Tomahawk Chop

The Braves, as of this writing, sit in 3rd place in the East, 4.5 back of the Marlins and 4 back of the Phillies and sitting one game under .500. Not the start they were hoping for, but in a division with very weak Nationals and Mets teams, and a Marlins team that is overachieving, in my opinion, the Braves are looking in pretty good shape, and really look like a team that could make a better run at the division than I initially thought. Let’s take a look at why they’re in good position.

Hitting: This is a group of hitters that has performed much better than I would have predicted this season. You have Jason Heyward doing scary good Jason Heyward things, Brian McCann being the best human catcher in baseball (Buster Posey of course being a Demigod), Chipper Jones pretending he’s 29 and not 39, Martin Prado continuing what he started in his breakout year last season and Freddie Freeman beginning to find his groove after coming into the season than with only slightly less hype than Brandon Belt. The three biggest weak spots for the Braves? Center fielder Nate McLouth, who while not doing really well, is at a MUCH better place than last season, Dan Uggla who has had some big struggles so far, but still has been hitting long balls, and Shortstop Alex Gonzalez, who more than makes up for it with his glove. The only other area that makes me pause when I look at their lineup is a very shallow and weak bench outside of backup catcher David Ross. But seriously: Chipper Jones has been looking scary good this season, it’s incredible considering going into Spring Training that he looked like he was going to retire.

Pitching: With all the talk about the pitching rotation of the Phillies, Giants and Brewers this offseason, the Braves were almost completely ignored, except now that I look at their starting it’s got to be one of the stronger ones in the National League. Tim Hudson is the only one of Oakland’s old Big Three (Hudson, Barry Zito, Mark Mulder) that has been consistently good the last few seasons and he looks really good this year. His ERA is a bit high, but watching him pitch tells you a different story. Jair Jurrjens just came back from the DL, and continues to mow people down as he somehow is the most underrated young pitcher in the NL right now. Tommy Hudson has a great strikeout rate (1 an inning) but a fairly high Opponent Batting Average, but this guy is young and will be the Braves ace for years to come. Derek Lowe, the Braves 4th pitcher, looks more like the old Red Sox Derek Lowe and less like the Lowe of the last few years, leading the team in K’s and the starters in ERA. Brandon Beachy came out of nowhere during Spring Training to win the 5th starters job, and although he hasn’t looked amazing, has looked way better than expected with 31 K’s in 29 innings and 1.09 WHIP. Add in to that a ridiculous back of the bullpen of Eric O’Flaherty, Johnny Venters and Craig Kimbrel, and if the Braves have the lead going into the 7th inning, they’ll probably win. That said the rest of their bullpen has proven to be a big time weak spot and you can only hope George Sherrill holds up for so long before you need to go get yourself a solid right hander, or call one of your many AAA prospects to get it done.

Overall: If this team stays healthy there is no reason to think that it can’t win the NL East this year, in fact if the Phillies continue to break down, that’s exactly what I expect to happen.

(-NW)

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Fantasy Grades

We’re only a month into the season but it seems like a natural time to revisit some of my fantasy picks from earlier on. I’ll give you the player I liked before the season, the one month grade, and a suggested alternative.

Early Rounds:

Here’s the link to the original post.

