Archive for August, 2008

NFC North Preview

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

1. Minnesota Vikings

Not a big fan of going with the popular and chic pick, but the Vikings are set up to win the North this season. Losing Bryant McKinnie for the first four games won’t help, but it’s still a strong offensive line. The team’s two biggest strengths – running the ball and stopping the run – aren’t really all that important to winning football games, despite what the media would lead you to believe. Still, with the addition of Jared Allen, Minnesota’s pass defense figures to improve. On offense, Adrian Peterson can walk on water and then afterward turn that into wine, but it all comes down to Tarvaris Jackson. Turnovers have been a big problem with Jackson, but he’s probably the fastest QB in the league and did improve to 7.1 YPA over the second half last year and also looked good this preseason before suffering an injury. The addition of Bernard Berrian combined with the emerging Sidney Rice should help make the offense less one-dimensional.

2. Green Bay Packers

The Packers will definitely contend for the division, but their secondary is aging, and the team is extremely weak in the middle upfront. The offensive line does open gaping holes for Ryan Grant, and the wide receiving corps is a huge strength. Still, the team’s success will obviously come down to how Aaron Rodgers plays. He was impressive during his one relief appearance against the Cowboys last year, but that was one half of football against a team that didn’t prepare for him. Rodgers looked terrific one game this preseason, then horrible the next. He’s also rather injury-prone. His teammates around him are good enough to keep Green Bay in contention, but Rodgers will need to step up. There probably isn’t a worse QB2 situation in football.

3. Detroit Lions

While the rest of the division went 1-3 this preseason, the Lions were undefeated. Of course, that means little, but the subtraction of Mike Martz should lead to fewer sacks and turnovers. The offensive line is a weakness, but Calvin Johnson and Roy Williams make the team difficult to defend. Johnson might be the most physically gifted athlete in the league and is a top-10 commodity in the NFL. If he outproduced Randy Moss, it should come as no surprise. Detroit’s defense doesn’t look good on paper, but they did revamp the secondary with players familiar with coach Rod Marinelli’s Tampa 2 scheme. It often takes time for a unit to adjust to such a system, so there could be improvement during year three of the regime.

4. Chicago Bears

In today’s game, it’s simply too hard to keep a dominant defensive unit for longer than three years. The defense is likely to bounce back some this season, but they really need to stay healthy for it to happen. The offensive line is a problem, and drafting Chris Williams, who was completely crossed off some teams’ boards because of a chronic back issue, doesn’t appear to be the answer since the back problem is already a serious issue. Matt Forte can only improve the running back position, but the team’s receiving corps is a joke. So is the quarterback. The Bears are one of the leading candidates to have the worst offense in the NFL in 2008.

NFC East Preview

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

1. Dallas Cowboys

Don’t expect another 13-3 season, especially playing in such a tough division, but the Cowboys are still the team to beat in the NFC. Tony Romo is a true superstar, but he needs Terrell Owens to stay healthy and also defy the laws of aging. Without Owens, the offense becomes a whole lot easier to defend. Marion Barer is one of the five best running backs in the league, and the team improves just by no longer wasting carries on the far inferior Julius Jones. Wade Phillips as coach is a negative, but Jason Garrett’s presence nullifies that. The defense theoretically improves with the Pacman Jones addition, but he was used to man coverage in Tennessee, and Dallas is primarily zone, and coming off a year away from football, there’s going to be a major transition period.

2. New York Giants (wild card)

While last year’s Super Bowl run qualified as a major surprise, this Giants team is no joke, and another deep run into the playoffs can’t be ruled out. Of course, losing Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora is a huge deal, since defensive line was the team’s main strength. While depth could be a problem, there’s still plenty of talent, as Justin Tuck is an emerging star, and Mathias Kiwanuka is a fine replacement. GM Jerry Reese hit yet another home run with the Kenny Phillips selection, and with Aaron Ross’ continued development, the secondary also looks like a plus. The ground game should also be extremely productive, regardless of whether Brandon Jacobs can stay healthy or not. It remains to be seen if Eli Manning truly took a step forward with his play in the postseason, but it’d take a major leap from his career performance (54.7 completion percentage, 6.3 YPA) just to be a better than average QB. Expect somewhere in between.

