As we head into Week 8 of the season, the contenders are starting to separate themselves from the pretenders. Which are you? Read up, so you don't become a fantasy afterthought, much like the Brewers have become in the National League Central. Just remember that it's a long season; and try not to cry.
Henry Rowengartner's Encore
These flame-throwers won't need to break their arms to post solid fantasy numbers this week. Make sure you lock them in to your lineup. (All stats as of Friday).
Astros starter Brett Myers -- Myers has been a pleasant surprise this season, and this week he'll be up against a reeling Brewers team that he has owned in the past. He boasts a 1.77 earned run average in 35.2 career innings pitched; his best ERA against any team he has faced at least four times.
Rangers starter CJ Wilson -- Wilson is coming off a rough start, but overall is pitching lights out and showboating his 2.55 ERA. This week he'll be matched up against a Twins team that hasn't figured him out yet. And although all of Wilson's 23 innings against Minnesota in his career have been in relief, he does hold a 2.35 ERA, and WHIP of 0.91 against the sometimes powerless Twin Cities hitters. Plus, he is a left-handed hurler who will be throwing to a predominantly left-handed lineup.
Reds closer Francisco Cordero -- The Reds have the Pirates and Astros on the schedule; the two worst offenses in all of baseball when it comes to runs per game (3.2 combined). Plus, Cordero has 40 career saves against both clubs and boasts ERAs of 2.11 and 0.64, respectively.
The Boppin' Bambinos
Here are a few fantasy players who by Italian standards are not little, and will be swinging for the fences like the great one this week. (All stats as of Friday).
Twins first baseman Justin Morneau -- Against the Yankees pitchers this season, Morneau is hitting .417. At home, Morneau is hitting .385. This week the Twins have seven home games; four against New York.
Giants third baseman Pablo Sandoval -- The "Kung Fu Panda" isn't exactly bringing his deadly swing, but has career batting averages of .350 and .421 against Washington and Arizona. He also has a career home average of .350. He hasn't found his power stroke yet, as he has just three homers. I think it's time he doubles that number, and the clock reads this week.
Brewers third baseman Casey McGehee -- McGehee has played the role of perhaps the best hitter in the Brewers lineup this season, and this week the Brewers return to Miller Park; a place where McGehee has hit five homers in 17 games this season.
Colder than the Bad News Bears
Here are a few players who are making Walter Matthau's crew seem like all-stars. (All stats as of Friday).
Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks -- Heading into Friday, Weeks is three for his last 27, and is fourth in the bigs with 52 strikeouts thus far this season. His batting average continues to slip, and he has driven in just one run in the last eight games.
Astros first baseman Lance Berkman -- Berkman has had a rough season thus far, and in his last 25 at-bats has just three hits and one RBI.
Blue Jays second baseman Aaron Hill -- Hill has just three hits in his last 29 at-bats, and really has been a major fantasy bust thus far. He's batting .164 with four home runs and 12 RBI for the season. Remember, in 2009 he hit .286 with 36 home runs and 108 driven in.
Mariners outfielder Franklin Gutierrez -- Gutierrez had a solid April as he went 29 for 89, but in his last ten games he has just six hits, and in his last seven games he has just one RBI. For the month of May he's hitting just .226 with eight RBI.
Brewers starting pitcher Dave Bush -- Bush has allowed 24 earned runs in his last 28 innings pitched, and laid one helluva of an egg on Friday night against the Twins when he allowed seven runs in just the first third of an inning before getting Macha-booted in favor of Jeff Suppan.
Braves starting pitcher Tommy Hanson -- In his last 8.2 innings pitched Hanson has allowed 13 runs on 15 hits. In his latest outing against the Reds he couldn't even get out of the second inning.
Red Sox starting pitcher John Lackey -- The overpaid Lackey has been horrid in his last three outings. A combined 15 baserunners have crossed home plate in 18 innings against the Red Sox's marquee off-season signing. For the season, Lackey is 4-3 with a 5.07 ERA in nine starts.
Hotter than Dottie Hinson
Here are a few players that are making Dottie look more like Courtney Love, Donatella Versace and maybe even teammate Doris Murphy (Rosie O'Donnell) all wrapped in one. (All stats as of Friday)
Rockies starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez -- There's just no stopping the Rockies ace right now. In his four outings during the month of may he has allowed just four runs while striking out 27. For the season, Jimenez is 8-1 with a 0.99 earned run average, and nine quality starts.
Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla -- The yearly Uggla "over the wall" surge is in full swing, literally. In his last 23 at-bats the Marlins red hot and ice cold slugger has 5 homers and 11 strikeouts.
Blue Jays outfielders Jose Bautista -- If you're looking for the fantasy baseball surprise of the century thus far, then look no further than the Blue Jays outfielder. Bautista is eight for his last 22 with six homers and 11 RBI. For the season he has run his homer total to 13. The most he hit in a single season was 16, which came back in 2006 while playing for the Pirates.
