Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down

Hyperactive Rules? PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 18 July 2015 00:00

I have worked hard as I have aged to learn patience.

By nature, I am not a patient man, but a combination of life's challenges has pretty much forced the issue, and I must confess that generally I prefer the calmness that comes with taking a deep breath while waiting to react or make a decision.

In general, that has ruled my fantasy baseball (and football, for that matter) strategies over the years, and I am comfortable for the most part as I understand if Derek Jeter bats .142 in April, but finishes the season with a .285 average, that should I trade or dump the former Yankees shortstop when he is cold, I am giving up five months worth of .310 hitting.

Meaning prudence in this case is both wise, and rewarding.

But, it is interesting to look at the Tout Wars American League Standings, where my team name seems indelibly stamped in at last place, and to look at the transactions at the halfway point of the season, per team, and see if making a lot of moves makes that much difference.

Team Place in Standings Points # of FAAB's
Chris Liss 1 88 21
Mike Podhorzer 2 87 13
Jeff Erickson 3 76 12
Jason Collette 4 75 27
Rob Leibowitz 5 70.5 15
Ron Shandler 6 66 15
Rick Wolf/Glenn Colton 7 65 16
Larry Schechter 8 62 11
Andy Behrens  9 58 11
Seth Trachtman 10 53 14
Steve Moyer 11 45 17
Lawr Michaels 12 34.5 9

Aside from Monsieur Podhorzer, who had arguably the best draft with 59 of a possible 60 offensive points in his basket, there clearly is a lot more aggressive roster swapping among the top teams than the lower tier of hopefuls, like me.

And, while I did make the biggest FAAB purchase thus far (Mark Trumbo for $83), nothing seems to help me, or for that matter any of my mates who populate the bottom half of the standings.

We all know that the early-season FAAB grabs tend to be the ones that pay off the best, and this season has been just an incredible one for advancing top prospects like Miguel Sano and Joey Gallo in the American League. 

But, despite the 34 FAAB moves made by the top two teams, the only really interesting and impactful players seem to be Lance McCullers and Shawn Tolleson by Chris Liss.

That tells me the key to winning is a lot more rooted in drafting the best team in the first place, and simply making it better via FAAB, because for the most part, my last place hope and goal is to simply climb to 11th.

It has been that kind of year.

The Pain of the Trade PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 04 July 2015 00:00

Welcome, and thanks for tuning in on the actual Fourth of July holiday.

Since we are just about at the season midpoint, it is now pretty easy to see which of my teams have a chance to do what, which in my season-long teams is not very good.

In the League of Alternative Baseball Reality (LABR), where Clayton Kershaw was the centerpiece of my draft (at $40, and more to come on that in a few weeks), my team is in eighth place, about 45 points behind leader Derek Van Riper of Rotowire. And amazingly, that is the only league where I have a chance to do much.

Clearly, Kershaw does need to kick it in gear, but there I managed to make a few trades, including Lucas Duda for Carlos Rodon and Gio Gonzalez for Jason Grilli, fixing my closer issue. And those deals--with Steve Gardner and Shawn Childs respectively--were pretty easy to negotiate.

Kind of the same in AL Tout Wars, where I swapped off one of my closers in Cody Allen in a deal that netted me the pop of Nelson Cruz, although my main objective there is to simply crawl out of the cellar.

But in all my other leagues--which are the keepers, while LABR and Tout are throwbacks--making a deal has been tough, and the issue is usually that horrible disparity between perceived value and actual value.

In Tout, I did turn down a deal recently where I was offered David DeJesus, to ostensibly push my last place OBP, in exchange for the very weak hitting thus far Mark Trumbo (whom I grabbed for $88 in FAAB). Unfortunately, DeJesus, whom I saw a lot in Oakland, has only a .255 OBP over the past month, and the chances of his playing time being reduced are a lot greater than Trumbo, no matter what the Mariner DH does. I passed.

With David Wright, Sean Doolittle, Kenley Jansen and Alex Cobb as part of my XFL core, that team, as you can imagine, never had a chance. I have made some deals there, picking up picks and prospects. But, in that format, where I can keep 15 players, I can be a little flexible and in a tough rebuild, I now have Jon Gray and Billy McKinney and some extra picks in next March's expansion.

But, I have found swapping in my Strat-O-Matic and Scoresheet leagues tough.

My Strat team is actually very good, although the one thing I could use is a serious fifth starter (my guys now are Dustin McGowan, Brandon Maurer and T.J. House), and I regret not trying to move on either David Price or Cole Hamels, who each went for a 2016 second-round draft pick. (Since Strat is a simulation of last year, that means in this 30-team league, Kris Bryant and Carlos Correa et al will not be available until next year.)

