Toronto beats Boston 6-1 to sweep Red Sox (Yahoo Sports) - BOSTON (AP) -- Mark Buehrle pitched 6 2-3 innings to earn his first win in almost two months and Dioner Navarro had three hits and three RBIs to lead the Toronto Blue Jays to their fifth consecutive victory, a 6-1 win over the slumping Boston Red Sox. Kluber outpitches Hernandez in 2-0 win (Yahoo Sports) - Corey Kluber had three-hitter to outpitch Felix Hernandez for his first career shutout, Yan Gomes had a two-run double and the Cleveland Indians beat the Seattle Mariners 2-0 on Wednesday night. Kluber (11-6) held the Mariners to three singles and no walks while striking out eight. Hernandez (11-3) didn't allow a base runner until Carlos Santana drew a leadoff walk in the fifth. Hernandez, who gave up four hits, was pulled after the seventh. Stern sees Sterling saga ending well, lauds Silver (Yahoo Sports) - NEW YORK (AP) -- Former Commissioner David Stern praised the NBA's handling of the Donald Sterling controversy and predicts it will ''end well'' for the league. Riley speaks out, insists Heat will be competitive (Yahoo Sports) - One of the last things Miami Heat President Pat Riley told LeBron James before free agency began this summer was that he would be selling potential players on the notion of playing alongside a four-time NBA MVP. Riley made that revelation Wednesday, shortly after the Heat completed the signing of Chris Bosh to a $118 million, five-year contract and essentially wrapped up their roster-rebuilding project for next season, the first of the post-LeBron era in Miami. The Heat have 12 players locked in for next season, Bosh and Dwyane Wade foremost among them, and Riley expects the four-time defending Eastern Conference champions to compete once again this coming year. James is now back with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team that he left for Miami in 2010, four trips to the NBA Finals and two championships ago. England pair win gymnastics golds - England's Max Whitlock and Claudia Fragapane both win their second gold medals in Glasgow in the all-around competitions. VIDEO: Katoatau dances to weightlifting gold - David Katoatau wins Kiribati's first ever Commonwealth Games gold medal by finishing first in the men's 105kg weightlifting, and dancing with delight in celebration at Glasgow 2014. Southampton sign Bertrand on loan - Chelsea left-back Ryan Bertrand joins fellow Premier League side Southampton on a season-long loan. England win last-gasp diving gold - Alicia Blagg and Rebecca Gallantree win England's second gold medal on the opening day of diving at Glasgow 2014. England claim two diving golds - Alicia Blagg and Rebecca Gallantree win England's second gold medal on the opening day of diving at Glasgow 2014. Legia Warsaw 4-1 Celtic -

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Closing Time: Sympathy for the Friars [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 30, 2014, 4:19 pm]
At first glance, there isn't much going on with the 2014 San Diego Padres. They're 12 games under .500, nowhere near contention in the National League. They're last in the majors in runs, no matter how you want to slice it up (home, away, total). They currently don't have a general manager. You wonder why The Chicken cries himself to sleep every night. But even the mediocre clubs have something to contribute in our fantasy racket, so here's some sympathy for the Friars. Yangervis Solarte might turn into a fun player in San Diego. He came to Bordertown in the Chase Headley deal, and Bud Black uses him at the top of the order (second or third). Solarte covers three infield positions (everything but first base) and he has a little pop (eight homers in 280 at-bats). He's 8-for-28 with two homers since the trade. The position flexibility is especially handy in leagues that have short benches or low transaction caps. In that type of format, a rover is a beautiful thing. What's not to love about the Brock Holts of the world? Solarte is free to grab in 85 percent of Yahoo leagues.   Fantasy owners have been a little slow on the grab for Joaquin Benoit, the veteran reliever. After half a season of excellent set-up work (1.88 ERA, 0.84 WHIP, 51 strikeouts), Benoit recently stepped into the closing role, taking over for the departed Huston Street. It doesn't look like Benoit will be shipped out of town at the deadline, and his handshakes are just as good as anyone else's. He's already collected three saves, and he's still free in 56 percent of The Y. The Jesse Hahn story has been a blast from day one: six wins, 2.12 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, delicious curveball. The Rays can't believe they let this kid go. Alas, Hahn is unlikely to complete the season - the Padres obviously are looking towards the future and they don't want Hahn to throw too many innings. Black mentioned 5-10 more starts for Hahn, earlier this week, obviously a vague number. My guess: Hahn sits the final three weeks ou

RB Primer: Gerhart, others could help reestablish position's superiority [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 30, 2014, 4:17 pm]
VIEW OUR FULL RB RANKS HERE  Immense wealth. Opulence. Excess. The Gilded Age, for a select few, represented it all. Ruled often by ruthless tycoons, it was a time of unprecedented industrial expansion. Icons Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller made money hand-over-first in steel, rail and oil fattening not only their wallets but also their investors. Their innovation raised the bar and established the United States as a world financial power. For the one-percenters, faces were firmly planted in the lap of luxury. Then Teddy Roosevelt shut the party down.   When he ascended to the presidency in 1901, the exuberant politician, a naturalist and torchbearer for the American worker, entered the highest office wiedling an axe. His mission: To chop the immense power of monopolistic big businesses. During his two terms, trusts were busted, labor was organized and corporate abuses curtailed. The “Bull Moose” ruled the day … Over 100 years later, fantasy running backs have undergone a similar makeover. Not long ago Marshall Faulk, Shaun Alexander and LaDainian Tomlinson were the financiers of the virtual game. Week in and week out, they conquered the meek with large workloads, high yardage totals and numerous touchdowns. In terms of overall impact, quarterbacks and wide receivers paled by comparison. No surprise, we fantasy guys worshiped them, naming our teams, dogs, first borns after them.  Man, those were the days. [Smack talk season is back at Yahoo Sports: Sign up and play free Fantasy Football!] Unlike what happened to industrial giants in the early 20th century, it wasn’t a single individual that changed the course of history. Rather, it was a collaborative idea almost universally accepted by NFL coaches that crippled the position, the dreaded running back by committee. RBBC is a term that rattles any drafter to the bone. It makes eyes squint, palms sweat and stomachs queasy. It also greatly complicates RB values. Air-heavy offenses became

Mostly MLB Notes: Talking Corey Dickerson and a look around the league [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 30, 2014, 5:05 am]
I drafted Corey Dickerson in multiple leagues and stupidly dropped him in all after he totaled 30 at bats through April (the lesson, as always, is I’m an idiot). Since May 31 (this isn’t so much an arbitrary endpoint as it is when Dickerson finally became a full time player), he’s been a top-25 fantasy asset, one spot ahead of Miguel Cabrera (despite playing in six fewer games). If you prorate his numbers during that timeframe over a full season, you’d get this line: .319-96-29-96-22. If he qualified, Dickerson’s .978 OPS would rank third best in all of baseball. His .292/.361/.500 line away from Coors Field is also strong. There’s no timetable for Michael Cuddyer’s return, but it’s hard to see Dickerson not remaining an everyday player either way. Coors Field helps of course (and benefits fantasy owners immensely), but even if you want to strip that out, Dickerson’s 155 wRC+ would rank in the top-10, so he sure looks legit. I’ll be drafting him aggressively next year (and hopefully won’t prematurely drop him). This “Little League Home Run” thanks to Ryan Raburn is as extreme as you’ll ever see.  Here’s your average 1-6 putout.  Here’s Josh Harrison doing work during a rundown.  Here’s Aroldis Chapman hitting 104 mph.  Everyone knows Ryan Howard has one of the worst contracts in all of baseball, but in fantasy terms, he actually hasn’t been that bad, as he currently ranks just below players such as David Wright and Buster Posey while ahead of Elvis Andrus, Jordan Zimmermann and Stephen Strasburg, as he’s on pace to finish with 25 homers and 95 RBI despite batting .222/.305/.377 (thanks to coming to the plate with the most runners on base this season). But the Phillies may be coming to their senses, threatening to bench a first baseman who currently sports a .682 OPS while playing in a home park that has increased home runs by left handed batters 17 percent over the past three seasons (he’s also terrible defensively and on

Closing Time: Does Neftali Feliz make the cut? [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 29, 2014, 3:46 pm]
Generally speaking, we don't look for much in our search for fantasy-relevant closers. We want someone with the closing baton, the unblocked path to the ninth. We look for someone who can record three outs without being spooked, someone with ratios that won't torch our bottom line. There's a low barrier to entry here. Those modest parameters established, can we trust Neftali Feliz in Texas? I'm not sure. Feliz picked up the closing gig last week, when the Rangers shipped Joakim Soria to Detroit (where, interestingly enough, Soria is not closing). Feliz converted a pair of saves over the last four days; he dodged two baserunners in a weekend win over Oakland, and he had a clean landing Monday against New York (three infield outs: Ellsbury, Gardner, Jeter). The issue isn't so much what Feliz is doing, it's how he's doing it. He used to throw in the mid-90s during his best Texas days; his 2014 fastball clocks in at an ordinary 92.3 mph. He's logged a modest 17 MLB innings since his Tommy John surgery two years back. Although his small-sample ratios are fine this year (2.19 ERA, 0.81 WHIP), he's not collecting many strikeouts (just four). At least his swinging-strike rate is still in a repectable (though not dominant) area, an even 10 percent.  Feliz's Yahoo ownership sits at 43 percent, a tame number given the Rangers clearly endorsed him as the ninth-inning man. Some of the reluctance makes sense - Texas has a crummy ballclub this year and the team will be careful with his workload (this might come into play if the Rangers have a run of save chances on consecutive days). And that low K/9 rate gets your suspicions raised, I understand.  I added Feliz in a couple of leagues last week, simply because closers have value in most pools. I wouldn't mind a quick flip if something becomes available, not that I foresee a market for him. Can you find a market for the new closer? Or are you tentively holding like I am? Say your piece in the comments. • Let's give a hand to T

