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Saturday 23rd Sep 2017

Note: This is a revision of the original post, which was written while Cleveland was still ahead Friday evening, before they lost the game and their streak.

Remember the words, spoken by Crash Davis to Annie Savoy in Bull Durham, reminding her that she has to "respect the streak"? Savoy, angered that Crash has advised Nuke, Annie's paramour to sleep solo. That is because Nuke has had a lot of good starts while remaining celibate, and Crash has to remind Annie that the lack of contact has nothing to do with romance. Rather, Nuke has a streak going and changing behaviors right now could jinx that. 

It is true. Streaks are hard to do. Think about the Patriots a few years ago who only had to blow past the New York Giants. Or even more recently, the Panthers won 15, but could not close out #16 a la the 1972 Dolphins.

Thus, it is with awe that I began this piece, Clevelnd was on top and on the road to their 23rd consecutive win, and that is something that should cause us to sit back, take a breath, and acknowledge what a remarkable feat that is.

For, think about how we do revere streaks.

To start, in baseball, there is Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak and Cal Ripken's 2,632 consecutive games played streak. Orel Hershiser threw 59 consecutive scoreless innings that actually extended to 67 when the Dodger starter tossed eight shutout innings during the post-season.

Obviously, the Dolphins streak goes in there, but then there is Drew Brees, who threw a TD pass in 54 consecutive games while LaDainian Tomlinson scored a TD in 18 straight contests, a feat that probably won his fantasy owners a lot of games.

How about Martina Navratilova winning 74 consecutive tennis matches, or De La Salle High School--which happens to be in the SF East Bay--whose football team won 151 straight contests? Track star/educator Edwin Moses won 122 races in a row and the UCLA men's basketball team, under coach John Wooden, won 88 games before Notre Dame beat them, and Byron Nelson actually won 11 PGA tourneys in a row.

But, to really drive this home, think about yourself. Think about winning say 15 hands of Blackjack in a row? Too intense for you? How about 15 matchups in War with a deck of cards? 15 straight games of Cribbage or in the iPhone world, how about 15 straight games of "Words With Friends"?

If we just localize to our fantasy teams, and say you play in an H2H league. Has a team ever won 15 straight in your league? I thought not, and yet we are talking the Indians besting that total by another 33%.

This is, again, within the weird world of baseball where an odd bounce or a bad call or a funky pitch literally does shift the balance of a game one way or another, for the actual course of events following the release of the ball by the hurler has an infinite number of potential outcomes depending upon who is up, on base, what the score is, and a bunch of other variables.

Of course, that is one reason we watch games: We like to be amazed and sports surely does that, at least for me.

I attended the Oakland Athletics game in 2002, as documented in "Moneyball", where Scott Hatteberg banged an extra-inning homer not unlike Jay Bruce driving in Jose Ramirez the other night to seal win #22 for the Tribe.

That game was so intense and tight that I am not sure how those of us in the stands managed to maintain, let alone how the players on the field could focus, but then that is what we like to watch, the best play under the most difficult circumstances.

Well, the Indians now hold the American League consecutive game win streak, falling just four shy of the MLB record of 26 held by the 1916 New York Giants.

Once again, to contextualize, the Giants streak is more than 100 years old. So, had the Indians won last night, just five wins were required for a new record. Sounds easy, but winning five, let alone 22, let alone 27 takes a lot more confluences of skill and luck and right place right time than I can imagine.

Well done Cleveland: I am rooting for a 2017 Series title to go with the streak.

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.

It never occurred to me when I retired from my ATT gig that I would have another full-time job. In fact, in a way I don't. But, in a way I do, and this is it: writing full time, mostly about Fantasy Sports.

However, somehow I am, writing columns for someone almost daily, working my radio show (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), playing DFS baseball, football, and now golf along with my season-long leagues. This makes for a lot of time devoted to sports and games.

Mind you, I am far from complaining. I started in this business in 1993 and never could do it full time due to health and related issues until January 2015 when I retired from the corporate world, although even then it did not occur to me I would pick up columns and associations and work and poof, suddenly it is a daily thing. What that made me realize is that I really have wanted to do this full time for awhile.

What that has meant is a lot of mock drafts (I did 16 football ones this year) and time spent researching and writing and playing. As a result of the flurry of fantasy activity, I have similarly been invited to join a lot of leagues which I am trying to do without killing myself. But what that meant is last Monday I had two drafts both at 7 PM Pacific Time, and then Thursday one scheduled right during Tout Wars Hour and there was nothing I could do. 

