It's Week 11, and the contenders who have a consistent starting lineup and rotation continue to thrive, even during weeks where it doesn‘t seem possible. Meanwhile, the pretenders do their best imitation of Brewers manager Ken Macha, and continue to tinker with what should be winning teams. It begs the question: Is it better to stand pat rather than try and fix something that doesn't need to be fixed? You think about that, and at the same time consider this week's fantasy forecast which features the three hot names of Braun, Boesch, and Strasburg. Good luck.
Here are a few fantasy players who by Italian standards are not little, and will be swinging for the fences like the great one this week.
Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun -- Yes, Braun has been struggling since the start of June; .209 batting average, and one home run. However, his historical June stats heading in to this season tell a different story. In fact, oddly enough this month has been one his best of the year (.325, 19 HR, 64 RBI). But this isn't the only reason that I believe that this is the week that his power stroke will come back to life. Milwaukee will be in Colorado to finish up the week, and the Rockies are a team that Braun has put up big numbers against in his career. In 82 at-bats Braun is hitting .354 with six home runs and 20 RBI. Better yet is the fact that he's hitting .364 against Rockie pitchers this season, and he hit .417 with two home runs and five RBI in 2009.
Tigers outfielder Brennan Boesch -- Not only does is Boesch red hot with 13 hits in his last eight games, including four home runs, but the Tigers will be at home all week against some light-weight pitching. They avoid Strasburg in their first series that starts Tuesday with the Nationals, and instead will go up against the likes of John Lannan, Livan Hernandez, and Luis Atilano, with Hernandez really being the only potential trouble spot; 1.29 career ERA against the Tigers. Then Detroit invites the Diamondbacks and their league leading 92 home runs allowed and 5.51 team ERA. And did I mention Boesch is hitting .383 at Tiger Stadium this season?
Astros outfielder Carlos Lee -- In his career Lee is a combined .310 hitter with 32 home runs against the Astros two interleague opponents this week, Kansas City and Texas. Plus, very slowly Lee is raising his batting average, and already has four home runs in the month of June, after going without a homer during the month of April to start the season. I expect him to power up even more this week against two familiar opponents.
Henry Rowengartner's Encore
These flame-throwers won't need to break their arms to post solid fantasy numbers this week. Make sure you lock them in to your lineup.
Mets starter R.A. Dickey -- Since being called up Dickey has pitched admirably and is currently 4-0 with a 2.78 ERA in five starts. This week it gets even better for the knuckle-ball thrower when he faces the Indians; a team that is averaging just a tick over four runs per game, and is towards the bottom of the American League rankings in almost every other offensive category. Plus, in his last and only start of his career in Cleveland, back in 2004, he went 6.2 innings, and allowed no earned runs while striking out seven Indian hitters.
White Sox starter Jake Peavy -- Peavy hasn't exactly been lights out this season, but in his last two starts he has gone seven strong in each, and has lowered his ridiculously high earned run average down to 5.62. His next start is against a Pirates offense that is dead last in all of baseball with 198 runs scored, and has a team batting average of .237. Plus, in his career against Pittsburgh Peavy is 5-2 with a 2.52 ERA, and 73 strikeouts in 53.2 innings pitched.
Blue Jays starter Shaun Marcum -- Marcum is having a solid season at the top of the Blue Jays rotation, and this week will get to two starts against two teams who lack the pop to score big. Sure, he hasn't logged any starts against the Padres or the Giants in his young career, but he has pitched 12.2 strong innings against another NL West opponent in the Los Angeles Dodgers, for which he boasts a 1.42 career ERA. The bottom line here is that of Marcum's 13 starts, nine of them have been "quality," and there's no reason to think that he won't have two more in the week to come.
Colder than the Bad News Bears
Here are a few players who are making Walter Matthau's crew seem like all-stars.
Dodgers starting pitcher Chad Billingsley -- In his last two starts Billingsley has allowed ten earned and 16 hits in 11.2 innings pitched. He has dropped his season record to 6-4, and his ERA to 4.34, but is still averaging almost one strikeout (0.9) per inning.
Rangers starting pitcher Rich Harden -- Harden is one of the few disappointing players the Rangers were relying on having a big season in 2010. In his last two starts he has allowed nine earned runs, six walks, and an unheard of six home runs. Clearly opposing hitters are dialed in on him.
Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista -- Bautista has hit a road block in his last six games, as he has zero hits in his last 19 at-bats, and has struck out eight times. He still has the most home runs in the American League (18), but as a fantasy owner you have to start wondering if his best days are behind him.
Tigers outfielder Austin Jackson -- Like Bautista, Jackson's best days may be behind him. In his last 26 at-bats the Tigers centerfielder has just two hits, and has struck out seven times. This time last week Jackson was hitting .333, but now has dropped his season average to .306.
Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols -- Pujols has recorded just one hit in his last 15 at-bats, and has dropped his season batting average from .317 to .300. I wouldn't count on this trend continuing, but thus far this season the Cardinals hitting phenom hasn't exactly put on a hitting clinic like he has in years past.
Hotter than Dottie Hinson
Here are a few players that are making Dottie look more like Courtney Love, Donatella Versace, and maybe even teammate Doris Murphy (Rosie O'Donnell) all wrapped in one. (All stats as of Saturday)
Rays first baseman Carlos Pena -- Pena has been the hottest power hitters in baseball in the last five games. He has gone nine for 20 with six home runs and nine runs driven in. For the season he's batting .196 with 14 long balls and 42 RBI.
