It has been a crazy few weeks in the New York sports scene. The Big Blue Wreckin’ Crew beat the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, Yankees fans are drooling over the fact that A.J Burnett may be on his way out, the Knicks and their fans are caught up in “Linsanity”, Mark Sanchez asked Santonio Holmes to be his Valentine, and the Mets…well, they are the Mets. Oh yeah, and the New York Rangers just shutout the defending Stanley Cup champions on the road and now lead the Eastern Conference by nine points and have the best winning percentage in the NHL. Only the Detroit Red Wings (surprise…) are ahead of the Rangers with 80 points, but New York has three games in hand on the them; having a 21-game winning streak (and counting) at home will certainly help you get there.
Just like last season, the San Francisco Giants are in dire need for offensive help, but unlike last season, it is injuries that is the cause. With catcher Buster Posey injured this week in a play that will likely end his season, he becomes just the latest casualty in an incredibly unlucky 2011 season. Currently on the disabled list sit the aforementioned Posey, Pablo Sandoval, who actually seemed to be recovering from his offensive doldrums last season, Mark DeRosa, role player Mike Fontenot, and speedster Darren Ford. Aubrey Huff, who was the team’s all-around leader last season, bats a measly .223, while newcomer Miguel Tejada brings an atrocious .212 batting average to the table (this really gets put into perspective when you note that pitcher Ryan Vogelsong is actually batting .308). Power-hitter Pat Burrell leads the team with an astounding five homeruns, tied with Sandoval who has been out for nearly thirty games. At the same time, Freddy Sanchez tops out the team in hitting, with a .298 average. In other words, somebody help!
Sandoval should be set to return in a couple of weeks, but the Giants are going to need more than that. While the pitching is still holding strong, helping the Giants astoundingly remain in first place, while the offense bats .240 and is second-to-last in the National League in runs scored, the Giants need to make a trade to bring in some offense. One cannot be picky here; just get someone. There have been many names thrown around, ranging from Jose Reyes to Ivan Rodriguez. The Giants are allowed to be desperate here, but it does not mean they have to be. Just listen to WFAN in New York and you will hear some of the dumbest calls ever made to the station. Fans of the Yankees and Mets are smelling blood in the water, and see that if the Giants are so hard up for offense, they must be willing to trade pitching. Sophomore Madison Bumgarner is the name that nearly every caller wants, and I have heard proposals such as Reyes for Bumgarner, and even Yankee fans getting in there, wanting to give the Giants their top catching prospect Jesus Montero for Jonathon Sanchez. New Yorkers always want to think they can get a Filet Mignon for the price of a Morning Star boca burger, but come one now!
One caller even told Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts, who host a midday show on WFAN, an asinine proposal of Josh Thole for Bumgarner, to which Benigno responded, “Yeah, sure! Give us Sanchez too!” It really is quite funny, because everyone seems to be enamored with the Giants from coast to cost. Mike Francesa has even had to dismiss disillusioned callers and their fantasy-like wishes.
The Giants will not trade Madison Bumgarner or Jonathon Sanchez. Nor will they trade Tim Lincecum for Jorge Posada. Anyone that thinks a deal involving those three makes sense, get your head out of your behind. Desperation never worked in anyone’s favor, except the trading partner that exploits it. If the only way the Giants can get help is by trading a pitcher, than I would rather stay the course and miss the playoffs. Saving this season is not worth jeopardizing the next three. If the Mets want to get rid of Reyes so bad, then I would offer Miguel Tejada and a prospect: take it or leave it. The Mets would save a tremendous amount of money while the Giants would not be overpaying for a rental. That helps out the infield, but then the Giants need to fix their catcher dilemma. Eli Whiteside is a good backup, but by no means is he an everyday player. The Giants have contacted the Nationals regarding 39-year old Ivan Rodriguez (.211, 2 Hrs, 14 RBI), which would be a decent stop-gap for this season. I would also inquire about Jorge Posada on the Yankees, whose .174 batting average would fit right in.
