You didn't even see it coming, did you?
Cody Ross, all 5-foot-9 of him, had 15 RBI in a four-game series at Colorado over the weekend, batting .600 (12-for-20) with four doubles, two homers and six runs. Those home runs and RBI might not mean much to you if they didn't give him 15 and 47 for the season, putting him on pace for 27 and 87 in only 405 at-bats.
Got your attention, didn't I?
Of course, you might just write it off as a hot streak. You might say the pint-sized semi-slugger simply capitalized on the thin air of the Rocky Mountains, that this one weekend inflated his numbers to such an extreme he can't possibly sustain them over the course of a season.
Yes, you might say that if you didn't have me here to remind you of last year.
Sliders These guys' recent performances signify more than a hot or cold streak. Their Fantasy appeal has actually "slid" either up or down.
Cody Ross, OF, Marlins
|Cody Ross had himself quite a weekend in Colorado. (US Presswire)|
Ah-ha! You think you have me. I altered the normal rules of qualification, so you know it has to be someone who came up late in the year and made an immediate splash, someone like Rick Ankiel.
But it's not Ankiel -- not even close.
OK, well maybe someone more obvious who follows the same principle, someone like Ryan Braun.
Now you have to scratch your head, maybe even accuse me of tricking you, sidetracking you from the most obvious answer: Alex Rodriguez, of course.
Makes sense. Perhaps you remember A-Rod's season from last year, one where he put up the kind of numbers for which Baseball-Reference.com was invented -- the kind some kid 20 years from now will put off his homework to revisit over and over again, staring at that stat line in wide-eyed amazement.
But if you guessed A-Rod, you'd be wrong.
Because Ross, by that one statistical measure in that limited number of at-bats, had a season even better. The final tally: Ross .653, A-Rod .645.
And then came this weekend -- lightning striking twice, if you will, which suggests it's something other than lightning. Maybe truth? Hey, if you gave me last year's or this first half's tally by itself and called it a fluke, I would say, "Yeah, that makes sense," and go back to thinking up alternative uses for an egg slicer.
I'm up to six.
But two similar performances in back-to-back seasons -- you call that a fluke? I don't buy it.
And now Ross has the confidence of his manager and a full-time job. So like I did with Justin Duchscherer, I'll double slide Ross this season, taking my recommendation from June 3 one step further.
Pick him up. All leagues.
J.J. Hardy, SS, Brewers
Like with most players, two schools of thought existed on Hardy entering the season. One called his 26-homer season last year a fluke, the product of an unexpectedly hot start for a slick-fielding shortstop with the power to hit 12-15 home runs at best. The other called it legitimate, the natural development for an underrated prospect who finished the season almost as strong as he started it.
I counted myself among the latter group, and until last week, I appeared wrong.
But something got into the brew.
If you know someone who benched Hardy last week, chances are you don't anymore. We're talking the formation of suicidal tendencies with this kind of missed payoff.
Six homers. Six homers -- twice his season total. He'll never do that again, of course, but the power surge only put him on pace for 22 home runs. It served mostly to make up for lost time, to get him on pace rather than put him ahead of pace. Expect his home runs to level off during the second half, making him a worthy low-end starter in mixed leagues.
Now if someone could just go poke Prince Fielder. That sleeping giant needs to wake up already.
Jonathan Sanchez, SP, Giants
I've bounced back and forth on Sanchez all season, originally having him slide up in value before designating him a change-up in mid-May.
Well, I've gotten back on board.
The timing might seem odd considering he lasted only five innings in his last start, but the 25-year-old left-hander has clearly turned the corner since that one fateful week I called him a change-up, pitching seven innings or more in five of his last seven starts and six innings or more in eight of his last 10. By comparison, he lasted six innings only twice in his first eight starts.
But more than anything else with him, I keep coming back to the strikeouts. Going into Monday, he was one of only five pitchers who had more strikeouts than innings pitched with a minimum of 100 innings. The others? Tim Lincecum, Edinson Volquez, C.C. Sabathia and Chad Billingsley.
