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Thursday 14th Dec 2017

If you have ever had the joy of riding in a car with Todd Zola and me, you will have noticed that when we are together we act a lot like an old Jewish couple.

In fact, as business partners, we have been close to that, both having had Bar Mitzvahs, with me at 65 and Todd in his mid-50's (I believe). We will see one another tomorrow, providentially at First Pitch Arizona, which is where we met in 1999, meaning 18 years of friendship.

I still remember Z, role playing a mock trade during a particular session when two attendees (for that was what we were then) were given mythical lineups and then asked to try and make a swap. 

I don't remember who Todd's trading partner was, but that poor human started with "I see that you need steals and power, and I...". Todd stopped him right there and in his matter-of-fact way cut to the chase, saying, "I know what I have, and what you have. What do you have in mind?"

I knew right then and there we could be friends, and I was right.  

We have been friends since, and in 2010, when Mastersball founder Jason Grey became a big league scout, Z and I joined forces and I put Creativesports to rest and moved to Mastersball, keeping the content moving while Todd focused on numbers and projections, writing specifically for our Platinum subscribers.

Since that merger, the Fantasy Industry has exploded, much to the amazement of many of us. Things have become more specialized and as life progressed, Z and I worked with a sort of firewall between what we did. Not that we did not talk, for almost daily we have engaged in something over G-talk, but with Todd's work at RotoWire and ESPN, and my retirement from ATT, which now allows me to do this full time, our relative focus has simply changed.

So, effective tomorrow, as pretty much publicized, I am going back to Creativesports and Z will keep Mastersball. Z will continue to focus on the statistical analysis and projections he does so brilliantly right here, while Creativesports 2.0 (which is still undergoing it's initial build, but the basics are there) will focus on sports analysis, fantasy strategies and tactics along with daily DFS support. The site is expanding to cover soccer, NCAA hoops and football, the NFL, the NBA, MLB, the PGA, and eventually the NHL. We will also have regular pieces on the NFBC/NFFC, and will cover many forms and variations of fantasy play.

But, Z will continue with the Z Zone on the Tout Wars Hour every week, and I will be offering his projections via my site and he has the link to my site, so it is not so much the old Jewish couple splitting up as it is they just decided it was time in life for separate bedrooms.

It is funny--those kvetchy talks we have-- for one of the goofy things is somehow we will approach a player or tactic saying completely different things only to discover we are really saying the same thing in different ways. For, as I say, he is a scientist (he really is) and I am an artist. But, in the end, more times than not, we come to the same conclusion.

I cannot say I will miss Z because to a large degree those echats are just part of what we do, bouncing thoughts or ideas off one another. But, I will say that though I am excited to push the site where I started on the Net 21 years ago, I will indeed miss the sanity and security Lord Z provided.

He is a smart and wickedly quick and funny man, but Z is also amongst the kindest and most accepting human beings I know and I love him as dearly as if he really was my brother. 

I thank him for his steady years of patience working with me. 

Thanks Z. Here is to prosperity all around. 

It seems like the regular baseball season wound up a million years ago, which is hardly the case. 

Part of this illusion of time slowing for me has been the great playoffs, which evolved into that fantastic Game 2 of the Series on Wednesday evening. But some of it seems to have precipitated from the slow mock my radio mate and Friends With Fantasy Benefits honcho This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. initiated upon the completion of the regular season.

This draft, one of four that Justin initiated, was billed as slow, but that doesn't describe accurately, as words like crawl and sluggish are more appropriate. However, since we are a good six months from Opening Day, haste is not that important.

With fellow mockers Brent Hershey, Howard Bender, Sammy Reid and Alex Chamberlain, this was a 15-team mixed that included three reserve selections.

Of course, the initial hot stove buzz in my fantasy baseball universe has been how do we deal with pitching next year? With home runs rampant, and hitting everywhere, the pitching suffers, so just what do we do? Grab Max Scherzer or Chris Sale by the second round, if then, and slide for awhile with arms?

Be content to grab Robbie Ray in the fifth and stack with pitchers for a few rounds? Wait till Round 12 and build around Ervin Santana, Marco Estrada, and a bunch of like gambles who could pay off royally just as easily as they could destroy a season by the first of May?

Over the years, I have always built my teams around pitching. In fact, building a strong pitching staff has always been my go-to, as I calculated that too much pitching meant I could trade, for we always need arms, right?

In the past, I have had success picking the likes of Jason Kubel or Michael Brantley on the cheap the year they delivered, but winning like that has become ephemeral, with the likes of Eduardo Escobar being a 20-homer man. I simply need more boost at the top to win these days, whether I like it or not.

Similarly, though banging 20 big flies has become common place, and 30 not quite such a feat, it is hard to really tell where that extra pop comes from. Last August, when I looked at whether home run production at the top had changed that much, it did become pretty clear that the number of guys who could belt 40 or more big flies seemed to be fairly constant. And, though two players launched 50 this season, only five exceeded 40 while eight batters did that last season. 

This suggests that sticking with the big guys and working from there is the way to go. So, when drafting, that is indeed where I went, first waiting until Round 7 before Kyle Hendricks became my first arm. In Round 8, I picked Jimmy Nelson, followed by Danny Salazar in the ninth, and then Danny Duffy in Round 10 before I went back to bats with Avisail Garcia in Round 11.

