After a one week work-induced hiatus, welcome back to the SCFE Week 8 Hot Topics column. My apologies to the readers out there for skipping last week’s column. Unfortunately, when the job that pays for the roof over your head says it’s go time, you have to answer the call. Work truly is a four-letter word.
After a rough week of doing the j-o-b (but not on the p-p-v), you look to the things that make you happy. For me, Fantasy Baseball is one of those things, and movies are another. Both always make feel better about life in general. This is why I typically tie each week’s Hot Topics to quotes from a movie.
As you may have surmised from the title, this week’s column is dedicated to Anchorman – The Legend of Ron Burgundy. This is a prime example of my Citizen Kane/Independence Day theory of filmmaking. See my Fast and the Furious column for more details. It may be a ridiculous movie, but I never fail to watch when it’s on.
An instant addition to the all-time quotable movie pantheon, there are so many memorable lines you need to watch Anchorman multiple times to catch everything. In fact, the throwaway lines are some of the funniest. Check out the scene after Brian Fantana puts on the Sex Panther cologne. The Bigfoot line is absolutely hilarious just for its sheer randomness.
With all the Fantasy Baseball injuries these days, I figure we could all use some laughs. So get some scotchy scotch scotch in your belly, bust out your most atrocious 1970s outfits, litter flagrantly (don’t really do that), and get ready for the Week 8 Hot Topics.
Week 8 Hot Topics
Hot Topic No. 1: “I’m in a glass case of emotion!”
Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves
Freddie Freeman owners probably feel like Ron Burgundy after watching biker Jack Black punt Baxter off the bridge. Two weeks ago in this column, I congratulated Freddie Freeman on his elevation to first tier 1B status. Now he’s back for an entirely different reason.
Seeing a hitter grabbing his hand after getting hit is the equivalent of seeing a non-contact injury in football or basketball. You hope everything is alright, but you live in terror until you see the official word. For Freddie Freeman, it was the worst-case scenario.
Just like Ron Burgundy’s career after telling the good people of San Diego what they could do with themselves (Great Odin’s Raven!), Freddie Freeman’s monster season was brought to a screeching halt with a fractured wrist. Sorry Freddie Freeman owners, but there’s no positive spin for losing a .341 AVG/35 R/14 HR/25 RBI/4 SB producer. Just watch Ron Burgundy in the phone booth if you’re looking for a way to vent.
You can’t replace Freddie Freeman, but don’t lose all hope. The Braves just traded for the Walking Dead corpse of Matt Adams to pick up the slack! Crickets chirping . . . yeah, probably not so much. There are some intriguing waiver wire options out there. Justin Bour, Josh Bell, and Tommy Joseph are all owned in less than 50% of ESPN and Yahoo leagues, and they could give you some decent numbers. For more waiver wire targets, check out the SCFE Waiver Wire column by Dennis Sosic.
In redraft leagues, Freddie Freeman needs to stay on your roster unless you’re stacked at 1B. It’s looking like an August return, and two months of Freddie Freeman is still two months of Freddie Freeman. Especially come Fantasy Baseball playoff time. Just hope Freddie Freeman returns like Baxter coming back to save the day in the bear fight.
Hot Topic No. 2: “I saw that. Brick killed a guy!”
Ian Happ, OF, Chicago Cubs
Ron Burgundy’s remark about Brick Tamland’s performance in the Anchorman rumble best describes Ian Happ’s major league debut. Like Brick wielding his mighty trident, Ian Happ stabbed opposing pitchers in the heart.
When another Cubs fan drafted Ian Happ in my auction league, I asked them what they were thinking. When they said he could see playing time, I responded “sure, if a plague hits the Cubs’ lineup.” Guess what? The plague happened. Nearly every regular in the Cubs’ lineup either hit the DL or missed time during April and May. As a result, Theo Epstein reached down into the farm system for reinforcements.
Ian Happ was the last in a series of high first-round picks by Theo Epstein from 2012-2015. Those picks were Albert Almora (sixth overall), Kris Bryant (second overall), Kyle Schwarber (fourth overall), and Ian Happ (ninth overall). Not too shabby. Ian Happ is the prototypical Theo Epstein hitter. He’s multi-position eligible, he’s a switch-hitter, he makes contact, and he gets on base.
Despite his talents, Ian Happ was expected to spend 2017 in the minors like Kris Bryant in 2014. And not just for service time reasons. With the Cubs’ stacked lineup, there was simply no spot for him. Hence my plague comment above. Like Veronica Corningstone getting her shot at the anchor desk after Ron Burgundy’s phone booth meltdown, however, sometimes opportunities come out of nowhere.
After putting up a .298 AVG/21 R/9 HR/25 RBI/2 SB stat line in 104 ABs in Triple-A, Ian Happ pretty much forced a call-up when the spate of injuries hit the Cubs. He has not looked overwhelmed so far, to say the least. Granted it is only eight games, but a .357 AVG/8 R/2 HR/5 RBI debut is pretty impressive.
There are reasons for caution. Ian Happ has only three years of professional baseball experience, and this was his first season above Double-A. He is also sporting a sky-high .471 BABIP. More importantly, he will have a very short leash if he struggles. The Cubs wanted him to have a full season at Triple-A, and they certainly have more than enough options on the roster.
