Archive for June, 2006

Why I Want a Top-3 Pick

Friday, June 30th, 2006

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

This may be a no-brainer, but a top-3 pick in fantasy football this year is more coveted than ever. It’s something that cannot be understated, and you should be doing what you can to attain one. Offer trades to move up if necessary – whatever it takes, because a top-3 pick gives owners a huge advantage in this year’s fantasy football season.

Larry Johnson, Shaun Alexander and LaDainian Tomlinson will go 1-3 in nearly every league this year. I won’t go into great detail, at least for now, to which order I prefer these three, as you really can’t go wrong with any of the trio. Larry Johnson tallied 2,093 total yards and 21 touchdowns in just nine starts. During those starts, he averaged 181 yards and two TDs per game. With Herm Edwards now coaching, the Chiefs may actually run the ball more. It’s safe to say his diapers are permanently off. All Shaun Alexander did was set an NFL record for touchdowns with 28, and win the NFL MVP award. He hasn’t missed a game in six seasons and plays in the defensively challenged NFC West. LaDainian Tomlinson reached pay dirt 21 times and amassed over 1,800 yards in what was considered a down year. Imagine if he hadn’t been slowed by rib and chest injuries. The last time LT2 played with an unproven signal caller, like he is this year with Philip Rivers, he caught 100 balls.

Not only are these three ballcarriers studs, but whom are you going to draft fourth? Clinton Portis would probably be the most obvious choice, but he’s a significant drop off from the big three. Picks 5-15 become even murkier. Not only is the mid to late first round unsettled, but the second round is a crapshoot as well. The way I see it, there are at least 27 very solid players in this year’s draft. Meaning, in a 12-team league, a top-3 pick will also end up with reliable second and third round choices. Guys like Antonio Gates, Kevin Jones, Willie Parker and Anquan Boldin are some names that should be available, with the possibility of someone even better falling. This year more than ever, make sure you have a top-3 pick.

More YouTube

Wednesday, June 28th, 2006

By Robby Wellington – Staff Writer

Last week, Bill Simmons wrote an excellent piece for Page 2, singing the praises of YouTube.com and linking to over 30 clips that belong in the Web site’s “imaginary Hall of Fame.” As a proud owner of a mindless desk job, I consider myself somewhat of an expert on e-mails containing forwarded jokes, articles and, of course, video clips. Without further adieu, here are some of my favorite YouTube clips that Simmons left off.

Sports Clips:

  • Jim(Chris) Everett – The legendary clip of Jim Rome provoking Jim Everett by calling him Chris. People still debate as to whether or not this was staged.
  • Greg Jones’ Hit – Jacksonville Jaguars running back Greg Jones lays out All-American Dexter Reid (now of the Indianapolis Colts). This is the best hit I’ve ever seen by a ballcarrier.
  • Eastern Motors Commercial – Can someone please tell me how such a provincial, low-budget commercial landed so much big-name talent?
  • Vince Carter Gets Up – Vinsanity’s memorable dunk over a 7’2” French stiff (who was, not surprisingly, a first round pick by the Knicks in ’99).

Other Clips:

  • Talent Show Dancer – This clip is a good five years old, but it never ceases to amaze me. Wait 50 or so seconds for the second dancer to come on.
  • The Pickle Girl – The most recent internet sensation; Maury Povich is a sadist.
  • Ali G interviews Becks and Posh – This is the funniest celebrity interview I’ll ever see. Is David Beckham braindead or just an incredibly good sport? Maybe a bit of both.
  • Leprechaun in a Tree – Pretty much everyone has already seen this clip. If you haven’t yet, wow. Mobile, AL is awesome!
  • Bubb Rubb – This is essentially a Leprechaun prequel.

Ridiculously Cheesy Music Videos:

Billy Ocean – I’m giving the legendary Billy Ocean credit for three very different yet all equally amazingly bad videos.

  • Loverboy – I have no idea what about this song inspired a “Star Wars” themed video, but just sit back and enjoy.
  • When the Going Gets Tough (The Tough Get Going) – The tough in this video are comprised of Kathleen Turner, Danny Devito and Michael Douglas from the film “Romancing the Stone.” Their white tuxedos, dance moves and backup vocals give the song a big boost.

News & Notes

Tuesday, June 27th, 2006
  • Maybe it’s time to reevaluate how valuable Jamie Moyer is as a fantasy pitcher, at least if you play in a daily transaction league. The sample set is large enough now to realize the home/road splits are not a fluke and can be fully taken advantage of. Since last year, Moyer has a 5.79 ERA and 1.64 WHIP in 121 2/3 road innings. At home, he has a nifty 2.85 ERA and 1.16 WHIP over 183 1/3 innings. While not a big strikeout contributor, Moyer is seriously a valuable commodity if used right.
  • Jonathan Papelbon tossed 2 1/3 scoreless innings of relief Saturday, and the outing lowered his ERA by 0.01 points. Unreal, all the way from 0.25 to 0.24. The second place finisher for AL Rookie of the Year (Francisco Liriano) is going to have some pretty ridiculous numbers for a non-winner.
  • Defenses get edgy when Ichiro Suzuki hits. He has reached base on errors seven times this year, more than any other AL player.
  • Ryan Anderson was the Mariners’ top draft pick in 1997, and he was called the “Little Unit” because he was a 6-foot-10 lefty who threw a triple-digit fastball and emerged as baseball’s best prospect. But he never made the majors, having undergone three shoulder surgeries. Now he’s a student at the Scottsdale Culinary Institute and hopes to be an executive chef and restaurant owner.
  • Jason Johnson was a bust in Cleveland after signing for one year and $4 million. Before being traded to the Red Sox, he basically served as a batting-practice pitcher. Check these numbers: .341 (opponents’ batting average), .403 (average for lefties), .469 (average for hitters swinging at the first pitch), .447 (average for hitters leading off innings), .387 (average for No. 9 hitters) and .467 (average for No. 8 hitters). Good luck, Boston.
  • The Twins have won 15 of 17 games but gained just .5 game in the standings on Detroit and 3 on the White Sox.
  • Last year the Angles allowed the fewest unearned runs in the majors – this year, the most.
  • Not only does Jose Reyes have more walks this year than all of last, but also his June has been white-hot. Check out these numbers: .430/.480/.720 for a 1201 OPS. He’s also chipped in 14 stolen bases. In mid-season leagues, he looks like a top-5 pick.
  • Fox Sports Network, which failed miserably in attempts to challenge ESPN’s SportsCenter several years ago, will try again at 11:30 p.m. starting July 3. But this time, there’s a catch – FSN’s program will feature nothing but highlights. In other words, no ponderous lead-ins from anchors trying to show us how clever they are. The concept just might work, though it’s unrealistic to think it will challenge SportsCenter in the ratings.
  • Barry Bonds is a 13-time All-Star but will probably have to make it as a reserve this year, as he stands ninth among outfielders in the latest balloting. Will National League Manager Phil Garner take him? As vulnerable as Bonds has looked at times, his .476 on-base percentage towers over the leading vote-getters among N.L. outfielders: Jason Bay (.407), Carlos Beltran (.395) and Alfonso Soriano (.340.).
  • When the Baltimore Orioles took a chance by signing Russ Ortiz Sunday, both sides touted the way pitching coach Leo Mazzone worked miracles with Ortiz in Atlanta. In 2003, Ortiz finished fourth in Cy Young balloting behind Eric Gagne, Jason Schmidt and Mark Prior. But the Mazzone magic has yet to follow the coach to Baltimore: The Orioles’ 5.19 ERA is second-to-last in the majors. If Russ Ortiz isn’t the very worst pitcher in the AL from here on out, Mazzone is a genius.
  • The Dodgers’ starting infield Saturday and Sunday consisted of four shortstops: Nomar Garciaparra (1B), Ramon Martinez (2B), Cesar Izturis (3B) and Rafael Furcal (SS).
  • Tim Hudson is 90-4 in his career when given four or more runs to work with.
  • The Marlins have the best record in baseball over the last month-plus, at 22-9. All of a sudden, Willis, Josh Johnson and Scott Olsen shape a formidable trio. They have plenty of more talent in the farm system as well. Maybe this rebuilding thing won’t take nearly as long as most anticipated.

