Monthly Archives: July 2010
This will be the first of a two-part series where I’ll go through and explain my thought process behind trades and non-trades. I figured with the major league baseball trade deadline being today and fantasy deadlines fast approaching, this would be as good a time as any for this type of analysis.
As a fantasy owner, you should always be on the look out for a deal that will improve your team. Don’t ever tell yourself you’re set with your team, because it can always be improved. If another owner is desperate for some pitching and you’ve got a surplus, it’s possible you can extract more value from the other owner than you give up. Don’t make a trade just for trading’s sake, but be constantly aware of other owner’s rosters and needs. It’ll give you a step up in negotiations if you’re familiar with that.
I’ve made only four trades this season, so Part 1 is going to be considerably shorter than Part 2. Rarely do I complete a first offer trade, and three of these deals took considerable work and bargaining to make them happen.
April 28: Traded SP Barry Zito for 1B Todd Helton
Barry Zito got off to a fantastic start for me, going 3-0 in four starts with four quality starts. I traded him after his 8-inning, 10 strikeout performance against the Cardinals. I had drafted Zito very late in the draft (18th round) and envisioned him as more of a back end of the rotation kind of guy, rather than the ace he pitched like for the season’s first month. So I sold high.
I didn’t bring back a great return, only getting the shell of Todd Helton, but I knew another owner was interested in Todd Helton, so I made a better offer than him, with my sights set on flipping Helton to him for a player I had interest in.
I’d rate this trade as a PUSH for me and a win for my partner. Zito has provided his new owner with about league average performance, going 4-6 with about a 4.30 ERA and a 1.40 WHIP. Certainly not awful numbers, but more along the lines of what I had expected him to be, rather than the 1.53 ERA and 0.88 WHIP I got out of him in April. Helton didn’t start one game for me, but served as an important piece in my next trade.
May 8: Traded 1B Todd Helton, OF Ryan Sweeney and SP Chris Volstad for OF Denard Span and RP Tyler Clippard
Just over a week later, I agreed to trade Helton in a package to the owner that originally wanted him. My original team possessed only one stolen base threat in Nyjer Morgan, who got off to a pathetically slow start (pun intended). By adding Span I began building a more well-rounded team.
With Adrian Gonzalez, Nick Swisher and Gaby Sanchez, I had no room for Todd Helton and selling him off made perfect sense, as I would have dropped him otherwise. Getting value for a player that has no value to your team is always the smart move. If you’re planning on dropping a player, trying to get some value for him is smart. Making a 1-for-1 deal with that player rarely works, but the success rate goes up if you expand a deal and include him as a piece in a package, as I did.
Helton was expendable for me, so what I had to gamble on was if Span could replace Ryan Sweeney’s production in the outfield for me, and if I could find another starter on the waiver wire. Sweeney hit .306 with 1 home run and 25 RBIs for me before the trade, and hit .275 with no homers and 11 RBI after the trade, before landing on the DL with a season-ending knee injury.
I picked up Washington starter Scott Olsen to replace Volstad which has more or less been a wash. Volstad has spent the time since the trade shuttling back and forth between the majors and minors while Olsen has spent a majority of the time on the DL.
I’d rate this trade as a definite WIN for me and a LOSS for my trade partner. Span has been a good fit for me, and he’s been better after the trade than he was before. Nothing special, but a solid contributor in all stat categories. I got decent contributions from Clippard—3 wins, a save and decent ERA, WHIP and strikeout totals—before I replaced him with a starting pitcher.
As for what I gave up, Helton and Sweeney are both currently on the DL, with Sweeney out for the season. Volstad has had some decent starts since I traded him, but I haven’t had a day where I wished I had him back.
June 2: Traded 1B Adrian Gonzalez and 2B/3B Alberto Callaspo for 2B/SS/OF Ben Zobrist and RP Neftali Feliz
The manager I teamed up with here had just lost slugging 1B Kendry Morales for the season in that freak celebration injury. With my surplus of 1B I was open to trading any of them. I led with an offer centered around Nick Swisher, but he wanted the moon. So I figured I’d just go ahead and give it to him, so long as I got a decent planet or two back for it.
We moved to Adrian Gonzalez and none of his players was worth Gonzalez one-for-one straight up, so we worked to expand the deal.
