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Join SI.com's James Quintong in a discussion of some of the latest news in football, baseball and other sports and how it relates to fantasy teams and leagues.
4/13/2007 04:42:00 PM

Surprising stat lines

Jimmy Rollins
Jimmy Rollins had 25 homers last season and is building off that momentum this year.
Joseph Rogate/WireImage.com
Now with about two weeks in the books, there are still some strange stat lines out there from both hitters and most definitely pitchers that should make you wary about relying on such small sample sizes to figure out whether you want to make any drastic alterations to your team.

For instance, Alex Rodriguez leading the majors in homers is no surprise, but Jimmy Rollins leading the NL with five homers through Friday? That's a bit strange. However, he does have at least double-digit homer power, just don't think he'll be competing with Ryan Howard for the team lead by the end of the season. On the other hand, Rollins is proving why he's a valuable fantasy commodity with his ability to rack up homers and steals, while primarily speed-only guys such as Willy Taveras (.148 average, 2 for 4 on stolen bases) struggle.

To continue with the steals discussion, it's no surprise to see Jose Reyes taking the league lead early. But who knew his former infield mate Kaz Matsui would be right behind him with four? And fellow Japanese import Akinori Iwamura has jumped out of the gate quickly with three steals and a .433 average -- not bad for someone better known for his power before coming stateside.

On the other end of the spectrum, Alex Gordon has gotten off to a rocky start to his major league career, going just 3 for 33 with 13 strikeouts. It shouldn't be a major surprise that he'd have his ups and downs, but the fact that it's come this early does raise a few eyebrows. Of course, I highlighted Brandon Inge's 0-fer streak earlier this week, and he got his first hit afterward and then put up a big game on Thursday. So just ride out the Gordon growing pains for now, although if you have other options in mixed leagues, you may want to bench him. The Royals are doing just that on Friday, putting Esteban German in his place as they face Erik Bedard.

Pitching is always a fickle beast, and even more so early in the season with just a couple of starts under most guys' belts. How else to explain Ramon Ortiz's and Barry Zito's current stat lines, or my colleague Ray Flowers fielding a question about potentially dropping Ervin Santana for Micah Owings.

But the strangest line so far, which should change tonight since he's starting, is Oakland's Dan Haren. He is 0-2 with just four strikeouts in two starts. So that doesn't look that great. However, he's got a 0.69 ERA and 1.08 WHIP in 13 innings. But look even further and Haren has allowed six runs this season but just one of them earned (including four unearned runs on Opening Day). I don't think I've ever seen unearned runs skew a pitcher's ERA that much, but at this point in the season such anomalies aren't that surprising. Tonight's game against the Yankees should provide a better idea of what type of pitcher he will be this season, not to mention normalizing the numbers just a bit.

Finally, a couple of other news items heading into the weekend:
-- Eric Gagne was activated from the disabled list and it appears he'll jump right into his role as Texas' closer. It's still good to have Akinori Otsuka around as insurance or even just to stabilize the ERA and WHIP.
-- Jered Weaver is also ready to make his season debut after some rehab stints in the minors. He'll be back on Monday and is ready to activate in time for a two-start week.
-- Rafael Furcal appears ready to make his season debut for the Dodgers tonight after injuring his ankle in spring training. He did leave a rehab stint early Wednesday with stiffness in the ankle, but doesn't seem to be an issue.
-- Take Jake Westbrook off the list of players possibly shining in a contract year, as he agreed to a three-year deal. Westbrook is off to a slow start, thanks to getting pounded for seven runs by the White Sox in his first start. However, he's still a decent pitcher, especially in AL-only leagues.
-- The Royals still aren't sure when Octavio Dotel will return after experiencing problems with his injured oblique on Thursday. He was expected to return next Friday, but that could be pushed back. Joakim Soria appears to be the closer for now for Kansas City.
posted by JQ | View comments | Add a comment  
4/12/2007 03:44:00 PM

Upstaging Dice-K

Felix Hernandez
Felix Hernandez has allowed just four hits in 17 innings this season.
Damian Strohmeyer/SI
I knew that once Wednesday night's initial Daisuke Matsuzaka-Ichiro Suzuki showdown was over, everyone would have to pay attention to the Matsuzaka-Felix Hernandez matchup. And Hernandez exceeded everyone's expectations, taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning and finishing with a complete game one-hitter. Hernandez has been spectacular in his two starts this season, and the snowstorm in Cleveland has prevented him from putting up even better stats. But after a disappointing rookie season (compared to the early hype), Hernandez is making sure to live up to his end of the bargain, starting by losing about 20 pounds in the offseason, and we've already seen quick results.