Deal or No Deal

Monday, June 26th, 2006

Sorry for a somewhat inactive weekend with posts. It was a busy one; highlighted by a Radiohead concert in Berkeley. Great show, and the venue was small, intimate and made it that much better. If you have never done so, you should probably check out the best band in the world for yourself. Anyway, trading is a big part of baseball, whether it’s real or fantasy. Today, I want to go over some of the very worst (or best, depending on the team’s point of view) trades of the past decade – three especially stand out above all the rest. I’m talking real baseball this time. But if you’re in a league who has a frustrated Mark Teixiera owner, he’s one of the best buy low candidates out there. Before Friday, he had gone 22 games without a home run. The guy is hitting .232 at Ameriquest Field, with a 698 OPS. Last year at home, he hit .334 with an 1109 OPS. Hurry up, as he already started hitting this weekend at Coors Field and will only keep getting harder and harder to trade for. And now, the countdown for the three worst trades in recent memory, starting with the third worst.

3. Scott Kazmir for Victor Zambrano

Consummated at the trade deadline in 2004, this trade never had a chance. It was one of those deals that everyone questioned immediately. I thought there must have been a typo, and they printed the wrong first name before Zambrano’s name. Nearly everyone who followed baseball had thoughts of sending in their resumes to the Mets owner, as surely they could do a better job than current GM Jim Duquette. Now, Zambrano did have some semblance of upside, but Kazmir was unquestionably a top pitching prospect. Apparently, the Mets were playing for now and the future was inconsequential. They defended the deal by stating the fact they were only 6 games out of first place, and Zambrano could put them over the top for a playoff run. Pitching coach Rick Peterson said he could “fix Zambrano in 10 minutes and Kazmir was at least 3 years away from being a Major League pitcher.”

Zambrano had led the league in wild pitches, walks and hit batsmen in 2003, and would go on to lead the AL in walks in 2004, even despite being traded out of the league with two months left in the season. The numbers pretty much speak for themselves, but another aspect makes this deal look even worse. Zambrano had a bum elbow. He recently had season-ending surgery for a torn flexor tendon. Problem is, this wasn’t even a new injury. “I’ll be honest with you: I haven’t been pitching a very healthy game from the first time I got traded,” Zambrano said. During Tommy John surgery, he also had bone spurs removed from the elbow and needed his UCL replaced. Now, the Mets will likely non-tender him in December, making him a free agent.

Injuries aside, Zambrano had a 4.43 ERA and 1.50 WHIP in a Mets uniform. Kazmir, on the other hand, is on his way to becoming one of baseball’s best pitchers. His build makes him a candidate to break down, admittedly, but there’s a lot to like with the way the youngster is throwing. He has a 3.80 ERA so far for the D-Rays but is only getting better. The 315 strikeouts in 314 2/3 innings say as much – nothing but upside here. Remember, these numbers come while pitching in the ridiculously tough AL East. If the Mets had held onto him, they would be World Series favorites.

2. Dan Haren, Kiko Calero, and Daric Barton for Mark Mulder

First off, this trade was a disaster for the Cardinals even before the Mulder injury. Mulder, who will be eligible for free agency following this season, has rotator cuff inflammation and irritation in his left shoulder. Something had to be wrong, as his pitching has been horrendous this year. Once he joined the Cardinals, Mulder’s stuff was never the same as it was in 2001-2003. His first year with the Cards was decent enough (3.64 ERA, 1.38 WHIP), but he had one of the easiest schedules in baseball. Just 10 of his 32 starts came against teams that finished with winning records. Pitching in the NL masked the pitcher he had become. This year, the man behind the mask was revealed – 6.08 ERA and 1.55 WHIP. Since May 22, his ERA was 13.65 and batters hit .434 against him in June. Now, he’s hurt and due for a new contract. Billy Beane did it again.

Dan Haren is already a better pitcher. Forget the fact he will cost the A’s $6-$7 million less per season than Mulder. The guy has a 3.56 ERA and 1.14 WHIP for the A’s this year. Again, remember this is in the AL. The 81/22 K/BB ratio means he’s pitching even better than those already impressive numbers indicate. He’s young and not arbitration eligible until 2010. Kiko Calero, meanwhile, has made 13 straight scoreless appearances, spanning 12 2/3 innings. He’s one of the more valuable setup guys in baseball; his slider is basically unhittable for right-handed batters. Daric Barton could prove to be the prize of the deal. Although he is currently out with a fractured elbow, he is a huge part of the team’s future. He isn’t even 21 years old yet. Barton’s long-term home will likely be either first base or DH, and his patient approach at the plate and exceptional pitch recognition skills will lead to .380+ OBPs. The guy is as close to a sure thing to become a quality regular as prospects get. The A’s not only saved money and got younger; they got far more talented as well. Now that’s about as lopsided a trade can get. Well, it could be worse…

1. Joe Nathan, Francisco Liriano, and Boof Bonser for A.J. Pierzynski

Save for maybe Babe Ruth, I refuse to believe there was a worse trade in baseball history. Not that a left-handed hitting catcher with a .290 career average isn’t valuable, but this one was as bad as it gets. Let’s start with Pierzynski. In the one year he played for the Giants, he hit a respectable .272/.319/.410. Problem was it was only for that year. Basically, he made every teammate hate his guts so much there was no way he could be brought back for a second year. At least he set a Giants record in the process – he grounded into the most double plays any Giant ever had.

