Fantasy Baseball: Blame it on the Cain?

Fantasy owners are a calm bunch… really, they are. So much to the point that 12% of the data is enough for most owners to draw a strong conclusion and even perhaps reverse an opinion that had been months in the crafting. Every spring it’s the same story. The red-hot bats can often be fun to ride in the early going, but perhaps a more interesting case is to watch a player struggle with the reality that their STUD is not hitting through he first 20 games of the season. 12%. That’s it.

Thumbing through the inquiries in our trade analyzer is always a good way to get a pulse on the fantasy community. Overwhelmingly, Giants’ starter Matt Cain is at the top of fantasy owners minds these days. Entering his start Tuesday, Cain was sitting on an 0-2 record to go along with a 7.15 ERA and 1.32 WHIP. Home runs have certainly been an issue and if we count the long-ball he gave up in his most recent start, we are talking about a guy who has yielded six home runs in his first five starts.

A look under the hood reveals a pitcher whose stuff remains (velocity down only a half-tick) and is suffering from a bit of poor luck (16.2 HR/FB%.) so far this year. Cain’s 20% strikeout rate is in line with last year’s performance and his BB% is actually improved from last season. The right-hander bounced back from a sluggish start Tuesday put up a quality outing with six strikeouts against one walk and we are optimistic that this is a sign of things to come.

We find it tough to justify a radical change opinions on any player following less than a month of action and if at all possible I’d like to give the majority of my players until May 1, at least, to show me something. This is particularly true with a proven stud, and you just can’t let go of Cain for a discounted value at this time. Hold steady on Matt Cain and the results will come.

Tripped Aces

Cain wasn’t the only stud starter to “struggle” Tuesday as David Price and Cole Hamels also entered the day winless on the season. Well, like Cain, they also exited the day on Tuesday without a win, but each pitcher showed some signs of encouragement. Hamels and Price joined Cain picking up quality starts, each tossing eight strong innings. Hamels was undone by yet another long ball and some non-existent run support while Price carried a tie game into the ninth but just couldn’t hang on. The pair join Clayton Kershaw as the top lefties in baseball, and i’s a bit of a shock that we are nearing the end of May with both pitchers winless.

Hamels issues with the long-ball (five HR allowed in five games) can be explained away a bit when we realize that he yielded three home runs to the slugging Braves on opening day and has been taken deep just twice in his last four games. As someone who has had a watchful eye on each of Hamels’ last two starts, let me assure you that this guy is just fine. The wins will come as he continues to shave down that ERA back to respectability.

Price’s struggles are a bit exacerbated by the brutal 5-inning, 8-earned run outing he had back on April 7 against the Indians. But, if we throw out that game as an aberration, we are looking at a guy with three quality starts in four turns with a passable 3.80 ERA and a nice 23:4 K-to-BB ratio in 26 innings pitched. Of course, the numbers from that Cleveland disaster do count and Price’s ERA sits at 5.52 for the season with an unsightly 1.42 WHIP, but all that really does is create a buy-low opportunity for you. Go get these guys where you can.

Around the League

  • Clayton Kershaw also had a bit of an off night Tuesday, walking four batters but allowing just two runs over 5.0 innings pitched. He needed 111 pitches (67 strikes) to get through five innings, but still managed to limit the damage of his poor control. Kershaw struck out five and boasts a 2.14 ERA on the year. He’s the best fantasy pitcher in the league.
  • Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo escaped with a quality start but allowed eight hits and waled five on the day. This guy has issues and is as inconsistent as they come. He bring the strikeouts, we all know that, but the ratios just are not there. It’s well past time to sell Gallardo.
  • Jim Henderson collected his fifth save of the year and has now allowed just one run over 9.0 innings pitched. He’s played no small role in the Brew Crew’s nine-game win streak and appears to be extending his lease by the day.
  • Shortstop Jean Segura went 3-for-5 with a triple a run and an RBI. He also stole a bag, giving him six on the year. It’s been an impressive start to the year for the speedy shortstop and we expect him to keep on hitting for average and keep on running all year long.
  • Dan Uggla, Evan Gattis, Justin Upton (twice), Juan Francisco and B.J. Upton all went yard Tuesday in the thin air of Coors field as the Braves swept the double header with the Rockies. Mike Minor and Julio Teheran each tossed quality outings. We are trusting Minor as top-35 pitcher at this point, with Teheran remaining a risky investment.
  • Adam Wainwright was masterful Tuesday, pitching 8.1 innings with nine strikeouts against one walk against a very strong Nationals’ lineup. He allowed five hits and nary a run on the day. For the seson, Waino has a tasty 1.93 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 37.1 IP. Wainwright was a top-10 pitcher for us heading into the year and he’s is making good on that optimism. He’s walked just two batters on the year and also boasts the best strikeout rate of his career at the current moment.
  • Kevin Gregg picked up an extra-innings save for the Cubbies after Carlos Marmol was unable to convert in the ninth. Marmol did hang on for the win, but it’s not encouraging that he was unable to carry his recent success in a setup role into a higher-leverage situation. Gregg will likely get the next save chance and, owned in just 5% of leagues, will be a popular add today. If you are in need of saves, you unfortunately should roll the dice.
  • Another veteran closer may find his way into a closer role shortly as Tigers’ Manager Jim Leyland has expressed his desire to insert Jose Valverde right into the closer role. Valverde’s ownership rate is all the way to 44% at the moment and that figures to rise once he gets his first taste of ninth inning action. If choosing between the two, we’ll take Valverde who pitches for the better team and was actually an effective stopper at one point in his career.
  • Reds’ rookie Tony Cingrani had another strong outing, piling up nine stirkeouts over 7.0 innings pitched against the Cubbies. The competion over his first two starts has not been stellar (Cubs, Marlins) but Cingranui is making a strong case to remains in the rotation even after Johnny Cueto is ready to return.
  • Howie Kendrick had quite a night! He went 3-for-4 with two home runs, four RBI and a piar of runs scored, capping it all with a walk off solo home run in the 11th inning. Kendrick is batting a respectable .297 on the year but we’re still expecting another underwhelming season from the Angels’ second sacker. Take this strong performance as an opportunity to sell high.
  • Fantasy Nomad favorite, Paul Goldschmidt blasted his fourth home run of the year while going 2-for-5 on the night. He’s slashing at a nice .342/.416/.566 rate while showing that last year’s breakout was no fluke. Goldy is yet to do much damage on the base paths, but we still expect double-digit steals, a rarity for a first baseman with power.
  • J.J. Putz blew his third save of the season in Arizona, spoiling a very strong start from Patrick Corbin. Putz leads the league in blown saves, but has been dominant for the most part on the young season. He figures to have a long leash, but a capable David Hernandez is looming.

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