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The ninth inning has been a minefield this season. Everyone knows it an it's been that way since Day 1 this season. Given that we're in the home stretch of the 2012 campaign there has never been a more important time to have that position locked down because the saves category is likely one of those in which you can make a move over the final few weeks. Today we'll breakdown the Reds 9th inning situation and touch on three men that are rocking it in the 9th inning. After that discussion how about we take a look at a handful of bats that are on the edge of returning to game action just in time to provide that finishing kick to your fantasy season.
Aroldis Chapman has been shut down for a while with shoulder fatigue. How long will that rest period be? Chapman himself guessed at 5-7 days. Is that timeframe accurate? Time will tell. With the Reds rolling to the NL Central title, they have a 10.5 game lead, there is no reason for the club from Cincinnati to rush Chapman back into action so I personally wouldn't be remotely surprised to see him miss twice as much time as he expects. Who steps up in the 9th until he comes back for the 86-57 Reds? Tuesday night it was Jonathan Broxton who picked up his first save with the Reds and his 24th of the season. Tuesday night also signified the 9th straight scoreless outing for Broxton who lowered his ERA to 2.49 on the campaign. Being that he is right-handed, and that he has had success in the 9th before (he had 36 saves back in 2009), he would figure to get the majority of work until Chapman returns. Sean Marshall, the clubs' top lefty, could also be in the mix for 9th inning work after filling that spot early in the year for the Reds before Chapman finally took over the role. Marshall has had an impressive season yet again with a 2.83 ERA, 64 Ks in 54 innings, an a 4.64 K/BB ratio.
The last 30 days two men have 10 saves to lead baseball, an I bet that if you were given 10 guesses you wouldn't be able to tell me who they are. One is an NL arm, one an AL arm. Neither pitches for a big market team. Both are righties. Both are averaging more than 11 Ks per nine innings the past month. Neither has allowed a homer the past month. They are Greg Holland and John Axford. Here are the numbers.
Holland: 10 saves, 13.50 K/9, 1.35 ERA, 1.05 WHIP
Axford: 10 saves, 11.68 K/9, 2.19 ERA, 1.30 WHIP
Holland has taken over since Jonathan Broxton was sent to the Reds, and the Royals haven't missed a beat in the 9th. As for Axford, he's had a tough season. It's pretty amazing to think given all his struggles and the often employed 9th inning carousel that the Brewers have employed that Axford has 28 saves on the season. However, he's also blown eight games and has seven loses after totaling five blown saves and four loses the last two years. Still, he's on a bit of a roll right now as he's converted his last 10 save chances in a row. He's also allowed just one hit over his last 8.1 innings pitched. I know, I know, it's hard to trust him, but right now there just aren't that many arms that are pitching better at the end of games than Axford.
Carlos Marmol has been his typical spotty self at times this season even being demoted for a time after a series of poor outings, but look up and you notice that Marmol has converted 18-straight save chances for the Cubbies. It's not really his fault that that Cubs are having issues winning games, so he's just not getting a ton of save chances to convert. His last blown save? How about April 24th. It's hard to remember that long ago isn't it? Though Marmol has 59 Ks an a 3.88 ERA over 46.1 innings, decent numbers to be sure, but oh those walks. Marmol has issued 40 free passes leading to a 1.66 WHIP. How many walks is that? The guy has only allowed 37 hits this year leading to a .214 BAA. Really Carlos? You are just about the hardest guy in the game to square the ball up against but you insist on walking every other guy who comes to the dish. For his career Marmol has issued 6.05 walks per nine innings, a number that has skyrocketed to 7.77 this season. Amazingly that would end up being just the second worst number of his career – he had a 7.91 mark in 2009.
Close to a Return?
Jose Altuve (abdominal strain) entered the game for the Astros Tuesday night as a defensive replacement, and the hope is that he could return to the starting lineup as early as Wednesday. A .290 hitter this season with 29 steals the 5'5”, yes that's how tall he really is, Altuve has been a solid addition to fantasy squads this season because of his ability to keep the ball on the ground and then to steal a base when he's gotten on. However, he's performance has dipped, rather markedly, over his last 51 games as he has hit .268 with no homers and six RBIs. Obviously his game isn't to be a middle of the order thumper, but six RBIs in 51 games? That's horrible. There's also this. His OBP since the All-Star Game is .336 but his SLG is a mere .325. At least he is still running with 14 steals in 16 attempts.
Asdrubal Cabrera is dealing with a wrist injury, one that has caused him to miss two games. Sounds like that number will grow as he's expected to be out of action until Friday. “It's something he's battled through," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. “...he's not going to do additional damage by playing. It's a question of how much he can tolerate.” While it might be nice to give him kudos for trying, it's pretty obvious that whether it's the wrist or something else, Cabrera has been awful of late, and that is a totally applicable adjective at this point. Here are the numbers:
.300/.379/.495/.874, 11 HR, 40 RBI first 69 games.
.228/.281/.321/.602, 3 HR, 16 RBI in next 59 games.
What that slump has done is cost him any chance to repeat a myriad of the totals he posted in 2011.
2011: 25 HR, 92 RBIs, 87 runs, 17 SBs
2012: 14 HR, 56 RBI, 69 runs, 7 SBs
2012 is also the second year in a row that his performance has drastically dipped in the second half. Here are his first half, and second half marks, the past two years.
First Half: .290-25-93-98-14 in 662 ABs
Second Half: .242-14-56-49-10 in 443 ABs
That's not enough data for a trend to be firmly established, but it's enough for me to be thinking that if Cabrera gets off to another strong start in 2013 that he might be someone you consider dealing in the second half.