Monday Mini-Mock: Backup Backs [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 28, 2014, 5:36 pm]
So here's how this works. Each Monday, the Yahoo fantasy crew jumps on a conference call to discuss the week that was/will be. As part of this process, we've decided to include a short mock draft - roughly, one-eighth the size of a normal draft, I shall call it mini mock. This week's mini mock draft (five rounds) is an exploration of the backup running back pool. We've asked our Yahoo experts to each draft five running backs that are not currently expected to be their teams' featured back (using Rotoworld depth charts as our guide). Be it because of talent, opportunity, or both, these are the real-life backup backs that could ascend to fantasy prominence in '14. [Get in the game with Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Football] Round 1 Pick 1 — Joique Bell, DET (Brad Evans) Evans says – I'm not sure the Wisconsin rookie isn't already the most talented back on the Pats' depth chart. He's made plenty of noise in camp, too. He'll carve out an early-season role, no doubt. Round 4 Pick 1 — Danny Woodhead, SDG  (Behrens) Behrens says – If the Rams were so in love with Zac Stacy, why take Mason? I suspect this will be a 60-40 timeshare during the year, and Stacy's just a boring straight-line runner, anyway. Round 5 Pick 4 — Lance Dunbar, DAL (Funston) Funston says – The Cowboys loves his versatility and he could end up carving out a role similar to what Joique Bell enjoyed in Detoit under OC Scott Linehan, who is now in Dallas. Round 5 Pick 5 — LeGarrette Blount, PIT  (Behrens) Behrens says – You can't convince me Blount won't have a role this season. He's been an extremely productive back in two different NFL stops, and he's backing up a second-year player who averaged just 3.5 YPC last season.  

All-Rodney Dangerfield: No respect for Romo is downright baffling [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 27, 2014, 9:12 pm]
Pads cracking, helmets smashing, coaches yelling – football season has finally returned. For your team, I Pitta the Fool, the dawn of a new season brings renewed optimism and another chance. Last year didn’t go exactly as planned. Dismantled by injuries and Trent Richardson’s unbearable suckiness, ‘Fool’ was essentially the Houston Texans of your hometown league. Week in and week out, you fielded a ragtag group of boobs that were steamrolled regularly by the competition. If only you would’ve gone the extra dollar on Peyton Manning in August. Damn that Derek. Damn him. His undercutting ranked right up there with the time he ‘borrowed’ your Sega CD copy of Bill Walsh College Football only to trade it for five packs of Gobstoppers and a gallon of Mountain Dew. Vengeance will be yours. Ohhh yes, vengeance will be yours. *Maniacal Laugh* [Smack talk season is back at Yahoo Sports: Sign up and play free Fantasy Football!] With training camps in full swing many in the fantasy community are prepping for the single greatest event of the year – draft day. It’s bigger than birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas and even National Doughnut Day. Cheat sheets are being compiled. Highlighters are brightening deep sleepers. Work is being shirked. Every aspiring fantasy player is after one thing and one thing only, bragging rights. To assist you in your quest for domination, below are six undervalued commodities garnering little respect worth going the extra mile to acquire. Here is this year’s All-Rodney Dangerfield Team: Tony Romo, Dal, QB (Yahoo ADP: 86.9, Calculator ADP: 99.1, Mean: 93.0) It’s rather amazing how the passer’s well-documented late-game meltdowns and mishaps, which generally have little to no impact on his actual fantasy worth, have influenced his ADP. It’s the only explanation why he continues to get passed over in early drafts. For those who choose to exercise patience at QB this year, the ‘tarnished’ star is THE player to target. Heâ€

Starting Pitcher Shuffle Up: Julio Teheran makes the leap [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 26, 2014, 2:00 pm]
Here's the latest Shuffle Up from the mound, the starting pitchers. This is the big one. Marinate over the prices. I'll do the same, then add some comments (and move a few ranks) later in the day.  What's happened to this point is an audition, only. We're trying to figure out how to rank the players going forward. Assume a 5x5 scoring system, and players at the same cost are considered even. And remember the golden rule – a player doesn't gain 15-20 percent of bonus value simply because he's on your roster. I didn't bother ranking any injured pitchers in this edition. Bluntly put, I have very little faith in any of them for the balance of 2014. They're worth whatever you want them to be, but I'm not trading for them. To the checkout line.   $31 Clayton Kershaw$30 Felix Hernandez$29 Chris Sale$27 Yu Darvish$27 David Price$25 Adam Wainwright$25 Johnny Cueto$24 Zack Greinke$24 Corey Kluber$24 Max Scherzer$23 Madison Bumgarner$23 Cole Hamels$23 Julio Teheran$22 Anibal Sanchez$21 Stephen Strasburg$20 Sonny Gray$20 Hisashi Iwakuma$20 Jon Lester$19 Scott Kazmir$19 Jordan Zimmermann$19 Doug Fister$18 Jeff Samardzija$17 Alex Cobb$17 Jered Weaver$17 Mat Latos$17 Cliff Lee$17 Tyson Ross$17 Garrett Richards$15 James Shields$15 Jake Arrieta$14 Hyun-Jin Ryu$13 Kyle Lohse$13 Gio Gonzalez$13 Homer Bailey$12 Josh Beckett$12 Ian Kennedy$11 Tim Hudson$11 Wily Peralta$11 John Lackey$11 Lance Lynn$11 Ervin Santana$11 Jose Quintana$11 Yovani Gallardo$11 Alex Wood$11 Marcus Stroman$11 Jason Hammel$10 Dallas Keuchel$10 Zack Wheeler$10 Chris Archer$10 Jesse Hahn$10 Justin Verlander$10 Jon Niese$10 Jacob deGrom$10 Jake Odorizzi$9 Mike Minor$9 Rick Porcello$9 Alfredo Simon$9 Tim Lincecum$8 Phil Hughes$8 Yordano Ventura$8 Mike Leake$8 Matt Garza$7 Dan Haren$7 Jesse Chavez$7 Danny Duffy$7 Charlie Morton$6 Drew Smyly$6 Kevin Gausman$6 Tanner Roark$6 Henderson Alvarez$6 Bartolo Colon$5 Nathan Eovaldi$5 Carlos Martinez$5 Rubby De La Rosa$5 Odrisamer Despaigne$5 Dillon Gee$4 Trevor Bauer$4 Bud

