Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Fantasy Football Roster Analysis - Fantasy Gameday Keeper (Points League)

Recently, I took part in my first fantasy football draft of the season. This is a points league, set up by Kelly from Fantasygameday.net. This will be the first non-head to head football league I've been a part of, and I'm looking forward to an interesting season. This will also be a keeper league, where we'll be holding on to 3 players at the end of the season. The setup is as follows:

6 Bench spots

This draft went like most fantasy drafts I've taken part in - I got a few guys that I thought would be gone by the time I drafted them, I reached for a few others, and I had a few of those Doh! moments where I was getting ready to pull the trigger on a guy when the team ahead of me picked him away from under my nose (Stupid Flanders!).

Below is my draft with some quasi-analysis....although I'm bound to be biased, since this is my team.

Round (Overall Pick) Player, Position:
1 (8) Willie Parker, RB
Even given the keeper league setup, I was hoping Shaun Alexander would fall to me at pick 8 (he ended up going at 7). I know, I know, he's already peaked & he's going to end up sharing caries with Maurice Morris at some point in the not too distant future...but I just have a good feeling about Shaun this season.

OK, on to my Parker analysis - he was the best player on the board. The picks immediately after Parker were Bush, Maroney, & Westbrook; I think Parker is absolutely in a different league than those guys (right now from a fantasy perspective). He's proven he can put up excellent numbers, and I don't see any reason why he won't have another great year.

Picks around this selection - (6) F Gore, (7) S Alexander, (8) PARKER, (9) R Bush, (10) L Maroney

2 (13) Rudi Johnson, RB
It seems like I end up with Johnson on at least one team every year. It's not that I don't like his solid performance, but I am always looking for a reason to take somebody else. I did consider the fact that Kenny Irons is injured & is out for the season (he was drafted in the 3rd round to take a few carries & allow Johnson to get some rest) when making this selection.

To be honest, I was ready to select Chad Johnson with this pick (who went 3 picks later)...until I read a blurb saying he punched a teammate at practice. I've already owned Randy Moss & TO over the last few years, so that was enough to scare me off. That and the fact that you need two top running backs to effectively compete in most football leagues. There was nothing wrong with this pick, and he should have another solid season.

Picks around this selection - (11) B Westbrook, (12) C Palmer, (13) R JOHNSON, (14) T Henry, (15) S Smith

3 (28) Roy Williams, WR
Man, that wait from pick 13 to pick 28 felt like a few weeks. I saw top players keep dropping off the board, all while trying to determine what to do with my next pick. I'm normally a fan of waiting a little while for my starting QB, so that left backup RB (not important yet, unless a top player dropped), a #1 WR (very important), or a TE (Gates). I guess I also considered for a moment taking a DEF or K here also, but then I thankfully gained my sanity back (which doesn't happen very often).

I felt good about getting R Williams as my #1 receiver. I was really targeting Larry Fitzgerald, but he went one pick ahead of me (damn you Headbangers!). At this point, I ended up taking the 8th receiver off the board, following:

2 (15) S Smith
2 (16) C Johnson
2 (19) M Harrison
3 (21) T Holt
3 (22) T Owens
3 (23) R Wayne
3 (27) L Fitzgerald

Williams should catch his fair share of touchdowns this year from Kitna, and should be a lock for 1,000 yards +. All that & he's young with plenty of upside...especially since Calvin Johnson is now around to help draw some of the defense's attention away from Williams. Overall, I'm happy with this pick.

Picks around this selection - (26) D Brees, (27) L Fitzgerald, (28) R WILLIAMS, (29) C Benson, (30) M Bulger

4 (33) Antonio Gates, TE
I typically follow the same strategy for picking TE's that I use for QB's - don't reach & pick one early. I didn't follow this strategy in a baseball league with Joe Mauer this year (let's assume catcher in baseball = TE or QB in football) & it's killing me in this league (since I passed up Hanley Ramirez for Mauer)...although I also went against that strategy in another league & I've been quite happy with Victor Martinez's production in 2007...whatever. You usually don't get good bang for the buck when picking the top player at a weak position early in the draft.

That being said, I still picked him...and here is why. San Diego has a young, still mostly unproven WR core; meaning Gates will be turned to often, especially in the red zone (although I'll talk about Vincent Jackson in a few). Phillip Rivers is a young & improving QB, who will likely only rely on Gates more as they continue to build a rapport with one another. In addition, I was basically pissed that the player I was targeting (Marcus Colston) was taken one pick ahead my mine (for the second time in the draft - damn you The Wounded Healers!).

Once again, I was happy with this pick; as Gates should put up #1 WR type numbers across the board, even though he's a TE...not bad.

Picks around this selection - (31) A Johnson, (32) M Colston, (33) A GATES, (34) T Houshmandzadeh, (35) J Walker

5 (48) Brandon Jacobs, RB
Here is where I started to take some chances. Not that Jacobs can't be a fantasy beast this season; last year, in limited carries, he proved he can be a TD machine. But what impresses me more about Jacobs is his surprising speed, elusiveness, and soft hands & reception ability. I'm a little nervous with R Droughns waiting in the wings (and potentially sharing carries), but Jacobs has the potential to put up #1 RB-type numbers this year. In addition, he's still young...so he has immense upside as a potential keeper. He gives me the luxury of having 3 potential starting RB in a league that only starts 2 (with no flex positions).

In the 5th round, many of the second tier / unproven backs went off the board, so now was the time to pull the trigger on Jacobs. In this round, the following backs were selected:

A Peterson (Minn one)
C Williams
M Lynch
B Jacobs

This gives my team some flexibility, and I'm hoping he busts out big time, like some fantasy experts expect.

Picks around this selection - (46) Cal Johnson, (47) M Lynch, (48) B JACOBS, (49) L Coles, (50) D Jackson

6 (53) Braylon Edwards, WR
I decided to go with a guy from my home town team, the Cleveland Browns, to occupy my #2 WR position (which is up for debate, as you'll see later in my draft). I think Edwards will approach, if not exceed 1,000+ yards, score 7 - 10 TD, and be 'the man' for Charlie Frye, Brady Quinn, Bernie Kosar, or whomever is running the Browns offense. At times last year, Frye & Edwards seemed to start building a poor man's version of that Peyton Manning - Marvin Harrison thing...where the WR just knew where he needed to be to make the play; and the QB knew where the WR was going & delivered the ball...you know...

OK, that didn't quite transpire last year, but Edwards & Frye did seem comfortable & occasionally got into a good groove. Edwards even stuck up for Frye after the Browns drafted Brady Quinn in April. Any way you look at it, Edwards has enormous upside, runs good routes, and knows how to get into the end zone. I may have reached a bit with this pick (his average draft position (ADP) in Yahoo drafts is 59), but I'm confident that he'll be a solid fantasy contributor this year (or maybe I only believe that because I bleed orange & brown?).

Picks around this selection - (51) S Moss, (52) D Branch, (53) B EDWARDS, (54) M Barber III, (55) T Jones

I'll take a look at picks 7-15 in an upcoming post. Hopefully I ended up drafting a QB during that time...

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Updates coming soon - Football & Baseball

Sorry for the lack of updates recently...but don't worry; I'll have some more fantasy baseball info along with some fantasy football strategy coming later this week. I'm sure you can't wait!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Top Performers - August 10th Edition

Here are some of the top performers from games played on Friday, August 10th:

1. Conor Jackson (1B) ARI, 3-3, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R, 1 BB, 1 SB
Quite a game from Jackson. This hasn't been the breakout year for Conor that many projected, but he still has game & he'll be a very solid major league player. I talked about Jackson a little bit in a previous Activity on the Waiver Wire post, but injuries this season have played a part for him not being able to get into a groove. Hopefully this is the game he needed to get him going & help him have a productive final two months of the season.

2. Adrian Gonzalez (1B) SD, 3-4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 3 R, 2 BB
Gonzalez was my other pre-season sleeper 1B, along with Jackson (discussed some here). After starting the year like a man possessed (.309 Avg, 7 HR, 25 RBI in April), he has certainly come back down to earth. He's still produced at a solid rate for the season (.270 Avg, 19 HR, 68 RBI, 64 R, .832 OPS), but after a breakout 2006, along with the incredible April, I was hoping for more. He's still an excellent player to have on your roster, and expect him to continue to produce at an average rate for your 1B position for the remainder of the year.

3. Travis Buck (OF) OAK, 4-5, 3 RBI, 3 R
Buck has proven that he belongs in the major leagues in this, his rookie season. His season line is solid (.288 Avg, 7 HR, 34 RBI, 40 R, 3 SB, .856 OPS), although he hasn't had more than 63 AB in a month yet. Now that the OF is a little less crowded (with Milton Bradley moving on to San Diego), it looks like Buck will be getting a good amount of playing time at the top of the lineup for the next two months. He's got a good eye at the plate, and I think he'll develop more power as he sees more major league pitching. If he continues to hit leadoff, I also think he'll be a sleeper pick for a few steals (even though he's only got 3 on the year so far; he has very solid speed).

I've considered picking him up a few times this season (even though I haven't pulled the trigger), but I'm certainly keeping a close eye on him as a Player to Watch in 2008.

