by Moonlight Graham

There was a huge shift in the universe last week as the boys from the Hausier’s Krowedum Fantasy Baseball League sat down at the Manor Restaurant for their annual draft.  The three time defending champion Master Batters, huge proponents of spending early picks on outfielders, turned their attention instead to the new position of power in Fantasy Baseball;  the Corner Infield; especially First Base.

That Evan Longoria was the object of the Batters’ affection in the first round of their Fantasy Baseball Draft was indication of a huge change at the top of Fantasy Baseball rankings as well as the direction in which many Fantasy Baseball owners are headed this season in assembling their teams.  To be sure, studs still reside at the top of the Outfield list but not in the abundance with which we’ve become accustomed over recent years.

“You have to adjust on the fly, both before and during a Fantasy Draft”, said Batters’ owner, Bobby Carr.  “We’ve made our living by loading up on Outfielders before people realized waiting was foolish.  But, this year, that theory just didn’t hold up.  We’d have been much weaker had we waited on the Corner Infielders than the outfield.  We just thought we’d be much stronger with Longoria and Justin Upton than with Matt Kemp and Aramis Ramirez.”

Now, who is Moonlight to question a squad that has won six of its league’s last eight titles?  Let’s take a look at the Outfielders available in 2010. Continue reading »

by Eddie Mayrose

St. John’s Basketball Hires (Settles For?) Steve Lavin

Don’t know if there’s a better indication of how far the St. John’s basketball program has fallen than the difficulty the powers that be had in signing a new head coach.  ESPN analyst and former UCLA head man, Steve Lavin, accepted the job after the Johnnies were rebuffed by Florida’s Billy Donovan and Paul Hewitt of Georgia Tech.  In addition, Fran McCaffrey, who led Siena to the top of the MAAC during his tenure, and Boston College head man Al Skinner were brought in for interviews and may or may not have been offered the job.  That Lavin is, at best, the Red Storm’s third choice, and might actually be the fifth, speaks volumes to the current irrelevance of what was once a national power.  While Lavin has his work cut out for him, he does have a significant resource of talent in his own backyard.  Armed with four returning senior starters and eight scholarships, he may actually be able to effect a significant turnaround in very short order if he can tap into the prep talent in New York City; something at which his two predecessors failed miserably.  It’s been too long since the Johnnies were at the top of the Big East and a viable threat in the NCAA tournament.  Lavin has an opportunity to be a hero to all of the Johnnie faithful longing to, once again, be a part of March Madness.  Here’s hoping he delivers. Continue reading »

With the season wrapped up, it’s time to turn our attention to the business of the post season.  We’ll get back to our off fieldwithballmoonseason Fantasy baseball advice in a week or two but, for now, we’ll preview the Major League Baseball playoffs and how we see ‘em.
First, it’s important to point out that, while there’s still alot of baseball to be played, Moonlight’s pre-season prediction of a Twins-Phillies World Series is still alive.  I’m about to pick against it but, I wanted to point that out.  On to the picks.

National League Playoffs

Phillies vs. Rockies-  The Rockies have been the NL’s best team since Jim Tracy took over and almost came all the way back to take the NL West.  There are problems in the rotation, however, as Jason Marquis has been relegated to the bull pen off of his poor second half performance and Jorge de la Rosa is iffy after leaving his last start.  No such problems exist in Philly, as their rotation goes five deep.  It’s the bullpen where the defending champs are uncertain, with Brad Lidge sporting a 7+ ERA and Ryan Madson failing to take hold of the job.  Does Charlie Manuel have the stuff to go with Brett Myers in a playoff series?  Stay tuned.  Phillies in 5.

Dodgers vs. Cardinals- The trading deadline acquisition of Matt Holliday solidified the St. Louis lineup and allowed them to coast in the NL Central.  They have the best pitching in the game behind Adam Wainwright and Chris Carpenter while the Dodgers rotation has been inconsistent through much of the second half; especially Chad Billingsley.  Look for the Cards’ hurlers to stifle Manny’s bat.  Cards in 4.

American League Playoffs

Yankees vs. Twins- It was a long, uphill climb for the Twinkies as they made up seven games in four weeks without former MVP Justin Morneau.  That climb may have taken too much out of them, however, to mount any kind of challenge vs. MLB’s best team.  The Bombers will feast on the Twins’ young hurlers and dominate Minnesota in the playoffs the same way they did while going 7-0 during the regular season.  Yankees in 4.

