Archive for June, 2009

The Mark DeRosa Effect

Tuesday, 30 June, 2009

By Dustin Sullivan

The St. Louis Cardinals made the one of the biggest in-season transactions in a long time as they trade relief pitcher Chris Perez and a player to be named to the Cleveland Indians for infielder/outfielder Mark DeRosa. DeRosa is the kind of player that fits perfectly in the Cardinals organization and there in no doubt that he will be used as an everyday player.
This kind of deal shows that the Cardinals are building a team that will win a World Championship this season. This deal has been rumored for quite some time, but the Cardinals weren’t the only club interested; the Cubs were also interested in the all-around talented player. DeRosa is the type of player that will make an immediate impact for his new team as he can play in positions that the Cardinals do not have full-time people at, such as second base, third base, shortstop, or any of the outfield positions. DeRosa will also give the Cardinals a consistent hitter to bat fourth, behind Albert Pujols.
Mark DeRosa comes to the Cardinals batting .270 with 13 home runs, 50 RBI’s, and a slugging percentage of .661. DeRosa is exactly the type of player that the Cardinals want for their everyday fourth batter in the lineup and a guy who brings a strong defensive presence to an already strong defense in the Cardinals.
With Ryan Ludwick and Rick Ankiel getting back to full health, look for DeRosa to play most of his games in the infield at either shortstop or third base. Just think, with Pujols, DeRosa, Ludwick, Ankiel, and top rookie Colby Rasmus all in the lineup at the same time what kind of offense the Cardinals will put out every day.
For all you fantasy baseball players out there, let’s hope that DeRosa is on somebody’s roster. If not, I would pick him up no matter what. This is a guy who will produce for you every game, especially now that he is playing in the greatest baseball town in America. It just seems to me that players really enjoy playing for the Cardinals and they seem to produce big numbers when they play for an organization that treats them like family. So, watch out for what DeRosa and the Cardinals bring as we head into the second half of the season with the National League Central up for grabs.

Blanton Now or Nieve?

Tuesday, 30 June, 2009

Two of the biggest surprises of the last month have come out of the NL East. The Phillies’ Joe Blanton and the Mets’ Fernando Nieve have been two of the top pitchers throughout June, but is either one for real?

In three starts for New York, Nieve is 3-0 with a 1.45 ERA and 11 strikeouts. He allowed only two runs in Yankee Stadium, and that’s been his worst start. In 18 2/3 innings he’s given up 10 hits, but more troubling are his nine walks. He’s also had a lot of luck, stranding 91 percent of runners and has a BABIP of .181. Still, Nieve appears to be developing into a quality pitcher.

Blanton has been a bright spot as the Phillies have spiraled into the ground over the last few weeks. He’s 2-1 with a 2.75 ERA in his last six starts. In 39 1/3 innings, Blanton has struck out 40 and opponents are hitting .242 off him. He has been bitten by the long ball, allowing eight home runs in that stretch, including two in spacious Petco Park.

Both pitchers are a gamble, but for different reasons. Fantasy players should always be skeptical of pitchers in Philadelphia because of the bandbox they call a home field. This year, Blanton’s ERA is a full two runs lower on the road and he has allowed five fewer home runs in nearly the same number of innings.

Nieve, however, gets to pitch in the gigantic Citi Field. But he is largely an unproven talent and baseball history is littered by players who come up and take the league by storm, never to be heard from again. The Mets recently experienced this with star prospect Jorge Sosa, who flamed out in 2007. Manager Jerry Manuel told the New York Times that Nieve’s stuff is better than Sosa’s, but eventually hitters will adjust to him and he will have to counter with one of his own.

You won’t see either pitcher on my fantasy teams any time soon, but for those who need pitching help, Blanton may be worth breaking my no Phillies’ starters rule. He has a track record of at least being a decent starting pitcher in the majors. But keep tabs on Nieve, maybe opponents won’t figure him out this year.

Cliff notes:
It isn’t a Cy Young season for Indians’ ace Cliff Lee, but his is putting together another solid year. One of the most unsupported starters in baseball, Lee is 4-6 with a 2.92 ERA. His 16 starts are the most in the AL, and he should be on track for his second All-Star appearance. He starts this week against the White Sox at home Tuesday. The left-hander defeated Chicago on May 13 this year, going seven innings without allowing a run. He’s a must start anyway for fantasy owners, but they shouldn’t be worried this week.

