If you have ever had the joy of riding in a car with Todd Zola and me, you will have noticed that when we are together we act a lot like an old Jewish couple.
In fact, as business partners, we have been close to that, both having had Bar Mitzvahs, with me at 65 and Todd in his mid-50's (I believe). We will see one another tomorrow, providentially at First Pitch Arizona, which is where we met in 1999, meaning 18 years of friendship.
I still remember Z, role playing a mock trade during a particular session when two attendees (for that was what we were then) were given mythical lineups and then asked to try and make a swap.
I don't remember who Todd's trading partner was, but that poor human started with "I see that you need steals and power, and I...". Todd stopped him right there and in his matter-of-fact way cut to the chase, saying, "I know what I have, and what you have. What do you have in mind?"
I knew right then and there we could be friends, and I was right.
We have been friends since, and in 2010, when Mastersball founder Jason Grey became a big league scout, Z and I joined forces and I put Creativesports to rest and moved to Mastersball, keeping the content moving while Todd focused on numbers and projections, writing specifically for our Platinum subscribers.
Since that merger, the Fantasy Industry has exploded, much to the amazement of many of us. Things have become more specialized and as life progressed, Z and I worked with a sort of firewall between what we did. Not that we did not talk, for almost daily we have engaged in something over G-talk, but with Todd's work at RotoWire and ESPN, and my retirement from ATT, which now allows me to do this full time, our relative focus has simply changed.
So, effective tomorrow, as pretty much publicized, I am going back to Creativesports and Z will keep Mastersball. Z will continue to focus on the statistical analysis and projections he does so brilliantly right here, while Creativesports 2.0 (which is still undergoing it's initial build, but the basics are there) will focus on sports analysis, fantasy strategies and tactics along with daily DFS support. The site is expanding to cover soccer, NCAA hoops and football, the NFL, the NBA, MLB, the PGA, and eventually the NHL. We will also have regular pieces on the NFBC/NFFC, and will cover many forms and variations of fantasy play.
But, Z will continue with the Z Zone on the Tout Wars Hour every week, and I will be offering his projections via my site and he has the link to my site, so it is not so much the old Jewish couple splitting up as it is they just decided it was time in life for separate bedrooms.
It is funny--those kvetchy talks we have-- for one of the goofy things is somehow we will approach a player or tactic saying completely different things only to discover we are really saying the same thing in different ways. For, as I say, he is a scientist (he really is) and I am an artist. But, in the end, more times than not, we come to the same conclusion.
I cannot say I will miss Z because to a large degree those echats are just part of what we do, bouncing thoughts or ideas off one another. But, I will say that though I am excited to push the site where I started on the Net 21 years ago, I will indeed miss the sanity and security Lord Z provided.
He is a smart and wickedly quick and funny man, but Z is also amongst the kindest and most accepting human beings I know and I love him as dearly as if he really was my brother.
I thank him for his steady years of patience working with me.
Thanks Z. Here is to prosperity all around.
It seems like the regular baseball season wound up a million years ago, which is hardly the case.
This draft, one of four that Justin initiated, was billed as slow, but that doesn't describe accurately, as words like crawl and sluggish are more appropriate. However, since we are a good six months from Opening Day, haste is not that important.
With fellow mockers Brent Hershey, Howard Bender, Sammy Reid and Alex Chamberlain, this was a 15-team mixed that included three reserve selections.
Of course, the initial hot stove buzz in my fantasy baseball universe has been how do we deal with pitching next year? With home runs rampant, and hitting everywhere, the pitching suffers, so just what do we do? Grab Max Scherzer or Chris Sale by the second round, if then, and slide for awhile with arms?
Be content to grab Robbie Ray in the fifth and stack with pitchers for a few rounds? Wait till Round 12 and build around Ervin Santana, Marco Estrada, and a bunch of like gambles who could pay off royally just as easily as they could destroy a season by the first of May?
Over the years, I have always built my teams around pitching. In fact, building a strong pitching staff has always been my go-to, as I calculated that too much pitching meant I could trade, for we always need arms, right?
