Tuesday, March 29, 2011

2011 Middle Earth Fantasy Baseball League - Draft Analysis

Eddie beat me to the punch, but here's my draft analysis.

Those Guys
  • Best pick: Carlos Marmol (1.1)
    As I've said before, sometimes the easiest pick is still the best pick. Blake Griffin was a great pick, and so is Marmol.
  • Worst pick: Aubrey Huff (7.1)
    Huff doesn't strike me as a guy with a ton of appealing upside. While the 7th round isn't early per se, I'd have liked to see the Guys go after some younger players. Luke Scott and Carlos Lee are similar players, and both went three rounds later.
  • Overall Draft Grade: B-
    The whole draft seemed like a draft by a team that felt it was ready to compete: two closers early, Vlad Guerrero and Tim Hudson in the 4th and 5th, and more veterans to fill in the lineup/rotation. A good fit for some teams, but Those Guys seem at least a year away. I would've liked to see more risks, more youth.
Vandelay Industries
  • Best pick: Carl Pavano (14.3)
    Pavano's had more bad years than good ones, but seems to have found a home in Minnesota. Can you trust him? Probably not. But landing a guy who could be as good as Tim Hudson in the last round is nice value.
  • Worst pick: Carlos Quentin (6.3)
    I just hate him.
  • Overall Draft Grade: C
    So much of this draft relies on the first two guys, neither of whom is a sure thing. But, if Carlos Santana grows up fast, and Pablo Sandoval bounces back, the draft could be looking a lot better in 2 months. And, like Eddie said, Vandelay used their draft picks to dramatically upgrade their keepers.
Riders of Rohan
  • Best pick: Austin Jackson (11.2)
    I see him as better-hitting Curtis Granderson with a little less pop. Eight rounds later, that sounds good.
  • Worst pick: Paul Konerko (2.2)
    It's not that Konerko is some nightmare player, or a bad bet. He's a consistent veteran power source. I just know I didn't want to take him there, and I was frustrated when I did.
  • Overall Draft Grade: B+
    I like my balance between young players and proven commodities. It sounds like Drew Storen is having about the worst spring training possible, but other than him, I'm excited to see how things pan out.
Dunedain Rangers
  • Best pick: Adam Jones (9.4)
    After 2009, Jones was a mega-hyped star-in-the-making. You're telling me that after a similar 2010, we've suddenly given up on him? Kudos to the Rangers for swooping in.
  • Worst pick: Chad Billingsley (2.4)
    Initially this was going to be Gio Gonzalez. Then I realized Billingsley is similar to Gonzalez, but got picked five rounds earlier. So there you go.
  • Overall Draft Grade: B+
    The early picks were a little bland, but I completely loved the back half of their draft. Tabata and Jones specifically were really good value.
Howard's Heroes
  • Best pick: Brett Gardner (3.5)
    A lot of people are going to disagree with me here, but the rumors of Gardner leading off make a lot of sense. And if he's there, Gardner's a prize.
  • Worst pick - Tim Stauffer (6.5)
    If I'm being perfectly honest, I don't know enough about Stauffer to really dismiss him. I see he's a former first round pick, #4 overall in 2003. But 2003 was a while ago. I could see Stauffer not being drafted at all, which means the sixth round is way too early.
  • Overall Draft Grade: C-
    I just wasn't excited about most of the guys the Heroes picked up in the draft. Gardner's a nice player, and several of his guys should be solid, but nobody gets me excited.
DamKnights
  • Best pick: Trevor Cahill (4.6)
    Cahill factored into keeper discussions for his former team, the Heroes. The fact that the DamKnights were able to scoop him up in the fourth was a nice surprise for them.
  • Worst pick: Nick Markakis (2.6)
    I used to have Markakis. He was part of my championship squad. But with 138 doubles and only 50 homers over the past three years, it's starting to look like he might just have warning track power.
  • Overall Draft Grade: C
    I like a lot of the later pieces, but the early picks seemed to go way too safe. Bryce Harper is a nice pickup, though.
Stewies SexyParties
  • Best pick: Homer Bailey (9.7)
    Post All-Star break numbers: 10 starts, 3.55 ERA, 1.27 WHIP, 59 Ks in 58.1 IP. And how's this for a surprise: Bailey's still only 25.
  • Worst pick - Adam Lind (6.7)
    I feel similar to Lind as I feel about Huff. The difference is that Lind at least has a crazy good season in his recent history. Still, I think the sixth round is too early to be taking a flier on a guy who could just be a .260/20/80 player.
  • Overall Draft Grade: A-
    A lot of responsible picks by the SexyParties, with enough pizazz sprinkled in to keep things exciting. The lack of saves is a temporary concern, but it's always a concern, even if you draft a few closers.
Akron Pronks
  • Best pick: Brandon League (13.8)
    It's always nice when you can get some value out of your very late picks, and League is a nice pull. I don't expect a season of production out of him, but he could steal some saves while David Aardsma recovers.
  • Worst pick - Carlos Pena (7.8)
    I haven't made my distaste for Pena a secret. Plus, the Pronks really just needed another potential 20/20 guy. Jose Tabata, Adam Jones, and Torii Hunter were all still available.
  • Overall Draft Grade: B
    I don't think the Pronks got great value anywhere, but they got decent value and pretty much every pick. That sort of performance gives us a B on the report card.
Mercer AutoWreckers
  • Best pick: Rajai Davis (10.9)
    I don't think Davis is a fantastic real-life baseball player, but with an everyday opportunity, you can count on a lot of steals and a solid average. Good pickup.
  • Worst pick: Ricky Romero (4.9)
    I don't like that he's being thrust into the #1 starter role, I don't like that he pitches in the AL East, in Toronto, and overall I just don't like him. I liked both of the next two picks (Colby Lewis and Phil Hughes) better than Romero.
  • Overall Draft Grade: B-
    It was a pretty boring draft by the AutoWreckers. That usually means solid picks, and they were, but I think they could've had a little more fun.
Feisty Mosquitoes
  • Best pick: Chris Young (12.10)
    He's got some injury history, but he's generally been very good when healthy. The Mets are a bloodbath, but he might be a fine starter this year.
  • Worst pick: Howie Kendrick (11.10)
    It's kind of tough to declare an eleventh round pick as a "bad pick," but Kendrick seems like a minimally valuable player. I just don't like spending a draft pick (any draft pick) on a guy whose most valuable asset is being a .295-hitting second baseman.
  • Overall Draft Grade: B-
    I like the offense they kept, but look at the starters they drafted: Jaime Garcia, Jordan Zimmermann, Johan Santana, Chris Young, Carlos Zambrano. Would've liked to see them find someone with a little less volatility...anyone.
The Usual Suspects
  • Best pick: Juan Pierre (9.11)
    I'm learning that I seem to like speed picks, with Gardner, Davis, and now Pierre. But it's a tough task to find enough speed when just putting together talent. Having a 50-steal weapon like Pierre in your arsenal gives you a nice way to make up ground.
  • Worst pick: Josh Beckett (3.11)
    Beckett's a nice enough player, with upside and downside, as most players have. But I feel like I'd have been happier with a lot of the pitchers who went in the next couple rounds (Matusz, Cahill, Matt Garza, Lewis, Hughes, John Danks, Ian Kennedy).
  • Overall Draft Grade: A-
    I really didn't think much of the Beckett pick, but the Suspects got really good value at pretty much every other pick. The two catcher picks were a little mystifying, but individually, even they were alright.
Cleveland Enforcers
  • Best pick: Lance Berkman (12.12)
    Berkman's 2008 line: .312, 114 R, 29 HR, 106 RBI, 18 SB. I trust any lineup with Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday to give a guy like Berkman a good chance to succeed. See Ryan Ludwick.
  • Worst pick - Geovany Soto (4.12) / Manny Ramirez (9.12)
    The Enforcers let us all know that Soto was a mistake pick, so while it was definitely their worst pick, I figured I should pick another. Ramirez was great in 2008, but since then he's seemed to just not have his head on straight. Tampa's lineup isn't as good as you might think; I have trouble seeing Manny bounce back.
  • Overall Draft Grade: C+
    The Soto error really hurt the flow (and caliber) of their draft, but they came back to find some nice players. I think they found some good pieces, though, particularly Gordon Beckham, Aramis Ramirez, and Berkman, along with some decent upside in Mike Moustakas and Domonic Brown.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Eulogy