Spin Doctors: Cordarrelle Patterson vs. Percy Harvin vs. Michael Crabtree [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 25, 2014, 4:58 pm]
If you look at the Yahoo fantasy wide receiver rankings, you'll find three players (Cordarrelle Patterson, Percy Harvin and Michael Crabtree) bunched together, fighting for the final spots in our top 20. For different reasons (either injury or lack of playing time), all three players offered up incomplete '13 campaigns. As the '14 season approaches, each of these players looks poised to be full season, go-to options for their respective teams. And Yahoos Brad Evans, Dalton Del Don and myself have a difference of opinion when it comes to who we feel is going to best take advantage of their situation.  It's time to fire up the Spin machine and let the doctors debate the merits of this trio ...  [ Smack talk season is back at Yahoo Sports: Sign up and play free Fantasy Football!] Funston goes on a Viking quest: As a Seattle-area native and a card-carrying member of the 12th man, you might expect me to be backing Percy Harvin in this exercise. But I know full well how conservative that Seattle offense can be, thanks to arguably the best defense in the league. Frankly, it's the same scenario in San Francisco. The Seahawks and 49ers finished neck-and-neck at the bottom of the league in pass attempts, more than 50 pass attempts behind the next lowest team. And they faced each in the NFC Championship game, so don't count on the offensive script changing a whole lot for either team. Cordarrelle Patterson stands apart from the other two when it comes to team environment. The Vikings, in fantasy, have ideal circumstances, as their defense yielded an NFL-high 30 points per game last season. There will be a far greater need to huck the rock in Minnesota than there will be in Seattle or San Fran. With that advantage comes Vikings offensive coordinator Norv Turner, who made Josh Gordon, similar to Cordarrelle Patterson on the physical freak scale, the top fantasy wideout in '13. Turner got to work designing/installing new plays for Patterson as soon as he was hired last winter.

Closing Time: Marcus Stroman is here, entertain him [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 25, 2014, 4:36 pm]
Marucs Stroman is owned in just 35 percent of Yahoo leagues? Come on, guys. You're better than that. When Stroman first got the call to the YYZ, back in May, the club wanted to use him in the bullpen. A handful of blowups ensued, and Stroman returned to his dominating ways in the minors. Since the subsequent recall, Stroman has been ridiculous: 2.21 ERA, 8.1 K/9, 3.93 K/BB, even a snappy 5-2 record. The only bad start in that run came in Anaheim, and we'll float him a pass for that - the Angels are the No. 2 offense in the majors, after all. The hiccup didn't bother Stroman much - he hasn't allowed a run over his last two turns, covering 14 innings (5 H, 2 BB, 12 K). The Red Sox scored 21 runs in the first three games in Toronto this week, but they ran into the Stroman buzz saw Thursday (seven one-hit innings). Here's some scouting video for you. I have no concerns using the rookie in the Fenway Park rematch, and after that he draws the swing-and-miss Astros. Good work if you can get it. • I still don't have much long-term faith in Joe Nathan, but his best outing of the year came at the perfect time. With Joakim Soria looking on, Nathan had no trouble with the Angels on Thursday - three strikeouts, 12 pitches. Where did that come from? To be fair, Nathan has been better in July: seven scoreless outings out of eight, three walks against 12 strikeouts. But the one misstep was a messy three-run outing against Cleveland, probably the straw that broke Dave Dombrowski's back. Nathan still holds the closing baton in Detroit, but he can't be working with much of a leash. If he has two bad outings in close proximity, we're likely looking at Soria Time. • Although it didn't result in a win, Corey Kluber probably had the best pitching performance from Thursday (9 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 10 K). The Royals scored one cheesy unearned run, born from the carnival that is Ryan Raburn, outfielder. I saw enough of those shenanigans in Detroit. Kluber wasn't on his game back in

