Like fantasy owners tinkering with their rosters, major league managers are starting to shake up things. Alfonso Soriano was dropped to fifth in the Texas lineup, meaning that his days of scoring huge runs and stealing bases may be temporarily over. However, once the top of the order gets rolling, he'll drive in runs in droves.
Lou Piniella is making the most of the Devil Rays' acquisition of Alex Sanchez, inserting him into the leadoff role against the Yankees. Sanchez responded with three hits in his first nine at-bats, hitting a homer and scoring three runs. And the evolution of Carl Crawford has begun, but more on that later.
For now, here is what is in my head.
In My Leagues
- Todd Jones jumped off the waiver wire and on to my active roster upon word that Guillermo Mota hit the DL. Mota is expected to miss only two or three weeks, but the veteran Jones is a decent pickup in the interim. With just three saves from the Florida pen through the first 25 games of the season, don't bank on a big return in the saves department.
- David Dellucci finally has made himself noticed after five strong weeks of play. The only category in which he stands out is runs (23 ranks second in the AL), but he's been a model of consistency. He's a solid play while awaiting the emergence of struggling stars.
- In scouring the waiver wire in two of my leagues, I was able to find lefty Erik Bedard still available. As I mentioned in my "Fantasy Baseball This Week" column earlier in the week, I expect his numbers to regress to the league mean eventually. But for now, I'm going to jump on board his dominance. He has allowed only one earned run in his last 23 innings of work with 25 strikeouts.
- Victor Diaz was jettisoned to the waiver wire across my board after experiencing a string of 19 at-bats without a hit. He will lose his full-time gig with the return of Mike Cameron and thereby loses his fantasy value except in the deepest of leagues. Diaz is tied for second on the Mets with four homers.
- Shawn Estes is finding his way back onto fantasy rosters after a solid month of work in Arizona. New stints on the DL for players such as Curt Schilling, Kerry Wood and Woody Williams have owners seeking help in their rotations.
The View from My Couch
- I got a chance to sit and watch Brad Radke dominate the Cleveland Indians on Thursday afternoon. He was on the plate and kept hitters off-balance en route to a three-hit shutout. He has allowed just one walk this season in 50 innings. With his Thursday outing, Radke pushed his WHIP below 1.00. With a 1-for-4 performance against Radke, Victor Martinez ended the day with a batting average right at the Mendoza line.
- It was a tale of two debuts for the Yankees this past week. Chien-Ming Wang pitched well on Saturday and then watched Sean Henn take a turn in the embattled Yankees rotation. He was positively miserable, failing to escape the third inning while allowing 12 base-runners and five earned runs. He was subsequently returned to Triple-A to make room for Tanyon Sturtze. Panic already has set in at Yankee Stadium. Fortunately, Big Stein can take solace in the Kentucky Derby this weekend.
- After torturing fantasy owners for a month, Jim Thome finally landed on the DL with a bad back. He managed only six extra-base hits and one home run before sitting down. He also had struck out in more than one-third of his at-bats. In the days before he finally sat down, Thome appeared to be in excruciating pain. I appreciate the effort he was trying to give, but it's a marathon that's still shy of the quarter pole. The Phillies, and fantasy owners, can't afford to lose him for an extended period, and it's better to sit now than lose the rest of the campaign. Thome is expected back in two to three weeks.
- Jose Mesa of the Pirates looks refreshed in the closer role in Pittsburgh. He has appeared in 10 games this season and has saved all of them. Coincidentally, he has nailed down every one of the 10 wins for the Pirates this season. Right now he ranks second behind Arizona's Brandon Lyon (11) in the saves category in all of baseball. Not bad for a guy who entered the season as the 23rd closer chosen on average in Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Baseball PLUS leagues. (Lyon was drafted in only 10 percent of leagues.)
- Bronson Arroyo has come up huge for the ailing Red Sox staff. On Thursday, he took a no-hitter into the seventh inning and allowed just one earned run in eight innings of work while striking out eight Tiger hitters. He's taunted fantasy owners in small bursts each season and has finally put it together when needed most. Check the waiver wire for his availability.
News and Notes
- Friday night will mark the return of Lance Berkman to the Astros lineup. Fantasy owners who gambled on him this spring will reap the rewards sooner than expected. The Astros will work him back into the lineup slowly, but his return will mean reduced playing time for Willy Taveras or Mike Lamb.
- The next save that Trevor Hoffman records will be the 400th of his career. For some reason, readers are still piling on him in the mailbag, raging against his 4.66 ERA. If you take out his meltdown in his first outing against Colorado, he actually has been lights out, allowing just one earned run over his last nine innings of work. The ERA will fall in line in short order, and will all of the injuries to other closers, where else can you turn?
