Happy Father’s Day!!
More good news, bad news both in my yard and the AL Central.
Good News: I fixed the pool inlet that I mentioned last Sunday, and started running the pump again.
Bad News: I was in the car on the phone with my wife Megan when she yelled “Gotta go!” . It seems the pool pump pressure relief valve that sits on top of the tank let go, shooting a geyser of biblical proportions skyward. I now have to order a new pressure relief valve. Hm, maybe they are no longer available anywhere in the world. I’m starting to like the idea of about 12 tomato plants sitting in the spot the pool occupies now. Back to the drawing board, again.
On a lighter note, the good news is that every one of the five teams in the division has a stable, reliable closer. Except, maybe the Indians, but there is no sign of an imminent change to talk about anywhere including Cleveland.
The bad news, whether you live in Boston or Chicago, and ask where your Sox are the answer will be simple; “In the basement”. The White Sox, like the crimson version on the East Coast, are buried in the basement at 29-38 and starting to smell like an old forgotten pair of -you guessed it– sox.
Let’s look a bit closer at some good news, bad news and some other observations from around the AL Central:
Kansas City Royals: 39-26 1st Place
Royals Pitching – The Royals have the 2nd best ERA in the AL at 3.40. I kid you not! And, that is with Edinson Volquez (3.33 ERA) and Chris Young as the only starters with a sub-3.40 ERA, three starters on the DL and Jeremy Guthrie’s ERA in the high fives. Rest assured, rotation replacement Joe Blanton to the rescue. No, aside from a major contribution from Chris Young of late, the team ERA is mostly driven by a phenomenal bullpen. The pen boasts a great ERA from all six regular members; starting with Wade Davis 0.30 to Greg Holland’s 3.12. I don’t think there is a team in MLB with a better group of six bullpen members.
Chris Young, SP has been a revelation. He started in the bullpen, but was pressed into the rotation and has a 1.98 ERA after 8 starts and a 6-2 record. We know that can’t keep up, but Young does have his best K-BB ratio since 2005. I’m not saying you should roster him, but spot away till the arm falls off.
Royals Hitting – The Royals will not likely have an MVP candidate come October, but this team can hit. This is the epitome of the old “total is greater than the sum of the individual parts” theory. This offseason, when I wrote about catcher rankings, I called Sal Perez the new Yadier Molina, at least from a hitting standpoint. He has not let me down, his 10 HR lead the team and he’s hitting .281. Anyone who stuck with or took a chance on Kendry Morales (team leading 43 RBI & 18 doubles), Mike Moustakas (team leading .321 Avg), Eric Hosmer (8 HR, 38 RBI, .300/.368/.475 slash for a team leading .843 OPS) or Lorenzo Cain (team leading 41 R & 14 SB along with 30 RBI) have been greatly rewarded. Even Alex Gordon is having a much better season than his most basic stats show (team leading .387 OBP leading to an .840 OPS). They’ll be hard to stop if Alcides Escobar and Omar Infante can duplicate their 2014 seasons, which they are falling short of at this point.
Alex Rios, OF is back from a lengthy DL stay and has not started hitting yet. His spot has been a black hole all season and Rios has not yet turned that around. I think he will though, and soon enough too. He is another perfect “total is greater than the sum of the parts” type player for this lineup. His home run power was way down (4) in 2014 compared to his 2012 career year (25) but at 34 years old he still can contribute all across the board depending on where they put him in the lineup.
Sal Perez, C needs to get on base more if he wants to further emulate his counterpart from the other side of Missouri. Perez 4 walks in nearly half a season have led to an OBP below .300. This can be a rally killer on nights that his hitting timing is off.
Disabled Starters Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura and Jason Vargas – If the Royals are to make a serious run, they’ll need at least Duffy and Ventura back in good health and pitching better than they did the first month of the season. Duffy has a biceps injury but is scheduled to come off the DL Wednesday and pitch that evening vs the Mariners. His ERA prior to the injury was 5.87 which is 3 runs higher than his successful 2014 campaign, so that needs to reverse itself. Ventura has an ulnar nerve irritation, which sounds scary but may only need rest, and no timetable for return as yet. His ERA in 12 starts was also about a run and a half higher than his stellar 2014 rookie season. Vargas is a useful innings-eater and fantasy spot starter when healthy. Barring trades, there are not enough other options to lead this team in starting pitching.
