Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Twi-Night Doubleheader - Week 21

Fantasy Players of the Week
  • AL Hitter: Marcus Thames, OF, Yankees (.429, 7 R, 6 HR, 11 RBI) - I would have liked to have given the award to my very own Alex Rios (.367, 8 R, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 3 SB), but those six home runs are too much to ignore. Thank goodness, by the way. We'd all hate for the Yankees to suffer a power outage with Alex Rodriguez on the shelf.
  • NL Hitter: Hanley Ramirez, SS, Marlins (.536, 9 R, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 4 SB) - It's rare that you find such a no-brainer pick for the player of the week, and it's particularly surprising when you consider some of the other weeks people have had. Stephen Drew (.500, 11 R, 4 HR, 9 RB) and Carlos Gonzalez (.478, 8 R, 4 HR, 11 RBI) both have been outstanding, but Hanley's obscene batting average and his speed contribution put him a cut above everyone else.
  • AL Pitcher: Gi0 Gonzalez, SP, Athletics (2-0, 11 K, 1.38/0.92) - It was kind of a tough week to pick the best AL pitcher, because nobody really had crazy strikeouts, which is usually my tie-breaker. Gonzalez was at least second in K's this week, and had a pair of wins and an excellent ERA and WHIP. Kudos must be extended, however, to Rick Porcello, who gave up just one run and just six base-runners over 14 innings in a pair of wins. His paltry 8 strikeouts, though, means you're just pleased, not super-pleased.
  • NL Pitcher: Carlos Zambrano, SP, Cubs (2-0, 15 K, 0.71/1.11) - Remember when Big Z was yanked from the starting rotation? Now, do you remember when he was a top 10 starting pitcher in fantasy baseball? We're closer to that now than the other thing...well, okay, maybe not. But Zambrano has definitely bounced back from his rough spring.

