Thursday, March 31, 2011

Top 10 Blown Save Types

So I had Yovani Gallardo on my fantasy team today, and after a scuffling day in Cincy, he left with a 6-2 lead in the seventh. By the ninth, it was 6-3, with closer John Axford in to try and lock it down against the middle of the Reds order. Six batters and a walk-off three-run home run later, the Reds were winners, and my first-day lead in my fantasy league was gone. So sad, really. And very reminiscent of any number of closer blowups over my years as a fantasy player, all of which left a mark. Let's go through the types in turn, shall we?

10) Death By A Thousand Cuts - This one is where your guy pitches well, but gets dinked and dunked to death, with a special assist from the umpire and/or the road crowd. This one hurts like acid in a cut, usually because it tends to happen to poor teams where save opportunities seem precious, and on the road against full-house MLB+ teams. While it kills your WHIP and ERA, the damage isn't so bad, because there's usually an out or two in the mix, and the closer doesn't lose the gig. At least, not until it happens three or four more times, at which point your stats are totally crushed.

9) Clear Air Turbusuck - Your guy comes in with a one-run lead in the ninth, and blows away the first two hitters as he works on the bottom of the order. A ball then nicks a hitter or falls in for an excuse me hit, and it's followed by a foul pole home run from a banjo hitter on an 0-2 count, where your guy was just trying to waste one away.

Like many of these, this one is best left unseen, since it will seem like you have the closer of the damned, or a guy who is working for the modern-day equivalent of the Cleveland Spiders. But as blown saves go, it's about as innocent as they come. Remember, one out of every five save opportunities goes into the dumper, so it's going to happen from time to time. Breathe.

8) No Coffee - You've got a hotshot young flame thrower who looks primed for years of big-armed service. But he's also in dire need of a second or third condom to close the deal here, because he's just all kinds of nerves and not finding the plate. If he pulls out of the death spiral, he might rattle off three to six months of top-notch work and numbers... but if he doesn't, he'll get that dreaded Not Mentally Capable label, and spend the rest of his life toiling in the seventh for no one but people who play in leagues with Holds. Those leagues suck. And so does Tony LaRussa for doing this to Jason Motte, who I went hard after two years ago, just to watch him blow an Opening Day game and never get another shot at it. Die, LaRussa, die.

7) Glue Factory - Your guy has had a great career, but he's doing it on smoke, mirrors, and the lingering goodwill of umpires who give him wide strike calls in memory of what used to be. Unfortunately, all of the hard-hit line-drive outs and shaky strike calls in the world can't save you when the ball goes over the fence, and if you've got a guy whose manager is ready to take that long sad ride with him, you're really going to open yourself up to some pain. Welcome to the final year of Trevor Hoffman, or just about every other name brand closer that suddenly couldn't do the job any more. It's no comfort to realize this is how they all end up, of course.

6) The ReGift - Your closer comes in to a game where the opposing closer (oh, and special bonus if you owned that guy, too) blew the game. He's rushed, because he didn't expect to be working today. The wind's blowing out, there's blood in the water, and the hitting has become more contagious than herpes in the roadie van. Enjoy the white-knuckle ride that's to come, and the lead-pipe lock arson job. Good times!

5) The Fredo - Enjoy the spine-tingling mistake from a weak defensive player, the one that completely blows your otherwise clean outing. It's even more fun when it becomes a recurring issue, or from a young player that the team won't stop using, at a key defensive position like shortstop or catcher. But on the bright side, since the team is clearly rebuilding, maybe your closer will be dealt soon to a contending team... where he won't have the job. Pure fun!

4) Death March - Closer on a hot streak, with saves snapping off like popcorn? Every thing's going fine, except for the fact that you are starting to worry about a heavy workload... and then, like a racehorse wiping out in the stretch, your guy has blown chunks all over the place. This one is particularly common with managers like old-school types like Joe Torre (assuming there's no Mariano Rivera), and the whole trick is to determine whether or not your guy will be back in the saddle with rest (probably). Sleep well...

3) All About Set Up - You've got the shaky old closer. The set-up man is clearly the future... but so long as your guy does the job, everything will remain hunky dory closey, because the manager doesn't really want to rock the boat, and the organization does not want to jump the salary scale on the young guy in arbitration with a lot of save numbers.

But your guy just blew the game. And maybe the role, and his career, and your team. Enjoy the vote of confidence post-game press conference...

2) The Triple Kill - This is where you not only had the closer, but the starting pitcher, so you've blown both the win and the save... and the closer doesn't do the full deed of death in his first inning of work, but merely lets the game get tied up. You know what happens next, right? Sure you do... the team gives him and you another shot at the win with a go-ahead run, so he's got a whole new game to blow. And blow it he does, just to rub salt into the salt of the wound. Isn't fantasy baseball fun?

1) The Donnie Moore - OK, maybe some people have worse problems than your fantasy team. Or, at the very least, the ability to make a problem much, much bigger.

Top 10 reasons why Roger Clemens is eager to defend himself in court

10) Since the court dates are in New York in the summer time, it gives Suzyn Waldman a chance to have another orgasm over his entrance

9) Best way to make sure that he continues to overshadow any chance that his kids have of making the majors on their own merits

8) By going to court, he gets to continue to be the person he's always been, which is to say an incredibly egocentric money-chasing tool

7) Gives Brett Favre a continuing role model on how to destroy a legacy

6) Finally free of the corrosive, ever-widening shadow that is Andy Pettite

5) Someone told him that by doing this, he'd get immunity if he decides to throw more stuff at Mike Piazza

4) Will prove, once and for all, that his freak show trial is better than Barry Bonds' freak show trial

3) Might not actually understand the meaning of the word "perjury", or how federal court is not exactly a chuckle hut

2) Convinced that since Michael Vick got through the courts OK, a similar public comeback is going to be a shoo-in

1) Needs to clear the decks of all allegations and ugliness, so that he can finally go to Cooperstown as the first player ever with a dollar sign on his cap

Top 10 little-known facts about Chuck Bednarik's recovery

Chuck, in case you do not know your Eagles history (and, hence, do not know nearly enough about BEING A MAN), is an NFL Hall of Famer and the last great two-way player. (Screw you, Deion. Learn how to tackle.) His game-saving stop of the Packers' Jim Brown, and his basically cheating refusal to get off the man until time ran out, clinched the team's last championship in (sigh) 1960. He's also well known for nearly ending Frank Gifford's life (you can see it in the video above, and I promise you, it gets funnier every time) and for the nickname "Concrete Charlie", which only just starts to scratch the surface of his cheerfully applied violence.

Bednarik was admitted to a hospital last week after suffering a blackout and shortness of breath, and left today with a clean bill of health. Given that he's 85 and has to have damage from his decade-plus of NFL punishment, the fast release raised questions. Questions that only FTT, natually, can answer...

10) Chuck's stay in the hospital took longer than expected, due to the fact that no needle was able to penetrate his skin

9) To stay in the will, Chuck's son-in-law has to, at some point, give Cody Gifford a concussion

8) Rather than use EKG paddles, hospital attendants simply showed Bednarik the sole remaining unburned Terrell Owens' Eagles jersey

7) The hospital stay was free, because no one from the billing department wanted any part of him

6) In lieu of medication for pain, Chuck simply chewed on his favorite steel bullet

5) The shortness of breath episode was probably brought on by Bednarik continuing to insist on his traditional methods of hunting, in which he simply goes into the woods unarmed and angry

4) Family and friends were not worried, since in the event of an upcoming tragedy, they know that Chuck would insist on killing a few more Germans for old times' sake

3) Eagles' owner Jeffrey Lurie did not send flowers or a gift, because Chuck terrifies him

2) The NFL's generous pension plan and medical benefits for ex-players ensured that his Jello was fully covered

1) The man is clearly too ornery to die

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Top 10 reasons why LeBron James skipped tonight's player introductions

In case you missed the reigning MVP's start to a losing night in Cleveland...

10) Not enough child props in the picture

9) By missing the intro, he hoped to confuse Cleveland Fan away from their usual booing

8) Really had to go number one, and no foolin'

7) Wanted to see if the Heat would play 4-on-5 without him, which would have been defensible, given the Heat's bench

6) Thought he saw a guy in the stands wearing a Delonte West jersey

5) Was taking an urgent call from Nike about his likability scores

4) Protesting the Cleveland arena's restrictions on his posse

3) Wanted to prove that he didn't have to show up for the full game to beat the Cavs (whoops)

2) Erik Spoelstra told him to go out for the introductions, so he needed to remind "Coach" about who wears the pants here

1) Was late in his pre-game ritual of throwing talcum powder, shaking down children for lunch money, and kicking puppies and kittens

12 Deadly Accurate 2011 Baseball Prospectus Predictions

Dear BP,

I'm a fan of your product. I subscribe to your Web site, routinely purchase your football, basketball and baseball annuals, and rely on them as part of my fantasy sports preparations.

On the whole, I am pleased with what you make.

And then there's your projections.

Those "deadly accurate" projections, to quote your marketing.

Which predict the following points for 2011, in this handy-dandy list in the back of your book, which I'm really hoping are used verbatim by the other people in my league...

