Thursday, February 17, 2011

Why I'm Taking Hanley Over Pujols

As you might have been able to tell from the title of this post, I'm assuming some level of knowledge with regards to fantasy baseball among readers of this article. If you're uninterested in fantasy baseball, you're probably better off waiting until April, when the NFL draft comes around, and the NHL season draws to a close.

Every list I look at has Albert Pujols as its #1 player. He's the consensus first player that should come off the board in every league. And really, you can never go wrong acquiring Albert Pujols. He's a megastar, unquestionably the best hitter in baseball. He gives you batting average, runs, home runs, and RBI, all in spades, and even tosses in a couple steals, because why not?

But if it's me with the #1 overall pick, or setting up a top __ list, or deciding how to allocate my auction funds, Hanley Ramirez is at the top of my rankings. Since it'd be a pretty boring post if I didn't, I'll explain why.

(By the way, this article assumes a 12-team league. In a 10-team league, position eligibility loses some of its importance, and I think makes it a dead heat between Hanley and Pujols).

We'll start with a look at their stats. These are their average 5x5 stats over the past five years (starting with Hanley's first full season):

Ramirez: .313, 112 runs, 25 HR, 78 RBI, 39 SB
Pujols: .330, 111 runs, 41 HR, 122 RBI, 9 SB

Obviously you're ecstatic with either of those lines. Hanley gives you across the board plus production other than RBI, and Pujols will post outstanding numbers in four different categories. Based purely on numbers, you're probably leaning towards Pujols, and that's perfectly reasonable. You're thinking, "Oh, I can just draft Michael Bourn in the 11th round to take care of my steals." And you can, of course you can. I won't ever say that taking Pujols first overall is a bad pick. It's a safe pick, a sure thing, and you'd be following the advice of all the experts.

But not my advice (notice how I just labeled myself a non-expert...oops!). I'm assuming you've all done ten or twelve fantasy baseball drafts, yes? When you're going through your draft, true or false, you much more often find yourself trying to find a reasonable steals guy to draft than a reasonable power guy to draft?

Of course it's steals. The thing about steals guys is that, when it comes to baseball, they're actually not all that valuable. Sure, speed is nice, and if you can be a very effective basestealer, you can put yourself into a position to score a lot of runs. But a bopper will always be more valuable, have a more solidified lineup spot, and thus, be a safer pick in the middle rounds. Think about guys like Dave Roberts and Eric Young, speed guys who disappeared because their speed wasn't enough to keep them playing every day.

The speed of Hanley acts as a counter-weight to Pujols' power numbers. Now, Pujols still has a 17 point edge in batting average. What position does he play again? First base? And Hanley plays...shortstop, that's right. But is position eligibility something you even want to take into account at the top of the draft?

Umm...yes? Why is Robinson Cano's average draft position 9.9? Because it's so impossible to find a .315 hitter who gets 25 HR, 100 RBI, and 100 runs? Kevin Youkilis is going 19 picks later. Vlad Guerrero is going 107 picks later. The reason Cano is so enticing (beyond his talent) is that he's a second baseman.

To wrap it all up, what position would rather be in 22 picks: you've got a huge-hitting 1B and holes at all the tougher positions to fill, or you've got a do-everything SS, and can wait for the right 1B at the right time in the draft? As a bit of reference, here are a couple guys at each position, their numbers from last year, and their average draft position (ignoring guys whose ADP is less than 24, since theoretically they won't be available, and guys with multiple position eligibility):

1B
  • Kevin Youkilis* (.307, 77 R, 19 HR, 62 RBI in 102 games) - ADP of 28.6
  • Adam Dunn (.260, 85 R, 38 HR, 103 RBI) - ADP of 50.6
  • Kendry Morales (.290, 29 R, 11 HR, 39 RBI in 51 games) - ADP of 59.6
  • Justin Morneau (.345, 53 R, 18 HR, 56 RBI in 81 games) - ADP of 60.3
  • Billy Butler (.318, 77 R, 15 HR, 78 RBI) - ADP of 66.5
  • Paul Konerko (.312, 89 R, 39 HR, 111 RBI) - ADP of 93.4
SS
  • Jose Reyes (.282, 83 R, 11 HR, 54 RBI, 30 SB in 133 games) - ADP of 27.2
  • Jimmy Rollins (.243, 48 R, 8 HR, 41 RBI, 17 SB in 88 games) - ADP of 44.6
  • Derek Jeter (.270, 111 R, 10 HR, 67 RBI, 18 SB) - ADP of 52.5
  • Alexei Ramirez (.282, 83 R, 18 HR, 70 RBI, 13 SB) - ADP of 70.2
  • Elvis Andrus (.265, 88 R, 0 HR, 35 RB, 32 SB) - ADP of 99.3
  • Stephen Drew (.278, 83 R, 15 HR, 61 RBI, 10 SB) - ADP of 100.4
*Youkilis is slated to start at 3B for the Red Sox, so I'd reckon part of his value comes from that additional pending position eligibility.

