The Week That Was and Is (Part Two)
Continuing on with the week that was and is . . .
Sunday, March 30
We held our Fantasy Baseball Draft at my house a week ago Sunday. Our league dates back to the late 1970s in one form or fashion, and it has to be one of the longest-running fantasy or rotisserie pools in existence. We normally have 15 teams but added a 16th this year to accommodate a charter member who was unable to participate last season. I enjoy fantasy baseball and think it is a much more challenging than fantasy football. More players, more games, and more stats means more skill and less luck than football.
Our pool is similar to most 5x5 leagues except we basically substitute walks in place of stolen bases. We also include "troubles" (2 * doubles + 3 * triples) and subtract blown saves from saves while giving this net saves category only half weighting. We feel as if we have a nice combination of rate and counting stats and believe the best baseball players make for the best fantasy players, at least in our league.
With a total of 16 teams and 28 players per, we drafted 448 pitchers and hitters. We pulled it off in a little over 5 hours, which means we were averaging about one pick every 40 seconds. We have 16 active players (nine hitters, seven starting pitchers, and two relievers) with the remaining 12 on the bench. Changes are allowed on a weekly cycle that runs from Monday through Sunday. No trades or waiver wires are permitted. Instead, we hold three replacement drafts at each of the quarter poles whereby team owners are given the opportunity to choose two new players in a draft format based on the inverse order of standings.
I drew No. 14 out of the hat and ended up with the 13th pick when another owner opted to take the 16th and 17th slots. Alex Rodriguez went first and the usual suspects followed. David Ortiz, who can play 1B in our league, was the best player on the board when my turn came up so I drafted him in the first round, Grady Sizemore on the way back in the second, and Ryan Zimmerman in the third. Johan Santana and Jake Peavy were the only pitchers taken in the opening round but a total of 15 had been selected when I gladly took John Smoltz in the fourth round.
I've learned a number of valuable lessons over the years and try not to think in terms of wanting this guy or that guy. Instead, I let the draft come to me and take what everyone else gives me. With this strategy in mind, I nabbed Carlos Pena in the fifth round even though I doubled up on positions earlier than I would normally prefer. I chose Tim Lincecum in the sixth round before a run on pitchers produced eight consecutive and 11 of 12 spots devoted to starters. I broke the trend by taking Pat Burrell (atta boy, good job yesterday, Pat!) in the seventh round, then added A.J. Burnett and Jeremy Bonderman as my third and fourth SP in the eighth and ninth rounds. I filled out my rotation with Gil Meche in the 13th round and was pleased that Jon Lester was still around in the 15th to provide insurance for my top five.
As the draft wound down, I took a flyer on Chris Carpenter in the hope that he might be able to help me out in August and September plus Chase Headley and Jay Bruce (did you notice that he went yard yesterday?). Headley would have broken camp with the Padres if not for the fact that management didn't want him to make two adjustments simultaneously – one to the big leagues and another to the outfield. I look for him to take over LF by late May and trust Kevin Towers when he says that Headley will "bat in the middle of the order" when he arrives in SD.
Here is my roster:
C: J.R. Towles
1B: Carlos Pena
2B: Brian Roberts
SS: Edgar Renteria
3B: Ryan Zimmerman
OF: Pat Burrell
OF: Grady Sizemore
OF: Jermaine Dye
DH: David Ortiz
SP: John Smoltz
SP: Tim Lincecum
SP: A.J. Burnett
SP: Jeremy Bonderman
SP: Gil Meche
RP: Joakim Soria
RP: Rafael Betancourt
My backups include Yunel Escobar
(2B-SS-3B), Mark DeRosa
(2B-3B-OF), Jeff Keppinger
(SS), Milton Bradley
, Headley, and Bruce (OF), and Yadier Molina
(C). Lester, Paul Maholm
, Orlando Hernandez
, and Carpenter add depth to my starting staff while Rafael Perez
serves as my third reliever.
