April 2009

Expert League Update: Trade Season

man and bear.jpg

Tomorrow is May 1st, a date circled annually on
my calendar, for it marks the beginning of my own personal trade season (of
course every date is circled on my calendar. 
Today is my annual “make friends with a bear” day). 

 

You see, I absolutely love trading in fantasy, it’s my
favorite part of the game.  The draft is
the best single day of the year, but it’s over so fast it’s hard to savor.  Thinking about trades on the other hand can
be enjoyed all season long and the prospect of making a move creates an
everlasting spring of hope from which to drink. 
It’s the difference between tearing into a steak with your bare hands
and cutting it up delicately and enjoying each bite with just the right amount
of ketchup (you know, to really bring out the flavor).  Both ways put the meat in your belly, but
the latter is a much more enjoyable experience (and far less embarrassing for
your friends and significant others. 
Umm, not that I would know).

 

But in order to manage my trade-happy ways, I’ve got to put
in some artificial restraints.  The
primary restriction I impose is a no trades til May policy.  I hope doing so allows me to overcome any
over reactionary feelings I may have and allow me to see my players get a few
reps before actually evaluating them. 
It’s a good thing too, as it prevented me from doing a deal last year
that involved me giving up Ian Kinsler and getting back Howie Kendrick, which
would have been like trading Apple stock for shares of Chrysler.

 

I have to admit though, I have absolutely no idea what to
expect when trading in an expert league. 
I imagine it will be the same as most leagues, but without the one token
guy whose team gets picked clean by vultures before the “Lost” season finale
even airs.  Most trade talks will start
with an insulting offer, and then an equally insulting counter and after a
series of condescending emails are exchanged, the first semi-feasible trade
will finally come up.  Then nine times
out of ten, when one party realizes they can’t just completely and utterly rip
off the other guy, they’ll get cold feet and back off.  But somehow, someway, this process equals
good times.

 

travis_snider.jpg

The expert league has had one trade take place already.  In a somewhat questionable exchange, one team
sent Matt Holiday and Cliff Lee (their 2nd and 5th round
picks) packing only two weeks into the season and received back Bobby Jenks and
Travis Snider.  Maybe it works out for
them, but I must admit it made me thankful for my May 1st rule, as
it appears to be a bit of selling low, buying high. 

 

But it did demonstrate the high level of deference granted
in an expert league, as there was only one public complaint.  I guess everyone in these leagues just
assumes that the person must have their reasoning to make such a move and it’s
not their place to second-guess.  It’s
interesting to observe and quite different than what goes down in leagues among
friends.  If a trade like this had
happened in many home leagues, the first “I’m quitting the league” email would
appear like it was generated by MAILER-DAEMON.

 

I’m glad that such deference is present, as I’m sure I’ll
make at least one dumb move before the year is over.  But I’m glad my restrictor plate is off and
I’m ready to start thinking about moves. 
I’ve hit 20 more homers than anyone else in the league and it’s probably
time to turn some of that excess power into a pitcher that will help me lower
my WHIP, which is currently so abysmal that if it was a GPA, my team would
nearly be scholarship-eligible.  But even if
I don’t make a move right away, I’ll still have fun shopping.  In fact, I think I’ll go do some right now.

Mailbag: Too Many Birds In The Bush?

This may be a dumb
question, but here it is: in one of my leagues, I’ve got Brian Roberts, Nick
Markakis, Aubrey Huff, and Matt Wieters waiting in the wings. I’m thinking of
trading for Adam Jones. I like all of those players, but a part of me thinks I
shouldn’t stock my lineup with too many players from one team. Is this an
irrational thought? Is there a downside to having all of those players when I
actually think they will all produce well?

 

In this blog there is no such thing as dumb questions, only
dumb answers.

 

clarenceroyce.jpg

Your line of thinking here certainly is not irrational.  Marketing a soft drink through a commercial
where two guys jump into each other and explode into a liquid that showers
those around them in what is somehow a refreshing and non-creepy manner?  Now that’s irrational (Sprite – Drink Your
Friends!).  Owning that many guys in
one lineup does carry some risk.  If the
Orioles slump or run into a few hot pitchers, then your fantasy team will
suffer along with them (by the way, is this Clarence Royce?  How did you end up with so many Orioles?)

