Posted on: June 29, 2008 3:14 am
Edited on: June 29, 2008 3:18 am

No hits in Los Angeles -- for either side

What a disgrace. What an embarrassment.

No, I don't mean that camera angle used to televise games at the new Nationals Park. I mean that debacle in Los Angeles, that statistical anomaly that sent eight guys home feeling as low the this-tall-to-ride sign in front of the bumper cars.

The Dodgers didn't manage a single hit Saturday, getting baffled for eight innings by Angels starting pitcher Jered Weaver and relief pitcher Jose Arredondo.

But that's not the embarrassing part. No, the Dodgers can hold their heads up high because they still did something the Angels didn't do.

They scored a run.

Granted, they didn't earn it -- not in the stat-keeping sense, anyway -- but they scored it, and it counts. Fifty years from now, the record book will show zero hits for the Dodgers and one loss for the Angels.

How would you feel as an Angels hitter right now? I'm sure as a major-leaguer, you always feel some degree of guilt when you can't back up a strong performance by your starting pitcher. But this one goes beyond strong. Your pitcher was literally unhittable.

But forget the real-life ramifications. How do you feel if you own Weaver in Fantasy?

I can't tell you because I don't own him, but I imagine the Angels shame becomes your frustration. The guy did something historically good and still couldn't get the win.

Even worse, he took the loss -- and this for a guy who's underperformed all season considering you probably drafted him as no less than your No. 3 starting pitcher.

So I feel for you, Weaver owners. You got a raw deal -- one that puts Duchscherer's loss (eight innings of two-hit, one-run ball) in perspective. But that's the way the luck works in this sport, and the next time Weaver allows six earned runs in a victory, try to think of it as the luck evening out.

That's all for now.
Category: MLB
Posted on: June 27, 2008 8:12 pm
Edited on: June 28, 2008 4:45 pm

All-Star ballot revisited

A little over a month has passed since I first chimed in with my selections for the All-Star game, and since so much can change in that period of time, I thought I'd revisit the process.

Same drill as before. I'll give you a position-by-position rundown with an analysis for each, only this time I'll mention my picks from late May for the sake of comparison.

American League
C Joe Mauer (MIN)
Mauer again gets the nod here. His continued lack of power makes him a perennial disappointment, but the AL has little power to boast at the position. You don't want Mike Napoli starting, do you? Dioner Navarro's stats actually come surprisingly close to Mauer's, making him the obvious backup.
1B Justin Morneau (MIN)
Morneau has pushed ahead of Kevin Youkilis even though he's hit only two home runs in June. He has a higher batting average and a 15-RBI advantage. Jason Giambi has significantly closed the gap in one's month time and probably deserves a reserve spot.
2B Ian Kinsler (TEX)
With all the stir in Texas over Josh Hamilton, Milton Bradley and David Murphy, Kinsler's emergence as an elite second baseman has flown a bit under the radar. But the 20-20 player last year looks like he might go 25-40 this year, and he's upped his batting average from .263 last year to .308 this year. I also selected him in May. Dustin Pedroia wouldn't make a terrible backup with his 15-15 potential, but Brian Roberts already has more than 20 stolen bases.
3B Alex Rodriguez (NYY)
Even with his time lost due to a quadriceps injury, A-Rod blows his competition out of the water at this position, easily retaining his vote from late May. Mike Lowell, Joe Crede and rookie Evan Longoria have nearly identical statistics, but I'll give the reserve nod to Lowell for now.
SS Orlando Cabrera (CHW)
Michael Young had my vote in May, but he's hit around .250 since the end of April and is hardly worthy of a spot on my Fantasy team, much less the All-Star team. (OK, that's a little bit of an overstatement, but he's clearly not an elite talent.) Cabrera gets my vote now more due to a lack of alternatives than anything else. Thanks to a recent hot streak, he has his batting average respectable again, and his 12 stolen bases put him ahead of players with similar peripherals, like Derek Jeter.
OF Josh Hamilton (TEX), Carlos Quentin (CHW), Milton Bradley (TEX)
All three of these players have slowed down in recent weeks, but all three still have good enough stats to keep their starting spots from May. Of course, Quentin has virtually no chance of starting since Jerry Owens took his spot on the ballot, forcing me to name Manny Ramirez his replacement. Jermaine Dye has closed the gap with his stellar last two weeks, and even though he has a batting average well below his career norm, Ichiro Suzuki deserves a spot because of his 33 stolen bases. (Besides, how else would I get a Mariner on the roster?)
DH David Ortiz (BOS)
Ortiz gets the nod again. He still has a significant RBI lead over Hideki Matsui despite his missed time, and Matsui looks like he might go on the DL himself. Voting for Ortiz even though he can't play allows the AL to move a more worthy player into the starting lineup than any DH listed on the ballot.