3. Philadelphia Eagles

The Eagles finished strong last season and actually outscored their opponents by nearly 40 points, so they were better than the .500 record indicates. Unfortunately, the division is just too loaded. The defense is solid, but the Asante Samuel signing will likely go down as a mistake. Trent Cole is a beast. But the wideout group is one of the worst in football, and both Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook are health risks. McNabb improved as the year went on last year and is further removed from knee surgery, but he’s not some game-changing QB – he’s good, not great. Westbrook, on the other hand, might be the most difficult running back to gameplan against. He’s truly one of the most valuable backs in the NFL.

4. Washington Redskins

The Redskins are coming off a playoff appearance in 2007, and there’s about a zero percent chance of it happening again this year. There isn’t a glaring weakness on the team, but there also isn’t an area where they particularly exceed either. It figures to be a rough transition moving from Joe Gibbs’ system to a West Coast offense under Jim Zorn. Jason Campbell is nothing special, but it’d certainly help if Santana Moss somehow remained 100 percent throughout a season. Clinton Portis’ best days are behind him.

NFC West Preview

Sunday, August 31st, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

1. Arizona Cardinals

Arizona would likely finish last in half the divisions in the NFL, but because they are in the NFC West, they have a good shot at the postseason for the first time in a decade. The team really only excels in one area, and that’s the passing game, but that also comes with too many sacks and turnovers. Kurt Warner is the superior option, but he’s unlikely to last 16 games. Tim Hightower betters the running game, and the defense is improving. There will be major steps forward during year two under Ken Whisenhunt and Russ Grimm.

2. Seattle Seahawks

Seattle enters the clear favorite in the division, with an emerging defensive unit and an offensive system that produces even with changing parts. At age 32, it’s unlikely Patrick Kerney repeats his performance form last season, and the ground game is in decline. Usually the system trumps name-brand receivers in Seattle, but this incredibly thin and untested corps will really test that theory. Matt Hasselbeck is good, not great, and last year’s 28 TD passes with a 7.1 YPA was a fluke. The Seahawks do, however, have a terrific homefield advantage.

3. San Francisco 49ers

After ranking dead last in total offense last year, the hope is that new OC Mike Martz can bring dramatic changes. It certainly can’t be worse than Jim Hostler’s predictable schemes. With the additions of Bryant Johnson and exciting rookie Josh Morgan, combined with the continued maturation of Vernon Davis, there is some upside here. However, that all depends on the quarterback, and J.T. O’Sullivan is the great unknown. Still, that’s better than the known, Alex Smith, who is one of the biggest busts in NFL history; he’s right up there with David Carr and Joey Harrington as the worst quarterbacks ever. As good as last year’s draft was (Patrick Willis, Joe Staley), it was equally as bad this time around (each of their first five picks look like game day inactives). Still, it’s likely the defense improves, and in such a winnable division, anything is possible.

4. St. Louis Rams

Things can’t possibly go as bad as last season, when injuries ravaged the entire offense. However, the team is also unlikely to fare all that much better. The offense is an aging unit with a leaky line. Steven Jackson is the team’s best player, which isn’t a good sign considering his position is running back – the most fungible on the field (linebacker is close). If Marc Bulger reverts to old form, St. Louis has a shot, but he needs to stay upright – and in games – for that to happen. With a far weaker cast of characters surrounding the signal caller, don’t expect it to happen.

Running Back Rankings

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

It was too much to make accompanying write ups with these rankings, but here they (finally) are. They are a bit out of the box compared to the general consensus you’ll see elsewhere, and if you want an explanation/reasoning or to ridicule me, as always, feel free to bring that up in the comments section.