At the bottom of the rotation were the real crapshoots: Mike Foltynewicz, Daniel Mengden and Sean Newcomb, with Alex Colome and Hector Neris comprising my pen. 

On the other hand, my hitting is led by Nolan Arenado, J.D. Martinez, Starling Marte, Robinson Cano, Khris Davis and Carlos Santana.

The entire mess can be viewed here.

However, I plan on focusing strictly on drafting with this approach from now through the mock season, so follow along and you can see with me the pitchers falling to the middle or later rounds who could indeed be bargains.

Now, excuse me, Game 3 is on. 

Remember to tune into the Tout Wars Hour on the FNTSY network, hosted by me, with Justin Mason and featuring Lord Z every Thursday night at 9 PM ET.

Follow me @lawrmichaels.

My cousin Richard, with whom I did not really become friends and close to until about five years ago (he grew up in Switzerland and I in Berkeley), noted early in our relationship that I was not particularly sentimental.

"You are right" I replied, "but I am quite a romantic."

And, I am. When I asked Diane to marry me, I made dinner reservations at Tavern on the Green in Central Park and then reserved a horse carriage to drive us around the park as I figured out how to ask my partner of a decade if she wanted to tie the knot.

So, I think about this kind of stuff even if I am not tied to it over the long haul. And, one of the things I love about baseball is its history and eras. I consider myself lucky now that I got to see Bob Gibson and Willie Mays and Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron and Stan Musial actually play live, which might bring the envy of younger fans today. By the same token, I never got to see Lou Gehrig, Walter Johnson, or Pop Lloyd play.

I do, however, play in the "Strat-O-Matic Summer League of Champions," curated by the venerable Larry Denicola. The SLOC, as it is called, includes 24 teams. We start play with the Strat-O-Matic Hall of Fame set, and each draft ten players out of the immortals. Subsequently, we pick a season and use that year to augment out ten players.

For example, this past year, 1961 was the year so I got Pete Runnels and Rocky Colavito on my team along with Bob Gibson and Ed Delahnty, although our season was far from successful. However, there is some fun with putting Joe McClain in as a situational lefty to hopefully get Babe Ruth out.

Every three years, we throw the HOF guys back in a pool and have a new snake draft, meaning maybe next year I can actually get Josh Gibson as my first pick? And, note that the HOF set includes not just those in the Hall, but guys who are close like Dwight Evans and Orel Hershiser.

So, we have the HOF draft every three years, and then the draft for players of the selected year. But in between the two, owners are allowed to cash in their respective troops and redraft their HOF players. So, any of the either new owners (should an owner leave, that roster automatically goes into the draft pool) or existing owners who simply want to rebuild get to do so.

This year, there were five such owners, and I thought it would be fun to look at the results of the draft. So, here are the 60 players. I made a few comments on a few guys. And, among the fun things about this league is the HOF set includes greats from Japan as well as Carribean and Latin players who never really made it here but elsewhere on the planet were stars. Amazing what one can learn!                        

ROUND 1
1. SASKATCHEWAN SASQUATCHES - LOU GEHRIG - OBP and power are the best attributes a player can have, hence #1.
2. MAINE SANDPIPERS - WALTER JOHNSON
3. ALL NATIONS STARS - JIMMY FOXX
4.PA COALMINERS - CHRISTY MATHEWSON
5. AMARETTO SLAMMERS - TOM SEAVER
6. DAKOTA COLTS - "THREE FINGER" BROWN

ROUND 2
1. DAKOTA COLTS - CY YOUNG
2. AMARETTO SLAMMERS - NAPOLEAN LAJOIE
3. PA COALMINERS - HANK GREENBERG
4. ALL NATIONS STARS - PERUCHO CEPEDA - Orlando's Papa was THE Bull.
5. MAINE SANDPIPERS - JUAN MARICHAL
6. SASKATCHEWAN SASQUATCHES - JOHNNY BENCH

ROUND 3
1. SASKATCHEWAN SASQUATCHES - DUKE SNIDER
2. MAINE SANDPIPERS - ROBERTO CLEMENTE
3. ALL NATIONS STARS - HACK WILSON
4.PA COALMINERS - GEORGE BRETT
5. AMARETTO SLAMMERS - EARL AVERILL
6. DAKOTA COLTS - AL KALINE

ROUND 4
1. DAKOTA COLTS - JOSE MENDEZ - Cuban ace only could get as far as the Kansas City Monarchs, but was 75-28 as charted in his home country among other vague stats.
2. AMARETTO SLAMMERS - GAYLORD PERRY
3. PA COALMINERS - YOGI BERRA
4. ALL NATIONS STARS - JOHN CLARKSON
5. MAINE SANDPIPERS - RYNE SANDBERG
6. SASKATCHEWAN SASQUATCHES - JOHN J McGRAW

ROUND 5
1. SASKATCHEWAN SASQUATCHES - NICKEY WELCH
2. MAINE SANDPIPERS - TIM RAINES
3. ALL NATIONS STARS - MARIANO RIVERA
4. PA COALMINERS - MARTIN DIHIGO - Negro and Mexican Leagues star who could hit and pitch.
5. AMARETTO SLAMMERS - HARMON KILLEBREW
6. DAKOTA COLTS - KIRBY PUCKETT

