Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down

IBBWA HOF Picks, 2015 PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 03 January 2015 00:00

So as a card carrying member of the Internet Baseball Writers of America, I got to drop my votes for the Hall of Fame. As with anything, this is so subjective, but, I will list my selections for this year, and reasons why, along with why I did not vote for some other largely worthy nominees.

Made my cut:

Barry Bonds: Yeah, Barry has his HGH issues, but essentially we get to wipe out a decade of sluggers to seriously enforce any kind of control around hitters who did, or didn't use. Not that this justifies a cheater. However, Bonds did win seven MVPs, and if you take 200 of his homers away, assuming they were "enhanced," Bonds still places #14 on the all-time list. He also is the all-time walks and intentional walks leader. I understand that many, if not all of you, might disagree with me on principle, and I don't really have a response aside from what I wrote above. He was, however, the most dangerous and electric offensive player in the game for 15 years, and that is similarly hard to argue, no matter how it happened.

Tim Raines: Players of Raines' skill set are the toughest of all. 2605 hits, 808 steals, a career .294-170-980 with 1571 runs and a .385 OBP and a dominant force on the most competitive (and best) Expos team of all. As with Bonds, you could argue any number of other players--Al Oliver, Bill Buckner, Steve Garvey, Dwight Evans, Vada Pinson and Darrell Evans to name a few--had equally impressive resumes. And, my rationale for Rock is that he was simply more of a driving force on his team than were any of the other players I just noted.

Alan Trammell: With a .285-185-1003 line, the Tigers shortstop falls within the same realm of logic as does Raines. The arguments I see to support Trammell was he played the key defensive spot on a great team, becoming a starter at age 20, and subsequently spent 20 years and 2293 games, playing his whole career in Motown.

Missed my cut:

Sammy Sosa: You can make the same argument for Sosa and HGH's as for Bonds. But, remember, Sammy also corked his bat, so that makes him a double cheater, which is a bit much. Sammy played 18 years, so take away 200 homers from his total (the net is 409) and both Darrell Evans and Dave Kingman pass him on the all-time list.

Mark McGwire: Much more of the same. 16 years with a .263-583-1414 line, and McGwire didn't cork his bat that we know of, but neither did he appear to be as good when not juiced. In other words, to me, Bonds was so consistent over his career, which cannot be said of Big Mac.

Curt Schilling: I think it was FanGraphs that recently posted a pretty convincing piece, noting how Schilling stacked up against some of the greatest pitchers of all time, so I will have to think about Curt in the future. But, I am a guy who thinks that Tommy John and Jim Kaat deserve to be in the Hall, too. Truth is I don't really like Schilling (as a person, and I feel the same about McGwire), so that probably shades my thoughts. But, I would pull Ty Cobb from the Hall as well, no matter how good he was.

Roger Clemens: Kind of the same as Schilling. In essence, I think he played enhanced, which I can at least accept to an extent. But, I truly believe the Rocket is a smarmy guy.

Mike Piazza: .308-427-1335 over a 16-year career, when he was the power hitting catcher of his era, Piazza, like Schilling, will get some future considerations from me. Worthy of note is that every time I had Piazza on a fantasy team, I won.

Craig Biggio: .281-291-1155 over 20 seasons is pretty good, but the 3060 hits makes Biggio a guy who gets my vote next year.

Edgar Martinez: I like Edgar as much as I dislike Schilling and McGwire, and dude could certainly hit (.312-309-1261 over 18 years), but his 2247 hits for someone who played almost three times as many games as a DH than in the field. One reason I can give the nod to Biggio, Trammell and Piazza is they played positions that traditionally do not register offensive powerhouses. As a DH, Martinez should be one by definition, but his numbers don't stack up against those three, so I will pass.

John Smoltz: 213 wins and then 154 saves tells me Smoltz is up there in Dennis Eckersley territory. He might have come close to 300 wins, had Smoltzie stayed in the rotation, or he would have been among the great closers of the game, had he just done that. Certainly worthy.

A Change of Course PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 27 December 2014 00:00

I am a writer.


Yeah, I know. If you have been reading my thoughts on god and life and baseball over the past 22 years (yes, I started writing for John Benson in 1993, which does seem like yesterday), you probably figure I always was a writer.

But, due to family and especially health, I was also locked to a job.

As it turns out, it was a very good job as I finished up as a Project Manager with ATT for the last 20 years, handling some high powered and successful IT projects. And, I can say, as a Berkeley hippie of the highest order, that ATT was a fantastic employer.

As most of you know, I have dealt with Crohn's disease most of my life (since I was ten) and as a result, suffer from stage three kidney disease (I have only half of one functioning kidney). I also had a severely disabled son, Joey (he passed away in 2006, six months after Cathy), and the illness of my dear late wife Cathy is pretty well publicized I suppose.

