While some may file this under “inexcusable,” I haven’t been paying as much attention to baseball as I should so far this season. Frequent travel and an increase in after-work activities has limited my ability to dedicate three and a half hours every night/day to a baseball game. It’s probably just as well, as my favorite team sits at 5-6 and has a starting rotation so in shambles that Chase Wright will be starting at Yankee Stadium tomorrow. Wright was picked over more featured minor league prospects such as Phil Hughes, Tyler Clippard, and Russ Ohlendorf because he is already on the 40-man roster. Still, though he has plowed through AA batters so far this year, his two starts are his only above A-level ever. This has Sean Henn circa 2005 written all over it.
The team I have been paying a moderate amount of attention to is of course my fantasy team. Things are going well so far this season in the League of Doom, and so let’s take a look at the players featured on Cranberry Juice:
C Johnny Estrada: Yes, I have a paid membership at Baseball Prospectus. Yes I bought the 2007 book and poured over it pre-draft. Yes, I downloaded the ZiPS projections and had them at the ready during the draft. And still, when it came down to making picks, I relied not on those proven projection systems and instead on a hastily written blog post about spring training slugging percentages. That method worked out in a couple of cases. This is not one of them. Also I waited till the thirteenth round to draft a catcher, so I got what I deserved. But catchers only play like four games a week anyway, so what’s it matter?
1B: Prince Fielder: The son of Cecil Fielder hasn’t gotten off to the start I would have liked, but .295/.385/.455 is respectable. A slump last week had me bench Fielder for Shawn Green, which sorta paid off. Green is outfielder eligible and is now there while Milton Bradley figures out if he’s got game or not.
2B Ian Kinsler: I still have no idea who this guy is. But, he has six home runs in 35 at bats and is hitting an otherworldly .343/.452/.886. Obviously the numbers are going to regress, but this is, so far, one of those wins for the Spring Slugging Projection System (SSPS).
SS Stephen Drew: I blocked the guy who was last from the joy of picking Stephen and JD back to back in the draft. So far he’s been pretty bad, hitting .209/.340/.233. Not much else to say here, other than that Jhonny Peralta is breathing down his neck to steal some starts.
3B Ryan Zimmerman: The SPSS picked this guy out as well, but he hasn’t performed very well this season so far- .188/.226/.260. Zimmerman might need to watch out for some replacements from the free agent list. I have hope that he’ll turn it around, but Kinsler can’t carry the team forever. Also the Nationals are bad. Really really bad. And that doesn’t bode well for Zimmerman’s RBI totals.
OF Bobby Abreu, Carl Crawford, Shawn Green: Abreu has been pretty quiet other than a 5 RBI game two weeks ago. But he has been doing that thing that a high OBP guy who hits third for an offensive powerhouse: he scores lots and lots of runs. Crawford hasn’t been getting on base much (OBP: .309) but half of his hits are of the extra base variety, including 3 homers. I do hope he continues to show the power he developed last season, but it’s costing him in his other valuable category- stolen bases (he’s 2 for 5 on the base-paths this season).
Utility Travis Hafner: He finally hit his first homer of the season the other night, and this guy is going to need to pick up his power to make it worth the second round pick I used to get him. I don’t have many worries that last season’s leader in RC27 and VORP will turn it around, and he will eventually carry my team through sheer willpower of OBP.
Starting Pitching: I have a reputation for finding diamonds in the rough when it comes to starters, and I rarely draft more than one before the tenth round. Last season was the cornucopia of free agent pitchers, including AL ROY Justin Verlander, mid-season callup Jered Weaver and current couch potato Fransisco Liriano. This season proves to be a bit more challenging, but the pitchers I have so far seem to be performing well. Roy Oswalt and Scott Kazmir anchor the staff, and have been solid- Oswalt with low ERA and WHIP, Kazmir with strikeouts (21 in 20 IP). However, Verlander and Tim Hudson have upstaged them so far; in 34 combined innings, given up two earned runs (both by Hudson). The Carl Pavano bandwagon has tipped, fallen, and several oxen have died; however, Jered Weaver comes off the DL tomorrow to make his first start of the season.
Relief Pitching: With ten teams this season, my strategy of poaching a closer off the waiver wire wouldn’t work. So I had the opportunity to draft Mariano Rivera in the eighth round and I jumped on it. He looked absolutely unfair in his first appearance, striking out the side on 13 pitches (yes, not an Immaculate Inning, but pretty filthy). He was significantly less sharp in his last appearance, grooving a fastball on an 0-2 count to supreme slugger Marco Scutaro, who hit a walk-off homer off the foul pole. My other closer, the Dodgers’ Takashi Saito, has converted all five of his chances. I also am holding Joel Zumaya, who I feel will at some point be closing for Detroit this season. So long as he avoids playing Guitar Hero 2 too much.
Well, that’s the Cranberry Juice update, and I promise some real content about actual baseball sometime soon.