For Better, For Worse
The Yankees are overrated. Even their fans know it.
Sure, they might want to pretend to be behind their team, but they will still insist when pressed that Alex Rodriguez only performs when it doesn't matter. Of course, since they only seem to win this year when he does produce, seems to me that this is the Yankee fans conceding that this year doesn't matter. The Yanks are not the only team that is proving to be overrated, however-- look at the Cubs. Or, better yet, don't -- it can scare those made of weaker stuff. The Cardinals should be doing much better than they are, the Blue Jays are nowhere near as good as people seem to think they are, and the Phillies, while on a roll, are still looking up at three teams in the standings.
Conversely, the Brewers look absolutely dominant right now, even with their ace trying to do his best Mark Prior impression after every start (Ben Sheets' groin is the No. 1 argument for the designated hitter right now). The Devil Rays have one of the most explosive offenses in the game. The Braves are surprisingly only a half game out of first place. The Indians have quietly picked up where they left off in 2005, and are back in first after a disappointing slide out of the playoff picture in 2006. And the A's said goodbye to Frank Thomas and have about half their payroll on the disabled list but, ho hum, back in first for them.
So this week at For Better, For Worse, we're going to look at five guys responsible for the five teams surprising people, and five players on those disappointing teams that you want to avoid like they had a disease. Sound like fun? I thought so.
1. Derrick Turnbow, RP, Brewers: Sure, the obvious candidate here would be J.J. Hardy, but he's getting slightly more ink right now than Monica Lewinsky did in 1998, so I wanted to look for the more unsung hero. Turnbow had been an elite closer in 2005, but things unraveled for him last year, and he was ultimately replaced by Francisco Cordero. This year, back in a setup role, Turnbow has been excellent, having allowed just seven hits, five walks, and three earned runs in his 10 2/3 innings, and he has struck out 18 while also picking up a save on a day when Cordero could not go. Turnbow is going to continue to rack up the strikeouts and he should continue to get the occasional spot save as well. He shouldn't be available in NL-only formats, but if he is, go to the free-agent pool and get him.
2. Brendan Harris, SS, Devil Rays: I have been a fan of Ben Zobrist's potential, and I think he could still turn into a Adam Everett-style shortstop -- not a sexy pick, but steady and consistent -- but the fact is that Zobrist is not hitting at all, and Harris is. Harris had moved between second and third throughout his career and he worked out in the Arizona Fall League in 2005 at shortstop as a way of getting more playing time in the bigs. That has paid off big time this year, as he has already made nine appearances, eight as a starter, including the last four days. Harris has taken over for Zobrist, and manager Joe Maddon confirmed that with the St. Petersburg Times on Thursday. While he is not worth owning yet in mixed leagues, Harris' value in AL-only leagues just shot through the roof. He will not drive in many, but he will score runs, especially in this potent lineup, and an occasional steal would not be out of the question.
3. Joe Borowski, RP, Indians: Is there any closer more unloved in the game than Borowski? His owners are going to be down on him after his blown save on Wednesday night, but that gives him far too much blame and no credit at all for Texas getting creative and picking up a run via small ball. Further, it was only his first blown save of the season, and he had successfully converted eight in a row. What really makes his numbers look horrible is the six runs he gave up to the Yankees in 2/3 of an inning in a non-save situation -- yet another example of why using closers when a save is not on the line is stupid. Take that outing out of the equation and his ERA is a far more attractive 4.50 -- high, but not unreasonable for a closer early in the year. Borowski will be fine, but using his fantasy owner's panic to your benefit is highly recommended.
4. Kelly Johnson, 2B, Braves: Marcus who? The Braves have no problems at all with their new second baseman, who is quietly hitting .306 through 72 at-bats, with five homers, three of which came this week, 13 RBIs, and 19 runs. Johnson has also stolen two bases, and he has shown in the past that he can provide some decent pop with the occasional swipe to go along with it. The most impressive part of his numbers so far though has been his eye at the plate, as he has 17 walks against 13 strikeouts.
