Archive for June, 2011

The Scoop

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

By Dalton Del Don

Finally back to full health, Jose Reyes is on pace to finish with 120 runs scored and 58 steals while batting .336. With a 26:23 K:BB ratio over 307 at-bats, he’s shown real growth this season, and while Reyes remains an injury risk, he only recently turned 28 years old and is just now entering his prime. The three homers are disappointing from a fantasy perspective, and Citi Field is partially to blame, but with 20 doubles and 12 triples, Reyes has posted a career-high .508 slugging percentage. Considering that production has been paired with slightly above average defense from the shortstop position, he’s quite the valuable player – both in real life and fantasy terms. If the Giants offered Jonathan Sanchez and Zack Wheeler for Reyes and Carlos Beltran, who says no? Sticking briefly with the Mets, what a devastating blow this Ike Davis injury is turning out to be for his fantasy owners, including myself. He now looks like a long shot to return this season. And he was playing so well too.

This fair makes deep fried Twinkies look like a sustenance for vegans.

Pretty crazy footage of a police chase.

Brandon Beachy impressed during his return to the rotation Wednesday, recording 11 strikeouts while allowing just one run (which was Jose Bautista’s second homer since May 28) over six innings against the Blue Jays. Beachy, who is coming back from an oblique and not an arm injury, continues to impress, as he’s now sporting a 57:14 K:BB ratio over 50.1 innings in 2011. He’s been an extreme fly ball pitcher, so more homers could follow, but Beachy’s WHIP should remain a major asset all year. I thought Atlanta was making a mistake choosing him over Mike Minor entering the year, but clearly, I was the one being foolish.

Potentially huge news in the Amanda Knox trial.

Pretty solid prank.

I’ve stubbornly stuck with Juan Pierre in my home league lineup all season long, but he’s been nothing short of a disaster. A .235/.314/.295 (.295!) line won’t play for even the best defensive corner outfielder, so it’s not exactly ideal for one who’s also posted a -7.5 UZR like Pierre has. It’s no surprise his -1.2 WAR is tied for last in major league baseball. Pierre’s batting eye remains fine (21:21 K:BB ratio), and after ending June with a .249 batting average last season, he hit .289 the rest of the way, so he’s shown the ability to improve during the summer months at hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field. However, the biggest issue for him as a fantasy player, other than possibly losing his job outright, is his lack of running. Pierre swiped 68 bags as recently as last year, and even as a part time player when he averaged just 378 ABs over 2008-2009, he stole 40 and 30 bases, respectively. He’s been successful on just 10 of his 19 attempts so far in 2011, which leads to the biggest concern, as manager Ozzie Guillen has instructed him to slow down, as he hasn’t even attempted a SB since June 5. If Pierre isn’t running, he’s pretty much worthless in fantasy leagues.

There’s got to be a better way.

Plenty will change between now and then, but what does your preliminary top-five board look like for 2012? Mine would probably look something like this: 1) Adrian Gonzalez 2) Albert Pujols 3) Jose Bautista 4) Matt Kemp 5) Ryan Braun. There are strong arguments for Miguel Cabrera and Troy Tulowitkzi, among others, and I wonder how much Pujols’ down year and injury will affect his draft stock. I can’t see Gonzalez falling out of the top-three, barring a disaster.

Now this is a driver who knows how to multitask.

Cory Luebke posted a 2.68 ERA and 0.98 WHIP between Double and Triple-A last season, and while his 6.9 K/9 rate wasn’t overly impressive, it was accompanied by a 3:1 K:BB ratio and half that time was spent in the hitter-friendly PCL. Luebke’s K rate has jumped significantly since joining San Diego, and while it’s been a small sample and primarily out of the bullpen, he’s an intriguing arm who calls Petco Park home. Now a member of the Padres’ starting rotation – at least while Aaron Harang is out – he’s a fantasy sleeper who should be owned in all but the shallowest of leagues.

Maybe it helped I didn’t have too high expectations despite the intrigue of its marketing campaign, but I thought “Super 8” was fine (certainly not great). I actually really liked the overall concept, but they could have executed it better, especially toward the end. And if “The Tree of Life” doesn’t get released near me soon, I’m going to harm someone.

