In the past two weeks, the nation has been hit with tornadoes, floods and wildfires and an infestation of locusts. And, in yet another sign of the apocalypse, Jason Marquis is ranked near the top in the NL in wins (5), ERA (2.22), WHIP (0.97) and BAA (.187).
Sweet missing digits of Mordecai "Three-Fingered" Brown!
When my beloved North-Siders signed Jason Marquis, the same guy who posted a horrific 6.02 ERA in St. Louis last year, to an absurdly lucrative three-year $20 million deal, my frothy Old Style mysteriously tasted more pungent than usual.
Marquis was destined to keep the Cubs history of perpetual follies alive.
That is, until he decided to mimic Milt Pappas.
What baseball bookworm could've imagined that dross like Marquis would tweak his delivery and morph into a top-of-the-rotation fantasy boss?
Pitching gurus Leo Mazzone and Dave Duncan didn't. And neither should you.
An ardent 29-year loather of the St. Louis Cardinals, it's been painfully difficult to root for Marquis after years of watching my Cardinal-supportive friends disgustfully cringe every time he toed the rubber.
Yes, his recent three-hit shutout of the Pirates was magical. And sure, his sharp three walks in his past 23 IP is man-crush material, but let's be realistic, this is the same pitcher who became only the fourth hurler since 1961 to allow 13 earned runs in a game last year. Do you really think he's worth Gary Matthews Jr., Jason Isringhausen or Chris Duncan – all of whom were traded straight up for him in Yahoo! leagues last week?
Here are three reasons why "Sell! Sell! Sell!" should scroll in blinking red lights across the chest of this Marquis:
1. His FB% is down from an abhorrent 40.0 percent in '06, but still remains troublesome at 37.6 percent – warm, blustery days at Wrigley will prove costly
2. His BB/9 total is under 3.0 for the first time in his career; based on history and the law of averages, this total will rocket skyward
3. Career totals in April/May: 3.83 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, .238 BAA; June-September: 4.70 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, .280 BAA
4. Forecast a return close to 2005 (13 W, 4.13 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 100 K), not a Cy Young aberration
Here are this week's flames, lames and notable names:
|'07 Stats: .474 BA, HR, 7 RBI, 5 R, 1:1 K:BB|
|Market Value: Moderate Buy|
|Lowdown: Only the 22nd player in franchise history to hit for the cycle, if you think Lewis is an instantaneous fantasy superstar, Curt Schilling and Barry Bonds will hold hands and enjoy walks at sunset along the San Francisco shoreline this offseason. The 26-year-old is a skillful product who scouts believe will amass numbers around .300 BA, 20-25 HR, 30-40 SB in his prime. A former junior college wide receiver, Lewis has concentrated on baseball for only seven years and is probably three years away from his peak. For now, the fleet-footed prospect has earned regular PT in center with Dave Roberts out the next six weeks and deserves an audition as a fifth outfielder in 14-team and deeper mixed leagues. With a stellar 15.8 BB% in the minors, he should be an excellent source of steals and runs atop the Giants lineup, but expect no more than 8-10 homers with 300 at-bats.|
|'07 Stats: .385 BA, 4 HR, 13 RBI, 14 R, 11:15 K:BB|
|Market Value: Strong Buy|
|Lowdown: With a phat 11 RBI in his past 12 games, Mix Master Mike would agree this DJ, AKA M.C. "hot stick," won't "Sabotage" your fantasy squad. Labeled a late-round steal by yours truly back in March, Johnson and Triple-A nomad Jack Cust have revived an A's offense that was D.O.A. in April. Currently riding a 15-game hit streak, including a 4-for-4, two-HR, four-RBI dethroning of the Royals on May 10, Johnson has a .313 BA with RISP. An incredibly disciplined hitter (11:15 K:BB) with all-fields power, Johnson may finally be the trendy producer many of us were fond of in '06 drafts. Right now, classify D.J. alongside upstarts Kevin Youkilis and Chris Duncan – mid-tiered first baseman who'll be hunted four-cat consistency kings in H-2-H formats. Noise projection: .290 BA, 26 HR, 94 RBI, 85 R.|
|'07 Stats: .333 BA, HR, RBI, R, 1:2 K:BB|
|Market Value: Strong Buy|
