Author Archive

Bartolo Colon, Somehow, Keeps on Chugging Along

Because I’m a hopeless dweeb starved for baseball, I was watching the Mets’ last game of the 2014 season the other day. Sure, sitting through a meaningless game between the sub-.500 Mets and the hapless Astros — when I already know the outcome — might raise questions about my insomnia and/or social life, but keep in mind that the Mets haven’t played winning, feel-good baseball since the Bush administration, and there was a lot to be positive about on Sept. 28.

Lucas Duda cranked home run No. 30 and passed the 90-RBI mark, validating once and for all management’s decision to trade Ike Davis. Bobby Abreu collected the last hit of his career and was rewarded with a heartfelt, rousing ovation from fans who had booed him for years when he was a Phillie. In general, the atmosphere at Citi Field, coming at the conclusion of a strong second half and a 15-10 record in September, hinted that 2015 could be a year of actual competitive baseball in Queens and that there was a lot to look forward to.

And Bartolo Colon notched his 15th victory.
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Back in Chicago, Jason Hammel Looks for a Return to Form

It was insert cliche here a tale of two seasons for Jason Hammel in 2014: in one, he was the surprise Chicago success story, a guy racking up strikeouts at a high clip while maintaining a sub-3 ERA. In the other, he was the acquired gun who fizzled in Oakland, getting blown apart with a 2-6 record and bloated FIP, a prime culprit in the team’s second-half choke job.

All told, Hammel finished 38th among starting pitchers in Zach Sanders’ end of the season rankings, though surely those fantasy owners who hoped that a move to the (at the time) high-flying A’s and their big ballpark would help Hammel continue his good vibes still harbor some bitterness.

A $20 million contract in hand, Hammel is now on his way back to Chicago, where he’ll look to recapture the success of his first three months of 2014. As far as fantasy owners are concerned, however, he’ll also be looking to prove that his 2015 value is closer to that of his Cubbie tenure than his brief stay in Oakland.
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Ian Kennedy Bounces Back

Coming into 2014, Ian Kennedy was not exactly in great demand in fantasy, which figures, since for a guy whose major league tenure began in the shadows of Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain, being underrated is nothing new for him. That’s not to say he wasn’t borderline dreadful 2013, or that he didn’t deserve his 70 ADP among starting pitchers back in March.

But as he’s never approached the highs of his breakout 2011 season, in which he posted a 4.9 WAR and finished fourth in that year’s NL Cy Young balloting, an air of disappointment has clung to Kennedy, despite what’s been, at least overall, a very solid run as a major league starter.

That’s why it was nice to see him bounce back this year with what may have been his best season yet, as he finished 47th among starting pitchers, according to Zach Sanders’ end of the season rankings.
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Julio Teheran, Shah of Atlanta

Julio Teheran followed up his breakout 2013 season with a 2014 campaign that was in many ways superior, increasing his WAR from 2.5 to 3.2 and finishing 14th among starting pitchers, according to Zach Sanders’ end of the season rankings.

I could recite a list of statistics here to emphasize this point, or, for expediency’s sake, present a chart that neatly compares the two seasons head to head:

YEAR INNINGS W-L WHIP K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP xFIP BABIP
2013 185.2 14-8 1.17 8.2 2.2 3.20 3.69 3.76 .288
2014 221 14-13 1.08 7.6 2.1 2.89 3.49 3.72 .267

It’s hard to find fault with that kind of output, especially given that Teheran was listed 34th in Zach’s preseason rankings, and for the former can’t-miss prospect, 2014 seemed a perfect second step on his path toward fantasy excellence.
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James Paxton Misses Out on his Breakout

By the time James Paxton left in the sixth inning of his second start of 2014, he had done little in his young career to dampen expectations of him becoming a solid major league starter. After all, between the four starts he made in September 2013 and his first two in April, Paxton had gone 5-0 with a 1.75 ERA, an 8.5 K/9 and flashed an especially encouraging ability to generate ground balls, displaying some of the ingredients that comprise the finest fantasy starters.

