Mastersball

Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down


Are We Not Men? We Are Broken PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 26 April 2014 00:00

A couple of Saturdays back, I wrote asking what has happened to our arms: Why is it that pitchers can no longer throw as many innings as they could in previous generations?

I understand the game is different and baseball is more specialized these days, with closers and platooning. I also think my mate Todd has a valid point in noting that with hurlers tossing splitters and sliders and other pitches that cause a different torque on the arm, that is a contributor to the DL.

I remember back when the Marlins were in the post-season, back in 2003 during Dontrelle Willis' first season. I was watching a playoff game and the Train was pitching. My mother-in-law, Edie Hedgecock was spending a few days with us at the time.

Born in Romania, Edie fled the holocaust with her parents and they settled in Calcutta, India for ten years before relocating once again to La Jolla, California, which is near San Diego. I always figured that was pretty odd and if anyone deserved some culture shock slack, it was Edie.

Well, Edie is not too much into commercial sports. One time she asked me, for example, why Major League ballplayers did not high five the opposing team after a game, like they do in little league? Which might seem like a silly question on one hand, and a deep philosophical one on another.

Edie has also made her vocation as a body worker, and as she trolled through the living room where I was watching the game, she happened to see Willis delivering a pitch and exclaimed, "My goodness, does he know he is going to hurt his arm doing that?"

Prophetic words, and I guess we all knew it was going to happen, maybe even Willis himself.

Maybe that is an extreme case, and maybe it is wrong to focus on pitchers and arms for there certainly is extra stress and work that hurlers place on their bread-and-butter wing.

But, what about Brett Anderson, the uber-brittle now Rockies pitcher who is on the DL? Anderson--who was just moved to the 60-day DL--broke his finger batting, and he hurt himself hitting in the cold, not holding the bat correctly, and getting that nasty sting we have all experienced when the ball rattles the bat we possess. So, we can understand the sting and hurt, but, a broken finger that requires the insertion of pins?

How about Ryan Zimmerman, now down for 4-6 weeks after breaking his thumb sliding into second, following on the heels of other crappy sliders like Yasiel Puig?

Or Mark Trumbo, who is now hampered with a stress fracture on his foot, or red hot Kevin Kouzmanoff?

Kouz came back to the Majors to spell the injured Adrian Beltre after a two-year hiatus from the Show, and was red hot, winning the AL Player of the Week prize last week. But the third sacker tweaked his back--for the zillionth time--the other day, fortuitously just as Beltre was ready to return. This once again displays the perfect Zen in baseball, as a matter of fact, with Kouz coming up to replace the injured Beltre, and now Beltre returning to spell the injured Kouzmanoff.

In addition to Trumbo and Kouzmanoff being sidelined this past week, Chris Sale, Josh Johnson (again), Jason Grilli (adding to the crazy closer merry-go-round), Scott Feldman, Wandy Rodriguez and Michael Cuddyer all went on the injury list as well.

And, about the only thing I can think of is that Sale's NL counterpart, Clayton Kershaw, went to rehab this past week after being injured himself, meaning maybe his return is imminent.

Now, I do realize ballplayers are expensive investments made by their Major League owners, and that it is good to exercise caution and protect those assets in deference to the long-term investment.

But, I have also been watching the wonderful Seth McFarlane produced retake on the old Carl Sagan Cosmos series these past weeks, and if it took us thousands of years to develop eye sight, or upright locomotion, how come our bodies suddenly have devolved into a pile of vulnerable broken up cells so quickly over the past 40 or so years?

I'm just asking?

 
The Toughest League of All PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 19 April 2014 00:00

I play in some pretty tough fantasy leagues.

I am sure most people would consider AL Tout as hard as it comes, and no question, it is difficult. Though a little less storied, LABR, and I am in the National League there, is just as competitive.

I also play in a 30-team Strat-O-Matic league with strict usage rules, meaning the presence of George Kottaras is essential, and it is very hard as well, as is the 24-team Strat Hall of Fame set-up where Rogers Hornsby came off the bench to pinch hit against me the other day. Talk about tight.

But, the difficulty in all those formats pales to me in comparison to the Xperts Fantasy League, or XFL as we refer to it.

xfl

The XFL is a 15-team mixed format that is pretty much a straight forward dynasty set-up, save a couple of quirks.

We do--and always have used--OBP instead of batting average.

We can freeze up to 15 players from year-to-year, and keep players in our minors provided they tossed less than 20 innings or accumulated less than 50 at-bats. Once those numbers have been passed, the player must be activated or dropped, but the beauty is that they come up as $1 players, and increase in salary for just $3 thereafter, as long as promoted from within (these players can be swapped and if so, the salary rules remain intact).

Otherwise, players have a salary increase of $5 a year for the most part over the purchase price at the auction held at the Arizona Fall League each year.

We do have a monthly free agent pool draft--where players command a $10 base salary--rather than weekly moves. but since we get 17 reserves in addition to our 23-player roster, it is pretty easy to fill an injury hole.

