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Charging the Mound: What to Make of a Diminished Thing (With Video)

Chris Liss

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

Jeff Erickson

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

-----Original Message-----
From: "Christopher Liss"
Sent: Tuesday, April 2, 2013 11:46pm
To: "Jeff Erickson"
Subject: Charging

Opening Day has come and gone, and while the sample is laughably small, it sure feels like some questions have been answered over the last two days, even if it's not necessarily the case. For example, if you took C.C. Sabathia over Yu Darvish*, you probably want to defenestrate, and if you gambled on Carlos Marmol, you're just happy the HBP didn't count against your WHIP and are ready to move on. It sure seems like Jeff Samardzija was worth the $14 I paid for him in LABR, and Chris Sale, Madison Bumgarner and Johnny Cueto were better investments than R.A. Dickey and Adam Wainwright. But we know that no outcome from the last two days was outside the normal range (except for Darvish's - though he was facing a Triple-A team), and a good or bad first start is only 1/35th of a good or bad season. Even Marmol, at least at this moment, still has the closer job and could conceivably save 40 games - even if no one on earth would bet on it.

So setting aside the emotion of the moment - what has changed other than Ryan Ludwick being out at least half the season and Billy Hamilton being one step closer to a major-league call-up?

* Mercifully, I took him one pick after Darvish in Yahoo Friends & Family.

From: Jeff Erickson
Subject: Re: Charging
Date: April 3, 2013 9:09 PM PDT
To: Christopher Liss

Extremely little has changed. You want your guys to get off to good starts, obviously, beyond just not getting hurt. It sure looks like Troy Tulowitzki is fully healthy now, and so is Chase Utley, but in both cases the emphasis is on the word now. The open question is whether they can withstand the grind of a long season. But isn't that the case with everyone? There are some instances of a player being injury-prone, but I think that the greater likelihood is that there are frequently players playing with a present, lingering injury. Otherwise, the concept of durability or lack of durability as a trait is overstated.

We all knew that the Astros and Marlins would have difficulty hitting, and certainly failing to score against Yu Darvish, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez and even Alexi Ogando isn't surprising. But as I said on Twitter, we're all going to have to line up early to stream against the Astros, much like you'd book a reservation at a nice restaurant. The difference between the two is that the Marlins' collection of Judy's (as Greg Ambrosius likes to call them) at least make contact, whereas the Astros are a treasure trove of strikeouts to be mined. In the Friends & Family league, where we have daily moves, Dan Straily was long gone by Tuesday night for Friday's start against them, so I went ahead and picked up Bartolo Colon for Saturday's start.
Certainly Colon doesn't fall anywhere near in class to Darvish or even Ogando, but Matt Harrison in a losing effort on Sunday night notched a career-high nine K's.

April is a fantastic month to stream. I understand there's a gap between what we think a team is like versus how they really play, but man, how can you avoid going after teams like the Astros, Marlins, Twins, Cubs, and, dare I say it, the stripped-down Yankees right now? The hitters tend to improve collectively as the weather heats up, and in the case of the Yankees, they'll likely get some regulars back in the lineup and improve accordingly. The risk is the pitchers you stream won't go as deep into games and miss out on wins, but the tradeoff is worth it.

One thing I'm going to be watching very carefully is the velocity of C.C. Sabathia and Roy Halladay in their next starts. Is this a carryover of a dead-arm period for each, or is this it? I haven't had a chance to watch the highlights of Halladay's start or check out all the numbers on him, but what do you make out of his line tonight? The five runs (including two homers) and nine baserunners in 3.1 innings are pretty ugly, but he also struck out nine somehow. And how about Tim Lincecum? As I type, he's walked seven guys over five innings and thrown only half of his 92 pitches for strikes. That's not a good formula, obviously.

I'd blame you talking me into Halladay in NL LABR, but I also previously took the plunge on him in my Ottoneu Experts League on Fangraphs, so shame on me. But I don't have any shares of Sabathia or Lincecum - we know you're all over Sabathia, but what about Timmy? What happens to him this year? That was a purposeful omission in my portfolio.

