The Oakland A’s have been the team to beat in the first half of 2014. They own the best record the majors, their offense, which is comprised of a ragtag bunch of misfits from the other side of the tracks, ranks second among all teams in RBIs and total bases. They lead the league in ERA and WHIP, and they just upgraded their rotation with the acquisition of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel, all without the help of fat Jonah Hill. You don’t need Andy Serkis’ acting school to show you you’d be a real monkey to doubt these guys. They’ve been just as good from a fantasy perspective. Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss and Sonny Gray have carried over their success from 2013, and Jesse Chavez, Sean Doolittle and the two-headed catcher platoon of John Jaso and Derek Norris have all been first half surprises. So which A’s can you hitch a ride on for some second half fantasy glory? Jed Lowrie (2-for-4, RBI) can get real hot, real quick, and is currently on a seven game hitting streak, with multi-hit performances in six of those games. You might want to scoop him up before he explodes, or gets injured again. Similarly, Stephen Vogt (3-for-3, HR (4)) has been excellent since receiving everyday at bats and is slashing .435/.480/.652 over the past two weeks.  He’s got an 11 game hitting streak (six multi-hit games in that span) and two homers in his past three days, and that catcher eligibility makes him extra valuable. P. Diddy says Vogt or die, so you should grab Stephen while he’s still just under 30% owned. We may be through a little over half of the fantasy season so far, but there’s still plenty of time to ride the Oaktown bandwagon to some fantasy glory, at least until they get to San Antonio. #keeptheAsinOakland!

Here’s what else happened in fantasy baseball Friday night (*All-Star Edition*):

Please, blog, may I have some more?

The Cubs.  The lovable losers.  The trade first and ask questions later…ers…

Say what you want about what the Cubs are doing, but I liked their blockbuster deal with the A’s.  John Kruk was slamming it on Sunday Night Baseball (while my boy Rick Porcello got a bitch slap of regression), but then again I’m a Brewers fan and not a Cubs fan!

Last year, the Cubs sold Scott Feldman for current pickup of the year nominee Jake Arrieta.  So that’s one thing they’ve done right!  Both the Shark and Jason Hammel weren’t re-signing, and this ridiculous emergence from Arrieta eases the pain of rebuilding a rotation.

But we don’t really care about Wrigley politics, we just want some nasty stats on our fantasy teams.  Arrieta has been absolutely unbelievable (only Clayton Kershaw has been better the past month) and he had back-to-back no-nos through 7 prior to Sunday’s start.  How legit is this breakout?  Is Arrieta a sell high?  I’ve seen the highlights and bits of some of the previous starts, but I wanted a deeper look into his stuff and decided to Profile how he looked in yesterday’s great outing against the Nationals:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

James Jones has appeared in this column before, but his three steals against the Padres last week opened the eyes of fantasy players in all formats. It shouldn’t have been too much of a surprise given who those steals came against though. The Padres are one of the worst teams in the majors at holding baserunners and on that particular night it was Tyson Ross on the mound. Ross is currently leading the major leagues in stolen bases allowed (21). He’s got a big red target on his back for those of us in daily leagues looking to deploy SAGNOF types. If you look at it as a rate, the Padres hurler is giving up about a steal for every five innings pitched. Ross is scheduled to face the Diamondbacks this week, so even fringy players like Tony Campana might be worth a shot for a stolen base. Week to week we give you the best and worst teams to run against, but looking even closer at the individual pitchers can be helpful for daily lineup changes. Hey Mike, I wish we had a tool for that! I hear you, friend. Check out the SB Rates vs. SP tool. It will give you the stolen base against data for each pitcher in 2013. Here’s a quick rundown of the best arms to run against in 2014 fantasy baseball…

Please, blog, may I have some more?

As always, probable pitchers are subject to change.  For a look at all fantasy baseball streamers, click that link.

