Thursday, November 27, 2008

Second Basemen Rankings

h2h Corner

By: Albert Lang

Ladies and Gentleman, your 2008 AL MVP is a second baseman. He also, probably, went late in every 10 team draft. In retrospect, the 2008 spring training suggested second base was a position on the rise, particularly when players like Dustin Pedroia were more of an afterthought in drafts.

Going into 2009, however, it appears there are only two healthy lockdown reliable second basemen (and the reigning MVP isn’t one of them). After this dynamic duo, things go from good (with upside) to dicey to scary. Ultimately, you’re reading this article because you’re looking for a second basemen you can trust (or because I’m spamming you). With some of the options so devoid of consistency (Rickie Weeks, Brandon Phillips and Dan Uggla please stand up), you’ll want to draft well, or else consign your fate to whoever has the hot hand in the free agent carousel (Jose Lopez, Alexei Ramirez, Kelly Johnson, Casey get the picture).

The cream of the crop was supposed to be Chase Utley (I had finished a version of this article the day the news came out). Utley is a fantastic player, someone anyone would be happy to choose as their only second baseman—except for this calamity. Last year, he did an overwhelming amount of damage in April through the end of May (19 HRs, 49 RBIs and .310 average). In my opinion, the loss of time and 200+ at bats moves Utley into the 10th round range. He should be the 13th second basement off the board.

Still, many of you, I know, would like to make the upside play. You think you can make due with a below-average second baseman for half the season then kick into overdrive with Utley in the line-up (especially if you can grab him in the 6th round or so). I’ve been there. I’ve thought those thoughts. When it comes down to it, there are just too many risks associated with this play. When he does come back, will the injury still hamper him? Since he misses all of spring training, how long will it take him to get back into Utley shape?

This injury immediately bumps Ian Kinsler to the top of the board for second base. While he is not as durable as one might hope, Kinsler has excellent tools. If he can play 160 games, he could be the real 2009 Chase Utley. His numbers have been staggering (see my argument here). Still, the injury bug has to be a slight concern.

For some reason, people don’t seem to love Brian Roberts as much as I do. In interest of full disclosure, I’m a Baltimore Orioles fan. There is no bias, however, in B-Rob’s numbers. Last year, I drafted him early and was handsomely rewarded with a .296 average, 107 runs and 40 SBs – he even threw in 57 RBIs. Those numbers mirror his 2007 and are in line with 2006, (when he missed 20 games or so due to injury). Quite simply, he has proven that he scores runs, hits for a decent average and steals many bases. If Roberts is available anywhere in the third round of your draft, grab him. Think about it this way: if you can get Brian Roberts in the 3rd or Utley in the 6/7, you're going to be much much happier w/ B-Rob a couple of rounds earlier.

Chone Figgins could be a B-Rob light (minus the consistency). He is not a bad choice if he goes where he should, about the 8th/9th rounds. Figgins could offer a .280 average, 80+ runs, and 35+ SBs. Not horrible for that spot in the draft (and probably better numbers than what you can now expect from Utley).

2009 will test your faith in Brandon Phillips: which half year will show up? I loved him going into last year. He rewarded that love with a phenomenal first half, in which he hit .280 with 15 HRs, 58 RBIs and 19 SBs. His second half, however, was disastrous (.225/6/20/4). I’m willing to roll the dice with him as the 4th second basemen off the board, especially if he is available in the 4th/5th rounds. That could be a sneaky play if you get frozen out of the top steady second basemen. Phillips could solidify a weak position without being too costly and could very well end up being the top second basemen at the end of the year.

A potential sleeper for you: Mark Ellis – I could see taking a chance on him. There are some ifs surrounding him (will he stay healthy, will he get to bat in front of Matt Holliday (does this even matter), etc.), but his price will not be nearly as high as someone like Howie Kendrick. If those ifs work out, you could be looking at 20+ home runs – in his last full season (2007), he hit .276 with 19 HRs and 76 RBIs. In 140 fewer at bats last year, he hit 12 HRs and managed to steal 14 bases. A 15 HR/15 SB season is not out of his reach.

The opposite side to the California coin is Howie Kendrick. He falls into the same level of dislike that I have for Robinson Cano (detailed here). Both of them are, for reasons beyond me, tremendously overvalued. The tools are supposedly there, but the production definitely is not. Kendrick has played 72, 88 and 92 games in three “full” seasons. His high watermarks include a tidy .322 average, five HRs, 39 RBIs, 55 runs and 11 SBs. Combining his best seasons doesn’t even make a top 10 second basemen for me. If you’re in a shallow league and want to take a chance on upside knowing the free agent pool will be stocked with the reliable carousel mentioned above, go for it. But in deeper leagues, or more competitive leagues, I’d prefer to secure the services of a second bagger I know I can trust – kind of like going to a bookstore and buying almost any Graham Greene novel (with the possible exception of the Power and the Glory – wasn’t really a fan).

Last year’s top 13:
Chase Utley (last year’s overall ranking: 9) Finished: 2nd among second basemen
Brandon Phillips (10) Finished: 9th among second basemen
Brian Roberts (18) Finished: 4th among second basemen
Dan Uggla (38) Finished: 6th among second basemen
BJ Upton (40) Finished: 7th among second basemen
Chone Figgins (52) Finished: 20th among second basemen
Ian Kinsler (61) Finished 3rd among second basemen
Kelly Johnson (68) Finished: 10th among second basemen
Robinson Cano (72) Finished: 16th among second basemen
Placido Polanco (78) Finished: 11th among second basemen
Jeff Kent (81) Finished: 32nd among second basemen
Freddy Sanchez (95) Finished: 27th among second basemen
Orlando Hudson (96) Finished: 28th among second basemen

Outside of the Dustin Pedroia oversight (he finished 1st), these rankings are pretty spot on. The high level of trust in Brandon Phillips and Dan Uggla sure looked good in the first half of the season, but, alas, slumps and injuries (or reversions to form?) derailed both their seasons, as well as my keeper team which started Phillips at second and Uggla at IF.

I liked Ian Kinsler, but not enough. I love Kinsler for next year. My dislike and low ranking of Robinson Cano was accurate. I’m still dubious on whether he can hit for a high average. Meanwhile Jeff Kent gets the Todd Helton first basemen ranking treatment.

Below, I love the top two. After that, I feel like there is a gulf of consistency between them and 3-5. With a repeat year, or something close to it, Dustin Pedroia would vault into the top tier (along with a healthy Utley) for 2010. For now though, if you want to guarantee yourself an elite second basemen, I’d stick to Ian Kinsler and Brian Roberts.

Complete Second Baseman Ranks (* denotes projected starter):
Ian Kinsler*
Brian Roberts*
Dan Uggla*
Brandon Phillips*
Dustin Pedroia*
Mark Derosa*
Chone Figgins (if he retains eligibility)*
Jose Lopez*
Alexei Ramirez (sophomore slump?)*
Kelly Johnson*
Robinson Cano (eh – as discussed here)*
Casey Blake (depending on where he ends up)*
Chase Utley (when does he really return from injury?)*
Rickie Weeks (Will he be traded? Will he get playing time? Will his body work?)
Placido Polanco*
Ryan Theriot*
Akinori Iwamura*
Ty Wiggington
Marco Scutaro
Freddy Sanchez (a healthier version of Howie Kendrick)*
Kazuo Matsui*
Clint Barmes
Ray Durham
Felipe Lopez
Mark Ellis (Sneaky play here with upside of 20+ HRs)
Alexi Cassila
Jeff Kent (Yeah…he got old)
Orlando Hudson (He could move up depending on what line-up he slots into)*
Jose Bautista
Blake DeWitt
Ronnie Belliard
Howie Kendrick (I don’t like Howie Kendrick…guys who derive most of their value from BA are not my favorite)*
Asdrubal Cabrera
Ian Stewart (3b of the future? At bats could free up if the Rocks move Atkins)
Ramon Vazquez (could put up interesting numbers with full time at bats)

Friday, November 14, 2008

First Basemen Rankings

h2h Corner

By: Albert Lang

I recently took a business trip to the west coast – I learned that it is far. Thankfully my roommate (he is a DJ and also really good at Survivor Fantasy) lent me his iPod. Since he is a DJ, he has loads of pop music. While I still love listening to the whimsical Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright, I cant deny the joy I get from Burnin’ Up or Hot N Cold (man Katy Perry’s songwriter = the amazing). I can’t remember a time when pop music was so consistent and fraught with as many heavy hitters, which, now makes the rambling preamble pertinent.

