I haven’t been writing as much lately. I’m not sure why. It could be that most of my columns require a few weeks of data to really be useful. It could be because I got most of my player profiles done by mid-March so I could be ready for everyone’s drafts. That left me with little to write about. Who knew that anti-procrastination would lead to a general malaise?
I’ve also moved away from covering much fantasy news…as it happens. There are great writers whose job that is and I don’t think I’d add much value.
I also got a puppy and am tired a lot more.
I’m also writing a ton for my day job—an amazing amount of content that leaves me a little drained…creatively.
I’m also struggling with my future in the “business” – not sure I can call it a business if I don’t get paid. But I love the weekly radio show I do. I like the writing when I do it – it’s just gotten harder to get myself started.
What makes it easier? Readers. I get questions all day long on twitter and I love answering them. I get alerts on my phone every time I get a question and I try to answer within minutes. I truly appreciate everyone who thinks my opinion matters and I hope I’ve steered people the right way.
This sounds like an “I’m quitting” letter doesn’t it?
Well, it ain’t. Just an apology for my lack of vigor and vitality. Let’s just say I’ve been a little cold.
Now, I’m ready to get a little hot (and, as I hit that period, Best of You came on).
Players get hot and cold over a seven-day period, it’s as sure as the samples are small.
That is why Katy created the Hot ‘N’ Cold All-stars.
‘Cause you’re hot…you’re yes…you’re in…you’re up
Johnny Damon – Since Manny exited stage right, Damon has been on fire. Deciding to enter the Hall as a Kansas City Royal has apparently inspired the man to the tune of a .333 average, two HRs, nine RBIs and two SBs over the last seven days. Damon, @JoelHenard’s favorite player, could be a nice option for a little power and a little steals. It looks like the Rays might have to run a lot given Longoria is out and they have no right-handed hitting power in the line-up. Damon has some upside as a 4th/5th outfielder.
Jonathan Herrera – Herrera was a mainstay of my NL-only team last year. Yet, he’s making a play for mixed leagues in 2011? Well his last seven days were the ninth best in fantasy owing to his ridiculous .478 average and four steals. As a 21-year-old, he stole 34 bases in A+ ball in 2006, but his SB number has not reached those heights since. Still, he hit .277 in 960 AAA plate appearances and .280 in 3,139 minor league plate appearances. Could he be Placido Polanco with a few more steals? Absolutely. However, there is a real worry about playing time given the crowded Rockies infield. If someone like Polanco is useful in your league, Herrera makes a decent grab, but I’m not going after him in anything but the deepest mixed leagues – maybe if he was SS eligible (but I don’t see that happening for some reason).
David Freese – I thought he could bring a nice reward for his draft day price tag, and so far, so (sort of) good. Over the last week, Freese went 11/22 with two homers. I’ll stand by my 15-20 HR projection with a .290+ batting average. Not a bad corner.
Wilson Betemit – According to the Elias Sports Bureau (not really), Betemit has now been on the Katy Perry All-stars more times than anyone else. Over the last seven days, he went 10/21 with a homer and a steal. With Aviles and Kila scuffling a tad, Betemit is seeing more and more playing time. I also picked him up as a spot start on Thursday and enjoyed a round tripper. I’m finding it hard to drop him for middle relief help – odd. Could the #8 prospect-rated prospect before the 2002 season be hitting his stride at age 29? Sort of. I wouldn’t be shocked if we saw a .260 average with 15-20 HRs, with some upside. Of course, with Mike Moustakas waiting in the wings, who knows how many ABs Betemit will get. For now, though, he makes a decent bench guy in deeper leagues.
Jeff Baker – I always thought the Cheaper by the Dozen father was weird (I was confused by him trying to shave with both hands)– that said, I’m incredibly anal about maximizing my time…stringing together actions in a coherent fashion. If I need to go to the bathroom, I’ll chug my drink so that I can refill it on the way. Jeff Baker maximizes his at bats. He was 7/16 last week with a home run. Baker, an NL-only delight, won’t get enough playing time really, as he’ll only hit against lefties. But, man, does he hit southpaws: .316/.368/.556. He also qualifies at middle and corner. He should be owned in every NL-only league.
Chris Coghlan – Maybe it’s wishful thinking since I just traded for him (in a move that saw me part with Jose Tabata), but I see a glimmer of hope for Coghlan. Off to a horrendous start, he righted the marlin over the last seven days (9/26 and a homer). Still, it would be nice to see some stolen bases. I’m thinking he can hit in the .280-.295 range with 10 HRs and 15 SBs.
Jamey Carroll – The main beneficiary of Rafael Furcal’s injury were NL-only owners everywhere that had Carroll and his insane position eligibility on their benches. He qualifies everywhere but first and catcher. Stepping in quickly for Furcal, Carroll went 11/28 with two stolen bases. He can be a .300 hitter with a handful of SBs, perhaps a Swiss Army Adam Kennedy? That’ll play a lot of places.
