Archive for June, 2008

The Scoop

Sunday, June 29th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

After another brilliant performance Sunday, Kevin Slowey has to be considered a major asset in even the shallowest of mixed leagues. His current 3.47 ERA will likely never be better because of his tendency to give up home runs, but his control is outstanding (1.12 BB/9 IP), so most of the long balls are solo shots, leaving him with an exemplary WHIP (1.04). His last four starts have all come against NL teams, which has certainly helped, but his 6:1 K:BB ratio on the year is elite. Teammate Scott Baker has been similarly impressive.

If a fantasy draft were held today, I’d have no problem whatsoever with C.C. Sabathia being the first pitcher taken. How about a 36:4 K:BB ratio over the past four starts? On May 3, he had a 7.51 ERA – 10 starts later that number is all the way down to 3.78. Sabathia gave up six more runs over the first 18 innings this season than he’s allowed during 96.1 innings since. Last season’s big workload is still a concern, but there’s certainly nothing to worry about the way Sabathia is currently throwing.

There’s not much to like about Pedro Martinez’s 7.12 ERA and 1.75 WHIP, but consider his last three starts came against the Rangers, Rockies (in Coors Field) and Yankees, so I’m not ready to write him off just yet.

It’s safe to say Billy Beane is kicking himself for not dealing Joe Blanton during the offseason. After getting pounded by the Giants on Sunday, Blanton’s ERA is now an ugly 4.97. His BABIP is similar to last season, but he’s walking more batters while striking fewer out. His true skill level is probably somewhere in between last year and this year.

Even though I own him in zero leagues, I hated to see Jacob McGee go down. The Rays are still in place for a big run this decade, but that was a major blow.

Over his last four starts, Rocky Nolasco has posted a 27:4 K:BB ratio with a 0.91 WHIP, so he can no longer be ignored. His BABIP and strand rate aren’t flukish, and last year’s awful campaign can be directly related to injury. The former fourth round pick once posted a 2.95 ERA and 1.21 WHIP with a 9.63 K/9 IP mark in Double-A as a 22-year-old, so this isn’t coming completely out of nowhere. Nolasco has also increased his velocity this year. With three upcoming starts against the Nationals, Padres and Dodgers before the All-Star break, he needs to be owned in fantasy leagues.

Gil Meche endured a rough April, but he has a 1.13 WHIP with a 3.1:1 K:BB ratio since then. His terrible first month is still bringing down his overall numbers, but a 7.8 K/9 IP mark over the last two months suggests he’s well worth owning. Contracts like Barry Zito’s and Carlos Silva’s are going to look far worse than the one Meche signed.

So far, my preseason advice to avoid Javier Vazquez at all costs has looked good. He hasn’t allowed fewer than four runs in any of his starts during the month of June. Like the rest of his career (other than last year’s aberration), his fantastic K rate and K:BB ratio don’t match up to his ERA. Vazquez has been unlucky (.345 BABIP), so expect his WHIP to drop, but he still allows too many homers and struggles from the stretch to be a help in the ERA department. And in all fairness, I was also high on Brett Myers entering the year.

Hopefully David DeJesus’ recent rib injury isn’t too bad, because he’s been a nice surprise in 2008, thanks in no small part to a major league leading .463 batting average with runners in scoring position. Don’t mess with the DeJesus.

The Scoop

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

Shane Victorino has eight steals over the past eight games and a vastly improving approach at the plate this year (27:27 K:BB ratio). Despite a stint on the disabled list, he’s still on pace to surpass 100 runs scored. And although Victorino has increased both his line-drive and flyball percentages from last year, his slugging has dropped sharply, so look for more extra base hits from here on out.

Despite the lowest K rate and highest walk rate of his career, Francisco Rodriguez has already racked up 31 saves this season, putting him on pace to shatter the major league record. A .233 BABIP and .825 strand rate are big reasons why, as are the copious amount of opportunities. Unless he starts pitching better, Rodriguez’s ratios will rise, but that doesn’t mean he still won’t be elite. It looks like his early season injury worries can be put to bed.

I’m beginning to think this Evan Longoria kid can play some ball. Sure, he strikes out far too often, but with 14 homers in just 245 at-bats, he possesses legit power. And this is all with a .169/.282/.373 line against left-handers.

Kevin Kouzmanoff has been hit by a pitch (10) almost as many times as he’s walked (11) this season.

With an eight-inning, three baserunner, 11 K masterpiece Thursday, Rich Harden continues to tantalize. Even at just 95 pitches, the A’s smartly pulled him, since this is the first time in three years he’s been able to make nine consecutive starts. His 11.2 K 9/IP mark is eye-popping. With Justin Duchscherer also leading the AL in ERA, the A’s have two talented yet extremely injury-prone starters at the front of their rotation. The team ranks second in defensive efficiency, which certainly doesn’t hurt.

