Wednesday, March 31, 2010

NCAA Tournament Expansion "Probable"

I read on ESPN today that Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany indicated that expansion of the NCAA men's basketball tournament from 65 to 96 was "probable." It sounds like a big mistake, for two major reasons.

First, the basketball side of things. Further diluting the tournament doesn't seem like my idea of making the tournament more fun. And you have to think that a lot of those teams will be the middle-of-the-pack power conference teams. I know that, because 14 of the 32 NIT teams were from BCS conferences. You'd also presumably be giving some teams a first round bye, which means that a lot of those bottom-seeded teams, the 14, 15, and 16 seeds, won't get a chance to play Kentucky or Duke. Instead, they'll have to face off against N.C. State or Dayton just to get a chance to get walloped.

Will it create the opportunity for more upsets? Sure. Siena has a much better chance of beating Northwestern than they do of beating Syracuse. But you watch because every once in a while, you get a game like Ohio vs. Georgetown this year, or Iowa State vs. Hampton from back in 2001. You watch because the upsets seem so improbable, and the big ones are so rare.

Additionally, from a business standpoint, I think expansion is a mistake. You've got a great thing going, where the first round games account for over a billion dollars in lost productivity, a tremendous amount of Internet traffic, a massive afternoon ratings boost for CBS, and probably increased business for sports bars and restaurants. It's essentially a sports fan's holiday. And I haven't heard any logical way for that excitement to be preserved in an expanded bracket.

Speaking of brackets, how on Earth are you going to fit 96 teams on one sheet of paper so you can cross off your picks as they (inevitably) get bounced?

The one thing that's been good about Delany's comment is the discussion it's prompted in the sports world. Doug Gottlieb has his opinion, all of my local sportscasters have theirs, and I had a discussion in the office today with a couple of co-workers about positives and negatives. One suggested that he'd be alright with adding more teams as long as there was some effort to ensure that most of those additional bids went to schools in small or mid-major conferences, and I echo his sentiment on that. Teams should have to earn their way into the tournament; Kent State (24-10, 13-3 in the MAC) accomplished more in 2009-2010 than N.C. State (20-16, 5-11 in the ACC), so they are more deserving of an NCAA tournament bid in my book.

One thing we can all agree on, though. Even 96 teams would be better than the BCS.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

2010 Middle Earth Fantasy Baseball League - Draft Roundup

Just like any other league, we all think different things going into the draft, and we all have different responses to other teams' decisions. I decided to take a note from Yahoo's Brandon Funston and asked each team a couple of questions regarding their draft. I also asked each owner to declare who they thought to be the steal and reach of the draft.

I also asked Eddie Mattingly, brother and colleague, to come up with two questions for me, so I could defend my own rash decisions.

I offer the responses of each team that chose to participate below. This time, for kicks, I've sorted them alphabetically by owner's last name, then first name (since we have a few Mattinglys):

Ed Close, Columbus DamKnights

1) As I'm sure you noticed/planned, your team projects to finish well above everyone else in batting average, but looks underwhelming as far as power potential. Do you expect to be able to find power as the season progresses, or are you willing to just make that trade-off?

I'm certain that I tend to value batting average over other categories simply because I grew up that way, as a fan without regard to the fantasy value. However, I attempted to draft/keep younger players who hit well and would get an opportunity to bat in power or run producing positions in their respective lineups. I dislike drafting .250 hitting power hitters early in a draft. It is simply a prejudice of mine. I traded away Adam Dunn years ago because I hated the drag on BA.

As far as power, I've made a few trade overtures, even packaging Joe Mauer to one owner. Robinson Cano may bat 5th in a Yankees lineup and may be able to give me a lift. Asdrubal Cabrera, Travis Snider, and Stephen Drew may deliver some needed power as well. Absent a big deal, I'll be patient and take a longer view (a few seasons) at this. I don't think you can pickup big boppers during the season. I added Jason Giambi one year and he gave me some pop at the end, but that was unexpected luck.

A note: I had Billy Butler on the top of my board but the Suspects drafted him earlier in round one.


2) Joe Nathan, one of your eight keepers, was injured early in our draft, and will be out for the season. Did his injury affect your draft plans? And if so, how?

I made a keeper-level investment in one of the few great reliable closers. That turned out to be a mistake. When Nathan went down, I did not feel that I could prudently fill that hole with the closers that were still available. The closers I saw available would provide perhaps 15-20 saves at the cost of elevated ERA/WHIP. I felt the DamKnights could do better by drafting to my other needs first - namely, young hitters and starting pitchers that I liked. After several rounds, I felt I could then invest in a few closers that had a chance of producing at the level of the closers that were available when Nathan went down.

3) Steal of the draft?

I liked the Pronks selection of Gutierrez with selection ten of round 8, and I liked the Mosquitoes selection of Matusz in round 5, selection eight.

4) Reach of the draft?

I think the Mosquitoes selection of Strasburg in round one stands out as a reach. But I hope he proves me wrong. I also was surprised to see The Usual Suspects select Sheets just after Matusz.


Nick Engle, Huber Heights Heroes

1) I'm sure by now everyone knows, you've got a unique strategy on the hitting side, where you punt batting average. How did that work out for you last year, and how do you think it'll work out in its second year?

Whoa whoa, did I not draft enough BA? All kidding aside, I think the strategy worked pretty well last year. I had never previously finished higher than 10th in this league and, in no small part because of punting BA, I finished in 4th place. I was even leading the pack for a while after
the all star break.

As far as this year is considered, I think my offensive stats will be great; it's my pitching that is a little worrisome. Due to the fact that I was pushing for the title last year, I had 1 pick in the first 5 rounds of the draft this year. That hamstrung me when drafting and kept me from surrounding my keepers with solid guys. I would have to have break out years from guys like Matt Latos and bounce back years from Erik Bedard and Johan Santana for any shot at competing for the 'ship.

2) You drafted several relievers, but they've all got question marks surrounding their capacity for picking up saves. Do you expect to have to make a move mid-season to acquire more saves, or do you have more faith in your guys than I do?

No, I do not have any more faith than you do in my relief pitching. Again, due to my lack of picks in the draft, I missed the first two runs for closers. I ended up with some pretty provincial guys (Kerry Wood, Mike Gonzalez) and a huge question mark in Brad Lidge. There is always an Andrew Bailey in the free agent pool to be found, but it is a shark tank out there trying to get him first. If I am competing for the title by the all star break, you'll see me dealing for a closer. The beauty of a keeper league is that not everyone is playing for this year.

3) Steal of the draft?

I'll look at teams other than my own. I think Alexei Ramirez in the 6th round was a great nab.

4) Reach of the draft?

It's hard to criticize picking prospects early because of being in a keeper league. I think Suspects took Juan Pierre a bit earlier (4th round) than anyone would have, but he was almost finished his draft by that time.


Chip Hart, Mercer AutoWreckers

1) Off-season trades brought in Andre Ethier and Roy Halladay, and you were able to snag Hunter Pence with your first round pick. Now, there are murmurs about the AutoWreckers being a championship contender in 2010. What weaknesses do you think you'll have to shore up before making a title run?

Well, lets be honest...our team has made serious strides to get from cellar-dweller to middle-of-the-pack. Our previous GM made some terrible "win now" moves that we've been paying for these last couple of years. We averaged 38.6 overall points during the first four years of Middle Earth and an average overall points of 58.5 in the last two years. That 20-point swing speaks volumes of our efforts to turn this team around.

I think it's obvious that we're leaning less on the "rebuilding" and more on the "win now" these days, but we still have a lot of work to do. Being a championship contender would be an appropriate and reasonable goal for us this year. Getting over the hump to land that #1 spot is going require special attention, some solid moves, and a little luck. It'll start with the hitting. We like the moves we made to put together a solid starting line-up. Our batting average is going to be great, but our home runs will be a point of concern. The draft helped us in steals, a category that we're continuously struggling to be respectable in. Getting back to the top in RBIs will obviously help too. The idea is that an increase in home runs will increase our run and RBI production. Even a shot at a championship hinges on our ability to hit the ball.

2) Between Rick Porcello and Mark Buehrle, you've got two guys with really terrible K/IP rates. Do you expect their strikeout rates to improve, or do you see their other numbers as valuable enough to accept lower strikeout numbers?

The pitching, overall, is currently the least of our concerns. We have a strong staff after some bold trades and made some solid picks to support that. With Roy Halladay pitching in the National League and King Felix being known for his high K/IP, not to mention the strikeouts we'll be getting from our relievers, our strikeout production should be extremely high. During the draft process, we believed that we had a good handle on strikeouts and it allowed us to draft these players for their other qualities, and the potential they bring to the table. Though, let's be honest, an increase in their strikeout rate would definitely help the AutoWreckers.

3) Steal of the draft?

Our steals in the draft would have to include Chipper Jones, who we acquired with the 6th pick of the 8th round. Despite his age, he still produces at a high level. He dropped down the draft for awhile. We were lucky to acquire a solid veteran. He'll also be a great clubhouse presence. Another steal is looking like Chris Perez, who we took with the 6th pick of the last round. Since Kerry Wood sustained an injury, Perez will be looking to fill in and steal a few saves early on for us.

