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Archive May 2008

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MLB Notes

After tearing the cover off the ball during spring training, itís safe to say Lastings Milledge hasnít lived up to the hype so far this season. However, thatís changed recently, as he has two homers and five steals over the past eight games. Heís also improved his contact rate (.81), so there are some signs of progress. Still, heís been a pretty big liability for the Nationals thus far.

Itís probably not a coincidence Aaron Harangís worst start of the year on Thursday came just four days after he pitched four innings of relief. His velocity was way down, but hopefully this was just a short-term thing.

Iím more Dr. Van Nostrand than I am James Andrews, but Ryan Churchís prognosis doesnít sound too good to me.

Despite his affinity of the long ball, Iím starting to like Kevin Slowey more and more. Heís still likely to remain homer-prone, but with excellent command, they are often solo shots, so he should have a strong WHIP regardless. His stuff isnít overpowering, but his minor league track record is impressive, and remember, he posted a ridiculous 28:2 K:BB ratio last September.

Nice to see Fernando Tatis back in the league. This is the guy who once hit two grand slams in one game. In the same inning! Off the same pitcher!

If health werenít such an issue, Iíd treat Scott Kazmir as a top-5 starter. Heís such an injury risk, I wonít go overboard recommending him, but health is the only thing standing in his way of becoming a monster fantasy pitcher. After the All-Star break last season, he posted a 2.39 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and a ridiculous 124 strikeouts over 94.1 innings. Even with subpar control (10 walks in 30 innings), Kazmir has a 0.97 WHIP so far in 2008. Heís pretty much unhittable.

There might be some awkward times ahead in Arizona if Doug Davis and Max Scherzer continue to pitch like they are supposed to.

For everyone using the absolutely ridiculous argument that Joba Chamberlain should stay in the bullpen because Kyle Farnsworth sucks, may I ask, whatís wrong with Edwar Ramirez in a setup role? His ERA was terrible during 21 major league innings last year, but that came with 31 strikeouts, and heís been dominant in 2008. In 190.2 minor league innings during his career, he has 237 strikeouts, a 2.83 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. Sure, heís not a fireballer, but his changeup is filthy.

Speaking of Joba Chamberlain, where would you rank him as a starter right now? Iím personally pretty high on him, but itís not going to be easy developing a third pitch (a changeup) in the majors.

Itís almost as if Dana Eveland is baiting me into bringing back up the recent Staff League trade with his line Thursday night. Nah, Iíve already done enough damage.

With his previous lack of strikeouts, it appeared Jose Contrerasí bounce back year was largely due to luck and his low BABIP. However, after racking up 10 Ks during his last start, he now has a 14:0 K:BB ratio over the past two outings. Heís obviously going to regress from his current 3.06 ERA and 1.05 WHIP, but it looks like his career isnít finished after all. And to think, he might be 50 years old for all we know.

I only mention this because Iíve reached my apex. Thereís nowhere to go but down from here.

MLB Notes

Andrew Miller has a tough upcoming schedule, but heís someone who has to be owned in all but the shallowest of leagues, despite an ugly ERA (5.33) and WHIP (1.66). Over his last three starts, heís posted a 22:5 K:BB ratio and has issued more than two walks in just one of his last seven outings. Some inconsistency with control is likely to still pop up from time to time, but Miller keeps the ball on the ground and is tough to homer off. His .378 BABIP is bound to come down, as is his ERA and WHIP.

What has gotten into Dan Uggla? During 22 games in May, he has 12 HRs, 26 runs scored, 25 RBI and a 1.000 slugging percentage. Heís always had a knack for racking up runs and RBI despite low OBPs, and at age 28, a career-year is almost certainly in store. Still, his contact rate (.71) is actually worse than his career level (.77), as is his BABIP (.369 vs. .299). Heís someone you should be trying to sell-high.

Clayton Kershaw is without question the best pitching prospect in baseball, with a fastball that reaches 97 mph and a curve that drops all the way to 72 mph. However, itís good to remember he just turned 20 years old last week, and since heís already thrown 50 innings this season, heís probably only going to be allowed to toss around 100-120 more in 2008. Additionally, he averaged just 4.8 innings per start in Double-A this year due to control problems (he threw six wild pitches during nine starts). That said, heís extremely difficult to hit, so No. 1 waiver priorities have to be used on his upside.

With a .770 OPS, James Loney has been a disappointment in 2008. Still, heís a guy Iíd be trying to buy-low, as itís only a matter of time until he starts raking. His contact rate (.85) is solid, and most of his struggles have come against southpaws, whom he hit .319 against during 94 at-bats last season. Go get him.

Over the past week, there have been at least six erroneous home run calls.

I admit, I undervalued James Shields entering the year. His K:BB ratio was extremely impressive in 2007, but with such a lucky schedule (five starts against the Orioles, four combined versus the Yankees and Red Sox) and pitching in a tough AL East, I figured some regression was likely. Instead, heís continued to impress, and now his ERA is matching his component stats. Itís a small sample size that might ultimately mean nothing, but itís worth noting heís sporting some extreme splits so far Ė 1.75 ERA, 0.80 WHIP at home, 6.04 ERA, 1.69 WHIP on the road.

If an outfielder or infielder loses the ball in the lights/sun and it drops in without him touching it, thatís an error Ė I donít care what the rulebook says.

With a .283/.421/.602 line, Pat Burrell is having an MVP-type season. Finally over his past health problems and playing for a contract, itís safe to assume a career-season is in store. Heís always had this type of potential, so unless you get a star in return, might as well hold onto him and enjoy the ride. Heíll never hit better than .280, but 35 homers and 115 RBI are well within reach. And to think, he was getting benched versus righties at one point last season.

Matt Holliday, Brad Hawpe, Garrett Atkins and Clint Barmes? Itís safe to say the Rockies are having some injury problems. Scott Podsednik and Seth Smith need to be owned in all deep and/or NL-only leagues.

Over his last five starts, Ben Sheets has a 29:1 K:BB ratio.

Carlos Quentin is on pace to finish with a .301 BA, 46 HRs, 142 RBI, 116 runs and 13 steals. You donít need me to tell you heís going to decline some, but Quentin is also showing the best plate discipline of his career and plays in the American Leagueís best park for power hitters. This talent is for real Ė his 2007 was ruined by a shoulder injury. Can you imagine the Diamondbacks if they didnít give up on him so soon?

