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Thursday, 09 August 2007 18:03
MLB Headline News

 Oh, the purple mountain travesty that is Coors Field.
In past seasons, fantasy owners would load up on players with upcoming trips to Colorado. The thin air meant big numbers, transforming the Ryan Freels of the world into Ryan Howards for a few days.
It also had a way of making someone like Josh Beckett look more like Josh Towers.
It's not entirely in the past: just ask Yovani Gallardo. The Brewers' rookie hadn't allowed more than four runs in any of his first seven major league starts. Then he went to Coors Field and was rocked for 11 runs and 12 hits in 2 2-3 innings in a 19-4 drubbing on Wednesday.
It used to be all pitchers could expect problems at Coors, but things are different now. The humidor changed some things, and the improvement of the Rockies did the rest.
No smart owner is picking up players solely because of a series in Denver anymore. But owners certainly are loading up their lineups with Colorado batters when they are at home. Colorado pitchers, too.
Coors Field has changed from a pitcher's nightmare to a visiting team's nightmare, and your fantasy team can benefit for the rest of this season and in the future from knowing about it.
The Rockies have once again assembled a team that rules at Coors. They are 19-4 in Colorado since June 6, and haven't lost a home series since May.
They are doing it with a combination of good hitting, typical at home for the team, and surprisingly good pitching, which is much more unusual.
In 2004, the Rockies hit .303 at home with 111 home runs. Unfortunately, their pitchers allowed 110 home runs and an opponent batting average of .307, with a home ERA of 6.27.
Through 54 home games this year, the Rockies are batting .301 and are on pace for 102 homers. But their opponents aren't faring nearly as well. Foes are hitting .279 and are on pace for just 75 home runs. The Rockies home ERA is a completely acceptable 4.55.
The point is, watch where your players are playing when making out your weekly lineups. And have updated information, such as how the Coors effect has changed.
Otherwise, you could miss out on a gem like Jeff Francis.
HOME COOKING
Francis, RHP, Rockies
When he was coming up and dominating in the minors, some compared Francis to a young Greg Maddux, a cerebral pitcher with pinpoint control. He's had his growing pains, but he's improved in each of his four seasons and has emerged as legitimate ace. The 26-year-old Francis (13-5, 4.06 ERA) is 12-1 since May 7, and has begun to strike out more batters this year (6.8 per 9 innings), making him a pitcher who can help in multiple categories. And his 4.55 ERA at home means he's safe to keep activated at all times.
Jhonny Peralta, SS, Indians
Peralta is an elite shortstop, half of the time. He has been gold at Jacobs Field (.327-13-40), but hasn't found his swing on the road (.226-3-16). His career average is 36 points higher at home (.286 to .250), which points to a significant difference in approach depending on where Peralta is playing. If you own Peralta and you've been wondering why some weeks he's lights out and others not so much, now you know. You need to platoon Peralta with another shortstop to make him a valuable part of your team.
Mike Lowell, 3B, Red Sox
It's not that hard to understand why Lowell is so much better at Fenway Park (.362-10-45) than on the road (.248-5-30). The Green Monster is a friend to a right-handed line drive hitter like Lowell, who regularly plunks singles off the wall in left. Overall, Lowell has turned into a very dependable option at third. Other than June, when he hit .227, Lowell has been money all year long.
ROAD TO NOWHERE
Nomar Garciaparra, 3B, Dodgers
The disappearance of Nomar from fantasy relevance has been one of the more mind-boggling trends of the season. Even stranger is the fact that the veteran is doing just fine at home in a pitcher's park (.325-5-35) but has been awful on the road (.232-1-22). Only three qualifying players - Tony Pena Jr. of the Royals, Miguel Olivo of the Marlins and Julio Lugo of the Red Sox - have lower slugging percentages on the road than Garciaparra. Frightening. Drop him and find another answer for your corner infield slot.
Wandy Rodriguez, LHP, Astros
One absolute fantasy must is to make sure Rodriguez isn't in your lineup when he's on the road. If you do nothing else, do this. He pitches like a Cy Young candidate at home (6-2, 1.69 ERA), and is a complete disaster on the road (1-8, 8.16). The flip side of this is you need to pick him up if he's available in your league and make sure to play him when he pitches in Houston. In his last five home starts, he is 4-0 with an incredible 0.70 ERA.
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QUICK HITS: Taking closer Francisco Cordero out of your lineup when the Brewers are on the road may seem a bit extreme, but so are his home and road splits. Cordero has an 0.58 ERA at home, and an 8.62 on the road, where he's blown five of 16 save opportunities. ... Athletics SS Bobby Crosby, out since July because of a broken hand, has six RBIs in 170 road at-bats. Not so good for a guy who was supposed to have a live bat.
 

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