The disgruntled catcher has caused Yankee fans to forget his past greatness and jump on the What-Have-You-Done-For-Me-Lately bandwagon. The Yankees could send him to San Francisco for a prospect or two and never see him again. There, Posada can get back to actually catching (he does not seem to love the designated hitter position) and help the Giants’ young pitching staff. It could serve as a reclamation project of sorts, that they tried, and succeeded, with Pat Burrell who was also unhappy DHing and struggling with the Tampa Bay Rays early last season. His career was thought to be over too, and look how that turned out for the Giants in the long run.
The San Francisco Giants are fresh off a world series victory and about to lose their starting shortstop Juan Uribe, to the Los Angeles Dodgers as sources are now reporting that he is close to signing a three-year deal with them. The Giants will be in desperate need for someone to fill his void, with no one in the system capable of putting up the numbers that he did—Emmanuel Burriss and Eugenio Velez have shown nothing but ineptitude.
Mike Fontenot is a player who could perhaps fill the void, but he is more suited for a platoon and fill-in role, as he is more experienced, and is a better contact hitter than some of the free-swinging Giants. It is because of this that the Giants should look to the free agent market to land themselves a shortstop, and the one player out there who is drawing attention almost daily in the papers, is Derek Jeter, who is frozen in contract negotiations with the New York Yankees.
Jeter, 36, is rumored to be seeking a six-year deal worth ~$150 million, a contract which would bring him to age 42 and pay him $25 million a season. The Yankees maintain that they will not budge from their first and only offer so far of three-years, $45 million, a deal that will pay the aging star a more realistic number. Is Jeter worth what he is seeking? Absolutely not, if you are looking at what he can provide from here on out. But if you want to look to the past and thank the player that has led this team to five World Series Championships, made the All-Star team eleven times, and all while keeping his reputation spotlessly clean with the media, then he is worth that much. One could make the argument that had George Steinbrunner still been alive, none of this would be happening, but he isn’t, and now the career-Yankee, and first ballot hall-of-famer, who will achieve his 3000th hit this season, barring injury, is standing at an impasse with the most powerful team in baseball.
It is because of this that the Giants should make him an offer. Perhaps if he does not get what he is looking for from the Yankees, he would take a smaller deal elsewhere. I would suggest something along the lines of three-years, $60 million. An amount offering to pay him more than the Yankees, but still keeping the years at a realistic number. Jeter’s play dropped off dramatically this season—his average fell more than 60 points, his hits went from 212 to 179, homeruns from 18 to 10, and strikeouts rose from 90 to 106. His numbers were not bad, by any means, but it has obviously caused some concern with Yankee brass.
If the Giants were to sign Jeter, they would have some veteran stability in the infield, something that they sorely needed on the left side of second base last season. As good and clutch as Uribe was—hitting 24 homeruns and driving in 85—he was a defensive liability (as is Sandoval). Jeter’s defense may not be Gold Glove-caliber anymore, despite winning the award this season, but his range is definitely greater than that of Uribe, and he will provide something much more valuable than anyone on this current roster, and that is patience at the plate.
People often wonder why Yankee games last three hours, and that is because they know how to hit. They take bad pitches and force the pitcher to throw strikes, something the Giants have not done since the Barry Bonds-led years in the mid-2000′s. Uribe and Sandoval led the way in free-swinging. It has it benefits, such as Uribe swinging so hard he would almost fall over, guaranteeing that if he made contact, the ball would leave the yard, but much too often he found himself striking out or hitting into a double play. This is something that plagued the Giants heavily, and was the main reason why it took this team until the final game of the regular season to clinch a playoff spot.