In the past, I have had success picking the likes of Jason Kubel or Michael Brantley on the cheap the year they delivered, but winning like that has become ephemeral, with the likes of Eduardo Escobar being a 20-homer man. I simply need more boost at the top to win these days, whether I like it or not.
Similarly, though banging 20 big flies has become common place, and 30 not quite such a feat, it is hard to really tell where that extra pop comes from. Last August, when I looked at whether home run production at the top had changed that much, it did become pretty clear that the number of guys who could belt 40 or more big flies seemed to be fairly constant. And, though two players launched 50 this season, only five exceeded 40 while eight batters did that last season.
This suggests that sticking with the big guys and working from there is the way to go. So, when drafting, that is indeed where I went, first waiting until Round 7 before Kyle Hendricks became my first arm. In Round 8, I picked Jimmy Nelson, followed by Danny Salazar in the ninth, and then Danny Duffy in Round 10 before I went back to bats with Avisail Garcia in Round 11.
At the bottom of the rotation were the real crapshoots: Mike Foltynewicz, Daniel Mengden and Sean Newcomb, with Alex Colome and Hector Neris comprising my pen.
On the other hand, my hitting is led by Nolan Arenado, J.D. Martinez, Starling Marte, Robinson Cano, Khris Davis and Carlos Santana.
The entire mess can be viewed here.
However, I plan on focusing strictly on drafting with this approach from now through the mock season, so follow along and you can see with me the pitchers falling to the middle or later rounds who could indeed be bargains.
Now, excuse me, Game 3 is on.
Remember to tune into the Tout Wars Hour on the FNTSY network, hosted by me, with Justin Mason and featuring Lord Z every Thursday night at 9 PM ET.
Follow me @lawrmichaels.
The subject of pitching, pitching staffs, and how rugged 2017 was on the arms of our team is pretty much rhetorical at this juncture.
If you have been listening to The Tout Wars Hour (on the FNTSY network every Thursday night at 9 PM ET), you have heard Justin Mason, Todd and I talk a lot the past few weeks about how to deal with hurlers next year without hurling.
I confess that I am a guy who always went for the "good pitching beats good hitting" maxim, and for many years in Fantasy Baseball, that seemed to work. But not anymore, as witnessed by Mike Podhorzer's dominant victory in AL Tout this year, for example.
As my teams tumbled from the top and hot starts over the first couple of weeks, I thought of the guy who smashes his head against the wall repeatedly but never understands the way to mitigate the problem is to try another approach. And, though I hide behind age (I get Medicare now) and have the hashtag #iambecomingabesimpson, I like to think I am capable of learning. At least when it comes to baseball.
A little over a week ago, Justin initiated a cluster of mock drafts and I decided this off-season to work at assembling second-tier pitching staffs this year to the best of my ability, assuming the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Chris Sale and Corey Kluber are out of reach. In fact, there is a good chance that if I had a top-5 pick, I would be hard-pressed to select any of this quartet of aces in an era of hitting. Not to mention, I am trying to figure out how to win without being arm heavy.
So, I have concocted a list of starting pitchers I think I can get from the fifth round on in a straight draft. Note that in an ideal world, I would like to hold off on grabbing a hurler until the seventh round if I could, but I suspect aside from getting lucky, that will be as much a ticket to doom as selecting too many pitchers.
My plan is to really keep track of my mocks and, if you will, build an ADP of these guys by which I will try to draft for real come March 2018. So, I will be writing about this and tracking it periodically during the off-season, sometimes here, and sometimes on the Hotpage.
As of now, here are the guys I am looking at with a little rationale along with where the player was selected in the Couch Managers Mock Justin initiated. Note that this league is a 5x5 with 15 teams, so the sixth round begins with Pick #76. Also note there might be additions and subtractions to this list as the stove heats, then cools.
Robbie Ray #70: An ace in the making as part of arguably the best starting troika--with Zacks Greinke and Godley--Ray will get whiffs if nothing else, and that is the starting point. However, as a late fifth rounder, his skill set is hardly a secret. And, his team can hit.