Oh yeah, and league members must be at least 40-years of age, with at least 10 years in the fantasy industry.

What it means is that Ron Shandler, Doug Dennis, Todd Zola, Brian Walton, Trace Wood, Don Drooker, Perry Van Hook, Peter Kreutzer and Alex Patton, along with Greg Ambrosius, Gene McCaffrey, Jeff Winick, Brian Feldman and Steve Moyer are the fierce competition where over 12 seasons, I have finished as high as sixth a couple of times, but otherwise no better than ninth. Worse, I have owned the cellar five times since the league began, though in fairness I expected that result the last three seasons.

That is because following a failed 2011 season, I decided to radically change the approach in a format where I had always dominated, albeit to apparently lesser competition.

Because the minors are so shrewdly picked over, I sacrificed the past few years buying and then trading my expensive auction purchases for prospects, trying to bottom feed and freeze guys like Leonys Martin and Yan Gomes to go with franchise cheapies like Yoenis Cespedes, Matt Moore (who was a deal at $7 plus $3 a year until last week), Nick Castellanos, Yordano Ventura and Mike Zunino.

Truth is I had a great feeze list going into the draft last fall, but I did not really think my youth movement would really become mature and dangerous till next year, but still, I knew I was moving in the right direction.

So, nearly a month into the season, I am not last, but in 14th place, I am again dangerously close.

And while I have among the best pitching in the league, my hitting, at near the bottom in both OBP and logically runs scored, needs help.

What has become abundantly clear to me is that my team simply has to have a couple of serious power sources, like Mark Trumbo, or even Nelson Cruz if I hope to complement the good young players.

So, timing it so that I can get a few 30-homer guys in concert with my youngsters coming of age is the challenge now, and let me tell you, in this league it is very very hard.

One of the ways I have always tried to work my leagues is to observe and see what people do and come up with an angle no one else has exploited just yet.

The problem is that though I have had basics, and the framework of a strategy, playing against such tough customers has made playing a lot like whack-a-mole in that I plug one gap and another reveals itself.

I am still thinking about this, and cogitating how to approach the draft this coming fall to make sure that at least I can finish the season in the top five.

I'll let you know if I can figure something out, but should anyone out there have any ideas, I am more than open.

This league, like I said, is hard.,

 
Confessions of a Cranky Old Man #1 PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 12 April 2014 00:00

I didn't really plan on getting old.

I guess no one does, but the reality is with all the illnesses I had growing up, I never thought I would make 20, let alone 60.

So, here I am, pushing 62, and ready for my turn at Social Security, and what do I have to reflect upon?

How about Instant Replay and an epidemic of Tommy John surgery that is bordering upon insane.

Mind you, I don't want to sound like a curmudgeonly old codger, screaming "baseball is a pussy game compared to when I was young."

I thought about this the other night while watching the Giants game, whereby the bay area officially kissed The Stick goodbye.

att

On hand, along with ex-Giant Mike Krukow, were Willies Mays and McCovey, Roger Craig (too bad the Niners player of the same name was not there to toss out the first pitch with the former Mets hurler) Orlando Cepeda, and a number of San Francisco players who had performed at the old, cold venue that is being put out to pasture.

Whenever I see greats like Mays and McCovey, I do feel lucky that I got to see them play in their prime. Like I saw Hank Aaron and Sandy Koufax and even Stan Musial and Frank Robinson and the other stars of the era. When I think of that, it reminds me of that goofy cycle of life, and though I missed seeing the Gehrigs and Robinsons, I did see the players mentioned.

And, while Mays and Willie Mac are to kids today what Babe Ruth was to me, those same kids will be able to tell their kids they saw Mike Trout and Miguel Cabrera in their prime.

Just like that, though, the DH and inter-league play and the playoff wild cards are normal to the newest generation of baseball fans, and these are variations that were beyond foreign when I became enamored with the game in 1959.

I guess that makes Tommy John surgery another thing that post-1973 fans also simply accept as part of the game. I do think there is a rash of TJ operations now, just like everyone else, but what puzzles me more is what has happened to players--or is it human beings or athletes--over the past 40 years?

Between 1962 and 1980, the leader in innings pitched in the Majors always tossed more than 300 innings. Since 1985, when Bert Blyleven chalked up 291 innings, only knuckleballer Charlie Hough has exceeded 280 innings in a season, with most top starters going around 240 innings.

If that is 60 innings less on a sort of average, that is a little over five more complete games that have been lost over the years. Or, these days, nine more starts of six innings.

What puzzles me is when I was growing up, teams had four-man rotations and the dog #4 starters did 250-plus innings.

Now, I am not begging for those days, but I do wonder what has happened to our arms that make them now break and need a surgery no one had considered in 1964?

I wonder too about hamate bones and rotator cuffs, neither of which was identified as a specific diagnosis back then? Were players tougher, or did those kinds of injuries get tossed off and guys played through them, or what?

