch and make his 2007 debut by the end of May. New York has a weekend series at Fenway June 1-3, and you can reasonably expect Clemens to participate in some non-ceremonial way.
Twenty-year-old Koby is hitting .237 for Single-A Lexington, just so you know.
The Clemens signing won't necessarily force Phil Hughes out of the Yankees rotation, as Kei Igawa – that's Japanese for "Carl Pavano" – has been mauled in two of his last three starts. Igawa allowed eight earned runs to the Mariners on Friday, giving up three doubles and three homers in four innings pitched. Hughes has been dropped in a bunch of leagues, which seems unwise for two reasons: first of all, he's DL-eligible and the hamstring injury doesn't sound too severe; secondly, he was pitching a no-hitter when he got hurt. His performance certainly earned him additional starts. If Hughes was released in your league, he's definitely worth a waiver flier.
Know who looks awful? Chad Cordero. He blew his fourth save of the season Sunday at Wrigley Field. It began, as many blown saves do, with a walk. Cliff Floyd reached base to start the ninth, watching four consecutive 89 mph fastballs drift harmlessly outside. Basically every pitch Cordero threw was between 88 and 91 mph, and he couldn't find the strike zone if you'd given him a Sherpa, a lantern and GPS system. He stunk. If he threw the slider at all, it did little to identify itself as a breaking pitch. Cordero looks nothing like the guy who once saved 47 games with a sub-1.00 WHIP. Cub fans might've thought the 2004 version of Joe Borowski was closing for the Nationals.
So what, if anything, will the Nats do with him? Nothing, apparently. Washington manager Manny Acta told the Nats website, "We'll keep throwing him out there. We don't have other options. And even if we had them – I mean, this is a guy who has been a premier closer in this league for the last few years, so we have to get him right." That's not an irrational approach, really. No other member of the Nats bullpen has anything like Cordero's track record. If there's nothing physically wrong with him, he's likely to keep the closing gig for awhile. However, it certainly appears that something is at least mechanically wrong. Recall that Cordero was the subject of offseason trade rumors; a demotion or DL stint wouldn't help his trade value.
Every closer is ownable in a 12-team 5x5 league, so fantasy owners need to suffer through this. Unless of course you can find a place to trade Cordero. You really never know what a save-starved owner might be willing to deal. In one-for-one trades over the weekend, Chad Cordero was dealt for Johnny Damon, Ichiro Suzuki, and Jim Thome.
By the way, I've received lots of emails telling me that closers on bad teams are useless. I'll assume these emails are coming from the same folks who drafted Joe Nathan and Billy Wagner back-to-back in the fourth and fifth rounds. Closers on bad teams can absolutely be owned. In fact, they're often among the better value picks and waiver adds of the fantasy season. Was J.J. Putz so bad last year? How about Danys Baez in 2005? He had 41 saves for a 67-win team. Jose Mesa saved 43 games for a 72-win Pittsburgh team in 2004. This is one of the reasons why "Thou shalt not select closers early in a draft" is an unassailable fantasy commandment. If Cordero had converted all eight of his save chances, he'd be fifth among NL closers right now. The real problem with him is that he's pitching poorly, not that the Nats are so bad.
The "biceps strain" appears to be the must-have injury of the moment, replacing the oblique strain. John Patterson landed on the DL with biceps soreness, and Bartolo Colon left his start against the White Sox on Sunday with similar symptoms. I have no formal medical training, but I believe that in humans, the biceps is located somewhere between the elbow and shoulder. So don't be surprised if one of these strains turns out to be something more serious.
In the days ahead I'm certain to get a pile of reader feedback like this: "Nice call on Tim Lincecum, you (expletive) 'expert' (expletive)!" Well, that's OK. If you actually watched the Phillies-Giants game on Sunday night, you had to be a little impressed. Lincecum's fastball had obvious movement, and it was consistently 94-98 mph. His curve – when he wasn't lobbing it over the dead-center of the plate to Shane Victorino – was as good as advertised. Sunday night Lincecum simply got a lesson that you can't get in Triple-A, where hitters won't make you pay such a severe penalty for missing in the strike zone. When he put his fastball on the outer edge to Ryan Howard, it was a swinging strike; when he put it three inches closer to Howard's hands, it traveled 440 feet.
My advice, not surprisingly, is to be patient with Lincecum. You might recall that Cole Hamels posted a 5.44 ERA and 1.52 WHIP before the All-Star break last season, then became a dominant starter in the second half. Rich Hill was even more extreme, putting up a 9.31 ERA and 1.97 WHIP in four appearances before the break, but a 2.93 ERA and 1.05 WHIP thereafter. Lincecum is that type of talent. Don't drop him. He'll start again at Colorado on Friday. And if he gets hit again? Don't drop him.
Andy Behrens has written for ESPN.com, the Chicago Sports Review, NBA.com, the Chicago Reader and various other publications. In all likelihood, Andy owns more Artis Gilmore memorabilia than you. Follow him on Twitter. Send Andy a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Monday, May 7, 2007 4:40 pm, EDT
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