Once in a while, a pitcher will make a start and come away with a final line that just makes me smile. That happened Monday, when Oakland's Tom Milone took the hill against the Kansas City Royals and breezed through eight innings without allowing a single run. Was Milone's dominance borne of a blazing fastball and hellacious breaking stuff? Well...not exactly. Here's Milone's line from Monday night.
8 IP, 0 runs, 3 hits, 3 BB, 0 K's, 93 pitches.
Just brilliant. That's a final line that will make a DIPS elitist gag. I watched almost every inning of that game on Monday, and Milone was definitely lucky (or, lucky and good in even amounts, at least). For starters, Alex Gordon and Mike Moustakas weren't in the starting lineup. Milone took advantage of an extremely undisciplined bunch of Royals hitters, who were swinging away at first pitch junk all game. Milone pitched around Eric Hosmer, one of two legitimate threats in the lineup, walking him twice, although not after hanging a curveball that Hosmer just missed hitting 800 feet. Josh Reddick also helped out by gunning down an advancing runner on third with an incredible throw from right field in the first inning.
I'm sure many owners saw the goose eggs Milone put up on Monday and flocked to the waiver wire to scoop him up. Is he worth it? Well, yes...if you have the roster flexibility to micromanage his starts. Any manager who wants to give Milone a shot is best served picking his matchups very carefully. I would never start him against the Rangers or Tigers on the road, but he's a safe start at home against most teams, and against teams with weaker lineups. Like, say, the Mariners this weekend. If you feel he's worth carrying around on your team for the 20 or so favorable matchups he's likely to get, then go grab him. The solid Oakland defense and that home ballpark should make him artificially decent, at the least.
After the jump, two more waiver wire curios off to hot starts.
--Barry Zito did the unthinkable on Monday afternoon, pitching a complete game shutout, his first in nine years. In Coors Field, no less, and coming off of a horrible lost season. This in a bizarro world where, as I type these words, Tim Lincecum is getting shelled out of the third inning against the same lineup. I'm sure that any owner crazy enough to have had Zito on their roster in the first place (i.e. me) sat him for this start, waiting to save him for home games. If you had him on your bench and missed out on this gem, find solace in the fact that so did everybody else with half of a functioning brain.
I don't know if this is some new and improved Zito, or some one-game fluke of a lifetime, but fantasy owners are definitely intrigued. I watched some of Zito's start, and I noticed that he was using a completely different windup than normal (he no longer brings his hands above his head when starting his motion), and he appeared to be throwing from a slightly different arm angle. Now, perhaps I was seeing things, but if he was in fact giving hitters a new, deceptive look, we may be on to something here.
Zito also went the entire game without walking anybody, which is especially encouraging since control problems have been his downfall ever since joining the Giants. I'm as aware as anybody that one great start isn't something to get too amped up about, especially given Zito's turbulent post-Oakland years. Remember in 2010, he got off to a hot start before sputtering down the stretch. Perhaps this new windup is the start of something different, though. If nothing else, he should be a safe pickup for his starts in San Francisco. Just wait a while to see if this success continues before starting him on a regular basis.
--John Hollinger of ESPN.com, back when he used to publish his basketball annuals, would often promote the concept of the "second draft" for struggling young former prospects. This theory proposed giving second chances to former lottery picks and talented prospects who had flamed out with their original teams. The idea was that when the player's drafting team finally got frustrated and gave up on them, a smart team could scoop the player up and give them another shot. Talent doesn't just disappear, the theory proposed, and more often than not these "second draft" players found success with their new teams.
Enter Jordan Schafer. Schafer is off to a hot start for Houston, as he stole three bases in Tuesday's game, and he's swinging the bat well also. I'm a big Schafer believer, and I would definitely recommend picking him up if he's still available. His days in Atlanta were marred by injuries and his HGH bust back in AA. He's exactly the kind of "second draft" candidate that Hollinger used to refer to.
It may seem cliche, but sometimes there really is something to be said for a player changing environments. Schafer is now in a low-pressure situation in Houston, with a rebuilding team with no playoff hopes. They have a new, progressive front office, and they'll give him every chance to succeed. So far in this infant season, he's run with it (no pun intended). His upside is 40-50 steals with moderate power and a decent average. Snag him now.