A New Hope   (05/04/01)

Uncle Owen... Aunt Beru...?

Last Sunday had the potential to be a pretty good day.  But a brain cramp on my part got in the way and it ended up being close to disastrous.

But before I get to the brain cramp, let me first state that I look at the pitching match-ups before starting a pitcher.  I see how each guy has done versus each opponent to see if he has experienced great success or great failure against that team.  Baseball is an incredibly psychological game.  If a player experiences great success against a particular opponent, say throwing a shutout, or hitting a couple of home runs in a game, they have a tendency to continue to experience great success against them.  The reason is that they have greater confidence against them than they do other against opponents.  With each additional success, that confidence grows until they get to a point where it is a forgone conclusion that they will dominate that opponent.  Like Mike Mussina does versus the Twins.  The same holds true with regard to great failures.  Any less decisive results are inconclusive as there are simply too many mitigating factors to account for.

So, when I activated Glendon Rusch to face the Cardinals (2-0, 1.25 ERA, allowing just 15 hits and 2 walks while striking out 19 in 3 games last year), I felt reasonably confident that I was going to get a good number of fantasy points out of the deal.  I saw a similar trend with Javier Vazquez versus the Brewers (2-1, 19 innings, 16 hits, 6 walks, 17 K, 3.31 ERA).  What I failed to look at, however, was how each potential batter had done against my pitchers.

If any of you watched Wednesday night's late game, did you wonder why Lou Pinella had light-hitting Stan Javier and Mike Lampkin in the line-up to face Hideo Nomo instead of his regular starters Mike Cameron and Dan Wilson?  It's because those guys have hit Nomo very well for their entire careers (better than .400).  Well, even though Pinella got the result he wanted - a win - it wasn't because of those two guys: they went 0 for 7 with 4 strikeouts.  I wasn't nearly as fortunate.

Jeromy Burnitz, Geoff Jenkins, Tyler Houston and Jose Hernandez had hit better than .300 vs Vazquez in their careers.  But the rest of the line-up had a batting average below .200 against him.  Vazquez' success was due to his keeping the dangerous hitters in check pretty well last year.  Not so this year.  Sunday they hit a combined .750 in 8 at bats against him, good for 5 runs in less than 4 innings.

Likewise, Rusch faced a similar situation in St. Louis.  Part of the line-up couldn't hit him worth beans, the other half - Jim Edmonds, JD Drew, Bobby Bonilla, Edgar Renteria and Mike Matheny - hit .300 or better for their careers versus Rusch.  On Sunday, they went 9 for 10 against him, accounting for 6 runs in less than 3 innings.

On a day when I expected to get somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-40 points (12-14 solid innings plus a win maybe) based on what these two pitchers had accomplished last year, I ended up getting smacked with a negative 33 points.  Knowing what I know now, I will certainly be more thorough in evaluating my pitcher's chances each time out.  Starts are simply too valuable to waste in a league where you only get 162 for the whole year.

I find your lack of Faith... disturbing.

Even with that setback, ...Jumanji! is humming right along at a pretty decent pace.

I am still looking for another front line starter, but not because Wade Miller has topped 125 pitches two outings in a row now.  While I certainly don't think that's the best way to handle him, two starts is not excessive.  If Larry Dierker continues to leave him out there that long, then I'll be a little more worried.  But I don't think that'll be the case.

Last year, he left him out for 120+ pitches 4 times.  The first two times were consecutive.  Miller got bombed in his next start but then began pitching more efficiently, staying under 120 pitches in each of his next 6 starts.  However, he didn't top 6 innings in any of them.

The next two 120+ outings were also consecutive and the results were similar: he got bombed, then pitched more efficiently.  Only this time, he really was more efficient, going at least 7 innings in 3 of his final 5 starts without topping 120 pitches once.

So rather than Dierker simply becoming careless with the pitch counts, I suspect he is trying to teach young Miller to be more pitch conscious on a consistent basis.  Waste lots of pitches, you'll eventually get bombed.  Pitch efficiently, and good things will happen   With Miller's stuff, they most certainly will.

I'm here to rescue you.