Riders, Ranked

I had an idea for a different feature this week, but it's better suited for closer to the end of the season. So, for kicks, I'm going to rank my entire team, top to bottom. Obviously this is subject to fluctuations, and should only be used for entertainment purposes.
  1. Miguel Cabrera, 1B (.342, 94 R, 33 HR, 107 RBI, 3 SB) - Arguably the best hitter in baseball. Notice I said hitter, to eliminate the stolen base aspect of his opponents.
  2. Matt Kemp, OF (.253, 68 R, 22 HR, 74 RBI, 18 SB) - I'm holding onto the idea that Kemp can be the 30/30 guy I need, but it does seem like discipline may be a problem, plate and otherwise.
  3. Jon Lester, SP (14 W, 176 K, 3.12/1.18) - Trading for Lester was maybe the most excited I've ever been about acquiring any player. I was jazzed when I traded for Miguel Cabrera, but Lester is the apple of my eye.
  4. Alex Rios, OF (.295, 78 R, 19 HR, 78 RBI, 28 SB) - I'm glad that, even though I tried my damnedest to get the Pronks to draft Rios, he ignored me.
  5. Clayton Kershaw, SP (11 W, 180 K, 3.01/1.24) - It looks like pitch count continues to be a problem for Kershaw, because he's stifling opponents, but he can't stay on the mound long enough to pick up wins. I hope he'll find a way to keep striking guys out, but doing so more quickly.
  6. Prince Fielder, 1B (.269, 80 R, 28 HR, 68 RBI, 1 SB) - The problem with Fielder has always been that, historically, heavy guys are hard to trust. Mo Vaughn, David Wells, Papa Fielder, they all seem to fluctuate a lot in their performances. So yes, this season does worry me some.
  7. Ian Kinsler, 2B (.298, 55 R, 6 HR, 38 RBI, 10 SB) - Kinsler is hurt every year. Kinsler is good every year. These are the facts.
  8. Zack Greinke, SP (8 W, 152 K, 3.81/1.21) - Greinke has come way back down to Earth after last year's Cy Young campaign. But the strikeout rate is still good, and he's got free agency coming up soon...which is a good thing as long as he doesn't go to the AL East. I don't want him having a break down when Yankees fans start booing him.
  9. Jose Bautista, 3B/OF (.266, 88 R, 42 HR, 99 RBI, 6 SB) - A trade deadline acquisition that was supposed to help me try to make up some points going towards the end of the year. The thing is, he's really been killing the ball all year, and I watched him on TV this weekend. He looks like can hit. Which means it looks like I have to start thinking about whether or not I can keep him.
  10. Phil Hughes, SP (15 W, 122 K, 4.12/1.25) - He's been the best source of wins on my team, but he's so up and down it kills me. Literally. Figuratively.
  11. Carlos Lee, OF (.251, 56 R, 19 HR, 77 RBI, 3 SB) - One of my more disappointing players this year (though Chris Davis will take the #1 slot on that list), Lee has finally started to show flashes of what made him a keeper for me in the first place. Too little, too late brother.
  12. Alexei Ramirez, SS (.287, 70 R, 15 HR, 55 RBI, 8 SB) - I can't see a scenario in which I keep him, but he's been rocket hot recently, and his numbers at shortstop could be intriguing.
  13. Ian Kennedy, SP (8 W, 140 K, 4.22/1.25) - Initially, he was supposed to just be someone I grabbed for a few starts then waived. Three months later, he's still on my team. I know he doesn't look like a keeper today, but if you add two good starts to his current numbers, he's suddenly very interesting.
  14. Omar Infante, 2B/3B/SS/OF (.343, 53 R, 7 HR, 38 RBI, 6 SB) - So, Charlie Manuel is apparently pretty smart. The most controversial All-Star pick of my lifetime could, if he gets enough plate appearances, earn himself a batting crown. Another I could never keep, but I can't argue how well he's performed for my team.
  15. Rajai Davis, OF (.272, 49 R, 5 HR, 41 RBI, 39 SB) - A fairly meaningless trade at the deadline sent Vernon Wells to the Heroes for Davis. It should be of comfort to you, Heroes, that this right where Wells would fit on these rankings today, too.
  16. David Aardsma, RP (0 W, 25 SV, 46 K, 3.95/1.20) - I could've seen a scenario where I put some blame on Aardsma's shoulders for my disappointing 4th or 5th place finish this year, but really, he's been as good as I should have expected. No, Trevor Hoffman is my villain, and appropriately so.
  17. Hong-Chih Kuo, RP (3 W, 7 SV, 57 K, 1.29/0.80) - The throw-in on a trade with the Mosquitoes, Kuo is in line for some saves down the stretch as Jonathan Broxton has hit a rocky patch. He's been insanely good in middle-relief, and if he's able to translate that to 9th inning work, look out.
  18. Matt Thornton, RP (3 W, 5 SV, 64 K, 2.66/1.10) - Thornton may be on the DL, and he's had a couple of rough outings, but overall he's been excellent. I was excited to be able to acquire him mid-season, and guys like him and Benoit have reminded me of the value of elite middle relievers.
  19. Kevin Gregg, RP (1 W, 30 SV, 52 K, 3.35/1.32) - I picked up Gregg back when I thought I had an outside shot at the title this year. Oh well.
  20. Stephen Drew, SS (.276, 70 R, 12 HR, 50 RBI, 6 SB) - Drew literally joined my team today. He's been on fire, so that's cool, but he's basically just a guy to sit on for the rest of the season.
  21. Ryan Theriot, 2B/SS (.290, 63 R, 2 HR, 29 RBI, 18 SB) - Theriot had been a target of mine all season as a potential trade acquisition. The trade never happened, but Theriot had a terrible stretch mid-season and became available on waivers. He's not been awesome, but he's been fairly productive when I've had him in my lineup, so that'll do.
  22. Joel Hanrahan, RP (3 W, 2 SV, 79 K, 3.81/1.11) - With his numbers, you wouldn't have thought he'd be available after being designated the closer for the Pirates. But he had a couple of terrible outings, and the league got scared off. Having been essentially eliminated from contention, I know no fear. Get out there, Hanrahan.
  23. Joaquin Benoit, RP (0 W, 1 SV, 64 K, 1.49/0.68) - Just a very good middle reliever who's been on at least one or two other teams, as is often the case with very good middle relievers. You always wish they'd have been on your team all season, though. That kind of production over a season is a dream.
  24. Jake Westbrook, SP (7 W, 107 K, 4.51/1.33) - Yes, I was excited to grab him when he got traded to the Cardinals. And yes, I've started him every time his turn in the rotation has come around. But I know he's worthless long-term. I'm not stupid...well, not that stupid.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Twi-Night Doubleheader - Week 20

