Rotisserie Duck

The Littlefield Effect - 2015 PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 17 April 2015 00:00

John Littlefield is now 61 years of age, but his name still resonates with baseball card collectors and Rotisserie League Baseball team owners. He only spent two seasons in the major leagues but what wouldn't the rest of us give to always be known as a "former big league pitcher"?

The baseball card connection is easy to explain, as Littlefield played in the early 80's when the card industry exploded with new manufacturers. The Topps company had a virtual monopoly on baseball cards from 1956-1980 but in 1981, licenses were given to both Donruss and Fleer, and despite the competition, all three companies were guilty of less than acceptable quality control of their products. There were numerous examples all through the 1980's of mistakes, misprints, corrections and embarrassments. The most infamous incident involved the now legendary 1989 Fleer Bill Ripken card that was distributed with a picture of the player holding a bat that had an obscenity written on the bottom of the barrel. Fleer tried to correct the card quickly but never really got it right, producing a total of five different versions.

Littlefield's card legacy was early in the cycle, as his 1982 Fleer card was originally distributed with a reverse negative of the picture, turning the 27-year-old right-hander into a southpaw. Fleer corrected the card, thus making the original a very scarce item. Even today, the corrected version is a "common" card worth about a nickel, while the difficult-to-find "error" card will set you back about $45.

Littlefield's enduring legacy to Fantasy Baseball comes from the original 1984 "Rotisserie League Baseball" book that started this amazing hobby played by millions of fans. As the founding fathers of the game had actually started playing a form of the game in 1981, they shared many stories of the fun, camaraderie and strategy they had experienced in those early years. A segment of the book talked about "The Littlefield Effect", an interesting factor that impacted the value of players at their first few drafts. While the early 80's isn't really that long ago, it was long before the digital age of affordable PC's, the Internet and instant information. The Roto inventors decided that the best time to have the player draft was on the weekend following opening day in order to have reasonably valid information about the official MLB 25-man rosters. After all, stats were only published weekly in the USA Today and league standings were always at least a week behind the actual games.

The timing of the draft, however, led to 4-5 games being played prior to the auction/player selection and box scores were readily available in daily newspapers. Could a few games really have a major impact on the value of a player in a 162-game season? John Littlefield answered that question in 1981. In 1980, he had a very productive rookie campaign with the Cardinals, appearing in 52 games with a 3.14 ERA, five wins and nine saves. In December, the Cards made an 11-player trade with the Padres and Littlefield headed west. To say that the '81 Padres were terrible would be a compliment. In the strike-interrupted 110-game season, they went 41-69 and the entire team only hit 32 home runs. Ozzie Smith was the shortstop and despite leading the NL in at-bats, he hit .222 with no home runs and 22 RBI.

The Padres opened the year in San Francisco and Littlefield saved the 4-1, 12-inning win. The next day, he registered another save in a 4-2 victory. So, by the time the Rotisserie owners showed up for the draft, it seemed logical that the Padres had anointed him as their closer. With saves being one of only four statistical pitching categories in the standings, his auction price ended up being $34, equal to 13% of the total 23-player budget of the winning bidder. As you might guess, the remainder of the 1981 season was very forgettable for Littlefield, as he suffered two losses and a blown save later in April and was replaced as the closer by a pitcher named Gary Lucas. He pitched in 14 games at Triple-A Syracuse in 1982 with an ERA of 7.49 and his career was over at age 28.

For those of us who still play "old-school" Rotisserie Baseball and draft our teams on the Saturday following opening day, we also have memorable "effects" of our own. One of the classics was in 1994, when a Cubs outfielder named Karl "Tuffy" Rhodes hit three home runs on opening day. Even though he had never played more than 50 games in any major league season, his price on draft day was $22. He ended up with eight home runs for the season and never hit another one in his career.

This past weekend, we gathered for the 32nd annual draft of our original Rotisserie league from 1984 and the Littlefield effect was still floating around the room. Using projections from a highly-respected fantasy site, let's see how things played out at the table. As this is a keeper league, we'll assume that there could be an inflation factor of 20% added to the 4x4 projections.

> The most obvious example for 2015 is Jason Grilli, who inherited the Braves closer role when Craig Kimbrel was traded just before opening day. Despite being 38 years old and only accumulating one save in 2014, his new job and the three saves he got in the days before the draft got everyone's attention. Even with the closer job, his projection was $13, so he might have been worth $15 with price at the table - $24. That turned out to be $7 more than Addison Reed, a 26-year-old closer with more than 100 saves over the last three seasons.

> The Cincinnati Reds had two Littlefield nominees. Fantasy players have always drooled over the skills of Joey Votto, but injuries have held him back. His projection was $24, so $30 would be pushing your luck. However, the night before the draft, he hit two homers, stole a base and had four RBI. His final price was $40. Todd Frazier was a similar story at the table. Due to his breakout season in 2014 and multi-position eligibility, he was surely going to be popular. $23 was the projection, so even $30 would have been a stretch, but after hitting three home runs the first week, his final price was $37.