Because of just that, I have been stuck the last 35 years, working jobs that provided solid health care for obvious reasons.

However, thanks to the ACA, and since I turned 62 last October, I was able to retire from ATT as of next Tuesday (I saved vacation days, so my last actual day of work was last Friday, December 19) and just be a full time writer. For, though I do get a nice little pension from ATT (and another from a job I held before I worked for the phone company), as well as my Social Security, I don't get any other benefits till I turn 65.

I could have stayed at ATT for three more years, and that would have added health care and a lot of benefits to my exit package, but again, remember, I have had Crohn's since 1962, and have pretty much had a full time job since 1968, even while going to college. I have been advised six times that I might not live through the night thanks to Crohn's emergencies/body break downs, although if you know me, or saw me in the street, the fact that my health is sometimes compromised might not ever occur to you.

If you have followed my existence here for at least the past couple of years, you will know that the last time this happened--my life apparently in jeopardy--was just two years ago, when after Crohn's surgery, my poor body went into acute renal failure on Christmas Eve 2012.

So, largely thanks to Obamacare, I can simply stop the regular grind, begin collecting my pensions, and settle into being a writer full time. That means covering a lot more baseball and football, and mostly writing about it in the daytime, even (my old routine was to work my ATT job till 5 PM or so, and then take a little nap, and complete whatever column was due the next day).

Since I began writing on the Net, in 1996, if I averaged five columns a week, since that time I have written over 4500 columns, and if each column was 750 words, it means almost 3.5 million of them, as a second gig.

No more.

I decided--thankfully with the support of my lovely Diane and great circle of family and friends--that though I felt just fine, working those extra three years simply for a bit more pension and health care to simply do what I always wanted to do anyway (be a writer) was probably not the best gamble or use of my time.

Mind you, I have no intention or desire to leave the planet any sooner than is absolutely necessary, but, well, I have gotten old enough to at least try to be both practical and realistic.

So, from now on out, I am a writer full time. Although I must also confess that I studied literature as an undergraduate, and then a graduate, and what I really like to write the best is fiction.

I have three novels mapped out (I wrote another as a thesis) as well as a collection of short stories that has eight, but could use a half dozen more to really make it a volume of anything substantive.

In addition to writing, I plan on playing a lot of guitar and bass (toss in some ukulele, too) and hopefully finish off a second album of original tunes (my first, "Downward Facing Dog", is out there on Amazon), read fat novels, watch classic movies on TCM, cook, spend time sitting in the sun with our dogs, and checking out our wonderful country with my pal and partner, Diane. Oh yeah, and spending time at the yard during the season, keeping an eye on the machinations, and reporting back what I see to you.

I think it will be a pretty good ride. Happy for you to come along.

Just How Simple is Parity? PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 20 December 2014 00:00

One of the things I hear fantasy owners mention most frequently when they are suggesting rule changes is parity.

I am not sure exactly what that term means to each specific owner, but I suspect it means something to the effect of "I want to have a chance to win every year."

Now, if you are in a throwback league, where there is a redraft each season, this is not an issue as everyone has an equal chance year-to-year to build a new squad from scratch.

But, if you play in a keeper league of any type, then once the variable of freezes has slipped into the salary structure, the actual idea of parity year-to-year pretty much goes out the window.

Meaning that even though a great draft or auction might help a team without a stellar list of keepers win a league, the advantage going into a new season will always rest with the team possessing the highest value players at the lowest actual cost per player.

That means $15 worth of Jose Abreu is, like it or not, a better base to go into a draft with than $37 of Miguel Cabrera.

The problem for those owners craving "parity" is that aside from forcing the team that owns Abreu to either trade or dump him, an equal shot going into the coming season is probably not going to happen.

Again, that does not mean it is hopeless going into a draft: rather there are a lot of players, and many of the unknowns of baseball promise a couple of guys will step it up into the Abreu set of numbers, while a couple more will slip from the Cabrera baselines.

To me, that is where the fun lies: in trying to figure out just where to build and conjure and compensate in order to be competitive.

However, most of the time, it takes a year or two of trades and retooling to assemble a roster that can compete if your team has been less than successful (or, in the same vein, if your team won via dump trades).

As well documented here, I have been rebuilding a couple of my teams--MWStrat and my XFL--for a couple of years, and finally both look like they are ready to compete.

And, if we turn our eyes to the Hot Stove, the Marlins, Padres and Athletics have turned their squads upside down rebuilding. In the cases of San Diego and Miami, both teams had pretty good young cores being developed, so now the swaps for vets will ideally give both teams what they need to move to the next level.

