An Opening Day tradition
New season, same format. These are 10 lists of 10.
List 1: 10 interesting stats for Opening Day and the season courtesy of Mark Simon of ESPN Stats & Information.
1. Offense has declined in each of the past five seasons, with combined runs per game dropping by more than a full run (from 9.8 to 8.6) from 2006 to 2011.
2. Here are the major league ERAs of the past six seasons. 2005: 4.28; 2006: 4.52; 2007: 4.47; 2008: 4.32; 2009: 4.32; 2010: 4.07; 2011: 3.94.
3. In a season in which offensive performance declined, Ryan Braun's batting average went from .304 in 2010 to .332 in 2011, his home runs increased from 25 to 33 and his slugging percentage went from .501 to .597. That 96-point increase in slugging percentage was the fifth-largest in the major leagues.
4. The Cubs have 74 wins on Opening Day, more than any other active franchise. The Giants are second with 71.
5. Only Mickey Mantle, with 18 Opening Day starts, had more for the Yankees than Derek Jeter, who is making Opening Day start No. 16.
9. In 1994, Tuffy Rhodes hit three home runs on Opening Day, all of them off Dwight Gooden. He finished his career with 13 home runs.
10. The Cardinals-Marlins game played on Wednesday night was the third of 2,430 regular-season games played in 2012. The Cardinals will try to become the first National League team to repeat as World Series champs since the 1975-76 Reds.
List 2: 10 rookies not currently in the majors who will be called up this year and help fantasy teams.
1. Trevor Bauer, SP, Diamondbacks
2. Brad Peacock, SP, A's
3. Ryan Lavarnway, C, Red Sox
4. Garrett Richards, SP, Angels
5. Jacob Turner, SP, Tigers
6. Anthony Rizzo, 1B, Cubs
7. Brandon Guyer, OF, Rays
8. Mike Trout, OF, Angels
9. Danny Hultzen, SP, Mariners
10. Brett Jackson, OF, Cubs.
List 3: 10 guys who are not officially closers for their team but have a good shot at 10-plus saves, not counting obvious guys like Kenley Jansen or the candidates in Boston and Kansas City, because that'd be too easy.1. Addison Reed, White Sox
2. Fautino De Los Santos, A's
3. David Hernandez, Diamondbacks
4. Mike Adams, Rangers
5. Matt Lindstrom, Orioles
6. Sergio Romo, Giants
7. Glen Perkins, Twins
8. Rex Brothers, Rockies
9. Kerry Wood, Cubs
10. Joaquin Benoit, Tigers
1. In honor of Chipper's final season
Last Dance with Larry Wayne (@aburt17)
2. Bats Hit Crazy (@tlargo33)
3. The Dikembe MarkTrumbos (@hansmasheen)
4. A Tribe Called QuesTec (@phillyb322)
5. Fried Chicken and Beer (Henry Olszewski)
6. Off constantly (@joelhamlin) and Off Twice (@dodgerdogs).
7. My Way or Lavarnway (Joe Malkin)
8. Stop Draggin' Giancarlo Round (@exfencer)
9. Cain I get a hot tub!? (@billrichthom)
10. Boesch Spice (@Bradkost)
List 5: 10 interesting spring training stats
1. Only Marco Scutaro (with 15) had more walks this spring than Adam Dunn (14 in 57 at-bats just 12 strikeouts)
2. The Tigers' Andy Dirks hit .429. I tend not to pay attention to things like batting average in the spring, but Dirks, who hit .355 in Triple-A last year before getting called up (hit .251 in the majors), will play every day in a very good offense. He struck out nine times but also walked eight times in 56 at-bats.
3. Dee Gordon hit .379 with 11 steals (and, ahem, four caught stealings) in 66 at-bats.
4. Jason Bourgeois had eight steals (one caught stealing) in just 42 at-bats. He'll steal 25-30 regardless of whether he starts.
