As a tribute to online legend Bill Simmons (the Sports Guy), this weekís article will be in a Q and A blog format with all questions made up. My passion is column writing, but I will be happy to answer real questions as they appear. On to the entertaining charadeÖ
David R. from San Antonio- Did you notice anything strange about the Lakers' clincher the other night? I thought that there were way too many close-ups of celebrities. I mean, who cares? Also, what do you think the Spurs will need to get another shot next year? I think that we are talking about a major rebuilding plan.
Matt- I would have to agree and disagree with the last part David. Denzel and Jack are there, thatís cool. I get it, celebrities in LA like the Lakers. Interestingly, it appeared that Waldo was sitting courtside next to Jack. I was so happy that I finally found him (not that the books are hard). The glasses were there, along with the disguise hat and coat. Iím assuming that a red and white stripped shirt was underneath. Unfortunately, it turned out to be Donald Sutherland (from the Italian Job). Seriously, is he that famous that he needs to play dress up? Are fans storming past Cameron Diaz to sneak a peak at Keiferís dad?
As for the Spurs, I think we are talking about a younger bench with a few guys that can create their own shots. Maybe one or two guys that can come in and create havoc on the offensive glass, ala Craig Smith. Finley is 33 and is regulated to sitting at the 3-point line. Horry is a spot up shooter at this stage in his career. Bonner canít create his own shot or guard anyone. Vaughn isnít exactly a sharpshooter. Udoka is a Bowen clone. Berry had a strong pulse during the playoffs, but were you happy that he was the best fourth option the Spurs could come up with? There is a lot of talk about not disrupting the chemistry of the former champs. For one thing, they will keep their big three. Secondly, how much chemistry is needed to sit on the wing and throw up a three or swing the ball around the corner? Even if they can get one of the following along with their first-round pick and a board crasher, we would see a big improvement: J.R. Smith, Bonzi Wells, Juan Carlos Navarro. I would say, re-sign Thomas if you can and keep Udoka.
George from Richmond- Quick, I need a shortstop. Stephen Drew, Orlando Cabrera or Cristian Guzman in a non-keeper league. I have plenty of speed but am getting killed in average.
Matt- It kind of depends what you are looking to boost. The highest power potential goes to Drew, but I donít think he gets through the season hitting higher then .265 or so. Cabrera is hitting .275 since being moved to the leadoff spot, and you should see some correction from his overall average (currently .242). I do like Guzman. No one in my league seems to notice that this guy has 72 hits already with 18 doubles because he is riding someoneís bench. He has been on fire, hitting .327 in May. However, I would say to go with Cabrera, who has more of a pedigree. We have already seen his average jump from .219 to .245 in the past two weeks, and he should score more runs now that Jermaine Dye has been moved up to the cleanup spot.
Scott from Long Island- You watch way too much mlb.com! What was your best baseball memory from Memorial Day?
Matt- I canít talk about the beer or my Porterhouse marinade? I will have to go with Dmitri Young stretching out a double then. I think I can, I think I can, almost there! Um, Dmitri, you are still in the batterís boxÖ
Mark from San Diego- Drop Brett Myers for Jorge Campillo?
Matt- No, not that Myers became a must own after his big start the other night. I havenít got a chance to check his velocity from that game but it has looked like he has been topping out at about 91 recently. He experienced a big recovery in the second half of last season, and has given up a whopping 15 home runs this season. Both are good signs for an ERA correction. If someone else thinks that he is completely back, now would be a good time to move him and pick up Jesse Litch or Aaron Laffey since one of the two is still usually available. I think that you are talking about two guys that will have a better ERA and WHIP then Myers from here on out, without the strikeout potential.
Campillo is a converted reliever formerly in the Mariners pen with blister problems. Iím not ready to drink the Kool-Aid on him.
Sam from Pit- Travis Hafner for Carlos Pena and Andrew Miller?