Other than the AutoWreckers' reach of the draft, Nolan Reimold who was taken in the 10th round with the 8th pick by Stewie's SexyParties. He's a burgeoning young star on the Orioles roster. He came up late last year and put up some decent numbers. He was even in the Rookie of the Year talks for much of the end of last season. Despite recovering from an Achilles injury, he'll probably be starting for the Orioles in left field. The reason I think he was such a steal at that spot comes from the ESPN projections, which are just slightly lower than Hunter Pence's projections (whom I took with my 1st round, 6th pick). Now, these are just predictions, but I was pretty surprised when I made the comparison. Reimold has a lot to do, I think, to get those numbers (like get back to 100%), but I feel like he dropped pretty far.

4) Reach of the draft

Honestly, its hard to say which players were a reach for us. AutoWreckers all have a superb talent and each bring a special quality to the game. However, if we had to mention someone, we'd probably have to say Miguel Montero. He was selected in the 7th round with the 6th pick. Up to that point, only the four catchers that were kept were off the board. We think he'll have a great year, but in hindsight, we probably could have waited another round or more before selecting him or another catcher. Mark Buehrle, who was selected in the 11th round with the 6th pick, was a surprise reach for us as well. In fact, when we drafted him, we originally considered him a steal since he dropped as low as he did. After a respectable year, we were surprised to realize he was on such few radars. Regardless, we were excited to take him and know he'll give us a great year.

Other than the AutoWreckers' reach of the draft, Steven Strasburg and Jason Heyward. These two prospects have been talked about as much any elite veteran. Will they be good? All indications up to this point seem to say, "yes." Will either of them be start the season on a Major League roster? Not Strasburg. Should these kids have been drafted? Yes, of course, but in the first two rounds? A little to high for me, but then again, I'm not really a great fantasy baseball source.

All in all, the offseason and draft has treated the AutoWreckers well. We have lofty goals this year and definitely hope to meddle with the best in Middle Earth. Our long term goals from a few years ago have turned to short term goals today. A championship would be a sweet treat and is the ultimate goal, but we have to keep reality in check. We're still a handful of moves and possibly a year or two away.


Joe Mandi, Akron Pronks

1) You ended up with a lot of guys with 20 HR / 20 SB potential, a tactic that landed your commissioner in 8th place in the league's inaugural season. Was this by design, or just a matter of happenstance with a "best available" strategy?

Loading up on 20/20 guys was a combination of several things. Since I was keeping Brian Roberts, Jayson Werth and Shin-Soo Choo, I already had three combo guys locked up. With my three other offensive keepers (Victor Martinez, Kendry Morales and Kevin Youkilis), I only had three offensive starter positions to fill and then two to three additional bench spots. My initial strategy was to nab one combo outfielder, one power bat for my utility spot and a young, speedy shortstop. After several rounds of filling pitching needs, I was able to land the combo outfielder in Nate McLouth, but the speed shortstops (Andrus, Escobar and Cabrera) went several rounds before I was willing to pay for them. I was ecstatic about being able to fall back on Alexi Ramirez, but this meant that I was probably going to be short on steals and that instead of drafting a power bat I would have to land another power/speed guy. Luckily, one of my pre-drafts targets was still around in Franklin Gutierrez, a guy I think is poised for a 25/25 season.

At the end of the day, my numbers showed that I would still probably be a little short on both power and speed, but hopefully my offensive team is well rounded enough to compete in all categories. All that being said, I invested in a potential bounce back power guy (Ryan Ludwick) and am going to be closely watching the waiver wire for a speedster to make up any deficiencies I have.


2) We'd all love to have Tim Lincecum as the anchor to our staff. How does having the most productive starter in baseball change your approach to putting together your pitching staff?

Lincy (as I like to call him) makes putting a pitching staff together a lot easier from the perspective that his ratios are so low that you can afford more risk without worrying about blowing a category. Generally I'm looking for guys with good strikeout ratios and with Lincecum I know I can absorb, for example, Jonathan Sanchez's ERA, keep my team ERA low and still get all those sweet, sweet Ks. While I didn't get Sanchez, I did latch onto Javier Vazquez's 200K, 15 win potential with the knowledge that if his ERA is 4.0+, I'll still be OK. Having Lincecum also allowed me to trade Cliff Lee for Victor Martinez prior to the season. While I'll miss Cliff Lee's great numbers, the positional scarcity Martinez has makes my team better, while I hoping I found someone (I'm looking at you Gavin Floyd) that isn't too big of a downgrade from Lee.

3) Steal of the draft?

Overall Steal of the Draft? Ryan Madson, 13th Round...umm, embarrassingly I kinda thought he had been off the board for several rounds when this pick was made.

Pronks Steal of the Draft? Alexei Ramirez, 6th Round...less experienced shortstops were flying off the board in front of him, but Ramirez has 20 HR / 15 SB potential.

4) Reach of the draft?

Overall Reach of the Draft? Mariano Rivera, 1st Round...39 year old closer, coming off a near career year in a keeper league wasn't the right pick for a Those Guys team looking to rebuild.

Pronks Reach of the Draft? Gavin Floyd, 3rd Round...Floyd probably would have been available a round or two later, but I love the pedigree (4th overall pick in 2001) and the 2009 post-May numbers.


Edward Mattingly, The Usual Suspects

1) You mortgaged a lot of your draft and talent in 2009 in order to position yourself to have a stacked draft this season. With all those early draft picks, how do you feel about your team's makeup, and your ability to bring home the gold in 2010?

I like my team's make up. I think a majority of my team's starters come opening day will be around the age of 25. I feel confident that at the end of the year I will have eight very good keepers. In addition to that, I think my team has upside at every position, and if things develop quickly I will be in the thick of it come September. And if that isn't enough, this clip pretty much sums up my response... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AuBnlNjZq24

2) The Suspects come into this season with only one 100-RBI player from 2009, and only three players who hit 20 or more home runs. Which of your players do you expect to turn up the voltage and provide the power numbers you'll need to compete?

I think Billy Butler and David Wright will have to be the cornerstones of my offense for me to have a chance to compete. Butler absolutely killed the ball with over 50 doubles last year, and I am looking at some of those to carry a little further over the fence this year. In addition, Wright’s HR production plummeted to 10 after averaging 30 over the previous 4 seasons. That will need to return in the 2010 season. That combined with my four OF (minus Pierre) getting good 25+ 100+ production (when they play) will help set up my team to be at least competitive in power statistics and give me a chance to compete for the title.

3) Steal of the draft?

Vladimir Guerrero. Hands down I think this was the steal of the draft. He is two years removed from a .329-30-125 season. Now, do I think he will do that this year...no. Do I think he’s a risk...yes. But a return to 25 HR with 100+ RBI and over .300 avg in Texas’ loaded offense is very possible. And that kind of upside and eventual production out of the 177 pick in the draft is the definition of a steal.

4) Reach of the draft?

Jason Heyward. I think people might agree with me when I say Heyward was probably the reach of the draft. I think he was probably a round at least from being on people’s radar when I selected him at the end of the second round. When I made the selection, I thought there was a 50/50 chance he would begin with Atlanta to start the season (UPDATE: Heyward was named the starting right fielder). With his ability to take walks and work the count, I thought he would reach his ceiling much faster than most hitting prospects. Also, there is just a gut feeling I get about certain guys. It’s not always right (Evan Longoria, Francisco Liriano, Matt Wieters, Delmon Young), but I honestly might like Heyward more than any of those guys. It might blow up in my face, but with so many high picks, I figured why not reach for a guy I really want?


Joseph Mattingly, Riders of Rohan

1) Last year, you traded your first two picks to make a run at the title, leaving your draft weaker than most other contenders. However, with eleven 3rd basemen kept, you still used one of your first two picks on a 1st/3rd basemen (Chris Davis) ranked outside the top 25 at both positions. If given the opportunity, would you make that pick again or would you try to address another possible weakness on your team?

First off, Davis was well inside the top 25 on pretty much every expert list I saw at both 1B and 3B. Yahoo's O-Rank seemed to be the only list that suggested he deserved to be ignored for a few rounds. Yahoo's composite expert rankings put Chris Davis as both the #1 first baseman and #1 third baseman on the board when I took him. While I might have been able to wait another round or two, the depth at 3B is virtually nonexistent, and I didn't want to be left choosing between Adrian Beltre and Martin Prado for my starter.

I like Davis' upside, and his turnaround in the second half of 2009 gave me all the encouragement I needed to think he'd be able to get back on track. He cut his strikeouts down and jacked up his batting average. I don't regret reaching a little bit for Davis at all.

2) The only trade made during the draft was your trade involving Jimmy Rollins for Jon Lester. What factors weighed in on making this deal? Without Rollins 30-40 steals do you feel like steals may be an area of concern?

Sometime in October, probably during the playoffs, I took a long look at Jon Lester's numbers, and fell in love. While Josh Beckett (deservedly) gets a lot of attention, Lester was quietly dominant in 2009, and has been getting better year by year. I know Rollins was the victim of bad luck last year, and I actually expect him to bounce back in a big way. But with my annual dearth of wins, I saw Lester as a guy who could hopefully get me off on track. The fact that I was able to move up in the draft sealed the deal for me, as I was beginning to see that depth was getting thinner.

