OpinionApril 24, 2007

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Swing and a Miss

By Jamaal Gilbert

This is my first article here (but I’ve written before, I promise) and I suppose I’d better get off to a good start if anyone is going to read this column again. I’ll be writing every week and giving my opinion on just about everything related to fantasy baseball. I rarely take myself seriously, the lone exception being when I make predictions. Lastly, I love reader feedback so make sure to click the link at the end of the article and let me know what you think, be it good, bad, or downright ugly.

After the first few weeks of the season, I’m getting the feeling that a nice tagline for this year could be, “Resurrection 2007: Back From the Dead.”

Case in point: Sammy Sosa, Tim Hudson, and Jason Marquis.

I’m a big fan of Sammy Sosa having a solid year, and will continue to lean that way until he proves me wrong and goes into the tank or on the shelf. Sure, he started out terribly, but over the past seven games, he’s put up a .273 average with two homers and six RBI. All that after starting the year on the wrong side of the Mendoza line. He finally seems to be waking up, and, in that lineup, could be a mixed league regular by midseason.

Here’s the deal with him – you have to believe he can come back from all the garbage he had to sift through a year ago. Personally, I think he can do it. He has the protection around him, a nice ballpark that has served as an adequate launching pad in the past, and is starting to take some more walks. He’s no Barry Bonds, but there’s talent left in his aging body.

Then there’s Tim Hudson, who couldn’t find the strike zone with a map in 2006, but looks like Rand McNally this year. Through four starts, Huddy has thrown 29 innings, and is 3-0 with a 0.62 ERA and 19 strikeouts. And he’s faced such lineups as the Marlins, the Phillies, and the Mets. He also worked over Washington, but who hasn’t?

Are you buying this one? I am, that’s for sure. Last year, the guy battled injury and a bad bullpen along with plain old bad luck and still came out with 13 wins 141 strikeouts in 218.1 innings. Now, with a better pen, a healthy lineup, and renewed confidence, we may yet see the Tim Hudson of old.

Lastly, we have Jason Marquis, who embarrassed himself to the tune of a 6.02 ERA in 194.1 innings in 2006. Atrocious doesn’t even begin to describe it, but I’m going to ask you to forget about it. That’s right, erase it from your collective memories. Already in 2007, he looks nothing like the disgusting abomination of a year ago, having put up three quality starts in four outings with a sparkling 1.88 ERA in 24 innings pitched.

In addition, he’ll have much less pressure on him in the Windy City, as the expectations were minimal at the onset. Along with all that, a better offense supports him in Chicago, with the likes of Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, and Derrek Lee among the top bats in the Cubs’ lineup. I think he’s going to be a nice number three fantasy starter, and you will too, whether he’s on your team or killing you later this year.

There are a few other players who fit this mold, but these three caught my eye early on. Speaking of things that caught my eye, here are a few notes to take this column home:

What’s up with rear end injuries? Ken Griffey Jr. with a colon issue and Eric Gagne pulled a muscle. What are the odds of two guys having that sort of injury in one week? Astronomical.

Get it?

And how about Alex Rodriguez’s 14 home runs in 18 games? Sammy Sosa has the record for home runs in a month with 20 in June of 1998, so we’re getting close to history here. Does anyone else sense Rodriguez could pull one of the coolest bits of irony this season? Shatter Bonds’ record the same season Barry knocks off Hank Aaron’s all-time title… Poetic justice if you ask me.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you all in a week or so.

Jamaal Gilbert is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Jamaal in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of jamastaballa.
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