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Fantasy Baseball 2010 – Week 21

With a playoff berth and the first overall seed sewn up, the outcome of Week 21 mattered very little to me. That said, it’s probably best that my hitters got their worst three game streak out of the way before the games matter again. After starting the week brutally, I scraped back and nearly earned a tie, ultimately suffering me second loss of the season 5-7-0.

Fukudome has been a great late-season pick-up

My offense didn’t hit too much, but when they did, they inflicted some serious damage. I hit only .246/.312 for the week, easily my worst week of the season in that regard, but managed pretty good counting numbers with 28 runs, nine homers and 36 RBI. I’ll take those three numbers any week of the year, but this week they were only good to win one of those three. Every single one of my opponent’s players hit a home run and he finished with twelve for the week. He bested me by one in runs and I beat him by six in RBI. Gaby Sanchez homered twice and drove in eight runs this week while Kosuke Fukudome hit .417/.533 with two homers and five RBI. Nick Swisher also had a big week, homering twice with five runs and five RBI while hitting .353/.417. A week after stealing seven bases, I managed zero this week and lost a winnable stat with my opponent getting only two.

Josh Johnson and Adam Wainwright made two starts each this past week, but all four were rather pedestrian. They didn’t win a game and managed only one quality start over the course of the week. Excellent outings from Barry Enright, Felix Hernandez and Tim Hudson helped me win quality starts, strikeouts and wins. A save from each of my closers was enough to take that category but I dropped ERA and WHIP to finish 4-2 in the pitching categories.

The only move I made this week was finally pulling the trigger on dropping Denard Span. Several times the past few weeks, I’ve started the process of dropping him for an extra starter, but could never convince myself that any of the available starters would help me enough to validate dropping Span. I finally confirmed the release, but replaced him instead with another outfielder, Florida rookie Logan Morrison. I’ve realized that finding power and RBIs this late in the season is nearly impossible, so I grabbed Morrison who scores a ton of runs atop the Marlins lineup and fills out average and OBP very nicely.

The 5-7 week gives me a final record of 165-74-13, good for a first place finish and a 15 game cushion over the runner-up. Now it’s on to the playoffs and each team that wins this week will move up to the next league, so needless to say I’d like to win. I’m up against Tug Z’Nuff which is a tough matchup. He finished 123-111-18 and in eighth place.

I’ll have some posts this week analyzing my season, good and bad. I’ll cover things from the draft to an original method I’ve developed to look at how much luck factored into my first-place finish.

Nick Swisher: From Windy City Turmoil To New York City Gold

Nick Swisher arrived in New York rather unheralded, acquired from the White Sox after the 2008 season for seldom-used infielder Wilson Betemit and two throwaway prospects. He had allegedly worn out his welcome in Chicago after only one season, having alienated manager Ozzie Guillen and suffered through a career-worst .219/.332/.410 season.

But the surface numbers don’t adequately tell the tale of Swisher’s 2008 campaign.

2008 is the only season in Swisher’s career in which he posted an OPS+ of under 100. Despite the lesser numbers, many of Swisher’s peripheral stats remained within normal ranges. He still managed 24 home runs while keeping his walk and strikeout rates around his career average. His isolated power was still a very respectable .191 and his line drive rate of 20.9% was a career high.

The main detractor from his season was a career-low BABIP, or batting average of balls in play. Having enjoyed a BABIP of .280 his first four seasons in the league, Swisher saw that number drop to .249 during his only season with Chicago.

Using all of this information leads us to conclude that the best explanation for Swisher’s disappointing season was simple bad luck. He was consistently making solid contact and hitting for power, but his batting average dipped nearly 30 points below his established number. Add in the fact that Guillen played him out of position and shuffled him around the batting order and Swisher might having been begging to get out of Chicago.

Brian Cashman moved a few weeks before Thanksgiving 2008, sending Betemit along with minor league pitchers Jhonny Nunez and Jeff Marquez to Chicago for Swisher and relief prospect Kanekoa Texeira. This was over a month before the Yankees would go on their massive shopping spree, locking up CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, and Mark Teixeira. With the expiration of incumbent first baseman Jason Giambi’s mammoth contract, the Yankees needed to find a replacement, and Swisher was it for nearly two months.

Cashman traded for Swisher with full intentions of using him as the Yankees’ everyday first baseman. When Mark Teixeira fell into their laps two weeks after Christmas, Swisher was relegated to fourth outfielder status behind Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrera, and Xavier Nady. However, barely a week into the season, Nady suffered an elbow injury that he attempted to rehab but ultimately required season-ending Tommy John surgery.

Nady’s injury thrust Swisher into a starting role that he probably should have had all along. Swisher took off and carried the team early in 2009, posting a .312/.430/.714 line in April while Alex Rodriguez recovered from hip surgery and Mark Teixeira suffered through his annual slow start.

Swisher suffered through a brutal stretch in May before evening out over the course of the season. He enjoyed his best season to date in 2009, posting career highs in slugging, OPS, isolated power and wOBA (weighted on-base average). And unsurprisingly, saw his BABIP rebound to a more reasonable .272.

