The keys to the Angels' recent success and the Rangers' downturn could be the fortunes of two superstars and two ex-Padres.
The Rangers started 2012 strong. The Angels did the opposite. Premature conclusions were drawn. Then the two teams' fortunes reversed. There are many reasons for this shift. One is the play of the teams' superstars. Another is the acquisition and emergence of a key arm in Anaheim. These aren't the only factors, but they are among the most intriguing and are the ones we'll focus on today.
Remember the “Rangers are running away with the American League West” narrative from April, when it appeared that they were, in fact, running away with the division? Well, that narrative broke and has been replaced by the ever-popular “it's a long season” and “that's why they play the games.”
If you tuned out when the Rangers led 7-5 in the ninth, you missed quite a finish
It was the best worst World Series game—or perhaps the worst best World Series game—I've ever seen. Four and a half hours, 11 innings, 42 players, 19 runs, 23 men left on base, six home runs, five errors, two final-strike comebacks, a handful of bad relief performances, some managerial howlers including a cardinal (not Cardinal) sin… and it all ended with the much-maligned Joe Buck giving a fitting nod to history by emulating one of his father's most famous calls. As David Freese's game-winning blast landed in the grass beyond the center field wall of Busch Stadium, Buck exclaimed, "We'll see you tomorrow night!" Game Six of the 2011 World Series will be remembered as a classic—a Game Six that can sit alongside those of 1975, 1986, and 1991, among maybe a couple others—as the Cardinals staved off elimination to beat the Rangers 10-9, forcing a Game Seven.
A look into the mind of the champion of Tout Wars NL, Steve Gardner
At the end of every season, something I have always found helpful is to talk to the people who won their leagues to see how it all came together for them. Over the next couple of weeks, I will interview each of the three winners from Tout Wars to see what their secrets for success were in hopes that you can apply some of that wisdom to your own pursuit of 2012 fantasy success. The first interview was with USA Today’s Steve Gardner, who won the NL-only league by 8.5 points.
Just because you're out in your fantasy league doesn't mean you shouldn't go shopping for potential ninth-inning guys.
For the past four years, I’ve written an article at the end of each season discussing one of my favorite keeper league strategies: stashing potential closers. Today, I’m going to do the same, explaining the strategy and then trying to figure out which middle relievers are poised to step into the ninth-inning role.
The Strategy All keeper leagues are different, but if you are in one where your leaguemates make a habit of keeping top closers, this strategy will be especially good for you. In these leagues, when auction day or draft day rolls around, the number of closers will be limited. Those who haven't kept a top closer will be bidding against each other for the leftovers, the second-tier closers. By default, their prices will rise, quite possibly above their raw value. This can trickle down the list of closers until Kevin Gregg is being auctioned for some crazy amount, like $18.
While there wasn't much bullpen activity as expected during this year's trade deadline, there are a few interesting options remaining for VP.
Despite all the craziness of the trade deadline, surprisingly little happened to impact fantasy bullpens. The closers most likely to move—San Diego’s Heath Bell, Washington’s Drew Storen, Florida’s Leo Nunez, and Seattle’s Brandon League—all stayed put. The two setup men most likely to be closers—San Diego’s Mike Adams and Baltimore’s Koji Uehara—each went to Texas, where they will join with Neftali Feliz to form a Ranger bullpen which is terrifying to opponents yet infuriating to fantasy owners wondering who will be the consistent closer. With no relievers ascending to post-deadline closer roles for the first time in recent memory, we’ll have to dig even deeper to find value.
A glimpse of pitchers who could hold high fantasy value in one particular category.
Last week, I discussed hitters who are available in many fantasy leagues and can provide a significant contribution in at least one category. At this point in the season, it becomes essential to manage your roster with the goal of maximizing points in the standings, and if that means dropping or trading a player with better overall value for one who will help your team gain points in a particular category or two, it has to be done. Today, I thought I’d look at pitchers who can have a heavy influence on one particular category. While there are very few true one-category pitchers—as there are with batters—there are pitchers who have more value in some categories than others.
Saves Saves are a hard thing to come by on the waiver wire because in all but the shallowest and least-active leagues, all 30 active closers are already owned. So assuming relievers who are already closing aren’t available, I’ll look at a couple of relievers who could find themselves closing in the near future.
Chad Qualls had a horrific 2010, but there are reasons for fantasy owners to be excited about his 2011 campaign.
There are seasons where everything goes wrong for players, and 2010 was that year for Chad Qualls. Even coming off that horrific kneecap dislocation he suffered trying to avoid a liner off the bat of Jason Michaels, but there was a lot to like with Qualls from a skills perspective. The right-hander had improved his BB/9 in four consecutive seasons, was coming off back to back solid WHIP seasons because of it, held a solid K/9, and jumped his K/BB from 2.0 in 2006 all the way up to 6.4 in 2009 before he was injured. His SIERA had improved each of the previous four seasons from 3.93 down to 2.80, and he was coming off six consecutive seasons of ground ball rates above 56 percent. More concisely, there was little to be concerned with for Qualls heading into 2010 as he had a statistical foundation that looked about as good as it could look for a non-elite closer.
Maybe he took some of Jobu’s rum or he was unwilling to sacrifice a live chicken. Whatever the case, Qualls had an unholy level of statistical bad fortune hit him all at once. His walk rate nearly tripled, his home run rate spiked, his BABIP was nearly equal to Ted Williams’ batting average in 1941, and he stranded barely half of his inherited baserunners. His 7.32 ERA was more than double his 2009 ERA but his 3.85 SIERA truly illustrates his misfortunes last season both in Arizona and in Tampa Bay.
With Opening Day a little more than a week away, here is a look at the projected rosters for each of the 16 National League clubs following conversations with club executives and media members. Keep in mind these are projected rosters and subject to change. American League lineups are here. You can also look at the fantasy depth charts at any time to see our latest updated projections.