In my mind, I felt I could take the hit in home runs that Gonzalez provided if I could get back a guy that matched his average and OBP, while upgraded my runs and stolen bases. I began targeting Ben Zobrist, who fit my description of what I wanted, and provided it all with incredible positional versatility. I’m able to slot him in at second, short and in the outfield, which allows me to play matchups on a daily basis.
While trying to figure out another piece to bring back in this trade, I focused on his surplus of relief pitchers. Sure, I already had two closers, but neither Ryan Franklin or David Aardsma were seeing very many save opportunities. Franklin because the Cardinals were winning big and Aardsma because the Mariners weren’t winning at all. So I ended up with Feliz, who has been incredible this season as Texas’ closer.
From my side of things, Zobrist would be replacing Callaspo and Nick Swisher would take Gonzalez’s place. My surplus of outfielders was due in part to me having to use Swisher in the outfield with Gonzalez at first. Moving Gonzalez enabled me to shift Swisher to first and cleared up the logjam in my outfield. Feliz would replace anybody, I’d just add his power arm to my stable of pitchers.
This is a pretty good example of a WIN-WIN trade. Both sides got what they were looking for and improved their teams. I was happy with this deal, and still am today. I’ve missed the home runs and RBI from Gonzalez, but Swisher has been excellent and Gaby Sanchez’s emergence as a quality hitter has softened that blow. And Feliz has carried my saves since the trade.
July 8: Traded SP Matt Garza for 2B Dan Uggla
After the Gonzalez trade, I thought I was done dealing, but as I mentioned at the top of this post, I’m always open to dealing whenever it improves my team. During Week 14 I was matched against an opponent who was stacked offensively, but needed some pitching help. Well, I had pitching and decided to move.
He had two excellent second basemen in Dan Uggla and Brandon Phillips and I targeted Uggla and his consistent power. At the time I had six starting pitchers and knew trading one away would put me in a numbers crunch when I went up against teams that had eight or nine starters. But like how I felt trading Zito and Volstad, I felt Uggla plus a replacement pitcher was worth more than Garza alone.
So I offered my lowest rated pitcher for Dan Uggla and was pleasantly surprised when it was accepted immediately. No arguing over value, no haggling for more players. It was a sweet and easy deal that came together very quickly. I ended up replacing Garza with Jake Westbrook and also scooped up Arizona’s Barry Enright. I also have Scott Olsen coming back from the DL and can activate him if he looks good.
Another WIN-WIN deal. Uggla has been a monster for me offensively, hitting six home runs, scoring 14 runs and driving in 15 over the 18 games I’ve had him. And as you may have heard, Matt Garza threw a no-hitter for the Rays in his second start after this trade. Both teams dealt from positions of strength to improve a weaker part of the team.
Look for Part 2: Fantasy Trades That Weren’t some time in the next few days.
It’s become a rite of summer. If a major league team has an available player at the trade deadline, he’ll be connected to the Yankees somehow, whether he makes sense for New York or not.
So it comes as no surprise that the Yankees have been connected to just about every available player at this year’s trade deadline. They’ve made known offers for Cliff Lee and Dan Haren and have made inquiries about several other players they view as upgrades. One player that hasn’t been overwhelmingly rumored to be a Yankee target is Washington first baseman Adam Dunn. Aside from a few Buster Olney tweets, Dunn-to-New York rumors have been nearly nonexistent.
Dunn is in the last year of a two-year contract and will be a free agent at year’s end. The Nationals have expressed interest in resigning the prodigious slugger, but with less than three days before the trade deadline, they’ve yet to offer him an extension.
With each day, it looks less and less likely that the Nationals and Dunn will eventually come to terms on an extension. Because of this supposed impasse, it makes sense for Washington to get player value for him now rather than lose him for nothing but draft picks in the offseason.
Dunn’s bat would obviously play well in any Major League lineup, but the Yankees have the opening and opportunity to acquire the perennial 40-homer Dunn.
For all intents and purposes, Nick Johnson is gone for the season. In his absence, the Yankees have been using a combination of Juan Miranda and Marcus Thames in the DH spot, occasionally giving their regulars a half-day as the designated hitter.
Thames and Miranda are better suited as bench players at this point in their respective careers, and using Alex Rodriguez or Jorge Posada in the DH role means that Ramiro Pena and Francisco Cervelli are getting more at bats than they should.
