Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The League of Extraordinary CryBabies

If I had Photoshop skills, I'd replace "Gentlemen" with "CryBabies" and put baby bonnets and pacifiers on everyone. Oh well.

Earlier I mentioned that I'm playing in the CryBabies League. Here's the rundown. It's head-to-head in the following categories:
  • Offense/Defense (10 categories) - runs, hits, home runs, runs batted in, stolen bases, assists, batting average, OPS, outfield assists 
  • Pitching (7 categories) - wins, losses, saves, strikeouts, earned run average, WHIP, quality starts
Each week you're competing against one team. What has surprised me is that it's not like fantasy football, which is a "winner take all" matchup every week. But in this H2H league, you divvy up the categories that you win, lose, or tie. For example, during Week 1, the Mush Heads beat me in 12 categories, I won 4 categories, and we tied in 1 category. So after Week 1, my record was 4-12-1.

There are eight teams in the league, and the top six make the playoffs. So it's nice if you can get one of the top two playoff seeds and earn yourself a first round bye. Speaking of playoffs, after 3 weeks completed, if the playoffs started today I would barely make it:

1. Mush Heads                 29-16-6
2. Apple Sucks                 28-17-6
3. Hemroids                     23-22-6
4. Steroid to Heaven         24-24-3
5. NoMeat                       22-25-4 
6. Vindictive Separists      21-26-4
7. tballchamps                  20-25-6
8. ALL STARS!!!!!!!!!!!  18-30-3

And here's my roster:

Bench - Carlos Pena
Bench - Kurt Suzuki

In terms of pitching, you need to have your pitchers go at least 20 innings for the week in order to have pitching stats count for your team. Also, you're only allowed 5 transactions per week, so that limits streaming to some degree.

I'm still trying to get a better feel for the math side of this league. One thing I've noticed is that outfield assists (OFA) seems to be a category that teams usually get zero for the week. So I suppose that if you can add an outfielder or two who hits well AND tends to get many outfield assists, that might get you an advantage.

However, you might be better off trying to chase assists (infield assists). And actually, my team might be in a good position to do that. Both Zobrist and Dunn play the infield, but they have outfield eligibility. So if I play both those guys in my outfield, I might be able to gain an advantage in assists compared to a team that's playing 3 regular outfielders.

We'll see how things go. Right now I've circled Week 8 on the calendar. That's when I can get my revenge against the Mush Heads.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Trivia: Complete Domination

Okay, I recently heard this one from Jayson Stark. Last decade, the 00's, Roy Halladay pitched 47 complete games. Only two currently active pitchers were within 20 complete games of Halliday for that decade. One is a righty and the other a lefty. Can you name those two pitchers?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

My strategy: End game (Part 7 of 7)

This is the final post in a seven-part series documenting my fantasy baseball strategy. We've focused on winning now as opposed to the future, formulated a system to accumulate points, filled our roster with quality hitters and pitchers through the draft, and have made good trades and waiver wire pickups to safely navigate the league's rough waters for much of the season. We're in contention for a championship. Now it's time to seal the deal and bring it home.

Growing up, I was a big Ohio State football fan. (Okay, so I was a skinny Ohio State football fan, but you know what I mean.) In 1993, the Buckeyes started 8-0, and for the first time in years their fans were buzzing about a possible Rose Bowl berth. Next on their schedule were the Wisconsin Badgers, and I'll never forget reading this quote from OSU's star running back at the time, Raymont Harris: "I can smell a faint smell of roses. But right now I smell Badgers. And the roses smell a lot better." Unfortunately, the Buckeyes went on to only get a tie against the Badgers. Then after a win against Indiana, OSU finished their season with a 28-0 loss at the hands of their archrival, Michigan. No Rose Bowl for the Buckeyes.

During the 2009 UPL baseball season, my '90 Reds were in first place for much of May, June, July, and August. When the calendar had turned to September, I was feeling good about my chances. But the defending champ, C-Lauff's Team IamJabrone, was still close behind and eager to play the spoiler. I couldn't help but have flashbacks to 1993 and thinking like Raymont Harris: "I can smell the faint smell of a championship. But right now I smell Jabrones. And the championship smells a lot better."