All Joe Nathan has done for the Twins is compile a 2.12 ERA and 0.94 WHIP. The 99 saves don’t hurt matters either. Nor does the 44/4 K/BB ratio this season. If he’s not the top closer in baseball, he’s awfully close. What makes this trade look even worse is that if the Giants could take a player back, it probably wouldn’t even be Nathan. That would be Francisco Liriano. Liriano is often compared to Johan Santana, only with better stuff. His slight build had the Giants worried about injuries. Now Liriano has major league hitters worried about looking silly. He’s backed up the top pitching prospect chatter with a 2.17 ERA over 66 1/3 innings pitched. The guy has 107 strikeouts in 90 major league innings. At this point, not much more can be said about Liriano, as literally the sky’s the limit. Boof Bonser not only has a great name, but also should eventually settle in as a quality fourth or fifth starter.

This trade set the Giants’ franchise back for years, maybe decades. For instance, if Nathan were closing, there would be no need to give that schmuck Armando Benitez a $21 million deal. A Liriano/Schmidt combo would dominate the NL. But don’t listen to me, take the word of the man in charge. San Francisco general manager Brian Sabean said: “It’s not often you can send a right-handed reliever and two unproven prospects for a front-line, All-Star catcher.” Right you are Sabean, this was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime trade.

Glaus the Hoss and Others

Saturday, June 24th, 2006

By Robby Wellington – Staff Writer

Three days ago, Troy Glaus played his fifth game at shortstop and with six under his belt and counting, he is now shortstop eligible in most formats. Other than catcher, shortstop is by far the thinnest position in fantasy baseball, meaning that Glaus’ value just went through the roof. If the current owner of Glaus already has a good shortstop, or even if they don’t, go after Glaus hard, as he should be able to at least keep up his current numbers hitting in a rejuvenated lineup in one of the league’s premiere hitter’s parks. I’d rate Glaus ever so slightly behind Tejada and Reyes (120 runs and 70 SBs) but ahead of Jeter. In other words, he’s a top-20 player now. Treat him as such.

Hanley Ramirez was the toast of fantasytown a few weeks ago, but after a 3-for-45 skid, Ramirez is hitting .262 and has been jettisoned in a number of leagues. The speed is still there, however, and I would expect Ramirez to be good for 15-20 steals over the remainder of the season along with a serviceable average (.270 or so) and decent run totals hitting in the 2-hole of the surprisingly solid Florida lineup. In other words, Hanley should be a 10-14 overall shortstop from here on out.

RotoScoop black sheep Adrian Beltre is slowly but surely working his way back into our good graces. After a move to the 2-hole and then torching the NL West, Beltre is finally hitting .250 with an OPS approaching 700. A notorious 2nd half player, Beltre has a very good shot at being a top-12 3rd baseman from here on out. The same can be said for Aubrey Huff, who actually made Beltre look good the last few months. Huff has raised his OPS over 100 points in just the last week, and with a career OPS more than 100 points higher after the All-Star Break, Huff should have some value down the stretch.

Lastly, Albert Pujols came back after almost a three-week layoff, dropping his OPS to a paltry 1.170. Pujols’ owners may very well be fed up with all these missed games and 0-fors. Now is the perfect time to pounce! Never mind, he just went 4-for-4 with a bomb, ending all hopes of owners giving up on the scrub.

And on an unrelated note, I just finished watching Phantom of The Opera right now (it just happened to be on HBO, forcing me to tear myself away from the Tony Danza Show), and I’ve got to say, the Phantom is a complete a-hole, not sure what Emmy Rossum sees in him other than a really great singing voice. I mean, she makes out with the guy seconds after he tries to hang her fiancée, and then gives him her engagement ring (which wasn’t hers to give in the first place). Utterly frustrating on all accounts.

News & Notes

Thursday, June 22nd, 2006
  • SS Orlando Cabrera has reached base safely in 50 consecutive games, the longest streak in the majors since 2003, when Barry Bonds did so in 58 straight.
  • Speaking of Bonds, his recent three-strikeout game was his first since June 12, 2003. Maybe the old Barry really is never coming back.
  • If Roger Clemens averages six innings for each of the estimated 19 starts he’ll make this summer for the Astros, he’ll earn roughly $35,819 per out. That’s right, per OUT.
  • The Angels made a huge mistake in demoting Jered Weaver. There is no room for seniority or sentimentality in sports. Angel fans will have to hope it’s a short arrangement.
  • Anthony Reyes should be claimed in just about all leagues with his promotion to the Cardinals rotation. Go get him. Although…
  • Home runs are up 16 percent (from 56 homers to 65) over the first 34 games at Busch Stadium, compared with the same number of games played last year at old Busch.
  • 16 of Ryan Howard’s 25 homers have been hit to opposite field.
  • There’s a real chance that Kerry Wood has pitched his final game as a member of the Cubs.
  • Last week I mentioned the humidor and raised the question of what’s stopping the Rockies from using it to their advantage. Ken Macha concurs: “I still feel the humidor should be investigated,” Oakland manager Ken Macha said. “Maybe we ought to do that at our ballpark. The ball’s the same weight, but they are sitting in there and getting moisture, so I don’t understand that.”
  • The humidor’s impact is staggering. Coors Field is averaging 9.4 runs and 1.78 home runs this season. Compare that to the 13.83 and 3.20 compiled from 1995 to 2001. The Oakland A’s were just recently shut out in back-to-back games there, and after Jason Kendall led off the second game with a single, they were no-hit. It marked the seventh shutout at Coors Field this year – tied for most in the majors.
  • The Chicago White Sox pitchers allowed 16 hits Tuesday….and won the game by 14 runs. The White Sox have scored at least eight runs in six straight games, a franchise record
  • Mike Gonzalez and Chris Ray are the only two closers yet to blow a save this year.
  • Going to see Radiohead in concert this weekend, consider me pumped.

