Posted on: July 11, 2008 3:38 am

Does having All-Stars matter in Fantasy?

Jeff Lippman, the newest of our Fantasy writers, pointed out that an owner in one of his leagues had 15 All-Stars on his team. I think just about anyone would call that an accomplishment -- I mean, he accumulated about one-fourth of every All-Star available -- but did it really make a difference to his team in the standings?

You'd think it would. You'd think he'd reign supreme over every man, woman and child who dared oppose him. But he hasn't. He ranks third among 10 teams -- certainly good, but by no means dominant.

So that got me thinking. Does All-Star representation have anything to do with a Fantasy team's success? Let's take a look at a couple of my own leagues.

First, let's look at a 10-team Head-to-Head mixed league. I rank sixth and have nine All-Stars:

1st place - 8 All-Stars
2nd - 3
3rd - 5
4th - 10
5th - 5
6th - 9
7th - 7
8th - 4
9th - 5
10th - 7

I don't see any kind of correlation; do you? The first-place team looks solid with eight All-Stars, but the second place team has the fewest with three. Meanwhile, the last-place team has more than twice as many with seven. Does looking at this distribution tell us anything?

To be honest, I kind of expected the mixed league to break down this way. With so many players divided between so few teams, each owner will get his share of studs. In shallow leagues like this one, with every roster composed almost entirely of studs anyway, the strength of the studs matters more than number of them. The best of the best wins, not the most of the best.

Now, let's look at a 10-team Head-to-Head AL-only league. I rank first and have six All-Stars:

1st place - 6 All-Stars
2nd - 3
3rd - 3
4th - 5
5th - 2
6th - 4
7th - 3
8th - 3
9th - 2
10th - 2

Here, we see a bit more of a correlation as, with the exception of the fourth, fifth and sixth slots, the number of All-Stars decreases as we move down the standings. Quite honestly, though, I expected an even stronger correlation. Leaving room for margin of error, the distribution looks virtually even between the 10 teams.

Why did I expect a stronger correlation? Well, in a deeper league like this one, each team gets only a certain number of studs and has to fill out the rest of its roster with placeholders -- everyday players or starting pitchers who typically don't perform better than league average. The team, then, that manages to sneak away with the most studs with so few available would have a significant enough advantage for the standings to reflect it.

And for the most part, these do. The first-place team has twice as many All-Stars as just about all the others, and the team with five that ranks only fourth has closers Joe Nathan and Mariano Rivera among its five -- not that much of an advantage in a scoring format that rewards saves half as much as wins.

So there you have it. I wouldn't call this study the end-all, be-all on the matter because I'd obviously have to look at far more leagues to come to any real conclusions, but I think we can agree that the correlation of All-Stars to standing in Fantasy isn't as strong as some people might think. The deeper the league, though, the stronger it gets.

That's all for now.
Category: MLB
Posted on: July 8, 2008 7:30 pm

Buyer's remorse

Some e-mails get a little too long for Dear Mr. Fantasy. Some provide me with ammunition for my blog on days when I don't have any earth-shattering ideas. This one does both. Plus, it was written by a guy who shares his name with a former Braves prospect that didn't pan out, so I have a soft spot.

I recently made the following trade, then I started to think, "Heck, it wasn't broke; why did I try to fix it?"

Am I crazy? I gave Lance Berkman, Joe Mauer, Mike Lowell, Felix Hernandez and Brandon Morrow. I got A.J. Pierzynski, Justin Morneau and Alex Rodriguez. My top remaining pitchers are Josh Beckett, Justin Duchscherer, John Lackey, Edinson Volquez and Javier Vazquez, but I still wonder if I'm crazy.

-- Mike Kelly, Harmony, R.I

Um … you're crazy. Your only saving grace is that you got the best single player in Rodriguez, but even that doesn't count for much considering you gave up Berkman. So you upgraded a little at third base, downgraded a little at first base, downgraded a lot at catcher and threw away a near ace in Hernandez and an emerging young closer in Morrow. Yeah, I have a hard time defending that deal.