Not sure what to make of Colby Rasmus right now. As a center fielder who posted a .276/.361/.498 line at age 23 last season, he certainly appeared to be a future star, but he’s taken a step back this year, and especially in fantasy terms, his five steals and five stolen bases leave plenty to be desired. He’s an extreme fly ball hitter, so the lack of home runs is especially perplexing. Have the Cardinals messed with his swing too many times? Moreover, after posting a 9.2 UZR as a rookie, he recorded a -6.7 last season and sits at -4.6 so far in 2011, so he’s really regressed as a fielder too. Still just 24 years old, there’s plenty of time for him to turn it around, and as a blind faith play, maybe he’s someone to target as a buy-low in fantasy leagues.

Meet the Amish Anthony Weiner.

Rarely is it what happens after the motorcycle crash that’s most noteworthy.

Neftali Feliz has been one of the tougher closers to figure out this season. Although he sat with a 1.37 ERA on June 1, he sported a 9:14 K:BB ratio, so something was clearly amiss after he had 71 strikeouts to just 18 walks over 69.1 innings in 2010. He posted a 10:1 K:BB ratio over his next seven appearances (including 6:0 over his past three), showing increased velocity, only to get rocked for four runs while retiring just two batters against a weak Astros team Wednesday. Just when it seemed safe he may finally be feeling back to his old self after getting moved back and forth from starting and relieving, Feliz imploded in spectacular fashion…One other quick closer note: Kevin Gregg has a 23:19 K:BB ratio and a 1.52 WHIP while Koji Uehara has a 42:6 K:BB ratio and a 0.79 WHIP. One (or actually two) of these things is not like the other. Over the last two years, Uehara has a ridiculous 97:11 K:BB ratio over 77.0 innings. – while pitching in the AL East. He’s one of the best relievers in baseball few people talk about.

I’m beginning to question just exactly how the system works.

Only eight million gallons? Is that all?

I fully admit I was high on Travis Wood entering the year. And while he certainly appeared to be unlucky in April, when he flashed a 6.85 ERA despite a 3:1 K:BB ratio, he’s been flat out bad ever since, and I can’t fault Cincinnati for optioning him to Triple-A. Wood settled down nicely after a rough first inning against the Yankees his last time out, but before that, he hadn’t recorded more than four strikeouts in any of his previous seven starts, posting an anemic 4.07 K/9 rate over that span, which is simply unacceptable, especially since it was paired with shaky control. Wood is throwing his changeup (which has been his most effective pitch) more this season and his fastball less compared to last year, and his velocity across the board has been as good if not slightly better, so there’s nothing obvious to pinpoint his massive decline other than maybe the league adjusted to his admittedly not overwhelming stuff.

My favorite part is that he knows 38 beers is his typical cutoff.

I’ve made a point of posting a link whenever a 7-year-old gets in a police car chase, and I’m not making an exception this time.

Since 2009 on a per 162-game basis, Nelson Cruz has averaged 40 homers, 23 steals, 90 runs scored and 107 RBI. Of course, few players appear in a full season, and Cruz especially has proven injury-prone. Health is a skill he’s yet to exhibit, and Cruz’s batting average has also fluctuated greatly, going from .260 to .318 to .241 over that timeframe. Still, it’s clear he’s one of the more productive fantasy assets while not injured, essentially performing as a top-five player when on the field. Despite the 17 homers over 220 at-bats in 2011, he entered Wednesday with a disappointing .236/.289/.514 line. Cruz is capable of far outplaying that from here on out, so if you’re willing to take on some risk, he’s the type of player to trade for who could truly help you win your league.

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The Scoop

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

By Dalton Del Don

Entering the year, Vegas set the line on Ichiro Suzuki finishing with 200 or more hits at even odds, which was interesting considering he had eclipsed the mark all 10 years he’s been in the league. He’s currently on pace to finish with 178 hits, so he’s got a lot of work to do to reach that number again. After seeing his line-drive percentage drop each of the past five seasons, it’s back up to 19.0%, which isn’t that far off Ichiro’s career mark of 20.3%. He’s also sporting his lowest strikeout rate since his rookie season, so there’s no glaring reason for his drop in production, although it’s probably fair to suggest he’s lost some speed, resulting in fewer infield hits. His .290 BABIP is well below his career level of .354, so he qualifies as a nice buy-low target, especially since he’s yet to hit a homer in 2011. Ichiro continues to run, and if you need a batting average boost, it’s probably safe to expect him to hit around .325 from here on out.

Best interview ever.

