Fantasy Baseball Pitchers Stock Watch

Fantasy Baseball Pitchers Stock Watch

By David Ferris
CSNChicago.com

Buy
R.A. Dickey, SP, Mets: We've all been trained to view the knuckleball as an unpredictable pitch, but the way Dickey is going, toss conventional wisdom out the window. His only bad start this year can be explained away by a cold and rainy afternoon in Atlanta; the knuckler works best in warm weather, and we're hitting the warmest stretch of the year. Otherwise, we're looking at nine fantasy-useful starts, and a Top 20 spot on any pitcher ranking formula thus far in 2012. Dickey's improved his walk and strikeout rates significantly this year, and he throws a harder knuckler than anyone we can remember. He's not only fun to own, he's fun to watch.

Homer Bailey, SP, Reds: He's been more teaser than pleaser during his career, but Bailey's last four turns have been sharp and he's up against the Pirates again next week. That's good news for two reasons: Pittsburgh has the worst offense in the game this year, and Bailey is 6-0 against them over eight career starts, with a 1.79 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. Plan ahead for this streamable play.

Carlos Marmol, SP, Cubs: In a perfect world, you stash him on your bench and wait things out. But just keep in mind the Cubs have every incentive to get Marmol fixed and back in the ninth inning, and no one has run away with the closing job in the last two weeks. The Cubs might be the worst team in the NL, but they can still support a 20-25 save man the rest of the way, like every team can.

Sell

Roy Oswalt, SP, Rangers: He might have landed in the worst possible spot, signing up for a summer in Arlington, where right-handed pitchers are chewed up and spit out. Oswalt turns 35 in August, he wasn't all that hot in Philly last year (3.69 ERA, 1.34 WHIP) and his velocity and strikeout rate have been tumbling in his mid-30s. You need to do better in a standard mixer. The only reason to grab him right now is with the intention of flipping him before he ever pitches in a game. And he's probably a month away from his Texas debut, so you'll be wasting valuable roster space in the meantime.
Jarrod Parker, SP, Athletics: A lot of good things here: big park, 2.88 ERA, buzzy prospect pedigree. And everyone can see that Parker's mere one win over seven starts is a fluke - his bullpen has coughed up two ninth-inning saves. That said, when you note the crazy HRFB rate (around two percent) and just 29 strikeouts against 21 walks, we can see the storm clouds moving in. Parker is still a viable arm, but his ERA will likely be in the middle 3s, perhaps as high as 4, the rest of the way. The market might overprice him, so ask around.

Hold

Chris Sale, SP, White Sox: A lot of otherwise-smart people are dug in against Sale, and it's getting silly to this point. Oh no, he throws a slider. Good golly, he had elbow soreness and an MRI earlier this year. Look, just about any pitcher in this game is an injury risk; it's an unnatural act that puts heavy strain on your body. In the meantime, let's chase the stats and the indicators we see in front of us and worry about the physical problems later. Sale has a 2.34 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and more strikeouts than innings pitched. His KBB rate is almost 41. This is an elite arm, period, end of story.

Ryan Vogelsong, SP, Giants: The regression police had a good laugh at Vogelsong's surprise 2011 season, but the laugh is at the skeptics: Vogelsong's ratio stats are lower this year. So long as you steer him away from the extreme parks (hiya, Colorado), this is a very safe place to park your innings, even in a mixer. Vogelsong's ERA at AT&T Park over the last year and a half? A tidy 1.95.
Frank Francisco, RP, Mets: He's come through on six straight save attempts, along with nine strikeouts (against three walks) and no runs allowed. Terry Collins was patient here and he's been rewarded. And the Mets will keep the opportunities coming; this is not a bad ballclub.

Bears Grades: Offense ignites to end 1st half, puts up season-high points vs. Niners

Bears Grades: Offense ignites to end 1st half, puts up season-high points vs. Niners

With less than 2 minutes to play in the first half the Bears had gained a total of 45 yards, and had zero pass completions (2 attempts) and zero points . By the end of the half they had 115 yards, Matt Barkley had completed 4 of his last 6 passes and the Bears adjourned for halftime with a 7-6 lead.

For the second straight week Barkley engineered a comeback, this time for a win, and running a two-minute offense that, curiously perhaps for an inexperienced quarterback, seems to suit Barkley even more than the offense run a normal speed. More than one player said that 70-yard drive to finish the first half was a tipping point, on all sides of the football.

The turning point “was that two-minute right before the half,” said right tackle Bobby Massie. “Everybody just executed, did what we needed to do and drove right down the field. Then we come out after the half and drove right down again. It was good.”

More than just good for the offense. “I think that really spurred both sides of the ball to be motivated to finish the game strong,” said Barkley, who got the Bears into the end zone twice in last Sunday’s Tennessee game, and nearly a third, within the final 10 minutes, running 35 plays over the span of those minutes.”

This time the result was the highest point total (26) this season and scores on four out of five possessions beginning with that hurry-up score to end the half.

Quarterback: A-

Once again Barkley was beset by dropped passes, although nowhere near the avalanche of them that defeated him against the Tennessee Titans. Barkley shook off the conditions and poor start to complete 4 of 6 passes on the final drive of the half, for 64 yards – the entire passing production for the half.

