Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Peter, Don't Go

I was bummed to learn that Peter Gammons is leaving ESPN for the MLB Network. I enjoy Gammons' work, and I don't have the MLB Network.

Over the past decade, ESPN's Baseball Tonight has been one of my favorite TV shows. I probably liked the show better back in the days when Harold Reynolds and Rob Dibble were still in the mix, but it's still a good show more often than not. Along with Gammons, John Kruk, Tim Kurkjian, Jayson Stark, and Buster Olney are among my favorites. With Gammons leaving, Baseball Tonight's roster loses some more of its depth

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Play ball!

I'm glad to hear that Bud Selig is working to have fewer off days in the MLB postseason next year. I can see why the TV stations want to pick and choose when the games are played to maximize ratings, but 8 games in 20 days seems wrong for a professional baseball team no matter what the circumstances. Unless, of course, there's an earthquake or something.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Trivia: Journeymen

The 1976 season ushered in Major League Baseball's free agency era. Therefore, it should be no suprise that the players who have played for the most MLB teams are primarily guys who have either recently retired or are still playing. Kenny Lofton holds the record for most different teams played for in the playoffs (6) and a DHL commercial even parodied how often he switched teams. During Lofton's career, he played for 11 different teams. However, currently that only puts him tied for second on the all-time list. There are two players who have played for 12 MLB teams. One of them is Mike Morgan, who retired in 2002. The other guy is still playing--and in fact filed for free agency this past Friday. Can you name that player?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Empire Strikes Back

I had been rooting for the Phillies, but the Yankees got the job done. Oddly enough, I'm kinda happy for guys like Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, and CC Sabathia to win their first World Series. It was even nice to see guys like Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera savor this championship for what might be the last time. And yes, perhaps the best storyline for me was Hideki Matsui, aka "Godzilla," taking home the MVP trophy.

The only bad news is that I think this means there won't be any baseball for awhile.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Trivia: Lords of the Rings

The Fall Classic starts this Wednesday night with most of the Phillies going for their 2nd World Series championship ring. In the other dugout, most of the Yankees are playing for their first. But four Yankees--Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, and Mariano Rivera--are looking to win their fifth. As of this writing, no current MLB player has won the World Series five times.

Can you name the last MLB player to retire with at least five World Series championship rings?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

What good are bragging rights if you don't brag?

Earlier this month the Urbana Premier League (UPL) wrapped up its 9th baseball season. Time sure does fly. It seems like just yesterday I was getting ready for the draft, trying to get off to the best start possible. After the draft, I posted a brief analysis saying that my '90 Reds would be dangerous. By early May, we had bubbled to the top of the standings, but I still needed to add speed. At the All-Star Break, I reported that my team had found speed, overcome adversity, and was hitting on all cylinders, yet my grasp on first remained fragile.

So after a hard fought six-month battle, how did it all end?

Team IamJabrone pushed me all the way to the final day. And at times I was concerned that my team couldn't hold off the defending champ. I even made an attempt (which was rebuffed) to collude against him. But when the clock finally did run out on this season, the '90 Reds were still on top; and I was celebrating my third UPL championship.

Now there is only one thing left to do.

Mr. Chairman, I officially motion for you to make me king...

As we move toward a new league order...

'90 Reds 116
IamJabrone 112
Westy's Sluggers 98
SuckMyknuckleballs 79.5
Cheeseheads 77.5
Phatsnapper 76
Black Sox 73
Muddy Mush Heads 61.5
TheJimmyDixLongballs 53
Hats for Bats 53
Benver Droncos 42.5
O.N. Thugs 24

P.S. Make sure to write my name really pretty on the UPL Bill.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Trivia: RBI streaks

An interesting stat this postseason is that, as of this writing, Ryan Howard and Alex Rodriguez have both gone 8 straight playoff games with at least 1 RBI. This actually ties an MLB playoff record with Lou Gehrig.

The major league record during the regular season for most consecutive games with an RBI was set by Tris Speaker back in 1928. Would you like to guess how many consecutive games Speaker had at least 1 RBI that year?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The New Mr. October?

Most mornings when I'm eating breakfast before work, I'll watch a few minutes of SportsCenter. Today they ran some statistics that caught my attention. The following is a comparison between Mr. October himself, Reggie Jackson, and Alex Rodriguez through their first 42 playoff games:

Reggie Jackson: 42 games, 151 at-bats, 40 hits, 7 homers, 19 rbi, .265 batting
Alex Rodriguez: 42 games, 158 at-bats, 46 hits, 9 homers, 25 rbi, .291 batting

We all know the media beating that A-Rod has taken in recent years for his struggles in the postseason. But his recent success at the plate seems to put him in good company. Through their first 42 playoff games, A-Rod hit for a higher average, 6 more RBIs, and 2 more homers than Reggie Jackson.

