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.
7/20/2007 03:54:00 PM
Barry Bonds hit eight homers in April and 11 since then.
Thanks to a pair of dingers against the Cubs on Thursday afternoon, Barry Bonds is now just two homers away from tying Hank Aaron's career mark. Now the questions become when he ties and when he sets the record. While fantasy owners shouldn't get too wrapped up in career milestones (you usually just care about what's going on right now), this final home stretch in the chase still has plenty of relevance for your squads.
With the Giants playing in Milwaukee this weekend, there are plenty of questions about whether Bud Selig will appear (especially in his hometown), but a more pressing matter is how much Bonds will play against the Brewers. Most people would rather see the record broken in San Francisco, and the Giants will be back at AT&T Park on Monday. However, Bonds and plenty of others would also rather have the circus end sooner rather than later. So balancing the two factions will be a delicate one.
The Giants do have an afternoon game Saturday after Friday's night game, which would be a good chance to rest Bonds. But with Fox showing the game, there will be much pressure to get Bonds in the game at some point as well. There's also a Sunday afternoon game, which could also be a chance to rest Bonds short of the mark.
But while the team can limit Bonds' looks on the road, there's always the chance that Bonds could go on another slump and draw out the chase longer than you might think. Bonds' two homers on Thursday ended an 0-for-21 slump, and he's had his share of ups and downs this season. On the other hand, Bonds was stuck in an 0-for-21 slump in 2001 as he approached his 500th homer. Sometimes just getting into striking distance of a major milestone will get you in a slump, but once the target is just ahead, things fall into place.
The Giants will be home all week starting Monday, facing the Braves and Marlins, should Bonds not set the mark by then. But assuming he does set the record in the next homestand (not a certainty), then the question becomes what will Bonds do the rest of the season.
San Francisco sports the worst record in the National League, there isn't a whole lot to play for, so there could be even more off-days and maybe an increase in pinch-hit appearances through August and September. Bonds will still want to add a lot to his record, and his streakiness could still lead to a handful more homers down the stretch, but he could be hard-pressed to reach 25 or 30 (he's at 19 right now). It might even be a good time to trade him, especially after Thursday's outburst, since you're not getting extra points for a milestone homer.
So no matter how you feel about Bonds, there's a chance that his value takes a big hit once he launches his 756th career homer.
Other notes for Friday: -- It was from bad to worse for the Cardinals and Chris Carpenter, as he will undergo Tommy John surgery and likely won't be back until the middle of the 2008 season at best. It was a huge reality check for Carpenter, who had been a solid fantasy pitcher for the past couple of years despite a history of injury issues. There's no reason to have him around on a roster anymore this year, but you should be able to snag him cheap next season with the hope he might produce at the end of 2008.
-- Andruw Jones is finally finding himself after hovering near the Mendoza line all season long. However, the power and run production were still there (19 homers, 65 RBIs), so you had to take the good with the bad. But now Jones is improving, hitting .328 this month along with seven homers. At this point, you have to think he'll continue to improve, so if you want to make a deal for him, you may want to play up the still low batting average to get him below value because it won't last long.
-- Ryan Dempster is back off the DL and will return to closing. Bobby Howry did well in his place, converting seven of eight save chances, so it might not be a bad idea to keep him around just in case.
-- Speaking of the Cubs, they traded infielder Cesar Izturis to the Pirates, although there isn't much fantasy value there. Izturis could push Jack Wilson for playing time at short, but neither has a lot of fantasy relevance.
The biggest question of your draft could be who rolls the dice on Michael Vick and when.
Michael Vick has always been a polarizing and often frustrating figure in fantasy football because of his on-field exploits. Meanwhile, his off-field exploits have inspired many amusing fantasy football team names. But now with his indictment on charges related to a dogfighting ring in Virginia, Vick's outside activities could have a major impact on his on-field performance and, by extension, your fantasy team.
