Shrouded by Randy Johnson's hillbilly-sexy mullet, Eric Byrnes' medical record stacks and discarded tissues shed over Chris Snyder's originally-diagnosed-fractured-but-was-technically-bruised testicle is an underappreciated Snake that has slithered in the desert.
The pitcher poisonous reptile is Chad Tracy.
Over the past three weeks, the corner infielder's swing has sizzled like the sweltering sun in the Sonoran sky. During that span he's hit safely in 13 of 17 games, hammering out 22 hits in 58 at-bats (.379 BA). His 14 RBIs, eight runs and eight extra-base hits in that stretch are equally impressive.
Yet despite outpacing lineup staples Aramis Ramirez, Jason Giambi and teammate Conor Jackson over the past 30 days in Y! leagues, the ginger-faced first/third basemen has mysteriously received little fantasy fanfare.
Amnesia can be epidemic in shallow mixed leagues. Too often, previously tested talents rot on waiver wires simply because ignorant owners feel they're not fashionable anymore.
Tracy is one such commodity.
Prior to his injury-shortened 2007, the smooth-swinging hook was revered for his consistency and appreciable post-break production. From '05-'06, he averaged a .294 BA with 23 homers, 76 RBIs and 82 runs scored per season. More importantly, his post-break averages in those campaigns (.299 BA, 12 HR, 33 RBI and 39 R) made him one of the unsung heroes for glory-capturing owners.
Fully recovered from September knee surgery and a serious blood clot complication in late December which kept him sidelined for nearly the first two months of the season, the 28-year-old has rediscovered his stroke. As Bob Melvin recently told the East Valley Tribune, Tracy is just now regaining his '06 form:
"Anytime he gets a lot of looks, he can be a productive guy. He's seeing the ball well, and he's as good a hitter as anyone we have. He's still in the mode – he had no spring training, he was not 100 percent for a while."
Tracy echoed Melvin's observations suggesting that his comfort level is improving with each box step:
"I don’t think I'm as locked in as I have been at times in the past. But my timing feels pretty good and my swing feels pretty good. The more at-bats I'm getting, the more comfortable I'm getting."
Based on his ridiculous .447 BABIP, six multi-hit games, 27.1 line-drive and 90.7 contact percentages since July 1, Tracy appears Tempur-Pedic comfortable, even against southpaws who he's historically struggled against (.223 BA career, .300 BA in '08).
Sure his name isn't synonymous with elite corners Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez and Lance Berkman and he'll never be particularly spectacular in any single category, but Tracy will be productively sound in BA, HR, RBI and R over the final two months of the season. Because he hits almost exclusively out of the cleanup spot, his statistical surge is bound to mimic Kevin Kouzmanoff's post-All-Star breakout from last season (.317 BA, 11 HR, 37 RBI, 34).
Owned in fewer leagues than expendable products Blake DeWitt (6.9%), Brandon Inge (5.2%) and Brian Giles (5.0%), the 95.1 percent available Tracy warrants an immediate roster move in deep-benched 12-team mixed leagues.
Given Tracy's gap-splitting swing, glowing peripherals and RBI-friendly spot in the D-Backs' order, his venomous bat will make him one sneaky Snake during the most crucial weeks of the virtual diamond season.
Here are this week’s flames, lames and stars of video games:
.253 BA, 15 HR, 63 RBI, 50 R, 2 SB, 53:28 K:BB
Strong Buy (all leagues)
Mora has rampaged through opposing pitchers with Cal Ripken flair since the break. Injected with cortisone, and presumably the Iron Man's DNA, earlier this month to relieve persistent shoulder pain that has plagued him since spring training, Mora is physically reinvigorated, telling the Washington Post July 22, "Maybe it's because I got some rest at the all-star break and the cortisone worked. But right now, I feel strong again." Based on his statistical returns, "strong" is a gross understatement. In his past 11 contests, the 36-year-old three-bagger has recorded five multi-hit games, launched four homers and has driven in 19 runs. Since July 13 his batting average has climbed 20 points. His stout 20.4 LD%, 83.6 CT% and balanced 1.07 GB/FB ratio are glowing indicators that, as long as his shoulder pain is squashed, he will continue to thrive over the final two months of the season. Ride the wings of this Oriole in all 12-team mixed leagues.