Marlon Byrd – Say whatever you will about the contract, but Byrd is not a bad player. It was pretty clear to most people that his 20 HR bender in 2009 was more the aberration than a trend. So, Byrd is a low double digit masher. Still, he comes with a .280-.300 average and 70-85 runs/RBIs. Over the last week, he hit .400, scored five runs and knocked in three. It isn’t great, but those numbers aren’t sitting out there in many leagues. I like him in most 12-teamers.
Russell Branyan – As someone who talked a lot about Juan Miranda and Brandon Allen, it pains me to put Branyan here. Over the last seven days, he is 6/14 with a HR. He is outhitting Miranda by a large margin and is clearly the better batsman. I imagine the Diamondbacks will realize this and give Branyan more and more at bats. I’d scoop up the power now. I really believe the club should showcase him for a trade, then let Miranda hit, or at least try to later in the season.
Bruce Chen – Seven days, two starts, two wins, no runs, eight Ks and a 0.79 WHIP. That’s hella good. The one-time Oriole ace is not the worst pitcher in the world (of course he is nowhere near the best). In addition, he might never have another week like he did over his last two starts. Still, we could see a low-4.00 ERA and a K/9 above six. I don’t think there is much separating him from Mark Buehrle.
Randy Wolf – Let it be known that, for some reason, maybe because at one point I liked the Phillies, I have always been a Randy Wolf fan/owner. His ability and frustration doesn’t get anymore telling than his last seven-day two-start stretch (12.2 IPs, one win, 15 Ks, a 1.42 ERA and 1.18 WHIP). He didn’t pitch all that good against the Cubs coming off a horrible first start at Cincinnati, but then he owned the Pittsburgh Pirates. I think Wolf is a guy you throw out there for Ks and be somewhat comfortable against poor hitting teams. Maybe a Justin Masterson with little upside? Still, at the end of the day, you’ll get 7-7.5 Ks for every nine innings.
Phil Coke – The new Coke is better than the old Coke? Over the last seven days, Coke threw 13.2 IPs, got a win, struck out nine and had a 0.88 WHIP. Those were his first two starts of the year. He has pitched 16 innings this year, 25% as much as last year (which was the most he ever threw in a season). As a spot starter in a bind, Coke might be your guy, but I wouldn’t come close to relying on him, given his utter lack of a track record as a major league starter. He also doesn’t have quite the pedigree that a CJ Wilson had going into last season.
Phil Humber – Maybe this is my apology to Vladimir Nabokov for not loving Lolita (maybe I didn’t love it because I watched the Kubrick flick first?). Anyway, Humber catches my eye. He had one start over the last week. In it, he went six innings for the victory and got four Ks. He was a first round pick by the Mets and an integral part of the Johan Santana trade. At one time, a top 50 prospect, Humber has never really been healthy and has pitched only 59.1 major league innings. If you’re in a deep league where every starter is owned, Humber is somewhat attractive. The White Sox have done wonders with some way post-hype hurlers, so I’d keep a watchful eye on what Humber does.
Then you’re cold…then you’re no…then you’re out…then you’re down
Neil Walker – As hot as he started, he’s been Mr. Freeze Cold over the last seven days (3/19). Walker was never as good as he was in the first week and is not this bad. In reality, he is actually exactly what his numbers look like at the moment: .271/.330/.480. He could get to 20 HRs, although will more likely settle into the 15-17 range.
Andrew McCutchen – More Pirates and a player I’m relying on in a lot of places. McCutchen has been more Daniel than Andrew this year. He was 2/19 over the last seven days and has only attempted two steals this season. Still, he hasn’t been striking out (just 10% K rate) and has been walking more than normal. He has a horrendous BABip (.200) and a poor line drive rate. Right now, there isn’t any real concern. He should get his OBP back into the .360s which would increase his stolen bases. I’m not worried.
Dan Uggla – Another guy I am relying on who has been terrible. Over the last seven days, Uggla has gone 2/23. On the bright side, half of his hits are homers! While he isn’t striking out as much as normal, he isn’t walking at all. Still, if you thought McCutchen’s BABip was offensive, Uggla’s .128 mark should make you vomit. Sure, his line drives are way down and he is hitting a lot more fly balls without posting his usual HR/FB rate, but it’s early. If he weren’t making contact, I’d be a bit more concerned. It will be important to see if he continues to trade line drives for fly balls though, because that could drain his average.
Pedro Alvarez – I have a feeling young Pedro* will make a lot of Katy Perry All-stars in his career. His last week wasn’t great: 1/16 with eight Ks. On the year his massive K rate (34.8%) is just 0.5% higher than last season. He does have a lower BABip in 2011 (.300) than in 2010 (.341) which is partially driving his sub-Mendoza line average. Still, the swings and misses aren’t to blame. What’s odd is that his line drive percentage is up (of course small sample size) and fly ball percentage down (of course he’s hit an inordinate amount of pop ups). He is also seeing a lot less fast balls (about 12% less) and more sliders, curves and change-ups. Might the league be adjusting to him? Possibly. It could also be a real small sample of a few pitchers with different approaches. I’m not too concerned, he’s still hitting the ball hard, they just aren’t finding holes. I think he’s a rather attractive buy-low
*and what is the deal with the amount of pop culture Pedro references? I mean there is Varsity Blues and an entire electoral campaign. Well, I guess that’s it. But two seems like more than none.
