Thursday, 30 June 2011

Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: June 30, 2011

Why Baseball is Better Than Sex:

In baseball, nobody comments on the size of your bat, as long as you know what to do with it.


Baseball Book of the Month Club: June 2011. "Circle Change" by Gabriel Busch

In “Circle Change”, author Gabriel Busch attempts to fuse a love story with a profound tale of reflection and redemption. Luckily for the reader, he succeeds by connecting on several levels. Set against the backdrop of major league baseball dreams and aspirations, the novel has something to offer for just about any reader.

Make no doubt about it, “Circle Change” is a love story. What sets the novel apart is the allegories and layers embedded within the narrative. The recurring theme of love is prevalent on several key levels. The love of the game of baseball is something many fans can relate to and is an important setting for the story. The love between a man and a woman is a universal motif and firmly addressed. The love of the city of New Orleans is clear in the characters’ interaction between each other and the city in which they live. Most importantly of all, the novel fundamentally addresses the notion of self-love through introspection, grief, forgiveness and redemption. No easy feat but Busch seems up to the task.

The story begins with Traynor Hamilton, a minor league phenom pitcher in the Houston Astros organization fulfilling his lifelong dream (and destiny) to become a major league pitcher. Originally from the US Northeast, he toils for the New Orleans affiliate baseball team of the big league club and grows to love his adopted city. In the process, he befriends an older, wise mentor in the form of his friend Charles who is constantly espousing sage ideals and infusing Traynor with a zest for life. Upon seeing a beautiful woman outside of an art gallery, Traynor recruits Charles to assist in his quest to meet her. Once he is acquainted with Gracie, they fall in love not only with each other, but also with the city of New Orleans, with the notion of spiritual growth (attained through the practise of yoga) and with the idea of Traynor making the big leagues. And make the big leagues he does. Like any good morality play, tragedy befalls and sends the protagonist on a quest for answers, introspective reflection and, ultimately, redemption. 

The novel leaves a great deal of things unexplained at its conclusion. This is clearly by design as Busch is ultimately challenging the reader to determine an answer to the question: Is redemption possible? One can seemingly be guided by others in the pursuit of this answer but ultimately Busch is telling us that we can only answer that question for ourselves. The reassuring factor lies in the knowledge that we are never alone in our journey. Be it friends, family or seemingly random strangers, our fellow companions in the human race share our experiences, grief, pain and love.

The novel has lofty ideals indeed and delivers on most levels. Numerous grammatical and punctuation errors have occurred in the digitization of the novel but this is a problem easily rectified. In regard to effort, Busch deserves an “A” for his delving equally into the worlds of baseball, love, joy, grief and loss as well as an almost supernatural turn to the story involving Native American culture and spirituality. 

The style of the novel is heavily reliant upon conversation in place of detailed description and as such reads almost like a screenplay. This may be Busch’s intent as the story would play out very well on the screen. Regardless, Busch has positioned himself as an author with a unique voice with more stories to share. Time will certainly tell but his initial foray into storytelling with his debut novel seems to indicate he is well on his way.

NOTE: If you are interested in reading “Circle Change” by Gabriel Busch, it is available at Amazon and can be accessed (as all “Baseball Book of the Month Club” selections may be) through the sidebar on this website.

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Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: June 29, 2011

Pedro Guerrero, while playing with St. Louis, was asked about the team's decision to play his less-than-stellar defense in left field.

"Isn't that a mistake?," a reporter asked Guerrero.

"It's only a mistake if the ball's hit my way," he replied.


Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: June 28, 2011

In 1969, a reporter asked where light hitting Alex Johnson's power surge came from. "Last year, you hit two homers and this year you have seventeen. What's the difference?"

"Fifteen," Johnson replied.


Out in Left Field: Options for Your Fantasy Baseball Team

If you are involved in the type of league that requires your fantasy baseball outfielders to occupy particular positions, it makes a big difference when scouting the waiver wire and trying to determine trade possibilities. For example, some fantasy baseball leagues simply require you to have 3 outfielders. However, other leagues are a little more specific and require you to roster a team consisting of one each of a left fielder, center fielder and right fielder. Needless to say, that can make things a little more complicated.

Fear not, the state of left field is an interesting one and one that we will examine today. There are players on the rise, some on the down slope and others to analyze for a variety of reasons.

If you are looking for a player who qualifies as a fantasy baseball left fielder, based upon games played last season, who is also eligible at other positions, you might want to consider Brennan Boesch (LF, RF), Aubrey Huff (LF, 1B), Michael Morse (LF, 1B), Seth Smith (LF, RF), Howard Kendrick (LF, 2B) or Ryan Roberts (LF, 3B). Of course some of these players are eligible for the

Some left fielders can be considered elite and should be owned (or acquired via trade) in every fantasy baseball league. The elite LF players include Ryan Braun, Matt Holliday, Carlos Gonzalez and Josh Hamilton. If you need help at the LF position, do what you can to get one of these fantasy baseball stud players to shore up the spot.

If you are looking to target players who started the year very poorly (possibly due to injury) but may be good second half bounce back candidates, consider Carl Crawford, Martin Prado, Vernon Wells and Jason Bay. All have delivered in the past and all are capable of delivering again in the future.