> No hitter in either league to have more than 41 home runs, 121 RBIs, or 51 steals

> Only 13 total hitters to hit 30 home runs, and just seven -- seven! -- to make it to 100 RBIs

> Cincy's Drew Stubbs, a 20/30 man last year, to have 32 steals... in the minors

> Nick Johnson to be second in all of MLB in on-base percentage, at a whopping .402

> Chase Utley to be the best all-around second baseman

> Carlos Beltran to be the best all-around center fielder

> No pitcher in either league to have more than 15 wins

> Only two pitchers to have more than 200 strikeouts, and neither of them to work in the National League

> Only two starting pitchers to finish with under a 3-run ERA

> No pitcher to have more than 40 saves, and that pitcher is... Joe Nathan

> Jon Papelbon and Bobby Jenks to combine for 56 saves, more or less split evenly, and

> Trevor Hoffman to lead the Brewers with 17 saves, the same amount as Carlos Marmol

If any of these things come true, I'll eat a bug. Considering that Hoff's retired, Paps and Jenks are sharing a job in Boston, there's always a guy breaking 15 wins and all of the other marks, and Beltran and Utley are major injury risks...

So, well... next year, could you actually edit this thing, since we are all actually paying for it?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

FTT Off-Topic: Nerding With Confidence

As always with FTT Off-Topic, please feel free to go look at the rest of the Internet if you want sports, and we'll get back to those shortly.

One of my earliest personal obsessions was Julie Newmar, the original Catwoman on the '60s Adam West "Batman" show. There's really no need to get into the reasons why, seeing how I shared this inclination with seemingly tens of millions of other guys. And while I'm not so old as to have seen the shows on their initial run, I did catch them all, over and over again, in syndication as a child. Back then, I just remembered suddenly not wanting Batman to win, and disliking Robin nearly to the same level that Newmar's Catwoman did; more than that, we don't need to discuss.

So that image and memory went into my memory banks, but it's not as if I'm the kind of guy to go to conventions or send away for autographs. I'm generally too shy in crowds, anyway.

There is also this: I've met more than a few celebs in my life, mostly back in my musician days. I've also felt that, on the whole, it's generally not a good idea. For the most part, your view of the celeb can only go down, and if you really enjoy someone's work, you don't really want to put that appreciation in jeopardy with a less than optimal interaction.

There's also, of course, the very real possibility that you're going to make an ass out of yourself with nerves from any contact with the person. Playing it cool isn't easy for me; I tend to overthink things. But once you hit your '40s, making an ass out of yourself tends to happen less, and it also just holds less terror.

So today, on a whim, I went to Ms. Newmar's web site and emailed her a few questions about her experience doing the show. I sent the email and then tried to forget about it. I didn't really expect her to respond. Lord knows, the woman has spent the last 40 years answering questions about a recurring guest star role, she must have amazing patience. I couldn't blame her for not dealing with such things.

But she did, with grace and good humor, and I gotta say, having her name pop up in my email was all kinds of great. Fifteen year old me is *wildly* impressed by 41-year-old me right now, really.

And no, it's not as if Ms. Newmar went into extraordinary detail, or that the email is going to lead to some amazing correspondence, or a greater understanding of life. But having a little more confidence in my ability to craft a few questions, and maybe changing my story about how I need to steer clear from people just because they've achieved fame or prominence or wealth or whatever?

Well, that can change. And that's pretty great, really.

Not as great as Ms. Newmar, but still pretty great.

Top 11 Reasons Why Jason Peters Was Arrested

The Eagles' Pro Bowl (yeah, I'm not sure why either) tackle Jason Peters is free on a $628 bond after being arrested in Shreveport, LA for "violating the city's loud music ordinance and resisting arrest." After checking in with our Shreveport bureau (our tentacles are everywhere!), FTT has the inside scoop.

11) Peters really wanted to earn Philly Fan's respect

10) It wasn't so much that the music was loud, it just had so much treble, since that's what the kids are into these days

9) Shreveport cops would have let him off with a warning, but the cops were just offended that Peters didn't play in the Pro Bowl

8) Peters asked the worst question in the English language, "Do you know who I am?"

7) Preferential treatment is only applicable to Saints players in Shreveport

6) The town really needed that $628, since it triples the municipality's yearly revenue

5) Peters made the mistake of playing music while black

4) He was playing that damned Rebecca Black "Friday" song, so he's lucky he wasn't tased

3) Since two cops came at Peters at once, both were able to go right past him to put the handcuffs on

2) Just another example of the growing crime wave that we have to expect now that the NFL has locked out the players

1) If you are an NFL player that doesn't resist arrest, all of the other players make fun of you

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sixers Beat Bulls: They Pull Me Back In

So I've been watching more and more of the Sixers this last week, catching the first half where they ran up a big lead in Miami only to get crushed by Dwyane Wade late, and then on Sunday where they wasted a buzzer miracle to lose in overtime to the Kings. And it seemed as if I had started to take a serious interest in them just in time for a poor finish to the year, with the 15 games over .500 middle being just what going nowhere franchises do every few years, just to make sure that there is the occasional first round playoff loss to mix into your decade of meh. No way they win the next night of a back-to-back, on the road in Chicago, against the best team in the East, and one of the best defensive teams in the league. Not against MVP front-runner Derrick Rose, do-everything defensive hammer Joakim Noah, glue guy small forward Luol Deng, and some of the best defensive rotations in the game.

And then they played the game.

With the enigmatic Thaddeus Young scoring early and the usually useless Spencer Hawes scoring late, they more or less took a lead early and never let it go, snapping the Bulls 14-game home winning streak. Rose got his 31, but he also turned it over 10 times against just five assists. Andre Iguodala shook off recent knee issues to give one of his classic 19-7-7 games, adding 2 steals, a block and a three. But the thing that was really impressive about the game was that the Sixers won it, rather than the Bulls losing it. Sure, the home team was flat and down early in the first, but in the third, with the house rocking, Rose came alive and helped cut the lead to five at the end of the quarter. On the road, against the probable MVP, in a tough room on the wrong end of a back to back? That's when you are supposed to fold the tents and talk about how you just didn't have anything left in the tank, not force turnovers, slam home dunks in transition, and just run away with the game to the shocked silence of the crowd.

By winning, the team kept pace with the Knicks to hold the sixth seed. They also managed to avoid their first 3-game losing streak since November. They put six men in double figures, which is also known as the only way they can ever win games, since none of these guys are good enough on offense to just carry a club. They held the Bulls to 1-of-8 from the arc, while going 4-of-14 themselves, and I think I've been waiting for my whole damn life for a Sixers team that's better than anyone from out there. (Thank you, Jodie Meeks, thank you.)

And they've provided one more meager reason to think that they will be more than cannon fodder in the first round, especially if they get a beaten-down Celtics team, or a suddenly panicky Heats club. And even if the Bulls come back to the pack? Well, tonight's game ensured that the Sixers have won the season series against the men from the Second City. They clearly hold no terror.

So good on you, local laundry, for fighting back the descent into meh and winning a massive game on the road. Now, just remember that you can play this exact same game in a few weeks, and we'll be all good. Better than you could ever know, really...

Top 10 takeaways from the NFL lockout lawsuit

In Cleveland, Browns fan Ken Lanci has sued the NFL over the lockout, claiming that this is a violation of his contract to buy tickets through his personal seat license. Having pored through the briefs of the case at length, here's everything you need to know.

10) Since Lanci is also a millionaire, the case must be taken seriously by the media

9) By asking for damages of more than $50,000 from both the team and the league, Lanci is making the unique case that Browns football has actual financial value

8) Emotional distress can not be proven, since the Browns never play with emotion, and Cleveland Fan has had it beaten out of him over he course of his entire cursed life

7) The suit proves, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that there is actually a non-athlete millionaire living in the Cleveland area

6) The Browns refuse to comment on the lawsuit, since that might involve effort or paying a lawyer

5) The team is considering a counter-suit against Lanci, since his failure to cheer loud enough at games has prevented them from winning

4) Considering the history of the team since the return of football to Cleveland, it's kind of amazing that there hasn't been more of this

3) On some level, Cleveland Fan is convinced that this is also LeBron's fault

2) Lanci's wet dream is that this actually goes to a jury trial, since that can only end in a death penalty conviction for everyone involved

1) If this case actually pays off, expect tens of thousands of copycat cases in days

Top 10 reasons why MLB's Opening Day has only six games

10) It's not as if Boston and Philadelphia are big enough markets to deserve early attention

9) Want to start the season nice and slow and gradual, to remind everyone why they don't really like baseball

8) Best way to annoy fantasy honks, who have to juggle unequal schedules against a desire to keep the teams they drafted

7) Figure it they spread out Opening Day long enough, it has to help their attendance figures somehow

6) Since the World Baseball Classic wasn't played this year, they need some other way to produce early season injuries

5) They'd start next week on time and all, but that means playoff games in November, which the league is entirely opposed to... except that they are trying to add another wild-card team in both leagues

4) Having the fewest teams playing on Opening Day in 25 years is somehow more earth-friendly