NBA Finals Recap

Wednesday, June 21st, 2006

I was wrong. If the Heat were going to win the series, I certainly expected it to be in game seven. Winning four games in a row was quite the accomplishment, and you have to look back at game three and realize just how much of an affect that had to have. Again, it was unfortunate how much the referees influenced the outcome of game six (Wade shot 21 free throws, the Mavs shot 23. Wade shot 97 free throws in the six game series), but it was still an entertaining series to watch.

I have to give the Heat some credit; they turn it up defensively down the stretches of games, and that really was the difference. Well, that and Lord Wade. The guy drives to the basket with reckless abandon unlike any player out there. Even if the Heat lost this series, he was my vote for series MVP. The fact Shaq looked so old, sluggish and a shell of his former self makes Wade look all the more like the best player on the planet. Come on, Antoine Walker, NBA champion? The thought of Jason Williams wearing the ring is equally absurd. Gary Payton makes the washed up Brett Favre look young. Bottom line, this really isn’t that great of a supporting cast Wade is working with. He deserves all the credit coming to him. Other than Jordan, I can’t think of a player who so single-handedly carried his team to a championship. Even Jordan’s teammates were probably better. Although I will say that Udonis Haslem and James Posey both played excellent defense on Nowitzki. Still, Flash was as close to a one-man team as it gets.

The problem for the NBA was that it worked. Team basketball is done for. The Heat became the first team to rally from an 0-2 deficit to win the finals since the NBA went to its 2-3-2 format. And I don’t like it. All those fouls really stilt the game’s action. In the end, I guess it shouldn’t be surprising, defense wins out nearly every time. There is hope for the high-scoring fans out there, however, as Dallas looks to be a contender for years to come. The Phoenix Suns look like one of next year’s favorites to me as well. But for now, congratulations to the Heat, uh Wade, for winning this year’s title.

Mavs to win championship

Tuesday, June 20th, 2006

No one wants to hear Mark Cuban complain and whine. It’s a tired act and somewhat grating. The only problem is, he has every right to criticize in this case. The Dallas Mavericks have let games three and five slip out of their hands. Nowitzki and Howard missing free throws has nothing to do with the refs, and plenty of blame falls directly on Dallas’ inability to slam the door shut on games they are in position to win. Still, it’s safe to say the Mavs are getting jobbed in this series.

I am not a Mavs fan by any means, but the way this series has gone against them needs to be addressed. It’s becoming more and more reminiscent of last year’s Super Bowl, when the officiating had way too much to do with the game’s outcome. Obviously, with the Mavs implementation of the Hack-a-Shaq, the free throw numbers will be skewed toward Miami. But this is getting ridiculous. 41 more free throws the last three games is pretty significant. The phantom call on Nowitzki with 1.9 seconds left was bordering on terrible, especially when it literally decided the winning team. When in doubt, let the players decide the game. That’s why I’m not up in arms over the backcourt violation non-call on Wade. Taking the rulebook literally stopped the minute the world learned of the “tuck rule” in the Pats/Raiders game. Sometimes common sense needs to overrule nonsense.

Speaking of which, the Stackhouse suspension was an absolute travesty. We are in a new era, where offense is valued above all else, I get it. But come on, back in the day a suspension wouldn’t have even been brought up. Speaking of history, Michael Jordan didn’t even get the treatment Lord Wade is currently receiving. Dude is an amazing player no doubt, but I’d like to see him earn it a bit more. On a similar note, I wonder what malady he will be stricken with for game six. Whether it’s a sinus infection, a tummy ache, or a knee injury so serious he is unable to walk 2 hours before gametime but then pours in 36 points, it’s always something with this guy.

Nevertheless, it’s been a great series so far, with Lord Wade becoming a legend right before our very eyes. He is pretty awesome, and the Wade/LeBron debate gets closer and closer every day now. Shaq is entering unchartered waters with his free throw shooting prowess (29.5 percent). The Avery Johnson and Pat Riley coaching battle is pretty intriguing as well. I say Nowitzki comes up big games six and seven, and the Mavs make it a series that sees the home team win every game. The thought of the David Stern/Mark Cuban embrace keeps getting better and better.

Get (Rid of) ‘Em

Monday, June 19th, 2006

By Robby Wellington – Staff Writer

Here’s a list of hitters you should try and get. . . and ones you should try and get rid of.

Get ‘Em

Mark Teixeira
– It looks like Teixeira is going to give Derrek Lee a run for his money in the “biggest first round bust” competition. That said, if his owner is getting tired of him (and they should be by now) see if you can take him off their hands, relieving them of the inevitable stress and agony that goes with owning Teix.

Corey Patterson
– With his unbelievable run in the rearview mirror, there are inevitably some owners out there still trying to “sell high” with Patterson. See if you can trade them someone they’re more comfortable with.

Jose Reyes
– I know his stock is through the roof right now but plan on it staying there. 80 SBs is a possibility and maybe an owner is looking to sell high on Reyes.

Manny Ramírez – People may be hesitant to “sell low” on Manny, but see what you can do, as he is still one of the game’s best hitters.

Miguel Cabrera – With only two RBIs in the last 10 games, owners may have soured on him just enough to make him undervalued. I am a bit concerned that he was caught in his past two steal attempts.

Get Rid of ‘Em

Alfonso Soriano – If you have a good enough backup middle infielder, look to swing Soriano for an elite bat and elite arm, as that’s the sort of price he’s fetching these days.

Raúl Ibanéz – He’s always been a fine last outfielder to have on your squad, but he’s hitting a bit over his head right now. See what you can get for the guy.

Jermaine Dye – Dye has had a monster season thus far, but if you can find an owner not afraid to “buy high” try to swing a player whose current numbers seem more sustainable.

Adam Dunn – 23 home runs and 19 singles. . . unbelievable. It’s hard to win your league with a low team batting average and that is what Dunn is invariably doing to his poor owners. If you can afford his woeful batting average then hang onto Dunn, but you’d be surprised what some people will pay for a 50 home run guy.

Nomar Garciaparra
– If someone is willing to pay anything close to what Nomar’s current production merits do it (especially if you have a suitable SS waiting in the wings).