> Jake Lamb, the D-Backs rookie third baseman, wasn't even projected to be worthy of a double-digit bid, but he had seven RBI in the first two games of the season. His final price was $15.

> Randall Grichuk is the fifth outfielder on the Cardinals depth chart. His projected value was only $1, but he hit a home run on Friday night. On Saturday, he was drafted for $8.

> The effect also can work in the opposite direction. Mat Latos is an established starting pitcher and had a projection of $10, but he allowed seven earned runs in less than an inning earlier in the week. Instead of $12-$14, his final price was $5.

> Some teams also took advantage of early box scores to pick up some stats. Jim Johnson's win got him rostered for $1 and then he added a save later in the day (Grilli was tired). Bartolo Colon's opening day win was worth $2, as was Jordan Lyles' victory for the Rockies. Chris Heston's spot-start win for the Giants got him drafted for $1 and the ultimate cherry-picking may have been getting J.J. Hoover's two opening week wins for $2.

> While "newbies" to the Roto game might think that we are dinosaurs, don't forget that the timing also allows us to know who has the job on opening day. And the teams that were influenced by box scores may have to deal with the consequences as the seasons rolls on.

The good news for all of us is that whenever you hold your draft, it's your favorite day of the year.

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 April 2015 23:36
Legal Supplements PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 10 April 2015 00:00

How would you like to be invited to participate in the most unique Fantasy Baseball league in the industry? Looking back to 2002, the Old Duck was thrilled to be part of the Xperts Fantasy League (XFL), the vision of Ron Shandler and the first industry keeper league. Some of the most respected pundits and players of the game were kind enough to invite three "challengers" to be included as part of the 12-team group. As one of these home-league players, I was nervous and excited to sit down at the draft table that November and test my skills against the best.

As we enter our 13th season, it has been a great ride for this lifetime baseball fan. We've expanded to 15 teams and the camaraderie established over the years has led to genuine friendships with a great group of guys. And, to my surprise, the Quacker has turned out to be a decent player with championships in 2005, 2009, 2011 and 2012.

The XFL is a 5x5 keeper league (with OBP instead of BA) that has an auction budget of $260 for 23 players. We conduct the draft only a month after the baseball season ends and no research (or computers) are allowed at the table. Utilizing just MLB depth charts handed out prior to the first player being nominated, it is a test of your player-pool knowledge and prognostication. There is a significantly high inflation factor because many of the players on the keeper lists have salaries much lower than their projected values. Here's the roster of Donald's Dux following the draft...

C - Miguel Montero $14 (D)

C - Devin Mesoraco $6 (K)

1B - Anthony Rizzo $18 (K)

3B - Chase Headley $3 (D)

CI - Jose Abreu $4 (K)

2B - Chase Utley $6 (D)

SS - Starlin Castro $16 (K)

MI - Nick Franklin $1 (D)

OF - Yasiel Puig $7 (K)

OF - Andrew McCutchen $19 (K)

OF - Carlos Gomez $20 (K)

OF - Ben Revere $20 (K)

OF - Michael Brantley $12 (K)

U - Colby Rasmus $1 (D)

P - Tanner Roark $12 (K)

P - Zach Britton $10 (K)

P - Jacob deGrom $10 (K)

P - Cole Hamels $26 (D)

P - Francisco Liriano $17 (D)

P - Steve Cishek $11 (D)

P - Addison Reed $9 (D)

P - Ervin Santana $11 (D)

P - Kyle Lohse $1 (D)

To lend some insight into the keeper salaries, players drafted in the auction have their salary increase $5 each season. So, for example, Mesoraco was drafted for $1 the previous year. Any player who qualifies as a rookie has his salary increase only $3 each season. So, because the Dux drafted Puig in 2013 before he appeared in an actual major league game, he is entering his 3rd season on the roster. The league plays the season with 40-man rosters (23 active each week), so at the end of March there is a supplemental, on-line, snake draft to fill the remaining slots. These legal supplements can have a huge influence on the success of your team because so much can happen between November and March. For the teams who drafted (or kept) Wilin Rosario, Mike Minor, Aaron Hicks, Zack Wheeler, Hunter Pence, Yu Darvish, Jurickson Profar, Marcus Stroman, Josh Hamilton and others, the first few rounds of this supplemental phase is critical to their team's ability to contend.

As the reward for finishing 2nd in 2014, the Dux had the 1st pick in this supplemental phase. Of course, that also means 28 additional players would be chosen before our 2nd pick at the end of Round 2. As always, it becomes a lesson in strategy as to the utilization of scarce resources from a pool where over 350 players were already rostered. Looking at the Dux roster, there weren't any glaring weaknesses because all the players were still in the major leagues. The minor issues were Franklin starting the year on the DL and Roark losing his spot in the rotation. The priorities easily became crystal clear. Take the best "Dynasty" player at #1, get a starting pitcher to replace Roark, and add a middle infielder to fill in for Franklin.

