Thursday, April 30, 2009

What's Rarer, Bigfoot or Jeff Weaver?

I saw Jeff Weaver on TV tonight, so I'm kinda hoping that you picked Jeff.  Maybe I can peddle streaming video of him to a local news outlet.  What's really amazing is that he looked like a pretty serviceable middle reliever.  The Dodgers always seem to pluck a long relief arm off the scrap heap, sometimes even better.  Last year it was Chan Ho Park, and he parlayed that into a starting job (at which, in case most teams forgot, Chan Ho STINKS).  In any case...

DALLAS BRADEN - I posted a Twitter ( to see what the rest of the sports world thought of this A's hurler, and most were decidedly wary.  When I asked for some concrete evidence beyond, "No way, dude!" most of these folks just cited his high WHIP in today's game.  That seems like a pretty unfair synopsis, and very "what have you done for me lately," considering his WHIP coming into this game was just 1.28.  He does give up an awful lot of base hits, but he generally keeps it in the yard, and I think he's a supremely underrated talent.  The A's seem to play well when he pitches, as well, so even if you're not in need of a starting pitcher, throw some money on Oakland every five days.

JOHN BUCK - The catcher in Kansas City had been mired in an awful 0-for-15 slump coming into today, but Buck's back, baby.  Buck went 3-for-3 tonight with 5 batted in, and this should hopefully be the start of a nice little hot streak.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Buck is "The Answer" at Catcher, but he could provide a week of smashie smashie.

CHRIS VOLSTAD - Florida is winning again, and, like clockwork, the pitchers are responding.  Volstad and Johnson have both excelled to a remarkable degree thus far this year, and neither is showing any signs of letting up.

I'm also proud to announce that after a brutal 1-5 stretch over the last 3 days, we're back to winning, and it feels excellent.  2-1 today moves the season record to 16-9, which is still pretty darn good, and hopefully today was the start of a winning stretch throughout the weekend.  I'd say it bodes well!

And welcome to all the folks just making their way here from Twitter -- the more the merrier.  Tell your pals about the nightly fantasy news briefs and ALWAYS FREE sports betting picks.  We are working on becoming an affiliate for Baseball Fan Nation and Pregame, a fantasy and sports betting site, respectively.  More info on those little partnerships coming soon.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


If you're a casual baseball fan, days like today are exactly why the sports remains one of the truly great enigmas of the athletic entertainment world.  If you're a sports bettor, today was the reason that you don't truly exist, outside of my imagination.  For instance, the Marlins beat Johan Santana('s bullpen).  That cost a lot of Mets fans a good deal of money, and won the 14 Marlins faithful more than they can count.

Or perhaps the Kansas City-Toronto matchup, featuring two starting pitchers with ERA's under 1.00.  How about 8 combined runs by the 4th inning?  How does that sound?  Pretty good to the supposed maniacs that bet the over.

In any case, rather than rant and rave, since you all know darn well I can do that, let's jump right down to it.  Today was a CLOSER EXTRAVAGANZA!  The problem with baseball is that by this time of night, the hawks of your fantasy league have probably already dealt with the more obvious news.  It's our job to make sure you can pull out all the stops to one-up even those sharks of the fantasy Deep Blue Sea.


LATROY HAWKINS - Apparently I was about a week premature on this one.  Valverde missed ONE game with back/leg issues, then came roaring back.  So, we all dropped Hawkins after the weekend campout.  Well, just when things looked cool in Houston, Valverde magically disappears to the Disabled List!  Hawkins will be closing games for at least two weeks.  Get him NOW!

MANNY CORPAS/HUSTON STREET - The battle continues!  Street got a 3-out save, LOWERING his ERA to 6.10 one night after Corpas trudged his way through a 2-run inning, RAISING his ERA to 6.10.  Maybe it's time to try someone else?  Apparently not.  Keep your eye on this one.  I'm not sure if Street pitched because Corpas had been used extensively, but he sure looked a heck of a lot better than Corpas.  Personally, I'm avoiding both of these guys, but if you've got room, it couldn't hurt to grab both and drop the one that shoots himself in the foot first.

JULIAN TAVAREZ - Confirmation acquired.  Get yo'self some sweet Julian, and hope Washington wins another game besides the one tonight.


Carlos Villanueva - Hoffman worked two straight nights, so Villanueva got the call tonight.  Don't wet yourself; he'll fall back into obscurity soon enough.

Hope that helped.

The Minnesota rotation continues to excel -- I'm not sure how much longer those players will be out on the waiver wire.  This is why it's foolish to draft too much pitching early.  With the wild rotation of closers and 5-10 starters that come out of the blue to rock steady, there's just no point in taking more than 1 starter and 1 closer relatively early in the draft.  Use those picks to try to nab guys who hit for high average.  It's inevitable that SOME of those hits will drive in runs or result in being scored.  But this is truly a discussion for another time.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Things That Start and End with "Han"

There are certainly a few top shelf persons and places that fill that mold -- Han Solo comes to mind -- but our concern is not with intergalactic smugglers and their braying compatriots.  Here, we care about our fantasy team.  And unfortunately, if you got stuck with Joel "Han"ran"han", the walls have been slowly crumbling around you.  It's precisely because of this fact that I'm not sure if I come bearing good or bad news...or both?

The bad news is that Joel Hanrahan is no longer the closer in Washington.  I apologize on behalf of the seven saves you'll lose this season.

The good news is that Joel Hanrahan is no longer the closer in Washington.  So, if you're running his sorry excuse for a right arm out to the hill on your fantasy squad, you won't have to break out the Jack (Daniels, In-The-Box) every time (all three?) the Nationals have had a lead in the 9th inning.  It LOOKS like JOE BEIMEL (currently on the DL) is next in line for saves, but we could see JULIAN TAVAREZ as well.  I would recommend getting that trigger-finger ready.  Dump Hanrahan for Tavarez now, and as soon as Beimel gets right, dump Tavarez for Beimel.

PHIL HUGHES - Welcome back, champ!  Hughes was dominating at AAA before his call back to the bigs.  One thing you certainly can say about Hughes is that he has infinite potential.  May be worth taking a chance here, if you've been holding tight to someone like a Jarrod Washburn or Joe Saunders.  Hughes has the stuff to stockpile K's for the winter.

EDWIN JACKSON - A great start that nobody (outside of Detroit) will remember.  Jackson blanked the Yanks for 6 innings, lowering his season ERA to 2.25.  Enter Tigers bullpen; exit ballgame.  Yankees went on to win 11-0, but it sure as hell wasn't Edwin's fault.

WANDY RODRIGUEZ - Like clockwork, every 5 days I post about Wandy.  7 more innings, 1 more run, and his ERA is STILL under 2.  Yes, it will eventually level off, but if you pick your matches properly, Wandy is well worth a pickup immediately.  Or perhaps in 4 days, so you don't waste a roster spot between now and then.

Scott Richmond - Not in capital letters just yet.  Richmond is on the up-and-coming list, with another fine start tonight.  It came against the Royals, though, so we'll wait a bit longer before picking him up.

David Aardsma - We noted recently that Aardsma would get a few saves while Brandon Morrow was out.  Well, Morrow's back...yes, already.  Oh well.  Hope you didn't drop anyone important for D.A.

Lidge Needs a Good Cry

Due to the timing of this article, we'll just launch into the list of relevant names, the first of which will explain the title.

RYAN MADSON - Philadelphia's lights-out setup man will be closing games for the next few nights, as Brad Lidge is suffering from a "sore knee."  Somehow, I think "sore knee" may be code for "broken heart" as Lidge blew a save not but a few days ago for the first time since he donned a Phillies uniform.  He shouldn't be out long, but without a knee to give Lidge some leverage, his pitches just wouldn't be as terrifying.  Pick up Madson for a short term fix.

TIM WAKEFIELD - I know, I can't believe it either, but now that Boston is winning every freakin' night, Wakefield should stand to benefit quite a bit.  He is eerily consistent for a knuckleballer, which is probably why he's been in the league for so long.  After 7 scoreless innings against the weak Indians offense, Timmy's ERA is all the way down to 1.87.  That will rise over time, and he'll always have a share of walks (due to that little birdie he calls a pitch floating away), but even an ERA in the 3's should be good enough to net Wakefield 13-15 wins.

JUSTIN VERLANDER - There is almost zero chance he's available, but after a horrid start to the season, there may have been an owner or two that sent him out to pasture.  The time is now to snap him up.  Verlander may not have the confidence he once possessed, but he still throws in the high-90's with a nose-to-toes curveball.  The strikeouts will always be big, the key is keeping runners from touching home.  When healthy and not out of his mind, Verlander can be one of the top starters in baseball, especially fantasy.

