Archive for July, 2011

The Scoop

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011

By Dalton Del Don

I’m a big fan of LeSean McCoy. After the “big-four,” to me, it comes down to him or Ray Rice next. McCoy isn’t a true workhorse, but Brian Westbrook proved for years that isn’t necessary to be highly productive in Andy Reid’s system. Thanks to an NFL-high 78 receptions among running backs, McCoy totaled 1,672 yards last season despite seeing 20 carries in just one contest. But don’t let that low carry total fool you, as the Eagles clearly trust and rely on him heavily, as McCoy played 837 snaps, which tied for third among backs despite sitting out Week 17 because Philadelphia had nothing to play for. At age 22, McCoy’s five rushes for 40-plus yards led the NFL, so while he’s not going to dominate at the goal-line, he can score from anywhere on the field, and it’s worth noting he received 15 targets inside the red zone, including four inside the five-yard line. While McCoy would see an increase in touches should Michael Vick go down, it would likely be for the best if the QB stayed healthy, as defenses have their hands full focusing on stopping the elusive Vick with DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin as options outside. McCoy is set up for a huge 2011 season.

One of the better gaffes in recent game show history. Not knowing how many feet are in a yard is one thing, but she must’ve thought those two kids were really tall.

I’m not one to get political, but I must say, I wholeheartedly support Obama’s new high-speed bus plan.

Tony Romo is coming off a season that was cut short after just 5.5 games, but despite the Cowboys’ disappointing record at the time, he had completed 69.5 percent of his passes and was on pace to toss 32 touchdowns while taking few sacks. Because of Dallas’ third-place finish last year, its schedule gets easier in 2011, including facing the weak NFC West. Moreover, with Miles Austin, Dez Bryant and Jason Witten, few teams can match the weapons at Romo’s disposal. That’s just gravy, as Romo is a true superstar in his own right, as his career 8.0 YPA ranks fourth overall in NFL history, and the three ahead of him played in the 30s, 40s and 50s. It’s possible DeMarco Murray becomes a dominant goal-line back, but the safe bet is Dallas relies on its passing attack this year, and there’s a reasonable argument Romo should be the third quarterback off the board in fantasy leagues.

Our good friend Steve is back at it yet again.

This 747 landing is no joke.

I’m conflicted about Steven Jackson. I want to call him a bust candidate, and I’m almost certain he’ll end up on none of my teams, as I’m unwilling to buy someone so vulnerable to break down at his cost. In fact, Jackson has more touches than any other back in football since 2005 despite missing 10 games over the stretch. Now that’s a heavy workload. Still just 28 years old, Jackson has already accrued 1,878 career carries – to put that into perspective, Frank Gore and DeAngelo Williams, who are the same age, have racked up 1,371 and 841 rushing attempts, respectively. Of course, fantasy owners welcome high volume, but all those touches have seemingly sapped some of Jackson’s explosiveness. He’s averaged just 6.0 touchdowns over the past six years and somehow gained a net total of zero yards on 10 rushes inside the five-yard line last season. However, Jackson may be in a better situation than ever in 2011, with a returning (and competent) head coach in Steve Spagnuolo and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels joining the fold (for all his terrible personnel decisions, of which there were many, McDaniels sure can run a productive offense). Sam Bradford should improve in year 2, and the Rams’ wide receiver crew could quickly go from a weakness to a strength. The defense also has the makings of being sneaky good, and Jackson continues to have the benefit of playing in the NFL’s easiest division. I’m personally staying away, but while on the downside of his career, Jackson’s situation looks to be quite improved this year.

The three craziest photos of the week: here, here and here.

This gentleman appears to be slightly invested in a soccer match.

Sticking with St. Louis, I was pretty surprised to see them at +275 to win the NFC West during a recent trip to Las Vegas. I’m a 49ers fan, but I’m picking the Rams to win this division outright, so any odds are gravy. St. Louis had the seventh most sacks in football last year and added DE Robert Quinn with the 14th pick of the draft. Moreover, the team signed Quintin Mikell, who Pro Football Focus graded as the NFL’s best safety two of the past three years, in free agency. I’m also of the belief some combination of Mark Clayton, Danario Alexander, Donnie Avery, Danny Amendola and Austin Pettis will form a capable WR corps, and don’t be surprised if the team also makes a run at Darren Sproles. I’m all over that bet.

This person took parallel parking to the next level.

“Dead” man wakes screaming after day in morgue.

