The Terrible Tigers Bullpen

phil coke

The Detroit Tigers bullpen is a flaming wet turd. You may ask, how can something be both wet and on fire at the same time? Such is the seeming impossibility of this craptitude. The Tigers bullpen has a 5.65 ERA, ranked 29th in the majors. The only team that is worse so far is Houston at 6.05, but the Astros are not a real team. Well, they are real in the sense that they are physical objects and not illusions, but, according to reliable sources, the entire Astros roster is actually a barnstorming team from the 1890’s (people were generally smaller back then, so this explains the existence of Jose Altuve) that has been resurrected via Edo Tensei, which best translates as Impure Reincarnation Summoning Technique. In other words, the Astros are literally the walking dead. But…the Tigers’ aggregate bullpen numbers include 6 innings of scoreless “relief” thrown by Drew Smyly, a starting pitcher. Subtract Smyly’s innings from the total and the bullpen ERA rises to a spectacular 6.22. As mentioned in my season preview, the Tigers will likely struggle to create any space in the division all year, because the bullpen is the terriblest in the league. They are even terribler than a bunch of zombies.

Other thoughts this week:

  • Hitter of the year, to date: Who the hell is Charlie Blackmon? And what the hell is he on? He’s the #1 hitter in fantasy at the moment, hitting .402 with 5 HR and 6 SB. I’ve heard him mentioned in the same sentence as Mike Trout, and that sentence is usually “Let’s not get carried away and compare Blackmon to Trout.” But Trout hasn’t been running this year and has 31 strikeouts. Blackmon has struck out six times. SIX. I’ve always said that Trout, with his square head, blocky frame and red garb, looks like an Autobot, specifically Hot Rod (I’m talking about Transformers the Movie from 1986, not any of this Michael Bay garbage. If you have not seen it, you need to go see it immediately. I just made it a requirement for league membership). Blackmon, swathed in black and purple, may be Trout’s perfect Decepticon counterpart. Charlie Blackmon is Cyclonus

 Hm…looks like Mike Trout could use some more courage. 

So what is Charlie Blackmon on? A little energon and a lot of luck. Or maybe it’s a little luck and a hell of a lot of energon. And steroids. And HGH. I don’t know. But we know now, thanks to my connecting the dots, that he is definitely a bad guy. Because all Decepticons are bad guys. So nothing would surprise me. 

  • Pitcher of the year, to date: Adam Wainwright is the #1 pitcher in fantasy, and right now looks like he can do whatever he wants. He has not been scored on in 25 straight innings, and has only given up 9 hits in that span. Waino had two starts last week; he left the first start after 79 pitches and 7 innings because he tweaked his knee and left the second start after 99 pitches and 8 innings probably because of lingering concerns about that knee.  It looks like the knee will be a non-issue, but in normal circumstances, that should have been two shutouts. We are inundated these days with good starting pitching performances (ESPN reports that Sunday produced a record 10 pitchers throwing 7 innings with 3 hits or less allowed), but Wainwright still stands apart from the crowd. Despite my well-documented loathing of the Cardinals (I found a new reason this weekend, as I discovered their Hawk-Harrelson-esque announcers are audio vomit), this is not an attempt to jinx Adam Wainwright. I can be objective (sometimes), and I think Wainwright finishes the year as the #1 pitcher in fantasy baseball. It won’t even be close. 
  • Pitching line of the week #1: On Saturday: Danny Duffy, 0.0 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 SO, LOSS, 3 batters faced. The mystery is in the line; if he faced three batters, how come his line is all zeros? This was a disaster for Duffy. Hit batter, then the next batter bunted and Duffy threw it away. Then the following batter bunted and Duffy threw it away AGAIN as the winning run scored. You’ve really got to watch it, it’s spectacular. For all that, Duffy still gets to have an ERA of 0.00 for the season. Sometimes stats make no sense. 
  • Pitching line of the week #2: Again on Saturday, Brandon Morrow: 2.2 IP, 0 H, 4 ER, 8 BB, 1 K. This is how you get pulled from a no-hitter in the 3rd inning. Thing is, he almost got away with it. Despite walking four batters in the first two innings, two double plays helped Morrow to enter the third inning unscathed. He then walked four batters to allow one run to score, got pulled, then the reliever came in and gave up a grand slam. I blame the manager for this. Only one run had scored at this point. Leave Morrow in and either let him work it out or go for the all-time walks record (16). No-lose scenario. 