So, I decided to simply let the system draft for me and deal with the fallout, seeing what I could do with the scraps on my roster. Now, I know I could have made pre-picks, but I just hate doing that, at least for the first part of a draft because I am never sure what direction I really want to take with a team until at least the first picks are made.

For example, I might want to go Wide Receiver heavy and take Antonio Brown if drafting in the fourth slot, a reasonable expectation that Brown is there. But, what if the person picking second has the same idea, and so does the third, and suddenly LeVeon Bell is available to me. At least to me, Bell is strong enough to change my roster construct plans, grabbing him and then the best receivers I can draft for my next picks, unless there is someone left in the pool that causes me to rethink my plans again.

It is not that I don't go into a draft with an idea of what I want to do, but I believe one should always have primary, secondary, and tertiary players/paths in mind for every pick made. For, that makes it rare to be caught off-guard with respect to the team and players still available who could help.

As it turned out, there was a problem in the Draft Room on Thursday, so the whole league wound up with an autodraft team, so the rest of the league found themselves in the position I had already committed to: Autodraft all around. That makes for a pretty fun league, I think.

The free agent pool was opened this morning for us, and stays open till Sunday kickoff, and a flurry of players for trade--Ty Montgomery, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Dez Bryant and Jordan Howard were all names bantered about on the trade wire.

I do have to admit, I was nervous to look at my squad for the first time this morning, when the draft was completed, but the reality is the resulting team is really not bad, giving me Alex Smith, Matt Ryan, Antonio Brown and Allen Robinson along with Bryant and the Seahawks defense.

I made some tweaks this morning--adding Wendell Smallwood and Tarik Cohen, a couple of quieter faves--and we shall see what the season brings.

It might be sobering to find out that autodraft can do a better job than I can. 

I guess I shall find out.

Follow me @lawrmichaels.

Are we all confused regarding Colin Kaepernick, and his strange path to non-existence?

It was only three years ago that Kaepernick dabbled with Joe Flacco on a McDonalds commercial, when the Niners Quarterback was hot as a habanero, his team recognizing a superior skill set that simply sent the ever steady Alex Smith to Chief-dom.

In trying to both understand Colin the man, and what might make him tick, as well as assessing why in god's name the Jaguars or Browns, or even a return to San Francisco--all of whom could really use a talented QB--cannot pull the trigger on signing him, I tried to do a little research.

I knew that Kaepernick was adopted, but not that his first years were spent in Wisconsin when the family moved to Central California and the town of Turlock, and it seems he had a normal family in which he was not the only athlete (brother Kyle was scouted in high school for football).

In 2007, Kaepernick went to college at Nevada, though he was a good enough baseball player to be drafted by the Cubs in 2006 (as a pitcher) in the 43rd round out of high school.

So, college and then a second round pick of the Niners in 2011 who was a back-up until 2012 when Alex Smith went down with a concussion in Week 10, giving Kaepernick a shot at strutting his stuff, which he did. Coach Jim Harbaugh, from then on, played Kaepernick for the rest of the season and Colin, who could run and throw and drive a team, pushed all the way to the Super Bowl where the team lost, but nobly enough.

In 2013, Smith was sent to Kansas City and Kaepernick owned the helm of the San Francisco offensive squad, and again drove the team to the NFC Championship game only to lose to the eventual Super Bowl Champ Seahawks.

Then came the ostensibly magic year of 2014, when Kaepernick made the McDonalds commercial, and he signed a six-year $126 million deal, but the rest of the season turned sour as San Francisco finished 8-8, missed the playoffs, and amid words around just how difficult life was around Jim Harbaugh. Things in Ninerland were at best dicey. 

During the season, Kaepernick was fined $10K for using "inappropriate" language on the field, which seems crazy as I have to think in the heat of battle just about everything imaginable is said on the gridiron. But, who knows? Later that year, Kaepernick was fined for wearing Dr. Dre "Beats" headphones during post-game interviews rather than phones made by Bose, the official headphones partner of the NFL.

Just within my narrative thus far there are a few things suggesting issues. For one, I think Harbaugh was always overrated as the San Francisco head coach, and think his sort of dogmatic military style was much better suited to impressionable college students rather than highly paid stud athletes upon whom he depended for his own success. But, in the end, I don't think he was a good match for a Kaepernick.

Perhaps that, coupled with the silly fine for swearing (I am assuming) triggered the "defiance" in wearing the Dr. Dre's, which is kind of understandable. At least it is something I can relate to as one who does not always appreciate being told what to do. 

