Fantasy Baseball Daily Double – Part Deux

ramirez-heritage

How could the players chosen by the Old Duck possibly have performed well enough to win both of the Rotisserie auction-style home leagues in which I compete? As Topper Harley said in Hot Shots Part Deux, “These men have taken a supreme vow of celibacy, like their fathers, and their fathers before them.”

 

On our last visit, we detailed the roster and strategy for the NL-only team (Donald’s Ducks) and now we’ll review the AL-only  format to help you get the grey matter working during hot-stove season. That noted Rotisserie Geek Plato reminded us that, “If you are wise, all men will be your friends and kindred, for you will be useful”.

 

> Fusco Brothers…12 Team, AL only, 4×4, 23-man rosters (14 hitters, 9 pitchers), $260 budget, maximum of 15 keepers and 3 Farm players, established 1987

 

* Smart Keeper Decisions (March 27th)

 

1) Jose Abreu $30 – In the third and final season on the roster, he underperformed early in the year, but still ended up posting 25 HR’s, 100 RBI’s and a .293 BA. 1B in this high-inflation environment are always expensive…Cabrera was kept at $39 and Fielder was drafted for $29.

 

2) Kole Calhoun $15 – Not a flashy player but plays everyday (594 AB’s) and produced 18 HR’s & 75 RBI’s.

 

3) Kevin Pillar $1 – Taken in the end game two years ago when he didn’t have a full-time job. His defensive skills keep him in the line-up and 7-52-13 isn’t bad for a buck.

 

4) Dellin Betances – Another player in the last year of his Roto contract, he provided 3 Wins & 12 Saves.

 

5) Roberto Osuna $10 – A great pick-up in ’15, he provided 36 Saves.

 

6) Danny Salazar $10 – The Fuscos (named after the inept characters in the comic strip) finished 9th last year, so most of 2015 was a lesson in finding possible bargains for this year…Salazar had 11 Wins and solid peripherals before getting injured.

 

7) Ervin Santana $1 – Drafted in the end game last year when he was suspended, 7 Wins and 180+ IP with a 3.37 ERA was productive

 

* Dumb Keeper Decisions

 

1) Josh Phegley $3 – Thought he would provide some power even as a back-up Catcher, but he was never healthy (only 78 AB’s)

 

2) Aaron Hicks $10 – Really thought his power / speed combination would find playing time in the Bronx, but it never happened.

 

3) Derek Holland $1 – Broke my heart for the third straight year with a 5.15 ERA.

 

* Good Draft Day Decisions (April 2nd)

 

1) Kyle Seager $29 – The price seemed high, especially when he slumped early in the year. The final numbers, however, were impressive…30 HR’s & 99 RBI’s.

 

2) Jose Ramirez $5 – Was on our roster part of ’15 but was back in the pool as he looked like a utility player at best. I liked his skills and versatility, so took a flyer at this price. The outcome was what Fantasy players dream of….312 11-76-22.

 

3) Ian Desmond $26 – After his dismal 2015 performance and seeing him struggle during Spring Training, he wasn’t on my priority list at the table. At a certain point, however, he was the last speed guy left and I paid the price. This was just dumb luck….285 22-86-21

 

4) Josh Tomlin $2 – The last player we drafted, he provided 13 Wins.

 

* Dumb Draft Day Decisions

 

1) Caleb Joseph $2 – This was certainly the first championship Fantasy team to have a player with over 100 AB’s who didn’t have an RBI! Yes, you read that correctly…23-for-132 (.174 BA) with ZERO RBI’s.

 

2) Tyler White $7 – Had the 1B job in Houston and came out of the gate impressively, but ended up back in AAA after hitting only .211

 

3) Justin Upton $30 – The most disappointing player on the team as we wallowed near the bottom of the standings early in the season. Came alive in September and ended up with 31 HR’s but never looked like a $130 Million player.

 

4) Chris Archer $27 – Another expensive addition who didn’t really deliver until the second half…9 Wins and a 4.02 ERA aren’t the numbers of an Ace.

 

 

* In-Season Roster Moves

 

1) Activated Max Kepler from the Farm portion of the roster in late April…became the Twins regular RF and added 17-63-6

 

2) Waited the requisite 30 days for the suspension of Aroldis Chapman to end before adding him in early May…gave us 20 Saves before departing for the Cubs.

 

3) Replaced Phegley in early July with Mike Zunino…he added 10 important HR’s.

 

4) Won a FAAB bid on Ken Giles in early August just before he got the Closer’s job back in Houston…14 saves down the stretch was a boost.

 

5) Added Tyler Clippard in mid-August once he became the set-up guy for Betances…got a Win & 2 Saves with a 2.79 ERA.

 

6) Just to balance the scales, the Brothers also took fliers on Raul Mondesi, Chad Pinder & Matt Duffy.

