Bahai News -- Buffalo News - Pujols, Hudson, Gagne posted sweet numbers FANTASY

Pujols, Hudson, Gagne posted sweet numbers

8/31/2003

By TOM BORRELLI

The rest of the posse arrives on Monday.

Major league teams can expand their active rosters from 25 to 40 with plenty of arms available for the stretch run.

Now's the time to hand out a few pre-recall fantasy baseball awards for 2003:

Most valuable player: Albert Pujols of the St. Louis Cardinals has been even more valuable than San Francisco's walk-happy Barry Bonds. Triple Crown candidate, owner of a 30-game hitting streak, and the most consistent hitter in the game, Pujols has batted .329 or better each month; .368 before the All-Star break and .359 since; .387 at home and .344 on the road. If he were a bit faster, he'd be a legitimate candidate to hit .400.

Most valuable pitcher: Oakland's Tim Hudson compiled a 3.67 earned run average in April and was hurt by the Athletics bullpen's inability to preserve leads for him early on. But he's had a winning record in each month and really turned things around in July and August, compiling a 7-1 record and 1.42 ERA. Opposing hitters have a .175 batting average against Hudson after the third inning.

Most valuable relief pitcher: The closest fantasy race of the year, pitting Los Angeles' Eric Gagne against Atlanta's John Smoltz. Both have been nearly perfect but the edge goes to Gagne, who hasn't blown a save opportunity all season and is usually called upon to make more difficult saves than Smoltz.

Biggest injury flop: This award should be permanently named for Ken Griffey Jr. His Cincinnati homecoming, now 4 years old, has been about as comfortable as a canker sore. Since coming to the Reds from Seattle in a four-for-one trade in February 2000, Griffey has been a part-time player. By the end of the year he'll have missed 201 of 324 Reds games the last two seasons. Griffey was batting .247 with 13 homers and 26 RBIs in 53 games before he was injured. He was jeered from the stands when he dislocated his shoulder while trying to make a diving catch at home on April 5. He got booed when he limped off the field July 17 after tearing a tendon in his right ankle while running the bases. The honeymoon is clearly over in Great American Ballpark.

Biggest batting disappointments: Plenty of candidates here, mostly National League outfielders. Philadelphia's Pat Burrell, who had 37 homers and 116 RBIs in 2002, is on pace for 24 and 69 this year. Consolation honors to the Padres' Brian Giles and Cincinnati's Adam Dunn. Giles, who averaged 37.3 homers and 109 RBIs in four years from 1999 through 2002, is no longer even the best fantasy player in his own family. His brother, Marcus Giles, has been far more valuable as a second baseman with the Atlanta Braves. Brian Giles is on pace to hit 19 homers and knock in 85 runs after being ranked among the premier fantasy outfield picks before the season started. The highlight of his year was being dealt from one horrible team, Pittsburgh, to another, San Diego. With Dunn, we all should have seen this coming when he batted .190 during the second half of '02. His .215 average this year with 126 strikeouts in 381 at-bats makes us all remember Rob Deer.

Biggest pitching disappointment: From 55-27 over his last three years as an Atlanta Brave to under .500 for the New York Mets' Tom Glavine. Hey, money can't buy happiness.

Most pleasant hitting surprise: Toronto outfielder Vernon Wells was certainly no bum last year with 23 homers and 100 RBIs. He matched last season's homer total on July 10, last year's RBI total on Aug. 11, is on pace for 36 HRs and 124 RBIs and, along with first baseman Carlos Delgado, forms one of the sport's most potent 1-2 power punches. Honorable mention to Rockies outfielder Preston Wilson, who, like most hitters, loves the thin air at Denver's Coors Field. Wilson is on pace for 38 homers and 151 RBIs, which would better his total from the last two seasons combined (136).

Most pleasant pitching surprise: Montreal's Livan Hernandez seemed washed up in his last two seasons with San Francisco, going 12-16, 4.37 last year and 13-15, 5.25 in '01. He won 14 of his first 21 decisions as an Expo, with a terrific 2.88 ERA.

