Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sammy, Steroids, and Scandals

There are few things in life as polarizing as the message board in a very active fantasy league. From bickering over rules to showing exasperation when leaving three home runs on the bench and everything in between, it can be a source of great entertainment throughout the baseball season.

If you are in a league where the members are mostly unfamiliar with each other, the message board is probably used primarily as a place to announce trade needs or to comment on recent transactions. Occasionally it is used by the more vocal among us as a tool to engage others in smack talk, but it can be hard to gauge how some people will react to that unless there is already an out-of-league acquaintance.

If you are in a league where most members are already friends away from the game though, the message board can become an entirely different animal. In addition to everything listed above, the posts in these leagues tend to evolve into something much more dramatic. If you are at all familiar with this, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If not, I can only suggest that you start a fantasy league with your buddies and see what happens.

In one particular league I am in, a league that has had the same core members for almost ten years, the posts can get downright out of hand. There are at least five posts a day, some days many more than that and a lot of them involve things which I could never repeat anywhere, let alone in a public blog.

With that as a backdrop, I wanted to share something that recently became a topic of much debate in our league. It started with the announcement of Sammy Sosa’s retirement on Thursday, and what ensued was a bantering back and forth about the impact of steroids in baseball. Now, keep in mind that we are simply a group of friends that happen to enjoy playing fantasy baseball. We aren’t serious journalists, nor should we be seen as such, especially in this forum. I have looked at some of the “facts” represented in some of these posts and, other than the blatant opinion statements, everything does seem to be in order.

Being based in Indianapolis, there are quite a few Cubs fans in this league, which I bring up only to explain the tone of some of the posts, especially the first one which was posted by me right after someone made a snarky comment about how he thought that Sosa had been retired for years. Here it is:

Maybe now everyone can start remembering Sammy Sosa for what he was: One of the best all-around baseball players of all-time, one of the three heroes that saved baseball when the strike happened (Cal Ripken and Judge Sotomayor being the other two), someone who truly loved being both a great baseball player and a great entertainer, and the adolescent hero of many present-day 30-something Cubs fans. Myself being one. Too bad Sammy had to be one of the first martyrs of this steroid-McCarthyism era we live in.

Let me explain my reasoning behind this post. First of all, it struck me that if someone had told me nine years ago that the retirement of Sammy Sosa would be a laughable event, I would have had them committed. Secondly, I’ve finally come to grips with the “clubhouse cancer” Sammy and the “corked bat” Sammy. It took me a while, but I once again have fond memories of a player that I once regarded as my favorite Cub of all-time. Thirdly, as this steroid-era drama unfolds, it has become clear that the outrage level is lessening with each passing day. Sosa was one of the original villains in this saga, and still finds himself on the outside looking in, meanwhile Manny Ramirez is the latest case, and he will have his job back in less than a month.

At any rate, this post struck a chord with my league-mates, and they had numerous responses. Here are most of them, which I have tried to censor where necessary, but still remain for mature audiences only:

That was sarcasm and/or satire, right?? (Eric #1)

It was most definitely neither. I've decided this whole steroid-era thing is ridiculous. Not that Sammy ever tested positive for anything anyway. He paid his dues by never getting the proper treatment during his twilight years. Instead he had to play for the O's and the Rangers with fans disrespecting him everywhere he went. I'll consider that his penalty for corking his bat and being an occasional prima donna from '02 to '04. But that's all he deserves. I'm convinced that the only guys who are going to really get vilified for the steroids crap are Bonds, McGwire, Palmeiro, and Sosa. Even Manny is already getting a pass compared to any of them. It's a load of crap. Put Sammy In The Hall!!!! (Me)

Uh Josh, what did you smoke tonight before you posted? McGwire, Bonds, Palmeiro and Sosa are going to be the only steroids era scapegoats? Uh, first off, did you forget about Clemens and A-Rod? They have only been in the news over this very issue within the past 2 months. Also, if you think Sammy didn't do steroids then you need to hook me up with your dealer because I've never even seen some s*** like you must be smoking. That guy was a complete fraud. At least Bonds and Clemens were good before they doped. Sosa was a scrawny .235, 50RBI, 15HR, 65R hitter for the White Sox as I recall. Then he hits the ‘roids and bangs out 60. If you want to make your case for one guy who did it clean that would be Griffey. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that he did it too, but if I had to bet a dollar, my money is on Griffey as being the only legit guy in this FUBAR era. (Chris)

What about Manny? What about Pettite? What about the fact that Griffey started having all kinds of injuries? How do you know he didn't take steroids early in his career, and then stop when someone said something to him? What about Pujols? He wasn't even much of a prospect and now he's like a machine. What about Giambi? Nobody even cares about him. Where are you gonna draw the line Chris? And not only you, where are all of us supposed to draw the line? Apparently we are drawing it with just those four guys I mentioned, because everyone else, other than Clemens, is getting a pass. And he would've gotten one if he had kept his stupid mouth shut. I hate to see that you've fallen for MLB's bulls*** Chris. F*** that, we are supposed to just take the Mitchell Report's word for it that everybody is clean now. Bunch of bulls***. I've decided I'm going the other way. I'm going to assume that everyone was doing something and still probably is and everything that I've seen over the past 15 years is perfectly legitimate, and that's why Sosa belongs in the HOF. (Me)

