Mastersball

Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down


Deconstructing ToutX PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 28 March 2015 00:00

Last November, at First Pitch Arizona, Jeff Erickson, Peter Kreutzer, Ron Shandler, and I got together for our annual Tout Review from the previous season, and planning for the coming year.

The four of us--who drive the LLC--only get to see one another in person at the AFL, and then again at Tout itself in late March, and though we have pretty regular conference calls, face-to-face just makes everything that much better.

Sitting in the Marriott this past October, Jeff mentioned an idea--that he said Peter originally posed--of instituting a new league in addition to the four currently enjoying success. This league would be dynamic: the rules, participants, and format would all change from year-to-year, and the four of us would rotate driving the league each season.

This league would be known as "ToutX."

Since Ron is the original Tout, we deferred to him, saying he could employ any format he wanted, and we would work rules and fill the league accordingly.

Ron asked if using a variation of his monthly Shandler Park game that runs monthly cycles, instead of daily or yearly or H2H was ok, and we agreed, it was dealer's choice, and this season Ron was the dealer.

Shandler Park's four-week cycles do differentiate from other formats, but the league is also 4x4, using more esoteric and team oriented numbers, such as saves + holds and runs produced. There is a 32-man roster (23 active) with a $300 salary cap. The format allows for Friday roster changes, so pitcher streaming and platooning can be exploited during the busiest days of the ballplayer's week: the weekend.

However, to add a wrinkle--as well as get the ToutX participants into the New York festivities, which are fun and if you are drafting, some hard work--Ron posed that the initial rosters would be drafted as a snake format, but using the Shandler Park pre-assigned salaries.

What that meant was that for the first month of the season only, if you drafted Chris Sale, you had exclusive rights to the White Sox pitcher for the month, as opposed to the remainder of the season, when new four-week rosters would be drafted via the website utilizing the standard rules the Shandler Parkees now use.

With rules and format set, the dogged Peter set about the screening process of getting ten participants who were in the industry with requisite experience and reputation, but not yet involved with Tout Wars. Nominations were gathered, and invitations sent, from within came another great change: the addition of Stephania Bell and Andrea Lamont as the first women (yay) to participate, becoming part of the "X" factor.

This all seemed like good stuff, but with the swirl of activity that precedes each Tout, I did not give the game that much more thought, for there were logistics, as well as the addition of a Tout Daily game, that took focus.

However, last Friday, as Ron and I walked through the first traces of some Manhattan spring snow to breakfast, I told the Shandler Park brain that I felt pretty sure that the ToutX hybrid draft/auction was going to be the most interesting activity of the weekend.

If all the participants checked the rules and scoring, they would see that Mike Trout was not necessarily the most prudent allocation of resources, and sure enough, the top two players selected were Bryce Harper ($15) and Adam Jones ($13).

But, prior to the draft, as I anticipated to Ron over grits and eggs and toast, reasoning all this out might not be as simple as it seems.

It was true. The whole spectacle--which took just over a couiple of hours, which is not bad for 320 players--was just a fascinating and completely different spin on how to value and exploit player skills.

Had you coveted Sale, he would have been yours. Knowing the Southpaw might miss a few starts was not worth the $26 price tag, so Sale, along with Michael Brantley ($30), and Craig Kimbrel ($16) went undrafted by the ToutX'ers. Add in that Jon Lester ($22), Jason Kipnis ($17) and Jordan Zimmermann ($20) all went as reserve selections, and you can see how all the traditional barometers of skill and potential sort of went out like a wild pitch.

So, the participants, like Jake Ciely and Jeff Boggis had to battle out for normal end-game targets like Dan Otero and Garrett Jones right smack in the middle of each round, while tasty prospects like Kris Bryant sat on the sidelines, waiting for a punched dancecard that never happened (Bryant is surely hot, but the combo of his $15 price tag, and potentially missing the first two weeks of the season caused the particpants to eschew his services this cycle).

In fact, the whole draft dynamic became as interesting a piece of 10-way on-the-fly chess strategies as I have seen in awhile.

I do think ToutX will be a lot of fun to follow through, and equally important, I think that Ron's new format might well be the seeds of a fantastic new variation of a game we already love far more than we probably should.

And, if this year isn't good enough, wait till next year, when Peter, or Jeff, or even I get to conjure the playing field.

Look here for all the particulars about ToutX
 
Aces PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Sunday, 22 March 2015 00:00

When I was in Las Vegas, for the Fantasy Sports Trade Association soiree in January, I casually mentioned to RotoWire's Jeff Erickson that I used to play golf. Jeff responded that I should bring clubs to the Arizona First Pitch, where Joe Sheehan, Jason Grey, and he played each year.

I dismissed this, noting that I hadn't played the game in 41 years.

It is true: I used to play at least once a week, between the ages of 12-21. I bought golf clubs with my Bar Mitzvah money, and Sunday mornings usually found me on the links with my mother and brother.

One day, in my early 20's, I found myself playing with my brother, Peter, and his best friend Michael Drake (who is now the Chancelor at UC Irvine). Now, Peter can be a very abrasive and sarcastic fellow (not unlike our father), and he could wreak fear in me, but Michael was no such animal.

Michael also probably knew better than anyone how to get under Peter's skin, and he was particularly good at it that afternoon. In fact, he was so good at it that somewhere in the back nine, Peter started throwing his clubs at his friend.