 

The Fuscos held off the defending Champs , whose roster included Manny  Machado, Kris Davis & Cole Hamels. It was a very close race until mid-September, but the final tally was 69.5 points (of  a possible 96), 7 points ahead of the 2nd place finisher.

 

Does winning these two titles make me an expert? What’s an expert? According to Niels Bohr, “An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field.” Oh yeah, I qualify for that.

 

And just to help you face the end of the baseball season, remember this quote from A. Bartlett Giamatti – “It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the Spring when everything else begins. It blossoms in the Summer, filing the afternoons and evenings. And then, as soon as the chill rains come it stops. It leaves you to face the Fall alone”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hitting The Fantasy Baseball Daily Double

roto-duck

As Summer turns to Autumn and the calendar turns to October, many of you will head for the coat closet. As an Arizona resident, that isn’t really necessary, so for this visit, we’ll find a few appropriate remarks in the “quote closet”. They’ll be used to help commemorate the Old Duck hitting the Fantasy Baseball Daily Double…winning both of the Rotisserie auction-style home leagues in which I compete.

 

As Dizzy Dean once said, “It ain’t bragging if you can do it” but my comments will also be tempered by the advice of Fantasy Hall of Famer Ron Shandler, who reminds league winners to “Revel in your success because fame is fleeting, but also exercise excruciating humility”.

 

For all of us who play this wonderful game, the next few months gives us the opportunity to look back at our player decisions and wonder what we were thinking. In “The Magnificent Seven”, Bandito Eli Wallach asks Gunslinger Steve McQueen, “Why You Gringos Come Down Here”?  and he answers, “Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time”. That could also be the answer for keeping Ben Paulsen or drafting Juan Lagares. Maybe by reviewing some of the positive and negative roster moves in two different winning scenarios, your brain cells will begin to focus on 2017. If your friends, family and colleagues don’t understand your passion for the game, remind them that Dr. Seuss suggested, “Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, it’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of the telescope…and that enables us to laugh at life’s realities”.

 

> Donald’s Ducks…12 Team, NL only, 4×4, 23 man rosters (14 hitters, 9 pitchers), $260 budget, maximum of 15 keepers and 3 Farm players, established 1984

 

* Smart Keeper Decisions (April 3rd)…

 

1) Kris Bryant $10 – No comment necessary, he was the #1 Farm Pick last year.

 

2) Eugenio Suarez $10 – It seemed like his bat would make the Reds find a spot for him. It turned out to be 3B and he contributed 20+ HR’s & 10+ SB’s.

 

3) J.T. Realmuto $10 – A Catcher with a good BA and a few SB’s is like gold.

 

4) Jason Hammel $1 – Always under-rated at Draft tables, this was his 3rd season on my roster…returned 33 Wins for $3.

 

5) Kyle Hendricks $10 – Also overlooked for his lack of “stuff”, but in a format without K’s, he’s even more valuable…won 31 games over three seasons and could be the Cy Young Award winner this year.

 

6) Carlos Martinez $7 – Acquired in a trade prior to the 2015 season, he added 30 Wins and great peripheral stats in two years.

 

7) Jeremy Jeffress $6 – Produced 27 Saves before being traded to the AL at the deadline.

 

 

* Dumb Keeper Decisions

 

1) Ben Paulsen $10 – Thought he’d win the 1B job in Colorado but he lost out to Mark Reynolds…’nuff said.

 

2) Devin Mesoraco $11 – Guess he now qualifies as “injury prone”.

 

 

* Good Draft Day Decisions ( April 9th)

 

1) Ben Zobrist $22 – Not flashy but a solid player in a great line-up and good ballpark…and he qualifies at multiple positions.

 

2) Brandon Belt $29 – In an NL-only league with draft inflation, the quality 1B are all going to be around $30…AGon & Votto went for $34 and Freeman for $32.

 

3) Jon Jay $4 – Provided solid numbers for an end-gamer before getting injured.

 

4) Derek Dietrich $4 – Another good end-gamer with position flexibility, he hit about .280 in over 400 AB’s.

 

* Dumb Draft Day Decisions

 

1) Domingo Santana $27 – Even if he played well, this was an over-payment, but it all had to do with the timing at the table. Didn’t play well and then got hurt.

 

2) Francisco Liriano $17 – The magic of the Pirates pitching guru finally wore off…had an ERA over 5.00 before heading to Toronto.

 

3) Adam Warren $3 – Seemed to make sense, as he was the Cubs 6th starter and the Ducks owned #4 & #5…had a 5.91 ERA before going back to the Bronx.

 

 

* In-Season Roster Moves

 

1)  Activated Corey Seager from the Farm portion of my roster on opening day…two consecutive ROY’s is a nice foundation.

 

2) Replaced Mesoraco with Chris Herrmann in early May…he provided good numbers and position flexibility before the Ducks traded him for Wellington Castillo (on an expiring contract) later in the season.

 

3) Replaced Paulsen with Michael Bourn in mid-May and he added a much-needed 12 SB’s while on the roster.