  1. Troy Tulowitski: hard to argue with this pick. Tulo’s been a stud and will continue to be so as long as he’s healthy. A with no reservations (only regret here is I didn’t get him on any teams).
  2. Ryan Zimmerman: Zim was doing alright (little power) then pulled an abdominal muscle. This is annoying now and could get ugly if it takes a long time to come back. C (if I could do it over: Jose Bautista…just keeps mashing!).
  3. Dustin Pedroia: Dustin has been solid so far. .282/2 HR/11 R/2 SB…not great, but he’s shown that the “laser show” is still real. I have no doubt he’ll be a top 3 2B and completely justify being a round 3 pick. B
  4. Jon Lester: Lester has been a little screwed by the Sox early lack of scoring. However, if there’s been one knock against Jon in his career it’s been slow starts. So to see a strikeout per inning, 2 wins, a 2.59 era, and a 1.18 WHIP at the end of April is a great sign. He’ll be one of the top 10 if not top 5 fantasy pitchers by years end. B+ (do over pick: Jered Weaver…I’m not a big fan of the Weaver’s, at all, but hard to argue with his performance this year, plus you could have picked him up a few rounds after Lester).
  5. Buster Posey: Posey’s season has been interesting. He’s ranked 62 overall in the Yahoo! game right now (right in line with his draft position). When you look at his overall line (.280/9 runs/4 HR/ 16 RBI/3 SB) it looks great, especially the RBI and SB. However, you get the feeling that he should be better. Are expectations too high? Maybe. I’ll give him a B+ even though he is the number 2 catcher in fantasy right now.
Middle Rounds:
again the link to the original article.
  1. Pablo Sandoval: Nothing but good things here. Especially the 5 home runs. It’s still early, and many are quick to point out that the Panda had a good April last year and then tanked, so there are some questions about how we will hold up over the summer. That said, this pick has turned out extremely well so far. A
  2. Drew Stubbs: I got Pablo but did not get Stubbs. This pains me a bit as Drew is currently ranked 11th overall in Yahoo!  4 HR, 8 steals, 17 runs scored. Everything as advertised! A (do over: this is not so much a do over as a poor man’s option…Sam Fuld is probably long gone in any league at this point, but he’s come out of nowhere to provide Stubbs like production on the cheap…picked him up in both leagues and enjoying the fruits).
  3. David Ortiz: Papi hasn’t done much, but then he never does much in April. So, like Lester, for him to have 2 HR, 12 runs, and be hitting over the Mendoza line is a good sign. As the weather heats up so does Papi. Jury is still out but for now C. (do over pick: Travis Hafner…again not a guy anyone would have drafted, at least not in the middle rounds, but he’s putting up Papi numbers for cheap. I love Hafner and used him a lot in the 2005-2008 run of greatness so it warms my heart to see him having a comeback).
  4. Yovani Gallardo: Gallardo has thrown a complete game, 2 hit shutout, otherwise he’s been massively disappointing. I still have hope that he turns it around (I also have a lot riding on him as he is essentially my ace on both teams), but he’s been a bummer thus far. D (do over: Shawn Marcum has been the Brewer Big Three member who has pitched most like an Ace this season. Another guy who went around this position in the draft was Brett Anderson and he’s been nasty).
  5. Daniel Hudson: Another colossal fail, but not quite as bad because he wasn’t drafted to be an ace. He’s my fourth starter on the team I own him on. And, actually, if you take away his last start he’s been good (all quality starts up to that point). However, he’s had bad run support, and I wonder, as a young pitcher, if he isn’t pressing and trying to be perfect as a result. Whatever’s going on, the strikeouts are still there, but not much else. Another D (do over pick: Can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I really wish I had taken a risk and picked Josh Beckett. He’s been unbelievable, even against the Yankees. I’m still not fully convinced…he’ll probably get hurt at some point, but so far, wow!)
  6. Joel Hanrahan: Finally, a middle round guy I got right! Hanrahan has been outstanding (6 for 6 in save opps, and a strikeout an inning), but his opportunities have been limited. Still, that projects out to about 35 saves, which is what you hope for in a closer taken in the late middle rounds on a crappy team. B+ with no do overs.
Late Rounds
  1. John Buck/J.P. Arencibia/John Jaso: So far only J.P. has provided any real value, and I’m guessing the other two guys are floating around your league’s waiver wire. Luckily I was able to grab J.P. and I haven’t had to play him much (my number ones are McCann and Posey, who have both been good and playing a lot). The couple of games I’ve had to use J.P. he’s been great, hitting 3 home runs. Buck might not be of much value playing in Florida this year, but I have to believe that Jaso will get it going at some point. B- (do over: I’m guessing Alex Avila wasn’t drafted in many leagues but he’s been awesome for the Tigers and will get a lot of playing time if he can keep it up).
  2. Jed Lowrie: Time for me to brag it up a little. I was absolutely convinced Jed would break out this year (although he did it sooner than I thought), and I have been right and then some. There’s always the looming danger of injury and Francona can be somewhat wishy-washy with young guys, but I think Jed will get 450 ABs minimum this year and is too versatile and awesome not to be on your squad. A
  3. Brandon League: Leauge has been good, not great, and definitely not good enough to ward off losing his closing job to David Aardsma who is set come back soon. Also, Seattle is terrible so there hasn’t been much opportunity to shine. I’m still holding out hope that Aardsma fails or gets hurt again (that sounds terrible I know), but it looks like this will just be a way to steal some early season saves. C+ (do over: two guys who weren’t in the picture during drafts but should be universally owned now: Sergio Santos who looks to be cleaning up the White Sox bullpen mess and Jordan Walden from Anaheim).
  4. James Shields: Again, let me gloat a little here. I got James on both teams in the very final rounds and he’s been outstanding. Everything pointed to him making a big rebound this year, and he is off to a great start: missing bats, getting ground balls, lots of innings, and beautiful ratios. What’s not to love: 38.1 IP/2 W/ 27 K/2.35 ERA/0.97 WHIP. A
  5. Magglio Ordonez: Now for some humble pie. I luckily didn’t get Magglio on any of my teams and he’s been terrible: 0 HR/1 RBI/.196 AVG. awful. F (do over: look no further than outfield mate Brennan Boesch who has been putting up Mags-like numbers 1 HR/12 RBI/.358 AVG with 2 steals to boot).
There you have it…some hits and misses for sure. Good luck fantasy players.
(-SB)

