Category Archives: fantasy baseball

How to Salvage Your Losing Fantasy Baseball Team (Step 2 of 2)

Step 2: Patch your holes
You can make up for the near-fatal combination of a poor draft and star-player injuries by paying better attention than your opponents. Skim box scores — every night, for every team. The other members of your league are probably paying better attention to some teams than others, especially if you’re in a league with friends from the same geographic area. They may know which Yankee outfielder is on a tear, or which Met starter has pitched better than his record indicates, but they probably aren’t paying attention to the infield situation in Minnesota.

If you’re finally ready to cut your draft mistakes (Julio Lugo?!), you’re going to have some roster spots to fill. Some suggestions….

C: Dioner Navarro — A .326 AVG, .803 OPS a tight grip on the staring job, and a hot offense around him make Navarro the best catcher on your waiver wire, and a top-ten catcher overall.
see also: Chris Snyder, Chris Iannetta, Gerald Laird

1B:Eric Hinske — His 12 HR, 5 SB, and .845 OPS speak for themselves. He may have disappointed you in fantasy seasons past, but he’s a heck of a lot more useful now than Paul Konerko.
see also: Marcus Thames, Aubrey Huff

2B: Alexi Casilla or Alexei Ramirez — If you don’t have an Utley, Upton, or Kinsler, you should have one of these. These are their stats in the last 30 days:
Alexi Casilla: .315 AVG, .817 OPS, 3 HR, 4 SB, 23 RBI
Alexei Ramirez: .367 AVG, .918 OPS, 3 HR, 2 SB, 15 RBI

3B: Joe Crede — With 15 HR, a respectable .284 AVG, and a beautiful .900 OPS, it’s a marvel Crede is available at all.  If you are the one guy in your league without two stud third basemen, now might be your last chance.  15 home runs should not be on the waiver wire.

SS: No studs here, but plenty of better options than Julio Lugo.  Bobby Crosby is putting together a  respectable enough season at a shallow position (.262 / 4 HR, 5 SB, 36 RBI) and Yuniesky Betancourt is heating up a bit. A slumping Stephen Drew is available in one of my leagues, and the injured (and before that, slumping) Troy Tulowitzki is available in another — either one will help you over the course of the season.

OF: Michael Bourn — He spent April as a frustrating one-category guy — flailing at the plate but running wild on the bases (.195 AVG, 11 SB), but in June he’s hitting .391 with only 3 SB.  He probably won’t finish the season with an average above .270, but the speed is definitely real.  Bourn was just put back in the leadoff spot after getting demoted to 7th in May, and with the Astros a half game out of last place in the NL Central, there’s no reason for him not to be aggressive.
see also: David DeJesus, Lastings Milledge, Fred Lewis, Skip Schumaker

SP: Kyle Lohse — I can’t say I really believe his numbers this year (8-2, 3.77 ERA, 1.21 WHIP), but if your team needs help, you need to look beyond the sexy or obvious names and just find someone who will help you win. At minimum, Lohse is worth streaming at home against most NL offenses.
see also:Justin Masterson, Manny Parra, Andrew Miller, Jair Jurrjens

RP: Damaso Marte — He’s the best overlooked setup man out there. He has one win, one save, and six holds with a 2.31 ERA over the last 30 days. He strikes out more than a batter per inning, and should be owned in all leagues that count holds.
see also: Joel Zumaya

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How to Salvage your Losing Fantasy Baseball Team (Step 1 of 2)

Cute, talented, brown-and-blue eyed, and back in the minors

Step One: Cut your losses.

It’s time to give up on the following players (if you haven’t already)**

C: Jason Kendall — You can do better. He may rank fourth in steals among catchers (with 3), but he’s tied for 37th in home runs (with 1) and his .257 AVG / .683 OPS are nothing to get excited about. If you really, truly believe he’s the best catcher available (and he’s not) then just let your catching spot sit empty and carry a deeper bench.

1B: Paul Konerko and Ryan Garko: They don’t crack the top-25 first basemen in Yahoo’s season rankings. Konerko doesn’t even crack the top-50 first basemen in ESPN’s rankings. Why are they on your teams?! Konerko is having his second sub-par season in a row, and is now hurt. Garko just isn’t there yet.

2B: Rickie Weeks — His batting average was already killing your ratios before he hurt his knee. He’s about to come off the DL, and if you have to drop someone to make room for him, just drop him. If his speed is compromised at all by the injury, he’ll be a complete waste of a roster spot. There should be plenty of b-level speed available on the waiver wire.

