Vladimir Guerrero: Jim Cordes/Icon SMI
Carl Crawford, Carlos Lee and Vladimir Guerrero. The mere mention of this trifecta brings a song to any fantasy player's heart, as he/she dreams of winning a 5x5 league with the aforementioned stat-sheet stuffers. The Atlanta-based "SI.com & Friends" fantasy league also shared in this sentiment last March, taking the outfielders at Nos. 11, 22 and 25, respectively -- and for good reason, given their career averages (below).
|5x5 Career Averages|
While Crawford, Lee and Vlad look great on rosters during the fantasy dog days of July, will they look as appealing after your league's trade deadline has come and gone (most occur in mid-August) -- when you're desperate to make one last great push for a league title?
Here is the 5x5 breakdown of their latter-season splits (July, August, September/early October) vs. early-season splits (April, May, June) from 2004-2007. The info reveals a hidden truth you'll never find in any preseason mag: Fantasy baseball, during crunch time, is more than just building around great players. It's all about maximizing the superstars' production at the optimum time.
|Tale of the Tape -- Crawford, Lee & Guerrero|
|July-August-September Split Differential (vs. April-May-June splits) -- From 2004-07|
Analysis: Crawford is incrementally better at getting more hits in the latter half, and his steals have increased markedly the last two seasons. Other than that, he's too inconsistent. Verdict: Sell high, unless you absolutely need his steals.
Analysis: If you drafted Lee based on his hits and runs proficiency, congratulations on a worthwhile choice! Aside from that, you may be stuck with a slow-footed guy who suddenly doesn't rack up a ton home runs and RBIs in the latter stages of a season. Verdict: Sell high -- now!
Analysis:To the broad-scope numbers geek, Guerrero's inability to generate Berkman-like steals weakens his value. But whatever output Vladdie has accrued in the last four years, the bulk of that production comes in the latter half. But that's just the beginning of his latter-half greatness. In the last four years, Guerrero is overflowing with positive numbers in all five categories -- a feat neither Lee nor Crawford came close to achieving. Runs and RBIs are the two main staples during crunch time. Verdict: Ride him all the way to a fantasy title!
As I mentioned last time on Fantasy Clicks, every day I'll nominate one starting pitcher to plug into your mixed 5x5 lineup for that evening. These pitchers should bring you glory in Ks, ERA and WHIP, if for just one night. And come tomorrow, you'll be looking to discard them in search of Tuesday's hidden gem. (Note: As a general rule, we'll eliminate any visiting pitcher making a start at Coors Field, Fenway Park or The Ballpark in Arlington -- since the Rockies, Red Sox and Rangers routinely roll up big numbers at home.)
Jorge Campillo, Atlanta (vs. Florida): On the whole, Campillo has great numbers in K/BB ratio (59-19), ERA (3.06) and WHIP (1.10). He's also an integral part of the Braves' bursting-at-the-seams starting staff. But here's the real reason for choosing him for your fantasy lineup: If the Braves have any chance of realistically climbing back into the playoff picture before the July 31 trade deadline (thus discouraging the front office from trading free-agent-to-be Mark Teixeira), this is undoubtedly their most important series of the season. Campillo must be lights-out against the pesky Marlins on Monday night.
I picked up this little nugget while researching today's blog. Can you name the only Jaguars running back or pass-catcher to register 10 touchdowns last season? Scroll down for the answer.
Let's move on to football, specifically rehashing SI.com's Top 200 fantasy rankings from last week (with non-binding auction values). What you see is an approximate listing of the best players to select, pick-by-pick, round-by-round, in case you had zero time to prepare for your draft and lived in fear of one of fantasy's most unpardonable sins -- like "reaching" for subpar tailbacks in the high rounds -- as I did with Travis Minor (then of the Dolphins) in 2004.
What you don't see amongst the names, however, are the infamous few secretly stashed in my "Do Not Draft" room (or at least don't waste a high pick on them). These are guys -- some highly ranked, mind you -- who somehow wandered into my doghouse and now have virtually no shot of making my team (unless they fall 3-5 rounds from their pre-draft slot). Here is this year's list and a brief explanation of why they're on it:
|'Do Not Draft' List -- 2008 Preseason|
Jason Taylor (99): Doug Benc/Getty Images
Now that Jason Taylor belongs to the Redskins, after a Sunday swap with the Parcells-led Dolphins, will this momentous deal have any effect on the Washington and Miami defense/special teams combos in pre-draft cheat sheets? The short answer: No. (Click here if you're curious as to how this trade went down so fast.)
In the Redskins' case, they now have a pair of top-14 sack artisans from 2007 (Taylor, Andre Carter) and a top-5 tackles leader for defensive backs (safety LaRon Landry). But there are few positives after that, fantasy-wise, unless Antwaan Randle-El or rookie David Thomas provide a huge splash in the kick-return game. Collectively, Washington ranked 18th in sacks last year and 25th in takeaways. Yikes!
The Dolphins ranked 29th in takeaways last year (with Taylor) and somewhere in the mid-20s for sacks. But there's plenty of reason for optimism this season in the return game, courtesy of second-year receiver/returner Ted Ginn, Jr, possibly the NFL's fastest player and the runaway choice for the title of the "next Devin Hester."
Before you build that foolproof cheat sheet for WRs, here's a small research tip: The third-best means for predicting 2008 success -- outside of quantifying each receiver's three-year averages OR recalling a verbatim list of the 2007 touchdown leaders -- is NOT overall receiving yardage. Rather, it's "targets," or the number of times a receiver was thrown to on a per-game basis. This crucial stat has been a must-have for waiver-wire warriors the last few years. Oddly, though, this stat line has yet to garner universal acknowledgement. But no more!
If you studied the TD leaders from 2007 (listed above), you'll notice the answer to today's trivia question: Reggie Williams was the only Jacksonville non-QB to collect 10 touchdowns last season. Similar to Green Bay's Greg Jennings, Williams (38 catches for 629 yards) scored 1 TD for every 3.8 catches -- a staggering number, even for a former first-round draft pick (in the real world, not fantasy football).
Hmmm ... maybe I oughta put him on my "Don't Draft List," too.
Quick: who are the most accurate passers in NFL history? Joe Montana? Wrong. What would you say if we told you it was Chad Pennington and Kurt Warner. The new NFL Record & Fact Book is out, and future SI.com contributor Cold Hard Football Facts has delved into the pages to come up with some of the most intriguing records that have been recently set or are on the cusp of falling.
... Can you believe the Cincinnati Bengals are once again on the Chris Henry bandwagon? According to a blog in the Enquirer, the team is mulling Henry's return -- now that his legal troubles are seemingly behind him. Now, granted, Henry has remarkably squeezed 17 touchdowns out of only 88 receptions in the last three seasons. But still, when will the vicious cycle end, for both parties?
At long last, SI.com has a fantasy football game, complete with all of the drafts, waiver wires, stats and analysis you need. Take the grand tour here and sign up a league. Heck, sign up two leagues if you want. We'll be waiting.