I've been thinking of my dad a lot recently, for a litany of reasons. In that spirit, posted below is the eulogy I gave him.

I would like to begin by thanking everyone for all of the support that they have offered. The amount of love and thoughtfulness from the Police Department, family and friends and everyone that knew my father has been truly overwhelming. It is a true testament to the caliber of man that he was.

Joseph Aloysius Mattingly, Jr. was a man called to duty. He showed his desire for leadership and his acumen for service at an early age. He grew up in a house that was built in the 1930's with seven brothers and sisters.

One cold winter morning after a snow, when the sun was not fully up, there were suspicious noises coming from downstairs. The kids began waking each other up. The boys had decided that someone had broken into the house. Intending to investigate, Joe and Sean, the older of the three brothers, armed themselves with baseball bats. Because there were only two bats, Patrick, the youngest, was assigned a baseball glove. Patrick, disappointed, asked Joe if he would exchange the bat for the glove. Joe set down the bat, and took the glove from Patrick. He swung it viciously, showing the true potency of such a lethal weapon, and said, "Patrick, I need you on the glove." He then handed it back to Patrick, who, suddenly aware of the weight of his charge, marched defiantly to meet the intruders. The intruders, of course, were various pots and pans set out to collect water droplets falling from a leaky roof. Patrick was no less proud to have been given such responsibility in defense of the home.

It was always very clear to us that my dad loved his job. Even after achieving rank, he never forgot what it meant to be a cop. I'm sure there isn't an officer in the county that does not know of my father's penchant for issuing citations. He believed that writing a ticket was one of the best ways to offer guidance on how to avoid destructive behavior.

Over the past few days, so many of his colleagues have shared their experiences involving dad with our family. What has impressed us are the remarks that demonstrate the high level of integrity that he displayed. His one desire was that his actions would always reflect favorably on the department. I know that he would be proud of how the department has taken care of us these past few days.

With what little time he didn't devote to being a police officer, my dad was very unique in the ways that he liked to relax.

Every Saturday morning, my father could be found patrolling the county for a Honus Wagner baseball card or an original GI Joe action figure. The nicest aspect of this is that he took requests. Whether it be a trumpet or a left-handed baseball glove, he was always willing to go out of his way in search of anything. What was bad about this is...well...just ask Mom about the garage.

My father also enjoyed a good drink. Some of the fondest memories I have of my dad were on Wednesday nights, watching Law & Order and nursing a beer. He also had quite a nice assortment of teas, and enjoyed sharing the story behind how he acquired each, as he brewed a small pot. And we always looked forward to the full-bodied, homemade egg nog he prepared during the holiday season.

And "Jumpin" Joe could dance! Even without having a drink, he loved tearing up the dance floor. He was waiting for Disco to make a deserved comeback, so that he could show off his moves again.

But the way that I will remember him is as a loving and giving father. When my sister was having trouble in school after we moved, my parents requested that she be transferred to the school that she would have attended had we still been living in our old home. My father had no qualms with making the half-hour drive every day for all four years of high school, and, I believe, cherished the opportunity to spend any extra time with his children that he could.

The one thing that impressed me the most was his ability to forgive. No matter what any of us had done, or how deeply it had hurt him, he was always ready to offer his love and companionship at a moment's notice.

