MLB Notes

Ubaldo Jimenez is off to a rough start this season, and many are concerned about his drop in velocity (his average fastball is down from 96.1 mph last year to 92.5 mph so far this year), and his control has been downright awful (4.95 BB/9), but I view him as much more of a buy-low candidate than someone to be overly worried about. After ending May last season with a 0.78 ERA, Jimenez has posted a 4.46 ERA since, a span stretching 161.1 innings. Still, just as he wasn’t truly as good as he was over the first two months last year, he’s certainly much better than he’s been over the five months since then. Jimenez’s drop in velocity this season can mostly be blamed on his first start, when he was regularly working in the high 80s thanks to a cut on his thumb. That start still greatly influences his velo numbers since he’s only made four total this year. During his last two outings, he’s been working in the mid 90s, even reaching 100 mph in his last start, so those pointing to that being the main culprit for his struggles are off base. Jimenez’s control is a concern, but his stuff isn’t. His current K rate is a career-best, as is his contact% (percentage of contact made when swinging at all pitches). It would be easy to point to his low LOB% (57.1), but any pitcher with a 7.20 ERA is obviously going to look unlucky in certain areas. He still has Coors Field working against him (a park that plays much more hitter-friendly in the summer months too), but it’s important to remember Jimenez is one of the toughest pitchers to hit in baseball (career .279 BABIP and 7.5 HR/FB%), and you’ll want him on your fantasy team when he gets his mechanics straightened out. 

This security guard must have played safety in high school.

Lance Berkman has to be one of the craziest stories so far in 2011. His current line is .402/.477/.773, and just for fun, he’s also on pace to finish with 49 homers, 130 runs scored and 146 RBI. He’s walked more times (14) than he’s struck out (13) – all while playing the outfield for the first time in nearly five years. It’s clear we should have taken his “best shape of career” stories during spring training more seriously (he worked hard over the offseason thinking his career would be over if he repeated such a poor 2010 performance). But in the four years before last season, he posted OPSs of 1.041, .896, .986 and .907, so his bat shouldn’t have been written off at age 35 (not that I realized this, because he ended up on zero of my fantasy teams). Clearly Berkman won’t sustain this pace, and durability, especially while playing the outfield, was his biggest concern entering 2011, so sure, he’s a sell-high candidate if possible. But if he manages to stay healthy, there’s every reason to expect him to continue being a good to great hitter from here on out.

The diverse food options at Nationals’ games are apparently second to none.

The NFL Draft was compelling as usual, although the lockout remains frustrating. As a Beanie Wells and Jahvid Best owner in a dynasty league, things could have gone better for me, although I did trade Pierre Thomas for the former. My immediate fantasy reaction is that Daniel Thomas looks like the clear No. 1 rookie. As for real life ramifications, I’ve lately become the believer that grading drafts truly is a useless exercise. SI’s Peter King agreed during his latest MMQB, but it was quite confusing to see him later criticize the Patriots’ draft in the very same column. A dissonance is here.

Rick Porcello was clearly due to regress last year after posting an ERA south of 4.0 during his rookie campaign despite a 4.69 K/9 ratio no matter how many groundballs he produced unless he seriously changed as a pitcher. He didn’t, and the results were predictable (4.92 ERA), although he did show signs of improvement after the All-Star break (33:22 K:BB ratio beforehand, 51:16 afterward). Still, there’s real reason for optimism so far in 2011. While hardly elite, his K rate is up markedly (6.98 K/9), and he’s actually fanned 17 batters over the past 19.2 innings. That plays plenty well with such strong control, as he’s walked just one batter in three of his four outings and currently sports a terrific 3.3:1 K:BB ratio to go along with the fantastic GB rate (51.0%). Porcello hasn’t had an overly difficult schedule, but three of his four starts have come on the road. He’s not going to have a Justin Verlander type leap in strikeouts, and his fastball velocity will apparently never be what it once was when he was drafted, but he’s throwing his changeup twice as often this season compared to last, and it’s been highly effective. Porcello is intriguing.

This is one of the saddest, most ridiculous stories I’ve read in a while.

Actually, this isn’t exactly uplifting either.

Well, as long as we’re going down the depressing route, there’s also this story, which is also a pretty compelling read.