4. Jack Cust (OF) OAK, 2-5, 1 HR, 7 RBI, 2 R
Surprised that this is the second Oakland player on this list from last night's games? Well don't be, since they won 16-10 against the Tigers, exploding for 8 runs in the 6th inning alone. Cust has cooled from his great early season run, but he's still producing solidly on the year (.265 Avg, 18 HR, 59 RBI, 38 R, .937 OPS). I'm especially impressed by his great eye at the plate in August, where he's had 19 official at-bats, hitting .368, with 1 HR, 9 RBI, 9 BB against only 4 K's. He'll still mainly provide value in only HR & RBI, but he's likely got a solid career ahead of him as a 30+ HR guy at the major league level.

5. Shaun Marcum (SP) TOR, 6 2/3 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 4 K
Another impressive performance for the young Marcum. On the season, his line is extremely impressive (9-4, 3.43 ERA, 120 2/3 IP, 95 K, 33 BB, 1.09 WHIP). He's pitched 6 or more innings in each of his past 6 starts, allowing a maximum of 4 ER in a game during that time. He's found a home in the rotation (after starting the year in the bullpen), and I think he'll be a good sleeper for next season (if he's not already starting to show up on people's radars). If he's still available in your league, he'll make a very good pickup for the rest of '07. Toronto's rotation is looking set for the future, with both Marcum & Dustin McGowan ready to join Ron Halladay & A.J. Burnett in what is now shaping up as a impressive top 4.

Below are some other solid performances from Friday:

Josh Fields (3B) CHW, 2-4, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R
He's the 3B of the future (and of today, I guess) for the White Sox. He's hitting for solid power so far in his first 200+ major league at bats. His average is lower than I would expect long term, and he's not taking many walks, but he's proving he belongs. He only has 1 SB this year with the Sox, even though he had 8 at AAA this year, and 26 (in 31 attempts) last season. I don't think he'll put up David Wright type SB numbers as a pro, but he should be good for 6-12 / year; solid for a corner infielder.

Raul Ibanez (OF) SEA, 3-4, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 R
Ibanez is finally starting to break out of his season long funk. He's got 4 HR in his last 4 games, along with 8 RBI over that time. After a hideous July when he hit only .184 w/ 0 HR, he's hitting .433, with 4 HR, 9 RBI, 7 R, 4 BB, 5 K, and a 1.461 OPS in August. After a career year in 2006, many people thought he'd be able to duplicate those numbers again. He's disappointed fantasy owners that expected that production, but it looks like he might be turning the corner, so now might not be a bad time to add him to your roster, if he's available in your league.

Jermaine Dye (OF) CHW, 2-3, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R
He homered again; that gives him the following post-all star break line - .327 Avg, 12 HR, 23 RBI, 1.165 OPS. He's finally found his swing, so keep him in your lineup until further notice.

Adam Wainwright (SP) STL, 9 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, L
Wainwright had another solid start, although he didn't get a win. I discussed him in a recent Look Who's Back post, and he's continuing to produce. He now seems comfortable as a starter, so there's no reason to think he won't keep pitching well.

Daisuke Matsuzaka (SP) BOS, 7 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 4 BB, 7 K
Dice-K keeps pitching well & is rolling right along. He now has allowed 2 ER or less in 4 straight starts, striking out 28 hitters over this time. His season line is now 13-8, 3.59 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 158 IP, 159 K, 56 BB. Very good numbers, and he's making fantasy owners that spent a high - mid round pick on him very happy.

Phil Huhges (SP) NYY, 6 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 6 K
Hughes bounced back nicely in his second start back from the DL. Hopefully owners didn't overreact & drop him after his last performance. He's going to be a key to the Yankees rotation for a long time to come. He'll still have some inconsistency due to his youth, but he's a good one.

Eric Bedard (SP) BAL, 7 2/3 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 2 BB, 7 K
Bedard struck out 7 more hitters last night. Unfortunately, he didn't get the win, which broke his streak of wins in 6 straight starts (and 8 out of 9). He has proven this year to be a top 5 starting pitcher, and he's potentially moved himself to the #2 starter after Johan for next season.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Yovani Gallardo's Worst Start Ever...

2 2/3 Innings
12 Hits allowed
11 ER
3 BB
1 K
2 HR allowed

Believe it or not, that's rookie star Yovani Gallardo's pitching line from today's game against the Rockies. That hurts in every league format, but especially in roto leagues. Imagine my frustration, as I just picked him up in one shallow league before today's game - really bad timing on my part. This one start increases his ERA on the season from 2.55 to 4.20 & his WHIP from 1.04 to 1.26...Ouch!

What's amazing is his line is actually worse than Jeremy Bonderman's line from 7/29 against the Angels of 2 1/3 innings, 9 hits allowed, 10 earned runs, 3 walks & 4 strikeouts.

As frustrating as this is for Gallardo owners, I don't think there is anything to worry about down the line; I'm still going to keep him in my lineup for his next start. The Rockies offense just exploded today, and every pitcher has an off game now and then.

Oh well, Tim Lincecum had some off games too (and Phil Hughes a few days ago); it's just part of the learning process for a young phenom pitcher.

Looking at the bright side of things, since the Brewers have said that they'll limit Gallardo to 175 innings this season, he still has about 6 or 7 starts left (since he's 41 2/3 innings away from that number). This short outing may have bought him one additional start later in the season.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Top Double Threat OF - HR & SB

Today I'm going to take a look at this season's top producing double threat outfielders in HR & steals. Ideally, I'll be looking for players that will finish with 20-20 type seasons, although I'll make a few exceptions to highlight players with the potential. In keeper leagues, I value these players more highly than the slugger types, since steals are not always easy to come by. If you have a few of these guys on your roster, you'll remain competitive in steals without having to include a Juan Pierre / Dave Roberts type of player on your team. I'll also give you my feedback on whether these guys are 'keeper-worthy' for next season.

Gary Sheffield (OF)
.290 Avg
23 HR
17 SB
What's gotten into Mr. Sheffield this season? He's on pace to potentially exceed his single season career best in steals (25 in 1990). He has been surprisingly consistent this season stealing bases - he has 4, 3, 4, & 6 in the four full months of the season. He's also only been caught 4 times.

Keeper Worthy?
I don't think he can duplicate this many more seasons, but enjoy the benefits of his impressive all around season this year. I would probably suggest holding onto him for at least one more season.

Grady Sizemore (OF)
.280 Avg
19 HR
28 SB
No surprise here...Grady is going to be an annual 30-30 threat for years to come. His early season steal pace has slowed (after 8 & 9 steals in the first two months of the season vs. 6 & 4 in the last two months), but he's still succeeding at an above average rate (80% on the season).

Keeper Worthy?
He's an awesome keeper, and watch out for a power surge in the next few years.

Eric Byrnes (OF)
.303 Avg
17 HR
28 SB
I knew Byrnes would be solid, but he has exceeded my expectations this season. He's having a career year thus far, and showing no signs of slowing down. He had an incredible July on the basepaths (with 12 steals in 13 attempts), but I think it's more realistic to expect 5-8 steals per month from here on out

Keeper Worthy?
I don't think he's quite keeper material, but keep an eye on him in next year's drafts, since I don't think he'll slip out of the top 10 rounds (like he did in many drafts this year).

Alex Rios (OF)
.301 Avg
20 HR
10 SB
Rios has officially arrived. He honestly hasn't been running as much as I expected this season, but he's had a good success rate. He is still young, so expect many more seasons like this from Rios in the upcoming years.

Keeper Worthy?
Yes, he'll be the player that Vernon Wells was supposed to be this season.

Curtis Granderson (OF)
.298 Avg
16 HR
14 SB
The triples machine is having a career year, in only his second full season in the majors. He has not been caught stealing this year in 14 attempts, so he's using his speed wisely. He's also scoring a ton of runs hitting at the top of the Tigers lineup

Keeper Worthy?
I probably wouldn't keep him going into next season, but expect him to continue to put up solid numbers.

Tori Hunter (OF)
.288 Avg
22 HR
11 SB
Hunter hasn't been running as much the past two months, but he's still having a very solid season. Expect him to hit in the .265 - .275 range, but consistently hitting 20 HR & stealing 20 bags per season.

Keeper Worthy?
I probably wouldn't hold onto him due to his relatively low career batting average, but he's certainly worth consideration in deeper leagues.

Alfonso Soriano (OF)
.297 Avg
18 HR
18 SB
Soriano has had a good season, but has not quite put up the numbers than some people expected coming into the year. Every year can't be a 40-40 year (like last year), or even a 30-30 year (like 2 years ago).

Keeper Worthy?
Are you serious? Even with his recent injury, he'll continue to be a top 10 overall fantasy contributor & is keeper worthy in every league out there.

B.J. Upton (OF, 2B)
.325 Avg
16 HR
13 SB
Upton has really surprised some experts this year. He entered the year as a potential utility man on the Devil Rays. He's emerged as one of the best players on the team & a certain future star. I'd be surprised to find anyone who expected BJ Upton to put up better numbers on the year than super-prospect Delmon Young (who I discuss below). Even though he strikes out at a higher ratio than would be ideal, he is a great hitter with a quick swing & superstar written all over him. Note, he'll likely lose his 2B eligibility next season, so compare him to OF when determining whether to keep him.