But in 2015, he got hurt and the team was deteriorating and Kaepernick's skills appeared to fall apart in step, which brings us from the lousy 2015 to a somewhat better 2016, and the social protest during the National Anthem and poof, free agent city.

What then gets strange is that $126 million contract which seems to suggest that in addition to being happy to be shed of Harbaugh, Colin was the future. 

Personally, I not only don't care if Kaepernick sits during the National Anthem. If he is voicing his freedom of speech in doing so, I believe it to almost be a duty (and, I have never understood why we sing that song prior to sporting events of all things in the first place). But, I do believe in freedom of speech such that whether I like it or not, he gets to sit and the stupid Nazis get to march in Charlottesville. Because, as I believe Dr. King once said, "There is nothing against the law in being a racist: Only in acting upon it."

In that vein, the same "politically conscious" Kaepernick who prefers to sit at political moments could not delineate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, making me wonder exactly how Kaepernick's ethos works, if at all?

If I owned an NFL team, there is obviously a lot I am willing to "ignore" if you want to win, so what exactly is it about Kaepernick that is so bad? For he may indeed have made enemies by his political stance, but similarly, his jersey is the top seller for the NFL and I cannot believe that many people bought them in order to burn them. 

But, why would a team, still indebted to a talented young (Kaepernick is 29 at writing) quarterback for three more years, struggling to rebuild, simply dump their theoretically franchise player unless there was something else under the surface? 

What, I don't know, and I certainly have no dark thoughts about what might be at the source of all of this other than maybe he is a head case as they say? Maybe Colin Kaepernick is a football counterpart to Milton Bradley: Skilled athletically beyond all belief, but just not worth the emotional baggage trade off in the long run?

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 you can follow me @lawrmichaels.

Last June, I met Niv Shah at the summer Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) conclave in New York, drafting against him in the Industry B League of experts, exchanging cards and pleasantries in between the old savage sniping of picks one expects from such an event.

A month after the conference, Niv contacted me and asked if I would be interested in joining a new Dynasty Auction football league that did not involve defense but did allow for the drafting of college players to use as an eventual farm system.

Niv and long-time mate Pete Schoenke of RotoWire assembled the league, hosted by--and brilliantly named Ottoneu--Niv's company which provides custom baseball and football formats for the "serious" competitor. Ottoneu is essentially the commissioner end of Fangraphs, so that should also tell you the level of love, interest, and detail any proposed league set-up receives.

For this league, we had a $400 salary cap for 20 players with no defense, as noted, and a pair of flex spots (not super) in a 12-team league that also allows for the drafting of college players.

This is indeed a strange draft to me. Of course, my instincts are to analogize with baseball, trying to correlate $260 into a team of which 23 guys will play (hopefully) as opposed to a football team of 20 guys for $400 of which 11 will play. And, the two are not really analogous although I am sure my math mate Todd could figure out a way to quantify the two.

Even so, in baseball I know that if Roberto Osuna goes for $18 as the first closer auctioned in an AL-only format, followed by Craig Kimbrel for $21, that the baseline for closers has been set for the most part, with the lesser guys going for a few bucks less.

But, in this league, things seem all whacked out in this regard, making it hard to get a real feel of player value. For example, let's look at the Top 5 costliesteach of Quarterbacks and Running Backs and Wide Receivers (thus far, the draft is still in online auction mode as we complete it).

Quarterbacks

  1. Aaron Rodgers $50
  2. Drew Brees $44
  3. Tom Brady $33
  4. Jameis Winston $23
  5. Russell Wilson $22

Running Backs

  1. David Johnson $118
  2. Le'Veon Bell $112
  3. Melvin Gordon $67
  4. Leonard Fournette $66
  5. Todd Gurley $65

Wide Receivers

  1. Antonio Brown $90
  2. A.J. Green $79
  3. Julio Jones $78
  4. Dez Bryant $72
  5. Odell Beckham, Jr. $71
  6. Mike Evans $71
  7. Brandin Cooks $71

When looking, the prices did largely fall, so the most talented/highest-point-potential player did indeed draw the most bucks, for surely Rodgers, Johnson and Brown are the cream of their respective spots. But, is the $18 drop to Bryant reflective of the end result of their respective seasons, assuming both players play an equal number of games? Note that Amari Cooper drew $61, Jordy Nelson $64, but Alshon Jeffery just $31.

Same at Running Back, where surely Johnson and Bell are the "bell weathers," but are each worth a 33% salary cap commitment on draft day? More to the point, Justin Vibber, owner of the Massillons, thought it logical to grab both Bell and Johnson along with Rodgers, and then simply bottom feed with his remaining $116 for the final 17 roster spots.