Acquiring Adam Dunn would make the league’s best offense even more formidable and give the lineup a more consistent look. He’s hit 40 home runs in four of the past five seasons, and hasn’t hit less than 38 since 2003. He consistently posts high on-base percentages, and when kept out of the field, he becomes even more valuable to his team.
I’m not overly familiar with the Nationals farm system, so I can’t accurately assume what type of package they’d want in return for Dunn. Washington GM Mike Rizzo has said that it would take an overwhelming offer to pry Dunn away, but that was before his team fell 15 games back in the National League East.
The Yankees certainly have the pieces to make a deal for Dunn, and GM Brian Cashman has shown a willingness to include just about any prospect in the right deal. Dunn isn’t the type of player that would require the Yankees to part ways with uber-prospect Jesus Montero or even his second-fiddle Austin Romine.
The Yankees have a stable full of low-ceiling, high-probability arms sitting in Triple-A and Double-A and could start their offer with a pitcher along the lines of Ivan Nova, Zach McAllister or Hector Noesi.
The Yankees could continue to build a package around one of those pitchers by adding a hitter like someone along the lines of SS Eduardo Nunez (AAA) 3B Brandon Laird (AA) or 2B David Adams (AA), all of whom are enjoying nice seasons for their respective teams.
A package with one of those pitchers, one of those hitters and maybe another low-level prospect or two would be comparable to what Dunn was traded for the last time he found himself on the block.
Many Yankee fans find themselves overly attached to prospects within the farm system, but part of a prospect’s value is that he can be used to acquire a player that more readily impacts the major league team.
The Yankees have done a good job in the past five years developing depth at multiple positions so that they can deal for a player like Adam Dunn and not completely decimate the farm system.
Do the Yankees need Adam Dunn? Almost certainly not—they have the majors’ highest scoring offense, and that has carried them to the major’s best record over the first four months.
But adding a bat of Dunn’s caliber to an already potent lineup would undoubtedly add some serious pop and would limit the number of plate appearances that inferior hitters would otherwise see.
After consecutive narrow victories over two of the league’s elite teams, my schedule lightened up a good bit for Week 16, matching me up against the league’s third worst club. My team had a very solid all-around week and nearly pulled off a clean 12-0 sweep. When the week ended, I was a little short on batting average and on-base percentage and settled for a 10-1-1 win.
Big week all around for my offense, production-wise. I lost batting average and tied OBP as I had four guys hit .214 or lower, but cruised elsewhere. Six guys drove in five or more runs for me and five scored at least four runs. I easily won runs and more than doubled my opponent in RBI (38 to 16). Swisher, Posada, Guillen and Zobrist all homered once while my two Marlins, Uggla and Sanchez each went deep twice. Nyjer Morgan finally had a week to write about, hitting .320 with two runs, six RBI and four stolen bases. Denard Span swiped two bases while Sanchez and Keppinger each stole one.
Because I carry a starting pitcher or two less than most teams, every once and a while I’ll hit a week where my opponent has several starters making two starts and I don’t. This was one of those weeks as my opponent’s starters made thirteen starts and my starters made seven.
Despite the numerical disadvantage, I swept all six pitching categories. I took wins when Ryan Franklin picked up a win in relief during the Sunday Night Baseball game and won quality starts when Barry Enright recorded one for me and Jesse Litsch failed to do so for my opponent. Six of my seven starts resulted in quality starts, but as has become all to common, only two of them resulted in wins. Felix Hernandez and Adam Wainwright combined for fourteen innings of scoreless baseball and neither received a win. Josh Johnsonstruck out 11 in 6.1 shutout innings and was denied a victory. Neftali Feliz saved four games during the week and Franklin and Aardsma each picked up a save apiece.
Transaction-wise I had a fairly busy week. I did not activate Mitre for his Saturday start and was very glad after he allowed seven runs in five innings. I dropped him even before Joe Girardi announced he would be moving back to the bullpen. I decided that I needed another starter, especially with my eyes set on the playoffs and picked up Arizona’s Barry Enright. To make room for him I dropped Ronny Paulino, and will roll with only Posada to fill my catcher’s spot – I’ll simply punt the catcher spot on the days Posada gets off and hope he stays healthy the rest of the season. I dropped Wilson Betemit for Jayson Nix but changed my mind before Nix was able to play one game for me.
Noticing increasing rumors about Pittsburgh trading their closer Octavio Dotel, I picked up Joel Hanrahan. I know last week I said that my middle reliever experiment was over, but I view Hanrahan as a closer candidate who’s completely expendable should he blow up.
