For most 40-something legends in the penultimate period of their careers colonoscopies, Scooter Store endorsements and daily Metamucil shots typically loom. John Smoltz, Randy Johnson and Tom Glavine can surely attest to that.
But for one supposedly over-the-hill icon, father time hasn't extinguished the competitive fire, or his fantasy value.
Compared to the 21-year-old picture on his '87 Donruss Rated Rookie card, Greg Maddux sports a frumpier frame, baggier eyes and, unfortunately, a cleaner shave. At 42, his near 5,000 innings of experience have forged an infinite wisdom unmatched by any active Major Leaguer. His trophy cases brimming with Cy Young plaques and Gold Glove awards rubber stamps his scholarly knowledge.
Sure his mid-80s fastball couldn't strike fear into a prepubescent and his 4.43 K/9 would be considered repulsive by most, but Maddux is still the master in the art of deception. His perplexing mixture of pedestrian heaters and change-ups mystifies batters, many of whom are several years his junior. As Braves skipper Bobby Cox told MLB.com after his start versus Atlanta July 12, "He can still carve you up as good as any in baseball."
It's because of his pinpoint control (1.80 BB/9) and ability to coax numerous ground ball outs (49.6 GB%) that "Mad Dog" will be one of fantasy's most reliable second-half performers.
Not convinced? Just look at his average pre/post-break splits over the past five years:
Subtract three massive implosions (4/18 at Ari, 6/25 vs. Min and 6/30 at Col) and the San Diego beguiler has a 2.56 ERA on the year.
Critics will contest that his incredible lack of run support (3.22 RS/9) has diminished his general worth, which is a fair argument. After coming away without a win in his twelfth straight start July 12, Padres manager Bud Black summed it up best telling the North County Times:
"It's extremely frustrating. He's pitched well enough, one might say, (to have) double digits in wins."
Expect that frustration to vanish soon.
Because of Maddux's invaluable playoff experience, several teams, most notably former employer Atlanta, have expressed interest in the future Hall of Famer. Since his family lives in Las Vegas the crafty righty would like to stay close to home, but if the Braves or potentially another East Coast suitor (e.g. Philadelphia or Tampa) pitched an offer, Maddux, as he remarked to MLB.com July 13, wouldn't necessarily be against taking up a two-month residence across the country:
"That would be a possibility. That would be easy for me with my family. At this point of my career, it's family first and baseball second."
Given his stellar control, cucumber cool, favorable post-break history and potential increased run support, now is the time to acquire the 46.4 percent owned mound Monet via trade or waivers. If thrust into the right situation he could easily amass 6-9 wins, a 3.50 ERA and 1.15 WHIP during the most crucial months of the virtual baseball season.
Chicks may indeed dig the long-ball, but Maddux owners will relish his future quality starts.
Here are this week's flames, lames and stars of video games:
108.2 IP, 8 W, 3.64 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 64:43 K:BB
Strong Buy (all leagues)
Pelfrey is yet another post-hype sleeper that has reached maturity. The Mets' first-round selection in the 2005 draft has been a symbol of New York's sudden resurgence. Since May 31, the 6-foot-7 Empire State Building has been victorious in eight decisions, tallying a 2.28 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. Pelfrey's blazing mid-90s heat combined with an effective slider and devastating 82-84 mph change draws very weak contact when on. In his past 59.2 IP, he's compiled a 55.8 GB% and 2.89 BB/9, excellent indications that his control demons of the past might finally be buried. The key to Pelfrey's turnaround stems from a "less is more" approach. He's learned to "back off" when needed, leaning more on his off-speed stuff to coax poor swings. This new approach has sent his confidence soaring as he told the New York Times July 11, "When I'm out there now, I'm not worried about anything. I'm thinking, hey, I'm going to get you out. So here it is." It's this mentality combined with his refined command that will lead Pelfrey to post-break fantasy riches. Hopefully, you've kept him rostered since his April 17 "moderate buy" designation.
