Monday, June 30, 2008

Time to clear your head?

There have been times when we all get frustrated in this game.

Hitters aren't hitting. Pitchers are nibbling. Your average is headed south for the summer, while that WHIP is skyrocketing halfway to the moon.

And your team is dropping like a shiny heavy rock in the overall standings.

What do you do?

Sometimes, it's best to turn off the computer. Not for good, mind you. But maybe for a couple days.

It's easy to start making drastic pickups, wild trade offers, ridiculous managerial decisions.

Jason Bartlett for Derek Jeter? Ahhh, why not!?

Pick up Russell Branyan for Garrett Atkins? That sounds about right.


Psychologists will advise you to count to 10. Clear your mind.

Two days may be the fantasy equivalent. Just long enough for your slumping players to snap out of it. But not long enough to miss any key updates.

Maybe take your wife - or significant other - out to a movie. Get Smart is a good laugh, especially if you're a Steve Carrell fan.

But don't worry. The Fantasy Baseblog won't take a day off.

We'll be back tomorrow.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Butler called back up in K.C.

What went wrong with Billy Butler?

Too much pressure? Too high expectations?

For those of you who took a chance on the Royals seemingly can't-miss slugger, his demotion after the May 28 home loss to Minnesota was particularly frustrating.

Four times in the first week, Butler recorded multi-hit games, then only four more times in the next seven weeks, frustrating not just his fantasy owners, but the owners of the struggling K.C. franchise.

Butler, however, took his month-long trip to Omaha seriously, worked hard on his swing and in 26 games, after hitting .337 with 5 HR and a .417 on-base-percentage, he's back.

Called up in time to register one pinch-hit at-bat, Butler popped out to shortstop to end the game, a 9-6 loss to St. Louis this afternoon.

But the Royals have too much faith in the slugger who can hit basically any pitch thrown his way.

After striking out 26 times in 186 at-bats, Butler whiffed only 7 times in 101 plate appearances with Omaha and his 14 walks are also evidence that his plate discipline is improving.

Don't expect tons of pop from this true-to-form DH, but you could get double digits the rest of the way and he should be an RBI machine, maybe 40-45, if he can keep that average up around .300.

It's time to call the Butler again in almost all formats but the deepest ones. He's too good of a hitter not to get regular PT. 

Take a quick look at this clip from his days in Wichita. There's not much to see here, but listen to how the ball comes off his bat. 

The ear doesn't lie. You can always tell a hitter by the sound his lumber makes.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Update: YouTube video of switch pitcher

Last week, I blogged about Pat Venditte, the switch pitcher for Class-A Staten Island.

That's right, switch pitcher.

Venditte and Brooklyn Cyclones DH Ralph Henriquez were locked in a rare faceoff: Switch hitter vs. switch pitcher. With each sides changing back and forth several times.

Eventually, umps huddled and ruled each player could change sides once, but the hitter has to declare first.

Check out this Venditte vignette from YouTube.

If you have a cup of coffee and are relaxed or simply would like to watch a full-length version, check this out. This is an issue that won't go away and baseball's rule book will be modified likely quicker than we see instant replay.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Rays' Garza worth a flyer?

So, you saw the 1-hitter.

The 10 K's.

And your mouth started watering, ever so slightly.

You've checked out the game log. How he struck out 8 Astros last outing and 10 Rangers on May 28.

Still, something is keeping you from pulling the trigger on Matt Garza.

Believe me, you're not alone.

That 1.54 WHIP last season rings loud in your ear. Sure, his ERA is down to 3.76 but it was hovering at 4.10 before Thursday's masterpiece and that K rate of 46 in 74 2/3 IP doesn't make you pat down the goose bumps.

But if Garza's still available, here's a quick pro/con list to consider.

Pro: His WHIP seems to be under control with six straight games of 2 or fewer walks.

Con: His 10 strikeouts came to the Marlins, who lead the majors in Ks.

Pro: His minor league numbers support Garza being a top-20 pitcher.

Con: He plays in a division where he faces the Yankees and Red Sox 19 times each.

Pro: After seeing the Red Sox Tuesday, Garza won't see either Boston or New York until August.

Con: The Rays have two series each against Boston and New York in September.

In a limited-move mixed league, Garza finally got snatched tonight after I went back and forth on him the past 24+ hours.

But he could be the type of prospect that's really turning the corner and the recent high K rate is a good sign of things to come.

Don't drop someone with a solid track record, but if anyone's teetering on the fence, Garza him right off.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Interactive baseball cards?

A quick break in the fantasy world leads us to a revolutionary idea in baseball cards.

OK, revolutionary is a strong word.

But in this digital age, why not use the latest technology to upgrade the baseball card experience?

Click here for the latest in interactive baseball cards.

Now, you'll notice it stops short turning these cards into videos, which may be the next wave.

After all, videos and really anything multimedia, seems to be what's hot right now.

But ultimately, the interactive baseball card experience will come up short.

As great as things are in the digital age, there's nothing like holding a Honus Wagner or, more realistically, an Eddie Murray Topps rookie card.

That prize 1989 Ken Griffey Jr. Upper Deck card? Just not the same looking at it on your laptop screen?

Perhaps the baseball card industry is one thing that will never go completely digital.

Then again, instant replay is on its way to baseball, so maybe anything's possible.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Waiver wired: Add Branyan, Salty



Sure, the Milwaukee lumberjack has whiffed 28 times in 74 at-bats.