That was it for me. I thought I was playing for fun (I do want to play my best, always) so I gave away my clubs and that was that.

But Jeff's words got me. Since I no longer was working for ATT, I had a little more time on my hands. And, while I do like to get exercise, I do have to be careful with respect to my well documented health issues.

But, nine holes at a leisurely pace once a week, and maybe an hour at the range as well, seemed like a good path, especially since I basically knew how to play.

I got hold of my brother-in-law, Eric Hedgecock, and consulted him, bought a set, and headed off to the driving range a few times and then Eric and I met up and played nine. I did ok: some clearly crappy shots, but I sank a 30-foot putt, and hit enough decent shots that I both felt good, and had that elusive fun.

The next Sunday, I played again (Eric was otherwise occupied) and I actually bagged a par that day, which was more than encouraging.

Then came LABR (I was checking out courses in Scottsdale, and found golf, with its muscle-memory repeatable process was a good framing to talk with ballplayers), so I laid off for ten days. Eric, however, got a tee-time for us last Saturday (March 14) and off we went.

My game was still typical--more good shots, but still some loss of focus--when we got to hole 7 and Pine Meadow, a 215-yard Par 3.

Eric had the honors, and then I teed up, straightened my left arm, tried to remember to look at the ball and follow-through, and hit what felt like a very good drive. I hit it clean, and the low-liner hooked a little, but then straightened out nicely, but I lost track of the flight.

"That is a pretty good shot," said Eric, "I don't see the ball, and think it might have gone in."

I laughed, noting "as if," finishing with "I probably overshot."

Eric was not so sure, and we walked towards the green and he repeated, that he did not see my ball, and thought it went in. By then I could not see it either, but I tried to be patient, let him take his shot, and then walked up to the green.

Damned, if the ball was not in the cup. I pointed to it to Eric, and started laughing, and he shook his head in disbelief (just like me) and came over to look himself.

No question: It was an ace.

Back in the pro shop, the Clubhousemaster confirmed with Eric that I was the first person to get a hole-in-one at Pine Meadow wearing a t-shirt with the sleeves cut off, while wearing high-top Cons.

We went into the Clubhouse and I offered up a round to everyone (amazingly, it was only around $40 as everyone drank Coors Lite) and my fellow links mates came over, patted me on the back and shook hands, while looking at my feet. "Did you do that wearing those shoes?" was the question, and I nodded, and again a wave of heads shaking in disbelief ensued.

I confess that it all seems like a strange dream: that on the 25th hole after a 41-year layoff, I should hit that shot. I certainly was not even aiming for the pin, but rather the green at large, though such a shot is a golfer's dream (I felt bad for Eric, who has played all the 20 years I have known him and had never even seen one). I cannot believer anyone ever takes a swing with the intention of getting an ace, rather it is just an amazing strange occurance among many that happen in life.

But, just the thought makes me smile in the best of ways.

Thursday, Eric texted the note in the local sports page, adding to just how surreal the whole affair has been.

When we were walking to the eighth tee (first time since my return I got the honors), I looked to Eric and said, "Maybe I should quit now?" but I didn't (I actually hit a pretty good 7-iron right to the lip of the green next shot).

In fact, it is again fun, and I will stick with it. Who knows? I might get good.

 
My Toughest Bid Ever PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 14 March 2015 00:00

Last Monday, I laid out my strategy for this season's National League LABR on the Hotpage (The Kershaw Report, Part II), wherein I dropped $40 on Clayton Kershaw as the center of my LABR team's universe.

I am often asked who I like in a draft, or what I am going to do in an upcoming auction, and a lot of the time I don't really know till the moment hits, kind of like sometimes I am not sure if I will order salmon or a steak in a restaurant till the waiter looks at me in an irritated fashion, tapping his finger, while I decide on the spot.

As you might have seen by following any of my mocks this year, in this case, sometimes the salmon is Anthony Rendon, and sometimes the steak is Josh Donaldson.

But, in "real" (as in non-mock) auctions--where every owner has an equal chance of owning every player, at least going in--things are different. For, in those drafts I might have an idea of players I like, and while I try to never let a bargain get past me, for the most part I wait for others to nominate the players I want, at least at first.

However, sometimes, as with last Sunday, I have a clear plan in mind to try. Many years ago, in a mixed 12-team format, I froze $231 worth of roster, and then cleaned up on $2 players within the rich player pool (I won back-to-back titles that way), trading and planning and plotting long before the March auction.

My first Tout Wars--when the league went 5x5 from 4x4--I vowed to exploit saves (won that time, too), and in the XFL a couple of years back, in an effort to rebuild in a deep dynasty-type format, I purposely bought the two most expensive players (Albert Pujols for $61 and Roy Halladay for $41) and then left $40 on the table. In this instance, since I knew I was going to waste a season trading the stars and rebuilding, I knew going in leaving a bunch of money would similarly skew the values at the end-draft, and throw my opponents off their game a little.

I had been theorizing the Kershaw $40 bid since last December--when I started to look carefully at the Dodger Southpaw's totals as compared to those of Pedro Martinez--and I knew I simply had to try the jump bid to $40 (which was actually my opening nomination price, after which I heard crickets).