But, Oakland has had one of the best teams over the past two-and-a-half seasons. They also hit such an epic meltdown second half of 2014, that Billy Beane felt the best path forward was simply to deconstruct what he had, and reinvent the team.

That might sound strange, and you might question Beane's tactics, but for the most part that is what he did four years ago--starting with the signing of Yoenis Cespedes--and bingo, within a year he had a team that was beyond dangerous. He also had a team that made the postseason three years straight, which is really pretty good.

The truth is, I doubt the Athletics, as they now would take the field, would be much of a threat to AL West teams like the Angels and the Rangers, and even the Mariners and nearly retooled Astros.

But, peppered with the likes of Marcus Semien and Brett Lawrie and Ike Davis, Beane will give this cycle's collection from the island of lost players a chance to show what they can do.

Which is pretty much the path for your roto teams: it takes till the break to even see whether or not your team has what it takes to compete in any given year.

I think what this boils down to is if Billy understands how "parity" works, it is probably silly for fantasy owners to expect much more.

As noted, I personally find that whole rebuilding process satisfying, and I would bet Billy does too.

Disgruntled owners, take note.

Chillin' With the Hot Stove PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 13 December 2014 00:00

What a wild wind up to the Winter Meetings we saw with teams adding and subtracting pieces and jettisoning salary trying to stumble into the correct combination that will lead to post season glory.

So, let's see what just how we think teams did?

Didi Gregorius: Diamondbacks to Tigers to Yankees, Gregorius is an interesting add to the Yankees, but hardly a replacement for Derek Jeter. In fairness, no one would be a worthy successor to DJ anymore than would they be to Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays. Gregorius is clearly an offensive step up from Brendan Ryan, which unfortunately, is not saying too much (I think I might even be that). But, the Yankees need to do something. Alex Rodriguez may be able to play third, which means Martin Prado could play second, to Mark Teixeira's first base, but this team is aging and brittle, and we have not even started talking pitching. Looks like it might be a tough year to be in the Bronx.

Yoenis Cespedes: Boston to Tigers. On one hand, Cespedes is such a perfect fit to the Tigers powerful offensive scheme. Can you see him hitting between Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez? On the other hand, the team swapped Rick Porcello, and is not (yet) resigning Max Scherzer. That means David Price stays as the ace, but that Anibal Sanchez and Justin Verlander have to pick up the slack. As with the team's approach toward closers, I kind of get what they are doing, and yet I have no clue what the real plan is. I do think Detroit will play third fiddle to the Royals and Indians, however.

Dee Gordon: Dodgers to Miami. I think both the Dodgers and the Fish made a smart move here. I do sort of think that Gordon's value may never be higher. But, even if his numbers drop--which I expect as Gordon is a low on-base player, especially for a lead off hitter--he should still be valuable atop a Marlins team that includes perhaps the best up-and-coming outfield on the planet. Add in stabilizing the middle defense by pairing with Adeiny Hechavarria, and Miami's rebuild is on a nice path. In fact I am really looking forward to watching the Fish, Mets, Padres, Astros, and especially the Cubs who are all near the end of the rebuild process.

Howie Kendrick: Angels to Dodgers. The Dodgers surely needed a second sacker with the departure of Gordon, and I must confess to long being a big Kendrick fan. Under-rated and steady (.292-12-75 162-game mean with 14 swipes over his nine years) Kendrick is perfect for the Dodgers. I see him hitting second, putting up his career average numbers, and working well with new shortstop Jimmy Rollins.

Jimmy Rollins: Phillies to Dodgers. Just about the end of the line for J-Roll, but somehow, a perfect spot, holding short until Corey Seager is ready.

Matt Kemp: Dodgers to Padres. I am not sure I would swap off the potentially potent Kemp quite so readily, were I the Dodgers, but a lot of what they did was adjusting payroll to positions to opportunity.

First things first: San Diego, who has a lot of nice stuff going on, needed serious help in their outfield. The existing configuration--Carlos Quentin, Will Venable, and Seth Smith--is really a configuration of fourth outfielders, So Kemp adds impact and credibility out there. Rumor has it the Pads would also like to land Justin Upton, which makes things even more interesting.

If San Diego can install Cory Spangenberg at second, and move Jedd Gyorko back to third, that too would serve them well.

The teams still has short and catcher (now that Yasmani Grandal is a Dodger), and their essentially young pitching staff will need to work into a groove by July, but San Diego could be a fun team in 2015, and really good in 2016.

As for what the Dodgers get is a chance to give Scott Van Slyke (.297-11-29 with a .910 OPS last year) and Joc Pederson patrol the outfield, along with vets Yasiel Puig and Carl Crawford. Toss in Grandal behind the plate, Rollins and Kendrick, and Adrian Gonzalez and the Bums look pretty good (though they still need someone at the hot corner).