I did try to make a move for Adam Wainwright, but a second-rounder was not good enough, even though that was the cost of him five years ago and next year I will get minimum, if any, use of him. Wainwright is five years older than that last trade in 2010, but somehow a second rounder is not equitable to Wainwright's owner, though it seems fair to me.

Tougher, in my Scoresheet contest, we can freeze a soft eight of what will be a 37-man squad, and are also allowed to protect one prospect as a 19th round selection. Soft eight means within the 24-team league, we can freeze eight plus a 19th rounder, but that the teams who keep less than eight draft until we all have that number starting in Round 9.

My team has struggled this year, my first such in Scoresheet, largely because my ninth round pick this year (as in first selection) was Ervin Santana, leaving me to scramble for a fifth starter.

There are teams who would like to grab my first baseman, Albert Pujols, as well as one of my four good outfielders--Steven Souza, Alex GordonMarcell Ozuna and Michael Brantley--in exchange for a 19th rounder (each team can collect up to three of them), a 25th rounder and Oswaldo Garcia in exchange for Gordon, Pujols, George Kontos and my last two picks.

This basically suggests that I can get a prospect who might be good some time in the future for two freezes and I just don't understand why someone would think that is even or fair.

Not that I mean to either trash the owners, or write extensively about my teams, but rather, this is the time when deals are made, both in keeper and throwback contests, so I'm simply walking through my litmus test for swaps. That is, would you as the owner do this deal were everything in reverse?

So, put yourself in your trade partner's place, and then even ask them if they would do the deal were they in your shoes, and equally important, ask them why.

Trading is tough. So, don't be afraid to trade, but realize that trades should hurt both teams while also offering a chance at numbers, either immediately or sometime in the near future. Similarly, weigh the pluses and minuses carefully!

Again, the happiest and safest of Fourth of July holidays to you and your family.

The Race is Off PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Sunday, 21 June 2015 00:00

This last week had been a fun one: one I had anticipated for months.

Last fall, Diane and I drove down the California coast to visit friends in the southern part of the state. We stopped in San Luis Obispo to visit our niece, Kelly Hedgecock, who lives there with her partner Paul Carvalho--they both graduated from Cal Poly, and Paul is completing his Masters in Marine Biology--and Diane and I took Kelly out to lunch in nearby Pismo Beach.

Pismo is a lovely area: one little beach town that is sort of the center of five little beach towns that offer surfing, sunshine, great seafood, and of course the beach, not to mention the wonderful Monarch Dunes golf course Eric (Kelly's dad and my golf partner) and I played on Tuesday (very challenging, despite the short 5880 total yards).

So, after that fall visit, we talked with Eric and Jill and all agreed to rent a condo for a week during the summer and hang out on said beaches and links in close proximity to Kelly and Paul, rather than their always driving up north. The place we stayed was indeed just feet from the beach, and it was nice enough, but the Wi-Fi promised was at best schizy, such that my laptop could not even find the network, pretty much knocking me off the grid save my IPhone.

The truth is that was ok with me because it was a holiday, and my mates Todd and Zach could cover for me posting and tweeting the stuff I handle, so aside from watching the Warriors dispose of the Cavaliers Tuesday evening, no TV, no internet, no nothing save my e-mails and a couple of tweets.

That is what a vacation is supposed to do: give respite from the craziness of the world, and that we got, such that we did not find out about the massacre of the nine humans in a South Carolina church until Thursday morning, as we sauntered back up the coast to our home in the bay area.

I have written enough times on this site, and in this space even, over the years speaking out against such holocausts and atrocoties and bigotries. I am sorry to do it here where I know you look for a break from the craziness of the world, much like we went to Pismo for a few days.

But, too many times--Newton, Aurora, Gabby Gifford, Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, and Freddie Gray just to name a few of these outrages--the behaviors we exhibit as Americans when we are ostensibly all created equal, all supposed to be subject to the same laws, and where the justice associated with these slaughters is not even close to meted out in a fair manner despite "equal protection under the law" we are supposed to enjoy.

Somehow, 300 million guns are not enough in our country, and somehow just simple laws controlling who gets to have guns, and where, and what kind is more important to protect than are the lives of the citizens who wind up being victimized by those same weapons.

Just in poking around, I discovered that between December of 2012, when Sandy Hook occurred, and June of 2014, when a student killed another student, wounded a teacher, and then killed himself in an Oregon school, there were no fewer than 74 school shootings. That is schools, where our children learn, right?

But, trying to simply be sensible and reduce the number of bullets in the clip of an automatic weapon that the forefathers never imagined, is not only an impossibility, but it has been protected with simply an interpretation of the second amendment that suggests we have the right to maintain an armed militia, but nothing about personal individuals having a similar arsenal.