Regarding steals, I'm hoping that between Alcides Escobar (Rollins' replacement on my team at shortstop) and either Alex Rios or Alfonso Soriano (whoever ends up spending the most time in my lineup), I'll make up whatever deficiencies I created by moving Rollins.

3) Steal of the draft?

I'm still stunned that Dan Uggla lasted 'til the 6th round. He's a 90-30-90 machine at second base. I also think the 13th round pick of Stephen Drew by the DamKnights could be one of those picks we look back on and say, "Really? He got him then?" My pick of Rios felt like a steal as well. If I'm picking one steal, though, it's Uggla.

4) Reach of the draft?

I generally accept that other people have a plan, so their picks can seem like reaches when in actuality they're just part of a strategy. Of course, my pick of Carlos Marmol is pretty much indefensible. It may go down as one of the dumbest in league history; he's had a rocky spring and has a history of control issues. I didn't exactly get great value on David Aardsma, either.

If I had to call out another owner, I guess I'd say Rich Harden went too early. He's injury-prone, and last year he wasn't even his usual dominant self. Package all that up with a move to Texas, and that seems like a lot of obstacles to overcome.


Michael Mattingly, Cleveland Enforcers

1) After a championship 2008, your 2009 was ravaged by injuries and disappointment. How much of a bounce-back are you expecting out of guys like Cole Hamels, Josh Hamilton, and Carlos Quentin?

I expect Hamels to approach his numbers from 2008, probably closer to 3.50 than 3.00 though. Quentin should be recovered from his various injuries over the past year and a half. I expect about 30 home runs out of him to go with a .280 average. Hamilton is the wild card. I'm expecting 25-30 home runs with a .285 batting average and 110 RBI if he can stay on the field. But that is a big if.

2) After drafting Carlos Gonzalez (who won't start for your team yet) in the first round, you seemed to back into four legitimate closers. Had you known beforehand that you'd be able to get 101 saves from 2009 at such value, would you have still taken Gonzalez in the first round?

I remember not liking any of the pitchers that I thought would go in the next round, and historically the Enforcers do not take closers that early which left me with hitters. Butler would have been a great pick but went the selection before, and no other 1B or C seemed to be worth the slot. I went into the draft not being sold on the heath of Quentin, Hamilton, or Reyes so an extra hitter seemed like a good idea. The team has been built around flexibility allow Gonzalez to be the replacement of Zobrist, Rodriguez, Reyes, Hamilton, Upton, Quentin, and Beckham. And chances are, a couple will miss time (Reyes will already be out at the beginning of the season).

3) Steal of the draft?

Vladimir Guerrero in the 11th round by Those Guys. He was a keeper after the 2008 season and hit .300 with 11 home runs after the break last year. I hear he is projected to hit between Hamilton and Kinsler in Texas. Seems like a good situation. Side note: Does anybody in MLB have a more injury-prone middle of their lineup?

4) Reach of the draft?

Asdrubal Cabrera in the second round to the DamKnights. I get the sense that most people are higher on Cabrera than I am but this seemed early. Especially when Alexei Ramirez went four rounds later.


Patrick Mattingly, Feisty Mosquitoes

1) You went young right away, grabbing Stephen Strasburg in the first round, and picking up Brian Matusz and Wade Davis in the 5th and 6th, respectively. Is it fair to say you're confident in your ability to pick up replacement starters if the youngsters falter, or start in the minors (as Strasburg will)?

This begins with drafting 12th (not exactly 'right away'). Having won the previous year, the chance to repeat is difficult. I had kept 7 hitters, so it had to be a pitcher. I took Strasburg because I believe young hard throwing pitchers have the upper hand when they hit the big leagues initially. They usually falter after there is enough tape, and then have to work there way back up to good pitching stats. I was projecting a mid-season arrival with a good year and a cathedral ceiling, with the possibility that maybe, just maybe, he's the one that the rest of the league never catches up with.

The rest was just hunt & peck, click and take. I almost took an SP with my back to back picks in the 2nd/3rd round, but made the decision to take proven closers and be done with that so I was free to go to starters. But when I got back to drafting, all the ones I was eyeballing were gone. After I took Burnett, I felt 'enough of that...so I started to draft potential, hoping one or two pan out. If not, well, off to the waiver wire (isn't Pettitte still available?). I have had success with replacement starters, but of course, past performance is not necessarily indicative of future success.

2) Similarly, you drafted four middle relievers late in the draft, rather than acquiring any more proven starters. Are you prospecting for saves, or expecting their other numbers to help mitigate any weaknesses you might find in replacement starters?

Well, gee why don't you just give away my secrets...yes, yes, yes.

3) Steal of the draft?

Strasburg

4) Reach of the draft?

Heyward


Mike Plundo, Stewies SexyParties

1) You've got three of the top ten talents in fantasy baseball (Hanley Ramirez, Chase Utley, and Ryan Braun). How does having those elite players change your draft strategy with regards to younger players?

I tried to draft the best players to help my team make a run at the league title this year. I did not really focus on trying to get young guys that may develop into future keepers. The other thing that I was able to do was get Andrew McCutchen before the draft started, who I figured will fill the role as a young guy who could develop into a great player and be kept for a number of years. That said, if he wasn't ready to play this year, I wouldn't have grabbed him. My draft strategy was definitely to try to compete this year and not 3 years from now.

2) Your lineup looks more balanced than it has in years. How possible do you think it is that you sweep and pick up the maximum 60 points from the hitting categories?

I'd say 0.5% possible, there are a lot of teams with great hitters this year. I need to get as many hitting points as I can though, because in my opinion, my pitching is not as good as I'd hoped this year. And now I may have 3 pitchers start the year on the DL, so it might be a rough year from a pitching stand-point.

3) Steal of the draft?

Since it looks like Jason Heyward is going to be starting out of the box for Atlanta, he may end of being the steal of the draft, especially in a keeper league. I think perhaps my steal of the draft was getting Tim Hudson with the 216th pick (final pick in the 10th round) in the draft. If he's 1/2 as good as they're saying he's looked this spring, he'll be a steal for me since he was basically "no risk" at that point in the draft.

4) Reach of the draft?

You hate to pick a "reach," especially in a keeper league since people could be thinking 2 years down the road with picks and keepers, but I guess that I would say that keeping Brandon Webb as a 7th keeper was probably a reach. ESPN has him ranked #180 overall for this season, I think there were better pitchers available that could have been acquired and kept, for instance I happen to know that Nolasco could have been had very cheap in the days leading up to the draft and I think he's a much better option going into the season.


Mark Sabina, Those Guys

1) In off-season trades, you moved your 3rd and 4th round picks to improve your keepers, acquiring Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, and Josh Johnson. After seeing how your team panned out, how happy are you with those moves?

At the end of last season, I knew I needed pitching badly. I didn't think the draft (especially in the 3rd round) was going to yield any more talented pitchers than I could have traded my picks for. Having the 1st pick definitely helped to get better pitchers than if I were to have had a middle or late round pick, so I figured I would use it to my advantage. Having the 3 J's (Josh, Josh, John Lackey) in my keeper list allowed me to focus on improving other positions before filling out the rest of my starters. The trade that gave me Gonzo was just a good deal all around for me. Like Joe expressed in his blog post, I agree that Gonzo was my top keeper. And for me to only give up my 4th and 8th to get him, he was a steal in my mind.

2) You used the first overall pick to select Mariano Rivera, but then spent most of the rest of the draft targeting younger players, including Pedro Alvarez and Mike Stanton who may not break spring training with their teams. What was the strategy behind those combination of moves?

Since I had Papelbon on my roster, I knew I only needed 1 more ace reliever and I would be somewhat good on that front, and who better to fill that ace reliever role than Rivera? Taking him with my first pick allowed me to focus on filling the rest of my roster out. Although age-wise Rivera should be way past his prime, you wouldn't be able to tell that from looking at his numbers. Seeing how everyone seemed to be focusing on pitching early in the draft, even if I had my 2nd round pick, I don't think he would have fallen to me. For my roster, and for my draft plan, Rivera was the best pick out there for me.

3) Steal of the draft?

Lilly, definitely. Sure his injury might have turned people off to him, but I don't think he should have fallen to the 10th. Once my b2b2b picks came around and he was still on the board, I knew he would be one of the three. I believe I got him in the 6th last year, and his numbers at the end of the season showed he should have been a 4th or even mid-late 3rd rounder. Sure he's getting older, but his numbers these past few seasons show he's not losing much on his pitches.

4) Reach of the draft?

Mike Stanton was my reach of the draft solely on the reason that he may not even move up to the majors until the end of the season. Pair him with Alvarez and that's 2 roster spots that are useless until the at least the middle of the season. If players start to go down (thank god I don't have Chipper this season) it will make things a little more difficult. But of course those 2 picks weren't for this season. Hopefully Stanton's minor league numbers and Alvarez's minor (or major?) league numbers at the end of the season will prove why they should be kept.