What is Carolina thinking spending all that money on DeAngelo Williams? I mean, $21 million guaranteed? I don’t care so much he’s already 28 since his career workload is low, but he’s missed 13 games over the past two seasons while not acting as a true workhorse. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a believer in Williams’ talent and consider him one of the five best running backs in football, but problem is, Jonathan Stewart isn’t far behind (if at all), so why is a team that just finished 2-14 (or any, for that matter) tying up so much money into the most fungible position on the field? Running backs get hurt, fine, but then there’s Mike Goodson on the roster as well. What a mind blowing, awful use of resources, as Carolina clearly doesn’t get it. While some Stewart fantasy owners will hold out hope, pointing to his 1,133-rushing yard, 10-TD season in 2009, realize he got 39% of those rushing yards (and four touchdowns) over the final three games of the year when Williams was sidelined, so he was essentially unusable on a weekly basis beforehand, and Carolina currently fields a much worse team than 2008-2009. While Stewart no doubt has top-10 upside (if not higher), it’s going to take another Williams injury for him to be playable (and this is coming from a Stewart dynasty owner).

Alien life form turns out to be hairless monkey.

A prayer unlike any other.

Tarvaris Jackson is yet another reason to wait on quarterbacks in fantasy leagues. I’m not saying I’d rely on him as a QB1, and of course I wouldn’t feel comfortable with him starting for my favorite NFL team, but he can run (averaged 23.2 rushing yards per game while starting over his career), is moving to football’s easiest division and now has Sidney Rice as a weapon. Jackson should have little trouble beating out Charlie Whitehurst for the starting job in Seattle and got 7.4 YPA with a 10:2 TD:INT ratio over limited work from 2008-2009. Jackson will almost certainly be a below average QB for the Seahawks, but he’s a former second round pick with just 20 career starts under his belt at age 28, so some improvement could occur, especially since his learning curve will be minimal with former Vikings’ offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell (who clearly must see something in him with this transaction) now in Seattle. Jackson can run, plays in the NFC West and has a bona fide WR1 at his disposal, so he’s a worthwhile late round flier.

Did this kid kill a Chupacabra?

Great read about what has happened to Kei Igawa.

LeGarrette Blount admittedly loses a lot of value in PPR formats, but otherwise, I’m willing to take the plunge in the middle of round 2. He led the NFL last year in broken tackles as a runner with 50, which is a remarkable feat considering his 201 carries ranked just 22nd. His 3.7 YPC after contact also was the best in football. However, despite Blount’s big build (6-0, 247), his coaches lost trust in him in short-yardage situations, and the stats backed them up (Blount was just 2-for-9 at the goal line), so securing the role at the goal line will be crucial to his 2011 fantasy value. There’s no reason he can’t succeed there given his attributes as he’s not only a physical beast but also possesses the best hurdle in the NFL, and while some question his speed, Blount’s three carries for 40-plus yards and 10 carries for 20-plus last season both equaled Jamaal Charles’ output. QB Josh Freeman and WR Mike Williams look like stars in the making, so this Bucs’ offense could soon be dangerous. With his ability to break tackles, Blount’s numbers could be scary good if Tampa Bay’s poor offensive line improves.

What exactly is going on here during this robbery attempt?

What exactly is going on in the background of this interview?

Santonio Holmes has played his entire career for run-first teams, something that’s unlikely to change after re-signing with the Jets. However, he’s been both an advanced metric and scout favorite for some time, posting impressive YPT marks throughout his career. He’s one season removed from a 1,248-yard campaign and scored six touchdowns over 12 games while playing for a new team in New York last season. Holmes will not only be more familiar with the Jets’ system in 2011, he should see a big increase in targets with Braylon Edwards likely gone, and Mark Sanchez should also improve during his third year in the league. Holmes will still be in a run-heavy environment, but he’s never been a true WR1 dominating all the looks in the past, but that should change this season, and he has the skills to fully take advantage of the situation.

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The Scoop

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

By Dalton Del Don

It’s pretty clear the tier 1 of running backs (and overall) features four players, and although they almost certainly won’t finish as such by the end of the year, I do prefer getting a top-four pick, if for no other reason than it gets pretty dicey soon thereafter. I don’t feel strongly one way or the other in the Adrian Peterson vs. Arian Foster debate, and while I also wouldn’t fault anyone for taking Jamaal Charles No. 1, his workload is most questionable of the group, and unlike the three others in this tier (including Chris Johnson), Charles is hardly guaranteed goal-line work. I personally prefer LeSean McCoy and Ray Rice next, but after pick No. 4, each league will likely look very different from then on, so it might make sense to move to the back end of round one if you don’t get a top-four pick. The next tier of backs is so tough to gauge, I’d almost prefer someone else makes the decision for me anyway, which would then also come along with an earlier second round choice (hello Ryan Mathews).