In RotoWireís Staff Keeper League, Albert Pujols was just traded for Dana Eveland and Jose Vidro. Not to call out this specific owner or even go over this particular deal, but I wanted to use it to highlight just how much better it is to play in redraft leagues. Donít get me wrong, thereís some added strategy to keeper formats, and I like the fact you can become even more attached to your players over a longer period of time. However, more often than not, trades like this one occur, so unless youíre willing to sell out for one year, youíre either rebuilding or guaranteed to finish behind some powerhouse who traded a minor leaguer for a top-5 talent before even June arrived. Moreover, yearly leagues are better because of the actual draft/auction process, which is the best part anyway.

MLB Notes

Other than players who rack up steals, is there anyone with a bigger disconnect between real life value and fantasy value than Carlos Lee? Donít get me wrong, heís an asset to the Astros, but when you combine his poor defense with his career .840 OPS, his real life value falls well short of his status in the fantasy community. The guy has never had even a .370 OBP or a .550 slugging percentage in any season during his career.

Jack Cust is about the streakiest hitter in major league baseball, so hopefully his recent two-homer game is a sign of big things to come. And speaking of discrepancies, his .254 batting average and .426 on-base percentage is pretty remarkable. Heís produced one of the gameís three true outcomes in a ridiculous 53 percent of his plate appearances in 2008.

You know how everyone refers to the National League as the ďminorsĒ and so inferior to the AL? Well, an interesting thing is happening. The top-9 leaders in OPS this season all play in the Senior Circuit. Additionally, the Cubs lead all of baseball in runs scored.

Josh Hamilton is on pace to finish the season with 40 homers and 175 RBI. Only health can stop him from being a clear-cut first round pick in fantasy leagues next year. The Edinson Volquez for Hamilton trade has turned out to be an absolute blockbuster.

I donít understand the apparent confusion among the media regarding Joba Chamberlain this season. The plan was crystal clear from the very beginning - pitch in relief the first two months, get stretched out and move into the starting rotation for the second half of the season. Obviously, heís most valuable as a starter, and limiting him to 150-160 innings this season was the right way to go after throwing around 120 last year. That way, it wonít be such an extreme jump to 200-220 when he starts the season in that role in 2009. And I donít care how poor the rest of New Yorkís bullpen is; theyíll have a much easier time trading for a setup man than a dominant starter.

If you havenít seen the TV show ďStrangers With Candy,Ē go rent the DVDs. There isnít a more underrated comedy.

Anyone who just turned 22 years old last month canít be expected to be an immediate star, but Billy Butlerís utter lack of power is a little disappointing. Heís shown improved plate discipline, but a .348 slugging percentage isnít going to cut it. He now sports a .594 OPS during 119 career at-bats versus right-handers. Still, heís going to be a good one. Eventually.

Pretty scary play when Albert Pujolsí liner hit Chris Young right on the beak Wednesday night, changing his jersey color to red in the process. If heís not 6-10, the ball is in center field.

Anyone still holding out hope Joe Mauer starts developing more power hasnít watched his approach at the plate this season. Iíd be shocked if he hit more than 10 homers. Such a shame.

I donít get why everyone views Willie Parker as a better fantasy property than Rashard Mendenhall in 2008. Parker averaged 4.1 YPC last year, doesnít catch the ball and is coming off a fractured fibula. Mendenhall, meanwhile, is already both the superior blocker and option at the goal line. Parker may very well still see the majority of carries between the 20s, but Pittsburgh had more than 500 rushing attempts last year, so thereís plenty to go around. Mendenhall seems like a no-brainer to me.

Have you ever met anyone who was actually against instant replay in baseball? I certainly havenít.

For Austin Kearnsí sake, letís hope his elbow has been bothering him all season and has been a big contributor to his pathetic .267 slugging percentage. Hopefully, he can return in a month and resemble an average player, but Iím not holding my breath. The Nationals outfielders are batting a combined .200 with six homers on the year, putting them on pace to finish as the worst unit in the history of major league baseball.

Itís ironic that the two players who have played in the second most games this year are Bobby Crosby and Troy Glaus.

My Fantasy Football Documentary

I've put a clip (6 minutes) from it up on YouTube with the intention of getting as many views as possible.

Hopefully, you'll enjoy it and want to pass it on to anyone you think would like it.

(The video's a bit blurry in some parts, but that's due to YouTube's low data rate - the footage in the actual movie (while not likely to win an award for cinematography) is perfectly clear.

And incidentally, the guy in the scene, Mitchell Whitfield, is a well-known character actor - you might recognize him from "Friends" or "My Cousin Vinny".)

The movie's full running time is 68 minutes.

MLB Notes

Ryan Howard is on pace to strike out a shocking 234 times this season, which would shatter the MLB-record he already holds. Heís still an excellent buy-low option, as his current .231 BABIP is well below his career level (.353). And as for real baseball, strikeouts are often overstated in how much worse they are than any other out.

Speaking of strikeouts, Mark Reynolds is batting just .212/.305/.231 during 52 at-bats in May. He hasnít homered since April 25. Heís still likely established himself as the teamís No. 1 option at third base for the most part, but heís picked a bad time to slump with Chad Tracyís imminent return. That situation could easily turn into a timeshare. And fast.

Where has Alex Riosí power gone? The nine steals are plenty helpful in fantasy leagues, but he hasnít left the yard since May 1, leaving him on pace to finish the season with just 10 long balls. At age 27, Rios should be entering his physical prime, but a .376 slugging percentage wonít get it done. When you consider he slugged just .369 last September and hit only four home runs over his final 245 at-bats last season, thereís at least some cause for concern. And to think, the Giants actually entertained dealing Tim Lincecum for him.

If only for the sake of my LABR team, can someone please give Dallas McPherson a chance? He strikes out too much to be a big on-base guy, but his power is legit. A recent three-homer game has left him with a season line of .297/.396/.659 with 15 bombs in just 138 Triple-A at-bats. Admittedly, heís playing in a terrific environment for hitters, but I find it hard to believe a 27-year-old left-handed hitting third baseman with this kind of power canít help a major league team. Iím talking to you, Sabean.

Has there ever been a clearer example of addition by subtraction regarding Andruw Jonesí injury?