Many people have asked us the question of what they can do for us. I never really had a response for that. But, as I was lying in bed Monday evening, I came up with the answer. What I would ask of all of you is that you honor the memory of my father by conducting yourselves with the same level of honor and integrity that he so joyfully offered us every single day.

Thank you.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Middle Earth Draft Review: 2011

Joey wrote up draft grades last year and I thought it was pretty neat to see another person's opinion on the draft. I picked a best and worse pick and also assigned a grade. I think overall I was pretty hard with grades. No one received an A or A+. I thought to receive a grade that high I had to be blown away by value with ever pick. Also if you have one arm or beat me out for first I probably knocked you down a few. Get over it.

Those Guys:
  • Best Pick - Carlos Marmol (1.1). As the attempted trade right as keeper lists demonstrates, Marmol is a keeper talent. His k/9 is one of the highest baseball has ever seen.
  • Worse Pick - Aubrey Huff (7.1). I understand the big post season leading into a big year idea, however with OF, 1B, and Util full and only 3 SP on the roster at this point I think getting an SP might have been a better pick.
  • Grade: B- : I like the early picks of Marmol, Rivera, and Prado. However after the Ervin Santana pick I was not a huge huge fan.
Vandelay Industries
  • Best pick - Carlos Santana (1.3). In my mind, with Wainwright out for the season, Vandelay needed to go young and upside. That is what this pick did. He gives a chance for a lot of production out of a weak position and a keeper for years to come.
  • Worse Pick - Chris Coghlan (12.2) I know Drew grew up playing Dabl with Chris so maybe thats why he picked him. A pretty impressive rookie campaign was followed up by a so-so 2nd year. He should improve on his numbers but without a ton of speed or power there is limited upside.
  • Grade C+ : You can look at Drew's draft and not be impressed by the talent but, many high picks were traded to beef up his keepers. While the draft suffered the additions of Weeks, Ubaldo, Miggy, and Greinke set him up for years to come.
Riders of Rohan
  • Best Pick - Brett Myers (6.2) Brett Myers has always had the talent to be a very reliable fantasy starter. Will he get a lot of wins... No, but solid K and ERA numbers are likely.
  • Worse Pick - Rafeal Furcal (3.3) Maybe people would argue with SS being so swallow this pick needed to be made. I'm someone who never pays for position. Furcal has played over 100 games once in last three years. Rather have a closer and go with Scutaro as starter.
  • B- : Its not that I hate any of the picks Joe made. I just didn't love any of them either. Maybe they are just not my kind of players but with 2nd pick I was left wanting more.
Dunedain Rangers
  • Best Pick - Madison Bumgarner (5.4). I think Hughes over Bumgarner may be the choice I am least happy with in my draft. With a weak hitting division and good stuff I see Bumgarner being slightly better across the board other than wins.
  • Worse Pick -Angel Pagan (6.4). Pagan had good numbers last year with close to 40 steals. However his 2nd half was weak with .264 avg and .304 OBP. I think his real production falls closer to his 2nd half.
  • Grade A- : I liked this draft a lot. Garrett was able to identify and acquire a lot of talent. Bumgarner, Gio, Tabalta, Jones, and Jennings are all guys with upside. Add in solid value picks of Cuddyer, Edwin Jackson, Kelly Johnson, and you have a very good draft.
Howards Hero's
  • Best Pick - Mike Napoli (4.5) During the draft I did not care for this pick at all. However looking at his situation I think he will get more AB in Texas. He also kills the ball in Texas with a HR/AB of 6.6. 30HR upside at C... yea that sounds like a good pick.
  • Worse Pick - Ian Desmond (3.9) This goes back to the problem I had with the Furcal pick. However at least Joey started a run (three ss taken round 3) Nick finished it. I hate finishing runs. There was not be another SS taken for 4 rounds.
  • Grade B : I wasn't blown away by the Stauffer or Desmond selections (probably NL MVP candidates after saying that) but other than that Nick was able to get good young starting pitchers and a lot of saves. Also Bedard.... come on this is his year. Solid all around draft.
Dam Knight
  • Best Pick- Bryce Harper (13.6). Will he play? Maybe not. But with a young team and a 2nd to last round pick whats the risk? All upside and could lead to a steal in years to come.
  • Worse Pick- Brian Fuentes (11.6). Obviously the injury news with Bailey has changed the perception of this pick however looking at this at the time of the pick I think a good middle reliever in the 11th round seemed like a random pick
  • Grade C+ : I liked several picks a lot: Harper, Peavy, and Scott. However the rest of the draft had more stable guys than upside. With a young rebuilding team I would like to see more risks. Harper was a start but I wanted a little more.
Stewies SexyParties
  • Best Pick - Carlos Lee (10.7). I've heard everything you have. He doesn't work out, terrible commitment etc. However for a guy to hit below .300 for the first time in five years and it to be 60 pts below seems like an outlier. Plus with such a late pick even if he's 25 90 again its solid value.
  • Worse Pick - Rafael Soriano (7.7). I have come around to the whole solid relief innings over the past few years. And I do believe that Soriano will give you that. However with closers (Nunez, Gregg) and SP (Zimmerman, Chacin, Floyd) it seemed a little early for him.
  • Grade A- : I hate you Mike Plundo... but God Dammit do I respect you. Solid picks from start to finish, really only Soriano pick out of place. I like Lee, Garza and Granderson among others.
Akron Pronks
  • Best Pick - Brett Anderson (3.8). Anderson was very good when he was healthy last year. I worry a little because 30% of his starts were vs Sea but even taking that into account his numbers were good. Going into keeper lists I had him just outside my top 8. Mandi got him after 44 other players were selected. Injury will decide how this pick is viewed but at the moment I like it.
  • Worse Pick- Carlos Pena (7.8) "Am I really this desperate for power"... "Akron Pronks select Carlos Pena 1B CHC." What a fateful 30 seconds. I hate low avg guys. I feel like avg is the toughest thing to project and because of that the hardest to pick up during season. I think the .197 avg would have scared people away for several rounds. As principal Skinner says, "Prove me wrong kids... Prove me wrong"
  • Grade B : I liked a lot of what Mandi did. I think Broxton has a small place in his heart and was picked a little early but he backed it up with Kuo later. In my opinion Pena is a brain fart on an otherwise very successful draft.
Mercer Autowreckers
  • Best Pick - Jhoulys Chacin (7.9). With any Colorado pitcher there is a ceiling. However with a 130+ ip and a good ERA and K rate it looks like he might be the real deal. I think he will take a step back overall. Expect flashes of 7 IP 9 K games with the occasional clunker. Still a solid value at round 7.
  • Worse Pick - David Aardsma (8.9). When making this pick I think Chip thought he was healthy.... which is not the case. If he comes back in May it won't be a bad pick but with injury there is always a cause for concern.
  • Grade C+ : Overall good. However I look over Chip's draft and only see one maybe two guys that have keeper upside. Added stable talent to a very talented keeper list.
Feisty Mosquitoes
  • Best Pick - Chris Young (12.10) Chris Young was very good in his short season (including 2 away from Petco) with SD last year. Is there a chance he breaks down after 50-75 IP? Yes. But at round 12 to get a chance at a solid starter with a team lacking in that department I think it was a very good pick.
  • Worse Pick - Howie Kendrick (11.10) In the eleventh round you really can't be too hard on any pick. However with the makeup of the mosquitoes I found it odd to pick Kendrick in this spot. Phillips is young and healthy and 1B was open. I think Berkman or Laroche would have been better options to start at 1B. (My first pick here was Chapman.... but who am I to knock someone taking a young guy with high upside. :) )
  • Grade B- : I like the talent but Mosquitoes are banking on finding a lot SP on waiver wire. I'm not in love with Garcia and almost every other pitcher is coming over a serious injury or has injury concerns. However without risk there is no reward.
The Usual Suspects
  • Best Pick - Michael Pineda \ John Lackey (13.11 14.11) I like both these picks for difference reasons. I wanted get some solid depth to the back of my rotation.
  1. Pineda was one of the top prospect pitchers on my board. He tore through AA last year and has dynamic stuff. There is a question of getting on the roster but with a solid spring I think he might get a chance.
  2. In Lackey I saw a perfect bounce back pick. He has always been a solid pitcher that gets wins. If I avoid starts bad matchups (vs NYY etc) I think I can get a good amount out of this last round pick.
  • Worse Pick- Miguel Montero (7.11). I did something I always hate to do... I paid for position. Don't get me wrong I think a healthy Montero could hit 18 and 70 over a season but I don't know that I needed to pay a 7th round pick for it. Next catcher taken was Jesus Montero... by me. Did I get the last catcher on a tier or just over pay?
  • Grade B+ : Probably closer to a B- with objective critic but I like my guys... that's why I picked them. I would have done a few things differently but I like my depth a SP and flexibility to have 50+ SB guy backing up OF. Hill is a risk but with such a late pick not a lot to pay if it works out.
Cleveland Enforcers
  • Best Pick - Lance Berkman (12.12) St. Louis seems like a perfect place for Berkman to rebound. Lance struggled last year between Hou and NY. Was that age and injury catching up with him? Maybe but with such a late pick I like the upside.
  • Worse Pick - Geovany Soto (4.12) Joey later told me that this was a mistake pick by Mike. Just like with Chip he would probably be first to say its not his favorite.
  • Grade B : Enforcers went much younger than I thought he needed to. Carrying two catchers and possibly 2 minor leaguers could put a strain on the roster. Keeper SP will need a repeat of last year or could be an area of need.

