It Goes to Eleven Fastball, Matt Anderson
Four years ago, the world (Detroit) was rocked with the emergence of this 6-4 flamethrower. During his one inning of work in games, it was rare for Anderson not to hit triple digits on the radar gun. And then the injuriesŠ
In 2000, he pitched 74.1 innings. The three seasons that followed showed Anderson to have the durability of Glass Joe in Mike Tyson’s Punch Out, with yearly inning totals of 56, 11, and 23. That isn’t a good trend. Good thing that Anderson has been working on adding a little something to his fastball this off-season.
Instead of throwing 98-100 mph per pitch, as he was doing in 2000, Anderson has found a way to hit up to 170 mph with his new heater.
The physics are still being worked out, doctors are mystified, but it has something to do with the dislocation and relocation of his shoulder between pitches. Every batter he has faced so far has wept openly. The three bats (out of hundreds) that actually did make contact became kindling to be used by the Campfire Girls. Literally. The bats caught on fire. Even the metal one.
I’d say be on the lookout for Anderson as a potential sleeper, especially with this new pitch that he uses if he needs that extra push over the cliff.
Expert analysis: Go ahead and pick him up off waivers, but be careful of injuries to his shoulder due to the risky dislocation/relocation procedure. Drop him if his velocity falls below 130 mph.
Super Crazy Two-Handed Tomahawk Whamball, Billy Koch
Another fireball closer who suffered last year was Mr. Koch. After his incredible three-year run of 33, 36, and 44 saves, Koch lost about 10 mph on his fastball and got an Alan Embree-esque 11 saves, placing him in that Mediocre Pitcher Hanging Out in the Bullpen category. To get out of the MPHOB, Koch has spent the off-season looking to regain that lost velocity. He has found it.
The windup may be unorthodox, but once Koch squares his body to the plate and clasps the ball with both hands over his head like an soccer player in-bounding a ball, batters duck and cover.
What comes next is reminiscent of a colorful Japanimation warrior jumping backwards in the air while hurtling a glowing object of death towards a much larger metallic-laced foe because of his plan to blow up Hong Kong. Koch has even picked up a few select curse words from Japanese import Shingo “Mr. Zero” Takatsu to make his delivery more threatening and authentic.
Expert analysis: The new pitch might help him with some save opportunities, until the hitters have caught on to his tripped out delivery. Like Joses Hernandez and Mesa, Koch is no longer to be taken seriously. He might be worth a late round pick or waiver pickup, seeing that the White Sox play in a division the Golden Girls could contend in.
Rolling the Ball Back and Forth, Ryan Dempster
Following Tommy John surgery, Dempster will miss most, if not all, of the 2004 season. He has been bored in his hospital bed.
Expert Analysis: Don’t be suckered into looking at those 2003 stats, expecting a huge breakout year in 2004. He will not be playing in 2004. Don’t be stupid. Seriously.
Learning How to Pitch, Jose Canseco
In a last-ditch effort to revitalize his career, Every Young Lady’s Dream Man has undergone a transformation from Bash Brother to Hilarious Hurler in a single leap. Alright, maybe it was three or four leaps. More like jumps, however. Hops. Maybe long, quick steps.
Jose, trying to bring his lifetime ERA down from a robust 27.00 (three walks, two hits, and three earned runs in one inning of work in 1993), has been throwing at a mock batting box made of white chalk on the side of his enormous brick garage.
As soon as Canseco’s house arrest expires in 2010, he’ll try his record sixteenth comeback in a Major League uniform … and this one has the sweet stink of uber-hilarity.
Expert analysis: If Canseco is available to be picked up in your league, and you have an extra spot, do not hesitate to invite him onto your franchise. Your opponents will sit down at their computers, see the move, and start to giggle uncontrollably. If luck is on your side, they will have just started drinking a beverage. The bellowing laughter will cause them to spit all over the keyboard (hopefully unguarded by plastic), shorting out all circuitry and sending their virtual franchises into general disarray. You will win by default.
Down Periscope Riser, Byung-Hyun Kim
Kim’s first step was strengthening his knuckles. He spent eight hours a day punching a concrete floor. This wasn’t Yum-Yum’s punishment for his well documented World Series lapses or anger at A-Rod’s shenanigans, it was simply preparation for his new pitch.
The pitch, in his usual, awkward sidearm delivery, actually dips below the surface of the Earth, disappearing in a cloud of dust. The ball reappears a foot away from the plate, traveling at about 30 mph and curving dramatically. Virtually unhittable.
Expert analysis: There’s a lot of sleeper potential here, considering he is playing behind the Cialis-enhanced lineup of the Red Sox. If he nails down a rotation spot, watch his strikeout numbers explode and watch your diapers upgrade from fluffy to fluffy and gold-plated.