Fantasy Players of the Week
  • AL Hitter: Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees (.385, 8 R, 4 HR, 14 RBI) - Cano is putting together a nice little season here. His run production has been outstanding all season, but 14 RBI in a week? Obscene.
  • NL Hitter: Omar Infante, all positions, Braves (.452, 8 R, 3 HR, 5 RBI, 1 SB) - I'm not even kidding; Infante has started at least five games at three infield positions and two outfield positions this year. He was maybe the most controversial All-Star selection ever, but since the break he's hitting .379 with 4 HR, 11 RBI, and 20 R.
  • AL Pitcher: CC Sabathia, SP, Yankees (2-0, 17 K, 1.38/0.85) - Sabathia continues his fantastic run as a home Yankee, chalking up two more wins and improving his Cy Young resume. I'd have to say he's the front-runner right now, but nobody has been overwhelming in the American League. This looks like a classic RACE TO THE FINISH!
  • NL Pitcher: Roy Oswalt, SP, Phillies (2-0, 15 K, 1.93/0.86) - Oswalt seems to be trying to remind people that, before the Astros went into the crapper, he was a pretty damn good pitcher. It's nice to see him able to thrive in a pennant race again, and between him, Roy Halladay, and Cole Hamels, Philadelphia has got a pretty daunting rotation to throw at anybody this postseason...if they can just get past the Braves.
No bonus coverage this week, folks.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Completing the Circle?

The Dream Team was honored at the Hall of Fame last week. Only two of the members of the 1992 Olympic basketball team are not already in the Hall as individuals: Chris Mullin and Christian Laettner. (Karl Malone and Scottie Pippen were inducted this year.) Should Laettner and Mullin be in the basketball Hall of Fame as well? Let's have a look.

Christian Laettner

Laettner had a nice NBA career, averaging 17 points and 8 rebounds per game over his first five seasons. But he played on some really bad teams, including the near-expansion Timberwolves and the donkey ass Wizards of the early 2000's. His only sniff of a championship caliber team came with the 2004-2005 Heat as a role player, his final NBA season. The team lost in the Eastern Conference finals to the Pistons.

But if Laettner were to be considered for the Hall of Fame, it would be based on his college performance less than his NBA career. He was the best player on the best team of his era, hitting clutch shots, and frustrating fans of the Michigan Wolverines and their "Fab Five" superstar recruiting class. He's the only player ever to start in four consecutive Final Fours. He holds the record for most points scored in NCAA Tournament play.

The logical comparison case is Bill Walton. Walton's NBA career bore a resemblance to Laettner's, featuring averaging about 16 points per game in his first five seasons, but he was definitely a better defensive player. Walton pulled down 12+ rebounds per game in each of his first four seasons, and had 2.5+ blocks per game in three of those four campaigns. Perhaps most importantly, his teams were a lot better than the Timberwolves ever were.

Walton also had a more illustrious college career, being the centerpiece of the unreal 88-game winning streak by UCLA in the mid-70s. And there's the main difference between Walton (a HOFer) and Laettner: hardware. Walton managed to garner an NBA MVP trophy in 1978 (not sure how, with just 19 points and 13 rebounds per game, and only playing in 58 games). He's also got two each of NCAA championships and NBA championships, and he was named Finals MVP in 1977 for the Portland Trail Blazers.

The reality is that Christian Laettner doesn't come close to Walton in terms of overall performance; Walton was a better college player, and a far better professional player than Laettner. Perhaps a better comparison to Laettner would be Vin Baker (who by the way was my favorite player in Electronic Arts' Live '95 game for Super Nintendo).

Verdict: Not a Hall of Famer.

Chris Mullin

I chose to review Mullin second because he's basically Laettner, except better. Mullin was a superstar at St. John's, winning Big East Player of the Year honors three times in his four years, as well as being named an All-American three times. Additionally, he won Olympic gold in 1984, eight years before he did it again with the Dream Team.

Mullin was drafted seventh overall by the Golden State Warriors in the 1985 NBA Draft, in a draft that saw power forwards or centers get drafted with 15 of the first 17 picks. He contributed immediately, sliding into the starting lineup by the middle of his rookie season, and 14 points per game. His scoring average increased over his first four years, up to a career high of 26.5 in 1988-89. He scored at least 25 points per game over the next four seasons as well, guiding the Warriors to five consecutive playoff appearances. He also made better than 50% of his field goals, remarkable for a spot-up shooter.

His performance over this period earned him his spot on the 1992 Olympic team, and he took full advantage. He may not have provided any memorable highlight reel dunks or passes, but Mullin was the 4th leading scorer on a team of legends, despite starting only two of the team's eight games.

Unfortunately, injuries took away parts of four seasons, as Mullin missed 140 games over that period, preventing him from building on his Olympic success. By the time he was fully healthy and able to play a full season's worth of games, he was 33, and his skills had begun to fade. He'd never again break 15 points per game, and his career faded out of memory.

