Scott Pianowski

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Scott Pianowski is a fake-sport maven and a really nice guy.

  • Do you have the stomach for Kyle Farnsworth?

    The secret handshake of the ninth inning (USAT)

    While everyone remembers Gordon Gekko's speeches and Bud Fox's rise and fall from the seminal film Wall Street, Lou Mannheim is the hidden soul of the picture (in Rounders terms, he's the Knish). Here's one of Lou's watershed tidbits:

    The main thing about money, Bud, is that it makes you do things you don’t want to do.

    Mannheim was talking about, well, money. But for our purposes, let's assume he was referring to saves. Framed another way: how badly do you want (or need) Kyle Farnsworth today?

    Jose Valverde has been a hot mess over his last three appearances (eight runs, four homers), forcing the Mets to make a change. You're grounded, Papa Grande. Terry Collins made it official on Easter morning: Farnsworth is the closer for now.

    Farnsworth is the ultimate journeyman, a 38-year-old veteran who's been with eight teams over the years. He's occasionally had success as a closer, most notably a 25-save season with the Rays back in 2011. But the same Tampa Bay organization kicked Farnsworth to the curb last summer, frustrated by a 5.76 ERA and 1.48 WHIP. Farnsworth redeemed himself with a brief run of success in Pittsburgh, then became a free agent. Bidding was tempered, but the Mets offered a contract in late March.

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  • Closing Time: Double dips for Travis Wood, Wily Peralta

    Wake up to Wood: still free in half of Yahoo leagues (USAT)

    You need a plan for the upcoming week, so let's take a look at the double-dipping pitchers for the period Monday-Sunday. As always, consider everything on this list tentative: sometimes pitchers get scratched, sometimes plans change, sometimes it rains.

    Additional notes will follow after the pitching form.

    1. Adam Wainwright (at NYM, PIT): Overdue for a Cy Young.
    2. Yu Darvish (at OAK, at SEA): Won't miss the Arlington undertow.
    3. Chris Sale (at DET, TB): Hope he goes deep because the bullpen is a joke.
    4. Felix Hernandez (HOU, TEX): For what it's worth, April is best career month (2.51/1.10).
    5. Cliff Lee (at LAD, at ARI): Clear favorite against Maholm and Arroyo.
    6. Jose Fernandez (at ATL, at NYM): Gets two calls if Marlins skip fifth starter.
    7. Masahiro Tanaka (at BOS, LAA): Trip to Fenway Park his first major test.
    8. Justin Verlander (CWS, at MIN): Sale up front, but then gets Pelfrey cookie.
    9. James Shields (at CLE, at BAL): Stuck with Royals offense, but still a no-brainer.
    10. Francisco Liriano (CIN, at STL ): Career at PNC (15 starts): 9-2, 1.72, 1.00).
    11. Johnny Cueto (at PIT, at ATL): Velocity up, looks 100 percent healthy.
    12. Julio Teheran (MIA, CIN): Pitching to contact, but career K/9 much higher in 2H.
    13. Anibal Sanchez (CWS, at MIN): Down 1.7 mph on heater but the whiffs are there.
    14. Andrew Cashner (at MIL, at WAS): Raw stuff finally turning into strikeouts.
    15. Hyun-Jin Ryu (PHI, COL): One terrible start, four outstanding ones.
    16. Wily Peralta (SD, CHC): Andy Behrens is a believer.

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  • Tip Drill: Five mistakes even good fantasy owners make

    Don't get mad, Trouty, everyone has a price (USAT)

    In many ways, it's the age of enlightenment for fantasy sports. Information is everywhere, advice is everywhere, stats are everywhere. In most of the leagues I play in and observe, there's less of a gap between the proven contenders and the second-division teams.

    But that doesn't mean fantasy owners don't make mistakes. Even the consistent players aren't immune to a misstep here or there. Let's shine a light on some of those errors, five mistakes even good fantasy owners make.

    -- Declaring some players untouchable

    Every so often you hear the call in your fantasy league: a competitor is putting this player or that player on the block. One way to start a conversation, I guess. Often it's a slumping, disappointing player getting pushed into the showroom.

    It's time to take a different angle to this. Why not put your good players on the trading block? Heck, why not have everyone on your team available at any time?

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  • Closing Time: What’s wrong with Danny Salazar?

    Chaos in Cleveland (USAT)

    If you're a fan of young, buzzy pitching prospects, the 2014 draft board had plenty of names to take aim at. Gerrit Cole was on an island somewhat (carrying an industry rank of 21), but opinions were clustered with the next four sophomores of note: Michael Wacha (No. 29), Danny Salazar (No. 32), Sonny Gray (No. 34) and Tony Cingrani (No. 38). Which trendy picks wound up on your club?

    [Baseball 2014 from Yahoo! Fantasy Sports: Still time for another league!]

    Salazar is clearly the lagger of the group as we look through the opening couple of weeks, a slump no one saw coming. He had an uneven 5.2-inning stint against Minnesota to open the year, and he's allowed 10 runs over his last two starts (including Thursday's mess at Detroit). Add it all up and there are crooked numbers everywhere: 14 IP, 19 H, 12 R, 4 HR, 8 BB, 7.71 ERA, 1.93 WHIP. The league is batting .345 against Salazar.