2B, 3B, OF
.257 BA, 7 HR, 21 RBI, 32 R, 7 SB, 32:27 K:BB
Moderate Buy (deep mixed), Moderate Sell (NL-only)
In his past nine games, Washington's slinky flexible utilityman has marshaled a hit parade down Pennsylvania Avenue. Over that span, Harris has seven multi-hit games, along with three homers, nine RBIs and 10 runs. The reigning NL Player of the Week has driven the ball more ferociously to the gaps, indicative of his 38.6 FB% this season, well above his 32.2 career average. Harris' keener eye ('08 BB%: 13.9, '07: 10.4), superb 81.7 CT% and top spot in the Nationals' order are also positive signs of statistical staying power. However, incumbent centerfielder Lastings Milledge, currently rehabbing with Triple-A Columbus, is expected to return Friday, complicating Harris' playing time. But Manny Acta told MLB.com July 24, that based on "the way Willie is playing right now it would be very tough to get him out of the lineup." The 30-year-old journeyman will temporarily supplant Ryan Langerhans in left, spiking his short-term value. Owners in ocean-deep mixed leagues searching for a BA and runs scoring threat at middle infield should employ Harris' services. On the flip side, NL-only participants may want to seek a profit with his value at its apex.
.307 BA, 4 HR, 16 RBI, 10 R, 0 SB, 32:4 K:BB
Strong Buy (all leagues)
Kinsler isn't the only MLB Ian who can drive fantasy owner libidos wild. Since rejoining the senior club July 19, Stewart's stick has reached the summit of Pike's Peak. Over that five game stretch, he's amassed 11 hits in 20 at-bats (.550 BA), including four extra-base hits and 11 RBIs. Clint Hurdle and hitting coach Alan Cockrell have emphasized swing consistency, encouraging their players to shorten their strokes. Reverting back to the basics, Stewart has followed a new practice regimen, which includes plenty of tee time to assist in developing a steadier approach. This philosophy has made the youngster's swing quicker and more compact, paying instant dividends at the dish. Stewart has always had tremendous raw power but his propensity for strikeouts (44.4 K% in '08) and inconsistent playing time have stymied his fantasy impact. Now that his mechanical flaws are in check and with Garrett Atkins filling in for Todd Helton, who likely won't be activated for quite some time, at first base, it appears he'll finally have an extended opportunity to showcase his jaw-dropping talents. Because Stewart is second base eligible in Y! leagues, he could rival the elites of the position in power production over the next few weeks. The brawny 23-year-old blasted a homer once every 13.5 at-bats with Triple-A Colorado Springs this year.
133.0 IP, 7 W, 3.92 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 87:33 K:BB
Strong Buy (all leagues)
Shiver me timbers! Pittsburgh's Captain Hook has been a bountiful source of fantasy booty over the past month. Since June 15, the emerging southpaw has tallied a dynamite 2.88 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. Maholm's outstanding control (1.98 BB/9 L7) over his 89-91 mph sinking fastball generates tons of weak contact, evident in his 55.9 GB% in his past seven starts. Because he doesn't possess the stuff to blow hitters away, the former 2003 first round pick feverishly pounds the lower part of the zone, mixing speeds with his fastball and change to bewilder opponents. Foolish owners will bypass him because of his unattractive 5.89 K/9 and sparse wins, but Maholm is a rising star who will persistently rack quality starts. In many ways, he's the NL equivalent of Mark Buehrle. Based on his recent string of marvelous efforts, Maholm is worth a permanent roster spot in 12-team mixed leagues.