JOEL PINEIRO - is 4-0.  Just thought I'd mention another in the Cardinals Public Storage unit filled with pitcher reclamation projects.

BRIAN BANNISTER - Bannister took the high-powered Blue Jays, walked 6 batters, and still allowed just a single earned run over 7 innings.  He's been pretty inconsistent over the long term, but if indeed he's on a pitching hot streak, it might not be a bad idea to run him out there against his next opponent and hope the streak doesn't come to a chilly conclusion.

DEXTER FOWLER - Stole FIVE bases last night.  Yes, it was against Chris "Molasses" Young, but Fowler is showing his potential for greatness.  I'm not sure he can sustain the offensive numbers away from Coors', but if you have an open roster spot, or have been hanging onto 2 or 3 of the back-end bullpen arms in Milwaukee, it couldn't hurt to take a flier on Dexter.  In all likelihood, he's been picked up in your league already, so don't get too excited.

BARRY ZITO - He might actually be waking up.  The runs he allowed came in the 7th inning, 1 of which was an inherited runner for middle-reliever Merkin Valdez.  I'll be honest, I just wanted to type "merkin," which many of you know, is a pubic wig.  In any case, Zito seems to be "twittering" before and between his starts -- so if you want an inside track on how Barry's brain is functioning before you start him (or place a wager on him), start following old number 75.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Jamie Moyer & His Omega-3

It's really a wonder of modern athletics how a rickety old Jamie Moyer can continue to succeed at the Major League level.  Moyer improved to 12-1 lifetime against the Marlins with his overwhelming win today.  I would think, though I have no proof, that Moyer could be considered an idol or hero to a number of folks toiling in the Minors -- those hundreds upon hundreds of pitchers that were not genetically blessed with a 98mph fastball.  Heck, those hundreds more than can barely crack 82.  And believe me, there are tons of 'em.  As we speak, I'd wager 10-15 "soft-tossers" are debating their future in baseball.  Stick it out until they cut you, pal!

Two more wins in the sports wagering zone.  I've been doing some research across the web, and there are an awful lot of pages that boast winning records or sure bets or boast how much money they're making, but out of all the pages I've viewed, maybe 10% (at MOST) actually post each pick free BEFORE the game begins, and of those that do, only 25% (or so) have record of their bets.  I'm wondering what readers feel needs to be done to draw more attention to the fact that we have the most comprehensive, yet the simplest betting scheme of just about any site out there.  Also, you may have noticed the switch to the algebra-friendly "UNIT" variable.  All old documents have been updated with the variable, and no further changes should be needed going forward.  Some may scoff at this "word" appearing where a number "should be," but in an effort to be as thorough as possible, this is the best method.  Just put your "average bet" where the word "unit" is, and you'll have your winnings.  For example:

Average bet = u = $10.00
NBA Current Record = +10.5u (based on 49-35-2)
Winnings => 10.5 * $10.00 = $105.00


Now, open your books to page 42...

JORDAN ZIMMERMAN - We've done some fantasy features before on pitchers, and let me remind you that just because his name is in capital bold font, that doesn't mean go out and pick him up.  Zimmerman is very young, 2-0 in his short career, but I will admit he's been impressive.  The sky is truly the limit, but there will be some bumps.  If you're clinging to other young pitchers like Max Scherzer or Clayton Kershaw, Zimmerman may be the kind of pitcher you could pick up for those guys.  He appears slightly more polished, using both sides of the plate and economizing his pitch count.  He also snapped a Nationals road losing streak that was fluttering in the mid-teens.  All that being said, he's not going to pitch much better than he is right now -- feel free to run him out there for a start or two, or until he begins to even out.

DAVID AARDSMA - Brandon Morrow, the current Mariners closer, apparently complained about some mild shoulder discomfort -- uh oh!  Aardsma already has 2 saves this year, so you know the Mariners are confident in their backup.  With Trevor Hoffman taking the reigns back in Milwaukee, it's time to unload Coffey and Villanueva for Aardsma and hope for slightly better results.

JUAN CRUZ - We noted recently that Cruz would probably see the 9th inning with Joakim Soria out.  This update is to point out that Soria will not be back before the middle of the week, so Cruz has a few more games to try to nab a save or two.  Could be longer, too, as the Royals need not rush their star closer back to action sooner than necessary.

ADAM LAROCHE - I told you so.

ARMANDO GALARRAGA - All signs pointed to a disappointing sophomore campaign, but what the hell do I know?

KOSUKE FUKUDOME - His colossal implosion last season led to low expectations this year and Fukudome's draft status plummetted.  Lucky for all of us, since he's blistering the ball, and one of the few bright spots on a Cubs team that has struggled out of the gate.  Ride this horse until he craps out in August again.

JUSTIN MASTERSON - True, he's an injury replacement right now, but the Sox have a tubby starter named Brad Penny that won't last all season.  When Penny succumbs to his first love, "making drawrings," Masterson will surely keep his starting spot.  He's never going to be the kind of starter who mows batters down for 9 innings, but on a very good team, Masterson could easily go 6, give up 2 or 3 runs, and pile up the W's.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

I Wish the Title Could be the Theme to Baywatch

The closer situation in Milwaukee has been a point of disgust for fantasy owners thus far.  CARLOS VILLANUEVA was named the closer in the absence of the injured Trevor Hoffman, but proceeded to save one game and allow 6.50 runs per nine.  In walks Todd Coffey, who, for what it's worth, has pitched quite well in his scant few late-game opportunities.  Then, without warning, Villanueva's back in the 9th tonight.  Like many of you, my team has bounced back and forth between these two gentlemen, and until further notice, I'm just going to use them both.  That may not last long, as Hoffman is set to be activated from the DL tomorrow (Sunday), but may need a game or two to get back into closer shape.  I would have very much liked (as I'm sure you all will agree) for at least one of these two pitchers to hold it down for more than two or three days, but so goes the mayhem that is the 9th inning.

Elsewhere, DALLAS BRADEN in Oakland had another short, but excellent start, beating the Rays.  He's a gold mine, as far as sports betting is concerned, as the A's are consistently dogs and getting great odds.  From a fantasy perspective, he appears to be on his way to relevance.  Braden doesn't blend quite enough in terms of strikeouts, but his WHIP and ERA are both good, and the wins will come.  There are a few starters I'd pick up before Braden (namely, Jarrod Washburn, Edwin Jackson, and just about anyone in the Twins rotation), but Braden is next on the list.

If ever there were a night for a spot start, it would have been tonight, ZACH DUKE pitching at Petco Park in San Diego.  He came back to earth in his last outing, but no one scores in Petco, and Duke appears well on his way to a nice bounceback start.  He's right in there with Jackson, Washburn, and the Twinkies.

The shortest paragraph of the night is just a quick list of the Twins starters, all of whom have been pitching quite well: Kevin Slowey, Nick Blackburn, Scott Baker, Glen Perkins & Francisco Liriano.

And after days of waiting, we have a batter worth noting!  Take a moment, if you must.  A glass of lactose-free milk-beverage could go well with the news that GERALD LAIRD is dominating.  The Tigers will toss Matt Treanor out there every now and again, but Laird, who quietly put up solid offensive numbers while with the Rangers is just doing the same thing with Detroit.  He's buried in a 91-octane lineup, but he's hitting in the .340-.350 range, he's driven in 5, scored 11, and hit his first home run of the season tonight.  With Brian McCann hitting the DL due to eyesight issues, Laird could save your season.

Final notes: Zach Miner should NOT be owned, tendered, optioned, bought, picked up, dropped, or touched in any fashion.  If he has even one more start this good the rest of the SEASON, I'll be floored.  I also hope you enjoyed the easy Mavericks winner tonight.  Early games tomorrow, be sure to check the site around 11am EST for the Sunday picks.

Friday, April 24, 2009

More Injuries, More Confusion

Don't say you weren't warned. I admit, I ran out and grabbed Rafael Soriano of the Atlanta Braves when it looked like he was taking over as closer. Then, tonight, in comes Soriano in the 8th for the hold, and gives up a run to boot. MIKE GONZALEZ, drafted in most leagues, and dropped in very few for the reasons I mentioned in the article a few days back, got the save in the 9th, preserving another National League win for the highly skilled Javier Vasquez.

If you are the proud owner of Soriano, I recommend hanging on for the time being. Gonzalez could struggle at any time (tomorrow comes to mind), and Soriano will leap back into the saves discussion. He could grab a save or two even if Gonzalez remains the primary closer just due to circumstance. However, if you are pressed for lineup space, Soriano should be the first to go. Who should you pick up, you ask?

