Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Josh Hamilton and other pleasant surprises

CWhat's the secret to fantasy success? It's not drafting the big-name, big-money superstars. Anybody with half a brain and a cable modem can do that. It's collecting those unknown and unwanted diamonds in the rough, giving them a chance and watching them evolve into All-Stars. Mix in enough of them along with all the familiar names, toss in a little luck, and you've got yourself a championship.

Here area few of the pleasant surprises we've enjoyed so far this season:

Josh Hamilton's the feel-good story of the year, in fantasy and real life. He was on his way to a good year last year as a rookie with the Reds before injuries wiped him out after 90 games. He's on his way to Triple Crown contention (.312/19/80) this year with the Rangers.

Edinson Volquez, swapped from Texas to Cincinnati for Hamilton, has worked out just as well and might win the pitching version of the Triple Crown (10 wins, 2.08 ERA, 100 strikeouts). Wouldn't that be something?

Mike Mussina was supposed to ride off into the sunset, or maybe to the bullpen, for the Yankees this year. Instead, the 39-year-old with the 5.15 ERA last year is 10-6 with a 3.87 ERA, plus 58 strikeouts to just 15 walks.

Jason Giambi was supposed to be another Yankee playing out his monster contract. Maybe it's the magical mustache, but his 17 homers, third-best in the AL, say he's got some life left in his bat.

You may have gambled on George Sherrill for some saves. Hey, the O's closer's gig was his to lose, right? You probably weren't expecting 26 saves, second-most in MLB.

You draft Chipper Jones, you expect a high average. But .394? I think not. It won't last - he's got a .404 batting average on balls in play, which is ridiculously lucky - but it's been a big help for his owners so far.

Cliff Lee (11-1, 2.34, 90 Ks) is having the Cy Young-caliber year CC Sabathia was supposed to. And nobody drafted him. I'm still waiting for him to come down to Earth ...

Carlos Quentin hit five home runs in 81 games last year. He's got 19 this year through 79 games.

Justin Duchscherer leads the majors with a 1.91 ERA. Wasn't this dude a middle reliever? Yes, but the wise Billy Beane thought otherwise.

Milton Bradley is on pace for a career year - three more homers and 18 RBIs, he'll top his single-season highs from 2004. Perhaps he's finally found a home ... seven franchises later. I'm not betting on it though.

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