Okay I'm about tired of this s*** I'm going to put my two cents worth and be done. I am a baseball fan. There is nothing better than sitting at the ball park with a beer and a hotdog and watching the game (okay well maybe one thing I can think of is better). I love home runs, grand slams, hitting for the cycle, a good double play, a great pitching performance and a no hitter. I don't give a s*** how it got there. If they used some stuff while working out or to help them heal from an injury quicker, I don't care. It was available to everybody and it's MLB's fault that it went on so long and it's ESPN and baseball writers that tell me I should care so much. And, as far as the HOF goes, I say take a step back and take a look at what players like Clemens and others did on the field and vote them in accordingly. Then, as I think Gammons said, put up a plaque telling us about the era and be done with it. That’s what I think. I'm going to Cincinnati this weekend to watch two baseball games. Hell, I love the game so much I'm driving three hours to watch two teams I HATE. And I know there will be players on the field that probably have or are taking something and the moral of this whole post is I DON'T CARE. (Brian)

There are bad characters and cheaters in the HOF from other eras. I will be pissed if Clemens doesn't get in first ballot no matter how much of an idiot he apparently is. I'm not as worried about McGwire because it seems to be debatable whether he is worthy (no matter how much I loved the guy and loved being at the game that he tied the record and last game he set the record in), but .263, 1400+ RBI and over 500 HR so I say no doubt. And I don't like Sammy but he did hit over 60 three times and 50 once...609 career, I guess he deserves to be in with his .273 BA and 1600+ RBI, HAHA. Regardless, 1998 has to factor in following up on 94 and then Ripken. For what it's worth, that's what I think on the matter. MORAL OF THE STORY.....I DON'T CARE ABOUT THE "ERA". --Brought to you by the committee to elect Pete Rose into the HOF (damn I hope I see if before I die). (Brian)

In essence steroids "saved" the game back in 98 and now the same people who loved what it gave the game are frowning on it? I don't get it, IMO the entire league was on it for the most part. Pitchers on roids pitching against batters on roids. Let stats be stats, whoever makes it to the HOF we all know which era they played in. So really the debate comes when people try to compare players from different eras. Even Hank Aaron took amphetamines, and who knows who was doing what and for how long. Not to mention that the NFL and NBA most certainly have their fair share of players using PEDs but it's just not being talked about as much. Lance Armstrong did roids, the list goes on, s*** I did roids and I didn't make it to the HOF, what the hell is up with that? (Eric #2)

Normally I'm a smartass and a dick on these posts but I will be serious for a second. First, 1998 was the best baseball year I have ever seen as a fan. (Yeah, I'm a homer when it comes to my Cubbies) Those two DID save the game. I don't give two s***s about what anyone has to say about it. AMERICA was captivated by the chase and the personalities of those saviors of the game. I find it disgusting that ALL of us would sit there, watch, applaud, cheer, and then question how we got there. Take a look in the mirror gentlemen. We all were going out of our heads watching the race that year. If you say that you were not then you are flat out lying. It is very hypocritical for us as fans to be so accepting of the entertainment and then a decade later question the manner of which it was provided. One of the beauties and the curses of the most wonderful game in the world is that there is ways to "cheat". There will always and forever be cheating in the game. As sure as there are wood bats, four bases, and the Cubbies not winning the World Series, there will always be cheating. (Jeff)

We cannot have our cake and eat it too guys. I have been to the HOF, guys. I have ZERO problem with having Sammy, Mark, Barry, and Roger in there. Matter of fact, the only time that I went to the holiest of places there was a lot of their stuff on display there already. Other than Rafael Palmeiro I have no problem with any one of the above mentioned getting in. (Raph you lied before god and your country. You are a d*****bag. rot in hell). There have been many other more vile things that go on in the game guys. Given the situation we all would have gone the same rout those dudes did. AND FOR THE RECORD.......Pete should be in. NO QUESTIONS ASKED (Jeff)

Since you all feel so good about Sosa and McGwire and rest of the roid ragers, I assume you are all fine with the fact that guys like Greg Maddux got robbed out of who knows how many wins because these losers had an unfair advantage. You are taking a much more casual approach to this than you should. It would be one thing if "everyone" did it, but you need to remember that steroids were illegal, and there were many guys (more than half the league) that attempted to earn a living clean and whose careers will always be tarnished by deflated numbers due to cheaters like McGwire and "Sneezy McBatCorker". By the way, what was so great about '98 other than the fact that two guys on roids were hitting out dingers? It would be like 2 guys in NASCAR winning every race because they were allowed to race cars that were faster than what everyone else was allowed to run. I remember '98 being just another year other than all of the home runs which we now know were not legit. (Chris)