Motivated to avoid the same type of collapse that had cost Harris and the Buckeyes a Rose Bowl trip 16 years earlier, I was now obsessing about the end game.

The start of the end

In any roto baseball league, my end game thinking starts shortly before the trading deadline. In the UPL, this deadline tends to be about the middle of August. So in late July I'm taking a hard look at how the categories are playing out league-wide and what types of trades could help my team. (Obviously, in a keeper league, if you feel that you have no shot at winning the championship, your focus at the trade deadline should be to do whatever best sets up your team for the next season.)

The end game in theory
And down the stretch they come! Just remember, if you're not willing to furiously whip your horse for extra performance at the end, somebody else will.

In March and April of a fantasy baseball season, I'm primarily picking players who I think will perform the best over the long run (6-month season). But by late July, two big changes have occurred.
  • We've collected 3+ months of real data on players. Thus it's slightly easier to project how a player will perform over the final 10 weeks of the season when making that projection in July, as opposed to March. 
  • We've also collected 3+ months of data on our team as well as our opponents' teams. So now we have a slightly better idea as to which categories will be most critical down the stretch.
In other words, early in the season I'm looking to acquire players who, given time, will perform the best during a 6-month season. But once it's down to the end game, I'm looking to acquire players who have the best chance to put up big numbers in the critical categories that I'll need to win the championship.

Back in part two, I wrote at length about the importance of team balance and trying to win all of the categories. And while it would be nice to win all of the categories, come late July you'll have a more realistic view of the scoreboard and what your team can actually accomplish. I wouldn't punt on any categories in late July or early August, but I would be willing to start emphasizing some categories over others for the purposes of making a trade.

For instance, in 2007 I was willing to trade the reigning AL MVP Justin Morneau (power) for Carl Crawford (steals) at the trade deadline because I saw that SB was the one category that I could gain the most ground on my main opponent (O.N. Thugs). And since I still had plenty of power on my team, the trade worked out as I closed the gap and finished in a tie for first with the Thugs.

As we move deeper into September, the end game comes into sharper focus in terms of which categories will be crucial. And here we can employ some strategies that would be crazy in June, but just might be necessary in September and October.

End gaming the system

Last August (2009) my team was sputtering. We weren't hitting or pitching particularly well, and while I wasn't going to panic, I knew that I needed to make a move. My main opponents were likely to make deadline deals to get better, and I had to do the same. So what move would best improve my team?

As I explored many trade possibilities last August, one thing started to become clear. I had an injured Carlos Beltran who likely would provide no further production in my quest for victory in 2009. And yet he still had some decent trade value for what he could likely do in 2010 and beyond. In looking at which players might be available in a trade, the fact that future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones had batted .400/.500 (OBP/SLG) over the past month with 6 homers really caught my attention. If Chipper could do anything close to that over the final 6 weeks of the season, he could help me in five categories (R, RBI, HR, OBP, and SLG). So Phatsnapper and I made that deadline deal in mid-August.

As the 2009 season winded down, many categories stayed in play. But on the offensive side, one category did start to stand out as especially important: steals. Over the final few weeks, I took every available opportuntiy to borrow a speedy guy from the waiver wire and place him in my lineup for a shot at an extra steal. And in the final week of the season, I was still looking at potentially +/- 2 points (4 point swing) in the steals category alone. With much smaller and much less likely possible point swings in the categories of HR, RBI, OBP, and SLG, I played Michael Bourn over Manny Ramirez at every chance. The reason being that Manny hitting 2 homers and 6 RBI in a single game might not raise my team point total at all. But Bourn getting 3 steals in a game could be the difference between losing two points or gaining two points in the standings. (Note: My other outfielders were Justin Upton and Carlos Gonzalez, so Manny was the only one in that group who wasn't much of a threat to steal.)

On the pitching side of things, I employed many spot starts over the past month or so of the season. I picked up and dropped several different pitchers, such as Pedro Martinez, Doug Fister, Barry Zito, and Andy Pettitte, and put them in games where I thought they had good matchups. Overall, this worked out okay for me. Not great, but okay.

