|ESPN.com: 2008||[Print without images]|
For the inside scoop on Week 16, be sure to also check out my Fantasy Forecaster!
Three hundred fifty-five points.
That represents two points more than what Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun scored in the Baseball Challenge during the first half of the season. It also was the margin of victory, incredibly, for A.J. Kelsall in the BBC's Daily format. In other words, if you gave Braun to the No. 2 team -- for free -- Kelsall's "A.J.'s Tampa Phillies" would still have won!
Such sheer dominance warrants more than casual mention.
Hoping to steal a few of his insights to help out other BBC players in the game's second half (which begins Thursday), I spoke with Kelsall, 39, about some of his strategies. Kelsall, who hails from Tampa, Fla., and is a Phillies fan, dubs himself the "Load Up King"; he's fond of nabbing five or six hitters from the same team on any given day if he likes the conditions.
"It has to be against a horrible pitcher in a hitters park," Kelsall said. "A famous baseball credo is 'good pitching beats good hitting,' and my BBC version is, any old hitter will crush horrific pitching. I base my picks more on going against horrible pitchers in hitters parks than by looking at hot hitters or batter versus pitcher numbers like most people do."
Meanwhile, in the BBC's weekly format, I'm convinced it was a last-second team name change -- perhaps inspired by a mention in this space a week ago -- that helped Don Bradshaw squeak through with a 13-point victory. Upon seeing that his team name wasn't fit for print, Bradshaw, 55, switched his team moniker to "Family Friendly Free Fall," having fallen out of first place heading into the final week of the first half. With a Week 15 rally, though, he dropped the "Free Fall" portion, and claimed the crown.
Bradshaw, of Oklahoma City, Okla., claimed that bargain hunting a key to his success. He picked mostly players whose values were sure to climb quickly, getting them before his competition could acquire them at a cheap enough price.
"The mainstays of my team were Alex Rodriguez, picked up the week he returned from the DL, at 5.5, Ryan Howard, when he was hitting below the Mendoza, at 5.6, and Josh Hamilton at an embarrassingly low 4.8," Bradshaw said. "I could add Geovany Soto to this group, but he flattened out late and I think Ryan Doumit should have more value in the second half. He rakes!"
Sounds familiar, Don; A-Rod, Hamilton and Soto were mainstays to my own squad, "The Golden Sombreros," which finished 13th, 129 points behind "Family Friendly."
That means the "Sombreros" also finished 116 points out of second place behind Jonathan Thomson's squad, "Thomson," one that actually entered the final week of "Segment 1" in first place. Sadly, a 47-point performance the final two days of the first half cost Thomson, a 25-year-old old law student from Orlando, Fla., in the end. Nevertheless, he attributed his near-miss attempt at the title to strong pitching-staff selections.
"I remembered from last year that selecting the correct pitching staff was the key to doing well," Thompson said. "Each week I'd focus first on pitching, and then fill in the gaps later. I'd usually look for a team playing at home -- every inning counts -- and facing pedestrian offenses. After that, I'd read the Weekly Forecaster to see if any of the 'weak links' of the pitching staff were making two starts that week."
So to whom do our two winners (and one just-missed contender) attribute their successes? Asked to pick out a first-half MVP, here were their choices:
Bradshaw: "Josh Hamilton was my MVP and regretfully, will probably be too expensive to own in the second half. Good luck to you Josh, stay straight buddy. Also, late in the half, the Angels pitching staff helped me catch some people who followed your pitching advice. No offense to you, my friend."
Kelsall: "My MVP would have to be the San Francisco Giants' pitching staff. I took Jonathan Sanchez a few times before it became cool and just always seemed to have them at the right time. I took them 12 total times for an average of 23.9 points each time which is crazy when you think the Giants stink."
Thomson: "Chase Utley. There were some key selections that propelled me up the leaderboard, but having Chase Utley from Day 1 until the All-Star break was essential. Having Nate McLouth was also important, but Josh Hamilton was clearly the best fantasy 'diamond in the rough' and that took away from the outstanding first half Mclouth had."
