Quick programming note. The notes column will appear exclusively on the blog this Friday. Adjust your calendars accordingly.
Two years ago, there was just one other person in the group of merry men that made the trip to Cooperstown. Still, it made for the best of the years that the journey has been made. Saturday is usually just an exciting day in the village. People have arrived for the weekend, and the streets start to fill.
After taking in one of the ball games and touring the Hall-of-Fame itself, my friend and I made our way out of the village for dinner. Cooperstown does not have a lot in the way of real restaurants, and steak is on very few of the menus. You have to search for that.
We arrived at the restaurant and sat down to order our meals. About 20 minutes into the dinner, my friend points out someone sitting in the back corner of the restaurant. There was a group of four men sitting down and it took virtually no time for me to recognize the one my friend had meant me to see: Carlton Fisk.
You have to understand something. I am from Boston. While 1975 pre-dates when my parents were blessed with my presence, Fisk has always resonated as the best catcher in the game in our house.
As long as it is possible to remember, there have been just two numbers that have been on the back of jerseys I played in, No. 27 and No. 5 (seven minus two). That takes care of high school, college, and several amateur leagues.
As the group wrapped up their dinner, my friend encouraged me to go over and at least try to shake his hand. With some prodding, I made my way over. It was impressive. His hands are the size of a catcher's mitt and he saw no issue in spending a few minutes with me in a largely empty restaurant.
It is rare we get this close to those we idolize as children. When the idol lives up to expectations, it is all the more special. Five minutes of his time is something that this writer will not soon forget, and it is impossible to thank him enough.
On to the notes.
- How is this for a statistic: The Red Sox have scored just five runs in their last 35 innings against rookie starting pitchers. If you want to beat Boston, find a guy they have never seen before and put him on the mound. Lefty, righty, or Greg Harris-style, they will struggle to generate any offense.
- Tim Wakefield has hit the DL for Boston with a strained lower back. Look, Wakefield may have an injury, but this is strictly to rest him for the second half of the season. Boston tries to do this with every pitcher at some point, and having Clay Buchholz allows them the luxury. Buchholz will take Wakefield's turn in the rotation. He is a start in most leagues.
- Pedro Martinez threw a simulated game yesterday and is on track to make a rehab start in the not-too-distant future. Martinez hurled 64 pitches and fictitiously struck out six hitters in that time. The Phillies expect him to throw in a game for the Gulf Coast League this weekend.
- Franklin Gutierrez suffered bruises last night when he collided with the center field wall last night in Detroit. Gutierrez came out of the game and the team has listed him as day-to-day. Do not expect him to play tonight. Manager Don Wakamatsu pointed out that he seemed dazed, but likely does not have a concussion.
- Manny Ramirez took one off the hand last night and was taken for precautionary x-rays. The results show that he only bruised his left hand, and he is also officially being called day-to-day. Juan Pierre replaced him in the field last night, and would be the most likely recipient of any playing time.
- Torii Hunter has begun light workouts and is targeting an August 1st date for his return to the Angels lineup. Hunter has said that he is still sore, but the injury is feeling much better than it has in a while. Once he is ready to go, get him right back into your lineups.
- There were a few unlikely pitching performances last night, to say the least. It might be time for the Mets to do something, as they were SHUTOUT by John Lannan and the Nationals. Lannan now has eight quality starts in his last nine outings and a 3.38 ERA for the season. Still, though, the Mets managed just seven hits against him. This might be rock-bottom.
- Clayton Richard was killed by his bullpen last night. Richard went eight innings and gave up just one earned run to the Rays on four hits. He added seven strikeouts for good measure. Then, Braden Looper throws seven innings of shutout baseball against the Pirates. Looper has been awful, but this was a command performance. Do not expect this to continue.
- Need a hot hand in the middle infield? How about Erick Aybar? Aybar had four hits last night and went 7-for-9 in the double-header against Kansas City yesterday to push his average up to .315. In the last 15 days, Aybar is 22-for-39, good for a .564 average. He scores runs, and will provide value there. Just do not expect huge power numbers.
