Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Buzz Around The Bullpen: You're Outman

Welcome back to another edition of the Buzz Around the Bullpen. This past weekend, baseball entered into its first weekend of interleague play for the 2009 season. Since its inception in 1997, interleague play has been a source of much debate amongst baseball fans. While some argue that interleague play takes away from the mystique of the World Series, I think interleague play is great for baseball. For one, it gives fans an opportunity to see players up close that they would never see otherwise. As a Pirates fan, the only chance I'll ever see the Boston Red Sox or the New York Yankees is through an interleague series because the Buccos run at the World Series usually ends by Cinco De Mayo. Also, it provides a chance for local teams to square off to settle inner-city/inner-state rivalries (i.e. Mets/Yankees, Cubs/White Sox). The only valid arguments critics have is that certain teams lack interleague rivals (Braves/Blue Jays this past weekend) and that American League pitchers could injure themselves when they are forced to hit (see Chien Ming Wang). However, it is my feeling that these are not compelling enough arguments to deprive fans of what usually turns out to be a great series of baseball games.

For right now, let's discuss some hits and misses for this upcoming week of fantasy.

Big Hits

Josh Outman (OAK, SP): Oakland has had a rough start to their 2009 campaign but Josh Outman has been a bright spot over the past month and a half. In just over 40 innings this season, Outman has posted a 2.90 ERA and has also managed to strikeout 31 hitters. He has kept opposing hitters to a batter average of .212. Because of his strong performances and the inconsistency of other Oakland starters, it seems as though Outman has found a home in the A's starting rotation. The only thing that hurts Outman is that he is a starter for the Oakland A's and they have a long history of failing to provide their starters with run support. However, that shouldn't be enough to ignore him if you're looking to strengthen the back-end of your rotation.

Michael Cuddyer (MIN, OF): If Michael Cuddyer is still available in your league, you need to stop reading this and immediately go grab him. Cuddyer has been one of the hottest hitters in baseball over the past week and even when he does cool off, he'll still be a more than servicable fantasy option. In his only two "full" seasons of at-bats in 2006 and 2007, Cuddyer produced above average numbers and I look for him to produce similar numbers this season. In fact, it is not of the question to expect 20+ HRs with 95 runs, 95 RBIs and around 8 stolen bases. If nothing else, he's hitting in a lineup with Joe Mauer and that's a great place to be these days.

Dave Bush (MIL, SP): Dave Bush has been a guy that fantasy owners have been waiting to break-out for several years now. It's starting to look like he is finally realizing his potential. In nine games started this season, Bush has given up three or less runs in seven of those starts. While he's not going to lead your team to the strikeout crown, he's shown the ability to rack up 4-5 K's a start (42 K's in 59 2/3 IP). Although his offense took a huge hit with the loss of Rickie Weeks for the season, the Brew Crew has too many superstars to be held down by some weak National League pitching staffs. This is good news for Bush because once his offense starts hitting consistently, I look for Bush to steal a couple of wins. With three wins already, Bush has a chance to finish with 12-14 wins along with some fairly decent fantasy numbers.

Big Miss

Brad Lidge (PHI, RP): I'm starting to think that someone sent footage of the Albert Pujols monster homerun he hit off of Lidge in the 2005 NLCS to the Phillies clubhouse. If you remember, Lidge wasn't the same for quite some time...that is until last year. In '08, Lidge was a perfect 48-48 in converting save opportunites as he led the Phils to a World Series Championship. This year has been a totally different story for Lidge. In fact, Lidge currently possesses an 0-2 record and an alarming 9.15 ERA. The most difficult thing for Lidge owners to swallow however is the fact that Lidge has blown three out of his eleven save opportunities in '09.

In case you haven't noticed, closers are a lot like hockey goalies. They are superstitious, quirky, methodical, meticulous, insane and...insane. The traits that makes them successful are the same traits that cause them to continue to struggle after a couple of rough outings. Making Lidge's situation even more complex is that hitters are hitting his best pitch (slider) and that has to be killing his confidence. As soon as a closer starts to question his "stuff", you might as well schedule an "Intervention" on the A & E channel. If there is any good news with Lidge it's that the Phils have already come out and said that nothing is physically wrong with Lidge. However, if Lidge continues to struggle, it may take some middle relief time to get his confidence back. Because of this possibility, I'd stash Ryan Madson or Chad Durbin away in case Charlie Manuel makes this temporary move.

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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