But that doesn't make it unfair -- a lot of people confuse the two. Just because I can look at a deal and say I'd prefer one side over another doesn't mean the deal shouldn't stand. You should have to give up an arm and a leg to get A-Rod; I just don't think you should have. See the difference?

And you say you didn't have a real need? Your team wasn't "broke," as you put it? Can I assume, then, that you lead your league or at least don't trail the leader by much? This deal looks more like one a rebuilding team would make in a keeper league.

But you made it, so try to make the most of it. Who knows? If any one of those hitters you dealt gets hurt, you suddenly have the better end of the deal.

And to be fair, for as much as I condemned your doing, you certainly didn't wreck your team. You got two good players in Morneau and Rodriguez, and I can envision a few scenarios where your team actually improves as a result of this deal. I just wouldn't have made it or recommended you make it.

That's all for now.
Posted on: July 7, 2008 7:37 pm

Nothing but good for Sabathia

I think we all know the big news from this weekend.

No, not the All-Star selections, which I discussed enough already in my two previous entries. I of course mean the trading of C.C. Sabathia -- excuse me, CC Sabathia -- from the Indians to the Brewers.

You may ask, "What's the big deal? So a sub-.500 pitcher changes teams. He'll still pitch the same."

Yes, he probably will. And if he does, he won't remain a sub-.500 pitcher for long. He compiled his 6-8 record while pitching for maybe the most underachieving offensive team in baseball, so moving to a contender should obviously do that record some good.

"OK, maybe it will," you say, "but he won't exactly contend for a Cy Young with a 3.83 ERA and 1.23 WHIP."

But that's the best part. His ERA and WHIP aren't any more legitimate than his record. He got off to an 0-3 start so abominable that it irrevocably skewed his stats, giving a pedestrian appearance to something borderline legendary. If you eliminate that four-start stretch at the beginning of the season when he allowed 27 earned runs in 18 innings -- just pretend it didn't happen -- he has a  2.16 ERA and 1.00 WHIP in 14 starts.


And then you have to factor in the league change, accounting for the fact that Sabathia will face one less legitimate hitter every time through the batting order. The math obviously doesn't work this directly, but you can pretty much expect his ratios to improve by one-ninth.

So with this trade, we're looking at a defending Cy Young winner with a 2.16 ERA and 1.00 WHIP -- and let's not forget more strikeouts than innings pitched -- going from a loser to a contender and facing eight-ninths of the hitters he used to face. Sounds like another Cy Young season in the making, right?

Could happen, even with the mid-season league change. Brandon Webb has cooled off. Tim Lincecum pitches for a poor-hitting team. Ben Sheets always gets hurt. Cole Hamels can't seem to go five starts without an implosion. Granted, Sabathia actually has to do something in the NL to enter the Cy Young talk, but you can understand my line of reasoning.

So if you own him in Fantasy, rejoice. If you don't own him in Fantasy, get him before his value rises. His owner might underestimate him because of his skewed statistics. And if you play in an NL-only league with FAAB waivers, shell out every last dollar to claim him. Sure, an equal player -- yes, equal, not better -- might go from the AL to the NL before the trade deadline, but unless you already have the lead in every pitching category, why take the chance one won't?

That's all for now.
Category: MLB
Posted on: July 6, 2008 3:26 am

My complete 2008 NL All-Star team

And now, after revealing my AL team Friday, I present to you my complete and finalized selections for the NL All-Star team.

Again, I made sure every team had at least one representative, and -- now this part is crucial -- I projected the starting lineups based on the last count of fan voting. You got that? I didn't pick the starting lineups. The fans did. So if you have a problem with Ken Griffey and Kosuke Fukudome starting in the NL outfield -- and I sure do -- don't blame me.

Also, remember I selected these players based exclusively on what they've done, not on what I expect them to do. So to keep with the Fantasy theme of this blog, I'll designate each player "for real" or "sell high," giving you an indication of how well I think each will sustain his stats in the second half.