Preseason Team Defense Rankings

Sunday, June 18th, 2006

By Jeff Chudnofsky – Staff Writer

First Tier
1) Chicago Bears- This defense is worth the reach.
2) Carolina Panthers- With a healthy Kris Jenkins and the newly acquired DT Maake Kemoeatu, look for an improved run defense.
3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers- Monte Kiffin won’t disappoint.
4) Pittsburgh Steelers- The champs will benefit with two games versus Charlie Frye.
5) Baltimore Ravens- Haloti Ngata will allow Ray Lewis to roam free.

Second Tier

6) Atlanta Falcons- John Abraham joins an already stellar defensive line.
7) Miami Dolphins- Nick Saban can coach ‘em up with the best of them.
8) New York Giants-Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora will continue to rack up sacks and force turnovers.
9) Indianapolis Colts- Was 2005 an aberration, or will the Colts’ defensive backfield continue to improve?
10) Jacksonville Jaguars- The Jags are tough versus the run, but they need to force more turnovers.

Third Tier
11) Buffalo Bills- Fletcher and Spikes, Clements and McGee form great duos at their respective positions. Look for a rebound versus the run.
12)Seattle Seahawks- The ‘Hawks D will likely be playing with the lead and rack up sacks and ints.
13) Washington Redskins- Gregg Williams is one of the best coordinators around and inherits DE Andre Carter.
14) Denver Broncos- The only turnoff about Denver is the potent AFC West.

Fourth Tier
16) Arizona Cardinals- The Cards are quietly improving on defense.
17) Dallas Cowboys- Need to play better versus the pass.
18) Philadelphia Eagles- The Eagles still have plenty of talent and could prove to be a steal.
19) Cincinnati Bengals- Sam Adams should improve a poor run defense.
20) Minnesota Vikings- Expect ints, not shutouts
21) New England Patriots- Still plenty of leadership in New England, but can they stay healthy?
22) Detroit Lions- Rod Marinelli will change the attitude in Detroit.

Fifth Tier
23) New York Jets- Vilma should make everyone better around him.
24) Green Bay Packers- The A.J. Hawk era begins.
25) Tennessee Titans- Unless Pacman gets tossed in the ‘bing, the pass defense should improve.
26) St. Louis Rams- Very weak up front.
27) Cleveland Browns- Romeo Crennel is still missing a couple ingredients.
28) Kansas City Chiefs- KC will likely participate in plenty of shootouts.
29) Oakland Raiders- Huff will make an impact, but Oakland lacks depth in the trenches.
30) New Orleans Saints- Losing Darren Howard will hurt.
31) San Francisco 49ers- The corners are still awful.
32) Houston Texans- Mario Williams could pile up sacks, but the linebacking corps needs re-tooling.

News & Notes

Friday, June 16th, 2006
  • Cory Sullivan became the eighth player in baseball history Wednesday to record four sacrifice bunts in a game – a game the Rockies won 14-8. Probably not the best strategy to give outs away when your team is scoring two touchdowns worth of runs. If that’s not enough, he followed that up with three more sac bunts in Thursday’s game.
  • Tony Armas’ struggles at home continue. He has a 2.55 ERA on the road this season, but a 6.27 in his seven starts at RFK Stadium. Hard to figure that one out, considering RFK is about as cavernous as stadiums get.
  • The Red Sox have to keep Kevin Youkilis leading off in the order. Managers too often pick speed or people that simply look the type as their leadoff guy, when in fact, OBP is clearly the leading factor when picking a No. 1 hitter. Youkilis, by the way, has an OBP of .434 this year and has been one of baseball’s best hitters.
  • Sean Tracy was sent to Triple-A because he got Hank Blalock out. He was supposed to plunk him in retaliation to A.J. Pierzynski getting hit twice earlier in the game, and Ozzie Guillen went ape when he didn’t.
  • The right move is a clear and simple one; keep Jered Weaver in the rotation and put Jeff in the pen.
  • Esteban Loaiza was arrested early Wednesday morning on DUI charges after officers pulled him over for speeding. Loaiza was driving his Ferrari in excess of 120 MPH. If you’re counting at home, that’s 36 MPH faster than his fastball has reached this year.
  • Some questioned the huge contract given to B.J. Ryan. I wasn’t one of them. Dude has a 0.55 ERA on the year. That’s two runs allowed in 32 2/3 innings. Lefties are hitting a robust .042 against him.
  • Aubrey Huff’s average hasn’t been over .200 at any point this season.
  • The Diamondbacks’ Luis Gonzalez has not hit a home run since April 20.
  • Best headline of the week – from sportspickle.com: “Does anyone know if Ben Roethlisberger was wearing a helmet?’’
  • Despite Baseball Prospectus claiming that he is “reportedly headed for Tommy John surgery,” Rich Harden got some good news recently. The UCL is much less severely sprained than initially diagnosed, which means that Harden could be back in one month rather than two. Just after the All-Star break is the hope.
  • Even though he’s still owed $22 million, the Diamondbacks did the absolute right thing by cutting bait with Russ Ortiz. Is there a more overpaid person in America?

I am for Real

Thursday, June 15th, 2006

Through 2 1/2 months of baseball, there are plenty of surprising starts. Some are off to poor starts, while others are off to great ones. It’s time to take a look and see which are for real and which are only a mirage.

Andy Pettitte’s slow start

Pettitte currently sports a 5.46 ERA and a 1.60 WHIP. He has been consistently bad every month so far this year, and it’s uncertain why his ERA is a full three runs higher than last year’s. His 69/33 K/BB ratio is average, but way off last year’s pace. The main culprit, however, appears to be the long ball. 2005 saw Pettitte yield 17 home runs in over 222 innings pitched. In 2006, he has already surrendered 15 big flies in just 90 innings pitched. Pettitte says he feels healthy, so marked improvement should be expected. Don’t forget that last year’s second half saw Pettitte put up a remarkable 1.69 ERA and 0.90 WHIP. His last two starts have seen him give up just three runs over 13 innings, so maybe the turn is already here. With best friend Roger Clemens returning, Pettitte will be even more motivated to return to 2005 form. His .313 BAA is extremely fluky and will drop back to his .269 career line soon enough. This start is a MIRAGE.

Josh Johnson, Marlins Ace

Johnson is off to some start to the season. It figured he needed more seasoning in the minors before joining the Marlins rotation for good, but he has proved that theory wrong. Johnson features a good low-90s sinker and has been unreal since joining the rotation. He has hurled five straight quality starts and hasn’t given up more than three runs in any of his eight starts this year. He has 54 punch outs in 61 1/3 innings and sits with a tidy 2.05 ERA. Obviously, these numbers aren’t going to last, but there’s absolutely nothing not to like about the way the 6-foot-7 right-hander is throwing the ball right now. While wins will remain a problem all season because he wears a Marlins uniform, Johnson should retain value and put up solid numbers across the board. He’s not going to be an ace, and while his start is too good to be true and some decline will inevitably occur; it is, for the most part, FOR REAL.