National League
C Brian McCann (ATL)
As I predicted back in May, McCann has sufficiently done enough to leap Geovany Soto on my All-Star ballot. Russell Martin might have too. I'd probably name all three to the roster.
1B Lance Berkman (HOU)
Berkman remains the obvious choice here. He looks like a legitimate candidate for the triple crown. Albert Pujols' stats would make him starter in most years, but he'll have to settle for a reserve role here. Adrian Gonzalez likely lands a roster spot because he plays for the Padres, but Derrek Lee also deserves consideration.
2B Chase Utley (PHI)
Utley still gets the nod here even though Dan Uggla actually trumps him in some categories. To give you an idea of just how well these two have played, Brandon Phillips is within striking distance of a second straight 30-30 season, and his stats don't hold a candle to theirs.
3B Chipper Jones (ATL)
Duh. Chipper is batting around .400 just like he was in May. Aramis Ramirez trumps David Wright for the reserve spot, but not by as much as you'd think considering the outcry over Wright's "disappointing" season. Disappointing? He's on pace for 30 homers and 17 stolen bases.
SS Hanley Ramirez (FLA)
Ramirez also had my vote in May, and he might have it for the next 10 years. At age 24, he's come close to a 20-20 season at the halfway point and has clearly established himself as a top-five Fantasy performer. Jose B. Reyes has the elite steal totals, and his nine home runs certainly don't disappoint. He's the easy second choice.
OF Nate McLouth (PIT), Ryan J. Braun (MIL), Jason Bay (PIT)
Bay has moved ahead of Ryan Ludwick since May -- a consequence of time smoothing out statistical anomalies -- but the Cardinals slugger probably still deserves a roster spot. McLouth has slowed down, but he still has a batting average about 20 points higher than that of Carlos N. Lee and Pat Burrell, keeping him in the starting lineup.

I'll give my complete rosters shortly before the league announces them.

That's all for now.
Category: MLB
Posted on: June 27, 2008 3:22 am
Edited on: June 27, 2008 3:23 am

Garza, Sheff, Wandy, Huff -- The Observations

We had a surprisingly busy night here tonight, despite a less-than-full baseball schedule and three men on duty instead of the usual two, so I'll have to keep this entry relatively short. Part of the problem is simple time management. I have to figure out how to work my new responsibilities into my daily routine. Yes, the departure of Gonos affects us all.

Speaking of new responsibilities, I make my video debut tomorrow, previewing the Week 14 Hitting Planner alongside Amber Wilson. I majored in broadcast news at Georgia, so it shouldn't be a complete disaster, but watch it just in case.

Look at that. I say I need to write a short entry today, and then I yap about stuff only marginally related to Fantasy Baseball. On to the let's-make-it-short-so-I-can-go-hom
e-and-sleep edition of The Observations.

So Matt Garza threw a one-hitter, struck out 10 batters, looked insanely good and lowered his WHIP from 1.33 to 1.21 with the performance. Guess who traded him to Dave Richard hours before the first pitch. Boy, do I feel sheepish.

I've played the role of skeptic with him more than anyone else in this office, but Evan Longoria has three hits in each of his last two games and a home run in three of his last four. I don't think we've seen the last cold streak from the rookie, but he has enough talent to make his hot streaks crazy good. Now's the time to start him.

So after missing two weeks battling tendinitis in his left ankle and his right elbow hanging by a thread, Albert Pujols goes 4-for-4. That kind of talent makes using a bat to the plate seem like cheating.

Speaking of Cardinals with balky elbows, Todd Wellemeyer, battling a sore one, threw five shutout innings at Detroit. Looks fine to me.

In three games off the disabled list after missing time with an oblique strain, Gary Sheffield has a home run, four hits and a home run. I don't want to get too excited, but ... OK, I'll tell you. I name him as a "good start" in tomorrow's Hitting Planner video. You now know either we work off a predetermined script or I can predict the future.

I really thought Aubrey Huff's hot hitting had heaved to the finish line, but he went 4-for-5 Thursday after going 0-for-8 the previous two days. No sense benching him now.

If you tore out your hair scrambling to get Clayton Kershaw off the waiver wire in late May, you feel a bit silly now, don't you?

Guess Garza kind of upstaged Rich Harden, huh? Eight innings. Two hits. What a second-rate performance.