Week in Review (4/18-4/24)

Results:

2-4 (10-11 overall; 4 GB)

8-1 W @ Col; 6-3 W @ Col; 10-2 L @ Col; 4-1 L vs.Atl; 5-2 L vs.Atl; 9-6 L v.Atl

It sure liked this was going to be a great week after Tuesday night’s game. Then it looked like a crappy week. Then on Sunday it looked like it might end well, then tragic, then magical, then really, really, really, depressingly awful. BUT, only 4 games back even with all that. Not much to be excited about though: only a few guys hitting, not a lot of great pitching, and more bad defense. That’s a 10-11 team.

Hitter of the Week:

I keep picking Pablo (this is not a bad thing) and he probably did have the best week of anyone in the lineup, but I’m going with Pat Burrell. I hate Pat Burrell. I love Pat Burrell. He’s been hitting for power all year, and this week he added some other kinds of hits (you know, singles and doubles) to raise the average. More importantly, he helped set the tone early against the Rockies with his big first inning homer last Monday. Line for the week: 5 runs, 1 HR, 4 RBI, .429 avg. Well done.

Pitcher of the Week:

Well, Tim Lincecum nearly threw a no-hitter in Coors so that should earn him pitcher of the month, right? However, the Giants played on national TV here in Boston on Saturday, which meant I got to watch the game live. Timmy kind of ruined my day with all his walks. My pitcher of the week is Ryan Vogelsong because we might hate this guy with a passion in another week or so depending on how he fares as a starter. But back in the day this guy was a top pick and future hope and then he magically turned in to Jason Schmidt via a trade. So, there’s something nostalgic about his return the Gigantes. And he may never get a chance to be the POTW again. This week he was good for 4 and 2/3 innings of shutout ball out of the ‘pen. Hopefully this is a sign of good things.

Looking Ahead:

I really, really hope I don’t have to write about Ryan Vogelsong and Pat Burrell next week. We need a Buster Posey/Aubrey Huff battle for hitter of the week and a Matt Cain/Madison Bumgarner  death match for the top pitcher prize.

The Bad news: Giants go on the road (actually ten games on the east coast). The Good news: Pirates and Nationals and Mets. Feels like a time to get some momentum. Also, the next time the Giants play a home game: May 6th against the Rockies. Lots of work to be done boys.

(-SB)

When Does Cheating Overshadow Greatness?