This, after all, is still Russell Branyan, master of the 450-foot HR and the swing-and-miss that can be felt from Sheboygan.

Still, if you're in the market for a quick and easy power fix, Branyan may still be floating on your wire, despite his 10 HR and 17 RBI since his May 25 call-up.

Braynan came up in the Cleveland organization and boasts six double-digit HR seasons on his resume, despite recording more than 217 at-bats just one time.

He appears to be getting all starts against right-handers, and currently sports a .297 average, but be very aware of his .231 career mark.

As long as he sticks in the OF, Branyan's almost a lock for a dozen HRs the rest of the season and hitting sixth in a strong lineup, he could record 40+ RBI, even playing 2/3 of the time.

And don't sweat all the K's. With every whiff comes a possible long ball around the corner.



Salty's stock rose tremendously on the news that Texas co-starting catcher Gerald Laird would miss 4-6 weeks with a left hamstring strain.

While we would never root for an injury, especially of the hammy variety, regular playing time is what was keeping Saltalamacchia from being picked up regularly.

Pre-injury, Salty was only good for roughly half the starts. Two games on, two games off. He couldn't even buy a start at DH or 1B.

But now, it looks like five starts a week and as the centerpiece of the Mark Teixeira trade last July, you know there's talent there.

Of course, his current line of 3 HR/.219/15 RBI is hovering around the Fantasy Mendoza line, the future looks bright and Salty has started six of the last seven games.

Rookie Max Ramirez has been called up to back him up and play some 1B, but unless he catches fire, Salty remains Option A in Arlington.

Could your backstop use an upgrade?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Can K-Rod save 60?

On April 27, a reader asked if Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez had a shot at breaking Bobby Thigpen's saves record of 57.

K-Rod had already missed about a week in that first month with an ankle injury, yet still had 10 saves.

Astutely, I gazed into my crystal ball and determined that K-Rod would fall 6 saves short with 51.

Fast forward to June 23 and we have Mr. Rodriguez nailing down his 31st save.

Remarkably, of the Angels' 47 wins, 35 of them have produced a save situation. I haven't spent much time drinking coffee in the Elias Sports Bureau, but that kind of ratio has gotta be close to a MLB record.

Scott Shields has recorded 2 saves with K-Rod converting 31 of his 33 chances. His other numbers have been stellar as well:  2.06 ERA/1.17 WHIP/33 Ks in 35 IP. 

Not to mention, opposing hitters are batting .174 against him.

What's this all mean? 

1). While it's hard to imagine the Angels can keep winning this many close games, the saves record is easily within reach.

2). My new prediction is K-Rod delivers 60 saves this season, breaking Thigpen's record with a week to play, likely Sept. 23 at Seattle.

3). It is possible K-Rod's arm completely falls off. But I doubt it.

4). Don't ever overpay for a closer. On almost every "expert" preseason ranking, K-Rod was no higher than No. 5.  You just never know who will explode. Look at the O's George Sherrill. He was ranked 20th or higher by most publications and he's recorded 25 saves with a good ERA/WHIP.

5). Obscure baseball trivia buffs may no longer be able to play the Bobby Thigpen card.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Weekend wrap: Live and let Dye

Is anybody in baseball hotter than Jermaine Dye?

On June 14, Dye's were a modest 10 HR and 27 RBI. 


In fact, I was contemplating dropping the White Sox slugger for streaky all-or-nothing power monger  Russell Branyan of the Brewers.

Exhibit A on why the move you don't make can save your season.

In the last week, Dye has ripped 6 HR and 15 RBI, over 50 percent of his previous power production for the year. All in one week. His average has gone from .281 to .297.

No surprise, he's the No. 1 ranked Yahoo! player for the past week.

The only Dye owners who haven't been completely overwhelmed with the 34-year-old slugger would be White Sox fans, who watched their North Side counterparts break out the brooms thanks in part to the second hottest hitter on the planet, Aramis Ramirez.

Fantasy Spin: Dye, much like the hitter's row of White Sox who disappointed owners greatly in 2007, struggled with 28-78-.254 numbers. While 28 long balls isn't Swiss cheese, owners expected more in the RBI/avg. department and he bounced around the waivers some. Don't expect a return to those insane 2006 numbers (44-120-.315), but you could easily get a 33-100-.285 final line. Nothing to sneeze at. But today may be the best sell-high day you'll ever see for Dye - or any player - so don't be shy to shop him.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Thrice is nice for Teixeira

Mark Teixeira, welcome back.

Just as fantasy owners were about ready to issue a Missing Person's Report in regards to the slugger's underperforming power, Teixeira launches three home runs Sunday, driving in four.

It was just the fifth time a player has hit three jacks in Turner Field history, most recently Alfonso Soriano pulled off the hat trick last season.

And just like that, Tex goes from a disappointing 10 HR thus far, to a serviceable 13. The Braves 1B also raised his average to .271 and pushed his RBI total to 55, which ties him for 13th place in all the majors with Ryan Braun, just 1 RBI behind Ryan Ludwick and David Wright.

But for seasoned fantasy players, a slow Teixeira start is par for the course. In 2004, he started so slow, he was booted to the waiver wire curb in the Observer league, before eventually hitting 38 HR that year.

For whatever reason, Tex is just one of those slow-starters, a rare breed whose career home run totals increase every month as the season wears on.

There's still a small window of opportunity to grab him below face value. But it's closing fast and if you're not careful, your finger might get caught.

Look for another mid-to-high 30s and 120 RBI for Tex so don't you dare sell low now. 