JUAN CRUZ, setup man for the Kansas City Royals, will be the acting closer until Joakim Soria returns from a sore shoulder. The Royals are downplaying the severity of the injury, and they may very well be telling the truth. In that case, Soria should be back by early next week, and Cruz may get one or two saves (max). However, shoulder problems, like oblique muscle pulls and lower back issues, can be trouble. They linger, loiter even, to the point that a pitcher may have to shut things down for a few weeks and get right. Especially a pitcher like a closer, who comes in, throws as hard as he can for 15 pitches, then ices like it's going out of style. Cruz is a hell of a pitcher, no matter what job he's got -- start confidently, and hope for a little saves chunk.

Sad, but true, that's all she wrote on the fantasy front. Nobody on the offensive side really jumped out today or over the last few days for that matter. We will, however, give our tip of the cap to a pair of names: Nick Blackburn & Brian Tallet, congratulations. You are our Friday winners.

While you're happily reading along, how about Zack Greinke? After starting the season with 20 consecutive scoreless innings and going 3-0 on a fairly mediocre Kansas City club, Greinke told reporters he thought he could do better. So, out he came tonight, tossing a complete game against the red hot Tigers, allowing just an UNEARNED run (so his ERA is still 0.00). Greinke is 4-0, with 36 strikeouts in 29 innings. Yowza!

As far as the high-risk right sidebar goes tonight, the sports betting record is starting to draw some interest. Baseball was at 10-3 coming into play tonight, and San Francisco is looking to polish off Arizona and help the site's editor to another victory. I was told that the site also recommended Cavs -5; too bad they didn't list it. Oh well, live and learn (and bet).

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Dirty Lowdown(s)

Yeah, I tried to get cute with the title.  What of it?  There wasn't a great deal going on tonight - just 9 baseball games on the short Thursday schedule.  Not to mention the majority of NBA Playoff games tonight were stinkers.  It called for some fancy footwork on the part of my editorial staff (me).

So, you read on, wondering "what's with the parenthetical 's'?"  Well, the focal point of tonight's post is the NEW Blue Jays' closer, SCOTT DOWNS.

Downs has been outstanding thus far this year.  He will lose an opportunity here and there to the likes of Jason Frasor, but with B.J. Ryan adding injury to insult (in this case, see, he was terrible, and now he's hurt, in that order), Downs should be good for 5-10 saves, maybe more.  He was ALREADY owned in both of my leagues, but you best make a quick snap n' grab before the rest of those vultures gnaw at the sumptuous closer dish.

Two starters that have been hovering near the bubble put up solid numbers again.  

WANDY RODRIGUEZ is DEFINITELY still under the radar, mostly because of his unfortunate 1-2 record.  But if you're deterred by record, I recommend you take a peek at Wandy's ERA, which is an astonishing 1.80.  Today, Wandy held the Dodgers to just a run over 6 innings in a losing effort, but if the Astros heat up mid-season like they always do, Wandy could be staring down the barrel of an 8 or 9-win second half of the season.  

EDWIN JACKSON, if the Tigers would play any defense, would be a top-50 fantasy player right now.  We'll see how tonight's game turns out, but as of the 5th inning, Jackson was pitching well enough to win (again...), but 2 errors behind him have led to a tie ballgame.   Things could obviously take a ferocious downturn in the 5th and after, but no matter how you slice it, Jackson's got the stuff, the mental toughness (which he decidedly did NOT have a few years back), and he's spotting his pitches.  *Update* The game has gotten a little ugly, and right on cue, TWO more errors behind Jackson.  I don't care how the box score looks, Edwin was taken out of his rhythm too many times by the terrible Tigers 'D' to be as effective as he can be. 

KYLE LOHSE is probably not a free agent in your league.  Just wanted to make sure his name didn't get lost in the shuffle.  If you're in a league that charges for moves, or a small league, he could still be available, and it looks like he's prime to ride the Cardinals offensive machine to at least 13 or 14 wins this season.

We had a few nice performances from two unexpected starters tonight.  We'll give them the fantasy tip o' the cap, but I wouldn't recommending picking up either Dave Bush or Adam Eaton.

Most weekend series kick off tomorrow, hopefully we can score a few nice betting lines.  Today's game was an easy winner after a lackluster Wednesday.  I don't care how much you're laying down, today's win takes our record to a robust 10-3 in the baseball season, and a combined 20 games over .500 if you rock the summation of 10-3 (baseball) and 48-35 basketball.  Let's say, hypothetically, you're a $10/game sort.  Let's make the goal 40 games over .500, so you can go out and get that 37" HDTV on sale at Best Buy.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Gloating for Dummies

I love it when it all comes together.

Just days after getting the Fantasy Sports, One-a-Day stamp of victory, Adam Laroche bashed 4 hits in 5 at-bats, scored twice and drove in his 10th run of the month.  If that wasn't enough, A's catcher Kurt "I'm not Ichiro" Suzuki slugged a 3-run shot off The Big Monopoly Man in the Bronx.  But fantasy-sport analysis is not about living in the past, it is about trying to predict the future.  So, I hereby reaffirm my recommendation on the two players listed above, and follow that up with these fiery champions of the diamond.

Before commencing list action, I'd like to draw the reader's attention to our new parent site - 

Over the coming weeks, this site will contain more and more mentions and graphics from that overseer, which will to a certain degree legitimize what we do here.  For real fantasy nuts, Baseball Fan Nation features weekly fantasy contests with cash and other prizes.  Feel free to check it out via the link contained herein, as the flash graphic in the right sidebar is currently having technical issues.

Now, the fellas:

Melky Cabrera - This is most certainly not a call to arms on Melky, since his playing time in a crowded Yankees outfield has been short of impressive.  Rather, this is just to serve notice that he's hitting the ball well, and may play himself into a more permanent starting role.

Mike Lowell - This one blew my mind.  Every year Lowell comes back from injury mid-season and rakes.  This year, he's healthy to start the season, and gets passed over in most leagues for scrotal sacks like Edgar Renteria.  Admittedly, they do not play the same position, but I can't fathom how Lowell isn't ranked higher.  He hits for average in a powerful lineup, and may be one of the most unheralded RBI machines in the league.  I'd pick him up if he's out there.  He's easily top-15 3B - probably top-10.

Brian Bannister - This one caught me by surprise, and I apologize.  Bannister's been following the normal learning curve, with an excellent '07, a poor '08, and now he's back in '09, looking to prove he's ready.  He is of the injury-replacement mold due to his low strikeout totals, but should post a decent ERA and won't walk many.

*BURNING EMBER* Todd Coffey - It's official, Carlos Villanueva is out as the temporary closer in Milwaukee. Trevor Hoffman is expected to return to the majors within a week, but that could mean 1 or 2 saves for Coffey, very important in Roto leagues.  You never know when ONE point could make all the difference.  Grab him, start him, and prepare to dump him once THE HOFF makes his return.  Going to be weird not seeing Hoffman in San Diego's defecate brown unis.

Braden Looper - 6 shutout innings, 0 strikeouts. It's sorta like starting Richie Sexson 3 years ago.  25 homers, .210 average.  If you can take the bad, the good is very good.  If you can't stomach the bad, maybe chug Pepto?

*SMOLDERING BRIQUETTE* Rafael Soriano - Things are a little loopy in Atlanta.  A great many fantasy owners have already mortgaged the farm to get their grubby hands on Rafael Soriano.  While it is indeed true that Soriano picked up a second save, it's tough to say who will get the call on any particular night.  Soriano hasn't been scored upon this season, which probably means he'll be the man for at least the next few chances, but Mike Gonzalez could slip back in when Rafael tweaks a knee.  Still, as was the case above with Coffey, one or two saves could make all the difference.  I'd mortgage the cow pasture, but not the whole farm, to get him.

Aaron Hill - If you didn't pick him up last time, maybe another 2-for-5 night will do the trick.

Joel Pineiro - See Braden Looper.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Everything's Gonna Be Alright

The Nationals aren't exactly an impressive club, but they're better than they looked through the first 11 games.  Now with back-to-back wins over division opponent Atlanta, the Nats are building a little confidence.  It didn't hurt that closer Joel Hanrahan lowered his ERA to just 6.43, and got his second save in a row despite allowing runners to reach 2nd and 3rd with nobody out.

I think perhaps it's the dynamic nature of baseball that makes it so interesting, not only from a viewing perspective, but also from the two angles that this site covers, fantasy sports and betting.  The Florida Marlins, after rattling off 11 wins in 12 games, rolled into PNC Park feeling dapper, and the Pirates slapped 'em around in two straight.  The aforementioned Nationals looked ready to lose 150 games, and have bested the Braves in each of the rain delayed contests.  It can make selecting a fantasy lineup exceedingly difficult, and generally, unless you have 4-5 hours a day to dedicate to mixing and matching, your best bet is to start your best 9.