Alex Wood #90: Surprisingly high for a pitcher with just one very good season under his belt coupled with an injury history. On the other hand, it was a monster good year and Wood was certainly not overused (152.3 innings). But, pitching as a lefty behind Kershaw has to be a comfy slot in the rotation of a good team.
Kyle Hendricks #95: Kind of the perfect #2 guy, not strikeout heavy, but definitely has control, keeps the ball down, and also is on a very good team.
Aaron Nola #101: Certainly a potential ace on the Phils, who are improving and kind of fun. But, 184 whiffs over 168 innings.
Sonny Gray #110: He's back and will be a quiet one of many in the Bronx.
Jimmy Nelson #116: Another great season from a former #1 who whiffed 199 over 175.3 innings.
Zack Godley #121: 165 whiffs over 155.3 innings on the same team as Robbie Ray.
Danny Salazar #125: It is getting to be crapshoot time, but we can all agree the talent is there.
Jose Berrios #136: Pretty good rookie season on a team that wound up being a lot better than we thought. The questions are was the team a fluke, and thus Berrios one? I'm guessing Jose is for real.
David Price #140: Looks good in the playoffs, and is surely not bullpen material, making Price a solid gamble for a pitcher who was among the likes of Sale and Scherzer just two years ago.
Danny Duffy #146: Like a few guys on this list, Duffy has trouble staying healthy. Ideally, in drafting a lot of these guys, the injury factor is mitigated a little.
Jon Gray #151: Another injury worry, but more serious and developing talent.
Mike Clevinger FA: 172 picks gone, and Clevinger is still out there, but for how long?
So, walking away with six of these guys to go with a pair of closers and a seventh mystery starter is what I am looking at.
Follow me along the adventure. And, feel free to comment.
Follow me @lawrmichaels.
My cousin Richard, with whom I did not really become friends and close to until about five years ago (he grew up in Switzerland and I in Berkeley), noted early in our relationship that I was not particularly sentimental.
"You are right" I replied, "but I am quite a romantic."
And, I am. When I asked Diane to marry me, I made dinner reservations at Tavern on the Green in Central Park and then reserved a horse carriage to drive us around the park as I figured out how to ask my partner of a decade if she wanted to tie the knot.
So, I think about this kind of stuff even if I am not tied to it over the long haul. And, one of the things I love about baseball is its history and eras. I consider myself lucky now that I got to see Bob Gibson and Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron and Stan Musial actually play live, which might bring the envy of younger fans today. By the same token, I never got to see Lou Gehrig, Walter Johnson, or Pop Lloyd play.
I do, however, play in the "Strat-O-Matic Summer League of Champions," curated by the venerable Larry Denicola. The SLOC, as it is called, includes 24 teams. We start play with the Strat-O-Matic Hall of Fame set, and each draft ten players out of the immortals. Subsequently, we pick a season and use that year to augment out ten players.
For example, this past year, 1961 was the year so I got Pete Runnels and Rocky Colavito on my team along with Bob Gibson and Ed Delahnty, although our season was far from successful. However, there is some fun with putting Joe McClain in as a situational lefty to hopefully get Babe Ruth out.
Every three years, we throw the HOF guys back in a pool and have a new snake draft, meaning maybe next year I can actually get Josh Gibson as my first pick? And, note that the HOF set includes not just those in the Hall, but guys who are close like Dwight Evans and Orel Hershiser.
So, we have the HOF draft every three years, and then the draft for players of the selected year. But in between the two, owners are allowed to cash in their respective troops and redraft their HOF players. So, any of the either new owners (should an owner leave, that roster automatically goes into the draft pool) or existing owners who simply want to rebuild get to do so.
This year, there were five such owners, and I thought it would be fun to look at the results of the draft. So, here are the 60 players. I made a few comments on a few guys. And, among the fun things about this league is the HOF set includes greats from Japan as well as Carribean and Latin players who never really made it here but elsewhere on the planet were stars. Amazing what one can learn!
