Roto Arcade: Don't Duck Duncan

Andy Behrens
Yahoo! SportsApril 18, 2007

Roto Arcade This Week : April 16 | April 17

The National League's leading hitter didn't play yesterday. This happens regularly and predictably. If the Cardinals are facing a tough left-handed starter, as they were on Tuesday when Pittsburgh's Tom Gorzelanny limited them to four hits, Chris Duncan often watches from the bench.

Duncan and fantasy owners apparently hate it. How else can we explain that despite three homers and a .385/.455/.718 batting line, Duncan entered the week only 52.9 percent owned? He belted 22 home runs in only 280 at bats last season and he hits second for St. Louis, immediately ahead of Albert Pujols and Scott Rolen.

But there it is: 52.9 percent. What's not to like here?

Clearly, for many of you, it's this quasi-platoon situation. Plenty of owners, and no small number of fantasy experts, actually downgrade hitters or dismiss them entirely if they're not "everyday" players. This is often a huge mistake. If one of your players is involved in a left-right platoon, then these things are all true:

A) You can foresee their absence from the lineup on any given day.

B) You can substitute for them in fantasy as long as you carry at least one hitter on your bench.

C) You're going to get only the most favorable match-ups from the hitter involved in the platoon, which allows you to maximize production from his roster spot.

If you plan to maintain your lineup every day, why avoid someone like Duncan, Brad Hawpe, or Jacque Jones?

Oh, wait. The Cubs don't sit Jones against lefties. They just let him hit .228. My bad.

Anyway, there's no reason to avoid a useful hitter who plays four out of every five games, not if their starts and benchings are predictable. If you carry at least one hitter on your bench – and it doesn't hurt to have a guy with eligibility at multiple positions, like Ty Wigginton or Kevin Youkilis – then you can cover the off-days and continue to accrue stats. If you get 135 starts at OF or 1B from Chris Duncan this season, and you're able to replace him with a useful player another 25 times, you're probably going to get exceptional production.

This same logic applies in the unique case of Barry Bonds. He's involved in a kind of geriatric platoon-ish arrangement. Bonds often doesn't play day games following night games. This has nothing to do with sunlight's effect on the undead, but with the difficulty 42-year-olds have recovering from exertion.

And this fact, usually in combination with unspecific health concerns and various moral platitudes, convinces many owners and, again, a few experts, that it's unwise to own Bonds. But last season, in only 130 games, Bonds hit 26 home runs, scored 74 runs, and drove in 77.

It wasn't terribly difficult to see the off-days coming, either. So if you paired him with another hitter, a Barry caddy, you couldn't have been too displeased.

One more thing on the 25-year-old Duncan: He's actually faced a couple lefties so far. He mauled Wandy Rodriguez on April 6, for example, slugging a double and a homer. The guy's just an ownable, useful player. Tough to imagine that there isn't a place for him in a 12-team mixed league.

We went a little Pie-crazy here on Tuesday, and the world probably doesn't need another Cubs blog, so I won't let my enthusiasm for him spill over into everything I write. However, it's worth noting that today Alfonso Soriano sounds a bit more willing to shift to left field than he did on Monday. The Chicago Sun-Times' Gordon Wittenyer had the following quote from Soriano this morning: "All three outfield positions are the same to me. You still have to catch the ball. Any of the three outfield spots (Lou Piniella) wants to put me is OK."

Well, I know where I want Soriano: Not centerfield. Pie went 1for-6 yesterday with a run scored and an RBI. He also threw out a runner at home plate in the 10th inning of a tie game. So it was an encouraging debut.

Howie Kendrick got nailed on the hand by a Chad Gaudin pitch Tuesday night, and those of us who've made significant investments in the Angels' infielder are desperate for updates. Here's what Kendrick told the Angels' website: "I can move the hand right now, so, hopefully it's nothing serious and I can be back on the field in no time." Hopefully, indeed.

With White Sox left fielder Scott Podsednik (groin) headed to the DL, speedy Pablo Ozuna could have some SB-dependent value in AL-only leagues.

Recently soft-tossing Jason Schmidt (shoulder) was placed on the DL, too. Either Mark Hendrickson or Chad Billingsley will likely start against Colorado on Thursday, depending on which pitcher(s) the Dodgers use in relief today.

Has everyone seen the video of Omaha Royals' outfielder Joey Gathright jumping over a car? It's worth a look. Go search for "Joey Gathright car" and follow the link of your choice. Good stuff. Tough to imagine how, exactly, this skill would become relevant to fantasy owners, or how it's going to help Gathright on the field. Maybe if he chases after flyballs in the Omaha parking lot. Or if Jeremy Brown is blocking the plate. Anyway, it's very cool. If this is all Gathright is remembered for when his speed is gone and he's no longer a sleeper candidate for steals, it's something.