Dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headaches, restlessness, insomnia, confusion, violent seizures, involuntary utterances of obscene words, swollen team ERA, terrifying nightmares of Oliver Perez '05 and an uncontrollable urge to click the "drop" button are symptoms of a destructive disorder that has tortured the Noise for the past two weeks.
Its medical name: Rich Hill-suckosis.
As loyal readers know I have outwardly professed my man-passion for the long, lanky 27-year-old Cubs lefty in this space since the dawn of time. He is one of a handful of Draft Day sleepers – Alex Rios, Shane Victorino, Corey Hart, Jose Valverde and Adrian Gonzalez included – I correctly projected would greatly exceed his March ADP. I even went as far as proclaiming Hill would be the "best fantasy lefty in the NL" this season and predicted in the April 11 "Noise" he would amass a dazzling end-season line – 3.50 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 180-200 K, 14-17 W. With wins being the exception, my prognostication has been accurate.
And I'm sticking to it. Damn it.
Over the past three weeks my tender feelings for Hill have been challenged. With an abhorrent 8.89 ERA, repulsive 1.86 WHIP and a horrific 3.13 HR/9 in his past four starts, cynicism is hard to ignore.
The reason for Hill's recent swoon is two-fold: 1) The trajectory on his curve has flattened, which has kept the ball high in the zone. 2) He has made mental mistakes with the location and speeds on his fastball.
The good news: these are solvable issues.
Even more good news is that underneath the bloated ERA, WHIP and HR/9 numbers are signs of improvement, which will inevitably vault Hill back into the second tier of starters – and his provocative pictures back onto my office wall.
Here are four reasons why Richie Rich recaptures the fantasy bling:
1. Ironically, in his past four starts, Hill's FB% sits at a very respectable 39.6 – if he can increase his GB%, watch out.
2. He continues to strike out players at a sensational rate. Since June 17, he's sported a 9.41 K/9.
3. His outstanding 3.00 K/BB rate means, outside of the occasional homer, he doesn't kill himself with free passes. Once Mr. Snappy's arc returns, his homers allowed, and subsequently his ERA, will shrink.
4. Collectively, the Cubs have played better offensively and defensively, winning 12 of their past 16 games – his 56th ranked 3.22 RS/9 in the NL should head north.
Hill's second-half fearless forecast: 6 W, 3.58 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 86 K.
With no box scores to peruse, this week's flames and lames are devoted to my top-five not-so-obvious candidates to surge and swoon in the second-half.
7 W, 107.1 IP, 4.86 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 80:24 K:BB
The burning Bush has quietly begun to stoke the fire in his past four starts. Including one two-inning relief appearance on June 27, Bush has compiled a radiant 2.56 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 6.7 K/9 and four wins. Bush was a popular mid-round sleeper among most fantasy pundits back in March, but his 8.36 ERA with runners on has led him down a treacherous path. Although his overall ERA and WHIP numbers are far from desirable, he has seen a noticeable improvement in HR/9 (0.84) and his GB% (44.1) and FB% (34.5) are nearly identical with his career averages. Because he's been relatively unlucky this season (.329 BABIP, 4.70 RS/9) and since he usually exhibits excellent command (2.01 BB/9), I'm confident his ERA will drop close to a full point come September. Fearless Forecast (Post-ASB): 7 W, 2.83 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 70 K.
.256 BA, 8 HR, 27 RBI, 25 R, 39:23 K:BB
Almost fully recovered from a broken hand, Overbay will go down the fantasy gullet like an ice cold Labatt Blue on a sweltering summer day. Out since June 4, Overbay has performed valiantly in 15 rehab at-bats, blasting one homer while driving in five. Prior to the injury, the 30-year-old had tallied his best HR/FB% of his career (17.4) and was on pace to surpass his career-best 22 dingers from a season ago. Although he doesn't possess the natural power of a Frank Thomas or an Alex Rios, Overbay draws consistent contact and is an unheralded source of RBIs. Likely to hit third in a potent Blue Jays lineup, he could be a solid source of BA and RBI in the second half – especially with Vernon Wells heating up. I wouldn't be floored if he outperformed the tender-kneed David Ortiz the rest of the way. Fearless Forecast: .300 BA, 12 HR, 43 RBI, 45 R.
.286 BA, 3 HR, 14 RBI, 9 R, 18:3 K:BB
KC's "Benson" will serve homers, RBI and freshly brewed coffee at a moment's notice. If Butler's six-RBI thumping of the Seattle Mariners on July 3 wasn't eye-opening, you seriously need to join a deeper fantasy league. The 21-year-old Butler is an Edgar Martinez-type of professional hitter who showcases tremendous bat speed and a cerebral plate approach. In 371 minor league games he slapped an outstanding .327 BA, averaged a homer once every 20.2 at-bats and racked a patient 11.9 BB%. Since being reinserted into the lineup everyday on June 25, Butler has smacked three homers, knocked in 10 and has hit safely in 12 of 15 games. With Mike Sweeney out a minimum of six weeks after having arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, Butler will continue to be penciled in everyday at DH, hitting third. Yes, his 18:3 K:BB split may seem alarming, but he has the tools to be a Royal pain to your opponents. Fearless Forecast (Post ASB): .289 BA, 11 HR, 49 RBI, 36 R.
