Thursday, April 15, 2010

Rule the Third: Know When to Fold Them

“I’m what the world considers to be a phenomenally successful man, and I’ve failed much more than I’ve succeeded.” The Stranger, Sports Night (2000)

Failure is a four letter word in sports, both real and fantasy. But most teams fail when a championship is the goal. Many of your trades, you’ll get the bad end. Lots of your waiver or free agent pick-ups will be the wrong move. Even a successful campaign is often made of little failures. It’s one of the reasons I like baseball actually; getting on base just 40% of the time is considered really good.

Some people will disagree with me, but being able to accept failure, especially little ones, is crucial to winning. Failure is not an option, they’ll say! Failure is ALWAYS an option; failure is a great option, in fact. Don’t listen to Tiger Woods.

The worst move I probably made in the 2008 fantasy baseball season was not admitting failure. I refused to drop Jeff Francoeur. I was convinced he was going to turn it around. I watched as people picked up seeming one hit wonders who turned into all-stars in Carlos Quentin and Cliff Lee.

I did well that year. I drafted Edinson Volquez and Evan Longoria late. I picked up Nate McLouth. But I think I could have won had I admitted that I struck out on Francoeur ... as he did, so so many times.

We go into each season thinking that we’ve evaluated each player perfectly. And we fight the notion that we’ve made a mistake and ultimately shoot ourselves in the foot. On the flip side, sometimes a player we draft gets off to a hot start. And we try to hold said player until every ounce of value has been extracted. Think Chad Billingsley or Johnny Cueto last year. It’s important not to get married to your preseason projections. Besides injury, there’s also luck, legitimate improvement, and legitimate decline. And a lucky HR and a good one tally up in the cat all the same.

So how do you avoid this? The main way is to look at what is actually going on right now. Also, how and why. Not getting married to your preseason projections is all about seeing what’s actually happening in front of your face. That means watching baseball, reading about baseball, and digging through the box scores. By updating your information with new information, you’re pulling your projections closer to the truth.

And of course, make moves. I’ve seen a draft and leave team win once, and it was in a H2H 20 team basketball league where almost all of the talent was taken in the draft and then that team got lucky in the playoffs.

I say always try. Always be Bellichikian. Go for it on 4th and 2.

-Trigga Play

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Rule the Second: Know Your Odds

Since I started on a poker theme, I might as well continue here.

In poker, you need to know your pot odds; you need to know what chances you have of succeeding with the hand you have. You need to know all the facts and figures to make the best decisions. Rule #1 was about knowing your market; rule #2 is about knowing the product and PROPERLY evaluating risk.

I know this isn’t revolutionary stuff. So let’s get down to some specifics in how to play this out. To start off, ask yourself this question. If "future you" were to appear before you today and say, you have four leagues that you’re about to draft, and I’ll give you two options. Option one, you come in 2nd through 6th in all your leagues. Or, in option two, you come in 1st in one league and dead last in all your other leagues. These are extremes, but knowing the answer to this or at least which side of the spectrum you lean to, is how you should start to evaluate risk.

I’m the second guy in this scenario. And luckily for you, a-mak’s more along the lines of the first, so if you lean that way, you have a solid option for advice right here on this blog. I like a little more risk in my risk analysis. Why? Because I want to win. There is a difference between 2nd and 12th, but it’s not as big a difference as between 1st and 2nd for me (when there’s no money involved). And when it comes to how I evaluate the market, that’s the key for me. When there’s not a significant cost of entry into any of your leagues (either monetarily or otherwise), and there’s not much difference between 2nd and last, high risk strategy is some of the best to take.

Put it this way. In the NCAA tournament, most years, you pick someone like Cornell or Northern Iowa to do how they’ve done, and you’ll lose. But if you’re entering a huge contest like ESPN or Y!, selecting something crazy like that gives you a huge advantage if it turns out right. It’s a way of separating yourself from the crowd. The one in every seven years that it does happen, you don’t have to get as many of the first day games because you’re one of the few people who don’t have Villanova and Kansas in your final four.

In your office pool, you never pick those types of games because the odds don’t make any sense. Everyone’s got Kansas in the final four, so just putting Ohio State in there (a more likely conclusion) would already give you that leg up. There would be no need to take a bigger risk.

I tend to act the same way when it comes to drafting. A lot of people will advise their readers to lower their risk; take the numbers that you know (as much as one can) will pan out. Get value here by taking someone at an unnecessarily discounted price. Never reach. Don’t pay for career years, don’t pay for saves, etc. All these strategies are about reducing risk, and if you have heartburn, it’s probably the way to go. But smartly attacking risk can pay off as well.

Just a few quick specifics that I like to do. I like to draft players on their “last chance.” Basically the fantasy community is about to give up on them despite their talent and despite their positioning due to 2 or 3 years of not living up to expectations. Sometimes they get discounted below what they’re actually providing because everyone has been expecting them to provide so much more that they’re frustrated. Two guys I like this year in that vein are Stephen Drew and Alex Gordon. Drew is fairly cheap, and Gordon’s injury has made him waiver worthy in a lot of leagues, but I’d keep my eye on him.

Another type is people coming off injury or otherwise shortened seasons. I love Carlos Gonzalez here. It’s a small sample size, but he has pedigree, he has results, and he has peripherals. He’s one of the main guys where I’ve gone against my “diversify your portfolio” decree for 2010.

I tend to fill up my squads with about a third of these guys. These guys who don’t have a track record of success, or they do, but they’ve stumbled for a year. In the same way that I don’t have zero #1 seeds making the final four, I don’t take all of these guys in a draft. It is still a bit about balance. Even if you lean one way or another on the risk spectrum scale.

-Trigga Play

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I liked him a lot better on Florida

You know who I'd like to clash with? Jay Bouwmeeter.

Mano a mano. Bare-knuckle style.

Sure he's got 60 or so pounds on me - and several inches, too - but with my immense amount of pint-up rage and his general ineptitude, foreseeing me savagely Brock Hammer Fisting this punk's face in and knocking him into oblivion suddenly becomes a not so unlikely scenario. Then I'll land 15 more shots when he's out cold.

Bouwmeester has performed underwhelmingly coming into the season as a consensus fifth-round pick. I landed him in the sixth round at pick 79 (R6 P4) in the Roto Arcade Blog League and felt he was tremendous value there. On a per-game scale, he's been outperformed by every pick in that round (Booth, Quick, Hiller, Stastny, Havlat, Burrows, Horton, Kunitz, Chris Mason, Roy, Scott Niedermayer, Bryzgalov, Selanne -- hell, even Boyes and he's endured the most disappointing season of his career).

He was drafted to anchor my blue line, just as he was acquired by Calgary to anchor theirs. I finished the draft with a very capable defense corps (Bouwmeester, Bieksa, McCabe, Jovanovski, Visnovsky). Alongside Dion Phaneuf, I had him for a 17-30-47-80-170 line; an exceptional tier 2 line for a defenseman. If you extrapolate his current numbers through 71 games, though, you get a putrid 3-26-29-54-133 stat line. That takes a backseat to Erik Johnson, Stephane Robidas, Ian White and James Wisniewski (James Wisniewski!) - all of whom were taken in the 10th round or later.

From 2005 through 2009 on the Florida Panthers, Bouwmeester was shockingly consistent. He averaged 12 goals and 29 assists for 41 points, 72 penalty minutes and 182 shots on goal, all while not missing a single game.

So what went wrong? Two factors contributed to his massively sub-standard 2009-2010 campaign. One, he signed a lucrative five-year contract averaging $6.6 million US annually. With that incentive pocketed entering the season he lost his motivation. Second, he was moved from a rebuilding team battling for the eighth seed in the East each season to a contending Western Conference powerhouse who were expected to duke it out with rivals Vancouver for the top spot in the Northwest. That's a lot of responsibility to shoulder in your first year. Though Miikka Kiprusoff has played magically comparable to his stellar 2005-2006 season - while forcing me to eat crow - the Flames only remain in contention for the final seed in the West.

So what do I think about his prospects going into 2010-2011 drafts? He's going to be undervalued. Probably going in the seventh or eighth round (similar to the dropoff Phaneuf experienced after a lackluster year last season) so he'll be affordable. For that price I'm definitely buying. That's a bargain. Still only 26 and loaded with a cannon of a shot, I fully expect Bouwmeester to rebound next year. Perhaps he'll never live up to that 55-point potential but to get a serviceable D1 in the eighth would be a steal.

Back to the Roto Arcade Blog League. We're down to 10 or 11 games remaining on the slate and, as it stands, he's entirely relievable. I claimed top spot this morning but it's the arduous Battle of the Streamers. The top 5 teams are all very much in this thing (and, as I proved in The Roto Arcade Pro-Am with my 15.5 points gained in the final two days of play capturing the title, anything can happen in roto. I've once lost a league because a guy streamed a pitcher on the last day; I didn't, and he made a jump in a pitching category).