The not-so-hot corner (unless Ryan Howard [lefty] is up) represents a deep pool of home run hitters and RBI collectors. This is, perhaps, the steadiest position, year in year out. Outfield is deep, and you start three (sometimes more) for a reason. But outfielders possess the full gamut of fantasy statistics, while, with first basemen, you really only need think about HR/RBI production.

There isn’t anything shocking in these rankings – I’ve long been a fan of Lance Berkman, although I never seem to get him. His stolen base output (18) was great, but don’t expect that when figuring out your plans on draft day.

In my opinion, there is a core of nine reliable first basemen. This means you can wait on the position in drafts and try to acquire elite players at more elusive positions and stat categories early. There is no shame, however, in securing HR/RBI production – week in, week out – by grabbing an Albert Pujols or Ryan Howard in the first round.

That said, I am not sold on Carlos Delgado, Derrek Lee (mostly because of how he spells his first name), David Ortiz and Carlos Pena. Quite simply, where did Delgado’s first half self go? In April, May and June, Delgado hit .198, .258 and .229 with 3, 5 and 6 home runs respectively. Regardless, that horrendous start is in there somewhere, and it could come back like that sketchy rash you got vacationing in Tijuana.

Lee doesn’t provide the power or RBIs slotting into the middle of a potent line-up that an owner would like to see. He seems far removed from his MVP-esque numbers in 2005, when he hit .335 with 46 HRs, 107 RBIs and 15 SBs. Last year (a comeback year of sorts), he hit .291 with 20 HRs, 119 RBIs and 8 SBs. In his last three seasons he has hit a combined 50 HRs; reaching his 2005 levels now seems unattainable.

Meanwhile there are a lot of question marks around Big Papi. What does the loss of Manny, if anything, mean? Will Jason Bay provide the necessary protection? Will his wrist heal fully? He appeared to be cheating on fast balls down the stretch. With first base, I’d rather not take a chance and draft him early expecting Morneau-, Fielder- or Youkilis-level production. Given where I rank him, there is a good chance for upside. I see him as a solid UTIL on someone’s squad.

I bought heavily into Carlos Pena last year. It didn’t pay the dividends I would have liked, especially when Adrian Gonzalez was still on the board 2-3 rounds later. That said, Pena provides a good chance at 35+ HRs and 100+ RBIs. I guess what I’m saying is, if he is the 13th first basemen off the board, you have a good upside play on your hands.

I also really like Joey Votto – he could provide some great stats in that ballpark. In what was essentially a full season, he hit .297 with 24 HRs, 84 RBIs and 7 SBs. Lots of upside there.

Last year’s top 15*:

  1. Prince Fielder (last year’s overall ranking: 14) Finished: 11th among first basemen
  2. David Ortiz (19) Finished: 22nd among First Baseman
  3. Ryan Howard (23) Finished: 4th among First Baseman
  4. Carlos Pena (25) Finished: 20th among First Baseman
  5. Albert Pujols (27) Finished: 1st among First Baseman
  6. Lance Berkman (28) Finished 2nd among First Baseman
  7. Justin Morneau (41) Finished: 9th among First Baseman
  8. Adrian Gonzalez (50) Finished: 8th among First Baseman
  9. Derrek Lee (66) Finished: 14th among First Baseman
  10. Mark Teixeira (69) Finished: 3rd among First Baseman
  11. Carlos Delgado (76) Finished: 10th among First Baseman
  12. Kevin Youkilis (77) Finished: 6th among First Baseman
  13. Paul Konerko (83) Finished: 37th among First Baseman
  14. Adam LaRoche (89) Finished: 25th among First Baseman
  15. Todd Helton (98) Finished: 52nd among First Baseman

*Miguel Cabrera wasn’t ranked because he didn’t have first basemen eligibility yet.

Man…Todd Helton was the first draft pick in fantasy I ever made – it’s sad to see him fall to these depths. What can you do though? I wasn’t too interested in him last year and want no part of him this year.

I was a little too bullish on Carlos Pena it appears, and the David Ortiz injury really hurt that prediction. I thought Prince Fielder was the second coming of Ryan Howard…I was wrong. I do expect the same kind of season next year, maybe a tick better.

It pays to go with consistency at first base, which is why Ryan Howard, Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, Mark Teixeira and Adrian Gonzalez make up my top five fantasy first baseman next year.

Complete First Baseman Ranks:

  1. Albert Pujols
  2. Ryan Howard
  3. Lance Berkman (probably will not repeat his stolen base performance)
  4. Mark Teixeira (regardless of where he lands)
  5. Adrian Gonzalez
  6. Miguel Cabrera
  7. Justin Morneau
  8. Prince Fielder
  9. Kevin Youkilis
  10. Carlos Delgado (kind of scary putting him here, cant argue with 2/3 of his season though)
  11. Derrek Lee
  12. David Ortiz (no Manny, no problem? Hurt wrist = problem)
  13. Carlos Pena (legit 30+ HR possibility)
  14. Jason Giambi (where will he end up?)
  15. Joey Votto
  16. Jorge Cantu (could regress)
  17. Mark Reynolds (prefer him as your 3b – one of these years he will put together a good *lucky* batting average campaign)
  18. Mark Derosa
  19. Aubrey Huff
  20. Mike Jacobs
  21. Conor Jackson (man, did he fade)
  22. Adam LaRoche
  23. Chris Davis
  24. Nick Swisher
  25. James Loney (not so high on him…never was)
  26. Ryan Garko (see catcher rankings)
  27. Kevin Millar (consistently below average)
  28. Alex Gordon (so woefully inconsistent)
  29. Lyle Overbay (consistent)
  30. Eric Hinske
  31. Casey Kotchman
  32. Victor Martinez (you want him for his other eligibility)
  33. Ty Wiggington
  34. Paul Konerko (could he be D.O.N.E.?)
  35. Billy Butler (let’s just say, I don’t believe in the Royals)
  36. Matt Stairs (platoon in Philly, if Burrell gone?)
  37. Daric Barton
  38. Rich Aurillia
  39. Greg Dobbs (ditto the Stairs talk)
  40. Ross Gload
  41. Darin Erstad (he wasn’t entirely unusable last year…but yeah, he was close)
  42. Martin Prado (interesting numbers down the stretch: .335 BA, 25 runs, 2 HRs, 25 RBIs in the second half, massive positional flexibility, cool name)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

H2H Catcher Rankings

Catcher Rankings

“Variable, this is Knife! Over! Variable, this is Knife! Over! Variable, this is Knife! Where the heck are you!?!?”

With that out of the way, let me clean up the catching variables: depending on where Cap’n ‘Tek ends up, he could fall completely off this list or move up (you assume someone paying him good free agent money would give him more playing time than the Sox might).

There are also a lot of rumblings about Boston trading for a young stud catcher (which should probably shake up/clarify the Texas catcher situation). Until that stuff plays itself out, it’s hard to rank the Saltalamacchias and Teagardens of the world.

I don’t know if there is a ton of surprise here outside of the Indians catcher position. This is more an indictment of Ryan Garko and Travis Hafner than anything else. It is conceivable that Victor Martinez slides to first base or DH to make way for Shoppach to get more at bats. While getting his first opportunity at consistent playing time, Shoppach hit three times as many HRs (21) and twice as many doubles (27) as last year – granted he had about twice as many at bats in 2008 than in 2007. He also scored 67 runs (and if the Indians offense improves) that number could increase to somewhere in the 80s in 2009. He was a second round draft pick by the Boston Red Sox, so there is potential here. It will be important to see how Matt Laporta does in camp – if he can snag an everyday spot in the line-up that could limit Shoppach’s upside.

Mike Napoli at 13 seems about right to me. In some (smaller) leagues I might take a chance on him over proven vets like AJ Pierzynski or Ramon Hernandez. He did hit .273 last year with 20 HRs and 7 stolen bases. He could conceivably be a 25 HR 10 SB guy. That combination of stats in a catcher is intriguing.

