Friday, September 30, 2011
Thursday, September 29, 2011
And that’s how you end a sports season: dramatic games that decided the playoff fates of four teams that ended in the same few hours. It seems like the right teams got in with possible apologies to the Red Sox and Braves, who both bottomed out in September. Both St. Louis and Tampa Bay head into the playoffs with a head of steam, but that may or may not mean anything when the playoffs start this weekend. With the match ups set, I can now look at the hitters in the National League with more specificity.
Before I get into the hitters, I did not look at the Cardinal pitchers in my earlier preview. For whatever reason, I saw the possibility of the Rays making the playoffs, but it seemed unlikely that the Cardinals would also make the leap. Yet, here we are. The St. Louis starters have been excellent down the stretch. Chris Carpenter is the big name on the staff and he had his third straight fine year after missing the 2007 and 2008 seasons. Carpenter hurled 237.1 innings and struck out 191 batters. He had a 2.15 ERA in September and had two shut outs. He also shut down the Phillies for eight innings on September 18 in a 5-0 win over Philadelphia. Kyle Lohse has been the Cardinal ace in September. He has allowed a combined four earned runs in four starts. Lohse, who was primarily a journeyman before hooking up with Dave Duncan, has had his best season. The 30-year-old right-hander had a 3.39 ERA and 1.17 WHIP. Like Carpenter, he beat the Phillies in September. Lohse allowed allowed one unearned in a 4-3 win on September 18. Jaime Garcia also beat the Phillies in September (sense a trend?). He allowed one run to the Phillies over seven innings. The 25-year-old Garcia made 32 turns through the rotation and had a 3.56 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. The three Cardinal pitchers give St. Louis a puncher’s chance at pulling the upset over Philadelphia and should be considered as late draft fodder.
The Cardinal offense has also been excellent. Like their starting rotation, St. Louis has three star hitters. Unfortunately, one of the stars, Matt Holliday is having troubles with his injured hand. He hit just .254 in September. He was limited to 124 games this season because of various maladies and you may want to wait to see if he is in the lineup this weekend before drafting him. Holliday only had two hits in 17 at bats against Philly pitching this season. For the first time in his ten-year career, Albert Pujols failed to get 100 RBI. In other words, he is a failure (or perhaps the hitters in front of him are failures). Pujols played in 147 games and hit 37 homers, but was limited to a career-low 27 doubles. In September, he hit .355 with a .561 slugging percentage. Phat Albert smacked Cardinal pitching around for a .385 average in 26 at bats. Last year, Lance Berkman was an afterthought with the Yankees, but he bounced back with a more Berkman-like year with the Cardinals. He finished with 31 homers and a .301 average. Berkman opened the season with a sweet April and finished with a hot September. He hit .374 this month and crushed Philly pitching all season with 14 hits in 30 at bats. If you are in a deep league, you can consider Yadier Molina and Allen Craig. Molina hit .337 after the All-Star break and hit 32 doubles this season. Craig hit .327 in September, but was limited to four hits in 23 at bats against the Phillies.
The Philly offense is second rate compared to their impressive pitching staff. Ryan Howard is the lineup’s big bopper, but he hit .253 this season and struck out 172 times. While he hit just .263 against Cardinal pitching, he was walked seven times and had a .481 on-base percentage. While he did not do much in the 2010 playoffs, Howard had three homers and 17 RBI in the 2009 World Championship season. The Phillies’ best hitter has been Hunter Pence, since he arrived from Houston. He hit .324 with 11 homers in 54 games with Philadelphia. Since he was in the NL Central, he faced Cardinal pitching quite a bit and had a good bit of success. Pence had 22 hits in 63 at bats (.349). Only five of those hits were for extra bases. The Phillies have big names in the middle of the infield, but neither Chase Utley nor Jimmy Rollins had their best season in 2011. Utley was limited to 103 games and hit just .259. He had nine hits in 28 at bats against Cardinal pitching, but all of his hits were singles. Before going 0-for-6 in the season finale, Rollins had 11 hits in the four previous games. He hit .282 against the Cardinals. Catcher Carlos Ruiz hit .333 against the Cardinals and .301 in September. He could be a decent last round batter. Raul Ibanez should probably be skipped at least for the first round. He only had two hits in 23 at bats against St. Louis.
In Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder, the Brewers have the best one-two punch in baseball. The Brewer right fielder had his best season in his excellent five-year career. He finished with 33 homers, 111 RBI, and a career-high 33 steals. He hit above .300 in every month save May and was 5-for-12 against Diamonback pitching with a pair of homers. Braun hit .330 in September with eight homers. Fielder put an exclamation point on his season on Tuesday with a three-homer day to push his total up to 38 dingers. For the third straight season, Fielder walked more than 100 times and had a career-high .415 on-base percentage. Cecil’s son had some problems with Arizona pitching: he had six hits in 27 at bats and struck out 11 times with just one walk. Corey Hart also did not hit well against the Diamondbacks. He hit just .138, but three of his four hits left the yard. Hart hit .284 in September. Nyjer Morgan is a table setter for the Brewers and hit .292 in September with 14 runs. He hit .333 against the Diamondbacks. Like Hart, Rickie Weeks could not solve Arizona pitching. He hit .148 in 27 at bats against the Diamondbacks.
Justin Upton has had his breakout season in 2011. The 24-year-old hit a career-high 75 extra base hits, including 31 homers. He cut down on his strikeouts a bit with 126 K’s in 591 at bats (compared to 152 K’s in 495 at bats in 2010). Upton had moderate success against the Brewers wit a .286 average and two homers in 28 at bats. If you are looking for a Diamondback who wore out Milwaukee pitching, you can look at catcher Miguel Montero, who hit .421 with two homers in 19 at bats. Montero hit .313 in September and cranked four homers. Leftfielder Geraldo Parra also hit reasonably well against the Brewers seven hits in 22 at bats. Keep an eye on Chris Young, who hit .280 in the 2007 playoffs and hit the 20-20 mark for the third time in his low batting average career.
Perry Missner is a freelance writer.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
The American League features the three best offenses in baseball. The next two will determine whether the Red Sox join their slugging buddies, the Yankees and Rangers, in the playoffs. What is kind of interesting about all three offenses is that none of them feature a single batter who has had a tremendous season. The best hitter in the American League is Jose Bautista and he will spend the winter hoping the Blue Jays get him some more help. The Yankees, Red Sox, and Rangers each feature deep lineups with no easy outs and the Divisional Series could feature some high scores.
The Rangers have eight batters with at least 20 doubles. Five of those hitters also have at least 25 homers. At the beginning of the season, it appeared that Michael Young did not like losing his third base job. He bounced back quickly and had a career-high .338 average with his sixth season of at least 200 hits. Young only had 11 homers, but had 41 doubles and 106 RBI. He hit .357 after the All-Star break, and hit .400 off of Yankee pitching. Adrian Beltre had his second straight excellent season. Last year, he was with the Red Sox and this year he hit .293 with 32 homers and 105 RBI in just 122 games. Beltre missed August with a hamstring strain, but hit 11 homers in September to prove that he is healthy. The free swinger only had 25 walks this season, so he may have some difficulty against better pitching in the playoffs. Ian Kinsler matched Beltre’s team-leading 32 homers and scored a team-high 121 runs. Kinsler played in a career-high 154 games and hit .337 in September with 11 homers. The second baseman hit just .111 against the Yankees, but hit six homers off of Red Sox pitching and five off of the Rays. Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz combined for 240 games. Hamilton missed the majority of May, but managed hit 25 bombs and an even .300. Cruz also missed a large chunk of May and the first half of September. Since returning from his hamstring strain, he hit just .200 with two extra base hits in 37 at bats. Cruz only had one hit in 17 at bats against Yankee pitching. The hottest hitter on the team in September has been Mike Napoli. The catcher is hitting .418 in September with 13 walks and 11 extra base hits. He could be a decent late round flyer.