Bouwmeester has one point in his last nine games and two in his last 13. In his past 13 games, he's a -10. Over the past month, his anemic 0 goal/1 assist/minus-7/4 PIM/1 PP/11 SOG line is forgettable. I can get better production via the wire and streaming.

Bieksa is another droppable option. But I'm looking at the schedule and the Canucks play back-to-back games on the 23rd and 24th against Edmonton and Anaheim, respectively. I need PIM and the Canucks rank fifth in PIM, the Anaheim Ducks fourth and the Edmonton Oilers 12th, which means I'm in pretty good shape to watch Bieksa tussle with a goon.

Can JB pull it together during the final 10 games when I need him the most? In terms of defensemen he's one of my favorite. Don't let 2009 be the year where you go from G.O.A.T. to goat, Bouwmeester.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Meticulously constructing a flawless draft strategy

It's what I've been doing for the last several hours (three and a half and counting). I generally reserve four to seven hours, seclude myself in an enclosed space (not encouraged if you're a claustrophobe), and tackle each of my drafts with a seamless thoroughness that would impress even the finest of linebackers.

This draft was different. And so you adapt.

I always keep a pad of paper around. A pad and a pen. I've tried making notes on my Sony laptop and the results were epically disastrous. Not encouraged.

First, I jot down the settings. You want to know your settings inside and out and play within them to your advantage. I think the most important thing to note is the number of teams in your league. You base your draft strategy entirely around this.

In a holds league, holds carry the same significance as saves. In NL leagues, you bite the bullet and jump the gun on established and capable closers.

The second step depends on if your draft order is determined prior to the draft or randomly decided 30 minutes before.

If it is predetermined and you know you're drafting at 7., write down all your picks. You'll have a rough idea of how the first few rounds are going to play out so go through the available players page and list all the guys who will presumably be unclaimed for each round. Contingency plans are encouraged. I list three or four guys at each tier, in order. To play it safe I give myself a 5-10 pick opening (like if you wanted to make a reach at that pick). Also you'll have the luxury of finding complementary pairings. Longoria and Crawford at the turn, for example.

If your draft randomly determines the order, write down each round as tiers. 1-12, 13-24, 25-36 ... then list all the hypothetical situations which intrigue you. You'll go into the draft with a vague sense of what you're going to accomplish. A step ahead of those who don't consider the endless outcomes of each round going into the draft.

Create a: Sleepers, Speculation and Under-ranked table. Go through the entire player pool at least twice filling out each heading. Mark down the players' O-Rank.

I also manually create a table featuring every pick of the draft highlighting where the turns of each rounds are (or, where "snaking" occurs). I number the picks. The exercise is a strong visual standout.

I also stick to a strict plan. If I've got down that I'll start my pitcher run in the ninth because there's good value in that round, that's how I'll go about things. If I've got my sights set on taking a catcher in the 14th, that's where I'll target them. Experts say you shouldn't get married to a draft plan. I find that if I break away from a plan early - like drafting Mauer in the second - it throws my rhythm off and compromises my strategy. Playing it by ear, I'm not a fan.

Then construct a list of player injuries and keep notes.

If you're unclear about an injury or a player's status, search three or four alternative resources.

Going through the player pool, find where to extract positional value.

That's all I've got for now. Back to Hour Four of this endless cram session. Here's where the unpleasantness commences. Staying highly caffeinated: encouraged (one Red Bull, two sodas in).

As promised, introducing: Commenter Trigga Play

Who am I?

I don't have a particular fascination with 80's movies.

I don’t have an unhealthy obsession with Anne Hathaway or bacon.

I don’t write teen sex comedies.

I’m not severely convinced of my own greatness.

And I certainly don’t have several degrees in statistics.

So I ask myself, other than wanting to write, what do I have to offer? I like to think that what I might offer that departs from some of these sources is a little bit of everything. I know a little bit about sports. I know a little bit about poker. I know a little bit about investing. I know a little bit about philosophy. I’m a little things guy. I’ll probably never be a great slugger or flamethrower.

So you won't find lots of charts here. Or rankings, or pop culture references. And unless people really want to hear about The World, Time Indefinite, and/or Two for the Road, you probably won’t be hearing about my favorite movies.

You’ll find some strategy, some musings, and some predictions is all. And writing with amak means that you’ll definitely find some strong disagreements because we couldn’t be further from each other in terms of strategy.

To kick things off, I’m going to write up a little bit on my own personal rules for fantasy sports. And as I think of other important aspects to me, I’ll continue to detail those. But here’s the first of three that are the foundation of pretty much how I run everything.

These aren’t rules like wait on a catcher or draft 2 RBs in your first 3 rounds. They can’t simply be followed; they require input.

The first and foremost rule in every sport is know your table. Pitchers catalog years of hitting trends before they ever take the mound. Quarterbacks watch weeks of tape before squaring off with a defense. And professional poker players play thousands of hands in order to get the feel for hands and opponents, to turn statistics and strategy into instinct.

Why does every professional do this? Why should you go into an interview knowing the interviewer and the company? Why do we research products before we buy them? It’s obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t do this. I mean not even in the slightest. Not even clicking the person’s profile to see whether or not abandoning leagues is a habit of theirs.

The more you know about your opponents the better. Get them talking on the message boards, in the draft. Send them e-mails detailing your opinions real or fake. Read their blogs. Doesn’t matter, get them talking. This is how you find value. Not by looking at You have to know the market you're in to know what’s overpriced and what isn’t. Think about people’s predilections and what they might mean. One Brewers fan might be willing to overpay for any Brewer while the next might overcompensate and not fairly evaluate any of them.

As NBC has taught us, the more you know, right? Time to look around the table with Spring about to be on our doorsteps. Do you know what the man to your left does with low pocket pairs? Does the woman across from you chase straights or flushes? Does your rival never even call under the gun?

And remember, no matter what he says; Gucci doesn’t love you.

(Ok, so there will be the occasional pop culture reference)

-Trigga Play

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Utility expense

I will be competing in at least eight leagues this season. I'm currently committed to six of them. So with the seventh, I decided to employ an unprecidented set-up, an unheard of and unique yet challenging experience: the 9 Util/9 P league.

In this format you're not married to the idea of position scarcity. In fact, you throw it out the proverbial window. Position scarcity has long since played a vital role in assessing players' values. You convert every position on a baseball diamond into a utility role and what you've got is flexibility and a whole lot of Mark DeRosas. You could own nine second basemen or the entire Mets outfield (including reserves) or presumably 67% of your roster could consist of Ramirezes.

Without position scarcity Dustin Pedroia looks remarkably mundane. Mauer looks enormously overvalued. And Aaron Hill ... well, he looks out of place as it stands regardless of scarcity. He doesn't deserve that ADP nor will he meet the outrageously high expectations he has on him coming into 2010. He can rake but 36 home runs is an outlier. Without question.

You can go about filling your roster in hundreds of ways, but it's imperative that you develop and stick to a strategy throughout the early parts of the draft and even into the core rounds.

Above all else, you have flexibility. You can skip the third base position entirely (arguably the most troublesome position to fill in years). You can get away with owning two starters (in the Commenters league two years ago I only drafted Justin Masterson and I can tell you that it didn't end well. I had to construct a rotation during the season collecting scraps as this was a 16-teamer).

In short, you have an infinite number of strategies available at your disposal. It breaks the game down to its basics, but at the same time, requires as much - if not more - preparation and research as your typical, standard draft.

I'll also be adding the work of a fellow commenter, Trigga Play, up on here. We've competed in some of the same leagues against Yahoo! experts and he's an insightful dude. So look out for that.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

How they'll finish 2010


1. Victor Martinez
2. Joe Mauer
3. Brian McCann
4. Geovany Soto
5. Russell Martin
6. Matt Wieters
7. Jorge Posada
8. Ryan Doumit
9. Miguel Montero
10. Mike Napoli
11. Kurt Suzuki
12. Bengie Molina
13. A.J. Pierzynski
14. John Baker
15. Ramon Hernandez
Next two: 16. Chris Iannetta and 17. Yadier Molina

First base

1. Albert Pujols
2. Prince Fielder
3. Mark Teixeira
4. Ryan Howard
5. Joey Votto
6. Miguel Cabrera
7. Kevin Youkilis
8. Lance Berkman
9. Justin Morneau
10. Adrian Gonzalez
11. Kendry Morales
12. Derrek Lee
13. Mark Reynolds
14. Pablo Sandoval
15. Victor Martinez
Next three: 16. Billy Butler, 17. Adam Dunn and 18. James Loney

Second base

1. Chase Utley
2. Ian Kinsler
3. Dustin Pedroia
4. Brandon Phillips
5. Brian Roberts
6. Robinson Cano
7. Aaron Hill
8. Jose Lopez
9. Howie Kendrick
10. Ben Zobrist
11. Asdrubal Cabrera
12. Dan Uggla
13. Placido Polanco
14. Rickie Weeks
15. Ian Stewart
Next two: 16. Clint Barmes and 17. Orlando Hudson