|Lowdown: Engulfed by a variety of injuries, the former sure-fired ROY candidate of '06 has been an enigmatic guppy. When Hermida was drafted 11th overall in 2002, many scouts compared his game to Bucko great Andy Van Slyke. Equipped with an eagle eye (111 BB in 387 at-bats at Double-A in '02) and a smooth lefty stroke that produces natural lift on the ball, Hermida has always possessed the package to be a perennial 20-20 player. Embattled by a menagerie of injuries in his six-year professional career (ankle, heel, hamstring, wrist, hip, knee), if he can keep the injury demons at bay, the 23 year-old will be a waiver wire gem in the RBI -friendly sixth spot. Launching his first homer on Tuesday, in 12-team leagues, there shouldn't be top-flight talent like this wasting away in free agency.|
|'07 Stats: .419 BA, 0 HR, 6 RBI, 7 R, 4 SB, 10:6 K:BB|
|Market Value: Moderate Buy|
|Lowdown: With four steals in 15 games, Harris must remind Braves fans of early 90s wheel-spinner Otis Nixon. A key utility-man on the White Sox 2005 championship squad, the 28-year-old mighty dog has collected nine hits, two steals and drawn five walks in his past nine games. In a LF platoon with the statistically boring Matt Diaz, given Harris' lefty bat and blazing speed, as long as his OBP stays above .350, he'll be a quality source of speed and runs as the two-hitter. For those worried Harris' career .240 BA will eventually drag down his value, relax. He installed a wider stance and shorter stride in spring training, which has turned him into an efficient contact hitter. If he generates 400 at-bats, he could be an unforeseen 25-30 steals source – bummer he isn't 2B-eligible anymore.|
|'07 Stats: 4 W, 54.1 IP, 3.48 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 32:17 K:BB|
|Market Value: Moderate Sell|
|Lowdown: Because of his benign stuff, Moyer is the Snuffleupagus of nearly extinct starting pitchers. A wily 21-year vet who was selected by the Cubs a year after Cole Hamels was born (1984), Moyer is a location master whose pedestrian stuff, like former teammate Greg Maddux, is deceptive and late-breaking. Although he's racked seven QS in eight appearances, don't count on a return to his 21-win, 3.27 ERA 2003 ways. The hitter-friendly environment of Citizen's Bank Park coupled with his proneness for the giving up the longball will eventually spill his ERA over 4.00. NL-only owners should package him and turn a profit. Survey says: 13 W, 4.26 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 100 K.|
|'07 Stats: 4 W, 54.1 IP, 5.14 ERA, 1.53 WHIP, 38:27 K:BB|
|Market Value: Strong Buy|
|Lowdown: Arguably the biggest pitching bust thus far, Zambrano needs to sacrifice an ostrich to the voodoo god of control in order to regain his Cy Young form. Zambrano has allowed at least 4 ER in five starts and has been victimized early in games, yielding 19 ER in 22 IP with 45 or fewer total pitches. Lou Piniella and Larry Rothschild think his delivery has remained too closed, making his grips more visible to batters. Evident in his resurgent 8 IP, one ER outing versus the mighty Mets on Tuesday, the extra side sessions may have resolved the issue. Triumphant skyward finger points are about to become a regularity. Nostradomus Noise: 17 W, 3.52 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 195 K.|
|'07 Stats: .215 BA, 2 HR, 11 RBI, 19 R, 24:17 K:BB|
|Market Value: Strong Sell|
|Lowdown: An inebriated 1-for-his-last-22 with seven strikeouts, Ensberg's star has fallen further off-the-wagon than David Hasselhoff after a late-night rendezvous with a six-pack of Zima. Those holding onto hopes of a 30-homer revival need to get a clue – Ensberg has staunch competition other than Mike Lamb. Batting .355 with 9 RBI in 24 games, Mark Loretta continues to press Phil Garner to make Ensberg a casualty. Although Ensberg's BB% parallels his '05 totals and his LD% has spiked above 21 percent for the first time in his career, with each donut, he loses Garner's faith. It appears he's on the road to nowhere in mixed leagues for the second straight year.|
|'07 Stats: .228 BA, 10 HR, 26 RBI, 20 R, 5 SB, 21:14 K:BB|
|Market Value: Hold|
|Lowdown: Mired in a 2-for-27 slump with six strikeouts, it's apparent this Texas Ranger needs a Chuck Norris roundhouse kick to the head. Kinsler has become a victim of smart scouting as pitchers have begun to pound his primary weakness: the inside part of the plate. Dropped from occasional No. 6 at-bats back to eighth or ninth in the potent Rangers order, Kinsler will have to regain Ron Washington's admiration before he gets promoted to more RBI-friendly positions. Really more of a .275 than a .300 hitter, I'm confident he'll make the necessary adjustments and rebound from a 72-point BA plunge since May 3. Keep your cool – he's still a 25-15 player.|
|'07 Stats: .231 BA, 4 HR, 14 RBI, 18 R, 2 SB, 35:9 K:BB|
|Market Value: Strong Buy|