The BBC's second half officially kicks off on Thursday, with our Daily lineup deadline at 3 a.m. ET and Weekly at 7:05 p.m. ET, so, don't forget to get your lineups in.
With the start of second half now in our sights, I asked our three first-half standouts for any new or interesting strategies they might like to share for "Segment 2":
Bradshaw: "No, I have no second-half strategy. I went balls to the wall to win the first half and I'm tired. And old. And sneaky." Sly devil, that Bradshaw. Fortunately, he did eventually surrender a few helpful thoughts: "My second-half team will be midlevel in value across the board, hoping to select players whose value will increase. No A-Rods or Hanleys, no Howards or Hamiltons."
Kelsall: "I'm not going to change strategy much. Early on while guys are cheap I just go mostly with the top hitters since you can afford them. It's when guys get expensive I employ my load up teams more often because it's easy to get some cheap players that way." (Note: Kelsall plays in the Daily format, where he says locking in prices is less essential.)
Thomson: "While picking pitching staffs will still be the focus, with the salaries resetting my goal will be to find the bargains. To win, you're going to have to pick the correct expensive guys (A-Rod, Wright, Hanley, Howard, etc.), but the cheap, productive guys will be what win you the game. As far as teams, as a Braves fan I hate to say this, but I'll focus on the Mets and Yankees. I expect both New York teams to finish strong."
|Our BBC winners' top second-half bargain selections|
|Don Bradshaw||A.J. Kelsall||Jonathan Thomson|
|Garrett Atkins, 3B, Rockies (4.8)||Chase Headley, LF, Padres (4.1)||Mark Ellis, 2B, Athletics (4.7)|
|Carlos Pena, 1B, Rays (4.8)||Matt Joyce, RF, Tigers (3.7)||Jeff Francoeur, RF, Braves (4.3)|
|Hunter Pence, RF, Astros (4.4)||Alexei Ramirez, 2B, White Sox (4.0)||David Wright, 3B, Mets (5.4)|
Picking bargains -- i.e. locking in players at dirt-cheap salaries -- is an important angle in the BBC, as our first-half winners have proven. With the second half upon us, I see the following 10 players as strong "lock-in" players based on their prices:
Milton Bradley, DH, Rangers (4.7): I'm a believer. After all, if you think he's cooling off, then why is he a .309 hitter with 11 homers, 26 RBIs and a 1.186 OPS in 31 games since June 1? No, the only worry I have with Bradley is he might get hurt at some point, as he so often does. But even if that happens, you can just cut him and find a replacement.
Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers (5.1): It takes time for a player to get acclimated to a new league, and sure enough, Cabrera is a .314 hitter with eight home runs, 21 RBIs and a .928 OPS in his past 30 games. I think that's the real Cabrera, not the April/May model.
Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees (4.5): Termed my "man-crush" by Bradshaw, Cano indeed is a player I continue to be high on, and it's all because of his second-half history. He's a .334 hitter with a .906 OPS and 32 of his 54 career homers after the All-Star break (in 103 fewer games, at that). That's a track record tough to ignore.
Jeremy Hermida, RF, Marlins (4.6): Another "gut" call, but I keep thinking back to Hermida's 2007 second half, when he batted .340 with 10 homers and a .956 OPS. He's hitting for better power this year than last, and merely needs to make better (and more consistent) contact to explode as a second-half stud.
Howie Kendrick, 2B, Angels (4.2): He's injury prone, he doesn't hit for much power and he's practically allergic to walks, but Kendrick can hit for average. He's a .370 hitter with 10 RBIs and a 1.049 OPS in 12 games in July, and that includes a two-homer game on July 10. Plus, Kendrick is cheap. Dirt cheap.
