Mastersball

Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down


Bad Trade (or Just Lousy Players?) PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 25 May 2013 00:00

There is that great moment during Annie Savoy's (aka Susan Sarandon) soliliquoy at the beginning of "Bull Durham" when she laments that trades are a part of baseball, then invoking one of the most famous, Milt Pappas for Frank Robinson.

It was a swap that did not work out so well, although on paper, it looked like a good trade. Pappas was 27, going into those infamous peak years, and had been 110-74, 3.24 over nine years with Baltimore. Robinson, at 29, had spent a decade with the Reds, going .303-324-1009, but his success so exceeded that of Pappas (who was 30-29, 4.04 as a Red) that the trade surely did seem to work out pretty lopsided.

Not so different was Ray Sadecki for Orlando Cepada, one that caused a lot of local stir in Northern California when consumated. The "Baby Bull" was 27 when dealt, and had gone .308-226-767 over his nine years with the Giants while Sadecki was coming off a 6-15, 5.21 year, but a season earlier had gone 21-10, 3.68. Truth is both players had injuries around the time of the swap if memory serves, and at least locally, the Giants had Willie McCovey to play first, and a bevy of outfielders, so again, on paper it looked like a great swap.

Then there was Ernie Brogilo for Lou Brock. A year before the deal, Broglio was 18-8, 2.99 for St. Louis, and though his mark slipped to 3-5 just before the 1964 trade, his ERA wa 3.50. Brock, on the other hand, was .257-20-86 with 50 swipes for the Cubs before the trade over 327 games, never having achieved the great predictions made for the former Texas A&M star.

Again, on paper, the deal seemed right at the time. But, the reality is all three pitchers pretty much fizzled, while Robinson, Cepada and Brock all went on to Hall of Fame careers.

Not that fiascos are limited to let-down pitchers being swapped for future superstar hitters. Because what made me think of all this was the recent demotion of Jesus Montero by Seattle, after hitting .208-3-9 this year (and putting up an aggregate .252-18-71 over 164 games in the Northwest).

Of course, we all remember the big trade that sent the then biggest Yankees hitting prospect to Seattle in exchange for one of the most promising young pitchers on earth, Michael Pineda. Pineda went 9-10, 3.74 for the Mariners in 2011, and since being traded to the Bronx in January of 2012, the right- hander has logged precisely zero innings with the big club.

Pineda finished fifth in the AL Rookie of the Year competition in 2011, even, but these examples illustrate just how iffy both trades, and mining for prospects, can be.

For, we all are excited to grab Kevin Gausman or Tony Cingrani, or anticipate the arrival of Oscar Taveras, or feel envy for the guy who landed Jurickson Profar, recently promoted to fill the Ian Kinsler void.

But, the reality is that a trade, like drafting prospects, is largely a crap shoot. Sometimes, it is an educated one, but, well, sometimes educated people fail tests. Worse, sometimes smart people lack common sense, which is as bad as dumb people thinking they are smart (well, it generally means the same less than stellar results).

The question, though, is how do you know who will be good, and who won't? 

I am not sure, for though I have had more than my share of successes picking prospects, I have also had my failures: Daric Barton, Dustin Ackley and of course, the guy who killed us all, Brandon Wood.

My friend Jeff Smith pointed to a team in his league that he thought would rock because the owner has neatly stashed Mike Zunino, Anthony Rendon, Billy Hamilton, Oscar Taveras, Michael Wacha, A.J. Cole, and Zach Turner, among others. But, when I saw that team, I pretty much shrugged, for maybe one of all those players will establish himself within a year, and the rest could take three or four years, like Jeff Samardzija (whom I drafted in the XFL in 2006, excitedly activated for 2008, dropped in 2009 and watched blossom elsewhere in 2011).

As we all know, those baseball gods are some fickle folks. I know from the trades I just mentioned, and I know from some of the roto deals I have made myself. And, in fairness, I have had deals pay off and win pennants for me, but similarly, I have had trades simply destroy my teams for a couple of years (in fact in the XFL, I am still rebuilding trying to get over deals I made for Jason Bay, Francisco Liriano and Stephen Drew).

However, as with baseball itself, you just never know, and gambling as such is as much a part of the game as trying to take third on a weak arm.

Still, I have to wonder what both the Yankees and Mariners think of their swap in retrospect. I realize that to them it was business, and sometimes business deals pay off, and sometimes they don't. But, it is kind of funny that both properties, so highly regarded just a couple of years ago, are at the moment, total failures.

Of course, like Samardzija, both could emerge in a couple of years and realize the ephemeral potential. Or, worse, they could be swapped, and have their skills come to fruition for another team, probably a respective nightmare for both Seattle and New York.

But, well, it is part of baseball.

Just as surely as Larry Anderson for Jeff Bagwell was.

 
Hitting (or Missing) PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 18 May 2013 00:00

There is a trend in baseball towards generally more and better pitching than hitting these days.

I have a lot of thoughts about this, and have actually been noting my reasons over the past couple of years: Back to when I went to a Twins/Giants game and noticed that among the 16 starting position players, only three had OBPs over .330.