Keeper Worthy?
I think he'll make a good keeper, especially if he ends up fulfilling his stolen base potential (where I see him as a potential 40+ sb / year candidate).

Corey Hart (OF)
.280 Avg
18 HR
18 SB
Hart has surprised some this season, although many fantasy experts already had him pegged as a sleeper going into the year. He had an insane June, although he has cooled off since. Expect him to finish around 25-25 on the year, incredible for a 1st year starter who didn't even begin the year with a full time job.

Check out this article from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel about Hart's view on a 20-20 season (or 30-30).

Keeper Worthy?
You have to give him serious consideration. I think he has the potential to steal 30+ bags/year, his power is still developing, he's got a good eye at the plate, and he leads off for a very good, young lineup. Some might argue that it's crazy to recommend keeping Hart while potentially letting Hunter go, but I'd take the chance based on Hart's youth & upside.

Carlos Beltran (OF)
.263 Avg
19 HR
15 SB
Newsflash - Beltran is injured again! I have Beltran in a keeper league that's now in it's third season, and I'm beginning to lose my patience with Carlos. He's a great talent, who rivals Soriano when he's healthy for his combination of power & speed...but unfortunately, he just can't stay healthy. He's still young, so he's got many potentially great seasons ahead of him; just keep your fingers crossed for him to stay healthy.

Keeper Worthy?
Even though the missed time has owners frustrated, he's still a top 20 player & certainly keeper worthy. Even during an off year, he'll still get you 20 HR & 20 steals...

Chris B. Young (OF)
.240 Avg
19 HR
17 SB
An interesting year for the rookie Diamondback. Coming into the season, he was most often compared to Mike Cameron, a player who hits HR, steals bases, but hits around .250. This projection has proven to be spot on. I think Young will end up being a .270 hitter in the pros, and he's proven to already have major league power & speed.

Keeper Worthy?
I don't think he's a keeper quite yet. His low average will hurt most roto teams, but he's going to be a solid 20-20 + contributor for a long time.

Knocking on the Door:
Delmon Young (OF)
.292 Avg
9 HR
7 SB
He's kept his temper in check, and improved his average as the year has progressed, although this power & speed combo player has been relatively quiet in his first full season in the majors. He was the 'can't miss' prospect who everyone expected to break out in a big way this season; he's got 35-25 potential, and many expected a minimum of 15-15 or 20-20 this year. I have been impressed by his ability to hit for average this year, as his high strikeout ratio led me to believe he'd hit well below .300.

Keeper Worthy?
I think so; in deeper keeper leagues, he was kept by many after last season. Now that he'll have a full year under his belt, I think he'll only get better. I expected more this year, but there no reason to think it won't happen in the coming years.

Hunter Pence (OF)
.330 Avg
12 HR
8 SB
Although Pence is currently injured, he was arguably the front runner for NL rookie of the year before he missed time. He has not only proven to be major league ready, but he's proven that he's ready to be a star. He was incredibly consistent his first 3 full months in the majors - he hit .343 w/4 HR & 3 SB, .314 w/4 HR & 4 SB, and .329 w/4 HR & 1 SB. I think he'll be the face of the Astros for many years to come, and he's got an awesome career ahead of him.

Keeper Worthy?
Pay close attention to his recovery from his wrist injury, since other young players with wrist injuries have had a difficult time getting their groove back - see Rickie Weeks & Ian Kinsler for two examples this season. I'd be nervous keeping him without seeing some late season success after he returns from the DL, but if he picks up where he left off, he's probably worth the risk.

Justin Upton (OF)
.308 Avg
0 HR
0 SB
He's the new kid on the block; the youngest current player in the majors. He ripped up the minors this season (in A & AA), and I think he's in the majors to stay. Many compare him to Ken Griffey Jr., who also made it to the majors as a 19 year old; not a bad player to be compared to. I think he'll have bumps in the road this year, but he's an emerging talent, and he's likely going to be a star.

Keeper Worthy?
This one affects me directly, since I just used my #4 waiver priority (in a 16 team, deep keeper league) on him. So far this year, I've missed out on the following rookies via my lower waiver position:

-Hunter Pence
-Ryan Braun
-Yovani Gallardo
-Billy Butler
-Phil Hughes

I wasn't going to miss out this time, so for my sake, I hope he's major league ready. I think he's keeper worthy in deep leagues such as mine discussed above, but he'll need to stay up in the majors the remainder of the year to prove his worth. Unless he really impresses over the next two months, he probably shouldn't be kept in normal depth / shallow keeper leagues.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Top Hitters - Week of 7/30 - 8/5

Periodically, I'll be looking back at the most recent week's top performers (in this case, based on Yahoo game rankings). Today, I'm going to look back at last week's top hitters:

1. Carl Crawford (OF)
Crawford is one of those players that will put up solid, but not earth shattering, stats for months & then all of a sudden just break out; I think he's now on the verge of breaking out, after a quiet July. His line on the year is:

.303 Avg
64 R
9 HR
60 RBI
35 SB
.819 OPS

This currently puts him 28th on Yahoo's player rater (amongst hitters). This is probably disappointing for managers that drafted him in the 1st round of their drafts this year, but be patient...especially when it comes to expectations for steals. This season, July was his first month with more than 10 steals; he also already has 2 steals in the first 4 games in August. Last year, he had three months in which he stole more than 10 bases, and August & September are two of them. I'm expecting his recent trend (12 steals in 20 post-all star break games vs. 23 steals in 85 pre-all star break games) to continue throughout the next two months. He might also start hitting for a little more pop, since last season, he also hit 7 HR in a month. This year, his tops is April, when he hit 4. It's a good sign that he has more HR (2) in 4 August games than he hit in any of the previous 4 individual months (when he hit 1 in each).

Make sure he's in your lineup in every league out there. I expect him to hit double digit steals each of the next two months, and I also expect him to start hitting for a little more power. He'll probably end up finishing the year with around 50 + steals, 15-18 HR, and 80 - 85 RBI. All while hitting over .300...not bad at all.

2. Bobby Abreu (OF)
Wow, what a July! And he's started off August just as hot...
On the year, Abreu is hitting:

.286 Avg
81 R
11 HR
70 RBI
15 SB
.797 OPS

In July alone, he hit .353, with 5 HR, 29 RBI, 20 R, 2 SB, and a .972 OPS. In 4 August games, he's hitting .561 with 2 HR, 6 RBI, 1 SB, 4 BB & 1 K. Even with his recent super-hot streak, I think he's still been a slight disappointment for managers that picked him in the top 5 rounds of their fantasy drafts. He'll continue to get plenty of opportunities for runs & RBI hitting third in a potent Yankees lineup, and it's nice to see him finally have a breakout month.

3. Ryan Zimmerman (3B)
Zimmerman has quietly improved his numbers in the past two months, picking up the slack after a very slow start to the season. He's hitting:

.274 Avg
17 HR
61 RBI
65 R
4 SB
.779 OPS

He's already got 8 RBI in only 5 August games, so he's well on his way to his best month of the year. Even though I'm a little disappointed in his full season line (especially the lower than expected Avg & steals), I still think he's going to be an excellent 3B for many years in the majors. He's not on par with David Wright (and now, Ryan Braun) yet, but I think he's a good keeper & will only improve with more playing time.

4. Big Papi (1B, DH)
He's good

5. Vladimir Guerrero (OF)
Him too

6. Robinson Cano (2B)
After a disappointing start to the year, he busted out big time in July...hitting:

.385 Avg
6 HR
24 RBI
22 R
1 SB
1.053 OPS

He's finally living up to the hype of being a top 5 2B. I don't see any reason he won't continue to produce in an impressive Yankees lineup, so keep playing him.

7. Kelly Johnson (2B, OF)
Johnson was just making it too hard for the Braves to not play him everyday. His season stats are:

.301 Avg
12 HR
57 RBI
67 R
9 SB
.895 OPS

He has been immensely better than the player he replaced, Marcus Giles, this season. I pegged him as a sleeper going into the season, but I cheated in a way, because:

-I live in Atlanta...so I've seen him play firsthand, and I knew he'd be solid
-He'd already proven he could hit major league pitching - in the 2005 season (his rookie year), he was NL Player of the Week for 6/13-19

He'll be a good play from here on out, and I think he's close to being a top 10 2B for next season.

8. Hanley Ramirez (SS)
I'll admit, I didn't expect him to put up such incredible numbers in his second season. I had to decide between him or Joe Mauer as the last player I was holding onto in a keeper league...and I picked the latter. Mauer is a very good player, and will be for a long time, but Hanley has been incredible. His season line is:

.341 Avg
19 HR
54 RBI
84 R
32 SB
.967 OPS

Going into the year, some experts saw him as a 'poor man's Jose Reyes'. It turns out, he's been what people thought Jose Reyes was going to be. Can you imagine, Hanley has the potential for 30 + HR power, with over a .300 Avg & the potential to steal more than 50 bases in a year! Quite possibly, the # 1 overall pick in fantasy drafts next year (you heard it here first!).

9. Jorge Posada (C)
10. Hideki Matsui (OF)
Insane...what a July. His July line was:

.345 Avg
13 HR
28 RBI
31 R
2 SB
1.145 OPS
14 BB
15 K

I think it's safe to say he's fully recovered from his injury earlier in the season. He's showing no signs of slowing down, so keep playing him daily.