Jon Lester: Free agent to Cubs. Talk about the perfect move, on a team with six monster prospects, a veteran presence like Lester's is just brilliant. For one, he  knows what it takes to make the post season. For another, he can indeed mentor the likes of Javier Baez and Jorge Soler and Kris Bryant et al. But, this also tells all those great young prospects that management has confidence their team can compete, and are willing to pony up for a premier starter to prove it.

Picking a World Series winner is a dicey thing, especially when it comes to the Cubs, but in 2016, I think the Cubs will have the best team in the National League. And, I think they will at least afford an excellent chance of overcoming 100-plus years of post-season misery.

Life Imitating Art Again PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 06 December 2014 00:00

There has been a fun controversy the last couple of weeks regarding the NFL Playoffs.

That is because with just a couple of weeks left of the regular season, the Chiefs might only be the fifth seed, the Cardinals might finish 9-7 and not make the party, and whoever faces the winner of the NFC South will carry the wrath of all the teams over .500 who was robbed.

The whole fuss about changing the rules to make the playoffs "better" really hit home, since this is the time when all of my baseball leagues go through the painful process of suggesting rule changes.

We just went through those gyrations in the XFL, and one simple note just noting thoughts to the Tout Wars community pushed 47 arguments on how to perfect the game within the first 20 minutes of distribution.

In fact, later today, the annual winter meeting of the MidWest Strat-O-Matic League will take place at my friend Dean Peterson's home in Palatine, Chicago. I will have to dial in along with a bunch of other owners who are scattered across the country as we finalize five basic rule changes that have generated a similar amount of league buzz.

It is just crazy to me. And, it is not that I don't want to play by the rules, or think the league and its parameters cannot be at least tightened. But, for the most part, the stronger the advocate of the rule change often is, the greater the chance that he or she feels the existing setup is between them and a title.

I do think if we spent a fraction of the energy spent on trying to change the rules on trying to figure out how to win within the existing confines, the world would be a happier place.

Right now, the XML Team in the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA) League has the fifth best power ranking in the 12-team league, but their 7-6 record means they will miss the playoffs that involve the top six teams, won-loss wise.

Fortunately, the XML owner took it philosophically, which is always refreshing, but apparently if the Browns can finish 9-7 and fourth in the AFC North, there will be sour grapes if the Falcons manage to scrape by with a 7-9 mark.

In the MidWest League, where there are strict usage rules: In the simulation, based upon the previous season, we are allowed to use a player for his total at-bats or innings pitched, plus 20%. As such, no injury factors are considered.

What is funny, was when the league was set up, the number of starts a pitcher made was that baseline, but we decided to change to innings simply because that is the actual usage.

So, now we have to vote again, trying to decide if we should move back to starts, because innings are too difficult to track, but starts are simple. But, the reality is innings are no more trouble to follow than at-bats, so that is a silly argument in my opinion.

It does show how consistent human beings are, especially when it comes to justice, for we all want it for ourselves, but not necessarily for anyone else.

And, while arguments about religion and politics are generally no more substantive than sports rules, it is hard to imagine getting twisted around winning a game when there are enough more serious things on the planet to try and handle. Like maybe Climate Change. And racism. And hunger. May as well toss in world peace, as long as we are at it.

As for the FSTA, Todd and I made the playoffs for the second straight year, and thought we had a bye Week 1, but, in the H2H playoff tie breaker rules, we missed by a point, and have to play after all.

Because, as my mate Lord Zola said, "rules is rules."


Black Friday Review: Baseball Signings Thus Far PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 29 November 2014 00:00

Happy Thanksgiving Weekend, one of the best times of the year. Family, food, and football do make for a great combination, as does second guessing sports management.

So, as we head into the throes of the holiday season, in anticipation of the winter meetings, let's take a look at the first cluster of big name signings, and see what fun we can have with them.

Pablo Sandoval (Red Sox): I have to say that I will seriously miss the Panda manning the hot corner at AT&T, but all-in-all, the Red Sox might well have made a great move signing the 28-year-old for five years. Pablo is actually a pretty good third sacker, who might not have as much range as we would hope, but who does possess quick reflexes and a related quick bat. I understand that Pablo is set to cover third until David Ortiz retires, then slide into the DH spot, which is the perfect way to break Garin Cecchini into the hot corner without missing a beat. And, Pablo will be 33 when the contract is over, so the time invested is pretty reasonable. By the way, I am thinking, if I am Brian Sabean, I would think about moving Buster Posey to third, to both preserve his knees, and to keep Brandon Belt busy at first.