There’s also Matt Wieters. Let’s see if he breaks camp first before he gets ranked. But man, am I looking forward to his debut. I haven’t been this excited since Ben MacDonald…we all know what can happen with prospects, eh J.R. Towles?

“Circular error probable zero. Impact with high-order detonation. Have a nice day.”

Complete Ranks:

  1. Brian McCann (overall ranking: 61)
  2. Russell Martin (69)
  3. Joe Mauer (76)
  4. Geo Soto (87)
  5. Ryan Doumit (125) – can he stay healthy?
  6. Jorge Posada (128) – ditto
  7. Bengie Molina (132)
  8. Victor Martinez (148) – where has the power gone?
  9. Kelly Shoppach (153) – will he get at-bats?
  10. AJ Pierzynski (164)
  11. Chris Iannetta (169)
  12. Ramon Hernandez (176) – watch our for Matt Wieters
  13. Mike Napoli (178) – will he claim that stat potential?
  14. Chris Snyder (185)
  15. Dioner Navarro (209)
  16. Kurt Suzuki (210)
  17. Yadier Molina (212)
  18. Gerald Laird (218)
  19. Ivan Rodriguez (223)
  20. Rod Barajas (225)
  21. John Buck (236)
  22. Miguel Olivo (241)
  23. Jason Veritek (249) – his landing spot could answer a lot of question marks.
  24. Pablo Sandoval
  25. Jeff Clement

Last year’s top 10*:

  1. Russell Martin (last year’s overall ranking: 29) Finished: 3rd among catchers
  2. Victor Martinez (60) Finished: 27th among catchers
  3. Jorge Posada (76) Finished: 39th among catchers
  4. Brian McCann (102) Finished: 2nd among catchers
  5. Joe Maurer (103) Finished: 1st among catchers
  6. Geovany Soto (109) Finished 5th among catchers
  7. Kenji Johjima (110) Finished: 34th among catchers
  8. Bengie Molina (160) Finished: 6th among catchers
  9. A.J. Pierzynski (175) Finished: 8th among catchers
  10. Ryan Doumit (178) Finished: 4th among catchers
  11. Mike Napoli (195) Finished: 10th among catchers
  12. Ramon Hernandez (205) Finished: 11th among catchers

*I only ranked 12 catchers last year for two reasons. One: I didn’t play in a league – beside my 18-team SABR auction competition, which was an entirely different ranking experience – that had more than 10 teams. Two: typically people don’t double up on catchers. Frankly, after the top five, it gets a little muddy anyway. The injuries to V-Mart and Posada hurt my initial rankings and Johjima being horrible didn’t help, but otherwise, it appears my rankings ended up suitable for a standard 5x5 h2h league.

By: Albert Lang

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

H2H Rankings, Part I

I’m writing this article in protest – it’s certainly not because I need the money. My editors – I guess in keeping with Fantasy Baseball 101’s mission – won’t let me post my Survivor: Gabon, Earth’s Last Eden fantasy breakdown. Unfortunately (as you cringe), this is not a joke. I play and get killed in Fantasy Survivor every year. I once dominated Fantasy Apprentice (where have you gone Donald?!?) and posted good showings in Fantasy college football (love me some P.J. Hill). Of course I play fantasy football (4 leagues) and fantasy basketball (I won three years in a row, but failed to reach the finals last year).

Notwithstanding all these diverse interests, fantasy baseball remains my true (and first) love. This game or philosophic sporting viewpoint reminds me of Al from Step by Step – bear with me. This seminal program occurred at a decisive time for me: TGIF was still reasonably cool to watch and I was entering my teen years. So, I dedicate this column to Christine Lakin (nope, didn’t have to look it up).

Keeping this in mind, I’m going to run through my initial hitter rankings step-by-step for 2009 h2h 5x5 standard leagues. First I’ll provide a global perspective, then I’ll go position by position and end with SPs and RPs. I separate hitters and pitchers in my rankings because they are wholly different animals. If you don’t know me, I greatly devalue pitchers.

The LIMA strategy was butter to my bread back in the day. I tweaked to include the “I can’t believe Aaron Harang will continue to fall to me in the 8th/9th round,” strategy. This year he went in the 6th/7th and he ended up on none of my teams. We’re grooming James Shields to take over Harang’s role. Pitcher rankings will be forthcoming in a post framed as an ode to Eliza Dushku (don’t tell me you didn’t watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

I normally spend my first 8-9 draft picks on hitters. Then I binge on pitchers from 10-17 or so and try to grab sleepers where I think appropriate. I also tend to hate drafting catchers early (so they will be inordinately low on my board). I had Russell Martin in 2007 and Soto this year. If you can get top-flight catcher production in the 18-30 rounds of a draft, you already have a leg up.

The Yankees I’m low on
Yes I hate the Yankees as an entity/demonic societal subgroup, but I’ve been on the record the last few years as loving Damon (#35) and Abreu (#24). I think Derek Jeter (#81 hitter) is overvalued – he had those 34 stolen bases in 2006, but that is the outlier. Since then he has averaged 13 and in 2005 tallied only 14. You know what you’ll get from him 110 runs, 10-15 HRs, 65-75 RBIs and 10-15 SBs. That, my friends, is a poor man’s Michael Young (#68 in the rankings)

Robinson Cano (#106) is a great second half hitter (.280 versus .327 lifetime). Unfortunately he started this season well below that career .280 at .246. Clearly, he has been useful in the second half of every season he’s played and he has some upside, but don’t pay for pinstripes or someone who can cripple your BA. Also, I don’t know if you can count on him producing a ton of runs, HRs or RBIs, especially if he continues to hit in the 7-9 spots in the lineup.

I loved Carlos Guillen (#157) in 2004 – he brought me my first h2h title (of course that was a league on 'roids – we used doubles, triples, CGs, no-nos, etc.). I actually traded Kevin Millwood for Miguel Cabrera and Troy Percival in that league, but I digress. In the last four years, Carlos has averaged 91.5 games played. I was offered AROD and Guillen for Jose Reyes in a league this year. I turned it down saying I valued Reyes over AROD (which I do) and that Guillen was waiver wire fodder. I was quickly rebuffed. Well, by the end of the year, Guillen was with the other losers at the high school dance – unclaimed and alone.

Speaking of Miguel Cabrera (#18)…outside of the first year, I haven’t been his biggest fan. I had him in the low-twenties last year, while he was a consensus top 12 pick or so. He is young and reliable, although not quite at the AROD/Pujols level in my mind (obviously given my rankings). He only averaged 88 runs in his last two seasons and provides virtually no stolen bases. Home Runs, RBIs and BA consistency are good, but you can get that in later rounds (Carlos Lee, Abreu, Vlad, Dunn, etc.). I’d much rather grab a multi-dimensional player in the first two rounds or someone who dominates a category or two (Ryan Howard).

Still, the biggest surprise of all: FIVE Nationals made the hitter rankings – I’m as dumbstruck as you.

On to the Christine Lakin squad (those I love more than anyone else does):
Grady Sizemore (#2): a lot has been written about him. He is great and should be MVP. I’ve ranked him in the top 12 the last two years. He provides two of the more statistically important categories: HRs and SBs. In h2h, those categories get the least amount of weekly points, so accumulating them is helpful. The runs will be there next year in Cleveland (they cant be this bad). I’m not worried about his BA decline as his Ks have also gone down – it’ll adjust. If I get a top 5 pick, I’m trading down and taking Grady and recouping a ton of value when the draft slithers back in the second round. In short, I wish I were one of Grady’s ladies.

Let me introduce you to Ian Kinsler (#15), second rounder. Apparently I have an affinity for short haired, kind of goofy looking ball players. People have forgotten that he was a legitimate MVP candidate before going down with an injury. While he may be assuming an injury-prone tag, he only missed 40 games this year and 30 last year. Plus his production for the season – not adjusted for the time he missed – was good enough for top 30 in my book. He also amassed 38 more hits this year than last year in just 35 more at bats. Bumping him up as a Chase Utley clone into the late second round doesn’t seem unreasonable to me. Also, if this global warming thing is true, it’s just going to get more and more humid in Arlington.