If over-achievers are what you are looking for, there are several who qualify at the position such as Lance Berkman, Boesch, Melky Cabrera, Matt Joyce and Johnny Damon. All of these players have displayed much better than average statistics (by their standards). This of course brings the risk of statistical second half decline. If you are a gambler however, go all in.

If your league requires 20 games played at a new position in order to qualify to be slotted into your line up, there are a few candidates to keep an eye on. These players are nearing the 20 games played mark at left field in 2011: Juan Rivera (18 GP), Jason Bourgeois (18 GP), Marcus Thames (17 GP), Nelson Cruz (16 GP), Bobby Abreu (15 GP) and Charlie Blackmon (14 GP).

Whatever your needs, there are many options in the 2011 season as we approach the second half to ensure that your fantasy baseball team isn’t stuck out in left field.

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Monday, 27 June 2011

Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: June 27, 2011

As most people know, there is a baseball superstition that states you should never mention that a no-hitter is being thrown while in progress. It is considered to be bad luck and can curse the pitcher.

Kurtwood Smith (the actor who played the father on "That '70s Show") once gave an interview during a Colorado Rockies game. Asked whether he was enjoying the game, Smith mentioned that a no-hitter was being pitched (which there was). The very next pitch was a hit. 

Maybe they didn't have that superstition in the 70's. 

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: June 26, 2011

In 1985, the Cincinnati Reds' Pete Rose (a prolific singles-hitter) surpassed baseball legend Ty Cobb's record of 4,191 hits. Mickey Mantle, known for hitting home runs, remarked: "If I had hit that many singles, I'd of wore a dress."



Saturday, 25 June 2011

Fan or Fantasy?

I really love playing fantasy baseball. However, there is one little thing that always seems to complicate my enjoyment: being a baseball fan. Allow me to explain.

I am a baseball fan, no doubt about it. In addition, I am also a huge Toronto Blue Jays fan. I live less than an hour from the city, followed the team since I was a kid and was lucky enough to be on the streets of downtown Toronto in 1993 when Joe Carter hit the home run that started the biggest party I have ever seen. Things start to get a little difficult however, when you also play fantasy baseball

What is one to do when his favourite team is facing the starting pitcher from his fantasy squad? Who do I cheer for when a member of the Jays’ opposing team hits a home run and also happens to occupy the starting Left Field spot on my fantasy team? Being a fan can be so conflicting.

I guess I am pretty lucky in the sense that I currently have two Blue Jays on my current fantasy team. Unfortunately, one of them is Frank Francisco, the Jays’ on-again, off-again closing pitcher. With his wildly inconsistent ways, penchant for walking batters and overall tendency to blow saves, I often find myself trembling when I am watching a Jays game and Frankie starts warming up in the bullpen. I wish it was as simple as just dropping him from my roster, but it just isn’t that easy. For starters, he is a Blue Jay. I am a Blue Jay fan, so I feel a pang of guilt when faced with the idea of dropping him from my fantasy roster. Second, with closing pitchers at such a premium this year, I desperately need every save opportunity I can get. 

As I watched a recent interleague game, St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday hit a home run to tie the game in the sixth inning against the Jays. Normally, I would be upset to see the Jays lose the lead but since Holliday is also on my fantasy team and his home run put me ahead in that category, I didn’t know whether to be disappointed or to be happy (and suffer the guilt). 

Then I got thinking... This makes me MORE of a fan. Not only am I a Toronto Blue Jays baseball fan, I am also a fantasy baseball fan. Best of all, that makes me a baseball fan. You know what? I can live with that.
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Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: June 25, 2011

Today's Fun Fact is in memory of Peter Falk, one of the all time great actors. His narration as the grandfather reading the book to his grandson in "The Princess Bride" helped move the story forward and move the viewer in the process.

Peter Falk lost his eye at the age of 3. He didn't let this stop him from playing sports however. One game in little league after the umpire called him out at third base (and Falk was sure he was in fact safe), Falk took out the glass eye and handed it to the ump stating, "Here. You might need this".

Friday, 24 June 2011

First Half Duds..... Second Half Studs.

So far in the 2011 major league baseball season, there are plenty of players having sub-par seasons from a statistical point of view. What makes some of these players such a disappointment is that based upon their previous on-field performance, a lot more was expected of them. It’s one thing to have Emilio Bonifacio struggling on your fantasy baseball team. It’s quite another to endure the lack of production from a star player that was drafted near the top of your league.
The good news is that just because a player has had a poor first half of the season, it does not necessarily mean that they will continue to struggle in the second half. In fact, there are some players that have been very disappointing in the first 3 months of the season but may very well turn it around for the next 3 months. Identifying these players can help you target potential trade opportunities and even present a few “buy low” candidates to help out your fantasy baseball team.
Adam Dunn (CWS)
A top 50 pick in most fantasy baseball drafts in the spring, Dunn has really disappointed in 2011. With a slash line of .175/.314/.323, the White Sox are not getting much return on their investment and neither are his fantasy baseball owners. His slugging average is approximately 200 points lower than what you might expect. Despite this horrible start to 2011, players that average 39 home runs over the previous 3 seasons have the talent to turn it around. The question is: will Dunn find his groove in the second half? Lots of people are hoping he does.

