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MLB Fantasy Fixer-Uppers May 14th
They say that in football defense wins championships. Look at the 85' Chicago Bears. Their defense certainly was the focal point of the team. The same could be said of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens. Is there an equivalent to that in baseball? Does pitching win championships? I believe it does. The San Francisco Giants have won two of the past three titles mostly on the arms of their pitching staff. They silenced the bats of the more offensive driven Texas Rangers and Detroit Tigers respectively. This year's St. Louis Cardinals have the best rotation in baseball right now and also the best record. Coincidence? Maybe. But I believe pitching wins championships both real and fantasy. That said, let's take a look at a tribe who can help your staff this season.
Travis Wood, SP, Chicago Cubs (69.2% owned ESPN leagues)
The Cubs have won 16 games this year. Wood has won four games. That is 25% of the team's victories. Wood has stepped to the mound eight times this year and has turned in eight quality starts. In fact, he has only allowed three runs in a start just once. He doesn't strike out a lot of batters at 6.1 K/9 but his extremely low ERA (2.01) and WHIP (0.90) means he can help out in other areas. The Cubs aren't a very good team, and I don't think Wood will have a QS every time out but there is no reason not to enjoy the ride while it lasts.
Junichi Tazawa, RP, Boston Red Sox (54.3% owned)
The closer carousel in Beantown continues. Joel Hanrahan and Andrew Bailey are both on the disabled list which means it is Tazawa's turn to close things out for Boston. Saves are a valuable commodity wherever you can get them and Tazawa is just another reason why you should never pay for saves in your league. Think of the closer position like a kicker on your NFL fantasy team. Sure it is nice to have the big name but what is the difference between the top tier and anyone off the waiver wire? It is marginal at best. Anyway, Tazawa will get the saves now. Pick him up in all formats. Unless the format doesn't count saves. If it doesn't, I want to know what kind of strange format you are playing.
Scott Kazmir, SP, Cleveland Indians (30.6% owned)
Just mentioning that name in front of a New York Mets fan still might induce a cringe. The former front line starter was traded by New York for the "other" Zambrano ie Victor. While he fizzled in the Big Apple, Kazmir went on to have a few successful seasons as the Tampa Bay Rays ace. The K-master's time atop the rotation seemed to fade just as fast, however, as he spent last season pitching for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Independent League. And without much success as he posted a 3-6 record with a 5.34 ERA. Cleveland took a flier on the 29-year-old (still can't believe he is only 29) this offseason and it has paid off in a big way. Kazmir has won his last two starts allowing three runs in 12 innings while striking out 17. While he may not be as consistent as he was a few years back it is time to give him another go for your squad. He is widely available but if he keeps pitching like this he won't be for long.
Francisco Liriano, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates (9.3% owned)
Liriano made his National League debut this past weekend with Pittsburgh in a victory over the Mets in which he struck out nine batters and allowed one run in 5 1/3 innings. While that may have brought back memories of when Liriano looked like the best pitcher in baseball all those years ago in Minnesota that isn't what I expect each time out. He will have his struggles, but he will also show the flashes of brilliance that has made a fan of any team he has pitched for rip their hair out. Maybe the switch to the senior circuit will help him out. Maybe pitching in a smaller spotlight in Pittsburgh will help. Maybe adding him to your roster will help. When its going good with Liriano it is usually really good. When it is going bad, well, it is really bad. He is definitely worth a pickup though and he makes his next start against the struggling Milwaukee Brewers.
Ubaldo Jimenez, SP, Cleveland Indians (9% owned)
If 2010 feels like a long time ago it really isn't. It's only three years. In those three years Ubaldo went from Cy Young contender in Colorado to a guy hanging on for dear life to his rotation spot in Cleveland. Over his last three starts he looks like more like the guy we were used to seeing in the thin air of Denver. In those starts he has allowed three runs while striking out 20 in 21 2/3 innings picking up a win each time he toed the rubber. He has credited his recent success to "renewed consistency in his mechanics" and if he is starting to find his old form you should find him on the waiver wire before another savvy owner does. He is currently available in a staggering 91% of leagues.