    Of course, there have been positive flashes – he's struck out 17 men in 14 innings. There aren't any easy answers here. Take your best guess, what's wrong with Danny Salazar?

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  • Closing Time: George Springer arrives in Houston

    Meet George Jetson

    It didn't take long for the 2014 Houston Astros to sink to the bottom of the pool, as expected. They're 5-9 through two weeks, tied for the worst record in the American League. The offense has been a joke thus far, with a pathetic .185/.258/.347 slash line. They're still light years from contention.

    Obviously it's going to take a lot more than one player to fix this mess. That said, it's time to get excited: one of the team's buzzy prospects, George Springer, is on the way. The Astros made the call late Tuesday night.

    Springer is a 24-year-old outfielder and a name you probably know already, no matter your level of prospect interest and sophistication. The Astros took him with the 11th overall pick in the 2011 draft and he's rocketed through the minors. Check what Springer posted last year in 135 games, covering Double-A and Triple-A: .303/.411/.600 slash, 37 homers, 45 steals (in just 53 attempts). Absurd. Those are video game numbers.

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  • Closing Time: Who is Jesse Chavez?

    Chavez of Oakland (USAT)

    My fantasy baseball experience dates back to the late 1980s, a much different time. The Internet wasn't around. No Extra Innings package, no smart phones. Heck, we hadn't bailed on MTV yet. Newspapers still mattered, and a lot of your fantasy commodities were anonymous collections of names and numbers. Sometimes you had no idea what these guys looked like, how they played, what they threw.

    Sometimes you didn't even know the first names. Often you'd phone a commissioner (rotary dial) and sheepishly say "pick up Thompson of St. Louis."

    I'm feeling nostalgic because of a story that's brewing in the Bay Area. Let's talk a little bit about Chavez of Oakland.

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  • Sunday Night Fantasy Chat, 9 pm ET

    Jake, in twos (USAT)

    Don Draper and the 60s return tonight? Swanky. The Red Sox and Yankees? Okay, that's a repeat. But let's renew our fake friendship, nonetheless.

    First chat is set for 9 pm ET. Join us, pour a cocktail, grab a donut in the meeting room.

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  • Closing Time: With Koji Uehara dinged up, start the Boston scramble

    Handshakes on hold (USAT)

    As terrific as Koji Uehara has been during his time in America, he's generally been a high-maintenance player. He's only passed the 70-inning mark once (last year), and sometimes he's not best suited for work on consecutive days. I'm not picking on the guy – he's one of my favorite watches in the game, and Uehara was baseball's most dominant reliever last year (all through the championship run). But when a pitcher turns 39, there's only so much we can realistically expect.

    So when the Red Sox say Uehara has a "minor" shoulder stiffness, I'm not going to take it in stride. It's time for a Boston bullpen audit.

    Boston had a push-button save chance ready to go in Friday's 4-2 victory at New York, but Uehara wasn't the man selected. He felt stiffness during his long-toss session before the game and the club decided to keep him out for precautionary reasons. According to respected beat writer Sean McAdam, Uehara won't be available Saturday.

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  • Closing Time: Mike Morse, back in our lives; Michael Pineda, filthy again

    Moose on the loose (USAT)

    Michael Morse has crammed a lot of movement into his decade of major league baseball. He's been an infielder (even a middle infielder), an outfielder, a DH. He's been a National and an Oriole and a Mariner, twice. He's been a PED-suspended player. He's been in and out of fantasy relevance, too.

    Looks like 2014 could be an on year for this vagabond slugger.

    Morse opened the season as San Francisco's starting left fielder, and he's marked his territory nicely during the opening games. A pair of doubles Thursday raised Morse's slash line to .400/.455/.733 (here's some brickball video for you), and he's already collected a couple of homers and 10 RBIs. Given how difficult it is to find power in today's game, this is a welcome reemergence.

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  • Closing Time: Jim Johnson loses his way, yet again

    A recurring scene with Oakland this year (USAT)

    For a couple of years in Baltimore, Jim Johnson was one of those Houdini closers, doing it with smoke and mirrors. He'd routinely pitch to contact and outperform his component stats, collecting a silly 101 saves along the way. Sure, we'd see an occasional rough patch now and then, but the Orioles stuck with him and the handshakes flowed.

    Ah, the salad days. Johnson's moved on to Oakland, but there isn't much handshaking going on. Get out the clipboard and the red pen, we have another closer on the brink.

    Although Johnson technically didn't earn a blown save in Wednesday's ninth-inning giveaway at Minnesota, his messy work was all over the page. He allowed two walks and two hits over five batters (only a botched bunt provided an out), and the Twins tied the score one batter after Johnson exited. The 2014 Johnson ledger shows nine hits and seven runs over 3.1 awful innings, along with five unintentional walks. He's been unable to command his fastball and it's getting him into all sorts of trouble. And when he is in the strike zone, opponents are lacing the ball all over the park.

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