Monthly Archives: August 2010
As in every sport, teams can win games without playing up to their full capabilities. The best teams don’t always win and the worst teams don’t always lose. There is not one overlying explanation for this, but one of the most sensible is simply luck. Good luck, bad luck or Luck of the Irish, baseball teams and players experience their fair share of luck throughout the course of a season.
Luck plays a large role in the actual game of baseball and even more so in fantasy baseball. A lot of things can lineup to help or hurt you. You could match up against a team who’s manager hasn’t checked their club in a month, and therefore has two DL’d players still in his lineup and his best starter on the bench. You could simply run into a team that has players who all have an off day on Monday, while your players are from the eight teams that are playing. Your seven starters might make seven starts, while your opponent’s seven starters make ten or twelve. Maybe one of your opponent’s players goes on a ridiculous week-long tear that just happens to correspond with your matchup with him.
Playing in my first competitive fantasy baseball league this year, I decided to try and take a look at just how much of a factor luck proved to be. Luck is an intangible variable, something that is impossible to accurately analyze, but you can look at and compare certain statistics to get a rough idea of how much luck influenced a season. There’s no one way to do this, and as far as I know no one has applied this type of analysis to a fantasy league. But it’s been done for Major League Baseball, as evidenced by a team’s Pythagorean Record.
The Pythagorean Record determines the record a team should have based on the quality of baseball they’ve played during the season. This is calculated by using a team’s run differential, which is the difference between runs scored and runs allowed. Generally a good team will register a very high run differential, while a bad team will constantly be outscored. The greater your average margin of victory, the better team you should be.
While that system is flawed, it’s as good as any I’ve seen and that’s why I chose to base my evaluation off of it. I devised a way to analyze my team’s actual performance against what they probably should have done, had all things been equal. The graph below shows each statistic that my league used, my season total and overall record for each category, and my league rank for each total. The three columns on the far right represent the expected record for me based on the overall numbers my team posted.
My “formula” for determining the expected record, or “X-record” was simple. The X-record is simply the overall league record for the corresponding rank. For example, my team was ninth in runs scored with 551, but my 13-7-1 record was the fourth best record overall. The ninth best record for runs scored was 11-10-0, making that my X-record for runs.
Comparing my actual record and my X-record, it seems that my team’s overall record is slightly better than what their actual performance has indicated. My pitching actually ran into some bad luck this season, as their actual record was two games worse than what X-record said it should be. Despite recording the fourth most amount of total saves over the course of the season, my team was saddled with the ninth best record in that category.
My offense on the other hand, was fortunate to experience very good luck and outperformed their expected record by fourteen games. They outperformed their X-record in each of the six offensive categories, sometimes by a large margin. The red numbers at the bottom are my actual record (165-74-13) and what my record should have been, given how my team performed (152-85-15). So it appears that my team experienced a considerable amount of good luck this year, but not an overwhelming amount.
The 152-85-15 record that my team was expected to have still would have been an excellent record. In fact, it still would have been good enough for a first place finish in the league, albeit by seven games instead of fifteen.
It takes more than sheer luck to be a successful fantasy manager, but sometimes you can make your own luck. Fantasy managing ultimately comes down to two things – managerial knowledge and managerial activity. And I don’t think those two aspects are even splits either. Simply paying attention to your roster and playing matchups goes a long way to a winning season.
Below are the final standings of the league.
With a playoff berth and the first overall seed sewn up, the outcome of Week 21 mattered very little to me. That said, it’s probably best that my hitters got their worst three game streak out of the way before the games matter again. After starting the week brutally, I scraped back and nearly earned a tie, ultimately suffering me second loss of the season 5-7-0.
My offense didn’t hit too much, but when they did, they inflicted some serious damage. I hit only .246/.312 for the week, easily my worst week of the season in that regard, but managed pretty good counting numbers with 28 runs, nine homers and 36 RBI. I’ll take those three numbers any week of the year, but this week they were only good to win one of those three. Every single one of my opponent’s players hit a home run and he finished with twelve for the week. He bested me by one in runs and I beat him by six in RBI. Gaby Sanchez homered twice and drove in eight runs this week while Kosuke Fukudome hit .417/.533 with two homers and five RBI. Nick Swisher also had a big week, homering twice with five runs and five RBI while hitting .353/.417. A week after stealing seven bases, I managed zero this week and lost a winnable stat with my opponent getting only two.