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Switch pitcher baffles switch hitter

Just when you thought instant replay was the biggest change going in baseball...

On Thursday night, Class-A Staten Island pitcher Pat Venditte showed us the real future in baseball.

Step aside, switch hitters.

Venditte is a switch pitcher.

As hard as it may be to try this at home, Venditte was raised ambidextrous by his father, from the age of 3.

But here's where it gets juicy.

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Brooklyn Cyclones DH Ralph Henriquez, after warming up as a lefty, stepped into the batter's box as a right-handed hitter.

Venditte, who wears a specially-made glove that will fit either hand, simply switched to a right-handed pitcher.

Henriquez, not to be outdone, switched to a lefty.

Venditte followed suit.

This chess game went on for a bit, before Venditte started walking toward the plate, pointing at Henriquez.

The umpires intervened and huddled for a ruling.

Apparently, the switch pitching article in baseball's handbook is somewhere on a cutting room floor. So the umpiring crew came up with this solution: A switch hitter or switch pitcher can each switch sides one time during an at-bat. But the switch hitter has to commit first.

Thus, advantage Venditte.

Henriquez fanned on four pitches as both played from the right side, but the theatre that night, likely in front of your typical sparse ninth-inning minor league crowd, would have been priceless.

Venditte could be the first modern era switch pitcher and he might also become a pioneer for little leaguers growing up today. Or at the very least, a byproduct of overzealous fathers.

Fantasy spin: What does this have to do with fantasy baseball? Likely, very little. But with all the lefty/righty platooning managers experiment with, trying to squeeze out an extra few on-base-percentage points, having a switch pitcher would throw some managers for a loop. If Venditte ever makes the majors, he may have quite an advantage, especially if MLB allows him to switch pitching arms mid-at-bat.

Guess instant replay isn't the only thing baseball will have to rule on.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Ramirez caps off wild Wrigley day

Now this is interleague baseball.

Cubs-White Sox.

Aramis Ramirez with a walkoff home run in front of 41,106 mostly-rowdy, partly-drunken fans at Wrigley Field.

On a day when the wind was blowing out to center, it was a home run fest and a fantasy feast ... well, as much as a 4-3 game can be.

Hated catcher A.J. Pierzynski hit No. 5. Jermaine Dye and Derek Lee each hit their 15th jack. Both are keeping up their better-than-drafted numbers (sell high?).

But the day belonged to Ramirez, who just like most years has been largely disappointing going into the middle of June.

After a home run on Tuesday in Toronto, the Cubs suspiciously-trimmed down slugger now has a dozen dingers, 47 RBI and a .293 average.

Ramirez simply gets more comfortable at the plate the higher the sun. July and August historically are his best power months and June, July and August are his highest batting average periods.

Translation: The window is closing to get A-Ram at a discount. One more multi-HR game and you'll have to pay full price, i.e. 3rd/4th-round value.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Mailbag: Breaking down Chipper

Fantasy mailbag:

Now that Chipper Jones has hit No. 400, how many of his home runs have come from each side of the plate?

Not surprisingly, Chipper's power surge has come predominantly from the left side of the plate.

Left-handed: 321
Right-handed: 82

But the Braves 3B has a stronger HR from the right side (every 22.9 at-bats) of the plate than the left (16.4). He has just seen about three times more right-handers throughout his career.

Chipper hit his 16th long ball of the season this year, driving in his 45th RBI in a 5-2 win over Texas.

His power numbers aren't quite on pace with Chase Utley and Lance Berkman to realistically chase the triple crown, but don't rule out a push at .400.

Nobody honestly thinks he can become the first player since Ted Williams (.406 in 1941) to hit that hollowed mark.

Still, it'll be fun to watch.

Fantasy spin: Chipper's value is at an all-time high, so he's an obvious sell-high candidate, but he might be so obvious that other folks will shy away from matching his current price tag, fearing a serious injury. Still, it doesn't hurt to shop him around.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Tigers' Thames...going, going, gone

So, you're looking for power?

Join the crowd.

Seems like anyone who even has warning track power is taken in deeper leagues.

But what about Marcus Thames?

We've been hearing about the 6-foot-2 right-handed swat master since he racked up 10 dingers in 165 at-bats with the Tigers in the 2004 season.

But we also look at that career .243 average and wince.

Lately, however, you can't ignore what Thames is doing, winning a regular OF job with 7 home runs since June 7. In fact, he's 7-for-28 with all 7 hits going yard.

And the two bombs launched Sunday were off Giants stud Tim Lincecum.

Anyone who needs pop should ride Thames while he's hot. This streak could last several more weeks. Or it could fizzle by July 4.

But right now, these are grand finale fireworks at roadside stand prices.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Where reality trumps fantasy

I'm late.

I know. 

Those of you who have come accustomed to my daily posts, I apologize, but today was a dark day at The Charlotte Observer.

As you may have read on our home page, we are losing 11 percent of our workforce, including 123 throughout the building and 22 in the newsroom.

Those aren't fantasy numbers. It's a reality of a shrinking print world. 

But our online presence continues to grow, which is probably how you found me and that is a reason for hope.

Still, with very little creative juices today, I found myself unable to whip up the usual candor or fantasy advice as our industry faces its biggest obstacle to date and we all try to get our head around the new realities of our smaller newsroom.

I know, this may be the longest post that basically says nothing.

But I shall return tomorrow.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Is Chase Headley worth a pickup?


