2011 MLB Fantasy Fever From WhatIfSports.com image

Fantasy Fever: Hip, Hip for Jorge

Fantasy Fever Week 11

By Joel Beall - WhatIfSports.com
June 14, 2011

There are certain sayings an individual abhors having to hear. Any phrase involving the four words "we need to talk" is a surefire forewarning of dejection on the horizon. "I've never seen that before," can be disconcerting, especially when uttered by a doctor. "I've got Coldplay tickets, want to go?" is a double whammy; not only do you associate with riff-raff that enjoy morose music, but somehow you have inadvertently conveyed some sort of impression that you would be interested in such a concert, forcing you to evaluate your life.

This sentiment applies to the sports realm as well. "Rain Delay" is one that comes to mind. "NFL lockout" has been quite the bummer. Anything implicating cycling and steroids makes my ears bleed. As a Bengals fan, I had the misfortune of hearing, "We just signed Terrell Owens," a calamity you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy. And in the segmented world of fantasy sports, "platooning" has caused multiple owners to curse the gods.

Illustrated most notably with NFL running backs, platooning kills the fantasy worth of players stuck in this god-forsaken detachment. (In a related note, I think this is the main reason Mike Shanahan, who infamously employed the sharing system in his Denver backfields, should be held out of Canton. The man brazenly displayed no regard for the forum of fantasy, instead focused on the trivial aspect of winning games.) In baseball, this was prominent in bullpens, designated by the "closer by committee" tag. Due to the abundance of saves able to be obtained, this was never a huge source of anxiety.

Yet platooning has quietly become a detriment to many a fantasy owner in reference to the catcher position. Only 10 catchers have accumulated enough at bats to officially qualify for statistical standings, as most teams split time between backstops thanks to the durability that the position demands. Additionally, the wear and tear of the job has led many organizations to send a sweet-swinging catcher into the field to preserve his bat, meaning those who man the spot are adroit defensively but lack a certain pizazz at the plate offensively. Buster Posey's recent injury will only amplify that practice.

But why should we as fantasy owners be penalized for this lack of offensive performance? I propose two solutions to solve the lack of stasitical output. The first is to treat the catching slot as a defensive position. Instead of counting offensive figures like average, RBI and runs, a catcher gets credit for his staff's ERA, conversion of stolen bases on his watch and wild pitches/passed balls. The second is to count the entire catching unit rather than individual players (the same could be said for NFL backfields). For example, Ryan Hanigan and Ramon Hernandez are useless in locked leagues, as their at bats are divided right down the middle. But combine their statistics into one "player"? You have yourself a fantasy juggernaut.

Platooning goes against the basic bylaws of fantasy. These implementations give fantasy users the freedom to dictate their team's performance, rather than hang on the decision of which catcher the manager utilizes on a particular night. I'd rather rely on my own whim, wouldn't you?

Start 'em:

C: Jorge Posada, Yankees. After asking out of the lineup on May 14 at the perceived slight of batting ninth, Posada appeared to be on the brink of Pinstripe expulsion. Yet in the past month Posada has transformed from underperforming star into an offensive catalyst, as the former All-Star is batting .500 with four RBI in 28 at-bats in June. Posada's complaints concerning the batting order warranted the scorn he received from the media and fans, but even Posada's biggest detractors have to tip their cap for digging himself out of the hole. Even if he was the one that dug it.

1B: Billy Butler, Royals. The Kansas City DH is finally displaying the power expected from this position with three jacks in June, matching his combined home run output from April and May. Butler is the midst of a six-game hitting streak and has a .368 batting average for the month. With the arrival of highly-touted prospect Mike Moustakas (more on this later) augmenting a secretly intimidating Royal lineup, Butler's current pedestrian RBI and run totals will improve.

2B: Aaron Miles, Dodgers. He doesn't provide much pop (zero home runs, 18 RBI) and his OBP is nonexistent (.307). Yet for those looking for run and/or average support, Miles can be of service. In his last eight games, Miles is hitting .452 with seven runs and eight RBI. On the season, Miles is batting .296 with 19 runs.

3B: Mark Reynolds, Orioles. Reynolds has five jacks and 11 RBI in the first two weeks of June to go along with a .378 OBP. Reynolds was taken out of Sunday's game with a contusion in his left arm, but the Baltimore third baseman is expected to miss a game or two at most.

SS: Ian Desmond, Nationals. After a dormant offensive performance in April and May, Desmond is beginning to resemble the player that hit .269 with 65 RBI in 2010. Desmond is riding a seven-game tear, hitting .333 since June 5.

OF: Brennan Boesch, Tigers. "The Roller Coaster" would be an apropos nickname for the Tiger outfielder, as Boesch's monthly seesawing splits are akin to an amusement park attraction. On the heels of hitting .319 and scoring 17 runs in April, Boesch spiraled into a pong at the plate, posting a .186 average and .226 OBP. But like most theme park rides, Boesch has begun to ascend another elevation. Through 12 games in June, Boesch is 19-for-50 with four home runs.