31.0 IP, 0 W, 2.90 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 33:14 K:BB
Moderate Buy (deep mixed), Strong Buy (NL-only)
Heavily touted in the space earlier this season, Mad Max has spent some time in the fantasy insane asylum (minor league DL) in recent weeks. Recuperated from shoulder fatigue that sidelined him for over a month, Scherzer is slowly rebuilding his arm strength as a reliever for Triple-A Tucson. The results so far have been disastrous (2.2 IP, 7 ER, 5:5 K:BB), but the injury setback is truly a fantasy blessing in disguise. Missing that much time should allow the flamethrowing prospect to pitch through September, presumably as a starter with the senior club. With Micah Owings poised to become the next Rick Ankiel or, bizarrely, Adam Loewen, and Yusmiero Petit merely a stopgap until something better comes along, it seems the D-Backs' front office is preparing Scherzer for the No.5 rotation spot. Once he returns to every fifth-day duties with Tucson and strings together a couple of quality starts he should be promoted promptly. The 24-year-old's heater is eyebrow-singeing (93-96 mph) but he will have to show more consistent control over his secondary pitches (slider, low-80s change) to be trusted in shallow mixed leagues. Those in deeper formats hoping to take out a late-August insurance policy in strikeouts should speculatively add Mad Max now.
.268 BA, 17 HR, 66 RBI, 60 R, 1 SB, 65:48 K:BB
Moderate Buy (all leagues)
It's appropriate. In the same week a sports collectibles entrepreneur dangled $25,000 in cold hard cash to entice Steve Bartman to come out of hiding, Chicago's prized slugger saw his BA plummet to its lowest mark (.268) since April 19. Mired in a brutal 3-for-35 slide with zero RBIs and nine strikeouts (25.7 K%), A-Ram, much like the entire Cubs offense, has struggled immensely. Lou Piniella has been dumbfounded by the listless production the middle of the Cubs order has provided, particularly Ramirez's. Although his 68.2 FB% since July 11 is unsettling, the third basemen's troubles cannot be blamed on a hidden injury or mechanical flaw. Instead, his problems are exclusively due to his distaste for the road. Away from the friendly confines, he's notched a pathetic .209 BA. Conversely, he's hit .338 at home. Based on the names he's attracted in Y! Plus league solo deals this week (Edinson Volquez, Vladimir Guerrero and John Lackey), Ramirez's trade value remains high. But if an outwardly frustrated A-Ram owner in your league is ripe for the picking, pitch an offer. In August, 19 of Chicago's 28 games are at Wrigley, which means the fledging three-bagger's bat will rejuvenate shortly.
.269 BA, 24 HR, 61 RBI, 60 R, 4 SB, 104:42 K:BB
Moderate Sell (all leagues)
Mentally scarred by his countless Yankees Stadium blunders, the true All-Star Game AL MVP is still being haunted by the demons of despair. In his past 25 at-bats the floundering fish has registered just one hit with 11 strikeouts. Uggla's free-swinging mentality has feasted on his BA for weeks. Over the past 30 days, he's sandwiched between first ballot Hall of Famers Alex Cintron and Ruben Gotay at No. 69 in Y! second basemen rankings. Due to his colossal 32.2 K% and air-heavy 0.63 GB/FB ratio (52.9 FB%), Uggla's kamikaze trend will likely continue. Remember that in his brief three-year career he's logged a .244 BA after the break. Occasional homer spurts are in the forecast, but if you're tenuously clinging to a high ranking in BA, it's time to sell. This week in Y! Plus leagues, Uggla was shipped for Javier Vazquez, Brandon Phillips and Carlos Beltran in one-for-one transactions.
.259 BA, 5 HR, 27 RBI, 62 R, 35 SB, 53:32 K:BB
Moderate Sell (all leagues)
Ellsbury is one humbled Beaver. The former Oregon State standout has hit the skids for the first time in his much ballyhooed career. Since July 11, the Sox speedster has collected just five hits in 42 at-bats, whiffing an uncharacteristic nine times (21.4 K%). More damaging, he's stolen a mere two bags since June 17, a span of 29 games. Viewing Ellsbury's peripherals under a magnifying glass, there aren't any visible outliers that account for his issues. Even Ellsbury himself, as he remarked to MLB.com July 21, believes his "swing is the same." Because Terry Francona is awestruck by the youngster's blazing speed, he has ignored suggestions of removing Ellsbury from the leadoff spot. But if he doesn’t snap out of it soon, the Sox skipper could have a change of heart. Many owners chasing points in steals will overpay for wheels this time of year, which makes Ellsbury very marketable. Swapped straight up for Matt Cain, Evan Longoria and George Sherrill in Y! Plus leagues this week, the Beantown Barracuda is someone to advertise if you are sound in speed.
