The Little Black Book

1930 World Series

Baseball fans of today probably can’t even imagine sitting next to a radio in their home and listening to a ball game. There may be some debate as to whether it was Marconi or Tesla who really invented the amazing contraption, but there is no argument about its connection to the history of baseball.

 

The kids of the 1950’s were thrilled to have a $25 transistor radio that brought them baseball broadcasts. Today, a youngster can read tweets from their favorite ballplayer on an $800 Smartphone and check the results of a game in real time. But what about the generation of fans between the two World Wars?

 

In a recent SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) publication, a fascinating article by Donna Halper gives us a glimpse into the background of radio’s impact on the game. Did you know that major league baseball games weren’t even available on radio until the mid-1920’s? That was five years after Babe Ruth joined the Yankees. Prior to that time, fans of the home team could go down to the part of town where the newspaper offices were located and scores would be posted on boards after the results came through by teletype. Starbucks would have built a store on the closest corner.

 

Fictional Police Detective Harry Bosch (from the Michael Connelly novels) feels that every murder case has a “Crossing”. That’s when the investigation comes together with some separate facts or incidents that brings clarity to the puzzle. Reading the SABR piece gave me a “Crossing” moment with regard to baseball.

 

Numerous sports memorabilia collections come across my desk and not everything is easily categorized. One such collection had a small, well-worn black notebook and, at first, it didn’t seem to be sports related. On the inside cover was the name “Arlene” from Modesto, California and a date of 1910. Looking through a few dozen pages, it seemed to have been used for schoolwork, as there were references to geography, history and math. However, as the pages turned, an amazing piece of history came to light. Here, in pencil on two facing pages, was a box score from the first game of the 1930 World Series between the Philadelphia Athletics and the St. Louis Cardinals. After a few more pages of school notes, there was Game 2! Evidently, Arlene was obviously a big baseball fan and whenever she wasn’t burdened with schoolwork, she sat next to the radio writing down detailed information about the Fall Classic.

 

Thanks to Arlene and baseball-reference.com, we can tell you all about the outcome of these games. The A’s won that first game 5-2 behind the pitching of Hall of Famer Lefty Grove (he was 28-5 during the regular season). The Philadelphia line-up included 3 other HOF members in Mickey Cochrane, Al Simmons & Jimmie Foxx. Cooperstown is also well represented in the Cardinals line-up with Frankie Frisch, Jim Bottomley and losing Pitcher Burleigh Grimes. The Athletics (managed by Connie Mack) eventually won the title in 6 games with Grove hurling 2 complete game victories.

 

The remainder of the little black book was never used for homework again. The rest of the pages include box scores of every World Series through 1940. During that span, she listened to (and chronicled) the exploits of Hall of Famers called The Sultan Of Swat, Kiki, Gabby, Laruppin’ Lou, King Carl, Master Melvin, Goose, Dizzy, Ducky, Hammerin’ Hank & Joltin’ Joe.

 

It is an incredible artifact with history on every page and even though Arlene & I have never met, we’ve become great friends.

 

 

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Baseball Quotes From The Movies

Bang Drum

Baseball fans love baseball movies and can immediately recognize a great line from one of their favorite films. Let’s not forget, however, that there are hundreds of celluloid moments where baseball is referenced by characters in motion pictures that don’t have the national pastime involved in the story at all. Examples include…

 

> “I love baseball. You know it doesn’t have to mean anything, it’s just beautiful to watch.” – Woody Allen in Zelig (1983)

 

> “Baseball should be the only thing on an eight year old boy’s mind.” – Aidan Quinn in Stolen Summer (2002)

 

> Jane: “I’ve heard police work is dangerous.”

 

Frank: “It is. That’s why I carry a big gun.”

 

Jane: “Aren’t you afraid it might go off accidently?”

 

Frank: “I used to have that problem.”

 

Jane: “What did you do about it?”

 

Frank: “I just think about baseball.” – Priscilla Presley & Leslie Nielsen in The Naked Gun (1988)

 

> “I loved baseball ever since Arnold Rothstein fixed the World Series in 1919.” – Lee Strasburg (as Hyman Roth) in The Godfather II (1974)

 

> “What’s the matter with you? Don’t you want to watch the World Series?” – Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

 

> “You’re a tragic hero. You’re Lou Gehrig.” – Billy Crystal in Father’s Day (1997)

 

> Q: “Yogi?…why it’s some sort of religion, isn’t it?”

 

A: “You bet it is – a belief in the New York Yankees.” – Kirk Douglas in Ace in the Hole (1951)

 

> “I’m an escaped car thief. I broke out of prison to see the Cubs in the World Series.” – James Belushi in Taking Care of Business (1990)

 

> “Hey, batter-batter-batter, hey batter-batter-batter- swing batter.” – Mathew Broderick in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)

 

> “I like baseball. I just never understood how you guys can spend so much time discussing it…I’ve been to games, but I don’t memorize who played third base for Pittsburgh in 1960.” —- “Don Hoak!” Helen Slater, Billy Crystal & others in City Slickers (1991)

 

When it comes to movies about baseball, the memorable lines are endless. Here are some you might remember…

 

> “There’s no crying in baseball!” – Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own (1992)

 

> “When the ball meets the bat and you feel that ball just give, you know it’s going to go a long way. Damn, if you don’t feel like you’re going to live forever.” – John Cusack (as Buck Weaver) in Eight Men Out (1988)

 

> “Listen, Lupas, you didn’t come into this life just to sit around on a dugout bench, did ya? Now get your ass out there and do the best you can.” – Walter Matthau in Bad News Bears (1976)

 