Though I had a list of players I liked to build out my offense, the truth is that I was not exactly sure what I would do after collecting Kershaw (aside from, as noted, I would not bid $42, should someone bid $41).

What was odd was I don't remember being as nervous about keeping to a strategy, or making a bid like that, in all the years I have been playing fantasy and roto ball, and trying to figure out some parallel path to championship nirvana.

I did clearly hear Lenny Melnick nominate first (Craig Kimbrel, $19), followed Derek Carty naming Giancarlo Stanton ($36), Carlos Gomez ($32), Joey Votto ($23), Angel Pagan ($12), Buster Posey ($24), Andrew McCutchen ($39), Ken Giles ($6), Billy Hamilton ($27), Javier Baez ($11), and then all of a sudden it was my turn.

So, the whole thing felt very out of body. I remember thinking, "here we go" (I similarly remember thinking this when I got Keith Foulke and Derek Lowe as my closers for under a collective $60 back during my first Tout Wars in 2000), and hearing that sort of white noise that Al Pacino hears in The Godfather, before he comes out of the bathroom in Louie's Restaurant, shoots Sollozzo and Captain McCluskey in the head and flees for Sicily.

As my body sat there, my voice declared, "Clayton Kershaw, $40," a series of mumbles followed, the pitcher was mine and I had to figure out what to do next. (Note too that in leagues like LABR and Tout, I really don't like to even pay $30 for a particular player.)

I am not sure why this particular time felt so out-of-time: it was like asking someone out for the first time when you are not sure if the other person likes you. I am pretty used to not just drafting and auctions by now, but to my picks and teams being public, and questioned and/or whatever.

For the most part, I try to take any external fallout with indifference, because the objective here is to assemble the team I think will win, as opposed to the squad everyone else thinks I should have built. Which really means the team they would have built, and in that sense, this is sort of like listening to people without children trying to explain how they would fix other people's seemingly out-of-control kids.

I must say that I am not sure if I made mistakes in letting Pagan ($12) and Giles ($6) get past me as I was distracted by my pending Kershaw bid. I wanted both, yet both were a buck more than I anticipated spending on them at the time, and as I noted, my focus for some crazy reason was on the Kershaw conundrum, and whether the whole plan would work.

Which brings me to the second part of that drafting postulate: I can get Kershaw, but my team will be worthless if I cannot build a good supporting cast beneath him.

I did buy Brandon McCarthy nine players later, but then waited a long time (64 players) before I took my third player (Sergio Romo,  $3) and then another six before taking my first hitter (Kolten Wong, $25). Meaning 90 players had been purchased before I rostered a position player.

From there, it was pretty easy to grab what I hope is a balanced enough roster to be competitive. Of course, I hope my plan works, although I am resigned to the fact that if it doesn't, there is a lesson learned there as well.

So, in that sense, nothing has really changed. Save, I cannot tell why in god's name I was so nervous about this?

For the complete results of the NL LABR draft, click here.

 
Sergio Throws a Curve PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 07 March 2015 00:00

I have big hopes for Giants reliever Sergio Romo, who arguably has the best slider in the National League. Romo might well also be not just the most upbeat, but appreciative guys on the planet.

"I'm the luckiest guy in the world" he declared, great words from a player who certainly had to struggle for the first time in the Majors last year, as he lost his closing gig to Santiago Casilla during a rough stretch.

Philosophically, Romo noted, "I just want to make each pitch the best one I can each time I go out there."

To me, that is the essence of the game: the next pitch is the only one that matters. Romo elucidated, invoking muscle memory as both the perfect essence of the game, as well as a periodically worst enemy.

Romo said--crediting his father with a lot of what makes him the man and player that he is--that the combination of repetition, coupled with experience, makes it so that he knows what he has to do pitch-to-pitch, and that is a lot of what helps him succeed.

I asked, though, if his delivery was not unlike--and as frustrating as--a golf swing in that it was indeed repetition, but that you know immediately not just when your swing is bad, but what went wrong?

"Oh yeah," he agreed, "I know right away if I dropped my arm or didn't finish the pitch just right. You can just feel it.

The difficulty," Romo said, "is in trying not to think about it (think Crash Davis) and yet focusing the let muscle memory do its thing.

But, if I do concentrate on simply trying to make each pitch the best one, it all falls in place.

I am a pretty happy guy," he concluded, and sort of impulsive. If I feel like skateboarding, it is just what I feel like doing at the time. But, that doesn't mean I don't take my game seriously."

With 78 saves over 351.6 innings, to go with 394 whiffs and an 0.927 WHIP, I guess not (my bet is Romo gets his closer gig back by May).

 
AL/NL Only Mocks: The Most Brutal PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 28 February 2015 00:00

Once again, I spent chunks of my week with Howard Bender's #MockDraftArmy, completing a pair of really great mocks: One each, AL-only and NL-only, with 12 owners and 23 players.

I do find the mock process so interesting and revealing with respect to the flow of the average draft, but since I play in both AL-only and NL-only auctions, I thought it would indeed be revealing to participate in Howard's and the Army's machinations.

If you play in a deep format--that is a league rich with reserves and a player pool, like even a 15-team snake league can be--you should try drafting in a much more spartan fashion, with a shallower player pool.

