Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Angels Still Yankees "Daddy"

Going into their three game series against the New York Yankees, the Los Angeles/Angels at 59-54 remained the only major league team to hold an edge on the Bronx Bombers during the Joe Torre era. Torre has coached the Yankees since the beginning of the 1996 season. Last night's game was an yet another epic battle between the two American League powerhouses.

Alex Rodriguez quickly gave the visitors a 1-0 lead off Angels starter Dustin Moseley, singling in Derek Jeter in the first. The Angels struck back in the second off of Yankee starter Philip Hughes as catcher Jeff Mathis hit a bases-loaded double, plating three runs to give the Halos a 3-1 advantage. A run-scoring Jorge Posada groundout in the top of the fourth inning would reduce the Angel lead to one. A-Rod would strike again in the sixth inning, lining a two-run homer off Angel reliever Chris Bootcheck to put the Yanks back in front 4-3. For A-Rod, it was his major league leading 40th home run of the year. The Angels would rally off of Hughes in the 7th as Howie Kendrick walked and Reggie Willits singled with one out. Luis Vizcaino came in and promptly gave up run-scoring singles to Orlando Cabrera and Chone Figgins to give the Angels back the lead at 5-4. Vladimir Guerrero's ground out gave the Angels a 6-4 advantage. Usually Scot Shields would come in to pitch the eighth for the Halos, but he's been very ineffective of late so he was given Monday off. Justin Speier took Sheilds' role for a night and promptly gave up a two-run homer to Jorge Posada to tie the game 6-6! The game would go extra innings, and this fan would fall asleep just as the 10th inning began. Yes, this is the price I pay for being a West coaster who usually lives on East coast time... Thankfully, I woke up at just after 5 a.m. this morning to see that the fans went home happy - Rookie Ryan Budde had singled in Howie Kendrick in the bottom of the 10th to give the Angels a 7-6 victory!!! The win keeps the Angels two games out in front of the Seattle Mariners in the American League West race.


Diamonds In The Rough:

It's been quite a while since I gave some recommendations for your fantasy teams. As always, the players I recommend will be players available in a large percentage of CBS Sportsline leagues.

1. Wily Mo Pena (OF - WAS) 10% owned in CBS Sporstline leagues - Just three years ago, Wily Mo Pena was amongst the biggest stories in our world of fantasy, and with good reason. At just 22 years of age, he powered 26 homers and drove in 66 in only 336 at bats for the Cincinnati Reds. Over the course of a full season of 600 at bats, those numbers work out to something in the neighborhood of 46 homers and 118 RBI's. Yes, he can rake! In spite of his promise, Pena couldn't earn a full time gig for the Reds. In 2005, Pena put up a similarly impressive 19 homers and 51 RBI's in 311 at bats for them. Unfortunately for Pena, he got traded in 2006 to the one place where a right handed line-drive home run hitter just dreads going: Fenway Park in Boston. The "Green Monster" is just murder on line-drive power hitters like Pena, and his numbers in his time there show it: only 16 homers in 432 at bats. That's only a 22 home run pace - not even half of what he projected out to in a full season with the Reds! Thankfully for Pena, and you and me that are in need of a slugger, Pena was traded this past Friday to the Washington Nationals - a team sorely lacking for power as they rank next to last to the Kansas City Royals in the majors in homers. It was a great move for the Nats, and Pena hasn't disappointed, going 5-for-11 (.455) with two homers and three RBI's in his first three games for his new team. Guys with 40-homer power are few and far between on your waiver wire. If you need someone who could blast you another 10 homers in the season's final six weeks, then you have your man! Word of warning though - if you need help with your batting average, you may want to look elsewhere - a .250-ish batting average is to be expected.

2. Rick Ankiel (OF - STL) 43% owned - Is this the feel-good sports story of the year or what??? Pitcher impresses everyone in his rookie season of 2000, then somehow loses his command of the strike zone. For the next four years he struggles and never regains that command. The next year he totally reinvents himself as an outfielder... said outfielder misses the entire next season (2006) due to injury, then puts up 32 homers in the minors in 2007 before manager Tony LaRussa of the Cardinals calls upon him to contribute again to his club. All Ankiel has done in his first nine games in his new life as a Cardinal hitter is hit four home runs, drive in seven, and score eight times to go with a .313 batting average! Ankiel's power is definitely legitimate, and while that .313 batting average will fall, he just could be essential to the Cardinals making the playoffs along with helping your fantasy team win your league!

3. Ryan Spilborghs (OF - COL) 23% owned - Who at this time of the year isn't looking for a little boost in the batting average department??? I know I certainly am. Looking at what Ryan Spilborghs has done the past couple of years in the minor leagues, one thing is certain: he can hit!!! A .340 batting average at two levels in 2005, a .338 batting average at triple A last year while also hitting .287 in 167 at bats for the big club. Spilborghs made the big club this year and he's finally getting an opportunity to play every day thanks to an injury to the speedy Willy Taveras. And what a perfect time to get this kind of opportunity as the thin Colorado air typically yields more home runs later in the season. So far, Spilborghs has been very impressive for the Rockies this year: 10 homers, 43 RBI's and a .325 bating average in only 169 at bats so far... At 27 years of age, Spilborghs should just be entering his prime as a hitter. Perhaps he's just a late bloomer, or more likely just hasn't gotten his opportunity. While he's never displayed this sort of power before, the high batting average should stay... enjoy the ride!

4. Tim Redding (SP - WAS) 13% owned - Once a top prospect in the Houston Astros organization, the 29-year-old Redding has suddenly began to live up to his promise since being called up by the Washington Nationals. Seven innings of shutout ball yesterday in Houston gave Redding his third win as a Nat. In his nine starts with the Nats, only once has he failed to go at least six innings, and only once has he given up more than three earned runs. As a result, Redding has posted a sparkling 2.53 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. Although he isn't striking out as many batters as you would like, he's only allowing hitters a .237 batting average against. With the addition of Wily Mo Pena, the Nats offense is suddenly a little more daunting, and some of their close games are going to start turning into wins: good news if you're a Nats fan and/or a Redding owner!

5. Jacque Jones (OF - CHI) 33% owned - Jacque Jones has a reputation in the fantasy world, a dubious Rodney Dangerfield like reputation of not getting much respect. Why is this? Well, primarily it's due to the fact that he hits a high percentage of ground balls, yet he also usually hits for a lot of power. Call him a "statistical enigma." The percentage play for years has been to say he's not going to hit for as much power NEXT year... After posting 117 home runs over the past five years, "next year" had finally arrived in the form of 2007, or so we thought. As of just two weeks ago, Jones had put up only two home runs and driven in 33 in his first 287 at bats this year. Then something happened - the power suddenly returned... In spite of having 0-for-4 outings the past two nights, Jones is still 19-for-47 (.404) with three home runs, 13 RBI's and three steals over his past 11 games. While I don't expect the speed to remain, the power is legit. He could be good for another 6-8 homers the rest of the way. With the Cubs in the playoff race, you can bet that Jacque will be driven to give them all he has these final six weeks!


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