Since I had Spurs over Celtics as my preseason NBA Finals prediction, I might as well stay the course with the Conference Finals. Still, I wouldnít be surprised if either team lost. And how about the Bulls getting the No. 1 pick in the draft? Who do they take there? This makes Mike DíAntoniís foolish decision to coach the Knicks instead of the Bulls look even worse. That is, until LeBron goes to NY in a couple of years.

Iím completely unconcerned with Miguel Cabreraís lackluster start at the plate. Some are worried heíll become too complacent after signing a long-term deal, but a new set of pitchers in the American League probably has more to do with the slow start. His current .303 BABIP is well below his career level (.358). He needs to be treated like a top-8 player during trade talks.

Farewell Mike Piazza. Your 1997 season - .362, 40 HRs, 124 RBI, 104 runs, 5 SBs Ė has to be considered one of the most valuable in the history of fantasy baseball.

It might be obvious, but Clint Barmes is someone to sell-high right now. Thereís plenty to talk up Ė his extremely hot start, Coors Field, his 2005 season. However, this is someone with a career .753 OPS in the minors and has been caught stealing on 50 of his 147 attempts. Hitting atop the Rockiesí lineup in that ballpark might lead to a solid middle infielder all year long, but with a .386 BABIP, itís safe to assume his value is peaking.

Free Andy LaRoche! I think his current .300/.506/.560 line at Triple-A proves heís sufficiently recovered from the fluke thumb injury he suffered during spring training. Problem is, Blake DeWitt is playing out of his head. In the end, itís a good problem for the Dodgers to have, but at some point, LaRoche needs to get a chance in Los Angeles.

MLB Notes

Over the last two days, David Ortiz is 5-for-10 with three walks, three homers, five runs scored and eight RBI. Heís going to sit a little more frequently this season because of the balky knee, but any chance of buying low has officially dissipated. Despite the horrifically slow start, heís still on pace to finish with 35 HRs and 130 RBI.

Sundayís matchup between Cliff Lee and Edinson Volquez featured the lowest combined ERAs of two starters in MLB history (through at least seven starts). Additionally, Volquez entered Sunday having started the season with eight straight games allowing one earned run or fewer, tying a major league record. All those walks will catch up to him eventually, but heís one of the toughest pitchers to hit in the game. Imagine if he ever becomes more than a two-pitch pitcher.

Iím not ready to call Howie Kendrick the next Rocco Baldelli, but thatís one slow-healing hamstring heís got there. He has batting title written all over him, but Kendrick simply canít stay healthy and is extremely slow to heal when hurt. Heís a frustrating talent.

Dating back to last season, Brandon Phillips has four more homers versus left-handers than he does righties, despite 304 fewer at-bats. Heís also batting nearly 100 points higher (.356 vs. .259) when facing southpaws. The end result is really all that should matter, but for some reason, I always feel less comfortable with players who rely so much on splits, especially when itís the side with fewer opportunities.

It canít hurt to at least see what Rich Harden brings back in a trade after another dominant start Saturday. Probably not much, but hey, heís now just 25 innings away from throwing the most he has since 2005.

Game 7 of the Cavs/Celtics series was the first time I got excited this postseason. Paul Pierce deserves a lot of credit, but Boston is not winning the title. It cannot be understated just how bad LeBron Jamesí supporting cast is. That team is truly awful. Jeff Van Gundy is by far my favorite color commentator in any sport.

With Jeff Clementís demotion to Triple-A, itís time to keep your eye on Jeremy Reed in deeper leagues. The former prospect has been tearing up minor league pitching this year, hitting .364/.432/.597 with six homers and six steals. Of course, an opportunity will need to open up, but Reedís still young enough to not be completely written off.

Ryan Howard arrested?! ďThe OfficeĒ finished an uneven season on a high note with its season finale. The Kevin storyline killed me.

Tough break for Jake Peavy owners. Petco Park aside, heís one of the gameís three best pitchers, but risk is always there with him. Hopefully, his latest setback isnít too serious, but itís definitely worrisome. Manager Bud Black did an excellent job keeping his pitch count down game-to-game last season, but consecutive years with more than 200 innings pitched was bound to catch up to someone as fragile as Peavy.

The Indians have zero home runs from their cleanup hitter this season. Meanwhile, the Marlins lead Major League Baseball in long balls. And who cares if the Yankees are currently in last place? Itís not like they wonít be in contention come September.

With Jason Isringhausen put out to pasture, Chris Perez needs to be closely monitored. With not a lot of top options in the Cardinalsí pen, the 2006 first round pick might emerge as the teamís best relief option over the second half of the season, so thereís some save potential. He had a 2.16 ERA with 21 Ks over 16.2 innings in Triple-A this season before getting called up.

MLB Notes

I expect John Smoltz to return to the mound within three weeks and be a top-five closer over the course of the season. Considering his age and balky shoulder, heís certainly not without risk, but his stuff was about as good as ever before going on the DL. He knows how his arm responds best, so I trust his decision to move to the pen will result in better health, even if it comes down to him pitching through some soreness. If youíre looking for saves, might as well see how worried his owner is by making an offer.

Ted Lilly is officially back. A terrible start has left his ERA still sitting at 5.33, but his WHIP is 1.28, and his 8.8 K/9 IP mark is 12th best in major league baseball. Over his last four starts, he has a sparkling 32:6 K:BB ratio. His velocity has returned, and the Cubs field a terrific offense with a solid back-end to the bullpen. Lilly has never been the most durable pitcher, but he needs to be treated like a top-25 starter right now.

Ian Snell, conversely, is someone to worry about. Snellís inability to come up with a third pitch has really hindered his development, and all those sliders are taking a toll on his arm. Heís still young enough to turn it around, but after last yearís second half (4.83 ERA, 1.53 WHIP), this seasonís 5.05 ERA is disconcerting. The sinking K rate and rising BB rate are particularly discouraging.

For a game thatís played on the same exact dimensions everywhere, itís pretty crazy just how important homecourt advantage is in NBA basketball.

Nick Johnsonís trip to the disabled list was about as surprising as someone from ESPN using the phrase ďby the way.Ē Cal Ripken Jr. can now rest easy. Johnson was playing much better than his .220 average indicated too. The worst part is the nature of the injury, as thereís no guarantee his wrist wonít be a major problem even when heís able to return to the field.