Is it the difference between being full-time athletes now, working out daily, having more finely tuned, and perhaps vulnerable, musculature that makes the ligaments and bones and system more vulnerable? Because if that is the case, it is counter-intuitive that a bunch of summer time ball players who sold insurance and major home appliances during the off-season--as most ball players before the free agent days did--had bodies that were more durable.

It just doesn't make any sense to me.

Speaking of which, I have to chime in on the new instant replay rule: I hate it.

I do hear all the rationale about baseball and fans and the game "wants to get it right," but that is a lot of crap (kind of like pretending that voter registration laws are about voter fraud).

My case in point is the Rays game of earlier in the week when Ben Zobrist made a pivot at second and dropped the ball, ostensibly during the transfer, after stepping on his bag for a force out. The problem was that because of the muff, the runner going to second was ruled safe, even though the replay looked like Zobrist stepped on the bag before the transfer.

This was obvious to the Tampa announcers, who were clear the call would be overturned, especially in deference to the clear safe support the replay showed.

Only the umps, after review, upheld the call.

So, the Rays broadcast crew, happy to have the replay rule before the judges supported the call to make things right, suddenly were all over the umps and process, saying they made the wrong call and it was unconscionable.

Well, how different is that from what happened before replay? I say not at all.

Meaning no matter what, there will always be questions about whether calls are right or wrong, no matter how the play is adjudicated.

If that is the case, why not just let a game played between human beings be judged by human beings in real time?

Now you might think this is a bad idea, but I ask: has your team ever been victimized by a bad call?

I am sure the answer to that is "yes."

However, I would also ask: "Has your team ever been able to take advantage of a bad call?"

Well, I know the answer to that is similarly "yes."

And there you have it, for over the long haul, the good and bad breaks work out.

Plus, as we know, most of the time, the umps and refs get the calls right.

Now again, I understand change and I accept the DH and all the changes that have been invoked in the years since I began watching baseball.

Similarly, I think the beauty of the game is the game. Hitting the ball, fielding the ball, and throwing the ball.

It is, as said, that simple game.

Why do we need to keep messing with it?

 
Crash and Burn PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 05 April 2014 00:00

There is something comforting to me about baseball games and box scores that come with Opening Day.

Much like grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup on a rainy day, with a fire roaring in the background and a great old movie on the tube, boxes and statistics somehow bring me back to my childhood. In fact, I get an ever-present mental image of Ron Fairly's 1963 baseball card--one that was tough to get at the time--in my fingers when I was 10. Just looking at the card, and flipping it over and staring at the numbers occupied me for quite awhile when I finally got one.

fairly

I don't really know why the numbers and cards were--or are--so mesmerizing to this day, but, with the first games and statistics of the season, here I am again, content to look at standings and numbers and player's lines, trying to turn the integers into some sort of roto Philosopher's Stone. 

Of course, there are those early-season joys and tears, too, and I was more than struck by this the first couple of days of the 2014 season when just about every closer I have experienced melt down majora.

Starting with Sergio Romo, who got a save, but allowed a run in his first appearance, followed by Glen Perkins, who blew a game, but at least redeemed himself the next day. Not to mention Jonathan Papelbon, who has an ERA of 20.25 so far, also over two appearances.

I guess at this point I should be grateful I don't own Jim Johnson, who also has managed two appearances, and over one inning boasts a 45.00 ERA to go with his 0-2 record.

When I start thinking of the black hole of saves, it reminds me of the turn of the century--remember back to the millennium--when I really thought Matt Anderson, the hard-throwing newly-anointed closer of the Tigers, was my guy.

I owned Anderson in 2001 in a few leagues, watching in amazement as he allowed six hits and a walk which resulted in seven runs over one-third of an inning against the Twins on April 11, 2001.

Anderson did finish the season with 22 saves that year, to go with 52 strikeouts over 56 innings, but he also allowed 56 hits and 18 walks (1.321), and a 4.82 ERA.

Not great, but the 0-1, 3.80 record with 14 saves over the second half made me think that Anderson had transcended his difficulties, so I picked him up again for the 2002 season.

Oops.

Well, almost a year to the date after that ugly performance against Minnesota--on April 14, 2002--Anderrson repeated the performance, once again versus the Twins, allowing four hits, a walk and a homer over zero innings.

Anderson went on the disabled list for the rest of the season, running a stat line of 2-1, 9.00 and no saves over 11 innings, and that was pretty much the end of his career.

It is odd in that I sort of imagined that after those failures, Anderson would return as the American League's Kyle Farnsworth (at the time) and deliver a decent finale to his career.

Alas, it was never to be.

I am not sure if I find solace in the history of Matt Anderson, alluding it to the 2014 perils of Romo, Papelbon and Perkins, but as with the Proustian host of memories that spin through my brain early in the season, with the return of the first games and numbers of the year.

Life is good.

 
Tapping Our Fingers, Waiting... PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 29 March 2014 00:00

With the season just about here, there were a bunch of prospects sent down who we can expect back soon. Here are my thoughts on a few of them.

