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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Why Play Fantasy Baseball?

Why do we play fantasy baseball? Why do we put ourselves through this? Is it not enough to agonize over the teams we root for? Apparently it isn't, and we have to go out and create a team that's actually ours (and for the record, this is the only team that allows us to actually use the term "we" to describe it) to agonize over. I mean fuck, when will it end.

For the last 2 seasons, I've played in two fantasy leagues. This has quite literally driven me to the brink of my sanity. For some reason, this offseason, I joined a third one. I think I was so shocked when my wife encouraged me to do so, that I did it without really thinking about the consequences.

Already, not yet two weeks into the young season, I have suffered the following painful rollercoaster of emotions: A player on my team does something great, which excites me. Later, as I click around from team to team, I discover that this same player did this same great thing against me in a different league. My heart sinks. My stomach turns. I don't know how to root anymore. Surely, I can't be expected to make a list of such players every Monday morning to constantly remind myself to temper my hopes for their weekly production. Can I?

This of course pales in comparison to what has to be the granddaddy of all tough rooting situations. Your real team is winning in the bottom of the ninth inning. Your real team's closer is on to try and save the game. Two on, two out. Your fantasy hitter steps into the box. For a fleeting moment, a thought enters your mind. If this hitter should happen to tie or even win this game with a big hit, it won't be the worst thing in the world, because your fantasy team needs a little help offensively. At this exact moment, you've become a fantasy player. This thought that has crept and weaseled its way into your mind would not have been able to do so five years ago when your love of the game was pure and your interest in box scores was creepy. At this moment you realize that baseball is forever changed for you, as it was for a close friend of mine in 2004 when I got a call after Curt Schilling gave up 8 runs to Toronto in a painful loss for the Red Sox. "Well, at least Schilling's on your team" the greasy Italian cocksucker said, "so it's not that bad."

Of course, when you see your hitter chop a harmless grounder toward short, you feel nothing but relief, so your pretty confident that you're the same baseball fan you were before. Then your real team's shortstop boots the ball and the bases are loaded. Now you're nervous. Really nervous, because if shit happens now, you won't get anything out of it. You don't even think much of it when your runner on first base is pinch run for, because the struggling middle infielder coming up is about as dangerous as Hilary Duff. When you see the ball pop off of his bat and the pitcher point up, air rushes from your lungs and your whole body relaxes. Until you see your real team's center fielder run out of room in the gap and the ball sale over the fence for a walk off grand slam. Then the only thing you can feel is the big hard cock of the baseball gods working its way all of 16 inches up your clenched asshole. You realize that wasn't Hilary Duff up there, but something much more dangerous: her 16 year old younger sister, sitting provocatively with a bottle of Jack Daniels and two glasses.

But that's baseball. Those things happen. You'll go to bed at least ten times every season really feeling every inch of that baseball cock deep in your ass. And you'll know full well that it grew another 4 inches in length when you checked your head to head fantasy stats and realized that the same middle infielder who just tied up and mouth-fucked your favorite team tonight is comfortably sitting in the starting lineup of that dumb fuck you swore you'd beat this week.

Despite this, we keep playing. And we know we can't stop playing. Maybe it's just to laugh at the same stupid fuck in your league who keeps drafting Juan Pierre every year. Maybe it's just something to do at our computers when we aren't masturbating. Maybe we just want to justify our box score prowlings. Maybe we wish that we could still play the game ourselves. All I know is when I hear my wife humming along to the theme song to America's Next Top Model I feel like I wish I'd married my stat-tracker.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Erick Karabells' answers our fantasy questions...sort of

So we've gotten mentioned in Keith Law chats, Rob Neyer chats, and now Eric Karabell takes a fantasy question from yours truly. Except that he completely missed the point I was trying to make. But that's ok, because at least other people see our reasoning now. Anyways, the question was posted here and it read as follows:

