RotoWire Partners

Charging the Mound: Erickson and Liss Talk Baseball

Chris Liss

Chris Liss

Chris Liss is RotoWire's Managing Editor and Host of RotoWIre Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio.

Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson is a co-founder of RotoWire.com and the only two-time winner of Baseball Writer of the Year from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He roots for the Reds, Bengals, Red Wings, Pacers and Northwestern University (the real NU).

-----Original Message-----
From: "Jeff Erickson"
Sent: Tuesday, April 5, 2011 1:11pm
To: liss@rotowire.com
Subject: Re: Charging


We're only five days into the season, so it's way too early to draw broad conclusions. Yet I'm so excited to watch live baseball that there's a natural tendency to want to act on what I've seen. Plus, sometimes those early results matter. If you don't act quickly, you can miss out on the Jose Bautista-breakout types when they first show signs there might be something special going on. I've come full circle on this, by the way. There are still plenty of reasons to be patient with a guy off to a slow start, but sometimes patience turns into caution, and that caution causes us to miss players. The real problem becomes who do you drop? It's actually a little easier the deeper you get the chances that player comes back to haunt you with a big season later on is much smaller. The tougher decision comes in mixed leagues or thinner leagues, because the replacement level player is someone who is actually getting playing time, more often than not.

You've already been doing the roster churn in Yahoo Friends & Family, having made nine moves since our draft. What sort of criteria do you have when you're deciding who to cut? In some cases, it's pretty easy, if, for example, there's an injury to a fringe player, or you speculated on a reliever to get saves, and it no longer appears that's likely. But sometimes that's not possible. Maybe you need to get more at-bats, thanks to off-days or injuries, especially if that injured player is out but hasn't gone on the DL. Who then do you decide to cut?

I just cut Matt LaPorta after two games, and there's some sense I might regret it. But he was among the last players I drafted, and he was already sitting out a game on Sunday, the third game of the year, despite having the platoon advantage against John Danks (though in his short major league career, it's worth noting LaPorta has a slight reverse platoon split). But if the Indians, who really have nothing to do this year but evaluate their younger players, are willing to bench LaPorta three games into the season, he's someone that rapidly becomes expendable in a 14-team mixed league.

Meanwhile, Tuesday's slate of games is really interesting to me. Andrew Cashner is making his first MLB start after beginning his career in the bullpen. Likewise, Kyle McClellan is making that transition for the Cardinals, against the Pirates. There's a really interesting pitching matchup in Texas tonight, too, between Michael Pineda and Alexi Ogando. I know that you have Pineda in multiple leagues, so you'll be watching that one closely. Finally, Jhoulys Chacin will get his first start of the year, drawing Clayton Kershaw. Chacin is one of those guys that I wasn't terribly high on initially, but after seeing where he was going in mock drafts and hearing industry colleagues talk him up, I'm really interested in seeing what he does this year.

One observation from the first weekend of games I think we can use is coming from Kansas City of all places. All spring Royals manager Ned Yost said he wanted the team to run more, enough to the point that even Billy Butler had three spring training stolen bases. Fast forward to this past weekend, and the Royals lead the majors with nine stolen bases in 10 attempts. This bodes well for Mike Aviles, Alcides Escobar and Melky Cabrera, perhaps enough to make the latter two useful in mixed leagues (I'm already assuming Aviles is probably owned in most places).

What else did you see over the first four games that you can use?

-----Original Message-----
From: "Christopher Liss"
Sent: Tuesday, April 5, 2011 7:05pm
To: jeff@rotowire.com
Subject: Re: Charging


As I said on the radio, I can't wait until Sunday when my home league has it's next free agent period so I can cut LaPorta myself. Why I drafted him rather than some extra starting pitcher who could have filled in while Mat Latos, Homer Bailey and now Brian Matusz are on the DL is something known only to the mind of God, the existence of which is debatable and beyond the scope of this exchange.

As a general rule virtually any major leaguer other than Matt Stairs and Miguel Batista can have a huge breakout, and if you doubt that consider Bautista last year or Cliff Lee in 2008. The problem is you can't own everyone, and so you have to look for reasons to favor one player over another. Often those reasons aren't very substantial - I drafted Scott Downs in the hope he might see some saves, dropped him a few days later for Brandon Beachy when the latter won the job, picked up Melky Cabrera for a spot start and dropped Nyjer Morgan, dropped Cabrera for Carlos Ruiz for a spot start, then dropped Ruiz for Morgan again now that Carlos Gomez is struggling. I'm looking for a small spark, a slight tip of the scale toward a potential breakout, knowing full well it likely means nothing, and I'll probably have to drop the guy all over again.

Cashner pitched well enough, but left with shoulder tightness, so that could easily be the end of him. And stupid Marcos Mateo and James Russell blew the win for him, so he might have been a wasted pick. I do have Pineda everywhere, but I don't like that his first start is in Texas. I think I'd rather have a pitcher start off almost anywhere else, with Coors Field, Fenway and Yankee Stadium being about as bad. But who knows? Maybe he'll pull a Matt Harrison and dominate that stacked lineup. Harrison is interesting because he's a lefty throwing in the low-to-mid 90s with good command of all his pitches. Whether he can maintain that remains to be seen, but the tools are there for a breakout.