ROUND 6
1. DAKOTA COLTS - WILLIE McCOVEY
2. AMARETTO SLAMMERS - HUGHIE JENNINGS
3. PA COALMINER - STEVE CARLTON
4. ALL NATIONS STARS - CAL RIPKEN JR
5. MAINE SANDPIPERS - CHIEF BENDER
6. SASKATCHEWAN SASQUATCHES - RANDY JOHNSON

ROUND 7
1. SASKATCHEWAN SASQUATCHES - GEORGE DAVIS
2. MAINE SANDPIPERS - KEN BOYER
3. ALL NATIONS STARS - REGGIE JACKSON
4. PA COALMINERS - LEON DAY - Negro Leagues pitcher inducted into the Cooperstown HOF.
5. AMARETTO SLAMMERS - CAP ANSON
6. DAKOTA COLTS - BOB FELLER

ROUND 8
1. DAKOTA COLTS - RON SANTO
2. AMARETTO SLAMMERS - DAZZY VANCE
3. PA COALMINERS - WHITEY FORD
4. ALL NATIONS STARS - MASAICHI KANEDA - 400-298, 2,34 w/4490 whiffs in Japan.
5. MAINE SANDPIPERS - KEITH HERNANDEZ
6. SASKATCHEWAN SASQUATCHES - TAKEHIKO BESSHO - 310-198, 2.78 with a 2.13 ERA in Japan.

ROUND 9
1. SASKATCHEWAN SASQUATCHES - BOBBY DOERR
2. MAINE SANDPIPERS - SAM BANKHEAD
3. ALL NATIONS STARS - BILL FOSTER
4. PA COALMINERS - TOM HENKE
5. AMARETTO SLAMMERS - CHINO SMITH - Died young. Hit .427 in 1927 in the Negro Leagues.
6. DAKOTA COLTS - ALAN TRAMMEL

ROUND 10
1. DAKOTA COLTS - ERNIE LOMBARDI
2. AMARETTO SLAMMERS - WARREN SPAHN
3. PA COALMINERS - LUIS TIANT JR
4. ALL NATIONS STARS - JOE GORDON
5. MAINE SANDPIPERS   - PABLO MESA - Cuban star of the 20's.
6. SASKATCHEWAN SASQUATCHES - DUCKY MEDWICK

As noted, I tried to highlight players who were maybe not as well known. And, stats from the Negro Leagues are kind of iffy, hence I quoted none.

And, playing in such a league is great fun, keeps baseball going during the off-season and keeps us well-versed in baseball history.

Remember to tune into the Tout Wars Hour on the FNTSY network, hosted by me, with Justin Mason and featuring Lord Z every Thursday night at 9 PM ET.

Follow me @lawrmichaels.

 

 

The subject of pitching, pitching staffs, and how rugged 2017 was on the arms of our team is pretty much rhetorical at this juncture.

If you have been listening to The Tout Wars Hour (on the FNTSY network every Thursday night at 9 PM ET), you have heard Justin Mason, Todd and I talk a lot the past few weeks about how to deal with hurlers next year without hurling.

I confess that I am a guy who always went for the "good pitching beats good hitting" maxim, and for many years in Fantasy Baseball, that seemed to work. But not anymore, as witnessed by Mike Podhorzer's dominant victory in AL Tout this year, for example.

As my teams tumbled from the top and hot starts over the first couple of weeks, I thought of the guy who smashes his head against the wall repeatedly but never understands the way to mitigate the problem is to try another approach. And, though I hide behind age (I get Medicare now) and have the hashtag #iambecomingabesimpson, I like to think I am capable of learning. At least when it comes to baseball.

A little over a week ago, Justin initiated a cluster of mock drafts and I decided this off-season to work at assembling second-tier pitching staffs this year to the best of my ability, assuming the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer, Chris Sale and Corey Kluber are out of reach. In fact, there is a good chance that if I had a top-5 pick, I would be hard-pressed to select any of this quartet of aces in an era of hitting. Not to mention, I am trying to figure out how to win without being arm heavy.

So, I have concocted a list of starting pitchers I think I can get from the fifth round on in a straight draft. Note that in an ideal world, I would like to hold off on grabbing a hurler until the seventh round if I could, but I suspect aside from getting lucky, that will be as much a ticket to doom as selecting too many pitchers.

My plan is to really keep track of my mocks and, if you will, build an ADP of these guys by which I will try to draft for real come March 2018. So, I will be writing about this and tracking it periodically during the off-season, sometimes here, and sometimes on the Hotpage. 

As of now, here are the guys I am looking at with a little rationale along with where the player was selected in the Couch Managers Mock Justin initiated. Note that this league is a 5x5 with 15 teams, so the sixth round begins with Pick #76. Also note there might be additions and subtractions to this list as the stove heats, then cools.

Robbie Ray #70: An ace in the making as part of arguably the best starting troika--with Zacks Greinke and Godley--Ray will get whiffs if nothing else, and that is the starting point. However, as a late fifth rounder, his skill set is hardly a secret. And, his team can hit.

Alex Wood #90: Surprisingly high for a pitcher with just one very good season under his belt coupled with an injury history. On the other hand, it was a monster good year and Wood was certainly not overused (152.3 innings). But, pitching as a lefty behind Kershaw has to be a comfy slot in the rotation of a good team. 

Kyle Hendricks #95: Kind of the perfect #2 guy, not strikeout heavy, but definitely has control, keeps the ball down, and also is on a very good team.

Aaron Nola #101: Certainly a potential ace on the Phils, who are improving and kind of fun. But, 184 whiffs over 168 innings.

