Friday, April 18, 2008

The Buzz Around the Bullpen: Where have you gone C.C. Sabathia?

Welcome back to another edition of the “Buzz Around the Bullpen”. In the world of sports, we are at that time of the year that it is hard to focus on what truly is your number one priority. With the NFL talking heads using the words “upside” and “game-speed” like they are the only words left in the English language, it is hard not to think how your hometown NFL team is going to disappoint you on draft day. Then, when you finally find the channel that carries hockey, you can’t stop watching “Sid The Kid” deliver Gretzky like assists to superstar Evgeni Malkin. While the rest of your league is putting fantasy baseball on the “back burner”, lets get your team making some moves.

Big Hits

Randy Wolf (SP, San Diego Padres): Although Wolf awarded four free passes in his last start, Wolf has proven to be a serviceable starting pitcher. Wolf often gets pushed aside on draft day because of his history of injuries. While he has not pitched a full season since 2003 with the Phillies, Wolf’s numbers have been decent the past three years. His ERA and WHIP have been high in the past but now pitching in San Diego, Wolf has found himself in a pitcher’s paradise. So far this year, Wolf has only recorded one victory but his numbers have been dominating. He is averaging about a K/IP and his 1.42 ERA and .89 WHIP are quite impressive. Wolf is only owned in about 50you’re your leagues. He would be a great addition to your starting rotation.

Ryan Ludwick (OF, St. Louis Cardinals): Consider these numbers, .390, 4 HR, 11 RBIs, 9 runs, 1 SB. Now consider the fact that this guy has only 41ABs. The Cards have been the surprise of the season thus far. Until recently, Skip Schumaker was getting the majority of the ABs in right field for the Cards. However, it is hard to keep a hot bat out of the lineup. There is no saying how long this will last but if you look to last year’s stats, Ludwick did have 14 HRs in only 303 ABs. If you project that over a year, you’re now looking at 25-30 HRs. I’m not saying he is the key to your fantasy championship but keep an eye on him. Also, for you Soriano owners, don’t be afraid to ride a hot bat while he recovers from his calf injury.

Joey Votto (1B, Cincinnati Reds): When I look at Joey Votto, two things jump out at me that are quite appealing. First, he will be playing half of his games this year in a lauching pad. Second, he is stuck in a platoon situation with Scott Hatteberg. This is a good thing. Hatteberg is very average and in a ballpark like Great American, the Reds need more power production out of their first baseman. Votto has that type of power potential that the Reds are looking for. He has been hot his last five games and he is finally hitting like some owners thought he would at the start of the season. Votto is available in about 50% of your leagues. Not to mention, he is hitting .351 and in 84 ABs last year, he boasted a .321 average. If you have any doubts about his power, just remember that the Great American Ballpark made mediocre catcher David Ross look like Hank Aaron in ’06 and ’07.

Greg Smith (SP, Oakland Athletics): Just when you thought you’d seen the last of the A’s young pitching arsenal go down to injury, Smith has stepped up and has made an impact in his first two major league starts. Some owners were hesitant to take a flier on him after his first start because of some control issues. Let’s not forget it was his first major league start and he probably had some adrenaline pumping. I believe his last start was more of an indication of his command of his pitches. In two starts, Smith has one victory with an ERA around 2.00 and his WHIP is slightly above 1.00. He has also shown the ability to accumulate some strikeouts with 9 Ks in only 13 IP. This guy came over in the Dan Haren trade so you have to believe the A’s saw something they liked in him. The best part about Smith is that he is only owned in about 20% of your leagues. If nothing else, give him a couple starts if you lost Bedard or another one of your studs to a minor injury. A couple more quality starts and this guy will have all the “buzz” of the next big thing in Oakland. That’s when you make another owner buy high because he wants to tell everyone at work he has Smith on his team.

Honorable Mention

If you are just looking to fill some needs, take a look at a couple of these guys.