Third base

1. Alex Rodriguez
2. Evan Longoria
3. David Wright
4. Kevin Youkilis
5. Ryan Zimmerman
6. Chone Figgins
7. Aramis Ramirez
8. Mark Reynolds
9. Pablo Sandoval
10. Jorge Cantu
11. Chipper Jones
12. Michael Young
13. Chris Davis
14. Adrian Beltre
15. Gordon Beckham
Next three: 16. Alex Gordon, 17. Casey Blake and 18. Ian Stewart


1. Hanley Ramirez
2. Jose Reyes
3. Troy Tulowitzki
4. Jimmy Rollins
5. Derek Jeter
6. Alexei Ramirez
7. Ben Zobrist
8. Stephen Drew
9. Rafael Furcal
10. Yunel Escobar
11. Asdrubal Cabrera
12. Orlando Cabrera
13. Miguel Tejada
14. Jhonny Peralta
15. Jason Bartlett (Think Theriot 2009)
Next two: 16. Elvis Andrus and 17. J.J. Hardy

Outfielders (excluding Beltran)

1. Ryan Braun
2. Matt Holliday
3. Grady Sizemore
4. Carl Crawford
5. Matt Kemp
6. Jason Bay
7. Justin Upton
8. Ichiro Suzuki
9. Bobby Abreu
10. Jacoby Ellsbury
11. Nate McLouth
12. Curtis Granderson
13. Carlos Quentin
14. Shane Victorino
15. Nick Markakis
16. Manny Ramirez
17. B.J.Upton
18. Carlos Lee
19. Adam Lind
20. Torii Hunter
21. Adam Dunn
22. Jason Werth
23. Raul Ibanez
24. Hunter Pence
25. Alfonso Soriano
26. Johnny Damon
27. Ryan Ludwick
28. Alex Rios
29. Nelson Cruz
30. Jay Bruce
31. Josh Hamilton
32. Shin-Soo Choo
33. Denard Span
34. Corey Hart
35. Ben Zobrist
36. Michael Bourn
Next five: 37. Carlos Gonzalez, 38. Brad Hawpe, 39. Andrew McCutchen, 40. Andre Ethier and 41. Adam Jones

Friday, February 12, 2010

(Image of your trophy) *asterisk*

Unethical. Distasteful. Legal cheating. These are words and phrases commonly associated with the practice of streaming.

Streaming is the act of adding and dropping players to gain an edge in production. Gamers stream to exceed the games played total or to make up for games lost due to injury, benchings, etc.

Contrary to popular belief, yes, streaming is an art. Amateurs add the best available options; those who have studied streaming go beyond that.

Myself, in football, I will consider: match-up, defensive injuries, individual match-up, climate, historical success or failure, current trends (within four weeks), their floors versus their ceilings, my opposition's players' floors versus their ceilings and every sortable defensive stat. This is for one-week rentals.

In baseball, I will consider: runs generated (team), current trends, total stolen bases (shows how aggressive the team is), match-up team-wise, individual match-up including historical success against the night's hurler and how they bat against righties/lefties, pre-all star splits versus post-all star splits, splits by month, the stadium's dimensions, the ball park, proven science (LaRoche only hits after the break), pedigree (though this rarely comes into play), minor league stats (sportsnet is the site I use) and in a few cases, contract incentives. For pitchers, I also look up the opposing team's strikeout totals which generally indicates a team's level of discipline. All this for, yes, a one-to-three-game rental. I'm not a sabermetrics guy. This works for me.

In basketball, I consider: recent trends, minutes per night and sometimes match-up. I don't look too much into basketball because when they're hot and playing, you snag them.

In hockey, I will consider: recent trends and the opposition's starting goaltender (for snipers); and for enforcers, PIM trends, the team they're facing, the team they're facing's enforcers and their likeliness to drop the gloves, the team they're facing's enforcer's recent PIM trends and sortable team PIM stats.

One week ago, I was pulling 81.5 points in the Roto Arcade Blog League. I was hidden and obscured in the middle of the pack in moves made. Then I started streaming.

Predictably, I climbed from sixth to fourth in the standings and made a 17-point jump to 98.5 points. I have been streaming one C, one RW and one D and the results have been plentiful:

Feb 12, 10 - Lombardi (2 PIM), Orr (an overwhelming 32 PIM, characteristically Orr), O'Byrne (2 PIM)

Feb 11, 10 - Bryan Allen (2 PIM)

Feb 10, 10 - Boll (2 PIM)

Feb 09, 10 - Mayers (5 PIM)

Feb 07, 10 - Sturm (2 goals), O'Byrne (5 PIM)

Feb 06, 10 - Sturm (1 assist), Orr (7 PIM)

Feb 05, 10 - Bryan Allen (5 PIM)

Seven days, a 17-point jump.

Would remaining stagnent have yielded these results? Would putting principle ahead of realistic and attainable improvement allow for such improvement?

If a player's not out there that night, they can't help your team statistically. The production you're getting out of three waiver wire pick-ups from the nights of February 11-13, for example, will, in 98% of cases, exceed that of the one winger you start routinely.

Frankly, and I have always felt this way, if you don't stream to prevent a loss, you deserve to lose. Additionally, if a person streams and overtakes a non-streamer, he or she should be praised not lambasted and criticized mercilessly. If anything, non-streamer should be the one condemned for their failure of making moves to stay competitive. The streamer's trying to win.

You have to play the settings. Everyone starts with the same settings; you're playing within them. Play them to your advantage. Make up those game. You're 70+ PIM short? Brian Rafalski will not turn into a rogue badass mofo who KOs 6-foot-3 guys overnight. If you're not streaming, you're leaving points on the table.

Streaming is a choice. It goes beyond ethical or non-ethical, beyond roto etiquette; what it comes down to is how badly you want to win. If you can put aside the conventional fantasy mind-set that is commonly regarded and accepted as the general principles of the game, you have a more favorable chance of being successful than your static competition.

At the end of the season, you can finish with 359 transactions made and your opponent might have 11; tell me now, who had the stronger drive and the burning passion to win?

The world is yours

Auction drafts are a completely different animal. Like a Chupacabra or the
Cloverfield monster.

I participated in my first auction mock of the season - my first ever, in fact - and came away with mixed sentiments. The length of the auction was a turn-off. No question. I started at 3:42 PM and the draft ended shortly after 5:50 PM. I've done drafts that exceed three hours in duration but this one seemed to linger. Perhaps it was the fact that I invested good amount of imaginary money in my first three picks (Braun, Upton, Kinsler) which, unfortunately, reduced me to twiddling my thumbs for a solid 12-15 minutes.

Another beef I have with this format is that I feel it will lose its novelty quickly. Its appeal derives from it being an alternative way of drafting -- one Yahoo! had not offered previously. However, I challenge you to do four or five of these per season and not be bored to tears by the end of the fifth one. You could draft in eight subsequent drafts in the classic format and it still wouldn't feel like a chore.

A live auction draft with FAAB settings for waiver pick-ups offers you the option to acquire any player in the league. You don't have that luxury in standard live drafts. If you have the means, hypothetically you could have the entire first round all to yourself. Of course, you haven't done yourself any favors for later rounds -- for example, Round 2 -- but auction presents you that option.

Budget. If you don't, you, too, will be stuck twiddling your thumbs for 12-15 minutes. Which isn't a bad thing if you compete professionally in gaming or thumb-wrestling, I suppose.

Wait for it ... I've finally let the bliss that is How I Met Your Mother enter my life two days ago. The show is delightful and I fully endorse it. To think, I used to be morally opposed to this show; boy, was I missing out. In terms of live auction drafts, wait for value. If you spend like Vince McMahon with a power-hungry mentality, what you'll end up with is a failed product (I couldn't even find its main site or anything that resembled it because it failed so miserably). Maintain control. If anything, spend on third base; that's an intolerably scarce position. You want your virtual dollar bills invested in the hot corner.

Be aware at all times. Since there's no defined draft order, be sure to keep tabs on every position during the draft.

Position scarcity. Recognizing position scarcity in correlation with the values will be the key to your success.

Values. Familiarize yourself with the values (dollar amounts). Then, during the draft, you'll know how to allocate that $10 you saved by passing on Teixeira and selecting Morneau. If you spend lavishly and uncontrollably early, you'll miss out on the value bids later in the draft.

Prior to drafting, attach dollar amounts to players. This will serve as a rough guideline of a budget. Of course, in some spots, you have to play it by ear.

Specifics. Holliday went roughly $10 less than Braun. I'm going to target him.

There is value at catcher. The difference between McCann and Montero, for example, in dollar amounts, is substantial.

Auction drafts: Even more of a reason not to overbid on closers. (Hoffman $3, K-Rod $3, Aardsma $2, Franklin $2, Fuentes $1, Wood $1. Broxton $11).

You can still wait on pitching, as you should, but do not neglect it like you would in standard drafts. You don't want to be caught in a bidding war for David Price as your SP1.

Photo via Getty Images

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Touching Base Series: Plate discipline

This simple exercise is to highlight position scarcity, where to extract value and what positions should be of emphasis.

Assume 12-team format (Y! default rankings listed below).


