Archive for June, 2007

MLB Park Factors

Saturday, June 30th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

With the help of ESPN’s “park factor,” which compares the rate of stats at home vs. the rate of stats on the road, let’s take a quick look around the league to see how different ballparks have been playing over the first half of the 2007 season.

Fenway Park (Boston) – As far as runs scored go, this ballpark is the most advantageous in all of baseball. In a bit of a shocker, Kauffman Stadium (Kansas City) comes in second place, while unsurprisingly, Great American (Cincinnati) is ranked third. Coors Field (Colorado) currently sits at No. 6. Fenway Park easily paces the league in doubles, which makes sense because of the Green Monster.

Petco Park (San Diego) – Plain and simple, it’s baseball’s toughest park to score runs in.

Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia) – It allows the most home runs in the league, with Great American a close second. In fact, these two stadiums are head and shoulders above the rest of the league in the dinger department. Camden Yards (Baltimore), Kauffman Stadium (K.C.), Chase Field (Arizona) and U.S. Cellular Field (Chicago) round out the top six as far as parks being susceptible to big flies.

Safeco Field (Seattle) – For some reason, hitting a triple at Safeco is one of the rarest feats in the game this season, but the stadium plays fairly neutral when it comes to homers and doubles.

Turner Field (Atlanta) – It’s playing like a huge pitcher’s park over the first half of 2007. Is ranked dead last among hits allowed, and tied with Petco Park as far as runs scored are concerned.

AT&T Park (San Francisco) – Hasn’t suppressed runs like in years past (ranked No. 16), but home runs continue to be hard to come by, as it’s been the toughest stadium to hit a homer in through the first three months of the season. Also, according to the Bill James handbook, AT&T Park has been the toughest power ballpark on right-handers the last three years. Should be a fun home run derby this All-Star break. Other parks limiting power include: RFK Stadium (Washington), PNC Park (Pittsburgh), Petco Park (San Diego), Angel Stadium (Anaheim) and Busch Stadium (St. Louis).

The Scoop

Friday, June 29th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

It’s time to throw some offers at the owner of Travis Hafner in your league. The window of opportunity to “buy-low” may be closing with two homers over his last four games, but his overall numbers still look quite stunted. His BABIP (.285) is more than .50 points below his career mark (.336), while his contact and K:BB rates are the best of his career. Slugging has been a big problem, and the Indians do play in a pitcher’s park, but I’m chalking up the lack of extra-base hits to a fluky 250 at-bats (last year he had 73 XBH in 454 ABs). There are only a handful of hitters I’d rather own from here on out.

Ben Sheets has really transformed himself this season. The old Sheets posted crazy strikeout numbers (10.55 K:BB ratio in 2006) but was seemingly always hurt. This year’s version has been a reliable, more efficient hurler whose K rate has declined drastically (6.18 K/9 IP). He’s still giving up homers at a pretty high clip, but he has a better offense and bullpen behind him than seasons past. While he’s clearly lost some zip on his fastball, Sheets has apparently compensated by becoming more of a “pitcher.”

Adam Dunn is one of the most underappreciated players in major league baseball. While his low batting average hurts your fantasy team, his above average OBP more than offsets that for Cincinnati. First, the negatives – he’s not a very good defender and strikes out a ton. The striking out issue is extremely overblown: (note: I’m not saying striking out isn’t bad, as it clearly hurts one’s overall BA. However, comparing outs after the fact, a K is very rarely worse than any other type of out). First off, it prevents a double play. You’d need to advance a runner about four times to make up for grounding into one double play. With two outs, it doesn’t matter. With the bases empty, it doesn’t matter. I could go on and on, but the point is, “productive outs” are few and far between. Now, onto the positives – Dunn is extremely durable, has a .944 OPS this year and can even steal you a base. With his power and ability to get on base, Dunn puts more runs on the board than he gets credit for. Ken Griffey Jr is the guy Wayne Krivsky should be shopping.

Gregg Zaun has an interesting approach to throwing out runners on the basepaths – he doesn’t. After the Twins racked up three stolen bases in Monday’s game, Zaun explained that it’s more important to him that his pitchers throw quality pitches than sacrifice to be quick to the plate. Blue Jays catchers have thrown out 13.2 percent of baserunners, with Zaun at an even 10 percent.

With the additions of Milton Bradley and Michael Barrett, my Padres bet is looking better and better.

NBA Mock Draft

Thursday, June 28th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

1. Portland Trail Blazers – Greg Oden

Not only is he a center in size, he might also be the most athletic player in the draft as well.

2. Seattle Sonics – Kevin Durant

The easiest selection in NBA draft history? Can’t bench press 185 lbs.