Hanley Ramirez (FLA) -
Selected second overall in most fantasy drafts this year, Ramirez has failed to live up to his reputation. New Marlins manager Jack McKeon benched Hanley in only his second game back with the club. It seemed to work as Ramirez played very well upon his return and has shown renewed confidence hitting out of the cleanup spot. He could be in for a big post-All Star surge.

Dan Uggla (ATL)
Offering power at a position which is woefully short on sluggers, Uggla was an appealing pick entering the 2011 season. However, he has struggled mightily since joining the Braves in the off-season. Never known for hitting for a high batting average, “Ugly Dan” has been able to be counted on for 30+ HR and 90+ RBI for 3 straight years before this season. Batting a woeful .177 with only 10 HR and 23 RBI, one has to assume he’ll turn up the power in the second half.

Shin-Soo Choo (CLE)
A nice blend of power and speed has made Choo a fantasy baseball commodity for several seasons now. A DUI offense in the spring seemed to take its toll on Choo’s on-field focus. That, or perhaps he was so freaked out by playing for a winning club that he couldn’t get his head straight. Regardless, Choohas started to show signs of life at the plate and could have a very good second half.

Ubaldo Jimenez (COL)
Ubaldo punished hitters in the first half of 2010. He has been punishing his fantasy owners in the first half of 2011. He is a talented pitcher but seemingly unable to put together a consistent season. Maybe this year he’ll reverse the trend and have a dominant second half. Let’s hope he tones down the walks a little for that to happen.

Ryan Dempster (CHC)
After 3 straight season of 200+ innings and averaging 189 Ks and a 3.40 ERA over that span, Dempster has stumbled out of the gate in 2011. However, he has shown signs of improvement in several recent starts and has shown too much talent (and consistency) in the past to rule him out in the second half.

Joakim Soria (KC)
Even on poor Royals squads, the “Mexicutioner” has been very good over the past several seasons, with 42, 30 and 43 saves in 2008, 2009 and 2010 respectively. He got so bad early in 2011 that he pulled himself from the closers role. Since reclaiming the job, he hasn’t given up an earned run in 8 straight outings. Look for him to continue to regain form in the second half of the season.

Don’t always let first half swoons influence your decisions on a player. That’s the fun of fantasy baseball after all, finding those players that will turn around their season..... and yours!


Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: June 24, 2011

In 1973, the Pittsburgh Pirates forced pitcher Dock Ellis to put an end to wearing hair curlers on the field during practice.



Thursday, 23 June 2011

Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: June 23, 2011

"If I were playing third base and my mother were rounding third with the run that was going to beat us," legendary Brooklyn Dodgers manager Leo Durocher once remarked, "I'd trip her".

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: June 22, 2011

In 1995, Ted Turner's Atlanta Braves won the World Series. Jane Fonda (Turner's wife at the time) stated  "It's the most exciting day I've ever had..... with my clothes on!"



Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The Better Half: Fantasy Baseball Players to Target for a Second Half Surge in 2011

One of the more interesting statistics fantasy baseball owners need to evaluate on a regular basis is split stats. Whether determining fantasy baseball split stats in regard to lefty-righty matchups or home-road splits, figuring out baseball players’ tendencies can make or break a fantasy baseball season.

Much like there are “morning people” and there are “nighthawks”, it’s a known fact that some baseball players perform better in the first half and others put up better numbers in the second half. With the All Star break soon upon us, let’s take a look at some players you may want to target for the second half of 2011.

Wandy Rodriguez (HOU)
A notorious 2010 split season lands Wandy on this list. After posting a 4.97 ERA, 1.52 WHIP and 6.85 K/9 in the first half of last season, Rodriguez really turned it around after the All Star break in 2010 posting a 2.11 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and increasing his K/9 to an impressive 9.75. Although he has posted a very nice ERA so far in 2011, his 1.31 WHIP and 7.38 K/9 could see a boost in the second half. If he gets traded from a struggling Astros squad, things could get very interesting.

Bronson Arroyo (CIN)
Last season, Arroyo’s ERA went from 4.04 pre-break to 3.68 post-break, but that was nothing compared to 2009 when he had a 5.38 ERA in the first half (with a 1.48 WHIP) and dropped all the way to a 2.24 ERA (to go with a nifty 1.04 WHIP) in the second half. With his current ERA at an unimpressive 4.86 to start the 2011 season, he may be in line for another second half improvement.

Derek Lee (BAL)
Lee has made a point of having markedly better second halves the past few seasons. Last year, his pre-break slash line was .233/.329/.366 compared to .298/.373/.516 post-break. In 2009 the split was even more pronounced with a first half of .280/.354/.511 followed by a second half of .336/.436/.656. With only 4 HR and 18 RBI in 2011, let’s hope he can continue that trend in 2011.

Matt Holliday (STL)
In 2009, Holliday had a slash line in the first half of .276/.373/.419. After the All Star break that season he went .357/.420/.628. After some injury woes to start 2011, Holliday has been swinging the bat very well and the second half looks to be impressive for the Cardinals slugger. Once Albert Pujols returns to the line up, things will only get better.