 

This is especially true if you play in a weekly,
head-to-head league.  In that format, I
don’t like to roster too many guys from one team.  If they face a couple of buzzsaws that week
and get shut down, you will almost certainly lose your matchup.  However, these things tend to balance out
over the course of a season, so under a roto format the risk is significantly
reduced.

 

Overall, this isn’t fantasy football where touchdowns drive
success and there are only so many of those to go around per team.  All your guys can get theirs without harming
anyone else in the lineup.  So if you are
convinced all of your guys will produce and you got good value on each of them,
go ahead and make the trade, especially if you play in a roto league.  As long as each guy puts up the stat levels
you expect from them, it doesn’t really matter what uniform they wear and you
can always make a move later when Wieters gets called up if you actually think
having half the Baltimore lineup is effecting your squad.  Plus, it definitely makes it easier to follow
your fantasy team and you can cue up the video below to fire yourself up each
night.  It’s a hot jam by an artist of
today.  Orioles Magic!

Marry, Bury, Date: Week 4

Welcome back to another week of Marry, Bury, Date — the
childhood game I’ve hijacked to provide the framework for my initial foray into
providing expert fantasy baseball advice.

 

The premise of the game is simple.  Three names are thrown out and the participants
must pick which one they would Marry (ie commit to long-term), Bury (get rid of
forever), or Date (could be fun in the short-term).  When considering trade offers or waiver wire
pick-ups, fantasy players are faced with these same three decisions all the
time, so in an effort to help aid these choices, I’ll name one player who I
like for the rest of the season, one player who I think could help in the
short-term, and one guy I wouldn’t touch in this space each week.

 

prom blazers.jpg

After I’m done, if you want to whisper to the player that I
“like ’em, like ’em” that’s up to you. 
If you do, I look forward to the awkwardness that ensues all the way
through the Junior High Prom.  Maybe I’ll
get my courage up and ask them to dance during Edwin McCain’s “I’ll Be.” 

 

This week’s picks are below. (more…)

Expert League Update: Fearing The Unknown

Picture 092.jpg

Like everyone else, I spent most of my time this weekend
outside enjoying the freakishly nice weather. 
My dog and I went on a romantic couple’s getaway to the Delaware shore
where she spent most of her time ruining the structural integrity of whatever
spot of sand I was currently calling home. 
She’d dig and dig until my chair caved in, then she’d dance around
happily in a circle, like a boxer who had just won a big fight or Homer after
he won a free Krusty Burger.

 

The place we were staying didn’t have internet, so in the
time I spent not wondering if my dog was evil, I was routinely checking my
IPhone for NFL Draft and fantasy baseball updates.  After the Raiders’ weekend, is there any
doubt in your mind whatsoever that you could totally dominate Al Davis in a
fantasy league?  After he took a guy who
WASN’T EVEN INVITED TO THE COMBINE in
the second round on Saturday, all bets are off. 
If Al was in your league, he’d be the guy who opens with Jeter in
the first (doesn’t care if he would available 70 picks later, wants to make
sure he gets him), Nyjer Morgan in the second (likes the speed), Giambi in the
third (never could resist a known cheater), and Chief Bender in the fourth
(Al’s favorite player from childhood, thinks he could still make a comeback).

 

For whatever reason, I could get updates on how my players
were doing, but I couldn’t get a scoreboard to load to see where my matchup
stood in the expert league.  I don’t know
if this has ever happened to you, but it’s absolutely maddening.  Without context, following your players
performances is even more frustrating. 
It’s basically all the stress without any of the reward.  When your guy hits a homer or gets a win, a
usually joyous moment is ruined because you don’t know if it made any
difference at all in the standings.  It’s
like being in a race where you aren’t told how long it will last or where the
finish line is.  You are stuck sprinting
like a sucker and what’s more miserable than just running?  Nothing, that’s what.