Entirely possible this is fake and/or you’ve already seen it, but it’s worth passing along nevertheless.

I was high on Mark Teixeira entering the year, even drafting him on my Yahoo Friends & Family team, but I still feel mostly like I blew it, as faced with an opportunity to grab him late in the first round in WCOF, I selected David Wright instead, and the moment of cowardice has haunted me ever since. Teixeira is hitting a modest .251 on the year, but he’s also on pace to finish with 51 home runs, 102 runs scored and 128 RBI – this despite being a notorious slow starter, as his career line in April is .239/.350/.426. If David Wright were giving me 80 percent of that production, it would be one thing, but of course, he hit .226 before a broken back sidelined him indefinitely after averaging 156 games played over the previous six seasons. In such a high stakes league, every Teixeira homer widens a wound in my soul, and it’s been a brutal experience I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. Ultimately, I can only blame myself, as I overrated position scarcity. Wright scored 87 runs last season, and even during a down year when he posted the lowest OPS since his rookie campaign, Teixeira scored 113 runs. This is a mistake I’m not entirely sure of which I can recover.

This is one of the most suspenseful YouTube clips I’ve seen.

Bon Iver’s new album was his first I’ve listened to, and I couldn’t be more impressed. Ridiculously good.

Expanding further upon the idea of position scarcity, while it’s clearly very real, those who play such positions carry extra health risks, so realize you are aiming for ceiling far more than floor. Just ask anyone who spent an early round pick on Buster Posey or Joe Mauer. And even Carlos Santana is batting just .221 while playing the taxing position of catcher, and while Brian McCann is extremely valuable to the Braves, he’s on pace to finish with just 49 runs scored – the upside of catchers, who have to take more days off while also the most likely to be playing less than 100 percent, simply isn’t high enough to truly move the needle to be worth a high draft pick, in a way similar to tight ends in fantasy football. Middle infielders also no doubt carry greater risk for injury (Chase Utley and Troy Tulowitzki are the obvious recent examples), and while admittedly anecdotal (I’m too lazy to research), outfielders are seemingly more volatile than the big hitting first basemen, who are without question the safest early round picks. It’s true some solid 1B are typically available late, but there also won’t be a position off the board at a more rapid pace early on, so you better grab one.

Ever wonder what a shaved bear looks like? Neither did I, and it’s not a pretty sight.

As usual, Anthony Jeselnik absolutely killing it.

After breaking out in 2009, Adam Lind hit just .237 last season, but he’s quickly turning into one of 2011’s biggest draft day steals. He’s on pace to hit 33 homers and rack up 99 RBI despite missing a full month with a back injury. His .341 batting average can’t be expected to continue, but Lind did hit .305 one season ago, and he’s 27 years old just now entering his prime. He’s hitting fewer groundballs than ever with an impressive 25.2 LD%, and batting directly behind someone who’s getting on base 48.9 percent of the time this year should continue to lead to a ton of RBI opportunities. Lind is shaping up to be a fantasy monster.

Pretty sick idea, but admittedly, this could also be terrifying.

Cone-ing is the new planking.

Some quick hits on pitchers: Madison Bumgarner gave up his first homer Wednesday since April 17 – a span of 11 starts. He also picked up just his third victory of the season, despite 10 straight quality starts. MadBum’s run support ranks seventh worst in all of baseball…Livan Hernandez’s stats on the road: 5.66 ERA, 1.70 WHIP, 26:23 K:BB ratio. At home: 1.97, 0.91, 31:5…Over his last 10 starts, Luke Hochevar has struck out more than three batters just once, and it was a four K outing. The former No. 1 overall pick has somehow maintained a respectable 1.28 WHIP despite this. Then again, Carl Pavano (3.63 K/9) makes Hochevar look like Pedro Martinez in his prime…Matt Cain is 17-0 during his career when he gets at least three runs of support.

A slightly embarrassing way to graduate.

Lock this woman up ASAP.

Alcides Escobar has been nothing short of a terrible hitter throughout his brief major league career, but he’s raised his batting average nearly 35 points over the past week and has recorded a steal in four straight games, so fantasy owners in need of middle infield help should give him a look. Since hitting .304 as a rookie with Milwaukee in 2009, Escobar has looked lost at the plate, but he’s still just 24 years old and swiped 42 bags over 109 games as a 22-year-old during his last stint in Triple-A, so there’s some serious speed upside, especially if he can get his on-base percentage somewhere above .300. Escobar’s terrific defense should give him a long leash to stay in the lineup, and someone with an 18.3 LD%, 56.7 GB% and with speed, typically shouldn’t have a BABIP of .274.