2010 has seen Swisher take his game to another level, and he is on pace for another career-best season. His walk rate is down 4 percent from his career average, but he’s made up for it by adding over 40 points in batting average. As much as his work with hitting instructor Kevin Long makes for a nice narrative, the results back up those stories.

So what can Yankee fans expect from Swisher moving forward? Most likely more of the same guy we’ve seen since the trade to New York. His high average in 2010 is fueled by a higher BABIP than normal, but his power continues to develop, which is not uncommon for players in their prime years. We may see his average regress a little in the future, but the power and patience remain strengths.

The trade that netted the Yankees their all-star outfielder was part salary dump and part “change of scenery” move by Chicago. There were rumors that he was unsettling in the clubhouse and his performance had dropped off throughout the season enough to warrant multiple concerns.

Cashman acquired him for three players who haven’t made much of an impact on the field for Chicago. Betemit accrued 45 at-bats in 2009 before Chicago designated him for assignment to make room for stud prospect Gordon Beckham. Marquez has posted a 5.77 ERA and a 1.57 WHIP in two seasons for Chicago’s Triple-A affiliate, while going 10-12. Nunez has spent a majority of his time shuttling between Double-A and Triple-A while experiencing varying degrees of success, and has a 9.53 ERA in seven games for the White Sox.

Nick Swisher the Yankee has been entertaining, highly productive and an absolute asset to the overall team environment. In those regards, he’s been almost the polar opposite of what he was perceived to be in Chicago. But as for most of his numbers, he’s been the same player this whole time, except with a little bit of luck.

Fantasy Baseball 2010 – Week 14

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.

My new 2B, Dan Uggla

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

Yankee Fans Should Trust Brian Cashman

What should have been a rather minor free agent acquisition turned into a coup de grâce for many Yankee fans.

Brian Cashman signed former San Francisco outfielder Randy Winn to a small, one-year contract the other day and all hell broke loose in Yankeeland.

Budgetary restraints? Certainly not for the mighty Yankees, for whom money has never been a prohibitive issue. Certainly not for Brian Cashman who doled out $423.5 million last year for three players alone. Heaven forbid the ninth spot in the Yankee lineup be someone who is not a perennial All-Star.

Before we look at Randy Winn’s addition to this team, let’s take a moment and go back to about the same time last year, when Brian Cashman brought in a player coming off a down year, but had a track record of being a pretty good ballplayer.

Nick Swisher didn’t have a particularly great 2008 campaign. In his first year with Ozzie Guillen’s White Sox, he hit .219/.332/.410 while being shuffled all over the lineup and the ball field. It was Swisher’s first season being a below average (92 OPS+) offensive player.

Brian Cashman, in need of a first baseman following the departure of Jason Giambi, swapped a handful of spare parts for Swisher and penciled him into the everyday lineup as the starting first baseman.

The signing of Mark Teixeira pushed Swisher into a backup outfielder’s role until Xavier Nady was lost for the season early in the year. After that, Swisher proceeded to put up impressive numbers and acclimated himself almost seamlessly to New York.

Swisher hit .249/.371/.498 and had his best season to date. Brian Cashman bought low, and took the risk that 2008 was an outlier rather than the beginning of a trend.

Fast forward to now, when Randy Winn is the player with a track record of success coming off a down offensive season. True, Swisher was entering the prime of his career when Cashman bet on a rebound and Winn is decidedly exiting his, but the train remains similar.

Randy Winn hit a pedestrian .262/.318/.353 last season in the moribund San Francisco offense, but hit .303/.358/.435 in the two year stretch prior to 2008. In six of the past eight seasons, Winn has posted an above average OPS+.

So maybe his low BABIP numbers played into his down year as Swisher’s did in his. But even if Winn repeats last year’s offense, his defense and ability on the basepaths helps this Yankee team.

Many Yankee fans screamed for Johnny Damon to return, but Cashman, operating under a budget, couldn’t offer anything close enough to Damon’s liking. Whether or not someone else will is yet to be seen.

Even if they accepted Damon was not going to come back for pennies on the dollar, they continued to throw names out there that they thought would be a better fit for the Yankees than Winn.

Reed Johnson! Rocco Baldelli! Jonny Gomes!

Randy Winn does two things at an elite level—run the bases and defend. The other names floated out there don’t do anything at an elite level. Maybe Jonny Gomes runs into a fastball every once and a while. Maybe Reed Johnson makes Sportscenter’s Top 10 plays one a month.

But that’s not what the Yankees need.

The Yankees need flexibility, both financially and on the field. Randy Winn gives them both.

The Yankees’ general manager is coming off a year in which his team won a championship. I trust he knows what’s best for his team better than I do.