> “Ahh, Jesus, I like him very much, but he no help with the curveball.” – Dennis Haysbert (as Pedro Cerrano) in Major League (1989)

 

> “People all say that I’ve had a bad break. But today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.” – Gary Cooper (as Lou Gehrig) in The Pride of the Yankees (1942)

 

> “Hey, Dad? You wanna have a catch?” – Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams (1989)

 

> “God, I just love baseball.” – Robert Redford (as Roy Hobbs) in The Natural (1984)

 

> “Tonight, he will make the fateful walk to the loneliest spot in the world, the pitching mound at Yankee Stadium, to push the sun back into the sky and give us one more day of Summer.” – Vin Scully in For the Love of the Game (1999)

 

> “We’re not athletes, we’re baseball players” – Tom Selleck (as Jack Eliot) in Mr. Baseball (1992)

 

> “I’m your new Catcher and you just got lesson number one: don’t think, it can only hurt the ball club.” – Kevin Costner (as Crash Davis) in Bull Durham (1988)

 

> “If you build it, he will come.” – Ray Liotta (as Shoeless Joe Jackson) in Field of Dreams (1989)

 

> “You gotta stop thinking. Just have fun. I mean, if you were having fun you would’ve caught that ball.” – Benny in The Sandlot (1993)

 

> “The key to being a big league pitcher is the 3 R’s: readiness, recuperation and conditioning” – Daniel Stern in Rookie of the Year (1993)

 

> “Do you know what we get to do today Brooks? We get to play baseball.” – Dennis Quaid (as Jim Morris) in The Rookie (2002)

 

> “This is how we do business in Cleveland.” – Reed Diamond (as Mark Shapiro) in Moneyball (2011)

 

> “Pick me out a winner, Bobby.” – Redford again in The Natural (1984)

 

> “I’d sell my soul for one long-ball hitter” – Robert Shafer in Damn Yankees (1958)

 

> “From here on in, I rag nobody.” – Michael Moriarty in Bang the Drum Slowly (1973)

 

> “Juuuuussssst a bit outside” – Bob Uecker in Major League (1989)

 

If the Old Duck wasn’t such a “Lollygagger”, another entire column could be filled with more great lines from Major League, Bull Durham, A League of Their Own and a few others. And let’s not forget the soliloquies offered up by Burt Lancaster (as Moonlight Graham) and James Earl Jones (as Terrance Mann) in Field of Dreams.

 

Hope your favorite was mentioned. If you think coming up with a new topic each week to keep you entertained is easy, remember the words of Jimmy Dugan, “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard…is what makes it great.”

 

 

Sharing The Wins

Altuve Heritage

With the Winter Meetings on the horizon, let’s take a look at the relative value of the players in the game. In a sport awash with money, old-school fans often have difficulty wrapping their heads around the new levels of salaries and budgetary guidelines. With the average MLB salary now above $4 Million, how do we really know what a player’s contribution is worth? And do these contributions really make a difference in the standings?

 

In other words, what is their contribution to winning games? We’ve discussed WAR (Wins Above Replacement) numerous times in this space and that statistical outcome does impact decisions made by writers voting on awards and General Managers making deals. It has become a mainstream analysis over the last decade and can help clarify and justify some contract amounts. For example, if you believe in the WAR calculations, it confirms that Jose Altuve was the best player in the AL (8.3 WAR) and Giancarlo Stanton was tops in the NL (7.6 WAR). The fact that they each won the MVP adds to the credibility of the statistic. Cy Young Award winners Corey Kluber (8.1 WAR) & Max Scherzer (7.6 WAR) were also the best in their respective leagues.

 

Most baseball stat-heads believe a player is worth about $6-8M per win to his team and free agent signings give us a window into that formula. So, when you digest the upcoming free agent contracts of J.D. Martinez (2.6), Eric Hosmer (4.0), Yu Darvish (4.0), Jake Arrieta (1.9), Mike Moustakas (1.8) & Lorenzo Cain (5.3), see how close the formula comes out compared to the real world.

 

Each year at this time, we turn to another statistical measure in an attempt to gauge player value. The other stat that is team-result based is WS (Win Shares) as developed by the godfather of modern statistical analysis, Bill James. While trying to describe the formula is impossible (James wrote an entire book on the topic in 2002), it comes down to a system where each game a team wins during the season is meticulously analyzed and the three players most responsible for that win get a “win share”. So, if a team wins 80 games, there will be 240 win shares distributed on the roster. Position players will have a tendency to accumulate higher totals than pitchers, but it’s all about comparisons between players among positions. Only twelve position players had a number of 28 or better in 2017 and it’s difficult to take exception with the results – both MVP’s are on the list with Altuve at 35 and Stanton at 29.

 

Let’s see who made the Win Shares All-Star team in ’17…

 

1B – Joey Votto at 33 followed closely by Eric Hosmer at 30 and Paul Goldschmidt at 29.

 

3B – Anthony Rendon with 29 while last year’s MVP Kris Bryant & Nolan Arenado had 26 each.

 

2B – Jose Altuve was the best in the game at 35 while two others had amazing campaigns…Jose Ramirez with 28 and Daniel Murphy at 27.

 

SS – Corey Seager led for the 2nd straight season at 31 while World Series rival Carlos Correa accumulated 26.

 

C – Buster Posey topped the backstops with 22 and veteran Yadier Molina had 19.

 

OF – A crowded field found Charlie Blackmon on top with 33 Win Shares while two Marlins, MVP Giancarlo Stanton & Marcell Ozuna both contributed 29. Also at 29 were AL ROY Aaron Judge and Mike Trout (who only played 114 games).