Where things got interesting, though, was the morning of the second-to-last day of the season. My team was nursing a slim lead when I looked at the pitching stats and saw the following:
  • Can't go up in W points
  • Could take 3 losses and go down 2.5 in L points
  • Could gain or lose a half point in saves
  • Unlikely to see movement in any other pitching categories
In terms of likely pitching outcomes, by playing my pitchers I was looking at anywhere from gaining a half point to losing 3 points that otherwise wouldn't have happened. After examining all the scenarios, I determined that my best move was to bench all of my pitchers for the remainder of the season (Saturday and Sunday). That was Plan A. I also had a Plan B. Depending on what happened on Saturday, I might change my mind on Sunday out of a need to play my pitchers. One possibility was that somehow Westy's Sluggers would get a surprising number of W's and catch me in that category. Another unlikely event would be for IamJabrone to get way more K's than I expected. So on Saturday morning I not only benched all of my pitchers, I also picked up two likely Sunday starters, Homer Bailey and Chris Narveson, just in case I needed to make a miracle comeback that would include wins and K's on the final day.  

 Sometimes you need a Plan B to win. This holds true for most things in life, but especially for feel-good sports movies.
As we now know, the Beltran-for-Chipper deal didn't really work out for me. Chipper had some nagging injuries and slumped a bit. Although, he still gave my team more than Beltran would have in September. Time will tell if that deal hurts me in 2010, but I can't second guess it. At the time, I was looking to be aggressive and win in 2009. Chipper was swinging a hot bat at the time of the trade, and so I went for it.

Fortunately, Chipper aside, my offense did step up down the stretch, and on the pitching side, I didn't have to bring in my pitchers on the final Sunday. In fact, you could say that things came up roses for the '90 Reds.

Thank you for reading this series about my fantasy baseball strategy in the UPL. I've had fun pondering and documenting my various tactics, and of course, I'm still open to new ideas. I enjoy the discussions with other players, and my hope is to keep learning.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Vindictive Separatists

So, for the first time ever, I'm in two fantasy baseball leagues. I'm still playing in the UPL, and I've now added the CryBabies League into the mix.

Mr. Hayes (of Mush Heads' UPL fame) is the commissioner of the CryBabies League, which is a head-to-head format. There are only eight teams, so each team is loaded with talent. The most important thing is to make sure your team is hitting on all cylinders the last few weeks of the season.

The Mush Heads gave me a rude awakening in Week 1, drubbing me so badly across the categories that I found myself in last place. After Week 2, I climbed from 8th to 7th. So technically, even though I'm doing terrible in the UPL, I'm doing even worse in the CryBabies League. (Side note: I was a hypocrite and didn't take my own drafting advice, instead settling for an autodraft that saddled me with my top two picks being 3Bs: Alex Rodriguez and David Wright. I'll likely have to make a trade at some point.)

But the CryBabies League is fun. One thing I've noticed is that there's no shortage of entertaining team names, such as "Hemroids," "Apple Sucks," "tballchamps," and my personal favorite, "Steroid to Heaven."

In order to come up with my own team name, I went to Razzball's Fantasy Baseball Team Name Generator. I selected an "agitated adjective" for category 1, and then a "war term" for catgory 2. And voila! "Vindictive Separatists" was my randomly generated team name. Works for me.

I think it's OK to pick a team name by random. The problems come when you try to pick players at random. We'll see if I can dig myself out of the cellar by season's end.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Trivia: Most RBI by a Rookie

Jason Heyward's rookie season is off to a fast start. In fact, with 15 RBI through his first 12 games, he's currently on pace for about 200 RBI. Albert Pujols had 130 RBI during his rookie season, which is the National League record. But the major league record for RBI by a rookie is 145. Who holds that record?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A League of Her Own? Japanese Girl Brings Wicked Knuckleball to U.S. Pro Team

I've thought about it before. Somehow I end up on a major league team, we're up 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth, and the manager calls on me to close the game. I'm, of course, not major league material, so what would I have to do to get the job done?