3. Atlanta Hawks – Al Horford

While conventional wisdom suggests an obvious top-two, I actually think Horford makes it a clear-cut top-three, although the Hawks will be hard-pressed to pass on Mike Conley Jr. after letting Chris Paul and Deron Williams slip through their mitts.

4. Memphis Grizzlies – Mike Conley Jr.

He’s legit. Obviously needs to work on his shot.

5. Boston Celtics – Yi Jianlian

Has there ever been a more mysterious prospect? Word is, he might be 44 years old, and the Chinese government is controlling his landing spot.

6. Milwaukee Bucks – Corey Brewer

Tremendous defender. Is a steal here.

7. Minnesota Timberwolves – Brandan Wright

The Wolves move into full-blown rebuild mode.

8. Charlotte Bobcats – Joakim Noah

A polarizing talent, with some likening him to the next Anderson Varejao and others expecting big things.

9. Chicago Bulls – Spencer Hawes

Chicago wants to go big.

10. Sacramento Kings – Jeff Green

Sactown needs to blow it up, and Green is a good building block.

11. Atlanta Hawks – Acie Law

The Hawks finally get their point guard.

12. Philadelphia 76ers – Al Thornton

Could prove to be the sleeper of the draft but is a truly awful passer.

13. New Orleans Hornets – Julian Wright

Is a jump shot away from becoming a perennial All-Star.

14. L.A. Clippers – Nick Young

Clips need a shooter, and Young fits the bill.

15. Detroit Pistons – Rodney Stuckey

The pride of Eastern Washington.

16. Washington Wizards – Javaris Crittenton

Project, but Wizards could use a ballhandler, and Crittenton has legitimate potential.

17. New Jersey Nets – Thaddeus Young

Raw but is very athletic.

18. Golden St. Warriors – Jason Smith

Warriors need another big.

19. L.A. Lakers – Nick Fazegas

Release, rotation, splash.

20. Miami Heat – Petteri Koponen

You heard it here first.

Fantasy Sports Live

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

I hesitate to write about this, since RotoScoop readers are a savvy (and good looking) bunch, but I’ve recently discovered the best invention of the 21st century. It’s called Fantasy Sports Live, and in a nutshell, it’s basically a way to gamble on fantasy sports daily. Gambling may be the wrong word, as this distinguished, resplendent U.S. District Judge pointed out.

I don’t want to get too into the scoring and roster details, but in summation, the idea is that you draft a roster among players available for that particular day and you compete against 1-9 other fantasy players throughout the U.S., depending on the type you choose. One current loophole in the system is that the prize amounts are guaranteed. So in a six person competition with a $20 buy in, the $108 awarded ($75 to first place, $33 to second) is paid out even if only two people sign up. I’m guessing the company is doing this because they feel activity will eventually grow, and the maximum amount of participants per competition will frequently be filled. Judging by the brilliance of the overall concept, I tend to agree.

One other funny quirk is that you can play events with no salary cap or ones with a cap. The caps put on players are based on the actual salary per game of the player in real life baseball. I’ve played multiple events now (with a ridiculous winning percentage, but that’s for another article) and never once come close to reaching the cap even when picking the best team possible, regardless of price tag. I’m in no way affiliated with this, so don’t think I’m trying to sell you something. In fact, as I alluded to in the opening, the less competition for myself, the better. Something tells me it won’t be a secret for long, however.

Blue Bird Dealings

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

By Robby Wellington – Staff Writer

Don’t look now, but the worst team in the bigs to pitch for suddenly has four quality starters.  Pitching in one of the league’s premiere hitter’s parks (Rogers Centre) and facing the Red Sox and Yankees quite frequently, I have long avoided Blue Jays starters.  However, this year is different.

Roy Halladay

Halladay has been incredibly uneven this season, alternating between strong outings and getting shelled.  I personally don’t see Halladay posting his usual dominant numbers from here on out and advise shopping him, possibly to someone in your league who overvalues fluke wins.

AJ Burnett

The Blue Jays’ mishandling of Burnett is well-documented, but his peripherals and 100 strikeouts in 90 innings before going down were certainly impressive.  If he can come back and make a couple of quality starts, try and shop him.

Shaun Marcum

Marcum should be owned in all formats.  A young guy, he looks to be putting it all together and should be good to use in all but the toughest of starts.  I’m not sure you can get much value for him now, so just enjoy the ride (although if you can get someone to bite, go for it).

Dustin McGowan

McGowan bounced back from a shellacking by throwing an absolute gem.  He had previously put together a string of quality starts so he should be safe to use.  I still like Marcum more from here on out.

