StrategyAugust 2, 2009


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Hot/Cold Week 18: Rollin’ Rollins

By Chris Routledge

Welcome to Hot/Cold, the column that describes any two consecutive days of the English summer. That oblique reference may give you the little hint that, as Ray is busy watching LA Galaxy take on Barcelona, it falls to me to pinch-hit for him again this week. While he gets to take in the delights of one of the best football (soccer) teams in the world, I’m “looking forward” to watching my beloved Newcastle United begin the new season without an owner, without a manager, and, basically, without a clue. Sigh…

Anyway, enough with the soccer chat. We’ve still got two months of the baseball season left, and I expect you’ve been watching this past week with great interest, wondering which contenders would make that key trade to push them over the edge. Unlike MLB, most fantasy leagues still have a couple more weeks before their trade deadlines, so let’s take a look at which players are on fire, which are ice cold, and which may be good trade targets/dumps…

Hot

Jimmy Rollins – July stats: 36/115, 22 R, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 11 SB, .313 AVG

It’s been a long time coming, but Jimmy Rollins has finally put together the sort of month he’s been promising all year. (Remember his claim that he would hit .400 in May?) Perhaps the most encouraging stat is his July slugging percentage of .539 — he has hit 12 doubles to go with the four HRs — and another good sign is that, having attempted only 15 steals in the first three months, he has 13 attempts in July, with a healthy success rate of 10/13. The overall stats show a player who is hitting .236 for the year, which shows just how bad he was in the first half of the season. With the Phillies making that final push for the NL East title, I expect Rollins to keep this up for the remainder of the year. Just be aware that once the Phillies clinch the division (which they surely will), he will probably have an extra day or two off here and there.

Matt Holliday – July stats: 40/97, 20 R, 4 HR, 22 RBI, 4 SB, .412 AVG

Most people are aware that Holliday has been absolutely raking since he moved to the Cardinals — hitting behind a certain Albert Pujols obviously has its advantages. He has hit an incredible 13/25 in his first seven games since the trade, with an OPS of 1.446! However, what is perhaps not so obvious is that July had been a good month for him in Oakland as well, hitting .338 with 14 Runs and 14 RBI in 18 games. So it’s not just a change of scenery that he’s benefitting from — this is a continuation of a hot streak that began a few weeks back now. And with him now hitting in a far better line-up, look for him to go from strength to strength for the duration.

Nyjer Morgan – July stats: 40/103, 19 R, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 14 SB, .388 AVG

I was tempted to make Josh Willingham my third Hot pick for this week, and he certainly deserves a mention for his double grand slam effort a few days back. But it’s actually his new team mate, Nyjer Morgan, who takes the final spot. Unlike Holliday, who had picked up his pace before his trade, the change of scenery for Morgan in leaving the Pirates for the Nationals has had the effect of lighting a fire under him. The stats speak for themselves. He’s hitting over .400 since the trade (including yesterday’s 3-for-4), and has been given a license to run, with 18 stolen base attempts in July, 14 of which were successful. If it wasn’t for the fact that he’s only managed to pick up five walks in the same period, those numbers could be even higher.

Cold

Josh Hamilton – July stats: 16/78, 6 R, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 2 SB, .205 AVG

Hamilton may be back from the DL, but the player many fantasy owners drafted towards the end of the first round (ouch) is still struggling to make any impression at all — in fact, July has been his worst month to date. Sadly, there are no encouraging signs whatsoever, as July saw him slug a pitiful .269 and post a K/BB of 22/4. If you’re holding on in the hope that he can still find some of 2008’s form, I fear you may be in for a long wait.

B.J. Upton – July stats: 24/103, 11 R, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 3 SB, .233 AVG

A month ago, when I first pinch-hit for this column, B.J. Upton was one of the hottest hitters around. Sadly, July has been nothing like June, as he has returned to the mediocrity of the first two months of the season. The power has disappeared again, the average has plummeted, and he’s not even running like he was before. He has done a little better recently, with hits in seven of his last eight games, but he’s starting to become one of those guys where you just don’t know what he’s going to do from month to month.

Chad Billingsley – July stats: 5 starts, 1-2 W-L, 26.1 IP, 21 K, 22 ER, 7.52 ERA, 1.52 WHIP

Can anyone explain what’s happened to Billingsley over the last month? The above stats tell you that it’s not been good; in fact, he’s been on a steady decline since his excellent start to the season. To pick out a few comparisons: 76 Ks, two HRs allowed, and 23 ERs allowed in April and May; 55 Ks, eight HRs allowed, and 38 ERs allowed in June and July, with 22 of those ERs coming in July alone. He’s been roughed up in three of his last four starts, allowing at least five ERs in each, the only bright spot being a solid six-inning performance against the Reds. Last week, Ray recommended him as a buy-low, and as a Dodger fan, he’s in a better position than I to make that judgment. But looking at the stats, and particularly the above-mentioned trend, he’s clearly been declining as the season has gone on. I hope he can turn it around (as I own him on a couple of teams), but I’d only be trying to acquire him if I could get him at significantly reduced value.