The ultimate scenario would be if Jose Reyes were to fall to your second round pick, but there's just no way you could count on that. And if you miss out on Reyes, you're sifting through the bargain bin at shortstop. Meanwhile, you should be able to get Morales or Morneau with your 5th round pick (#49), or Konerko all the way down in the 7th (#73). Or, if you wanted to just ignore 1B for a while, both Derrek Lee and Adam LaRoche had at least 19 HR, 75 R, and 80 RBI, and they're both going after pick #200, putting their draft spot somewhere in the middle of the 16th round.

You know what shortstop falls in that area? Yunel Escobar (.256, 60 R, 4 HR, 35 RBI, 6 SB in 135 games).

Take Hanley. Unless you're in the same league as me, and I've got the #2 pick. In that scenario, Albert Pujols is a no-brainer. :)


Monday, February 14, 2011

Not-So-Super Idea, Mario

If you're a hockey fan, you've heard/read Mario Lemieux's comments about the fracas between the Islanders and the Penguins last weekend. He decried the punishments as insufficient (a perfectly reasonable stance; the contest was a bloodbath), and then spewed this nonsense:
"If the events relating to Friday night reflect the state of the league, I need to re-think whether I want to be a part of it."
Am I the only one who had flashbacks to another whiny Pittsburgh sports figure? James Harrison said he considered retiring because of the NFL's new commitment to follow rules already in their rulebooks. Now, a hockey legend, maybe the second best player of all time, says he might want to end his relationship with his sport because a few Islanders weren't suspended enough?

I had a bunch of ideas for this article. Metaphors, analogies, and other comments. And then I read what other people have already written, and they've outlined it pretty well already.

My best thought is this: really, truly, who gives a shit about Mario Lemieux in today's NHL? He's an owner, one of thirty. If any owner doesn't want to be a part of the league, you know what he can do? Sell the team. There would be plenty of wealthy investors very interested in purchasing a team with the national appeal of the Penguins, and a brand new stadium to boot. Mark Cuban has expressed interest in the past.

Would it feel weird for the league to turn its back on one of its greatest players? Yes, of course. And Penguins fans would be crushed; the man who saved their team back when it was terrible feeling so wronged by the league that he abandoned it? No small story. But once Sidney Crosby gets back on the ice, Penguins fans will put aside feelings of betrayal on behalf of Mario, and get back to hating the Capitals and rooting for their team.

As I said, other people have written pieces expressing many of my other sentiments, so I'll just link them here. And here. And also here.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Sports Quizzes

So rather than talk to you about the Super Bowl, which was entertaining, I'd like to offer you a link to one of my favorite sites right now.

Sporcle is a site that has trivia quizzes on tons of topics. Most notably with regards to this site, however, is the Sports topic . There are a ton of interesting quizzes on there, just waiting for you to eat them up.

Go ahead. Eat them up. I'll be here when you're done.

2010 Games of the Year #1 - League of Legends

With apologies to Chip, League of Legends is my Game of the Year.

League of Legends, developed by Riot Games, is one of a few successors to the classic Warcraft III custom game, Defense of the Ancients (DotA). When my brother sent me a link to the game over a year ago, I was intrigued, but not enough to really sit down and give the game a good run. But a few months later, when several friends started playing, I returned to see a game that had developed considerably.

The basic concept of the game is a glorified arena. Two teams of three or five players meet on a battlefield. Waves of troops pour out of two bases, pushing towards the other base. The players each control a champion who joins the battle, trying to turn the tide of combat.

The sheer complexity of skills, and the potential for great teamwork is what keeps me coming back to the game. They release a new hero every couple weeks, and while I'd really like to see a new map (hint hint Riot), the new heroes keep things fresh enough.

Oh, did I mention the game is free to play? There are hundreds of items you can buy, such as champions, skins, runes, XP boosts, and other useful items, but you don't have to spend a nickel to play. Furthermore, Riot has taken an admirable stance and insisted that "power" would never be sold. That is, any item that increases your champions abilities can only be bought with Influence Points, an in-game currency that you accumulate from playing. So while I can't use the Nurse Akali skin unless I pay for it, I can always buy runes to boost my damage and kill any Nurse Akali I come across.

The game isn't without its flaws. Their servers are sometimes inconsistent, particularly with regards to friends lists and chat, but they've settled down the gameplay servers. It's also pretty frustrating at times, since you're matched up with and against complete strangers fairly often, and a lot of them can be terrible/rude/stupid. But you'll get that cross-section no matter what game you play.