This surveillance video of a Chihuahua staving off a robbery killed me. The L.A. Times even reported the culprits bounced with their bag far from full.

The night Brooks Conrad’s life almost fell apart. He’ll always have a soft spot in my heart as a Giants’ fan, but man, that was one brutal day no one should ever have to endure. What a story.

Preaching patience with quarterbacks is obviously a tired bit of advice, but both Michael Vick and Aaron Rodgers are likely to go in the top-15 picks in drafts this year, so it’s clear not all agree with this strategy. Assuming it’s a one-quarterback league (this changes completely in 2-QB formats, even in leagues in which a QB is eligible at the flex position, which is probably the best format strategically), I simply can’t see taking one within the first six rounds or so (assuming Rodgers or Vick don’t fall to the fourth or something). Quarterback is without question the safest position, as an early running back selection carries a far greater likelihood of being a total bust, but the former’s higher floor is also a reason to grab them later on, when plenty of viable options should be available. You can draft multiple (the last to draft a QB, first to draft a backup strategy) and play matchups, but I’d also feel perfectly comfortable with Josh Freeman, Jay Cutler, Eli Manning, Matthew Stafford or even Tim Tebow being my No. 1 starter entering 2011. Each of their current ADPs resides outside the top-100 right now.

Great blooper reel. Dadgummit!

This “huge Pats fan” is looking to score some tickets to the New England/New Orleans game this year.

Fantasy owners in dynasty formats should have an interesting upcoming rookie draft. Normally I side with running backs all else equal, especially considering wide receivers typically take 2-3 years to develop, but I’d make A.J. Green the first pick. He’s not in an ideal spot with such an uncertain QB situation, but Green looks like a true “freak,” and with both Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco likely gone, he could dominate targets immediately. I can’t see not taking Mark Ingram next. He only averaged 15.9 carries per game in college and doesn’t appear to be a truly special back, and it’s unclear if Sean Payton will again employ a RBBC, but if he becomes a workhorse in New Orleans’ offense, he’ll make those who took Green before him regret it. I originally had Daniel Thomas ahead of Ingram (in redraft leagues), as it appeared he was going to be Miami’s lead back, but it now seems like he might also be part of a committee. Still, he’s likely the obvious third pick. Julio Jones would probably be considered next, but he’s the fourth option in Atlanta (seriously, how bad was that trade for the Falcons? You’re telling me the Cardinals turn down that same deal for Larry Fitzgerald?). Later, some real interesting sleepers at running back include Roy Helu, Delone Carter and DeMarco Murray. As for rookie quarterbacks, I’d bet right now Andrew Luck appears in more Pro Bowls than Cam Newton, Christian Ponder, Blaine Gabbert and Jake Locker combined.

I went to this legit Thai restaurant last week in Las Vegas. If you like spicy food, I highly recommend it. One of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life, hands down.

Watched the last Harry Potter movie last weekend, which I definitely enjoyed. Although after never reading any of the books and without giving any spoilers, I must say, the epilogue was truly awful. I mean beyond terrible.

Shonn Greene’s current ADP is 59.82, which certainly won’t be a reflection of reality come draft day in August in any league I’m in. He absolutely burnt fantasy owners last season, but I believe the Jets’ coaching staff when they say they are going to make him the team’s featured back in 2011, especially since LaDainian Tomlinson himself has even admitted he’s best suited for solely third-down work at this stage of his career. Moreover, the Jets have run the ball 1,141 times the last two years since Rex Ryan took over as head coach – that’s 147 more carries than the next closest team (the Chiefs). Greene takes a hit in PPR formats, but after recording just two catches over the first 20 games of his career, he hauled in 14 receptions for 103 yards over his last nine contests in 2010. That’s not exactly Marshall Faulk in his prime, but 200 additional receiving yards yearly is better than what Michael Turner gives you, and further development can be expected, even if Tomlinson dominates third-down work. Who gets the goal-line carries will be key, and although Greene got just three attempts there last season, he’s certainly built to be successful in short-yardage situations. While I’ve been wrong writing off Tomlinson the past couple of years, he’s now 32 years old with 3,099 career rushing attempts and averaged just 3.28 YPC over the second half last season. Few players typically available as third and even fourth round picks offer as much upside as Greene in 2011.

