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Thursday 23rd Nov 2017

Assorted Rants, Rumblings and Ruminations from the Mind of a “So-Called” Expert

Always remember, never forget. Never say always or never.

That’s one of my forum signatures. It’s also a general philosophy of mine that I’d like to think applies to more than just fantasy sports. I’m not a fan of absolutes without proof. Paying heed to anecdotal or intuitive absolutes may mean you miss out on an improbability. I’ll accept scientifically proven impossibilities. I won’t accept intuition. I’ve seen intuition come out on the short end too many times.

Always start your studs. There’s that word – ALWAYS.

In case you haven’t figured it out, this is a follow-up to Lawr’s missive from yesterday. Ultimately, we’re on the same page, so I wouldn’t call this a rebuttal, or even a counter-point. It’s more a left-brain approach that meshes with Lawr’s right-brain tendencies and the main reason we make a pretty mean team as evidenced by winning the 2013 Fantasy Trade Association Experts Baseball League and making it to the finals of the football counterpart, albeit the secondary league.

Always start your studs. Sorry, I just don’t buy it. Always start the players you feel will score the most points. That I can buy. And I’ll pay full price plus any applicable taxes.

Granted, more often than not, your studs will be the options that should score more - but not always.

Usually is not always and sometimes is not never. Part of what makes this fantasy stuff fun for me is living in the gray area. I like to take gray and make it black or white.

I expected Ryan Fitzpatrick to outscore Matt Ryan last weekend. We drafted Ryan in the fifth or sixth round, while we picked up Fitzpatrick on waivers to cover for Matty Ice’s bye week. When I went to set our lineup for the championship game, none of that mattered. All that mattered was my sense of their respective production last weekend.

Since Week 9, Fitzpatrick has averaged 20 points, while Matty Ice hadn’t even scored 20 since Week 7, averaging just 13 since Week 9. Fitzpatrick outpointed Ryan in four of the previous six weeks.

Fitzpatrick was playing the Jacksonville Jaguars, who at the time were allowing the third most points to opposing signal callers. The game was in Florida, so weather would not be an issue. The Jags have been playing better so I felt there could be some points scored by both teams.

Ryan had a Monday Night date with the San Francisco 49ers. The Niners were still in play-hard-to-win mode as seeding and bye weeks were unsettled. Going into the game, San Franciso’s defense was the third stingiest with respect to yielding quarterback points. Colin Kaepernick has been playing better but I didn’t envision a high-scoring affair.

I was wrong. Ryan had a better weekend than Fitzpatrick.

The Steven Jackson versus Ray Rice conundrum wasn’t as cut and dried but ultimately I agreed with Lawr and felt Rice was the call. For the record, we picked up S-Jax on waivers that week. One running back was going to be Rashad Jennings, the other either Rice or Jackson with Stevan Ridley and MJD as our other options. We could have played both RB and instead sat Emmanuel Sanders, Cordarrelle Patterson, Torrey Smith or Jordy Nelson, but I liked each of their match-ups and in a PPR league, preferred one as the flex.

Since Week 10, Jackson was averaging a little less than one point a game more than Rice. Both have been playing better lately though to his credit, Jackson had scored 16 or more for three of the previous four weeks. Talent-wise, it was a wash in my eyes.

Here’s the part that was difficult. Rice was facing the New England Patriots with Jackson squaring off against the Niners. Seems like a no-brainer, right? The San Fran D versus the Pats D – San Fran wins. The thing is, against the run, they were almost identical. What swung it for me was Rice is usually more involved in the passing game and New England has trouble checking opposing running backs.

I was wrong.

Again.

It wasn’t by much, but Jackson scored a TD which was the difference.

Of course, there was nothing Lawr nor I could do about the doughnut turned in by Vernon Davis or the single-digit games put up by our previously reliable wideouts. Stuff happens.

But I was perfectly good with the Fitz and Rice decisions, not losing a wink of shut-eye.

While on this topic, I may as well vent a little as some of the advice I have heard pertaining to fantasy football start ‘em/sit ‘em is driving me goofy.