Corey Hart (foot) hopes to return to the lineup for the Brewers Friday. Hart has admitted to changing his stroke a bit to compensate for what he described as significant pain. On the year Hart has done his normal thing going deep 27 times with 77 RBIs, 86 runs scored an a .278 batting average. There's a chance if he gets back out there this week that he can set a career best for runs scored, he's five off his career best of 90, and he's four homers short of his career best of 31 long balls. He's been a rough play this year on the road hitting .248 with seven homers, but he's been death on hurlers at home with a .309 average and 20 homers in 68 games. He's also sporting an elite .995 OPS with the home cooking and he was hot before being sidelined with the foot issue as he has hit .316 with a .916 OPS over his last 54 games.
Mike Napoli (quadriceps) hopes to return by the weekend as he's been sent to Double-A Frisco to play a couple of games to prove the soundness of his bum wheel (he went 0-2 in his first game Tuesday night). How much will he play when he returns? That's an open question, especially after Ron Washington stated that Geovany Soto and Napoli will share work behind the dish. Don't take that as a death blow to Napoli's value the rest of the way, he can obviously play first base or fill the designated hitter role even if he's not donning the tools of ignorance. We all know how hot Napoli can get when he's locked in. Look no further than his 2011 September when he hit .429 with eight homers and 19 RBIs in 21 games.
Carlos Quentin continues to miss time with a knee injury, he missed time early in the year recovering from knee surgery, and the latest estimates place him out of action until likely Friday. Quentin returned home to San Diego this offseason, and while there was a hope that returning home would improve his production, it really hasn't. Not only has he continued to miss time, he will fall short of 100 games played this year for the second time in four years, and he's still failed to have ever appeared in 135 games in a season (his career best was 131 in 2010). Considering that he's appeared in 80 games for the Padres he is on pace for a 32 homers, 90 RBI season which anyone would take, especially since he's also hitting .262 with a .370 OBP (career .253 and .349). Still, if we push out his current 279 at-bat total and given him 421 at-bats to match last years total, given his current levels of production, he would have 24 homers and 68 RBIs which is nearly a match for his totals of 24 and 77 last year. Quentin has been what he always is – a solid run producer with power who simply cannot stay healthy long enough to be someone you can count on in mixed leagues.
Neil Walker (back) hopes to return to the starting lineup for the Pirates Friday after being out for about three weeks (he last played August 26th). Walker's overall number this year look pretty standard when compared to his previous two seasonal efforts – he's hitting .280 with as .777 OPS (career .280 with a .766 OPS) – but that obscures the fact that Walker was killing it at the plate for large portions of the year. Over his last 46 games Walker had gone deep 10 times with 35 RBIs and 29 runs scored, pretty much elite level production for a second sacker. There's obviously no way to know what type of hitter he will be when he returns due both to the injury and the layoff, so here's to hoping you get the July version (1.097 OPS) and not the August one (.645 OPS).
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87, Monday-Thursday 7 PM EDT, and Friday 9p-12a. You can read more of Ray's work at Baseballguys.com and you can follow his work on Twitter at the BaseballGuys' Twitter account.
Well, Tuesday’s trade deadline brought on a flurry of activity in the baseball world which obviously sends ripples through the fantasy community as well. There were a number of expected movers and shakers in there along with a few surprising non-participants as well. Some of the deals have serious fantasy ramifications while others were more pertinent to the real baseball world, so let’s just go through them and see what’s affecting your fantasy teams here.
We’re just a week away from the July 31st non-waiver trade deadline, but as any baseball fan worth his/her salt knows, the trades don’t even come close to stopping there. The waiver trade deadline in August (trades where players must first clear waivers before being dealt) is also a hotbed of action as it usually involves several marquee players whose contracts can be burdensome to smaller market teams and therefore have little problem slipping through the waiver system. So the bottom line is that we’re looking at a few more weeks of potential player movement and subsequent fantasy unrest.
As we settle in for the All Star break, it’s time to show out love and appreciation for the best value picks of the first half. Obviously there are players out there that may have better overall stats than some of the ones I’m about to reveal, but these are the ones who have given you the best return value for where they were drafted this year. First round picks that produce first round numbers are usually no-brainers, but as we all know, fantasy baseball championships are won in the later rounds when you get first round-type production form your 18th round pick. So without further ado, I present to you the 2012 First Half, Best Value, Stud-a-Licious Award winners…
Talk to any hardcore numbers guy out there and ask about some of the hot and cold starts to the season and they’ll tell you the exact same thing – small sample size. We’ve got a long way to go before these numbers have any sort of a major effect. With only a small handful of games in the books, an 0-3 start is not the end of the world. There are still 159 games to go, so simmer down, Yankees and Red Sox fans. Austin Jackson is batting .571 while Matt Holliday is hitting just .167? Relax. We’re less than 20 at-bats into a season in which both will see atleast 500 more. It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement as we wrap up the first weekend of baseball, but if there’s one piece of sound fantasy advice you’re given every year, it is to be patient. The fantasy season, like real baseball is a marathon, not a sprint.
Tonight's article is capped with a double dose of bad news for players on either end of the country and either end of the ball game as a starter in New York and a closer in Los Angeles both have bad news attached to their player profiles. Staying at the back end of the bullpen, there was not bad news, but bad production in the Lone Star State, and then a starter in the midwest gets a raw deal again. We have a report on a high end pitcher returning from injury and one of the hottest hitters in baseball could be north of the border. We look at this and so much more in this version of Rounding The Bases.