 

borowski.jpg

In fact, I’d argue that only seeing your players’ stats is
even worse than just complete radio silence. 
If you didn’t know anything at all, when you finally found out the
results, it would be a quick and relatively painless experience, like checking
your grades online in college.  But when
you know your players performances, you know when one of your pitchers gets
blown up and probably costs you a few categories.  You know, like if you owned Trevor Cahill and
knew he allowed an astounding 10 people on base and gave up seven earned runs
in just 2.2 innings of work on Friday, a performance so poor that even Joe
Borowski couldn’t watch.  Then it’s as if
your professor called just to let you know you’d left one of the ten questions
blank on your final and there was nothing you could do about it.  Wouldn’t you rather not know then spend the
next three weeks thinking you failed and constantly hitting refresh waiting to
find out?

 

So driving back last night, listening to yet another
terrible Nickelback song my co-pilot had picked (I’ve discovered dogs love
them, which is the only thing that can explain their popularity), I assumed I
had been blown out and that my time at the top of the expert league was
kaput.  Upon getting home, I finally had
my answer after three days of worrying. 
Despite having a WHIP that may have lost me the ERA category some weeks,
I managed to only lose 4-5-1 and thanks to a blowout elsewhere, I’d taken sole
possession of first place in my division. 
Turns out my opponent had once again turned in a subpar performance,
allowing me to steal a few categories in the midst of our pathetic struggle (by
the way, is there a decent antonym for “epic”? 
There should be). 

 

cosby.jpg

I didn’t expect for this phenomenon to happen in an expert
league, but right now I’ve ridden this streak of underachieving opponents to
the top, despite having a pitching staff that’s lost it faster than Bill Cosby
(if you haven’t seen this yet, please watch this clip from the Draft
coverage.  I beg you.  Remember it when you see the inevitable
“America’s Dad Bill Cosby Asylumed” headline on CNN in about nine months).  I can’t say I’ve earned it, but after a
weekend of worrying, it’s thrilling to see I’m somehow bringing up the rear in
our leagues race to the bottom.

Fantasy Baseball Expert Interview: Ryan Hallam

Ryan Hallam.JPG

Welcome
back to the newest installment in our series of interviews aimed at giving
readers insight into the minds and backgrounds of those fantasy writers and
pundits who have reached the level of “expert.” It seems there
has been an explosion in the number of people claiming the title in the last
few years, but no one seems to know where they come from. These interviews
aim to change all that, while also giving aspiring “experts” (such as
myself) some advice on both how to break into the industry and ways to improve
your fantasy skills.

Our guest this week is Ryan Hallam, the founder of Fighting
Chance Fantasy
.

 

In your opinion, what makes you a fantasy expert?  (basically the polite way of asking – why
should people listen to you?)

 
There are a few reasons. One, of course, is my experience. I have been playing
fantasy for a long time and have immersed myself in learning all of the
players, having an idea of who will break out and who is on the decline, and I
feel my strategies tend to work. The second reason is I truly do care about my
readers and emailers. I don’t write this blog everyday for my own ego, I do want
to help you succeed. I do get great satisfaction out of watching my readers
succeed.

 

(more…)

Bonus Mailbag: Top Fantasy Rookies

Since my Expert League matchup is fairly dull right now (I’m
down 2-7-1 going into the weekend, but due to a fluke of scheduling, I’ve only
had one starter pitch so far) and I’ve got to post something or there will be
dozens of people in the world with an extra 45 seconds to kill, here is a bonus
mailbag question.

 

Tobee,

Long time reader,
third time poster here. Who are your early favorites for fantasy ROY pitcher
and position player?

 

david price.jpg

Impressive spelling of my name.  I’ve seen it with one “e” before but not
two.  I guess the extra one is short for
“extraordinarily adequate” which is the perfect way to describe me.

 

You do pose an interesting question though.  The favorites for the Rookie of the Year Award (at least in the AL) are probably Matt Wieters and David Price, but since
both are still in the minors, it’s entirely possible that other players end up
having a greater fantasy impact this year. 
In fact, Wieters and Price are actually hurting fantasy players who
participate in leagues with short benches right now, as they are taking up
valuable real estate without providing any production.

 

However, the rumor winds are starting to gust saying Price
will be pitching in Tampa by the first week of May.  If they prove true and he joins the rotation
in place of the struggling Jeff Niemann, he’ll throw about 150 innings this
year.  With the backing of that powerful offense
and with Price’s huge strikeout potential, it would be foolish to think another
rookie pitcher will have a bigger fantasy impact this year. 