This folds back into the notion of starting the player you feel will do the best, but on numerous occasions, I heard my advice-disseminating brethren suggest the decision should be based on “How would you feel all off-season if you benched so-and-so for a lesser player and he went off? You boogie who got you to the dance.” As Vin Scully would say – equine fertilizer.

You dance with the better dancer on that day. Who cares how you’d feel? The specific example that really got my craw was Drew Brees versus Andy Dalton. A caller to a radio show asked if playing Dalton over Brees last week was a good idea. The idea was unanimously shot down. Who cares that Brees was on the road against the tough Panther D. He’s Drew Brees! There’s no way you play him over the inconsistent Dalton even though Dalton had the hapless Minnesota Vikings trying to stop him and the elite A.J. Green. But the hosts pulled the “how much would it suck to have Brees throw 5 TD on your bench while Dalton struggled?” Well, how much DOES IT SUCK that Brees threw for a mediocre 281 yards with a touchdown while Dalton chucked for 366 with four touchdowns!

You play the guys you believe will score the most regardless of draft spot or how you’d feel if you lost with them on your bench.

Then you sleep like a baby.

The other advice that has me going bonkers is using numbers for the sake of using numbers – without any basis. It’s no secret that I’m a numbers guy. The NFBC has branded the language I speak as "numerish." But, some falsely believe that numerish is using numbers to make a decision. That’s almost correct but it neglects one incredibly important caveat. Numerish is the PROPER use of numbers to aid in a decision.

Because a wideout scored 2 touchdowns the last time he faced a team is not a reason to play him in the rematch. Because a team has allowed a touchdown to a tight end two of the past three weeks is not a reason to play a tight end against that team the following week.

Everything is contextual. What were the circumstances that led to the 2-TD explosion or tight ends succeeding as of late? Were they unique to that time or more a reflection of an exploitable weakness? Maybe the advice is right. My beef is the hand-waving supposition that because it happened once it will assuredly happen again without undertaking any due diligence to support the claim.

OK, someone get this soapbox out of here.

In case you haven’t noticed, daily fantasy games are all the rage. Your friends here at Mastersball have joined the fray via our partnership with FanDuel. Today I’d like to share my personal views on the topic which will conclude with a rant sure to rustle the feathers of a few of my industry brethren.

Many old school roto-players frown upon the daily game, saying it’s basically gambling since there’s so much luck involved. On the surface I see their point. Really, who knows how a ballplayer will fare on any given night?

Several years ago, back when CBC/CDM were battling MLBAM and the MLBPA in court over the right to use player stats in fantasy games, this was a hot button topic at the Fantasy Sports Trade Association conferences. The crux of the argument was whether fantasy sports were a luck or skills based endeavor. I recall a down and dirty means of considering the question that was repeated yearly. If you pulled someone in off the street to compete in the activity and they had just as strong a chance at winning as everyone else, this was luck-based. If the same person were at a competitive disadvantage to others with some knowledge in the area, it was skill-based. This is not to say the outcome was not influenced by luck; just that some with some skill had a better chance to win.

That’s precisely how I view the daily fantasy games. I’d like to believe that if I pulled 100 people off the street who know nothing about baseball and explained to them the mechanism of choosing a FanDuel team (choose one player from each of these nine positions so that their total salary is $35K or less), my team would defeat over half of them every time. Heck, I believe that unless my squad totally tanks on a given night, I should skunk every one of them. But for the purpose of this discussion, if I consistently beat over half of them, that suggests there is an element of skill involved.

Due to the nature of a daily game, variance will influence the outcome more than in conventional rotisserie formats. Think of it this way. We are pretty sure that over the course of the season, Robinson Cano will hit .300 with 30 homers and 110 RBI. During the first half, he’ll probably hit in the neighborhood of .300 with approximately half of his HR and RBI. But, how sure are we that in any given month, he’ll hit .300-5 HR-22? That’s what he’ll average, but some months Cano will be above, and some below. By season’s end the numbers will be there, but the results will vary month to month. We’re already seeing variance by parsing the season into six segments; imagine the uncertainty when we slice it into 162 pieces. That’s what daily games are doing which is where the variance comes from.