I think a lot of it is that due to escalating salaries, and the allure of good and powerful young hitters, players are advanced before really going through the minor league system and truly approaching their craft as batters did when I was younger.

Mind you, I am not trying to make one of those stupid "back when I was young and they really played the game the way it was supposed to be played rants."

Times change, as do games and everything, and with those changing times, so do trends shift right before our eyes. Furthermore, when I was a kid watching baseball, there were only 16 teams, meaning a lot fewer Major League slots, and a lot more time to move through the system and learn and prepare for the Majors.

Additionally, the college system was simply not as sophisticated as today, and players with ostensibly a good college resume--as well as a few years on the planet of experience under their belts--couple with a crazy salary "structure" teams looking to the future are happy to move potentially upwardly mobile players up.

Not to mention as fans, and fantasy players, we are happy to see these young players make it and show what they can do.

So, if that explains the hitting, I think that pitchers generally have the advantage over hitters, and if pitchers are moved along from a high school draft or college like hitters, they generally are young, and will throw hard, and more often than not at least be able to take advantage of hitters for a while.

Mind you I haven't done any empirical number crunching around these thoughts: they are anecdotal and observational, so I am aware my theories could be disproved. But, that is not the point, and it is baseball (we all have our theories about everything baseball).

I do think, though, that eventually hitters catch up and things even out, and the recent demotion of Philip Humber reaffirmed this.That would be Philip Humber of the perfect game on April 12 of last year against the Mariners.

Because like it or not, Humber is really a mediocre pitcher at best, with a career 16-23, 5.34 mark that also included a 5-5, 6.44 record (that is with the perfecto as part of the stat base), Dallas Braden, who also tossed a perfect game--that I scored no less--has a 26-36, 4.19 mark, and though he is not in the minors, neither is he pitching in the majors thanks to a dead arm.

But, the thing is 11 of the Perfect Games in history have occurred since 1994, after the last expansion, six since the first big expansion in 1962, which means a total  of five of the modern perfectos occured between 1904 (Cy Young) and 1956 (Don Larsen).

Again, I am not sure what all this observation stuff means, but it does make me think of my friend and former partner J.P. Kastner, who has played Strat-O-Matic since 1984 in somewhere between one and three full season leagues, and the only perfect game that ever occurred was tossed by Don Schulze, another mediocre pitcher with a career 15-25, 5.47.

 
Press Box Politics PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 11 May 2013 00:00

Working in the press box is a trip.

Of course, it is exciting, and a little scary at first.  

But, most of us have assigned seats, which means always sitting in the same place. That means always sitting by the same people for the most part,  so after a while it is like a job where you go to work and sit around those familiar to you. Often--in fact most of the time--those same folks become your friends, too.

Just like your office, we have likes and dislikes. For example, as much as those in the stands might crave extra innings, the rest of us fear them. For if there is a game, we go to the office, put in our eight hours, and then want to go home. I mean, how excited would you be to "get" to stay at the office for an extra hour because two extra vendors dropped in to try and sell you a new product?

You may well remain and hear the pitch, but you would not necessarily be as enthusiastic as you might have been over a lunch or early morning meeting. Not to mention, the longer the meeting goes, generally the more tired and loopy you become.

Well, the press box is no different. That is because we are essentially all co-workers. Meaning there are arguments and relationships and memorable moments, just like any other situation where us human beings are close knit.

There are also differences of opinion, and as it is, I always sit next to the Official Scorer when I work a game, so I have become friends and observational buddies with all of them (there are six who cover the Giants and Athletics).

It is no easy job, being the OS. For, though the questionable plays are less frequent than the routine, the focus is always on those judgements and their impact.

I clearly remember the first game C.C. Sabathia pitched at ATT Park when he spent time with the Brewers. First play of the game, shortstop J.J. Hardy did not field a ball cleanly, but the leadoff hitter was fast and it was a tough play, and ultimately called a hit.

At the time, no one really questioned the call, and Sabathia was able to get the runner with a double play, retiring the next 17 hitters in a row. During the break between the top and bottom of the seventh, I looked up to find the OS and me on the ATT Diamond Vision, noting the Brewers announcers were suddenly questioning the call in the first. For, there was no longer a chance for Sabathia to have a no-hitter. 

That inning the Giants got a hit, making the point moot, but it is pretty typical to second guess and bemoan calls ex post facto.

In 2008, during Tim Lincecum's final start of the season, a ball rode up third baseman Rich Aurilia's wrist, allowing a runner, again a fast one, to reach first base. And, the ball took a little hop and was ruled a hit. That meant the subsquent runs that scored against Lincecum were earned, and at the time he had the lead in the ERA title. So, there was a lot of pressure from the team to really look at that replay again--especially after Aurilia said he thought it was an error--and make sure and put the truth in "its best light." As in agreeing with Aurilia, for if it was an error, and the runs unearned, it meant Lincecum could win the ERA title, and that would surely be a feather in the cap of a team that still had yet to win a pair of World Championships.

Last Friday, when the Giants and Dodgers were playing, a similar play happened where a ball took a hop on second sacker Marco Scutaro and though he recovered, he then threw the ball away and the runners advanced accordingly. The play was deemed a single and a throwing error, and not an eye was batted.