1. SASKATCHEWAN SASQUATCHES - LOU GEHRIG - OBP and power are the best attributes a player can have, hence #1.
2. MAINE SANDPIPERS - WALTER JOHNSON
3. ALL NATIONS STARS - JIMMY FOXX
4.PA COALMINERS - CHRISTY MATHEWSON
5. AMARETTO SLAMMERS - TOM SEAVER
6. DAKOTA COLTS - "THREE FINGER" BROWN
1. DAKOTA COLTS - CY YOUNG
2. AMARETTO SLAMMERS - NAPOLEAN LAJOIE
3. PA COALMINERS - HANK GREENBERG
4. ALL NATIONS STARS - PERUCHO CEPEDA - Orlando's Papa was THE Bull.
5. MAINE SANDPIPERS - JUAN MARICHAL
6. SASKATCHEWAN SASQUATCHES - JOHNNY BENCH
1. SASKATCHEWAN SASQUATCHES - DUKE SNIDER
2. MAINE SANDPIPERS - ROBERTO CLEMENTE
3. ALL NATIONS STARS - HACK WILSON
4.PA COALMINERS - GEORGE BRETT
5. AMARETTO SLAMMERS - EARL AVERILL
6. DAKOTA COLTS - AL KALINE
1. DAKOTA COLTS - JOSE MENDEZ - Cuban ace only could get as far as the Kansas City Monarchs, but was 75-28 as charted in his home country among other vague stats.
2. AMARETTO SLAMMERS - GAYLORD PERRY
3. PA COALMINERS - YOGI BERRA
4. ALL NATIONS STARS - JOHN CLARKSON
5. MAINE SANDPIPERS - RYNE SANDBERG
6. SASKATCHEWAN SASQUATCHES - JOHN J McGRAW
1. SASKATCHEWAN SASQUATCHES - NICKEY WELCH
2. MAINE SANDPIPERS - TIM RAINES
3. ALL NATIONS STARS - MARIANO RIVERA
4. PA COALMINERS - MARTIN DIHIGO - Negro and Mexican Leagues star who could hit and pitch.
5. AMARETTO SLAMMERS - HARMON KILLEBREW
6. DAKOTA COLTS - KIRBY PUCKETT
1. DAKOTA COLTS - WILLIE McCOVEY
2. AMARETTO SLAMMERS - HUGHIE JENNINGS
3. PA COALMINER - STEVE CARLTON
4. ALL NATIONS STARS - CAL RIPKEN JR
5. MAINE SANDPIPERS - CHIEF BENDER
6. SASKATCHEWAN SASQUATCHES - RANDY JOHNSON
1. SASKATCHEWAN SASQUATCHES - GEORGE DAVIS
2. MAINE SANDPIPERS - KEN BOYER
3. ALL NATIONS STARS - REGGIE JACKSON
4. PA COALMINERS - LEON DAY - Negro Leagues pitcher inducted into the Cooperstown HOF.
5. AMARETTO SLAMMERS - CAP ANSON
6. DAKOTA COLTS - BOB FELLER
1. DAKOTA COLTS - RON SANTO
2. AMARETTO SLAMMERS - DAZZY VANCE
3. PA COALMINERS - WHITEY FORD
4. ALL NATIONS STARS - MASAICHI KANEDA - 400-298, 2,34 w/4490 whiffs in Japan.
5. MAINE SANDPIPERS - KEITH HERNANDEZ
6. SASKATCHEWAN SASQUATCHES - TAKEHIKO BESSHO - 310-198, 2.78 with a 2.13 ERA in Japan.
1. SASKATCHEWAN SASQUATCHES - BOBBY DOERR
2. MAINE SANDPIPERS - SAM BANKHEAD
3. ALL NATIONS STARS - BILL FOSTER
4. PA COALMINERS - TOM HENKE
5. AMARETTO SLAMMERS - CHINO SMITH - Died young. Hit .427 in 1927 in the Negro Leagues.
6. DAKOTA COLTS - ALAN TRAMMEL
1. DAKOTA COLTS - ERNIE LOMBARDI
2. AMARETTO SLAMMERS - WARREN SPAHN
3. PA COALMINERS - LUIS TIANT JR
4. ALL NATIONS STARS - JOE GORDON
5. MAINE SANDPIPERS - PABLO MESA - Cuban star of the 20's.
6. SASKATCHEWAN SASQUATCHES - DUCKY MEDWICK
As noted, I tried to highlight players who were maybe not as well known. And, stats from the Negro Leagues are kind of iffy, hence I quoted none.