But still, I contend someone with a superior foundation with respect to expected performance and a deeper understanding of how a player can increase his performance on a given night has a better chance of overcoming the variance than a person off the street. This is why I may be more tolerant of the daily games than other long-time rotisserie veterans. My ability to predict player performance and convert that to bang for the buck, even in a one day sample, should avail a competitive advantage over others that don’t posses similar skills.

As you are either likely aware of can imagine, with the proliferation of these daily games comes the need for strategic advice on how to excel at the format. I’m going to come right out and say it. The advice being doled out is fallacious and in a lot of instances, downright embarrassing.

The source of said advice varies from sites and individuals dedicated to daily games as well as conventional fantasy analysts bridging into the daily format. What pisses me off the most is that plain and simple, these people failed to do their homework and if they are being compensated in any form for this advice, they have failed to do their job. Maybe it’s because they are naïve to the work that is out there but that’s no excuse. If one is asked to serve as an authority on a subject, it is their obligation to do their due diligence and research what is out there with respect to knowledge and understanding. The failure to do so is just plain wrong -- and embarrassing.

Specifically, I am referring to the all too common means of using historical hitting and pitching matchups to identify strong plays on a given night. Regardless of the sample, how a batter has fared versus a pitcher is moot when considering how he will do the next time. Do the research:  It’s out there and you may be surprised at some of the luminaries you’ll find commenting on this subject and others, beginning with Bill James. And, while you might have false intuition on your side, I have some of the greatest sabermetric minds on mine. What is even more maddening is when the advice is tempered with “I know it’s a small sample, but...”. To quote a recent Tangotiger tweet: “Is it possible to follow "Small sample size" with the word "but" and not look foolish?”

No, it isn’t.

The other erroneous counsel being spewed in print and over the airwaves is riding hot streaks. As my friend Steve Moyer once wrote back when he was a columnist for Rotowire, “Who’s hot, who’s not, who cares.” Again, look it up. Perceived streaks, hot or cold are not predictive of future performance. But yet, on a daily basis, we are instructed to ride the hot streak of the Flavor of the Day.

Sigh.

I don’t know, maybe I should just keep my mouth shut. But, from a professional and academic perspective, the neglect on the part of those empowered to speak on the subject of daily games really frustrates me.

In full disclosure, I will soon have a platform to right some of what I perceive to be wrong. I’m already doing so on a weekly basis when I discuss my FanDuel submissions for their weekly promotional contests. To answer the question, yes, I am winning. Not every time, but I have built up a bankroll and presently have considerably more in my FanDuel account than when I started. But, I’ll save that discussion for another time. First I have some research to do.

Ask and ye shall receive, albeit a couple of days later than usual. As Tony Soprano often reminded, “Sorry, this is my busy season.” I find it ironic that those of us in the fantasy baseball information dissemination business can’t wait for opening day so we can take a breath. Though, this season’s break has to wait a week since so many more leagues than normal are drafting the first weekend in April. Anyway, I’ve received a bunch of requests to write up my NL Tout Wars draft, so here we go.

As is usually the case with auctions, I’ll know in the first 15 minutes what my plan will be. If the early prices are within a buck or two of my expectations, I’ll jump in early. If they are mostly four or five bucks over, I’ll sit back and wait for the soft underbelly of the auction where the prices of the middle tier are either as expected or a little under. From my experience the previous Friday in Las Vegas at the National Fantasy Baseball Championship National League auction, I anticipated being able to grab several discounted outfielders late so I would be sure to have the open roster spots.

My general plan is to walk in with my ranking tiers and a round guideline of “my lines.” I draw 23 lines (14 hitters and 9 pitchers) and assign a price. I don’t assign a position to the price but based on the tiers, I try to make sure there is an ample inventory across positions from which to choose. My hitting lines were 30, 25, 20, 20, 15, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 3, 3, 2 and 2 for a total of 170. The pitcher lines were 20, 18, 15, 12, 10, 5, 5, 3 and 2 for a total of 90. The split is a little more to pitching than normal (65:35) but this is only a guide, I always slide budget around based on the purchases.

