Walking the Walk- Back to .500

Posted: June 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

After falling to 2-4, I traded Tim Lincecum for Curtis Granderson in a rare 1-1 trade. Since then, I’ve won two weeks in a row to climb back to .500 and my team features several of the hottest players in fantasy, including Mike Trout and Chris Sale. I also own two of the best new closers in baseball in Addison Reed and Tyler Clippard

With Chase Utley closing in on a return, the team as a whole looks balanced and ready to run off a few wins in a row. 

For those of you not familiar with the concept, snakes are players whose value has dropped significantly since the season started. And ladders, as you might expect, have climbing value.

SNAKES- Closers- Of the 30 opening-day closers in MLB, 15 have since been removed from their jobs for one reason or another. This, of course, includes Brian Wilson, Mariano Rivera Ryan Madsen, Andrew Bailey, Drew Storen, and Joakim Soria, who are all either done for the year, or legitimately could be.

LADDER- Setup men- Kenley Jansen, Tyler Clippard, Addison Reed, Fernando Rodney, Rafael Soriano, Aroldis Chapman, Scott Downs, Alfredo Aceves… if you drafted 7th or 8th inning guys in your draft, odds are you lucked into at least one closer.

SNAKES- Aces- Tim Lincecum is 2-4 with an ERA over six. He has a 10.0 K/9, which shows the stuff is still there, but his command is all over the place. A 3.58 ERA and 1.109 WHIP for Roy Halladay is considered a sluggish start, but he’s been dominant for long enough to believe his ratios will end up on par with expectations. Of more concern to Halladay owners is the Phillies offense and how it may limit his win total. The concern with Josh Johnson has always been his health, but JJ is perfectly healthy and boasting a 2-3 record, with an ERA close to five. However, his last two starts have been more indicative of the production we’ve come to expect and I’d start him as long as he’s healthy. Heck, he has to have a full season someday. Even Detroit Lions’ QB Matthew Stafford did.

LADDER- Rookies- Regardless of the numbers, owners should be thrilled just to have the services of Bryce Harper and Mike Trout this early in the season. Now consider Trout is batting .312 with an OPS over .900, four homers and six steals in 24 games. Drew Smyly has a 2.89 ERA in eight starts for the Tigers this season. Yu Darvish has a 3.05 ERA, 10.1 K/9 and leads the league with six wins. I’d be selling Smyly and Darvish if I could get top-30 SP value for them. I’d also be selling Harper in a redraft league if someone would give me a proven productive player in return.

SNAKES- Former All-Stars on the East Coast- Carl Crawford won a Gold Glove, Silver Slugger and was seventh in MVP voting in 2010. He signed a mega-deal with the Red Sox and in 2011 batted .255 before ending his season on the disabled list. He has yet to play in 2012. Jacoby Ellsbury had a career year in 2011, finishing second in MVP voting and topping .320, 30 HR and SB, and 100 RBI and runs scored. He played seven games and batted .192 before landing on the DL early in 2012. Ryan Howard had 33 HR, 116 RBI and scored 81 runs for the Phillies in 2011 before rupturing his achilles on the last play of their 2011 postseason run. He has yet to play in 2012. Chase Utley appeared in five consecutive All Star Games going into 2011, battled knee problems throughout the season which limited him to 103 games and has yet to play in 2012.

LADDER- Relievers Turned Starters- CJ Wilson has a 2.90 ERA and 8.2 K/9 over his first 10 starts for his new team. When they start putting runs on the board, the wins will come too. Chris Sale has been even better with a 2.50 ERA and a 5-2 record over his first eight starts and nine appearances. After a momentary stint in the bullpen during an elbow scare, he is back to dominating in the rotation. You may shop Sale around late June, early July as the added wear on his arm may cause an innings limit, or worse, injury. Before going on the disabled list, Neftali Feliz was also pitching well, with a 3.16 ERA over his first eight games, with a 1.159 WHIP and 7.8 K/9. The time out may even help limit the workload on his arm, and allow him to return fresh and go deeper into the season. Beware a potential move back to the bullpen if Texas fears future injury though.