With the trade of T.J. Ford, how high do you take Jose Calderon in fantasy drafts next season? He doesn’t score a ton, but few, if any, point guards shoot with such proficiency. Also, no one will turn the ball over less while racking up so many assists. Early third round doesn’t seem too high to me.

Christian Guzman currently leads major league baseball in hits for the 2008 season. I didn’t see that one coming.

I’ve got to give a shout out to the Fresno St. Bulldogs, winners of the college baseball world series. The Cinderella run was the equivalent of a 13-seed winning March Madness. In fact, they were the lowest seeded team ever to win an NCAA title. I don’t call it Fresno, I call it Fresyes.

I’m positively dumbfounded by Willie Parker’s current ADP of 30. Even while leading the league in rushing, he wasn’t all that valuable as a fantasy back last year and now has to deal with a more complete runner in Rashard Mendenhall. Since Parker doesn’t catch the ball or get short yardage work, I see no upside, even if Pittsburgh is a good team that is run-heavy. Parker’s 4.1 YPC last season was a problem, and that was before he shattered his fibula. I’d take Darren McFadden (ADP: 47) ahead of him eight days a week.

Brandon Marshall and Ahmad Bradshaw are two of my favorites targets this season. Unfortunately, it’s tough to rack up fantasy points while incarcerated. Get your acts together, fellas!

I’m avoiding Marvin Harrison like the plague this year. The Colts remain a fantastic situation to be in, but this is someone still not practicing after coming off two very serious knee injuries, including the worst “bruise” in the history of bruises. But most concerning of all is that Harrison will enter the season as a 36-year-old. I’d prefer Anthony Gonzalez to him.

Quarterback Rankings

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

Taking a small break from baseball, I thought now is as good of time as any to compile some (very) preliminary fantasy football rankings. Plenty will change between now and late August, but really, is it ever too early to discuss some football? And before we get started, let me take a moment to recommend purchasing the RotoWire Fantasy Football Magazine, where you can get more than 12,500 words on my running backs section. Although editor Chris Liss botched a few of my rankings with rearrangement, it’s still a good read, if for no other reason than to justify the ridiculous amount of time it took. Hope none of you thought I was above shameless self-promotion. Seriously, Chris does a very good job with the wide receivers, and Mike Salfino is equally impressive with the QB section. I’d probably recommend it regardless based on my involvement, but in this case, I truly believe in the product. And now, onto the rankings – first up is quarterbacks.

1. Tom Brady – Repeat after me: do not take a quarterback in the first round. Last year’s second half stats (7.6 YPA, 20 TDs) is a much better barometer for 2008’s expectations than his first half (9.1 YPA, 30 TDs). That’s still very good.

2. Peyton Manning – There’s probably around a 45 percent chance Manning outscores Brady this year. The consistency is great, but again, let someone else use a high pick on him.

3. Tony Romo – Terrell Owens’ age is concerning, as is Dallas’ improving defense. Still, the offense is a force, and Romo is the real deal.

4. Carson Palmer – Palmer had the worst season since his rookie year in 2007, so he’ll come cheaper. With a bad defense and questionable running game, there’s plenty of potential for a nice campaign from Palmer.

5. Drew Brees – Brees’ weak 6.8 YPA last year didn’t matter because he attempted a staggering 652 passes. The Saints figure to remain pass-heavy, and he did get 8.0 YPA the year before, so there’s nice upside here. A few more weapons would help.

6. Jay Cutler – He’s going to be a star. Cutler’s solid sophomore year (7.5 YPA) looks even better after the revelation he lost 30 pounds while playing with an undiagnosed case of diabetes. He can run and has a rocket for an arm. One caveat – Brandon Marshall needs to avoid incarceration.

7. Ben Roethlisberger – Roethlisberger is one of the five most valuable players in the league, and Santonio Holmes is developing into a Pro Bowler. However, Pittsburgh’s offensive philosophy hurts. It will be extremely difficult for Roethlisberger to approach last year’s 32 TDs while attempting just 404 passes.

8. Matt Schaub – No one else will rank him this high, so feel free to wait. He and Andre Johnson need to stay healthy, but there’s massive potential here. Last season’s 7.8 YPA is an elite number, and the low accompanying TD total was a fluke. Gary Kubiak has installed a great system in Houston, and the defense is shaky, which could lead to a monstrous 2008.

9. David Garrard – He’d be ranked higher if Jacksonville passed more. Garrard developed into a star at the QB position last year, and he can also run. Jerry Porter could help, but the team isn’t great at WR.

