Thursday, September 17, 2015

Week 2 NFL Picks

Well, that got ugly quick. Really, its what I get for getting so cocky about it. However, I did make it clear in the open that week one was the hardest week of all to pick. There's way to much random chaos out there to try to figure anything out definitively.

The good news is that you wont find me swinging from the rafters anytime soon. If anything, I am now more motivated to get this right.

Until then please enjoy this weeks entrance music:

* All regular season lines taken from*

Broncos @ Chiefs (-3.5)

I wasn't wrong last week when I claimed that Peyton Manning should have retired. He looked done against the Ravens. I just underestimated how good the Broncos D was going to be. Similarly, I may have overestimated the Texans D v. the Chiefs. I also failed to take into account that nobody is better at multiple week game planning than Andy Reid. The Chiefs are unlikely to dominate the Broncos quite like they did the Texans, but they should be able to muster enough offense to get by Zombie Peyton Manning.

Pick: Chiefs

Titans @ Browns (-1.5)

Here's two teams I totally misread. I thought year 2 of Mike Pettine would mean a hungry, motivated Browns team, not one that rolled over and played dead against the Jets of all teams. I also failed to take into account the Marcus Mariota might be actually pretty good and that Ken Wisenhunt can be successful when is QB is pretty good. I think Vegas made a huge mistake with this line and wouldn't be surprised if the Titans are 2-3 pt favorites by game time. But CBS locked it in when they did so...

Pick: Titans

Buccaneers @ Saints (-10.5)

I think my Bucs pick last week was nothing but wishful thinking. I wanted to see Jameis Winston play well, but he was so far above most of his college competition (talent wise) its going to be a major "frame of mind" adjustment for him at the pro level. The guys he's playing against are really, really good. And the guys drafting game-plans against are also really, really good. That's why they are professionals. But 10.5 pts spread in the second week of the season? This is usually at least a week 10 spread.

Pick: Bucs

Patriots @ Bills (.5)

A basically pick game against the Patriots in week 2 for the Bills? That's a lot of respect. Or a lot of misplaced love. Rex Ryan had a history of upending the Patriots early on in his tenure with the Jets, but after that? Not so much. Plus for as much pressure as Buffalo threw at Indy last week it was always with 5-6-7 rushers. That's not how you beat Tom Brady. Especially not when he has a weapon like Gronk to create nightmare matchups all over the field. If you can't bring consistent pressure against Brady with only four rushers then you can't win. The Bills front four is very, very good, but will Sexy Rexy step outside of himself and trust his players to get the job done? I'm betting no. Its that whole "White Whale" complex.

Pick: Patriots

Cardinals @ Bears (2.5)

The Bears were extremely close to covering last week and would have if not for Jay Cutler doing Jay Cutler things. The Cardinals demolished the Saints out in the desert. Its hard to tell exactly how good the Saints are going to be, but the Cardinals could well give the Seahawks a run for their money in the NFC West. If this was December I might feel differently about how the Cards would fair on the road in Chicago. But in September? They aught to be able to cover a field goal.

Pick: Cardinals

49ers @ Steelers (-6.5)

This is another curious line. The 49ers were kind of a left for dead team and they went out rolled up the Vikings in a big way, while the Steelers put up a decent fight against the Pats. But I guess the odds makers aren't sold of on the 49ers (& after 1 week that is more than fair) and are also looking for the Steelers to rebound big in their home opener. Also, I think there's some science behind West Coast teams struggling in East Coast games. Or maybe its the other way around...

Pick: 49ers

Rams @ Skins (3.5)

The NFC West may be the best division top to bottom in all of football. The Skins are terrible and they deserve to be.

Pick: Rams

Chargers @ Bengals (-3.5)

Two (of the many) teams I picked against last week. But these two in particular stand out because I used some intangibles to go against them. Like I know what's really going on with these teams. So its like my grandfather's uncle's friend's cousin used to say: "When you're lost in the woods, just go home"

Pick: Bengals

Texans @ Panthers (-3.5)

Panthers beat a bad team like they were supposed to last week while the Texans got roughed up by Andy Reid's Chiefs who had been game planning since the schedule game out in April. And now it sounds like the Texans are going with Ryan Mallet this week? So the question on this game is: Do I really believe Ryan Mallet on the road is the answer? I say no.

Pick: Panthers

Falcons @ Giants (-2.5)

Isn't it just like the Giants to lose, but to cover? I hate the Giants.

Pick: Falcons

Lions @ Vikings (-3.5)

I picked both these teams last week and both teams let me down. For all I care it can snow 10 feet in the greater Minneapolis area and the game can be moved to the home stadium of the Saskatchewan Rough Riders.

Pick: Vikings

Ravens @ Raiders (7.5)


Pick: Ravens

Dolphins @ Jaguars (6.5)


Pick: Dolphins

Cowboys @ Eagles (-5.5)

The Eagles really let me down last week, but I'm afraid that without Dez Bryant the Cowboys are a much worse team. I might be wrong about that, but like the Giants, I hate betting on the Cowboys.