Four days later--last Monday--when Madison Bumgarner and his sub-.2.00 ERA was pitching--Scutaro had a similar play where the ball hopped, no one was covering second, and he chose to throw to first, albeit wildly. This was ruled an error on the play and the throw, but then overturned to a single and a throwing error.

And, when the call was made, at first, it was not questioned.

Until it was discovered that Scutaro was sure it was an error, and the again unearned runs would be a kick in the shins of Bumgarner's ERA. For the remainder of the game, the single adjudication was asked about, and the OS noted he was still thinking about it.

By the end of the game, the single stood, as did the earned runs, and I checked my box score against the OS's to ensure we both had everything correctly and consistently.

As we were leaving, the Giants media guys came back up into the booth, and as we passed them the OS asked "Are they still pissed at me?" 

"Yes," was the response.

"Well, you can always appeal to a higher authority," was the response, and we walked out to go home.

It is true. It is also why I am glad that people make the decisions in the booth, as on the field. For, though we are not infallable by any means, we are human. And, a game played by humans should also be judged by humans.

It is also why I have no ambition in ever becoming an Official Scorer.


 
Halladay, Cain, and Price (oh my)! PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 04 May 2013 00:00

Man, what a brutal first month for starting pitchers.

Not all starting pitchers, mind you. Just a lot of the ones we counted on.

But, in case you were wondering, let's list a few of the worst according to the simple ERA totals.

Of course, these are just a few, and the list does not count guys like Vance Worley and Dillon Gee, of whom we might not have hopes as high as the guys listed.

The question is, of course, what do we do with these guys? Pretty much all of them are stalwarts, in fact a few, like Cain, Price, and Gonzalez were likely top flight pitchers in auctions, and maybe fifth to sixth round picks in draft leagues.

So, the question is what to do?

Well, I do have to stress patience this time of year, with five more months left in the season.

That said, obviously you cannot trot Buehrle out there every five days only to watch him get hammered, without stirking anyone out, destroying the good work of your other pitchers.

But, I do sort of place these guys into three categories, with the following path forward as appropriate.

Leave them alone: This counts pretty much for Cain, Price, and Gonzalez for now, as they are both talented, and young, and are just going through some struggles. But, if they wind up with ERA's of 4.20, that means some good innings ahead, and you don't want to stream them and risk missing the good innings by taking pot shots with starts.

Sit them till they right the ship: This pretty much accounts for the rest, like Buehrle (of whom I have faith) and Vogelsong (of whom I have less) and Morrow (who will get whiffs, along with Volquez and Jackson). Although I am not a big believer in streaming, for these guys, I would just hang and see if they can figure it out. For again, percentages say they will not wind up with an ERA as bountiful as they presently have.

See about a trade: Now, this third category presumes you have some arms out there to fill the void of the trade, and some kind of offensive need. But, for example, a crap shoot of Roy Halladay for Ike Davis, or Adam LaRoche, B.J. Upton, or Rickie Weeks might be not just doable, but a trade whereby you give up some potential and jettison frustration but at the same time gain some potential while picking up someone else's frustration.

It is a long season. And, it is early to be thinking about dumping or desperation moves, but, being practical, and in the moment trying to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear is not necessarily a bad way to go.

Of course, if your team is peppered with Price, Cain, LaRoche, Upton and Davis, you have my deepest sympathy. But, take heart, football season is only four months away.

 

 
Rhythm of the Game PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 27 April 2013 00:00

I made my third sojourn to watch my friends' kids do their little league thing last Saturday.

A few weeks earlier, my guitar teacher/producer, Steve Gibson's son Guy was playing with the son of another pal, percussionist Mark Rosenthal's boy Julian. A week later, I saw my friend Ben Klein's son Isaac do his thing, and then last Saturday, there was the fun of a doubleheader in Lafayette.

Lafayette is a little closet community about 10 miles from where we live in El Cerrito, and on a beautiful Saturday I trucked off--top down on the car even--to watch my friends George Anderson and Julie Schmit's sons Ben and Zach play.

Zach plays in the Triple-A level  while Ben is a level lower--both boys are ten--and Zach is at a point where he has shown some physical prowess, playing with kids that are a couple of years older.

I got to the game in time to see Zach get a hit and then toss a couple of innings--which is what I really wanted to see--as I knew he was indeed doing some pitching these days.

The reality is though it does eat up a little of what small amount of free time I have during the baseball season, I really enjoy watching the kids, who know I do baseball work and get as much of a kick out of my coming as do their parents, and even me.

Zach actually pitched pretty well and his team--the Athletics-won their first game under my guise, so then we moved on to Ben's contest where his Blue Jays' team was working at their own win (Ben collected a couple of hits, too).

However, what became interesting is that though George carried a pad and pen, tracking the kids' pitches with hash marks (there are pretty strict usage rules), Julie was asked to actually score the game for the team, an honor she had previously avoided.

So, I sat next to my friend and explained the numeric designations of the defensive players, along with the cryptology of decoding things like 43/G and 5/P. I also told her little tricks I have for tracking RBI and stolen bases, and marking the scoresheet so you can pick up the next inning in the right column with the right batter.

