Breaking news from Woj:

Bringin' the Noise: C-h-e-a-p

For those of you who emptied the kitty litter box, rearranged your sock drawer, or subjected yourself to a painful Washington Nationals game last Thursday, you missed the thrilling conclusion of the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

Since my languished Cubs thankfully had the day off I was seduced by the quixotic Bee, its prepubescent-aged contestants and its seemingly indefinable, unpronounceable words, which combined made me feel mentally incompetent – kind of like my avoidance of Stray-Rod in the Y! Friends and Family league.

As I watched the competition unfold for over two hours, four things came to mind: 1) I wished Harry Caray was still alive to prompt words. 2) The kids, one-third my age, had an IQ that was double mine. 3) None of the finalists will ever date a supermodel. 4) Or write fantasy sports columns.

Hey, at least I can impress unattractive women everywhere with my 70-percent roto accuracy. Come on down Rosie O'Donnell …

In honor of 13-year-old Scripps champ Evan O'Dorney, who correctly spelled "serrefine" to clinch his victory as the Lord-of-words-whose-meanings-my-squirrel-sized-brain-can't-grasp, here is an acronym based on a word fantasy baseball bargain seekers find endearing, cheap:

"C" stands for Carlos Zambrano.
Definition: Crazed mound giant who sacrifices chickens to a voodoo statue carved from Amazonian wood
Why buy? Sha-Zam's Rampage Jackson on Michael Barrett won't help his languid 5.34 ERA, but it will spark a fire. Various blogs have commented that Zambrano's lowered arm-slot is responsible for his sinker's lack of effectiveness, which has sent his K/9 southward ('07: 6.2, '06: 8.8). However, he regularly was clocked in the mid-90s in his last start and should turn things around once the mechanical flaw is resolved.

"H" stands for Hermida, Jeremy.
Definition: Richly talented outfielder who's one eyelid strain away from a stint on the DL.
Why buy? Currently mired in a 2-for-20 slide, Hermida (7 percent owned) once again has antsy owners fussy. Finally healthy after a smorgasbord of injuries and likely to see grapefruits hitting behind Senor Chunks Miguel Cabrera, he should be a quality source of homers and RBI the remainder of the season once he cuts back on the Ks (13 since May 28).

"E" stands for Edwin Encarnacion, aka Easy E.
Definition: Antithesis of Charlie Hustle who rakes killer numbers when he doesn't have one paw in Jerry Narron's doghouse.
Why buy? I told you Encarnacion would have a valiant return at some point this year. Quietly, Easy E is 20-for-54 (.370 BA) with two HR and nine RBI since being recalled on May 22. Owned in only seven percent of Y! leagues, his rise into the 3B top-15 is forthcoming.

"A" stands for Abreu, Bobby.
Definition: Former perennial 30-30 threat who gave must have given his lumber to a ghetto crack addict after the 2005 Home Run Derby in Detroit.
Why buy? ChiSox GM Ken Williams may have balked on trading for Abreu, but you shouldn't. Abreu's power might be cashed, but he is still a four-tooled statistical prodigy whose on pace for 25 steals and 100-plus runs. Once his 18.6 LD% begins to creep back up to his career 23.7 mark, Abreu's BA and RBI numbers will ascend quickly.

"P" stands for Pert Plus, as in Mike Piazza.
Definition: The greatest offensive catcher in baseball history who can't wait for the day when mullets are once again en vogue.
Why buy? Now that Jack Cust's fireworks have fizzled, Pizza will return to his normal DH duties when activated in 3-4 weeks. His shoulder injury could sap his power initially, but after the break, he should be counted on for 10-12 homers.

