Monday, May 25, 2009

Back to the Norm

The Interleague weekend teaser was a nice little precursor to the real stretch coming up in a few weeks, but it's time for teams to get back into their own Leagues.  I'd like to say we learned a great many worldly truths from these matchups, but, for the most part, it was just a few good games.

I suppose the biggest news to come out of the weekend was something we already knew: Brad Lidge is either hurt, or suddenly terrible.  Now, the world knows it.  Lidge took the rare opportunity to stink up back-to-back games against the Yankees.  If he is indeed still ailing, Lidge should be a team player and take some time off.  If he's just reverting to post-Pujols, pre-Phillies form, maybe a break from closing might help him get his head on straight.

Brad Lidge blowing yet another save does raise the interesting question of when an injured player should stop trying to be the hero, and just get healthy.  The dynamics of this issue are unique to every sport.  For instance, a slightly injured basketball player might be wise to play through the pain, if for no other reason than the guy sitting on the bench is probably far worse than the guy on the court.  The same reasoning probably applies to baseball position players, as well.  A first baseman can have a little soreness in his calf, but still play at almost full strength and contribute.  But pitchers are different.  If even one little thing goes wrong, that baseball can scoot right over the heart of the plate, and the best hitters in the world get to tee off.

It's not really fair for me to call out Brad Lidge, but enough's enough.  I know you want to be the big, scary closer, Brad, but your team needs you to step away when you can't get the job done.  Get healthy, fix your mechanics, whatever it is, but stop thinking about your career save total, and start thinking about the fact that your ERA is nearing double digits, and your team's morale can only get blasted so many times before it stops bouncing back.  Plus, the Phillies have one of, if not the best set-up men in the League in Ryan Madson.  True, it would weaken the 6th or 7th inning relief, but if the starter can go deep in the game, it's not an issue.

The same directive goes for all other injured pitchers that think they're better than letting a healthy long reliever make a spot start, or better than letting a AAA-closer try his hand at 7th inning work, or...whatever.

BRIAN BANNISTER - Bannister shut down a short-handed St. Louis lineup, and he may hit some bumps along the way, but in general he's a solid option for Kansas City, and a solid option for a 5th starter on your team.  His real team can't hit, so the win totals might not exactly skyrocket, but a good ERA, a good WHIP, a few K's here and there are all nice additions to a fantasy team in need of help.

AARON ROWAND - Once a quality fantasy option, Rowand is surrounded by skinny kids swinging twigs in the San Francisco lineup (besides Bengie Molina).  That being the case, we'd normally avoid anyone on the Giants offense like the plague, but Bruce Bochy decided to get fancy and move Rowand into the leadoff spot.  We had recommended grabbing Emanuel Burriss when he was the leadoff man, so we'll advise the same with Rowand, who isn't quite as fast, but has better power potential, and has been seeing the ball very well over the last 2 weeks.  If anyone else in the Giants lineup decides to get some hits, Rowand could turn the leadoff spot into an RBI producing alcove, as well as some nice Run totals.

WILLY AYBAR - This one is mostly speculative.  Akinori Iwamura got his leg smashed in a collision at second base, and Aybar will probably see a spike in playing time.  He's not much to write home about defensively, but he's an underrated switch-hitter and might give teams with poor production out some of their infield slots an extra option.


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