Pirates power, pitching return to form; Playoff hopes still alive

Pittsburgh Pirates 2012The ESPN College Gameday crew will take to the set to open up another season this weekend, but it was Pedro Alvarez of the Pittsburgh Pirates, not Lee Corso, that delivered a resounding “not so fast my friend!” to announce that the Pirates’ playoff hopes were still alive and well on Wednesday night.

Alvarez launched a mammoth home run, his third in two nights, to catapult the Pirates to a 5-0 victory over St. Louis and back to within a game of the final National League playoff spot after a sub par August had many wondering if hopes of a first postseason appearance since 1992 were slowly fading away.

The Bucs two-of-three performance against the Cards, in which they held last year’s World Series champs scoreless in both victories, also gave Pittsburgh an 8-7 win in the season series and ownership of the playoff tiebreaker between the two clubs. Read more…

Daily Fantasy Baseball must starts: Friday August 17th

Daily Fantasy Baseball Must StartsBuilding a winning team is simple today: pick your favorite studs and use these sleepers to create the perfect lineup.

Value plays:

Howard Kendrick – He may not be one of the big name Angels, but he has been swinging a hot bat of late (batting over .330 for August, his best month of the season) and has dominated James Shields over his career. The Halo’s second basemen has 12 hits in 21 career at bats (.571 batting average) against Big Game James with an .857 slugging percentage. He only has 1 career RBI against the righty, but I like the odds of that changing now that Albert Pujols and Mike Trout are in the LA lineup. Shields has been rocked by Yankees (another elite offense this season) and figures to struggle with the depth and consistency of this Angels lineup. I have no issue if you want to roster their studs, but from a value perspective, Kendrick is the best option in fantasy baseball today.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Jake Westbrook and the Cardinals pitching staff has been a pleasent surprise this season, but you need to consider the Pirates unimpressed. They have pounded the big righty to the tune of a .321 team batting average, with production coming up and down the lineup. It should be no surprise that Andrew McCutchen (.375 batting average against Westbrook) has flourished, as he seems to hit every pitch throw his way these days, but it is the support he has received in the Pirates lineup that fantasy owners need to take advantage of. Lesser valued players like Pedro Alvarez (.462 batting average) and Jose Tabata (.421) have a great track record against Westbrook, and should benefit from the fear McCutchen creates. Neil Walker (.353) and Clint Barmes (.313) are two more names to remember when filling out your roster today, as the Bucco’s boast extreme depth against the Cardinals tonight. Read more here…

MLB best bets of the day: August 16, 2012

matt kemp dodgers

Texas Rangers at NY Yankees 1:05 PM Holland vs Nova

The first game of the day is between two pitchers who have had their share of success and failures this season. This one won’t be easy going for the pitching as it features the top two hitting teams to date and while the Rangers haven’t been living up to that lately, that can all change with on bad Ivan Nova outing.

After a 3-2 Yankees victory yesterday my hope is this game will be a bit more exciting, but I don’t expect it to get too wild. While both of these pitchers’ ERA’s are much closer to 5.00 than 4.00, I suspect they will be able to right the ship today and hold the offenses to less-than-average runs scored. That said, the Yankees have a .322 team average when facing Holland and rank fourth in the league in runs scored when facing lefties.

Picks: Yankees -125 and Under 10 (-115)

LA Dodgers at Pittsburgh 4:05 PM Blanton vs Burnett

The Pirates will send out their only semblance of an “ace” today, in hopes that A.J. Burnett can prevent a Dodgers sweep. I certainly respect what A.J. has done so far this season, as I don’t believe anyone could have predicted that he would have anywhere close to the numbers that he currently possesses. However, after getting pounded by the Padres at home last week, I think Burnett’s and the Pirates’ magical year may be coming to an end. Read more here…

Fantasy Baseball sleeper team for the remainder of 2012

josh rutledge

With all of the trading, promotions, demotions, players being place on waivers, and whatever else has been going on to shake up MLB lineup cards, we’ve decided to put together the All-Sleeper Fantasy Baseball Team for the remainder of the season.

This lineup doesn’t feature players that we all know, but rather the players that you should know! Use these players as you need, but just know, they will be producing and at very low costs.