 

4) Activated Jose Peraza from the Farm (also in mid-May) but the Reds sent him back down quickly. Eventually traded him for Martin Prado (another expiring contract) and his new owner will reap the benefit of a shipload of SB’s in 2017.

 

5) Replaced Peraza with Tommy Joseph just before Memorial Day and eventually traded him for Starling Marte in mid-July. Marte was another expiring contract and his owner was leading the league in SB’s. Joseph will potentially give him 40-50 HR’s in the next two seasons

 

6) Activated Trea Turner from the Farm just after the All-Star break and waited for Dusty Baker to wake up from his Summer nap to realize what the word “catalyst” means.

 

7) Won a FAAB bid on Maurico Cabrera in mid-July to hopefully cover the loss of Arodys Vizcaino to injury…he added five Wins and four Saves.

 

8) Won a FAAB bid on Tyler Thornburg (by $1) in late-July just before he was given the Closer job in Milwaukee…the 11 Saves he added made a big difference

 

9) After the trade deadline, FAAB’ed three starting pitchers in Matt Moore, Jake Thompson & Ivan Nova. This was essential after losing Jeffress, Liriano & Aaron Nola. The three acquisitions combined for 13 Wins down the stretch.

 

If nothing else, this summary shows two strategic points…1) if you have a chance to win, go all-in and 2) even seemingly insignificant moves can make a big difference in the final outcome of a Fantasy league.

 

The Ducks emerged victorious with 78 points ( of a possible 96) and didn’t really have a weak category…led in BA & RBI’s to accumulate 43 points in offense…had 98 Wins to lead the league and added a 4th place finish in ERA.  It was a four-team race until early September, but the 2nd place team ended up 7 points back.

 

Until next time, when we’ll review the winning squad in the AL-only format, remember the words of Groucho Marx, “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them…well, I have others”.

 

 

 

 

 

Bacon-Wrapped Hall of Famers

bacon-phillies

The “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” is a game based on the theory that everyone is six or fewer steps away from any other person in the world. The game was created to link any Hollywood actor or actress (living or dead) to Kevin Bacon in six degrees or less.

 

To test the theory, you need only to link up with the website called oracleofbacon.org. Let’s say, for example, that your favorite entertainer is Al Jolson. A quick click will tell you that Jolson appeared in the 1936 movie “The Singing Kid”. In that cast was an actor named Emmett Vogan and he was in “City That Never Sleeps” (1953). In that cast was James Andelin who later appeared in “Stir of  Echoes” (1999) with none other than Kevin Bacon. That means Jolson has a “Bacon Number” of 3. So, every time you have a experience that causes you to say, “What a small world”, it gives credence to the theory. To Bacon’s credit, he’s piggybacked (yes, I really said that) onto the phenomenon and created a charitable foundation called Six Degrees, in partnership with Network for Good. You can find more information at SixDegrees.org.

 

A few years ago, the Old Duck penned a column linking Bryce Harper to Babe Ruth in only seven degrees. It was a fun exercise, but took an enormous amount of research and guesswork with the help of the massive database at baseball-reference.com. Now, someone has made the sports exercise of “six degrees” much easier. A fellow named Ben Blatt has built a tool to find the shortest possible connections between 50,000 + professional baseball, football, basketball and hockey players. Two athletes are considered “connected” if they played for the same team during the same season. Just under 18,000 baseball players qualify since the 1870’s.

 

With our new toy, let’s have some fun and connect each of the three inductees of the  Hall of Fame class in 1939 (the first time in Cooperstown) to a current major league star. We’ve chosen players who play the same position as the legends.

 

George Sisler received 86% of the vote in ’39 and was a 1B in the big leagues from 1915-1930. He had a lifetime BA of .340, won the 1922 AL MVP and hit over .400 twice.

 

> Sisler played on the 1928 Washington Senators with…

Ossie Bluege, who played on the 1939 Washington Senators with…

Early Wynn, who played on the 1963 Cleveland Indians with…

Tommy John, who played on the 1988 New York Yankees with…

Al Leiter, who played on the 2005 Florida Marlins with…

 

MIGUEL CABRERA

 

Eddie Collins played 2B in the American League from 1906-1930. He hit .333 for his career, won the 1914 MVP and accumulated 3,315 hits.

 

> Collins played on the 1923 Chicago White Sox with…

Ted Lyons, who played on the 1938 Chicago White Sox with…

Mike Tresh, who played on the 1949 Cleveland Indians with…

Minnie Minoso, who played on the 1980 Chicago White Sox with…

Harold Baines, who played on the 2001 Chicago White Sox with…

Carlos Lee, who played on the 2011 Houston Astros with…

 

JOSE ALTUVE

 

“Wee” Willie Keeler was a 5′ 4″ OF who drove opposing Pitchers crazy from 1892-1910. A lifetime BA of .341 and over 2,900 hits tell the story.