Monday, March 29, 2010

2010 Middle Earth Fantasy Baseball League - Projected Standings

The culmination of our Middle Earth Fantasy Baseball League discussion is, of course, the league projections. Here's how we come up with the projections:
  • We determine logical starting lineups for each team, mostly based on draft order, with an occasional switch for players with limited projected statistics, usually youngsters with undetermined playing time.
  • We use the normal starting lineup of 1 C, 1 1B, 1 2B, 1 3B, 1 SS, 3 OF, and 1 Util. For pitchers, we use six SPs and three RPs.
  • Projected statistics are gathered from an Internet source (ESPN.com this year), and recorded for each team. Starting pitchers' ERAs and WHIPs are adjusted to be twice as influential on team ERA and WHIP as the relievers' statistics. Batting averages are weighed evenly.
  • All of this information is compiled together to get totals for each team, and then sorted into standings. Rotisserie points are assigned, and the standings are complete.
2010 Middle Earth Fantasy Baseball League Projected Standings

A couple of things to note. First, ESPN's projections generally seemed to under-value young players. Additionally, they appeared to be fairly conservative with regards to ERA and WHIP, only declaring a few players to maintain WHIPs under 1.20. Finally, this obviously only takes into account project-able performances. Oftentimes, leagues are won as a result of virtually unpredictable performances, such as Javier Vazquez's insane second half in 2009, or Keith Ginter's amazing final week of the 2004 season.

Best of luck to all teams, and I look forward to an exciting and active season.

Friday, March 26, 2010

2010 Middle Earth Fantasy Baseball League - Draft Analysis

Relax, I'm not going to go through every pick. I'm just going to give a general feel, offer my thoughts on who each team's best and worst picks were, and give a grade for the whole draft. It'll be quick and fairly painless.

The draft can be viewed here.

#1 - Those Guys
They moved their 2nd, 3rd, and 4th round picks in trades, so depth was going to be an obvious concern. Even still, they made smart picks with what they had, and there's potential for greatness down the road.
  • Best Pick - Ted Lilly (9.12). Possibly the best pick of the whole draft.
  • Worst Pick - Mariano Rivera (1.1). With no pick for four rounds, you'd have liked to see Those Guys grab someone with more upside, more long-term potential.
  • Draft Grade: B-
#2 - Dunedain Rangers
The Roy Halladay/Dan Haren for Brandon Webb trade left the Rangers with two extra high draft picks, allowing them to trade their third round pick to re-acquire Haren. The Rangers grabbed several prospects, but in having only seven pitchers, they'll have a tough time competing at all this season without changes.
  • Best Pick - Jason Kubel (6.2). He's young, and doesn't have to improve to be worth his slot.
  • Worst Pick - Jay Bruce (1.11). His upside doesn't seem to be much higher than guys like Alfonso Soriano or Kubel or Raul Ibanez, all of whom went at least two rounds later.
  • Draft Grade: B
#3 - The Usual Suspects
After clearing out talent and draft picks from 2009, the Suspects had a stacked draft this season. They were able to pile on talent, but I wonder if they might not have been better off playing it a little safer and grabbing a guy like Dan Uggla or Jose Lopez to man second base, rather than counting on Rickie Weeks' first healthy season...ever.
  • Best Pick - Billy Butler (1.3) or Joakim Soria (2.1). Sometimes the easy picks are the best ones.
  • Worst Pick - Carlos Beltran (4.8) AND Juan Pierre (4.9). Either one is a good pick. But drafting both seemed out of place with solid closers and Uggla & Lopez still on the board.
  • Draft Grade: A-
#4 - Cleveland Enforcers
The Enforcers were the victims of some horrible luck in 2009, so they've got keepers with high upside, but still have a solid draft. They used their favorable draft picks to grab several high-end pitching prospects, and while the team will still live or die with its outfield, they're in solid shape going forward.
  • Best Pick - Brian Fuentes (6.4). Despite his unexceptional peripherals in 2009, Fuentes racked up saves. I was surprised he lasted that long.
  • Worst Pick - Rich Harden (2.4). At 28, with several injuries under his belt and an unimpressive 2009, I felt like he would've lasted longer.
  • Draft Grade: B
#5 - DamKnights of Columbus
Tragedy struck Columbus when it was reported that Joe Nathan had a torn tendon in his pitching elbow and would miss the 2010 season. It happened mid-draft, after the Knights had already passed on several upper-tier closers. Still, their draft yielded several exciting young players to go with keepers who hit about .320 last year.
  • Best Pick - Stephen Drew (13.5). Somehow, a consensus top 8 shortstop lasted until the second-to-last round of the draft.
  • Worst Pick - James Loney (9.5). A little late to call it the "worst" pick, but I feel like Loney's numbers are easily replaceable. We should've all listened when the "experts" said he'll never hit 20 HR in a season.
  • Draft Grade: A-
#6 - Mercer AutoWreckers
The AutoWreckers had a solid but unexciting draft. I don't see too much potential for guys to outperform expectations, which means another middle-of-the-pack finish seems in order.
  • Best Pick - Hunter Pence (1.6). The former Mosquito will look dashing in AutoWrecker Blue.
  • Worst Pick - Rick Porcello (8.1). I worry about a guy who doesn't strike anybody out.
  • Draft Grade: B-
#7 - Vandelay Industries
As with most seasons, Vandelay spent much of the draft targeting high upside starting pitchers, sprinkling in hitters for flavor. This year, however, they used one of their keeper SPs (Jon Lester) to acquire Jimmy Rollins, solidifying their offense with perhaps the perfect piece to send them on a championship run.
  • Best Pick - Edwin Jackson (9.7). A repeat of 2009 and a lot of people are going to look foolish for passing on him.
  • Worst Pick - Manny Ramirez (1.7). Certainly the possibility of a great season is still there, but he's had trouble putting together a whole season of elite performance for a while now.
  • Draft Grade: B
#8 - Stewies SexyParties
The SexyParties are always competitive because they've got three elite keepers in Hanley Ramirez, Chase Utley, and Ryan Braun. Their draft is always a matter of trying to surround those guys with complementary pieces, and this year Stewie was pretty successful. Most of their picks were good value, and while there's not much upside, the Sexies don't need all that much upside.
  • Best Pick - Roy Oswalt (3.8). I just can't see him not bouncing back and having another solid season in 2010.
  • Worst Pick - Daisuke Matsuzaka (6.8). There were more interesting guys still on the board, and Daisuke seemed to have been playing with fire for a while before last year's implosion.
  • Draft Grade: B
#9 - Huber Heights Heroes
The recently renamed Heroes are a team that I have to judge slightly differently based on their unique, batting-average-punting strategy. Luckily, the strategy had a much greater impact on last year's draft than this year's. The Heroes' pitching is still suspect, but their hitting should keep them in the race most of the season.
  • Best Pick - Dan Uggla (6.3). Uggla would've been a great fit for a lot of teams. I'm amazed he lasted as long as he did.
  • Worst Pick - Garrett Jones (9.9). Jones is a fine player, but the Heroes needed speed from their last outfield spot. They grabbed Dexter Fowler in the twelfth who will likely start, but that means that they picked up Jones before him to be a bench player.
  • Draft Grade: B-
#10 - Akron Pronks
After finishing with the bronze medal for the third straight season, you'd have thought the Pronks might take more chances on risky players to see if they could catch lightning in a bottle and win a title. But they ended up just taking more solid guys, and they look like they'll be in the mix again, but may unfortunately come up short one more time.
  • Best Pick - Alexei Ramirez (6.10). It was a pretty late spot to grab your starting shortstop, but the Pronks did very well, grabbing a guy with impressive talent and, like most of their players, a power/speed combo.
  • Worst Pick - Nate McLouth (5.10). Not a particuarly bad pick, per se, but I think there were better fits out there at this point in the draft. Uggla, for starters.
  • Draft Grade: A-
#11 - Riders of Rohan
The Riders were without their own 1st and 2nd round picks, but through offseason trades acquired additional 2nd, 3rd, and 4th round picks. They were able to generate depth, but there's an obvious drop off in talent after the eight keepers. Their bullpen especially is full of questions.
  • Best Pick - Alex Rios (6.11). If you look at 2009 as anomalous (and you should), Rios is a .290 hitter with power and speed.
  • Worst Pick - Carlos Marmol (2.6). A failed attempt to trade up and acquire Joakim Soria left the Riders scrambling for saves. But they didn't really get good value with any of their closer picks.
  • Draft Grade: B-
#12 - Feisty Mosquitoes
The champion drafts last, the only negative about grabbing a title. The Mosquitoes took their draft position as an impetus to take chances on young starters and worry about the rest of their pitching staff later. When you keep seven hitters, though, you're looking at pitchers anyways. And with the innate risk of any pitcher, at least with prospects you're getting a chance at gold.
  • Best Pick - Raul Ibanez (5.12). He's got the potential to be just as good as several first round picks (Bruce, Manny, Pena). Great value.
  • Worst Pick - A.J. Burnett (4.12). Initially, my thinking was that Burnett is on a good team and has talent, so what's not to like? But he was in the same situation last year, and he didn't do much with it.
  • Draft Grade: B+
I would be remiss if I didn't mention how even I felt that all of the drafts were. I don't think any team had a particularly excellent or a particularly terrible draft. This speaks volumes to the growth of our league and its owners, and it makes me excited for how competitive this league could be in two or three years. I can see any of these teams winning the title in 2015...