|Lowdown: Currently in a 4-for-26 quagmire, right now, Young probably couldn't hit David Wells in a lumber tossing contest. With Carlos Pena currently en fuego, Joe Maddon demoted Young to seventh in the lineup on May 13 to help resuscitate his flat-lined bat behind the protection of B.J. Upton. Overaggressive in the dish, pitchers have attacked his impatience and riddled the aloof youngster with a plethora of backward Ks. Until Young can relax at the plate and draw more walks (35:9 K:BB), he'll flounder in the short-term. Just too talented to remain in an inferno of 0-fers, he'll break out in a big way soon. Buy on a bear market – he's still should be relied on for .285 BA, 20 HR, 15 SB.|
|'07 Stats: 12 S, 9.00 ERA, 1.73 WHIP, 18:7 K:BB|
|Market Value: Hold|
|Lowdown: The prince of processed meats and adventurous saves has posted a sauerkraut-putrid 9.00 ERA. Many industry pundits continue to write this guy off, but I'm not one of them. If you take away his two spectacular meltdowns on April 19 (6 ER at Oak) and May 12 (4 ER at NYY), he's notched an acceptable 3.40 ERA. Many are enraptured by Fernando Cabrera's mid-90s heat and 24 strikeouts in 16.2 IP, but his recent hardships (8 ER in 6.1 IP) has cemented Joe-Bo's job. Tied for second in the AL in saves, owners' skittish feelings have discounted his trade value – he was swapped in one-for-one deals for Billy Butler and Chien-Ming Wang in Y! leagues last week. If you're in dire straits for a stopper, offer up mediocrity for Borowski or ride the unpronounceable Justin Duchscherer (5.3% owned) for the next two weeks.|
TRUE OR FALSE?
We've all seen these seemingly ambiguous statements on exams and quizzes since elementary school, now the classic test teaser gets a fantasy makeover. Each week, I'll tackle pressing diamond topics with a direct, succinct answer. Please, keep your eyes on your own paper.
Garret Atkins is a good buy low candidate. – Nate, Long Island, NY
Answer: True. With his fantasy veins clogged by meat, cheese and a lowly .237 BA, now is the time to steal Atkins from an owner in cardiac arrest. The woeful three-bagger's value has plummeted so far, he was swapped straight up for temporary closer Rafael Soriano and DL poster boy Eric Chavez in Y! leagues this past week. An appalling 8-for-43 in May with only two RBI, trade rumors and a sharp increase in FB% (up 6 percent from '06) are primary reasons for his swoon. On a positive note, his BB% (11.1) remains on par with '06 (11.7) and he continues to log at-bats behind sizzling Todd Helton, which should help him turn things around promptly. Ballpark genie says: .305 BA, 22 HR, 100 RBI.
Adam Dunn will keep up his torrid pace and finish with 50 homers and 20 stolen bases. – Jeff, Springfield, MA
Answer: False. In the history of the game only three players, Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr. and Brady "90210" Anderson have reached the exclusive 50-20 club – Dunn will fall just short of punching his membership. For the last two years, Dunn has talked about stealing more and this year he's finally sipped the Ryan Freel Kool-Aid. His MLB high in steals is 19 ('02) and, although Dunn's on pace for 20-plus, he's already begun to slow down (1 SB in May) and should finish in the 14-17 range. Although his pitbull plate aggressiveness will lead him past 40-homers, it's unlikely the 50 barrier will be broken. With his BA at an uncharacteristically sublime .271, I would consider selling high – he's recently attracted the likes of Travis Hafner, Carl Crawford and Roy Oswalt in solo trades. Fearless forecast: .253 BA, 43 HR, 101 RBI, 109 R, 16 SB.
Upset you don't have a forum to express your disdain for drafting Barry Bonds? Do you question why on earth you're not a fantasy expert? This is the place for you to vent your thoughts, tirades and frustrations. Can you bring the noise?
Great comparison of Oliver Perez with Britney Spears, classic stuff. You can also add one more, they both shaved their heads. Perez, as with most of the Mets, shaved their heads … and I think we all saw what Brit did. Love your stuff! Keep up the good work!
– Mike, New York, NY
Noise: Let's hope Ollie said no to the Brazilian. Perez, unlike Brit's recent Color Me Badd dance routine and obvious lip-synching, is in 2004 form. After an 8-plus inning, six-strikeout, two-hit suffocation of the Brewers, I'm convinced Rick Peterson's wizardry has permanently fixed Ollie's flawed mechanics and instilled a renewed confidence in him. Overall, his BB/9 split (3.0) is at an all-time best and his HR/9 and HR/FB marks are near his 2004 totals. On pace for 193 strikeouts, 18 wins and a career best 48 walks, at this point, place him in similar company as Rich Hill, Erik Bedard and Aaron Harang.