As for the rumors surrounding a trade involving last year’s Cy Young award winner, don’t believe anything until Cleveland General Manager Mark Shapiro holds a press conference. Lee won’t be moved until this year unless a team is willing to give up a Tommy Hanson or Clay Buchholz type pitcher, which won’t happen. Lee will continue to not produce wins for your team, even as his ERA stays under three.

Kaz’s return:
Sidelined for a month with a strained right quad, Tampa Bay left-hander Scott Kazmir made his return Saturday night. Kazmir threw 92 pitches in five innings, allowing two runs on four hits. That outing isn’t what the Rays need out of their former ace going forward, but it was enough to allow the team to win.

Kazmir has had control problems, but that didn’t seem to be an issue against Florida. He walked one batter and threw 61 of his pitches for strikes. It will still be a journey back for Kazmir, but he has the talent to return to dominance. He’s just 25 years old, and this is really the first time he’s struggled on the mound in his life. Keep an eye out for him in the second half if he can continue to improve.

Pitcher pickup of the week: Nick Blackburn, Twins
Blackburn will make two starts this week, at Kansas City on Monday and Sunday in Minnesota against Detroit. The right-hander has flown under the radar all season, but is a key part of the terrific Minnesota rotation. He’s on a tear right now, going 4-1 with a 2.02 ERA in his last nine starts. In that stretch, opponents are hitting. 240 off him and he has pitched at least six innings in each outing. Blackburn’s last rough start did come against the Tigers, but this time he will get to pitch in the Metrodome, where he is undefeated with a 2.61 ERA this season.

The 2009 NBA Draft Fantasy Outlook

Tuesday, 30 June, 2009

by Chris Burrows

1. Blake Griffin, LA Clippers
The Clippers made the obvious choice snatching Griffin and putting themselves in a position of contention for next season. Griffin has already shown his dominance as a power forward in Oklahoma leading the NCAA in rebounds and shaming opponents with his touted 22.7 ppg. He would make a healthy and productive addition to any fantasy roster provided that the Clippers can put some sort of defense together—many of their losses last season were by very generous margins. The Clippers will be the only thing holding Griffin back.

2. Hasheem Thabeet, Memphis
He’s not going to be a fantasy impact player but the 7-3 center out of UConn will play an important shot-blocking role in Memphis. If he develops an offensive game, Thabeet may be valuable down the road.

3. James Harden, Oklahoma City
James Harden is what Oklahoma City needs; he’ll fill a hole in their wing as a strong passer and shooter. The 6-5 guard out of Arizona State could be a strong supplemental fantasy player with plenty of assists and rebounds in his future.

4. Tyreke Evans, Sacramento
No one really understands this selection. Why Sacramento passed on Rubio in favor Evans whose bulk they can use but lack of passing and full-court shooting may prove a detriment is a mystery. Evans probably won’t have much of a fantasy impact next season.

5. Ricky Rubio, Minnesota
Spain’s point guard prodigy, Ricky Rubio will have a major impact where ever he ends up (it looks like the Wolves are going to trade him). His finesse passing and playmaking ability will be highly sought-after in the league but it’s hard to say yet whether Rubio will be a productive fantasy point producer since his role is mainly in the center of the court and not at either end.

6. Jonny Flynn, Minnesota
The 6-1 point guard from Syracuse demonstrated an ability to get to the rim in the NCAA last season and led everybody with 6.7 assists per game. His shooting skills aren’t tops but he’ll be a key for the Wolves’ offensive game. Fantasy potential isn’t huge with Flynn but he’d be a sturdy bench-player.

7. Stephen Curry, Golden State
Everyone knows Stephen Curry can score points—he led the NCAA in points, ppg, pos/g and 3-pointers/game. His lack of bulk, however, will affect him in the NBA and may hurt the Warriors on the other end of the court. He’s a gamble that got picked up later than expected in the draft but a fantasy gamble I’d be willing to take.

