Articles By Charlie Miller

All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /columns/around-al/around-al-4
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By BOB DUTTON

Athlon Sports Contributor

Is it now or never this autumn for the Rays?

Principal owner Stuart Sternberg isn’t backing away from plans to slash the club’s $72 million payroll before next season.

“No question,” Sternberg confirmed. “Nothing can change that. Unfortunately there’s nothing that can happen between now and April that can change that unless (manager) Joe Maddon hits the lottery and wants to donate it or I hit the lottery.”

The cuts are likely to total more than $20 million and suggest the Rays will do little to retain pending free agents such as Carl Crawford, Rafael Soriano and Carlos Peña.

Sternberg said the Rays “can’t come close” to turning a profit this season, even if they win the World Series, and he is “not optimistic” that even a title will produce a significant increase in season-ticket sales.

The grim conclusion, from Sternberg’s words, is the Tampa Bay area hasn’t sufficiently supported what might be the game’s best young collection of talent.

“We put everything in place to have it happen,” Sternberg said, “to put us in a position so we’d be able to keep adding, keep signing, (doing) more long-term deals, stuff like that.

“It wasn’t meant to be.”

 

Curtain falls on Southside circus

It appears general manager Kenny Williams won his Southside staredown with manager Ozzie Guillen now that Guillen is declaring his desire to remain with the White Sox “for the rest of my life.”

Guillen made his announcement Monday after brief meetings with Williams and club chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.

So ends what seemed a power play by Guillen to get Williams to fire him (but still have to pay him) or wrangle a contract extension on a deal that already runs through next season and contains a club option for 2012.

Guillen stirred the pot by saying he wouldn’t mind being fired because lots of managing jobs figure to come open this winter. He even hinted he might be interested in the cross-town Cubs if he found himself seeking work.

Williams returned each volley.

“I am not planning on making a managerial change before next season,” he declared. “That said, with one more year left on his contract and another with the team option, if those are terms he’s no longer happy with, I understand and respect him enough to let him out of the deal.’’

In short, Guillen could leave but only by quitting and forfeiting the remainder of his contract. Also, Williams made it clear that no extension is forthcoming any time soon.

“It’s just not the right time,’’ he said. “There is a year left on his contract, two years from the team’s perspective, unless he would like to decide otherwise. If he does, I’ve talked to Jerry, and we agree if this is something he doesn’t want, we’re not going to stop him.’’

Message received.

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 - 12:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy
Path: /columns/stock-market-report/maclin-rising-smith-falling
Body:

Stock Market Report

There have certainly been some statistical ups and downs this season —just ask owners of Roy Williams, Matt Cassel, Percy Harvin, Mark Sanchez and Jabar Gaffney. Now that three weeks have been played, we are starting to see more of a complete picture. We can start to pick up on consistencies of certain players, and really begin to pin-point some player values. Heading into the first round of bye weeks, here is the latest report of risers and fallers...

 

RISING

Jeremy Maclin, WR, Eagles—The second-year former first-round pick has four TDs in his first three games, becoming a red zone favorite of Mike Vick. It is time fantasy owners recognize him for what he is —a true weapon who should be in lineups moving forward. As long as Maclin stays healthy, he will grow into a larger and larger part of the Eagles’offense. As defenses focus on DeSean Jackson and LeSean McCoy, Maclin will see plenty opportunities.

 

Jabar Gaffney, WR, Broncos—Many owners bailed on Gaffney following his two catch, 15-yard performance in Week 2, but he is clearly the top seasonal WR to own at the moment, after hauling in 12 balls for 140 yards against Indy in Week 2. He remains a solid WR2/3 moving forward, as Kyle Orton figures to continue to target him most of all Denver WRs over the coming weeks. It looks like he could put together career highs in all categories this year and finally live up to his first pick in the second round billing of 2002.

 

Michael Turner, RB, Falcons—The beginning of the 2010 season has been a bit tumultuous for Turner owners, with injury issues occurring and the emergence of Jason Snelling causing some reason for concern. However, the fact that the 28 year old played through a groin injury in Week 3, and rushed 30 times for 114 yards and a score bodes well for him. He faces the 49ers tough run defense in Week 4, but then has great matchups against the Browns, Eagles and Bengals prior to the Week 8 bye.

 

Percy Harvin, WR, Vikings—First, he had hip issues, then his grandmother passed away, causing him to miss the beginning of training camp. Then, migraines. Then he passed out in practice and was rushed to the hospital. There hasn’t been much good news surrounding Harvin since last season, making him very easy to overlook. But it’s important to realize as he heads into his bye week, that he’s now caught 11 balls in his last two games, including six balls for 62 yards and a score against the Lions. Despite all of the controversy surrounding him, he is a solid WR3 with high upside.

 

Louis Murphy, WR, Raiders—Despite playing for Oakland, the second-year man from Florida has started to establish himself as a consistent fantasy option, in addition to being one with a solid amount of upside. With Bruce Gradkowski at the helm, Murphy, who has caught four or more balls in each game this season, including five for 119 yards in Week 3, is a very, very solid WR3.

 

Earl Thomas, FS, Seahawks—The first round pick from Texas had a monster game in Week 3, intercepting two passes, including a game clincher on the final drive. He has been extremely active in his first three pro games, and looks like a winner IDP option, especially in leagues that require starters at defensive back.

 

Kenny Britt, WR, Titans—Just when it looked like Britt had fallen into the fantasy abyss, garnering negative preseason reports based on his attitude and inability to “beat out”Justin Gage and Nate Washington, he again looks like a favorite target of Vince Young after hauling in a TD in Week 3. The fact that he’s back on the field making plays and earning the trust of his teammates is something to seriously take into consideration, as the T.O.-like athlete develops. He’s not starter-worthy yet, but he should be stashed for sure in all long term formats.

 

Chris Wells, RB, Cardinals—After missing the first two weeks of the season, it looks like Beanie is not only back healthy, but pretty much ready to reclaim the RB job from Tim Hightower, after getting 14 carries to Hightower’s 11 in Week 3. Consider him a flex starter with upside over the coming weeks.

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, September 29, 2010 - 11:07
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy
Path: /columns/waiver-wire/waiver-wire-3
Body:

When a team attempts more than 50 passes in a game, it can tend to inflate everyone’s numbers. Look no further than the Week 3 totals in Denver for an example. That said, there’s no denying the emerging fantasy value in the Broncos passing game, led by Kyle Orton and his 359-yard average through three games.

The 476 he tallied on 57 attempts against the Colts Sunday pumps that figure way up, but Orton has thrown for at least 295 yards in every game so far. The touchdown totals have lagged behind the yardage, but when you combine the production with the very shaky backfield situation, it’s easy to believe the Broncos won’t be shy about continuing to throw the ball.

Orton’s next three matchups – Tennessee, Baltimore and the Jets (assuming they have Darrelle Revis back by then) -- may prove tougher, but Oakland, San Francisco and Kansas City follow that stretch. Plus, facing defenses that play the run tough should only encourage Denver to attempt more throws. It’s also never too early to look way ahead in fantasy, and Orton’s Week 16 matchup at home with Houston could prove very favorable. At the least, he makes for an attractive fantasy backup right now.

Mark Sanchez, QB, N.Y. Jets
I would certainly not have counted myself among Sancehz believers heading into this season, but one can’t ignore consecutive three-touchdown outings – especially when they came in charged matchups with division rivals. Dustin Keller’s emergence as a go-to target gives Sanchez a matchup to exploit in the middle of the field, and LaDainian Tomlinson’s rejuvenation provides an outlet. When you factor in those two, Sanchez doesn’t have to rely as heavily on a receiver corps that is unreliable. The playmaking ability even there, though, will only rise when Santonio Holmes becomes eligible in Week 5. Top the whole thing off with Sanchez’s above average running ability, and you have a player well worth rostering as a fantasy backup.

RUNNING BACKS
Peyton Hillis, RB, Browns
If you and your fellow owners were paying attention through the first couple of weeks of the season, Hillis should no longer be available. As of Monday morning, though, he was owned in fewer than half of Yahoo! leagues. Expect that to change quickly after a monster game against Baltimore. Bid high if he happens to somehow be around in your league.

BenJarvus Green-Ellis, RB, Patriots
I had Green-Ellis pegged as a guy to add to deep rosters for potential value somewhere down the road, but I had no idea that road would be so short. The “Lawfirm” led the way for the Patriots with 16 carries for 98 yards and a touchdown in Week 3 and looks, at the least, like a quality goal-line option going forward. The New England backfield remains crowded, so we can’t count on him as a weekly option just yet. If Fred Taylor is significantly injured, though, that will change immediately.

