I won’t lie to you, there are three sporting priorities I’m currently preoccupied with, which are dwarfing baseball by a country mile in my mind: 1) the NBA Finals involving the hometown Lakers and “the auld enemy”, Boston Celtics, 2) the World Cup which starts this Friday (yours truly is heading down to South Africa at the end of the month and cannot wait), and 3) the Cafe’s Hot Chick Draft. OK, the last one is not a sport, but a spectacle nonetheless. Anyhow, while checking out the draft discussion, Danny Boy (AussieDodger) mentioned “Galarrgaga” was one inning away from a perfect game. At first, I thought he was being facetious (well, you figure that’s how he got that jester mask, no?) and was trying to make a not-so-subtle tip to the hot chick drafters as to who their next draft pick should be. I certainly couldn’t believe that Armando Galarraga was on his way to a perfect game, but these days, getting by on five or six perfect innings seems to be attainable for the starters you would least expect, let alone two perfect games in the span of one month by the likes of Dallas Braden and Roy Halladay. At any rate, I decided to keep tabs on the Tigers-Indians game on game cast while putting a wrap on work before heading out for dinner. Two outs later, I said to myself, “somehow, some way, he’s bound to blow it”, and went back to making a few revisions on the project I was working on. Sure enough, he did, but little did I know that it wasn’t Armando Galarraga that blew it, but rather Jim Joyce on a blown call until I saw this Armando Galarraga thread practically explode on impact. I guess you can blame my skepticism for upsetting the balance of the universe for a nanosecond in which Jim Joyce blew that call, just like how my pessimism gets the better of me when England take penalties in a major cup competition. Ask Chris Waddle, Stuart Pearce, Gareth Southgate, Paul Ince, David Batty, Frank Lampard, and Steven Gerrard.
All kidding aside, I guess you’ll be pandering a perspective from me in which to wrap the Jim Joyce blown call situation in a neat little package with pink ribbons, namely speaking the possibility of instant replay in baseball. Personally, I dislike instant replay and I keep pointing at the NFL’s implementation as my main reason to loathe the replay system. It’s bad enough that American football moves at a snail’s pace, from my perspective. The whole sequence is: play, dead ball, play, dead ball, play, false start, play, delay of game, play, timeout, minute-long commercial break chock full of beer advertisements that insult my intelligence, and repeat. The replay process just increases the agonizing cycle of boredom and more useless commercial breaks. However, despite my skepticism about the replay system, the situation could warrant an issue that can be replayed. What I would like to see is an implementation similar to how the NBA replay system works, which doesn’t stall the flow of games, respects the human element of officiating (even in error), and more importantly, limits what can be reviewed. In the NBA, for instance, shots at ends of quarters are reviewable, but hard decisions like calling a blocking or charging foul are not reviewable. In baseball, the league already has a replay system that reviews home runs, and why not those important baserunning calls? However, let’s keep any challenges to a minimum: one for each time, two at most. This ensures that we don’t have an abuse of the replay system and sacrifice the flow of the game, let alone having to listen to generic stadium music during the breaks. This does not ensure the calls will be right, however, just like we had seen in Game 2 of the NBA Finals in which Kevin Garnett, not Pau Gasol, touched the ball last in a vital moment of that game. To be fair, the officiating for both Game 1 and 2 was terrible for both sides, but that’s a story for another day.
Somehow lost in all this is the retirement of Ken Griffey, Jr. For us Generation Y’ers, Griffey was essentially our generation’s Willie Mays and it has been a pleasure to see a first-ballot hall of famer over the spectrum of his whole career. Thank you, Junior and with that, let’s get onto the business…
*Stats of Sunday, June 6
Scott Rolen – Last Month: 29/96 H/AB, 15 R, 8 HR, 27 RBI, 0 SB, .302 BA
As much as it is a surprise to see Jose Bautista lead the Majors in home runs, it feels a bit surreal to see Scott Rolen tied with former teammate Albert Pujols and Corey Hart for the National League lead for round trippers with 14. Injuries have sent the former Cardinal and Blue Jay back from his prime seasons, but on a relatively full bill of health, the 35 year-old Rolen has been rolling back the years and the key to his success has lied in becoming more of a pull hitter, as opposed to past seasons. Although his power pace figures to slow down, Scott Rolen also figures to remain fantasy-relevant, hitting cleanup for an exciting Reds order and is a fine alternative at the hot corner if you need immediate production from 3B.
Troy Glaus – Last Month: 31/102 H/AB, 19 R, 9 HR, 29 RBI, 0 SB, .304 BA
I suppose I’ll keep with the “rolling back the years” theme, as like Scott Rolen, Troy Glaus has been mashing home runs at a prodigious clip recently. A season removed in playing just 14 games for the Cardinals, Glaus has exploded for five home runs in the last eight games and in so doing has vaulted himself for a share of the National League’s RBI lead. There’s no denying that a healthy Glaus can make for a useful fantasy corner infielder, as he had clubbed 20 round trippers for the Blue Jays in 385 at-bats in 2007 and followed that up with 28 home runs in 544 at-bats for the Cardinals in 2008. Hopefully, the permanent move to first base will serve well in keeping him healthy and preserve him from adding any extraneous mileage.
Javier Vazquez – Last Month: 33.0 IP, 4 W, 32 K, 2.73 ERA, 0.94 WHIP
After a shambolic April which cast further doubt on Javier Vazquez’s ability to handle the pressure of pitching for the better team in The Big Apple, Vazquez appears to have righted the ship since mid-May. In his last five starts, Vazquez has posted a 2.73 ERA, 32 strikeouts, and has won in three of his last five outings, which puts to bed any slight concern of Vazquez being sent to the bullpen. Vazquez’s velocity concerns remain on paper, as he is averaging just an 89 MPH fastball, which is a good two to three ticks off his usual velocity, but has been known to utilize the changeup better in getting results, as evidenced in his last outing against Toronto. With a better mixing of his four pitches, Vazquez could be back for good as the respectable fantasy starter one would expect him to be. As of this writing, nearly a quarter of Yahoo leagues have given up on Javy Vazquez, and if he’s available in your league, don’t hesitate to pick him up off the scrap heap.