This exercise will both help you appreciate the notion of Mark Buehrle and Brandon Crawford in the free agent pool. More to the point, the process might also help you better able to adjust to monkey wrench moves in your NFBC-style formats.

In both instances, I did try a couple of things, one of which worked (I think), and one of which failed (I also think).

Even before I knew I was drafting in the #7 spot in Friday's NL draft, I was sure that I would take Clayton Kershaw were he available when my pick came up. Needless to say, I was shocked when the Dodgers southpaw was still in the pool, so I grabbed and adjusted around him. I think as a result I wound up with what would be a competitive team.

Two days earlier, in the AL draft, I was not certain where I was selecting. When I found I was at the wheel--the #12 slot--I decided to wait till a few rounds transpired, determining to grab a pair of closers back-to-back.

Since I have waited till my final picks to collect closers in the previous eight mocks I had done so far this year, I thought this would make an interesting path in a league with restricted resources. Also, I thought this might cause a run on the remaining stoppers, which it didn't at all.

So, that team wound up a lot more fragmented as a result of sacrificing solid fifth and sixth round players for closers, regardless of the fact that I might nail the saves category. For, would the league play out, that might give me some trade surplus, but since the stopper job is so transient, I think that squad would be irreparable.

Below are my teams and picks by rounds. You be the judge. (Links to the full drafts listed below):

1. Chris Sale/Clayton Kershaw
2.  Yoenis Cespedes/Nolan Arenado
3.  Kole Calhoun/Marcell Ozuna
4.  Alexei Ramirez/Kolten Wong
5.  Chad Allen/Gregory Polanco
6.  David Robertson/Lucas Duda
7.  Lorenzo Cain/Neil Walker
8.  Nick Castellanos/Andrew Cashner
9.  Chris Tillman/Hector Rondon
10. Mike Zunino/Derek Norris
11. Taijuan Walker/Angel Pagan
12. Kevin Gausman/Francisco Liriano
13. C.J. Cron/Wilmer Flores
14. Ervin Santana/Jake Peavy
15. Gordon Beckham/Chris Denorfia
16. Jesse Hahn/Scott Van Slyke
17. Alex Avila/Tim Hudson
18. Conor Gillaspie/Brian Anderson
19. Francisco Lindor/Casey Janssen
20. Brock Holt/Michael McKenry
21. Marco Estrada/Chris Heisey
22. Nick Swisher/Archie Bradley
23. Delmon Young/John Mayberry, Jr.

NL Results

AL Results

 
Dynasty Mocking: Yet Another Angle PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 21 February 2015 00:00

So with about ten mock drafts under my belt so far this year, I am indeed trying some oddball things here and there to see what, if any, impact picking pitchers 1-2-3, for example, might have on the outcome of a drafted team (I did this last week, and my assessment is here).

Well, trying different formats is also a fun experiment, and this past week, Seth Trachtman, of Rotoworld, coordinated a mock under the presumption that it was a Dynasty League. In this instance, Dynasty meant a 25-man snake, with 12 teams, in a mixed league, and the presumption was the team we drafted could be perennial, meaning we could keep a drafted player forever, with no salary impact.

That makes a variable that shifted drafting and strategies a lot, and actually made for a most fun experiment and mock. Some teams clearly did not care about 2015, and then there is Matthew Pouliot, who declared, "Fine, I am happy to win the league this year." Note that Matthew grabbed at least four players I had queued, although I am not sure what that means beyond the fact that we both liked the guys in question.

I won't bore you with the specifics of any particular team (though overall results can be viewed here), but, here is a list of some of the interesting selections, but bereft of analysis, other than it is interesting that say Francisco Lindor was picked in round 13, along with Addison Russell, but Erick Aybar was not drafted at all.

Which is curious in the Matthew Pouliot sense. As in, why would owners eschew a current starter who can regularly put up a .280-8-60-15 line in lieu of someone who has never played in the Majors?

Round 1: Bryce Harper (#6); Yasiel Puig (#12)

Round 2: George Springer (#7)

Round 3: Billy Hamilton (#2); Starling Marte (#9)

Round 4: Gregory Polanco (#1); Kolten Wong (#11)

Round 5: Xander Bogaerts (#3); Jorge Soler (#6); Kole Calhoun (#10)

Round 6: Devin Mesoraco (#11)

Round 7: Byron Buxton (#1)

Round 8: Marcell Ozuna (#2); Rusney Castillo (#4)

Round 9: Joc Pederson (#1)

Round 10: David Wright (#12)

Round 11: Yasmany Tomas (#3); Alex Gordon (#11)

Round 12: Dalton Pompey (#4); Corey Seager (#10)

Round 13: Addison Russell (#2); Francisco Lindor (#6); David Ortiz (#7)

Round 14: Noah Syndergaard (#5); Lucas Giolito (#12)

Round 15: Julio Urias (#1)

Round 16: Miguel Sano (#5); Jung-Ho Kang (#10)

Round 17: Yoan Moncada (#6); Shin-Soo Choo (#12)

Round 18: Blake Swihart (#11)

Round 19: Brett Gardner (#2)

Round 20: Hector Rondon (#7); Matt Cain (#8)

Round 21: Dylan Bundy (#12)

Round 22: Maikel Franco (#1); Josh Harrison (#7)

Round 23: Henry Owens (#6, and three of us had him queued)

Round 24: Jorge Alfaro (#10)

Round 25: Joe Panik (#11)

 

 
Deconstructing the Mock PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 14 February 2015 00:00

Yesterday, during the Mock Draft Army fete hosted by This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  at Real Time Sports, I selected Anthony Rendon as the sixth pick of the first round. There were some comments suggesting that was too early to take Rendon, and I responded (@lawrmichaels) by noting this was a mock, and that this was indeed the time to experiment. 

