Fantasy Notes: Moose Makeover
This is something we’ve discussed quite a bit over the years, but it simply can’t be stressed enough: beware paying a high price for pitching on draft day, when so many arms emerge from the fold during the season in a very unpredictable manner. The wise owner didn’t overspend on pitching, focusing instead on offense, and using the waiver wire to pluck such undrafted gems as Cliff Lee, Ervin Santana, Justin Duchscherer, Edinson Volquez and Ricky Nolasco. Another undrafted hurler who has proved to be an indispensable fantasy pitcher this season is veteran Mike Mussina, enjoying a phenomenal bounceback year after it looked like it was just about time to stick a fork in the Moose after 2007. Despite not factoring in the decision, Mussina’s stellar seven-inning outing Thursday helped key a huge win for the Yanks over Boston. In so doing, Moose lowered his August ERA to 3.00 to go along with a perfect 3-0 record. Mussina has slightly lowered his home run rates while significantly improving his strikeout rates this season, and the combination has him on track to tie his career high with 19 wins – a mark he’s reached twice, but never quite passed. (Can you believe he’s never won 20 games in a season?)
Back in the first half, we were all impressed by the progress the Orioles were making. Well, they went 10-16 in July and are 9-14 so far in August, putting them well on track for an 11th straight losing season, barring a miracle. Sure, they should reach 70 wins for the first time since 2006; in fact, they’ll likely top 75 wins for the first time in four years, but they obviously still have a long way to go. A pitching staff that ranks second worst in the AL in ERA (4.86), OPS against (784), WHIP and quality starts (51) has been the O’s Achilles’ Heel. Years of losing is taking its toll. Attendance has slipped this year, and the team now ranks in the bottom third in all of baseball as far as drawing fans goes. As recently as 2001, the O’s were among baseball best at the box office. Sure, the arrival of another option (albeit, a poor one) in the Nats has helped to eat into Baltimore’s customer base, but the number one reason for the decline is the losing.
Speaking of the Nats, after surprising many of us with a competitive effort in 2007, injuries to key personnel (Ryan Zimmerman missed over 50 games, and is just now starting to put it together; although he’s scorching now, Lastings Milledge missed almost the entire month of July; and Nick Johnson, who finally stayed healthy enough to reach 500 at bats last year, returned to his injury-prone ways this season, with a wrist injury ending his season back in May), have the club on track to top 100 losses. The last time this franchise reached triple digit defeats was in 1976 when it was based in Montreal. Sacre bleu! Of course, that franchise-worst 12 game losing skid earlier this month didn’t help matters.
By the way, although this has been a write-off campaign for the Nats, they have to be pleased they dealt away Jon Rauch, considering how badly he’s tanked since arriving in the desert. He’s been scored on in five straight outings and six of his past seven, jacking his August ERA close to the 8.00 mark and his overall ERA as a D-Back up to 6.19. Gopheritis has been a real problem for Rauch, as he was burned for long balls in three straight outings last week. As a result, Rauch has been getting trimmed from fantasy leagues, and is now owned in barely half the leagues out there. Surely there are better options for those still hanging on to him.
It’s been a very frustrating season for those of you who spent an early second-round pick on Alfonso Soriano. It’s not that he’s been awful, but multiple trips to the DL have really cut into his overall value. However, Soriano is healthy now, and starting to pay big dividends. In the past week, he’s batting .357, and although he hasn’t gone yard, he’s swiped four bases. That gives him six steals for the month, to go along with four homers, 15 RBI, 19 runs and a .301 BA. Soriano’s power has dipped slightly this season, but thanks to spending virtually the entire season in the lead-off spot of an improved Cub offense, he’s scoring runs at a much higher clip than he did in 2007.
Sad sack stat of the day: Milledge homered on Tuesday to take over the club lead with 13 dingers. Yes, we’re almost into September and 13 home runs paces the Nats. This just in: the steroid era is over.
I still don’t understand why John Lannan isn’t getting more fantasy love. Okay, so he took a couple of beatings recently before looking strong in topping the Dodgers Thursday. Despite his struggles this month, Lannan is still giving up less than a hit per inning in August. That still means something, right? His command is still not up to snuff, but he’s showing much better control than he did in his first trial with the Nats last season. Lannan, who won’t turn 24 until next month, is someone I think will be a serious 2009 sleeper. You heard it here first, folks. Write it down.