 

That being said, Jordan Zimmermann’s debut with the
Nationals, while not spectacular, proved he belongs on the big league level and
with no one pushing him for his rotation spot, he’ll finish the season as a Top
50 starting pitcher and is thus ownable in all but the shallowest of leagues.

 

octomom poster.jpg

On the hitter’s side, my current crush on Dexter Fowler is
well documented, so he’s got to be my choice. 
Because of Fowler, Seth Smith is becoming irrelevant faster than
Octomom, as Fowler is playing nearly every day.  At the top of that Rockies lineup, he’s going
to score 100 runs, while stealing 25-30 bags and hitting 15-20 homers.  If Wieters doesn’t come up until June, he’ll
likely hit 5-10 more homers than Fowler on the season while stealing 25 less
bags and scoring 30 less runs.  Depending
on your league format, for this year and this year only, I’d rather have Fowler
and his full season’s worth of production over the much-hyped Wieters.

Tomorrow we’ll have an interview with Ryan Hallam of Fighting Chance Fantasy.  If you have any questions for Ryan, leave them in the comments below.

(more…)

Mailbag – FAAB Management and Point Break 2

2 Questions for the
mailbag:

 

nick swisher pitching.jpg

1) There are a
plethora of guides out there for the average fantasy player to reference to
establish the value of a player during draft time. But, I know of nothing
comparable to reference when using a FAAB budget for picking up a player off of
the waiver wire. Is there a good place to go to get an idea of how much to bid
on a player who is on the waiver wire? If there is nothing out there, do you
have any ground rules that you can suggest? In my league ($100 FAAB), I have routinely
seen people bid $0 for a player, but then I have also seen bids on what I
considered average pick-ups balloon to as high as $14.

 

Great question.  As a
quick primer, FAAB is short for Free Agent Acquisition Budget and it serves as
an alternative to waiver wires for distributing free agents.  It’s basically a mini-auction held every week
and if your league doesn’t use it, I highly recommend you consider implementing
it next year, as it’s both a fairer way to distribute free agents and a lot of
fun (who wouldn’t want to have a mini version of draft day every week?)

 

I agree with you, weekly guidelines for FAAB bidding are
seemingly sparse across the internet, which is shocking when you consider the
amount of content devoted to this silly hobby of ours each and every week.  The only dedicated column to the subject I
know about is written by Jeff Erickson at Rotowire, but its part of their pay
content.  So unless you are willing to
part with real bucks to get some guidance on how to spend your fake bucks, you
are on your own.

 

I guess one of the problems with creating a blanket
guideline for FAAB is the price determination is incredibly fact specific, as
the value of a player can swing wildly based on budget, mixed-league vs solo
league, shallowness of the league, number of bench spots, etc.  Assuming you aren’t in a solo league where
there is a serious incentive to hoard as much FAAB as possible in case a star
is traded across leagues, I think there are three primary factors to consider:

(more…)

Marry, Bury, Date: Week 3

Thumbnail image for old prom.JPG

Welcome back to another week of Marry, Bury, Date — the
childhood game I’ve hijacked to provide the framework for my initial foray into
providing expert fantasy baseball advice.

 

The premise of the game is simple.  Three names are thrown out and the participants
must pick which one they would Marry (ie commit to long-term), Bury (get rid of
forever), or Date (could be fun in the short-term).  When considering trade offers or waiver wire
pick-ups, fantasy players are faced with these same three decisions all the
time, so in an effort to help aid these choices, I’ll name one player who I
like for the rest of the season, one player who I think could help in the
short-term, and one guy I wouldn’t touch in this space each week.

 

After I’m done, if you want to whisper to the player that I
“like ’em, like ’em” that’s up to you. 
If you do, I look forward to the awkwardness that ensues all the way
through the Junior High Prom.  Maybe I’ll
get my courage up and ask them to dance during “Lady in Red.” 

 

This week’s picks are below.

(more…)

Expert League Update: Nats Bullpen Causes Loss, Pain

kolb watercooler.jpg

Is there anything more frustrating in baseball than a
consistently wretched bullpen?  My first
year of law school, the guy who lived in the apartment beneath mine was a huge
Braves fan and never missed a game.  Once
he found out I was a fan of both baseball and watching people suffer, he invited
me to join the Dan Kolb Experience. 