So, the idea was to push Rendon up in a 15-team mixed format, and see if that shuffled anything, and what kind of squad I could assemble underneath him.

Well, earlier in the week, the Bender and the Mock Army had a 12-team mixed draft, where I picked fourth, and I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

To preface, we all know just how deep pitching is this year, in fact in several mocks I have waited until the 10th round before selecting a starter, and at the FSTA draft, Todd and I did not grab a starting hurler until the ninth round. In fact, I have been very clear to readers that during your mixed league drafts, it is smart to postpone pitching as long as you can, grabbing hitters and counting totals up front.

However, I thumbed my nose at that on Tuesday, selecting Clayton Kershaw as my first pick (in the #4 slot), then taking Chris Sale when the pick returned to me, and then going out in the third round selecting Madison Bumgarner, giving me a formidable core of a rotation.

I then planned to simply take hitters the next 14 rounds, finishing up with starters and closers (remember, 12 teams means stoppers at the end, albeit volatile ones).

I did want to see just what kind of offense I could build after the first three rounds of those stat grabbing hitters were gone, so I did speculate a little, but here are my selections, by round, with appropriate thoughts.

1. Clayton Kershaw: Best pitcher, and I knew if I got Kershaw, this was the plan I would invoke. He has been a first rounder.

2. Chris Sale: The American League version of Kershaw. Generally drafted in the third round.

3. Madison Bumgarner: Being grabbed in rounds 3-4.

4. Yoenis Cespedes: Consistent fourth rounder for me, should hit well in Motown. 

5. Kole Calhoun: I seem to be getting Calhoun in the fourth, and look for an uptick.

6. Marcell Ozuna: You know the spiel: up-and-comer in the best young outfield in the Show, and again, been drafting Ozuna right around here.

7. Alex Gordon: Very steady at the dish, after his early struggles. First time I have drafted Gordon this year, but again, this is pretty much on par with where he has gone.

8. Kolten Wong: There are guys I like, and Wong is one of them. This is right around where I have been drafting him.

9. Lucas Duda: A little earlier than I have been getting Duda. I know he cannot hit lefties: I am hoping that changes.

10. Brandon Belt: Earlier than most drafts (he has been grabbed rounds 14-17) and I got him to hopefully hedge Duda.

11. Alcides Escobar: A little earlier than most mocks I have done, but was trying to build speed later since no hitters those first three rounds.

12. Mike Zunino: Might have been able to wait, but I like his upside (check out BB:K numbers in the Minors) and 20-plus homer pop is good.

13. Derek Norris: Like to pair with Zunino, and more double-digit power potential.

14. Lorenzo Cain: Another speed threat, Cain is another guy I have been targeting right around here.

15. Alex Rios: First draft I have grabbed Rios, but more speed/power potential from a guy who was a top-three rounder last year.

16. Nick Castellanos: More power gambles, this time at the corner. First time I've seen Castellanos go in a 12-team draft.

17. Yordano Ventura: Surprised he was still available. Note, I planned on taking Gyorko here, but he just went. So, held off on MI till the end.

18. Taijuan Walker: Again, see just how deep pitching is? 

19: Chris Tillman: So steady, great second half, and again, in a 12-team league, Tillman seems an afterthought. That should not be.

20. Trevor Bauer: Bauer gets taken in 15-team drafts, but not 12 teams, and again, pretty good gamble here.

21. Sergio Romo: Closer #1. Been taking Romo right around here in 12-team leagues.

22. Joe Nathan: Again, I know folks don't trust him, and I have grabbed him here. 35 saves last year, and just one down year. I am willing to trust at this juncture.

23. Marcus Semien: Filling the middle, last, with a little pop and speed. Thought about Joe Panik--neither of these guys gets any attention even in 15-team formats--but was hoping I could get a little more bang out of Semien.

What this really tells me is my draft was not that different. Can the combo of Rios, Castellanos and Gordon offset not taking hitters the first three rounds? I think they can, meaning the sky is the drafting limit.

 
No Value, No Respect, or No Good? PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 07 February 2015 00:00

Having worked my way through a good ten mocks now, I am getting a pretty good feel for both the player pool this year, as well as how others view player value.

Mind you, I am not talking ADP here, although I suppose folks who draft using ADP in my mocks do tend to draft Chris Davis in the fifth or sixth round, every time.

But, rather than thinking of this in terms of ADP, I prefer to use the exercise as a test to try different drafting schemes, but also to get a gauge of how the rest of the players value guys I like. Certainly by this time there are a handful of players from both leagues that I think will turn a profit at a moderate price while my fellow drafters feel differently, so I am getting an idea about when I can get players, and even validating what I think they should cost in an auction format.

So far, though, I have noticed a collection of players that always seem to fall to the bottom rounds, and in 12-team formats, sometimes these guys are not taken at all. So, the question now--at least to me--becomes is this a mistake or not?