If you're already drafting your team now, you'll definitely have to hold off on Vick until the later rounds since the NFL probably won't decide his fate for another couple of weeks. Obviously, you don't want Vick as your franchise quarterback when there's a chance he won't play this year, whether it's the NFL's decision or even the Falcons. Meanwhile, Joey Harrington, Vick's new backup this season, now becomes an intriguing prospect in very deep leagues if you're really feeling frisky.
However, should Vick be allowed to play, the major question becomes: "Do I want him on my team?"
Vick's running skills are a great bonus to fantasy owners, but sometimes his passing numbers can be so mediocre than his rushing stats only bring his numbers to an average level on any given week. The potential boom-or-bust game frustrates even the most patient of fantasy owners.
Consistency has never been Vick's strong suit, yet in SI.com's Experts League, he was the fourth highest scoring quarterback and ninth-ranked player overall. Last season, Vick became the first quarterback to run for 1,000 yards in the season and set a career high with 20 touchdown passes. The 20 TDs are pretty interesting since his receiving corps was nothing to write home about, although the Falcons did sign veteran Joe Horn this offseason to give them a little leadership. Oddly enough, Vick only scored two TDs on the ground with the 1,000 yards, while Peyton Manning had four rushing scores.
If Vick plays, he'll be working a lot with new head coach Bobby Petrino, who had a high-powered offense at Louisville. Petrino and the coaching staff will find ways to let Vick's game shine, but obviously I'd like to see it before I believe it. (And there's a chance we won't be able to see it.)
Legal issues or not, Vick shouldn't be expected to put up huge passing games on a regular basis, but add 35-40 rushing yards per contest and he's an OK prospect. So even without the potential for a lengthy suspension, he was on the bubble to be someone's No. 1 quarterback. That's out the window now. As a No. 2 quarterback he's still a risk because even if he's not suspended, Vick might still miss time attending to his legal troubles surrounding the case. And then there's whole distraction factor both on and off the field.
At this point, you'll need to be really patient with the Vick situation. If you were really high on him initially, you still should be able to draft him a few rounds later than you might expect (probably 8th or 9th in many leagues), just hopefully not as your primary starter. If you weren't a big fan to begin with, this whole situation makes it easier for you to ignore him completely.
While it's hard to know whether Vick will play this season, one thing seems almost certain -- at least one team in your league will have its name inspired in this case. So don't be surprised to see a handful of Bad Newz Kennels, Ookies or Release the Hounds as team names this season.
Jason Kendall had just three homers in three seasons with Oakland.
So we do have a mildly interesting interleague trade after all, with the Cubs finally finding a regular replacement for Michael Barrett by acquiring Jason Kendall from the A's. However, NL-only players shouldn't get too excited over the move, but AL-only owners will be intrigued by the aftereffects of the trade.
On the Cubs side, they get a veteran catcher in Kendall who was best known in fantasy terms for a high batting average and decent steals totals. He has neither this year, hitting just .226 with three steals. Kendall also has just two homers this year, but that's double his total from first two seasons with the A's. He's nowhere close to being the OK hitter he was during his days with the Pirates -- the .542 OPS this season says a whole lot about his fantasy value these days.
Maybe a move to Chicago could pick up his bat a tad, with Wrigley being far more hitter-friendly than Oakland, but at this point, all he'll do is give you regular at-bats with little much else. If you really want to fill a catching hole, Kendall is a workable pickup. Also, while potential catcher of the future Geovany Soto will see less time this year, he's still in the Cubs plans down the line since Kendall will be a free agent after the season.
Meanwhile, Kendall's departure in Oakland opens up a whole host of possibilities. First off, don't pick up Rob Bowen, who the Cubs sent to the A's in the deal. He was originally dealt to Chicago in the Barrett trade, and he'll be a backup at best again this time.
Instead, youngster Kurt Suzuki appears to have the inside track at the starting job at least for now. The top prospect is hitting just .241 (7-for-29) with a couple of homers in limited action. However, Mike Piazza's shadow still looms large over the whole situation. Jack Cust has played well enough to keep his DH job, although a 2-for-23 slump may change that. However, Piazza's shoulder may not be healthy enough to be the regular catcher even when he comes off the DL. In the short term, Suzuki is a decent AL-only pickup, but that situation could change whenever Piazza returns.