5. Francisco Liriano had a 33-to-5 strikeout-to-walk rate in 27 innings with no home runs allowed.
6. Chris Sale had 28 strikeouts and allowed two walks in 28 innings.
7. Luke Hochevar struck out 21 while walking only two in 19 innings.
8. Vance Worley had the same numbers but in 20 innings pitched.
9. Daniel Bard, however, walked 16 while striking out 18 in 24 2/3 innings. He had a 6.57 ERA and 1.50 WHIP.
10. Jon Niese had 20 strikeouts against two walks in 22 innings. He allowed just one home run.
List 6: 10 players owned in less than 12 percent of leagues who should be among your first pickups if you need someone.
1. Jonathan Lucroy, C, Brewers (owned in 7 percent of leagues): Having a nice spring. I like the Brewers this year.
2. Justin Smoak , 1B, Mariners (5.2 percent): Already has one home run. Posthype sleeper.
3. Mike Aviles, 2B/3B, Red Sox (11 percent). Qualifies at two positions, will play every day, has low double-digit power potential and decent speed.
4. Zack Cozart, SS, Reds (7.8 percent): He won't hit .324 again as he did in 37 at-bats after getting called up last season, but he will help you a bit everywhere without any real downside.
5. Danny Valencia, 3B, Twins (6.7 percent): Having a good spring, will play every day and hit 15 home runs last year.
6. Alex Presley, OF, Pirates (1.8 percent): He'll be 100 percent owned by mid-May. Why not beat the rush?
7. Raul Ibanez, OF, Yankees (11 percent): Had 20 homers and 84 RBIs last year in a down season. Now he's healthy, and if there's one thing the Yankees do, it's score runs.
8. Vernon Wells, OF, Angels (11.9 percent): Worst year of his career last season and still hit 25 home runs. He was very unlucky with his batting average.
9. Alejandro De Aza, OF, White Sox (9.2 percent): Fast with a solid average and the potential for 10 home runs.
10. Denard Span, OF, Twins (10.8): Coming back from a concussion. If he's healthy, he's 80 runs and 20 steals in the bank.
List 7: 10 of the best (printable) movie and television-themed fantasy team names suggested to me on Facebook and Twitter.1. The Balking Dead (multiple)
2. One time, at Band Kemp (@Allen_Dan5)
3. She's Just Not Shin-Soo Choo (multiple)
4. The Humber Games (multiple)
5. Cat Kipnis (@justintime56)
6. Posey Galore (Brian Davis)
7. Chen Things I Hate About You (Jake Luneman)
8. Zack and Miri make a Morneau (@infaren)
9. I gotta fever for more Cowgill! (Brett Lasser)
10. Hot Shots Part Yu! (@sweersz)
List 8: 10 guys I'm adding to my "love" list now that I've done a bunch of drafts and keep snagging them up.
1. Kelly Johnson, 2B, Blue Jays: A brutal year last season, yet 21 home runs and 16 steals, and played pretty well after the trade from Arizona to Toronto.
2. Matt Joyce, OF, Rays: All he needed was playing time.
3. Alex Presley, OF, Pirates: Good average, a bit of speed and pop, just sort of like him.
5. Dee Gordon, SS, Dodgers: We know he'll steal 50 bags no matter where he is. After this spring, I think it's going to be in the majors.
6. Vernon Wells, OF, Angels: PPOBY (proven player off a bad year). Is he great? No. But I still think he's a top-50 outfielder, and he's not being drafted as one.
7. Peter Bourjos, OF, Angels: Everyone wants to talk Mike Trout, and rightfully so, but this guy has speed and increased his power in the second half last year without losing the average.
8. Jonathan Niese and R.A. Dickey: I put them in bold predictions but also should have had them in Love. I'm fairly high on the Mets' starting rotation this year, oddly.
9. Andy Dirks, OF, Tigers: Another guy I just sort of like, especially for AL-only. The Tigers' offense will be very good.10. Justin Morneau, 1B, Twins: Another PPOBY. I like what I've seen this spring and like that he'll play DH, and his price is certainly cheap enough.
