Sometimes the best thoughts are random - no set agenda, no pre-formatted content requirements, and no restrictions. That's where this edition of the Notebook is headed. The following is a collection of interpretations, notable surprises, discouraging outcomes, and a few oracle-like predictions for the future. As always, the focus is on pitching, but beyond that, there really is no focus. I invite all regular readers to list their own thoughts in the comments section. Come on, what has this season meant to you? The Notebook forum is now open for business. Always remember, knowing what a guy has done is not nearly as useful as knowing what he is likely to do going forward:
Radar O'Reilly's MASH Fantasy Baseball Coming in 2013:
I admit it, at some point in almost every fantasy baseball season, dating back about 25 years for me, I have probably muttered the words, "this is the worst season for injuries I have ever seen." That said, this season likely qualifies as the true holder of that title. It's been so bad - and not just for my teams - that I have thought about building a fantasy format that is based on injury, not performance. Still in its foggy formative stages, here are some possible roto format pitching categories:
- Do You Have an Appointment - One point for each actual visit to Dr. James Andrews or Dr. Lewis Yocum. Let's face it, a visit to the good doctor almost always turns into a few months or even a year off for your rotation ace. - Lost Days - This is a no-brainer. Collect a point for each day a pitcher on your roster is on the disabled list. The savvy manager can probably parlay this category into hundreds, if not thousands of points. - Timing is Everything - Going on the disabled list is bad enough, but having it announced only hours (let's say four or less) after your weekly lineup locks in is a paramount frustration. A point for every late DL announcement. - Talk is Cheap - Your pitcher's manager or front office execs can help you too. If a lengthy DL stint is immediately (24 hours or less) proceeded by a comment that goes something like this, "It's not a big deal, he should be good to go for his next start." you score a point. - Diversify Your Portfolio - The same old injuries are boring. What challenge is there to predicting your guy will have another shoulder injury when he's had a dozen of them over the past five year? In our system, you actually get a point for each unique and different malady - lose time with injuries to an elbow, shoulder, oblique, knee, ankle, neck, hamstring, and groin, and score big!
Those are a few of the potential categories. Given that scoring system, which pitcher(s) would you put at the top of your draft day cheat sheet?
You're Breaking My Heart, You're Tearing it Apart:
Every year your come out of your draft with a player or two you are certain will be a big contributor to your squad's title run. Five months later, you look over your draft day roster, and realize a couple of your big scores, turned out to be major malfunctions. Here are a handful of pitchers that fall into that category for yours truly:
Dustin McGowan: I watched a few innings of his September 2011 return to the major leagues, and it was encouraging. Then the Blue Jays signed him to a contract extension. They wouldn't do that unless they were sure he was healthy - right? I loved the guy before all the shoulder woes, but now he is probably a high pick in the MASH league. However, if he gets close I'll probably be tempted again.
Tim Lincecum: I owned him in my 15-team home keeper for the maximum five years. I couldn't afford to buy him back this year, but I would have liked to. The "Freak" has been an anomaly this season. Up and down on the radar gun, command of the strike zone that comes and goes, sometimes from inning to inning, and a disastrous ERA. I firmly believe he will work through the mechanical issues that appear to be virtually the entire problem, and be back - some day.
Yu Darvish: Bullish would be an understatement in describing my expectations for the most celebrated arm to arrive from the Pacific Rim in many years. In Japan, hitters are more prone to swing at pitches out of the strike zone - not too unlike the minor leagues here in the United States. Darvish has found that he is now facing hitters who will wait, but I believe he will also soon discover that his stuff is good enough to get those hitters out, even when he is in the strike zone. Hopefully 2012 will reduce his 2013 draft price. I'll have a few dollars reserved for just that possibility.
Luke Hochevar: Virtually every fantasy owner has at least a player or two they are sure will get it all together - and that it will happen this year. I have watched Hochevar since he arrived, and I still see glimpses of why he was the number one pick overall a few years ago. In 2011, when I had pretty much written him off, he teased us all again. But, that's all it ever is for him, a tease. He might find the path to enlightenment at some point, but I have taken the cure, Luke, no more for me.
Liam Hendriks: Every season I get enamored with some young pitcher who doesn't have great stuff and is flying well under the radar, but shows some intangibles like mound presence or even tenacity, that makes me think he can succeed. Many times these guys turn into a huge steal for me, but I was counting on Hendriks maintaining his pinpoint command, and it didn't happen. I still think he can be a serviceable back of the rotation starter, but he has to spot his pitches.