The other three surprise candidates all rank in the top 35: Matt Kemp (#21), Jason Bay (#23), and Shane Victorino (#32). Sign me up, I’m a signed, sealed, believer in Matt Kemp. He lowered his strike-outs by 65 in the second half, albeit in 80 fewer at bats. Those fewer at bats didn’t hinder his power, though, as he hit nine home runs both before and after the All Star break. Maybe I’m a little bullish on him by counting on a repeat SB performance, but for a player who might not have reached his full potential, I’d grab him in the second round and be ecstatic.

Jason Bay as a stolen base aficionado is clearly a one-hit wonder (where have you gone 2005?). Since joining the Red Sox, Bay, in 200 less at bats, had only 13 less home runs and remarkably 27 fewer RBIs than with the woeful Pirates. He’s good, he’s out of Pittsburgh, he ain’t a reach in the third round. He’s also anchoring my post-season fantasy team.

Shane Victorino (#32): I dubbed as the 2008 version of the 2007 version of Eric Byrnes. I loved Victorino, especially in relation to where he was going. But by the time it would be prudent to pick him, I had loaded my plate with so many OFs that I had to watch a lucky schmuck grab him and rejoice. Of course, as someone who loves Byrnes, you don’t need to remind me of his regression. Victorino doesn’t have the health issues Byrnes had, plays in a hitter’s park and slots into a delicious line-up. He was a sixth round pick by the Dodgers in 1999 and you should laugh to the championship if you get him around there.

So, how crazy are my h2h rankings? Let me know, post a comment!!!

By: Albert Lang

Monday, October 6, 2008

NL Fantasy Baseball MVP

Shortly after the playoffs end pundits Will review their choice for the National League MVP award. For us fantasy baseball folk, our analysis is a different. For example, in roto leagues, we value players who are dominant in specific categories. We favor the Corey Hart's of the league over the .250 30 homerun hitter. In real life, Carlos Delgado is likely to receive strong consideration from the beat writers for his ability to bring the Mets back from dead in the middle of the summer. And, indeed, Delgado was a valuable player in fantasy baseball as well, but he should not be fawned over as much since he is only a two-category player.

How do we go about choosing the most valuable fantasy player? There are many methodologies to consider. They include: VORP - Value over Replacement Player, position scarcity analysis, all around best statistics in the five hitting categories, or best value compared to draft position. Reasonable people may disagree on the choice, and that is part of the fun. For our purposes, we are not conducting a scientific analysis. Rather, we are going with the unscientific analysis of asking ourselves, "who would you have drafted first overall if you had the benefit of hindsight?" We do not consider value compared to draft position because we will consider players under that analysis in a separate article (Ryan Ludwick, Matt Kemp, Jorge Cantu, etc.). Here are the contenders:

Albert Pujols (.357-37-116-7-100)
Ryan Howard (.251-48-146-1-105)
Hanley Ramirez (.301-33-67-35-125)
Matt Holliday (.321-25-88-28-107)
David Wright (.302-33-124-15-114)
Lance Berkman (.312-29-106-18-114)

We believe these players were a cut above the rest in the National League this year. As a comparison, 30 players in the NL hit 25 or more homers, 14 had 100 rbi's or more, 11 had 25 steals or more, and 14 had a .300 batting average or higher.

And the winner is . . .

Albert Pujols. His .351 batting average is so far ahead of the average player that it really sets him apart. But his 37 homers and 116 rbi's are nothing to scoff at either. Pujols finished second in the NL in average, 4th in hr, 4th in rbi's, and 14th in runs. Although he only stole seven bases, his other stats are so dominant that he is most deserving of the NL fantasy baseball MVP award. It should also be noted that his preseason draft position fell due to fears that he would have surgery on his elbow. Compare him to his competitors.

Our runner up is Hanley Ramirez. Ramirez gets extra points for being an offensive force at shortstop, a position known for its scarcity of talent. His stolen bases and runs are clearly superior to most of the other players on the list, and his batting average and homers, especially when compared to other shortstops, are particularlyu impressive. In fact, his value over other NL shorstops is so great that it was hard not to choose him as MVP. But in the final analysis, Pujols' 50 extra points in batting average and 49 extra rbi's were the decider.

The other contenders have a similar story. Pujols dwarfs Matt Holiday's and Lance Berkman's stats in average, homers and rbi's. As a third basemen, David Wright is a strong contender and his stats are roughly similar to Pujols'. But Pujols had a batting average that was 55 points higher than Wright! That's like choosing someone who hit .245 over someone who hit .300. Conversely, Pujols' homers and rbi's pale in comparison to Ryan Howard's production. With a solid end of the season, Howard proved he was an offensive juggernaut, smashing 48 homers and driving in 146 runs. In fact, Howard's homers and especially his rbi's, are every bit as dominant as Pujols' batting average. But Howard loses out because he provides a net loss in two categories: batting average and steals. Howard's .251 average actually hurts most teams' batting average, and his one stolen base cannot compare to the others on this list.

Have a different opinion? Have a different choice in a H2H league? Feel free to share your opinion in the comment section.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Fantasy Baseball Playoffs

There’s Only ONE October!!! Really? And, only once a year can you play Fantasy Baseball Play-offs! And I bet you thought fantasy baseball season was over. Wrong.

Play-offs!?! Play-offs!?! Yes, fantasy baseball head to head play-offs exist.

Recently, my two best baseball buddies held a brief post-season draft. You can follow the standings here. If you need help incorporating into your local leagues, let me know and I can get you the spreadsheet. In general, you should follow typical h2h draft strategy (ignore pitchers, grab good hitters, diversify and claim HRs and SBs where possible).

Our version of post-season FB adds a new dimension: playing time, i.e. there is no redraft once players are eliminated.

So it behooves you to factor in players who will advance because then you get more pitching appearances and with that greater opportunities for Wins, Strike-outs, Saves, etc and more at-bats, which should help in almost every hitting category.

Still, I tend to agree that the baseball play-offs are more or less a crapshoot. So I draft on best available, others though draft from teams they think will move on. Sure, if two players are close, I’ll roll the dice with the guy on the team I think will go further, but in general, grab best available.

When the Cardinals won the World Series I had the 3rd/4th picks, I took Pujols. I won. Conversely, last year, Chris loaded up on Rockies and was rewarded.

The draft went like this:

Written by Albert Lang

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Undervalued AL Starting Pitchers

In previous articles we've examined players who should improve their performance in 2009. Today, we examine American League starting pitchers who may not necessarily improve their performance, but should remain undervalued in 2009 fantasy drafts and auctions. Astute fantasy baseball managers will keep these guys in their back pocket come draft time.

1. John Danks

After getting kicked around a bit in his 2007 rookie season, Danks has rebounded nicely in 2008 and has put up some solid numbers. With the season nearing a close, Danks has a 3.20 ERA, 11 wins, and 150 K's in 183 innings pitched. He's a former number 1 draft pick, and possesses a terrific change up, a wicked curveball and a low 90's fastball. Expect Danks to build on his 2008 performance in 2009.

2. Gavin Floyd

Also a former first round draft pick, Floyd struggled in Philadelphia before landing with the Whitesox as the centerpiece of the Freddy Garcia trade. He struggled in 2007, but his immense talent was on display for all to see in 2008. He's racked up 16 wins to go with a 3.84 ERA and 1.24 WHIP. Expect more of the same in 2009, but he will be less valued than veterans with the same stats.

3. Scott Baker

After discussing two first round picks, we move onto Baker, who was a second round pick. Baker has four big league pitches, including a nasty sinking fastball and a knuckle-curve. He is known for his superb control, but his 132 K's in 165 innings pitched show an ability to strike out batters as well. Baker has chalked up a 3.59 ERA, 10 wins, and a 1.20 WHIP this season. Expect more wins and a similar WHIP in '09.

4. Shaun Marcum

This third-round draft choice followed up a solid, under the radar, 2007 season with an even better 2008 campaign. He has tossed 126 innings and has let up ony 126 hits, while walking 50 batters. We always love pitchers who have a superb IP:H ratio. Marcum also has shown an ability to strike out batters; whiffing almost one hitter per inning pitched. A 3.39 ERA and 10 wins round out the rest of Marcum's stats. As his stamina improves, Marcum should pitch deeper into games in 2009, which means more wins and strikeouts. We wouldn't be shocked, however, if his ERA regresses slightly.