How s****y must baseball be that 2 guys could, or would even need to, "save" it? If any of you could tell me exactly what steroids saved about baseball that would be great. I need you to clear that up for me. That statement makes as much sense to me as "baseball is America's game" when 9 out of 10 players are foreigners. Just so you all know, ratings are lower for baseball now than they have ever been, so they didn't save s***. I argue the exact opposite. McGwire and Sneezy McBatCorker, along with all of the other cheaters and roid ragers ruined baseball to the point that many people don't even watch it anymore. 9 out of 10 people (me included) are counting down the days until football starts. I've actually been counting down the days since the Super Bowl ended. Baseball sucks. The only reason I play fantasy baseball is because it is way too easy taking your money every year. (Chris)

If you want to know why baseball needed "saving", take a look at the NHL right now. They currently have some of the best young players their sport has ever seen, but nobody is watching. They are on VS network, or pay-per-view, or occasionally on NBC, but they still haven't brought all of the fans back that left them when they went on strike a few years ago. The NHL playoffs have been great this year, but nobody cares enough to notice other than hardcore hockey fans. They are going to need something ridiculous to happen for them to fully recover and become a major sport again. Whatever the hockey equivalent of the home run chase would do it. Most goals in a season? Most points? I'm not sure what it would be. (Me)

Most of those foreigners you speak of are still from the "Americas" hence the game can still be referred to as "Americas game" it's not just the United States game. I too love football season and nothing really gets me more pumped than when the season starts. But how can you really say baseball sucks? A joke right? And you're not taking any of my money this year just for the record, as a matter of fact I've still got some of yours stashed away from last season, thanks. (Eric #2)

Well said Jeff, well said. I think you actually helped express what I was trying to say. And, you are right Josh. The Hockey playoffs have been great this year and the young talent in the league is incredible. Wasn't it the game the other night when every goal scored by the Penguins was scored by players under like 24? With that being said, hockey was never on the same level as the other major sports but it's not even back to where it was. Baseball did need saving. I was never leaving the game because of the strike (even though my Rangers were in first at the time...haha) but many people did. The very next year was Ripken and that helped but that was too soon after the strike. Give it a few more years and here comes 1998 and one of the greatest things I've even seen in the "homerun" derby put on by McGwire and Sosa. I actually saw 5 of McGwire's homeruns in person including a game against Sammy, the record tying HR and 69and70 the last game of the year. To be there in the moment and experience the atmosphere...sure I was disappointed about the strike and that year just showed me how much I really loved the game, the ballpark and the fans. And THAT'S how 1998 saved baseball. Or if you don't like the word "saved" then it sure did a whole hell of a lot for the game. (Brian)

Just to add my thoughts, I think saving baseball is too strong, but the home run race did create a buzz around the country. It is not why I watch baseball, it was not then and it is not today. I have been disappointed with how McGwire and Sosa have handled the steroid issues. I believe the best player from this era belong in hall of fame regardless of steroid use. They are product of this era. Just on side note. If I could take a pill that would increase my income by half, even if it shortened my life by ten years I would take it. I am not talking millions here. Does make me immoral I do not believe so. I will not be holding baseball players to a different standard than I do myself. (Elmer)

At this point, the conversation started to devolve into who may or may not think that hockey sucks, in case you were wondering. Also, I did mention to my friends that I may use their quotes in my blog, but not until the hockey corollary post.
So having seen what these guys think, and listened to people talk freely about how they feel about PED’s in sports, I think the direction we are headed is clear. Soon, we will come off of our high horse and accept the players, records, and scandals of this era no more differently than any other era. For Sammy’s sake, I hope that happens soon. Happy retirement, Sammy.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Depth Perception

A friend of mine recently said to me, “If you were in a deep league you could pick up Gordon Beckham and stash him on your bench, but I wouldn’t do it in a shallow league.” While I agreed with him at the time, I got to thinking about exactly how deep the league would have to be in order for this transaction to make sense. We have statistics for everything else; surely there is a statistic that measures exactly how deep my fantasy league is relative to other leagues.
How much more accurate would it have sounded if that same friend had said “In a mixed league that has a 65% League Depth or higher you could get away with stashing Gordon Beckham on your bench, but your league is only 45% deep.” That would be awesome, right? I thought so too, and those numbers above accurately represent a new statistic I’m referring to as League Depth Rating (LDR).

The vagueness surrounding how we discuss depth in regards to fantasy baseball leagues may seem somewhat arbitrary, but it often inhibits reasoned discussions from taking place. After all, nobody is going to seek advice on whether or not to drop Jose Reyes, but if the conversation turned to someone of lesser value, Melky Cabrera for instance, anyone giving advice would have to immediately comprehend the league depth in order to give a rational suggestion. Generally this means the league participant saying something along the lines of: “12 team mixed, 5x5 roto, 23 man rosters with one DL slot.” That is the absolute shortest description available to us now, but not only can we shorten it even further, we can make the new version even more informative than the current, longer version.

