Daily Fantasy Baseball must starts: Wednesday August 22nd

Daily Fantasy Baseball Must StartsThere are value options all over the diamond in a jam packed Wednesday, including a duo looking to take down one of the games best pitchers.

Value plays:

Andre Ethier and James Loney – Don’t let a matchup with a Cy Young candidate scare you away, as both Dodgershas owned Matt Cain over their careers. The Dodgers slugging right fielder has a career .480 batting average against the Giants ace, and by batting between Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez, he figures to plenty of pitches to hit. Loney also holds an impressive batting average (.364) but has done more damage with his hits (38% have gone for extra bases). At first glance, it would be easy to avoid all LA players tonight in daily fantasy baseball games, but if the past repeats itself, that would be a very poor move.

Philadelphia Phillies – For one day you need to overlook the awful season put forth by the Phillies offense, and strongly consider a number of their hitters in your daily fantasy baseball lineup. As a team, the Phillies are batting .333 against Bronson Arroyo, with their big bats doing most of the damage. Juan Pierre, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Placido Polanco. That’s not the projected batting order, it’s a list of starters that are batting at least .353 against the Reds righty. The Phillies may have burned you at various points this season, but in a daily format, you need to think twice about over looking a team that has a .530 slugging percentage against the projected starter. Read more…

Daily Fantasy Baseball must starts: Sunday August 19th

Daily Fantasy Baseball Must StartsTonight figures to be a solid night for two of the games elite, making them more than worth the lofty price tag that they fetch in daily fantasy baseball games.

Value plays:

Robinson Cano – Everyone knows that he is an elite 2B, but why should you spend top dollar on him tonight? Consider that he had hit 64% of his home runs at home and that he is batting 99 points higher against right handed pitchers. That’s a pretty convincing argument, and that doesn’t even include his success against Josh Beckett over his career. Cano holds a .329 career batting average against the Boston righty, with an amazing 54.2% of his hits going for extra bases (leading to a .589 slugging percentage in 73 career at bats). He leads all Yankees in doubles, home runs, and RBI versus Beckett, and there is no reason to think he won’t add to that total tonight, proving himself worth every penny it takes to roster him in daily fantasy baseball games.

Philadelphia Phillies – This offense has underachieved all season long, but that shouldn’t bother daily fantasy baseball owners, as you play in a 1 game season. The Phillies hold a .330 team batting average against Randy Wolf, with Placido Polanco (.500 batting average) and Juan Pierre (.389) leading the way. The two pesky hitters atop the order figure to give the power hitters (6 differnet players have taken Wolf deep on the Phillies roster) plenty of RBI opportunities. Jimmy Rollins has seen his power pick up in the seasons second half, so don’t let his low batting average prevent you from rostering him against the Brewers. Wolf has surrendered 65% of his home runs at home this season, giving me even more confidence in Philly connecting for at least one round tripper. Read more here…

Daily Fantasy Baseball must starts: Tuesday August 14th

Daily Fantasy Baseball Must StartsTwo struggling offenses should click tonight behind two reliable hitters.

Value plays:

Asdrubal Cabrera – The Indians offense isn’t one to fear, but Zack Greinke has had no solution for the pesky 26-year-old shortstop in Cleveland. Cabrera is batting .484 against the righty with a 5:1 walk to strikeout ratio and nearly 27% of his hits going for extra bases. The Angels have an explosive offense, but have yet to win a game Greinke has started, making this a potential shootout. The Indians are batting .290 as a team against the newest Angel, making scoring and knocking in a runs a good bet for Cabrera tonight.

Ryan Howard – In what could be, pound for pound, the biggest matchup of the night, I like the power potential and limited downside of the Phillies sluggers tonight. He faces off against Josh Johnson, a pitcher whom he holds a .303 batting average and .636 slugging percentage against. Half of Howard’s hits have gone for extra bases, and with Juan Pierre and Jimmy Rollins each batting over .330 against Johnson, an extra base hit would likely lead to RBI. Sure, he is a potential strikeout victim (nearly one-third of his outs have come by way of K) but the upside (has 8 RBI on only 10 hits) outweighs the risk. Read more here…

2012 MLB trade deadline: Buyers, sellers

Cole HamelsWith the Major League Baseball trade deadline quickly approaching GMs around the league are scrambling to better position their team for success through the barrage of deals that inevitably takes place right up to the eleventh hour. For some clubs the quest is to secure the missing piece that can elevate them from a solid frontrunner to a championship contender while others on the flip side of the coin who are going nowhere will look to invest in their future by unloading current talent in exchange for a wealth of prospects. This week we’ll take a look at teams who are likely to be involved on both sides of the equation, buyers first.