Josh Johnson and Adam Wainwright made two starts each this past week, but all four were rather pedestrian. They didn’t win a game and managed only one quality start over the course of the week. Excellent outings from Barry Enright, Felix Hernandez and Tim Hudson helped me win quality starts, strikeouts and wins. A save from each of my closers was enough to take that category but I dropped ERA and WHIP to finish 4-2 in the pitching categories.
The only move I made this week was finally pulling the trigger on dropping Denard Span. Several times the past few weeks, I’ve started the process of dropping him for an extra starter, but could never convince myself that any of the available starters would help me enough to validate dropping Span. I finally confirmed the release, but replaced him instead with another outfielder, Florida rookie Logan Morrison. I’ve realized that finding power and RBIs this late in the season is nearly impossible, so I grabbed Morrison who scores a ton of runs atop the Marlins lineup and fills out average and OBP very nicely.
The 5-7 week gives me a final record of 165-74-13, good for a first place finish and a 15 game cushion over the runner-up. Now it’s on to the playoffs and each team that wins this week will move up to the next league, so needless to say I’d like to win. I’m up against Tug Z’Nuff which is a tough matchup. He finished 123-111-18 and in eighth place.
I’ll have some posts this week analyzing my season, good and bad. I’ll cover things from the draft to an original method I’ve developed to look at how much luck factored into my first-place finish.
Since I think they are funny, I decided to share some of my favorite YouTube videos. Enjoy!
I’m not a fan of Halloween at all, but the holiday does produce some entertaining clips!
This one’s got some NSFW language in it, but it sums up nicely my thoughts on Snuggies, and the commercials that pitch them.
I always appreciate a good mash-up, even more so when it uses 40 inspirational speeches in two minutes!
Since LeBron James teamed up with Dwayne Wade this offseason, there have been multiple rumblings about other star NBA players looking to run together. One of those players is Carmelo Anthony, who has made it abundantly clear that he’d prefer to leave Denver, rather than stick around. According to Anthony and his insiders, his preference is to take his game to New York and play with Amare Stoudamire and the Knicks.
Denver just recently filled their vacant GM position and have been informed that Anthony doesn’t plan to accept the three-year, $65 million extension they’ve offered. That development means that Denver will most likely entertain trade offers for their star player. Because of Anthony’s New York preference, it makes sense that the Nuggets and Knicks discuss trade possibilities. The problem with that pairing though is that despite the roster rebuilding the Knicks have done in the past 18 months, they don’t really have enough pieces to put together an attractive offer for Denver.
The Nets and Clippers have both been mentioned as potential landing spots for Anthony and both teams certainly have the talent to offer Denver. Additionally, they provide Anthony with large media markets for him to expand his image and visibility. The Warriors also have the talent to move in exchange for Anthony.
But no team is going to going to give up a ton of talent to acquire Anthony unless he signs an extension with the team, and that’s where Anthony gains valuable leverage. Is he desperate enough to get out of Denver that he’ll agree to an extension with some team other than New York? Or is he so set on playing in New York that he declines big-money extensions, plays out the season in Denver and signs with New York after the 2010-11 season?
If he truly is committed to playing in New York, Denver may end up having to take less talent from New York in a deal for Anthony to avoid losing him for nothing.
For the second time this season, I wrapped up a week with a clean 12-0 sweep. Combining a solid week for my team with a subpar week from my opponent led to me doing plenty to clinch the number one overall seed in the playoffs.
No one particular hitter had an amazing week, but several guys had pretty good ones. Gaby Sanchez homered twice and drove in seven runs. Jorge Posada homered twice and drove in five. Dan Uggla hit .320/.379 with a homer and five RBI. Ben Zobrist and Lorenzo Cain each scored four runs. The big news of the week was six different players stole a base, with Cain swiping two. In a week that my opponent got five steals from Jose Reyes, all my hitters picking up the slack was important. For the week I scored 27 runs, hit six homers, drove in 30 runs, swiped seven bases and hit .288/.367 which were all good enough numbers to win each category. After trailing stolen bases most of the week, I got three on Saturday and one on Sunday to pull ahead by one and sweep the week.