...except Akron. They'll be in third.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

New NFL Overtime Rules

So it looks like the NFL will be adopting a change to the playoff overtime rules. Owners voted this week to adopt the following changes:

If the team that wins the coin toss scores a field goal on their opening possession, the opposing team will have one possession to tie or win the game. If the team receiving the ball second also scores a field goal, the game will go into a sudden death format, where the first team to score next will win.

If the team that wins the coin toss scores a touchdown on their opening possession, they will win the game.

If the team that wins the coin toss does not score on their opening possession, the game will go into a sudden death format, where the first team to score next will win.

Got it? It's actually not all that complicated, despite Sean Payton's whining.

In fact, it sounds like there are a decent number of people who really dislike this rule change. There are also a lot of people who think it's about time. I fall into neither category.

I never really thought that a team that went to overtime and got beat on the first possession had much to gripe about. When you go to overtime, that means that you didn't play well enough during regulation to win the game. You have 60 minutes of regulation to prove you're the superior team. When you go to overtime, you're getting extra time to make a play because fans generally don't like ties. But getting an overtime possession isn't your "right."

By the same token, I don't have a problem with extending football games a little bit, if they reach overtime. It will create more dramatic, do-or-die situations at the end of a couple of games, and I'm alright with that.

I didn't need the overtime rules to be changed, but I'm fine with the fact that they were.

Now, college football overtime rules are just a bastardization of football, and should be abolished.

2010 Middle Earth Fantasy Baseball League - Keeper Analysis

It's time to look at how the teams in our ultra-competitive keeper baseball league stack up. I know what you're saying. "Joe, you could've done this weeks ago." True, but had I done that, it might've affected our draft, and I'd never want to do that. I prefer that everyone make their moves, and I only look back in retrospect.

The first phase of this analysis will be to look at the keeper lists and give each one a rating out of 80, with 0 being eight unworthy keepers (think the Nationals' pitching staff) and 80 being eight first-round caliber keepers. With eight keeper slots, it'll be 10 points per slot, and I'll break it down slot-by-slot. We'll go in reverse draft order, starting with the #1 picking Those Guys, and moving on down to the Feisty Mosquitoes.