Now, a word about prospects. Due to deep rosters, teams are not shy when it comes to rostering young players low in the Minors and holding them until they're ready. This is one of the key elements to a "dynasty" format and the owners in this league know everything about projectable minor leaguers, college players and even an occasional high-school phenom. In any given year, you could take a top-20 prospect list from your favorite publication or website and about 18 of them are already on one of the XFL rosters. The real gems in the 1st round of the supplemental draft are players who have rookie status and a major league job like Jose Abreu, who I selected with the first pick in 2014.

Teams have very difficult choices in the initial rounds, as they need to balance filling holes on their roster with also acquiring some long-term talent. This year, as we gathered at our computers on March 31st, the wheels were turning for 15 separate owners and here are the results...

> 1.01 Yoan Moncada - During the off-season, it seemed like this pick might be Yasmany Tomas, but the Red Sox gave us 63 million reasons to change our mind. Maybe my team name should be the Havana Dux.

> 1.02 Jose Peraza - The Braves 2B of the future and the future could be later this season.

> 1.03 Daniel Norris - One of only two top 20 prospects available, he could be in the Blue Jays rotation to start the season and replaces Minor on this squad.

> 1.04 Hector Olivera - Another $60 million Cuban player, he'll be somewhere in the Dodgers infield soon.

> 1.05 Yasmany Tomas - Has enormous offensive potential and will be more comfortable when the D-Backs figure out what position he'll play...but they also thought Pete O'Brien was a catcher.

> 1.06 Nathan Eovaldi - Taken by the team who lost Wheeler, his power stuff in undeniable and the Yankees will win their share of games.

> 1.07 Steven Souza - Probably the highest upside of the available OF's, he'll start for the Rays.

> 1.08 Carlos Martinez - Named the 5th starter for the Cardinals just in time, he has the best stuff of the available SP's.

> 1.09 Curtis Granderson - The best veteran OF on the board and the Mets brought in the fences...again!

> 1.10 Jimmy Nelson - The Brewers traded Yovani Gallardo to make room for him, he'll replace Stroman on this roster.

> 1.11 Stephen Vogt - Will qualify at Catcher early in the season for the A's and this team has a question mark with Matt Wieters.

> 1.12 Brett Cecil - This team only had one closer and, for the moment, he's the guy for the Blue Jays.

> 1.13 Santiago Casilla - This squad's closers are LaTroy Hawkins and Neftali Feliz, so the Giants bullpen guy is a smart choice.

> 1.14 - Kennys Vargas - Can slip into the Utility spot on this roster in place of Denard Span and might bat cleanup for the Twins.

> 1.15 Luis Valbuena - The starting 3B for the Astros, he qualifies at multiple positions and is the perfect pick for a team in this league with salary cap issues.

> 2.01  J.P. Crawford - The days of Jimmy Rollins are over for the Phillies and this youngster is on the horizon.

> 2.02  Michael Saunders - The next best available OF, he gets to hit in the Blue Jays lineup...and ballpark.

> 2.03  Kendall Graveman - Could be in the A's rotation this year.

> 2.04  Ryan Howard - Home runs are scarce and even if the Phillies find a trade partner, he'll get AB's somewhere.

> 2.05 Odubel Herrera - A Rule 5 pick, he'll be the Phillies starting centerfielder on opening day.

> 2.06 Joakim Soria - To tell you how the experts view the Tigers bullpen, this setup guy went a round earlier than closer Joe Nathan.

> 2.07 Kyle Schwarber - Another of the Cubs high-level prospects, he might not stay at Catcher but his bat will play.

> 2.08 Jung Ho Kang - Tough to project coming over from the Korean League but the Pirates made a significant investment in this power-hitting shortstop.

> 2.09 James Loney - Always undervalued in Fantasy, he'll play every day at first base for the Rays.

> 2.10 Kevin Kiermaier - In an OF tier with Seth Smith, Matt Joyce and Jon Jay, this Rays youngster might have some upside.

> 2.11 Tyler Clippard - He'll close for the A's to start the season and this team already owned Sean Doolittle...can you say "handcuff"?

> 2.12 Aaron Judge - This Yankee prospect looks like a Giancarlo Stanton clone and was impressive in the Arizona Fall League.

> 2.13 Eric Young Jr. - Will steal some bases for the Braves and he slots right in for the injured Coco Crisp on this team.

> 2.14 Devon Travis - Looks like this rookie will start the year as the Blue Jays second baseman.

The Dux now had two consecutive picks and looking back at the original strategy, the decision came down to a SP or MI. We opted for Brett Anderson, who will win games for the Dodgers if (big if) he's healthy. There were still lots of choices at middle infield, but we went with the Cubs' Arismendy Alcantara for two reasons...1) with Javier Baez and Kris Bryant being sent down, he should get AB's the first few weeks as our fill-in for Franklin and 2) he also qualifies at OF, giving the Dux position flexibility.