I didn't see any team really make bonehead picks or anyone pull away from the league. The difference between a C+ and a B is probably only my personal feeling on players. Without a title to my name what the hell do I know. Every year I think the draft its harder and harder to get an advantage.

Any comments on draft? Did it occur too early or late? Miss pre-draft?

Good Luck in the upcoming season.

Friday, March 11, 2011

2011 Middle Earth Fantasy Baseball League - Keeper Analysis

I did this last year, and it was fun, and a good exercise for me, so I'm doing it again. I'll be assigning point values to each team's eight keepers. The max value for any one player is 10, the minimum is 0, so the maximum total keeper score is 80. We'll go in draft order.

One note: there was a single trade between the submission of keeper lists and the draft. After some debate, I've decided to rate the keeper lists AFTER the trade. That is, these are the keeper lists as they stood going into the draft.

Here we go.

Those Guys
  • Adrian Gonzalez, 1B - 10 points
    As I suggested last year, leaving San Diego was going to be a boon for him. Now that he's gone (and into one of the best lineups in baseball), I expect big things.
  • Alex Rodriguez, 3B - 8 points
    He's getting a little older, and his production has slipped a bit, but he's still one of the most consistently productive players in fantasy.
  • Mike Stanton, OF - 5 points
    I don't love him this year, but he looks to have Adam Dunn upside, and in a keeper league, you bet a lot on upside.
  • Shane Victorino, OF - 5 points
    He's a speed guy who pitches in on run production and a little bit on power. And his lineup is stacked.
  • Bobby Abreu, OF - 4 points
    Even a slight bounce back on batting average would make Abreu a big time asset this year. But, long term, it's unlikely he produces enough for long enough to be justified.
  • Josh Johnson, SP - 7 points
    He had a career year last year, but you've got to be a little cautious with a guy who's missed as much time as Johnson. Still, the ability is there.
  • Jonathan Sanchez, SP - 4 points
    I drafted Sanchez, so obviously I'm a fan. He also had a career year, but the strikeouts have always been great. No reason to think he can't build on last year and be solid again.
  • Daniel Hudson, SP - 4 points
    He was utterly dominant after being traded to the Diamondbacks. He's got a very limited track record, but there are reasons to be excited about this youngster.
Riders of Rohan
  • Prince Fielder, 1B - 7 points
    The power is there, and it will be there, but he's kind of tough to project outside of that. And he's also kind of tough to project within that. As in, will he hit 35, or will he hit 48?
  • Ian Kinsler, 2B - 6 points
    So much potential, and some of it realized, but the constant injuries are beginning to wear on fantasy owners. Me, mostly.
  • Evan Longoria, 3B - 10 points
    He's an across-the-board producer at a non-outfield position; that makes him pretty damn good.
  • Matt Kemp, OF - 8 points
    The attitude concerns are there, but so it a plethora of talent. Power, speed, average, the whole package could be in there, somewhere.
  • Jose Bautista, 3B/OF - 5 points
    Will he be able to repeat his power explosion from 2010? Probably not. But golly, he was good last year.
  • Alex Rios, OF - 6 points
    Ozzie Guillen's infatuation with the stolen base should continue to prove useful for Rios owners.
  • Jon Lester, SP - 8 points
    Great strikeouts, great wins, good averages.
  • Clayton Kershaw, SP - 7 points
    Maybe even better than Lester, but he still has trouble getting decisions. Eventually, though, I'd expect him to figure it out.
Vandelay Industries
  • Miguel Cabrera, 1B - 10 points
    Alcohol questions aside, Cabrera is legitimately the best hitter in the American League.
  • Rickie Weeks, 2B - 6 points
    Weeks is impossible to value in all circumstances. Six points just seemed like the most reasonable "I don't know" amount
  • Elvis Andrus, SS - 4 points
    If shortstop wasn't so weak, Andrus would rate lower. He's really a two-category producer at this point: runs and steals.
  • Ichiro Suzuki, OF - 4 points
    Take Andrus, add in batting average, but remove SS eligibility, and you've got Ichiro. Something tells me he'll get some more RBIs this year, though.
  • Zack Greinke, SP - 6 points
    He's in a situation considerably better than he was in Kansas City, and the talent is all there for a rebound...or a meltdown. Should be fun to watch either way.
  • Ubaldo Jimenez, SP - 7 points
    Ridiculous first half, solid second half. Similar overall numbers are pretty reasonable, though.
  • Yovani Gallardo, SP - 5 points
    Awesome strikeout numbers, but he lets an awful lot of guys get on base. Something's going to give eventually, one way or the other.
  • Adam Wainwright, SP - 1 point
    I'm less negative on this keep than other people, but it's definitely a tough one. He's a superstar pitcher, but when you KNOW he's not playing this year...though call.
Dunedain Rangers
  • Buster Posey, C/1B - 6 points
    I like Posey. But he's getting drafted in the 3rd round based on two-thirds of a season of solid production. I want to see more before I invest that kind of pick.
  • Adam Dunn, 1B - 4 points
    Defense doesn't count, so that's good. And he's one of the safest picks in the game.