Here are this week's flames, lames and stars of video games:

Fantasy Flames
Player Team Pos Y!RK Y!%
Corey Hart
OF 330 1.7
'07 Stats: .298 BA, 3 HR, 13 RBI, 15 R, 9 SB, 20:12 K:BB
Market Value: Strong Buy
Lowdown: Discarded a few weeks back by Ned Yost in favor of "Shrek" Kevin Mench and Geoff Jenkins, Hart is currently on a comeback tour. His theme song: "Never Surrender." A lethal concoction of power and speed, Hart averaged 18 HR and 28 SB per year in four minor league seasons. Limited by wrist tendonitis from April 25 to mid-May, Hart is back at full strength and has reached base safely in eight of his past nine with four multi-hit games and three swipes. With Rickie Weeks on the DL for the next couple of weeks, Yost will confide in Hart as his primary leadoff hitter. One of my favorite late-round March bargains, he should thrive hitting in front of Brew pounders J.J. Hardy and Prince Fielder. Owners who desire a five-tool No. 4 OF should have a Hart. Fearless Forecast: .290 BA, 13 HR, 60 RBI, 65 R, 22 SB.
Jerry Owens
OF 1032 0.1
'07 Stats: .182 BA, 0 HR, 0 RBI, 4 R, 2 SB, 5:0 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy
Lowdown: Beep! Beep! With Wile E. Coyotes Scott Podsednik and Darin Erstad shelved, the fleet-footed South Side rookie is a short-term fantasy Road Runner. Owens is a prototype leadoff man who makes consistent contact, has minimal power and runs the bases fluidly. A former wide receiver at UCLA, he's a dexterous athlete who reminds me of Lance Johnson. For those in need of speed, Owens will be a fantastic two-week source of steals – he had 27 steals in 48 games at Charlotte this year – and runs atop a slugger-dominant Sox lineup. With two steals and three runs in his first five games, he could stick around longer if Pods suffers a setback in his recovery from a strained abductor.
Matt Stairs
OF 612 0.96
'07 Stats: .303 BA, 7 HR, 18 RBI, 11 R, SB, 19:12 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy
Lowdown: Lyle Overbay's broken hand (out 4-6 weeks) has persuaded the Labatt-drinking Canadian Ewok to climb down from the canopy of washed up veterans. Wondering about the AL aimlessly for the past couple of years (KC, Det, Tex, Tor), Stairs hasn't been a full-time player since 2005. On the brink of 40, Stairs still generates 20-plus homer pull-power with his swooping upper-cut lefty swing. The New Brunswick native has surpassed 20 homers only once since 2001, but with three homers and eight RBI in his past nine games he could surprise with 20-25 bombs. Expected to hit in the middle-of-the-order, deeper leaguers in dire need of CI pop should give the Sultan of Squat an audition.
Sean Marshall
SP 215 2.7
'07 Stats: W, 20.0 IP, 2.25 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 22:5 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Buy
Lowdown: As another Marshall, Mathers – or was it Martika? – would say, the lanky 6-foot-6 Chicago Slim Shady doesn't throw "Like a Toy Soldier." At times last year Marshall pitched brilliantly, but his lack of experience and elusive command inflated his ERA (5.59) and WHIP (1.52) numbers to atrocious levels. The 24-year-old possesses a hard, low-90s sinker and plus curve, which creates a fair amount of ground balls (37.3 GB%). After a sensational 6.2 IP, 1 ER, career-high 8 K annihilation of the Braves on June 3, he is worth a pickup in all NL-only leagues and deeper 12-team mixed formats. If he can remain ahead in counts and avoid coughing up longballs (45.1 FB%), Marshall has house odds of posting an ERA around 4.00 with adequate strikeout totals.
Dustin Pedroia
2B, SS 616 11.8
'07 Stats: .329 BA, 2 HR, 16 RBI, 19 R, 10:17 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Sell
Lowdown: The AL rookie of the month has sipped from the same fountain of elevated batting averages and uneventful power numbers as Freddy Sanchez. Described by scouts as an aggressive, gritty, wannabe David Eckstein, he's a consistent contact hitter that rarely strikes out (7.5 career K%) and who showcases a big swing with gap power. During his recent 14-game hit streak Pedroia knocked in nine runs and tallied seven multi-hit performances, which propelled his BA up 78 points. Is he really this wicked awesome? Probably not. Although his minor league track record points to a .300 BA, his sloth speed and patsy pop labels him a two-trick fantasy pony (BA, R). If you can milk a Tadahito Iguchi for him, take it. Nostradomus Noise: .301 BA, 8 HR, 55 RBI, 75 R.
Fantasy Lames
Player Team Pos Y!RK Y!%