No, the reason I am looking for another front line starter so that I can better maximize my starts.

A guy who throws a complete game shutout generates around 50 points.  A pitcher who has a 10 strikeout outing generates around 25, even if he doesn't get a win.  If he gets a win, it's closer to 35 points.  Wood, Morris and Miller can generate that kind of output.  I figure they should be good for an average of 20-25 points per start.  With 30-35 starts, they could each produce around 600 fantasy points apiece fairly easily.

A very good offense will generate somewhere in the neighborhood of 5000 points.  With ARod, Vlad Guerrero, Carlos Delgado, Moises Alou and a cast of young emerging stars, I think I have one.  Two good relievers should generate somewhere in the neighborhood of 1200 points.  I'd like to think the Billy Wagner and John Rocker qualify.  Adding in the expected production of my big three starters, I'm looking at around 8000 points with 2 starting pitching spots still open.

The winning team last year won with a total of around 8600 points.  My goal is to finish with at least 9000 this year.  With another solid starter or 2, I think it's a very realistic possibility.  Currently, ...Jumanji! is on pace to score 9135 points.

My two current candidates for those last 2 posts are AJ Burnett and Jaret Wright, both of whom are coming off the DL.  Burnett is returning from a stress fracture in his foot, so there aren't any real durability concerns with his arm.  Last year, after coming back from a torn thumb ligament, he had 4 games in which he struck out 7 or more batters.  In the minors, he averaged more than 9 per game.  The talent is there for the kind of performance I'm looking for.  I'm hoping that the amorphous shape they are calling a strikezone right now will accelerate his ability to realize his full potential.

Wright is a more shaky proposition.  He is coming off shoulder surgery, so his ability to pitch deep into games could be affected.  Another concern is that he really hasn't pitched effectively for a couple of years now and has never posted great strikeout numbers.  However, working in his favor is the fact that his decreased effectiveness can probably be traced to his shoulder injury, due in part to the excessive workloads early in his career.  That should be repaired now.  Also in his favor is that he'll be pitching for a team with a very good offense and bullpen, so he should get more than his fair share of opportunities for wins, even if he doesn't pitch well every time out.  His first rehab start in AAA was encouraging: 8 innings, allowing 4 hits and no walks while striking out 7.  With Julio Lugo offering much the same production and position flexibility as Damian Jackson, I felt I could drop Jackson in order to take a flyer on Wright.

Because neither guy has much of a track record, both Burnett and Wright are dark horse picks.  However, both have the talent (read: 95+ mph fastball) to take advantage of the current pitching environment.  If one of them comes through, I will be able to be very selective where I use Rusch, Vazquez and Nomo.  Oh, and I almost forgot about Mark Mulder.  He doesn't have Burnett or Wright's pure stuff, but he's beginning to develop into a very solid pitcher.  He has struck out 7 batters in 3 of his 6 starts, so maybe I actually have 3 candidates for those last 2 spots.

Almost there...

The Standings

                                       Starting P        Relief P          Hitters FP
Rank  Team                           FP   G    FP/G    FP   G   FP/G     FP    G   FP/G    Total
1     ...Jumanji!                   447   30   14.9   180   22   8.2    913   273   3.3     1540
2     Jersey Juggernauts            501   28   17.9   196   27   7.3    805   267   3.0     1502
3     Fantasy Baseball Headquarters 411   30   13.7   274   28   9.8    739   257   2.9     1424
4     Desert Dwelling Scalawags     487   38   12.8    79   27   2.9    834   268   3.1     1400
5     Press Room Pundits            510   33   15.5   170   26   6.5    717   268   2.7     1397
6     Dr. Stats Juggernauts         609   30   20.3   132   23   5.7    648   273   2.4     1389
7     The Write Stuff               432   23   18.8   170   26   6.5    684   265   2.6     1286
8     SF Mock Woodmen               296   28   10.6   142   22   6.5    839   257   3.3     1277
9     WSS Hurlers                   446   32   13.9   108   21   5.1    684   253   2.7     1238
10    Sandbox Sports                367   30   12.2   145   22   6.6    658   260   2.5     1170