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Wednesday 24th May 2017

I have been a big Ervin Santana fan, going back a number of years. I traded for Erv in my Strat-O-Matic league three years ago, and it was there I began to appreciate a fourth starter of Santana's resume, not just in Strat, but in any deep league.

If you look to my pre-season Overvalued/Undervalued list at USAT, I gave Santana his props, and have him in at least three leagues. Needless to say, Erv's fantastic start has been great, not just for my teams, but there is no shame in suggesting a guy might be good, and then he is.

But, I did not know that Santana and Fernando Valenzuela are the only two pitchers in history to start eight games, and have at least six quality starts over which one run or less was scored. I learned this while watching the Twins on Wednesday as I looked forward to the surprisingly fun Minnesotans taking on the equally curious Rockies.

No sooner had the local broadcasters announced this stat--emphasizing the .129 BA and six total runs scored against Erv--a homer was hit, followed by a double, some more mischief, and suddenly it was the third inning and Erv was behind 3-0.

I have written about this phenomenon over the years it seems, that any time I watch my players, especially pitchers, it is the kiss of fantasy death. And, it happens every year. Just this year, early in the season, I turned on Sonny Gray, who was cruising into the third, but then allowed the archtypical walk, seeing eye single, questionable call ground out that was called safe, a double to the gap, and then home run, all with two outs. So, instead of quietly going into the fourth inning with maybe a run allowed, my ERA and WHIP appear to have taken a Barry Bonds supply of steroids, adding five each of hits and runs, all of which occurred as soon as I turned the game on.

But, as a corollary, on nights when I cannot watch, like last Friday when my band was playing, I do better, confirming the hex my viewing holds over my players. For, last Friday, I finish a strong fifth in the Tout Daily, and won the Mastersball Daily, and climbed a spot in the Tout standings while cranking out rockabilly.

Now, a rational mind might ask, "Are there not games where you have no shares in any players?" The answer, thanks to the formats of AL and NL-only, Mixed, Scoresheet, Strat-O-Matic tossed in a salad with DFS dressing is, "No." And, of course, this plague is not limited to baseball, as in I take personal responsibility for all of Jay Cutler's career picks, but since baseball is a six times a week game, there are simply more opportunities for the infliction of pain.

Some of the issue is that I love watching baseball (and listening on the car radio, I confess), so it is hard to turn off. And, even if I do, I was raised by Eastern European Jews, so that no matter what I do, I feel guilty. Meaning, if I skulk to a different channel to hide behind Mariska Hargitay's skirts in "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit," I know I am letting my readers down by not judiciously watching every swing of every pitch.

What compounds the issue is baseball is such a voodoo oriented game when it comes to superstitions and streaks and winning and losing. We need look no further than Crash Davis' moving "Always respect the streak" speech from "Bull Durham" to confirm this. And, we all know how taboo it is to simply think "no-hitter" when one is in process.

However, the issue is again "What to do?" The best I can do is coin the word #fanticide (which can double as a hashtag), which is defined as:

"Turning on the TV to watch your players, who are performing well. However, as soon as the game is turned on, your players implode. Either your pitcher gives up a two-run bomb, or your batter hits into a double play."

That is #fanticide. It doesn't just kill me softly, it kills my team as well.

Holler at me @lawrmichaels.

I've been thinking a lot about the streaming of players both in fantasy, and extrapolating those thoughts to the Majors the last few weeks, for the topic has come up during my new talk show on the FNTSY Sports Network, The Tout Wars Hour (each Thursday at 9:00 PM, ET).

During discussions over the week, my partner Justin Mason and I talked not so much about just streaming pitchers with Peter Kreutzer, Steve Gardner, and Jeff Erickson, but the thought of players in a shallow league basically drafting a team and streaming the hot hand in and out of one's lineup, using the reserve pool and FAAB as a replacement path, is something we have all witnessed.

To be sure, there is nothing illegal or I suppose even wrong with drafting Ender Inciarte on draft day in a 10-team mixed league, snatching up Aaron Judge a week into the season, and playing Judge theoretically till he gets cold. Then said owner would dump Judge back into the free-agent pool and pick up say Danny Valencia (laugh if you will, but Valencia's numbers from May through August are historically wicked).

And, if Valencia, true to form cools off after a few weeks in the lineup, said owner would drop the Seattle utilityman in deference to ideally another hot bat--perhaps Judge or Inciarte if still there--and fuels his or her team as such. That means all 23 players are subject to dumping, and theoretically recall at any time over the course of the season.

Playing like this, as suggested, is certainly within the rules of most leagues, but at the same time, the process seems contrary to the intent of a league in the first place, and that is to try and draft the best team on draft day, augmenting and filling holes as necessary via that same free agent pool.

I do have to say that it makes me think because the latter is the game I want to play, and truthfully, I play in deep leagues as a rule, so there is very little opportunity to even try a tactic like "roster streaming", as I have dubbed it.

Similarly, I am in general against making rules that favor or inhibit any particular kind of strategy, meaning I am very conservative thinking. You have a tight set of rules and constitution within your league, and that set of guidelines becomes much more constant than dynamic with tweaks and changes every year.