Song of the week: ďTime to PretendĒ by MGMT.

Curtis Granderson is hitless during four at-bats against left-handers this season, one year after batting .160/.225/.269 versus southpaws in 2007. Heís the rare superstar who can be benched at times in daily formats. Staying with the Tigers, Justin Verlander has been one of the five most disappointing players in baseball so far. His 6.05 ERA is accompanied by a .291 BABIP, which is right in line with his career mark, so that canít be blamed. His .59 strand rate is sure to improve, but the fact his walks are up and his Ks are so down isnít a great sign at all. After nine starts, his season-high for strikeouts in a game is six. Dating back to last year, heís now served up 13 homers over his past 12 starts, which isnít going to cut it. Heís also hit seven batters this season, which is worst in the league. I wouldnít necessarily be trying to sell Verlander, but I also wouldnít be aggressively trying to buy-low either.

Fun stats: Ryan Theriotís seven caught stealings are by far the most in baseball. David Ortiz has grounded into the most double plays (10) in the league. Albert Pujols has been intentionally walked 12 times, which is almost twice the amount of anyone else. Bengie Molina has been the toughest player to strike out this year, fanning just once every 26 at-bats. Dustin Pedroia and Ryan Zimmerman have recorded the most outs in all of baseball.

Brett Myersí loss in velocity can help explain his league-leading 15 home runs allowed, but that heís also maintained an 8.1 K/9 IP mark is a little strange. Maybe the jumping back-and-forth between the rotation, bullpen and then rotation again wasnít such a great idea after all. Thereís pretty good reason for concern here.

Daniel Cabreraís 3.58 ERA and 1.23 WHIP are great, and so is the fact heís walked just one batter over the past two starts (16 innings). His newfound ability to induce a bunch of groundballs is another encouraging sign. Still, for someone with his stuff, Cabreraís K rate (5.5 K/9 IP) is beyond disappointing, and his .240 BABIP suggests heís been quite lucky. Thereís no doubt heís improving as a pitcher, but as much as I want to believe heís truly turned the corner, itís best to remain skeptical.

Chris Duncan is batting just .258 with three homers on the year, but he can be quite useful in daily formats. Injuries curtailed what was looking like a big season last year, and heís really improved his walk rate in 2008, which could lead to him consistently hitting high in St. Louisí order. Heís unusable versus left-handers, but Duncan has hit 20 homers in 295 career at-bats against righties, so heís a fine option against them. However, hopefully he limits his smoking to just photo day and not game days.

MLB Notes

Jay Bruce needs to be added in anything but the shallowest of leagues without a bench. Heís probably gone in the majority of formats already, but if not, pounce on him. Heís hitting .328 with six homers currently in Triple-A, but even more encouraging, heís finally learned to translate his speed into baserunning, as heís swiped seven bags without being caught. He entered the year just 33-of-57 on SB attempts for his career. With the Reds sitting in last place, without an answer in center field and shopping Ken Griffey, Bruce will get a chance in Cincinnati soon enough.

While Victor Martinez and Joe Mauer have a combined 228 at-bats with zero homers, Geovany Soto is punishing the baseball, slugging .581 while on pace to finish with 111 RBI. I worried about him entering the year since he was never a big prospect and seemingly came out of nowhere last season at age 24, but heís been anything but a fluke during his second year in the bigs. The 23 walks are also quite impressive.

Fausto Carmonaís season just keeps getting weirder after a complete game shutout with a 3:4 K:BB ratio Monday. Heís struck out more batters than heís walked in exactly one of his eight starts this season. All those groundballs mean opponents are going to struggle getting extra base hits, but his current ERA (2.40) and WHIP (1.64) are mutually exclusive.

Despite three walks, Jose Lopezís average (.312) is currently higher than his on-base percentage (.311). Thatís tough to do.

Carlos Zambrano has quietly been one of baseballís most effective pitchers this season. Entering the year, Zambrano had a rising walk rate, sinking K rate, had accrued a ton of mileage on his right arm and had just signed a lucrative long-term contract; in other words, all signs pointed to the opposite coming true. His strikeout rate is actually continuing to decline, and his strand rate (.84) will regress to the mean, but his improved control is profound. His previous career-best BB/9 IP mark was 3.47. Itís at 2.32 this season.

Thereís a zero percent chance I donít see this movie opening weekend.

Despite facing lefties during just 24 percent of his at-bats last year, Ryan Braun hit 44 percent of his homers against southpaws. This year, heís hit eight of his nine long balls versus right-handers, which is a good sign for his future. He still strikes out too often, walks too infrequently and the 1-of-4 SB success rate this season is disconcerting, but thereís little reason to worry about his ďsophomore slump.Ē Of course, consecutive multiple homer games probably eased plenty of minds, but this kid is legit and will be a top-15 fantasy player for years to come.

The strikeout rate is great but all those walks make Clay Buchholz pretty much unusable right now. He still needs to be treated like an elite property in keeper-leagues, but thereís going to be some growing pains, especially with the AL East being so unforgiving. Keeper-leaguers might as well throw a low ball offer his ownersí way, because thereís a lot to be encouraged about behind the ugly ERA and WHIP. His BABIP of .376 is sure to drop significantly.

Lance Berkman is as hot as a pistol. How about a line of .393/.470/.800? Would that be something youíd be interested in? Now 32 years old, itís safe to say I didnít see this one coming. Hereís what heís on pace to finish the 2008 season with: 54 HRs, 25 SBs, 174 runs, 158 RBI and a .393 BA. Good thing he ended up on none of my teams.

I randomly caught Buzz Bissinger on XMís ďbaseball beatĒ last week, and let me tell you, this guy does not disappoint. He started the segment by saying he shouldnít have said ďshitĒ on HBOís Costas Now and reiterated his distaste for blogs because of their profanity. He then proceeded to drop no less than 15 F-bombs live on the air, as a stunned Charlie Steiner helplessly listened in. The irony ran thick.

Whatís up with Erik Bedard? Heís walking too many batters, serving up homers left and right and only has a 3.48 ERA thanks to a .236 BABIP. I was high on him entering the season and still am, but one has to wonder how heís feeling physically. His 7.22 K/9 IP isnít bad, but itís not even in the same area code as last yearís 10.93 K/9 IP mark. And this means absolutely nothing, but except for maybe Barry Bonds, Iíve never heard anyone bashed by local media more than Bedard, who is apparently an asshole.

