Category Archives: Opinion

MLB Realignment – More is More

This post was originally published on the Emerson College Sports Business Society Website – but it’s genius must be shared

come at me, bro

In many ways, I think of myself as a baseball purist.  I have serious reservations about designated hitters.  I have a firm belief that Nolan Ryan is the only one who understands that regardless of what anyone says, there is nothing magical about that 100th pitch. Just get out there and throw, divas! The most exciting play in the game, for me, is watching a team react to a double-steal bunt.  So with the recent announcement that MLB will be expanding its playoffs, I found myself debating along with millions of other fans whether or not this was a good decision for the sport.

 

On one hand, part of what has made baseball’s playoffs impressive is the level of difficulty it takes to get there.  Unlike football or basketball (hockey doesn’t count because I’m pretty sure they let pee-wee teams into their playoffs until recently), where half of the teams routinely win their division and go to the playoffs, baseball has always been ruthless about who gets in.  They play by far the most games, grinding out victories for months, yet every year there is a team with ninety wins who is left watching from home.

As maddening as it could be for a fan, it’s also pretty cool.  However, this system has always been a double-edged sword, especially in more recent decades, as ballooning payrolls have created a more distinct “class system” among MLB teams.  While we all have every right to moan when a 7-9 team makes the NFL playoffs, the level of parity in football is unmatched in other sports.  The Pittsburgh Pirates, in all likelihood, will not make the playoffs in 2012.  They’re simply not very good.  In most sports, it’s pretty easy to tell which teams will probably be good. In baseball, more so than the other sports, it’s easy to tell, with some certainty, which teams are going to be bad.

Baseball’s playoff structure, while doing a good job of getting the best teams in, has gotten stale.  Nationally, ratings have been in steady decline and there is a general resentment/frustration with the same teams getting in every year (with the occasional oddball like those pesky Rays).  But as I lamented in my MLB Reboot pieces, baseball as an entity is very, very, very painfully stubborn.  And I am too.  I liked the old system and my initial reaction was trepidation.  If they’re not going to go with the widespread change I call for, I’m not one for tinkering.

this was never a good idea.

But that’s why we shouldn’t rush to judgment.  The more I read about and think over this change, the more I like it.  Even as I write this piece, I realize that no, the current Wild Card system is not fair.  The Wild Card is a ‘bonus’ spot.  They did not win a division.  Therefore, common-sensically (a lethal combination of hyphenating and making up words), making the Wild Card teams win an additional game to ‘deserve’ their advancement seems not only reasonable, but also logical.  Of course, the MLB will play up the drama of adding a built-in one-game playoff and there is truth in that notion.  But this decision ripples through baseball on a much broader scale for us as fans.  Maybe the Nationals will make a huge jump this year and sneak into a one-game playoff for the Wild Card.  Perhaps the new rule will jumpstart the Chicago Cubs (laughable).  As a Red Sox fan, though, this new system means only one thing: now we have to worry about those darn Blue Jays too.

 

-w

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Filed under Baseball, Cajones, MLB, Opinion, Random Thoughts

Shortstop ADP: The Position You Hate to Love

my favorite non-Batman movie of all time.

ADP is a beautiful, terrible thing.  We as humans love to rank things and it can cloud our judgement to see an arbitrary list.  ADP is an incredibly useful tool, as it pools and averages where others are taking players you might be thinking of taking.  You know and I know that just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t make it right.  ADP is a barometer, not law.  You know this, I know this… but that doesn’t mean every jabroney in your league knows that.  There’s at least one in every draft.  Someone who takes Chone Figgins in the 4th round.  Who asks if Martin Russell is still available.  Who tries to draft a retired player.  Even the smartest fantasy owners fall victim to ADP (Hand raised.  That sentence makes it sound like a virus).  Between the bimbos and the braniacs drafting with you, you’re all going to at one point rely on ADP as some kind of deciding/tie-breaking factor.  So here are some players not to forget about in 2012.  It’s crazy to think everyone can get a superstud to start at first,it’s a matter of numbers- everyone can’t have Pujols or Votto – just as it’s crazy chasing Amy– it’s just a matter of statistics (and gender preference, but I mean, just watch the movie.  C’mon.).  We don’t all get what we want, just ask the Rolling Stones, but sometimes, just sometimes, we get what we need.  And what you need is good value.

There are 3 Shortstops worth actively seeking in a draft, and one of them is going to play Third Base (whoops, didn’t really mention Hanley “Wah-Wah’ Ramirez in my 3B post…).  After that, there are a series of relatively boring guys who fill a position you need (Starlin Castro, Asdrubal Cabrera, Alexi Ramirez all fit the ‘usable-but-unspectacular’ mold in declining amounts of value), aging players not worth the draft position based on the past (Rollins, Jeter), and a bunch of one-trick ponies (Elvis Andrus, Dee Gordon come to mind).  For most people’s teams, shortstop is going to be a drain, plain and simple, compared to other positions.  I’m no Nostradamus, but I’m betting Asdrubal Cabrera doesn’t hit above 20 homers (there is no reason in his past to expect that).  Nor do I think Jhonny Peralta will sniff batting .300 again.  Shortstop is the best exercise in finding value.  In larger leagues, you’d consider yourself lucky to wind up with J.J. Hardy or Stephen Drew.  But really, do either of those players excite you?  And they’re already going pretty late in drafts.  When it gets down to the rinds, why take Jason Bartlett when you could roll the dice?  Shortstop’s your chance to take a, well… chance.  It’s not like most of the guys you’d draft are going to wow you anyway- you won’t be overwhelmed, you might not even be underwhelmed.  Maybe you’ll just be whelmed.

Bam. Streak alive.  You know you hate how much you love this movie.

As always, much love to Mock Draft Central, where you can get all kinds of ADP reports by signing up.

SHORTSTOPS

Shortstop is a funny position.  Since Cal Ripken Jr., there has been a revolution of middle-of-the-order hitters playing the position.  In fantasy terms, there are shortstops now who provide just as much value as, say, a top outfielder.  There was Nomar-Jeter-A-Rod.  Now there’s Tulo-Reyes- and, until recently, Hanley Ramirez.  But shortstop is also one of the most important defensive positions on the field (the other two being Catcher and Centerfield, in my opinion), so a guy like Omar Vizquel can be equally valuable to a team in terms of the runs they save.  Sadly, most leagues don’t have a ‘Web Gems’ category, otherwise Rey Ordonez would have been an absolute stud.  So we have a mix in fantasy.  At the top, there are the studs, in the middle some very solid all-around players and towards the bottom?  Defensive specialists and young, unproven talent.  When is that next trio of top-tier talent arriving?  Again, I’m no Nostradamus.  So while we wait for the next big thing, here are some stopgaps.  Who knows?  Maybe someone will surprise you.  LIKE HEATH LEDGER DID IN THE MOVIE!!! It all comes full circle, folks!

