Hey gang, sorry about missing last week. Unfortunately, I lost power for 24 hours due to Hurricane Irene, you know, the storm that was "not that bad." Try telling that to those that are still out of power and suffered substantial property damage. Anyway, all is well now and I am back to help carry you down the homestretch. If you still are following the game with the horsehide and have not completely morphed over to that pigskin thing and have a late season question, just e-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org, post it on the KFFL Baseball Facebook page or via Twitter by following @KFFL_Baseball.
Dear Lord Zola, I am in my playoffs and I need your help deciding on my pitchers for this week. Please pick two out of Gio Gonzalez, Fausto Carmona and Ted Lilly. Thanks! - Ted Fredericks, Houston, TX
OK, let's first check out the scheduled matchups. Gonzalez has a home date with Kansas City, Carmona has one at home against Detroit and a road tilt at Chicago, while Lilly has a pair of away starts in Washington and San Francisco. Recalling the criteria I set forth a couple of weeks ago in this space, I favor pitchers working at home and those working in big parks. Gonzalez meets both, but only has one game. Carmona has a home game on the docket, but it against the tough Tigers lineup, looking to wrap up the AL Central, followed by a visit to one of the better hitting venues in U.S. Cellular Field. Lilly is on the road for both his efforts, but is slated to work in a couple of pitcher-friendly yards. Based on this, the edge goes to Gonzalez and Lilly.
Sit back and enjoy Trout
Now let's quickly review Carmona, to make sure his skills do not warrant his inclusion in spite of the more difficult schedule. The Tribe's righty has had a decent year, mostly due to much better control. However, it has come at the expense of not picking up his strikeout rate. And surprisingly, he has allowed quite a few homers, which does not bode well against the powerful Detroit attack or in the Cell. I am not one to chase wins, so the fact he has two starts as compared to one for Gonzalez does not sway me. Carmona's penchant for allowing homers is too great.
To continue the story, Gonzalez is having a fine year, with only a high walk rate preventing him from taking the next step. He has kept the ball in the yard and has benefited from a rather fortunate hit rate. I will take the tradeoff of his allowing a few extra walks as compared to Carmona and the gopher balls.
And finally, Lilly is finally rewarding his patient owners, or more likely the lucky owners that grabbed him off the waiver wire when his original owners became frustrated. The southpaw's control is typically excellent, but his strikeout rate is falling and he always serves up a ton of long balls. The opponents and parks should help keep the homers in check, so even though both his starts are on the road, I am more confident he will outdo Carmona with his one home and one away game on the docket.
Todd, can I get you to handicap the Angels outfield. Specifically, do you think Mike Trout will continue to play every day? Jerry Long, Erie, PA
I wish I had something more Lordly to share, but I think what has been happening lately will continue and that is Peter Bourjos and Trout covering center and right, with Torii Hunter primarily in left, being occasionally spelled by Vernon Wells and Bobby Abreu. Abreu will pick up the DH at bats against righties with Wells facing the southpaws. On occasion, Hunter may rest his legs but keep his rejuvenated bat in the lineup at DH.
I must admit, I am a bit surprised at how well Trout has handled major league pitching, There is no denying the talent, but for someone just turning 20 to make the adjustments, make excellent contact and especially display the power he has, well, that is something special. I know we preach sample size, temper expectations, etc., but sometimes you just have to kick back and enjoy what is going on, and Trout is a blast to watch. If he can take the next step, and show the same patience he did on the farm without sacrificing contact, wow. There will no doubt be someone willing to pay the hype tax next spring, so I doubt that I will be all that invested in the Angels phenom, but that will not stop me from tuning in to see him play.
Lately, Bourjos has picked up his game, also showing some surprise pop. His glove suffices to keep him in Mike Scioscia's lineup, but his stick now has him at the top of the order. He really is not a first or second hitter type and is likely to flip-flop places with Trout, definitely next season if not sooner. If the Angels make a run, I would not put it past Scioscia to move Trout up and Bourjos down.
Hunter had a productive August, but truth be told, his underlying skills were the same as before, a few more batted balls found holes is all. But, the Angles are more concerned about how many than how and really do not care that his success was a result of a high August BABIP. They just see a .366 average and kept him in the lineup over Wells and Abreu.
Speaking of Wells and Abreu, both are disappointing for sure, especially in the power department. Truth be told, their skills have not declined that much, but the fly balls are not clearing the fence at the regularity to which each are accustomed, particularly Wells. Someone from Hunter, Abreu and Wells is likely to have another home next season, as Mark Trumbo has earned the right to keep his job and Kendrys Morales is due back. While I am not going to chase any of them in drafts, if they slide due to age and this season's performance - who are we kidding, they are going to slide - I will be willing to take a shot on them as my last outfielder, a spot I consider fungible.
When Todd is not drooling over Mike Trout, you can find him you can find him hanging out at the forum at Mastersball.
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.