We’re into August, and the insanity of the MLB trade deadline is behind us. Like the annual Thanksgiving visit from the relative with all the drama, we’re still recovering. Like most years, the rumors flew until the last minute, as the big names went at the end. For Fantasy Baseball owners, the final player movement dominoes have fallen. The sprint for the playoffs starts now. Against that auspicious backdrop, it’s time for the SCFE Week 18 Hot Topics column.
For this week’s column, I’m setting the Wayback Machine for 1994. A simpler time, when people still listened to music on cassette tapes and MTV still showed music videos. The Grunge era had saved rock and roll from hair metal, glam rock, and mall rock. Hollywood wanted in on the scene to bring the disaffected youth of Generation X back into movie theaters. This is how we got Airheads.
Airheads is one of my favorite movies and fits squarely into my Citizen Kane/Independence Day movie hypothesis. It’s not a cinematic achievement, but I watch it every time I see it on cable. If you’ve never seen it, you need to check it out.
The movie stars a young Brendan Fraser (before he made his Mummy fortune), Steve Buscemi (before he became That Guy in All Those Movies), and Adam Sandler (before he became world famous) as Chazz, Pip, and Rex. They’re three struggling rockers who just want someone to listen to their band’s demo tape and give them a shot.
Did I mention their band is called The Lone Rangers? You read that right. They pluralized The Lone Ranger. It’s a running gag in the movie. At any rate, after getting rejected by the soulless corporate record labels, the Lone Rangers decide to head to the local hard rock station and convince their favorite DJ to play their song on the air.
What could go wrong? Well, the DJ is less than cooperative and The Lone Rangers wind up taking the radio station hostage with squirt guns filled with pepper spray. Their demand to release the hostages? Their song on the air. And a bunch of crazy stuff.
Airheads is actually a sly satire of the music industry and the nature of fame disguised as a stupid comedy. But don’t get me wrong about the stupid comedy. There’s lots of that. No matter how many times I see it, however, it’s one of the few movies that makes me laugh out loud every time.
And that’s why I love Airheads. It’s always fun, and it’s a great way to spend some time, just like Fantasy Baseball. This week, I’m taking a look at some of the recent deals from a Fantasy Baseball perspective. Even if a player will be a great asset in real life, changing teams is not always beneficial for Fantasy owners. It’s all about the specifics. With that in mind, here are the Week 18 Hot Topics.
Week 18 Hot Topics
Hot Topic No. 1: “We got to send one person out. I’ll go. One of the hostages, doof.”
Yu Darvish, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers
You have to love the good-natured dimwittedness of Adam Sandler’s Pip. If you’re in an NL-Only league and you’re not throwing all of your FAAB budget or your top waiver claim at Yu Darvish, you might feel silly later on.
As the Dodgers and Yankees demonstrated this year, the rich get richer at the trade deadline. For a team with an MLB-best 75-31 record through August 1, acquiring another front line SP almost seems like overkill.
Forget about the 6-9 record and 4.01 ERA prior to the trade. The record is a reflection of a struggling Texas Rangers team, and his 1.17 WHIP is rock solid. The ERA is also skewed by two bed-pooping July starts.
On July 4, Yu Darvish allowed 11 hits and seven ERs in 4.1 IP. On July 26, he let up nine hits and 10 ERs in 3.2 IP. Apparently, that last start went meltdown because Yu Darvish was tipping his pitches. Here’s an idea; he shouldn’t do that anymore. Might help.
Putting aside the ugly July (although he did have a 12 K performance on July 21), Yu Darvish had a solid season for a Texas Rangers team going nowhere with an implosive bullpen. He posted a 3.03 ERA in April, a 2.90 ERA in May, and 3.38 ERA in June with a 9.7 K/9 ratio for the season. Now he’s on a team with the best record in MLB and a lights-out bullpen.
Also, keep in mind the AL-to-NL factor is in full effect here. Not only is Yu Darvish getting a ballpark upgrade, but he is moving from the land of the DH to the most K-prone division in MLB. The Padres, Diamondbacks, and Rockies are all in the Top 10 for whiffs. With a career 10.9 K/9 ratio, Yu Darvish should be able to take advantage of this.
If you’re an NL-Only league owner and you missed out on Jose Quintana, Yu Darvish is in all likelihood your last and best shot at an impact SP. If you’re a mixed league owner and you’re considering a trade for an SP, Yu Darvish should be on your radar. Like Anacott Steel in Wall Street, Blue Horseshoe loves Yu Darvish.
Hot Topic No. 2: “We ask for airplay and whatever else we want, then we demand a whole bunch of weird stuff. This way we can plead insanity later!”
Sonny Gray, SP, New York Yankees
It’s almost insane how the Yankees have gone from rebuilding/selling mode to buy every player in sight mode in just about one year. Remember the Yankees unloading assets for prospect hauls at last year’s deadline? Seems like a distant memory now.
Once again, the Yankees are throwing out prospects for veterans like Barry throwing out ridiculous bids on old episodes of Storage Wars. Everything old is new again. You can almost feel the anti-Yankees venom spreading throughout the rest of baseball. There’s an expression that goes, being a Yankees fan is like going to a casino and rooting for the house.
But give credit where’s it due. Yankees GM Brian Cashman took a decrepit farm system and a roster clogged with immovable contracts and turned it around. Sure, it took some time. But the Yankees always have the money to move things along. The Yankees are contending ahead of schedule, and they’ve got the surplus assets to make big moves.
After dealing for Todd Frazier and David Robertson, Sonny Gray was the Yankees’ deadline coup de grace. The Yankees needed SP help, and they knew it. So did everyone else. Yet somehow the Yankees still got what they wanted. If the Cubs hadn’t won the World Series, I might be bitter about this.