As it turns out, I can throw a bit of a knuckleball. Granted, it's not major league quality, but it'd be my only chance. Either that or throw my 65 m.p.h. fastball at the other team's best hitter's head in hopes that (after he easily steps out of its way) he'd be enraged, chase after me, and then after I sprinted back to the bullpen and safely locked myself inside, the umps would throw him out of the game.

So I guess it should come as no surprise that the first woman ever to be signed by a U.S. professional baseball team is a knuckleballer. Her name is Eri Yoshida, she's been playing in Japan and has now signed with the Chico Outlaws in California. Here's an excerpt from Nicolas Lewis' article on Technorati:
[Yoshida] has received some coaching from Tim Wakefield, and both he and her Chico bosses - former major-leaguers Garry Templeton and Mike Marshall - see something in her that gives them confidence, so at least for now, I will express the same.
We'll wait and see how Yoshida's pitching career progresses and whether she's able to climb the minor league ranks. Although, my guess is that right now she could mow down the Astros' lineup.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

20 Years Later: Remembering the 1990 Reds

Hard to believe, but 20 years ago this month the Cincinnati Reds started their improbable run toward the 1990 World Series. If you look at the sidebar of this blog, under My Baseball History, you'll find that I wrote: "As it turned out, the Reds started that season 9-0 and the excitement pulled this 10-year-old boy along for the ride. I remember quite a bit from that season..."

Ah yes, 9-0. What a great start to the season. (I don't think any teams this year even made it to 6-0.) Just for fun, without looking up anything online, I'll list some things that I remember from that 1990 season.

First off, here's who I remember from that team:

Infield: C - Joe Oliver, 1B - Todd Benzinger (and Hal Morris), 2B - Mariano Duncan, SS - Barry Larkin, 3B - Chris Sabo
Outfield was: RF - Paul O'Neill, CF - Eric Davis, LF - Billy Hatcher (and off the bench they had Rolando Roomes and Herm Winningham)
Starting pitchers: Jose Rijo, Tom Browning, Danny Jackson, Jack Armstrong, and ???
Bullpen: Randy Myers, Rob Dibble, Norm Charlton, and Bobby Ayala(?)
Manager: Lou Piniella
Owner: Marge Schott (and her St. Bernards!)

And here are some  random nuggets I seem to recall:
  • The Reds began the year by sweeping the Astros.
  • Barry Larkin started the season by going 21 for 35 (.600).
  • Rob Dibble didn't do well in the All-Star game and the NL lost.
  • The Reds raced out to a 33-12 record, best in baseball, and then cooled off.
  • At a game in New York against the Mets, the Reds' closer Randy Myers got to bat in an extra inning game. It was way past my bedtime, but I just had to listen on the radio. Myers came through with an RBI triple, and I couldn't believe my ears. The Reds held on to win. (It was worth staying up late.)
  • The Reds actually clinched the division with a loss (might have been to the Padres... somehow the Padres were involved with the Reds clinching, I think).
  • The Pittsburgh Pirates (with Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, Doug Drabek, and Andy Van Slyke) faced off against the Reds in the NLCS.
  • The Pirates won a high-scoring Game 1 in Cincy.
  • The Reds won a low-scoring Game 2.
  • At some point in the NLCS, Eric Davis threw out (Bonds or Bonilla) at third base for a critical out in a critical game that the Reds won.
  • Reds won the NLCS in 6.
  • The Oakland A's (with Jose Canseco, Mark McGwire, Dave Stewart, Dennis Eckersley, Walt Weiss, and can't remember if Rickey Henderson was on that team...) faced off against the Reds in the World Series. 
  • Eric Davis hit a two-run homer in the first inning of the World Series Game 1 in Cincy. I went to bed shortly thereafter (school night). Got up early the next day to see that the Reds won 7-0.
  • Some guy for the Reds with the last name Bates scored a crucial run in either the NLCS or the World Series. In any case, I do remember this guy's 15 minutes of fame. I just can't remember when it happened. (I want to say the Reds won an extra inning game 5-4 with Bates scoring the winning run or something.)
  • With the Reds up 3-0 in the Series, a headline in the Dayton Daily News read "A's Vow to Sweep."
  • In Game 4 of the World Series, Hal Morris got a sac fly for the go ahead run. Then I believe Todd Benzinger caught a fly ball in foul territory to seal the 2-1 win and World Series sweep.
  • Jose Rijo won World Series MVP.
  • Billy Hatcher set the record for best batting average in a World Series (he went 8 for 9).
Some of the aforementioned memories might be imperfect or wrong. Feel free to correct the record in the comments section.