Ryan Braun Hate Monster

I hate Ryan Braun. 

A-Rod is gone. Maybe forever. And thus my hate became a wizened specter, starving in the shadows. For a while, I thought that wretched wraith would die and I would be free of my hate and my mind could be filled with rainbows and puppy paws. But then along came Ryan Braun. I don’t mind that much that he got suspended for the PEDs. I don’t even mind that much that he lied about it. But what really pissed me off was that he went out of his way to vilify the poor guy who screwed up his urine sample (even perhaps calling him an anti-Semite). Then, despite all that, the morons in Milwaukee gave him a standing ovation on Opening Day? Grrrrr…my hate…just…won’t…die. 

So when Ryan Braun ruined my fantasy team last weekend by destroying Jason Grilli (who’s on my team) on Saturday AND Sunday with 9th inning homers to blow saves, my hate monster roared back to life. Like, literally. Like my hate is sitting on my couch right now roaring and eating Cheetos. He has a name. He says his name is Chet. I asked him if Chet was short for Chester and if he was named for Chester Cheetah because he liked Cheetos or maybe it was the other way around and he likes Cheetos because his name is Chester. But he says his name is just Chet and that it’s not short for anything. 

So yeah, Chet tells me that I now hate Ryan Braun forever. I will obey.


You can believe one of two things: 1) I actually have a hate monster sitting on my couch or 2) I actually think I do. Either way, I’m probably not okay. 

Fantasy Memories: Ryan Klesko

In late April 2001, I had just graduated from college and was planning to go backpacking through Europe for most of the month of May.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to check my fantasy baseball team very much while I was traveling (no smartphones in 2001), so the night before I left, I set my roster one last time.  I think my first baseman was hurt or something, so I just picked up the highest ranked first baseman available on the waiver wire, who happened to be Ryan Klesko.  Despite a solid 2000 season, Klesko had started 2001 slowly, hitting only .247 in April, so someone had dropped him.  I didn’t know much about the dude at all, so I was just hoping that he would stay relatively healthy and at least not hurt my team too much while I was gone.

When I returned to the U.S. at the end of May, I finally logged back on to a computer and took a look at the numbers next to Klesko’s name.  My jaw fell off my face.  Ryan Klesko had gone insane.  In May 2001, Klesko hit .354/.464/.788 with 11 homers, 40 RBI and 10 stolen bases.  That’s double digit steals and homers in a single month.  I have no idea whether anyone else has managed this feat, but it seems like it would be extremely rare.  I checked all of the 40/40 seasons in history (Canseco, Bonds, A-Rod, Soriano) and none of them did it.  And Klesko was primarily a first baseman!  While I was off traipsing across Europe, Klesko was doing work, carrying my fantasy team on his back for an entire month.

Fantasy baseball managers tend to develop irrational attachments to certain players, or at least I do.  Very often, it’s a guy you feel like you “discovered”, someone you bought into and believed in before anyone else did.  In those cases, a large portion of that ongoing attachment comes from personal pride in your own fantasy baseball skills.  You identified a star before he became a star, therefore, you are also a star and every time you see his name in your lineup, you feel good about you.  I definitely feel that way about some of the guys I’ve had on my team over the years, like James Shields or R.A. Dickey. But this wasn’t the case with Klesko.  I was just plain lucky that I happened to have added him right before he exploded; I can take no credit in this.  But I continued to roster him on many of my teams up until he retired in 2007, and this was a different kind of attachment.  Call it eternal gratitude.

The 2001 MLB season was perhaps the most memorable of my lifetime.  Seattle won 116 games.  Barry Bonds hit a billion homers.  Ichiro won rookie of the year and MVP honors.  Albert Pujols’ ridiculous rookie year as the oldest-looking 20 year old in history.   9/11.  The Jeter Flip.  All of this culminated in the greatest World Series I have ever seen.  So it’s not surprising that Klesko’s amazing May has been virtually forgotten.  But not by me.  My gratitude continues until this day.  For that amazing month, thank you Ryan Klesko.  Thank you until the end of time.

