Easy, breezy Bay Area sports storylines

A roundup of the Bay Area storylines that are dominating my psyche.

So I wrote a little thing about Boston sports summer storylines knowing very well that this topic was going to come up. You know, Bay Area sports storylines.

Here, again, I’m dividing them by individual team. Now, because the Bay Area obviously has more teams than Boston, I’ll just have to write more. But you know who comes first….
Continue reading “Easy, breezy Bay Area sports storylines”

What’s the best rotation in baseball?

Being a San Francisco Giants fan isn’t hard right now. It’s easy to fawn over Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Jonathan Sanchez, and for the more criminally insane of us, Barry Zito. Plus, we’ve got the Panda Bear.

The rotation is deep, as has been noted many times over. Even with the exodus of certain prized, yet perennially injured members of the elite group. (Ahem, Noah Lowry.) Or the retirement of a future hall of famer (Randy Johnson).

But how does the Big Three stack up with the rest of the majors going into the 2010 season? One would argue that if you look outside the National League bubble, there’s only two teams that are easily more stacked in all of the right places.

The Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees each have the ability to have six-man rotations this year (in fact, that’s what the Red Sox are doing), with prized prospects waiting in the wings. We’re talking aces at the No. 3 spot for each team (John Lackey and Andy Pettitte).

Their scraps are other teams’ sought after trade bait.

So which rotation is the best? If you’re wondering where I stand, you shouldn’t. I still think the Giants are the cream of the crop. And yes, the basis of my reasoning is the lousy run support the Big Three have received in years prior. I’d like to see how the Yankees or the Red Sox could do without an A-Rod or Big Papi in their lineup.

What do you think?

Who I should’ve picked in my fantasy baseball draft

Tim Lincecum / AP photo
Been taking heat from people about my “homer” pick, a pitcher in the first round of our fantasy baseball team.

I’m still laughing at that one.

I posted here my entire fantasy draft. There are 10 people in my league to give you some sort of idea of how long it took people to draft. As noted before, I took Tim Lincecum fourth overall. That’s the same Tim Lincecum that led the majors in strikeouts and took the Cy Young last year.

What I realized, before any criticism could be leveled and my draft had occurred, is that some players are invariably more valuable than any particular formula designed for fantasy sports. Football is a good example.

In fantasy football, generally speaking, users are encouraged to select a running back with their first and possibly second picks. But if you’ve been following the league in the last three years, there really is only five top backs. After that, they are all middle of the road in terms of production (rushing yards, touchdowns, receiving yards). After that top five, if there is a player that equates in terms of production points, it would be wise to take that player. Most recently, quarterback Tom Brady filled that role. Fifty passing touchdowns in one year will do that to a formula. Tony Romo also comes to mind. When Michael Vick returns, he’ll also be a player to look at in that situation.

My point is, Lincecum fills that role. With 265 strikeouts in 227 innings last year, he averaged 1.16 an inning. One in every 3 1/2 batters, he struck out. That’s absolutely amazing. In fact, so amazing, they gave him a nice piece of hardware for it. That’s pretty valuable. More so than some corner infielder that will possibly slump for a month.

Admittedly, after Lincecum’s rough start, I worried that he was making the “homer” remark look very accurate. But he’s bounced back, tallying 13 strikeouts in his last start. (That’s the Timmy I love.)

But I digress. If I didn’t pick Lincecum at the No. 4 spot, I would’ve had some very nice options available to me. In fact, you could say I jumped the gun in that regard. (What can I say, I’m a biased Giants fan). There were easily seven players to choose from who are absolutely dynamic. I was lucky enough to pick up two of them in the next two rounds. But out of my reach and off the table at No. 4 were Hanley Ramirez, Albert Pujols and Jose Reyes.

Personally, I don’t think Ramirez was worthy of the hype. And if Pujols was there at No. 4, I would’ve grabbed him. He’s just dope.

While I don’t regret taking Lincecum, I could see with conventional wisdom going after Josh Hamilton (went No. 8) or Dustin Pedroia (No. 11 in 2nd round).

(How sad is this, I can’t even make a decision between those two.)

It’s weird, after I took Lincecum, the guy after me took Johan Santana. CC Sabathia was the next pitcher taken in the second round, 16th overall.

What’s your fantasy baseball draft strategy? Top player on the table? Or your favorite player on the table? By need first, or want first? Answer below.


Some thoughtful words on Tim Lincecum

Tim Lincecum

Grant at McCoveyChronicles.com, a sports blog nation blog on the San Francisco Giants, lists his 10 reasons why the he’s not worried about Tim Lincecum after his faulty two starts to begin the season. There’s some gems in the list. Particularly:

7. Young pitchers are a static, predictable group without a propensity for wildly fluctuating performances. “If a young pitcher is good one year, he’s always good the next.” – Bill Jaymes, the well-known Dutch baseball analyst and author of The Bill Jaymes Baseball Abstrakt.