Eric Hinske (CI/OF, Tampa Bay Rays) (.342, 4 HRs, 7 RBIs, 8 runs)
Braden Looper (SP, St. Louis Cardinals) (3-0, 2.70 ERA, 11 Ks, 1.20 WHIP)
Rafael Betancourt (RP, Cleveland Indians) (1-0, 4.50 ERA, 8 Ks, 1.71 WHIP)
Xavier Nady (OF, Pittsburgh Pirates) (.345, 4 HRs, 14 RBIs, 10 runs, 1 SB)

Gavin Floyd (SP, Chicago White Sox) (2-0, 1.40 ERA, 10 Ks, .89 WHIP)
Mark DeRosa (UT, Chicago Cubs) (.306, 3 HRs, 10 RBIs, 8 runs)
Jeff Niemann (SP, Tampa Bay Rays) (1-0, 1.50 ERA, 5 Ks, 1.17 WHIP)

Big Misses

C.C. Sabathia (SP, Cleveland Indians): I’m not sure if “bad” can even describe C.C. Sabathia’s start to the 2008 season. Although I have never been a huge fan of C.C, last year he proved me wrong and was absolutely automatic. However, I think the workload that C.C. received last year is exactly what has him struggling this year. C.C. worked over 240 innings last season. Besides the 2002 season where Sabathia worked 210 innings, C.C. has averaged around 190 innings over the past seven years. Although he is an athletic 6’9, 290, C.C. is clearly not the picture of health. Coming into a contract year, I was discouraged when C.C. showed up at camp heavier than he ever has been. Whether it’s the contract issues “weighing” on him or his inability get over his belly and make pitches, C.C. needs to make some adjustments fast. For you Sabathia owners, lets just hope he is doing his best 2007 Carlos Zambrano impersonation and recover in the next month or two. C.C. really provides a tough situation for his owners because the market on C.C. will never be lower. I would definitely try and sell him on his numbers last year and his potential to rebound. Don’t be afraid to use the Zambrano example as precedent that he will recover. I’m personally selling him to someone that is willing to take a chance. I’d take a pitcher that will put up consistent numbers and maybe a young outfielder that has potential for big numbers. He is still C.C. Sabathia and someone will still value him way too high despite his numbers this year. As a side note, if anyone does have C.C.’s “Buffets in the USA” tour shirt from this winter, I’d love to have my own.

Jose Guillen (OF, Kansas City Royals): No one had Jose Guillen as the key to their fantasy team, but Guillen has disappointed thus far for owners looking to him as a 3rd or 4th outfielder. Guillen has a tendency to be a free swinger and he has struck out 13 times in just 65 ABs. It is only a matter of time before you start hearing that he was a product of the steroid era. Even if Guillen is able to rebound, why wait when you can find a guy that is able to produce similar numbers on a more consistent basis. Take a look at a guy like Milton Bradley who has been extremely consistent this year hitting .353 in 51 ABs. The power numbers are not there for Bradley but as we all know, it is only a matter of time before it heats up in Texas. All you have to hope for is that Milton doesn’t tear his ACL arguing the price of a hot dog with one of the vendors.

Don’t Stop Believing

Take a look at these guys in your league and don’t be afraid to take a chance on one of them. Their value will never be lower and you might be able to take them off someone’s hands well below market value.

Adam LaRoche (1B, Pittsburgh Pirates): LaRoche has once again started the season off like he has forgotten how to hit a baseball. This guy has a ton of potential and after recovering from a very slow start last year, he finished hitting .272 with 21 HRs and 88 RBIs. He did most of his hitting from the month of June on. If you have somewhere to stash him while he continues to struggle, he is definitely worth the risk down the stretch. You will never be able to buy him cheaper.

Rich Hill (SP, Chicago Cubs): Hill has too much talent to be pitching like he has thus far. He is obviously struggling mechanically and after a couple of bullpen sessions, look for Hill to rebound. Hill was very solid last year and the Cubs offense will even steal him a couple wins during this season. He averaged almost a K/IP over 195 IPs last year. This is exactly the type of guy you have to be willing to take a chance on. He should get a much needed confidence booster when he returns to the rotation this week against the Pirates.

As with all SportsJudge articles, please feel free to post some comments. Until next time, make sure you listen for the Buzz Around the Bullpen.

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