So how do we judge him? Comparing him to Walton is pretty fair; he was a dominant college player who had success in the pros. Walton picked up an MVP trophy, but I'd say Mullin was more productive, so we'll call their NBA careers, production-wise, a wash. So the question is this: Does Mullin's Olympic and college success measure up to Walton's college dominance, and the NBA title he pulled in?

Answer: Almost. Walton's NBA championship is impressive, and he was clearly an integral part of the team, rating second in scoring and first in rebounds and blocks on that Trail Blazer team. But I can't give top credit to Mullin for either of his two Olympic golds, for the same reason I don't assign much value to Walton's second title with the Celtics in 1986. Mullin was important to his two gold medal teams, more important than Walton was to those Celtics, but not nearly as important as Walton was to the Portland team.

The final piece of the puzzle is this: While Mullin was a prolific scorer, he never led the league in scoring. Granted, this was during Michael Jordan's heyday, but if a player is going to be elected to the Hall of Fame as a prolific scorer who never won a title (in the NBA or college), he'll have to have led the league in scoring at some point. If Dominique Wilkins can't get in, neither can Mullin.

Verdict: Not a Hall of Famer

I think it's important to note that, specifically with Chris Mullin, this isn't a slouch we're talking about. He's one of the all-time greats, maybe the second-best player in Warrior history behind Wilt Chamberlain, and certainly their best player since moving out west. But the Hall of Fame isn't (and shouldn't be) about being a good player, or being the best player over a short period for one time. It's about being a legend. And we should reserve that for the elite.

And yes, I'm looking at you, baseball.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Twi-Night Doubleheader - Week 19

Does it bother you guys when I don't do these posts on Mondays? It should. I'm not going to be any better about it, just saying, you should be pretty pissed.

Fantasy Players of the Week
  • AL Hitter: Michael Brantley, OF, Indians (.375, 7 R, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 2 SB) - This is the kind of across-the-board production those of us who were watching Brantley at the beginning of the season were hoping for. The .203 season average and only 143 at-bats...not so much.
  • NL Hitter: Mike Stanton, OF, Marlins (.556, 5 R, 4 HR, 8 RBI) - That caliber of batting average is always great to see, and when you partner it with as many homers as anyone over the past week, the pick is kind of a no-brainer. As in, pick anyone else and you don't have a brain.
  • AL Pitcher: Felix Hernandez, SP, Mariners (1-1, 20 K, 0.00/1.09) - Felix was a party to one of the weirder SP games this year on Sunday. He gave up six hits (one home run) and four walks over 6.2 innings, yet allowed zero earned runs. The problem, of course, was six unearned runs, but as fantasy owners, those are just runs that affect your chance at a win. Fantasy-wise, he's your pitcher of the week in the Junior Circuit.
  • NL Pitcher: R.A. Dickey, SP, Mets (1-0, 7 Ks, 0.00/0.22) - While you could pretty reasonably argue that Wade LeBlanc (2-0, 15 Ks, 2.13/1.03) has had a better past seven days, I'm going with Dickey. He's having a career year, and at this point, with 2.43/1.15 ratios and by far his best ever K/BB ratio (2.4), he should really be on a team in most leagues (he's only 39% owned right now).
Buy-Backs

We had an interesting situation crop up in our fantasy baseball keeper league this past weekend, as a result of some new trade clauses. There was a buildup this season over the course of three trades, each including a variation on a concept.

The first trade (completed about 8 weeks ago) included The Usual Suspects sending Daniel Bard and a second-round pick to the Huber Heights Heroes, in exchange for a few pitchers. The trade included the following clause:
If Daniel Bard is kept by any team, the second round pick is sent back to the Suspects, in exchange for their 4th round pick.
Fast forward to last weekend, when two teams (one of them being my own Riders of Rohan) decided to take this concept a step forward. A trade of Jose Bautista, Mariano Rivera, and Kevin Gregg for Jonathan Sanchez and Carlos Marmol included the following additional features:
Riders of Rohan also trade their 10th round pick to Those Guys.

Additionally, after the season has concluded, Those Guys have the option (before 31 December, 2010) to reacquire Jose Bautista in exchange for the 10th round pick, previously acquired from Riders of Rohan.
A few hours later, the following trade was made:
Cleveland Enforcers trade Trevor Hoffman and their 2011 2nd round pick to Huber Heights Heroes for Matt Cain. After the season, Heroes have the option to reacquire Cain in exchange for their 2011 4th round pick.
And we realized we had a problem on our hands. The Enforcers and Heroes' trade was basically just a rental of Matt Cain for the remainder of the season, and most of the league (including the Enforcers and Heroes, by the way) felt the trade was in bad taste.