Vernon Wells – I know that some people who write a “Hot ‘n Cold” column don’t believe on giving up on Wells, but I don’t see the point in looking at his past season performances when he is no longer playing in the Roger’s Centre. From last week: “Wells has hit better in Toronto than any other place. He has a .226/.267/.340 line in 173 plate appearances in Angel Stadium. With a lot of outfielders available, Wells just shouldn’t be owned as much as he is.” Over the last seven days, he was just 2/22. I’d much rather have Marlon Byrd.
Chone Figgins – I feel like shouting Figgins!!!! What a confusing fellow he has been. Over the last seven days, he is 4/17 and has battled a thumb problem. On the year, he has one SB and that was in the first game of the season. His walk-rate (which ensures SB opportunities) is just 4.4%. He hasn’t been striking and does have a miserable BABip (.167). While he has been hitting more fly balls (43% this year compared to 34% for his career), his line drive rate hasn’t plummeted. I can’t see anything that points to Figgins continuing last year’s downward trend. I’ll stubbornly support him and give him more than 45 PAs to get his OBP up.
Mike Stanton – Much like Alvarez, Stanton should be a frequent Katy Perry nominee (it’s all the swings and misses which create a fan to blow hair back in photos). He received almost a full compliment of at bats (20) over the last seven says, but collected just four hits. He has just 27 at bats on the season, and, so far, has walked more and struck out less. So, really, there’s nothing to see here. I’m sure we’ll discuss him later.
Carlos Zambrano – It’s not often a two-win pitcher ends up on Katy’s Cold All-stars, but Big Z is one bad mother. Over the last seven days, he pitched 11.2 innings, struck out nine, but posted a messy 6.94 ERA and equally messy 1.71 WHIP. He wasn’t facing the Bronx Bombers either, as Houston and Milwaukee roughed him up. Basically, part of the blame goes to a bullpen that didn’t strand enough of Zambrano’s runners. The other part of the blame goes to a small (sample size) decline in his K-rate. That’s the key to watch. If it stays in the mid-6.00s, it will be time to move.
Ian Kennedy – There is no middle ground with Kennedy. Either he’s the next Whitey Ford or the next Kei Igawa. Eleven innings over the last seven days were vintage Igawa (8.18 ERA and 1.45 WHIP). But he did collect 10 punch-outs and a win. Basically, he just got hammered by the St. Louis Cardinals (nine runs in three innings), who have a few skilled batsmen. I am not at all concerned about him.
Wandy Rodriguez – My favorite pitcher that I’ve never seen pitch. Wandy was semi-atrocious last week: 12 innings, just six strike-outs and a 1.58 WHIP. What’s worse? Batters have a .417 average on balls in play against him and he has a craptastic 60.8% strand rate. He also has posted a 6.19 K/9 rate compared three straight seasons of 8.22+. Not surprisingly, he is giving up more hard hit balls (26% LD rate compared to about 20% for his career) and getting less swinging strikes (6.8% of the time compared to 8.8%+ over the last three seasons). Batters are making better and more contact against Wandy than previously. It’s a little disconcerting, but it’s only 16 innings. If you can use this argument to get him on the cheap, I’d go for it. But be sure to monitor his upcoming starts closely to see if he starts missing more bats.
Ted Lilly – Lilly and Dodger stadium were supposed to be a match made in heaven. Yet, his two starts over the last seven days yielded just 10.1 innings, five Ks and a putrid 5.23/1.55 ERA/WHIP (of course neither of his starts came at home). What’s scary is the bad starts came against offensive dynamos like the Giants and Padres. Lilly is just not missing any bats this year, but batters aren’t crushing his pitches that badly. I expect him to shake off the start and get back on track.
James Shields – People seem to be panicking about Shields for some reason. I guess his last seven days (13 innings, only four Ks and a 1.54 WHIP) were bad, but he’s not exactly Mr. Reliable. Also, I think this is the first time in his career that his ERA is outperforming his FIP and xFIP. Like Lilly and WandyRod, Shields ain’t missing any bats, but, unlike them, batters aren’t making great contact against him (18.8% LD rate). In fact, the only real changes in his batted ball rates are a big increase in his infield fly rates. Shields’ early season ERA can be explained by a low BABIP and high strand rate. If those normalize without increased K totals, he could be in for trouble. He did pitch well in his last start, so we’ll have to see what comes next. It’s always a bumpy road with Shields.
Francisco Liriano – I’d be remiss if Liriano didn’t make the squad. In 14.1 innings of work, he has three loses, a 9.42 ERA and 1.74 WHIP. Some of that can be explained away by some heinous bullpen support (he has a 47.4% strand rate). But he’s also missing a few less bats than he did last year and walking a ton of guys (5.65/9). Batters are making a lot more contact in the zone (64.1% of the time) than they normally do (50.7% for his career). However, they aren’t hitting the ball any harder really. I’m actually not that concerned about Liriano. Give me a few more starts and I think he’ll be fine.
All stats as of noon on April 15, 2011.
h2h_Corner on Twitter