P.S. I’m perfectly comfortable admitting that scene is my favorite.

Ian Desmond (WAS) -ADP 253

#awesomesauce

I guess I have a man-crush on Ian Desmond, for fantasy purposes.  I snagged him in countless mock drafts and several of my leagues.  On the face of it, he is not really worthy of such fascination.  However, consider the rising Nationals and the power of good vibes.  Over the past two years, Desmond has demonstrated that he is very capable of hitting double digit homers and 20+ steals.  What kills Desmond’s value is the holes in his swing.  His poor OBP, high K rates, and overall lack of discipline hurt what appears to be an untapped fantasy talent.  He hits doubles, with speed for triples.  His minor league numbers suggest his untrained eye is a function of his adjustment to major league pitching (very high OBP in AA and AAA).  There is a seriously good feeling going into the 2012 Nationals.  Ryan Zimmerman will be back healthy.  Jayson Werth has to be better, it’s a borderline statistical fact.  And, of course, the inevitable coming of Bryce Harper, prospect extraordinaire.  It is not unreasonable to think the Nats offense is bound to improve, and I think Desmond is going to be part of that.  At base level, without any improvement, Desmond gives similar production to Stephen Drew (who is going over 100 spots earlier) without the injury risk.  Given an improvement, Desmond could jump up a level in fantasy shortstop value.  Part hatred for the Drew clan, part unabashed drinking of the Washington Nationals Kool-Aid, but Ian Desmond has my Fantasy Spidey senses tingling this year.  Wait around folks, don’t sell yourself short and draft J.J. Hardy.  There are more valuable players to snag while you wait for shortstop.  Either you get one early or you don’t.  Wait for Desmond, and enjoy his breakout 2012 campaign.  Mistress Cleo told me so.

Mike Aviles (BOS) – ADP 244

no one sits by Mike when he doesn't change his 'lucky' socks...

I’m going to keep this one brief because I don’t want to waste space when Bobby Valentine inevitably pushes Jose Iglesias into the shortstop void in Boston.  That’s an entirely different story, and my personal feelings are that Jose should get one more (partial, maybe) year to refine his offense before being unleashed on the big-league diamond.  The kid was imitating MLB players’ swings for chrissake!

Anyhoo… Mike Aviles was impressive in limited time with the Sox in 2011.  Defensively, he doesn’t hold a candle to Iglesias.  Offensively, he strikes me as a good line-drive pull hitter who could benefit ENORMOUSLY from batting towards the bottom of a potent Boston lineup.  Will he hit .325 as he did in his rookie year, 2008?  No.  But given the time (with utility-wunderkid Nick Punto) in a good lineup, it seems like Aviles could be a sneaky source of a .280-ish average with 80 runs (and double digit steals).  Saltalamacchia scored 53 runs in 386 PA last year and he hit .235!  Aviles, as is the case with the following players, will be on a sliding scale of value in 2012 based on playing time.  His versatility adds value, the opportunity adds numbers.  He’s definitely one to track through spring training to see if Valentine loves or sours on him.

Forgive the ADP disparity but these two are in very similar situations…

Eduardo Nunez (NYY) – ADP 309.17  &  Sean Rodriguez (TB)- ADP 261.46

both of the baseball players are pretty ugly. real weasel faces. so here's a dramatic picture of the awesome Craig Ferguson, on weeknights @ 1235 on CBS

Both of the men mentioned above have value in versatility.  The could get time at second, short and third (in addition to the outfield), depending on team needs.  But they’re elligible at SS and that’s what matters for our purposes.  Where they play for their ‘real’ team is not nearly as important as where you can plug them into your virtual lineup.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  Where they play on their real team does matter, and here’s why; the Yankees are old and the Rays’ alternatives are underwhelming (what a useful word).

Nunez gets to play the ‘super-utility’ role on a New York team that has A-Rod and Derek Jeter.  Both need rest.  On top of that, at their age, and with A-Rod’s history, it is highly likely that either one or both is shut down for a period of time due to injury.  Enter Mr. Nunez.  Now you may be saying, ‘that already sort of happened last year, why’s he of value?’  The man stole 22 bases in only 338 plate appearances and only got caught 6 times.  That’s nice.  In the dwindling rounds of a draft, Nunez could be an absolute steal (pun intended), especially if due to circumstance he gets 400+ at bats.

Sean Rodriguez is a favorite of Dave’s, which makes me dislike him as a player.  But I am putting my bias aside for your benefit.  Rodriguez demonstrated excellent power as a prospect for the Angels but has not seen the same production in the bigs.  I’d blame a lot of that on his inconsistent playing time, as he has had strings of games where he has contributed as a useful power/speed combo.  So what’s holding back Rodriguez this year?  Defense, I guess.  Who is he competing for playing time with in 2012?  Reid Brignac and Elliot Johnson?  Rodriguez might be the perfect storm of sleeper for 2012 (unlike, say, the premature sleeper in past years…).  He’s turning the magical age of 27, has crappy competition at the position for now, plays all over the field and is in his 3rd year of any semblance of regular playing time.  It makes a lot of sense that things could click for him in 2012.  And at his ADP and with multiple elligibilty, a guy who could hit 15 homers with 15 steals sounds like a good grab for your hole at short (WORDPLAY!)

Yup.  That’s all I’ve got.  Shortstop can be a very frustrating position folks.  That’s an understatement.  But I think I’ve laid out several players above who could greatly outperform their ADP at the position, if not break out.  And honestly, unless you have Reyes or Tulo, you may be forced with that kind of compromise.  Or there’s always Willie Bloomquist…

Always, awlays, beware the Bloomquist.

-w

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Filed under Baseball, MLB, Opinion, Posted, shortstop, Sleepers

3rd Basemen ADP: Fools Rush In

It's okay if you don't recognize this one. It's a movie. Starring Matthew Perry. So... you probably skipped it.