It seems that the Yankee lineup is in a state of transition. MVP candidate Curtis Granderson led the squad with 41 homers, while former MVP Alex Rodriguez had an injury plagued campaign and only played in 99 games. This will be the first season since 1997 that A-Rod will not hit 30 homers. He has just 16 with one game left and is hitting just .197 after the All-Star break. Granderson had never hit more than 30 homers prior to this season. He crushed Ranger pitching for six homers in 32 at bats and a .438 average. Granderson had less success against his former team, hitting just .160 against the Tigers. Mark Teixeira was second on the team with 37 homers, but he has struggled in September. The first baseman is only hitting .227 with four extra base hits in 75 at bats. In his last two years as a Yankee, Teixeira is only hitting .250. He had not hit below .280 since 2004. The middle of the infield had once again become a strength for New York. Robinson Cano led the team with a .305 average and contributed more than 100 runs and RBI for the second straight year. He has hit at least 34 doubles in each of his seven major league seasons and has hit 25 or more homers three years running. Cano hit just .200 against the Tigers with two extra base hits in 25 at bats, but hit four homers and a triple against the Rangers. Derek Jeter hit .330 after the All-Star break to show that he still has some skills at age 37. Captain Jetes scorched through August with a .387 average and hit .314 in September. The shortstop had ten hits in 26 at bats against the Rangers (.385). Lastly, don’t overlook Nick Swisher, who led the team with a .373 on-base percentage. He had a quiet September (.197), but hit .367 against Texas.
Miguel Cabrera stands in as the most dangerous hitter in the American League. He won the batting championship with a .343 average and led the Tigers in virtually every offensive statistic. Miggy also heads into the playoffs on a hot streak with 14 hits in his last five games. Granted, that was at home against the Orioles and Indians, but if you believe in the Tigers you should take Cabrera early. He last played in the postseason in his rookie year 2003 with the Marlins. Cabrera hit above .400 against both the Yankees and Rangers. In his first year as a Tiger, Victor Martinez has had an excellent season. He hit .324 with 38 doubles and 102 RBI. He hit a season-high four homers in September (12 on the season). Martinez did not hit well against the Rays (.238), so he will hope that Tampa Bay doesn’t win today. Alex Avila was the best hitting catcher in baseball (Martinez and Napoli mostly DH’ed). He hit .296 with 19 homers and 33 doubles. Unlike most catchers, the 24-year-old did not fade in the second half (.307, nine homers). He hit above .380 against both the Rangers and Rays. Jhonny Peralta always finds a way onto my fantasy teams because how many shortstop eligible players hit 20 homers? Peralta also had a career-high .301 average, but only hit six of his homers after the break. He hit .260 or worse against all four prospective playoff teams. Magglio Ordonez has played well in September. He is hitting .400 in a somewhat limited role. In two playoff runs (2000 with the White Sox and 2006 in Detroit), he has not hit above the Mendoza line.
Of the two teams vying for the Wild Card spot today, the Red Sox have the more fearsome offense. Despite their September swoon, Boston has MVP candidates in Adrian Gonzalez and Jacoby Ellsbury as well as hitting depth with David Ortiz, Dustin Pedroia, and Carl Crawford. You can probably scratch Kevin Youkilis off your list since the third baseman hasn’t played since September 15 with hip troubles. After playing only 18 games in 2010, Ellsbury has remained upright and had this season’s most surprising power. After hitting 20 homers in his first four seasons, the 28-year-old has mashed 32 bombs this year to go along with 38 steals and 119 runs. He has hit 21 homers since the All-Star break and hit .365 in September. Ellsbury hit six homers against both the Yankees and Rays. In his first year in the American League (since being a youngster with the Rangers back in 2004 and 2005), Gonzalez hit a career-high .338. Some of his long hits that would have been homers in the past fell for doubles this year, but he did hit 27 homers and 45 doubles. He hit only .131 vs. the Rays, .183 vs. the Yankees, and .130 vs. the Tigers, but had 15 hits in 36 at bats against the Rangers. In his 14th year in the league, Ortiz hit 29 homers and .308. Big Papi also swatted 40 doubles. He hit more homers (five) against the Yankees than any other team (well, he hit five against the Blue Jays), but had problems with Rays pitching (.180). Pedroia bounced back from an injury-shortened 2010 with 101 runs and a .303 average. He hit 20 homers for the first time in his career and had 26 steals. He hit .406 against Yankee pitching, but just .160 against the Tigers. Crawford’s first year as a Red Sock was a struggle. He hit a career-low .255 and only walked 23 times in 129 games. He did hit well in the 2008 playoffs with six extra base hits and seven steals in 16 games.
If the Rays jump past the Red Sox today (or tomorrow in a one-game playoff), they have a lot of inviting hitters. Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton led the team in homers with 29 and 23, respectively. Neither batter was able to hit above .250 and Upton struck out 160 times. The center field is hitting .347 in September with five homers. Longoria is also hitting well in the last month at .282 with his own five dingers. Johnny Damon keeps clicking along. He had 16 homers and 19 steals in his 16th year in the league. He only hit .143 against Ranger pitching. Other hitters consider if Tampa Bay makes the postseason include Ben Zobrist, Casey Kotchman, and Matt Joyce. Zobrist is only hitting .218 in September and did not hit well against the other playoff teams. Kotchman was taken out of the last game with chest tightness. He hit .298 against the Yankees. Joyce hit a career-high 19 homers and hit .391 against the Tigers.