 

> Keeler played on the 1910 New York Giants with…

Red Ames, who played on the 1918 St. Louis Cardinals with…

Charlie Grimm, who played on the 1936 Chicago Cubs with…

Phil Cavarretta, who played on the 1955 Chicago White Sox with…

Minnie Minoso, who played on the 1980 Chicago White Sox with…

Harold Baines, who played on the 1999 Cleveland Indians with…

Russell Branyan, who played on the 2011 L.A. Angels with…

 

MIKE TROUT

 

Needless to say, Minnie Minoso’s two-game appearance for the White Sox in 1980 was essentially ceremonial in nature, but the link exists nonetheless. Interestingly, Baines shows up twice but the connection is to two different teams.

 

How about connecting a major league ballplayer to Kevin Bacon himself? That’s so easy, it only requires two degrees. Chuck Connors is remembered as “The Rifleman” from TV, but he played two seasons in the National League and two additional seasons with the Boston Celtics prior to his acting career. He appeared in “The Silver Whip” (1953) with Robert Wagner who co-starred with Bacon in “Wild Things” (1998).

 

It’s a small world, after all.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Help – Save Me!

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How can a Pitcher get credited with a Save when he never shook the Catcher’s hand after the final out of the inning and the game wasn’t actually over? In August of 2013, the Tigers Bruce Rondon came on in relief against the Indians in the top of the 7th inning protecting a 5-2 Tigers lead. After allowing one hit and then getting the final out of the inning, he calmly walked to the dugout. The Tigers proceeded to score two additional runs in the bottom of the 7th and eventually, the game was called after seven innings due to rain. Opening up the newspaper the following morning, the box score of the game shows Rondon getting his first Save of the season! How would you like to lose your Fantasy Baseball League by one point in the Saves category?

 

When the founding fathers of Rotisserie baseball included a “Saves” category back in the early 80’s, they probably didn’t anticipate the type of angst that would be cascading down on the owners of Fantasy teams. In the original 4×4 format, an established closer could cost more than 10% of your roster’s budget at the Draft table. Maybe even more challenging, however, is the changing landscape that is part of the quest for Saves. Lets see a show of hands for all the experts who were spending late-March targeting Jonathan Papelbon, Trevor Rosenthal, Jake McGee, Steve Cishek, Glen Perkins and Huston Street.

 

Saves didn’t become an official stat until 1969 and now, in the age of specialization, it isn’t uncommon to see Closers save 30, 40 or even 50 games. It certainly wasn’t like that in the 1950’s & 60’s, but thanks to baseball-reference.com and other baseball researchers, the history of Saves can now be tracked back over the last hundred years of baseball. For today’s baseball card collecting adventure, we’ll find the rookie cards of the Saves leader for each of the 20 seasons prior to the stats birth in 1969. As always, the card values are based on “Near Mint” (NM 7) condition.

 

> 1949 – Joe Page, Yankees, 27 Saves – This tall lefthander was a starting pitcher when he first joined New York in the mid-40’s but became the last guy in the bullpen in 1947. To illustrate how the role has changed, he appeared in 60 games, finishing 48, with 135 IP and 13 Wins. Not an unsung hero, he also finished 3rd in the AL MVP balloting. This workload, however, took a heavy toll and his career was essentially over after 1950. His rookie card is from 1948 Bowman (#29) and books for $70.

 

> 1950 – Jim Konstanty, Phillies, 22 Saves – Philadelphia won the NL Pennant and Casimir James Konstanty was a major contributor. When you digest his stats, it is clear to see why he won the NL MVP…appeared in 74 games, finishing 62 of them!! Pitched 152 innings and had 16 Wins to go along with his Save total. You can find his rookie card in the 1950 Bowman set (#226) with a value of $30.

 

> 1951 – Ellis Kinder, Red Sox, 14 Saves – Nicknamed “Old Folks”, he was an excellent starting pitcher for four seasons prior to moving to the bullpen in ’51. In 1949, for example, he went 23-6 and led the AL with 6 shutouts. His performance in this season was amazing and included an 11-2 record in 127 IP while finishing 41 games. The 1950 Bowman set is also home to Kinder’s rookie card (#152) and it books for $30.

 

> 1952 – Al Brazle, Cardinals, 16 Saves – “Cotton” was another starting pitcher from the late 40’s who transitioned to the bullpen. He even started 6 games in this season and went 12-5 for the year. The 1949 Bowman set has his rookie card (#126) and $30 will add it to your collection.

 

> 1953 – Ellis Kinder, Red Sox, 27 Saves – Still effective at age 38, this tied Page’s record for the most Saves in a season. He also led the AL with 69 games pitched and 51 games finished. Oh, and his ERA was 1.85!

 

> 1954 – Jim Hughes, Dodgers, 24 Saves – A journeyman who didn’t get to the majors until age 29, he also led the NL with 60 appearances. His 1953 Topps card (#216) books for $40.

