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Charging the Mound: Praise for Dwayne Murphy

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: "Christopher Liss"
Sent: Tuesday, June 26, 2012 7:55pm
To: "Jeff Erickson"
Subject: Charging


It's nice to focus on baseball again for a minute now that the NFL magazine is put to bed. Many thanks to Scott Pianowski and Jonah Keri for guest-Charging in my place. Next time I'll get some scrubs to fill in so there's a chance I'll be missed.

I was on vacation in Portland and Bend, Oregon this past week and only doing the bare minimum to keep up with my teams. That's the thing about fantasy baseball - you do so much research in the winter, and put so much effort in all year that you can't really fall off the face of the earth and let your teams go to pieces. When you're immersed in checking box scores and exchanging trade emails, managing your team isn't a big deal. But when you've been out hiking in the woods all day, and then getting drunk at dinner and dragging the four-month old out past her bedtime to disastrous effect, it takes effort to read through all the RotoWire notes from the last day and a half and make even plausible bidding decisions. I suppose that's why fantasy baseball is only a fraction the size of fantasy football despite being the better fantasy game. Because having a team and managing it properly is a life-altering decision. Football is a short season and one key day a week, and the player pool is so much shallower. Plus, college players don't get called up midseason, necessitating knowledge of entirely separate leagues. Don't get me wrong - fantasy football is fun, and I'm hooked on it for life. But I'll always relish a win in LABR or Tout more than any expert fantasy football league. (Of course, when there's money on the line, it's a closer call).

In any event, I'm back and ready to talk baseball. I coined (as far as I know) the name R.A. Ridiculous after the 37-year old knuckleballer went through one of the more dominant stretches in recent history, but apparently the Yankees got to him while I was gone. Is that the end of his run? Will he knuckle-under (so to speak) now that he's finally been solved? Or will he shake it off and go back to being unhittable? He's an extremely volatile player right now because if he dominates the Dodgers on Friday, it'll be hard not to value him as a top-15 starter. But if he's ordinary or worse, he'll go back to being only slightly more valuable than the solid guy he was on Opening Day. Are you buying or selling? I offered him and Rafael Furcal to Matt Romig in Y!F&F the other day for Tim Lincecum and Trevor Plouffe, but he didn't act on it, so I pulled the offer. Which side would you prefer? And who would you prefer between Lincecum and Dickey straight up?

I also picked up Colby Rasmus in that league, and he's been killing it, too. In fact, the Blue Jays entire lineup has been fantasy gold of late with Jose Bautista looking like the player of the past two seasons, Brett Lawrie quietly up to .291 with 11 steals and 43 runs, Edwin Encarnacion already at 21 homers, six steals and hitting .286 and Rajai Davis tied for second in the AL in steals with 17 despite not getting full-time work until recently. Mike Maddux gets a lot of credit as a pitching coach, but maybe it's time Dwayne Murphy got some credit, too. The Jays aren't just a good fantasy lineup, but have the fourth most runs scored in MLB behind only the Rangers, Red Sox and Cardinals. And he presided over the breakouts of other teams' castoffs like Bautista and Encarnacion. (Of course, Travis Snider and Adam Lind haven't fared quite as well).

I also own Aroldis Chapman in that league and thought he seriously might have been worth a second-round pick by season's end given his huge K-rate in a low-innings cap league along with everything else. Now that that fantasy's been dispelled, what's your prognosis for him going forward? Is this just a two-week glitch through which all elite closers go and likely to right itself naturally, or is he in trouble or even going to wind up on the DL with some heretofore undisclosed injury? Speaking of Reds, what do you make of Joey Votto (11.26 OPS, 4.8 WAR) being far and away the most valuable real-life hitter in baseball right now? Votto's hitting a ton of line drives (32.1% leads the majors), but is 107th out of 164 qualifying players in fly-ball percentage. He's probably a 30 homer player, and he's not going to run much, so his fantasy ceiling seems to be capped, especially with the Reds just 15th in runs scored, despite having him in the lineup, i.e., he's not getting as many counting stats (runs, RBI) as he deserves. Still 30-110-110-.340 with a handful of steals pays the bills even with a top-five pick. Who would you pick ahead of him right now in a rest-of-season draft?