Matt- Pena sure is showing off his new contract, isnít he? My award in futility should go to him for the last week. Here are his last five games including today: 1-for-19 with twelve strikeouts. No, I am not making that up. Even worse, he looks fine physically. Hafner is on the DL with a shoulder strain and hasnít looked himself for a year and a half. Miller could be a steal if Hafner and Pena continue to provide nothing in fantasy. He has fantastic stuff, and is finally pitching to his tall frame. He could be a serious pitching sleeper if he keeps his gigantic control issues in check. I would say to take that deal.
Ksdjfkdfj- Jacque Jones has been called a good pickup candidate recently. Your thoughts?
Matt- How would I pronounce that, is that your maiden name? No, in even the deepest of leagues you could do better in the back of your lineup. Jones has some pop (27 homers in 2006) and some speed but he hasnít displayed much of a batting eye since leaving the Twins and his swing mechanics looked a little different in Detroit. If you're looking as deep as Jones for outfield help, letís go over some of the often dropped and ice cold free agents. Iím assuming the likes of Jack Cust and Garrett Anderson are already taken, but if they are available they are much better options at this point who are swinging great and well protected in their respected lineups.
Michael Cuddyer: batting .228 with one home run and 20 RBI in 37 games since returning from injury. Cuddyer bats fifth behind the two Mís (Mauer and Morneau), and two speedsters in Alexi Casilla and Carlos Gomez at the top of the lineup. He should be good for another fifteen home runs on the season and limitless RBI opportunities.
Melky Cabrera: Cabrera has been a commonly dropped player after hitting just .233 in May with an on-base percentage under .300. Now at the bottom of the Yankee lineup, he should see opportunities in runs and steals (maybe 15) with Damon and Jeter heating up at the top of the order. The potential for a .275 average with 15-15 is still there and should be useful in most formats.
Ben Francisco: Francisco is an intriguing Indians prospect now getting the chance to produce in the big leagues. Last year at Triple-A Buffalo, he hit .318 with 12 homers and 22 steals in just 95 games. He has flown under the radar with mega prospects Jay Bruce and Evan Longoria making impacts. However, think about this. Since Hafner went on the disabled list, Francisco has been hitting third. If Victor Martinez begins to drive the ball behind him and with five-tooler Grady Seizemore leading off, Francisco could become a valuable third outfielder.
Rob from Anaheim: Elite XC has arrived on CBS! Are you excited?
Matt- Yawn, a chance to see Kimbo bull-rush a guy and knock him out in 40 seconds should have been the highlight of the night, but instead we saw an ear explode. Dana White said that he has no talent and I would tend to believe that. Although, Tank was very entertaining back in the day. If they could sign Frank Mir to fight Kimbo, I think we would be talking about Mir slicing (no pun intended) one of Kimboís limbs for weeks. Sorry to be graphic. Who else did they find to help headline? Phil Baroni? Is there anyone more disliked in the MMA world? He and Ruthless Robbie Lawler hit hard at least, but neither performed very well the last time they got a last cup of coffee in the UFC. You may remember Scott Smith from having to leave the Ultimate Fighter show because some sort of strange neck growth that they showed way too many close ups of. He is also the last guy I remember seeing to high five an opponent during a fight. He could give a quality performance but Iím not expecting spectacular competition for the evening. It would depend on what you are looking for, but I am going to stick to Pride and UFC fight nights. I am glad that the sport is finally getting a better chance to become more main-stream though.
Steve from North Carolina: Better fantasy pitcher this year, Oswalt or Verlander.
Matt- I am going to have to go with Oswalt. Both are strong candidates for a statistical correction though. Verlander is back to near top velocity, but I think that you have to realize what you are getting here. Verlander is always going to have the stuff to strike out 200 batters, but we are not going to see that with his approach. Like Oswalt but even more extreme, Verlander is trying to pitch to contact. It looks like those 183 strikeouts from last year are a thing of the past, and we should expect somewhere along the line of his 2006 numbers (124 strikeouts). His control has also been worse. Verlander is on pace to walk 90 batters, which is part of the reason why we are seeing a large ERA. I would expect a winning streak for Verlander as the offense improves, but I do not see his total line to be better than 220 IP, 12 wins, 70 walks, 140 strikeouts, 4.00 ERA, 1.35 WHIP. Those are free agent type numbers. If you have him, trade him.