3) By having fewer Opening Day games, we greatly reduce the chance of something truly memorable happening, which makes the day-in day-out grind of the regular season that much more special

2) Seeing how only one game (San Francisco at LA) is being played in a warm-weather city or in a dome, it gives us a greater chance of the most fun thing in baseball, the snow-out

1) Shockingly, Bud Selig failed to make the right decision for the fans

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Top 10 reasons why the Cubs released Carlos Silva

10) Pitching to contact is one thing, but pitching to ludicrously hard contact is quite another

9) Silva would not report to Peoria, and the organization just will not stand to see that fine city sullied

8) The club just wants to put every memory of the Milton Bradley Era behind them

7) Team was never particularly interested in him winning the fifth starter role, since he, well, makes a ton of money and sucks

6) When you try to trade a guy for a month and get no offers, the idea of releasing him starts to make, well, sense

5) Paying him $11.5 million this year will feel easier if they can just pretend it's part of their revenue sharing

4) Unlike Silva, Andrew Cashner might not remain horrible

3) Figured they could not win the World Series without him, just as they've done with tens of thousands of players before him

2) Rather than being an "innings eater", Carlos was more of an "innings bulimic"

1) Think that if they just make this ugly enough, there's a greater chance of the White Sox picking him up, so they'd get to see him in intra-league play

Saturday, March 26, 2011

2011 MLB Predictions

Fast and mean, and delivered to you in the middle of the night, because that's just when I'm at my prognosticating best.

AL East Champions - Boston
AL Central - Minnesota
AL West - Texas
AL Wild Card - New York

Playoffs: New York over Minnesota, Boston over Texas, Boston over New York

NL East Champions - Philadelphia
NL Central - Cincinnati
NL West - Colorado
NL Wild Card - San Francisco

Playoffs: Philadelphia over Colorado, San Francisco over Cincinnati, Philadelphia over San Francisco

World Series: Boston over Philadelphia

NL Rookie of the Year - Aroldis Chapman
NL Cy Young - Ubaldo Jimenez
NL MVP - Albert Pujols
NL Manager of the Year - Jim Tracy
NL Comeback Player of the Year - Chipper Jones

AL Rookie of the Year - Michael Pineda
AL Cy Young - Dan Haren
AL MVP - Adrian Gonzalez
AL Manager of the Year - Ron Gardenhire
AL Comeback Player of the Year - Adam Lind

Take them to the bank, or well, don't.

The Sweet, Sweet Smell of Bluff

Another edition of the Poker Diaries; you know what to do.

So tonight, in order to escape the onslaught of the Shooter Eldest's sleepover, my casino regular picks me up for the drive to Parx, the big trouble room in Bensalem, no more than 30 minutes from my door. We stop for food and get to the tables around 9:30, just in time to be seated at the same table as a bunch of guys that know each other, bet loose, hard and often, and seem to be more interested in $5/$10 stakes than $1/$2. It's just about the hardest table I've ever played at in a casino: no drunk and sloppy guys, no depressed mouse girls, nobody with a tell, everyone talking about various high stakes players, casinos and inside baseball poker knowledge. I'm vibrating with nerves for at least the first 30 to 45 minutes, and I'm as card-dead as I've ever been, with the small comfort of never seeing a flop that would have hit my rags. Patience. Patience. They will pay you. Cards will come. Have faith. I'm seeing maybe 1 in 10 flops, getting my blind stolen with routine, and never get above my starting stack. Patience. Patience. The table chatter gets loud enough that, for the first time in my life at a casino, I pop out my iPod and play some music at a low volume. Why not; it might change the cards. (It doesn't. But what the hey, it saved a few brain cells.)

I catch my first pair of the night, jacks, and the table is attentive enough to the very rare pre-flop raise from Mr. Tight Pants to take my kings or better pre-flop bet seriously and fold, despite the presence of a reasonable chunk of change in the pot. A few meager draws and weak ace plays don't work out, and an hour or so later, I'm down to about 55% of my stack with off suit 7-9 in the small blind. I call a small raise to see a multi-player flop, and it comes a rainbow, queen high, giving me an open-ended straight draw. I bet $10 into it, and the loose player at the end of the table pops it to $30.

I mull my options for about 10 seconds. He's been raising every pot; he might not have much, or more than top pair. If I just call the bet and the turn misses my straight draw, as it's likely to do with just 8 outs in the deck, it's going to be way too easy to put me on my hand. Even if he does put me on trips later, I'm not going to have so much left in my stack, with pot odds, that a shove could work. Besides, he might have the queen and see his hand improve on the turn. And the guy, despite being a chattermouth and kind of irritating, is a good player... and that's important, really.

Why? Because he just might be good enough to bluff.

And in a blink, that's what I do, shoving it all in to try to bring down a $50 pot.

The misery alone on the guy's face is almost worth it, really. He goes hard into the tank, asking me what I could possibly have, then follows up with the frank question of whether, with more than a little hate in it, or not I want a call. I do my best to give him nothing, not changing my expression, not making eye contact, not moving, not breathing, hoping against hope that I'm not giving him any information by my lack of movement, but to be fair, I haven't talked or moved much in the last hour as is. The delay tells me he doesn't have the nuts or an overly strong hand, so I'm nearly there. The heart is racing, the adrenalin going, in a way that it doesn't at any other point in your life, and ye gads, it's vice-tastic. Really glad I don't do this for a living. I don't really want to rebuy at this table. I don't ever really want to rebuy at any table, but particularly not this one, after an hour of throwing away garbage and telling myself patience, patience, patience, only to shove on a draw against a guy with 4X my stack.

And after a solid two minutes of this, and several different chip counts and reconsiderations that looks increasingly like he's just trying to get me to bite on a pump fake, he finally convinces himself that he's betting into trips, and throws it away.

I start to slide the cards into the muck, and he's still chattering. "Come on, show it, show it! I've shown every hand!"

Now, I generally don't show my bluffs. I think it's rude, really, and I'm generally not interested in giving up any more information about my plays than I have to. I'm also generally paranoid about tells, and maybe this is just weak of me, but I feel that guys who show you their bluffs are just doing everything they can to put you on tilt... and well, that's just not how I roll. The guy you play in a casino is also the same guy who hosts a good home game; the habits of not pissing people off transfer.

But, well, he's asking. And I've played less than 10% of my hands tonight, and if I actually start to get cards, I'd like to get paid on them. So, well, OK... you asked for it. Jerkoff. I turn them over and pull in the chips while keeping my head down, like I've done this a million times for that kind of money. Heh.

The table's reaction... is more than worth it. My regular, who clearly doesn't have much use for the guy I bluffed either, looks at me as if I just saved his dog from a wood chipper. I swear, there might have been a tear in his eye, The dealer's eyes widen, and well, those folks never do that. The chatter at the table is all about my play for the next 10 minutes. The bluffee's buddy compliments me on the play, while steadfastly stating that he'd never do that (um, sure, right), then goes into ten minutes of damage control to get his friend off the ceiling. And I spend the next 10 minutes folding crap hands and trying to stifle my unrepentant thief's smile.

The bluffee winds up busting at the end of the night, but not to me, though I did nick him for a few more pots, and I don't think he re-raised me again. The table generally leaves me alone in the few pots that I play, and I finally catch aces and get paid off near the end of the night to get back to 80% of my stack before we go. My ride catches a few good hands to get back over .500, and the table breaks after four hours to see the two of us with roughly the same amont we sat down with.

And, well... with the exception of one value-bet sized bluff when a flush and straight draw misses on the river and I go after it anyway, like a moron... I couldn't have played any better, really. Or been any more pleased to have escaped a table of very, very strong players with that many of my chips, having caught very little playable hands, and very few flops that helped my hands.

Sometimes, poker is just like that, and if you get out with any cash at all, it's a win.

And sometimes, you need to shove with a pretty unjustifiable draw and bluff, just to prove that you've got the heart to do it.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Top 10 Upcoming NBA Playoff Takeaways

10) For everyone who claims that the regular season doesn't matter, don't tell that to the 2-3 teams in the East, both of which will not go to the NBA Finals

9) Three out of the four road underdogs in the Eastern Conference will get rolled without effort, and then there's Philly

8) The Knicks have a losing record and higher ticket prices in the Carmelo Anthony Era, not that Knicks Fan minds at all

7) Atlanta is making their big fold a little early this year

6) If you feel disgusted about Indiana making the playoffs, at least they aren't Milwaukee or Charlotte

5) The Spurs might be the least imposing #1 seed since the Warrior-bait Mavs

4) The Lake Show has their snooze alarm set firmly for mid-April

3) For anyone who doesn't think stars win playoffs, watch for the upcoming Thunder v. Nuggets series

2) The Hornets, Grizz, Rockets and Suns are really trying very hard to be a first round speed bump

1) Portland's upcoming upset win over Dallas, and Mark Cuban's post-loss whinefest, is one of those reasons why we love the Association

2011 Fantasy Baseball Overvalued and Undervalued: Starting Pitchers

The last in a series to help you win your league, or at least lose in the same way that I will. Let's get it done.