Bronson Arroyo
SP 844 81.4
'07 Stats: 72.1 IP, 2 W, 4.73 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 47:28 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Sell
Lowdown: With 20 ER in his past three starts, Arroyo should prance around in Pipi Longstocking pigtails. Arroyo's breakout '06 campaign was largely a product of luck as his .262 BABIP implies. The downfall culprits this season: pitch location and run support. The straight-legged kicker has yielded a 3.5 BB/9, up 31 percent from '06, and has seen a 16 percent downturn in K/9. Surprisingly, the Reds, fourth in the NL in RBI, have manufactured only 4.11 R/9 for Arroyo, 36th in the Senior Circuit. Despite the unsavory outliers, he's allowed significantly fewer HRs (0.50 HR/9) and sports a .320 BABIP, which suggests his ERA will eventually drop just below the pitcher Mendoza of 4.00. Auction him off to an optimistic, misguided soul who thinks he's due for a major rebound.
Howie Kendrick
2B, 1B 864 72.5
'07 Stats: .247 BA, 2 HR, 6 RBI, 10 R, 2 SB, 22:4 K:BB
Market Value: Hold/Moderate Sell
Lowdown: Wallowing in a 6-for-40 slump with 11 strikeouts, "Howie the Duck's" BA has had a Humpty Dumpty tumble, dropping over 61 points since May 27. Similar to infield sidekick Chone Figgins, Kendrick has been plagued by the repercussions of a hand injury, which has altered his timing and drained his ability to get on top of the baseball. His LD% and FB% have dipped in cadence, while his GB% has surged over 57 percent. Visions of challenging for the AL batting title is probably a year or two away for the 23-year-old once he exudes more plate patience (22:4 K:BB). Opportune keeper leaguers should jump on the markdown, but those in shallow mixed leagues might want to ride the hot hand of Dustin Pedroia until Kendrick's hand issues are resolved.
Jim Thome
1B 266 98.8
'07 Stats: .281 BA, 8 HR, 21 RBI, 19 R, 32:39 K:BB
Market Value: Strong Buy
Lowdown: Jim Thome's current 7-for-39 (.179 BA) swoon is the fantasy equivalent of a Phil Wellman rosin bag grenade. The rib injury that sidelined Thome for almost a month (Apr 29-May 20) is responsible for his lack of power numbers and overall contact at the plate (16 Ks since May 21). Thome raged prior to his DL stint, posting a .340 BA and a ridiculous .553 OBP. Interestingly, his BB% has reached new heights this season (28.9%) and once he rounds back into shape, the barrage of bleacher shots will return. At 36, his days of 45-plus bombs are probably over, but 35-40 homers with 100 RBI and a .290 BA is attainable. Take advantage of the discount – he's fetched the likes of Barry Bonds, Jason Isringhausen and Aaron Harang in solo trades this week.
Takashi Saito
RP 41 99.9
'07 Stats: W, 16 SV, 24.0 IP, 1.50 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 30:2 K:BB
Market Value: Moderate Sell
Lowdown: It was all "Santori Time" for Saito for the first two months, but with a balky hammy and super setup man Jonathan Broxton (34 percent owned) in the review mirror, it could be Sianara soon. Out for the past four games with a strained hamstring, the 37-year-old is showing signs of breaking down. Look, his 30:2 K:BB and seven percent increase in groundballs this season is golden, but his advanced age (37) means he's one severe tweak away from regular "Bad to the Bone" Broxton jogs from the pen. Once healthy, he'll undoubtedly return to the closer's role, but now's the time to seek peak revenue. In Y! Plus leagues this week, he's attracted the likes of Brandon Phillips, Brian Roberts and Cole Hamels in solo trades.
Chipper Jones
3B 74 99.4
'07 Stats: .300 BA, 12 HR, 27 RBI, 33 R, 28:25 K:BB
Market Value: Strong Sell
Lowdown: Whenever a player complains of unbearable pain when "taking off socks," its time to implement a contingency plan. Wrought by two wrist injuries, Jones is expected to ride the pine for the next several weeks. Team doctors have described the injuries as bone bruises where the ligament meets the bone, which can be aggravated easily by doing simple everyday tasks. Kiss thoughts of 20-plus homers goodbye. In wake of the Chipper blues, and after a 4-for-4, 1 HR effort versus Florida on June 4, Yunel Escobar is a must grab in all NL-only and some deep mixed leagues. The 24 year-old Cuban defector is a gap-to-gap line drive hitter with developing power and double-digit wheels. He notched a .333 BA, seven steals and 29 RBIs in 180 Triple-A at-bats earlier this year and hit in the two-hole for Bobby Cox on Tuesday. Monitor him closely.