 

Every time the Braves had a lead in the late stages of the
game, this guy (let’s call him Mad Cat) called or e-mailed me to let me know
Kolb was about to come in.  I’d then come
down to his apartment, where it was curtains up.  I’d watch in delighted horror as Kolb and Mad
Cat both experienced complete and utter meltdowns each and every night.  It was amazing.  No lead was safe, no situation was
unscrewupable (is too a word).

 

As Kolb blew game after game, Mad Cat would shift between
coping mechanisms.  Some nights he’d yell
and scream.  Other nights he’d quietly
stew and rub his temples.  My favorite
nights occurred when he would just mutter super bitter sarcastic comments after
every pitch.  My least favorite nights
were when he’d glance back and forth from the TV to the sword that hung on the
wall, lost in his own J.D. from “Scrubs” fantasy world.  Every night, one thing was clear though —
Dan Kolb was ruining his life.  And I was
delighted to watch it happen.

 

ultimate warrior cleaning house.jpg

Nearly five years later, my chickens are coming home to
roost.  The Nationals just finished an
epic series with the Marlins, blowing all three games in the ninth inning at
home.  I don’t know the last time a home team
lost the lead in the ninth in every game of a series, but I’m guessing Kolb was
involved (if not, he’s got to be extremely jealous right now).  I do know that the Nationals desperately
needed a win and losing in such spectacular fashion three straight nights puts
them in danger of squandering the goodwill they gained with their fan base
after the Adam Dunn signing.  They apparently
know this, as after the game, The Nats cleaned house like they were the
Ultimate Warrior rushing into the ring on “Saturday Night’s Main Event.”  The last boo hadn’t even finished echoing
through the stadium before Saul Rivera (last night’s losing pitcher who managed
to turn a 4-3 lead into a 7-4 deficit in the blink of a fan’s tearful eye) and two
other relievers were either sent down or designated for assignment.

 

So why am I writing about this in a fantasy baseball
blog?  Well one because writing is my
coping mechanism and while the Nats have put their fans through a lot since
returning to the nation’s capital, this series marked a new low and served as a perfect microcosm
for the team.  They constantly get their
fans hopes up, whether it be through an early lead or a roster full of young
talent, but so far they seemingly always find a way to crush their fans faith and
if I don’t vent for a few paragraphs here, I’ll find it hard to tune into the
game tonight.  I can’t let that happen,
the season is too young.  To quote Robert
The Bruce “I DON’T WANT TO LOSE HEART!  I
want to believe.”

 

But way more relevantly, I had injury added to insult as I
entered the weekend leading my Expert League matchup by two in the saves
category.  While many fantasy owners were
hurt by owning Joel Hanrahan, I faced the opposite problem, as I was playing
against Matt Lindstrom.  If the Nats
could have closed out any of those games, Lindstrom would have been left in the
bullpen and my lead would have been safe. 
But instead, by the time the dust had settled on Sunday, I had watched
on in horror as my opponent rode Lindstrom to tie me for the week.  While I still managed to win the matchup
5-4-1, after the roller coaster ride the Nats had put me through, I felt like I
had been sucker punched and I knew that somewhere, Mad Cat was laughing.

Fantasy Baseball Expert Interview – Matthew Leach

matthew leach book cover.jpg

Welcome
back to the newest installment in our series of interviews aimed at giving
readers insight into the minds and backgrounds of those fantasy writers and
pundits who have reached the level of “expert.” It seems there
has been an explosion in the number of people claiming the title in the last
few years, but no one seems to know where they come from. These interviews
aim to change all that, while also giving aspiring “experts” (such as
myself) some advice on both how to break into the industry and ways to improve
your fantasy skills.

Our guest this week is Matthew Leach, the longtime Cardinals
beat writer for MLB.com
and author of “Game of My Life: St. Louis Cardinals:
Memorable Stories of Cardinals Baseball,” which you can buy here.

 

Do you think your
role as a beat writer helps or hurts in playing fantasy?

Yes. It helps with some things — I have a pretty good read on the teams in the
NL Central and what they’re doing, as well as the teams I see a lot in Spring
Training (Orioles, Mets, Marlins). But it can be harder to keep up with the
rest of the game, because I’m so focused on the team right in front of me.

 

(more…)