As a Giants fan, itís great to see old favorite Armando Benitez back in the major leagues. And by that I mean I wish him nothing but the worst.

To all you Dusty Baker apologists, and I know youíre out there, Iím curious what your thoughts are on David Ross batting out of order Sunday. All the blame canít totally fall on Baker, but it also doesnít reflect too greatly on the manager. Moreover, tough break for owners of Corey Patterson, who recorded an out while sitting in the dugout.

Over his last 893 at-bats, Andruw Jones is hitting .217.

After three weeks into the season, Johnny Cueto qualified as a sell-high candidate. After six weeks into the season, heís an option to buy-low. A 22-year-old rookie being inconsistent should surprise no one, but thereís still plenty to like with Cueto. Even Kevin Slowey thinks Cuetoís nine homers allowed are embarrassing, but 46 Ks over 45.1 innings and a 1.25 WHIP suggest heís going to be just fine long-term. Itís only a matter of time before those flyballs start turning into outs and his terrible .56 strand rate improves. He should still be treated like a top-30 fantasy pitcher.

Ichiro Suzuki currently has the lowest average (.287), OBP (.335) and SLG (.389) of his career, despite sporting his best contact rate (.92) ever. Still, heís maintained his fantasy value by running like crazy, swiping 16 of 17 stolen base attempts on the year. Ichiro established a career-high when he stole 56 bases his rookie year, but heís on pace for 65 this season. It also appears he hits .350-plus on three-year cycles.

Cliff Lee is simply a man possessed right now. Itís silly to say he wonít maintain this pace Ė oh really, heís not going to finish with a 0.67 ERA?! But heís clearly proven himself not to be a fluke, flashing a brilliant 44:4 K:BB ratio in 53.2 innings. Mondayís nine shutout innings may not have gotten him a victory, and it was the first time he walked a batter in four starts, but what heís doing so far this season is unprecedented. Itís one of the bigger out of nowhere campaigns Iíve ever witnessed.

Fantasy Football Index Draft

Just completed the FFI Draft which will come out in their magazine, and which we'll play out on their site. It's a 22-round "best-ball" league, meaning no pickups or trades, and your best performers that week who fill the starting spots count for you. In other words, you might have six receivers, and whichever three perform the best in a given week count for that week. The other three would just be on your bench.

The scoring is 4/6, 20/10. It's a 12-team league. 1 QB, 2 RB, 3 WR, 1 TE, 1 K, 1 D.

I picked ninth. Here's my team:

RoundPlayerPosition
1Marshawn LynchRB
2Randy MossWR
3Darren McFaddenRB
4Brandon MarshallWR
5Rudi JohnsonRB
6Calvin JohnsonWR
7David GarrardQB
8Vince YoungQB
9Chris JohnsonRB
10Ahmad BradshawRB
11Ronald CurryWR
12Owen DanielsTE
13Alge CrumplerTE
14Reggie WilliamsWR
15Kellen ClemensQB
16Oakland RaidersTeam D
17Jacob HesterRB
18Derrick WardRB
19Kris BrownK
20Roydell WilliamsWR
21San Francisco 49ersTeam D
22John KasayK

A couple notes about this format: QBs fly off the board early because there's no waiver wire - you really need two or three of them at least, and preferably four, though I only got three.

And you really need two Ks and two Ds, because if your kicker gets hurt, you'll have zeroes (plus there's the bye week). And defense can't get hurt, but it fluctuates so much from week to week, it's good to have two and take the best performance.

The Perfect Game

When two of your pitchers match up, you always hope one of them will win 1-0 or 2-1, but that almost never happens.

Usually, it'll be like 2-1 in the fourth, and you're feeling pretty good, but then it's 5-2 in the fifth, and they chase the guy who gave up 5. Then your other pitcher has two outs in the inning, the shortstop makes an error to keep it alive, and the next batter hits a two-run homer. Your pitcher leaves after six up 5-4 and you waste another hour watching a game you don't otherwise care about before the bullpen blows it in the eighth or ninth.

Or maybe you'll get an 8-4 win when one of your guys gets shelled, and the other gives up four runs in five and a third.

But tonight, I had Jon Garland going in the Staff League and James Shields, who I just traded for, in my home league. (Losing Yovani Gallardo forced my hand).

And it's not just that Shields won 2-0 - it's that Garland left after going eight scoreless innings himself. It doesn't get much better.

I'm sure something else disastrous will happen any minute now, but you have to savor the good fortune once in a while.

MLB Notes

The Cliff Lee train kept on chugging Wednesday with another gem, only this time coming in New York against the Yankees. Thereís simply no stopping Lee, who now sports a ridiculous 39:2 K:BB ratio. Entering 2008, Lee had allowed 1.27 homers per nine innings. Heís surrendered just one long ball through 44.2 innings this season.

Heíll never help in batting average, but Mike Cameron is consistently one of the more underrated 20/20 threats in baseball. Heís not going to have the best season of his career at age 35, but remember his numbers from the past two years were suppressed by Petco Park, and the top of Milwaukeeís lineup is an excellent place to bat.

Iím going to go on record and state the Spurs will still win their series against the Hornets.

The pride of Carmel, California, Xavier Nady is off to a blistering start this season, batting .349 with five home runs. His 34 RBI leads the National League. Heís always been somewhat of an underachiever after being taken in the second round of the 2000 draft, so a career-season looks to be in store. However, Nadyís obviously not this good, has a .402 BABIP and has clubbed 75 percent of his homers throughout his career before the All-Star break. Heís someone you should be shopping.

Francisco Rodriguezís 10:9 K:BB ratio is ugly, and his huge drop in strikeout rate is concerning for the future, but heís still somehow on pace to finish with 63 saves this season.

After Tuesdayís near no-hitter, let me reiterate, trade Gavin Floyd. If all of your league members remain skeptical, Iíd still think a 2.50 ERA and 0.96 WHIP would look good in a packaged deal. No one has been luckier in 2008 than Floyd, who boasts a 4.3 K/9 IP mark, a 1.06:1 K:BB ratio, a 4.08 BB/9 IP line, a 0.66 G/F ratio and a .147 BABIP that leads major league baseball.