I do not think it is realistic that the Giants will get Jeter; for the most part, this is just thinking out-loud. I believe that Derek Jeter will be a career-Yankee, something that fans have been wanting for essentially his entire career. But if these negotiations keep on dragging, and it does not look like a deal is in place, then the Giants should field him an offer. After all, if he signs in San Francisco he would not be labeled a traitor. The Giants and Yankees are not rivals, nor do they regularly even play each other. If he is going to leave New York, than the Golden State is one place he could go.
On May 1, 1920, the Major Leagues would witness the longest game in the history of the sport. The Brooklyn Robins battled the Boston Braves in a game that would eventually end in a 1-1 tie, due to the fact that it was getting dark out, and stadiums were not built with lights at the time.
The two starting pitchers are names that are not really recognizable now, and they are Leon Cadore and Joe Oeschger. The amount of innings to be played that night fell just short of the equivalent of three games, at twenty-six innings. What is even more remarkable is that both starting pitchers finished the game. That’s right! Twenty-six innings pitched by each one of them, and surely they did it proudly, trying to earn their team a win.
Nowadays in baseball, if a pitcher goes six innings we give him a medal, but back then, pitchers were actually expected to finish the game that they started.
This is a feat known as pitching a complete game, a stat that is a rarity today, except for the likes of Roy Halladay, who was probably born in the wrong time frame. People make such a big deal about him because he eats up innings and has led the majors in complete games year after year. But had he played even just thirty years ago, baseball fans and analysts would be saying, “So what?”
This is not a knock on Halladay, more like the highest of compliments. It is truly a shame that this sport does not have more of him. But the fact of the matter is, this league we all love and watch now is watered down baseball, ruined by the owners and general managers by dolling out huge sums of cash to the players, and ruined by the managers for not playing real baseball.
What do we consider a solid season by a starting pitcher in present time? Maybe two hundred innings and ten to fifteen wins. If any pitcher consistently puts up those numbers, they will earn a major contract, be on the all-star team, and be looked at as a top pitcher. But fifty years ago and beyond, those stats were nothing major.
A pitcher today is considered a freak if he goes above and beyond those numbers. So what’s wrong with this situation is that we award them for doing something that was considered normal in the early days of baseball.
Let’s take a look at Christy Mathewson, one of the first inductees into the Baseball Hall-of-Fame. In the 1908 season, he threw thirty-four complete games, while amassing 390.2 innings, all while winning thirty-seven games. Quite remarkable, don’t you think?
Want to know what is even more shocking than that? His arm did not fall of during the season. And Mathewson was not alone; in 1903 his set his career high with thirty-seven complete games and was not even the league leader.
That is what the major problem is, managers being too overly protective of their pitchers. Today if a pitcher goes six innings, we pat him on the back saying he did the best he could, and then the men in charge of baseball had to worsen the matter by awarding him a stat; that ridiculous piece of new-age garbage known as the “quality start”.
A quality start is categorized as if a player pitches six or more innings and gives up three runs or less (which makes the ERA 4.50, not a great number in itself), he is awarded that. So now already the pitcher has in his mind that once he gets to the sixth, he can come out of the game. Fifty years ago if a pitcher wanted to come out that early in the game, either he had to be dying or his wife was giving birth.
But this problem did not just evolve on its own, in fact, it all started when closers became a mainstay in baseball.
Saves had always been a stat, but they were rarely used because teams really did not have much of a bullpen back then. As a manager you had your five starters (sometimes teams opted to go with only a four man rotation) and maybe two or three pitchers to have in case of emergency. If those relievers were not available, then you just used a starter to come in and finish the game.
Take a look at pitching stats from the early days of baseball. You will see that most pitchers have saves, but none hardly ever have more than ten. That is because these pitchers were workhorses, and saves were meaningless to them. Getting back to Mathewson, in 1908, he started forty-four games as the team’s ace. But he would also make twelve relief appearances and earn five saves.
Most likely those saves were the kind earned when one pitches the final three innings of a game and the team wins, a situation hardly seen in baseball today.
