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Every time I think about Drew Smyly, I think of Cliff Curtis from Training Day.  That movie ended weird.  “Don’t bleed on my floor,” he says after almost shooting Ethan Hawke in the bathtub with a shotgun.  Pretty typical Saturday night if ya ask me, I dunno why Hawke got all bent out of shape and jumped on Denzel’s Monte Carlo.

But now when you say “Smyly,” it evokes feelings of waiver-wire hang-ups; where if he hasn’t been picked up in your league, you probably had him all queued up or someone else has.   Buried underneath the Jacob Turner hype, Drew Smyly has progressed through the Tigers system like a nor’easter, pitching only 127.2 total innings in the minors and earning a spot in the Major League rotation just after Opening Day.

Smyly hasn’t been just good.  He’s been historically good.  He’s the first pitcher since earned runs have been a recorded stat to allow two or fewer in his first six career starts.  Throw in a K per 9 and a 34:10 K:BB ratio and it defies all logic that Smyly was on so many waiver wires in 10-team leagues.  Sure, it’s early and, sure, pitching is more than plentiful, but Smyly was making a case he should be owned in all formats.

So I decided to watch his start at U.S. Cellular Field against the White Sox and compare his outings to see if he’s improving while settling into the Majors:

First Inning: Smyly is all smiles after three early runs of support in the top of the frame, and on a 1-1 pitch, Alejandro De Aza slaps one right at Smyly, and the lefty ducks out of the way and De Aza gets a leadoff single.  Gordon Beckham flies out lazily to center, but then on the first pitch to Adam Dunn, Dunn was sitting on the first pitch fastball and it’s launched for a two-run homer.  You could just tell Dunn couldn’t wait for that pitch and it was exactly where he wanted it – right down the middle.  There’s your two runs, Drew.  Konerko flies out to right and Rios does as well, and Smyly rebounds nicely.  Even though he gave up two runs, it’s still only an 11-pitch inning and Smyly still has a lead.

Second Inning: Smyly starts the second a bit rocky with two straight sliders that miss badly to fall behind 2-0 to A.J. Pierzynski.  Smyly works it back to 2-1 and Pierzynski flies out to deep left, one down.  1-0 to Alexei Ramirez and Sexy Alexei flies out to short.  Five outs and five fly ball outs.  Smyly throws a great 92-MPH fastball right on the outside corner to get ahead in the count for the first time this inning to Dayan Viciedo.  Where was that first pitch to Dunn?  On 1-1, Viciedo pops out weakly to second.  Six outs all via the fly ball.

Third Inning: With another two runs of support, Smyly is back out there with a 5-2 lead.  Smyly starts Brent Morel with a fantastic curveball Morel takes for a strike, 0-1.  On 0-2, Smyly barely misses a called strike 3 with a 93 MPH fastball… Not sure where that missed.  And back with the curveball and Morel grounds out for Smyly’s first out not through the air.  Smyly again dials up a curveball for strike one looking to De Aza.  On 2-2, Smyly goes with a slider that breaks all the way across the zone to the dirt and De Aza can’t hold his swing, giving Smyly his first K on the evening.  On 1-2, Beckham flares a 95 MPH fastball into foul territory that Brennan Boesch barely can’t catch.  But 95 from Smyly!  That’s some serious heat.  And then he goes with a slider biting in on Beckham’s hands that s swung on and missed for Smyly’s second straight 1-2-3 inning.  What a repertoire Smyly is showing.

Fourth Inning: This time, Smyly doesn’t give Dunn a first pitch strike or a fastball, throwing a slider for ball one.  Smyly gets the count back to 1-2 still utilizing only off-speed.  Dunn works it full then Smyly dials up a cutter that started inside and cut right into the heart of the plate that Dunn takes for Smyly’s third straight K.  On 1-1 to Konerko, Smyly gets a flare popup that lands in no man’s land in right for a fluke single.  Smyly had retired nine in a row until that unfortunate single.  On 0-1, Rios gets jammed and pops up to Prince Fielder.  And on 1-0 Pierzynski flies out weakly to center and it’s another pain free inning for Smyly.

