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Thursday, May 21, 2009
Fantasy World: The Dude Abides


"Woo, isn't this guy supposed to be a millionaire?"

Two weekends ago out here in the horizontal mess of Los Angeles was another incarnation of the Lebowski Fest, a two-day event that celebrates all of the nihilism, bowling, White Russians and general malaise of the Coen Brothers 1998 film. As such, it gave me the perfect excuse to dust off the old DVD and take it for another spin. (Even better than I remember it.) And what do you know? A lot of the lines from the highly-quotable movie -- with, admittedly, some massaging here and there -- can describe some of the trends and stories in the Fantasy World as we look back over the first quarter of the year.

So, dude...

"Sometimes there's a man. I won't say a hero, 'cause what's a hero? But sometimes there's a man. And I'm talking about The Dude here. Sometimes there's a man, well, he's the man for his time and place." The opening words by the film's narrator are reserved to my first quarter MVP: Ian Kinsler. While I may be biased -- he is on most of my fantasy teams this season -- allow me to give you my somewhat-muddled logic. If you remove runs and RBIs from the equation (since they're based entirely on the production of a player's teammates), you're left with batting average (.298) stolen bases (9), and HRs (11). His average is fine, but those second two numbers are what to look at: There's no better speed/power combo in the majors, and don't say Alfonso Soriano is still a true speed guy. Of the 14 players who have swiped more bases, the next highest HR total is five. Don't be surprised if he contends for the second quarter MVP either, seeing as his BABIP is currently at a very sustainable .308.

"Woo, isn't this guy supposed to be a millionaire?" One of the few lines uttered by "Blonde Treehorn Thug" -- played by Mark Pellegrino, who was cast as the pivotal "Jacob" in this year's season finale of Lost -- is the same question every owner of David Ortiz is asking himself. Luckily there's hope on the horizon, and not just because he finally put one over the fence Wednesday night. Big Papi is on pace for nearly 40 doubles this year, the same amount he hit in '05 when he cranked out 47 HRs. While that lofty homer total is clearly out of the question, the man could still put up 15-20 HRs from here on out. Now's the time to buy extremely low.

"Look, just because we're bereaved doesn't make us saps!" Walter's retort after the funeral home director offers the grieving pair his "most modestly-priced receptacle" is reserved for owners out there who have rosters full of slow starters. Players like Garrett Atkins (.202), Hank Blalock (.214), Lance Berkman (.227), Mark Teixeira (.229) and Alexei Ramirez (.233) should be expected to turn things around soon enough. Hang onto them as long as you can.

"Darkness washed over the Dude. Darker than a black steer's tuckus on a moonless prairie at night. There was no bottom." Want to see something scary? Albert Pujols, he of the 13 HRs, .321 average and .657 slugging percentage, currently has a BABIP of .268. His career average is .317. He's going to get even better.

Sometimes there's a man.

"Uh yeah, probably a vagrant slept in the car. Or just used it as a toilet and moved on." The cop who gave The Dude back his soiled 1973 Ford Torino might as well have been speaking about the mysterious entity that was using Justin Verlander's body for the first part of this year. Let's break this down. Verlander's first four starts: 0-2, 9.00 ERA, 25 Ks in 21 innings. His last five: 4-0, 1.01 ERA, 52 Ks in 35.1 innings. If you already stole him, congratulations. If you didn't, forget it and go bowling.

"Strong men also cry. Strong men. Also. Cry." To the Diamondbacks' Dan Haren, in the midst of his best season. But you wouldn't know it with his record: Haren has eight quality starts in eight chances, a 2.09 ERA and is leading the NL with a 0.857 WHIP. His record is 3-4.

"Man, I've got certain information. Certain things have come to light and, you know, has it ever occurred to you instead of, uh, you know, running around, blaming me, given the nature of all this new s---, you know, this could be a lot more, uh, uh, uh, complex? I mean, it's not just, it might not be just a simple … you know?" The Dude's blathering is directed towards anyone who thinks the greatest college pitcher of all time, Stephen Strasburg, is going to make an impact in the Fantasy World this year. Sure, if you're in a keeper league, take a flier on him and hope Scott Boras talks the Nationals out of drafting him. But if you're in a one-year league, focus on Braves Triple-A stud Tommy Hanson, currently sporting a 1.71 ERA with 64 Ks in 47 innings.

"Yeah, well … that's just, like, your opinion, man." We'll close this out with a prediction based on nothing but my gut: Carl Crawford, who's already come out saying he doesn't expect to reach 100 stolen bases, is getting to that century mark this season.

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Player on My Team of the Week: Jered Weaver, who made two solid starts last week, racking up 11 Ks in 15 innings and delivering a 2.40 ERA. Unfortunately, the Angels hitters hate their pitcher, letting him get through the week without collecting a win.

How to Heckle One of My Players of the Week: "Hey John Lackey, it's great and all that you want to control the inside of the plate, but can you do it without giving yourself an ERA of infinity?"

The Film Adaptation of a Board Game Announcement of the Week: First, there was Clue, then Candyland and Monopoly. Now, prepare yourselves for Peter Berg's Battleship! No word yet on what director already has dibs on Don't Wake Daddy.

Buy High: Egg phobia, after these two teaser images for the new horror film Humpty Dumpty were released. How is the tagline not, "There are some things you can't put back together again?"

Sell Low: Young folks. In a society where anyone over 50 are seen as ancient relics of another time, it's good to see our elders claiming victory in at least one thing. In this case, being more resistant to swine flu than the youngsters.