11. Garrett Atkins (3B)
His season line is similar to Zimmerman, but he was a top 3 round pick, so he's been a bigger disappointment. He does have 11 RBI in only 5 August games, which is a good sign. He's also been much more consistent since his early season struggles, with batting averages of .305, .302, and .400 in June, July & August. He's still a top 10 3B, but he'll end up finishing the year much below most people's pre-season expectations.

12. Jermaine Dye (OF)
I'm sure he's frustrated more managers than just me this season. After keeping him in my lineup for most of the 1st half, then having him on my bench for a few weeks, and then finally dropping him just after the all star break...what happens?

He breaks out, big time. Since the all star break, he's put up the following line:

23 Games
.330 Avg
10 HR
20 RBI
25 R
1.158 OPS

I think it's fair to say that he's officially broken out of his 1st half slump. He won't end up matching last year's numbers, but he's on a hot streak, so keep him in your lineup (or if you're me, enjoy watching another team benefit from your impatience).

13. Pat Burrell (OF)
I talked about picking him up in a league a few posts back, and man, am I glad I did. He's hit 3 HR in his past 5 games, and is hitting well over .400 since July 1st. Keep playing him while he's hot.

14. Jose Reyes (SS)
Incredible player, but many managers projected a 20 HR season for Reyes. He's been solid with 8 HR, 45 RBI, 79 R, and 53 SB...great numbers, but not necessarily #1 overall (where he was drafted in some leagues).

15. David Wright (3B)
One of the best 3B in the game. His season stats are stellar:

.304 Avg
19 HR
67 RBI
70 R
25 SB
.902 OPS

I'm very impressed by his SB consistency & success rate this year; he's stolen 7 bases in each of the past 3 months, only being caught twice along the way. And obviously, the rest of his game is SOLID.

16. Jack Wilson (SS)
17. Yuniesky Betancourt (SS)
18. Ronny Paulino (C)
19. Matt Diaz (OF)
Having an excellent season platooning in LF. Might get every day playing time next year if the Braves don't re-sign Andruw Jones.

20. Mark Teixeira (1B)
He's already hit 3 HR with the Braves in 5 games; I expect a rejuvenated Teixeira & big August & September.

21. Corey Patterson (OF)
Wow, Patterson can really hit & run when he just goes all out. Earlier in the year, he seemed more selective at the plate, which lowered his K rate but also lowered his overall value (and consequentially, playing time). As long as he keeps on playing aggressively, he'll continue to swipe bases at a 10+ per month rate, along with hitting a few HR & driving in a few runs along the way. Swing away Merrill. Merrill... swing away.

22. Adam Dunn (OF)
Having another typical Dunn year:

.262 Avg
30 HR
73 RBI
69 R
8 SB
.918 OPS

I was actually a little excited about some diversity in his game after a 5 SB April, but gravity has brought the speedy Dunn back to earth since. I guess it was too much to expect a 20 steal year out of a 6 foot 6 inch, 275 lb OF.

It is nice to see him get some of his power swing back, as he's already hit 3 HR in August (vs. only 4 HR in all of July).

23. Melky Cabrera (OF)
Milky Cereal was really not even worth having on your team until his breakout July. He ended up hitting .368, with 3 HR, 17 RBI, 18 R, 4 SB, and a .939 OPS. As long as you don't expect that every month, he'll be a solid breakfast food to have on your bench (or in your lineup on a deep roster).

24. Aubrey Huff (1B, 3B, OF)
OK, I admit...I thought he was going to have a comeback year. Since I've been wrong on Huff for two years in a row now, I've decided that I might not be drafting him or hyping him next season...Although, he might end up being a major sleeper & in line for a comeback year! Oh wait...

25. Kazuo Matsui (2B)
Holy Cow; 2 Matsui's on one list!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Player Profile - Nick Markakis

Today's player profile will look at Baltimore Orioles 2nd year outfielder Nick Markakis. On the year, Nick has the following line:

.291 Avg
10 HR
64 RBI
59 R
13 SB (in 15 attempts)
.799 OPS
41 BB

So, has he performed when measured up to expectations this year? Has he been in line with, performed worse than expected, or better than expected? Well, the answer is not so simple...so let's take a deeper look at his stats.

For a 2nd year player, most fantasy managers & 'experts' will look at his 1st year performance, specifically looking at the later stages of the season, to come up with expectations for the player's sophomore season. It's fair to say that Nick improved just a tad as last season wore on...check out his monthly splits:

.182 Avg
2 HR
.558 OPS

.254 Avg
0 HR
.667 OPS

.338 Avg
0 HR
.803 OPS

.403 Avg
2 HR
10 RBI
.999 OPS

.354 Avg
10 HR
26 RBI
1.140 OPS

.224 Avg
2 HR
.599 OPS

Excluding September, which could have occurred with any young player wearing down after finishing the longest season in their career, he improved every month in OPS, the most telling indicator of success as a hitter. He also had a huge power surge in August, hitting 63% of his HR in ONE month of a 162 game season. He also kept K / plate appearance ratio (13.5%) at a reasonable level the entire season (even his subpar Sep), when combined with his BB ratio / plate appearance (8%) shows that from day one, he has had good patience at the plate. He hit both lefties (.286) and righties (.293) well, and he also played solid right field.

In 2007, some of his trends look similar yet different (does that even make sense?) from his rookie season. Let's take a look at his 2007 monthly splits:

.245 Avg
3 HR
15 RBI
.716 OPS
0 SB

.286 Avg
5 HR
18 RBI
.868 OPS
3 SB

.290 Avg
1 HR
11 RBI
.704 OPS
4 SB

.351 Avg
1 HR
20 RBI
.917 OPS
6 SB

So, his average has increased each month (similar to last year). His RBI's have been relatively steady, his OPS has been solid, but the things that stand out to me are his HR & his SB. At this stage in his career, I think the 10 HR August from last year was an abnormality. He's probably a 3-5 HR / month guy, but I think he'll hit more HR as he matures. He has 1 HR in each of the past two months, but he has found a way to drive in 20 runs in only 25 July games...impressive. He has also discovered this year that he has above average speed & is an intelligent basestealer. I wouldn't be surprised to see him finish the year with 20-25 steals. He has also only been caught 2 times on the year, so he's picking his opportunities wisely. His K / plate appearance (16.5%) & his BB / plate appearance (9%) ratios are both very comparable to last year, so he's kept his plate discipline & eye at the plate - not common in a young hitter. His average against lefties has come down some this year (.258), but he continues to hit solid against RHP (.307).

So, how should people view his performance overall this year? In my opinion, he's proven to be a very good up-and-coming hitter who is still improving & will hit for more power over time. He will likely be a 20-20 contributor before too long, and will likely hit around .300 every season...very impressive for a 23 year old who just last year made the jump from AA ball to the majors. As long as you didn't expect him to hit 30 HR this year, you're likely very pleased with his production. He's the kind of guy that will end up finishing the year with top 20 OF numbers, (he's actually #22 currently on ESPN's player rater) even though he's produced quietly all along the way. Sure, we'd like a few more HR, but they will come over time, so be patient (if you're in a keeper league).

Did you know - Nick attended Young Harris Junior College and batted .439 (98-223) with 21 HR and 92 RBI and stole 19 bases in 20 attempts in 2003; he also had success as a pitcher, going 12-0 with 1 save and a 1.68 ERA in 15 games and led all junior college pitchers with 160 strikeouts. In 2003, he was listed by Baseball America as the 2nd best junior college prospect, behind current Oriole Adam Loewen.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Kevin Garnett Officially Traded to Celtics

So it's now official - Kevin Garnett is a Boston Celtic. This gives the Celtics what is potentially the best 'top 3' of any team in the NBA. Below are some of the top trios in the NBA today:

-Dallas: Nowitzki, Howard, & Terry
-Phoenix: Marion, Stoudemire, Nash
-San Antonio: Duncan, Parker, Ginobli
-Washington: Arenas, Butler, Jamison

In my opinion, the Celtics lucky trio is the top combination right now, but they're not spring chickens, so they'll need to win NOW.

Let's take a look at the potential fantasy impact to the players involved in this multi-player deal.

To Boston:
Kevin Garnett - He'll continue to be Kevin Garnett, no matter where he's playing. This means he'll still justify a top 10 draft pick, and this move may even give his career an uptick, especially if the Celtics are winning.

I expect Garnett's PPG to stay constant or even come down a bit. He'll no longer need to be the #1 option on offense, which will allow him to see statistical improvements in other areas of his game, specifically in assists. He also has a great shooter in Allen & a great all around scorer in Pierce to help open up the floor. He'll continue to be one of the top rebounders in the NBA, and he'll still produce in steals & blocks as well.

To Minnesota:
Al Jefferson - He was the key player in this deal for Minnesota. He had a breakout season in 2006, averaging 16 PPG, 11 RPG, & 1.5 BPG. What's really scary is he'll only be 22 when the season starts...He'll continue his improvement this season with Minnesota, as he'll be counted on to score more this season than he did in Boston. He'll potentially be a 20-10 guy, but I expect minimum production of 18 PPG, 10 RPG, & 1.5 BPG. He, along with Randy Foye, are the building blocks of the new Timberwolves. He'll be a beast, and he's getting better.