As for Oswalt, the stuff also appears to be there. It is interesting that you brought that up because we may be looking at another pitcher who is adjusting to pitching to contact. Listen to what he told SportingNews.com on Friday. "Strikeouts are nice, but usually if you strike out guys you last only five or six innings. Some of those young guys who strike out a lot of people now, once they start doing that year after year, they'll slow down." Like Verlander, this may be a reason why there has been an increase in hits. I have watched many of his starts, and at times guys are simply not making plays and some bad luck has occurred. Other times he is simply missing his spots. However, owners can also point to an incredibly high home run rate (16 homers allowed in 76 innings). As he gets more comfortable, I would expect a decent size ERA reduction and a line very similar to last year. Unfortunately, those ace numbers of years past look to be gone.
Adam from Boise: Rick Ankiel and Wandy Rodriguez for Randy Johnson?
Matt: Really? We are most likely reviewing a .280, 25-90 fantasy outfielder and a free agent quality pitcher for a strikeout per inning starter who gets run support? Absolutely, make that deal. Ankiel is another valuable No. 3 outfielder but his fantasy production can be replaced by most free agent markets, as can the home park pitcher Rodriguez (currently on the disabled list). As long as Johnson stays healthy, he is a strong strikeout option to throw out there. Keep in mind that if he has a warm up where he cannot get loose, like against the Astros last month, you could get a few terrible starts in between his usual six strong innings. The 45-year-old should have a fantasy impact that of the Rocket when he was pitching for the second half for Houston. Except, instead of a microscopic ERA, expect a final line of: 170 innings, 15 wins, 45 walks, 180 strikeouts, 3.80 ERA, 1.25 WHIP.
Yes, if he stays healthy I am expecting a better final line then Verlanderís. That should make for some interesting discussion.
From myself to myself: NBA finals prediction?
Matt: Celtics in 6. I am really looking forward to this series, as long as the NBA scheduled it to finish before the end of the summerÖ
The Lakersí considerable bench may have a little more trouble performing on the road. However, if the Celtics rely too much on P.J. Brown instead of athletic Leon Powe, it may turn the tide the other way. I like K.G.ís chances much more without having to play a physical presence like Wallace, who pushed him around in the playoffs back when Portland knocked out K.G.ís Wolves from the first round two years in a row. If the Lakers plan on throwing body after body from the bench at Garnett, their firepower on the fast-break will slightly diminish, and we should see the fouls pile up, leading to some big games for Pierce and Allen. Those are just a few little points to watch out for in the series.
Jenny from Arizona: Ryan Dempster has really been laboring lately. Is it time for me to move this guy?
Matt: That depends what kind of return we are talking about. Dempster has allowed a remarkable 48 hits in 70 innings this year, putting him on pace for 148 hits in 217 innings. I have watched his last two starts and would agree that he is showing signs of returning to normal somewhat. But this is a pitcher who almost always labored as a closer. I think he will continue to be a very cheap source for wins, and should be another guy who should finish with a high three's ERA with 150+ strikeouts. If your league scores K/BB, then you know he is a major liability in that category. If another owner believes he is a top-25 starter for the rest of the season and is willing to pay for it, I would deal. However, average starting pitchers with high win totals and decent WHIPs have a lot of value in deep leagues, so I would only sell Dempster I if you can get value similar to his current ranking status.
Thatís it until next time everyone. I rather enjoyed writing questions to myself, but why donít we try your questions next time in the interests of my own sanity? Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org with the title ďfantasy baseballĒ and I will be happy to address them in my next article.