The betting side might be the more relevant in this discussion, and it's just this unpredictability that makes an EXPLANATION so very, very important.  It's also why a great deal of sports bettors can get caught up in the madness, and continue betting on teams like the Marlins and Dodgers, even though a change of venue can sometimes make all the difference.  Here's hoping the Mariners can continue to play solid ball at home, since their venue DID NOT change.  That was the overarching logic behind today's pick.

On to the fantasy run-down!

Adam Laroche - Repetition is key.  Laroche picked up another RBI tonight.  He won't work wonders for your average, at least not yet, but AGAIN, the fact that he's comfortably in the mid/high .200's at this stage of the season bodes remarkably well.

Jose Contreras - Feel free to pour what's left of Jose through a colander, then dispose of chunks.

David DeJesus - Generally undrafted after a somewhat disappointing 2008.  If the Royals can score some runs, DeJesus will be doing the lions share of touching home.  As it stands, I'd give DeJesus a ranking of "Solid Injury Replacement" for your roster.  Don't pick up yet, but maybe soon?

Kurt Suzuki - Dropped by many after an extremely slow start, should make for a catcher with nice upside, and definitely can assist with making up lost starts if you're a Geovany Soto or Mike Napoli owner.  Need numbers to help?  Suzuki went 4-for-4 today in the A's road loss to the Yanks, and he's hitting .327.

Aaron Hill - I'm a believer.  After spending a few years in California's Central Valley, I thought perhaps I was brainwashed by pro-Hill propaganda, but he's wedged in a ridiculously good Toronto lineup, and even when his average drops a little (which it inevitably will from its current post at .365), he'll still have ample opportunities to drive 'em home and get driven in, himself.

Clayton Kershaw - A pitcher this young is bound to have an off day every once in a while.  I actually had a chance to watch this game, and to be perfectly frank, he wasn't pitching all that poorly; just got burned by some veteran hitters (named Tejada and Lee).  Kershaw was throwing strikes, trying to be efficient, but just wasn't changing speeds quite enough to keep the hitters off-balance.  He'll be okay, just consider the quality of the opponent when using young Clay.

Jarrod Washburn - Who saw this one coming?  Don't lie.  If any of you said so, you're nuts.  Once a 3rd starter barely worth his weight in mashed pertaters, Washburn is having something of a pitching renaissance.  Could also be that the Mariners seem to give a crap about winning.  Either way, I'm sold.  Gave up 2 runs in the first inning, then really settled in.  Washburn fanned NINE, though admittedly the Rays strike out more than your average squad.  Jarrod was also 11-3 career against Tampa Bay coming into this start, so you have to believe he had a little bonus confidence.

Sleeper Alert ERIC BYRNES - Hitting just a buck and a half thus far in '09 after a truly miserable 2008.  Another situation where I was lucky enough to meet Eric during his 2008 rehab assignment, and he couldn't even hit pitching in A-ball.  That being said, most people have forgotten just how versatile Byrnes was when he had his health.  A legitimate 30-30 candidate, even coming remotely close to those numbers again would make E.B. a starting outfielder on almost any fantasy team.  Keep your eyes FIRMLY fixed on Eric, because his timing could come back at any time.  That moment will probably coincide with Byrnes getting moved up in the D'backs lineup, and a few more scoring chances.

Conjured Relevance

Yesterday was supposed to feature a whopping 7 games, but as I'm learning firsthand, weather can be a real troublemaker (outside of California, at least).  Thus, our schedule was trimmed to 4, plus an absurdly late-running game in the nation's capital.  There were a couple NBA games last night to fill the void left by baseball succumbing to mother nature's whims, and at least one of the two playoff games was good.  Still, I can't help but feel like Boston is even worse for wear after WINNING last night, since it took a last-second three by Ray Allen.  If this is how hard the Celts have to fight to get even one win on their home court, Chicago appears to be in prime position to take the series.  Admittedly, it's still far from over, but the Bulls are playing with a certain swagger, a palpable confidence that should only swell when they get back to their nesting spot in Illinois.

On the baseball front, the short stack should allow us to break down the games individually on back-to-back days.  Don't get spoiled, though, this can't possibly last.

Red Sox/Orioles - The early a.m. Patriot's Day game in Boston turned into a blowout, and it's starting to look like the Sox are figuring out how to put a few in the win column.  Justin Masterson tossed 5 solid innings while attempting to stretch out his pitch count.  Tough to say if he'll stick in the rotation, but he certainly earned a chance if you asked me.  Put him on the watch list for now.  While the Sox are winning, Mike Lowell could also be worth a look.  He's a consistent performer, and a free agent in a number of leagues.

Braves/Nationals - Washington wins! The Nationals are now an heroic 2-10 on the season, but to their credit, they have been playing a bit better.  The bullpen blew leads in 3 straight before finally hanging on last night in a game postponed 3 hours by rainstorms.  The team of many Zimmerman(n) needed it bad, too.  Starting pitcher Jordan Zimmermann had a very nice debut performance, allowing just 2 runs over 6 innings.  There's an awful lot of hype surrounding young Jordan, and he very well may post some decent numbers before the league adjusts to him.

Marlins/Pirates - Florida was due to lose one, and the Pirates were the lucky bunch able to capitalize.  Ross Ohlendorf was the story in this game, blanking the Marlins (and holding the Fish to just 2 hits) over 7.0 sterling innings.  The Pirates have a formidable starting rotation, now that folks are getting healthy, and if they can continue to hover around .500 like they are now, those starters should be in line for some victories.  The key is to be judicious in how YOU start them.  Consider benching, say, Ian Snell, when he faces Albert Pujols and the Cards.  Offensively, Adam Laroche, the focus of our Saturday article, continues to put up ionospheric numbers (for him) in the early going.  Again, taken with a grain of salt, but Laroche, who hit just .175 last April, is still in the mid/high .200's, and collected another pair of RBI's last night.  He's available in most leagues, and should be watched like a hawk, or possibly even picked up if you need a 1B.  Hell, even his little brother cracked the Mendoza Line!

Reds/Astros - A game that meant absolutely nothing to anyone outside of Houston and Cincy.  Bronson Arroyo and Mike Hampton got together before the game and decided that they'd both pitch just about well enough to win.  Though, a rousing applause for the Reds, who are over .500 after 12 games.  Get the pen and paper ready, 'cuz it's time to write home about it.

Rockies/Diamondbacks - SOMEONE had to win this game, right?  Jason Marquis came back down to earth after two incredible starts, Jon Garland pitched "okay", and somewhere a fan of good baseball felt his insides die a little.  Mark Reynolds had a nice game swinging the bat, but I'm not convinced anybody that plays for a team with "On D Back" in the team name is worth using right now, except maybe Dan Haren.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Matinee Grab Bag

Let's just blow through all of today's games one by one.  Enter the almighty list:

Yankees/Indians - Nothin', nada, zip, zilch, squat.  No fantasy implications whatsoever.  A nice start for Carl Pavano got lost in the shuffle, but he is in NO WAY relevant, at least not yet.  Once upon a dream, Pavano was a dominant starter, and there is evidence to suggest that if his muscles, tendons and ligaments can hold up, he could be good once again.

A's/Blue Jays - 2 hours and 19 minutes of stale baseball.  Shutting down the A's was a nice accomplishment for the young Ricky Romero.  Shutting down the Blue Jays was even more impressive for Dallas Braden.  Unfortunately, he gave up one run and took the loss, but both of these starters warrant consideration if you're in desperate need.  In fact, the A's have a laundry list of young starters with high upside, but the offense has been too inconsistent to start any of 'em.  More on the unending "watch list" for me.

Brewers/Mets - Jeff Suppan lowered his ERA to just under 9, whoop-de-friggin'-do.  What's more important to take away from this game is that Carlos Villanueva did not get the save chance.  Could be fatigue; could be that he failed at life.  Trevor Hoffman is due back in one week either way, so the Brewers temporary bullpen fixes may be at the end of their respective ropes.  Time to abandon ship.

Marlins/Nationals - The Marlins just keep rolling, now a league-best 11-1, featuring ANOTHER 9th inning comeback, this time against Saul Rivera.  I don't believe this is a permanent closer switch, since Rivera was just as bad as Hanrahan, so don't do anything rash, just know the Nationals are as bad as ever.

Pirates/Braves - The Braves were due, really.  The Pirates had been straight clownin' on them, but neither of these teams is all that great.  Just happened that Atlanta's bats woke up today.  Poor Zach Duke had been off to a nice start this year, but was on the receiving end of this inevitable offensive explosion.  He's still worth monitoring, despite the rough go, but obviously not a fantasy starter just yet.  Javier Vasquez should excel in the NL - his stuff is just filthy.