1. Adrian Peterson
2. Marion Barber
3. LaDainian Tomlinson
4. Joseph Addai
5. Steven Jackson
6. Brian Westbrook
7. Frank Gore

8. Marshawn Lynch
9. Ryan Grant
10. Clinton Portis
11. Larry Johnson
12. Maurice Jones-Drew
13. Michael Turner
14. Darren McFadden
15. Laurence Maroney
16. Brandon Jacobs
17. Jamal Lewis
18. Willis McGahee

19. Earnest Graham
20. Kevin Smith
21. Matt Forte
22. Selvin Young
23. Reggie Bush
24. Chris Johnson
25. Ronnie Brown

26. Willie Parker
27. Jonathan Stewart
28. DeAngelo Williams
29. Ricky Williams
30. LenDale White
31. Thomas Jones
32. Rashard Mendenhall
33. Chester Taylor
34. Fred Taylor
35. Chris Perry
36. Andre Hall
37. Ahmad Bradshaw
38. Justin Fargas
39. Tim Hightower
40. Ray Rice
41. Pierre Thomas
42. Kenny Watson
43. Felix Jones

44. Edgerrin James
45. Julius Jones
46. Steve Slaton
47. Maurice Morris
48. Jerious Norwood
49. Rudi Johnson
50. Brandon Jackson
51. Darren Sproles
52. Ladell Betts
53. Leon Washington
54. Fred Jackson
55. Kevin Jones

Wide Receiver Rankings

Thursday, August 28th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

It was too much to make accompanying write ups with these rankings, but here they (finally) are. They are a bit out of the box compared to the general consensus you’ll see elsewhere, and if you want an explanation/reasoning or to ridicule me, as always, feel free to bring that up in the comments section.

1. Randy Moss
2. Braylon Edwards
3. Andre Johnson
4. Terrell Owens
5. Reggie Wayne
6. Larry Fitzgerald

7. Calvin Johnson
8. Marques Colston
9. Brandon Marshall
10. Steve Smith
11. Plaxico Burress
12. Santonio Holmes
13. Anquan Boldin
14. Roddy White
15. T.J. Houshmandzadeh
16. Greg Jennings
17. Jerricho Cotchery
18. Torry Holt
19. Roy Williams
20. Chad Johnson
21. Wes Welker

22. Lee Evans
23. Dwayne Bowe
24. Nate Burleson
25. Marvin Harrison
26. Chris Chambers
27. Laveranues Coles
28. Santana Moss
29. Anthony Gonzalez
30. Hines Ward
31. Vincent Jackson
32. Donald Driver
33. Patrick Crayton
34. Reggie Brown
35. Joey Galloway

36. Reggie Williams
37. Sidney Rice
38. Ted Ginn
39. Ronald Curry
40. Chris Henry
41. Bernard Berrian
42. Donte Stallworth
43. Robert Meachem
44. Bryant Johnson
45. Jerry Porter

NFL Barometer

Wednesday, August 27th, 2008

Another edition of Risers & Fallers.

The Scoop

Monday, August 25th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

I’m pretty dumbfounded where Thomas Jones has been going in my drafts. Last year’s 1,119 rushing yards don’t look bad as an end result, but that was because he received the fifth most carries in the league, and on a week-to-week basis, he was literally unusable, especially since he’s so uninvolved in the passing game. Maybe he’ll bounce back at the goal line (1-for-17 last year) and become a viable option, and Brett Favre’s addition does bring optimism. However, he averaged 3.6 YPC last season and is now a year older. He’s on the wrong side of 30 and has carried a big workload over the past three years. I’d draft teammate Jerricho Cotchery ahead of Jones eight days a week.

The more I think about it, the more I’m considering Marion Barber as the No. 1 overall pick. First of all, he’s awesome. Also, he’s in one of the best offensive systems in football, is extremely durable, catches passes, is fresh as a runner and gets all the goal-line work. No one else can say the same. The guy has scored 28 touchdowns over the past two seasons without ever starting a game. Felix Jones will probably get similar carries to every other backup in the league. The only player I’d take over Barber is Adrian Peterson, and that’s mostly because of the huge discrepancy in Week 14-16 schedules.

I tried to talk myself into Julius Jones after he signed in Seattle, but apparently I momentarily forgot how much he sucks. Not that Maurice Morris is some budding star, but at least he knows the system well and is solid. Jones can’t catch or break a tackle. It’s a coin flip on whom I’d rather have, but the fact MoMo typically goes 5-10 rounds later makes it a no-brainer.

