Have all of the years of screaming about his insistence on playing Jeff Mathis been for naught?
You’ve heard the joke about McGregor the Barbuilder and the one goat, I assume. Mike Scioscia’s one goat is Jeff Mathis. It’s been years since Jeff Mathis was under his aegis, and it’s still the first thing I think of when somebody asks me about Scioscia. A few days ago, Jeff Long asked me how well Scioscia manages his bullpen. I thought for a moment. “Well, he started Jeff Mathis over Mike Nap…”
Can the Red Sox first baseman rebound from an injury-hindered 2014 campaign?
You all know Mike; you know him well enough to be completely unsurprised and even pleased to find out that his middle name is Anthony. You also know that ever since he broke into the league as a catcher with the Angels—playing Off-Broadway Roy Hobbs to Mike Scoscia’s Pop and Jeff Mathis’s Bump—Napoli has been leaving jersey buttons unbuttoned and three true outcome-ing a high percentage of his at bats. While his average and counting stats have had significant year-to-year variance due to his injury proneness and large BABIP variance, the power, patience, and strikeouts have always remained constant. That is until 2014.
The new Nate Freiman, the improved Clayton Kershaw, the red-hot Jose Altuve, and more from the weekend, plus what to watch today.
The Weekend Takeaway
When the A’s boarded their flight to New York last Sunday, they’d lost back-to-back games just once since the end of May. But after the Mets served them their second losing streak of the month with a 10-1 beating in the first contest of a nine-game road trip, it seemed that Bob Melvin’s squad might take a small stumble as it reached the halfway mark of the regular season on the Atlantic seaboard.
Junior-circuit bats to keep an eye on during the second half of spring training.
Ah, spring training. That glorious time of year when we do things like get excited about Lonnie Chisenhall’s on-base percentage (he’s going to break out this year, I thought last year). But while paying attention to storylines related to health and position battles is important, it’s also important to use this time to start looking toward April.
The first couple of months of the regular season are an important time for building your second-half strategy. By now, most fantasy teams are being drafted, and once you’ve had a chance to evaluate how your draft went and determine what you expect the strengths and weaknesses of your squad will be, the next step in the dance is figuring out ways you might be able to leverage those strengths to address your weaknesses during the season. I like to use April and May as an open audition to figure out which players will make the most sense to try to acquire come summertime, and to that end, spring training can be a good time to start building a list of players to monitor. Here are five hitters that I’d just as soon hold off on drafting for the time being, but who may be worth a closer look out of the gate for targeted help as the season rolls on.
Despite the deep and talented team in Boston, this roster isn’t quite the fantasy goldmine you might expect. There are a ton of fantasy-relevant players here to be sure, but only a handful profiles as top-100 options heading into next season.
These players are valuable fantasy hitters, but their versatility will be diminished in 2014.
For fantasy owners, nothing is quite so scary as the prospect of a good player taking a huge hit to his value thanks to a loss of positional eligibility. It happens every year, but it’s always tough to see a productive catcher move off the position, a great shortstop transition to third base or a floundering middle infielder make a shift to the outfield.
We tend to think of first base, in particular, as a position meant for mashers and as a fantasy gold mine. This is true, of course, but it’s also true because first base is the “back up” position for so many good players. If your catcher is a key cog in your offense, you try to sneak him PA at first. If your third baseman or corner outfielder is aging, you might try to get him some rest on the right side of the infield.
R.J. goes back over his free agent rankings to see what teams knew that he didn't.
Before the winter Ben Lindbergh asked me to create a list of the top-50 free agents. Today let's revisit that list with an eye toward improvement.
In dissecting the list we have to begin with the two unemployed players that were ranked: Kyle Lohse (ninth) and Jose Valverde (43rd). Two missteps on the list's part, or unfortunate victims of the marketplace? How about one apiece. Lohse has not signed because of the draft-pick compensation requirement rather than his talent (he's fine as a middle-of-the-rotation starter). Were I redoing the list, Lohse would remain at nine. The same is not true of Valverde. He would lose his spot to a more-deserving player. Perhaps Lance Berkman, who went unranked because of the trepidation surrounding his future.
After 2012, what should we unlearn about the Red Sox?
One of the difficult parts about fantasy baseball is dealing with perception. When a player hits a home run, it feels like that’s what they’ll always do. Put another way, do you take a guy who just homered out of your lineup? No, of course not. He just homered. Therefore he’ll continue to homer. That’s a good way to lose. I know because that’s what I do best in fantasy sports. The way to do it, so I’ve been told, is ignore that homer. Let your understanding of the player’s value over the course of the season dictate your decisions. A single event, in this case the homer, shouldn’t enter into it. Yet it always does and I always pay the price.