- The latest report on Barry Bonds following his third knee surgery has him sidelined for at least another two months. Pedro Feliz clearly has adapted well to his every-day role and will continue to dominate in Bonds' absence. Fantasy owners that drafted Bonds will need to bitterly stand idle and await his eventual return. Having a player laying in wait like Bonds for the home stretch will certainly be as good or better than any waiver wire acquisition down the road.
- Fantasy owners who were griping over Carl Crawford's early futility on the base paths and move to the three-hole in the Devil Rays lineup can calm down, as evidenced by his string of six steals in his past seven games. Oh yeah, he's also hitting .406 during that period.
What "You" are Saying
- With the rash of injuries to closers, owners are writing in to extol the virtues of top middle relievers. My inbox is filled with notes heaping praise on former Orioles closer turned ace set-up man Jorge Julio. He's allowed only one earned run in 15.3 innings of work and has limited opponents to a .135 batting average against. Those looking for a quick boost in the strikeout column need look no further than Julio.
- Brian Giles of the Padres is hitless in his last 22 at-bats entering Thursday's action and incurring the wrath of fantasy owners. I've seen diatribes about hitting in Petco (where's he holds a mighty .120 batting average) and wild speculation about whether he has failed to disclose an injury. As he has been putting the ball in play (one strikeout during his funk), I think it's just a matter of time before he gets on track. Let him work it out on the pines.
- Despite the hot start for the Chicago White Sox, slugger Paul Konerko is drawing the ire of fantasy owners. With a 0-for-2 outing on Thursday, Konerko has seen his batting average dip to a feeble .190. For what it's worth, Konerko is a career .219 hitter in May. Those looking to pull the trigger on Konerko can find immediate help in Phil Nevin (.345 in the last week with two homers, four RBIs and a stolen base) or Nick Johnson, who has found the power stroke with three home runs and eight RBIs in the past week.
- On the other side of town, managers are questioning whether Nomar Garciaparra will offer any help in the second half or whether they should cut him loose. Latest reports from Chicago have been positive. He's expected to begin rehabbing in two to three weeks but won't see the field until August at earliest. I'm not hopeful for his return, but if you haven't dropped him yet, I'd wait out the first report from his rehab work.
- Adrian Beltre is another top pick that sets owners to typing. After four straight hitless games (0-for-16), Beltre's batting average has dipped to .221. Beltre owners should settle in for another rough month, as he possesses a career .231 average in May. With that said, he still ranks tied for sixth among 3B with 16 RBIs. It's clear that a return to 48 homers and 121 RBIs isn't in the offing, but he'll get it together.
Go Hard or Go Home
Have hitters always decided to mail it in with their top hurlers on the mound? Or do pitchers really rise up to meet the performances of an esteemed opponent?
Perhaps I'm overreacting, but it seems that the top starting pitchers throw their guts out and leave everything on the field, but they are lucky to leave with even a modicum of run support. I had to take a look into the numbers to ease my mind … or perhaps fly into a rage.
Taking a quick peek at the game log for Roger Clemens, he has pitched seven strong innings in each of his six starts. Clemens has allowed six earned runs in those 42 innings of work (1.29 ERA) yet owns a record of 1-1. In three of those games, the Astros were shut out. In his lone win, he actually drove in two of the Astros' three runs!
Throw out the first miserable start by Atlanta's John Smoltz. Since his first start in Florida, Smoltz has allowed two or fewer runs in each of his last five outings. The Braves have scored a total of eight runs in those starts.
Brett Myers of Philadelphia has pitched lights-out ball in five of his six starts. His ERA sits at a smallish 1.94. His ERA outside of a solid but unspectacular turn against Atlanta sits at 0.53. Myers at least has picked up a second win.
Even the vaunted Texas lineup hasn't been able to get Kenny Rogers the support he needs. He holds an ERA of 2.11 through six starts, but didn't log his first victory until his fifth start.
Rich Harden has put forth four outstanding starts in his five appearances, yet he has only two wins. His ERA in those four starts (removing his horrible start against Chicago that featured a tremendous comeback by the young A's, something Sox fans are used to in trips to the Bay Area), sits at 0.62. That's right, 0.62! His teammate, Joe Blanton, has an ERA of 2.67 over five starts … and has yet to record a victory! OK, so that just means that the A's can't score runs (they scored only five in Blanton's first four starts).
It's time for hitters to bring their "A" games to the park to meet the performances of their hurlers. Stop letting the vultures and closers have all the fun. We'll take the solid Ks, WHIP and ERA, but we need those wins, too. And so do your respective teams.