What an obnoxious penalty kick. Not that I’m against it. We all know the U.S. women’s team could have used such a PK in the final in the World Cup. I kid – what a terrific match. Never expected to get so worked up over it. I was on the edge of my seat. Brutal loss for the U.S.

Mario Manningham is one of my favorite targets this year. I’m pessimistic about Steve Smith’s ability to perform after undergoing microfracture surgery, which should lead to a serious increase in targets for Manningham. Eli Manning has quietly developed into a star over the past couple of seasons (completing 62.6% of his passes with a 7.7 YPA and 58 touchdowns while playing in a windy outdoor stadium. Last year’s 25 picks involved a lot of bad luck (QBs are far less responsible for INTs), and he took just 16 sacks while remaining remarkably durable), and while I’m a huge Hakeem Nicks fan, there’s no denying he’s an injury risk, so imagine if Manningham became New York’s WR1. His touchdown:reception ratio (9:60) isn’t sustainable, but Manningham was highly impressive during his third year in the league last season (after essentially red-shirting during his rookie campaign). According to Pro Football Focus, despite seeing a modest 23 “deep” targets (20-plus yards), Manningham tied for sixth in the NFL with 12 receptions. Only four receivers recorded more yards on deep passes (Brandon Lloyd, Mike Wallace, DeSean Jackson and Greg Jennings) and just two scored more long touchdowns (Calvin Johnson and Wallace). Impressive stuff considering Manningham was mostly a WR3 for the Giants. Go get him.

It appears this woman was displeased with the judge’s decision.

It’s no secret I’m a Jay Cutler fan (and not entirely because I resemble him), but after a seemingly modest season last year, realize when looking over his stats they came in 14.5 games, and it’s possible the lasting narrative of him leaving the NFC Championship Game hurt might also bump him down a couple pegs (admittedly, a stretch). Regardless, Cutler will be entering his second year under Mike Martz, which shouldn’t be underestimated, and it’s hard to imagine the Bears’ offensive line being worse than last season, and their wide receiving corps should also improve. Moreover, it’s also a safe bet to expect Chicago’s defense to take a step back, and it’s not crazy to imagine shootouts with Detroit and Green Bay, and it’s not like Minnesota is a poor matchup either. Cutler posted a career-high 7.6 YPA during his first year working with Martz, and if the attempts increase should Chicago’s defense be unable to remain elite, big numbers could be in store, especially since they also face the AFC West in 2011. Plus, his fiancée isn’t exactly hard on the eyes.

Woman pays $10,000 for “non-visible” work of art.

Darren McFadden is one of the most interesting players entering 2011. While his teammate Michael Bush was drafted ahead of him last year, McFadden finally lived up to his pedigree during his third season in the league, totaling 1,664 yards and 10 touchdowns despite missing three games and getting just 223 carries. Known as a burner with sprinter type speed, which was evidenced by his NFL-high 14 rushes for 20-plus yards, McFadden also recorded 3.5 YPC after contact, which was the second best mark in football. He received just four goal-line carries (converting three of them), but because McFadden has become one of the most dangerous backs as a receiver, it wouldn’t be a stretch if someone took him with the fifth overall pick this year. After all, only Arian Foster averaged more yards from scrimmage than McFadden last season (128.0 yards per game. To put that into perspective, Michael Turner averaged 91.0 YPG). Having said that, McFadden seems like a pretty big bust candidate, as he’s jumping about eight rounds in cost and remains a big health risk (he’s never played more than 13 games in his career while never carrying the ball even 225 times). I’m in no way recommending you avoid Run DMC altogether and acknowledge pretty much all backs present some risk, but no first round pick carries more this year, so make sure you go a round or two earlier to secure Michael Bush (whom I’m assuming remains with Oakland) if you draft McFadden.

Like mother like daughter.

Seriously, this lockout should seemingly be finished any minute now. I was once quite pessimistic, but what encouraging news. I’m pumped for some football!