New York Mets, the class of the NL

If you listen to the media, the Mets winning the National League pennant is a foregone conclusion. The only question is whether they will win the World Series title as well. Listen, the Mets no doubt look unbelievable right now. They certainly look like the best team in the NL. But last I checked, it is June. The Braves have been down big before, but this admittedly doesn’t look good for them. It’s their largest deficit in the division since 1990, and they don’t resemble the team that has won 14 consecutive division titles. Still, there are other teams out there capable of taking the crown. The Cardinals is the obvious choice, especially when Pujols returns. I wouldn’t count out the Dodgers or the Astros either. The Phillies definitely have the firepower to do so as well. The main issue here, however, is that the Mets are flawed. Their offense looks great, and David Wright is one of the best players on the planet. But Reyes, Delgado, Beltran, Floyd are all injury risks, and Lo Duca will no doubt slump post All-Star break. My main problem is their starting pitching; although I must admit, I am a big fan of the El Duque acquisition. I guess come playoff time their lack of depth (Trachsel, Soler, Bannister) won’t matter quite as much, but relying on Glavine to continue looking like an ace is rather risky. The Mets aren’t winning the National League pennant. MIRAGE.

Player Spotlight: Ben Roethlisberger

Tuesday, June 13th, 2006

It’s certainly been talked about quite a bit, but the Roethlisberger injury brings up a debate interesting enough to continue its discussion. Big Ben appears to be over any life-threatening harm, so we’ll look at this accident from a purely sports fan’s point of view. Whether a Steelers die-hard fan or simply a fantasy player, everyone seems to have a rather strong opinion one way or another regarding this situation. The facts are simple; Roethlisberger was in a motorcycle accident that saw him suffer the following injuries: broken upper and lower jaw; mild concussion; fractured nose; multiple head cuts and bumps and bruises, including a 9-inch laceration to his skull; two lost teeth; several other chipped teeth and minor knee damage.

POINT
Ben Roethlisberger is an adult and no one can, nor should, tell him how to live his life. Nowhere in his contract was it written that riding a motorcycle was forbidden. Life is dangerous. The guy could get run over by a car when simply crossing the street. Freak accidents happen everyday of the week. It sucks, but Roethlisberger did nothing wrong in the process; he’s a 24-year-old doing what people that age are supposed to do. If he didn’t have a push-the-limits attitude, no way would he be a successful football player. This behavior is why he can stand in the pocket with 300-pound monsters trying to knock his block off. Athletes are risk-takers in general, and it’s completely unfair to ask them to behave this way while only on the gridiron. If society hasn’t accepted the fact that athletes often view themselves as indestructible yet, what are they waiting for? Competitors don’t play croquet in their spare time because it’s not in their nature. They are trying to find the line and how close they can get to crossing it. Did Big Ben cross it? No way, it’s not like he was drinking and putting himself unnecessarily at risk. He’s not asking you to feel sympathetic, but it’s his right of freedom to ride on a bike, even without a helmet, which was not against the law by the way. If he was walking down the street smoking a cigarette I’d have a bigger problem than what he did, at least then he’d be harming others in the process.

COUNTERPOINT

If Roethlisberger were a tennis player or a golfer, I would have no problem with it. Unfortunately, Big Ben plays a team sport, making all the difference in the world. Listen, this guy has people counting on him both emotionally and financially. His team, it could be argued, is 100 percent dependant upon him. Charlie Batch is beyond awful. Roethlisberger relies solely on his body, so he needs to treat it as such. After all, this is the same guy who, while visiting the site of the World Trade Center, recalled how he “didn’t even lift that day” after learning of the September 11 attacks. Einstein he is not. Which partially explains the completely irresponsible behavior of putting himself in a hazardous situation, and make no mistake, riding a Suzuki Hayabusa sans a helmet qualifies as hazardous. No matter how dimwitted, it’s not like he didn’t know the possible consequences. Coach Bill Cower warned him in a stern lecture following Kellen Winslow Jr.’s career-threatening bike crash. Jason Williams may never play in the NBA again because he couldn’t stay off his motorcycle. Dennis Rodman wrecked his bike twice, the second time in front of a strip club for added effect. The list goes on and on. Big Ben should have known better. He wasn’t just putting himself at risk, he was putting his friends, family and an entire organization at risk as well. Selfish, unbelievably selfish. A blitzing free safety is risky, a fast-approaching Lincoln Town Car is deadly. Teammate Joey Porter was onto something when he was asked last year about Roethlisberger riding motorcycles. “What I say about motorcycles is that concrete is undefeated,” Porter said.

Speed Revisited

Tuesday, June 13th, 2006

By Robby Wellington – Staff Writer

Last month, I listed a number of speedsters and attempted to project their final steal totals. Now that the landscape has changed somewhat, I will rank my top-15 thieves, with their projected totals from here on out.

1. Jose Reyes (36)
– My pick to lead the league in stolen bases is holding up so far. The extra at-bats atop the potent Mets’ offense helps. Despite hitting .246, Reyes’ OBP is up 15 points from last year, as he is on pace to more than double his walk totals from 2005.

2. Scott Podsednik (33) – He hasn’t attempted a steal in the last 10 days, meaning a couple of 3-4 steal games are probably on the horizon for Pods.

3. Corey Patterson (30)
– Patterson has been insane this last month. He should be able to get regular playing time from here on out and should continue to run with the best of them. He may be a good “buy high” candidate, as many of his owners still do not trust him. That said, Figgins, Pierre and even Ichiro are probably all safer bets for steals.

4. Chone Figgins (29)
– What you would expect from Figgins. . .

5. Juan Pierre (27) – . . .and Pierre.

6. Ichiro (25) – The man has been amazing the last two weeks and should finish up the season as a top five fantasy outfielder.

7. Hanley Ramirez (24) – Hanley’s numbers should dip a bit more and then stabilize, but his speed is for real and that alone gives him value.

8. Carl Crawford (24) – Crawford has begun pummeling the ball and his increased power should come at the slight detriment to his stolen base totals.

9. Brian Roberts (23)
– The player every “smart” owner avoided in the draft has put up impressive steal numbers despite missing 22 games. Amazingly, still looking for his first home run though.