My 10-1-1 week moved my record to 128-52-12 and kept me comfortably in first place. It was also my sixth winning week in a row, my longest of the season. Up next for me is JesusMo&JoeDiMaggio, whose 65-106-21 record is good for 18th place overall. But they’re coming off a 10-2 win and are starting to see some of their players turn around.
Last week I had the privilege to serve as a counselor and chaperone for our church’s middle school camp/mission trip. We gathered together at Mercer College in Macon, Georgia with 18 other churches from as far away as Virginia, Texas and Florida for a week of camp and missions work at Passport. While Passport allows youth groups to bring kids from 6th grade through 12th grade, our church uses the trip as one for our younger youth, and our oldest camper had completed 9th grade. We were the largest of 19 churches, with 26 girls and 20 boys.
Having been to camp and having gone on mission trips during my time in youth group, Passport was a new experience for me in the fact that it combined the two aspects together into one week. Mornings and days were spent in bible study, worship and out in the mission fields while afternoons and evenings were spent playing, dancing and messing around. I understand our youth minister’s reasoning for using this week as one for younger youth, as Passport introduces middle school aged youth to missions work without completely overwhelming them with an eight-hour missions work day. It gave them a taste of missions work while incorporating the camp aspect into the week as well.
In the morning we’d eat breakfast then meet for morning worship and bible study. Around eleven we’d ship out around Macon to our individual worksites and take lunch sometime during the afternoon mission work. We headed back for the campus at two and the kids had free time during which they could go to the school store, work in a computer lab (check facebook), hit the gym or just hang out and catch up on some rest. After dinner we’d have evening worship and then some sort of organized party or event afterwards.
Monday was a 60s-themed dance and Tuesday was a Toe-Jam party in which the object of the evening was to get as dirty as humanly possible. I ran a slip n slide that coated campers in baby oil and shampoo. Wednesday had no organized activity and churches were allowed to entertain themselves. We took in a movie and then spent the evening at a local park by a lake. Thursday was the camper Variety Show in which kids showcased their talent of lack thereof. There were some pretty impressive acts, but mostly it was teenagers being teenagers.
My freshman year of college I chaperoned the high school summer camp at Awanita, but wasn’t quite a counselor of sorts as I accompanied a special needs boy to help him through the week. This year I was able to help lead the church devotional time for the younger aged boys, which was a true blessing.
Often times, I don’t see God in my life simply because I can’t be bothered to pay close enough attention. I’ve got other things going on that for some reason or another I’ve qualified as better or more important, when in reality they’re simply trivial. The week spent at Passport opened my eyes tremendously and allowed me to remind myself that God is everywhere you look. I saw it in the eyes of kids truly enjoying working in 100 degree heat for complete strangers. I saw it in the eyes of those who we were helping and were grateful for not only the assistance, but the fellowship we shared as well.
I saw it in myself, warming up to kids that I barely knew. Having spent four years mostly out of state at college, I had lost touch with the church youth group and the kids it comprised of. I went along on the trip initially because the youth minister needed another male chaperone, not because I felt any closeness to the kids going or a calling to help minister to youth. In fact, though people constantly tell me that I’m great with youth and kids, I’ve found myself not feeling the same way.
But I surprisingly found myself taking to the kids more quickly than I could have ever imagined. As I boarded the bus Sunday morning, I knew two of the kid’s names, one of which I had learned that morning. I felt weird ordering them around and herding them onto the bus. But by the end of the week, I could pick out each one and rattle off a laundry list of information about them. Who their parents were, where they went to school, what grade they were in, what part of me they had bumped or bruised during the week.
The week was good for developing relationships with the kids using several different settings. The mornings and afternoons were fun and exciting getting to know the kids socially, and then the evenings were quieter and more intimate, and the relationships developed on a more personal level.
Another wonderful aspect of Passport is that it enables youth from different churches to work together but also facilitates time for youth to grow as their own group. Youth are meeting new friends from different states throughout the day at meals, worship, in bible study and in the mission field. But they’re also spending time within their own church group at night, strengthening existing relationships or forging new ones.
Being a male, I spent a majority of my time with the boys from our church. And while they got up to the usual mischief that middle school aged boys will get up to—freezing someone’s shirt, pooping in a can—I was impressed with how well they all got along and how nice they treated each other. Some of the stories I heard coming from the girls side makes me glad my boys avoided such drama.