Normally I’m all about young over old in football (although the opposite has become true in baseball, as boring veterans are now the market inefficiency), but I’m on board with Fred Jackson. I agreed with the criticism when Buffalo used its ninth overall pick to select C.J. Spiller, but that was more so because they had far more pressing needs to address, not to mention using a high pick on a running back is insane unless it’s a once in a generation talent, not that I had a problem with Spiller’s ability to play in the NFL, per se. Apparently, that last issue is as great as the first, as Spiller has struggled with the transition. There’s plenty of time to improve, and he proved solid as a receiver, but the Bills’ coaching staff has recently compared him to Reggie Bush, which seemingly means he’s not exactly viewed as a major threat to Jackson’s carries. After Marshawn Lynch was traded last season, Jackson totaled 1,055 yards with six touchdowns over 12 games. His eight dropped passes were most among running backs, but he improved greatly in pass protection. With a shaky offensive line, Buffalo isn’t an ideal situation, but Ryan Fitzpatrick gives them a better QB in 2011 than a handful of teams who will be relying on rookies. Assuming Spiller’s development doesn’t take a huge leap, Jackson should once again pay big dividends in fantasy leagues.

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The Scoop

Friday, July 15th, 2011

By Dalton Del Don

After posting a fine .308/.361/.438 line as a 24-year-old in 2009 and then a disappointing .673 OPS last season while dealing with injuries, it now seems so obvious Asdrubal Cabrera was a player to target in drafts this year, but few could have predicted just how good he’s been so far. Entering with a career-high of six home runs, Cabrera already has 15 jacks, and he’s also 12-for-13 on stolen base attempts while playing a premium shortstop position. Hitting primarily second in a decent Indians lineup, Cabrera is also on pace to finish with 101 runs scored and more impressively, 95 RBI. The safest bet is expecting Cabrera to regress from here on out, but calling him a sell-high is totally dependent on how your specific league values him (then again, I guess the same could be said about every player and every league), as there’s also no glaring reason to ship him off at anything less than full value as nothing in his peripherals scream fluke (his HR/FB% is well above his previous career rate, but it’s also not crazy at 13.6%, and he’s hitting more fly balls than ever and is now entering his prime at age 26).

Assuming she wasn’t in on it, this tops the list of recent crazy marriage proposals.

I’ve been reluctant to do so, but I now admit, I’ve never been force fed Viagra.

It’s not a stretch to call Justin Verlander the best pitcher in baseball right now. I’d probably take Roy Halladay, and others certainly belong in the discussion, but Verlander has forced himself in the conversation with his dominant 2011 season thus far, and it pains me to admit he’s on exactly zero of my fantasy teams. While elite, his 8.76 K/9 rate ranks “only” 10th in baseball, but it’s worth noting of those ahead of him only two pitch in the American League (Michael Pineda and Gio Gonzalez). Over his last eight starts, Verlander has posted a remarkable 71:8 K:BB ratio while lasting at least 7.0 innings in every outing. There’s no doubt he’s been worked hard, both this year and in the past, but he relies little on the slider (7.6% this year) and often sees his fastball velocity, which averages 95.2 mph – the best in major league baseball, actually increase later in games. Verlander’s hit rate (.232) is almost certain to increase, but the Tigers have been an above average defensive team this season, and his career mark is .289, and it’s unsurprising to see some “luck” factoring into a pitcher with a miniscule 2.15 ERA. His 7.5 HR/FB% is right in line with his career norm, and he’s even cut one full walk per nine innings off last season. Verlander has been flat-out dominant.

This movie looks sooo good.

The first act is one thing, but personally I feel like the garbage disposal took it too far.

Unless you’re in a 10-team league or shallower, might as well take a flier on Brandon Allen (I’d imagine he was already owned in the majority of NL-only formats). While some will be upset it’s not Paul Goldschmidt, who has 26 homers, getting the opportunity, they both have an identical 1.060 OPS. Goldschmidt has done so in Double-A, while Allen has been playing in Triple-A, although admittedly in the hitter-friendly PCL. While Goldschmidt may have a higher ceiling doing so as a 23-year-old, fantasy owners in redraft leagues should prefer someone who’s 25 and more likely to produce now. Not that I have an Allen over Goldschmidt bias (although I was able to nab the former in a couple daily leagues Thursday), but either one would seemingly be an upgrade over Arizona’s current first base situation. Allen held his own in the majors last year with a .393 OBP (in an extremely small sample), and especially against right-handers, could be an asset from here on out with Chase Field on his side.

Pretty incredible “Mario Bros” run.

Two-headed snake? Two-headed-snake.