Chad Billingsley (LAD)
After making the NL All Star team in 2009, Billingsley didn’t repeat in 2010 with first half numbers of 4.14 ERA, 1.39 WHIP and opponents hitting .269 against him. In the second half, he turned it on posting a 3.00 ERA, 1.17 WHIP and an opponents’ BA of only .219. With mediocre numbers to start 2011, the hope is he will follow last year’s statistical path.

Hopefully, by grabbing a couple of “nighthawks” for your roster, you may just have a good enough second half to make your fantasy baseball playoffs. Good luck!   

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Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: June 21, 2011

Baseball Sayings that Sound Dirty... But Really Aren't #2:

If Florida Marlins pitcher Brad Hand defeated Washington Nationals pitcher Chien-Ming Wang, the headline in the sports section the next day would read:

"Hand Beats Wang".

Monday, 20 June 2011

Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: June 20, 2011

Asked the age of his two elderly pinch-hitters - Vic Davalillo and Manny Mota - Los Angeles manager Tommy Lasorda shrugged.
 
"I don't know but somebody told me they were waiters at the last supper."


Sunday, 19 June 2011

Call to the Pen: Relief Pitchers Who Can Help Your Fantasy Baseball Team

Previously I had mentioned the benefits of using relief pitchers in fantasy baseball. Baseball managers often use their relief pitchers in situations (including spot starts) that exploit the advantages of those pitchers. For example, if a particular reliever has a great deal of success against right-handed batters, the manager may only use him in those situations. This can lead to some pretty good statistics for your fantasy baseball team. In addition, if a reliever gets favorable spot starts in the rotation, this too can offer a nice statistical boost to your fantasy roster. Also, with the closing pitcher situation often in flux on many teams throughout the major leagues, relief pitchers may be in line to take over the ninth inning role at any time. 

Let’s take a look at a few relief pitchers who may give your fantasy baseball team a much-needed “shot in the arm” (pun intended):

Daniel Bard (BOS)
The closer-in-waiting for the Red Sox, Bard throws hard. Really, really hard in fact. With an average fastball of 97.9 MPH, he is the perfect candidate for the 9th inning role in Beantown. If Jonathan Papelbon falters, Bard will step into the role. In the meantime, enjoy the WHIP, Ks and ERA he will bring to your pitching staff.

Mike Adams (SD)
With closer Heath Bell’s status in question for several seasons now (rumors persist that the Padres will trade him), Adams is the heir apparent for collecting saves in San Diego. For 4 seasons now, Adams has been one of the best set-up men in the major leagues. Dependable, consistent and reliable to hold a game close, Adams has put up a 1.81 ERA from 2008-2010. With a 1.17 ERA and 0.62 WHIP, 2011 is shaping up to be more of the same.

Jonny Venters (ATL)
Craig Kimbrel may be the primary closer for the Braves, but Venters is the premier set-up man in the game. With a 0.80 WHIP and 0.62 ERA, Venters has also been picking up a few saves recently. This is reminiscent of the Duane Ward-Tom Henke situation with the Toronto Blue Jays in the late 1980’s-early 1990’s.

Tyler Clippard (WAS)
After leading the major leagues in relief wins in 2010 with 11, Clippard leads MLB with 19 holds in 2011. Add to that an impressive 53 Ks in 41.2 IP, 1.94 ERA and .91 WHIP and you have one of the better relief pitchers in the game today.

Koji Uehara (BAL)
Remaining healthy has been the issue with Uehara, but when he pitches, he does so effectively. Kevin Gregg may be the current closer in Baltimore, but with a career ERA of 4.00 and history of bouncing from team-to-team, there is no guarantee Gregg holds down the job all season. Don’t forget, in 2010 Uehara took over the closer’s role in August and converted 13 of 15 save opportunities.

Regardless of which approach you take to filling out your fantasy baseball pitching roster, always keep in mind the benefit that a solid relief pitcher can bring to your team. They are often the “forgotten men” in baseball and in the fantasy world. By being one of the few fantasy owners to think of adding a relief pitcher to the mix, you just might be giving your fantasy baseball team the edge it needs.

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Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: June 19, 2011

Fidel Castro was once a star baseball player for the University of Havana, Cuba. 

Rumor has it that he never stole home, but he did "occupy" home. 

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: June 18, 2011

Baseball Sayings That Sound Dirty, but Really Aren't #1:

"The pitcher didn't like the way the batter was bent over the plate so he put it in his ear".

Friday, 17 June 2011

Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: June 17, 2011

Baltimore Orioles 1B/OF Luke Scott is a Major League idiot.

Sherman L. McClesky wrote an article over at the Bleacher Report which details some of Scott's views of the world around him.


Thursday, 16 June 2011

Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: June 16, 2011

In 1999, Garth Brooks attended spring training with the San Diego Padres and in 2000, he attended spring training with the Mets. Despite his best efforts, he managed only 2 hits and didn't make either teams roster.

At least he had 2 more hits than Chris Gaines.