WIDE RECEIVERS
Lance Moore, WR, Saints
A day like he had against the Falcons in Week 3 – six catches, 149 yards and two touchdowns – necessitates a pickup. You simply can’t leave that kind of production on the wire for a leaguemate, particularly when it came in an offense from which we know we can count on regular passing production. That said, owning any Saints receiver should come with a patience policy. You will absolutely be frustrated at some point by any New Orleans wideout that you own. Moore, for instance, saw zero targets last Monday night and just four (for three catches) in Week 1. He certainly has the potential to become a more consistent target than Robert Meachem, though, and at least looks good as a flex consideration in PPR leagues. Moore enjoyed a tremendous breakout campaign in 2008 when several of his corps mates got hurt, but his own injuries all but negated his 2009. We’ll see what role he can ultimately settle into now, but that’ll be more fun to “see” with him on your bench than someone else’s. If he can’t get consistent, Moore could at least provide intriguing trade bait.

DENVER DUDES
Brandon Lloyd enjoyed his second 100-yard game of the season on Sunday and was targeted 10 times. Jabar Gaffney led the way with 14 targets, becoming the third different wideout to lead his team in that category in three games. What do we make of this situation? Well, for the time being, these two, Eddie Royal and Demaryius Thomas should all be owned in the average point-per-reception league. Royal still looks like the best weekly PPR bet, and Thomas’ status as a first-round pick and top Week 2 target (in his first game) support the notion that he’ll keep getting looks. Gaffney and Lloyd are a bit harder to read, but I still trust Gaffney more. He has been with Josh McDaniels longer and comes with a steadier track record than Lloyd. I mentioned the latter’s history in this space after his big Week 1, and although a second strong outing makes that history easier to overlook, I still have trouble trusting Lloyd for continued production. That becomes even harder in such a muddled situation.

Louis Murphy, WR, Raiders
There’s not likely to be a consistent producer in the Oakland pass offense, because the team has yet to find consistent quarterback play since Rich Gannon retired. That said, Murphy made five of his six catches in Week 2 after Bruce Gradkowski entered the game, and Week 3 provided his second 100-plus yard collaboration with Gradkowski. The two hooked up for 128 yards and two scores in an upset at Pittsburgh last season before connecting for 119 yards on Sunday. At the least, Gradkowski seems to be good for Murphy’s numbers, and Murphy adds a WR3 option to fantasy rosters on a team with few answers at his position.

Tony Moeaki, TE, Chiefs
Moeaki probably falls into the already-gone category in many leagues, too, but he should be snapped up where available. The numbers aren’t overwhelming, but Moeaki has averaged four catches through three games and has scored twice. His touchdown catch in Week 3 was a terrific play, the kind that gives a quarterback confidence in going to that guy whenever possible. Moeaki’s outlook is further bolstered by the lack of production among his team’s receivers. Dwayne Bowe has disappointed through three weeks, and Chris Chambers has all but disappeared. This can only help a good-looking young tight end look even better.

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, September 28, 2010 - 05:00
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /columns/mlb-fantasy/fantasy-spin-cycle-1
Body:

Welcome to Fantasy Spin Cycle, AthlonSports.com’s bi-weekly “cheat sheet” covering myriad topics in a quick-hitting style intended to help keep you in the game from the first pitch of the season to the final bubbly shower in October. On Mondays, we’ll review the hot players and the cold, the emergency free agents and timely cuts, and all the latest medical reports. On Fridays, we’ll examine the fantasy impact of the latest MLB transactions, break out some stimulating stats, turn an eye to keeper leagues, offer a few random thoughts and keep a close eye on closers.

 

Leaders and Losers

HITTING LEADERS

Last 7 Days

Last 30 Days

Last Year

AVG

Julio Borbon-.480

Carlos Gonzalez-.430

Josh Hamilton-.361

 

Jason Bartlett-.478

Casper Wells-.391

Carlos Gonzalez-.341

 

Ike Davis-.474

Billy Butler-.379

Omar Infante-.330

R

Rickie Weeks-10

Carlos Gonzalez-28

Albert Pujols-115

 

Miguel Cabrera-9

Troy Tulowitzki-27

Miguel Cabrera-115

 

Andrew McCutchen-9

Jayson Werth-25

Mark Teixeira-114

HR

Miguel Cabrera-4

Troy Tulowitzki-15

Jose Bautista-57

 

Alex Rodriguez-4

Jose Bautista-10

Albert Pujols-42

 

Curtis Granderson-4

Curtis Granderson-9

Miguel Cabrera-40

RBI

Pedro Alvarez-13

Troy Tulowitzki-41

Miguel Cabrera-129

 

A. Pujols, R. Braun,

Carlos Gonzalez-30

Jose Bautista-129

 

C. Granderson-9

Shin-Soo Choo-25

Alex Rodriguez-126

SB

Jason Bourgeois-4

Juan Pierre-11

Juan Pierre-64

 

Peter Bourjos-4

C. Crisp, C. Figgins,

Michael Bourn-54

 

many with-3

S. Victorino-10

Rajai Davis-48

HITTING LOSERS

 

 

 

AVG

Brandon Wood-.056

Carlos Pena-.122

Mark Reynolds-.195

 

Matt Wieters-.062

Michael Saunders-.133

Carlos Pena-.199

 

Josh Wilson-.062

Alberto Callaspo-.141

Aaron Hill-.209

R

Adrian Beltre-0 in 24 ABs

Chase Headley-5 in 102 ABs

Josh Wilson-27 in 361 ABs

 

Jason Heyward-0 in 22 ABs

Ryan Ludwick-5 in 93 ABs

Bengie Molina-30 in 369 ABs

 

Cesar Izturis-0 in 22 ABs

Casey Blake-5 in 83 ABs

Ivan Rodriguez-32 in 392 ABs

HR

Jason Bourgeois-0 in 31 ABs

Placido Polanco-0 in 116 ABs

Elvis Andrus-0 in 593 ABs

 

Casey McGehee-0 in 31 ABs

Juan Pierre-0 in 113 ABs

Nyjer Morgan-0 in 491 ABs

 

several with-0 in 28

Michael Brantley-0 in 112 ABs

Jamey Carroll-0 in 368 ABs

RBI

Jason Bourgeois-0 in 31 ABs

Alberto Callaspo-2 in 85 ABs

Jamey Carroll-23 in 368 ABs

 

Ichiro-0 in 27 ABs

Chone Figgins-3 in 102 ABs

Nyjer Morgan-24 in 491 ABs

 

I. Kinsler, M. Ellis-0 in 24 ABs

Matt Kemp-3 in 89 ABs

Josh Wilson-25 in 361 ABs

SB

many with-0

many with-0

Mark Teixeira-0 in 593

 

 

 

Billy Butler-0 in 591 ABs

 

 

 

Adrian Gonzalez-0 in 584 ABs

 

PITCHING LEADERS

Last 7 Days

Last 30 Days

Last Year

ERA

Chris Volstad-0.00 in 15.2 IP

Carlos Zambrano-0.82

Felix Hernandez-2.32

 

J.A. Happ-0.00 in 12 IP

Jonathan Sanchez-0.83

Roy Halladay-2.44

 

J. Verlander, E. Santana-0 in 9 IP

Madison Bumgarner-1.09

Josh Johnson-2.47

W

C. Volstad. P.Maholm,

Jon Lester-5

Roy Halladay-21

 

T. Clipper,

Brett Myers-5

several with-20

 

M. Thornton-2

Cole Hamels-5

 

SO

Chad Billingsley-19

Jon Lester-44

Felix Hernandez-237

 

Colby Lewis-16

Adam Wainwright-42

Jered Weaver-234

 

J. Saunders, H. Bailey-13

J. Verlander, T. Lincecum-41

J. Lester, T. Lincecum-227

SV

Brad Lidge-4

Carlos Marmol-11

Brian Wilson-47

 

Juan Gutierrez-4

Brandon Lyon-11

Heath Bell-46

 

many with-2

several with-10

Rafael Soriano-45

PITCHING LOSERS

 

 

 

ERA

Johnny Cueto-54.00

Jeff Niemann-9.97

R. Rowland-Smith-6.56

 

Ryan Dempster-48.60

Andrew Miller-9.49

Brian Bannister-6.34

 

Tom Gorzelanny-18.90

Sean O’Sullivan-9.13

Nate Robertson-5.87

W

many with-0

T. Lilly, J. Cueto,

Ross Ohlendorf-1 in 21 GS

 

 

M. Buehrle, J. Vargas,

R. Rowland-Smith-2 in 21 GS

 

 

A. Gallaraga-0 in 5 GS

Kevin Millwood-4 in 31 GS

SO

Ross Detwiler-0 in 6 IP

Barry Enright-2.3 per 9 IP

Nick Blackburn-3.7 per 9 IP

 

Brett Anderson-1 in 6.2 IP

Carl Pavano-2.5 per 9 IP

R. Rowland-Smith-4.0 per 9 IP

 

Brett Myers-1 in 6 IP

R.A. Dickey-3.2 per 9 IP

Mark Buehrle-4.2 per 9 IP

SV

many with-0

many with-0

Pedro Feliciano-0 in 92 GP

 

 

 

Randy Choate-0 in 86 GP

 

 

 

J. Beimel, J. Lopez-0 in 74 GP

 

 

 

Double Play

Two players you should claim off your league’s free agent list TODAY:

·Jeff Francoeur, OF, Rangers: Francoeur is 14 for 31 (.452) with 11 RBIs through his last eight games. It’s likely nothing more than a temporary spike (we’ve seen those from him before), but it’s worth riding for a week. Texas would like to get a sense of what they have as he heads into an arbitration year, and since they’ve already clinched, they’ll play him.

