10 March 2010

Oh, is it baseball season already? I hadn't noticed.

I like sports. My wife and my DirecTV bill can both attest to that. I'm an avid fan of college and NFL football, college and NBA basketball, and golf. Forget hockey, tennis, NASCAR, and soccer. No time for the marginal sports - I have to allocate my devotion to sports to the big boys. And of all the big boys, there's one that reigns supreme: baseball.

Pitchers and catchers reported two weeks ago. Full squads have been in spring training for over a week now. I'm amped up for the new season and I'm about to go bonkers waiting for one of my top (insert reasonable number so as not to get in trouble for prioritizing over other important things, but secretly elevate that number by a lot) favorite days of the year: my fantasy baseball draft.

To give you a little background, I play in a very competitive fantasy baseball league. If you include time spent watching baseball games, I'd say I spend about 20-25 hours per week managing my team during the baseball season. It's a 10-team league (5x5 roto) and we play for a substantial prize (which I've never won). There are fair amount of good-natured rivalries and a lot of pride on the line among the league members. For example, in 2006 we had 1060 posts to our league message board. Not all of them were friendly.

So with our March 23 draft date looming, I've decided to take a few minutes to share the Top 10 Baseball Thoughts Occupying My Waking Hours:

10. Jose Reyes

Is Reyes going to be healthy or not? Knowing the answer to that question is an order of magnitude more important than knowing the same answer with regard to guys like Ben Sheets or Justin Duchscherer, or even Brandon Webb for that matter. If Reyes is healthy, he's going to produce 1st or 2nd round numbers but he's going to be available in the 5th or 6th round of the draft. Plus, he has added value because of position scarcity (SS) and he's among the MLB elite in one of fantasy baseball's most coveted categories, stolen bases. He's a potential draft bonanza but there's absolutely no telling where he'll be picked in my league.

I'm not building my plans around Jose Reyes but if he's still sitting there when I'm picking with the 58th pick (my pick in the 5th round), I will definitely take him.

9. My strategy for Shortstop

I am absolutely in love with a certain shortstop and I'm building a good part of my draft strategy around getting him. This information is highly confidential so obviously I cannot share the player's identity here. Suffice it to say, I will be escalating my pick of this particular player by at least one round to assure that I get him. I also have a very solid backup plan in place in case things go very wrong on draft day.

8. Ludwick von Homerthoven

In 2008 Ryan Ludwick hit 37 bombs and had 113 RBI. Last year his totals fell to 22 and 97. As a result, his average draft postion in the mock drafts is 138th. People are picking the likes of Alfonso Soriano, Nate McClouth, Jason Kubel, and Hunter Pence ahead of Luddy. With the addition of Matt Holliday in the Redbirds' lineup to offer up even more RBI opportunities for Ludwick, I'm definitely feeling like his 2010 will look a lot more like his '08 than his '09. I'm buying high on Ludwick this year.

7. The Giants

I've always hated the San Francisco Giants. I don't really know why. My favorite player of all time is Willie Mays. The "new" Giants stadium is one of the best parks in America (and home of the best garlic fries I've ever had). They are the arch-rival of the Dodgers, who I detest, so it makes sense that I should like the Giants. And there's a certain #55 that I kind of like (see item 1 below). Therefore, I officially like the Giants. As long as they're not playing the Dbacks.

6. The A's

The A's have long been the unofficial minor league team of Major League Baseball. Despite being in a major market, they don't spend any money on their team but they meticulously sift through the ranks of amateur players to identify hidden talent in their drafts. The result is that Oakland regularly produces excellent players who spend 2-3 seasons wearing yellow and green before being traded at the deadline for more draft picks.

This year the A's have several intriguing players that I'm watching closely. The acquisition of Ben Sheets is very interesting. Someone in our league is going to profit handsomely from Justin Duchscherer's comeback. Brett Anderson and Andrew Bailey seem to be the real deal. And Rajai Davis is likely to make the FBI's Most Wanted list for his theivery.

I think it is safe to assume that I will have at least one Oakland Athletic on my roster this year, hopefully more.

5. No More Steriods

I am starting to believe that Major League Baseball is going to be played on an even playing field again. The last of the juicers appear to be fully deflated. Among the myriad problems that steriods caused for baseball, predicting a player's fantasy value was high on the list. The original "Who's Who" of juicers are long gone (Bonds, Sosa, McGwire, Palmiero, Canseco, Bagwell, Clemens, and the list goes on). The last wave of juicers are still hanging around, but their ability to perform superhuman feats is greatly diminished. As a result, I don't know what to do with guys like David Ortiz, Alfonso Soriano, Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Jason Giambi, etc.

What I do know is that the longball has become more scarce as a commodity and the stolen base is no longer on the Endangered Species list. Therefore, I can get bags later in the draft compared to the past several years and I need to make sure I get bombs while they're plentiful.

I'm so glad the Steriod Era is over.

4. New England Boiled Dinner

Last night I watched "Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives" on the Food Network. One of the restaurants that Guy Fieri visited was Morin's Homestyle Restaurant in Attlesboro, Mass. The fellow that owns the joint had a heavy New England accent and every time he said "Noo Englan Boyled Dinnah" I remembered just how much I love to go to Fenway Park.