So, the question is will that work, or is a more balanced approach of Carson Palmer ($6) and Jordy Nelson ($64), along with Bryant and Jay Ajayi ($60) for a collective $202, as purchased by Schoenke, more rational? 

Truth is I don't know at this juncture as I have only done a couple of football auctions, but never a dynasty league, and never one like this. But, it is still hard to get my head around what the Massillons did, though I suspect it might work pretty well. I have employed a like strategy in 12-team mixed baseball auction leagues before with pretty good success.

It just did not occur to me to apply this to a football auction, so there is clearly some observational learning opportunities here. As for how the season turns out, that is why we draft, no?

To see the auction results, you can click here.

 Remember to go to the Tout Wars site for our Friday picks. And, 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.

Since I have been playing Fantasy ball, I have noticed how dismissive a lot of folks seem to be about banging 20 homers. Baseball is a hard game, and I have always felt 20 big league smackers indicates a pretty good season for anyone.

As it was, I was watching the Cubs on Thursday when they clobbered six homers, in a losing cause no less. I noticed that the team now has a chance for six guys with 20 or more big flies, which is a lot. It reminded me of the 1977 Dodgers who had Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, Reggie Smith and Dusty Baker all with 30 homers, indicating a pretty good hitting team. 

The Cubs have Anthony Rizzo (28), Kris Bryant (23), Willson Contreras (21) and Kyle Schwarber (20), along with Javier Baez (19) and Ian Happ (17), who should also top the 20-HR mark.

In deference to that, I began to wonder if the number of home runs this year really was crazy high, so I looked it up and discovered that as of Wednesday night, 67 major leaguers had hit at least 20, and since Schwarber banged his on Thursday, that means at least 68. So, that set me wondering again, so I looked back since the turn of the Century as they say to see how this year stacks up.

And, since this season is pretty much exactly three-quarters done, that means roughly 40 games left, and if we calculate 3.5 at-bats for all the home run hitters over those games, that adds 140 at-bats for the average everyday player. Remember that I am not a math guy, but according to Fangraphs, there have been 123,265 Major League at-bats this year and 4568 homers, meaning on average a home run was hit every 27 at-bats.

So, 140 divided by 27 gives us another projected five dingers for the year, though I will acknowledge that is likely a conservative number for it factors in Alcides Escobar's power along with Giancarlo Stanton, and there are more guys closer to Alcides than Giancarlo.

Either way, I looked at the number of players who have hit 15 this year (there are 54) thus far and added five to them and compared this year's projected totals to some other dates since Y2K came to tease us, and this is what I found.

Year   #20 Home Run Guys  #30 Home Run Guys  #40 Home Run Guys
 2017  121 29  4
 2016  111 38 8
 2015    64 20 9
 2010    76 18  2
 2005    78 27
 2000   102 47   16

2000, to jog your memories, was the year Sammy Sosa led the Majors with 50, but 16 players--which is a lot--hit 40. And, Andruw Jones hit 51 in 2005, along with Jose Bautista hitting 54 in 2010, but even projecting out 2017 and adding in those five extra homers, this year will not come close to the 16 40-homer guys of 2000.

As it happens, I was on Patrick Davitt's BBHQ Podcast today, and the very subject came up, and Patrick's take on the power boost is that the real power hitters, like Giancarlo Stanton and Joey Gallo, are unaffected by whether they hit a 425-foot homer or a 410-foot homer. But, as Patrick astutely pointed out, that 15 feet the ball adds makes it so that Yonder Alonso and surprises like Chris Taylor and Tim Beckham get four bases and the accouterments for what used to be a warning track fly out.

And, I personally think, especially looking at these numbers, Patrick is dead on correct.

So, the question is how do I plan towards next season with the proliferation of guys who have between say 15-25 homers and determine what their value is?

Well, thinking ahead, my approach is that there will be a plethora of them I will indeed not think so much about as a power source but rather supporting acts scoring runs and ideally helping the counting stats. But I think the group of players we draft in rounds 10-17 or purchase for between $8-$13 in a single league draft become targets more for steals and on-base percentage and batting average while we focus on the true power guys in the early rounds.

And that means pitching becomes a lot more ad hoc, meaning I will focus on a couple of closers and an ace and otherwise think about building my rotation out of the dregs and free agent pool.

That might not sound like much, but for me it will be way different from the past few seasons. Because you know, you can never plot too early.

Remember you can always reach me @lawrmichaels.

 

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