It's all beginning to come together.
In a season where nothing has come easily, finally we see some results. Finally, all the hard work is starting to pay off. Finally, all the subtle maneuvering is starting to make a difference in the stat sheet.
Two weeks away gives us plenty of catching up to do, so let's jump right into it without the usual dilly-dallying.
You'll find plenty of that therein.
12-team mixed Rotisserie (4th; 5x5 Score: 77.5)
It happened: I got over the hump.
After months of playing the flavor of the week off the waiver wire only to remain stuck in fourth place, I got a refresher course in the value of patience when Ryan Ludwick, perhaps the one questionable player I kept through the good times and the bad, rewarded me with a four-homer week right before the All-Star break, surging my team from fourth place to second.
|Jose Reyes (DL)||SS||NYM|
|Ryan Dempster (DL)||P||CHC|
That's right: Through the first half of the season, I had the second-best team in the league. I know. It snuck up on me too.
Granted, I didn't stay over the hump for long, but it's a two-steps-forward, one-step-back scenario. If it happened once, it can happen again, which was all the encouragement I needed to make a move.
So I did, swapping Chad Billingsley for Justin Upton in my first mixed-league trade of the year. Replacing Michael Cuddyer with Upton might not seem like a huge improvement considering all I lose in Billingsley, but I didn't need a huge one. I just needed enough of one to get me back over the hump and keep me there. I have more room to improve in the offensive categories than the pitching categories, so by acquiring a hitter, I simply committed to taking the path of less resistance.
By losing Billingsley, I figure I'm mostly losing strikeouts, and I'm already in the middle of the pack in that category, with four teams at least 50 strikeouts behind me. True, Billingsley helps in every pitching category but saves, but he might not help in those categories as much in the second half. He couldn't get out of the second inning in his last start and has allowed three runs or more in each of his last six starts. Maybe it's a case of a young pitcher having an Edinson Volquez-like second half. Maybe not. I'm not so much predicting it as acknowledging it as a possibility, so at least now it's someone else's concern and not mine.
Besides, I can find pitchers off the waiver wire to help in those non-strikeout categories. Brett Anderson gets the first look in the midst of his 21-inning scoreless streak, but I could always turn to Joel Pineiro if Anderson goes back to pitching like a 21-year-old.
If either of them pitches too well, I'll just have another dilemma when Ryan Dempster, who does contribute strikeouts, comes off the disabled list. Really, you could argue I made this trade just to clear a spot for him and that right now I'm "holding out" until he returns. That's the optimistic way of looking at it, anyway.
You might have noticed I moved Aubrey Huff from third base to DH and rearranged Kevin Youkilis, Todd Helton and Kendry Morales appropriately. It's symbolic. It means I now favor both Helton and Morales to Huff. In fact, I came frighteningly close to cutting Huff -- a player owned in 95 percent of leagues -- instead of Cuddyer after making that trade. I ultimately didn't do it because I feel like I'd have an easier time replacing an outfielder than a corner infielder if one of my starters got injured, but Huff needs to do something soon to keep me from changing my mind.
10-team mixed Head-to-Head (2nd; Record: 9-6)
In this league, it's just a matter of time.
|Kevin Slowey (DL)||SP||MIN|
My team has gone 5-2 after a 4-4 start and ranks first in scoring by a wide enough margin that I don't expect it to change with one bad week. I'd feel even better about my position if I'd started J.A. Happ over Mr. Rainout last week. Thanks for nothing, Josh Johnson.
But why would anyone have thought to start Happ over Johnson, right?
Unfortunately, I might have already set myself up for failure this week, starting Andre Ethier over Lance Berkman, who had missed two games and figured to miss more with a strained calf. Naturally, he returned to the starting lineup Monday and doubled in his first at-bat. It's frustrating, especially since he's been my hottest hitter over the last month, but I knew the risks when I made out my lineup. I'd rather lose this way than by getting a zero-point week from Berkman.
I went with Ethier because he had a better combination of reliability and upside than Denard Span or Carlos Quentin. I might've started Span over Ethier if Ethier wasn't playing all six of his games at home this week. He's batting .296 with 14 home runs at home and .214 with four home runs on the road, so he looks like a clear platoon player in Fantasy. I wouldn't dream of activating Quentin in a shallow Head-to-Head league until I saw him play five games in a row. I have a feeling he'll get the Travis Hafner treatment coming off the DL, assuming he stays off the DL for long.