In fairness, as Larry Brown points out, Reggie Jackson batted .400 with 8 homers and 17 RBIs in 15 World Series games for the Yankees. So I think we'll have to wait for A-Rod to play in even one World Series game before the Mr. October comparisons can be made. And, for what it's worth, SportsCenter noted this morning that in Reggie Jackson's very next playoff game (#43), he hit 3 homers.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Joe Mauer with Power

I got this video from Pauly last week. It shows Joe Mauer tipping pitches from 2nd base during a recent game against the Tigers. Pretty interesting if you're into the nuances of baseball:

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Hit parade...

Houston, we have a baseball problem. The Astros' baseball mission hasn't exactly gone as planned this season. Their manager Cecil Cooper didn't have a safe landing, and on Friday their starter Brian Moehler got blasted to the tune of 8 hits and 7 earned runs in just 2.1 innings pitched.

How good will Stephen Strasburg be? The Mark Prior comparisons seem fair. Prior went 6-6/3.32 ERA/1.17 WHIP/11.3 K/9 in his first season; and then 18-6/2.43 ERA/1.10 WHIP/ 10.4 K/9 in his second season. Wins and losses are inherently difficult to predict, but I'd guess that while Strasburg's strikeout totals might be similar to Prior's, I'd be surprised if his ERA and WHIP are as good as Prior's in those first two years.

I'm sure he loves it when you call him Big Papi. After starting out the year in a horrible slump, dogged by steroids allegations, and eventually benched, David Ortiz is on the comeback trail. After basically doing nothing the first 2 months, he could still end up with another 30 HR/100 RBI season. Color me surprised.

Phat Albert.
Unlike Ortiz, Albert Pujols doesn't seem to do 2-month slumps. He has been amazing this year (again) with .447 OBP/47 HR/.675 SLG/120 R/129 RBI/14 SB. Not bad for a guy who was drafted 402nd in the 1999 MLB draft.

Ichi-jected! Up there with Albert Pujols among the greatest players of all time, yesterday Ichiro Suzuki achieved another milestone in his career: His first ejection. Way to show the fire in the belly!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Coolstandings revisited

Last year I blogged about Coolstandings, so I figured I'd revisit the subject this year. For those who don't know, Coolstandings.com crunches numbers to see which MLB teams have the best "chance" at making the playoffs based on their performance to date plus the strength of their remaining schedule.

Here are the five MLB teams that currently have the best chance at making the playoffs this season:

Team POFF%
New York Yankees 98.5
Los Angeles Dodgers 94.6
Los Angeles Angels 91.9
St. Louis Cardinals 88.9
Philadelphia Phillies 87.7

The above data seems like good news for the city of Los Angeles. Too bad the news isn't as good for Chicago:

Team POFF%
Chicago White Sox 27.9
Chicago Cubs 11.7

Last season Chicago had the good fortune of seeing both of its baseball teams make the playoffs. At this point, the chances of that happening again this season are about 3.3%.

I think most Cubs fans have already written their team off for this season. But I'm not so sure about White Sox fans. Looking at the standings, the White Sox are just 3.5 games behind the Tigers with about 6 weeks left. So anything could happen, right? Well, sure, a lot could happen. But looking at the numbers, the White Sox making the playoffs aren't among the likely things to happen this year.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Kenny's Pet Peavy

Wow. I didn't see this one coming.

The talk of Chicago the past 36 hours has been the White Sox's trade for Jake Peavy. And really, it's an interesting story on multiple levels. For starters, the Sox have apparently landed a top talent who could help them compete for the World Series this year. Another intriguing aspect is that Peavy rejected a deal to Chicago earlier this year. And, oh by the way, he's injured and can't pitch right now.

My initial reaction to the deal was actually a negative one. Clayton Richard (who was one of four players the Sox traded away in the deal) has actually pitched very well recently. About a week ago I heard Sox pitching coach Don Cooper say that the Sox as an organization would "fail" if it couldn't turn Richard into a "front-of-the-line rotation" pitcher. So at the very least I was thinking that Richard could be a solid #4 or #5 starter for the remainder of this season--and maybe help the Sox make the playoffs.

So admittedly, I didn't like the idea of trading away a potentially solid starter in Richard (plus three minor leaguers) for an injured NL pitcher who played half his games in a pitcher-friendly park. I also didn't like the idea that Peavy had turned down the Sox in May. I figured if he wasn't 100% on board, then why pick him up?

But then I remembered something very important: Kenny Williams made this trade. And Kenny Williams has proven time and time again to be the best GM in Chicago since Jerry Krause.