Meet Junrey Balawing, who after just turning 18 years old, became the world’s shortest man at 23.6 inches tall.

Michael Cuddyer’s random three stolen bases were a nice surprise to his fantasy owners Wednesday, and his bat has come alive recently as well. In fact, he’s clubbed four homers with 11 RBI over the past 11 games, and he’s currently hitting cleanup, a spot that will look even better once Joe Mauer returns to the lineup. Most importantly, Cuddyer qualifies at second base in Yahoo leagues, which is huge. He’s one year removed from a 32-93-94 campaign, and even during a down year last season, he still produced 14-93-81, which is borderline elite for the ever-thinning second base position. Target Field remains an issue (although he’s hit far better at home than on the road so far this year), but after a slow start, Cuddyer is coming around and looks like a must-start in all formats.

Can you imagine losing on a penalty shot this way?

Josh Beckett has gone from one of the worst pitchers in baseball last year (5.78 ERA, 1.54 WHIP) to one of the best in 2011 (1.86, 0.92), at least on the surface. After he tossed a complete game shutout Wednesday when he allowed just one baserunner, his fantasy owners have to be ecstatic they gambled on him bouncing back. While it’s safe to call his true talent level somewhere in the middle of the two extremes, it’s remarkable just how similar his peripherals look this year compared to last. In fact, his K rate is actually down, and his K:BB ratio from 2010 (2.57) is nearly identical to this season (2.63). Obviously, things generally considered out of his control have gone from one extreme to the other. Last year his hit rate was .338; his current .217 BABIP is the lowest in MLB. Beckett’s HR/FB% was 14.2 in 2010; it’s 3.9% this season, which is the fifth lowest in the league, and his current 84.3 LOB% is the second highest mark in all of baseball. It’s unclear how much blame he deserves for last year and how much credit he should be given for 2011, but it’s been quite an interesting turnaround for Beckett. Regardless, any pitcher with such a modest K:BB ratio combined with such a sterling ERA and WHIP makes for a sell-high candidate, especially while playing in the AL East.

Ya, that’s normal.

While plenty of last year’s bums such as Josh Beckett and Adam Lind have paid off in a big way in 2011, there’s another group featuring Jason Bay and Chone Figgins, who not only have once again disappointed but have actually been even worse than in 2010. Is Bay done? It’s seemingly a ridiculous question at age 32, and I continue to stubbornly leave him in my lineup in my home league (when he’s not benched by the Mets, that is), but this is a guy who’s hit eight homers over his past 504 at-bats since signing a lucrative contract. Citi Field is known as a pitcher’s park, which it generally is, but it’s worth noting it’s played slightly as a hitter’s park so far in 2011, and Bay can’t blame bad luck either, as his LD% is a career-low, while his GB% is a career-high. It’s entirely possible last season’s severe concussion is still affecting him, but whatever the cause, fantasy owners would like to see some semblance of life. And fast. It’s hard to believe Bay was a typical late second, early third round pick as recent as last year.

The Scoop

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

By Dalton Del Don

David Price posted a 2.72 ERA last season, but because of an accompanying 2.4:1 K:BB ratio, I avoided him at draft tables. So far, it’s certainly been to my detriment. While his ERA has risen to 3.35, he’s posted an 83:14 K:BB ratio over 91.1 innings with a 1.01 WHIP, so he’s clearly improved as a pitcher during his third year in the bigs. His control has gotten dramatically better (3.41 BB/9 last year, 1.38 BB/9 in 2011), so he now truly looks like an ace. Price continues to rely heavily on his fastball, but he has used his changeup more this season, and his performance is all the more impressive when you consider he plays in the AL East. Price has some aspects in his favor, as Tropicana Field continues to act as a major pitcher’s park, and the Rays’ 24.4 UZR ranks as the best in baseball. Both of those factor into his current .278 BABIP, and his career hit rate is actually .269, so he’s not necessarily been overly lucky. Price has a 53:5 K:BB ratio since April ended, and it’s looking like he’ll enter 2012 as a top-10 fantasy starter.

Pretty crazy story about a bank heist.