As this 20th anniversary season continues, here on the blog I'll try to sprinkle in a few more memories and tributes to the '90 Reds.

UPDATE: I've started surfing the Web to see how much I remembered correctly. I was right about the Reds starting with a sweep of the Astros, and Larkin starting 21 for 35. I was wrong about Bobby Ayala (I must have meant Tim Layana). And I knew that I was forgetting some guys, one of whom was Glenn Braggs. Also, I just now found a fun article by Joe Erardi about the '90 Reds. Here's an excerpt:
The myth is that the 1990 Reds were sprinkled with magic dust. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
A generation later, the statistical geeks were able to quantify what only Piniella knew at the time: The Reds were perfectly built for the postseason.
In the book, "Baseball Between the Numbers," authors Nate Silver and Dayn Perry argue that three factors more than any others correlate to playoff success:
Closer quality.
Pitchers' strikeout rate.
Of the 180 teams to make the playoffs from 1972 to 2005, the '90 Reds were the second-best suited team for success in the playoffs, ranking high in all three categories. (Best was the 1979 Baltimore Orioles, who blew a 3-1 lead in the World Series and lost to the Pirates.)
I also see that Erardi has a book coming out this May about the '90 Reds, called, "The Wire-to-Wire Reds." Cool.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Trivia: Switch Hitter Homers

Former Yankee great Mickey Mantle has the most career home runs for a switch hitter with 536. Another Hall of Famer, Eddie Murray, is second with 504 homers. Can you name which current player is #3 on the all-time home run list for switch hitters?

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Hit parade...

Tough day for Joe Saunders. AP photo

CUBS ARE NUMBER ONE! (Most expensive tickets in baseball)

UPL UPDATE: The JimmyDix Restructuring.

FORBES: Ten most valuable MLB teams.
1. New York Yankees - $1,600,000,000
2. Boston Red Sox - $870,000,000
3. New York Mets - $858,000,000
4. Los Angeles Dodgers - $727,000,000
5. Chicago Cubs - $726,000,000
6. Philadelphia Phillies - $537,000,000
7. Anaheim Angels - $521,000,000
8. St. Louis Cardinals - $488,000,000
9. San Francisco Giants - $483,000,000
10. Chicago White Sox - $466,000,000
THE START of something special? Strasburg to debut in the minors this Sunday for Harrisburg.

PRINCE FIELDER could be in line for a $200 million deal.

CHEATER? Twins third base coach tried to imitate runner during the last play of the Sox-Twins game.

Monday, April 5, 2010

My strategy: Roster moves (Part 6 of 7)

This is the sixth in a seven-part series documenting my fantasy baseball strategy. In part five we discussed some ideas for drafting players. Now we'll examine some basic principles I follow when considering trades and waiver wire moves.

On May 10, 2009, I looked at Joe Saunders' season stats and was very pleased with my 18th round pick: He was 5-1 with a 2.66 ERA. Better yet, he was fresh off a complete game shutout victory over Zack Greinke and the Royals. But my celebration didn't last long. It was time for me to quickly get Saunders off my team--even if it meant flat out dropping him.

So how could this be? Joe Saunders had gone 17-7 in 2008, and so far in 2009 he was 5-1 with a 2.66 ERA. Why would anyone be in a rush to trade him, let alone drop him? Well, the answer is quite simple: In my world, he was no longer a "championship piece."

To trade or not to trade, that is the question

In theory, if you can develop a good system and then find the right personnel to implement that system, you can have a good team. The only problem, of course, is that this is easier said than done. You're going to have players who slump and guys who get injured, so there will be many times during a 6-month fantasy baseball season when you need to make roster moves, either finding guys on the waiver wire or making trades.