Pick: Eagles

Seahawks @ Packers (-3.5)

A rematch of that ridiculous NFC Championship game from last season. Packers might eek this one out, but will they do it by more than a field goal?

Pick: Seahawks

Jets @ Colts (-7.5)

Do you believe in Ryan Fitzpatrick? Because as a Bills fan, I do not.

Pick: Colts

So there they are. I know I've got a lot to prove. As always if you disagree, you know where to find me.

Season Record: 4-12

Thursday, September 10, 2015

NFL Week 1 Picks

After last season's 8-2 playoff run I am officially crowning myself the king. Now, heavy is the head that wears the crown, so if you want to try and knock it off I'm right here. Until then enjoy my Week 1 entrance music:

No doubt about it, Week 1 of the NFL season is by far the hardest one to pick. That's why somewhere between 1/3-1/2 of your suicide pool will be done by Tuesday of next week. We really don't know what we have with these teams yet.

We know what last year's team looked like and by and large their weren't too many major overhauls save the Buffalo Bills. That's not how football works anyway. You can't trade your way out of anything. You can cut players, sign other's castoffs, occasionally make a big free agent signing, but nothing like the 2015 Padres will every happen in the NFL. Its just not built that way.

The only major ways to change a team is to change the QB and change the coach. That's about it. Both of those changes will result in minor tweaks elsewhere, but its hard for teams to improve dramatically unless they do so from within.

So when making Week 1 picks you just have to go with information that you know, rely a little on what you think and cross your fingers. Everyone else is just as lost as you are. Also, preseason means nothing.

*Regular Season lines are taken from

Steelers @ Patriots (-7.5)

With all do respect to the Steelers who are one of the NFL's model franchises, New England will be hell bent in 2015 on destroying every team in their path. Belichick is pissed. Brady is pissed. Patriot Pat is pissed. The NFL tried to sell out THE model franchise and got exposed in the process. The 2015 Pats may not win every game, but teams that play them will not be the same afterwards.

Pick: Patriots

Packers @ Bears (+6.5)

I think the Bears have a new coach and I think that the Packers under-performed last year. Aaron Rodgers better be motivated to take down the league this year, but I can't guarantee that. I feel like his life is too good to be worried that much about football. Also (after some research), a John Fox coached Bears team will not be taking beat-downs of a touchdown or more at home.

Pick: Bears

Chiefs @ Texans (-1.5)

This might be one of the more intriguing games of the week. Andy Reid does some amazing things with offenses while JJ Watt does some amazing things to offenses. On the whole I feel like the Chiefs are probably the better team here, but the Texans front 4 ought to be able to totally disrupt any sort of rhythm the Chiefs try to establish on offense. Plus, who is the Chiefs' QB? Oh right, its Alex Smith.

Pick: Texans

Browns @ Jets (-3.5)

I can't even bring myself to conjure up any reason to how this game will end.

Pick: Browns

Colts @ Bills (+2.5)

These two teams are almost polar opposites. The Bills have talent  up and down their roster with a serviceable line (if healthy) and a huge question mark at QB. The Colts have a once in a generation talent at QB, a serviceable line (if healthy) and a dearth of talent everywhere else. Put Andrew Luck on the Bills and that team somehow wins 20 games. Put Tyrod Taylor, EJ Manuel, Matt Cassell, the ghost of Tim Couch or any other warm body in camp with the Bills at the helm for the Colts and that team wins a negative amount of games. Plus, the Ralph is going to be INSANE on Sunday.

Pick: Bills

Dolphins @ Skins (+3.5)

(Editors Note: Daniel Snyder has every right to name his football team anything he wants. However, I don't have to use that name and neither does anybody else. Therefore, consider them the Washington Skins on this blog.)

I don't know if this line is more about how good people believe the Dolphins will be or how bad people expect the Skins to be. And other than having the courage to sit down RG3, I can't really say what the Redskins have done this offseason. The Dolphins did sign one of the baddest men on the planet (between the lines anyway) and everyone seems to love Ryan Tannehill for some strange reason.

Pick: Dolphins

Panthers @ Jaguars (+3.5)

I want to pick the Jaguars here, but Cam Newton is just too damn good. If only Carolina could get some nice complementary pieces... Or if the Panthers would just trade him to the Bills. Does anyone have Terry Pegula's email?

Pick: Panthers

Seahawks @ Rams (+4.5)

This would be the ultimate test of the "Super Bowl" hangover effect if not for the unflappable Russel Wilson and the indomitable Pete Carroll. Nothing that happens with Seattle makes sense to the layperson and that's OK. When you win games you don't have to explain anything. Also, Nick Foles was a nice story, but I'm not so sure he's going to thrive with the Rams.

Pick: Seahawks

Saints @ Cardinals (-2.5)

The Cardinals are hard team to figure this season. For like 1/2 of 2014 they were one of the best teams in the league. Bruce Arians is a great coach and Carson Palmer is a good enough QB. However, after Palmer got hurt the Cardinals let Jesus take the Wheel and that truck careened right into oncoming traffic. It was ugly and sad. But Palmer's back and the Saints just seem to get a little worse every year.

