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Splitsville: View from the Top

The numbers don't lie. It's an old adage that should be qualified with "but …" when dealing with baseball statistics. Home runs, ERA, and stolen bases can certainly tell you some things about a player, but you've got to look a bit deeper than the standard 5x5 stats to get the entire picture. Splitsville is a weekly look at some of the numbers, but we'll take a deeper look to make sure we're getting the whole story, while also calling out some of the week's notable pitching and batting lines.

Streaks, Stat Standouts and Anomalies

The move (back) to leadoff has been a boon for Jose Bautista. His .979 OPS leads all players with at least 100 plate appearances at the top of the order, and his .330 average (30-for-91) ranks third among the same qualifiers (Ichiro Suzuki leads with a .356 average). During the 2006 season, Bautista's .822 OPS when leading off was 11th among players with at least 200 plate appearances as the No.1 hitter.
Leaders in average and OPS for the other eight spots in the lineup (minimum 100 plate appearances):
No. 2 – Mark Loretta, .395, and Kevin Youkilis, 1.000
No. 3 – Matt Holliday, .352, and Mark Teixeira, 1.135
No. 4 – Magglio Ordonez, .372, and Prince Fielder, 1.216
No. 5 – Matt Holliday, .392 and 1.035
No. 6 – Hideki Matsui, .340 and .935
No. 7 – Shawn Green, .333 and .864
No. 8 – Yuniesky Betancourt, .321, and Mike Napoli, .801
No. 9 – Dustin Pedroia, .328 and .882
Ervin Santana allowed five earned runs in 13.0 innings over his past two starts, good for a 3.46 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. The kicker: both starts were on the road!! The consecutive solid outings lowered his road numbers on the season to a 7.53 ERA and 1.77 WHIP. I won't suggest that he's safe to use for his next start away from home, but he'll certainly be a very solid fantasy option if/when he solves his road woes.
Widely-available starting pitchers among the leaders in opponent OPS over the past three weeks (minimum three starts): Jeremy Guthrie (.416, second), Hong-Chih Kuo (.503, seventh), Micah Bowie (.601, 16th), Brian Bannister (.611, 17th), Jorge Sosa (.613, 19th), Miguel Batista (.614, 20th), and Paul Maholm (.619, 22nd).
It appears as though Chone Figgins is finally 100 percent after missing the majority of April with two broken fingers in his right hand. Figgins struggled mightily through May, putting together a .156/.232/.222 line in 25 games, but he has been among the league's hottest hitters in June. He's hit .440 (33 for 75) in 16 games, and his average is just 36 points lower than Andruw Jones' OPS (.476) thus far during the month.
Alex Rodriguez has put a sluggish May behind him and has been scorching in June. With eight home runs and 28 runs batted in already in just 16 games, A-Rod has both records for the month of June in his sights. He's on pace for 14 home runs and 47 runs batted in, which would leave him one short of the AL home run record and tie the league record for runs batted in. You may remember that Rodriguez already set the record for home runs during the month of April (14) earlier in the season, while falling just one short of Juan Gonzalez's record 35 runs batted in for the month, set during the 1998 season.


Notable Pitching Game of the Week
Justin Verlander (Det - SP) 6/12 vs Mil
9.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 4 BB, 12 K (112 pitches, 73 strikes)
Verlander threw the season's second no-hitter, a masterful performance in which he struck out a career-high 12 batters and was still bringing it at or near 100 MPH in the game's final frame. Verlander's ERA and WHIP in 14 starts thus far in 2007 (2.90, 1.16) are right in line with his pre-break numbers from 2006 (3.01, 1.17 in 17 starts). The 24-year-old has been a more effective pitcher overall in 2007, as he's lowered his BAA (from .241 to .217) and home run rate (from 0.9 to 0.7), while raising his strikeout rate (from 5.6/9 to 7.4/9). He's currently the 12th-ranked starting pitcher in the Yahoo! game, at No. 64 overall.

The question that should be weighing heavily on Verlander's fantasy owners' minds is when and if the similarities to last season will end. Verlander's effectiveness declined sharply in 2006's latter stages, and the biggest reasons were arm and shoulder fatigue. In 14 starts from August through the World Series in October, Verlander was 5-7 with a 5.82 ERA and 1.76 WHIP. He totaled 207.2 innings during the course of the season (186.0 during the regular season), after pitching 130.0 during his first pro season in 2005. I was in the camp that was wary of drafting Verlander for fear of a repeat of his issues with his "tired arm." As of now those concerns appear to be unfounded (or at least premature), but as you might guess, that type of malady tends to creep up in the season's second half. I often err on the side of caution in cases like this – sometimes to a fault – so take the following advice with that context in mind: if Verlander can net you a proven stud without the later-season concerns (Johan Santana in a "buy low" deal seems like a perfect scenario), then it's definitely something that I would pursue at this point.


Notable Batting Game of the Week
Mike Cameron (SD - OF) 6/17 at ChC
4 AB, 3 H, 3 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 0 SB
Cameron got the Padres on the board early with his two-run home run in the first, and it proved to be the catalyst for an 11-3 drubbing of Rich Hill and the Cubs. Fantasy owners have had a love/hate relationship with the 34-year-old Cameron over much of his career – the love is due in large part to his five-time membership in the 20/20 club, but his inconsistencies and .252 career average can take a bit of the shine off of his positive contributions. Take a look at some of his splits, and you'll see that now is the time to bank on Cameron being a plus contributor overall.

Over his past three full seasons (2003-04, 2006), Cameron's production has spiked in June, July, and August. He hit a combined .237 in April, May, and September of those seasons, with a home run rate of one every 35.6 at bats and a steal rate of one every 7.7 games. In June through August, he hit a combined .264, with a home rune rate of one every 17.5 at bats and a steal rate of one every 5.9 games. Staying true to form, Cameron had a .240 average as of June 1 of the current season (he offset a horrific April with a productive May), and has a .288/.309/.500 line in 14 June games thus far. Cameron's ownership level is at just under 60 percent in the Yahoo! game, so those of you in the other 40 percent should seriously consider adding Cameron for what should amount to four-category production through the summer months.

Stat(s) of the Week
Jonny Gomes has caught the eye of many fantasy owners, as a player who hits four home runs in five games tends to do. The 26-year-old was hitting just .184/.322/.286 when he was sent to Triple-A in late May. In 13 games with Durham, Gomes had a .302/.464/.419 line, and he's gone on a 10-for-19 tear since being recalled. One of Brad Evans' personal favorites, Gomes plays with great energy and enthusiasm, but can be a defensive liability in the outfield. Gomes hit 41 home runs in 733 combined at bats in 2005-06, but he also struck out a combined 229 times while .247 over the same stretch. He's got a bit of Jack Cust in him, as he also drew 100 walks total over the past two seasons. Much of his struggles last season, including a .216 average, were attributed to his playing through a right shoulder injury that eventually required season-ending surgery.

The real question mark at this point is where can he find regular playing time moving forward – he's been presented with his current opportunity because Elijah Dukes has floundered, and Rocco Baldelli and B.J. Upton are on the disabled list. Much as was with the case with Cust, fantasy owners should enjoy the ride while it lasts, and a roster move should certainly be considered, in case he continues to produce – Baldelli was due to be activated from the DL this week, but reports are that he aggravated his hamstring strain and is likely to spend more time on the DL. Perhaps it will give Gomes enough time to play his way back into the Devil Rays' plans.

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