41.2 IP, 3 W, 29 S, 3.71 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 44:24 K:BB
Moderate Sell (all leagues)
The flat-billed finisher has been the anti-Cordero (Chad) this season. However, similar to Jon Rauch, he's one deal away from entering into a muddied closing situation. According to numerous sources, five teams (Bos, LAA, LAD, Mil, and StL) have recently inquired about Sherrill's availability. Because he's not a free agent until after 2011 and given his prolific end-game efforts this year (29-for-35 in save opps), the O's price-tag is likely hefty. Due to the somewhat shaky closing options in Milwaukee and St. Louis, those potential destinations would be the best case scenarios for Sherrill to maintain his current value level. However, unless something catastrophic happens to the current closers for the possible AL suitors, Sherrill would become a lefty-specialist, crippling his worth. Traded for Alex Rios, Ryan Ludwick and Carlos Guillen in one-for-one Y! Plus league deals this week, Sherrill should be shopped. On a side note, relievers Jim Johnson (short-term) and Chris Ray (long-term), who could return from Tommy John surgery by the end of August, are the speculative Baltimore closers in waiting.
118.2 IP, 7 W, 3.03 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 97:33 K:BB
Moderate Sell (all leagues)
If President Bush really did possess a "magic wand," he would lower gas prices and compose a fantasy rotation full of John Danks. Yes, the 23-year-old southpaw has been a revelation this year. His greatly improved command ('07 BB/9: 3.50, '08: 2.50) and inclusion of a nasty cutter to induce more groundball outs ('07 GB%: 34.8, '08: 45.5) are testaments to his advancements. But based on Danks' last two questionable outings against the Rangers and powerless Royals (10 ER in 11.2 IP) and high number of innings, now is the time to maximize profit. Why? Danks is starting to show signs of tiring. Because his season innings benchmark stands at 139.0, he's entered a fuzzy period, one which could end smacking face first into a brick wall. With the White Sox poised to play deep into October, it's possible that in the next few weeks Danks' arm could be rested to prevent fatigue. Considering he's attracted Troy Tulowitzki, Kerry Wood and Curtis Granderson in Y! Plus league solo deals this week, it's an excellent time to shop him.
Don't know what FB% means? Check out our sabermetric glossary.
Y!RNK - Overall player ranking in Yahoo! leagues
Y!% - Percentage owned in Yahoo! leagues
- All stats listed are for games played through July 23
Upset you don't have a forum to express your disdain for drafting Joe Borowski? 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?
Hooray for the Donkey! Welcome back to the world of fantasy relevance Billy Butler, as well as (hopefully) the infield spot on my roster for the rest of the season. – Willie, Chico, Calif.
Noise: The Prince of Plod has finally started to put chub behind club. Since July 18, he's cracked two homers, driven in nine runs and posted two multi-hit games. Recall that Butler was a strong performer after the break last season (245 at-bats, .294 BA, 5 HR, 38 RBI, 29 R) for deep-thinking mixed leaguers. Based on his recent successes he's poised to again contribute solid numbers in several key categories, especially if he remains entrenched in the third/fourth spot in the Royals order. Vindication will taste Brandon Jacobs-sweet when Butler finally explodes.
I understand where your love for Maddux comes from, as he is quite possibly the greatest clean pitcher of this era, but when it comes his future value this season, you are a bit off. For starters, you can't just eliminate three starts and then evaluate ERA. John Maine, who you categorized as a strong sell, has a 3.58 ERA when you eliminate his July 18th, June 15th and May 20th starts. Hardly a strong sell with that ERA. Second, if he does get traded, his wins will likely not come his way, as he won't be pitching in Petco Park and will probably get rocked into retirement. His ERA on the road is........ 6.27. Maddux only has value if a)he stays in San Diego, and b)he is pitching at home. Once Maddux is traded he will become unrosterable despite being pitching for a contender. Owning Maddux, as long as he is a friar, involves a tradeoff, that being fewer victories for a better ERA. –Isaac, Chicago, Ill.