Pick: Cardinals

Lions @ Chargers (-3.5)

Chargers never play well early in the year.

Pick: Lions

Titans @ Buccaneers (-3.5)

Lovie Smith is a good coach who got a bit of a raw deal in Chicago. But then again, I kind of think that being a NFL coach is a bit of a raw deal. What other job has you working 80 hour weeks and forces your family to move to a new city every 2 years. I don't get it. You know what I do get? When two rookie QB's match up, take the one playing at home.

Pick: Bucs

Bengals @ Raiders (+3.5)

This is the upset of the week. Things have to turn around in Oakland eventually. Could this be the year? Also, Marvin Lewis Bengals teams, while typically solid are known for mental lapses. This is a mental lapse waiting to happen.

Pick: Raiders

Ravens @ Broncos (-4.5)

Peyton Manning should have retired.

Pick: Ravens

Giants @ Cowboys (-5.5)

I know the Giants had a bit of an unlucky season in 2014, but I don't see how they plan on turning it around. Honestly, they feel a bit like the Mets of like 3 or 4 years ago: no plan, no vision, no money (although, that's not really an issue in the NFL) and no hope. Well, apparently the Mets did have a plan or they sold their souls. I don't know which and I'm not here to judge. But, it means nothing for the Giants. They don't even play in the same state.

Pick: Cowboys

Eagles @ Falcons (+2.5)

Put me in the camp of those who believe that this is going to be Chip Kelly's year. He finally has the roster he wants and the QB that he wants. Hell, he won games when he didn't have those things. Couple that with a Falcons team that seems to perpetually lack identity. This is an easy one.

Pick: Eagles

Vikings @ 49ers (+2.5)

I don't get the 49ers as an organization. They let Jim Harbaugh build a winner and then bought his tickets out of town when they found out he was a bit of a meanie. How do you think that football games are won? Through negotiation and tact? No, you smack a guy in the mouth over and over again until they quit. Its not a pretty game. It never has been.

Pick: Vikings

There you have it. As always if you don't like my picks or my method let me know. I'm always happy to be told why I'm wrong.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Fear & Loathing in Fantasy Football

First of all, let me welcome myself back to the game. MoBettaBaseball went on hiatus for bit due to people and organizations paying me for my time where as the internet and by extension this blog just sucked up time. I don't regret that time, but a meaningful life is all about setting priorities. 

This time of year always means a realignment of time and priorities. After Fantasy Baseball's long slog its finally time to get serious, and that loathsome exercise known as Fantasy Football bubbles back up from its frothy abyss to dominate 3/4 of the conversations regarding football that you will have for the next 4 months. I know its not exactly a popular point of view to be "anti-fantasy football", but I am here's why:

1. As a male football fan in America it feels mandatory.
There used to be a day and time where getting drawn into a Fantasy Football conversation with someone not in your league was like a dirty little secret that you could share with a new friend. No one else really understood why you were giggling about 3rd wide receivers and kickers with your cousin's boyfriend at a wedding, but you did. And it was fun.

Now my boss is emailing me asking me if he should start Tampa's D against the Texans or roll with Bills' D. You know what? I don't care about your team. I barely care about mine. Why don't you start Tim Tebow in your Defense/Special Teams spot and see what happens?

2. Like having to start 3 closers in your Fantasy Baseball league? Imagine having to start closers at ever position...

Its already been been documented on this blog about how closers are the effin' worst part about Fantasy Baseball. They are incredibly unpredictable. At their best the provide only the smallest amounts of stats and/or points and at their worst they can absolutely blow up your week in only a handful of pitches. It sucks and its stupid. 

That's every position in Fantasy Football. Counting on Tom Brady to get you some big time numbers? Oh sorry, some fat-ass rolled up his knee in the first series of the season and he's done for the year. Thought you had a solid no. 1 overall pick in Adrian Peterson? Nope, his 4 year old son spilled some milk so he had to whip him bloody with a switch. Figured you had a sure bet with Calvin Johnson in your league championship? Too bad Matthew Stafford decided that he would try to use the football to pierce holes in the roof of Ford Field this week, The point is that each and every one of your players can crater, no-show, or get suspended for wiping their ass the wrong way and total eff you in the process. 

There is literally no rhyme or reason to it. Its chaos every week. Now, I don't mind some chaos here and there. There's a certain beauty to it, but don't expect me to spend hours on draft prep and chunks of my work week scouring the waiver wire for a lottery ticket. The beauty of the lottery is that its something for nothing. I'm not about to put in a bunch of work for the overwhelming odds of nothing.

3. People who talk trash and Fantasy Football do it like they playing kickball in Grade 5 gym class.

You know who I'm talking about. Hell, it might even be you. Regardless, its pathetic.

"Check the scoreboard loser. I'm gonna dominate this match-up just like I dominated the conciliation round last season!"

Ugh... I could go into some rant here accusing the offending party of bestiality or equate their interest in Fantasy Football to an obsession with girls pooping in diapers porn, but not today. Those things are best left in private.