And, those gun laws are also protected by the same bigots who do not understand that the Confederate flag is just as offensive as a Nazi flag, both symbols of oddly similar supremist philosophies, the victimization, exploitation, and death of millions of humans at the behest of those in charge, essentially at a whim. 

But, as with protecting the gun owners, rather than the victims, the flying of the flag is alluded to some kind of honor despite the fact that the banner really represents the worst within us, and the reality is it also represents a treasonous revolution that simply failed, and while it may be considered noble to die for a cause, that particular effort was an evil one.

I wrote awhile back about the Supreme Court dismantling a lot of the provisions of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, with Chief Justice Roberts declaring that "racism in America was over."

Obviously, that is not even close to true as we can note simply from the cause of the South Carolina perpetrator.

Of course, all the talking heads are buzzing about how could this happen and how to stop it, but it does not seem like anyone with any real power is particularly interested in pushing back bigotry (think of a right wing portrayal of the President as Hitler), let alone controlling what kinds of weapons our responsible citizens can own.

It does come up often enough that Americans do need to have a serious discussion about race, and I do think that is right, but I do think we are approaching this in the wrong way.

I have thought about this in the context of Caitlyn Jenner's conversion in concert with the resignation of Rachel Dolezal from her NAACP post because she lied about her race (and, the truth is the lie was worth a firing, but her race had nothing to do with it, per the NAACP).

While it is true human beings come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes and colors, the truth is we are all the same: we are all neurotic beings looking for some acceptance and acknowledgement somewhere during our limited time on earth so that we don't feel our individual existences were meaningless. And, if freedom of choice and expression are traits American exceptionalism is supposed to emcompass, then who is to say that Jenner is a man or Dolezal is African American but them?

And, though culturally we might identify or be "typecast" as African-American, or Muslim, or Jewish, or Asian, first we are all Americans. 

Second, there is only one race that covers this spectrum both here and abroad.

It is the human race. 

That is what we are all part of, and until we deal with the idea of humans as part of that homogenous collective, there is very little hope for any of us.

Taking a Whiff PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 13 June 2015 00:00

Way back in the early 80's, when I first became affiliated with the Society of American Baseball Research (SABR), the thing that triggered my interest was strikeouts.

I am not sure how or why this happened, or why I was drawn to whiffs, but what prompted that curiosity was the change in the all-time strikeout leaders. What I saw was that the all-time leaders, the greats I had always thought of as the greatest strikeout men of all time, such as Walter Johnson, Cy Young, and Tim Keefe, were rapidly being displaced.

By the 90's, that famed troika from the past began dropping, and now Johnson is #9, Cy Young is #20, and Keefe #27 (right behind Warren Spahn and Bob Feller). 

Some of this change is likely due to roster expansion in that with the leagues growing, the quality of the teams starting batters went from 16 between both leagues, to the present 30, diluting the hitter's pool. While it is true that the new lions of strikeouts, like Randy Johnson and Steve Carlton and Bert Blyleven had long careers, they certainly did not log the number of innings per year that Johnson, Young, and Keefe did.

But, hitters did swing the bat more than the hitters of yesteryear, and with the promotions of hitters like Joey Gallo and Kris Bryant, surely the acceptance of young hitters who make big swings, mash big homers, and create big masses of whiffs is more than just acceptable. It is the norm.

To be sure, I like both Bryant and Gallo a lot, and think they both are ready and will have fine careers, but if you look at their numbers, there should be something  disturbing about Bryant whiffing 162 times last year, meaning one-third of his 492 at-bats finished with a strikeout, while Gallo whiffed 179 times, or 41% of his 439 at-bats.

One of the reasons I do think Gallo and Bryant will succeed is that both do walk a reasonable amount of the time, but most up-and-coming hitters do not have the combination of power and strike zone command that this pair of great young batters do.

And, while it is true that the all-time strikeout leaders started to become displaced in the 80's, since that time the list at the top has remained pretty stable, for CC Sabathia, who ranks #31, is the highest active player on the list, with only five pitchers actually pitching the bulk of their careers before 1950 out of all those top 31, but with just Johnson and Javier Vazquez the only pair to have thrown within the last five years.

However, among the top 30 single-season strikeout leaders, only Ryan and Johnson are on the list with the remainder largely being pitchers from the dead ball era and just after.

If we look at career strikeouts, the only batter among the top 30 all-time who is active is Alex Rodriguez, while the only player active in the 50's is Mickey Mantle at #26, but we have to go all the way to #113, for Babe Ruth, in order to find a player from a really by-gone era.