In a nutshell, I’m not a huge believer in Halladay, I think that Burnett could be solid but is obviously a huge injury risk (one I’m not willing to take on my team), and Marcum and McGowan are good to roll with for now, although probably untradeable until they show a bit more of a track record.

The Scoop

Tuesday, June 26th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Sports Illustrated recently conducted a poll among MLB execs asking them to name the first five players they would draft in starting a new major league baseball team. One of them picked Yadier Molina. Yadier! He of the .638 career OPS. RotoScoop’s prediction for this guy’s No. 6 choice – Sean Casey: “Good ballplayer, even better person.” Brian Sabean, I know that was you.

If you look up “strikeout” on Wikipedia, there’s a picture of Adam Dunn. His response: “That’s cool. I love being on the Internet.”

Not sure what to make of this will Barry Bonds make the All-Star team talk. First of all, unless a rule change occurred that I’m unaware of, every team gets a representative, and it’s not like the Giants have any other viable alternatives. Secondly, the game is being played in San Francisco. And last but certainly not least, the dude has a 1.076 OPS (third best in MLB, first in NL) with a 32:75 K:BB ratio. Maybe they can find some room for him.

Since hes essentially a two-category fantasy player at this point in his career, I wasnt willing to pay what it cost to draft Andruw Jones in most fantasy leagues. And so far, the contract year theory certainly hasnt worked in this case. That said, his BABIP is .229 – the lowest among all MLB outfielders and .57 below his career mark – making him a pretty good buy-low candidate.

For those of you still using a DL spot holding onto John Patterson, feel free to pull the cord. Yank it like youre starting a mower. Bonus points for catching the reference.

Someone Im not ready to give up on, on the other hand, is Stephen Drew, who has been getting dropped in droves recently. Hes been disappointing, no doubt, but Drew still plays in one of baseballs best hitters parks and frequently bats atop the lineup. Its a lineup that should only improve throughout the season as its filled with developing youngsters. Drews .82 contact rate is solid enough, and he possesses 25-homer power. I think he emerges as a decent MI option from here on out.

Corey Hart is owned in 44 percent of Yahoo! Leagues. Here are his numbers during June: .333, 9 HRs, 24 runs, 21 RBI, 9 SBs. Id say that makes him rosterable.

Updated rankings – Relievers

Sunday, June 24th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

1. Francisco Rodriguez
2. J.J. Putz
3. Jonathan Papelbon
4. Billy Wagner
5. Joe Nathan
6. Mariano Rivera

7. Takashi Saito
8. Francisco Cordero
9. Trevor Hoffman
10. Jose Valverde
11. Jason Isringhausen
12. Brian Fuentes
13. Bobby Jenks
14. Al Reyes

15. Chris Ray
16. Ryan Dempster
17. Chad Cordero
18. Kevin Gregg
19. Bob Wickman
20. Matt Capps
21. Eric Gagne
22. Jeremy Accardo

23. Octavio Dotel
24. David Weathers
25. Brad Lidge
26. Brad Hennessey
27. Alan Embree
28. Todd Jones
29. Joe Borowski
30. Dan Wheeler
31. Akinori Otsuka
32. Rafael Betancourt
33. Rafael Soriano
34. Brett Myers
35. Tom Gordon
36. Antonio Alfonseca
37. Santiago Casilla
38. Scot Shields
39. Jonathan Broxton
40. Pat Neshek
41. Hideki Okajima

In memoriam – Rod Beck

Stranded

Saturday, June 23rd, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Strand rate is the percentage of batters that reach base but do not score. A typical number is .75. If a pitcher has a STR this season that is extremely different from his career norm, then it’s safe to assume a correction in ERA from here on out.

Dan Haren (.86 STR) – I’ve chronicled Haren’s season regarding luck before, but it’s truly remarkable how well things have gone his way so far. He leads MLB in BABIP (.225), leads the league in STR by .05 and has decreased his HRs allowed dramatically (.73 HR/9 IP) despite giving up more flyballs this year than in the past (0.82 G/F). The extreme amount of foul territory in Oakland certainly helps, and Haren has been known to add a few extra mph on his fastball with runners on base, but there’s no denying how fortunate the young hurler has been. To emphasize this point, Haren’s career STR is a below average .70.

Other pitchers who have been able to pitch out of jams at an unsustainable pace include: Brad Penny (.81), John Maine (.81), Chris Young (.80), John Lackey (.80) and Ian Snell (.79).

Note: A quick glance at this list reveals one thing in common – all are good pitchers. However, most of these strand rates deviate from their career norms fairly drastically, so it’s pretty easy to see why the majority have ERAs less than 3.0. They are unlikely to finish that way.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, plenty of pitchers have simply been unlucky when the hits have fallen. However, this is a trend for some hurlers, highlighting why impressive peripherals (K:BB ratio) don’t always lead to impressive ERAs.