I’m surprisingly hooked on HBO’s “Hard Knocks.” Some quick, general observations: Wade Phillips is clueless, Jerry Jones is insane, Pacman Jones is rusty, Martellus Bennett is a punk, Tony Romo is extremely unassuming, and Terrell Owens is the man.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d prefer Steve Slaton, but Chris Taylor seems to be getting overlooked in Houston’s backfield. Ahman Green and Chris Brown are done, just forget about them and move on. So after Slaton, who else does that leave? Darius Walker isn’t even getting preseason carries, whereas Taylor is getting preseason starts. His YPC hasn’t impressed, but the Houston beat writers have raved about this guy for years. Maybe he best projects at fullback, but the opportunity for much more appears to be there. The Texans’ offense should be very good.

If I’m drafting a Bronco running back, it’s Andre Hall. For one, he’ll cost much cheaper. Also, which is somehow being overlooked, he’s currently the team’s goal-line runner. He can catch the ball, is fast and averaged 4.9 YPC last season. Rookie Ryan Clady looks like a dominant franchise left tackle, and only Young is really competing for touches right now.

During the NFL Draft, ESPN frequently cut to camera crews inside the homes of Chad Henne and Brian Brohm as they fell down the draft board. Since I’m not a big college football watcher, I decided to predict who would be the better pro based on my scientific reasoning that was body language. I concluded Henne in a landslide. There’s really no point to this, other than to say so far I look very, very good. Of course, I could have been just as right flipping a coin, but still.

I’ve seen Willie Parker go as high as the second round recently. Huh? Not only is his touchdown potential limited since he’ll get taken out at the goal line, but he also doesn’t catch the ball – two pretty crucial aspects to the value of fantasy backs. So what if Rashard Mendenhall has struggled a bit over the first few weeks of his pro career; he still looms large. Parker’s YPC has dropped four straight seasons, as his workload has increased significantly. Plus, he’s coming off a broken leg. All the Fred Taylor comparisons are apt.

Tropic Thunder and Pineapple Express were both good, not amazing. The best part of each: Tropic Thunder’s opening fake trailers, which killed me, and Pineapple Express’ Amber Heard.

If you are set on drafting an Arizona running back, make it Tim Hightower and not Edgerrin James. Not only will he come much cheaper, but he’s also got a higher ceiling at this point in their respective careers. James is coming off five straight 300-carry seasons and is approaching 3,000 career rushes, which is astronomical for a running back. He also hasn’t averaged better than 3.8 YPC since leaving Indy. Hightower, meanwhile, has impressed and will at worst get 10 carries a game, including all the goal-line work. But there’s likely to be much, much more.

Peyton Manning’s mysterious injury status is of utter importance, since it not only affects a top-3 QB but also a top-5 pick, three draftable wide receivers and a tight end. I think he should be fine long-term, but the repercussions here could be devastating if not.

Darren McFadden has ended up on far too many of my teams this year. He’s not even the starter, led college football in fumbles last year, could lose goal-line work to Michael Bush and plays on a team that figures to struggle in the passing game. Naturally, I view Run-DMC as a top-15 back. No, he’s not going to go all Adrian Peterson on the league his rookie year, and I do worry about his ability to break tackles, but Oakland’s running system is top-3 in the league, and Tom Cable’s run blocking unit only improved over the offseason. The team will be very ground heavy, so there will be plenty of carries to go around, and McFadden should be active as a receiver. The defense should improve, and Oakland’s coaches are quietly ecstatic that McFadden fell to them after watching him through training camp. Additionally, Bush doesn’t look the same as he did before the broken leg, and Fargas is quite injury-prone.

I actually enjoyed the Olympics a good deal. But seriously, how can so many world records go down? Evolution is going into overdrive, apparently. Speaking of which, I thought this WSJ article on the world’s greatest athlete was ridiculous at the time, but it looks even worse after their No. 1 finished in sixth place at his event in the Olympics.

