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Saturday 16th Dec 2017

It's no secret that my favorite leagues are the two Strat-O-Matic contests in which I play.

Both my Strat Leagues are keepers. One, the MidWest Strat League, allows us to freeze up to 28 players from year-to-year, while the Summer League of Champions lets us retain ten players, but all are HOF'ers.

Both leagues are more than tough, each having 30 teams with 30 equally savvy owners. And, since both leagues have very strict usage rules--in the MW League you get the previous season plus 20% at your disposal, while in the SLOC, it is straight up whatever the card says at-bats or innings are--so having a roster of good players, plus a strong bench is critical.

Like playing in a deep fantasy contest, I really enjoy this kind of setup, where it becomes essential to have Chris Stewart (who is on my MWest team) or Carlos Hernandez (who is on my SLOC squad) in order to get through the season sans penalties.

For, that is so much more realistic than playing in a 12-team mixed league where Jason Castro or Mike Zunino could be floating along in the free agent pool.

That said, the SLOC league is pretty shallow, as my bench of Mickey Lolich, Bobby Murcer, Richard Hidalgo and Tim Salmon suggests.

For the first two-thirds of this season, Hidalgo and Salmon and Murcer have been pushing pine since my regular starting outfield has been Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonds and Mike Tiernan, a more than effective troika, with essentially plenty of plate appearances to simply trot out there every day.

Which is what I did over the first chunk of games, and over a spell where I wound up 16 games under .500.

So, looking at the roster, and my games ahead, I went more of a path of platooning, even placing the high OBP Salmon atop the order, sticking Hidalgo in the #2 slot when he started, and even moving Murcer to third (where he qualifies, per Strat rules) against right-handers, giving Bill Dahlen a day off.

Same with Lolich, who I had pegged as a fifth starter, and who in a league with Ed Delahanty, Cy Williams and Josh Gibson wound up being shredded to the tune of a 6.53 ERA. But, plopping Lolich into relief--both long and situational--has seemed to be a tonic as well.

Not that my SLOC team will make the playoffs, but over the past two months, we are a little over .500, and that is largely because Hidalgo, Hernandez and another sub, Nate Allen, have been red hot.

Same in the Midwest League, where I relied on an infield rooted in Jedd Gyorko, Brandon Crawford and Pablo Sandoval, with Eduardo Escobar in a utility role.

In that format, Escobar has been a revelation since I started playing him somewhat regularly, hitting close to .300, batting in front of another switchie, Sandoval, who are just dynamite at table setting.

This is not unlike Allen, and all three do have batting from both sides in common, something that seems to precipitate a bit of a hitting boost in Strat.

What is interesting is that statistically. and logically, my teams--any teams--should play their best by sticking the best eight position players out there every day.

Especially in a game like Strat, where the cards are based upon stats, and the dice are completely indifferent as to who is in the field and who is at bat, but as with baseball on the diamond, that is not necessarily so. Which is part of what makes baseball so intriguing to me.

What I have a tough time with, however, is remembering this, for the temptation to simply put my best eight out there every day is so great, yet it takes a losing streak and sticking an Escobar in the lineup for a few games to remember.

Despite my hardheadedness, it does come back to me, and I actually think having the tough usage rules also fosters the need to play those bench guys and actually see what they can do.

And that reminds me to use all my players from the start.

Too bad it does take 100 games for me to remember.

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