Furthermore, I think that roster streaming is a tough way to try and win much of anything, not to mention it could be a lot of work relative to the payoff.

However, innovation and thinking out of the box are things I admire, even if the path at hand is not one I conjured or employed. However, think about coaches like Bill Walsh and Bill Belichick, or managers like Bobby Cox and Whitey Herzog, and understand the unorthodox approach they took not only led to success, but widespread change in the industry. Meaning I am hard-pressed to sit in judgement.

Which brings me, seemingly inexplicably, to the Colorado Rockies and their pitching staff, which as inexplicably sit at third in the Majors with a 4.26 ERA coupled with a third-best in league 5.2 WAR.

What is particularly compelling about the success of the Colorado pitchers this season is that the team is 22nd in the Majors in whiffs per nine at 7.67. My truth is that I always thought the only way a Rockies starter would really be successful was if he was dominant, and going into this year I thought a push towards Jon Gray, who bagged 185 whiffs over 168 frames last year, was the way to go.

Gray was supposed to lead the pitching staff this year, but instead he has been injured while the likes of Tyler Chatwood, Kyle Freeland and Antonio Senzatela have led the Rockies to a first-place, 23-13 mark through Thursday. And, they have been doing it with ground balls.

In fact, Freeland and Chatwood are among the league leaders in ground balls induced with 66.7% and 55.7% outs recorded on the ground for the hurlers, suggesting the very opposite of my solution for pitching success in Colorado. In fact, the Rockies lead the league in ground ball rate at 55.2% and are last at fly ball rate at 22.7%.

Of course, just six weeks into the season, it is too early to tell, but it seems to me three or four off-speed ground ball pitchers, coupled with one hard thrower to move around in the rotation, along with one each of a lefty and righty ground baller and power pitcher for set-up and/or closing seems like it could be an effective way to go.

Of course, pairing a hard-thrower with an off-speed guy is nothing new in MLB, but employing the use to such an extreme is not something that has been exploited. 

Either way, it will indeed be interesting to see how the Rockies fare as the season progresses. And better yet, if it works, will the other 29 teams think about following suit just like using the shift, or situational pitchers, or any other like tactic?

Better yet, it will be equally fun seeing how hitters try to adjust back, for we all know adjustment is always on the menu for hitters and pitchers. It is the name of the game.

Whether you agree or not, you can always find me @lawrmichaels, and do tune into the Tout Wars Hour. Great guests, lots of strategy, covering baseball, football, hockey, golf, hoops, soccer, and NCAA!

About 35 years ago, after I had known my friend Mark Berenberg for a few years, after one kind of baseball discussion or another, he said to me, "Lawr, you should have a radio show: you'd be good at it."

I laughed this off for a number of reasons. I had a job, at the time working for the City of Oakland, and though I played some strategy board games, the closest I got to the field at the Oakland Coliseum was on Fireworks Night when management let us on the field, and I knew no one in the industry, let alone had anything in my resume or background that pointed to any kind of a life or career in the baseball industry.

Within a few years of Mark's statement, i was married, and with a family, and though I wrote, and had season tickets to the Athletics, due to my own life with illness, and the congenital birth issues surrounding my son Joey, keeping a straight job with solid medical benefits all around was the path I felt I must follow.

I had been playing Strat-O-Matic for a few years by then, and in the late 80's was pulled into my first Fantasy League, and I enjoyed pretty good local success. Then, by virtue of a quirk, I started writing for John Benson in 1993.

During that time, the strange confluence of two things--the growing interest in Fantasy games, and at the same time, the proliferation of the Internet--changed a bunch of the parms to get into sports writing, a field I sort of joined vicariously via Benson. But, in 1996, while I was between jobs, I did indeed learn some HTML and started CREATiVESPORTS, and from there worked for and with enough folks in the fantasy and sports industries that I started to get some recognition for my writing, analysis, and playing skills. 

With that the exposure continued and I wrote for my own site, but a bunch of others--Fox Sports, MSNBC, MLB.com, Ron Shandler--and more and as the Internet wormed its way into every fabric of our lives, similarly so did Fantasy and commissioner services and changes in the game and on and on.

Over that time period, radio shows were dangled before me, or should we say my mouth and imagination, which are always on the prowl, but nothing ever came to fruition. Either a lot of expensive equipment was necessary and it was up to me to pay for the electronics needed to operate from home, or the time slots, or the format, or one thing or another got in the way.

Still, Fantasy grew like crazy, and so did the Internet as a vehicle for listening to music, the radio, and virtually every other field of entertainment known to man, and shows featuring the likes of Scott Engel, Matthew Berry, Stephania Bell, Ray Flowers, Howard Bender and Kyle Elfrink flourished via ESPN, Sirius/XM, Fantasy Alarm, RotoExperts, RotoWire, and so on.

I was often a guest on the shows hosted by these folks, happy to talk baseball and music and movies, and always having the most fun, and I was told I was always good on the radio, but still a chance to really yak my butt off for millions was somewhere out there, but not in front of me.

