Are You Ready for Some Football? (09/20/01)
Every September and October the baseball and football seasons cross over one another. This year, at least for ....Jumanji!, they've crossed over in more than just the schedule. Injuries, which are so commonplace in football, have once again struck my team. Javier Vazquez, statistically the team's best pitcher, was lost for the season when a fastball got away from Ryan Dempster - not a big surprise given Dempster's astonishing lack of control: he has averaged a hundred walks a season for the past 3 years - and fractured Vazquez' right eye socket.
A side note: Earlier this year I saw an interview with Dempster who said he was now incorporating boxing into his workout regime. Y'know, if he were to spend a little more time working on establishing a consistent release point rather than a few extra minutes on the speed bag, he might become a decent pitcher.
Anyway, had ...Jumanji! not been built with injuries in mind, this loss might have been tough to take. After all, Vazquez was the 3rd best pitcher in the majors this year fantasy points-wise, behind only Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling and holder of the 4th highest points per game total, despite winning just 16 games and getting the 40th best run support of any regular starter.
However, this team was built to survive injuries. In fact, I was almost counting on them when I drafted. Still, Vazquez' loss bums me - he's a really good young pitcher having a breakout season and this kind of injury has been known to have a long-term deleterious effect on some players. From a fantasy standpoint, though (since this is a fantasy column), it puts a crimp in my effort to reach 9500 points. But with 4 starters who were cranking out 19+ points per start (Mulder, Morris, Wood and Miller) and 2 others (Escobar and Halladay) who had been producing as much for the last 2 months, the starting pitching is still in good enough hands to drive the team to a solid finish. And with the acquisition of Orlando Hernandez to replace Vazquez, ...Jumanji! might not lose more than 20 or 30 points in production down the stretch. But getting to 9500 seems a very remote possibility now. However, I will re-acquire him as the season closes as a token to honor his significant contributions to the team. It just wouldn't be right for him to finish the season in the free agent pool.
Carlos Hernandez, Houston's bright young lefty starting star, is also out for the year. So he was replaced on the roster with Florida's brightest pitching prospect, Josh Beckett. Even though Beckett got roughed up a little by the Expos his last time out, he still got in his strikeouts. In a fantasy points league, as long as the pitcher gives you lots of innings and strikeouts, he can still be productive despite average or even poor peripheral numbers (see Nomo, Hideo, or Colon, Bartolo). Although Beckett will go through some growing pains, his high strikeout totals should offset much of the damage.
In other transactions, Juan Cruz was dropped in order to pick up Brad Fullmer. Cruz' value is in flux for a couple of reasons. One, he's allowed more baserunners per inning each successive time out, which is not a good sign with 2 starts against Houston coming up. The Astros have an offensive machine that chews up pitchers who give them opportunities to score. And two, his spot in the rotation is not clear. After the week off, most managers arranged their rotation in such a way that should the season come down to the final game, they would have one of their teams' best starters start on the final day of the season. One might expect that Don Baylor would arrange his to have either Jon Lieber or Kerry Wood or even playoff-veteran Kevin Tapani start the Cubs final day. But then, one would be expecting Baylor to do something sensible and that's just not Baylor. Instead, the Cubs will start either Cruz or Julian Tavarez on that final day, or Lieber on 3 days rest. Dusty Baker once started a promising rookie on the final day of the season with the playoffs on the line. Salomon Torres was as good a pitching prospect as you'll find, but he got shellacked that day by the Dodgers and was never the same. His confidence was shattered and he was out of the majors in 5 years at the age of 26. With the schedule he's facing, there's simply too great a chance for bad things to happen to Cruz to risk a start down the stretch.
Ryan Klesko is questionable for the next few weeks with back troubles so a replacement was needed to take over at the utility infielder spot when either Nevin or Ramirez have a day off. Fullmer wasn't my first choice. Baseball Weekly's Mat Olkin pointed out in his latest edition of Mat at Bat that Derrek Lee's road stats the past 2 years are nearly indistinguishable from those of Jeff Bagwell and Raphael Palmeiro. Unfortunately, after this series in Philly, Lee will be at home for 3 of his final 4 series. Fullmer became the obvious choice as 3 of his final 5 series are against Baltimore and Tampa Bay, 2 teams he has hit very well in his career. His other 2 series are against Cleveland. And while his success against the Tribe has been mixed, he does possess a lifetime .500 batting average against Bartolo Colon, a pitcher he'll likely face twice as the season closes.
...Jumanji! has continued it's rotating door policy with its catchers. This week, Greg Zaun was replaced by Robert Fick and Ben Molina. David Eckstein was dropped to clear room for a second catcher. Eckstein was a back-up for both second and short, but would not have seen any game time as his schedule mirrors that of Vidro and ARod. Fick has been reasonably productive all year and appears to be coming out of a bad month-long slump. Molina has been on fire lately, making up for a year that to date has been below expectation.
A Shameless Plug
To quote Chico Escuela, "Baseball been bery, bery good to me." A number of opportunities have opened up for me this year, including some part-time work for MLB.com. This off-season, I will be again contributing to the Masters of Baseball Fantasy Annual. I will also be contributing to a fantasy baseball guide (also from the folks at Mastersball) for this year's Arizona Fall League, which many of you know is the breeding ground for next year's stars. Mike Piazza, Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra and Albert Pujols launched brilliant rookie seasons after starring in the AFL. And lastly, I will be doing the Padres' team evaluation for the STATS Inc, Major League Scouting Notebook. I'd like to thank each of you for reading this site - your support, comments and criticism have been invaluable, without which none of this might have been possible. Thank you.
Starting P Relief P Hitters FP
Rank Team FP G FP/G FP G FP/G FP G FP/G Total
1 ...Jumanji! 2606 146 17.8 1027 124 8.3 4582 1413 3.2 8215
2 SF Mock Woodmen 2120 147 14.4 1048 130 8.1 4805 1426 3.4 7973
3 BaseballHQ Bombers 2625 154 17.0 943 129 7.3 4172 1417 2.9 7740
4 Sandbox Sports 2193 147 14.9 1103 132 8.4 4168 1427 2.9 7464
5 Fantasy Baseball HQ 2401 146 16.4 1123 138 8.1 3849 1431 2.7 7373
6 The Write Stuff 2340 141 16.6 945 124 7.6 3909 1368 2.9 7194
7 Dr. Stats Juggernauts 2635 148 17.8 948 120 7.9 3494 1356 2.6 7077
8 Desert Dwelling Scalawags 2035 162 12.6 608 128 4.8 4136 1418 2.9 6779
9 WSS Hurlers 2441 153 16.0 686 126 5.4 3620 1354 2.7 6747
10 Press Room Pundits 2061 147 14.0 784 132 5.9 3765 1423 2.6 6610