3B: Casey Blake — There are just too many good third basemen to carry Blake. If/when he heats up, go get him. But until then, his .254 AVG, 6 HR and 1 SB don’t even make him a top-20 third baseman.

SS: Julio Lugo — Shortstop is really not so shallow a position, nor are steals so hard to come by, that Lugo’s presence can be justified in a fantasy lineup. Not even if you’re a Sox fan.

OF: Delmon Young — The Twins are clearly tiring of Young’s lack of power (1 HR!) and patience (.693 OPS), and you should be too. Fortunately, you can drop him without consequence.

SP: Max Scherzer — I was prepared to love him like a cuter, brown-and-blue eyed Tim Lincecum. He’s back in the minors, so love will have to wait ’til next summer (or ’til Randy Johnson’s back gives out).

RP: Rafael Soriano – He’s on the DL for the second time this season, his elbow hurts, Mike Gonzalez is about to come off the DL… if and when Soriano returns, it will most likely be into an awful closer-by-committee situation. It’s not worth the stress.

**All of the players above are on the rosters of one or more teams in my various fantasy baseball leagues — the deepest of which has 12 teams.

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Interleague Roundup: Reds, Mets, White Sox Sweep

(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
(AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Kansas City at Florida It didn’t even take a winning team to reveal the Marlins’ flaws. The Royals took two of three from the NL East-leading Marlins, knocking their division lead down to one game. Zack Greinke notched his 8th quality start, tying Brandon Webb and 5 others for the MLB lead.

Cleveland at Cincinnati Cliff Lee was finally defeated by Edinson Volquez and the red hot Reds. Joey Votto delivered the KO with a pinch hit home run in the 6th.

Milwaukee at Boston The Red Sox completed their sweep of the Brewers in an eight home run slugfest. David Ortiz and Ryan Braun hit two each, and have clearly put their early season slumps behind them. Josh Beckett gave up 6 runs, all driven in by home runs, but still struck out 9 and got the win.

Pittsburgh at Chicago For only the second time in the last seven days, Alfonso Soriano failed to hit even a single home run. The Cubs still managed to beat the Pirates 4-3, and my favorite middle reliever, Carlos Marmol, bounced back from yesterday’s loss by striking out the side for his 11th hold.

Chicago at San Francisco The White Sox won their 5th straight against the Giants Sunday, and made many fantasy baseball managers feel pretty smart. This was one of the most obvious series for streaming pitchers, and anyone who put up Gavin Floyd, Mark Buehrle, or John Danks against the less-than-intimidating Giants lineup should congratulate themselves, but not expect the same production next week against the Indians and Angels.

Detroit at Arizona Randy Johnson pitched seven shutout innings against the Tigers for his 288th career victory. 300 isn’t looking so far off anymore, if (and it’s a big if) Johnson can stay healthy.

New York at New York The Mets completed their two-game sweep of the last-place Yankees and handed Chien- Ming Wang his second straight loss. Power came from the less likely sources, as Jose Reyes and Ryan Church both went deep, while Carlos Delgado was robbed of a home run by a bad call at the left field foul pole. Reyes, besides the sudden power, had his second straight two-hit game and may finally be coming out of a slump that dates back to last September. The struggling Yankees have reason to be optimistic — Alex Rodriguez is scheduled to rejoin the team Tuesday.

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Fantasy Baseball: Pitchers to Target

(AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
Joakim Soria – (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
If you haven’t already begun the process, it’s time to start making trade offers in your fantasy league, and not just of the buy-low / sell-high variety. You should of course be targeting proven commodities that are under-performing, but there are a ton of previously underrated or just under-the-radar players that everyone is just assuming are playing over their heads. Every year a couple hot starts turn into career years — Fausto Carmona in 2007, Justin Verlander in 2006. I’ve broken down trade targets (or pickup options, depending on the depth of your league) into two categories — those pitchers whose value may be at its low point due to a few rough outings, and those pitchers whose numbers appear to be too good to be true, and need to be targeted accordingly. Remember, in both cases perception of interest is key — if your potential trade partner has a couple of hot pitchers, say Tim Lincecum and Cliff Lee, make a somewhat low offer for Lincecum, and in the counteroffer process, grudgingly say you’d be willing to take Lee, whose hot start is obviously unsustainable, because you need pitching badly enough to take the risk. Point to his messy start against the Reds on Sunday as proof that he’s falling back to Earth. If you can get him in a one-for-one deal, say a premier closer or a Spring hitter like Youkilis, or more fairly a solid one-dimensional hitter like Adam Dunn, then pull the trigger. Six straight wins and an ERA and WHIP under 1 don’t happen through sheer luck — Lee is healthy, has great control, and at 29 seems to be hitting his stride.