Ya, that’s normal.

Entering the year, David Ortiz had hit .191 over the previous three Aprils. He improved during the first month of the season this year, but he’s really taken off since then, as he’s clubbed 13 homers since the beginning of May. Ortiz is currently on pace to finish with 40 homers, 98 runs scored and 90 RBI while batting .323. As encouraging as his 25:25 K:BB ratio is – in fact, his K rate is by far a career-low – it’s probably safe to expect a drop in average, but it’s clear he has plenty left to offer at age 35. The lack of position flexibility isn’t ideal, but especially in a time when offense is as down as ever, Ortiz is a major fantasy contributor often overlooked. After struggling against southpaws over the past few years, he’s actually hit lefties even better than right-handers in 2011, a weird trend also seen with Curtis Granderson and Jay Bruce this season. Ortiz is hitting just .167 with RISP and has his historically worst month in the rearview mirror, so he could be a monster from here on out.

A funny shampoo prank.

That’s a lot of piercings.

Prospect watch: Charlie Blackmon was hitting .337 with 10 homers and 12 steals in Triple-A before getting called up to Colorado, where he’ll act as the team’s starting left fielder, at least until Dexter Fowler returns. Fowler has been a major disappointment, so if Blackmon impresses, he may take the job and run with it. Because of the Coors Field factor, he’s a must-add in all fantasy leagues…Anthony Rizzo also needs to be owned thanks to his .365/.444/.715 line, but expectations for the 21-year-old need to be tempered. While strong defensively, his bat still needs development, and he’s going from one of the best hitting environments in the PCL to baseball’s toughest place to hit. Petco Park really hurts Rizzo’s fantasy upside…It’s a shame Brett Lawrie suffered a fractured hand right on the cusp of getting a chance in Toronto. He’ll be shut down at least 2-to-3 weeks, and this is the type of injury that could linger for a hitter, unfortunately…It’s nice to see Jemile Weeks running more this season (he has 10 steals already in Triple-A after recording 16 all of 2010), but you shouldn’t expect much power. His ability to take a walk will likely help Oakland more than your fantasy team…Dee Gordon is almost certainly not ready to help at the big league level, but Los Angeles is going to give him an opportunity anyway, even hitting him leadoff. While his BA and OBP are unlikely to impress, his speed makes him a must-add in fantasy leagues, especially with middle infield so shallow. Gordon swiped 73 bags in 2009 and 53 last season, and he’s 22-for-25 on SB attempts in 2011. Grab him.

Best police sketch ever.

Let’s hope this guy golfs better than he drives.

Zach Britton has pitched well during his rookie campaign, flashing a 3.18 ERA with a 1.23 WHIP. However, that’s come with an unsightly 47:29 K:BB ratio over 82.0 innings. That’s not just mediocre, it’s flat out bad. Not that Britton doesn’t deserve credit, his ability to induce groundballs is legit, and there’s plenty of time for him to improve in other areas of his game. But a 5.16 K/9 rate is dangerous anywhere, let alone in the AL East. ZiPS actually projects a 5.06 ERA from here on out. I doubt you can you sell Britton “high,” but he’s still someone I’d be shopping aggressively, especially coming off a strong start Wednesday against the A’s.

This cat appears to be an addict.

I keep breaking my rule, so here’s another animal video.

Adrian Beltre hasn’t hit that well for the Rangers, posting a .257/.311/.469 line over 241 at-bats, but he’s been plenty valuable to fantasy owners nevertheless, as he’s on pace to hit 31 home runs and produce 116 RBI. The latter number reveals big potential, since Beltre has hit just .220 with runners on base this season, and Josh Hamilton is back in the lineup. It appears Beltre’s days as a base stealer are finished, unfortunately, but with just 23 strikeouts so far, expect his batting average to climb soon. Third base has become an absolute sinkhole this season, giving Beltre extra value. His production should only increase during the summer months in Texas.

It’s hard to argue Trevor Bauer isn’t the most interesting prospect from this year’s MLB draft.

Boy sells kidney to buy iPad.

Love him or hate him, here’s an interesting profile on Bill Simmons (ever notice how Simmons is seemingly incapable of pronouncing the word “women.” He says “woman” instead every single time). I’m definitely intrigued by Grantland.