 

SP – Win Shares agrees with the Cy Young voting as Corey Kluber led the group with 23 followed by Max Scherzer at 21. Chris Sale’s 20 and Clayton Kershaw’s 19 were close behind.

 

CL – Kenley Jansen’s outstanding season was the best at 19.

 

As always, there are some hidden tidbits in the rankings that impact both fantasy and reality baseball…

 

> Jose Abreu has had 100 Win Shares in his first four MLB seasons.

 

> Going into free agency, Jake Arrieta’s numbers the last three campaigns…27, 16 & 11.

 

> Cody Bellinger has 23 shares in his ROY season.

 

> Brian Dozier had his best season with 26.

 

> To show the value of a super-utility player, Marwin Gonzalez of the Astros also had 26…for $20 Million, Carlos Gonzalez had 8.

 

> Ian Kinsler dropped from 29 in ’16 to 12 in ’17.

 

> Albert Pujols dropped from 17 to 7.

 

> Mark Trumbo went from 22 to 5.

 

Don’t forget, it’s the season for sharing…All Holidays Matter!

Hanging Around The Hot Stove With Bill James

Bill James 2018

Many baseball fans from the “Baby Boomer” generation haven’t really bought into the immense change in how statistics are viewed. They still look at the game with their eyes and are only concerned with the numbers on the back of the baseball card. For those of us more immersed in the details of the game, the man who guided us through the wilderness is Bill James. Starting in the late 70’s, he published an annual “Baseball Abstract” that began the task of analyzing data in new and different ways. By 1985, he wrote the first “Historical Baseball Abstract” and that 700+ page volume still sits on the bookshelf in my office.

 

For baseball fans in general and Fantasy Baseball players who can’t wait for the upcoming season, Bill also helps us get through the winter while we’re longing for box scores. Each November, The Bill James Handbook gives us a review of the season, lifetime stats of every major league player and numerous articles and lists to make the “hot stove” season tolerable. The 2018 version is available now and at 606 pages, offers just about something for everyone. The Old Duck has an annual exercise, where I take my initial cursory glance at the book and begin discovering information that surprises and enlightens me.

 

So, here are some random observations from my first time through the pages…

 

> In golf and tennis, fans can easily find current rankings on each player. The systems are set up so that the rankings move up and down based on performance and are not just for the current season. James has developed a similar idea for ranking starting pitchers. The current top five are Corey Kluber, Max Scherzer, Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale and Justin Verlander.  Sale & Verlander were in the top ten last year and moved up, replacing Jon Lester & Madison Bumgarner. Lester dropped to #18 while Bumgarner stayed in the top ten at #9. The biggest drops since a year ago were Johnny Cueto (from #9 to #34), Rick Porcello (#12 to #32) and Marco Estrada (#13 to #33).

 

> Most spectators are much more aware of pitch velocity than they were 10, 20 or 30 years ago. With radar guns in stadiums and in every scout’s hands, we focus on that statistic and assume a pitcher’s performance will deteriorate with diminished velocity. This year’s handbook charts average fastball velocity by age and actually shows how little difference there is for most pitchers. For example, Kershaw’s average velocity for the last eight years has been either 93 or 94 mph. Looking for outliers, however, shows that from 2010 to 2017, Felix Hernandez has dropped from 94 to 90, Andrew Cashner from 96 to 93, Ubaldo Jimenez from 96 to 90, Matt Cain from 92 to 89 and Clay Buchholz from 94 to 91. On the flip side, Ian Kennedy has upped his velocity from 89 to 92 during the same timeframe. Even when you look at a disastrous performance like Jordan Zimmerman’s 2016 campaign, the obvious assumption of diminished velocity doesn’t hold up…his 92 mph velocity is the same as it was in 2010. Verlander might be the most interesting case study as his velocity was 95 in 2010, then dropped as low as 92 in ’14, but is now back to 95 at age 35.

 

> Fielding metrics are relatively new and not yet accepted by fans or even by many statisticians. The handbook’s “Defensive Runs Saved” chart does help us verify what we think we’re told by our eyes. The Red Sox defense was a major part of their winning formula in 2017, as their three OF’s were superb. Mookie Beets was the 2nd best defensive player in all of baseball with 31 runs saved while Jackie Bradley Jr. & Andrew Benintendi saved 10 & 9 respectively. The BoSox also got a 10-runs saved contribution from 1B Mitch Moreland. Angels SS Andrelton Simmons was the #1 fielder with 32 while the other leading infielders were Reds 1B Joey Votto with 11 and two Rockies…3B Nolan Arenado (20) & 2B D.J. Lemahieu (8). The Yankees Brett Gardner led the LF’s with 17 and the Twins Byron Buxton topped the CF’s by saving 24 runs…not surprisingly, Kevin Kiermaier and Kevin Pillar were close behind. If you’re wondering why Martin Maldonado is penciled in as the Angels starting Catcher, look no further than his 22 runs saved defensively. For all the cynical fans out there, we can’t leave out the worst fielders in the game and how many runs they cost their teams…

 

1B) Tommy Joseph -10

2B) Daniel Murphy -15

3B) Cory Spangenberg -14

3B) Nick Castellanos -14

  1. SS) Jose Reyes -15
  2. LF) Matt Kemp -17
  3. CF) Denard Span -27
  4. RF) Melky Cabrera -10
  5. C) Jonathan Lucroy -15

 

> A consistently debated topic among fans and media is the dramatic increase in defense shifts. In 2014, shifts were utilized over 13,000 times, in 2015 the number increased to over 17,000 and in 2016, it grew tremendously (+58%) to over 28,000. This year’s numbers seem to show that the optimum advantage has been reached, as the 2017 figure dropped slightly to 26,700. To the naysayer, the question becomes, would teams be shifting if it didn’t work? According to the “Runs Saved” statistic, shifting saved 196 runs in 2014, 267 runs in 2015, 359 in 2016 and 346 in 2017. About half of MLB teams reduced their shifting in 2017 with the Rockies & Cardinals actually going down by over 50%. On the flip side, the White Sox & Marlins almost doubled their numbers. With much more detailed data available, we know that the shift impacted Mitch Moreland & Anthony Rizzo more than any other batters…they both had a net loss of 22 hits.