Gerald Green - He's a bit of a wild card in this deal. Some people think he's the next coming of Tracy McGrady; while others think he'll be a solid shooter but nothing more (OK, he's a great dunker too). He improved last season, as he had an opportunity to play when Pierce was injured; although he still only helped fantasy teams in points & 3s. His rebound, assist, steal & block totals were...um...rather unimpressive. He'll also have to compete for playing time in Minnesota, as they drafted Corey Brewer in the first round this year, and they also have Ricky Davis, Rashard McCants, Ryan Gomes, Craig Smith, and Trenton Hassell all looking for time at SG, SF, & PF. He is still very young (21), and he has impressive upside, but I don't think this will be his breakout season. He should get steady playing time & his value goes up due to the trade, but he'll be mainly be helpful for 3's this year.

Ryan Gomes - I've always liked Gomes, as he's one of those steady but unspectacular guys. He's really a PF with the height of a SF, but he seems to know the game very well & he puts himself in the right place at the right time to make plays. I don't think he'll ever be a superstar as a pro, but he'll make his way into Minnesota's rotation & get regular playing time this year. I think his value goes up in Minnesota, and he's a great guy to have on your bench or at the back of your lineup in deeper leagues.

Sebastian Telfair - Well, I guess he didn't have his breakout season in Boston. Although he's still young, he's had opportunities on two different teams but has yet to prove he has what it takes to be a consistent starter in the NBA. He'll likely back up Foye in Minnesota, and I don't see him having much fantasy value this season.

Theo Ratliff - He's been around a long time...and he has a big salary that's coming off the books at the end of next season; he was also the only player older than 24 that was sent to Minnesota as a part of this deal. He's now 34, but due to injuries, he isn't a fantasy contributor anymore.

Other players impacted by this trade:
Rajon Rondo - He's going to enter 2007 the same way he finished 2006, as the Celtics starting PG. He's a great defensive player, who will likely be in the top 10 in the NBA in steals this year. He'll also earn plenty of assists dishing to the trio, and he's also a solid rebounder for his size. Don't expect him to put up too many points, but he might average low double figures.

Kendrick Perkins - As of today, he's the man in the middle in Boston. He'll get boards & block some shots, but that's about all (and that's all he's going to be asked to do).

Tony Allen - He'll be a backup to both Paul Pierce & Ray Allen, but as long as he recovers fully from last season's injury, he should put up decent numbers. He was actually on fire last season when he got injured - to the tune of 20.8 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 3.4 APG, 4.0 SPG, 0.8 3PG, 58.5% from the field & 80% from the line over a 5 game stretch in January before his injury. He's proven that, when he's healthy, he can put up very impressive numbers; so if Allen or Pierce go down with an injury, he should be able to fill in nicely.

Ricky Davis - His value will still be stellar, but it's probably going to be a little lower post-trade, since Minnesota now has something like 37 swingmen that will all want playing time (I think they're mirroring the Atlanta Hawks model). He'll again put up solid numbers, and should be a steady mid-round pick in fantasy drafts.

I'll be back with some more baseball news over the next few days.

Frank Gore Injured - May Miss Preseason

Frank Gore (RB) of the San Francisco 49ers, universally viewed as a top 10 fantasy football pick this season, broke a small bone in his right hand on Monday and will potentially be out through the preseason.

Early indications are that this injury should heal in approximately 4 weeks, although it will still put some doubt in the minds of people using their first round pick on an injured / recently injured player. All you have to do is think about Shaun Alexander, who many people argued should be the #1 overall pick in last year's draft, to see an example of what can happen when your first round pick is injured - it puts a serious damper on your chances to win, sometimes taking you out of contention immediately (depending upon your skill & luck with the rest of your picks). There is nothing more frustrating for a fantasy football owner than starting the season with your top player injured.

Fantasy Impact:
This injury makes drafting Gore a slightly riskier decision, but it shouldn't deter anyone from still selecting him in the first round. Gore was one of the top sleeper picks last season, getting drafted around pick 60 - 70, on average. This year, some writers have him ranked #1 overall, so obviously expectations are high. I am a bit concerned about his ability to hold on to the ball after returning from a right hand injury, as he did "lead" NFL running backs last season in fumbles lost with 5, but I think he's worth the risk. He will be a medium risk, very high reward pick this year, and at this point, I would pick him without hesitation if his name is still on the board from pick 5 forward in a fantasy draft.

Did you know - Frank Gore set a Dade County record for rushing yardage in a season in 2000 with 2,953 yards and 34 touchdowns in his senior year in high school.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Activity on the Waiver Wire - July 30th Edition

From time to time, I'll discuss some actual player add/drop activity that is occurring in one of the leagues that I'm participating in this season. This time around, I'll highlight recent activity from a keeper league with the following setup:

-16 Team Yahoo roto 5x5 keeper (5 keepers)
-Batting - 8 starters (standard lineups) + 1 utility
-Pitching - 2 SP, 2 RP, 3 P
-Bench - 5 players
-DL - 1 player

It's a very deep league, and it's also stayed relatively active throughout the season (with managers making anywhere from 6 - 88 moves on the year). Today, I'll look at the last 3 moves (starting with the most recent).

Player Add - Pat Burrell (OF)
Player Drop - Shannon Stewart (OF)

This was actually a move that I made, so I think it's a great one! My team is struggling in HR (10th out of 16 teams), and, even though I picked up Stewart only a few weeks back, he hadn't been in my lineup much. My current OF + utility includes Carlos Beltran (injured - day to day), Shane Victorino, Nick Markakis, Corey Hart, and a recent pickup, Lastings Milledge...not a pure slugger in the bunch. Burrell is a proven HR hitter (although one with a mediocre career batting average of .258), and he has just been too hot recently to dismiss.

Burrell has 62 official plate appearances in July, batting .435 with 5 HR, 21 RBI, 15 R, and a 1.328 OPS. He also has 20 walks vs. only 13 strikeouts. Stewart has been steady, but nothing more. I think Burrell will have a solid 2nd half, and should stay in the producing part of the Phillies order, especially now that Chase Utley is out with an injury. I don't expect Burrell's avg to stay above .400 over the next few months, but if he can keep his walk rate high, he'll likely hit around .280 from here on out with HR, RBI & R; solid production from a waiver wire pickup.

Player Add - Brian Bannister (SP)
Player Drop - Marlon Byrd (OF)

I've mentioned Bannister's name here before in a top performers report, and I think he's a solid pickup. The team that picked him up is relatively thin at SP, after Bedard & Harang, so Bannister will be a useful addition. Byrd has done nothing recently to justify keeping on one's roster, especially in the last month. He's hitting .275 with 12 RBI for the month of July, but there are better FA OF available in this particular league, including Milton Bradley, Reggie Willits, & Matt Kemp (only to name a few). It was wise to ride out Byrd while he was hot (he did hit .398 in June), but now might be the time to cut ties & focus on another need.

Player Add - Connor Jackson (1B)
Player Drop - Felipe Lopez (SS, 2B)

The team that made this move had Lopez on his bench & is currently starting Ryan Garko at 1B. I like the move, as I don't think Lopez is going to break out of this funk he's in any time soon. He's an interesting study, since his numbers over the last three seasons have moved up and down more than earthquake reports showing California seismic activity.

His first year as a full time starter in 2005 was a breakout season, to say the least. As a SS, he hit .291, with 23 HR, 85 RBI, 15 SB, & a .838 OPS. He had fantasy managers (like me) salivating to pick him in the 2006 draft. So what happened last season? He ended up hitting .274, with 11 HR, 52 RBI, a .739 OPS, but he stole 44 bases! If not for the steals, he might have been dropped in many leagues. Even though I was looking for a true 5 category contributor, I found his overall production adequate.

In 2007, he's seemingly taken the worst of the last two seasons & combined them into a single, below average player. Fantasy managers who drafted him this season (his avg draft position was 86 in ESPN) expected to get a lift in steals, and other numbers that wouldn't necessarily help or hurt their team. What they received (thus far) is a .239 avg, 6 HR, 40 RBI, 15 SB, and a .639 OPS. Ouch...If you haven't already, I think it's safe to cut ties with Lopez this year.

Connor Jackson was one of my favorite sleepers coming into this season (along with Adrian Gonzalez at 1B). I actually drafted him for one of my teams, trying a new strategy with 1B; since 1B is a relatively deep position offensively, I waited until later in my drafts to find a starter. I was primarily focused on three young, up and coming 1B - C. Jackson, A. Gonzalez, & C. Kotchman. This has actually paid off quite nicely for me so far (especially earlier in the year), as Gonzalez has been very steady (even though he has cooled a bit lately). I dropped Jackson earlier in the year, but I think he has the skills to be an extremely solid major league player for many years.