In the short term, we decided to force renegotiation of both trades from this past weekend. Long term, we're trying to figure out a couple things. How far do we want our brand new "conditional pick" ban to go? Should the Bard trade be revisited? What should the language of our rules addendum say?

I'm asking, what do you think?

Thursday, August 12, 2010

How To Say Goodbye

There comes a time in 75% of fantasy baseball owners' seasons at which they have to come to terms with the fact that they can't win the title this season. Maybe you invested heavily in Kevin Youkilis, Chase Utley, and Jacoby Ellsbury. Maybe you had a kooky strategy that backfired (and we should really look at some of those kooky strategies sometime). Or maybe there's just a super team in your league that's opened up such a lead that it's insurmountable.

Whatever the circumstances, at some point you realize this isn't your year. For me, that moment was when Clayton Kershaw gave up six runs to the Nationals last Friday. As Adam Dunn's second home run of the night cleared the fence, I realized, "There's just no way. It's over." And as the tears flowed (along with the rum), I started to look forward and think, "What now?"

As our league is a keeper league, we have a whole separate set of circumstances to consider, and that usually mitigates any rash decisions (like crazy trades or waiving players who piss you off). But you'll still see some curious moves by teams out of the mix; that's a result of frustration, and an attempt to exert control over this team that's the cause of the frustration.

So, when it comes to handling your roster after the moment of truth revealed your inevitable failure, I've encountered several approaches over the years. Here they are, along with my take on them.

1) Laissez-faire

The first instinct, and not a wrong instinct, is to simply ignore your team for the remainder of the season. Set a lineup, throw your best pitchers in, and start reading fantasy football material.

Advantages:
- It's fair. You're not targeting categories that could help or hurt specific owners.
- It's easy. There's literally zero effort after you set your lineup.
- It frees up your time. You can put it into fantasy football, as many owners do, or you can do something really outlandish and JUST WATCH BASEBALL. :)

Disadvantages:
- It's passive. As much as you may hate your fantasy team, it's still your team. This tactic means you're admitting that you wasted all of the time you put into this team.
- It's no fun. Don't forget that we all play fantasy sports to have fun. This strategy puts an end to any fun you could be having.

2) Play to Win (even though you can't)

Listen, just because you can't win doesn't mean you stop trying. Look at major league baseball teams. The Kansas City Royals continue to fight in August and September, the Detroit Lions keep at it every December, and the Memphis Grizzlies...well, I can't attest to the Grizzlies, but most other teams try to win most games, even when a championship is out of the picture. You can do the same with your failed fantasy baseball team. Try to grab any points you can, try to improve your finish in the standings, and run out your best team every day.

Advantages:
- It's fair. Other teams can't be mad at you for trying to get any points you can. If they do, give them the line from Saving Private Ryan: "Earn this."
- It's freeing. You can take some chances if you have a gut feeling. Feel like starting a rookie pitcher going into Yankee Stadium? Go for it.

Disadvantages:
- You're risking further disappointment. Hey, just because you know you're not going to win doesn't mean you won't be disappointed when the final days come around and you're 22 points out of first. You can set mini-goals (win a category, surpass a point total), but it's not easy to play out the string.
- You're not saving any time. You'd like to be able to devote your time to something else after you've realized you can't win, but this strategy means you're still on top of your team every day. It's a tactic for the die-hard.

3) Vengeance

Over the course of a season (or several seasons, if you're in an annual league), you'll inevitably butt heads with another owner/owners. Maybe they talk a lot of trash, or they made a trade that you thought was unfair but couldn't get your league to act on, or they just irritate you in your own trade negotiations. Whatever the reason, there's a guy you just don't want to see win. And it just so happens he's three steals ahead of you. This strategy says bench your boppers and put in speed guys to take that point, and any others you can find.

Advantages:
- It's goal-oriented. You definitely have a specific task you're trying to accomplish: failure by another team. Having that kind of defined direction can be gratifying.
- It's fairly easy. You can tell where you can take points from most teams. And generally you can adjust your lineup to focus on the statistics you need.

Disadvantages:
- It's sinister. Let's be clear: this is not a strategy for someone who wants to be thought of as a good guy. You're going to be one team's nemesis after this, and in all likelihood, you'll be generally disliked throughout the league as a result. So much so that...
- ...it could backfire. Remember, nothing rallies support for a cause more than taking the opposing side. There's always the possibility that a third team throws points towards your target team, in an attempt to "counter" your moves.