Alexi Ogando is a tough guy to evaluate right now. There’s nothing not to like about his transition into the starting rotation, but despite his 2.10 ERA and 0.90 WHIP, I doubt he’d bring a ton in return in a trade. Some will point to his .210 BABIP and 88.2 LOB%, but any pitcher with that low of an ERA has experienced some luck. Others will worry about his innings pitched, as Ogando has already reached a career-high, and we are barely into June. It’s uncertain how such an increase will affect him, especially down the stretch, but he’s unlikely to be shut down with Texas in a pennant race. C.J. Wilson underwent a similar situation last year, as he threw 228.1 innings after becoming a starter for the first time in his career – a full 154.2 innings more than ever before. The Rangers have preached long toss and have something of a rare philosophy with pitchers, so while Ogando is risky, at least he’s in an organization that has had success with this issue in the past. He’s probably a “hold” in fantasy terms.

It sounds like Mayweather v. Pacquiao might happen after all. Terrific news.

Sad and scary stuff.

My friend Sean made this music video. Check it out.

Jason Bourgeois has 14 stolen bases over 61 at-bats this year, which is a pace unmatched by any other, even teammate Michael Bourn. Bourgeois has two steals over three games since returning from an oblique injury, which is encouraging, as he looks to be back to 100 percent. There’s no question he’s performing over his head at the plate, but the speed is for real. His spot in Houston’s everyday lineup remains in flux, but before he went on the disabled list, he started seeing some time at second base, which would be huge news for his fantasy value if that were to happen again. Over the last two years, major league baseball teams averaged 99 stolen bases each season (and it was lower before that). This year teams are on pace to finish with an average of 110. That’s more than 300 steals in total. You need more stolen bases than ever to compete in your fantasy league.

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Doc Halladay

Friday, June 3rd, 2011

Never been a huge fan of player interviews in general, but I was able to interview Roy Halladay last week, so I pass along the link.

The Scoop

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

By Dalton Del Don

I must say, I’m pretty jealous not owning Michael Pineda in any of my fantasy leagues. While there was some concern his still developing changeup would leave him vulnerable to left-handed hitters, it turns out his fastball is so good, it doesn’t really matter. In fact, Pineda’s average fastball velocity of 95.5 mph easily leads major league baseball. While he’s rarely used his changeup, Pineda’s slider has been much more effective than expected, and after an impressive April, the rookie has recorded a 43:8 K:BB ratio over 39.0 innings. He already looks like one of the best pitchers in baseball, and while there’s some concern he’ll eventually show bigger platoon splits, it’s worth noting 49.5 percent of the batters he’s faced this year have been left-handers.

This guy’s behavior on a flight was clearly crazy, but the passenger’s response was equally remarkable.

Check it out, there was a Bigfoot sighting!

After ending April with a .224/.267/.284 line, Mike Morse posted a 1.196 OPS in May. His .403 batting average last month was especially surprising since it came with a 13:1 K:BB ratio, but Morse has hit five homers over the past nine games and is locked in the middle of Washington’s order. It’s possible the move back to first base has made him more comfortable at the plate, and Adam LaRoche’s prognosis over the rest of the season is questionable at best. Morse quietly posted an .870 OPS with 15 homers over 266 at-bats last season, and while his current 34:6 K:BB ratio is ugly, his career BABIP is .348, so his batting average isn’t necessarily due for a major crash. To give an indication of how I feel about Morse, I spent $160 of my FAAB on him last week in WCOF (second highest bid was $155, love that).

Now this was an unfortunate and embarrassing situation.

Compelling story about the anthrax killings.

I have absolutely no clue what to make of Bartolo Colon right now, but his pitching performance has been as impressive as it’s been surprising. His 3.26 ERA and 1.10 WHIP is matched by a 62:15 K:BB ratio over 66.1 innings, and this coming while pitching in the AL East. Questions surround the surgery that was performed on Colon’s arm, but his average fastball velocity (91.8 mph) is actually below his career mark (albeit 2.7 mph higher than the last time he appeared in the majors in 2009). ZiPs projects a 4.70 ERA over the rest of the year, but that seems high if he keeps his peripherals anywhere close to their current state. More wins should also follow with the help of a Yankees’ offense that leads MLB in runs scored. I have to say, I didn’t quite see this coming.

This is pretty funny. And the reviews are off the charts!

I question whether this driver was really just texting. But either way, this is pretty crazy.