TRUE OR FALSE?
We've all seen these seemingly ambiguous statements on exams and quizzes since elementary school, now the classic test teaser gets a fantasy makeover. Each week, I'll tackle pressing diamond topics with a direct, succinct answer. Please, keep your eyes on your own paper.

"I Heard a Rumor" that Kevin Youkilis will continue his torrid fantasy pace making it a "Cruel Summer" for anyone that thought they were selling high. – Jimmy, Derry, NH

Answer: True. For the record, I would like to note Jimmy, not the "Noise," referenced the new wave female trio Bananarama – who've been treated very kindly by Botox and Father Time. The number of two-hit games Youkilis has slapped this season (25) is nothing short of miraculous. Heck, the guy logged nine multi-hit games in a row from May 20-29. Interestingly, Youkilis' dip in BB% ('06: 13.6, '07: 10.8) illustrates a more aggressive plate approach, which means his 25-homer pace is likely to sustain – especially hitting fifth behind Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz. Because of his consistency and flexibility (1B, 3B, OF) I would take him ahead of peanut brittle Troy Glaus in midseason drafts. Forget "Venus," the "Greek God of Walks" will continue to be the fire of fantasy owner's desire. Fearless Forecast: .325 BA, 25 HR, 101 RBI, 120 R, 5 SB.

Lowly Dan "18" Wheeler owners should sell now before he completely jackknifes. Piper, Houston, TX

Answer: True. Just when you thought the Dark Side was forever buried, Darth Vader Brad Lidge has been resurrected from the closer grave. Sure Wheeler's 10.73 K/9 and 2.88 BB/9 look great, but upon closer inspection, he has been ravaged by the long ball (1.73 HR/9). Tattooed recently in back-to-back efforts (6 ER in his past 3.1 IP), his days of ninth-inning trots are about over. Lidge has thrown eight straight shutout appearances with a sparkling 11:2 K:BB. His recent success and the Astros inability to fire the rockets could mean Lidge might switch threads soon. If that happens, Wheeler's job is safe, but until the rumor mill reaches DEFCON levels, he's one tank job away from returning to a setup role.

NOTABLE NOISE
Upset you don't have a forum to express your disdain for drafting Ian Kinsler? Do you question why on earth you're not a fantasy expert? This is the place for you to vent your thoughts, tirades and frustrations. Can you bring the noise?

All of your made up stats (FIP, BABIP, etc.) mean nothing to me. Most fantasy owners know that numbers will even out. It's a long year. There's no need for stupid stats like these to show it.