Angels vs. Red Sox-  Yes, I’m well aware that the Red Sox seem to have the Angels’ number over the last few years; back to 1986 to be more precise, actually.  But I love the way the Angels play, love their resiliency and determination and think Vladimir Guerrero is going to have a big October.  For the Sawx, Beckett has struggled for over a month and Jon Lester’s health is a question.  Angels in 3.

 

As if being a fan of the Pittsburgh Pirates wasn’t tough enough, there was this gemfieldwithballmoon_copy_2zyh to deal with from Bucs’ GM Neal Huntington after the latest rounds of trades stripped the franchise of most of its remaining Major League talent.  “We don’t feel like we’ve broken up the ’27 Yankees.”  Maybe not, but they’re certainly on there way to assembling the ’62 Mets.  While it is the bane of the small market team that it must eventually dump promising players that become too expensive, most still manage to be cyclically competitive.  Not the Pirates, though. They resemble the guy in your Fantasy Baseball League that buys his preview magazines on his way to the draft. During Pittsburgh’s current streak of 17 consecutive losing seasons, the Twins, A’s, Marlins, Brewers, Reds, Diamondbacks, Blue Jays and Rays have all managed at least one playoff appearance.  What have they done differently than the Pirates?  They’ve actually developed the prospects they’ve received in exchange for their stars.  But, in Pittsburgh, there exists a revolving door through which even young and relatively inexpensive talent is dispatched.  It is not uncommon for a struggling franchise to request the patience of its fans as it rebuilds.  Hell, watching young, exciting players earn their stripes is a lot of fun.  The Pirates, however, have stripped their fans of even that bit of enjoyment by trading away the very players they said they were building upon just last winter.  As for Huntington’s crack about the ’27 Yankees, he has a point.  However, while he may not have had this era’s equivalent of Murderer’s Row, a lineup featuring Nate McLouth, Jason Bay, Freddy Sanchez, Adam LaRoche, Ryan Doumit, Aramis Ramirez and Nyjer Morgan would absolutely be a contender in the NL Central… The White Sox acquisition of Jake Peavy smells of desperation, especially since the former Cy Young winner won’t be available for another month… Alex Gordon is back in the Royals lineup but is admittedly not at full strength, as evidenced by his sub-Mendoza BA… Ben Zobrist is now the Rays’ cleanup hitter…  With the departure of Nick Johnson to the Marlins, Washington recalled OF Elijah Dukes, who will likely see regular playing time… NL Rookie of the Month, Greg Jones of Pittsburgh, had 10 HR and just 17 RBI… Love Felipe Lopez, playing for a contract, at the top of the Brewers’ lineup… Cleveland will use the newly acquired Justin Masterson as a starter… Brandon Inge has yet to hit a dinger since the All Star break.  As predicted here, he’s tailing off but still a prime player if you can use him as a catcher… Andre Ethier, the Dodgers’ leading RBI man is now their #2 hitter…

 

BUY LOW- John Danks has raised his record to 9-7 in giving the White Sox 3 solid starts since the break… Love Orlando Cabrera’s potential for R, BA and even a few HR hitting in front of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau in Minny… The Tigers skipped rookie Rick Porcello’s turn once before the break and then slotted him into the back end of the rotation afterward, essentially giving him more than two weeks off.  The rest has done him wonders, as he’s been dominant in his last two outings… Jarrod Washburn should see his W total get a nice bump now that he’s in Detroit… D’Backs OF Gerardo Parra leads all NL rookies in RBI… Adam LaRoche spent a week in Boston before returning to Atlanta, where he can resume his annual assault on the season’s second half…

 

SELL HIGH- Were it not for his HR prowess, Tampa’s Carlos Pena would be listed in the Drop Zone instead.  As it is, unless you’re desperate for power, dump his .216 BA… All Star closer, Andrew Bailey, leads AL rookies with 14 S but may not see a lot of opportunities the rest of the way if the A’s rotation continues to struggle.  Their ERA for July was 6.34…

 

GRAB BAG- With manager Dave Trembley souring on Melvin Mora, Ty Wigginton will likely get regular playing time at 3B… The Royals recalled Kyle Davies, who struggled early in the season but went 4-2, 2.14 in AAA Omaha… Sean O’Sullivan, fresh off a AAA no-hitter, may be an option to supplant Joe Saunders in the Angels’ rotation. He’s 3-0, 3.72 for Los Angeles this year…  Rangers’ rookie Neftali Feliz, he of the 100 MPH fastball, will be used out of the pen and could get a look in the ninth inning if Frank Francisco continues to deal with health issues… Jason Frasor is Toronto’s first choice as closer with Scott Downs on the DL… Love Nick Johnson in the middle of the Marlins’ order.  He’s a great OBP option…