For The WIN: Defending the ‘W’

On Opening Day, Cliff Lee got the win in an ugly 14-10 victory over the Rangers, despite giving up EIGHT earned runs in five innings.  Obviously, he did not pitch well, and statheads like to point to results like these when criticizing the win as a statistic that accurately measures pitching performance.  Some go even further, suggesting that baseball should do away with the win altogether.  I think that’s too far.  Everybody already knows that the number of wins a pitcher racks up is largely dependent on team performance and luck, so the win is already de-emphasized in most people’s minds.  How else can you explain Felix Hernandez winning the 2010 Cy Young with a 13-12 record?  But the win has its merits, particularly in a historical context.  300 wins has long been an automatic ticket to the Hall of Fame and it still should be; even if you think wins are a bit lucky, a high career win total is, at the very least, a testament to a starting pitcher’s longevity.  There’s also the continuity argument: Denny McLain was the last pitcher to win 30 games in a season, back in 1968, and this was a big deal.  Baseball, more than any other sport, is all about tradition and history.  By eradicating the win, we’d basically be saying to future generations, “Grandson, there was this guy who won 30 games back in the day.  Wait, what do you mean you don’t know what a win is?”  And MLB is all about continuity, so they’ll never get rid of the win.  People need to stop shouting at the rain.  The win, flawed as it may be, will always be around.  Deal with it.

Some hardcore fantasy baseball leagues, frustrated with the arbitrary nature of the win, have moved away from the ‘W’ as a scoring category, replacing it with quality starts or some other category.  At the same time, however, more and more fantasy leagues are moving from traditional season-long scoring formats to weekly head-to-head formats.  Head-to-head, by breaking up the season into discrete scoring blocks, keeps more people engaged throughout the season, but at the same time, also introduces a greater element of luck.  You might have the best fantasy team in the league over the course of a season, but in any given week, any team can beat any other since the sample size is so much smaller.  The best team very often doesn’t win, and it seems that more and more fantasy baseball managers are willing to sacrifice accuracy for fun.  That’s why the win is still a perfect statistic for fantasy baseball; it’s the funnest stat out there (yes, I realize that “funnest” is not a word.  But it just looks funner than “most fun”.  And I’m all about fun).  I mean, sure, we could only credit a starting pitcher for what he does during the game.  But starters only go like six or seven innings these days.  What’s the incentive to watch the rest of the game once they leave?  That’s why the win is so great; even if your pitcher throws great and leaves with the lead, you can still enjoy the roller coaster ride of seeing if the bullpen can hold the lead.  There’s no more agonizing feeling than seeing a closer blow a lead for your starting pitcher (even more so if you own the closer as well.  Ouch).  On the other side, it’s just as uplifting to see your pitcher leave the game in line for a loss, only to see the offense rally after he’s left the game to give him credit for a win.  You get to root for or against everybody, not just the players on your roster, and that’s just fun.  And isn’t that what fantasy baseball is about?  Fun for the win.

Eulogy for Barry Zito…and Something About a Squirrel

BarryZitoCard AndyPettitteCard

Way back in 2001, I was managing some girl’s fantasy baseball team for her, and I traded away Andy Pettitte for Barry Zito and Derek Lowe. At this point in time, Pettitte was already a well established name, with four World Series titles under his belt already, while Zito was a relative unknown in his first full season. I was taking a bit of a risk, but my talent assessment was spot on, as Zito would win 17 games that year and the Cy Young the next year, while Pettitte was highly overrated because of his media exposure. I won that trade. But the greatest artists are never truly appreciated in their time, and that girl “fired” me from managing her team after trading away the only player on her team that she actually knew.