1) Tim Lincecum, Giants.
Two points of worry here; the first serious, the second frivolous, but still telling. With the World Series work added on to the 2010 regular season, the Freak went for 250 innings last year, or 25 more than 2009. Over the last three years, he's at 650 innings... and while he's still very young (27 this year), that just screams out Cole Hamels after the World Series win year to me. The second point is the oddball all fast food diet that he's gone on this year, which adds to the oddness about him, along with the marijuana issues. One suspects that these kinds of personal choices could easily be added to things that are outside the public eye... so when you add it all together, there's just more risk then I'm looking for from my #1 first round starter. This year, he gets you 14 wins with a 3.5 ERA, a 1.30 WHIP, and under 200 Ks, partly because he winds up missing a few more starts. He's still great, but he'll be better in 2012.

2) Zach Greinke, Brewers. The dream here is that Greinke will replicate the past success of quality American League pitchers who come to the weaker league to dominate, but there are a couple of troublesome flaws to that plan. The first is that he's starting the year off unhealthy, which is never a good sign for a guy trying to impress a new team. The second is that the Brewers play in a reasonable park for hitters, don't have a particularly good bullpen, and are fairly porous on defense. So while he might be as good as ever, and certainly should appreciate 40 or 50 extra strikeouts from facing pitchers... well, it's just not going to translate into the full-blown crush act that you might be paying for. Especially when it comes to the wins. 12 wins, 3.85 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 225 strikeouts.

3) Mat Latos, Padres. For over half of 2009, Latos was one of the best starting pitchers in baseball, and with plus-stuff and a ridiculously good defense, bullpen and home park... and then, just like his team, he fell apart late. The worry is that he's just not ready for this kind of workload at age 23, and the Padres are far too likely to keep him away from any kind of workload in the event of a struggle. Add to it the fact that the Padres aren't going to win as many games without Adrian Gonzalez, and the bullpen is likely to backslide a bit, and you get a big name that won't produce to the value you'll have to spend on him. He's still got a very bright future, but 2011 won't be his year. 11 wins, 3.40 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 190 strikeouts.

4) Phil Hughes, Yankees. The aggregate 2010 numbers are great: 18-8 with 146 Ks in his first full year starting, and he's just 25, on a team with a great offense and bullpen. But dig deeper, particularly into the way that he closed his year, and things aren't so cheery. In 2011, I think Hughes takes on too much pressure being the #2 on a team with a $200 million payroll in a media microscope, and it's not as if he's never flinched in that spotlight before. The trouble is that last year, they weren't expecting him to be lights out, and this year, they are. That's not exactly a blueprint for success, especially in the toughest division in baseball, for a guy that put on 90 more innings in 2010 than he did in 2009. 13 wins, 4.40 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 150 strikeouts.

5) Scott Baker, Twins. Why is this guy a name, really -- are we so starved for starting pitching in this era that 38 wins over a 3-year period makes people think he's actually good? Over the last 370 innings, Baker has provided a 4.4 ERA and a 1.3 WHIP, despite playing in front of a great defense, and in 2010, the AL's answer to Petco. Maybe I'm late to the bus on this one, but Baker seems utterly fungible to me, and if it's my team, I think about trying Kevin Slowey instead, assuming that I can someone tell them apart. 9 wins, 4.7 ERA, 1.40 WHIP and 135 strikeouts.


1) Dan Haren, Angels.
Man, did this guy pitch in some bad luck last year, and regression is your friend, especially when the candidate in question goes to a much better defensive team, in a division where he gets to face the Mariners routinely. Haren's ERA dropped nearly 2 runs per game, with the WHIP falling to his historic level, as soon as he got to Anaheim last year, and I'm seeing a lot more of it in 2010. He's been as sturdy as they come in terms of taking the ball every fifth day, he's always flown under the radar in terms of being a real ace, and he's going to be nails this year. Buy with confidence. 17 wins, 3.2 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, 225 strikeouts.

2) Max Scherzer, Tigers. Electric stuff that really came to the fore after an adjustment in the minor leagues, and he's perfectly suited to his home park. Since he's not the #1 in Tigertown, he's also more likely to win games with his quality starts, and while he's prone to wildness, it's not so much that it's going to keep him from working reasonably deep in games. At age 26, he's on target for his first 200 inning year, and a subsequent breakthrough in wins. He's going to pay off well for you this year. 14 wins, 3.4 ERA, 1.2 WHIP, 200 strikeouts.

3) Daniel Hudson, Diamondbacks. Last year's closing monster (7-1, 1.69 ERA) returns for his age-24 season in the desert, and while his stuff isn't quite up to the Gibsonian levels that he showed in 2009, he's still going to provide all year value for a Diamondbacks team that can't have as bad of a bullpen as they did in 2009. While workload could be an issue -- he went for 7 innings a start last year, and probably can't hold up to 30+ starts -- he's still a quality starter with excellent control, and I just like the way he works through a lineup. Look for 14 wins, 3.2 ERA, a 1.15 WHIP and 150 strikeouts.

4) Hiroki Kuroda, Dodgers. I don't know about you, but when I go to fill out the end of my pitching staff, I'm a big fan of guys who are either good or hurt. That's Kuroda to a T, who has yet to break 200 innings in three years in Dodgerland, and in his age-36 year, it's not as if he's going to suddenly turn into a workhorse. But what you do get for your dollar is a sub-4 ERA, a sub 1.2 WHIP, and a decent amount of wins... especially in 2011, when the Dodgers are going to have a better bullpen. Finally, I also like that since Kuroda is a 3/4 starter here, he's also going to face a lot of weak opposing starters. The prognosis for a few extra wins is good. 13 wins, 3.2 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 175 strikeouts.

5) Aaron Harang, Padres. Fortune favors the brave. At age 32, Harang got his head handed to him to the tune of a 5.32 ERA, with 16 HRs in 111 innings in his swan song in Porkopolis. This year, he goes to San Diego, where the homer problem becomes a lot less meaningful, and his confidence comes back to a sub-4 ERA. The only real problem is that the Padres aren't going to win a ton of games, and you run the risk of him going to a bandbox in a mid-season trade to a contender. But the overall picture is going to be fine, especially since you'll probably be able to get him out of your free agent pool. 11 wins, 3.8 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 160 strikeouts.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Top 10 reasons why Buck Showalter is mouthing off

In the April issue of Men's Journal, the Orioles manager disclosed that he enjoys screaming at the Yankees' Derek Jeter for bush league tactics, and that Red Sox GM Theo Epstein is only smart because he's got a checkbook. As always, FTT has the real reasons behind the outburst.

10) Wants to remind people that there is, in fact, professional American League baseball in Baltimore

9) Irritated that 20% of the Orioles overall attendance are road Yankee and Red Sox fans

8) Just couldn't keep his candor down when faced with the white-hot media glare of Men's Journal

7) Convinced from last year's 34-23 closing run means that he's actually got a team this year, which if you think about it, is just downright adorable

6) Still thinks he's employed by ESPN, and has to give voice to ridiculous opinions to keep paying the rent

5) Hasn't gotten over that whole "Yankee Dynasty as soon as he gets run off" thing

4) It's not as if you aren't going to overcompensate when you've got a name like Buck

3) Brian Roberts hasn't gotten seriously hurt yet

2) Kind of annoyed that he doesn't have a singe starting pitcher that would even make the bullpen in Boston or Tampa

1) It's March, also known as the last month of the year where any reporters talk to the Orioles, so Buck is just taking advantage while he can

2011 Fantasy Baseball Overvalued and Undervalued: Outfielders

It's rare that you'll win your league without major production from your outfielders, but it's also rare to take down a pennant without avoiding a bust pick-up for OF1, or finding a gem in the rough for OF3/4. Let's try to help you do that right here.


1) Shin-Soo Choo, Indians.
It's been a nice profitable run for the Tribe's unassuming Korean import, who has posted two straight full-time years of remarkable consistency, near .400 OBA, and power/speed usefulness. But exactly how useful is he, really? You are buying into 20/20 and near .900 OPS as early as the late second round in some leagues, and that's not that much better than lots of guys that won't get drafted at all. Choo has reached that magical stage in fantasy: so underrated, he's overrated.

What you are betting on here is that the Tribe's offense will be better, giving Choo more chances, and that he'll stay healthy (he missed 18 games last year). But I'm not sure why anyone wants to take either of those bets, really. He profiles as an OF1 this year, but he won't end that way. .290 / 18 / 80 with 15 steals.

2) Jayson Werth, Nationals. There's no denying that Werth has made a lot of money for fantasy players in the last three years, and that last year's .296 / 27 / 85 / 13 year, with the .921 OPS, was a career year at just the right time for his wallet. As a soon to be 32-year-old and new face of the franchise, he's going to have a set in stone role as the clean up hitter, too. But do any of these things point you to anything beyond status quo?

In Nattyland, Werth gives up high OBA guys hitting before and after him. He's also likely to lose his opportunities to run, and a half-dozen homers a year in the much bigger and more humid home park. Finally, there's this... Werth's early career is marked by struggles to say healthy, which he's avoided for the past two years. Now that he's gotten paid, and he's on a team that will be a dozen games out by July 4, do you really think he's going to play every day? .280 / 24 / 80 with 10 steals.