 

> In the past, players were judged as good baserunners if they swiped a lot of bases. Not only were their other baserunning skills not considered, even their caught stealing stats were ignored. However, as Tom Boswell pointed out over 20 years ago, a caught stealing is equivalent to two outs because it not only removes a baserunner, it also causes an out. Now we have information that tells us how often a player goes from 1st to 3rd or 2nd to home plate on a single. The handbook grades baserunning on the net amount of bases a player gains in a given season. Only one team managed to have a net gain of over 100 bases in 2017 and it was the D’Backs at +106…the worst number belonged to the Tigers at -61.  Only three MLB players gained over 50 bases for their team in 2017…Byron Buxton (+55), Mookie Betts (+54) and Dee Gordon (+51). The worst baserunners were Joey Votto & Matt Kemp (-34 each).

 

 

> Were there any successful major league pitchers who threw their fastball over 90% of the time? The “Pitchers’ Repertoires” section will answer that question by telling you that three relievers fit the bill…Kenley Jansen, Zach Britton & Jake McGee.

 

That’s just a taste of the information in this year’s edition and we haven’t even looked at the individual player stats. No wonder that “stathead” is now an accepted baseball term.

 

 

Getting My Dux In A Row

xfllogo

In 30+ years of playing auction-style Fantasy Baseball, winning over 25 championships can make you feel like an “expert”. The real test, however, is when you compete in a league full of experts. That has been a yearly challenge for The Old Duck and it presented itself once again as the 15 owners in the Xperts Fantasy League (XFL) gathered in Phoenix last week for their 16th annual draft.

 

As a quick refresher, the XFL is the only experts keeper league within the fantasy industry and many of the owner’s names are familiar to those who have viewed the landscape of fantasy sports over the years. These brilliant guys produce websites, magazines, newsletters and blogs that help guide you in becoming a better player in your league. The league is a 5 X 5 format (with on-base percentage replacing batting average), a 23-player live auction draft in early November with a $260 budget and a supplemental snake draft in late March to round out the 40-man rosters (23 players are active each week during the season). Donald’s Dux (my squad) has captured four championships and holds the best overall performance record encompassing all 15 seasons of the league.

 

After finishing 1st, 1st, 2nd & 2nd from 2011-14, the Dux  struggled with 7th place finishes in 2015-16 and then a more respectable 5th place spot this year. The 2017 season was decent but the squad never really had the stats to be in the top three spots. Strong performances from Jose Abreu, Jonathan Schoop, Didi Gregorius, Domingo Santana, Yasiel Puig, Nelson Cruz, Willson Contreras, Anthony Rizzo, Gio Gonzalez & Zack Greinke couldn’t offset the disappointing campaigns from Odubel Herrera, Jayson Werth, Brandon Crawford, Leonys Martin, Matt Moore & John Lackey. Throw in the injuries to Julio Urias, Tyler Thornburg & Jerad Eickhoff along with the role-changing trade involving David Robertson and the Dux were like the Red Queen in “Alice In Wonderland”…running as fast you can to stay right where you are.

 

 

So, as we approached the November Draft for the 2018 season, the strategy seemed simple…take advantage of a strong keeper list and do a better job at the auction. As always, money management would be factored into the equation with a budget mix of 2/3 for hitting and 1/3 for pitching.

 

Here’s the keeper list for the Dux that was frozen on October 20th –

 

C – Wilson Contreras $7

C –

1B – Jose Abreu $13

3B –

1/3 – Anthony Rizzo $33

2B – Jonathan Schoop $11

SS – Didi Gregorius $11

2/S – Yoan Moncada $4

OF – Yasiel Puig $16

OF – Domingo Santana $16

OF –

OF –

OF –

U –

P – Gio Gonzalez $12

P – Kelvin Herrera $6

P – Brad Hand $6

P –

P –

P –

P –

P –

P –

P –

Farm – Willy Adames

Farm – Gleyber Torres

Farm – Kolby Allard

Farm – Alex Verdugo

 

The eight hitters had a salary total of $106, while the three pitchers equaled $24 leaving $130 to buy 12 players at the draft table. The basic allocation would be $68 for the six hitters and $62 for the seven pitchers. So, the draft strategy was as follows…

 

>  Find three OF’s in the $15 range prioritizing at least one SB contributor because speed is becoming more and more scarce. This will not an easy task, as most of the speed guys left in the pool are suspect. Players like Rajai Davis, Ben Revere, Jacoby Ellsbury, Jarod Dyson and Delino DeShields all have the skill but will they have the playing time? Secondarily, pay $15 for an everyday 3B and then take end-game shots at C & Utility. One other factor imbedded in this approach is to not overpay for HR-only players. With the likelihood that the juiced ball is here to stay, power will be the easiest commodity to find in March or during the season.

 

> On the pitching side, allocate $50 for four starting pitchers, $10 for a second-tier Closer and one end-gamer for the final pitching spot.