But, a few years back, when DFS really started to become mainstream, my partner Todd suggested a Tout Wars podcast, and somehow last off-season this suggestion came before the Tout board, and per the board, I began to explore the possibilities, and did so with Mike Cardano, who runs the administrative side of the FNTSY Sports Network.

Thus the Tout Wars Hour was born (although in truth, the show runs two). As a sidekick, I went to my pal Justin Mason, the head honcho at Fantasy Friends With Benefits, for a few reasons. First, he is a good guy with whom I not only enjoy talking, but with whom I have an easy time playing off of, and it seems that is mutual. Second, he knows his stuff, which you can confirm by checking out the site and their great podcast. Finally, he is 30 years younger than I, meaning he represents the generation that is now exerting influence upon the industry just as mine did 25 years ago.

Last Thursday, we had our premiere show, though thanks to some shakedown technical issues, the show did not run live, but this coming Thursday, from 8-10 PM ET, we will indeed be live, not just talking fantasy, but focusing on trades, prospects, and drafting, and most important, on strategy and tactics.

And, in doing this we will be talking with the writers and analysts you trust the most. We will have regular features with Doug Dennis (covering relief pitching), Matt Thompson (covering the minors), and of course Lord Z does get to join and talk about numbers for sure, and especially DFS and the NFBC.

So, somehow, nearly 35 years later, Mark's prophecy has come true. I am not sure how he knew, but, well, here we are. So, please do check us out. Big fun, lots of info, and the plan is to go way beyond baseball!

You can indeed follow me @lawrmichaels.

Last fall, as Jeff Erickson, Peter Kreutzer, Ron Shandler and I were planning out this year's recently held Tout Wars, we were trying to determine the participants for each league. During the discussion, Ron told us he was switching from the American League, in which I have played against him for nearly 20 years, to the Mixed League.

"I am afraid of the potential chaos the 10-day DL might cause in a deeper league" reasoned the BBHQ and league founder as to why he wanted to make the change, although as the leagues and game has changed, we have all tried to stay open and flexible with respect to who plays what, where.

The bottom line is that I did not give nearly so much thought to the negative impact Ron anticipated, but the reality is that as we complete the first month of play, The Bearded One was prophetic.

Among my two AL-only leagues, as I write, I have 11 players on the DL with very little in the free agent pool to try to skim any points from. However, in my two mixed leagues--the XFL and BARF--I have six down, although with a 40-man roster in one and four more in the other.

This suggests what Ron was saying was correct for the larger player pool not only reduces the chance that one of my guys will go down on one side, similarly there are more players available on either the reserve list or the free agent pool to ease the pain of a loss. For example, in both the XFL and BARF, I was able to cop Avisail Garcia out of the pool two weeks into the season.

I understand that roster management and injuries--like trades, suspensions, and slumps--are just aspects of the fantasy season that we must endure, and I am ok with that. But, it seems like teams are going wacky overboard crazy using the new short-term Disabled List.

Certainly, I am not advocating injured players muscling through a problem, rather than allowing said issue to rest rather than be exacerbated. But, I do continue to wonder not so much what has happened to our whiny selves and bodies, but where this will end?

The last thing I wish to sound like is a crankly old Abraham Simpson character (I did begin a hashtag a few years ago called #iambecomingabesimpson), screaming about how the old days were when men were men and how crappy everything is today. For, even though I have gotten fussier about some things as I have aged, similarly I love going to new places, trying new things, listening to new music, and simply trying to stay open to different ideas. And, I love my iPhone and Blue Tooth stuff and other electronic toys the age has brought us.

But again, DNA does not change that much over say 50 years, so how come there were four-man rotations where guys could actually throw 250 innings, and hitters did not break hamate bones and no one had rotator cuffs, and so on? And, how come so many guys suddenly need Tommy John surgery?

I think the answer to that can be found on television where ads for Ciala, Lyrica, Humira, Stelara, Chantix, and Eliquis generated $4.5 billion worth of revenues in 2014 as Pharma tried to convince us how screwed up our bodies were, and how only their compound could cure things that generally some rest, exercise, and a good diet will fix.

Over the course of my 54 years of Crohns, I have taken a lot of meds, including Stelara and Humira--neither of which worked even close to as well as CBDs--each of which cost over $1200 per injection while a three-month supply bottle of CBDs is $43--and while again I don't want to knock advances made in science and medicine, in a culture where no one is responsible for anything, I guess it shouldn't surprise me that rather than work on fixing a personal issue ourselves, we simply want the Dr. to "prescribe something that makes it all better with a minimal amount of effort from you or me."

I do get that ballplayers are extremely expensive investments, and that human beings are funny and often fragile creatures, but somehow, in the land where everyone gets a trophy and everyone wears a helmet and everyone is a potential enemy, we have lost it and become wimps.

Let me be more specific, although I am not saying this in a political sense, but one thing that Donald Trump has done for our culture is make it acceptable to say the word "pussy" publicly irrespective of meaning.

So, we have not really become wimps. We are pussies. God help us.

If you hate what I wrote, you can tell me @lawrmichaels.

