Welcome to SCFE’s 2018 Week 8 Hot Topics. We’re at the quarter pole of the season, and hopefully, your team has broken from the pack. Since it’s Triple Crown season, I figured a horse racing reference was appropriate. Don’t get overconfident, however, there’s still a long way to go before the home stretch. There I go again.
When I’m deciding on movies or tv shows to use as quote sources for my columns, I never concern myself with mass appeal. Take it from Wayne Campbell: “I mean, Led Zeppelin didn’t write tunes that everyone liked. They left that to the Bee Gees.” Go with whatever works for you. And party on.
When a friend told me that he didn’t think a Fletch column could work, I took it as a personal challenge. Fletch is one of my all-time most quotable movies and a masterpiece of snarky deadpan humor. If you’ve never seen Fletch, you have to watch it at least once. Maybe you’ll get it; maybe you won’t. Either way is ok by me.
Released in 1985, Fletch stars Chevy Chase (younger readers may know him as the old guy from Community) as Irwin Fletcher, an investigative reporter who writes a newspaper column under the name Jane Doe. Those who grew up in the pre-internet dark ages may remember newspapers.
Fletch’s schtick is that he uses fake names and the occasional disguise to get the facts he needs for his columns. Of course, he uses names like Ted Nugent, Igor Stravinsky, Gordon Liddy, Don Corleone, and Harvey Poon. If you don’t know which of those names are real, you should at least look them up.
You could say Fletch solves mysteries while basically making fun of everyone around him. He also narrates the movie with his sarcastic internal monologue. In some ways, Fletch is the prototype for Ryan Reynolds’ Deadpool. Just without the spandex and rampant violence. That might sound crazy, but try watching Fletch and Deadpool back-to-back.
Over the course of the Fantasy Baseball season, a deadpan sense of humor is sometimes necessary. Apparently, MLB’s injury woes had nothing to do with cold weather. When injuries start tearing apart your roster like Pennywise the Clown, maintaining your sense of humor helps. Check out Fletch; it’s good for a laugh.
Here are SCFE’s 2018 Week 8 Hot Topics.
2018 Week 8 Hot Topics
Hot Topic No. 1: “I’ll have a Bloody Mary and a steak sandwich and . . . a steak sandwich, please.”
Charlie Morton, SP, Houston Astros
If you took a draft flyer on Charlie Morton, you’re probably feeling like Fletch ordering lunch on the Underhills’ tab. Trust me; it makes sense if you’ve seen the movie.
Prior to 2017, you could say Charlie Morton was like the last PGA player to make the cut in a tournament. He was just happy to be there, and the paycheck was nice. Originally drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the third round of the 2002 draft, he was promoted in 2008 after a mostly nondescript minor league career.
In 2009, Charlie Morton was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates. In seven seasons with Pirates, his “best” year was 2011, when he finished the season with a 10-10/3.83 ERA/1.53 WHIP/110 K stat line in 171.2 IPs. Further progress was halted, however, when he had Tommy John surgery in 2012.
Unfortunately, Charlie Morton and the DL became synonymous over the next few seasons. In 2014, it was hip surgery. After being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies at the end of 2015, it was left hamstring surgery. Between 2012-2016, Charlie Morton never pitched more than 157.1 IPs in any season. As you might guess, the Phillies let him walk in free agency after the 2016 season.
When Charlie Morton signed with the Astros in 2017, the announcement was greeted with a collective shrug by MLB and the Fantasy Baseball universe. He didn’t even merit a write-up in Ron Shandler’s 2017 Baseball Forecaster. Ouch.
In 2017 at age 33, Charlie Morton apparently found the Fountain of Middle Age like Rodney Dangerfield in Back to School. For the season, he posted a 14-7/3.62 ERA/1.19 WHIP/163 K line in 146.2 IPs. He also got the Ws in Game 7 of the ALCS and Game 7 of the World Series. Some people were probably wondering whether Charlie Morton sold his soul.