One example came during the camp volleyball tournament. I watched as team after team spent games snapping at each other and talking down to kids who might not be as good at volleyball as some of their fellow youth. But as our group moved through the tournament, I didn’t hear one word on the court that was negative or mean-spirited. Our kids were encouraging and uplifting throughout the whole tournament, regardless of whether a serve made it over the net or not. They worked together and enjoyed themselves, and it was extremely rewarding to be a part of. Our kids are genuinely good kids and that makes working with them all that more enjoyable and rewarding.
Leading up to the trip I was nervous and a little anxious, but as the week went by I became more comfortable and by the time the week drew to a close, I was already thinking ahead to next year and how I could make the trip even better for the kids. God used me in a way that week that I didn’t think he ever could—but I’m glad he did and I’m looking forward to him doing it again.
Because of the 2010 All-Star break, this week saw teams match up against each other for only the last half of the week.
My offense was atrocious, hitting a meager .211 with a .271 on-base percentage. But they did manage four home runs and 15 RBI, enough to win both those categories. I also managed to win stolen bases with one, and that one came from an unlikely individual – Scott Rolen. My Yankees had a good week with Jorge Posada and Nick Swisher combining for five runs, three homers and eight RBI in the short week. They both hit over .300 while no one else on my team posted a batting average north of .222. Jeff Keppinger hit a home run and drove in 3.
My pitching fared better, and was able to win the week 3-2-1 for the second week in a row. Josh Johnson and Adam Wainwright each delivered six scoreless innings for wins and Jake Westbrook won his first start for me, finishing one out shy of a quality start. All three of my closers picked up one save, but Andrew Bailey’s save on Sunday for my opponent bested me in that category by one. I picked up four wins, thirty strikeouts and a 1.32 WHIP to win those three categories, but dropped saves and ERA and drew in quality starts.
Several minor moves this week starting with picking up San Diego starter Chris Young and stashing him on my DL. He’s not expected back until the very end of the season, but I’ve got DL space and holding him doesn’t hurt. I also dropped Jeremy Hellickson. I decided I wanted a player now and dropped him Sunday night for Sergio Mitre, who will be taking Andy Pettitte’s spot in the Yankee rotation for the duration of Pettitte’s DL stint. Mitre hasn’t been activated from the DL himself just yet, so I de-activated him and picked up 3B Wilson Betemit to fill in for Scott Rolen, who has been taking some time off to nurse some (hopefully) minor back pain.
On my plate for Week 16 is Word To Your Mauer who is 70-95-15 overall, but is coming off a 9-2-1 Week 15 win. My 6-5-1 week moved my first-place overall record to 118-51-11.
This week will be known as the week where I ended my middle reliever experiment. My starters had a typical strong week, allowing nine runs in 47.1 innings for a 1.71 ERA. They won four games and posted five quality starts in seven chances. But my relievers posted ERAs of 40.50, 21.60, 6.00, 54.00 and 135.00 jumping my ERA to just a shade under five.
My offense wasn’t spectacular, but they had a good enough week to earn a 3-3 split, winning runs, stolen bases and on-base percentage and losing homers, RBI and average. Nick Swisher had a big week as he hit .357/.419 with a pair of home runs and six runs scored that earned him a spot on the AL all-star team. Ben Zobrist hit only .235 but finished the week with nine runs and five stolen bases thanks to a .519 on-base percentage. Nyjer Morgan continued hitting very little, but swiped two more bases and Jeff Keppinger posted a .389 average and knocked his second homer of the season.
Josh Johnson and Adam Wainwright both pitched eight scoreless innings earning wins and Felix Hernandez twirled sixteen innings over two starts and struck out fifteen, picking up a win and two quality starts. My starters had a typical strong week, allowing nine runs in 47.1 innings for a 1.71 ERA. They won four games and posted five quality starts in seven chances. But my relievers posted ERAs of 40.50, 21.60, 6.00, 54.00 and 135.00 jumping my ERA to just a shade under five. Brandon League and Tyler Clippard imploded, and Ryan Franklin and Neftali Feliz has awful weeks as well. Despite all these horrific performances, I only lost ERA and WHIP. I won wins, strikeouts and quality starts and tied in saves, giving me a 3-2-1 week in the pitching department.