In analyzing this current Peavy trade, I actually go back to the year the White Sox won it all--2005. Back then, the crown jewel of the White Sox's farm system was a starting pitcher named Brandon McCarthy. And boy, did we keep hearing about how great he was and how highly Sox management thought of this kid. In fact, if he had been in any other organization, he probably would have been starting in the bigs in 2005. But the Sox were so good that year, McCarthy spent much of his time in Triple-A. I remember actually feeling kinda sorry for the guy. But I knew his time would come.

When 2006 came, the Sox did ship out Jon Garland, but they ended up bringing in Javier Vazquez. So really, there wasn't an automatic opening in the rotation and McCarthy went to the Sox bullpen. He was pretty average that year, but he was still really young. And I knew, along with all Sox fans, that his time would come.

At the end of 2006, the news came that the Sox were trading away Freddy Garcia; and so there it was--in 2007 Brandon McCarthy's time would come.

Except for the fact that before 2007 even arrived, the Sox shipped out McCarthy as well. And I, along with all Sox fans, was stunned.

Shortly after the McCarthy trade I heard Kenny Williams being interviewed on the radio by Mike North (who is also a Sox fan). North was questioning the trade and basically getting at the same point most other Sox fans wanted to know: How could you trade away Brandon McCarthy, a guy we've been hearing about for years, for two minor leaguers?

In the course of Williams' answer, he of course mentioned how high he was on the prospects the Sox were getting; and in reference to McCarthy's future, he thought he'd go to the Texas Rangers and be "serviceable."

As soon as the word "serviceable" came from Williams' lips, my ears perked up and North immediately interrupted his answer, saying (and I paraphrase): "Wait, wait, wait... We've been hearing from you for years that McCarthy would be a future ace and now you're saying that he'll be serviceabe?!? Serviceable?"

At this point I'm laughing my butt off, mainly because I thought it was hilarious the way Mike North was saying "serviceable." But given a mulligan on the question, I figured Williams would recalibrate his word choice and sing higher praise for the departing Brandon McCarthy--after all, why not?

But no, he repeated himself, responding in his usual calm way: "Yes, I think he'll be a serviceable pitcher for them."

If I recall, North kept repeating the word "serviceable," and I kept laughing. But on a serious note, in a matter of a few seconds I went from believing that McCarthy had a legit shot at becoming a #1 or #2 starter within the next 3 years to thinking that he might be doomed to a career ERA above 4.00. In a matter of moments, I had gone from thinking "These prospects we traded for better be good" to thinking "It might not even matter if these prospects are good."

Nearly three MLB seasons later, McCarthy has been plagued by injuries (currently sitting on the DL) and his ERA has consistently been above 4.00. And as for the Sox? Well, they got John Danks back in that deal--and he's well on his way to becoming one of the better pitchers in the AL.

So as I look at this Peavy/Richard deal, my guess is that Kenny Williams doesn't agree with Cooper's assessment last month that the Sox will "fail" if they don't turn Richard into a #1 or #2 pitcher. I think if Williams saw that type of potential in Richard, he doesn't do the deal. My hunch is that he's seen too much inconsistency for too long in Richard. (Paul DePodesta, of Moneyball fame and who works in the other front office involved in the Peavy trade, has posted his take on the trade here.)

So what about Peavy? How will he do for the Sox? Well, we keep hearing how he was the 2007 NL Cy Young Award Winner, but I think that type of talk is setting the bar a little too high. While Peavy has pitched well on the road some seasons (including his Cy Young year), over his career his road stats away from PETCO are a 3.84 ERA with a 1.30 WHIP. Those numbers are actually pretty close to what John Danks has done this season (4.00 ERA and 1.31 WHIP).

It's hard to predict exactly when Peavy will return to the mound--and it's especially hard to predict how he'll do the final few weeks of a season while adjusting to a new environment. But if I were to guess how Peavy will do over the next three seasons, I'd say that he would be about as good as John Danks. In fact, my prediction is that Danks will actually be better than Peavy in terms of ERA, WHIP, and games won from 2010 to 2012. (Side note: Sometimes it's fun to go back and look at how such projections start to play out. For instance, I just took a trip down memory lane over at the UPL Blog where we discussed Braun, Bruce, Votto, and the Upton brothers in May 2008.)

Up top I mentioned that I didn't like it that Peavy had rejected a deal to Chicago earlier in the season. Well, I've since learned some more info about that. First off, Peavy didn't say "no," he said "not yet." I can appreciate the fact that he liked living in San Diego and didn't want to give up on his team so early in the season. Second, I give kudos to Kenny Williams for being patient with Peavy, and for making it very clear to him that he was very much wanted in Chicago. Furthermore, there are some rumors now that Williams tried to deal for Peavy last July. So in the end, it seems that Williams finally got his guy.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Home Run Derby recap

Admittedly, when it comes to the MLB's All-Star break, I'm a bigger fan of the storylines and tradition than I am of the actual events (Home Run Derby, All-Star Game, etc.). When I was a kid, I liked the Home Run Derby, but now I've cooled to it. I did catch some of this year's derby, and I had to agree with Chris Berman actively rooting against the "dreaded batoff."

