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Charging the Mound: Trouble Spots

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@rotowire.com
Sent: Tuesday, April 24, 2012 4:27am
To: "Christopher Liss"
Subject: Charging


Last week we asked the question when do we have enough data to act on current performance, both good and bad. We're starting to see teams answer that question, at least in terms of some of their struggling starters. The Braves just sent down Jair Jurrjens after his latest torching at the hands of the Dodgers. The A's gave up on the short-lived Josh Donaldson experiment at third base, sending him down and adding Luke Hughes to their third base mix. The Red Sox took advantage of Sunday's rainout to move Dan Bard (temporarily, so they say) to the bullpen, where he pitched Monday night. The Giants have permanently put Nate Schierholtz in their starting lineup, leaving Brandon Belt and Aubrey Huff to battle over the playing time.

The point is, even though we want to exercise patience and preach others to do so, sometimes we can't. So what's the next shoe to drop? Will it be the Braves again, addressing the shortstop picture that they failed to do adequately this offseason? What about the Phillies - even after scoring five runs in the ninth inning, they have only scored 48 runs in 17 games so far. Don't they have to do something about their offense now? They're lucky that the Braves and Marlins started a little slow, even though the Nationals haven't.

How about in the AL - when do the Royals start to make panic decisions? Or has it started already, what with batting Yuniesky Betancourt and/or Chris Getz leadoff on occasion? When Rany Jazayerli has already given up hope, it speaks volumes to the depths that the Royals have plunged yet again. I know that they had a bad spring with the injuries to Salvador Perez and Joakim Soria, but I still expected them to be better than this. Silly me.

I'm trading more than I usually do in April - twice with you in fact, once on our show. I'm not one of those guys that preaches it's too early to deal - I'm becoming less dogmatic about fantasy or really anything else these days. But usually I don't find that many good opportunities to deal this early, especially in my keeper leagues. Alas, one of those trades was to land Rick Porcello in a Scoresheet League before his bombing against the Rangers last Saturday. Who is the real Porcello - the one that looked so good against the Rays and White Sox, or the version from last weekend?

One more player that's really interesting to me is Adam Dunn. He homered again Monday against the A's, giving him three in the current road trip for the White Sox and is now slugging .550. But he has also struck out at least once in every single game this year, and his contact rate remains at nearly the same level as last year's disaster (58 percent). Can he possibly be an asset while striking out so much?

-----Original Message-----
From: "Christopher Liss"
Sent: Tuesday, April 24, 2012 3:15pm
To: jeff@rotowire.com
Subject: Re: Charging


I think Adam Dunn and Rick Porcello should be fine. I'm sure Dunn's had a 58 percent contact rate over 2-3 week stretches many times before. But he's also drawing walks and hitting for power. Porcello I'd trade for, once he shows that he's not nursing an injury. I don't care about the bad outing per se, but how many times does a guy get lit up like that, and then immediately go on the DL? If he throws seven innings and gives up three runs next time out, I'm buying.

I own Justin Smoak and Chone Figgins in Tout (and Figgins-only in LABR), and I think their statuses might be precarious. Smoak should be given every chance to succeed due to his pedigree (and that they traded Cliff Lee for him), but Mike Carp is coming off the DL, and something's got to give eventually. (Dave Cameron wrote a piece detailing Smoak's struggles with anything that's not a fastball, but I'm not sure whether that's any better or worse than struggling generally, i.e., whether diagnosing the specific problem give us information on the likelihood that Smoak turns it around.) Either way, I could see the Mariners sending him down. Figgins, too, has struggled, and the Mariners do have Kyle Seager to play third and Michael Saunders to play center. And maybe Franklin Gutierrez comes back at some point. One positive note about Figgins - though it's a bit of a reach - is that he's seeing a lot of pitches. Maybe that - and his big contract - will buy him a couple extra weeks to produce. But his contact rate is an abysmal 69 percent, when even during last year's disaster it was 85 percent.

I'm also a little worried about Dayan Viciedo who's gone .191/.208/.362 with 13 Ks and one walk. Between him, Brett Morel and Gordon Beckham being complete holes in the lineup, you almost have to consider the Sox as must-start for opposing pitchers - especially with all the Ks they're likely to get.

As for Schierholz, when a Gold Glove caliber defender goes .372/.404/.744 with that home park at age 28 (his peak) after posting a respectable .756 OPS last year, it's time to give him a full-time job. He's essentially the Giants version of Gerardo Parra, and I have no problem with that. Of course, I'd be playing Belt over Huff regardless.

I wonder how long Josh Reddick will play if he continues to struggle. Michael Taylor - remember him? - is tearing it up at Triple-A, and I could see him getting the call. An interesting post-hype target.