I knew right away the plan was what I call middling. Thanks to Chris Liss and Derek Carty, the early prices were above what this room normally pays. Chris is an aggressive player that knows the odds as well as anyone but is also not afraid to take chances. His presence was missed last year as the room as a whole was rather reticent to pay top dollar. Derek's plan was a change-up from what he normally does and he was dead set on being aggressive early. The two in tandem served to make sure all the top players sold for full price and then some. To be honest, this is how I hoped it would go so I could draw from my experience in Las Vegas to fill as many spots as I could with regulars and not scrounge for at-bats at the end.

The first player I bought was Bobby Parnell for 13. While I won’t go crazy for closers, I want my saves and prefer not to have to FAAB this season’s Rafael Dolis and cross my fingers (and hold my nose). I feel Parnell will be the guy for the Mets and cost a couple less bones than the closers already off the board. Soon thereafter, I picked Kenley Jansen for 11, mainly because I like to have one middle reliever on my roster (usually cheaper) but if my sense was right, I could also get Brandon League on the cheap (as I did in Vegas). The only problem with that was Sergio Romo. All saves are not created equal. Romo’s ratios tack on four points to your fantasy total. Romo is being discounted due to the likelihood he doesn’t accrue quite as many saves as the other top closers since his usage will be tempered a bit. It may only be five saves, but that’s enough to drop him in price, which it did. I added Romo for $15 which in essence took away the line for a decent starting pitcher. For what it’s worth, I did not add League as he went a little higher ($14) that I wanted to go, especially since I had Romo. Worst case is I overpaid for my setup man, best case is I have a closer to deal down the line.

A major repercussion of the reliever gamut was having to drop the line for my top starting pitcher down from 20. I sensed this was going to be OK as the guys I thought I could get in that range all went for more than I was willing to stretch. Based on my experience in mocks and drafts, I felt there was someone I could still get that I liked and sure enough, Jordan Zimmerman was there for 18. He’s discounted due to a lack of strikeouts but if you pair him with a strikeout pitcher discounted because of questionable ratios, you can get an aggregate whose sum cost less than two pitchers with stats averaging the two. I never expected that pitcher to be Yovani Gallardo, but when the bidding stalled at 16, I decided I’d go 17 and he was mine. At this point, I knew I would be pitching heavy and something would have to give on hitting – so my $30 line was reduced to $20.

It’s no secret that I feel Allen Craig is in for a big year (mainly because I am less concerned about his health than others), so it is no surprise he is anchoring my hitting. The only problem was I was hoping he would be my second most expensive hitter but at 25, he’s the leader. Next is Aramis Ramirez, another guy I have pegged for more playing time than most others expect. He cost 24, which meant I was going to skimp at catcher.

There were a few players I was specifically asked to discuss.

Josh Rutledge cost 17 and along with Craig is a mainstay on a lot of my squads. Some are hedging playing time since Colorado has some reasonable options at second base, but I’m confident Rutledge will occupy the two-hole in the Rockies’ order for 150 games. If he does, a 20/20 season is not out of the realm.

Daniel Murphy was my only chase at 15. It’s not that the price is outlandish (assuming he’s good to go opening day) but it came at the point where most players were selling under price and I had to go full boat.

Alex Gonzalez is slated to play first while Corey Hart is out, so he should earn the buck I paid in April and the rest will be icing. Who knows? Maybe Jean Segura or even Norichika Aoki will struggle, opening up more time for Gonzalez.

The player I was asked about the most was Nate Schierholtz, mainly because those following along via the live blog and feed assumed it was an overpay because I had the most money left (14 for two players) and it took 13 to land him. Truth be told, that was right where I had him priced, so I was fine with the purchase.

All totaled, I am fine with the team, though it is tilted more to pitching than normal. But I should have some assets to deal to fortify the hitting. I like the prices I got for Dillon Gee ($9) and Brandon McCarthy ($9) even if meant settling for Chris Johnson at 8 and Russell Martin at 9, two spots I planned on spending a little more.