W, 10.2 IP, 3.38 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 11:4 K:BB
Hughes, due to return July 22 or 23 in Kansas City, will finally send Kei Igawa to the sushi bar. The Yankees cherished 21-year-old prospect has been sidelined with a strained left hamstring since May 2 – a blessing in disguise. Because Brian Cashman had intentions of limiting Hughes to 150 IP, his prolonged absence means the shackles will be discarded in the second-half. In his first rehab start on July 9 for Single-A Tampa, Hughes was relatively sharp, not allowing a hit, walking two with three strikeouts in two innings. His fastball was clocked at 94 mph with regularity and he felt "very comfortable." Hughes may still be a bit unrefined, but with a deadly arsenal – mid-90s four-seamer, power breaking ball and a plus slider – he will flash occasional stretches of dominance as he did in 6.1 no-hit innings in Arlington back on May 1. With the league's third-most prolific offense to support him, Hughes will be a waiver-wire gem. Fearless Forecast (Post ASB): 5 W, 3.65 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 75 K.
(Triple-A) .315 BA, 11 HR, 50 RBI, 45 R, 10 SB, 66:50 K:BB
The "Canadian Soprano" is one trade away from becoming a staple in fantasy lineups. The reigning Southern League MVP was promoted to Triple-A this year and has ripped up International League pitching. Although his home run totals have dipped slightly from a year ago, he's raised his BB% from 13.3 to 14.1 and continues to exhibit double-digit speed – a luxury for any first baseman. In statistical speak, Votto reminds me of an unpolished Derrek Lee. A tireless worker with quick hands, he has all of the attributes to be a five-category fantasy star. All NL-only and deep mixed leagues (14-team and greater) should stash Votto in the inevitable event Adam Dunn, Scott Hatteberg or Ken Griffey Jr. are dealt later this month. Fearless Forecast (250 at-bats): .280 BA, 8 HR, 38 RBI, 35 R, 5 SB.
10 W, 2.30 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 101:32 K:BB
Detailed in last week's Noise, Haren is not exactly a statistical reincarnation of Vida Blue from 1974 (22 W, 3.01 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 189 K). In case you missed it, here are the reasons why he needs to be shopped (updated info included). First, Haren has tallied a 13 percent hike in FB%, but has cut his HR/9 from 1.25 to 0.77 this year – since he's likely to face Detroit at least twice after the break, this number could rise. Second, Haren's four-leafed clover .246 BABIP means his luck will run out eventually. Finally, sprinkle in an 18 percent surge in BB/9 from last year and you've got a recipe for a significant second-half ERA jump. With at least three earned in four-straight starts and a 1.23 HR/9 over that span, he's well on his way. Because Haren, the top-rated starter in the Y! game, is demanding Johan Santana-like trade value – he was dished for Lance Berkman, Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera in solo deals this week – now's the time for profit seekers to deal him to a blind-folded owner. Fearless Forecast (Post-ASB): 6 W, 100 IP, 4.32 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 78 K.
4 W, 102.0 IP, 2.74 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 72:18 K:BB
Face it people, Guthrie is not Jim Palmer revisited – creepy Jockey ads included. What Guthrie has done this season is nothing short of remarkable. Since cementing his spot in the Orioles rotation on May 8, he has reeled off 11 quality starts in 12 outings, notching a sensational 2.19 ERA and 0.80 WHIP. However, it's time to check out of the honeymoon suite. Guthrie's .234 BABIP and 6.35 K/9 imply that his ERA is certain to rise. In fact, his FIP (Field Independent Pitching) – which projects a player's ERA based on specific events he controls – forecasts an end-season ERA of 3.55. Look, he's been spectacular, but with a 41.3 FB% and three homers allowed in his past two starts, the signs of a crumble are apparent. Pulling marquee names like Brian Roberts, Edgar Renteria and Nick Swisher in straight-up Plus league swaps, Guthrie should have heady owners looking to cash in their waiver wire lottery ticket for an offensive upgrade. Fearless Forecast (Post ASB): 4 W, 4.18 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 55 K.