List 9: 10 interesting April stats, with a shout-out to J.B. Kritz of ESPN Stats & Information.
1. In the past two seasons, no player has more home runs in April than Paul Konerko, with 17.
3. The past two Aprils, Nyjer Morgan has a .912 OPS. It's 200 points higher than his career .721 OPS and is, in fact, higher than Prince Fielder's over the same time frame, among others.
5. There may never be a real chance to buy low on Roy Halladay, but if ever there is a chance to get him below market value, it's near the end of this month. Halladay's 3.70 career ERA in April is the worst month of his career, so by the time we enter what we fantasy analysts call the "talk owners down off the ledge" season, there's sure to be at least a few panicky owners you can take advantage of.
6. Luckily, while we've been told that Red Sox fans aren't as smart as some others, they are known for being patient and calm. Otherwise, they might freak out on Josh Beckett, whose 5.52 ERA in the past three Aprils is the sixth-highest in baseball among qualified pitchers.
7. The hitting version of Halladay: If ever there is a chance to buy low on Troy Tulowitzki, this is the month. His career April "slash" lines (.240/.323/.413) represent career lows in any month for each stat. May is only a slight upgrade, but he bats at least .290 in all the other months. Also interesting to note that in April and May combined, he has 25 career home runs. In August and September? He has 58 career homers.
8. Top 10 OPS leaders in April in the past five seasons combined: Chase Utley, Evan Longoria, Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Alex Rodriguez, Joey Votto, Chipper Jones, Ryan Braun, Matt Kemp and Kosuke Fukudome.
9. One last buy-low guy. Justin Verlander's career ERA in April is 4.72, highest of any month and the only month in which he has a losing record.
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List 10: Once more with best (printable) fantasy baseball team names.1. Holland Oates (multiple)
2. The Human Cespedes (@rick_stephan)
3. I would walk 500 Jemiles (@tomclaycomb)
4. Your girl wants you Teixeira (@u_neek81)
5. A Horse Walks into Aybar (@wits727)
6. Rollins in the Deep (Dan Pendergrast)
7. Sexy and Cano It (multiple). Also, "Alexei and I know it" from multiple folks. Like both variations.
8. Livin Avila Loca (multiple)
9. SLG Life and Notorious BABIP (both from Nils Ferm)
10. Thome Don't Play That (@wesbrooks58) (honorable mention for the TV/movie list)
The bonus list
So, every year I do these lists with the best fantasy team names. I really wish I could print all of them, but we are a family-friendly website. But in addition to all the really great, clever names I get, certain names keep coming up, over and over, year after year. Sometimes accompanied by the proclamation that "Dude, I got the greatest team name!" and then it's a name you've heard a million times and hasn't been funny for a decade. And people think they are the only ones to have thought to ever combine the names of Eric Byrnes and Jake Peavy in a way that invokes venereal diseases when, in fact, it's the most played-out name ever.
Plays off the names of Doug Fister, Albert Pujols, Tim Lincecum and Bartolo Colon pop up very often as well, but come on. That's some pretty low-hanging fruit. So here, now, are the most overused and played-out fantasy team names that were suggested to me many, many times over. If your team name is on the list below, please try again.
1. Devil Wears Prado
2. Latos Intolerant
3. Honey Nut Ichiros
4. Grand Theft Votto
6. Carry On My Heyward Son
7. Jeters Never Prosper
8. Choo and a Half Men
9. 99 problems but a pitch ain't one.
10. Sons of Pitches
11. The Good, the Bad and the Uggla
12. Napoli Ever After
13. Hakuna Tejada
14. Brain over Braun
15. Fight the Mauer
16. Duda, where's my car?
17. The Morneau After Pill
18. Kershawshank Redemption
19. Whirling Darvishes
20. Never Ending Storen
Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- says play ball, baby. Play. Ball. He is the creator of RotoPass.com, a website that combines a bunch of well-known fantasy sites, including ESPN Insider, for one low price. Use promo code ESPN for 10 percent off.