5. Gil Meche

Another former first round pick, Meche is already a veteran of eight major leagues seasons. For most of his career, he was on the DNP list - DO NOT DRAFT, but his last three seasons have been surprisingly good. In fact, his numbers have steadily improved in each of the past four seasons. This year, he has a 4.05 ERA, a 1.31 WHIP, 13 wins, and 176 K's in 204 innings pitched. While we do not recommend drafting Meche early, he is a solid middle rotation guy in AL only leagues, and back of the rotation guy in mixed leagues. He's not an exciting option, but he's finally showing consistency and the ability go put up good fantasy numbers.

Monday, September 22, 2008

How to Win a Standard 5x5 H2H League

How do you win a standard* daily 5x5 h2h league?
It’s as easy as pick six lotto (or pick five if you have the tie-breaker).

Fantasy finals (especially in non-keeper leagues) are all about the last two weeks of the season. It’s entirely “what have you done for me lately.” Carlos Quentin: not so much, kick him off the roster. Ryan Howard: you’re happy you weathered the storm. Jayson Werth, you’re happy he’s done his best non-SF Aaron Rowand impersonation.

This means players like Werth, Shin-Soo Choo, Christian Guzman (yes even that Guzman), Kelly Shopach and maybe even Elijah Dukes need to find a way into your position player rotation.

You need to be streaming your roster spots to ensure you have a full hitting roster every day. Don’t worry about jettisoning an average player for fear your opponent will grab him. Any reasonable waiver period will make the gain negligible given what you made up by not having an empty roster spot. This does not mean I’m advocating dropping top 50 players…but outside of that, yeah sure.

This should signal that players now have different values given different circumstances. A valuable player in one league could very well be the love child of Jose Mesa/Armando Benitez in another.

If your competition is full of mashers and you haven’t beaten them all year in HRs, don’t worry about home runs. You need to find the categories you can win and go after those.

After two days, it is pretty clear what will and will not be competitive. You’re out in HRs and RBIs? Make sure you win Runs and SBs. This means it makes sense to drop the Carlos Penas of the world for a Willie (be it Harris or Tavaris) or Erick Patterson or Lastings Milledge or Coco Crisp.

Carlos Pena, in this instance, has no value to you or your opponent. If your opponent grabs the discarded Pena, he’ll only increase his lead in categories he’ll win anyway.

While streaming position players can help you on those Mondays and Thursdays, the real streaming power comes with starting pitching. Pitching categories are the easiest to manipulate on a week by week basis (because no one knows what they’ll get from virtually any hurler – viva Ted Lilly).

It’s important to know your opponent’s roster. High K pitchers on good win teams could make winning Wins and K’s difficult. So focus on vulturing saves (Hanrahan, the Orioles carousel, etc.), but make sure every pitcher you plug in maximizes ERA and WHIP.

Quite simply, it’s not about performing the best in every category and having the best all around team. It’s about performing the best in six categories.

There is a special caveat to the streaming – make sure you can get up early and make sure your league doesn’t have innings or moves caps.

If you can’t get up at 7:00 am, you might miss out on the best streamable pitchers. This means you’ll have to start streaming two days ahead or give up altogether.

If there is an IP limit, plan out how many innings you have left and what you can reasonably expect from your staff and move forward accordingly. Don’t leave starts or IPs out there, you’ll regret it.

If you’re up against a moves limit, you’ll have to maximize every move.

People may hate streamers not associated with a tickertape parade, but the strategy paves the way to fantasy gold. Look at the wire (in 10-12 team leagues), you’ll find:
Kevin Millwood (vs. OAK [1.35 ERA 0.90 WHIP])
Jamie Moyer (vs. FLA [3.12 ERA, 0.92 WHIP])
John Lannan (vs. SD [3.00 ERA, 1.33 WHIP])
Ryan Rowland-Smith (vs. LAA [4.05 ERA, 0.90 WHIP]).

I think you get the point.

Happy streaming and winning. Have a scenario, start/sit, or fantasy ethics question, e-mail me at

*standard = R, HR, RBI, SB, AVE, W, S, K, ERA, WHIP

Sunday, September 21, 2008

AL Hitters for '09

We've covered NL hitters who could surprise people in 2009; now it's the American League's turn. Guys like Josh Hamilton, Carlos Quentin, and Alex Rodriguez are obvious choices. But who are the good players, who do not pose much of a risk, that should exceed expectations in 2009? Below are a few of the guys we have our eyes on.

1. Dustin Pedroia

Prior to this season Pedroia was a middle-of-the-pack second basemen who provided teams with a good batting average, but not much else. His minor league stats seemed to confirm that analysis. But all that changed this year, as Pedroia showed that he is a five category fantasy player. With the season coming to an end, Pedroia has already hit for .324-17-80-19. While his value will go up in 2009, we think he has a chance to exceed expectations, largely because of his league leading 52 doubles. The doubles lead us to believe that Pedroia could hit for more power in 2009 as he continues to mature. We expect a similar season to '08, but with more homers.

2. Nick Markakis

No stranger to fanballers, Markakis performed below most expectations in '08. He performed well - .300-20-86-10 is good, but many were disappointed with only 20 homers. Looking deeper into the stats, however, shows that Markakis hit 47 doubles. We expect Markakis to show greater power in 2009, with a season of .305-28-105-12 likely.

3. Evan Longoria

Longoria started the year in the minors, but began pummeling the ball after an early season call-up. To date Longoria has hit .278-25-82-7 in only 417 at-bats. Project that out to a full season, and you're talking about some serious offensive stats. Longoria is young, surrounded by other good, young hitters, and should only get better as he moves into his prime.

4. Kelly Shoppach

Shoppach has hit .268-21-55 in 396 at-bats. He routinely hit 20+ homers in less than 400 at-bats in the minors. If he gets 600 at-bats next season, 30 homers should be reachable. Beware, however, the possibility of a decline in batting average.

5. Denard Span

A virtual unknown before the season, Span has come on strong for the Twins. Most had expected Carlos Gomez to hold down the leadoff job for the year, but Span's .382 OBP% and 17 steals in only 322 at-bats convinced Ron Gardenhire to give him a shot in the role. Span has not disappointed, and has compiled a .298 BA, six homers and 42 rbi's to go with his impressive OBP%. If Span gets 600 at-bats in 2009, he could contend for the stolen base crown and should have a good batting average to boot.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Buying Low for 2009 - Pitcher's Edition

A few days ago we posted some National League hitters who should exceed expectations in 2009 and be worth a lot more than they can be obtained for on draft day. Today, we examine NL pitchers that can be bought at a discount price and should exceed expectations in 2009.

1. Ricky Nolasco

Nolasco is well-known to fantasy ballers as a former top prospect who went down in flames in his first couple of seasons in the Bigs. But for many pitchers it takes a couple years to get adjusted to the majors (see Maddux, Glavine, Smoltz, etc.) and Nolasco is no exception. He has put in a solid performance this year with a 3.56 ERA, 167 K's and 14 wins. His 1.12 whip is good for second best in the league, and perhaps his most impressive statistic is that he only has let up 176 hits in 192.1 innings pitched. Nolasco seems poised to follow up this breakout year with an even better campaign in '09.

2. Chad Billingsley

Okay, Billingsley is hardly an unknown. In fact, many people already consider Billingsley one of the best pitchers in the NL. So, why does he make this list? He makes it for a simple reason: He has improved every year and has such immense talent that the sky is the limit. This year he's already chalked up 15 wins, a 3.02 ERA and 189 K's. His hit-to-walk ratio is stellar, having allowed 169 hits in 188 innings. He gets into a bit of trouble with his control, which results in a medicore whip. Like Randy Johnson, Mark Langston and many others before him, as Billingsley's control improves, his numbers will become mindblowing. Especially if the Dodgers keep Manny Ramirez, Billingsley to challenge for 20 wins in 2009 with improvements in all other major pitching statistics.

3. Brett Myers

Many people thought that returning Myers to the rotation would result in a Cy Young worthy year in 2008. Alas, Myers struggled badly in the first half of the season and his velocity was down to little league levels. But Myers rebounded strongly in the second half and has been lights out for the past few months. Myers has lowered his ERA from over 6.00 to a very respectable 4.06. Add in the 10 wins and 157 K's, and Myers turned out to be a decent pitcher for those patient enough to keep him for the entire season. His end-of-the-year numbers, however, will fall well short of the top performers in the league, so he may be obtained at a considerable discount in 2009. A 3.50 ERA, 16 wins and 185 strikeouts is a reasonable early prediction for him in '09.