·Jay Payton, OF, Rockies: Payton’s improbable Lazarus act continues. After sitting out 2009, the 37-year-old shown he can still hit and run both in Triple-A (.323 AVG, 13 SBs) and in the Bigs (10 for 23 since his recall). The Rox are riding the hot hand, and so should you.

 

Double Cut

Two players it’s time to cut loose or deal:

·Jeff Mathis, Angels: With the readiness of young Hank Conger, Mathis and his sub-Mendoza performance in more than a grand’s worth of career plate appearances finally seem resigned to a long career as a backup defensive specialist. The Angels will get an eyeful of Conger this week; Jeff gets a buttful of pine.

·Edgar Renteria, SS, Giants: The 34-year-old, who’s seen his year deteriorate into a mess of injuries and inactivity, concedes that retirement is almost inevitable.

 

Trauma Center

Updates on the injury status of key players.  A condition of Fair or better implies a roughly 50-50 chance of the player returning to action sometime this week.

CONDITION: CRITICAL

Andrew Bailey, CL, A’s (elbow)

Jarrod Saltalamacchia, C, Red Sox (thumb)

John Lindsey, 1B, Dodgers (hand)

CONDITION: SERIOUS

Jason Donald, 2B, Indians (finger)

Russ Branyan, 1B, Mariners (back)

Gavin Floyd, SP, White Sox (shoulder)

Jim Edmonds, OF, Reds (Achilles)

CONDITION: FAIR

Michael Bourn, OF, Astros (oblique)

Edgar Renteria, SS, Giants (elbow)

J.J. Hardy, SS, Twins (knee)

Joe Mauer, C, Twins (knee)

Chris Capuano, SP, Brewers (groin)

Laynce Nix, OF, Reds (ankle)

Freddy Sanchez, 2B, Giants (shoulder)

Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers (ribs)

CONDITION: GOOD

David Aardsma, CL, Mariners (oblique)

Mike Carp, 1B, Mariners (foot)

Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays (quad)

Marlon Byrd, OF, Cubs (face)

Brandon Webb, SP, Diamondbacks (shoulder)

Mark Reynolds, 3B, Diamondbacks (thumb)

Mitch Maier, OF, Royals (knee)

Denard Span, OF, Twins (foot)

John Bowker, 1B/OF, Pirates (knee)

Orlando Cabrera, SS, Reds (oblique)

DISCHARGED

Freddy Garcia, SP, White Sox (back)

Ian Stewart, 3B, Rockies (oblique)

Jose Valverde, RP, Tigers (elbow)

Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies (hamstring)

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, September 27, 2010 - 14:00
All taxonomy terms: NFL
Path: /columns/lighter-side/clemens-orange-jump-suit-and-why-couldnt-notre-dame-stop-denard-robinson
Body:

Got to make this a fast column. My wife and I are in the midst of training for a marathon. She’s running 26 miles, I’m running 385 yards. …

This just in: Roger Clemens, with an eye on the future, watched the opening Sunday of the NFL season in an orange jump suit. …

Cowboys coach Wade Phillips took the blame for a botched play that led to a fumble return for a touchdown in Sunday’s loss to the Redskins. And once he got on a roll in his postgame press conference, Phillips also took the blame for the loss, the economy, world hunger and Jerry Jones’ facelift. …

By the way, speaking of Jones … The best owner in football? It’s not J.J. It’s Phil Knight of the U of Oregon Ducks. They may become the first team ever to win a national championship while playing in pajamas. …

Turns out Reggie Bush returning the Heisman was a plea deal. He agreed to hand over the hardware, but was allowed to keep his collection of Kim Kardashian instructional tapes. …

It took all afternoon last Saturday, but Notre Dame finally figured out a way to stop Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson: end zones. …

Don’t know what’s going to happen with this Jets sexual harassment case involving a woman reporter. But, having seen pictures of her, I know this: Joe Namath is going to want to play a fast game of tonsil hockey with her. …

Happens every year. The Bengals and Browns both lost last Sunday, leaving Ohio State as the top-ranked team in the state. …

Quarterback controversy? Right. I’ll bet you two of Andy Reid’s chins that Michael Vick starts for the Eagles this weekend. …

The Chargers, after losing to the gawdawful Chiefs Monday night, have decided to cancel the rest of their season and go to the beach. …

We could have a breakthrough in the nasty McCourt divorce case. Jamie is considering letting Frank have the Dodgers if she can keep the Manny wig. …

 

With no NBA teams interested, Allen Iverson is considering playing in China. I’ve got a better idea. He digs a really, really deep hole and stops just before he gets there.. …

A tale of two teams: The Broncos are 2-9 since opening last season 6-0. The Titans are 9-2 since opening last season 0-6. …

I admit it, I miss Mike Leach on the sideline on Saturdays. So what’s the former Texas Tech coach doing these days? He’s waiting to see how his lawsuit against the school turns out. He sued for slander, libel and exposure to the nightlife in Lubbock. …

Amazing. Avalanche forward Brandon Yip reported to training camp the other day and said he didn’t get nervous over a single putt during the summer. …

Good news out of Tuscaloosa. Nick Saban says Heisman winner Mark Ingram will play Saturday, keeping him within striking distance of Forrest Gump’s all-time rushing record at Bama. …

And finally, Reds first baseman Joey Votto, when asked what it would mean to him as a native Canadian to win the Triple Crown: “Canadian ballplayers are really humble guys. They’d pat you on the back and say, “Wow, pretty good job.’ And then we’d go get a beer.’’   

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, September 16, 2010 - 15:18
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /columns/around-nl/fighting-phillies-look-nl-champs
Body:

Phillies Finally Right Their Ship

It’s not like the Atlanta Braves have staged a complete collapse.

This has been no Dog Days swoon, no Shades of ‘82, when a Joe Torre-managed club went 2-19 to go from nine games ahead to four behind, only to rally late.

It’s more that the two-time National League champion Philadelphia Phillies have simply returned to form.

On July 22, the Braves were 56-39 and owned a fat seven-game lead in the NL East. Since then, however, the Braves have gone 27-25 to fall three games behind the Phillies.

That 10-game swing is more due to the fact the Phillies have gone 38-15 since scraping out a 2-0 win at the Cardinals in 11 innings on that same July 22 turning point. That win, which helped them avoid a four-game sweep at the hands of Tony La Russa’s club, set the Phils off on a 13-2 run and they’ve hardly slowed down since.

Adding Roy Oswalt in a deadline deal with Houston didn’t hurt. Since losing his Phillies debut at Washington on July 30, Oswalt’s new team has gone 8-0 in his starts. He is 6-1 with a 1.98 ERA for the Phillies, who are pushing back Oswalt’s next start so he can kick off the huge home series against the Braves on Monday.

Even with their recent starting pitching woes, the Braves, it should be pointed out, still have the league’s best run differential (plus 115) and are still clinging to a half-game lead over the Giants in the wild-card standings. That’s a playoff path they’ve never taken in their decorated history under retiring manager Bobby Cox.

For years the Braves were the NL East champions who lost to the wildcard in the playoffs. Team President John Schuerholz used to joke about wanting to try the wildcard path some year, just to shake things up.

This might be the year.

 

FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES

Keep an eye on the surging Rockies, winners of 10 straight until the Padres cooled them off this week.

While the Padres and Giants face off by McCovey Cove on the season’s final weekend, the Rockies will finish up with four games at St. Louis, where the Cardinals probably won’t have anything to play for.

In fact, 13 of the Rockies’ final 16 games are against teams out of the playoff hunt. The only exception is a three-game weekend set against the Giants at Coors Field (Sept. 24-26).

 

AROUND THE HORN

• The poor-drawing Marlins have been known to sacrifice home games to San Juan, Puerto Rico, as they did again this year, but in 2011 they will step aside for Bono’s sake. Rock legends U2 have a June 29 concert scheduled for Sun Life Stadium, and the massive preparations for such an event have set the Mariners-Marlins interleague series adrift. Early talk has centered around Puerto Rico and a second contender, Vancouver, B.C., which has a domed stadium at BC Place. The Triple-A Vancouver Canadians played in the Pacific Coast League from 1978-99.

• When former Marlins first-rounder Brett Sinkbeil made his big-league debut this week at age 25, he became their franchise-record 29th different pitcher this year. The former record was 28 different arms used, set in 2007, the first for former skipper Fredi Gonzalez. The Marlins have used 54 players this year, another franchise mark. The former record was 50 in 2007 as well.

