By Andy Behrens
April 30, 2007
On Sunday morning, I played 16-inch softball for the first time in three years. At bat, I basically felt like Renee Zellweger trying to chop down a tree. Even when you make decent contact in 16-inch, the results can be remarkably unsatisfying. The ball is just too large and mushy.
If you watched the John Maine-Jason Bergmann duel at RFK Sunday afternoon, you observed a similar effect: lots of unimpressive contact, no matter how big the swing. Both pitchers were terrific. Maine, of course, is owned in a majority of leagues (97.1 percent). You probably can't add him. If he's available in your free agent pool, it's not a very competitive league. But Bergmann probably is available. He's owned in fewer than one percent of Yahoo! leagues. Bergmann struck out six batters in seven innings yesterday, allowing only two hits. His arsenal seems more perplexing than overpowering. He has a low-90s fastball and effective breaking stuff. Bergmann allowed a home run to Carlos Beltran on an 89 mph fastball that may not have been a strike, and that was the extent of the run scoring.
It was the fourth consecutive winless-but-respectable start from Bergmann, who now has 26 K in 29 innings with a 2.79 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. Whenever I sort the free agent starters in my leagues looking for adds, Bergmann is near the top of the list. It's like with Josh Johnson last year. Bergmann's BABIP is an unsustainable .192, and the 25-year-old right-hander has never been quite this good at any level, so we're likely to see regression. But still, I'd spot-start him at Chicago on Friday. In NL-only leagues, he's worth owning for the Ks. His starts at pitcher-friendly RFK should be useful.
Onto some non-Nats-related fantasy items …
Tim Lincecum struck out 14 batters in six shutout innings for Triple-A Fresno on Sunday, allowing three hits. In 31 innings, Lincecum has allowed exactly one run and 12 hits. He has 46 strikeouts. Still, Russ Ortiz slouches on.
No, I don't know exactly when Hunter Pence will be added to the Yahoo! player pool – (Editor's note: Pence has been added to the Yahoo! game and will show up in waivers on Tuesday) – But I do know this: Hunter Pence is worth your waiver priority, particularly if you need hitting stats. Last season in Double-A he hit .283/.357/.533 with 28 HR and 17 SB. He was absurdly good this spring, hitting .571/.647/1.071 with two HR, two triples, four doubles, and two steals. The domination continued at Triple-A, where Pence was batting .341 with three homers. There's just not much more the 24-year-old can learn facing sub-MLB pitching.
Like many fantasy owners, I added James Shields to a few rosters in anticipation of last Friday's start against Oakland – absent Nick Swisher and Milton Bradley, the A's have been a user-friendly group. After Shields' nine K performance, I've been forced to keep him. This was not my original intention; I had other plans for his roster spot – whenever you can, try to think a few transactions ahead. But Shields now has 21 K and only two walks over his last 16 innings, and his WHIP is a Papelbonian 0.92. The month of May looks relatively promising for him, too. Shields gets Minnesota this week, then Baltimore, Texas, Florida, and then the White Sox. The Twins hit Shields hard last year – he allowed eight hits and five ER in 4.1 innings – but you shouldn't make fantasy decisions based on such limited history. Shields is only owned in 35.3 percent of Yahoo! leagues. He's a nice add before he gets to the New York/Boston portion of the schedule.
While we're talking Devil Rays, it's worth mentioning that B.J. Upton has a 1.102 OPS with five HR and five SB. He should be universally owned, and he's getting close (96.4 percent). If you're in the 3.6 percent of leagues in which he's a free agent, go get him. Right now. Go.
Sunday's Cubs-Cardinals postponement has consequences that we'll discuss later in the week. But those consequences, like everything else we deal with here, are trivial. Deepest sympathies to the friends, fans and family of Josh Hancock.
Andy Behrens has written for ESPN.com, the Chicago Sports Review, NBA.com, the Chicago Reader and various other publications. In all likelihood, Andy owns more Artis Gilmore memorabilia than you. Follow him on Twitter. Send Andy a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Monday, Apr 30, 2007 5:28 pm, EDT
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