Coldplay came correct with their new single. Canít wait for the new album. No joke.

Only Dusty Baker would leave a 24-year-old pitcher in to throw 118 pitches in a 9-0 game. In life, Iíve found itís often a good idea to learn from past mistakes. Edinson Volquez may very well lead the majors in both walks and strikeouts this season. Speaking of Cincinnati, tough to have a better fantasy game than Joey Vottoís three homers and a steal Wednesday.

How many setbacks can Mark Mulder possibly have?

I really like Sidney Ponson this year. After three starts, he has a 1.33 ERA, 1.18 WHIP and a 2.75:1 K:BB ratio. Heís in the best shape of his career and should get good run support from Texasí lineup. Heís flashing a highly impressive 2.13 groundball to flyball rate and has really improved pitching out of the stretch, stranding a remarkable 87.5 percent of baserunners. Additionally, heís gone six consecutive months without being arrested. OK, Iíll stop now.

One thing I wanted to mention was that you canít just assume a pitcherís BABIP will return to the norm, as that stat is also largely a reflection of team defense. If you really want to get specific, you should compare pitchersí BABIPs among teammates.

Considering that I have both Conor Jackson and Shane Victorino in LABR, watching them violently collide Wednesday night, which ended with Jackson lying motionless on the ground, was no fun. Get well soon CoJack!

Emmitt Smith is a gift that keeps on giving. Check out this recent quote he made in regards to the Cowboys trading for Pacman Jones: ďYou can be with the guy and in his ear 24 hours a day, but at the end of the day you canít be there the whole time.Ē Without a doubt, heís easily my favorite analyst in any sport.

Despite a 4.74 ERA, Jose Valverde is on pace to finish with 19 wins and 33 saves. Iím not sure heíll keep that pace in both categories, but 25 saves are within reach. In all seriousness, over his last 11.2 innings, heís allowed zero runs with a 14:3 K:BB ratio. Valverdeís still not exactly the safest closer around, but this is someone with a staggering 11.4 K/9 IP mark throughout his career.

Fausto Carmona is having one of the more fascinating seasons in memory. His 2.95 ERA and 3-1 record are rock solid, but his WHIP is 1.79, heís not striking anyone out, and heís walked at least four batters in all of his seven starts but one. His 4.05 groundball to flyball rate is by far the best in baseball, and he doesnít have a lucky BABIP (.287) either. Still, his 7.03 BB/9 IP mark is easily the worst in the league, and heís looked nothing like the pitcher he was last season. All those free passes are going to catch up to him eventually.

Players I Don't Own

I'm in five leagues, so I own quite a few players. Of course, I do try to consolidate as much as possible and double or triple up on certain guys - just makes it easier to root for certain guys, and besides, I don't want to be rooting for and against every player in the league. In any event, there are certain guys that didn't wind up on any of my teams - some because I didn't like them, and some just through the luck of the draw. Here are a few in no particular order:

  • Chase Utley
  • Lance Berkman
  • Justin Upton
  • Nate McLouth
  • Ervin Santana
  • Jake Peavy
  • Brandon Webb
  • Joe Saunders
  • Chipper Jones
  • Joey Votto
  • Conor Jackson
  • Derrek Lee
  • Geovany Soto
  • Hanley Ramirez
  • Rafael Furcal
  • Joakim Soria
  • Carlos Quentin
  • Eric Hinske
  • Pat Burrell
  • Carlos Zambrano
  • Edison Volquez

I have to be honest - I'm getting a bit sick of seeing the results from this group in the box scores. You never want to root for an injury - after all, it's a person's livelihood and just your fantasy team, but if five or six of them found the Lord and quit baseball to spread the Word (don't care which Lord or which Word), I'd be fine with that.

MLB Notes

So I pulled off a blockbuster in NL LABR recently. I gave up: Ryan Church, Scott Olsen, Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Shawn Chacon. I received: Shane Victorino, Adam Wainwright and Chuck James. I did it primarily because I was desperate for steals, something Iím hopeful Victorino can provide. Church and Olsen are products of high BABIPs as well. Still, itís a big gamble. What do you think? Did I give up on Hill too soon? Is Kershaw going to destroy the league over the final four months?

I cautioned owners to not aggressively draft Chad Billingsley in non-keeper leagues this year, and so far, his lack of command has backed up my claim. However, his 11.76 K/9 IP leads major league baseball and by a fairly wide margin. His .371 BABIP suggests a decrease in ERA is soon to come, even if his control remains spotty. Heís at least a year away from becoming a truly consistent fantasy option, but heís also likely to win a Cy Young someday.

Itís Ervin Santanaís world, and the rest of us are just paying rent. How about a 2.54 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP with a 22:5 K:BB ratio in four road starts this season? With his strikeout potential and the Angelsí offense behind him, Santana has the upside of a top-25 starter. Heís obviously not quite this good, but I wouldnít be looking to sell, either.

Keeper leaguers donít give up on Andrew Miller. Heís suffered the worst luck in all of baseball this season (.416 BABIP). Of course, his 4.26 B/9 IP mark is atrocious, so heís currently unusable, but patience is likely to pay off down the road.

Max Scherzerís debut as a starter was disappointing Monday, but his defense did let him down. A Stephen Drew error led to three unearned runs, and there was another hit that a healthy Orlando Hudson would have normally gotten to with ease. His release point and arm angle are very unorthodox, making his already live fastball that much harder to pick up. The kidís stuff is downright dirty.

During the Redsí radio broadcast Monday, someone suggested Adam Dunn move to the second spot in the order, and Marty Brennaman and Jeff Brantley nearly had coronaries while scoffing at the idea. Listen, all those strikeouts arenít ideal for a top of the order hitter, but Dunn has a career .380 on-base percentage with a .222 batting average with runners in scoring position and once went more than a full calendar year without a sac fly. Heís actually a perfect fit for the two-hole. In fact, heís hit .278 in 392 career ABs batting second, which is by far the best of any spot in the order. But youíd hate to let those pesky stats get in the way.

The Hornets havenít just beaten the Spurs during the first two games, they have thoroughly dominated them. San Antonio is by no means finished, but Chris Paul continues to amaze. The Lakersí path to a title just might have gotten a little easier.