Baltimore Orioles

At 46-42 and in the midst of their best season in recent memory the Orioles are currently holding on to the final AL Wild Card spot by the slimmest of margins, 0.5 games over a trio of challengers in Detroit, Oakland, and Tampa Bay. With overtaking the Yankees for the division title looking to be an unlikely scenario, the O’s chance to make their first playoff appearance since 1997 hinges on distancing themselves from the Wild Card pack, a task that just became more difficult with the news that pitcher Jason Hammel will miss at least three weeks after undergoing knee surgery to remove loose cartilage.1 Aside from Hammel and Wei-Yin Chen the O’s rotation has struggled mightily this season, so adding a proven arm would help the Birds greatly. ESPN’s Jayson Stark recently reported via Twitter that Baltimore is eyeing Mariners ace Jason Vargas as their top candidate to bolster the rotation. With leadoff hitter Nolan Reimold a victim of the injury bug as well and out for the season, Baltimore could also benefit from adding a solid top-of-the-lineup bat, as they have yet to find someone to fill Reimold’s shoes with any consistency. Making a move on either front will require Baltimore to part with multiple prospects but as a franchise that has been through more than its share of dark days recently expect the Orioles to be serious bidders in hopes of keeping their playoff aspirations in flight.   Read More…

Unsung Hero: Grover Cleveland (Pete Alexander)

Pete AlexanderWe are continuing our weekly segment with Unsung Hero… where YourSportsCheckup dives back in the archives of sports and picks someone that was underrated, not given enough shine or you just forgot about. This week in light of baseball season being in full swing, I wanted to highlight…

Grover Cleveland Alexander (February 26, 1887 – November 4, 1950), nicknamed “Old Pete”, was an American Major League Baseball pitcher. He played for the Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago Cubs, and St. Louis Cardinals and was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1938.  Read More…

Never too early to worry about a bullpen for the Red Sox

Jonathan Papelbon

Jonathan PapelbonIt’s not news that the fans in Beantown live and die with every loss. If the boys in white and red (and sometimes blue and red) finish the season anything less than 162-0, then the season is a disaster. This so-called closer controversy is nothing new either. The main reason Jonathan Papelbon was able to secure $50 million this off-season was because of his permanent transition to closer for the Boston Red Sox in 2006. That spring he was being stretched out to return to the starting rotation which is where he was installed upon being drafted in 2003.

Fast forward to 2012. There wasn’t supposed to be a closer controversy. Papelbon went to the City of Brotherly love with virtually no fan fare and the heir to his 9th inning throne was picked up from the Oakland Athletics. Andrew Bailey is a somewhat doughy, baby-faced right hander, just like Papelbon and his fun-loving demeanor would (and will) have been a nice change-up from Papelbon’s Southern-frat-boy demeanor. But a freak thumb injury in Spring Training, as we’ve all heard 25 times a day since the incidence occurred, will sideline Bailey until at least the All-Star break.

The clear favorite to replace the replacement, was the other former closer in the bullpen, also acquired through trade this off-season, Mark Melancon. Melancon has both experience closing, and experience pitching in the AL East from his early days with the Yankees. Instead, the closer job was given to Alfredo Aceves, who has been a swing man for most of his career, by Bobby Valentine. It’s hard for me not to think this was the saline-solution to remove the salt from Aceves’ not-winning-a-rotation-spot wound. He spoke out after Daniel Bard and Felix Doubront won the final two spots in the rotation, citing that he never had a chance because of Bard’s conversion being a winter long project that the team wasn’t going to abolish. Placing Aceves into the 9th inning role sounded good in principle, he’s gutsy and has a rubber arm. But statistically? My head is still shaking side-to-side. Aceves is effectively wild. He walks a fair share of batters and hits his fair share of batters. He can work his way out of self-imposed jams, but there is no particularly good explanation on how. He doesn’t strikeout too many guys, 6.27/9 over his career. He also isn’t a ground ball inducer, which to be quite honest, surprised me. His career ground ball rate is 39.3%, which is about what he did last year (39.6%). He is getting outs though, as evident by his .238 batting average on balls in play. But with only 241 career innings and as any starting pitcher will tell you, that number can fluctuate 100 points in either direction without warning if you’re not striking guys out at an above average rate.

Prone to free passes, both base-on-balls and hitting batters, and not fooling anyone or inducing grounders does not a closer make. Reversing the starting pitching conversion from Daniel Bard or giving Melancon the shot he deserves seem like options in the pipeline. However, the season is in its infancy, and to make knee-jerk reactions this early would be foolish. Small sample caveats always apply for relievers, but it seems like feelings may have been in play when instilling Aceves as closer. It will be a long road to the All-Star break if the league catches up to Aceves and his bag of tricks and to paraphrase Rick Petino, Jonathan Papelbon ain’t walking through that door.

Andrew E. Irons is an MLB writer for TSB and can be contacted at AIrons@ThePenaltyFlagBlog.com