* Garth Brooks photo by Steve Jurvetson (originally posted to Flickr as Garth Brooks) [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Oh! What a Relief! Bolstering Your Fantasy Baseball Team with Relief Pitchers

Most fantasy baseball owners put a lot of stock in starting pitchers. And they should. Lots of innings mean lots of strikeouts (unless you choose pitchers with low strikeout numbers) and a chance at some decent win totals as well. In contrast, there is also a lot of emphasis placed on closing pitchers. Again, for good reason, not the least of which is the fact that they are the sole contributors to an entire stat category (Saves, of course).

The forgotten men of the mound are the relief pitchers out there. Funny thing is, there are a lot of them to choose from and you know what? They just might be able to help your fantasy baseball roster. If you are in a deep league (I currently participate in a 20 team mixed league), relief pitchers can make some decent contributions to your fantasy team.

They have a few things going for them after all. First, they are often used in favourable situations. Managers will commonly use relievers while playing the odds with lefty-righty matchups. The benefit to you is that the relievers are often put in a position to succeed. Let’s face it, that’s never a bad thing in fantasy baseball. If you find yourself in a week where your starting pitchers have had less-than-stellar outings, a few gems from middle relievers can help ease the pain.

A second thing relievers often have in their favour is that they are often given the opportunity to jump into the starting rotation for spot starts. With baseball Managers loving to play the matchups, these spot starts can often be very favourable spot starts for you to take advantage of. Not only will you be taking advantage of a decent matchup, but most other Major League baseball teams have not had the opportunity to see a great deal of middle relievers in action and as such may not have a detailed “book” on them. This could lead to another small thing weighing in the favour of the relief pitcher. As we all know, every little thing helps in baseball as well as fantasy baseball.

The final (and perhaps most important) factor to consider in favour of relief pitchers is the possibility of them being able to step into the closers role for their team. This could pay off big time for you if you have a particular reliever on your roster. Be sure to keep a close eye on teams which have a shaky closer situation out of the bullpen and you might just be able to snag yourself a closing pitcher (and some much-needed Save stats in the process). There are more than a few examples of teams with precarious closing pitcher situations around Major League Baseball at any given time (think St. Louis, Toronto, Oakland and Houston just to name a few). There are examples every year of relief pitchers settling into the closing role for their teams even when they did not start out the year in that role. Some recent examples include John Axford, Jon Rauch, Ryan Madson, Chris Perez and Brandon League.

Keep watching the box scores and follow the daily team notes. You may be surprised at the gems you can dig up.

Next time out, I’ll take a look at some good relievers to target for your fantasy rosters. Do you have any in mind? Please add your thoughts to the comments section below.

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Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: June 15, 2011

Legend has it that Satchel Paige once sent all of his outfielders into the dugout for an inning - and proceeded to strike out the side.


In a related story, when the WKRP softball team played WPIG, the WPIG pitcher pulled his players in as well and Mr. Carlson got the game winning hit into an empty outfield. 



Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: June 14, 2011

Today is my wedding anniversary. I met my wife at an interleague baseball game 5 years ago.

2 things I love:
  • My wife
  • Baseball 

Yes, in that order.

Monday, 13 June 2011

2011 National League All-Star Picks


Last week I took a look at who I felt was deserving of consideration for the 2011 American League All-Star Team. This week, let's look at National League players deserving of the honor. The same criteria will hold true. These players are evaluated upon the season they are having thus far in 2011. Past statistics will be considered but preference will be given to those players at each position who deserve to be a baseball All-Star this year.

CATCHER
Brian McCann (ATL) – Hits for average (.307 BA), hits for power (10 HR), he drives in runs (39 RBI) and has played in 58 of his teams first 66 games. With Joe Mauer out due to injury, McCann is the premier catcher in the game today.

FIRST BASE
Prince Fielder (MIL) – Sure it's a contract year, but Fielder is delivering. BIG TIME. His 19 HR are tops in the NL and only 2 behind power-hitting machine Jose Bautista for the MLB lead. Fielder also has a whopping 58 RBI to go with his impressive .305 BA and a 'Ruthian' 1.013 OPS. This Prince is the King.

SECOND BASE
Rickie Weeks (MIL) – Funny what can happen when you remain healthy. For the second straight season, Weeks has avoided the injury bug and for the second straight season he has impressed at the plate. His 12 HR are tops at the position (in both leagues) and Weeks has shown speed with 7 SB so far, all while hitting from the leadoff spot. 

THIRD BASE
Ryan Roberts (ARI) – With injuries to David Wright and Pablo Sandoval (who was a shoe-in for the All-Star Team before he got hurt), the hot corner is up for grabs. Roberts has stepped in for the Diamondbacks with power and speed hitting in multiple positions in the D-Backs order. It's a shallow field this year, but Roberts has delivered.

SHORT STOP
Jose Reyes (NYM) – Reyes is back flashing the glove, swinging the bat and posing a threat on the base paths, with a Major League-leading .346 BA. Although he has only 3 HR, Reyes is 6th in the NL with a .921 OPS due to 19 doubles and an eye-popping 11 triples. Through in 20 SB and Reyes is a major player on the base paths in 2011.

OUTFIELD
Matt Kemp (LAD ) – After hitting only .249 with 19 SB in 2010, Kemp drew criticism in several circles. However, with 20 HR, 56 RBI and 14 SB in 2011 so far, Kemp is silencing even the staunchest disbelievers. Through in a slash line of .331/.411/.641 and Kemp sets the standard for NL outfielders in 2011.

