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Through the first six weeks of the season, the hottest hitter in baseball was Los Angeles Dodger outfielder Andre Ethier. As of May 14, Ethier was rocking the following stat line: .392 AVG, 11 HR, 38 RBI (which was good for 1st in every Triple Crown category), .457 OBP, and 25 R. Simply put, Ethier was racking up numbers usually reserved for a player in Nintendo 64's Ken Griffey Jr. Baseball. Unfortunately for Dodger fans and fantasy owners, Ethier injured his pinkie finger in batting practice and headed to the disabled list.
Although he returned on Memorial Day, Ethier's injury brings up an interesting debate: how should fantasy owners replace a wounded star? There are a few schools of thought, so let's break each ideology down.
1). Replace injured player with the actual substitute. This is not the wisest move for fantasy owners. More often then not, a platoon or rotation is implemented in favor of one player filling the void. However, if the injured player in question is a pitcher (especially a closer), this move could pay immediate dividends. 2010 example: Jose Contreras for Brad Lidge/Ryan Madison.
2). Take the best available player from the Waivers/Free-Agent pool. This is the most common route for fantasy owners, with the results being varied. If it's relatively early in the year, owners can snatch up a surprise/breakout stud. But by the time June rolls around, you'd be hard-pressed to find a hidden gem. If you find yourself in this predicament, select a player based on their stats from the past week or month rather than their yearly accumulation. Somewhat of a risk, but they offer a higher payout. 2010 example: Jose Guillen, who's been picked up and released more than Jennifer Aniston this season. Hopefully, both of these kindred spirits find their true soul-mate/team. Speaking of risks -
3). Select the prospect/rookie. This play is on-par with the decision to greenlight the film "Just Wright." In other words, not smart. (I don't know what's more unbelievable: Common as an NBA player, or an NBA player falling in love with Queen Latifah. Needless to say, I haven't seen the movie. But I digress.) There might be an additional incentive in the excitement of following an up-and-comer, but most of these highly-touted prospects stumble out of the gate. 2010 example: Justin Smoak.
4). Trade. With Ethier as an essential part of the "Beall's Bleacher Bums" offensive attack, I decided to forgo the first three options mentioned above and looked towards the rest of the league for help. I have always been a believer in stockpiling as many arms as possible, mainly because a) good pitching is harder to come by then good hitting (in fantasy and real life) and b) a loaded arsenal correlates as valuable trade bait. In my case, I sent off Barry Zito, Jon Lester, and James Loney for Justin Morneau and Andrew McCutchen. On paper, that might seem like I gave up too much; however, I had enough in the proverbial fantasy bullpen to offset that loss, and not only righted the ship in Ethier's absence, but actually gained some ground in the offensive standings without dropping in the pitching categories. So suck it haters.
Remember, although your hopes might be to completely replace the injured player's production, the realistic goal should be to maintain a competitive lineup until his return. Keeping that in mind, don't replace a shortstop headed to the DL with a streaking outfielder unless you have an adequate replacement at short. Follow those simple suggestions and you'll be able to weather the storm.
Start 'em: Jose Reyes, Mets. The New York shortstop has been on fire, batting .483 in the mist of a nine-game hitting streak. Reyes has also added 3 steals and 9 RBI, showcasing his skills that have been absent since 2008.
Sit 'em: Tim Lincecum, Giants. The two-time Cy Young award winner has been anything but in his last three starts, with a 8.34 ERA in only 15.1 innings of work. Allegedly dealing with a blister, Lincecum has struggled with his command, surrendering five walks in his past four outings.
Fantasy Flashback: 1906 Mordecai Brown. The Hall of Famer had a few seasons for Fantasy Flashback consideration. In 1909, Brown led the National League in wins (27), saves (7), innings (342.2), complete games (32), and appearances (50). He compiled 29 victories and only allowed 6.2 hits per 9 innings in '08. Yet it's his 1906 campaign that merits this week's selection for his ridiculous 1.04 ERA and 0.93 WHIP in 277.1 innings of work. In a related note, I have now thrown in "Mordecai" as a serious contender for the namesake of my first-born. Other contenders include Indigo, Bobcat, and Rambo. In another related note, it's hard to believe I'm single with those name nominations.
Waiver Wire Watch: When looking to add a player to awaken an anemic offensive, put a little more effort than simply clicking the "AVG" or "HR" icon to see the available leaders in that respective category. Lazy owners will see a .324 average next to Mike Fontenot and immediately pick up him, only to realize he's not an everyday player. Make sure to put in the proper amount of time and research when adding to your team.
Rookie Review: Drew Storen, Nationals. Somewhat lost in the Strasburg hype has been the pitching of Storen. The 10th overall pick in the 2009 Draft, Storen rose through the minors at an astronomical pace. The Stanford product had stints at four levels before receiving his call-up in May. In six appearances in the Show, Storen has given up just one run in 5.2 innings.
This week in Jonathon Broxton: Yawn. All the Ox did this week is slam the door shut on three Dodger victories, as well as taking the W on Memorial Day against the Diamondbacks. Destruction tally for the week: 1-0, 3 SVs, 4.2 IP, 6 Ks and 2 more cities (Chicago and Denver) whom the Ox has left in his wake.
Trade Talk: If you are continuing to struggle in a particular category, time has passed to stop hoping for a turn-around, and one most start to embrace reality. Take a player who is contributing to whatever statistic you are striving in and exchange him to enhance your shortcomings. Better to be well-rounded as opposed to hitting the extremes on both sides of the spectrum.
Big League Chew Player of the Week: Derek Jeter, Yankees. The Yankee captain has awakened from his mid-May slumber, hitting .486 in his last 35 at-bats. Speaking of Jeter, is there a cooler athlete in professional sports than DJ? Tiger seemed to be in that echelon before, uh, that car accident. LeBron shows too much emotion (i.e. the dancing) and hasn't won anything yet to qualify in this category. Tom Brady would be a suitable candidate if his Super Bowls weren't under suspicion of Spygate. Hulk Hogan is still the man, but some doubters claim wrestling is fixed. Kaka, Ronaldo, and Lionel Messi would be apt choices if soccer was a real sport. Guess that leaves Jeter as the title bearer.
Spit Your Tobacco At: Jayson Werth, Phillies. Talk about a slump: goose egg for his last 19. Ouch. Usually we have a strict "No condemnation on men who can grow epic facial hair" policy, but Werth's performance as of late as deserved this distinction.
That's it for this week. And in honor of myself getting rejected by another potential girlfriend, the "Dumb and Dumber" Quote of the Day:
Lloyd: What happened Har? Some little filly break your heart?
Harry: No, it was a girl.
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Power Rankings - June 1st - The Tampa Bay Rays finally catch the Yankees as Reds rocket up to 4th!
SimLeague Baseball - Draft any player from 1885-Now! Carry Ruth, Koufax and Howard on your roster!