1) Joe Mauer (13.56) 94-28-96-4-.365
2) Victor Martinez (24.62) 88-23-108-1-.303
3) Brian McCann (42.62) 63-21-94-4-.281
4) Matt Wieters (103.03) 35-9-43-0-.288 Extrapolate his numbers in 96 games through a 162-game grind: 60-16-73-0-.288
5) Russell Martin (138.53) 63-7-53-11-.250 Disappointing 2008-2009 season for Martin (he was basically unownable during one stretch) but he's too talent to post another sub-par year. His 2007 season was an outlier. At catcher, though, I'm looking for power so I'll be waiting.
6) Mike Napoli (180.00) 60-20-56-3-.272
7) Kurt Suzuki (132.47) 74-15-88-8-.274
8) Benji Molina (160.52) 52-20-80-0-.265
9) Jorge Posada (117.57) 55-22-81-1-.285 I'd endorse him as the ninth catcher off the board, but more than likely, someone will reach.
10) Geovany Soto (154.04) 27-11-47-1-.218
11) Miguel Montero (146.59) 61-16-59-1-.294 The Yahoo! crew has this cat ranked as the fifth catcher in their preseason ranks. I'm not seeing it. Prime age (27), yes, but his minor league track record is spotty.
12) Ryan Doumit (208.57) 31-10-38-4-.250
13) Yadier Molina (232.54) 45-6-54-9-.293 Lack of power means he'll be on none of my virtual teams.
14) A.J. Pierzynski (254.89) 57-13-49-1-.300
15) Miguel Olivo (248.12) 51-23-65-5-.249 Moves to a favorable park coming off a career season but appears to be second on the Colorado depth chart.

Insight: So clearly, after the first three backstops are taken off the board, there is a precipitous drop in production at the position. I strongly urge you to pass on Mauer who won't justify his ADP, and I'd advise you to pass on Martinez as well. Matt Wieters, hyped relentlessly during the '09 campaign, is a good value in the eighth or ninth. I have taken Napoli in each of my four mock drafts. I expect solid seasons out of Soto and Doumit, too, both of whom will bounce back after injury-plagued 2009 seasons. Pierzynski is the least excitable catcher to own; in a 2-catcher league, though, you won't lose money on him. I would avoid the Olivo/Iannetta battle.

Getting a 55-20-70-.275 line out of your catcher position is suffice if you've built a strong offensive foundation with your other picks.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Coffee's for closers

Closer is a unique position; where should they go in a draft? How heavily should one invest in closers? How does one soften the blow he or she takes when selecting a closer with marginal ratios? (I call this ratio profiling).

Wait on the position. That's my advice. Typically closer runs start in the seventh or eighth, and later in experts drafts. There are 30 teams in Major League Baseball, so if you're playing in a 12-team league, gun for three closers. If it's a 15-team league, make your move a little earlier (you don't want to be the guy with one closer; that limits your ability to advance in the standings).

Of course, the importance of a closer, first and foremost, is tied to the save. The common belief is that winning teams produce more save opportunities and thus, hold a much greater significance. Well, yes. However, in the roto game it goes beyond that. Every team in the majors can produce a capable 30-save closer. That's the reality. For crying out loud, Mike MacDougal notched 20 saves for the 59-win Nationals last season. That's surprising on two fronts: 1) They rotated him in and out of the role at least twice, and 2) It's Mike MacDougal. The guy owns a career WHIP over 1.50. How he claims such a vital role is beyond me.

Every year, without fail, roughly half the league undergoes changes at closer. In one sense, that makes Papelbon, Mariano and Broxton that much more attractive; in a roto sense, however, that spells opportunity. Opportunity to extract considerable value. Investing a sixth-rounder in Papelbon is ludicrous; why play for one category when a Bobby Abreu plays for four?

Yes, when you point-and-click on Matt Capps' name, you'll probably hate youself for the rest of the evening, but pair him with an effective middle reliever with exceptional ratios and closer-in-waiting status and suddenly, things aren't so bad. (This is a roto strategy, mind you). Think about it. Suppose Kevin Gregg or whoever is closing for Toronto allows two runs per one inning. If your starters go out and pitch 20 innings giving up seven, you finish the night with a competitive 3.86 ERA. And if you have a middle reliever that goes two scoreless, you're down to 3.52. Certainly not anything to write home about, but it keeps you in the mix.

Starters go six and seven and eight; closers, one. Why, then, is Broxton's value greater than Beckett's, who delivers in four cats?

Off the top of my head, closers who emerged last season include Ryan Franklin (debatable but he was battling Motte and Perez), Howell, Aardsma, Bailey, Sherrill, Jim Johnson, Soria, Downs/Frasor, and the plethora of closers Washington kept churning out.

Sometimes, the steak knives come in handy.

Here's a rundown of closers on a team-by-team basis and their respective ADPs:

NYY - Rivera (71.58)
BoSox - Papelbon (71.00)
Rays - Soriano (155.25)
T.O. - Gregg (328.16), Frasor (323.11), Downs (311.04). Being familiar with the Jays bullpen, I can tell you Frasor is a solid reliever. He did an adequate job relieving Downs last season. That stated, there has to be a reason Gregg was brought in and I think it goes beyond solidifying the bullpen.
Baltimore - M. Gonzalez, until he blows his arm out, then Jim Johnson. (198.48)

Twins - Nathan (75.31)
Tigers - Valverde (133.13)
White Sox - Jenks (161.26)
Royals - Soria (100.00)
Indians - Wood (240.18)

LAA - Fuentes (115.27)
TX - Francisco (202.79). Rank seems unjustifiably low.
Mariners - Aardsma (152.08)
Athletics - Bailey (125.75)

Phillies - Lidge (232.23)
FLA - Nunez (251.92). Encouraging words from the Marlin's skipper. With Lindstrom jettisoned and no real competition, expect Nunez to exceed his current ADP by quite a bit.
ATL - Wagner. No faith in him whatsoever. This has blown arm written all over it. (151.29). Even if he does post a brilliant line, it's a bad selection on the drafter's part with all the risk attached.
NYM - K-Rod (87.40)
Nats - Capps (229.39)

STL - Franklin (146.26)
Cubs - Marmol (142.31). Dead to me.
Brewers - Hoffman (163.90)
Reds - Franky Cordero (107.34)
Houston - Lindstrom (289.16)
Pirates - Dotel (303.86)

LAD - Broxton (71.81)
Rockies - Street (151.47)
Giants - Wilson (138.26)
SD - Bell (100.34)
D'Backs - Qualls (255.97)

Tread carefully, because I promise you things will shake up much differently come May's end.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Mock draft. February 09, 2010.

Fantasy baseball season is upon us! And prepping always helps. It doesn't matter if you're a wide-eyed rookie or a seasoned vet; if you have a general sense of how the draft will play out, you're at an advantage. I usually take six to eight hours out of one day per season and dedicate it to drafting a blueprint, going over the draft several times (three or more), and roughly etching out the details of each round (for example, I lay it out on a chart. Picks 1-12: what I expect to get, who I expect to be there, specific targets, complementary numbers. Then I do the same for picks 13-24. And so on).

During a mock draft, get used to jumping to the next pick instantly after you've made your selection. It's similar to basketball -- you take your shot and regardless of the outcome, all at once, you divert your attention to the next play, be it crashing the boards for an offensive rebound or heading back on D.

Here's what's scribbled on my pad:

NFBC (National Fantasy Baseball Championship) Format - 15 teams, 23 picks per

R1 P6 - Straight-forward decision: Braun or teammate Fielder.

R2 P10 - Missed out on Reyes. Add some speed w. Upton. Go 1B next pick.

R3 P6 - Happy to snag Youkilis. All-round goodness. Safe floor. More reliable than Berkman (who I'm a proponent of) and Sandoval would feel like a reach here.

R4 P10 - Approaching pick, OF on my mind (see: settings. It's deep).
-Berkman/Granderson/Abreu. Grand over Berkman hurt my soul, but play the settings accordingly.

R5 P6 - How do you *not* gamble w. Manny in the fifth? He's been a professional hitter throughout his entire career. Has he lost it? Is the drop-off a reality? We'll find out. Delighted w. the value regardless.
- Manny over Lester, Carlos Lee.
- Difficult format to time rotation building.

R6 P10 - Could use Hunter's speed if he falls to me. And he does. No faith in Carp.
- Filling up 4/5 OF spots @ this juncture ... I'm thrilled.

R7 P6 - Landed Beckett here (over Nolasco, Hamels, Gallardo). Pleased.

R8 P10 - Had Jose Lopez penciled in, queued ... but upon quick glance @ Alexei Ramirez's player page, feelings for Lopez aborted. Adds speed, SS dimension.

R9 P6 - Dilemma: Jose Lopez, Lackey, Lilly. Went with Lopez simply because, scrolling down, MI options were uninspiring. Not completely sold on Lackey for '10.

R10 P10 - Perennially-consistent arm, Lilly, still available. Easy click.