Equally interesting, we have to go back to Don Lock, who is tied at #217 on the all-time single-season strikeout mark for hitters with 151, which he garnered in 1963, in order to find a name not familiar to those of us who have followed ball and hitters over the past 20 years or so.

Meaning the number of individual strikeouts batters accumulate these days is way greater than in the past, while the number of whiffs starting pitchers are recording are way down.

I am guessing with specialization and relievers and situational hitters, that is where the balance of whiffs that are charged to hitters but not logged by starters lives, but on this Saturday morning, I have to wonder, just where did all those whiffs go?

I do think strikeouts and walks are the key to everything pitchers and hitters do, and they are indeed the stats that truly bind the offense and the defense, being commonly tracked to the success of each. 

But, again I ask: just who is logging all these whiffs?

About Champions PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 06 June 2015 00:00

I was 22 years old when Dr. Renee Richards caused controversy, particularly in the sports (and tennis) world, when she underwent a gender change, and then asked to shift from the men's USTA to the women's tour. I don't remember having any specific judgments around the affair, aside from I had a hard time getting my brain to understand how hard it must be for a human being to shift their sexual identity.

I bring this up because the other day, when Caitlyn Jenner offically came out on the cover of "Vanity Fair", I happened to be on SiriusXM with our friends Ray Flowers and Kyle Elfrink, and I asked why Caitlyn did not keep the more attractive and alliterative surname of Kardashian?

I was joking when I said this, but it did occur to me that the comment could be misconstrued as anti-Caitlyn, which is certainly not what I meant or how I meant it.

I do think that a lot of what Caitlyn has done is beyond courageous for again I go back to that basic thought of changing directions partway through life when simply existing, surviving, and getting a modicum of acceptance and approval from those around us is a big enough deal such that to change one's basic point of view and basic persona mid-stream just seems overwhelming.

Doing this in a public eye, however, really tears the roof off the sucker, as George Clinton would suggest, but though it is a big deal, it makes me shudder to think that Richards did all this in 1975, a year before Jenner won Olympic Gold, and 40 years before Jenner announced her change.

Still, I am not trying to diminish Jenner's act or courage, but sometimes these days I wonder just how much is truly worthy of our interest--for none of us has a right to know much of anything about the personal lives of others--how much is the same morbid curiosity that makes us stare at a highway wreck, and how much of this is Caitlyn's insecurity that her fame had dwindled and her alliteratively surnamed family's fame has exceeded his own.

I did not watch Jenner's Diane Sawyer interview, but "fortunately" Diane did and she told me the gist, and though I was not that interested in general (just the same prurient curiosity we all have, but I try to suppress it), I did again think it was brave of Jenner to "come out" like that publicly.

But then, a week later, I saw there was to be another show where Jenner wanted to talk about how she broke the news to her family, and now I understand there is an eight-parter out there where Jenner will review the whole process with an equally curious public on one of the cable channels.

And, then there was the cover of "Vanity Fair," and all that hype makes me wonder just how much of this is really for Caitlyn, how much is ego, and how much is a cash cow.

Let me be clear, though, that my bottom line is that anything anyone can do publicly to help the cause of the oppressed and/or misunderstood is a good thing, so if Caitlyn's coming out gives reassurance and acceptance for just one person, that means it is a good and valuable process.

But really, I don't care that much about the Kardashians in the first place, and the reality is that were Jenner not a well recognized member of that family, who are simply famous because they seem to have too much time and money, none of us would care that much about the whole affair.

Which really means the heroes are really the likes of Dr. Renee Richards, or within the baseball world, our friend Christina Kahrl of ESPN, who did all this brave stuff before our eyes years back at a time when being gay was not as accepted as it is now, and when making the transgender move made people's heads spin.

It is good that heads are indeed no longer spinning, in fact the whole idea of the "Vanity Fair" cover does give me some hope for our self important and somewhat silly species, but I also wish this was not such a big deal in the first place. 

Not making the change, any change in life, for divorce, marriage, college, children, moving, occupation, and all the trappings that are presented to us within the arc of our lives are both challenging and full of potential lessons. 

What I wish is that we really could just keep our minds on our own path and business, and not make such a huge deal about everyone else's.

The Legend Stalls PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 30 May 2015 00:00

Back during the pre-season, my (well, everyone's) bud Andy Behrens, who leads the motely crew of writers known as the Fantasy Sports Writers Association (FSWA), sent notes to a number of us asking to organize and sort of guide a league among a collection of writers for the coming season.

Andy trolled the writers and I set up an AL-only league, and Andy gave me a list of "volunteers" and we drafted right before the season began.

I wanted to make this a tough league, and though I do indeed love playing the daily format, I wondered how many of my FSWA colleagues had played according to some of the original roto rules Dan Okrent and his mates first used.