• Southern Belle Farm in McDonough, Ga., came up with a pretty memorable idea this year for its annual fall cornfield maze: a sprawling image of Bobby Cox in his Braves cap with a “Thanks, Bobby” message cut right into the corn. The agricultural art exhibit, if that’s what you call it, is open to the public on weekends from Sept. 18 through Nov. 14. Maybe they can get James Earl Jones to conduct the audio tours.

• Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval isn’t just a switch-hitter, he’s a switch-thrower too, at least to a limited extent. Unfortunately, from the looks of the Kung-Fu Panda of late, it appears he’s a switch-eater as well.

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, September 16, 2010 - 13:52
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Fantasy
Path: /columns/stock-market-report/texans-arian-foster-rise
Body:

By Paul Hickey

NoOffseason.com

Finally we can stop speculating. Finally, we have some current, real life data to play with. Now, it's easy to jump to unwarranted conclusions after Week 1, as anomalies do certainly occur, but we are confident in the following predictions. In a column that probably could have gone on forever, heading into Week 2, we have chosen only the cream of the crop risers, and the unfortunate but true fallers.

RISING

Arian Foster, RB, Texans

Are you kidding me? 231 yards and three TDs against the Colts in Week 1 makes Foster the fantasy player of the week by a landslide. If you started him in a basic seasonal league, there's a good chance he won your matchup for you single handedly. The scary thing is that the Texans didn’t even really need to use their incredibly potent passing attack. While the yards may not be there every week, the touchdowns will. Look for Foster to continue to play at a high level again next week against the Redskins.

Austin Collie, WR, Colts

Perhaps one of my best calls was telling fantasy owners honestly that the second year man from BYU is a better fantasy option than Pierre Garçon. Even after his 10-catch, 131-yard, TD performance against the Texans in Week 1 you may think I'm crazy, but in PPR leagues, Collie is a must-own and a borderline must-start. With Peyton Manning not seeing much time to throw due to a banged up offensive line, he'll continue to look Collie’s way often. Collie proved to be the more efficient receiver, catching 10 of 11 targets, as Garçon contributed a few key drops against the Texans. The Colts host the Giants in Week 2, and Collie is a solid WR3 in PPR formats. On top of all of this, Anthony Gonzalez went down with an ankle injury in Week 1, which means Collie is further cemented in as the Colts primary slot receiver.

Hakeem Nicks, WR, Giants

Week 1 began to confirm that the 2009 first round pick truly is the Giants number 1 receiver, as he hauled in four balls for 75 yards and three TDs, looking a lot like Randy Moss —unstoppable against one-on-one coverage. After this performance, he should be an automatic start moving forward.

Wes Welker, WR Patriots

Well, any doubts about just how healthy Welker was heading into Week 1 have been completely erased after his eight-catch, 64-yard, two-TD performance against the Bengals. After most fantasy players underrated him due to health concerns, there's no reason to leave him on your bench moving forward.

Jordan Shipley, WR, Bengals

The third round slot receiver from Texas recorded five catches for 82 yards in his first ever NFL game. Even though the Bengals don't figure to be down by nearly 30 points heading into the second half most weeks, it's still impressive that Shipley was this involved in the Bengals game plan. Dynasty owners should consider him a potential Wes Welker/Austin Collie in 2011 after Terrell Owens' contractual obligation is up.

Matt Forte, RB, Bears

Any doubts about Forte "being a Mike Martz guy" can be thrown out the window, as screen passes to him were a crucial component of the Bears offense against the Lions in Week 1. The third year RB caught seven balls for 151 yards and two scores, while also adding 50 on the ground. It looks like he's well on his way to being Chicago's leading receiver, and a must start RB2 in all leagues.

Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Seahawks

The 34 year old looked rejuvenated, throwing for 170 yards and two scores and rushing for another. The Seahawks also happen to face the Denver Broncos’pass defense in Week 2, followed by the Chargers and Rams —all three of whom don't necessarily have the best passing defenses in the league. As long as he's healthy, consider Hass a solid fantasy play.

Michael Vick, QB, Eagles

Well, the Kevin Kolb era didn't last long in Philly. Now, don't get me wrong, Andy Reid is still saying that Kolb is the starter when healthy. It's the "when healthy" part that concerns me. Kolb (concussion) isn't expected to practice until Friday, which really puts his Week 2 status in doubt, which is too bad, because the Eagles play the Lions, who have the worst secondary in the league. Then, there's the fact that Vick just flat out looked phenomenal at times against the Packers. He passed for 175 yards and a score, while rushing 11 times for 103 yards. I just have a feeling that it could be the Mike Vick show for a few more weeks in Philly. if you own Kolb, add Vick (without dropping Kolb).

Patrick Chung, SS, Patriots

Wow. The second rounder from Oregon really took advantage of his Week 1 start, racking up 12 solo tackles and four assisted. I'd say he more than solidified the starting gig moving forward, and the really scary thing is that he kind of looks like the next Rodney Harrison.

Brandon Jackson, RB, Packers

A guy I've written about more than a few times this offseason as a potential sleeper has just rocketed up waiver wire lists heading into Week 2. The 24-year-old fourth year former second rounder from Nebraska has looked good when filling in for Ryan Grant. Now he'll have a real opportunity with the starter out with an ankle in Week 2.

 

FALLING

Lions WRs

Unfortunately, with potential star QB Matthew Stafford suffering a shoulder injury in Week 1, it looks like Shaun Hill will be the team's QB for the near future, which doesn't bode well for receivers Calvin Johnson and Nate Burleson. Not that you should bench Megatron necessarily, but his ceiling will be much lower as long as Stafford is out.

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, September 15, 2010 - 10:18
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /columns/around-al/around-al
Body:

By Roch Kubatko

Yankees-Rays Prize Fight

The New York Yankees weren’t giving up first place without a fight.

They found one at Tropicana Field.

They went 11 rounds with the Tampa Bay Rays Monday night in the first game of a crucial series in St. Petersburg. And it was Reid Brignac who delivered the knockout punch with a walk-off home run off Sergio Mitre.

Brignac’s blast broke a scoreless tie and moved the Rays a half-game ahead of New York in the AL East.

Tampa Bay improved to 87-56, the best record in baseball. The Yankees, losers of a season-high four straight, had the same record when the night began.

It’s hard to imagine the rest of the series living up to this game, which featured eight scoreless innings each by C.C. Sabathia and David Price.

Price retired 14 in a row after Derek Jeter singled in the first inning, and he held the Yankees to three hits. Sabathia again was denied his 20th win, but not for lack of effort or results, as he rationed the Rays to two singles and struck out nine.

“Frazier-Ali,” said Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon. “It was there. The Thrilla in Manila. It was all there.”

Brignac worked the count full leading off the 11th before reaching the seats in right field. He entered the game only after Carl Crawford was ejected. Otherwise, he probably wouldn’t have been hitting in that situation.

“It felt good off the bat,” he told reporters.

The night began with Tampa Bay holding a 7½ game lead over Boston and Chicago in the wild card race, but the Rays have a bigger goal in mind as the teams entered a stretch where they’ll meet seven times in 11 days.

The Yankees would like to be healthier. Outfielders Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner were missing from the lineup Monday night. Swisher is dealing with a bone bruise in his left knee that likely will lead to an MRI. Gardner received a cortisone injection in his sore right wrist after an MRI revealed some inflammation. Swisher grounded out as a pinch-hitter, and Gardner stole a base and was caught stealing third after entering the game as a pinch-runner.

 

Nice career move for Cramer

Bobby Cramer began this season pitching in the Mexican League, which actually was a step up in his baseball career, considering that he once worked as a substitute teacher.

At least he got to wear a uniform and stand on a mound.

Cramer did a lot more than that Monday afternoon, winning his major league debut with the Oakland Athletics. Cramer allowed one run and four hits in 5.1 innings in a 3-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals.

Cramer, 30, began his professional career in Tampa Bay’s system in 2003, but he was out of baseball two years later. He was a high school math teacher and held a job in pipeline maintenance – putting him one up on Roy Halladay – before playing independent ball in 2008.

Earlier this year, Cramer went 13-3 with a 2.95 ERA in 22 games in Mexico after Oakland loaned his contract to Quintana Roo.

Kansas City’s only run off Cramer came on Mike Aviles’ first homer in four months.

“Just getting here was amazing in itself, but now that I’m here I want to pitch well,” Cramer told reporters. “I want to show everybody I can be up here. Going out and giving up a run today, giving us a chance to win is going to take a good step in that direction.”

Cramer is the oldest pitcher in A’s history to make his first major league start since Steve Gerkin on May 13, 1945. Gerkin pitched for the Philadelphia franchise.

 

The hits keep copming for Ichiro

Ichiro Suzuki is on the verge of adding a little more weight to his Hall of Fame credentials.

The Seattle Mariners’ outfielder carried a 13-game hitting streak into Monday’s game against the Boston Red Sox. More impressive, he was 14 hits shy of reaching 200 for the 10th time in 10 major league seasons.

That’ll get you into Cooperstown without standing in line.