ADP is a beautiful, terrible thing.  We as humans love to rank things and it can cloud our judgement to see an arbitrary list.  ADP is an incredibly useful tool, as it pools and averages where others are taking players you might be thinking of taking.  You know and I know that just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t make it right.  ADP is a barometer, not law.  You know this, I know this… but that doesn’t mean every jabroney in your league knows that.  There’s at least one in every draft.  Someone who takes Chone Figgins in the 4th round.  Who asks if Martin Russell is still available.  Who tries to draft a retired player.  Even the smartest fantasy owners fall victim to ADP (Hand raised.  That sentence makes it sound like a virus).  Between the bimbos and the braniacs drafting with you, you’re all going to at one point rely on ADP as some kind of deciding/tie-breaking factor.  So here are some players not to forget about in 2012.  It’s crazy to think everyone can get a superstud to start at first,it’s a matter of numbers- everyone can’t have Pujols or Votto – just as it’s crazy chasing Amy– it’s just a matter of statistics (and gender preference, but I mean, just watch the movie.  C’mon.).  We don’t all get what we want, just ask the Rolling Stones, but sometimes, just sometimes, we get what we need.  And what you need is good value.  The Prince Fielder move has brought another titan to the ranks of 3B, but after the top two tiers, there are a ton of question marks.  Unless you’re in a 4 person league, you’ll probably need to be thinking about how to finagle value out of you 3B/CI position late in a draft.  Be smart, let someone else take Brett Lawrie in the 5th or 6th round.  Don’t get me wrong, he will have every shot at going 20-20, but people are taking him ahead of Matt Cain, Buster Posey, James Shields and Michael Young, not to mention fellow 3B Aramis Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval.  All proven fantasy commodities.  So go ahead and reach, just remember… wait for it… only fools rush in (am I killin’ it or WHAT?).

As always, much love to Mock Draft Central, where you can get all kinds of ADP reports by signing up.

P.S. Salma Hayek and Matthew Perry?  In what bizzaro world does that happen?  Is he funny or something?

THIRD BASEMEN

There are 7.5 Third Basemen in the top two ‘levels,’ in my book, now with the inclusion of Miguel Cabrera.  Longoria and Cabrera are elite talents who can anchor a team, with David Wright and Ryan Zimmerman excellent options as “1A’s.”  After that you have Alex Rodriguez, who is in that category- if he stays healthy (hence the half mentioned before).  Then there’s Aramis Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval who are nice parts for your team and contribute across categories.  Everyone else is a combination of injury risk (Youkilis), upside (Lawrie), or single category stuffers (Reynolds).  Most leagues are larger than 8 teams, so you’ll likely have to be creative at some point in some league with the position.  There’s some potential huge windfall late in the drafts at third base.  And let’s be honest, you shouldn’t settle for Mark Reynolds.  Unless you love watching major leaguers miss pitches by a foot.  Then be my guest.

Pedro Alvarez (PIT) and Mat Gamel (MIL) ADP’s 253.7 and 255, respectively.

nice stache

I have already written about both of these gentlemen at length (Gamel here and Alvarez here), as for some reason I have a good feeling about the pair (call me Flo Rida).  They’ve maintained similar ADPs and both have that feel of post-hype sleeper-dom.  It’s easy to forget, especially in Gamel’s case, just how highly touted and thought of these guys were coming up before their more recent scuffles.  Instead of taking Ryan Roberts (ADP 195) who, sure, is an interesting player not only because he is covered in tattoos, wait a few rounds and snag one of these guys.  Or swipe them off waivers if they’re hanging around and you have a need.

 

Ty Wigginton (PHI) – ADP 257

what an excellent screencap

Ty Wigginton has averaged an extra base hit every 11.2 plate appearances for his career.  Turns out, that’s pretty good.  Wigginton is a very solid player who is stepping into some serious at bats in Philadelphia.  Ryan Howard has suffered a setback.  Placido Polanco is, well, Placido Polanco.  Wigginton can also play second (if Utley is hurt), and outfield, where he will likely get a few at bats.  He’s listed at 1B, 3B, OF in most leagues, which is valuable in and of itself.  But coming in with an ADP around 257, he’s an equally valuable chip to gamble on as the aforementioned post-hype sleepers, just more boring veteran than sleeper.  Wigginton won’t hit .300.  He won’t drive in 100 runs.  But given even 400 AB, he has demonstrated the ability to hit for a playable average (.250-.270) with extra base power.  His OBP will be below average.  I know I threw a bunch of mixed signals at you just there but consider this:  Citizen’s Bank Park is a banbox.  Wigginton is a utility man with the opportunity for an above-utility number of at bats.  As a draft wears on, you would be wise to pay attention to how many multiple-eligibles are left, because Ty Wigginton can give you serious bang for your buck (seriously, he hit 23 homers in 386 AB in 2008.  That’s nuts.).

 

Ian Stewart (CHC) – ADP 393

that's the look of a man with something to prove

I find the lack of faith in Stewart very interesting.  So, sure, maybe Theo Epstein is not quite the genius we all thought he was, but he didn’t grab this guy for nothing.  Stewart, despite his many flaws in the majors, has undeniable power.  Click the link, look at his ISO averages in the minors, look at his output in the majors- the kid can mash.  So why would someone take Miguel Tejada or Jose Lopez ahead of him?  Don’t even get me started on Danny Valencia, who at MDC, is going over 100 spots ahead of Stewart.  What does Valencia bring to a fantasy team, pray tell?  I’ll give you a minute…

… time’s up, it’s nothing.  Stewart, as late as he’s going, is a treasure trove of power given the opportunity.  Imagine him hitting in Wrigley in prime slugging conditions.  In significant time when he was sent down to AAA in 2008 and 2011, Stewart put up ISO’s of .327 and .316, respectively.  Even is his sporadic and taciturn MLB time, he’s hit a homer ever 26 plate appearances.  The Cubs are in rebuild mode, for sure.  But that may actually be just what Stewart needs.  Given the opportunity, he could be the cheapest 25 homers you come across if you play your cards right.  We’re past the days of steroid-induced 50+ homer seasons occurring all over.  If you can get a power threat like Stewart this late in a draft, I suggest you jump on board.

 

So there you have it, the Filene’s Basement of 3rd Basemen.  Which type of flyer to take really has a lot to do with how your team shakes out.  If you have relatively solid 3B situation, maybe you want to roll the dice with a post-hype sleeper like Mat Gamel or Pedro Alvarez.  If you’re going into a season with Chipper Jones as your 3B, maybe it makes more sense to go for the solid production and flexibility of a guy like Wigginton or go crazy and draft Juan Uribe.  Golly do I love me some Juan Uribe.

there can be only Juan

-w

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Filed under Baseball, Fantasy Baseball, JUAN URIBE, MLB, Opinion, Posted, third base

We Need to Talk About Jason…

The folks over at the finely tuned machine that is Fangraphs had a great article several days ago on the “forced retirement team,” that is, players who seemed to have gas left in the tank, couldn’t find work, and were forced to ride off to the sunset. I’m not sure where, if at all, Jason Varitek falls on that team. His place on a realteam is a much more relevant for now. Admittedly, his skills have diminished. Yes, he can still run into a fastball. Yes, he is still notorious for working tirelessly on game planning, something even the dumbest of pitchers appreciate (cough, John Lackey). But his defensive skills have deteriorated and he’s almost 40 years old. Those two pieces of information alone usually signify the end for a catcher, especially one with weakening offensive skills and no opening at DH to slide into. The final, industrial-sized nail in Jason Varitek’s Red Sox coffin may be the 2011 team’s collapse.