4. Dave Bush

This guy was a sleeper on everyone's list in 2007, and those teams unfortunate enough to draft him got nailed harder than Pam Anderson in her infamous Brett Michaels video. Bush was sent down to the minors to work on his mechanics, and returned to form after being called up midway through the '08 season. In a shortened season, Bush has a 4.24 ERA, 9 wins and 103 K's. It is his 1.15 WHIP (fifth best in the NL), however, that sets him apart. Few owners know about Bush, and fewer still are willing to gamble on him maintaining his performance in 2009. If you feel like rolling the dice, grab him. He could end up with a 4.10 ERA, 13 wins, 150 K's, and a 1.17 WHIP in '09.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Buying Low for '09

With the '08 season winding down, it is never too early to begin looking at who may do even better next season. It is easy to pay top dollar for Pujols or Braun, and expect solid across-the-board stats. But most leagues are won or lost by the in-between players; the players who are nothing special but overperform everyone's expectations. Here are some of my early batting favorites for NL-only leagues in 2009:

1. Corey Hart

He's at .276-20-83-23, so many people already know about his talent. But what people may not realize is that he has 43 doubles, which indicates he still has a lot more home run potential as he matures. 30 homers is not an unreasonable expectation next year.

2. Stephen Drew

Drew was drafted with a lot of hype, but has generally underperformed expectations. At .281-17-58-3, he's having a solid, if unspectacular year. With 37 doubles thus far, however, it is likely that Drew could eclipse 25 four-baggers next season.

3. Lastings Milledge

Plagued by injuries and a lineup meeker than Ohio State's offense against USC, Milledge still has tons of potential. So far this year he has hit .262-14-57-22 in only 478 at-bats. Expect improvements in every category next season. A season similar to Corey Hart's 2008 year is not unlikely.

4. Jayson Werth.

Werth is one of the most underrated players in the league. He helps you in both the power and speeed categories, and hits for a respectable average. Next year he should get more playing time, which should enable him to dwarf his 2008 numbers. Currently, he's at .276-22-62-17, but in only 370 at-bats.

5. Elijah Dukes

After struggling in the early part of the season, this Nationals outfielder has quietly put together a good year in limited playing time. In only 242 at-bats, Dukes is hitting .273-11-39-13, with 16 doubles. Equally impressive is his .375 on-base percentage. If Dukes wins a starting job next spring, he has the power potential to hit 25 homers with a good number of steals too.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Value Watch

By: Derrick Boyd

Outfield and Starting Pitcher are easily the deepest positions in Fantasy Baseball. In most leagues there is plenty of value available on the Waiver Wire at either of these positions, which eliminates the need for most of us to work hard and search for the value players. However, these days more and more of our fellow ‘Roto Geeks’ are opting for challenging 20 team leagues with deep rosters, or AL/NL specific leagues, rather than the typical, shallow 12 team public league. These deeper leagues test and stretch us by forcing each manager to lengthen their cheat-sheets and sharpen all aspects of baseball knowledge, including Minor and Major League depth charts.

Last week we discussed some Starting Pitchers that are less-known or undervalued and this week we will do the same with Outfielders.

1. Luke Scott – He’s quietly having a decent season. During the first month Scott hit a lot of doubles while recording a batting average over .280. During the second month those doubles turned into homeruns, but his batting average sunk lower than my retirement portfolio (*Sigh*). Overall he’s on pace for exactly what those of us who know anything about Luke Scott expected. Watch for him to continue on this pace and end up around .270/.350/.500 with 20-25 HR and 75-80 RBIs.

2. Lastings Milledge – Has shown signs of life recently (.294/.333/.471 over the last week) after struggling greatly the first 2 months of the season. Milledge is making contact as expected (82%) and his BB rate is right around where it should be (6% so far compared to 7% in 07). However, he has been a little unlucky with the percentage of the balls he has put in play that have fallen for hits, thus depressing his season batting average (.246). As this normalizes his batting average will get closer to .280 and I expect him to hit at least 10 more homeruns and steal at least 10 more bases this season, making him a good buy low target at this point.

3. Jason Kubel –
Off to a slow start again this year, after many of us hoped that his strong 2007 2nd half numbers (.303/.379/.511) would lead to the breakout season we’ve been waiting for, for what seems like an eternity. Maybe he’s just a slow starter? Although the surface stats don’t show it, Kubel has been improving over the last month. Over this period Kubel’s BB% is just above his 07 2nd half level of 11.5% and his contact rate is a very solid 82%. Like Milledge, Kubel has suffered from an unlucky # of balls in play falling for hits, so the 0.238 batting average looks worse than it really should. Look for Kubel to heat up along with the weather this summer – a .270, 20 HR, 80 RBI season is still well within reach. Don’t give up hope just yet.

4. Randy Winn – Yeah I know, there is absolutely nothing exciting about Randy Winn. I’m even a bit bored writing this portion of the article, but I’m going to push through because I feel that I’d be doing a great disservice to the Fantasy Baseball populace if I neglected to give him mention. Winn has been a steady power/speed combo guy for many years now. He typically makes good contact and hits for good average – this season is no exception. At 33 years old, Win’s speed is still intact enough to make him a 20 SB threat. He still has double digit homerun power and I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see him finish .300, 15 HR, 20 SB.

4. Delmon Young – I’m still bullish on Young this season. Obviously this isn’t going to be his breakout year and anyone who thought it would be was misguided at best. Young is only 22 years of age – at 22 many of the elite prospects are still toiling away in the upper levels of the Minors, so just the fact that Young is here, playing everyday, and making consistent contact is somewhat impressive. While he has yet to hit a homerun this season he is far too talented to maintain this level of futility much longer. I’ve watched Young play a number of times this year and I’ve noticed that, for the most part, he’s hitting the ball to the opposite field. Once he starts pulling the ball he is going to get hot and makeup for this slow start. I’m willing to be bold and project that Young will finish the season with 10 homeruns and between 20-25 stolen bases. He’s been able to improve his contact rate from 80% last year to 83% this year which should help him finish the season with a batting average close to .280. This is a great time to buy low on Young, especially if the manager who owns him in your keeper league is getting tired of waiting for him to produce.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

C'mon Baby, Let's Do the Splits

By: Ben Distler

For many fantasy baseball owners, splits are something best left to ballerinas or, perhaps, Patrick Swayze. However, by digging deeper inside your player’s numbers, you can find that they excel in certain situation, while falling flat in others. Using this information, you can either maximize their potential for your own team, or use them to trade them away for full value. Here are some of the more glaring split stats in fantasy baseball:

Erik Bedard LHP SEA – 2008 stats: 3-3, 4.70 ERA 1.30 WHIP

At first glance, Bedard’s debut season in Seattle seems to be a dud. There’s a key phrase in the previous sentence: "in Seattle." While pitching at home, Bedard happens to have a stellar 1.69 ERA and miniscule 0.98 WHIP in four starts. His road stats were already awful, even before a 9 run shelling at Yankee Stadium on May 23rd. He currently sports an 8.84 ERA and 1.76 WHIP in his four road starts. Bedard must have one of those fancy memory foam mattresses at home, and spends all night twisting and turning during road trips. Also, he sports a 2.14 WHIP against left handed hitters. So, if you see Bedard starting at home, put him in your lineup with no fear. If you see him starting on the road against a lineup with a lot of lefties, be sure to bench him for that outing.

Mark Reynolds 3B ARI – 2008 stats: .225 BA, 33 R, 8 HR, 29 RBI

Reynolds is making a great case for winning the statuette for the “Adam Dunn award for most frustrating fantasy line.” His power numbers are enticing, and he plays in Arizona, which is underrated as a launching pad for homers. However his 61 strikeouts in just 169 at bats this season puts him in the rarified air of Dunn and Ryan Howard (well, at least in terms of strikeouts…) But all is not lost for Reynolds. Turns out that he bats a healthy .289 at home, while shattering the Mendoza line at .151 on the road. Due to his .369 OBP at home, he’s scored 21 of his 33 runs in Arizona, and 18 of his RBI have come there as well. The HRs are split evenly, but if you have a second option at 3B, it may be worth starting Reynolds at home and subbing in the backup when he is away.