2008 National League All-Star Team
Starting lineup
C - Geovany Soto, CHC (for real)
1B - Lance Berkman, HOU (for real)
2B - Chase Utley, PHI (for real)
3B - Chipper Jones, ATL (for real)
SS - Hanley Ramirez, FLA (for real)
OF - Alfonso Soriano, CHC (for real)*
OF - Kosuke Fukudome, CHC (for real)
OF - Ken Griffey, CIN (for real -- like, in a bad way)

* - won't play due to injury

C - Brian McCann, ATL (for real)
C - Russell Martin, LAD (for real)
1B - Albert Pujols, STL (for real)
1B - Adrian Gonzalez, SD (for real)
2B - Dan Uggla, FLA (sell high)
2B - Brandon Phillips, CIN (for real)
3B - David Wright, NYM (for real)
SS - Jose B. Reyes, NYM (for real)
OF - Matt Holliday, COL (for real)
OF - Carlos N. Lee, HOU (for real)
OF - Pat Burrell, PHI (for real)
OF - Nate McLouth, PIT (for real)
OF - Corey C. Hart, MIL (for real)*

* - injury replacement

Pitching staff
SP - Brandon Webb, ARI (for real)
SP - Cole Hamels, PHI (for real)
SP - Ben Sheets, MIL (sell high because of injury risk)
SP - Tim Lincecum, SF (for real)
SP - Edinson Volquez, CIN (sell high)
SP - Dan Haren, ARI (for real)
SP - Ryan Dempster, CHC (sell high)
SP - Johan Santana, NYM (for real)
RP - Brad Lidge, PHI (for real)
RP - Kerry Wood, CHC (for real)
RP - Jon Rauch, WAS (for real)
Notable snubs: Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Garrett Atkins, Ryan J. Braun, Ryan Ludwick, Jason Bay, Carlos Beltran, Aaron Cook, Tim Hudson, Chad Billingsley, Kyle Lohse, Jair Jurrjens, Billy Wagner

Final tally:
CHC: 5
PHI: 4
CIN: 3
NYM: 3
ARI: 2
ATL: 2
FLA: 2
HOU: 2
MIL: 2
COL: 1
LAD: 1
PIT: 1
STL: 1
SD: 1
SF: 1
WAS: 1

Favorite decision:
Instead of naming Cristian Guzman, technically the Nationals' most deserving player, to the squad and having to eliminate Brandon Phillips or Corey C. Hart, I gave the nod to Jon Rauch -- a deserving player in his own right and one who, considering the shortage of standout NL closers, won't interfere with anyone's else's roster spot.  

That's all for now.
Category: MLB
Posted on: July 4, 2008 8:07 pm
Edited on: July 5, 2008 2:00 pm

My complete 2008 AL All-Star team

As promised, I have for you my complete and finalized selections for the AL and NL All-Star teams. I'll present the AL team Friday and the NL team Saturday.

Keep in mind I wanted to make these rosters as realistic as possible, meaning I adopted two premises for my selections. First, I made sure all 30 major-league teams had at least one representative. Easy enough, right? Second, I projected the starting lineups based on the last count of fan voting. I repeat: I didn't pick the starting lineups. The fans did. So if you have a problem with Dustin Pedroia starting at second base over Ian Kinsler, don't blame me. Really, both deserve to make the team, so I wouldn't go as ballistic over that vote as I would the Griffey vote in the NL, but we'll get to that Saturday.

Also, remember I selected these players based exclusively on what they've done, not on what I expect them to do. So to keep with the Fantasy theme of this blog, I'll designate each player "for real" or "sell high," giving you an indication of how well I think each will sustain his stats in the second half.

