July 18, 2008
Fantasy Clicks
By Jay Clemons
Curse Of The HR Derby
Josh Hamilton: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

The Home Run Derby may be appointment-TV viewing for baseball fans -- especially when Josh Hamilton and Clay Counsil (Hamilton's lovable 71-year-old batting-practice pitcher) become household names in a flash. But what is the after-effect of this competition -- from a power-numbers standpoint with fantasy baseball -- when it involves a Derby champ (like 2008 winner Justin Morneau) or resident Golden Boy, aka Hamilton (who crushed 35 total homers at Yankee Stadium, including a mind-blowing 28 in Round 1 alone)?

Does a player's HR Derby fame translate into better power numbers in a season's second half? Should owners "sell high" on these superstars, knowing that a dip (or even tailspin) is in the cards? Or, would it really matter to a fiercely loyal owner if Hamilton and Morneau, for example, suffered a 10- or 15-percent drop in production in the second half? Here's some food for thought:

From 1996-2007, a total of 17 players (Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., Jason Giambi, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Ryan Howard, Albert Pujols, to name a few) either won the Derby or bashed the most homers, cumulatively, but lost in the finals.

Home Run Derby 'Winners': 1996-2007
Year Player Before Break After Break HR/RBI Differential
'96 Barry Bonds 22 HR/65 RBI 20 HR/64 RBI -2/-1
'97 Tino Martinez 28/78 16/63 -12/-15
'97 Larry Walker-y 25/68 24/62 -1/-6
'98 Ken Griffey Jr. 37/81 19/65 -18/-16
'99 Ken Griffey Jr.-z 29/81 19/52 -10/-29
'99 Mark McGwire-z 28/72 37/75 +9/+3
'00 Sammy Sosa 23/74 27/64 +4/-10
'01 Luis Gonzalez 35/86 22/56 -13/-30
'01 Jason Giambi-y 19/60 19/60 Push
'02 Jason Giambi 22/71 19/51 -3/-20
'03 Garret Anderson 22/78 7/38 -15/-40
'03 Albert Pujols-y 27/86 16/38 -11/-48
'04 Miguel Tejada 13/69 21/81+ 8/+12
'05 Bobby Abreu 13/58 6/44 -7/-14
'06 Ryan Howard 27/68 31/81 +4/+13
'07 Vlad Guerrero 14/74 13/51 -1/-23
'07 Alex Rios-y 17/53 7/32 -10/-21
y denotes player hit more cumulative homers in Derby, but lost in finals
z denotes that both players combined to hit same number of cumulative homers in Derby (with Griffey winning in finals)

When comparing this group's pre-All Star break power numbers to post-All Star break numbers, four items stand out:

  • On average, each slugger hit 4.6 less HRs in the second half
  • Of the 17 players in the second half, 12 posted fewer HRs, four had more and one remained constant (Giambi, '01)
  • On average, each batter racked up 14.4 less RBIs in the second half
  • Of the 17 players in the second half, 13 posted fewer RBIs, three had more and one remained constant (Giambi, again, in '01)

To be fair, the All-Star break usually occurs after the official midpoint of a season, and individual trips to the Disabled List were not factored into the above findings. But the numbers don't lie: Hamilton, the first-half fantasy MVP and newly deified Sultan of Swat (courtesy of ESPN, or so it seemed on Derby night), is bound to experience a drop-off in RBIs, thus falling short of Hack Wilson's all-time record of 191. And Morneau (14 HR) is hardly a lock for 25 dingers at season's end.

Call me crazy, but you might want to reconsider that 2-for-2 blockbuster trade of Johan Santana and B.J. Upton for Hamilton and Shane Victorino that your buddy e-mails to you on a daily basis. It may be time to sell.

Catch O' The Day

In mixed 5x5 leagues, finding a spot-starting pitcher every night -- in the name of capturing a contrived strikeouts title, but likely forsaking any chance of winning the ERA or WHIP categories - can be a daunting task. But each day (at least the ones I'm writing), I will identify an unsung starter who'll give your team a one-and-done boost in Ks, ERA and WHIP.

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.