Brian Bannister RHP KCR – 2008 stats: 4-6 4.94 ERA 1.27 WHIP

Bannister has gone through great lengths to embrace sabermetric stats this past off season in order to improve his game. His basic conclusion was to issue less walks. I could have told him that one. Either way, I’m sure Bannister himself is staring at his split stats with just as much confusion as I am. Despite issuing only 6 walks on the road, Bannister is sporting a ridiculous 8.44 ERA and ugly 1.61 WHIP, en route to a 1-4 record. Back home in Kansas City, he has issued 9 walks but has just a 2.29 ERA and 1.02 WHIP. Perhaps Bannister should consider issuing more walks? Another interesting tidbit, Bannister has almost the exact same ERA and WHIP splits in day and night games. While Bannister is on the cusp of completely unownable with his overall numbers, if you see him sitting there in the player pool, and he has a home, day game start coming up, you want to grab him.

Dan Uggla 2B FLA – 2008 stats: .318 AVG, 39 R, 16 HR, 37 RBI

As many owners in fantasy baseball have noticed, Uggla started out the season slow, batting .255 in April with just four homers. Thanks to a power surge, Uggla has crushed 12 homers so far in May to the tune of a .403 batting average. So, should you lucky Uggla owners hold onto him, thinking he’ll continue to play this way? Absolutely not. Sell Uggla right now for his top value. As it turns out, May just so happens to be Uggla's hottest month. He batted .307 in May last year and didn’t bat above .248 in any other month. For his career, he’s a .350 hitter in May, and doesn’t crack .267 in any other month (excluding 3 measly October at bats). The inevitable slide that brings Uggla back to the .260 range is coming, and when it does, don’t be the owner left holding the bag.

San Diego pitching in general

I’ve gone on and on about how spacious Petco Park is. Petco is bigger than Jim Belushi at the all you can eat buffet. Petco is bigger than Miley Cyrus’ ticket sales. I’m hoping these split stats will nail down the point once and for all. San Diego pitching as an entire unit has a 3.35 ERA at home, with a paltry 5.42 away ERA. Greg Maddux is pitching so well in Petco (1.84 ERA, 0.95 WHIP) that it makes him look like, well, Greg Maddux. (circa 1995). Jake Peavy, though currently on the DL, was putting up a 1.46 ERA and 0.86 WHIP at home versus 5.40 and 1.66, respectively, on away starts. Chris Young (at least before becoming a baseball magnet) is an ace at home, and a train wreck grease fire away. Even Randy Wolf, yes that Randy Wolf, has a 3.00 ERA and 0.96 WHIP at home. His ERA nearly doubles on away games. If only San Diego could score any runs to support these pitchers, they’d be better than 11-14 at home. Then again, this overly spacious park hurt offense just as much as helps pitching. Adrian Gonzalez bats a superb .324 and has hit 9 of his 14 home runs away from this black hole death trap for offense. He plods along at just .237 inside it. If the stats you need to improve are ERA and WHIP though, make sure to dial up some San Diego pitching. Just don’t expect much in terms of wins.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

FBAs: Week 5

By: Russell Sandman

This past week in the National League, the changes atop the leader board were sweeping. While reigning NL fantasy MVP Hanley Ramirez continues to hold the top spot, new entries Lance Berkman has thrown his hat into the mix, ending the week with a whopping 16 long-balls. As the Major League’s only 8 game winner, Brandon Webb continues to out-pitch not only opponent batters, but other competitors for NL fantasy Cy Young. For the first time, Juston Upton was relegated to the bench in favor of projected NL fantasy Rookie of the Year finalist Joey Votto, whose 8 homers (3 of which came in the same game) top all major league rookies. Surprisingly, NL fantasy Relief Man of the Year candidate Brandon Lyon was catapulted from relative obscurity among stoppers to top contender, ousting Milwaukee’s on-again, off-again closer Eric Gagne from the top-spot.

In the American League, former Red turned Ranger Josh Hamilton went on a tear this past week to claim the top spot among AL contenders for fantasy MVP. Hard to believe that this is the same Josh Hamilton who was released by Tampa after numerous battles with substance abuse, but it appears Hamilton is for real, and his 10 homers and major league best 49 RBI certainly testify to his legitimacy. Matsuzaka continued his sophomore dominance among all AL starters, while Mo nudged aside Joe Nathan and all other AL closers to take the top spot among relief men. AL Rookie of the Year still remains wide open, so we expect more flip-flopping here than most other categories, but stay tuned for more as the season unfolds. Here’s how the leader board is shaping up so far:

National League
1. Fantasy MVP in 2008: Hanley Ramirez
i. Runners-up: Chipper Jones, Chase Utley, Lance Berkman, Derek Lee, Pat Burrell, David Wright
2. Fantasy Cy Young in 2008 – Brandon Webb
i. Runners-up: Edinson Volquez, Jake Peavy, Ben Sheets, Dan Haren, and Johan Santana
3. Fantasy Rookie of the Year – Joey Votto
i. Runners-up: Justin Upton, Johnny Cueto, Max Scherzer, Kosuke Fukudome, Hiroki Kuroda
4. Fantasy Relief Man of the Year – Brandon Lyon
i. Runners-up: Brian Wilson, Matt Capps, Billy Wagner, and Kerry Wood

American League
1. Fantasy MVP in 2008: Josh Hamilton
i. Runners-up: Carlos Quentin, Kevin Youkilis, Nick Markakis, B.J. Upton, and Alexis Rios
2. Fantasy Cy Young in 2008 – Daisuke Matsuzaka
i. Runners-up: Cliff Lee, Ervin Santana, Zack Greinke, Joe Saunders, and Javier Vazquez
3. Fantasy Rookie of the Year – David Murphy
i. Runners-up: Evan Longoria, Joba Chamberlain, and Clay Buchholz
4. Fantasy Relief Man of the Year – Mariano Rivera
i. Runners-up: Jonathan Papelbon, Francisco Rodriguez, George Sherrill, Joakim Soria, Troy Percival

Monday, May 12, 2008

Closer? I hardly even knew her!

By: Ben Distler

What is happening in the 9th inning lately? Can somebody please close out a game? It seems every time we turn around this season, another formerly reliable closer is giving up a late inning lead. If I wasn’t such a trusting soul, I’d say the steroid policies were finally starting to kick in, preventing pitchers from pitching with so little rest in between appearances. However, I’m a very na├»ve and trusting soul, so I know that has nothing to do with it. Regardless, the job of closer has never been more tenuous than it is now. This means we have to keep a close eye on not only the closers who are struggling, but their likely replacements. Let’s take a look at some of the struggling closers, and see who may be taking their place.

Jason Isringhausen – 5 blown saves
From 2001-2007, Izzy posted an ERA over 3.00 only once (a decent 3.55 in 2006), and usually was comfortably in the 2.50 area. So what in the world is causing his cartoonish 7.47 ERA this year? He actually removed himself from the closer’s role, because he was so disgusted with his performance. This doesn’t bode well for a mid-season rebound. It sounds more like the Izzy train may be derailed for good. Ryan Franklin is the guy who will get the lion’s share of the save opportunities, though Russ Springer may siphon a few off.
Verdict: Pick up Franklin if you need the saves, and don’t look back.

Eric Gagne – 5 blown saves
I personally blame Gagne’s 6.89 ERA and outrageous 1.85 WHIP on his terrible, haggard, ghastly, Dustin Diamond-esque beard. Seriously, how can you expect to handle major league hitters when you roll in looking like “Screech: The Later Years?” In hindsight, we should have all seen this coming when he single handedly tried to ruin the 2007 playoff run of the Boston Red Sox. And, not too surprisingly, he failed at that too. Just like with Izzy, Gagne may have run his course as a viable closer. Expect him to be more effective at starring in Celebrity Fit Club on VH1 rather than closing games. At the moment, it seems Guillermo Mota has the inside track to get most of the save chances, but he has a checkered past as a closer as well. Salomon Torres actually has the most experience and success as a closer, and I expect him to eventually take the job.
Verdict: Pick up Torres and dump Gagne for good.

