Josh Johnson is currently owned in 48 percent of Yahoo! leagues. He's also rostered in four of the seven Yahoo! pools I participate in, and I assure you those are all competitive groups.
Name brands can be hard to let go of. But it's time to cut the cord on the ratio-wrecking righty.
The Crooked Number Tour dropped in Anaheim on Thursday, with Johnson allowing 10 hits and seven runs (six earned) to the Angels. Two walks, one strikeout. Johnson's now carrying a 6.60 ERA for the year, he's allowed 25 earned runs over his last four turns, and his WHIP checks in at 1.68. He's made 15 starts for the Blue Jays and has one crummy win to show for it.
To be fair, physical issues have come into play throughout the season: Johnson battled a triceps injury in the first half, a finger problem cropped up midseason, and lately he's had knee tendinitis. His stuff hasn't completely flown out the window - his fastball velocity (92.8 mph) is still respectable, even if it falls well short of the mid-90s peak four years ago, and he's striking out a batter per inning. But what good are the strikouts if the other three roto columns are a mess?
If you want to cut Johnson a break for his extreme gopheritis (something I'm against doing; meatballs get crushed), you'll hear that 3.65 xFIP whispering "it's not your fault." But Johnson's also walking more batters than ever before, and he's giving up a problematic 23.9 percent clip on line drives. When you can't put the ball precisely where you want it, batters are going to make you pay - especially in the American League.
This late into the hand, I'm not looking for a reason to double my bets - I'm looking for a reason to fold. The waiver wire exists for a reason. Wake up, gamers.
• Forget the label machine when it comes to Chicago rookie Junior Lake - he doesn't fit neatly into any column or folder. Is he an infielder? An outfielder? A prospect of note? A Swiss Army Knife best suited for the bench? The Cubs are still in the process of figuring out the 23-year-old, themselves.
Lake collected minor-league experience at all four infield spots over the past seven years (he joined the origination at age 17) in addition to a brief outfield trial this year, but he's been an outfielder exclusively in his time with Chicago. Score one for athleticism and versatility. Lake made a nifty catch in Thursday's loss to the Dodgers, and he also made roto owners happy with a pair of home runs (that's called burying the lede, kids). Here's the home run highlight tape, with some Anthony Rizzo goodies mixed in.
Lake's 40 games at Triple-A this year were interesting if not electric: .295/.341/.462 slash, four homers, 14 steals in 19 attempts. He's shown surprising pop with the Cubs, knocking four out of the park along with a .323 average over 62 at-bats. The plate discipline is a concern (14 whiffs, two walks) and he's been a loss on the bases (1-for-4), but the early positives outweigh the negatives.
Lake qualifies at two spots (3B, OF) in the Yahoo! game and perhaps more tags will come in time. Wrigley's obviously a good place to hit and the Cubs are using him in the first or second slot most of the time. Ready for a test drive? Lake is good to go in three-quarters of Y! leagues.
• If you're playing the stream game for Saturday, perhaps we can interest you in Ivan Nova (32 percent; cushy spot at San Diego), Bruce Chen (eight percent; surging Royals head to Citi Field) or Erik Bedard (two percent; surprising a contender didn't make a move here). I'm not going to push Tony Cingrani (52 percent) on you - he should be long-gone in your league.
Speed Round: Cleveland hacker Ryan Raburn is known as a notorious streak hitter, so maybe Thursday's two-homer game is the precursor to a binge worth following. He's owned in just six percent of Yahoo! leagues . . . With Melky Cabrera (knee) returning to the disabled list, there's nothing in the way of speed merchant Rajai Davis (25 percent). Rajai the Rabbit already has 31 steals despite a modest amount of playing time . . . The Red Sox are giving buzzy prospect Xander Bogaerts some work at third base in the minors, a clear sign that he's ticketed for the hot corner, at least, initially, when he drops in Boston. Bogaerts is probably going to be mixed-league relevant at some point in the final quarter of the year . . . The ongoing back problem was too much to ignore - the Diamondbacks finally placed Miguel Montero on the DL. Wil Nieves has hit well over limited playing time in 2013, but there's nothing special in his long-term resume . . . Domonic Brown is starting to take some cuts, but it's impossible to put a solid timetable on anyone's return from concussion symptoms . . . Tom Wilhelmsen blew up (four runs, 2 H, 2 BB) in Thursday's stunning loss at Boston, in a "get work" appearance of all things. But he's been sound for a couple of months now, and probably won't be taxed for this misstep . . . Jake Peavy's Boston debut will come Saturday, against the Snakes . . . Albert Pujols (foot) is going to hold off on surgery, hoping he can perhaps play again in 2013. My expectations remain very low here; I wouldn't even bother using a DL spot on him . . . Cliff Lee (neck) has a chance to pitch at some point this weekend . . . Joe Kelly posted six scoreless innings against Pittsburgh and I'm not afraid to use him next week against the suddenly-formidable Dodgers. Ground balls and plus control go a long way.