Jackie Bradley, Jr. (Red Sox, OF): Lost the battle of center field to the somewhat resurgent Grady Sizemore, and Boston still has Daniel Nava, Shane Victorino and then Mike Carp and Jonny Gomes. And, actually Carp had pretty good numbers last year, and Gomes is just one of those charmed guys. The real thing here is I am just not sold that Bradley is the second coming of anything, and though I do think Sizemore will hurt himself, I think Nava ends up in center field. Not sure why, since Bradley has a nice resume, but just think he is one of those guys who will not measure up to our expectations. At least not yet.

Jake Marisnick (Marlins, OF): Kind of a National League version of Bradley, but a loser to the very good and young troika of Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Giancarlo Stanton. Marisnick had a great spring (.432-0-4, with four swipes) but was probably not going to be the everyday play the team would like, so down he goes. Marisnick does strike out more than Bradley, but, the Marlins fourth and fifth fly chasers are not as good as Boston's. I think Marisnick could be a nice acquisition down the line, although I also think that over the long haul, Bradley will be bettter.

Michael Tonkin (P, Twins): At 6'7", 220 pounds, Tonkin made it to the Show last year after going 2-4, 3.47 at Double-A New Britain and then Triple-A Rochester, followed by 11 very good Target (0-0, 0.76) innings. 36 minor league saves along with 366 whiffs over 358.6 innings. Lying in wait should something happen to Glen Perkins (I am thinking trade, not injury). Definitely a closer of the future, and he won't get much better in the Minors it seems.

Wilmer Flores (2B, Mets): Signed as a 16-year-old, out of Venezuela, Flores now has five years of pro ball experience, and played full-time at Las Vegas last year, hitting .321-15-86 with 36 two-baggers. Flores has played third in the Minors, but with that David Wright guy at third, second is Flores' future. Not much reason to think he cannot handle second base, irrespective of the presence of Daniel Murphy, who is probably more of a utility guy than Flores. Flores is prone to the whiff, but he has great power potential for a middle guy.

Matt Davidson (3B, White Sox):  A first-round selection in 2009, Davidson hit .280-17-84 at Triple-A Reno--with 32 doubles last year, and culled a .308-2-6 line this spring. He does strike out like a power hitter (243 walks to 616 whiffs) but a minor league .803 OPS is pretty good, and Davidson is likely just waiting his turn. That turn should come shortly where the Sox (who traded Addison Reed to Arizona during the off-season) really just have Conor Gillaspie in the way.

Caleb Gindl (OF, Brewers): Gindl is sort of under the radar, but he did log 132 at-bats in Milwaukee last year, going .242-5-11, with 20 walks to 25 strikeouts. Gindl, who at 5'9", 210 is of the fireplug ilk, hit .295-11-51 at Nashville during the rest of last year, and the left-handed hitter does not have that many folks ahead of him should there be a failure in the outfield. Keep an eye on him.

Rubby De La Rosa (P, Red Sox): Was great with the Dodgers, then swapped for Adrian Gonzalez, then needed Tommy John surgery, but is now a year removed from that. 313 minor league punch outs over 313.3 minor league innings, and Boston has some older starters. I can see De La Rosa ramping it up and earning major rotation time. 

Billy Burns (OF, Athletics): Has played in 265 minor league games, and has 125 steals, 148 walks and just 143 strikeouts. Burns hit .310-0-3 with 10 swipes--and lead spring training in that last number--scoring 12 runs and logging a .375 OBP. Keep an eye on this guy, especially with the Athletics outfield being good, but a bit on the injury-prone side, among Craig Gentry (hurt now), Coco Crisp (hurt every year), Yoenis Cespedes (hamstring pull waiting to happen) and Josh Reddick (hurt last year). I get the feeling once Burns get a chance, he will be hard to send down.

 
Tout Wish List 2014 PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 22 March 2014 05:50

It is Tout Wars weekend: the weekend of the fantasy draft season that culminates with the convergence of the Touts in New York City.

Perhaps because we do draft in midtown Manhattan, and the joy of spending five days in the Big Apple is the catalyst. It always means some time with my cousin Richard, which is great, and it means some great food. Wings at Virgil’s, for sure, and usually great deli with Gene McCaffrey. Of course, it also means time with Brian Walton and Lord Z.

The weekend also means that I get to draft in what may indeed be the toughest league of all, AL Tout Wars.

Since the season begins Saturday night, with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, the Tout schedule was juggled so that instead of kicking things off with the American League, we will finish things off on Sunday while the NL and Mixed auctions take place later today (note you can listen to all the drafts live on Sirius/XM, channels 87/210).

Since I have made it a tradition to put my wish list out there each season just before the draft, this year will be no different. So, here are some of the guys I am looking at, and how much I think they will cost.

Chris Sale ($25): I love having a pitching anchor—and I mean stabilizer, and not dead weight—and I think Sale is getting close to being the American League’s version of Clayton Kershaw. Well, maybe not quite so dominant, but close. I want him stabilizing me.