Schedule

Sunday, August 24th, 2008

To the RotoScoop faithful, let me first apologize for not cranking out as much material as usual. Been a real busy time of year, featuring me in far too many fantasy football drafts. Anyway, that all changes starting this week, when I’ll start busting out numerous articles, including NFL division previews, more rankings and advice that will make you feel guilty for reading for free. Stay tuned, and thank you for your continued support of RotoScoop.

Industry Draft

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

Here are the results from a recent industry draft I participated in. It’s the third year I represented RotoWire in this league, and it consists of some pretty good competition. The big difference here is that it’s PPR. My sixth round pick made RotoWorld’s Gregg Rosenthal “shudder,” and I don’t think that was a compliment.

NFL Barometer

Wednesday, August 20th, 2008

Check out this week’s version of Risers & Fallers.

The Scoop

Tuesday, August 19th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

Quietly, Jose Lopez has been a very valuable middle infielder this year. He doesn’t offer great speed or power, but he’s batting .298 and is on pace to finish with 80 runs scored and 88 RBI. That’s sneaky production.

Speaking of middle infield run producers, Jed Lowrie has been an excellent source of RBI since he took over shortstop duties for the injured Julio Lugo. Since the All-Star break, Lowrie has posted a .326/.404/.506 line with solid plate discipline. If you prorate his stats over a full season, you’d be looking at 108 runs batted in.

What has gotten into Paul Maholm? He’s allowed two runs or fewer in five of his last six starts, including a 52:14  KBB ratio since June ended. With a 2.94 ERA and 1.10 WHIP since the second half of the season started, the former first round pick looks to be putting it all together.

Could Dan Uggla’s nightmare of an All-Star game be having such a  carryover effect? Since that game, he’s batting .189, and his power has all but evaporated. The weirdest part of his season has to be his .190/.289/.333 line against left-handers.

Max Scherzer has to be owned in all leagues right now. His arm feels fresh after returning from the DL, as his fastball has reached 97 mph. His slider and changeup are still coming along, but he has the stuff to make a major impact as soon as Arizona recalls him, something that figures to happen within a week or two. Rightfully, he’ll go back into the starting rotation.

As a Giants fan, it’s positively horrifying to hear that Matt Cain has thrown more pitches than anyone in the league. Tim Lincecum is No. 2.

Amazing what happens when Toronto quit messing with Adam Lind and just left him in the lineup. He’s batting .324 with six homers since the All-Star break, including four long balls over the past six games. Impressively, Lind has also hit southpaws even better than he has righties.

Ian Stewart is going to be the type of difference maker who wins fantasy leagues for those who added him when he was called up last month. He has 27 RBI during the 28 games since getting recalled. Production like that is pretty hard to find for someone available at second base. Remarkably, the left-hander has posted a 1.330 OPS against southpaws this season and has actually hit better on the road than at Coors Field so far.

All right fine, I give up. I believe in Ryan Dempster. He still walks too many batters, but with an 8.2 K/9 IP mark, this breakout is legit. How about a 1.86 ERA and 1.11 WHIP with 45 Ks over 38.2 innings since the All-Star break? He’s been a little lucky still with his hit rate (.270 BABIP), so a sub-3.00 ERA shouldn’t be expected, but all those strikeouts and groundballs induced will lead to future success regardless. I must admit, I didn’t see this one coming.

A.J. Burnett, Rich Harden and Kevin Slowey combined for a 35:1 K:BB ratio Tuesday. That’s pretty good.

RotoScoop League

Monday, August 18th, 2008

I was thinking of putting together a fantasy football league consisting of RotoScoop readers. If interested in joining, let me know in the comments or e-mail me at seven3d@aol.com

Tight End Rankings

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

TIER ONE

1. Kellen Winslow – Winslow only caught 55 percent of the passes thrown his way last year, but that’s more to do with all those targets (148) than lack of skill. He’s essentially Cleveland’s No. 2 wideout, and considering the team’s poor defense and Braylon Edwards taking up much of the opponent’s attention, it’s a great situation to be in. All those knee surgeries may eventually catch up to him, but he’s the top rated TE for 2008.

2. Jason Witten – Witten’s in a similar situation as Winslow, acting as the No. 2 option in the passing game while playing in a great aerial attack with an elite WR beside him. Despite last year’s seven scores, he’s rarely targeted in the red zone, so he’s a better option in yardage heavy leagues.

