Baseball presents a wide variety of surprises every year; some good, some bad. But there are some stories that just blow you away, and we've had our share in the short season so far. Because baseball goes along so well with its fantasy counterpart (and because I can't help but look at every baseball story within a fantasy context), I'll include a little fantasy spin here as well, when applicable.
1. Are the Nationals actually this bad?
I mean, obviously they're not this bad. This pace would be unsustainable for a team that didn't have top-to-bottom the best rotation in baseball. But the Nationals are a team that a lot of people, including ESPN and myself, picked to win the World Series. After tonight's come-from-behind victory over the Braves, they're 8-13, tied for last in the NL East.
I still expect their rotation to bear out and to at least notch 80-85 wins, but this early stretch has shown just how foolish it was to trade Tyler Clippard. He may not be lighting it up for the A's, but the bullpen depth was already suspect, and Yunel Escobar is utterly replaceable.
Anybody still got Rafael Soriano's phone number?
2. Dee Gordon is teaching us all an important lesson.
All throughout the preseason, you couldn't take two steps without hearing someone talk about how Dee Gordon's production was incredible for a few weeks early in the season, and then just solid the rest of the way. Most fantasy players took that to mean that his production during those "down" months was the correct representation of his skillset. A few people (like myself) saw that short explosion and had dreams of Dee Gordon shaped sugarplums dancing in their heads.
But the truth is that Gordon, like every other baseball player, can't be identified as only his hills or only his valleys. He's all of them, the whole topography of his production. So while he's blasting off right now (#14 rated player in Yahoo), his final statistics for the season will probably be somewhere around where they were last year. And that works fine for me, as a Gordon owner and someone who's always hurting for steals.
3. Ace relievers always look better early in the season than they ought to.
Now, don't take this as an invitation to try to lowball me on Wade Davis, who I own in a couple of leagues. But when you look at the top rated pitchers in Yahoo (and presumably other systems), right now, way too many of them are highly productive relievers. Davis, Andrew Miller, David Robertson, Jeurys Familia, Joakim Soria, Adam Ottavino, Aroldis Chapman, Brad Boxberger, and Yimi Garcia are all rated among the top 25 pitchers. That's almost 40% of the top end.
The imbalance is inherent with the system. We want relievers to be appropriately rated at the end of the season, so we want a certain number of saves out of our relief pitchers. That brings guys like Familia and Soria to the top. Wins are one of the hardest stats to accumulate, so the guys who have lucked into a couple of wins early look (statistically) like dominant starting pitchers, albeit with limited innings.
While certain guys like Davis, Miller, Robertson, and Chapman have a history of dominance, none of them should be traded for as if they're a top 15-20 pitcher.
4. Remember when we all thought the A's were crazy for trading Josh Donaldson for Brett Lawrie?
We were right.
5. The Orioles and White Sox are going to play in front of absolutely nobody today.
There's not any sort of fantasy spin for this story, but it's insane. Baltimore is in such a state of disarray that the audience can't be trusted to collect in close quarters and not erupt into anarchy. I'm hopeful that things will turn for the better and soon, but in the meantime, best wishes to the Orioles and to all Baltimoreans.
(This post was started in August; I lost direction for a while, and obviously we've got some new information, a la the actual gameplay, ...
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