 

Red Sox fans have loyally stuck by Tek as his production has decreased, citing all sorts of justifications. He’s a top-notch game caller. He’s a gamer. He hit A-Rod. Varitek undeniably gave his heart to the organization. If you question his passion for his team, go back and watch that clip of Varitek shattering his elbow as he desperately goes after a foul ball, or watch him shove Alex Rodriguez’s centaur-face. I watch that video when I’m having a bad day. Red Sox Nation knows what Varitek has meant to this franchise, and no one questioned for a second that he deserved to be the captain.

But there’s the rub — he earned that right to be captain. He therefore must shoulder the considerable responsibility that comes with the now-infamous collapse of the Red Sox in 2011. Pitchers slacking off, giving up, players appearing to lose interest- these are not on Terry Francona entirely. Part of the concept behind naming a captain is to help a manager facilitate the clubhouse.

Francona was notoriously a “players’ manager” yet still faced the type of behavior in 2011 that has come to light. What’s the point of having a captain if they cannot reel in a team losing respect for a manager?  A captain should be the last line of defense against that kind of insubordination. Either Varitek stopped trying to be a leader (in which case it’s time for him to take a break) or he was complacent in the disaster that was the epic turmoil that was the end of 2011 for Boston (in that case, good riddance to him, in my book).

Regardless of whether Varitek had an active or role in the 2011 Red Sox demise, his situation and Tim Wakefield’s retirement bring to light an interesting conundrum in all of sports. What do you do with an aging cornerstone of the team?

The city of Boston has two teams dealing with this type of situation as the aging Celtics are facing a critical juncture with its ‘Big Three.’ Like Varitek, Paul Pierce has been a hardworking and loyal teammate. The difference between the Big Three and Varitek is value. Teams would still like to have any one of the Big Three on their team for a playoff push. Varitek will either be brought back to the Sox or likely retire. So the question really is- what, if anything, does a team owe a player beyond a contract? What is loyalty in sports?

a job at Seaworld, perhaps?

When people look back on ‘the good old days,’ they lament today’s sports contracts, attitudes, and a (perceived) lack of loyalty. Players leave the team they came up with every year for the highest dollar (Ahem, Mr. Pujols.), abandoning fans and cities, taking their ‘talents’ elsewhere. Those quotation marks may seem unnecessary, but Lebron James effectively ruined that term for athletes forever. So what has changed? Why are there not more players like Stan Musinal? Ted Williams? Bill Russell? John Stockton? These guys who were not only pillars of the team, but pillars of the community.

Money, as usual, lies at the root. Players make a lot of money nowadays, if you didn’t know. The staggering dollars even marginal players make compared to eras past cannot be discounted. Sure, maybe guys felt stronger ties to cities and programs back then, but our concept of loyalty then is just as tied to money as it is now.

Players in all sports stayed in one place because it made sense financially. It’s a heck of a lot easier to transition into some sort of business after your playing days are over if you have a base in the area.  In the ‘modern era’ we see players hanging on to their playing days, leaving their teams for another city, another paycheck, because they have nowhere else to go. Players across the sports world often have no clue what to do after the game.

There are only so many seats at a pregame show and only so many color commentating spots. Many players do not plan for being retired, and see no need to. There is so much money nowadays (comparatively) that a smart player does not have the need to have a ‘real job’s’ skill set, as he may have had to in the past. Superstars or even guys with ‘personality,’ such as Kevin Millar can easily find endorsement deals or talking head spots. But some are in the in-between, like Varitek.

Varitek was never a superstar, nor was he a yapper like Kevin Millar or Tony Siragusa. He possesses a determination and work ethic that his peers respect which, in turn, makes us the fan respect him. He seems destined, as the newly retired Tim Wakefield does, for a place in the Red Sox organization. Call it a loyalty program. However there’s no one, fan or ownership alike, can pretend 2011 did not happen. So what was Varitek’s role or lack thereof in the team’s follies?

Wakefield was a less instrumental part of the 2011 team. He will remain a huge influence in Boston as he has been heavily involved in the Jimmy Fund and other charities for his entire career. A job at NESN is not out of the question. But what of Varitek? Does he still have the gravitas to be a bullpen coach? A pitching coach? A bench coach? A minor league instructor? We may never know the inner workings of the 2011 collapse in terms of who stood out and who stood idly by. But as Varitek’s lack of place on the team and likely retirement looms, we’re going to need to talk about Jason.

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Filed under catchers, MLB, offseason, Opinion, Posted

1st Base ADP: Chasing What You Can’t Have

Chasing Amy (1997), folks, get with my 1990’s program.

great movie.

ADP is a beautiful, terrible thing.  We as humans love to rank things and it can cloud our judgement to see an arbitrary list.  ADP is an incredibly useful tool, as it pools and averages where others are taking players you might be thinking of taking.  You know and I know that just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t make it right.  ADP is a barometer, not law.  You know this, I know this… but that doesn’t mean every jabroney in your league knows that.  There’s at least one in every draft.  Someone who takes Chone Figgins in the 4th round.  Who asks if Martin Russell is still available.  Who tries to draft a retired player.  Even the smartest fantasy owners fall victim to ADP (Hand raised.  That sentence makes it sound like a virus).  Between the bimbos and the braniacs drafting with you, you’re all going to at one point rely on ADP as some kind of deciding/tie-breaking factor.  So here are some players not to forget about in 2012.  It’s crazy to think everyone can get a superstud to start at first,it’s a matter of numbers- everyone can’t have Pujols or Votto – just as it’s crazy chasing Amy– it’s just a matter of statistics (and gender preference, but I mean, just watch the movie.  C’mon.).  We don’t all get what we want, just ask the Rolling Stones, but sometimes, just sometimes, we get what we need.  And what you need is good value.  And to watch Chasing Amy.  Don’t try to attain the un-attainable, you low pickers, you.  You’re chasing the unnecessary.  Settle.  So go.  Go now, and be ready for the alternative to fall into your lap.

As always, much love to Mock Draft Central, where you can get all kinds of ADP reports by signing up.