And, playing in such a league is great fun, keeps baseball going during the off-season and keeps us well-versed in baseball history.
Remember to tune into the Tout Wars Hour on the FNTSY network, hosted by me, with Justin Mason and featuring Lord Z every Thursday night at 9 PM ET.
Follow me @lawrmichaels.
Fantasy Football has kind of crept up on me this year.
In the past, I played in three or four fantasy leagues each football season, and last year I added a cool Dynasty League sponsored by my mates at Sirius/XM, which is a fairly intense ultra keeper contest with 40 players and a redraft of five each season to allow for the selection of the top draft picks of the NFL.
Last year, I also started playing DFS with several groups weekly making for about seven places I had to go in order to update all of my rosters.
With doing this stuff full-time now, however, and participating in a bunch of mocks, somehow things kind of got out of control it seems.
As of right now, I have:
-Ottoneu Experts League
-Experts Schmecksperts League
-Kathy League Gifford
-North American Internet Fantasy Football League
-Fantasy Duds League
-Utter Genius League
-Knights of the Passover Table League
-Tout Wars DFS
-Baileys DFS League
That's 13 and that means a lot of roster checks, let alone FAAB moves.
First, there's a game on Thursday, then moves till Sunday kickoff, and essentially games till Monday night. Then it is assess who got hurt, what that means, who is playing where and when next week. Then, are there players in the free agent pool by which I can improve any spots?
Now let's remember that in a couple of weeks all of this gets compounded by the Bye factor, and if we think of 16 guys per roster on the non-DFS teams, that's 144 roster spots and the closer I get to my hashtag, #iambecomingabesimpson, the tougher it gets.
Come Tuesday morning, however, I am not ready to dig through all my teams just yet. In fact, even Wednesday seems a bit early, but the issue is forced upon me with the Thursday night game. So, that is a lot of rosters. But, not content with my own personal neuroses being halted there, I don't really like to make a lot of moves in my leagues, particularly over the first few weeks of the season.
Fortunately, this year I have been spared most of any kind of cataclysmic injury, save my Sirius team on which both David Johnson and Cameron Meredith live. And, I tried hard to draft with respect to building solid teams across the board that barring an injury, had enough starting players to address the off-weeks.
Of course a lot of that is wishful thinking, and so far every team but one has started just fine and things ahead look pretty good. In fact, the one team struggling is the Auto Draft squad I hoped to fix the best I could (I covered this September 9). However, aside from the humblebrag, I had to write all these leagues down so that I can remember to make the moves in each one (how you guys who play in 20 leagues and a wad of DFS ones manage to keep track?).
Using that list, I went through all the rosters on Thursday afternoon, before kick-off, and thought everything was right with the world.
And it was. Except that in the Knights of Passover League, I missed activating Jordy Nelson. That is the same league where last week I kept Stefon Diggs and Pierre Garcon on the bench.
I don't know how I could have missed starting Jordy, who also sat on the bench last week in anticipation of that thigh injury that the wide receiver played through for that is the only team where I have Jordy shares. This week, I was hot to remember activating Diggs and Garcon but just glossed over Nelson, who gets an extra week to rest his thigh on my team.
All of this is making me think maybe I have too many teams playing here, and things have gotten out of control?
(Neither did I).
Tune into the Tout Wars Hour on the FNTSY network, hosted by me, with Justin Mason and featuring Lord Z every Thursday night at 9 PM ET and follow me @lawrmichaels.