The current record of 10 200-hit seasons is held by Pete Rose, who needed 17 seasons.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 - 15:04
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Fantasy
Path: /columns/waiver-wire/waiver-wire
Body:

By Matt Schauf

RapidDraft.com

 

The biggest mistake many fantasy owners make after Week 1 is to put aside all the observations and expectations they carried into the season and overrate what happened in the first set of real games.

I love to comb to free-agent market after the league has run through its first set of adds and drops to see which players have already been orphaned. That’s the biggest thing to watch for this week. One good or bad week doesn’t paint a full-season picture.

Of course, football also presents the shortest season, so Week 1 performances can’t be ignored either. Here are some little-owned guys worth grabbing if you have a spot. (Just don’t go cutting C.J. Spiller to create that spot.)

 

David Garrard, QB, Jaguars

He was twice a subject of my sleeper columns in this space and a solid fantasy performer before this season. Yet, Garrard ended Sunday night owned in just 23 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Three touchdown passes in the first week will change that in a hurry, and it’s not as if Garrard loaded up against a terrible defense. Last year, at least, Denver allowed the third fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. This is obviously a new year, but the Broncos start the same secondary as they did in 2009. Garrard’s 76.2 percent completion rate made the performance look even better.

 

Mark Clayton, WR, Rams

One game certainly does not tell us the whole story on target distribution, but Clayton drew a team-high 16 looks in Sunday’s loss to Arizona less than a week after joining the team. Everyone’s numbers were inflated by the 55 pass attempts, which certainly won’t be the norm (or else we’ll be talking about Sam Bradford’s untimely death by Week 6), but Clayton led by any measure.

In just the first half, Clayton drew 10 targets, twice as many as any other Ram to that point. Add that to word that he and Bradford spent some off-season time practicing together, plus Laurent Robinson’s injury history (he left Sunday’s game at one point but returned), and Clayton should be picked up this week in any league of reasonable depth. That’s especially true in point-per-reception formats, which will downplay a likely lack of touchdowns. Clayton has been an inconsistent performer throughout his career, but his talent hasn’t been questioned.

 

Mike Thomas, WR, Jaguars

Jacksonville’s No. 2 wideout was No. 1 on opening day, tallying twice as many receptions (six) as any teammate and drawing seven targets to Mike Sims-Walker’s two. Thomas didn’t snag any of Garrard’s three scoring passes, but the PPR value is obvious, and if he stays near this usage level, enough touchdowns (at least five or six) should come. According to FootballOutsiders.com, Thomas presented the league’s best catch rate last year among wide receivers with at least 30 receptions.

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, September 13, 2010 - 13:52
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /columns/mlb-fantasy/mlb-fantasy-spin-cycle
Body:

FANTASY SPIN CYCLE

By Bruce Herman

September 13, 2010

Leaders and Losers

HITTING LEADERS

Last 7 Days

Last 30 Days

Last Year

AVG

Vladmir Guerrero-.500

Paul Konerko-.412

Josh Hamilton-.358

 

Emilio Bonifacio-.483

Hideki Matsui-.400

Omar Infante-.344

 

R. Hernandez,

N. McLouth-.467

Carlos Gonzalez-.396

Joey Votto-.338

R

Emilio Bonifacio-9

Austin Jackson-29

Mark Teixeira-116

 

Troy Tulowitzki-9

Omar Infante-26

Martin Prado-116

 

S. Victorino, N. Cruz-8

several with-25

Joey Votto-114

HR

Troy Tulowitzki-6

Albert Pujols-10

Jose Bautista-54

 

Mike Stanton-5

Russ Branyan-10

Albert Pujols-39

 

Albert Pujols-4

Jose Bautista-10

Miguel Cabrera-39

RBI

Ryan Howard-11

Evan Longoria-26

Miguel Cabrera-131

 

Troy Tulowitzki-11

Paul Konerko-26

Jose Bautista-128

 

B. Zobrist, B. Pena-9

Hunter Pence-25

Ryan Howard-123

SB

Coco Crisp-7

Coco Crisp-14

Juan Pierre-59

 

Shane Victorino-5

Eric Young Jr.-12

Michael Bourn-57

 

Michael Bourn-4

Juan Pierre-11

Rajai Davis-49

HITTING LOSERS

 

 

 

AVG

Ryan Theriot-.000

Michael Saunders-.120

Mark Reynolds-.200

 

Bill Hall-.059

Matt LaPorta-.137

Carlos Pena-.202

 

C. Denorfia,

P. Sandoval-.067

Felipe Lopez-.145

Gerald Laird-.214

R

Shin-Soo Choo-0 in 26 ABs

Erick Aybar-4 in 89 ABs

Willy Aybar-24 in 317 ABs

 

Chase Headley-0 in 26 ABs

Travis Snider-4 in 85 ABs

Josh Wilson-26 in 369 ABs

 

several with-0 in 22 ABs

Jose Guillen-4 in 81 ABs

Jayson Nix-29 in 301 ABs

HR

Michael Young-0 in 32 ABs

Juan Pierre-0 in 120 ABs

Elvin Andrus-0 in 602 ABs

 

Michael Brantley-0 in 31 ABs

Placido Polanco-0 in 116 ABs

Nyjer Morgan-0 in 474 ABs

 

Juan Pierre-0 in 31 ABs

Chone Figgins-0 in 108 ABs

Jamey Carroll-0 in 385 ABs

RBI

Michael Brantley-0 in 31 ABs

Erick Aybar-1 in 89 ABs

Mike Aviles-19 in 336 ABs

 

Andres Torres-0 in 27 ABs

Trevor Crowe-1 in 76 ABs

Luis Castillo-21 in 309 ABs

 

several with-0 in 26 ABs

Mike Lowell-2 in 75 ABs

Ramon Santiago-22 in 342 ABs

SB

many with-0

many with-0

Mark Teixeira-0 in 600 ABs

 

 

 

Billy Butler-0 in 594 ABs

 

 

 

Adrian Gonzalez-0 in 589 ABs

 

PITCHING LEADERS

Last 7 Days

Last 30 Days

Last Year

ERA

Ian Kennedy-0 in 14 IP

Felix Hernandez-1.04

Brian Duensing-2.19

 

Fausto Carmona-0 in 9 IP

Carlos Zambrano-1.35

Roy Halladay-2.29

 

Nick Blackburn-0 in 8 IP

Clayton Richard-1.39

Felix Hernandez-2.32

W

S. Casilla, R. Oswalt,

Ervin Santana-5

CC Sabathia-22

 

B. Anderson, T. Lincecum,

Carlos Zambrano-5

Roy Halladay-21

 

J. Verlander-2

Roy Oswalt-5

D, Price, U. Jimenez-20

SO

Tim Lincecum-20

Felix Hernandez-49

Felix Hernandez-243

 

Justin Verlander-18

Mat Latos-49

Tim Lincecum-236

 

U. Jimenez, W. Rodriguez-16

Tim Lincecum-45

Justin Verlander-229

SV

many with-3

Brandon Lyon-12

Brian Wilson-46

 

 

Carlos Marmol-11

Rafael Soriano-45

 

 

R. Soriano, H. Street-10

Heath Bell-45

PITCHING LOSERS

 

 

 

ERA

Clay Buchholz-45.00

Kevin Correia-9.00

Brian Bannister-6.32

 

Zach Duke-36.00

Barry Zito-8.87

R. Rowland-Smith-6.15

 

Brett Cecil-31.50

Kyle Lohse-8.75

Jeff Suppan-6.00

W

many with-0

Paul Maholm-0 in 6 GS

Ross Ohlendorf-1 in 22 GS

 

 

Barry Zito-0 in 6 GS

R. Rowland-Smith-3 in 23 GS

 

 

several with-0 in 5 GS

Jeff Karstens-4 in 22 GS

SO

many with-0

Kyle Kendrick-2.8 per 9 IP

R. Rowland-Smith-3.5 per 9 IP

 

 

Carl Pavano-3.4 per 9 IP

Nick Blackburn-4.0 per 9 IP

 

 

Barry Enright-3.4 per 9 IP

M. Buehrle,

A. Cook-4.2 per 9 IP

SV

many with-0

many with-0

Pedro Feliciano-0 in 89 G

 

 

 

Darren O’Day-0 in 77 G

 

 

 

Todd Coffey-0 in 73 G

 

Double Play

Two players you should claim off your league’s free agent list TODAY:

·Clay Hensley, CL, Marlins: It took Hensley until his 30th birthday to stop emasculating his stuff with all the walks, but he’s done so this year. The Marlins have been more than a month tardy in giving him the ball in the ninth inning considering how bad Leo Nunez has been. They finally did last week and Clay cruised to three straight saves.

·Kyle Davies, SP, Royals: Davies has always been one of my favorite underachievers. Great of stuff and bereft of command, he’s on the most consistent roll of his career right now: three of fewer earned runs in 11 of his last 13 starts. His final four assignments will come against the beatable Indians and Tigers, followed by Twins and Rays teams that likely are going to be fielding depleted lineups with playoff appearances secured.