10. Jimmy Rollins (22)
– Rollins has four steals over the last 10 games and has only been caught twice this year. Look for him to approach 40 steals when all is said and done.

11. Dave Roberts (20)
– This may be a high estimate considering Roberts will most likely get hurt at some point this year. Roberts still sits against most lefties, although he is hitting .357 off them this year.

12. Felipe Lopez (19)
– After stealing five bags in two games, Lopez went nearly a month without a swipe. He’s back on track now with three last week.

13. Alfonso Soriano (18) – Another player every “smart” owner avoided on draft day. Soriano is running more, albeit less effectively this year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him run late in the year in a push to reach 40-40. Also, monitor trade talks closely as they could have a profound impact on his running habits.

14. Carlos Beltran (17)
– Beltran is back baby!

15. Mike Cameron (16)
– Cameron has eight steals over the last month and has yet to be caught. He’s probably still not worth using in most formats though.

News & Notes

Monday, June 12th, 2006
  • The Giants certainly didn’t draw it up this way. In 225 games with both Moises Alou and Barry Bonds on the payroll, they’ve been in the same lineup together just 26 times. Unsurprisingly, the Giants have a .696 winning percentage with them both in and a .451 with them out.
  • Asked Friday if it might take the remainder of this season for Kerry Wood to recover fully from his shoulder stiffness, manager Dusty Baker said: “It’s possible. We are going to evaluate him at the end of this and we will see.” Meanwhile, Mark Prior’s fastball is topping out at 90 MPH.
  • Joel Zumaya, on the other hand, had his fastball clocked at 102 MPH during Sunday’s save.
  • Randy Johnson is D.O.N.E.
  • Not a big soccer fan, but wow was that a pathetic performance by the U.S. team Monday.
  • The Mavericks have played the Heat four times this season now, and they’ve won every game by an average of over 18 points.
  • Ken Griffey Jr. is a liability in center field. It’s long past due he moves to a corner spot. Not only would it improve his chances of staying healthy, but also his work with the glove is pretty bad at this stage of his career.
  • Did you trade for Felix Hernandez when you had the chance? Hope so, because he figures to be one of baseball’s top pitchers from here on out.
  • B.J. Upton committed three errors over the weekend, giving him 23 for the year. It’s safe to say his future is not at shortstop. It’s too bad because his bat is major league ready.
  • Delmon Young’s suspension is scheduled to end a week from today, Monday, June 19.
  • Juan Gonzalez has been activated by the Long Island Ducks and had three hits in his first seven at-bats.
  • The Kansas City Royals turned the oh so common 8-1-6-5 triple play Sunday.
  • Look for one of baseball’s very best pitching prospects, Chad Billingsley, to make his debut later this week.

Player Spotlight: Adrian Beltre

Sunday, June 11th, 2006

Yo Adrian, aim for the ankleAdrian Beltre is hard to figure out. Sure, I obviously overrated him going into this year, and it’s so easy to blame his rise and fall on simply signing a huge contract, but he cannot be this bad. By all accounts and purposes, he is no loafer, and appears to at least be someone who cares and not actively mailing it in. He vehemently denies the whispers of steroids, but has seen his home run numbers go from 48 to 19 to 5 the past 2 1/2 years. With RISP, Beltre is putting on quite a show this year. In 62 at-bats, he is hitting a staggering .129. His OPS is an unreal 390. With 2 outs and RISP, he drops to a ridiculous .100/.206/.133 line. Not that he has been anything special hitting in other situations, but those lines of futility are taking it to another level.

The thinking was he just needed a year in the AL to get acclimated and a bounce back was in store this time around. After all, he was coming into his prime and only 27 years old, so more great years were ahead. Instead, he has been one of baseball’s worst hitters. At least he contributed on the basepaths, swiping nine steals early on; too bad he hasn’t had one since May 5th. Was the bone spur in his ankle that some credited to Beltre’s monstrous 2004 campaign really the difference? Supposedly, the injury prevented Beltre from reaching for the low-and-away pitch, something he was previously vulnerable to. Well, now with the ankle healed up, he is flailing like never before. But seriously, that can’t be it, can it? Someone please take a sledgehammer to this guy’s wheel as soon as possible; it’s at least worth a shot.

717, 729, 714, 1017, 716 and 635: those are Beltre’s OPS numbers for the last 5 1/2 years. You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure out which one is the outlier. The guy has a combined 14 extra-base hits on the year for crying out loud. Clearly, this year’s misery shouldn’t have come to me as quite the surprise that it has.

Manager Mike Hargrove came up with the harebrained scheme to recently move Beltre up to the second spot in the lineup – he with the .296 OBP. Still, it’s a move that seems to give Beltre’s fantasy value at least a glimmer of hope. Batting in the 2-hole, Beltre has seen an increase in numbers across the board. He has hit three of his five home runs, which have came in the last 11 games, a torrid pace by Beltre’s sub-standards. His OPS is 850 while batting second, compared to 635 overall on the year. He could actually contribute in runs scored, especially with Richie Sexson’s return to form. Hitting directly behind Ichiro, who’s suddenly batting .367 on the year, doesn’t hurt matters either. Maybe seeing more fastballs will help, but it’s hardly likely that the lineup switch is all it will take to turn Beltre’s season, and career for that matter, around. It’s hard to believe it was just two years ago when Beltre finished second to Barry Bonds in MVP voting, and it’s a memory that’s fading fast. If Beltre doesn’t change in a hurry, when you look up the term contract-year in the dictionary, Beltre’s face will be smiling right at you – smugly at that.

Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up

Saturday, June 10th, 2006

By Robby Wellington – Staff Writer

Rich Harden and Gary Sheffield were probably taken in the top three rounds of most leagues this year. Now their value is next to nothing. Or so most people would think. Depending on a number of factors, these two are still reasonably valuable fantasy commodities that should not be given up on.

Rich

Coming into this year, Harden was considered an injury risk by many, even though none of his injuries were actually attributable to the rigors of pitching. As such, he was an under-the-radar stud who many “smart” owners targeted in the early rounds. Well, after back and elbow injuries this year, you can pencil Harden in right below a couple Cub ex-aces in the brittleness rankings. Although reports from A’s camp are saying that Harden may only be out 6-8 weeks, the smart money is on him being out for the remainder of the year. That being said, Harden should not be dropped in all but the shallowest of leagues. In rotisserie leagues, if you can spare the DL spot, stash him away and hope for the best. If not, try and shop him to an owner who can. As a rule of thumb, I try not to drop a player who someone will be anxious to snag off waivers. Harden still carries some value to any team with a vacant DL spot. In head-to-head leagues, Harden is significantly more valuable. If you are at the top of your league and a lock for the playoffs, then you can probably afford the deadweight on your team, even if it means dropping a seed come postseason time. If you’re struggling and trying to claw your way into the top half of the league, try and move Harden to someone who can spare the spot.

