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What better time could there be to thank the Big Unit by trading him?
Look, I'm a huge baseball fan and I've enjoyed what Johnson has done in a memorable career and the memories fantasy owners have of him, but the guy is, after all, 45 years old and has an ERA on the wrong side of 5. He's allowed a total of two earned runs in his past three starts against, shall we say, somewhat dubious offenses and managed to win two of those games. If someone's buying on the Hall of Famer, you should take this exciting news of 300 wins and be selling.
Despite what seems like a mini rejuvenation on Johnson's part of late, he is not Zack Greinke or Johan Santana, and since value is such a important part of how to win in fantasy baseball -- knowing when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em -- I have to be the bearer of honest news: This might be the last time a fantasy owner will be able to sell high on Randy Johnson. It's not going to get any better than this, and surely you can convince someone in your league that Johnson is really performing as dominant as the statistics, upon first glance, seem.
The problem is there are red flags here, and if we just took away the Hall of Fame name we'd see this is probably not a pitcher you should rely on for fantasy goodness. He's owned in 82.9 percent of ESPN leagues, which makes some sense since his overall strikeout rate is good, but I think reputation is playing a large role here. He's just pitched well against the Nationals, Braves and Mariners, not the Yankees or Phillies. In his past six outings, he's topped 84 pitches once, a possible harbinger that health is an issue, and he's going all out for the short run rather than pacing himself. If you don't go deep in games, it's hard to win them. The Giants' bullpen won't always be lights out. For that matter, the Giants' offense will seldom be lights out, so watch that run support. Also, lefties are hitting well over .300 against him, and until Thursday, everyone was away from San Francisco. Can Johnson win 12 games this season with a 4.50 ERA? He might, but if you move him for a big bat, you can probably find a similar pitcher with a lesser name just sitting there on free agency.
So why not celebrate this accomplishment of one of the greatest pitchers in our generation winning a landmark game with your own accomplishment of seeing what he's worth to someone else. Who knows, you might be able to really help your fantasy team. And really, isn't that what the Big Unit would want for you?
• Meanwhile in Pittsburgh, the home team finished off a three-game sweep of the Mets, and new center fielder Andrew McCutchen certainly played a role, getting on base three times, scoring three runs and stealing a base. Freddy Sanchez assumed the No. 3 lineup spot, followed by the LaRoche brothers. So far, so good for the new Pirates lineup (11 runs scored!) and their center fielder of the future, who should show up on ESPN's most-added list this weekend. Hopefully he fares better than the only three players who scored three runs in their major league debut since 1995: Kevin Frandsen, Dave Roberts and Craig Wilson!
• The poor Mets lost more than a few games in Pittsburgh. J.J. Putz, recently demoted from the setup role due to poor pitching, got lit up yet again, and after the game it was announced the right-hander would return to New York to get his balky pitching elbow checked. Don't look for Putz to pitch anytime soon. As for shortstop/spark plug Jose Reyes, on the DL with a sore right calf, an MRI revealed a small tear in his right hamstring, as well. The Mets didn't seem too worried about this update, saying Reyes will resume treatment in a day or two, but this is the kind of injury that could affect base stealing for months.
• The somewhat feel-good story that was the rejuvenated Dontrelle Willis took a turn for the worse when the southpaw couldn't find the plate in the third inning against the Red Sox. Willis breezed through two innings, but in the fateful third he hit Jacoby Ellsbury, then walked four of the next five batters. You won't often see a starting pitcher get yanked without giving up a hit, but Willis gave up five walks, five runs and got only seven outs. His ERA at 6.84, it looks like Armando Galarraga will keep his rotation spot when Jeremy Bonderman needs to be activated. For the record, Willis is the fifth pitcher in the past 55 seasons to allow no hits yet five or more runs in a game, joining Mark Hutton, Pat Combs, Mark Fidrych and, get this, Sandy Koufax.
• The Rays' B.J. Upton had a batting average below .200 less than a week ago, but a few multihit games and an eight-game hitting streak have his numbers getting more respectable. The best news for fantasy owners was Upton's third home run of the season Thursday, a two-run shot that beat the Royals. Time's running out to buy low on Upton.
• Josh Johnson took care of business on the mound and at the plate, tossing 7 2/3 strong innings to get his fifth win in six decisions, and providing three of Florida's four runs with a three-run home run off Dave Bush, who always seems to allow one big hit per game to ruin a decent performance. Johnson fanned eight against one walk, upping his season totals there to 72 strikeouts, 19 walks. Can you say All-Star?
