Week That Was headquarters has relocated once again. So far, your correspondent has sent in columns from the fertile cornfields of Iowa and the great blue wilderness of northern Minnesota. Hop onto the wagon train and journey with me to the thin air of Denver, Colorado. These “mountain” things are new to me. Guess my blossoming love affair with Vikings’ rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is going to have to be of the long distance variety. We can do it, Teddy. I’ll call you every week. Maybe if the barkeeps are nice, they’ll even let me see your games. We’ll be good. I swear. I’ll visit you in November. What do you mean I’m wooing Peyton Manning? He means nothing to me! He’s old! That piece of Papa John’s pizza you saw me with was a drunken mistake. It’s all water under the bridge…water? I’ll write you every day. xoxo Thor.
As a newly minted Denver-ite (Denveran?), the recent Troy Tulowitzki news has been weighing on my mind. Just last week, Tulowitzki and his mega contract were being shopped in my Dynasty League. My co-owner and I offered what we thought was a decent package for the damaged shortstop. We threw out Aroldis Chapman, Asdrubal Cabrera, and WTW-favorite son Chris Carter as a starting point in negotiations. Tulowitzki’s owner countered that he wanted either Kris Bryant or Byron Buxton added to the package. I forgot if I responded. A week later, Tulowitzki’s undergoing season-ending hip surgery. The lesson here is not to look a gift horse in the mouth. If somebody offers you decent pieces for your oft-injured, high-salaried stud, don’t overvalue what you have. We all want to get a steal in trade negotiations, but reasonable counter-offers, as unsexy as they might seem, will get you further in the game.
But back to Tulo. He underwent hip surgery on Friday to repair a torn labrum in his left hip, ending his 2014 campaign. Your faithful columnist was looking forward to seeing Tulo crush some balls in the Rocky Mountain air. Instead, fingers crossed that he recovers from what might be a hitter’s scariest injury. The Ghost of Alex Rodriguez is solemnly nodding his head while staring at a centaur painting. You don’t want to hear the words “hip surgery” if you’re a hitter. Tulowitzki hadn’t played since July 22nd. Prior to the injury, he was posting career-highs in almost every relevant category, from average (.340) to on-base percentage (.432) to slugging (.603). He also had hit 21 home runs through 91 games and was in line to at least challenge his previous career-high of 32 homers. Tulowitzki’s bat and talent have never been in question, but it’s become obvious that his body refuses to cash the checks that the sport demands. Tulowitzki last played in more than 150 games in 2009. If you’re looking for positives in this cloud of darkness, Tulowitzki is still relatively young. He’ll be 30 at the start of the 2015 season. Even if the surgery does end up sapping a little of his bat speed, he’s still young enough that we shouldn’t label his career a lost cause. Assuming he recovers from the surgery and is ready to go in spring training, that’s a draft gamble to keep in mind for next year’s fantasy season. In other disappointing Rockies news, Carlos Gonzalez will undergo season-ending surgery on his left knee on Monday to repair a tear in the patella tendon. He’s only played in 70 games to date, as he’s dealt with ankle and finger injuries. At least Colorado residents have Peyton Manning to fall back on. Knowing their luck, Manning should probably be cocooned in a fortress of hemp leaves until the season starts.
Even if fans of the Rockies are already looking to football season, other baseball clubs are having considerably better luck, none moreso than the Tampa Bay Rays. On Friday, the Rays finally managed to claw themselves to the light of .500. This is impressive for a number of reasons. Not only were they once eighteen games under—they became the fourth team in MLB history to reach .500 from such depths—but Tampa Bay traded away their best pitcher (and player) in David Price at the trade deadline. An integral piece to this climb has been 24-year old Jake Odorizzi. On June 10th, despite lasting seven-plus innings and allowing only one run, Odorizzi lost to the Cardinals and fell to 2-7. Flash forward two months and Odorizzi’s 9-9 following a 6-2 win over the Rangers on Thursday. Over his own personal climb back to .500, Odorizzi has given up more than three runs in a start just once, when he surrendered five to the Angels over three innings in early August.
From the start of June through August 16th, Odorizzi has seen his ERA drop from 5.31 to 3.82. When you’re scanning your waiver wire, 3.82 might not look particularly shiny, but don’t be fooled. Outside of the one awful start against the Angels, he has been cash money for more than half the season. His FIP of 3.32 suggests that this is not a fluke. On the season, he’s struck out 146 batters in 129+ innings, while allowing only 119 hits. If you’re in the market for a starter, WTW headquarters would suggest immediately checking the wire to see if Odorizzi is still available. In approximately half of the leagues out there, he is. It’s rare that a young strikeout pitcher on a hot team is still floating around in mid-August. Help right this trend, reader, and ride that arm to fantasy glory.
