Fantasy Fever: The Men of Steal From image

Fantasy Fever: The Lost Art of Stealing

Stolen bases are a hot commodity in Fantasy Baseball
By Joel Beall,
June 22nd, 2010

In the film "Major League," arguably our culture's finest cinematic achievement since "Casablanca," the character Willie Mays Hayes exclaims he had purchased 100 pairs of gloves before the onset of the season, one for each bag he was going to rob. Although the statement meant to illustrate Hayes' cockiness, such a proclamation was feasible in the movie's time frame (which was 1989 for those of you keeping score at home). However, in 2010, a player making a decree of this nature is grounds for entry into an insane asylum.

Since the movie's inception, the art of the stolen base has been forgotten. In fact, take a look at these benchmark MLB team averages from the past 20 years:

Tricky Ricky

Ricky Henderson
1988: 127 SBs 1993: 117 SBs 1998: 109 SBs 2003: 86 SBs 2009: 99 SBs

How the Lou Brock did teams suddenly start averaging 40 less steals a season? One theory is managers became conservative, letting only their track stars run wild on the base paths. Another speculation is that speed in general is lacking in the game, in the sense that faster athletes are now choosing other sports such as football rather than America's pastime. But the main culprit for the vanishing of variations of Vince Coleman? Players that looked like this suddenly transformed into this.

Many think steroids ruined and stained baseball's sacred home run records (as well as the kidneys and testicles of 30% of baseball players in the '90s). But one would have to be obtuse to not concede the correlation between juicing and stolen bases. It's no surprise that during the pinnacle of steroid era (2003, a year when Javy freakin' Lopez hit 43 HRs) teams averaged just 86 steals a season. And consequently, now that steroids are (allegedly) finding their way out of baseball, swipes have returned to the landscape and fabric of the game.

How does this pertain to fantasy? Because now that running is becoming prevalent once again, stolen bases are a rare commodity. In 2009, the differential between home run leader Albert Pujols and 10th place finisher Jason Bay was relatively miniscule (47 HRs to 36) compared to the discrepancy between stolen base king Jacoby Ellsbury and Jimmy Rollins, who manned the 10th spot (70 SBs to 31).

Many fantasy users tend to value HRs and RBIs as the most imperative offensive statistics in the league. However, you can find players who will acquire these figures with ease, while speed demons are few and far between. Additionally, stolen base leaders have an association with higher run totals, meaning you'll be getting two for the price of one. Thus, if you find yourself lacking in the SB category, give up one of your power hitters in exchange for a road runner. Odds are the trade will come out in your favor.

Wandy Rodriguez

Start 'em: Josh Johnson, Marlins. After an initial rough start to the season, Johnson is showcasing why Florida rewarded him with a new contract. In his last seven outings, Johnson has a 0.54 ERA with 44 Ks in 50 innings.

Sit 'em: Wandy Rodriquez, Astros. Wandy's last two outings: 8 IP, 14 ER, and 9 BB, bringing Rodriquez's ERA on the season to 6.09. And you wonder why Roy Oswalt wants the hell out of Houston.

Fantasy Flashback: 1913 Walter Johnson. Nice year for "the Big Train" in 1913: 36 wins, 11 shutouts, 1.14 ERA, 0.78 WHIP, and a ridiculous 6.39 SO/BB ratio on the way to winning MVP honors. In a related note, the list of prominent athletes with a variation of "Train" in their nickname is long and distinguished (Dick "Night Train" Lane, Artis "A-Train" Gilmore, "The Big Train" Walter Johnson). Keeping this in mind, how did "D-Train" Dontrelle Willis become a burnout? Usually this moniker is destined for greatness, yet the two-time All Star was shipped to Arizona after winning just two games in Detroit since 2008. Attaway to piss on greatness, Willis. I propose switching his handle to "D-Caboose."

Waiver Wire Watch: Jonathon Niese, Mets. In his last three starts, Niese is sporting a 1.57 ERA in 23 innings of work. Niese is owned in just 17-percent of leagues, so pick him up if you have the chance.

Jon Niese

Rookie Review: Carlos Santana, Indians. In his first nine games, Santana is hitting .393 to go along with an absurd .514 on-base percentage. Santana has been identified as Cleveland's catcher of the future, meaning he should be traded within the next two or three years.

This week in Jonathon Broxton: Bizarre week for Broxton, as his services were only called upon once...only to surrender the game-winning hit in Boston. Just goes to show you that even Broxton is human. But only slightly.

Trade Talk: If you have Robinson Cano on your team, ship him out ASAP. Sure, he might be raking (.365 BA, 14 HR, 49 RBI), but he allegedly met Lady Gaga in the clubhouse last Friday after a Yankee lost. That encounter can bring nothing but bad news to New York fans and Cano owners. And maybe my pop culture acumen is off, but isn't Lady Gaga the reincarnation of Madonna, only less attractive and not as talented? I just don't understand this crazy, crazy world sometimes.

Big League Chew Player of the Week: Matt Holliday, Cardinals. In a recent series with Oakland, Holiday went 8-for-12 with 4 jacks and 8 runs batted in. Although his average had been solid thus far in 2010, Holiday entered the weekend with only 6 homers on the year. Not exactly the type of productive a team hopes out of a $120 million acquisition.

Spit Your Tobacco At: Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals. Welcome to the Golden Sombrero Club, Mr. Zimmerman. The Nationals 3rd basemen "achieved" this feat last Saturday against White Sox ace Jake Peavy. Worse, Zimmerman is mirrored in a 2-for-23 slump. Zimmerman is still batting .283 on the season with 13 HRs.

That's it for today. Your "Dumb and Dumber" Quote of the Week:

Harry: Yeah I called her up. She gave me a bunch of crap about me not listening to her, or something. I don't know, I wasn't really paying attention.

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