Heading into this season, there was understandable skepticism from Fantasy Baseball owners. Like the first season of Heroes, many wondered if Charlie Morton’s 2017 was just a fluke. The increased velocity and curveball spin suggested otherwise. Drafting Charlie Morton was an exercise in risk tolerance.
Through May 21 of this season, Charlie Morton has posted a 6-0/1.94 ERA/0.93 WHIP/70 K stat line in 55.2 IPs. That includes starts of 10 Ks, 12 Ks, and 14 Ks. Did I mention he pitches for the defending World Champions with a lineup that scores runs like Stephen King turns out books?
Keep in mind there are still durability concerns. Charlie Morton only pitched 146.2 IPs last season and spent a month on the DL with a lat strain. He’s also 34 and pitching in the AL. That being said, it looks like the skills are there. He currently has best the swing-and-miss rate with a curveball in MLB, and he has sustained fastball velocity. When it comes to Charlie Morton, I guess you could say better late than never. Good for him.
Hot Topic No. 2: “Look, defenseless babies!”
Brandon Belt, 1B/OF, San Francisco Giants
This is how you distract an angry Doberman Pinscher standing on the hood of your car. It’s the oldest trick in the book. Just ask Fletch. Taking a draft flyer on Brandon Belt has become the oldest trick in the book for Fantasy Baseball owners.
When I threw Brandon Belt for $1 in my auction league, there were no other bids. It was just me and the crickets. Brandon Belt was as unloved on draft day as Hayden Christensen is unloved by Star Wars fans. What can I say; with the imminent release of Solo I’ve got Star Wars on the brain.
There are some Fantasy Baseball owners who have been waiting for a Brandon Belt breakout season for the better part of a decade. Drafted by the Giants in the fifth round of the 2009 draft, Brandon Belt put himself on the prospect radar in 2010 with a .352 AVG/99 R/23 HR/112 RBI/22 SB season across three minor league levels.
Like Hayden Christensen in Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, much was expected. And like with Hayden Christensen, Brandon Belt owners were mostly disappointed. In 8 MLB seasons, he never had more than 18 HRs or 12 SBs in a single season. Because of the potential, he flashed in the minors, however, Fantasy Baseball owners kept coming back.
In 2017, Brandon Belt looked to be on the verge of that breakout season owners had been waiting for. Through 104 games, he posted a .241 AVG/63 R/18 HR/51 RBI/3 SB stat line. The AVG looks low, but he also sported a .355 OBP. Combined with an unlucky .284 BABIP (.336 career), you could see that AVG going up.
Unfortunately, concussions are not the exclusive province of the NFL. On August 5, 2017, Brandon Belt was placed on the DL with a concussion and missed the rest of the season. That could explain the cold shoulder from Fantasy Baseball owners on draft day this year.
So far this season, Brandon Belt has posted a .313 AVG/28 HR/11 HR/29 RBI/2 SB stat line in his first 44 games. If you took a draft flyer on Brandon Belt, you’re probably wanting to point at your fellow owners and give them a Nelson Muntz “haha!”
Is the breakout for real? There are reasons to believe. Even though the power may have been lacking, Brandon Belt is a career .270 hitter with a .361 OBP. He had also tied his previous career-high in HRs in 2017 in 104 games before the concussion ended his season. The AVG will likely come down (he currently sports a .379 BABIP), but 25-30 HRs looks like a possibility.
Brandon Belt is currently owned in 84% of Yahoo leagues (where he has OF eligibility in addition to 1B) and 78% of ESPN leagues. If he’s available in your league and you need CI help, you should be sprinting to the waiver wire.
Those are the Fantasy Baseball 2018 Week 8 Hot Topics. If your teams are struggling, you’ve still got lots of time to get back into contention. If you need to shake things up, don’t be afraid to hit the waiver wire. Don’t make panic moves, however. If you’ve got a player you’re still confident in, you should trust yourself. Just remember it’s all ball bearings nowadays. If you didn’t get that, see Fletch.
Until next time, always never forget to check your references.
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