A plethora of quality players went off the board in Rounds 3 and 4, including Bobby Parnell, Luke Gregerson, Travis Snider, Juan Lagares, Mike Leake, David Freese, Nori Aoki and others. On the prospect side, Tyler Glasnow, Jose Berrios, Brandon Drury, Nomar Mazara and Ramiel Tapia all found XFL homes.

By the time the Dux chose again at 4.15 and 5.01, backups at 3B and SS were the priorities and we selected the left side of the Giants infield by taking Brandon Crawford and Casey McGehee.

These five picks covered most of the issues in our original strategic plan, so the remainder of the rounds were for bench strength, gambles and prospects...

> 6.15 Francisco Cervelli - In a two-catcher league, you need a backup.

> 7.01 Jace Peterson - Only holding the spot for Peraza, but could get some SB's in the interim.

> 8.15 Tyler Kolek - A prospect pitcher who is years away.

> 9.01 Andre Ethier - Simply bench strength, but if the Dodgers ever find a trade partner, he could be an everyday player again.

> 10.15 A.J. Cole - More minor league pitching, but if you have enough, maybe one of them comes through eventually.

> 11.01 Dominic Leone - Danny Farquhar was taken in Round 8 and would probably be the next closer in Seattle, but this 23-year-old has amazing numbers.

> 12.15 Yonder Alonso - A backup 1B who will get playing time in a much better Padres lineup.

> 13.01 Willy Adames - As someone said at the NBA Draft, this guy might be "two years away from being two years away", but a 19-year-old is what you look for at this point.

> 14.15 Colin Moran - Another long shot, but the Astros have given up on Matt Dominguez and Luis Valbuena is only a temporary fix.

The 38th, 39th and 40th spots on the roster were filled by three supplemental picks from previous years who are still in the minor leagues...Jorge Alfaro, Albert Almora and Julio Urias.

Of course, a few days after the draft, Santana was suspended and Leone got sent down, so pitching depth will be an issue in April.

How will the Dux fare? Our stat website projects a highly competitive league with six teams having 85+ points. The Dux are in the group, so as Marlon Brando once said (sort of), "We could be a contendah."

More information and the league history can be found at  

Last Updated on Friday, 10 April 2015 07:00
Same Time Next Year PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 03 April 2015 00:00

In 1978, there was a movie titled "Same Time Next Year" starring Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn. It wasn't a classic film but was certainly entertaining, which is confirmed by its 7.2 rating on The plot was about two people, both married to others, who meet by chance at a romantic inn and end up sharing a night together. The next morning, they are wondering how this could have happened but decide to an agreement. They will meet each year on the same weekend at the same place and renew their relationship. Originally a stage play, the story takes the audience through the years with the same couple in the same room. The episodes take us from the early 1950's to the mid 1970's, as the changes in the world and their lives impact their relationship.

As I sat behind home plate at Surprise Stadium for 25+ games this March, the title of that movie popped out of my aging grey matter and wrapped itself around this wonderful annual experience. The girl I love each year is named just so happens that her last name is Training. With apologies to Elizabeth Barrett Browning, "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways." Of course, it was Sonnet 43, so she probably had a Dennis Eckersley jersey.

> The weather in Arizona this time of year is absolutely beautiful. Azure blue skies and emerald green grass greet you every day at the ballpark.

> The ballpark is the most comfortable and fan-friendly of all the Cactus League facilities. Even though it opened in 2003, the newer parks with all the whistles and bells can't compare with the sightlines and intimacy of this gem. It has a single concourse, allowing easy access for all fans. The concessions are on the concourse, so you don't miss any game action while feeding your appetite or quenching your thirst. There are small upper-decks above first base and third base that hang out over the lower seats and add another viewing  perspective to the game. And, a local group of over 500 volunteers called the Sundancers are always there to assist you with everything from parking to charity raffles to wheelchair access for disabled fans to being at the top of every aisle helping fans find their seat.

> What isn't apparent to most fans is that the ballpark has a second name...Billy Parker Field. When Billy Parker made his major league debut with a game-winning home run for the Angels on September 8, 1971, you probably could have completed the census of Surprise by yourself over a weekend. After his baseball career ended, Billy worked with youth programs for the city and was much beloved for his volunteerism before he passed away in 2003. Today, he would be proud to see the thousands of Little League players who attend youth day at the ballpark every March. The city's current population is over 115,000.

> One of the first things you see when entering the left field gate for a game is a small tent hosted by Hall of Famer Ferguson Jenkins and his charity foundation. Almost every day in March, you will find great ballplayers from the past signing autographs in exchange for a donation to the foundation. This Spring, you would have seen Rollie Fingers, Gaylord Perry, Bert Campanaris, Willie Wilson, Mudcat Grant and many others greeting fans and talking baseball with them.