 

Double Cut

Two players it’s time to cut loose or deal:

·John Jay, OF, Cardinals: Jay’s run has run its course, and the Cardinals are taking heat for trading Ryan Ludwick. After batting .400 in his first 110 major league at-bats, he’s done .242 with one homer since July 31, and his error likely cost his team a game Friday night. Turns out his upside is what we thought it to be all along: Ryan Sweeney (if he’s lucky).

·Rick Ankiel, OF, Braves: A wasted acquisition for Atlanta, as they’ve abandoned him altogether. Strikeouts in nine straight at-bats will do that. Instead, the Braves are going with the semi-hot hand in Nate McLouth (8 for 18 in his last six games).

 

Trauma Center

Updates on the injury status of key players.  A condition of Fair or better implies a roughly 50-50 chance of the player returning to action sometime this week.

CONDITION: CRITICAL

Johan Santana, SP, Mets (shoulder)

Aaron Cook, SP, Rockies (leg)

Andres Torres, OF, Giants (appendix)

CONDITION: SERIOUS

Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers (ribs)

CONDITION: FAIR

Josh Johnson, SP, Marlins (back, shoulder)

Bobby Jenks, CL, White Sox (forearm)

Joel Pineiro, SP, Angels (oblique)

Jerry Hairston Jr., UT, Padres (elbow)

Freddy Garcia, SP, White Sox (back)

Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B, A’s (back)

Nick Swisher, OF, Yankees (knee)

Chris Iannetta, C, Rockies (calf)

CONDITION: GOOD

Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, Blue Jays (wrist)

Jimmy Rollins, SS, Phillies (hamstring)

Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Cubs (quad)

Brett Gardner, OF, Yankees (wrist)

Chris Getz, 2B, Royals (head)

Jose Valverde, CL, Tigers (elbow)

Chris Johnson, 3B, Astros (back)

Felipe Paulino P, Astros (shoulder)

DISCHARGED

Nick Punto, IF, Twins (hamstring)

Jim Edmonds, OF, Reds (oblique)

Mike Leake, RP, Reds (shoulder)

Brian Fuentes, RP, Angels (back)

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, September 13, 2010 - 13:16
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Fantasy
Path: /columns/question-week/waiver-wire
Body:

By Matt Schauf

RapidDraft.com

 

The biggest mistake many fantasy owners make after Week 1 is to put aside all the observations and expectations they carried into the season and overrate what happened in the first set of real games.

 

I love to comb to free-agent market after the league has run through its first set of adds and drops to see which players have already been orphaned. That’s the biggest thing to watch for this week. One good or bad week doesn’t paint a full-season picture.

 

Of course, football also presents the shortest season, so Week 1 performances can’t be ignored either. Here are some little-owned guys worth grabbing if you have a spot. (Just don’t go cutting C.J. Spiller to create that spot.)

 

David Garrard, QB, Jaguars

 

He was twice a subject of my sleeper columns in this space and a solid fantasy performer before this season. Yet, Garrard ended Sunday night owned in just 23 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Three touchdown passes in the first week will change that in a hurry, and it’s not as if Garrard loaded up against a terrible defense. Last year, at least, Denver allowed the third fewest fantasy points to opposing quarterbacks. This is obviously a new year, but the Broncos start the same secondary as they did in 2009. Garrard’s 76.2 percent completion rate made the performance look even better.

 

Mark Clayton, WR, Rams

 

One game certainly does not tell us the whole story on target distribution, but Clayton drew a team-high 16 looks in Sunday’s loss to Arizona less than a week after joining the team. Everyone’s numbers were inflated by the 55 pass attempts, which certainly won’t be the norm (or else we’ll be talking about Sam Bradford’s untimely death by Week 6), but Clayton led by any measure.

 

In just the first half, Clayton drew 10 targets, twice as many as any other Ram to that point. Add that to word that he and Bradford spent some off-season time practicing together, plus Laurent Robinson’s injury history (he left Sunday’s game at one point but returned), and Clayton should be picked up this week in any league of reasonable depth. That’s especially true in point-per-reception formats, which will downplay a likely lack of touchdowns. Clayton has been an inconsistent performer throughout his career, but his talent hasn’t been questioned.

 

Mike Thomas, WR, Jaguars

 

Jacksonville’s No. 2 wideout was No. 1 on opening day, tallying twice as many receptions (six) as any teammate and drawing seven targets to Mike Sims-Walker’s two. Thomas didn’t snag any of Garrard’s three scoring passes, but the PPR value is obvious, and if he stays near this usage level, enough touchdowns (at least five or six) should come. According to FootballOutsiders.com, Thomas presented the league’s best catch rate last year among wide receivers with at least 30 receptions.

 

Brandon Jackson, RB, Packers

 

Consider this a prime argument for drafting a handcuff. Ryan Grant left Sunday’s victory at Philadelphia with a sprained ankle, which he says he doesn’t expect to keep him out in Week 2. Players say a lot of things, though, and we can’t always (ever?) trust them.

 

It’s impossible to know at this point whether Grant will be ready for next Sunday, and Jackson had already drawn praise from his coaches for a strong camp and preseason. He stepped in for 18 carries (63 yards) and a pair of receptions against the Eagles and would draw Buffalo in Week 2 if he fills in again. Even if Grant is able to go, can we trust the ankle to not be a problem again? Of course not. Give Jackson a shot where possible.

 

Jermaine Gresham, TE, Bengals

 

A second tight end isn’t for every league. If you don’t have a flex position (or at least one that includes tight ends) or have fairly shallow rosters, then you get one guy at the position and move on. Others, though, should take notice at the level of use for Gresham in his first game.

 

The rookie tight end was the third most targeted Bengal, getting 10 passes and catching six for 25 yards and a touchdown. Like with the Rams example above, the totals here are skewed by the 50 pass attempts for Carson Palmer in a game in which Cincinnati trailed big and quickly. Still, Gresham drew four targets through the first half compared with just two for Chad Ochocinco (eight for Terrell Owens) and caught the Bengals’ first touchdown pass of the year.

 

There’s no question about the talent or size on the guy who was drafted in the first round despite missing the 2009 season, so the only wonder is whether he can get the ball enough. Sunday provided encouragement on that front.

 

Wait and watch

 

Waiting back on potential breakout performers can leave one missing out, but that doesn’t mean you need to find a roster spot for everyone who had a good first week. Peyton Hillis, for example, scored Cleveland’s lone rushing touchdown against Tampa but also garnered just nine carries and fumbled twice. That workload matched Jerome Harrison’s, James Davis figures to factor in at some point and even Josh Cribbs’ three rushes should increase based on his 2009 carries and current role. Fumbling twice also doesn’t help a running back’s case, particularly for goal-line touches. Hillis shouldn’t be dropped by those who own him and may well have a strong season. Just don’t trip over your current backs trying to claim him.

 

Out in Denver, meanwhile, fantasy owners are looking for an answer at receiver. Eddie Royal is owned in most leagues, and those who took a late-round shot have to be pleased with his eight-catch opener. That was exactly the kind of game envisioned last year when he was going in Round 5 or 6. Keep in mind, though, that this one came against a Jacksonville defense that played horribly against the pass last year -- to the point that it’s probably not fair to say the Jags even played ”against” it. It’s too early to say that’ll be the case this year, too, but they’re guilty until proven innocent in this court. This is even more relevant when you find yourself getting excited about Brandon Lloyd’s 117 yards. We’ve seen this before from Lloyd, who went for 124 yards in a single week in 2008 and finished 2009 with a 95-yard effort. Through eight NFL seasons, though, he has never reached 50 catches. He has the talent but doesn’t deserve benefit of the doubt.

 

Matt Schauf is the senior football writer for RapidDraft.com. E-mail him at matt.schauf@worldfantasygames.com. Follow him on Twitter (mschauf63).

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, September 13, 2010 - 02:03
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Fantasy
Path: /columns/sleeperscope/sleeper-scope
Body:

By Matt Schauf

RapidDraft.com

Last-minute drafts are taking place, and although fantasy owners are always looking for sleepers, pretty much any noteworthy player is known to at least some degree by now.

At the same time, most drafts have probably already happened, and fantasy players are already starting to check the waiver wire to see where they might be able to find help among the guys passed over in their draft. For that reason, I tried to lean a bit toward some free-agent fodder this week, including a player or two who aren’t likely to deliver value right away.

(Starting next week, this space will be devoted to waiver-wire values.)

QB sleeper: David Garrard, Jaguars

I already wrote about this guy in this space last month, but people simply aren’t coming around to the idea of Garrard as fantasy-worthy quarterback. I can only assume that’s a product of folks not looking beyond the most obvious numbers.

When picking out your fantasy quarterbacks, you probably prefer a guy with more than 15 touchdown passes in each of his two full seasons as starter. Pay closer attention, though, and you’ll realize that the disparity in rushing yardage between Garrard and pretty much the rest of the position closes the passing gap. Aaron Rodgers’ rushing ability is no secret, and yet Garrard has run for 134 more yards over the past two years. Besides Rodgers and Garrard, Jason Campbell is the only other quarterback to have reached 200 yards rushing each of the past two years. (Matt Cassel barely missed in 2008 with 196 yards.)