Colby Rasmus ($12): I wouldn’t say I have man-love for Rasmus nearly as much as I think he is both talented, and will grow up someday. I think today is someday, and he will be a tad undervalued.

Michael Brantley ($14): Kind of the same as Rasmus, though younger, more consistent, and ready to put it together. Potential 20/20, though.

Alberto Callaspo ($5): Versatile Athletic will give some on-base numbers with a little pop, while also providing position flexibity.

Yordano Ventura ($6): Perhaps Ventura will be the best barometer of the flow of the draft, depending upon when the Royals' young fireballer is nominated. I realize he could indeed go for the $6 I think he is worth, but that just as likely, Ventura could go in the $15 range. If that is the case, my mates can take the gamble.

Adrian Nieto ($1): I think I can fill my #2 catcher spot with the Rule 5 pick who is the back-up to Tyler Flowers. That means Nieto, with a .346 minor league OBP, should stay on the roster and if he can hit with more consistency than Flowers, could steal the starting job.

Luke Gregerson ($2): Perfect #3 reliever, and he might even cop a few saves.

Ian Kinsler ($15): Make or break for Kinsler as an over $10 player. I am hoping that being on the Tigers and hitting around Miguel Cabrera will help rebuild his game to the $20 range.

Dan Straily ($12): Would be solid as a #2. I think Straily is underrated still, but not for long. This is a guy with 592 minor league punch outs over 551.3 innings, to go with a 1.221 WHIP.

Leonys Martin ($15): Would love to get Martin, who along with Brantley and Rasmus will give me a nice power/speed outfield base without costing too much.

Of course, there are others I covet, but for one thing, I would hate my competitors to know everything I am thinking, and for two, well, it gives if you dial into Sirius/XM Sunday, you can hear for yourselves.
 
Tracing Tommy John's Elbow PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 15 March 2014 00:00
When I was reading the tributes to Dr. Frank Jobe, who passed away last week, I kept thinking about the trade of Tommy John to the Dodgers.

When John was swapped to the Dodgers in 1971, I was as hardcore a Dodgers fan as you could find. 

As I have noted before, I didn't realize as a ten-year old in 1962, when I adopted the Dodgers as a Northern California boy, that I was contrary. Part of the deal was everyone else loved the Giants, but I would like to also think that I had some subliminal attachment to the Bums and Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson that appealed to me: Me, a supporter of the underdog and, well, lifelong happy bearer of all things Berkeley Hippie.

By '72 I was already in my third year of college, and as much into Pink Floyd and the Who as the Dodger rotation of Bill Singer, Al Downing, Claude Osteen, Don Sutton and the newly added John.

When the Bums traded the great and wrongly maligned hitter, Dick Allen to the White Sox for John after the 1971 year, I was sort of shocked, kind of like I was when the Dodgers copped Osteen for Frank Howard in 1964. However, that trade really worked out well for the Bums, and over the years I learned to trust their front office and moves.

Sure enough, TJ was very good. At age 29, in '72 he was 11-5, 2.89 (186.6 innings), and 16-7, 3.10 (218 innings) in 1973, before really killing it at 13-3, 2.59 over 153 innings in 1974, when the lefty blew out his elbow.

By then, Sutton and Downing were still in the rotation, joined by Doug Rau and Andy Messersmith and TJ, whose career looked like it was suddenly over. (When you think about it, that was a rather storied rotation, for in addition to John's narrative, Messersmith was amongst the first players to be declared a free agent, Downing gave up Hank Aaron's 715th homer and Sutton went on to become a Hall of Famer.)

Enter Dr. Frank Jobe, who grafted a ligament from John's right elbow to his left, resurrecting his career in an amazing fashion.

For John, 164 more wins over the 14 seasons after he returned to the lineup from the pioneering operation that was performed by the good doctor were the results, and according to the Los Angeles Times, over 1000 such surgeries have been performed on Major Leaguers since TJ was the guinea pig.

When all of this transpired 40 years ago, it seemed such a miracle (it really was) that John recovered and was able to pitch again. At least I remember being skeptical at the time about the process, but John's recovery, and the now standard use of the procedure, clearly shows Dr. Jobe knew what he was doing. In fact, it seems that most pitchers who undergo the surgery actually throw a bit harder post operative than they did prior to the operation.

Dr. Jobe, who died at age 88 on March 7, was the man with this vision, and to whom so many arms and players attached owe their livelihood.

As a case in poin: below is the list of players who are currently under contract and are recovering from TJ Surgery.

  • Luke Hochevar
  • Eric O'Flaherty
  • Fernando Rodriguez
  • Matt Reynolds
  • Gavin Floyd
  • Jonny Venters
  • Kyuji Fujikawa
  • Chad Billingsley
  • Scott Elbert
  • Matt Harvey
  • Casey Kelly
  • Jason Motte
  • That is quite a legacy, Dr. Jobe. I am sure all those ballplayers--and others who have undergone the operation for whatever reason--thank you so much.

