Oakland's success this year is all the more surprising considering they have departed from the small-market blueprint perfected by Tampa Bay.
The Oakland A’s and Tampa Bay Rays, two AL Wild Card contenders who looked like long shots at the All-Star break, are one game into a strangely scheduled Thursday-Saturday series. The two teams have a few things in common, in addition to both being AL Wild Card contenders who’ll be playing tonight in Tampa Bay. In fact, they might have more in common than any other two teams in baseball. This article isn’t actually about the ways in which they’re the same. It’s about one way in which they’re different. But I’m going to start with the similar stuff just to make the different thing more meaningful, which is pretty manipulative of me.
The first thing the A’s and Rays have in common is success in the second half. The A’s were the hot team in July, when they went 19-5. They’ve cooled off lately, but they’re 24-14 in the second half, and their playoff odds have risen by roughly 25 percentage points over that period. The Rays are the hot team in August. They’re 16-5 this month and 25-14 in the second half, which has raised their playoff odds by roughly 50 percentage points.
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Injuries and attrition have probably wiped out at least a portion of your rotation. Here are six pitchers with upside that are probably available.
As we pass the 75 percent mark of the 2012 season and approach the homestretch, the list of injured players only continues to grow. Finding suitable replacements at this point in the year can be difficult, so I thought I’d look today at six pitchers who may be better than their ERAs indicate. For fantasy teams in need, no stone should be left unturned. Whether you’re looking for permanent roster replacements or just spot-starters to pad your win and strikeout totals, these guys are all worth considering, especially when they have favorable match-ups. Keep in mind that these players are best used in deeper leagues—don’t pass up Anibal Sanchez for Justin Germano just because he’s on my list—but some may at least warrant consideration even in medium-depth mixed leagues.
Marco Estrada | Milwaukee Brewers
Estrada has one of the largest differentials between his surface stats and peripherals in all of baseball, and that’s going to correct itself going forward. He’s a fly-ball pitcher, but his strikeout rate remains excellent (8.7 K/9), and he’s made big strides with improving his control this season (1.9 BB/9). He has a good offense supporting him for wins, and at just 5 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues, one could make a case that Estrada is most valuable unowned pitcher in fantasy baseball right now.
He doesn't have the fastest fastball, but everything else points to good things for the Rays' Alex Cobb.
One of my favorite under-the-radar pitchers this season is Alex Cobb of the Tampa Bay Rays. It’s only been three outings of 3.71-ERA ball, but I’m buying into that kind of performance completely and think good things lie ahead for the 24-year-old right-hander. He’s less heralded than many of the other young Ray pitchers and pitching prospects, but I believe he’s every bit as good as last year’s rookie sensation Jeremy Hellickson, if not better, and has the higher ceiling of the two. (Admission: that’s a cop-out. If I weren’t afraid of the backlash by Hellickson’s rabid supporters, I’d have been stronger in my assertion that Cobb is better right now. Okay, well, I guess that kind of counts.)
Cobb has posted K/9 rates north of 9.0 at each stop at Double- and Triple-A, but he’s the kind of guy people are skeptical of in the majors. He doesn’t have mind-boggling stuff, and the lack of a dominant fastball can put people off, but there is a lot to like once you get past his four-seamer. He throws with just slightly above-average, low-90s velocity, but he has an interesting smattering of secondary pitches to make up for it.
A.J. Burnett, Jake Arrieta, and Alex Cobb for the crux of this week's VP rotation
Last Chance: Time to get on board with these arms before they are snapped up in your league. These entries are becoming less available with each passing start and find themselves on rosters in 30-plus percent of the leagues at two of the three outlets and over 50 percent at one or more of them. We won’t necessarily have options in this field each week.
Mike Morse's elbow gets the worst of a collision with a fastball, Hanley hits the DL again,Zack Cozart gets Tommy John, Alex Cobb is out for the season, and Brennan Boesch is a thumb down.
Mike Morse, WSN (Left elbow contusion) AGL: 1 (13DL), ATD: -.023 (+.019DL)] (Explanation)
Even though bruises sound simple enough, they can be debilitating and shut an athlete down for a few weeks or more. In many ways, bone bruises and fractures react the same in times of acute injury, such as when Morse took a Ryan Dempster fastball off his left arm just above the elbow yesterday. If the ball catches you just right—and it looks like it hit this spot on Morse—the ball will actually strike two of the three bones in the elbow. The ulna and its olecranon process is the bone you feel when pushing on the elbow in a bent position. The lateral epicondyle is the bump that is on the outside of the elbow in the same bent position.
Two main points before we move on. First and foremost, until a CT scan is performed, you can't completely rule out a fracture. How many times have we seen an initial diagnosis of a bruised bone in the hand, wrist, or foot that ended up being a small fracture not seen on x-ray? Second, an MRI will tell us that there is swelling in the area, including bones, but it can't rule out what we classically think of as a fracture. It can be helpful in assessing stress fractures, but in an acute injury like this, swelling in the bone from a bruise or from a fracture looks the same on MRIs.
Juan Nicasio suffers a fractured neck, Jose Reyes' hamstring acts up again, Daniel Murphy has another knee issue, Ike Davis appears to be out for the season, Chase Headley fractures a finger, Alex Cobb has hand numbness, and Jair Jurrjens finally hits the DL.
Bill welcomes a couple of unspectacular but solid options to VP this week while saying goodbye to a hard-throwing youngster undergoing TJS.
Newcomers Brett Cecil, Toronto Blue Jays (15% Yahoo!, 14% ESPN, 27% CBS) In his first three starts since being recalled from Triple-A Las Vegas in late June, Cecil looked shaky, allowing 10 runs in 20 and one-third innings. In his three starts since, he has allowed four runs in 22 innings while striking out 17 and walking six. Those most recent three starts were against the Texas Rangers twice (AL's third-best offense) and the Rays—certainly high-quality competition. Cecil plays best in AL-only leagues but could be worth the risk depending on your place in the standings and the categories you need in deep mixed leagues.