8. Jordan Hill, New York
This power forward out of Arizona is not an offensive standout. At 6-10 Hill stands out in the offensive rebound and reb/g categories and it’s pretty clear where his skills will fit in for the Knicks who need to shore up their defenses. Fantasy-wise Hill wouldn’t be a top choice at this point for the PF position but may be down the road.

9. DeMar DeRozan, Toronto
Don’t look for 6-6 SG DeRozan to take to the courts this season but he may be a future star for a Toronto team that is known for nurturing top prospects. DeRozan isn’t a leading scorer or ball-handler but with time could be.

10. Brandon Jennings, Milwaukee
19 year old Jennings is hard to clock with numbers that come from the European league. But he’s fast and could be a fantasy-worthy prospect in a few years of depth-shooting development.

Time to Shop for Pierre Replacements

Tuesday, 30 June, 2009

By Ted Cahill

No Manny has meant no problem for Los Angeles, but with the left fielder preparing to return to Dodger Stadium next week a log jam is in the making in the outfield.

Juan Pierre, the player who underperformed so much last year that they had to bring Ramirez out West, is having a career six weeks. Right fielder Andre Ethier struggled initially without Ramirez in the lineup, but has really returned to form during June. Center fielder Matt Kemp seems to be fulfilling his potential, hitting .314 with 11 stolen bases this year.

Ramirez, of course, is a former All-Star and the Dodgers’ savior last season. So who will take a seat next to Joe Torre when Ramirez’s 50-game suspension ends July 3?

The Dodgers say the answer is Pierre, who has taken baseball by storm this year. A key pickup in many fantasy leagues, the 31-year old will return to the bench where he spent most of the first 29 games of the season.

Pierre got only 31 at bats with Ramirez in the lineup, and it seems unlikely that he will get any more chances. General Manager Ned Colletti said trading Pierre is unlikely, given that no deal was made during the offseason. The Dodgers hope to acquire a pitcher before the deadline, but have plenty of other pieces to make a deal happen.

This leaves Pierre owners in a tight spot. He has no trade value, but has been a very important contributor thus far. He has stolen 17 bases this season and replacing that production could be difficult.

However, it may be easier than it appears on the surface.

2009 may be remembered as the season that previously great singles hitters return to prominence. That might be a bit of a stretch, but in addition to Pierre, Scott Podsednik is back to slapping the ball across the South Side of Chicago.

So for all of Pierre’s fantasy owners replacing him may be as simple as picking up Podsednik. The White Sock is available in 83 percent of ESPN leagues and 80 percent of Yahoo! Leagues. He’s hitting .312 with 22 runs and 10 stolen bases.

Podsednik is a very similar hitter to Pierre, but probably with a bit better job security. His return to the White Sox was brought on by an injury to Carlos Quentin, who isn’t expected to return until after the All-Star break. When Quentin does return, Podsednik could move to center field, where Brian Anderson has not played very well.

Another option may be Brett Gardner, if Podsednik happens to already be taken. Gardner seems to have adjusted to the Major Leagues and is having a fine season. He’s hitting .285 with 27 runs and 16 stolen bases. Also because Gardner plays his home games at Yankee Stadium, he may luck into a few home runs.

Because of Denard Span’s recent trip on the DL he has become available in a few more leagues and Michael Bourn is still not universally owned. If either of them is on the waiver wire, they are better pickups than Podsednik and Gardner.

No matter what, there is no reason to worry about where your fantasy team will find a replacement for Pierre. As long as you plan now, your team can be almost as prepared as the Dodgers for July 3.

Due Credit To Trainers

Wednesday, 24 June, 2009

By Zack Cimini

Time and time again we are seeing quicker recovery in athletics from injuries. It’s even a drastic difference from 3-5 years ago. You hear athletes seeking out the best of the best, and doling out the extra cash to seek the advice and training of experts. In fact, most super star athletes trainers could be virtual daily assistants. They have specific itineraries on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis to help their athletes achieve their goals. Attaining goals is what athletes do day in and day out. What the athlete can’t predict is the injury that will adjust their lifestyle and training regimen. This is where the gap ten to fifteen years ago has shortened dramatically for an athlete.