Hanley Ramirez (Red Sox): Kind of like the Red Sox signing of Pablo, Ramirez, who is slated to play left field, is a decent gamble for four years and $88 million. Yes, he can be injury prone, but similarly he can hit. And, again, moving Hanley to left allows the Sox to play and develop Mookie Betts, so again, nice move. The question in L.A. is what to do till Corey Seager arrives?

Russell Martin (Blue Jays): I have always been a big fan of Martin, but I do think he will struggle a little, a la Brian McCann, with this move to the American League. Still, I expect him to adjust and be a good investment over the five years, giving steadiness behind the dish and some punch while at it.

Victor Martinez (Tigers): I think the Tigers dominance in the AL Central is fading, and Justin Verlander and V-Mart are part of the reason why. True, Martinez had a killer 2014, and true he has played in 150 or more games the past two years, but he will be 36 when the season begins. I would expect a drop. I think he will be part of some last hurrah in Detroit, as the team tries once more to get to the postseason and win a Series. I don't think it will work, and I do think the team will fall into mediocrity as V-Mart's contract comes to term. 

Billy Butler (Athletics): Interesting signing on a team that has been left-handed heavy. But Butler has been beyond solid the past eight years, logging a 162-game mean of .295-18-87, which includes his poor numbers (.279-9-66 with a .323 OBP, way below his career average of .353) of last year. Butler can platoon at first with Brandon Moss and provide a right-handed stick at the DH slot as well, fitting in on a team that is so good at using the pieces of their respective sum. Butler is the slowest player I have ever seen (take that Bengie Molina and Jarrod Saltalamacchia), so how he fits in with the Oakland speed game will be interesting, and I also think Oakland needs a batter who, like Yoenis Cespedes, provides enough of a deep threat that opposing pitchers and managers have to think about it.

A.J. Burnett (Pirates): I have always been a fan of Burnett's, but I would have rather seen the Buccos move to retain Francisco Liriano and/or Edinson Volquez before tossing $8.5 million at a 38-year-old #4 starter. Go figure.

Adam LaRoche (White Sox): Aside from 2011, when he was hurt, LaRoche has hit no fewer than 20 homers since 2005, and though he is 36, the deal is just for a couple of years. LaRoche can spell Jose Abreu at first, and spend some time at DH, picking up the slack created with the departure of Paul Konerko, and I guess Adam Dunn. I guess I can understand this move, and though it is not a bad one, I don't necessarily understand it.

2015 Magazine Mock, Round 1 PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 22 November 2014 00:00

Every year, my Rock Remnants mate Peter Kreutzer (aka Rotoman) oversees the production of The Fantasy Baseball Guide and as part of my contribution to this esteemed periodical, which generally appears on bookshelves everywhere each February, is coordinating the annual mock draft.

So, last Tuesday, a cluster of industry names gathered at, a very cool mock locale operated by Mike James, and administered by Jimi Nix.  

November drafts are always dicey (oh, let's be honest: all drafts are always dicey, it is just November ones are even dicier) but we did make it through just fine. So, for the edification of the masses--and with hopes of generating some mag sales come next year--here is the first round with comments by the drafters.

1. Peter Kreutzer ( Mike Trout (OF): What else was I supposed to do?

2. Zach Steinhorn ( Miguel Cabrera (1B): Posted a "disappointing" .313-25-109-101 line last year despite being banged up for most of the season. I'm expecting better results in 2015.

3. Greg Ambrosius ( Andrew McCutchen (OF): I chose the five-category star who is still only 28.

4. Gene McCaffrey ( Paul Goldschmidt (1B): Just a little safer than Stanton or maybe not.

5. Joe Sheehan ( Giancarlo Stanton (OF): Some risk after how 2014 ended, but definitely best available at this spot.

6. Scott Pianowski ( Carlos Gomez (OF): Bat targets gone, didn't want a pitcher. Pop and speed: fine.

7. Tim McLeod ( Jose Abreu (1B): 30-110 with a .300 BA. Sold!

8. Jeff Erickson ( Clayton Kershaw (P): Third on my board (Stanton second); I understand the risks that come with drafting a SP early, especially with this crowd. But he's still head-and-shoulders above the pack, even in a pitching era.

9. Doug Anderson ( Edwin Encarnacion (1B) Was gonna go Kershaw but can't complain about one of the few players who will threaten 40 HRs.

10. Jimi Nix ( Jose Bautista (OF): A steady power source that should provide 100 runs, 35 homers, 100 RBI with a .280+ average.

11. Derek Van Riper (  Jacoby Ellsbury (OF): I think 2014 is a reasonable baseline, well worth a late first-round pick.

12. Lawr Michaels ( Anthony Rendon (3B): Like the power, speed, position flex combo and figure he is going to break through in 2015.