1ST BASEMEN

First Base is a solid, deep position in fantasy this year.  4 of the top ten players in fantasy are first basemen, with Prince Fielder just outside the top ten list.  That’s a strong showing.  There is a lull, then another cluster of really solid options with upside in the mid-rounds (helllllllo Ike Davis ADP 175).  This is a position that even a fantasy noob can pick.  ‘Names’ like Carlos Pena and Aubrey Huff, Todd Helton and Derek Lee litter the later rounds- all known entities in various stages of decline.  Though you may miss the big guns through either draft position or human error (Egads! You passed on Paul Konerko?  For shame, sir or madame), there are a bevvy of players to put your faith behind, for a variety of reasons.  Some are older guys coming off down years, some are coming off injury, some are simply too boring to really stand out- there are lots of first basemen to have faith in in 2012, depending on your rationale.  I’m here to remind you of a few guys you already knew about, because they’re simply going to outperform their draft slots.

Freddie Freeman (ATL) – ADP 122

looks like he's 15

The thing with first base, as I said, is that it is loaded with draftable players.  Therefore, this game of value is more comparison shopping than dumpster diving.  Freeman is an excellent example.  Mike Morse (ADP 77) and his tantalizing power is being drafted several rounds earlier than the young Bravo, yet there is an argument to be made that Freeman is the more desirable player (in keeper leagues, this is a common sense, as Freeman is 7 years younger).

50 spots later is a lot.  I will admit to two things; 1) I distrust Mike Morse.  It might be his late breakthrough, I may just have a healthy skepticism of late-onset power hitters maintaining a high average.  2) The sophomore slump is very real and very relevant.  It happens.  The fear with Freeman is that his production will take that all-too-familiar sophomore stink.  Here’s where the projections get helpful/interesting. Bill James, Rotochamp, and ZiPS all foresee Freeman maintaining a similar level of production.  This rarely happens, in my experience.  Clearly, the prognosticators believe in his consistency.  The three options, to get obvious, for Freeman’s 2012 season are to regress, remain close to the same, or improve.  Overly simple, sure, but true.  He could regress- but the experts don’t seem to be worried about that.  He might remain neutral, which is what the projections point to.  Or he may improve, as good young players often do.

So here’s how I see it- normally, I would be more concerned with a rookie’s second season.  Even the best players experience those year two blues.  The experts (much more intelligent and invested in projecting in both James’ and Szymborski’s case) seem confident in his ability to maintain that 20 homer – 80 RBI – .285-ish average.  So there’s our baseline.  Given that, and playing the hypothetical that Morse’s power drops slightly, an owner could get an equally valuable player 50 slots later.  Not bad, in my book, and that’s assuming Freeman remains as-is, not taking that next step towards his potential (.300 average, 20-25 homers, 80-90 RBI, .375+ OBP) his minor league numbers suggest.

Gaby Sanchez (MIA)- ADP 198

Sanchez is a classic example of the fantasy/reality divide.  A manager would greatly his durable, if unexhilarating numbers.  Who wouldn’t want a guy who will play 150-160 games, hit 20-ish homers, knock in 70-80 runs, and hit around .275?  The fact that these numbers come from relatively uneven monthly splits and he plays solid defense mean absolutely nothing to us in fantasy baseball.  Wait, scratch that.  Have you looked at the splits?  His months jump all over the place!  No wonder he’s not consistently owned!  Thinking back on the Marlins teams for the last two years, however, that’s not entirely his fault- the team itself was up and down offensively.  So the new-look team in Miami could be the best thing that happened to Sanchez since his parents gave him an ambiguous name.  Jose Reyes completely alters the dynamics of that offense.  Hitting behind Reyes, Han-Ram, and Mike Stanton (throw in Emilio Bonifacio and Logan Morrison too), with proven 20 homer power, Sanchez is bound  to fall into ample RBI opportunities and that team will put up more than a few crooked numbers on the board.

Everything about Sanchez is solid.  Solid can be boring in fantasy baseball.  But you need solid players to build a championship team (both in reality and fantasy) and it takes relatively minor improvements to go from solid to game-changer.  For example, let us say the Miami Marlins turn out to be an improved offense, as many predict.  Even if Sanchez treads water in his development, he’s hit 19 HR and scored 72 runs (that is weirdly consistent, right?) the past two years, so pencil him for about the same numbers there.  In a better offense, it follows he’d score more runs AND with more men on base, see more pitchers from the stretch i.e. not at their best.  Given his solid plate discipline, you would expect either more walks or a few more RBI.  But be honest, you don’t want to hear about the boring.  So let’s give him some minor, realistic improvements based on an improved lineup with improved consistency.  His BABIP has been .299 & .287 in 2010 & 2011, respectively and his batting average was .273 and .266 those same years.  Based off his minor league numbers, an uptick in BABIP of very reasonable proportions (say a shade over .300) could point Sanchez towards being a .300 hitter rather than a .270 one.  That’s a start.  His already excellent batting eye means he’ll walk, have a good OBP and generally swings at good pitches.  Think about his line with minor improvements or, at the very least, improved consistency – 30-ish doubles, 20+ homers, 80-90 RBI, 80-ish runs, an OBP around .375 and a .290 average – none of these are ridiculous numbers.  Doesn’t that sound like a pretty worthwhile player to own?

People are drafting Mark Trumbo, Paul Goldschmidt, and Ike Davis well ahead of Sanchez.  I like Davis as a sleeper a bunch for 2012 and Trumbo/Goldschmidt have undeniable power upside.  But when it comes to drafting this type of player, I like to think about both the basement and the ceiling.  At best?  You get an absolute steal of a first basemen at nearly pick 200.  At worst?  You have a guy on you bench who is going to have 2 or 3 hot months and likely end up with 17-20 HR, 70-80 RBI and a solid OBP.  The risk is minimal, the reward is there.  There’s little danger of Sanchez suddenly dropping off in a category or two making him a detriment to your team, but if you want to roll the dice and see Trumbo or Goldschmidt hit .211 with 20 homers and 200 K’s, by all means, ignore me.  It’s all about being realistic, folks.

Aubrey Huff (SF) – ADP 256

heh.

Aubrey, Aubrey, Aubrey what are we going to do with you.?  If we follow his career, he’s due for a nice bounceback year.  His numbers since 2007, when he turned 30, yo-yo pretty reliably. For example, his HR totals from 2007 on?  15, 32, 15, 26, and a measly 12 last year (despite these ups and downs his 162-game average for homers is 24).  You cannot deny the pattern of up and down, resulting in 2012 being an up year.  As always, one must be reasonable about expectations.  Admittedly, Huff is old.   His numbers are not going to be what they once were and he will likely continue to lose at-bats to younger players (see; Belt, Brandon).  However, over these past 5 yo-yo years, his advanced stats do not differ wildly, leading me to believe he’s a decent player who has often rode the wave of statistical fluctuation.