Pretty good company, right?
Yes, his WHIP looks a little high, and his walks still get him in trouble, but he hasn't had more than three in his last 10 starts. He is this year what Oliver Perez was last year and, therefore, deserves to start more often than not in mixed leagues.
Randy Wolf, SP, Padres
And then there's those times strikeouts don't mean anything.
Such is the case with Wolf, who has five nine-strikeout games to his credit this season and averages 8.2 Ks per nine innings.
And yet I don't want to use him. I just can't trust him. His 4.59 ERA and 1.42 WHIP don't look disastrous, but too many of his starts do. In his eight worst (of 10 total), he's combined for a 9.00 ERA, giving him five weeks of negative scoring in standard Head-to-Head leagues.
Yes, in about one-third of this season's scoring periods, Curt Schilling would have done more for your Fantasy team than Wolf.
Whenever you start the left-hander, you start him for the strikeouts and cross your fingers on every other statistic. And strikeouts alone don't cut it in mixed leagues.
Jerry Hairston, SS, Reds
How does a .340 hitter at the second-weakest position in Fantasy go unnoticed?
Starting in only 36 percent of leagues, Hairston has -- which you could argue makes sense for a 32-year-old career disappointment, but then again, a fluke can only go unchecked for so long.
The speedster, who failed as a leadoff man in Baltimore so many years ago, took over the starting shortstop gig after both Alex Gonzalez and Jeff Keppinger succumbed to injury. He then suffered an injury of his own, breaking his thumb in early June.
So much for that hot streak, I thought. Yeah, that stint on the DL ought to straighten him out.
But he's hit even better since his return. In 11 games back hitting leadoff, he's batted .364 (16-for-44), displaying as much speed as he ever has with 15 stolen bases in only 169 at-bats.
I don't know that it'll last -- I really don't -- but I have a hard time imagining Hairston's batting average sinking below .280 anytime soon. So he continues to hit well and has the potential to steal 30-40 bases, and you don't want to start him? Really?
Mind if I take him off your hands?
Hanging Sliders These guys look like Sliders, but not so fast! Their recent performances might cause you to misinterpret their Fantasy appeal.
Mark DeRosa, 2B, Cubs
You know how I called Hardy's hot hitting legitimate because it put him on pace to match last season's power numbers?
Well, I could apply the converse argument to DeRosa, who had a similar power surge last week, belting three home runs to put him on pace for 20.
See, DeRosa doesn't hit 20 home runs. He barely hits 10. So the fact he has 11 now means a serious course correction awaits in the not-too-distant future.
Unless at age 33, he's discovered some kind of ancient voodoo way to improve his bat speed, don't expect DeRosa to hit more than a handful of home runs the rest of the season. He remains a decent stopgap because he qualifies at so many positions, but not someone to invest too much faith in.
Change-up Every week, I make terrible errors in judgment. It happens to us all, and if it didn't, Fantasy wouldn't be a game worth playing. Fortunately, I permit myself the opportunity to correct one of my mistakes by throwing a change-up.
Wandy Rodriguez, SP, Astros
About this time last week, I had nothing but good to say about Rodriguez. After owning 2.94 ERA at home and a 6.37 mark on the road last year, he seemingly normalized his home-road splits, becoming a consistent and all-around effective pitcher.
But then the unexpected happened over the next seven days. He stunk both on the road and at home.
I can't begin to explain how a pitcher goes from posting a 1.13 ERA in eight innings against the Rangers one day to a 9.00 ERA in five innings against the Dodgers the next, but doing so makes Rodriguez the antithesis of predictable and my praise of him a bunch of hooey.
Granted, I only said he deserves a flier in all leagues -- and his strikeout rate still suggests he does -- but I can't trust him enough to start him either at home or on the road right now. And in one league, I actually found myself releasing him. Don't hesitate to do the same if you have a need elsewhere.
You can e-mail Scott your Fantasy Baseball questions to email@example.com. Be sure to put Attn: Sliders in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state.We'll answer as many as we can.