3. Antonio Gates – He’s still the best, but the lingering toe/foot injury knocks him down a couple of pegs. With Chris Chambers’ arrival and the emergence of Vincent Jackson, there’s also more options in the passing game than ever before in San Diego. The injury is a legitimate concern.

TIER TWO

4. Tony Gonzalez – Thought to be on the downside of his career, Gonzalez’s 2007 season was one of his best ever, thanks in no small part to a league-leading 154 targets. Unlike running backs, receivers can still be effective into their 30s, so there’s no reason to expect a total collapse this year. Because Kansas City is likely to be playing from behind early and often, plenty of more looks should follow.

5. Jeremy Shockey – Shockey can’t stay healthy, so there will be safer options here. However, the move to New Orleans was a big boost to his fantasy value. The Giants frequently asked him to block more than he liked, and he immediately becomes the Saints’ No. 2 option in the passing game. His YPA is typically disappointing for a perceived star, but New Orleans throws the ball more than any team in the league, and you can be sure Sean Payton will effectively use him downfield.

6. Chris Cooley – Cooley is very solid, especially in TD-heavy leagues, but he doesn’t get targeted like the other elite tight ends. Moreover, Al Saunders’ departure is of some concern. Still, he’s a safe pick.

7. Vernon Davis – Davis doesn’t have great hands, but his physical ability is second to none. Of course, that doesn’t always translate to success on the gridiron, but he’s still at the stage of his career where a huge leap forward is possible. New OC Mike Martz has never utilized the tight end position, but he’s all about creating mismatches, and Davis is the team’s best playmaker in the passing game. Quarterback figures to be a big problem in San Francisco, but that doesn’t mean VD can’t still breakout.

8. Owen Daniels – Playing in perhaps the league’s most underrated passing attack, Daniels got 8.17 YPA last year, which was higher than both Winslow and Witten. In this his third year, expect a big leap. And don’t punish him for last year’s subpar TD total (three), as touchdowns can be fluky. Remember, Witten had just one score in 2006. At 6-3, 247 lbs, there’s no reason Daniels can’t be utilized in the red zone.

9. Tony Scheffler
– Scheffler’s lingering foot problems aren’t without concern, but his 8.45 YPA last year reveals a future star. If that’s not enough, he caught a ridiculous 75 percent of the passes thrown his way – both marks better than Gates. Of course, that came in a more limited sample size, but Denver has produced huge TE numbers before, and Jay Cutler is a rising superstar. In your draft, you’ll likely be able to wait much longer than where Daniels and Scheffler are placed here, so keep that in mind. Since tight ends have a limited upside, it’s best to wait and target one of these two.

10. Todd Heap – Heap’s extremely productive when on the field, but he’s now missed an average of five games over the past four seasons. He’s also already dealing with a nagging calf injury and has a weak quarterback throwing to him. Still, he’s not a bad target if he falls coming off such a down year.

11. Dallas Clark – Clark scored 11 touchdowns last year and plays in the prolific Indy offense, but don’t go chasing last season’s stats. For one, he’s injury-prone. Also, his catch rate (57 percent) and YPA (6.10) are subpar, and he’s unlikely to find himself in such an ideal situation as last year, as either Marvin Harrison will return to health and/or Anthony Gonzalez will develop even further. A remarkable 25 percent of Clark’s targets last year came in the red zone, so he’s totally reliant on scoring.

12. Alge Crumpler – Crumpler should bounce back after coming to a Tennessee system that loves to feature the tight end. He’s already developing a nice rapport with Vince Young, who figures to dump off to him frequently. There isn’t much upside, but Crumpler could reemerge as a TE1 option.

TIER THREE

13. Greg Olsen
14. Heath Miller
15. Randy McMichael
16. Zach Miller
17. Ben Utecht
18. Ben Watson
19. Donald Lee
20. L.J. Smith

Podcast

Thursday, August 14th, 2008

Here’s a podcast from this week’s segment. Ch. 144, Tuesdays at 11 am Pacific time. Can also be listened to online now, over at XMradio.com.