  • Adrian Beltre, 3B - 4 points
    He hit .334 in 2004, then hit .255, .268, .276, .266, and .265 before hitting .321 last year. I'm not paying for a .300 average, and without that, he's just a decent third baseman.
  • Hunter Pence, OF - 5 points
    He seems to get undervalued, but getting 25 HR and 14 SB with a .282 average in back to back seasons seems pretty decent to me.
  • Jay Bruce, OF - 4 points
    He dramatically improved his batting average, but his power rate slipped. If he can ever put it all together, he'll be great, but I'm not holding my breath.
  • Dan Haren, SP - 6 points
    He had trouble early last season, but bounced back in a big way after being traded to the Angels. I'd count on 3.00, 1.15, 175 Ks and 15 wins.
  • Jered Weaver, SP - 7 points
    He's becoming less and less hittable each year. I like that kind of trend.
  • Neftali Feliz, SP/RP - 4 points
    I like Feliz at closer because he's a known commodity there, but if he can translate his success to starting pitching, his value goes up.
Howard's Heroes (or whatever his name is this week)
  • Ryan Howard, 1B - 8 points
    He's basically the same as Prince Fielder, except you trust him a little more because of his crazy good lineup
  • Mark Teixeira, 1B - 8 points
    I'm a believer in Teixeira. I know he's been up and down in New York, but I just can't see him not succeeding.
  • Dan Uggla, 2B - 8 points
    I tried to tell you all, Uggla's the man. A slide down to about .265 wouldn't shock me, but 30 HR and 90 runs and RBIs at second base is effin' good.
  • Mark Reynolds, 3B - 3 points
    I don't know, maybe he'll be good? He's the biggest question mark on a team full of them.
  • Jacoby Ellsbury, OF - 6 points
    If he can stay healthy, I'd expect 60 steals and 100 runs, with a .300-ish average.
  • Matt Cain, SP - 5 points
    He's evolved into a nice little pitcher. And, he won't have to match up against other aces, which is always nice.
  • Wandy Rodriguez, SP - 3 points
    Wandy's a tough guy to figure out. But at this point, I see him as just a useful pitcher...not so much a keeper.
  • (no 8th keeper) - 2 points
    Getting the supplemental pick isn't worthless.
Columbus DamKnights
  • Joe Mauer, C - 7 points
    He may have regressed on the power numbers from 2009, but a great batting average and good run production are givens with Mauer.
  • Justin Morneau, 1B - 8 points
    We're all pulling for Morneau to get past his concussion and get back to concussing baseballs. What? Too soon?
  • Robinson Cano, 2B - 9 points
    Cano's a very nice player, and appears to be a legitimate .315 hitter. I'm just not ready to push him into that tenth point just yet.
  • Corey Hart, OF - 4 points
    There was a point when Hart was all the rage as a power/speed guy. But last year, he mostly hit home runs...mostly.
  • Grady Sizemore, OF - 3 points
    What can you say about Sizemore? We know he's got speed and power. We don't know if he's healthy, or if he'll ever hit .280 again.
  • Ricky Nolasco, SP - 4 points
    Might be this year's Jonathan Sanchez?
  • Jeremy Hellickson, SP - 4 points
    Uber pitching prospect who flashed his stuff last year. I'm in.
  • Joe Nathan, RP - 2 points
    His spring has been encouraging so far, but coming back from surgery is always risky.
Stewies SexyParties
  • Chase Utley, 2B - 8 points
    Healthy, Utley is worth 10 points easy, but it seems like this knee injury has legs.
  • Pedro Alvarez, 3B - 5 points
    He's supposed to be the real deal, and he's already shown major league pop. He doesn't have to improve much to be keeper-worthy again next year.
  • Hanley Ramirez, SS - 10 points
    The best.
  • Ryan Braun, OF - 10 points
    Just a great producer. His power numbers were down last year, but I see that as fluky, not cause for concern.
  • Andrew McCutchen, OF - 8 points
    Don't undervalue McCutchen. He's potentially a plus in every category except RBIs, and he's still only 24.
  • Colby Rasmus, OF - 5 points
    Two full seasons, but he's still just a .263 career hitter, and hasn't shown much speed. Might be more similar to Jay Bruce than we anticipated.
  • Cliff Lee, SP - 8 points
    He's been all around the world in the past few years, but he's posted great numbers everywhere. Now that he's happy and settled, I expect him to really hit stride.
  • Roy Oswalt, SP - 7 points
    Uh oh. You know what we did? We forgot how good Oswalt can be.
Akron Pronks
  • Victor Martinez, C/1B - 8 points
    He should be going ahead of Posey in every draft. You know why? Because Posey's upside is Martinez.
  • Kevin Youkilis, 1B - 7 points
    He should pick up 3B eligibility early this season, and his contributions in runs, RBIs, and batting average should only go up with the additions to the Red Sox lineup.
  • Kendrys Morales, 1B - 5 points
    Yahoo says it's Kendrys now. Anyways, he's already got one great season and a tragic injury on his resume. All he needs now is a bounce back and he'll have a movie made about him.
  • Brian Roberts, 2B - 4 points
    Back injuries are always cause for concern, but if he's able to straighten things out, he's a great option at a thin position.
  • Shin-Soo Choo, OF - 7 points
    You can only go .300-80-20-80-20 so many times before people start betting on it. Two, actually. The number is two.