Brewers outfielder Corey Hart -- Hart has been a key cog for the Brewers, even during their losing streak. Heading in to Friday he is 8 for his last 22 with four homers and eight runs batted in. I'm not ready to say he's back, but his numbers certainly have quieted Brewers fans, especially considering that along with Casey McGehee he's really the only hitter smacking the cover off the ball right now.
Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis -- Youkilis has nine hits in his last 20 at-bats, including three homers. He has driven in 14 runs during the month of May, and is currently batting .324 for the season.
Royals first baseman Billy Butler -- Butler has hit safely in nine of his last ten games and has driven in nine runs. He is hitting .352 with two homers and 13 RBI during the month of May, and has struck out just six times in his last 71 at-bats.
Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz -- In the last week, Ortiz has put a charge in his swing as he has gone yard four times while driving in ten baserunners in his last 24 at-bats.
Here are a few trends that will have you thinking twice this week.
- All Dodgers and Cubs hitters need to recognize that they may be in for a long week. Cardinals starting pitchers Adam Wainwright, Jaime Garcia, Brad Penny, and Chris Carpenter all have at least seven quality starts each this season. Just nine other National League starters have seven or more this season.
- Here's a weird one. The Toronto Blue Jays rank in the top five in runs scored (224), and have hit the most long-balls (72) of any team, yet they have the 26th best team batting average (.244). What this means is that any good batting average trends that Angels or Orioles pitchers have against the Blue Jays should be filed in your fantasy shredder.
- Heading in to Saturday, the Tampa Bay Rays had the best team earned run average in all of baseball at 2.81. However, they have a seventh highest 31 errors this season. Every other team in the top eight in errors has an ERA of at least 3.95 or higher. If the errors continue, innings will be extended, which also may be an early sign that Rays starting pitchers may wear down as the season draws to a close. James Shields and David Price owners could be in trouble down the road.
Sparky Anderson once said, "A baseball manager is a necessary evil."
I've been playing fantasy sports for more than 15 years now, and the first thing I learned after taking Randall Cunningham the year he was an injury bust is that all good fantasy teams start with one person; the owner, manager, and head man in charge.
He/she is the person who decides which players to start each week. He/she is the person who makes the necessary trades to better the team. And he/she is the one whom ultimately determines the success of the team itself by putting his/her players in right or wrong fantasy positions for overall success or failure.
Sure, after a losing season it's easy to say, "Well, I just didn't have very good players." And in some cases that may indeed be in the case. However, in my fantasy lifetime, almost every time I recorded a losing season it was ultimately because I was a bad manager. Yep, you heard it right from my mouth, "I was a bad fantasy manager."
I'm not alone, though.
See, sometimes frustration and panic get the best of us when losses continue to compound. It makes us do some crazy tinkering with our lineups, even when they don't need tinkering. It may lead us to ignore what needs to be fixed, because we either can't fix the problems or just don't care enough to fix them. Frustration and panic are often unnecessary evils that have to stay out your fantasy clubhouse.
Now, if we were to take our fantasy examples good and bad, and bring them to life we would get the Kansas City Royals and Brewers; two teams that are almost one in the same probably from a talent standpoint with the edge going to Milwaukee, but are currently so very different.
On the good hand are the Royals, who have made the changes necessary to bring this team back to life thanks to the hiring of former Brewers manager Ned Yost (oh, the irony is just killing me). They're 7-2 since the day he was announced as the new skipper, and heading in to Saturday were averaging 6.2 runs per game during the nine game stretch. Hitters like Jose Guillen and Alberto Callaspo are collecting hits and driving in runs in bunches, while pitchers like Luke Hochevar and Gil Meche have found new life, and are a part of a pitching staff that hasn't allowed more than four runs in a game since Yost has taken over.
On the bad hand, though, are the Brewers, who haven't made the changes needed to turn things around and it's showing not only in the win-loss column, but in their stat lines as well. They're 1-9 in their last nine games, and have allowed an average of 6.4 runs per game to opposing teams while scoring just 3.4 runs per. Power sluggers Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun have combined to hit just six homers in the month of May and the Brewers are 28th in all of baseball with a team ERA that is about to reach the 5.50 mark.
So in other words, you could say that Ned Yost is managing his current average talent the way it's supposed to be managed, and has injected confidence in his players to play for him. On the other hand, Ken Macha may be losing his team, thus frustration and "don't care" are starting to kick in.
The bottom line here is that everything that is done in real life has a chain reaction of what happens in the fantasy world. Obviously, the jovial fantasy owners are those who are currently enjoying the sweet swings of Callaspo, Guillen, Billy Butler, and even Mike Aviles, while the sour owners are pouting because Fielder and Braun are struggling to give their believers the proper return on investment.
Are you going to pout, panic, and stop caring? Or are you going to manage your team with confidence and not give up?
I'm currently still in second place in the expert league I spoke about last week, but guess what? Tommy Hanson, Prince Fielder, and Ryan Braun were my top three picks, and I haven't shown any signs of panic yet.
Manage your team, and be confident you can overcome. If you do this, then you will have no problems making a run at a fantasy championship, even if you have an injury bust like Randall Cunningham eating up space. And for the record, I did go to the championship game that season I drafted the former Eagles quarterback; the very first of my fantasy sports lifetime.