Here’s the squad. Please feel free to post questions in the comments and I’ll address them. I didn’t purposely do this, but it doesn’t surprise me that in my subconscious it worked out that a majority of my players have a measure of upside over the static projection.

C - Russell Martin 9, Hector Sanchez 1
1B/3B - Allen Craig 25, Aramis Ramirez 24, Chris Johnson 8
2B/SS - Daniel Murphy 15, Josh Rutledge 17, Alex Gonzalez 1
OF – Jon Jay 13, Cody Ross 12, Gregor Blanco 4, Chris Heisey 5
UT/SW – Carlos Quentin 16, Nate Schierholtz
SP – Jordan Zimmermann 18, Yovani Gallardo 17, Brandon McCarthy 9,
         Dillon Gee 9, Wily Peralta 4, Kyle Kendrick 1
RP – Sergio Romo 15, Bobby Parnell 13, Kenley Jansen 11
RES – Miguel Olivo, Jeff Locke, Eric Stults, Kevin Kouzmanoff

As I’ve mentioned before, while my fantasy baseball life is an open book (if you’re in my leagues and don’t know the players I like, you’re not doing your homework), I tend to keep my private life private. But, there have been occasions where writing about it has either been therapeutic or apropos since it transcended into my fantasy baseball life. Today it’s going to be a little of both.

For years I have been asked why I don’t make my living in fantasy baseball. My response was always the same and the honest truth – I loved science and I loved fantasy baseball, but my passion was science while my hobby was fantasy baseball. I loved my job and I loved my hobby. And while I was equally passionate about fantasy baseball, I was scared shitless that if I made my hobby my vocation, I’d loathe them both.

So, as many of you know but others may find surprising, I don’t do this for a living. By trade I am a Chemist. Beginning around age 22 and for the next 25 years, I spent almost every day in one laboratory or another. For the last three, I have spent almost every day trying to convince someone to hire me.

I did work for a short spell last year, doing temporary contract work for a local pharmaceutical from July through November. It was an entry-level position and wasn’t exactly what I was used to, but it was a foot in the door at a company where I hoped to transition into a permanent job more in line with my training, interest and experience. Unfortunately, things did not progress as planned and the contract was not renewed.

At this point, I pretty much knew what I had to do. However, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I realize this is a little corny, but having lost my Mom to cancer in 1992 and my Dad to Alzheimer’s in 2011, I felt I owed it to them to keep plugging away. I knew I wasn’t going to cure cancer or figure out how to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, but I felt I owed it to them to try. The irony is both my Mom and Dad would have had no problem if I transitioned into fantasy baseball writing. Oh, they’d give me plenty of shit for spending so long in grad school to end up writing about make-believe baseball, but they both would have been incredibly supportive – and proud.

So I spent the last several months continuing to look for a job in science. Then in March, after failing to land the last of three positions I had interviewed for in the past couple of months, I finally came to the realization it was time. I asked my managing partners Lawr and Brian if I could talk with them and broke the news – I was going to give up my search for a job in chemistry and instead figure out how to make a living doing this baseball thing. While I am paraphrasing a little, their response was “what took you so long?”

Now I am going public with my decision, letting you guys know my plans. I’m not sure how yet, but I’m in the process of figuring out how to make a living in fantasy baseball.

My primary objective is to grow Mastersball to a point where it can not only support my salary, but others as well. That’s going to take a lot of work, but I’ve poured over 15 years of blood, sweat and tears into the site and would like to see it manifest into something special. Up until this point, there was a critical mass we needed to be concerned with in terms of ability to support and produce content - as a hobby. But, this is now my job and it’s time to take the kid gloves off. I have no idea what that will entail, but it’s time to find out.

Since the site is not there yet, I need to find means to supplement my income, so soon you’ll see my name popping up in a couple of other places, along with continuing my freelance association with ESPN. If you live in Central Massachusetts, you may even see me behind a register at a convenience store or perhaps stocking shelves at Home Depot. Though, I am looking into some part-time teaching jobs as well.