Phillies/Padres - The Padres appeared to be on the brink of stealing another one from Philadelphia, but there was just one problem - Heath Bell was unavailable after pitching in (and saving) 3 straight ballgames.  So, the one run 9th inning lead quickly became a 1-run loss, and Philadelphia saved face against an eerily hot San Diego club.  Josh Geer made his first start of the season for the Pads and pitched very well, well enough that SOME may give him a look in fantasy leagues.  You, however, are smart enough to avoid him.  Young pitchers like Geer often have early success before the league adjusts.  Just wait, he'll get smacked around yet.

Red Sox/Orioles - A pitchers duel at Fenway between Jon Lester and Koji Uehara resulted in a 1-run Sox win.  Former Dodgers closer Takashi Saito got the save for Boston in Papelbon's stead, but again, don't rush out and grab him.  Papelbon was just taking a day off.  Otherwise, no news.

Rays/White Sox - Matt Garza got spanked, plain and simple.  Once again, the theme of the day is "Don't Panic."  He'll be fine.  Gavin Floyd got the easy win for Chicago and improved to 2-1 despite a rather unsightly ERA.  Floyd is a much better pitcher than he's shown so far, and I'd drop him onto the Watch List, if he isn't already taken in your league.  Though, upon inspection, it's likely that he is.  Paul Konerko continues his hot start, and is another name that MIGHT have been dropped before the season started (or avoided like the plague) due to his recent struggles.  Like Travis Hafner in Cleveland, Konerko could net you some nice pieces if used properly in a trade.  Or better, trade your current 1B for something you really need and slot Paulie K in as your own 1B.  This is not a drill, get Konerko now.

Reds/Astros - Edinson Volquez finally had a good start, but there's no way he's available in your league unless you're competing with your kid sister's 4th grade friends.  And even then, they probably got him by accident.  Felipe Paulino appeared in his first game since 2007 and pitched well, but like so many other young pitchers before him, he'll get his ass paddled in due time.  Don't pick him up until he levels out.  Or even better, don't pick him up at all.

Twins/Angels - Glen Perkins is getting my Sunday award for Underappreciated Excellence.  Sure, he got the win, but that put him at just 1-1 on the season.  Perkins should EASILY be 3-0, going 8.0 innings in each of his 3 starts, and allowing 1 run twice and 2 runs once.  If he's available, which more than likely he is not, he should be picked up IMMEDIATELY.  Otherwise, this game was a snoozer.

Royals/Rangers - NOW we know what teams need to break out of slumps; they just need to face Kyle Farnsworth!  Farnsworth has really parlayed one decent half-season into quite a career, considering he's hated in most every market he's played.  A succulent ERA of 19, an 0-3 record out of the bullpen, and 1.00 completely stupid pairs of goggles has Kyle in a league all his own.  What else happened in this game, you ask?  Vicente Padilla was terrible, Kyle Davies did the bare minimum, and Texas was just not quite as bad as Kansas City.  I was almost compelled to skip analyzing this game, except I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to punch Farnsworth in the metaphorical junk.

Giants/D'backs - I'm starting to think someone snuck into the D'backs clubhouse and replaced all the bats with pieces of bamboo and a very expensive hologram machine.  Just two years ago this team looked poised to compete for multiple years with all the young talent, but suddenly they just stopped getting better.  Based on the previous few sentences, it's safe to assume nothing offensively relevant came out of this game (or these teams, in general), but the pitching side is a different story.  Randy Johnson intimidated his way through 7 shutout innings, but has struggled mightily with any team that can make contact at the plate.  The real story came from the other team.  Max Scherzer hasn't quite figured out how to economize on the mound yet, but he will consistently strike out a handful, and if Arizona can get even 3-4 runs/game, Scherzer could go on a nice run.  He might be worth stashing on your bench, or at the very least watch closely.

Tigers/Mariners - Ramon Santiago, where did you come from?  Oh, Las Matas de Farfan.  I see.  Well, keep up the good work.  You can't be happy with his spot in the batting order (8th), but Santiago has 11 RBI's, and is batting a robust .320 so far.  This could be his coming out party, so don't be caught with your pants down if Santiago has himself a very nice year.  On the pitching side, Rick Porcello had a nice start, but that's all it is, one nice start.

Dodgers/Rockies - Most thought this was the game where the Rox might have a chance in LA.  Most were wrong.  Ubaldo Jimenez got shelled, as Matt Kemp went deep twice (one of which was a grand slam).  Most Dodgers are probably already scooped up in your league, and if you're one of the lucky managers with them, it's safe to start even fringe offensive players when LA is at home.  Time will tell how they fare on the road, but for now, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Russell Martin, Orlando Hudson, Rafael Furcal, Manny Ramirez and James Loney are all worth playing.  Casey Blake is hovering near relevance.  I'd hold off on Blake until he gets the average back up near his career numbers.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Start Me Up

We'll rotate through different themes depending on how the day's games shake out, but on this, the first day of the NBA playoffs, keeping the focus on a fairly humdrum baseball Saturday was a difficult task.  There were a few developments worth mentioning, almost all of them on the pitching front end.

Ian Snell - A lot of people have forgotten, Ian Snell was a very, very good pitcher as recently as 2007.  He battled through some injuries (physical and psychological) last season, and spent the offseason trying to get his game back together.  Then, Snell came out on April 7th and got his hind quarters walloped by the high-powered Cardinals offense.  That was enough for most casual fantasy observers to write him off.  But Snell bounced back, allowing just 2 runs over 6 innings in his follow-up start, before tossing a 7-inning gem tonight.  Snell, in my estimation, is one good start away from deserving a bench spot.  Remember, he struck out OVER 170 batters two years ago in just about 200 innings, so the ceiling is extremely high.

Wandy Rodriguez - Few pitchers have teased fantasy managers more often than this Astros southpaw.  I can't help but wonder how long until Barbara Walters does a special on his first name.  Perhaps the universe would collapse on itself.  I suppose we'll never know.  In any case, Wand-like Rodriguez dominated the lowly Reds tonight with 10 K's in just 7 innings.  His ERA is resting comfortably at 1.89, which unfortunately means a bad start is bound to come around, but he certainly has the stuff to fan a few batters, and keep an ERA in the mid 3's.

Edwin Jackson - As a Dodger fan, I cringe when I think back about his departure.  A (still) young, righthanded fireballer made a name for himself with the Rays, and has carried that confidence over to his first few starts for the Tigers.  I am extremely high on Jackson, just based on the electricity of his stuff, but it seems he's also learning how to pitch.  I'm so confident, in fact, that I will, right here, recommend not only picking him up, but getting him in there as a starter.

Kevin Millwood - Millwood is making his second appearance on this fantasy site, and despite losing to the Royals, Kevin had another fine start.  I will again note that his numbers will inevitably swell once the air heats up and thins out in Texas, but for now, his above-average fastball/curveball combo is keeping hitters off balance.

Doug Davis - I'm not sold...yet.  Fool the Giants, shame on you.  Fool your next opponent, shame on me for not picking you up.  Anyone can make San Francisco's lineup look like 9 of the kids coach forced to play "deep left" in tee-ball, but Davis has earned himself at least a "watch" status for his fine efforts.

Yankees - There's a Wang in New York that just ain't feelin' right.

Changing gears for a moment - we don't have an explanation yet, but B.J. Ryan pitched the 7th inning in Toronto's game with Oakland this afternoon.  Jason Frasor pitched the 9th and got the win, so definitely keep your ears and eyes open, as changes may be brewing in Toronto's bullpen.

I realize we're into baseball season now, but I simply can't restrain myself.  I watched all 4 NBA Playoff games today, and while most people are cooing about how amazing the games have been, I've been a tad disappointed in the execution of every one of these teams.  I don't feel like I really saw a COMPLETE performance by any of them.  The closest, I suppose, would have to be Cleveland, just because they clobbered their opponent, but even the Cavs looked apathetic on defense, knowing they could just overwhelm the Pistons whenever they pleased.

Hopefully tomorrow we'll see some cleaner games.  As an LA guy myself, I'm mentally stacking each of these teams up against the Lakers, and in day one, nobody came close.  I was especially disappointed in the Spurs, who played hard for one quarter.  As soon as the clock struck 8pm, they went to sleep and made a decent Mavs team look way better than they actually are.  The only explanation that makes sense for this phenomenon is that the early-bird special at Hometown Buffet just wasn't sitting right.  Memo to Spurs management: hire a man in a silly hat playing the xylophone.  Old folks love that.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Scooter Does

That's the answer to the question, "Who knows how to make Canada's nethers tingle?"