  • Jayson Werth, OF - 6 points
    I don't expect Werth to hit .296 again (he's a career .272 hitter), but the rest of last year's numbers seem in line, even in a weaker Nationals lineup.
  • Drew Stubbs, OF - 5 points
    Way too many strikeouts, but he's still young. Another guy I should have never dropped.
  • Tim Lincecum, SP - 9 points
    Other than an 0-5, 7.82/1.82 August, Lincecum was tremendous again last season. I've still got him rated as a top 5 pitcher.
Mercer AutoWreckers
  • Brian McCann, C - 5 points
    It's tough to get consistent play out of a catcher, and McCann is one of the most reliable guys out there. The Wreckers did pay a ton for him, though.
  • Joey Votto, 1B - 10 points
    He's a slightly leaner Miguel Cabrera.
  • Dustin Pedroia, 2B - 6 points
    Injuries ended his season last year, but he appears fully healthy and ready to do his part in the stacked Boston offense.
  • Derek Jeter, SS - 6 points
    Even a repeat of last year's "down" performance (.270-111-10-67-18) would be very solid, considering this year's crop of shortstops.
  • Andre Ethier, OF - 4 points
    We're all still waiting for Ethier to put it all together. Maybe Don Mattingly is the guy to help him do it?
  • Roy Halladay, SP - 10 points
    No starting pitcher is better.
  • Felix Hernandez, SP - 10 points
    But Felix comes close.
  • Heath Bell, RP - 4 points
    He may still just be a closer, but another great year adds "proven" to his list of characteristics.
Feisty Mosquitoes
  • Brandon Phillips, 2B - 6 points
    He'll hit about .270 with about 20 homers and about 20 steals. At second base, that works.
  • Ryan Zimmerman, 3B - 5 points
    I think Zimmerman's a fine player, but he might be one of the more overrated guys in fantasy baseball. He'll be solid, but unspectacular.
  • Troy Tulowitzki, SS - 10 points
    It's tough to trust him to stay healthy, but even missing 40 games last year, Tulo was extremely good. Expect more good things.
  • Carl Crawford, OF - 10 points
    You can't tell me that Crawford's value will go down in that lineup. You just can't.
  • Matt Holliday, OF - 8 points
    This cat can hit. Oh, and batting next to Albert Pujols never hurt anybody's numbers.
  • Justin Upton, OF - 7 points
    The guy is just 23 years old. If he can play 150+ games in 2011, he's basically a lock for 25-25.
  • CC Sabathia, SP - 8 points
    Sort of like Adam Dunn, CC's reliability gets undervalued sometimes. He's had at least 17 wins and 197 strikeouts in each of the past four seasons.
  • Stephen Strasburg, SP - 1 point
    Mostly the Mosquitoes get a point for guts. Strasburg is out until at least September.
The Usual Suspects
  • Albert Pujols, 1B - 10 points
    Seriously, let's argue about this.
  • David Wright, 3B - 9 points
    I'm willing to look at Wright's down 2009 as an anomaly as long as he is.
  • Jimmy Rollins, SS - 5 points
    Tough to make a call on Rollins. His upside still puts him as a potential 25/40 player, but he's been way off of that recently.
  • Nelson Cruz, OF - 5 points
    If you look at Cruz's numbers, you're going to be surprised. He might pull it all together this year and challenge for the MVP.
  • Jason Heyward, OF - 6 points
    Heyward really seemed to settle in during the second half of 2010. All the physical tools are there to take the next step. Matt Kemp upside is what I see.
  • Justin Verlander, SP - 7 points
    Back to back fantastic seasons means Verlander's legit...probably. Have to wonder what happened in 2008, though.
  • Tommy Hanson, SP - 6 points
    Hanson's got all the makings of a star, and his August and September were just filthy. Of course, plenty of guys can be stars; let's see if he can come through.
  • Mat Latos, SP - 6 points
    Latos was remarkable last season, a plus in all the starting pitching categories. I expect a bit of a letdown, but it's tough to be that good and not be mostly legit...heck, even Jeff D'Amico couldn't put up those kind of Ks.
Cleveland Enforcers
  • Jose Reyes, SS - 8 points
    Health is a minor concern, the lineup is a minor concern, but the player is good. Very good.
  • Carlos Gonzalez, OF - 9 points
    I've read a few articles that try to temper Gonzalez's insane 2010 season, but those kinds of numbers don't just happen. Not all of them at once.
  • Josh Hamilton, OF - 8 points
    One of the harder high-end players to judge, Hamilton showed last year that he can be among the best. I choose to bank on his talent and competitiveness.
  • B.J. Upton, OF - 4 points
    Upton is not a power hitter. He averaged 15.5 homers per season over the past four years (in an average of 143 games per season). He's fine for steals, anything else is gravy.
  • Cole Hamels, SP - 6 points
    Nice rebound after a frustrating 2009. However, his win-loss record seems awfully unimpressive for a team averaging 94 wins over the last three years.
  • David Price, SP - 7 points
    Listen to these home numbers for Price: 9-2, 107 Ks in 114.2 IP, 1.96 ERA, 1.05 WHIP. Who knew orange juice was so good for you?
  • Francisco Liriano, SP - 4 points
    Liriano seems to be fully healthy and recovered from arm surgery that cost him the entire 2007 season, but he may never be the same again.
  • Max Scherzer, SP - 4 points
    Because there weren't enough guys I bailed on that ended up being good. Thanks Max.

