FLB Buzz: Tuesday, Sept. 7

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  • You play fantasy baseball. You play fantasy football. You say you have no time. Well, for the next three weeks, make the time! This is arguably the most exciting time of the general fantasy year, with the two main sports overlapping. I'm still seeing plenty of movement in my baseball leagues. In one league, there are five teams vying for the title, and it seems to change every day. One day a guy is up five points, the next he's in fifth. It's incredible. Each John Thomson outing is critical! For those who wondered if I had given up on baseball, no way. I've got about 10 teams I'm still paying close attention to, and with each day it seems there's more to watch. Should I actually consider benching Jason Schmidt? Is it time to cut Mike Piazza? These are questions you must ask yourself in the final weeks.
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  • Back from a fun weekend in Las Vegas, and all everyone wants to discuss is fantasy football. Yeah, I know Week 1 is just 48 hours away, but still. I started preparing for 2004 fantasy baseball back in January. And five-plus months of the season are over. Can't give up now, with three weeks left... Here are some thoughts today... General thoughts

  • Yes, brace yourselves, I am going to say something positive about a Met. David Wright is a tremendous player. So much so that it now looks like manager Art Howe is going to give up on this Mike Piazza in the No. 3 hole thing - he's not deserving these days, or this season - and insert the rookie Wright into that RBI spot. And you know what? Good for Art! Wright has been a revelation in his 43 games, with 10 homers, 26 RBI and even four steals in as many chances. Overmatched? He's hitting .294, and over the last seven days, only Lance Berkman is ahead of him on the ESPN Player Rater. I added Wright in a 16-team, 12-keeper league earlier this season, rejected all trade offers for him, and combined with his play and that of others, my team is up 20 points over the past six weeks. Frankly, if you look up Scott Rolen's normal seasons before this one, I think we can legitimately project Wright for those stats starting next season.
  • Even more amazing might be what Ichiro Suzuki is doing. I've gotten some mail recently that essentially says the guy is overrated. Here's one of them: From Josh Utt, Seattle: Ichiro is the most overrated fantasy player, bar none. And as he chases the single season hits record, it makes it even harder to see past his league-leading batting average. But besides his BA, which can carry that category in your legaue, and his above average steals totals, he is a fantasy wasteland. Taking the Top 20 players in terms of OBP, Ichiro is dead last in HRs, Runs, RBIs, and even doubles. The guy in my league who traded for Ichiro earlier in the season, is dead last in my league in HRs and RBIs, 3rd from last in Runs, and only 4th best in BA. Eric, speak out on a subject everyone else is afraid to bring up... a guy who slaps singles every other at-bat isn't worth as much a power guy with patience at the plate, whether its on your fantasy team or your home team. Now, some of what Josh writes is truth. Ichiro does not have much power. But a wasteland? He'll score 100 runs. He might hit double digit homers. And man, that .379 average, in a ton more at-bats than Barry Bonds, is arguably the single most important stat in fantasy. Think about it: Adrian Beltre's homers are nice, but he's only a few homers ahead of the next guy. Jake Peavy's ERA is cool, but he missed a month, and others have ERAs in the relative neighborhood. Ichiro is hitting 33 points higher than anyone not named Bonds. Melvin Mora's at .346. Do the math; Ichiro is already at 597 at-bats, so that average has a much greater impact. Bonds has nearly HALF the at-bats, meaning his .371 average has nearly half the impact. Is Ichiro overrated? I don't think so. He's currently ranked 15th on the overall Player Rater. I'd make him a late second round pick if I knew he'd hit for average and swipe 30 bases.
  • There's no way to explain what Cory Lidle did last week. There just isn't. The journeyman had a 5.57 ERA entering the week, was one of the top five MOST hittable pitchers in baseball, and he tossed a pair of shutouts. Not six nice innings, like Steve Trachsel does from time to time. He went the distance. And now he's second in the NL in complete games! Oh, how times have changed. On whether I'd Lidle to my team, my first thought was no chance, that the week was a fluke, he got to face the Brewers and Mets, blah, blah. But now, after remembering that unbelieveable Hershiser-like streak Lidle had in 2002 - he went 5-0 with a 0.20 ERA in 45.1 innings, an incredible run for a guy who otherwise had NO month with a sub 3.99 ERA - I started to wonder whether Lidle's doing that again. Don't ask why. His next start is at Atlanta. Add and pray.
  • How does one make up points in the final weeks of the season? Well, you have to take a few risks. You may have to dump that superstar player for the hot player. Don't worry about the snickers your leaguemates will give you. Do you want to win, or not? Lidle, Keith Ginter, Jason Michaels and Paul Byrd are playing better right now than Hank Blalock, Richard Hidalgo, Brian Lawrence and Mike Piazza. Hey, I dropped Piazza in a league. I dropped last year's AL Cy Young runner up, Esteban Loaiza. I dropped Jason Frasor, now merely a setup man for a brutal team. Keep up on the news. Add spot starters smartly, not just to add them. Do NOT add Cliff Lee just because you want to reach the start limit. He's been getting pounded! If you need to drop Jason Giambi to add Coco Crisp because you need batting average help, do it! Yeah, we know Giambi was your second round pick. But it's September, time to look at your team differently and maximize every last point.