The Oakland Athletics are really the team to blame, as they started the whole movement of a pitcher pitching solely to close out the game, and that is where the term closer came from. It all started with Rollie Fingers and then Dennis Eckersely, and by the time the latter replaced the former, a league wide hysteria had caught on.
All of a sudden managers realized that they did not need their starters pitching every inning. Originally it was not that bad. Closers were there to pitch two, maybe three innings. But then managers got another idea into their heads; the set-up man.
If one situational reliever was not enough, they now had one for the eighth inning, and some even had another one for the seventh. Shortly, “lefty specialists” would become a mainstay in every bullpen, in addition to the above lunacy.
Closers were not all that bad, and in fact, I was fine with them until a few years ago when I realized just how over-hyped they are. Just listen to what people say:
“Not just anyone can be a closer.”
“It takes a special pitcher to close out a game.”
“You need to have a certain mindset to work the ninth inning.”
It has gotten so bad in recent years that closers have started to believe them. They have to have a special song when they run on the field, grow crazy facial hair to be intimidating, and come up with some manipulated version of the sign of the cross to jump around and do upon getting the final out.
When people argue that it takes a special person to be a closer, what about all the “star” closers that get injured every season and some journeyman nobody comes in and pitches lights out?
Take Dustin Hermanson for example, a middle of the pack starter and a below average reliever. After he left San Francisco in 2004 to join the Chicago White Sox, this sub par pitcher became the team’s closer and was lights out, saving thirty-seven games with an ERA of 2.04. The next season? He appeared in six games before being demoted to the minors, where he has never returned from.
Then there is Ryan Franklin, who bounced from the majors to the minors for his entire career, and last season becomes the most feared closer in the game. He even had to grow a crazy goatee to try to scare people. And what happened when the playoffs rolled around? How elite was he then?
The final example of this counter argument saying that anybody can close comes with David Aardsma of the Seattle Mariners. This was a player who played on four different teams in four years, and a guy who could not hit a cow if he was standing on the milking stool. Yet last season, he saves thirty-eight games and this season he finds himself owned by 86% of all fantasy baseball managers.
All of this hype for one inning wonders, and they only pitch one inning because they want to come into the ninth with a nice fresh, clean slate to pitch on. All this build up of closers only being able to pitch one inning has made them mentally unstable to come in during the eighth inning. How many times do we see elite closers come in early with men on base, only two allow them all to score before getting the outs?
And why does a save only have to come in the ninth inning? Tell me, what is more valuable; a closer coming in with nobody on base in the ninth inning and getting three outs, or a reliever coming into the seventh inning with the bases loaded and getting the outs he needed?
Why can’t the save be awarded to the pitcher who actually “saves” the game? It could be a discretionary stat, decided by the official league scorers. But then again, that would not be fair to the closer, because he is getting paid the big bucks to pitch his one, glorious inning.
So now the middle relief pitchers got upset, and Major League Baseball had to instill the biggest travesty this sport has ever seen, with a little stat known as the “hold”.
According to this fantastic stat, if a pitcher enters the game with a lead and exits with the lead, he is awarded the stat. These are two scenarios that can lead to a hold. Please tell me what is wrong with them:
1. Pitcher A enters the game with a 10-0 lead and retires three batters. His team wins the game and he is awarded a hold.
2. Pitcher B enters the game with a 10-0 lead and gives up nine runs. His team holds on for the win and is awarded a hold.
How on earth can baseball award a pitcher for a poor performance? It is because everything has to be individualized, and everyone must have a stat. There have been instances where a pitcher has come into a game, walked a batter, and left being awarded a hold. A pitcher not even recording an out and getting a positive stat?
Managers are even losing games or putting them at risk because of over-reliance on their bullpen. Take yesterday afternoon, for example. The Athletics were leading the Giants 1-0 after eighth innings. Gio Gonzales had pitched all eighth innings, allowing only two hits and one walk. He only had ninety-five pitches, but was lifted in favor of closer Andrew Bailey, who in his one inning would throw thirty pitches and allow two baserunners.