SNAKES- Second year super-prospects- In 128 games of his rookie season, Eric Hosmer batted .293 with 19 HR, 78 RBI and 11 SB. Many scouts projected Hosmer to be the next Joey Votto as early as this season. However, through 41 games of 2012, Hosmer is batting .191. There is concern he could serve a stint in Triple-A to get his stroke back if there isn’t marked improvement sooner than later. Considering Hosmer’s peripherals are right on track and he sports a record-low BABIP, I’d be buying low on the kid. A late season call-up for the Tampa Bay Rays, Matt Moore was expected to dominate the league starting in 2012. Through nine starts, he is 1-4 with an ERA over five. His 8.7 K/9 is encouraging, but he also walking almost five batters per nine innings. Moore’s stuff looks just as good as ever, but he will need to regain his control to meet expectations.

Some notes to add to this article, since I’ve been away from the blog for a couple weeks… If you can sell Josh Hamilton for value close to the No. 1 overall player in fantasy, do it. I wouldn’t give him away, but the track record shows a penchant for mid-season DL stints. I’d have to be getting two top-50 players to trade him, but I’d at least be listening.

There is a real possibility Lincecum is hurt. He has shied away from using his slider, and his control is inconsistent, which is odd for a guy with preciously impeccable mechanics. Meanwhile, the time for buying low on Dan Haren may be gone after his 14-K shutout last night. He will be just fine. Darvish and Sale might be prime sell-high candidates. Other Japan imports have started hot and struggled in the second half as more video is available on him. And Sale has already had one injury scare that prompted a bump to the bullpen for a few days. The White Sox are appropriately skittish with their lefty.

As I said, buy Hosmer while you still can. And buy Adrian Gonzalez, Albert Pujols, Mark Teixeira and Troy Tulowitzki if owners are losing patience.

With Mark Reynolds still on the disabled list, and Tim Lincecum posting two sub-par starts, my team fell to 2-4 on the season. Going into Sunday, I had Lincecum going and was down by just ten points. It should have been an easy win, but Lincecum gave up four earned runs in four innings to the Oakland A’s.

There is some upside to the week though as I was able to trade Lincecum for Curtis Granderson, which is a bargain even if Timmy was pitching well.

Also on the upswing is Brian Matusz. Five of his last six starts have been quality outings. He shut down the Boston Red Sox most recently, striking out nine in the effort. Chris Sale, Jeff Samardzija and Jonathan Niese continue to support the typical Justin Verlander dominance.

Also, supporting the advice not to pay for saves (a theory originated with one Matthew Berry, who was recently inducted into his second fantasy sports Hall of Fame. Congrats to the Talented Mr. Roto), the only closer I drafted was Brian Wilson. Now he has been dropped but I have Addison Reed and Tyler Clippard who have fallen into 9th-inning gigs since the season started. Thank you very much.

Considering my underperforming keepers Ben Zobrist and Eric Hosmer both show peripherals that predict improvement, the addition of Granderson and the awakening of Matusz, this 2-4 team is looking up.

Week 5 Q&A

Posted: May 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

I’ll dive right in to the inbox and see what people are freaking out about today…

Felix, Kentucky: I’ve been offered Mike Trout for Andrew McCutchen in a keeper league. This is an absolute deal right? 

Felix, McCutchen is a young outfielder with 30/30 potential. He’s on the same side of his prime as Trout, and has similar upside. Maybe in three years, if Trout becomes exactly what scouts hope, you might do this deal. But for the next two years at least, I’d rather have McCutchen. I’ve been saying, a likely development scale for Trout is something like Austin Jackson next year, Shane Victorino in 2014 and then in 2015 something like BJ Upton plus 40-50 points of average. 

Jason, New Hampshire: I’m 1-3 and own Harper in a keeper league, what should I expect back in a trade? 