> Speaking of autographs, these games obviously offer fans greater access to ballplayers and many hope to get signatures from their heroes. Some players sign a limited amount, some don't sign at all, but the nicest memory is the generosity of Josh Hamilton during his time with the Rangers. Typically, the regulars come out of a Spring Training game around the 5th inning and head down the foul line toward the clubhouse. Fans congregate in the area hoping that players might stop and sign, but most just take a circuitous route to avoid the inconvenience. For the five years he spent with the club, Josh stopped every day and signed autographs for as long as he could, even standing in foul territory while the game proceeded just to accommodate the fans. We've all had someone in our life who has battled addiction and can clearly understand how difficult it can be to overcome. This is a guy we should all root for because he understands what the game is all about.

> The National Anthem is a traditional moment at every baseball game and we're privileged to have talented people perform at the Stadium each day during March. At least a half dozen times each Spring, however, we're treated to a very special moment when Jesse McGuire gives us his rendition of the Star Spangled Banner on the trumpet. He has played the Anthem in front of three U.S. Presidents and at the 2001 World Series, but this time of year, he is our special guest. No matter your background or political persuasion, you are guaranteed to feel chills and treasure the moment. Then, as the home team takes the field, John Fogerty's "Centerfield" pipes in over the loudspeakers and we're ready to "Play Ball".

> The other people in the ballpark also make the experience memorable. For me, it never gets old to engage long-time friends and new acquaintances in baseball conversation. My closest friend and his beautiful wife have had seats in the first row behind the 3rd base dugout since the ballpark opened. Sometimes I go down and join them for a couple of innings but even when we're at a distance we're still close. Each day, when he arrives at the park, we catch each other's eye and say "hi" by flashing baseball signs to each other. My season seats are right behind home plate and even though they are about eight rows up from the field, they are on the railing above the tunnel used by visiting teams. The result is that there is no one in front of me to block the view...the best seats in the house! "Duke" is my wingman for about two-thirds of the games and we talk baseball for hours each day before reaching our pitch count and heading home for a nap (me) or "honey do's" (him). For the other 8-10 games, the adjacent seat is occupied by golfing buddies, out-of-town guests or an occasional pretty girl who hasn't figured out how old I am. Right across the aisle is another dear friend who makes an 11,000 mile round trip from the south coast of England each March to watch baseball. This year, he's staying a few days longer and checking off an item on his bucket list by joining the Duke and I for the D'Backs and Giants on opening night at Chase Field. This same section is also where the scouts sit with their scorebooks and radar guns. This allows the opportunity to visit with really smart guys like Deric McKamey, Kimball Crossley and Jason Grey while also playing the recognition game by spotting former players like former Cy Young Award winner Pete Vukovich.

> As most of the seats around mine are not season tickets, each day also brings new opportunities to talk baseball. There are always lots of Royals and Rangers fans in for a long weekend or extended visit. Just last week, the row behind us was filled with a group of ladies who came all the way from Kansas City to root for their team after last year's magical season. We talked baseball for the whole afternoon and pledged to see each other again next year. Of course, each visiting team is also represented by folks with jerseys from the Giants, Dodgers, Angels and others. Unlike pro football, there is never any animosity regarding loyalty. Everyone in the park is there for a good time enjoying the national pastime.

> Cactus League facilities have standard food menus and a few more upscale items, but this ballpark has two kiosks on the concourse called the Diamond Grill. They only have one item, a freshly grilled Italian Sausage on a soft bun with grilled onions and peppers. When the e-mail invitations are sent in February to my once-a-year guests, they seem more excited about the prospect of consuming this culinary delicacy than they are about the ballgame itself.

> As a Fantasy player, the games themselves are always exciting, interesting and informational. You can read all the scouting reports you want on the Internet, but watching Yordano Ventura hit 100 mph on the radar gun last March was a different experience. And, as opposed to the average fan, we're never disappointed when the regulars are replaced by prospects that we can see up close and personal.

> There is also the occasional sad moment. Last March, when Salvador Perez hit that screaming line drive that felled Aroldis Chapman, it was a surreal experience. Even with 7,000 people in the stands, there was total silence. And just to help keep our perspective on the non-statistical aspect of the sport, here's what happened in a game last week - The opposing team brought in a minor-league pitcher in the 7th inning. As soon as the hurler approached the mound, a man with a very expensive-looking camera came running down to the first row and asked if he could use an empty seat. Then he started taking pictures of the young pitcher and it became clear that he was the boy's father. Unfortunately, the home team proceeded to get six hits and five runs off the youngster in only one-third of an inning. With each line drive, the dad seemed to slump just a little lower in his seat and he eventually walked away with his head down. If you can't relate to that, put down your stat sheet and go to a ballpark.

The Old Duck has only been in love a few times over the years, but the relationship with this girl I call Spring is the most enduring. She is beautiful, loyal, consistent and always in a good mood. I will miss her very much over the next 11 months, but knowing that she'll be there "same time next year" makes it easier to bear.