Fifth Inning: On 0-1 to Ramirez, Alexei smokes one to left for a single.  Out comes Gerald Laird for a quick talk… Other than Dunn’s blast, that was the best-hit ball for the White Sox.  Smyly goes back with a curve ball taken for strike one by Viciedo.  Then Smyly goes with a HORRIBLE slider, 85 MPH and it hung on a tee right down the middle.  Crushed.  Home run for Viciedo, 393 feet to left.  Let’s hope Smyly can rebound as strongly as he did after Dunn’s blast.  On 2-2, Morel chases a slider out of the zone and pops it out to second for the first out.  0-1 to De Aza, and it’s grounded weakly right to Smyly, two down.  Smyly goes up 0-2 on Beckham, but a 2-2 slider barely misses inside then Smyly loses him for his first walk.  The first pitch to Adam Dunn is a cutter that looked identical to the fastball Dunn crushed, but it wrinkles and cuts down and Dunn swings over it and almost out of his shoes.  Great pitch.  On 1-2, Smyly goes to the slider and gets Dunn to swing and miss to once again, again rebounding nicely after giving up a two-run homer.  And somewhat surprisingly, after only 69 pitches, Leyland takes out Smyly.

Final Line:  ND  69 Pitches (45 Strikes) 5 Hits  1 Walk  4 Earned Runs  4 Ks

Final Analysis: All post game reports indicate Smyly is completely healthy, and Leyland lifted his young southpaw so early due to concerns of the fly balls Smyly was giving up.  I think it was just an anomaly as even after the game his GB/FB rate is 0.93.  I think Smyly had at least another good inning in him and may have done a better job protecting the lead (reliever Luke Putkonen subsequently gave up three runs while only getting one out in the bottom of the 6th), as he had sat down 9 straight and 3 straight after giving up the two two-run homers.

This was a great start to breakdown.  You look at the stat line and say to yourself, “5 innings and 4 earned… the magic must be coming to an end.”  It sure as hell isn’t.  Smyly made only two mistakes all night that happened to be absolutely crushed.  Of course you can’t make mistakes at this level, but Smyly wasn’t exactly pounded throughout his start, allowing only the 5 hits (one of which was a fluke flare single by Konerko) and one walk.

From what I saw in his debut, Smyly has taken tremendous strides.  It appears he’s given up on his changeup (I didn’t think I saw a single one) and is instead using a solid cutter for the same effect (like he utilized on Dunn in the fifth).  Smyly was able to throw his curveball for strikes and his slider as an out pitch, and even hit 95 on the gun with his fastball, improving his velocity from his debut.  The only real knock on Smyly is he’s going to be lifted out of games very early, as is par for the course for young pitchers these days.  But with his stuff and that offense behind him, Smyly needs to be owned in all formats.  If he’s still on your wire or if you missed out on him and an owner has cut him after this apparent “bad” outing, go and grab him.

54 Responses

  1. chunk says:
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    This is fun to read, thanks! Any tips for watching games and recognizing pitches? Like, cutter vs. slider, etc….

    • JB Gilpin

      Jonathan Gilpin says:
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      @chunk, Thanks man! Glad you liked it! I’ve just watched so much baseball it comes second nature to me… A cutter will usually have a velocity only 3-5 MPH slower than a fastball and have a shorter, more concise break. A slider will break more and usually be maybe 5-8 MPH slower… Of course that’s just typically. With Smyly it’s very easy to spot the difference because his slider breaks (except on that one he hung) very dramatically. The cutter was usually 2-3 MPH faster and cut at the last second instead of saying on the same plane as the fastball. Hope that helps ya out!

  2. Moscowitz says:
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    I absolutely disagree with the conclusion. He certainly is not a must own in all formats. His stuff is pretty ordinary, a BABIP of .267 and a LOB of 90% (71-72% is the norm) is unsustainable. He will start getting hit hard and often. At the end of the day he is a near 4.00 ERA guy. If you this is something special and kind of a must own material, ok you are entitled to your opinion but in shallow leagues he is pretty much waiver wire material. He infact is still sitting there in a lot of 12 team leagues aswell. I am not trying to crush him, he is ok but before i grab him, i go look to grab likes of Norris, Samardzija, Worley and Detwiler.

    • Moscowitz says:
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      @Moscowitz, Oh, sorry. Thanks a lot for the effort you put into that article.