Up, up and away:

2008 American League All-Star Team
Starting lineup
C - Joe Mauer, MIN (for real)
1B - Kevin Youkilis, BOS (for real)
2B - Dustin Pedroia, BOS (for real)
3B - Alex Rodriguez, NYY (for real)
SS - Derek Jeter, NYY (for real)
OF - Josh Hamilton, TEX (for real)
OF - Ichiro Suzuki, SEA (for real)
OF - Manny Ramirez, BOS (for real)
DH - David Ortiz, BOS (for real)*

* - won't play due to injury

C - Ivan Rodriguez, DET (for real)
1B - Justin Morneau, MIN (for real)
1B - Aubrey Huff, BAL (sell high)
2B - Ian Kinsler, TEX (for real)
3B - Evan Longoria, TB (for real)
SS - Michael Young, TEX (for real)
OF - Carlos Quentin, CHW (for real)
OF - Grady Sizemore, CLE (for real)
OF - Milton Bradley, TEX (for real)
OF - Jermaine Dye, CHW (sell high)
OF - J.D. Drew, BOS (sell high)*

* - injury replacement

Pitching staff
SP - Cliff Lee, CLE (sell high)
SP - Roy Halladay, TOR (for real)
SP - Ervin Santana, LAA (for real)
SP - Joe Saunders, LAA (sell high)
SP - Justin Duchscherer, OAK (sell high)
SP - John Lackey, LAA (for real)
SP - Scott Kazmir, TB (for real)
RP - Francisco Rodriguez, LAA (for real)
RP - Jonathan Papelbon, BOS (for real)
RP - Mariano Rivera, NYY (for real)
RP - Joakim Soria, KC (for real)
RP - Joe Nathan, MIN (for real)

Notable snubs: A.J. Pierzynski, Dioner Navarro, Jason Giambi, Brian Roberts, Mike Lowell, Jacoby Ellsbury, Josh Beckett, Rich Harden, Gavin Floyd, George Sherrill

Final tally:
BOS: 6
LAA: 4
TEX: 4
MIN: 3
NYY: 3
CLE: 2
CHW: 2
TB: 2
BAL: 1
DET: 1
KC: 1
OAK: 1
SEA: 1
TOR: 1

Favorite decision:
Instead of Placido Polanco, I made an undeserving Ivan Rodriguez the Tigers' representative, naming him backup catcher over so-so alternatives A.J. Pierzynski and Dioner Navarro. In doing so, I didn't have to choose between eliminating Scott Kazmir, Joe Nathan or J.D. Drew.

That's all for now.
Category: MLB
Posted on: July 3, 2008 7:21 pm

Santana, Bruce, Crawford -- Buy or Sell

You know, I wanted to pull out a regular feature today -- the one where I examine the top players traded in Fantasy leagues (I'm thinking of calling it Buy or Sell) -- but I don't want to end up talking about the same cast of characters. You've probably gotten tired of hearing "Justin Verlander will come around eventually." I know I've gotten tired of saying it. Stop trading Verlander, people.

Oh look. They have. Guess we can revisit the tried-and-true after all.

Johan Santana
Santana has gotten a lot of negative attention in Fantasy this season. I blame disgruntled Mets fans who built him into something he isn't. He is perhaps the best pitcher in baseball. He isn't a one-man team. In short, the Mets have problems, but none of them involve Santana. Has the two-time Cy Young winner disappointed Fantasy-wise? Maybe a little. I'd expect more than a .500 record, and his 1.22 WHIP seems a little high. But why did everyone all at once decide he no longer fits the description of a second-half pitcher? He had a 3.98 ERA in the first half of 2005 and a 3.78 ERA in the first half of 2004, the first year he won the Cy Young. Compared to those years, his current numbers look like an improvement, and I still can't think of a pitcher I'd want more in Fantasy. Consider me among the buyers.

Aaron Harang
I think we all know why Harang ended up on this list. He pitched like a drunk in June, compiling a 6.00 ERA -- his worst for a single month since 2005. Still, he hasn't walked an unreasonably high number of batters, and he continues to rack up strikeouts. I wouldn't view his June (and in fairness, end of May) as anything more than a longer version of his usual cold streaks. Yes, he has a few every year. Why else would his ERA end up on the wrong side of 3.50? Count me among the buyers.