I'm also worried about Ubaldo Jimenez - his peripherals, 11 Ks, 11 walks in 18 IP are terrible - and his velocity (92.5 mph) is way down from its peak two years ago (96). He's been bailed out by games against the A's and Royals, but against the Yankees, Rangers, Red Sox and Tigers, it could get very ugly. Maybe he finds himself over the next couple months, but I'd bet against it. He's the AL version of Carlos Zambrano - a guy that can't get away with the walks anymore. I hope I'm wrong because I own him in AL Tout.

As for April trades, I've done the two with you and offered many more. I think it's always worth pursuing value when you see an opportunity. In our case, it was actually the structure of the leagues that made me do both trades. In YF&F, I had a lot of saves, and I felt I was clogging up too many roster spots with both Brad Lidge and Henry Rodriguez. And in LABR, I needed to move a pitcher or drop one, since Tyson Ross was no longer in the minors. Getting a DL'd Grady Sizemore solved that problem.

And I couldn't agree more on being less dogmatic generally. Anytime you rely on "never do x," or "always do y," it cuts you off from possibilities, and why would you want to do that except to avoid the burden of having to make a judgment call? You will get it wrong sometimes, but at least you're putting faith in your own evaluation abilities rather than punting until you're forced to make a move by necessity.

-----Original Message-----
From: jeff@rotowire.com
Sent: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 9:47pm
To: "Christopher Liss"
Subject: Re: Charging


Hopefully the Tigers will use a real second baseman instead of Brandon Inge the next time that Porcello pitches. Porcello was awful in that game against the Rangers, no doubt, but it's bad enough that they have to play Miguel Cabrera at third base when Porcello, a ground ball pitcher, is on the mound. Do they really have to put another player out of position at second base for his starts?

I didn't end up getting Smoak anywhere, in small part because among the leagues where he was available, either you or our colleague Derek VanRiper were also in the league, and both of you were already on him. I think that Smoak's pedigree and cost of acquisition will give him future chances even if he gets sent down, sort of in an Alex Gordon sort of way. Maybe that's a bad example for you, given how long it took for Gordon to come around. That said, he reminds me a little bit of Chris Davis - fairly quick call-up through the minors, contact issues and a specific flaw that's been exploited over and over. Davis is off to a decent start superficially, but that 2:15 BB:K shows that not much has changed.

I'm glad that you mentioned Beckham. What exactly happened to him? I thought about him as a potential Last Year's Bum in a lot of my drafts, but the plate discipline kept me away. Usually by the time the player's third year is over, he's demonstrated some improvement, but Beckham has gotten worse. This from a guy who was a top-10 draft pick that was dominant in the minors, and good on his first call up with the team. But the bottom has really fallen out since then. It's not completely rare for this to happen - a lot of guys struggle once the league gets "the book" on them, but usually they adjust back, and that hasn't happened with Beckham at all.

Michael Taylor fits in with the A's whole problem of developing hitting prospects. They so infrequently convert their talent at the big league level, even when they hit in Triple-A. Of course, Taylor took forever to rake there, even. Are they actively doing something to make their hitters worse? Does Carlos Gonzalez ever turn into the player he is without that trade to the Rockies? Talk about an extreme change in environments. How much of the A's problems have to do with their park?

I'm with you on Jimenez - I didn't see anything Wednesday night that encouraged me, either. One thing I've always wondered - the velocity has gone down on his fastball, but it went from an average fastball of 96 mph to 92.5 mph. That's way down, but there are a ton of pitchers who would love to work with that sort of velocity. Has the movement on that fastball also declined along with the velocity? If there's still good contrast between his fastball and his breaking pitches, shouldn't he be able to adjust?

-----Original Message-----
From: "Christopher Liss"
Sent: Wednesday, April 25, 2012 11:00pm
To: jeff@rotowire.com
Subject: Re: Charging


I don't think Jimenez has any idea where it's going, and you can work around that when you average 96 with movement. At 92.5 without movement, you get behind, walk runners on base, and you're toast. I got a little too clever in Tout with the Jimenez for $12 and Michael Pineda for $14, two players in whom I had no interest, just because they were discounted due to spring training reports. I still blame Girardi for essentially destroying Pineda's career before it started, but I should have trusted my initial vibe and stayed away. That's $26 worth of SP which is essentially C.C. Sabathia or Felix Hernandez.

Maybe the A's have just been unlucky with Chris Carter, Taylor, Daric Barton and a few others. It's hard to estimate the impact of the park on that. While the Padres didn't develop anyone besides Adrian Gonzalez, and the Mariners haven't developed hitters since ARod and Ken Griffey were playing at the Kingdome, the Marlins have developed tons of hitting prospects from Miguel Cabrera to Hanley Ramirez (after he was acquired from Boston), to Dan Uggla to Mike Stanton. The Mets developed David Wright, Jose Reyes and Ike Davis. The Dodgers developed Adrian Beltre, Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp. etc., etc. So it's hard to argue it's just the pitcher's park.