Baseball's Best Teams PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 27 March 2015 00:00

In our community, we have a very active and enthusiastic sports interest group. Headed up by a retired New York City schoolteacher, who is also the world's biggest Giants fan, we've been fortunate enough to have visits from Fergie Jenkins, Josh Hamilton, Matt Williams, Hall of Fame Baseball Executive Roland Hemond and dozens of other sports luminaries. Each Spring, as our homage to Spring Training and the new baseball season, we host a baseball panel discussion on a particular topic. In the past, we've reviewed the "Golden Age of Baseball" (the 50's and 60's), debated the Hall of Fame, previewed the upcoming season and rated the top ten players at each position. This time, we utilized a column from about the 50 greatest teams of all time. Our goal was to come up with the top ten and after deciding to hone in on the post-WWII timeframe, the members of the panel voted to establish the list...

10T) 1995 Braves

10T) 1984 Tigers

9) 1957 Braves

8) 1954 Indians

7) 1970 Orioles

6) 1955 Dodgers

5) 1953 Yankees

4) 1954 Giants

3) 1961 Yankees

2) 1998 Yankees

1) 1976 Reds

Last week, in front of an overflow audience, each of the five panelists reviewed two teams on the list, added their own take on the choices and welcomed questions from the audience. 10th place and 2nd place were my responsibility and here is what I had to say...

To provide some background on our presentation tonight, the source material was an article penned by baseball writer Joel Reuter about a year ago that rated the 50 greatest teams in MLB history.

At our preliminary meeting, the panel decided to eliminate the 20+ teams from before World War II because we knew that if there was anyone in the audience who actually watched baseball in the 1920's and 1930's, they'd be too tired to argue with us. Then, of course, due to our usual arrogant attitude, we decided that instead of using the author's ratings, we would vote to determine the top ten teams on the list. Naturally, the results left us with one team that wasn't even in the top 50, another team that didn't even win the World Series and the omission of the 2004 Boston Red Sox. But, as a reminder, you get what you pay for.

All kidding aside, this is what makes baseball so great. Every fan has their own opinion about teams, players, awards and Hall of Fame voting.

So, to start the process, we'll first review the two teams that tied for 10th place in our poll. As always, my analysis will include some advanced metrics that highlight the excellence of these rosters.

1995 Atlanta Braves

> 90-54 (11-3 postseason, won the World Series vs. the Indians)

> One of the most consistent teams of the era, they won 14 straight division titles from 1991 to 2005 but this was their only World Series Championship.

> Run Differential = +105

> Team ERA = 3.44 (123 ERA+)

> Team BA/OBP/SLG = .250/.326/.409 (91 OPS+)

> Pitching was the key with three Hall of Famers (Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz) in the rotation. Maddux won his 4th consecutive Cy Young Award in what may have been his greatest season...19-2 with a 1.63 ERA and a WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of 9.7, which was the best in baseball. Glavine was 16-7, Smoltz was 12-7 and Closer Mark Wohlers had 7 Wins and 25 Saves.

> On offense, David Justice, Chipper Jones, Fred McGriff and Ryan Klesko each had at least 23 homers and Marquis Grissom was a solid table-setter with 29 steals.

> Another positive factor was their Hall of Fame Manager, whose calm demeanor and outgoing sense of humor created the right atmosphere. Of course, Bobby Cox could afford to be happy because he was usually in the clubhouse enjoying the post-game meal by the 7th inning after being thrown out of the game.

1984 Detroit Tigers

> 104-58 (7-1 postseason, won World Series vs. Padres)

> This team started the season 35-5 and never looked back.

> Run Differential = +186

> Team ERA = 3.49 (113 ERA+)

> Team BA/OBP/SLG = .271/342/.432 (114 OPS+)

> Led the AL in scoring with a balanced lineup that included a 6.7 WAR season from Shortstop Alan Trammell, 27 homers and 29 stolen bases from Kirk Gibson, 33 homers and 98 RBI from Lance Parrish and solid contributions from Lou Whitaker and Chet Lemon.

> Jack Morris was 19-11 and the ace of the staff but Dan Petry had a comparable year at 18-8 while Milt Wilcox added 17 Wins. Closer Willie Hernandez had 9 Wins, 32 Saves and a 1.92 ERA...he won both the Cy Young Award and the MVP.

> As with the Braves, this club had a Hall of Fame Manager in Sparky Anderson.

1998 New York Yankees

> Only my loyalty to our sports group allows me to say anything positive about the Yankees, but this team ranked 2nd in our polling.

> This was the second of four titles the Bronx Bombers won from 1996-2000 under Manager Joe Torre and it was the winningest team in he storied history of the franchise.

> 114-48 (11-2 in the postseason, won World Series vs. the Padres)

> Run Differential = +309

> Team ERA = 3.86 (116 ERA+)

> Team BA/OBP/SLG = .288/.364/.460 (116 OPS+)

> The offense was incredible, led by Derek Jeter's 7.5 WAR season that included 19 home runs, 84 RBI and 30 stolen bases. Other big campaigns belonged to Bernie Williams (26/97/15), Tino Martinez (28/123), Paul O'Neill (24/116/15) and Scott Brosius (19/98/11).