    I certainly do.

     
    Freeze Time Trades and Stuff PDF Print E-mail
    Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
    Written by Lawr Michaels   
    Saturday, 08 March 2014 00:00

    It is that time of year, whereby if you are in a keeper league, you have to pare your team down--or sometimes even fill spots-- to meet freeze requirements prior to drafting.

    And, while I am making decisions about my own freeze lists, I also get questions about who to keep, who to trade, and who to dump.

    Well, Shaune Beatty sent a real poser last week, so I want to take a look at Shaune's offers.

    First, and this is the most important aspect of thinking about any trade, Shaune gave me some league parameters.

    14-Team League.

    Head to Head.

    Over ten-year league.

    This year we keep 9-12 players. Contracts are 3 years only. 

    Contracts renew when traded. Expire Yr in ( ).
    Compete in following 6x6 areas:
    OBP H HR RBI R SB
    WHIP IP ERA SO W SV

    On top of that, Shaune says he expects to go into the draft protecting 9 hitters and 3 starting pitchers.

    Who would you rather keep out of the following deals? I would have either for two more years.
    Zack Greinke or Wil Myers?

    Well, to start, I would keep Myers under just about all circumstances.

    TRADE 1:

    TRADE: Cliff Lee (must trade), Jose Bautista (one year left), Craig Kimbrel (must trade), Zack Greinke OR Wil Myers (both two years left)
    GET: Joey Votto, Giancarlo Stanton, Jose Fernandez
    * I could likely keep Greinke/Myers if I pull Jose.

    TRADE 2:

    TRADE: Cliff Lee (must trade), Joey Bats (one year left), Craig Kimbrel (must trade), Zack Greinke OR Wil Myers (both two years left)
    GET: Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Braun, Justin Verlander.

    Now, I have to say these are both really great offers, but the set-up of Shaune's league makes me go in a different manner.

    Normally, I would edge towards the troika of Votto, Stanton and Fernandez, looking for the youth and contracts that would help me this year and make me more than competitive in coming years with, in particular, Stanton and Fernandez both moving towards peak years, but also as the Marlins improve.

    However, with the league only allowing for three years before having to toss players back into the pool, I would opt for Miggy, Braun and Verlander as established pros in the throes of those peak years now.

    So, as much as I--as I guess we all do--love having those wonderful up-and-coming prospects, Shaune would be looking at Myers, Bautista, Cabrera, Braun and Verlander as the core of his keepers. Were that an NFBC format, that is a pair of first rounders, with possibly four second rounders, and that is a core that should be seriously competitive in 2014, and 2015.

    Furthermore, while it might be tough to pass on Fernandez and Stanton, they too would be back in the player pool in 2016 as established veterans, ideally as masters of their craft to the degree that Verlander and Cabrera are now.

    At least that is how I would approach this deal.

    Looking at a different Head-to-Head situation, I had to decide whether to keep Alex Gordon or Erick Aybar in my Scoresheet League this weekend. In most instances, that seems like a no-brainer since offensively, Gordon is a lot more productive.

    alex_gordon

    But, in the Scoresheet format, where defense counts, and with the Head-to-Head spin which only allows for playing nine hitters (DH is used) each game, making sure the entire roster is fleshed out is critical.

    Meaning the decision is not so much of a no-brainer as it seems.

    In the end, I did keep Gordon because of his run production skills, but, believe me, I am targeting Aybar as my first selection next Saturday, when we draft in the 24-team format. I just hope he is still out there (I know Gordon would not be).

    Note that if you have a question, feel free to tweet it to me @lawrmichaels

     
    Thoughts From the Best: Winning Fantasy Baseball PDF Print E-mail
    Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
    Written by Lawr Michaels   
    Saturday, 01 March 2014 00:00

    These days, within the industry, it is pretty common knowledge that Larry Schechter is the best fantasy baseball player around. 

    That is because Larry has won at pretty much every level, including CDM and Challenge Leagues, as well as LABR, and between the Mixed and American League Tout Wars Leagues, he has six titles.

    In his recently published book, Winning Fantasy Baseball, Schechter plots out his methodologies for success in a fairly straightforward--much like Larry himself--manner that is generally easy for the reader to grasp.

    As an insider who has played in leagues against Larry for the best part of the last decade, I have always wondered what his real secret to success has been, and the real bottom line is that, for better or worse, he works harder at it than I.

    Not that I mean to dismiss Larry's judiciousness. Rather, as a student of British Literature in graduate school, I ran from math classes and formulas with as much haste as possible.

    However, there are two points in that notion of my educational background that should provide comfort to most fantasy players.

    The first is that Larry was not a mathematician either. The second--and this is conjecture on my behalf--is that like me, Larry finds simply looking at and thinking about the numbers associated with the game of baseball not just fascinating, but as the source of some kind of secret to a number of riddles we encounter in life. 

