2009 Fantasy Baseball Preview: Starting Pitchers

Admit it, you passed on Tim Lincecum last year. You took one look at his 2007 record (7-5), his ball boy-type frame (he only stands 5’11” and is 170-pounds soaking wet) and the fact that he played on a team with one of the worst offenses in baseball and you said, “no thanks.”

But there was one owner (the smart one) in your league that bought into the hype, took a shot and reaped the benefits of Lincecum earning the NL Cy Young Award while going 18-5 with a major league-leading 265 strikeouts and 2.62 ERA.

Don’t feel bad; you weren’t the only fantasy owner last year that just couldn’t pull the trigger on Lincecum. Truth be told, he was a bit of a risk last season given his inexperience and the fact that the Giants weren’t expected to give him much run support. And assuming you’ve played a fair share of fantasy baseball, you’ve probably been burned once or twice in the past by taking a risk on that perfect young sleeper that everyone is gaga for in spring training, yet fizzles once the season starts.

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Doyel: Torre blew Game 4 for Dodgers

Gregg Doyel of CBS Sportsline.com writes that Joe Torre is having one bad NLCS in the Wake of the Phillies taking a 3-1 series lead after their 7-5 victory in Game 4 Monday night.

Los Angeles DodgersTorre is the biggest reason the Dodgers are one game away from being eliminated. You can argue that he has been unlucky in this series, but you can’t argue this: He has been unsuccessful. And isn’t that what it comes down to? Success and failure? Wins … and losses? Torre has had failures. The Dodgers have had losses.

We’ll go in reverse, which means we’ll start with the most recent loss, this 7-5 shot to the solar plexus in Game 4 at Dodger Stadium.

Starting pitcher Derek Lowe came out too early. Yes, Lowe was pitching on three days’ rest. But he had thrown just 74 pitches when he was removed, and after being rocked in the first inning he was cruising when Torre pulled him after the fifth.

Didn’t work. Reliever Clayton Kershaw, nominally a starting pitcher — and a 20-year-old rookie to boot — came in and gave up a walk and a single to the first two batters he faced. One of them scored. Kershaw for Lowe? That backfired.

Go back to the second game of this series, at Philadelphia. Torre, the guy who was too quick to pull ace starter Lowe in Game 4, was way too patient with Chad Billingsley in Game 2.

Even my man Scott Miller, who is most judicious with his criticisms of the men who play this decidedly difficult game, devoted his entire column from that game to Torre’s mismanagement of Billingsley, who was allowed to pitch through a streak that saw nine of 10 batters reach base. Philadelphia scored eight runs off Billingsley in 2 1/3 innings, and that was the game. The Phillies didn’t score again. They didn’t need to. They won 8-5.

Now go back to Game 1.

Lowe on the mound. Again. Torre having to decide whether to leave him in or take him out. Again.

Torre guessing wrong.


It was the sixth inning. Lowe had a 2-0 lead, and he was cruising. And then, suddenly, he wasn’t. Shane Victorino reached on an error, and Lowe came unglued. The next pitch — the very next pitch — was fat, and Chase Utley hammered it for a game-tying home run. Torre let Lowe stay in the game, and one batter later he fell behind 3-1 to Pat Burrell. Lowe grooved one, and Burrell hammered that one for a 3-2 Phillies lead. The Phillies wouldn’t score again, but again, the Phillies didn’t need to. They won 3-2.

It’s interesting how managers always seem to take more criticisms during the postseason than they do during the regular season. Managers have to take calculated risks in baseball and Torre has been around long enough to know when to take them. Still, the situations Doyel highlights are damaging and it’s too bad Torre has to take some heat because he’s done one hell of a job turning around a once dysfunctional Dodgers club.

It’s all about the pitching

Jonathan Papelbon“Momentum is always as strong as your starting pitcher is the next day.”
– Joe Maddon

Leave it to the well-read Rays manger to come up with such a profound statement. Chances are this saying is nailed up in his teams’ clubhouse alongside others from the likes of Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre. Maddon’s right, and he’s used this pitching-first philosophy to propel his team into the ALCS.

If there’s one quality that ties each of the remaining four teams together, it’s that each of them can hit. They each have at least two big bats, lead-off men that can hit for average, and a bottom of the order that can consistently do some damage. When teams are this evenly matched at the plate, it’s often a single blunder on the part of a pitcher that can decide a game. As we’ve seen in the Division Series between the Angels and Red Sox, it comes down to the pitching. Both teams boasted fabulous rotations and excellent hitting, but it was the Red Sox middle relief and closer that really won the games.

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Introducing Andre Ethier: The New Face of the Dodgers

Andre EthierAfter getting called up to the big leagues in 2005, Andre Ethier was immediately traded from the Oakland Athletics to the Los Angles Dodgers, in exchange for Milton Bradley and Antonio Perez. Though the Dodgers gave up a formidable talent in Bradley, they saw something special in the minor-league right fielder. Simply stated, it was potential. When new general manager Ned Colletti was given the reins in 2005, he focused on creating a starting lineup that depended on its youngsters. Since then, he’s been brutally criticized for signing former stars to bulky contracts that have failed to pan out. However, he should be credited for completing what he set out to do way back in 2005. By dipping into his farm system instead of his check book, Colletti has made Russell Martin, Matt Kemp, James Loney, and Andre Ethier into everyday players.

At times, it’s tough to be a Dodger fan. Besides the Yankees, the Dodgers make more transactions involving blue chip players than any other organization. Their starting lineup one day may be completely different the next, as a smorgasbord of future hall-of-famers and one-time greats jump in and out of the lineup. Colletti has taken huge risks in spending enormous sums on big-name players. Manny Ramirez is proving to be his first untainted success after the unfruitful acquisitions of Andruw Jones, Rafael Furcal, Nomar Garciaparra, Juan Pierre, Jason Schmidt, and Brad Penny. Colletti is paying each of these guys at least $5 million a year and is hearing about it every day.

Then there’s Andre Ethier. After signing a one-year $425,000 deal for the 2007-08 season, Ethier has quickly matured into the Dodgers’ most economic star. Actually, forget “economic.” He is the Dodgers’ best all-around player and will soon become the face of their organization if Colletti plays his cards right. Keep in mind, Ramirez came aboard more than two-thirds into the season. At 36 years-old, Manny is a future hall-of-famer with only a few years remaining. As much as the Dodgers and their fans would love to keep the free-spirited slugger, his contract is up at the end of the season, and all signs point to Manny in pinstripes.

Ethier is only 26 and just finishing his third professional season. He has an unbelievable arm, can hit for both power and average, and has avoided injury. On a roster that contains five capable outfielders—Ethier, Jones, Kemp, Ramirez, and Pierre—Ethier has undeniably earned a starting slot. He leads the Dodgers in homeruns (20) and batting average (.299), is tied with Matt Kemp in doubles (36), and is second in RBIs (71) and triples (6). Ethier is a free agent at the end of this season and, as these numbers show, he’s proven more valuable than those other cash cows.

The Dodgers are finally breaking away from the Diamondbacks and are running a blue streak towards the pennant. This current success can be found in the bats of the veteran Ramirez and the youngster Ethier. Next year, the Dodgers are likely to look much different. (Manny Ramirez, Jeff Kent, Nomar Garciaparra, Rafael Furcal, Casey Blake, Russell Martin, James Loney, Matt Kemp, Greg Maddux, Chad Billingsley, and Derek Lowe are all up for contract renegotiation.) Hopefully, Ned Colletti will follow those same instincts he had in 2005 and focus on youth by re-signing Andre Ethier.

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