10.2 IP, 2 W, 0.84 ERA, 0.94 WHIP, 6:3 K:BB
Moderate Buy (deep mixed), Strong Buy (NL-only)
Standing at a skyward 6-foot-7, Volstad is arguably Florida's highest peak when on the mound. In his first big league start July 11 against the Dodgers, the 2005 first-rounder tossed 8.2 riveting innings, allowing one earned while striking out six. L.A. manager Joe Torre was very complimentary of the kid's efforts telling the Palm Beach Post, "We didn't hit, but you have to give him the bulk of the credit. He not only threw strikes, but quality pitches." Eerily similar to Pelfrey in style and substance, Volstad relies predominately on his 90-92 mph fastball and offsetting change to induce groundball outs. His stellar 56.7 GB% with the Marlins, 2.18 GB/FB ratio with Double-A Carolina earlier this year and combined 2.95 BB/9 are strong indicators he'll rack plenty of quality starts down the stretch. Scouts rave about his strategic intelligence which lends more insight into his second half upside. Given his characteristics, arsenal and likely strong run support, he should be a No. 5 anchor over the rest of the season in 12-team mixed leagues.
.259 BA, 14 HR, 28 RBI, 35 R, 2 SB, 63:16 K:BB
Moderate Buy (deep mixed), Moderate Sell (NL-only)
One of the Noise's favorite Rip Van Winkles, the 28-year-old leadoff hitter has ripped opposing pitchers since July 1. Over that span, he's smacked 10 extra-base hits, including five homers, boosting his BA 26 points. Hairston can be wildly inconsistent, but his power pedigree and 49.0 FB% arrows to a final homer tally in range of 22-27, in line with the Noise's preseason projection. Remarkably, he's performed better in the cavernous confines of Petco (.295 BA) than away (.208 BA), something to keep in mind with the Padres slated to play 11 straight road games immediately following the end of the break. Because he's expected to remain in the top spot, his RBI totals will suffer. But for those power hungry owners in deep-mixed leagues who employ streaming strategies on offense, he's a valuable pop source. However, considering the Pads' upcoming schedule, NL-only owners may want to seek a profit.
.266 BA, 9 HR, 18 RBI, 18 R, 0 SB, 18:8 K:BB
Moderate Buy (all leagues)
Re-Joyce power-starved owners, there's a new masher in Motown. As discussed in Saturday's Closing Time, the slender 23-year-old rookie has wielded a thunderous bat filling in for the injured Magglio Ordonez. Just before the break, the lefty crusher slapped seven extra-base hits, including four homers, in 21 at-bats, earning AL Player of the Week honors. Although the youngster is a defensive liability, Tigers skipper Jim Leyland has been impressed with his thump, commenting to MLB.com July 12, "I like him a lot. He's a real good prospect." It's that fondness and Detroit's offensive inadequacies, specifically Gary Sheffield (.176 BA in July), which could net Joyce near everyday at-bats splitting time between DH and LF when Maggs is activated later this week. Because his 11.25 at-bats per homer mark and 54.5 FB% are otherworldly, he's a strong candidate to compile 12-17 bleacher bombs after the break. Whether he's rescuing stray kittens from Justin Verlander's violent allergy backlash or fantasy owners from the homer basement, Joyce is a savior.
1B, 2B, 3B
.282 BA, 8 HR, 22 RBI, 24 R, 4 SB, 32:23 K:BB
Strong Buy (all leagues)
The "Powdered" Wigginton has hiked up the knickers in recent weeks. In July, the futon-flexible infielder has hit .333 with three homers and nine RBIs in 36 at-bats. On the year, the 30-year-old has showcased a keener eye, increasing his BB% ('07: 7.0, '08: 10.2) while trimming significant fat off his K% ('07: 20.7, '08: 15.8). The improved plate discipline coupled with a rock solid 1.26 GB/FB ratio and 76.5 CT% (contact) implies that a .280-plus post-break average is very achievable. Wigginton has performed spectacularly well at home this season (.314 BA) and with the 'Stros scheduled to play 12 of their next 15 at Minute Maid Park, he should continue to sizzle in BA, RBIs and runs through early August. It's conceivable he'll be equally valuable as Swiss Army knives Mark DeRosa and Ramon Vazquez after the break. Owners in the market for MI assistance need to track down Houston's Mr. Versatile.
47.1 IP, 4 W, 17 S, 2.85 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 43:7 K:BB
Moderate Sell (all leagues)
The Washington Monument-tall (6-foot-7) reliever with a Dennis Quaid-like smirk is baseball's "Big Easy." Numerous trade rumors have surfaced about Rauch in recent days. According to MLB.com some 10 teams have reached out to the Nationals about the closer's availability. With Tampa possibly being the lone exception, Rauch would likely slide into a setup role if shipped out of the nation's capital. A diminished role would obviously cripple his value. On the year, the mound Sasquatch has performed admirably filling in for the broken Chad Cordero. In 47.1 innings, Rauch has slammed the door successfully 74 percent of the time (17 saves), racking a respectable 8.18 K/9, 2.85 ERA and 1.01 WHIP in the process. But the prospects of an impending deal added to the possibility his ERA could rise sharply in a more hitter-friendly environment (45.2 FB%) are reasons enough to sell high. This week Rauch has pried J.J. Hardy, Ervin Santana and Hunter Pence off owner hands in one-for-one Y! Plus league transactions.