After allowing 12 hits while striking out none over seven innings in a home start against the Mets, Derek Holland didn’t get out of the first inning during his next outing despite remaining in interleague play, as he was tattooed for five runs while recording just two outs versus the Marlins. Since then, he’s thrown back-to-back shutouts, and while they have come against the two weakest offenses in the American League, and his inconsistency can be infuriating, there’s no doubting Holland’s upside. He’s posted a 15:3 K:BB ratio with a 0.72 WHIP over that span, and while his overall numbers remain pedestrian, and he has the tough task of pitching in Texas while in the summer heat, Holland’s average fastball velocity (93.6 mph) ranks sixth best in major league baseball (and second-highest as a lefty). He’s someone who could produce a big second half.

An unusual magnetic attraction.

An unusual printer.

I was in Las Vegas over the All-Star break, and as someone who bets primarily on sports and stays away from the tables, I was there at the worst time of year. I lost badly on the Home Run Derby (any port in the storm, right?), won one All-Star prop (over 17.5 pitchers used), lost another (over 14.5 Ks, which came down to the final strike!), and ended up taking the National League run line (+180) as my saving grace, but the line that really stood out was the Angels at 40/1 to win the World Series. As usual, it varied by Casino, but at The Paris, this seemed like terrific value, considering they also had the Mariners at 35-1 (I actually think Seattle would be an extremely dangerous team in the postseason, assuming King Felix, Michael Pineda and Erik Bedard are all available), who are currently 7.5 games out of first place compared to 1.0 for the Angels. I fully expect the Rangers take the division, and maybe even run away with it, but considering there were around 20 teams more favored than the Angels, who have been known to be aggressive at trade deadlines, and if they actually did reach the playoffs would run out Jered Weaver and Dan Haren, making them plenty dangerous when starting pitching matters most in a short series, it certainly seemed like a decent gamble for a good payout.

A (very) brief snippet from a recent interview I had with Rickey Henderson in which I was pretty upset he never spoke in the third person.

There’s being bold, and then there’s this guy.

Ian Kennedy has seen his ERA rise from 2.90 to 3.44 over his past three starts, but he should still be viewed as a highly valuable fantasy asset nevertheless. His 3.1 K:BB ratio is elite, and while his walk rate continues to improve, more importantly, he’s induced more groundballs than fly balls this season for the first time in his career, which is especially important pitching in Chase Field. The former first round pick doesn’t throw that hard and may never live up to his previous hype as a Yankee prospect, but he’s thriving in the N.L. West, and his current .271 BABIP is actually higher than his career .269 mark, and the Diamondbacks have posted a collective 20.2 UZR (sixth best in MLB), so there’s no reason to expect a huge spike there. Most would prefer Daniel Hudson to Kennedy right now (and I probably agree), but the former has a worse ERA despite giving up six fewer homers on the year, and Kennedy’s 106:34 K:BB ratio suggests he’s here to stay.

My favorite show, “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” debuted last week, and it did not disappoint. I strongly recommend everyone should be watching “Curb” and “Louie” right now (and I assume “Breaking Bad,” which I’m still behind on yet am convinced it’s as great as everyone suggests).

Quick hits: If you take away two of Carlos Marmol’s outings this year, his ERA drops from 3.64 to 1.31. Of course, he gave up nine earned runs while recording just one out in those two appearances, and that’s a silly way of evaluating, but it does highlight the volatility of relief pitching, especially one with such shaky command. That said, Marmol appears to be safe in the closing role…As an owner of both, I hope I’m wrong (and have been known to be overly pessimistic in hopes of an optimist outcome), but at this point, I’d be absolutely shocked to see either Josh Johnson or Ike Davis play one more inning combined in 2011…Alex Rodriguez remains productive when on the field (even with a big drop in his career OPS, the Yankees’ lineup helps so much in counting stats), and I was personally a buyer before the year started, but even after entering 2011 feeling better than he has in a while with his previous hip injury in the rearview, Rodriguez’s body is simply breaking down. It’s going to be hard to recommend a 35 (or over) player as a first round pick moving forward, even an inner-circle Hall of Famer. Also, more than ever, I’m going to suggest taking a first baseman early in 2012 (football may be more volatile than baseball, but the latter still has plenty of uncertainty, and defensive positions play a role in predicting health and to a lesser extent, performance at the plate).

