Category Archives: Reds

Fantasy update: nothing makes sense right now

Jason Kipnis is off to a slow start - along with much of my under-performing fantasy team, known as Team Beast. Not really a beast right now...

LIVINGSTONE: I made a promise to myself not to spend a lot of my space on this blog writing about fantasy baseball. It’s a big part of my season, wheeling and dealing, looking for sleepers, the whole bit. My wife usually hates it by the middle of the season, especially when I’m trying to move guys into my starting line-up when we’re out on the town.

However, I have to air my frustrations. It’s only a dozen games into the season for most teams and as expected, things are wonky. Wait – not wonky – turned completely upside down. Yeah, that’s more like it.

In one of my first posts on here, I wrote about missing the first 15 rounds of my draft – in a league where I’m the commissioner no less – and how, in the end, I felt my pitching staff would allow me to stay competitive, while I’d have to work to keep a quality line-up of hitters on the field.

If the first 12 games are any indication of what I’m in store for – I might as well give up now. My staff is in utter shambles. I’ve managed to amass four wins all season, two of which came from my bullpen (Tyler Clippard and Johnny Venters), the other two come from Verlander (who really should be 3-0 after two ninth inning meltdowns in his first two starts) and Ubaldo Jimenez (he gave up seven runs in the game, but the Indians put up more than a dozen).

I’m second last or in the basement in five of six categories for pitchers (CG I’m first, but hell, that’s a gimme category), my closers aren’t closing out games. That said though, the guy I expected to pick up saves (Angels’ Walden) isn’t getting the opportunities because his team is under-performing and my other big closer – Drew Storen – is out until at least mid-season. On top, my frankenstein bullpen of Brad Lidge and Hector Santiago aren’t closing games either.

Starters? Oh, well, Lincecum is looking sub-par, I dumped Josh Johnson for a more, seemingly effective Wandy Rodriguez, and picked up sleeper Chris Sale from the White Sox with hopes of bolstering a decent start from Jordan Zimmerman. I also picked up Trevor Cahill with hopes he can bring down my ERA a bit (thanks Johnson, Mat Latos and Lincecum for the 4.50+ ERA).

My bats? Hmmm, started strong, but aren’t staying strong. Cards’ David Freese and Yadier Molina have been hot, along with Giants’ Pablo Sandoval and as of late, Buster Posey. Rockies OF Michael Cuddyer has been a huge hit also. However, Everything else has been a moment in time. Jason Kipnis and Nick Markakis have been under-performing in Cleveland and Baltimore. And losing Michael Morse to the DL is a tough loss after he had a visit with the ‘your season isn’t looking good’ from Dr. James Andrews.

Sigh – I’m ranting now. Hopefully, my team picks it up and gets it going. The thing is, it’s early, it’s baseball, and things can turned around very quickly. It’s what we love about this game, the unpredictability.

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A look at the first week of baseball: Infante, D’backs and Ozzie Castro, er, Guillen

Miami Marlins second baseman Omar Infante is off to a good start - his manager, however, is struggling to remove his foot from his mouth.

LIVINGSTONE: It’s a week into the season for the boys of summer. It’s nice to get back into the routine of checking daily baseball stats, deciding the ole fantasy line-up for the day and catching whatever games I can on the tube – especially the late games. It’s my first full summer in Toronto and in addition to all things baseball from my years past, I now get to engage with the Fan590, the great crew of baseball nuts and the spot-on and absolutely moronic baseball fanatics – aka Jays fans – out there.

The anxiety and curiosity that comes with the start of the season is always at it’s worst. Everything is so up in the air. How will so-and-so perform? What pitchers are going to throw gems? Who is going to surprise and rip it up the first week and are they legit? Who is going to tank? When do we worry they may not get out of the funk?

And so on and so on.

So, in honour of the first week of the season, the biggest surprises and whatnots of the week.

1. The first-series sweeps of the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees.

For the first time since 1966 (correct me if I’m wrong people) the two powerhouses of the last 20 years in the American League lost their opening series’ in not-so-classy fashion. Four blown saves (Boston had three, including two in one game; Rivera, surprisingly, blew a ninth inning lead to the Tampa Bay Rays). I know it’s early, but it’s surprising. Since then the Yanks have managed some wins against the lowly Baltimore Orioles, while the Sox lost two of three to the Blue Jays and sit at 1-4. No blown saves though, so that’s a positive.

That said – Boston has a nine-game homestand starting Friday. Rays (four), Rangers (two), Yankees (three). If they can’t pull it together at home against these three equals/better thans, it’s going to be a long, long season for Sox Nation.