Sonny Gray #110: He's back and will be a quiet one of many in the Bronx. 

Jimmy Nelson #116: Another great season from a former #1 who whiffed 199 over 175.3 innings. 

Zack Godley #121: 165 whiffs over 155.3 innings on the same team as Robbie Ray.

Danny Salazar #125: It is getting to be crapshoot time, but we can all agree the talent is there.

Jose Berrios #136: Pretty good rookie season on a team that wound up being a lot better than we thought. The questions are was the team a fluke, and thus Berrios one? I'm guessing Jose is for real.

David Price #140: Looks good in the playoffs, and is surely not bullpen material, making Price a solid gamble for a pitcher who was among the likes of Sale and Scherzer just two years ago. 

Danny Duffy #146: Like a few guys on this list, Duffy has trouble staying healthy. Ideally, in drafting a lot of these guys, the injury factor is mitigated a little.

Jon Gray #151: Another injury worry, but more serious and developing talent.

Mike Clevinger FA: 172 picks gone, and Clevinger is still out there, but for how long?

So, walking away with six of these guys to go with a pair of closers and a seventh mystery starter is what I am looking at.

Follow me along the adventure. And, feel free to comment.

Remember to tune into the Tout Wars Hour on the FNTSY network, hosted by me, with Justin Mason and featuring Lord Z every Thursday night at 9 PM ET. 

Follow me @lawrmichaels.

Fantasy Football has kind of crept up on me this year.

In the past, I played in three or four fantasy leagues each football season, and last year I added a cool Dynasty League sponsored by my mates at Sirius/XM, which is a fairly intense ultra keeper contest with 40 players and a redraft of five each season to allow for the selection of the top draft picks of the NFL.

Last year, I also started playing DFS with several groups weekly making for about seven places I had to go in order to update all of my rosters.

With doing this stuff full-time now, however, and participating in a bunch of mocks, somehow things kind of got out of control it seems.

As of right now, I have:

-Ottoneu Experts League

-Sirius/XM League

-Experts Schmecksperts League

-Kathy League Gifford

-North American Internet Fantasy Football League

-Fantasy Duds League

-Utter Genius League

-BARF League

-Knights of the Passover Table League

-Tout Wars DFS

-FSWA DFS

-FNTSY-DKMS DFS (click this one and play for free to get a shot at Super Bowl Tix!)

-Baileys DFS League

That's 13 and that means a lot of roster checks, let alone FAAB moves. 

First, there's a game on Thursday, then moves till Sunday kickoff, and essentially games till Monday night. Then it is assess who got hurt, what that means, who is playing where and when next week. Then, are there players in the free agent pool by which I can improve any spots?

Now let's remember that in a couple of weeks all of this gets compounded by the Bye factor, and if we think of 16 guys per roster on the non-DFS teams, that's 144 roster spots and the closer I get to my hashtag, #iambecomingabesimpson, the tougher it gets.

Come Tuesday morning, however, I am not ready to dig through all my teams just yet. In fact, even Wednesday seems a bit early, but the issue is forced upon me with the Thursday night game. So, that is a lot of rosters. But, not content with my own personal neuroses being halted there, I don't really like to make a lot of moves in my leagues, particularly over the first few weeks of the season.

Fortunately, this year I have been spared most of any kind of cataclysmic injury, save my Sirius team on which both David Johnson and Cameron Meredith live. And, I tried hard to draft with respect to building solid teams across the board that barring an injury, had enough starting players to address the off-weeks.

Of course a lot of that is wishful thinking, and so far every team but one has started just fine and things ahead look pretty good. In fact, the one team struggling is the Auto Draft squad I hoped to fix the best I could (I covered this September 9). However, aside from the humblebrag, I had to write all these leagues down so that I can remember to make the moves in each one (how you guys who play in 20 leagues and a wad of DFS ones manage to keep track?).

Using that list, I went through all the rosters on Thursday afternoon, before kick-off, and thought everything was right with the world. 

And it was. Except that in the Knights of Passover League, I missed activating Jordy Nelson. That is the same league where last week I kept Stefon Diggs and Pierre Garcon on the bench. 

I don't know how I could have missed starting Jordy, who also sat on the bench last week in anticipation of that thigh injury that the wide receiver played through for that is the only team where I have Jordy shares. This week, I was hot to remember activating Diggs and Garcon but just glossed over Nelson, who gets an extra week to rest his thigh on my team.

All of this is making me think maybe I have too many teams playing here, and things have gotten out of control?

(Neither did I). 

Tune into the Tout Wars Hour on the FNTSY network, hosted by me, with Justin Mason and featuring Lord Z every Thursday night at 9 PM ET and follow me @lawrmichaels.

Early in the week, my Tout Wars Hour mate, Justin Mason, of Friends With Fantasy Benefits, went on a kind of crazed mission, initiating a chunk (well, four) of industry mocks under the pretext that it was draft day, 2018.

I am a huge believer in mocks--I really feel they are the best draft preparation for both knowing the player pool, and understanding true player value--but I only had room for one of Justin's extravaganzas.

A pretty good gaggle if miscreants are participating in the slow mock, such as Howard Bender, Sammy Reid, Brent Hershey, Clay Link and The Welsh.