Now it’s 2013, and with the retirement of Pettitte and the expiration of Zito’s horrible 7 year/$126 million contract, it’s time to take a second look back at that trade. Now, my fantasy league was not a keeper league and I know that fantasy baseball is not real life (my girlfriend keeps reminding me that as well), but considering how good that Pettitte-for-Zito deal looked two years after the fact, one would have expected that the deal would only continue to look better and better as the years went by, since Zito was much younger. Well, that hasn’t been the case, as Pettitte has generally been a decent middle of the rotation pitcher (in both fantasy and real life) when he hasn’t been injured or retired, while Zito has been a humongous piece of shit, pretty much the worst player in baseball over the last seven years. I can’t fucking believe that the Giants have won two World Series with this guy on the roster; it just makes me want to vomit on a squirrel. So maybe that 2001 trade wasn’t such the triumph of “talent evaluation” that I thought it was…

This is all just a roundabout way of getting to the point, which is saying that I can’t believe that Zito’s 7-year monstrosity of a contract is finally over. SEVEN YEARS.  These seasons are just flying by, and yet another one has come to an end. But we made it. We outlasted this terrible contract, the worst of all time. And as much as I loved making fun of Barry Zito, that sorry sack of snake semen, it’s time for him to go away. So, in hopes of your departure, this is my eulogy for you, Barry Zito, the ricin of fantasy baseball. You were truly magnificent in your awfulness. Now go jump off a cliff.

Pirates and Fantasy Allergies

– Max Scherzer struck out 15 Pirates on Sunday afternoon in 7 innings. Over the course of the three game Detroit-Pittsburgh series, including Verlander’s near no-hitter on Friday, the Pirates struck out 41 times. That’s 41 Ks out of 81 outs…over 50%. Avast ye them Pirates blow….yarrrrrrrrrgh.


This is not really a diatribe, this is more of an apology. Entering the 2010 season, Lance Berkman was a hero in Houston and a paragon of consistency. In the nine previous seasons, Big Puma had never had a season where he played less than 132 games, hit less than 24 homers or had an OPS less than 896. I had never owned Berkman in a fantasy league though at any time during this stretch, but finally got my chance when I drafted him in 2010. He tanked hard and posted simply horrendous numbers (122 games/14 HRs/781 OPS) in a season that saw him get unceremoniously dumped by Houston. Of course, once off my roster, he bounced back to his normal terrific numbers in 2011. And you can guess the rest of the story. Despite my suspicion that Berkman may have a severe allergy to my team, I drafted him again in 2012, only to see him play five games, tweak his calf, miss four games, return and play one and a half games then fully pull his calf, miss 21 games, then play five more games before apparently tearing his ACL while RECEIVING a routine catch at first base. Now his season is most likely done and his career may be in jeopardy as well. That is some bad juju. So I’m sorry Lance. I should have known better. I do hope you have a full recovery. And I promise, I will never draft you ever again.

List of players with severe allergies to my fantasy team: Lance Berkman, Travis Hafner, Vlad Guerrero, Bobby Higginson, Kevin Youkilis.

Yes, I recognize that I list Youkilis with a severe allergy and that I still own him on my team. In fact, I have exclusively owned him in my league since August 2, 2010, the day I traded for him and he broke his thumb on his first at-bat after activation. And I am now in the stage where I am owning him out of spite. It is strange that I somehow feel apologetic towards Berkman and yet so apoplectic at Youkilis, but that’s the way it is. Youk will get over his allergies…or he will die from them.

It’s My Party, I Can Whine If I Want To

It has been quite a disappointing year for my fantasy team.  Mired in the bottom half of the league, I pulled off a mammoth trade eight-player trade last week.  This trade boiled down to me trading away Felix Hernandez for Ryan Howard and Kevin Youkilis; the rest of the players were more or less spare parts.

The trade was accepted on Friday night but even before the trade cleared Howard hurt himself on Sunday, spraining his ankle. The severity of the injury was unknown, and it didn’t seem too bad, so whatever. The trade cleared and though Howard was not available, I happily placed Youkilis in my lineup for Monday. However, in his first at bat on Monday, Youkilis managed to tear a muscle in his thumb while hitting a ground ball. He wasn’t hit by a pitch or collide with someone, he hurt himself while hitting a grounder to second.