R11 P6 - Franklin snagged the pick before me. Consideration: Franklin, Montero, Napoli.

R12 P10 - Could use a little more speed. Early targets - Beltre (CI) or Weeks (MI).
- Beltre. A-Cab, O-Cab, Weeks still available; could afford to wait on MI.

R13 P6 - Not completely sold on Dempster, Floyd coming into '10. DLR a toss-up, too.
- Looking forward, SPs unimpressive.
- Gavin Floyd flashed signs of absolute brilliance last season. Frankly, satisfied w. selection.

R14 P10 - Ryan Doumit. Considered DLR here but Coors (pitchers ... erm, not trying to make an alcohol-referenced joke here) always drives fear in me. Plus, Sanchez (SF) available later on.

R15 P6 - Kerry Wood was taken w. under 9 seconds left on the clock. A hurried pick. I spent so much time fighting myself on DLR/Niemann/Slowey at this spot, the clock forced my hand. Needed a closer so this pick worked out, came out much better than initial closer who caught my eye, Capps.

R16 P10 - Slowey highlighted, Sanchez of SF selected. Either was suffice.
- Sanchez: Favorable park tempting. If he catches your eye, those favorable park conditions will be your weakness. Trust me on this.

R17 P6 - LaRoche fills my Util. In roto, never sweat streaks if the player in question is even halfway proven. The numbers will be there.
- Playing for contract in 2010.

R18 P10 - Solidify speed cat w. Fowler. A steal, in my mind. No pun intended.

R19 P6 - Matt Thornton contributes outstanding ratios as a middle reliever. You need a few of these guys on your roto roster to alleviate the damage of less-than-elite closers. Otherwise, you won't sleep well. Trust the guy who generally refrains from nabbing a closer in the first 11 or 12 picks. Not fun. Long nights. Hard drinks.

- Thornton has the ability to close.

R20 P10 - Dotel is slated to close for the Bucs. Alternative options (for them) underwhelming.

R21 P6 - Gregg. Three-way battle in T.O. Bringing him in showed they lack confidence in Downs, Frasor. Downs goes Frasor.

R22 P10 - Kaz Matsui should rebound with a healthy Berkman, an emerging Pence (I say this every year), Lee and Bourn. Threat on the bases. Fowler can now split bench time w. a masher reserve ... of course, "masher" used loosely when you're 22 deep. The 'Stros ranked ninth in the league in steals so taking a flier on him this late to fill a MI spot was an effortless decision, really.

R23 P6 - Latos or Volquez were considered here. Went with Latos 'cause everyone's been hyping the kid. Not that he'll be a stud this year, but he has the potential to be a truly productive player.

Let me preface this by saying I rarely come out of a draft even 80% confident with my virtual imaginary roster. Overall, though, truthfully I don't think I could have come out better here. Maybe it's the nine trophies captured last season in as many leagues talking (doubt it), but I really, really like this assembled team. It features a few of my favorites, of course, but in a 5x5 15-teamer, I feel this team would be a lock for a top 3 finish. It has to work the wire for saves, though. Add a couple of reliable MRs to keep the ratios competitive. Unfortunately they cut the 7 additional spots that would have been reserved for a bench.

Know your format and settings. If your league emphasizes heavily on outfielders, likewise to this one, be prepared to target outfielders at times when you otherwise wouldn't. Hypothetically, an outfielder could become more valuable than an infielder despite what the stats say.

I won the Roto Arcade Pro-Am last season playing this setting. It was intriguing, definitely a worthwhile experience. I fully endorse this kind of setting. If you have the patience, you'll be rewarded handsomely.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

The Super Bowl: A whole new animal

A lot was made about New Orlean's coach Sean Payton's decision to go for it on fourth down. He was criticized heavily. Had the play gone successfully, would he have been praised? Probably. But more than that, he wouldn't have felt the heat of several media outlets calling him out for making the right call in that situation. Yes, the right one.

With the Saints having driven roughly 70 yards, facing a fourth and a long one and trailing 10-3 with 2:00 minutes and change remaining in the second, Payton decided to go for it. The offensive call he made was a poor one; a feeble run by Pierre Thomas that was stuffed almost instantly, but going for it in that situation was completely appropriate. Consider: You're facing Manning, the best quarterback of our generation -- given the chance to put up seven in that scenario, you have to go for it. Had Sanchez and the Jets advanced, this would be an entirely different ball game. You could afford to take the three and play it safe keeping the score close. But with Manning under the helm on the opposing sideline, you need to stay in the game by any means necessary.

Suppose you kick it and the score's now 10-6. Manning still had plenty of time to march his unit down the field and score either a field goal or a touchdown. In the case of the former, the score heading into the half would be 13-6; a seven point deficit. If you go for it and fail, yes, you're still down seven (10-3) but the Colts are backed up all the way at their 1. And bear in mind, the Colts would receive possession coming out of halftime.

With regards to the play call, though, why Payton would run Thomas over a Brees pass is beyond me. Here you have the league's most precise passer in the most crucial of plays. He lead the league in touchdowns with 34. Perhaps the call was to throw the Colts defense off, but when the quarterback completes over 70% of his passes (Brees' 70.6% completion rate during the regular season established a new NFL record), an astounding feat, you put it in his hands.

Skeptics argue that, down 10-3, you can't leave points out there when you're facing Manning and the Colts. By passing on seven, you're leaving points out there (four of them), especially with less than two yards to go, a feasible distance.

It's akin to making a move in poker. You can make the right call - in this case, going for it on fourth - but the cards might not fall your way. The Saints lost a chunk of their chips by not scoring, but it was the correct move. It was a calculated risk.

The analysts on the network praised Payton during halftime, including Super Bowl winning coach Bill Cowher.

The Super Bowl, without question, is unlike any other game of the season. You have to make unconventional calls at critical junctures in the game that sometimes defy conservative logic. Forget about being labelled a hero or a goat; you ultimately have to play out the situation.

Not many get the opportunity to play in the elusive dance, and it's a win or lose affair, so to have the intestinal fortitude to play for the win should be something to be admired. Regardless of the outcome of the play.

Photo via

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The flawed logic behind rewarding points for overtime losses

Shootouts lead to some incredible finishes. But is getting
into extra time, alone, enough to warrant one point?

Post lockout, an entirely new set of rules and regulations were enforced. The salary cap, the new points system, the opening of the ice even - these were to level out the playing field. They did their job.

On November 26, 2009, a former co-worker of mine had this to say on his Facebook account: "there's only 5 teams in the NHL who are under .500. something wrong with the game?" Fast forward to January 24, 2010 and remarkably only four teams carry losing records - The Columbus Blue Jackets, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Edmonton Oilers and the Carolina Hurricanes. Of the 30 teams in the league, four have more losses than wins. Yes, friend, there is something wrong with the game.

The blemish is not difficult to spot, either. During the lockout, the heads in charge decided that teams' records would be categorized by wins, regulation losses and losses during an overtime period or a shootout. A win, worth two points; a loss in overtime or the shootout, one point; and a regulation loss, zero points. The system encouraged competitiveness in standings - and yes, it did its job there - however, on the ice, endgame results were anything but competitive.

Think about it for a second. You go into overtime after playing an astoundingly physical end-to-end game for 60 minutes. You've been harassed and assulted all night. You're gassed - mentally and physically. Your team has notched one point in the standings so human nature dictates that taking a play or two off during the five-minute extra frame to regroup and recuperate is only humane. If you played out this situation on the ice, human nature will have some of these athletes mailing it in after regulation, if only for a couple of plays, because they're aware that their team's not leaving the arena that night empty-handed. Adjust the scoring system to wins and losses and you're promoting 60+ minutes of all-out, leave-everything-on-the-ice type of hockey. Classic hockey.

Logically, taking an opponent into overtime is not achieving anything. You're still on par with your nemesis. Overtime should decide a game; a shootout only highlights a small aspect of the game: the one-on-one encounter. Really, how often do you see a shootout in a regulation game? Hardly ever.

Promoting the shootout as a deciding aspect of a game would play to some of the untapped market, the skeptics who couldn't appreciate a brutal 2-1 war. A score of 2-1 generally translates to a boring product to those who follow football and basketball. So the league brilliantly revamped the rules and the results were instant. High-scoring 6-4 games with fluent on-ice action.

To the fan who followed the game for five year, seven years, a decade or more, though, the novelty of the shootout wore off fast. It was essentially flipping coin to decide the outcome and took away from the game's core: teamwork; endurance; an earnest effort. And if you lose in the shootout, no worries, you're still rewarded for your efforts. Maybe you didn't play as hard as the other team, or you didn't play a better game tactically - you didn't win, but you showed up so we'll reward you.

That one point could have playoff implications. For example, as it stands, Detroit (25-18-8 through 51 games played) is tied for the eighth spot in the West with Calgary (26-19-6 through 51 games played). Calgary has more wins but because of Detroit's ability to extend games beyond regulation, Detroit is right there with them. On par. An even level.