Diane likes to watch the Investigation Discovery channel, which I refer to as "The Death Channel." Along with standards like "48 Hours," and "On the Case With Paula Zahn," there are some shows that poke even more to the unknown and dark side of the human experience. 

"Who the Bleep did I Marry," and especially "Deadly Devotions" are programs that truly look at how we can be exploited by the more devious side of society, and though these shows are serious, dealing with murder and omnipotent and arrogant behaviors, similarly are they goofy. The shows are silly in that invariably there are a bunch of dumbells trying to pull off major crimes, thinking they can outsmart forensics and video tape with flimsy excuses and rationales.

For some sad reason, the suicide of former Patriots Tight End Aaron Hernandez last Wednesday, someone tossed off by the rest of society as if he were one of the Investigation Discovery shows incarnate, living with the title "Evil Kin", reminded me of all this and the choices we make and how things can simply go way wrong all over.

I still remember vividly how excited Fantasy Football players were following Hernandez' solid 2012 season when he ripped off a 42-yard run, showing all of the world what a deadly weapon he was, able to run, catch, and block. Hernandez paired with the equally dangerous Rob Gronkowski gave the Patriots a double Tight End combo with possibilities like no other team before.

That off-season, the Pats upped the committment to Hernandez, giving him a $40 million five-year contract extension. Truthfully, the thought of a pair of young, talented, and aggressive receivers under the tuteledge of Bill Belichick, who manipulates his roster and talent better than any other coach ever it seems, was too much to imagine.

But, as the Chief Dan George--a character in the great film "Little Big Man"--said, "sometimes the wind don't blow and grass don't grow."

As it was, I was on a shuttle, riding from Midway Airport to downtown Chicago on the way to attending the FSTA Summer convention when the news broke that Hernandez had been busted in association with the murder of Odin Lloyd on June 26, 2013. At the convention that speculated on player performance, the coming football season, and athletes in general, there was certainly a ton of buzz and speculation surrounding the whole affair.

In the end, the whole story just seemed like another run of a special member of society--this time an athlete, rather than an actor or politician--having their own set of rules and accountabilities from the rest of us.

There was never a question how talented Hernandez was, being an All-American at the University of Florida, and winning the John Mackey award in 2009 as the best collegiate Tight End in the country. The receiver was then drafted in the fourth round in 2010, a day after the Pats selected Gronk as part of the same draft.

During his subsequent rookie year, Hernandez was the youngest rostered starter in the NFL and became the youngest player to catch over 100 yards of passes since 1960, completing his first full season with 45 receptions, 563 yards, and six scores. In 2011, Hernandez was a Pro Bowl alternate, but what he really did to catch our eye was run for 42 yards against the Giants to kick off Super Bowl XLVI.

But, clearly attitude and entitlement were also paralleling the talented but troubled receiver, who was linked to a felony battery charge following a bar fight in Gainesville in 2007, a double-shooting in Gainesville three months later, a 2012 Boston double homocide (for which Hernandez was ironically cleared just a few days before he took his life), a car shooting which cost a friend his sight in one eye on June 13, 2013, and then five days later, the murder of Odin Lloyd for which Hernandez suddenly took the fall.

I guess as with many celebrities, Hernandez simply felt he could do whatever he wanted and get away with just about anything, much like those who are eventually found culpable in shows like "Evil Kin," and surely, Hernandez was not only screaming for attention, but for someone or something to give him boundaries of behavior, something that never did happen until he went too far.

With his arrest and conviction, Hernandez was wiped clean of the NFL, of the Patriots, of Canton (who removed a photo of the young star scoring immediately following his arrest), and his death Wednesday probably tied together all the elements of a wasted life to the tune that most people reading that Hernandez had taken his own felt "good riddance."

And, I am not about to argue with them,  or suggest he was a soul worth saving. Although, in my view, we are all worth such salvation, irrespective of when it comes to us.

What bothers me so much about Hernandez and his meteoric ups and downs is how someone so talented, with everything in the world we would theoretically want to make us happy was not enough. The fame of the NFL, a $40 million contract, TV exposure, a partner and child (Hernandez and his partner Shayanna had a daughter Avielle in 2012) did not provide enough validation or confirmation of his existence that he had to kill and pretty much destroy the lives of at least four people--himself, Lloyd, his wife and daughter--in order to prove something that in the end meant nothing but tragedy and sorrow all around.

It is a sad commentary and reminder that certainly money and external success mean very little when push comes to shove. 

You can always find me @lawrmichaels.

 

I was sort of pissed last week when the Masters began.

I had picked big hitter Dustin Johnson to lead my DraftKings DFS Golf squad as we headed into the Masters, but Johnson slipped on some stairs a couple of days before the tournament began and tweaked his back, putting participation in jeopardy. Johnson said he was unsure whether or not he would be able to play.

I let things ride Wednesday night, but when I awoke Thursday morning I decided to adjust my roster and replace Johnson, moving around the golfers on my squad. 