Because of their epic meltdowns this week, I decided that hoarding middle relief pitchers would end up being more detrimental than it would beneficial and made a bunch of moves. I dropped Tyler Clippard and Brandon League and replaced them with starters Jake Westbrook and Jeremy Hellickson. Hellickson is throwing well for Tampa Bay’s Triple-A team and I’m stashing him with hopes that he’ll eventually be promoted and turn in a few nice performances down the stretch. If not, he’s an easy cut when Scott Olsen returns from the DL.
I also made another trade this week, sending Matt Garza to the team I was playing this week for Florida 2B Dan Uggla. I figured with Westbrook on my team and Olsen close to returning, I could move a SP for some offensive help. Uggla is a decent return for a guy who’s been my worst starter this year, even if I sold low on Garza. I was prepared to offer Jamie Garcia or perhaps even Tim Hudson for Uggla, but he had Brandon Phillips entrenched as his second baseman and parted with Uggla for just Garza.
The 6-5-1 week moved my record to 112-46-10 and kept my in first place, but also allowed the league to gain on me, as my lead was cut from 10 games to eight. Up next for me is another hot team, The Process, who is in third place overall with a 94-57-17 record and is coming off a 6-4-2 win last week
Only moments after pulling out of an “imminent” deal with New York for lefty ace Cliff Lee, Seattle has reportedly agreed to send Lee along with reliever Mark Lowe to Texas in exchange for first baseman Justin Smoak and three other prospects.
We’ll have to wait and see who the three other prospects are, but this is still a strange move for the Rangers regardless.
With severe financial troubles, the Rangers will be hard pressed to resign Cliff Lee to an extension following the season, so he is most likely a three-month rental. With the Mariners sending cash that will cover some but not all of Lee’s remaining salary, one might question the Rangers taking on salary when their current financial position does not lend themselves to do so.
With MLB subsidizing the Texas Rangers, is taking on more salary really the smartest idea?
He undoubtedly improves the team, but does his acquisition alone turn the Rangers into a serious World Series contender? Already the top team in their division, does Lee’s arrival put them on par with New York and Tampa Bay?
Another questionable part of the trade is the fact that Texas will be moving four young pieces within their own division. Since they made the move, three months of Cliff Lee is obviously worth the twenty-some cost-controlled years they’re giving up in young talent.
Adding one of the game’s best pitchers can’t really be considered a bad move for any team, but a good move isn’t necessarily the right one.
This post can also be found on Bleacher Report
Six participants for the 2010 HR derby were announced yesterday.
DH David Ortiz, BOS
OF Corey Hart, MIL
OF Matt Holliday, STL
1B Miguel Cabrera, DET
2B Robinson Cano, NYY
OF Vernon Wells, TOR
All told, not a terrible lineup. There will be two more participants announced before the Derby, but you’ve already got old-school power hitters in Cabrera and Ortiz and some new blood in Cano and Hart.
Some people dislike the Derby, but I’ve always found it to be quite enjoyable. I love watching the raw displays of power put on but I could also do without Chris Berman in the broadcast booth, attempting to break all world records of the use of the word “back”.
Different stadiums play differently for home runs. Some are known as hitter havens while other suppress home runs. Over the past four years, the Home Run Derby has been hosted in stadiums that play well for home runs.
In 2006 and 2007, in Pittsburgh and San Francisco respectively, each stadium featured a body of water within striking distance for left-handed power hitters. The Alleghany River in Pittsburgh and the McCovey Cove in San Fran each tempted left-handed contestants and in Pittsburgh we got quite a show with Ryan Howard and David Ortiz peppering the river.
In San Francisco, with the water closer and more easily attainable, we were denied any splash hits when all three lefties exited quietly in the first round. Howard, Prince Fielder and Justin Morneau all failed to advance or hit any into the water in the process. A potential dream location suddenly became quite the boring contest, as the Giants home field does not play well for right-handed power. Vladimir Guerrero won despite posting only three home runs in the final round.
When the Derby moved to the House That Ruth Built in 2008, for Yankee Stadium’s final season, the short right field porch, distant black batter’s eye and inviting upper decks called out to sluggers as targets for long home runs. A gap in the back wall even inspired predictions that some powerful left-handed bat could potentially hit one out of Yankee Stadium.