DWTHTB, *****, Fla.: "Eric, every time I hear you on ESPN Radio or read your blog, I hear you say 'When it comes to closers, saves are all that matters; the other numbers (ERA/WHIP) are irrelevant.' And for someone in a roto league, I would completely agree with you, because 1,250-1,600 innings can negate terrible outings like Jorge Julio on Thursday (1/3 IP, 3 ER, 5 H, 1 BB) and Chris Ray on Saturday (2/3 IP, 4 ER, 2 H, 1 BB). However, if you play in a head-to-head league (as I do), then you are completely wrong, and the advice is the exact opposite. Over 50-70 innings, you just don't have enough innings to balance out one or two bad closer outings. In my league last week, I had 10 starts. No starting pitcher gave up more than three earned runs, except Aaron Harang. Yet, I still lost ERA and WHIP. How? Bad closers. Those two outings mentioned above from Ray and Julio raised my ERA from 2.45 to 3.16 and my WHIP from 1.17 to 1.27 (my opponent had ERA/WHIP of 2.91 and 1.18). So excuse me if I discount your advice and don't immediately pick up every closer out there on the waiver wire to protect my ERA/WHIP."

(Ed. note: A bit snarky, but you'd be upset too if you lost 7-5 instead of won 7-5 because you picked up Julio AND Ray gives up a Grand Slam--the worst possible outcome--after getting 2 quick outs).

Eric: Josh's points could make sense, I suppose, except how does he know when the closers are going to get lit up? (You don't unless you own reliable closers like Rivera, Hoffman, Papelbon, K-Rod, Ryan, who never get lit up. Or if they do it happens once a year) I mean, it's easy today for everyone to say they say Julio's nightmare coming (which they didn't) (Yea, a guy who has lost the closer's role for 2 different teams in 2 different leagues, didn't see his blowup coming), but what about Ray? Didja see that coming? (No, but given the fact that he gave up 10 HR last year, I wasn't suprised after seeing the Grand Slam) I'm not going to punt saves in any league just to avoid the rare closing bombings. (Rare for people like Rivera, Hoffman, K-rod, and other reliable CP. Not rare for people like Julio, Dempster, etc..) Josh got unlucky, that's all. Most closers didn't have weeks like Julio and Ray did. In fact, of the 29 pitchers who registered 50 saves the first week, the group allowed a total of 20 earned runs. Julio was not among them, blowing one save and getting removed from another, but Ray, B.J. Ryan and Francisco Rodriguez allowed nine of the runs. You couldn't have known to sit them (The point is that Julio shouldn't even has been on my roster, much less my bench), so my point stands. Yes, you can lose any week in a head-to-head format if a closer gets hammered, but they are still a whole lot safer on the ERA and WHIP than most starting pitchers. Say our e-mailer had avoided Julio, but used Jose Contreras instead (Julio actually gives you a chance to win one category, saves. What does Jose Contreras give you a chance at? Besides contacts with smuggled ballplayers). See the point?

Now, I'm going to post my full response below, but I'm also going to intermix certain answers/replies above to Karabell's thoughts in red.

My response emailed to Eric:

First, thank you for responding to my question. But I think you missed the point of it a little bit. I wasn't complaining about Ray so much (as he is fairly reliable), but about Julio. My point was that in a roto league, you can wait and draft Dempster, Valverde, and Benitez in rounds 12-15. And its very likely that they could match Nathan, Papelbon, and Saito in the number of Saves. And at the end of the season you could still end up with a good ERA/WHIP with Dempster, Valverde, Isringhausen. However, in a H2H league, since lower ranked closers are much much more likely to have blowups (i.e more than 2 ER) than the top-tier closers, its much more likely that you could lose ERA/WHIP one week due to your closers. Obviously, no one knows when their closers are going to blow a game miserably. But the point is that it rarely happens to top level closers and happens frequently to low-level closers. Take the top 7 CP (Hoffman, Rivera, Papelbon, K-Rod, Nathan, Ryan, Street) and you have 7 appearances last year where they gave up more than 2 ER (4 of these from Street alone). So my point is that high end closers are so much more valuable in H2H leagues because they provide the reliability of not costing you ERA/WHIP during a week, whereas you can gamble with lower ranked closers and get just as many saves, but sooner or later they're going to give up 3 runs or like 4-6 hits in an inning and cost you ERA/WHIP. You constantly preach about only looking at a closer's save potential. I think this should be amended to say "Only look Roto leagues". ERA/WHIP do matter in H2H leagues because 1 or 2 bad outings can cost you ERA/WHIP since the inning total is so small. I'd rather drop Julio and take the loss in saves to not run the risk of messing up my ERA/WHIP, than to keep Julio and potentially win saves, but possibly at the expensive of ERA/WHIP. Am I wrong here? Last year I had Lidge, Jenks, and Dempster and I lost ERA/WHIP 4 separate times because one or more of them had blowups. So that's why it I think good closers (i.e. the top half) are essential for H2H leagues. They won't have that 2/3 IP, 3 BB, 4 run outing and if they do, its once during the season, not 3-5 times like Julio, Dempster, et all.