Julie is pretty smart and she picked it up quickly, although it was admittedly fun when a wild pitch or passed ball occurred, allowing a baserunner to advance a base (at this level walks and "steals" are the core of existence). "Is that a steal?", she asked, to which I initially replied, "No, that is a passed ball." Julie's perplexed raised eyebrows was the response and I said, "Just write it down as a stolen base for that is fine." Note that things like the Infield Fly Rule don't exist either at this level, and in deference to our kinder, gentler generation of parents, the "slaughter rule" has transmogrified into "the mercy rule."

Julie actually had to leave the game to meet friends for a night out before a wedding, so for the last two innings of the game she handed the scoresheet to me and I logged pitches and plays and outs, which was actually kind of fun.

For one of the reasons I so enjoy watching my friends' progeny play is that Infield Fly Rule and such aside, the kids are indeed playing the same game they play at ATT and the O.co Coliseum, where I indeed track stats the same way for Major League Baseball.

Which, curiously I found myself doing both the next day--last Sunday--on another beautiful day in San Francisco, then again on Thursday night in Oakland.

While the Sunday game was really crisp (two hours and twenty-eight minutes), the Athletics/Orioles match-up was torture, with five four-pitch walks (and four more 3-0 counts that could have become walks). There were errors and misplays, and the reality is that it always amuses me that the smoother the game on the field, the easier it is to track the pitches and subsequent disposition.

Meaning the Sunday Giants game was pretty easy, while the Athletics game was much closer to Ben's Blue Jays game, where passed balls and wild pitches and the Infield Fly Rule were as illusory as guys throwing strikes in Oakland.

How can you not love the madness and beauty of that?

 
What's Wrong US? PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 20 April 2013 00:00

NOTE: If you were looking for thoughts on baseball this week, I am sorry to disappoint you today. But, after Monday's Patriots Day events and the Senate's voting down of gun registration legislation, I cannot help myself. However, if you need a fix, Brian Walton's "Articles of Configuration" will probably help, so I recommend that.

In the mid-70's, I was turned onto a book--Richard Greenan's "It Happened in Boston"--a tale about a psychotic killer who is trying to transcend corpereal existence and meaning by downing his victims with--if memory serves--cyanide sprinkled in the table salt of selected Beantown restaurants.

I could not help but flash on that tale (and title) as my mate and partner Todd--a Boston resident--and I got into an GMAIL chat about the craziness of the Patriot's Day events.

He was clearly upset, which is clearly understandable. I mean, in my lifetime in the bay area there have been a number of holocausts that grabbed national attention.

The big earthquake in 1989, the firestorm, the assassinations of Supervisor Harvey Milk and Mayor George Moscone. I know there are more, but those are the biggies that popped into my head reminding me of how much I love where I live, how much pride I stake in my home and community, and how pained I felt to see my area and fellow citizens suffer.

Not that I would localize an incident, for I felt the same human pain after the Oklahoma City bombing, and after 9/11 for sure, not to mention the spates of shootings that fellow countrymen seem to feel is necessary to prove some kind of point. Like Todd, I am an empath, feeling a connection to our fellow inhabitants of the country, and the planet. And, I have had enough suffering within my own life to clearly get the implications and pain, and to feel sadness that others have to endure.

Furthermore, I do understand tragedy happens, often in ways that transcend guns or bombs. As in fires and earthquakes and tsunamis and so on.

But, I have to wonder what is wrong with human beings? 

Mind you, the 6000 years civilization that has been recorded is really a blink in the scheme of things, but why do we find it necessary to destroy those with whom we disagree? And, especially, why do we think that whatever diety we follow wants us to destroy the infidels who think or have different beliefs?

Before, however, you jump on any bandwagon that suggests the brothers who facilitated the Boston bombing were true believers in Islam, were that true, they were no less perverse than Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, the single biggest supplier of mercenaries in the Iraq/Afghanistan conflict.

An ex-patriot, who apparently loved America, his country of birth, so much he left to live in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Prince is on record noting that he feels the war in the Middle East is an extension of the Crusades whereby the forces of the Christian god must destroy Islam. Meaning he is no better than the Tsarnaev brothers, or the perpetrators of 9/11 (note that I personally don't think the bulk of Muslims or Christians adhere to these radical notions, but I also don't see either side doing much to discourage the violence their extremists perpetrate).

Of course, we need look no further than our own Senate, who despite the support of 90% of the public, refuses to pass the simplest rules around checking the background of would-be firearms purchasers (let alone limiting magazines to a "reasonable" ten rounds) because such a check would violate the Second Ammendment of the Constitution, which really speaks to "the right to bear arms" in the context of a "well regulated militia."

But, the Declaration of Independence also speaks to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," something violated in the case of Newtown and the Boston Bombing victims for sure. 

The thing is, if the god of Mohammad and Jesus is indeed a god of mercy and love--as the religions' supporters suggest, and like it or not, the bulk of Senators who voted down the gun legislation identify themselves as Christians--why are they all so complacent about the whole thing? Why are they not, in the name of that same god, speaking out and acting vigilantly on behalf of the god who holds their faith?

I wish I knew--as a Jew who does not go to temple, but as the offspring of immigrants who fled the Nazi holocaust--for I do understand we cannot sit still and do nothing.