Minnesota Twins – 37-31 2nd Place
Brian Dozier is one of the reasons the Twins are still contending at all. He is projecting out at 30 HR and nearly 80 RBI. The believers were rewarded with a .260 average as well. The contributions of Torii Hunter (8 HR, 36 RBI, .261 BA) and Trevor Plouffe (9 HR, 38 RBI, .245 BA), while better than expected, are not going to be enough for this team to make a serious run.
Minnesota Starting Pitching is starting down the slippery slope we expected them to slide down. Gibson is settling back to earth giving up 14 earned runs in four June starts after giving up only 6 earned runs in six May starts. His ERA is only 3.35 for the season but his FIP is a whole run higher and he is pitching to a career low .276 Babip. Mike Pelfrey is in an on-again-off-again streak, having given up 8 runs on June 13 but then only 1 run on June 18th. Phil Hughes continues to disappoint after his 2014 coming out party. He may be an even numbered year pitcher as he won 18 games in 2010 and 16 each in 2012 & 2014. What is going on with Phil in 2015? His biggest improvement last season came from reducing his HR given up to 16 and his walks all the way down to 16 for the year as well. In 2015 he has maintained the walk rate as he only has 9 in half a season, but he already has matched his 16 HR output of last season. HR were the bane of his Yankee years and it may be rearing its ugly head again.
Aaron Hicks, CF – Down again. The injury-prone label is being added to his uniform shirts. He was starting to hit a bit too, getting his average up to .250 with 6 SB. I dropped him from my teams.
Detroit Tigers, 34-34 3rd Place.
Victor Martinez, DH is back and already hitting with authority. In his 3rd game back from the DL he went 3/6 with 4 RBI including a 2 run HR off Masahiro Tanaka no less. The Tigers lineup is completely different with V-Mart hitting behind Miggy.
JD Martinez, OF also hit 3 HR in the same game. Maybe it was that the Yank’s pitching had an off day. Maybe V-Mart added that much to the lineup’s entire production. Maybe JD just had a good game. Either way he is quietly on pace for 37 HR and 100 RBI. Some owners were smart enough to believe in JD and grabbed him for his age 27 season.
Jose Iglesias, SS – Why isn’t this guy batting at the top of the lineup? His .323 average and .377 OBP are second only to Miggy himself on the Tigers, and his 9 steals are 3rd on the team as well. I’d bat Iglesias first and Kinsler 2nd.
Miguel Cabrera, 1b is cranking along at another MVP pace of 35 HR, 120 RBI and slashing .346/.450/.593. His OPS is good for 3rd in all of baseball behind Harper and Goldschmidt of the NL. We have been spoiled by his performance year in and year out.
Justin Verlander, SP is back and pitching better than expected. Does anyone think it was necessary to send him out for the 7th vs the Yanks? That move probably added 2 runs to his ERA. Look, I know his velocity is down and he may not even be the best SP on the Tigers, but one could do a lot worse than V in the middle of their rotation.
Alfredo Simon, SP – Reprising his smoke and mirror act that he perfected last season in Cincinnati when he was 15-10 with a 3.40 ERA in 32 starts. He still walks to many (3.1/9IP) and does not strike out enough (6.6/9IP) to maintain that 3.29 ERA. As a matter of fact this is the 2nd year in a row that his FIP was nearly a run higher than his ERA. He does keep the ball on the ground and thus in the park and is on pace for a 16-9 record. It may not make sense but until it stops working we may as well use him.
Ian Kinsler, 2b – Ok, he is hitting alright and getting on base. But, where is the power? He is 2nd on the team with 15 doubles but only has 1 HR. I think the numbers will fall in line as all his peripherals are spot on with his career numbers. He may not make it to last season’s 17 HR, 92 RBI numbers but I’ll take 9/72.