3) Mike Stanton, Marlins. The two months of the baseball calendar that are the worst for predictive value are April and September. In April, you get a lot of off days, bad weather and players that aren't quite ready for the grind. In September, you have larger pitching staffs with AAA cannon fodder, and any number of games against top-flight competition where you aren't getting their A game.

So how does this apply to Stanton, perhaps the biggest young power threat in the majors at outfield? Well, he slugged .992 in September, and had 8 of his 22 homers here. Take September out of the equation, and he hits 14 in 250 ABs; good for a 21-year-old, but not exactly game-changing. He also whiffs nearly four times for every walk, doesn't run, plays in a pitcher's park for a down-market team, and might strike out 200 times this year. I think he's going to be a beast by the time he's 25, and if he goes to an organization that can coach and care, he might have an MVP year at some point. But 2011 is going to be a struggle. .240 / 30 / 70 with 8 steals.


1) Chris Young, Diamondbacks.
Quietly had a career year in 2010 (well, OK, everything was quiet in the desert, since they were horrible), with a career high .793 OPS and the showy 27/28 homer/steal number. There's no questioning the talent here, only the contact rate... and while that's never going to be good, he also plays a good enough defensive center field to make sure that he'll keep the job, even during the lean weeks. He also plays in a good hitter's park, for a team that's probably going to be better on offense this year, since Mark Reynolds won't be around to provide so much air conditioning. I'm not in love with his game, but this isn't about aesthetics, it's about getting you a win. At the end of the year, you are going to be a lot happier owning him than, say, Werth. .260 / 30 / 85 with 30 steals.

2) Vernon Wells, Angels. Look, it's not as if you have to pay his ridiculous contract, or answer to the Angel fans who wonder why the team gave up anything to get a guy who his old club was likely desperate to move. Instead, enjoy the actual pennant contending year for a guy who has spent his life getting his head kicked in by the AL East, on turf that had to be contributing to his injury woes and overall lack of positive attitude. Wells has 20 steal a year ability and a manager that encourages that sort of thing, and three years with over 30 homers. In the long term, this is a terrible deal for the Angels, and a really bad way to spend $20 million a year. In the short term, especially for when you will get him, you're going to like him a lot. And if he hits in the middle of the lineup due to a slowly recovering Kendrys Morales? All the better for the RBI opportunities. .280 / 29 / 100 with 15 steals.

3) Andres Torres, Giants. This just in: Aaron Rowand is absolutely horrible. And Torres, well, isn't. Last year's .823 OPS, 16 HRs and 26 SBs screams out career year and candidate for regressing to the mean, but the hate will go too far, considering that Andres the Littlest Giant did all of his damage in just 507 ABs. Torres is a classic case of a guy that should have had a career -- he was a 4th round pick of Detroit in 1998 -- who looks like a AAAA player, but isn't. So despite the fact that he's 32 and somewhat strikeout prone, I still like him, and think he's going to be worth owning all year. And if the Giants actually play Rowand in front of him, you'll know that management is clueless, and completely lucked into that World Series trophy. For the rest of us, this is late-round power/speed goodness. .265 / 20 / 75 with 30 steals.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

2011 Fantasy Baseball Overvalued and Undervalued: Relief Pitchers

It's kind of silly to talk about over and undervalued relievers, since the position is so fungible... but in all likelihood, you've got to have some saves on your roster to win your league, and spending all year working the wire is no way to live. So let's have at it, shall we?


1) Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox.
For the life of me, I can't see why Boston retained his services. They had the cheaper and better option with Daniel Bard, Pap had his worst year in the uniform last year, and his WHIP and numbers keep going in the wrong direction. And now that they've got Bobby Jenks as well as Bard, the leash is shorter. Besides, even if he does keep the job, Boston's going to win a ton of games this year by too many runs for save opportunities. Don't pay the premium for the consensus #3 closer in the American League... because while he might start out with that ranking, he won't finish with it. 3.50 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 3 wins, 25 saves.

2) Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers. Sure, he'll probably be fine... but, well, what if he isn't? It's not as if baseball history isn't filled with flame-throwing closers who get too much work and are never the same again. Besides, once again, the Dodgers have tremendous options (Kuo, Jansen) available to them, and a rookie manager (Don Mattingly) that isn't beholden to him. He's a great talent and could easily be what he was, but for where he's going in drafts, it's just too big of a risk. 3.30 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 5 wins, 25 saves.

3) Brian Wilson, Giants. A base rule of picking closers: never go for the guy who has just had a career year, let alone the guy who danced on the edge in that year. Wilson has already had some minor health issues, and while he's still one of the best options available due to the large number of close games the Giants play, he's too risky for where he's going. Leave him to someone else who wants to pull the trigger on him with the first NL relief pick, and load up on some of the following guys instead. 3.20 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 3 wins, 30 saves.


1) Aroldis Chapman, Reds.
I hear what you are saying; he's got no role, and Dusty Baker isn't the kind of guy who goes to an inexperienced closer. But what we've got here is something very similar to last year's Texas situation, where people stayed away from Neftali Feliz and regretted it. Chapman is a special talent, and his competition isn't. Go with the arm and trust that the role will follow. 1.80 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 10 wins and 15 saves.

2) Huston Street, Rockies. Sure, there are injury issues, but the numbers are always good when he is healthy, and I think the risks are overstated in this case. Colorado's humidor has taken much of the terror out of owning their pitchers, but every owner in the league hasn't quite heard about that yet. Street has the clear role here whenever he's healthy, and the ability to dominate on a staff of guys who don't finish what they start. I think you get 35 saves here without a full payment, and good side stats to boot. 2.50 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 4 wins and 35 saves.

3) Brandon Lyon, Astros. Something that too many people don't realize; bad teams can frequently have a similar number of save opportunities as good ones, because they never win by more than 3 runs, and never worry about overuse of their closer, since every win must be brought down. So those 30 to 40 more wins per year only result in 10 to 15 more save opportunities, and a much greater chance of the set-up men getting a few of 'em.

Lyon is the perfect undervalued closer. His stuff is pedestrian. He's never been the hot young thing. His team is utterly forgettable. His set-up men are good, but not so good that they will threaten his job. So there's every chance that you'll get the value of a high-priced guy at a time in your draft when people are taking vulture candidates, rather than actual live closers. Don't make the same mistake. 3.30 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 5 wins and 27 saves.

Top 10 reasons why Carmelo Anthony thinks the Knicks can turn it around

10) Defense in the playoffs is overrated

9) The team is learning how to play together by losing to cellar-dwelling teams

8) In just a few more games Amar'e Stoudemire is going to adjust to his proper place as Melo's sidekick, and then everything will be fine

7) New York Fan is known for his patience and tolerance of slow processes

6) Coach Mike D'Antoni is going to adjust to not having a bench any minute now

5) Home court advantage isn't very important in the playoffs

4) It's not as if they'd have to face the Nuggets

3) Very few people are comparing his acquisition to, say, Stephon Marbury

2) People throw terms like "team cancer" around casually

1) Everything will be fine as soon as they bring in another big name, offense-first point guard

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

2011 Fantasy Baseball Overvalued and Undervalued: Third Base

Now that my draft is over and my rankings are no longer a state secret from those who would use them against me, it's time to share the, um, knowledge. Or, at least, try to get something out of all of the work that I did in draft prep. Use in good health.


1) Pablo Sandoval, Giants. Do you know what you get if you halve the difference between King Fu GIDP's magical rookie year and his disastrous second year? A .300 BA, .350 OBA and .490 SLG... which in Pac Bell with better options for the higher spots in the lineup translates to 19 HRS and 77 RBIs. It's OK, but is that really what you want to start at third in a shallow mixed league? The sad fact about the Panda is that he's an absolute masher at catchers, but not so much at third, assuming you aren't in a deep or NL-only league, even given the fairly sad state of third base these days. And that's also assuming that he's going to have a serious bounce-back. Why do we think that again, since any intelligent pitcher stopped throwing him a fastball near the strike zone in August 2009?

If Panda struggles again this year - and considering that he doesn't really look that much like Vlad Guerrero, aka the only guy in the majors in the past 15 years to have a great career while swinging at everything - the Giants could go with Aubrey Huff at third, especially when they've got one of their stud right-handers on the mound. This would also give rookie first baseman Brandon Belt more time, or maybe a day off for Buster Posey while they wake up backup catcher Eli Whiteside. Miguel Tejada can play third, and so can Mike Fontenot. The point is this: unlike 2009, the Giants have options, and aren't going to just live with Panda stink; they did, after all, win the World Series with him on the bench.

So you've got a guy with possible playing time issues, whose OBA is never going to be much past replacement level. Even if he keeps the weight off and his bat in the lineup, you were not going to get 30 bombs. And even if he's skinny (well, ok, skinnier), he still won't be swift, so he's not going to start stealing enough bags to matter.