In the end, it's a well-made game that's a lot of fun, and into which I put a great deal of time in 2010. Congratulations League of Legends. Victory!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

2010 Games of the Year #2 - Recettear: An Item Shop's Tale

From the moment I saw the title of this game on Steam, I was intrigued. One of my favorite aspects of World of Warcraft is the buying and selling that goes on in the auction house, so a game that transfers focus onto that aspect is definitely going to draw my attention. But even with my interest piqued, I didn't expect to love the game as much as I have.

You take on the role of a child who has to turn her home into an item shop in order to pay down her now-missing father's extraordinary debt. The game does a good job of walking you through the beginning, and opening up options over time rather than overwhelming you early on. But you also stand virtually zero chance of actually beating the game the first time through. It's got a similar feature to Dead Rising, where you can start your game over, keeping your merchant level and purchased goods. And most people should be able to generate enough money to pay off the debt by their second playthrough.

Yes, buying and selling products is a big part of the game, and yes, I do enjoy it. But luckily, that's only half of the game. The other half is a dungeon-crawler, with several different warriors to choose from. You pay a hero and send him/her off into a dungeon to fetch treasures that you can sell at your store. The different champions have surprisingly different abilities and play styles, and you learn to appreciate each of them in their own way. You gain one companion early on, but as you progress through the dungeons and meet more people around town, you gain several more warriors to choose from.

The strongest evidence in support of Recettear being near the top of my list is simply that I've poured a ton of time into it. Between the two games I've played (at home and at work), I've put in over 40 hours of game time, and I don't foresee it dropping off any time soon. That's partly because my gaming options at work are limited, but also because the game is simply a lot of fun.

And I've still got so much left to do! There's at least one more warrior to unlock, tons of new gear to discover, and I'm less than halfway to the maximum merchant level. I expect to be playing Recettear plenty in 2011 as well.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Cooke

I'll try to put together a better, more complete post on this or some other topic later in the week, but I needed to get this onto (digital) paper right away.

Matt Cooke is a bad guy.

2010 Games of the Year #3 - Dead Rising 2

This ranking probably comes as a shock to a lot of you. Dead Rising 2 was by far my most anticipated game of the year; it was, in fact, the only game I pre-ordered. And at #3, I certainly don't regret having pre-ordered it.

I'd go into a whole discourse on the game's merits and how it plays, but I've really already done that. First, I talked about the prequel mini-game that Capcom released to generate buzz for the game, and make a little cash. Then, I spoke about the game itself, here. The game has since also had an epilogue game released, which I've purchased, but haven't played yet.

So why did it end up #3, rather than at its preordained spot up at #1? Well, two main factors.

First, the game, while entertaining and a distinct improvement on the original (which I also loved), didn't expand too much on the features of the original game. The crafting system was a neat addition, and the interface/controls are definitely crisper, but it's still basically the same game. Also, I'm a sucker for achievements, but many of the achievements for this game were simply outrageous. That sort of scenario dampens my feelings of accomplishment, which are really the main reason I play video games at all.

Second, through no fault of its own, Dead Rising 2 just didn't measure up to the top two games. It was a very good game, and a lot of fun. The top two were just better. Which games, you ask? Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

2010 Games of the Year #4 - Mass Effect

From the first day Mass Effect came out, my brother has told me, "This is your kind of game, dude." Three years later, I finally decided to give it a shot, and I was very pleased with the results.

I played a lot of Knights of the Old Republic, and the games are similar. The interactions with all sorts of people, the wide array of options given to you over the course of the game, and the good vs. evil spectrum of your actions. The main difference between the games is the live combat, and I think it's for the better. Rather than relying on good odds in a D&D style rolling system in order to hit your enemies, you just have to hit them. It's also a lot more gratifying to blast a guy with a shotgun manually than to "pew pew" him with a blaster pistol automatically.

The graphics are good, the interface is good (although combat can be a little clunky), and the story is interesting and fun. And immersive. You can literally play the game for 40 hours and still not have completed half of it. I know. I haven't completed half of the game yet, I don't think. And I'm well over 40 hours.

For whatever reason, I went elsewhere before I finished Mass Effect. I didn't stop liking the game, and I didn't get frustrated or disappointed with anything. I think I just started playing something else, and never went back. That's the only reason I've got the game down here at #4 instead of higher up.

And hey, any spot on the list is pretty good.

Monday, February 7, 2011

2010 Games of the Year #5 - World of Warcraft - Cataclysm

Some of you know that I've spent quite a lot of time playing World of Warcraft this past year, and certainly plenty of time after the most recent expansion. It's possible that I put more hours into WoW over the past year than any other game. It would seem logical for the most-played game to be #1 or #2 on my annual list.

