Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down

A National League Lonely Mock? PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 08 February 2014 02:32

Ok, I don't want to go on and on about mock drafts, but, as I wrote last week, mocks are so revealing in so many ways.

So, when I joined the 12-team NL mock Pasko Varnica moderated along with Howard Bender Wednesday, I wasn't sure exactly what tack I would take.

Of course, sometimes I don't really know for sure till the last minute. And, often even in real-time drafts and auctions I am not sure which way I am going to go till I indeed fetch my first player.

So, with the fourth selection in the arguably lean National League, I just decided to exploit pitching to start, and grabbed Clayton Kershaw with my first pick, following up with Yasiel Puig as selection #2.

However, pick three was Jose Fernandez, and then I went hurlers with #6 (Sergio Romo), #7 (Jonathan Papelbon), #8 (Michael Wacha) and #9 (Andrew Cashner).

From there, no pitchers till the 20th round, and then I was able to close with Robbie Erlin (#20), Jacob Turner (#21) and Nick Vincent (#22).

What that did tell me is there was actually some pretty good pitching out there at the end, but, what I liked was that even though I have a lot of junk players in my infield, so does everyone else.

In fact, in looking at the other teams in the mock, no team came even close to filling out a full-time roster. Worse, if we pick the bottom feeder players just within the infield, it is clear just how offensive offense is in the NL.

1 2 3 4 5 6
Owings McGehee Scutaro Arias Johnson Wong
Francisco Rutledge Furcal Chavez Cozart Gennett
Frazier Baez Mercer Barney Drew Asche
7 8 9 10 11 12
Ellis Sanchez Alonso LaRoche Hill Morales
Descalso LeMahieu Abreu Franco Walker Uggla
Pacheco Prado Guerrero Hechevarria Peralta Solano

Now, there is no question Team 11 has got it going the best with Aaron Hill, Neil Walker and Jhonny Peralta.

But, the rest of us are full of junk.

Which, though it might seem distressing, is actually kind of reassuring.

What it means is that every team in such a format will have to deal with that crap, hoping for some meaningful at-bats out of the likes of Joaquin Arias.

But, it also makes the middle infield analogous to relief pitcher in that if you play the waiver wire carefully, you can pick up at-bats and the related numbers out of the free agent pool if you work said pool diligently.

What is kind of strange is that I really love the challenge of playing in a deep league, having the challenge of trying to win with the likes of Tim Federowicz and maybe Junior Lake.

For, even if the numbers, or players may never set a league record, winning is always satisfying. And, it is especially so when your team comes through with a hodgepodge of surprises.

Back to the topic at hand, however, I am not sure I would have noticed just how really lean the NL in particular is.

Sure, the lack of the DH removes one more than average bat from the National League player pool (and mind you some of the players selected out of the pool were the free agent ultimate gambles, like Morales).

But, a lot of expectations going into the draft can be baselined—in a realistic fashion—by going through the motions of those goofy mocks.

Like I said: I cannot recommend it enough.

By the way, we have one more mock coming up this Wednesday, February 12 at 5 PM PST. Check with This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it for more information.

The Best Possible Draft Prep PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 01 February 2014 00:00

If you are reading this, then theoretically you are doing your draft preparation for the 2014 Fantasy Baseball season.

That means maybe you bought The Fantasy Baseball Guide 2014, "Professional Edition,"  in which Mastersball is not only featured, but which I think has the most player profiles, and its wonderful "Picks and Pans."

And, though I digress--and shill a little--the point is studying for the draft is critical to success in fantasy ball (it is also a lot of fun).

I always do a few things to get ready for mine, the most important of which is to know the player pool.

That means knowing who all the players on the 40-man rosters for certain, and depending upon the depth and rules of your league, the newbie prospects who are just filtering up from last year's June draft.

But, I think the next best thing a player can do to prep for the draft season is to participate in mock drafts.

Now, you might dismiss mocks as a point of self-validation for ADP, but truly, the two really have nothing in common save a data base by which to pull a statistical mean.

Truth is I don't really care about ADP: I am more of the opinion of drafting the player who best suits the needs of your team, not so much individually, but as part of a whole that will assemble a body of competitive statistics.

For me, mocks afford an opportunity to simply try things.

For example, in all five of the mocks I have done so far, I have waited as long as possible to draft pitching, usually until the fifth, or even sixth round, and as a result have been able to bag the likes of Mike Minor and Jordan Zimmermann pretty regularly as the core of my staffs. Which tells me that though pitching is always the danger zone, it is also deep enough that you can wait a bit to build a staff and still grab a solid pair of arms to anchor.

In an American League mock, I simply tried to not worry about a closer, again focusing on starting pitching, and in a league that produces offense, hitting.

So, my relief staff consists of Luke Gregerson, Bruce Rondon and Luke Hochevar, three arms who might get ten conversions at best, but in avoiding a closer, I learned first how my opponents did value closers. But, I also know in auctions, for example, I should be able to bag any of these three for a buck. And, I know that in the event of an injury or ineffectiveness, any of the three could be in line to close.

Additionally, as I see how my mates are drafting, I can see not just who they value and the players they think can be sneaked through (for ideally everyone in the mock is road testing ideas as well, and that affords yet another learning opportunity).

But, what I have really learned, especially in this year's spate of mocks, is that if you fancy a player, take him, no matter when.

Sure, there are those first rounders--like Carlos Gonzalez and Clayton Kershaw--who are uber-talented and can provide the foundation for a team. But, even though the star players we grab can set us up, that is not where we win leagues.