I'll finish off with closers. Who finishes with more saves? John Axford, Jim Henderson or a reliever to be named later in the Brewers' bullpen? Who ends up with the most saves in the Tigers' bullpen? Or do they go outside the organization?

-----Original Message-----
From: "Christopher Liss"
Sent: Thursday, April 4, 2013 2:22am
Subject: Re: Charging

I'll take the field in Milwaukee, and I'd bet on Dotel in Detroit, though I don't feel strongly about it. I'd also take the field in Toronto over Janssen or Santos. But besides Carlos Marmol - who somehow still has the job and - who knows - could right the ship for half a season, I agree the big stories are really Sabathia, Halladay and Lincecum this week.

For the record I told you to take Halladay before the reports of his poor velocity in spring training. Notice I didn't get too high on the bidding in NL Tout once the info was out. But I still think it could work out. He claimed after Wednesday's game that his arm felt great, and he touched 92 with his fastball at times. He left it up in the zone, and the Braves crushed it. Maybe that's because he's lost the late movement, and it's odd to see Halladay struggle with his command as he's been ostensibly healthy for a while now. But he's one of the smartest and most dedicated pitchers in the game, so I wouldn't put it past him to adapt even if his stuff is permanently diminished - which it might not be. But if we were to re-do the NL Tout Wars auction again, he'd probably go for $11 rather than $15 and nowhere near the $20 you paid for him in LABR.

Sabathia I'm less worried about. He gave up seven singles and a double against the Red Sox and struck out five in five innings. He said he felt fine and expects the velocity to pick up as the season goes on. He's also had some slow starts before and snapped out of it. Finally, his surgery was just to remove a bone spur - nothing to do with the elbow ligaments or the shoulder. Is it possible his enormous workload has finally caught up to him, and his arm doesn't have its old life? I suppose, but take a look at his numbers from last year - 197:44 K:BB ratio in 200 IP and 22 homers allowed despite pitching in Yankee Stadium.

Lincecum is an odd case. I was watching some of the game tonight, and Vin Scully said Lincecum reportedly hits all his spots in the bullpen before the game, but somehow gets wild when he's out on the mound. His velocity was down last year, too, so maybe he doesn't think he can get hitters out when he throws strikes (and last year bore that out with all the homers he gave up). Bottom line, I might even take Halladay over him.

The other interesting pitching development was Ubaldo Jimenez shutting down the Jays at the Rogers Center. Jimenez was reportedly clocked at 95 mph during the start, and if that's the case, he becomes viable again, especially in Jacobs Field.

It's awfully hard to trade early in the year, but I'd move Darvish right now if I could. I don't doubt he'll have an excellent year, but if I could get Adam Wainwright and a good hitter, I'd pull the trigger.

I agree Chase Utley and Troy Tulowitzki look pretty good now. I'd tentatively add Carl Crawford to that list, too.

From: Jeff Erickson
Subject: Re: Charging
Date: April 4, 2013 3:28:24 PM PDT
To: Christopher Liss

Man, the more I read about Halladay, the worse it looks. Thanks to some excellent reporting by Matt Gelb in the Philadelphia Inquirer, it looks less likely than before that Halladay is going to bounce back.

For starters, he threw far fewer fastballs in Wednesday's start than he ever used to, and with less velocity than even last season. Further, Gelb demonstrated that Halladay's Opening Day velocity in previous years tracked with his velocity the rest of the season. Yeah, if you're an opponent of mine in NL LABR or the Ottoneu league, offer me 50 cents on the dollar for Halladay.

Jose Valverde just signed a minor league deal with the Tigers. Does he close eventually? Are you willing to stash him on your bench for a month to find out? How much of your FAAB budget are you willing to spend? Would you rather have Jim Henderson or Jose Valverde if you have to decide today?

I'll say this - my lower-velocity tolerance window got shorter, not longer, after this discussion and the subsequent information upon which I've stumbled.