 

> Not much research needed to be done on the offensive side, as I could bid on any position player and was only concerned about getting regular playing time and some SB’s. On the pitching side, the plan needed to be a little more precise. My advice to players has always been to not “chase” any particular player. Find a group of players that fit your need and focus on getting one of them. This was the biggest challenge because at least 80% of the top twenty SP’s were already rostered. Here’s what the tiers looked like a few days prior to the draft…

 

Tier 1 – Greinke, Jake Arrieta, Johnny Cueto & Jon Lester

Tier 2 – Jose Qunitero, Jeff Samardzija, Rich Hill, Lance Lynn & Ervin Santana

Tier 3 – Taijuan Walker, Kenta Maeda, Chase Anderson, Ivan Nova, Drew Pomeranz, Trevor Bauer, Alex Cobb & others.

 

The Dux needed to get at least three of the pitchers on that list and then try to find some hidden skills guys like Zach Davies, Patrick Corbin, Michael Wacha and Tanner Roark.

 

The need for an additional Closer comes from role uncertainty. Hand could end up being the 2018 version of Robertson…traded to a contender and becoming a set-up man. A few potential additions would be Archie Bradley, Hector Neris, Juan Nicasio, Sean Doolittle and Alex Colome.

 

Before reviewing the results of the draft, there’s one other important league rule for readers to understand. Even though the word “list” is being used in this discussion, the really unique aspect of the XFL is that team owners can bring nothing to the table…no lists, no projections, no research, no draft software, no laptops, no tablets and no smart phones. When you sit at the table, major league depth charts are handed out with the names of keepers crossed off and that is your only reference material during the auction. Even the depth charts are as neutral as possible with players listed by position and alphabetically. You don’t get any help as the typical MLB team could have 12 relief pitchers on the sheet and you need to know which one might get (or be next in line for) Saves.

 

The actual approach at the draft table needed to be somewhat passive-aggressive. Passive in the sense of being patient, as eight other teams had a similar (or higher) amount of money to spend and aggressive in the sense of acquiring solid starting pitchers. And, of course, never forget the words of a world-class poker player who once told me, “If you sit down at the table and don’t spot the pigeon, it just might be you”.

 

It became apparent early on that the available dollars at the table were going to impact pitching prices dramatically. Greinke came out early and went for the inflated price of $50. It also became clear that the group was going to go all-in for offensive stars when Paul Goldschmidt cost $65 and J.D. Martinez $55 in the first round. The highest priced SP last year was Cueto at $30 and the top hitter was Miguel Cabrera at $45 (he went for $17 this time).

 

When I digested those prices, my thought process changed. The sense was that the best available players at each position were going to be more than just overpriced and I needed to be aggressive in filling roster spots. The initial switch in strategy came when Kenley Jansen was brought up. Elite Closers usually go for around $20 in this format (Zack Britton was the highest priced last year at $22), so the Dux acquired Jansen for $23. He earned $25 in this league for 2017 and has the type of consistency that you look for at the back-end of your bullpen. Later in the draft, Corey Knebel went for $21 while both Aroldis Chapman & Wade Davis cost $17. While this somewhat altered my pitching budget, I felt that based on the Greinke valuation, top-tier SP’s were going to be out of my range. That proved correct later in the proceedings when Quintana went for $31, Arrieta for $30, Lester for $22, Bauer for $20 and Cueto for $19.

 

The next two players rostered were Wacha at $10 & Samardzija at $17. The Dux had now spent $50 on three hurlers and would have to wait until much later in the draft to fill the remaining spots on the staff.

Turning to offense, the Dux next acquisition was Eduardo Nunez for $18. Although his late-season leg injury is troubling and his destination for ’18 in unknown, he qualifies at both 3B & OF and had 64 SB’s the last two seasons.

 

Now it was time for OF’s. Michael Taylor joined the squad for a surprisingly low $9. Yes, plate discipline has always been an issue, but he’s the Nats CF at the moment and produced 19 HR’s & 17 SB’s in 399 AB’s. Next up was Shin-Soo Choo for $12 and despite his age (35), he’s a five category asset in this format. The third flyhawk (a 1950’s term) was Odubal Herrera for $16 with the hope that he’ll return to his 2016 form at age  26.

 

Getting four offense players for only $57 left the budget with $25 for the final five players. Shifting some dollars from hitting to pitching allowed the Dux to acquire two SP’s from the Braves…Luis Gohara for $8 and Julio Teheran for $10. Then, in the end game, it was Randal Grichuk for $3 in the Utility spot, Corbin for $3 as the 6th SP and Jason Castro for $1 as the 2nd Catcher.

 

An obvious criticism could be that the allocation of money didn’t fit the 67/33 goal. Spending $95 on pitching made the split closer to 63/37 but there are two factors in play here…1) the four offensive players came in under budget by at least $6 and 2) hitting is much easier to find in the March Supplemental Draft than pitching.

 

Just to keep your mind percolating during the off-season, here are some random thoughts from the Draft…

 

> When it comes to Saves, sometimes guys who aren’t yet the Closer (Bradley, $11) go for more than guys who have the job (Sean Doolittle, $7)

 

> November is much too early to evaluate injured players…Mark Melancon went for $1, as did Matt Shoemaker & Troy Tulowitzki

 

> Reputations don’t matter as Felix Hernandez was rostered for $4, Carlos Gonzalez for $7, Chris Davis for $9, Rick Porcello for $4 & Cole Hamels for $8

 

> Never ask the question, “why did someone pay $18 for Aaron Sanchez” without clearly understanding that someone else bid $17

 

> Other big contract players included Daniel Murphy for $40, Michael Conforto for $33, Andrew McCutchen for $32 & Buster Posey for $31.