My pitching was also more than solid and I had the numbers advantage this week, with my guys scheduled to make more starts than my opponent. By the time Friday’s games were over I had leads in each of the six pitching categories. With my opponent’s starters done for the week, I decided to keep Barry Enright, Jaime Garcia and Mike Minor on the bench for their weekend starts, to guarantee I kept all my leads. All three pitched extremely well and either way I would have swept all six categories. Felix Hernandez was the big stud this week, hurling eight shutout innings against the Yankees striking out eleven and picking up a win. Josh Johnson picked up his first win in over a month with an eight-inning, two-run performance. Jake Westbrook, Tim Hudson, Jaime Garcia and Adam Wainwright all recorded quality starts but failed to pick up wins. Neftali Feliz and David Aardsma picked up a save apiece to win me saves in a week when my opponent had no closers. My pitching is looking spectacular heading into the season’s final week. With the playoffs being single-elimination, one crappy week can kill you.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit the disabled list a few days after I picked him up and with no enviable catching replacements available, I went with Cubs outfielder Kosuke Fukudome to take his place. Fukudome hit .429/.500 with a stolen base in his first two games with me. I also made another change, replacing Joel Hanrahan who had only one save since taking over closing duties with Travis Hafner. Adding Hafner gives me a little more pop and some OBP skills. Last transaction was strictly procedural as Jeff Keppinger hit the DL and to replace him, I simply activated Nyjer Morgan, who swiped a base in his first game back.
The perfect 12-0 week pushed my overall record to 160-67-13 and clinched the regular season title. It also gave me a 23-0-1 record against Brandon’s Bombers this season. I bet he’s glad to be done with me. The last week of the regular season matches me up with Albany Diamond Dogs, who I beat 10-1-1 in Week two, but has played his way to 7th place overall. The Diamond Dogs are coming of an 8-2-2 week that improved their record to 124-98-18. Depending on how Week 21 plays out, it’s possible that I’ll match up with Albany Diamond Dogs in the first round of the playoffs.
Fresh off my first defeat of the season, my team bounced back in fine fashion. Matched up against the sixteenth ranked team in the league, I handled them fairly easily and enjoyed a comfortable lead all week long.
My offense struggled for a second consecutive week and heading into the home stretch, that’s beginning to become worrisome. I lost four of the six categories winning only runs and RBI. Dan Uggla was a big reason why, scoring six times and driving in seven while hitting .391/.481 with a pair of homers. Denard Span (.316) was the only other player to crack the .300 mark while Ben Zobrist (.062) and Jorge Posada (.154) really contributed to my .214 average for the week. I lost stolen bases 2-to-1 with my one steal coming from the unlikeliest of players – Jorge Posada. It was actually his second steal of the year, and puts him one behind his career high of three.
My pitchers saved the week by sweeping all six pitching categories with relative ease. Adam Wainwright, Tim Hudson and Felix Hernandez combined for four quality starts, three wins and an ERA of zero. Hernandez and Wainwright each threw two-hit shutouts while Hudson went eight scoreless in his only start this week. Josh Johnson was bombed in his start, but after the season he’s had, one bad start is excusable, especially when the rest of my staff picked him up. David Aardsma had three saves in three perfect innings and Ryan Franklin picked up a pair of saves.
Nyjer Morgan hit the DL this week with a hip problem, so I had to scramble to find a replacement outfielder – not an enviable proposition when your offense has been slumping for several weeks now. I grabbed Chris Heisey from Cincinnati, but his everyday job was gone when the Reds traded for Jim Edmonds a day later. So I replaced him with Jarrod Saltalamacchia when Boston called him up so I’m back to carrying a caddy for days Posada gets off – which should be several in the August heat.
After a bad loss last week, an 8-4 win was a nice bounceback, even if it was against a bad team. The week pushed my record to 148-67-13 on the year and kept me in first place, although a half a game was shaved off my lead, cutting it down to 8.5 games with two weeks to play. Up next for me is Brandon’s Bombers who I beat 11-0 in the season’s first week. Brandon’s Bombers are 74-131-23 for the season and coming off a 11-1 loss this week. Hopefully my offense starts to heat up and my pitchers continue to bring the heat.
A baseball game is a great place to spend an evening with family, friends or a significant other. Up at the major league level it’s a little pricey, but if you poke around you can find a good enough deal to make it more than worth your while. Depending on when you get there and where your seats are, you may even walk out of the park with a souvenir baseball courtesy of a foul ball or a ballboy.
One of the more exciting prospects of going to a ballgame is the possibility of catching a foul ball or a home run. I’m not entirely sure why, because nearly every ball that a fan catches is worthless. Sure, maybe you catch a record-breaking home run ball, or some player’s first career home run that they’re willing to swap for an autograph or two, but for the most part, the thrill of the foul ball is just in the catch itself.
Today’s Idiot recently attended a Houston Astros game with his girlfriend. They had some pretty nice seats down the left field line, prime real estate for foul balls. And wouldn’t you know it, in the fourth inning, a Houston player loops a line drive down the left field line and right at the happy couple. The young man stands up in front of his girlfriend … and ducks out of the way at the last minute and the ball hits her squarely on the arm.