.306 BA, 14 HR, 49 RBI, 53 R, 17 SB, 59:31 K:BB
"Crash and" Byrnes is notorious for falling into deep second-half comas. In the midst of a career year, Byrnes has sharpened his eye (7.9 BB% up from 5.7 in'06), seen an incredible 50-point rise in OBP and a 39-point vault in BA. On pace for new career benchmarks in BA, HR (25), RBI (88), runs (95) and steals (31) his value has elevated into prestigious company. In the past week, Byrnes has captured notable fantasy superstars Carlos Lee, Derrek Lee and Jonathan Papelbon in solo deals. Now is the time to maximize profit. In his eight-year career, Byrnes has slumped terribly in the second-half, posting a 19 percent drop-off in BA (.234) and 25 percent decline in power production. Undoubtedly, he'll reach the 20 HR, 25 SB plateau again this season, but his BA will likely finish some 20 points lower than its current standing. Fearless Forecast (Post ASB): .243 BA, 8 HR, 34 RBI, 10 SB.
.280 BA, 18 HR, 54 RBI, 48 R, 48:28 K:BB
All of the young, admiring females who wear "Mrs. J.J. Hardy" shirts to Miller Park will trade them in for "Mrs. Corey Hart" shirts – me included – by year's end. The window of opportunity to turn a profit on Hardy has almost closed. Since his magnificent .325 BA, 9 HR, 29 RBI May, Hardy has batted an abysmal .231 with a paltry three homers and eight RBI. Over that span his FB% has dropped from 43.2 to 41.2, his GB% has skyrocketed from 37.5 to 42.2 and his LD% has plummeted from 19.3 to 16.4. In other words, his May power spike appears to be an aberration. As Brandon Funston and I accurately noted on the Y! SportStream back in early May, Hardy was more likely to finish with 25-30 homers than 40. Although no longer attracting Cadillac names, Hardy is still commanding luxury sedans in trades – he was recently swapped for Billy Wagner, Mariano Rivera and Ken Griffey Jr. in solo Plus league trades. Fearless Forecast (Post ASB): .265 BA, 9 HR, 44 RBI, 43 R.
.310 BA, 11 HR, 43 RBI, 52 R, 5 SB, 53:29 K:BB
Given Rowand's injury-rich history, it's a miracle the vicious Colorado tarp monster didn't swallow him whole. Rowand, currently on pace to establish new career highs in at-bats (581), runs (96) and RBI (79), has rekindled his '04 magic. The fruits of his success are largely due to a dramatic rise in BB% ('06: 4.3, '07: 8.4) and decline in strikeouts ('06: 18.8 K%, '07: 16.8 K%). Sure, he's a career .288 hitter after the break and he's settled in nicely behind Ryan Howard in the RBI-friendly fifth spot, but the odds of him making an awkward dive or munching on a fence burger in center are favorable. Last year he logged 56 DL days and he's only accumulated more than 500 at-bats once in his seven-year career. Because he's commanded the likes of Trevor Hoffman and Jhonny Peralta in one-for-one Plus league trades, it's best to deal him now while his value is at its zenith. Fearless Forecast (Post-ASB; DL stint included): .279 BA, 8 HR, 41 RBI, 42 R, 2 SB.
TRUE OR FALSE?
We've all seen these seemingly ambiguous statements on exams and quizzes since elementary school, now the classic test teaser gets a fantasy makeover. Each week, I'll tackle pressing diamond topics with a direct, succinct answer. Please, keep your eyes on your own paper.
Corey Hart will continue his torrid pace and five category contributions after the All-Star break. – T.R., Rushville, MO
Answer: True. Hart nearly surpassed my "breakout" projection – .275 BA, 17 HR, 75 RBI, 75 R, 19 SB – in the first-half alone. Much of his success can be explained by a more consistent, fluid approach to the plate. Hart has shaved six percentage points of his K% from last year and has increased his BB% from 6.7 to 8.5. Obviously the 237 at-bats he compiled in '06 have dramatically aided his comfort level at the plate. Well-protected with Hardy, the dynamite Ryan Braun and bopper Prince Fielder behind him, Hart's current 89 R, 22 HR, 32 SB pace is no fluke. He is the NL-version of Grady Sizemore. Come next March, owners will be humming "Sunglasses at Night" in the late-second round. Fearless Forecast: .295 BA, 23 HR, 70 RBI, 91 R, 30 SB.
Upset you don't have a forum to express your disdain for drafting Adam LaRoche? 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?
Evans, just because you took Hill rather than Haren to be your anchor does not give you license to be such a hater. Haren is 25 and his trends as a 23- and 24-year-old no longer hold up for the projections of this newly-minted super ace.
– Hazel, St. Louis, MO
Brad, I don't really buy your BABIP usage. Last week you claimed that Haren will get roughed up post-ASB because he is lucky with his .243 BABIP. Well, tell you what, I just picked Johan Santana randomly for calculation and, if I didn't goof it up, his BABIP is about .260, which isn't really that much different from Haren. Unless you have the arsenal to rebuke me with legitimate reasons why Haren and Santana are different cases, I'm going to think you use BABIP just to bloat your fantasy expert image.
