Thursday, May 31, 2007

The "D-Lowe"-Down

The 2007 season began much like the 2006 season did for the Los Angeles Dodgers' Derek Lowe. A six runs allowed in four innings outing in Milwaukee against the Brewers essentially duplicated his seven runs allowed outing at home in his opening start last year against the Atlanta Braves. In fact, "D-Lowe" has gotten off to very slow starts four of the past five seasons, with 2005 being the lone exception. Needless to say, slow starts will often cause skepticism amongst fantasy owners and since he doesn't strike out a ton of hitters like teammate Randy Wolf, he's someone who often will get dropped in fantasy leagues at the first sign of trouble.

Yesterday, Lowe continued his turnaround from a slow 2007 start, shutting out the Washington Nationals for seven innings for his fifth win in a 5-0 Dodger victory at RFK Stadium. Although the box score only shows three hits and two walks allowed, Lowe definitely had to work hard to this one, throwing a season high 113 pitches. If you stuck with Lowe after his rough April where he posted a 4.62 ERA, you were richly rewarded in May as he finishes the month posting a fine 2.16 ERA in his six starts. As an added bonus, Lowe struck out 32 batters this month after fanning only 16 batters in April. Lowe is one of fantasy baseball's most underrated players due to the fact that his strikeout numbers tend to be low, but he's very consistent, and a good guy to have at the back end of your rotation. His numbers with the Dodgers attest to his consistency. His ERA's over the past three years are 3.61, 3.63 and 3.32, while his WHIP's have been 1.25, 1.27 and 1.33 over that time. The Dodgers have a very good team this year, so it's indeed possible Lowe could improve on the 16 wins he posted last year.

As for the Nationals, what has happened??? After winning 12 of their previous 17 games, including a 5-2 road trip, the Nats suddenly have been shut out in two straight by the Dodgers. Ironically, the last time the Dodgers shut out a team in back to back games was exactly three years ago when they shut out the Montreal Expos on May 29 and May 30, 2004. For those counting, it's been 19 innings and since the Nats last scored a run - that was against St. Louis this past Sunday. I look for that streak to end quickly tonight as the Dodgers throw Mark Hendrickson out to the mound. After a very fast start, the inconsistent Hendrickson has come back to earth with a 6.55 ERA in his past four outings. Matt Chico, and his 3.67 ERA over the past five outings, goes for the Nats tonight. Apparently, Chico has at least one very big fan out there as there is actually a blog dedicated to him! I'm not exactly sure how I stumbled upon this thing a couple of weeks ago, all I know is that I found it pretty amusing that a somewhat below average major league pitcher would have a blog entirely dedicated to him.... Now a word of warning before I post you the link, the language there can be a little colorful at times... The Matt Chico-sphere. With 36 entries in three months of existance, it doesn't look like there is an end in sight to the "Chicosphere."


In other sports news, the Anaheim Ducks took a 2-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup playoffs with a 1-0 win over the Ottawa Senators last night at the Honda center. For the second game in a row, a defenseman scored the game decider for the Ducks - in game one it was Travis Moen, yesterday it was Samuel Pahlsson. Game three of the series will be in Ottawa this Saturday night.


Time constraints limited me yesterday, so today I'll continue my "Don't Forget To Remember Me" series with Mike Piazza of the Oakland A's. Without a doubt, Piazza is one of the best hitting catchers in the history of baseball... The future first ballot Hall of Famer posted five consecutive seasons hitting .319 or higher with the Dodgers, hitting 32 or more home runs in four of those years. His most remarkable season had to be 1997 when he posted 40 homers, 124 RBI's, 104 runs and a .362 batting average. Yes, those are a catcher's numbers - the kind you would normally expect from guys named Pujols, A-Rod or Vladimir... That 1997 season of Piazza's is considered by most to be the best ever from the catcher position, and arguably (due to the scarcity of talent and offense at the position) the best season ever in fantasy baseball.

As a Dodger fan, it was tough to see Piazza go to the Florida Marlins and then to the New York Mets early in the 1998 season. Piazza continued right where he left off with the Dodgers, posting a 32 homer, 111 RBI campaign. In 2001, Piazza hit over .300 for the ninth consective year, and in 2002 he hit 30 or more homers for his eighth consecutive campaign. Wear and tear from being behind the plate took it's toll though, and Piazza's numbers have recently eroded... Last year, with the San Diego Padres he had somewhat of a comeback year, posted a .283 batting average with 22 homers and 68 RBI's in only 399 at bats. Piazza was signed by the Oakland A's in the off season, and was to be their full-time DH. Without the rigors of having to be behind the dish five days a week, Piazza was a big time speculative pick in fantasy leagues this year, often going in the 10th round or so. Early in the 2007 campaign, it became clear that something just wasn't right with him though... in 103 at bats, the slugger only hit one lone homer! Fantasy owners got off the bandwagon in droves, and he now sits available as a free agent in most fantasy leagues. Not surprisingly, the cause to Piazza's lack of power turned out to be a sprained right shoulder. Once this heals, he should be good to go... People were speculating that Piazza could put up 30, even 35 homers this year... if healthy, there's no reason he can't put up 15-20 homers over the course of the next 3 1/2 months - he's supposed to return in mid-June. If you have a free DL or bench slot in your league, now is the time to stash him away!!!


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