 

> 1955 – Ray Narleski, Indians, 19 Saves – The starting rotation was Early Wynn, Herb Score, Bob Lemon & Mike Garcia with a spot starter named Bob Feller. This slender right-hander also led the league with 60 appearances and added a 9-1 record. His 1955 Topps card (#160) is worth $45.

 

> 1956 – Clem Labine, Dodgers, 19 Saves – The “Boys of Summer” had a great staff and this veteran closed the door by finishing 47 games. His rookie card is the jewel of this collection, as it comes from the high-numbered run of the famous 1952 Topps set (#342) and books for $525.

 

> 1957 – Bob Grim, Yankees, 19 Saves – The 1954 AL Rookie of the Year award winner when he went 20-6, Grim transitioned to the bullpen and added a 12-8 record to this All-Star season. The 1955 Bowman rookie card (#167) is worth $25.

 

> 1958 – Ryne Duren, Yankees , 20 Saves – Sort of a cross between Ricky Vaughn and Nuke Laloosh, this hard-thrower wore eyeglasses that looked like Coke bottles and always threw his first warm-up pitch all the way to the back-stop. He finished 2nd in the Rookie of the Year race and had 87 K’s in 75 IP. His 1958 Topps card (#296) can be found for about $20.

 

> 1959 – Turk Lown, White Sox, 15 Saves – Actually, a three-way tie with NL leaders Lindy McDaniel & Don McMahon, we’ll stick with Omar Joseph Lown. He led the NL in games finished for ’56 & ’57 with the Cubs and then went cross-town to the Pale Hose. He added 9 Wins in this stellar season for a 35 year-old. His 1952 Topps rookie card is also from the scarce series (#330) and books for $375.

 

> 1960 – Lindy McDaniel, Cardinals, 26 Saves – He and his Brother Von both pitched for the Redbirds in the 1950’s. This outstanding season included a 12-4 record and a 3rd place finish in the Cy Young voting. Led the NL in Saves again in 1963. His rookie card is from 1957 Topps (#79) and books for $20.

 

> 1961 – Luis Arroyo, Yankees, 29 Saves – Not the prototypical closer at 5″ 8″, he had one of the greatest bullpen seasons ever for the pennant winning Bronx Bombers. Led the league with 65 appearances and 54 games finished while adding 15 Wins in 119 IP. Two years later, his career was over. The 1956 Topps set has his rookie card (#64) and it is valued at $25.

 

> 1962 – Roy Face, Pirates, 28 Saves – Another diminutive relief pitcher, this was the 3rd time Elroy led the NL in Saves. And that’s in addition to his 18-1 record in 1959. His rookie card from the 1953 Topps set (#246) will set you back $155.

 

> 1963 – Stu Miller, Orioles, 27 Saves – A consistently good closer for both the Giants & O’s in the 1960’s, his stats for this year included league-leading totals of 71 appearances and 59 games finished. His 1953 Topps card (#183) is worth $40.

 

> 1964 – Dick Radatz, Red Sox, 29 Saves – Considered by some as the first of the modern closers, he was intimidating at 6″ 6″ and his nickname was “The Monster”. Groomed as a closer, he finished 3rd in the ROY balloting in ’62 when he accumulated 24 Saves & 9 Wins. If you ever want a relief pitcher season for your historical Rotisserie roster, this is it…in addition to the Saves, 16 Wins and 181 K’s in 157 IP. Not surprisingly, after pitching 538 innings in his first four campaigns, he was “toast”. The 1962 Topps rookie card (#591) can be yours for about $60.

 

> 1965 – Ted Abernathy, Cubs, 31 Saves – A “sidearm” hurler since hurting his arm in High School, he had 84 appearances and 62 games finished for the Cubbies. His 1957 Topps card (#293) books for $30.

 

> 1966 – Jack Aker, Athletics, 32 Saves – Nicknamed “Chief”, he pitched for 11 seasons but never matched this particular performance. 57 games finished and a 1.99 ERA in 113 IP tells the tale. His 1966 Topps card (#287) is worth $10.

 

> 1967 – Ted Abernathy, Reds, 28 Saves – Another great season, this time in Cincinnati. Led the league again with 70 appearances and 61 games finished.

 

> 1968 – Phil Regan, Cubs, 25 Saves – Actually started the season with the Dodgers but had all the Saves for the Cubbies. Acquired “The Vulture” as his nickname in Los Angeles when he went 14-1 out of the bullpen in ’66 behind Koufax, Drysdale, Osteen & Sutton. His 1961 Topps card (#439) is valued at $10.

 

There you have it…the 20 leaders of the unofficial category before Ron Perranoski of the Twins topped the leader board in 1969. Hope you enjoyed the history lesson.