But Lisa over at Blogger Arrow has managed to stay young at heart and still eagerly looks forward to the Home Run Derby each season; and as such, she's developed a fun tradition of always writing a recap of the event. So without further ado, here's a link to Lisa's 2009 Home Run Derby recap. (You'll see who she really thought shined.)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A mid-summer's post

It's been a fun season in UPL Baseball thus far. (If you're curious, you can check out the mid-season UPL awards over at The UPL Blog.) The last time I gave an update about my fantasy team here in May, I was looking to add speed to my team--and hoping it would be running like a "well-oiled machine in June." Little did I know that the very next day I'd lose Manny Ramirez to a 50-game drug suspension, and the day after that I'd lose Aramis Ramirez to the DL for two months.

Admittedly, when I lost both of those guys, I thought I'd have to tread water until they got back. I wasn't giving up on the season, but I figured I'd have to "keep it close," and then once my team was healthy again, "make a run." But a funny thing happened shortly after those two key personnel losses. My team's one weakness, lack of speed, started to correct itself. I found Michael Bourn and Jason Bartlett on the waiver wire, and they both have helped me with steals. Carlos Beltran moved up from fifth to third in the Mets' lineup, and thus started stealing again. Best of all, Justin Upton finally began to realize his potential and became a power/speed threat. In both runs and steals, my team started to gain a few points.

Looking back on the two months I was without Manny and A-Ram, it turns out I had already drafted their replacements from Day 1--Justin Upton (for Manny at OF) and Pablo Sandoval (for A-Ram at 3B). So, fortunately, not only did the '90 Reds tread water, we did one better. Here's a look at the standings at the break:

Team Points Pts Change Waiver Moves
'90 Reds 115.5 0 2 31
IamJabrone 105.5 0 8 32
O.N. Thugs 93 0 12 45
Westy's Sluggers 92 0 9 28
SuckMyknuckleballs 80 0 1 6
Cheeseheads 74.5 0 5 16
Black Sox 70 0 4 10
Phatsnapper 69.5 0 6 31
TheJimmyDixLongballs 67 0 10 20
Muddy Mush Heads 60.5 0 3 13
Benver Droncos 59 0 7 21
Hats for Bats 49.5 0 11 40

And here's a look at my roster:

(Cle - C,1B)
(Phi - 1B)
(Mil - 2B,3B)
(SF - C,1B,3B)
(TB - SS)
(Ari - OF)
(LAD - OF)
(Bal - OF)
(ChC - 3B)
(Hou - OF)
(Det - SP)
(Min - RP)
(SF - RP)
(Ari - RP)
(TB - RP)
(Atl - SP)
(Ari - SP)
(Hou - SP)
(Pit - 2B)
(Ari - SS)
(SF - OF)
(Det - RP)
(Was - SP)
(LAD - RP)
(ChC - SP) DL

When I look at the names on my roster, I know the story behind how each of them got there. And of all those stories, one of my favorites is J.P. Howell.

It all started when one of my closers, Troy Percial, went on the DL. Obviously, I wanted to figure who, if anyone, would be the next closer for the Rays. Everything I read online indicated that the Rays would go wtih a closer by committee, and different fantasy experts gave wildly different recommendations. Many experts said Joe Nelson was the pickup, but several figured it would be Dan Wheeler or some combination of the two. Others guessed even more names, to include Grant Balfour and Randy Choate. I even read a few articles where people speculated Jason Isringhausen would take over as the closer once he got off the DL, and another that said some guy in Triple-A could be promoted and become the 9th-inning guy.

Noticeably absent from all of these theories was a one J.P. Howell. Yet when I looked at the numbers, he had been far and away the best reliever the Rays have had for the past year-plus. All of Howell's peripherals were what I look for in a pitcher, and I figured it was only a matter of time before the Rays had to give Howell the job by default. So I decided to pick up Joe Nelson (because that's what the experts said to do) and I picked up J.P. Howell (because that's what I wanted to do). I think I dropped Nelson about three days later. A few weeks after that, the Rays' bullpen blew a 10-run lead which Howell had nothing to do with. Since then, he's picked up the majority of their saves.

Over the past month, Howell has tallied 3 wins, no losses, 3 saves, a 2.61 ERA, a 1.26 WHIP, and 10 Ks in 10.1 innings pitched. Those are nice stats, but even now Howell is flying under the radar. In fact, Thor Nystrom over at Rotoworld still lists Howell at the bottom of the Tier 4 closers with a question mark.

