So since this is the last sane Saturday, I thought today's blog would be in honor of "The Bugs Bunny, Road Runner Show" -- the all-time greatest Saturday morning cartoon ever. I'd wake up at seven in the morning on a non-school day, wearing my footy pajamas, get a big bowl of Sugary Sugar O's, or whatever colorful cereal I could find with a cartoon on it, and settle in for the greatest few hours of the week. And that was just two Saturdays ago, when I watched "The Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume I" on DVD.
"I say, I say, I'll reluctantly take Aaron Harang!"
The Sporting News pointed out an interesting fact about Aaron Harang last season. (Doesn't he kinda look like Foghorn Leghorn, at 6-foot-7, 275? Does that make Bronson Arroyo the Chicken Hawk?) The Reds' brutally bad bullpen blew five saves that would have been wins for Harang. Even if they just save three of those five games, that give Harang 19 wins to lead the NL! He's an innings-eating beast that somehow gets away with allowing a flyball for every groundball he induces, yet keeps an ERA under 4.00 in a tiny ballpark. Only six other 15-game winners last season walked fewer batters than him, and he has gone over 200 strikeouts for consecutive seasons.
Those facts haven't gotten past the eyes of Fantasy owners, as they made him the 10th-highest drafted SP in Head-to-Head leagues this season (12th in Rotisserie). But let's be honest, owners are reluctant to make him their ace because of the Great American Ball Park, and the fact that he has allowed 28 home runs in each of the past two seasons. When it comes time to trade for an ace for your team -- or better yet, a stellar No. 2 -- see what you can dangle in front of him for a trade. "You gotta keep your eye on the ball. Eye! Ball! Eyeball! I almost had a gag, son. Joke, that is."The Bugs Bunny Delivery
I've always thought that Francisco Rodriguez's crazy, Bugs Bunny whiplash delivery would be the cause of injury for him at some point. He's definitely proven me wrong over the past three seasons, going on to save more games (132) than any other pitcher in the game (Trevor Hoffman is just one behind at 131). The Angels' pitching staff is a little banged up this season, but the addition of Jon Garland gives them another innings-eater that can reach the bullpen. Setup man Scot Shields had some tough outings last season in one of his worst years in a while. The Angels went from the 7th-best bullpen in 2006 (with a 3.78 ERA), to 20th-best in 2007 (4.24 ERA).
The Angels have always produced solid setup pitchers throughout the 2000s, from K-Rod (who was behind Troy Percival for a few seasons), to Shields, to Brendan Donnelly to J.C. Romero. But what's interesting is that the Angels' bullpen dip last season comes in the first year of Mike Butcher's tenure as the Angels' pitching coach -- or should I say, the first season without pitching coach Bud Black, who went on to manage the Padres in '07.
Either way, you can pretty much write in K-Rod for another 40-save season in a contract year. The team hasn't locked him up and they are bracing against possibly losing him and his goggles (eat more carrots to improve your vision!) to another team next year. That sounds like incentive for the best closer in baseball over the past three years.
One Dozen ACME Off-the-Table CurveballsSan Francisco's ace, despite what Barry Zito is being paid, will be Tim Lincecum this season, make no bones about that. In a steady drizzle, Lincecum did his best Wile E. Coyote impression by crafting a plan to strike out nine batters in five no-hit innings. This Giants team will not offer him much run support, that much we're certain of, and his bullpen is going to be below-average again (4.10 ERA ranked 18th lst year, despite pitching in a great pitcher's park), but Lincecum could approach 200 strikeouts this season, depending on how many innings the Giants let him throw (he's just 23). He was sixth in the majors last season with a 9.23 K/9 average among pitchers with at least 100 innings thrown. He's going to climb into the top five in the strikeouts-per-9 innings category this season. Here's who he'll have to surpass:
- Erik Bedard, SEA: 10.93
- Scott Kazmir, TB: 10.41
- Jake Peavy, SD: 9.67
- Johan Santana, NYM: 9.66
- A.J. Burnett, TOR: 9.56
- I have to admit, I'm starting to get a man-crush on Jonathan Broxton. I'm 6-foot-2, 290, and I can't reach the Oreos without pulling a hamstring. So I have to show some love for this right-handed fireballer that weighs in at 288 and stands 6-foot-3 coming into his second full season as the Dodgers' setup man. He picked up his first spring save Friday, but considering Takashi Saito is 39 years old with little injuries starting to take their toll (calf and buttocks soreness this spring already), Broxton could be a great sleeper for saves. If you're in a mixed Rotisserie league, he can be a great help in strikeouts (second only to Bedard in K/9 among pitchers with at least 80 innings in '07) and the Georgian's ERA and WHIP will help you more than some of your starting pitchers. He has a mean attitude that totally befits a closer -- and Dodger Stadium is awfully pitcher-friendly.
- Chad Billingsley had just 20 starts last season, but he struck out seven or more batters in five of those games. He struck out seven in Friday's spring game against the Red Sox also. Among all 140-innings-plus '07 pitchers with a dominance (K/9) number of 8.00 or higher, no one had a better command (K/BB) ratio than his 2.20. He was top-15 in ERA as a starter (3.31) and the Dodgers have a much-improved offense this season. He could finish the season as a top-20 SP.
- Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp could become top-40 outfielders in an outfield that has plenty of potential if Andruw Jones can return to his former self. I've grown up as a Dodgers hater all my life, until I went to a game at Chavez Ravine last season. These youngsters give this club a new look that have little cartoon hearts coming out of my chest.