Marlins outfielder Chris Coghlan -- Coghlan has been probably the hottest, powerless hitter in all of baseball in the last ten games. The National League Rookie of the Year winner is currently riding a 11-game hitting streak, and is 23 for his last 43 with one home run, six RBI, and six doubles. He is currently hitting .278 for the season; this after starting the season with a .195 batting average during the month of April.
Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton -- Hamilton has recorded at least one hit in each of the Rangers last eight games. He has also launched four deep flies and has driven in 13 baserunners during that span. For the season Hamilton is batting .308 with 13 home runs and 42 RBI.
Cubs outfielder Marlon Byrd -- Byrd is 15 for his last 29 with two home runs, six RBI, eight runs scored, and just one strikeout. He currently leads the National League with a .329 season average, and is 11th with an OPS (On-base Plus Slugging) of .909. You could make a case that the Cubs centerfielder is currently the best hitter in a Cubs lineup that has still featured Derek Lee, Alfonso Soriano, and Aramis Ramirez this season.
Mets starting pitcher Jonathan Niese -- In his last two starts Niese has gone 16 strong innings, allowing one earned run, and striking out 12. In fact, on Thursday night he pitched a complete game one-hitter at home against San Diego. In ten starts this season Niese has gone 3-2 with an ERA of 3.61 and a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 2.4-to-1.
Twins starting pitcher Francisco Liriano -- The Twins lefty's return to glory has been one of biggest stories this season. He has also been perhaps the hottest pitcher for American League only fantasy owners, especially in his last two starts where he has struck out 21 batters and has allowed two earned runs in 15 innings pitched. For the season Liriano is 6-3 with an ERA of 2.90, and a strikeout rate of 7.25 per game.
Roger Bomman's Binoculars Reveal
These two start pitchers who should be locked in to fantasy rotations.
- Adam Wainwright vs. Seattle and Oakland
- Shaun Marcum vs. San Diego and San Francisco
- Johan Santana vs. Cleveland and New York (Yankees)
- David Price vs. Florida and Atlanta
- Clay Buchholz vs. Arizona and Los Angeles (Dodgers)
- Rick Porcello vs. Washington and Arizona
I can't say that I'm surprised by the debut game that Stephen "Lebron" Strasburg put together earlier this week against the Pirates. I mean, let's be honest, the Pirates could be the worst hitting team in all of baseball, which was clearly depicted above in the Jake Peavy analysis. Yes, 14 strikeouts is highly impressive for a starting pitcher making his first start, but are you really truly surprised, especially with all the hype leading up to his moment?
Now, on the other end of the spectrum there's Detroit Tigers slugger Brennan Boesch, who hasn't and doesn't get near the amount of media attention that the so-called "Lebron" of baseball is currently receiving. In 2009 he was a power machine for the Double-A Erie SeaWolves when he finished with 28 home runs and 93 RBI in 527 at-bats. He started the 2010 season at Triple-A Toledo hitting .379 with three home runs and 17 RBI in his first 58 at-bats before being called up ahead of up-and-coming top prospect outfielder Casper Wells.
Now, the question I'm exploring is: Is Boesch's early 2010 success, coupled with a pitching phenom stealing the spotlight, sound like history repeating itself?
It should. It's the same story that was written in 2007 when Brewers star slugger Ryan Braun came up from up Triple-A Nashville after just 34 games, only to finish his rookie Major League debut with 34 home runs, 97 runs batted in, and a .324 batting average. The funny thing was, though, that much like Boesch is this season, Braun was the hidden story behind the oversized hype surrounding the at-the-time Japanese flame thrower Daisuke Matsuzaka, who was signed to a $52 million contract by the Red Sox in the offseason.
Matsuzaka had a welcoming party shaking hands with Red Sox fans, whom lined the streets upon his arrival to greet what was supposed to be the next superstar pitcher.
An SI.com scribe had an interesting take on the beauty of Daisuke's style in an article dated March 20, 2007, that was geared towards bringing down American style pitching while praising the Japanese. The text read, "Matsuzaka's pitching motion is an elegant haiku, beauty captured in three parts separated by two pauses that he varies from pitch to pitch. He swings his hands over his head, pauses, lowers his hands as he begins his turn on the rubber, pauses again, then unleashes all the stored energy in a violently quick motion to the plate in which he drops so low that his right knee sometimes scrapes the dirt of the mound. It's like nothing taught in America." That was just the start.
And of course, he was proclaimed as the top prospect heading in to the 2007 season by Baseball America. Ryan Braun, well, he was a comfortable 26th best behind the likes of Alex Gordon, Jay Bruce, and Brandon Wood. Eww!
Sure, the Red Sox won a World Series in 2007, but Matsuzaka was 15-12 with a 4.40 ERA. Since then, he has had one very good season (2008: 18-3, 2.90 ERA), but overall hasn't even come close to living up to the expectations that were placed upon him when he shook those New England hands. For his career, Daisuke has a 4.06 ERA with just 446 strikeouts in 480.2 innings pitched, and lately it seems like his lack of "never-icing his arm" conditioning that was so highly praised by many heading in to 2007 is starting to catch up with him. Meanwhile, Braun has enjoyed more success and has more career accolades than not only Matsuzaka, but the 24 other prospects who were pegged above him pre-2007.
As for Boesch, well he wasn't even ranked when Baseball America came out with their inaugural top 100 in February. Strasburg was a close second behind the Braves Jason Heyward.
Now, I'm not saying that Strasburg won't live up to the hype, as he does look like he has an unbelievable "well-conditioned" arm. I'm just warning you as a fan and fantasy owner that there are other up-and-coming big "smaller" fish like Boesch in the Major League sea who deserve just as much attention, and look like they could do some pretty big things in the coming years. After all, you never know when history will repeat itself.