 

> $1 players the Dux would love to have included Reynaldo Lopez, Josh Reddick, Andrelton Simmons, Yonder Alonso, Carl Edwards Jr., Brandon Woodruff, Jose Reyes, Maikel Franco, Kyle Barraclough & Nova.

 

> And, of course, the annual exercise of listing players who were not even drafted…Fernando Rodney (worth $10 in ’17), Kurt Suzuki (19 HR’s), Nick Markakis ($8 in ’17), Ben Zobrist (multiple positions), Scooter Gennett (27 HR’s), Mark Reynolds, Logan Forsythe, Jonathan Villar, Neil Walker, Asdrubal Cabrera, Matt Harvey, Tommy Joseph, Francisco Cervelli, David Freese, Josh Harrison, Jordy Mercer, Jedd Gyorko, Joe Panik, Brandon Crawford, Hunter Pence, Jayson Werth, Mitch Moreland, Dustin Pedroia, Jackie Bradley Jr., Alex Gordon, Joe Mauer, Todd Frazier, Chase Headley, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Gomez, Kevin Pillar & Albert Pujols.

 

You can peruse additional league information at fantasyxperts.com

 

 

Grading The Prognostications

'17 Fantasy Guide

Each year, a number of us who write about the game are fortunate enough to be included in the best Fantasy Baseball pre-season magazine. It is called “The Fantasy Baseball Guide – Professional Edition” and is edited by that Superhero, Rotoman. For many of us, the contribution is a list of “Picks and Pans” where we try to predict which players the readers should target or avoid.

 

Before attempting to objectively assign a grade to my own 2017 predictions, a few disclaimers are in order…

 

1) While the publication itself hits the shelves in anticipation of Spring Training, our lists need to be submitted well before the December holidays. At that point, numerous free agents haven’t signed and many MLB roster roles haven’t been determined.

 

2)  The Old Duck always attempts to focus on players that are more marginal than the obvious fantasy stars. You don’t need me to tell you that Mike Trout is a good player, you need me to find you a bargain or to steer you away from an over-rated player. Taking this approach is more fun but also more challenging.

 

3) One lesson to take away from this exercise is that being an “expert” has a price. Most of my opponents sitting around the Draft table in March/April have read the magazine and already know my thoughts about many players. Having your name in print is a reasonable excuse for sharing information, but for those of you in home leagues, make sure you keep your opinions to yourself in the company of your mortal enemies.

 

So, without pulling any punches, let’s see how the Quacker made out…first the prediction and then the post-season analysis.

 

> Jose Abreu, PICK – Everyone seemed to be down on him in 2016 but in three full seasons, he’s averaged .299 with 30 HR’s & 103 RBI’s. In Fantasy, there’s something to be said about boring consistency. – Got one correct right off the bat as he delivered .304 with 33 HR’s & 102 RBI’s…Grade “A”

 

> Cody Allen, PICK – Let Andrew Miller’s presence lower the price…in the last two seasons, he’s had 66 Saves with 186 K’s in 137 IP’s. – 30 Saves with solid peripherals and 92 K’s in 67+ innings…Grade “A”

 

> Javier Baez, PAN – Yes, he’s a great 2B but in parts of three seasons, he has 173 Hits and 227 K’s. Job security may hurt instead of help when it comes to plate discipline. – Got 469 AB’s and produced 23 HR’s with a .273 average…Grade “C”

 

> Kyle Barraclough, PICK – No role yet but in 97 MLB IP’s, he has 143 K’s…the stuff is there. – Didn’t get the chance to close but had 6 Wins, a 3.00 ERA and 10.4 K rate…Grade “B”

 

> Jose Bautista, PAN – Thinks he’s worth $20+ Million per year, but his BA & OPS have gone down for the last two seasons and he’ll be 36. – Stick a fork in him, as he hit .203 with a OPS under .700…Grade “A”

 

> Brandon Belt, PICK – Doesn’t have the gaudy numbers of some other 1B, but a .868 OPS playing in that ballpark tells you he’s a great second-tier fallback pick. – We’re just starting to understand how concussions impact athletes but he did hit 18 HR’s with a .823 OPS in 382 AB’s…Grade “C”

 

> Byron Buxton, PAN – Even though he was the #1 prospect in baseball, there’s something missing…427 MLB AB’s, 162 K’s, 29 BB and a .672 OPS. – Proved me wrong by finally living up to the hype with 16 HR’s & 29 SB’s but still struck out 150 times in 462 AB’s…Grade “D”

 

> Mauricio Cabrera, PICK – Jim Johnson has the Closer job but this is the guy down the road. – Started the season on the DL and didn’t pitch at the major league level…Grade “NA”

 

> Nick Castellanos, PICK – May fly slightly under the radar because he only played 2/3 of the season…an .827 OPS going into his age 25 campaign. – One of the few bright spots in Detroit, he contributed 26 HR’s, 101 RBI’s and a .811 OPS…Grade “A”

 

> Wilson Contreras, PICK – Even though he weighs 210, from a Fantasy perspective, he’ll be Buster Posey “Lite” in 2017. – How many Catchers would you rather have? Despite only 377 AB’s (due to injury), he had 21 HR’s, 74 RBI’s and a .855 OPS…Grade “B”

 

> Chris Davis, PAN – A highly paid slugger can’t have an OPS under .800…427 K’s the last two seasons. – Right on target as he hit 26 HR’s with 61 RBI’s and a .215 BA…Grade “A”

 

> Chris Devenski, PICK – His 1st big league season was impressive with 104 K’s in 108 IP and a 2.16 ERA…now let’s see how the Astros utilize him. – A big part of the team’s bullpen, he pitched 80+ innings with 8 Wins and 4 Saves…Grade “B”

 

