Friday, July 07, 2006

Guess who's back????.....


That's right folks, the X-man is back in the house with that funky cold ish for your fantasy flavor. After traveling to Chi-town for a little Wrigleyville adventure and heading south of the border for a week in Mexico (oh yeah let's not forget a long weekend in Vegas), the Lucky Leprechaun is recharged and ready to roll. I apologize for my extended leave of absence but when the world calls, I listen. There is plenty to catch up on in the fantasy baseball world but before I get to that I'd like to take a minute to talk about betting on baseball. While in Vegas, I thought it would be a good idea to take some time away from the blackjack tables to throw down a few bets on baseball games, helping to pass the time and not lose my money as quickly.....guess again. I wound up betting on 9 different games in two days and came away with a .333 BA. Not bad in baseball but horrible in the betting world. I tried over-unders and parlays and the luck just wasn't anywhere to be found. I did happen to nail one game as I bet the over on a game with a horrific pitching matchup (it was Esteban Loaiza vs. some other stiff and the line was 9.5). The score was like 6-5 by the fifth inning so I skipped out on the sports book and made my way to the pool bar with my lousy $20 winnings...that's right, the one I nailed only netted me $20 while the games I thought were sure things I lost the most on. The place is a trap and I'm avoiding any more baseball bets....I'll go back for football season because at least that seems a bit easier to predict. At least I am a champ at fantasy....all 5 of my teams are in the top 3 in the standings and 3 are in first....I should be able to win at least 2 or 3 of them this year and net a nice chunk of change to cover my vacations and then some. Now onto some various hot fantasy topics....

This cat has been down right dirty in his role as a starter for the Twinkies....I enjoy his stats in 3 of my leagues, I hope you have him in yours.

Young pitchers: There have been more young pitchers come up this year and make an immediate fantasy impact than I can remember in the past 3+ years. Guys like Verlander, Reyes, Hamels, Miner, J. Johnson, Liriano, Jered Weaver, Lester, the list goes on...the question is now, which of these guys will continue to make an impact as the season rolls on and help owners out come playoff time.....Liriano is in a class by himself right now, so we'll exclude him from the rankings as he is not only the best young pitcher of the bunch, but may be the best pitcher in fantasy baseball at the moment (and that includes his sidekick Johan in Minny). That being said, I rank the top 5 youngsters as follows for the balance of the year: 1) Weaver, 2) J. Johnson, 3) Verlander, 4) Reyes and 5) Lester. I put Johnson ahead of the likes of Reyes, Verlander and Lester because he has been the most consistent, doesn't seem to be slowing down and his spot in the rotation is the most secure, however that doesn't necessarily mean I think he is the best pitcher of the bunch, just that he seems to be the most valuable for the balance of the season. Verlander, Reyes and Lester are basically interchangeable due to various issues that effect their values - Reyes & Lester (rotation spots) and Verlander (Inning limitation & overuse??), however I put Verlander ahead of the other two due to the team he plays for, his stats to date and the fact that I think the Tigers are going to need him to put up some solid innings down the stretch if they want to have a shot at the World Series. Verlander probably has the best overall stuff of the 3, but he has logged the most innings to date and is in his first full season in the bigs which could eventually lead him to hit a wall at some point during the 2nd half. If I am in a non-keeper league, I consider moving Verlander if my other pitchers are solid because he has most likely hit his peak in terms of overall value. Johnson's value may also be at it's highest now for the same reasons, so if you can afford to move him, make that move as well as he also most likely will hit a few rough spots during the home stretch.

Derek Lee's Return: Those of you who drafted Lee with the hopes of a repeat 2005 or even for hopes of a lesser but still powerful season as your starting first baseman have to be stoked to get him back in your lineup because I know I am after rotating the likes of Dan Johnson, Mike Jacobs and Adrian Gonzalez at first for the past 2 months. I don't expect Lee to jump right back in there and starting hitting 5 bombs a week just yet, but he has shown that he can still hit for a high average and will continue to attempt to swipe bags, although he hasn't been successful in his 2 or 3 tries since returning. These are promising signs, so expect him back at 90% in a few weeks as he gets his power stroke going and returns to a top 5 1B. YUH!

It should be happy trails for D-Lee and his owners during the second half of the season. Hope you held on to him.

Closers: The most overrated fantasy position in the game once again has proven so thus far in 2006, as many of the top guns from a year ago have not been nearly as dominating and most likely cost their owners a top draft pick that could have been used on a upper-tier bat instead. Guys like Mariano Rivera, Wagner and K-Rod who were probably drafted in the first 4-5 rounds of most 12 team leagues (and even sooner in Rivera's case), do not even crack the top 10 in saves at the half way point of the season. Brad Lidge, who also cost owners a pretty penny in drafts, is sitting at #9 on the save list, but his ERA and WHIP have been horrendous thus far and he just isn't lights out like he had been the past 2 years. So who is ahead of these high-priced firemen?? The top 2 guys are an overweight White Sock and a rookie, who were both taken later in drafts (probably much later in the rookie Papelbon's case), and lesser known and overlooked arms such as Turnbow, Todd Jones, Flash Gordon and Chris Ray. Am I saying that it is foolish to try to get at least two solid closers on draft day? No. The point is that you don't need to overspend for a guy like K-Rod, when there will be several opportunities to grab guys off the waiver wire as jobs turnover (See JJ Putz and Otsuka) and new faces come on the scene (Papelbon and Ray) during the year. Just keep this in mind next year and always be alert to jump on anyone who may find themselves thrust into the closer role mid-year (see the trade of Everyday Eddie to Cincy....could be the fresh start he needs to regain the stopper role) even if you already have solid closers as you may be able to trade them to another team who is desperate for saves.

Enough for now....I must get back to my summer tour but will be back before you know it to drop more knowledge like Hulk Hogan drops 'bows. Peace out peoples.