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The Expandables

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The Expandables

Posted on 07 September 2012 by Dennis Lawson

The Big Pajamas

Fans hear regularly just how much baseball players have improved in terms of strength, conditioning, and speed over the years, but such a generalization ignores the glaring omissions.  Not everybody looks like Dan Uggla and requires a scratching post to get to the spot between the shoulder blades.  As John Kruk famously pronounced, “Lady, I’m not an athlete. I’m a professional baseball player.”

Well put, Kruk.  So here’s a hat tip to the guys who appear to be more John Kruk than Ron Gant.  For the waitstaff at Golden Corral and every pizza buffet in every major league baseball city, here is the “All Expandables” team.

  • Adam Dunn – 6’6″, 285 pounds might be a little generous for “Big Donkey”, but when you have 403 career home runs at age 32, you get to knock off 5-10…..errrr 40 pounds.
  • Ronny Paulino – 6’3″, 250 pounds puts the “back” in “backstop”.  As a pitcher, you want a guy who can block the plate, and Paulino basically forms an eclipse under a facade of catcher’s gear.
  • CC Sabathia – 6’7″, 290 pounds.  If Sabathia is 290 pounds, then I’m a burrito, and you can eat me.  Seriously, when you can make a New York Yankees uniform look like a huge set of pajamas, you have that “livin large” thing down pat.
  • Jeff Niemann – 6’9″, 285.  I’ve seen offensive linemen in the NFL smaller than this guy.  He’s like Andre the Giant after a year on the Atkin’s Diet.
  • Victor Marte – 6’2″, 255.  He’s the world’s largest Weeble.  He often wobbles, but he has yet to fall down on the mound.
  • Jonathan Broxton – 6’4″, 300.  Remember that scene in Tommy Boy when Chris Farley is singing “Fat Guy in a Little Coat”?  Now imagine that scene with Broxton’s body and Farley’s voice.  Classic.
  • Carlos Lee – 6’2″, 270.  Lee has always been a sizable guy since entering MLB, but he seems to have ballooned since signing that 6 yr / $100M deal before the 2007 season.  Can’t say that I blame him one bit, either.
  • Kenley Jansen – 6’5″, 260.  Force equals mass multiplied by acceleration.  If Jansen just moves down the mound in the direction of home plate, that must guarantee at least a 70 mph pitch just based on soft tossing a baseball.
  • David Ortiz – 6’4″, 250.  Umm, yeah.  250.  If you subtract 10 pounds for every 100 home runs hit in his career, then maybe you arrive at “250″.  That might be the only plausible explanation.

In fairness, America has a propensity for eating fast food and tackling large portion sizes like ravenous spork-wielding animals.  However, all the aforementioned players have ready access to medical teams, nutritionists, numerous healthy restaurant options, capricious workout spaces, and the means to employ a person trainer or chef.  I kid because I care.  The NFL has long seen many overweight players pass away far too early from heart disease or some other condition strongly connected to obesity.

Shouldn’t the MLB or at least the MLB Player’s Association encourage the guys who are large and in charge to look out for their long term health prospects?  Whether your allegiance as a fan lies with “Big Papi” or the “Big Donkey”, I would hope that you see the toll that the extra pounds can take on even professional athletes.  While I root for a lot of these guys to make the right play on the field, I’m now also cheering for them to make the right dietary choices off of it.  If my kid chooses to look up to a ballplayer, I hope at least he can see them past the muffin tops.

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Point and Grunt Baseball: If NASA Ran MLB

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Point and Grunt Baseball: If NASA Ran MLB

Posted on 06 August 2012 by Dennis Lawson

Mars Rover “Curiosity”

Admit it.  You stayed up to watch the Mars rover, Mars Curiosity, land on the red planet.  To heck with the physical and emotional repercussions of starting Monday sleep deprived.  When NASA has a $2.5 billion rover tweeting its trip across the solar system, those TPS reports can wait.  After all, we are talking must-see tv writ large.  In baseball terms most people may understand, NASA just threw a baseball hundreds of millions of miles at home plate which happens to be just 96 miles wide, and the rocket surgeons placed the ball right on the 3rd base corner of the plate.  St-eeee-rike.

