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.

Eric Bedard has Officially Arrived

Incredible. That's the best word to describe Eric Bedard's performance recently. Check out the stats from his last three starts:

Last 3 Starts:
23 IP
0.39 ERA
0.48 WHIP
5 BB
33 K
.087 BAA

He pitched a 7 inning 1 hitter last night, with 11 Ks. That followed up his previous start, which was a 7 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 7 K performance. Oh yeah, and three starts ago, he pitched a complete game, allowing 2 H, 0 BB, with 15 Ks!

Has Leo Mazzone, former Braves pitching coach & current Orioles pitching coach, used his magic on Bedard? Who knows, but I think it's safe to say that Bedard is starting to find his groove. Just damn...

Super-Freak Rookie Tim Lincecum Starts Today

I'm absolutely on the Tim Lincecum bandwagon, so I just wanted to highlight that he's starting today against Milwaukee; first pitch is at 3:55 EST.

T. Lincecum (4-2, 4.37 ERA)
D. Bush (8-7, 4.84 ERA)

Tim had a great May, really rough June, but he's come back strong in July.

July Stats:
3 starts
19 1/3 Innings
1.86 ERA
0.98 WHIP
8 BB
25 K
.169 BAA

So forget about the whole Bonds hoopla - if you have Extra Innings, or can catch this on your San Fran or Milwaukee sports channel, watch this game to see Lincecum work his magic. He'll continue to have his ups and downs, but he's got nasty stuff & I've seen him make the some of the best hitters in the majors look stupid...

Post Game Update - San Francisco wins 8-0 - Not a bad day at the office for Mr. Lincecum. A win, 8 IP, 4 hits allowed, 1 BB & 8 K's...oh yeah, and he threw 73 of his 103 pitches for strikes - that's 71%, which is an awesome ratio. Keep it up Tim!

Back from the DL - John Smoltz

This is going to be a relatively short post, but today I'm going to look at John Smoltz (SP in yahoo game).

Basically, he's an ageless wonder (he is 40, in case anyone forgot). He continues to produce at an incredible level, making himself one of the most consistent starting pitchers in fantasy baseball. Right now, he's 39th overall on ESPN's player rater & the 21st rated pitcher (20th out of the starters), but I rank him higher than that, mainly for his consistency (and I live in Atlanta, so I'm a fan of him - both as a player and as a person).

Full Season Stats:
2.88 ERA
1.22 WHIP
107 K
24 BB
.257 BAA

Pre-DL Stats:
3.07 ERA
1.23 WHIP
22 BB
.260 BAA

Post-DL Stats (all after the all star break):
0.00 ERA
1.00 WHIP
11 K
2 BB
.200 BAA

What to Note:
OK, it's only been one start, but his velocity was strong & his K level was high. This tells me that he's fully healthy, and ready for a strong 2nd half.

Expect another "Smoltz-esque" 2nd half this season. This means consistency, strong K levels, a good win total (I expect him to finish around 16 wins on the year), and attractive ERA & WHIP. One of the best parts about having Smoltz in your rotation is you know what you're going to get:

-He has lasted 6 or more innings in 14 of his 17 starts this year
-He has allowed 5 or more runs only 2 times in his 17 starts

There is none of that Daniel Cabrera inconsistency here...he's a rock, and if you've got him, play him.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Back from the DL - BJ Upton

This is the first of many "Back from the DL" player reports. What I'll do is take a look at a player who recently returned from the DL, Injured list, or a period of inactivity due to injury & compare their post-injury production to their pre-injury production.

Some players need a good amount of regular playing time after an injury to get their timing & game back, while others appear as good (or at times, better) as pre-injury immediately after return.

Today I'm going to take a look at BJ Upton (2b, 3b, OF in yahoo game)

Full Season Stats:
.336 avg
11 hr
38 rbi
13 sb
30 bb (or 12% of his total plate appearances)
74 k (or 29% of his total plate appearances)

Pre-Injury Stats:
.320 avg
9 hr
31 rbi
13 sb
22 bb (or 10% of his total plate appearances)
68k (or 31% of his total plate appearances)

Post-DL Stats (all after the all-star break):
.478 avg
2 hr
7 rbi
0 sb
8 bb (or 26% of his total plate appearances)
6 k (or 19% of his total plate appearances)

What to Note:
What I'd like to highlight here is the bb & k ratios. Obviously it's only a small sample size, but the increased walk rate bodes well for Upton's 2nd half. He's still going to strike out at an above average rate, but based on his first 7 games back, it appears he's being more selective at the plate, getting more pitches to hit, and getting on base more which will lead to more opportunities for stolen bases & runs. He's also back in the 3 hole in the order (after batting 6th his first 3 games back), so the RBI opportunities should also present themselves (especially if Carl Crawford has a good 2nd half, since he's been hitting 2nd in the order).