111.2 IP, 10 W, 3.63 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 75:47 K:BB
Moderate Sell (all leagues)
Floyd owners' post-break theme song should be "Run Like Hell." The Phillies' 2004 first-round pick has been a revelation this season. However, he's started to show signs of unraveling in his past six outings. During that 33.1-inning stretch, the 25-year-old has totaled a 4.89 ERA and 1.51 WHIP. His 5.2 BB/9 and 43.9 FB% over that span is even more unsettling. If the walk and fly-ball trends persist a catastrophic doom awaits those who ignore the warnings. Floyd has performed masterfully at home (2.57 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 7-1 record), but with two of his next three starts (vs. KC, at Min, at Det) away from "The Cell," his ERA could march northward given his horrific road splits (5.40 ERA, 1.58 WHIP). Because he's still attracting prestigious names via trade – Dustin Pedroia, Bobby Jenks and Joe Mauer in one-for-one Plus league moves this week – he's worth expending.
108.1 IP, 8 W, 3.99 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 93:49 K:BB
Strong Sell (all leagues)
While the Mets have collectively thrived, Maine has nosedived. In his past three starts, the 27-year-old righty has failed to reach the sixth inning, yielding a 7.02 ERA and 1.42 WHIP in 14.1 IP. More alarming, Maine has complained of elbow cramps and issued 6.38 free passes per nine during that stretch. Maine seemed dejected telling Newsday after his last pre-break outing against San Francisco (4.2 IP, W, 3 ER, 8:5 K:BB), "It was just an all-around bad performance. The only positive that came out of it was we won. It was a wasted start." It's apparent the Mets hurler is mentally and possibly physically exhausted. Although Jerry Manuel is confident the break will reenergize Maine, the brief elbow setback and excessive number of walks are worrisome. Recall that after the All-Star festivities last season, he posted a detestable 5.53 ERA and 1.45 WHIP in 81.1 IP. Wins will be plentiful, but at the cost of your team's ERA/WHIP. Deal him before the plunge further damages his value. This week in one-for-one Y! Plus league swaps, Maine was traded straight up for J.D. Drew, Francisco Cordero and Aaron Cook.
.280 BA, 15 HR, 58 RBI, 53 R, 19 SB, 64:24 K:BB
Moderate Buy (all leagues)
Based on his recent fruitless efforts, the Reds' two-bagger should change his first name to "Wilson." After tattooing baseballs during the first week of July, Phillips' bat has been locked in the deep freezer. Since July 8, he's sliced 12 points off his average while mired in a 3-for-26 skid with six strikeouts. Despite his downturn, Phillips remains one of virtual baseball's premiere middle infielders, on pace to finish the season close to his 30-30 outburst last year. Impulsive owners may believe his pre-break swoon is the beginning of a longer slump, but there are no outliers in his peripheral numbers that raise any major red flags. If you can acquire him at a slightly discounted rate do so immediately. Last season, he hit .302 with 13 long-balls, 47 RBIs and 16 steals after the break. Over the past week, Phillips has been shipped for Justin Duchscherer, Dan Haren and Brian Roberts in one-for-one Y! Plus league deals.
.253 BA, 5 HR, 31 RBI, 50 R, 21 SB, 96:14 K:BB
Moderate Sell (all leagues)
Lately, Gomez has done more damage to team batting averages than Vai Sikahema did to Jose Canseco's face in 97 seconds. Over the past month, Gomez has fallen into what seems to be an irrecoverable abyss. During that stretch he ranks 120th among outfielders in Y! leagues, alongside such prolific producers Ryan Rayburn, Brett Gardner and Pusan favorite, Shin-Soo Choo. With seven strikeouts (23.3 K%) and just one hit in his past 30 at-bats, the Minnesota Missile has chopped 16 points off his BA. Because his value is exclusively dependent on steals and runs – he's yet to swipe a base in July – his market value has plummeted. Gomez's pathetic eye (3.6 BB%) and slight increase in FB% (42.8 since 7/1) explain his drought in numbers. Given his tender age (22), Ron Gardenhire has been delicate with his leadoff hitter, instructing him to keep "smiling and enjoying the game." However, if his dry spell extends, Gardenhire could swap sparkplug Denard Span with Gomez in the order, a potentially sorrowful situation. If you've built a sizeable lead in steals, now's a great time to deal the speedster before his value tumbles further. This week, Gomez was traded for Ryan Ludwick, Mike Aviles and Brandon Lyon in Y! Plus league solo swaps.