 

 

 

Johnny Pesky & Tommy Bahama

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When Red Sox legend Johnny Pesky died at age 92 in the Summer of 2012, it brought back a flood of memories and mental snapshots to the young boy who grew up in the shadow of Fenway Park. While Pesky’s baseball career will never be confused with that of my boyhood idol Ted Williams, his story is one that could only happen in baseball. To understand what the game was like in the 40’s & 50’s, you only need to read David Halberstam’s wonderful book “The Teammates” published in 2004. It chronicles the story of four ballplayers from different places with different backgrounds who became lifelong friends…Pesky, Williams, Dom DiMaggio and Bobby Doerr. While the context of the story is about a journey to make a final visit to see Ted, it weaves the history of the players and their relationship through the years into the chapters. Funny and poignant, it is a must-read for both the die-hard and casual baseball fan.

 

Ted Williams was a larger-than-life figure who deserves the admiration of every baseball fan…young and old. It is a shame that the misguided decision-making of his children after his death has caused even a slight tarnishing of his legacy. The greatest hitter who ever lived should never be a mentioned as a joke or throw-away line by people who can’t really be baseball fans. If you aren’t old enough to have seen him play, here’s a summary of stats to contemplate…

 

> 1939 – Hit .327 with 145 RBI’s in his rookie season

 

> 1940 – Hit .344 and made his first All-Star team

 

> 1941 – .406 BA, 37 HR, 147 RBI’s but finished 2nd in the MVP voting (to Joe DiMaggio)

 

> 1942 – .356, 36 HR, 137 RBI’s winning the Triple Crown, but finished 2nd in the MVP voting again (this time to Joe Gordon)

 

> 1946 – .342 BA and won the MVP

 

> 1947 – .343 BA, 32 HR, 114 RBI’s winning the Triple Crown once more, but finished 2nd to Joe D. in the MVP voting

 

> 1948 – .369 BA, 3rd in MVP

 

> 1949 – .343 BA, 43 HR’s 159 RBI’s winning his 2nd MVP

 

> 1950 – Injured during the All-Star Game, he had 28 HR’s & 97 RBI’s in only 89 games played

 

> 1951 – .318, 144 Walks (the 6th time he led the league in base-on-balls)

 

> 1954 – 117 games, his .345 BA would have led the league but because he was walked 136 times, he didn’t have enough AB’s to qualify (they eventually changed the rule)

 

> 1955 – 98 games, .356 BA

 

> 1956 – .345 BA

 

> 1957 – .388 BA at age 38, 2nd in the MVP balloting to Mickey Mantle

 

> 1958 – .326 BA, won his 6th batting title

 

> 1959 – Limited to 103 games due to injuries and only hit .254

 

> 1960 – 113 games, .316 BA & 29 HR’s including the one off Jack Fisher in his last at bat

> Career Batting Average of .344…7th all-time

 

> Career On-Base Percentage of .4817…1st all-time

 

> Career On-Base & Slugging (OPS) of 1.1155…2nd only to Babe Ruth

 

> 2021 Walks, 709 Strikeouts

 

> The last player to hit .400 (.406 in ’41)…if today’s Sacrifice Fly rule was in effect, it would have been .411

 

While all these numbers might be impressive, consider three other elements of Ted’s life….

 

1) He missed five years in the prime of his career to serve in the military during two wars…one writer commenting on the fact that John Wayne never served during World War II said, “John Wayne played John Wayne, Ted Williams was John Wayne”.

 

2) Without any fanfare or publicity, he helped start the “Jimmy Fund” in Boston to help children with cancer. Today, that organization is the Red Sox official charity and supports the Dana-Farber Clinic, where kid’s lives are saved everyday…I’m proud to be a member of their society made up of people who have the charity in their estate plan..

 

3) At his Hall of Fame induction speech in 1966, he said, “I’ve been a very lucky guy to have worn a baseball uniform, and I hope some day the names of Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson in some way can be added as a symbol of the great Negro players who are not here only because they weren’t given a chance.” Many feel that this powerful and unprecedented statement from the podium was the first step in opening the doors of Cooperstown to these players. Paige was the first Negro League star inducted in 1971.

 

Back in 2012, in honor of Fenway Park’s 100th anniversary celebration, the Tommy Bahama  clothing company came out with a beautiful commemorative shirt for the occasion. At a price tag of $250, it was slightly out of the range for this Senior Citizen. They did, however, offer a contest on their website asking fans to share their personal memories of the ballpark with the opportunity to win one of the shirts. Here’s my entry…

 

” As a boy growing up in New England, I remember clearly how baseball fans would talk about Ted Williams. However, I never really understood the legend of the man until I happened to be in Fenway Park on an August night in 1953. Even though I was only seven years old, I could feel the electricity in the stands as Ted made his first appearance since his return from serving as a Jet Fighter Pilot in Korea. My recollection is that he popped-out as a pinch-hitter but what is crystal clear is that the fans gave him a standing ovation both before and after the at bat. A hero to his fans, a hero to his country and still a hero to that little seven-year old boy”

 

No, a package didn’t arrive on my door-step from Tommy Bahama but that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for the rich history of the man, the ballpark and the game we love. I did share the entry with many baseball friends and my competitors in our national experts fantasy league (the XFL) got together and surprised me with a gift of the shirt that Fall at our annual draft. It was a treasured moment for this old baseball fan and I wear the shirt every November when we all gather in Phoenix. Here’s hoping the tradition will continue for years to come.