Jay Bruce
Well, I would have counted myself among the sellers back when Bruce had a batting average over .500 and a three-game homer streak. I remember advising a co-worker who owned him back then and wanted to trade him. He managed to fleece another owner in his league for John Lackey in a one-for-one trade. I might have settled for A.J. Burnett, personally, but the guy had the diligence to find an even better deal. Good for him. Actually, great for him. I can't remember the last time I saw the sell-high strategy executed to such perfection. On Wednesday, Bruce hit two home runs, and he has his batting average up near .300 again. Another hot streak looks on the horizon. If you wait just a little longer for when he gets burning-hot again, you might snag a Lackey for him. So yes, I'd still sell on Bruce, but wait a little while first.

Carl Crawford
Crawford hasn't hit below .300 in a season since 2004, but he hasn't finished a game with a batting average that high since April 27. Still, a quick look at his situational stats from the past few years shows his performance this year doesn't come without precedent. He hit .285 before the break last year and finished at .315. He hit .284 before the break in 2005 and finished at .301. I don't remember any widespread panic either of those years. His slugging percentage has lagged a bit, but he's still on pace for 15 homers. If you can find someone willing to sell low, which I assume the buyers in these cases have, I'd buy.

Jake Peavy
I generally don't make a habit of buying pitchers with arm issues, and Peavy missed time earlier this season with a strained right elbow. I suppose this one really depends on the price tag. Peavy still has the stuff to finish as the best pitcher in Fantasy, so I'd obviously want him, but I don't think I'd trade Ben Sheets for him. I certainly wouldn't trade John Lackey or Cole Hamels for him. Mark Teixeira? No. Jimmy Rollins? No. If I can get Peavy for a bargain, I'd do it. Otherwise, I can't justify the risk for a pitcher who probably won't even win many games pitching for the lowly Padres. On the flip side, I wouldn't settle for anything less than the guys I just mentioned if I owned Peavy and wanted to trade him.

Adam Dunn
Dunn has delivered the home runs as always, his 21 putting him on pace for exactly 40 for the fourth straight season. His batting average looks pretty rough at .223, but can you honestly expect much more? Sure, he hit .264 last year, but he hit .234 in 2006 and .247 in 2005. If you can't handle the drain on your batting average, then you can't handle owning Dunn. Find someone who thinks he can rebound to hit .260 and sell.

That's all for now.
Category: MLB
Posted on: July 2, 2008 7:04 pm
Edited on: July 2, 2008 7:07 pm

Capps creates a closer conundrum

In my last blog, I talked about trading away two closers in a Rotisserie league where my lead in saves contributed to my lead overall.

I acquired Takashi Saito in a separate deal to soften the blow and figured I could stand to drop a spot or two in the category for as much as the trade helped me in others. The plan was all fine and good and seemingly worth the risk except it relied heavily on my continued use of Matt Capps -- the same Matt Capps who we all learned Wednesday will miss the next two months with a shoulder injury.

Not good.

Suddenly, I find myself in a position no first-place team should -- scrambling. In the span of a few days, I went from having four closers (Joakim Soria, Jose Valverde, B.J. Ryan and Capps) with a combined 77 saves to two closers (Saito and Ryan) with a combined 29. That kind of turnover would drop me a spot or two in the category in a period of weeks, not months.

So I need a quick fix, a band-aid of sorts to act as my third closer until the real one returns. The obvious choice would be the reliever replacing Capps for the Pirates, but then again, the Pirates haven't made that reliever so obvious. Damaso Marte has the stuff for the role and even had consecutive seasons with 10 saves or more in his earlier days with the White Sox. Then again, he also pitches left-handed, and managers typically avoid using left-handed setup men as closers -- especially ones with splits like Marte, who has a 2.19 ERA against left-handed batters compared to a 4.13 ERA against right-handed batters. Of course, he's actually surrendered a lower batting average (.212) to right-handers, but so many managers feel safer going by the book and then picking an isolated statistic later to defend their rationale. Still, the waiver wire doesn't have any real closers to offer, so I'll make a small bid for Marte.