Juggernaut Index, No. 21: The New York Giants [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 24, 2014, 10:47 pm]
"I think our offense is broken right now," said John Mara, Giants co-owner, at the conclusion of his team's miserable 2013 campaign. Soon after, longtime offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride stepped down. Within two weeks, he was replaced by former Green Bay assistant Ben McAdoo. Free agent receiver Hakeem Nicks left for Indianapolis, signing a low-dollar one-year deal following a remarkably poor final season in New York. Running back Andre Brown moved on, as did tight end Brandon Myers. The Giants are also rebuilding an offensive line that did nothing well a year ago — the new line is still a big question mark, but at least it's not the old line. One fixture that remains, of course, is quarterback Eli Manning, an accomplished player coming off the worst season of his career. In fact, Eli's 2013 would have been the worst season of almost any quarterback's career — it was a turnover-filled disaster. He threw three or more interceptions in five different games, ultimately finishing with 27 picks. That was the league's highest interception total since 2005. Manning also fumbled seven times, absorbed 39 sacks, completed just 57.5 percent of his passes and delivered a career-low passer rating of 69.4. [Smack talk season is back at Yahoo Sports: Sign up and play free Fantasy Football!] Obviously not all of the negative plays were Eli's fault, but, well ... c'mon. Twenty-seven interceptions is a silly total. Manning has always had a reckless streak. He's never finished a full season with single-digit INTs, and he's thrown 20 or more picks three times. Of course when he's at his best, Eli is very, very good — like, 4,900-yards-and-a-Super-Bowl good. This dude reaches the extremes of performance like few players in the history of the NFL. Eli will come cheap on draft day (ADP 130.8), and he's certainly capable of re-emerging as a useful piece of a fantasy platoon. Honestly, you never know if you're going to catch Manning on a day when he feels like lobbing left-handed

TE Primer: Versatility key to maximizing scoring potential at tight end [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 24, 2014, 4:34 pm]
VIEW OUR FULL 2014 TE RANKS HERE  Weeks ago while you were out sunbathing on the beach, smoking brisket in the backyard or improbably attempting to complete the drinking around the world tour at Epcot, Jimmy Graham was on the verge of changing history. The Saints’ monster, who's humiliated defenses often in his four-year career, was engaged in a position designation battle for the ages. His claim: Due to his overwhelming usage out wide and in the slot, he was more wide receiver than tight end and deserved to be viewed, under a franchise tag, in a similar fashion as the Calvin Johnsons of the football world. Graham certainly had a point. [Smack talk season is back at Yahoo Sports: Sign up and play free Fantasy Football!] On the 721 snaps he logged in 2013, the multipurpose monster lined up wide or in the slot a whopping 80 percent of the time. Unfortunately, for Graham, an independent arbitrator ruled against him. The conclusion: Since the majority of his alignments were within four yards of the line of scrimmage (70 percent in ’13) he was disqualified from being a wide receiver. Using that ‘logic’ Wes Welker, who stood up in the slot on 84.4 percent of snaps a season ago, shouldn’t be thought of as a WR either. Instead maybe receivers of a similar ilk should be called 'underneath safety valves' or 'magical short-field fairies.' Though Graham won’t receive WR eligibility anytime soon, analyzing the same data that influenced the judge’s decision can be beneficial to your virtual squad. Take a look at the chart below: In what shouldn’t come as a surprise, generally speaking, the more multidimensional a tight end is, the more fantasy scoring potential he possesses. Among plus-sized targets that ranked inside the top-12 in per game average last year (excluding now retired Tony Gonzalez and TEs who played 6 or fewer games) only Julius Thomas, Vernon Davis and Garrett Graham recorded the majority of their snaps in-line (55 percent, 51 percent and 70 per

Closing Time: Joakim Soria moves to Detroit; Neftali Feliz gets his chance [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 24, 2014, 8:35 am]
It's not difficult to unscramble the 2014 Detroit Tigers. They're a good hitting club with a big-name rotation and a horrible bullpen (4.37 ERA). You love watching them hit. You flinch when they try to close out games.  Okay, they're working on that last part. General Manager Dave Dombrowski knew he needed additions for the back end, so he made a splashy trade Wednesday evening. The Tigers shipped two promising young pitchers, Jake Thompson and Corey Knebel, to Texas. In return, Detroit acquired veteran reliever Joakim Soria. The deal becomes official when all three players pass their physicals.  It's a logical win-now move for the Tigers, adding a shutdown reliever like Soria (2.70 ERA, 0.87 WHIP, 10.5 K/BB, 17-for-19 on saves). His fantasy owners might be less than thrilled, however. Dombrowski told Jason Beck of MLB.com that Joe Nathan will remain the Detroit closer. Nathan's terrible season (5.89 ERA, 1.53 WHIP) had a lot to do with Detroit making this deal, though the club has also struggled to find outs in the seventh inning. Nathan somehow has 20 saves in 25 chances, outlining how misleading the stat can be. The Soria move makes it clear to everyone - Nathan's working on a short leash. I wouldn't drop either Detroit reliever right now; let's give this situation some time to breathe, see where it goes. The Rangers have some options with respect to their Soria replacement, but it looks like they're going to play the experience card. Neftali Feliz, who just returned to the big club this month, is the first man up. "We'll give him a shot, he is the only one with [closer] experience," Rangers manager Ron Washington told MLB.com. "It will show if he can or he can't." If Feliz encounters any problems - remember, he had Tommy John surgery in 2012 and has just 15 MLB innings since - Shawn Tolleson and Neal Cotts become relievers of interest. Tolleson has the better numbers of that pair (3.28/1.14) and is right-handed, but Cotts (3.35/1.40) has been working in heavie