> David Wells at 18-4 and David Cone at 20-7 led the rotation. Andy Pettitte added 16 Wins and future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera had 36 Saves.

Following our presentation, the audience added a very spirited Q&A session with lots of great input. One fan put it best by saying that even though his favorite team (the '73 Athletics) didn't make the top ten, he couldn't really debate the issue because it was an impossible task to decide who they could replace on our list. Now, we'll have to come up with next year's topic...hope you can join us.


Charming The Snake Once A Year PDF Print E-mail
Rotisserie Duck
Written by Don Drooker   
Friday, 20 March 2015 00:00

If you're even an occasional reader of this column, you know that the Old Duck is a 30-year veteran of Rotisserie Style Auction Keeper Leagues. With over 25 championships in about 70 drafts, it is what I relish and look forward to each year. However, once a year, the dreaded Snake Draft enters my life for one very good reason. The young man who hosts the league (on is like a son to me and if he asked me to join a Camel Race Fantasy League hosted by Al Jazeera, I'd probably say yes.

Even though I know a beautiful girl who once had a pet Boa constrictor named "Julius Squeezer", I hate snakes...both in person and of the Fantasy variety. To me, having 10 or 15 or 20 players go off the board without the opportunity to bid just penalizes me for doing solid research. And, if one of the Roto combatants forgets to show up online, you can bet the "auto-draft" spot will be right in front of me.

This time of year, if you follow Fantasy Baseball at all, it is impossible to avoid Snake Draft advice. It comes at you from everywhere...newspapers, websites, magazines, XM Radio and friends. The number of strategies are mind-boggling and include...

> Memorizing the average draft position (ADP) of every player in the universe.

> The "Don't take pitchers early" philosophy.

> The "Take Clayton Kershaw now" philosophy.

> The "Don't take closers until later" philosophy.

> Prioritizing position scarcity.

> Getting 50 HR's and 50 SB's from your first two picks (50/50 Plan).

> Getting 75 HR's and 75 SB's from your first three picks (75/75 Plan).

> Picking two stud starting pitchers early, also known as the "Dual Aces" plan.

In order to avoid having my brain explode, I've used none of those strategies and still managed a championship and two 2nd place finishes in the short history of the league. In 2013, my team even managed to finish 4th after taking Ryan Braun and Jose Reyes in the first two rounds, but in 2014, the Ducks 9th place finish was assured early when we chose Joey Votto in Round 2 (injured), Alex Rios in Round 3 (4 HR's?) and Matt Cain as our first pitcher in Round 5 (injured). Part of the past success is from my fairly good knowledge of the player pool, as I'm boning up for NL-only and AL-only drafts that take place in late March and early April. Logically, however, it seems that the overall approach of the last 30 years still works and it is a mindset of "balance." So, while the Long Island Ducks (we all incorporate the name of a minor league team) do have a tendency to wait on pitching, it is more about balancing the roster to leave flexibility as the draft progresses. Ideally, after ten rounds, the roster should include at least one player at each position (C, 1B, 3B, 2B, SS, OF, SP and Closer) along with a 2nd OF and 2nd SP. After that foundation is established, looking for value is the priority. If you've already read columns from multiple sources about the players they drafted, this might be a cure for insomnia. With that disclaimer, my hope is that the strategies and player choices will be of value to you in your upcoming draft.

The only other strategy comments would be...1) the logic of not taking starting pitching early has been reinforced by the fact that I got to witness the only inning that Yu Darvish will pitch in 2015 and 2) "reaching" for players that have potential upside instead of sticking with boring veterans.

This is a 15-team mixed league with 22-man rosters (1 Catcher) and three reserve picks. The random order one hour prior to the draft gave the Ducks the 4th pick, which was fine with me because the roster would be guaranteed an elite hitter. As we work our way through the results, you'll see the ADP (Average Draft Position) for each player as a point of reference. The ADP rankings are as of the date of the draft (3/15).

Round 1, Pick 4 - Paul Goldschmidt, 1B (ADP 5)

Predictably, Mike Trout and Andrew McCutchen went 1 and 2 and then Miguel Cabrera was chosen at #3. That left a number of good choices and I went with "Goldy", who looks healthy this spring and offers a five-category contribution.

Round 2, Pick 27 - Ian Desmond, SS (ADP 26)

His teammate Anthony Rendon was my target here, but he went off the board two picks earlier. However, it's nice to get a power-speed guy at a scarce position. These first two picks project for 54 HR's and 38 SB's.

Round 3, Pick 34 - George Springer, OF (ADP 45)

The first of many "reaches", it's difficult to tell how he'll do over a full season, but the power-speed combination is alluring. The site's projection is 31 HR's and 16 SB's, so the first three picks equate to 85 HR's and 54 SB's

Round 4, Pick 57 - James Shields, SP (ADP 81)

Seems like a reach when looking at the ADP, but this is one of those Snake moments we all dread. Clayton Kershaw and Felix Hernandez went 6th and 7th in the 1st round, then Max Scherzer, Madison Bumgarner and Chris Sale went in Round 2. Round 3 eliminated Stephen Strasburg, Corey Kluber, David Price and Johnny Cueto. When Jordan Zimmermann, Jon Lester and Cole Hamels went ahead of me in Round 4, there was no choice but to take the best available starter left on the board. The Ducks next pick was at #64, but Shields would have been gone because Jeff Samardzija, Adam Wainwright and Gio Gonzalez all were taken in the next six picks.