That happens in later rounds, where ideally the overlooked, undervalued and/or dismissed can come through and give your squad a boost.

What playing out a mock does, though, is help you identify how fantasy players value Corey Kluber, Kole Calhoun and Michael Brantley (three guys I really like this year, all of whom have gone after the 12th round in the mocks I have done.

But, what this tells me is to go ahead and grab these guys in the 10th or 11th round, not only because I like them, but because most other players have made similar evaluations and observations, but also think those guys will slide. So, taking them--and Kluber, Calhoun and Brantley are just examples of players we might have our eye on--aggressively ensures that the players will be on our roster. And, as a secondary strategy, it forces our opponents to have to look elsewhere for those perceived sleepers/bargains.

Because, ADP and position scracity don't really matter once the draft starts: what matters is making sure you have a squad that will produce competitive numbers. So, who you think will help, or when those players are picked does not matter, as long as the aggregate provides the needed numbers.

To continue, by playing out as many mocks as you can, three goals can be accomplished. They are:

  • You can familiarize yourself with the depth of the player pool at large.
  • You can get a feel for how other fantasy players value that pool.
  • Most important, you can practce. For, mocks are really just a rehearsal, and what better way to feel comfortable than to prep by mimicking reality? 

That final bullet is the key, for like practicing a speech, or a song, or a presentation, what you are really doing is preparing for the real thing, and that means simply being comfortable and relaxed while drafting. For, if you are comfortable at the draft table, that is half the battle to success.

If you are looking to do some mocks, look to the following sites, try Mock Draft Central, Real Time Sports, or the National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC), who run mocks regularly this time of year. (Note that NFBC participants are pointed to Mock Draft Central, but get mock access.)

By the way, Mastersball's This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it is hosting mocks for the site next Wednesday (NL, 12-team, snake) at 5 PM Pacific Time, and again February 12 (AL, 12-team, snake). If you are interested in participating, send This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it a note. 

Sugar Cane Sweet PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 25 January 2014 00:00

Though I have been thinking about this for awhile, it really came to light after last week's Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) draft, while Todd and I were on the morning radio show hosted by Jeff Erickson and Chris Liss (who also had drafted the night before).

As part of our team, Todd and I drafted Jose Abreu, the former Cuban home run king and new first sacker for the White Sox, and seriously coveted Rangers outfielder Leonys Martin (snatched from under our collective noses by our mates Steve Gardner and Howard Bender of USA Today in the ninth round).

So, in reviewing our squad with Chris and Jeff, I noted not so much how we both liked Abreu, but how it seems Cuban players just seem to adapt and adjust more readily to the American Major Leagues than any other group.

Mind you, I am not talking ethnicity here. I am talking Nationality, College, state of origin, cloning, galaxy, universe, you name it.

But, relative to the amount of time worked anywhere prior to the Majors, our Cuban friends just seem to adjust to playing, and then succeeding in the States with such a larger relative efficiency than those of the Orient, or Central America, or Rosenblatt Stadium that I just have to wonder what is so different about the way the Cubans play ball as opposed to the rest of the world that fosters not just success, but success so quickly?

A case in point is former Athletic Hiroyuki Nakajima, whom the Athletics signed a little over a year ago to, at the time, man the shortstop spot. In fact, I remember being in the hospital after my last Crohns surgery and my Gastroenterologist Dr. Morton asking me about Nakajima, and I shook my head and said that for the most part, Japanese imports--especially middle infielders--have a tough time adjusting and succeeding in the states.

In fact, after signing Nakajima in December of 2012, the shortstop who notched .302-168-738 totals with 141 steals over 12 seasons with Seibu and was an eight-time All Star was dropped from the Athletics 40-man roster by August of 2013.

Mind you, there have been players, like Kazuo Matsui (who hit .267 over seven seasons and 630 games), outfielders Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui, and pitchers Hideo Nomo and Yu Darvish who have had strong careers and seasons.

However, how many other hyped and erratic players have we had from the Land of the Rising Sun?

Well, the opposite side of the coin are Daisuke Matsuzaka, Hideki Irabu, Akinori Iwamura, and locally Kensuke Tanaka (who no longer is a Giant) are among the 42 Japanese players to have made it to the Show since 1995 (Masanori Murakami debuted with the local Giants in 1965, but there was a 30-year drought after that).

Since Fidel Castro took control of Cuba in 1959, 82 Cuban-born ballplayers have signed with Big League teams (not all made the Majors), and though there have been flops such as Ariel Prieto and Jorge Toca, if we just look at the list over the past five years, the difference is truly astounding.

As in since 2007, 12 emgirees have spent time in the Major Leagues, and here are their names:

Right there we have enough promise and production to make imports from anywhere (are there more potential stars from LSU or Arizona State or Stanford looming?) to drive the point home. And, though surely the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico and Venezuela have given us some really great players, the number of successful men, relative to the number of contracts signed, is so heavily weighted towards the Cubans it is crazy.

Now, with the signing of Abreu, and potenial inking now of Rusney Castillo, there is even more speculative talent for both the Majors and our fantasy teams.

But, I will ask you this: Would you rather have Masahiro Tanaka, a 24-year-old with seven professional seasons in Japan under his belt, or Jose Fernandez, a 20-year-old with three professional seasons, on your team?

And, well, Yu Darvish is good, but I would rather have Fernandez than him as well. Wouldn't you?


