Sunday, 31 July 2011

Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pitcher - July 31, 2011

Rubby De La Rosa (LAD) vs. ARI -


He has given up only 7 ER in his last 5 starts (38 IP) and has struck out 27 in that span. Expect a free-swinging Diamondbacks team to continue to struggle at Dodgers Stadium. So long as all those walks don't come back to haunt him, De La Rosa could be a good spot start here.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

The Walking Wounded: Forgotten Fantasy Baseball Players on the DL

Fantasy baseball is often a game of the “here and now”. Owners frequently concern themselves so much with notions like “what have you done for me lately?” that they can sometimes forget about those baseball players that are lurking in the shadows. 

Every baseball season, there are a number of players that spend a significant amount of time injured on the disabled list and 2011 is certainly no exception. With the nature of fantasy baseball being what it is, these players are often ‘forgotten men’. However, taking a closer look at some of these injured players may shed some light as to when they may return to action and possibly give your fantasy baseball team the edge over your competition, whether for a victory this year or looking ahead to next season.

Johan Santana (NYM) -
After undergoing surgery to repair the anterior capsule in his throwing shoulder, Santana has missed the entire 2011 season so far. However, he is now fully recovered and on a rehab stint in high class A St. Lucie. In his first start, he hit 89 MPH on the gun causing his rehab pitching coordinator to state that Santana could pitch at the major league level yet this year, however, the goal for now is to build up arm strength. Both Santana and the Mets would like to see him pitch for the big league club this season but all parties are being cautious. Keep an eye on a possible September return to give your fantasy team a boost down the stretch.

Brandon Webb (TEX)
Arguably the best pitcher in the major leagues from 2006 through 2008, Webb has not thrown a pitch in the majors since opening day 2009. Often baffling training staff and doctors alike, Webb’s injury simply was not progressing as expected. At every junction, he experienced setbacks. Over 2 years after the original injury, Webb will now undergo arthroscopic surgery on his rotator cuff August 1st. If you have been stashing him or hoping he might return to help out your team, you can start looking elsewhere. Webb hopes to return to the majors one day but it won’t be in the foreseeable future.

Kendrys Morales (LAA)
The 'S' Morales added to the end of his first name this season does not stand for 'sturdy'. After a fluke injury celebrating a home run last season, Angels manager Mike Scioscia rotated 9 players through the position in 2010. This season, Morales was expected to be ready to go for the season and return to his usual offensive production at first base for the Halos. After electing to undergo a second ankle surgery (which ended his 2011 season) on May 26 of this year, Morales has been replaced by Mark Trumbo with nice results. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Morales’ career in LA is in jeopardy but Trumbo looks like the cleanup hitter of the future. Morales’ contract is up at season’s end but he starts the first of his arbitration-eligible years. Wait and see what his status is rather than stashing him as a keeper for now.

Adam Wainwright (STL)
Entering this year, it could be argued that only Roy Halladay was a better option at starting pitcher than Wainwright from a fantasy perspective. However, a spring elbow injury required Tommy John surgery and changed his status for the 2011 season. Wainwright has returned to throwing and is even hopeful to return yet in 2011 should the Cardinals reach the post-season. Although there are several recent examples of pitchers returning successfully from this procedure (see Josh Johnson, Tim Hudson, Billy Wagner and others), experience dictates that the usual recovery period is 1 year. Often at that point, velocity is the first thing to return to the pitcher but control takes time. That being said, Wainwright may very well be worth adding to your team as a keeper for next season.

Stephen Strasburg (WAS)
Strasburg burst onto the scene last season for the Nationals and wowed just about everyone, especially fantasy owners. Then, he suffered an elbow injury requiring Tommy John surgery. As with Wainwright, Strasburg is hoping to return this season and it just may be a reality. September 3rd will mark the 1 year anniversary of his surgery and he has hit 95 MPH recently on the gun. It will take a minor league rehab stint to get him ready, but the phenom could return to the nation’s capital this season. Keeping in mind that a pitcher’s control is slower to return than velocity, Strasburg is still worth adding to your fantasy roster for a spot as a keeper for next season regardless of 2011 status.

Josh Johnson (FLA)
As frustrating as they come, Johnson may be the most talented pitcher in the game when healthy. Unfortunately for both the Marlins and his fantasy owners, Johnson just can’t stay on the mound. After missing time down the stretch in 2010 with back and shoulder issues, a further shoulder problem has shut him down for 2011. Although there is no apparent structural damage requiring surgery, Johnson is simply not worth the roster spot as a keeper for 2012. Leave him for another owner.

There are some players on the DL which offer an option for 2011, others that make for good 2012 keepers and some still that should be avoided. Knowing these players may just help set you up for fantasy baseball victory for this year and beyond.

..

Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pitcher - July 30, 2011

Alex Cobb (TB) at SEA -


Cobb was forced to leave his last start after throwing only 81 pitches due to a blister on a finger of his pitching hand. He managed to throw 7 shutout innings against the Royals. As long as the blister is not an issue, he will be facing the weakest offense in the game at a great pitchers park.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pitcher - July 29, 2011

Jeff Niemann (TB) at SEA -

Niemann is a good play and not just because he is facing the lowly Mariners defense. Niemann has pitched very well lately giving up only 4 earned runs over his past 4 starts (a span of 27.1 innings). He has also struck out 23 and walked only 6 over that span.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pitcher - July 28, 2011


Homer Bailey (CIN) vs. NYM -

Bailey has won his last 2 starts and looks to extend that streak against a New York Mets squad that is minus one of their best hitters after trading Carlos Beltran to the San Francisco Giants. Bailey may not dominate, but he should be a good spot starter for your line up.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Fantasy Baseball: Who's Running Hot & Cold - July 27

HOT


Justin Upton (ARI) -
Over the past 7 days, there has been no hotter hitter in baseball than Upton. With 3 HR, 12 RBI and 5 doubles while going 13-for-23, he is simply on fire.

A decent replacement or bench shortstop, Pennington has gone 12-for-22 with 2 HR and 8 RBI over the past 7 days.


Cameron Maybin (SD) -
Looking for steals? Maybin has turned on the afterburners in the past week, swiping 6 bags. Factor in a 11-for-24 stretch with 1 HR and 5 RBI and he has put together a decent streak.





COLD


B.J. Upton (TB) -
The polar opposite of his younger brother, the eldest Upton has just 2 hits in his last 24 at bats.

Trevor Cahill (OAK) -
The lustre of his breakout 2010 is becoming a bit tarnished. He's had an up-and-down season to be sure but a recent pounding in Yankee Stadium hasn't helped matters. In 2 IP, Cahill surrendered 9 hits and 10 ER while walking 2.

Travis Snider (TOR) -
Since moving over to center field, Snider has been scorching hot with the glove, but not so much with the bat. With a mere 4 hits in his last 24 at bats, Snider has cooled off considerably following a torrid streak after his promotion from Triple-A.

Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pitcher - July 27

Cory Luebke (SD) vs. ARI -
Don't let the lack of run support (and thus, lack of Wins) fool you. Luebke is for real. In 5 starts this season he has amassed 30 K's (to go with only 5 BBs) in 29 IP. Add to that a 1.86 ERA, 0.79 WHIP and .175 opponents batting average and you need to consider adding Luebke for this start and keeping him on your roster for good.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pitcher - July 26

Vance Worley (PHI) - Worley is sporting a 1.50 ERA at home (with opponents hitting only .171 against him) where he'll be facing a light-hitting San Francisco Giants line up. He's also on a hot streak with the Phillies winning his last 6 straight starts.

Change is Good: New Fantasy Baseball Features on "Dear Mr. Fantasy"

Writing for this site has been an amazing amount of fun. As I always say, the most important thing when it comes to baseball (or anything else, for that matter) is to have FUN doing it.

That being said, I am going to be concentrating fully on what brings many of us a great deal of fun and that is fantasy baseball.

Since I started the site in April of this year, I have included a "Baseball Fun Fact of the Day". These have been a lot of fun and have generated some pretty decent feedback. Although these facts amused and hopefully helped drive some new readers to the site, it is time to concentrate on the fantasy baseball articles that have been the driving force behind "Dear Mr. Fantasy" since Day 1.

So, thanks for your comments and thanks for the kind words regarding the fun facts. I hope they were able to put a smile on your face. One thing that for sure will help put a smile on your face will be winning your fantasy baseball league, so let's see what we can do about helping out in that regard.

I would like to mention that in addition to posting  the regular fantasy articles, I will be offering a few new features to help enhance your time spent here at "Dear Mr. Fantasy":

The "Fantasy Baseball Waiver Wire Pitcher" will be an ongoing featured item. For those fantasy baseball owners in daily leagues, this will address a pitcher available on the waiver wire in the majority of leagues that may help with streaming pitchers in and out of your line up (if you are into that sort of thing).

Also, "Fantasy Baseball: Who's Running Hot & Cold", will be a regular feature addressing players currently on hot streaks or those who are cooling off. Hopefully this wil help both in regard to the waiver wire as well as the trading block.

I hope these changes help to enhance the website and most importantly help you have some FUN playing fantasy baseball which helps us all better enjoy a sport we all love.

..

If the Innings Cap Fits: Which Pitchers May See an Innings Limit in the Second Half of 2011.

As we get deeper into the second half of the 2011 baseball season, it is time to consider which pitchers may be shut down early by their major league teams. This can have a huge effect on your fantasy baseball team in a number of ways. If your fantasy baseball team is in contention this year, you will most likely not want to have any players on the bench for the remainder of the season and therefore may want to consider trading away any pitchers with potential innings caps looming over their seasons. Conversely, if your fantasy baseball team is out of the running this year and you are looking ahead to next season, you may wish to trade for one of these pitchers as they could represent a good “buy low” opportunity and can be stashed as a “keeper” for next season.

Let’s consider a few pitchers that may be subject to an innings cap as we head further into the second half of the 2011 season:

Michael Pineda (SEA)
Entering the 2011 season, very few people felt Pineda would step right in and dominate in the Mariner’s rotation. He was projected as a possible number 5 starter but he has fit in as a solid number 2 pitcher right behind Felix Hernandez. Pineda has been dominant at times in the first half of 2011 but Mariners’ pitching coach Carl Willis has stated that Pineda’s innings will become an issue. The rookie’s innings were capped in 2010 when he fanned 154 batters in only 139 innings between Double-A and Triple-A. Consider also that elbow issues limited him to a mere 47 1/3 innings in 2009 and Pineda is a fantasy baseball red flag in the second half of this season.