Other notes for Tuesday:
-- Kason Gabbard is making a strong push to stay in the Red Sox rotation after pitching a three-hit shutout with eight strikeouts against the Royals. He's a good pickup if you're looking for pitching help.
-- Willy Taveras made a nice return to the lineup on Monday, stealing two bases and scoring three runs against the Pirates. A quad strain kept him limited him just before the All-Star break. Ryan Spilborghs had played well in his place, going 6-for-16 with a couple of homers in four starts while Taveras was out but is now bench-bound for now.
Nick Markakis is once again seeing his numbers improve as the season progreeses.
Over the past week, a number of my colleagues have suggested top-flight players who should improve in the second half. Now, after a short post-All-Star week, it's time to see who really is starting to make those strides to help out owners:
Jermaine Dye, OF, White Sox: He could either a long-term extension like teammate Mark Buehrle or he could be dealt by the deadline. A 7-for-17, three-homer weekend against the Orioles helps his value, but he needs to keep it up.
Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals: His numbers were already on an upswing, but hitting four homers in three games after failing to get an at-bat in the All-Star Game could mean the start of a monster second half.
Nick Markakis, OF, Orioles: Once again, Markakis' average has improved each month this season: .245 in April, .286 in May, .292 in June, .383 so far in July, thanks in part to an 8-for-17 run this weekend. We're still waiting for a power surge, but remember he hit 10 homers in August alone last year.
Bobby Abreu, OF, Yankees: Maybe Abreu's finally found the power stroke that's deserted him since the 2005 Home Run Derby as he hit two homers this weekend, increasing his total to seven. Of course, he was facing Tampa Bay, so who knows if he'll keep that up. But an easy Yankees schedule in the next few weeks could wake up his bat.
Jose Guillen, OF, Mariners: Two homers this weekend against the Tigers just add to a great July (.426 average). He's not letting any of the Adam Jones talk affect him.
Mariano Rivera, P, Yankees: The lack of chances has hurt his value so far this year, but getting two this weekend against the Devil Rays helped a bunch. As with Abreu, Rivera needs to take advantage of the upcoming soft schedule. After a 10.57 ERA in April, Rivera is at 1.53 since then, allowing two walks total in that time.
Tom Glavine, P, Mets: After a bad stretch in May and June, Glavine is getting his game in order with his 300th win looking. An eight-inning, two-hit performance against the Reds on Saturday shows the old guy still has something left in the tank.
Scott Kazmir, P, Devil Rays: He allowed no earned runs in six innings against the Yankees on Friday to beat Roger Clemens for his first win since June 17. The seven strikeouts are very nice, the four walks not so much. He still needs to keep that pitch count down, as he needed 117 to get through six innings, to get himself into more position for wins and not rely on that bullpen for help.
Adam Wainwright, P, Cardinals: A little extra time before and after the break got Wainwright's game back in order after a so-so first half. He had a nice outing just before the break and pitched seven shutout innings on Sunday to end the Phillies' winning streak and hand them their 10,000th defeat.
Other notes for Monday: -- Ben Sheets is back on the DL again after leaving Saturday's start early with an injured finger. I guess you had to expect this from him at some point. Meanwhile, Yovani Gallardo gets another shot at the rotation.
-- Derrek Lee's .335 average is nice, but the seven homers are aggravating many fantasy owners. He did go deep on Monday, but that was his first homer since June 3. Lee has the chance to go on a tear soon, but he won't match most people's power expectations.
-- Tom Gordon is back off the disabled list, but he may log a little middle relief work before closing again. And then we'll repeat the process when Brett Myers returns in a few weeks.
-- Mark Teixeira is playing himself into prime trade position should the Rangers be interested in a deal as he came off the DL after the break, hitting a homer and three doubles in three games against the Angels.