Those Guys
  • Adrian Gonzalez, 1B - 8 points
    Gonzalez is an upper tier power hitter, and while he'll never pierce that fifth category (steals), his upwards potential upon his inevitable exodus from San Diego is very exciting.
  • Grady Sizemore, OF - 7 points
    You have to think Sizemore will bounce back after a disappointing and injury-plagued 2009, but you also have to take into account that his strikeout numbers weren't really getting better, and his batting average has been going down for a few years now.
  • Shane Victorino, OF - 6 points
    I'm not sure that Victorino can provide anything above his expectations, but with solid runs, batting average, and steals, along with not terrible power numbers, he can be a valuable piece to a championship puzzle
  • Bobby Abreu, OF - 4 points
    It's not that there's anything wrong with Abreu's production. But he's 36 years old, and you can't expect his speed to hold up for much longer.
  • Josh Beckett, SP - 7 points
    Outside of a rocky 2006, Beckett has been one of the most reliable and effective starting pitchers in baseball. He hasn't let down anyone who's paid for him in the past three years, and he's a safe bet for good production once again.
  • Josh Johnson, SP - 6 points
    Johnson was everything fantasy owners could've hoped for and more in 2009. The problem is that it was the first time in three years that he'd been healthy. If he's healthy, he should be good again.
  • John Lackey, SP - 4 points
    I'm not sure Lackey was ever as good as I used to say he was, but he's certainly solid. I don't think going from the AL West to the AL East helps his potential, though.
  • Jonathan Papelbon, RP - 3 points
    Good closer, but just a closer.
Dunedain Rangers
  • Brian McCann, C - 3 points
    You're not generally crazy about keeping a catcher, but McCann is good enough to justify it. He wouldn't be a keeper at any other position, though.
  • Derrek Lee, 1B - 6 points
    Lee had a revitalization of sorts last year, and the hope is that he's back on track. Because of his up and down history, though, there is some risk.
  • Chone Figgins, 3B - 6 points
    Figgins is a superstar when it comes to steals, and he generally does well in batting average and runs as well. His utter lack of power numbers mitigates his value somewhat, though.
  • Jason Bartlett, SS - 5 points
    The worry here is that Bartlett had his first great year in 2009, and even his great year wasn't earth-shattering. A small step backwards and he's a borderline keeper.
  • Denard Span, OF - 4 points
    I've seen Span valued very differently by different sources, so I'll put him somewhere in the middle. He'll need to take a step forward in speed or power to justify a keeper slot, though.
  • Dan Haren, SP - 8 points
    While he's historically a first-half pitcher, his overall statistics are still very good. And if you can somehow dodge his end-of-season let-down, you've got a sub-2.00 ERA and sub-1.00 WHIP over 20 starts.
  • Brandon Webb, SP - 5 points
    If he comes back healthy and effective, he's a great keeper, probably a top 10 pitcher. But with the risk that all pitchers face in coming back from injury, the value is curtailed.
  • (no 8th keeper) - 2 points
    Because you can get talent out of a supplemental pick, the lack of an 8th keeper still carries some value.
The Usual Suspects
  • Matt Wieters, C - 4 points
    Plenty of upside, but it's as yet unrealized. What if he's just Ramon Hernandez?
  • Albert Pujols, 1B - 10 points
    Duh.
  • David Wright, 3B - 9 points
    His power outage in 2009 was of concern, but even a tiny bounce-back puts him on the cusp of the first round again. His across-the-board production is virtually unmatched at third base.
  • Adam Jones, OF - 6 points
    Every expert I've read has declared Jones as a great guy to have this year, but in every mock I've seen, he doesn't go until the sixth or seventh round. Put your money where your mouth is, "experts."
  • Nelson Cruz, OF - 4 points
    I really don't know what to expect out of Cruz, this year or any future year. But people say he'll be alright.
  • Justin Verlander, SP - 8 points
    He's on that third tier of starting pitchers, just behind King Felix and CC Sabathia, and there's not really any reason he couldn't move up with another year like 2009.
  • Tommy Hanson, SP - 6 points
    All offseason his value has gone up and up. It's not wrong that it's gone up, but I think you have to temper yourself a little bit when you're talking about a second-year pitcher.
  • Ubaldo Jimenez, SP - 3 points
    He doesn't post completely replaceable stats, but he'll need to take a small step forward to justify being kept again.
Cleveland Enforcers
  • Ben Zobrist, 2B - 7 points
    All the signs point to Zobrist being the real deal, even if it doesn't feel like he should be a star. I do wonder how his stats might fluctuate with the likely upcoming changes to the Rays' lineup.
  • Alex Rodriguez, 3B - 10 points
    After years of being the consensus #1 pick, he's now only going 3rd or 4th. The title of "Best Player Since Barry Bonds" is split between him and Pujols.
  • Gordon Beckham, 3B - 5 points
    I think we all expect him to continue to improve, but we've been waiting on Stephen Drew to improve for a while now without any luck. So you always have to be wary of youngsters.
  • Jose Reyes, SS - 8 points
    I feel like I can't penalize Reyes for his subsequent health issues, since at the time keepers were submitted, he was generally healthy. His condition is obviously a concern for the Enforcers, though.
  • B.J. Upton, OF - 5 points
    I know he's valuable and fairly well thought of. But I hate him.
  • Josh Hamilton, OF - 4 points
    Even four points might be a reach, but he showed in the first half of 2008 that he can be a superstar. Here's hoping injuries don't put him away for good.
  • Carlos Quentin, OF - 4 points
    His upside is a little bit lower than Hamilton's, but his likelihood of a rebound back to 2008 form is greater.
  • Cole Hamels, SP - 6 points
    The thinking is that he was overworked in 2008, with a ton of regular season and postseason innings, causing his drop off in 2009. If he can get back to 2008 form, though, he'll be pitching a ton again.
DamKnights
  • Joe Mauer, C - 9 points
    His huge leap forward in power numbers in 2009 makes Mauer a guy to consider late in the first round of a standard draft. The only concern is how much all these catching games are going to affect his offense.
  • Pablo Sandoval, 1B/3B - 6 points
    He's just got the one year under his belt, and he doesn't look like he'll develop into a premier power source, but he sure can hit. You just hope the Giants can give him some kind of help in that lineup.
  • Robinson Cano, 2B - 4 points
    I never know what to make of Cano, with his whole year ups and downs. But he's got the ability to hit well over .300, and he's in a stacked lineup.
  • Michael Young, 3B - 5 points
    Young is quietly one of the more consistent hitters in baseball, and there's value in reliably productive players.
  • Matt Holliday, OF - 9 points
    His underwhelming performance in Oakland last year is a taste that's hard to get out of my mouth, but his NL career is outstanding. Hitting in a lineup with Pujols doesn't hurt, either.
  • Jake Peavy, SP - 6 points
    His health has become a legitimate concern, but when healthy, he's one of the best pitchers in baseball. Word is, he's healthy.
  • Matt Garza, SP - 5 points
    If Garza can cut down on the gopher balls and get a little more consistent, he can move up next year's draft board in a hurry. He's got the Ks and the ability to dominate.
  • Joe Nathan, RP - 4 points
    Again, I won't penalize the keeper rating because of a subsequent injury.
Mercer AutoWreckers
  • Joey Votto, 1B - 7 points
    It looks like Votto is just a really good hitter, but the concern is that he's only got a little more pop than James Loney. He might be a lot better, but emphasis on the might.
  • Dustin Pedroia, 2B - 8 points
    He's not a superstar, and if you remember, neither Joe nor myself though that he deserved the MVP in 2008. But he's certainly solid, and the Red Sox still boast a potent lineup.
  • Derek Jeter, SS - 6 points
    He's getting up there, but he's obviously still got the talent to produce at a high level.
  • Nick Markakis, OF - 5 points
    Markakis might be one of the more over-valued players in fantasy baseball. He's got a solid batting average and decent run production, but doesn't offer exceptional production with regards to power or steals. Doesn't that put him just a tick above Chris Coghlan?
  • Andre Ethier, OF - 5 points
    In 2008, Ethier showed he can hit for average. In 2009, he showed he can hit for power. Can he combine the two? If so, he's a stud.
  • Felix Hernandez, SP - 9 points
    King Felix was one of the premier pitching prospects in baseball, and now he's just one of the premier pitchers in baseball.
  • Roy Halladay, SP - 9 points
    Halladay isn't as old as you think, but he's got plenty of miles on his arm. Still, the move to the NL will give a whole new group of hitters the opportunity to be mystified by him.
  • Heath Bell, RP - 3 points
    A solid closer, but he's on a bad team. There's talk of him getting traded, but you never know; sometimes those trades turn closers into setup men, and that would obviously kill most of Bell's value.
Vandelay Industries
  • Lance Berkman, 1B - 3 points
    It was curious that Vandelay traded for Berkman when they had Billy Butler as an option. Berkman's fine, but Butler is a better long-term option.
  • Aaron Hill, 2B - 5 points
    He probably won't hit 35+ homers ever again, but he's got enough pop at second base to be valuable for a long time.
  • Evan Longoria, 3B - 9 points
    If he could just move his batting average up a tick, he'd be right there with Alex Rodriguez at the top of the 3B heap.
  • Ichiro Suzuki, OF - 5 points
    Is the 36-year-old Suzuki taking the standard path of an aging hitter? Lower speed, higher power? Unfortunately, his power won't grow high enough, and if he steals 26 bases again in 2010, his value will take a beating.
  • Curtis Granderson, OF - 6 points
    I'm less excited about Granderson than other people, but in the Yankees lineup, he's obviously got the potential to explode. Time will tell.
  • Jon Lester, SP - 8 points
    Eventually traded by Vandelay, Lester is an elite pitcher in the making. Young, lots of strikeouts, good team, he's a quality #1 for most teams.
  • Adam Wainwright, SP - 8 points
    Part of the reason Vandelay could afford to trade Lester is he's actually got 2-3 aces, with Wainwright competing for the NL Cy Young last year. He's just a tick below Lester, and he's still plenty young.
  • Yovani Gallardo, SP - 7 points
    One of the more exciting pitching prospects out there, many experts see Gallardo taking a Felix-like step forward this year. If he does, look out.
Stewies SexyParties
  • Chase Utley, 2B - 10 points
    The best second baseman, bar none. Kinsler looked like he'd challenge, but Utley remains the best all-around option.
  • Aramis Ramirez, 3B - 5 points
    Though he's had trouble staying healthy most of his career, he's been productive when he's been on the field. And surprisingly, he's still just 31 years old.
  • Hanley Ramirez, SS - 10 points
    Worth slightly more than Freddie Sanchez these days.
  • Ryan Braun, OF - 10 points
    The best waiver pickup in league history, Braun has continued to develop into one of the elite fantasy players at any position. A very worthy top five pick.
  • Andrew McCutchen, OF - 6 points
    McCutchen spells his last name wrong, but other than that, he's got a lot going for him. His power/speed potential makes him particularly interesting.
  • Jason Bay, OF - 6 points
    You wonder what the move to a pitcher's park in the National League will do for his production, but he should still be keeper-worthy.
  • Cliff Lee, SP - 7 points
    At some point, I'll have to start believing in Cliff Lee. That point is now.
  • Chris Carpenter, SP - 6 points
    Carpenter is always an injury concern, and he turns 35 in April. But when healthy, he's on the same level as the very best pitchers. It's a risk/reward type deal.
Huber Heights Heroes
  • Mark Teixeira, 1B - 10 points
    Not a perfect fit for the Heroes with his ~.300 average, but value-wise, he's as good as first base gets outside of Pujols.
  • Ryan Howard, 1B - 9 points
    The poster boy for the Heroes' agenda, Howard is a machine when it comes to power and runs.
  • Mark Reynolds, 3B - 8 points
    Again, the batting average is of concern, but he was so good by the end of last year that you can't really fault him for that any more than you can fault Teixeira for not stealing bases.
  • Jacoby Ellsbury, OF - 8 points
    Might be overvalued right now, as it doesn't look like he'll develop much power. He's not as good as Carl Crawford, but he's getting drafted around there. I'll value him the way I see him.
  • Adam Dunn, OF - 4 points
    Straight power broker, and I'm glad he's on the Nationals. It gives my local team a little something to cheer for.
  • Johan Santana, SP - 7 points
    Santana is coming off of his first serious injury, but we all expect him to be dominant once again. Still, you have to account for the possibility that it'll take some time for him to recapture his magic.
  • Matt Cain, SP - 7 points
    Cain finally broke through and posted a nice amount of wins last year, and if he can keep that up along with his averages and strikeouts, he'll be the next Josh Beckett.
  • Wandy Rodriguez, SP - 6 points
    All of his numbers are headed in the right direction. Another year of that, and he'll really catch some people's eyes.
Akron Pronks
  • Victor Martinez, C - 7 points
    Martinez really thrived after his trade to Boston, and a whole season of that production has fantasy owners salivating. Wipe your mouth, though, folks. He's still a good deal behind Mauer.
  • Kendry Morales, 1B - 6 points
    Morales had a breakout season, posting very good numbers across the board. You worry about a letdown after that kind of explosion, but hitters are generally able to keep pace.
  • Brian Roberts, 2B - 7 points
    His spring training injury is a concern. There's no "but" after that. It's a concern.
  • Kevin Youkilis, 3B - 6 points
    It's probably time to accept that Youkilis isn't getting any better. He's a .300-.320 hitter with solid power and run production, but he won't be jacking 40 homers ever.
  • Jayson Werth, OF - 7 points
    Werth was kind of a shocker in 2009, in that he had bounced around for five years, then followed up his breakout 2008 with an explosive 2009. His production is actually pretty similar to Mark Reynolds.
  • Shin-Soo Choo, OF - 6 points
    His numbers might startle you, but Choo was an across-the-board performer last season. If the rest of the Indians lineup can provide a little pop, he could be Beltran-esque.
  • Tim Lincecum, SP - 10 points
    Come on, don't make me say it.
  • Jonathan Broxton, RP - 5 points
    Probably the strongest closer option, with his torrid strikeout rate and his favorable situation. If he gets 7 wins again, though, I'll punch Joe Mandi.
Riders of Rohan
  • Miguel Cabrera, 1B - 10 points
    His level of commitment seems to be questionable, but his production is steady and spectacular.
  • Prince Fielder, 1B - 9 points
    I'd be a little surprised to see him hit .300, but the power numbers are impossible to ignore. He also played in all 162 Brewers games last year.
  • Ian Kinsler, 2B - 8 points
    Injuries and a weak batting average have bumped Kinsler out of the first round in most mocks, but he's still a potentially explosive player. Don't give him a bonus for playing second base, though; the position is stronger now than it's been in years.
  • Jimmy Rollins, SS - 8 points
    Rollins was the other side of the aforementioned Lester trade. Apparently Rollins had one of the most noticeably unlucky BABIPs in baseball last year, so his .250 average was likely an anomaly. Look for closer to .275 in 2010, with plenty of runs and steals.
  • Matt Kemp, OF - 10 points
    Kemp vaulted himself into the first round of most drafts with a great power/speed combo performance. If he gets moved into a more favorable lineup spot next year (he had 350 ABs in the 6-8 slots), his run production could put him into top three discussions.
  • Carlos Lee, OF - 4 points
    Lee's hitting is still there, but his baserunning seems to be deteriorating, both in the forms of steals and runs. A reversal of fortune isn't impossible, but projecting more than 80 runs seems silly.
  • Zack Greinke, SP - 9 points
    The AL Cy Young overcame confidence issues to have one of the best seasons by a pitcher this decade. Who knew that a guy could have a 2.16 ERA, 1.07 WHIP, and 242 strikeouts and still be uncomfortable. Chip up, brother. You're the man.
  • Clayton Kershaw, SP - 7 points
    Kershaw managed just 8 wins last season despite great numbers, owing partly due to the fact that he went seven or more innings in just 8 of his 30 starts. If he can get deeper into games, even if it sacrifices some of his strikeouts, he can be a superstar.
Feisty Mosquitoes
  • Justin Morneau, 1B - 7 points
    Morneau seems to have trouble putting together both power and batting average in the same season. In fact, the only time he's ever combined a .275+ average with 25+ home runs was his MVP 2006 season. If he matches them up again, another MVP might be in the works.
  • Brandon Phillips, 2B - 7 points
    Phillips has quietly had three straight 20/20 seasons, and last year he added in a career 98 RBI. Cincinnati may not be a hitter's paradise, but I can see Phillips having another very good season.
  • Ryan Zimmerman, 3B - 8 points
    Zimmerman had a completely predictable breakout in 2009, and if there's any development at all by the lineup around him, he could be in line for 120 runs and 120 RBI.
  • Troy Tulowitzki, SS - 10 points
    Everything bounced back about Tulowitzki in 2009, and he's now going in the first round of many drafts. If he can reproduce his numbers from last year, he'll be well worth the investment.
  • Carl Crawford, OF - 9 points
    Mark it down, 2009 was just another great year by Carl Crawford. Mark it down. I'll wait.
  • Justin Upton, OF - 7 points
    Upton is probably the sexiest pick in most fantasy baseball drafts this year, as just about everyone expects him to develop into an elite player. Just go compare his numbers to Shin-Soo Choo, though, and you'll see that the expert community is wrong about one of them; they're either too excited about Upton, or not excited enough about Choo.
  • Adam Lind, OF - 5 points
    Hopefully Lind is the next Shawn Green, and not the next Pat Burrell. Either is possible, though.
  • CC Sabathia, SP - 9 points
    While New York didn't see nearly as dominant a CC as Milwaukee did, they got one of the best pitchers in the junior circuit. Additionally, his performance was right in line with his career numbers, so you can justifiably expect similar numbers in 2010.