Perry Missner is fantasy college hoops greatest champion. You can challenge "Big Chief College Basketball" in a league today. He is also the Treasurer of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Draft Philly pitchers.
If I were a smartass (and I am) and more concise (apparently, I am not), I would leave the Fantasy Postseason article on National League pitching to those three words. The Phillies staff allowed nearly 70 fewer runs than the next closest staff (if the Braves do eventually make it) and they have three starters with the lowest ERA’s among the participants in the playoffs on the NL side. While there may be some debate about their offense, there is no doubt that the Philadelphia pitching staff is the best in baseball. Along with their trio of top starters, they have excellent long relievers, and a sensational late inning crew. Draft Philly pitchers.
Unlike 2010, the Phillies won’t have a chance to run into a team that actually has a better staff, since the Giants didn’t make the playoffs. The rotation starts with prohibitive Cy Young favorite Roy Halladay who has an excellent six-year run. This year, he had a career high 220 K’s to go along with a career-low 2.35 ERA and 1.04 WHIP. After three straight years of nine complete games, Halladay only completed eight this year and had but one shutout. Halladay was also excellent in last year’s playoff with three starts and 17 base runners in 22 innings with 20 strikeouts. He was equally dominant before (2.45 ERA) and after (2.19) the All-Star break. Halladay had a 1.70 ERA in September, with only a four-run, eight-inning outing against the Cardinals as the only black mark on his record. He should be the first pitcher taken and should be among the first five picks.
Cliff Lee’s season has almost been as impressive as Halladay’s. The 33-year-old has had two completely dominant months. In June, he allowed one run over five starts and he allowed just two runs in five August starts. Lee started the season a bit slowly with a 4.00 ERA over the first two months, but that makes his 2.38 ERA for the season all that much more impressive. After the All-Star break, Lee has authored a 1.71 ERA with 95 K’s in 89.1 innings. He limited the Brewers to three earned runs over 13 innings, but did not factor into the decision of either of his two starts against Milwaukee. The lefty had a 3.86 ERA against the Diamondbacks, but limited them to two runs in a seven-inning win on August 17 (those were his only runs allowed that month). Halladay only faced Arizona once, but pitched a complete game with three runs. The Brewers touched up Doc for a season-high six runs in April, but Halladay wrought his revenge on September 9 by holding Milwaukee to one run over eight innings at Miller Park.
Quietly, Cole Hamels had the best season of his six-year career. He allowed just a 0.98 WHIP and just 165 hits in 213 innings. While Lee was dominant in June and August, Hamels wasn’t far behind. He had a 1.31 ERA in six starts. Somehow, the Phillies only managed to win two of those games. In August, Lee had a 2.32 ERA in four starts and Philadelphia won three, but Hamels only got credit for one win. Don’t get me started on how silly wins and losses are for pitchers. Hamels tossed a complete game against the Brewers on September 8. His offense managed to give him seven runs for his only September win, despite a respectable 3.60 ERA. If the Phillies should need a fourth starter, they can go to either Kyle Kendrick or Vance Worley. Kendrick had a 3.17 ERA in 15 starts, but is likely to come out of the bullpen. Worley provided a 3.03 ERA and could be used for long relief. The Philadelphia bullpen has also been a strength this season. Ryan Madson has settled into the closer role with 32 saves in 34 opportunities. He has converted his last nine opportunities and hasn’t given up a run since August 19 (when he gave up six against the Nationals). Antonio Bastardo and Brad Lidge have been excellent in middle relief for most of the season. Lidge, the former closer, has given up two runs in the last two months. Bastardo was dominant until September. The wheels have fallen off in the last month and opposing offenses have scored runs on Bastardo in five of his last seven outings. Prior to that, he has only allowed five earned runs all season. You may want to let someone else draft him.