This was just about 6 AM, Pacific Time, yet when I logged into DraftKings to make my moves, it was too late for by 9 AM, Eastern Time, the first foursomes were on the links and it was too late. That meant I was stuck with an empty slot before the weekend even began, and though admitedly the remainder of my selections were terrible, once I lost my most expensive player without a swing, it pretty much meant there was no way I would finish in the money on Masters Weekend.

The reality is this is not a new issue for me, as I equally resent leagues where the FAAB deadline is Midnight, Sunday, for that is just 9 PM Sunday where I live, and I tend to write and think along with spending time with Diane and often friends and family Sunday evenings. So, even if we are out, 9 is kind of early to have to remember for final moves and gyrations.

But, cerrtainly within the universes of LABR and Tout Wars, Midnight in New York is the rule of the land, and that is that.

I have lobbied to get this time changed, but without a whole lot of success. But, I am wondering if there might be some other ways to handle the issue. Here are some thoughts on how we might adjust that somewhat intransigent line.

Sunday night/Monday morning 1 AM ET: Of course, my brain went to Midnight California time, but that means 3 AM in the Big Apple and that deadline is really no fairer than 9 PM my time. But, move things back just an hour, and suddenly that extra hour helps me out, and well, New York is the City that Never Sleeps. Asking to stay up an extra hour ain't much.

Friday afternoon, 3 PM ET: Yikes, has Michaels lost his mind? Kind of, but not really. In the middle of the day at the end of the work week might seem like a strange time, but it adds an element of consciousness to the equation. As in we would have to set our iPhone pushes to remind us, but that sort of puts part of the process on equal time footing. Similarly, if you have until 7 PM ET to make moves, this allows for setting the roster up for the weekend. 

One might argue that Monday is the best day as that day begins the playing week, but the reality is that day is really arbitrary, for once a cycle of acquisitions and drops is in place, it doesn't matter any longer. For, players get hurt and go down and are brought up when they are far more than according to the day of the week.

Also, in addition to that Friday deadline, there could always be the rule to reset a lineup Monday morning, meaning the only real change is the time the transactions are processed.

Tuesday Midnight ET FAAB/Wednesday Game time open Waiver Pool: I suspect there are flaws in this one, but there are always adjustments. But I was thinking about how most of my football leagues work, and was wondering if there was a mid-week way to invoke the same kinds of moves, and opening the pool after the FAAB process adds a potentially fun wrinkle.

Daily Moves, 12 Midnight ET: Rather than weekly FAAB, owners could simply make moves, including FAAB purchases, nightly, just like big league clubs get to do. This adds an interesting edge with respect to how to manage FAAB over the course of the season, and allows for daily replacements, meaning a much more fluid free agent pool.

And, some leagues already operate under a variation of this guise. For example, the BARF League allows for daily roster moves, but we can pick up free agents only after a Sunday night waiver deadline that clears Monday morning.

I realize leagues and rules are--and always will be--both quirky and specific to the league and players, so real standardization of much of anything Fantasy is much sillier than trying to cure world hunger. However, making those rules even all the way around makes for a better and more competitive league.

Follow me @lawrmichaels.

 

 

I was watching the Giants play San Diego during the Padres home opener yesterday, enjoying the controlled performance of Luis Perdomo, who I have on my Strat-O-Matic team, and of whom I am hoping for "better" things in the future. In the league we can indeed freeze a lot of keepers, and I was hoping at least one of my two young pitching acquisitions--Perdomo and Jimmy Nelson--would turn in a solid season. 

Better is not suggesting much, for Perdomo was 9-10, 5.71 with a 1.59 WHIP last year, but he pitched better the last few months, is just 23, and well, I needed the arms and innings. Through five innings, Perdomo was pretty much cruising when suddenly Conor Gillaspie singled, as did Joe Panik, followed by an Aaron Hill walk, and pow, a Brandon Belt slam.

Of course I immediately began second-guessing my DFS picks, for Belt, who walks a lot, is precisely the kind of player I like for even over a bad game, a walk can be a shining light towards a point total. And, Belt, it seemed, was good at homering on Fridays it seemed to me, so I found myself wondering why I went Carlos Santana over Belt. 

In the process of my second-guessing, I decided to really rub it into myself and go through game logs from the past few years, and count the zillions of times Belt delivered on the Sabbath, and it turned out I was mistaken; that is, just five times since the start of 2015 has Brandon gone yard.

But, there is a myth versus reality equation for those of us who play fantasy ball where hope and hunch and stats give us the myth of hope, while facing Max Scherzer when the Nationals pitcher is on equates to an 0-for-4 of reality no matter what the numbers say a hitter like Belt will do, on a Friday, under the lights, on grass, away.

 Of course, I have enough superstitions involved with watching sports and following players before I ever started speculation on Brandon Belt's weekend adventures, and they were brought home a day earlier as I watched my hurler Blake Snell toss six innings against the Jays, allow just two hits, but one of them was a slam. 

I know better than to watch my own arms as this has happened so often during the season, but it took the next day--and my watching Belt crush Perdomo, meaning two slams--to remind myself that I was better off watching Law and Order repeats while tracking the scores online and following Baseball Tonight, or some less specific review of the day's action.