FSTA Draft: Lawr and Todd Defend Their Crown in Vegas PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 18 January 2014 00:00

As has now apparently been well advertised, Z and I drafted our Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) team Wednesday evening in Las Vegas. And, though we are indeed the defending champs of the league, the lottery gave us the #1 selection (it was karma).

So, for the record, a quick review of my take on who we took, and why. Z--whom we must all congratulate for winning the FSWA Web Baseball Article of the Year award--will likely comment here, or respond in his own space. 

But, rest assured, we get on pretty well teaming in this way. Players are in selection order.

Mike Trout (#1): Z and I did not really discuss this, but when we knew where we were picking there was really no question.

Alex Rios (#2): It took a few discussions, well before the 1/15 draft, about Rios for Todd to molify the feeling that Rios was a lot more erratic than he actually is. We had our eyes on other players we thought would fall here, but none did. Z prefaced Rios' name to me with a rationale, but I cut him short and said it was no problem, I was well on board with Rios' skills on the Rangers. For those in the world who think it was early, well, if you care about numbers, look at them more closely. Rios is really good.

Ian Desmond (#3): Again, Z did not have to convince me about this selection at all. I must say that I am hoping Desmond can kick his game up even a little higher, but a repeat is also fine.

Chris Sale (#4): I wasn't so sure we needed a starter just yet, but were we to take one, this is who I would have wanted. Todd, OTOH, wanted a serious strikeout arm, and I understand needing a strong base for the rotation. So, pretty unanimous.

Ian Kinsler (#5): Again, we were both in sync that should Kinsler drop this low, as he had in other drafts, we were happy to have him show us his skill set is still strong.

Mike Minor (#6): I took Minor at this point in the mock, and just love him and his potential. 

Gio Gonzalez (#7): I like doubling picks at a slot when at a wheel spot, and this gave us a solid troika with some whiffs and great WHIP atop our staff.

Jose Abreu (#8): Former Cuban National, now a White Sox, again, Z and I both really like this guy, and as I will present in a column in a few weeks on emigres from the Island south of Florida who just seem to adjust to play at the Show more readily than any other like sample of players from any other venue, domestic or not.

Kyle Seager (#9): I was huge on Seager in 2012, to the doubt of the world, and Z was equally huge last year (I was not so certain). We are both huge now.

Sergio Romo (#10): Again, my ploy to double up here, and we were both hoping it would be Trevor Rosenthal and Romo, but Romo and...

Glen Perkins (#11): ...Perkins were fine. Now the guys with no closers have to at least think about grabbing one before our next selection, and that clears the path a little for us elsewhere.

Drew Smyly (#12): Z and I both love our #4 starter and now Detroit's #5 on their depth chart so much more than the Tigers' #4 guy (Rick Porcello) it is sad. Smyly was deadly last year in the pen (6-0, 2.37, 81 K over 76 innings, with a 1.039 WHIP) that we see him taking a huge step in 2014.

Jason Castro (#13): Always been a fan, and with a full and solid season under his belt, and a team that looks to be a lot better, we both think Castro will step his game up.

Xander Bogaerts (#14): Obviously, Z loves--we can all be homers--but I have no problem. In fact, I like Bogaerts, who will have shortstop eligibility soon it appears, and well, I love having promising prospects picked this late. Though, I confess, even later would be better.

Dan Straily (#15): I was leaning towards Jarrod Parker, who was gone by the time the next pick came back to us, but Z's projections had Straily higher. I have seen a bunch of Straily myself, and consider him Jack Morris light, at least thus far in his career, in that Straily surrenders homers, but not too many baserunners. 

Erick Aybar (#16): Though everyone in the world knows I am always a big fan of Aybar and his middle-mate Howie Kendrick, Todd was the impetus behind this choice. Obviously, I did not argue.

Avisail Garcia (#17): We both love him, though I do worry about his plate discipline (12 walks to 69 strikeouts) but I think he can definitely whack the ball. Z too.

Alex Wood (#18): Wood's numbers suffered the second half as he became a starter, for though he was 3-1, 3.40, his WHIP went from 1.091 to 1.400. Still, 77 strikeouts over 77.6 innings bodes well for the guy.

Justin Masterson (#19): 14-10, 3.45, 195 punchouts over 193 innings, with a 1.202 WHIP in the 19th round? What the hell did Masterson do to piss off the rest of the league to this extent?

Nick Markakis (#20): Boy, has this guy fallen in the eyes of the world. Meaning he is a perfect gamble as a fourth outfielder. And, as low as Markakis' stock has fallen, he did still hit .271-10-59, and if he can up that just a little it should be profit city. It is hard to believe we trust Garcia more than Markakis, but, well...

Derek Norris (#21): I think Norris will get 400 at-bats this time, and hit Markakis numbers of last year (around .270-10-50) with ten steals. (Check it out: he has ten over his 158 major league games, and has only been caught once).

Kole Calhoun (#22): Again, both Todd and I were in sync with a hitter we think is a huge step-up from Peter Bourjos. Calhoun did post an .808 OPS last year over 195 at-bats, and in the Minors, Calhoun copped 45 swipes, so some speed is there as well.

Matt Joyce (#23): Joyce is streaky, but he has averaged 17 dingers a season over the past three years and this late in the fesitivities, he could pay off nicely.

Mike Zunino (#24): I like to have a back-up catcher in case one of them gets hurt, and Z likes Zunino. 

Josh Rutledge (#25): Rutledge was a darling a year ago, so now we are eager to see if he can settle in. He did hit .371 at Colorado Springs after a demotion, meaning it is time to prove it at the big league level. And, we get some depth up the middle.