That was a fun phrase to write but really means very little, so let’s be more simple.  I think Aubrey Huff is closer to a 20 homer guy than a 10 homer guy, closer to a .290 hitter than a .260 hitter.  Given the opportunity in 2012, you could do worse fishing for a first baseman at the bottom of a draft/ top of the waiver wire.  But OH, the at-bats.  Bill James projects him at 391 AB.  Rotochamp says 405  AB.  These are not unlikely numbers.  Huff is a guy to monitor in spring training, because if he genuinely looks old, those AB numbers may turn out to be overestimation.  My point in including him on this list is the converse.  If Huff has a solid, healthy camp and figures into a regular lineup rotation spot, he could end up with 450-500 AB very easily.  With that many at-bats, he could provide 20-ish homers, right?  Right?  If this were a telecast, the producer would now be cutting to a room full of Giants fans slowly shaking their heads.  Luckily, this is fantasy baseball, so the potential for snagging a 20-homer guy in the last round or off a waiver greatly outweighs the more realistic mindset of reality.  Again, a nonsense sentence that only holds significance if you play fantasy.

All this being said, if you’re going into a baseball season with Aubrey Huff as your starting first baseman, you are in serious trouble.  But it’s always nice to have a back up plan.

BONUS INJURY TWO-FER SPECIAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Justin Morneau (MIN – ADP 161) and Kendrys Morales (ANA – ADP 215)

This is merely a public service announcement.  You all know Morneau and Morales were excellent, near-elite first basemen.  They are also both attempting to overcome uniquely challenging situations but appear right on schedule.  There is no game with their ADP, as caution is perfectly warranted.  Morales faces not only recovery from that crazy-horrific leg injury but a logjam of big ol’ power hitters in Anaheim.  Morneau has been battling concussion symptoms ever since he got his noodle rocked in 2010, in addition to the nagging injuries that have sprung up during his comeback(s).  Morales will eventually be back in the lineup, it is just a matter of time and his comfort level.  I will be watching closely and reading reports carefully as he makes his way back to the bigs, because he has serious pop in his bat, regardless of other categories.  Morneau is a scarier case, as he has faced numbness in his fingers and surgeries on important parts of his body (neck, wrist, knee).  I hope Morneau gets well, because he is not only a fantasy asset, but by all accounts a real good guy, but if I had to put money on who would have a more productive season, I’d pick Morales.  having Pujols in your corner as you try to regain your swing can only help.

First Base is both top-heavy and deep.  There are ample fill-ins, sleepers, and prospects who could step up big for whatever reason in 2012 (They always do.).  I highlighted names I kept coming up with in fantasy drafts, but know that this is a very narrow list.  Carlos Pena (ADP- 222) could hit you 30 bombs.  James Loney (ADP-240, and often overlooked) could turn a corner.  Anthony Rizzo (ADP – 330) could make Theo Epstein look like a genius for re-obtaining him.  Heck, Chris Davis (ADP-300) could make the leap to 40-homer superstar.  That last one will truly be the sign of the 2012 apocalypse and I’d love to see the Vegas odds, but you get my point; first base is crucial but also manageable.  You can’t be frustrated if you don’t get a top-tier guy.  You just have to dig a little deeper.  There’s no sense lamenting over something you could have never had in the first place.  Just ask Ben Affleck.  And for god’s sake, go watch Chasing Amy.

-w

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Catcher ADP: Hiding Beauty Like a Pair of Glasses in a Rom-Com

She’s All That (1999), but you already got that reference.

yeah, like we didn't know she was cute. C'MON. the glasses work for me. sigh. I miss the 90's sometimes. but only sometimes.

ADP is a beautiful, terrible thing.  We as humans love to rank things and it can cloud our judgement to see an arbitrary list.  ADP is an incredibly useful tool, as it pools and averages where others are taking players you might be thinking of taking.  You know and I know that just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t make it right.  ADP is a barometer, not law.  You know this, I know this… but that doesn’t mean every jabroney in your league knows that.  There’s at least one in every draft.  Someone who takes Chone Figgins in the 4th round.  Who asks if Martin Russell is still available.  Who tries to draft a retired player.  Even the smartest fantasy owners fall victim to ADP (Hand raised.  That sentence makes it sound like a virus).  Between the bimbos and the braniacs drafting with you, you’re all going to at one point rely on ADP as some kind of deciding/tie-breaking factor.  So here are some players not to forget about in 2012, as I’m betting they outperform their average draft positions.  Here’s to hoping ya’ll find your Rachel Leigh Cooks, you Freddie Prinze Jr.’s, you.

As always, much love to Mock Draft Central, where you can get all kinds of ADP reports by signing up.

CATCHER

Catcher is a tough position to read into ADP-wise.  Mock drafts reflect real leagues and they can have multiple catcher positions.  There’s a reason back-up catchers are back-ups- there’s a dropoff in quality in both  fantasy and reality when you get past your starting catcher.  That being said, ADP still reflects how people value a player, so it’s worthwhile to compare.  Buster Posey (59.7ADP) and Joe Mauer (79.9 ADP) might be the ‘names,’ but they’re injury risks, to say the least.  Wait a few rounds and grab Matt Wieters (97.8).  Better yet, wait an additional round and take Alex Avila (108.5).

Avila is a really good hitter.  He has an excellent Line Drive rate (21.7%).  He has a solid K:BB ratio (131:73), especially for a catcher.  And he has good “gap power”/ is a good “doubles hitter” – I’ll let you choose the saying you’re more comfortable with, they both mean the same thing to me.  He’s everything you should look for in a fantasy catcher – be reasonable, folks, don’t ask for more.  He’s also the last catcher I’d draft in the first 15 rounds.  Honestly.  The position is such a mix of uncertainty, over-rated-ness, and mediocrity that my feeling is if I don’t get a select few catchers in the first half of the draft at a value pick (meaning a round I feel comfortable in – I’m not taking Napoli in the 4th round, despite my affection for him).  Knowing that, there are plenty of players to target as you get down to you final picks who could yield  a big return as your starter.  Here’s a few I’d target as the draft(s) dwindle on…

Chris Iannetta (ANA)- ADP 238

having a large head also helps as a catcher

I don’t have any reason to always think on the upside of Ianetta.  Maybe it was those years of the Red Sox pursuing him.  Who knows.  Year after year though, I consider him (quietly) a sleeper.  His power is legitimate.  He’s a pretty good receiver and Mike Scioscia always gets good production from his catcher rotation (what Jeff Mathis? oh, shut up Jeff Mathis you’re bringing us all down.).  Kidding aside, Scioscia does understand the ins and outs of catching.  The question is whether Scioscia or the potential of a great lineup the Angels could trot out helps him more.  He has a good eye, has demonstrated power at every level and has never really had the opportunity to shine.  In the last few rounds, I’m giving him a shot.

