Slumps & Dumps: Getting rid of 'dead weight' players
Because I'm in touch with my feelings (sorry ladies, I'm taken), I keep a diary during the season. Here's an entry from this week:
Today I experienced a trifecta of sports disappointment. First, as if the Reds weren't depressing enough, Edinson Volquez underwent Tommy John surgery. Thanks, Dusty. Second, Stewart Bradley tears his ACL during Eagles training camp. Awesome. Finally, I lost in my head-to-head baseball league last week. It's cliché to say that I hate losing; most people do. But this was different. I lost to a guy who pays almost no attention to his team, makes questionable trades/pick-ups, and always finishes toward the bottom of the league. You know it's just not your week when a 2.50 ERA doesn't win you the category or when freakin' Cristian Guzman drives in eight runs against you. Eight?! There are months where that clown doesn't have eight RBIs. Everyone has his slumps though, and unlike some of the chumps I write about each week, I know I won't be down for long. Also, I think I'm developing a crush on Gordon Beckham. Until next time...
Clint Barmes -- I'm pretty sure Barmes has been owned by eight of the 12 teams in one of my leagues this season. The versatile Rockies infielder has been incredibly streaky all season, and he's currently mired in another slump. Over 13 games and 54 at-bats, Barmes has just five hits with 13 punch-outs. During that stretch, his fly-ball rate is nearly 74 percent, but with 26 infield pop-ups on the season, you can be sure not all of those cleared the infield dirt. With a decreased contact rate and limited plate discipline, Barmes' production will continue to fluctuate more than Jessica Simpson's weight. Thanks to the fly balls though, he has a good shot at his first 20-homer season, but don't expect an average over .260 the rest of the way.
Emilio Bonifacio -- A .219 average and one steal in 23 games had Bonifacio on thin ice, but the Marlins' recent acquisition of Nick Johnson will likely zap the remainder of his fantasy value. With Johnson manning first, Jorge Cantu is seeing more time at the hot corner while Bonifacio platoons in the outfield. Reduced at-bats and limited ability aren't exactly a recipe for fantasy success. Bonifacio won't hit much over .250 from here on out with his only value being on the basepaths. Still, he'll always hold a special place in my heart, because through a series of trades in one league I turned this bum into Josh Beckett.
Russell Branyan -- There's a reason no one figured Branyan could maintain his torrid early pace, and it's on display now. Branyan is the K-Fed of fantasy baseball, and you, his owners, are Britney. Sure he knocked up Shar Jackson and was cheating on her, but he seems so nice. Maybe he's changed, and this time will be different. Guess what. It won't be. Next thing you know you've got a sex tape out there and two kids of your own. Meanwhile he's dating some other bimbo and apparently trying to eat the entire country's supply of Oreos. You get my point. Anyway, in 26 games since July 1, he's hitting .160 with a 38.0 percent Strikeout Rate (K%). Look familiar, former Branyan owners? His BABIP is at .319 and dropping rapidly along with his contact rates. With 24 homers on the season, Branyan should easily eclipse 30 bombs for the first time in his career. If you need raw power numbers down the stretch, he's definitely an adequate source, but make sure your team can withstand his terrible average.
J.D. Drew -- Having a column on disappointing players without J.D. Drew would be like an issue of US Weekly without Jon and Kate on the cover. You're not going to believe this, but Drew has also been slowed by injury. Really, I swear. In his past 22 games, he has just one home run and seven RBIs while hitting .192. He's fanned in nearly 30 percent of his at-bats over that stretch, and a .304 BABIP this season tells you that his .252 average is legit. Opposing pitchers have attacked Drew with more fastballs this season, and he's failed to adjust and respond. Somehow, Drew is still owned in vastly more leagues than Jeff Francouer, Gerardo Parra, or even Kyle Blanks, who won't hit for average but can crush the ball.