Which means the least I can do is occupy this space once in awhile with an admonition to do the right thing. 

Now, I know "the right thing" can be a subjective item, but I do ask this: "Why is it an infringement on our rights to tighten the rules around owning a gun, but it is not an infringment to tighten the rules around voting?"

Unfortunately, I think the simplistic answer lies with every football player who said god was with him when he scored a touchdown.

Because, if there is a god, he or she is not a Cowboys fan, understands that Moses, Jesus, Buddha, and Mohammad all said the same thing, and for sure understands that we are all his or her children.

 

 
Now What Do I Do? PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 13 April 2013 00:00

I have to admit, I was watching the red hot Athletics (anyone paying attention when I suggested the team would be playing Earl Weaver baseball Tout Wars Weekend?) when Zack Greinke and Carlos Quentin mixed it up on Thursday night.

While Greinke is on my XFL team, a squad that is two-thirds of the way towards rebuilding, I have Quentin on my NL LABR squad. In fact, I really targeted the Padres' outfielder in every league possible, as if he stays healthy, Quentin is more than a productive hitter with an excellent ratio of extra-base hits to base hits in general.

I do try to draft guys who have a better chance of avoiding injury on one hand, but on the other, gamble on players like Quentin, or Mike Morse for under market value and hope they produce beyond expectations, something Morse had done until he broke his pinky finger, also on Thursday.

In fact, despite my drafting pretty solid and understated teams across the board, this week has been brutal, losing Morse, Greinke, Erick Aybar, Matt Harrison, Scott Sizemore, and Marco Scutaro, from somewhere between the vague "day-to-day" (Scutaro and Aybar) to the rest of the season (Sizemore).

I do feel a little indignant about those who suggest Greinke was head hunting, for while it is true that he has hit Quentin three times including Thursday, all three were with the same tailing fastball on the left arm or shoulder. And, like it or not, Quentin is the new Ron Hunt. For the unitiated, Hunt led the Majors in HBP for years during the mid-60's, a prize Quentin owns these days.

I suspect Quentin's anger at Grienke stems a lot more from getting plunked two nights earlier, and then sitting out Wednesday as his banged up wrist healed, for at the time of the infraction the score was tied and it is hardly prudent for a pitcher to simply give away a base runner to "announce his presence with authority" in the Nuke Laloosh sense.

Clearly there were some other words spoken if you watch the replay of the brawl, but more so it was just another example of too much testosterone in too small a geographic area.

The deal is that getting hit and more importantly, injuries, are simply part of the game. The question is what do we do about them? 

Well, one of the things that was really re-confirmed for me this past draft season was not to panic. I cannot really explain it, and I suspect some of my attitude has to do with my most recent illness and brush with death last December. Somehow, whatever calm I carried translated into pretty solid rosters, where I can suck it up with the injuries to Aybar and Harrison (who is on the same XFL squad as Greinke) and Morse and Scutaro.

For if you play fantasy baseball, the chance that any of your guys will get hurt simply exists every day, all season long.

What I can say if you own Greinke or Aramis Ramirez or now Gordon Beckham, is just take a deep breath. If you are in a shallow league, there will be a replacement in the free agent pool, and while you might not be happy with the thought of Mark Ellis or Ty Wigginton replacing your injured guys, they are everyday players, and they are just fine. 

If you are in a deeper format--NL or AL-only, or a mixed league with 17 or more teams, then you have to know that every team will have a hole or two and lack starters. Ideally, your injured player is simply one of those situations, so again, do your best out of the free agent pool for now.

But, avoid blockbuster trades and dumping players who are underproducing after less than two weeks of games.

For it is a long haul. And Ramirez and Greinke and Beckham will be back. More importantly, players will emerge from the Minors and free agent pool who can pick up the slack.

The bottom line is our fantasy teams are not that different than the major league teams, and essentially if your roto squad has Greinke, then you will have to follow the same path as the Dodgers. 

That is take a deep breath, fill the spot the best you can, and figure the rest of your team will kick it up a notch till everyone is back in place. But more importantly, remember that part of your skill as a manager is reflected in how you handle the challenges--like injuries and slumps--your fantasy team hands over. 

 

 

 

 
It's in the Numbers PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 06 April 2013 00:00

Less than a week in, and I have it bad for scoreboard watching already.

Sigh. It is a disease and a sickness; a sickness and a disease.

I stare at my teams as the at-bats increase with each automated screen refresh. Although truth be told, I am not beyond hitting the button on my own just to make certain I have the most current totals.

It is not just about looking at my squads, mind you. In fact, I had not really thought about--aside from the basic addiction to looking--until earlier this week Jona Keri tweeted about how great the box scores are.

I replied noting that the only real studying I do is staring at the boxscores.

That reminded me of when I was seven, and first really interested not just in baseball, but baseball cards as well. 

There was something about the cards: something about holding someone's life and resume in your hands. I knew everything from them. Who the player was. What team. What position he played. New highlights, depending upon the year, like on the back of the 1960 edition of Topps, or sometimes fielding percentage, which was tracked in the mid-1950's.