 

 

My Pal Vinny

vinny-si

As Joe Pesci might say, as a “Yute” growing up in a suburb of Boston, it was pre-determined that I would be a Red Sox fan. After all, my Uncle had seats behind the home-team dugout at Fenway Park and, along with my Dad, instilled in me the history of the team and the tradition of the franchise. Some of that tradition wasn’t always positive, like waiting until 1959 to roster a player of color, but my roots will be forever tied to the Green Monster and that 100-year-old ballpark.

 

The Braves left Boston for Milwaukee after the 1952 season, which was just on the cusp of my baseball fandom. I have no recollection of National League baseball from that era but occasionally, when we drove past Warren Spahn’s diner on Commonwealth Avenue, my Dad would recite some limerick that included the words “Sain & Rain”. By 1954, I had become a full-fledged baseball fan and started consuming all the information available in the print of newspapers, magazines and baseball cards. I also had the chance to see the likes of Ted Williams, Mickey Mantle, Al Rosen, Minnie Minoso and others in person.  However, with no telecasts of regular season games available, the images of players like Willie Mays, Stan Musial, Jackie Robinson and Ted Kluszewski were left to my imagination.

 

For all of us who occasionally dabble in the realm of sports journalism, we are always humbled to read the words of writers who achieve another level like Jim Murray or Joe Posnanski. In the recent 60th anniversary issue of Sports Illustrated, reading the eight-part essay by Steve Rushin on the evolution of sports over the last six decades was such an experience. His words reminded me of the impact that baseball can have on a young boy and how that interest can help define a life as it comes full circle. There are two seminal moments from 1954 that were of lasting significance to that young boy sitting in Fenway Park. The first was in August, when Sports Illustrated published its first issue with Eddie Mathews on the cover. The second happened toward the end of the year, when a company called Texas Instruments introduced a revolutionary product called the Regency TR-1. TR stood for transistor radio and it changed the sports world forever.

 

Sometime in the following year or two, my parents (who were of modest means) finally caved in to my constant whining and purchased one of these “new-fangled contraptions” and it immediately made me more knowledgeable and connected to baseball. Not only could I listen to Curt Gowdy do the play-by-play of Red Sox games (home & away), but this amazing little device actually functioned even better in the evening and picked up Dodger broadcasts from 200 miles away in Brooklyn. The beautiful voice on the other end of that pocket-sized radio belonged to Vincent Edward Scully and he taught me about the “Boys of Summer”…Robinson, Duke Snider, Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese, Don Newcombe and so many others. Not only that, but Red Sox and Dodger fans had something in common…we both hated the Yankees!

 

The mystique of those Brooklyn “Bums” ended when the team moved to Los Angeles in 1958 but in a weird bit of symmetry, the young boy from Boston followed them there in 1960. Ted Williams retired that same year and keeping up with the BoSox from 3,000 miles away wasn’t an easy task for a teenager, but becoming a National League fan was easy because the voice of Vin Scully was back on my radio and could now tell me about Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, Maury Wills, Wally Moon & Frank Howard. When Dodger Stadium opened in 1962, I had just barely managed to pass the test for a driver’s license and going to games at that beautiful ballpark was a passion of mine for the next 40+ years. During that entire time, Vin Scully was always there guiding all of us through the nuances of the game and making us smarter just by sharing his knowledge.

 

As the years have passed, my understanding of what Scully brings to the airwaves has increased exponentially. Just the inflection in his voice can impact the fan’s experience of the action on the field. If Vin says (in a soft-toned voice), “It’s a bouncer to third, bobbled by Santo and the runner is safe at first”, we know it is an error. If he uses a slightly louder tone and says, “Ripped to third, off the chest of Santo and the runner is safe at first”, we know it is a hit. Dodger fans listening on the radio could be official scorers of a game without actually seeing it. In addition, he brings an educated viewpoint to broadcasts including an occasional quote from Shakespeare. If you mentioned “The Bard” to most play-by-play announcers, they’d probably think the team signed Daniel to a minor-league deal.

 

Best of all is that Vin manages to retain his objectivity, style and grace. Since the addition of satellite radio in my car about a decade ago, the pedestal he is on has become even higher as I’ve listened to the home-town broadcasts of other major league teams. Can you even imagine Vin Scully screaming that an umpire’s call was “total BS”? Of course not because he says things like…

 

> “Andre Dawson has a bruised knee and is listed as day-to-day (pause). Aren’t we all?”

 

> “Bob Gibson pitches as though he’s double-parked.”

