Blackhawks

Fantasy Baseball pitcher stock watch

Fantasy Baseball pitcher stock watch

By David Ferris
CSNChicago.com Contributor

Buy

Kris Medlen, SP, Braves: While there was nothing wrong with his relief work this year, Medlen has specifically taken off as a starter, giving us five dominant turns (4-0, five walks, 29 strikeouts, 0.83 ERA). No one can be expected to keep that sort of KBB ratio, but Medlen doesn't sweat contact either, given that he induces a ground ball 52 percent of the time. Get in on this story now if you can, especially with the Padres (in Petco) waiting for next week.

John Axford, SP, Brewers: The Milwaukee bullpen has been a carnival ride all year, but Axford seems to have righted the ship of late: he's recorded two saves this week and regained the endorsement of manager Ron Roenicke. And there's nothing special chasing Axford: Jim Henderson is a career minor leaguer with no pedigree, and Francisco Rodriguez hasn't fooled in 2012. By default, it looks like the club will sink or swim with Axford the rest of the way. How badly did you say you needed saves?

Jaime Garcia, SP, Cardinals: No one expected immediate miracles when Garcia returned to action last week - he missed a couple of months with a shoulder problem - but a 10-strikeout performance against Pittsburgh immediately pushes Garcia back into our plans. The NL Central is a nifty place for a pitcher, where you see a bunch of exploitable opponents (Houston, Chicago, even Milwaukee), and the Cardinals also offer the deepest lineup in the Junior Circuit. Look for a strong finishing kick over the next six weeks.

Jeremy Guthrie, SP, Royals: The thin air of Colorado didn't permanently break his spirit - Guthrie has been sharp in six AL turns (3.23 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, KBB ratio just under four). The Royals aren't giving him much help with offense or bullpen, but you take what you can get. Guthrie posted a sneaky 3.83 ERA and 1.16 WHIP with the Orioles back in 2010, and the AL Central isn't nearly as demanding. There's an underrated arm here.

Sell

C.J. Wilson, SP, Angels: It's been a mess for most of the big-name LA pitchers, with Wilson a notable crash over the last two months. He hasn't won a game since late June, posting a 6.09 ERA over 11 starts. The strikeout clip is still good for Wilson, but when you allow 31 walks and nine homers over 65 innings, you're not going to be successful. Batters are also squaring up Wilson with little trouble, producing a line drive 21 percent of the time. In mixed leagues, you need to do better. This game is about the numbers, not the names.

Hold

Daniel Straily, SP, Athletics: He didn't look out of place during his three-game trial in Oakland (3.12 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 12 strikeouts, four walks), and he figures to have a rotation spot for good now that Bartolo Colon has been suspended. Straily won't come back to the majors for one more turn - he needs to spend 10 days in the minors unless an injury creates an opening - but he's mixed-league worthy for September, especially in Oakland's roomy home park.

Casey Janssen, RP, Blue Jays: His ordinary save total (just 16 handshakes) is tied to how Toronto's season has gone - the Jays are a losing team to begin with, but a lot of their victories have been lopsided ones. Janssen's 2.22 ERA and 0.80 WHIP get your attention, and he validates the love with his strikeoutwalk rate (50 punchouts, just eight free passes). As volatile as the closer market can be, we expect Janssen to be a safe stopper into 2013.

Blackhawks’ much-maligned power play is now clicking

patricksharp.png
USA TODAY

Blackhawks’ much-maligned power play is now clicking

It’s an annual rite of passage if you cover or are a fan of the Blackhawks: you question the power play, because there always seems to be an issue with the power play. You wonder why every season, given the talent on this team. And again this fall the power play has sputtered.

But a funny thing happened at the end of the weekend. The Blackhawks’ power play started to look good, started to generate chances and started to score. In 10 games prior to the Blackhawks’ Nov. 12 game against New Jersey they had just three power-play goals in 40 opportunities. In their last three games (vs. the Devils, New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins), they’ve tallied five goals on 13 opportunities.

So what’s been working?

“I’ll probably give you the same answer as when it wasn’t working: pucks to the net, guys in front,” Patrick Sharp said. “We have the shot mentality more so than just moving it around and getting it set up. You look at the goals we’ve scored, it’s nothing overly complicated. It’s just getting the puck to the net. Just stay with it.”

Sounds simple enough, but the stay-with-it part has probably been the toughest segment of the equation. When the Blackhawks slumped they really slumped, and their lack of confidence on the power play was as evident as their lack of scoring on it. Yes, stressing over it can have its affect; and when the Blackhawks got those two power-play goals against the Devils it seemed to be a release.

“You get one, that weight gets lifted off your chest a little bit, you can play a little loser and maybe not grip your stick as tight as when things weren’t going well,” Cody Franson said. “When you’re confident out there you’re moving the puck cleanly, things happen a little quicker for you and give you those better looks at good chances. When you’re not that confident sometimes you’re not executing as well and things were moving slower and you’re not generating too much. Confidence definitely plays a big part in it.”

So back to what’s working. The Blackhawks started becoming more active on the power play, cutting down on the passes and increasing the shots. They’ve been there for rebounds. They started feeding off the success, be it with the power play as a unit or with individual performances. Artem Anisimov has returned to being a force at the net again; of his five goals in his last three games, two are power-play goals.

“A couple of broken plays and sometimes you get some breaks. You win a faceoff and make a quick little play after a couple of great opportunities on the prior whistle there that didn’t go in. I just think shots at the net and traffic and off that, sometimes they go in,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Our entries have always been alright this year, so we’re getting zone time and let’s get some simpler looks and sometimes they go in. I think gaining confidence there, it seems like we’re having the puck more and longer and sustaining some offense off it.”

The Blackhawks have struggled more than they’ve succeeded on the power play the last few seasons. But as their overall scoring has increased again, so has their power-play production. Good timing.

“People tend to say the power play can keep you in games and the penalty kill can win you games. Our penalty kill’s been great and has given us chances in a lot of games. [Corey Crawford’s] been playing pretty well,” Franson said. “And when our power play can give us success we find ourselves in better situations to try and win games.”

High School Lites Podcast: Rules, regulations ... and repeat champions?

fs_high-school-lites-podcast.jpg

High School Lites Podcast: Rules, regulations ... and repeat champions?

Can Prairie Ridge repeat as state champions? Will Rochester and IC Catholic Prep do the same? It’s championship weekend at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb for IHSA football.

On the latest High School Lites Podcast, Joe Collins and “Edgy” Tim O’Halloran wrap up the 2017 prep season and discuss the games on NIU’s campus this weekend.

Could some contests go down to the last play? A lot of playoffs games have done just that in recent memory. And referees are the ones who keep a continuous rundown of checks of balances as plays and game flow escalate. The guys are joined by Steve Garbaciak, the President of the Joliet Football Officials and member of the IHSA’s official advisory committee and a 25-year veteran of the IHSA. Steve chronicles how the game has changed in the last quarter century, and he details how to maintain judicial balance in games of critical importance.

It's all on the latest High School Lites Podcast. Listen to the episode below: