StrategyMay 25, 2012

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Weekend Warrior: Money Down the Drain

By R.J. White

We’re going to roughly go in descending order in this week’s Weekend Warrior, save for our lead matchup. Why are we choosing to feature the Cubs and Pirates series? Because the Cubs are tied for last place in the league despite their $109 million payroll. But they’re not the only ones wasting money.

Cubs (6th NLC) at Pirates (4th NLC)
R.Dempster vs. A.Burnett (Fri.), P.Maholm vs. K.Correia (Sat.), M.Garza vs. E.Bedard (Sun.)
The Cubs have lost nine straight games, putting them in a tie with the Twins for last place in the majors at 15-29. Both clubs have $100 million payrolls (Cubs at $109 million, Twins at $100 million). Meanwhile, three of the MLB division leaders (Baltimore, Cleveland, Cincinnati) have payrolls under $100 million. In the AL, the payrolls of three last-place teams average $120 million, while the average division leader has a $90 million payroll. In the NL, the three basement dwellers have an average payroll of $112 million, while the leaders average $103 million. Spending money is great, but it’s not necessarily the answer. None of this has anything to do with your fantasy team, but I found it fascinating (all contract data mined from Cot’s Contracts at Baseball Prospectus).

Nationals (1st NLE) at Braves (2nd NLE)
R.Detwiler vs. T.Hudson (Fri.), S.Strasburg vs. M.Minor (Sat.), G.Gonzalez vs. B.Beachy (Sun.)
Sunday Night Baseball is a doozy this week, featuring the top pitcher in the majors in ERA (Brandon Beachy) going up against the fourth best pitcher in the same category (Gio Gonzalez). Gonzalez has the best BAA for starters (.167), while Beachy is third (.183). Where Gonzalez trumps Beachy is strikeouts, which is curious when you consider Beachy had the majors’ best K rate last season. While Gonzalez’s 69 Ks are good for second in the majors, Beachy’s 44 Ks in 61 IP are nothing to applaud. What’s going to catch up first, his Ks or his .209 BABIP? That’s the key question for his owners in deciding whether to sell high or not.

Indians (1st ALC) at White Sox (2nd ALC)
J.Gomez vs. J.Quintana (Fri.), D.Lowe vs. J.Peavy (Sat.), U.Jimenez vs. G.Floyd (Sun.)
This series features a couple of the hottest teams in baseball. The White Sox have won six of their last seven games, scoring six runs or more in five of those contests. The Indians have won eight of their last ten, including a three-game sweep of the Tigers earlier this week. Cleveland is 16th in the league in batting average but 5th in OBP thanks to an MLB-leading 191 walks. Four guys on the team (Carlos Santana, Travis Hafner, Shin-Shoo Choo and Asdrubal Cabrera) have tallied 20 free passes or more. Doesn’t anyone want to write a book and shoot a movie about this team?

Blue Jays (3rd ALE) at Rangers (1st ALW)
B.Morrow vs. D.Holland (Fri.), H.Alvarez vs. C.Lewis (Sat.), K.Drabek vs. Y.Darvish (Sun.)
No starting pitcher has been harder to hit than Brandon Morrow in May. In his four starts, batters have managed just a .150 average while striking out 33 times in 29 innings. He’s surrendered one run or no runs in five of his last six starts since the Rays tagged him for six runs on April 18. Which team has managed to get to Morrow during this streak? The Rays, of course, who reenacted their six-run outburst on May 14. Is he catching the Rangers at the right time? They scored a total of seven runs against the Mariners while dropping two of three games in that series this week. Sunday’s matchup features two guys that have combined to allow 66 walks this season; maybe they should take notes on Friday.

Astros (3rd NLC) at Dodgers (1st NLW)
L.Harrell vs. C.Kershaw (Fri.), B.Norris vs. C.Billingsley (Sat.), J.Happ vs. C.Capuano (Sun.)
Saturday starter Bud Norris has been Strasburgian over the month of May, allowing just one earned run on 15 hits over his last four starts (all wins), striking out 29 batters and giving out nine free passes. A 6-11 record in 2011 masked his 2012 upside, but astute drafters went out of their way to get Norris. He’s no Clayton Kershaw, but he’s certainly delivering more bang for the buck.

Rockies (4th NLW) at Reds (1st NLC)
C.Friedrich vs. J.Cueto (Fri.), J.Guthrie vs. M.Leake (Sat.), J.Moyer vs. M.Latos (Sun.)
The Reds have won six straight to vault the Cardinals in the NL Central. That includes a four-game sweep over a 26-16 Braves team that has been one of baseball’s best this season. Atlanta’s offense averaged just two runs per game in that series, while the Reds managed four runs per game. Aroldis Chapman has pitched 24.1 scoreless innings over the course of 20 games to open the year, and 30.1 innings (and 25 games) dating back to last season. Should Orel Hershiser be worried?

Royals (4th ALC) at Orioles (1st ALE)
B.Chen vs. J.Hammel (Fri.), F.Paulino vs. W.Chen (Sat.), L.Hochevar vs. B.Matusz (Sun.)
The top two players in fantasy baseball right now are Josh Hamilton and Ryan Braun — big surprise. Do you know who’s third? Adam “Don’t Call Me Pacman” Jones. The Baltimore outfielder has been one of baseball’s biggest surprises, hitting .311 with 14 HRs, 29 RBI, 32 runs and six SBs this year. I feel a little bit cheated that we don’t get a Chen vs. Chen matchup in this series, by the way.