NFL Barometer

Wednesday, August 13th, 2008

A new edition of Risers & Fallers.

The Scoop

Sunday, August 10th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

Without looking, try to guess who leads the National League in complete games. If your answer was someone with seven starts (CC Sabathia), you’d be correct. Has there ever been a more valuable midseason addition to NL-only leagues? Chances are his 1.58 ERA and 0.91 WHIP are only going to lower after his next start against the Padres. Still, all this Cy Young talk seems off base, given that it’s a league-split award. Of course, I may change my tune by the end of September.

Kosuke Fukudome has been solid during his first year in the U.S., posting a .372 OBP. However, his .403 slugging percentage is unacceptable, and he’s been dreadful since June, with a .239/.321/.380 line after the All-Star break. The league has made an adjustment, and now it’s time for him to do the same.

Speaking of slumps, David Ortiz currently looks like a shell of his former self. Since returning from the wrist injury, Big Papi has just one homer and four extra-base hits over 59 at-bats. He has struck out in seven consecutive games. Ortiz’s swing doesn’t look noticeably slower, and it stands to reason it may take a while to get back into a groove after missing two months, but the loss of Manny Ramirez has led to far fewer pitches to hit. Wrist injuries can also linger for a long time, and the recent “click” sound he heard can’t be good news either.

Alfonso Soriano has missed 49 of the Cubs’ 117 games this season yet still leads the team in home runs with 21. If you prorated his stats over a full 162 game season, you’d get: .296 BA, 50 HRs, 26 SBs, 133 RBI, 119 runs. He’s 32 years old and increasingly injury-prone, but his bat currently looks as good as ever.

Brett Myers has a 2.10 ERA and 0.90 WHIP during his four starts since returning from the minors, but there’s still little to be encouraged about. It’s nice that he’s allowed just one homer after previously acting as a human launching pad, but the 4.64 K/9 IP mark suggests he’s hardly all the way back to old form. A start in Washington and another at home against the Pirates probably has more to do with the success than any tinkering in the minors did. If anyone believes otherwise, I’d sell.

Hanley Ramirez is having a rather odd season. He’s already set a career-high in walks, yet he’s also striking out more than ever. His on-base percentage remains strong, but he’s going to fall well short of his normal SB totals, thanks largely to a career-worst success rate (71 percent). Ramirez is also on pace to shatter his personal best in home runs with 25 already, yet his slugging percentage is 33 points lower than last season.

Not that I expected him to become a star, but Melky Cabrera has been a huge disappointment in 2008. He’s a terrific center fielder, and because he more than held his own as a 21-year-old in the majors a couple of seasons back, there was reason for optimism. However, he’s regressed badly since, and his current .640 OPS won’t cut it. His trade value has plummeted, and Cabrera has basically become a fourth outfielder of late.

Speaking of sinking trade value, what’s up with Huston Street? Brought in during the fifth inning Sunday, Street allowed three more runs, raising his ERA to 4.65. His peripherals remain fine, but he has walked eight batters over his last five outings, so maybe he’s not right physically. He currently looks no better than the third best reliever in his own pen. I’m not sure what’s more amazing, Brad Ziegler’s MLB record setting 37 straight scoreless innings, or the fact he was able to do so with a weak 17:11 K:BB ratio. Joey Devine is Oakland’s best reliever.

Adam Wainwright may very well return and be a dominant closer, but I personally wouldn’t count on it. Well on his way to becoming one of the game’s better starting pitchers, Wainwright’s finger injury is one that can often be felt up to a year later, and because his best pitch (curveball) is also the one the injury affects most, his return may come with some inconsistency.

Could it be? My main man Rocco Baldelli is back in action, folks, and hitting cleanup no less. The odds are greater he won’t be able to get out of bed tomorrow than he’ll be back in the lineup, but because Carl Crawford’s mess of a 2008 season got even worse with what looks like a season-ending injury, Baldelli could be looking at all the at-bats his fragile body can handle, making him someone to gamble on. Still, there’s a better chance Tim Lincecum accepts my hand in marriage than Baldelli staying healthy.