Of course, the plate happened to be moving at something like 24.077 km/s, and takes 779.96 days to orbit the sun, but we will take what we can get.  Hitting a moving target makes the rover project a bit more like the feat of throwing a called strike with Bob Davidson or Joe West behind the dish.  Nibbling on the edge won’t do.  The rover had to be throw right down the pipe with the universe’s largest 12-6 uncle Charlie.  If the geniuses at NASA can do all this with a 1-ton rover, just imagine what they could do for MLB.

Consider that a NASA project team possesses the collective intellectual firepower to prepare for thousands of potential eventualities, and they delivered a robust, polished, and highly technical final product to spec.  Bud Selig has trouble figuring out how to get 15 teams in each league.  Put NASA in charge, and consider the possibilities.

  • Maybe the NASA baseball engineers can explain to Terry Francona, Orel Hershiser, and Dan Shulman of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball team that Vince Coleman did NOT play for the 1982 World Series champion Cardinals.  Coleman actually began his MLB career almost 3 years later.  This would not be such an egregious mistake, but Coleman was a contemporary of Hershiser who played from 1983-2000.
  • Perhaps the “official review” of a potential home run ball could just involve a quick look on the jumbotron.  Carlos Beltran hit one on Saturday night that clearly hit beyond the outfield wall and came back into the field of play.  Unfortunately, the umpires were probably the last 4 people in the stadium to make this determination.  The important thing to remember in this instance?  The closes umpire to the play waddled in the direction of the ball with all the intensity of Jonathan Broxton leaving a buffet.  Tectonic plates and glaciers move with greater rapidity.  So, instead of getting the call on the field correct, the umpires all gathered together to huddle en masse around a monitor to determine whether or not Beltran would get to complete the most time-consuming trip around the bases all season.
  • Again, let the folks at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory have a shot at getting baseball players to leave smokeless tobacco in the clubhouse.  After all, the banning tobacco advertising on television basically gets circumvented when kids see baseball players put a pinch/wad between their respective cheeks and gums.  Free advertising without all the fuss of dealing with a marketing campaign is like giving the tobacco giants a free pass to kid world.  Smokeless tobacco products are banned from stadiums for the peasantry, so maybe a JPL scientist can explain the rationale of allowing players on the field to use the infield as a giant spittoon.  Maybe the answer involves Tang in non-soluble form as a substitute.
  • While the telemetry and pre-flight people are working on the devil in the details, maybe someone good with remote audio/video equipment can work with MLB on eliminating televised full-frontal crotch grabs, the “dirt cam”, and microphones attached to players, coaches, and bases.  Some things need not be seen and heard by all.  Leave something to the imagination, please.

Then again, it probably makes far too much sense to put the nerds and geeks in charge of baseball.  Besides, we would not want the 5th tiebreaker for the 2nd wild card to come down to a game of “rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock”.

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The Waiver Wire: Travis Snider

Posted on 02 August 2012 by Daniel Aubain

The Major League Baseball Trade Deadline has come and gone with the usually flurry of deals as some teams prepared to make a final push to lock up a playoff spot while others made deals with an eye to the future. This is the same strategy you should be using over the final two months of your fantasy baseball season, too, especially if you are in a dynasty, keeper or a league which utilizes some sort of minor league system.

Many of the deadline trades made have changed the immediate fortunes of some players and increased their fantasy baseball value. Below, I’ll take a look at a handful of those players whose value has positively been changed due to a deadline deal being made.

Outfielder Travis Snider is a player the Toronto Blue Jays organization, their fans and fantasy baseball owners have been waiting since 2008 to burst on the scene and live up to the dreaded “hype” and “potential” of a player who recently had many thinking would only amount to nothing more than a Quad-A player.

After a relatively average Spring Training landed him back in AAA Las Vegas to start the 2012 season, fantasy owners may have finally written him off as a bust. He was called up to the Blue Jays July 20th for what, in hindsight, was a showcasing of his talents to move him prior to the trade deadline. Snider responded with a .250 batting average with three home runs and eight RBI in 10 games and found himself shipped off to the Pittsburgh Pirates for SP/RP Brad Lincoln.

Snider was immediately inserted into the starting lineup in right field and, in two games, has batted second and fifth, so far. He’s gone 3-for-9 with three runs scored, a walk and two strikeouts and should be a vital part of the Pirates’ offense down the playoff stretch. Not convinced? His 162-game averages for standard 5×5 scoring leagues would be .248/73/21/75/11 with 37 doubles.