I have been giving my 2018 leagues a lot of thought, especially in deference to the teams I assembled this season, and their collective and relative failure. For, both my Tout and LABR teams shot out of the blocks hot, holding tight around first place until a week into May. Then it became clear that while I had plenty of pitching, I was going to be short on power.

This is a nominal problem for my teams the last handful of years, and the problem is partially rooted in the success I have had in the past, and what worked. For, while I have never really factored out an auction split of dollars allocated to pitching and then to hitting, I have generally built off pitching and tried to then get as much balance out of my hitters as permits. 

Theoretically, operating out of a pitching surplus as such would give me chips to trade as the season progressed, and there have indeed been times when this worked really well. Alas, the plot does not work so well, however, when Eduardo Escobar is having a 15-homer season, like just about every other middling middle infielder on the planet.

Mind you, I am not knocking Escobar, for he has been a fantastic $1 player in all of my leagues. But the cast around him, in the days where home runs rule, pitching is derelict and strikeouts are plentiful simply will not lead to success.

So, I am really trying to deconstruct how I approach my drafts, how I can stack power and still have enough bucks or slots left to fill out my pitching staff successfully. And that should be doable since building pitching staffs is a strength.

Anyway, with months ahead to prepare, and apparently mocks abounding, this is indeed the time to practice, no?

With four rounds gone thus far, I am indeed pushing towards hitting, so here are my first picks in the 15-team standard 5x5 draft (I picked in the fifth slot). If you would like to peruse all the rosters, the link to Couch Managers is here.

Nolan Arenado (3B): As a 26-year-old, the Rockies third sacker put up his third monster season in a row with a career high in average (.306), doubles (42) and OPS (.949). The guy is a production machine and exactly the kind of steady and durable hitter I need to anchor a team. That means in a mixed auction I would spend the $40-plus to get him. 

J.D. Martinez (OF): I have always shied from Martinez, a little because I wasn't sure he was the real deal, and partially because of the injury factor. Martinez has played a full complement of games only once --158 in 2015--since becoming a starter, but he is so steady and productive. In fact, Martinez seems to me to be the new Magglio Ordonez.

Starling Marte (OF): I will treat this season as a loss leader and figure Marte picks it back up for a full season with his suspension behind him, both picking up his offense and giving me a core for some steals.

Robinson Cano (2B): Cano has had a bit of a dropoff this year, but I too expect him back with a last laugh, leaving us with a fantastic HOF career. Even with the down season, Cano managed a .284-23-93 line. The question for me is whether it's time to seriously look at someone like D.J. LeMahieu as a better option and spend more money on a first sacker, like Joey Votto. But that is why the mocks are helpful, for over the course of a dozen or so of these exercises, the path will be clearer.

Tune into the Tout Wars Hour on the FNTSY network, hosted by me, with Justin Mason and featuring Lord Z every Thursday night at 9 PM ET and follow me @lawrmichaels.

Note: This is a revision of the original post, which was written while Cleveland was still ahead Friday evening, before they lost the game and their streak.

Remember the words, spoken by Crash Davis to Annie Savoy in Bull Durham, reminding her that she has to "respect the streak"? Savoy, angered that Crash has advised Nuke, Annie's paramour to sleep solo. That is because Nuke has had a lot of good starts while remaining celibate, and Crash has to remind Annie that the lack of contact has nothing to do with romance. Rather, Nuke has a streak going and changing behaviors right now could jinx that. 

It is true. Streaks are hard to do. Think about the Patriots a few years ago who only had to blow past the New York Giants. Or even more recently, the Panthers won 15, but could not close out #16 a la the 1972 Dolphins.

Thus, it is with awe that I began this piece, Clevelnd was on top and on the road to their 23rd consecutive win, and that is something that should cause us to sit back, take a breath, and acknowledge what a remarkable feat that is.

For, think about how we do revere streaks.

To start, in baseball, there is Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak and Cal Ripken's 2,632 consecutive games played streak. Orel Hershiser threw 59 consecutive scoreless innings that actually extended to 67 when the Dodger starter tossed eight shutout innings during the post-season.

Obviously, the Dolphins streak goes in there, but then there is Drew Brees, who threw a TD pass in 54 consecutive games while LaDainian Tomlinson scored a TD in 18 straight contests, a feat that probably won his fantasy owners a lot of games.

How about Martina Navratilova winning 74 consecutive tennis matches, or De La Salle High School--which happens to be in the SF East Bay--whose football team won 151 straight contests? Track star/educator Edwin Moses won 122 races in a row and the UCLA men's basketball team, under coach John Wooden, won 88 games before Notre Dame beat them, and Byron Nelson actually won 11 PGA tourneys in a row.

But, to really drive this home, think about yourself. Think about winning say 15 hands of Blackjack in a row? Too intense for you? How about 15 matchups in War with a deck of cards? 15 straight games of Cribbage or in the iPhone world, how about 15 straight games of "Words With Friends"?

If we just localize to our fantasy teams, and say you play in an H2H league. Has a team ever won 15 straight in your league? I thought not, and yet we are talking the Indians besting that total by another 33%.

This is, again, within the weird world of baseball where an odd bounce or a bad call or a funky pitch literally does shift the balance of a game one way or another, for the actual course of events following the release of the ball by the hurler has an infinite number of potential outcomes depending upon who is up, on base, what the score is, and a bunch of other variables.

Of course, that is one reason we watch games: We like to be amazed and sports surely does that, at least for me.