Round 5, Pick 64 - Brian Dozier, 2B (ADP 62)

Another power-speed contributor at a scarce position. The first four hitters now project for 106 HR's and 73 SB's.

Round 6, Pick 87 - Pablo Sandoval, 3B (ADP 121)

Needed a 3B to fill the infield spots and I rated him much higher than the ADP. Adrian Beltre, Josh Donaldson, Kris Bryant, Evan Longoria, Kyle Seager, Todd Frazier, Nolan Arenado and Carlos Santana were all gone at this point.

Round 7, Pick 94 - Yadier Molina, C (ADP 129)

Even though it's a one-catcher format, the Ducks wanted to lock in a reliable backstop.

Round 8, Pick 117 - Alex Wood, SP (ADP 98)

It was time to add a second starting pitcher and this young guy has some upside even on a mediocre Braves team.

Round 9, Pick 124 - Dellin Betances, RP (ADP 94)

There was somewhat of a run on closers early with Aroldis Chapman, Craig Kimbrel, Greg Holland and David Robertson all going in Round 4. This seemed like a good buy in Round 9.

Round 10, Pick 147 - Josh Harrison, OF (ADP 116)

It's doubtful he can replicate last year's success but double-digit HR's and SB's with 3B eligibility makes this a decent selection.

At this point, the original strategy was in place...the Ducks had a C, 1B, 3B, 2B, SS, 2 OF, 2 SP and 1 Closer. Now it's about value and reading the nuances of a particular draft.

Round 11, Pick 154 - Drew Storen, RP (ADP 132)

Closers were getting scarce at this point and you need to have at least two who have a secure hold on the job.

Round 12, Pick 177 - Jose Fernandez, SP (ADP 178)

The ADP is about right, but this is a gamble because he may not pitch until June. The key is finding at least one starting pitcher in the end game to plug in for the start of the season.

Round 13, Pick 184 - Steven Souza, OF (ADP 252)

An obvious reach, but sometimes you have to roll the dice on young players.

Round 14, Pick 207 - Carl Crawford, OF (ADP 254)

Don't like this pick, but as Steve McQueen's character in "The Magnificent Seven" once said, "Seemed like a good idea at the time."

Round 15, Pick 214 - Shelby Miller, SP (ADP 258)

In one of my keeper leagues, I traded him during the off-season, so why did I take him here? Not sure, but it could have just as easily been Kyle Lohse, Mike Fiers or Brandon McCarthy in this spot, and is any one of them significantly better than the others?

Round 16, Pick 237 - Yasmany Tomas, OF (ADP 160)

Another crapshoot, but the last two years in a keeper league, I've taken Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu. Do ducks ever fly south to Cuba?

Round 17, Pick 244 - Tyler Clippard, RP (ADP 241)

Even if Sean Doolittle is healthy, this guy will get some chances. The A's aren't paying him $9 Million to pitch in low leverage situations.

Round 18, Pick 267 - Chase Headley, 3B  (ADP 268)

Alex Rodriguez was taken with the next pick...cue the "Twilight Zone" theme music.

Round 19, Pick 274 - Wily Peralta, SP (ADP 265)

A 17-game winner seems pretty good in this spot.

Round 20, Pick 297 - Kyle Hendricks, SP (ADP 288)

My analysis is that his rookie season wasn't just smoke and mirrors. We'll find out quickly.

Round 21, Pick 304 - Jung-ho Kang, SS (ADP 268)

Another flyer here, but a potential power-hitting middle infielder is intriguing.

Round 22, Pick 327 - Brandon Crawford, SS (ADP 302)

This is actually the Utility spot on the roster...also known as Kang insurance.

Round 23, Pick 334 - James Loney, 1B (ADP 332)

The first of three reserve spots, he's an everyday player who hit .290 last season.

Round 24, Pick 357 - Tony Cingrani, SP (ADP 320)

This was supposed to be the replacement for Fernandez, but less than 24 hours later, the Reds sent him to the bullpen. This will be the first drop on the roster.

Round 25, Pick 364 - Juan Lagares, OF (ADP 355)

Projected to hit lead-off for the Mets, 15-20 SB's could come in handy.

How does the team look? At first glance, the offense looks decent and could accumulate 55 points or more. On the pitching side, there's definite weakness in Wins and K's and the roster only has about 30 pitching points based on projections. 85 points would be middle-of-the-pack based on last year's standings, so the squad isn't great but it isn't lousy.

The really good news is that I don't have to do this for another year. Best of luck in your draft.

Last Updated on Friday, 20 March 2015 06:57
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