    The truth is I have never been one to go that much into stats beyond righty/lefty splits, OBP, walks-to-strikeouts for both pitchers and batters, WHIP, and in younger players a percentage of extra-base hits to hits.

    BABIP, ball park factors, minor league equivalencies, and a number of other stats the Schechter discusses--and sometimes debunks rather logically--never really mattered to me.

    Rather, I have always tried to look at career statistical means, age, the previous season, and most important, what is needed to win a respective league relative to the format. That is, the approach one would take to win a head-to-head competition would be different than to win an American League-only 5x5 league.

    Well, certainly Larry digs into all of the above, and for the most part sticks with the baseline of statistics that I embrace, and validates my thoughts. But, Larry is also a hard worker, and he does dive deep beneath the numbers to show us how he can use those statistics to confirm the players he likes and wishes to target, or even dismiss players who he believes are over-rated as he prepares for his drafts and auctions.

    The real bottom line where Larry and I are on exactly the same page is that winning in fantasy is exclusively about turning over a profit with as many players on your roster as you can. Meaning if you buy Joey Votto for $45 in a National League-only setup, it will be a loftier goal to break even with the investment than it will to turn a profit on a $1 Hector Sanchez simply because Sanchez hitting .275-4-25 will return $3. On the other hand, Votto will have to have a .320-35-120 year to return the $45, and that is no easy row to hoe for any hitter.

    The conundrum is that you cannot win without at least a couple of Vottos on your team, so Larry probes the numeric depths of how to identify those players at both ends of the player pool specturm who will indeed give you the best shot at a profitable return in the coming season.

    I must say though, if you read carefully, the real subtext of what Larry presents is both simple and easy to grasp: Use common sense.

    As in it is unlikely that Sanchez will hit ten homers because he is not the starter and will not get the opportunity. And, even if he did play every day, only once since 2007, when he became a professional, has Sanchez belted more than ten big flies over the course of a season.

    Larry does spend a fair amount of time drilling down into how to create projections, and again to couple with that common sense he regularly reminds us to simply be realistic, which is again, a path I have always followed. In fact, rarely do I project a player to provide more than say a .290-25-85 line for a hitter, or 14 wins, a 3.00 ERA, 150 strikeouts and a 1.28 WHIP for a pitcher who will toil 200 innings. Not that there will not be a cluster of players who will exceed these numbers, but I try to factor conservatively, purchase as much on the low end of the bidding spectrum as I can, and let the chips fall.

    And again, for the most part, Larry does the same. The difference is that he really goes through the process of crunching the numbers and theoretical values for all the players in preparation for each season, while I simply write profiles and for the most part can remember who each player is and in general what they have done and realistically will do.

    However, the one aspect to Larry's approach that I do find both interesting, as well as the slant that gives him some edge aside from his doggedness in number crunching, is that he indeed factors out dollar values down to the penny. 

    That is, I might factor that Hunter Pence is an $18 player, and, depending upon when in the auction Pence is nominated, and who needs what, I might be willing to go as high as $20 for Pence before deciding the investment is not worth the potential payoff. 

    Not so Larry. For, if he believes the value of Pence is $18.40, once $19 becomes the bid, Schechter folds, and that subtle difference is likely a large part of what makes the difference between his five Tout wins and my pair of them.

    In general, Winning Fantasy Baseball is a lot more readable than I feared a formula-based book might be, and it is all presented in a logical and graspable fashion.

    In the end, stats or not, as we enter the heights of the 2014 draft season, Larry's thoughts, coupled with his clear success, make the book a great planning tool for all all fantasy players who are simply interested in winning.

    And, well, simply reading about fantasy baseball is enough to jazz most of us anyway.

     

     
    Auction Do's and Don'ts PDF Print E-mail
    Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
    Written by Lawr Michaels   
    Saturday, 22 February 2014 00:00

    I was on The Drive the other day with my buds Kyle Elfrink and Ray Flowers, talking about auction leagues. Of course, the time with them always shoots by, and I am never sure if we cover one-fourth of the topics out there. It sure feels like if I have ten things I want to remember to say, maybe we hit a couple of them.

    Well, I knew we were going to discuss auctions before I went on the air Thursday, so I made a list of basic guidelines I try to follow. And, since I only really hit on a few of the bullets, here are said guidelines, in no particular order.

    Be patient. One of the reasons that players nominated first generate higher salaries is that folks have the money to burn. So, the prudent way to make your initial player investment more effective is to wait at least a couple of rounds before jumping in. That is because there are values to be found once your league mates have spent 25% of their proceeds. As an example, I did not purchase a player in NL LABR last year until the fourth round (Sergio Romo for $19). I didn't get any stars, but I finished fourth with the best pitching, and well, had I adjusted $2 and purchased Paul Goldschmidt instead of Ike Davis, I would have won. Plain and simple.