Giants (2nd NLW) at Marlins (t-3rd NLE)
T.Lincecum vs. J.Johnson (Fri.), M.Bumgarner vs. M.Buehrle (Sat.), M.Cain vs. R.Nolasco (Sun.)
The Giants opened this series by scoring 14 runs on Thursday. It was the first time they scored that many runs since July 2, 2011, when they pasted the Tigers 15-3. Oddly, yesterday’s game was only 1-1 heading into the sixth inning. Melky Cabrera went 3-for-5 to raise his average to .362, good for third in the National league behind David Wright and Carlos Ruiz. The injured Matt Kemp is fourth, and the Jonathan Lucroy comes in fifth. If I had told you Cabrera, Ruiz and Lucroy were in the top five for batting average at this point …

Yankees (4th ALE) at Athletics (2nd ALW)
I.Nova vs. T.Ross (Fri.), C.Sabathia vs. B.Colon (Sat.), H.Kuroda vs. T.Milone (Sun.)
Saturday’s game between the Yankees and Athletics features two Cy Young award winners who collected their trophies with different teams (Bartolo Colon with the 2005 Angels, CC Sabathia with the 2007 Indians). Since winning their respective awards, Sabathia has placed in the top five of the Cy Young award voting four times, while Colon has pitched more than 100 innings just once in the last six years. However, Colon’s walk rate is the best it’s ever been; he’s certainly been willing to put the ball over the plate, as he’s given up 69 hits, the most in all of baseball.

Rays (2nd ALE) at Red Sox (5th ALE)
A.Cobb vs. J.Lester (Fri.), D.Price vs. J.Beckett (Sat.), J.Hellickson vs. C.Buchholz (Sun.)
Boston has won 10 of their last 13 games to climb back to .500. That’s good enough for last place in the AL East. Still, the offense scored less than four runs just twice during that streak, and now they’re third in the majors in runs scored, batting average and OPS. However, they’re 28th in team ERA and 27th in team WHIP. It’s past time to remove Clay Buchholz from the rotation, as he’s allowed 67 hits and walked 27 batters in 49.1 innings (good for a 1.91 WHIP) while also serving up 11 HRs. His .330 BAA is worst among pitchers with at least 35 innings this year. At this point, anyone else would be an improvement.

Phillies (5th NLE) at Cardinals (2nd NLC)
C.Lee vs. K.Lohse (Fri.), K.Kendrick vs. J.Garcia (Sat.), R.Halladay vs. A.Wainwright (Sun.)
Like the Red Sox, the Phillies have been playing better lately, managing to get to .500 after a slow start. Also like the Red Sox, all it’s gotten them is last place in a highly competitive division. All ten of the teams in the two East divisions are .500 or better, while just seven of the remaining 20 teams can claim the same. Cliff Lee is winless on the year despite his 2.66 ERA, 0.86 WHIP and 40/5 K/BB ratio. Opponent Kyle Lohse is 5-1 with a 2.91 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and 36/9 K/BB ratio. It ain’t easy bein’ Lee.

Brewers (5th NLC) at Diamondbacks (3rd NLW)
Y.Gallardo vs. I.Kennedy (Fri.), Z.Greinke vs. W.Miley (Sat.), R.Wolf vs. D.Hudson (Sun.)
Cody Ransom started off his Diamondbacks season by collecting hits in eight of his first nine games. Four of those happened to be home runs, resulting in him sporting a .351/.429/.757 line on May 7 after 37 at-bats. He started just four games after that, picking up only one hit in 15 at-bats. The D-Backs eventually designated Ransom for assignment, and the Brewers were quick to snap him up, presumably to fill the hole they have at shortstop. He gets his chance for revenge immediately. It’s hard to find power in the middle infield, and Ransom has 14 HRs in 389 at-bats in his career. It’ll be interesting to see if he gets regular playing time and can match that pace.

Tigers (3rd ALC) at Twins (5th ALC)
D.Smyly vs. A.Swarzak (Fri.), M.Scherzer vs. C.Pavano (Sat.), R.Porcello vs. P.Walters (Sun.)
Justin Morneau has been swinging a hot bat since returning from the DL, going 9-for-31 with four HRs and 12 RBI in eight games, and three of those bombs have come in his last three games. Is he finally back on track after a year-plus? It’s certainly worth grabbing him and finding out. He just turned 31, so it’s not like he’s far removed from the standard prime years for a hitter. If he can managed to recreate any of his lines from 2006 through 2010, the fantasy owners that are gambling on this hot streak being a sign of things to come will be handsomely rewarded.

Padres (5th NLW) at Mets (t-3rd NLE)
A.Bass vs. D.Gee (Fri.), C.Richard vs. J.Santana (Sat.), E.Volquez vs. R.Dickey (Sun.)
With Cory Luebke out for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery and Tim Stauffer back on the DL, the three pitchers above represent the top of the Padre rotation. The star is Anthony Bass, who has a 2.89 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and 51 Ks in 53 IP. After starting the season in the bullpen, Bass is reminding me of Luebke himself circa 2011. Bass is only owned in a third of Yahoo leagues for some reason, so there may still be time for you to snap him up.

Angels (3rd ALW) at Mariners (4th ALW)
E.Santana vs. B.Beavan (Fri.), J.Williams vs. F.Hernandez (Sat.), C.Wilson vs. H.Noesi (Sun.)
The Angels forgot to check the fine print on the Machine they ordered this offseason; if they had, they might have found “Please allow 4-6 weeks for delivery.” It took Albert Pujols till May 6 to hit his first homer of the year, and it took him another nine games to launch his second. Now he has four bombs in his last nine games, and he’s posted just one 0-fer since May 11, when his average was .192. It’s up to .225 now and it figures to keep rising. The window to buy low in fantasy leagues is either shut or closing quickly.

R.J. White is the head editor at the Cafe, writes for FanDuel and has previously written for FanHouse and Razzball. Catch up with him in the forums under the name daullaz. Follow him on Twitter; don't follow him in real life.
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