As for transactions, I dropped Geovany Soto for Ramon Troncoso to protect my investment in Jonathan Broxton, who has an aching toe. Plus, I just don't need Soto anymore with Ryan Doumit back from the DL. I also dropped slumping rookie Nolan Reimold for Dallas Braden, mostly just to take advantage of Braden's two-start week. I started him over Matt Garza, who has allowed eight earned runs in 11 1/3 innings over his last two starts.
Broxton has looked healthy enough since the break, but I actually started David Aardsma over him last week. I have a feeling I'll have to repeat that maneuver more than once in the second half.
12-team AL-only Rotisserie (5th; 5x5 Score: 63.5)
Fifth place. It's a victory in its own right.
|Xavier Nady (DL)||OF||NYY|
|Lou Montanez (DL)||OF||BAL|
|Kevin Slowey (DL)||P||MIN|
|Daisuke Matsuzaka (DL)||P||BOS|
|Koji Uehara (DL)||P||BAL|
It would've seemed like a tasteless joke just a month ago, when I was practically dead, hovering around 10th or 11th place as always. But it's a reality now.
Granted, fourth place is 20 1/2 points away and sixth place only half a point, but still, I'm better than half the teams in the league.
So what happened? Did my seemingly lopsided trades for Placido Polanco and Pat Burrell really make that much of a difference? Seems that way, though I don't mean to discount the effect the passage of time has had on Alex Rodriguez, who only recently has begun to catch up to some of the other big hitters across the league after missing all of April. But that's it. My other hitters have played more or less the same way all season long. And now that Clete Thomas has returned and assumed the better half of a platoon with Magglio Ordonez, I should continue to climb up the offense categories, where I currently rank sixth in both home runs and RBI. Pretty good for a team that was last in every offensive category as recently as May.
And that's after both trades, to some degree, backfired. I also got Xavier Nady in the Polanco deal, expecting him to become a must-start for me instead of missing the rest of the season, and traded A.J. Burnett in the Burrell deal, thinking Burrell had just as good a chance of coming around as Burnett. So I goofed, twice, and yet my team got better. One thing's for sure: In these insanely deep Rotisserie auctions next year, I'm going to overload on hitters. The demand for them is so much higher, and apparently for good reason.
It'll only get better at the trade deadline. I have all $100 of my FAAB ready to go to the next big hitter that comes over from the NL, assuming one does, in fact, come over.
One better come over. Otherwise, I'll have to blow it all on Cla C. Meredith. Not really, but ... really.
Speaking of Meredith, I actually claimed the other end of that deal, Oscar Salazar, off the waiver wire, dropping Lars Anderson, and thought I had gotten away with something. Turns out the Padres did. With even semi-regular time, that guy could make an impact in leagues as deep as this one. I ended up dropping Salazar for Carlos Santana and Francisco Cervelli for Tyler Flowers. If I have to start a minor-league catcher anyway -- and I was in Cervelli -- might as well make it a good one. Who knows? Maybe the out-of-contention Indians will end up trading Victor Martinez.
That's a completely unsubstantiated rumor. If anyone asks, I didn't start it.
I still don't trust Rich J. Hill not to blow up my ERA and WHIP, but Shawn Kelley hasn't done much for me, so dropped him for mystery man Fu-Te Ni. I don't know anything about the guy, but his numbers look good, and that's good enough for me. I'll have to cut someone when Kevin Slowey comes off the DL anyway.
|Jorge De La Rosa||P||COL|
|Alfredo Amezaga (DL)||SS/OF||FLA|
|Ryan Dempster (DL)||P||CHC|
|(DL) Brett Myers||P||PHI|
12-team NL-only Rotisserie (8th; 5x5 Score: 58.5)
This team has disappointed me lately. Can't have everything go right, can we?
It's not that I haven't tried. Just too much has happened beyond my control. First, I traded for Scott Hairston only to watch the Padres do the same. Yeah, I got a full week out of him. Then, I dropped all $100 of my FAAB on Mark DeRosa only to watch him mess up his wrist. And make no mistake about it: It's still messed up. He has a partially torn tendon sheath that'll require offseason surgery. You can't think that won't affect his performance at all. We all know what happened to Jed Lowrie when he tried to play through a wrist injury. I mean, the world didn't explode or anything, but he didn't play well.
