Musings from the Final Weekend
In all my years of following baseball, I’ve never seen a stranger no-hitter than the one Henderson Alvarez threw yesterday. Thanks to his offense in the bottom of the 9th, he escaped from what would have been an incredibly frustrating situation of tossing nine no-hit innings only to be rewarded with a no-decision. Then again, Alvarez’s pitch count through the nine innings was a modest 99, so it would not have been surprising to see him out there in the 10th. I was very high on Alvarez heading into the season and I’m still a fan of his going forward. The 23-year-old definitely carries some upside for 2014. Yeah, the K rate is mediocre, but the walk rate is miniscule, which usually leads to good things. All he needs to do is stay healthy. NL-only leaguers could do a lot worse than shelling out a couple bucks for him in drafts next spring. Even in deeper mixed leagues, he’s worth a dollar as an endgame flier.
Back in May, Jim Johnson was likely one more poor outing away from losing his closer job, but he ended up righting the ship and was outstanding in the second half of the season, pitching to a 1.69 ERA in 27 appearances. Johnson picked up his 50th save of the season yesterday and still finished with a sub-3.00 ERA. Just goes to show how long the baseball season really is.
Steve Cishek is another closer who was on thin ice at one point, even landing on the waiver wire in some mixed leagues, due in large part to the perception that closers on bad teams don’t get saves. Not true. Well, all Cishek did was post a 0.96 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in the second half while converting all 17 of his save chances. The bottom line with closers is that it usually pays off to grab an elite one, but if you pass on the top-tier guys, it doesn’t make much of a difference if you draft the #17 ranked closer or the #25 ranked stopper. They’re all gambles, so you might as well go the cheaper route.
Hunter Pence has been one of the most underrated fantasy commodities for quite some time now. Yeah, he’s a little streaky, but for Roto purposes he’s about as consistent as they come. Pence’s ridiculous month of September (.293 AVG, 11 HR, 32 RBI, 1.060 OPS) resulted in a career single-season high 27 homers, and he fell a mere one RBI shy of posting back-to-back 100-RBI seasons. Oh, and he even swipes some bags as well. I’d be perfectly happy drafting Pence as my #2 OF in a 12-team mixed league. And he’ll be a lot more affordable than most #2 outfielders.
I was slow to come around on Jedd Gyorko, but I’m starting to gravitate towards the bandwagon. Yesterday’s grand slam upped his rookie season home run total to 23 (in just 125 games), and he’s hit 15 round trippers in 243 second half at-bats. Pretty good. Gyorko still strikes out too much and is a liability in the batting average department, but the 25-year-old’s minor league numbers suggest that he could improve significantly in both areas. And we all know that middle infielders with 30 HR type power are extremely hard to find. I’m liking Gyorko a lot for 2014.
Andy Pettitte couldn’t have asked for a smoother final outing of his big league career, as he hurled a complete game gem on Saturday night in Houston. As a Yankee fan, I’ll always remember Pettitte as a guy who would deliver when you needed him most and wouldn’t cave under the pressure of a postseason start. But he’s also a guy who has been a far better real-life pitcher than fantasy pitcher, certainly worth a roster spot but rarely dominant. Pettitte’s finest statistical season came in 2005 with the Astros, when he went 17-9 with a 2.39 ERA and 1.03 WHIP, but that was clearly the outlier, as his career 3.85 ERA and 1.35 WHIP are nothing special.
But sometimes it’s best to not think about everything from a fantasy perspective. Fantasy baseball is fun, but it’s no substitute for the real thing. Andy will be sorely missed, especially around this time of year.