• The Rockies are rarely a good offensive team on the road, so Thursday's matchup in Houston against Wandy Rodriguez, so good at home, didn't seem to be a good fit. Naturally, the Rockies pounded Way-Rod for 10 hits and seven runs in five innings, smacking four home runs. The big surprise was Garrett Atkins hitting a pair of long balls, just a day after manager Jim Tracy speculated his third baseman was in danger of being demoted to the minor leagues. Atkins hadn't homered or had a multihit game since April.
• Chris Carpenter breezed through the Reds' lineup in his first complete game of the season, allowing three hits and only a Laynce Nix solo home run in a 3-1 win. How often does allowing one run in nine innings raise an ERA? It did with Carpenter, whose ERA rose to 0.71. It seems only injury can stop Carpenter.
Jason Kubel, Twins
Kubel doesn't get much attention in an offense with Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, but he's no slouch with a .322 batting average and a pace of 102 RBIs. Kubel hit a pair of three-run homers off beleaguered Indians starter Fausto Carmona, a good sign since Kubel homered once all of May.
Cole Hamels, Phillies
Hamels continues to cruise along now that his elbow doesn't hurt, shutting out the Dodgers on five hits, adding five strikeouts. In his past seven outings, Hamels is 4-0 with a 2.84 ERA, again solidifying his standing as a top-10 fantasy pitcher after a slow start. The Phillies, by the way, are 20-6 on the road.
That's how many at-bats Chien-Ming Wang had gone since allowing a home run to a right-handed hitter, but it happened in his return to the rotation when Nelson Cruz hit one out of the Yankee bandbox in the fifth inning. Wang gave up five runs in 4 2/3 innings, while Phil Hughes did not appear in the game in relief. Don't drop Hughes yet in those deep leagues.
• The Cardinals traded outfielder Brian Barton to get Blaine Boyer from the Braves six weeks ago, but Thursday wasn't a particularly good day for either of them. Boyer, who saved the Cardinals' bullpen with five strong innings in relief of ailing Kyle Lohse on Wednesday, was designated for assignment. Converted starter Jess Todd was called up from Triple-A Memphis, where he had 32 strikeouts in 24 1/3 innings. Todd doesn't figure to be in line for saves. Meanwhile, Barton was sent to Triple-A Gwinnett to make room for Nate McLouth. Barton had been called up Wednesday, and later that day pinch ran and was caught stealing.
• Yankees starter A.J. Burnett was given a six-game suspension for throwing a pitch near the head of the Rangers' Nelson Cruz in his latest start, but since he's appealing the ruling, it won't take effect immediately. Even if the suspension stands, it's not a big deal for fantasy owners: Burnett will simply get a bit more rest in between starts. Vicente Padilla was the opposing pitcher in the game, and he hit Mark Teixeira twice with pitches. He was fined, but not suspended.
Click here for all of the latest MLB transactions.
AJ Mass: Porcello is a No. 5 fantasy starter in my book. If you want to buy into the hype and take a chance with Hanson -- especially if your overall pitching needs a boost -- that's the kind of guy I can see making a move with. I like Porcello. But he's not a "must have" guy like many of the other "should I cut him" candidates.
-- Full chat transcript
Jason Grey: I'm not buying it with Wells just yet. New and improved slider, but a lot of luck thus far, and I don't see him continuing to allow just one homer every five starts. The numbers are indeed tempting, but there might be some Fool's Gold here.
-- Full chat transcript
Friday's fantasy chat schedule:
• Phillies prospect Carlos Carrasco, in start No. 11 for Lehigh Valley, finally won his first game, going 6 1/3 effective innings at Indianapolis. Carrasco's record aside, he hasn't pitched poorly of late; in his past four starts, he's struck out 26 hitters and has a 3.12 ERA. He'll get his chance eventually if Antonio Bastardo and others fail to pitch effectively.
• There were 29 runs scored in the Sacramento-Salt Lake game, so someone fantasy owners are thinking about must have done something, right? Sacramento center fielder Matt Carson swatted three home runs, but he's not really on the fantasy radar. Daric Barton hit only his third home run, but added two doubles and four runs scored. He's hitting all of .235. Second baseman Eric Patterson stole two bases, giving him 22. He's no Adam Kennedy. On the other side, Brandon Wood hit his 11th home run and knocked in four. He's hitting .295, though I get the feeling he could be hitting .395 and the Angels still wouldn't play him.
• Don't laugh, but Carl Pavano went 5-1 with a 3.60 ERA in May. Pretend Pavano's name is something else, someone who hasn't burned you in the past, and he's probably worth using against the White Sox.
• David Price has 17 strikeouts in his first nine major league innings this season, and while he's already pitched in the World Series, he's on that other big stage Friday at Yankee Stadium and against CC Sabathia. If you own Price (he's owned in 92.5 percent of leagues), you should use him.
• For more on Friday's games, check out Daily Notes.