> Brandon Finnegan, PAN – Not his fault, but a young SP in that ballpark is going to have trouble…he was lucky to have an ERA under 4.00. – Injuries limited him to only 14 IP…Grade “NA”

 

> Ken Giles, PICK – Early season hiccups are behind him…102 K’s in 66 IP says he’s a Closer. – The Astros Closer all season, he added 34 Saves to the cause…Grade “A”

 

> Carlos Gomez, PAN – Hits .210 in 295 AB’s in Houston, then .284 in 116 AB’s in Arlington. The result? His agent thinks he’s a candidate for a five-year deal. Don’t even give him a one-year deal. – The second half of ’16 was a fluke as he battled injuries and only hit .255…Grade “B”

 

> Matt Harvey, PAN – Anyone with the word “syndrome” on his medical chart isn’t on my draft chart. – Sorry to say the prediction was right. 5 Wins and a 6.70 ERA makes him a non-tender candidate in ’18…Grade “A”

 

> Ryon Healy, PICK – A possible late-bloomer….861 OPS in 269 AB’s. – 25 HR’s & 78 RBI’s as a full-time player…Grade “B”

 

> Cesar Hernandez, PICK – Sneaky improvement with a .371 OBP…speed component is there, as he led the NL in Triples. – Started slow and then had a DL stint, but his final numbers might surprise you….373 OBP, 85 Runs and 15 SB’s….Grade “B”

 

> Adam Jones, PAN – His HR totals always make him over-priced as a Fantasy player…OPS under .800 the last three seasons. – Spot on, as he had 26 HR’s and a .787 OPS…Grade “B”

 

> Tommy Joseph, PICK – Out from behind the plate and Ryan Howard is gone…hit 21 HR’s in 315 AB’s. – Not sure how he’ll be impacted by the arrival of Rhys Hoskins, but he delivered with 22 HR’s in 495 AB’s…Grade “B”

 

> Starling Marte, PAN – Great Fantasy player but when a speed guy misses the last month of the season with a bad back, you better hedge your bet. – Honestly, I didn’t know about the PED issue but he blew up countless Fantasy rosters…Grade “A”

 

> Leonys Martin, PICK – If you can absorb the BA/OBP, he gives you 12-15 HR’s and 20+ SB’s. – WTF! Started slow, lost his job, spent the season in the Minors…Grade “F”

 

> Jose Peraza, PICK – The Reds will find AB’s for him this time around…speed is scarce and he swiped 21 bases in 241 AB’s. – Not a great season with a .259 BA but did have 23 SB’s…Grade “C”

 

> Jose Quintana, PICK – Four consecutive seasons of 200 IP and good ERA have only produced 40 Wins…doesn’t his luck have to change? – Found himself in the post-season after a trade to the Cubs, he was 11-11 to make his lifetime record 57-57. Guess he’s just a .500 Pitcher…Grade “C”

 

> Robbie Ray, PAN – A fantasy darling due to the strikeout rate, he still had a 4.90 ERA and pitches in a launching pad. – A force in the D’Backs resurgence, the 2.89 ERA was a vast improvement…Grade “D”

 

> A.J. Reed, PICK – After tearing up the minor leagues, hit .164 in 122 MLB AB’s. There is such a thing as a post-hype sleeper…in 2011, Anthony Rizzo hit .141 in 128 MLB AB’s. – Spent the year in the Minors…Grade “NA”

 

> Ryan Schimpf, PAN – None of the plotlines fit…a 28 year-old lifetime minor leaguer hits 20 HR’s in 276 AB’s and strikes out 105 times while hitting .217. – Hit .158 before being sent down…Grade “A”

 

> Jonathan Schoop, PICK – Played all 162 games at 2B with 25 HR’s & 82 RBI’s…just turned 25, so plate discipline improvement could take him to the next level. – Now All-Star caliber with 32 HR’s, 105 RBI’s and a .841 OPS…Grade “A”

 

> Tyler Thornburg, PICK – The Brewers are re-building and won’t spend money on a Closer…90 K’s in 67 IP with a 2.15 ERA tells you he gets first shot. – Lost the Closer opportunity due to a trade and then missed the season with injuries…Grade “NA”

 

> Troy Tulowitzki, PAN – Will be overpriced in every league…even in a great hitting environment, his OPS was under .800 and at age 32, he’ll only be less durable. – 241 AB’s and a .249 BA shouldn’t have come as a surprise…Grade “A”

 

> Justin Upton, PAN – The late-season surge doesn’t sway me…with a big contract and no plate discipline (179 K’s), improvement isn’t likely. – Arguably, his best season with a .901 OPS but he’ll probably screw it up by leaving Anaheim…Grade “D”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Statistics can be manipulated to reach a number of different conclusions, but the Quacker did manage “A” or “B” ratings on 70% of the players. The overall GPA was about 2.93, which matches my blood alcohol level in college. The good news is that Schoop, Hernandez, Giles, Devenski, Contreras, Barraclough & Abreu were helpful members on my fantasy squads…hope they helped you too.

 

 

You Can’t Tell The Players Without A Program

'47 ProgramAre you old enough to remember when major league players didn’t have names on the back of their uniforms? The first thing you’d see at the ballpark was a small stand with a vendor yelling, “Programs, Programs…you can’t tell the players with a program”.

 

During the course of any given year, lots of sports memorabilia comes across my desk. Dominated by baseball cards and autographed items, there are always odds & ends. This time, a collection included an official program and score card from a 1947 game at Yankee Stadium. The exact date isn’t on the program as they were most likely printed for a series of games with the same opponent, but the best guess is that this particular one was from an August visit from the defending AL pennant-winning Red Sox.

