No strategy, no problem PDF Print E-mail
Written by Pasko Varnica   
Monday, 24 February 2014 00:00

Are you being bombarded with advice? Who to pick up, who to avoid, which position is scarce, how long to wait, how much to pay, who are the sleepers, who is a part-timer and on and on to infinity. Is your head spinning by now? You know well that it is only going to get worse in the weeks to come.

Conversely, is your personal life keeping you busy so much that you are getting concerned about your knowledge of the 2014 baseball season, anxious about other guys in your league being better prepared than you and, heavens forbid, you are even considering dropping out of fantasy baseball?

There is nothing to worry about.

In a mock draft organized last week by my buddy Howard Bender (, I ran an experiment with the Mastersball projections. I selected the best available player according to the projections’ dollar values discarding any strategy or other temptations one may have during a draft. That is, I ignored everything I read and learned this year and went into the draft with my mind and heart cast aside. I figured, it is a valid experiment and it is a mock draft, hence there is nothing to lose.

To prepare myself, I combined the hitters and the pitchers spreadsheets, first by removing all the columns other than the qualifying position and the dollar value that matched the league size. The draft followed the standard 5x5 Roto rules, NL/AL mixed league. I also changed the font color of the pitcher spreadsheet for ease of distinction. Lastly, I sorted the unified spreadsheet by the dollar value, largest on top.

When the snake draft started, I began removing players from the spreadsheet as they were being picked up and when my turn came, I selected the top guy, whoever that was, no questions asked. Towards the end of the draft, the player selected was based on the position still unfilled on my team. Admittedly, it was not easy to keep up with the draft. Not everyone took his full 90 seconds. I was in a frenzy, deleting players as other participants selected them. Those were three frantic hours, especially when a wise guy would nominate a player way down the spreadsheet.

Twice I missed my turn and the computer chose the next best player according to its default ranking. The worst was when I moved in haste to beat the 90- second time limit and clicked on Fernando Rod(riguez) instead of Fernando Rod(ney). That destroyed my Saves category.

After getting outfielders in the first two rounds and Cliff Lee in the third, way too early for a pitcher according to my liking, to remain faithful to the experiment, I had to pick up Chris Sale in the fourth round.

I was not ready for what came next. In the fifth and sixth rounds, I was forced to draft two catchers: Yadier Molina and Joe Mauer. It turns out that Mauer will play first base the year, which will give him more at-bats than most other catchers and may help him avoid injury. That explains his high dollar value. Maybe my team is not too bad after all.

How did my team do? The mock draft was held on, which has its own projections. According to them, my team shared the second/third spot. MDC offers three other projections. According to BaseballHQ numbers, my team was third, while according to Rotowire, second and, my favorite, according to Accuscore stats, my team was alone in first with a 10-point lead, notwithstanding the low points in Saves.

One conclusion that I reached out of this experiment: Accuscore must like Mastersball’s projections. Other conclusions about “no strategy, no problem” are up to you.

Last Updated on Monday, 24 February 2014 08:51
Are Wins an Overrated Category? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Pasko Varnica   
Monday, 10 February 2014 00:00

It is common knowledge that savvy fantasy baseball players do not chase Wins. We know that, don’t we?

Sure we do. However, all player ratings and projections appear as if Wins were the most prominent of the five Roto categories. Open anyone’s projections spreadsheet, sort by $ value and you will most likely find the pitchers in descending order of the Wins column. Or very close to it. The spreadsheets are essentially saying, heck no, screaming loudly that the good pitchers are those with the most wins.

Nevertheless, Wins is just one of the five Roto categories and points are points. Let’s look at the ERA, WHIP and K categories of this year’s expert league winners. In Tout Wars AL (Schechter had 33 out of the possible 36 points for K, ERA and WHIP), NL (Cockcroft 35/36), Mixed (Zinkie 40/45); in LABR AL (Schechter 33/36), NL (Ambrosius 32/36), Mixed (Zinkie 41/45) and in my own KFFL-BAD, the winner, Steve Gardner (USA Today), had accumulated 32 out of 36 points. It seems that all the winning teams had done extremely well in these three categories.

The reality is that if we go after strikeouts and low WHIP, and possibly low ERA, wins will follow. The biggest negative of concentrating on Wins as the main valuation category is overspending for the top pitchers. That said, the re-positioning of the pitchers based on a new valuation of K, ERA and WHIP would not change the spreadsheet drastically. Some pitchers, like Zack Greinke, may move down by a few spots and Madison Bumgarner may move up, but not by a lot. However, the spreadsheet ranking will be closer to the perspective held by the experts.

Here is the suggestion for a formula to edit and re-adjust the spreadsheets accordingly.

First, let’s delete pitchers who are projected to pitch less than 100 to 120 innings, say 110, a good number. That leaves 150 or so pitchers on the spreadsheet, a sufficient number for a mixed league. Deletion will also eliminate the closers.

Let’s look at this spreadsheet below (taken from an old 2013 set of pitcher projections) where, to simplify, several columns were removed. I left only four rows; the real spreadsheet will be over 150 rows long.





