Starting Pitcher – Matt Harvey – New York Mets

Since making his Major League debut on July 26, Harvey has been nothing less than brilliant. After breaking the Mets record for strikeouts in a debut, Harvey has since pitched 6.0 innings and has struck out 7 more. His current totals are at 11.1 IP, 18 Ks, and just two earned, giving the phenom a 1.59 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.

According to ESPN, Harvey is on an innings limit (duh) and has about 50 innings left. He should be good for about 8-10 more starts, thus giving fantasy owners plenty to be excited about in 2012.

Closer – Greg Holland – Kansas City Royals

Since the trade of Jonathan Broxton to the Reds, Holland has taken over the closer role. He’s only had one save opportunity but he nailed it down. The new closer has lowered his ERA in his last five appearances (0 runs) and I think that trend will continue.

Catcher – Ryan Lavarnway – Boston Red Sox

Lavarnway made his season debut yesterday and while it wasn’t all that impressive, he did bat sixth and was walked once. I know, so what? Well, in 2011 the catcher hit two home runs and drove in four in his season debut. This young backstop has plenty of upside and for next to nothing.

First Base – Gaby Sanchez – Pittsburgh Pirates

Sanchez was acquired by the Pirates (from the Marlins) back at the trade deadline and the new change of scenery could help the 2011 All-Star get back on track. He didn’t have a great debut for the Pirates, per say, but he did bat cleanup for the bucs. Read the rest of the team here…

 

Top 10 mid-season MLB awards

As we get ready for the second half of the MLB season to begin, we want to present our Top Ten Furnace Awards (TTFA) for random accomplishments.

And the winners are:

 1. N.L. MVP- Andrew McCutchen-Pirates; .362-18 HR-60 RBI-58 Runs-14 SB. Joey Votto-Reds came in a close second; .348 14 HR 50 runs 48 RBI 8SB. Neither team wins without them.

2. A.L. MVP- Mike Trout- .341-12 HR-40 RBI-57 Runs-26 SB

3. Most improved player N.L.- R.A. Dickey; 12-1- 2.40 ERA- 0.93 WHIP-123 K’s- 26 BB.

4. Most improved player A.L.- Melky Cabrera-119 hits leads the majors!

5. Most intersting Team Stat- N.Y. Mets have a bonafide MVP and Cy Young award candidate in Wright and Dickey.

Read all of them here…

Pittsburgh Pirates: Looking to keep division-leading ship afloat

2012 pittsburgh pirates

To say that the past nineteen baseball seasons have been a disappointment for a city that boasts the sporting tradition that Pittsburgh does is about as much of an understatement as saying that Terry Bradshaw was just another quarterback or Mario Lemieux just a decent hockey player.  The summer months in the Steel City have hummed to a familiar cadence over the past two decades; fans root for the Penguins as deep as they go in the Stanley Cup playoffs and then start counting the days until Steelers camp opens up.  This year though the Pirates lead the NL Central by a game over Cincinnati at the All Star Break and have given fans reason to believe that the once-proud franchise’s run of futility will finally come to an end.  If the Bucs continue their winning ways it’s not unthinkable that the only meaningful games in town this fall won’t be played across the street at Heinz Field, but also at PNC Park, which has proven to be the toughest place for opposing teams to win in the Majors thus far.  Read more here…

Will Barry Bonds reach the Hall of Fame before Pete Rose?

Baseball hall of fame

Baseball hall of fameFor years the debate has been if Pete Rose deserves to be in the MLB Hall of Fame. The question has been answered by many opinionated people and debated until it consistently fades away. As players of the ‘steroids era’ become eligible,  the question needs to be asked if Barry Bonds will reach the Hall of Fame before Pete Rose?

Barry Bonds played from 1986 to 2007 for the Pittsburgh Pirates and San Francisco Giants. The son of major league player Bobby Bonds started his career as a lead-off-hitter with the Pirates in 1986. He led all National League rookies with 16 home runs, 48 RBI’s and 36 stolen bases.

Between Bonds, Andy Van Slyke and Bobby Bonilla the Pirates faithful rallied around the team as they would reach the playoffs.

Bonds won his first MVP award in 1990 by hitting .301 with 33 home runs and 114 RBI’s. His 52 stolen bases were good enough for third in the league and he was also honored with his first Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards.