Hey, Evans, your hot pickup for May was Encarnacion? You're awful. Yahoo! is going to pink slip you long before I get to write that column about how much of a disaster you are.
– Nick, Boston, MA
Nice call on Edwin Encarnacion, sure glad I didn't listen to you. I remember you were also the guy who was dogging the Colts. If you have no clue what you're talking about, which seems to be the case most times, why don't you just shut up?
– Todd, Austin, TX
Noise: In my defense, Easy E was hitting .312 with 8 RBI in his last eight games before the demotion. If given regular playing time, the guy can rake and has legit 25-30 HR, 90 RBI upside, but ever since he failed to run out a lazy infield fly back in April, he was firmly leashed to Jerry Narron's doghouse. With ample weapons and not enough regular PT to go around, when Encarnacion had two errors against the 'Stros on May 9, it was the straw that broke the camel's back. He'll be a key contributor in deeper leagues later this season, as a Red or not.
Todd, one more thing: I'm in the business of opinion and if you've heard the Noise since March, it's been a fruitful year. Because I'm all about accountability, here's a scorecard of my picks:
I'm a friggin' genius because of …
Projected late-round bargains: Adrian Gonzalez, Dan Johnson, Ian Kinsler, Ryan Theriot, Andy LaRoche, Jhonny Peralta, Shane Victorino, Sammy Sosa, Rich Hill
Projected early-round busts: Jermaine Dye, Richie Sexson, Adam LaRoche
Total: 12-5 (70.5%); No clue? Call me Sherlock Holmes – at least two-thirds of the time.
No way Bonds finishes with only 25-30 HR. I don't see him maintaining the current 55 homer rate, but I see 35-40 as much more likely. How long until another Bonds column about how he continues to surpass your expectations? What will it take to make you a believer?
– Dan, Mesa, AZ
Just admit it, fantasy genius dude, Bonds proved you wrong. I snagged him in Round 10 of my draft. Thanks in part to your column. I'm absolutely schooling my league with my "wasted pick." So thanks, Brad, your strange inability to admit you were wrong in this matter only punctuates my obvious wisdom in drafting Bonds. And saying you wouldn't trade him for a few highly regarded players with better health histories doesn't make you right, either – it only displays your high level of denial. But don't feel alone, there's a long line of idiots who said the same thing.
– Al, San Francisco, CA
Bonds will have a better year than both Manny and Jason Bay. Can you please refrain from providing sabotaging advice to the general public? It's best not to let personal opinion get in the way of proper journalism. Stick with the facts. He's finally healthy again and back to his usual self – 55 HR, 116 RBI insane? This is the same guy that hit 40-plus HR in eight seasons and drove in 100 RBI in 12 others. People fear what they don't know, and you obviously don't know very much about Bonds. C'mon, Brad, get real.
– Sam, Santa Cruz, CA
Noise: In terms of fantasy value, the forty-something, not the monster in his prime, Bonds is baseball's equivalent of Michael Vick – Cujo throwdowns not included. Like Vick, Bonds' physical gifts are freakish, but the polarizing nature of his personality and susceptibility for injury leaves a pungent taste. My "Bondsophobia" dissertation last week was not influenced by steroid allegations or Barry's fun-loving persona, it was based solely on a belief that many owners are willing to overpay thinking he's magically stepped into an early 00s time-warp, a la Sam in Santa Cruz. Was I wrong about him? Absolutely. But, again, with the nonstop media hysteria, people are willing to sell their souls to acquire him in trades – this week alone he was dealt straight up for Adam Dunn and Alfonso Soriano. If he has more value than Fonzy by year's end, I'll dress up in Swedish Chef attire and Giants fans can pelt me with rubber chickens.
Why do you act so crazy on camera? You try too hard dude. Be yourself instead of some kid trying to impress the hot chick in the room. There is a free thesaurus online if you're looking for bigger words to use that might actually make sense to what you're trying to say on Yahoo! videos. Either way, I'm still listening even if you make me want to punch my laptop.
– Jaybird, Philadelphia, PA
Noise: The high-energy, boisterous, obnoxious exterior exuded on the Streams, believe it or not, is no front. Ask Funston or anyone that knows me and they'll describe my on-air overtures as normal. There's a reason why my neighborhood buddies nicknamed me "The Big Noise" when I was 13. Sorry to disappoint. I'm no De Niro. What you see is what you get – a loud-mouth in need of Rogaine who relishes in providing educated advice and loony nicknames for his five regular readers.