So, AL-only, no reserves, no FAAB, with the waiver picks awarded last-to-first each week. Teams could trade, and have up to five players on the DL, but otherwise, 23-man traditional roster with just weekly moves, in a 5x5 set-up.

So, my "volunteers"--Chris Kay, Howard Bender, Tom Schriner, Rob Pallazola, Mike Wollschlager, Mike Nease, Jim Bukowski, Jeff Boggis, Keith Hernandez, DT Short, and Randy Ball and I--picked our squads among the slim pickings of such a deep format.

It was tough, and tougher compounded by such early season fun as Chris Sale's ankle (sigh, I got him), Ervin Santana's suspension, and Josh Hamilton's everything, making a fun and interesting scramble then within the rules to plug holes (or at least try to).

Unfortunately, projections were run for the league, and worse, my team was at the top of the projected winner list, something that the rest of the league acknowledged, suggesting they were playing a "legend" when they played against me. However, my reaction was fear, as I knew if nothing else, top of the projections was "the kiss of roto death." Although, I did name my team "The Obscure Legends."

After a little bit of administrative craziness--and then thanks to our pals at RealTime Sports, Tim Jensen and Mike Rooney, who gave the time and commissioner administration for the league--things got going and Monsieurs Kay, Bender and Pallazola moved atop the standings while my team, as expected, sank like a rock.

As it is, with active playing of the waiver wire, my team has climbed out of last and is within striking distance of tenth place, a triumph considering our start, but with Chris and Rob having such dominant hitting teams--both with very good pitching--while @Rotobuzzguy Bender has really strong pitching with good hitting--finishing much higher than even fifth seems like a pipe dream at this point of the season.

However, playing is still fun, as is varying the format and tightening the rules, even if my team dies a slow death in the process, for this is a game where we play because we love baseball and bonding with our fellow junkie buds.

In this case, the latter holds true for me: I am happy to win somewhere else, as necessary.


Weighing Kershaw's Woes PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Sunday, 24 May 2015 00:00

Like many of you who may own Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, I have both a lot invested in the guy, as well as watching each start and hoping "this time a three-hit shutout over eight innings with ten strikeouts and four baserunners."

Kershaw is the anchor of my Scoresheet team, that is seriously struggling, and he was the centerpiece of my NL LABR team wherein I spent $40 on the lefty figuring he would make the rest of my staff so much better that all I need do was focus on my hitting.

I have long stressed the importance of patience in this crazy fantasy game, and I am certainly sticking with the centerpiece of my strategies involving Kershaw in every league I can find. Still, I understand having doubts, so in order to reassure all of you, let's take a look at some really fine seasons by some other really fine southpaws as it turns out over the past years, and a primo season for each.

Frank Viola (Twins, 1988): Over the first and last months of the 1988 season, as Viola helped push the Twins to postseason play, he was 6-2, 4.08 with a WHIP of 1.29, but in between, from May through August, he was 18-5, 2.04 over  180.3 innings with a 1.07 WHIP. Viola finished the season 24-7, 2.64, with a 1.13 WHIP while winning a Cy Young.

CC Sabathia (Indians/Brewers, 2008): CC won a Cy Young in 2007, and in his contract year of 2008, the lefty was 1-4, 7.88 over April with a WHIP of 1.701. Sabathia was 6-8, 3.83 and getting it going, when he was swapped to the Brewers and had a run of 11-2, 1.65 over 130.3 innings. He finished 17-10, 2.72 over 251 frames with a 1.153 ERA, placing fifth in the Cy Young and sixth in the MVP voting.

Johan Santana (Twins, 2004): In 2004, over April and May, Santana was 2-4 across 61 innings with a 5.60 ERA and a 1.491 WHIP. Once it was June, Santana went 18-2, 1.62, with an 0.712 WHIP, finishing 20-6, 2.61 with an 0.921 WHIP, while winning a Cy Young.

Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers, 2014): Last year, Kershaw was 3-2, 3.57 with a 1.22 WHIP over April and May, but after June, 18-1 over 163 innings, finishing 21-3, 1.77 with 239 strikeouts over 198.3 innings, winning both a Cy Young and an MVP.

So, if you own Kershaw and his 2-3, 4.32 mark so far, take a deep breath and let Clayton do his thing and let the weather and his arm warm up together.

The Ghost of Danny Cabrera PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 16 May 2015 00:00

kershawWhen I drafted my NL LABR team, the whole squad was built around the single bid of $40 for Dodger pitcher Clayton Kershaw.

As documented in my post-LABR article, My Toughest Bid Ever, I was trying to emulate teams built around the great Pedro Martinez, whose presence made the rest of his pitching staff better.