SP: Mike Leake, Reds. In four games since rejoining the Reds from Triple-A Louisville, Leake has conceded six runs in 26 innings (2.08 ERA) and is 3-0. He won't produce a plethora of strikeouts, but Cincinnati's offense should correlate to some easy wins for Leake owners.

RP: Mark Melancon, Astros. Since replacing Brandon Lyon as Houston's primary closer, Melancon has converted six saves and only surrendered two runs in 16.2 innings of work. Lyon returned from the DL over the weekend, but was assaulted for eight runs in two innings, meaning Melancon won't be departing from the closer position anytime soon.

Sit 'em:

C: Russell Martin, Yankees. In his defense, Martin has been dealing with back issues for the past few weeks. However, the numbers don't lie: in his last 31 at bats, the Yankee backstop has just two hits. The only encouraging sign for Martin owners in the catcher's .236 BABIP denotes that Martin should eventually see a rise in batting average.

1B: Justin Morneau, Twins. Morneau has sat out the past three games due to wrist issues, which may have some correlation with the 2006 MVP's .074 average in June.

2B: Neil Walker, Pirates. Walker submitted a solid April (.301/.368/.447), but his jets have cooled considerably. Although Walker is leading all second baseman in RBI with 42 ribbies, the Pirate posted a .227 average in May and has shown no indication of ending his drought, hitting .190 thus far in June.

Head Case

Shin-Soo Choo Choo can't seem to keep his focus.

3B: Alberto Callaspo, Angels. Callaspo has been a surprise RBI contributor for fantasy owners this season, usually manning the fifth slot in the Angel lineup. However, Callaspo is hitting .161 in June and currently dealing with a nagging hamstring. Fantasy owners should be cautious and place Callaspo on the bench until further notice.

SS: Jed Lowrie, Red Sox. Lowrie has been unable to parlay his breakout April into anything of fantasy substance, hitting .226 since May 1. Worse, Lowrie's .321 BABIP indicates additional drop-off (Lowrie's figure from last season was .292). Lowrie is suffering from a shoulder strain, which could explain the abysmal display at the plate.

OF: Shin-Soo Choo, Indians. In the words of the immortal Crash Davis, "Dont think; it can only hurt the ball club." Choo recently admitted that he had been trying too hard and thinking too much about his struggles on and off the field. Choo is physically fine, which leads to two schools of thought: the Indian outfielder is poised for a breakout any day, or his mental makeup will impede any immediate success. Odds are on the latter, as Choo is hitting .158 with a .238 OBP in June.

SP: Javier Vazquez, Marlins. Vazquez showed brief signs of life in late May but has come unraveled in June with an alarming 11.20 ERA and 1.83 WHIP. On the season, Vazquez is 3-6 and sporting a 7.09 ERA and 1.65 WHIP.

RP: Brian Fuentes, A's. The return of two-time All-Star Andrew Bailey signals the end of closing duties for Fuentes, who didn't help his own cause with a 4.71 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, three blown saves and a 1-7 mark.

Waiver Wire: Jake Arrieta, Orioles. Omit two disastrous outings (eight runs to Texas on April 9, six runs to Washington on May 20) and Arrieta's ERA drops from its bloated season total of 4.48 to a respectable 3.12. Arrieta has 64 strikeouts in 76.1 innings in 2011 and is owned in just 25 percent of leagues. One would think the Oriole offense (10th in the Junior Circuit in runs) and ultra-competitive AL East would inhibit Arrieta's win total, but the right-hander is 8-3 on the season.

This Week in Jonathan Broxton: On the DL since May 6 with a bone bruise in his elbow, Broxton is set to begin his rehabilitation with a slated return sometime in July. The Ox wasn't effective before sidelined with an injury, compiling a 5.68 ERA and an atrocious 1.89 WHIP in 12.2 innings. However, never bet against Big 51, as the Dodger closer is like Michael Myers: just when you think he's dead, he reappears to wreak havoc.

Mooooose!

Mike Moustakas Moustakas raked in the minors.

Rookie Review: Mike Moustakas, Royals. Joining Royal rookie phenom Eric Hosmer is Moustakas, who made waves in 2010 by slugging 36 long balls and 124 RBI in stints at Double-A NW Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha. Moustakas has already announced his presence in KC with a home run in his second game, and is hitting .300 after three games. For the first time since George Brett was in uniform, the Royals' core of young hitters has given Kansas City hope at relevancy.

Big League Chew Player of the Week: Francisco Liriano, Twins. Liriano was six outs away from his second no-no of the year on Saturday against Texas until an Adrian Beltre single killed the dream.

Spit Your Tobacco At: Bryce Harper. Actually, who are we kidding? As the NBA Playoffs have demonstrated, it's always fun when a consensus villain is in play. If Harper is making enemies in the lower levels of minor league ball, imagine what's he's capable of in the majors. Remember, we are talking about a league where pitchers throw a fit when someone flips a bat or walks back to the dugout too close to the mound. Harper will be pulling those shenanigans on a daily basis.

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Joel Beall is a writer for WhatIfSports.com. He can be reached at jbeall@whatifsports.com.

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