Look at these set of career statistics:

  • 769 runs/2016 hits/138 HR’s/853 RBI’s/.260 Avg /.667 OPS
  • 877 runs/1588 hits/38 HR’s/563 RBI’s/.273 Avg./.706 OPS
  • 687 runs/1692 hits/28 HR’s/734 RBI’s/.281 Avg./.741 OPS

Now look at these career stats:

  • 2165 runs/4256 hits/160 HR’s/1314 RBI’s/.303 Avg./.784 OPS
  • 1544 runs/2574 hits/555 HR’s/1831 RBI’s/.312 Avg./.996 OPS
  • 2227 runs/2935 hits/762 HR’s/1996 RBI’s/.298 Avg./1.051 OPS

What’s the difference between the two? The first set of sad stats are all Hall of Famers (Bill Mazeroski, Phil Rizzuto and Rick Ferrell, whose brother hit more home runs in his career, and his brother was a pitcher!) The second set? Pete Rose, Manny Ramirez and Barry Bonds, who quite possibly will never reach the Hall, some would argue for good reason, because they cheated, because they ruined the “pure” game of Baseball and should never be considered for such an honor. I don’t agree.

Baseball is a sport obsessed with numbers. Records are more sacred in baseball than in any other sport, and often fans fight the breaking of almost any records, no matter the player or the team (and I’m not just talking about Bonds breaking the all time Home Run records, Roger Maris was booed and threatened BY HIS OWN FANS for breaking Babe Ruth’s single season Home Run record). So when we see a record obtained by a cheater, the inner baseball purist in all of us (and we all have one), reacts with vicious anger; Pete Rose may have the all time hit record, but he gambled dang it! Bonds broke Hank Aaron’s record, but only because of ‘roids! (And trust me, this is an issue that is still quite sensitive in Atlanta where I currently reside. I don’t wear my Barry Bonds shirt to any Braves/Giants games for a reason) but does cheating eliminate you from being eligible for the Hall of Fame?

Let me say two things to clarify my opinion: first this is not the Baseball Hall of Morality and Character, it’s the Baseball Hall of FAME. Your ability to play the game should take precedent over almost any other characteristic that baseball writers looks at. Second, the steroid era of baseball is hardly the first era where people cheated, and cheated in a way that affected the outcome of games. Since its inception, baseball has been full of cheaters and scoundrels, a lot of whom are admired to this day for their ability to play the game, and many more are in the Hall. Don’t think cheaters back in the day are comparable to steroid era players? Gaylord Perry made his whole career out of throwing his magical “splitter,” which was in actuality a Vaseline covered baseball. He was so good at it that he was never caught, even though everyone KNEW he was cheating. He won over 300 games and is in the Hall. Don Drysdale did it also and countless other pitchers used nail files or sandpaper to alter their ability to throw the ball and fool batters and don’t even get me started on the rampant availability and usage of amphetamines during the 70’s and 80’s, including Willie Stargell and allegedly Willie Mays.

The motto of the Hall of Fame is Preserving History, Honoring Excellence and Connecting Generations. This includes the parts of history that you are not proud of. I’m in no way advocating, ignoring or sweeping under the rug the abuse of steroids during the 90’s and 00’s, nor am I so naïve to think that my favorite player (Barry Bonds) didn’t take any steroids, but steroids do not teach you how to hit a curveball, steroids don’t turn scrubs into superstars and betting on games doesn’t negate your skill. Pete Rose, Manny Ramirez, Barry Bonds, Alex Rodriguez and Roger Clemens are some of the greatest to ever play the game. They were great before steroids and with steroids, before betting on games and after betting on games, and to try to black list an entire generation of baseball players because of it is wrong. We’ve learned to deal with Ty Cobb, Gaylord Perry, John McGraw and other famous cheaters in the Hall. List on their plaque that they played in the steroid era, heck make a whole wing of the museum dedicated to that 15ish year period, but to keep them out is irresponsible to the history of the game and the only people it’ll really make happy are all the sports writers who vote for the Hall who can stick it to the players who never treated them well.

I, for one, did not lose any enjoyment from watching Barry swing the bat knowing he took ‘roids. How could I? Nothing could top the excitement of watching him slowly step into the batters box, adjust his gloves and send a ball flying into McCovey Cove. Does that cloud my judgment? Maybe. But greatness can’t be taken away just because a group of people don’t vote you into a Hall of Fame. Barry is the home run king and one of the greatest hitters in baseball history. Pete Rose was better at getting hits than anyone else, Manny Ramirez was one of the greatest right-handed hitters ever, and nothing can take that away. It’s the same thing as saying the USC football team is no longer national champions from a few seasons ago because one of their players took money under the table. They’re still the best team in College football for that year, whether it’s official or not. This past generation of ball players have some of the greatest of all time, whether some people make it official or not. I can only hope that as THIS generation of outstanding players grow, players like Albert Pujols, Tim Lincecum, Evan Longoria and Adrian Gonzalez, that the stigma of the 90’s and early 00’s fade and the greats of the game get their due.