Matsuzaka wasn't bad on Wednesday, allowing three runs and eight hits over seven innings, but was just outdueled by Hernandez.

While Hernandez proved that his first start was no fluke, we got to see the "real" Oliver Perez on Wednesday, as he walked seven and hit another batter in just 2 2/3 innings against the Phillies. Thankfully he wasn't a complete WHIP-killer as he allowed just one hit, but piling up baserunners like that is never a good thing. On the other hand, what has gotten into Ramon Ortiz? After shutting down the Yankees on Wednesday (one run, three hits over eight innings), he's now 2-0 with a 1.80 ERA. He might be worth picking up for now, although be very careful how long you keep him.

It's already getting to the point that if you have players taking on the Nationals, you should be in for a good day or week. Andruw and Chipper Jones both homered on Wednesday against Washington, but that gives them just a combined three this season. Nothing like the Nationals to wake up the bats. Meanwhile, the anemic offense has boosted all sorts of pitchers, whether solid starters like Tim Hudson or Dontrelle Willis, rising stars like Chuck James or Micah Owings, or even lost souls like Livan Hernandez. That could mean good things for Mike Pelfrey, who's expected to make his 2007 debut on Friday against Washington.

All is not lost for the Nationals, Ronnie Belliard is 12 for 27 this season, but in true Washington fashion he has scored just one run and driven in only two. At least there's hope up the middle, as Felipe Lopez moves back to shortstop while Cristian Guzman is on the DL (and can remain there as far as fantasy owners go).

Couple of other closer notes: Joakim Soria looks like he's next in line to be the Royals closer, while the Marlins sent Lee Gardner to the minors with Taylor Tankersley on his way back.
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4/10/2007 02:22:00 PM

Tuesday news and notes

Jose Contreras
Jose Contreras bounced back after a poor first start, but his ERA is still over 10.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
On Sunday it was Lee Gardner getting the save. Come Monday it was Henry Owens. Those of you with Jorge Julio should continue to feel uneasy. However, don't look for Ricky Nolasco to get save chances in the near future as he's landed on the DL with a sore elbow. The Marlins called up Rick Vanden Hurk, who has never pitched above Single-A, to start on Tuesday. Nice story, but there should be better pitching options available on your waiver wire.

While the snowouts are messing with the schedule, we are still getting some solid pitching matchups even beyond Opening Day, such as the Matt Cain-Chris Young duel on Monday night. And Wednesday's Red Sox-Mariners game is intriguing even beyond the Daisuke Matsuzaka-Ichiro showdown that will start the game. Dice-K is expected to face Felix Hernandez, who is coming off a spectacular Opening Day start but hasn't been able to follow up because of the bad weather in Cleveland.

A couple of platoon/competition situations may be shaking themselves out because of injuries or slumps:

-- Youngsters Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier are slugging it out for the Dodgers' right field job, but Kemp will be out a few days with an injured shoulder after crashing into the wall on Monday. We'll see if the extra playing time will help out Ethier, who's hitting just .182.

-- Emil Brown did get a start on Monday over Ross Gload, but Brown still doesn't seem happy with the Royals' platoon in left field, as he's opened the season with a .105 average. Gload isn't doing much better, with a .250 mark.

-- While not a real platoon situation, Melky Cabrera could be in danger of losing regular at-bats even with Hideki Matsui out of the lineup, as he is just 2-for-21 for the season. Kevin Thompson could find his way to more playing time, although don't look for the Yankees to be calling on Bernie Williams any time soon.