    Once those prices have indeed fallen a bit flat, act fast. For, aside from the sleepers late in the game, that is where you will find your bargains. As in right after Romo, I nabbed Gio Gonzalez ($19) and Jordan Zimmermann ($17), bargains both. Unfortunately, after Goldie and Freddie Freeman both went for around $25, I copped Davis, who was certainly comparable at the time, for $23. So, even the price was right. Not the player, however.

    Don't target a single player as the guy you have to get, as in if you focus too much on one guy, the team balance will fall off. It is ok during an auction to have a couple of dollars of variance. That means if you think Clayton Kershaw is worth $31, you can go to $33, but draw a line and don't cross it. Rather, let your opponents commit. You can find the points elsewhere. And, that guy who got Clayton now has 34 fewer dollars in his budget, meaning you got board control over him.

    Stay flexible. I always have a basic plan, but that plan is largely rooted upon the first round of players and amount of money spent. And, you can spend a lot of money and get major production--like Kershaw for $34--or get similar numbers and fill two slots with Zimmermann and Gonzalez for virtually the same amount of money. Of course, pairing Kershaw with a $2 Nathan Eovaldi could well give the same, or even better overall results, but the point is there are many ways to use your money. So, make sure you have a basic path, but a secondary and tertiary path you can adjust to on the fly. Having contingencies is the only way to survive.

    Never let a bargain pass by. If, as noted above, you pegged Kershaw for $31, and the bidding slows down around $28, and you can get him at less than projected, do it.

    Don't get caught short. If you do hold out for those first few rounds, suddenly you have $260 or so, and everyone else has between $175 and $200, meaning you can easily get who you want and probably still have the dollar edge. But, it is easy when the prices do come your way to overspend, and suddenly that edge is lost. So, try to hold out $30-$40 for your last six-to-eight players. Having the buying power over the other players is everything, for that angle allows you to choose a team, rather than to simply wind up with one.

     
    Neil Walker Here We Go! PDF Print E-mail
    Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
    Written by Lawr Michaels   
    Saturday, 15 February 2014 00:00

    My mate Lord Zola and I spend a lot of time talking about players and strategies and such.

    But, it is not like we are baseball geeks in the classic sense.

    True, like all of our buds who are lucky enough to write about baseball, we do love the game, but, all of us have other interests for certain.

    Z and I, though discuss positions and scarcity and formats more as a matter of fact, kind of like an old married couple talking about their grown up kids, the state of national affairs and the price of Metamucil. In fact, if you have ever ridden in a car with the two of us--and Todd usually drives--you will understand just how true the domestic simile is.

    During our dialogues, usually conveyed via the miracle of G-Chat, we have drafted teams (don't forget that the country separates Todd, who lives in Boston, and me, a San Francisco Bay Area resident), confirmed the value of Alex Rios, and the lack thereof for Rick Porcello, and dealt with the horrors of draft quandaries Position Scarcity and ADP.

    I think though that position scarcity is a misnomer, as Todd has discussed, although I think we would both agree with the world that we would always want to get the best possible player for each position on any team.

    As we all know, however, in any draft or auction league, no one is going to get the best players, and we will always have those holes to fill.

    But, as Lord Z has so simply and eloquently put it, "So, I don't get Robinson Cano or Dustin Pedroia at second. I'll get my numbers somewhere else at the time and take Neil Walker later."

    Well, he is right.

    Furthermore, and we both I believe are down with this, how you draft a team doesn't matter as long as the resulting numbers make for a competitive squad.

    Now, while this surely dictates that during the first rounds, obviously the Mike Trouts and Miguel Cabreras are the guys to take first--simply because they do produce, along with giving very little indication of dropping off. Once we do indeed get into the middle and later rounds, drafts are truly an exercise in trying to fill in the best fit for the position, relative to statistical need.

    Meaning if you can bag Trout, Rios and Jose Fernandez over the first few rounds and augment with a few solid outfielders and relievers, then taking Walker in the 18th round (he does have a .273-16-80 average over 162 games) might seem boring, but it sure as hell is not going to hurt your team going in.

    So, what I have also determined is that if you covet the likes of Kole Calhoun, Corey Kluber, Starling Marte or Leonys Martin, to name a few of the experts favorites I like this year, then grab them when you can.

    Of course, it is true that you always want to get the upside skill of any player rostered. And, to correlate, I also believe that we win to a large degree with dull players who all hit career baselines, but for some reason are not valued by the rest of your league.

    I think though, what this all boils down to is there is no specific formula (aside from the judiciousness of a Larry Schechter, who approaches his craft with the meticulousness of a NASA scientist, and whose tome, Winning Fantasy Baseball, I am moving through at present) that will guide you to a fantasy title.

    What I am saying is that you pick a team of guys you like, theoretically who are or have been healthy, and are on successful teams. 

    Now, I am not saying to lose objectivity, but as we are on the verge of spring training and real drafts, select a team that will be fun to manage.

    Because, we do play this game for fun.

    And, well, as long as you know what you need to win, and can assemble a roster that will match that going into the season, that is the best you can hope for.

     
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