4. Every year it gets harder to like football. 

This is not necessarily Fantasy Football's fault, but it does go a long way to keep us all distracted from the very real problems that football incurs. I've long espoused that professional sports and pro wrestling are not all that different. Well, no sport draws a stronger parallel to pro wrestling than the NFL. Both were once a haven for ne'er-do-wells and scoundrels, but made efforts to move to a family friendly environment. Although pro wrestling has been more forward thinking and successful on this front. Both treat their talent like disposable products and recognize that "the show must go on". And both have a disturbing pattern of losing retired athletes early on in their post performance lives.

Like I said before, this is not Fantasy Football's fault. If anything, the NFL seems to be in tune with fans' interest in Fantasy Football and have adjusted rules accordingly. These rule changes have also been better for player safety, but has done relatively little for those interior lineman who are the ones paying the greatest price. It just doesn't make me feel good knowing what is being sacrificed for the sake of entertainment, however that entertainment is delivered.

If you're still reading, I'm done with that. I do still play in one Fantasy Football league and by no means should you stop. I just have a forum to preach and I did. I'm done. Picks will be up by Wednesday or Thursday morning.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Now I've Got Some Time for Baseball

A Visit to the Mound

Baseball fans over-analyzing an over-analyzed game

Image result for mound visit
So um... Listen. My wife is friggin' pissed about the last road trip. I'm in no hurry to get home.

A Visit to the Mound is regularly updated series of emails touching on a wide range of baseball subjects. 


Taking off an average of 8 minutes and getting under the 3 hour mark is huge.  I have no problem watching a 5 hour slog with multiple pitching changes in an inning, but things like that will always keep baseball a somewhat nichey, regional sport.  As a lifelong hockey fan I've grown weary of not being able to discuss my favorite sport when I travel to certain parts of the US.  I am all for growing the game.  I never got why people become "sports hipsters" about stuff.  Hockey fans love to be insular and act like they've been hiding something from the world, some secret sport.  I'd much rather the NHL be in the public consciousness for more than just fights or extreme injuries, which is about the only time the NHL gets the truly national stage.  Same with baseball. Red Sox v Yankees and similar big market games will always drive ratings, but is Joe Six pack gonna watch a late september game with wild card implications between the Pirates and the Rockies?  Unless said Mr Six pack lives in Colorado or Pittsburgh, probably not.  Meanwhile, people watch the NFL scouting combine just to see 20 year olds do shuttle runs.  

Uncle Bones

There's a couple of things to unpack as they pertain the new, shorter baseball games. One that you definitely hit right on the head was the comparison between the NFL and MLB. The NFL really occupies a strange space right now in American sports landscape. There's a war going on for the sport's soul and one side is winning. 2 years ago you heard an awful lot about how discouraging the vicious hits on defenseless receivers would take "toughness" out of the game. Well, now that veterans football players are turning up dead at a rate only seen in Pro Wrestling and Fantasy Football numbers going through the roof, no one is complaining any more. Despite protests, it made the game a better viewing experience.

You'll some similar protests to baseball's pace of play changes. These arguments that emerge from the idea that "baseball shouldn't have time limit" usually come from grumpy old men and the "sports hipsters". These opinions don't matter much as grumpy old men (always knowledgeable & entertaining) are not the future and "hipsters" of any ilk are fairly transient in their interests and will move on to something newer soon anyway.

Getting games under 3 hours is very important to the long term health of the game. Especially when you consider the amount of TV money currently bolstering incomes. We are more or less conditioned around the idea of a 3 hour sporting events. NFL, NBA, NHL all wrap their games up under 3 hours. Its really all we can spend on a single sporting event. I mean really, how many other things do we 3 solid hours to in our day or even week? Other than work? 3 uninterrupted hours? I can't think of anything, yet we expect fans to tune in night after night after night to a 4 hour baseball game featuring multiple mound conferences, throws over, pitching changes, and batters adjusting their gloves? Not when I've got my tablet here and I can check Twitter for some game commenta... Oh look, 13 ways to lose weig... Wait, the Bills just traded for Phil... Huh, whats that? A shiny new penny?

A short, crisp 3 hour baseball game with a solid rhythm will grow the game nationally. It might not happen right away, but I'll be curious to see how the playoff numbers look. I hear a lot from people about how they only get into playoff hockey, but don't care much for the regular season. Well, what if people started getting into playoff baseball? As it stands now just about every playoff baseball game is a 4 hour commitment that doesn't end until 11:00 or 12:00 at night. That's no way to attract new fans even if that midnight drama is as thick as a hipster's mustache wax.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Its Time to Overreact About the Cubs

A Visit to the Mound

Baseball fans over-analyzing an over-analyzed game
A Visit to the Mound is regularly updated series of emails touching on a wide range of baseball subjects. 

Image result for mound visit cubs
We made the right decision Jon. We did. 


Going back to early season overreacting, are the Cubs sounding the alarms already?