This group includes: Anthony Reyes (.54 STR), David Bush (the 3.71 K:BB ratio is nifty, but the .59 STR is the worst in MLB among starters who have reached the 72-inning minimum), Javier Vazquez (career 3.25 K:BB ratio/.69 STR. It’s .65 this season). These guys cannot pitch out of the stretch and are especially vulnerable to the big inning. I’d avoid them moving forward.

As for the unlucky group, it starts with Roy Halladay, whose .67 STR is well below his career mark of .73. Expect improvement in Halladay’s ERA from here on out. Others include Jose Contreras (.66), Bronson Arroyo (.66 – although there’s injury concern here), Ted Lilly (.67) and Daniel Cabrera (.67).

The Scoop

Friday, June 22nd, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

The King is back. Felix Hernandez’s eight shutout innings Thursday has to be taken with a big grain of salt considering Jeff Weaver tossed a complete game shutout against the lifeless Bucs just one day earlier, but Hernandez was impressive nevertheless. His fastball was 2-3 mph faster than his previous outings (reaching 97-98), and his curveball had more bite to it. Heavily criticized recently for throwing fastballs exclusively in the early innings, Hernandez didn’t change that game plan much, but it didn’t matter with the added zip and extra movement. He could still improve on location, but things do look to be moving in the right direction. Finally.

Death. Taxes. Rocco Baldelli hurting his hamstring.

Nomar Garciaparra is on pace for two homers and 86 RBI this season. The last time a similar feat occurred was in 1951. The .57 Isolated Power is eye-poppingly bad.

Well, at least Barry Zito is durable. Signed to the richest contract a pitcher has ever received, Zito hasn’t just been bad, he’s been brutal. Admittedly, he’s a notorious slow starter, and his schedule has been difficult, but the 54:41 K:BB ratio is just plain unacceptable. What would his 4.84 ERA look like if he wasn’t limiting opponents to a .280 BABIP? Imagine if he wasn’t pitching in the NL West and calling AT&T Park home. His fastball is literally, on average, the slowest in MLB.

On the other hand, there’s Gil Meche. Signed to a $55 million deal that was universally panned – including myself – Meche is looking like an absolute bargain right now. He’s never thrown 190 innings in a season, so he does make a good sell-high guy, but it’s doubtful many of your leaguemates believe in the turnaround, and KC’s offense really hurts his chances at wins. He’s also pitched a fairly easy schedule. Still, Meche has always had plus stuff, and he’s exhibited marked improvement in all the important component areas. He’s drastically improved his control, sports a solid K rate and is inducing more groundballs. I’m not sure what’s more unlikely, Meche living up to the rich contract, or Mark Philippoussis picking a “cougar” on the even-worse-than-you-expected “Age of Love.”

Did Miguel Tejada really just bat second and bunt to keep his consecutive games played streak alive? He does realize that he plays for the Baltimore Orioles, right? Hey, by all accounts, he’s a tough guy, and I’m for him playing through pain, but it’s going to be interesting to see how much playing shortstop with a fractured wrist helps the team.

Updated rankings – Outfielders

Thursday, June 21st, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

1. Grady Sizemore
2. Carl Crawford
3. Vladimir Guerrero
4. Gary Sheffield
5. Alfonso Soriano

6. Manny Ramirez
7. Ichiro Suzuki
8. Matt Holliday
9. Carlos Beltran
10. Bobby Abreu
11. Magglio Ordonez
12. Alex Rios
13. Carlos Lee
14. Jason Bay
15. Vernon Wells
16. Adam Dunn

17. Hideki Matsui
18. Andruw Jones
19. Jeff Francoeur
20. Barry Bonds
21. Johnnny Damon
22. Juan Pierre

23. Torii Hunter
24. Hunter Pence
25. Corey Hart
26. Eric Byrnes
27. Nick Markakis
28. Chris Duncan
29. Delmon Young
30. Jermaine Dye
31. Brad Hawpe
32. Mike Cameron
33. Shane Victorino
34. Gary Matthews Jr.
35. Ken Griffey Jr.
36. Michael Cuddyer
37. Willy Taveras
38. Chris B. Young
39. Curtis Granderson

40. Josh Willingham
41. JD Drew
42. Coco Crisp
43. Dave Roberts
44. Pat Burrell
45. Reggie Willits
46. Aaron Rowand
47. Jeremy Hermida
48. Kenny Lofton
49. Josh Hamilton
50. Corey Patterson
51. Raul Ibanez
52. Sammy Sosa
53. Chris Duffy
54. Joey Gathright
55. Jose Guillen

867. Rocco Baldelli

The Scoop

Wednesday, June 20th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

It’s tough not to be critical of Toronto’s handling of pitchers right now. First, there was the J.P. Riccardi/B.J. Ryan fiasco, and now with A.J. Burnett. One of the more injury-prone pitchers over the last decade, Burnett was left in to throw 125, 117 and 130 pitchers over the final three games before departing his last start with shoulder pain. Then, instead of immediately placing him on the DL as a precaution, Burnett suffers a setback while throwing a side session.