Ryan Braun (MIL) – Not to be outdone by his All-Star-worthy teammates, Braun has clipped along at a pace of .309 BA, 14 HR and 48 RBI. His 14 SB have already matched last years total in less than half the number of games.

Lance Berkman (STL) – Don't tell Berkman it's not 2006. He's hitting like he did 5 years ago. His .619 SLG and 1.05 OPS are both good for 3rd in all of MLB. Sure, he had some recent wrist soreness requiring cortisone shots but it hasn't affected him as he has hit 5 HR in his last 8 games.

What are your thoughts? If you think there are more deserving players than these, let me know in the comments section below.

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Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: June 13, 2011

During a game between the Pirates and Brewers on July 9, 2003, Pirates first baseman Randall Simon playfully knocked over a female Italian Sausage Mascot during a "mascot race" between innings. He was then arrested and escorted from the park in handcuffs. His retribution? He apologized and autographed the bat for the mascot.


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Sunday, 12 June 2011

"Reynolds Rap"

As I have said time and time again, my favorite thing about fantasy baseball is how much fun it can be. Some players can provide their owners with a great deal of joy. Imagine the giddiness fantasy baseball owners experienced watching Barry Bonds crush his way through the Senior Circuit in 2001 (I was one of the lucky ones that year).

In contrast, some players can be truly frustrating to some fantasy owners. For several years now, it has been said that Mark Reynolds is one of the most difficult players to own in all of fantasy baseball. His propensity to strike out in bunches and hit for a low batting average (let’s face it, often a REALLY low batting average) can make him the type of player fantasy owners tend to avoid like the plague.

I respectfully disagree, however. For me, it’s players like Mark Reynolds that make baseball (and in particular, fantasy baseball) so darn much fun.

One of my favorite players of all time was Rob Deer. For the most part, Deer would either take a walk, strike out or hit a home run (and swing really,really hard in the process). In one memorable 1992 game in the old Metrodome in Minneapolis, Deer hit the roof of the stadium on a foul pop-up. No one had ever done that before. Not to let up, Deer promptly hit the roof with another foul pop-up in the very next at-bat. Some of his statistical accomplishments were truly mid-boggling. That is, until Reynolds came along and stole his thunder.

Rob Deer once held the honour (???) of having only 4 more points on his batting average (.179) than strikeouts (175) in a single season (1991 with the Detroit Tigers). I always thought this was so amusing simply because of how difficult it would be to accomplish. Of course, in 2010 Reynolds hit .198 with a staggering total of 211 strikeouts to shatter Deer’s accomplishment. Too much!

While some observers may feel that stats like these make a baseball player undesirable, I think they make a baseball player more likable. Okay, a .198 batting average is going to really hurt your fantasy team, but keep in mind that Reynolds has hit 44 and 32 home runs over the last 2 seasons as well. In addition, he throws in a nice bit of speed as displayed in 2009 with 24 stolen bases. 

Also, Reynolds is very streaky and can be prone to periods of power outages where he simply doesn’t hit anything. A good example of this was the first month and a half of 2011 where he hit 3 home runs. However, he is heating up big time into June 2011 having crushed 9 since mid-May. 

Third base is a very shallow position this fantasy baseball season. Having a character like Reynolds manning the hot corner for your fantasy team not only fills a hole at the position, it can make for some pretty amusing moments as well. After all, having fun is what it’s all about, right?

Do you like Reynolds? Hate him? Do you have another favorite fantasy baseball player (past or present) due to their ability to amuse and amaze? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the "comments" section below.
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Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: June 12, 2011

Former Boston Red Sox pitcher Bill "Spaceman" Lee was once asked whether he preferred grass to artificial turf. "I don't know," he replied, "I never smoked the fake stuff." 

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: June 11, 2011

"The Old Man and the C"


Yogi Berra - who read nothing but the sports section of the newspaper - was once introduced to Ernest Hemingway in a restaurant. Afterward, when asked if he had ever heard of the famous author, Berra replied "I don't think so. What paper does he write for?"



Friday, 10 June 2011

Fantasy Baseball Players Heating Up... Just in Time for Summer!


One of the keys to success in fantasy baseball is being able to spot the trends and then acting upon them. Obviously, it makes a lot of sense to watch out for players who are starting to heat up so that they may possibly be added to your line up through either a trade or the waiver wire. This is even more important when dealing with players that have gotten off to extremely slow starts so far in 2011.

One thing which all the following players have in common is that they all got off to a slow start to the 2011 season but are just now starting to really heat up:

 Carlos Pena (CHC)
After enduring an injured thumb earlier in the season which all but sapped his ability to hit for power, Pena has been on quite a tear lately. After hitting 0 HR in his first 25 games, Pena has come on strong hitting 8 HR in his last 28 GP. This hasn’t halted the trade rumours however. In a compelling post at Cubbies Crib, the case is made for the Cubs to consider a Carlos Pena trade. Regardless of where he plays, Pena should deliver on the power (although NOT on the batting average).