Thanks for cyber-listening. As implied earlier, this was both personally therapeutic and apropos. By writing about it, it has helped me make further peace with the decision. I know it’s the right thing to do on a number of levels, but that doesn’t make it any easier. It was also important to me to convey the message that even though I may be contributing elsewhere, this is my home.

Last Tuesday evening, I cyber-linked up with fourteen other fantasy baseball luminaries where we assembled the squad we will each take into battle in Mixed LABR. Before the draft, I wrote a piece discussing what I would do with the sixth pick. As expected, I chose Prince Fielder to anchor my team. Here’s a peek inside my gray with a brief explanation why I did what I did.

1.06 Prince Fielder: The past several weeks, I have been doing a couple mock drafts with some very smart guys. After each pick we are required to share our thought process, who else we considered, etc. We are very candid about our picks and our strategies but treat the discussion like Vegas – what happens in the inbox stays in the inbox. This insures confidentiality and promotes openness among the participants. As such, I can’t share particulars, but as a result of the discourse, I had an epiphany. For a while, I have written about how I need to introduce more risk into my game and thought I had been doing so, but now I’m not so sure. A couple weeks ago, my alter ego Lord Zola put together a Round Table for KFFL where Bryce Harper was discussed. In the wrap up, I wrote:

"There is no way I am taking a guy like this in the third round, let alone the second or first. I realize you need players to perform better than their draft spot to win, and I may be overall too conservative, but I'll still throw my speculative darts elsewhere."

Here’s the epiphany. Drafting Bryce Harper in the first or second round doesn’t mean you think he WILL put up first round numbers, it means you think he MIGHT do it. Previously, I couldn’t understand the logic of wasting a first round pick on a dart throw, but after reading the candid thoughts posed in the double-secret mocks, I get it. I may not agree with it, but at least I know longer think someone is bat-ass crazy for a pick akin to taking Harper in the first.

All that said, it takes a while to teach an old dog new tricks, so I opted to take a player I consider to be the fourth most likely to end the season with first round value. I’ll book .300-30-100 and worry about steals later.

2.10 Clayton Kershaw: Let’s get this out of the way; I trust the hip issue that plagued Kershaw at the end of the 2012 season isn’t a factor. The main reason I opted for the southpaw is I didn’t see any hitters that moved the needle; there was no one that I didn’t think I could get in the next round, or that I felt wasn’t a reach to select. The two names that may surprise you the most that I left on the board were Hanley Ramirez and Ian Kinsler. I’m no longer going to bump a guy up my list because he plays a position others consider scarce and a healthy Kershaw is actually worthy of a first round pick because remember, we conventionally allot about 70 percent or our resources to hitting, leaving 30 for pitching, but at the end of the season, to truly determine their percent contribution, that split should be 50/50 meaning pitchers are a lot more valuable than how the market conventionally prices them.

3.06 Allen Craig: Rumor has it that my buddies Glenn Colton and Rick Wolf took me out behind the woodshed for this pick during their live coverage of the festivities on their SiriusXM show, “Colton and the Wolfman.” I’m not at all surprised. Glenn and Rick have been very successful using a draft plan they call SMART where the S is for scarcity. As I have been writing about extensively, I no longer heed to the notion of scarcity. Plus, I’m willing to bet my expectations for Craig exceed theirs. This isn’t quite the equivalent of taking Harper in the first, but it trusts your sheets and instinct, something I suspect Colton and the Wolfman would understand, even if they don’t agree with the end result.

4.08 Billy Butler: Three first basemen and a pitcher with my first four picks - now maybe I’m the bat-ass crazy one. But hear me out. Mixed LABR is rather unique in that these dudes never got the memo that trading is frowned upon in industry leagues (sorry, I refuse to call it an expert league). In order to deal, you usually need to have a surplus in an area. One can have a surplus of stats or a surplus of strong players at a position. I’m aiming for the latter. The plan is to use Craig in the outfield, where he also qualifies. Then later in the season, I can dangle Butler, or even Fielder in a trade with the option to slide Craig to corner infield so I can back fill the loss with either an outfielder or corner infielder, as there should be stronger players at those positions available than middle infielders.