I attended the Oakland Athletics game in 2002, as documented in "Moneyball", where Scott Hatteberg banged an extra-inning homer not unlike Jay Bruce driving in Jose Ramirez the other night to seal win #22 for the Tribe.

That game was so intense and tight that I am not sure how those of us in the stands managed to maintain, let alone how the players on the field could focus, but then that is what we like to watch, the best play under the most difficult circumstances.

Well, the Indians now hold the American League consecutive game win streak, falling just four shy of the MLB record of 26 held by the 1916 New York Giants.

Once again, to contextualize, the Giants streak is more than 100 years old. So, had the Indians won last night, just five wins were required for a new record. Sounds easy, but winning five, let alone 22, let alone 27 takes a lot more confluences of skill and luck and right place right time than I can imagine.

Well done Cleveland: I am rooting for a 2017 Series title to go with the streak.

Tune into the Tout Wars Hour on the FNTSY network, hosted by me, with Justin Mason and featuring Lord Z every Thursday night at 9 PM ET and follow me @lawrmichaels.

It never occurred to me when I retired from my ATT gig that I would have another full-time job. In fact, in a way I don't. But, in a way I do, and this is it: writing full time, mostly about Fantasy Sports.

However, somehow I am, writing columns for someone almost daily, working my radio show (The Tout Wars Hour on the FNTSY network, hosted by me, with Justin Mason and featuring Lord Z every Thursday night at 9 PM ET), playing DFS baseball, football, and now golf along with my season-long leagues. This makes for a lot of time devoted to sports and games.

Mind you, I am far from complaining. I started in this business in 1993 and never could do it full time due to health and related issues until January 2015 when I retired from the corporate world, although even then it did not occur to me I would pick up columns and associations and work and poof, suddenly it is a daily thing. What that made me realize is that I really have wanted to do this full time for awhile.

What that has meant is a lot of mock drafts (I did 16 football ones this year) and time spent researching and writing and playing. As a result of the flurry of fantasy activity, I have similarly been invited to join a lot of leagues which I am trying to do without killing myself. But what that meant is last Monday I had two drafts both at 7 PM Pacific Time, and then Thursday one scheduled right during Tout Wars Hour and there was nothing I could do. 

So, I decided to simply let the system draft for me and deal with the fallout, seeing what I could do with the scraps on my roster. Now, I know I could have made pre-picks, but I just hate doing that, at least for the first part of a draft because I am never sure what direction I really want to take with a team until at least the first picks are made.

For example, I might want to go Wide Receiver heavy and take Antonio Brown if drafting in the fourth slot, a reasonable expectation that Brown is there. But, what if the person picking second has the same idea, and so does the third, and suddenly LeVeon Bell is available to me. At least to me, Bell is strong enough to change my roster construct plans, grabbing him and then the best receivers I can draft for my next picks, unless there is someone left in the pool that causes me to rethink my plans again.

It is not that I don't go into a draft with an idea of what I want to do, but I believe one should always have primary, secondary, and tertiary players/paths in mind for every pick made. For, that makes it rare to be caught off-guard with respect to the team and players still available who could help.

As it turned out, there was a problem in the Draft Room on Thursday, so the whole league wound up with an autodraft team, so the rest of the league found themselves in the position I had already committed to: Autodraft all around. That makes for a pretty fun league, I think.

The free agent pool was opened this morning for us, and stays open till Sunday kickoff, and a flurry of players for trade--Ty Montgomery, Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Dez Bryant and Jordan Howard were all names bantered about on the trade wire.

I do have to admit, I was nervous to look at my squad for the first time this morning, when the draft was completed, but the reality is the resulting team is really not bad, giving me Alex Smith, Matt Ryan, Antonio Brown and Allen Robinson along with Bryant and the Seahawks defense.

I made some tweaks this morning--adding Wendell Smallwood and Tarik Cohen, a couple of quieter faves--and we shall see what the season brings.

It might be sobering to find out that autodraft can do a better job than I can. 

I guess I shall find out.

Follow me @lawrmichaels.

Last June, I met Niv Shah at the summer Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) conclave in New York, drafting against him in the Industry B League of experts, exchanging cards and pleasantries in between the old savage sniping of picks one expects from such an event.

A month after the conference, Niv contacted me and asked if I would be interested in joining a new Dynasty Auction football league that did not involve defense but did allow for the drafting of college players to use as an eventual farm system.

Niv and long-time mate Pete Schoenke of RotoWire assembled the league, hosted by--and brilliantly named Ottoneu--Niv's company which provides custom baseball and football formats for the "serious" competitor. Ottoneu is essentially the commissioner end of Fangraphs, so that should also tell you the level of love, interest, and detail any proposed league set-up receives.

For this league, we had a $400 salary cap for 20 players with no defense, as noted, and a pair of flex spots (not super) in a 12-team league that also allows for the drafting of college players.

This is indeed a strange draft to me. Of course, my instincts are to analogize with baseball, trying to correlate $260 into a team of which 23 guys will play (hopefully) as opposed to a football team of 20 guys for $400 of which 11 will play. And, the two are not really analogous although I am sure my math mate Todd could figure out a way to quantify the two.

Even so, in baseball I know that if Roberto Osuna goes for $18 as the first closer auctioned in an AL-only format, followed by Craig Kimbrel for $21, that the baseline for closers has been set for the most part, with the lesser guys going for a few bucks less.