Athletes are getting hurt more frequently due to several factors. Mostly due to the intense training and rigorous day in and day out grind of a professional sport. This combined intensity just doesn’t gel for a body to handle and endure for a whole season. If an athlete is lucky to avoid an injury, it’s just misleading and not reported. Just scour the locker rooms to see the nagging injuries athletes have to battle throughout the year. Forget the injury report, just about every athlete has some sort of physical ailment that hampers them for the rest of the season.

Obviously athletes are getting more cautious and aware of what they need to do to protect their bodies. Even professional teams have beefed up their training staffs and been more reasonable with lessening the workload in between games and practices. This has to be done or you see the difference come December and January constantly. The age of an athlete’s career has even dwindled down. Older veterans just can’t get away with the tricks of the game they’ve learned throughout the years to vent off age. The Zach Thomas’s and Ray Lewis’s of the world are just a rarity these days. More of what we are seeing are the Shaun Alexander, Eddie George, Jamal Anderson, etc. types. Guys that have dominant years and fade quickly.

It is truly a young man’s game, and is getting younger. The Colts have a running back in Joseph Addai that will be entering just his fourth season, but the Colts obviously feel he can’t handle a full workload. They drafted Donald Brown in the first round and now the committee system is in place. Addai has had issues with his health but now slides at least five to seven spots after being an elite fantasy running back.

Just look at how many veterans are still unsigned. These are athletes like Marvin Harrison that have played at a high level just a year ago. Part of it is the demand for money, but the majority of it has to due with the talent pool. There are enough skilled athletes these days that can fill the role of just about anybody. With the added one on one training the youngster can grow at a higher rate than a declining veteran.

Some of the stories of athletes playing through injuries are just amazing. Remember, a few years ago when Plaxico Burress would miss every practice but play at an incredible level on Sundays. How about the players that tweak an ankle or hamstring that are back in within a quarter without missing a beat? This is harder to notice in football but is becoming stupefying in basketball how quickly a player is back on the floor. Minutes earlier they were cringing on the floor as if they tore an ACL or broke an ankle.

Fantasy owners just like the athletes need to take some time and give credit to those excellent individual and team trainers. The after thought of all your championship aspirations and a true behind the scenes key for athletics. More frequently athletes are able to wait until the off-season before undergoing surgery, which keeps your roster from complete disaster with injuries. Even with surgeries athletes are also defying the odds in that department. They’re defeating time tables for a return weeks and sometimes months ahead of schedule. Remember Terrell Owens returning to play in the Super Bowl, Tom Brady’s remarkable comeback is months ahead of schedule, and even Jameer Nelson of the Orlando Magic.

Sure, your team is usually littered with players that have the letters of D, Q, or P, but most of the time they do play. It’s just the effectiveness ability that comes into question. That’s why you draft numerous players for depth. Just don’t forget about the people that makes your players get ready every week.

What's Up With Francisco Liriano?

Wednesday, 24 June, 2009

by Steve Nitz

When draft time came around in March, Francisco Liriano was an intriguing name. The lefthander was healthy after Tommy John surgery and had a good second half in 2008, going 6-1 with a 2.74 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 65 2/3 innings.

It was hard to expect Liriano to repeat his 2006 performance (12-3, 2.16 ERA, 144 K in 121 IP), but a repeat of 2008’s second half wasn’t out of the question. Liriano was a solid sleeper canidate.

But so far Liriano has been a complete disaster. He’s currently 3-8 with a 5.88 ERA and a WHIP of 1.57. His velocity isn’t the same it once was and his slider isn’t as crisp. He’s still putting good strikeout numbers (74 in 82 2/3 IP), but those don’t exactly mean a lot when he kills your ERA and WHIP every start.

Coming off three decent outings, Liriano was bad again in his start Tuesday night at Milwaukee. He earned the win, but allowed three earned runs in five innings and gave up a seven hits and walked five in the process.

It’s gotten to the point where he needs to be dropped in mixed leagues. Could he still turn it around? Yes, of course. He’s just not worth keeping on your roster when there are better options out there. Plus, the Twins could send him to AAA any time and promote Anthony Swarzak.

Players in AL-only leagues where the pitching isn’t as deep should consider keeping him, but only start him against bad hitting teams until he turns it around. You really can’t go wrong with dropping him in this format either.

You can just add Liriano to the list of complete disappointments of 2009.