For the most part, people seem to find themselves somewhere in between #1 and #2, still going through the motions, but paying less attention to fantasy baseball. I actually have yet to find someone who legitimately embodied #3, but I wouldn't put it past any of you. Snakes in the grass, all of you.

I prefer #2, which probably comes as a surprise to some of you, who considered me the closest thing to a supervillain that you'd find in your lifetime. True, I enjoy being loathed, feared, etc., but, especially in our keeper league, I prefer to be thought of as a competitor. My goal, always, is to gain points. Sometimes that'll affect teams at the top, and that's how it goes. But going for a higher finish in the standings is the only goal I can feel good about, so that's what I'll do.

And I'll see you next year.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Back on the Radio

In case you missed it, I had a radio show with special guest Chris Reed last week, reviewing the tumultuous NBA offseason. Go here to listen.

Looking forward, I'm hoping to provide radio shows to preview all of the upcoming sports seasons (basketball, football, hockey). If you think you'd like to co-host, drop me a line at joe.joe.sports@gmail.com.

Finally, I'm looking at doing a "stretch run" fantasy baseball show. Again, if you'd like to co-host, let me know.

Vote in the poll!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Twi-Night Doubleheader - Week 18

After a five-week hiatus (for personal reasons), we're back in business. Because of the hiatus, we'll do a player of the past week and a player of the past month.

Fantasy Players of the Week
  • AL Hitter: Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees (.320, 5 R, 4 HR, 10 RBI) - Tex is slugging .724 in the month of August, a relief to everyone who drafted him early and watched him meander through the first three months of the season.
  • NL Hitter: Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies (.423, 7 R, 4 HR, 8 RBI, 3 SB) - Four multi-hit games in a week will generally put you in a good position to make my list.
  • AL Pitcher: Brandon Morrow, SP, Blue Jays (2-0, 26 K, 3.14/0.84) - Morrow actually had a very average game against Tampa Bay on the 2nd (W, 5 ER, 9 K), but yesterdays' complete game 1-hitter with 17 strikeouts nudges him above Trevor Cahill, who gave up no runs in two starts but managed just 6 K over 17 innings.
  • NL Pitcher: Ted Lilly, SP, Dodgers (2-0, 11 K, 2.77/0.54) - It was neck-and-neck between Lilly and Tim Hudson (2-0, 9 K, 0.64/0.93), but the extra strikeouts along with the insane 0.54 WHIP set Lilly apart. Also, what an impressive first two starts for Lilly after being traded to L.A. at the deadline. He looks like he'll be a nice acquisition down the stretch.
Fantasy Players of the Month
  • AL Hitter: Jose Bautista, 3B, Blue Jays (.323, 21 R, 11 HR, 30 RBI, 1 SB) - Admit it. We all expected Bautista to fade away like so many other first-half phenoms. But he's hitting .260 now, after hitting just .233 through July 18th. Since then he's had eight multi-hit games, and his power hasn't faded at all, hitting ten home runs in that stretch. I don't know how to look at him going forward, but he's a superstar hitter right now.
  • NL Hitter: Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies (.375, 21 R, 9 HR, 20 RBI, 6 SB) - He's had three 4-hit games in the past two weeks, including a game in which he hit for the cycle. Most notable about that game is that his final hit was a walk-off home run. He's clearly not fazed by pressure.
  • AL Pitcher: Francisco Liriano, SP (4-0, 39 K, 1.62/1.14) - Gavin Floyd has provided a nice rebound for loyal owners (or more likely speculative wavier-wire crawlers), but I'm going with Liriano. The extra strikeouts overcome the difference in ERA and WHIP in my book. The Twins will be counting on Liriano to anchor their staff (with Carl Pavano???) down the stretch.
  • NL Pitcher: Roy Halladay, SP, Phillies (4-1, 49 K, 2.35/0.89) - As if I needed another reminder of how foolish it was for me to trade Halladay for a second round pick in our keeper league (which translates out to a 10th round pick in a normal league). I got backed into a corner, and nobody would trade for Ian Kinsler...oh who am I kidding, there's no excuse. Enjoy him if you've got him.
In case you were wondering, yes, this means I'm back. So look forward to a couple more posts later this week.

Top 500 Songs - Dave Matthews Band

This was always going to be the hardest of my band lists, because I like so many of DMB's songs, and have liked them so differently over...