But that's enough talk about the first half of the season. Right now I've got to be focused on the second half. I'm glad that my team has done as well as it has, but there's a long way to go. My 10-point lead is misleading for two reasons: 1) I'm running well ahead in innings pitched and 2) I'm vulnerable to losing points in many categories on any given night. We have 11 weeks left, and my lead could literally go away in two or three days.

This isn't going to be easy. As I size up my top three competitors, I recognize that I'm going up against the Greatest of All Time (O.N. Thugs), the Defending Champ (IamJabrone), and the Manager of the Half-Season (Westy's Sluggers).

Like I said, this isn't going to be easy. There will be injuries. There will be ups and downs, unexpected slumps, and other teams will make a run. Between now and October 4, I need to beg, borrow, and steal my way across the finish line.

Whatever it takes.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Former MLB pitcher Mark Littell is taking the phrase "stand behind your product" rather literally...

And if you can't get enough of Littell's NuttyBuddy taking a 90 m.p.h. fastball at point blank range, then here's another video for you viewing amusement.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Today's lineup

1.Nomar Garciaparra
2.Manny Ramirez
3.Johnny Damon
4.Trot Nixon
5.David Ortiz
6.Shea Hillenbrand
7.Derek Lowe
8.Pedro Martinez
9.Brian Roberts
10.Jay Gibbons
11.Melvin Mora
12.Jerry Hairston
13.Jason Giambi
14.Alfonso Soriano
15.Raul Mondesi
16. Aaron Boone
17.Andy Pettitte
18.Jose Contreras
19.Roger Clemens
20.Carlos Delgado
21.Vernon Wells
22.Frank Catalanotto
23.Kenny Rogers
24.Magglio Ordonez
25.Sandy Alomar
26.Bartolo Colon
27.Brent Abernathy
28.Jose Lima
29.Milton Bradley
30.Casey Blake
31.Danys Baez
32.Craig Monroe
33.Dmitri Young
34.Alex Sanchez
35.Eric Chavez
36.Miguel Tejada
37.Eric Byrnes
38.Jose Guillen
39.Keith Foulke
40.Ricardo Rincon
41.Bret Boone
42.Mike Cameron
43.Randy Winn
44.Ryan Franklin
45.Freddy Garcia
46.Rafael Soriano
47.Scott Spiezio
48.Troy Glaus
49.Francisco Rodriguez
50.Ben Weber
51.Alex Rodriguez
52.Juan Gonzalez
53.Rafael Palmeiro
54.Carl Everett
55.Javy Lopez
56.Gary Sheffield
57.Mike Hampton
58.Ivan Rodriguez
59.Derrek Lee
60.Bobby Abreu
61.Terry Adams
62.Fernando Tatis
63.Livan Hernandez
64.Hector Almonte
65.Tony Armas
66.Dan Smith
67.Roberto Alomar
68.Cliff Floyd
69.Roger Cedeno
70.Jeromy Burnitz
71.Moises Alou
72.Sammy Sosa
73.Corey Patterson
74.Carlos Zambrano
75.Mark Prior
76.Kerry Wood
77.Matt Clement
78.Antonio Alfonseca
79.Juan Cruz
80.Aramis Ramirez
81.Craig Wilson
82.Kris Benson
83.Richie Sexson
84.Geoff Jenkins
85.Valerio de los Santos
86.Benito Santiago
87.Rich Aurilia
88.Barry Bonds
89.Andres Galarraga
90.Jason Schmidt
91.Felix Rodriguez
92.Jason Christiansen
93.Matt Herges
94.Paul Lo Duca
95.Shawn Green
96.Oliver Perez
97.Adrian Beltre
98.Eric Gagne
99.Guillermo Mota
100.Luis Gonzalez
101.Todd Helton
102.Ryan Klesko
103.Gary Matthews

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Baseball Collector (Since 1990)

And for those of you interested, Zack Hample's streak has now reached 600 major league games, and he has eclipsed 4,000 baseballs. You can catch all the action on his blog.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

I doth protest?

It's been a long time since I've played Monopoly, but I do enjoy that game. When I played it as a kid, I liked the different playing pieces (the top hat was my favorite), the various cards, and of course the colorful money. Once the game finally started, you could get down to the business of trying to totally dominate your opponents and ultimately monopolize the board.

And what would a game of Monopoly be without the haggling and dealmaking? I think some of my fondest memories of Monopoly are the different trades I made, tried to make, or observed other people make. And naturally, there would be arguments. Perhaps you would try in vain to get someone to accept your offer--or worse, you'd try to talk someone else out of making a deal that you thought would put another player "over the top."

But in Monopoly, at the end of the day each player is the master of his or her own domain. You might be mad that a certain deal is going through, but you can't stop it. (At least those were the house rules I always used.)

Fantasy baseball, on the other hand, is quite different when it comes to trades. Two adults can consent to a deal they both find amiable, but then the rest of the league can submit their protests and vote it down. Apparently, people think this is a good check to have in case two players try to collude or if one player ain't too smart and might ruin the fun for everyone else.