10. Matt Hasselbeck – In Mike Holmgren’s system, Hasselbeck doesn’t necessarily need name-brand receivers at his disposal, but still, this will be his weakest group to work with yet. Moreover, the defense is emerging and the running game can only get better with Shaun Alexander jettisoned. Still, the NFC West is a great place for offense.

11. Derek Anderson – Anderson is in a great spot – Cleveland has a poor defense and terrific receivers. He was fantastic over the first half last year (8.2 YPA), but his play fell dramatically afterward (6.2 YPA, 55.6 completion percentage). Another problem is Brady Quinn breathing down his neck. He’ll get drafted too high.

12. Donovan McNabb – McNabb’s best days are behind him, but one more year removed from knee surgery should help, and hopefully it also leads to a few more rushing stats. Health is always an issue, but improved red-zone play should lead to more touchdowns.

13. Eli Manning – Manning’s always been able to post solid TD totals despite low YPAs, and it remains to be seen if his big step forward in the postseason transfers into 2008. He’s a solid, yet unspectacular option.

14. Jake Delhomme – He’s 33 and coming off major elbow surgery. However, all health reports have been overwhelmingly positive so far, and Delhomme posted an 8:1 TD:INT ratio in the three games before he got injured last year. He also has added weapons on offense. It’s simple, if he and Steve Smith can both stay healthy (a big if), QB1 numbers should follow.

15. Aaron Rodgers – This will take a leap of faith, and Rodgers has been anything but durable so far in his career, but the Packers are loaded at wide receiver and the offensive system remains strong. He’ll be a first time starter, but he’s far from a rookie, and Rodgers can also give you rushing stats. He’s a sleeper to target.

Podcast

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

If any of you have XM, my new weekly time slot is Tuesdays at 11 am PST (Channel #144). I think it can also be listened to online as well. Here’s this week’s podcast.

The Scoop

Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

Hong-Chih Kuo is quietly having one of the best seasons as a reliever in major league baseball. Since April ended, he has a 35:3 K:BB ratio over 27 innings. Versus left-handers, he’s posted a 23:0 K:BB ratio. Kuo’s always had dominant stuff, but health and command issues have held him back. A role in middle relief has seemingly kept him off the DL, and a huge step in the control department has left him with a tidy 1.76 ERA on the year. He has a 10.4 K 9/IP mark for his career.

At 9-2 with a 3.63 ERA and 1.22 WHIP, Kyle Lohse is having a fine season. He’s hardly the first guy to move to St. Louis and exceed expectations, but Lohse’s component numbers suggest a major regression is soon in store. A 4.2 K 9/IP mark rarely leads to success, and the same is true with his 1.91:1 K:BB ratio. The Cardinals’ defense really helps, but it’s best to proceed with caution.

Matt Cain has a 6.19 ERA during the first inning of games this season. It’s at 3.96 after that. Over the past three starts, he has a 25:3 K:BB ratio, which is a big deal for someone who typically struggles with command. Cain has lost a few mph off his fastball, but his changeup and curveball have improved, and he has a 1.18 WHIP in May and June. More wins should follow.

Randy Johnson gave up seven earned runs during a complete game Friday. Now that’s not easy to do.

Brett Myers is a human launching pad. After going four starts without allowing a home run, he’s served up eight gopher balls over the past three starts, leaving him with a major league high 23 for the season. Despite inducing more groundballs than flyballs, Myers has allowed a staggering 2.08 HR 9/IP.

Billy Butler now has a .382/.455/.640 line at Triple-A this season. He should be recalled within the week and will be worth adding in all but the shallowest of leagues.

Whatever it means, Edgar Renteria has hit .273 as an American Leaguer versus .293 when playing in the Senior Circuit. His home runs have also dropped from one every 55 ABs to one every 67 ABs. And after Renteria recorded a career-low in SBs in Boston in 2005, he’s on pace to finish with even fewer this season in Detroit. It’s safe to say the Braves got the better end of the Jair Jurrjens deal.

This is an interesting article, and one worth discussing.

In a Sports Illustrated survey of 495 Major League Baseball players in its June 23 issue, Derek Jeter was voted the most overrated player with 10 percent of the vote. I’ve heard numerous members of the media question the sanity of this verdict, but really, it seems about right to me. The main argument is calling him a “winner,” since he’s been a part of four World Series titles. Umm, baseball is about as much of a team sport as there is, and he was consistently on the one with the highest payroll. Don’t get me wrong, Jeter’s one of the best hitting shortstops ever. But he’s also been one of the game’s two-to-three worst fielders at his position over his career, and since he’s now lost most of his power (.712 OPS this year), for someone making $21.6 million, he’s a pretty big liability right now.