Dexter Fowler has played plus defense in center field while posting a solid .344 OBP, but with zero homers and just two steals on eight attempts, he’s been a disappointment in fantasy leagues. He’s on pace to score 97 runs, so he’s not completely without value, but what happened to the player who posted a .770 OPS with 27 stolen bases as a 23-year-old two seasons ago? While his poor defense precludes guaranteed playing time, Eric Young Jr. is suddenly someone capable of making an impact in fantasy leagues, especially eligible at second base. After averaging 66 steals from 2006-2009, Young had already racked up 17 SBs while getting caught just once over 160 at-bats at Triple-A this year, and he has three swipes over five games since getting recalled to Colorado. Run scoring typically goes way up during the summer months in Coors Field, and it would be nice to see what Young could do if finally given a real opportunity to play every day.

The headline for this story – “Horse herpes outbreak forces rodeo queens to ride stick ponies” sufficiently sums it up.

The world’s first BMX triple backflip.

I’m beginning to think Jonathan Franzen might have a future as a writer.

On May 25, Max Scherzer had a 2.98 ERA. Two starts later, it’s at 4.38. That’s obviously an extreme case, but it also points out that we are still at the point of the season in which even just two outings can dramatically change a pitcher’s overall numbers. Three starts ago Ted Lilly had a 4.83 ERA and a 1.35 WHIP. Those numbers are already down to 4.22 and 1.22 – a significant change in the latter over such a brief period of time. While this kind of fluctuation remains evident after a dozen or so starts, the impact is even greater for a reliever for obvious reasons, as Carlos Marmol saw his ERA jump from 1.17 to 3.47 in one outing earlier this week. That type of implosion (six runs, one out) will be felt all season long for a relief pitcher. While Ubaldo Jimenez’s ERA is still an ugly 4.98, his complete game shutout Wednesday brought it down nearly a full run (it was 5.86). Pretty crazy that it was also his first win since September 17.

Now that’s a pretty compelling piece of evidence.

This story reminds me of the joke about a husband coming home to inform his wife to get her suitcases out and start packing because he just won the lottery. When she asks where they are going he responds “I don’t care where you go, just get the hell out of here.”

Johnny Damon has quietly had a pretty good year so far, at least in fantasy terms. His .315 OBP certainly isn’t helping the Rays, but he’s on pace to finish with 21 homers, 18 steals and 88 RBI. Despite approaching 40 years old, he’s 29-for-31 on stolen base attempts dating back to 2009, so while clearly in decline, Damon remains useful in fantasy leagues, although he’s hindered by playing in Tropicana Field, which again ranks as one of the five toughest places to hit in all of baseball according to Park Factors. It ranked as the best pitcher’s park in MLB in 2010 and hasn’t benefitted hitters since 2006. At some point, we may need to factor this into Evan Longoria’s fantasy projections.

Warning: Dancing in public will get you arrested.

Here’s what happened. And here are the repercussions. Definitely curious for opinions on this.

With Michael Young gaining 2B eligibility, there’s now an argument he’s a top-five option at the position. He won’t rack up homers or steals, but he’s currently hitting .335 and is on pace to finish with 106 RBI thanks to regularly hitting third or fourth in Texas’ lineup, a situation that should only improve now with Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz healthy. Young ended last year with 21 homers, 99 runs scored and 91 RBI, and it doesn’t matter to us he’s not nearly as valuable in real life as he is in fantasy leagues. Maybe it’s totally meaningless, but it’s interesting to note Young has hit .429 while playing in the field and just .266 over 124 at-bats at DH. There’s an obvious adjustment period, but don’t forget he was highly reluctant to make the switch to begin with.

Check out who Doug Glanville chose as his franchise player.

Well, this was a close call.

An absolute must-read regarding the Long Island Serial Killer.

I understand the small sample narrative gets beaten to death, and I’m in no way suggesting you shouldn’t let what has happened over the first two months of the season affect your evaluations, but realize so much is going to change over the remainder of 2011. I’d obviously prefer to be in first place in my league than last right now, but I’d also caution letting your current standing both overall and categorically become too definitive. Theoretically, a fantasy team comprised of Hanley Ramirez, Evan Longoria, David Wright, Carl Crawford, Dustin Pedroia, Nelson Cruz, Shin-Soo Choo, Joe Mauer and Alex Rios would almost certainly be dead last in their league in batting average. I’d argue that team would finish first in that category by season’s end.

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