Drew Storen: It has been something of a lost season for Storen who began the year on the disabled list. The script was playing out well early on - Henry Rodriguez was filling in with moderate success, and Storen was due back in May. May drug into June, then July, and Oh Henry lost the plate with even more regularity leading to the installation of Tyler Clippard in the closer's role. The Nats are winning, so it's difficult to change the team chemistry. This scenario will require patience.
Turn on the Lights, and Scream - Surprise!
Like the 2012 disappointments, there are also a few pitchers who made quite a splash with rapidly developing fan clubs, and escalating expectations for the future. There are a lot of reasons some pitchers provide unexpected success, but sometimes you can review what lead to their performance, and apply it to others coming into the pipeline. Here are a few of the bigger surprises in baseball from the current season:
Michael Fiers: It's not so surprising that he has enjoyed some success at the major league level, what is surprising is how long it lasted. I'll use Fiers to illustrate something I have found to be very consistent in my years of scouting pitchers. Here is a formula for initial success. Throw strikes, and have a funky delivery. Think Josh Collmenter. Guys like this generally start off well, but then the hitters figure out how to pick up their rather pedestrian stuff, and the halo tarnishes, sometimes very dramatically. His last couple of starts could be warning signs that the honeymoon may soon be over.
Johnny Cueto: I don't know where to start with Cueto. I have always seen him as a very talented arm with solid upside, but never anything like this. He has improved every aspect of his game - more movement, more effective sequencing, better command, exceptional mound demeanor, and confidence in his full repertoire. There is no question he always had the stuff to be a very good starting pitcher, but this version of Cueto would get my vote for the National League Cy Young if they voted today. His evolution into a true ace has been nothing short of incredible.
Chris Capuano: I frequently touted him as a very intriguing sleeper heading into this year's draft, but I have to admit, I didn't really see this level of success on the horizon. I grew up watching guys like Koufax, Drysdale, and Osteen win playing in front of one of the worst offenses in baseball. I am pretty much convinced that Chavez Ravine imbues some magical power that makes throwing a baseball a charmed ability. He has stayed healthy - the first priority - and he is throwing quality strikes. The durability questions may always haunt him, but he is probably worth the risk.
Matt Moore: He got off to a rocky start to the season, and there were quite a few fantasy owners who were ready to jump ship - there was even an owner in one of my leagues who sent him to me for pennies on the dollar. It might be a bit surprising to see him listed in the surprise section, but I always like to comment when I see clues that suggest much better is just around the corner. His last few outings are doing that. He still needs to trust his stuff more, and he needs to throw more strikes to keep the pitch counts down and allow him to get deeper into games, but it is coming together. If you want him at any sort of discount, the clock is ticking.
Nathan Eovaldi: His 2012 numbers aren't eye-popping by any means, especially his somewhat inflated WHIP, but he makes the list anyway. The reason he gets included is his rather surprising success at this point in his development. I love his arm, but I really expected him to get spanked regularly based on his still sub-standard secondary stuff. His secondary pitches are not major league ready, but he still manages to get people out with some consistency. That bodes well for his future, even if he has left Dodger Stadium, He is still in a pitcher's paradise, and his performance should improve with further development. It's tough learning on the job, just ask Rick Porcello, but there are a lot of reasons to anticipate better things ahead.
Fernando Rodney: The guy has always had a great arm. He was the prototypical thrower who would just reach back and throw even harder when things got sticky. That blazing fastball straightened out, came up in the zone, and often landed in the seats. It's always hard to say what clicked when a pitcher sees the light. In his case, I am very tempted to credit someone in the Rays organization - they certainly have a way with pitchers - but if he remembers the lesson, and continues to pitch rather than throw, he could enjoy considerable long term success.
There you have mine, who has disappointed/surprised you this year?
Next week: See You in September! I'll see if I can uncover a couple of September gems who are likely to arrive in the major leagues - and perhaps help you down the stretch.
I would like to remind readers to check back often as each week's Notebook will feature updates in the comments section on evolving mound situations. And, as always, keep in mind this is an interactive forum, so your comments are always appreciated. I will respond to any comments or questions as soon as possible. Thanks.
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