Baseball Prospectus

Friday, June 20th, 2008

I wrote an article for BP advocating punting saves. Check it out.

The Scoop

Thursday, June 19th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

Over the last week, I’ve heard at least four pundits state the case that Ryan Dempster is pitching much better at home this season than on the road. Huh? There are people still out there who base a pitcher’s performance off record? And they are given a microphone? Dempster is 8-0 at home and 0-2 on the road in 2008, but he sports a lower ERA (.248 to 2.92), lower WHIP (1.05 to 1.11) and better K:BB ratio (2.4:1 to 2.1:1) when away from home.

J.P. Riccardi’s recent bashing of Adam Dunn was wrong, but his reasoning was much worse. He came off like Joe sports fan stating Dunn is passionless and a “.230 to .240 hitter that strikes out a ton.” It’s almost as if a general manager of a major league baseball team doesn’t understand that on-base and slugging percentage are the two most important metrics when evaluating a player.

Sticking with the media theme, I heard the Reds’ radio announcers recently say they thought Edinson Volquez had pitched well enough to make the All-Star team this season, and “they should find some place for him in the bullpen.” This is the opposite of homersim. As of now, I don’t see why he wouldn’t be the starter. The guy’s ERA is 1.64! The funny thing is his BABIP (.281) isn’t all that fluky. However, his strand rate (.87) is, and although he’s drastically improved his G/F rate (1.38), he’s going to start giving up more homers. Still, his 10.74 K/9 IP mark easily leads all of baseball, so Volquez has been about as dominant as any starter in the league this year.

Last media rant (I promise). You cannot, ever, under any circumstances, “reaggravate” an injury. It’s impossible, since it’s not a word and all.

What in the world has gotten into Jason Giambi? He’s batting .322 since April ended, and he’s already up to 17 homers and 40 RBI with more walks than strikeouts on the year. Giambi’s .979 OPS is fourth best in the American League. Ironically, he’s largely doing so by crushing southpaws (.288/.468/.678). What a surprising resurgence by the 37-year-old.

Russell Branyan isn’t going to continue hitting a homer every 6.2 at-bats, but it’s entirely possible he’s a legit power source over the course of the season. He strikes out far too often to not be a batting average drain, but this is someone who has homered once every 14.7 at-bats versus right-handers during his career, so he’s not unfamiliar with the long ball. Since Branyan’s been recalled, no one in all of baseball has a higher slugging percentage. I would say to shop him around, but I doubt you’d find many eager takers. Just sit back and use him if you need power in a deep or NL-only league.

Is there anyone more worthless than Wily Mo Pena?

Don’t look now, but there’s been a Rocco Baldelli sighting. My favorite whipping boy has two homers with three walks and no Ks during his first two games of action, and it’s looking like there’s a real possibility he contributes this season. Of course, he’ll need to avoid further injury for it to happen, which is a long shot.

“I told him next time he does that I’m going to get my blade out and cut him. I’m a gangster. You go gangster on me, I’m going to have to get you. You do that again, I’m going to cut you right on the field.” – Jerry Manuel…I’m speechless.

How weird is it that the correct term is trade “chits,” not chips? Can someone help me out here?

A.J. Burnett is costing himself millions with his recent implosions. Usually, he’s either effective or hurt, but he’s been healthy (at least ostensibly) and currently sports a 5.42 ERA this season. Since Burnett’s pitching in hopes of getting a big contract at year’s end, it’s possible he’s doing so through some sort injury. Either way, his control has been horrible (4.5 BB/9 IP).

Congratulations to the Celtics, who flat-out whipped an inferior Lakers squad. That series was closer to being a sweep than it was Los Angeles winning. Phil Jackson was asleep at the wheel, Paul Pierce was simply fantastic, especially defensively, and I’m not entirely sure Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol realize the series has started (and ended). If one watched only the postseason, they’d come away thinking LeBron James is clearly better than Kobe Bryant.

The Scoop

Tuesday, June 17th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

Ryan Howard is currently on pace to strike out an MLB-record 218 times this season. Despite a .224 batting average, he’s also on pace to drive in 140 runs. Howard is hitting .337 with RISP and .170 with the bases empty. He currently has more RBI (62) than hits (60)!

Ryan Doumit is quietly having a fantastic season and is fast becoming one of the game’s best hitting catchers. Finally healthy, he has nine homers with a 1.005 OPS over 136 at-bats this year. Doumit had a 1.210 OPS when he played at Triple-A last year, so this isn’t a complete fluke.

Over his last four starts in the minors, Francisco Liriano has a 2.86 ERA with a 26:6 K:BB ratio. Most importantly, he’s walked more than one batter during just one of his past seven outings, including none in his most recent start. He’s not going to come back and dominate like he did pre-injury, but it looks like Liriano will definitely be an asset soon enough, and his 2009 outlook is looking much brighter.