This is just feeding the crowd who wanted Bryant to start with the team. However, the article specifically seems to be highlighting that they have trouble scoring with guys in scoring position. Hitting with RISP tends to even out over a bigger sample size. Remember how the cardinals basically rode a high BA with RISP (specifically by Allen Craig) to a World Series then couldn't recreate it? RISP means guys hit to get on. As Rizzo says in the article keep getting on base and the RBIs will come. 

That's not to say putting a guy who hit over .300 in the minors in your lineup wouldn't help your offense. It would. And he will be there soon enough as has been discussed at length. Doesn't guarantee he'd hit with RISP though or solve that problem. To me, It's not really worth pushing the panic button on April 11th.  However, panic sells, especially in bigger markets with fragile fan bases. Gotta get those early season clicks somehow, he says while winking at the camera.

Uncle Bones

Its important here to note the difference between the Cubs sounding the panic bell and the Cubs/baseball media creating the panic narrative out of thin air. I know that you know the difference and basically pointed it out above, but I think us baseball types (yes, we're baseball types now. It needed to be said) may have assumed something about the Cubs that wasn't necessarily true. So without going into the unreasonable nature of hand wringing over .0185% of the season lets talk about the offense that the Cubs actually hit the ground with to start 2015.

1 Dexter Fowler CF - Career OPB .365 - Serviceable, but not stand-out for a lead off hitter and at age 29 not likely to get much better.
2 Jorge Soler RF - Only 23 years old. I can put his number here, but they don't mean anything. He might be really good, but he's just as likely to need some time to be really good.
3 Anthony Rizzo 1B - In 2014 as a 24 year old posted a 151 OPS+ in 616 PA's. Kid's a stud. We should be annoyed that the Red Sox traded him, but him for... Wade Miley... but eh... I still like the team they have now.
4 Miguel Montero C - Has not posted an OPS+ above 100 since 2012. He's 31 now and still a catcher. He is not who you want in the clean-up spot.
5 Starlin Castro SS - 25 yo, career OPS+ of 99, and if the Cubs were really that high on him they wouldn't have traded for Addison Russel and we wouldn't be hearing rumors about him going to the Padres
6 Chris Coghlan LF - Has a career OPS+ of 100 despite only having 2 season about 100: 2008 & 2014. And he's 30 this season. If the Cubs are lucky he's an average player. If they're lucky...
7 Mike Olt 3B - Other than just keeping 3B warm for Bryant, Olt's other claim to fame is having never hit about .200 in any season in his career. I'm sorry, but he has shown nothing to demonstrate that he is a major league hitter.
8 Pitcher Spot - The numbers say hitting the pitcher 8th is the best way to go. I'm glad Joe Maddon will actually do it day in day out and not just pay lip service to the idea, but for our purposes lets be generous: whoever hits here has a .200 average.
9 Arismendy Alcantara 2B - A fantasy darling this spring, but at 23 has done nothing to prove that he's an everyday hitter. You want more evidence? He hits 9th for the Cubs. I rest my case.

My take away from all this? The Cubs line-up is just plain not that good. Their top 3 is pretty good, but the Cubs could do better than Fowler in the lead-off spot and Soler is no sure thing this season. Miguel Montero is not the 4 hitter on a winning team. From there they go from average to abysmal quick. So it shouldn't be a huge surprise that the Cubs are struggling to score runs. They have one stud, some more or less average veterans and a bunch of youngsters who haven't carried their weight as of yet.

Bryant slotting into the 4th spot and sending Montero, Castro, Coghlan down and Olt to anywhere else will definitely help, but looking at that line-up for what it is, I understand why Theo and crew are OK waiting out those 2 weeks or so. Unless 2 or 3 of those youngsters take a huge step forward, the Cubs are still a "wait till next year" team. 

BTW if you Google "Cubs lineup" this is what you get. Look at Manny's mugshot. WTF???

Inline image 1


Very interesting points.  So clearly the Cubs were so hyped they were actually overvalued.  Seems to happen every year.  What is the cause of this?  Do writers just appreciate a good story?  People WANT to believe in the Cubs, but it seems it was beyond statistical reasoning.

Uncle Bones

Baseball is the American sport of where narratives find their home. From its inception it has come alive in the minds of millions through the written word. When baseball first started the only way to keep abreast of the results was from the daily paper, a then thriving form of media. Next came the radio, which allowed for fans to follow a game without being in attendance, but if you missed a game the write up and the box score were still in featured prominently in the next day's paper. Then TV, internet, podcasts and so forth, but reading and writing about baseball is still a major part of how the sport is understood. It was "America's Pastime", because at a time it was something that you could discuss with any one from your community because it was regularly presented in the media of the time and it was relatively easy to keep on top of whether you were interested or not.

So for fans and media types to latch on to the story of the 2015 Cubs is not all that surprising. The years of failure, plus the organizational stewardship of Theo Epstein, plus the eccentric yet media friendly Joe Madden, plus the promise of youth, plus the addition of an "Ace" had everyone all amped up on the North Sides "Lovable Losers". The angle that fascinates me the most about the Cubs obsession is that how much the White Sox are an all but forgotten Chicago team. Its not like the Yankees & Mets where one team has been around for way longer and has won way more in its history. Its not even really like the situations in Los Angeles or the Bay Area. For whatever reason, the Cubs are the Chicago team that really generates the narrative. Both the Cubs and the White Sox were founded in the 19th century. Both teams won early on in the history and not much sense then. And while the White Sox took home the WS hardware in 2005 you never heard anything about them being cursed even though they managed to go 88 years between titles. 