  • First on Player Rater for the SEASON: Jason Schmidt continues to drop. Now the Giants say he'll be used on less rest to maximize his potential starts. But is that a good thing? Randy Johnson, despite never winning, is first. Johan Santana is second, and likely to catch him.
  • First on Player Rater
    for past week
    Lance Berkman leads David Wright and Jim Edmonds. Top hurlers are Curt Schilling and Matt Morris.
  • And Last, where pitchers normally rule: And the worst of the worst is ... 8 pitchers, led by awful Edgar Gonzalez, who allowed 10 earned in one inning his last time out. Gerald Williams, once the Mets' No. 3 hitter, and Tony Batista are the worst bats.
  • Tomorrow's Starters New day, New arms...
  • 25 percent-75 percent owned in ESPN FLB ML leagues: Both David Wells and Kelvim Escobar are available in at least 30 percent of leagues. And both are in the top 67 for ALL players in the last 15 days. Is anyone paying attention? Add these guys. Escobar gets the Jays, which is nice, and Wells has to face Pujols and Rolen, which is not. But he's a crafty veteran. I would avoid Cliff Lee, even against Seattle.
  • Under 25 percent owned in ESPN FLB leagues: Yes on Paul Byrd, who gives a good effort in each start, and should flummox Philly's lame bats. Zack Greinke has been very good lately, so add him, too. And I'd even add his opponent, Jason Johnson, because he gets to face the Royals.

  • This is how many strikeouts Oliver Perez will need in his next outing to reach 200. Today, after watching Perez dominate - but rarely win - all season, it sounds strange. But in March, Perez, coming off a season with a 5.47 ERA and tons of walks, was very much avoided. He's fourth in Ks, fifth in WHIP and eighth in ERA. And has NINE wins...

    "He's not a first baseman, he's a third baseman. If you watch Pedro play third base the last month, he's made some great plays. I feel sorry for him. I mean, the guy's 29 years old now, and he hasn't been able to play every day at his natural position. He could be a great major league third baseman."
  • J.T. Snow laments about the playing time for Pedro Feliz. The thing is, Snow has made Feliz a platoon player by hitting an amazing .452 in August and not stopping in September. The question is, will Feliz take over at first next season, with Edgardo Alfonzo at third, and Snow somewhere else. It looks likely.

    MAILIN' IT IN: Click here to send e-mail to Karabell...and they don't all have to be about potential trades. Just spout off, make a point, quickly and in few words, tell a joke, just no whining...
  • Question: I am currently involved in a fantasy baseball league which allows for only two keepers. Right now I have Miguel Tejada, Carlos Beltran, Johan Santana, and Mark Prior as my keeper candidates. Who would you keep out of this bunch and why? -- Jared Cunningham, Lakewood, Calif.
  • Eric: Well, you don't exactly have stiffs here, do you? I would keep the two hitters. I know that may sound strange, with Johan Santana a good bet to finish as the top fantasy player for 2004. But pitchers don't generally do that year after year. Santana is finishing his first year as a starter. I can't say he'll fall back next year. But I'm somewhat certain Tejada will remain a 30-120 guy at shortstop, and Beltran will again flirt or surpass 30-30. They're each potential top 5 players.

    TODAY'S USER RANT(S): Steve, Birmingham, Ala.
    As you know, chasing WINS is tough to do. So, in a league where innings have a maximum, you start scrutinizing every starter to make sure you don't waste the innings. Thus my dilemma in having Jeff Weaver face Woody Williams, both on my team. Both pitchers have historically pitched well against the opposing teams and both were coming off of stellar outings. I was only going to start Williams thinking he and the Cardinals were more likely to WIN. Then I saw the starting lineups and noticed Pujols and Renteria were sitting, so I started Weaver, too. Not only did Weaver have a terrible outing, Williams was in line for the WIN when Izzy blows a 3-run lead. How does that happen?
    Check out ESPN Fantasy Games Senior Editor Eric Karabell on ESPNEWS, in ESPN The Magazine, on the Fantasy Focus radio show every Sunday morning from 6-8 a.m. ET on ESPN Radio and the Fantasy Focus show on ESPNRadio.com and of course on these fantasy pages of ESPN.com. Please remember, the FLB Buzz intends to be a Monday-through-Thursday operation (though this week due to travel, Labor Day, etc., it is not)....If you have topics you want discussed, not necessarily questions, let me know them by sending mail...
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