There’s an argument Mike Adams is the best relief pitcher in baseball. Adams not only posted a 0.73 ERA and 0.59 WHIP in 2009, but he held opposing batters to a .251 OPS while pitching at home, with a .110 slugging percentage. He followed that up with a dominant 2010 season and has been even better so far this year, recording a 14:0 K:BB ratio. He gave up a hit during his last outing, raising his WHIP to 0.27 in the process. Sure Petco Park helps, but he could pitch in the Grand Canyon, and these numbers would still impress. Especially since the Padres are off to such a slow start, Heath Bell looks like a prime trade candidate come July, and if he’s moved, patient owners who stashed Adams will suddenly have a top-three closer on their hands.

Sticking with the Padres, San Diego is currently batting .217 with a .320 slugging percentage, both the lowest in MLB. And yet, their 114 walks lead the National League. I’m not sure if this confirms the theory of hitters having more control of walks than pitchers or disputes it. Common sense would suggest pitching in Petco Park would lead to fewer walks (why not attack the zone in the toughest place to hit?), but according to Park Factors, it’s favored the hitter when it comes to base on balls each of the past four years, including this one. In fact, it ranked No. 1 in 2009 and No. 3 in 2010! I’m not sure what to make of this, but it’s interesting nevertheless. Got any theories?

What a terrific MMA card over the weekend. The kick that knocked out and ultimately ended Randy Couture’s career was one of the best you’ll ever see, made even better by Steven Seagal once again taking credit for it. The Jose Aldo v. Mark Hominick fight, which resulted in someone who looked like this dominating the fifth and final round and nearly winning, was an instant classic. And let’s hope Georges St-Pierre’s vision problem isn’t long-term, because his next fight against Anderson Silva might very well be the biggest in UFC history.

Eric Hosmer is currently hitting .430/.518/.581 with 18 walks compared to 15 strikeouts over 93 at-bats in Triple-A. The PCL is a hitter-friendly environment, but the 21 year old’s already high stock continues to climb. Hosmer has officially passed the likes of teammate Mike Moustakas among others as the No. 1 minor leaguer to stash in fantasy leagues. With Kila Ka’aihue struggling mightily (he’s become the poster boy for current Quad-A players), there’s apparently a clear path for playing time as well. The Royals likely won’t call up Hosmer until the end of May or early June thanks to service time issues, but he’s worth stashing until then if you can afford the bench spot. He’s even capable of stealing 10-15 bases, and Kansas City currently leads MLB in that category, as they have been aggressive running. Hosmer is capable of making an impact immediately at the major league level, even at such a young age.

I’ve tried to make a point not to post videos featuring animals, but my wife sent me this, and I must admit, I smirked.

The NBA is usually the most predictable of all the main sports but not so much this year. Could we really be looking at the Mavericks, Grizzlies and Hawks as three of the final four teams? Pretty insane. Almost as crazy as Dirk Nowitzki finishing sixth in MVP voting. I may have looked foolish betting over 64.5 wins for the Heat before the year (and doing so boastfully), but am I vindicated if they ultimately win it all?

I wrote about Gordon Beckham here, but he’s hardly the only player on the White Sox struggling. The team I picked to win the A.L. Central has had its share of bullpen trouble, but the offense deserves plenty of blame as well. Alex Rios, who had a .458 OPS on May 1, has homered in three of his past five games, so the window to buy-low on him is closing fast, but Adam Dunn is hitting .153 and has just three home runs after reaching at least 38 long balls in each of the past seven seasons. Meanwhile, Juan Pierre has been caught stealing more times (eight and he’s also been picked off once) than he’s been successful (six) this year. What a disaster. I’d need odds, not only because the Indians are currently 10.5 games up, but I also am somewhat of a believer in them, but I still expect the White Sox to contend for the division title. I’d be surprised if they finish lower than second.

If you’ve seen a crazier headline than this, I’d like to hear about it. If you’re interested in more depth with this story (and really, who wouldn’t be), click here.

I understand the Cardinals’ closing situation is extremely frustrating in the fantasy community (including to me, as I thought I made a savvy grab of Fernando Salas for about five minutes), but other than us, baseball fans shouldn’t be complaining. Tony LaRussa is playing matchups, and while we can’t really point to him using his best relievers in the highest leverage situations (he did the opposite in fact when he called on Ryan Franklin with the bases loaded during a tie game with two outs in the eighth inning right after removing him from the closer’s role), we also can’t expect to have it both ways. From a fantasy perspective, if forced to choose, I’d probably want to own Eduardo Sanchez most, but he just turned in a dud Wednesday. If I were to rank current murky closer situations, here’s how I’d do so: 1) Sergio Santos 2) Frank Francisco 3) Brandon League 4) Vicente Padilla 5) Mark Melancon 6) Eduardo Sanchez.

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