Buy Low Of The Week

Aaron Harang – July stats: 6 starts, 0-4 W-L, 36.0 IP, 35 K, 24 ER, 6.00 ERA, 1.64 WHIP

Aaron Harang has gone a mind-boggling 12 starts since his last win, with an 0-8 record to show for it, and the above WHIP is the giveaway — he’s simply allowing too many hits, especially HRs (10 given up in his last seven starts). His value right now is rock-bottom, and with good reason. Why, then, do I recommend him as a Buy Low? Two reasons, really. First, his K-rate — second, his upcoming schedule. As can be seen above, the K/9 remains a solid 8.75, even amidst all the struggles. As for the schedule, he has a dodgy one against the Cubs on Monday, but after that, he’s due to face the Giants, Nationals, Giants again, Brewers and Pirates for the rest of August — not bad at all. Yes, there is risk involved, but (at the bargain price you should be able to negotiate) a risk worth taking, in my opinion.

Three I’m Buying

Carlos Quentin – Chances are, Quentin owners are really cheesed off with his “performance” since his return from the DL, and understandably so. He’s struggled to show much of anything in those 11 games, and appears to still be having a little trouble circling the bases smoothly. While there’s no guarantee that he will return to the form of 2008 and April 2009, eleven games into his return is too soon to be giving up on him. If Quentin’s owner in your league is getting antsy, they may be anxious to get anything they can before the trade deadline hits. Now is the perfect time to swoop in and get him on the cheap.

Denard Span – In one of my leagues, I traded away Victor Martinez for a package of three players, one of whom was Denard Span. It’s certainly worked out so far, as VMart has cooled off in July, whilst Span has had a more than decent month (and that doesn’t account for Max Scherzer and John Baker, the other players I received in that trade). Span is one of those players who doesn’t get mentioned much, but will give you a little of everything across the board, as can be seen from his July stats. He’s also one of those players — as my trade shows — whom you can get by trading a bigger name who may not put up the same level of consistency.

Ian Snell – More a case of “picking up for free” in the vast majority of leagues, and why not? The upside in Snell is plain to see, and maybe the proverbial change of scene will do him some good. For what it will cost you (ie: nothing), he has to be worth the gamble.

Sell High Of The Week

Clayton Kershaw – July stats: 6 starts, 3-0 W-L, 38.0 IP, 34 K, 3 ER, 0.71 ERA, 1.03 WHIP

After a very dodgy April, Clayton Kershaw has been pitching excellently pretty much ever since, with the last ten games or so being absolutely outstanding – so much so that he’s been looking like the Dodger ace, not Billinsgley. With this in mind, if you’re looking to make that key trade to make that final push, Kershaw is an extremely valuable bargaining chip right now. His value will never be higher, so you should be able to get a lot back in return. Perhaps more importantly, we need to remember that this is only his second season in the majors, and he has already pitched 13 innings more than he did for the whole of last year. Now, there’s no particular reason to think he can’t keep this up — some young pitchers fall off when they significantly increase their innings pitched, and some don’t — but if you combine that potential risk with the value Kershaw has right now, then this is probably the right time to sell high.

Three I’m Selling

Jarrod Washburn – Despite an excellent couple of months (earning him a trade to the contending Tigers), you don’t really need me to tell you that Washburn is unlikely to keep this up for the rest of the season, do you? The history says he won’t — only once in his last six seasons has he had an ERA under 4.00, and his K/9 remains worryingly low. His win total may go up in Detroit, but he will also face some good hitting teams in that division. There’s a chance he may turn this great June and July into a career year, but it’s not a chance that I’d want to take, if I can get a decent player in return.

Garrett Jones – Don’t get me wrong, Jones has been awesome since he was called up, and was rightly picked out for a mention by Ray last week. But I seriously doubt that he will continue to rake like this for the rest of the season, and this may well be the time to sell before he starts to decline. In fact, the last week gives some food for thought; since his mention in this column, he has gone 5/20 with one RBI, a couple of SBs, and zero HRs. We must remember that he’s not some hot prospect in the Ryan Braun mold — he’s 29, and has spent his entire career in the minors (excepting a cup of coffee with the Twins in 2007). Proceed with caution — if someone offers you a solid, consistent performer, I would recommend hitting ‘accept’.

Brian Fuentes – Until two games ago, you’d have thought I’d be crazy to sell Fuentes, a guy who’d converted 17 successive save opportunities, all without giving up an earned run. And yet, that’s exactly what I did, trading him for Jon Lester in a league where I had saves to spare but needed a boost to my starting pitching. Although Lester didn’t do too well in the one start I’ve had from him since then, I have avoided the two outings from Fuentes where he gave up six earned runs without getting an out. Now, I don’t expect him to lose the closer role, but it’s just a little warning sign from a pitcher who did lose the role in Colorado a couple of years back. Bottom line is, if you’ve got excess saves and need help elsewhere, Fuentes has enough value to get you what you need in return.

That’s it from me for another week. Ray will be returning for another Hot/Cold column next week, so until he does, I will borrow his phrase again: be champions! (Unless you’re in my league, of course!)

 
Chris Routledge is bored of thinking up something new for this tag line every week, so invites readers to suggest something for him to put here next time! Catch up with him in the Cafe under the username chris8.
 
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