Bill Belichick is no dummy. He fully plans on using the “Madden” strategy in regards to the new coin toss rule, meaning he’ll always defer to the second half if he wins the flip. While the rest of the herd figures to stay the course, Belichick acts like you’d be insane not to, and rightfully so.

It was great to see Barry Bonds back at AT&T Park for the first time since retiring – err, being blackballed – Saturday, and the crowd properly treated him like the great man he is. It got even better when he later joined Kruk and Kuip in the TV booth for a couple of innings, referring to Aaron as “Scott” Rowand. Barry! Barry! Barry!

Top-5 Entities

1. Family
2. Sports
3. Friends
4. Radiohead
5. TV/Movies/Food

The Scoop

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

By Dalton Del Don

Roy Halladay is more machine than man. In today’s game, the fact he’s averaged 7.2 innings per start this season is truly remarkable. His strikeout rate is far from special, but his 5.14:1 K:BB ratio and 1.87 G/F marks are. Without a doubt, he’s one of baseball’s elite pitchers.

Emilio Bonifacio is likely long gone in deep leagues, but he could prove useful in even mid-sized formats. He could learn how to take a walk, but the stolen base ability is legit. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s virtually guaranteed regular playing time from here on out, and out of the leadoff spot to boot.

Matt Lindstrom currently has a 1.51 WHIP. However, a closer inspection reveals he hasn’t allowed a run since June, a span of 13.1 innings. He also sports a 13:3 K:BB ratio over that time. Lindstrom, who can reach triple digits on the radar gun, looks like the Marlins’ closer for 2009.

Ubaldo Jimenez is having an interesting season. After a rough start, he gave up three runs or fewer over his last seven starts, including just one run allowed over the last three outings before getting blown up Thursday. But it gets real weird digging deeper, as he entered Thursday with a 2.58 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and a 5.29 K/9 IP mark while pitching at home. On the road, his numbers were: 4.72 ERA, 1.72 WHIP, 9.37 K/9 IP. Forget the fact he was posting much better numbers at Coors Field, the discrepancy in K rates versus production was the biggest anomaly of all.

Ian Kennedy has a 2.14 ERA and 0.91 WHIP over 46.1 Triple-A innings this season. As dreadful as he’s been up in New York, he’s worth monitoring. He could prove to be a difference maker.

Since the All-Star break, the Giants have hit six home runs. Six! Fernando Tatis has hit five. Aaron Rowand became the first San Francisco player to reach double-digits (and last team to do so) when he clubbed his 10th HR on Wednesday. They are on pace to finish the season with 90 home runs. No team has hit fewer than 100 in a season since 1992, and the Phillies currently have 159 HRs. In unrelated news, Barry Bonds remains unemployed, despite the fact he’s stated he’d donate this season’s salary to charity.

Is there anyone more insufferable than Rick Reilly?

Chris Johnson, Kenny Watson, Tim Hightower and Ray Rice are all terrific later round fliers. I’d be willing to bet one – if not two or three – finish with better production than the currently listed starters above them on their respective depth charts.

The Texans might very well have four of the top-25 properties in the NFL on their current roster. DeMeco Ryans and Amobi Okoye might very well be top-50 properties as well. Football is way too much of a team sport for that to mean instant success, and there are gaping holes elsewhere, but this squad is dangerous. Speaking of Mario Williams, I definitely got that one wrong, as I stupidly chided them for not taking Reggie Bush at the time. That has turned out to be one of the biggest mismatches of value in the league. Although I did get the Dwight Howard over Emeka Okafor pick right, I also went crazy when the Twins took Joe Mauer over Mark Prior.

Never, under any circumstances, not draft a player because they have the same bye week as someone you already selected. Don’t even think about it.

Top-5 Meals

1. New York Steak
2. Rack of Lamb
3. Chicken Parmigan
4. Prime Rib
5. Dungeness Crab

Podcast

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

Here’s this week’s podcast, where Chris and I discuss the recent RotoWire “Steak” league fantasy football draft we were in. As expected, my team is better than his.

NFL Barometer

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

Check out the newest version of my risers and fallers.

Take Your Pick

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

Drew Brees or Tony Romo?