Movin' Up

Marco Scutaro has long been the expert utility infielder on Billy Bean's injury-plagued Oakland A's teams, but with his move to the great land of Canadia (did I get that right?), Scutaro's fantasy value has exploded!  Not only is he currently eligible to play 3 positions (2B, 3B, SS), Marco is batting LEADOFF in a thoroughly loaded Toronto lineup.  Coming into play tonight, Marco was the 13th ranked fantasy player, according to Yahoo's traditional 5-cat ranking system, and his game against his former team should only serve to move him UP the ladder.  Scutaro went 2-for-4, including a home run, and scored twice.  Still available in over 1/3 of all leagues, this very moment could be your last chance.

Chris Duncan is off to another hot start, and is showing the ability to hit both lefthanded and righthanded pitching.  The Cardinals are the top offensive team in the league, and Duncan is one of the big boppers.  The way we see it, if you're within 2 spots in the batting order of Albert Pujols, your numbers should be just fine.  I'm not recommending running out to grab Duncan, but certainly put the big Son of Dave on your radar.

Kosuke Fukudome, once again, appears ready for the Majors.  Makes you wonder if this import ran out of gas last year, was hiding an injury, or just ADORES the ridiculous chills at Wrigley in mid-April (chills, by the way, which caused Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez to lose feeling in his fingertips and throw 90% curveballs for an inning).  If you're a numbers guy, Fukudome is hitting .371 thus far, scoring 8 runs and driving home 9.  From where I sit, he looks ready to take his rightful place as a fantasy team injury replacement.  Maybe you accidentally lost a game or two from B.J. Upton to start the season - toss Fukudome in there on nights when B.J. isn't playing to make up that game disadvantage (roto only).

Driftin' Back Down

Latroy Hawkins enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame (literally; his inning took 15 minutes).  Hawkins picked up a save last night, seizing the opportunity left when Jose Valverde complained of back soreness.  The Astros were up a run in the 9th again tonight, but went back to their stud closer, who promptly served up not one, but two runs, and suffered the eventual loss.  Really makes you wonder if Valverde is fully healthy, but he's the closer in Houston, and the Astros aren't planning on changing that any time soon.  Sorry Latroy, back to the 8th with ya!

Aces are not making you feel warm and cuddly about drafting them any earlier than the 13th round right now.  Cole Hamels is flirting with an ERA in the 6's.  Justin Verlander gave up 4 more runs tonight.  Carlos Zambrano was asked to throw as many pitches as his cuboid frame could handle, and allowed 7 runs in 7 innings.  Of course, you can't BENCH these types of pitchers, for any night could potentially be a complete game shutout with double digit K's, but man if they're not asking for a fantasy night off.  So, from all of us sitting at home, exerting roughly one ten-thousandth the effort that you put forth on every pitch, "SHAPE UP, or we'll drop you!"

There.  We told them.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Something Sneaky

'Twas a short slate tonight, as baseball does tend to give teams Mondays and/or Thursdays off on occasion.  Fortunately, though, we have some red hot nuggets of information surging out of said short slate, mostly pertaining to closers.

Ryan Franklin - The closer role in St. Louis seems to be as desirable as a moldy head of lettuce.  Jason Motte was given a chance, and defecated on the pitcher's mound.  Dennys Reyes was tossed into a save situation against lefties, converted it, but apparently that was insufficient.  Then came Ryan Franlin.  The big righty had the closer's job for a substantial period in 2008, and was about as effective as a middle reliever should be closing games -- not very.  But, here we are, another year wiser, and Franklin is closing again.  He's converted both chances so far, and is still available in many leagues.  Dump an extra position player, and snatch up a potential 30-closer RP.

Huston Street/Manny Corpas - The closer deathmatch in Colorado that left fantasy nutjobs partially bald during the preseason is moving from "casual hair-tug" to "forceful yank," as Street failed to retire a batter in his last appearance (a non-save situation).  There hasn't been a formal change yet, but Corpas has been significantly better, if still lacking in results.  If you have a spare roster spot, or better yet, if you're stashing Fausto Carmona for 2011 (when he gets his "turbosinker" back, take a flier on Corpas and hope that Street lays a few more eggs.  And while we're discussing Carmona, if I hear Chip Caray refer to his fastball as a turbosinker one more time - and I'm talking about in my life, not just the next year or two - I will string him up by an XLR cable.  Carmona's fastball, which apparently is straight out of Street Fighter II, CHAMPIONSHIP EDITION, is not even in the top-10 sinkers in the league.

Latroy Hawkins - Jose Valverde is out for Houston with back soreness, and no one is quite sure for how long.  Unfortunately, back injuries are some of the most unpredictable, not just in sports, but in general.  Valverde could be 100% tomorrow, or he could miss 3-4 weeks.  If you think the situation is the latter, Hawkins is the man with the golden arm.  Latroy "Hiding the baseball is for sissies" Hawkins got his first save of the year tonight, and even if Valverde is completely healthy tomorrow, will probably see at least a couple more opportunities in the long run.  It's always a good idea to have one revolving spot on your roster for temporary fixes like Hawkins (or Carlos Villanueva in Milwaukee).  Having a full roster at all times can often leave you unable to make quick decisions and gain ground in particular categories.

That's Closers Corner for the night, and indeed it is a lonely little corner.  The featured man of the evening, and we teased it last night, is Pirates 1B Adam Laroche.  Normally one of the WORST Spring hitters in baseball, Laroche seems to have ironed out at least a few of his early-season woes.  Laroche isn't putting up mindblowing numbers, but his .294 average, 3 homers, and 4 multi-hit games is so far beyond where he has been the last few years at this time, it makes my eyes bounce inside my head.  At the end of April, 2008, Adam Laroche was hitting .174 with 1 homer and 5 batted in.  He still has half the month left (the season started later this year, too), and he has eclipsed all relevant values already.  If he makes his usual warm weather surge in July, Laroche could be looking at a .315 average, and 25-30 home runs.  I'd suggest waiting a few days, or as long as you think he'll be available, then grab him and sell him to the highest bidder come August.

In some hometown news for me, the Dodgers swept the Giants (and have won 5 straight).  Compound that with my $1,000 fantasy NBA winnings of last night, and I'm about ready to RE-post the "Jizz in my Pants" video.  I won't, but suffice to say that a sports-related smile is plastered across my mug.  In the hopes that I can do the same for you, here's a woman passing out:

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Baseball: Engage!

Feels almost like we're cheating on David Stern, doesn't it?

Fantasy basketball is, in my estimation, a truly underrated fantasy game.  The majority of folks have their allegiance to football, and I would never call that into question, but I'm just not sure I understand the aversion to NBA.  In any case, it's baseball time, a rotisserie extravaganza!

Baseball's early weeks are very different than those of the basketball season.  With fantasy basketball, your draft is generally only 13 or 14 rounds, but with the microscopic number of relevant players, the last 4 or 5 rounds are pretty much crapshoots.  Such is not the case with baseball.  First, there are usually almost double the number of rounds in the draft, and you have to start significantly more players every week.  The point I'm consciously dodging in this good-for-nothing paragraph is that with basketball, the first few days of the season are CRUCIAL to determining who that mysterious point guard will be in Milwaukee, or who will be securing the rebounds in Portland.  You might have drafted Charlie Bell, but 2 hours later realize you wanted Ramon Sessions (both guards for the Bucks).  In basketball, you'd pick him up!

In baseball, you MUST be more judicious.  Rarely can you tell how valuable a particular mid-range player is going to be from one day, or even one week.  Sure, the Diamondbacks Tony Clark stormed out of the gate, and we're talking about few strokes of the bat like claps of thunder, but only a madman would run out and drop a serviceable first baseman like, say, James Loney, just because Clark looked good on day one.  If you did, and you can still get your old 1B back, now would be a good time to do it.  Then deny it ever happened, and if someone goes to the records, reveal yourself to create a diversion.

So, please, exercise patience!

There are a few players that are in prime position to succeed after the first week and a half.  They have probably already been snapped off waivers (or drafted), but we'll rattle off a quick list that you can check against your league's Free Agents.

Nick Swisher - The Yankees ultimate utility man is batting .458 thus far, with 4 homers, 11 RBI, and 10 runs scored.  Generally, a hot streak like this one is followed by an equally intense cold stretch, and it'll come, but with Xavier Nady likely done for the season, and a host of other Yankees older than dust, Swisher should see consistent playing time.  Even when he evens out, a lineup like the Yanks will provide ample run-scoring opportunities for Swisher to remain valuable, and his ability to play multiple positions should help you when constructing a lineup.