4. The fielding behind him has been atrocious. There’s no guarantee that the fielding will get better, mind you, but it seems like every miscue this season has led to runs. There will be at least some margin for error.

Check out his full post at the blog. I just joined the blog (as a fan) and I’m currently waiting for the 24-hour moratorium to end before I can post any comments. For some reason, the exclusivity makes me think it’s really cool. I could be wrong. But so far, I love the insight. That says something, right?

Top 9 players for fantasy baseball and their backups

The Major League Baseball season started in full swing Monday with 13 games. But if you’re like me, and many of you are, you weren’t really paying attention yet because there happened to be a little thing called the NCAA championship going on. No problem. But if you’ve got any of my last-minute procrastination qualities as well, you’re also late to the fantasy baseball season.

So while you’re preparing to draft, check out my two top players for every position. These are hard hitters that will bring you fortune as the season goes by.

1B: Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals — Voted No. 1 among all Yahoo! fantasy baseball users and the reigning MVP of the National League, Pujols is a dynamic force. He’s averaged 39 home runs in the last three seasons, 118 RBIs and 106 runs. His on-base percentage last year was second only to the Atlanta Braves’ Chipper Jones, while topping the majors with .653 slugging percentage. Having Pujols puts a dent into that weekly head-to-head matchup. Backup: Ryan Howard, Philadelphia Phillies — Any coach will tell you don’t hesitate to pick up power in the infield. Your corner infielders need to be Goliaths in the box. Why go against logic on this one? Howard is the next best choice, battling with Pujols as the dominant first baseman of Major League Baseball for the past three years, claiming an MVP in 2006.

2B: Dustin Pedroia, Boston Red Sox — As the reigning MVP of the American League, and only arguably so, Pedroia takes No. 1 here not because of the hardware he’s sporting, but because of the invaluable luck he gets from batting in the second spot of the Red Sox lineup. His 17 homers last year were nice, but his high batting average (.326) takes the cake. Backup: Alexei Ramirez, Chicago White Sox — I know what you’re thinking. Why snub Chase Utley? Well, I’m not too hot about anybody returning from hip surgery. That specifically affects the batting motion. I don’t expect him to play anywhere near his level from prior seasons. And I’m really high on Ramirez after a stellar rookie season in which he put up 139 hits, 77 RBIs, 21 home runs and stole nine bases in 136 games played. Plus, you get the added bonus of a kid that can play shortstop. Can you say, upside?

3B: Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays — A year ago, it would have been blasphemous to not have Alex Rodriguez in this spot. Now, it just falls in line with common logic that a man recently off hip surgery is not going to perform up to his same standards. (Do you hear that Utley fans?) Longoria impressed with 27 homers, a .531 slugging percentage and 85 RBIs last year. With the Rays in the spotlight, I have a feeling this young star will continue to shine. Backup: David Wright, New York Mets — He may be on one of the most frustrating teams in Major League Baseball, but he’s definitely a diamond in the rough. With no lingering affects from last season, Wright will likely reproduce the 33 long balls and 124 RBIs.

SS: Jimmy Rollins, Philadelphia Phillies — He’s your favorite, he’s my favorite and he is the best player at his position when healthy. Don’t underestimate his healthy return, pushing past the 137 games he played last year. His 47 stolen bases were an eye-popper. Backup: Jose Reyes, New York Mets — With 56 stolen bases under his belt, 113 runs, a .358 on base percentage and 68 RBIs, he’s a statistical monster. He’s got a leg up on Hanley Ramirez but he’s got to show me something to best Rollins.

C: Geovany Soto, Chicago Cubs — Soto had a pretty good rookie year, earning him NL rookie of the year honors. His 141 hits, 35 doubles and 86 RBIs outweigh his 121 strikeouts. He’s another upside guy, standing tall in a room full of nobodies. Backup: Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves — Batting .301 last year, adding 23 home runs, 87 RBIs and 153 hits make McCann the safe pick. He’s not very sexy, but he gets the job done.

LF: Matt Holiday, Oakland Athletics — There’s no legitimate reason Holliday shouldn’t be on the top of your list. His numbers last year exemplified the standard: 25 home runs, 88 RBIs, .321 batting average, .409 on-base percentage, and .538 slugging percentage. His 107 runs scored were only bested by Carlos Beltran (116) and Nate McLouth (113) among outfielders. Go with the hometown favorite. It’ll relieve your conscience. Backup: Alfonso Soriano, Chicago Cubs — Herein lies proof of my fandom rather than oblivious fact. I prefer Soriano because he is a ball player in every sense of the word. He’s always willing to take the strikeout instead of the walk. Expect him to always be aggressive and fill the stat sheet — even the Ks column.