After a sackful of rumors for weeks, the San Diego Padres have called up their most heralded prospect in Chase Headley on Saturday.

Only, they haven't added him to the roster yet.

Scott Hairston hyperextended his left elbow and the Padres are waiting to see if he lands on the DL, which would keep them from having to send Justin Huber or Paul McAnulty back to AAA Portland.

But that's not important.

What you need to know is whether Headley is worth a pickup. And here's where I come in.

OK, not exactly. I can't predict the future. But there are a few things you should know about Headley's playing time.

Headley will not be playing 3B, as he came up through the minors, as Kevin Kouzmanoff is not going anywhere. There was talk in the offseason of moving Kouz to LF to make room for Headley at 3B, but the Ryan Braun-like switch doesn't appear happening this season.

That leaves Headley battling Brian Giles, Hairston and Jody Gerut for at-bats. Gerut has actually been a pleasant Petco surprise, batting .289 with 3 HR. Hariston has struggled getting on base, hitting .231, but has 9 HR before the elbow injury. Giles will play almost every day, especially hitting .311.

Translation: Headley should get regular playing time, so long as he hits close to the .301 lifetime average he showed in the minors.

His 20-HR season in AA San Antonio in 2007 cranked up the hype machine and Headley's 10 homers in Portland show his 20-HR potential is about what we can expect with regular at-bats.

If there's any weak link or underperformer right now in 10-team mixed leagues or bigger, Headley's probably worth a gamble. All NL-only formats should swoop him up (I suspect he's long gone, if your league has a pulse).

Headley will be officially added to the Padres Tuesday as the New York series begins. But remember, he'll still hit in spacious Petco Park, which is several picnics away from the Pacific Coast League.

Proceed with caution, but Headley's the last of the expected call-ups and there may not be a true impact rookie to get a cup of coffee until September.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Interleague play: For or against?

Do you love interleague play?

Does it rev your engine? Spike your interest? Feed your baseball soul?

This weekend is the second round of interleague series, followed by several weeks so if you love it, you'll be in heaven, but if the idea of Arizona at Kansas City and Pittsburgh at Baltimore doesn't do it for you, buckle up.

Rivalry-speaking, there is a handful of good ones: The Subway Series; Dodgers vs. Angels; Cubs vs. White Sox

These tend to have more drama and more meaning attached (and maybe a few friendly side bets with a buddy).

I personally still like interleague, but the luster has worn off a bit.

What's your take?

Fantasy spin: The designated hitter is the biggest fantasy factor with interleague games. Games with American League hosts keep the DH, but no DH with the National League hosts. Jim Thome, Jason Giambi and other DH owners in daily leagues with a bench should take notice and move accordingly. In skimpy NL-only leagues, certain reserves will get extra at-bats. 

Friday, June 13, 2008

Time to trade Josh Hamilton?

Buy low.

Sell high.

Stripped down to its core, that's how you win at fantasy baseball.

Sure, drafting well helps. Astute waiver wire pickups can also make an impact.

But as "The Gambler" once hummed before drifting off to sleep, "You gotta know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em."

Enter Josh Hamilton.

In 66 games, the Rangers OF has racked up sick numbers: 17 HR, 71 RBI, 46 runs and a .316 average.

But does anyone believe he can keep up this pace?

My cohorts and I have pondered this question. Almost all of us agree Hamilton will probably miss at least 20 games this year. His drug past and injury history has us all a little worried. But even with 140 games, 140 ribbies is still possible, although not probable.

But 165?

Hamilton's value will likely never get any higher. Even if he escapes the injury bug and stays clean, pitchers will eventually start pitching around him at a greater rate. His two grand slams and five 4+ RBI games have been most impressive, but laws of averages and managers continually getting burned will eventually catch up to him.

So, why not cash out?

Outside of Lance Berkman, there's probably no bigger trading chip in the game. So whether it's starting pitching, saves or speed, trading Hamilton can patch two, maybe three holes in one deal.

And if your league is anything like the three I'm in, the Hamilton owner isn't in first or second place in any league, speaking to the number of other roster pot holes his owner has to fill.

It's time to scour your category races and start targeting some underperformers.

Hamilton's story is wonderful. One of the best in the bigs and I couldn't be happier for him (outside of the Cubs not trading him to the Reds).

But there is no fantasy value for sentiment.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Soriano, Pujols, Putz on the shelf

It's been a lousy 24 hours for some big fantasy names.

You may have heard about these injured studs, but let's take a closer look at the ramifications.

ALFONSO SORIANO, OF, CUBS: Chicago's leadoff hitter turned into a very tight inside pitch in the second inning and - poof! - just like that, Soriano will be out for at least 6 weeks with a broken left hand.
Fantasy spin: This is frustrating on so many counts, whether you're a fantasy owner or a Cubs fan, but ultimately, Soriano increasingly crowding the plate may have led to the brush-back pitch that broke his hand. Eric Patterson has been called up to replace Soriano and is starting today in left field. Patterson and Reed Johnson will likely see the most increased playing time. Mark DeRosa could play some left, giving Mike Fontenot and/or Ronny Cedeno some additional at-bats. It's obvious, that Soriano owners need to fish off the wire for this one. You might take a flier on Gary Matthews Jr., who has been swinging a hot bat and running a little (.500, 2 SB in the past week).