Jackson epitomizes the MoneyBall philosophy of finding guys that have a good eye at the plate & can flat out hit. In his rookie season last year, he hit .291, with 15 HR, 79 RBI, an .809 OPS, and 54 BB vs. 73 K. I expected this to be his break out year (hitting over .300, and launching 20-25 HR), but it hasn't come to fruition yet. In 2007, he's at .274, with 7 HR, 35 RBI, a .797 OPS, and a 41 BB to 33 K ratio. Given his keen eye at the plate, I'm still expecting him to be an excellent major league hitter, who will probably bat .300 with 20-25 HR before too long. He hasn't broken out this season like I expected (and hoped), but don't worry...because it will happen. Expect him to be undervalued in drafts next season (depending upon how he finishes the season), and target him as a potential sleeper backup 1B for your team.

Any thoughts on these moves?

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Top Performers - July 27th Edition

Here are some of the top performers from games played on Friday, July 27th:

1. Placido Polanco (2B) DET, 5-5, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 2 R
His full season average is now up to .340. He's always been a very good hitter (his career average is .298), but he has turned it up a notch this year. Expect him to continue to help fantasy teams in Avg, although besides being 10th in the AL in runs, he won't add too much else to your team (he has 5 HR, 3 SB, and 45 RBI (which is solid) on the year).

2. Jhonny Peralta (SS) CLE, 2-5, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 2R
Jhonny has turned it around in '07, after a relatively disappointing sophomore season with the Indians. After his first full season in 2005, where he hit .292, with 24 HR & 78 RBI, fantasy managers expected him to continue this level of production. Unfortunately, he only hit only .257, with 13 HR & 57 RBI in 2006 (making him a great sleeper in this year's drafts). This year, he's improved to .278, 16 HR, 55 RBI, and 3 SB. What I find especially interesting is his walk / plate appearance ratio has increased vs. last year, as he's now walking once every 8.9 plate appearances vs. once every 10.1 last year. This shows me that he may be maturing as a hitter, and he's being more selective at the plate, even though he's still hitting for power. He should keep up his consistent pace, and finish the year with 20 - 25 HR & about 75-85 RBI. Very solid production from a middle infielder - and it doesn't hurt to play for one of the most potent offensive teams in the game today (my Cleveland Indians).

3. Hanley Ramirez (SS) FLA, 3-5, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 1 R
Wow, I guess that injured shoulder isn't that injured after all. I expected him to take it easy after the injury scare earlier in the week, but the HR tells me he's ready to be re-inserted in all lineups from here on out. I'm sure there are some frustrated owners out there (like me), who didn't immediately put him back in their lineups & missed out on last night's performance. He'll consider surgery on the shoulder (his non-throwing) after the season.

4. Brian Bannister (SP) KC, 7 IP, 4 H, 6K
Another solid start from Bannister. I still wouldn't recommend him in all leagues, but his stats sure do impress. On the year, he's 7-6, with a 3.42 ERA & 1.17 WHIP. Not bad at all...He won't get too many wins playing for the Royals, and he only strikes out 4.74 / 9, but you could do worse. I've mentioned before (in my Back from the DL Smoltz post), but I'm big on consistency from starting pitchers, and Bannister has gone 6 or more innings in all but 3 of his 17 starts on the year (only once since May 26th). He's also allowed more than 4 ER once this year. These two items are good indicators of a guy that won't hurt you as the season wears on.

5. Corey Hart (OF) Mil, 3-6, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 R
The singing heartthrob had a great game, which many fantasy owners were clamoring for. He's cooled off significantly from his unreal June, to the tune of hitting only .193 in July, with 4 HR, 10 RBI & 0 SB. That's a huge drop off from his .336, 9 HR, 21 RBI, and 10 SB June. By looking at his K & BB ratio, you can tell he's been pressing at the plate - in June, he 14 BB to 21 K's, but this month, he's got 3 BB to 17 K's. I think the real Corey Hart is somewhere between the two months. He'll still be a consistent 20-20 threat for many years, but don't expect months like June to happen every month...I'd still suggest keeping him in your lineup, but if his August starts slow as well, it might be time to give him a rest every now and then, based on the pitching match up.

Also, now is not the time to trade him away, since his value has dropped substantially this month (probably below his true market value), but if you can pry him away from a frustrated owner, now might be the time to pick up a future star at a discounted price. Five category contributors aren't very easy to come by, and this guy is still young and plays in a good offense (oh yeah, and he's talented) - good factors for future success.

Did you know - Corey Hart's (the Brewer) favorite movie is The Count of Monte Cristo

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Look Who's Back! - Starting Pitchers Edition

This is another of my "Look Who's Back!" reports; this time I'm going to look at some starting pitchers who have turned it around recently.

Tim Lincecum (SP)
July Numbers:
27 1/3 IP
3 W
15 H
9 BB
33 K
1.32 ERA
0.84 WHIP
.161 BAA

Very impressive month from Lincecum. He had an alarming June, with a 7.71 ERA & 0 W. He has done a wonderful job re-gaining his composure & pitching like a #1 starter. I've mentioned it before, but I am little concerned that the Giants might shut him down early this year, but until then, continue to start him every time out. If you're in a keeper league, you'll need to seriously consider holding onto him next season (depending upon your # of keepers). I don't expect a King Felix-like sophomore slump next seson for Tim.

Please note, he starts tonight against the Braves, so get him in your lineup.

Felix Hernandez (SP)
July Numbers:
34 1/3 IP
2 W
32 H
12 BB
25 K
3.41 ERA
1.28 WHIP
.252 BAA

He has progressed nicely during the season. His monthly ERA from May - July has gone from 6.30 to 4.60 to 3.41...that's a nice trend. His walk ratio is up in July from earlier in the year (3.15 BB/9 in July vs. 2.75 BB/9 through the end of June), but given his overall performance, I don't think it's anything to be concerned about. Even though he has yet to fulfil his potential after what he flashed during his rookie year, I think he's going to continue to gain consistency in the second half & he should be a solid performer from here on out.

Dave Bush (SP)
July Numbers:
25 IP
2 W
24 H
6 BB
22 K
3.96 ERA
1.20 WHIP
.240 BAA

He's had a solid turnaround in the past two months. Let's compare his April & May numbers vs. his June & July numbers:

1st 2 Months:
68 2/3 IP
5.64 ERA
1.33 WHIP

Past 2 Months:
50 2/3 IP
3.73 ERA
1.28 WHIP

His WHIP is still a little high given his historical performance, but he's been a steady pitcher recently. Given the choice, I'd still take James Shields (who I discussed in an earlier Player Profile) over Bush, but Bush should continue to give you solid innings for the remainder of the year. I also expect his WHIP to decline from it's current level, possibly finishing the year below 1.20.

Some other pitchers who've picked it up as the season has progressed include:

Jered Weaver (SP) - He has gained consistency in the past two months. In April & May, he put up a 4-3 record, with a 4.25 ERA & 1.58 WHIP vs. his June & July totals, where he's posted a 2-2 record, with a 2.18 ERA & a 1.14 WHIP. He'll should be a solid middle of the rotation starter the rest of the year.
Adam Wainwright (SP) - I was worried earlier in the year, as the former Braves prospect almost lost his spot in the Cardinals rotation with his performance, but he's really steadied himself in the past two months. In April & May, he put up a 4-4 record, with a 5.58 ERA & a 1.79 WHIP. In the past two months, he's improved with a 5-4 record, a 3.46 ERA & 1.26 WHIP. Still not a guy I'm overly high on, but not bad if you're looking for some decent starts.
Scott Kazmir (SP) - This guy still has consistency problems, but at some point, look for him to put it all together & be a true # 1 starter (just maybe not this year). In his last three starts (covering 19 2/3 innings), has has a 2-1 record, allowing only 4 ER, while striking out 15, walking 8 & allowing 14 hits. If he can keep the walks down to a reasonable level, he'll be very helpful to fantasy teams. Just don't expect many wins, since he does play for the Devil Rays. Although he'll still have some occasional inconsistency & control issues, he's a solid play for K's & ERA, and I'm looking for a breakout season in the near future.

Did you know - On May 24, 2006, in Adam Wainwright's first career at bat, he hit a home run against Noah Lowry of the San Francisco Giants. In doing so, he became the 22nd batter in Major League history to hit a home run off his first pitch thrown in his first at-bat, and the 11th National Leaguer.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Scott Linebrink traded to Brewers

Scott Linebrink was traded from the San Diego Padres to the Milwaukee Brewers today for 3 minor league prospects. He'll now join an already solid Brewers bullpen of Francisco Cordero (the closer), Derrick Turnbow, Carlos Villanueva and Matt Wise.

Linebrink has been very inconsistent this season, blowing 6 saves in the process (tied for most in the majors). He's also allowed 9 home runs, which is the same amount he allowed all of last season (even though he's pitched 30 less innings thus far this year). He'll move into a setup role (possibly by committee) with the Brewers.

Fantasy Impact:
Minimal; he'll still be used in the 7th or 8th inning, and the change of scenery probably won't hurt. He hasn't had his best season, and he has a 9.35 ERA for the month; so he likely won't play a factor in anybody winning a fantasy title this season. He'll still be good for holds (in leagues that use this stat), but he probably won't add much more value...he might get the occasional win or save, but given his peripherals, there are better middle reliever options out there.

I'd suggest Pat Neshek (who I looked at in a previous Player Profile), but he didn't make me look wise with his performance last night. I'm going to chalk it up to him just not having his good stuff - he pitched 1/3 of an inning, allowing 2 hits, 2 BB, and 3 ER. Oh well, days like that happen.

