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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.
7/27/2007 02:58:00 PM

Chase cut down

Chase Utley
Chase Utley's broken hand came at an awful time for most of his fantasy owners.
Injuries are never a good thing for your fantasy team, but a serious one to a key player at this point in the season can be crippling for your squad. And so we have a potentially damaging one in Chase Utley breaking his hand in Thursday's game against the Nationals. It appears Utley will miss up to four weeks -- prime time to make a big move in the standings.

There's no denying Utley's fantasy value: .336 average, 17 homers, 79 runs, 82 RBIs and seven steals. He's the cream of the crop of a very thin second base pool this season, so it's going to be tough to replace him in mixed leagues.

The Phillies, though, moved quickly in replacing Utley, by acquiring Tadahito Iguchi from the White Sox for minor league pitcher Michael Dubee. NL-only owners, especially those with Utley, may now be racing to get Iguchi on their rosters. However, Iguchi has been a major disappointment this season, hitting only .251 with six homers and 31 RBIs. While he hit .309 in June, Iguchi slid back to .235 in July.

Still, a change of scenery could help him out, plus the fact that he'll still be the starter, for at least a month so, until Utley returns.

Over on the White Sox side, veteran Alex Cintron may end up seeing a lot of time at second now, although he's struggled with a .233 average this season.

More notes with the trade deadline looming:
-- Kenny Lofton is back with the Indians once again as the Rangers shipped him to Cleveland for minor leaguer Max Ramirez to begin their trade deadline fire sale. Lofton continues to be quietly effective for fantasy owners, hitting .303 with 21 steals. He'll play corner outfield spots against right-handers, and should still provide the same type of stats he had in Texas. However, guys like Trot Nixon and Ben Francisco could be the losers for playing time. Meanwhile, Marlon Byrd should see more time in center in Texas replacing Lofton.

All is not good in Cleveland, though, as the Indians demoted Cliff Lee to the minors after another horrible start. Lee was supposed to be a bright spot in the rotation, but was just 5-8 with a 6.38 ERA this season. He was never much of a strikeout pitcher, but with his K/9 rate still under six, it seemed like a matter of time before the rest of his game went south.

-- Brad Penny said it was an abdominal cramp, and not something more serious, like a groin injury, that knocked him out of Thursday's start. Penny looked to be in pain after running to first on a ground ball and left after six innings.

-- Roy Oswalt will be back sooner than expected after missing Wednesday's start with a chest injury. Oswalt will now go Saturday against the Braves, which is a good sign for him.

-- Miguel Tejada is also ready to return from a broken wrist that had him on the DL, possibly taking his spot back in the resumption of the suspended game tonight against the Yankees. However, while Tejada is back, closer Chris Ray could be out more than a month with his elbow woes, meaning Jamie Walker and Danys Baez would get more save chances.

-- Don't look for Josh Johnson to come back anytime soon as he's being delayed by a stiff elbow. The next step for Johnson is meeting with Dr. James Andrews, which is never a good sign.
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7/25/2007 06:55:00 PM

Trade analysis: Linebrink to Brewers

Scott Linebrink
Scott Linebrink finally gets traded but makes a lateral move in terms of a bullpen role.
John W. McDonough
The most coveted setup man in the league finally got moved as the Padres shipped Scott Linebrink to the Brewers for three minor league pitchers. Linebrink had offered some fantasy value, especially in NL-only leagues, even though he doesn't record many saves, because of some vulture wins and a solid ERA and WHIP. However, Linebrink has been struggling, relatively speaking, this season, and he was just 1-2 with a 12.71 ERA after the All-Star break.

Still, Linebrink will probably battle Derrick Turnbow for eighth-inning duties behind Francisco Cordero. With the way the Brewers have been playing, both guys will still be in good shape for vulture wins and a stray save. Linebrink won't have the security blanket of Petco behind him, but he'll be hard-pressed to supplant Turnbow as the second in command for saves.

Over in San Diego, it looks like Heath Bell would slide up to Linebrink's eighth-inning role and could be in line for saves should anything happen to Trevor Hoffman. Bell has been a major surprise this year, going 4-2 with a 2.07 ERA and 57 strikeouts in 56 2/3 innings. His ERA has fallen off a bit in July (5.40 mark) but he's also picked up three relief wins in the process.