If you’re a fly on my wall, you’re sick of the new My Morning Jacket album by now.

Ian Kinsler has simply been one of fantasy baseball’s best players in 2008. He’s on pace to finish with a .305 BA, 23 homers, 39 steals, 96 RBI and 135 runs, all while playing second base. And while he’s still hitting much better at home, eight of his 10 homers have come on the road, which is an encouraging sign.

If I own Rich Harden, I’m shopping him aggressively. Maybe turning into a primarily fastball/changeup pitcher will lead to continued health, but he was already complaining of a sore arm after his start last week. While the numbers will be great when he’s on the mound, it’s best to realize just how serious of an injury risk Harden is. And with the A’s well aware of this, he’s also unlikely to go very deep in games.

Chase Headley is a no-brainer pickup, but those who play in deep leagues should also consider Charlie Morton and to a lesser extent, Brandon Jones. And for those with patience, stashing Jaime Garcia might prove to be prudent down the road, especially with the Cardinals’ pitching staff dropping like flies.

Comcast’s TV gun clocked Brian Wilson’s fastball at 103 mph Monday. He’s got a good heater, but I’m guessing that was inaccurate.

Despite flashing his best strikeout rate in four years, Roy Oswalt’s run as a front-line starter appears to be ending. His 3:1 K:BB rate is very good, so his current 5.04 ERA is bound to decrease, but his 1.62 HR/9 IP mark is a big problem. He’s also pitched drastically worse from the stretch, as his career .767 strand rate is down to .700.

Could the Mets have botched the Willie Randolph firing any worse? They waited until he flew across the country because it was Father’s Day on Sunday? Announcing it at 3:12 a.m. EST? It’s clear a change was needed, but why draw it out like this? Pretty questionable handling by Minaya and the Wilpons.

This Javon Walker story has to be one of the most bizarre ever. I mean, where to begin? The thought of Floyd Mayweather (or an entourage member) knocking him unconscious with a potentially life-changing injury after getting into a battle over who can buy more champagne is just insane. Welcome to the world of sports in the 21st Century! Yes, that aspect of it is just a rumor that will probably turn false, but either way, it’s a crazy situation.

Take Your Pick

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

Carlos Zambrano or Felix Hernandez?

Take Your Pick

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

LeBron James or Kobe Bryant?

Take Your Pick

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

Natalie Portman or Rachel Bilson?

Take Your Pick

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

Tiger Woods or Roger Federer?

Take Your Pick

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

Babe Ruth or Barry Bonds?

Take Your Pick

Sunday, June 15th, 2008

Satellite dish or Digital cable?

The Scoop

Thursday, June 12th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

I took some heat for spending $30 on Corey Hart in LABR, but after three homers and seven RBI over the last two games, he’s now on pace to finish with a 25/25 season. And after Rickie Weeks’ latest injury, Hart seems to be enjoying the leadoff spot, a place that will only increase his fantasy value.

J.D. Drew’s .371 BABIP won’t be easy to sustain, but there’s a lot to like about his current situation. Since a David Ortiz injury moved him into the three-hole, Drew has clobbered four homers over 35 at-bats with a ridiculous 2:11 K:BB ratio. His on-base percentage is also more than .550. Whether he can stay healthy remains to be seen, but last year’s .796 OPS was more of an aberration than this year’s stellar campaign.

Make sure Joel Zumaya is owned in your league. Since he’s already approaching 100 mph during his rehab stint, he should be ready to contribute very soon. Todd Jones hasn’t pitched poorly enough to lose the closer’s role, but his 9:11 K:BB ratio is embarrassing and suggests major blowups are likely soon in store. Remember, Zumaya has a career 9.54 K/9 IP mark.

For those awaiting Rich Hill’s return to the majors, I wouldn’t hold my breath. The 31 strikeouts over 25.1 innings in Triple-A are nice, but he was sent down to work on his control, which has actually only gotten worse if you can believe it. He’s walked 24 batters, leaving him with an ugly 1.70 WHIP.

You get the feeling Jim Thome is going to go on a massive hot streak at some point.

Since I normally only complain about the Giants, I’ll go a different direction. Madison Bumgarner, the team’s first round pick last year, is 18 years old and has a 74:10 K:BB ratio with a 1.96 ERA and 0.98 WHIP over 64.1 innings in the minors right now. Tim Alderson has also impressed. And after getting the steal of the draft Buster Posey (he’s going to win the college Triple Crown and plays catcher!) and making the shrewd selection of Conor Gilaspie in this year’s draft, things are actually looking up. Four years from now but still.