Everyone got all excited last Wednesday because Bartolo Colon hit a double in a game that he also won. Obviously, this was worthy of some attention given the fact that Colon is 41, bears a close resemblance to “Big P*ssy” Bonpensiero, and the fact that he twirled eight innings of one-run ball en route to the victory in St. Louis, which is not an easy place to pitch. Lost in all of that was the fact that Terry Collins took Colon out heading into the 9th at only 86 pitches. Unless Colon asked to come out because his mummy arm was falling off, I just don’t get it. It’s another one of those robot moves that make baseball managers so infuriating. Oh, it’s the 9th inning and we have a lead of three runs or less, time to bring in the closer. Nevermind that we don’t really have a closer, and that the closer of the night is Jenrry Mejia, whose birth certificate was typed up by someone who liked to eat peanut butter at their desk. Nevermind that the backup plan for that is a guy (Dana Eveland) who has a different hat on in his fantasy baseball profile photo. Well, Mejia almost blew it, which would have not only cost the 700-year-old Colon a well-deserved victory but would have also pissed off fantasy managers everywhere, including right here. Except for a few turdlet pies, Colon has been surprisingly sturdy in 2014. Maybe it’s not so surprising given his strong performance in the telling strikeout per walk category, where he’s at 5.3, good for sixth right behind Stephen Strasburg. It would have looked really silly, but I almost put Bartolo in the first tier, with starts in his cavernous home against Oakland and continues in Pittsburgh, where teams just don’t score a lot for some reason. He’s only 36 percent owned in Yahoo, 37 percent owned in ESPN. He’s definitely worth a spin while he’s going good, especially at Citi Field.

Here’s some more two-start pitchers for the week:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

As always, probable pitchers are subject to change. For a look at all fantasy baseball streamers, click this link.

Up until now, Two-Startapoola 2014 has kind of resembled a post-taco feast fart party, where you’re trying in vain to wave away the pervasive stench cluttering up the lower tiers but that cloud of doom just won’t move.

But this week there is absolutely no shame in being down in the lower Second Tier or even the Third Tier.

Former aces who had fallen on hard times, like Yovani Gallardo and Josh Beckett, finally have their shtuff together, some of the pitchers who sucked earlier in the year (Brandon McCarthy, Jake Odorizzi) have gotten way better, and the Twins finally set their rotation so they don’t have the same guy pitching twice in the same week. Which means at least one less garbage starter in the system. You think Ron Gardenhire had us fantasy geeks in mind when he set up his real-life Twinkie pitching lineup this week? Me neither.

Anyways, have yourself a look-see at what the fantasy gods have sent down for us…

Please, blog, may I have some more?

When it comes to DFS play nothing can kick you off your throne quicker than a cold streak. And I hit one last week. Playing daily fantasy sports can be a fun, lucrative and an absolutely maddening endeavor. No other sport has as much variance on a nightly basis. I often wonder why I put myself through this athletic sadism. Ok, I know why. I like pain the competition, I like the cash and I love baseball. Over the past week, your humble-but-nonetheless-royal Guru has had plenty of competition, not so much cash and nowhere near the love I deserve as I went just 23 for 40. I may be no draft king, but the bankroll increased a bit and I’m inching closer to a winter of fun in the sun. The problem is I may have to pass on Cancun and head to Coney Island. Hopefully, I have a little left over for the bail bondsman. If you want to join me poolside just hit the DraftKings link and you’ll get a free ticket for a contest with your first-time deposit. The winner of that contest gets entry into our $500k Showcase with a $100k top prize – that’s a lot of banana daiquiris. Also, if you haven’t fired up the DFSBot yet, check it out. It’s a great tool for your bag of tricks that’ll give you an advantage over the competition. I used it Monday for some Tim Lincecum love that banked big for me. Believe me, I needed it.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve shared some of my strategies when playing DFS baseball. If you missed them you can give a look here, here, and here. This week, let’s talk a bit about managing the budget. On DraftKings you get 50K to spend on two pitchers and eight positions. I usually spend 18- 22K of that on pitching which doesn’t leave a lot of room for mistakes with hitters. One of the questions I get asked a lot is if it’s okay to leave money on the table when constructing a team. I say, unless you’re a seasoned DFS shark, it’s best to spend to the cap or real close to it. I never leave more than $500 on the board and there are three reasons for that: 1) No projections are 100% accurate. Sorry, DFSBot, you’re good but no one’s that good. 2) More often than not your “optimal lineup” will be wrong. Ha! I know this sounds negative, but play DFS awhile and you’ll realize that not spending that leftover $800 will hurt. I found this out on Monday when I didn’t spend up for pitching and went with Tyler Lyons – he gave me -11 points. Yes, negative 11! 3) Finding cheap players that produce is necessary to win, but players are in the bargain bin for reason. If you see a player that usually has a high price tag is suddenly cheap there’s probably a reason for it – he has a bad matchup, he’s unlikely to play or he’s hurt. I saw a lot of people grab Mark Teixeira on Monday because the price was right in a great matchup. Unfortunately, he ended up not playing which left some people with a big fat zero.