Brandon Beachy (ATL)
In spring training, Beachy was ranked as the number 8 prospect in the Braves farm system, so it would be fair to say not a great deal was expected of him in 2011. However, after breaking into the starting rotation with a strong spring, Beachy has been another in a long line of young Braves pitchers to achieve success at the major league level. His innings have jumped markedly over the 3 seasons from 2008 – 2010 as he pitched 12, 76 2/3 and 134 1/3 innings respectively over that span. An innings cap of around 175 in 2011 wouldn’t surprise but keep your eyes on news out of the Braves organization as they are not openly talking about placing an innings cap on the youngster.

Jordan Zimmermann (WAS)
The Nationals see Zimmermann as their number 2 starter of the future and like their number 1, Stephen Strasburg, Zimmermann has had recent Tommy John surgery. He flashed glimpses of potential in 2009 and once again this season but with an eye to the future, the brass in Washington are said to limit Zimmermann’s 2011 innings to 160. At his current pace, this means he will be shut down for the start of September unless the Nats give him rest between starts to stretch that timeframe out by a few weeks. In either case, you’ll want to trade Zimmermann to a fantasy owner who, like Washington, has their eye on the future.

Jeremy Hellickson (TB)
Capped to 100 innings last season (between Triple-A and the majors), Hellickson’s ability to step in and help the big league club was one of the factors which made Matt Garza expendable. Although he has performed well in2011, Rays manager Joe Madden has considered moving to a six-man rotation in an effort to limit Hellickson’s innings. If Tampa falls out of contention in the competitive American League East, they may very well cap Hellickson with an eye toward 2012.

Madison Bumgarner (SF) -
After pitching only 121 innings combined from 2009-2010, Bumgarner is a concern entering the last 2 months of the 2011 season. A late season surge (including 2 post-season wins) proved that Bumgarner was the real deal last season. With a lop-sided blowout already in 2011 and the Giants not exactly favourites to repeat as World Champions, Bumgarner may find himself shut down early this September.

Jonathan Niese (NYM)
Niese showed promise at times in 2010 but wore down as the season progressed and saw his ERA increase in the second half. He has pitched well in 2010 but with the Mets’ season a write-off and injured starter Johan Santana hoping to pitch at some point in 2011, it would serve the team well to limit Niese’s innings down the stretch.

Jake Arrieta (BAL)
After pitching only 100.1 innings in 2010 and suffering a bone spur (which he elected not to have surgery to correct), Arrieta was a candidate to have his innings limited in 2011 straight out of spring training. After admitting to experiencing recurring problems from the bone spur, combined with a propensity to get hit hard recently (7 HR in last 4 starts), and Arrieta may indeed see an innings cap sooner rather than later.

If you are gunning for your fantasy baseball title in 2011, you may want to consider avoiding pitchers who may see their innings limited in August and September. However, if you are looking to add some arms for next year, these pitchers may just be the type of player you can acquire at a decent cost.

..


Monday, 25 July 2011

Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: July 25, 2011

Prior to his famous arm surgery in 1974, Tommy John jokingly asked the surgeon to 'put in a Koufax fastball'. After the surgery was complete, he stated, "They did, but it was Mrs. Koufax's!"



Sunday, 24 July 2011

Sabermetrics 101: Using Sabermetrics to Get the Fantasy Baseball Edge

Most people who play fantasy baseball participate in leagues which count basic statistical categories. Although actual league formats may differ (head-to-head, rotisserie, points leagues being among the most popular), the categories in which your teams compete are generally the same. Most fantasy baseball leagues will consider the following categories for batters: Runs, Home Runs, RBI, Batting Average and Stolen Bases. Often for pitchers, the important categories are often comprised of the following: Wins, Saves, ERA, WHIP and Strikeouts. However, when evaluating players for your team (at either the draft table or when considering in-season trades and waiver wire moves), it isn’t always enough to concentrate on these categories alone. 

Bill James and the statistical pioneers at the Society for American Baseball Research (or SABR, the acronym in which sabermetrics draws its name) have created a series of empirical methods for player evaluation that can be a fantasy baseball owner’s best friend. Although the categories discussed previously continue to account for the statistics by which most fantasy baseball owners are ultimately compared, by using key sabermetrics, one can get a better idea of which players may deliver traditional stats to your fantasy team. As any baseball manager or fantasy baseball owner knows all too well, each and every little bit of useful information may help in giving you a slight 'edge' and help you to pick the right player at the right time. 