Well, let's look at a few of them:

Tim Lincecum: Timmy has now had three years in a row that were as bad as the three prior were good. Lincecum's name has not been uttered in any mock, anywhere, and truth is that probably makes sense. In fact, save an NL-only format, with a reserve list, he is an afterthought. By the way, Matt Cain has similarly been ignored in 12-team mocks, as has Ryan Vogelsong, as long as we are picking on the Giants.

As an additional thought--and as something I have noted before, I saw a lot of pitches thrown by Cain and Lincecum over the past six years, and the reality to me is hitters have adjusted to them, but not the inverse. More than that, neither pitcher looks confident when an at-bat is on the line. Whereas a few years ago, with a 3-2 count and a couple on, and a pair of outs, both Tim and Matt would bear down and challenge, I just don't see "put away" in the eyes or look of either pitcher. I do hope they get their mojo back, but for now if someone is going to gamble, let it be someone else.

Mark Buehrle: I write this every year. Talk about no respect, like Lincecum, Buehrle has not been whispered anywhere. It is true the southpaw doesn't strike out a lot of batters, but, he is as dependable as they come as a fifth or sixth starter. Over his 15-year career, Buehrle averages 13 wins, a 3.71 ERA and a 1.171 WHIP over 31 starts and 202.3 frames. It is true his mean whiffs are just 125, but Buehrle is stable like just about no other arm.

Chris Tillman: Todd and I got Tillman on our FSTA squad (15-team, 29 player roster), grabbing him in the 26th round. I drafted the Oriole in a 15-team mock Thursday in the 19th round, and maybe owners are disappointed after Tillman won 16 games in 2013. Truth is, in many ways, Tillman's 2014 was better, as he lowered his ERA (from 3.71 to 3.34), even though his wins were down (by three) and whiffs (by 29) over one fewer inning. Much of this is rooted in the 7-5, 4.11, 1.394 mark Tillman had over 118.3 first half innings, but for the second half, he was 6-1, 2.33, with a 1.011 WHIP over 89 frames. And, he is still just 27. Load up atop your rotation, and flesh it out with Tillman and Buehrle, and I suspect you will not regret it.

Joe Panik: The Giants second sacker has not been selected in any mock as of yet, 12-team, or 15-team. Again, Todd and I got him as a late selection in the FSTA (pick #24) which is rugged for a kid who hit .305-1-18 with 31 runs over half a season, first time through. Panik will play every day, and though he will not give a lot of power, he can hit 35 doubles for he is a line drive hitter. And, should you be in a deeper format, and need some average to offset Chris Carter or Lucas Duda, Panik is a great choice.

Marcus Semien: Same as Panik. For some reason, the Bay Area middle infielders get little or no respect, for Brett Lawrie, Jed Lowrie (OK, he is a former Athletic), Panik and Semien got no mention by anyone but me over the past three weeks. Semien will be the starting shortstop in Oakland, and I am betting that going out every day, knowing he will get the nod will stabilize him into a .270-14-65-15 middle infielder. That is pretty good.

Fernando Rodney: Even in the 15-team mocks I have done, Rodney  has gone undrafted. In my 12-team leagues, Rodney has been a late choice along with Joe Nathan, which is just crazy. Both are the closers, and between them they saved 83 games last year. Yet, folks would rather gamble on Ken Giles? Fine with me.

Brandon Belt/Eric Hosmer: Both are being drafted around the 15th or 16th round of 12-team leagues, as a corner (I got Belt in the 13th of a 15-team), which might jibe with the disappointment both have generated after dangling all that promise before us. Belt, now 27, was hurt much of last year, and Hosmer simply disappointed, at least until the postseason (note he is 26). I think they will both come into their own this year.

 
DH, Astro Turf, OK, But Stop Already! PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 31 January 2015 00:00

Enough.

I realize that I am now a sort of "retiree," since I have left the corporate world, and even qualify for Social Security, that I am on the road to becoming a cranky old man.

It is true: When Henry Winkler prefaces his reverse mortgage commercial, noting, "If you are 62 or older..." my head quickly turns to the sound, even though I have seen the ad many times, and have no intention of putting my house on such a plan. At least not just yet.

On the other hand, I do still play in a rock'n'roll band, am a complete junkie for Mr. Pickles and Squidbillies on Adult Swim, and dig Modest Mouse and The Black Keys.

I can say that I started watching baseball when there were two leagues with eight teams in each, having witnessed the first expansions in 1962, the lowering of the mound and expansions of 1969, and also the implementation of the DH. There was the recent re-alignment, and of course Interleague play, and now the expanded Wild Card. And, then there was the advent of Instant Replay.

Among those, there have been some really good moves in my view. I love Interleague play, and apparently the expanded Wild Card keeps more teams in it as hopefuls longer, and seems to create a dogfight for a chance at post-season play in the best of ways.

The lower mound, and the DH? Well, they have not killed the game, although I wish both leagues simply used the DH, or neither did. As in both leagues may as well play the same game. If I had a preference, it would be in favor of having the pitcher hit, because I love tactics and watching a manager try to push or pull the right buttons at the right time when the game is on the line.

But, I can live with the DH.