Here are the standings in order of total points, along with the change from last year (and here's a link to last year's article, for your reference):
  1. Stewies SexyParties - 61 points (+1 from last year)
  2. Riders of Rohan - 57 points (-8)
  3. Feisty Mosquitoes - 55 points (-7)
  4. Mercer AutoWreckers - 55 points (+3)
  5. The Usual Suspects - 54 points (+4)
  6. Akron Pronks - 51 points (-3)
  7. Cleveland Enforcers - 50 points (+1)
  8. Those Guys - 47 points (+2)
  9. Vandelay Industries - 43 points (-8)
  10. Howard's Heroes - 43 points (-16)
  11. Columbus DamKnights - 41 points (-7)
  12. Dunedain Rangers - 40 points (+1)
Just from a cursory glance, it looks like I was harder on guys this year. Most teams went down, some a lot, including my own. That probably means that teams who went up at all this year are in fact dramatically improved, while teams that went down are probably not actually that much worse.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Amtrack AutoTrain

I recently went on a trip to Disney World, and I used Amtrack's AutoTrain service to get there. The trip down was distinctly different from the trip back, so I'll talk about them separately.

From Lorton, Virginia to Sanford, Florida

On the way down, we got three seats in the coach car, one apiece for myself, my mom, and my youngest brother. The seats are distributed in rows of two, and no one sat in the fourth seat near us, so we had four seats between the three of us. The seats were fairly comfortable, except that I was wearing jeans, and eventually you don't want to be trying to lie down in jeans. But that's my own fault, not the fault of the train.

The train provides a dinner to each passenger, and dinner was pretty good. I got some kind of fish, cod I think, as did my brother. My mom got a chicken meal, and the fourth guy sitting at our table (a stranger) got a beef dinner. Overall it was tasty, certainly better than the kind of stuff I usually cook up. Apparently, the guy who sat with us was from New Jersey, and he knew a woman named Stacy, a friend of my mom's, before Stacy moved from New Jersey to Maryland. This of course prompted my mom to make "small world" references for hours, though the fact that we were on our way to Disney World probably helped that as well.

Sleeping was less awesome. I had a cold, and as I said, the jeans weren't great, so I had trouble getting comfortable. Altogether, I probably only got about 90-120 minutes of sleep. It's not a perfect setup, but I do think that I'd do better in a future trip, knowing about wearing the right pants/shorts, and trying to, you know, not be sick.

Arriving in Sanford, we waited about forty minutes for our car to be unloaded, then headed off to Disney World. It was only about another 40 minutes to get there, and we had a car to use the whole time. That advantage cannot be understated, as you save quite a bit of money being able to buy groceries at a grocery store, rather than at the convenience shops at Disney resorts.

The Return Trip

The trip back from Florida was very different. First, we were ending a trip to Disney World. So we were all kind of bummed about that.

From a more logistical standpoint, the trip back was considerably sparser than the trip down. I guess there were a lot of "snow birds" heading down to Florida in January, but not a lot of people heading back north. As such, the price of the trip was considerably cheaper. So, in an attempt to maximize our experience, my mom upgraded us from coach seats to one of the sleeper suites. These suites have two pull-down beds in each room (we got two rooms), as well as bathrooms and sinks in the room.

Theoretically, this all sounds great. But the bathrooms were far too narrow, and I think they'd be too narrow even for someone of average size. So I ended up using the community bathrooms a couple times, despite the fact that we had accommodations in our room. The beds were also just not that great. The lower bunk starts out as a couch, and honestly, I think it's more comfortable for sleeping in couch form than in bed form. But unfortunately, I didn't realize that until after the attendant had switched them into beds.

Dinner tasted good enough, but after being spoiled with fantastic food at Disney World for nearly a week, there was really no chance it was going to measure up. Also, I deduced that something I had didn't agree with me. My stomach felt funky most of the night, and I got really nauseous on the drive back to my house from the train station. Lack of sleep probably didn't help that, either.