In the East, positioning for the eighth seed is even more extreme. Philadelphia (26-21-3 through 50 games), NY Rangers (24-21-7 through 52 games) and Montreal (25-23-5 through 53 games) all share an identical point total of 55 points. They occupy seeds six through eight currently. Boston - 23-19-8 through 50 games for 54 points - hypothetically could be 23-20-10 through 53 games and sit one point ahead of each of the aforementioned teams. An inferior record but playoff bound on the basis of less regulation losses and more overtime/shootout losses.

A loss is a loss. Don't overthink it. The league is allowing teams to remain in contention because the shootout is marketable and apparently heading into overtime is worth something. Eliminating overtime/shootout losses looks a lot less appealing in the standings - if it were to happen, 16 teams would be below .500, more than half the league. But teams will be hungry and playing all-out hockey, and, more importantly, the 16 teams that advance to the dance will be deserving of a shot at Lord Stanley.

Overtime losses inflate records. Look at your team. Now add four losses to the "L" column; that's a rough indication of how they've played thus far. Are they worthy?

Photo via SportsRoids

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Early 2010 Ranking Rundown

Assume standard 5x5 roto format. (If this were head-to-head, I'd drop pitchers considerably lower what with the rich, documented depth at the position; you can wait).
  1. 1B Albert Pujols - The Cards slugger should be the consensus #1 in traditional 5x5 drafts. Impressive numbers across the board.
  2. SS Hanley Ramirez - Reigning NL batting champ carries 30/30 upside. In his prime (26), surrounded by an emerging cast, and production far exceeds that of next SS.
  3. 3B Alex Rodriguez - You won't be blamed if you take Utley - who has the greater upside coming into the season, in my opinion - at pick 3. Position scarcity, though, dictates that you grab the headline-making A-Rod.
  4. OF Ryan Braun - You need to fill three OF spots; taking this five-tool stud is a sharp choice. His potential exceeds that of anyone's in the top 5 or within the first round even.
  5. 2B Chase Utley - A-Rod stats at the 2B position. A 115-27-95-10-.295 floor is not something to be overlooked.
  6. 1B Prince Fielder - In 2008, his decline in power was highly criticized. His monsterous 2009 campaign, though, emphatically squashed all questions surrounding his ability to produce first round numbers. Select Fielder in the first and you can take a speedster in the second to complement the behemoth.
  7. 3B Evan Longoria - I fought myself six times over who to slot here. By no means was this a simple, resounding selection. I'm loathe to having Longoria ranked this high because he's unproven and you want security here, but he has the pedigree, competitive lineup (Rays were seventh in runs, sixth in homers, seventh in runs batted in and lead the league in steals - by a definitive 45 steal margin) and potential (just 24) to post a special season. I see his AVG creeping towards the .285-.290 mark.
  8. 1B Mark Teixeira - I prefer Howard to Teixeira. That being said, at pick eight, Teixeira would be my endorsement. "The Big Noise" aptly labelled him the "consistency king" and his numbers, when paired alongside those of third rounders' (first basemen, that is), surpass them greatly. That margin makes him a strong albeit mundane pick.
  9. 1B Ryan Howard - He'll be your cornerstone in the power cats; build around him with complementary pieces as necessary.
  10. 2B Ian Kinsler - Will enter the magical 27 year, primed for first round production and destined for a comeback season with the dangerous Rangers lineup and favorable ballpark.
  11. OF Justin Upton - Extrapolate this considerable talent's line from 2009 and you get a tasty line of 99-31-101-24-.300 ... in his first full season.
  12. 1B Miguel Cabrera - Will endure an underwhelming season by Cabrera standards. Will feel the loss of Granderson, Polanco, et al.
  13. OF Carl Crawford - I loaded up on Crawfords in 2008 and was rewarded handsomely ("trophied" in all nine leagues). I've always been bullish on young gun. To some, he still hasn't shaken off his inability to contribute in the power numbers, but when you exclude his 2008 campaign marred by injury, you get averages of 97-14-73-55-.304 as five-year averages, or, Jose Reyes in his prime. Draft this guy and you're near set on speed; Tampa Bay has always proven they'll run leading the league in steals the past two years.
  14. SP Tim Lincecum - Has improved on-field in each of the past three seasons. Unanimous first pitcher off everyone's board, deservedly so.
  15. 3B David Wright - It seems a crime to have him ranked outside of the top 8 but assuming the 27 year old rebounds, the discount will yield a tremendous value for those buying. The drop-off is unattractive but give him 2010 to redeem himself.
  16. OF Grady Sizemore - This 27 year old cat will never hit .295 (well prove me wrong, Grady) but the rest of his line is exceptional. Barring injury, this guy has 108-30-92-32-.282 written all over him.
  17. SS Jose Reyes - Bright outlook: Per David Lennon of New York Newsday, Reyes will be running at full-speed in January and hasn't experienced any pain thus far.
  18. C Joe Mauer - Undeniably gifted backstop will, without question, regress in home runs. AVG will carry your team, imperative if you're carrying Howard, Dunn, etc.
  19. OF Matt Kemp - If Kemp weren't slotted in the seventh spot, he'd go higher. I have him projected for numbers comparable to Sizemore.
  20. OF Matt Holliday - Everyone's roto posterboy in Mile High, everyone (rightfully) questions him and his credibility upon his arrival in Oakland, everyone and their grandmother's favorite roto saviour in St. Louis. Everyone, including myself, is interested in seeing what comes out of Holliday's massive offseason deal. My personal call: continued progression.
  21. 3B Mark Reynolds - I'm not a buyer, personally, but there's no denying he can be an asset for a lot of fantasy teams. To get him this late, you're virtually ensured 70 home runs and 30 steals at this point in the draft.
  22. OF Jason Bay - Too high? Questionable call? Nearing the end of the second round, pair him up with an early draft pick and you've got 200-75-205-25-.285. I don't want to second guess myself out of this pick.
  23. SS Troy Tulowitzki - He'll go much higher in 2011 drafts if he's able to duplicate his outstanding roto-friendly line of 2009.
  24. SP Roy Halladay - Upgrades in team's competitiveness, schedule, and pressure (a good thing).
  25. C/1 Victor Martinez - I'm convinced his value derives solely on his being a catcher; otherwise, Votto, Youk and Sandoval bring more to the table.
  26. 1B Joey Votto - Capable of posting similar numbers to fellow lefty Todd Helton in his prime.
  27. SP Felix Hernandez - Correcting his mechanical flaws during the 2008 offseason did wonders for his stats.
  28. SS Jimmy Rollins - I want to go even lower but Rollins' documented roto contributions has me at an impasse.
  29. 1B/3B - Kevin Youkilis - The heart of the BoSox lineup now runs through this guy. The third base eligibility is huge because if you whiffed early on third basemen, here's your opportunity to nab 97-32-110-4-.308. The floor's nice here; losing Bay ... not so much.
  30. 1B Justin Morneau - With Mauer, Kubel, Span and Cuddyer coming off enjoyable 2009 seasons, Morneau seemingly finally has the supporting cast to break out.
  31. SP CC Sabathia - He pitched remarkably well down the stretch compiling a 11-2 record with a 2.74 ERA and a K/9 of over 9 after the break.
  32. 1B Adrian Gonzalez - Conversely, when compared to Morneau, Gonzalez lacks the supporting cast to truly post an obscene roto line. If he gets traded, his stock rises significantly, needless to say.
  33. OF Jayson Werth - Put together a quiet 36/20 line in 2009. Consider him Sizemore Lite.
  34. OF Curtis Granderson - Relatively young, favorable ballpark, juggernaut lineup ... Granderson regains his groove back.
  35. OF Jacoby Ellsbury - The steals are great, but the lack of balance in his 5x5 line makes him a hard addition to a team (I'd rather pass and go 25/25 if I have a little speed already on my roster). If you're looking for strictly a burner, wait, then get Bourn or Figgins at a substantial discount.
  36. 1B/3B Pablo Sandoval - Kung-Fu Panda has been a productive hitter throughout his baseball career at all levels. If he can swipe 5-8 bags a season, he'll be a top 40 player. The additions of DeRosa and Huff will only help.
  37. SP Dan Haren - Haren and Verlander are almost interchangeable as the fifth starter off the board. I prefer Haren because of his overall consistency. When you draft him, you know you're getting above-average numbers in four cats.
  38. OF Ichiro - His speed's in decline but he still provides a healthy roto line. With the acquisition of Figgins, it should lessen the pressure on Suzuki so look for another decent season from #51, the hitting machine.
  39. 2B Dustin Pedroia - Concluded somewhat disappointing 2009 campaign with 13 home runs in his final four months, as opposed to two in his first three. Prime age (27) and SS-eligible soon (h/t Funston). This is simply a gut call on Pedroia.
  40. 2B Brian Roberts - I have Pedroia slightly ahead of Roberts due to the lineup, youth but I trust Roberts a lot more to deliver a fantasy relevant line as per his usual.
  41. OF Lance Berkman - Don't call it a comeback. I been here for years. Yes, yes you have, Berkman. Your current ADP is 58.11. Seems disrespectful to a slugger one season removed from a zesty 114-29-106-18-.312 roto line.
  42. SP Johan Santana - If this were the Yahoo! Big Board, I'd get at least 25 comments flaming me on my decision to have Santana ranked in the top 50. They'd also question my credibility. And ask for my job. So thankfully this isn't the BB. I do truly believe, though, that Santana rebounds in 2010 and delivers meaningful numbers. Not brilliant ones like he did when he was in his prime, but enough to be ranked ahead of Verlander, and, barring injury, Greinke, too.
  43. 3B Ryan Zimmerman - 2009 was likely his ceiling. That's still one helluva line. His numbers will probably mirror Aramis' but he's the safer play.
  44. SP Zack Greinke - How does last year's Cy Young winner get ranked below the damaged Santana, the unproven Hernandez, and the uninspiring Haren? Greinke will not achieve the level of success that he did a year back. I'd have him a lot lower but I feel obligated to keep him in the top 50 to, you know, keep this thing relatively credible.
  45. 2B Brandon Phillips - As a frequent Phillips owner, I can tell you I endure persistent bouts of self-loathing. It's brutal to own him. In roto, you know what you're going to get but to own him is not a fun ride.
  46. OF Bobby Abreu - Annual 100-15-100-25-.295 line is unappreciated.
  47. 3B Aramis Ramirez - Prior to last year's miserable campaign which featured ailments, Aramis was the model of consistency. I'll take the over on 135 games so he'll have some sort of fantasy impact. Don't sleep on this guy.
  48. SP Justin Verlander - I don't completely trust him, and the Tigers lost some key players this offseason, but this guy is a high K/9 pitcher and a proven winner regardless.
  49. OF Carlos Quentin - A return to form is in order for this 27 year old slugger. Does he reach or elipse his 2008 totals? Unlikely. But reportedly the plantar fasciitis he battled throughout last season has healed entirely. He's also playing for a contract this year.
  50. OF Adam Jones - Displayed his talents last season showing what he had to offer. Still only 22, Jones was having a breakthrough season until injuries struck. Extrapolate his numbers through 119 games and you get 113-26-96-14-.277. Definitely a top 50 line.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