So the Cubs clearly have a special place in America's consciousness and this always lend itself to a runaway narrative. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Sometimes Everybody Plays the Waiver Wire Fool

A Visit to the Mound

Baseball fans over-analyzing an over-analyzed game
Image result for mound visit
No pressure, I've already dropped you from my 5x5 Standard Mixed League.
A Visit to the Mound is regularly updated series of emails touching on a wide range of baseball subjects. 


So trending back to fantasy baseball- let's talk about early season reactionaries.  Every league has a guy who sprints to the waiver wire after a guy like Alejandro De Aza hits 2 bombs on opening day.  In the 2 leagues we're in we've already seen the likes of Jason Grilli, Jared Cosart and Stephen Vogt picked up after one day of games played.  One day. Now, no fantasy sports player can get overly critical of this move. Sometimes everybody players the waiver wire fool, no exception to the rule.  That said, what is, if any, the right approach to early season reactions?  To use a personal example I picked up Chris Davis about 3 days before the 2013 season started simply because he was still there, he then went on to hit 50 bombs. I also was lucky enough to grab Edwin Encarnacion in his breakout season.  However, for every Edwin, there is a Jack Cust.  This is particularly detrimental in leagues that limit transactions. In a fantasy hockey league I gambled on picking up San Jose Sharks goalie Alex Skalock in the first week of the season.  he was eventually relegated to back up duties and late in the season when I had a hunch on Andrew Hammond, affectionately known as "The Hamburgler", I was unable to pick him up as I had hit my transaction limits.  he went on to set an NHL record for consecutive wins for a goalie in his first starts, and vaulted the Ottawa Senators into playoff contention. And the guy who got Hammond?  Won the league.

So a few questions arise- how do you gauge who to pick up and how long do you wait?  Do you go with the "dance with the girl that brung ya" philosophy early on and see how your team takes shape, or do you approach your team as a moldable work in progress than can only be perfected by tinkering? Fantasy baseball and fantasy hockey offer long seasons, generally deep free agent pools and multiple stat categories from which to pull. Fantasy football is more random and determined by the draft.  Ask Fantasy Football owners who lost Tom Brady week 1 of 2008 how that went.  Though of course there are exceptions.  Anyone who grabbed CJ Anderson likely went into the playoffs.  

Uncle Bones

Ah yes, the early season fantasy gold rush. Forever immortalized by the waiver wire movement of one Emilo Bonifacio. In my opinion there are really 3 different types of waiver wire moves:

1. The Hot Name: This is EMILO's!!! wheel house. This a move that happens at 11:00 at night on Opening Day. Now at first blush I get the enthusiasm. Opening Day is great. You've invested months thinking about baseball and weeks pondering the fantasy baseball roster you've built only to have it all come to a head on one single day. Except, that the baseball season is only .006 % over. That's it. One game represents less than one percentage point of the entire season. So just because Alejandro De Aza hits 2 HR's or EMILO!!! hits 2 triples or Kyle Kendrick's lifeless corpse wasn't dumped into Lake Michigan doesn't mean that you fly to the waiver wire for the next big thing. It's a long season, and like you pointed out this approach can quickly burn up your waiver budget. Especially when you consider that most of these players will be back on the waiver wire by the end of April.

2. Just Lucky: I believe that your Chris Davis move falls into this category. Davis was a post hype prospect at that point and no one expected much. He probably went undrafted in most leagues, but you had a spot to fill and he was there. Same for Encarnacion. He was a decent player in Cincy, but nothing like what we think of him now. Must be something in that Canadian water... Speaking of Canada, I had a similar stroke of luck with the Ragin' Canajun Erik Bedard back in 2007. I scooped him up on the waiver wire a week before the season started. He went on to strike out 221 that season and lead that particular league in scoring for pitchers. He was never that good again, but for one fleeting moment, greatness. I also had similar luck with in an in-season grab for Carlos Gonzalez in 2011. In that case I was just looking to upgrade from Torii Hunter and CarGo's floor represented Hunter's ceiling. I rode to the penthouse with Gonzalez that year only to be stuck wallowing in the basement for several years to come as I continued to count on his greatness.

3. Scouting, Patience & Dedication: This is the most difficult route to using the waiver wire. It is so difficult because of the waiver wire moves 1 & 2. You can have a guy on your radar since spring training, keep tabs on him as he gets called up, starts seeing regular AB's, finally seems poised for a break-out and WHAM! Billy's Baseballers read his name on Scott White's Start'em/Sit'em and snatches him up. Not to mention how hard it is to keep tabs on all the fringe players of all 30 teams. I can go into Triple-A and a little Double-A depth for the Red Sox and Triple-A for the Twins, but for everybody else? Bitch, please. There's only so much time in the day. On top of that, you can only follow a name for so long before you get jumped.