Barkley followed a shaky first half with a solid second, completing 7 of 10 passes for 128 yards and zero interceptions, a significant key with the 49ers unable to do much of anything against the Bears defense. Barkley effectively convinced coaches that he could operate in the adverse conditions with passing and not simply handing off to Jordan Howard.

“I thought [the way] he handled the two-minute drive before the half, we had to open it up some and throw the ball,” said coach John Fox. “I thought he executed outstanding.”

Barkley finished with 11-of-18 passing for 192 yards, no touchdowns but no interceptions and a passer rating of 97.5.

Running back: A+

In a game that demanded effective rushing, Jordan Howard delivered a statement game, his fifth in the last eight with 100 rushing yards and 115 total yards of offense.

Howard rushed for 3 touchdowns, giving him five on the year, and carried 32 times, an average of 3.7 that belies the overall, which involved the chemistry of the run game, now averaging 4.4 yards on the season . “He’s fun, man,” said guard Eric Kush. “We block our butts off to try to give him something. Even if it’s not the prettiest block, we try to finish our blocks and give him a chance.”

Howard displayed power inside as well as burst on the Bears’ outside-zone runs that exploited the San Francisco edges. He carried 10 times in the first half, then 22 in the second.

“I’m definitely ready to be that workhorse,” said Howard, who now has 883 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns despite not starting until game four. “Even though they might know the run is coming, they still have to stop it.”

Receivers: B+

Josh Bellamy, replaced in the starting lineup by Deonte Thompson after his drop-laced game against Tennessee, had perhaps one the streakiest game of the Bears year. Bellamy again suffered with drops that included lost TD catches, but Bellamy rebounded to match his career-best 4 catches against Tennessee but with 93 yards and a long of 31 and others of 24, 22 and 16 yards. Bellamy also was handed the ball on an end-around for 12 yards.

All of this despite two egregious drops, one of a potential TD ball with Bellamy two steps behind his defender. “He came up to me and said, ‘Keep feeding me,’” Barkley said. “I’m not going to stop giving those guys the ball… .I’m going to keep coming back to them for the rest of the year.”

Cam Meredith remained in the starting lineup and caught 3 of the 4 passes thrown to him, with Thompson and tight end Daniel Brown catching 2 each.

Offensive line: A

With the adverse weather conditions expected, coaches made a specific challenge to the offensive line to take over this game against a struggling San Francisco front. Guard Josh Sitton was active but still limited with an ankle injury, so coaches stayed with Eric Kush at left guard and were rewarded with some consistent blocking in the run game. Kush executed combination blocks and worked to the second level. Kush and Charles Leno repeatedly dominated the San Francisco left side as the Bears pounded with the run and never let up in the snowy conditions.

“With the conditions, you had to run the ball,” Leno said. “The O-line just tried to come together, not worry about the record and win one week at a time.”

The result was another 100-yard rushing day for Jordan Howard, with 3 touchdowns, and 142 rushing yards, high for the season. “Today the offensive line got great push like they always do,” Howard said.

Barkley was sacked once, in the fourth quarter, on a breakdown in one-on-one blocking by tight end Daniel Brown.

Cody Whitehair going down in the fourth quarter with a leg injury was a blow, but Whitehair was able to return later in the period. The Bears had Sitton dressed and part of field-goal unit, and Sitton came in at right guard and Ted Larsen moved over to center.

Coaching: A

The obvious overall effort and preparation of a 2-9 team for a game of virtually no import to the season was noteworthy, as the Bears again played with intensity and efficiency throughout, including recovering from first-half gaffes on special teams that put the Bears down 6-0.

The defense schemed for 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick by staying almost exclusively in a 3-4 front, utilizing three down-linemen and two outside linebackers to pressure Kaepernick and with the speed to thwart his runs. The result was the worst game of Kaepernick’s career, with 20 rushing yards and 4 passing, vs. 25 yards lost to sacks.

The offense held to a run-based mindset and plan, even when the 49ers turned two special-teams mistakes into field goals for the first two scores. The 49ers also relied primarily on man-to-man coverage, committing an extra defender to run defense, but the Bears were willing and able to challenge downfield knowing that the San Francisco pass rush was hampered by the field conditions.

“Props to Dowell[Loggains, offensive coordinator] and the whold coaching staff for getting us ready and making adjustments like that during the game,” Barkley said.

Special teams was again mistake-prone with mental breakdowns compounded by physical mistakes.

Morning Update: Bears beat 49ers; Blackhawks' offense struggles in loss to Jets

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USA TODAY

Morning Update: Bears beat 49ers; Blackhawks' offense struggles in loss to Jets

Here are some of the top stories from Sunday in Chicago sports:

Five Things to Watch: Bulls back in action against Trail Blazers

Tune in tonight for Chicago Bulls Charities Night

Blackhawks score late but can't get past Jets

Bears offense finds groove in win over 49ers

Winter meetings preview: Why teams will find trying to copy a ‘Cubs Way’ rebuild is easier said than done

White Sox revamp would mean fewer 'stopgaps' and 'half-measures'

Significance of Bears win over 49ers lies beyond records and score

Five Things from Blackhawks-Jets: Offense still anemic

Bears' Matt Barkley 'showing the world' he can be a starting QB in the NFL

Lars Johansson excited for Blackhawks call-up