Jose Contreras bounced back from his Opening Day shelling, allowing just one run and four hits over six innings to beat the A's. However, his ERA is still a lofty 10.29 and WHIP at 2.29, and it will take a few more starts to make it look a bit more respectable. One reason why not to take your early-season standings all too seriously, although if you're in first place, you'd like to relish that as long as you can.

And while Contreras has already started to make amends for a bad start, Brandon Inge owners have to wonder when he'll get his first hit of the season. He's hitless in his first 20 at-bats. The slump is a bit more magnified since it's to start the season, but even Alex Rodriguez can have a similar rough patch. Other top-flight hitters struggling so far that you just have to ride out include contract-year guys Andruw Jones (3 for 23, 1 RBI) and Jermaine Dye (2 for 20, 1 RBI).
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4/09/2007 05:04:00 PM

On to Week 2

Brad Lidge
Brad Lidge once again gives up the closer's job to Dan Wheeler.
It didn't take long for the Astros to make a switch at closer, as Brad Lidge has lost the job once again, with Dan Wheeler getting the job. Obviously, Wheeler becomes a solid pickup, but he's probably taken in most leagues as Lidge insurance (or at least looking for a decent setup guy to bolster the staff). Wheeler picked up nine saves last year when Lidge was pulled from the job, so he's got experience, although don't be surprised if the two flip-flop roles once again. However, Wheeler did just fine in his first save chance of the year, retiring the Cubs in order on Monday.

On the other hand, you might want to roll the dice on Lee Gardner, who got the save for the Marlins on Sunday when Jorge Julio was pulled before he could blow another save. It's not a good start for Julio, who has a 16.88 ERA and 4.88 WHIP after the first week. The 32-year-old Gardner has experience closing in the minors, picking up 30 saves last year for Toledo, so he might be an option now for Florida.

And speaking of pitching on the cheap, the Rockies might not actually be a bad source for starters, with Rodrigo Lopez and Jason Hirsh each picking up a win, and top two guys Aaron Cook, Jeff Francis and Josh Fogg all with ERAs under 3.60 after the first week. Colorado isn't as bad a place to pitch as before, although obviously tread carefully. Besides, if Livan Hernandez can flirt with a no-hitter, you can expect just about anything from your pitchers at this point in the season.

The good news on the injury front is that Freddy Sanchez is back, ready to fill almost infield position where you might need a boost. The bad news is that Hideki Matsui is on the DL with a hamstring injury (which means regular work for Melky Cabrera) and that Chris Carpenter is going to miss yet another start with elbow issues. Maybe that's why I try not to bid too much on starting pitching in auctions and decide to get lucky with the scraps (such as the Colorado rotation).

On the superstar watch, Alex Rodriguez may get cheered and jeered within minutes of each move he makes in the Bronx, but he is pleasing fantasy owners with a league-leading four homers and 11 RBIs in the first week, thanks in part to the crazy walk-off slam to beat the Orioles. Vladimir Guerrero is also doing his part with three homers and 10 RBIs. Meanwhile, it took until Sunday for Albert Pujols to hit his first homer (and he's at .136 entering Monday's action), while Ryan Howard waited until today to go deep for the first time.

My condolences to those of you hoping to depend on the Indians and Mariners, especially Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore, only to see snow wipe out the series -- including a no-hit performance from Paul Byrd. It's especially bad for those in head-to-head leagues, as those games will be made up much further down the line. On the other hand, moving the Indians-Angels series to Milwaukee will bring back memories of the movie Major League, in which the old County Stadium played the role of Municipal Stadium.

Finally, I think I finished up my drafting obligations for the season as I did the auction draft for a long-running NL-only keeper league. While I won't bore you with the details, one thing that struck me is that even after throwing some players back into the pool, I often get them back in the auction. In fact, it was probably even money that I'd get back Chipper Jones, which I did for a probably inflated $28. There were a couple of other fringe players that found their way back at discounts from the year before. So my question is: Are there players who just find their way back to your team seemingly every year? Do you have certain tells, like in poker, that you're going to get a certain guy no matter what, or is it just dumb luck?
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