With a season-worst five earned runs allowed Thursday at Toronto -- the second time he allowed more than two -- Edinson Volquez pushed his ERA above 2.00 for the first time all season. That makes the MLB ERA leader the one and only Justin Duchscherer. Stop me if you've heard this before.

Just because I don't want to have to do crazy after-hype with him like I did with the Duchscherer, Wandy Rodriguez has a 2.58 ERA and 1.15 WHIP after his eight-inning, nine-strikeout performance Thursday. His 2-3 record doesn't impress, but keep in mind he missed a few weeks because of a groin injury. He has a 3.80 ERA on the road after posting a 6.37 mark last year, and normalizing that exact same split helped Ervin Santana become the near Fantasy ace he is today. Time to pick up Rodriguez in all leagues.

That's all for now.
Posted on: June 25, 2008 4:17 am

You can 'Haf' him

I've finally come to terms with a truth I've long denied.

Travis Hafner is toast. He's done, finished.

For his career? No, I wouldn't go that far. But for the season? Absolutely, I will.

His shoulder hurts -- it's weak, actually. It makes him a lousy hitter, so the Indians put him on the disabled list. They still have no timetable for his return, but considering the problem started last season, it's not like months of rest will do it any good. And yet Dr. James Andrews, the miracle healer, says he doesn't need surgery. So what does he need? Highly specialized exercise to strengthen the shoulder muscle.

Can it make him a better hitter? Nobody knows. How long will it take? Nobody knows. Will it even work? Nobody knows.

So why do I hold on to him? Nobody knows.

Actually, I do. I let emotions cloud my judgment, plain and simple. With his 1-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and intimidatingly high OPS, Hafner had the kind of skill set that makes my jaw drop, causing me to rank him just behind Lance Berkman (in case you haven't noticed, I compare everyone to Berkman) as my dream player. But I never got a chance to own him in Fantasy during his great years, so when I managed to draft him in a few leagues this year, I just wanted to have my turn with him. I didn't want to believe the ride was over.

But it is, at least for the foreseeable future. And now that I've accepted that, I don't need him. I don't need him taking up a spot on my roster. I don't need him mocking me with that little red cross next to his name. If I owned him in an AL-only league or a mixed league with five or six DL slots, I might stash him just in case, but I don't have that luxury.

So the next time I have a player to add, I'll cut him. If you want him, you can have him.

That's all for now.
Category: MLB
Posted on: June 24, 2008 3:38 am

Starting is a relief

I don't get it.

I understand what is happening, but I don't understand how. I don't understand how a middle reliever -- in many cases, a crummy middle reliever -- can transition to the starting rotation and immediately become a lights-out starting pitcher. Someone explain it to me because I don't get it. I don't remember it ever happening before, and this year it keeps happening over and over and over again.

When going one inning at a time instead of six or seven, pitchers can throw harder and put more effort into every move they make. We saw it happen with Ugueth Urbina, Jason Isringhausen and Eric Gagne, among others. Theoretically speaking, pitchers should be at their most dominant in short relief. So what gives?

Is it a matter of primary and secondary pitches? Do these particular pitchers have less-than-exceptional primary pitches but decent enough secondary pitches that they end up more effective when they pitch deep into games and have access to their full arsenal? That's the only explanation that makes any sense to me, but it seems too simple to explain this sudden widespread phenomenon.

My inspiration for this entry is Justin Duchscherer, who just came off a two-win week and now boasts an ERA below 2.00 and a WHIP below 1.00. I talk about him in my Sliders column due out Tuesday, so I won't use this space repeat everything I already wrote. (I also talk about Marcus Thames in the column, bigblue4evr11, since I know you asked about him in my previous entry.) But at least Duchscherer succeeded as a middle reliever before his rise into unexpected acedom. I can't say the same for the rest of these guys.

Ryan Dempster
He was a terrible closer and a not-so-great starter before then. I don't know what happened to him in this latest transition, but at this point, I trust him over John Maine, Tim Hudson, Javier Vazquez and a handful of other quality starting pitchers.

Todd Wellemeyer
I guess you could credit Dave Duncan for Wellemeyer's transformation, but the pitching coach didn't exactly have the same magic touch for Braden Looper last year. Before his disastrous start against the Phillies last time out, Wellemeyer had a 2.93 ERA. In four full seasons of relief, he never posted a WHIP below 1.51.

Scott Feldman
For an organization that never has enough starting pitching, the Rangers unearthed a gem out of their own bullpen in Feldman. He's gone a bit overlooked in Fantasy, but he's pitched six innings or more in eight of his last nine starts. He has a 1.26 WHIP after posting a 1.95 WHIP in 39 innings of relief last year.