We'll just have to wait and see.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Week 1 Recap - Steamed Hams (SH) vs IHATEYOUALL (IHYA)

Batting: The categories were split 3-3 with Steals (IHYA 3-2) being the only tight one by week's end. IHYA's team got off to a hot start, but came crashing down the last 3 days as her OPS decreased by more than 100 points. Perhaps Grady Sizemore not playing had something to do with this. SH got across the board production in RBI and Runs as no one had more than 3 ex. Vlad whereas IHYA relied mainly on 3 players, mentioned below, for most of her output.

SH--Guerrero, Ichiro (in only 4 games)
IHYA--McCann, Sizemore, Renteria

SH--Andruw Jones (3-23, 0 HR), Johjima (1-9), Teixeira (4-16, 0 HR)
IHYA--Pujols, Roberts, Young (10-67, 1 HR, 4 RBI)

Pitching: SH had 13 starts and no pitcher gave up more than 3 ER (ex. Harang 5 ER in 5 2/3 IP on Sat), yet I still managed to lose ERA/WHIP due to my closers. Terrible outings from Julio (1/3 IP, 3 ER, 6 H+BB) and Ray (2/3 IP, 4 ER, 3 H+BB) raised my ERA & WHIP from 2.45/1.17 to 3.16/1.28. IHYA pitching was either feast (Hamels, Hernandez, Santana, 1 of Lowe's outings) or famine (Carpenter, Lowe's other outing, Petitte). Incredibly high number of walks from Olsen, Verlander, and Haren (who had only 4 K's). IHYA picked up 4 saves from Salomon Torres. Yes, the absolute last closer taken in the draft outsaved 4 teams in the league by himself. I pulled ahead of IHYA in Wins & K's by sheer volume of 27 more IP, but lost all the ratios and saves as mentioned above.

SH--Harang, Haren (although no Wins), Wainwright
IHYA--Hamels, Hernandez, Torres

SH--Julio!!!, Olsen (he got 2 wins, but his WHIP and K/BB ratio were awful)


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Opening Day Thoughts

Opening Day has come and gone and here is a list of highlights and lowlights regarding things new and old:

  • Adam Everett should not be batting in the #2 slot for any team ever. In the history of baseball. Period.
  • Yankee Fans care about nothing more than hating AROD. AROD sprints ~ 45 feet to try and catch a pop-up in the 1st because Posada and Pavano are too lazy to move. Yet, Jeter makes an error 1 inning later, which actually leads to Runs and there's nary a peep out of the Yankee faithful.
  • The Devil Rays bullpen is just as terrible as it was last year. How did Kazmir even win 10 games last year with that monstrousicity of pathetic arms?
  • Brad Lidge has about another month or so before he's replaced as closer
  • The Angels defense is still terrible. Absolutely terrible. From Dropped pop-ups which lead to HR to Gary Matthews Jr. dropping balls of the webbing of his glove, it's just atrocious.
  • Prime example of why Losses are a terrible fantasy category to use: Bobby Crosby truly fucked over Dan Haren. Haren had 1st & 2nd, 1 out in the 6th when he got a comebacker that was a tailor made DP ball. But Crosby let it slip off his glove (not even getting one out) and the M's produced 4 UER out of it.
  • The Braves bullpen held up. Which is a complete turnaound from last year.
  • Ben Sheets is really really good (we already knew that though). We'll see how long he lasts though.
  • Carlos Zambrano (5 BB) is still wild, the Indians offense is still amazing, and Joe Torre is still trying to get at least 5 IP from the Yankees #4 and #5 starters.

P.S. If you have MLB.TV, go watch the bottom of the 6th inning in the Rockies-D'backs game. Chris (b) Young tries to catch Jeff Baker's HR, but his glove ends up falling over the fence.

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