Bears

Fantasy baseball pitchers stock

Fantasy baseball pitchers stock

By David Ferris
CSNChicago.com

Buy

Scott Diamond, SP, Twins: He doesn't throw hard enough to wake the baby, but Diamond has been effective nonetheless (five wins, 1.61 ERA) because he's an extreme strike-thrower with a dominant ground-ball rate. You worry about the league catching up to Diamond when he gets around the AL once or twice, but we love him with the inter-league slate at play. Use the lefty with confidence at home against Philadelphia and at Pittsburgh, favorable matchups in mistake-forgiving parks.
Ryan Cook, RP, Athletics: We can't guarantee the A's will let skills lead to the ninth inning - in a perfect world, they'd like to find a taker for veterans Brian Fuentes and Grant Balfour, and a shiny save total can sometimes aid in that pursuit. But Cook was the man in the ninth at Colorado on Tuesday, earning his first save, and his 2012 numbers make a strong statement (0.67 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, 27 Ks, just eight hits allowed). Don't overreact to the 15 walks Cook has issued - three of them were intentional, so he's on the fringe of having acceptable control. As much as the A's want to think about their future with roster and game management, they also have to be accountable to the clubhouse and the fan base. With that in mind, Cook is the best saves play here.
Kevin Millwood, SP, Mariners: In shallow mixers you don't have to bother with Millwood, but he still has a whiff of value in deeper pools and AL-only groups (3.57 ERA, 1.29 WHIP). Millwood's always been able to induce ground balls, and he's still getting some swings and misses (52 strikeouts) and keeping the ball in the park (three homers allowed over 12 appearances). A home date against San Francisco this weekend looks unthreatening enough; so long as you work the schedule with Millwood, you should be fine.

Sell

Johnny Cueto, SP, Reds: To be honest, he could be in any of our headings this week: buy, sell, or hold. It really depends on your league environment and the people you're competing against. Cueto's seven wins and 2.46 ERA play in any format, and while he's not a big strikeout guy (just 69), he's walking less than two batters per nine. A heavy ground-ball bias helps keep the ball in the park, though Cueto has also been fortunate when batters do elevate one of his pitches (6.3 percent HRFB).

Most of the peripherally-suggested ERAs say that Cueto is smoke, someone who is destined to blow up when his luck runs out, but maybe Cueto is a pitcher who's capable of consistently beating the secondary stats - perhaps this is another Matt Cain type, a pitcher statheads are destined to underrate. Ultimately Cueto gets the sell tag here because we've seen some strong hauls come back in recent deals: he's been moved (1-for-1) for Carlos Santana, Edwin Encarnacion and Cliff Lee in some public leagues. Your mileage will vary. You know your league mates better than we do. In some other formats, the play on Cueto is to hold, sit back, and enjoy the ride.

Max Scherzer, SP, Tigers: The zippy strikeout rate gets everyone excited, especially when he runs into a hack-first opponent like Pittsburgh (recall the 15-whiff parade a few weeks back). But Scherzer struggles with loud and inconsistent mechanics, not to mention efficiency of pitches - he only has 41 wins over 123 MLB games, largely due to his difficulty working deep in ballgames. And for all the glove-popping of his fastball, batters seem to square it up plenty: Scherzer has allowed 13 homers this year, and lefties are batting .340 against him. Another one for the tease file. The 5.76 ERA is probably a fluke, sure, but remember he was a 4.43 man last year.

Hold

Matt Garza, SP, Cubs: The 3.99 ERA is his highest mark since 2006, but he's also fashioning a 1.12 WHIP, the lowest of his career. The KBB numbers are in a good spot, three whiffs for every walk. The two wins in 11 starts? That's Chicago's ineptitude talking. Garza's affordable contract makes him a strong candidate to be moved in July - even more so than walk-year Ryan Dempster - and any contending club would have to support the righty better than the Cubs currently are. Be patient, ride it out.