Daisuke Matsuzaka cannot maintain a 2.43 ERA with a 5.98 BB/9 IP mark, which is the fourth worst in baseball. Mondayís line Ė five innings, one run, 1:8 K:BB ratio Ė was one of the bigger anomalies youíll ever see. Like Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy, Dice-K is a frustrating power pitcher who nibbles the strike zone and refuses to attack hitters with his above average stuff.

Jason Giambiís .113 BABIP is almost unfathomable - by far the worst in baseball. Justin Upton, meanwhile, leads the league with a .443 mark.

Despite playing for a seemingly mediocre St. Louis team, Albert Pujols leads MLB in plate appearances with runners on base (80). Maybe that whole batting the pitcher eighth thing is working, after all. Troy Glaus leads the league while batting with 120 runners on base this season, and Mark DeRosa surprisingly comes in second with 117.

Score another one for Billy Beane: Sure, Mark Kotsay has an OK .804 OPS, but heís still got the bad back and his defense is also deteriorating. Joey Devine, on the other hand, has allowed just one run with 13 strikeouts over 12 innings, looking like the future closer the Braves thought heíd become when they took him in the first round of the 2005 draft.

John Maine has had the third toughest schedule of any starting pitcher in baseball this season, as his opponents have an aggregate OPS of .773. Chris Young is sixth, Jake Peavy is eighth and Roy Halladay is 10th, so itís nice to know these elite hurlersí numbers could improve as the schedule eases up.

First Onterrio Smith and now Cedric Benson. Remember folks, if youíre not wasted, the night is.

MLB Notes

Adrian Beltre looks primed for the second best season of his career, already clubbing six homers to go with four stolen bases. Just as encouraging are the 18 walks, which is by far the highest BB rate of his career. In fact, heís almost halfway to last yearís total, which took 595 at-bats. Settling in as the teamís cleanup hitter, Beltre is likely going to go down as a profit for anyone who drafted him.

How about Victor Martinez and Joe Mauer combining for zero homers five weeks into the season? Neither is actually hitting poorly, but the power outage is noteworthy. VMartís is sure to return, but Mauer is officially a singles hitter. Brian McCann, on the other hand, looks like fantasy baseballís most valuable backstop.

Just for fun: Chase Utley is on pace to finish the season with 66 homers, 15 steals, 142 runs, 132 RBI and a .357 BA. If thatís not enough, consider how massive the drop off is at second base after him.

Cedric Benson just got bumped down from 67th to 68th on my RB list.

Joakim Soria is a robot. It doesnít get any better than starting a season with 13 scoreless innings and a 15:1 K:BB ratio. If youíre striking out nearly four times the amount of baserunners allowed, then youíre pitching pretty well. Last season proved this is no fluke. Heís a top-5 closer.

It is becoming increasingly more difficult to get charged with an error in the game of baseball. As if pitchers donít already have the cards stacked against them enough already. I donít like it one bit.

Scott Podsednik is no friend of Willy Taverasí fantasy owners.

Iím buying low on Manny Parra. Make no mistake, heís not pitching well, highlighted by the 17 walks, but the strikeout rate is solid and all those hits allowed can partially be blamed on his .385 BABIP. This is someone who had a 9K/9 IP mark with a 2.45 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in the minors last season and should receive plenty of run support in Milwaukee. Additionally, with Yovani Gallardo going down, he actually has job security. Sure, thereís Jeff Weaver to deal with down the road, but David Bush isnít the answer, and Ben Sheets is hardly a lock to stay healthy. Parra will turn it around.

The Dallas Mavericks are leaning toward hiring Rick Carlisle? Really? Why go with proven mediocrity? What more proof do you need other than his teams consistently underachieving or him always coming across like he knows little about basketball when on TV? And for the record, Iím predicting Spurs 4-2, Lakers 4-3, Pistons 4-3 and Celtics 4-3.

Greg Smith canít possibly keep this up, but Sundayís performance (10 strikeouts, two walks) was eye-opening. He needs to be owned in all deep leagues. Carlos Marmol is on pace to pitch 112 innings this season, which might be another way of saying Lou Piniella is overworking him a tad. Kerry Wood is pitching much better than his ERA indicates, but heís still a time bomb, so Marmol owners better hope heís been blessed with a rubber arm or Piniella comes to his senses.

I always knew Marvin Harrison was sinister! I already had Anthony Gonzalez ahead of him on my WR rankings, and now that gap has widened.

I thought this was a poignant look at the tireless bloggers versus journalists debate.

Call me immature, but I found ďHarold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo BayĒ extremely funny. Sure, plenty of jokes fall flat, but Iím also someone who finds this picture humorous.

MLB Notes

And on the seventh day, God created Max Scherzer. Thereís a rumor Scherzerís ERA can cure cancer Ė too bad he doesnít have one. Yes, use youíre No. 1 waiver priority on him, and anyone who saw his debut knows why. Heís the real deal.

Tim Lincecum has to be treated like a top-10 pitcher, regardless of his teammates. Heís still walking too many batters, but itís not often youíll find someone with a 1.73 ERA and a .352 BABIP. His 9.9 K/9 IP is elite, and the improved 1.72 groundball to flyball ratio really portends future success. After getting touched up for 12 homers over 146 innings last season, Lincecum has allowed just one long ball in 2008.

Shane Victorinoís owners have to be a little concerned watching him on the bench during his first two games back from the DL. Itís fine keeping Jayson Werth in the lineup, but thereís really no reason to be playing Geoff Jenkins over the Flyin Hawaiian. Hopefully itís just a minor blip and a platoon doesnít emerge.

I recommended Brian Wilson as a cheap closer before the season, but I hardly expected nine saves through April. Itís a good reminder why not to avoid closers on bad teams or predict big save numbers from those on good teams.

Rickie Weeks is an excellent guy to target in trade talks right now. Talk up the fact heís never played in 120 games and is a .245 career hitter who is batting .204 on the season. Hidden beneath those stats lies a sleeping giant, as the perceived disappointment is currently sporting the best contact rate (.77) of his career (by far) and is walking at an extremely high rate as well. Even while hovering around the Mendoza line, Weeks is on pace to finish with 18 homers, 30 steals and 144 runs scored. Oh, and his BABIP is .228, which is .312 for his career. Get him before itís too late.

Donít look now, but Edwin Encarnacion is on pace to hit 42 homers.