One other note:
-- The Orioles placed closer Chris Ray on the DL with an elbow injury, opening up that role for a number of contenders, including Danys Baez (111 career saves), Jamie Walker and Chad Bradford.
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7/25/2007 02:58:00 PM

Tough-luck pitching

Tim Hudson
Tim Hudson was one out away from a complete-game shutout, but instead left with another no-decision.
Otto Greule Jr./Getty Images
What is the worse feeling when watching your starting pitcher take the mound: seeing him get pounded for 10 runs in three innings or watch him lose a chance at a victory with two outs in the ninth inning when the closer blows a save? It's a tough call, but after watching Tim Hudson's performance Tuesday night, you might swing to the latter.

Hudson was cruising through eight innings, shutting out the Giants, even striking out Barry Bonds in the process. He entered the ninth ready for his first complete game of the season and hopefully a shutout. Hudson walks the first two batters, got Bonds to pop out and then a second out, before losing the shutout on a Rich Aurilia single. In comes Bob Wickman to get the save, but instead, he gives up two more hits to tie the score at 4, denying Hudson his win. The Braves eventually won in 13, but that was inconsequential for many Hudson owners.

Even more painful is that Hudson was in a similar situation in April, as he struck out 12 Marlins over eight shutout innings, only to struggle in the ninth and have Wickman blow that one as well, with the winning run coming on a passed ball. Hudson would be charged with three runs, Wickman the fourth ---just like Tuesday's game. The only difference is that the Marlins would win 4-3.

Games like these show once again why wins are so fickle and why it's hard to make a mad dash for them at this point in the year.

If you're looking for a couple of more examples from just Tuesday's games of tough luck losers or no-decisions, check out C.C. Sabathia allowing just one run and five hits and striking out seven over seven innings, but getting outdueled by Daisuke Matsuzaka, who allowed no runs in seven innings. And Scott Kazmir struck out eight and allowed just three runs over 6 2/3 innings but his Devil Rays were held to just two hits and no runs by Daniel Cabrera and the Orioles staff.

At least in those above cases, you still got help in other categories like ERA, WHIP and strikeouts. It was also a bad Tuesday injury-wise for top pitchers:

-- Chris Young left his start after just two innings with an oblique injury, which is a tricky ailment for any pitcher. Hopefully it won't lead to a DL stint, but be careful.

-- However, Bartolo Colon was placed on the DL with a sore elbow after leaving Monday's start early. Colon has been miserable lately, going 0-4 with a 9.00 ERA in his last six starts, so his value just got even lower.

-- There were rumblings that Randy Johnson might not come back at all as he continues to deal with a back injury. It's hard to rely on the Big Unit down the stretch, so don't plan on him returning any time soon. Consider it a bonus if he does.

Other notes for Wednesday:
-- Craig Biggio celebrated his retirement announcement in style by hitting a grand slam. He may get a few more at-bats down the stretch on his farewell tour, especially with Hunter Pence injured.

-- Robinson Cano is among a number of Yankees hitters to improve during the second half, and one reason for that could be increased patience at the place. Cano set a career-high with three walks against the Royals on Tuesday.
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7/24/2007 04:09:00 PM

Aaron's way

Aaron Harang
Aaron Harang's 10-inning outing vaulted him to the NL lead in both strikeouts and innings pitched.
For fantasy players, it's Aaron Harang, not Hank Aaron, who's on the top of mind these days. While he ended up with a no-decision on Monday night, it's hard not to admire the 10-inning, one-run, 10-strikeout performance against the first-place Brewers. Harang once again has quietly put up solid stats (10-2, 3.45 ERA, NL-best 138 K's) that seemingly only fantasy owners are really aware of.

Harang has not suffered a loss since May 20, picking up five victories but also going through seven no-decisions in that stretch but sporting a solid 2.47 ERA. Plus, as Jon Heyman mentioned today, the Reds are 17-5 in games started by Harang, 25-53 in the others. So even if Harang isn't getting all the wins, someone on that staff is when he's there.

He might not be as dominating as Johan Santana, Carlos Zambrano or Jake Peavy, but Harang continues to prove he can be a consistent starter at a hopefully reasonable fantasy price.

And speaking of Santana, where is that post-All-Star break dominance we're used to seeing? After pitching seven shutout innings in his first post-break start, Santana has lost two in a row, including getting torched for six runs (including four homers) in five innings against the Blue Jays on Monday.

