Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde and "Frenchy"

As I strolled into the gym after work around 6:15 yesterday, I flipped on the Angels game versus the Indians (being held in Milwaukee due to continued snow problems in Cleveland). I really didn't even need to turn on the TV to know the Angels were more than likely losing. Sure enough, it was 7-3 Indians in the top of the 7th inning when I turned it on. How did I know this? Well, I'm a psychic! Just kidding... Ervin Santana was going for the Halos, that's how I knew! Most of you know there is another Santana that pitches for the Twins named Johan... the 2004 and 2006 Cy Young award winner is an equal opportunity killer of opponents, posting a 2.82 ERA and 1.015 WHIP at home and an eerily similar 2.84 ERA and 1.016 WHIP on the road since his breakout year in 2002. Johan is simply the best pitcher in baseball at the moment, bar none - and it makes ZERO difference where he pitches.

As for Ervin Santana, he's very Johan-like at home. When he pitches in Anaheim, his career numbers look like this: a 20-5 record, a 3.07 ERA and a 1.128 WHIP. If you happen to own Ervin in any of your fantasy leagues, you obviously always want to start him at home. On the road though, it's a completely different story. Last night's typically ugly road line looked like this: 4 1/3 IP, 7 hits allowed, 4 walks, 6 earned runs and only 2 strikeouts. Yuck! As of today, his career road numbers are a 9-12 record with a 6.65 ERA and a 1.558 WHIP. I can't really explain why Ervin is so good at home, yet so bad on the road... when I first noticed his tendencies in his rookie campaign in 2005, I thought maybe this was just an aberration due to a small sample size. He now has 58 career starts under his belt, so this is no aberration. Obviously, Ervin Santana is a VERY talented pitcher. I hope that someday he will figure out how to pitch on the road.

Needless to say, Ervin's road numbers are the type that ruin many a fantasy team, so you really just can't even think about starting him on the road. Why were people taking him in round 13 or 14 or 15 in fantasy drafts this year? Hype? Lack of scouting? Banking on potential? Some combination of the above? I really don't know. The one thing I do know is that Ervin Santana is the EXACT reason why draft day preparation is CRITICAL if you want to succeed in the fantasy game. Would you really want to draft a guy on your team you can only use in half of his starts, wasting the spot while someone else in your league has Ian Snell or Chuck James starting all of their team's games??? Studying and preparation - do your homework. The more you know on draft day, the better your chances are of getting some great bargains and also of avoiding the guys who may disappoint. I really can't emphasize this enough. Why did I win so many of my leagues last year? I truly feel it was because I was the best prepared owner on draft day in practically all of my leagues. To me, preparing for draft day is like studying for an exam - "cramming" simply is not an option if you want to win. If you put in the time and effort, you'll usually ace that exam and finish in the money come October!


As for other games, well it may be time to start pushing the panic button in DC as the one man wrecking crew known as Jeff "Frenchy" Francoeur homered and doubled to drive in a league best five runs last night as the Braves shut out the Nationals 8-0. Francoeur's not the type of hitter I normally like to draft on my fantasy teams as he's a free swinger with a HUGE strike zone... However, Jeff is still very young and talented, and he may someday develop a little more plate patience, so he did manage to find his way onto two of my teams this year including a keeper. For many years, I avoided the Cubs' Alfonso Soriano on draft day because he was similarly undisciplined at the plate and I didn't think it was possible (and neither did famed prognosticator Ron Shandler) that he could possibly produce consistenly great numbers while being such a hacker. Vladimir Guerrero of the Angels always swings at a lot of bad balls, yet he somehow always manages a .300+ batting average with great power and speed numbers (and also rarely strikes out) every year. I guess what I'm trying to say is that I've come to realize that there are a few players that are simply exceptions to the "normal" rules of fantasy... Francoeur just may turn out to be the next Soriano, putting up 40 homers every year... time will tell.


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