Overall Thoughts

I would take the AutoTrain again, I think. You can have all sorts of ideas going into an experience like that, but you can't really know what it's going to be like until you do it. Now that I've done it, I do feel like I could prepare a lot better to be able to get through the trip in the best shape.

My thinking is this: assume you're not going to get any sleep. Depending on your accommodations, you might be able to, but you want to prepare for the possibility that you won't. This means that you'll want to sleep as late as you can on the day of your trip, and try to figure out something to do early in Florida when you get there. Early check-in would be a beautiful thing for riders.

But if you've got a good group, a group that can entertain each other for hours and hours, it just might be the best way to get down south. Especially if you're like me, and could do without plane trips.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Fantasy Baseball 2011 - First Round

Two years ago I did a mental exercise of sorts and drafted my own first and second rounds of a 12-team fantasy baseball league. I didn't do it last year, but I'm ready to have another go. Again, I only do the first couple rounds, because I don't want to give away any of my personal information about guys I might be targeting when my ultra-competitive keeper league drafts this Saturday. But the first two rounds are the kind of hardball decisions that can make or break a draft. So let's get down to it.

1. Hanley Ramirez, SS, Marlins - I'll summarize my argument for taking Ramirez over Albert Pujols. Shortstop is miserable this year. Hanley is an across-the-board producer at the game's weakest non-catcher position.

2. Albert Pujols, 1B, Cardinals - Pujols is the epitome of reliability. His .312 average last year was actually 19 points lower than his career average. The guy is a hitting machine, and you won't be unhappy with him, even if you take him first.

3. Troy Tulowitzki, SS, Rockies - This is where your draft list gets a lot tougher. So I'll repeat: shortstop is miserable this year. Tulowitzki has had a couple of really nice seasons, and just a filthy September: .322, 30 R, 15 HR, 40 RBI. Even after only playing 18 games in June and July, his season was good enough to rate in the top 25 in Yahoo's ranking system. If he can stay healthy, it looks like he's the real deal, and his wide contributions at a thin position make him one of the more useful guys out there.

4. Joey Votto, 1B, Reds - Almost every list I saw coming into this season actually had Miguel Cabrera at #3, behind Pujols and Ramirez. The thing is, Votto has all the pedigree that Cabrera has, he puts up the same kind of numbers, but he's got the ability to contribute on the basepaths as well. Add in the question marks that we're hearing about Cabrera's drinking issues, which could cost him some playing time this season, and I think Votto is a decidedly better pick this season.

5. Evan Longoria, 3B, Rays - Third base isn't quite shortstop, but it's still a fairly tough position to fill. And Longoria is another 5 category contributor who's valuable no matter where you play him. It's also worth mentioning that his 22 home runs last year were actually a career low. An uptick back to around 30 HR is completely reasonable. Partner that with a .285 average, 100 runs and RBI, and the potential for double-digit steals, and I think we're happy.

6. Miguel Cabrera, 1B, Tigers - Listen, on a basic, baseball-only level, Cabrera is better than everybody except for Pujols. He's a fantastic hitter with tremendous power, and he posts stats every year, without fail. But there are two small factors that pull Cabrera down from #3 to #6 in my book. First, the aforementioned alcohol issues. I'm not too concerned with it affecting his on-field performance (it doesn't seem to have ever had an impact in the past), but with the legal system being involved again, there's the chance of missing some time. Second, he's still a first basemen. I mean that in two regards: he's only 1B eligible, and he doesn't steal any bases.

7. Chase Utley, 2B, Phillies - This is one spot where I tend to differ from general fantasy baseball opinions. Most people will have Robinson Cano as their #1 second baseman. But Utley is a completely proven commodity, who from 2005-2009 averaged the following stat line: .301, 111 R, 29 HR, 101 RBI, 15 SB. He was injured for part of last year, but came back and looked fine. He had 8 multi-hit games in September. I'll bet on Utley every time.

8. Carl Crawford, OF, Red Sox - A lot of people are going to tell you that Crawford's speed numbers will go down because he'll end up batting 2nd or 3rd in the Red Sox lineup. Those people are retarded. Crawford batted in the two-hole 408 times last year, and in the three-hole 192 times. Will he steal 50 bases? Probably not. But he's a very skilled hitter with pop and speed, and he's going into a lineup that might be the best in baseball. I'd expect a broad range of statistical contributions.

9. David Wright, 3B, Mets - Two years ago, David Wright was a "question mark." His power dipped to 10 HR and 72 RBI, his steals spiked to 27, but his batting average stayed high (.307). In 2010, Wright got back to his normal line, though he posted the lowest average of his career at .283. I trust the overall package, though. Wright will always find a way to be a fantasy force, even if his team is in constant disarray. Constant, extreme disarray.

10. Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies - Alright, chances are he's not going to go 34-26 again. And it's almost a certainty that his batting average will drop off from the crazy .336 he hit last year. The thing is..."almost"..."chances are"...but what if? He certainly showed that he has the capacity to be a nightmare for opposing pitchers, and a ridiculous fantasy contributor (#1 ranked player in Yahoo last season). I wouldn't necessarily recommend Gonzalez as a pick for everybody here, but if you're pretty confident in your ability to draft down the board, his upside is tremendous.

11. Ryan Braun, OF, Brewers - Ever since he came into the league, Braun has been a spectacularly steady producer for fantasy owners. Very good power, good speed, career .307 hitter, plenty of run production. Basically, Braun is exactly what you're looking for if Carlos Gonzalez looked too risky for you.

12. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Red Sox - This tier of first basemen is a little tough to analyze, until you actually start to consider the difference in Gonzalez's situation between last year and this year. In 2010, Gonzalez hit 36 points higher on the road, and hit 20 HR away from Petco, versus just 11 in San Diego. Partner that with the fact that he goes from the Padres (22nd in the majors in runs scored) to the Red Sox (2nd), and you're looking at a very real chance of a .300-110-35-110 season out of Gonzalez...as a floor.

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...