With all that said, we have just eight games on the evening slate, a number of aces on the mound and some weather to pay attention to in St. Louis and Cincinnati. Here’s your dirty turbaned Guru’s lineup for Wednesday’s 5/14 contests on DraftKings for 2014 Fantasy Baseball. Good luck, cheers.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

As always, probable pitchers are subject to change. For a look at all fantasy baseball streamers, click this link.

Welcome to the “Wacky World of Sports!” I’m your host, Wax Winkingdale. This week we’ve got some weird, wild stuff for you. First up we’re catching up with a bit of silly from last month, when Andrew Cashner played left field for one batter in an extra-inning game for no real reason at all. Whoa, that Bud Black is one crazy guy! And really smart too. Much smarter than Tony LaRussa. [Ed. Note -- With less drunk driving to boot!]

Next is more madcap fun from San Diego, where a dinosaur threw out the first pitch before a game last Wednesday against the Royals. And no it wasn’t Steve Garvey! So who was the catcher for this zany occasion? Why it was the Swinging Friar, the team’s mascot. And oh look, the baby T-Rex is on the attack – he heard Friar and got the wrong idea!

Dino

Perhaps the weirdest story of the week comes to us from Toronto, where fantasy experts continue to disrespect a pitcher with a 6-1 record, 1.91 ERA and a 1.17 WHIP. Regression, they INSIST, is coming for Mark Buehrle as certain as winter is coming for Jon Snow and everyone else in the Seven Kingdoms. One writer said this is because Buehrle is lucky, noting, among other things, his small Home Run to Fly Ball ratio, favorable FIP (Field Independent Pitching) rate and weak K/9 rate. So Buehrle is lucky because he gave up fly balls and not home runs? There’s no skill in that? Guess he was lucky when he threw a perfect game too. And, OKAY, Buehrle doesn’t get a ton of strike outs, and I guess good things are happening when balls that he throws are hit, and that maybe those good things won’t continue happening if balls continue to be hit and not missed by batters. Given all that, by the FIP measurement Buehrle’s ERA would be more in the All-Star zone (low 3’s) and not exactly Cy Young territory (under 2). I don’t think this did the best job of illustrating his point. I’m not really sure how much stock I put in something that looks like this anyway: “FIP = ((13*HR)+(3*(BB+HBP))-(2*K))/IP + constant.” Sounds like Mr. Kowalski’s boring-ass algebra class, not analysis of a sport. There’s a lot of writers a lot smarter than me who use these numbers to make valid points. There’s even more who wank off to print outs of these formulas in the same way that White Goodman rubs one out with a slice of pizza. Here’s my analysis: Buehrle has been excellent, and even though his track record indicates that this isn’t normal, it’s also very possible that he will have the career year the Blue Jays thought he was going to have when they splurged on free agents before the 2013 season. Or at least a career first half. I think we will know which way this is going to go after this week, as Buehrle draws the Angels at home and a trip to the gauntlet in Arlington.