Unfortunately, a strain of the left latissimus dorsi muscle curtailed his outing on April 8, causing him to miss nearly four months and finish 102nd among starting pitchers, according to Zach Sanders’ end of the season rankings. But upon returning, Paxton was able to redeem what was left of his season, enough so to make 2014 a step forward for the southpaw and perhaps, at the age of 26, setting him up as a breakout candidate for 2015.

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Jeff Samardzija & The Quest for Fantasy Ace-dom

In 2014, Jeff Samardzija had the best season of his career as a starter, finishing with an ERA under 3, a 3.06 SIERA and a miniscule 1.8 BB/9, all during a campaign in which he was traded between leagues.

That’s pretty good. Put another way, it’s so good that even though Samardzija finished 21st in Zach Sanders’ end of the season rankings for starting pitchers, it’s hard not to feel that he was still a bit cheated from fully realizing his fantasy potential.
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Hunter Pence, No. 1 Outfielder?

At first glance, the question posed by this article’s title might seem a bit strange; Hunter Pence, if anything, comes to mind as a prototypical — perhaps the quintessential — No. 2 outfielder in fantasy. He doesn’t hurt you in any major category, he never gets injured and the final results, while rarely flashy, get the job done — especially if you have a true bopper anchoring your outfield and can afford to make Pence more of a supporting part of your fantasy squad.

In fact, Pence was ranked No. 15 in Zach Sanders’ preseason outfielder rankings, which, in a sense, was the definition of a No. 2 outfielder in standard leagues. But in his age-31 season, the Marv from Home Alone lookalike contest winner put together another solid, well-rounded effort, finishing with a .277 average, 20 homers, 106 runs, 74 RBIs and 13 steals — nothing flashy, perhaps, but good enough to finish 10th among players at his position.
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Jacoby Ellsbury In The Bronx

In his first season in New York, Jacoby Ellsbury didn’t crack under the pressure of a $153 million contract, hitting in Yankee Stadium didn’t kill his swing and despite something of an injury label, he managed to appear in 149 games, putting together what can only be described as another fine season for those who drafted him as a top outfielder.

At the same time, he struck out more frequently than he had before at the big league level, his batting average finished 20 points below his career mark and he posted his lowest OBP over the course of a full season, finishing 13th among outfielders in Zach Sanders’ rankings despite being tabbed as a top-five option before the year.
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Jason Heyward Powers Down

It’s hard not to fall in love with the fantasy potential of Jason Heyward, especially for those of us who can’t forget the can’t-miss hype surrounding his debut and a rookie season that seemed like the precursor to imminent superstardom. So it’s difficult to shake the tinge of disappointment that’s come to hang around Heyward in the past couple of years, not necessarily because he’s done anything wrong — he is, after all, just 25 years old and boasts a career .345 wOBA — but because in him we see fantasy studliness, and can’t help but feel let down each year when he falls short of making good on his immense potential.
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Jose Reyes Bounces Back … At Least For Now

It’s been more than a decade since Jose Reyes broke into the majors, and for this Mets fan, who grew up in Shea’s baseball wasteland of the ’90s when the likes of Jay Payton, Paul Wilson and Rey Ordonez were paraded around as can’t-miss future superstars, the teenaged shortstop’s arrival was indescribably refreshing and exciting. Here, at last, was a homegrown all-star who was a natural leadoff hitter, excellent fielder and stolen base machine whose energy, smile, youth and awe-inspiring talent seemed to spell the coming of better days in Flushing.

Eleven years and two teams later, it’s still a bit unsettling to talk about Reyes as an aging ballplayer, though his injury history and 31 years of age make it unavoidable. But the star power continues to shine, as Reyes this year finished second among all shortstops in Zach Sanders’ end of the year rankings, first at the position in standard CBS formats and 36th overall on ESPN’s Player Rater, re-establishing his credentials as an early-round candidate after an injury-marred 2013 campaign.
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