      • JB Gilpin

        Jonathan Gilpin says:
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        @Moscowitz, Haha, we’re entitled to our opinions man, just laying out what I saw. Sure the LOB% is a little concerning and a tad lucky, and I don’t see Smyly sporting a sub-3.00 ERA all year. What I did see with my own two eyes beyond the stat sheet (for whatever it’s worth) was a composed pitcher with great stuff. I think he’ll maintain an 8-ish k per 9, get increased innings as he matures, and a nice bundle of wins. I would take Smyly over all those guys with the exception of Samardzija, who is owned in a far greater number of leagues. Worley has a higher LOB% than Smyly! (89.6% to 89.2%). Listen, you can poke holes with any of these guys, they’re on the fringe for a reason. But I like Smyly from a sheer stuff standpoint and don’t think he’s going to get “hit hard and often” just because his BABIP is a shade under the norm and he’s got a nice LOB%. He’ll regress some, but won’t implode, in my opinion.

        • Moscowitz says:
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          @Jonathan Gilpin, Lets just agree to disagree because i simply dont see those great “stuff”. Thanks anyway pal :)

          • JB Gilpin

            Jonathan Gilpin says:
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            @Moscowitz, “Isn’t it Saint Diego?”
            “No, there’s no way that’s correct”
            “Uh, yes it is”
            “Agree to Disagree”

    • longbeachyo says:
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      @Moscowitz, Gonna have to disagree with YOU, Moscowitz. I see Smyly as a nice commodity even in shallower leagues. Since you guys are talking numbers, let me bring up his 23rd overall ranked SIERA ranking! And his swinging strike percentage is ranked 21st overall! Pretty damn amazing considering he’s a rookie.

      I really liked this write-up Jonathan. It gives me a good view to put with the numbers. The only question/concern I have with Smyly is will he be able to keep it going once he starts to see teams the second time through… How well can he mix his pitches?

      But for now, I definitely think he needs to be owned in 12 team leagues. (as well as those other guys you mentioned, Moscowitz)

      Can I make a request for the next pitcher, Jonathan? – Anthony Bass

      • JB Gilpin

        Jonathan Gilpin says:
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        @longbeachyo, Thanks for getting my back! Really appreciate you reading! Anthony Bass it is! I’ll break down his next at Petco against the Angels (I’d sure as hell start him)

  3. Prezii says:
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    Def a good read for a smyly hyper… Especially if u didnt see the game!! Which i didnt annd was ever so slightly thinkin hmmmm.. but ive seen this dude pitch before and he is pretty beast.. gonna take more than 1 bad start to get me off this wagon.. hes gonna be very productive this season barring an injury.. good job!! And of course everyone has their own opinions.

    • JB Gilpin

      Jonathan Gilpin says:
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      @Prezii, Thanks man! Yea his 4 runs came on two swings on bad mistakes, but usually you can get away with at least one… Smyly had only those two big mistakes all game! I think he’ll be fine, thanks for reading!

  4. weas says:
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    Thanks for this breakdown.

    • JB Gilpin

      Jonathan Gilpin says:
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      @weas, Thanks for reading!

  5. Ryan says:
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    I dropped Worley for samardzia ….u agree?
    Worley had garza coming up….like samardzia starts over the next month..

    • JB Gilpin

      Jonathan Gilpin says:
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      @Ryan, Completely agree… Worley is getting a little lucky and I don’t expect his K rate to stay that high… I know it was high last year, but he never showed it in the Minors and I don’t think the fact he’s pitching with other aces means he suddenly is a strikeout pitcher… I expect some serious regression.

  6. RK says:
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    Chad Qualls the new Phillies closer!

    • RK says:
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      Chad Qualls blows the save!

      • JB Gilpin

        Jonathan Gilpin says:
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        @RK, Haha I saw the first comment and thought it was a joke… Then I realized Chad Qualls is the punchline of the joke! Papelbon is just on rest after 3 straight days, but still, this season might have the most blown saves in history.

  7. Wake Up says:
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    Thoughts on Smyly’s lucky BABIP and Strand %? And ERA -1.19?
    PIT on Sat. looks nice though.

    • JB Gilpin

      Jonathan Gilpin says:
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      @Wake Up, The Pit matchup is a must start. I don’t know the math right off hand, but Smyly’s very first inning he left 3 on base (nerves probably didn’t help), so from them on it might be not quite as skewed. His BABIP isn’t really that far off from the league norm, and with his stuff, is sustainable.