Devin Mesoraco (CIN) – ADP 243.4

WHOAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA. WHOOOOAAAAAAAAAA. WHOOAAAAAAAAAA. FAAAAACE.

There is a reason he was not part of that Latos deal (and another prospect, Grandal, was)- the Reds think they have the real deal with Mesoraco (so does Keith Law).  He has what scouts like to toss around as an ‘advanced approach’ at the plate.  He has a strong arm.  In 5 minor league seasons he has demonstrated the ability to hit for a good combination of average and power.  Everything in the minors points to him being a starting catcher capable of hitting around .300 with 20 homers.  Toss into that mix that good eye and the ability to run a little bit (leading to doubles, not singles) and Mesoraco should be able to have a .850+ OPS.  In a good lineup, scoring a bunch of runs, that sounds like a very draftable catcher.  If you’d rather take Ryan Doumit (235), by all means do, I’ll be happy to snag Mesoraco as the draft closes and laugh when you are in that wonderful situation where Doumit is playing drop-ably bad and you have no viable alternative.  Just sayin’.

Ryan Lavarnway (BOS) – ADP 344.3  (listed as a DH on MDC)

20 bombs.

You may say I’m being a homer with this one.  You’re only partially right.  Jarrod Saltalamacchia actually showed a lot of promise for the Red Sox last year.  He posted a .215 ISO (measure of power, read about it) and seemed to grow a bit more comfortable as the season progressed.  That being said, he didn’t put up particularly exciting numbers, save for the power.  Lavarnway can match that power by every account.  He showed excellent power throughout the minors and looked powerful in his 43 AB for the Red Sox in 2011.  OK, that was a reach.  Hyperbole aside, Lavarnway seems to project as a similar type of player to Saltalamacchia in the worst case scenario.  Throw in Kelly Shoppach (hah.) and Jason Varitek (double hah.) and the question with the Red Sox becomes a matter of playing time.  If Lavarnway gets 350-400 AB, it is now unreasonable to see him hitting 15-18 homers, conservatively, with a better average than Salty (.235).  He’s worth a flier as a last pick of the draft in my book.

There you are, some ideas for Costco-priced catchers.  I did the thinking for you, all you have to do is remember.  Catchers are like relievers when it comes to drafting in my book – if you don’t get a sure thing early, move on and look for talent elsewhere.  It’s not worth extending yourself out of desperation to fill the catcher position on your roster just because you already have someone at another spot.  So hunt the bargain bin, look like a genius, and remember to tell your friends who told you to draft and start Lavarnway this year.

-w


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Filed under Baseball, catchers, Fantasy Baseball, MLB, Opinion, Posted, Sleepers

Poll: The (BIG) Domino Effect – Miggy to 3rd?

Wow.  Boras is sneaky like a fox.  HUGE deal for Detroit (puns intended) and it also means another burly slugger is moving across the diamond…..

-w

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Mike Stanton: Be Large and Swing a Big Stick

….Is that not the famous saying?

So I have to admit… this is a piece I sent into MLB as a sample for my winning application for the MLB fancave.  I truly believe Mike Stanton is going to have a spectacular year this year.  Read my brilliance and draft accordingly. -w

that is a very large baseball bat.

Players and fans alike should beware Mike Stanton in 2012 and going forward.  Normally I am wary of batters with such prolific strikeout potential but Stanton is different.  For all the talk of his strikeouts, his BB:K  ratio is actually a manageable  0.36 for his career.  Scouts talk about the ball ‘sounding different’ off his bat when he makes solid contact.  While I cannot claim to have been in the stadium for any of Stanton’s games, I watched many of them on MLB.com.  Any casual observer can tell you that a Mike Stanton homer looks different.  His homer run balls travel at such majestic trajectories, one might think they were designed to look that way.  But these reasons are anecdotal.  His numbers, coupled with the improvements the Miami Marlins have made this offseason, lead me to believe he will be contending for an MVP sooner rather than later.  It remains to be seen how the new Marlins Park will play (on first glance, the outfield appears quite large).  However, I would argue that with a player like Stanton, it won’t matter.  He will hit his 40-ish homers.  With an improved team and lineup in front of him, it seems his first 100 RBI season is ahead of him (Bill James agrees).  What would seem to hold him back from an MVP award, for most forecasters and fans, is the strikeouts and average.  It would not take much for Stanton’s upcoming great season to turn into an MVP-worthy season.  In the majors, his Kpercent has been around 30percent (31.1percent as a rookie in 2010, 27.6percent in 2011).  This has led to his average being around .260 and a mediocre OBP.  However, his BABIP (one of my favorite statistics) has remained an excellent .330 in 2010 and .314 in 2011.  Bill James expects this BABIP to remain about the same and so do I.  So all Stanton needs to do is strike out closer to 20percent of the time rather than 30percent.  I look to his 2009 and 2010 seasons in the minors.  With a K-rate closer to 20percent in single A , Stanton produced an OBP of .390 and an average of .294 in 2009 before getting called up to AA.  The next year, before being called up, he again kept his Kpercent down closer to 20percent and put forth a monster .442 OBP and .313 average.  If he could translate this type of success in the majors, he could easily come up with a 40-plus homer season with over 100 RBI, an above-.300 average, above .420 OBP and an OPS far over 1.  Those sound like MVP-worthy numbers to me, especially if the Marlins put together a playoff run in 2012.

-w

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Calm Before the Storm

couldn't find a screencap of Larkin in the game...

Barry Larkin, Hall of Famer.  And good for him, honestly.  It’s easy to forget just how good he was (though he was always a superstar in Backyard Baseball, obviously).  Did you know he has a higher WAR (70.4) than HOF-er Luis Aparicio (63.6)?  Than Pee Wee Reese (69.7)?  How about higher than Roberto Alomar (68.0) and Ryne Sandberg (62.6)?  My point being, Mr. Larkin (who is a pretty darn good analyst, too, in my opinion) certainly deserves his spot among these peers.  He is a member of the 30-30 club (1996, a ridiculous year), had a career OPS of .815 (and that’s low due to his waning years), and trailed only Cal Ripken Jr. (883) and Jay Bell (735) at shortstop between 1990 and 2000 with 680 RBI.  In that time he also led in SB (280), was 4th in HR (148), and second behind Jeter with an OBP of .388.  Did I mention he was a leader of those teams and from Cincinnati?  How cool is that?  Barry Larkin was a precursor to the ‘new wave’ of shortstops, hitting for power, stealing bases, and playing great defense.  I remember being surprised, but impressed when I would read his baseball cards.  I remember playing with him in Backyard Baseball.  I remember him looking incredibly, impossibly smooth when he played.  He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame.

So why was I so troubled when I found out he was the only one going in this year?