Let’s break down exactly how to calculate LDR. The first component is establishing a bottom, or 0%, for our scale. In all types of leagues, the bottom will be 150 players. This is based on a projected 10 team, 15 man rosters, and no DL slot league. Could there be a shallower league than this? Probably not in terms of total players, but supposing the answer is yes, the LDR would simply become a negative number.

On the high end of the scale, the deepest league will be a 15 team, 28 man roster, and two DL slot league. This equals 450 players. As discussed above, if a league is deeper than this the LDR would be over 100%. There are two reasons I want to stay at these numbers:

1. By limiting the player pool to a number inside of the top 500 ranked players, the possibilities still exist for us to easily quantify value based on depth. A pattern will develop in each individual league that will allow a fantasy manager to easily identify positional depth both preseason and in-season. Once you get outside of the top 500, projections become less accurate, thereby creating certain illusions of positional depth that may or may not exist.

2. If the formula is to work with both a mixed league and a league-only league, the two ends of the spectrum must be manageable, particularly the high end. In a league-only league, it would be virtually impossible to have a league deeper than 450 players. Especially when you consider that in an AL-only league, if you add up all nine positional starters (including DH), all five starters in each rotation, and four relievers from each team you would only be counting 252 players. That being said, the use of LDR in league-only leagues will be somewhat limited, as these leagues are already deep by definition.

Now that we have the bottom at 150, the top at 450, with a span of 300 in between, what do we do with these numbers? Let’s start by using an example. I’m in a mixed league that has 13 teams, 25 man rosters, and two DL slots. Add it up and this equals 351 players. To calculate the LDR of this league we take the number of players in the league (351), subtract the bottom (150), and then divide the new number by the span (300). The LDR of this league is 67%. Here again, the formula:

(Number of Players rostered in League – 150) / (300) = LDR

Now that we have established LDR in terms of how to define it, the real question becomes how can we use it to our advantage? If I know that my league has a 67% LDR, what does that tell me that my competitor may be unaware of? Individually, if you are prone to making your own preseason projections, you can use it to your advantage at least a couple of ways:

1. Pre-draft, if you eliminate positional scarcity when making your projections and go solely off the actual production, you can determine positional scarcity later on by counting up the number of players at each position inside the total of all players that will be drafted. Granted, we do this now to a degree, but the difference is I now know that if I have a few different leagues that I’m draft-prepping, I can quickly say to myself: “In this 38% LDR league, OF’s will be more scarce than 1B, but in this 59% LDR league, I can wait a little longer on OF and take an elite 1B early.”

2. Regardless of what type of league you are in, knowing how to project the production of first-year players and prospects is both extremely difficult and highly valuable. Predicting the unpredictable is often the difference between winning and losing in fantasy. Where the value of having LDR comes in is that you will be able to determine the amount of available roster space you can use for upside players. Back to the Beckham example, say you want to shelve a prospect like him on your bench, you will first need to know if you if you will need his value at some point. If Beckham is SS eligible, how many other SS’s are owned in your league? Beckham’s value will be high if the best available SS via the free agent pool is Tyler Greene. Conversely, his value will be low if Jason Bartlett is available. LDR, used properly, will work very well in conjunction with a statistic like Value Over Replacement Player (VORP). I see this tool as something along the lines of “Fantasy League-specific VORP”. Simply put, this all has to do with relative value. Obviously, LDR is not going to be a tool to help you determine the actual value of the player, with regards to their actual production, but knowing the relative value is just as important. There are a lot of methods already being utilized in this quest to determine relative value, and VORP is but one of them. LDR can be a new weapon in the fantasy manager’s arsenal.

For those looking to expand the use of LDR more universally, the advantages are even more obvious. Fantasy advice columnists and bloggers are always looking for ways of dispensing information that is relative to everyone. They often fall short, though, and can only reach those managers in the most normalized league formats. Whether this problem is of their own making or simply an inherent flaw in the system, it is a problem that needs to be resolved. Take this article by The Hardball Times: If, instead of "last player drafted", they used the last player ownable at each position per every ten percentage points of LDR, they would be able to tell you the PRLP before you drafted. LDR is not going to completely fix these issues, but it could be a big first step.

The methodology currently in place to determine positional depth assumes an average player pool of 300 players or so. If you are in a very shallow or a very deep league, you would not be facing the same situations as those outlined by someone writing an article based on that number. Conventional wisdom tells us that the common shallow positions are generally 2B, 3B, and C. But in a shallow league, where you need a star at every position, the position of least depth is probably OF. This may seem obvious for the extremely shallow leagues, but where is the line? Think about all fantasy leagues as a big swimming pool for a second. You have a shallow end, a deep end, and in the middle there is a long ramp. The ramp is the area of concern here. Where is your league on that ramp? That’s what we can determine with LDR.

