Friday, May 16, 2008

The Buzz Around the Bullpen: Is Leyland Going to Hold Back Sheff For A Hot Bat?

Welcome back to another installment of the “Buzz Around the Bullpen”. We are now at the quarter point of the season and at about this time of the year, owners of Ryan Howard and A-Rod are starting to get restless. In your leagues, good teams are starting to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack. However, if your team is struggling, this is not the end of the world and you are only one good trade or free agent acquisition from turning your season around. We have seen before how the acquisition of a guy like Francisco Liriano in 2006 can immediately turn your season in a different direction. Also remember, injuries happen and an elite team in your league might be left scrambling if one of their superstars goes down.
For example, if Jake Peavy goes down to an elbow strain and he is going to be shut down for a couple of weeks, pounce on the opportunity and get some trade offers over to the Peavy owner. I am not saying to necessarily go after Peavy, but the owner of the elite team does not want to lose his position in the standings. As the owner of a struggling team, now is your time to send over a number two starter and get some much needed help to bolster your team. You’ll never get greater return because the Peavy owner is going to be in “panic mode“. Remember this as well, if your team is struggling and there really has not been any bright spots, take a chance. There is nothing worse than the owner who is satisfied by mediocrity and stays in 5th place all year. If you are in a pay-league, 5th place is most likely no different that finishing in last place. You are better off taking a chance and worst case scenario, you probably still finish in 5th place. I call this the Ricky Bobby Rule of Fantasy Baseball. It is real simple, “If you aren’t first, your last.” Before I continue to quote various Will Ferrell movies, lets talk about making some moves on the wire.

Big Hits

Aaron Laffey (SP, Cleveland Indians): With the injury to Jake Westbrook, Laffey has stepped in and has been outstanding. Laffey along with the other members of the Indians’ starting rotation held opponents scoreless over 44 1/3 innings this past week. However, somewhat lost in the scoreless streak, Laffey himself has not given up an earned run over the past 21 innings. While Laffey is not going to be a strikeout artist, he knows how to pitch. Opposing batters are hitting a meager .184 against him and he has an impressive WHIP of .86. Cleveland is now in 1st place and look for their offense to continue to improve. There has not been any word on what will happen when Westbrook comes back but it is going to be difficult to remove Laffey from the rotation. Take a look at your waiver wire and Laffey will most likely be there. Surprisingly, he is only owned in a small percentage of leagues.

Luke Hochevar (SP, Kansas City Royals): After a rough start against Oakland in mid-April, Hochevar has rebounded his last 4 starts. Hochevar came to the “bigs” as a highly-touted prospect after being selected first overall in the 2006 Major League Baseball Draft. He has struck out at least 5 in 4 of his 5 starts since be called up from the minors. Over the course of his last 4 starts, Hochevar has lowered his ERA to 3.94 and his WHIP to 1.38. The Royals are stacked with young pitching and Hochevar with some more experience might prove to be the best of them all. He is slated as a two-start pitcher this coming week. Although he has struggled on the road, give Hochevar a shot. He has dominating stuff and is able to put up a 10 K night for you anytime he toes the rubber.

Garret Anderson (OF, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim): Garret Anderson is one guy that seems to get lost in the shuffle every year. This was true even from 2000-2003 when he had years of 35, 28, 29 and 29 homeruns. Anderson has one of the sweetest strokes in baseball and right now he is on fire. While I’m not saying he is going to put up similar power numbers to his 2000-2003 seasons, Anderson will most likely finish with around 20 HR’s and 80-90 RBI’s. In a year where HR totals are down throughout the entire league, Anderson might be a nice addition to your outfield. With Anderson, you are guaranteed to get one thing…Consistency. Anderson is a professional hitter and if you look at his numbers over the past 4 years, they are almost identical. I’m usually a huge fan of taking the young guy with star potential over the older guy. However, Anderson could be a nice acquisition if you are getting inconsistent numbers out of some of your other outfielders. Anderson is extremely hot right now so grab him now and ride the streak. After he cools off, you’re still going to get the consistency you might not find elsewhere.

Daniel Cabrera (SP, Baltimore Orioles): I have been a believer in Cabrera for the past couple of years. Unfortunately, the year that he finally realizes his potential, I don’t draft him. I have been buying into the hype and for the past several years, I have gotten burnt….bad. Cabrera has always been a great strikeout guy but his losses and ERA would always make him a tough start. But this year it seems like Cabrera is finally understanding you have to pitch and not throw to be successful at the major league level. In the past, Cabrera was all arms and legs with his delivery and he was unable to repeat his delivery. Hence, this is why Cabrera would be lights out some starts and then he would walk 7 batters his next start. Finally it looks like Cabrera has established a tempo with his delivery and his numbers are a direct product. For a power guy like Cabrera, simple is good. His delivery looks clean and consistent and he is finally just relying on his stuff. I do not want to speak too soon but I believe this isn’t just a couple good starts for Cabrera. If he is available definitely pick him up. Although his strikeout numbers are down from prior years, I’d rather have him pile up some W’s and keep his ERA down as opposed to striking out 8 and walking 6 every start.

Honorable Mention

If you have to fill a need, take a look at a couple of these guys.

Masa Kobayashi (RP, Cleveland Indians): (2-0, 1.86 ERA, 13 Ks, 1.09 WHIP, 2 saves)
Matt Joyce (OF, Detroit Tigers): (.292 avg, 3 HR’s, 5 RBI’s, 4 runs)
Leo Nunez (RP, Kansas City Royals): (3-0, 1.62 ERA, 13 Ks)

A Couple Quick Misses

Gary Sheffield: (OF/DH, Detroit Tigers): Sheffield has been really bad this year. Detroit’s offense as a whole is struggling and don’t be surprised to see Jimmy Leyland sit down some veterans in favor of some hot bats ( see Matt Joyce above). If you have him, drop him. You can get much better numbers out on the wire.

Jason Isringhausen: (RP, St. Louis Cardinals): Izzy was awful this past week. St. Louis demoted him from his closer role and he has blown 3 saves in the past week. I’m not saying to drop Izzy but if you have any potential buyers who believe he can reclaim his role, take a look at what you might be able to get for him. His value is low right now but like we’ve talked about before, there are always people that are willing to pay big for saves.

As with any SportsJudge articles, please feel free to post any questions or comments. Until next time, keep your ears open for the Buzz Around the Bullpen.

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