Meet Anthony Reyes, quadruple-A All-Star. He can succeed in the minors until he’s blue in the face, but until that translates to the big leagues, I’m done preaching him as a buy-low guy. Like Javier Vazquez and David Bush before him, the peripherals simply don’t match up with his ERA. Three-run homers tend to do that. His .54 strand rate is by far the worst in major league baseball. He simply needs to learn how to pitch out of the stretch.

Brad Penny has allowed one run or fewer in eight of his last 10 starts. Ironically, his 6.08 K/9 IP is the lowest mark since his rookie season. He has the second best strand rate (.81) and HR/ 9 IP (.18) marks in the game, so he has been experiencing some luck. Still, the fact he’s transformed into a groundball pitcher (1.56 G/F) is a big reason for his success. He’s faded badly during recent second halves, so he’s a pretty good sell-high guy, but the skills have always been there for Penny to turn in a Cy Young caliber type season.

Yovani Gallardo’s first major league start was better than the box score indicated. After all, one of his earned runs scored from first base after he left the game. His fastball was real solid (94-95 mph) and his changeup was a huge discrepancy, often coming in 15 mph slower. Opportunity to remain in the rotation remains a question mark, but with a very good offense and bullpen behind him, Gallardo could prove to be a fantasy force from here on out. Just because Homer Bailey and Tim Lincecum haven’t lived up the hype so far doesn’t mean Gallardo won’t.

I’m liking Kevin Slowey’s prospects less and less. The great command should eventually lead to a solid WHIP, but because he’s always around the strike zone, he’s going to be eminently hittable with a fastball topping out at 89 mph. Home runs allowed figure to remain a problem.

An interesting, alternative look at BABIP.

I had the craziest dream last night where the Sacramento Kings hired Reggie Theus as head coach. You know, the guy from that terrible Saturday-morning show “Hang Time?” Wait a minute, that really happened? What, Mr. Belding was unavailable?

Updated rankings – Second Basemen

Tuesday, June 19th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

1. Chase Utley

2. Chone Figgins
3. Brandon Phillips
4. Brian Roberts
5. B.J. Upton

6. Rickie Weeks
7. Ian Kinsler
8. Dan Uggla
9. Kelly Johnson
10. Jeff Kent
11. Howie Kendrick
12. Robinson Cano

13. Orlando Hudson
14. Kazuo Matsui
15. Placido Polanco
16. Ray Durham
17. Dustin Pedroia
18. Tadahito Iguchi
19. Marcus Giles
20. Josh Barfield
21. Ryan Freel
22. Mark Ellis
23. Freddy Sanchez
24. Aaron Hill
25. Jose Lopez

The Scoop

Monday, June 18th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Rafael Furcal has been one of the bigger busts in fantasy baseball so far. Maybe the knee problem is to blame, but not only does Furcal have just seven steals on the season, he also didn’t hit his first home run until Sunday. The contact rate is actually a career-best, so expect at least a modest bounce back over the rest of the season.

Improbably, Paul Byrd leads all of baseball with a sparkling 10.5:1 K:BB ratio. In fact, the next closest (C.C. Sabathia 6:1) isn’t even all that close. However, this is one peripheral that can pretty much be ignored, as Byrd’s 4.81 ERA is a better indication of how he’s pitched. The league-leading .49 BB/9 IP is nice and all, but he’s also allowed 1.48 HR/9 IP and sports a low strikeout rate.

I’m more than a little worried about Jason Schmidt. At this point, any surgery that won’t hurt his 2008 outlook has to be considered a best-case scenario. A two-pitch pitcher, Schmidt was able to compensate for a loss in velocity during his last two years in SF because of his tremendous changeup, but a fastball that currently tops out at 85 mph is simply too much of a drop off. His changeup was frequently thrown at 91-92 mph during his peak 2002-2004 seasons.

Regarding Schmidt’s replacement in LA’s rotation, it seems like a no-brainer that Chad Billingsley should be the choice. Sure, he needs to be stretched out, but with a 26:6 K:BB ratio, 1.28 ERA and 0.85 WHIP over his last 21.1 innings, it’s time to see what Billingsley can do as a starter.