The "Monopoly way" of doing trades always made more sense to me. I mean, yeah, the point is to try and rip off the other guy in Monopoly--or at the very least improve your standing relative to the other players better than the other guy. The only exception to this that I could see (aside from collusion) would be if you cut a deal just to stay alive in the game. But even in that scenario, you're giving yourself an infinitely better chance of winning. (The difference between certain defeat or living to play another turn.)

What I find weird about the "fantasy baseball way" of doing trades is that the system is a tug of war between common-sense competitiveness and an unwritten code of conduct. And really, the unwritten code of conduct seems to always win out.

For example, the perennial UPL powerhouse O.N. Thugs recently saw their 2B go down with an injury. So he scrambled to make a deal for a 2B (trading away James Loney for Orlando Hudson). Strictly from a competitive standpoint, I see a move that my opponent wants to make, and I have it within my means to try and block it. Shouldn't I attempt to do so? If so, then it makes sense for me to cast my vote against the trade--and work to convince other owners to do the same until we kill the deal.

But I probably won't bother to try.

Why? I'm not really sure. My best guess is that it's the unwritten code.

Let's go back to Monopoly. Imagine a 5-player game, and it's fairly early on. Only two of the five players have monopolies, so they're considered the leaders. These two leaders then enter into a deal that will leave both of them with two monopolies (double what they had before). If, hypothetically speaking, the other three players have the option of voting against the deal, shouldn't they vote it down? I would say so. Yet in fantasy baseball, trades that help a strong team are allowed through all the time.

Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not saying all trades should be blocked or that anytime a good team tries to make a trade it should be blocked. What I'm saying is that it's weird how the checks and balances of a fantasy baseball trade only go one way. In theory, once two players make a trade, the rest of the league takes a look at it and each owner decides for himself whether the trade is "fair." If it's deemed fair, the trade goes through. If not, it gets nixed. But technically, even if an owner thinks a trade is reasonable, he could protest it for purely strategic reasons. (Yet this almost never happens.)

As for me, early in my first year of fantasy baseball I decided I'd try to stay out of the protest business. I wouldn't mess with anyone else's trades as long as they didn't mess with mine. I think part of my calculus here is that it's fun to make trades, so I didn't want to risk starting a trade-blockade war. But I'm not sure the idea of letting any "reasonable" trade go through helps me from a competitive standpoint. In fact, there are certain players in the league who I should probably protest any trade they make (unless of course I secretly think the trade will hurt their team).

And what makes for a "reasonable" or "fair" trade anyway? I suppose in a non-keeper league certain things can be measured, such as how a player had done in the past and, if relevant, how that player has done so far that year. So in that case, you're trying to estimate how the players involved in the trade will do over the next 2 to 6 months.

But what about a keeper league? Doesn't the fact that you can keep players for the next year (and possibly for 5, 10, or 15 years) drastically change the equation? Isn't it possible you could propose a trade that the majority of owners will see as "obviously unfair to you," only to discover 5 years later that it was unfair to the other guy? (Except for the fact the trade was voted down and never happened. Lucky for the other guy...)

Back when a keeper league was first proposed in the UPL, I made a few comments about how the nature of trades might change. (During that discussion, one thing I neglected to explicitly say was that the restriction on the number of players traded in a season would replace the current system of letting owners or the commish vote on whether or not a trade was "fair." Also, I'm not necessarily advocating a change to that system. I only bring it up for discussion purposes.)

This season we've already had one interesting case where a trade was autovetoed. Back on April 14, Westy's Sluggers wanted to trade way:
Lance Berkman
Matt Holliday

to Phatsnapper for:
Joe Mauer
Elijah Dukes
Jon Lester

A lot of people didn't like the trade, and ultimately the commish vetoed it. (Phatsnapper went into a rage on message board when the deal was autovetoed. But in fairness, Westy's Sluggers didn't seem to mind that the trade was nixed.)

What's interesting is that at the time of the trade, Joe Mauer was on the DL, but he's since come off the DL and gone on the hottest hitting tear of his career. Granted, we all know that Mauer will cool off, but it is possible that this spike in power won't taper off completely. For the next few years, he might hit more homers than he has in the past. He's only 26, and it's possible that he'll continue to develop as a hitter. (And who knows, maybe he is fed up with hearing everyone say that Matt Wieters is "Joe Mauer with Power.") My main point here is that I never would have guessed Mauer would come off the DL and hit like this right away. In that regard, my original assessment of this trade has been proven wrong.