Jonathan O. Sanchez.
Unlike Wellemeyer and Feldman, the Giants planned for Sanchez to start all along. Ironically, he's done the worst of the three, but he has the best strikeout rate and has allowed three earned runs or less in seven of his last eight starts.

See? It's madness. I really don't have an explanation, but I couldn't help but make the observation. Hopefully, you didn't ignore these pitchers when they blew hitters away right out of the gate, and hopefully you won't ignore whatever pitchers like them might emerge early next year. We have a new trend developing before our very eyes.

That's all for now.
Category: MLB
Posted on: June 22, 2008 3:59 am
Edited on: June 22, 2008 4:19 am

Bruce, Meche, Vlad, Jimenez -- The Observations

Sunday. Never was a day better designed for The Observations than Sunday.

Something about all those afternoon games made commenting on a full slate of activity so much easier, possibly because I didn't have to make my observations so late, at an hour when most of my thoughts instinctually returned to my head resting on a pillow. Whatever the reason, everything aligned so prettily, so perfectly.

And then I got the day off.

Fear not, my friends, for all is not lost. I can make The Observations work on Saturday, and I can make them better than ever before. Stronger. Faster. With more attention to detail. I can make The Observations so vivid and slap-you-in-the-face lifelike you'd think you observed them yourself.

Inhale. Exhale. It's The Observations, I-didn't-know-we-could-do-this-on-Satu
rday edition.

Even though Reds rookie Daryl Thompson got the win in his major-league debut, Yankees rookie Dan Giese impressed me more. He went deeper into the game, recorded more than twice as many strikeouts and didn't walk a batter. That doesn't mean Giese has mountains of upside or Thompson doesn't, but it's an observation worth making.

As much as I support leaving Corey Patterson out of the leadoff spot, what in the world is Jay Bruce doing there? The power-hitting rookie is batting .167 as the leadoff man. Coincidence? I think not.

Bobby Abreu has two hits in his last 33 at-bats. It had to be said.

If you gave up on Carlos Quentin, shame on you. He had a little hiccup, but he's batting .538 over his last four games, including a three-hit game Saturday.

I gave up on Jermaine Dye. Shame on me. Then again, I gave up on Quentin this spring and feel compelled to make reference to that one lineup decision in every past, present and future edition of The Observations. I can't observe it enough.

Give up on Jose A. Contreras. It's OK.

I don't know what happened to Daisuke Matsuzaka, who allowed seven runs in one inning en route to his first loss, but I predict it's an isolated incident.

For a team running out David Dellucci on an everyday basis, C.C. Sabathia deserves a trial run at designated hitter. By the way, the 290-pound lefty has worked seven innings or more in eight of his last nine starts. Yes, please.

I don't know what happened to Chan Ho Park, who struck out nine batters in five innings, but I suspect it'll never happen again.

Wandy Rodriguez is no longer idiot-proof, turning in a great start on the road right after a crummy one at home. Start him at your own risk (though he has pitched well more often than not).

If I admit I'd never heard of Tampa Bay right fielder Justin Ruggiano before he homered Saturday, do I lose my job?

Something has gotten into Jarrod Washburn -- something I neither like nor trust. But it's given him a 3.10 ERA over his last five starts and a second chance in AL-only leagues.

Yes, "prettily" is too a word.

Brian McCann stole a base, and he stole it standing up. Sell high.

At this point, I feel like I can safely attribute Jair Jurrjens' late-May struggles to an ongoing blister problem. He dominated for the second straight start Saturday and surrendered three runs only because of Omar Infante's incompetence at shortstop. I don't generally love 22-year-old pitchers in Fantasy, but I love this one.

Seth McClung -- we can only ignore him for so long.

Vladimir Guerrero -- just when I started to doubt him, he went out-of-his-mind crazy ... which is a little redundant, but thereby more accurate. Do you realize he's batting .446 in June? J.D. Drew can only dream.

It sounds silly, but Gil Meche has 17 strikeouts in his last 13 innings. He also has a 3.79 ERA since the beginning of May.

I'm convinced Jose Guillen, Troy Glaus and Corey C. Hart are in a three-way deathmatch to see who can best make up for lost time. If Prince Fielder gets involved, all bets are off.

As much as I've criticized him, I have to admit a 1.35 ERA and 20 innings pitched in his last three starts puts Ubaldo Jimenez back on my radar. Economizing is his biggest hurdle.

That's all for now.
Posted on: June 20, 2008 10:41 pm
Edited on: June 20, 2008 10:43 pm

I had a hand in this

I can only hope you missed it half as much as I did.

The blog -- it's back in action, its host rested and rejuvenated after spending nine days away from his Fantasy teams, not having an active part in maintaining them.