He’s only owned in 8.6% of ESPN leagues, 6% of Yahoo! leagues and 23% of CBS leagues and should be a nice addition to your fantasy outfield as you make a run towards fantasy gold.

Here are some other players whose fantasy baseball value was positively impacted by a trade deadline deal:

RP Greg Holland, Kansas City Royals: Jonathan Broxton was traded to the Cincinnati Reds, opening up the closer’s role for Holland to inherit. He’s sporting a healthy 12.71 K/9 ratio but a troubling 1.56 WHIP. If there are saves to be had for the Royals, it looks like Holland will be guy earning the opportunities. (27.1% ESPN; 34% Y!; 33% CBS)

3B Chris Johnson, Arizona Diamondbacks: In three games since his trade from the Houston Astros, Johnson is 6-for-11 (.545 BA) with a double, two home runs and  seven RBI. The D’Backs are surging and Johnson is thriving with his new team. If you’re still looking around for an Alex Rodriguez replacement, look no further. (22.4% ESPN; 24% Y!; 51% CBS)

OF Nate Schierholtz, Philadelphia Phillies: Schierholtz has been the odd man out in San Francisco for some time now and may finally get a chance to play regularly to prove his worth. He’s off to a good start, too. Batting second between Jimmy Rollins and Chase Utley, Schierholtz went 2-for-5 in his debut with a home run. (0.6% ESPN; 2% Y!; 4% CBS)

OF Denard Span, Minnesota Twins: Span was rumored to be on the move to the Reds right up to the 4PM EST deadline but wound up staying put. All he did was hit .361 (35-for-97) in July with 13 RBI, 13 Runs and four stolen bases (three caught stealings, UGH!). He’s also in the midst of a 10-game hitting streak. Do you think the Reds made a mistake not making this trade? (36.4% ESPN; 20% Y!; 53% CBS)

 2B/SS Marco Scutaro, San Francisco Giants: The Giants acquired Scutaro to fill the hole left by injured third baseman Pablo Sandoval and he’s hit in all five games since the trade and creeping toward gaining third base eligibility. He could be a valuable player to fill multiple positions down the wire. If your league has a max/min games played rule, be sure not to leave any games unused. (65.6% ESPN; 28% Y!; 71% CBS)

OF Domonic Brown, Philadelphia Phillies: This may be time to “put up or shut up” for Brown because with Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence being dealt, there’s no time like the present to show if he’ll be part of the future with the Phillies. He made a pinch hit appearance in his debut and singled but followed that up with an 0-for-4 performance. Deep and NL-only leaguers are the only ones who should be diving in this early. (0.8% ESPN; 4% Y!; 19% CBS)

How did trade deadline deals affect your fantasy teams, especially those of you in league-only types of ultra-deep keeper/dynasty leagues? I’d love to hear what players you’re targeting as we start winding down the fantasy baseball season. Does your head-to-head league have a playoff system in place? If so, what week do they begin? Feel free to leave a comment and/or hit me up on Twitter @DJAubain.

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The Waiver Wire: Small Sample Size

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The Waiver Wire: Small Sample Size

Posted on 11 April 2012 by Daniel Aubain

Most teams have played about five games so far in this young season and most fantasy owners are already chomping at the bit to make changes to their rosters. But here’s a bit of free advice; slow down and take a deep breath. Don’t go blowing up your entire roster or destroying a perfectly good draft strategy to pick up a player who is off to a fast start unless you’re dealing with an unexpected injury or bailing on a late-round pick or “sleeper” who isn’t going to pan out any time soon. You’ll surely regret making a huge mistake this early in the season.