Now I've seen Adam Dunn play this trick on me before, when he has stretches where his K's drop below his normal level, while he still gets lots of walks...before he comes back down to 'Dunn Earth' (huge strikeout & walk totals & low avg); but in the case of Upton, I think he's still maturing so it could be sustainable.

Again, this is a small sample size, so it could be a fluke...but I truly think he's improving rapidly as a hitter (since an improving walk rate is often the sign of a maturing hitter); which is scary, since he has an incredibly quick swing, power, speed, and youth going for him. Now isn't the best time to trade for him (especially after his 2 hr & 3 rbi on Friday night), but he's a great long term keeper & I'd love to have him on one of my rosters. Based on Upton's free swinging nature, I never thought he could keep up his .320 + average over the full season, but with his more selective approach recently, I now think he might end up finishing in the .305 range, with around 20 hr & 27 sb...pretty sweet for a guy who qualifies at multiple positions & could have been on the waiver wire at some point in many leagues this season.

Just Because:
By the way, since I'm on Tampa Bay, keep an eye on Delmon Young - he's been on a hot streak recently (even though he went hitless in Friday's 14-4 win against the Yankees, breaking his 11 game hitting streak). He's up to over .290 on the season, and is hitting over .380 in July. His lack of walks, hr, and sb is a little frustrating (since he was estimated by many experts to be a 20-20 guy before the season started), but watch out. He could be close to really breaking out, so if he's available in any shallow leagues, now might be your last chance to get him...and don't worry, I think his bat throwing days are over, especially since Elijah Dukes is now back in the minors at Class A Vero Beach.

Continuing this random, run on thought, at least it sounds like Dukes is honest (since he admitted to the judge that he smokes pot on a regular basis). His estranged wife said that he "used marijuana during the day, night and drank heavily, downing Patron tequila, Hennessy cognac and Smirnoff vodka until he has passed out." I wonder if this contributed at all to his anger problems?

Favorite Fantasy Sites

Before I get into the 'meat and potatoes' of giving you some hardcore analysis, I wanted to link to a few of my current favorite fantasy sports sites. If you don't check these out, you're really missing some great writing & analysis:

Roto Authority:
Does an incredible job covering fantasy baseball. Frequent updates, great analysis, and an very accurate annual fantasy baseball guide & detailed player projections

Seamless Baseball:
Great baseball site with regular updates, weekly closer rankings, and a ton of great advice & insight

Fantasy Gameday:
Fantastic fantasy football & fantasy baseball site with regular updates & insightful analysis

You'll probably notice a trend with these sites, regular updates (of course they have awesome info, as well). I'll strive to keep updating the Roto Advice site on a regular basis, so I can one day be respected around the web world like these sites. I'll probably be adding links to these sites, along with other great fantasy sport sites, soon on Roto Advice.

My next update will be a "Back from the DL" report, highlighting B.J. Upton of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.


Welcome to the new Roto Advice fantasy sports blog! This site will cover the exciting fantasy sports worlds of:


I will try to cover these sports with a combination of analytical analysis (since I'm a finance guy) & 'laugh out loud' humor. OK, the humor thing might not make you laugh out loud...or even laugh at all, but at least I'll try; I guess as long as it makes me laugh, that's all that matters.

Let me also apologize for already lying to you, the readers...this blog will provide analysis & advice for both roto leagues & head to head (H2H) leagues. I'm newer to the H2H format, but I'll make sure I cover both sides of the fantasy world. Admittedly, the site name of 'Roto' Advice is a bit misleading, but let me see you try to come up with an easy to remember yet fitting title for what I'm going to provide. And believe it or not, 'Fantasybaseballfootballandbasketball advice.blogspot.com' was already taken!

Again, welcome to the site and I look forward to helping provide you fresh fantasy advice that will assist you with winning your league(s) (or at least help get you out of last place).

The first real post will appear soon, so keep checking back (I'm sure you're on pins and needles)...By the way, please bear with me as I work to get the format of the site just right; I'll probably make about 500 changes over the next few weeks as I work though what I think looks best, so your feedback will be greatly appreciated. Let me know what is working & what is not...and what you want to hear about.

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