Example: Many of the 3rd-tier OF’s are going to be rated somewhere between 150 and 250 on the average mixed league player rater. This means, assuming three OF spots, one-third of the ownable OF’s in a ten-team mixed league will not be among the top 150 total players. Whereas, assuming one 2B spot per roster, nearly all of the ownable 2B will be ranked inside the top 150. In this league, if you decide to draft all of your outfielders before you take a second baseman, you would be justified in doing so.

As a fantasy baseball player, you want to be able to utilize all of the advice out there from columnists, bloggers, stat sites, etc. However, you also have to decide for yourself what information is relative to your league. Often, this is just a guess. Over the last few years, though, there have been many tools that have been developed that have taken the guesswork out of fantasy baseball. If this is the objective, then LDR will be another example of one of these tools.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The "Bad Boy" Nuggets?

If John Salley were a Lithuanian small forward I would have found a transcendent paradox. But he is not, and so all I’ve really found is a grouping of curious similarities. But these similarities, albeit imperfect, are quite profound.

Think back to 1988. Do you remember how great basketball was that year? Magic and Bird had taken the game to a level that Cousy and West could only have dreamed. A young player named Michael Jordan was beginning to forge his identity as the greatest player who ever lived, at the unfortunate expense of Craig Ehlo. And one of the greatest teams of all time was quietly coming of age.

The “Bad Boy” Detroit Pistons of the 1988-89 season were known for tenacity and toughness, for playing as a complete unit and, most importantly, for getting under their opponents’ skin. If it wasn’t Bill Laimbeer throwing elbows, then it was Rick Mahorn grabbing a jersey, or Dennis Rodman flopping all over the court. The Pistons were the best at throwing their opponents off of their game. It took a very intelligent player to beat them, and in fact it ultimately would be Jordan, the most intelligent player of all time, who finally dethroned them.

The other night, as I watched the Denver Nuggets take on the L.A. Lakers in the Western Conference Finals, I was thinking about these Pistons of twenty years ago. The Nuggets are not only a very physical team; they are a very passionate team as well. Much like the Pistons, these Nuggets are led by their guard play, but rely on their size and depth to keep them in games that they otherwise would be out of.

As I was subconsciously weighing these similarities while watching Game Four the other night, one play in particular snapped my conscious into focus and suddenly it all made sense. Which play? I am, of course, referring to Dahntay Jones tripping Kobe Bryant as he drove to the basket. It was a dirty play by anyone’s standards, and while I’m not about to call it a great play, it certainly was a good play for the Nuggets at the time. They got a much needed emotional lift out of it, and at the same time it took a lot of energy from Bryant to hold back and NOT retaliate. It was a game-changer of the likes we haven’t seen in, well, twenty years.

I decided it would be a fun exercise to break down each roster and see just how similar these two teams are. What I found out was that the resemblance is uncanny, so let’s just dive right in, starting with the starting point guards and finishing up with the key bench players:

Starting Point Guard
Pistons: Isiah Thomas
Nuggets: Chauncey Billups
The catalyst of their respective teams, both Thomas and Billups could take over a game if need be, but both also know that they need to spread the ball around in order to be a championship caliber team. In terms of competitiveness and talent, no starting point guard on a championship winning team had more of both than Thomas until Billups won the title with the 2004 Pistons.

Starting Two Guard
Pistons: Joe Dumars
Nuggets: J.R. Smith
This is where it kinda gets fuzzy. Whereas Dumars was arguably the 2nd-best player on the Pistons (and one of the all-time greats at that), that honor on the Nuggets belongs to Carmelo Anthony. But Smith is an obvious scoring option, capable of pouring in 30 points on any given night. So, while it’s a bit of a stretch, when we get to ‘Melo, we’ll see that it evens out.

Starting Forward
Pistons: Mark Aguirre
Nuggets: Carmelo Anthony
See, I told you it would even out. Aguirre was good, but on this team he was a little past his prime. I thought about using Adrian Dantley in this spot, and if you think about it, Dantley and Anthony are very similar: Natural scoring types with a selfish streak. Let’s hope that Anthony doesn’t miss out on a championship in the same way that Dantley did.

Starting Forward
Pistons: Bill Laimbeer
Nuggets: Kenyon Martin
Maybe Laimbeer was technically a center, but he definitely played more like a power forward. Martin, meanwhile, is a power forward who plays like a center. So, while Martin doesn’t have Laimbeer’s range, what he does have is a similar toughness on the court. These guys define how the game will be played down low for their respective teams.

Pistons: James Edwards
Nuggets: Nene
When the Pistons needed some consistency on offense, and their outside game was off, they would turn to Edwards and his exceptional field-goal percentage to keep them in games. Ditto for the Nuggets and Nene, These guys are the “cooler heads prevail” guys on teams of hot-heads.