5.06 Yadier Molina: According to my valuation system, catchers are worth a whole lot more than the market prices them so I wanted to take advantage on at least one fairly early in an attempt to get an edge at the position. I tried to mitigate the injury risk with the relatively durable Molina. If his power persists, he’s worthy of a pick in the second or third round and I think it will sustain.

6.08 Alex Rios: When you’re five picks into a draft and your catcher is projected to steal more bases than the rest of your team combined, it’s time to find some bags. That said, I didn’t want to do it at the expense of sacrificing power since I could always deal for the likes of Michael Bourn or Ben Revere in season if necessary. Or I could even draft Revere, Brett Gardner or Juan Pierre later. Others consider Rios maddeningly inconsistent but I see a guy with an outlying season with otherwise strong and stable skills.

7.06 Yovani Gallardo: There were other pitchers I had ranked higher, but all rankings are contextual. I wanted Gallardo for the strikeouts and would be willing to deal with his ratios if his walk rate stays high, figuring Kershaw helps me absorb that. On the other hand, I like pitchers one skill away, especially when that skill is control and they have already displayed the ability to allow fewer bases on balls. This is a spot where I think Gallardo MIGHT outperform expectations, but I'm note predicting he WILL do it.

8.08 Kris Medlen: Truth be told, I don’t love this pick and I’m not even sure I like it. It’s a continuation of the Gallardo motivation plus picking Kershaw and then not getting him any support is a waste. You don’t need me to tell you Medlen is going to see a correction to his ERA. You do need me to tell you how much but for that I need a new crystal ball. Problem is my old one broke and its replacement is still on back order. For the record, that’s the sixteenth straight year I have used that line for those keeping track. Back to Medlen – the skill is there but I’m worried about the stamina as the season progresses. Even though I’ve been doing this writing thing for sixteen years, some of my league mates still don’t read my stuff so the plan is for Medlen to get off to a great start and then deal him, hoping one of my late round speculative picks hits pay dirt so I can backfill.

9.06 Miguel Montero: Someone’s catcher is going to get hurt and I’m going to be there to offer Miguel Montero.

10.08 Coco Crisp: I really don’t want to have to draft Revere or Pierre. Crisp, if healthy (I have my computer trained to add the “if healthy” part every time I write his name) will nearly match the rabbits in steals but will also poke a few out of the yard.

11.06 Kyle Seager: My feelings for Seager are very well known (if only I could have been so open about the female crushes I had back in the day). He’s a line drive hitter with a bit of pop that will only be aided by the fences being closer and lower. Let’s see, there was Beth, Dana, Kris, Karen, Amy, Kathleen…too late now I guess.

12.08 Angel Pagan: More steals without completely giving up the homers.

13.06 Marco Scutaro: The main reason I don’t feel you need to reach for the perceived scarce players is there will be someone there at every position that will be worthy of that draft spot. Scutaro is not going to win mixed LABR for me, but I promise you, if I don’t win, I won't be cursing this pick.

14.08 J.J. Hardy: The main reason I don’t feel you need to reach for the perceived scarce players is there will be someone there at every position that will be worthy of that draft spot. Hardy is not going to win mixed LABR for me, but I promise you, if I don’t win, I won't be cursing this pick (whoa, deja vu all over again).

15.06 Stephen Drew: On the other hand, I already hate this f#@>!^g this pick. When I made it, I thought I was picking a player that can surprise and play like a 10th rounder, but after profiling him recently, I’m very skeptical. Taking one of the remaining closers here would have been better.

16.08 Bobby Parnell: Like Parnell, for instance. I know Frank Francisco was named and might be given a shot when he gets back, but my money is on Parnell doing the job and keeping it. If I had taken Parnell last round, I would be talking about Hiroyuki Nakajima with this pick.

17.06 Justin Maxwell: Some may feel this is too early, but my recent application of APE questions the notion of too early and I know what the impending plan is (and soon you will too). As for the pick, let’s put it this way, Seager is jealous of the attention I have given Maxwell until I explained I am a big guy, there’s plenty of Zola man-crush to go around. The average will be low, but Maxwell has 20/20 upside.