Odorizzi is the pitching comparable to Chris Carter. I know, I know Weekly Reader—you’re tired of your intrepid columnist continually banging the Chris Carter drum. I swear I’ll stop the minute Carter chills with the whole “being a terrifying hitter” thing. This week was not the week that was. This week, he had to face off against my beloved Twins in that Twins-Astros series that everybody marked on their calendar months ago. I’m not joking when I say that I was riveted. In eleven at-bats, Carter collected five hits. Three of them left the yard, two of them blasted out in a five RBI hail storm of doom on August 12th. Since the start of July, Carter is slashing .311/.365/.704. During that stretch of thirty-five games, Carter has batted in thirty-seven runs and hit fifteen homers. For comparison’s sake, Mike Trout’s slash line on the season is .294/.382/.570. If you happened to catch the trend early and scooped Carter up while he was still available in the vast majority of leagues (as recently as late July), well, congrats. Just another reminder that waiver wire diligence can win your league. Most of your fellow owners are always going to be behind the curve on trends. Don’t be those humans. Be the guy that pounds the wire relentlessly and obnoxiously. Carter and Odorizzi were both still widely available several weeks into their hot runs, simply because their early season struggles muddied up the numbers. Most of us aren’t psychic, but speculative adds swing leagues every season. If you aren’t near the top of your league in transactions at the end of the season, you’re dead money.
- It’s been a rough week for pitchers. I feel like I’ve typed that sentence in every single column this year. Justin Verlander underwent an MRI on Tuesday and was diagnosed with inflammation in his right shoulder. No structural damage was found. For the time being, Verlander has not been placed on the DL, though obviously the Tigers are going to tread carefully here. Verlander indicated to reporters that he had been feeling a bit of discomfort for a while. It’s uncertain how much the shoulder issue has affected Verlander in what has been his worst season since 2008. His struggles have been well documented, with an ERA that has hovered around 5.00 throughout the year (currently 4.76). Verlander is on pace to give up more hits than innings pitched for the first time since his rookie campaign back in 2006. The team held him back from Saturday’s scheduled start against the Mariners.
- Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu was placed on the 15-day DL with “two strained muscles in his right buttocks.” We didn’t need the Dodgers to be quite so specific, but there it is. Any reader that successfully gets out of work this week using that excuse gets a lifetime subscription to the column for free. The injury occurred on a 3-2 pitch to B.J. Upton in Wednesday’s start against the Braves. New Dodger Kevin Correia will take Ryu’s slot in the rotation. WTW headquarters aren’t quite sure how one treats a right buttock strain—it’s possible your correspondent suffered the same injury while jumping out of his seat to fist pump the news Minnesota had traded Correia—but manager Don Mattingly indicated that while Ryu’s return date is fuzzy, he’s not expected to miss the rest of the season. Prior to the injury, Ryu posted a 3.28 ERA and 1.19 WHIP to go with 122 strikeouts in 137+ innings.
- Homer Bailey has been feeling discomfort in both his neck and elbow and will be shut down with a “flexor mass strain” prior to his next scheduled start. There’s no time table for his return, though the Reds hope to have him back before the end of the season. Now that we’re past the halfway point of August, there’s not much time for non-timetables to turn into actual starts, though.
- Yu Darvish was placed on the DL on Thursday with a sore elbow, retroactive to August 11, but Rangers manager Ron Washington said he expects Darvish to start on the 25th, when he’s eligible to return.
- On Saturday, Masahiro Tanaka threw fastballs off the mound and didn’t report any pain. The next step will be to mix breaking balls in. Obviously, Tanaka still has a ways to go before he’s facing game action, but encouraging signs are encouraging signs. New York’s megabucks pitcher from Japan has been shut down since early July with the arm injury. So far so good in his effort to avoid Tommy John surgery. Knock on wood.
- Jed Lowrie hit the DL on Thursday with a hairline fracture in his right index finger.
- Happy returns to report: Edwin Encarnacion (quad) was activated from the 15-day DL on Friday. He’d missed more than a month with the right quad strain. The slugger had been posting his best season in the majors to date prior to the injury, slashing .277/.368/.591. In 88 games, Encarnacion has 26 home runs and 70 RBI.
- The Astros activated Dexter Fowler (intercostal strain) on Wednesday, giving Chris Carter another runner to drive in.
- Michael Bourn (hamstring) was activated from the DL on Friday. He’d been out since July 5th.
- Wil Myers (wrist) is close to a return with the Rays. He’s been on a rehab stint in Triple-A Durham for the last week. While it’s possible Myers returns at the start of Tuesday’s series with the Tigers, Rays manager Joe Madden said there’s “no rush.” Myers has been out since late May with a broken wrist.