– Victor, Wellesley, MA
Noise: Victor, my excessive use of puns and incredibly chiseled physique – not my use of sabermetric stats – have bloated my expert image. In all seriousness, this is a terrific question. BABIP – the percentage of batted balls that fall for hits, not including home runs – when used exclusively does not define where a player will trend. But when used in conjunction with other stats, it's very insightful.
Haren and Santana are very comparable across the board this season. Both have a FB% over 40.0 (Haren 41.1, Santana 46.8). Both have a 2.23 BB/9. Both have a BABIP well under the perpetual .290 league average (Haren .246, Santana .265). And both have similar strand rates (Haren 78.5 LOB%, Santana 83.5). The primary difference between the two is K/9. Santana has struck out nearly two batters more per nine than Haren. This means that regardless of the mistakes Santana has made (career worst 1.26 HR/9 included), the likelihood he sustains an ERA under 3.00 is quite reasonable, because he can play with fire and not get burned. You follow?
Given Santana's storied history of strong second halves – 2.55 ERA, 1.02 ERA, 45-10 record in 69 post-break starts – and based on the analysis above, he must be viewed differently than Danny Boy.
Brad, for your All-Weiner roster you definitely should have put Jermaine Dye in there. C'Mon! The man goes from .313 BA and 44 homers to .230 and 11. If I wanted Russell Branyan numbers I would have picked him up.
– Mike, Louisville, OH
You are the captain and all-time great on the All-Weiner team.
– Todd, Austin, TX
Please tell me that your disgusting promotion of the sickest "competition" known to man in your last column was some kind of joke. Supporting a contest where grown men try to determine who can waste the most food the quickest is embarrassing to any person with a shred of integrity or respect. How many people go to bed hungry everyday because they can't afford a meal? Do you think they get a kick out of this sick joke of an event? And I'm not even talking exclusively about people in third world countries. People living in Canada and the U.S. sure could put this food to better use. Here's an idea that North Americans might consider; giving good to people who need it instead of celebrating who can be the biggest waste on our society.
– James, Ontario, Canada
Noise: Hey James, can I donate Pat Burrell's .215 BA and $13 million salary to the Salvation Army? Look, for all of you aspiring philanthropists out there who play fantasy baseball, please save your Mother Teresa diatribes for politicians in Ottawa and D.C. In case you forgot, this is a fantasy baseball column not a free forum to rant about class disparities spurred by capitalism. Hey, I donate canned foods every year to my local Food Bank and I relish Nathan's disgustingly-fantastic 12 minute sausage scarf each year. Heck, the Chestnut/Kobayashi bun-to-bun clash was 100 times more thrilling than the NBA Finals.
Figured I'd stop by since we're at the break. You getting into the top-10 of the Y! Friends and Family League is still a long shot. But thanks for the recommendations on Cano and Haren. Since I own them both, I'm pleased to know they'll have monster second-half numbers based on your opinion to sell. Out of morbid curiosity, how can you roll Tom Gorzelanny out there every five days and ignore Jon Garland and Cliff Lee, who are on waivers? I only looked at your team for like two minutes, and it begs the question: are you stubborn or stupid?
– Nick, Boston, MA
Noise: Neither. I'm the smartest man in the world because I get paid to write about fantasy sports. Nick, I'm convinced you either play in an 8-team league with a bunch of owners high on ecstasy or you're completely obtuse to what Gorzy has accomplished thus far. I'm going with the latter. Gorzelanny is currently the 28h-best starter in Yahoo! games and has tallied a fantastic No. 3 worthy line – 9 W, 3.10 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 5.67 K/9. Meanwhile, your fearsome twosome of Jon Garland and Cliff Lee have combined for 11 wins, a 4.45 ERA, 1.31 WHIP and 4.68 K/9, rating them both well outside the top-50 among starters. That's why Garland, who crapped his jock for 11 ER in 3 IP in his last start, and Lee, who has less than half the quality starts of Gorzy, are ignored. Have you shotgunned that many Sam Adams?
You're right about Cano. Since I labeled him a "moderate sell," he's gone 8-for-23 with three homers and seven RBI. Maybe I should use reverse psychology on my entire roster.
Only 8.5 roto points from sixth place, I think I've done a reasonable job considering I've lost Mark Teixeira and Miguel Tejada to significant injuries. Unless a meteorite falls from space and wipes out half my team, I'll finish higher than 10th – and hopefully higher than Funston …
Brad, out of curiosity, who has the least manly name in the Major Leagues?
John, Cooper City, FL
Noise: Hands down Padres reserve outfielder Hiram Bocachica has the most unmanly name in the bigs. Not only does the guy have an effimanate .216 career BA, the English translation of his last name is "mouth girl." I'm sure his days on the grade school playgrounds in Puerto Rico were filled with constant ridicule …