Yet another reliever moves to the front of the pack in Baltimore.
It wouldn't surprise me if over the course of this season I had listed every Oriole reliever since Gregg Olson in our Value Picks list, but I suppose that's what happens when your team is beset by injuries, poor performances, tons of losing, and three managers. Put another way, if your bullpen was stable, then you probably wouldn't have had three men running the club in the first place. Six different Orioles have picked up saves this year, and that doesn't even include Will Ohman, who never got one despite apparently being the closer for about two weeks. The carousel keeps spinning this week, as Koji Uehara seems to have jumped ahead of Mike Gonzalez in the Baltimore pecking order.
We dig deeper than ever for value, coming up with a 35-year-old rookie and an out-of-nowhere Astro.
This is already my favorite Value Picks article of the season, because we're adding two guys none of us had ever heard of prior to 2010. Let's start with the obvious situation in New York, where a season already in turmoil is turning into something of a black comedy, now that Francisco Rodriguez is out for the year with a thumb injury (allegedly) sustained in a fight with his girlfriend's father. Unlike a lot of other situations this year where the closer-in-waiting was clear, there was no such succession with the Mets. Would it be Bobby Parnell? Pedro Feliciano? Manny Acosta?
In the dog days of August, even Arizona and Baltimore can provide fantasy value.
I never thought I'd go back to another Baltimore reliever this year, but Mike Gonzalez is owned in barely a quarter of ESPN leagues and seems to have made some positive steps towards regaining his old closing role for the Orioles. Former Value Pick hero Alfredo Simon has started to crater; in his last ten games he's been lit up with an 8.18 ERA and a 1.109 OPS against, including four homers. With the Orioles suddenly turning things around under Buck Showalter, there won't be much patience for the bullpen blowing leads that manage to get to the 9th inning, and Showalter has acknowledged that Simon will start to share his opportunities with Gonzalez.
That's not a total surprise, considering that Gonzalez is making $6m this year and has contributed almost nothing thanks to injury, but it also wouldn't be the case if he weren't looking like an increasingly viable option. Don't be fooled by his season line, which is in large part influenced by the four runs he gave up in three April appearances before going on the disabled list. Since his return on July 22, Gonzalez has allowed just two earned runs while holding batters to a .194 average, with no extra base hits. His K/BB ratio is only 5/3, which could certainly be better, but his trends are headed in a much better direction than Simon's are right now. He's worth a look, especially with Baltimore on a hot streak.
With the trade deadline behind us, it's time to look at what's changed in Washington and Pittsburgh.
In the comments of last week's article, I noted that I was "starting to wish I'd gone with my first instinct and included Michael Wuertz, since Andrew Bailey is still unavailable and is being seen by Texas doctors tonight." Bailey was only supposed to be out for a few days with his strained ribcage muscle, but he's still on the DL and is not expected to be activated when he's eligible on August 6. Wuertz, who was on the Value Picks list earlier this season, has finally regained his form since coming off his own DL stint to start the year. In his last eight outings, he's been unscored upon seven times while picking up four saves, and the strikeouts he was known for in 2009 are starting to return.
Craig Breslow may also get chances against lefty-heavy lineups, so keep that in mind. However, Breslow gave up a homer in yesterday's game and picked up a loss the day before, so Wuertz is your play here, even if it's just for the short-term until Bailey returns. He's owned in under 5% of ESPN leagues, and with fantasy seasons rapidly pushing toward the playoffs, every save counts. He replaces Brandon League on the list, who just saw his prospective value plummet to zero when the Mariners decided to hang on to David Aardsma.
Mike Petriello looks explains why no one owns last year's best setup man, and looks into the growing disaster in Milwaukee.
Continuing last week's theme, we'll be saying goodbye to two relievers, yet for different reasons. Kevin Gregg's deal with the devil hasn't run out just yet, since a month into the season he's allowed just one earned run and issued just one walk. I still don't think it will last, but as he's unlikely to still be available in any serious league, he's no longer a value deal. In Baltimore, Jim Johnson got the first crack at taking Mike Gonzalez' closer job, which made him worth keeping an eye on. However, he just hasn't been able to capitalize. Each of his last three outings have come in the 8th inning, including allowing 5 hits and 2 runs in 2.0 innings against Boston on Sunday (though somehow picking up a win), while Cla Meredith and Alfredo Simon have each picked up a save. Simon may be a sleeper among the group, but the Orioles are so bad and the bullpen situation so unsettled that it's hard to recommend picking up anyone from that mess just yet.
Moving on to relievers worth taking a look at, it's really hard to ignore the complete flame-out in Milwaukee we're seeing from Trevor Hoffman. The future Hall of Famer has allowed 3 homers in just the last 2 days while blowing 2 saves against the lowly Pirates. Hoffman's now got more blown saves (4) than converted saves (3) on the season, and though a player with a stature such as his gets a pretty long leash, that only lasts so long when you've been as bad as Hoffman's been, especially in terms of allowing the long ball. In 54 innings last season, Hoffman allowed only 2 homers. He's now allowed 5 in just 8 innings this year, and the concern is that he's having trouble with his trademark changeup, thus forcing him to throw more mediocre fastballs. Pitchers, especially ones who've been around as long as Hoffman, don't usually change their repertoire so drastically for no good reason, so it wouldn't surprise anyone if there's a DL stint coming.
NL Central rivals...err...acquaintances collide as the Pirates take on the Cubs in the Prospectus Game of the Week.
Of course there was more at stake Sunday than two teams fighting to see who finishes a distant second behind the Cardinals. The Pirates were taking the worst offense in the league into the game; averaging just three runs a contest, their futility offered the allure of plastic surgery gone horribly wrong (coming up next...on Fox!). Their lineup features more 100-somethings than a Matlock convention.