-----Original Message-----
From: jeff@rotowire.com
Sent: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 3:06pm
To: "Christopher Liss"
Subject: RE: Charging


Glad to have you back. My golf trip was up in that area last summer - fantastic place, very pretty up there. I can relate to how difficult it can be to keep up with your teams when you're traveling, especially when you're supposed to be paying attention to your family or the activities that sent you on the vacation in the first place. Everyone that plays fantasy leagues needs to deal with the balance of real life and their teams, more so when you have a ton of teams.

I've got a 10-day family trip up to Chicago next month, and I'm already trying to figure out how I'm going to make it work. Obviously, the late nights will be catch-up time, but so much of the following of my players is predicated on watching games, highlights, etc ... This is where the "too many teams" problem is really an issue. It'll be just before the trade deadline, too, meaning there's going to be a handful of callups and trades that I won't be right on top of.

I agree with you that baseball is the better fantasy game, at least if you're immersed into it. Football is more accessible, for the reasons you mentioned. Do you feel the same way about the sport as a fan as you do about the fantasy game? Which means more to you - a Yankees World Series or a Giants Super Bowl victory? Have I asked this before? I'm getting a strange sense of deja vu here. Anyhow, I'd choose a Reds World Series victory over a Bengals Super Bowl, and not just because the latter seems so implausible.

Originally I was skeptical about Dickey, so it seems strange now to say that I'm a believer. Straight up, I'd rather have him than Lincecum the rest of the way. It's the other half of that trade offer that would prompt me to decline it if I were in Romig's shoes. I'd rather have Plouffe over Furcal the rest of the way, and not just because of Furcal's injury history. They do different things, so it's possible that Matt could use the stolen bases more than the power. But Plouffe has multiple positions and I think he hits another 10-15 homers the rest of the way.

As far as the Blue Jays go, prior to their epidemic-level of pitcher attrition, I'd have put them up there with any team in the NL and probably only worse than the Yankees, Rangers and Angels. What I would have really liked to see with the Astros moving over to the AL next year is to do away with the divisional format, and instead just take the five best teams from each league to make the playoffs, if MLB is so hung up on having a play-in game for the final playoff spot. Why should the Jays get punished or the Tigers/Indians/White Sox rewarded by geography? Let's get the best teams in the playoffs, period. Dwayne Murphy does get credit in some circles, but I think it's the nature of the position that he doesn't have the same notoriety of the elite pitching coaches. How many current hitting coaches can you name? How many hitting coaches period? Going back in time, Charlie Lau was one of the few that reached "star" status - there's plenty more pitching gurus that reached that status.

We talked about Chapman on the show, and the more I think about it, I don't think it's an injury issue, at least not primarily. He threw his slider for strikes yesterday against the Brewers, after initially being a little wild. I really think that when gets out of line with his command, it gets in his head and becomes a confidence issue - sort of "where is this pitch going to go?" when he throws it. That's why you saw such an exuberant celebration last night with the two somersaults after he finished off the save - it was more relief than anything else. Chapman is still developing as a pitcher - when he's got his "A" stuff and command, he's untouchable. But he doesn't have a "B" game - it drops right down to a "D" game. And major league hitters can tune up a straight fastball when they're ahead in the count and know what's coming. But I think this was a glitch, and not something enduring. But I also think it'll happen again later this season. Pitchers get out of whack - that's what they do, and someone like Chapman I'd imagine his mechanics are even more susceptible to falling off here-and-there.

I'm working on a set of midseason rankings right now. I'd put Carlos Gonzalez and Ryan Braun ahead of Votto, and I'd have to give a lot of thought to Miguel Cabrera. I don't think I'd rank Albert Pujols ahead of him, though it's pretty close. Josh Hamilton also merits a thought - I think his injury-history is pronounced enough though that I'd still put Votto ahead of him.