 

DROP ZONE- Milwaukee’s Braden Looper has become a BP pitcher since the break, going winless while watching his ERA balloon to 5.16… Pull the plug on Detroit’s Armando Gallaraga before Jim Leyland does and chalk up last season’s numbers as a fluke… Minnesota’s Glen Perkins gave the Twinkies one solid start after coming off the DL and then reverted back to his struggling form in his next outing.  Can’t wait on a guy with a 5.42 ERA that’s on the rise… Melvin Mora has lost his starting job in Baltimore and has started whining about a lack of respect from the manager…

 

SICK BAY- Kansas City’s Gil Meche may return from a back problem this weekend.  Remember, though, back is a four letter word… Blue Jays’ stopper Scott Downs is on the 15 day DL with a foot injury… Carlos Zambrano left his last start with a bad back, something that will likely continue until he addresses his large front… Astros’ OF Willy Taveras missed four starts with a bad wrist…  Milwaukee place OF Corey Hart on the DL after an appendectomy…

By Moonlight Graham

Fantasy baseball standings: Details, Details

The first week of September usually finds only three or four fantasy baseball teams in contention.  Many of the also-rans have long since turned their attention to fantasy football, leaving all but a few scrambling for that extra point or two that could make the difference between second place and a fantasy baseball league title.  One way that you can pick up an easy point or two might be to stay on top of the aforementioned fantasy owners at the bottom of the standings.  Make sure they keep their fantasy baseball rosters current.  Even though they may have fallen out of the race long ago, they still have a bearing on the way things finish.  For instance, the eighth place team in your league might be trailing the leader by just two SB.  It then becomes incumbent upon him to replace an injured base stealer.  Unfortunately, owners buried in the standings sometimes look to keep their transaction totals down in order to save money and end up adversely affecting those in the title chase.  There is absolutely nothing more frustrating then watching a rival get a free point due to another’s negligence.

Any other miniscule point gains are garnered by old fashioned attention to detail.  Keep a watchful eye on MLB September callups, especially those made by rebuilding teams like the A’s , Giants and Nationals; all of whom may take a look at minor leaguers who could fit into their 2009 plans.

RISING

One player who jumps out as one who could be immediately helpful in the SB category is Oakland OF Najeh Davis who has already accumulated 24 SB in just 165 AB.  He registered his first 4 hit game last weekend and looks like he’ll get regular playing time throughout the rest of the season.  After spending much of the last two seasons unhappy with his role, Brett Myers has turned in three straight dominating performances for the Phils.  While he has struggled mightily for most of the year, don’t forget that he has been a 200+ K pitcher in the past.  Mark DeRosa is enjoying a career season with the Cubs and has been hot of late, recently homering in four straight games.  Raul Ibanez is staging his annual hot September in Seattle as he and Adrian Beltre seem to be the only M’s not playing out the string.

FALLING

Tigers’ 3B Carlos Guillen sat out a few games last week to rest a sore back that has been troubling him all year.  He has a mere 10 HR and only 54 RBI while not running at all on the basepaths.  While the Cubs have been marching through the NL Central, someone seems to have misplaced Derek Lee’s power bat.  The big 1B has endured a long and severe power drought.  Brandon Lyon has allowed 10 R in his last 5 1/3 IP.  With the D’Backs in a pennant race and Jon Rauch and Chad Qualls as options, Lyon is a bad outing away from being replaced.

GRAB BAG

The Rockies have chosen to keep Jorge De La Rosa in the rotation after two solid performances.  Brandon Morrow returns to Seattle after being sent down for a conversion to starter.  His outstanding K ratio could give your staff a quick boost.

DROP ZONE

Livan Hernandez has been relegated to the Rockies’ bullpen.  Aaron Heilman has been unable to step forward as the Mets’ closer and will get fewer opportunities as rosters expand.

SICK BAY

- Evan Longoria is targeting an early September return to the Rays’ lineup.  Justin Upton returns this week to the D’Backs roster having K’d 22 times in 51 rehab AB.  Reds’ hurler Johnny Cueto is suffering from elbow soreness and could miss a start.

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