ALBERT PUJOLS, 1B, CARDINALS: Anyone who saw Pujols go down as he started to take off for first on Tuesday night could tell this was not a small injury. The bad news for Pujols owners is it's a calf strain. The good news is it's not a tear, rather some severe stretching of the muscle. He should only be out three weeks with what's being labeled as a Grade I-II strain.
Fantasy spin: The Cardinals called up Chris Duncan, who hit 21 and 22 HR the past two seasons, but was only hitting .160 in 25 AAA at-bats since being sent down May 30. Duncan might make for a decent fill-in, but veterans Casey Blake and Kevin Millar will likely have better numbers over the next few weeks. All three will probably drain your batting average.

J.J. PUTZ RP, MARINERS: When it rains it pours in Seattle (pun intended). After an awful 24-42 start, the M's may have lost their closer as Putz left the ninth inning with an elbow injury, which is being examined today. Putz was quoted as saying his right elbow was barking. Never a good sign.
Fantasy spin: Brandon Morrow (1.00 ERA/1.06 WHIP), who hasn't allowed an earned run since Hillary was still in contention (May 12), came in and picked up his first Major League save. Morrow, who the M's see as an eventual starter, should be added in all formats, if you can find a spot. There's a solid chance Putz lands on the DL, but this could also end up being one of those season-ending surgeries as Seattle is almost nearing the season-implosion point anyway.

VICTOR MARTINEZ, C, INDIANS: Another right elbow injury, this one coming on a first-inning swing. No news yet, but we should know more soon after today's MRI. Coach Eric Wedge said the elbow has been bothering him off an on all year, which may explain V-Mart's severe and mysterious power outage.
Fantasy spin: Until the results come back, not much you can do. Get Ryan Doumit on standby if he's still available. Dioner Navarro is also red-hot. In AL-only leagues, Gerald Laird would make a nice fill-in.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Waiver Wired: Add Doumit, Casilla



I know, it's the Pirates, but after Tuesday night's pair of home runs, Doumit is officially back from missing three-plus weeks with a broken left thumb.

Actually, Domit's final line was 4-for-4 with 2 doubles, 2 HR and 3 RBI.

He raised his average from .322 to .345 in one night, which shows you how few his batting sample is, but even with 119 at-bats Doumit's posted 18 RBI and 24 runs.

Not bad for a catcher who hasn't missed any time.

The biggest thing that is appealing about the Pirates catcher is the lineup.

Just kidding.

It's where Doumit has been hitting in that lineup (cleanup) that makes his peripheral runs/RBI numbers attractive and will set him apart from all those 7th and 8th-hitting backstops.

Doumit now has 7 home runs and could hit 20 before the season's over. And hitting cleanup, 75 RBIs may come by accident. Don't expect the average to stay this high, but it could settle in around the .290-.300 range.



Called up before the May 13 game, Casilla has quickly earned regular playing time at 2B, as well as a coveted spot in fantasy baseball: Hitting behind speedy Carlos Gomez and ahead of former batting champ Joe Mauer and former MVP Justin Morneau.

That, by itself, doesn't make Casilla worth a pickup. Although in a 5x5, those run totals will help. But it's the way Casilla's hitting (.330), including a 12-game hitting streak and 17 of 18 games. Casilla has also shown modest pop (3 HR, 18 RBI in 88 at-bats).

There's no guarantee Casilla will keep the 2B job if he hits a prolonged slump, but there's no sign of that happening anytime soon.

Bizarre is how this 40-SB threat has only two steal attempts in 24 games, but as Casilla gets more comfortable with his role, the SBs should start to flow.

Be warned, he'll start to go quickly off the shelves once that first multi-SB game arrives.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Griffey smacks 600; Joe reels it in

I'm sure this wasn't how Ken Griffey Jr. imagined it.

In front of a whopping 16,003 fans in one of the worst ballparks (Dolphin Stadium), Junior reached the 600 HR milestone Monday night, whipping one just inside the right foul pole in the first inning.

Possibly the best part, from his perspective, is the number of family members in attendance as they traveled from nearby Orlando for the chance to see the historic number.

Griffey is the sixth player to reach 600, but there's an outside shot he could get 700 if the 38-year-old played another three seasons.

There was a time, before he came to Cincinnati, when most experts were predicting Griffey - not Barry Bonds - would be the eventual home run king. After back-to-back 50 HR seasons in Seattle, it seemed like Griffey, who hit his first home run as a 19-year-old, may not just break Hank Aaron's record, but he might reach 800.

For those of you who are long-time fantasy players, you may have taken Griffey with many a first-round picks during the 90s.

Obviously, those days are gone. The story is well-documented. Injuries ravaged his career after joining the Reds. But 600 is remarkable.

Still, what I find more remarkable is what happens to the milestone ball that's hit.

Almost like hitting the Lotto, the fan that comes up with the ball has an instant treasure on his hands. Unless he gives it back to the player, ala Damon Woo with Manny Ramirez's 500th ball.

On Monday night, the person who emerged from the scrum - or as close as you can get to a scrum in that stadium - was a Marlins fan named Joe, who was escorted out wearing a Sergio Mitre jersey.

No word on what Joe will be doing with the ball, but it sounds like Griffey may not ever see it.

And he probably doesn't care. Griffey's one of the good guys in baseball who doesn't get in trouble and by all accounts has done it the natural way.

It may be awhile before we see another like him.

And we may never see a swing this sweet.

