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    Fast starters - American League edition

    Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Nothing is more disappointing and frustrating than your fantasy baseball team getting off to a very slow April and facing a six-month uphill battle to become competitive.

    To combat this problem, what you need are hitters and pitchers who start their season with a bang. Toward that end, we have compiled a list of players whose history says they will get off to a flying start, that they are at their best in the first half of the season.

    For our analysis, we will use statistics up to the All-Star break as "first half" and post All-Star break as "second half." And instead of simply using batting average for hitters, we use OPS (On base Plus Slugging), which provides a much more accurate display of a player's production.

    In later pieces, we will analyze pitchers by their first-half and second-half SSRD360 number - a new statistic which measures a pitcher against the league average in four categories - wins, ERA, WHIP and strikeouts.

    We know from past history that hitters like Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, Shin-Soo Choo, Adrian Beltre and Carlos Pena are not players you want on your roster if you expect to hit the ground running in April.

    Cano's OPS is 92 points higher in the second half (.892 versus .800) while his New York Yankees teammate Teixeira is 65 points better after the break. It's no wonder the Bronx Bombers offense really begins to percolate during the heat of July, August and September - scoring 5.57 runs per game in the second half.

    In Part II of this series, we evaluate American League hitters.

    There were a total of 109 players analyzed with 48 having better first halves than second, 59 better second halves and two - Miguel Cabrera and Chris Iannetta - having identical OPS numbers in each half.

    Of course, some of the hitters who are better in the first half are still not fantasy-worthy, so let's see which of the AL hitters would give you an advantage if you have them in your Opening Day fantasy lineup:

    Brennan Boesch, Detroit - The Tigers outfielder has played two full seasons in Detroit's outfield and has some interesting first half-second half splits. Before the break, he is an absolute fantasy stud, batting .321 with 24 homers in 557 at-bats (1:23), 93 RBIs and a .911 OPS. In the second half, his numbers drop faster than the stock market with oil priced at $150 per barrel, batting .182 with a .526 OPS, a difference of 385 points. The good news is he's starting to hit this spring and is scheduled to bat second in the powerful Tigers' lineup. Boesch could be ready for another fast start and worthy of our "play until the All-Star break and trade to an unsuspecting owner" strategy.

    Kevin Youkilis, Boston - Youkilis has most recently offered up a couple of mediocre seasons to fantasy owners primarily due to injuries, but he's a top fantasy third baseman when healthy. This spring, he's missed only little time with a little soreness - nothing serious. With an OPS 104 points better in the first half, he has one of the largest splits in the AL and will almost certainly give you a fair market value for the end-of-the-fifth-round pick it will take to get him. Keeping him for the entire season, however, is another story. His recent injury history plus his second-half production screams "play and trade."

    Ben Zobrist, Tampa Bay - Zobrist is one of those players who fantasy owners and sabermetricians know well, but who plays in relative anonymity for most of the country. How many know that he's received MVP votes in two of the last three seasons? A second baseman who can post 90 runs, 90 RBIs and 20 homers and also is eligible in the outfield is a valuable property. He's not had a good spring and he's not a great April hitter, but May and June are when he gets it going and Zobrist ends up with an OPS 89 points better in the first half than second. If you have Zobrist on your roster, be patient. If he's not on your team, be prepared to make a trade offer if he starts slowly and enjoy the rewards in May.

    Brett Gardner, New York Yankees - Gardner is primarily known as a speed guy, giving little value except for stolen bases. But historically his first half OPS won't kill you (.756) and he does have a career .280 batting average before the break. Be prepared to jettison him via trade right after the "Summer Classic."

    Ian Kinsler, Texas - Kinsler has produced 30-30 seasons in two of the last three years and only failed in the other season due to injuries, which cut his season to 102 games. He's a fast starter, but even his second-half numbers are top-notch. Barring a serious injury, you should plan to keep him on your roster all year long.

    Jose Bautista, Toronto - Bautista produced ridiculously good numbers last spring with 31 homers, 65 RBIs and an out-of-this-world 1.170 OPS before the break. This was in contradiction to 2010, when he was much better in the second half (.903 versus 1.099). Either way, he should be on your "no-trade" list as he's been the best home run hitter in the majors over the past two seasons.

