Welcome back to the Hot/Cold, where for the last three weeks, this column has been locked in a cryogenic freezer and I’m left to thaw things out a bit. Joking aside, thanks to Chris and R.J. for keeping my seat warm as I’ve gone incognito on a rather long vacation, some of it planned and some of it being what was given to me. So, here I am, back somewhat refreshed and literally a year older seeing how it took the Labor Day Weekend to celebrate my birthday. Today, I’m probably nudging a bit for your attention on the NFL’s Opening Sunday and as a number of you gloss over your fantasy football team’s stat tracker, which makes me extra thankful that you’ve decided to stumble upon this article anyway. Before we begin, I’d just like to say, how about that Manchester United? They managed to beat then top-of-the-league Tottenham Hotspur, down to ten men on the pitch, thanks to Paul Scholes’ famous inability to make a proper tackle or two. How about that Wayne Rooney? Five goals in the first five Premier League matches and finally playing the central role he’s thrived in for the England national squad; in particular, he was brilliant against Tottenham. This is all Greek to you, perhaps but with R.J. White’s allusion of Spurs in last week’s column (and I assume a growing fondness of the North London club), I couldn’t help to rub in about United showing the in-form Spurs who’s still top of the Premier League apex. Onto the heated derby against cross-town rivals, Manchester City next Sunday (we United fans call them “The Bitters” among many derisive things) and of course, onto this week’s Hot/Cold highlights and low lights.
Evan Longoria – Last 2 Weeks: 20/51 H/AB, 13 R, 6 HR, 15 RBI, 1 SB, .392 BA
Seemingly living only by the longball, Evan Longoria has turned the page from a nightmarish July in which the former Long Beach State third bagger hit a paltry .189 with a decent August. However, it has been in September where Longoria has heated up, just in time for the H2H playoffs, with a .395 batting average to pair with five home runs so far this month. Of late, it has been the rain that has been the one thing that has kept Longoria’s production at bay this weekend, as last Friday’s game in Boston was rained out and the weather won’t clear up at Fenway Park until today. For you H2H folks, this puts something of a downer on your team’s fantasy fortunes this weekend, but it seems that Longoria could close out a successful sophomore big league year with an exclamation point in the same fashion as his torrid September last season.
Derrek Lee – Last 4 Weeks: 33/95 H/AB, 19 R, 8 HR, 22 RBI, 0 SB, .347 BA
The Cubs’ venerable first baseman had gotten a bad rap from certain fantasy managers, who thought that the 34-year-old Derrek Lee’s 30-home run power days had run their course and that he would perform as no better than James Loney at the price of a sixth or seventh rounder. Like I always tend to say, don’t write off a September Sixer (like myself) just yet. It goes without saying that even yours truly had expressed skepticism over Lee’s power binge, but he has managed to knock out 31 home runs on the year, with six of those round trippers coming in the last two weeks. Lee has seemingly mashed the ball if you read deeply into his career-high 47.1 percent flyball rate and since the turn of July, Lee has knocked in 20 of his 31 taters from that point on.
Zack Greinke – Last 4 Weeks: 46.0 IP, 2 W, 49 K, 1.37 ERA, 0.78 WHIP
Back when the “Zack Attack” seemed to have waned in the middle of the summer, I recommended that it was an opportune time to buy Zack Greinke as his price dipped a bit from his sky-high value, in looking forward to an ace-like second half stretch. Over the past month, Greinke had posted five stellar starts in his last six outings, which included a 15-strikeout win over the Indians on August 25 and a one-hit complete game shutout of the Mariners to close out August. There’s only one thing to nitpick with Greinke’s last six go-rounds and that’s the lack of run support, which is just about inherent for any starting pitcher tossing for the Royals. Nonetheless, it has been a Cy Young-worthy year in any way you add it up for Greinke, as he’s notched a 9.47 K/9 through 205.1 innings (215 strikeouts) to go with an extremely impressive 2.19 ERA and 1.07 WHIP.
Scott Feldman – Last 4 Weeks: 38.0 IP, 5 W, 30 K, 1.66 ERA, 1.21 WHIP
He possesses the name that leads one to believe he’s the stereotypical accountant with Ben Stein looks and smarts and he pitches for a Texas Rangers club, which is mainly perceived for flimsy pitching and the big downside of making do in tossing at home run-friendly Arlington. Regardless, Scott Feldman has been a quality-start specialist away from home, and this has rung especially true in his last five road outings. Over this prolific span, Feldman has enjoyed three shutout wins, with the most notable outing being an 11-strikeout performance against Tampa Bay. In the process, Feldman has risen to the fore as the Rangers’ ace, having notched 16 wins under his belt, and he had lowered his ERA from 4.06 nearly four weeks ago to a 3.46 ERA mark. Feldman doesn’t have the tantalizing raw upside that say, an Edwin Jackson does, but nonetheless, he has emerged as a diamond in the rough and a valuable free agent pitching asset.
Jonathan Broxton – Last 4 Weeks: 16.0 IP, 0 W, 9 SV, 26 K, 1.12 ERA, 1.06 WHIP
A major problem with his big toe and the suspect stretch that was a result of it had placed doubts in a number of Jonathan Broxton owners over their 290-pound behemoth closer’s effectiveness in the long run. The burly Dodger closer had shaken off the toe ailment and has reverted to his dominant self with the generous number of save opportunities handed to him. Broxton has posted nine saves over the past month and, in the process, he whiffed 26 batters over 16 innings while posting microscopic ratios once again. Broxton single-handedly put many a team on top in saves over the last week of the H2H regular season and as the Dodgers continue to get themselves into tricky situations in games decided by less than three runs, Broxton could figure to lift a number of H2H teams in saves over the duration of the playoffs.