Fantasy spin: Going forward, Griffey's value will likely keep declining. He'll hit the occasional home run but he'll continue to get more days off, especially if the Reds fall out of the race. And it's 50/50 in my book whether Griffey is dealt before the deadline, possibly to Seattle, although that is only making sense for sentimental reasons now that the Mariners are so far back. Still, any park other than Great American will not help his value. Sell high if you get the chance.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Weekend wrap: Chipper, Reyes, Wood

Big Brown wasn't the only Triple Crown contender to go down this weekend.

Chipper Jones: The Braves 3B has a small tear in his right quadriceps muscle. Chipper's playing it down. "I won't do anything today or tomorrow," he said. "I'll see how it feels after the off day. ... I'll probably miss a day or two in Chicago."  Something about a tear in a 36-year-old's quad that would make me a little worried as a Chipper owner, but maybe it's nothing. Hopefully, the .420 average doesn't start taking a B-line south.

Josh Hamilton: After racking up 17-69-.315 numbers in 63 games, Superman finally has succumbed to Kryptonite, in the form of a viral infection. Hamilton missed Sunday and with the Rangers off on Monday, they're hoping to have him back Tuesday night. This is probably a blip, but in daily leagues, keep tabs on his status just in case.

Lance Berkman: No injury news to report, but Berkman smacked his 18th home run and upped his RBI total to 51 with 3 RBI. But after a second consecutive 1-for-4 day, Berkman's average is down to .372. (Berkman owners, we will give you no pity).

Joe Crede: Is there anyone swinging a hotter stick than Crede? The White Sox 3B hits .750 (3 for 4) with 4 HR and 10 RBI in a three-game sweep over the Twinkies.

Milton Bradley: What, no home run Sunday? Now hitting 14-43-.340. If anyone is wondering...yes, Bradley is a prime sell-high candidate.

Justin Masterson: After Sunday's 3-hit, 1-run gem over 6 innings, the Red Sox will likely be giving Clay Buchholz more AAA leash to figure things out. Bartolo Colon better get his act together or he may be the odd-man out once Dice-K comes back.

Jose Reyes: With 2 SB Sunday, Reyes has quietly climbed to 23 on the stolen base meter after a slow start. Add in his 8 HR, 29 RBI, 42 runs and .286 average and suddenly, he looks like a first-rounder again. Probably too late to buy low.

Kerry Wood: Seems like somebody before the season was predicting this: 18 saves, 2.62 ERA, 0.82 WHIP. Wood has now saved eight in a row and hasn't allowed a run in that span. OK, I'll confess it was me who was touting Wood. And yes, I traded him away in the second week of the season.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Coming late to Crede party?

All we heard in the Chicago White Sox offseason was Josh Fields.

The Future.

But there was one thing standing in his way. A back-beffudled Joe Crede, who the White Sox couldn't give away for a sack full of singles. Maybe 10 maple bats would've sweetened the deal.

But Crede started off like a house on fire, whatever that means, hitting 7 HR in April and you couldn't even find a blog calling for Josh Fields call-up.

But after his 7th HR on April 29th, Crede went 15 starts without a HR, and worse, 12 of those games he went hitless.

Crede was getting dropped faster free dial-up connections, when suddenly, Friday and Saturday happened.

Crede smacked a pair of HR each night, including 6 RBI Saturday. Of course, after 2 swats Friday night, i was 90 percent ready to pull the trigger, but decided to wait one more night.

After Crede's early 3-run jack, I picked him up. Then watched in agony as Crede blasted another 3-run homer. 

It's like finding out the cute girl at school was single, but now she was dating the quarterback.

Although last night's Crede experience it wasn't as bad as one member in our league, who picked up Jayson Werth early on the day he went off for 3 HR and 8 RBI, possibly the worst fantasy karma of all time.

Here's Crede's grand slam in the first week at U.S. Cellular Field.

Piniella caught on Google Maps

A quick break in fantasy talk to bring you a quirky Lou Piniella sighting.

This takes a minute, but it's worth it. OK, it might not be, but humor me.

Click on Google Maps, then type in 3552 N. Clark, Chicago IL. This is the southwest corner of Wrigley Field, where Clark and Addison connect.

On the popup box, you'll see a link for street view, which is a fairly new feature for Google, in select cities. Then click the left arrow four times to bring the view around 180 degrees and - voila! - it's Cubs manager Lou Piniella.

The Cubs skipper, wearing a khaki t-shirt with jeans, is apparantly leaving Wrigley and is clicking his car-unlock feature at a black Tahoe, which is almost parked outside the line.

There's even Web sites dedicated specifically to this new Google Street phenomenon. Click here for a list of top 15 sightings.

Warning, some sightings are a little out there.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Triple Crown for Chipper, Lance, Josh?

Can you feel it?

Triple Crown hype is nearing an all-time high.

The obvious hub-bub is circulating around Big Brown and this week, what exactly going on with his hoof. But this is all just filler. Nothing's really wrong with the hoof and my insider says Brown will break away from the pack at Belmont, the longest leg of the Triple Crown.

Since this isn't a fantasy horse racing blog, I won't bore you with the details of why Brown's draw, starting near the inside is not in his favor. I realize most of you don't really care.

If you do, click on this video preview clip.

For those of you still left, let's talk baseball's triple crown, which has gained momentum with three player in the conversation: Chipper Jones, Lance Berkman, Josh Hamilton.