Trevor Hoffman – 2 blown saves
With 530 career saves, it is hard to doubt Mr. Hell’s Bells himself. Similar to Izzy, Hoffman hasn’t posted an ERA above 3 from 2002-2007. Could it be that the 40 year old longtime closer is finally breaking down? While it is true that his K numbers are on the decline, his save totals are not, having posted save totals in the 40s the past 4 years. Also, his current 5.91 ERA is mostly the result of one bad outing April 2nd. He’s only given up 3 earned runs since then. Couple this with his home park, the ultra spacious Petco, and I think this point to at least one more useful, if not spectacular, season by the Hoff.
Verdict: If he were to fail, pounce on Heath Bell. Otherwise, hold tight.

Kerry Wood – 3 blown saves
Wood is a very interesting case. As we’ve learned in the past, Wood can be a real gamble. I think our best bet is to make a pros and cons list. Pro: He closes for a first place team, so he should have a lost of opportunity. Con: He’s injury prone. Pro: He has 17 Ks in 18 innings. Con: He has an ERA of 4.00. Pro: He has a WHIP of 0.78. An ERA/WHIP differential like that suggests one of two things: either he has had a run of bad luck, or he tends to leave a stick straight fastball right over of the middle of the plate. Seeing as he’s only given up one HR this year, I’m going to pronounce Wood’s closing job to be secure. With a WHIP that low (he’s only walked one batter all season), odds are that his ERA will gradually end up in at least the low 3 range. That being said, this IS Kerry Wood, who has practically made a career of getting injured, so make sure you have your eye on Carlos Marmol, who would most likely replace Wood
Verdict: Wood will get the ERA down and be a top 10 closer, provided he is healthy.

Whoever the heck the Braves closer is
The Braves haven’t actually blown that many saves this year. This could be because nobody can seem to stay in the role longer than a week or so. The Braves started with Rafael Soriano, whom they traded for last season, as their closer, thinking they had the position locked up. Well, of course he has been on the DL since April 7th with elbow problems, so they then turned to Peter Moylan. Moylan responded by throwing some seriously hard fastballs… and then tearing a ligament in his elbow and had to visit the dreaded Dr. James Andrews. Currently, the shoulder shrug that is Manny Acosta (and his headed for trouble 1.44 WHIP) occupies the role. He’s only keeping the seat warm until John Smoltz comes off the DL. Smoltz was a dominant closer in the past, but is only offering up his services to close again because his elbow is in such pain that he can’t take the rigors of starting any more. Can you feel the excitement? Considering the merry go round of injuries and ineffectiveness, not to mention the fact that the Braves are barely above .500 anyway, you probably have a better way to get some saves.
Verdict: Ride Smoltz if you can, but be prepared to see him break down at any moment.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

First Rotisserie Baseball League

There is an interesting article in Sports Illustrated's Vault about the formation of the first Rotisserie Baseball league.


On the Shelf: Jackpot!!!

By: Dan King

The fantasy baseball writing gods are good to me. Honestly. I could quit my day job, hole up in my house for a week and rattle off like 53 articles on injuries that occurred in the last week and a half in the MLB. Problem is, if I wanted my day job back, I’d never get it back, and eventually end up homeless without a computer to write fantasy baseball injury articles. So I suppose I’ll be sticking to the once-a-week deal.

Before we get to the injuries, your FB101 update: as of Wednesday, we had a seven point lead over the rest of the pack… that’s right, first place Baby! I can honestly say that Lance Berkman, Dan Uggla, and Kevin Youkilis’ Sunday didn’t hurt – a combined 10-for-13 with three dingers, seven runs scored, and eleven RBI. Yeah, I know, Berkman is on fire, rated the number one fantasy player in Yahoo! mixed league formats. Also doesn’t hurt to have two of the top five fantasy pitchers either in Jonathan Papelbon and Carlos Zambrano. The demotion to Triple-A Iowa for Cubs pitcher Rich Hill doesn’t help my starting cause, but I was at least cautious and didn’t activate him for his last few starts. So let’s keep our fingers crossed for another string of good outings for the FB101 team….

Injury time!

John Smoltz: It was revealed via text message, TEXT MESSAGE, that the Braves starter is going to become the Braves closer when he returns from the DL from an inflamed biceps tendon and rotator cuff. No surgery is in the near future for Smoltz, but it may be speculated that with Smoltz’ return to the ‘pen for Atlanta, Rafael Soriano’s right elbow tendonitis may be worse that previously expected. Soriano cut short a bullpen session on Tuesday and had an MRI and other diagnostic tests planned for Wednesday. For those who bought high on Soriano in their drafts and then scrambled for either Peter Moylan or Manny Acosta, you may be out of luck. And speaking of Moylan, he is scheduled for surgery with Dr. James Andrews (uh, oh) to remove a bone spur in his pitching elbow, but Dr. Andrews may, in all likelihood elect to perform Tommy John surgery (read: “No Peter Moylan for 2008 or 2009.”)

Jimmy Rollins: Rollins is about just about ready to return to the Phillies lineup. He has shown no ill effects in his rehab starts and his ankle should be good to go this weekend.

Chone Figgins: Figgins strained his hamstring and has been working on a stationary bike to keep it loose. He hasn’t been running much and this may prove to be a big problem for a player who relies greatly on his speed. Monitor his progress before panicking, however.

Rich Harden: Harden, who was suffering from a strain below his throwing shoulder, threw six innings in a rehab start should be ready to go on Sunday. Might not be a bad idea starting him then, as the A’s have the Rangers for their weekend series this week. Justin Duchscherer pitched well in Harden’s place in the rotation and may be worth keeping on a few rosters if he continues to pitch well as a starter.

Alex Rodriguez: As a Red Sox fan, you could say that I’m a bit happy about this one. A-Rod claims that his strained quadriceps is good to go, but is not eligible to come off the DL for another week. It’s too bad though that he missed the birth of his second daughter… on second thought, maybe it’s good he did – saves the nurses extra work waking up the fainted guy.

Curt Schilling: The Big Schill actually threw this week. That’s a good thing for him. But like I said before, even if he comes back, I’m not picking him up, and neither should you.

Pedro Martinez: Speaking of aging pitchers, Pedro is getting ready to throw to live batters soon. Don’t get your hopes up too soon, but he may be back late May to early June.

Just a quick interlude here… did anyone else watch the Celtics/Cavaliers Game One Tuesday night? If Bron-Bron doesn’t turn things around, Cleveland’s not sticking around too long.
Alright… back to the injuries… that’s what you people don’t pay me for anyway…

Orlando Hudson: For all you people who picked up Hudson later on in your NL-only drafts (I’m raising my hand here), you may have to wait a bit for his steals to come around. The two-time Gold Glover had an MRI on his right hamstring and may be making a visit to the DL retroactive to some date earlier this week.

Noah Lowry: Dr. James Andrews (uh, oh) has instructed Lowry not to touch a baseball for four weeks. OK… nuff said.

Aramis Ramirez: Aramis missed three games before returning to the Cubs lineup on Tuesday with a sore wrist. Normally I wouldn’t worry about a sore wrist, but Ramirez is a power hitter, if his wrist doesn’t work properly, the power numbers dip accordingly.

Ryan Zimmerman: Zimmerman’s “Iron Man” streak of 205 games was broken when he asked for the day off on Sunday. Not really injured here, but is anyone ever going to get close to Cal Jr.’s record?

Josh Willingham: Willingham has been benched since the end of April with a lower back ailment. According to Willingham, “There's usually no rhyme or reason to when or where” which would indicate that he has no clue as to the cause or remedy of his back problem. He’s averaged 143 games over the past two years, so he should be back soon – if you’re in a pinch, Luis Gonzalez will be picking up Willingham’s extra AB’s.

Joe Borowski: The Indians closer is still nursing a triceps injury, but is getting closer to closing for Cleveland. Gotta say I’m thrilled though with Rafael Betancourt as a replacement.

J.J. Putz: Putz is back, but not in save situations quite yet for the Mariners. He has struggled finding the plate with his fastball, but with his ribs no longer being a problem, feel free to insert him back into your active lineups.

Jorge Posada: Told ya so folks. Posada’s earliest estimation for his return puts him about six weeks out. That’s a real long time for someone who has never been on the DL before in their career to regain their timing. As a Sox fan, I hate to say this, but if anyone is going to make it back quick, it’s going to be Posada, but Posada owners are going to have to be patient with his return.

That’ll do it for this week guys and gals. Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms out there!