March 04, 2010

Field of view is a term used to describe the extent of the natural world that falls within our line of sight at any given moment. In photographic terms, field of view (FOV) includes all parts of the world that are visible through the camera lens at a given point in space. When the photographic image is captured, objects outside of the FOV are not recorded. If we didn't see it, did it happen?

In baseball terms, the field of view and the playing field used to be one and the same. Today however, our collective FOV has grown to encompass the dugout, the locker room, the boardroom, and increasingly, the courtroom. To be truly aware of our surroundings it is now necessary to know not only batting averages and home run totals, but also the names of coaches, agents, lawyers and psychiatrists. It's no longer good enough to know runs, hits and errors with OPS, BABIP and FIP seeping into the baseball vernacular, much to the consternation of the conservative set. Far too often, whether we would like to admit it or not, contract negotiations, locker room disputes, and off-the-field difficulties are influencing the statistical bottom line. With increased media scrutiny, all these factors have also come within our FOV.

Players have just recently begun their mass migration south, and numerous free agents are yet unsigned. Still, it's important to maintain as wide a field of view as possible. Knowing that every minute detail can influence fantasy production, awareness is key, even if it means being aware of the injuries, arrests, and other setbacks that we'd otherwise prefer to ignore. Besides, only by peering down that dark tunnel can we finally come to appreciate the light at the other end.

Tim Lincecum, SP, San Francisco Giants. Lincecum will turn 26 in 2010, and already has two National League Cy Young Awards to his name. That name also appeared in two notable places this offseason -- one was a police blotter for a misdemeanor marijuana charge, but the second adorned the bottom of a 2-year, $23 million contract. It's a significant raise from the $650,000 he made in 2009, and it also means he'll continue to throw in pitching-friendly AT&T Park for at least the next two seasons. His 2009 home/road ERA splits (1.88 at home, 3.21 away) suggest he made a wise career move on multiple levels. This ideal situation (and an obscene amount of talent) makes him the odds-on favorite to win the Cy Young Award yet again in 2010.

Milton Bradley, OF/DH, Seattle Mariners. In 2008, as a member of the Texas Rangers, Milton Bradley produced a .313/.414/.590 line and led the American League (the hitter's league) in OPS. He departed via free agency for greener (with ivy) pastures of Wrigley Field, an experience that can be accurately described as an unmitigated disaster. Bradley slumped, got injured, clashed with coaches, teammates and even fans until he was finally shipped out of town for the remains of Carlos Silva. It may be difficult to imagine a player coming off what is arguably his worst season as a professional in "better" terms, but there's really nowhere to go but up. Far from the pressures of Chicago, Bradley has the chance to return to his slugging ways in Seattle, even in a ballpark (Safeco Field) that was in the bottom five in runs and SLG%. After all, hitters hit.

Holds, RP, Fantasy Baseball. The hold was introduced to the baseball world in 1986 by John Dewan and Mike O'Donnell -- a simple statistic that measures the effectiveness of middle relievers. Since then, the hold (HLD) has slowly seeped into fantasy baseball circles. As fantasy baseball traditionalists begin to mourn the loss of the original 4x4 scoring method, we're already seeing leagues fully embrace 5x5 as a standard, with 6x6 no longer just a novelty. Among these 6x6 leagues, the HLD is one preferred way to expand a league's pitching categories while also increasing the viability of middle relief. In 2009, only two pitchers topped 30 holds, Matt Guerrier of the Twins and Jeremy Affeldt of the Giants -- players that, combined, totaled 6 wins and 1 save. Without the HLD, these players are virtually useless. With, however, they're in vogue.

Hank Blalock, 1B, Free Agent. Spring games have started, and Blalock has yet to secure gainful employment. Last year with the Texas Rangers Blalock hit .234/.277/.459 in 495 plate appearances with 25 HR. Those numbers represent a steady decline for Blalock. His .736 OPS was the second lowest of his career, and despite his home run totals, concerns over his health and batting average as well as the glut of similar players on the market have left Blalock on the outside looking in. Players without jobs simply tend not to help much in the world of fantasy.

Brian Roberts, 2B, Baltimore Orioles. Roberts set a career-high with 79 RBI in 2009, with a league-leading 56 doubles. That's the good news. The bad news is that his stolen base total fell for the second consecutive year. He reached a career best mark of 50 in 2007, but managed only 30 in what was still a highly successful 2009. The worse news coming out of spring training is that Roberts has been diagnosed with a herniated disc in his back. Back injuries are tricky, and even though he's not expected to require surgery, there's clearly pause for concern here.

Khalil Greene, SS, Texas Rangers. As recently as 2007, Khalil Greene hit 27 HR with 97 RBI. Even weighed against the backdrop of a .254 batting average, his power potential made him one of the more sought after shortstops on the fantasy landscape. His batting average became increasingly problematic, falling to .213 in 2008 and .200 in 2009. More disconcerting, Greene was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder, a problem that forced him to the DL on two separate occasions. It seems the problem has reared its ugly head yet again, as it will force Greene from the Rangers squad before he could even don the uniform.

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