Brett Oberholtzer (#26): It is almost a running joke between Z and me at this juncture, although I am neither sure why, let alone how it started. Maybe there is something about "Oberholtzer" being a sort of "Steven Wright dead-pan sounding funny name for a jock" kind of surname. And, though not a huge strikeout machine (45 over 71.6 innings) but, 4-5, 2.76 over ten starts on a bad team suggests some Mark Buehrle-like numbers.

Brad Peacock (#27): Another Astro with some potential, I liked Peacock when the Athletics got him as part of the Gio Gonzalez deal, and was a little bummed when they traded him to get Jed Lowrie (though I liked the Lowrie acquisition). Again, some whiffs (77 over 83.3 innings) though the walks are a little high (37). But, we were both down with a strikeout gamble at this juncture.

Nate Schierholtz (#28): Like it or not still a platoon guy, but one with 20-homer capabilities, and to fill a slot or better pair with Joyce during hot-and-cold periods, Schierholtz could be a nice boost.

Hector Santiago (#29): If Santiago can control his walks (72 over 149 innings), he will be very good. He did whiff 137 and manages to keep his hits under innings (192 over 224.6 innings), and we both like that promise.

Mocking Away January... PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 11 January 2014 00:00

This time of year gets to be big fun. I have indeed finished all my magazine pieces and player profiles for 2014, and though the cycle of weekly pieces is rapidly picking up, these days it is Mock Draft City. And, that usually means a league with a bunch of guys who have been my friends for years now.

Add in the Roto Tour 2014, which starts next week when my mate Lord Z and I defend our Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) Fantasy Baseball title (Z previews in The Return of Zen and Now) in Las Vegas. Then First Pitch rumbles through the Bay Area in February, and right after that is LABR in Phoenix. The wild ride culminates with Tout Wars in the Big Apple at the end of March. And, sure the drafting is fun, but just as wonderful is seeing my league mates: those same pals I am at present mocking with.

Earlier this week, Zach Steinhorn, who doubles as a Mastersballer when he is not driving the Fantasy 411 Blog, kicked off their annual Mock Draft.

I really like mocks, partially because it gives me a sense of how my peers value players, but more because mocks are a time we are truly free to draft on the fringe. 

As we are almost through seven rounds of the Fantasy 411 Mock, I thought I would relate some of my thoughts, on top of what my league mates included, for the first cluster of picks:

#6: Jason Collette – Clayton Kershaw – As if taking Gomez 5th overall in our last draft wasn’t crazy enough, I’ll take Sandy Koufax Jr. I cannot remember a starting pitcher being taken this early since the days of Pedro Martinez. Kershaw is surely good, and pretty healthy so far, and if he sets the tone for strikeouts and WHIP for a team, as Jason seems to think he will, more than worth the high choice.

#15: Derek VanRiper – Ryan Braun – Can’t pass him up here. Braun hit .306/.396/.579 with 8 HR, 26 RBI in his first 32 games last season (40 HR pace) before a thumb injury surfaced in mid-May. I am attributing his pre-suspension power outage to playing through that injury rather than some post-PED issue. Contact trends even during that early-season stretch of production hint at potential decline in AVG. He can hit, for sure, and I think he will have something to prove. I agree with Derek: Can't pass him up here.

#28: Tim Heaney – Matt Kemp – Abundance of options for my next pick. Ample risk, yet the waning pay-off of top-flight bats justifies this gamble. A healthy Kemp should go 20-20, or at least 20-15. I dream of his stud upside, though. Success in fantasy is largely stilted to gambles paying off. If Kemp is healthy for 150 games, this is as good a gamble as it gets (though the truth is, this is so for all of our picks, mock or not).  

#35: Nando DiFinoAlbert Pujols – I’m chalking up his 2013 shortcomings to playing a full season with injury, after pushing too hard, too fast to get back for the early part. I do think Albert returns to some form, but somehow I don't think he will ever be what he was. I am guessing .280-25-85 which is fine, but, do I think he can outproduce Eric Hosmer (#67 to Ryan Carey) or Adrian Gonzalez (#76 to Derek Van Riper)? Not any longer.

 #62: Lawr Michaels – Ian Kinsler – New park, new season, new division, and Miggy hitting behind him (I am guessing). Dude is due to play full and healthy season. Just please deliver. I have really been having fun grabbing Jedd Gyorko around now in all the other mocks I have done so far, but this time Kinsler was still there. A major drop from last year, when Kinsler was a second round favorite, but I like the risk here.

   #70: Joe Sheehan – Billy Hamilton – I punted speed (and protected against downside) for four rounds, so while I probably can wait a little longer, the downside risk of doing so is high. I took Hamilton here in the October mock, and the Reds have done nothing to dissuade me from the idea that he’s going to play, and probably bat leadoff. If he plays, it’s 80 steals and 100 runs, even at a .300 OBP. If Hamilton can get on to the tune of the .300 OBP Joe suggests, he should indeed bring 15 SB points and be a boost to runs as well. I am not so sure he will get on base enough to justify a job. Either way, it will be interesting to see how the world values Hamilton going into the 2014 season.  

# 83: Todd Zola - Jose Dariel Abreu - Need some power and since I've been quite conservative so far and it's time to let what's left of my hair down and take a chance. Especially with the help of The Cell, Abreu's power should translate, so it comes down to contact and patience. There's some other intriguing options at this point but I'll refrain from dropping names. Such an interesting pick. As noted, not that far down from the likes of A-Gone and Hosmer, and this for a guy who has yet to see a Major League pitch. A bold pick by partner Todd, and the kind that makes for success.

