July 26, 2010

I'll admit that July is a bad time to debate scoring rules for a fantasy baseball league. That discussion is better suited for March prior to draft time. But I don't like how some of baseball's most important aspects get overlooked in fantasyland. And honestly, my underachieving teams urgently need help scoring points.

Let's put aside Albert Pujols' ho-hum home runs and Stephen Strasburg's fascist strikeouts. Let's talk about the things that really get us standing up at the ballpark:

Double plays

A sportswriter once celebrated them as "Tinkers to Evers to Chance" in honor of the Chicago Cubs infielders of the early 1900s, but perhaps that poem needs updating. The most dynamic double-play duo was actually Tigers teammates Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker, who played 19 seasons together from 1977 to '95 (with numerous first basemen on the receiving end of their throws). Individually, 43-year-old shortstop Omar Vizquel is the all-time leader at his position (1,591 and counting) while '60 World Series hero Bill Mazeroski turned 1,706 double plays in his career as the Pirates second baseman.

In fantasy terms, why not reward those quick hands with two points for every two-out play? The Yankees' Robinson Cano is not only dominating opposite pitchers this year but he also leads all second baseman with 69 double plays turned, followed by the White Sox's Gordon Beckham (68). At shortstop, both the Braves' Alex Gonzalez and the White Sox's Alexei Ramirez have turned the trick 67 times.

Who is hitting into all of these rally killers? Blame the Giants' third baseman Pablo Sandoval (20) and Royals first baseman Billy Butler (24). For every tailor-made double-play that they hit into, we should deduct two points. Both heavy thumpers could catch Jim Rice's dubious record of 36 GIDP, set in '84. In the all-time slow man race, Nationals catcher Ivan Rodriguez (325) is inching closer to homerun king Hank Aaron (328) and iron man Cal Ripken (350).

Hitting pitchers

The National League lets pitchers do more than just throw the ball and so should fantasy leagues. Let's put a premium on hurlers who can also swing the bat. Brewers' starter Yovani Gallardo has three home runs in just 39 at-bats, which is three more than the light-hitting Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus and one more than Blue Jays shortstop Yunel Escobar. Nobody can match Houston reliever Gustavo Chacin, who homered in his only at-bat this season for a perfect 4.000 slugging percentage.

Meanwhile, Cincinnati's Rookie of the Year candidate Mike Leake (7-2, 3.57 ERA) deserves recognition for hitting .366 in 41 at-bats. I bet recently-traded Dan Haren will miss opportunities with the bat now that he pitches for Anaheim in the DH-friendly American League (he hit .364 in 55 AB with Arizona). We should also penalize Phils starter Roy Halladay, a phenomenal pitcher but a lowly hitter this season (.105 BA in 57 AB with 28 K).

Outfield assists

On a play at the plate or with a runner trying to take an extra base, having a strong-armed outfielder is a must. Who cares if Mets outfielder Jeff Francouer is only hitting .248? He's throwing darts in the outfield with a major-league leading nine assists, followed by the Astros' Michael Bourne (8) and Arizona's Gerardo Parra (8). But those totals are nowhere close to good old Hardy Richardson, who gunned down 45 runners back in 1881 with the Buffalo Bisons.

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