Monday, August 18, 2008

The Buzz Around The Bullpen: Could Johnson Help Keep the Fish and Your Fantasy Team Afloat?

Welcome back to another edition of the “Buzz Around the Bullpen”. While this week’s sports news was dominated by Olympic highlights and Michael Phelps’ gold medals, Major League baseball continued to roll on. With only a little more than a month left in the season, the playoff race continues to be just as tight. Just this week, we saw how injuries with Tampa Bay and a trade by Arizona can immediately impact a divisional race. There is still plenty of time left in the season and with the races so close, some of these divisional races could be turned upside down before the end of the season. Let’s take a look at some fantasy moves that might put a step ahead in your divisional race.

Big Hits

Josh Johnson (SP, Florida Marlins): Luckily for the Florida Marlins, Josh Johnson is defying the odds in his return from Tommy John surgery. As we’ve seen with other pitchers like Francisco Liriano, it often takes 18-24 months for a pitcher to return to form after the dreaded elbow surgery. Johnson has returned in under 12 months and has been putting up numbers that rival his rookie campaign. Through his past three starts, Johnson has possessed an impressive 2.37 ERA and has even dominated at times. In his last start against the Cubs, Johnson tied his career high of 8 Ks. Johnson is definitely worth a waiver move if you’re looking to bolster your starting rotation. If you need some convincing, look at his rookie numbers where he was 12-7 with a 3.10 ERA and 133 Ks in only 157 IP.

Chris Perez (RP, St. Louis Cardinals): Just a couple weeks ago, I tried convincing you that Jason Isringhausen would be the closer in St. Louis regardless of the circumstances. Well…I was wrong. The good news is that a lot of other people were as well and there is still an opportunity to pick up their new closer Chris Perez. While there is a chance Adam Wainwright may take over the role when he comes off the DL, my guess is that Perez will keep the job. This bullpen has been awful this year and I would be surprised if manager Tony LaRussa would mix things up after finally getting some production out of his bullpen. Perez has been given the save opportunities of late and has converted four of his five save chances over the course of the season. Surprisingly, Perez is still available in close to 60% of leagues.

Jeff Kent (2B, Los Angeles Dodgers): As we talked about last week, every acquisition causes a fantasy reaction. Jeff Kent has shown over the past couple of weeks that you don’t necessarily have to be involved in a trade in order to benefit from it. In a year that second basemen have dominated fantasy baseball, Kent had found himself lost in the shuffle. Shortly after the Manny trade, Kent was moved into the three spot of the lineup. With Manny batting behind him, Kent is now seeing pitches to hit and has taken advantage of his new found protection. His average has gone up over around 20 points and his run and RBI production have also increased. If you weren’t lucky enough to get one of the elite second basemen, Jeff Kent might be a nice stop-gap for the rest of the season.

Big Miss

Greg Smith (SP, Oakland Athletics): Unfortunately for the Oakland Athletics, the Buzz Around the Bullpen has focused on two of their young pitchers in the “Big Miss”. Section over the past two weeks. This week comes with a little “swallowing of my pride”. Earlier in the year, I predicted that Greg Smith would be much more than a serviceable fantasy pitcher. However, over the past couple of months, Smith’s ownership has significantly declined with good reason. Smith has shown the inability to pitch more than 5 innings on a consistent basis. Making him an even more unattractive option right now is the fact that Smith plays for the Athletics. The A’s have been offensively inept of late. As we’ve seen over the past couple of years, pitchers like Rich Harden and Dan Haren were often robbed of victories because of the A’s inability to provide their pitchers with any run support.

If you look at Smith’s numbers for the season, his 3.91 ERA and 1.33 are respectable. Unfortunately, they haven’t been enough to help him win games. Over his last 8 starts, Smith is 0-6. With Oakland clearly out of the playoff race, I don’t see things improving for Smith. It’s time to let Smith go and pick up a pitcher that might steal you a couple of victories before the end of the season. (See Paul Byrd)

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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