Then MLB announced the participants and they included four elite lefty sluggers. Chase Utley, Justin Morneau, Lance Berkman and Josh Hamilton were all participating and a buzz preceded the 2008 HR Derby like none since Sammy Sosa, Ken Griffey Jr and Mark McGuire knocked buildings over in the late 90s.
Josh Hamilton did not disappoint. He went on to hit 28 home runs in the first round alone, easily a Derby record. But more impressive than the amount of homers was the way in which Hamilton hit them. He demolished each offering from his batting-practice pitcher, not clearing the stadium, but putting balls deep into the upper deck, far back into the bleachers and off the back wall of the stadium.
It’s the most fun I’ve had watching the Home Run Derby, and Hamilton’s first round performance seems to make people forget that Justin Morneau ended up winning the Derby over Hamilton in the final round.
The Derby moved from one of the oldest and most historic Stadiums in 2008 to one of the newer venues in 2009 as it came to St. Louis’ new Busch Stadium. A beautiful facility, Busch Stadium also offered some attractive points for batters to take aim.
Big Mac Land presented an alluring target for right-handed batters, situated way up in the fourth deck of left field. Attainability would be difficult, but certainly not impossible and Texas’ Nelson Cruz reached it twice in an impressive first round. Hometown hero Albert Pujols also managed to hit a ball over the left-field bleachers and into the outfield concourses.
In the second round and the finals, Prince Fielder proved Busch Stadium was just as entertaining for left-handed sluggers as it was for right-handed ones. He launched home runs over the bullpen, deep into the bleachers and over the grassy knoll that serves as a batter’s eye.
This year, the host stadium is Angels Stadium out in Anaheim. Or Los Angeles. Or California. Or wherever they’re from. While I’ve never been to Angels Stadium I’ve seen it on TV plenty of times and from what I’ve seen, it doesn’t strike me as a place that will play host to epic moonshots.
There’s no upper deck in the outfield, so any home run that’s hit is going to land in the bleachers or bullpen. Down both lines is a three foot wall an inviting distance away, meaning we’ll probably get a few cheap, pop-up home runs that carry. There is a batters eye in dead center, but it’s a flat surface so any homer hit there will just bounce right off. Unlike the grass in St. Louis or the bleachers in New York.
There is the sliver of decorative rock formations in left center field, but homers there won’t have the same allure as a homer into a river or bay.
Not every stadium is designed with exciting home run targets, that’s just the way it is. We got lucky to have four consecutive home run derbies take place in ballparks that are conducive to epic home run shots. But with an intriguing field of players this year that features some impressive raw power, I’m sure one of the boys will come through will an impressive performance.
Sometimes it comes from the most predictable of sources, such as Mark McGuire and Ken Griffey Jr’s displays at Fenway Park in 1999. But other times, the most impressive man of the night is the guy you least expect, like when Bobby Abreu went off for 41 home runs at Comerica Park in 2005.
The Yankees have been forced to shuffle around their roster due to injuries this season. Their bullpen and designated hitter spot in their lineup. Players like Al Aceves, Sergio Mitre, Nick Johnson and Marcus Thames, who, while not bona fide stars, all do play a particular role on the 2010 Yankees.
The Yankees have had to make do with parts from other team’s scrap heap as well as from their own farm system. Players like Kevin Russo, Chad Huffman, Colin Curtis and Chad Gaudin have all come in some capacity to fill the voids.
But with most guys on the mend, the Yankees should look to make a few temporary changes before welcoming back all of their injured troops.
With the return of Marcus Thames and minor injuries to guys like Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson, Kevin Russo has become expendable in New York. He’s had only one at-bat since June 20. It would be much more beneficial for the Yankees to option him back to Triple-A Scranton for regular at-bats and time at multiple positions to develop his skills as a utility player.
The Yankees could then call up Juan Miranda to take his place as the left-handed half of a DH platoon with Marcus Thames while they wait on Nick Johnson to recover from wrist surgery. Miranda has nothing left to prove at the Triple-A level and has demonstrated an ability to hit Major League pitching.
In regards to the bullpen, which apart from Mariano Rivera has been a glaring weakness for the Yankees, they now are carrying two longmen with the call-up of journeyman Dustin Moseley. His presence on the team enables the Yankees to part ways with Chad Gaudin for the second time this season and promote Jon Albaladejo from AAA.
