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Saturday 24th Feb 2018

I was watching the Giants play San Diego during the Padres home opener yesterday, enjoying the controlled performance of Luis Perdomo, who I have on my Strat-O-Matic team, and of whom I am hoping for "better" things in the future. In the league we can indeed freeze a lot of keepers, and I was hoping at least one of my two young pitching acquisitions--Perdomo and Jimmy Nelson--would turn in a solid season. 

Better is not suggesting much, for Perdomo was 9-10, 5.71 with a 1.59 WHIP last year, but he pitched better the last few months, is just 23, and well, I needed the arms and innings. Through five innings, Perdomo was pretty much cruising when suddenly Conor Gillaspie singled, as did Joe Panik, followed by an Aaron Hill walk, and pow, a Brandon Belt slam.

Of course I immediately began second-guessing my DFS picks, for Belt, who walks a lot, is precisely the kind of player I like for even over a bad game, a walk can be a shining light towards a point total. And, Belt, it seemed, was good at homering on Fridays it seemed to me, so I found myself wondering why I went Carlos Santana over Belt. 

In the process of my second-guessing, I decided to really rub it into myself and go through game logs from the past few years, and count the zillions of times Belt delivered on the Sabbath, and it turned out I was mistaken; that is, just five times since the start of 2015 has Brandon gone yard.

But, there is a myth versus reality equation for those of us who play fantasy ball where hope and hunch and stats give us the myth of hope, while facing Max Scherzer when the Nationals pitcher is on equates to an 0-for-4 of reality no matter what the numbers say a hitter like Belt will do, on a Friday, under the lights, on grass, away.

 Of course, I have enough superstitions involved with watching sports and following players before I ever started speculation on Brandon Belt's weekend adventures, and they were brought home a day earlier as I watched my hurler Blake Snell toss six innings against the Jays, allow just two hits, but one of them was a slam. 

I know better than to watch my own arms as this has happened so often during the season, but it took the next day--and my watching Belt crush Perdomo, meaning two slams--to remind myself that I was better off watching Law and Order repeats while tracking the scores online and following Baseball Tonight, or some less specific review of the day's action.

Still, it is good to note things like Belt's ostensible Friday success. I have often noted that when I was playing Strat-O-Matic in the 70's with the Royals as my team, that I would fret Dennis Leonard's skills every year, for he was 14-18, 4.07 for his career in April, and 25-21, 4.09 in May over 96 total starts.

However, once June rolled around, Leonard did get into the zone and over his career, he never had an ERA over 4.00 for any month, and come September/October, the righty was 35-25, 3.23 over 71 starts, which are some pretty convincing totals.

And, maybe he isn't a pitcher, but the hitting companion to Leonard early on could be Travis Shaw. Shaw hit .315-2-15 last April, and after a week this season is resting at .357-1-2, and Shaw had big springs each of the past two seasons. And, while Shaw has a small sample compared to that of Leonard, the point is noticing these trends in players can do a lot more than keep you calm.

That is, my learning Leonard's season-long pitching modus operandi certainly made things easier for me in that as I understood the pattern, I ceased worrying about my pitcher and investment for I knew by the season's end, Leonard would give me good totals.

But, aside from relaxing me a bit as manager, knowing tendencies helped me plan. For example, if I know Shaw is deadly good in April and May, but falls off the wagon in June (he hit .214-1-9 last June), then I know I can swap him mid-May and get much better value should that be appropriate. 

Similarly, I know a pitcher like Dennis Leonard--who is stronger the second half--would likely fetch less before the All-Star break, thus should I need a starting pitcher, he is the kind I can grab, at a theoretically reduced price--who can help me over that final hump to a title.

It is a very long season, and we can think of all the ways where we really have no control over the players we roster and compete against. But, the one thing we can do is make sure we know the player pool, and to the best of our abilities, know the tendencies of the players. 

That is the one area within our fantasy play that we do have a chance to self determine our team's outcome.

You can find me @lawrmichaels.

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