It’s clear Carlos Beltran’s quad injury is bothering him more than the Mets have been letting on. A consensus top-15 fantasy pick entering the year, Beltran is batting just .204 over the last six weeks. In June, he has just one extra-base hit and a 10:1 K:BB ratio.

Kei Igawa may have some use in fantasy leagues after all. After rediscovering his changeup in Triple-A, he posted a 1.80 ERA and 21 strikeouts in 20 innings this month. He probably won’t be all that helpful in ERA or WHIP, but run support should be on his side. His first start back against the Giants this Friday is a favorable one.

After mono essentially ruined his season last year, Casey Kotchman is quietly having one of the better seasons in the game in 2007. He has a .333/.411/.556 line with a remarkable 16:24 K:BB ratio. Hopefully his recent concussion doesn’t prove to be too serious, because a run at the batting crown isn’t out of the question.

Welcome back, Jonny Gomes. With Elijah Dukes putting Shawn Kemp to shame, Gomes may finally be given another chance with the organization. Remember, Gomes had a 1.185 OPS and 11 homers last April before a shoulder injury derailed his season. While his swing is too long to result in a BA much better than .260, his power could make him a fantasy asset immediately, regardless of Rocco Baldelli’s impending return. Besides, you’d have a better chance of hearing Dane Cook tell a funny joke than Baldelli’s hamstring holding up over the rest of the season.

There isn’t a hotter player in baseball right now than Corey Hart. In 59 June at-bats, he has a 1.058 OPS, six homers and six steals. Folks, that’s a 65/65 pace for the season. All right, maybe that’s unsustainable, but Hart has clearly forced the Brewers’ hand to finally make him a regular, and if he holds onto the leadoff spot after Rickie Weeks’ return, expect him to continue to run wild. He has the upside of a top-20 fantasy outfielder from here on out.

Updated rankings – Shortstops

Sunday, June 17th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

1. Jose Reyes
2. Hanley Ramirez
3. Jimmy Rollins

4. Derek Jeter
5. Miguel Tejada
6. Edgar Renteria
7. Michael Young
8. Carlos Guillen
9. Jhonny Peralta

10. Julio Lugo
11. Rafael Furcal
12. J.J. Hardy
13. Orlando Cabrera
14. Stephen Drew
15. Bill Hall

16. Bobby Crosby
17. Brendan Harris
18. Felipe Lopez
19. Troy Tulowitzki
20. Ryan Theriot
21. Khalil Greene
22. Alex Gonzalez
23. Yuniesky Betancourt
24. Omar Vizquel
25. David Eckstein

Updated rankings – First Basemen

Saturday, June 16th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

1. Albert Pujols
2. David Ortiz
3. Ryan Howard
4. Prince Fielder
5. Travis Hafner

6. Justin Morneau
7. Derrek Lee
8. Lance Berkman
9. Adrian Gonzalez

10. Nick Swisher
11. Todd Helton
12. Mark Teixeira
13. Carlos Delgado
14. Paul Konerko
15. Casey Kotchman
16. Carlos Pena
17. Dan Johnson
18. Ryan Garko
19. Conor Jackson
20. Richie Sexson

21. Jason Giambi
22. Adam LaRoche
23. Xavier Nady
24. Nomar Garciaparra
25. Lyle Overbay

Updated rankings – Third Basemen

Friday, June 15th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

The following are updated fantasy baseball rankings: I’ve rated them based on how I view them from here on out, not solely on performance thus far. First up, the hot corner.

1. Alex Rodriguez

2. Miguel Cabrera
3. David Wright

4. Aramis Ramirez
5. Ryan Braun
6. Chipper Jones
7. Garrett Atkins
8. Ryan Zimmerman

9. Kevin Youkilis
10. Mike Lowell
11. Edwin Encarnacion
12. Troy Glaus
13. Adrian Beltre

14. Mark Teahen
15. Scott Rolen
16. Akinori Iwamura
17. Alex Gordon
18. Eric Chavez
19. Melvin Mora

20. Kevin Kouzmanoff
21. Chad Tracy
22. Casey Blake
23. Aubrey Huff
24. Pete Happy
25. Brandon Inge

If they aren’t listed, chances are I will soon be ranking them under a different position (usually the one where they’d be most valuable).

Gopheritis

Thursday, June 14th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

The following are HR rates that pitchers will almost certainly be unable to sustain over the course of the rest of the season. Predicting the inevitable corrections before they actually happen could help influence the standings in your league.

Home runs allowed per nine innings pitched – On average, the typical pitcher allowed 1.12 HR/9 IP last season. Ideally, you want to look for hurlers with a number that is less than 1.00.