Gary

The Sheffield situation is very similar to Harden’s, and, as such, you should treat him in a similar fashion. However, while Harden could be back anywhere from six weeks to never, Sheffield should be back in September, although the time off and weak wrist might limit his effectiveness. Remember though, the Yankees have a very favorable September schedule, and if you are in a head-to-head league and can afford it, I strongly encourage you to acquire and stash Sheff.

Offseason Ramble

Friday, June 9th, 2006

By Jeff Chudnofsky – Staff Writer
 
Not only does Steve McNair make the Ravens an instant contender for the AFC North, but he elevates Jamal Lewis’ value tremendously.  If you like taking long shots to win the Super Bowl, now is the time to take advantage of the 35/1 odds placed on Baltimore.
 
If I ever turn to a life of crime, I’ll be sure to cop a Chris Henry jersey.
 
The San Diego Chargers are making Oakland, Kansas City and Denver fans buy a four game package in order to watch their respective teams in San Diego. If the Chargers are having trouble with opposing fans now, just wait until they move to Los Angeles.
 
Don’t buy into the hype that Chester Taylor is out of shape. Come September, he will prove to be a second round steal in your fantasy draft.
 
Eli Manning has reportedly added 10 pounds of muscle this offseason.
 
Expect to see defensive tackles Brentson Buckner and Dan Wilkinson signed to new teams in the near future. If these guys are still willing to play, they can provide quality depth to any frontline.
 
Ahman Green is no longer the dominant back of old, but he will be a great value pick in the 4th-5th rounds.
 
I hate to say it, but there will be a RBBC in Chicago. Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson could prove to be the toughest committee decision in this year’s draft.
 
Anyone who knows me understands my views on Kerry Collins, but Cincinnati should definitely give him a look.
 
Watch former sixth overall pick Johnathan Sullivan revive his career in New England.
 
Speaking of bouncing back, check out the upcoming release of Madden ’07.
                                                                                                                               If you are into summer comedies, be sure to check out “Little Miss Sunshine,” premiering July 27th.

News & Notes

Thursday, June 8th, 2006
  • 76-year-old Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson claims that he can leg-press 2,000 pounds. Impossible? Maybe, but his Web site says he drinks a shake that includes, yep, flaxseed oil.
  • Carl Crawford nearly tears knee ligament arguing a call with the homeplate umpire.
  • Bob Uecker, the Milwaukee Brewers’ Hall of Fame radio announcer, has filed a restraining order against a 45-year-old Illinois woman who has allegedly been following Uecker, according to TheSmokingGun.
  • Before Wednesday’s high scoring affair, the Colorado Rockies hadn’t made the “over” in 18 straight home games. In Coors Field, Colorado’s over/under usually is between 12-13.5 runs, but Vegas has started to catch on and has been lowering it to the 10.5 range. At this point, I think the humidor is underrated in its effect. The Rockies were allowed to essentially doctor their baseballs with use of the humidor four years ago. The balls are stored for six months, effectively neutralizing much of the effect the mile-high air has on increased run-scoring. It’s a situation that’s unprecedented and I’m curious what would prevent the Rockies from taking advantage of it. Why not use these balls a little more frequently when they are on the mound and a little less when at the plate?
  • Peter Gammons set to release his first album “Never Slow Down, Never Grow Old.” Gammons, who sings and plays guitar, is joined on some songs by Bronson Arroyo and Jonathan Papelbon.
  • Rich Harden is looking more and more like Mark Prior everyday now. That’s not a good thing.
  • I’m getting pumped for the season premieres of “Deadwood” and “Entourage” this Sunday; if you haven’t already, I urge you to jump on these bandwagons.

Player Spotlight: Jason Schmidt

Wednesday, June 7th, 2006

Jason Schmidt was one of baseball’s best pitchers from 2002-2004. In 2003, he might have been the very best. But all those high pitch counts finally caught up to him last year. He had to spend some time on the DL in May, and when he returned, it was not the same pitcher as before. Diminished velocity made Schmidt become more of a “pitcher” and not rely purely on his stuff. The results were mixed, as he finished with his worst ERA in a Giants’ uniform and entered this year mired in question marks.

Despite it all, the Giants picked up his $10.5 million option and hoped he regained ace form. Fantasy owners wished for the same, and many took the cautious approach. Schmidt went from being picked in rounds 2-3 to around 4-7. It was the right idea, as no surgery during the offseason was going to make Schmidt magically regain his velocity, and without it, Schmidt gave little in the form of confidence. An offseason full of rest was the only remedy prescribed.

The early returns were not good, as Schmidt turned in a 4.76 ERA and 1.35 WHIP in April. The fastball was still in the low 90s, which is even more important in Schmidt’s case, as he is primarily a fastball/changeup pitcher. The occasional curve is thrown, but that’s more so to steal a strike and isn’t a plus pitch by any means. Additionally, Schmidt’s changeup is sometimes thrown as high as 90 MPH, so the difference in speeds was way too small to matter at this point, and the results verified this. Throughout it all, Schmidt kept saying he felt great and better than any point the year before. Results were soon to follow he promised. I thought he was just about done.

I couldn’t have been more wrong because in May, something clicked. Schmidt has been the best pitcher in baseball since then. His velocity has crept back up into the mid-90s, and his changeup is better than ever. Now, all of a sudden we are looking at a pitcher who has learned how to pitch without his best stuff, yet regained the stuff he had to begin with. It’s a combo that’s turning Schmidt into a Cy Young candidate.

Schmidt won National League Pitcher of the Month for May, and in his last eight starts, is 6-0 with a 1.31 ERA. Tuesday saw him strikeout a career-high 16 batters in his third complete game of the year already. In his last 55 innings, he has a remarkable 51/8 K/BB ratio. He’s officially back, and there’s nothing to suggest it’s not here to stay (save a groin injury). Fantasy-wise, make sure fellow owners are taking notice. The Giants’ offense is not a bad one with Bonds and Alou now healthy. Pitching in AT&T Park and the NL West gives Schmidt top-5 SP ability. In midseason leagues, he will go back to being a second round target. In other words, Jason is the Schmidt.