2. Omar Infante

It’s early, but he’s tied for the league lead in dingers. I know, it’s only three, but still, it’s shocking. The guy hit seven total last season in 640 plate appearances (his 162-game average is nine). In seven seasons (2005-2011) Infante hit 35 home runs in about 2,000 at-bats (note: he hit 16 in 2004 for the Tigers). It’s very likely he won’t hit more than his 2004 total this year, his tenth, but the hot start has to be exciting for the Marlins, who rely on him to get on base and provide quality defense at second.

3. Ozzie Guillen

I’m not going to get into his love for Fidel Castro too much, nor the five-game suspension that followed – but holy lord. In the span of a week he told reporters he gets drunk at the hotel after every game and passes out, followed by bro-love for the longest standing dictator in the world in Castro. Well done Ozzie. Thing is, it’s not surprising – he has no filter.

4. Arizona Diamondbacks

This team is potent. They’re deep on the bench and can field a solid one-thru-eight, loaded with solid hitters who can do damage if given the opportunity. Pitching? Yep, they have it. The addition of Trevor Cahill to the duo of Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson. The comeback against the Giants Saturday shows they can scrape back. Down six runs early, they chipped away and stole the win 7-6 from their division rivals – and biggest opponent for the division title.

5. Minnesota Twins

Six runs in four games – three of those games against the Baltimore Orioles. Enough said.

6. The week of blown saves

Sweet mercy, I don’t know what to think of all the blown saves, walk-off/extra inning wins in the first week. There were enough that it’s cause conversation among the three of us here at Out of Write Field. The AL East is particularly disturbing: Rivera (1), Jays Sergio Santos (2), Red Sox Aceves and Melancon (3) have had it rough in the first week. Watch for Matthew Strader’s piece on the closer issues going on across the majors – blown saves, injuries and everything going wrong in the ninth. As I write this Jonathan Broxton, Royals closer-of-the-day, just blew what feels like the 30th save opportunity in the first week of the season (I think it’s actually 17 at this point of the day with Broxton – but still…17!!? late addition note: Make it 18. Joe Nathan blew the game for the Rangers last night in the ninth to the Seattle Mariners)

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Reds’ Bruce poised – finally – for ‘big’ year

Cincinnati Reds OF Jay Bruce is poised for his biggest season yet - and a shot at the homerun title in the NL. (AP Photo/David Kohl)

LIVINGSTONE: He’s marching into his fifth season with the Cincinnati Reds, and despite his biggest year at the plate last season, OF Jay Bruce is poised to make more noise than he ever has before, and vault him into the National League elite – and, per my prediction – the league homerun crown.

Looking at ESPN’s statistics on what stadiums are most hitter-friendly, Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati ranks the third most-friendly to hitters (1.314) behind Coors Field (1.354) and The Ball Park in Arlington (1.500). The advantage to hitters who play 82 games a season is obvious, looking at Bruce’s numbers over the past four years (see baseball-reference.com). Hitting with the likes of Brandon Phillips, and perennial first baseman Joey Votto, along with Drew Stubbs and Ryan Ludwick, Bruce has the opportunity to capitalize on a line-up ripe with strong bats, forcing pitchers to pitch to him, rather than around him.

This all said – Bruce had a big year last and some would argue my pick for breakout player, well, he’s already broken out. He hit .252, 33 HR and 97 RBI last season. However, he struck out twice as much (158) than he walked (71) and his average dipped 25 points from his career-high in 2010 (.281).

There is a lack of plate discipline there, something it seems he’s worked on over the winter and through spring training. If he can shave down his strikeout total, and avoid swinging at pitches out of the zone, Bruce has the potential, tied in with the bats around him, to bring his average up and add to his round-trip total this year. He only bagged 26 doubles last season, a number that could easily rise close to 40 if he’s patient.

And let’s not forget what division Bruce plays in. the Central is seemingly weaker this year than it has been the last couple of years, especially with teams like Pittsburgh and Houston settling into a long year battling it out for last (who are we kidding – the Astros will finish dead last – in the league). Minute Maid Park in Houston and Wrigley Field will prove advantageous to Bruce, however, PNC Park in Pittsburgh and Busch Stadium in St. Louis will favour pitchers over hitters, so this potential advantage might be a wash.

Regardless, Bruce is in for a big year and I think he’s got serious potential to hit .290 or higher, as long as he can show some plate discipline, and pop for 40 HR – or more. I think come September, Bruce will be in the thick of the homerun race.

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