Somehow, I could stare at them for hours, front and back, irrespective of whether the card was Willie Mays or Coot Veal. Because there was something within the numbers. Not just the stats, but even the number of the cards. In fact, I remember the epiphany that the cards such as 100 or 200 in the series were always mega stars, and the 50's, like 250, were big stars. Then came the 25 and 75 numbers, then the base ten cards, like 20, or 30, or 40, then half of that for the pretty good players.

And the rest were commons. Like Coot Veal.

As a kid, I could simply look at the backs and absorb everything about the player. My friends used to accuse me of memorizing those very numbers, but to me that would have been a waste of time. For the numbers did not need me to force the issue: they already spoke to me.

The same held true for the daily box scores, when I learned how to translate them, something that clearly still holds true today, and for sure, there was nothing better on a Sunday in the summer during my youth than turning to the transactions on the sports page where all the pitching and hitting leaders were captured as the season progressed. Only this was not just a Top 10, it was a top whatever of everyone who had been up or pitched to a certain threshold as the season progressed.

The same thing actually happens to me, when god forbid, I open the Baseball Encylopedia, and just as likely should I happen to open up the Baseball Reference site online, just to check something out. That one thing can lead to another and another, and suddenly two hours are gone and all I have done is stared at the numbers.

Just as the box scores still do. Not that top hitting lists, all sortable for anything don't cut it, But nothing beats the boxes.

Since the season has begun, large chunks of my evening are spent simply staring at the boxes on one screen while usually a game is flickering in the background.

Oh, there are respites during the week. Tuesday nights, in general, when the Biletones practice. Not to mention the days that I actually have to go to the ball park and track the numbers at the source, so they can go into the boxscore, and subsequently into the same stat base, both of which I will scour when I get home after the contest.

It's a living. Apparently, one that suits me pretty well, too.

 

 
Spring has Sprung PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 30 March 2013 00:00

The weather has been pretty mild in general this winter and spring in the bay area, and, though there have been fits of rain, in general the days have been pretty warm. In fact this afternoon, as our dogs were lounging in the sun of the western exposure of our home, the temperature inside hit the high 70's. Which means it is easy to enjoy the weather, but as in many other years, a drought is threatening with the Sierra snow pack being down.

As is pretty well-documented by now, I spent last weekend in New York, playing in and helping coordinate Tout Wars in what was pretty cold weather, actually. While I was goofing around in Manhattan with my buds, Diane and her girlfriends had five days away up at our Tahoe house.

I only saw the five of them--Cherie, Deb, and Beth, who still lives in Chicago, and Dee Dee, who is in Alaska working on a PhD--for a few hours, for Thursday morning Diane accompanied the Chicago contigent back to the Windy City to visit her mom for a few days while Dee headed back for Fairbanks.

During that brief encounter, our respective cable came up as a topic (obviously a compelling issue) and Diane's friend Deb said she "could not function without Monday Night Football," but that baseball was pretty slow and dull to her.

Now I too love watching all the NFL has to offer, but it does puzzle me that baseball--which has roughly 220 plays a game if each pitch counts as a play--is slow, while football with its 90-100 plays, and only 60 minutes of actual play over three hours worth of broadcast, seemed so much more compelling than a play every 10-12 seconds over pretty much the same three-hour time frame.

The truth is since my last foray with illness last December, I have been pretty happy to simply be here walking around with my feet on our familar earth, so I was not really interested in engaging Deb much more than noted above. And, it is not that I don't consider football cerebral, for it is truly chess in action in my view.

But baseball, ah, sweet baseball offers so much more philosophically and spiritually than any other sport in my view.

So, on the eve of the 2013 season, I thought I would indulge myself (and ideally my poetic license) with a few thoughts around why baseball is so beautiful to me.

Renewal: Maybe the most important aspect of baseball, where a 60% success rate for a team and a 30% success rate for a hitter suggests dominance, baseball comes in the spring when the flowers are blooming, when the sun is returning and when anything seems possible. For it is true, on Opening Day, every team is in first place, making hope "spring" eternal.

Compelling: I understand tension can be subjective, but to me there is nothing more exciting than a 1-0 game, especially when the one run is a lead-off homer. OK, coming from behind to win in the late frames is also exciting, but back to the 1-0 contest, that means essentially every time a pitcher lets the ball fly--or 220 times--the balance of the game hangs. For 1-1, or 2-0, which can have a huge difference, are just a pitch away.

No Time Limit: What can I say? It ain't over till it is over, and there are no ties in baseball. I have seen some crying, but never a tie during the regular season.

Pretty to Watch: OK, football, and all sports can be pretty to watch as watching someone do something remarkably athletic is always hypnotic. But with its leisurely pastoral setting and a catcher facing in a different direction than the rest of his mates, baseball simply commands a loping gracefulness I have not encountered in much of anything else.

The Zen: You never really know what will happen, despite a complex book of rules. Strangeness abounds in baseball, or should I say mystique? I like to think all the plays and final disposition of a baseball game is pre-determined, and as we watch, fate is simply revealing the natural order of things to us, before our very eyes.

I could go on, but, well, I think you get the point. And, well, I am really happy to simply be watching another season.