Bench #1
Pistons: Vinnie “The Microwave” Johnson
Nuggets: Anthony Carter
Apologies to the Microwave, Carter is the first guard off the bench for the Nuggets, but he is nowhere near the player that Johnson was. Johnson was one of the original NBA Sixth Men, and deserves a lot of the credit for both of the Pistons championships. Carter is a fine player, but he’s no Microwave.

Bench #2
Pistons: Dennis Rodman
Nuggets: Chris Andersen
Here’s a good example of my formula at work. I would define both of these guys as: Flamboyant, energetic, and stable forces off the bench that are critical to their team’s success. Both have rebounding ability and shot-blocking ability. Both come off the bench to provide much-needed defense when the opposition gets on a roll. Off the court, Rodman’s most interesting years were ahead of him at this point, while Andersen has put a lot behind him already.

Bench #3
Pistons: Rick Mahorn
Nuggets: Dahntay Jones
Ah, the coup d’├ętat of my analysis. These are the guys you bring in after Laimbeer/Rodman/Martin/Andersen haven’t been quite disconcerting enough for the opponent. Mahorn would make up for a lack of vertical play by literally bringing his man down to his level. Jones, meanwhile, will do anything and everything to get in the head of whoever he is guarding until they are completely thrown off their rhythm. Oh, and by the way, these guys are really fun to watch.

Bench #4
Pistons: John Salley
Nuggets: Linas Kleiza
And we have come full circle. Needless to say, these two guys have almost nothing in common. Salley was a good, not great, rebounder off the bench. Kleiza is a streaky shooter who can play big minutes when asked. But I would point out that if these two teams were completely similar, well, that would just be creepy.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

POTD: May 10th, 2009

First things first, Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there, including my own mother and also my beautiful wife. If I could write this post in pink, I would absolutely do it.

Now to the baseball knowledge. This edition of the Pickup of the Day is a rarety in that I have actually picked up this player in every applicable league I am in. I've been monitoring his progress in the minors, patiently biding my time until said organization finally brought him up, and today was the day. I am of course referring to the young and talented Mr...

Luke Hochevar, SP, Kansas City

Faced with having to place Joakim Soria on the disabled list with shoulder issues, the Royals are left with no other choice than to put Sir Sidney Ponson in the bullpen and call up Hochevar to take his spot in the rotation. To say that this move should have been made two weeks ago would be an all-time understatement. Hochevar has posted a 5-0 record in six starts for AAA Omaha with a 0.90 ERA. Not that long ago, he was a celebrated first round pick with just as much upside as Zack Grienke, if not more.

Hochevar's first start will be Tuesday in Oakland. I would pick him up and start him immediately. That being said, I would assume that his hold on this spot in the rotation will be based solely on performance. As long as he is effective, he should be good to go for the rest of the year. For more info, check out

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Top Ten List: First Month Slumps

The first month of the baseball season has brought quite a few interesting surprises. The St. Louis Cardinals dominated, the Tampa Bay Rays haven’t shown up yet, Emilio Bonifacio used up some of his fifteen minutes, and Yankee Stadium got more media coverage than the entire Royals’ organization. And the Royals aren’t even that bad.
There are a lot of teams that are bad, though. More specifically there are players that have been bad for them. I love top ten lists, so I figured why not break this down Letterman style? I’ve included some buying/selling advice for each player as well.
Here now, in descending order, April’s top tankers:

10. Lance Berkman
Do you remember how great Berkman was the first two months of 2008? Well, this April he hit .165 with five homers, 17 BB’s and 22 K’s. He’s slowly morphing into a “three true outcomes” type of guy (April TTO%: 56%). This is so unlike last year that I’ve taken to calling him bizzaro-Berkman, but the bottom line is that I do expect him to get his BA up, but I don’t expect to see any of the speed that he showed early last season. Cautious buy low

9. Russell Martin
Martin hit .205/10/0/11/0 in April, bad numbers even for a catcher. But, in Martin’s defense, he appears to be doing a great job handling the young Dodger pitching staff. Joe Torre has gone out of his way to explain that Martin is just pressing a bit too hard right now. This seems like a clear example of a player trying to make too big of a difference too early in the season. I expect him to be fine. Strong buy low

8. Brad Lidge
Yeah, Lidge is a little dinged up, which is different than slumping, but he got through most of April healthy and hasn’t had to go on the DL yet, so I think I can safely say he’s in a slump. If you look at his numbers, they aren’t good: He’s 0-1 with a 7.27 ERA and a 1.95 WHIP. But, in reality, he only has one blown save, and only two bad outings altogether. He just hasn’t had enough good outings yet to offset the bad ones. Like I said, he’s been fighting knee issues as well, so I’m not ready to say that he will be great the rest of the year or anything. I do expect him to be better than he has been, but not enough to recommend him. Don't buy