New York Yankee 2009 Season Outlook: Outfield

CENTER FIELD: The Yankees 2009 outfield is a little crowded and the 8-spot is no exception. The Yankees opted not to make a trade for someone like Milwakee’s Mike Cameron (and rightly so in my opinion) and instead seem content letting the consistently regressing Melky Cabrera and the gritty and grinding Brett Gardner battle it out.

Brett Gardner has been compared to the style of Brett Butler because of the two men’s ability to bunt, slash line drives and work a walk. Gardner’s best tool is his speed, rating out as a 70 on the classic 20-80 scouting scale. He is an impeccable basestealer and can put himself in scoring position by taking an extra base. His speed plays well in centerfield, but he can also cover left and right if need be. His arm is adequate in center and he covers it by making good reads, taking good routes and using his speed to have above-average range.

Melky Cabrera The league has started adjusting to Cabrera and he has not yet made the necessary adjustments to keep up. His defense remains an asset, although mostly due to his plus arm. His range is middling and his reads and routes slightly below average. He is a switch-hitter, although his offense has dropped significantly each of his three seasons with the Yankees. Cabrera must respond to his late-season benching and eventual demotion.

LEFT FIELD: Johnny Damon will make most of the starts in left given his health. Damon enjoyed a bounceback year in 2008, after stuggling with injuries and inconsistencies in 2007. Damon’s range has lessened with age, although he’s still acceptable in left. His arm leaves much to be desired, but plays suitably in left. Damon hits off his front foot, slashes the ball to left and still has significant pull power, especially in Yankee Stadium. If Damon gets banged up Nick Swisher and Xavier Nady could see extended time in left field. Hideki Matsui’s surgically repaired knees will limit his exposure in the field for the Yankees.

RIGHT FIELD: Much like centerfield, the Yankees have multiple options in right field. The departure of Bobby Abreu opened up the position and the acquisition of Mark Teixeira bumped Nick Swisher off first base and into the outfield mix.

Capable of covering all three outfield spots, in addition to first base, Nick Swisher is looking to come back from a down year where White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen used him inconsistently. Epitomizing Billy Beane’s moneyball approach, Swisher is an extremely patient switch-hitter with surprising power both left-handed and right-handed. He’s an all out player which leads to occasional recklessness in the field and on the basepaths. Swisher works the count, leading to a lot of walks and strikeouts.

Xavier Nady, acquired from Pittsburgh along with RP Damaso Marte, was tabbed as Bobby Abreu’s replacement in right field until Nick Swisher was bumped off first base. Nady is a run producer coming off a career year. Playing in his contract year in 2009, the Yankees hope for similar production. Lacks the plate discipline to become an elite outfield bat and the mobility to become an elite defender. Has an suitable arm to cover right field, and more range than his predecessor.

Yankees Trade For Nick Swisher

The Yankees picked up Nick Swisher and P Kanekoa Texeira for Wilson Betemit and minor league pitchers Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez.

Even though Swisher had a down year, probably the worst of his professional career last year with the White Sox, the Yankees made out really good with this trade. Unless the White Sox are just trying to dump salary, this trade doesn’t make much sense for them. Swisher is clearly better than Betemit and his career-low average to his also career low BABIP (batting average on balls in play) of .251. Swisher also had a better line-drive rate (nearly 21%) than he usually does, which points to the fact that he hit some bad luck in 2008. Less ground balls found holes and more well-hit balls were hit at fielders. He should return to be a .270/.375/.480 hitter or so in 2009. Swisher also managed to draw 82 walks and hit 24 home runs

Betemit on the other hand drew six walks while striking out 56 times and has a .135 walk to strikeout ratio since joining the Yankees in the American League. He has occasional pop from the left side of the plate, but certainly isn’t better than Nick Swisher, although consistent playing time could benefit him, and he could get that in Chicago, but not New York.

Betemit is labeled a utility infielder, but is really only serviceable at first and third and even at those positions, he’s well below average defensively.

Swisher is owed $21.05MM over the next three years with a $10.25MM option for 2012 (or a $1MM buyout). He’s reasonably priced and would be a bargain if his performance returns to 2006-2007 level. Betemit will make around $2MM in arbitration this year for the White Sox.

The White Sox got back a pair of minor league arms in return, the big name being Jeff Marquez. He started out impressively in his minor league career but has dropped significantly in the Yankee farm system due to a lack of a strikeout pitch. If he can’t get ground balls, then he’ll never be a viable major league option and he’s dropped off in that category too.

Jhonny Nunez is the more promising arm, but is not much different than the other guy Chicago sent to New York, Kanekoa Texeira. The Yankees pulled Nunez from starting and plugged him into the bullpen and he became a really good arm out of there. He could potentially become a major league closer in a year or two.

Another positive for the Yankees is that Texeira doesn’t have to be added to the 40-man roster, while Marquez and Nunez do. So the Yankees gain some roster flexibility in case they want to sign a few free agents, say CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett or Derek Lowe. Or that other Teixeira guy.

The Yankees seem to have bought low on Swisher and if he rebounds the way the Yankees hope he does, this deal could turn out to be a steal.