WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
- Boston's Josh Beckett, currently the No. 4 ranked SP in the Yahoo! game, became the league's first four-game winner on Friday, besting the Yankees with totals of 6.2 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 7 K, 2 BB. The nice thing about pitching for the Red Sox is that you can count on offensive support and, sure enough, Beckett leads starters with an average of 11.68 runs backing him up. The former Marlin struggled last season in his AL debut (5.01 ERA), but won 16 games thanks to the 24th-best run support (5.89) among the 84 starters that pitched at least 160 innings. And while opponents only hit .245 against him in '06, he allowed 36 HRs, which was more than twice his previous high (16). The good news is that he has allowed just one home run in 24.2 IP in '07. However, Friday's outing was the first in which he allowed more than one run, and the fact that it came against the Yankees is a little concerning.
Beckett struggled mightily against AL East opponents last season – in particular, 9.45 ERA vs. NYY; 6.21 ERA vs. TOR; 5.03 ERA vs. TB. Looking at the AL offenses, after the Red Sox, the next three best team OPS averages come from the Yankees, Blue Jays and Devil Rays – in fact, including Baltimore, all five AL East teams rank among the top six in the AL in OPS. With that offense behind him, you certainly should be able to continue to mine Beckett for wins. But with the AL East portion of his schedule starting to heat up and given the fact that Beckett has a career ERA in April that is essentially at least a run better than any other month save September, you should know that he may be at his best sell-high position of the year.
- I can't help but see similarities when I watch Rich Hill and Cole Hamels pitch. Both are tall, lanky lefties that come at hitters with this daddy long-legs spider, all-arms-and-legs style that makes it look they released the ball from about 30 feet away from the hitter. Hamels throws harder, and Hill has a better (the best?) curveball, but an argument about who you'd prefer to own in fantasy baseball is a worthy one. Both pitchers put together attention-grabbing performances their last time out – Hamels pitched a complete game against Cincinnati on Saturday, fanning 15 while allowing just one earned run, while Hill shutout Atlanta for eight innings (7 Ks) on Thursday. And both have enjoyed their breakouts in the majors at the same time. Take a look at what each has done since last August:
Rich Hill (August '06 to present): 98.2 IP, 9-3, 2.09 ERA, 96 K, 28 BB
Cole Hamels (Aug. '06 to present): 97.1 IP, 8-3, 2.59 ERA, 109 K, 25 BB
I think you'd agree that it is quite a parallel path. So who would you rather own? I'd probably take Hamels (who's three years younger), but it's really too close to call. If you have either, just be happy in the knowledge that you have – with apologies to Barry Zito, Tom Glavine, Dontrelle Willis, Ted Lilly, et al – one of the top two lefties in the National League.
- Notable Notes: Eric Gagne strained his hip on Sunday and had to leave a save opportunity against Oakland with just one out in the ninth. Akinori Otsuka (I told you not to cut him loose yet) came on to garner the two-out save. As a precautionary measure, Gagne is headed back to the DL … Alfonso Soriano returned from a hammy injury on Sunday and had a pinch-hit double. Soriano is expected to be back full-time in left field starting Monday … An injured hamstring has likely landed OF Milton Bradley back on the DL – this made me think, wouldn't it be humorous (and appropriate) if Milton Bradley, the board game maker, switched out that guy in their Operation game (you know the one that buzzes if you don't perfectly extract the pieces from the guy's body) for a version featuring the likeness of the real Milton Bradley. For the record, this would be Bradley's ninth DL designation since '00 … Shoulder pain has made SP Rich Harden a scratch for his slated Tuesday start. It's being spun as a precautionary measure for a guy that has struggled with injuries throughout his short career … While Harden is out for Tuesday, Randy Johnson (back) and Chien-Ming Wang (hammy) will return from the DL to make their '07 debuts. Big Unit faces the Padres while Wang will open against the Devil Rays … Position-eligibility watch: Felipe Lopez needs three more starts to qualify at second base, Ryan Theriot needs two more starts to qualify at third base and Brett Myers (I still can't believe it) needs two more relief appearances to qualify at RP.
BARGAIN BIN: Top players available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
- J.J. Hardy, Mil, SS
Owned in just 39 percent of Yahoo! leagues, Hardy has exploded in his past four games to the tune of .471 (8-for-17), 4 HR, 9 RBI, 5 R. Healthy now after sitting out 127 games in '06 with an ankle injury, Hardy is tied for third in the NL with 5 HR. And while he's not going to hit 47 bombs, as his current pace suggests, he does have enough pop in his bat to reach 20. He gets high marks for his ability to put the bat on the ball, which makes him ideal as a No. 2 hitter in the lineup. As Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder continue to develop around Hardy in the order, Hardy's production opportunities will continue to rise. If you need a middle infielder, jump on Hardy's hot bat, knowing that he has the ability to back it up.
PROSPECT WATCH: Top players down on the farm
- Ryan Braun, 3B, Mil (ETA – May)
If not for fielding issues, we'd likely already be seeing Braun man the hot corner for the Brew Crew. Milwaukee's current tag-team at third base, Tony Graffanino and Craig Counsell, have combined for a .214 BA, 0 HR, 8 RBI and 4 Runs. Meanwhile, after launching five home runs and posting a ridiculous 1.317 OPS in spring training action, Braun has kept it rolling at Triple-A Nashville with 6 HR and a 1.091 OPS through 17 games (including a 9:7 K-to-BB ratio). Despite the production void at third base, Milwaukee still ranks third in the majors in team OPS, so Braun might not get his shot until the Brewers hit leaner times at the plate.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Yahoo! Sports Blog Funston League Update
While officially listed as being in seventh place, I'm only one point out of third thanks to a 6.5-point jump after Sunday's games. I still can't coax a HR out of Mark Teixeira and Carlos Delgado (for which they'll never be forgiven), but Michael Barret pitched in with four home runs the past week. Team Scottsbluff Hubris sits firmly in first place, and amazingly he's done it without benefit of A-Rod. In fact, his top two picks (Alfonso Soriano and Manny Ramirez) have struggled, but across the board production has kept him on top – he's pulling at least an 8 in 7 of the league's 10 roto categories. Sammy Sosa, Josh Bard and Shawn Green represent the three most recent waiver wire adds, league-wide.
You can follow along with the Yahoo! Friends and Family experts league here, but please spare me your ridicule – it's a long season.