I took a look out our in-season real dollar values to get an idea of where Votto's numbers stack up right now. He's currently sixth - behind Hamilton, CarGo, Braun, Carlos Beltran and Andrew McCutchen. Joining him in the top 10 are Melky Cabrera, Adam Jones, David Ortiz and David Wright. Of those, which are the least likely to end there? Are you a believer in Melky? How early do you take him in F&F next year? It's worth noting that early season busts Robinson Cano and Giancarlo have climbed their way into the top 20. Of the other early season disappointments, who else climbs up the ranks in the second half?

-----Original Message-----
From: "Christopher Liss"
Sent: Wednesday, June 27, 2012 7:57pm
To: "Jeff Erickson"
Subject: Re: Charging


Even though I think fantasy baseball is a better game than fantasy football, I prefer the actual NFL to MLB by a fairly decisive margin. And I'd much rather see the Giants win another Super Bowl than the Yankees win another World Series. For starters, the Yankees payroll advantage makes it far less exciting to root for them. You'd think the big market teams' fans have it great, but rooting for Goliath is never that enjoyable unless they go on a run like they did in the late '90s. That's kind of the bar they have to clear for me to feel good about them. Home-grown prospects, four titles in five years - that was pretty good. But now it's just a matter of when they're going to lose in the playoffs or whether they'll hit the 1 in 8 crap shoot of getting through three short series. Of course, with Michael Pineda out for the year and Andy Pettitte out for a while, they better get CC Sabathia back after a minimum DL stint that has the benefit of spanning the All-Star break. But expect Matt Garza or Ryan Dempster (if healthy) or Zack Greinke or whomever to be in the rotation before long.

It looks like the buy-low window on Lincecum just closed. Actually, I'm not sure how much it was ever open as the owners in my leagues didn't seem to want to sell him at a serious discount.

As for the top-10, obviously Melky Cabrera - and to a lesser extent David Ortiz - stick out like sore thumbs. I believe in Cabrera as a useful fantasy player, but he's a mid-round (not top-5 rounds) in my opinion. As long as Beltran stays healthy, I don't see any reason he won't hit 35-40 HR with associated counting numbers and a .290-.300 average. I think Cano will be in the top-10 by season's end if he's not there already, and Bautista is already at 25 HR and could eclipse his career-high of 54 he set. All he needs to do is hit .275 in the second half, and he'll be top-10-ish. Barring a drop-off, Encarnacion is going to be in that range, too.

By the way - anyone remember Matt Kemp's April? That seems like years ago.

-----Original Message-----
From: jeff@rotowire.com
Sent: Thursday, June 28, 2012 1:39am
To: "Christopher Liss"
Subject: Re: Charging


Yeah, I agree that the Yankees' ability to buy their way out of any problem, though it seems as if they have at least partially been concerned about avoiding the new, more severe luxury tax. Still, you're right, they're going to be trading for a pitcher, despite initial denials from Yankees' management. Their in-house options don't appear to be too appealing. Freddy Garcia is pretty well played out at this point, right? Adam Warren is starting Friday, and he has a 1.463 WHIP. Manny Banuelos is hurt, and Dellin Betances has been junk. They just added John Maine to their Triple-A squad - I can't see that ending well. A trade has to be coming. But what are they going to deal to get a pitcher that will actually help? They've refrained from making those trades in the past couple of years - is the quality of pitcher available worth it this year? Which one would you want?

I'm stubborn, I guess, because I still am not really that interested in pursuing Lincecum. The Dodgers' lineup is junk right now, and got worse today with Andre Ethier's injury. Yeah, a good pitcher has to dominate bad lineups and all, but I'm still skeptical that he's all the way back. By the way, I'm not the first to promote this, but check out John D'Acquisto's article about Lincecum's mechanics, it's pretty enlightening.

I guess that the Man in White wasn't the reason why Bautista went nuts after all, eh? Or maybe he's changed suits and found a new method of signaling. Either way, it's fun to see him do this again. There were still those that doubted him heading into this season, at least said that they wouldn't draft him in the top 20. I don't think that's going to be the case next season.