There is however one owner in one of our leagues who is a waiver wire master. He doesn't always know which teams are NL or AL and he doesn't know who any of the "hot" prospects are. He's also been routinely criticized for his draft picks, team names, and chat room banter, but he wins more than anybody else. His secret? All he does is look at numbers. He doesn't know the names. I'm not sure he even knows the teams half the time, but he when he uses the waiver wire it works. Can you guess who it is?


Erik Bedard in the mid 00s was like Guns N Roses around Appetite for Destruction.  Heralded, hyped, dangerous, beloved.  Then, it all came crashing down rather spectacularly and quickly.  Maybe he can try to resurrect his career as a Knuckleballer and go for a Chinese Democracy type of thing

Sure, we all know that owner you're describing.  There's something to be said for a cold, by the numbers approach.  It removes emotion from the process.  We all know the owners who reach for guys who are on their favorite teams.  Sammy Watkins went in the 3rd round of a fantasy football draft I was in last year.  Third.  Round.  Mind boggling.  Sticking to the numbers avoids stuff like that.  However, an owner who isn't keeping up on the story beyond the numbers is ultimately damaging himself.  For example, had you taken that approach with Adam Wainwright this year, would you not have spent close to $35 for him in an auction league?  Paying for last years stats while ignoring what other data about aging pitchers tells us?  This same approach sparked the infamous "Jake Arrieta over Cabrera and Stanton pick" that we discussed a few posts back.  The guy wanted pitching so he took it, regardless of what the other numbers about the value of hitters say.  When we talk about "all he does is look at numbers" it's highly dependent on what numbers he or she is looking at.  

Interesting confluence of ideas here- I am going to the Pawtucket Red Sox/Buffalo Bisons game next week.  I am quite excited to see Rusney Castillo and Blake Swihart live, and possibly Henry Owens or Bryan Johnson if the matchups align.  How does one handle in person viewings of prospects, or major league players, and balance them with stats?  How does one keep expectations in line from both a fantasy and real life perspective?  If Castillo hits 3 bombs, am I going to be TOO excited?  We all know about small sample sizes, but we're human beings and emotion factors in. It would be hard to shake watching a 3 HR performance.  As Maya Angelou once said "People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel."  

I'd like to think that's the first time Maya Angelou has been quoted in a fantasy baseball blog. 

Uncle Bones

A more talented writer than you or I may be able to create an entire baseball blog using Maya Angelou quotes and references. I think I would call it "I know why the caged bird is way off base" and it would likely tread such a fine line of racial and cultural appropriateness that mortal men would find too exhausting for recreational work. So instead we can relish in the quote, feel smart for a minute, and then get back to infantile task at hand...

As much as I'd love to get into a "3 Kinds of People You Find At a Minor League Baseball Game" diatribe, I'll focus on the experience more specific to your point. For your situation, understanding the narrative of the organization and the season is crucial to the enjoyment of the experience. With that being said, its very important to understand that you are watching one game of a very long season between players who have a wider variance in talent than you might find at the major league level. In other words anything can and will happen and it probably doesn't mean squat.

One example (and there are many) that best illustrates this point is the 2013 that Chris "Return of the Mack" Colabello spent at Triple-A Rochester. That season Colabello hit .352 with an OPS of 1.066 to go along with 24 HR's and 76 RBI's in 391 PA's. He also took home the hardware for International League MVP. It was a nice story and he helped the Red Wings make the playoffs (coincidentally where I also saw Clay Buchholz pitch on a rehab assignment). Any one who saw that season would have thought that Colabello was on track for big things, except that he was 29 that season and it was his first year at Triple-A after kicking around independent ball for 8 YEARS. He did take down the Emilo Bonifiacio Award for Early Season Excellence in 2014, but has struggled so much that he got a hero's welcome when he returned to Rochester later that same season.

Other things that you might see at a minor league baseball game:

Trevor Bauer giving up 6 runs in 2 IP
Daniel Bard walking 5 straight batters
Phil Humber throwing a 1 hit complete game shut-out
Will Middlebrooks smacking line drives all over the field
Sal Fasano's spectacular mustache
Grady Sizemore going 0-4
A 19 year old Bryce Harper being booed by a Tuesday in April crowd of roughly 1,500
6 pitcher combing for a no-hitter that started on May 8th & ended on July 21st
A player in your starting fantasy baseball roster that you had no idea had been sent to the minors

My advice, separate what you know about baseball from what secret you hope to discover for fantasy baseball. Your understanding of the narrative will greatly enhance your viewing experience  because you will understand who you are watching and why. However, to try and glean a competitive edge in a fantasy baseball league from 4 AB's or 6 IP's against competition of questionable quality? You'll make yourself crazy. You'll trick yourself into seeing things that aren't there. And probably worst of all, you'll miss out on the enjoyment of watching players today that will be all but unaccessible by as soon as even the end of the summer.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Click-Bait Worthy MLB Predictions pt.3

A Visit to the Mound

Baseball fans over-analyzing an over-analyzed game
Image result for mound visit
But Coach, I only sent that pic to one girl.
A Visit to the Mound is regularly updated series of emails touching on a wide range of baseball subjects. 