First of all, its not like he’s all hype anymore. Harper is actually producing. That being said, if you are dead set on trading him, in a keeper league, he should command a proven producing bat, or a solid, reliable pitcher. I might start out by looking at guys like Ben Zobrist or perhaps Michael Young and on the pitching side, maybe target a buy-low like Adam Wainwright, who I expect to be pretty good, and keep getting better. 

Hallie, Texas: You said there was a new “Snakes and Ladders” coming… 

I did, and there is. I’ve been battling some computer issues so my posting chances have been sporadic. It will be done soon. 

Merlin, California: I was offered Mark Reynolds for Emilio Bonifacio in a 14-team standard scoring points league. The league subtracts 0.25 points for strikeouts, but its four points for a home run, plus another one for the runs scored and one for the RBI, so homers are really worth six. Would you do this?

That’s a tough one. Preseason, I would have probably preferred Reynolds, and I don’t think much has changed. I’d be much more hesitant on this because of Reynolds start to the year, but he is hitting now and in a points league, I’d probably still take Reynolds, but by a hair.

Carter, New York: Trade Adam Dunn while he’s mashing? 

Dunn is doing what we knew he would. He’s hitting for power and not much else. I think you trade him if you’ve got excess power in a roto league, but I expect him to hit 25-35 home runs, so make sure you get adequate value back.

Kim, Florida: Football question, if you dont mind, where would you draft the tight ends? It looks like a deep position, but also top heavy.

Well, I won’t be taking one of the top few because, after what Rob Gronkowski did last year, they will go much earlier than they should. I know people targeting Gronk in the second round, and Jimmy Graham not far behind. That being said, if I had to pick one of them, I wouldn’t go any earlier than late third or early fourth round, but they won’t still be available there. I’m going to be taking mine much much later, probably looking long and hard at Jacob Tamme, who has history with Peyton Manning already. 

Gabriel, London: I have the #1 overall pick and can’t decide between the top four RB. Help?

Well, if it was me, it’d be Ray Rice… I say that because Arian Foster is going to lose some carries to Ben Tate. That’s just going to happen. Leshean McCoy is going to lose touchdowns to Michael Vick and he loses productivity when Vick is out, which he will be for 3-4 games this year. FInally, Maurice Jones-Drew is the only proven player on that offense, so if I was playing defense, I’d stack the box and make Blaine Gabbert beat me. 

That’s it for now. As I said, Snakes and Ladders coming soon. 

Bad week all around. Mark Reynolds finally broke out… and I had him on my bench. Brian Matusz had a great start against the Yankees, and I had him on my bench. Both were guys who deserved to be benched, but that’s a tough pill to swallow when I had starters like Jon Niese and Derek Holland get pounded, and Tim Lincecum failed to finish six innings… again.

I’m 1-3, and yet my team is better than that. Oh, another bit of bad news, Chris Sale is moving to the closer role, so I lose one of my more effective starters AND that blocks Addison Reed, who should be closing for Chicago. On the plus side, I’d prefer that to Sale getting hurt or shelved at an innings limit. I am exploring a few trade options, and almost had one done Sunday night before the owner backed out. I’m still not panicking yet, but if it gets to four games below .500, I’ll be taking a long hard look at this team’s composition.

In the meantime, I have several pitchers on two-start weeks, so hopefully that will give this team the added boost it needs.



New article I wrote for B/R. Fantasy players and general baseball fans alike should enjoy the idea.


Posted: May 2, 2012 in Fantasy Baseball

Considering its May, I’m going to dig into the Fantasy X-Man inbox and find some baseball AND football questions, because owners are beginning football preparations too.

Layla, Colorado: Is Mark Reynolds ownable right now? His record seems to indicate he will give me 30 homers, 80 RBI and 80 R minimum, but if there was ever a guy to repeat Adam Dunn’s 2011… Also, should I sell high on Brian Matusz?

Well I own Reynolds in my 18-team keeper league, so yes he is ownable. But in anything less than 14 teams, I would have a hard time holding onto him. I think he will end up with those numbers, but in 2011 I was trying (and thankfully failing) to trade for Dunn right about this time. As far as Matusz goes, if you can sell him like a top-50 SP, with a more stable starter or solid bat in return, then I would do it. But don’t sell just to sell. Remember, a lot of smart people think (or at least thought) he’s going to be an ace.