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The Scoop

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

By Dalton Del Don

With a .294/.354/.523 line while playing shortstop, J.J. Hardy has been one of the most pleasant surprises of 2011. Despite missing more than a month of action, his 13 homers are the fifth most from the SS position in all of baseball. His .878 OPS is also third best, all while transitioning to a new league and playing in the game’s toughest division. Hardy averaged 25 home runs and 77 RBI from 2007-2008, but he battled injuries over the past two seasons, and it’s important to note he’s still just 28 years old. While the numbers don’t point to it this season, Hardy has also been a fantastic defender throughout his career, and he now looks like a key building block as part of a young Baltimore team moving in the right direction. Camden Yards typically boosts home runs at a significant rate (just ask Mark Reynolds, who has the most homers in MLB since April ended), so he also has that going for him. Batting leadoff while qualifying at a thin position, and someone who came dirt cheap on draft day, Hardy has been one of the biggest fantasy bargains to date.

This story is great to begin with, but it’s even better when you consider one of my closest friend’s “knows” the girl who wrote this epic e-mail.

LeBron James is ruthless!

How to properly troll a dating Web site.

I’m playing in a high stakes AL-only league this year featuring some industry guys as well as some high-roller poker players called Card Runners. Before the auction, someone in the industry, whom I considered a broken man, suggested I buy Melky Cabrera. In 2010, Cabrera posted a -1.0 WAR, which tied with Carlos Lee for the worst in baseball, and there were serious concerns he’d be replaced by one of the Royals’ impressive farm talents by June of 2011. Instead, Cabrera has entered the halfway point of the season hitting .286 with 11 homers, 10 steals, 51 runs scored and 48 RBI. He could pretty much tank from here on out and still be worth far more than his draft day price tag, especially in an AL-only format. Of course, he hasn’t been that much of a better player for Kansas City, posting a -1.5 UZR in center field with a .324 OBP and an almost identical batted ball profile as last season (although he’s recorded an 11.0 HR/FB% this year compared to his career mark of 5.0%). Batting primarily second has helped, and regardless, Cabrera has been plenty valuable in fantasy terms.

Woman dies of heart attack caused by shock of waking up at her own funeral.

Cat gets caught barking by a human and resumes meowing.

Something is clearly wrong with Brian Matusz, and while that may seem like Captain Obvious since he has an 8.77 ERA and 1.99 WHIP, far more troubling is his steep drop in velocity. After averaging 91.5 mph with his fastball as a rookie, Matusz is down to 86.7 this year, which is beyond significant and almost certainly a sign of an injury. He’s also yielded a 52.1 FB% this season. To put that in context, only two batters in MLB have higher fly ball rates (Carlos Quentin and Chris Young). That’s an especially bad combo considering 18.4% of those fly balls are leaving the yard. Of course, anyone with an ERA that high is going to have some ugly underlying stats, and the bigger picture is the drop in velocity. It’s too bad, both for the Orioles and baseball in general, as Matusz entered 2011 looking like one of the brighter pitching prospects in the game.

This dog was crowned “ugliest” in a recent contest, but she’s nowhere close to competing against this all-timer.

This seagull stealing a video camera results in some pretty cool footage.

Well, that’s one way to try to escape prison.

At risk of the small sample police arresting me, I must ask, what do we make of Josh Hamilton’s day/night splits? They have been extremely pronounced in four of his five seasons, including an OPS discrepancy of 1.076 vs. .399 this year. Hamilton recently blamed it on his blue eyes, but that seems specious. There’s an obvious accusation because of his past, but that also seems irresponsible (although probably with more merit than calling Jose Bautista a steroid user, since, you know, he’s passed tests and his body hasn’t changed whatsoever). Anyway, I’m a Hamilton fan, and he’s a highly valuable player even with the splits, which are likely to come back toward the middle soon enough, but there has been a big enough gap throughout his career to at least take note moving forward.

I’m pretty big into reading about crime stories (morbid, I know), and this one ranks as one of the craziest I’ve come across.

Speaking of crimes (and I won’t get into the Casey Anthony verdict here, but if you have any opinions, please feel free to discuss in the comments), this is a terrific overview of the Amanda Knox case that continues to be one of the most noteworthy trials of this generation.

Tim Lincecum entered his June 1 start with a 2.22 ERA. Three outings later, his ERA stood at 3.41, as he allowed 16 runs over 16.0 innings. He’s since settled down, posting a 25:5 K:BB ratio over his last three starts, and despite just six wins on the year, Lincecum currently sports a 3.14 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. His 126 strikeouts rank fourth in the National League, so there remains a chance he records the most punch outs in the Senior Circuit for a fourth straight season. Lincecum remains difficult to homer off (7.4 HR/FB%) and is currently sporting a career-best 50.7 GB%, but after last year’s inconsistencies (7.82 ERA in August, 1.92 ERA in September) followed by his recent blowup, I found it funny he actually has the highest quality start percentage of any pitcher since 1950 (h/t Joe Posnanski). Of course, that percentage will drop when his career winds down, but it’s still pretty staggering since he appears to be something of a streaky pitcher. Another Giants fun fact: More than 20 percent of the rest of their games this season will be against the Padres (h/t Andrew Baggarly).