Buy Low / They’re Only Going to Get Better

Johan Santana — How, you may ask, is Santana a buy-low candidate? He’s 5-2 with a 3.30 ERA, .229 BAA, and 1.12 WHIP. Not too shabby. Except anxious fantasy owners look at Brandon Webb’s 9 wins, at Edinson Volquez’s sub-2.00 ERA, at Ryan Dempster’s .172 BAA, and at Ervin Santana’s 1.01 WHIP, and wonder why their first-round draft pick is being out-performed by not just second-round pitchers like Webb, but undrafted rookies and has-beens. The difference is that Santana is only going to get better (see his career splits), while all of the pitchers above (except, perhaps, Webb) will inevitably regress towards the league average. If anyone is souring on Santana, or just feeling that he is unnecessary on a staff featuring the likes of Lee, Volquez, and/or Ervin Santana, then by all means pursue him.

Dustin McGowan — Burnett and Halladay are the most familiar names in the Toronto rotation, and Shaun Marcum is the least hittable of late, and for those reasons, McGowan should be the best bargain. He pitches efficiently and with good control, but has struggled a bit so far to a 2-3 record with a 4.38 ERA. His high .338 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) compared to his low HR/9 of 0.58 shows that bad luck has been a factor in his results. Only twice in 9 starts has he allowed more than 3 earned runs. Go after him now before the memory of last month’s 9-run pounding by the Indians fades.

Justin Verlander — He’s 1-6 with an ERA just over 6. He’s not hurt, his stuff is still great, and his run support has to improve. It may be too late for Verlander to win 20 games or the Cy Young, as many of us anticipated, but 10 wins from here on out is still pretty good production and not unthinkable if he can just get his mechanics straightened out. There’s some risk here, but that’s why you should be able to get him at a deep discount.

Buy High / They’re More Real Than You Think

Joakim Soria — His numbers so far are unbelievable: 17 saves, 1.04 ERA, 0.40 WHIP, .088 BAA. Everything except the saves look very real. Kansas City probably won’t continue to give Soria save opportunities at this rate, but with Greinke and Bannister looking like legitimate top-of-the-rotation starters, that drop-off won’t be as severe as some may think. Even correcting for the team he plays for, Soria should quietly be a top-five closer this year. His ratios are outstanding, and if you can find an owner nervous about having a closer on a losing team, see if he’ll bite on Jon Lester.

Cliff Lee — As I said above, his numbers are too good to ignore or write off as a fluke. He’s locked in, and as long as the Tigers struggle, the AL Central is a pretty cushy place to pitch.

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Big Fish

It’s May 12th, and every day it’s getting harder to ignore the Marlins, now tied for the best record in the NL. But Tampa Bay has a better chance of finishing where they are (2nd in the AL East) than the Marlins do of staying atop the NL East. Sure, Hanley Ramirez is insanely talented without any of the usual qualifiers (…but raw, …but troubled). But the rest of the offense is chock full of buts — Uggla’s got power but strikes out too much (4th in the NL with 39 Ks); Hermida strikes out four times as often as he walks; Luis Gonzalez is off to a decent start, but is 40, and last year hit 40 points lower in the second half. That offense has a plenty of talent, but there’s no way they keep this up.

Now the pitching: The bullpen is legitimately improved. Gregg has settled in well as closer. Pinto looks great in the setup roll. And that’s the last positive thing I can say about this staff.

Scott Olsen, the Marlins “ace”, walks too many and doesn’t get the strikeouts to balance out. Two of Olsen’s four wins have been against the Washington Nationals. When he’s eventually forced to pitch more in the strike zone — there’s only so long “effectively wild” works, just ask Daniel Cabrera — the hits will go up, his ERA will rise, and by mid June everyone will laugh at his once near-universal fantasy ownership. And a bad outing or two might be all it takes to awaken Olsen’s personal demons.

Trade him now.

Mark Hendrickson leads the Marlins with five wins, but as the oldest pitcher on the staff, and with a career BAA of .289, is the least likely candidate for a breakout season. 22-year-old Andrew Miller may be a superstar someday, but right now the league is hitting .340 against him — and that’s with three starts against the Nationals.