Still, it is good to note things like Belt's ostensible Friday success. I have often noted that when I was playing Strat-O-Matic in the 70's with the Royals as my team, that I would fret Dennis Leonard's skills every year, for he was 14-18, 4.07 for his career in April, and 25-21, 4.09 in May over 96 total starts.

However, once June rolled around, Leonard did get into the zone and over his career, he never had an ERA over 4.00 for any month, and come September/October, the righty was 35-25, 3.23 over 71 starts, which are some pretty convincing totals.

And, maybe he isn't a pitcher, but the hitting companion to Leonard early on could be Travis Shaw. Shaw hit .315-2-15 last April, and after a week this season is resting at .357-1-2, and Shaw had big springs each of the past two seasons. And, while Shaw has a small sample compared to that of Leonard, the point is noticing these trends in players can do a lot more than keep you calm.

That is, my learning Leonard's season-long pitching modus operandi certainly made things easier for me in that as I understood the pattern, I ceased worrying about my pitcher and investment for I knew by the season's end, Leonard would give me good totals.

But, aside from relaxing me a bit as manager, knowing tendencies helped me plan. For example, if I know Shaw is deadly good in April and May, but falls off the wagon in June (he hit .214-1-9 last June), then I know I can swap him mid-May and get much better value should that be appropriate. 

Similarly, I know a pitcher like Dennis Leonard--who is stronger the second half--would likely fetch less before the All-Star break, thus should I need a starting pitcher, he is the kind I can grab, at a theoretically reduced price--who can help me over that final hump to a title.

It is a very long season, and we can think of all the ways where we really have no control over the players we roster and compete against. But, the one thing we can do is make sure we know the player pool, and to the best of our abilities, know the tendencies of the players. 

That is the one area within our fantasy play that we do have a chance to self determine our team's outcome.

You can find me @lawrmichaels.

As we scream into the actual baseball season, many long-standing leagues will be holding their auctions, for the first weekend after the start of the season has traditionally been draft day in leagues that date back to the dark times before the Internet and online realtime scoring updates.

Following my Tout auction last Saturday, it occurred to me that some players may find a piece on auction strategies, particularly the jump bid, and some might not even know the jump bid tactic (or if they do, think it irritating). However, for any of us playing the auction game, the jump bid can not only be our friend, but it can indeed help a prudent owner manage his or her budget, get some price enforcing done in the process, and control the board for the endgame.

So, let's review some thoughts about auctions and money management tactics.

Try to let your mates empty their wallets: Auctions are fun and exciting for participants, especially at the start when the bulk of star players are available. I personally like to spread my spending around and build a good team with starters and at-bats in as many slots as I can manage. So, I like to let my mates spend $45 on Trout and Kershaw, sitting and waiting for the bidding to soften.

Let others nominate guys you want: I have clearly coveted Khris Davis all over the place this year, but I have yet to nominate the Athletics outfielder even though I carry him all over, including both Tout and LABR. But, when nominating, I throw out a name I am not particularly interested in and then watch the bidding frenzy from the sidelines.

Don't let a bargain pass: While I might do a solid job of watching the money flow early on in the draft, similarly, I know not to let a bargain pass even if the player is not one I targeted. For example, Evan Gattis in the low teens is indeed a bargain, for catchers who can hit 25-plus homers are on the rare side. So, be mindful to not be too passive, even if you are watching others spend.

Thoughts on jump bids: For the archivists, a jump bid is simply "jumping" the amount on the table for a given player, such that if I nominate Mike Trout for $10, and Trout increases to $15 over five subsequent bids, and then someone yells out $35, that is a jump bid.

And, there can be a very effective way of using such a "jump" to acquire a player you like with your opening bid. Such that, if you value Trout at $45, simply upping the ante to your ceiling price tag as soon as permits can be a great tactic, as that will certainly scare away any potential Trout wannabe owners who did not expect the bidding sequence to push like that. But, suddenly all your opponents have to look at $46 for the rights to Trout's skill set, and that will likely scare away the bulk of your leaguemates.

What this means is you have to be ok with having Trout at $45, and if you really want the Angel, be prepared to pay $47 and up to own him. But, that act forces the issue upon your leaguemates, and in theory sets a path for your team and the rest of the auction from that point out (for either you have Trout and build around him, or go elsewhere for offensive production).

However, a subtler form of jump bid can be employed further on in your auction. 

Let's say you target Carlos Santana for $26 and the first sacker does indeed get his name called.

Bidding starts to slow at $21, which is your bid, and that is followed by $22 from another owner. You bid $23 in response and your leaguemate immediately counters with $24.

Logically, your counter bid would be $25 but the effective tactic in such a situation is to jump Santana's price tag to $26 right then and there.

The reasoning here is you were already prepared to pay the $26 anyway, correct?

So, by going for the throat right there, instead of considering the possibility of owning Santana at $26, your opponent suddenly has to accept the fact that it is either $27--at a minimum--or again, look elsewhere to fill the roster.

In that sense, you are price enforcing, but you are also managing your own roster and prices in concert with your projections, for ideally mapping out slots and production and dollar values ahead of time will land the bulk of players and stats you desired.