To help 'de-mystify' some of the key sabermetrics statistics which may be of importance in evaluating fantasy baseball players, the following is a run-down for the uninitiated:

FIP
“Fielding Independent Pitching”. At its most basic, FIP takes into consideration the factors that a pitcher can control (home runs, hits and walks) and doesn’t consider the factors that a pitcher can’t control (how well his fielders actually field balls in play). It’s basically a version of ERA which considers how well a pitcher actually pitched. One of the nice uses of FIP is when pitchers change teams or see their current teams change defensive players behind them. The FIP stat can help you see how pitchers can be expected to perform independent of their teammates on the field around them. As the Hardball Times says, “"FIP helps you understand how well a pitcher pitched, regardless of how well his fielders fielded."

xFIP
“Expected Fielding Independent Pitching”. This is a version of FIP which ‘normalizes’ the home run component of the equation based upon league averages. Since home runs are basically related to fly balls allowed and home park, xFIP can be used to help determine a pitchers future ERA. This is particularly valuable to fantasy owners looking for an edge.

BaBIP -
“Batting Average on Balls in Play”. Whereas batting average takes into account the percentage of at bats which become hits, BaBIP takes this a step further to determine the percentage of balls hit into play which become hits. By removing strikeouts from the equation, BaBIP can be a good indicator of how “lucky” either a pitcher or hitter has been, based upon the number of balls the opposing defence was able to handle (or mishandle as the case may be). Since baseball is comprised of a long season where statistics often regress to the mean, BaBIP can often be used to predict a player’s future statistics. For a hitter with a BaBIP much higher than the league average, it may indicate a dip in batting average is due. Conversely, a pitcher with a low BaBIP rate may be predicted to see an increase in hits allowed in upcoming games. 

OPS
“On-Base Percentage Plus Slugging Percentage”. One of the most popular sabermetrics statistics in use today as well as one of the simplest, OPS combines two of the best metrics in determining a hitter’s value to his team. On-Base Percentage (OBP) is the ability of a player to get on base and Slugging Percentage (SLG) is the ability of a player to hit for power. As a point of reference, .728 was the average OPS for MLB in 2010. In his essay titled, “The 96 Families of Hitters”, Bill James devised the following categories for OPS:

Great-               .9000 and Above A
Moderate-          .8333 to .8999 B
Above Avg-         .7667 to .8333 C
Average-            .7000 to .7666 D
Below Avg-         .6334 to .6999 E
Terrible-             .5667 to .6333 F
Atrocious-           .5666 and Lower G

For the sake of comparison, the Toronto Blue Jays' Jose Bautista has a current OPS of 1.147. Chicago White Sox slugger and key offseason acquisition Adam Dunn’s current OPS is .592.

VORP
“Value Over Replacement Player”. This statistic measures the total number of runs a player contributes to their team compared with a “replacement level” player at the same position. This can be a good point of reference in determining a player’s value to his team and thus see which players can be expected to get the lion’s share of playing time at a position. For hitters, the ‘counting stats’ of fantasy baseball (Runs, Home Runs, RBI, SB) are directly related to playing time. For pitchers, VORP is determined as a measure of how many runs that pitcher has prevented being scored against his team (in comparison to a replacement level pitcher). In either case, a player's value to his team is the key measurable involved and can be useful in determining which players are more valuable than others on draft day or at the trade table.

WAR
“Wins Above Replacement”. Similar to VORP, WAR takes into account the value a player has to his team. However, instead of using runs as the measureable statistic, WAR takes into account how many WINS a player contributes to his team in comparison to a replacement level player at his position. It can be useful in comparing players WAR metrics in determining how valuable a player is to his team (and thus how likely he is to receive playing time).

ISO
“Isolated Power”. A rather simple metric, ISO is calculated by subtracting batting average from slugging average. This statistic represents a measure of a hitter’s raw power, or extra base hits per at bat. As a point of reference, Jose Bautista currently leads LB with a .356 ISO. The light-hitting Juan Pierre has a current ISO of .049.

Whether or not you perceive the alphabet soup of newfangled sabermetrics as being of any value to you in your fantasy baseball analysis, the bottom line is that these statistics certainly can’t hurt your chances. In fact, when it comes to competitive leagues.... each and every little bit helps.

..


Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: July 24, 2011

Colorado Rockies shortstop Clint Barmes once fell down some stairs and broke his collarbone causing him to go on the Disabled List. He lost his footing while carrying a package of venison given to him from teammate Todd Helton.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Dunn Like Dinner: What is Wrong with Adam Dunn?

Coming into the 2011 season, there was arguably no more consistent a player in all of major league baseball than Adam Dunn. When it comes to fantasy baseball, there is perhaps nothing more treasured to owners than a player that provides constant and consistent numbers, year after year. In a game where player statistics can veer wildly from one extreme to another, fantasy baseball owners often appreciate the opportunity to take a break from rampant speculation and go with a sure thing. And there was no more of a sure thing than Adam Dunn as fantasy owners approached the draft table this year.

After hitting exactly 40 home runs each season from 2004 to 2008, Dunn then cranked out exactly 38 home runs in each of his next 2 seasons. Changing teams and home ballparks had no effect on his production as he left Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark (a great home run hitter’s park) for Arizona’s Chase Field (a good home run hitter’s park) before playing his home games at the more spacious Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. With 81 home games looming at home run hitter’s paradise, Chicago’s U.S. Cellular Field, it looked like Dunn was going to easily repeat with another 40 home run season.