Closing Time: Jacob deGrom, lights out [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 23, 2014, 4:02 pm]
Here's the deal: you push Jacob deGrom's fantasy ownership past the 50 percent mark, then we can move on to a newer, fresher story. Got it? Good. Get out the ledger, it's time for another Tommy John success story (deGrom missed all of 2011 after having the procedure).  New York's 26-year-old righty has strong overall ratios (3.01 ERA, 1.29 WHIP), but he's been especially electric over the last month. Check deGrom's last six starts: 39.2 IP, 33 H, 7 R, 11 BB, 45 K. Delicious.  And it's not like deGrom is getting crazy luck over that span - the BABIP is a robust .333, and his seasonal FIP is right around his ERA. He's getting terrific results with his 93 mph heater, and he mixes it with a slider, curve and change. Fun to watch, fun to own. And yet, his ownership tag is barely over the 40 percent mark.  There have been some friendly matchups along the way, to be fair - deGrom took down the Mariners on Tuesday, and he's had a couple of starts against Atlanta in the recent run. But the NL East is where you want your fantasy pitchers stationed. Miami (12th in runs) and Washington (14th) are capable but unthreatening offenses, and everyone runs to Philadelphia (26th, with a yard sale looming) and Atlanta (27th). The Mets are no offensive bargain either - they're 22nd in scoring If you're more focused on the short-term, here's your upcoming deGrom schedule: at Milwaukee (tricky, but I'm still using him); home against San Francisco (fine), at Washington; home against Washington. And if we look ahead to the final quarter of the year, you'll find a bunch of exploitable matchups: Atlanta, Philly, Colorado (at home), Houston. It's last call, gamers. • So Chase Headley has finally been released from Petco Purgatory. Good for him. He'll have to clean up his act in New York (facially speaking), but maybe he can jump start his career. Petco Park is the most extreme pitcher's park in the majors, and it took a bite out of Headley's numbers over the years. He posted a .243./.331/

Mostly MLB Notes: Talking Jay Bruce and a look around the league [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 23, 2014, 3:04 am]
It’s easy to forget now, but Jay Bruce was once THE No. 1 prospect in baseball, and while he’s certainly not been a bust, it’s safe to say he hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations. Still, he averaged 32 homers, 102 RBI, 87 runs scored and 8 steals over the past three seasons, so he’s certainly been a valuable fantasy asset. But this is someone with a career .802 OPS despite playing in a home park that’s increased home runs for left-handed batters by 23 percent over the past three seasons (only Coors Field and Yankee Stadium have been higher). Entering his age-27 season this year, Bruce currently sports a .221/.302/.393 line, which represents career lows in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage. He has helped fantasy owners by already matching his career high with nine steals, but Bruce’s K% has risen in each of the past five seasons. He owns a career 0.91 GB/FB ratio yet has posted a 1.34 mark in 2014. As if his season wasn’t weird enough, six of Bruce’s 15 hits against lefties this season have gone for homers over just 75 at bats. He has four long balls over 215 ABs against righties. He has a .353 slugging percentage on the road, which would rank as No. 142 in baseball overall, behind the likes of sluggers such as Brian Roberts, Jordy Mercer and Gerardo Parra. Bruce has scored one run over his last 10 games, despite hitting cleanup. It’s probably safe to say he’s going to be much better from here on out, and assuming there’s no underlying injury here, I’d recommend buying low just blindly banking on track record, but there’s no doubt Bruce has been one of the bigger busts so far this season. He’s currently the No. 194 ranked fantasy player. Here’s Anthony Rizzo making a fantastic play, although it ended up costing the Cubs a run.  Here’s Adam Jones losing track of how many outs there were, resulting in a sac fly.  “Arrows” fly as the Angels rally.  There’s zero reason for Colby Lewis to be so upset

WR Primer: To the point, PPR leagues changing fantasy draft mentality [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 22, 2014, 6:13 pm]
VIEW THE YAHOO STAFF'S ENTIRE UPDATED WR RANKS HERE  By nature, fantasy owners are superstitious creatures of habit. Every league has that one guy/gal who believes some celestial force, if appeased properly, will grant their every fantasy wish. Each year at the draft, these are the people who must sit in a particular spot, sip on the same beverage and arrive draped in a well-worn, partially faded Jimmy Clausen Panthers jersey they, for some bizarre reason, are convinced cultivates good fortune. Apparently, when the phrase “Luck of the Irish” was coined in the latter half of the 19th century it also applied to crappy ex-Notre Dame quarterbacks. Who knew? This group of gypsy-like mystics is also overwhelmingly stubborn. Old dogs and Greg Schiano are more apt to learn new tricks. When rule changes are discussed or scoring tweaks are proposed they remain married to tradition, emphatically voting ‘NO!’ on even the slightest enhancement.  In their minds things are fine just the way they are. Why mess with it?   However, these bullheads of the virtual gridiron are slowly beginning to shed their close-minded ways, dabbling in scoring systems that improve their overall fantasy football experience. IDP leagues have gradually gained traction over the past few years, but they pale in comparison to the acceptance of PPR formats. [Smack talk season is back at Yahoo Sports: Sign up and play free Fantasy Football!] Some traditionalists, like Roto Arcade’s own Andy Behrens, vehemently oppose scoring for receptions. They contend it’s not a reflection of reality, a skewed inclusion that artificially inflates sure-handed running backs and wide receivers. After all, Pierre Thomas could catch five passes for -5 yards, which in most PPR settings would garner a positive return. But really it’s no different than a goal-line vulture having an otherwise miserable fantasy performance saved by tripping into the end-zone from one yard out (see most of Rashard Mendenhall’s ga