In 1993, Barry would sign a lucrative free agent contract with the San Francisco Giants, which at that time, was the largest in baseball history. He responded by hitting .336, led the league with 46 home runs and 123 RBI’s which would earn him his second consecutive MVP award, and third overall.

He would continue his record pace and in 1998 was the first player ever to enter the 400-400 club as he accumulated 400 home runs and 400 stolen bases.

Bonds’ was touted one of the best players in the 90’s and was ranked as The Sporting News 6th Greatest Baseball Players of all-time.

Not many believed that Bonds would continue his pace and actually improve on it, but in his mid 30’s his numbers exploded and so did the records.

Not only were his cap size and shoe size doubled so were his home run numbers.

In 2001 Bonds would hit 73 home runs and set a new major league record for home runs in a single season previously set by Mark McGwire (70).

Bonds stats speak for themselves as there is no doubting the numbers, but it is also well-known that Bonds had a legendary ego and was disliked by the media. He was accused of using steroids to achieve the numbers and records that he set.

The debate will now go on for years if players of the “steroids era” deserve to be in the Hall of Fame. Players like Mark McGuire, Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds will be discussed the same way Pete Rose was and still is.

Pete Rose has his similarities to Bonds. He is the all-time leader in hits (4,256), games played (3,562), at-bats (14,053) and won three World Series rings, three batting titles, one MVP award, two Gold Gloves, the Rookie of the Year award and 17 All-Star appearances at five different positions.

In 1989 Rose was questioned regarding reports that he had bet on baseball and his own Reds team that he was managing. Rose denied the allegations but Commissioner Bart Giamatti continued the investigation. According to the report, no evidence was found that he actually bet against the Reds. After the sides went back and forth, Rose would voluntarily accept a permanent place on baseball’s ineligible list. Rose accepted that there was a factual reason for the ban; in return, Major League Baseball agreed to make no formal finding with regard to the gambling allegations.

“Charlie Hustle” remains the only living member of the ineligible list of players to considered for the Hall of Fame.

The question now becomes which is worse?  Assume both did what they are accused of, do either of them belong? One over the other?

It has been argued that Barry Bonds was putting up Hall of Fame numbers before he allegedly started to use steroids, but isn’t the situation the same for Rose?

By not putting in players of the steroids era is taking away from baseball and the entire decade that made baseball interesting again. Isn’t the damage done anyways?

Sammy Sosa, Mark McGuire and yes – Barry Bonds increased the popularity of baseball during a steady decline, but to put them in before Pete Rose is ridiculous.

The fact that Pete Rose is not in the Hall of Fame and not even considered is asinine and leaves me dumbfounded, but the fact that Barry Bonds could get in before him is even more of a slap in the face.

Fantasy Baseball: ‘Lucky’ Week 13 waiver wire pickups

We’re nearing the halfway point of the season so by now managers should have a pretty good idea of what they will need coming down the home stretch and into the playoffs. In Fantasy leagues we’re more than half-way through the regular season’s as there are usually 22 weeks on the schedule. You should start choosing a bit more wisely now and so we’re here to help with this week’s pickups…

1. Brandon Belt-1B/OF-S.F. Giants- This late season call up last September proved one thing was clear; he has power. He hit 9 home runs in just 187 AB which equates to around 27 in a full season. On June 7th Belt began to play everyday and he has not disappointed. He had a modest 11 game hitting streak snapped on Sunday, and he still has the team’s highest on-base percentage- even though surprisingly he continues to bat seventh in the lineup. Over his last 37 AB he is hitting .405 with 4 HR and 12 RBI. He clearly is worth a flier and should be picked up in 12+ leagues. He is owned in just 32% of leagues.

2. Pedro Alvarez- 3B-Pirates- The former second over-all pick in the 2008 draft of the Pittsburgh Pirates, is playing on a team where the bulk of the offense comes from two players; Andrew McClutchen and Pedro Alvarez. As of Sunday they were both tied for the most HR on the team with 13. Over Alvarez’s last 10 games he has scored 10 runs, hit 5 HR, knocked in 11, and has batted .317. Although he’s on pace to hit 28 HR, his only liability is his low batting average. In just under 800 career AB, his average is 5 points higher than his weight; .228. Maybe the surge he’s on now will continue- but just be mindful. For now we recommend Alavarez in deeper and A.L. only leagues. He can be easily had as he’s only owned in 28% of leagues. Read more here…