But then again, I wouldn't be surprised if next week Mauer draws another "Go straight to the DL" card. In the meantime, I've got to figure out if it's worth trying to block this Orlando Hudson deal...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The World's Best Illusion

The no-look pass in basketball. The end reverse in football. In sports, as in life, the successful use of an illusion can trick your opponent into seeing one thing when actually something different is happening; and in that moment--if you're the master of the illusion--you have gained the upper hand, if only for a moment.

At a recent gathering of neuroscientists and psychologists, they chose an entry from a Bucknell professor as the world's best illusion. And what was his entry about?

The curveball. (Check it out.)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

In it to win it

So we're about a month into the baseball season, and here are the UPL's standings thus far:

Team Points Pts Change Waiver Moves
'90 Reds 96 2 2 9
Black Sox 94.5 4.5 6 3
Westy's Sluggers 93.5 1 7 14
Muddy Mush Heads 90.5 3 4 5
O.N. Thugs 82.5 -5.5 5 15
IamJabrone 81.5 -3.5 9 18
IStillSuckCurveballs 78 1 1 4
Cheeseheads 76.5 0.5 8 10
TheJimmyDixLongballs 73.5 -4 3 7
Phatsnapper 73.5 -3 10 17
Benver Droncos 55 2.5 11 10
Hats for Bats 41 1.5 12 14

Just like last year, an early weakness for my team is speed. What's especially frustrating is how far behind I've fallen in this category.

But it's not all bad. As you can see from the above standings, my team is off to a decent start. My points are slightly inflated (perhaps by as much as 5 points) due to my innings pitched running well ahead of the league's allowed pace. But even so, at 91 points my team would still be in the hunt.

The only thing that has surprised me with my team is how well my starting pitching has held up. Every single one of my starters so far is performing as well or better than I had hoped. Some might say I've been lucky in that regard, and that may be true. But I also have to give myself some credit. None of my starters are playing "above their heads." For the most part, I think they all can keep up what they're doing. (Maybe a slight letdown, but not much. Dan Haren can be one of the league's best pitchers. Wandy Rodriguez and Edwin Jackson can remain solid. Ryan Dempster isn't doing as well as he did last year, but this is about what I expected from him. Javier Vazquez is striking people out; and Joe Saunders is the Anti-Vazquez--he'll get the Ws but not the Ks.)

You often hear people say that fantasy baseball, especially a roto league, is a "six-month marathon." But just like in a real marathon, you want to have a good start. A month into the season, I've managed to get off the porch and start running with the big dogs. My team has the potential to be very competitive in every single category except steals. So I'll see what I can do about snagging some more steals without sacrificing my competitiveness in another category.

Here's hoping the '90 Reds are running like a well-oiled machine in June...

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Trivia: Throwin' heat

Who was the first Major League pitcher to officially be clocked at over 100mph on the radar gun during a game?

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Nick Adenhart - R.I.P.

A projected top 5 pick who slipped all the way to the 14th round because of an injury, Nick Adenhart climbed all the way up the ladder to make it into the big leagues. Sadly, that all came to an end last night.

Is there a curse on MLB pitchers? I mean, yeah, they make up 50% of the league, but they seem to comprise a much higher percentage of the unexpected deaths.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Draft postmortem

So we had the UPL draft yesterday. It was fun as usual, but it was also a reminder of how the more things change, the more they stay the same.

For starters, I showed up to spring training out of shape. Every year I say to myself, "Two weeks before the draft I'm going to start preparing." But what really happens is that my preparation is minimal until I wake up early on draft day and read what I can. I'm kind of like Shaquille O'Neal in the sense that I just play myself into shape. It's probably not until the middle of May that I have a solid grasp of who's who on each team, which farm systems have the top prospects, and how that all applies to the fantasy baseball decisions I should have been making the first six weeks of the season. By that time I've either caught lightning in a bottle and my team is a force to reckon with, or I'm mired in 7th place and posting poor imitations of Weird Al songs on the message board.

In other draft news, Westy and Benver were no-shows again. (And they both were the first to complain about their teams on the message board--again.) Phatsnapper told us how many fantasy leagues he's in--again. ISSC drafted the entire Red Sox roster--again. JimmyDix nearly drafted the entire White Sox roster (and will likely trade for "the ones who got away")--again. C-Lauff took Albert Pujols with his first pick--again. Whenever someone with either unproven talent or a culturally diverse name (or both) was picked, Roland never missed the opportunity to ask, "Who the hell is that?"--again. And I had about half of my picks openly questioned or even mocked--again.

To that last point, that's actually one of my favorite aspects of fantasy baseball. In the real world, it's rather difficult to get honest feedback from people. But in an online draft room or message board about a game, well, people just let it fly; and in that context, I'm all about honest feedback, putdowns, and outright taunting.