It's HOF Argument Time PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 04 January 2014 00:00

In a few days, we will discover the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame inductees, amongst a more than illustrious group.

This is in a year following a year where no one was inducted. And, though I have my thoughts about PEDs, and their influence (I actually think the PEZ company should distribute a special set of big-headed "PEDs Dispensers" featuring Sammy Sosa and of course Barry Bonds) and impact on Hall admittance.

I truly feel Craig Biggio (3000 hits) and Tom Glavine (300 wins) and Frank Thomas (dominant hitter) and Mike Piazza (maybe the best hitting catcher who made his teams winners) all deserve to be inducted.

And, though I have no real issue with most of the abuse of PEDs, I don't see Mark McGwire or Sammy Sosa or Rafael Palmeiro making it any more than Jack Morris, Curt Schilling or Mike Mussina (I am not trying to suggest this last troika altered their bodies, but their numbers are pretty similar in the grande relative scheme). But, these guys are all a lot like Al Oliver, and Steve Garvey and even Bill Buckner: they all had more than solid careers, and were even beyond steady, but they never really kicked it the extra level up (although I think there is a case that could be made for Morris, a fabulous money pitcher).

But, there are players--and I am not even thinking Gil Hodges--who I think really deserve more than a passing thought, now by the Veteran's Committee, pretty much.

So, here are those guys, and why.

Darrell Evans: His line does not look that great compared to today's producers, like Palmeiro and even Thomas, but a .248-414-1354 line with 1605 walks (.361 OBP) put Evans around the top 10 in RBI and walks around the time he retired. He did hit 40 homers in each league (Jim Thome, Adam Dunn and Mark McGwire did this as well) and when Evans retired, 400 homers was a barometer for HOF entrance, not the 500 of today. Evans was a leader on the '85 Tigers when he went .248-40-97 at age 38. Underrated, yes, but steady with big pop at the right time.

Dwight Evans: Fred Lynn and Jim Rice got the bulk of Boston outfield ink in the 70's, but Dewey was the most awesome to me. But this Evans produced a .272-384-1384 line, with 1697 walks (370 OBP), which makes most of his numbers better than his Darrell counterpart. Dwight also collected eight gold gloves, and had a serious gun (157 career assists). 

Jim Kaat: 283-237, 3.54 career mark over 4503.3 innings, with 16 gold gloves, including 12 in a row. Kaat won 20 games three times, and if Morris and Schilling and Moose get consideration, there is no reason Kaat is simply not in. Period.

Tommy John: 288-231, 3.34 over 4710 career innings, with three 20-game seasons, John was swapped to the Dodgers for another notable name, Dick Allen from the White Sox. He was en route to a 20-win year in 1974 (13-3, 2.59 over 153.3 IP) when he blew out his arm, and had the tendon replacement surgery we now commonly refer to with his name first of all. Thus, John sat out 1975, but came back to twirl for 13 more years after his arm was repaired. Again, a career line not unlike the others on this list.

Curt Flood: As stylish a centerfielder as we had in the 60's, and there were some really good ones, like Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Duke Snider, Flood had 1831 hits at age 33, when he left the game. He did completely sit out 1970, as he tried to become a free agent challenging the reserve clause after being traded to the Phils, and then played only 33 more games in 1971 before hanging it up. But, he averaged 171 hits a year, and had he played to age 38 and averaged that same 171 from 1970 through 1979, Flood would have had 3028 hits, and that would have easily been good enough for Hall inclusion. And, well, he was blackballed for challenging the system in a fight where Flood eventually proved to be right, even if his personal battle fell short. All the free agents since who signed all the big contracts have Flood to thank for helping them earn the big payday. If that doesn't make him Hall worthy, no one is.

Talk About a Resolution... PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 28 December 2013 00:00

Over the course of the football season, I have lamented on a regular basis how it hurts to play seven points and leave 27 points on the bench on any given Sunday, at any given spot.

I also think that football seems to hurt more than baseball in that the volume of games makes it so that the impact of a lost performance gets lost in the stat shuffle.

Not to mention aside from head-to-head baseball leagues, a format eschewed by most fantasy baseball players, accordingly looks at stats as a whole rather than under a one-on-one microscope for most of us.

As an example, over the summer I had Raul Ibanez sitting on the bench May 22-26 of the 2013 season when he hit five homers and knocked in 12. But, well, I had to look it up.

However, I will likely remember I lost a shot at a championship in a football league because I sat Danny Woodhead (31 points) and played Darren Sproles (seven points) instead.

Which brings me to the conundrum of last Sunday's Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) game where Anthony Perri of Fantistics beat Todd and me for a title.

Now, I am not writing this to second guess Z at all: he made vitually all the moves for the team over the season, though we did discuss the free agent selections and roster setting week-to-week after drafting together in Chicago last summer.

Furthermore, three of our first four selections were Ray Rice, Maurice Jones-Drew and Stevan Ridley, and we still ran up ten wins, the best record, and made it as far as the championship game, which is no small success.

During the final game, we had the option to play Matt Ryan against the Niners defense, and opted to go with Ryan Fitzpatrick with an easier path, and in the end Ryan netted nine more points.

Similarly, we sat Steven Jackson and played Ray Rice (my impulse), although in thinking about RB's, and touches, we probably should have sat Torrey Smith. Along with that, Smith's QB was ailing, so the chances of the ball getting to him often were slim. That difference would have been worth another 12 points.