Auctions are fun, but they are also tricky animals involving timing, knowledge of the player pool, and a clear idea of the kind of team you want to assemble. Hopefully these insights can help lead you to a successful team and season.

What a fantastic week, initiated with three days at the Grapefruit League spent with Ron Shandler, Brian Walton and Brian Feldman, Jeff Winick, Trace Wood and Lord Z as we attended three games and then finished off our XFL Expansion Draft. Wednesday morning, I flew up to New York, where later this morning the American League Tout Wars draft will commence (you can tune in at both FNTSY and also Siirus/XM, with the AL at 9 AM, the Mixed at 3 PM and the NL on Sunday at 10 AM, all times Eastern).

As usual, I am listing players I like, but this year with a spin. This time, I am focusing on some relievers and a strategy with respect to my arms, so I will hit those pitchers first, and then note a couple of other players of interest. Mind you, I am thinking these players will be available at the prices I list, and I am always willing to consider going up a buck or two, depending upon time in the draft, but generally once a player is priced beyond what I think the value line is, that is it.

Andrew Miller ($13): So, I usually like to get two closers, and I am not afraid to spend $45 to get said commodity in a deeper league where saves matter. And, I do usually wind up with a third reliever, ideally for a buck, but I have spent up to $5 for a chance at a would-be closer who goes set-up and gets the whiffs. So, Miller does define that. 

Dellin Betances ($12): In theory, Betances and Miller are interchangable parts, but how interesting could it be to pair the pair, have potential closers who will get a lot of work and whiffs, and a good chance at 15-plus saves between them?

Roberto Osuna ($17): I have Osuna here because I like him, but the reality is there are other closers who fit the role. But the troika would cost $42, well within what I budget, can give me what I want, and perhaps give me a serious surplus chip to swap as necessary.

Eddie Rosario ($3): I liked him a lot last year, and he largely sucked, but salvaged a reasonable (.269-10-32 with five swipes) season in the end. Rosario is sort of forgotten now it seems, not even getting a mention in Mixed League concoctions, irrespective of depth. There is serious speed here, and a little pop, and Rosario's counterpart, Robbie Grossman (whom I also like), is dealing with a groin strain, defaulting Opening Day left field for now.

Rob Refsnyder ($5): I got him for just a couple of bucks (I opened the bidding at $2, figuring no one would jump to three) in LABR, but with the injury to Didi Gregorius, Refsnyder's profile gets a bump. I'll buy that he gets 350-plus at-bats and puts up some nice numbers.

Matt Joyce ($2): Oakland has a short right field line, Joyce pulls the ball hard in just that direction, and he should get a shot at facing righties at least, and maybe more. His on-base numbers have improved, and well, the Oakland offense is, to say the least, anemic, and the opposing team has to pitch to someone. I think the veteran Joyce will take advantage accordingly.

Caleb Joseph ($1): A deep league, so a part-timer is expected, but Joseph is having a nice spring (.278-2-2) and is kind of on a Chris Herrmann-like trajectory, I think. Joseph is six months older, but catchers develop hitting skills slower at the big league level, and Joseph has a chance to kick it up a level. For a buck, up a level means .260-5-35 as far as I am concerned. But more importantly, that cheap investment fills a roster spot and gives me a couple of dollar per player price increase for every other player on my roster.

Carlos Santana ($24): I wanted him at LABR: I hope to get him here as the core of my offense.

Chris Archer ($24): He is the ace I want, building a staff with Archer atop, and the Betances/Miller/Osuna pick finishing up. That means I am looking at about $6-10 each for the rest of my starters. I think I can hit that. I hope he delivers. 

Follow me @lawrmichaels.

OK, so I had not planned on writing about any more mocks, but this past week I finished off my #MockDraftArmy stint, curated by @rotobuzzguy Howard Bender, with a pair of 12-teamers, drafting in the middle of the pack. Complementing these mocks, I did an American League 12-teamer hosted by Paul White.

In all instances, I tried hard to not experiment, but rather to draft the best team I could. But, at the same time, I tried to draft different sets of players, although there are some, like Khris Davis and Brad Miller, who seem to fall to me and I cannot resist. But, for example, I did try to draft some combination of Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances and an actual closer when I could, though the universe never actually alligned for such a troika to hit my roster.

Still, as we lead into the big draft week, and I head to the Grapefruit League, then Tout Wars where again I go in the American League, the AL mock proved interesting. And then, compared to the two #MockDraftArmy procedures, things got even more interesting, results-wise.

So, here are some late thoughts about those mocks. Note this Monday the Hotpage will cover minor leaguers for you Ultra League, and a week from today, the Tout Wish List will be here.