Although the A’s still won the game, how come Gonzales could not finish it out? Was it because he was approaching 100 pitches?
This is the new thing now, pitch counts. When I first started watching baseball in the late 90′s, I don’t remember them being mentioned. Now the hysteria has even gotten so bad as the YES Network now has a pitch count display on the main scoreboard, so that every second in the game you know where your pitcher is.
I don’t see this as counting up pitches, I see it as counting down to how much longer a pitcher has left to go. At the hundred pitch mark, apparently, a pitcher’s arm will just fall off. It is taboo to allow someone to throw much more than than that. Why, I ask? Why?
Take the New York Yankees and last season’s embarrassing treatment of Joba Chamberlain.
Starter, reliever, starter, reliever.
It got so bad that it seemed like almost every month they were changing him around. Then it got worse and they created the “Joba Rules”, which monitored his pitch counts and innings totals. Eighty pitches, and he was done. Getting close to the innings limit? Skip his starts every few weeks and only allow him go four when he does. (Thank God for bullpens!)
Chamberlain is now the set-up man for Mariano Rivera, the spot he should have been in all along. But it is safe to say that the Yankees ruined what was their most promising pitching prospect since perhaps Mariano himself.
Not only that, but he was built like a brick you-know-what. At 6-2, 230 pounds, Chamberlain was not some frail little stick. Let him pitch, or will his arm just fall off? Why couldn’t they let him mirror Tim Lincecum who is big enough to be confused with the bat boy? All he has been able to do in two seasons pitching without a leash is win two Cy Young awards.
He came up from the minors gunning it at 99-101 MPH. Now he is lucky if his hardest fluctuates between 94-96. He struggled as a starter last season, and he is struggling now, with an ERA of 4.50. (But that’s okay, cause he has nine holds)
So I ask, what happened to this great game? Starters no longer pitch to help the team win, but they pitch to earn wins themselves. Closers do not pitch to seal the win for their team, they pitch to earn a save. And now relievers do not pitch to help out the team, but to get a hold.
All of this individualized, and all of it for the stats. There is no longer any winning for the team, just winning for personal stats. It will only get worse, and in years to come I wonder how many more will be invented so we can give another mediocre pitcher his own stat.
The way this game has dipped in recent years is embarrassing. What happened to durability in players? In the 1900′s when players were overweight chunks of fat whose only off-season exercise consisted of raising a beer glass to their mouths, they never got injured. Now players have personal trainers and a staff of team doctors and there are more injuries now than ever before. This really is cause for another article, but it adds to how watered down this sport has become.
Give me back the real baseball players we once had.
Give me back my game.
Does everyone remember the EA Sports video game MVP Baseball 2004? The reason why I ask, is because when I think back to that game and all the players on opposing teams that used to burn me whenever I played it, the name Morgan Ensberg came to mind.
I would send Jason Schmidt to the mound for my Giants, and when it was time to face that Houston Astros lineup, it was a difficult challenge. Quite frankly, I never had a problem getting Biggio, Bagwell, Berkman, and Kent out, but Ensberg always gave me trouble. It was in 2004 that EA Sports would have to boost his ratings, after he had his first breakout season in 2003, when he hit twenty-five homeruns.
That next season, he would achieve his career high with thirty-six, make the All-Star team, and help lead his team to a National League Pennant and a trip to the World Series, where ultimately they would fall to the Chicago White Sox. At the end of the season, he would be awarded the Silver Slugger Award for third basemen.
In 2006, Ensberg would continue his solid play, cranking another twenty-three homeruns. 2007 would see him splitting time with the Astros and Padres before he finally finished his career the next season with the New York Yankees.