Adam Lind, LF, Blue Jays (3.9): Need a cheap sleeper? Take a look at Lind, who started 16 of the Blue Jays' final 19 games of the first half, including four against a left-hander. With Vernon Wells sidelined for at least another month, Lind should play regularly, and he's a .339 hitter with 16 RBIs and a .975 OPS in 17 games since being recalled.
New York Mets pitching staff (6.8): The most unhappy team to see the All-Star break arrive, the Mets tossed four team shutouts and allowed four runs total in a six-game home stand to finish the first half. Johan Santana is a second-half stud, the typically shaky Oliver Perez has three-straight quality starts against solid offenses, and even No. 5 starter Mike Pelfrey is beginning to come around. This is going to be one very good second-half staff.
Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals (5.3): In a way, it's almost a good thing he spent some time on the DL in June; it helped depress his BBC price tag. No matter, he's a .359 hitter with two homers and a .965 OPS in 17 games since his return. If there's a player I could see breezing into the 7.0-price range by early August, Pujols is my pick.
Nick Swisher, CF, White Sox (4.4): Since June 1, he's a .284 hitter with eight homers, 27 RBIs and a .912 in 39 games; that's a 31-homer, 104-RBI pace scaled to 150 contests. Sounds eerily similar to what was forecasted for Swisher in the preseason.
Chad Tracy, DH, Diamondbacks (4.3): He's a .429 hitter (18-for-42) with 11 RBIs and a 1.037 OPS in 11 games in July, and quietly has elevated himself to practically everyday status at first base. Designated hitter has been an injury-plagued position in the BBC lately, so Tracy is a nice couple-of-week hot streak to ride.
[b] San Francisco Giants (6.6): Kelsall's MVP kicks off the season's second half with a rather fantasy-friendly schedule, with nine home games, three apiece against the Brewers, Nationals and Diamondbacks. No, the Giants don't win a ton of games, but they did the smart thing aligning their second-half rotation, pushing Barry Zito back to Tuesday so he can avoid the Brewers, against whom he's 1-3 with a 6.85 ERA in four career starts. Kevin Correia is the only Giant who won't pitch twice this scoring period.
[b] Chicago Cubs (7.1): Don't underestimate what Rich Harden brings to this staff; when healthy he's every bit the ace Carlos Zambrano is, and Ryan Dempster has been no slouch himself either. I'm actually more troubled by the team's late-inning picture than their rotation right now, but that's still a deep, deep staff, even if Carlos Marmol isn't quite himself lately and Kerry Wood has blister issues. And among their two opponents are the Diamondbacks and Marlins, two rather strikeout-prone offenses.
[b] Tampa Bay Rays (7.2): I'll take them on any day, any week, whenever, when they play at home. That Rays staff is an extraordinary 36-14 with a 2.82 ERA in 50 home games, easily the best numbers in the league. And the Rays get to kick off the second half with three games apiece at home against the Blue Jays and Athletics, neither of which is a threatening offense. Then it's off to Kansas City for four road games, hardly the kind of road trip that should pose problems for a Scott Kazmir or Matt Garza.
|LF||Adam Lind||Blue Jays||67||3.9||3.9||--|
|CF||Nick Swisher||White Sox||282||4.4||4.4||--|
|P||Chicago Cubs staff||1327||7.1||7.1||--|
|Pos.: Player position; Points: Year-to-date points earned in BBC (through July 13); Lock: Price locked in on my roster; Mkt.: Current market price; Diff.: Difference in price.|
I'm adding a Daily team to the mix for the second half, to go along with my Weekly squad. We'll see how that goes; setting a lineup every single day is certainly a challenge, in my experience. As for the second-half Weekly squad you see above, five of my bargain choices make the cut, as well as a few other friendly-matchup types: Doumit, whose Pirates play 11 games and kick things off with four at Coors Field; Atkins, who plays seven home games before making a three-game stop in Cincinnati, in that hitter-friendly ballpark; and Kemp, who gets three games apiece in Arizona and Colorado.
Tristan H. Cockcroft covers fantasy sports for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.