18.08 Alex Cobb: One good thing about drafting with a group not completely in tune with your tendencies is you have a better chance at getting some of your favorites later. Cobb heads the list as I think he’s going to take step forward this season and be the equivalent of an SP4 that I usually would have drafted by now.

19.06 Ross Detwiler: Detwiler fits that description as well with the slight risk he is pushed to a relief role if the Nationals continue their all in attitude and come back to Javier Vazquez or perhaps even Kyle Lohse.

20.08 Vinnie Pestano: The assumption is Pestano is the closer in waiting in Cleveland since it appears Chris Perez will be moved later if not sooner. But I really didn’t pick him up for that reason, I want some ratio protection since I will be steaming some starters. For the record, there is some question whether Pestano can be as successful in the ninth since his side winding ways are death against righties but not nearly so daunting against lefties. Since I am buying the whole package, all I care about is the end result which will be fine.

21.06 Dillon Gee: A possible breakout season was interrupted with the circulation issues which are reportedly under control. Gee reminds me of a LIMA pick, made famous by colleague Ron Shandler.

22.08: Julio Teheran: The clubhouse leader for the fifth spot in the Braves’ rotation, Teheran could be one of those late round difference makers that are the reason waiting on pitching is so popular.

23.06 Drew Smyly: Similar in profile to Alex Cobb but without a job, Smyly makes it three for three with my end game bromances (Cobb and Gee being the others).

24.08 Travis Snider: I call this the fungible portion of the draft. If the pick doesn’t work out, you release them and cycle someone else in. Snider is the classic post hype prospect with the edge up on a full time job.

25.06 Carlos Pena: At bats are currency and Pena gives me an option when I am dealing from first base strength. Someone needs a corner and my pitch is “if you’re just looking for a body with some pop, I have Pena. If you want someone higher on the food chain, we can talk Billy Butler. If you want to get really creative, I’ll even part with Fielder.”

26.08 Jordan Pacheco: Remember the possibility of dealing Miguel Montero? Let’s just say that I’m not on the Wilin Rosario bandwagon and I suspect at minimum, Pacheco is going to have catcher eligibility before too long. And while he won’t play enough to be used anywhere but catcher, he’ll find ample time filling in at third to hold his own as a second catcher.

27.06 Joe Blanton: Back to the rotation dart board – Blanton has always sported decent peripherals except a fly ball rate leading to excess homers. Put him in a big park with Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos shagging behind him and I’ll find scoring periods I can deploy Blanton.

28.08 Clayton Richard: To channel my old partner and now Tampa Ray scout Jason Grey, 2.8 ERA in PETCO, ‘nuff said.

29.06 Tyler Greene: I’ll put the odds at better than even that I use Greene more than I use Stephen Drew.

Here’s a quick wrap-up since Lawr is editing and posting this and needs to get ready for the San Francisco First Pitch Forum:

  • C: Yadier Molina, Miguel Montero (Jordan Pacheco?)
  • 1B/3B: Prince Fielder, Kyle Seager, Billy Butler (Carlos Pena)
  • 2B/SS: Marco Scutaro, Stephen Drew, JJ Hardy (Tyler Greene)
  • OF: Allen Craig, Alex Rios, Coco Crisp, Angel Pagan, Justin Maxwell (Travis Snider)
  • UT: Snider (Pena, Greene, Pacheco)
  • SP: Clayton Kershaw, Yovani Gallardo, Kris Medlen, Alex Cobb, Ross Detwiler, Julio Teheran, Dillon Gee, Joe Blanton (Clayton Richard, Drew Smyly)
  • RP: Bobby Parnell (Vinnie Pestano)
  • Post Mortem: Love the back end pitching so Medlen could be a key trade chip. Obviously need saves but that’s easily fixable (see Medlen, Kris). Hitting key will be the outfield. I need Crisp and Pagan to stay healthy and either Maxwell or Snider to produce like an OF4. I’ll need to manage this team to victory, but that was part of the plan.

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