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News-Herald Assistant Sports Editor Kevin Kleps doesn’t just write headlines and stories. He also checks on his fantasy sports teams. A lot. See if the moves and news from the world of sports affect your fantasy teams.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fantasy baseball: Start and sit for the postseason

It's the time of year for which fantasy freaks have been waiting.

What, you thought I meant football draft day?

We'll let the king of all fake sports sit idle for a couple days while we gear up for Week 23 of the baseball season, which usually marks the start of the playoffs.

Let's celebrate with a start and sit list, based mostly on players who were recently traded or returned from injuries or waivers.

All statistics are through Wednesday unless noted.

Start 'em

-- Scott Kazmir, SP, Angels: He lost his Angels debut on Wednesday, but through no fault of his own (6 1/3 innings, one run, eight strikeouts). He's 8-8 with a 5.68 ERA, but he strikes out a lot of batters (99 in 117 1/3 innings), he's now pitching for a team that leads all of baseball with a .288 batting average, and he is on pace to get two starts next week.

-- David Ortiz, DH, Boston: He's in another cold spell (3-for-18 with one RBI and five strikeouts in his last five games) and he's batting only .227 for the season, but consider the following power numbers. Since June 1, Big Papi has 21 homers and 61 RBI in 271 at-bats. He will get hot again, and I wouldn't want him on my bench when he does.

-- Jon Garland, SP, Dodgers: Another pitcher who should benefit from a trade to a better team, only in Garland's case, it's a much better team. He entered Thursday night's start against the Diamondbacks, his former team, under .500 at 8-11 with a 4.29 ERA. But he was 3-1 with a 3.89 ERA and an uncharacteristically high 26 strikeouts in 39 1/3 innings in August. He won't help you in the K department (figure only one per two innings), but he should start twice next week and is worth a chance in deeper leagues.

-- David Wright, 3B, Mets: Thursday was his third game back after a scary beaning incident. For some reason, his power has fallen off (eight homers after hitting a combined 89 the previous three seasons), but you know he will hit for a high average and steal an occasional base -- goofy new helmet and all.

-- Carlos Marmol, RP, Cubs: His new role -- closer -- seems to be the one he should have had all along. Since taking over for Kevin Gregg, he has four saves in as many opportunities the last two weeks. In those four save chances, Marmol threw four scoreless innings and struck out seven. In the last three years, he's fanned 286 batters in 219 innings, an average of 11.8 strikeouts per nine innings. All of which makes the Cubs' offseason choice of Gregg over Marmol all the more curious.

-- John Smoltz, SP, Cardinals: His two-game run of prosperity with the Cards ended Thursday, when he gave up four runs in six innings to the Brewers. Smoltz yielded only one run in 11 innings in his first two games with St. Louis, striking out 15 while walking only one. That was a stark contrast to his dog days in Boston -- 2-5, 8.33 ERA and 59 hits allowed in 40 innings. He's another two-start Week 23 possibility worth a look in deeper leagues in which you play more than five starting pitchers.

Sit 'em

-- Brad Penny, SP, Giants: He was great Wednesday in his Giants debut (eight shutout innings), but that shouldn't overshadow an August in which he was 0-3 with an 8.31 ERA in four games with Boston. Prior to signing with the Giants, he was 2-7 since the beginning of June, and he isn't a great source of strikeouts (91 in 139 2/3 innings this season).

-- Jim Thome, position unknown, Dodgers: Talk about a strange trade. The Dodgers -- pardon me for a moment while I state the obvious -- wouldn't be able to use a DH until the World Series, yet they acquired an American League slugger who hasn't played the field regularly since 2004. Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said Thome "will be used exclusively as a power bat off the bench." Translation: We're going to kill the fantasy value of a player who has 23 homers and 74 RBI in 345 at-bats. If you're a James Loney owner, I would worry that Thome will steal at-bats from the 25-year-old regular first baseman every three days or so, especially since Loney is 22-for-98 (.224) since August.

-- Joba Chamberlain, SP, Yankees: The Joba Rules must include a line that reads: "Like Mike Shanahan in football, we hope to drive as many fantasy owners nuts as possible." Chamberlain threw all of 35 pitches in three innings before being pulled Sunday, this after he was started on regular rest, after the Yankees initially stated he would be held out longer. In his last two starts, Chamberlain has thrown a combined seven innings, and he hasn't tossed more than 96 pitches in his last three contests. He's barely averaging more than five innings per start for the season, and with the Yankees' conservative nature with the 23-year-old, he should only be used in very big leagues in which you can still play him at reliever.

-- Alfonso Soriano, OF, Cubs: He had a cortisone shot in his bothersome left knee Sunday, and he returned to the lineup Thursday after sitting Wednesday. Regardless, he no longer is much of a stolen-base threat (nine in 116 games), and he's batting only .243 with a .732 OPS.

-- Adrian Beltre, 3B, Mariners:
He was activated from the disabled list Tuesday after, um, a testicle injury, and is 0-for-7 since returning. His season numbers aren't much better: .270, five homers, 32 RBI, 10 steals and a .674 OPS in 345 at-bats. Unless you really need a third baseman, Beltre should remain on your bench.

-- Jose Guillen, OF, Royals: This one might be more obvious than the Dodgers/DH reference. Guillen returned from the disabled list this week, only to have his knee brace cause tightness in his hamstring, forcing him to leave Wednesday's game. He's a decent source of power who is available in most leagues (nine homers and 40 RBI in 281 at-bats), but he's also a .242 hitter with a .681 OPS.

-- Nate McLouth, OF, Braves: This decision is much more difficult than Guillen. McLouth, who has already had a setback in his rehab from a hamstring injury, was expected to play in a Class A game Thursday and hopes to rejoin the Braves this weekend. He's a decent power hitter (15 homers and 56 RBI in 395 at-bats) who steals bases (17). But his average is below average (.258), and I'd be hesitant to put him in my lineup for the postseason and then have him get shut down again.

Coming Friday: One final Pick Three for the baseball season.

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