    Adam Dunn, Chicago White Sox - Dunn was probably the biggest fantasy disappointment of 2011. From 2004-2010, the slugger hit between 38 and 46 homers every year, but in his first season with the White Sox he batted a below-the-Mendoza-Line .159 with 11 homers and 42 RBIs. History says Dunn is a better first-half hitter than second - 56 points better - so we should know whether he will rebound very quickly in 2012. Dunn has hit four homers with a 1.049 OPS in spring training and is definitely worth a 15th-round gamble. If he doesn't give you a fast start in 2012, send him packing.

    Next up, a look at starting pitching.

    Comments? Criticism? Applause? Contact Steve Schwarz at sschwarz@sportsnetwork.com.

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    Welcome to Great38 Tampa Bay WTTA-TV/DT - WFLA News Channel 8

    Welcome to Great38 Tampa Bay WTTA-TV/DT - WFLA News Channel 8

      Great 38: Win tickets to Daytona 500

      Updated:

      Here's your chance to win tickets to the 2015 Daytona 500. Entering is easy, simply fill out the entry form included. More>>

      • Great Stuff

      News Now: Media General CEO talks about his career, future for company Video included

      Updated:

      In December, LIN Media and Media General merged to create the second largest broadcasting company in the country. The former CEO and President of LIN Media, Vince Sadusky, was placed at the helm of the new and improved Media General. More>>

      Bill Schifino, Jr talks about being President-Elect of the Florida Bar Video included

      Updated:

      Earlier this month, Bill Schifino, Jr. was announced as the 2015-16 President-Elect of the Florida Bar. Schifino comes to this position with a strong resume. More>>

      Trio sets off on 900 mile trek across Florida Video included

      Updated:

      Joe Guthrie, Mallory Lykes Dimmitt, and Carlton Ward Jr. are embarking on a journey of a lifetime. The trio are setting off on a 70-day, 900 mile trek across the state???without any automobiles.
      More>>

      How this guide dog helps one blind triathlete chase her Paralympic dream

      Updated:

      Every time Paralympic hopeful Amy Dixon makes it to the end of another grueling triathlon, she knows her trusty companion will be waiting for her at the finish line. Sixteen years after she lost vision in her right eye, which she says she viewed as "a death sentence" at the time,  More>>

      Legoland Florida hotel to open in spring; built for kids

      LEGOLAND Florida photo LEGOLAND Florida photo
      Updated:

      Legoland Florida Hotel will welcome its first guests a month earlier than previously expected.During an announcement Thursday, Legoland executives announced May 15 as the revised opening date.  More>>

      3 rhinos escape from safari zoo, return safely Video included

      Updated:

      Three rhinoceroses escaped from their site at a safari zoo in Israel this week, NBC reported.  More>>

      VIRAL VIDEO: Bossy 4-year-old girl feeds 6 pit bull dogs

      Little Girl Controls Pit Bull Dogs | Future Dog Trainer, Jukin Video on YouTube Little Girl Controls Pit Bull Dogs | Future Dog Trainer, Jukin Video on YouTube
      Updated:

      A video of a very authoritative 4-year-old girl feeding six very obedient pit pulls in the middle of a kitchen has gone viral on the web and is prompting a heated debate about the pit bull breed.
      More>>

      8 fun things to do in Tampa Bay this weekend | January 17-18 Video included

      Updated:

      See 8 fun things happening this weekend in Tampa Bay!
      More>>

      'Birdman,' 'Budapest' top Oscar nominations with 9 nods each

      Updated:

      Two extravagant comedies, "Birdman" and "The Grand Budapest Hotel," tied for the most Oscar nominations Thursday morning with nine nods each, including best picture. More>>

      Out and About
      Powered by WorldNow

      200 South Parker Street, Tampa, FL 33606

      Telephone: 813.228.8888
      Fax: 813.225.2770
      Email: news@wfla.com

      Can???t find something?
      Powered by WorldNow
      All content © Copyright 2000 - 2015 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.