Russell Martin – Last 4 Weeks: 18/79 H/AB, 7 R, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 1 SB, .228 BA
From Day 1 of the 2009 season up until this very point in mid-September, it has been an uphill climb for Russell Martin, as even the likes of Miguel Olivo, Yadier Molina, and Rod Barajas have outproduced the third base-eligible backstop. The past few weeks have been no different for Martin, as he has done little of note, aside from the .228 batting average. Even the ever patient Joe Torre has forsaken the prospect of Martin hitting near the heart of the order, as the Dodger catcher has hit in either the seven or eight hole, with the consequent result of this move being a promotion of Matt Kemp to the top of the order. For Dodger fans and Matt Kemp owners alike, they can see the silver lining in Martin’s continued labors as they finally witness Matt Kemp hitting in his most rightful place. As for Martin, he is still possessed in 85 percent of Yahoo leagues, but at least 15 percent of them have seen the light that Martin has performed no better than the waiver-wire catcher.
Chipper Jones – Last 4 Weeks: 13/85 H/AB, 11 R, 1 HR, 11 RBI, 1 SB, .153 BA
Dealing with a sore oblique of late, the greatest pain Chipper Jones is experiencing stems from the 25-for-117 slump he has been on since August 1, in hitting for a paltry .215 batting average to go with three home runs and 15 RBI. Chipper has gone on record in saying that he feels like he is currently in the best condition at this point of the seasons, relative to previous campaigns, but it seems that is a mixture of fatigue and mental factors that have led to Larry’s mighty funk. Chipper was one of those guys I listed as one of those I would be keen on selling before the trade deadline for a useful player who would fill in for your team’s problem spots. For those hanging on to Chipper, it seems that the possibility of a fantasy postseason surge is a stretch.
Miguel Tejada – Last 4 Weeks: 20/98 H/AB, 12 R, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 0 SB, .204 BA
Another veteran having a tough time of things is Astros shortstop Miguel Tejada, who like Chipper Jones has suffered a big dip in his production since the turn of August 1. Tejada carried a robust .325 batting average into August, but since then, he has trailed off in a big way with a couple of home runs and 12 RBI, predominantly shadowed by a .225 batting average in his last 142 at-bats. Tejada’s May of five home runs sparked a glimmer of hope that the former perennial stud shortstop could crack the 15-home run level, but he figures to fall short of that, just as his early-season flyball rate has regressed to a 31.1 percent flyball rate, in line with what he has done in his recent declining years.
A.J. Burnett – Last 4 Weeks: 37.1 IP, 1 W, 37 K, 8.20 ERA, 1.42 WHIP
After lowering his ERA from 4.89 on June 9 to a more tolerable mark of 3.53 on July 27, A.J. Burnett has labored of late, proving to be hittable against AL East competition. Most recently, Burnett has been on the receiving end of a thrashing at the hands of the Red Sox as well as two shellackings thanks to the Orioles. The Yanks’ #2 starter’s strikeout rate has proven to be robust, but his control has been a bit suspect over the last month and a half as he has yielded 22 walks while going through each outing through this span in surrendering two or more walks per contest. Part of the reason for Burnett’s struggles can also be tied into a flyball percentage on the doorstep of the 40 percent range, considering that he has usually staved off tendencies of being a flyball pitcher throughout his career.
Brad Lidge – Last 4 Weeks: 9.2 IP, 0 W, 7 SV, 10 K, 5.59 ERA, 1.97 WHIP
Lights Out Lidge lived up to the billing of his nickname last season with 41 regular season saves without having to fork up a blown save. This season, opposing teams reinforced their power grids and have kept the lights on, even when Brad Lidge is on the mound, as the Phillies stopper has blown nine saves to date. It is with Lidge’s recent struggles, however, which have provoked Phillies manager Charlie Manuel to play his hand and pencil in Ryan Madson as the Phillies closer in lieu of Brad Lidge for the time being. The culprit to Lidge’s problems can be pinpointed to an extremely low groundball rate of 37.3 percent and a conversely inflated flyball rate of 44.4 percent with 16.2 percent of those flyballs leaving the yard as home runs. Having one of your team’s closers usurped from his closing duties hurts, especially considering that he was drafted quite early as a top five preseason closer should, but one can take solace or ahem, relief, that the potential damage Lidge could make on a week’s ERA is lessened. That is, until Manuel renames Lidge as “the man” again.
That about wraps it up for me this week. I’m going to be high rolling in the City of Lost Wages (Las Vegas to you folks) this coming week and I’m sorry to say, I’ll have to leave you happy people again for another weekend. Either R.J. or Chris will fill in for me next Sunday, but I’ll be back to close out the two weeks of the regular season and I’m hoping we’ll be able to crack some Dom Perignon to the Dodgers securing the NL West pennant. Until then, be champions.
True to his name as The Artful Dodger, Ray Flores is a proud, but concerned Dodger fan, who is mistaken for being a 50 year-old man on the Cafe boards, but out in the real world, this 27 year-old is often believed to be anywhere in the ballpark of ages 18-21. While being artful doesn't best describe him, Ray is a web developer, a part-time fantasy football blogger (the game actually played with feet), and "Chief Wikitect" of the Cafe's Fantasy Sports Wiki project.
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