May 12, 2009

Oh Manny, Manny, Manny. What's worse: the fact that he took a banned substance, that despite his vast resources he got caught, or that he was caught taking a female fertility drug? I'm going to go with the latter (or perhaps the fourth choice: I have him on all my teams), and comment accordingly.

In light of the substance of his offense, MLB should change his punishment from 50 games to nine months (or 40 weeks to be more precise). Also, I will from this day forward only refer to him as Nanny Ramirez (thank you, Jon Phillips). Lastly, I will accept any reasonable offers for Manny, but the key word here is reasonable. So please, don't try to offload B.J. Upton and Brandon Webb on me (and thanks to Yahoo! for giving me the option of flat-out dropping him).


Chien-Ming Wang has a WHIP bigger than Indiana Jones' (I use that joke at least once a year), but could still contribute this season. If your ratios are hurting (likely because you started Wang in April) you may want to consider picking him up. The Yankees' offense is better with Alex Rodriguez back, which gives better run support for their starters. Keep an eye on Wang's control numbers in his rehab assignment (remember that minor league WHIP and ERA don't mean much for your major league pitcher). Just keep in mind he'll hurt you in strikeouts.

King Felix Hernandez claims nothing is wrong with him physically, however, he did have the flu last week and since then has lost big to Texas and Minnesota. Part of it might have been the flu, while another part is no pitcher will dominate every start (you hear me, Zack Greinke?). But if the Hernandez owner in your league is getting twitchy, jump on it and make a trade. However, I would play it safe and sit Felix against Boston.

While on the DL, John Lackey made good use of his time and apparently got a medical degree, as he's now declared himself fit to return. Truth is he'll likely be back this weekend. Since he'll have an immediate positive impact on the fantasy team that squirreled him away, activate him as soon as possible.

Micah Owings has always been known for his bat, but he currently stands with a slugging percentage of .778, and has more RBI than Alex Gordon and more homers than David Ortiz. The Reds like using Owings as a pinch hitter, but they should talk to his previous employers about the dangers of injuring a starting pitcher on the base paths. Heck, they could just give Lou Piniella a call and ask about Carlos Zambrano's hamstring that he injured while trying to beat out a bunt. Look, I'm an NL guy and love seeing pitchers contribute with the wood, but sometimes you err on the side of caution and take the out. I like Owings to win the good matchup games, with his ratios a little lower than they are now, but beware the DL stint after he tries to leg out another triple. As for Zambrano, he should be back mid-month, but it may be safer to expect him to be at full power by the end of the month.

Jose Contreras just got sent down because he has ratios that are big even by his standards. It wasn't really the strikeouts or the hits that doomed him. It was the walks. Keep an eye on his minor league starts to see if he regains his control, but truthfully, he's not worth the hassle in mixed leagues. Clayton Richard took his spot in the rotation, but he's not the answer either. In fact, this whole pitching staff has looked awful except for Mark Buehrle. It's time to cut bait on Gavin Floyd and I'm starting to lose patience with John Danks. This might be the staff that finally gets Ozzie Guillen fired.

Quick, what AL starting rotation is worst in the majors in pitching efficiency (as measured by pitches per innings pitched)? If you said the Boston Red Sox, you know your stuff. They're sitting at 17.70 P/IP, a full two pitches per inning more than the league leading Angels. Why should you care? Worse efficiency means less chance of making it through the fifth inning to get a chance at a win and creates more work for the bullpen, which in turn has more chance to lose the lead. The only respectable starter for the Sawx has been Tim Wakefield, while Josh Beckett has been breaking the fantasy baseball hearts of millions. Oddly enough, Beckett's K/9 is the best it's been since 2003, but he's giving up hits and walks by the bushel. If he's not tipping his pitches, then I have to assume it's a velocity issue. But either way, he's never been this hittable in his career.

So I told you last week I wasn't wild about Randy Johnson starting against the Rockies again and he got hit hard. Johnson is showing the effects of age, but is still pitching better than a 45 year old would have 30 years ago. Face it, for fantasy purposes he's a spot starter. He hasn't been able to put two consecutive good outings together, and his good starts tend to be at home. Plan accordingly.

Also from the "They Might Be Giants" file, for the first time since heading west across the Bay Bridge in '06, Barry Zito has become fantasy relevant again. Sure he's only an SP3 for the Giants, but their SP1 (Tim Lincecum) and SP2 (Matt Cain) are pretty darn good, making Zito an SP2 on a lot of teams. Also, as I've said since preseason, these Giants are good enough to be second in the NL West, and with Nanny (not a typo) out maybe they can make a run at the Dodgers. Zito has had four consecutive quality starts (you wonder if Johnson gave him an earful after his first two awful starts) and could easily be 3-2 rather 1-2. I'm not saying the occasional rocking won't happen (remember the unfavorable lefty matchups I discussed last week), but Zito is doing more pitching than throwing now and should not be available in any league.

While I do expect the Zack Greinke show to come to an end, it won't be until later in the summer. On the plus side he's brought his walks down and his strikeouts up, while showing it's not entirely a fluke by keeping his GO/AO ratio on track with last season's. However, I am concerned about the workload. He went over 200 IP for the first time last season, which was an increase of almost 67% over his '07 innings. He's on pace to top 200 innings again, and his last start, which came against the Angels, was his most pitches yet this season (115). I say he keeps this going to the All-Star break then has a rougher second half (like the entire Royals team). For those of you that believe in selling high in non-keeper leagues, think about offering Greinke for two really good players to a guy starved for starting pitching.

Before you jump on the Brett Cecil bandwagon -- and it's quite full at the moment -- keep in mind he's only pitched two games in the majors this year, and while both have been great starts, the second was against the A's, who are awful against lefties. Is he worth a speculative pickup? Sure. Should you drop someone good for him? No.

I wasn't excited about Anibal Sanchez this season and now he's out for at least two months. He's safe to drop unless you can get some trade value out of him. His replacement will be John Koronka, who looked good in spring training, but I still say this team has enough holes on defense to hurt their pitchers and their ratios. Stay away.

For those of you hoarding away Tommy Hanson, the Braves' farmhand is a sad 1-3 and you should trade him to me. Err, I mean to someone in your league. Oh wait, what's this? He has a 0.98 WHIP, a 1.99 ERA, and 57 K and 13 BB in 40.2 IP. Okay, so maybe he looks like he's ready. Just keep in mind Tom Glavine is working hard to return, and another Gwinnett Brave, Kris Medlen, is also tearing up the International League (with Charlie Morton in the mix as well). So Hanson may have to wait another couple of months before getting the call. What is it with the Braves and their pitching depth?

And speaking of callups, but don't look now, Homer Bailey, but Matt Maloney may have just passed you on the Louisville depth charts. If Cincinnati looks to make a move (yes, Bronson Arroyo is 5-2, but his ERA is over 7.00), they may bring in Maloney first.

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