13 Doug Dennis ( Adam Jones (OF): I hate picking 13th; lots of similar options--Jones is one of them.

14. Steve Gardner ( Robinson Cano (2B): Steady, solid production at a premium position. His supporting cast will be better too.

15. Todd Zola ( Anthony Rizzo (1B): Leap of faith last season was real and 2013 was an off-year but power potential renders it a risk well worth taking.

Free Agent Pitchers, 2015 PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 15 November 2014 00:00

Last week, we took a look at some of the interesting free agent hitters looking more for a new contract than work.

I guess this is because arms are so volatile that the general age of the hurlers is less than their hitting counterparts we examined last week, and there are some guys on this list I find more than interesting as fantasy investments in the future.

So, this time, let's take a peek at the hill, and see what is lurking (age is in parenthesis).

Jon Lester (30): I still want to believe that Oakland swapped for Lester figuring they would have dominant pitching and that would lead them through the playoffs, as opposed to Billy Beane being worried that if say the Angels copped the southpaw from the Red Sox that Oakland would have to face their nemesis. I guess I understand the trade, anyway, but I doubt Lester will be back in Oakland save starting for some opposition. Still, he is very good, and should command a four-year plus deal to lead a rotation somewhere. He is the kind of #2 starter I love in a mixed league for $20.

James Shields (32): Poor James. He is another one of those workhorse guys who cannot seem to win a game in the spotlight, so his resume bears a bit of tarnish as a result. However, this is also a guy who averages 14 wins, 227 innings, a 3.72 ERA and 1.22 WHIP over the past nine years. He deserves a deal a la Lester, and again, if I can get him around $18 as a #2 (or spend $35 on both Lester and Shields), I am a happy camper.

Brandon McCarthy (31): Talk about ups and downs in a career (I was at the game when McCarthy got beaned by a liner). Well, last year pretty much defined his career, as McCarthy was 3-10, 5.01 with Arizona over 109.6 frames, then 7-3, 2.89 over 90.3 innings with the Yankees. When he is on, he is pretty good, and I think the lanky (he is 6'7") guy is over the trauma of the beaning. And, I think he will be a bargain whether he re-signs with the Yanks, or if you can grab him for $7 or $8.

Jake Peavy (33): Peavy is sort of the NL's answer to McCarthy in the sense that he was 1-9, 4,72 for the BoSox over 124 innings, then 6-4, 2.17 over 74.3 innings after returning to the NL West. He is a nice fit in San Francisco, and I would not be surprised to see the former Cy Young recipient stay at AT&T. He'll get a two-year deal with an option somewhere, and will be a solid fourth starter on your roto team for around the same cost as McCarthy (and they both will be worth it).

Francisco Liriano (31): If you read my mate the Drook's Friday article, then you know Liriano had the best whiff rate in the Majors last year. It is true he has durability issues, but last year Liriano whiffed 175 over 162.6 innings, but I am thinking with age and experience come pitching smarts and that his best years are ahead. Because of the potentially fragile nature of Liriano, I suspect he won't get the four years he seeks, but he will be good, and another fantasy bargain.

Edinson Volquez (31): Volquez re-established himself last year much like Chris Young the pitcher with the Mariners. He put up the most innings he has tossed since 2008 when he threw 196 frames for the Reds (17-6, 3.21). Did you notice though that the righty was 13-7, 3.04 with a 1.23 WHIP last year? Undervalued is written all over him.

Brett Anderson (26): Crapshoot city for a guy who has only tossed 494 innings over the past six years. But, he has a 3.73 ERA and 1.285 WHIP over that span, and probably has a Rich Harden year of 190 innings and some deadly numbers in there somewhere. One year with an option, maybe, and a reserve pick for your roto team. But, could be pay-dirt with a guy who is talented and brittle and to this point, disappointing and tempting at best.

Free Agent Hitters, 2015 PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 08 November 2014 00:00

OK, so the Series is over, and all we really have to comfort us till spring training is football (I can deal), but with the Winter Meetings and Rule 5 draft looming, not to mention reviewing the Arizona Fall League and my Top 250 Prospect List, I thought we could take a couple of Saturdays and look at some of the free agent class of 2015, and their possibilities.

Obviously, barring something goofy, free agents are going to be a bit older, with five years of Major League time under their belts, but I was surprised that the bulk of hitters are past the theoretical prime age (as opposed to pitchers, whom we will review next week), and surprisingly, though age might be an issue in signing most of the FA hitters, health is more of a common denominator.