Here’s a look at some players widely available in most fantasy baseball leagues who may be worth targeting if you already find yourself with an early season need:

  • 2B Omar Infante, Marlins – Infante has gone 6-for-18 with a double, triple, three home runs, four RBI and five runs in his first five games of the season. He’s stuck in the bottom third of the batting order for now but a continued hot streak could see him move the top third sooner than later. He’s a career .276 hitter but hit .305 in 2009 and .321 in 2010. He’s only owned in 58.1% of ESPN leagues, 35% of Yahoo! leagues and 52% of CBS leagues.
  • SS Zack Cozart, Reds – Cozart was mentioned on many “sleeper” lists this offseason and his hot start is showing why. He’s gone 8-for-17 with five extra-base hits (two doubles, two triples, one home run), two RBI and five runs scored. He’s currently batting second in front of Joey Votto and reaping the benefits early. He’s only owned in 35.6% of ESPN leagues, 48% of Yahoo! leagues and oddly, 80% of CBS leagues.
  • 1B Adam LaRoche, Nationals – A career .215 hitter in March/April, LaRoche’s hot start is a welcomed surprise for fantasy owners. He’s gone 8-for-20 with two home runs and six RBI. He could be a nice filler on a roster utilizing a corner infield, infielder or multiple DH/utility spots. He’s only owned in 22% of ESPN leagues, 24% of Yahoo! leagues and 50% of CBS leagues.
  • OF David Murphy, Rangers – It wasn’t clear what Murphy’s role in the Rangers outfield was going to be heading into the season but a hot start should keep him in the lineup against all righties and even some hittable lefties. He’s opened the season going 8-for-15 with a home run and only owned in 12% of ESPN leagues, 14% of Yahoo! leagues and 25% of CBS leagues. He may not be worth the pickup in shallower leagues but mixed and AL-only owners should be paying attention at this point.
  • SS Rafael Furcal, Cardinals – Furcal is off to a 10-for-23 (.435 BA) start with three RBI, three runs scored and two stolen bases batting atop the Cardinals lineup. A career .283 hitter with a .348 OBP, if healthy, he could steal 20 to 30 bases. He’s owned in 65.6% of ESPN leagues, 55% of Yahoo! leagues and 63% of CBS leagues so check your league’s waivers now because he may not be available much longer.
  • 3B Chone Figgins, Mariners – Okay, we’ve all been burned by Figgins in the past but he seems to have figured something out here in the early goings of 2012. He’s 8-for-24 with three runs, four RBI and a stolen base and working on outfield eligibility with five games played already due to the Mike Carp injury. He’s 21.6% owned in ESPN leagues, 34% owned in Yahoo! leagues and 42% owned in CBS leagues. Tread wisely, my friends. Tread wisely.
  • RP Hector Santiago, White Sox – So, guess who’s emerged as the White Sox closer? Yep, not Matt Thornton. Santiago has recorded two saves so far and will likely keep the job until he proves unworthy. He’s only owned in 29.8% of ESPN leagues, 54% of Yahoo! leagues and 54% of CBS leagues. If you’re the “trolling for saves on waivers” type, give Santiago a look.
  • RP Jonathan Broxton, Royals – Broxton recorded his first save as the Royals closer by striking out the side. Both positive signs if you are still looking for saves. He’s owned in 59% of ESPN leagues, 63% of Yahoo! leagues and 63% of CBS leagues.
  • RP Fernando Rodney, Rays – Still looking for saves? Rodney has recorded two and the Rays are the kind of team that would play matchups for saves (um, closer by committee?) while Kyle Farnsworth is out. Rodney’s owned in 20.8% of ESPN leagues, 48% of  Yahoo! leagues and 47% of CBS leagues. UPDATE: Rodney just recorded a save against the Tigers is now 3-for-3 in save chances.

Again, I’m not recommending you blow up your roster to chase any of these players. These are small sample sizes but each player may provide a short-term benefit to your roster, so be sure to weigh the player being dropped, accordingly. Most are going to be useful in your deeper mixed leagues or a league-only version. Shallow leagues are already playing out as All-Star teams and, in my opinion, hardly even worth joining unless you are new to the game and are trying to get a feel for the process.

What moves have you made that have benefited your team already? Have you grabbed a “star” off of waivers that some owner dumped as a knee-jerk reaction to fill a need? I was able to pick up B.J. Upton off waivers the day after he was placed on the DL and he’s a player I actively avoided in my drafts. I wasn’t interested in him at his 80.3 ESPN ADP but for free off waivers, yes please.

Be sure to connect with me on Twitter @DJAubain to continue the fantasy baseball discussion and more all season long.

NOTE: All statistics and ownership numbers quoted are as of games played through April 10th, 2012 unless otherwise noted.

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