About 40 percent into the season, the Mariners sit with the worst record in all of baseball. It also looks like they’ve lost J.J. Putz for a while. It’s unlikely Erik Bedard would fetch the same return the Orioles got for him right now, but it’s clear Seattle may have to shop him, since he’s a free agent after next season.

What a disappointment Curtis Granderson’s been. The home runs are there, and he’s actually improved his contact rate, so the fact his current BABIP (.250) is more than 100 points lower than last year (.362) might even qualify him as a decent buy-low option. Hopefully a higher on-base rate will also lead to more steals, as he’s already been caught more times this year than he did in all of 2007. One thing’s for sure, he’s brutal against lefties.

First Travis Hafner and now Victor Martinez, it’s safe to say the Indians season hasn’t gone quite as planned. VMart is going to enter August with zero home runs.

I’m happy for Kerry Wood. With a 2.48 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 44:8 K:BB ratio, he’s been one of baseball’s best relievers in 2008. When healthy, I always thought he had the best pure stuff in the game.

The Scoop

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

Anyone surprised by Jeremy Bonderman’s season-ending surgery hasn’t been paying attention to him over the past year. Something had clearly not been right with him for a while now. A loss in velocity is a sign of injury, but so is lack of command, which Bonderman struggled with mightily this season.

J.R. Towles is one of the bigger 2008 disappointments. With a .145/.270./.282 line, his demotion to the minors was well warranted. Over 157 at-bats, 31 percent of his career RBI total came in one game.

I was critical of the Aaron Rowand signing at the time and targeted him as a potential fantasy bust, but so far, I’ve been wrong. His defense has slipped some, but he’s still one of the best center fielders in the game. His current .912 OPS is actually more than 20 points better than last year, and he’s downgraded home ballparks drastically. In fact, Rowand’s .393 batting average on the road leads major league baseball. Of course, an injury is probably right around the corner, and he’s already on the wrong side of 30, but he’s certainly not let the big contract slow him down.

What has happened to Rafael Betancourt? His numbers were bound to regress after last season’s remarkable campaign, but a current 7.0 ERA and 1.67 WHIP is a bit extreme. Digging deeper, his 3.1:1 K:BB ratio and 28 Ks over 27 innings suggest he’s not pitching nearly as poorly as the numbers indicate. He’s already given up six homers and walked as many batters this year as he did all last season, so it’s not all bad luck, but his .384 BABIP and .615 strand rate will regress to the mean. He’ll improve, but it’s too bad he couldn’t take advantage of Joe Borowski’s absence.

Mark Ellis doesn’t deserve a .234 average with a 24:27 K:BB ratio. Speaking of ridiculous plate discipline, Joe Mauer is flashing an awesome 15:30 K:BB ratio, so another run at the AL batting crown looks to be in store.

Gavin Floyd is an interesting case study. A former top prospect, his hot start to the season could easily be brushed off as a fluke, as his .211 BABIP, low K rate and 1.61:1 K:BB ratio were far from commensurate to his sparkling ERA and WHIP. But then over his last three starts, he’s started pitching much better, recording a 20:1 K:BB rate over 20 innings. Did the luck breed confidence that led to improved pitching ability? I don’t have the answers, but I remain skeptical.

The baseball season just hasn’t started until Rickie Weeks suffers an injury.

If the Lakers would have won Sunday, that would have been the best comeback I’ve ever witnessed. NBA teams are 3-29 after starting 0-2 in the Finals, but I still see the Lakers winning this series. And the switch to the 2-3-2 format is unconscionable, especially since the travel excuse is such a blatant lie (there were two days off between Games 1 & 2, one day off between Games 2 & 3).

Garrett Atkins has been hitting lefties at a .514/.537/.865 clip this season. That’s a 1.401 OPS if you’re counting at home. Last year, his OPS was 100 points lower (.782) versus southpaws than it was against right-handers. Yes, baseball isn’t all that easy to predict.

After giving up four runs on a whopping 10 hits in Petco Park against possibly the worst offense in baseball Sunday, Pedro Martinez may seem done. However, he had solid velocity, and all 10 hits were singles, so there were some encouraging signs to take out of it. I still think he’ll be an asset in even shallow leagues this year in between injuries.

Bad news regarding Shaun Livingston, who is looking more and more unlikely to ever play NBA basketball again.

Any talk of the Yankees rebuilding is beyond laughable. The Rays and A’s are the only two teams in front of them in the wild card standings, so naturally, they should blow it up and start from scratch. Especially with their payroll. And lineup. Speaking of which, Johnny Damon is having one of the better bounce back seasons no one is talking about. His current .900 OPS is easily a career-high. Also, the window to buy Joba Chamberlain may soon be closing.