With his average of 323 yards in two seasons as starter, Garrard carries at least a 12-point edge in rushing numbers into a comparison with just about any other quarterback. Still, he’s barely being drafted (28th on average at FantasyFootballCalculator.com). Don’t be afraid.

RB: James Davis, Browns

Davis is far more likely to get drafted this week than any one prior in 2010, but he won’t go in every fantasy draft. That’s because Peyton Hillis has drawn more attention for his preseason work in Cleveland, and because we’ve seen Hillis produce at the position before in Denver. Davis, however, appeared on his way to becoming a rushing factor as a rookie last year before a shoulder injury in a questionable practice drill ended his season early.

The second-year runner might not bring elite playmaking ability, but he was good enough at Clemson to garner more carries than C.J. Spiller in each of the three seasons that the two shared the backfield. Davis also finished his college career with 47 touchdown runs, including 10 or more in each of his final three seasons. For what it’s worth, an 81-yard touchdown run in the second exhibition game of 2009 was a big part of what opened eyes to his case that year.

Montario Hardesty’s torn ACL made this backfield even more of a muddle for fantasy owners than it appeared before, and although Jerome Harrison should clearly be the first Browns runner drafted, there will be room for production elsewhere. At the late stage Davis can be drafted, you’re either picking handcuffs for your starting backs or buying lottery-ticket types: cheap investments that can provide huge returns. Davis falls squarely within that second group, especially considering that he’ll probably still go undrafted in most fantasy leagues.

Stash him if you can before matchups with Tampa Bay and Kansas City to open the season. If he is to get significant carries early, we could see quick production. If Davis doesn’t get the call much and you need the spot for someone else, he’ll be easy to drop.

WR: Chris Chambers, Chiefs

I didn’t put a whole lot of thought initially into the sleeper potential of Chris Chambers this season, because I figured the numbers he put up after joining the Chiefs last year kind of spoke for themselves. After looking useless through about half a season in San Diego, Chambers moved to Kansas City and caught 36 passes for 608 yards and four touchdowns over the final nine weeks. Those numbers along project to 64 receptions, 1,081 yards and seven scores.

Now, you might be thinking, “Sure, but Dwayne Bowe was hurt and suspended last year.” Taking only the five games in which the two receivers shared the field, though, still leaves one with 19 catches, 358 yards and three touchdowns. That reception total projects to three fewer over a full season, but the touchdown and yards-per-catch rates were higher.

Of course, working with such small samples leaves you far away from numbers that can be converted to reliable full-year expectations. But reliable expectations aren’t necessary at the point Chambers is leaving draft boards (67th receiver in “standard” scoring formats at FF Calculator, 70th in point per reception). Even if you ignore projections and take Chambers’ real 2009 numbers, he was a top 40 wideout across formats.

Bowe appears ready to finally live up to his potential, and Dexter McCluster has created plenty of buzz. A full season with both guys around could certainly cut well into Chambers’ usage, but that gets back to the whole reliable-expectation thing. What are you drafting after Round 12? Backup running backs? Upside rookies? An extra tight end or kicker? In Chambers, at the least, I offer you a veteran receiver with 1,000-yard potential and the kind of leaping ability that makes him an attractive red-zone target. Perhaps that’s why he’s going 34th among receivers on average at RapidDraft.com.

TE: Gary Barnidge, Panthers

First of all, Barnidge is by no means a player you should be considering on draft day unless your league goes very deep. He is, on the other hand, a name to at least be aware of going forward.

Starter Jeff King has been dubbed “clearly the lead dog” at tight end, but King is a limited athlete whom the team has used little outside of the red zone. His “lead dog” status is more a matter of the competitors failing to rise so far than his talent creating separation. The Panthers, however, have Steve Smith and little else in the passing offense. That’s why Barnidge could start to look more attractive as the season wears on.

In this year’s Football Outsiders Almanac, Mike Tanier said Barnidge “could be the first real weapon the team has had at that position since Wesley Walls.” (For anyone who doesn’t remember, Walls averaged 57.5 receptions from 1995 through 1999 and made five total Pro Bowls as a Panther.) Barnidge has a ways to go before being in sight of that level, but he has already shown some big-play ability. Three of his 12 catches last year went for 20 yards or more, with two tallying at least 40 yards. Two-thirds of his receptions went for first downs, and he added another 51-yard catch in this year’s third exhibition game.

Barnidge won’t start for the Panthers right away, which is why he’s not worth draft-day consideration. Much can change after the season begins, though, particularly when a coach and general manager could be feeling some heat in their seats. If Barnidge starts to get more looks, don’t be afraid to stash him. Dynasty leaguers with a spot should go ahead and take a chance.

D: Cincinnati

The big names in Cincinnati are on offense, but there are plenty of reasons to take a shot on the Bengals defense. For starters, the team ranked sixth in points allowed last season. Granted, the schedule gets significantly harder in the wake of a division title, but you’ve at least got something going if you allow less than 20 points through a whole NFL season.

The pass rush wasn’t terribly impressive last year but presents reason for optimism. Antwan Odom – who led the team in sacks in 2009 despite being lost for the season in Week 6 – returns. Also, among the Bengals’ 15 sacks in exhibition games this year were 4.5 for rookie DT Geno Atkins, 3.0 for Michael Johnson and 2.0 for DT Pat Sims. Last year’s Bengals line left room for pass-rush help to step into the middle, and Johnson was a 2009 third-round pick with first-round ability. If even one of those three can carry their impact over to this regular season, it could provide a sack boost.

No boost is needed at corner, where Leon Hall and Johnathan Joseph make up one of the league’s best cover tandems. Over the past three years, they have 25 interceptions combined. The real wild card here, though, could be the return game.

The Bengals managed to rank second in punt-return average last year but didn’t get a touchdown there. The kick-return game did find the end zone once but ranked just 22nd in return average. Both areas should be stronger this season with Adam (I ain’t Pacman no more) Jones around, to go with rookie Jordan Shipley, Bernard Scott (who averaged 31.5 yards on 16 kick returns last year and scored the touchdown) and Quan Cosby. More than one of those guys could handle primary return duties for many teams, and a couple more scores in this area could drastically improve Cincinnati’s fantasy total.

The Bengals, meanwhile, are being drafted as a backup unit or fringe starter on average.

 

Matt Schauf is the senior football writer for RapidDraft.com. Challenge him there now in free fantasy football.

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, September 7, 2010 - 11:16
All taxonomy terms: NFL, Fantasy
Path: /columns/camp-buzz/all-awesome-stuff-happening-nfls-training-camps-woo-hoo
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AFC North

The Ravens' kicking job is still up for grabs between Shayne Graham and Billy Cundiff. Said special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg, "We have two very good NFL kickers. They've both performed very well all the way through training camp." In the eyes of at least a few Ravens beat reporters, Cundiff has performed just slightly better thus far. ... Commissioner Goodell will meet with Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger on Friday to determine the length of his suspension. Chances are, Roethlisberger will get a game or two cut off his six-game suspension for good summer behavior. Fantasy owners may want to take advantage of the situation now, while Roethlisberger remains a low-level No. 2 fantasy quarterback in most fantasy drafts. If the suspension is reduced, expect his stock to rise. ... Could Peyton Hillis become a factor in Cleveland's backfield? He thinks so. "My game’s pretty much downhill. Whenever my name is called, I’m gonna make plays,” he said. Hillis scored the Browns only rushing touchdown against Detroit last week, and averaged 3.7 yards per carry to Jerome Harrison's 3.1. Harrison and Montario Hardesty remain the favorites to receive the bulk of the carries, but if Hillis continues to play this well he'll only complicate matters for fantasy owners. ... In addressing the media this week, Bengals backup running back Bernard Scott said, "I am hoping my role expands, but if not I am willing to do whatever they want me to do and go out there and try to make plays whenever my number is called.” As vanilla as that quote is, it goes to prove a point -- Scott has shown so much promise in his early stay in Cincinnati that he cannot be ignored, and sooner or later the Bengals coaching staff is going to have to deal with what's becoming a good problem to have. For fantasy owners with Cedric Benson, it soon could become a nightmare.

