Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there from the SCFE Week 12 Hot Topics column. We all remember what we were like growing up, and Father’s Day gives a chance to thank the man who put up with us. And thanks to our dads for never telling us that Fantasy Baseball was stupid.
We’re closing in on the midpoint of the Fantasy Baseball season, and it’s getting to be decision time. Do you cut a struggling player you were high on at the draft? Or do you hang on and hope for a bounce back? Do you sell high on a player with no track record? Or do you buy low on another team’s struggling player? Dilemma, thy name is Fantasy Baseball (Dodgeball reference, everybody).
To paraphrase Michael Douglas as the immortal Gordon Gekko in Wall Street, don’t get emotional about Fantasy Baseball. It clouds your judgment. Forget about pride or regret. You have to take a rational and logical look at the numbers and draw conclusions from there. If a player is struggling, is there a reason why? Is the BABIP suspiciously low? Is there a lingering injury? As the wisdom of Star Trek IV tells us, it is difficult to answer when one does not understand the question.
Of course, you should always make sure to enjoy yourself when performing your analysis. Fantasy Baseball is supposed to be fun. Given that this past weekend included the U.S. Open and Father’s Day, I had to go golf movie for the column. It was either going to be Happy Gilmore or Caddyshack, and I’m saving Caddyshack for later. As you can tell from the column’s title, Happy Gilmore it is.
My favorite film critic, the late Roger Ebert, started his review of Happy Gilmore this way: “Happy Gilmore tells the story of a violent sociopath. Since it’s about golf, that makes it a comedy.” Is that true? Absolutely. But the movie is hilarious and I love it. Once again, I go back to my Citizen Kane/Independence Day theory of movies. Happy Gilmore is just a fun movie. It’s exactly what you need to relax when making your Fantasy Baseball decisions. So whether it’s a gold jacket or green jacket you’re looking for, here are the Week 12 Hot Topics.
Week 12 Hot Topics
Hot Topic No. 1: “I’m stupid. You’re smart. I was wrong. You were right. You’re the best. I’m the worst. You’re very good looking. I’m not attractive.”
Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Chicago Cubs
When the Cubs announced that Anthony Rizzo was going to hit leadoff, I’m sure social media reacted like Tokyo being told Godzilla was stopping by. Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria (thank you, Bill Murray!) Did Joe Maddon lose his mind?
If you doubted Joe Maddon, you probably feel like apologizing. Kind of like Happy apologizing to Chubbs in the quote above. No matter how crazy it seems, it’s Joe Maddon being Joe Maddon. You just have to go with it. He took you this far, you can’t give up now.
Through June 20, Anthony Rizzo has a .268 AVG/43 R/17 HR/47 RBI/5 SB stat line for the season. But why make a .260-ish power hitter your leadoff guy? Maybe I should mention the staggering .398 OBP. Not only is that impressive, but Anthony Rizzo has done this with a .254 BABIP. That means Anthony Rizzo has gotten on base nearly 40% of the time while being unlucky. Imagine what happens when that BABIP normalizes and a few more hits drop.
Through his first week in the leadoff spot (small sample size alert), Anthony Rizzo has posted a .429 AVG/7 R/4 HR/10 RBI stat line with a .484 OBP and at least one hit in every game. He’s also 6-for-6 with three HRs when leading off to start the game. That’s impressive like Happy’s hole-in-one on a par four.
But won’t RBI opportunities dry up in the leadoff spot? Not necessarily, because after the first AB he can come up with hitters on base, especially when the Cubs put a position player ninth in the lineup.
Not only is Anthony Rizzo wreaking havoc in his new lineup spot, he is only one game away from being 2B eligible in Yahoo leagues. This is due to Joe Maddon’s lineup alchemy, double switches, and obscure baseball lineup rules. If someone is shopping Anthony Rizzo in your league due to the low BA and leading off, grab him like Happy taking down the alligator that took Chubbs’ hand.
Maybe Joe Maddon went with the principle of Occam’s Razor; sometimes we overthink things and ignore the obvious. Anthony Rizzo is a tremendous hitter who gets on base, and now he’s getting more ABs. Isn’t that a good thing? Who knows if this will last, but we have to give Joe Maddon the benefit of the doubt. He’s earned it.
Hot Topic No. 2: “What a shot by Happy Gilmore! Who the hell is Happy Gilmore?”
Mitch Haniger, OF, Seattle M
This quote describes Mitch Haniger’s situation as an AL rookie in 2017. Let’s face it; unless Aaron Judge vanishes into the Springfield Mystery Spot like Ozzie Smith, the AL Rookie of the Year is a foregone conclusion. If you took a draft flyer on Aaron Judge or grabbed him off the waiver wire early, take a bow.