From a Fantasy Baseball perspective, however, this might be a bigger deal in real life. There’s no question that this move makes the Yankees better. For Fantasy Baseball owners, if you weren’t big on Sonny Gray before, this probably won’t change your mind. There is some good potential, but there are also reasons for caution.
Despite having a solid career 44-36 record, 3.42 ERA, and 1.20 WHIP, Sonny Gray has never been a dominant strikeout pitcher (7.4 career K/9 ratio). In 2016, Sonny Gray endured multiple trips to the DL with a strained right trapezius, a strained right forearm, and neck injuries.
His 2016 stat line was an ugly 5-11 record with a 5.69 ERA and 1.50 WHIP. In April of this season, Sonny Gray hit the DL with a strained right shoulder. Hello, injury risk. Also, going from the spacious pitching environment in Oakland to the homer haven that is Yankee Stadium raises a red flag.
On the flip side, Sonny Gray is posting a career-high 8.7 K/9 ratio and career-low 22.6% fly ball rate so far this season. Those should help neutralize the increased HR risk. Combine that with a superior offense, defense, and bullpen than what he had to work with in Oakland … you can see the upside.
Through August 1, the 6-5 record/3.43 ERA/1.18 WHIP stat line is impressive from an AL pitcher coming from a last place team. If the Ks go back down and the fly balls go back up, however, that could spell big trouble in Yankee Stadium. Sonny Gray could get lit up like the Griswolds’ house in Christmas Vacation. Time will tell on this one.
Sonny Gray is a good pitcher who was traded to a better team. This will obviously help his W probability, and a better defensive team with a dominant bullpen can save him some runs. Should you be in a rush to trade for him? That depends on whether or not you believe he can maintain his improved K and fly ball rates with the Yankees. It’s your call.
Hot Topic No. 3: “Now, what are you gonna do about that? Improvise.”
Eduardo Nunez, SS/3B/OF, Boston Red Sox
If you’re ever accosted by a large shirtless man with a nipple ring, just watch Airheads and Chris Farley will show you how to handle the situation. Watching Chris Farley always makes me laugh, but it makes me sad at the same time for what could have been. Life is like that sometimes.
Back to Fantasy Baseball, I wonder how much of the Yankees’ trade for Todd Frazier and David Robertson was about improving the Yankees, and how much was about sticking it to the Red Sox. Heading into trade season, it was just about the worst-kept secret in baseball that the Red Sox were looking for 3B and bullpen help. We’re not exactly talking a mystery like the true identity of Keyser Soze.
With the White Sox engaged in a fire sale and holding an expandable 3B and RP in Todd Frazier and David Robertson, a mutual Sox exchange seemed like a perfect fit. Was that a pun? I’m not sure. So what happened? The Yankees stepped in and Red Sox Nation was left seething. Yup, the Yankees are back to being the Yankees.
That being said, the Yankees might have unleashed the law of unintended consequences. After losing out on Todd Frazier, the Red Sox promoted mega prospect Rafael Devers to fill their black hole at 3B. If the Red Sox get Todd Frazier, this probably doesn’t happen.
If Rafael Devers becomes the next Boston legend and Todd Frazier continues to flirt with the Mendoza Line, the Yankees might wind up looking like Grand Moff Tarkin after deciding that tiny design flaw with the Death Star was no biggie. Just saying.
The Red Sox, however, also decided to hedge their bets and not put all of their hopes on the shoulders of a 20-year old rookie. Rather than just licking their wounds and sulking over losing out on Todd Frazier, the Red Sox improvised like Chris Farley’s Officer Wilson. On July 26, the Red Sox essentially went with plan B and acquired Eduardo Nunez from the Giants.
Although Eduardo Nunez might not have the big-name cache like some other recently traded players, this move could have a significant impact from a Fantasy standpoint. And why is that? Because Eduardo Nunez has speed; pure and simple. As someone who began playing Fantasy Baseball in the days of players like Rickey Henderson, Vince Coleman, and Tim Raines, watching the decline of SBs is like watching an endangered species go extinct.
And it’s not just a lack of players with speed or players no longer learning the art of stealing a base. These days, even players who can run successfully don’t get the green light like they used to. After all, why risk an out so a player can advance a base when you’re just waiting for an HR anyway? That makes me sad. Speed used to be cool. These days, MLB teams lumber around the bases like Will Ferrell after getting tagged with a tranquilizer dart in Old School.
Through August 1, Eduardo Nunez has posted a .321 AVG/40 R/6 HR/40 RBI/20 SB stat line. If he had played the entire season in the AL, he would currently be tied for fourth in SBs. You know how many SBs are leading the AL right now? 25; and that’s a player who’s injured (Cameron Maybin). Yikes! In an AL-Only league, Eduardo Nunez could win you SBs every week. He already has two in his first five games with the Red Sox.
Eduardo Nunez has gone from a struggling Giants lineup to a Red Sox lineup that churns out hits like the Rock churns out random catch phrases. He’s multi-position eligible, and so far the Red Sox have kept him near the top of the lineup. There are some serious R, AVG, SB and even RBI potential here.
If you’re in an AL-Only league, you should have been prepared to fight in the street over Eduardo Nunez. If you’re looking for SBs in any format, you might consider trading for him. This could be one of those sneaky acquisitions that wins you a championship.
Those are your Fantasy Baseball Week 18 Hot Topics. Maybe your team was affected by a deadline deal; maybe it wasn’t. Either way, we’re a month out from the playoffs and all information is useful at this point. Knowledge really is power. Until next time, it’s all in the reflexes.
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