Also, having signed to be the White Sox designated hitter meant no more patrolling the outfield for Dunn, meaning he could concentrate solely on offense. This shaped up to be a perfect situation as Dunn certainly brought a prodigious amount of offense to the game (and precious little defence). In the modern “Moneyball statistical era, hitters like Dunn are the highest commodity possible. Dunn’s prodigious walk totals, extra base power and lack of speed make him the ideal player for the strategic model put forth in Michael Lewis’ book.

As of July 22, Dunn has hit a grand total of 9 home runs to put him in a tie for 50th in the American League in that statistical category. His 36 RBI rank 61st in the Junior Circuit. Dunn has never been one to produce an impressive batting average throughout his career, but a slash line of .163/.291/.301 is an abysmal offensive output by anyone’s standards. Consider his league-leading 125 strikeouts and you are looking at a season of epic proportions.... literally. The all-time worst batting average (among those with enough at bats to qualify) is Rob Deer, who hit a paltry .179 in 1991. Dunn would need to hit .210 the rest of the way to avoid Deer’s record. That doesn’t seem like much unless you consider the fact that it means he will need to achieve a whopping 47 point increase in his current average. The all-time American League record for strikeouts in a season is 197 (set by Jack Cust in 2008). Dunn is currently on pace to eclipse that record as well with a projected 205 Ks.

So where did it all go wrong? Some have suggested that becoming a full time DH has caused Dunn to falter at the plate. Never one to be confused with Willie Mays in the outfield, it is hard to believe Dunn has let his lack of playing in the field affect him so markedly. Others may point to the fact that the steroid era has led many to believe that a player who experiences a precipitous drop in power stats must have recently stopped taking steroids. There is also the fact that players decline as they age and some drop off astoundingly quickly (Dale Murphy comes to mind). 

Regardless of the reason for his stunning collapse, Dunn is in the midst of a historic season. Whether or not he ends up setting records for most strikeouts, worst batting average or worst slugging percentage is yet to be seen. The one thing that is certain is that Dunn holds the record for most fantasy baseball seasons decimated by a single player. Just ask his owners.
..

Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: July 23, 2011

Baseball players are notoriously superstitious but Jason Giambi has a funny way of busting out of a slump to be sure..... when he is struggling at the plate, he wears a gold lame thong with a flame-lined waistband under his uniform!!

Friday, 22 July 2011

Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: July 22, 2011

In 1990, shortly after the Rogers Center (then called SkyDome) opened in Toronto, an amorous couple staying in the hotel overlooking the field didn't realize (or perhaps didn't care) that the windows were not made of one-way glass. They treated the crowd of 50,000 to a display of their --ahem-- love for each other!!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: July 21, 2011

Like many baseball fans, St. Louis Brown's outfielder Curt Welch used to enjoy a cold beer during a baseball game. So much so, in fact, that Welch used to hide a case of beer behind the outfield scoreboard and drink beer while he played the field!

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: July 20, 2011

In the bottom of the 9th inning in a 1911 ball game, Washington Senators player Germany Schaefer stood on first base with the go-ahead runner on third. He stole second base in an attempt to draw a throw from the catcher and allow his teammate on third to try to steal home. The catcher never threw to second. So, with 2 outs, a speedy runner on third and a poor batter at the plate, Schaefer made an unusual move.... he stole first base.

Schaefer took off back to first base in an attempt to draw a throw from the catcher so his teammate on third could attempt to steal home. Although much to the delight of the crowd, the move did not draw a throw. However, the opposing manager came out of the dugout to argue the play and the runner on third broke for home... where he was thrown out to end the game!


Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: July 19, 2011

During a minor league baseball game at Jack Russell Stadium in 1985, organist Wilbur Snapp was expelled by the umpire. Why? 

He had reacted to what he thought was a bad call against the Clearwater Phillies - by playing the song, "Three Blind Mice."

Monday, 18 July 2011

Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: July 18, 2011

During his Presidency, there was hopes Bill Clinton would throw out the first pitch at a baseball game. A baseball spokesperson stated, "Normally, we'd ask Hillary because she's the one with the balls".

Backstop to the Future: Fantasy Baseball Catchers in the Second Half of 2011

One position that has often befuddled fantasy baseball owners is that of catcher. Usually, there are one or two elite options and the rest of the pack has often consisted of filler players that will hopefully provide a little pop, no speed and not destroy your overall team batting average too badly. Although there are still elite options at the position (no, not Joe Mauer), there are also a few catchers in the major leagues that are worth taking a flier on as well as a few to be cautious with entering the second half of the 2011 season. I recently looked at shortstops for the second half of 2011, now let’s consider some options at catcher.

Brian McCann (ATL)
McCann has proven himself as the class of his position. He entered the 2011 season with more HR and RBI than any catcher over the past 5 seasons. With vision problems corrected last year and a place in the middle of the Braves batting order, you can expect McCann to keep up his power pace. With .308-16-53 numbers so far in 2011 and considering that McCann has traditionally put up consistent numbers in both halves, the Braves catcher should easily continue lead the pack of catchers from a fantasy standpoint. If you can get him, do it. Then consider him serious ‘keeper material’ for the next several seasons as well.