5. Chad Gaudin, SP, A's: Gaudin always had good stuff, but he never seemed to have a clue what to do with it. Even last year, when he was 4-2 with a 3.09 ERA, he was doing it as much by luck as skill as he had walked more than he struck out, and his strikeouts were way too low for a short-inning reliever. This year, though, everything seems to have clicked, and he has been dominant, with a record of 1-0 with a 1.85 ERA in four starts. Over 24 1/3 innings Gaudin has struck out 20 while walking just seven, giving him easily the best K/BB and walk-per-nine ratios of his career. Opponents are batting just .188 against him, well below what he had ever done before in the majors. Is it real? The stuff was always there, the performance in the minors was always solid, and, best of all, despite having been around for what seems like forever, he is just barely 24.
1. Kei Igawa, SP, Yankees: If the Sox do it, the Yankees have to do it to. Try for A-Rod? The Sox did it, the Yankees did it successfully. Try to nab Orlando Hernandez? The Sox did it, the Yankees did it successfully. Sign a Japanese pitcher? The Red Sox did, the Yankees .. unfortunately for them, did too. While the Sox got one that has had success, Igawa has been putrid. After four starts he sits at 1-1 with a 7.84 ERA and a 1.60 WHIP. Opponents are slugging better than .500 against Igawa and his K/BB ratio is a joke at 1.44. Only one of his four starts was a quality start, and that was the only one where he even made it through six (and he was done there -- he has yet to make it past the sixth-inning wall). If you are holding on to him hoping he turns it around or that his being a Yankee is good enough, don't. Cut bait before his wretched pitching kills your team.
2. Carlos Zambrano, SP, Cubs: The idea that you should grab players in their "walk year" is absurd. As many players struggle under the pressure as thrive under it. Want someone in the struggle category? Here you go. Carlos was touting himself as a Cy Young candidate in the spring, but he's barely Matt Young at this point. Zambrano has made five starts, and just one has been a quality start. In three of his outings Zambrano has left before completing six, and he has more starts where he has allowed more than five runs than where he has allowed less. He has just four more strikeouts than walks, and his .280 batting average against is 54 points higher than his career average. Methinks the pressure be a tad too much for the emotional Zambrano.
3. Kip Wells, SP, Cardinals: Relying on Wells to be your No. 1 starter is never a good place to be, and over his last two starts he has shown the Cards who the true Kip Wells is. In those he allowed 11 runs, 15 hits and five walks in 10 2/3 innings, and his ERA shot from 2.25 to 4.70. Considering that the 4.70 is a lot closer to his career 4.46 ERA, Cardinals fans should get used to this. Wells has never posted a strikeout-to-walk ratio of at least 2:1, and he isn't now, either, so expecting much success is a mistake.
4. Troy Glaus, 3B, Blue Jays: Picking on a guy when he's already down seems cruel, but I will. Glaus is supposed to return to the lineup this weekend, but do not expect to see him stay there long. Glaus' hamstring injury was caused by trying to play through a bone spur in his heel. The heel issue is not going away, and he won't have surgery on it. So the issue that caused him to injure his hamstring and go on the DL is still going to be hanging around. If you can sell as soon as he gets back, do so, as the window will not be large.
5. Rod Barajas, C, Phillies: Barajas comes into Thursday hitting a woeful .182 with no homers, two RBIs and only one run scored. Meanwhile, the "backup," Carlos Ruiz, is hitting .296 with a homer, eight RBIs, eight runs and a stolen base. Yes, Barajas got the free agent money, but Charlie Manuel didn't sign him to that contract, Manuel's just trying to hang on. He won't do that waiting for Barajas to come around.
Remember, reactive approaches can only get you so far. Proactive approaches are what will make you a legend. "It don't mean a thing if you don't win that bling."