- Another day, another pitcher that Boston should crush. While you will likely want to look away from Mike Lowell, all other Boston starters should be fine in this one. Lowell is only 8-for-41 against Vicente Padilla for his career. Mark Kotsay could get the start in his place, as he has hit .385 against the Rangers starter.
- Do not read into Jamie Moyer's last outing as a sign of things to come. Moyer destroys the Marlins and Nationals, but that's about it. The Cubs are going to be a much more patient team against him, and will make owners remember who is actually pitching. His 6.79 ERA at home does not scream "start me."
- Jon Garland is never high on the list of pitchers to use, but deep leagues should note that his road numbers are not as bad as you might think. While Garland is 2-5 away from home, his ERA is only 2.53 in nine starts. In his last 19 innings on the road, he has allowed just three earned runs.
- Aubrey Huff is 7-for-48 against A.J. Burnett in his career, and should be avoided in this one. Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts are always good plays and both are above .300 against Burnett. Luke Scott has gone 4-for-8 against the Yankee starter in his career.
- Carlos Lee is only 3-for-23 against Chris Carpenter in his career. For his part, the Cardinals starter has gone 3-0 in July while posting a 1.71 ERA. On the road, he is 4-2 this season and batters are hitting just .203 against him. With Lance Berkman ailing, it is likely best to avoid all Astros if possible.
- Mark DeRosa has gone 10-for-23 against Roy Oswalt. Look to Rick Ankiel as well, as he is 5-for-16 against the Astros starter. No major red flags in this one beyond Chris Duncan and Yadier Molina. Duncan is 4-for-22 while Molina checks in at 2-for-13 lifetime against Oswalt.
- Prince Fielder is just 3-for-27 against Paul Maholm, and Jason Kendall is only 2-for-17. Otherwise, no concerns regarding your Brewers for this one. Maholm is very good at home, and is a solid spot play still. J.J. Hardy and Mike Cameron are both very good options in this one.
- Jeff Suppan is much more effective on the road than he is at home. He has gone 4-2 outside of Milwaukee with a 3.29 ERA. The Pirates have hit him well overall, with most of your regulars going over .300 against him. Issue is, that is basically only three players with a track record. Suppan is nothing more than a deep league and NL-only fringe play, but if you must use him, on the road is the better bet.
- James Shields is a tough option on the road. Shields has put up a 2-4 record to go with a 4.60 ERA and .284 BAA. His WHIP in 58.2 innings is 1.38. The White Sox can certainly hit the ball, and this may be a situation where you would look to avoid the Rays starter. Jermaine Dye has gone 5-for-10 against Shields in his time against him.
- Spot Starts: Paul Maholm, Ubaldo Jimenez, Clay Buchholz
- Look to keep Magglio Ordonez and Placido Polanco out of your lineups against Jarrod Washburn. Ordonez is only 6-for-36 and Polanco checks in at only 1-for-11. Washburn has allowed only two runs in his last 22.2 innings pitched, covering three starts. In that same time, he has given up only 13 hits and three walks.
- Scott Kazmir is expected to make his start against the White Sox after having to leave his last outing with cramping in his pitching arm. The Rays do not seem to feel there was anything beyond a minor issue, so owners that would start him should not be concerned over the injury. Get Paul Konerko in your lineup, though, as he is 7-for-15 against Kazmir with two home runs.
- Marc Rzepczynski has had three decent outings against the AL East. The Red Sox showed impatience against him, as did the Rays. The Indians are a young team, and are likely going to be prone to swinging at some rough pitches. He does not throw his off-speed pitches for strikes, but they look really good coming out of his hand. As a spot start in deeper leagues, this is a good one.
- Possible we see Bobby Crosby get the start against C.C. Sabathia. Crosby has hit .304 against the Yankees starter, and is the only credible threat against him in the lineup. With how poor the A's have hit, no owner should be reaching beyond the obvious names unless there is a really good reason. Jason Giambi, one of those obvious names, is hitting just .133 against Sabathia.
- Do not read into Jered Weaver's last start. The Angels pitcher fell ill after the first inning and battled just to get through four innings. He takes the ball at home, where he is 7-1 this season with a 2.25 ERA and .196 BAA. He should be an automatic play at this point, and the matchup with the Twins should be favorable.
- Spot Starts: Washburn, Rzepczynski