Today it was announced that Buster Posey, the Giants great young backstop, signed a nine-year extension to his contract, meaning he will be a Giant until the year 2021. Well, god willing, I will be almost 70 by then. I hope to keep on waxing poetic in the spring every year up until then.

Happy Baseball Season everyone (and, Easter and Passover as well).

 

 

 

 

 
Tout Wish List PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 23 March 2013 00:00

It seems that every year just before Tout Wars, and now prior to LABR, I like to list players I covet, why I covet them and how much I covet them for.

So, this time is no exception. As it is, I am waiting for the plane to take me to JFK to start the weekend and this year’s Tout festivities, so while I have a chance to think about it, here goes (Note that all three Tout auctions, AL, Mixed, and NL will be broadcast on Sirius/XM 87/210).

John Jaso (C $6): Gad, we do need catchers don't we? And, as much as I like Matt Wieters, I think I will look to spend the bulk of my relative wealth elsewhere. I do think if Jaso starts 120 games he can do .260-8-50, but more important I think he can score 60-plus runs as I see Oakland playing some Earl Weaver baseball this year. That means walks, dingers, and runs.

Howie Kendrick (2B, $18): I continue to be amazed how Ian Kinsler and Dustin Pedroia are considered second rounders in an NFBC style draft, yet Kendrick slips to the 8th-to-10th round when Kendrick is clearly as productive as those other guys. He has pop and speed and still has some breakout year living inside waiting to burst out. Like in Alien.

Erick Aybar (SS, $20): Kendrick's mate up the middle usually costs more than his keystone compatriot, which again puzzles me as both spots have pretty similar scarcity. Aybar hit ugly the first two months of last year but rocked it after. I am looking for more consistency this coming year, but that means .285-10-65 totals with 15 swipes. I think the Angels are going to score a lot of runs, in fact. The question of their success lies more within their pitching and how good the rest of the mostly tough AL West is.

Mike Morse (OF, $17): Crap shoot, but a good one. No question Morse can tag the ball when healthy, but he has such a history of struggle and injury at Safeco that the gamble lies therein. I am guessing he will transcend this at least once, being a veteran leader on a team that is reloading nicely.

Kevin Youkilis (3B, $9): I think there is still some life in Youk, who will want to prove he has not had it. Yeah, the Yanks might struggle, but Youk, as long as he stays healthy, will play every day and I hope to take advantage of any skepticism around age, playing on an ostensibly bad team and injury possibilities.

Chris Young (OF, $11): Another crap shoot, but I think Young will get a full complement of at-bats in Oakland and if so give me 15/15 numbers or better. Plus, with Josh Reddick, Coco Crisp, and Yoenis Cespedes, that will be one potent and speedy cluster of outfielders. I think they will fuel one another.

Aaron Crow (RP, $2): Forgotten arm, forgotten man who was a #1 pick. Crow is the kind of guy I love as a #3 reliever and also the kind of guy I love to nominate early on while everyone else is champing at the bit to unload bucks on Mike Trout. Think he is fine as that third reliever with a chance to either move up to closing or even get into the rotation should the opportunity present itself.

Brett Gardner (OF, $12): Again coming off an injury, but with a lot less first place limelight pressure, I think Gardner returns to form, hitting around .270 and swiping 30-plus bags. Fine with me.

Mark Buehrle (SP, $6): Boring. Undervalued. And worthy of 200 innings, 13 wins, and a WHIP around 1.30. Fine. I will take the strikeouts I can get but really as a fifth or sixth starter, fine. Steady and boring are good.

Alex Cobb ($6): If Buehrle represents the turtle, I am hoping Cobb, coming off a solid second half and a good spring, is the hare. I think he can toss 180 innings or more, whiffing 165 or so, and win 14 games with a mid-threes ERA and a WHIP a little better than Buehrle.

Justin Verlander (SP $32): Wow, how did I slip him in at the end? Simply the best starter in the American League, and in his prime on a good team. No injury history, and I am banking that Verlander can duplicate the impact Pedro Martinez used to have on teams when he was the best starter on earth. The biggest question is if I vastly underestimate how much my mates are willing to spend.

If I get the cluster above, especially right around what I project ($138), that still gives me $122 for my remaining 11 spots. And that proposes to give me some balance coming out of the draft, which is what I want.

If you check out the Monday Hotpage you can see if I am even close.

 
A Call to Arms PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 16 March 2013 00:00

Ask any GM--fantasy or part of professional baseball--and they will likely agree you can never have too much pitching.

I confess I never really appreciated this until last year, when in the NFBC Draft Champions League--which is set so participants draft 50 players and that is it. Well, I took 22 pitchers and halfway through the season injuries hit me such that I could not put a starting rotation out there. This was complicated by four of my starting hurlers and one of my closers going lame in NL LABR.

And, while that does not mean I will never be caught short again, it does mean I will try not too, although I also confess I don't know what the correct number of pitchers to draft and stash is, aside from maybe "as many as you can."

Still, in the drafts I have done so far, there is a gaggle of arms that just don't get picked up, and while pitchers are always an adventure in Prozac, the guys I want to highlight today have had more ups than downs, yet still get very little respect. But, they do have experience, which is generally a good thing.