But I've been playing WoW for years. The eligible game is not the original WoW, but the Cataclysm expansion, and that's a different bird altogether. A bird that I didn't get all the way into.

Here are some notable features that I associated with the expansion when evaluating it for this award:
  • Two new races: goblins and worgen - I've been hoping for the opportunity to play as goblins for a while, so this was a nice feature. However, I had sort of been hoping that the goblins would be a third, unassociated faction, rather than part of the Horde. So, my excitement was tempered.
  • New zones, new dungeons - I've seen some of the starting areas for goblins and worgen, haven't seen any of the 81-85 zones, and likely won't for a long time, if ever. My style is to play several characters, rather than push one up to max level.
  • New secondary skill, Archaeology - I haven't gotten high enough with it to know if it's actually useful, but I do like digging up fossils on a basic level, so it's a good addition.
  • Totally revamped classes - This was the most important part of the equation, and the part that brought the expansion into my top 5.
The changes they made to the classes, specifically to the paladin class, were tremendous. Long ago, I made a dwarf paladin, and I grew to be disinterested in him. He just didn't have the fun factor that some of the other classes had (rogues, hunters, etc). But with the revamped skills and talent trees, paladins became, in my opinion, the most fun class. So fun that I'd guess that paladins are my two most played characters.

Check in tomorrow for the #4 game of 2011.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

2011 NFL Playoffs - Super Bowl

This post contains adult language, and is intended for a mature audience. Reader discretion is advised.

Full disclosure, I hate the fucking Steelers.

Right after the conference championship games, I said to myself, "These teams are even." I looked over their numbers through the regular season and playoffs, and still came out with "These teams are even." I looked back at my previous posts about the playoff games, trying to find some point I made earlier that would tilt me in one direction or the other. But alas, you guessed it, I still thought these teams were even.

Then this happened:
"I don't want to hurt nobody. I don't want to step on nobody's foot or hurt their toe. I don't want to have no dirt or none of this rubber on this field fly into their eye and make their eye hurt. I just want to tackle them softly on the ground and if you all can, we'll lay a pillow down where I'm going to tackle them, so they don't hit the ground too hard ... Mr. Goodell."
-James Harrison, LB, Steelers
On Super Bowl media day, Harrison offered up that gem as an indication that he's still upset that he was asked to treat other players like human beings. In the same session, he indicated that he had experienced concussions and not left the game, implying that people who get concussions and do leave the game are less manly than he. To the educated sports fan, though, Harrison's revelation merely confirmed our suspicions that he's fucked up in the head.

Does this statement change anything about Harrison? No, not really. I don't expect him to do anything different on Sunday; his motor will be running and he'll be ready to go, as will everyone else on the Steelers...right?

Here's what I know. When Harrison made his biggest deal about the headshot rules, after the Steelers rolled the Browns in week 6, the team seemed to lose focus. They barely won at Miami, 23-22, against a team that won only one home game all season. They followed that with a 20-10 loss to the Saints, then edged a free-falling Bengals team that had lost four straight, 27-21. They wrapped up a four game stretch by losing 39-26 at home to the Patriots.

Pittsburgh rebounded the following week by decimating the Raiders, but a chink was perhaps found. The Steelers didn't respond well to being called a dirty team. It's clear that, for whatever reason, Harrison had it in his head again that he was being put upon by the league, and for the Packers, it couldn't come at a better time. You take any advantage you can find.

I could talk about the teams' offenses and defenses, but you know them. I've already talked about them in previous weeks, and if you've watched any sports coverage at all this week, you've heard all the numbers. On Sunday, we'll watch two pretty evenly matched teams go head to head.

Normally I'd say I hope it's a good game, but I really don't. I hope the Steelers get throttled. I hope they go into halftime down 37-3, because Mike McCarthy called a pair of 2-point conversions late in the half, to rub salt in the wounds. I hope James Harrison gets upended and breaks his fucking leg. I hope Ryan Clark gets knocked out on the first play when he (inevitably) leads with his helmet on a tackle attempt.

I hope.

Prediction: Packers 29, Steelers 28

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Fantasy Baseball Previews

So historically, I've always done some fantasy baseball preview articles. Baseball is my favorite fantasy sport, and I love talking about it. But, I've always sort of tempered myself in my posts, for two main reasons:
  1. I'm in an ultra-competitive league, and I don't want to give away any of my personal interests.
  2. I could write a hundred articles on fantasy baseball, and it's tough to pick a few topics to actually write about.
I've got some ideas of articles I'll almost certainly write, but I wanted to extend an offer to all of you: tell me what you want to hear. If you've got any topics you think I should talk about, or if you want to take your own stance and have me respond to it, by all means, drop me a line and let me know. You can reach me at joe.joe.sports@gmail.com. I'm completely and utterly available.

That goes for you too, ladies. Holla!

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...