The Marlins have played one series against a team with a winning record (at the time of the series), and were not only swept, but outscored 25-10 by the Dodgers. They’ll face the Diamondbacks, Mets, and Phillies in the second half of May…

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Spring Fever

It’s that time of year when warming weather and flowering trees (and maybe my accompanying allergy headaches) do something to a girl. Casual flirtations escalate into something deeper, and my statistics-based strategies become overshadowed by my burgeoning emotional attachments to players.

A few weeks ago Matt Kemp was just a young outfielder for the Dodgers, cute with raw talent and making a good case for a starting job in a crowded outfield. Conor Jackson was a very sexy once-hyped first baseman that was probably drafted as a backup in your league. Curtis Granderson and all his 20-20 talent (and 30-30 potential) was on the dl. Carlos Marmol was just the guy most likely to step in if and when Kerry Wood went down. It’s just over a month into the season now, and my fondness for these guys, and others, has turned into deep affection. Every new 2-for-4 day from Kemp breaks my heart, because he’s forever trapped on the-team-that-does-not-trade. Every time Marmol comes in and strikes out 3 or 4, only for Wood (or sometimes Howry) to blow it in the next inning, I want to whisper into his over-sized ears, “your time will come.”

Flings — Stay with them as long as they keep things interesting, but know when to let them go

Erick Aybar 2B/SS Angels (.313, 17 R, 5 SB) With injuries to first HowieKendrick and now Chone Figgins, Aybar has found himself with a regular job. He’s certainly worth owning as long as he keeps hitting.

Ryan Church OF Mets (.330, 4 HR, 22 RBI) The Mets have been playing lazy, uninspired baseball — with the exception of Ryan Church, who’s been hitting an unreal .404 with runners on. Maybe he’ll cool off when Beltran heats up, but with an average this high after a month of play, he deserves a roster spot.

Crushes — They’ll make you happy, if you can get them

Matt Kemp OF Dodgers (.327, 22 RBI, 7 SB) The most balanced hitter in the Dodgers outfield, Kemp could be a breakout star. If someone wants to sell high, buy him. He does need to cut down on the K’s though.

Conor Jackson 1B Diamondbacks (.350, 5 HR, 25 RBI) He’s on fire right now along with the rest of the Diamondbacks lineup. He’s not quite this good, but with that lineup and a hitter’s park, I expect him to hit .300 and drive in around 100. Not bad.

True Love — You always knew they were something special, but now you can’t live without them

Curtis Granderson OF Tigers (.297, 4 HR, 12 R in 10 games) The sampling is a little small, but the Tigers’ offense did heat up right when he joined them 2 weeks ago.

Carlos Marmol RP Cubs (1.29 ERA, .129 BAA, 28 K in 21 innings) Maybe love is a strong word for a setup man, but with so many teams having bullpen issues, Marmol must warm the hearts of Cubs fans. Pick him up just for the ERA and WHIP, and if he ends up closing, that’s icing.

Chase Utley 2B Phillies (.369, 13 HR, 26 RBI) He’s in a class of his own right now and a real pleasure to watch. I can’t imagine he can be obtained in a trade for less than 2 top-tier players right now, so just appreciate his beautiful swing. He, too, is rotting in my keeper league on the-team-that-does-not-trade, so I will just have to love him from a distance.

Honorable mentions: Geovany Soto, Jair Jurrjens, Adrian Gonzalez, Ervin Santana, Carlos Quentin, Edinson Volquez, Zack Greinke

Coming soon: Max Scherzer — first start tomorrow vs. Phillies!

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Complete-ly Unexpected

(AP Photo/Don Wright)

With the exception of Livan Hernandez’s much anticipated crappiness, and Barry Zito’s sixth straight loss, Sunday was notable for its exceptional pitching. Brandon Webb out-dueled Jake Peavy for his sixth win. Chien-Ming Wang edged a suddenly-awesome-again (but still hefty) C.C. Sabathia 1-0. Josh Beckett struck out 13 Rays, but still lost 3-0 to a barely hittable James Shields. Nelson Figueroa beat a possibly-injured John Smoltz 6-3. The Pirate’s Paul Maholm (.288 career BAA)pitched a complete game two-hitter against the Phillies. Vicente Padilla, who hasn’t pitched a complete game or held an era under 4.50 since 2003, pitched a shutout against Minnesota. I wouldn’t get too excited about those last three, but Padilla was at least streamable 3 years ago, so he ‘s worth keeping an eye on and maybe starting against those few other AL teams with puny offenses – Baltimore, Kansas City, Oakland.

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