Josh Hamilton -- The feel-good story of 2008 has suffered through an injury-ravaged and slump-filled campaign. Since returning from his latest DL stint, Hamilton has been tough to watch with a .159 average in 22 games. His power numbers have also been way down over that stretch with just two extra-base hits. Hamilton's K% has climbed over 25.0, and his BABIP is down over 70 points from last season. A near 10-percent increase in his fly ball rate has not translated into more homers due to an equally sharp drop in his Home Run-to-Fly Ball (HR/FB) rate. With the Rangers still in the pennant race, Hamilton is pressing and trying to do too much, which has him swinging and missing with regularity. However, his BABIP and HR/FB rate are both overdue for a correction, and I like Hamilton to be productive down the stretch with a .275 average and close to 10 homers.
Brandon Inge -- It seems the donut that Inge posted in the Home Run Derby was a sign of things to come. He's batting an ugly .172 with two extra-base hits in his past 18 games. He's always struggled to put the ball in play, and a 37.9 K% during his slump has that tendency rearing its ugly head. Inge is clearly hampered by a torn patella tendon, and while his desire to play through pain is admirable, that isn't helping the Tigers or your fantasy team. His HR/FB rate is nearly 10 percent higher than his mark in recent seasons, which means Inge is probably good for just six or seven more homers with a sub-.250 average.
Nick Blackburn -- Blackburn moved to 7-4 after a complete game victory over the Tigers on July 5, which was his third complete game in four starts at the time. Since then, Blackburn has gone just 1-1 while posting an 8.46 ERA. He'll never be confused with Nolan Ryan, but his 2.82 Strikeouts Per Nine Innings (K/9) over that stretch are poor by any measure. Blackburn's walk numbers are still miniscule, but with nearly every hitter putting the ball in play, his value is largely dependent on the defense behind him. The acquisition of Orlando Cabrera should help, but it's tough to see Blackburn contributing much to your team. Instead, take a flyer on Clayton Richard, who just moved to a pitcher's park and is coming off of three straight starts where he allowed one earned run a piece.
Dallas Braden -- Through 18 starts, Braden's ERA was an impressive 3.12, but a 7.40 mark since then has sent owners rushing to the waiver wire in search of better options. His early 5.85 K/9 was nothing to write home about, but it's also a far cry from the disappointing 2.96 over his past four starts. He's actually walked more batters than he's struck out during that stretch. With Matt Holliday in St. Louis, run support in Oakland is harder to come by than leftovers at Bartolo Colon's house. Look at guys like Jon Garland, who has pitched well and could still be traded, or Luke Hochevar, who posted a 27:1 Strikeout-to-Walk Ratio over a recent three-start span.
Rick Porcello -- Porcello's solid performance against the trade-ravaged and demoralized Indians snapped a skid of four straight poor outings. Even with that performance, his ERA over those last five starts is 6.75. Even more alarming are the six home runs Porcello allowed in those outings and a decrease in his already pedestrian strikeout rate. The Tigers are worried he's hitting the rookie wall, and his performance of late has done little to quell those fears. Any of the waiver-wire options I've mentioned so far are worth looking at in his place.
Joe Saunders -- If Saunders pitched for a low-scoring team like the Padres, it's likely his record would be 6-9 instead of 9-6. Even the Angel offense has been unable to rescue his 8.84 ERA over his last seven starts. During that stretch, he's walked more batters than he's struck out and has been as effective as a Carlos Zambrano Anger Management Workshop. In fact, he's failed to punch out more than three batters in any of those outings and has allowed at least 10 baserunners in each start. With a number of their pitchers struggling, the Angels don't have much choice but to stick with Saunders. Luckily, you do have other options.
James Shields -- How worried should Shields owners be that the right-hander has fewer wins than Tomo Ohka since June 21? Despite the fact that he's 0-3 in his past eight starts, Shields has pitched effectively outside of a couple sub-par efforts. Given that he's received fewer than two runs per game of support over that stretch, it's conceivable that Shields takes the mound thinking he has to be perfect. He's a solid buy-low candidate in my book and should get another five wins and 60 strikeouts with a sub-4.00 ERA.
All statistics through August 4.
Which players are crippling your team? E-mail Andy at Bottoms@rotoexperts.com with your fantasy baseball thoughts, rants, and conundrums.
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