So why are you thinking about drafting him again? Right, so you can feel smart for calling the bounce back. He won't be doing it on my roster. .285 / 18 / 80.

2) Alex Rodriguez, Yankees. The former first overall pick can still mash, has a great home park for offense, and will be in the thick of a big time offense. That was the story last year, when he had 125 RBIs in just 137 games. But he's increasingly injury-prone - shocking for a Roid Boy! - and doesn't run anymore, with just 4 steals all year, his lowest total since he was a pup of 20. Those SBs (he has 301 for his career) used to make him unique; now, they just show what he's lost.

In 2010, I'm seeing more DL moments, some general slowing, and less RBI luck. He also hasn't broken 35 homers in a year since 2007 -- you know, back before anyone knew that he was pharmaceutically enhanced. At age 35, I'm betting that he doesn't have the thunder anymore, or the quicks. So let someone else overpay for .289 / 29 / 97 with 10 steals and two trips to the DL. (Besides, even Yankee Fan doesn't really like rooting for this guy. So why inflict him on your fake team?)

3) Mark Reynolds, Orioles. All in for the bounce-back to poor man's A-Rod status, right? Not so fast. While it's unlikely that Reynolds will hit for under .200 again while threatening his own records for strikeouts, that's only because he's no longer with his original organization, and hence won't get the opportunity. On an Oriole team that rarely oversees career development, the Human Wind Machine isn't going to suddenly learn how to cut down his swing with 2 strikes or stop swinging through so much, which means that when he's in one of those funks, he's going to find some pine. Hopefully with both maps and a coach helping him, because I'm not ready to cede that he would not swing and miss at that, too. 2009's 44 homers and 24 steals isn't coming back folks. .230 / 30 / 90 and 10 SBs.


1) Adrian Beltre, Rangers
. Yes, we know, he signed a contract and has nothing more to prove, and the older guys who remember him turning into a slug following his MVP year in Dodger Land won't get fooled again. But the difference between Safeco and Arlington is mind-boggling, and so is the difference between the Mariners offense and the defending AL champions. He's also not ancient, and given the number of douchebags in Boston that decided to play tag with his head last year, probably motivated to show them something. I'm looking for .300 / 30 / 105 with a few steals, and you won't pay that price to get him.

In Texas, Belt re will play against significantly weaker staffs then he faced in the AL East, and that includes inter-league, too. He might not have his career year - honestly, he's starting to build a case for Coopers town, though it would be one of those 15-year ones - but he's going to have a year. .300 / 30 / 110 and 5 SBs.

2) Martin Prado, Braves. More useful as a middle infielder and in batting average leagues, Prado is sneaky great as a source of batting average and runs scored, and a nice fit for teams that have power studs at other positions. He's had three straight years with over an .800 OPS, and has scored 210 runs in his last 346 games... so the skills are legitimae, and triple digits in runs in 2011 is entirely possible, and as he's just turned 27, the 15 homers from last year just might see a few more.

Finally, the Braves offense looks better in 2011, which is all to the good for Prado. In the late rounds for teams that targeted other positions, he could be just what you need to take down the title. .305 / 18 / 75, with 110 runs and 5 steals.

3) Placido Polanco, Phillies. Opportunity, thy name is Polanco. The 35-year-old has kept a consistent OPS for the past two years, and reasonable counting stats for a fill-in guy... but this year, with Chase Utley on the shelf, he has a reasonable chance at hitting third behind Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino, and getting driven in by Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez. In a bandbox, on a daily basis, with the opposition under constant pressure to scrape across runs against the Philly aces. Your chances for extreme breakout aren't great, but a nice under-the-radar value play, especially in batting average leagues, is good. .305 / 10 / 75, with 5 steals and 80 runs.


OK, this has even less to do with sports than what I normally write, but the slow motion slide leading to the plates breaking at the 2:45 mark make my heart sing with joy. That, and imagining a stern Norwegian rocker chick beating the stuffing out of the NFL owners.

Though they'd probably, well, like it.

Top 10 ways to make kickoffs safer

The NFL is looking to make kickoffs safer by bringing touchbacks out to the 25, and moving kickoffs up to the 30. What else can the league do to make these exciting plays safer?

10) Replace the kicking balls with Nerf

9) Outlaw wedges of any kind, and anything else that relates to blocking

8) Prevent any player on the coverage team from running up to the line of scrimmage, which should also more or less eliminate any chance of an onside kick being recovered

7) Special new two-hand touch rule on the returners

6) Clipping now defined as attempting to block a man in the back, rather than actually doing it

5) Kickers to be spun in a circle five times before each kickoff, so that directional kicking is much less effective

4) Out of bounds kicks to also be placed at the 25, just because it will be easier to remember

3) Only white guys are allowed to return kicks, which should cut down on all of that dangerous speed

2) Let all of the players know that if they aren't really super safe on kickoffs, they will lock out the union in a heavy-handed attempt to force concessions that might not be at all necessary, given the overwhelming revenue and ratings gains throughout the league

1) Just put everyone in a dress and ballerina tights and be done with it already

2011 Fantasy Baseball Over and Undervalued: Second Base

Now that my draft is over and my rankings are no longer a state secret from those who would use them against me, it's time to share the, um, knowledge. Or, at least, try to get something out of all of the work that I did in draft prep. Use in good health.


1) Brandon Phillips, Reds.
Wasn't there supposed to be more than this? Back in 2007 when he went 30-30 for the Reds with a .288 average and a .331 OBA, he basically looked like the better value Jimmy Rollins, with just a slightly better approach at the plate keeping him from true stardom. Since then, the power has eroded (21, 20, 18), the caught stealing percentage has crept up (just 16 for 28 last year), and the ratios haven't really done much. From a guy who looked like he was going to knock on the door of the best in the business, he's become just another guy that's not really working out at the top of the Reds' order.

Maybe this is the year he puts it all together. The Reds will score runs, and he's been reasonably good at staying healthy. But he won't do it on my roster, and he probably shouldn't do it on yours, either. Personally, I think this is the year they move him down in the lineup, and that will be for good. .270 / 16 / 65, with 12 steals.

2) Robinson Cano, Yankees. Don't get me wrong; he's a great player in a great situation, and maybe the only good bet to get 30 bombs and 100 RBIs at second base. But that doesn't mean you aren't going to ride the regression railroad all the way back down to a less enjoyable part of town. Cano's OBA and SLG were both career highs last year, and since he comes from the Dominican Republic, his 28 years on the planet could always be more. He has no speed to fall back on, and after four years of near perfect health (8 games missed, total), he might be due to catch some bad luck there. Even if he doesn't, you have to think that the opposition is going to want to make other people beat them for a change. When you are this good, it doesn't take much to bring you down, and you don't want to be the guy overpaying for disappointment. .305 / 24 / 95, which sounds great until you look at 2010.

3) Dan Uggla, Braves. (Yes, I was going to go for Chase Utley here, but you knew that already.) It's easy to look at Uggla's metronome 30 home run years, then project him up for the change to a better home park and line up... but I think it's also missing some of the picture. Uggla is a bit of a blacksmith with the leather, and isn't necessarily going to react well to full crowds and expectations; for his entire career, he's been under the radar and valuable, but with high every-other year OPS swings (and, alas, no speed).

So expecting more than last year's .287 / 33 / 105 year seems to be pushing it to me, especially when he might not get a ton of protection behind him in the top-heavy Braves line up. He's also going to be expected to be a big run producer this year, which might cause problems for his patient approach at the dish. I still like him, and year two might be better, even though he's 31 now. But expecting a guy to improve on a career year is rarely the way to Fantasy Happiness. .265 / 27 / 95.


1) Ian Kinsler, Rangers.
You know what happens to injury-prone guys who have power and speed in a bandbox with a strong offensive lineup? They have a year in which they stay healthy and mash, just because everybody does that at least once or twice in their life. Kinsler is 28 now, and coming off a year where he sacrificed power for OBA to compensate for an injury, so he got on base at a .382 clip and stole 15 of 20 bags with a near .800 OPS. The year before that was 31/31 in homers and steals despite really not having that good of a year, and the year before that was a near .900 OPS as, basically, the AL's Chase Utley, albeit in only 121 games due to a sports hernia. Sure, he's brittle, but most of the injuries haven't been baseball related, and he's not exactly old. This will be his year, so cash in now. (And sell off before he shatters a fetlock in 2012.) .290 / 30 / 100, with 25 SBs.

2) Chone Figgins, Mariners. Regressions can be positive, and there's no way that Figgy, a lifetime .359 OBA guy who posted a .395 mark in 2009 in Anaheim, will post another .340, like he did last year in Seattle. Even still, his 42 steals showed that he's still got the green light on the basepaths, and since I think he's going to be on first base an extra 50 times this year, prorating him out to 50 bags isn't too hard. Seattle's offense is still terrible, but it can't be as bad as it was in 2010, so the runs scored should recover as well. Pencil him in for .275 / 2 / 45, with 45 steals and 90 runs scored. In other words, a top-tier second baseman, but not at the price.