Although, I hate Instant Replay, and the idea of umpires and referees being second guessed. Not because I don't want the crew to "get it right," as they say, but as often as not, Instant Replay is not definitive and I truly feel that the officiating at games is really pretty good, all things considered. More important, since the game is played by humans, can we please just let humans adjudicate and be done with it?

For, when push comes to shove, I think the good and bad breaks for every team are about the same (even with Instant Replay). The issue is whether or not a team can take advantage of the situation. But, the timeouts do disrupt the flow of the game, in my opinion.

But, this talk about a pitch clock, and even worse, banning the shift is just crazy.

Let's start with the shift. Prohibiting moving a team's defense is almost like saying a team's offense cannot platoon. Which could be a way of saying you cannot pinch-hit under certain circumstances. The shift is indeed a strategy, like a platoon. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but it is certainly not like using a spitter, or corking a bat, which actually does involve manipulating equipment to gain an advantage.

But, moving your defense is simply part of the game, and a smart hitter (and manager and batting coach) will try to figure a way around it. Because, as we know, baseball is a game of adjustments.

As for the pitch clock, isn't one of the main things we love about baseball the fact that it does not actually have a time limit? Is it frustrating when Jamey Wright pitches--you can start a fire and toast marshmallows on it between throws--but that is also part of the game. So is Mark Buehrle not allowing a hitter enough time to adjust his jock, let alone hat.

But, again, it is a game played by human beings. So, can our hurry-up world of instant gratification please just take a deep breath? Then, in 10-15 years, when I am dead, go ahead and change everything.

Ayyy! Even the Fonz knows the wait won't be that long.

 
Nothing But Air PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 24 January 2015 00:00

There is some pretty serious stuff going on in the world these days. ISIS. Boko Haram. Climate Change. Charlie Hebdo-like attacks. 

So, it was good the major news outlets had "Deflategate" to fall back upon the last week's worth of reporting cycles.

Now, I do love football. I love watching the game, thinking about it, and playing fantasy football. And, with times seeming uncertain with thoughts of terrorism and unflinching weather et al, it is good to have distractions like football. Because again, the game is fun and exciting, and gives us a mental respite from external strife and pressures.

But honestly, I have so many questions about Deflategate, the first of which is "Who Cares?"

Well, apparently everyone, as the controversy has been among the lead stories on MSNBC this past week, picking up the slack from Charlie Hebdo and Boko Haram, who were the leads the previous couple of weeks.

Seriously?

Don't get me wrong. I am not a fan of cheating. In fact, I don't really even understand it, for winning or succeeding by cheating cannot be particularly satisfying. Well, at least if you have a conscience, it isn't.

Maybe I am stupid, or naive, or even both.

But, my understanding has been that each team's footballs are given to the referees a couple of hours before the game, and are then weighed and secured. I may be wrong, but my understanding is that the refs then control the footballs till the end of the game.

Granted, the footballs do get switched out, and fall to the sidelines, so finding the specific problematic football is sort of like finding the shell with the pea under it.

Even so, the game moves fast enough, and there are enough cameras that if someone was monkeying with something, at least above ground, there must be a record of that.

If the balls were being mucked with at halftime, or secreted downstairs for some form of manipulation, even that would be hard to cover, and if nothing else, suggests some kind of inside job beyond the poor Assistant Equipment Manager who will now get fired for this horrible civic transgression. That way the Patriots, the League, hell, the entire NFL, and their fans can feel justice has been served.

Me, I am pretty suspicious of any wrong doing.

Why?

If the weight differential was so great as reported, how come no one noticed? I mean, it isn't as if when the Patriots used their footballs, the Colts and refs never had cause to pick one up and hold it for a second or two.

I remember hearing once that Jim Palmer would ask for a new baseball if there was anything he did not like about the feel of one of the spheres. Sometimes, he would return them to the ump without even using them, asking for a replacement. Apparently one ump, trying to test Palmer, sent the same baseball right back after a Palmer rejection, and the pitcher threw it back yelling, "I just gave you that one back."

OK, maybe Palmer's sense of touch is extra sensitive, but we are talking over 100 folks, among both teams and coaches, and the referee squad, and not one of them noticed? Over three hours, and hundreds of hands, that hold the same article five-to-six days a week, and not one person can tell that maybe there is a 10% differential on the weight?

Additionally--and I have driven this one to death on Twitter--there is no body of statistics that I know of where all footballs are weighed after the game. If that is true, the numbers rumored are meaningless, because there are things like altitude and weather, that compounded with play (and football players play pretty tough by most of our standards), could knock around the weight of a football.

More than anything, though. I think this is a byproduct of our stupid predilection with reward as a society. Everyone gets a trophy on every little league team, always. If we lose our cool, it is because of a medication being taken, or pressure at work, or any of the litany of excuses we hide behind in order to avoid responsibility.

Mind you, I am totally for rewarding and positive reinforcement, but similarly, I think we all need to learn how to accept defeat and disappointment, as they are even more common to most of us as part of life than are triumphs.

The outrage of "Deflategate," as I see it, is not so much about anything other than the "how could I/we lose?" in the Mitt Romney sense, and the inability to embrace the fact that on that day, someone else was better, or more popular, or simply a better choice.

I do think that if the NFL is going to go to the trouble of weighing footballs before the game--and unless I am incorrect and that post-game weighing process does exist today--that maybe starting that process to see what a normal post-game weight for a football is, might not be a bad idea.