Since then, Ensberg has been writing on his own blog, Baseball IQ and has expressed an interest in wanting a career in broadcasting. I asked him about this and more in our email correspondence show below:
GC: This has been something on my mind of late, and that is players getting injured much more frequently than they did in years past. Even with the players being in better shape, they seem to not have the durability anymore. Why do you think this is a problem and what are some of the causes?
ME: I didn’t realize players were injured more than they were in the past. But it sounds like you are trying to make a connection between steroids and injuries. I hate to speculate as to why guys are getting hurt when I don’t have any facts as to what type of injuries you are talking about specifically.
GC: In 2005, you had a chance to make the World Series as a member of the Astros. Even though the team fell short, can you describe for us what the experience was like?
ME: It was stressful. There was a ton of media in the locker room and on the fields. It was fun once the games started, but there is a bunch of outside stuff that makes it really difficult to keep your routines.
GC: You have recently announced that you would like a career in broadcasting, after starting what has developed into a very successful blog. Do you have any aspirations of working for ESPN or the MLB Network?
ME: I would love to work for either those two or FOX. My real goal is to just get a job. Beggars can’t be choosers.
GC: When you look down the road, can you see yourself as a manager or coach in either the Major Leagues or minors?
ME: My passion is teaching the game. I love being on the field.
GC: As a member of the Astros for seven seasons, what was it like to play alongside future hall-of-famers Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell?
ME: It was great playing with those guys. In the end, I was able to play with Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Jeff Kent, and Lance Berkman. Those are some great players right there.
GC: Finally, I would like to ask you about steroids in baseball. Do you think that the league has been too harsh on players and has wasted time with their various investigations into steroid use, or do they have an obligation to keep the sport clean, although they started to enforce rules that were never set in stone originally?
ME: I am embarrassed that baseball players went down this path. In my opinion, I think that guys made a decision to put their health in danger over the opportunity for money. It just goes to show you how powerful money can be. Steroids are illegal drugs. If someone is doing them then I think we should get the police involved.
I would like to thank Morgan for taking the time to conduct this interview.
Morgan Ensberg is a former member of the Houston Astros, San Diego Padres, and New York Yankees. Over nine seasons, he appeared in 731 games, registering 110 HR and 347 RBI. He was a member of Houston’s 2005 NL Pennant winning team and is a one-time All-Star.
We will be closing in on the thirty game mark in the 2010 Major League Baseball season, and we still have players continuing to surprise, and star players that are struggling. This weekly list does not take the top five best statistical players, because it would virtually be the same people every week. This list focuses on some stars, but also on the underdogs who are having a good week.
The New York Yankees’ homegrown second baseman has been nothing but a stud so far this season. He is currently ranked number one overall in offense, according to Yahoo, and owns a league best .387 batting average while hitting in a loaded lineup. He has also shown great power, hitting nine homeruns and his defense has been superb as well, committing only one error so far this season.”It’s a ribbee…for Robbie!”
After struggling the last two seasons, Konerko looks to be back on the right track this season as his twelve homeruns leads the majors. Fantasy owners are still not sold though, because the numbers on him show him only be owned by 79% of managers, a number that was in the 90′s two seasons ago. Konerko has also been good in the field, with his one error, and if he keeps up this pace, he could very well have a forty homerun season. And don’t forget, “You can put it on the boooooooooooard! Yes!”
Here is another hidden gem making his way onto the list, a player Yahoo ranked 889. He currently finds himself sitting in eighteenth, but offensively is the third best second baseman behind on Robinson Cano and Chase Utley. He deserves a mention because he does not play in a stacked lineup like the other two. He is currently tied for second in the league with nine homeruns, and has eighteen RBI’s with a .310 batting average. [Keep with trend and insert Braves announcer call here.]