Greg Maddux is not ownable in any format now. Let's move on.–Vince, Korea
Noise: Yes, Mad Dog's statistical bite may resemble a Chihuahua's in shallow mixed leagues but based on the evidence presented in last week's Noise, there's favorable odds he could morph into a rabies-infected Cujo if dealt to a contending team. Obviously, the puddle-shallow league you participate in is comprised of residents from Pusan. Surely Manny Parra (48.1 percent owned), Scott Baker (45.7) and Mike Pelfrey (45.2) are sipping Mai Tais your league's free agent pool. If that is indeed the case, it's time for you to enter a more challenging league …
Look, Maddux is a rotation anchor in NL-only and deep mixed leagues and, per Isaac's statements above, he's at least worth streaming consideration in 12-team mixed leagues. His ERA in the cavernous specs of Petco is 2.51, WHIP 1.00.
Sure he's shown his Larry King age away from home, which would appear unsavory if he was dealt to a contender, but there's one key human element about Maddux that must be mentioned: he's a gamer. Thrust into a division or wild card chase would refine his sharpness, even in an unfriendly pitching environment. Remember, he's induced oodles of groundballs this year (49.4 GB%). His ability to draw consistent weak contact coupled with a low walk total (1.74 BB/9) is a recipe for success wherever he toes the rubber.
Oh and Isaac, the real reasons why John Maine was labeled a "Strong Sell" last week: 1) Historically, he's been a disaster after the break ('07 Post-ASB ERA: 5.55). 2) Physically, he doesn't seem 100 percent. The persistent "elbow cramps" he's experienced may lead to something more catastrophic. Your attempt at throwing my own logic back into my face was fair but feeble.
I have a delicate question, and could think of no better fantasy writer with the guts to tackle it than you, the "Monarch of the Man-crush.” It seems Pedro Martinez received a cortisone shot to "speed the healing" of his sore groin. My question, fearless noise, is WHERE do they place the needle for such an injection? – Outie, Chambersburg, Pa.
Noise: The Noise's extensive background studying injection techniques at the prestigious Mark Prior School of Anesthesiology is enough qualification to answer this disturbing question.
You see Outie, a needle is actually not used for this type of medical procedure. Instead, a miniaturized jackhammer dipped in cortisone repeatedly pounds a small spot roughly two inches from the subject's manhood. This approach is employed for one singular reason: to reciprocate the same amount of pain in the patient as his ERA (6.25) and WHIP (1.63) have the fantasy community.
Well, at least that's what the Doogie Howser-branded DVDs taught us at MPSA.
You are one of the worst talent evaluators I've ever seen. This is why you are consistently an "also ran" in your F&F Leagues. Also, you should never reference your one or two accurate projections without also noting how many awful predictions go with them.– Nick, Boston, Mass.
Noise: Worst talent evaluators you've ever seen? Really? "America's Got Talent" judge/German music extraordinaire David Hasselhoff or Toronto GM J.P. Ricciardi have far worse evaluation skills than the Noise.
Of course my prognostications are largely "awful." Most brave people who dare to venture down the road of predicting the unpredictable suffer a similar fate. Even statistical innovators Bill James and Ron Shandler miss the mark more often than not in their much digested preseason outlooks.
As the Noise has maintained, no sophisticated formulas, fancy Excel spreadsheets or groundbreaking calculations are derived to generate each player's "Fearless Forecast." Because the Noise barely survived Calc I in college – cheap beer and the allure of canoodling unattractive women nearly led to my undoing – many of the predictions are made with gut in mind and abacus in hand. As with any crystal ball view, the Noise's projections have a "for entertainment purposes only" label attached. Some are spot on, but most are, well, grossly inaccurate.
Programming Note: My very pregnant wife (No, it's actually not this person. She really is a woman) is expected to give birth to our second son anytime within the next two weeks. Because the birthing of children is far more important than providing the fantasy masses with opinion (I think), the Noise will be on a brief hiatus in the very near future. If you're curious, we're thinking of naming the boy Richard, as in Harden (But really Hill – actually neither). Wish the little Noise and my courageous wife luck …