I’m sad to report, despite giving the most epic interview ever, the end result appears to have been a dud.

This is a pretty crazy video, and while I hope it’s legit, it’s also worth pointing out it begins with the fisherman’s hand inside the water.

I’m the biggest “Curb Your Enthusiasm” fan ever, and Season 8 premieres July 10, and Larry David, who just killed it during his first appearance on Jay Leno, recently wrote about his golf game.

Admittedly, in competitive leagues these guys are likely long gone, but here are some quick hit pickup suggestions: Rich Harden will almost assuredly get hurt soon, but why not use his bullets for the time being? Last year was ugly in Texas, but he posted a 10.91 K/9 ratio the year prior and is in a much better situation now back in Oakland…Conversely, Mark Ellis is in a much better spot now away from Oakland. No, he’s not even close to as good as he’s been so far with the Rockies, but calling Coors Field home and now in an easier league counts for something. With his strong defense, Ellis should get regular playing time, and he had a .358 OBP while playing in the Coliseum last season, so there’s some upside here…I know he’s become tiresome, but Chris Davis has a monstrous .372/.417/.851 line in Triple-A this year, with 20 homers over 148 at-bats. Now an outfielder, don’t be surprised if he gets one last shot with the Rangers soon enough. Davis is worth stashing…Rubby De La Rosa has plenty of work to do regarding his control and is a borderline option in redraft leagues right now, but he sure looks like a valuable keeper. I absolutely despise playing scout, but from my TV, I’ll break my own rule – he passes the eye test with flying colors. Moreover, his current average fastball velocity is 95.9 mph – the best in baseball among qualifying starters are Justin Verlander and Michael Pineda, who both sit at 95.1.

It’s possible Matt Holliday didn’t intentionally drop this fly ball, but the outcome is unquestionably beneficial, and he’s also been one of the better defensive outfielders in baseball for some time now. These announcers are totally clueless.

Destroying a building (fail).

Aramis Ramirez entered June 8 with two homers, which was especially perplexing since he hit 25 long balls last season while battling injuries over just 465 at-bats. Even while posting a .746 OPS that was his lowest since 2000, Ramirez was still hitting homers. The anomaly has since been corrected, as he’s hit a whopping eight home runs over his past 12 games, suddenly giving him 13 for the season. Ramirez will always be a health risk, but Wrigley Field should play as more of a hitter’s park in the summer months, and his K rate remains one of the lowest among all “sluggers.” It’s obviously far too soon to write off the 33-year-old.

I dragged a few friends of mine who aren’t exactly into art type movies to see “The Tree Of Life” last weekend, and despite the warnings, I’d argue it was even more extreme than anticipated. Although the dinosaur fight I was promised never came to fruition, intense discussion afterward is pretty much mandatory, so while I’d never recommend it to anyone, Terrence Malick definitely impressed yet again.

I like how all this footage supposedly took place within an hour, but nothing can beat his pronunciation of “urinal.”

Every year RW makes a trip to Las Vegas during the All-Star break, and while it makes sense as a company to do so during the most down time in the sports calendar, as a degenerate gambler (but only on sports), it’s frustrating. So I consistently bet on the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game (including props), so I can’t sit here and say I hate the spectacle (any port in the storm, right?), but I will state I genuinely no longer get worked up over who did and didn’t make the roster. As a Giants fan, I was later (and unexpectedly) happy to see them have homefield advantage because of it last year, but that rarely matters anyway, and the concept is obviously quite comical. Another joke is not even having Andrew McCutchen on the “Final Fan Vote” ballot. But when I see some of my favorite writers like Jeff Passan arguing “Matt Cain is not an All-Star,” I can’t help but think time and energy could be better spent. My point here isn’t to come across as a Giants’ homer when I state only four N.L. pitchers have thrown more innings and recorded a lower ERA than Cain this year (and he has a strong 95:29 K:BB ratio, and his xFIP means less since he always suppresses homers), as I personally would have picked Tommy Hanson over him, but it’s this type of crazy nitpicking that seems excessive.

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