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One of the most obvious maxims of baseball is "To win games, you need to score runs."
That may not always be true in fantasy baseball weekly match-ups, however, especially in those leagues that count every stat up to and including put-outs.
Yet at some point this season, no matter what kind of league you're in, runs could be the stat category that turns a weekly match-up loss into a win, or vice versa. It may not even make that big a difference, perhaps even just a point that proves valuable in playoff bracketing later on.
The runs category is probably in the back of the minds of fantasy owners on draft day, though probably almost never top of mind. You figure you will pick up runs with players that hit a lot of home runs (Justin Upton, leading MLB with 12 HRs and third in runs scored with 22) and steal a lot of bases (Coco Crisp, second in MLB with 8 SBs and second in runs scored with 24), or are generally fantastic across multiple categories (Mike Trout, who did everything in 2012, including lead MLB in both runs scored and SBs), but if you find yourself a few runs short during the season, it might be a good idea to head to the waiver wire with the runs in mind.
When looking for runs, it's good to keep in mind some rather obvious guidelines:
1. High OBP: On-base percentage, or in any case, lots of walks, should translate to more runs.
2. Stolen bases: The leading base-stealers get themselves into scoring position more often than slowpokes.
3. Lead-off hitters: They get more plate appearances, generally hit a few spots ahead of the big bats and usually get their jobs because they are pretty good with OBP, SBs or both.
4. Extra-base hits: If you can put yourself on second or third base, you should score even in some of the league's more inept offenses
Some of the best run-scorers are already taken in most leagues, but I noticed a couple bargains just this week:
Nate McLouth: 15 runs scored so far in just 93 plate appearances, available in 36% of Yahoo! leagues. He often bats lead-off, is among the SB leaders with eight, and right now has an OBP per .450. McLouth was once considered a multi-tool fantasy stud, and though he faded over the years, his role in Baltimore's strong lineup suggests he can help with runs and other categories.
Starling Marte: 20 runs scored so far, available in 25% of Yahoo! leagues. He has seven SBs and has helped himself into prime scoring position with two triples (which qualifies as a lot at the end of April). He also frequently hits lead-off.
Josh Rutledge: 19 runs scored so far, available in 25% of Yahoo! leagues. Doesn't walk a lot, although he has eight walks in 102 plate appearances, compared to just nine in about 300 PAs last year. He is also hitting only .213, but bats second in a productive lineup and already has five SBs
* Bleacher Report lists April's fantasy baseball downers, including Josh Hamilton.
* SI.com likes former Cubs pitcher Andrew Cashner as a waiver wire pick-up.
* Yahoo! Roto Arcade looks at Giancarlo Stanton, who hit the DL right after he finally started hitting HRs again.
Dan O'Shea is our man in fantasyland. He welcomes your comments.