On the other side of the fence, Anthony picked up the Browns defense, and played them, sitting the Panthers squad that helped get him to the finals in lieu of the Clevelanders who were facing the offensively erratic Jets.

Had Anthony stuck with the Carolina D, that too would have been worth 14 points as the team ran roughshod over Drew Brees.

Not that it would have mattered over the long haul: Anthony still would have beaten us with or without those moves, but, we would have maxed out our point totals for the game (and I guess maybe I would have felt better?).

I do think it is easier, though, or at least seems more rational to sit a wide receiver when the weather is very cold and windy, or to sit a given skills player against a lineup that is particularly harsh on those skills, but just as I would have a hard time sitting Cam Newton, so should we have a hard time sitting Matt Ryan, or the Panthers defensive unit.

Still, I have done most of the above with much more thought than not sitting just about any fantasy baseball player not named Joe Saunders pitching in Texas.

But, on this eve of yet another year in my arc of a life, I want to reinforce a promise I made with myself early on in my fantasy sports life: second guessing.

For, what I decided was that I could not second guess moves I made in life, like relationships and jobs and the kind of car I bought, but, I could do it all I wanted in the fantasy world.

I think I am going to give up on that one, too.



Musings on an Almost Winter's Eve PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 21 December 2013 00:00

Our modem died on Monday of this week, so I have largely been connecting with the world via my iPhone.

I had not really checked any signings, and though I was watching the news (ok, can well all please agree that Santa Claus has no race: or that is, he is whatever race the individual wants him to be, ok?), but for the most part it was almost like being at music camp. No internet almost feels like no connection with the universe sometimes, I am sorry to report.

It has been busy around here, though, as with Diane off in Chicago visiting her mom for the holidays, I get to watch our zoo (four cats, three dogs) and work and I guess get ready for the holidays. That means baking and cooking, which I like. 

It also means things sort of slow down in some ways. And, people seem to be in a generally happier space. 

Over the last couple of days, I have been watching variations on Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," as one pastime (I got my MA in English with a focus on those Victorians).

I really love the 1951 Allister Sim version, and the 1935 Reginald Owen, too. Earlier, I was watching Patrick Stewart taking a stab, but before that I was busy watching the eighth inning of Ken Burns' wonderful "Baseball" series, the installment that covers the 60's, which was when I first fell in love with baseball.

For, though I was aware of baseball, and even baseball cards in 1959, it was in '60 that I started to buy cards, and that was the year I sat on the couch and watched the first full game of my then seven-year old life, start to finish. It happened to be the last game of the 1960 World Series.

And, as I watched the Yankees dominate, and Maury Wills and the Dodgers change the game, I was sifting through draft picks for my Summer Legends of Cooperstown Strat-O-Matic league, while working trades in the MidWest Strat League.

There is so much to playing in a really deep league, especially with well defined rules, which is what both those Strat leagues push for.

For, as I wrote to my league mates, there is something magical in Steve Reed being drafted in between Lefty O'Doul and Jack Morris, is there not?

As I watched one of my heroes, Curt Flood, make his plea to then Commissioner Bowie Kuhn on why he should be a free agent, I tried to figure out how to land Albert Pujols in the MidWest League without giving up too much, but without being unreasonable. No Robinson Cano type deals for my teams, I hope.

Then on came MLB Tonight, and the Grant Balfour upset, which is obviously close to home. For, wherever Balfour plays next year, it won't be Oakland. On the other hand, the Giants signed Mike Morse, the Rangers lured Kensuke Tanaka out of Japan, while Japan lured Kevin Youkilis out of the United States.

Tomorrow I have a couple of parties to crash--one with brownies I will make in the morning, and I will try to figure out those Pujols angles, along with do I now need one more defensive catcher in my HOF/1998 league, or another right-handed relief guy? Or just some speed, or a solid bench bat like Bubba Trammel or John VanderWal. For in SLOC, I did wait too long on Jim Leyritz, who could have been both a solid bat and a third catcher.

Leyritz was drafted right between Lloyd Waner and Chuck Knoblauch.

Like I said: magical. Just like this time of year can be.


The Top 250 List: Digging Deeper PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 14 December 2013 00:00

Last Monday, we released the Top 10 from the 2014 Top 250 Prospect List, always good fun, and much anticipated.

Well, last year I made some changes, both in including a comment on the spreadsheet for each player, but I also listed some names from the Top 250 that jumped out at me.

So, for fun, let's look at some of those names (if you buy the list, you will see them highlighted in blue) and why.

Henry Owens (21, P, Red Sox): Boston's first-rounder in 2011, Owens was signed out of high school, and so far has more than justified that selection. A 6'6", 205 pound southpaw, Owens has 299 minor league whiffs over 236.6 innings, with just 184 hits allowed. Owens does give up the walks (115), but he finished 2013 at Portland, going 3-1, 1.78 over 30.3 innings, with 46 punchouts. Should start 2014 at Double-A, but is one of those guys who could jump fast.

Andrew Edwards (22, P, Royals): Edwards is one of those kinds of guys I like because they seem to like to go to work. A 19th round selection by Kansas City last year, Edwards started at rookie ball (1-1, 1.56 over 17.3 IP) and then moved to High-A Wilmington to close out the year with six more innings (1-0, 0.00). With 17 strikeouts over those 21.3 innings, Edwards also allowed 13 walks and hits each, so the walks are high, but hits low (no homers BTW). He is big (6'5", 260 pounds), so if he harnesses the walks a little, could be one of those dominant guys.