Since Aaron Harang pitched four innings of relief on May 25, he’s allowed 16 runs over 15.1 innings. That’s still come with a nice 10:1 K:BB ratio, and he’s certainly pitched better than his 2-9 record suggests, but Harang’s also given up more hits (105) than any pitcher in the National League.

Nothing will ever consume me more than the Scott Peterson trial, since he lived about 15 minutes from where I do right now and was both guilty as sin yet convicted on circumstantial evidence. And with news of a new civil trial – with the prosecutor being my dad’s lawyer (don’t ask), let’s just say I’ll be following this one as well.

The Mets’ handling of Ryan Church is reprehensible. On May 29, I wrote “I’m more Dr. Van Nostrand than I am James Andrews, but Ryan Church’s prognosis doesn’t sound too good to me.” This statement was based purely on quotes from Church. Yet somehow, the Mets decided it would be a good idea to put him out in the field two days later. After suffering two concussions in such a short time span, it was obvious from the beginning he should have immediately landed on the DL. Now, they are more worried about his life in the long-term than baseball. Even Dr. Van Nostrand couldn’t have botched this worse.

I defy you to come up with a player more jacked than Brian Wilson. He’s absolutely swoll.

Don’t Give Up, Don’t Ever Give Up

Sunday, June 8th, 2008

I’ve done my fair share of bragging, so I wanted to go a different route today. On the “Ask An Expert” feature on RotoWire, I frequently get questions from people stating some sort of variation of “my team is tanking, this is my roster, should I start preparing for fantasy football?” Well, I could be asking myself the same question, as my team in my home league currently resides in dead last more than two months into the season. I’ve pretty much been there from the beginning, and I’m 61.5 points out of first place. Right now, the baseball season is approximately 38 percent finished, so the “it’s still early” excuse no longer flies.

No one wants to hear about my specific fantasy team, but in this case, I want to use my example to highlight a broader point, which is not to throw in the towel, no matter how bleak your current situation looks. I currently have a 1 in both ERA and WHIP. Here is some of my staff: Matt Cain, Chris Young, Brett Myers, Ted Lilly, Derek Lowe, Johnny Cueto, Pedro Martinez, Max Scherzer, Joe Saunders and Jonathan Sanchez. Now, it’s possible that group finishes with a 15 (its current total) in a standard 5X5 league, but I’d say the odds are greater they triple that score by season’s end than staying put.

Now, this doesn’t apply to keeper-leagues the same way; I recently lost David Ortiz, John Smoltz and Nick Johnson to injury in an 18-team keeper format, and I’ll now be looking toward next year (you hear me Staff League 1?). Again, my main point was bigger than my specific team, and maybe I’m overly optimistic in that regard, but really, it’s crazy to give up right now. Last year when June began, Ryan Braun was hitting .222/.214/.370 with one homer; he was a consensus top-15 pick in 2008. In Yahoo standard scoring leagues, Ryan Ludwick and Xavier Nady are currently top-25 ranked hitters. Shaun Marcum, Joe Saunders, Ryan Dempster and Justin Duchscherer are top-25 pitchers, all trailing No. 1 ranked Edinson Volquez.

If you are behind the eight ball and down in the standings, that just means you need to be extra diligent with pickups, lineup decisions and be sure not to make panic trades. And if you have trouble with this in your league by other members – that is, owners who completely neglect their team because of slow starts – one method of correcting this other than kicking them out is to deploy a tiered payout system. Increase your league entry fee, but make the payouts go to 80 percent of the league, giving incentive to those fighting for 5th-10th place. But I for one am not playing for 5th place. Don’t give up, don’t ever give up.

The Scoop

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

Homer Bailey needs to be owned in NL-only leagues, of course, but he’s unlikely to be a big help in mixed leagues anytime soon. He gave up just two earned runs during his season debut Thursday, but he wasn’t very impressive doing so, posting a 1:4 K:BB ratio and typically topping out at 91-92 mph. He’s still got nice long-term potential because of that curveball, but his 55:31 K:BB ratio over 69.1 Triple-A innings this season suggests he’s far from ready to consistently get major league hitters out.

Somewhat quietly, Milton Bradley is having a fantastic season. His 1.050 OPS leads the American League, and while he’s playing a bit over his head, it’s not some huge fluke, since he posted a 1.004 OPS while playing for the Padres last year. Hitting cleanup in Texas’ lineup and ballpark, there’s potential for massive counting stats, and he even has the ability to do more running. However, we are talking about someone who has averaged 86 games per season over his eight-year career, so he’s one of the most injury-prone players of his generation. He’s basically the perfect sell-high candidate.