Not that I was chintzy with my other pitchers. I got Gio Gonzalez ($13), Mike Fiers ($8), Brett Anderson ($2) and Brandon McCarthy ($14) to support Kershaw, and also picked up Chris Heston and Jeremy Hellickson as reserve picks. So, my starting pitching should have been very good. The Achilles heel of my pitching was no real closer, with Kevin Quackenbush and Sergio Romo being my failed gambles.

Obviously, losing McCarthy hurts, but having Heston to plug into that spot should have kept the ship mostly righted, but in reality my team, as tweeted the other day, is the Daniel Cabrera pitching staff.

At the time, I was last in Saves, ERA and WHIP, in the middle of the pack in Wins, and first in strikeouts.

In fact, among all those arms, Heston, at 2-3, 3.35, with a 1.22 WHIP is the best pitcher of the lot.

What makes me optimistic is my hitting--anchored by Joc Pederson, Kolten Wong and Marcell Ozuna--is doing pretty well with 35 hitting points, and a good chance to pick up another six to ten.

But, my hurlers, with just 23.5 points, who should have been charging forth with dominance in WHIP and ERA to support the strikeouts, have indeed been the disappointment.

The question is what, if anything, to do?

The answer, I think, is nothing (well aside from trying to add some saves).

As the warm months come into play, all around I am banking on improved pitching, led by Kershaw, who has really been better than his 1-2, 4.26 mark. It is just that 1-2, 4.26 is not what I dropped $40 for.

However, I think this is a classic opportunity for true patience to simply let Kershaw do his thing, and sink or swim accordingly.

For, I like to think I should expect more consistency from Fiers and Gonzalez, and when ready, Patrick Corbin also is my property.

What makes what is going on interesting to watch is that as noted, I really did completely build my team around Kershaw, so I really do sink or swim accordingly.

Obviously, the summer months will tell, but unlike several of my other squads who are in the lower depths of the standings, these guys have some room to move, and I think they have the skills to do it. More important, if you had a plan going into the season, do your best to see it through.

And, well, whenever I have had really successful teams before, they were not unlike this team, simply waiting for one guy to pick up the gauntlet.

So first, if you can assess your team, and see a squad that is indeed underachieving within what you perceive to be a strength, take a deep breath and give your guys a chance to do it. I know this is really hard to do with one-quarter of the season nearly spent, but hang in there and have a little faith in your ability to assemble a team.

Second, Clayton, it is ALL on you now!


Roger Bad-dell PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 09 May 2015 00:00

I have written so often about how much I love watching Sunday football, it feels foolish to state it again.

But, I do. Since I live on the West Coast, the day starts early with the pre-game shows on the tube already in progress by the time I wake up, and by 10 am, my time, games are on full tilt boogie. Add in that the football season is through the generally colder weather, and a fire, and chowder and the coziness of being inside, like a bear hibernating, gets conjured within me on those days, making things just wonderful.

I did start questioning my viewing last year, after the ridiculous handling of the "Ray Rice incident", both by the Ravens, and more importantly by the NFL. So, since Roger Goodell is in charge of that industry, I place the responsibility on him for being a complete Human Resources idiot/meltdown in handling the problem. goodell

So, now, as we just have finished the NFL draft, there is yet another pair of nasty scandals on the doorstep of Goodell and his ilk.

There is Deflategate, which is stupid and funny and a pathetic basis for a scandal, but first, what about the implicit advocacy of #1 pick Jameis Winston by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

In case you did not know, in 2013--the year Winston won his Heisman--he was under investigation for rape in Tallahassee, although somehow the case sort of dissipated under an Everglades fog and by happy coincidence, Florida State just happened to win a National Title (for some better background, I highly recommend Charles P. Pierce's fantastic article from Grantland, The FSU Problem).

It is true that we are ostensibly innocent until proven guilty, and that there are two sides to every story, but check out this review of the recently released film, The Hunting Ground, and tell me if you don't think:

a) We have a bad problem.

b) Our college sports system has badly distorted perception of right and wrong.

c) Our college sports system, supported by the administrations, have let down our young victims in protecting them against predators.

d) Our collective sense as human beings is so twisted and distorted, that it is hard for me to sit here and type, peacefully.

Like I said, we have a bad problem.

My understanding (based on a clip from "The Hunting Ground"), is that one FSU administrator who coordinated the resources and support for victims of rape said that in her tenure at the university, there were a good 100 cases where the crime had been judiciously reported to her office. Yet, no one had ever been charged, or suspended. As in zero-for-100.