Mark Reynolds (BAL) -
Talk about a resurgence! After whimpering his way through the beginning of the season, Reynolds has turned it up big time. In his last 5 games, he is 5-for-15 with 3 HR and 8 RBI. In addition, over the last week he has a hit .294 which is absolutely Ichiro-like by Reynolds’ standards.

Raul Ibanez (PHI)
After a 0-for-35 dry spell, Ibanez has been clipping along at a .311 pace lately (41-for-132). He has been hitting particularly well at home recently with a .370 BA (27-for-last-73) at Citizen’s Bank Park.

J.J. Hardy (BAL)
Since returning from the Disabled List (where he landed because of a left oblique strain), Hardy has been hitting very, very well. He has even moved into the leadoff spot recently. He won’t steal many bases but the power is coming around to be sure. His last week at the plate: 6 R, 2 HR, 5 RBI, .400 AVG.

Gordon Beckham (CWS)
Left for dead in many fantasy baseball leagues, Beckham has had a nice little turnaround by going 11/37 (.297 BA) and hitting his first 2 HR of 2011.

Oh yeah, one more thing these players all have in common.... They all are on my fantasy baseball team. Think about adding them to yours as well. You won’t regret it.


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Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: June 10, 2011



Giants manager Alvin Dark once said of pitcher Gaylord Perry, "They'll put a man on the moon before he hits a home run." On July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon and a few hours later Perry hit his first, and only, career home run.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

2011 American League All-Star Picks


Picking players deserving of the All-Star team can be a dicey challenge. The argument is often made between picking a player who is hot in the first half of a season versus a player who has performed at a high level in the past. Since fantasy baseball is all about the here-and-now (what have you done for me lately?), I will piece together my list based upon current performance and who deserves the honour right now.

CATCHER
Alex Avila (DET) – Tied for 1st among AL catchers with 32 RBI, leading all AL C with .535 SLG (10th overall among all AL batters) and tied for 2nd with 9HR. For a team that boasts V-Mart, Avila is proving to be the real deal at the backstop position.

FIRST BASE
Adrian Gonzalez (BOS) – The numbers don’t lie: .335 AVG, 12 HR, 18 doubles and an AL-leading 53 RBI are impressive. However, it’s the eye-catching 142 total bases that tell the real story. With a .359 home BA, life at Fenway is friendly to A-Gone.

SECOND BASE
Robinson Cano (NYY) – Leading all AL second basemen with 12 HR and 39 RBI, power is the name of the game with Cano. With 5 SB to boot, he is the class of the position.

THIRD BASE
Adrian Beltre (TEX) – That .257 BA isn’t pretty but the 12 HR, 43 RBI (3rd best in entire AL) prove that Beltre is still a relevant offensive player. Furthermore, he continues to display a good glove at the hot corner.

SHORT STOP
Asdrubal Cabrera (CLE) – He has shown glimpses of excellence before but an injury-free 2011 has allowed Cabrera to shine. Playing for a rejuvenated Tribe only helps his cause.

OUTFIELD
Jose Bautista (TOR) – The best player in baseball is also a team leader who is great in the clubhouse. Hits for power and average and is a game changer in the line up. Didn’t he also split the atom?

Curtis Granderson (NYY) – Whether or not he can maintain his early season levels all year remains to be seen.  With 47 R, 17 HR, 41 RBI and 9 SB, Granderson is an All-Star in 2011.

Matt Joyce (TB) – While he has cooled off significantly lately, Joyce is among the top 5 in many key offensive categories including AVG, SLG and OPS. He deserves to stand among his peers at the Mid-Season Classic.

What are your thoughts? If you think there are more deserving players than these, let me know in the comments section below.

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Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: June 9, 2011

Filmmaker Michael Moore originally chose a different life path when he joined the seminary at the age of 14. However, he was not allowed to watch the Detroit Tigers play in the World Series on television so he dropped out.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: June 8, 2011

During a game in 2002, St. Louis Cardinal's outfielder Jim Edmonds shook hands with teammate Eli Marrero............. or did he?



For a good chuckle, check out this parody article over at The Cubs Brickyard.

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Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: June 7, 2011

Detroit Tigers pitcher Joel Zumaya is best known around the Major Leagues for being one of the hardest throwers, with his pitches often topping over 100 mph. However, he is no match for "Guitar Hero" as he once strained his arm playing the interactive video game and had to miss 3 of his team's games.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: June 6, 2011

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On April 8, 1974 Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth's career HR record. Aaron did it on the 4th pitch of the 4th inning in the 4th game of the 4th month while wearing uniform #44.



Sunday, 5 June 2011

Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: June 5, 2011

Legend has it that marijuana plants were found growing in a section of the outfield in Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA. Apparently, concert-goers to a recent performance by "The Who" at the stadium dropped marijuana seeds which sprouted plants. No word on if they were used as performance under-enhancing drugs.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

“K” it Forward or Put it in Play?

When analyzing fantasy baseball pitchers, there is often the tendency to highly value those who strike out a lot of batters. But is it possible to over-value this stat? Probably not, but it got me to thinking. Since part of the fun of playing this game is trying to pick out the fantasy baseball diamonds in the rough perhaps it’s worth looking at a few pitchers who might be under-valued by some fantasy baseball owners because of the low strikeout rates. If these pitchers are still able to add value in other categories, they might be able to help out your fantasy baseball team as well.