Over his last four starts, Cliff Lee has a 6.62 ERA and a 1.90 WHIP, quadrupling his season ERA in the process. Still, it’s not exactly time to jump ship, since his schedule was extremely difficult during that stretch, and it was accompanied by a 21:8 K:BB ratio.

There’s no one in minor league baseball with a higher ceiling than Rick Porcello.

Alexei Ramirez needs to be owned in AL-only and deep leagues. He’s solidified his spot in the White Sox’s lineup thanks to five multi-hit games over the past nine contests. Ramirez won’t run a ton, but he’s got good power for a middle infielder, and he plays in a ballpark that will only help in that department. He led the Cuban league in home runs last season.

Barry Bonds is losing sleep at night with Joe Mauer’s recent power display. Speaking of Bonds, MLB teams do realize he’s currently unemployed, right?

Chien-Ming Wang has gotten absolutely tattooed over his last four starts, seeing his ERA increase from 2.90 all the way to 4.26 by allowing 22 runs over 23.2 innings. While his strikeout rate has improved this season, he’s also walking more batters than ever, and while typically among the league-leaders in OPS against, he’s served up three homers over that four-game span. It’s probably just a small blip on the radar, but he looks awfully hittable right now.

The Cubs lead MLB in runs scored, and unsurprisingly, rank first in OPS. Yes, that stat is the best indicator of performance.

B.J. Upton hasn’t exactly lived up to the lofty expectations, but that’s almost exclusively in the HR department, and he’s actually improved his game significantly this season. His contact rate has jumped way up from last year, and he’s walking an impressive 16 percent of his plate appearances. Upton’s BABIP is once again sky-high (.391), but he was typically .350-plus in the minors, and he’s become much more aggressive on the base paths. The home runs will come.

The Rays, Astros, Red Sox, Mets and Giants are the five teams with the most steals in baseball this season, in that order. Speed is obviously a prerequisite, but opportunity is equally important in SB totals, so it’s good to know these teams clearly have an aggressive philosophy this season. The Pirates, meanwhile, rank dead last with just 16 thefts on the year.

Podcast

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

Talking some football.

The Scoop

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

Jacoby Ellsbury is on pace to steal 73 bases this season. Since he’s also capable of pitching in 10-15 homers and will score a bunch of runs hitting atop Boston’s lineup, he’s shaking up to be a fantasy monster right out of the gate. His 23:27 K:BB ratio is very impressive.

It took until June, but the Joe Mauer/Victor Martinez combo is on the board with a homer finally.

Over his last three starts, Derek Lowe has a 1.23 ERA and a 0.86 WHIP, so hopefully he’s now completely over the arm woes he was suffering from early in the year. His groundball/flyball ratio is way down this season (1.78) from last year (3.23), yet he’s somehow done a good job of preventing homers. He should be fine moving forward.

I got the Lakers in six.

Jeff Larish had 16 homers during 191 at-bats at Triple-A before getting called up by Detroit this season, making him a viable option in AL-only or deep leagues. He strikes out a ton, but he can also take a walk and should get most of the starts at DH against righties with Gary Sheffield sidelined. Since there’s no guarantee Sheffield returns to health, and the Tigers’ lineup should be potent from this point forward, Larish has some potential.

Roy Halladay has five complete games in 2008. No other pitcher in baseball has more than two.

Despite playing half his games in Petco Park and surrounded by poor teammates, Adrian Gonzalez is on pace to finish with 47 homers and 148 RBI. He still strikes out too often to hit better than .290, but his .648 slugging percentage on the road is pretty impressive. He’d be a top-15 fantasy player on any other team.

The Braves are 2-16 in one-run games this season.

Throughout his career, Mark Teixeira’s worst OPS has been in April. His second worst is May. During those two months, he’s averaged one homer every 23.6 at-bats. Over the next four months, he’s averaged one homer every 14.7 at-bats. Bottom line, he gets better as the season progresses.

Gina Carano is the first person I’ve been both attracted to and capable of beating me up in a fight. And Kimbo Slice is a fraud (unless he sees this, then he’s the real deal).

When I acquired Todd Wellemeyer for $6 in NL LABR toward the beginning of the year, I fully expected to be gaining the NL Pitcher of the Month for May. Only not. Dave Duncan and Tony La Russa are the rare managers who truly make a difference in baseball. Wellemeyer isn’t this good, of course, but he can get a strikeout and his improved command is the main reason he’s flourished. His .255 BABIP will be hard to sustain, but he did finish with a .259 mark last season, so a huge regression isn’t necessarily in store. Then again, he’s already eclipsed his career-high in innings pitched, so he’s a candidate to wear down later on.

When it comes to sports talk radio, who ya got? Colin Cowherd or Max Kellerman or Michael Kay?