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Happy early Cinco de Mayo, my tequila-fueled Razzaholics, and welcome back to the Razzball Lounge. We men of letters have donned our sombreros and gathered to celebrate whatever the hell Cinco de Mayo is – hey, I went to a school for dysfunctional teachers in Maine and the only Mexicans we ever saw were picking blueberries and turning John Deere’s into lowriders. We are also celebrating the Razzball revolucian! Yes, Razzball Radio launches this week with Señor Nick, who is currently transporting illegal video equipment across the border as we speak. Good stuff! As we gather in the lounge downing shots of Patron we look back at the first month of the season. There have been hot starts from new meat – Jose Abreu, Charlie Blackmon and Chris Colabello. There have been early season slumps – Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Adam Jones. And every team is battered and broken with Clayton Kershaw, Bryce Harper, Chris Davis and 422 other players on the disabled list. There’s plenty to celebrate and plenty to berate in the lounge today. Bellying up to the bar we find Sky wondering why he drafted a team that is completely on the disabled list. “Hey, at least Nick Punto is healthy!” *throws up on floor* At the jukebox we find Jay Wrong playing “Mexican Radio” for the 23rd time. “I’m on a Mexican radio, whoa! I just picked up  Bobby LaFromboise on waivers!” *bottle smashes above head* New to the Razzball Lounge is stat-boy Dano and his big book of facts who we have strung up from the ceiling for some human piñata-style hazing. “Did you fellas know Babe Ruth’s career wOBA was .510?” *WHACK!* Coming out of the ladies room is the one and only Tehol Beddict clad in just his Sears poncho. “Hey, guys I’ve set up a cock fight out back.”  Tehol, where are the roosters? “Whaddya mean roosters?” And here at the pool table is your-humble-but-nontheless-guapo Guru. *adjusts turban, closes eye, aims cue, banks eight-ball off three rails, licks salt, downs tequila, sucks lime,* Viva la Jam or Cram!

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Razzball Nation!  I used today’s title to try and embody the question everyone is having looking at their waiver wires…

Who the hell is this guy?!

Before his ridiculous debut at Safeco, Collin McHugh had pitched less than 50 ML innings with an ERA that resembled an Extenze advertising claim.  Called up to fill in for a DL-bound Corey Scott Feldman, McHugh got a struggling Mariners offense with swiss cheese bats for 12 Ks and no walks in 6.2 for his first win – giving up three singles and no earned.  I love that before the start, Bo Porter said McHugh is a “pitch to contact guy.”  Good thing the Mariners ain’t got no contact right now!

I watched some highlights of the Ks that game and was lukewarm impressed, but McHugh went out and shut down the A’s, who have a pretty solid O these days.  #Moneyball!  So I decided to take a deeper look at his hot start to 2014 and break down what he could offer fantasy owners looking for some SP help:

Please, blog, may I have some more?

Michael Cuddyer to the DL with his hamstring injury. I love these Monday DL calls right after weekly fantasy lineups lock. Turr…iffic! You don’t care about our fantasy teams at all, Walt Weiss, do you? Last year it was Josh Rutledge, this year it’s Corey Dickerson. I wonder if he holds a secret grudge against fantasy baseball because it never rewarded his defensive prowess while he was playing. “Have you ever thought of adding fielding percentage to your fantasy league?” That was Walt Weiss disguised as a waiter at a Cheesecake Factory waiting on Dan Okrent’s table. Weiss then released bumblebees into Okrent’s suite at The Plaza while he read box scores in his robe. Walt is just bitter because the teacher he had a crush on never gave him the time of day. No, this isn’t the plot of Rushmore; the teacher was Carney Lansford. Ginger ’til he dies! So, with Cuddyer out, this could give Corey Dickerson a chance to show why he should be an everyday outfielder on all mixed league teams. Yesterday, Dickerson had the slam & legs and is capable of more. If you need a fifth outfielder, I’d give him a whirl. Anyway, here’s what else I saw yesterday in fantasy baseball:

Please, blog, may I have some more?