I couldn’t immediately put my finger on the sense of unease as I read about the vote and the Hall of Fame in general.  Then it hit me as I began thinking back to my card-collecting days, sorting out all the ‘superstars’ and putting them in 3×3 protective sheets in protective binders (still in my closet).  So I pulled out the binders and leafed through the pages.  The source of my skepticism became immediately clear – there they were page after page, in all the binders, tainted superstars.  Barry Bonds.  Mark McGwire.  Sammy Sosa.  Even my favorite players like Jeff Bagwell and Nomar Garciaparra.  They all now exist under the cloud of steroid scrutiny.  Some deserve it, some do not, and all are subject to the widespread judgments.  But Larkin in no way falls under that same blanket, let me make myself clear.  No, my concern grew out of the realization that all these players I grew up rooting for (and against), collecting, respecting, idolizing were under an entirely different microscope than any other era.

I have more of this specific card than I can count. I lied. It's 8. I have 8.

On the surface, most baseball fans would have no problem with this.  Despite the fury dying down, people are still very frustrated by the whole ‘steroid era’ and feel the players have gotten a relative free pass.  Understood.  But the longer I thought about Larkin and the others in my Binders, the more complicated my thoughts on the Hall of Fame became.  I arrived at a simple, direct and likely controversial conclusion: since when did these bozos with the votes get the right to invoke some ‘morality clause?’

It’s total B.S.

Did you know the Chicago White Sox threw the 1919 World Series?  Of course you did.  Did you know their owner, Charles Comiskey, was elected into the Hall of Fame in 1939?  Though I have not seen a report (Mitchell or otherwise) linking Comiskey to the actually fixing of games, historians agree he was ruthless and a bit of a jerk, which may have contributed to the players’ desire to make an extra buck.  Speculation and even history aside, isn’t the mere implication he knew anything enough to hold him back from election?  Don’t we dismiss others for far less than such a supposed connection?

Or how about the late Red Sox owner Tom Yawkey, Ty Cobb, and former Commissioner Bowie Kuhn, all falling on the spectrum of notable racists (before you start, Kuhn proposed and constructed a separate wing of the Hall of Fame to put the Negro League players in…).  All are in the Hall.  Yawkey, by all accounts, was a popular owner for a time.  He was, by many of the same accounts, an enormous racist and had to be convinced to integrate the Sox in the 70’s.  Cobb was one of the greatest players of all time.  He was also one of the most despised.  Sharpening his spikes, spitting racial epithets, and being an overall poor human being.

The list could go on and on of players who skirted rules and behaved immorally.  Baseball players are not supposed to be moral beings, they’re supposed to be playing a game.  I realize that morality and rule breaking are different arguments, but when it comes to the Hall of Fame, where is the line?  What is the ‘morality clause’ and where did it come from?  I suppose I understand the argument that if a player cheated and was caught, they deserve to be punished.  But at what cost?  Do we banish Bonds and Clemens at the expense of innocent players?  Let’s not forget, too, that technically, at the turn of the millennium (where most of the questions lie), the steroids in question were NOT banned.  It was undeniably cheating.  I see a distinction between the two.  Clearly I’m in the minority.  If we let scumbags in, drug addicts and womanizers, why are we casting such a shadow on a whole era of players?  I’ll give you Brett Boone.  I won’t argue for him.  But are we really prepared to keep Jeff Bagwell out just because he played in a tainted era?  How about Jim Thome?  This Steroid/Hall-of-Fame issue is not going away and not being addressed properly.  With the first really controversial class (2013) looming, a decision needs to be made.  If you keep out some, you must keep out all.  There can be no picking and choosing, no sliding scale of guilt.  Are we willing to let the Pedro Gomezs, the Joel Shermans, the WOODY PAIGES cast their judgments on players who have not been found guilty of anything other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time?

Sports is a bunch of man-children gathering together for extended periods of time facing constant scrutiny from amateurs. And yet we expect them all to behave, all the time.

Congratulations, Barry Larkin.  You deserve your election, the historic jump in percentage vote.  You also mark calm before a storm.  The coming years are only going to intensify the steroid issue.  Be happy for Mr. Larkin.  Be wary of the votes ahead, fans.  It’s gonna get ugly.  Like Marge Schott ugly.

-w

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Are You Left-Handed? You Could Be ‘THAT Guy.’

You know when you’re watching a movie and you see ‘that guy?’  The surly beat cop.  The troubled scientist.  The grizzled war general.  The character actor.  They do not land glamorous roles, they’re never stars but they come up again and again in similar roles across mediums (The King? Clint Howard.  He’s my all time favorite. Or this guy.).  These actors and actresses make a living doing small but crucial roles in a larger scheme.  We have lots of character actors in baseball.  For every Albert Pujols, there is an Alex Cora.  We give them monikers like ‘character guys,’ ‘defensive specialists’ and, in some sports ‘glue’ guys.  I would like to take a moment to recognize one of the finest character actors we have in sports today, Mr. Darren Oliver, lefthander extraordinaire.

Oliver is about to sign with the Blue Jays on a 1-year deal.  When he does, it will mark the start of his 19th season in the MLB.  Oliver is such an interesting case to me.  Proof, if you will, that every left-handed child should learn to throw a curveball.  Oliver was a mediocre but effective back-end starter for those Rangers teams in the late 90’s when they time and time again failed to defeat the Yankees despite putting up video game numbers on offense (actually, he threw a really nice start in game 3 of the ALDS against the soon-to-be World Series Champs Yanks, poor Braves).  But his mediocrity caught up to him and by 2005, he was not signed to a major league team.  By then, he had become a 6th starter, a swingman.  Starting games and mopping up messes.  Then he wised up and became a situational lefty.  There are very few careers in the world so beautifully, specifically designed.

very dramatic pose.

And this is when and why I find him so endlessly delightful.  You can see here in some sortable stats and pretty-colored charts that Oliver is rarely touching 90 on the radar gun.  There is something undeniably fun about seeing major league batters pop up on an 80 mph fastball and clearly mouth some truly foul expletives as they head back to the dugout.  It humanizes them.  There’s no solid logic for what makes Oliver so effective as a reliever.  Barely throwing swiftly, let alone hard, Oliver gets the job done time after time out of the pen.  He held lefties to a .225 batting average in 2011 and had the same batting average against with men on base last year.  He is the consummate ‘crafty lefty.’  Straight out of baseball’s central casting.  He’ll never sign a deal for $25 million a year, but Oliver and guys like him win championships and don’t go away easily.  Congratulations, Mr. Oliver.  Your fastball-slider combo gives hope to every high school lefty worrying that, while it might send you back in time, 88 mile per hour won’t get you to the big show.

 

-w

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