Alex Avila (DET)
Avila seemed to come out of nowhere early in the 2011 season. However, after getting off to a quick start, Avila has faded recently. Never one to hit LHP, Tigers manager Jim Leyland will be looking to sit his young catcher a lot more in the second half, including more days off against RHP as well. Leyland recently stated, "Alex is going to need some time. You can take that to the bank. If we're not careful, we'll play Alex into the ground. He's going to need some time." This is not a player who will see an overabundance of playing time in the second half. If you have him, sell high. Fast.

Matt Wieters (BAL)
The much-hyped phenom has yet to live up to his advanced billing. He has provided some pop with 10 HR so far this season, but none have come with more than 1 man on base. Combined with the fact that he often hits in the lower part of the Orioles batting order, and his RBI numbers have suffered. An incredible defensive player, Wieters will most likely deliver a monster year yet. However, 2012 or 2013 are more likely candidates for the breakthrough season.

Wilson Ramos (WAS)
Blocked by Joe Mauer in Minnesota, moving to the Nationals in the Matt Capps trade was a perfect fit. Under the tutelage of Ivan Rodiguez, Ramos continues to display a canon for an arm and a knack for calling a good game. Better still for fantasy owners is his steady improvement at the plate. With virtually the same statistics as Wieters, Ramos will cost you a lot less in a trade than the Orioles backstop. If you need a little pop from your catcher, you would be well served to grab Ramos.

Russell Martin (NYY)
Trending downward for years now, Martin showed some life early in the 2011 season in a potent Yankees line up. One of Martin’s strengths was always his ability to deliver stolen bases from the catcher position. Although he has 7 SB on the season, he has stolen only 1 base since June 3rd and recent hip and knee injuries have limited his ability to run like he used to. The real value he brings to the Yanks is his ability to call a game (A.J. Burnett loves throwing to him) and block pitches in the dirt. These are admirable qualities indeed, but of absolutely no help for fantasy owners. With phenom hitting prospect Jesus Montero in the minors (and a possibility to be called up in September), Martin is not an appealing choice for the second half.

Kurt Suzuki (OAK)
Suzuki has been an appealing option at catcher the past several seasons due to the fact that he plays a lot of games behind the plate and has hit regularly in the middle of the Athletics batting order, thus producing good RBI numbers. Although he is hitting for the same amount of power this season, his batting average has plumbed depths exceeding his 2010 rate of .242. Hitting only .228 through mid-July, it seems that catching all of those games the past few years is taking its toll on Suzuki’s overall play. Consider the Oakland catcher as one to avoid in the second half as his number of days off are likely to increase.

Ramon Hernandez (CIN)
At a position where many fantasy owners hope to draft a player and hope he won’t hurt with his statistics, Hernandez can actually help out in batting average. A .297 hitter in 2010, he has hit at a .315 clip in 2011. Although he has been sharing time with Ryan Hanigan (and should continue to do so), Hernandez does offer a nice blend of batting average and some pop (10 HR so far). If you are looking for an inexpensive option at catcher who will help out rather than hurt your overall team stats, Hernandez is a pretty decent option and available on many waiver wires.

Take a minute to look a little closer at the catchers available in your fantasy baseball league and hopefully you will take some of the confusion out of this most unique fantasy position.

..

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: July 17, 2011

One day restauranteur, Toots Shor was talking with Alexander Fleming, the discoverer of penicillin.

Shor was informed by a waiter that Mel Ott, the manager of the New York Giants, had just entered the restaurant. "Excuse me, but I have to leave," Shor declared, turning to Fleming. "Somebody important just came in."



Saturday, 16 July 2011

On the Short List: Fantasy Baseball Shortstops in the Second Half of the 2011 Season

Are you wondering about your fantasy baseball options at the shortstop position for the second half of the 2011 season? If so, there are many options to consider. Some players are over-achieving, some are under-achieving and some are just noteworthy. I recently looked at fantasy baseball third basemen in the second half, now let’s consider some options for filling your shortstop position for the rest of 2011.

Playing the game with gusto, Cabrera has really turned his game up a notch. He battled through an injury-plagued 2010 season in which he put up less-than-spectacular numbers but 2011 has been a different ballgame altogether. Free from injury, he has been nothing short of fantastic so far this season. He got off to a hot start before fading, but with HRs in back-to-back games after the All Star break, Cabrera is shaping up to be a tier 1 fantasy shortstop for the remainder of the season.

J.J. Hardy (BAL)
Injuries have cut into Hardy’s production the past 2 seasons and the first half of 2011 was no exception. Shortstops with pop in their bat are rare indeed and Hardy has hit 25 HR as recently as 2008, so he qualifies as a source of power from the SS position to be sure. When healthy in the first half, Hardy has delivered. Not a prototypical leadoff hitter, Hardy has hit well out of the #1 spot this season. With no speed and an uninspiring OBP, he may be the Orioles only option at present. If he drops to the middle of the order, his fantasy numbers could get even better.

Dee Gordon (LAD)
After showing some decent speed atop the Dodgers batting order, Gordon struggled in June. With Rafael Furcal back from injury, Gordon was optioned to Triple-A Albuquerque to get regular playing time and work on his swing. However, with Furcal a possibility to be traded (or go down with injury again), Gordon could find himself the regular shortstop at some point in the second half of the season. Keep an eye on the Dodgers SS situation and consider adding Gordon if he gets recalled as he could offer some help in the stolen base department to your fantasy team.

