Rotisserie by the Numbers: MLB
By Craig Rondinone
PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
Two struggling teams, two different pitchers, two different directions.
The Detroit Tigers are putting Dontrelle Willis in the bullpen. The New York Yankees are ready to take Joba Chamberlain out of theirs. What does this mean for the fantasy fortunes of both hurlers? Here is my take:
Willis, Tigers: A thief has somehow stolen the velocity of all of Detroit’s starting pitchers. Justin Verlander’s stuff is down, Jeremy Bonderman’s heater has no hair on it and Willis does not miss the bats he used to in Florida. Kenny Rogers is going to be the flamethrower on the staff the way this is headed.
Willis is going to be used out of the pen for now, but he should return to the rotation within the next two-to-four weeks in my estimation. It is not like the Tigers have been pitching lights out. Willis could bump erratic Nate Robertson, or rookie Armando “Don’t Call Me Andres” Galarraga could go into a tailspin and give his spot to D-Train. For the time being, however, Willis will be getting more holds than wins for his fantasy owners.
So do not panic and drop Willis because of this news. He will be a starter again within a month’s time and should be on the winning end of some high-scoring games. Whether he keeps his ERA under 4.00 is another story entirely.
Chamberlain, Yankees: Yankees manager Joe Girardi acknowledged after this past Wednesday night’s game that he was stretching Chamberlain out during his relief appearances to get him prepared to become a starting pitcher. This is great news for fantasy owners for the long run, yet not-so-good in the short term.
While Chamberlain’s numbers have been well above-average this year (2.66 ERA, 25 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings), the fact is that setup men are only helpful in AL-only fantasy leagues and ultra-deep mixed leagues where there are 16 owners and each team starts 30 guys. He is not striking out as many batters as he could because he only pitches three or four innings per week, and he is not getting opportunities to win or save games, so his fantasy value is much more minimal than it could and should be.
Moving to the rotation would double his fantasy worth. More innings, more Ks, more victories, and more quality innings means his low ERA and WHIP will be more meaningful. He could become another Jake Peavy or Josh Beckett with the electric stuff he has.
The only problem is that the next month is going to be rough on Chamberlain supporters because as he is stretching his arm he is still going to be working out of the pen, and even when he first begins starting on a regular basis his games will probably be of the Greg Maddux variety five innings, 60 pitches. But this is for the best for Chamberlain. If he is not going to be a closer (and Mariano Rivera shows no signs of slowing down), then Chamberlain is better off taking the ball every fifth day and having the chance to rack up double-digit strikeout games and weekly wins. When all is said and done, this could be the biggest fantasy baseball development of the 2008 campaign.
FANTASY HOME RUNS AND STRIKEOUTS:
The Home Runs:
Ryan Church, Mets: Who would have predicted that the Mets’ biggest offensive fantasy force seven weeks into the season would not be Jose Reyes, Carlos Beltran or David Wright? Church has double the fantasy value of the joker he was traded for, Lastings Milledge. Many fantasy owners passed on him because he did not show a lot of homer power in Washington, but who did in that ballpark when the fences were pushed back 500 feet? Church is hitting .311 with nine dingers and 32 RBI, and concussions have done a better job at stopping him than pitchers have.
David Murphy, Rangers: There have not been a number of American League rookies making an early fantasy impact, but Murphy was decent enough to be the AL Rookie of the Month in April and is having an even better May. The former Red Sox farmhand is second among all rookies in RBI and third in runs. He plays every day and helps out in all of the major fantasy categories well, except for saves.
Jon Lester, Red Sox: Start writing the script for the TV movie, people at the Lifetime network! Lester has overcome cancer and Manny Ramirez’s shoddy defense to not only win a clinching World Series game, but to throw a no-hitter. His fastball is blazing in at 95-mph and he is controlling both sides of the plate with pinpoint accuracy. Lester has only allowed six earned runs over his past five starts.
Jason Isringhausen, Cardinals: I just predicted in last week’s column that Izzy was going to reclaim his closer job by the middle of June. I guess I have to probably push that estimate back to July 1 now. Isringhausen supposedly cut his hand during a tirade in Tony LaRussa’s office and has landed on the disabled list, although that story sounds fishier than Jose Canseco’s tale about Alex Rodriguez having an affair with Canseco’s ex-wife.
Rickie Weeks, Brewers: Three cheers for Weeks! He is finally hitting .200! It only took him two months. Weeks’ 20/20 potential cannot be denied or dismissed (six HR, eight SB), but until he stops killing the team batting averages of his fantasy owners with his numerous 0-for-4 nights his worth is going to remain lower than it should be.
Matt Chico, Nationals: Forget about visiting the batting cages this Memorial Day weekend if you want to get some hacks in. Just call up Chico and fly him out to your neck of the woods. He is 0-6 with a 6.19 ERA and has been fooling nobody with any of his pitches (63 hits allowed in 48 innings).
ROT WATER COOLER Three things being talked about more than the season-finale of “Gossip Girl”
Hank Blalock moving to first base in Texas: If Blalock’s fantasy value was already at its lowest point, it is about to go underground. At least he was middle-of-the-pack among fantasy hot corner men. At first base Blalock is going to be down with the dregs of the position, like Carlos Delgado and Lyle Overbay.
David Ortiz’s recent hot streak: Big Papi has been assaulting pitchers’ meaty fastballs and hanging curves ever since his jersey was dug up from the concrete at the new Yankee Stadium. Ortiz is hitting .352 with five homers and 17 RBI since May 1. Maybe someone should bury the batteries that used to get thrown at J.D. Drew so he can start hitting over .300.
Jason Giambi’s golden thong: Giambi revealed this week that he sometimes wears a “lucky” golden thong to break out of his slumps. Worse, Derek Jeter and Johnny Damon have BORROWED IT! This begs two questions. One, if Giambi wears it to break out of slumps and it is so lucky, how come he has not hit higher than .271 since 2002? Second, is this story more or less disgusting than when Moises Alou admitted that he urinates on his hands to avoid blisters?
For more information on Craig and his columns, visit www.publishedauthors.net/craigrondinone.