Aaron Judge has annihilated the competition like John Reese (I miss Person of Interest). Unfortunately, this means that players like Mitch Haniger have been sentenced to Fantasy Baseball obscurity. Sorry, I can’t help myself with the legal puns when it comes to Aaron Judge. It’s too easy.
Call it the Timothy Dalton effect. Who is Timothy Dalton, you may ask? He’s the actor who played James Bond after Sean Connery and Roger Moore. Timothy Dalton didn’t do a bad job in the James Bond role, he just had two impossible acts to follow. As a result, he gets overlooked. Kind of like Mitch Haniger and any other AL rookie not named Aaron Judge will get overlooked.
Like Happy Gilmore’s improved short game, however, Mitch Haniger should not be overlooked. A 2012 first-round pick of the Brewers (38th overall), he was traded to Arizona in 2014 and then to Seattle in November of 2016 as part of the Taijuan Walker deal.
Mitch Haniger has all of the tools. He can hit, run, and play all three OF positions. The power is developing, and he showed good patience at the plate with a 10% BB rate during his major league cup of coffee in 2016. Like most young hitters, he needs to cut down on the Ks, but there is a lot to like here.
Mitch Haniger had a strong start to this season for the Mariners, but went on the DL April 26 and missed 42 games with a strained right oblique muscle. He has looked good since returning, including a four hit performance in his second game back from the DL. Through June 19, he holds a .319 AVG/27 R/5 HR/20 RBI/2 SB stat line in 29 games.
Despite the solid numbers and return from the DL, Mitch Haniger remains unowned in 29% of ESPN leagues and 34% of Yahoo leagues. If you need OF help and he is out there on the waiver wire in your league, grab him now. Don’t overlook him because Aaron Judge has ruled the AL Rookie of the Year race. And the legal puns keep coming.
Hot Topic No. 3: “Doin’ the bull dance. Feelin’ the flow. Workin’ it. Workin’ it.”
Jameson Taillon, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates
No matter how jaded or cynical life make us, deep down we all enjoy a feel-good story. Whether or not you’re into Fantasy Baseball, or even baseball itself, you’re rooting for Jameson Taillon. Hence the quote above; I’m sure this is how we all felt seeing Jameson Taillon back on a major league mound.
Whatever happens in Fantasy Baseball terms, the fact that Jameson Taillon is back playing the game he loves should make everyone celebrate like Happy Gilmore doin’ the bull dance. A cancer diagnosis always brings up the worst thoughts. To see someone come through it healthy makes us realize good things do happen. Of course, this is not only a great story health-wise, but this is Fantasy Baseball relevant.
Did I mention that Jameson Taillon is a really good young pitcher? And that some owners dropped him before there was any final determination made on his status? I held him in every league where I drafted him, and picked him up in a few other leagues when he suddenly became available. If you also made this move in your league, good for you. Maybe you still can. He’s actually unowned in 36% of ESPN leagues and 19% of Yahoo leagues.
A first-round pick (2nd overall) of the Pirates in 2010, Jameson Taillon was called up to the show on June 24, 2016. He finished last season with a 5-4 record, 3.38 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and 85 Ks in 104 IP. What stood out, however, was the 1.47 BB/9 ratio. That is pinpoint control from a rookie. Like Happy Gilmore fighting Bob Barker, you don’t see that every day.
The Ks are not elite, but Jameson Taillon has the stuff to get there. If he can maintain his command, a breakout is still possible this season. He looked good in his first start back from the DL on June 12. Going up against the Rockies, he got the win with 5 IP, 0 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, and 5 Ks. Welcome back, Jameson Taillon.
His second start back didn’t go as well, but the Cubs can do that to anyone. He’s still a young pitcher in his first full major league season, and there will be struggles. He also missed two seasons due to Tommy John surgery followed by hernia surgery. A young pitcher with great command, however, will always have tremendous upside. There’s a reason people drafted him with confidence this year.
If someone in your league got nervous and you snagged Jameson Taillon, you got a talented pitcher and a great story. And no matter how it plays out Fantasy Baseball-wise, Jameson Taillon is already a winner and everyone is rooting for him.
There are your Fantasy Baseball Week 12 Hot Topics. Things are starting to get real, and some hard choices are coming up. If you find your happy place like Happy Gilmore, you should be in a good position to perform your analysis and make the right calls. Just remember, it’s all in the hips. Until next time, check yourself before you wreck yourself.
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