Hanley Ramirez (SS, 30): I remember back when Hanley was a rookie, and I traded five pretty good guys at the time (including J.J. Hardy and Chris Capuano off his big year) in Strat-O-Matic to get the rights to Hanley, and for two years (along with Ryan Zimmerman) he drove my team. I began an inside out rebuild, swapping both. I have never trusted Hanley since, and I suspect he is asking more than a team will gamble (though I hope not). I do think Hanley can improve on his .283-14-71 line of last year, but I suspect the numbers of 2006-09 might jump out once, but that is now his level. Mind you, that is still pretty good, but it interestingly puts Hanley on par with J.J. Hardy. I would like Hanley to stay with the Dodgers, as it seems like a good fit for him, but I suspect the Yankees will offer him a gob of money to play into the next decade.

Pablo Sandoval (3B, 28): I cannot imagine Pablo in a uniform that doesn't say "Giants" on it. Pablo is actually a pretty good third baseman. True, he is big and does not have huge range, but the Panda has pretty good reflexes and a solid arm. And, he would have to move to first eventually, I wouild think, where the Giants are fat. I do think Sandoval is the cream of this crop of free agent hitters, that he is comparatively healthy, and that he will hit a solid .280-15-85 for the next five years. I am guessing the Yankees offer him a gob of money too, but I hope he stays put.

Nelson Cruz (OF, 34): Cruz hit for a jackpot this year, logging 159 games while belting 40 homers. Cruz also played in 159 contests in 2012, but in those other pesky Saberhagenmetric years, the playing time was way down. Still, Cruz is good for homers in the right-handed Raul Ibanez sense, I believe. I do think Cruz will become the richest of this group by virtue of his 2014 power (will the Yankees offer him a gob of money as well?) and if he signs for five years, he will be worth it. As for where he will actually wind up, there is always Baltimore, but Arizona could surely use some outfield help.

Michael Cuddyer (OF, 35): Cuddyer turns 36 just before Opening Day, and though he surely can hit in Colorado (.331 AVG at Coors over the last two seasons), he's been injured for the most part since 2011, which suggests to buy with caution. I see Cuddy in the AL, DH-ing somewhere like Kansas City, and doing a decent job for a couple of years.

Billy Butler (1B, 28): The Royals did not pick up the option on Butler, whom I think is the slowest Major League runner I have seen (even Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Bengie Molina seem faster), but who could indeed nail doubles and be a pesky hitter. Butler's on-base numbers took a serious hit last year, but he has been more of a free swinger the last couple of years--strikeouts up relative to walks--with drops in power all around. He is still more of a hitter than a 150 at-bat bench player, but Butler is not really an everyday first baseman, which makes for a tough sell.

Alex Rios (OF, 33): Rios fell off the consistency map last year, getting hurt and experiencing a sad four homers, his worst since his 2004 rookie season. Rios will be 34 when the season starts, but he can still be productive I think, and aside from 2014, he has not played in less than 145 games since 2006, and the second fewest of his career. Still, Rios had a pretty well-rounded game with speed and some pop and even some defense. I'm thinking National League here, in fact visualizing him in St. Louis for some reason.

Mike Morse (1B, 32): Morse, who will be 33 by Opening Day, probably found his real niche as a right-handed power threat, mostly outfielder. Morse was useful with the Giants, but he is not much of a solution to much of anything for them in the coming year, and rumor is the Mets and the Reds have an interest. Which is fine. I just hope neither team is expecting more than 120 games.

Rickie Weeks (2B, 32): Weeks hits 20 homers, and his average drops, so he raises his average and his power drops. Still, all things considered, Weeks did not have a bad 2014, with a .274-8-29 line over 252 at-bats. The question is can he hope to do this over 500 at-bats? Obviously if so, it will not be with the Brewers.

Mark Reynolds (3B, 31): A .229 career average--only twice has he hit over .239--although there are those 224 homers, which sort of makes it tough, as he has never hit less than 17 in a season. But not that tough. Reynolds was a late add to the Brewers last year, so he will probably be a late add somewhere else this season. But, he won't be as good as Raul Ibanez, and it probably won't be with the Yankees, even for a small pile of cash.

The Desert Draft PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 01 November 2014 00:00

So here we are, back at the BaseballHQ Arizona First Pitch, where Friday evening the sort of first draft of the 2015 season took place as the Experts Fantasy League conducted their 13th auction where I hope I can continue my rebuild and ideally path to a title.

I was able to freeze the maximum 15 players, and got my spots covered pretty well, needing nine players including a first baseman, two outfielders and six pitchers, which gave a lot of flexibility to my choices, although I realized I needed to try and get an impact hitter, and build a rotation.

The XFL draft is so goofy and unlike other drafts, almost impossible for me to read from year-to-year aside from the fact that I have no idea what will happen. For example, the prices are all over the place, and as a result there is no traditional end game to exploit (a favorite tactic of mine).

Anyway, here are some of the interesting players auctioned (meaning not frozen) and their cost with a few thoughts.

