All holiday bullets, all the time. Refill your drink and let's figure out this game together.
• The Roy Oswalt Revival Tour has been a massive flop so far, no matter that he's 2-1. His first turn was successful mostly because of the opponent (the Rockies generally can't hit outside of Coors), and since then he's been hammered for 26 hits and 16 runs (14 earned) against two legitimate matchups, the Tigers and White Sox. Big-league hitters are batting .422 against Oswalt, and he carries a 7.79 ERA and 2.25 WHIP. The White Sox hit three homers into the bleachers against the aging righty (he turns 35 at the end of August).
Now I understand how the Regression Police might debate Oswalt's stats: he's been unlucky, yada yada yada. As you should know by now, all outlier ERAs and outlier batting averages come with outlier luck stats. In the case of Oswalt, he's allowing a .500 BABIP and he's under the league norms in strand rate (63 percent) and HR/FB rate (13.6 percent). If you want to talk yourself into an Oswalt case going forward, there's a path that leads you there: his FIP stands at 4.16, his xFIP is at 3.76, and he does have the K/BB ratio in a good place. His fastball isn't the same as it was during the Houston heyday, but he's hitting the gun at 91.7, basically his number from last year.
I'm going to sit this one out; if you go on the Oswalt hunt, I'm not there with you. He's allowing line drives 28.4 percent of the time, which tells you something about his location. He's never pitched full-time in the American League before. His career numbers in Arlington were already messy, and those ratios were largely built from his salad days. I'll be shocked if Oswalt's ERA is under 4 the rest of the way, and in today's pitching-dominated world, you shouldn't take on this sort of risk. You need more safety from your back-end starters, and heck, you'd like more upside, too.
• I try to be careful when it comes to quotes from professional sports. Players, general managers and coaches have no incentive to tell us the truth (or to be upfront with us), and we know agents can't be trusted. As the grapevine taught us long ago, you believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.
This is a roundabout way to introduce the Dan Haren situation. The Anaheim righty was kicked around Tuesday at Cleveland (4.1 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 1 K), the fifth straight time he's struggled. If you add up the numbers over this terrible run, Haren comes in with an 8.97 ERA and a 1.89 ratio, with nine homers allowed. Just 18 strikeouts over 27 innings.
Haren finally admitted after Tuesday's game that he's been battling lower-back pain all season. It's just the second time it's been mentioned; the ailment was briefly discussed in mid-May, then the topic vanished into mid air. This underscores the consistent fear we essentially have to accept with any struggling pitcher: maybe he's hurt and not telling us, or maybe he's hurt and still in denial about it.
I suppose it's nice to have a reason we can attach to the Haren slump, just so things make sense in a linear fashion. Maybe a skipped start or a DL stint would go a long way towards getting Haren fixed in the second half. He's been remarkably durable during his career, logging 216 innings or more in seven straight years. But the next time you see a big-name pitcher in a terrible run, don't automatically assume he'll magically return to his branded level of excellence. Pitching is one of the most unnatural acts there is, and anyone who toes the rubber carries a significant amount of health risk. There are no sure things on the mound.
• The matchup between Trevor Bauer and Andrew Cashner looked pretty on paper but it didn't play out nicely on the field. Cashner actually was terrific through two innings, but a lat injury forced him out of the game shortly after third-inning warm-ups. Bauer, meanwhile, did the walk of shame in the fourth (3.1 IP, 6 H, 7 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 4 K), letting fantasy owners down for the second straight turn.
It's hard to be overly optimistic on either pitcher for the immediate future, though I'd like to see what Bauer might do if he gets command of his curveball back. That pitch has been essentially useless to him in the majors, and he's also been working behind in the count too often — stuff you can't get away with in The Show.
One size does not fit all with fantasy advice, and especially with a wide-range-of-outcomes guy like Bauer. Deep-league owners will probably bench Bauer and hope for the best, while he's an easy drop in shallow mixers. The medium-league players have a decision, but I would have no problem cutting Bauer if something interesting caught your eye on the wire. There's no rule of thumb when it comes to prospect development; the light bulb goes on when it goes on.