Closing Time: Stephen Drew wakes up [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 22, 2014, 4:22 pm]
I used to be disgusted with Stephen Drew (and the whole family, really). Now I try to be amused. We just want numbers, we don't care where they come from. While Drew didn't go bananas in his first Boston season, a .253-57-13-67-6 line over 124 games is handy for a middle infielder. If your league required a middle-infield fill, Drew was probably owned in your league last year. Alas, Drew's agent misread the free-agent market, and Drew sat on his couch while the phone didn't ring. No team wanted to sign Drew - especially with a compensatory pick attached - and the stalemate dragged into the season. Eventually the slumping Red Sox bailed out their reluctant infielder, offering a one-year, $10 million deal in May. Drew arrived in The Hub after a week of minor-league prep, and maybe that speedy timetable was a mistake. When the calendar hit July, he was carrying a sorry .143/.169/.190 line, with zero homers. The seasonal stats still don't look like much, but let's note how Drew has rallied in July. He's hit three homers and drawn nine walks this month (that's a Drew thing; they like to watch), and he's on a 7-for-17 binge over his last five games. Drew was at the centre of Monday's 14-1 rout over the Blue Jays, with a homer, single, walk, and four RBIs. He also scored a couple of runs. Drew's owned in just four percent of Yahoo leagues, a surprisingly-low tag. Shortstop isn't that easy of a fill, amigos. This looks like someone finally warmed up and ready to go.  It was a fun night to sit back and watch the Boston lineup do its thing, so long as you weren't expecting anything from Dustin Pedroia (4-0-0-0; doesn't look healthy at all) or Shane Victorino (night off). David Ortiz cranked a couple of homers, while Mike Napoli had a homer and three hits. Brock Holt did his usual thing (two hits, two runs, one nifty outfield catch). Heck, Daniel Nava (5-2-3-0) has been terrific since his recall, hitting .350 (with a .429 OBP) over 103 at-bats. The Victorino activation crowds

Juggernaut Index, No. 22: The St. Louis Rams [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 21, 2014, 7:59 pm]
Life in the NFC West ain't easy, not with three of the NFL's top six defenses lurking. But the Rams' schedule in the year ahead isn't actually as nightmarish as you might expect, at least for fantasy purposes. This team's non-division opponents include a half-dozen squads that ranked in the bottom-third of the league defensively last season, including Dallas (dead-last) and Minnesota (next-to-last). Fantasy owners will also appreciate the fact that St. Louis doesn't travel to Seattle until Week 17, after most league titles are decided. So if you're bullish on this franchise for 2014, it's understandable. The Rams fortified both the offensive and defensive lines with high-end talent in the draft, plus the team has depth at the skill spots. If quarterback Sam Bradford can simply play at the level at which he opened 2013, prior to his ACL injury, then St. Louis should contend for ... well, something. Probably not a division title. But something better than the usual sub-.500 season. [Smack talk season is back at Yahoo Sports: Sign up and play free Fantasy Football!] Nobody is the least bit interested in Bradford as a fantasy asset this year, so there's little chance you'll find yourself in a bidding war for his services. He's owned in just 2 percent of Yahoo leagues at the moment. Scientists have proven that four out of five people will yawn after seeing the names "Sam" and "Bradford" adjacent to one another. There is no buzz here — and that makes Bradford a decent target if you're assembling a QB platoon. You don't have to love the guy (or his receivers), but hopefully you can appreciate Bradford's steady if unspectacular multi-season improvement. When he checked out last year, late in a Week 7 loss at Carolina, he was on pace for a 3,856-yard, 32-touchdown season. His completion percentage was a career-high 60.7, his passer rating was a career-high 90.9, and he'd thrown just four picks. He'd already delivered four multi-touchdown games. Bradford had been one of the