And really, we can simplify this a bit further. Every roster move you make is actually a trade. Either you're trading players with Mr. Other Manager, or you're trading players with Mr. Waiver Wire. I prefer to trade with Mr. Waiver Wire because I can usually rip him off.

There are several solid strategies for approaching roster moves. And I imagine that, at some level, most managers consider value over replacement player (VORP) whether they realize it or not. The Chairman has also posted about VORP. Essentially, with roster moves, you're expecting to add more stats to your team than you lose, and you want to factor in position scarcity to be more efficient in where you gain those stats. (For example, it's silly to trade your best 2B for another guy's best 3B when you have no other good options at 2B and a nearly-as-good 3B was already sitting on the waiver wire.)

Over the years, I've tried to add another wrinkle to my thinking when it comes to roster moves. I'm not sure if it's revolutionary, unconventional, or just plain reckless, but some seasons it seems to work okay. I call it the "champioinship pieces" philosophy.

Championship pieces

Back in part two, I explained the framework in which I try to accumulate points. Here's an excerpt from that previous post to give you a window into my thinking:
Every player on my team needs to have a clear purpose for being there. Even players on the bench. Players who start for my team are expected to produce now. Players on my bench are expected to produce when a starter can't go. Period.
Every manager wants his starters to produce now. That's nothing new. But I tend to put more emphasis on balance, and this includes having the strongest bench that I possibly can. Aside from the fact that it can lessen the damage done by injuries, a strong bench also gives me more opportunities to play platoons. 

In the excerpt above I also mention that "every player on my team needs to have a clear purpose for being there." When things are going very well, most players on my team are contributing in a big way, and the rest are at least contributing in a small way. It's rare to have this happen, but when it does, that's when my roster is completely filled with championship pieces.

What exactly is a championship piece? Well, it's hard to explain. I'm reminded of Justice Potter Stewart's famous quote from a 1964 Supreme Court ruling, "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description ["hard-core pornography"]; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it."

But unlike Justice Stewart, I will try to further define championship pieces. Here goes:
  1. I want my team to put up great numbers
  2. I want my team to be balanced
  3. Any player proving to be a key contributor to either (1) or (2) is, in my mind, a championshp piece
Another important thing to keep in mind regarding the championship pieces philosophy is that it gains steam as the season unfolds. After all, early on it's anyone's guess as to how players and teams will perform. And if June 1 rolls around with my team mired in 9th place, I'm not exactly going to be viewing my players as championship pieces. However, if June 1 rolls around and my team is in the top 3 battling for a title, then I'm definitely viewing each player with one question in mind: Is he a championship piece or not?

If my team is going well in May, let's say in 1st or 2nd place, I might look at my roster and identify 16 or 17 guys as championship pieces. My goal is then to see if I can get up to 18, then 19 and so on. The main idea here is to not go backward. If someone offers to trade me a perceived championship piece, but I would have to give up a championship piece in return, then what has my team gained?

Let's take last season for example. If I had had the first pick of the 2009 UPL Baseball Draft, I would have taken Albert Pujols. (I ended up with the 8th pick and took Ryan Howard.) However, after my team bubbled to the top of the standings and my 17th-round pick Pablo Sandoval showed signs of becoming a good MLB hitter, an interesting development occured. If I had been offered Pujols for Sandoval, I likely wouldn't have done the deal. Why? Two reasons. 1) Sandoval added tremendous balance to my team with position eligibility at C, 1B, and 3B. 2) Pujols would have been a bit redundant, since I already had Howard. So yes, Pujols would have increased my team's talent level, but he wouldn't have improved its balance.

My modus operandi

In the Urbana Premier League (UPL) where I play fantasy baseball, I make relatively few trades with other managers. Here's why:
  1. Greater margins to improve my team exist on the waiver wire (I can more easily "rip off" the waiver wire than another manager)
  2. I want to be careful that any trade I make will fit into my team's overall system
  3. In general, I don't want to directly participate in making my opponents' teams better
Let me elaborate on that last point with an analogy. If you're on fire in the UPL, and I have a glass of water, and you're looking at me for help, then I'm probably just going to drink that glass of water.