Gaudin has been underwhelming since his return to the Bronx, pitching to an ERA near 5.00 in 16 innings. While we’ve seen the Jon Albaladejo in the majors before, he seems to have transformed himself this past year, moving away from his traditional two-seamer and relying more on a mid-90s four seamer with more offspeed pitches.
With Mark Melancon hitting a rough patch in Scranton, Albaladejo is a good choice to replace Gaudin. Albaladejo might be sent down when Sergio Mitre (who began a rehab assignment a few days ago) returns. If her performs well, the Yankees could opt to keep Albaladejo and part ways with the free agent dud Chan Ho Park instead.
Albaladejo could even stick around after Aceves returns. If the Yankees feel they have enough length in the bullpen with Aceves and Mitre and cut Moseley instead.
For the most part, the Yankees have avoided major injuries to key players this season. These are a few minor roster moves the Yankees could make to further improve what has been baseball’s best team over the first half of the season.
Another week, another win. I didn’t have a great offensive start to the week, but my hitters had a pretty good weekend and managed to win four while losing two offensive categories. I also took four of the pitching ones, lost one and tied the last one. I’ll take an 8-3-1 week any time, but two of the teams chasing me finished the week 11-1, so they managed to chew into my lead.
Nobody particularly stood out on my offense during a week that only saw me hit a pair of homers, one by Scott Rolen and one by Gaby Sanchez. Prince Fielder outhomered my entire team for my opponent this week, leading to my losing that category. I also dropped runs, as nobody on my team scored more than three times, while my opponent had a pair of guys scored six or more times. I did excel in RBIs this week, with six guys driving in at least three runs and Scott Rolen and Denard Span driving in six runs apiece. Brennan Boesch hit .400 this week, and he was joined by Ben Zobrist and Gaby Sanchez in posting on-base percentages of .400 or better. The only category in which I outperformed my usual numbers was stolen bases, as my team swiped seven bases. Nyjer Morgan and Ben Zobrist each swiped two, but I was helped out by Jeff Keppinger’s second stolen base of the season and Nick Swisher’s first (and possibly last). Denard Span also had one.
My pitching on the other hand had arguably their best week to date. True, they only went 4-1-1, but ran into some bad luck. My starters finally got some run support (everyone but Josh Johnson) and recorded six wins in eight starts. The two performances that didn’t earn wins were Johnson’s 6IP, 1R performance and Tim Hudson’s second start of the week in which he went eight innings and allowed three runs in a 3-2 Atlanta loss. Adam Wainwright posted two quality starts, including a complete game win on Sunday that put his ERA for the week at 0.59 and gave him a 0.85 WHIP. Felix Hernandez twirled a two-hit shutout against the Yankees in which he struck out eleven and Jamie Garcia tossed seven shutout innings with seven strikeouts himself. My starters gave up seven runs this week in 59 innings. My relievers gave up seven runs in 7.2 innings. All told, it resulted in a 1.99 ERA and a 0.97 WHIP. All eight starts made by my starters were quality ones and I ran away with that category, winning 8-2. Despite all that pitching dominance, I still only managed a tie in wins, because my opponent vultured three wins from his bullpen and got a win apiece from Hisanori Takahashi and Paul Maholm, despite them pitching to ERAs of 7.59 and 6.55 respectively.
I made only one move this week, dropping Edgar Renteria after finally getting tired of his poor performances. He had a nice little hot streak the first few weeks of the season that helped me tremendously, but since coming back from various injuries, he’s been killing me in average and OBP, the only two categories he’s passable in. He doesn’t score or drive in a whole lot of runs and he’s not a stolen base threat. With one home run, he’s certainly not contributing to my power numbers.
I picked up Seattle setup man Brandon League to replace him, for two reasons. First, I’m wavering on whether to drop Tyler Clippard who has been shaky of late so League could give me several innings and strikeouts per week with a low ERA and WHIP. Secondly, Seattle’s closer David Aardsma, who I also own, may very well be traded to a contender who would use him as a setup man down the stretch run. Should that happen, I’m hedging my bets that League picks up the save opportunities and I won’t lose those saves.
The 8-3-1 week pushes my overall record to 106-41-9, making me the first team in the league to 100 victories. It keeps me in first place, but 11-1 weeks by two of the three teams directly behind me knocks a few games off my lead. Up next for me is Honey Nut Ichiros, who is in fifth place overall and coming off a 10-0 week that moved their overall record to 85-59-12.