*Whifff* That's the sound of these players falling short of expectations and failing to justify their ADPs

The majority of these guys won't be busts; I simply question where they're currently projected to go. According to ADP, in the first round you'll land a stud. Then things get murky. Here is my list of players who will either not produce to where their ADP warrant, or players who are being mock-selected grossly early when value is to be had later. Let's jump in.

Joe Mauer (13.91, R2 P1) - A catcher near the end of the first round is blasphemy. In short, if you draft Mauer this early, you're destined for an eternity swimming in a lake of fire. You're going to hell. Throughout the 2009 season, I argued with experts who were trying to make the case for Mauer going in the first. He's in his prime, he'll always hit for a superb average and he'll contribute meaningful numbers in runs and runs batted, but those 28 home runs are a mirage. It'll regress. He won't justify his early second round draft position and you don't want that kind of uncertainty tied to such a critical pick.

Jimmy Rollins (22.55, R2 P8) - Doesn't Rollins seem a lot older than 31? So he's going near the end of the second round ... not bad value - shortstop is generally perceived as a scarce position - but pass on him and take Jason Barlett (lost in the rankings at 104.14). I urge you to select a Grady Sizemore- or Justin Upton-type talent at the end of the second. If you're like me, you're also worried about Rollins' ability to sustain his production and stay healthy.

Zack Greinke (27.42, R3 P2) - This guy was brilliance personified during the 2009 season. Like my boy Felix Hernandez (who was robbed of the Cy Young award in my biased opinion), Greinke managed to fix the flaws in his mechanics and delivered exceptional numbers and tremendous value for fantasy owners. Two things regarding Greinke: One, you're looking for this year's Greinke later in the draft. His numbers surely will regress and competing on an inferior Royals club is not a good look. Second, at this point in the draft, generally the second pitcher gets taken off the board. Make it a proven one. I would take Sabathia's documented success (27.70); Felix's competitive team and the cavernous Safeco (28.65); and the workhorse, Halladay (33.27) over Greinke. Or I'd wait. Starting pitching is deep when compared to the hitters available.

Aaron Hill (46.69, R4 P11) - If you're looking at "Hill, Aaron" on draft day and fighting yourself about it, stop. Get it together. Move on, friend. My knock on Hill isn't even about the ADP - you can select him and I wouldn't even be mad at that - it's the uncertainty of his production and ineptitude of the Jays lineup (I think they'll struggle this year). The 24 home run power is real and he's an outstanding hitter but I'd probably take Granderson or Sandoval or Dunn here if I missed on the top 5 second basemen.

[note: I've met Aaron Hill personally. He was riding the subway to the game, iPod in hand, looking particularly pissed. This was in 2008. Why was he so upset? Was it because he was out for the greater part of 2008, or was it because he was riding the TTC to the ballgame? Intimidating fella. I would have asked for an autograph that day, if I didn't think, in return, he'd floor me.]

Michael Bourn (65.58, R6, P4) - Bourn in the sixth? Really? The new wave of fantasy players must have inflated his ADP. He's a burner, no question. But aside from steals, what else does Bourn really offer? He's marginal in four of five cats. Take Nelson Cruz, wait on Victorino. Avoid Bourn as if your life (slight over exaggeration) fantasy title depended on it.

Jonathan Papelbon (68.53, R6, P5), Mariano Rivera (69.07, R6, P6), Jonathan Broxton (69.89, R6, P7), early closers - Extract value out of your relievers by waiting on the position. Position runs are tempting, yes, (why I drafted Fuentes in the ninth of my mock draft disregarding my "no closers before the tenth round" policy) but every single year effective closers emerge for a plethora of reasons: closer A is battling an injury; closer B overtakes closer A due to closer A's sheer ineffectiveness; closer B's exceptional play gets noticed and soon it's a closers battle; or you can be the Washington Nationals and roll out five closers, have two closers reclaim the job twice, and eventually settle on a two-tier closer system where each closer splits one inning.

Select a position player, take a closer in the tenth and twelfth and scour the waiver wire. Roughly half the league changes its closer at some point during the season.

Carlos Lee (70.60, R6, P9) - I finally get a discount on Lee and now I do the polar opposite of an endorsement. I subconsciously draft Lee every year in multiple leagues. That's unlikely to change this year. In my mock draft, though, Lee ended up as my third outfielder. There's depth in the outfield (know when to pounce) and value to be had. If you pass on Lee, presumably Abreu will fall to you next round. Ibanez and Hunter will be there along with similar production out of your OF3 spot after pick 100. This was a painstakingly difficult call for me to make.

Tommy Hanson (83.29, R7, P10) - Solely based on the fact that Beckett will likely still be around. No one questions Hanson's vast potential; you just don't build a fantasy rotation around this guy. Not this early, either. Peavy, reportedly 100%, is a wild card here, too.

Álex Ríos (109.01, R9, P9) was given some consideration in this spot but he can easily outproduce his ADP. Still, go pitcher.

Billy Wagner (146.92, R13, P1) - He's 38 so this can't end well. Take a younger cat.

Carlos Delgado (155.20, R13, P8) - You've put yourself in a bad situation if he's your Util. According to ADP, Rafael Soriano and Bobby Jenks will still be around. You can go that route, or consider a catcher if you missed out.

Juan Rivera (183.67, R15, P8) - Give me the under on 105 games played. Gamble on Ludwick (if he gets at-bats in spring training) or pick Beltre or an arm. Weeks looks tempting late in the draft.
Photos via Getty Images

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Unforgiving assult

It's so frustrating to see athletes complaining of the perceived lack of integrity that is running up the score. If you feel disrespected by another team putting up an additional 7 on you, stop it. As one cohesive unit, prevent it. You hear these stories annually in virtually every sport that keeps recorded stats.

Look no further than the 2007 Patriots as a prime example. Ruthless, aggressive calls in the fourth when the games were out of reach, going for it on fourth down when leads were insurmountable, and throwing the ball when pounding the rock was the conventional call. Teams were upset. This is excusable as the irrevocable damage was done early, but is mercilessly violating the Bills in the wrong? Simply, no. If the offense is out there to make you out as fools, don't let them. Defend that down. If the Patriots decided to go for it on fourth and the Bills managed to stop them, move on, you got the ball. It's a legal football call but is it immoral? Demoralizing a team like that? Hardly. Do your job as a defense; it's a football call.

What's the defense's argument here? That they were humbled to the point where another 7 on the stat-sheet would be uncalled for? The Browns endure this kind of suffering on a weekly basis. Get over yourselves.

If the score is 42-3, and the Saints are throwing in the fourth quarter, how is this disrespectful to your defense? Your defense just allowed 42 points.

This is professional sports. The reasons for piling on the points include: tiebreaker advancement (in tournament hockey, for example), sending a deafening message to the rest of the league (to gain a psychological edge), experimenting with play calls, the competitive nature of the game, among others. Among others, the competitive nature of the game. I play essentially every sport out there and if I felt that my opponent(s) were mailing it in, even in a decisive match, I'd question their competitiveness. I wouldn't want pity. I'm better than that.

