It’s the last post before the all-star break and nothing seems more fitting than a Neal Diamond reference.  If you don’t like or appreciate Neal, then we have problems and I challenge you to a duel or whatever the young kids are doing now a days to show dominance.  (Because I know it’s not anything like what transpired in West Side Story.)  Moving on swiftly to the pressing closer news as I get lost in my ole timey spirit…  So the Cardinals have moved away from the Oh and more to the Rosenthal.  Trevor Rosenthal has sorta looked like he did three years ago, which seems like forever ago but really isn’t.  The bad thing is that he and the rest of the save chasers that are in the Cardinals bullpen are pitching blah-squared.  The best pitcher over the last 20 games is Matt Bowman… again.  I said that same statement about a month into the season when Oh originally looked about as shaky as an 11-year-old with his first attempt at using a blow torch.  Over the past 30 games the saves have gone Oh for 3, Rosenthal 1, Bowman 1 and Tyler Lyons with 1 (was a multiple innings save).  Over the past 30 games for a usual dominant bullpen fixture, in terms of fantasy, to post 5 saves (I am not counting Lyons effort) is more condemning than the way they are pitching.  If you are a Seung-Hwan Oh owner, you kinda have to hold the ship until it becomes more of an official thing.  If Rosey is on your wire (55% owned in ESPN leagues) then nab him up.  If you want to roster a RP with appeal, then Bowman is your guy (1.8% owned).  As I can see it, Oh is still the guy but with some daylight for others.  Just be leery that the past 30 days of track record for savedom have not been all that rosey for the Cards.  Don’t frown, we got more goodies and sunshine after the bump.  Cheers!

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Uh-oh, the double lede!  This is more spectacular than the double rainbow.  WHOA, DOUBLE LEDE!  Alex Cobb threw a gem yesterday — 8 IP, 0 ER, 3 baserunners (2 Hits), 4 Ks, ERA at 3.73, but his brother from another mother and father, Alex Colome blew the game, going 1 IP, 2 ER, and now has given up seven earned — sevearned? — in his last three appearances.  Alex Cobb carried a no-hitter into the 7th and was so good yesterday that Robert Wuhl is writing the screenplay to Cobb 2:  More Corn.  However, do the Rays play Blondie “Call Me” when Colome comes in?  If so, stop!  If not, give it a try because we need to shake things up.  I grabbed Danny Farquhar before the game even ended.  Lord Farq could get a few saves if Colome remains dreck.  …Cause somebody once told me that Farquhar is an ‘own me,’ and I ain’t the sharpest tool in the shed!  Colome was looking kind of dumb with a crooked number on the board and an L shape hanging on his scorecard.  Well, the years start coming– Okay, I will stop now.  In the end, Tommy Hunter got the save after the blown save, so he could also be in the mix if Colome needs a little rest.  In one league, I grabbed Farquhar; in one league, I grabbed Hunter for ye ol’ hedge.  Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

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In a full-on Willy Loman-type starring role, Andrew Miller now takes over the most responsible role in the Tribe’s bullpen.  I beg to differ that he is taking over the most important role, and can argue that he has seen more high-leverage situations and save situations than his sort of disposed closer, Cody Allen…  The only thing leading him to not be the most important factor in that pen was the stat of the save.  Listen, Tito beats to the sound of his own drum and Arnold, nor Willis are going to tell him how to handle his bullpen.  It is a luxury to have two top-10 overall relievers at his disposal and to use them how he sees fit.  Miller, is by definition, the closer to save his arm for the future.  But what we don’t realize is that if a save happens sooner than the 9th inning, Miller is going to be called on just like his original role.  Confused?  Yeah, it is kinda like saying: “Go look for the save in the corner of a circular room.” For ownership, this changes zero.  Miller is and was owned as he should be in every league imaginable.  Cody Allen is also owned and shouldn’t be dropped as he becomes the closer cuff in waiting, and is far superior to any RP on the waiver wire.  So hold on tight!  A month from now, when Miller has 5 saves and Allen has 3, not much stat wise will be lost, but by the end of the year when Allen has 32 and Miller 12, that is when we can look back on this and laugh and say “I shaved my eyebrows for this?”  Stay tuned kids, more closer and bullpen-y type goodness are on the way…