Rob Refsnyder (23, 2B, Yankees): A fifth-round pick by the Yanks in 2012, Refsnyder could well be the heir apparent to the departed Robinson Cano in a year or so. Refsnyder hit .283-6-51 at Tampa last year with 16 steals over 413 at-bats. But, what is really striking are the 78 walks to 70 strikeouts (100 to 107 as a pro) and .408 OBP he bagged at High-A. Has 15-homer potential as his career unfolds.

Victor Payano (21, P, Rangers): He is young (will not turn 22 till the end of next season), and can be wild (170 walks over 290.3 innings) but also has 288 strikeouts over that span. At 6'5", but just 185 pounds, Payano could gain a little more weight and power, so it is the control he needs. As I say, probably too much, there is a fine line between being Daniel Cabrera and Randy Johnson. And, though it may be fine, it ain't so easy to cross. Still, having just completed High-A, that certainly merits our eye going into 2014.

Gonzalo Sanudo (22, P, Astros): A Mexican League import, Sanudo is another big guy (6'3", 235 pounds), who wove his way up from rookie ball to Class-A and then to Double-A, finishing with a 1-2, 1.15 mark with 19 saves over 38.6 innings. Sanudo struck out 51 while allowing just 20 hits and only four walks (0.621 WHIP, and almost a 13:1 K:BB ratio). Do you need to know more?

Shae Simmons (23, P, Braves): Went 1-1, 1.49 at Rome over 53.3 innings, with 24 saves and 82 strikeouts. Simmons walked 22, allowing 31 hits (0.969 WHIP), but no homers. In fact, over his 78 minor league innings as a pro, Simmons has yet to allow a big fly. He finished 2013 at Double-A Mississippi, going 0-0, 2.45 over 11 innings with 16 more punchouts. 

Wilmer Font (23, P, Rangers): Went 2-2, 1.04 with 14 saves over 52 innings last year, split between Frisco (Double-A) and Round Rock (Triple-A). Font whiffed 72, and allowed only 22 hits, though 34 walks (1.077 WHIP). The Rangers do move their pitchers up quickly if they show dominance, and Font surely shows that with 466 strikeouts over 387.3 minor league innings.

Matt Stites (23, P, Padres): Drafted in the 17th round in 2011, Stites has 150 strikeouts over 135.3 innings in the Minors, with just 76 hits allowed to 19 walks (0.702 WHIP). He was 2-2, 2.08 at San Antonio last year over 51 innings with 14 saves and 52 whiffs. Stites is only 5'11" and 170 pounds, but he could be one of those Tim Hudson slight build guys who is deadly. 

Again, the whole list will be available this coming Monday as part of our Platinum Package.


Cats Living With Dogs...Hot Stove Madness PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 07 December 2013 00:00

I have to say for the most part the free agent moves this Hot Stove so far are beyond puzzling to me.

And, I hate to write the previous sentence, sounding like a cranky old man, I suppose.

But, it seems there is such a trend in baseball to advance younger players, and push them into the lineup, that it is hard for me to understand exactly where that balances with signings like that of Curtis Granderson and Nate McLouth and, dare I say it, Robinson Cano.

Mind you, I do understand, for example, that among Mike Zunino, Kyle Seager, Justin Smoak, Nick Franklin, and even the disappointing Dustin Ackley, that allows for a lot of money in the starting lineup that Seattle can extend. For, the aforementioned are all pretty inexpensive players.

But, as a path forward goes, I don't see Cano's presence alone making the difference.

Just not that big a difference at this point.

For grins, let's take a look at the Mariners as they now stand:

C: Mike Zunino - Goes into his first full season, and now we will see what he can do.

1B: Justin Smoak - No question he has pop: many questions if he has anything else?

2B: Robinson Cano - Rhetorical

3B: Kyle Seager - Just fine for now, with a .270-18-75 baseline as a Major Leaguer. Not sure if he gets better, but don't think he will get worse.

SS: Brad Miller/Nick Franklin - Both with strong minor league credentials, and credible debuts last year. I would give the shortstop defensive edge to Miller, but I think Franklin will have a more potent bat. But, for now I see Miller at short, and Franklin moving to the outfield.

OF: ?

Thus comes the abyss.

Certainly, we can pencil Franklin into one of the outfield slots, but like most of his team mates, first full year, and who knows what expectations with Cano now on board.

Then what? Raul Ibanez (if he re-signs). Dustin Ackley. Franklin Gutierrez. Michael Saunders

I like Ibanez the best of the corps, but I don't expect him to repeat his somewhat awesome and unexpected .249-29-65 season of last at age 41 on Opening Day. The rest have some promise, but the truth is, a really good team could contend with one among Franklin, Ibanez, Ackley, Gutierrez and Saunders, but not with two, let alone three of them.

What I think the team really needs is two outfielders with .280-25-90 potential, or better. 

Now, maybe the addition of Cano as productive hitter mitigates part of the need for a serious hitting outfielder, but what really seems like a better path is to simply eat another year, see which of their young crew can rise up, and then add a couple of vet players where needed.

Note, this also gives Taijuan Walker a chance to get a full season under his belt, for that would give a very respectable Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Walker atop a promising rotation.

In writing the above, I don't mean to be picking on the Mariners, mind you. 

And, I do understand a team's need to keep their fan base both engaged, and coming to the yard.

But, I also think running the path of the Rays, or Nationals, Cardinals, and even the Athletics by trying to draft or trade for a young core of parts built around some really strong young arms.