Meanwhile, Howard’s conditioned worsened, and on Tuesday, Youk and Howard were placed on the DL within an hour of each other. By Thursday we learned Youk was out for the year. After exactly one AB for my team. Now, I know we all suffer through some good and bad luck swings throughout the course of the year, but you’ve got to admit, this double whammy occurring immediately after a fantasy trade is pretty surreal.  Waaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Barry F. Zito

I play in a weekly head-to-head points based fantasy baseball league.  On Sunday, I was locked in a very close matchup and I was presented with a quandary:  a.) start Barry Zito or b.) bench Zito and receive zero points.  Trust me, I very nearly decided not to start Zito, because, well, it’s BARRY F***ING ZITO. But I let the numbers compel me: 2.94 ERA in day games with .195 BAA versus 5.16 ERA at night, 3.27 ERA in home games versus 5.66 ERA in away games, and 2.84 ERA against San Diego versus 4.79 against everyone else. This game was at home, during the day and against a SD that had just been no-hit and whose lineup was barely recognizable. All the signs were saying “start him”, and like a chump, I did.  Result?  A 10 hit, 9 run explosion for NEGATIVE ten points.  I know that you may not know the exact scoring system of my league, but you can probably guess that -10 is, um, not so good.  I mean, I am SOOO STUPID. WHY WOULD YOU EVER TRUST BARRY ZITO? I have only myself to blame, but in case you are also dense like me, whether in fantasy or real life, NEVER EVER EVER NEVER EVER TRUST BARRY F***KING ZITO.

Fantasy Allergy

I am still holding on to Travis Hafner on my fantasy roster. He’s been hurt for ages (with an injury that might be imaginary) and even when he played he was terrible. He can’t play any position except DH. All he’s doing is taking up space. Well, there’s a reason.

Let’s flash back to my 2007 fantasy draft. Hafner was coming off of a season in which he hit 42 HR in only 129 games, with a 1.098 OPS. For three straight seasons, he had not hit below .305 or had an OPS below .993. He was a beast, and it seemed like he was improving. I was happy to use my early 2nd round pick on him, and I thought it was a freaking steal. Hafner went on to hit 18 less homers in 23 more games, plus see his average drop over 40 points and his OPS drop over 250 points. He still had 100 RBI, but it was piss poor production from a 2nd round pick.

Still, when 2008 rolled around, I thought for some reason that 2007 was the nadir, the absolute low point. All the fantasy “experts” predicted a bounce back season for Hafner. While I try not to listen to these “experts” (because they are mostly morons), I guess some part of me really wanted to believe that he couldn’t be any worse. So I spent a 4th round pick on him.  And he has proceeded to suck beyond suck, to the extent that he is no longer a viable fantasy option.

Now, the question you must have is, if you hate him so much, why hold on to him? And the answer, my friends, is that I do not believe that this is mere coincidence that he started to suck the instant I drafted him in 2007. No, I believe more sinister forces are at work, and I believe that there is a causal relationship here. That is, Hafner has sucked since 2007 BECAUSE I drafted him. He continued to suck in 2008 BECAUSE I drafted him. I have discussed this theory with other owners in private, that some players are simply “allergic” to some teams. As with any other allergies, some players have slight allergies and some have severe allergies. Case in point, look up Bobby Higginson’s 2000 stats (the only year I didn’t own him) as opposed to 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005 (the years I owned him). That allergy was so bad, it killed him.

So maybe it’s not Travis’ fault. Maybe there is some cosmic dissonance between him and me, that makes us this incompatible. And since I have caused his downfall, part of me believes that once I release him, he will revert to being an absolute masher. But you know what, I don’t care. This might be a tad irrational, but he has been so terrible, and I’ve paid such a high price to invest in him, that I just hate him. I don’t care that it’s not his fault. I want him to suffer, like I have suffered. So yeah. I’m not going to let him go some place else and prosper. I’m going to hold on to him. I have the power to control his destiny now. So either he sucks it up and learns to get over his allergy or, more likely, he will stop hitting completely, his career will end, his wife will leave him and his children will be very hungry. Maybe then we’ll be even.