Oh, I'm sorry, is that your house on fire? Welcome to the UPL, my friend.

Back in part four I opined that saves are a more reliable bet than win-loss ratio. As such, this can explain why I tend to favor trading starters for closers. It also explains why last season I cheered when the Thugs traded away Brian Fuentes for Clayton Kershaw--and then I cursed when he traded Tommy Hunter and Phil Hughes for Andrew Bailey. (Side note: My feeling is that the Bailey deal helped the Thugs' point total in 2009, but the Kershaw deal not so much. From a keeper standpoint, it will be interesting to see how this pair of trades looks in 2010 and the years ahead.)

Here's another example. In 2007, I had a healthy Brandon Webb pitching at a high level. However, I had a full staff of quality SPs, and as such, I started to question whether Brandon Webb was a championship piece or a redundant part with excellent trade value to help me land a real championship piece. After doing my homework on Jonathan Papelbon (including his full injury history, how he was managing his health, and watching interviews of him in the media), the Jabrones and I agreed to a deal: Webb for Papelbon. The Jabrones got what they wanted: One of the best starting pitchers in baseball. But in my estimation, Papelbon with his saves and rate stats would balance out my team better and I could win a championship without Webb. Fortunately, that year I tied for first, and yes, Papelbon's saves were critical.

What I Reallly Thought About Joe Saunders

Earlier I alluded to my Joe Saunders dilemma. He was 5-1 with a 2.66 ERA on May 10, 2009, but I wanted him off my team--even if it meant dropping him. So how did I reach this point? Easy. Saunders has a paltry K/9 rate, and it's hard to compete in that category with him on your team. Plus his only redeeming quality is his W-L ratio, which I've already stated isn't a very reliable stat. And finally, once I had determined he was no longer a championship piece, I started looking for championship pieces elsewhere. Time was of the essence, and I didn't want to waste it with Saunders being a drag on my roster.

And there was something else at play here. In the days leading up to May 10, my OF Manny Ramirez was suspended 50 games, and my 3B Aramis Ramirez landed on the 60-day DL. I needed to add a bat to my lineup. So I worked out a deal for Mike Cameron, who at the time had put up better numbers than Manny Ramirez over the first 5 weeks of the season. Granted, I didn't expect Cameron to keep it up, but I did hope he would be good enough to be my 4th OF and work him into my lineup a few times a week. In that regard, I did hope he would become a championship piece, and I did believe he was better than anyone on the waiver wire. (Those of you with good memories will recall that shortly after this deal was made during the week of May 10, both Saunders and Cameron went into a tailspin, so nobody "won" this trade. Although, it did win an unofficial UPL award for "most meaningless trade.")

Okay, now we're getting down to the end of this series. Next time in part seven we'll talk about the end game, where sometimes you need to chuck everything you know and just do whatever it takes to win.

Trivia: Who Owns Opening Day?

From a historical perspective, if your team loses on Opening Day, it doesn't bode well for their chances of winning the World Series. Since 1903, just 33 World Series champions had lost their first game of the season.

New York has had lots of success on Opening Day over the years. The Mets have the best record in the National League, but they haven't been quite as good as the Yankees who have the second-best record in the American League. In fact, four of the top five AL Opening Day records belong to teams in the AL East. Can you name which AL East team has the best Opening Day winning percentage in all of baseball?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Strike a pose

I remember countless times as a kid practicing different major league batting stances in the backyard. As a young Cincinnati Reds fan, I thought Eric Davis had the coolest stance, but my dad would never let me do that in a game. I didn't have Davis' natural gift of lightning quick hands to make up for his stance's poor fundamentals, so I had to use a more conventional one. In real games, I tried to pattern my stance after Barry Larkin, although I doubt mine resembled his at all.

A while back ESPN had a great segment about batting stances. It has everything from Cal Ripken's countless stances to Julio Franco's funny one. And you'll get to see perhaps the best batting stance impersonator on the planet, Gar Ryness the Batting Stance Guy. Here's the video. Enjoy.