Anthony Gose, CF – I believe that it is time to stop batting him at the top of this lineup. On paper, he and Rajai Davis are a good speedy platoon to hit atop the lineup. As the old saying goes though, you can’t steal 1st base and Gose’s .317 OBP does not cut it no matter how many SB he logs. Davis has a higher OBP and leads the team in steals, but has the short end of the platoon. I’d bat Iglesias first and this tandem 9th.
Cleveland Indians, 31-36 4th Place
Danny Salazar, SP is becoming the real ace of this staff, though he may still be a year or so off from that honor. He is 6-2 with a 3.56 ERA (vs a 3.51 FIP) and has logged 91 K’s in 73 IP leaving him on pace for 14 Wins and 212 K’s. His 2.3 BB/9 rate is good though he could stand to cut down on the HR balls with a 1.4 HR/9 IP. For the price, he is the Cleveland pitcher to have owned this season if you can still get him without over paying.
Zach McAllister, RP is the latest example of a failed or mediocre starter who became a good, useful reliever. He won’t help you much in 5 X 5 leagues but in leagues that reward MR’s he’s struck out 44 batters in 36 innings and his 3.44 ERA is better than it looks when compared with his 2.75 FIP. If he works his way into a higher leverage spot in the pen he should start racking up Holds.
Corey Kluber, SP is starting to show that 2014 was a bit “luck exaggerated” and Validates my thought that Felix was the legitimate Cy Young winner. Don’t get me wrong, Kluber is and will be a good starting pitcher for years to come, but he is not Felix Hernandez. Why do I think there was some luck involved? Nearly all of Kluber’s peripherals, walk and K rates and HR rates are spot on with 2014. He’s even pitching to his lifetime Babip of .338 which is extremely high and not too much higher than last season’s .318. But, his 3.65 ERA is a full 1.2 runs higher than 2014. I bet the mean is right in between which makes him a very good #2 SP but not a 2nd rounder like we saw in drafts this season. Some pitchers break out and you know they have the pedigree to draft high the next season, like Kershaw or Fernandez, but some others who came seemingly from nowhere should have to do it again first before establishing a higher draftvalue.
Trevor Bauer, SP is another starter who is becoming a Jekyll and Hyde performer. On June 10th he gave up 6 runs in 3.2 IP, but then followed that up June 16th 7 shutout innings. Most of his numbers show the 3.20 ERA is sustainable, so what is the problem? As it has been his whole career, he walks far too many (4.2/9IP). In the 6 run start he had 5 walks. In fact, in six May starts Bauer had 12 walks. In three June starts he has already matched that 12 walks. He actually won two of those three starts as he does have good stuff and can limit the damage. But as long as he keep putting ducks on the pond, more and more of them will cross the plate.
Shawn Marcum, SP pitched so badly in his last start that the Indians DFA’ed him. At first it was sad to me as he has teased us with at least serviceable talent for years. But, I’ve grown used to playing without him.
Chicago White Sox, 29-38 Last Place
Jose Abreu, 1b has finally started to put the ball in the seats the way everyone expected. I wasn’t worried, he was still having a good season, just not making some of the people who drafted him with a top five pick very happy. In the past 30 days he has 16 runs, 6 HR and 18 RBI. I hope you stuck with him, like I did. He’s now slashing .286/.340/.490. He’s got a ways to go still as his OPS is lingering about .120 below last season’s.
Starting Rotation – This group could be the best of the trio of Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago, who all have at least 4 very good starting pitchers. Chris Sale, Jeff Samardzija, Jose Quintana and Carlos Rodon have as much talent as the other foursomes, and like the Tigers are led by two veterans still in their prime years. It may also be the first to be broken up as the “Dirty Sox” are likely already out of contention and I’ve seen rumors of Shark and Sale being offered around or inquired about. A trade would likely help both of them, particularly if it is to an NL club and not the AL East.