What a gentleman.
And his first instinct after the young lady gets hit is to dive under the seats for the ball, which he hangs onto for dear life, and doesn’t show any indication of handing it to his girl. I understand that feminism and girl power are hot button topics nowadays, but I’m still a firm believer in chivalry and treating a lady right.
This guy Bo takes a young lady to a ballgame and bails on a foul ball so she gets takes the hit instead of him. Chivalrous. Maybe he was concerned that the 75% reverse tilt of his hat would be thrown off, or that he would leave what appears to be a dead rat carcass on his chin unprotected. Whatever the reason, he’s got a good story to tell at his next ultimate frisbee tournament.
The two were interviewed by FSN’s field reporter and the girl didn’t sound too thrilled with her man. His excuse was that he lost the ball in the lights, but that’s a cheap cop out. Matt Holliday found out that excuse doesn’t work too well in last season’s NLDS. And to put the final touch on the whole Loser Ensemble, the reporter gives the guy a pair of oversized, white sunglasses, which he promptly puts on, despite it being nighttime. And if you get up close to your computer screen, you can smell the three cans of Axe coating his entire upper half.
Leroy Jethro Gibbs’ Rule #44 is First things first, hide the women and children. That applies to baseball as well as war and calamities.
Eventually, every good run comes to an end. The Roman Empire, MASH and now my seventeen week unbeaten streak is over. Matched up against the number two team in the league for the third time this year, my team got out of the gate slow and couldn’t recover.
Not much to write home about offensively this week, as I was slaughtered in five categories and managed to stave off a sweep by swiping stolen bases. Dan Uggla and Gaby Sanchez were my only hitters to break .300 this week and Uggla combined with Nick Swisher to hit all four of my home runs. My team drove in seventeen runs during the week while Pedro Alvarez and Carlos Ruiz drove in sixteen for my opponent, who finished with 38.
Despite having just three two-start pitchers this week and my opponent having eight (!!!) I won quality starts (8-to-7) and strikeouts (62-to-48) and tied saves. I lost wins, ERA and WHIP, but going 2-3-1 when facing such a numbers disadvantage isn’t terrible. I got double quality starts out of Tim Hudson and Jake Westbrook, but Westbrook failed to record a win. Josh Johnson and Felix Hernandez were terrific once again but neither picked up a win. Story of my season.
Transactions-wise this week, I activated Scott Olsen and dumped him immediately for Braves rookie call-up Mike Minor. Olsen put up a stinker the day after I dropped him, so I dodged a bullet there. Also, as much as it pained me to do it, I dropped Brennan Boesch and picked up Milwaukee call-up Lorenzo Cain. Boesch absolutely carried me for about six weeks this summer and is a huge reason why my team is where it is. But he’s been brutal now for about a month and I had to cut ties.
Up next for me is Honkey Lips, who is 86-113-17 on the season and in 16th place overall. It’s a nice respite for me after a tough run in the schedule. My first losing week of 3-8-1 dropped my record to 140-63-13 and sawed five games off my lead, dropping it to nine with three weeks left.
Nick Swisher arrived in New York rather unheralded, acquired from the White Sox after the 2008 season for seldom-used infielder Wilson Betemit and two throwaway prospects. He had allegedly worn out his welcome in Chicago after only one season, having alienated manager Ozzie Guillen and suffered through a career-worst .219/.332/.410 season.
But the surface numbers don’t adequately tell the tale of Swisher’s 2008 campaign.
2008 is the only season in Swisher’s career in which he posted an OPS+ of under 100. Despite the lesser numbers, many of Swisher’s peripheral stats remained within normal ranges. He still managed 24 home runs while keeping his walk and strikeout rates around his career average. His isolated power was still a very respectable .191 and his line drive rate of 20.9% was a career high.
The main detractor from his season was a career-low BABIP, or batting average of balls in play. Having enjoyed a BABIP of .280 his first four seasons in the league, Swisher saw that number drop to .249 during his only season with Chicago.
Using all of this information leads us to conclude that the best explanation for Swisher’s disappointing season was simple bad luck. He was consistently making solid contact and hitting for power, but his batting average dipped nearly 30 points below his established number. Add in the fact that Guillen played him out of position and shuffled him around the batting order and Swisher might having been begging to get out of Chicago.