Let's start with my annual favorite last-round pick in just about every mock draft in the world: Mark Buehrle. Now, exactly what Mr. Buehrle did to be so dismissed is beyond me, but if you compare the now Toronto lefty to say, Tommy Milone, who has a similar skill set, it is hard for me to understand. Buehrle, who will be 34 next weekend, has never made less than 28 starts in a season, and that number was set his rookie year. Well, over 421 starts, the lefty, who did throw a perfect game, averages 35 starts, a 14-11, 3.82 mark over 223 innings with 127 whiffs and a 1.273 WHIP. Still, in my 2013 NFBC Draft League, Milone was drafted pick #252 while Buehrle was #345, five rounds later. 

It is true that starters were what killed me last year, but a reliever who similarly just goes at the bottom of the pile seems to be Luke Gregerson of the Padres. Over four years, Gregerson averages 3-3, 2.92 over 66 innings, with 68 strikeouts and a 1.112 WHIP. And this year he is behind Huston Street, a closer who is a DL trip waiting to happen. With all the fuss around the instability in the closer world these days, it is hard to imagine why the 28-year-old is not higher on drafters' lists.

It is true that Bronson Arroyo has had some funky seasons during his 13 years as a starter, like in 2011 when he was 9-12, 5.07, but generally his numbers have been closer to Buehrle's. As in over 13 seasons, Arroyo is 12-11, 4.23, over 207 innings, with 127 whiffs and a 1.305 ratio. And, while that might not seem so dazzling, it is steady. Better, as a fifth or sixth starter, guys like Arroyo or Buehrle's totals make your #1 and #2 guy's numbers that much more stable. Arroyo was picked at the #378 slot in my NFBC league.

OK, Carlos Zambrano has certainly struggled some his last few years, so his dropping down to the bottom of lists might be understandable. In fact, Big Z has not thrown 200 innings since 2008, but, believe it or not, he does not turn 32 until June. And, while he has beefed up (Baseball Reference lists his weight at 275 lbs.) and while he does pitch for Miami, as a late gamble or reserve pick in a deep league (as in where we are drafting 50 players each) what is the risk taking Zambrano in the 37th round?

Barry Zito has become sort of Buehrle/Arroyo light over the years, being much more hittable, and sometimes with fits of control issues as his career 1.315 WHIP suggests. Still, he is pretty steady, having missed earning 30 starts only once since 2001, and that was in 2011 when he broke his ankle. True, as the season wanes, Zito generally loses his command over hitters, but he has been deadly throughout his career over the early months of the season (last year over 27 April innings, he was 1-0, 1.97), so streaming him is not a bad thing. Neither is having Zito on your reserve list in case Cory Luebke or Brandon Beachy throws their arm into a food processor. Zito was picked #465 in my NFBC league (by me as a matter of fact).

OK, I love the term Saberhagenmetrics, coined a while back during a mock curated by my bud Cory Schwartz. It is basically the principle that every other year a guy is really good, a la Bret Saberhagen, or for hitters Aubrey Huff (at least until last year). So, who is this Saberhagenmetrics darling, with ERA's of 3.68, 2.60, 4.64, 2.96, and 6.89 going back to 2008? How about Jair Jurrjens? OK, so a crap shoot, but again in a league where we can keep 50 guys, is that a better gamble than say the Dodgers' Matt Magill (whom I love, but, well, the Dodgers have eight starting pitchers in camp)? You tell me.

I have been a Kevin Correia fan since the Giants selected him in the fourth round of the 2002 draft. And, the right hander has had his ups and downs for sure. Similarly, Correia has not necessarily pitched for the strongest teams on the planet over his decade of major league pitching. Correia is still just 32, and last year with the equally up and down Buccos, he was 12-11, 4.21, with a 1.298 WHIP over 171 innings. Correia managed just 89 strikeouts, but again, we are looking at guys who are either at the bottom of a rotation in a very deep league (like my Scoresheet 24-team, 40-man roster squad that drafts tomorrow) or as a reserve list plug-in should Zack Greinke fall to Dr. Lewis Yocum.

I am going to finish with a couple of relief pitchers, starting with Oakland's Sean Doolittle. One of the things i love about Doolittle is that between 2007-09 he was a first baseman with Oakland, and since 2011 Doolittle has been a pitcher. The lefty clocks a fastball at nearly 100 MPH with pretty good movement and also has a change and slider to complement his repertoire. Either way, this is a dramatic climb for a guy who was on the verge a few years back because he could not hit Triple-A pitching and had a bad hip. Now, he is a tweak away from getting a chance to close. Even in an AL-only format, Doolittle is worth a #3 reliever spot as his 60 strikeouts over 41.2 innings last year show.

Finally, I am not sure if Aaron Crow was even drafted in any league I am in before I selected him as pick #540 in the NFBC league. Crow was the Royals' first round pick in 2009 (#12 overall) and was a starter in the Minors (32 starts over 33 appearances) but converted to relieving in the Majors (7-5, 3.13 over 126.2 innings, with 130 whiffs). Crow is often talked about as moving to the rotation, but at worst, in middle relief, he will not hurt you and who knows? Like Doolittle, Crow is worth a #3 relief spot in a deep AL format. I am figuring I can get him for a buck at Tout next week.

 

 
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