Verlander, Justin










Kershaw, Clayton










Strasburg, Stephen










Lee, Cliff










On your spreadsheet, insert a column on the right. In this example, the new column is J. The formula for column J would be as follows: (place cursor in the cell that has J2 in this example and type:

=AVERAGE(RANK(E2,$E$2:$E$5,0), RANK(F2,$F$2:$F$5,0), RANK(G2,$G$2:$G$5,0)

You must change this formula to use the columns from your spreadsheet. Here, E is for the strikeouts column, F for ERA and G for WHIP. Your spreadsheet will be different. The first RANK is for column E, strikeouts, the second for ERA and the third RANK is for WHIP. You can re-adjust this formula and, say, remove the first RANK if you want to average on ERA and WHIP only. Alternatively, have any combination, for that matter, or more than one column, each with different ranking based averages. Once you have the formula entered for the first cell, pull it down to the end of the spreadsheet. That will populate the column. Then re-sort based on column J.

Also note that this example has only four rows that go from row 2 to row 5. Your formula will have the number of the last row in place of the number 5.

Do not hesitate to get in touch with me if you have any questions about the formula.

Once re-sorted, the spreadsheet will emphasize K, ERA and WHIP.

All this is nice, but we cannot ignore a pitcher’s age and durability, two important factors to consider when drafting. Age is available on Mastersball’s spreadsheet. At this point, the only missing item is prediction of who will get hurt in-season and who will not. I will be eternally grateful if you can send me a formula to predict that.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 February 2014 20:17
Things I Learned Mock Drafting PDF Print E-mail
Written by Pasko Varnica   
Thursday, 06 February 2014 16:59

Impressions one gets from mock drafts are subjective and dependent on individual factors like whom other participants value and pick up, but here are a few things I have learned so far. Your experience could be different. Anyway, allow me to generalize about what I see coming for 2014 based on mock drafts held recently by Mastersball. The following thoughts apply to a mixed league, 15-team draft, unless otherwise noted.

- Corner Infield position is shallow. Third base is unquestionably scarce. Some may argue that 1B is plentiful, but this is how I see it: if you remove Mark Teixeira, who may be still hurt, Ryan Howard, who is in decline, and Albert Pujols, whom I would not pick, and take into account that some people draft a CI for their Utility position, the 1B position becomes a concern. If you are lucky to get Miguel Cabrera (duh), Paul Goldschmidt (fourth pick) or Chris Davis (fifth), go for it. If not, keep an eye on Edwin Encarnacion or Joey Votto.

- Second Base is also shallow, but only because of a big drop-off after the top-tier players. Do not wait too long. After drafting a good 2B, you can wait to pick up your MI at the very end of the draft.

- Clayton Kershaw will likely go in the first round. After that, one or two pitchers will trickle per round. You could wait if that is your strategy. The starting pitching position seems deep but is not too deep. Do not wait too long for your sixth pitcher. The 16th or 17th round (out of 23) could be the right time for your last hurler.

- If you get one of the first two draft spots, great, but if not, a later spot may be a better choice than the third or fourth spot this year. At #8 or #9, you could get Adam Jones, for example, and then a top 2B will still be available on the way back.

- Surprisingly, the catcher position is deep.

- Jose Abreu and Masahiro Tanaka are going around the 8th round on average, should you be curious.

- Note to NL-only leaguers: good outfielders are scarce.

Last Updated on Friday, 07 February 2014 09:11
Life and Death in the Transactions #33 (Brandon Wood) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 06 January 2014 00:00

Prospect alert: Brandon Wood, once a darling of Ultra Leaguers, has signed a minor league deal with the Padres.

Remember how we salivated following his .323-43-115 2005, at age 20, part of which was culled at Double-A? Three years later, Wood went .296-31-84 at Triple-A, but he is one of those guys who simply cannot cut it at a higher level.

As in now, at 29 (on Opening Day), and with his sixth team (Angels, Pirates, Rockies, Royals and Orioles prior) he has a .186-18-84 line over 751 plate appearances, with a .225 OBP and .513 OPS. 

Some prospects do what we expect or hope (Wil Myers, Bryce Harper), some exceed (Mike Piazza) and some disappoint, like Wood. In fact, most disappoint, so beware of the prospect blinders.

Last Updated on Monday, 06 January 2014 10:02
Life and Death in the Transactions #32 (Wily Mo Pena) PDF Print E-mail
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Monday, 09 December 2013 00:00

Boy, it has been what seems like a million years since I traced our existence--the thrills of birth, life, and death--as seen with baseball transactions as metaphor. In fact, it has been almost a year, and it is not that I have not seen moves that piqued me: it is more a case of too much to do.

But, with the bulk of my spring baseball stuff out of the way (though my Top 250 Prospect List will be out this week), I just could not resist writing about Wily Mo Pena, who signed to play with the Orix Buffaloes in Japan.

Pena has actually been playing in Japan for a couple of years now, turning in a .280-21-76 line with Southbank, then tanking somewhat last year with a .233-1-16 season, making the former self-proclaimed whiz kid expendable, and available to Orix.

Originally drafted by the Mets, and then finding that signing illegal since Pena was just 16 years old, Pena then signed with the Yankees but was traded to the Reds for another would be superstar, Drew Henson.

One condition, if memory serves, of Pena joining the Reds was the team had to promote him to the Bigs within a year, and as an 18-year-old, Pena assembled a dubious .222-1-1 September in 2002.

Pena did play eight Major League seasons with a .250-84-240 line, and endured no fewer than 16 transactions involving seven more teams and swaps for the likes of Bronson Arroyo and Chris Carter before Pena fled for the land of the Rising Sun.

Confidence is a major component of success at anything. Cockiness is not.

Last Updated on Monday, 09 December 2013 09:26
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