Some other middle relievers that might be available on your waiver wire are Ryan Franklin (STL), George Sherrill (SEA), Matt Guerrier (MIN), Santiago Casilla (OAK), and Rafael Betancourt (CLE). I'll probably go into more detail on these guys (along with some others) in a future middle relievers report.

Did you know - Scott was featured on a CD titled Oh Say Can You Sing? along with ten current Major League Baseball Players plus Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith.

Top Pitching Performers - July 24th Edition

Here are some of the top pitching performers from the games played on July 24th (Tuesday):

1. Daniel Cabrera (SP) BAL, 7 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 5 BB, 3 K
First solid (OK, dominant) performance from the big guy in awhile. Oddly, in the past when he's had dominant performances, a high K number (and sometimes, high BB number) goes with it. Last night, he didn't have pinpoint control (not his game), but he got 3 K's, 10 ground outs, and 3 fly outs to get a very good win.

Many pegged him as a pre-season sleeper for a breakout season, but he just hasn't put it all together yet. I do not think he's worthy of an add at this time, as his main value coming into the year was K's, and he's well below his last two season's performance (7.11 K/9 in '07 vs. around 9 K/9 each of the last two years). He's simply too erratic, but keep any eye on him for a possible breakout performance next season.

2. Dustin McGowan (SP) TOR, 7 1/3 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5K
Another good performance for McGowan. This follows up a great win against the Yankees in his last start. For the month of July, he's got a 2.73 ERA; his ERA has actually come down each of the past three months - from 5.90 to 4.54 to the 2.73. He's still going to have occasional inconsistency (he is only 25), but he's a great add in a deeper league. I expect him to continue to put up solid numbers overall for the rest of the season.

3. Daisuke Matsuzaka (SP) BOS, 7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5K
Weird, he had nearly the exact same line as McGowan...He did a great job keeping my favorite team (and offensive powerhouse), the Cleveland Indians, in check. In July, his ERA is up & his K rate is down, but he's still a sure start every time he takes the mound. Quite a respectable rookie campaign; as at his current pace, he might hit 20 wins.

4. C.C. Sabathia (SP) CLE, 7 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 0 BB, 7 K
Was out-duled by Matsuzaka, losing 1-0. This start give Sabathia owners some optimism, after having a few iffy starts & a 6.38 ERA in July. He'll be fine, so continue to start him & enjoy a possible 20 win season in Cleveland.

5. Javier Vazquez (SP) CHI, 8 IP, 4 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 8 K
Another solid start from Vazquez. In 38 July IP, he as only 5 BB vs. 34 K's. If he's still available in your league, he's a very good pickup. He has consistently been making quality starts, he's striking guys out, and he ranks 5th in the AL in WHIP. He's gone 6 innings or more in 19 of his 20 starts this season...good stuff.

Did you know - Daniel Cabrera & C.C. Sabathia are both the same height, 6-7?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Hunter Pence to the DL - Out 4-6 weeks

Bad news today for anyone who has Hunter Pence on their roster - he was just placed on the 15 day DL, and is expected to be out 4-6 weeks. Technically, he has a "right wrist capsular sprain with a small chip fracture". This hurts fantasy rosters, as he's had an excellent run going in his rookie season. For the year, he was batting .330, with 12 HR, 45 RBI, 8 SB, a .919 OPS, and likely leading the NL rookie of the year race.

Who out there can supply you with solid production while Pence is out? In the one league where I have Pence, I have a rotating bench (where 2 of these players are in my lineup at any given time), which includes the likes of:

Jeremy Hermida - OF (3 HR, 8 RBI, .293 avg & .888 OPS)
Mark Teahen - 1B, 3B, OF (1 RBI in July, with a .275 avg & .691 OPS)
Alex Gordon - 1B, 3B (10 RBI in July, but with only a .213 avg & .520 OPS)
Josh Barfield - 2B (7 RBI in July, 3 SB, .230 avg & .546 OPS)
Bill Hall - 3B, SS, OF (who's still on the DL, but should be coming back soon)

In my case, I'll probably put Hall back at 3B when he returns, place Gordon on the bench, and ride it out with Hermida (the no-brainer, since he's heated up a bit recently) & Teahen (since the rest of my team is relatively strong in RBI, and Teahen's avg won't hurt me). I'll likely be keeping an eye on guys daily to see if anyone heats up...since it's never a bad idea to ride a player on a hot streak, especially when you're down some players due to injury.

I would suggest looking first to your bench for a replacement, since you have them on your roster for a reason (even if they're not as good as Pence). If you don't have any help there, you might want to check out guys that might be available on your waiver wire (based on how deep your league is), such as:

Billy Butler - OF - He's been hot this month, with a .391 avg, 2 HR, 20 RBI, and a 1.037 OPS
Matt Kemp - OF - He's also been heating up in July, with increased playing time due to injuries - .345 avg, 5 HR, 15 RBI, and a 1.109 OPS
Pat Burrell - OF - He's hitting .391, with 4 HR, 13 RBI, a 1.220 OPS, and he has more BB than K's in July, meaning even though he's had a pretty weak season overall, he's keeping his patience at the plate & not constantly swinging for the stars
Dave Roberts - OF - Many people dropped him earlier in the year after his slow start & subsequent stint on the DL, but he's hitting well this month, with a .364 avg, 5 RBI, 14 R, and 6 SB. He's a good option if you're looking for some steals, as long as you can absorb the lack of HR & RBI (anyone who's had Juan Pierre on a roster knows all about this)
Milton Bradley - OF - He's always a risk, but you might want to ride out his current hot streak. For the month of July, he's at a .356 avg, 3 HR, 8 RBI, 2 SB, and a 1.042 OPS. He might snap at any time, but I'd be willing to take the chance.

Of these suggestions, Milton Bradley is likely to put up the most "Hunter Pence-esque" numbers if he's running on all cylinders. Butler is going to be one dimensional, but man, can he hit. Kemp might not play every day, but he's a great talent, with power & speed. Burrell's avg might hurt, but he's likely to hit some HR & drive in some runs. And Roberts is the SB guy, who will also be solid in avg.

Any way you look at it, the loss of Pence will hurt fantasy rosters...but there are options out there, so move fast & you'll be fine.

Did you know - Hunter was originally drafted in the 40th round out of high school in 2002 by the Milwaukee Brewers before deciding to attend the University of Texas-Arlington, where he majored in finance.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Player Profile - James Shields

By now, I'm sure you've seen James Shields' pitching line from yesterday's game against the Yankees:

3 1/3 innings
10 H
10 ER
1 HR allowed
4 BB
1 K

Ouch...this one game increased his ERA for the year from 3.91 to 4.44! Every pitcher has a day when he just doesn't have it, but Shields' recent cooling off has me & other fantasy owners a bit concerned - should we be?

Let's take a look at Shields' performance by month:

April - 3.75
May - 2.66
June - 5.57
July - 6.82

April - 0.92
May - 1.06
June - 1.14
July - 1.48

April - 9.25
May - 6.11
June - 8.69
July - 6.28

April - 5.29
May - 3.20
June - 15.50
July - 3.50

He's done a great job to earn 8 wins on the year, since he does play for the Devil Rays (with their 38-60 record). He was also amazingly consistent through his first 13 starts of the year - he lasted 6 1/3 innings or more in each of those games, and allowed a maximum of 5 runs, which he only did once during this period. Over this stretch, he had 6 wins, a 3.05 ERA, a 0.96 WHIP, allowing 7.02 H/9, striking out 7.67 /9, and having a 4.61 K/BB ratio...good stuff.

In the 8 starts since, he has failed to make it passed the 6th inning 3 times. His stats over this timeframe are a confusing mix of bad & good - the bad: 7.26 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 11.92 H/9; the good: 7.08 K/9, and a 5.43 K/BB ratio. If you exclude his last shellacking, his control numbers are looking better now than earlier in the year; over 45 innings (7 starts), he has allowed only 3 walks vs. 37 K's (that's right, 3 walks total over 7 starts!), which explains his still above average K/9 & the very impressive K/BB ratio. Something else to note is Shields had a very tough July last year as well, with a 6.49 ERA vs. an ERA in June & August of 3.60 & 2.78, respectively.

Even after his 10 run outing yesterday, Shields still ranks 11th in the majors in WHIP. And even though his strikeout ratio is down during his last few starts, his pinpoint control has continued to impress.

I think this is simply a case of a player coming out of relative obscurity (after a solid, but not overly impressive rookie campaign last year) who had a great start to the '07 season...and with that great start came unrealistic expectations. I certainly think you should keep a close eye on him over his next few starts, but I would not recommend dropping or trading him at this point. I see him continuing to add value in K's & WHIP, although his ERA will likely be more pedestrian from this point out & he probably won't get too many more wins (he plays for the Devil Rays, don't forget). I see him finishing the year around 12 wins, an ERA in the low 4's, with a WHIP close to where it's at today (or slightly lower).

Basically, Shields has turned into a more valuable version of pre-season uber-sleeper Dave Bush of the Brewers (who I'll be discussing in a future column later this week).