The other three teams are going to get short shrift in this National League playoff preview, but I’ll make up for it on the offensive side. The Diamondbacks have one really excellent starter: former Yankee Ian Kennedy. Yankee fans can’t complain too much about Kennedy because the trade netted them Curtis Granderson. Kennedy has only given up more than three runs once since July 3. He did not face the Braves this year, but held the Phillies to three runs over 12 innings (2.25 ERA) in two starts. The right-hander shut out the Brewers for seven innings on July 21. The other Arizona starters are likely to be Daniel Hudson and Joe Saunders. Saunders has a 2.38 ERA in five September starts and pitched well against the Brewers and Braves. The former-Angel was hit hard by the Phillies (8.49 ERA). Hudson was not particularly successful against any of the prospective playoff teams. Diamondback closer J.J. Putz has had his best season with 45 saves. He has converted 23 straight saves.
I remember reading prior to the season that the Brewer pitching staff might have some trouble because the team had deemphasized defense. The Milwaukee starters have fared well. Yovani Gallardo, the incumbent, has been the ace of the staff. The 25-year-old Mexican has four straight quality starts since given up eight runs to the Cardinals on September 1. For the season, he has 207 K’s in 207.1 innings with a 2.53 ERA and 1.22 WHIP. He pitched well against the Braves, Diamondbacks, and Phillies with a seven-inning win over Philadelphia on September 11. Gallardo has struck out 36 batters in his last three starts. In their first years in the National League, Shaun Marcum and Zach Greinke have looked good, although neither pitcher has showed a huge bump in stats from the conversion to the NL. Marcum has a 1.16 WHIP. He allowed four runs in his lone six-inning outing against Arizona. Greinke has struck out 197 batters in 165.1 innings. After the All-Star break, he has provided a 2.56 ERA. The former-Royal did not face Philadelphia this year, but was hit hard in his one game against the Diamondbacks (four innings, five runs, four earned). The Brewer bullpen is very strong with John Axford (45 saves, 84 K’s), Francisco Rodriguez (31 K’s in 27 innings), and LaTroy Hawkins (20 holds).
If the Braves hold onto their one-game lead over the Cardinals, they will enter the postseason with the weakest pitching staff. Both Jair Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson are likely done for the year. That leaves Tim Hudson, Brandon Beachy, and Derek Lowe as playoff starters. Lowe has playoff history, but was not a good pitcher this year (1.52 WHIP). Hudson has had his second straight excellent season with a 1.14 WHIP and 154 K’s in 208.2 innings. He shut out the Brewers on one hit in early May and did not allow a run to the Diamondbacks over seven innings on August 21. Beachy has allowed four runs in his last three starts. He does have 169 K’s in 141.1 innings. The Brave bullpen is very good with youngsters Craig Kimbrel (46 saves, 126 K’s in 76 innings) and Johnny Venters (95 K’s in 86 innings), but both have had their struggles in September.
Monday, September 26, 2011
If the season ended today, the Yankees would face the Tigers in the first round, and the Red Sox and Rangers would meet in the American League Divisional Series. The two American League East teams and the Rangers have scored the most runs in baseball, but the Yankees and Red Sox have big problems in the starting rotation. Even ace C.C. Sabathia has been human down the stretch. The big lefty has had some of the best second halves in recent memory, but he submitted a 4.62 ERA in August and 3.08 ERA in September. In his nine starts over the last two months, Sabathia has submitted five quality starts and struck out more than a batter per inning (74 K’s in 68.2 innings), but he doesn’t feel like the sure thing like in the past. I’d consider taking Mariano Rivera as the top Yankee pitcher over Sabathia because the last number 42 has been his usual automatic self. The 41-year-old has converted his last 15 save opportunities and has only given up one run in September. Among the other Yankee starters, it is a grab bag. Ivan Nova seems likely to be their second starter, but he has never pitched in the postseason or thrown so many innings in a season. I’d stay away from Bartolo Colon (6.64 ERA in September) and A.J. Burnett (6.88 ERA after the All-Star break).
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Here are the steps required to add video to your live draft:
1) In league setup, commissioners need to set 'Enable Live Video Sharing for Draft' to Yes.
2) League members should be running Adobe Flash 10.3 or newer for echo suppression. Also note that users may want to use headphones or earphones if their mic and speakers are too close together.
3) After entering the draft room from your league's home page, users need to select the Enable Live video option under the 'Options' panel.
4) At this point, users will need to provide local camera access to fantasypostseason.com and they will be ready to have a video-enabled live fantasy draft. The current video feed will show the user that is currently drafting.