7. Matt Holliday
Saw this coming? Yeah, me too. Coors to Oaktown is a long, lonely trip. Holliday had four HR’s in April ’08, this year he hit one, on the last day of the month no less. That’s not that significant, though. But this is: last year in April- 5 steals, this year- none. Not one. We are looking at a guy who went 25/28 last year, and now it looks like he may be 20/10. That’s a huge drop-off. That being said, an impatient Holliday owner may be looking to dump him for 50 cents on the dollar, in which case he isn’t a bad speculative play. Buy low for cheap

6. Josh Beckett
What is going on with this guy? Great start to the season, followed by a mediocre outing, and then progressively worse from there. He was also suspended for five games for throwing at Bobby Abreu’s head, but that shouldn’t have affected his performance unless it was more a mental affectation. So now he stands at 2-2 with a 7.22 ERA, 31 K’s, and a 1.81 WHIP. Last year at the end of April he had similar stats in every category other than ERA, which was much lower at 4.10. He didn’t exactly pick up any steam as the year went on last year. He finished 12-10, 4.03 ERA, and 172 K’s, but his WHIP was great at 1.19. Beckett is really hit-or-miss, and although I would like to tell you to buy him, nobody is going to let him go for fair market value simply because of name recognition. Buy low if you can

5. Ricky Nolasco
Florida is off to a great start. As they are wont to do every few years, they look like they may be ready to contend with a very young team. But, what is the most surprising part of this Fish story? They are doing it without one of their best young starters contributing much of anything. Nolasco had a remarkable year in 2008, earning 15 wins, with 186 K’s, a 3.52 ERA and a 1.10 WHIP. Last year opponents hit .239 against him. So far this year they are hitting .327. He has one win and his ERA is almost seven. All of this would be very alarming if he hadn’t done the same exact thing last April. He did, though, he had a horrible April in ’08, and he may very well have a horrible April in ’10 too, but he’ll be fine every month in between. Very strong buy low

4. B.J. Upton
There are slumps, and then there are SLUMPS. Just ask Adrian Beltre. Or, you could just ask Upton at this point, because he is going through one of the worst months I have ever seen a top 50 fantasy player ever go through. Let’s break it down. He wasn’t ready until the second week of the season because of off-season shoulder surgery. After coming back for one week and hitting .200, he strains a quad, misses a couple games, comes back, hits no home runs, and drops his BA to .177. On the upside he has 5 steals. On the downside he has two two-steal games, which means he only has a steal in three games. To put it simply, if he can’t hit for power and he may or may not be healthy enough to steal bases, then he is no better than David Dellucci to me. (Apologies to David Dellucci, first name that popped in my head, seriously) I’m not ready to completely give up on him, but it wouldn’t shock me if he was a fantasy dud all season long, either through injuries or bad performance. Don't buy

3. David Ortiz
Ortiz hit .230 in April; Not good, but not awful. But what is awful is that he seems to have lost his home run swing. He has NONE, no homers all year. This, while not completely unexpected, is very bad news to a specific sect of fantasy baseball players: Those who took a chance on Papi at a reasonable draft price assuming that he had something left. Turns out, he may not. He also takes up a valuable utility slot on a fantasy roster. Everyone who owns this guy right now is worried about him. If you think he has the ability to turn it around, this is a guy that is there for the taking. Cautiously pessimistic buy low

2. CC Sabathia
We all know that Sabathia is a slow starter. He had a bad April last year, and has a career April ERA of 4.51. This April it was 4.73. Last year he was struggling until he was traded in June to Milwaukee, where he was virtually unhittable the rest of the way. I want to make two very strong points here, though. 1: He won’t have the luxury of a change of scenery or a change of pace this year, the pressure will be intense and constant. 2: He was one of the first two pitchers off the board in a lot of fantasy leagues this year. When a pitcher is taken that early, their owner does not expect him to struggle for an entire month. That being said… Buy buy buy if you can

1. Mark Teixeira
Big Tex has the burden of being the only corner infielder for the Bombers that is expected to also produce at the plate. Without A-Rod in the lineup as of yet, the Yankees were hoping that Teixeira would be able to live up to expectations early and often in the Big Apple. He has not. He hit a Mendoza-like .200 for April, with 3 HR’s and 10 RBI’s, which would be more similar to Kevin Maas than Lou Gehrig. It seems like a run-of-the-mill slump type of situation, but when you are a Yankee and you are getting paid that much money, the pressure can build exponentially. I think a season-long slump, while not likely, is definitely in play at this point. He should be fine as soon as A-Rod is back and is taking the entire media spotlight again. Teixeira owners should be careful right now. He’s the kind of guy that explodes as soon as you trade him. Buy low if you can. Do not sell low.

It’s interesting that subconsciously I wanted Tex and CC to be 1-2 on that list. I think it boils down to the fact that I believe in the pressure of living up to a huge free agent contract. We’ve seen it with players like J.D. Drew, Richie Sexson, Mo Vaughn, Ken Griffey, Jr., Gary Matthews, Jr., the aforementioned Adrian Beltre, and an entire staff of Yankee pitchers including Randy Johnson, Kevin Brown and Carl Pavano. I wouldn’t start panicking on these guys yet, but definitely keep up to date with all of your information.