A DL trip seems likely for Cashner, especially considering his extensive injury history. A similar lat injury cost Huston Street a month earlier this year. The Padres aren't going anywhere in 2012, so they have zero incentive to expose Cashner to any danger. If you're in a medium or shallow league that doesn't have DL spots, I advise you drop him immediately. The potential is wonderful, but I'll be shocked if the Padres put Cashner's rehab on the fast track. They're obviously planning for the future.
• Let's open up the post-hype file and consider the name Tyler Colvin. He's homered in three of his past six games, giving him 10 round-trippers in just 168 at-bats for the year. He's also hitting .304, and you'll find him available in 91 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
Colvin doesn't have a full-time job to call his own yet, but that could change at any time. He's already seen action at four different positions (first base, every outfield post), so if one of four different Colorado players were to suffer an injury, Colvin's path clears nicely. (If I ran the Rockies, I'd start using Colvin as the regular at first base over Todd Helton — the kid is 26, the veteran is 38. Why not start looking ahead to the future? But Jim Tracy and Dan O'Dowd have not asked my opinion.)
I can understand why a lot of roto owners are leery on Colvin: his .150/.204/.306 nightmare in Chicago last year left a mark (though the plug was pulled after 206 at-bats). Some other owners will shy away because of Colvin's hacking mentality (just eight walks this year), and his extreme home/road splits (1.104 OPS at Coors, .748 everywhere else) — though you can pin the split argument on just about every Colorado player. And obviously he is not a full-time player just yet.
But in these post-hype cases, it often pays to say "why not?" when others are saying "why bother?" Consider the case of Trevor Plouffe in Minnesota, a former first-round pick (20th overall, 2004) who finally got it together in his Age 26 season. Is Colvin really that different? He was the 13th overall pick in 2006, after all, and everyone liked him in 2010 (20 homers and six steals over 358 at-bats). I'm not asking you to drop proven guys for Colvin, but this is someone to grab right now in most medium and deep mixers — and he might force his way into the shallow-league conversation soon enough. There's a plausible upside here. Don't wait until the picture is fully developed and the window is slammed for good.
• Although the Indians had an offensive party against Haren, Carlos Santana did not get the memo. The Cleveland backstop posted one of his common lines: 0-for-3, with a walk.
Have a look at Santana's last two months: .196/.305/.270, one measly homer, 18 runs, 16 RBIs. Remember he had a back problem and a concussion issue in May — no one can be sure how healthy he is. In keeper leagues it's probably a forced hold, but in one-and-done formats don't wait around. There's good catching out there, pick up someone else. We're in it for the numbers, not the names.
Speed Round: You're on your own with Tim Lincecum (8 R, 7 ER at Washington). I'm not touching him in any of my leagues, even if he's sitting for free somewhere (I don't think he is). His only excellent start out of his last six comes with a huge asterisk — it was against the hapless Dodgers. … After hitting just three homers over 56 games, Ryan Zimmerman has four in his last eight games, including another in the early July 4 match. That must be an amazing shot of cortisone he put into his shoulder. … Dustin Pedroia has been told to stay out of Wednesday's lineup. Do not mess with thumb injuries, my friends. He'll be examined by team doctors when the club returns to Boston on Thursday. … Brian Fuentes has been designated for assignment, which sounds so much cooler than it really is. The A's tried aggressively to shop him but no one was fooled. … Shaun Marcum is still feeling discomfort in the elbow, so don't assume he'll return immediately after the All-Star break. … Brian Roberts (groin) is injured again, to the surprise of no one. He wasn't doing anything roto-worthy anyway. … Andre Ethier still has some discomfort in his rib-cage area, so "day-to-day" will probably turn into "DL stint" any moment now. Man do the Dodgers need to add a batter, or five. … So much for the cushy Franklin Morales start against Oakland; Bobby Valentine pulled out the rug from under us and called a holiday audible. The Red Sox will now use Morales on Saturday at home against the Yankees, one half of a double-header. Your depth and league specs make the call — this is not an automatic start on my clipboard. If you own Morales and are already committed, hope the lefty gets the better half of the draw (managers normally will rest some regulars in one half of a twin-bill). It's almost impossible to project double-leader lineups before the fact, however.