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 12
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?
Glad someone else remembers the Rookie Sensations! I remember spending hours opening up jumbo packs for those damn cards...we didn't even care about the base set, we'd just scan the edge for a blue border and if we didn't see one we'd just throw the pack away. In retrospect though, at 1 per 4 packs, even the Thomas was a little too common to really be worth 50 bucks, or whatever it peaked at. Keep up the good work! Love your column.– Eugene, Arlington, Va.
Just wanted to send you a big hurrah for bringing up the ole' card collecting addiction. God bless my folks for allowing my collection to insulate their attic for the past decade. And also, I'm glad someone else remembers Phil Plantier...shear awesomeness. – Kevin, Chicago, Ill..
I now know I will never be taking your advice ever again. Since you highly touted Jorge De La Rosa as someone with electric stuff who could help someone in a deep 12-team mixed leaague, "especially in strikeouts" I decided to go with him. Well, in three starts he went 1-1 never pitching past the 5th inning and never striking out more than four batters. He has given up 19 earned runs in 13 2/3 innings. You also mentioned he could be very helpful for the second half of the season, well guess what? He is not going to be in the rotation anymore due to his horrendous starts. Thank you Brad Evans for your "expertise." I cannot believe for one second I thought you'd be more helpful than Funston. – John, Middletown, N.J.
Did you lose a bet? I cannot figure out any other reason you may have had for so highly recommending Jorge De La Rosa. Since your endorsement, he's given up 16 earned runs in 15.2 innings of work. He became "statistical unchallenged"?!? Those of us signing on to your "conquistador" hoping for gold in De La Rosa's new world of success have instead ended up in Utah. Please, tell us either which fantasy squads for which you signed De La Rosa or what kind of bet you lost. – Brian, Lenexa, Kan.
Noise: No, unbelievably nothing monetary, just reputation, was on the line with the glowing De La Rosa account two weeks ago. Hey, the guy had a fascinating backstory, which made for interesting copy. Unfortunately, after his two spectacular starts in mid-June he fizzled out quickly, much to my embarrassment.
The Colorado "Conquistador's" story parallels that of largely unknown Spanish explorer Panfilo de Narvaez. After a somewhat successful expedition to Mexico in 1520, Panfilo traveled to Florida with 300 men in 1527 and experienced massive desertion, deadly encounters with Apalachee Indians, hurricanes and starvation. Narvaez perished along with 295 of his men.
That's what the Noise gets for chasing pitching gold and riches, like Narvaez. These lips will never press against the cold, blue mountain brew that is Coors Light.
Damn you De La Rosa for turning me into an Old Style-exclusive drinker.
Evans, you've finally lost it entirely. Harden finally starts to live up to the non-DL hype and you call him lame. I'm sure you're well familiar with the various Wrigley curses: The BillyGoat, the BartMan, and now the BumblingBrad. Sadly for you, the latter curse will be completed when most honorable baseballman Kosuke Fukudome – whom you also label lame despite his most honorable stats for a first-year major leaguer – brings a few of his friends over to show you what a Cubby Man-Crush is really like. Quickly losing respect…–Jason, Kalamazoo, Mich.
Noise: For some reason, the most dishonorable punishment handed down by K-fuk that I envision involves my hands being painfully chopped off by the Samurai Chef. Or worse yet being forced to participate in "Human Tetris" on a Japanese game show.
The Big Noise hex has been well documented in this space throughout the season. As a devoted Cubs enthusiast, I want nothing more than for Harden to continue to build off his dynamite first start in blue pinstripes. But, as mentioned in last week's Noise, his unattractive 3.72 BB/9 coupled with a 49.5 FB% are concerns pitching in the hitter-friendly confines of Wrigley. He misses tons of bats, but if someone offered me an elite offensive talent for his services I wouldn't hesitate pulling the trigger. For now, I'm sticking by my original Harden Cubs fearless forecast (85 IP, 7 W, 3.76 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 99 K).