Outfield trio of Melky Cabrera (.250/.288/.294), Adam Eaton(.242/.310/.349) & Avisail Garcia(.267/.319/.394) – This trio has fallen far, far short of expectations. There is some sign of life coming from Eaton and Garcia, but Cabrera is still in a hitting coma. The trio has 11 HR and 7 SB between them, and the 9 ratios that make up the slash rates above would all be decent batting averages, but not OPS components. Eaton does have 36 R and 5 SB and Garcia has shown some power. Cabrera has done nothing, though I have him stashed in a league or two. If Eaton was dropped by an impatient (well, one would have to be a savant not to be) pick him up. If he has a decent 2nd half and helps your SB it won’t matter anymore what he did in the first half. The Garcia owner would likely trade him to you though it should not cost you much.
Two Fantasy related questions:
Second Base – Why isn’t Gordon Beckham or Emilio Bonifacio starting over Carlos Sanchez every day? Carlos Sanchez, at only 22, is not yet ready for MLB pitching. In 51 games over 200 AB he is hitting .141 with 51 K’s to 7 walks. I realize neither one will help you win the BA category in any given season, but Beckham can hit, and with power, in streaks and you don’t need me to tell you what Bonifacio can do for your SB when playing regularly. Neither is useful right now but either could be if he had regular at bats.
Catcher – Why isn’t Giovanni Soto starting over Tyler Flowers every day? In 50 less at bats Soto has the same or better counting stats and is slashing better all across the board. He also has power upside that Flowers does not have. Right now neither are fantasy worthy, but maybe Soto would be with regular at bats.
*Bolded pitchers are two start pitchers for this coming week.
Monday: D. Hutchison, TOR @ TB . M. Pineda, NYY vs PHI.
Tuesday: C. Archer, TB vs TOR, D. Price, DET @ CLE, J. Samardzija, CHI @ MIN, CC Sabathia, NYY vs PHI, U. Jimenez, BAL @ BOS,
Wednesday: C. Sale, CHW @ MIN, J. Verlander, DET @ CLE, A. Warren, NYY vs PHI, M. Estrada, TOR @ TB.
Thursday: R. Simon, DET vs CHI
Friday: Kevin Gausman, BAL vs CLE, A. Sanchez, DET vs CHI, M. Buehrle vs TEX, E. Volquez, KC @ OAK.
Saturday: D. Hutchison, TOR vs TEX, C. Young, KC @ OAK.
Sunday: M. Pineda, NYY @ HOU, U. Jimenez, BAL vs CLE, D. Price vs CHI.
(Click the BLUE link to listen to the show)
Major League Fantasy Sports Show: Join Ej Garr and Corey D Roberts on Sunday June 28th from 7-9pm EST for this week’s episode of Major League Fantasy Sports Radio sponsored by the Sports Palooza Radio Network. Call in to ask questions at 646-915-8596. This week’s topics will be the A.L. Central, N.L. West, and everything fantasy related within.
Our guests this week include Kyle Amore, Lou Landers, and Hernan Batista. Kyle is a writer with MLFS in which he focuses on the N.L. East, N.L. Central, and the MLB Draft. Catch his articles every Tuesday morning. Lou Landers is the host of Major League Fantasy Football Weekly which is our live YouTube show which runs every Saturday from 2-3:30pm EST. Hernan Batista is an excellent owner in (Team name “Powerslave) MLFB2, and a long time veteran of fantasy baseball. Come join us for a lively debate.
If you can’t make it to the live airing you can always download the podcast at I-Tunes or Google Play stores. Search for “Sports Palooza Radio Show”. Android owners download “Podcast Republic” and then search on podcast republic for “Sports Palooza Radio Show.”
(Click the BLUE Link to watch the show)
Major League Fantasy Football Weekly Show: Join Lou Landers and Ron McCleese on Saturday June 27th from 2-3:30pm EST for this week’s episode Major League Fantasy Football Weekly. We will be discussing key free agents/traded players that will have a profound impact in the 2015 fantasy football season.
You can watch live and ask questions to the group, or you can watch afterward on our YouTube channel at your leisure.