Let's break down the odds:

Chipper Jones: Currently hitting .418 with 14 HR and 39 RBI. The average has baseball historians talking Ted Williams, but coming from a .310 career hitting, we're probably looking at a .350 or .360 season tops. Not that Chipper owners could complain. Larry (his surname) has never been a huge HR guy. Almost a decade ago (99), he smacked 45 dingers, but outside of that his ceiling has been the high-30s and Chase Utley's insane start (21 HR) will make that feat close to impossible.
Forecast: .358, 32 HR, 107 RBI
Triple Crown Odds: 20-1

Lance Berkman: Currently hitting .382 with 17 HR and 48 RBI. Has anyone been hotter than Berkman? (Insert Lance in your Pants quip here). But Lance has insulation in his lineup, hitting between Miguel Tejada and Carlos Lee and the results have been almost super-human. Look for a cooling off at some point, but Berkman has shown both power and average qualities - just two years ago he hit .315 with 45 HR. Utley's power, Chipper's average and Adrian Gonzalez's ribbies (55 RBI) are his current biggest obstacles.
Forecast: .352, 41 HR, 131 RBI
Triple Crown Odds: 10-1

Check out one of Berkman's 17 long balls here:

Josh Hamilton: Currently hitting .321 with 17 HR and 68 RBI. (That's right, 68, it's not a misprint). Those of you who saw Hamilton doing this, raise your hand? Liars. Hamilton was drafted on average in near double-digit rounds. In my AL-only draft, he lasted until the 6th round - and this was a league where at least two owners were very honed into his upside. Still, there were questions about his health and very few thought Hamilton could make it through the year. It's still early June, but Hamilton will be on everyone's first-round list if he keeps this up. The question is, will it last? Or more specifically, will he last? The current pace will not. Hack Wilson's 191-RBI record is probably safe. But 160 is possible and don't undervalue the jet stream on warm Arlilngton summer nights. If it wasn't for guys like Michael Young and Ichiro in average and Carlos Quentin in the power categories, Hamilton might be able to put it on cruise control and still win this thing.
Forecast: .324, 43 HR, 158 RBI
Triple Crown Odds: 5-1

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Rays take SS Beckham No. 1

What used to be a fly-under-the-radar event has suddenly become made-for-TV.

The amateur baseball draft is today and ESPN2 is televising it for the first time. No word on if Mel Kiper's best available is included. XM radio is also getting into the act, with several hours of live coverage this afternoon.

As expected, the Rays took Tim Beckham (above), the shortstop from Griffin (Ga.) High. The last high school shortstop Tampa Bay selected was six years ago, when they took B.J. Upton and moved him to 2B and then to CF, where his speed/power package is one of the elite fantasy players in the game.

Beckham has been compared to Upton, although with not quite as high of a hitting upside, but with fielding skill that should keep him at SS through the big leagues.

The Pirates took Vanderbilt 3B Pedro Alvarez second and Kansas City took 1B Eric Hosmer of American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.) High third. Locally, Justin Smoak, the University of South Carolina 1B went 11th overall to the Texas Rangers. For current draft results click here.

Beckham is the fifth shortstop selected No. 1 overall in the past 20 years. All but one have turned out rather swimmingly: Justin Upton, Matt Bush, Alex Rodriguez and Chipper Jones.

Matt Bush, the only player not to become a fantasy impact player, has never gotten past Single-A and has been switched to pitching, although currently rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Waiver Wired: Swipe Lewis, Bartlett




In the need for speed? Well, who isn't, outside of the Jacoby Ellsbury owner in your league?

Time to check out the Bay area for some shifty speed. I know, it's hard to stomach the idea of owning a Giants player, but it's hard to look the other way any longer.

No, Lewis isn't an everyday player, but he's starting about 4-5 times a week, he'll pinch hit or pinch run quite a bit and his run production (37 runs) is another bonus. His steals output is up to 11, but more importantly he's 5-for-5 since May 25.

Add in some modest pop (Lewis averaged 10 HR over 162 in the minors and 4 HR this year) and you have yourself a nice DL fill-in, or even better, if he keeps up this pace.

Three times in the minors he swiped at least 30 in a season, so the speed is legit.

Just forget the Giants logo on his uniform, hold your breath, and hit the button.

Here's Lewis pinch-hit triple off Trevor Hoffman to tie the Padres on Sunday. And yes, the videographer is possibly the biggest Giants out there.



Another guy with 5 steals since May 25 is Bartlett, who is probably still available on your wire, unless you play in a deep league, an AL-only format, or there's 7 owners who are Clearwater natives.

Bartlett average isn't sexy (.243), but he hit .283 in May and he's running like everyone thought he wound after swiping 23 bags in the Twin Cities. It's realistic to expect 20 more bags this season.

After being dealt to Tampa Bay in the Delmon Young/Matt Garza swap, Bartlett has been largely disappointing, but 3 swipes against the White Sox on May 29 shows he's got the wheels.

Although be forewarned, Bartlett did swipe those off A.J. Pierzynski, who was once challenged by a Chicago Sun-Times beat writer that he could steal a base off the White Sox catcher. And A.J. took him up on it.

It's a long video, but it's sort of fun to watch...especially if you're a Pierzynski-Hater.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

How to replace Ortiz, Zimmerman

The only folks in more pain than David Ortiz this morning is his owners, who received the news he'll be sidelined at least a month with a partially torn tendon in his left wrist.

The exact diagnosis is a partial tear of the extensor carpi ulnaris tendon sheath.

It's a mouthful for owners, whose only concern today is how to replace Papi's production in their lineups.

Short answer: You don't.

But if you can find a taker for half price, then take it.

Did I just say, sell Ortiz for 50 cents on the dollar? Absolutely.