Now again, even after reading this, and the links, you can have your doubts about innocent till proven guilty, but this is Winston's own statement with respect to the charge:

"I did not rape or sexually assault…I did not create a hostile, intimidating or offensive environment in the short period of time that we were together. [The accuser] had the capacity to consent to having sex with me and she repeatedly did so by her conduct and her verbal expressions. I never used physical violence, threats, or other coercive means towards [the accuser]. Finally, I never endangered [the accuser’s] health, safety, or well-being."

Add in that apparently, there were such charges leveled against Winston not once, but twice, and well, maybe there could at least be a trial?

Instead, Winston is a #1 pick, ironically for a team whose mascots are known for their propensity toward pillaging. But, from the NFL office, or even the fans of the game, and even with a supposed push against domestic violence, what do we hear? Nothing.

Scandal II? Deflategate. 

Now, on a bunch of largely annecdotal information, there is a chance Tom Brady will be suspended. 


To be clear, I do believe that Brady could easily tell if the weight of one football varied from another of the same species. It's his job.

There is that apocryphal story about pitcher Jim Palmer, who was fussy about the baseballs he threw, and would often ask for an exchange, and that one ump returned the ball Palmer wanted to swap, and the pitcher could tell right away. Well, maybe Brady's touch is not quite that of Palmer, but this is like asking a surgeon to not be able to understand the feel of every tool of his trade.

In addition, whether or not there have been rules surrounding the management of the football, the fact that those rules have been haphazardly, if ever, enforced until the second half of the Colts/Pats game really does not ring of any kind of equal treatment.

Like the Ray Rice incident, Deflategate does beg for process and enforcement of the rules unilaterally, and then, if a violation is discovered, you have guidelines on which appropriate action can be taken.

The fact that Brady might be worthy of suspension while Winston is now a multi-millionaire just convinces me that I am an idiot and that indeed I don't know right from wrong.

OK, I can deal with being an idiot.

Adults get the luxury of being idiots, and most of the time we survive despite ourselves. But, why do we bother trying to get our youth--a lot of whom watch football--to recognize that domestic violence is bad, as is cheating, and worse, if you do wrong you will not only be caught, but get in trouble, while turning a blind eye when there is money to be made by exploiting the same kids a few years later?

Worse, why are we surprised when things seem to go awry, especially after the same privileged athletes are never held accountable? (There is a lot of information out there confirming both that Winston has been a fine athlete to this point, but that he is similarly hardly a choir boy.)

It isn't that I don't believe in forgiveness or redemption, and, I understand making mistakes, but I do wish, if nothing else, the NFL would be represented by someone who at least really did know the difference between right and wrong.

But, like it or not, Goodell is in charge of the adminstrative insane asylum that seems to be in charge of the morally defunct NFL, so he might either want to take charge and earnestly try to set the whole business on a steady and straighter path.

As for me, much more of this and my Sunday mornings in the fall will consist of TCM.

Remember, you can follow me on Twitter @lawrmichaels.


Zen v. Excel PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 02 May 2015 00:00

Back in Graduate School, I was amused to discover that within the realm of literary criticism lived a "pitched battle" between the Radical Historians (those who feel a book or poem should be read within the context of the language/time it was written) and the Deconstructionists (those who feel a book or play becomes a new work each time it is read or performed).

Of course, we were English students, so "pitched battle" meant sarcasm and innuendo and epithets flung cavalierly at one another, But, as with anything, there are two sides and both are virtually intransigent not to mention contemptuous of the opposing view.

So, I guess it should not surprise me that during a review of one of my DFS pieces, Todd advised me that among serious players, using Batter v. Pitcher (BvP) numbers was really too small of a sample, and not predictable. Rather, he said, lefty/righty match-ups, ballpark factors, and the weather were much better predictors of potential daily outcome than a straight BvP factor.

This puzzled me, and began a pretty good dialogue because for me, the philosophical Zen guy, this makes no sense, while for Z, the I am a Scientist Excel guy, the inverse is so. (I also must admit that first, some of our best conversations are a result of this difference in our perspectives, and also it explains why we make a pretty good team when managing together for we do have a world view.)

Actually, what Todd said was that there have been fierce arguments regarding the fantasy baseball version of the Radical Historians v. the Deconstructionists. In fact, he pointed me to this great piece he wrote for our friends at the Fantasy Alarm.

To be clear, I love statistics, especially baseball ones. And, though I am probably over-educated, I have never taken a Statistics class. But, to me, percentages like OPS and OBP are beyond intuitive, just as is WHIP. OBP tells me whether or not a guy gets on, and WHIP tells me whether a pitcher can keep those same guys off.

That said, there is a fascination I have that transcends that simple interpretation of success and skill, making just looking at the line of a player who has been around a few years hypnotic. And note, if the player did not have a Major League career, a minor league record can be just as fun and goofy and inexplicable and wondrous as can a line from the bigs.