But, in this league, things seem all whacked out in this regard, making it hard to get a real feel of player value. For example, let's look at the Top 5 costliesteach of Quarterbacks and Running Backs and Wide Receivers (thus far, the draft is still in online auction mode as we complete it).

Quarterbacks

  1. Aaron Rodgers $50
  2. Drew Brees $44
  3. Tom Brady $33
  4. Jameis Winston $23
  5. Russell Wilson $22

Running Backs

  1. David Johnson $118
  2. Le'Veon Bell $112
  3. Melvin Gordon $67
  4. Leonard Fournette $66
  5. Todd Gurley $65

Wide Receivers

  1. Antonio Brown $90
  2. A.J. Green $79
  3. Julio Jones $78
  4. Dez Bryant $72
  5. Odell Beckham, Jr. $71
  6. Mike Evans $71
  7. Brandin Cooks $71

When looking, the prices did largely fall, so the most talented/highest-point-potential player did indeed draw the most bucks, for surely Rodgers, Johnson and Brown are the cream of their respective spots. But, is the $18 drop to Bryant reflective of the end result of their respective seasons, assuming both players play an equal number of games? Note that Amari Cooper drew $61, Jordy Nelson $64, but Alshon Jeffery just $31.

Same at Running Back, where surely Johnson and Bell are the "bell weathers," but are each worth a 33% salary cap commitment on draft day? More to the point, Justin Vibber, owner of the Massillons, thought it logical to grab both Bell and Johnson along with Rodgers, and then simply bottom feed with his remaining $116 for the final 17 roster spots.

So, the question is will that work, or is a more balanced approach of Carson Palmer ($6) and Jordy Nelson ($64), along with Bryant and Jay Ajayi ($60) for a collective $202, as purchased by Schoenke, more rational? 

Truth is I don't know at this juncture as I have only done a couple of football auctions, but never a dynasty league, and never one like this. But, it is still hard to get my head around what the Massillons did, though I suspect it might work pretty well. I have employed a like strategy in 12-team mixed baseball auction leagues before with pretty good success.

It just did not occur to me to apply this to a football auction, so there is clearly some observational learning opportunities here. As for how the season turns out, that is why we draft, no?

To see the auction results, you can click here.

 Remember to go to the Tout Wars site for our Friday picks. And, tune into the Tout Wars Hour on the FNTSY network, hosted by me, with Justin Mason and featuring Lord Z every Thursday night at 9 PM ET. 

Follow me @lawrmichaels.

Are we all confused regarding Colin Kaepernick, and his strange path to non-existence?

It was only three years ago that Kaepernick dabbled with Joe Flacco on a McDonalds commercial, when the Niners Quarterback was hot as a habanero, his team recognizing a superior skill set that simply sent the ever steady Alex Smith to Chief-dom.

In trying to both understand Colin the man, and what might make him tick, as well as assessing why in god's name the Jaguars or Browns, or even a return to San Francisco--all of whom could really use a talented QB--cannot pull the trigger on signing him, I tried to do a little research.

I knew that Kaepernick was adopted, but not that his first years were spent in Wisconsin when the family moved to Central California and the town of Turlock, and it seems he had a normal family in which he was not the only athlete (brother Kyle was scouted in high school for football).

In 2007, Kaepernick went to college at Nevada, though he was a good enough baseball player to be drafted by the Cubs in 2006 (as a pitcher) in the 43rd round out of high school.

So, college and then a second round pick of the Niners in 2011 who was a back-up until 2012 when Alex Smith went down with a concussion in Week 10, giving Kaepernick a shot at strutting his stuff, which he did. Coach Jim Harbaugh, from then on, played Kaepernick for the rest of the season and Colin, who could run and throw and drive a team, pushed all the way to the Super Bowl where the team lost, but nobly enough.

In 2013, Smith was sent to Kansas City and Kaepernick owned the helm of the San Francisco offensive squad, and again drove the team to the NFC Championship game only to lose to the eventual Super Bowl Champ Seahawks.

Then came the ostensibly magic year of 2014, when Kaepernick made the McDonalds commercial, and he signed a six-year $126 million deal, but the rest of the season turned sour as San Francisco finished 8-8, missed the playoffs, and amid words around just how difficult life was around Jim Harbaugh. Things in Ninerland were at best dicey. 

During the season, Kaepernick was fined $10K for using "inappropriate" language on the field, which seems crazy as I have to think in the heat of battle just about everything imaginable is said on the gridiron. But, who knows? Later that year, Kaepernick was fined for wearing Dr. Dre "Beats" headphones during post-game interviews rather than phones made by Bose, the official headphones partner of the NFL.

Just within my narrative thus far there are a few things suggesting issues. For one, I think Harbaugh was always overrated as the San Francisco head coach, and think his sort of dogmatic military style was much better suited to impressionable college students rather than highly paid stud athletes upon whom he depended for his own success. But, in the end, I don't think he was a good match for a Kaepernick.

Perhaps that, coupled with the silly fine for swearing (I am assuming) triggered the "defiance" in wearing the Dr. Dre's, which is kind of understandable. At least it is something I can relate to as one who does not always appreciate being told what to do. 

But in 2015, he got hurt and the team was deteriorating and Kaepernick's skills appeared to fall apart in step, which brings us from the lousy 2015 to a somewhat better 2016, and the social protest during the National Anthem and poof, free agent city.