I think on a very direct player for player, in a vacuum style of evaluation, the Dodgers won this trade.  The 2 big prizes for the Sox in that trade, Webster and De La Rosa, were turned into Wade Miley, a guy expected to be a serviceable #4 and nothing else.  A Gon is in the heart of the Dodgers order and a huge key to their success.  However, things don't exist in a vacuum and the Sox won this trade in the big picture purely for the financial relief it gave them. The Carl Crawford signing was a black eye on the Theo Epstein era, it was as if The Eagles decided to end their career on a salsa covers album.  Despite all the amazing things they accomplished, recency effect is a real thing and people only remember the beginnings and ends of things.  This trade got the team out from under the majority of that contract.  As much as all Sox fans love Josh beckett for 2007, his surly attitude only works when he's pitching well. He had worn out his welcome in Boston.  The biggest benefit of this trade was of course the financial bailout that came with it, the scale of which we haven't seen since the financial crisis. With the Dodgers playing the role of the federal government,the money saved allowed the Sox to go on a unique spending spree, one of value and volume, that lead to the 2013 World Series....and then finishing last place in 2014.  The Ben Cherington era has been all or nothing so far, and this year it appears as if he's going all in on the "all" part again.  

Uncle Bones

In the end it would seem to me that the "Great Dodgers-Red Sox Swap of 2012" was one of those odd baseball trades where every one was a winner, but for different reasons. It shows how much the financial aspects of the game are as much of a factor when it comes to roster building and player movement as the actual talent of the player. Basketball has it to a certain extent, but now have a system in place for bailing out owners and GM's who lose their minds on contracts. I'm sure hockey has something... I mean the shut down the whole sport because ownership thought players were making too much... And the NFL, my God. Those players make peanuts compared to what baseball players make, can be cut at a moments notice AND football the most profitable sport in America.

But none of that in baseball. You sign a contract and that money is guaranteed and you typically stay on a roster until the contract is over (although sometimes a team will each money for a year). Thats one of the things that makes the Red Sox current approach to roster building so fascinating. They clearly have a plan and they are sticking to it.

Without rehashing the Red Sox moves of the last the years I'm gonna hone in on the recently announced Rick Porcello deal. Understanding this whole deal starts with Jon Lester around this time last year when he had turned down what seemed to be a low ball offer from the Sox for something around 4yrs/$70 mil. I believe that Red Sox when they say that this was just a starting number, but I also don't blame Lester's team for tabling the whole thing. He knew he'd make way more money than that and even if he blew his arm out on Opening Day, the Sox would still likely sign him for that.

So on it went, with the Sox falling out of contention and ultimately dealing an age 30 Lester to Oakland for Yoenis Cespedes who I also believe that the Red Sox were interested in retaining (at the right price). I also think that they were curious in feeling out Cespedes with the impending bidding wars for other Cuban players like Rusney Castillo, Yosmany Thomas, and Yoan Moncada on the horizon. They had just missed out on sensation Jose Abreu and they didn't want to be left holding the bag again. Then by the offseason w/ Ramirez and Castillo in the fold, Betts on the horizon, and Victorino still kicking about, the Red Sox traded Cespedes for Rick Porcello. Porcello who has great peripheral numbers and who thrives with a great defense behind him. Porcello who will be 26 this season with the kind of easy delivery that typically avoids the DL.

The Red Sox then gave Porcello the same money they wanted to give Lester except now they are paying for all of his years up to age 30 instead of all of the years after 30. And while that seems like a shocking number at first, watch what Jordan Zimmermann (30 in 2016), Johnny Cueto (30 in 2016), Ian Kennedy (31 in 2016), Jeff Samardzija (31 in 2016), David Price (30 in 2016), Mat Latos (28 in 2016) get next off season. The list is huge, I could go on. The Red Sox already have 3 rotation spots locked up for next year (assuming they pick up Buchholz's option and that Joe Kelly isn't starting next year; either way) with atleast 2-3 pitchers at Triple A who could fill the void. Or they could take a short term plunge on any of the starting FA's who miss out next year's on bonanza.

The Yankees have no such options. They are already down one starting pitcher, the 35 year old Chris Capuano, are stuck with a broken CC Sabathia, and a more than likely TJ bound Tanaka. Then again they've got Pineda & Nova, 2 pitchers under 30 who have yet to pitch a whole season. Oh and Nate Evoldi who might want to just sign baseball's before he throws them as they could make great collector's items as they fly over the right field wall at Yankees stadium. They are going to have to sign at least one or two of the marquee pitching FA's if they are serious about contending and they will probably pay sticker only to be left to 2 broken down 35 year old pitchers 5 years from now.


All valid points.  The Yanks have been in "should have rebuilt" mode for a few years, and now are definitely in that mode. That is not a fanbase that is necessarily comfortable in a rebuild.