Well, at least not on an hour-by-hour basis.

And you know what happened? They all did well -- even the lousy ones. Amazing what I can accomplish when not under the strain of my own micromanagement. It's a wonder this blog didn't write itself.

Of course, adding J.D. Drew to my roster beforehand did an obvious bundle of good in one league. Who knew he'd keep partying at the plate like it's 2004?

Oh, that's right: Me. And Eric Mack. And Al Melchior. And probably three-fourths of you out there. Feels good to get one right for once, doesn't it? I tell you, if I had a nickel for all the wrong times I picked to start guys like Jason Bergmann, Jonathan O. Sanchez and Carlos Pena, I could quit this job and go on a permanent vacation.

But maybe that's the lesson we can all take from my week off. An overactive hand can do a lot more harm than good. If you agonize over every minor lineup decision and every matchup and every missed start and wasted at-bat, you can miss the bigger picture and make some really boneheaded decisions. I mean, I know he was hot, but did I have any business starting Bergmann over Justin Verlander under any circumstances? Let's get serious.

And I'm speaking strictly to the grizzled Fantasy veterans out there. I don't want to give any newbies the wrong idea. Activity, after all, is easily the No. 1 key to success in any Fantasy sport. For all my talk of "taking a week off," I still checked every game's box score and reviewed each of my Fantasy team's scores once -- and only once -- each night. I mean, I couldn't completely retreat from Fantasy Baseball even for a week.

Really, I tried, but I couldn't. It's like a sick compulsion.

So I blame the overactive hand for some of my shortcomings this season. It's a nice theory, anyway, and makes for a nice blog entry that will hopefully prompt lots of nice comments in the comment section below, but now that the vacation is over and I'm back working with the blog and the updates and the columns and the rankings and all the other painstaking details that go into giving the consumer a proper Fantasy experience, do you think I can have anything less than an overactive hand?

Not a chance.

Just you wait. Pretty soon I'll think Bergmann deserves a start over A.J. Burnett.

That's all for now.
Category: MLB
Posted on: June 10, 2008 10:21 pm

Closing time

Busy Tuesday, as usual, but I wanted to take a quick moment to discuss closers, the most volatile players on a Fantasy team.

In one of my leagues last week, someone complained about just how well Brad Lidge and Kerry Wood did against him last week, implying the duo didn't rank anywhere near the elite in Fantasy. It got me thinking just how much the position has changed from the beginning of the season -- so much that it's hard to tell how much value everyone has.

Maybe this will help. I give you my list of the top 10 closers I'd like to have for the rest of the season.

1. Francisco Rodriguez -- He never gets less than 40 saves, leads the world this year, and pitches for one of the more pitching-heavy clubs in baseball. At this point, 50 saves doesn't seem out of reach.
2. Jonathan Papelbon -- He always had electric stuff, and now the Red Sox don't seem nearly as cautious about pitching him on back-to-back days.
3. Mariano Rivera -- His 30 saves last year were a fluke, and he wants to make sure everyone knows it.
4. Joe Nathan -- Even though the Twins are a little down (second place, but under .500), his saves aren't. Consistently underrated.
5. Brad Lidge -- He's taken a huge leap this year, but he used to rank among the elite. If he pitches like he belongs in that class again, why not include him? The Phillies should offer him plenty of opportunities.
6. Bobby Jenks -- He seems to get a little more polished every year, and with the White Sox leading the division, he doesn't deserve to fall any.
7. Jose Valverde -- After a terrible starts, he looks up to last year's league-leading form. If I have any skepticism, it's because he pitches for the Astros.
8. Kerry Wood -- In a way, I want to rank him as high as sixth. But he hasn't gone a full season yet, and he does have a long injury history. Still, a quick riser.
9. Billy Wagner -- His 1.08 ERA has gone a bit overlooked with the success of Rivera and Lidge. Plus, the Mets haven't offered him many save chances. That should change.
10. Brandon Lyon -- I don't totally trust him, but I can't argue with a 1.44 ERA. Plus, he plays for the NL's most complete team in the Diamondbacks.

And with that, I leave you for nine days. Like everyone else in the working world, I have vacation time, and I've set aside a bit in the middle of June to visit my family back home in Georgia. Yes, believe it or not, I have a mother and father who miss me, a brother and sister begging to see me, and a dog ready to jump in my arms the moment I walk through the front door. I'll stay with them just long enough for them to drive me crazy again and then return to bring you all the Fantasy Baseball discussion you could ever want or need.

June 20 -- just you wait.

Until then, that's all for now.
Category: MLB
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or