The Curse is broken, but the fun never stops in Red Sox Nation. This year I entered the lottery to buy single-game tickets for certain home games and, to my astonishment, I not only got selected for the lottery but I then got selected out of the lottery pool to purchase tickets for the Sox-Dodgers series in June. I ended up getting 4 lower level seats for the Friday night game on June 18, which just happens to be the "Return of Manny Ramirez to Fenway Park". Math nerds at MIT are in a fierce competition with their rivals at Harvard to calculate just exactly how awesome that game is going to be. And I'm going to be there.

3. Miggy or The Temp?

My second round pick is the 13th overall. There's no telling what's going to unfold in the first 12 picks, but my sources are telling me that there's a decent possibility that both Ryan Howard and Miguel Cabrera will still be available when I pick at the 13 spot. If Howard is gone then I'll take Cabrera. But if Howard is there, I'm not sure what I'll do. Last time I checked, 45 homers and 141 RBI's is pretty good. But Miggy hits 45 points higher than Howard and my strategy has always been to build around AVG. And Miggy's 34/103 numbers don't look to shabby when combined with that .324 average. It's a tough call; if I don't get Howard then I'm going to have to find some pop at 1B later in the draft and that's not an easy task if I wait beyond the third round.

2. The Snakes

I love the direction the Dbacks are headed. The NL West is improving but the Dbacks are keeping up. They finally have a core group of guys they can reliably build around (Upton, Reynolds, Montero). Chris Young HAS TO BE better than he was last year, doesn't he? And nobody's talking about Conor Jackson but they will be very soon.

Meanwhile, losing Valverde didn't hurt us a bit. Webby is still a little iffy but he's a sinkerballer, not a power pitcher, so I'm betting that he regains his old form by May. Dan Haren is sick. Edwin Jackson is going to be a nice addition to the staff as a number three.

The Dbacks have chosen to avoid bringing in expensive free agents for the most part, instead relying on the quality of their youth movement. Therefore, it's imperative that at least a couple of the youngsters work out (apart from Upton, who is obviously going straight to the Hall of Fame). I think Brandon Allen and Gerardo Parra have a good chance of contributing this season. Hopefully they'll develop fast enough to help the Dbacks contend in the West.

As always, it will come down to pitching. Our middle relief was so bad in '09 that it's still too soon to talk about it. Our 4 and 5 starters (projected to be Kennedy and Buckner, I guess?) will be our biggest vulnerability. It's a shame that Max Sherezer didn't work out. We need someone to emerge as a quality starter, but apart from Kevin Mulvey I don't see any candidates on the projected 25-man roster right now. Still, we should get enough production from the top 3 on the staff to stay in the race in the NL West. It's time for someone to take down the Dodgers.

1. Timmy!

Oh, sweet Lincecum. For him, every day is Halloween because he is a straight up witch. After doing about 20 mock drafts, I determined that I need to draft in position 7 or 8 in our draft in order to get Timmy. When we did the double-blind drawing for draft position, I drew the number 8 slot. Sweet! I hope.

Listen, I don't know if there are any spies from my fantasy league reading this post. If so, you are hereby warned: don't take Timmy with any pick between 1 and 7. If you do, I will punch you in your nose. Repeatedly. Tim Lincecum is property of the Argyle Tarheels, now and forever. Deal with it.

Just to refresh your memory, Lincecum has pitched two full seasons in the bigs. How many Cy Young Awards has he won? Oh, that would be 2.

Look at his numbers from last year: 2.48 ERA (sick), 1.05 WHIP (nasty), and 261 K's (filthy) to go with his 15 W's. The Giants should be better than they were last year so it's not out of the question to think that Timmy could top 20 W's while putting up numbers that make Bob Gibson look like Bartolo Colon. Anyone who says you shouldn't draft a pitcher in the first round has never had the pleasure of watching Tim Lincecum take the bump for his team every five days.

My birthday is coming up. If you're wondering what you can get me, just buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks. Baseball is back.


Anonymous said...

Joey, I am one of MANY who anticipate what your next blog post will be... sure, because you're a great writer, I think you're funny, and I have an interest in the life of your family because you're my brother, but primarily because they are SO FEW AND FAR BETWEEN. So I have to say how disappointed I am that I checked in, only to find a lot of baseball chatter. 100% meaningless to me. I DO understand that you probably don't write your blog just to entertain ME, but I gotta tell you, I've really been looking forward to more nacho adventures! P.S. Thank you for at least mentioning the food network...
Oh, and speaking of sports, you should see your nephew Brady out on the football field for the first time this year! The kid is CRAZY good at pulling flags! NO FEAR! You would laugh your head off to see him play! He dances around, clueless, until the play starts and then he's a tiger! He pulled more flags in one game last weekend than any of his teammates did in two combined!

Supercords said...

Here, here. I concur with everything Natalie said. Baseball. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Just curious. If you played for a team, which position would you fill? pitcher or catcher?

Cali said...

Wow, you have given all of this quite a bit of thought. Love when I can read your blog and find out about trips you have planned. Ha.

PS-my dad sent me a check in the mail to buy you some peanuts and crackerjacks.

gramyflys said...

Leave the peanuts to me....

Samantha said...

All I was going to write was "nerd alert," but then I realized that I read the entire post and I'm not really even into baseball. Jokes on me I guess.

emily said...

I agree with Sam. Nerd Alert to the Max...and this is coming from a MICROBIOLOGIST. I do, however, now know where to find the country's best garlic fries, and that value of that tidbit might just be enough to overcome your embarassing display of OCD in my mind's eye.