Josh Johnson - Undrafted in BOTH of my leagues.  When I pointed this out in a public forum, my opponents were called "infants," as Johnson is well on his way to becoming one of the best pitchers in baseball.  He's probably gone by now, but if not, sell your soul to get him.

Kevin Millwood - Has been nearly unhittable in what appears to be another in a disastrous year of Rangers pitching.  When the Ballpark at Arlington heats up, though, beware.

Travis Hafner - The poor man's Big Papi, and something of a forgotten man.  Hafner battled shoulder issues for the past year and change, and lost the only thing he had going for him, his power.  Suddenly, it looks like it may be back.  Only eligible for the "Util" spot, Hafner can be a bit of a roster burden, but it's so early in the season, he may prove valuable as a trade chip even if he doesn't fit into your grand scheme.

Emilio Bonifacio - I actually had the pleasure of tracking this speedster when he was in the D'backs farm system.  He appeared to have a nice future as an 8th hitter who could steal some bases, but someone in Florida slipped Emilio some Frosted Mini Wheats.  At the top of the Marlins order, Bonifacio is getting on base HALF THE TIME, and has already scored 11 runs, and swiped 4 bags.  He'll cool off, much like Swisher, but a leadoff hitter will always have some value as a run-scorer.

Armando Galarraga - Two brilliant starts to begin his season has rocketed The New Big Cat up the charts.  Opponents average on balls in play seems a tad on the low side, which lends itself to the assumption that Galarraga will have a few bad starts, but if you're thin on starting pitching, and you can pick your matchups, Armando should fit in your plans just fine.

Again, those guys, because of the timing of this site, are probably taken in most leagues, but I felt ignoring their hot starts would be doing this site, and your teams, a disservice.  Remember, stay patient, don't drop anyone on a whim this early in the season, and keep your eyes peeled for injury news.  I realize it can be difficult to maintain a steady hand when there are so many players available, so I'd like to make a suggestion.  To keep from going mad, use these first few weeks to analyze your team's strengths and weaknesses.

All too often managers just blindly grab the players that look hottest, but if you're already destroying in homers and RBI, perhaps your time would be better spent trying to nab the next run-scorer off waivers.

Tomorrow - a look at one of the most loathed April fantasy players who just might have a season for the ages.

A Champion is Crowned

Take a deep breath - you made it to the finish.  Just a few short hours from now, every relevant game will tip off, and just 48 basketball minutes later, we'll have our annual fantasy champion.  Some of you may be able to rub it in your friends' faces, other may be collecting checks from a league commissioner.  Whatever league you're in, you have exactly 2 hours to gloat, and then it's time to buckle down and start watching baseball.  Can't afford to neglect the MLB for another day, or your team may fall to pieces in the early season, damaging later efforts to climb into the playoff picture.

First, before we get into the emotional mush, let's take a quick peek at some stars that may or may not get the evening off.

The initial indication 2 days ago was that the stars in Cleveland would not play tonight to get some rest, but now it looks like they'll log 12-15 minutes to help net a 40-1 home record and to blow a metaphorical kiss to the crowd on Fan Appreciation Night at the Q.  If you have Lebron, 18 minutes might still be worth it, compared to some of the scrubs you're looking at otherwise.  The rest of the team is hovering in "eh" neighborhood, and personally I'd rather play 40 minutes of Brandon Rush in Indy over 16 of Mo Williams in a game he should be skipping. *UPDATE* - the Cavs WILL get the night off.  Fan Appreciation Night will just have to be about Booby Gibson.

Chris Paul and David West will get parts of tonight's game off, as the Hornets seem content to fall into the 7th seed (assuming Dallas picks up a "W").  Paul and West have each been playing nearly 44 minutes per game over the season's final few weeks, because, well, they're the entire team.  I don't generally like the plus/minus tracker for when a player is on the floor, but Chris Paul's numbers are so absurd, Byron Scott has had literally zero choice but to play him the entire game.  Just like with Indy, 15-20 minutes of Paul and West is probably better than 35 minutes of whatever other PG or PF you might find on the last day of the season, but the lesser beings in NO should be tossed into the dumpster.

It looks like we finally have a read on the Suns plan to play starters for exactly half the game.  The Suns are hosting the Warriors, so marginal Phoenix players still deserve at least a look.  Nash is a definite start, and most of the Warriors should be in there as well, in a game that could push totals in the 280 range.

I could ramble on about benchings, but in an effort to save time (and keep these fantasy posts in the 4-to-5 minute zone, I'll simply state that if you have a question about a particular player or team, post a comment or send an email, and I'll be glad to do some research and get back to you.

On to tonight's strategy.  I hope you made a variety of moves yesterday, unloading any players that will do you no good today, and grabbing a handful of guys that excel in the categories you need to win.  In a personal example, I dropped Nene, who has been nothing short of outstanding this season, to pick up the likes of Ryan Anderson, because my team needed a boost in 3's, and has rebounds and blocks thoroughly locked up.  As always, never be afraid to start the WORSE basketball player who does BETTER in the stats that matter.  You get the same number of points for winning rebounds by 1 as you do from winning boards by 250.

As far as site polls go, it looks like fans have selected Kobe Bryant as this season's MVP.  I believe a great deal of this has to do with the fact that the majority of you are Lakers fans, but his season certainly deserves some recognition.  The bad news, for those of you who voted for Kobe, is that the award will almost certainly end up in the hands of King James, who led his team to the best record in the NBA, and is one likely victory over Philly away from a record-tying 40-1 home mark.  Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard all deserved some votes as well, but Lebron's efforts with a good (not necessarily great) cast of characters put him as the lead dog in the race for MVP.

The Daily Wager final tally is at 48-34-2, not a bad first half-season effort, if I do say so myself.  Hopefully we can improve upon that next basketball season, but at least if you put 10 bucks on every bet, you'd be up $106.  Go get yourself somethin' nice.  As you may have noticed, too, the baseball Daily Wager section has been altered slightly to account for the predominance of money line bets in MLB.  A simple win/loss record would not accurately convey the fluctuating odds on every baseball game, so instead we'll post the monetary results if you are playing $100/bet.  I don't expect many of you will actually be doing such, but it should give an accurate assessment of how the picks are performing.  I'll take more time to explain the math once we dive into baseball.  For now, just accept that it's one of the more thorough ways of tracking progress, and if you're putting only $10/game, you can divide our total by 10 to get your winnings.

Well folks, that about does it for the NBA season.  This has been one of the more compelling regular seasons that I can remember, the West boasting 8 supremely talented playoff teams, and the East, for the first time in almost 10 years, running 6 or 7 excellent clubs into the postseason.  Lakers in 6 to win the championship.  Write that down.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Avoiding 8th

It's almost unbelievable how many fantasy players are currently impacted by the desire to AVOID the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the playoffs.

The New Orleans Hornets, Utah Jazz and Dallas Mavericks are easily the 3 most directly effected by said playoff seeding race, but those 3 teams can make or break a number of fantasy team's results in the finals.  The #1 fantasy player on the planet, Chris Paul, is wedged in there, Dirk Nowitzki, Deron Williams, Jason Kidd, David West, Mehmet Okur, Carlos Boozer, and so on and so forth.  As it stands now, the Jazz are almost assured the 8th seed, barring huge collapses from both Dallas and New Orleans.  Utah would also have to beat the Lakers tomorrow, which makes their plight just that much greater.  That being said, the Rockets are currently leveling the Hornets, and the Mavs are stuck in a trench-battle with the Timberwolves.  If the Hornets lose and the Mavs win, they move back into a tie, which virtually guarantees that the stars on both of those teams will have to play on Wednesday.  Chris Paul owners just collectively let out an adulterous cheer for Shane Battier.

Other stars are mysteriously dropping.  Dwight Howard had a surprise night off, though it seemed inevitable that he would rest at SOME point.  The best advice I can give at this point is to collect all the information you can (which you are currently doing by reading this tequila shot of an article), then cross your fingers.  Know who is DEFINITELY going to rest; know who MIGHT rest and plan accordingly.

One of the key moves that very few Yahoo! fantasy players know about is that for many games the starting lineups are posted BEFORE the listed start time.  If you are diligent, and check a particular game's lineup 2-3 minutes before the start time, that can give you an indication of a potential DNP for one of your superstars.  Such was the case today for Dwight Howard -- refreshing the box score of the Orlando/Milwaukee game repeatedly leading up to game time showed that Marcin "New Ostertag" Gortat was in the starting lineup, and Dwight Howard could be benched for a healthy, playing center.