The last edition featured Tim Lincecum, but this time another Giant will get a chance. Could it be that Barry is back? The one time ace and Cy Young winner who has had three miserable seasons in San Francisco has finally found his game. He is currently 4-0 in five starts, and the one start the team lost, Zito gave up only one run. The plague with his tenure with the Giants has been run support, but they have been much better at it this season. His ERA is now an incredible 1.53. He started the season at less than 10% owned by fantasy managers, and he now sits at 83%. Don’t let us down, Barry!
Fellow NL West counterpart gets the nod as the other hot pitcher in the majors right now. Two weeks ago he tossed the first no-hitter in Rockies history, and he still has not looked back. He currently has a 5-0 record with a league best 0.79 ERA. He has become the ace that the Rockies have sorely lacked throughout their franchise history. Only question is, will the thin Colorado air allow him to stay this successful?
Also of note: Tim Lincecum and Roy Halladay have shown no signs of slowing down. It’s fun to do a comparison of the two, but even more fun to combine their numbers. The pair has a 9-1 record with an ERA of 1.37 and 82 strikeouts in 84 innings. Just give them a share of the Cy Young already.
And what’s up with Javier Vazquez? The ace of the Braves last season is struggling mightily with the New York Yankees, having a 1-3 record with a bloated ERA of 9.78. Fans are quick to overreact, saying that he cannot pitch in New York, even if he was 14-10 with them in his first stint. It could be nerves, it could be a hidden injury; no one really knows. But one thing is for sure, it cannot get any worse. This could be a good time to buy low on him in fantasy leagues, if dealing with an impatient owner. His ERA won’t stay at ten all season.
Also featured on Phillies Phever.
First off, I would just like to wish everybody a very happy, secular, non-denominational day of spring, painted egg collecting. But for most of us, the most special part of this day, is the first night of baseball in America.
Tonight at 8pm, or probably 9pm because of ESPN’s commercials, the New York Yankees will take on the Boston Red Sox in what will be the first day of baseball for the 2010 season. As die-hard a hockey fan as I am, nothing feels like opening day baseball, especially when the fate of your team is unknown.
How will your favorite team perform; will they surprise and win? Or will they disappoint and lose? Will players have career years? Or will players go on year long slumps? Those are all questions we must ask ourselves before our team’s starting pitcher delivers that first pitch.
One thing is certain, though, all teams have a chance to begin fresh, to put the problems and heartbreak of seasons’ past out of the way and focus on winning it all this year.
This year should be very interesting; the New York Yankees are my pick to win the World Series on a repeat. Meanwhile the San Francisco Giants finished with a very exciting, and league best spring training record– they will be a fun team to watch this season. The Phillies and Red Sox will continue to be as solid as they always are, the Braves will challenge for their division, and the Pirates and Royals will continue to swelter in mediocrity.
And how about those New York Mets? Half the team is on the disabled list before the season has even begun. What should they do first? Concede the season and open up a hospital wing at Bellevue, or sign the Mexican national team to an entry level contract and change the team to Los Mets?
Everywhere you look, there are teams that will challenge for their respective divisions. The morally acceptable, and downright futile absurdity known as “baseball parity” is finally rearing it’s ugly head.
The Rays will compete for the AL East. The Twins, Tigers, and White Six will go down to the wire, as always, in the AL Central. And Texas should be some trouble for the perennial winning Los Angeles of the State of California at Anaheim Angels in the AL West.
Meanwhile, in the NL West, it should come down to the Dodgers and Giants, both of whom will be in the playoffs. But the Padres will make things interesting if Adrian Gonzales can hit 60 homeruns, and the Rockies, who will start the season 20-72, will win the final 70 games of the season. In the NL Central, the Cardinals will power past everyone in their way, and the Phillies should take the NL East, because Braves are not strong enough, the Mets will be in full body casts by June, and the Nationals…well, they’re the Nationals.
Where does your team stand? What are your predictions for this season? Only have a few hours to go before the season is officially underway. I’m looking forward to tonight’s game, although I do not care who wins, because it’s baseball. And who can beat Joe Morgan and Jon Miller, the two best voices in the game?