Matt, Indianapolis, IN

Noise: Matt, sorry to hear you never could get into middle school honor's math. Considering the staggering amount of mathematical errors I've committed, how could I be intelligent enough to "make up" a complicated FIP formula that would make Bill James' head spin (FIP=HR * 13 + (BB + HBP) * 3 – SO * 2/ IP + 3.2)? When I evaluate players I use a blend of personal observation, scouting reports, current/historical trends, gut feeling and some sabermetric analysis to derive a conclusion. You'd be amazed what saber stats can reveal about a player's true value. Complicated equations may not be able to score you marriages with insanely hot ladies like Jennifer Connelly in a "Beautiful Mind," but they do offer insightful tips, which could help you finish higher in your fantasy league.


Way to go on the call to not sell high on Ian Kinsler last month. After several dinging bashes in April, his stats are having a cliff dive more terrible than the stock market in 1929. And you're still making us toss the dice again by holding onto him. Even Luis Castillo could do a better job than both you and Kinsler.

Victor, Wellesley, MA

Noise: Call me Herbert Hoover. The reason I encouraged owners not to sell high on Kinsler a few weeks back was because his 20 SB potential had just begun to emerge. In hindsight, that appears to be a foolish recommendation, but he's still ranked ninth among two-baggers in Yahoo! games – ahead of players like Robinson Cano, Jeff Kent and Rickie Weeks who were drafted well before him. His downward spiral can be pinpointed to an inflated plate ego, which has caused his K rates to soar. Now that he's back in the seventh spot, his concentration has returned and he's notched a 8:7 K:BB in his past 12 games. If I were an intrepid bargain seeker I would compose a lowball offer. Kinsler still finishes around: .280 BA, 25 HR, 90 RBI, 90 R, 20 SB.


I would rather have one Dan Haren than two Felix "King of Hype" Hernandezes. All you idiot pundits crown these guys before they've done anything based purely on hype and speculative extrapolation. You fools continue to drastically undervalue significantly better players who have consistently posted filthier numbers for better teams. Haren was better than Felix last year and he's better now.

Zach, Dublin, OH

Noise: To be clear, not once have I made gushing remarks about Felix "The Cat." Still a bit unrefined at this stage in his career, he's really a fantasy "Toonces." Sure his ability to rack quality K numbers is remarkable, but his command inconsistencies and injury proneness has motored staffs off a cliff. Despite your disdainful remarks, I would still have him in the crosshairs. Since fantasy owners are innately impatient, Felix's latest string of disdainful starts (18 ER in his past 25.2 IP) labels him a strong buy. His skyward 9.84 K/9 and enlarged .377 BABIP indicate his ERA will plummet to the low 3s by year's end. As for Haren, his .219 BABIP (3.31 FIP) reflects just the opposite. Historically I'm not the strongest of Felix backers, but right now I'd sit shotgun in a car with "Toonces" – just not on a curvy, mountain road.


Brad, the rest of my league would like to thank you for listing Scott Baker as a "strong buy" causing me to stupidly follow your advice and pick him up. Since that day, he's been a dismal failure, killed my team, and caused me to fall back to the rest of the pack. Perhaps you should change your name to Costanza, as in George. I'll do the opposite of everything you say from here on out.

Bill, Chicago, IL

Noise: I may have contributed to the Human Fund and had thoughts of a free love buffet, but at least I've never put Bernie Williams up at a Milwaukee Ramada. Baker has always pulled wool over my eyes because of his extraordinary Triple-A K:BB splits (211:66 in 273 IP). However, when under the big league bright lights, he's become "Home Run" Baker, yielding a 1.53 HR/9 mark in 29 starts. Until he locates his fastball with more precision, he'll be an underachieving prospect who'll continue to make this writer look oafish.


Why are you gazing at Jeff Francis' picture? How often are you doing this? Does your wife know?

John, Raleigh, NC

Noise: John, I'm just thankful when I look in the mirror Bartolo Colon doesn't stare back. Of course my wife knows about my man-crush for Jeffy. Every quality start he posts, one more candle is added to the shrine. Unfortunately, with six straight quality starts, the shrine's been banished to the basement. My wife claims the citrus spice candle scent has the pillow cases smelling like an orange grove. Ah, the sweet smell of fantasy success …