Lord Zola's Fantasy Baseball Mailbag: Daisuke Matsuzaka, more

by Todd Zola, MastersBall.com on April 25, 2011 @ 13:22:37 PDT


Well, we are about 20 games into the season by the tone of this week's questions, most of you are being patient with your players, but some of you have questions about players and their hot starts. If you have a question about a player, a trade or a strategic query, please e-mail it to me at lordzola@kffl.com, post on the KFFL Baseball Facebook page or via Twitter by following @KFFL_Baseball.

Hi Todd. I drafted Javier Vazquez thinking his move back to the National League would help his numbers. Available on my waiver wire is Daisuke Matsuzaka. Should I put in a claim for Dice-K and drop Vazquez? - Jimmy Sullivan

Jimmy, to completely answer the question, I would need a bit more information such as what size is your league, would you be sacrificing a top waiver position and possibly lose out on claiming a better player? In other words, the answer may lie a little deeper than who is better, Vazquez or Matsuzaka?

Florida Marlins SS Hanley Ramirez
Han-Ram to launch more, soon

Coming into the season, I had Vazquez ranked considerably higher than Matsuzaka. But obviously, the Red Sox right-hander has turned in consecutive solid outings, prompting Jimmy to ponder picking up the master of the gyro-ball.

Let us start with Vazquez. We all know the deal. In 2009, Vazquez was one of the best pitchers, in terms of skills, in the entire league. But then he melted under the New York spotlight - again. The number crunchers pointed to a 2 mph drop in velocity, suggesting it was a bit more than pressure that ailed Vazquez. The shift to the Senior Circuit, in theory, would help Vazquez even if he has lost a little zip on the heater. Thus far, his velocity is on a par with last season's but the results have been horrible as his strikeouts have dropped even more while his walks have exploded to an unsightly 7.5 BB/9. While I usually do not believe in benching players until they come around, because that usually means you are saddled with the bad while the good was on your reserve, until Vazquez shows his control is back and he is fanning twice as many as he walks, he should not sniff an active fantasy lineup and is definitely waiver wire fodder in mixed league with anything fewer than 15 teams.

Matsuzaka is trending in the opposite direction. I know the party line is Jason Varitek has coaxed Dice-K into being a better, more confident pitcher as he has been behind the plate the past two outings. The word is the Japanese icon is not nibbling, but throwing strikes. And maybe some of this is true as he has thrown 67 percent of his pitches for strikes the past three games as compared to his career average of about 63 percent. But, as great a story as this is, personally I need more than two outings before I am confident Dice-BB is again transformed into Dice-K. Matsuzaka has enjoyed a stellar K/BB of 12/4 over his last 15 shutout frames, but this has been buoyed by a fortuitous hit rate, allowing only a single knock a game and no homers despite 23 fly balls. The hits will fall in and we will have to see if Matsuzaka can continue his mastery working more from the stretch.

Based on history, two outings should not be sufficient to flip one's perspective, but in this case, if forced to choose even-up, I would take Matsuzaka. However, I would brace for some regression as there is no way he will continue to allow so few hits. This coming week, Matsuzaka has a favorable tilt at home versus the Seattle Mariners while Vazquez travels to Cincinnati for a difficult date in the Great American Ball Park so the matchups favor Dice-K as well.

Lord Zola, I drafted Lance Berkman because I thought he would make a good backup at corner infielder and outfielder but he has been starting in my utility because he is tearing the cover off the ball. I have received trade offers for him and have Cody Ross coming back from the disabled list, is it time to sell high on the Big Puma? - Riley Zink

Berkman has certainly been a wonderful surprise for those lucky enough to have taken a shot on him. Coming into the season, he had two things working against him. First was last year, he began to show some chinks in the armor with respect to his skills, most notable his power. And, since home runs are hits too, his batting average suffered despite a normal strikeout rate. Thus far in the 2011 campaign, his contact rate is excellent and his power is back, better than ever. Obviously, he will regress, but it appears he will settle into a spot better than last season. That said, there is still the second question, that of his health. There are many that believe the additional pounding Berkman will incur running around the outfield will serve to inflame his already tender back. While it is somewhat speculative to anticipate an injury, there is some precedence.

Personally, while I have trouble believing Berkman will make it through the entire season with nary a visit to the disabled list, his skills right now are too strong to deal, unless you are getting back a very good player in return. This is going to be a very difficult thing to time as there will be a point where I would recommend selling Berkman high. The trick is going to be doing it before he slumps and/or gets injured. But he has demonstrated the ability to stay hot for an extended period of time and the fact his strikeouts are so low suggest to me he is indeed swinging well and is not just lucky, as so many analysts like to suggest in this day and age of advanced metrics.

HELP!!! I drafted Hanley Ramirez second overall and am worried! Will he ever hit a homer again? Please, talk me off the ledge. - Mel Perkins

Hopefully Mel has a wireless device and can connect to KFFL on the roof. Yes, my friend, Ramirez will hit another home run; in fact, he will hit about 20 of them. He likely will not hit 30, but 20 is still within reason. Going back to last season, Ramirez has had difficulty lofting the ball as his fly ball rate is way down. While this is a concern, previous to 2010 he hit about as many grounders as fly balls so he should begin to hit more balls in the air soon, and the home runs will follow. Ultimately though, what differentiates Ramirez is his .300 average and 30 steals. His contact rate is normal and he is walking more than usual, which is promising. Ramirez is just too good a hitter to continue burning so many worms. His swing will come around and when it does, it is the birds that better watch out for flying baseballs.

When Todd is manning the phones at the Suicide Prevention Hotline, you can find him hanging out on the forum at Mastersball.

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About Todd Zola, MastersBall.com

Focusing primarily on the science of player valuation and game theory starting in 1997, Todd Zola and Mastersball carved out an important niche in the fantasy industry. In 2006, Todd became the Research Director for fantasybaseball.com, and in 2009, he relaunched Mastersball and is now a managing partner.

Todd competes in Tout Wars and the XFL, and has been a multiple-time league champion in the National Fantasy Baseball Championship. He has been a contributor to the fantasy content at MLB.com and SI.com, is a frequent guest on Sirius/XM and Blog Talk Radio and is an annual speaker at the spring and fall First Pitch Forum symposiums.

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