The better prize is Dan Wheeler. His statistics (1.88 ERA and 0.91 WHIP) and experience with Houston last year suggest he can handle the role, and considering the Rays will take their time with Troy Percival after he aggravated the same hamstring injury from earlier, Wheeler might buy me as much as a month. I wouldn't call him a No. 1 or 2 Fantasy closer with Percival sidelined -- and he might only keep the job for two weeks -- but with no legitimate closers on the waiver wire, he's a no-brainer addition.

Of course, if anyone in the league outbids me in the FAAB process for either of these guys tonight, I'll have to resort to Plan B, which probably involves me making another trade. I fully expect Jason Isringhausen to keep the closer role once he regains it, but his owner in this league might have grown tired of waiting out his slow return to ninth-inning duty and part with him for cheap. Sounds like a prime target to me.

That's all for now.
Category: MLB
Posted on: June 30, 2008 6:25 pm

Worth the risk in first place?

Since pretty much the first day of the season, I've had the lead in the Magazine League, a Rotisserie league between 12 of us here in the office. I've dropped to second or third a few times, but never for long and probably not since early May.

So when I've made trades, I've made them carefully, not wanting to risk harming a team that might run away with the title even on autopilot. I've swung deals of the 2-for-1 or 3-for-1 variety, trading away bench excess to upgrade at one position or another.

Because by upgrading without losing anything, I don't risk anything, and why risk anything when I don't have to?

It seems like a logical philosophy and one I normally adhere to, but I also don't live in a dream world. I know my team has room for improvement, and I don't discount any trade that addresses its needs. I have the lead or close to the lead in batting average, home runs, runs, RBI, strikeouts and saves, but I sit in the middle of the pack in stolen bases, wins, ERA and WHIP.

So when newcomer Jeff Lippman took over a team for a departed owner and wanted to improve his lot right away, he knew how to get my attention. He proposed the following trade:

I give
OF Vladimir Guerrero
RP Jose Valverde
RP Joakim Soria

I get
OF Carl Crawford
SP Josh Beckett
3B Chone Figgins

Beckett, because he throws so many innings as starter, would impact my ERA and WHIP more than a reliever would, and he'd obviously give me some wins pitching for Red Sox. Meanwhile, Crawford has underperformed a bit and Figgins has spent a large percentage of the season on the DL, but both have 50-steal potential. That kind of upgrade could vault me from the fifth or sixth in a category to first in a matter of weeks. I'd lose some power in dealing Guerrero, but probably not as much this year as in years past.

The bigger risk comes with dealing Valverde and Soria. I've built up a five-save lead by starting four closers instead of the usual two or three. Going from four closers to two and losing all those saves to get a few stolen bases seems like robbing Peter to pay Paul. It's simply too much of a risk for a first-place team to take.

Unless that first-place team makes a supplemental trade to patch the hole it intends to create.

So I looked for a team already out of the race in saves -- one that wouldn't mind giving up a closer to address its needs in more hotly-contested categories. I didn't care which closer I got; I just wanted to make sure I still had a source of saves. I found Takashi Saito -- an underachiever so far -- on Dave Richard's team, which had a couple of gaping holes in its outfield. I quickly packaged Randy Winn and Matt Garza -- two players on my bench -- for Saito and Frank Thomas, someone I can stash on my DL who might eventually help offset the power I lose in Guerrero. I think Richard technically got the "better end" of the deal, but I wanted something quick so I didn't keep Lippman waiting. Besides, I have a hard time believing I'll miss either Winn or Garza, two players I plucked off waivers several weeks into the season.

So with Saito ready to step in as my third closer, I made the deal -- a first-place team giving up home runs, RBI and saves for stolen bases, runs and wins. Could the trade backfire and do more harm than good? Absolutely, it could. But based on the amount I stand to improve in the categories I trail in the most, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to give myself a bigger cushion.

That's all for now.
Category: MLB
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or