What strikes me as funny within the disconnect between the BvP and Spreadsheet camps is that I would think, by definition, the spreadsheet/stat guys would be all over the fact that Evan Longoria was a good pick last night against Chris Tillman because the Rays third sacker has faced Tillman 28 times with a .429-5-7 line. So, that means Longo has 12 hits off Tillman, and nearly half have been homers, which to me is really a difficult stat to ignore.

In fairness, I agree that weather and lefty/righty, and ballparks do factor in, and should be given some serious credence, but I would have to think it is just as foolish to dismiss numbers like those of Longoria in this situation.

My feeling is if we think of ten at-bats as a minimum, and a player has some success or failure, that is at least worth considering as a tie-breaker. Because, while hits can be flukes as well as victims of circumstance, so can they be the result of a delivery that allows the hitter to simply pick up the ball a fraction enough to be the difference between a fly out and a double in the gap.

Baseball is, however, a more than passive-aggressive environment for such arguments, at least in a larger context.

For, this is the game where if Longoria goes 2-for-5 against Tillman Friday, and scores a run, it will be agreed that the hitter has the pitcher's number (Zen guys). Should Tillman win the battle of the zone, we will say "he was due" (Excel guys).

The truth is, I don't really care as long as my picks keep being correct.

By the way, you can indeed play daily against Rob, Marc, Pasko, Brian, and me at the Mastersball 50/50 Challenge.

One Player Down: Big Difference in Results PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 25 April 2015 00:00

August 31, 1997.

I remember the day Princess Diana died so well.

Not so much because of the passing of the Princess, but because that day also marked the opening of the NFL Season that year, a season in which I drafted the great Jerry Rice for the very first time over his 12 years of play.

It is so vivid because Cathy and I had planned on taking our dog Macaroni down the coast to play in the Pacific Ocean, for it was a Labor Day Weekend, and Sunday was sort of up for grabs.

I say sort of because it was pretty clear I was going to listen to football no matter where we were going, so, we piled into our Pathfinder and took off. Since the Niners are indeed local, I flipped the game on to see how my star player was doing, and got there just in time to hear that Rice tore the anterior cruciate and medial collateral ligaments in his left knee on a reverse play.

Between 1985 and 2003, there was only one season in which Rice did not play in all 16 games, and that was 1997. Needless to say, that was pretty much my season. Even if I could have salvaged it somehow--and, I am sure I tried hard to make the best moves I could--that injury took all the hope and speculation out of the year.

Since I am a big Ervin Santana fan, and especially since he is undervalued in my opinion, I own Erv in several leagues. He was my #1 draft pick (a ninth-rounder in a 24-team set-up where we freeze eight) in my Scoresheet League. I traded for him in my Strat-O-Matic League, and I got the new Twins righty for just $10 in Tout Wars as a #4 starter behind Chris Archer ($17), Yordano Ventura ($16) and Chris Tillman ($14).

Obviously, "was" is a key word, as we all know that Santana was suspended for 80 games before the first pitch of 2015 was completely reasoned out.

In Scoresheet, I planned enough ahead, picking up Kendall Graveman as a sixth starter, so I plugged him in and put Ervin on my reserve list, and in Strat-O-Matic, I will worry about how to fill the innings missed next year because Strat is based upon the numbers of the previous season (that means Jed Latkin, to whom I traded Matt Harvey, has to wait till next year).

In Tout, I did buy the cheap ($2) services of Marco Estrada, who can help a little, but not like a regular 200-inning pitcher who strikes batters out.

In fact, Santana has 41 career starts over the month of April, with a 17-14, 3.90 mark to go with a 1.216 WHIP and 214 strikeouts over 165.6 innings.

As it stands, my Tout team is tied for fifth with eight wins, has a seventh place 4.14 ERA, eighth place 1.291 WHIP and tenth place 95 strikeouts.

However, if we toss in an average Santana April over the past decade he has played, we would get a couple of points each from wins and WHIP and ERA, but with 21 whiffs my team would jump into first place in that category, meaning an average Santana season would lift me from eleventh place and 53.5 points to tied for fourth with 71.5.

Of course it is early, and I am sitting on Santana till the All-Star Break, when we will joyously embrace Big Erv upon his return, but the question is can my team keep pace enough in the interim to realize the theoretical boost when Santana can join the rotation? How fine is the balance between success and failure in a tight and competitive league? One guy's worth?

Obviously, if my offense can keep it up, the question is will what I get from Ervin be too little too late?

For right now, it is kind of like Jerry Rice and Princess Diana all over again.

One guy. Crazy.


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