Alexei Ramirez (CHW)
From May through August last season, there was no more valuable shortstop in the game than Ramirez. Particularly prized in AL-only leagues where there is such a dearth of talent at SS, Ramirez looks to be a stud in the second half of 2011. Although his steals are down, manager Ozzie Guillen should be looking to kick-start the White Sox running game in the second half, so expect Ramirez’ SB numbers to increase.  His career lows in the 5x5 categories are .277-15-68 with 65 runs and 13 SB. You’ll take that kind of production from the SS position any time.

Elvis Andrus (TEX)
After wearing down in the second half of 2010, the Rangers have taken to giving Andrus a little more time off this season and it seems to be working. With 26 SB (second in the AL) and only having been caught 4 times, Andrus adds a lot to the Texas batting order. He has been working on his walk rate recently, trying to get on base more. He realizes the value he brings to the team on the base paths and should continue to be a great source of speed and runs for your fantasy line up in the second half. Keep in mind that Andrus is young (only 22 years old) and the best is yet to come.

ESPN’s Fantasy Focus podcast has a running bit called “Bona Fide or Bonifacio” where the hosts decide whether a player is good (“Bona Fide”) or bad (“Bonifacio”). Although not bona fide, Bonifacio has been pretty darn good this year. Finally sticking as an everyday big leaguer, he has found a home at the top of the Marlins batting order. He could be a nice source of speed for your fantasy roster in the second half of 2011. His eligibility at multiple positions only adds to his value.

Whether you are looking for power, speed, average or runs scored, there are many options at the shortstop position to consider. Good luck in the second half and make sure to keep a close eye on the ‘short list’ at the position.

..


Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: July 16, 2011

Yankees Outfielder Bobby Murcer once said of knuckleballer Phil Niekro, "Hitting him is like trying to eat Jell-O with chopsticks".


Friday, 15 July 2011

Heating Up at the Hot Corner: Fantasy Baseball Third Basemen for the Second Half of 2011

As the temperature heats up heading into the ‘dog days of summer’, fantasy baseball teams will be looking for players which will heat up at many positions as well. The ‘hot corner’ has been anything but ‘hot’ so far in the 2011 season, as many players have battled through injuries and cold streaks, leaving the third base position rather shallow so far this year. Not to worry, there are several options for your fantasy baseball team after the All Star break to consider. Recently, I looked at second base options for the second half of 2011. Now, let’s consider some fantasy baseball players to consider (and some to avoid) in filling your roster spot at third base the rest of the way in the 2011 season:

Ryan Zimmerman (WAS)
Heralded by many as the ‘class’ of the position entering the season, Zimmerman has disappointed so far in 2011. An abdominal injury held him out of most of the first half of the season and this type of injury doesn’t portend well for his power numbers in the second half. Still a defensive dynamo, Zimmerman may no longer be the elite third baseman many felt he was. Batting only .214 since his return from the DL in mid-June, and with only 4 HR on the season, you may be best served by looking elsewhere for help at the position in the second half. 

Mark Reynolds (BAL)
The biggest knock against Reynolds has been his prodigious strikeout rates to go with a batting average that has often flirted with the Mendoza line. His .198 BA monstrosity from 2010 can be blamed partly on an injured hand. Although never one to challenge for a batting title, Reynolds did hit .299 in June and has hit at a .286 clip so far in July. The strikeouts are still there, but considering the fact that he has 20 HR on the season, Reynolds may be a real source for power in the second half.

Health has been an issue with Ramirez recently, but he did hit well after the break in 2010, producing a slash line of .276/.321/.526. Playing for a contract in 2012, Ramirez could be in for a decent second half this year. With Carlos Pena heating up and protecting him in the Cubs’ batting order, Ramirez could be one to watch after the break. At 32, he’s not over-the-hill, but injuries are a concern. If you like to gamble, he just may be worth it.


Chase Headley (SD)
Never one to impress with monster numbers, Headley is once again putting together a decent season. Although not a source of power, with 8 SB and a .305 BA so far in 2011, Headley is a solid option at third base that will not hurt your fantasy numbers overall. If you are looking for steady (if unspectacular stats), Headley is a middle-of-the-order hitter and a relatively safe bet the rest of the way.

Ryan Roberts (ARI) -
If you are looking to add some speed to your team from the third base position, Roberts is currently leading the pack with 13 SB. Add in 11 HR, and he has put up a decent first half, to be sure. He has lost some playing time to Sean Burroughs recently and has hit only .221 over the past month, but even from a pinch-hitting role, Roberts has delivered. When the dust settles after the second half, Roberts should regain his playing time and should contribute some steady numbers.

After getting off to a blazing start to the 2011 season, “Kung Fu Panda” was felled by a broken hamate bone in his right hand that caused him to spend some time on the DL. However, he did show up this season slimmed down by approximately 25 pounds which has re-established himself with both the Giants brass and fantasy owners alike. He is currently riding a 22-game hitting streak (only 4 behind Jack Clark’s team-record 26-game streak from 1978). No longer looking like he swallowed the Giants’ bullpen catcher, Sandoval is playing his way back to fantasy baseball relevance and should continue that surge in the second half of the season.