Getting back to how I prepare the morning of the draft, I do come up with some lists for each position, but they're not long. In fact, I usually only have a few names of players that "I like" at each position. And by "like," I'm referring to whether or not the value they provide matches up with the round I can draft them in. (For example, last year I scratched Albert Pujols from my 1B choices. Although, I'm not sure which was dumber: Scratching Pujols from my list or reminding you that I did.)

Admittedly, this year was tougher for me to come up with my player rankings. That could be because there were seemingly more injuries to star players, or it could be that the more I learn about fantasy baseball the more I don't know.

I picked 8th in the first round and could have gone in a few different directions. I think Ryan Braun was the highest Y!-rated player still on the board, but I went with Ryan Howard. Before the draft I noticed that Howard's 48 jacks last season cleared the field by 8--and he would be returning this season to a similar situation (same championship-caliber team minus the inconsistent Pat Burrell). Furthermore, I had read that Howard came into spring training in better shape than usual and is focused on getting off to a fast April start (which he hasn't done the past two seasons). This, of course, doesn't mean he'll get off to a fast April start. Heck, it doesn't even mean he'll do as well as last year. But at the end of the day, he's had a great track record for power numbers the past three seasons, and he's a proven winner. I do recognize that his numbers have been dropping and his OBP was relatively low last season, but hey, that's why he's not a top 5 pick.

Rather than give my reasoning for each pick, I'll just show my team here:

C Victor Martinez (1B)
1B Ryan Howard
2B Mike Aviles (SS)
3B Aramis Ramirez
SS Stephen Drew
OF Carlos Beltran
OF Manny Ramirez
OF Justin Upton
Util Milton Bradley
Util Conor Jackson (1B, OF)

SP Dan Haren
SP Javier Vazquez
SP Ryan Dempster
SP Joe Saunders

RP Joe Nathan
RP Brian Wilson
RP Chad Qualls
RP Troy Percival

BN Pablo Sandoval (C, 3B, OF)
BN Ian Stewart (2B, 3B)

Note: Rajai Davis, Eric Byrnes, Wandy Rodriguez, and Dana Eveland have been excluded from the above list in order to make my draft look less sucky.)

Some years I feel pretty good after the draft. If I've accumulated nearly all of my targeted players and have seemingly built a team without any glaring weaknesses, then I'm happy. I don't think I've ever had a draft where I haven't second-guessed a pick immediately afterward, but I have had drafts where I felt that I did really well.

This year it was a mixed bag for me. On offense, I think we've got a great shot at putting up competitive power numbers. But my team is lacking in speed, and the past few champions have been very competitive in steals. I'm less happy with my pitching, but it might turn out okay. I could have done much worse than Haren as my #1 starter and Nathan as my #1 closer. But after those two guys, things get dicey. Maybe I should have reached for Matt Capps and Joakim Soria--especially Soria in a keeper league. Should I have taken Roy Oswalt instead of Vazquez? In hindsight, probably. But Vazquez will have more K's and who knows how he'll do in a new environment. (Plus I'm just now learning that Oswalt has been much healthier the past five seasons than I had realized.)

A few final comments on my team. I do think that I've drafted enough to be dangerous. If my team gets off to a hot start (and let's face it, any team could get off to a hot start), then more options will become available to me in the way of trades and/or knowing what I need to grab from the waiver wire. I also like the versatility of my team. For the infield, I have at least two players with eligibility at each position (C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS). And with Victor Martinez as my catcher, he'll actually be playing a lot at 1B and DH. So not only will that mean he should tire out less, but his manager has gone on record saying he'll find a way to get Martinez in the lineup every day. (Here's hoping that come September I won't be -30 games at catcher.)

So who do I think had the best draft? Well, after reviewing the tape, I was startled to see the batting lineup of the Black Sox. My best chance at outdoing his offensive production might be to buy him off. But the Black Sox seemed less fortunate on the pitching side. As such, I've got to go with the Thugs. On paper, his team looks the best heading into this season. His starting pitching and bullpen are loaded, and it looks like he'll have enough on offense.

Let the games begin.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The calm before the storm

When I wake up the morning of the fantasy baseball draft, I feel like a kid on Christmas Day ready to rip into all of his presents. Sure, I have some ideas as to what I might get, but there also will be a few surprises along the way.

As I type this post I already feel the adrenaline starting to simmer. Once the draft starts on Saturday morning, I'll have a good adrenaline rush going and the time will fly by.

This year it's a keeper league, so that alters the strategy--and raises the stakes. This draft will be our most important one yet.

As a blogger, most people on the Internet only know me for the words I write. They don't know what I look like or how I act in "real life." This year I've decided to start changing that by posting videos where I share some of my innermost thoughts. As such, today I got together with a few friends who helped me make an amateur music video. It's based on a song that I wrote last night when I couldn't sleep. In this song I express my raw emotions for this upcoming draft. I know this video is not much, but it's the best my friends and I could do on such short notice. I hope you like it...