Offense first – that’s what they say. Pitching may win championships in the real world, but this is fantasy baseball we’re talking about and in fantasy, it is a dominant offense that wins it for you. It’s said so many times that you would think it would be ingrained in people’s heads by now, yet we still see starting pitchers get taken in the first round and people reaching for “aces” faster than they really should. It’s an age old debate that leaves most scratching their heads as to how and why it is still even up for discussion. Well, if there were ever a day to prove the point for the pro-offense side of the argument, it was Sunday.
On a day when one of the best pitching prospects in baseball made his debut in spectacular fashion, those aces, whom so many invested so much in, got trounced. Plain and simple, they got beat like they stole something and those who preach the wait-on-pitching gospels were filled with vindication. Undrafted in almost every league that isn’t a dynasty or long-term keeper league, 20-year old Marlins hurler Jose Fernandez gave up just one run on three hits and a walk with eight strikeouts over five innings. Meanwhile two Cy Young award winners and another three of the top 10 starters in the game combined to allow 38 earned runs over just 24.1 innings with 15 walks to a feeble 17 strikeouts. How’s that for your big draft day investment at work?
I mean….let’s just look at these pitching lines…
|Matt Cain, SF||3.2||7||9||9||2||2||22.09||2.45|
|David Price, TB||5.0||10||8||8||3||3||14.40||2.60|
|R.A. Dickey, TOR||4.2||10||8||7||2||5||13.50||2.57|
|Cole Hamels, PHI||5.2||9||8||8||4||2||12.71||2.29|
|Stephen Strasburg, WAS||5.1||9||6||6||4||5||10.13||2.44|
Atrocious. Just atrocious. Now obviously these guys should have, for the most part, solid stat lines come the end of the season and maybe this particular outing will be long forgotten. But it just goes to show you that no starter is unflappable and that you can get burnt as easily by an ace on a bad day as you can get a fantastic outing from someone you drafted late or even picked up off the waiver wire. And while a hitter’s 0-for-4 can be easily erased the following day, your pitcher is going to have to spend his next two to three outings trying to counter all of those earned runs allowed. And that’s only if he is completely lights-out in those outings, mind you.
So next season, when you’re picking 10th in your 12-team league and you’re left with the deciding between an ace hurler and a big-time bat, remember this day. Sure, at some point in your draft you’ll have to think about pitching, but hopefully you’ll have done enough quality scouting to make sensible decisions late rather than be forced to make bad decisions early. I’m not saying that it’s bad to own Price or Strasburg. I’m just saying that with the quality depth of pitching to be had late in your drafts, taking them too early is.
Now let’s hit Sunday’s highlights…
Fantasy Beast of the Day
|Will Middlebrooks, 3B BOS||4-5, 4 R, 2B, 3 HR, 4 RBI|
It was a catch-22 for many owners who were high on the Red Sox slugging third baseman coming into this season. After showing strong growth in the power department through the minors, the now 24-year old Middlebrooks smacked 15 home runs and 14 doubles over 267 at-bats last season, posting an impressive .221 ISO during his first trip to the big leagues. But a broken wrist cut his season short and he was forced to undergo reconstructive surgery shortly thereafter. Traditionally, wrist injuries are a nightmare for power hitters as is takes an exceptionally long time to, pardon the pun, get back into the swing of things. It’s harder to turn the wrists over thus hindering the power with which you drive the ball. But that didn’t seem to be the case Sunday for Middlebrooks who made easy work of R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball an then posed the question, “Why is Dave Bush still in baseball?” The day’s stats now give him four home runs and six RBI through the first six games and it gives all who took a shot on the youngster hope for bigger and better days ahead.
|Mark Reynolds, 1B CLE||3-4, 3 R, 2B, 2 HR, 4 RBI, BB|
|Carlos Santana, C CLE||5-5, 3 R, 2 2B, HR, 3 RBI|
|Billy Butler, 1B KC||2-4, R, HR, 7 RBI, BB|
|Justin Masterson, SP CLE||W, 0.00 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 8 K|
|Jon Lester, SP BOS||W, 0.00 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 6 K|
Well, he’s still striking out nearly 30-percent of the time, but Mark Reynolds is out to prove that his feeble total of 23 home runs in 2012 was an aberration and not the expected norm. With another two home runs Sunday, Reynolds doubled his total for the season and gave him seven RBI through his first five games. Given the crowded first base/DH situation created by an abundance of outfielders and the eventual time off from behind the plate for Carlos Santana, there were concerns as to how much Reynolds’ playing time would be affected. But so far he’s sat for just one game and if he continues to hit for this type of power, they’ll keep his bat in the lineup as much as possible.