But for all my skepticism over DeRosa, I still ended up starting him. Who else would I start, Chad A. Tracy? To replace Hairston, I managed to nab Angel Pagan, who at least gets everyday at-bats as the Mets leadoff hitter. He doesn't have the same power as Hairston, but he might end up stealing more bases. He's probably a little underowned right now at two percent.
To improve my depth, I picked up Will Venable off the waiver wire when the Padres called him up. I think he's Chris Dickerson at best, but hey, anyone getting at-bats deserves a look in a league this deep. I'm happy to have him on my team.
I can't really say the same for Josh Whitesell, who I added for Steve Pearce just because he's taking so many at-bats away from Tracy. I don't expect much from him. His minor-league numbers look fine -- more than fine, really -- but prospect reports ignore players like him for a reason. Remember Dan Johnson? In a league this deep, take a flier on him, sure, but he doesn't deserve much hype.
My pitching staff looks a little heavy on the middle relievers, which was partially by design, but I certainly didn't count on the injury to Ryan Dempster. I could see myself losing some ground in wins and strikeouts if he doesn't come back soon.
20-team mixed Head-to-Head (3rd, NL-only side; Record: 8-7)
(10 teams NL-only, 10 teams AL-only)
Since the last time we spoke, this team has gone 1-1, which is pretty good considering my pitching staff is a mess and isn't getting any better.
|Jose Reyes (DL)||SS||NYM|
|Ryan Dempster (DL)||SP||CHC|
|Chris Young (DL)||SP||SD|
|Randy Johnson (DL)||SP||SF|
|Pedro Martinez (DL)||SP||PHI|
I have two choices. I could trade away a crucial piece of my lineup for a halfway respectable arm to slot at the top of my rotation, ahead of overachieving rookie J.A. Happ, or I could try to gut it out, hoping just to survive with suspect arms off the waiver wire until Ryan Dempster, Chris R. Young and Randy Johnson return.
Every time I look at my options, my decision remains the same: I have to gut it out.
People overvalue pitchers in this league. I could trade a top-15 outfielder like Jayson Werth and not get a top-15 starting pitcher in return, meaning I'd undersell Werth for a player who wouldn't be nearly as consistent from week to week just because of the negative impact of earned runs. Not only that, but I'd then have to replace Werth with someone like Gary Sheffield or Randy Winn, costing my team anywhere from five to 10 points per week while simultaneously ridding myself of the one clear advantage that makes my team work: an abundance of hitting.
And my team is working. I not only have the third-best record on the NL side, but the third-most points, and I've done it with the biggest collection of garbage you could possibly imagine for a pitching staff. Just look at it -- awful. I should have targeted potential breakouts like Yovani Gallardo and Adam Wainwright instead of high-risk pitchers like Dempster, Young, Johnson and Brett Myers, who all had deeper floors than ceilings. If I had, I'd have one of the best teams in the league.
So let's review quickly all the garbage I've moved on and off the waiver wire the last two weeks. I cut injured Anibal Sanchez for Ian Snell, hoping his minor-league success will eventually translate to the majors. I need as many arms as I can, so I cut Mike Fontenot, who became expendable with the addition of Martin Prado, for Rodrigo Lopez, who I immediately cut for Pedro Martinez when the news of his signing broke. Hey, I'm desperate. I cut Russ Ortiz for Tim Stauffer after his strong debut and then reclaimed Ortiz in favor of Brett Myers after the Phillies put Martinez on the DL.
I can't make up my mind on Ortiz, who I then cut for Seth Smith, who has a .915 OPS, just got a start against a left-handed pitcher Monday, and could become an impressive player with everyday at-bats. I like him as a deep sleeper, starting right ... now.
Ortiz ended up pitching well after I cut him, so I wouldn't mind adding him again. I need to load up on as many arms as possible just in case one of them becomes something consistent. That's the new strategy. I wouldn't mind adding Rick VandenHurk either. Maybe for Sheffield?
I made the same mistake with Lance Berkman in this league that I did in my 10-team Head-to-Head league, only here my replacement is Pedro Feliz. Talk about a downgrade. I'm facing one of the two teams ahead of me, too, so I picked a bad time to make a bad judgment call.
Maybe my pitchers will get lucky, which is pretty much what I'm banking on every week.
You can e-mail us your Fantasy Baseball questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com . Be sure to put Full Disclosure in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state.