Monday Mini-Mock: PPR probing [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 21, 2014, 5:34 pm]
So here's how this works. Each Monday, the Yahoo fantasy crew jumps on a conference call to discuss the week that was/will be. As part of this process, we've decided to include a short mock draft - roughly, one-eighth the size of a normal draft, I shall call it mini mock. This week's mini mock draft (10 rounds) is a study in PPR values at the wide receiver and tight end positions (don't worry, we'll address running backs soon). We've asked our Yahoo experts to each draft six WRs, three TEs and one Flex (WR/TE), using  Point Per Reception scoring as the basis for this exercise. Here's how it turned out: [Get in the game with Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Football] Round 1 Pick 1 — Calvin Johnson, WR, DET (Scott Pianowski) Pianowman says – Not a specific fit for the format, but he's a matchup freak who rarely misses games (unlike so many of his TE counterparts). Round 5 Pick 1 — Victor Cruz, WR, NYG (Pianowski) Pianowman says – When it comes to the great NYG Train Wreck of 2013, I blame it on the departed (Gilbride, Nicks) more than Manning or Cruz. Feed the slot machine. Round 5 Pick 2 — Roddy White, WR, ATL (Funston) Funston says – I made my case for a Roddy rebound here, but worth a reminder that he finished '13 season on a healthy note, as in 43 catches in the final five games of the season (only Julian Edelman had more at the WR position). Round 5 Pick 3 — Andre Johnson, WR, HOU (Del Don) 3D says – Torrey is developing into more than a vertical threat. He saw 139 targets last season, catching 65 for 1,128 yards. This year's offense will be better. Round 8 Pick 1 — DeSean Jackson, WR, WAS (Behrens) Behrens says –  

Spin Doctors: Ryan Mathews vs. Doug Martin [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 18, 2014, 1:25 pm]
Ups and downs characterize the short careers of Ryan Mathews and Doug Martin. Both have penetrated the RB1 class. Both have triggered massive migraines. In this cage-match to the death, Brad Evans and Andy Behrens beat one another to a bloddy pulp over who you should draft.  Sound the bell ...  The Noise, naturally, professes his renewed love for Mathews:  Well, well, well … our fearless leader, Brandon Funston, gave yours truly an open, unfiltered forum to discuss the merits of the greatest running back in human history, but only in 250 words? Brevity, obviously, will not be honored. This is Ryan Mathews, my ultimate man-crush/mantasy/baby boo/Tenderoni/honey bunny/love muffin, a man who’s repeatedly broken hearts but regained a fair level of respectability last year. Heavily discounted in drafts a summer ago, Mathews had the look of a FLEX-only rusher early in the season. He worked almost exclusively in an early-down role ceding passing down and, occasionally, goal-line work to plucky Danny Woodhead. Through the first five weeks, he ranked No. 36 among rushers in per game average giving his critics plenty of ammunition. However, starting with a 102-yard spanking of the Colts in Week 6, Mathews started to resemble the back that raked in 2011. From that point on he rolled. Over his final 11 games he averaged 4.68 yards per carry, 104.0 total yards per game and scored six touchdowns. His subsequent 13.7 per game output in standard leagues checked in at No. 9. Overall, his 0.40 fantasy points per snap outpaced the ENTIRE RB field (Among rushers with at least 300 snaps). Despite the bounce-back campaign, many refuse to trust Mathews as a viable RB2. Doubters feel Donald Brown’s arrival combined with the return of Woodhead signals a touch reduction for the incumbent. But San Diego wants to run the ball more this season, with, as OC Frank Reich revealed recently, “the pounder” shouldering much of the load.  He’ll again contribute minimally as a pass-catch

First Down: Disrespecting Rashad Jennings doesn't make sense [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: July 18, 2014, 2:30 am]
There are many things in this world I truly don’t understand. Dudes in flip-flops who lift weights at the gym, the popularity of Chihuahuas, why people find listening to Rush enjoyable and satellite TV commercials that insinuate humans copulate with marionettes top the list. So does the baseless hatred toward Giants RB Rashad Jennings. [Get in the game with Yahoo! Sports Fantasy Football] The running back’s projected value and where he should be drafted has created a great schism in the ‘expert’ community. Just read my Twitter timeline. Supporters believe Jennings’ fourth-to-fifth round ADP in standard or 12-team PPR leagues is a bargain. He’s a legitimate top-15 candidate who could turn a massive profit. Doubters, meanwhile, are convinced he’s an overpriced, generally unproven dinosaur on a mediocre team that has no business being drafted as an RB2 even in the deepest of leagues. In the sharp words of Shawshank’s Andy Dufresne, I ask the latter, “How can you be so obtuse?” Below are popular stereotypes about Jennings that simply don’t hold water: Belief 1: Because he’s far from his peak at 29-years-old and playing at an age-sensitive position, he poses an injury risk and no longer possesses the physicality needed to succeed.   The old adage “Age is nothing but a number” applies to Jennings. Ignore his date of birth folks. Primarily deployed as a backup in his five-year NFL career, he’s amassed a mere 484 touches. In other words, the tread on his tires is thick. Thumbing through the annals of NFL history several running backs could be classified as “late-bloomers.” Charles White, Christian Okoye, Priest Holmes, Thomas Jones, James Stewart and, most recently, Fred Jackson, all contributed appreciable fantasy stats in their Age 28 or Age 29 seasons. And most in the bunch were lightly used prior to their stellar campaigns. It may sound like a broken record, but opportunity outweighs everything. And Jennings is certainly in a prime p





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