  8. soto voce says:
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    should I drop Alvarez for Morneau? Thanks!

    • JB Gilpin

      Jonathan Gilpin says:
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      @soto voce, I really, really hate Pedro Alvarez and I guess I’d go with Morneau, even thought I’m not a big Morneau fan either…

  9. EK says:
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    Pls rank these SP going fwd (H2H pts):

    J. Garcia
    McDonald
    Lilly
    Vogelsong

    • JB Gilpin

      Jonathan Gilpin says:
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      @EK, I will probably take some flack for these rankings but, Vogelsong, McDonald, Lilly, Garcia… I really don’t like Garcia’s bad WHIP and K rate.

  10. fitz says:
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    Valverde lifted with apparent injury??

    • Shin Soo Been Gone says:
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      @fitz, Benoit should be the next in line right?

      • fitz says:
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        @Shin Soo Been Gone, Yep. I think he would have to be favored over Dotel. Who knows if Valverde will miss time though.

      • JB Gilpin

        Jonathan Gilpin says:
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        @Shin Soo Been Gone, Agree, Benoit is the short-term pick-up if you’re looking to speculate Valverde misses some time, Dotel is awful.

  11. Tub says:
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    The Qualls/Papelbon joke is on me since I own Cliff Lee who once again couldn’t get a W because of a damn closer/bullpen…
    Out of these 3 closers, which would you keep/trade?
    Jim Johnson, Rodney, Robertson(DL)? And yes I am aware they are all in the AL East. I had BWilson, Heath Bell, Andrew Bailey and this is a H2H 10 team league

    • JB Gilpin

      Jonathan Gilpin says:
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      @Tub, Yea it’s been a tough, tough year for closers… I’d probably keep Johnson and Robertson… Johnson is still not getting the cred and Robertson being on the DL is going to keep anyone from wanting to trade for him and I still think he gets a shot at the role when he returns, barring a spectacular run by Soriano (which I doubt). And it’s not like Rodney is getting much more cred, but his numbers are a little better and I actually feel like Johnson might have a better hold on the role… You never know what Maddon might do if Rodney blew 2 in a row or something.

  12. BucLover says:
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    Nice article! Well done!

    • JB Gilpin

      Jonathan Gilpin says:
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      @BucLover, Thanks man! I will be putting one out a week, usually on Tuesdays so keep an eye for em!

  13. Mike says:
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    Have Robertson ugh!
    Need a pickup
    Reed(chi) or jannsen from Toronto
    Thanks!!!

    • longbeachyo says:
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      @Mike, Reed

    • JB Gilpin

      Jonathan Gilpin says:
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      @Mike, I actually really like Jannsen… But Reed has a much better shot at holding onto the role for the rest of the season… So Reed.

  14. Fenst says:
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    Quick trade advice. In 12th out of 12 even though my team isn’t near the worst (hate h2h). I really think I need to get younger in a 10 man keeper league. I was offered Napoli, Bumgarner and a 2nd round pick (basically a 12th) for Teixeira, Haren, and a 5th (essentially a 15th).

    Napoli would slot in at 1b while Ruiz is hot and maybe move back to catcher if Adam Lind ever starts hitting.

    My other current keepers look like Rollins, Wright, Victorino, Gordon, Romero, and then sadly Latos, Ackley, and Luebke. Ok maybe this team is that bad. The Scherzer’s and Weeks’s of the world are killing me.

    Let me know what you think.

    • JB Gilpin

      Jonathan Gilpin says:
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      @Fenst, Ugh… Yeah I’ve never been a Scherzer or Jemile fan… I think Rickie turns it around, he hit a homer today and his walk rate is at a career high, and he’s still got an OBP at .306 even while hitting .157.

      I’d do that deal… Haren has got a LOT of mileage, and while I think he bounces back and still has some nice years ahead, Bumgarner has a whole career in one of the league’s most pitcher friendly parks… He’s a great keeper and will be your ace for years to come.

      Even with Napoli at first, he’s not much of a downgrade from Teixieira and having two catchers to fill all your catcher starts is a great idea. Plus you get a nicer pick. Great for both this year and for your future.