Brian Cashman moved a few weeks before Thanksgiving 2008, sending Betemit along with minor league pitchers Jhonny Nunez and Jeff Marquez to Chicago for Swisher and relief prospect Kanekoa Texeira. This was over a month before the Yankees would go on their massive shopping spree, locking up CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett, and Mark Teixeira. With the expiration of incumbent first baseman Jason Giambi’s mammoth contract, the Yankees needed to find a replacement, and Swisher was it for nearly two months.
Cashman traded for Swisher with full intentions of using him as the Yankees’ everyday first baseman. When Mark Teixeira fell into their laps two weeks after Christmas, Swisher was relegated to fourth outfielder status behind Johnny Damon, Melky Cabrera, and Xavier Nady. However, barely a week into the season, Nady suffered an elbow injury that he attempted to rehab but ultimately required season-ending Tommy John surgery.
Nady’s injury thrust Swisher into a starting role that he probably should have had all along. Swisher took off and carried the team early in 2009, posting a .312/.430/.714 line in April while Alex Rodriguez recovered from hip surgery and Mark Teixeira suffered through his annual slow start.
Swisher suffered through a brutal stretch in May before evening out over the course of the season. He enjoyed his best season to date in 2009, posting career highs in slugging, OPS, isolated power and wOBA (weighted on-base average). And unsurprisingly, saw his BABIP rebound to a more reasonable .272.
2010 has seen Swisher take his game to another level, and he is on pace for another career-best season. His walk rate is down 4 percent from his career average, but he’s made up for it by adding over 40 points in batting average. As much as his work with hitting instructor Kevin Long makes for a nice narrative, the results back up those stories.
So what can Yankee fans expect from Swisher moving forward? Most likely more of the same guy we’ve seen since the trade to New York. His high average in 2010 is fueled by a higher BABIP than normal, but his power continues to develop, which is not uncommon for players in their prime years. We may see his average regress a little in the future, but the power and patience remain strengths.
The trade that netted the Yankees their all-star outfielder was part salary dump and part “change of scenery” move by Chicago. There were rumors that he was unsettling in the clubhouse and his performance had dropped off throughout the season enough to warrant multiple concerns.
Cashman acquired him for three players who haven’t made much of an impact on the field for Chicago. Betemit accrued 45 at-bats in 2009 before Chicago designated him for assignment to make room for stud prospect Gordon Beckham. Marquez has posted a 5.77 ERA and a 1.57 WHIP in two seasons for Chicago’s Triple-A affiliate, while going 10-12. Nunez has spent a majority of his time shuttling between Double-A and Triple-A while experiencing varying degrees of success, and has a 9.53 ERA in seven games for the White Sox.
Nick Swisher the Yankee has been entertaining, highly productive and an absolute asset to the overall team environment. In those regards, he’s been almost the polar opposite of what he was perceived to be in Chicago. But as for most of his numbers, he’s been the same player this whole time, except with a little bit of luck.
Is 600 a big deal?
That was the question posed by ESPN’s morning edition of SportsCenter the day following Alex Rodriguez’s historic home run. Performance enhancing drugs or not, 600 home runs by one individual player most certainly is a big deal.
Of the thousands of players to play the game, Alex Rodriguez is only the seventh player to accumulate that many home runs. That’s a smaller percentage of players than have recorded 3,000 hits, won triple crowns, or pitched perfect games.
It’s an incredible accomplishment that is definitely a big deal. Whether you believe the number is tainted or not, Alex Rodriguez has hit 600 major league home runs, which is more than all but six individuals ever to play the game. And he’s only 35.
There have been plenty of high-end sluggers that also used PEDs that never reached the milestone Rodriguez did on Wednesday. Mark McGuire never hit his 600th home run. Same for Rafael Palmeiro. Hitting 600 home runs requires remarkable skill and longevity.
Even though MLB has seen the 600 home runs club more than double in size over the past decade, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to attain such status. In the era of pitch counts, innings limits, and relief specialists, it is not uncommon for a hitter to face multiple pitchers in one game.
A longer and more extensive travel schedule also plays into the fact that the game is harder now than it ever was. And what about home runs that Rodriguez hit off of pitchers that were using some sort of performance enhancer? Using the logic applied to Rodriguez, those home runs should count for more.
I am not defending A-Rod’s decision to use performance enhancing drugs, nor will I ever. PEDs have no place in a game where natural ability is more than adequate. But to question the significance of a player that has entered one of baseball’s most exclusive clubs, naturally or with a little help from some friends (or cousins) is juvenile and a sign of extreme immaturity.
Alex Rodriguez has entered a rarefied air only seen by six other major league baseball players. However he got there, it’s a big deal.