Good luck to everyone out there, that your favorite team will remain competitive, and that this season will be exciting for us all!
This article is also be be featured on Phillies Phever, a new blog I will be writing for, with fellow sports fanatic Chris DiFrancesco.
As a fantasy baseball manager since 2003, I have experienced moderate success; in 15 teams I have managed, I have won the championship twice, while finishing in the top-three five other times. Both championship victories I have both came last season, because it was after I realized what the secret was.
It’s nothing groundbreaking, nothing that would make you go, “Oh, why didn’t I think of that!”, but it’s there, and it’s right in front of your face. Some managers even do it by accident, and I guarantee they have experienced some form of success.
The secret is this: forget about closers. Wait a minute…what? You mean to tell me that you don’t draft Francisco Cordero in the fifth round when there are so many superstars available? That’s right my fellow fantasy managers, I just ditch the closers.
Think about it; we waste an early round pick for a player who is going to get our team one stat– the save. When he gets one, terrific, we increase one stat column. But blow a save, and your ERA for the week can be messed up so much you end up losing that category.
“Only a certain pitcher can be a closer!”
“It takes a certain mindset to close out a game!”
Those are the things I hear when I discuss the importance of closers to the game. Now we even have to play certain music when they come out, and oh, almost forgot, they have to grow some kind of intimidating facial hair style.
There is only one closer in baseball– Mariano Rivera, and I’m not a Yankee fan.
They may very well be important, but they are blown out of proportion. Let’s face it, anyone can be a closer. How many times a season do we see a “star” get injured, and some journeyman schmuck comes in and saves 30 games? Oh, and it just so happens they’re a free agent that off-season and they end up getting a huge contract with a new team. David Aardma saved 38 games last year…enough said.
Sorry for that, the rant is now over. Back to fantasy baseball stats and how to win your league.
If you wanted to be totally bad-ass, like yours truly, then create a league and do not instill a closer/relief position. Or, if you want to really piss people off and prove a point, keep relief pitchers available and get rid of the save stat. How many closers will we see picked up then? Probably close to none.
This would all be just babble if I didn’t win the championship in 2 out of the 3 leagues I have played in since dropping the closers off my team. I must also add that both of these victories came in league where closers were an available position and saves were a stat. The glory of the Yahoo fantasy setup are those starting pitchers that count as relievers as well. So that’s exactly what I did. Found two starters who count as both an “SP” and “RP” and plugged them in the relief position.
Obviously I lost the saves category every week, but when most teams were rolling two and three closers at once, I was winning the Innings Pitched, Strikeouts, and Wins categories pretty severely. Most often ERA too, because one bad performance wouldn’t necessarily end my week.
This season I have three suggestions for that fantastic SP/RP versatility: J.A Happ on the Phillies, Joba Chamberlain on the Yankees, and Todd Wellemeyer on the Giants.
Happ pitched extremely well last season and is a lock for a spot in the rotation. Why Yahoo even has him listed as an RP is beyond me, but take advantage of their mistake as once a player is listed in a certain position, they can not be removed, only new positions can be added to them.
Chamberlain is tricky because of the weird pitch and innings count he will be on, but with the Yankee’s offense, I would be willing to take the chance.
Todd Wellemeyer looks like he will win the Giants fifth spot in the rotation due to his superb spring. Should he continue this, figure him for 8-10 wins on the season.
This idea may seem a bit wacky, and I understand not all leagues have the same setup. I think the majority of fans use Yahoo, meaning this is the correct configuration. I highly recommend you try it; you’ll lose the saves category every week, but you will never lose innings pitched and strikeouts.
If you don’t trust me, try an experiment on just one of your teams. Even if you have already drafted, now is the time to offer in a trade, your superstar closer, and have a chance to get a decent starting pitcher or hitter back. It may seem crazy, but I guarantee that once you go this way, you’ll never go back.