CF: Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers — What’s 130 RBIs between friends? Add in 98 runs, 32 homers and a .530 slugging percentage, Hamilton is the center fielder of choice. His 126 strikeouts are cause for pause, but he is a gamer if I ever saw one. Backup: Grady Sizemore — His 33 homers, 90 RBIs and 101 runs make him a sexy No. 1 or 2. As a leadoff hitter, he’ll get the necessary at bats for another 30-90 season.

RF: Ichiro Suzuki, Seattle Mariners — His numbers don’t do him justice, but his game is untouchable. He’s never been a power hitter, but his 213 hits and .311 batting average make him an icon at the right field or center field position. Backup: Nick Markakis, Baltimore Orioles — What’s not to like about Markakis, who boasts a .306 batting average, 87 RBIs and 106 runs on the year with 20 homers to boot? He’s got all the intangibles to make your season go smooth.

SP: Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants — He is the gem of the Bay. In one and a half seasons, The Freak has stolen my heart as the greatest pitcher to stand on a Giants mound in decades. His 265 strikeouts plowed through the opposition and there’s no hint that he will do otherwise this season. Mark my words: Lincecum will repeat as Cy Young. Backup: Brandon Webb, Arizona Diamondbacks — He’s Lincecum’s only real challenge. At 22-7 last season with 183 strikeouts, he’s as much a force to be reckoned with in the NL. Expect him to wreak havoc.

Giants need to figure it out – now

Hold your horses Giants fans. The jury is still out on whether picking up the Big Unit is worth the risk.

What made the Giants so confident in him, that they rolled the dice on a 21-year veteran? What says he doesn’t break down? Yeah, it’s a one-year contract, but does that guarantee 30 starts? Ten wins?

I’m worried about re-occurring back problems. Maybe arthritis. Or some mixture of the both. I should just flat out say it. I’m worried about old people. Particularly, 40-year olds playing on a professional ball club filled with guys my age.

Johnson is walking on to a team that totally reinvented itself from the set of Cocoon. Where once it was filled with the has-beens of Major League Baseball, now it is filled with the up and coming stars of the mound.

You see that hill in AT&T Park, Randy. That’s Timmy’s. He owns it. He earned it. He’s the future. And you … well, you are the byproduct of a mixed philosophy and general manager Brian Sabean’s dismal planning efforts for the future.

I take no solace in typing these words. On the outside, it’s pretty mean-spirited. But the fact remains, Johnson doesn’t belong on a team whose nucleus includes the likes of Lincecum (24), the heir and savior, and Matt Cain (24) the go-to guy. Barry Zito (30) … well, I’m tired of ripping him. Noah Lowry (28), Jonathan Sanchez (26) and all-star Brian Wilson (26) are the Giants’ base of operations. Success of the organization starts with these fellas. The young guys.

Why do you throw in a 45-year old and expect things to get better? All the while, the G-men are pontificating whether they’ll move Lowry or Sanchez.

Does any of this make sense?

This isn’t a case of gerontophobia or some other maligned ignorance. It’s a disagreement of philosophy. Sabean, who has proved time and time again that he has no plan, dropped all pretension of youthful reinvention when he picked up Johnson.

Maybe he didn’t notice, but the Big Unit’s on a downward spiral. He went 11-10 last year in 184 innings, scored 173 strikeouts making him just as feared as any average pitcher.

I won’t sit here and compare the Big Unit out of his prime against last year’s Cy Young award winner. That’s just unfair. Instead, I’ll compare him to the guy fourth in the rotation: Sanchez. In 2008, Sanchez finished 9-12, dropped a 5.01 ERA and dispatched 157 batters by way of strikeout in 158 innings. That’s almost one strikeout an inning.

That kind of talent, although average in terms of ERA, is solid in terms of production. Plus, he doesn’t come with the price tag Johnson carries, who is reportedly drawing $8 million in base salary and another $2.5 million in incentives.

Hmmm. Do I want average and cheap production or do I want average and expensive production? So hard to choose.

How about neither? How about, for once, we stick with the plan? How about we let the young guys develop into the superstars they are and surround them with other young guys who are hungry to win?

How about next time, we save that money for a cleanup hitter?

This column originally appeared in The Union.

Lincecum wins Cy Young

Congratulations to the best young pitcher of baseball — Tim Lincecum — for winning this year’s Cy Young award. I didn’t think it was possible, but he sure as hell proved me wrong … and I’m glad for it.

From SFGate.com:

In balloting announced by the Baseball Writers Association of America, Lincecum won in a landslide. He garnered 23 of 32 first-place votes, seven second-place votes and one third-place vote, for a total of 137 points.

Brandon Webb of Arizona finished second with four first-place votes and 73 points. The Mets’ Johan Santana was third with four first-place votes and 55 points.

CC Sabathia of Milwaukee got the final first-place vote but finished fifth behind Brad Lidge, the Philadelphia closer.