 

 

AFC East

Buffalo's backfield may soon be back to full strength. Marshawn Lynch (ankle) has been handling carries in practice and admitted he should be fresh for Week 1. The team will test him out in its final preseason game. Said coach Chan Gailey, "It didn't look like there was any residual effect, so we're looking forward to watching him Thursday night." Meanwhile, Fred Jackson is still wearing a hand brace but no longer has his arm in a cast. Jackson said there was a "100%" chance he'd be in the lineup. Gailey wasn't as optimistic. ... Folks in Miami are still concerned with Chad Henne's performance in the team's recent loss to Atlanta. Henne completed 10 of 22 passes and threw a costly interception in the red zone. Fantasy owners shouldn't be concerned in the least bit, however. The Dolphins coaching staff showed its support for Henne this week, and he still can be considered one of the top fantasy sleepers at his position for this season. ... Tom Brady's hot streak? Brandon Spikes' future career in the movie business? No, the best New England story this preseason has been the success had by rookie tight end Rob Gronkowski, who had 66 yards and two scores in the team's last contest. "He’s such a big kid, and it’s hard to tackle him because he’s so strong,” Brady told a Boston Herald reporter. Patriots tight ends have been poisonous to fantasy owners in the past. Looks like that's about to change. ... Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes told New York media this week that he'd like to snag about 20 balls in this week's contest. Holmes also discussed his upcoming four-game suspension: "It's only going to probably set me back if I continue to worry about it." The suspension has caused Holmes to plummet down draftboards this summer, but based on the way Rex Ryan gushed this week about his new star receiver, fantasy owners can have confidence Holmes will see plenty of balls (although not quite 20) in each game after his return.

AFC South

Much was made of how the shifting umpire could affect Peyton Manning and the Colts offense. Hogwash. Yes, it may slow down Indianapolis, and yes, it may help defenses rotate fresh bodies into the front seven. But it's not going to have a drastic impact on Manning's numbers because, as the veteran showed against Green Bay, even when slowed down he still reads defenses and makes adjustments on the go better than any other passer in the game. ... Despite receiving the go-ahead from his doctor Texans tight end Owen Daniels is still playing it safe. The team is going to hold him out of action this week with the hope he'll be ready for the Week 1 contest. Fantasy owners with Daniels may want to wait until Week 2 to see how the knee is coming along. ... Another AFC South tight end dealing with an injury is Jacksonville's Marcedes Lewis, who many believe was on track for a nice season. Lewis suffered an ankle injury against Tampa Bay after catching two balls for 33. The team is plenty deep behind him, so the injury could cause Lewis to plummet back to fantasy mediocrity. ... Pound-for-pound the best Titans fantasy receiver last Saturday? Kenny Britt, who caught four of the five balls thrown in his direction for 33 yards. Britt still has not flashed the field-stretching plays that made him a popular waiver wire pickup last fall, but it's only a matter of time.

 

AFC West

Knowshon Moreno was back at Broncos practice this week, but the bigger news -- so was tackle Ryan Clady. The Broncos are a much different team without Clady on the field; good thing the tackle is expected to play on Thursday at Minnesota. ... San Diego coach Norv Turner has done nothing but praise rookie running back Ryan Matthews since he joined camp. Said Turner this week, "He doesn't get rattled and doesn’t get really excited. He expects to gain yards, whether he has to run over you or around you." Turner has pumped up premier fantasy backs before (ahem, Emmitt Smith, anyone?), so fantasy owners should consider Turner's comments one-part PR and one-part encouragement. ... The Contra Costa Times released an article this week profiling the blossoming relationship between quarterback Jason Campbell and tight end Zach Miller. Said coach Tom Cable in the story, "There's a comfort level there with both of them, whether it be in third down or the red zone. Certainly Zach and Jason's relationship is flourishing." Hmmm, wonder if Campbell has introduced himself to the rest of the Raiders receivers yet. He'll need them when defenses take Miller away. ... The Chiefs are using Dexter McCluster at receiver and as the quarterback in their version of the Wildcat. The team is excited to have the versatile rookie but feels it must be creative to get the most life out of him. Said coach Todd Haley, “My job becomes: ‘OK, the guy can’t play 120 plays in a game.' What can he play? What is the best thing for the team?” On this sorry team, coach? The best thing might just be to give McCluster the ball early and save the worrying for a time when you have a team worth worrying about.

 

 

NFC East

Cowboys wide receiver Roy Williams missed practice on Wednesday with a bad back and hip injury. On that same day the team welcomed back rookie Dez Bryant. Don't worry, Roy. Dez will keep your spot warm while you're gone. Just don't expect it back when you return. ... Depending on Donovan McNabb's recovery time, the team may have to turn to (gulp!) Rex Grossman to start the 2010 season against Dallas. That could be a scary situation for any fantasy owner carrying a Redskins player on their roster. Grossman has completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes in the past two seasons, with more interceptions (three) than touchdowns (two). Not good, Redskins fans, not good. ... The Giants' loss of backup quarterback Jim Sorgi could be a bigger deal than fantasy owners care to admit. Sure, Sorgi has no value, but if Manning continues to take a beating and, heaven forbid, misses time in the lineup, the rest of the team's skill players would see their fantasy stock plummet. New York has virtually no good options behind Manning now and the market for quality backup quarterbacks is sparse. Think Kurt Warner would consider a return to the Big Apple? (read: plenty of sarcasm). ... Two things we've learned about the all-important Philadelphia quarterback situation this summer: (a) Kevin Kolb isn't ready to be a fantasy stud quite yet, and (b) the team will use Michal Vick under center more than anyone anticipated. For fantasy owners, it's all bad news.

 

NFC North

What can be made of Bears quarterback Jay Cutler's reported romance with MTV star Kristin Cavallari? If true, it's trouble, regardless of what Cutler says (or denies). In the last decade, think about how many famous women have brought good luck to their football-playing boyfriends. I'll give you Kim Kardashian. After that it's all distractions and poor play. ... Virtually every publication likes Green Bay to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, in large part due to the emergence of young stars like tight end Jermichael Finley. But while fantasy owners drool over Finley they should not forget "old man" Donald Driver, who received a two-year contract this offseason and has played surprisingly well. Driver caught a touchdown and matched Finley's target total (eight) in last week's win over Indianapolis. ... Here's a number for fantasy owners to chew on: 2.5. That was Kevin Smith's average per carry last week against Detroit. Among the Lions top five rushers, Smith was the only back to average fewer than 4.5 yards. Not only is he in jeopardy of losing his place on the field; his name plate may no longer rest over his locker if this continues. ... Adrian Peterson got a free pass last week thanks to Brett Favre's horrible showing. Hidden behind Favre's two interceptions were Peterson's 11 carries for 37 yards, 24 of which came on one run. That means the Vikings back gained just 1.3 yards per carry on his other 10 carries against the Seahawks.

 

NFC South

Panthers rookie wide receiver Brandon LaFell is making a serious push to be the starting receiver opposite Steve Smith. One reason he must be viewed as a serious contender for the job is his big-play potential. In each of the last two contests, LaFell has averaged 15 or more yards per catch in limited action. ... It was not much of a surprise when Tampa Bay cut Derrick Ward this week. The veteran back had not lived up to expectations since arriving from New York. However, what is a surprise is that the Buccaneers genuinely seem content heading into the season with what they have. Said coach Raheem Morris, "We've got Cadillac, who we're happy to have. And also we have Insurance Graham back there playing running back for us and he's able to carry the ball as well." Fantasy owners know better; no back on this club is worth much. ... Fantasy owners know better than to get too excited about Saints reserve back Chris Ivory, who is helping to fill a hole created by all of the team's injuries in the backfield. Then again, they should know better than to completely ignore any Saints skilled player, either. Not only did he turn a short catch into a nifty 76-yard touchdown run last week, but he carried the ball 11 times. The team is set with Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush in the backfield, but the coaching staff loves to use multiple weapons, and Ivory could earn some time if he plays as well as he did against San Diego. ... Last week's game against Miami served as a true test for Atlanta's offense. All of the stars played a considerable number of snaps. The bad news is that most of them did not play exceptionally well. Michael Turner carried 16 times but gained just 47 yards; Matt Ryan completed just 50 percent of his throws. The only star was wide receiver Roddy White, who was thrown to 12 times and caught six balls, including a touchdown.

 

NFC West

San Francisco’s 233-pound sixth round rookie Anthony Dixon carried 21 times last week and caught three passes. The 49ers are sure to keep Brian Westbrook, but Dixon will get the No. 3 job, and his size could earn him a role, possibly in short-yardage situations to save Gore’s legs. … Fantasy experts will argue that too much is being made of Sam Bradford’s performance against New England last week, and for the most part that’s true – rookie success in the preseason is often misleading. But in Bradford’s case there might be more to it. The Rams appear ready to hand him the job, and everyone knows this team will need to pass early and often to play from behind. Bradford could be an upgrade of Matthew Stafford’s 2009 rookie campaign, which puts the Rams’ No. 1 overall pick just inside the realm of fantasy relevance. … It’s September and Mike Williams is still alive and well in Seattle. Fantasy owners have been slow to respond but Williams has clearly been Seattle’s best receiver in camp this summer (just saying). … The Cardinals have drama on their hands with the Matt Leinart-Derek Anderson fiasco. Some would say it’s a non-issue – most fantasy owners were prepared to skip past both players in their drafts. But so long as Leinart feels he has earned the job, and Anderson remains in the picture, this situation will be a distraction, which will ultimately spoil into the legitimate fantasy prospects Arizona does have on its roster.

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, September 2, 2010 - 11:24

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