Miguel Cabrera ($61): Wow. I had my eyes on Miguel and dropped out at $39. Little did I think that Miggy would jump $22 more, or the cost of Ben Zobrist. I had $96 of total cash so there was no way I could spend that much when I needed starting pitching.

Alex Wood ($16): I love the guy, but thought he would slip through for no more than $12, but I was way wrong.

Lance Lynn ($5): But, then why did Lynn, who is fairly comparable, go for just five bucks? Weird.

Robinson Cano ($41): Lower dingers last year, but hits and all that goes with them, but again, a little too much for my blood considering what I needed.

Alex Gordon ($34): I passed on Zobrist because I thought "if Zobrist goes for $22, I should be able to get Gordon for $23 or so. Hah. So, I missed on both.

Craig Kimbrel ($19): He is good, for sure, but I managed to freeze Kenley Jensen and Sean Doolittle for a collective $22. On the other hand, Glen Perkins went for $7. Go figure.

Mark Teixeira ($2): Sad.

Jason Castro ($3): Wow, I am not sure how this happened but if I had not needed a backstop, I would have happily plunked down $4.

Nick Markakis ($5): While I was sure I could get Gordon for $23 and didn't, I was sure Markakis would cost around $15, though I hoped maybe later in the auction, $12 might do it. Wow. I got him for $5.

Disconnected PDF Print E-mail
Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down
Written by Lawr Michaels   
Saturday, 25 October 2014 00:00

"You are an IT Professional," my brother-in-law Eric Hedgecock noted to me earlier in the week when I relayed my tales of streaming woe to him as I tried to figure out how to view the World Series as we spent the week at the mountain home in Soda Springs.

Eric noted this as I was attempted to get the Smart TV in the house to start talking to our Uverse router so I could at least try to watch Sunday football.

As  noted numerous times, our mountain house does have Internet, but nothing else, really. There are a couple of televisions, and a bundle of DVDs to play, and I can get my favorite radio station (KTKE, in Truckee, as it so happens) via any device, but for the most part there is no radio and there is no TV.

With  the best sports weeks of the year on the horizon, I tried to analyze how, among our cable, wi fi, my Surface tablet, two iPhones, two laptops, and a blue ray (also with wi fi), how to simply stream the NFL on Sunday, ESPN on Monday, the Series Tuesday and Wednesday, the NFL Thursday, and then the Series again going into the weekend (I said it was the best sports week).

Thanks to my Sunday Ticket opening up their Max program October 19, I was indeed able to watch the Sunday day games, but I could not find a way to hit up NBC to view the Niners and Broncos (which, bearing in mind the results, might not be a bad thing).

Same Monday night, as I looked for ways to get ESPN on something other than my iPhone with audio. And, though I love my DTV and Sunday Ticket and MLB Extra Innings packages, the company does not yet have a interface that works with Windows-based tablets.  Although, I guess if you want to watch the NFL, then you are ok, which both makes sense, and makes none.

Tuesday morning I scrambled around looking for a way to get the Series, preferably by listening to the Giants main broadcasting corps of Mike Krukow, Duane Kuiper, Jon Miller, and David Flemming, and 30 minutes before the first pitch I got the flagship KNBR station on my tablet.

Since I love listening to baseball on the radio, this was fine, save as soon as 5 PM Pacific Time came, the station blacked out as fast as a Raider home game on the local channel when the game has not sold out. Which is always.

So, I decided to bite the bullet and subscribe to since I would be here for the first four games of the Series, and after three attempts to get my $9.95 charged to my Visa, I finally succeed, only to find out that since I don't have a local Fox feed that I cannot get the video. Even so, I tried to hit the audio, to at least listen to Kruk and Kuip, but as hot as the radio button seemed to be, nada.

Finally, I gave up, and tuned in ESPN radio (oh boy, Aaron Boone, analyst!) on my iPhone via TuneIn Radio, and that is mostly ok until the seventh inning when apparently the buffer filled up and I could do very little but hear Boone discuss how Eric Hosmer was almost a platoon player, and then the third out of the inning. Over and over and over and over.

Thursday was better, as the NFL Network does indeed allow streaming, so I managed to log in using my Sunday Ticket access, but on Friday afternoon, at game time, Fox Sports Go, suggested by my friend George, gave me a soccer match and nothing more.

But, it is crazy. I mean, network TV can still be accessed for free, sans cable. Except here where the mountains get in the way of the signal, so, I can stream what everyone else can see for free for $6 a month or something like, but that seems as wrong as having eight separate electronic devices within one room, and still not be able to connect.

Looks like dinner at the Soda Springs Lodge is the only way to enter the weekend in a reasonable fashion, eh? The food might not be as good as I can make, but they have six screens and all the beer we can buy.

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