What then gets strange is that $126 million contract which seems to suggest that in addition to being happy to be shed of Harbaugh, Colin was the future. 

Personally, I not only don't care if Kaepernick sits during the National Anthem. If he is voicing his freedom of speech in doing so, I believe it to almost be a duty (and, I have never understood why we sing that song prior to sporting events of all things in the first place). But, I do believe in freedom of speech such that whether I like it or not, he gets to sit and the stupid Nazis get to march in Charlottesville. Because, as I believe Dr. King once said, "There is nothing against the law in being a racist: Only in acting upon it."

In that vein, the same "politically conscious" Kaepernick who prefers to sit at political moments could not delineate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, making me wonder exactly how Kaepernick's ethos works, if at all?

If I owned an NFL team, there is obviously a lot I am willing to "ignore" if you want to win, so what exactly is it about Kaepernick that is so bad? For he may indeed have made enemies by his political stance, but similarly, his jersey is the top seller for the NFL and I cannot believe that many people bought them in order to burn them. 

But, why would a team, still indebted to a talented young (Kaepernick is 29 at writing) quarterback for three more years, struggling to rebuild, simply dump their theoretically franchise player unless there was something else under the surface? 

What, I don't know, and I certainly have no dark thoughts about what might be at the source of all of this other than maybe he is a head case as they say? Maybe Colin Kaepernick is a football counterpart to Milton Bradley: Skilled athletically beyond all belief, but just not worth the emotional baggage trade off in the long run?

Tune into the Tout Wars Hour on the FNTSY network, hosted by me, with Justin Mason and featuring Lord Z every Thursday night at 9 PM ET and you can follow me @lawrmichaels.

Since I have been playing Fantasy ball, I have noticed how dismissive a lot of folks seem to be about banging 20 homers. Baseball is a hard game, and I have always felt 20 big league smackers indicates a pretty good season for anyone.

As it was, I was watching the Cubs on Thursday when they clobbered six homers, in a losing cause no less. I noticed that the team now has a chance for six guys with 20 or more big flies, which is a lot. It reminded me of the 1977 Dodgers who had Ron Cey, Steve Garvey, Reggie Smith and Dusty Baker all with 30 homers, indicating a pretty good hitting team. 

The Cubs have Anthony Rizzo (28), Kris Bryant (23), Willson Contreras (21) and Kyle Schwarber (20), along with Javier Baez (19) and Ian Happ (17), who should also top the 20-HR mark.

In deference to that, I began to wonder if the number of home runs this year really was crazy high, so I looked it up and discovered that as of Wednesday night, 67 major leaguers had hit at least 20, and since Schwarber banged his on Thursday, that means at least 68. So, that set me wondering again, so I looked back since the turn of the Century as they say to see how this year stacks up.

And, since this season is pretty much exactly three-quarters done, that means roughly 40 games left, and if we calculate 3.5 at-bats for all the home run hitters over those games, that adds 140 at-bats for the average everyday player. Remember that I am not a math guy, but according to Fangraphs, there have been 123,265 Major League at-bats this year and 4568 homers, meaning on average a home run was hit every 27 at-bats.

So, 140 divided by 27 gives us another projected five dingers for the year, though I will acknowledge that is likely a conservative number for it factors in Alcides Escobar's power along with Giancarlo Stanton, and there are more guys closer to Alcides than Giancarlo.

Either way, I looked at the number of players who have hit 15 this year (there are 54) thus far and added five to them and compared this year's projected totals to some other dates since Y2K came to tease us, and this is what I found.

Year   #20 Home Run Guys  #30 Home Run Guys  #40 Home Run Guys
 2017  121 29  4
 2016  111 38 8
 2015    64 20 9
 2010    76 18  2
 2005    78 27
 2000   102 47   16

2000, to jog your memories, was the year Sammy Sosa led the Majors with 50, but 16 players--which is a lot--hit 40. And, Andruw Jones hit 51 in 2005, along with Jose Bautista hitting 54 in 2010, but even projecting out 2017 and adding in those five extra homers, this year will not come close to the 16 40-homer guys of 2000.

As it happens, I was on Patrick Davitt's BBHQ Podcast today, and the very subject came up, and Patrick's take on the power boost is that the real power hitters, like Giancarlo Stanton and Joey Gallo, are unaffected by whether they hit a 425-foot homer or a 410-foot homer. But, as Patrick astutely pointed out, that 15 feet the ball adds makes it so that Yonder Alonso and surprises like Chris Taylor and Tim Beckham get four bases and the accouterments for what used to be a warning track fly out.

And, I personally think, especially looking at these numbers, Patrick is dead on correct.

So, the question is how do I plan towards next season with the proliferation of guys who have between say 15-25 homers and determine what their value is?

Well, thinking ahead, my approach is that there will be a plethora of them I will indeed not think so much about as a power source but rather supporting acts scoring runs and ideally helping the counting stats. But I think the group of players we draft in rounds 10-17 or purchase for between $8-$13 in a single league draft become targets more for steals and on-base percentage and batting average while we focus on the true power guys in the early rounds.

And that means pitching becomes a lot more ad hoc, meaning I will focus on a couple of closers and an ace and otherwise think about building my rotation out of the dregs and free agent pool.

That might not sound like much, but for me it will be way different from the past few seasons. Because you know, you can never plot too early.

Remember you can always reach me @lawrmichaels.

 

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