Totals (in order)
  1. Riders of Rohan - 65 points
    Makes sense, though, right? I'm the one doing the rankings, so I'm inevitably going to like my guys a little bit more. Still, I think any reviewer would put my squad in the top 3 or 4.
  2. Feisty Mosquitoes - 62 points
    Last year's champion still has a damn good team.
  3. Stewies SexyParties - 60 points
    All that top-end talent will keep Stewie competitive for a long time.
  4. Huber Heights Heroes - 59 points
    It's possible that on a functional level, the Heroes would be number one, since the points they "lose" based on their players' low batting averages are less meaningful than they would be to other teams.
  5. Akron Pronks - 54 points
    He's got Lincecum and a bunch of guys at 6 or 7. The math makes sense.
  6. Mercer AutoWreckers - 52 points
    Slowly but surely, the AutoWreckers are undoing the damage of some of their more tragic trades.
  7. Vandelay Industries - 51 points
    With solid keepers and a good draft position, Vandelay put themselves in a position to compete.
  8. The Usual Suspects - 50 points
    Naturally, the Suspects' draft looks nothing like a regular draft. To their credit, it's top-heavy, and they maintained a solid keeper list.
  9. Cleveland Enforcers - 49 points
    The Enforcers' list would've rated in the top three last year. It's a risk/reward list, with the most potential for a rebound in value next season.
  10. DamKnights - 48 points
    One thing you can be sure of, with the DamKnights' keepers, they're going to hit .300.
  11. Those Guys - 45 points
    Though their keepers rank fairly low, there's enough potential and talent here to field a solid team...in 2011. They culled most of their draft to put together a solid keeper list.
  12. Dunedain Rangers - 39 points
    Sort of the opposite of Those Guys, they traded their top two pitchers in the middle of 2009 for extra 1st and 2nd picks in 2010. They even re-acquired Dan Haren at a slight discount. Could be one of the big movers for next year's list.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Sweet 16 Bracket

Yahoo's got a Second Chance Tournament Bracket that we can use to run our Sweet 16 bracket. Click here to join.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bold MLB Predictions 2010

American League

AL East: New York Yankees - Both Hughes and Joba spend time setting up Rivera. Yanks end with a 108 win season.
AL Central: Detroit Tigers - A sober Cabrera drives in 115+. Tigers win central by 5+ games
AL West: Seattle Mariners - Loss of Vlad (LAA) and a lack of pitching (Tex) leaves Seattle at the top of the division with all three finishing within 5 games of one another.
AL Wild Card: Boston Red Sox - A great rotation of Lackey, Lester, Beckett keeps them around Wild Card until deadline deal brings in Adrian Gonzalez.

AL Surprise: Baltimore Orioles - Led by their young talented outfield the O's finish third in the AL East and get to .500
AL Disappointment: Tampa Bay Rays - A slow start due to injuries leads to Tampa trading Crawford at the deadline. Never able to get back on track Rays finish 4th in AL East.

AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera, Tigers
AL CY Young: Felix Hernandez, Mariners
AL ROY: Austin Jackson, Tigers

AL Champion: Boston Red Sox

National League

NL East: Atlanta Braves - Hudson, Lowe, and Glaus all have bounce back years. Heyward has solid rookie season and Chipper plays 130 games.
NL Central: St. Louis Cardinals - A full year of Holliday and Pujols together and development of second year player Rasmus leads to great offensive numbers for the Cards.
NL West: Los Angeles Dodgers - Young stars Ethier and Kemp continue to improve. This combined with a motivated Manny leads them to division title.
NL Wild Card: Philadelphia Phillies - Slow start but way too much talent. Hamels pitches like its 2008.

NL Surprise: Pittsburgh Pirates - A fast start leads to the Pirates being in second place at the end of April. Alvarez, a June 1st call up, gets serious ROY consideration and leads Pirates to a 72 win season.
NL Disappointment: San Francisco Giants - Wear on Lincecum starts to show. His two trips to DL derails quick start to the season as Giants fall out of contention.

NL MVP: Ryan Howard, Phillies
NL CY Young: Yovani Gallardo, Brewers
NL ROY: Stephen Strasburg, Nationals (Wins 10 games after May call up)

NL Champion: Los Angeles Dodgers

World Series Champions: Boston Red Sox

Apparently, March Is as Mad as Ever

So, you remember last week how I said, among other things, that talent generally bears out in the tournament? Well, either these lower seeded teams are more talented than I realized (not impossible), or I was simply wrong about how today's NCAA championship bracket plays out. The whole weekend was a kind of upset special, with particular shockers happening on Thursday and Saturday.
  • Early Thursday, #13 Murray State hit a buzzer-beater to knock off #4 Vanderbilt, and the avalanche had begun. Before the day was over, two #6's and #3 Georgetown would all fall victim to upsets.

  • Friday was mostly upset-free, but Ivy League champions Cornell blew #5 Temple out of the building.

  • Saturday, the first #1 seed fell as Kansas lost to #9 Northern Iowa. Washington proved that the Pac-10 was under-estimated as they shrugged off their 11-seed and laid the lumber to #3 New Mexico. And as boldly predicted by ESPN's Digger Phelps, #10 St. Mary's kept Villanova on their heels all game, eventually pulling off the upset.

  • On Sunday, things almost came back down to earth, but #12 Cornell ran roughshod over Wisconsin to make the Sweet 16, and #6 Xavier bounced #3 Pittsburgh in the battle of teams that most frequently disappoint their fans in the tournament. Don't count on the Musketeers to give Kansas State any trouble next round.
The best game of the weekend had to be #4 Maryland vs. #5 Michigan State on Sunday afternoon. The Spartans had the lead most of the game, often double-digits, but late in the second half, ACC Player of the Year Greivis Vasquez turned it on and brought his team all the way back. What followed was a series of back-and-forths with the lead changing hands several times. Vasquez made an off-balance runner with six seconds left to put the Terrapins up one, but those six seconds were too much time, as Michigan State was able to run back down the floor and nail a three-pointer at the buzzer to advance. It was disappointing, because it would've been nice for Maryland to have a deep run, but still a satisfying game to watch.

What can we take away from this weekend of insanity? Well, on a personal level, I wish I had watched a little more college basketball so that some of these upsets would have more weight to them. If I had watched Kansas a few times and appreciated how good they really are, the upset might have been more gratifying. And perhaps watching some Villanova games might have allowed me to see their front-court deficiencies, allowing me to make the same kind of prediction that Phelps made about St. Mary's.

More importantly, now that we've all watched some college basketball, and we think we know these tournament teams, let's do a Sweet 16 bracket. Post your predictions as a comment. Give your Elite Eight teams, then your Final Four teams, then your championship matchup and the victor.