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I didn’t understand the title at first when Rudy gave it to me.  Our conversation went like this, “I don’t get it.”  Him, “What do truckers need?”  Me, “Caffeine and horns?”  Him, “Hats with back-of-the-head ventilation.”  After a beat, him again, “Speed!  They need speed!”  Personally, I think all of these trucker requirements are right.  The conversation continued with me asking, “And EYJ is a play on KY Jelly?”  Him, “It’s a Se7en reference.  Please leave me alone.”  The 30 for 30 we’re all waiting for:  Michael Madsen narrates, “Back in the 1980’s, Keith Hernandez, Willie Stargell and Dave Parker used to sniff more devil’s dandruff than Tony Montana at the height of his infamy, and these weren’t even the fast guys.  At some point in the 1990’s, cocaine looked less cool when players started crashing and burning.”  Cut to:  a reenactment of Dwight Gooden trying to sell something to a drug dealer.  Actor playing Doc Gooden, “This is the original Doc Gooden rookie card!  It’s my high school driver’s license!”  Now, speed’s crashed like Alex P. Keaton after a brutal exam.  Enter, Mallex Smith, Cameron Maybin and Eric Young Jr.  Maybin is the most polished; let’s call him Maybinski.  He can provide top 30 OF-type numbers, but will likely get injured.  EYJ is the schmotato-y one, and will likely lose his job within a month.  Finally, Mallex is the most upsidey and interesting one to me.  He could have a Billy Hamilton-type six weeks and never look back, except when looking back at greenies, Ron LeFlore and the go-go 80’s that never sucked, but they sure did blow.  Anyway, here’s some more players to Buy or Sell this week in fantasy baseball:

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I’m at my computer checking baseball news about six months a year.  Give or take about five hours here and there.  On Saturday, it was one of those times I was away from my computer, due to a family wedding in Cape May.  Closer change, prospect call-up.  Happens when you’re away from the computer, that’s it.  Call it a wrap.  With Prospector Ralph in the league, there’s no chance for me.  Around 6 PM, I got the dreaded text.  “Lewis Brinson was called up.”  Too bad I didn’t see it until about 7 PM.  Had a lavender-flavored champagne in one hand, a lobster claw in the other hand, my mom was like, “You have butter dripping down your chin,” my grandfather was complaining Bruno Mars doesn’t have good choruses in his songs, and there was the text, sitting there on a locked iPhone screen.  Done.  Sigh.  Well, if you got him, or can still get Brinson, you should.  Jonathan Villar hit the DL, and, brucely, he wasn’t playing well and Keon Broxton (1-for-4 and his 7th homer yesterday) moves to a platoon role.  Unless Brinson totally flames out, he’s up, and playing for good in center.  In Triple-A, he had six homers and seven steals in 45 games, which is what I’d expect from him in the majors.  Your basic 25/25/.280 guy.  Yesterday, he hit leadoff went 0-for-2 with two walks and stole his first base. Yes, he should be owned everywhere, and could be the Trea Turner-type call-up of the year.  Anyway, here’s what else I saw this weekend in fantasy baseball:

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The season to date leader in holds heads to the DL and one of the better bullpens in baseball is in a tailspin… not so fast!  The Rockies have reliable arms that can cement games just as well as Adam Ottavino has done for the year.  With the likes of wily veterans in Mike Dunn, Chris Rusin, and even a little smattering of Jake McGee, the sedimentary bunch is going to attempt to hold down the fort. The comforting thing is that the Rockies lead MLB in holds as a pen, least amount of blown saves and have the most games pitching with a lead with 99 total.  The scary thing with the shoulder injury is that Ottavino is a stash, or a dash, and replace with new military holds parts made from recycled relievers.  Wait a week, see if the 10-day DL stint is a pain in the tuther end, and I can see if you need the space in Holds leagues, the move make sense.  I would most likely grab Dunn, Rusin, and McGee in that order, as the setup game in front of the Dutch Master is going to be pieced together differently than what we saw so far.  No need to panic though, there are tons of saves in the 6-8 innings to go around.  Speaking of which, let’s see what is going down in the neighborhood of hold-dom…

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What I particularly like about relievers is versatility.  The situation in San Diego is the one in particular I want to discuss.  We were all lured into the Carter Capps preseason love, and I was on the wagon driving the horses as well, but his injury and the results that we expected aren’t coming as fast as we hoped.  He isn’t bowling over anyone in the minors, sporting a 6-plus ERA, and the obnoxious K-rate hasn’t materialized.  Now onto the major league roster which isn’t lighting any fires.  They are second from the bottom in bullpen ERA, have only 12 holds on the year, and now their closer has hit the skids.  He being Brandon Maurer.  Enter who I think should, could be the next man up while we wait (forever) for Capps.  Brad Hand offers that former starter turned good.  I may just call him the Vigilante of holds and possibly saves very soon.  He has the K-rate, the BAA and the moxy to do the job… it is just a matter of if SD is ready to pull the trigger on something because Maurer looks cooked.  Regardless of his situation moving forward or your league perimeters, Hand is worthy for a spot because of speculation and the K’s that he will produce.  This is the bullpen report for this week, so let’s see what’s happening in the setup game and the hold chase…