Some Honorable Mention slumpees:
Jimmy Rollins, Alexei Ramirez, Geovany Soto, Troy Tulowitzki, Magglio Ordonez, J.J. Hardy, Derrek Lee, Lastings Milledge, Chris Ianetta, Jake Peavy, Cole Hamels, Francisco Liriano, Cliff Lee, Ryan Dempster

AWOL? I Think Not

Sure, I haven't wrote anything in a couple weeks, but there is a very good reason. I've become a basketball fan again. My love for basketball goes back to being a wide-eyed six year old mezmerized by Bird, Magic, Dr. J., Bill Laimbeer, Robert Parrish, and Danny Ainge, just to name a few. Basketball in the '80's was absolutey amazing. It was good in the '90's too, mostly because of Jordan, but he wasn't the only one who was fun to watch. I was actually a huge basketball fan right up until the brawl between the Pistons and Pacers at the Palace in 2004. My attention for the game was already waning at that point, as I refused to root for the Starbury's and Stevie Franchise's of the world. But the brawl put me over the top. So, up until a couple of weeks ago, I gave it up. And then this amazing thing happened. Bulls/Celtics, first round, 2009, and my five year hiatus is over. Here's a quick video of that series, and then another video of the series that it most reminds me of:

I've also submitted an entry into Baseball Prospectus' BP Idol blogger contest. So look for that, as I'm sure I will be among the top 10 picked out of the 800 or so entries they recieved. Yes, that is sarcasm. But, here's to hoping.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Pickup of the Day: April 19, 2009

Today's POTD is all about the new Yankee Stadium. Or as some have referred to it, Coors Field East. The first series played there, Yankees vs Indians, saw a total of 58 runs scored in four games, including 20 home runs (19 if you think, like I do, that Posada's shouldn't have counted). While it is too early too tell if this trend will continue, it is never too early to break down the potential ramifications of this from a fantasy perspective. Here are a few "facts" that fantasy managers are going to take from this series:

-The Yankees now play in a true hitter's park
-Chien-Ming Wang is droppable in most leagues
-All Yankees hitters deserve an upgrade
-All Yankee pitchers deserve a downgrade
-The Indians have a devastating lineup
-CC Sabathia would be the #1 overall pick if "number of pinstripes" was a category

Now, let's deal with these "facts". Is Yankee Stadium a hitter's paradise? It sure seems that way, but it wasn't built with that intention, and it's only one series. We will have to reserve judgment on that for now, meaning that we don't yet know if we should upgrade Yankee hitters or downgrade Yankees pitchers at this point. We also don't yet know if Wang is droppable. What we do know is that he is being dropped. His ownership is down to 53% in Y! leagues. Considering he has a 34.50 ERA, I can certainly see why that would be the case. I just don't know if I agree with it. As far as the Indians lineup, I don't think devastating is really appropriate. After all, how many more grand slams should we expect from Asdrubal Cabrera? If the over/under is zero, I'm still taking the under. I'm a big Shin-Soo Choo fan, though. I say go get him if you can, he will have a monster year. Now, as far as Sabathia's pinstripes, I think the unconfirmed reports have it at 62. So, yeah, the most in the history of the Bombers.

So, who is the POTD?........

Of course it is the aforementioned Chien-Ming Wang

Surprised? Well you shouldn't be. There would be no point in me telling you to go pick up someone like Jorge Posada or Robinson Cano, obviously. If I were going to pick a Yankee slugger, I probably would have went with Nick Swisher because of the Xavier Nady injury. But, a) Swisher has probably already been picked up in your league, and b) I still don't really believe that he will be worth it considering his batting average shortcomings.

Instead, I will propose this theory. Yankee stadium is not going to play as a hitter's park. At least, not as much anyway. It was supposed to be pretty neutral, and I think over the course of the year it will even out. That being said, Wang has looked absolutely awful, hitter's park or no hitter's park. But Yankee manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Dave Eiland are adamant that there is nothing physically wrong with Wang. He could be suffering from Mark Wohlers-itis, or even Rich Hill-itis, in which case there is no hope for him. But, the more likely scenario is that he is just regaining his form from the Lisfranc injury he suffered last year. Because he is a sinkerballer, his delivery is that much more critical to his success. Once he regains that form he will be fine. He still won't give you any strikeouts, but the W's, ERA, and WHIP will all be there.
I say if someone in your league has dropped him, there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn't take a flyer on Wang. It's like playing with house money. I wouldn't necessarily start him until he shows some progress, but stash him at the end of your bench until his slump is over.
Couple more quick picks:
NL only pickup of the day: Franklin Morales
AL only pickup of the day: Derek Holland
Both are up with the big league club, Morales is already in the rotation, Holland will be soon.