I recently participated in a question exchange with J Ellet Lambie on his blog. He asked me five questions, which are posted on his site that you can find here, and I asked him five questions that are below. He has written on this site before and we got great feedback, so I hope you enjoy.
1) Which overachiever will come back to earth the hardest? Raul Ibanez or Aaron Hill?
You just so happened to select two players I have a man crush on. I’ve been proclaiming Raul Ibanez as one of the most underrated outfielders in the fantasy game for a couple of years, while Aaron Hill is only 27 and starting to come into his own at the top of a surprisingly strong Blue Jays lineup.
Both players will face some pretty good divisional starting pitching going forward.
Ibanez is leading the NL in OPS as of this morning, so he has that going for him. He’s hit .280 or better with 20+ home runs four straight seasons and appears well on track to make it 5. He drove in 100+ runs the last three campaigns and seems to be adjusting to NL pitching at a pace that suggests he’ll do it again this time around.
With guys like Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Jayson Werth in that lineup there should be plenty of chances for him to score or produce a run going forward.
Aaron Hill is early in his fifth major league season, so he doesn’t the track record of Ibanez, but he’s a former first round pick and he plays a position (2B) with considerably less depth than Ibanez.
If the question were who will have better numbers at seasons end I would call this a push, as each player has strength in several statistical categories that make them solid plays going forward. But...as the question is who will come back to earth the hardest, I’ll go with Ibanez.
I expect he’ll fall in line with his .288 average and end up with 25 or more home runs, 90 runs and around 100 RBI. Again, a great season, but well below the pace he’s currently on (.368, 60 HR, 162 RBI, 153 runs). He’ll be 37 years old come June and I have questions concerning his everyday durability in the second half.
Aaron Hill on the other hand is on pace to hit .339 with 42 home runs, 133 RBI’s and 116 runs scored. He won’t hit 42 bombs, but I think 25 is very possible with 90 or so RBI and just about the 116 runs scored he’s on pace for. I expect his average will slip to about the .310 mark by seasons end, still very, very respectable.
2. Which underachiever do you have more confidence in? Alex Rios or Jimmy Rollins?
It’s always tough to pick against a former MVP, but I’m going to do that just that here. I root like hell for Jimmy Rollins and hope that he rebounds in a big way, but I just don’t think he’s the same player he was two years ago. The injuries to his lower half have robbed him of that big time speed he once had.
I think he can still swipe 10-15 bags but nowhere near the 40 or so that was possible in the recent past. His bat speed has slowed and there are questions beginning to percolate in Philly as to whether he should hit leadoff, third, or elsewhere.
Rios on the other hand seems to be getting better, both overall and this season after his slow start.
On Apr. 28 Rios was hitting .237 with 1 home run. Since then he’s raised his average by 22 points and has hit three home runs and stolen 3 bags. He’s been successful on 35 of 43 steal attempts dating back to the beginning of last season and has increased his SB totals four straight years.
He’s bigger and stronger than Rollins, hits in a strong lineup (as does Rollins) and he’s about three years younger than Jimmy.
Middle infielders with leg issues scare me. 6′5″ outfielders with 20/20 ability who are just coming into their power prime excite me. Again, I hope Rollins gets back to his dominant ways, I really do, but I think Rios is the safer bet this year and beyond.
3. What is your philosophy on closers? Do you draft them early or play the “carousel” and try to pick up replacements as they become available?
I look at closers like vitamins—I don’t like taking them, but I know I need them. I don’t know what’s in them, when they’re about to go bad and I think both are too expensive.
But in order to be at the top of my game I needthem both. I do tend to fall in line with the traditional expert protocol on this one, I never take a closer in the first eight or nine rounds and never take more than two before about round 13 or 14.
I believe in the mantra that I can and will find closers in the later rounds and through free agency that will be just as effective as the top five or 10 guys off the board. Does the name Ryan Franklin ring a bell? David Aardsma? Scott Downs?
I will however target a couple of guys every draft, one of which I will go after in about round nine or 10 when I’ve filled a lot of holes already. This year I focused on Jonathon Broxton and Joakim Soria in that range, and ended up with one of them in seven of my nine leagues.
Beyond that I filled my squads with lower round pick ups like Chad Qualls, Heath Bell, Joel Hanrahan and Brad Ziegler. Some succeed, and they get to stay. Others fail, and they fall into the pit of despair as I grab a Franklin, an Aardsma, a Downs—and move on.
4. How many wins will Zack Greinke end up with?
I wrote a piece this March where I put the over/under on this at 16.5—I took the under then, I’m taking the over now, but barely. Eighteen is my guess.
The kid is incredible right now, truly, and I’m not saying this to defame him, but it’s a long season and hitters and pitchers both start to figure each other out a little more each week.
He’s never won more than 13 games and has only pitched 180 or more innings twice - in 2005 when he went 5-17 and spent the next year trying to find himself in the minors, and last year, when he threw 202-1/3 frames.
He has all the tools to be a Cy Young winner, his breaking ball is ungodly, his heater moves late and sizzles, but history tells me to count to 10 before I anoint him the greatest pitcher in the world.
I want to see where he is after 10 starts, after 10 wins—how many innings will be on his arm, how many pitches, how much pressure? He’s talented enough to win 25, I mean it, but that doesn’t always translate to a 25 win season, in fact it rarely does.
5. I liked your question, what is the best fantasy team name you have come across? Are you a constant name changer?
I’ve seen some pretty good ones, from friends and strangers alike. Among my all-time favorites in no particular order are:
Jeter’s Never Prosper
Honey Nut Ichiros
Nomar Mr. Nice Guy
Winnie the Pujols
BALCO Bartakamus (think “Perfect Strangers”)
Jeff Kent and the Porno ‘Staches
I have a handful of team names I’ve used multiple times over the years, such as Project Mayhem (fight club), Hazaa, The Usual Suspects and the Reservoir Dogs to name a few. The last couple of years I’ve been trying to come up with new and different names.
I was Team * once in honor of our steroid using players, the crazy 88’s (Kill Bill), so is your face, Fahrenheit 451 (my favorite book) and Made In Detroit have also been among my choices.
This year I tried out some new ones including—400 Babies (search powerthirst on YouTube if you don’t know it), Car RamRod (super troopers), Oscar Gamble’s Afro, and The Berkley Front, after the name of my favorite new local bar.