In fantasy it's entirely different, though. I have seen close match-ups, where Team A benches their RB, for example, because they have already ensured victory. Different context here. I would feel disrespectful in this case study as Team B. Benching a guy should be frowned upon in fantasy etiquette. It gives off the impression that you've won, the match-up's over, and that that Monday start is unnecessary. Logically speaking, that's true, but it appears arrogant beyond comprehension, at least in my opinion. The other part to this is that you're playing for overall points scored in the standings. You don't want to lose a tiebreaker because you benched a starter in Week 4 because you had that week wrapped up.

Ask yourself, Brooking: how did you get to the point (i.e. trailing 27-3) where running up the score even becomes an issue? The questions shouldn't revolve around morality and sportsmanship; what's relevant is that your defense can't stop their offense.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Early rounds of a mock draft

[this is pretty much a blue print for myself as well for furture mocks/drafts]

Sixth pick (R1 P6): When you're drafting fifth or sixth, you go in knowing that you'll come out with a solid overall contributor in the first round. Initially, I chose the sixth spot to take Teixeira specifically. Then I came to my senses and narrowed it down to Braun or Utley. Position scarcity is the paramount factor in a fantasy draft. You can safely assume that 12 teams will finish a draft with a capable first baseman. Of course, you can argue that you could then fill your Util with another masher, to which I say, why not fill it with a complementary player there, a 5-tool cat? There's depth later in the draft at Util.

Ultimately, I went with Utley. Teixeira, in my mind, projects as a late first rounder. You can wait on first (base).

R2 P7: Jose Reyes. Going power-speed in rounds one and two is a classic strategy, one I employ often. You complement a big bat with a burner and you have balance. I'll be honest, I tried looking for any tidbit on Reyes regarding his recovery and found nothing up until this pick was made. If he's fine in spring training, landing him in the second round looks like a remarkable steal (no pun intended).

R3 P6: Justin Upton. On draft day, you'll have to fight others and pay a premium. I will literally sacrifice my well-being and start altercations to get to this guy. He'll likely go earlier than this. I have him in front of Bay (who went the pick before); Rollins, no doubt (three picks before); and Sizemore (four picks ahead of Upton). There's a lot to love here. You're at the point in the draft where you want to start filling up those outfield spots. Three can look daunting if you miss here. The kid has the ability and pedigree to finish the season as a top 20 player. And he hits in a potent lineup in front of Mark Reynolds. In front of Mark Reynolds. Nuff said.

R4 P7: Adrian Gonzalez. I'm always willing to overbet my hand on Gonzalez. He's a consistent source of power. Come draft season, he'll go higher, of course. Morneau went at R4 P1; I was flipping through each cornerman's player page, alternating at break-neck speed. Youk was also up for consideration here (surprisingly the two Boston fans skipped on him and he went R4 P12).

R5 P6: Curtis Granderson. He has the ability and lineup support to post a top 30 season. The short porch, formidable lineup and track record are all intriguing. I've never really been a Grand fan but there's a good shot he'll outproduce his ADP. I wouldn't overbid but at this juncture, passing on Grand would be doing injustice to one's draft.

R6 P7: The first five rounds were simple. No troubles. Picks made without hesitation. Here's the pick I regret. I'm a fan of his; been drafting him for years, and have had considerable success with him on an a-mak15 roster. Carlos Lee. The note I made here was: "a. ramirez will not drop that far [in this year's drafts]. settled for lee." It's not that I don't expect solid production - because I do, but ... well, keep reading.

Middle of the sixth: "carlos lee taken too early. filled up outfield when considerable value was to be had later in the draft."

R7 P6: Josh Johnson. "see? ibanez still would be there. felt i should start building a rotation. came down to peavy v. johnson." In hindsight, it shouldn't have been a debate.

Middle of the seventh: "six more picks until my turn. beckett would be an easy selection here approaching the eighth."
"three more picks; beckett still there."
"crap. taken in front of me."

R8 P7: Cole Hamels. With Beckett stolen selected, I took my contingency plan, Cole Hamels. Not an overly attractive pick but I've been a fan of his since before he broke into the league. I scouted this dude before he made the big club. "an a-mak favorite, Cole Hamels, gets drafted on grounds of consistency."

R9 P6: Brian Fuentes. I generally never draft closers before the 10th round. No matter how impressive the stats, I push the saves aside until usually the 11th or so rounds. I follow that rule because I know that come May, porous relievers will show their true colors and a couple of studs will hit the IR - it happens every year. Every season roughly half of the closers in the majors will either lose their job due to injury, sheer ineffectiveness, a combination of the two or will be overtaken by an productive reliever in the pen. Fuentes will get saves, though. This was a go-with-the-reliever-run type of pick, followed by subsequent feelings of intense self-loathing. "into the ninth, peavy still there. terribly tempting but sprung for closer Fuentes. grabbing a util was an option. billingsley and chipper targets."

Middle of the ninth: "hey, lilly's still down here. perhaps billingsley can and should wait."

R10 P7: Torii Hunter. Hunter fills my Util spot. He was coveted and considered in the ninth as well. Hunter, Ibanez, Damon and Abreu are perennially overlooked in the roto game. They're not flashy, no, but they deliver the numbers required to win championships. Hunter in the tenth round is tremendous value. "we're into the tenth. torii hunter is good value here. regrets of lee resurface. can't quit the guy, evidently."

R11 P6: Chipper Jones. Here's where I wished I had Aramis Ramirez back in the sixth. Chipper is vanilla. He'll give you a quality 100 games and change, but often, you'll be forced to fish the waiver wire for talent at third and in competitive leagues, you're stuck with scrubs. Good luck. Well, good luck to me; I see a lot of Chipper in my future. I draft him almost subconsciously, likewise with Lee. I have a spot to fill at third, though, and Chipper is a modest pick in the eleventh. "i know damon has yet to sign with a ballclub but in a roto league, he's money. outstanding value still available in the eleventh."

Middle of the eleventh: "i look at lee. i look at the available kubel. i die a little inside. i chose chipper at R11 P6 almost without hesitation. billingsley was given some thought here but lilly's still out there."

R12 P7: Ryan Franklin. Another closer who will notch saves if based solely on the team they play for. Franklin's ratios will take a hit, but he was one of the last remaining dependable relievers. I trust him more than Billy Wagner, Mike Gonzalez and David Aardsma (though Aardsma led me to three or four titles last season and was impressively consistent by my recollection). "quite a few starters remain so franklin was a logical choice. i need a starter next round, without question."

Middle of the twelvth: "i'm convinced you could build a formidable staff from here on out if you're playing the h2h format. baker goes, lilly goes, and i autoselect garza."

Take a catcher somwhere around the 14th round. You don't want to be stuck with underwhelming options and the uncertainty that is Doumit.

I know baseball drafts are won in the latter rounds but this is when I excused myself for personal obligations. Apologies.

Photo via US Presswire

Yahoo! Fantasy Sports is delightful. Seemingly all my friends who play fantasy sports can be found on Yahoo! as well. I'm loyal -- the insight is top notch; the drafting process, effortless; the features, plentiful. Changing sites has never crossed my mind.

Early winter, fellow commenter, Trigga Play, suggested a dozen of us give Fantasy Football on a shot. I wasn't opposed.

The draft: troublesome. Picks that were made would suddenly disappear from the existing list. You would have to refresh the draft room entirely to see who went the last round. This was frustrating. Beyond that, the chat was acting up and when I first entered the room, I was lost. "Where's the damn chat function?" I would wonder. Eventually the chat function fixed itself but the pick log was still a mess.

The concept: simple. We started in Week 11. Not sure Yahoo! even offers league start-ups in Week 11 (and rightfully so, if they don't), but the league ranges until Week 17. Each team gets roughly 20 players and the highest scoring players at each position will be counted. The way our settings were laid out, you'd have to "play" one QB, two RB, three WR, two RB/WR, one TE, one PK. Of course, you'll exceed that those numbers in picks so you can carry five RBs, for example. But only the top 4 in scoring will be counted.

The strategy: be resourceful. Carry two QBs. No need for more than three PK. Depending your strength at TE (I was weak), consider carrying three (Watson, Heath Miller, Zach Miller -- My squad's name aptly titled, "What does GREATNESS taste like? Miller Lite" ... it finished second). What you direct your attention to is the voids at RB and WR since you can play seven starts - your best seven starts.

Observations: I really like the concept: taking the best overall contributors of that week. The whole not-making-any-transactions-whatsoever setting was foreign to me, though. No trades, no adds, no drops (so Braylon Edwards was excluded from the draft list entirely).

Final thoughts: the final standings was shockingly close. Four teams, six points within each other. If you're playing for Week 17, draft accordingly. If you start drafting mid-season, scoop up players with remarkably high potential in that final week. Or avoid Wes Welker because he'll end you in Week 17. Damn it.