3) Ben Zobrist, Rays. 2009's utility masher stunk up the place last year, dropping over 250 points of OPS... but he still stole 24 out of 27 bases, scored 77 runs, and drove in 75. This year, he should get time at first base with Carlos Pena gone and Dan Johnson hardly present, and while that might not translate to more wins for the Rays, it should translate to more relaxed ABs for the Zorilla. Still just 29, I'm seeing a nice bounce on the power, a steady rate on the speed, and the same patience that made him an over .400 OBA guy in 2009. He's going to be on a lot of winning teams this year. .280 / 20 / 90, with 90 runs and 30 SBs.

2011 Fantasy Baseball Over and Undervalued: Shortstops

Now that my draft is over and my rankings are no longer a state secret from those who would use them against me, it's time to share the, um, knowledge. Or, at least, try to get something out of all of the work that I did in draft prep. Use in good health.


1) Elvis Andrus, Rangers
. OK, he's one of the few guys that answer to the description of young and coming at the position, and you have to like the potential of any everyday player in Texas. But how are you supposed to break into the big time of steals when you get thrown out so much? So far in his career, Not Fast Enough Elvis is 65 for 86 in two years, with last years' 32-for-47 being particularly egregious. For a guy with a .650 OPS in a bandbox with a great offense, that's not nearly good enough... and he dropped nearly one hundred points of that OPS after the All-Star Break last year. (And seriously, a .650 OPS in Texas? That's Jason Kendall-esque.)

Even worse, he only stole 9 of the 32 bags after the break to boot. And the other big problem for Andrus is his utter and complete lack of power: he didn't go yard at all last year, and has only 6 in nearly 300 games now. Those steals will come cheaper in the outfield, and that power gap isn't going to be terribly easy to make up.

There is, of course, still hope: he's still really young (22 to start the year), and fields the position well enough to give him time to figure out the stick. But right now, he's not delivering nearly enough to justify a premium. Come back in a couple of years, when he's got the base-stealing technique down and has hit the weight room enough to get to 5 to 10 bombs a year, and you'll have a post-hype value. For now, stay away, unless you really think his .270 / 2 / 45 / 25 SBs is that valuable.

2) Ian Desmond, Nationals. Another young guy with some indicators, Desmond came on at the end of last year and showed some power/speed potential, ending his year with .269 / 10 / 65 with 17 steals out of 22 attempts. With Jayson Werth on board, he should touch home plate more often, right? Well, sure... but the trouble with Dez is that he just makes a ton of mistakes both on the field (34 errors, enough general shakiness to get him pulled for defense in late innings) and at the plate (109 whiffs adding up to just a .308 OBA), and it winds up sapping at-bats from him (just 525 last year in 154 games played). He's also not all that young, starting this year at 25, and his park is still big. He also struggled with the glove in the minors, and the Nationals have other options here, along with the need to coddle their young starting pitchers to avoid the need for 4-5 outs per inning.

Normally a National doesn't get overvalued, and if you are getting him late, especially in an NL-only draft, that's fine. I just don't see him doing more than .275 / 12 / 70 with 15 bags this year, and that is the absolute upside. It's not a given that he keeps the job all year, really.

3) Ryan Theriot, Cardinals. The Riot is 31 and coming off a year where he turned journeyman, going from the Cubs and Dodgers before ending up in St. Louis. Stick wise, he's still the same Eckstein-ish guy, with a .650 OPS of not enough anything, and 20 SBs a year of little value, since he tends to get thrown out a third of the time that he tries it. With a clear starting position and a manager that tends to do well with veteran players, things look good... but my problem is that he's replacing a genuinely good defensive player (Brendan Ryan, who just couldn't hit enough to keep the gig), for a team that saw its realistic playoff chances pop like a balloon when Adam Wainwright hit the DL in spring training. I think the Cards are selling parts by July and playing kids by August, and thinking hard about a defensive upgrade a long time before that, given how Theriot's arm is sub-standard. No bounceback here, unless .245 / 1 / 20 and 12 SBs is your idea of a bounce. And if it is, seek a better dictionary.


1) Jose Reyes, Mets.
OK, serious risk-reward here for a guy that's about as brittle as they come... but the single biggest factor going in his favor this year is that he's playing for a contract, and he's doing it for a team that's going to be in sell mode by July 4. So you've got exceptional motivation, coupled with distance from his latest big injury, and served up with the finishing touches of maybe going to a much better offensive park and lineup at the halfway mark. What's there not to like? Buy in this year, sell before next, and enjoy the clear #3 in fantasy in an actual winning year. .290 / 12 / 70, with triple-digit runs scored and 45 steals.

2) Stephen Drew, Diamondbacks. The path to stardom has not been smooth, but he's still young (turned 28 last week), in a hitters' park, and does enough of everything to make multi-category production a real possibility. I like his chances for .285 / 20 / 70 with 15 steals, which is to say a career year. And well, you get enough guys having career years, you win. Simple game, really.

3) Marco Scutaro, Red Sox. Some clear risk here, as Scoot is getting up there in years and facing a clear challenge from Jed Lowrie, but who's to say that (a) Lowrie doesn't get hurt first, or that (b) Dustin Pedroia won't need some DL time, too? Scoot is a winning defensive player who scored 92 runs with 11 homers and 56 RBIs last year in Boston, while fighting through injuries, for a team that couldn't stay healthy. This year, for an offensive juggernaut that's going to hurt pitchers from top to bottom? Buy in to .280 / 15 / 75, with 10 steals and 100 runs scored, and do it late. (Bonus: you get his wife in the deal, too. As we used to call him in Oakland, Magical Man Elf, indeed...)

Monday, March 21, 2011

2011 Fantasy Baseball Over and Undervalued: First Base

Now that my draft is over and my rankings are no longer a state secret from those who would use them against me, it's time to share the, um, knowledge. Or, at least, try to get something out of all of the work that I did in draft prep. Use in good health.


1) Ryan Howard.
The platoon troubles against left-handers are well documented by now, and no one is expecting 2009's 8 of 9 stolen base mark to come back. The big value for Howard came from playing every day in a band box for a very good offensive team, and with Jayson Werth in Washington, Domonic Brown on the shelf, Chase Utley in limbo and Shane Victorino and Jimmy Rollins on the down side of their careers, he's just not going to have the opportunities. When it comes to working against the Philadelphia lineup, 2011 is going to be a year where the opposition either goes after Howard because they are left-handed, or avoids him because they can. Expecting more than .270 / 30 / 100 will set you up for disappointment.

2) Adam Dunn. He hits home runs and gets on base like clockwork, and his new park is good for right-handed power, in a division that's not all that great. So why am I not in love with the guy? Maybe it's just not trusting 6'-6" 287-pound guys on the wrong side of 30. Maybe it's that he's spent his entire life in the National League, playing for teams that haven't done much of anything (Cincy, Arizona, Washington), whereas now he's going to be counted on to produce in a pennant race for a manager whose motivational style can charitably be described as hyper-aggressive. And maybe while no one was paying much attention last year in DC, his OBA dropped 25 points off his career average for his lowest single-season mark since 2003.

He'll still get you .250 / 30 / 100, which isn't going to seem like too much of a struggle in the historical record. But there's a reason why guys like Dunn are rarely on the rosters of teams that go to the post-season,and in a lineup filled with heavy-legged aging hitters (Carlos Quentin, Paul Konerko, AJ Pierzynski), there's going to be an awful lot of GIDP and post-game Ozzie meltdowns. You can do better.

3) Justin Morneau. There's a lot to love here when he's healthy... but man alive, how long is it going to take for him to shake the cobwebs from last year's concussion and put a few knocks together? Baseball history is littered with guys who were never really the same after a catastrophic injury, and he wasn't exactly the picture of health before 2010, anyway. Couple that with the tough home park and the fact that the Twins are probably going to spotlight his at-bats against prime pitchers to get his confidence back, and I think we're not seeing the full six months of production here. If you are expecting a repeat of last year's .345 pre-injury numbers, I don't think you are seeing them; the spring training struggles alone should give you pause. Check back in 2012, but for now, I'm seeing .290 / 25 / 80, with the bulk of it coming in the second half.


1) Billy Butler.
So maybe all of those doubles won't become home runs, and maybe you're tired of watching a growing OPS that doesn't translate into runs or RBIs, because his team is so horrible. And yes, I get it, especially when the major-league organization is intent on signing every Fat Melky Cabrera and Pointless Jeff Francouer it can get its hands on; what the Royals consider a starting outfielder is just this side of comedy. But one of these years, they are bound to stumble into someone having a decent year in front of him (Mike Aviles?), and the minor-league prospects are starting to look downright tasty. And when they do, the old Billy Baroo is going go look as good as he really is with the stick. .310 / 20 / 95.

2) Kevin Youkilis. Oh, Lord, are the Sox going to score some runs this year. Everyone is already drooling about what Adrian Gonzalez is going to do in Boston, but what about the guy who knows how to hit there already, and has three straight years of improving his OPS despite the fact that he keeps flirting with 1.000? He's going to feast. Feast, I tell you, on all of the situations where Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Carl Crawford are going to be dancing on the basepaths, making pitchers twitch, and ready to score on any ground ball or reasonable fly out. Youk might not be better this year, but his numbers will be. .315 / 30 / 125.