Let’s take a look at a few pitchers who may be somewhat under-valued in your league because of their lack of eye-popping “K” numbers:

Tim Hudson (ATL)
After returning from Tommy John surgery, Hudson put up some really nice numbers in 2010. His K/9 in 2011 is only 5.13 but his ERA (3.75) and his WHIP (1.10) would help out any fantasy roster.

Rick Porcello (DET)
Never blessed with high strikeout totals, Porcello has often been overlooked. His overall numbers are not bad (3.79 ERA, 1.31 WHIP) when you consider that the damage done against him has been contained to a few poor outings (especially in April). In 7 of his last 8 starts, he has yielded fewer than 2 earned runs.

Charlie Morton (PIT)
A K/9 rate of 4.90 won’t scare too many big league hitters to be sure. However, his 2.51 ERA is stellar and with 143 ground balls, he’s pitching to contact. Walks are issue, but if he gets those under control (0 in his last start), that inflated WHIP of 1.37 may start coming down.

Kevin Correia (PIT)
The first pitcher in the Majors to 8 wins is only owned in about 40% of fantasy baseball leagues. Many owners see his 3.99 K/9 rate and stay away but Correia is bringing more than K’s to the table. A 3.40 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 135 ground balls show that he is pitching effectively. Any fantasy baseball team could use a guy like this on the back end of their rotation.

Nick Blackburn (MIN) -
With a ground ball rate of 51% and a K/9 of only 4.52, Blackburn is putting a lot of balls in play which can leave him susceptible to bad outings (see May 30th against the Tigers). However, his ERA of 3.86 is very respectable and in his 5 other May starts, he didn’t allow more than 2 earned runs in any of them.

There's a really interesting article at Nick's Twins Blog about Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire wanting Francisco Liriano pitching to contact more often. Gardenhire took quite a bit of flak for his comments. It goes to show just how high a value is placed upon strikeouts as a key weapon in a pitcher's arsenal.

Do strikeouts matter that much? Is it possible to pick out some gems from the non-flamethrowers? Or are you just playing with fire?

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Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: June 4, 2011

In July 1990, Toronto Blue Jays outfielder, Glenallen Hill had a nightmare about spiders attacking him causing him to sleepwalk into a glass table which landed him on the disabled list. As a result, his teammates took to calling him "Spiderman".

Friday, 3 June 2011

Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: June 3, 2011

At Least it Wasn't "Dozen Egg Night".

On August 10, 1995, the Los Angeles Dodgers gave away baseballs to fans with outfielder Raul Mondesi's face on them. After Mondesi was ejected for arguing balls and strikes, the fans began throwing the balls onto the field. The umpires called the game and the Dodgers were forced to forfeit the game.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Fantasy Baseball Rules!

I will never forget the first season I got involved in fantasy baseball. The year was 1992 and my first pick was an up-and-coming first baseman from the Chicago White Sox named Frank Thomas. I was hooked. Following “Big Frank” that season and watching him rake his way through the American League is something I will never forget. I enjoyed baseball before that year, but that was the year I fell in love with the game. And I have fantasy baseball to thank.

Spending that whole season following box scores and checking the highlights to see how my fantasy team was performing turned me into a rabid baseball stats junkie. But it did much more than that. Fantasy baseball made me into a baseball FAN.

I started to follow the Detroit Tigers because my catcher was Mickey Tettleton. My love for the Blue Jays deepened because I had a young starter named Juan Guzman in my rotation. I pored over box scores for Red Sox games because I had Wade Boggs at the hot corner. In other words, I started to follow many teams and many players. In my mind, that is the definition of a baseball fan.

I didn't win my fantasy league in 1992. I learned that I wasn't the best owner in my first fantasy season, but you know what I did learn? That fantasy baseball is about one thing and one thing only..... HAVING FUN.

More and more as I have the opportunity to discuss and analyze fantasy baseball with other fans, I need to constantly remind myself that fantasy baseball really comes down to having fun.

John Marino over at The Fantasy Fix wrote a great article about introductory tips for fantasy baseball beginners. It got me thinking that the number one rule in fantasy baseball is to remember that it is just a game and can really complement the whole baseball experience.

I hear all the time about fantasy owners trying to work the rules in their favor, making unseemly trade offers to unsuspecting opponents and using loopholes in their rosters to try to win at all costs. The more I hear about these things, the more I think back to 1992 and remember how much I loved fantasy baseball then. And you know what? I still do. I just have to remind myself every now and then.
 
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Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: June 2nd, 2011

In the weird injuries to athletes category, Clarence Blethen of the Boston Red Sox took out his false teeth during a game in 1923 and put them in his back pocket. Later in the game, as he attempted to steal second base, the teeth clamped down on his buttocks and bit him, requiring stitches.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Baseball Fun fact of the Day: June 1, 2011

There have been many position players that have taken to the mound to pitch in a big league game. Some notables include: Derek Bell, Wade Boggs, Bobby Bonilla, Jose Canseco, Dave Kingman, Robin Ventura and Nick Swisher. Oh, yeah and some guy named Babe Ruth, who even managed to win a few games along the way.