Friday, August 28, 2009

Call Me Crackerjack

In my rookie season of Fantasy League Baseball I won the batting crown. Not too shabby. But my team came in second to last. It seems I was lacking in the other nine statistical categories. I wasn’t getting enough runs scored, but I was doing OK in RBIs. Sounds a bit wonky. It was shocking to me that I could lead the league in batting average, do alright in RBIs, but have crappy runs scored production. Ah, baseball is sport riddled with anomalies, a game where failure is success. The best hitters only get aboard safely a third of the time.

Now my starting pitchers had some pretty good numbers in the ERA and WHIP departments, but I didn’t earn enough wins or saves. Even if your pitchers hold the other team at bay your team still needs to put runs on the board. This seems pretty basic, but I had 3 Cy Young pitchers on the same squad. I was proving Murphy’s Law.

Actually, I was adding weight to Bill James' controversial theories. You might have caught him on “Sixty Minutes” or read about him in Sports Illustrated. He claims there is no such thing as a clutch hitter. He also doesn’t believe in plunking down crazy coin on superstars.

I foolishly spent thinking I was paying for quality. Auction Teams bid real money on players and you only hope that there worth every penny. Turns out the dollar players I had, pound for pound, shined like Polaris. Jayson Werth and Ryan Ludwick, my key outfielders, posted my best numbers. And since I’m in a Keeper League these two are still my top stars. Werth is leading my team in homers. This year I wanted to beef up my team’s numbers so I laid out eighty bucks for Carlos Beltron and Hanley Ramirez, almost a third of the team’s salary and well Beltron is done for the season with nagging injuries. So my gamble really didn’t pay off. If I had 3 mediocre outfielders I would be adding to my production.

For the second season in row I’m doing better in my mixed league. My Yahoo sponsored team is supposed to be laid back, practice. I find myself painstakingly examining lineups and scouting free agents. You can change the players on a daily basis so there are many more permutations to go through whereas, in my Auction League, I am only allowed to make roster moves on a weekly basis. Tight parameters, such as these, really force you to think critically like a professional manager. Moneyball.

Because I’m still riding high in first place with my Yahoo team, I’ve put a little more pressure on myself. I’d like to take home the pennant this year. The interesting thing to note is that I am well ahead in my standings [combined point total] and yet my team keeps dropping in batting average. What’s up with that? A few theories I’d like to toss out 1) high average means bupkis unless the aforementioned player’s teammates drive him in. In other words, you need to know how good the players hitting behind him are and what changes may have come about that could make your player a run-scoring liability. 2) A trade to a new ballpark can be a boon or a bust for a player. 3) If your star happens to advance runners it’s a good thing, but fielder’s choices and fly outs might bring down average yet still drives runners in.

Basically, it all comes down to numbers and a little bit of luck. Fantasy Baseball is without a doubt lots of fun, but it can be just as grueling as playing for real. Word of advice, start your spring training as early as possible and don’t be afraid to gamble on future stars.

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