Jake Peavy .10 HR/9 IP – He’s good, but more flyballs are going to leave the park, no matter how spacious Petco is. There isn’t a fantasy pitcher I’d rather own other than Johan Santana, and Peavy is the odds-on favorite to win the Cy Young in the NL, but he’s been getting lucky in limiting the long ball thus far. His career rate is 1.02 HR/9 IP, and while he is inducing more groundballs (1.26 G/F this season after a 0.92 mark last year), giving up one home run in 94 innings is a rate that simply will not last.

Also see: Brad Penny (.20 HR/9 IP), Tim Hudson (.29), Kelvim Escobar (.33), Chris Young (.33), Chad Gaudin (.35), Josh Beckett (.38)

Note: There’s probably a little cause and effect regarding the fact both Peavy and Young appear on this list, as pitching in San Diego gives them a better chance of finishing 2007 with a low HR/9 IP. Also, this stat is the easiest figure to point to Beckett’s huge turnaround season this year. He gave up 1.58 HR/9 IP last year, which was toward the very bottom of the league. He ranks seventh best in the category this year.

Carlos Zambrano 1.43 HR/9 IP – So that’s why he has a 4.89 ERA. For his career, Zambrano has allowed a very solid .69 HR/9 IP. This year, it’s more than doubled. The 14 gopher balls in 88.1 innings are as many as he gave up in 209.2 innings in 2004. His strikeout rate is way down (6.93/ 9 IP), but he’s actually posting a better groundball to flyball rate this season (1.41 G/F) than last (1.21). He’ll always battle control issues from time to time, but if Zambrano is truly healthy – and judging by his high pitch counts, one can only hope so – he’s due for a big bounce back over the final 3.5 months of the season. Go get him.

Also see: Ervin Santana (1.87), Johan Santana (1.36), A.J. Burnett (1.30)

Note: Guys like Cole Hamels (1.46), Chuck James (1.43) and Boof Bonser (1.36) also have very high HR rates, but those numbers are in line with their career totals. They are flyball pitchers, and thus, far more homer-prone. Ervin Santana, Johan Santana and A.J. Burnett, meanwhile, have very good groundball rates and are due for a correction in HRs allowed from here on out.

The Scoop

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Jose Reyes, where has all the power gone? He’s a fantasy stud, and all ESPN anchors have it written into their contracts that they must call him “the most exciting player in the game,” but he has just two jacks this season and none since April 21. It’s hard to find fault with the rest of his game, however.

It’s tough to take these radar guns seriously, but did you see Justin Verlander touch 102 mph in the ninth inning Tuesday? His curveball was unhittbale as well. Pretty dominant performance.

Don’t look now, but the Yankees have won seven straight.

Before Monday’s 3-0 win over the White Sox, the Phillies were 0-18 this season when scoring three runs or fewer.

Speaking of the White Sox – the team ranks dead last in MLB in runs scored this year. Now that’s hard to do considering they have a DH to their advantage and play in one of the very best hitter’s parks in the game. Chicago is batting .231 with a .303 on-base percentage.

Speaking of futility, it’s time to check in on Jason Kendall: he picked up his third extra-base hit of the season Tuesday and first since May 16, upping his slugging percentage to a hideous .214 on the year. He’s easily baseball’s worst hitter.

Of the bottom 10 starting pitchers with the worst control this season, there are some surprisingly bigger names down there: Doug Davis is the worst in the league with 4.64 walks per nine innings, which isn’t shocking. And neither is Daniel Cabrera’s third worst mark of 4.55 BB/9 IP. But Matt Cain ranks second worst, with a 4.59 BB/9 IP mark. Others coming in the bottom 10 include Scott Kazmir, Scott Olsen and Noah Lowry. Part of the theme here is that most are young hurlers still learning how to pitch.

David Eckstein has a ridiculous .96 contact rate this season. He struck out Tuesday for just the seventh time all season.

Elijah Dukes is on pace to have 44 children by the time he turns 60. And of course, with 43 different women. There’s always that one lucky lady who doubles up.

The NBA Finals are unwatchable. The Cavs almost certainly wouldn’t have made the playoffs if they played in the Western Conference.

Watched “Ocean’s 13” last weekend – not as good as the first but not nearly the disaster that “Ocean’s 12” was. Probably more of a rental, though.

Over the past week, I’ve heard ESPN sportscasters come up with some pretty ridiculous ways to describe sports – here are three recent examples:

“Just like Paris Hilton, LeBron James was locked down. And like her, he wants to get free Sunday night.”

Describing a home run – “Hey bartender, Jack!”