A.J. Burnett, SP, Pirates: The 12-run meltdown in St. Louis left a mark, sure, though that day also told us something about Clint Hurdle, clueless manager (no rotation staple should be hung out to dry like this). Burnett has been money in his other nine starts, allowing just 13 earned runs over 59.2 innings of work. The pitcher-friendly environment of the NL (and PNC Park) is doing wonders for the talented but enigmatic righty. It's real.

Bears prove defense still matters with masterful shutdown of Rams

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USA TODAY

Bears prove defense still matters with masterful shutdown of Rams

A day after that 54-51 Rams-Chiefs barnburner on Monday Night Football last month, Bears defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was asked if he thought that game was a watershed moment for the pass-happy, offense-oriented NFL.

“I think it’s just we live in such a won-week news cycle in the NFL,” Fangio said, dismissing the thought. “Let’s see what happens next week.”

It wasn’t next week, but three weeks later, Fangio’s group proved great defense can still beat great offense in today’s modern NFL.

The Bears’ defense suffocated Jared Goff, neutralized Todd Gurley, owned the line of scrimmage and powered a 15-6 win over the 11-2 Rams at Soldier Field Sunday night. Goff was picked off four times — by Roquan Smith, Eddie Jackson, Kyle Fuller and Prince Amukamara — and finished with a passer rating of 19.1, the worst of his career (which includes his horrendous rookie season). Gurley was a non-factor, rushing 11 times for 28 yards while catching only three passes for 30 yards.

An offense that had only scored fewer than 30 points in two games this year was held to two measly field goals and was thoroughly discombobulated by the Bears’ defense all night. Sunday was the first time the Rams' offense failed to score a touchdown in the Sean McVay era.

The standout performances came from every unit. Eddie Goldman’s safety was a major momentum shift at the start of the second half, staking the Bears a two-point lead and giving them the ball back for a drive that led to the only touchdown of the game. Akiem Hicks was a menace, as usual, while Roy Robertson-Harris and Jonathan Bullard both had productive games.

Khalil Mack forced a fumble and combined with Leonard Floyd to make Goff miserable in pockets that consistently collapsed around him. Smith had that interception and was all over the field, while Danny Trevathan was key in limiting Gurley’s production.

And Fuller, Amukamara, Jackson, Adrian Amos and Sherrick McManis — who played the second half with Bryce Callahan injured — made sure the Rams weren’t able to get a spark.

This night was all about the league’s best defense dominating the league’s best offense in front of a national audience in primetime. And it served a warning for the high-octane offenses of the NFC: The Bears are a force to be reckoned with when they play in the playoffs in January.

Because, yes, the Bears are going to the playoffs. They don’t have anything clinched yet, but with nine wins and a lagging pack of wild card contenders (behind the Seahawks and Vikings), there’s not a realistic scenario in which this team doesn’t end its eight-year playoff drought. Also: If the Seahawks beat the Vikings on Monday night, the Bears will be a win or a Vikings loss away from clinching the NFC North.

But this Bears team, on Sunday night, played like a group that isn’t going to settle for just reaching the postseason. This is a group that should have designs on making a legitimate run in January on the back of a side of the ball that’s been frequently left for dead in NFL circles this year.

Maybe, just maybe, defense still matters. And if it matters in the playoffs? The Bears have a shot and doing more than just making it to January.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Bears and stream the ‘Football Aftershow’ easily on your device.

White Sox Talk Podcast: Harold Baines elected to the Hall of Fame!

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AP

White Sox Talk Podcast: Harold Baines elected to the Hall of Fame!

The MLB Winter Meetings began with a big surprise: White Sox legend Harold Baines is headed to Cooperstown. On the podcast, Baines talks about:

3:42 - What it means to make the Hall of Fame, how surprised he was to get the call and more.

6:20 - Ron Kittle talks about his former teammate and explains what he told Baines when he heard the news. 

10:42 - Jerry Reinsdorf who was a part of the voting committee explains why Baines is a Hall of Famer.  

Listen to the entire podcast here or in the embedded player below!

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.