 

> “In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened.” (Gibson’s HR)

 

> “How good was Stan Musial? He was good enough to take your breath away.”

 

> “It’s a mere moment in a man’s life between the All-Star game and an old-timer’s game.”

 

> “It’s easier to pick off a fast runner than to pick off a lazy runner.”

 

> “Statistics are used much like a drunk uses a lamp post: for support, not illumination.”

 

> “The roar of the crowd has always been the sweetest music. It’s intoxicating.”

 

> “The passing of Ted Williams so close to a national holiday seems part of a divine plan, so we can always remember him not only as a great player but also a great patriot.”

 

> “There’s 29,000 people in the ballpark, and a million butterflies.”

 

> “Good is not good when better is expected.”

 

> “All my career, all I have ever really done, all I have accomplished, is to talk about the accomplishments of others. We can’t all be heroes. Somebody has to stand on the curb and applaud as the parade goes by.”

 

> “Let’s all take a deep breath as we go to the most dramatic ninth inning in the history of baseball. I’m going to sit back, light up and hope I don’t chew the cigarette to pieces.” (Larsen’s perfect game)

 

> “Two and two to Harvey Kuenn, one strike away. Sandy into his windup, here’s the pitch: swung on and missed, a perfect game.” (All you heard for the next 38 seconds was the crowd cheering)

 

 

In the movie “Field of Dreams”, James Earl Jones’ character says, “The one constant through all the years has been baseball.” That is true for that young boy from New England, but two other wonderful additions to my constant have been Sports Illustrated Magazine and the voice of Vin Scully. It’s only appropriate that as the final games of Vinny’s career are approaching, 2016 is the year when he was on the cover of SI.

 

Does Exit Velocity Matter?

Lamb Heritage

MLB is on the cutting edge of sports technology and it is making their teams rich. In 2000, they established MLB Advanced Media (BAM) and it has become a $3 Billion enterprise that supplies streaming video services to ESPN, HBO and the WWE.

 

For the fan, player and front-office executive, BAM has become the go-to provider for advanced analytics through “Statcast”. For the past two seasons, this operation has tracked every pitch, hit & catch in every major league game and gives us information we’ve never been privy to before. Much of the data is proprietary but even the basics you can find at mlb.com are fascinating as well as informational.

 

In a recent Sports Illustrated article, Albert Chen tells the story of D’Backs 3B Jake Lamb. Even at age 25, Lamb is an old-school type player and doesn’t pay much attention to stats. This past off-season, he worked on swing changes that he hoped would help improve on his 2015 numbers of 6 HR’s & 34 RBI’s in 350 AB’s. Early in 2016, he was struggling and wondering if what he’d done was really going to work. What Statcast told him was that his average “exit velocity” (how hard he hit the baseball) at that point in the season was higher than Miguel Cabrera, Bryce Harper and his teammate Paul Goldschmidt. In other words, the changes were working and he just needed to have patience. The result? Through August 27th, he has 25 HR’s & 79 RBI’s in 422 AB’s.

 

Does exit velocity matter? Let’s look at the top ten hitters in this category for 2015 and determine if their 2016 seasons have been successful…

 

1) Giancarlo Stanton – 98.5 mph

2) Miguel Sano – 94.8 mph

3) Miguel Cabrera – 94.5 mph

4) David Ortiz – 93.9

5) Jose Bautista – 93.6 mph

6) Nelson Cruz – 93.4 mph

7) Ryan Braun – 93.4 mph

8) Mark Trumbo – 93.4 mph

9) Randal Grichuk – 93.3 mph

10) Josh Donaldson – 93.3 mph

 

If you extend the list to include 93+ mph, Mike Trout, Yoenis Cespedes & Paul Goldschmidt join the group. Aside from injuries to Stanton & Bautista, the only players that have struggled slightly are Grichuk & Sano…and they still have 38 HR’s between them. The most telling information (especially for Fantasy players) was that many of the older players still had their skills intact and weren’t yet “over the hill” despite their age. And, maybe including this information in your scouting tool-box would have led you to Trumbo.

 

What about 2016? Again, through August 27th, the leaders are…

 

1) Nelson Cruz – 96 mph

2) Giancarlo Stanton – 95.4 mph

3) Yasmani Grandal – 94.8 mph

4) Mark Trumbo – 94.7 mph

5) Joc Pederson – 94.5 mph

6) Ryan Zimmerman – 94.5 mph

7) David Ortiz – 94.4 mph

8) Josh Donaldson – 94.3 mph

9) Miguel Sano – 94.1 mph

10) Chris Carter – 94.1 mph

 

Cespedes, Grichuk & Cabrera are once again over 93 mph. Statcast will also tell you which players had the highest average distance, the highest launch angle and average height. If you believe the monitor at your golf pro shop when you’re buying that new driver, you should believe these stats.

 

Just for the record, Stanton produced the hardest hit ball of the year on June 9th at 123.9 mph…it was a ground ball that turned into a double play!