Did you know - James went to high school with Baltimore Ravens QB Kyle Boller.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Player Profile - Pat Neshek

Periodically, I'll take a look at a player that might be available in your league & how adding him to your roster might impact your fantasy performance. Today's player profile is Pat Neshek, relief pitcher for the Minnesota Twins.

Pat Neshek - RP
Season Stats:
1.48 ERA
0.78 WHIP
48 2/3 Innings
60 K (12.89 / 9 Innings)
16 BB
3.75 K / BB Ratio
9 Holds
.137 BAA

Depending upon your league size, type (roto vs. H2H), & the value placed on middle relievers, he has probably either been on a roster since day one of the season, or he's been sitting out there on the waiver wire the entire time (like he was until I recently picked him up in an ESPN league that doesn't have a many bench spots). His stats are just sick - he also has that really cool sidearm delivery (that's a very cool site, by the way) that reminds me of guys like Dan Quisenberry. This specific attribute won't help you in fantasy baseball, but it sure is cool.

He succeeds using effectively two pitches - a fastball (that he's thrown approximately 49% of the time this season), & a slider (that he's thrown approximately 50% of the time); that remaining 1% or so is his change up. His slider is his "out" pitch, as batters hit around .250 against his fastball, vs. less than .130 against his slider.

I currently have Neshek on each of my rosters this season (2 Roto & 1 H2H), and he has been a valuable asset for my teams. He has pitched nearly 50 innings already this season, so he will be helpful in ERA, WHIP, K's, and he'll also get a win every now and again for good measure; and if your league uses 'holds' as a category, he's extremely helpful (and very likely, already on a roster). If you're lagging in some of the pitching categories, a top middle reliever like Neshek will certainly help you out. He may even be more useful than a 'middle of the road' starter, the type you have on your roster just because you needed to fill out your pitching staff...a guy that doesn't hurt you but doesn't help you either; you know the type.

Neshek is an excellent pitcher (and a future closer, although not this season), so if he's out there on your waiver wire, I would consider picking him up & dropping either a mediocre starter or a offensive bench player that you haven't had in your lineup for some time (since you're probably holding on to a guy like that "just in case", but Neshek can certainly help you immediately). He'll likely continue to produce at a high level, so if he's out there, add him now.

Did you know - Pat attended Butler University, where he holds the single-game (18 vs. Detroit, April 15, 2001), single-season (118, 2001) and career (280) strikeout records (thanks to MLB.com for the info).

Top Performers - July 21st Edition

Here are some of the top performers from the games played on July 21st (Saturday):

1. Willie Harris (OF) ATL, 6-6, 6 RBI, 4 R, 1 SB
He's been in a platoon situation with Matt Diaz (who has also played extremely well this season, hitting .354 w/ 5 HR & 3 SB), so he's really not worthy of a fantasy roster except in very deep leagues or if you're looking to pick up a few steals. On the season, he's hitting .339 w/ 16 stolen bases in 21 chances.

2. Tim Lincecum (P) SF, W, 8 IP, 4 H, 8 K
I've talked about him before, but he continues to prove he belongs in the majors & on every fantasy league roster around. I expect him to keep pitching well, and although there will still be some occasional inconsistency, it looks like he's maturing fast. San Francisco is going to keep a close eye on his innings as the year progresses, so be aware of the fact that they might shut him down a little early (especially if they're out of the race for a playoff spot, which appears very likely). Even I am surprised that Super Freak Tim could easily be the ace of the Giants rotation as early as next season (since Zito has been average at best, while Cain has fought inconsistency & periodic control problems this season).

3. Ryan Howard (1B, DH) PHI, 3-3, 2 HR, 5 RBI, 3 R, 2 BB
Howard has really come on strong after a slow April & May. He hit .222 w/ 9 HR & 30 RBI in April & May combined, as compared to .310 w/ 18 HR & 49 RBI in June & July (so far). He's back to the player we all expected when we spent a first round pick on him this season.

4. Alex Rodriguez (3B) NYY, 3-4, 1 HR, 4 RBI, 2 R
Big surprise; he's the man & he'll keep it up. The big question is how much will Scott Boras negotiate for Arod next season?

5. Jeff Weaver (SP) SEA, 8 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 4 K
His full season stats still look a little scary (OK, a lot), but he's really been solid the last two months. If you exclude his July 15th start against Detroit when he allowed 7 ER, he hasn't allowed more than 3 ER in his past 8 starts...and his full season ERA is still 6.19 - so I don't need to do any statistical analysis for you to see how bad he must have been before he turned it around recently. He has a 2.66 ERA over the past two months, although I still don't think he's a great add to your fantasy rotation. He has only 2 wins during this time (not his fault), is allowing about a hit per inning (a solid 1.15 WHIP), averaging 4.97 K / 9 innings, 1.95 BB / 9 innings, for a 2.55 K / BB ratio (not special).

Did you know - The best SP K / BB ratio of all time was Bret Saberhagen's 1994 season (the strike shortened one), when he had an 11.00 K / BB ratio (143 K to only 13 BB). Ben Sheets came close to that last season (which was shortened by injury) when he had a ratio of 10.55. This season, Sheets is down to a more real world 3.60, which is still above average although not superhuman.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Look Who's Back! - Hitters Edition

This is the first of my "Look Who's Back!" reports. What I'm going to do here is take a look at a player or players who have recently recovered from a slump & give you my thoughts on which player is the real deal - the slumping one or the breakout one. This first report will focus on some hitters; a pitcher's report is coming soon.

Today I'm going to review a few hitters who have been coming on strong recently.

Corey Patterson (OF)
His July numbers are:
.355 Avg
3 HR
6 SB
11 R
1 BB
12 K

What I find interesting is that his walk totals have gone from 7-4-2-1 since April. Usually, a declining walk rate is not a good sign, but I think in this case, Patterson is finally getting comfortable at the plate again. For him, that means a high K rate, low BB rate, and mediocre Avg...but his free swinging aggressiveness will bring some more HR & likely get his Avg in the .260 - .275 range.

I think he's a smart pick up now if he already hasn't been nabbed in your league. If you need steals & solid peripherals
(although he won't hit .300 from here on out), he's a good choice.

Julio Lugo (2B, 3B, SS)
His July numbers are:
.400 Avg
2 HR
13 RBI
5 SB
9 R
5 BB
4 K

Man, what a way to break out of his season long slump. His April - June monthly batting averages were - .256, .209, & .089! The biggest downside of his prolonged slump & subsequent return to the lineup is Boston has moved him to the bottom half of the order; so the run totals won't be great, but he'll likely finish strong in all other categories.

I actually dropped him in one of my leagues a few weeks back, after giving up on him this year. Thanks to Rickie Weeks' lack of production (and Howie Kendrick's recurring injury bug), I recently picked him back up & I am enjoying this run. He should finish the year strong, so he's a good one to grab if you need middle infield help.

Andruw Jones (OF)
His July numbers are:
.306 Avg
7 HR
19 RBI
2 SB
18 R
9 BB
11 K

I was about the put a fork in him last month, but never underestimate the power of a contract year. His batting average for the month of June was a putrid .143; I can honestly say that I didn't expect such a strong return from the dead from Andruw this month. Apparently, he has been choking up on the bat more, which gives him more bat control, which in turn, has led to the improvement.

He's probably already on a roster in every league out there, but I was lucky enough to pick him up in one league after somebody dropped him earlier in the season; he was hitting around .190 at the time. He'll never be a great batting average guy, but he should good for about 12-15 HR from here on out, along with good RBI production, and maybe a stolen base here or there for good measure. If you've got him, continue to play him while he's hot...you also might be able to get someone to bite on trading for him now, which might not be a bad move if you're strong in the OF & weak in other areas. His value is higher now than it has been at any point this season, although he's still going to be valued below where he was coming into the season.

Coming on Strong:
Ryan Garko (1B)
His July numbers are:
.455 Avg
3 HR
10 RBI
11 R
6 BB
8 K

Garko plays for my favorite team (in the city where I was born & raised), the Cleveland Indians, so forgive me if I seem a little biased. He currently has a 14 game hitting streak (Post game update - it's now up to 15, after a 2-3 day on Saturday against the Rangers), which is tops in the majors right now. The only reason he's on this list is his quiet June (OK, that's an understatement) where he hit .192 with only 2 HR & 8 RBI.

I think he's a good sleeper at 1B the rest of the season. I recently dropped Nick Swisher to pick up Garko in one league, and I haven't regretted it yet (although it is risky & I'm normally not a backer of "picking up the hot player & discarding a proven veteran" strategy). He is probably available as a free agent in many leagues currently, but if he continues to hit, his ownership % will increase quickly. I expect him to finish the year around .300, with around 20 HR & 65-75 RBI. Go Indians!

Did you know - Ryan graduated from Stanford University in 2003 with a degree in
American Studies, a mix of politics and economics.

Knocking on the Door:
I'm not quite ready to declare Jermaine Dye back yet, but keep an eye on him. He's hitting .306 since the all star break, with 4 HR & 7 RBI. He may be in one of these reports soon, but I'm just not sold on his turnaround yet...oh yeah, and I dropped him myself in a league before the all star break, so I'm a little bitter about missing out on the recent streak.

That's all for now...I'll be back with a "Look Who's Back - Pitchers Edition" in the next few days.

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