Like Kyle Schwarber in 2015, however, if he continues to perform he will stick around. The fact that Ian Happ stayed up with the Cubs even after Jason Heyward was activated from the DL shows the Cubs have confidence in him. Like all rookie hitters, the test will be the second time pitching staffs see him and make adjustments. Will Ian Happ stay with the Cubs for the rest of the season? Time will tell. But for now, welcome to the show Ian Happ. You’ve certainly earned it.
Hot Topic No. 3: “I’m going to punch you in the ovary, that’s what I’m gonna do. A straight shot. Right to the baby maker.”
Felix Hernandez/Hisashi Iwakuma/James Paxton/Drew Smyly, SP, Seattle Mariners
Ron Burgundy’s declaration of war against Veronica Corningstone sums up the feelings of Mariners fans and Fantasy owners who invested in the Mariners’ starting rotation. Forget about the Mariners’ rotation being decimated. It’s like they built their pitching staff on top of a cursed burial ground.
Heading into your drafts, were you looking for a breakout season from James Paxton? One more elite season from Felix Hernandez? A bounce back season from Drew Smyly? A solid mid-rotation performance from Hisashi Iwakuma? It’s hard for any of these things to happen when they’re all on the DL. Like Harold Ramis said in Ghostbusters, for now, the Mariners’ rotation is like a demilitarized zone.
If anyone is wondering why the Mariners are in last place (or maybe dead place; thanks to Luke Wilson for another great random Anchorman line), losing 80% of their projected starting rotation within the first two months of the season is a good place to start. Even Brick could figure this one out. Of course, he would also probably blame bears.
As for possible return dates, they range from “soon” to “who knows?” James Paxton (forearm strain) is headed to a rehab assignment and May 31 is the target date for his return. Drew Smyly (elbow strain) is eligible to come off the 60-day DL on May 29, but at this point is still limited to playing catch. Felix Hernandez (shoulder bursitis) is also still at the catch-playing stage. Finally, Hisashi Iwakuma (shoulder inflammation) was supposed to begin playing catch last weekend.
On top of the uncertain timeline, also remember these are all arm injuries. Even when they all come off the DL, Fantasy owners will be reaching for Ron Burgundy’s scotch every time one of these guys takes the mound. Hopefully, none of these guys were drafted as your number one SP, and you already have contingency plans in place. For all your injury update needs, head over to the Injury Report provided by Dylan Tully.
Hot Topic No. 4: “It’s so damn hot . . . Milk was a bad choice.”
Jake Arrieta, SP, Chicago Cubs
Remember Jake Arrieta deciding to forego a contract extension to establish his value as a free agent after this season? When a player makes this decision, they are taking a calculated gamble on themselves. You can understand the mentality, especially by a player on a run the past few seasons like Jake Arrieta. Turn in another big season during a walk year, then fortune and glory await.
Like WCW signing up Master P, however, sometimes gambles don’t pay off. Ron Burgundy’s lament during his Grizzly Adams phase reflects Jake Arrieta’s current status. Despite a 5-3 record and 55 Ks in 50.2 IP, a 4.80 ERA and 1.40 WHIP does not make a good recipe for big free agency dollars or happy Fantasy owners.
So what’s going on with Jake Arrieta? I can tell you that even as a Cubs fan, I was leery about drafting him this year. Although his 2016 numbers looked good (18-8 record, 3.10 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 190 Ks in 197 IP), like Champ Kind’s off-air personality there were disturbing things beneath the surface. A 4.04 second-half ERA was particularly troubling. For me, when it comes to evaluating pitchers the BB/9 ratio is something I take seriously. Once that number rises above 3, a red flag goes up. Jake Arrieta’s BB/9 ratio in 2016 was 3.5.
For me, when it comes to evaluating pitchers, the BB/9 ratio is something I take seriously. Once that number rises above 3.0, a red flag goes up. Jake Arrieta’s BB/9 ratio in 2016 was 3.5.
When a pitcher loses his command, bad things tend to happen. Blowup innings, elevated pitch counts, getting pulled from games early, and fatigue is all possible consequences. Even though his BB/9 ratio is down so far this year (2.5), if you watch Jake Arrieta’s starts you can tell the command just isn’t quite there.
For example, in his May 21 start against the Brewers, Jake Arrieta went six IPs with zero ERs allowed, six Ks and one BB. Pretty good day, right? The only problem was it took him 111 pitches to get through six IPs. Even though he only had one BB, he was still missing with a lot of pitches.
Can Jake Arrieta right the ship and get back to dominating? Of course he can; his last three seasons demonstrate that. Unless his command returns, however, there could be some ugly outings and that free agency paycheck could keep shrinking.
Those are your Fantasy Baseball Week 8 Hot Topics. It’s been pretty brutal out there in terms of injuries, but there is still lots of season left. Like Ron Burgundy’s milk-fueled journey through broadcast purgatory, it is always darkest before the dawn. Just trust in yourself, and you can spell redemption R-O-N. Until next time, live long and prosper.
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