Lebron James and the NBA best Cavaliers knocked off the Pacers today, which both secured a nice betting win for our Daily Wager Zone, but also locked up home court for the Cavs throughout the playoffs.  Unfortunately, that means Lebron, Zydrunas and Mo Williams are set to bust out the chaise loungers on Wednesday.  Find other options if you've been relying on these sorts.  Despite the temptation to half-ass it, here is a list of the mid-level players that could easily step up and have monster games on the season's last day:

  • D.J. Augustin 
  • C.J. Watson
  • Chris Douglas-Roberts
  • Brandon Rush
  • Rodney Stuckey 
  • J.R. Smith
  • Andres Nocioni
  • Francisco Garcia 
  • Bobby Jackson
  • Sebastian Telfair
  • Mike Miller
  • Rodney Carney
  • Steve Blake
  • Travis Outlaw
  • Andrew Bynum
  • Louis Williams
In reality, if you're in the finals, you can probably pull up a list like that on your own.  You aren't generally the folks that need my assistance, which is exactly why I refrained from writing a paragraph about every player on the above list.  Good luck to your teams!

Some interesting news with regards to these fantasy articles, as well.  Your friendly, neighborhood fantasy guru has been enlisted to provide the good folks of BasketballFanNation with his infinite wisdom.  Stay tuned, as links to this page will be posted for your viewing pleasure in tomorrow's FINAL BASKETBALL POST.  We'll try to wrap up the site's efforts on basketball, and I would absolutely ADORE some feedback for the baseball season, as well as next year's basketball advice.  The page is for YOU, so your desires are those which must be met.  Comment, email, whatever - let me know what worked and what didn't!

Then, in the immortal words of the greatest broadcaster of all time (and an idol of mine) Vin Scully, it's time for Dodger baseball.

And Fantasy Baseball updates, as well.  I won't leave you all hanging.  But seriously, go Dodgers.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

How'd I Did

...and the Sunday recap...

Sunday Predicted:
  • Kendrick Perkins - 7 rebounds, 1 block
  • Wilson Chandler - 18 points, 2 threes, 2 steals, 1 block
  • Mario Chalmers - 1 three, 2 steals
  • Samuel Dalembert - 3 blocks
  • Anthony Parker - 13 points, 1 steal
  • Roger Mason - 12 points, 2 threes
  • Francisco Garcia - 1 three, 2 steals, 2 blocks
  • Jason Thompson - 10 rebounds
  • Spencer Hawes - 15 points, 9 rebounds
  • Mark Gasol - 7 rebounds
  • Trevor Ariza - 2 steals
  • Andrew Bynum - 8 rebounds, 1 block

Sunday Actual:
  • Kendrick Perkins - 6 rebounds, 2 blocks
  • Wilson Chandler - 21 points, 1 three, 1 steal, 0 blocks
  • Mario Chalmers - 2 threes, 4 steals (also added 15 points, 9 assists)
  • Samuel Dalembert - 1 blocks (12 rebounds a decent side bonus)
  • Anthony Parker - 18 points, 3 steals
  • Roger Mason - 22 points, 5 threes (the underestimation of the century!)
  • Francisco Garcia - 2 threes, 2 steals, 0 blocks
  • Jason Thompson - 11 rebounds
  • Spencer Hawes - 24 points, 8 rebounds (2 threes, and 3 blocks as well, but that's why he's not a free agent in most leagues...)
  • Mark Gasol - 8 rebounds
  • Trevor Ariza - 3 steals
  • Andrew Bynum - 5 rebounds, 1 block
Unfortunately, the rest of the way, stars will rest when you need them to play and play when you bench them.  Even the best strategy is powerless to overcome terrible luck over the next few days.  You CAN, however, swing luck slightly in your favor by making the prudent calls.  If possible, ignore the urge to throw a question mark into your lineup.  At this stage of the game (as in, the last 3 days of the FINALS), the single most important winner's strategy is to play as many games as your league allows.  Whether that number is 40, 50, 55, 75, whatever, don't get caught with your pants down on the season's final day with 4 of your 10 players resting for the playoffs.

With that in mind, I'll rattle off a quick list of potential replacements for the season's anticlimax.
  • D.J. Augustin - Raja Bell is hurt, and the Bobcats (narrowly) missed the playoffs.  A very successful season on the shelf for the young 'Cats, it's time to give the youth a chance to run the show.  Augustin started, played over 40 minutes, and posted 15 points, 8 assists and 3 threes in yesterday's loss in Chicago.  He should be a SAFE, yet high-upside play for his final 2 games.
  • Keyon Dooling - Devin Harris has a sore shoulder, wants to play through it, and just might do so, but no way the Nets let their star guard log big minutes.  Dooling was playing a good deal of SG even when Harris was healthy, and with the added minutes at the point, he should collect a few bonus assists on top of his decent scoring, 1-2 threes per game, and near-perfect free throw percentage.
  • C.J. Watson - Who?  An undrafted sophomore out of Tennessee, Watson burst into fantasy relevance with a monster game yesterday.  Jamal Crawford is expected to play Monday in the home finale, but Monta Ellis is out for the year, as are Corey Maggette and Marco Belinelli, leaving Watson as the team's only player with passing ability.  His assist totals for the season's final 2 games should exceed 6 or 7, and if Crawford skips the road finale on Wednesday, Watson might be expected to score 20 points as well.
  • Andrew Bynum - A big man looking to prove he's back?  Sign me up!  He hasn't blocked any shots since returning, but you can bet your bottom dollar Bynum is going to play with a fire in his belly.  He should be rested, too, after missing almost 8 weeks due to injury.  Obviously, we can't promise 20-10 nights, but Bynum's size alone should be enough to guarantee >50% field goal numbers, as well as a few rebounds every time he spends multiple minutes on the court.  The blocks may or may not return before the regular season ends, as Andrew learns to trust his knees day by day.  Still, Bynum is a sure bet to get minutes, as opposed to some big men out there that might take a night or two off (see: David West, Pau Gasol, Yao Ming, Tim Duncan, Antonio McDyess, Chris Bosh, and many more).
Hope this helps.  Tomorrow's post will take a peek at what to expect on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then Tuesday's post will wrap up basketball season!  I hope everyone is as ready for the fantasy baseball insanity.  As always...I'LL READ THE BOX SCORES IF YOU TAKE MY ADVICE!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

How'd I Do, Once More

One of these times I'm just going to predict everyone's numbers spot on:

Saturday Predicted:
  • Rodney Stuckey - 15 points
  • Jarrett Jack - 16 points, FT%
  • Rafer Alston - 6 assists, 1 three
  • Keyon Dooling - 12 points, 2 threes, FT%
  • Ryan Gomes - 20 points, 6 rebounds, 1 three
  • Mike Miller - 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals
  • Ramon Sessions - 12 points, 7 assists
  • Ronnie Brewer - 2 steals
  • Anthony Randolph - 7 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks
  • Kelenna Azubuike - 19 points, 3 threes
  • Andris Biedrins - 10 points, 5 rebounds, 1 block (should improve steadily over the final 3-4 games)
  • Steve Blake - 5 assists, 2 threes
  • Joel Przybilla - 9 rebounds, 2 blocks
  • Brian Skinner - 10 rebounds, 2 blocks
Saturday Actual:
  • Rodney Stuckey - 10 points
  • Jarrett Jack - 18 points, 3-3 FTs
  • Rafer Alston - 8 assists, 1 three
  • Keyon Dooling - 12 points, 1 three, 1-1 FTs (also added 10 assists for good measure)
  • Ryan Gomes - 13 points, 5 boards, 3 threes
  • Mike Miller - 9 rebounds, 9 assists, 0 steals
  • Ramon Sessions - 10 points, 9 assists
  • Ronnie Brewer - 0 steals
  • Anthony Randolph - 8 rebounds, 1 steal, 0 blocks
  • Kelenna Azubuike - 18 points, 2 threes
  • Andris Biedrins - 8 points, 9 rebounds, 2 blocks
  • Steve Blake - 5 assists, 2 threes (what a call by me!  Somewhere, former NBA player/coach and current unbearable color commentator Tommy "Tom" Heinsohn is awarding me a coveted TommyPoint)
  • Joel Przybilla - 14 rebounds, 1 block
  • Brian Skinner - 6 rebounds, 2 blocks
Featured Link of the Night

It's a repeat performer, but it has come in CLUTCH over the final few weeks of the NBA season, and that is the simple, yet so very pleasing...

If you punks aren't clicking on these links, you're missing out.  Free streaming basketball, good enough quality to track your favorite team or fantasy players, soccer (FUTBOL) from all over the globe, competitive feeds of network prime time cable shows, even golf!

Also worth mentioning, do continue to check out some of the links around the page.  Amazingly, I've found a few interesting pages by cutting and pasting the addresses of the pages of my advertisers - never clicking the ad myself, for fear of getting banned...again.
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