      • Fenst says:
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        @Jonathan Gilpin,

        It was tough to do with Tex and Haren leading me to back to back championships back in the day, but I’m looking towards the future not the past. It makes me mad cause I let Bumgarner go at one point and went with more established keepers and now I have to make a move to bring him back. Oh well. Here’s to hopefully a solid decade + of an ace in SF.

  15. Topher says:
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    In a vacuum………McCutchen for Beltran. Which side do you all like for ROY and keeper league

    • JB Gilpin

      Jonathan Gilpin says:
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      @Topher, McCutchen for both… I know Cutch started slow but he’s really heating up and Beltran is already having some slight knee issues… I owned Beltran last year, and while he was solid, he just seemed old and I have a feeling he’s really gonna fall apart in the second half… Plus Cutchgives you the 5-categories to Beltran’s 4.

  16. Alex says:
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    based on value alone – allen craig or willingham? allen craig or garza? thanks!

    • JB Gilpin

      Jonathan Gilpin says:
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      @Alex, Probably Craig over Willingham then Garza over Craig. I know pitching is plentiful but I see Garza having a nice season, even if he doesn’t net many wins.

  17. stumanji says:
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    As I Smyly owner, this was a very helpful read. I was not feeling good about his stat line based on numbers alone, but his leash is def a bit longer based on your write-up. Looking forward to more of these.

    • JB Gilpin

      Jonathan Gilpin says:
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      @stumanji, I agree his leash is longer, and based on how Smyly responded to his early exit, he seemed humble and happy to do what he’s asked and Leyland’s replacement relievers ended up costing the Tigers the game. I think Smyly has earned more innings, and even with the tough state line, is going no where on my teams. Thanks for reading, one should be up every week!

  18. wakeNbake says:
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    Nice article… coincidentally I have a Smyly related question.

    Just traded Dee Gordon and received Drew Smyly… I could really use a beckend type starter in my rotation and SP is also very thin in this league do to alot of bench spots. My team is also very good in steals and my starting SS is Andrus so I really had no use for Dee. I also hear if Dee doesnt start to hit he could go to the minors. So what do you think of the trade for me?

    • JB Gilpin

      Jonathan Gilpin says:
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      @wakeNbake, Awesome trade. I am not a big Dee Gordon fan and since you already have Andrus, then there was no need to really keep Gordon and you might have needed to cut him later anyway… Nice trade!

  19. Lahair club for men says:
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    Would you trade Zobrist and Mcdonald for Bryce Harper (Mixed 5×5 keeper)? Don’t know if I want to pull the trigger for the hype. Need someone to talk me into it.

    • wakeNbake says:
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      @Lahair club for men, Id do that in a second for Harper in a keeper bro.

      • Lahair club for men says:
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        @wakeNbake, what if you can only keep Harper for 2 years? We have a complete redraft after 2013 season. Thanks BTW.

        • wakeNbake says:
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          @Lahair club for men, hmm.. thats a little different. Not as much upside with Harper then. However, I think I would still do it. I do like McDonald but if you think your SP can take the hit then Id do it. It would be really hard for me to turn down Harper… even if its just for the rest of this season and the next. Just my opinion tho.

        • JB Gilpin

          Jonathan Gilpin says:
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          @Lahair club for men, It’s close, it depends on what other 2B options are out there or who you have on your bench… I’m a big Zobrist fan and he started slow like this last year and was just fine… I’m still not sold on McDonald, he’s not too much above replacement level if at all so he’s kinda a throw in unless it’s like a 20-team league. If you have an OK backup at 2B or CI or someone is on the wire who is still useful I’d do it.

  20. Ryan says:
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    dropped Lowrie for Elliot Johnson(tor)..u agree?
    seems to have alot more steals..plays 2 postions etc

    • JB Gilpin

      Jonathan Gilpin says:
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      @Ryan, Do you mean Kelly Johnson? If so then I would just use whoever is hotter, I don’t think either is necessarily a must own all year. If you need the steals then deifnitely Johnson, and he does hit in a better line-up, so i think he gets the better final numbers. If it is indeed the Ray’s Elliot Johnson, I wouldn’t, he’s below both the other Johnson and Lowrie.

  21. Moscowitz says:
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    Take a friendly advise and drop him already :)

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