Again, a home run call – “He’s got 99 problems but the pitch ain’t one.”

OK, that last one is actually pretty good. But still, are they comedians or sportscasters? Is there someone whose main job is to come up with these one-liners? I’m beginning to think they spend more time attempting to come up with witty dialogue than analyzing sports. And by beginning to think I mean this has become a decade-long trend.

BABIP

Monday, June 11th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

The following are abnormally high and abnormally low hit rates through 10 weeks of the season. Some of these players’ skill sets may have truly changed, but more likely, most will eventually regress to the mean. Act accordingly:

BABIP = Batting average on balls in play or “hit rate.” Most balls in play result in hits about 30 percent of the time. Home runs are not accounted for.

BJ Upton .447 BABIP – 534 career at-bats isn’t a big enough sample size to establish a trend with Upton’s hit rate, but it’s safe to say .447 is on the high side. It’s a mark that not only leads all of baseball but also is 33 points ahead of the next player. When you combine his lucky hit rate with a subpar .66 contact rate, Upton’s .320 batting average is more than a little fluky. Unless he starts taking a drastically different approach to the plate, he’ll be lucky to bat .260 from here on out.

Also see: Jorge Posada (.414 BABIP), Derrek Lee (.402), Matt Holliday (.396)

Elijah Dukes .200 BABIP – Of all batters with the qualified number of at-bats, Dukes is having the worst luck in the game this year. Just 20 percent of all balls put into play are falling in for hits, helping to explain a terrible .196 average despite an average contact rate. Maybe it’s karma punishing Dukes for being an asshole. More likely, however, is that Dukes’ hits start missing more gloves.

Also see: Jermaine Dye (.232), Corey Patterson (.247), Andruw Jones (.253), Pat Burrell (.254), Gary Sheffield (.262), Barry Bonds (.263)

Adam Wainwright .359 BABIP – The worst number in MLB. Wainwright hasn’t pitched great this year (1.68 K/BB ratio, 6.1 K/9 IP), but he also hasn’t been as bad as his 5.19 ERA indicates. A switch to the starting rotation figured to take a toll on his numbers, and he’s still working on developing that important third pitch (slider) that wasn’t needed when he was in the pen last year. But he dominated during spring, has a very good curveball and has Dave Duncan on his side. Wainwright could be a useful fantasy pitcher from here on out, especially once the abnormally high BABIP gets corrected.

Also see: Boof Bonser (.352), Randy Wolf (.336), Erik Bedard (.333), Daisuke Matsuzaka (.327), Scott Kazmir (.326)

Dan Haren .218 BABIP – There isn’t a better sell-high candidate in the game right now. While most balls in play result in hits about 30 percent of the time, it’s happening just 21.8 percent of the time for Haren this season, the lowest mark in major league baseball. When you also add in his league-leading strand rate (the percentage of batters that reach base but do not score) of .87 (a typical number is .59), you’re looking at the luckiest player in the league so far. His control is superb, he can strike guys out and he’s no doubt an excellent pitcher, but to call Haren’s ERA unsustainable would be an understatement. See if you can cash out now.

Also see: Rich Hill (.218), Jeremy Guthrie (.244), James Shields (.250), Oliver Perez (.251), Chris Young (.267), Matt Cain (.268)

The Sopranos

Monday, June 11th, 2007

By Dalton Del Don – Senior Writer

Sure, this is mostly a sports blog, but if ESPN can devote a segment to The Sopranos finale, I can squeeze a small article out of it as well. The finale was brilliant. There, I said it. Why it is getting absolutely demolished among the media and fans is beyond me. Really, there were only two options – Tony getting whacked or what ended up happening. A family member’s death, witness protection and Tony becoming a rat were all out of the question. The last scene (Journey song and all) was so tension-filled, never before has writing done a better job of allowing the viewer to see life through the main character’s eyes. Speaking of which, while Tony may be one of the most immoral protagonists in television history, when it comes down to it, all Sopranos fans like the guy, right? So why does everyone want to see him get whacked in the end? If you’re one of the viewers watching for bloodshed, Phil Leotardo’s death more than satiated.

On a side note, The Sopranos is laugh out loud funny – the most underrated aspect throughout the show’s eight-year run. While the finale may not have brought the closure “Six Feet Under” did, who really wanted this story wrapped up neatly in a tight little bow anyway? David Chase, king of metaphors, wasn’t going to leave the ending without an opening for interpretation. To me, however, the ending was actually straightforward – no, that fade to black didn’t mean Tony died. But still, the closing did leave plenty up to the imagination. What happens next? That part will be unique to each individual viewer, but I do know this, everyone who watched the finale won’t soon forget it.