There's roughly four months left and with a diagnosis of at least a month, you can count on six weeks. Add in the time it'll take for Ortiz to get up and rolling and you're only getting two good Papi months, at best.

But there's another part to the story, where Terry Francona has said that he likely will not need season-ending surgery.

Don't be so sure. If the cast they put on Ortiz doesn't do its magic, the Red Sox won't risk permanent damage for a couple months.

I'm sure all of Red Sox Nation is hoping for the best, but you have to be realistic.

Buy low? You could, but think limbo contest when making formal offers.

In the meantime, Casey Blake and Pedro Feliz are swinging a hot bat and make for a good wire grab.

RYAN ZIMMERMAN: Another DL casualty over the last 24 hours is the Washington Nationals 3B, who has a small labral tear in his left shoulder. This doesn't sound too serious yet and it's retroactive to May 26. Zimmerman reportedly could still play through the pain, but they're hoping rest will stave off surgery.

TIM HUDSON: The Braves SP tweaked the hammy, but is saying he'll make his next start after getting treatment. Bobby Cox has a minor leaguer on speed dial and you should too, if you're in a daily-moves league.

JOHN SMOLTZ: Staying in Atlanta, Smoltz made his relieving debut last night and coughed up a save, giving up 3 hits and 2 ER, although some dicey fielding made things worse than the line score. Cox said he's going to split the closing duties between Smoltz, Manny Acosta and Rafael Soriano, but you can bet as soon as Smoltz shows he's healthy enough to take over, Cox will give him the keys.

JASON MICHAELS, MARLON BYRD: For anyone who happens to own either journeyman OF, congrats on Monday night's granny. Whatever you do, don't go overreacting and grab either guy, unless you're in like a 24-team league.

CHASE UTLEY: It's been awhile since I raved about the season Utley is having. But 21 HR by June 2 is just ridiculous, regardless of what position he plays. It's the SECOND time this year, Utley's homered in five consecutive games. Funny how they keep passing around the MVP baton in Philly. First Howard, then Rollins. Sure, Berkman and Chipper will have something to say about that, but nobody has a brighter fantasy future in the game than Utley.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Weekend Wrap: Manny a HOFer?

Congrats goes out to Manny Ramirez, who launched home run No. 500 on Saturday.

Yeah, i know, Manny has his quirks and he's a showoff sometimes, yada, yada, yada...

But anyone who can give a fan a high-five while turning a double play should be given some Fantasy Baseblog props. Here's that clip from a couple weeks ago, in case you missed it.

But the question that lingers now that Manny has hit the magical 500 mark ... is he an automatic Hall of Famer?

Lemme pull up his resume and while you're waiting, take a look at jack No. 500 at Camden Yards in Baltimore.

OK, got it.

Manny's HOF resume:

Home runs: 501 (he added one Sunday for good measure)

Doubles: 485

RBI: 1,642 (including 165 in 1999)

Career batting average: .312

Career on-base-percentage: .408

Career OPS (Slugging + OBP): .999

All-Star Games: 11 (with a 12th coming this year).

Verdict: As much as I hate the show-boating, water bottle in the back pocket routine, the numbers are staggering. Just the 24th player to reach 500 HR, it's almost an automatic HOF entry. Plus, he was doing it before the steriod era ballooned, which will free him from most steroid allegations, regardless of whether he actually did any (perception, after all is sometimes reality).

First-ballot HOF he may not be, depending on how he ends up his career. But as a general rule of thumb, if a player has been a first-round fantasy guy for more than 5 consecutive seasons, he's probably a HOF lock.

Perhaps the coolest thing surrounding Manny's milestone was that the person who caught it, Red Sox fan Damon Woo, presented the ball to Manny after the game and didn't want a dime for it.

Manny is reportedly going to be auctioning it off with all the proceeds going to his charity.

Next up: Junior sits at 599.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Fantasy reaches Supreme Court

So, how do you know when you've arrived?

Perhaps, when you find yourself at the steps of the Supreme Court.

That's where the sport of fantasy baseball is currently sitting, as Major League Baseball has taken CBS Distribution and Marketing Inc. to court, saying they owe MLB money for licensing fees of the baseball players and stats that they use for fantasy baseball.

A St. Louis-based company called CBC Distribution and Marketing Inc. says that companies shouldn’t have to pay licensing fees to use those figures — and they’ve already won their case in two lower courts, so MLB has filed an appeal to the nation's highest court.

CBC has already won the case at two lower courts and now MLB is filing an appeal to the nation's highest court.

Check out the story here.

This debate has been going on for some time. Yahoo and ESPN both pay MLB millions in licensing fees to use baseball names and statistics for their fantasy baseball web sites.

The debate is whether smaller services should also have to pay.

My take is that ultimately, statistics are public domain and that MLB should be careful about how hard they fight against services who are, in the end, feeding baseball's popularity.

After all, baseball, whether they would like to admit it or not, rebounded from the 1994 strike because of two things.

The great 1998 McGwire-Sosa HR chase.

And the growing popularity of fantasy baseball.

It's part of why the NFL has soared in popularity, because more Americans play fantasy football than any other sport, including roto baseball.

This is a deep issue that could be talked about for hours.

But hopefully, baseball doesn't shoot itself in the foot, trying to protest every small operation trying to give them publicity.

Sure, these folks are making money off of MLB, which is exactly their argument, but if they dig their heels in too hard, baseball fans may start feeling like 1994 all over again.