Edwin Jackson – Last Month: 38.1 IP, 2 W, 42 K, 3.29 ERA, 0.99 WHIP
Another hurler who is being overlooked at the moment because of a disastrous early start is Arizona’s Edwin Jackson, who is owned in just 57% of Yahoo leagues, but has quietly pieced together a good stretch which should warrant some fantasy attention. Most notably, Jackson threw nine shutout innings in his first outing at Dodger Stadium since the Dodgers dealt him away to Tampa Bay more than four years ago, in which he only allowed three hits and whiffed six. Also of note is an eight inning, four-hit shutout win against the Marlins in which the former Dodger prospect struck out a dozen Marlins. These couple of starts seem to embellish what Jackson has done over the past month or so, as his command can be erratic at times (he gave up five walks against the Giants in his second-to-last outing), but given a higher groundball rate than his usual mark (46.2%) and an FIP a full run or so below his ERA, there appears to be room for some improvement for Jackson.
Matt Wieters – Last Month: 15/81 H/AB, 4 R, 0 HR, 3 RBI, 0 SB, .185 BA
At the rate of which panic-laden threads are started over certain players who are playing below expectation, I’m a bit surprised to see no apparent panic (or even the pandering for thoughts) over Matt Wieters plastered on the Leftovers board. Wieters is batting .236 with four homers on the year and an .099 ISO which sadly cannot be used to purchase two lousy Jack in the Box tacos. The culprit for Wieters’ struggles can be placed upon his inability to generate great contact on the ball, as he’s pounding nearly half of batted balls on the dirt (48.2% groundball rate), which is a more than six percent increase over his rookie year. Wieters’ plate discipline is a bit suspect also, as he is swinging outside the strike zone a good deal compared to last season (29.9% O-Swing, 66.9% O-Contact). This is no time to be worried about Matt Wieters, however, especially in keeper/dynasty leagues, as time is on his side to improving his pitch recognition and swing mechanics.
Chase Utley – Last Month: 20/90 H/AB, 9 R, 2 HR, 7 RBI, 1 SB, .222 BA
We can chalk up Chase Utley’s slump as a slight blip and not as something particularly worrisome for the long run. For what it’s worth, the Phillies two-bagger has not slugged a home run since May 20th and has not had a multi-hit game since wrapping up interleague play against the Red Sox. The Phillies finished May with a whimper, having scored just seven runs in a seven-game road trip, which includes being swept and shut out by the Mets in all three of those games. Utley has not been immune to the Phillies’ recent run-scoring woes, but it’s only a matter of time before he goes off. For the year, Utley is batting just .265 with a .269 BABIP, which is 45 points off his career norm.
Ricky Nolasco – Last Month: 34.2 IP, 3 W, 22 K, 5.19 ERA, 1.47 WHIP
This is supposed to be the life-affirming part of the program in which I’ll tell you how rancid Ricky Nolasco’s bad luck has been and why he’ll be lights out from here on out. This is not that kind of column, I’m afraid. Nolasco’s walk rate is quite pristine, sitting at just a 1.82 BB/9 clip and yet he is still sporting a rather sub-par 1.29 WHIP on the season. Over his past few starts, Nolasco has scattered more than his fair share of hits in his commitment to keep throwing strikes, but most recently, he allowed three free passes to go with eight hits in 5.1 innings of work against the Mets, which has to raise some questions as to whether or not Nolasco can make good on turning around his bad luck on the wings of a favorable FIP/xFIP. By all accounts, Nolasco’s stuff has been fairly inconsistent in which he’s getting solid movement, but at times, he is leaving pitches over the plate. Also of note is Nolasco’s lackluster 6.54 K/9, which might be a result of his average fastball velocity being down a tick from last season and his slider gaining nearly two MPH from last year. Nolasco could still make for a good buy low opportunity, however, if he can sort out his stuff.
Tim Lincecum – Last Month: 36.1 IP, 1 W, 33 K, 4.95 ERA, 1.60 WHIP
Happy to see the month of May pass by, Tim Lincecum was plagued with command issues from mid-May onward. Before his last start against Pittsburgh, Lincecum tossed four straight outings in which he conceded five free passes in each of those games, including his much-anticipated Memorial Day duel against Colorado’s Ubaldo Jimenez. Against the Pirates, the Giants ace had shown better efficiency, in allowing just two walks to go with three runs and six hits in seven innings, which resulted in a no-decision. Although Lincecum’s numbers on paper don’t suggest anything different from his past few seasons, what should be of concern is Lincecum’s fastball velocity sitting on an average of 91.3 MPH, down a full tick from 92.4 MPH in 2009. Nonetheless, Lincecum is too good to suggest he won’t bounce back into top form, especially as he continues to incorporate a changeup into his repertoire.
That’ll about do it for me this week. No line drives this week because if I did, it would be “corner kicks” instead of line drives, as my mind is totally lost in the upcoming World Cup. Check back next week as our Kiwi friend is back for another fAD Tuesday and until then, be champions and… come on, England.
True to his Cafe name as The Artful Dodger, Ray Flores is a Dodger fan and catch him if you can, 'cause he's the England man, and what you're looking at is the masterplan. While being artful doesn't best describe him, Ray is a web developer, consultant, and three lions on his chest, you know he can't go wrong.
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