In other words, I am not sure if the Royals did indeed do the right thing by trading Wil Myers for James Shields, not so much that I dislike Shields, but more to the point that the team was probably a year or two away anyway.

Baseball is such a funny game, as we all know.

And, teams can surprise out of nowhere: they do every year.

I mean, who thought Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Oakland would be as tough in 2013 as they were? Or that the Royals would have such an upsurge? Or, more to the point, how many experts had the Red Sox written off before the first pitch was tossed?

I also know that most of us make better GM's than the guys actually doing the job.

But, if you have a plan to rebuild around youth and the draft, you have to know that it is a 4-5 year process. And, though we have to always be flexible, we have to stay the course.

And not panic.   

Hot Stove Holidays PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 30 November 2013 09:03

With the holidays now upon us, hot stoves cooking up delicious meals as well as tasty deals in our leagues and in the Show are big fun for fantasy owners.

Clearly, wondering the impact of the Ian Kinsler/Prince Fielder swap, is a big one. I personally love it, for I froze Nick Castellanos in the Experts Fantasy League, and at least going into the spring, that looks like an at least optimistic move.

Well, in my great MidWest Strat-O-Matic League, a 30-team keeper format where we can freeze 29 players year-to-year, the hot stove has been really jumping with swaps.

Since I have been rebuilding, I was able to make a few trades that will hopefully put me back into contention as early as 2014, and with a little luck, make me a serious force for a few years once 2015 rolls around (after which I guess it will become rebuild time again).

And, since the 2013 season—though remember, Strat-O-Matic is a simulation league, so we play out the stats from the previous season—is done, in addition to making the trades that will make each team stronger, we are also looking at the upcoming draft.

For because the MidWest League is a sim, the rookies from last year—like Yasiel Puig, Jose Fernandez and Wil Myers—will be up for grabs.

And that means a lot of jockeying and swapping as dump trades can occur at any time in this type of format. That is because rebuilding can start at any moment; that is, as soon as the owner of a team decides the path of his squad is going nowhere.

Well, my two-plus year ordeal seems like it is nearly done.

Over the past seasons, I swapped Ubaldo Jimenez, Hanley Ramirez, Ryan Zimmerman, Mark Ellis and Shane Victorino, among others, in my attempt to regain respectability.

In exchange, I wound up with Bud Norris, Domonic Brown, Carl Crawford, Derek Norris, Aaron Crow and Jose Tabata.

Now, that might not sound like much, but in this league, which is both extremely deep and with strict usage rules, I now have a strong everyday outfield with Tabata, Brown and Crawford.

My real needs going into next year entail getting one good starting arm, and knowing that I needed both second and third sackers to flesh out a solid starting nine.

Well, one of the advantages of having a terrible team in 2012 was that I netted the #2 draft pick, and that meant Matt Harvey, whom I love and figured I could have as the core or my pitching corps for years.

True, he has had surgery, but, I do still get his 2013 numbers: it is the 2014 season that would be a void.

Well, when I got an offer from Jed Latkin to send me Zack Greinke along with Pablo Sandoval in exchange for Harvey (there were other players involved to make sure the swap was even), I had to jump on it.

For, though it is tough to let go of a talent like Harvey, Greinke likely has 4-5 solid seasons ahead as he is in his prime. Furthermore, as good as Harvey has been, Greinke’s resume is longer.

As for Pablo, he gives me a solid everyday bod at the hot corner, and one who is just going into his prime (think years, there, not beef, although the Panda’s weight is a concern to me).

As part of the Harvey deal, I was also able to grab a second first-round selection as well, so that means with Jedd Gyorko, Nick Franklin and Anthony Rendon all on the rookie parade for 2014, things start to look good.

Then, with so many great young arms out there, filling the final pitching slot and even getting arm strength to help keep my team going for a few years is more than plausible.

I actually did make a second trade with defending 2013 champ and league commissioner Al Koman, sending him Jonathan Lucroy, Erik Bedard and a #4 pick next year for Ervin Santana, George Kottaras and his #4 pick in 2014.

Since I have Derek Norris (whom I received last year from Al along with the same Bedard guy in a swap that sent Ellis to the would-be champs), whom I like a lot and think will step it up as the full-time Oakland catcher next year, augmenting his usage with that of the left-handed Kottaras (platooning is essential in Strat), along with the defensively strong Chris Stewart gave me the freedom to swap the potent Lucroy.

In exchange, I have catcher covered, and now have a strong fourth starter in Santana, to go along with Greinke and rotation incumbents Norris (the Bud, this time) and Kevin Correia.

Now, if you play straight 5x5 fantasy ball, you might scoff at having names like Stewart and Bedard and Kottaras on squads, let alone the thought of them as useful pieces on a team.

But, in such a deep format, where a player can be used the same as the previous season plus 20% (so if a hitter was up 200 times in 2013, he gets 240 at-bats in 2014), these players are essential.

And, because the penalty for over-using a player from the previous year results in reducing the number of freezes going into the coming season, having depth on your bench and minors is similarly critical.

One of the things I often hear fantasy players say is what they are looking for in fantasy is realism, duplicating the game on the field to our imaginary leagues.

Well, let me tell you that when Eduardo Escobar is a pivotal utility keeper on a squad, you are a lot closer to hitting that realism we all crave.

So, though I am not sure my machinations will work out over the long haul, I have had fun making them. For, I do so enjoy the rebuilding process.

Furthermore, if you are a real lover of not just baseball, but games, I urge you to try different formats and deeper and more challenging configurations.

It is how we keep moving forward, after all.

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