RD Pick# Pos Player Pick# Pos Player Pick# Pos Player
1 7 3B Manny Machado 6 P Clayton Kershaw 6 P Chris Sale
2 18 P Noah Syndergaard 19 1B Freddie Freeman 19 SS Francisco Lindor
3 31 SS Francisco Lindor 30 SS Trevor Story 30 OF Khris Davis
4 42 P Johnny Cueto 43 OF Yoenis Cespedes 43 C Evan Gattis
5 55 OF Khris Davis 54 2B Dee Gordon 54 1B Carlos Santana
6 66 1B Carlos Santana 67 C Jonathan Lucroy 67 P Roberto Osuna
7 79 C Willson Contreras 78 OF Khris Davis 78 SS Brad Miller
8 90 SS Brad Miller 91 3B Alex Bregman 91 P Marcus Stroman
9 103 OF Odubel Herrera 102 P Danny Duffy 102 2B Devon Travis
10 114 C Evan Gattis 115 SS Brad Miller 115 P Dellin Betances
11 127 2B Devon Travis 126 OF Odubel Herrera 126 3B Nick Castellanos
12 138 OF Kole Calhoun 139 1B Adrian Gonzalez 139 P Kendall Graveman
13 151 P Jon Gray 150 P Jon Gray 150 P Blake Snell
14 162 P Dellin Betances 163 C Yasmani Grandal 163 OF Leonys Martin
15 175 P Brandon Finnegan 174 OF Kole Calhoun 174 OF Tyler Naquin
16 186 OF Ender Inciarte 187 OF Keon Broxton 187 P Ryan Madson
17 199 P Adam Ottavino 198 P Brandon Maurer 198 OF Steven Souza
18 210 P Marco Estrada 211 P Ryan Madson 211 P Luis Severino
19 223 OF Max Kepler 222 UTL Randal Grichuk 222 CI Danny Valencia
20 234 P Ryan Madson 235 P Brandon Finnegan 235 P Chris Devenski
21 247 SS Didi Gregorius 246 P Chris Devenski 246 UT Brock Holt
22 258 1B C.J. Cron 259 P Alex Cobb 259 MI Eduardo Escobar
23 271 UTL Leonys Martin 270 P Alex Wood 270 C Josh Phegley
24 282 P Chris Devenski 283 P Ervin Santana 283   Blank
25 295 P Jordan Zimmermann 294 OF Michael Conforto 294   Blank

In retrospect, the one thing that did surprise me was the depth of players in the American League. In fact, I will write up my Tout Wars summary, comparing those results with my AL LABR team, and with this mythical mock draft team, and see just how differently things will go. For life imitates art, and for sure art imitates life. 

Don't forget you can find me @lawrmichaels

As we race towards Opening Day, I have one more mock comparative, this time contrasting the 12-team MockDraftArmy #39 driven by Fantrax with a 12-teamer organized by Ryan Hallam at Fighting Chance Fantasy Sports, and driven by our friends at Couch Managers

These drafts were different despite the 12-team format in that one was a one-catcher, and the MockDraftArmy setup accounted two extra picks.

But, I decided this time to actually throw the experimentation out the window and simply try to draft the best possible team I could with two completely different sets of participants.

At Fighting Chance, I picked second, while with Howard Bender (@RotoBuzzguy), I picked ninth. But since I am two weeks removed from the 12-team BARF draft, a week past the 12-team LABR auction, and two weeks shy of the AL Tout Wars auction, simply trying to draft a straight ahead roster a couple of days in a row seemed like a prudent exercise.

I did try to draft in a vacuum in that I did not purposely select the same players, and in trying to grab the next best available player who could help my team, dupes surely did occur, like Chris Archer and Freddie Freeman. But, later in the draft, some interesting gyrations and dynamics made it such that there were some players--Max Kepler and Brad Miller, for example--who survived one draft for a bit where I did not think either player would in an earlier round.

The results fairly speak for themselves, but the best thing is after LABR I feel more than prepared for Tout, XFL, the Murphy League, and any of the other drafts I have looming.

I will be participating in one more week of the MockDraftArmy, but then it will be off to the Grapefruit League and New York City, with reports coming from both venues. In the meantime, here is my last comparative, and don't forget you can find me @lawrmichaels.

Player Pick # Pick # Player
Nolan Arenado 2 9 Bryce Harper
Freddie Freeman 23 16 Freddie Freeman
Trevor Story 26 33 Francisco Lindor
Christian Yelich 47 40 Chris Archer
Chris Archer 50 57 Yoenis Cespedes
Matt Carpenter 71 64 Carlos Martinez
Danny Duffy 74 81 Khris Davis
Odubel Herrera 95 88 Alex Bregman
Stephen Piscotty 98 105 Devon Travis
Marcus Stroman 119 112 Jon Gray
Kevin Gausman 122 129 Brad Miller
Salvador Perez 143 136 Kevin Gausman
Alex Colome 146 153 Dellin Betances
Brad Miller 167 160 Russell Martin
Robbie Ray 170 177 Kevin Kiermaier
Hector Neris 191 184 Hector Neris
Max Kepler 194 201 Manuel Margot
Sonny Gray 215 208 Jerad Eickhoff
Devon Travis 218 225 Ryan Madson
Ryan Madson 239 232 Max Kepler
Hunter Pence 242 249 Brandon Crawford
Stephen Vogt 263 256 Sandy Leon
Brandon Finnegan 266 273 Ervin Santana
Pass  XX 280 Jedd Gyorko
Pass  XX 297 Jharel Cotton

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