Wednesday night wasn't the happiest of times for the Wrigley Field faithful. The Angels cranked five homers in a 13-2 rout, a beat-the-traffic special all the way. Josh Hamilton ripped two out of the park, with the second one tattering Jeff Samardzija's likeness on the scoreboard. If you were a Chicago fan on this night, you came for the park and the Old Style. Not even the surging Alfonso Soriano (0-for-3) could offer a respite.
But if you stayed for the game's entirety, Cody Ransom gave you something to smile about. The 37-year-old journeyman collected a double in the fourth inning and added a window-dressing homer in the ninth. And while those contributions might seem insignificant in a 11-run beatdown, nothing is truly insignificant in our numbers racket.
Ransom has become a sneaky reminder of the joy of streaming, a platoon specialist who's posting numbers if you know when to employ him. He's clubbed six homers in 50 Wrigley at-bats, and he's really putting the crunch on left-handed pitching (.275/.367/.681, seven homers). The Wednesday homer came off a righty reliever, but perhaps you had the chops to use Ransom based on the C.J. Wilson start.
Maybe Ransom won't play much or do anything for the balance of the first half, with the Cubs slated to face four right-handed opponents through he weekend. That's fine. But look ahead to next week, when Chicago travels to Colorado. Coors Field is always good work if you can get it, and the Rockies will likely throw Jorge De La Rosa in that series (and maybe Drew Pomeranz, too). See what's possible here. The takeaway today isn't so much the player - it's the concept. This strategy isn't for the chess-by-mail turtles out there, it's for the pinball players, the daily-lineup jockeys who are looking for any small, exploitable edge.
• If Ransom is too deep for your roto taste, maybe we can push you to Marlon Byrd. New York's Byrdman went on a 5-for-16 bender in the San Francisco sweep with a couple of homers, adding to a shockingly-useful first half from the 35-year-old outfielder (15 homers, 49 RBIs). As we discussed 24 hours ago, most of Byrd's run has come away from Citi Field: he's a .301/.340/.625 stud with 11 homers in his 39 road games.
If you rank fantasy outfielders solely on their road-game production, Byrd grades out at No. 12. The Mets have a weekend series at Pittsburgh to consider, if you feel like kicking some tires. Byrd is waiting for work in 87 percent of Yahoo! leagues. We're not chasing names here, we're just in it for the numbers.
• Giants fans have every reason to be shaking their heads, wondering how their high-expectation club wound up in a 40-50 pothole. That record doesn't put you out of the NL West race, of course - the Diamondbacks are just 6.5 games ahead - but it does push you to the basement.
Is Matt Cain healthy? For years he was the poster child for breaking modern pitching metrics, but all too often in 2013 he's getting ripped like a piñata (5.08 ERA, 16 homers). The Dodgers piled on for eight runs in 2.1 innings last week, and the Mets knocked Cain out in the first inning of Wednesday's turn (2 H, 3 BB, 3 R). It seemed like an awfully quick hook, but perhaps the Giants know more than they're letting on.
Let's get some comments from the skipper and pitcher. Here's a San Francisco clip from MLB.com:
"I didn't want it to become a health issue," said manager Bruce Bochy, who added that he was worried about Cain's first-inning pitch count that reached 36. "He's fine. I had some concern there because he was a little off.
"I'll be honest. You want to win every game, but you don't want to risk someone to win a game. That's why I got him."
"I wasn't throwing strikes and [I was] falling behind in counts," Cain said. "And when I was throwing strikes, I was leaving the ball up."
Cain's fastball velocity hasn't tumbled (he's throwing just about as hard as he did in 2011 and 2012) and the ERA estimators come to his partial defense (man, is that a switch). His FIP is down at 4.18, xFIP creeps to 3.91, and a stand rate of 63.4 sticks out like a sore thumb. That said, Cain isn't inducing weak contact like he normally does. Batters have a 22.2 line-drive rate against him, and the 7.1 infield fly rate is by far the lowest of his career. Based on those two numbers, he's making his own bad luck.
There's not much Cain owners can do at the moment, unless you have the gumption to sell at a major discount. Perhaps the Giants will skip Cain for a turn, or give him a reason to go on the disabled list. The All-Star break comes at a perfect time for this scuffling club and ace. There's almost half a season remaining, plenty of time to take a sad song and make it better.
• A player like Derek Jeter is never easy to replace, but it's been impossible for the 2013 Yankees, a club without any reasonable options. New York's shortstops have a collective .211/.269/.283 slash line this year, the second-worst OPS for that slot in baseball (only Seattle is worse). Seeing the captain's name in Thursday's lineup is a sight for sore eyes.
The Yanks aren't asking Jeter to solve all of their problems immediately: he's going to DH in his debut, and he wasn't anything special during a short rehab assignment (1-for-9, four walks, two strikeouts, some spotty defense). But if Jeter can produce close to a league-average level for his position, we're talking about a major upgrade. He's ready to add in about one-third of Yahoo! leagues, and I'd slot him in the $7-10 range if doing a middle infield shuffle right this second. Season to taste.
Perhaps the Nick Franklin owners in the crowd will consider Jeter as a middle-infield insurance policy. Franklin tweaked his right knee last week and he didn't finish Wednesday's loss to Boston. It won't be a surprise if the Mariners give Franklin some recovery time over the next four days.
• While the Yankees offense has been a mess most of the year, a solid pitching staff has kept the team above water in the rough-and-tumble AL East. Ivan Nova is the latest part of this story, stringing together five useful starts in a row (34.1 IP, 26 H, 9 R, 7 BB, 34 K). That hashes out to a 2.36 ERA and a WHIP under one. Nova struck out 11 in a complete-game win over Baltimore last week, and he allowed just one run to the Royals over eight crisp innings Wednesday (thankfully, the offense also came to play - thanks for the meatballs, Wade Davis).
The only thing standing in the way of a Nova pickup is the upcoming schedule: Nova will work at Boston or Texas (perhaps both) after the All-Star break, depending on how the Yanks sort out the rotation. Those are obviously parks and offenses no one wants to mess with. Nonetheless, Nova is still worth considering - and he's unclaimed freight in 80 percent of Yahoo! leagues.