Other notes:

-- Hunter Pence will be out 4-6 weeks with a chipped bone in his wrist, thus giving Ryan Braun the edge in the NL Rookie of the Year chase. Pence has been solid since coming up from the minors, leading the Astros in hitting and steals. Chris Burke will see more time in center in Pence's place, and Craig Biggio might get some extra looks at second now as he goes on his retirement tour.

-- Jon Lester had an uplifting start for the Red Sox in his first big-league appearance since being diagnosed with lymphoma. Lester went six innings, allowing two runs and striking out six, to beat the Indians. However, he may need to pitch even better than that to stick in the rotation when Curt Schilling comes off the DL in a couple of weeks because Kason Gabbard has a spot secure for now.

-- Another player like Harang who didn't get much All-Star consideration but is blowing away the competition now is the Tigers' Curtis Granderson, who has boosted his average over .300 thanks to a .368 mark in July heading into Tuesday's doubleheader. However, the numbers that really stick out with Granderson are the extra base hits: 28 doubles, 16 triples and 14 homers. Maybe you can excuse the 11 steals a little because it's hard to swipe bags when you're not always starting at first base.
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7/23/2007 01:10:00 PM


Shelley Duncan
Shelley Duncan, like his brother Chris, can hit homers in bunches.
In the tradition of such notables as Shane Spencer and Kevin Maas, we now have Shelley Duncan giving the Yankees a surprising source of mid-summer power. The brother of Cardinals outfielder Chris Duncan smacked three homers (two on Sunday) in a weekend series against the Devil Rays and now becomes a popular waiver-wire target, especially in AL-only leagues.

Duncan had good power in the minors, smacking 25 homers before being called up, although he also had 82 strikeouts, and added four more over the four games. So he could be feast or famine during his time in the Bronx, as he gets at-bats primarily at first base or at DH. He'll be fighting for at-bats with Andy Phillips, who has been playing well lately, as well as the Melky Cabrera/Johnny Damon combination at DH/CF. Keep your expectations low for Duncan, but he could give your team a cheap power boost.

The Yankees also made a minor deal over the weekend, acquiring Jose Molina from the Angels for a minor-league pitcher. Molina is an upgrade over Wil Nieves as Jorge Posada's backup, but anyone would've been an improvement. Jeff Mathis now becomes Mike Napoli's backup for the Angels. All worth noting for those of you in very deep AL-only leagues.

It was also a pretty busy weekend in terms of injuries to notable fantasy players:

-- David Ortiz injured his shoulder sliding into second on Friday and may not be back until the middle of the week. Wily Mo Pena and Eric Hinske have seen time in Ortiz's place over the weekend. But there is better news in Boston as Jon Lester will return to the rotation tonight, just months after being diagnosed with cancer. Lester will bump Julian Tavarez, who has a 7.71 ERA in his last five starts, to the bullpen. Also as part of the Lester move, the Red Sox will cut ties with Joel Pineiro, who entered the spring training as the potential closer before Jonathan Papelbon wisely changed his mind about starting.

-- Roy Oswalt will miss Wednesday's start with a sore chest. Matt Albers, who has been effective out of the bullpen this month, will start in his place.

-- Hanley Ramirez said he could be back as early as Tuesday despite suffering a shoulder subluxation, or a temporary dislocation, on Sunday.

-- Jose Valentin broke his right tibia on Friday and will be out at least a month. However, he had been a major disappointment this season. Meanwhile, Ruben Gotay should be the regular second baseman and deserves a look after hitting .336 with four homers in limited action this season. Gotay probably holds down the fort in the meantime (with veterans Marlon Anderson and Damion Easley backing up) while the Mets contemplate a deal for a seemingly endless supply of veteran second basemen available on the trade market.

A couple of other baseball thoughts:

-- Who will get to his milestone homer first? Alex Rodriguez to 500 or Barry Bonds to 755? Both are just two away.

-- Peter King brought up David Ortiz's somewhat disappointing 16 homers this season, but Big Papi isn't the only big-name player not to flash as much power this year. Both Derrek Lee and Todd Helton are hitting well over .300, but have just eight and nine homers, respectively. So like Big Papi, you can sort of excuse the lack of power. Meanwhile, other overall disappointing power hitters this year include Scott Rolen (hit his fifth homer on Sunday), J.D. Drew (six homers) and Raul Ibanez (six).
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