Austin, Delaware: Can you estimate Mike Trout and Bryce Harper’s value this season, in either a seasonal or keeper league?

I own trout in one deep keeper league and I added Harper in a shallow keeper league when he was brought up. I expect both to hit around .250. I think Harper hits 15 home runs, and Trout ends up between 8-10, with Trout possibly stealing 10-12 bases and Harper nabbing perhaps five. I’d trade either if I could in a seasonal league, but I’d expect a quality player back in a keeper. Let me explain it this way. I project Trout as Shane Victorino in 2013 and in 2014, think BJ Upton with a .290-.300 average, so 20 HR and 40 SB. As far as Harper goes, I’d project the power to arrive before the average. In 2013, he might hit 25-30 HR, with a .260 average, and then progress from there to perhaps Giancarlo Stanton territory in 2014 and be among the game’s elite power hitters in 2015.

Jason, Washington, D.C.: How do you see the injured running backs in the NFL ending up this season? I’m hearing mixed reports about their Week 1 likelihood and I want to get my rankings done.

Jason, I advise patience. My rankings for them seem to change weekly, as we gain new insight into each injured stud. The top four have become fantasy diamonds because of the uncertainty after them. Backs 5-13 or so all have serious questions. Do anything you can to nab Arian Foster, Ray Rice, Maurice Jones-Drew or Leshean McCoy. On another note, there is exponentially more useful tight ends today than there were this time last year. There is no need to reach for one of the top guys. I’ll probably end up with Jacob Tamme in a lot of leagues because I’ll just wait and stock up on RB and WR.

Taryn, Texas: Hey Fantasy X-Man, what do you know?

I know Eric Hosmer‘s BABIP tells me to buy-low if I can and I know Bryan LaHair’s tells me to sell high if I can. I know Addison Reed will likely lead the White Sox in saves this season and Aroldis Chapman will strike out enough batters to be the most valuable non-closer in baseball. I know I’d sell high on Josh Hamilton if I was getting two GREAT players and there isn’t a player on the planet I would take straight up for Matt Kemp.

Eustice, Wisconsin: Who are not closers right now, who could be by the end of May? I’m already pretty far behind in saves and looking to hit a couple home runs, like I did by taking your advice on Jordan Walden last year.

Well, Reed is the first one. I don’t think the White Sox can keep him in the 7th inning for long, and they don’t want Matt Thornton closing. Kenley Jansen looks like he might slowly be taking over, and this is an excellent time to buy-low on Walden, as I think he will be back in the closer role by June 1. I still think Tyler Clippard is the best pitcher in that bullpen, and should eventually get a chance, though I’m not sure he will and Aaron Crow will likely lead the Royals in saves at season’s end. Trade Jonathan Broxton, Frank Francisco, and Fernando Rodney if you can.

That’s it for now. I’ll try to get to some more questions later on today. And Snakes and Ladders is coming soon……..

Walking the Walk- Week 3

Posted: May 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

Tim Lincecum remembered how to pitch, producing two good starts for 48.5 total points and I won 258.5-248.

Despite Justin Verlander and Derek Holland posting rough starts, I got solid contributions from Ben Zobrist and Eric Hosmer as well as good starts from Chris Sale and Jon Niese. I was helped out tremendously by my opponent’s negative weeks out of Ivan Nova, Jon Danks, Randall Delgado, and Phil Hughes.

In some other team news, I am now 1-2. Brian Matusz has produced two good starts against the Blue Jays and Yankees, both while sitting  on my bench, so it may be time to start using him again. I am in trade negotiations for a possible blockbuster deal which I will post if it happens.

Meanwhile, last night Chris Sale threw his third straight start of exactly 22.5 points, which is very useful considering Niese got hammered. I’ve had to bench Mark Reynolds in favor of Placido Polanco and with the injury to Miguel Olivo, Jesus Montero is inching closer to catcher eligibility.