Iíd treat Matt Kemp as a top-25 outfielder. Heís not guaranteed full-time at-bats still, but the upside is immense. The K:BB ratio isnít pretty, but Kemp hits so many line drives, his average doesnít suffer as much as it would most. Thereís legitimate 25/25 potential this season, and it looks like heís securing his role as the teamís No. 3 hitter.

Watching Yovani Gallardo injure his knee during Thursdayís game, I thought he was sure to miss multiple months. Seeing him stand and walk (after 10 minutes on the ground) was surprising as is, but the fact he stayed in the game and recorded five more outs (while giving up two runs) was downright shocking. It wasnít the same knee that sidelined him this spring, so as long as he doesnít compensate (he was still limping pretty badly), leading to an arm problem, he should be fine moving forward.

My main man Carlos Pena has been in a brutal slump, failing to record multiple hits in a game over his last 10 contests, bringing his season BA to an ugly .200. He also hasnít homered in 16 games. Still, thatís largely due to a crazy low .226 BABIP, so heís going to improve. He strikes out too much to ever hit better than .275, but heís still a major threat to reach 40 homers, so now is the time to pursue him.

Is that really Chris Shelton I see back in the big leagues?

The seven homers over 25 games are impressive, but Carlos Quentinís 15:14 K:BB ratio is also notable. Of course, heís not quite this good, but Quentinís disastrous 2007, which included leaving Chris Liss hanging on a live radio show after not showing up, was largely due to a serious shoulder injury. Quentinís a legit prospect who now finds himself hitting in the leagueís most homer-friendly park. Heís for real.

Nate McLouth has been unconscious this season. Before Thursday, he smacked four homers with nine RBI over the last four games, bringing his season line to a remarkable .342/.425/.658. Heís showed solid plate discipline as well (14:15 K:BB). The one disappointing facet is that heís been caught on three of his five stolen base attempts, but while the power is sure to drop, he still possesses 30 steal potential. Heís simply been on fire. Not quite as hot as the Snorg Tees girl but still scorching.

RotoWire NFL Mock Draft

Took place on Tuesday, April 29

Brandon Funston Chris Liss Mike Doria Brad Evans Lenny Pappano Kyle Fisher
Yahoo! Sports RotoWire.com RotoWire.com Yahoo! Sports DraftSharks.com RotoWire.com
1 LaDainian Tomlinson Joseph Addai Adrian Peterson Brian Westbrook Steven Jackson Marion Barber
2 Steve Smith Braylon Edwards Michael Turner Ronnie Brown Reggie Wayne Terrell Owens
3 Maurice Jones-Drew Larry Fitzgerald T.J Houshmandzadeh Marques Colston Jamal Lewis Torry Holt
4 Drew Brees Carson Palmer Roy Williams Wes Welker Anquan Boldin LenDale White
5 Antonio Gates Reggie Bush Thomas Jones Rashard Mendenhall Jason Witten Derek Anderson
6 Travis Henry Rudi Johnson Hines Ward Ben Roethlisberger Julius Jones Kevin Curtis
7 Laveranues Coles Ahmad Bradshaw Dallas Clark DeAngelo Williams Jerry Porter Chris Cooley
8 Jerious Norwood Chris Johnson Donovan McNabb D.J. Hackett Vincent Jackson Donald Driver
9 Bobby Engram Reggie Williams Donte Stallworth Selvin Young Justin Fargas Chester Taylor
10 Ted Ginn Jr. Nate Burleson Ray Rice Steve Slaton David Garrard Ronald Curry
11 Devin Hester Jeremy Shockey Vince Young Todd Heap Bryant Johnson Kenny Watson
12 Aaron Rodgers New York Giants Limas Sweed Jamaal Charles Jake Delhomme Cadillac Williams
13 Minnesota Vikings Kenton Keith New England Patriots Green Bay Packers Kevin Jones Jason Campbell
14 Michael Bush Shaun Alexander Jacob Hester Marty Booker Tony Scheffler Indianapolis Colts
15 Ben Watson Kellen Clemens Early Doucet DeShaun Foster Buffalo Bills Alge Crumpler
16 Brandon Coutu Lawrence Tynes Neil Rackers Josh Brown Nate Kaeding Robbie Gould
Erik Siegrist Jeff Erickson Andy Behrens Dalton Del Don Derek Van Riper Michael Beller
RotoWire.com RotoWire.com Yahoo! Sports RotoWire.com RotoWire.com RotoWire.com
1 Laurence Maroney Randy Moss Larry Johnson Ryan Grant Marshawn Lynch Frank Gore
2 Darren McFadden Willis McGahee Brandon Jacobs Andre Johnson Clinton Portis Tom Brady
3 Tony Romo Earnest Graham Peyton Manning Jonathan Stewart Chad Johnson Brandon Marshall
4 Calvin Johnson Greg Jennings Santonio Holmes Plaxico Burress Marvin Harrison Willie Parker
5 Lee Evans Kevin Smith Matt Forte Roddy White Tony Gonzalez Dwayne Bowe
6 Fred Taylor Jerricho Cotchery Joey Galloway Kellen Winslow Edgerrin James Felix Jones
7 Chris Chambers Heath Miller Anthony Gonzalez Jay Cutler Santana Moss Javon Walker
8 Bernard Berrian Eli Manning Marc Bulger Reggie Brown Matt Hasselbeck Cedric Benson
9 Patrick Crayton Sammy Morris Derrick Mason Matt Schaub Sidney Rice Deuce McAllister
10 Greg Olsen Mark Clayton Kolby Smith Ryan Torain Ahman Green Vernon Davis
11 Maurice Morris Darrell Jackson Owen Daniels Pierre Thomas Laurent Robinson Tatum Bell
12 Chicago Bears Leon Washington Derrick Ward Brandon Jackson James Hardy DeSean Jackson
13 Philip Rivers San Diego Chargers Jacksonville Jaguars Baltimore Ravens Dallas Cowboys Chris Brown
14 Seattle Seahawks Jon Kitna Ladell Betts Devin Thomas Mike Hart Pittsburgh Steelers
15 Jeff King Roydell Williams Jacoby Jones Matt Leinart JaMarcus Russell Mark Bradley
16 Rob Bironas Shayne Graham Nick Folk Adam Vinatieri Mason Crosby Stephen Gostkowski

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