 

Looking at baseball history through a 70 year-old lens is one thing, but before focusing on the game and the players, let’s get a sense of American society at the time by examining the advertising that helped keep the cover price at 10 cents…

 

> Smoking was an accepted practice in 1947 and there are cigarette ads for Camel, Chesterfield, Old Gold & Lucky Strike…none of which had filters. In addition, Briggs pipe mixture, Muriel cigars and Garcia y Vega Havana cigars (made in Tampa) were featured.

 

> Catering to a predominantly male audience, tobacco shared the space with alcohol. Three Feathers Whiskey claimed to be “Major League” quality, Great Western Champagne showed a winning medal from a 1900 Paris tasting, Ruppert Beer was “slow aged” and Ballantine Ale & Beer always meant “The Perfect Glass”. In case you needed to concoct a mixed drink, there were also ads for Morgan Beverages, Canada Dry Ginger Ale and White Rock Sparkling Water.

 

> The well-dressed fan was also being tempted with marketing from Eagle Clothes, Douglas Shoes, Sherman Bows (bow ties), Esquire Boot Polish & GGG Clothes.

 

> To make the fans taste buds take notice, some New York restaurants took space along with ads for Schrafft’s Peppermint Patties, Gulden Mustard, Drake’s Cake (“The Rooters Snack”) and Beech-Nut Gum.

 

> Not to leave Fantasy Baseball players out of the history, there was even an ad for a baseball-themed board game called Pro-Baseball Game. You could purchase it at Department and Sporting Goods Stores for $5.00.

 

Now that the stage has been set, we’ll travel back to the Friday night game on August 15, 1947 in front of 67,803 fans at Yankee Stadium. Here are the starting line-ups…

 

Red Sox

 

1) Sam Mele, RF – A rookie who ended up with a 10-year big league career, he was very productive in ’47 with a .356 OBP in 123 games.

 

2) Johnny Pesky, SS – A legendary figure in BoSox history including the famous “Pesky Pole” at Fenway Park. Think about this…he led the AL in hits (205) in his rookie season of 1942, then missed three years serving in World War II before coming back to lead the AL in hits again in both 1946 (208) and 1947 (207).

 

3) Dom DiMaggio, CF – Despite playing in the shadow of his Brother, he was an outstanding player. In 10 seasons surrounding his three-year military commitment, he was a 7-time All-Star.

 

4) Ted Williams, LF – Arguably the greatest hitter in the history of the game…in ’47, he led the AL in Runs, HR’s, RBI’s, BB, BA, OBP, SLG & OPS. Oh, by the way, he finished 2nd in the MVP vote.

 

5) Bobby Doerr, 2B – The oldest living Hall-of-Famer at age 99.

 

6) Jake Jones, 1B – Traded over from the White Sox in June, ’47 was his only season as a regular…he hit .237, but had 19 HR’s & 96 RBI’s.

 

7) Birdie Tebbetts, C – A reliable back-stop who made four All-Star teams during his career, he shared the catching duties with Roy Partee. In the 50’s & 60’s, he was a big league Manager for 11 seasons.

 

8) Sam Dente, 3B – The Sox never had a reliable regular at this position during the season and this rookie hit .232 in 168 AB’s.

 

9) Mickey Harris, P – Had 17 Wins in ’46, but only got six starts in ’47…had a 5-4 record with a 2.42 ERA.

 

Manager – Joe Cronin

 

Yankees

 

1) Stuffy Stirnweiss, 2B – An interesting case study, as he was one of the few everyday players who didn’t serve in World War II. He led the AL in Hits for both 1994 & 1945, batting over .300 each season. Once the soldiers got back and the competition was tougher, he regressed to a .256 BA in ’47.

 

2) Tommy Henrich, RF – A natural hitter, he was very good even into his mid-30’s…led the league in Triples for both ’47 & ’48 at ages 34 & 35.

 

3) Yogi Berra, C – Just starting his illustrious career in ’47, he played 83 games and hit .280. Won three AL MVP’s in the 50’s.

 

4) Joe DiMaggio, CF – The famous “Yankee Clipper” was still in his prime at age 32…a 315 BA, 20 HR’s & 97 RBI’s got him the MVP.

 

5) George McQuinn, 1B – A 37 year-old veteran, he posted a solid year with a .304 BA, 80 RBI’s and a .395 OBP.

 

6) Billy Johnson, 3B – Hit .285 with 95 RBI’s and made the All-Star team.

 

7) Johnny Lindell, LF – Played as a position player through 1950, then returned to the majors in 1953 (at age 36) to make 26 starts as a NL Pitcher.

 

8) Phil Rizzuto, SS – “Scooter” was on his way to a Hall-of-Fame career and many years in the broadcast booth.

 

9) Karl Drews, P – Started 10 games at the back-end of the rotation…his best season was 1952 when he won 14 games for the Phillies.

 

Manager- Bucky Harris

 

So, how did the game turn out? It ended up being somewhat of a slugfest, as neither starting pitcher got out of the 2nd inning. Amazingly, the Yankees brought in their best relief pitcher (Joe Page) in the 2nd inning and he pitched 7 2/3 innings, finished the game and got the win. Can you imagine one of today’s Closers being asked to accomplish that task?

 

On the offensive side, Stirnweiss had two solo HR’s and a Triple while Berra had 3 RBI’s. For the Sox, Williams went 4-for-5 with two Doubles and Doerr had two RBI’s. The final score was 10-6. Two interesting pieces of trivia are that Williams had an OF assist and Berra got picked off 3rd base.

 

Hope you enjoyed this little trip through the baseball time machine.'47 Program