I’m going to sort through some questions and do a Q&A soon, and keep your eyes open for Snakes and Ladders, the risers and fallers of the early going.

Bryce Harper to Debut Saturday for Nats

Posted: April 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

Bryce Harper is batting .250 with a .708 OPS at Triple-A, but will make his major league debut Saturday night in Los Angeles. If you drafted him, I would trade him ASAP because, while the power will be awesome, the average and OBP might suffer in his first season at this level. You should be able to get a very useful player in return. Seasonal leagues should ignore the preceding advice and hold on, barring an offer of an elite player in return. 

Every fantasy owner has trades they look back on at the end of the year and say “what was I thinking?” But that is not what this article is meant to prevent. That will happen every year because, in all reality, you can’t see the future, so some trades are bound to not work out. This article is meant to stop the trades you regret the next day. Its important to note these are not rules, but merely tips and suggestions coming largely (though not exclusively) from personal experience. Lastly, I strongly encourage anyone with other tips and experiences to share in the comments when you’re done reading. Every league is different, and no one is immune to bonehead mistakes.

Check every single player’s health before finalizing a trade. Someone, somewhere traded for Ryan Madsen the day of, or the day after, his season-ending injury was announced. Shrewd owners, who heard about it early on, sent out trade offers to try and get a little value for him while they still could. Major League executives know this simple tip. Every player who is traded must pass a physical before the trade is finalized. There is any number of free websites to check the health of any major leaguer in moments, so there is no excuse to hit the accept button before checking.
Drunk trading is like drunk dialing. You never get the person you thought you were getting, and it always ends up costing you more than it’s worth. If you’ve been out drinking with your friends and one of them starts asking about your fantasy team, call a cab and go home. On the other hand, if you’re around friends who have been drinking, it can’t hurt to ask them about their players, and you might even come away with a bargain at the end of the night. Also in this category, don’t trade the day after a breakup or a change in your employment situation. Ultimately, you should never complete a deal at any time when you’re not thinking clearly. This is an easy way to be duped. In 2011, Logan Morrison’s off-the-field issues with his team finally erupted, and he was unexpectedly demoted in the middle of his best season since coming up to the major leagues. There were probably some savvy Morrison owners who saw his demotion and made clever trade offers to people who knew to check his health, but never thought he would be in the minors. It doesn’t matter who is involved in the trade; always check to make sure they haven’t been unexpectedly demoted. It only takes a moment to check that everyone is still in the major leagues, and it could save an immediate headache. Are you trading for a guy who is sitting in a jail cell? Admittedly, this isn’t quite as pertinent in baseball as it is in the NBA or NFL, but every once in a while, someone gets busted, and you don’t want to be the guy who trades for him. On this same note, keep in mind the risk with people who have had off-the-field issues before, either with the law or with suspensions, or even within their own clubhouses. Those kind of players tend to miss extra games. Trade upside for safety. Matt Cain is the poster boy for safety. The last three years, his ERA has been 2.89, 3.14, 2.88. His WHIP has been 1.181, 1.084, 1.083. He has struck out 171, 177 and 179 in those years. He has pitched over 200 innings every year since 2007. Since 07, his K/9 has been between 7.1 and 7.7 All that being said, Zack Greinke, who most people would rank ahead of Cain, has had ERA of 2.16, 4.17 and 3.83, and his WHIP has gone from 1.073, 1.245, 1.200. FInally, his strikeouts have gone from 242 to 181 to 201. I would gladly trade Greinke away for Cain, and one could probably demand a second player be added in with Cain in that deal, which makes it a bargain. Always trade the sure thing for the upside with drastic downside. Have you ever been in trade talks for two hours or more and gotten to the point where you took less than you intended because you didn’t want the time to be wasted? This is especially dangerous close to the trading deadline because an owner feels the need to get a deal done and loses perspective. If it doesn’t happen in an hour, walk away, have a burger and then, if both sides want, come back and try again.In fact, having been burned by this tip before, it might be wise to set yourself a trade deadline, prior to the real deadline, just to avoid the frantic deadline chaos.