But, I more think, like Lawrence Tynes said the other day, "LeGarrette Blount could have been running with a two-liter bottle of Coke and it wouldn't have made any difference."

So, please, please, stop giving this issue air.

 
What You See is What You Gattis (FSTA Draft Review) PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 17 January 2015 00:00

Las Vegas is a strange place. In the middle of the desert, Vegas is a sort of oasis of make believe where you can pretend to go to Paris or New York and still hit up slot machines and poker tables.

Vegas is also where the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) holds their Winter Conference soiree, and the big kickoff for the event is the FSTA "Experts" draft that Charlie Wiegert of CDM curates. A lot of the usual suspects--Ron Shandler from BBHQ and Shandler Park, Chris Liss from Rotowire, and Steve Gardner and Howard Kamen of USA Today--participate as part of the 13-team mixed snake draft.

As always, there is some strangeness (Charlie Blackmon in the fourth round, ahead of Matt Kemp, Kole Calhoun, George Springer and Yoenis Cespedes?) but that is not only to be expected, that is a lot of what makes the whole process fun.

Lord Z and I drafted seventh (by choice, for after the first and 13th slots were taken, selecting in the middle suits me well) and I guess we helped with some of that consternation with a few of our selections, so here is the team we got, and whatever logic I can muster the morning after (Todd will likely both chime in and post his own thoughts).

Note the parenthetic is the round selected:

C-Evan Gattis (5): Lots of pop, and he will play left, meaning no lost time due to split fingers and other miscellaneous catcher injuries and a sweet home run park. Oh yeah, and there are a lot of up-and-comers and some power around him in the lineup.

C-John Jaso (15): Solid #2 catcher, won't hurt in average, and like Gattis probably will not play behind the dish. Meaning we might be the only team with two catchers, neither of whom will actually catch.

1B-Anthony Rizzo (1): Coming off a .286-32-78 year, with a solid 73 walks to 116 strikeouts as a 23-year-old, Rizzo will be the offensive spark on what will likely be the best team in the NL, if not the Majors, by the end of 2015. This will be the first sacker's third full season, meaning everything within screams of bigger breakout.

2B-Kolten Wong (7): Power/speed combo up the middle, more than likely to improve.

3B-Josh Donaldson (2): Right now the best choice at the hot corner? After a season hitting with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion hitting around him, in Toronto, we can probably remove the question mark.

SS-Erick Aybar (14): A litle pop, a little speed, and a steady average plugs the shortstop hole just fine.

CI-Mike Morse (19): Truth is we were hoping Lucas Duda would have fallen back to us in the 15th, but that was not to be. Morse and 15-20 bombs here, however, will be just fine.

MI-Marcus Semien (25): The trade of Yunel Escobar makes the Bay Area resident a starter again.

OF-George Springer (3): On a now improving team, imagine what he could do during a full season.

OF-Yoenis Cespedes (4): Another case of nice pop in a fun park with a good hitting team.

OF-Kole Calhoun (6): We were surprised, and pleased that Calhoun fell to us this late. We both wanted him. Bad.

OF-Leonys Martin (10): A fave of mine, I expect a jump in power with a full season of play. Same speed as 2014 will be fine.

OF-Dalton Pompey (18): Toronto rookie has a gig so far, and a lot of upside. If he struggles, we have a few options and can still protect Pompey.

UT-Angel Pagan (22): One of the options for Pompey moves Pagan to his slot should there be a problem. If the Giants centerfielder can stay healthy, 15-20 numbers are totally reasonable.

SP-Andrew Cashner (9): Our first starter. We both love Cashner, and just hope he can stay healthy.

SP-Yordano Ventura (11): I look for Ventura to step up to the role of #1 starter at Kauffman this year.

SP-Anibal Sanchez (12): A nice value, with good strikeout numbers.

SP-Drew Smyly (13): I really like Ventura. Similarly, Todd really likes Smyly.

SP-Danny Duffy (16): I more lobbied for Duffy, but once he really was set in the rotation, he delivered down the stretch. I am guessing he can build on that.

SP-Jake Peavy (20): Back in the NL West, in a pitcher's environ, Peavy is due for a solid year. At least the kind you want at the bottom of your rotation. Like 14 wins and a mid-3.00's ERA.

SP-Scott Kazmir (21): Kind of like Peavy, Kazmir picks it up following a strong come-back.

SP-Chris Tillman (23): Amazed Tillman was still out there this late.

RP-Mark Melancon (8): First closer.

RP-Brad Boxberger (17): Sort of second closer, Boxberger will get a lot of whiffs, and could keep the gig if circumstances are correct.

RES-Andrew Heaney (24): Starting pitcher #11, the plan is to stream our starters and relievers as appropriate/necessary.

RES-Mike Napoli (26): Not sure how much is left in the tank, but Napoli should have two weeks of .375-7-17 numbers sometime. We hope he is active at that time.

RES-Kevin Quackenbush (27): Much like Boxberger, lots of whiffs, great for streaming, and maybe some saves even.

RES-Joe Panik (28): Middle coverage and potential average help, should we need it.

RES-Garrett Jones (29): Left-handed power who will platoon at Yankee Stadium. What more do you need to know?

 
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