And speaking of Santana, how about an impressive 5-for-5 day? Not only was it an impressive day for hits and on-base work, but he flashed more power as well, hitting his second home run of the season. Notorious for his painfully slow starts, Santana is doing everything in his power to make me regret trading him this offseason.
Usually known for its outstanding BBQ, Kansas City is now home to the best Country Breakfast this side of the Mississippi. Loaded with OPS and smothered and covered in rich and delicious counting stats, Billy Butler is again proving his mettle and earning that top 10 first baseman ranking he finally achieved last season. He smacked his first career grand slam in the 5th inning off Cole Hamels and then followed it up the next inning with a two-run single. At worst, he should repeat last year’s totals.
Once again, proving the point that you can get great pitching from a variety of sources that won’t cost you and arm and a leg, Justin Masterson and Jon Lester throw a pair of gems that any fantasy owner would kill to have in their live scoring. Both guys are on the comeback trail from less-than-stellar 2012 seasons and neither cost a bundle on draft day. Yet both of them could prove to be incredibly valuable this season.
|Justin Upton, OF ATL||0-4, 4 K|
|Giancarlo Stanton, OF MIA||0-4, BB, 3 K|
|Jason Heyward, OF ATL||0-3, 3 K|
|Steve Cishek, RP MIA||L, BS, 54.00 ERA, 6.00 WHIP|
|Greg Holland, RP KC||27.00 ERA, 6.00 WHIP|
As far as the hitters go, despite their piss-poor showing on Sunday,there are maybe two or three outfielders out there who I would take before grabbing one of these three. They are young, rich with power and will go on to post amazing stat lines this season. One day on the schnide ain’t killin’ no one.
The closer situations, on the other hand, are not so good. Greg Holland blew the save on Saturday, got a public endorsement from his manager Sunday morning and then promptly stunk it up in the ninth. He probably would have blown the save had he not been removed, but Ned Yost did the wise thing and gave the quick hook. Kelvin Herrera came in and gave up a hit (with a run charged to Holland) but then slammed the door shut with a strikeout of Erik Kratz to end things. It’s hard to imagine Yost backing down from his statement a day later, so expect to see Holland back in the role the next time the Royals have a ninth-inning lead. But be smart and grab Herrera now before anyone else does. He could be closing out games much sooner than later.
As for Steve Cishek, he too has a very long leash. Mike Dunn is a possibility but the fact that he’s a lefty is working against him there. As for the rest of the pen, you’ve got John Maine, Ryan Webb and Chad Qualls, none of whom are drawing much excitement. Qualls had the job once before back in Arizona, but he failed to hold it down for long. Stick with Cishek for now and wait a little longer to see how the rest of the pen unfolds.
Freddie Freeman, 1B ATL – Oblique (15-day DL)
Andrelton Simmons, SS ATL – thumb (day to day)
Nolan Reimold, OF BAL – hamstring (day to day)
John Lackey, SP BOS – arm (doubtful for next start)
Lou Marson, C CLE – neck (day to day)
Scott Kazmir, SP CLE – abdomen (15-day DL)
Michael Cuddyer, OF COL – wrist (day to day)
Jered Weaver, SP LAA – arm (questionable for next start)
Ryan Braun, OF MIL – neck (day to day)
Jean Segura, SS MIL – quad (day to day)
Eduardo Nunez, SS NYY – biceps (day to day)
Josh Reddick, OF OAK – arm (day to day)
Jose Bautista, OF TOR – ankle (day to day)
Adam LaRoche, 1B WAS – back (day to day)
Howard Bender has been covering fantasy sports for over a decade on a vaiety of web sites. You can find his personal musings on RotobuzzGuy.com and for questions, thoughts or comments, you can follow him on Twitter at @rotobuzzguy or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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