3) Aubrey Huff. No, he's not sexy, and yes, he's going to regress from last year's hot rush close. But since no one in your league, assuming you aren't drafting in San Francisco, believes in him at all, take the late-round bargain for what it is. The Giants will still have men on the bases, still play in a relatively neutral park, and still will give A-Huff 150 games and 550 ABs to provide pop and a really nice OBA. And since Cody Ross and Pat Burrell are much more likely to slide than Huff, he'll also get OF work if the team decides to start the Brandon Belt era early. For a late-round corner slot or the starting first base slot in an NL-only draft where you zigged when everyone else zagged for Pujols/Votto/Fielder, you could do a lot worse. .285 / 24 / 95.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

2011 Fantasy Baseball Over and Undervalued: Catchers

Now that my draft is over and my rankings are no longer a state secret from those who would use them against me, it's time to share the, um, knowledge. Or, at least, try to get something out of all of the work that I did in draft prep. Use in good health.


1) Buster Posey, SF.
Is he the best catcher in baseball? Well, he was last year, when he finished up a Rookie of the Year campaign with a World Series ring and generally outstanding play. But this year, with the Giants having actually useful options at first (Aubrey Huff and rookie Brandon Bolt), and no Bengie Molina around to clutter up things, he's just going to play less at anywhere but catcher, with more high-impact innings. And when you look at his numbers from last year, he does most of his damage early (.959 OPS pre All-Star break, .812 after), when he was sharing time with Molina.

I still think he's an outstanding player, and in terms of real-world value, he's the best in the business. If you've got him cheap in a keeper league, hold on tight. But I don't think he's going to be the best in 2011, and sophomore slumps happen for a reason. Pencil him in for .280 / 20 / 80, and at least one "What's the matter with Posey?" story.

2) Victor Martinez. In 169 career ABs at his new digs at Comerica Park in Detroit, V-Mart has 4 home runs, a .225 batting average, and a .671 OPS. And it's not as if all of those years in Cleveland were spent facing a top-flight pitching staff.

Now, let's look at his 2010 in Boston, playing with one of the better offenses in baseball: .302 / 20 / 79. Pretty airtight, really: .824 OPS before the break, .864 after. But is he going to have the same number of opportunities with half of the lineup (Austin Jackson, Scott Sizemore, Brandon Inge and Alex Avila) projecting as below-average hitters, especially in terms of getting on base?

Two more factors at work here: Martinez is a career .723 hitter while DHing, compared to .836 at catcher. Again, maybe I'm making too much of a small sample here, given that Martinez only has 116 ABs as a DH, but it's not as if that DHing is always an easy move to make. And the final point is this: Martinez is 32 now, with over 1,000 games played. This is when things start to slow down, and with a worse park and less meat on the table, the slow down will be notable. Count on .280 / 18 / 65, and spend your big early dollars somewhere else.

3) Matt Wieters. OK, this one's personal, but at what point can we simply stick a fork into the notion that this guy is anything but an ordinary catcher masquerading as a great prospect? Last year's .249 / 11 / 55 year of meh isn't even as good as 2009's .288 / 9 / 43 year of so what, and if this guy is a viable switch-hitter, I'm an airplane (.622 OPS left, .766 OPS right).

After 226 career games and 800 ABs, Wieters is basically a journeyman in waiting, with middling defensive numbers and an offensive game that's completely ordinary, even in a hitters' park with plenty of opportunities. This year, as his clock to arbitration starts to wind down and the Orioles look to mitigate the damage without completely losing the hope that was his initial hype, he's going to sit more, hit lower in the lineup, and continue to disparage all of the statheads who thought he was a middle of the order hitter. Look elsewhere for your .254 / 10 / 45, and jump the gun on next year, when no one overpays for him.


1) Joe Mauer.
Sure, it's not exactly a risk-free move to go with the injury prone guy who struggled in a new home park that looks like it might be worst hitters' environment in the American League. But even at his "worst" last year, you still got 88 runs scored and 75 RBIs with over a .400 OBA... which is to say, outstanding production. And I just can't shake the idea that Mauer's going to adapt to his surroundings this year, and his teammates will do the same. Write him down for .325 / 15 / 95, along with health, and a very happy year. Especially when you compare him to what the rest of your league will be getting from the catcher's spot.

2) J.P. Arencibia. The Blue Jays' rookie made a splash last year, then slid back, but the scouts still love his tools, and I love his situation this year. Toronto's power surge last year didn't come out of the ether, and while the AL East has any amount of quality arms, you also wind up facing some worn out staffs from all of the bandboxes and patient hitters. He's not going to get on base all that much, and there will be struggles, but the power is real. At the end of the year, I think you'll get .275 / 25 / 75, and that's genuinely useful, especially in a year where power is down.

3) Jake Fox. OK, far from a real catcher, and I'm probably over-reacting to his MLB-leading power binge in Florida this spring. But in a 2-catcher league where you have to go more than 20 deep, the benefit of an everyday player is minimal, given the damage they tend to do to your batting average or OBA. With Fox, you're going to either get a useful 350 to 400 AB four corner guy who hits enough to help, or you'll get a AAAA guy who you won't mind cutting for someone hot. The potential for a bargain-basement .260 / 20 / 60 year is here, because there's a very real chance that the power that he's showing in Florida is real... and the Orioles will find him at-bats as long as he's showing it. Besides, I'm already on record as saying Matt Wieters sucks, so why not take the guy who will take up his ABs?

The Best Day Of The Year

So the House of Meat drafted today, and as always, it was one of the best days of the year, just because auction drafts are more fun than a basket of kittens. Here's the starting team for me, with keepers noted with asterisks. It's a 5x5 league with OBA instead of batting average, and K/BB instead of K/9.

C John Jaso TB 3
C Jake Fox BAL 1
1B Joey Votto CIN 21*
2B Ian Kinsler TEX 26*
3B Chipper Jones ATL 5
SS Jose Reyes NYN 34*
CI Aubrey Huff BAL 7
MI Martin Prado ATL 6*
OF Justin Upton ARZ 15*
OF Drew Stubbs CIN 15*
OF Vernon Wells TOR 8*
U Ryan Braun MIL 43
SP Chris Carpenter STL 11*
SP David Price TB 11*
SP Yovani Gallardo MIL 16*
SP Jake Peavy CHW 5
RP Neftali Feliz TEX 4*
RP Aroldis Chapman CIN 4
P Brandon Lyon HOU 5
P Rafael Soriano NYY 2
P Fernando Rodney ANA 4
BN Magglio Ordonez DET 1
BN Brandon Webb TEX 1
BN Mike Moustakas KC 2
Total 250

I got caught in price protection on Braun, which gave me a small stack for much of the early going, but I think it worked out. I tend to miss out on stars in the early going of auctions, so it's nice to have the best available outfielder in a year where power is lacking, and the crop of outfielders is kind of underwhelming. Since it's an OBA league, Huff and Jones are more valuable than you might think, and I don't have a ton invested in either of the graybeards. Catching could be a problem, but the dollar bet on Fox might work out, as he's leading Florida in home runs, and could take down a lot of corner work with a hot stick. In any event, I generally hate paying a lot for catchers, so it works out. Moustakas was on my radar, especially with no obvious protection possible at third for 2012, and was also a block on the defending champion, who was also short-stacked for much of the way. The offense is a little old, but I've spent too many years with young guys that didn't get on base, so you can see why I went this way.

As for the pitching, I came in with a lot of good starters, and kept getting outbid for players like Brandon Morrow, Dan Haren, Ricky Nolasco and other potential starters. The Moustakas pick also kept me from a late-game Edwin Jackson, who might be a good $1 flyer, but given the K/BB requirement, Peavy seemed like the better bet. I'm happy that I was able to load up on closers who aren't in any way sexy (Lyon, Rodney) to possibly go with good vulture situations (Soriano, Chapman) and the eternal question of Nefty Feliz. At least now I'm not completely sunk if the Rangers move Feliz into the rotation; it might even be the best move for both of us. I don't think I'm the favorite to win it, but I do think we'll compete, and if we don't, we could have some major chips -- Reyes, Braun, Kinsler -- to find some more 2012 keepers. As always, it would help a lot if the DP combo can stay healthy and play to their abilities, but this could be a really good offense.

But Draft Day, when you run it, is about more than the team you wind up with. As the auctioneer and host, it's also about the food (outstanding chicken and ribs, something of a tradition for my drafts), the space (I think I've finally got a winning configuration for the space, though I'm always hoping to make it better), and the camaraderie. Like a good poker game, I had multiple volunteers staying behind to help me clean up, no real hard feelings on any pick or move, and no sense that anyone in the league wanted to be anywhere else in the world but in my space, playing in my league. I know this will make me the biggest mark in the world, but I'd rather have a good draft than a good team, and I'd rather have a good league than just about anything.

I'm still, of course, trying my best to beat their brains in, and they are, of course, trying to do the same to me. But there's no reason why we can't be friends while it happens. And if your league isn't that way, I'm sorry; it really is the only way to go.

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