When looking at your options for third base in the second half of the 2011 season, there are several options. Since the position is relatively shallow, making the right move just might have you rounding the hot corner and ‘heading for home’ in the last few months of 2011.

..

Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: July 15, 2011

One morning in elementary school, the students were going to a geography class. The teacher wanted to show the students where cities and states are.


The teacher asks the class, 'Does anyone know where Pittsburgh is?'

Francis raises up his hand and says, 'Yeah, Pennsylvania.'

The teacher replies, 'Very good, Francis, now can anyone tell me were Detroit is?'

Rachel raises her hand and says, 'That's in Michigan.'
The teacher again says, 'Very good, Rachel.'


Trying to confuse the children, she now asks, 'Where's Kansas City?'
Ross raises his hand and says, 'Oh, oh, pick me, I know?'

The teacher says, 'OK, Ross where is Kansas City?'

'Last place.'


..

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Baseball Fun Fact of the Day, July 14, 2011

Former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda once said of slow-footed catcher Mike Scioscia, "If he raced his pregnant wife, he would finish third".

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Double Take: Second Base Fantasy Baseball Players for the Second Half of 2011

Entering the second half of the 2011 season it is time to consider your options at several positions for your fantasy baseball team. You may be looking to acquire players either through a trade or the waiver wire. Regardless of where you turn to for help improving your team, there are many options to consider. I recently discussed your fantasy baseball options at first base in the second half. Let’s concentrate on potential players to consider in filling your roster position at second base after the All Star break in 2011.

Gordon Beckham (CWS)
Like many of his White Sox teammates, Beckham has struggled in the first half of 2011. After showing promise late in the season last year, Beckham has once again started a season slowly. Perhaps this will become a trend with the young second baseman. If last year is any indication, he should have a decent (if unspectacular) second half in 2011. Last year, his slash line prior to the All Star break was .216/.277/.304. After the break he hit markedly better, putting up a line of .310/.380/.497 and doubling his HR output in the process. As his teammates in the Windy City improve in the second half, look for Beckham to follow the trend.

Dan Uggla (ATL)
“Ugly Dan” can’t produce stats quite as ugly in the second half, can he? Entering the break he was producing a mere .185/.257/.365. From 2008-2010, Uggla hit .390/.445/.710 at Turner Field, his new home park. While his power projects to his usual 30 HR, his peripherals simply have to improve in the second half. The concept of ‘regression to the mean’ virtually assures it.


Danny Espinosa (WAS)
Espinosa proved his many detractors wrong in the first half of 2011 by putting up elite fantasy numbers for a second baseman with 16 HR, 52 RBI and 12 SB. His power didn’t come as a surprise as he did hit 6 HR in 103 AB in the second half of 2010. It’s the stolen bases that have pushed his value over the top. Although he stole no bases in 2010, he did swipe 29 bags in the minor leagues the previous season. If you have the chance to grab Espinosa, get him.



Chase Utley (PHI)
Once the class of his position, injuries have now relegated Utley to a shadow of his former self. Last season it was a thumb injury and in 2011 a knee injury has cut into his productivity. The good news is that the knee problems haven’t seemed to slow Utley down as he has stolen 9 bases since his return. However, it is Utley’s power stroke that has all but abandoned him. Without the ability to produce at his past home run rate, Utley is riding on name recognition alone. Sell him if you can.

Aaron Hill (TOR)
Sure, everyone expected Hill to regress after his 2009 output of 36 HR. He didn’t surprise by dropping to 26 in 2010. However, losing 81 points on his BA was not expected and caused his fantasy value to plummet. Although he displayed some surprising speed early in the 2011 season, he has slowed down on the base paths as the season has wore on. With an OBP of a scant .279, don’t expect too many more steals either. Combine that fact with an abysmal power outage (4 HR in 2011) and Hill should be avoided at all costs.

Mark Ellis (COL)
Always a reliable player in the field, Ellis has brought little offense to the table throughout his career. However, he does have modest double digit power in HR and SB and a move to Coors Field is almost certainly to provide a boost in his production (proven by his torrid start with the Rockies). Playing time shouldn’t be an issue moving forward but he may best serve your fantasy team as a “sell high” candidate at this point.

You may want to consider waiver wire options at second base for the second half, depending upon your specific fantasy baseball statistical requirements.

For runs and stolen bases, consider adding:

When looking to consider making any moves in the second half, second base is a position that is worth a double take.

..

Baseball Fun Fact of the Day, July 13, 2011

Former Home Run King Hank Aaron once stated, "It took me seventeen years to get three thousand hits in baseball. I did it in one afternoon on the golf course."

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: July 12, 2011

You might say that L.A. Dodgers back up catcher A.J. Ellis almost didn't make the big leagues. His great-grandmother had a ticket to travel from Hungary to England but was late and missed her boat. The ship? The Titanic.


Monday, 11 July 2011

Baseball Fun Fact of the Day: July 11, 2011

The shortest player in MLB history was Edward Carl "Eddie" Gaedel, a "little person" who was only 3 feet 7 inches tall.

He had just one at bat for the St. Louis Browns in 1951 when the manager desperately needed a walk. Gaedel's strike zone measured just an inch and a half. He reached base on four consecutive balls.


His uniform number was 1/8.