Doug Davis, Arizona (vs. the Dodgers): In his last five starts, Davis has posted a 28/12 K/BB ratio, allowed no more than three runs per outing and has lasted an average of 6 2/3 innings per start. Even better, he's facing a team on Friday that regularly starts Andruw Jones. Enough said.

May Your Conscience Be Your Draft Guide

Switching gears to football ... SI.com published my Top 200 Rankings this week (with non-binding auction estimates). And while I've deemed this list to be flawless and all-knowing (at least until current Tampa Bay QB Chris Simms is starting over a still-rehabbing Peyton Manning in the Colts' season opener against the Bears -- thus discrediting Peyton's standing as a high second-round pick), I cannot emphasize the following statement enough: Always go with your gut on draft night.

You can buy every fantasy magazine on the racks (I already have seven different '08 annuals at home -- and it's not even August), you can read every reputable fantasy blog on the Web, in the hopes of formulating the greatest cheat sheet known to man (or woman). But if you're sitting there with the No. 2 pick on draft night (LaDainian Tomlinson was already the No. 1 overall selection), and you're absolutely certain Steven Jackson's production will easily trump that of Adrian Peterson, Brian Westbrook, Tom Brady, Joseph Addai or even Frank Gore ... then, by all means, shout Jackson's name to the rafters and never look back!

After all, who's to say the 24-year-old Jackson, when healthy, cannot repeat his staggering numbers of '06: 1,528 rushing yards, 90 catches, 2,334 yards from scrimmage and 16 total touchdowns? Not me.

My Top 200 list, ideally, should not be overanalyzed on a pick-for-pick basis. Rather, it simply helps you, the astute reader with a thriving social calendar, make sensible decisions throughout the draft -- without the pain and suffering of spending 3-6 weeks to build your cheat sheets.

The Impending Kiss of Death
Adrian Peterson: Damian Strohmeyer/SI

In the name of full disclosure, no one has a bigger man-crush on Adrian Peterson than yours truly. In addition to having him on five fantasy teams in '07, I faithfully DVR'd every Minnesota game (thanks to DirecTV) and occasionally forgot that I grew up in Detroit, Mich. (which explains my Vikings loathing as a child). Heck, I even found myself entranced by the indecipherable wailings of Ragnar, the Vikings' mascot.

However, it appears that AP (or AD, his nickname at Oklahoma) may have angered the fantasy gods by predicting a 2,000-yard rushing season. It's not that Peterson (1,341 rushing yards, 12 TDs last year) is incapable of such a feat. It's just that he is forgetting about karma, a possible "sophomore jinx," running mate Chester Taylor, his annual injury (I'm guessing broken tailbone in '07) or the Vikings' bottom-rung passing attack (although Sidney Rice is the real deal).

The Dread Pool

Every NFL season, I identify three teams that have essentially zero fantasy appeal. I then force myself to not draft anyone from those franchises -- unless it's a kicker or defensive team. After perusing all the fantasy magazines and consulting endless Web sites, I have settled on three teams to avoid at all costs come draft day: the Buccaneers, Dolphins and Bears.

Regarding Tampa Bay, I'll watch any NFL Films video that involves Jon Gruden wearing a microphone -- I respect his colorful personality and hands-on coaching methods that much. But it's hard to trust a team whose two offensive stars are Jeff Garcia and Earnest Graham (a prime candidate for the Samkon Gado "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow" Award).

The Dolphins wouldn't be on this list, if I thought I could realistically draft Ronnie Brown in the fourth round or lower. Simply put, anyone coming off major knee surgery the following year could never be my No. 1 or 2 fantasy back.

As for the Bears, I recommend waiting until the last three rounds of a standard 16-round draft before calling any of their names. At that point, you have my blessing to take RB Kevin Jones (sleeper), rookie WR Earl Bennett (super-sleeper), kicker Robbie Gould or Chicago's vaunted (but slipping) defense/special teams.

But not a moment sooner.

Close Counts In More Than Horseshoes

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.

Lovie Smith, Are You Reading?

The Chicago Sun-Times recently reported that a computer program called AccuScore have determined the Bears have a better chance of making the playoffs (23 percent) with new running back Kevin Jones running the ball than with Cedric Benson (19 percent). After three decidedly lackluster seasons from Benson, the Bears may make Jones a star. At least the computers say they should.

Come One, Come All

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.

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