Comeback kids: On the mound, the Dodgers' Kevin Brown, limited to a 3-4 record and 4.81 ERA because of injuries last season, is back and one of the sport's most dominant hurlers at 13-7, 2.26. In the field, even though Milwaukee outfielder Geoff Jenkins' season ended Thursday because of a thumb injury, he came all the way back from last year's horrific ankle injury to hit .296 with 28 homers and 95 RBIs in 124 games.

Under the radar: Tampa Bay's Aubrey Huff is on pace for 30 homers and 100 RBIs, and hitting .312. He led the majors with 103 hits after the All-Star break last year and should be regarded as an elite fantasy player.

See you in September: San Diego shortstop prospect Khalil Greene, whose first name means "gift of God" in his Baha'i faith, hit .287 with 34 doubles, 13 homers and 66 RBIs between Class AA Mobile and Class AAA Portland. Greene, who played at Clemson, won the Golden Spikes Award as the nation's top amateur player last year. In four seasons with the Tigers, he batted .377 with 52 homers, 276 RBIs and 57 stolen bases.

These two are safe

Following a column about the fantasy implications of Pete Rose's 1978 chase of Joe DiMaggio's record 56-game hitting streak, e-mailers were curious as to which baseball record was the most unbreakable, the Yankee Clipper's or Cal Ripken Jr.'s ironman streak of 2,632 consecutive games.

My answer is neither.

The individual record most unapproachable is for consecutive no-hitters. Cincinnati's rookie left-hander Johnny Vander Meer, who compiled a 119-121 career record, no-hit the Boston Braves on June 11, 1938 at Crosley Field and the Brooklyn Dodgers four days later in the first night game ever at Ebbets Field.

Only four other pitchers have pitched two no-hitters in the same season - Allie Reynolds of the New York Yankees (in 1951), Virgil Trucks of the Detroit Tigers (1952), Jim Maloney of the Reds (1965) and Nolan Ryan of the California Angels (1973).

Just five pitchers in history have as many as three career no-hitters - Ryan (7), Sandy Koufax (4) and Larry Corcoran, Bob Feller and Cy Young (all with 3).

Young holds the record for most consecutive hitless innings with 23, a 1904 span that includes a perfect game. Vander Meer holds the National League mark with 21, which includes three innings of a start on June 19, 1948, after he had pitched the back-to-back no-hitters.

Vander Meer allowed the Braves three hits in a 14-1 victory that day, giving him the record for fewest hits yielded in three consecutive complete games. The American League record is five.

No one has ever pitched three consecutive one-hitters and only nine have authored two straight one-hitters, the last being Toronto's Dave Stieb in 1988.

So forget about it. The prospect of three consecutive no-hitters is unfathomable.

The team record most unlikely to fall is most triple plays in one game. The Minnesota Twins turned two against the Boston Red Sox on July 17, 1990, and in identical 5-4-3 fashion (third baseman Gary Gaetti to second baseman Al Newman to first baseman Kent Hrbek).

It's the only time in history there has been more than one triple play by both teams in a game.

No team has ever turned more than three triple plays in a season. And only once in history has a team turned triple plays in consecutive games.

On thin ice

Believe it or not, the fantasy hockey guides have hit the newsstands. A consensus of the statistical projections made by the Sports Forecaster, Sporting News Hockey and the Hockey News Ultimate Fantasy Guide:

Top 10 scorers: 1-Peter Forsberg, Colorado (102.3 points), 2-Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh (99.3), 3-Joe Thornton, Boston (97.3), 4-Todd Bertuzzi, Vancouver (96.7), 5-Jaromir Jagr, Washington and Markus Naslund, Vancouver (96), 7-Dany Heatley, Atlanta (91.7), 8-Joe Sakic, Colorado (89.7), 9-Paul Kariya, Colorado (85.7), 10-Jason Allison, Los Angeles (85).

Top Buffalo Sabre: Miroslav Satan (73.3). Top defenseman: Sergei Gonchar, Washington (66). Top goaltender: Martin Brodeur, New Jersey.

Football means Fridays

The National Football League season kicks off Thursday night and that means it's again time for this column to move from Sundays to the Football Friday page, beginning this week.


e-mail: tborrelli@buffnews.com

©Copyright 2003, Buffalo News (NY, USA)

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