Starlin Castro might slump at some point, but his teammates seem to think he's much more advanced than a typical 21-year old, and it's possible he'll contend for an NL batting title this year. Even some of his outs have been ripped. Alex Rodriguez is killing the ball, even when he makes outs, and his homer against Scott Baker Monday was hypersonic. Brandon Belt drew an eighth-inning, bases loaded walk against Matt Guerrier with the Giants down four runs while maintaining his resting heart rate. I've never seen anyone look so relaxed with the game on the line, let alone a rookie in his first week. Miguel Tejada, on the other hand, had arguably the worst at-bat in baseball history (and by that I don't just mean major-league baseball), swinging at Guerrier's first pitch - a breaking ball at his shoelaces - and fouling out with the bases still loaded and the Giants down three. Guerrier had just walked the last two batters (including Belt), and Tejada's first inclination apparently was to bail him out. At least it will take the focus off his horrible defense for a day.

Joe Nathan had nothing and was very lucky to get away with a save thanks to good catches by Delmon Young (yes, you read that correctly) and Denard Span. As a Nathan owner it also made me nervous to see him throw 31 pitches in his first outing back from Tommy John surgery. Wasn't it a 38-pitch outing that seems to have permanently destroyed Jonathan Broxton, who also looks suspect early on? Of course, even Mariano Rivera looked shaky a couple springs ago, so Nathan and Broxton could bounce back, but they didn't look good.

-----Original Message-----
From: "Jeff Erickson"
Sent: Wednesday, April 6, 2011 12:56pm
To: liss@rotowire.com
Subject: Re: Charging


Speaking of that Sunday night game, I found the new broadcasting crew to be much easier on the ears. At least for one week, I didn't mind the three-man booth. They weren't perfect (for instance, they endorsed the contract Matt Guerrier signed rather uncritically, before he had his shaky outing), but the lack of Joe Morgan moments made it a much nicer broadcast for me.

You mentioned the Carlos Ruiz spot start - that's the sort of move I need to make more often. Sometimes it's not possible to fill all the vacancies in your lineup, but in these daily leagues, it's vital to try to get in as many at-bats as you can. It's virtually impossible to use up your games limit at every hitter spot with such a thin bench. The real problem comes when you get multiple injuries, especially if those injured guys don't hit the DL. That's when we're more likely to run into drop-mistakes.

The Royals were at it again Tuesday - three more stolen bases, including one from Matt Treanor! The more I think about it, the more I like Alcides Escobar this year - he's going from one manager extreme (Ken Macha) to the other in Yost. Shortstop is a position that has a decent amount of cheap speed in the AL - Erick Aybar, Cliff Pennington, to name two - and I think Escobar belongs in that class.

I have my AL home league draft Friday night, and A-Rod and Teixeira got off to *too* good of a start. Any chance that I could get a unit or two discount based off of last year is long gone, especially because we bank in the already earned stats. In a league with daily moves, what's your threshold on the type of pitcher you'll allow to start for you against them? Will it change when they're on the road?

Nice of Nathan to bounce back last night after you called him out. I'm still not that worried about Broxton - I've read conflicting reports about his velocity, and it seems to have resolved in his favor. Yeah, his slider seems a little flat right now, but it's going to take a few bad outings before he goes Rodney on us.

-----Original Message-----
From: "Christopher Liss"
Sent: Wednesday, April 6, 2011 4:14pm
To: jeff@rotowire.com
Subject: Re: Charging


One of the Sunday night crew - and I can't remember which one - kept using the "word" "heighth" to describe some pitches. I remember 10 years ago someone told me how it annoyed him when people said "heighth", and I thought: "Who the hell ever says that? Of course, it's not a word." And then on Sunday one of the crew said "heighth" about five times, and it drove me crazy. I'd rather hear Joe Morgan repeat the obvious seven hundred times and deride basic baseball analysis.

And you have no excuse for not getting an extra catcher in your lineup, Jeff. I have Brad Lidge and Homer Bailey on the DL already, Brian Matusz on the DL, but taking up a roster spot and Mike Stanton clogging a bench spot and not playing. Yet, I still found room to pick up Ruiz, then drop him for Nyjer Morgan. One of the keys is having guys like Sean Rodriguez, Maicer Izturis and Alex Gordon who qualify at multiple positions, another is just not having that many starting pitchers to begin with.

I'll start all the elite pitchers against anyone - think top-15 or so. After that, it depends on the format. In NL Tout, I started the "Little Cat" Armando Galarraga at Wrigley Field because it's a 13-team NL only league with no innings cap, i.e., the bar is pretty low, and the 4-5 Ks are a pure benefit. But in the 14-team mixed Friends and Family league with a 1250-innings cap, the bar is extremely high. Any pitcher not in the top-25 probably doesn't see the Yanks, Rangers or Red Sox. Nos. 15-25, I'd play it by feel. Of course, I don't have an ongoing pitcher list, and even if I did, I wouldn't stick to any rule dogmatically, but using those approximate numbers is the best way to describe how I'll play it in a league like ours.

I feel a little better about Nathan, too. Broxton I'm not high on. Maybe the velocity is fine, but he's simply not the same unhittable guy we used to see. Some pitchers can adjust and use guile to close out games, but that only works for players 290 pounds and under.