To give you an example, here are my Sweet 16 predictions:

Elite Eight
Michigan State
Tennessee
Syracuse
Kansas State
Kentucky
Washington
Duke
Baylor

Final Four
Michigan State
Syracuse
Kentucky
Baylor

Championship
Syracuse
Kentucky

NCAA Champion
Kentucky

Wager? I'll leave that up for discussion. Could be money, could be a dare, or something else. Something really cool that I don't even know about.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

MLB Predictions - 2010

American League

AL East: New York Yankees - How can you pick against them?
AL Central: Chicago White Sox - Rios and Pierre should give their lineup a jolt.
AL West: Anaheim Angels - I'm not sold on Seattle's "defense" moves just yet.
AL Wild Card: Tampa Bay Rays - One last hurrah with Crawford.

AL Champion: New York Yankees

AL MVP: Mark Teixeira, Yankees
AL Cy Young: Jake Peavy, White Sox
AL ROY: Brian Matusz, Orioles



National League

NL East: Philadelphia Phillies - Halladay will probably win 25 games.
NL Central: Milwaukee Brewers - Although I don't think Randy Wolf will be the difference.
NL West: San Francisco Giants - Pitching wins championships?
NL Wild Card: St. Louis Cardinals - Swap them with the Brewers if Carpenter can stay healthy.

NL Champion: San Francisco Giants

NL MVP: Ryan Braun, Brewers
NL Cy Young: Roy Halladay, Phillies
NL ROY: Jason Heyward, Braves



World Series Champion: New York Yankees

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Drafting For Wins

Fantasy baseball is a funny thing. I'm in a competitive, 12-team keeper league that's been running since 2004, and I've got one championship and another season in which I finished in second place. But for the life of me, I can't figure out how to get wins. In six years, only once have I finished any better than 9th in wins, and that year I finished 6th, the year I took home the title. I've never eked into the top five in wins, making it seem less like an anomaly and more like a problem.

So, naturally, I came up with a list of ways to try to fix this problem. Six ways, in fact, which I've sorted from most important to least important, and which I've tried to take into account during my off-season and draft. Now that the draft has concluded, I'll share with you my logic, and give some examples of players that suit the examples (players on my roster will be bolded).
  1. Talent
    (examples: Tim Lincecum, Zack Greinke, Roy Halladay)
    First and foremost, the best pitchers are the most likely to get wins. The reason being, of course, that they tend to give up the fewest runs, and put their offenses in a position to be able to score enough runs to win. Moreover, drafting pitchers who aren't the best available is a surefire way to get yourself into trouble quickly. I generally used talent as the main determining factor, and went to the subsequent factors when talent was very close.
  2. Winning Teams
    (examples: Jon Lester, Javier Vazquez, Scott Kazmir)
    Teams that are perennially successful will put their pitchers into positions to win more games. The logic is simple, but it's something that I've let slip my mind in the past. This year, I traded for Jon Lester and drafted Scott Kazmir, hoping that their teams' successes would continue to provide winning opportunities for starting pitchers.
  3. Frequent Favorable Opponents (aka the Central divisions)
    (examples: Adam Wainwright, Jake Peavy, Max Scherzer)
    Sort of a partner to #2, if you draft a starter who pitches against below average teams often, he's more likely to win games. The AL Central boasted two 65-win teams (Cleveland and Kansas City), and four of the six teams in the NL Central finished below .500. The logic here also follows with spot-starters. If Jeff Francis has a start against the Padres coming up, maybe grab him for that game. Of course, I've used that logic in past seasons, and it's blown up in my face as often as not, but something to keep in mind at least.
  4. Innings Eaters
    (examples: Cliff Lee, James Shields, Bronson Arroyo)
    This concept is based on the idea that the more innings you pitch, the greater your opportunity for wins, as per the rules of baseball. And, generally, if your pitcher pitches a lot of innings, he's pitching well enough to win most of the time. I didn't end up taking a specific "innings eater," but I've got plenty of guys who pitch enough.
  5. Great Bullpens
    (examples: Daisuke Matsuzaka, Brett Anderson, A.J. Burnett)
    Through similar logic to the innings eaters, drafting players on teams with great bullpens also should increase your chances at your starter getting a win. You'd like for your starter to be able to hand a lead over to the bullpen and have it hold up for the win. Our two local teams, the Nationals and Orioles, had utterly dismal bullpens last year, and that was part of the reason their pitchers were mostly un-ownable (another part was that they mostly weren't any good).
  6. Pitchers' Parks
    (examples: Jonathan Sanchez, Kevin Correia, Rick Porcello)
    Getting a guy who spends his home games in a pitcher's park is always favorable. The problem, though, is that it favors the pitchers for both teams. This can put your pitcher's supporting offense in just as undesirable a situation as your opponent's. Going with a pitcher's park is much more conducive to finding low ERA and WHIP numbers for your pitching staff, rather than wins.
So how did my pitching staff shape up after trying to revitalize my approach towards acquiring some wins? Well, I think it's pretty good, actually. Below is my full list of starting pitchers, along with the round they were taken in (adding our 8 keeper rounds to get a more usable number for all of you who aren't in our league; K for keeper), and ESPN's projected statistics for them.
  • Zack Greinke (K) - 15 wins, 223 Ks, 3.00/1.19
  • Jon Lester (K) - 18 wins, 209 Ks, 3.23/1.22
  • Clayton Kershaw (K) - 8 wins, 211 Ks, 3.31/1.22
  • Max Scherzer (12) - 10 wins, 177 Ks, 3.78/1.31
  • Scott Kazmir (13) - 12 wins, 142 Ks, 3.95/1.31
  • Jonathan Sanchez (15) -12 wins, 210 Ks, 4.18/1.41
  • Phil Hughes (18) - 13 wins, 146 Ks, 3.74/1.29
First off, I'm not sure how you can project Kershaw to pitch well enough to put up all those other numbers playing for the Dodgers and only get eight wins. Eleven or twelve I could see, but eight just seems silly; last year's performance had to be an aberration...right?

Scherzer is kind of a question mark, though I like the fact that he'll play Cleveland and Kansas City several times this season. I'm expecting a bounce back season from Kazmir, who pitched lights out in his brief stint in Anaheim at the end of 2009. Sanchez basically just seemed like a guy who had far too much strikeout potential to leave on the board any longer. Plus he's got San Francisco as a home ballpark, not too shabby.

Phil Hughes could be the linchpin. If he can make the rotation and pitch effectively, he'll be in one of the better situations out there, with a very solid bullpen and of course an elite offense backing him up.

Two things I didn't take into account but I'm going to watch this year, and consider incorporating next year:

Defense
For the most part, I'll be looking at Seattle, since they're lauded as having made several defense-first moves in the offseason. But I'll also look at the whole league and find the best defenses and see how their starters fared.

Rotation Spot
Obviously the very elite pitchers are aces, and you'll find some very good #2 pitchers out there. But theoretically, a high caliber pitcher who's slotted as the #3 or #4 starter will frequently have favorable pitching matchups, giving his offense more chances to give him run support. Jonathan Sanchez could be a beneficiary of a favorable rotation spot this season. Again, it's something I'll look at as the season goes on.

This was a fun mental exercise, and I feel pretty good about its potential to help my team. I've got a couple of other ideas for next year, too, to chase other statistics. Keep tuning in.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

NHL MVP 2010 - Is It Even Close Right Now?

Despite his lapses in judgment with regards to checking, Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals is far and away the NHL's best offensive player, statistically.

You'll find people (particularly in western Pennsylvania) who suggest that Sidney Crosby should win it, but the statistical disparity between the two players is staggering. Crosby/Ovechkin are 1/2 in goals scored (at 45 and 44, respectively). Ovechkin leads the NHL in total points (96, 9 more than Crosby) and +/- (41, +30 above Crosby). Add on top of that the fact that Ovechkin is the most important and best player for the best team in hockey (101 points, a full 14 points above Crosby's currently second-seeded Penguins), and there's simply no way any other skater can be rated above Ovechkin. Oh, and Ovechkin missed 8 games, so if he keeps up his goal-scoring pace, he'll pass Crosby before the year is over, too.

Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks has also had a great season thus far, but ranks behind Ovechkin in virtually every offensive category other than assists. He's earned a mention in the discussion, but won't be winning the award.

Ryan Miller, who many of us really just came to know with his Olympic heroics, deserves equal consideration for the Hart Trophy, as the NHL's MVP. Buffalo currently leads the Northeast division, despite having no players in the top 25 in goals scored or points scored. Miller is first in save percentage and second in goals-against-average. But the Hart Trophy generally goes to a skater, and Miller hasn't distanced himself from other excellent goalies (such as Ilya Bryzgalov, Miikka Kiprusoff, and Evgeni Nabokov) enough to warrant a change of that. And remember, this is the NHL's MVP award, not hockey's MVP award. Miller's performance in the Olympics doesn't (and shouldn't) be a factor. He earned and received the Olympic MVP award for his outstanding play in the Vancouver games.

I'm not a hockey fanatic, nor would I consider myself a hockey expert. But at this point in the season, with a dozen games to go, it sure seems like Ovechkin is a no-brainer to receive his third consecutive Hart Trophy.

Top 500 Songs - Dave Matthews Band

This was always going to be the hardest of my band lists, because I like so many of DMB's songs, and have liked them so differently over...