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The biggest question I get regarding the Hold stat is: “How long should I hold onto a stud holds reliever if he isn’t getting the precious stat?”  Well, the stat is fluctuation between the sublime and the superfluous.  It is usually as explainable as binary calculus.  Take, for example, the story of the San Francisco Giants bullpen.  They have all the right pieces there to be a successful bullpen.  A stud closer and an excellent mix of RH and LH set-up men.  Now look closer at the stats.  Hunter Strickland is by all intents and purposes the 8th inning guy.  He has 12 appearances, 11 of which have come in the 8th inning or later in ball games.  He checks every other box for stats, low ERA, K/9 right about where you want it, but the inevitable stat faux pas is he has zero holds.  On a team that only has 9 holds collectively, what is going wrong?  He isn’t doing anything wrong, he isn’t vexed by a succubus or anything bad.  hell I bet he helps old ladies cross the street and then steals their groceries.   The simple answer is that the hold stat is an ever flowing team driven ideal.  Doesn’t mean I hate it, one bit.  i love the secondary save.  It just comes out of the blue sometimes and people who sometime deserve to be the beneficiary aren’t that’s all.  Hunter will finish the year with his share, but right now in holds leagues he is almost unownable.  So look elsewhere for good match-ups, good form in pitching, and the ever important stat with relievers is when did they pitch last.  That is the best determinant in acquiring a waiver wire darling.  If he pitched yesterday, odds are he won’t today.  Be smart as picking reliever for holds is a dumb game, don’t over-think it.  Here are some other deets, in the game of set-up…

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Even being 1/10th of the way through the season, it is never too early to see some trends forming.  The trends I am learning you about are the bullpen usage rates.  Not every team follows an A to B to C type formulas, and it would be nice, but usage rates in certain situations, even 15 games into the season, peak their heads out for fantasy usefulness.  The ancillary stats that no one really notices, and that I use all year, are runners inherited and appearances with the lead.  All key factors for what a reliever is and what they are at sustaining.  The inherited runners stat is a ruiner, not only for themselves but for the pitchers they are replacing.  Basically a sad trombone in the case of reliever sad trombones.  The appearances with the lead factor is what we all eat our Holds and gravy with.  It basically says that they are pitching with a lead, granted, holds are scored the same as a save.  So all that less than four runs runner on deck shenanigans that people made up for it to qualify.  So welcome to the first Holds/bullpens post of the year as we embark on a road far less traveled then it should.  Holds matter, regardless of color.

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This morning, I decided to look at my deepest NL-only league to see who the highest-ranked player who went undrafted was. It didn’t take long to find him: as of Tuesday morning, Anthony Senzatela was ranked as the eleventh most valuable pitcher in standard, mixed 5×5 fantasy baseball leagues. My NL–only league includes a fairly complex farm system as well, so it is beyond hard to find a diamond in the rough, since most minor league players with any decent prospect status at all were drafted years ago. It’s clear why Senzatela slipped through the cracks, though – he was a mid-level prospect at best, who entered spring training as a long shot to be part of a pitching rotation in the worst pitchers’ ballpark baseball has ever seen…

Will Senzatela still be the eleventh best pitcher in fantasy at the end of 2017? Uh, no. We’d have to expect some major bumps along the way even if half of his starts weren’t going to come at Coors Field. But he’s owned in just 20% of Yahoo leagues (21% of ESPN), which I think is too low. I am basing this almost entirely on the gut feeling I had while watching him pitch. In fantasy, upside can be overrated: just ask the Robert Stephenson owner in the league I mentioned above. Stephenson has been taking up a minor league spot on his owner’s roster for four years now. Even worse, now that he’s on the big club and his owner feels pot-committed to him, Stephenson and his 5.40 ERA are taking up a valuable active roster spot. There is no guarantee that even the highest-ranked prospects will even reach star status, either in real baseball or the fantasy variety. Taking a flyer on gut feeling won’t always work out either, and sometimes can be fairly disastrous, but it’s a risk that I think you need to take from time to time in a deep league. Otherwise, how will you ever find this year’s Junior Guerra — that guy whose past statistics make you absolutely sick to your stomach, but looks damn good on the mound every time you watch him pitch… and before you know it, has been a major contributor to the success of your single-league team.

Moving on to some other deeper-league names, starting with the AL…

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