My team is in fourth place as of this morning. The team that is atop in the standings has A.J. Pierzynski, Derrek Lee, Brandon Phillips, Jimmy Rollins, Chipper Jones, Jason Bay, Vernon Wells, Andruw Jones, and Garret Anderson, plus Jered Weaver, Javier Vazquez, Johnny Cueto, Joe Saunders, and Adam Loewen/Carlos Villanueva with Francisco Liriano and Clayton Kershaw in reserve, and Matt Capps and Brian Wilson in the bullpen.
Monday, March 31
Opening Day. I watched the Dodgers-Giants game on TV in a sports restaurant at lunch with another member of our fantasy league and his father, both of whom are also in the investment management industry. I guess if you're paying a pitcher $126 million, you start him on Opening Day, especially when you're team is at home. Brian Sabean's days in San Francisco may be numbered. Paul DePodesta, in a return to the Bay Area, would make a good replacement as the club's GM.
Rob Neyer returned home to Portland on the first flight out of Los Angeles, then set a record for the longest online chat ever. It started with the first pitch on Monday and didn't stop until after the last pitch had been thrown that evening.
Unable to catch Bill James on 60 Minutes the night before, I recorded and watched it Monday evening. I was glad for Bill because a segment like that on a popular, mainstream program was long overdue. But it was disappointing for the more advanced baseball fans already familiar with his work. We really shouldn't have expected anything differently. Unlike many others, Bill didn't need the 15 minutes of fame that 60 Minutes may have brought him. However, to the extent that such a program makes him more of a household figure and an even bigger icon inside the game, then I think it was well worth the effort. Next stop for James: Cooperstown.
For more on the subject, be sure to read Joe Posnanski's 60 Not So Deep Minutes. If you missed the James piece, you can check it out here or download the video below:
Opening Day also marked former Baseball Analysts colleague Joe S. Sheehan's first day as an intern with the San Diego Padres. I exchanged emails with him yesterday. He told me that the "first week went by in a blur." Between moving into his new apartment and the week-long homestand, Joe "didn't really have a chance to breathe," but he emphasized "that's a good thing." Meanwhile, Jeff Albert, another former Baseball Analysts contributor, enjoyed his first spring training camp as the hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals Low-A minor league team (Battavia). Watching Albert Pujols
hit in the batting cage close up was one of his memorable experiences.
Tuesday, April 1
With the baseball season underway, I was able to enjoy MLB EXTRA INNINGS like never before. The SuperFan package adds up to 40 games per week in high definition plus Game Mix and the Strike Zone Channel. DirecTV is now presenting the home and road broadcasts for most games so viewers can actually pick which one they wish to watch. Once you get a taste of HD, you can never go back.
Monday, April 7
Courtesy of my long-time friend Glen (another member of our fantasy baseball pool), I returned to the Bob Uecker seats at Angel Stadium last night, along with my brother Tom and Ken Briggs, another ex-Lakewood High School baseball player. Ken was a 19th round draft pick in 1982 by the Seattle Mariners. After a college career at Pepperdine and Long Beach State, Ken played as high as AA (Chattanooga) in the pros. A center fielder, he enjoyed his best season at Wasau (Midwest League) in 1983 when he hit .259/.328/.441 with 9 HR in 220 AB.
We had a good time scrolling through the list of draftees in 1982, learning that Ken was selected four picks before Bret Saberhagen. Shawon Dunston was the first player drafted that year, while Barry Bonds (39th), Bo Jackson (50th), and Barry Larkin (51st) were all chosen in the second round.
We paused long enough to enjoy Torii Hunter's two game-winning home runs, including a walk-off grand salami in the bottom of the ninth that catapulted the Angels past the Indians 6-4. A good time was had by all, including Tom, who won the Final Four basketball pool by selecting Kansas to win the whole thing.
It's now time to bring on the Masters. (You can read Part One, too.)