Never negotiate in the presence of your wife or girlfriend. Women are generally more sympathetic than men. And they want their husbands to be as compassionate as they are, which makes the cutthroat process of trading seem barbaric and cruel. Negotiating in front of your wife/girlfriend cannot end well. Either you give in to her pleas that you be nicer and you get ripped off, or you don’t give in, drive your bargain and she ends up mad at you. And gentlemen, if you have a wife or girlfriend who is as competitive a fantasy baseballer as you, hold on tight. The last side of this tip is negotiating WITH your significant other. Being in a league with them is dangerous because you can play to win, in which case it might be a long season around the house, or you can give in to her begging for a certain player, and it will be a long season in your own competitive mind.
Everyone is prone to having a bad year. Whether they had injury concerns or bad luck or mechanical issues, even the best players can have bad years. So when valuing a player, use the past three years as a barometer for your expectations.  For example, Evan Longoria batted .244 last season (yes, with 31 HR and 99 RBI). Someone trying to trade for him will repeat that average over and over and insist on the risk. However, he batted .281 in 2009 and .294 in 2010. He had 100-plus RBI and 95-plus runs scored in each of those seasons. On the flip side, beware the fluke. Jeff Francoeur had an .805 OPS, 20 HR, 87 RBI, 77 runs and 22 steals last season. The homers were his most since 2006, RBI most since 2007, runs most since 2007 and he had never stolen more than eight bases in major league baseball. Have some perspective when you negotiate. You never NEED to trade. The San Francisco Giants gave up a top pitching prospect because they thought they NEEDED to get Carlos Beltran. It turned out Beltran couldn’t save their season, and they lost a prospect for what amounts to nothing now. Never make a deal just for the sake of “needing to make a deal.” At no point in the season is a bad trade suddenly a good trade just because you need to do something. Bad value and overpaying is still a mistake. Let this ring in your ears if you’ve started 0-2 this season. On that point, it’s not a bad idea to avoid trading on any Monday. Why? Because an owner reeling from a heartbreaking loss may be vulnerable to foolish offers. Allow yourself Monday to cope with the past week and then move forward. Know your league.  Mark Reynolds has very different value in a league that does not penalize for strikeouts as opposed to a league in which on-base percentage is a category in the scoring. Likewise, Johnny Venters is as good, or better than, many closers in a league that counts holds. And starters on good teams lose value if the league counts quality starts instead of wins. Every league is a little bit different, and therefore, the players in it are valued slightly differently due to those changes. Always be aware of those things when drafting, and in trade negotiations. You may be able to steal a player who is thought of as less valuable, but who fits your league’s scoring to a T. Play to win this year.  Keeper league owners are notorious for falling in love with prospects and overpaying for them. One owner in my 18-team keeper league drafts one or two top prospects every year just to trade them for exponentially more than they are worth, and every year, he does. After an 0-3 or 1-4 start, you might be contacted by owners offering you an up-and-coming “star” and demanding your proven player in return. Don’t be fooled. No prospect is a sure thing, and even some who do eventually pan out take much longer than expected to do so, as seems to be the case with Cameron Maybin and Alex Gordon. Conversely, if you can get a proven producer for one of your minor leaguers, don’t fall in love with the potential. Make the deal. If you trade Harper for Shane Victorino this year and Harper hits 35 home runs in 2015, you still made a good deal. No regrets!  Being a fantasy owner is like being a closer for a baseball team. There will be good deals and bad deals (hopefully more good ones), but a closer who blows a save, or an owner who traded Jose Bautista for Gordon Beckham before the 2010 season, must always be looking forward. There are lessons to be learned. Look back on the bad deals from the perspective of hoping not to repeat the same mistake in approach next time, not necessarily just to kick yourself about a certain player. Were there signs player “X” was warming up or starting to slump? Those are things to learn. The game is meant to be fun. There’s no point hating yourself for past mistakes. Take each week in stride and enjoy the game. There’s always next year.