By the way, in 1961 there were two different Yankees chasing Babe Ruth’s single season Home Run record, Roger Maris, who eventually broke the record, and Mickey Mantle. Mantle missed the end of the season due to an infection which took him out of the chase. An infection caused by using an unclean steroid needle. I’m assuming the petition to get him removed from the Hall got lost in the mail, right?

(-NW)

A Fun Game

Here’s an interesting Player A/Player B game…

Player A: 3 wins, 29 IP, 2.48 ERA, 164 ERA+, 0.97 WHIP over 4 starts

Player B: 2 wins, 27 IP, 1.67 ERA, 244 ERA+, 0.89 WHIP also over 4 starts

Some obvious differences between A and B, but overall, pretty dominant right? Here are a few more interesting clues:

Both players were drafted by the Giants.

Both made opening day starts for their respective teams.

Both pitched yesterday and won their starts behind strong offensive performances by their teams.

So, who are these players?

Starting with Player B

Timmy…not super surprising. Now, for Player B…drumroll please…

Ah, yes. Kevin Correia. Of course.

I’m no Correia apologist, and I have been pretty surprised by his run of success the past three years as a starting pitcher. Who knows if he develops this way if he stays with SF. The reason I even bring this up is Ryan Vogelsong/Barry Zito. But, Correia is the number one guy in Pittsburg…he’d be a pretty nice number 5 in SF. Again, a huge number of factors have contributed to Correia’s exit from SF and I sure wasn’t disappointed when he left. If anything this just highlights the depth of pitching the Giants have enjoyed recently. But, right now, I wouldn’t mind having this guy on our side taking over Zito’s slot in the rotation.

That said: one more reason to not care a whole lot about Kevin Correia…

Player A: 12 K, 3.7 K/9

Player B: 32 K, 10.7 K/9

I think it’s safe to say that Timmy has slightly more nasty stuff = )

(-SB)

Week in Review (4/11-4/17)

Results:

4-2 (8-7 overall; 4.0 GB)

6-1 L vs.LA; 5-4 W vs.LA; 4-3 W vs.LA; 5-2 W @ Ari; 5-3 W @ Ari; 6-5 L @ Ari

Hitter of the Week:

Aaron Rowand keeps trying to sneak his way into this honor, but I refuse (although he collected more total bases this week than Buster Posey did)…so, tie…Posey and Pablo Sandoval. Somewhere, there is a version of 2010 that had Posey and Sandoval in the middle of lineup, mashing the NL and leading the Giants to glory. The Giants found glory in 2010 and Posey had a lot to do with it but Pablo forgot about his role. Looks like he’s back, though, and this is the vision we had last year. Also, these guys are  24 years old!!! 5 home runs and 13 RBIs. Well done boys, we’ll take some more please!

Pitcher of the Week:

Matt Cain continue to quietly dominate. How solid is this kid (won’t be 27 until the season is over)? He always seems to be overlooked and that trend continues this week, because the beard is back. Brian Wilson: 4 games, 4 saves, 5 strikeouts, 0 walks, 1 hit. And he ended a 1 run game against the Dodgers (5-4) by striking out the side. BW thank you for being awesome. Pitcher of the Week. You’re welcome.

Looking Ahead:

Bottom line: the Rockies are wicked hot. The Giants play them next. Three times. At Coors Field. There is no way that is going to go well. Right? The good news is Lincecum, Sanchez, and Cain get the starts. The bad news is the Rockies are hot and only bad things happen at Coors. This is a cover-your-eyes-and-peek-through-a-finger-to-watch-the-action type of series. Not looking forward to it. After that, back to SF for three against the Braves who are not off to a great start, but that is still a good team.

Zito is now on the DL, Torres is on the DL, and Ross is coming off the DL (possibly this week). As a result, this team is still a work in progress. That said, the week ahead will go a long way to giving some shape to what kind of season this will be. Big, important week. Go Giants.

(-SB)