We're now a few weeks into the season and I'm already a bit aggravated with a few of my leagues. Not because of who I drafted or who did/didn't get off of waivers... no. I'm aggravated because of something I have much less control over: the settings, rules and construct of my leagues. A few weeks ago on a number of forums, I posed a question searching for a site where my 'ideal leagues settings' might be available.
Now, I very much understand that 'ideal leagues settings' is my own opinion, however understanding my audience and the various types of fantasy baseball players in existence, I'm talking about ideal league settings for the diehard fantasy baseball player. What do I mean by diehard?
If you don't fit into this mold, the remainder of this article may not necessarily apply to you. Though, if you'd like to become this type of diehard (totally worth it), I suggest you give this article a chance.
Circling back to my take on 'ideal league settings', I feel there are some settings that are mandatory for a diehard fantasy baseball league.
Now, it doesn't seem that unfathomable that this specific set of settings would be tough to find in a league, but it simply doesn't exist. I've searched far and wide and I've only come across a few platforms that feature some of these settings, but not all. I've had to settle and play on sites where the best available settings are, however it's a compromise for sure. Here are the best sites I play on that feature some of the settings that I believe are ideal:
Yahoo Pro Leagues:
Yahoo offers fantasy baseball "Pro Leagues" which are pay to play leagues that return cash prizes. They have been around for a while but took a brief hiatus last year while yahoo was seemingly performing maintenance on its platform. They don't offer everything, but they are fairly close to a complete list.
Overall: Yahoo Pro Leagues are good but not great. I've played in them for a number of years now and won a few times, however it's tougher than it should be. If the rosters were deeper and people were forced to know a larger segment of the player pool, the more knowledgeable fantasy owner would have a greater advantage, as they should.
NFBC Online Championships:
The National Fantasy Baseball Championship (NFBC) is arguably the most competitive season long fantasy baseball league in existence. They offer a number of league formats, but I would consider all of them high-stakes with their lowest entry fee starting at $125, while its highest starts at an amazing $15,000. They also offer a number of various formats and just about any fantasy baseball diehard that is willing to make a reasonable investment can find a league here.
Overall: NFBC leagues right now are the best high stakes leagues out there. The best players play there and you really can't find better competition anywhere. All of "the bad" points above however are pretty big drawbacks for me. I can't even tell you how many times I've seen a pitcher on my bench put up a good outing, but I just couldn't have him in my lineup because of the weekly move lock. I’d say overall NFBC leagues are very good, but I’m still in search of something great.
Alternatives - Custom leagues:
While Yahoo and NFBC leagues are both good options, they don't meet all of my "must haves" to be a perfect platform. One other option is to create your own league. I'm the commissioner of a league that's been around for about 10 years and it meet's just about all of the requirements I mention at the beginning of this article. We have very little turnover and even less complaints. It's essentially a well-oiled machine.
Even with everything configured exactly how the league feels it should be, there are still a few drawbacks. Because it's a friendly "home" league, the entry fee is modest and winning the league doesn't pay a ton, nor are there real industry accolades. While it is fun, winning just doesn't feel the same as if someone was to win on a larger more competitive platform. I love my home league, but I’d love a similar large scale industry hosted league more.
Is there still hope?
I do believe there is hope. There is one platform out there that I believe can come to the plate, put something together and have overwhelming success. ESPN does a very good job with its fantasy leagues. They are easily customized and the user interface and mobile app are close to, if not best in class. They don't have a huge market in the pay-to-play world however. Previously they offerd not so good prize eligible leagues, but these were discontinued. If they were to put a solid effort into mirroring something similar to Yahoo Pro leagues with expanded rosters, a FAAB system and a few other tweaks, I believe they could lead the industry in prize eligible season long fantasy baseball. They already have a tremendous following and with a little bit of smart marketing, this could be huge. If a project like this could be proposed now and worked on for the start of next season, it could really succeed.
Maybe I'm wrong in assuming this is a type of league that most diehard fantasy baseball players would want; however this is an overwhelming consensus of feedback I've received through my site and social media outlets. Now I ask you: what set of rules would make your perfect league?
We're now one full week into the baseball season and panic has already set in for many. Some players have suffered really unfortunate injuries, however the majority of worry seems to be surrounding under-performing players... under-performing for one week mind you. As people are reaching out for guidance, I've seen some pretty crazy questions; here are just a few example's:
The list goes on, but you get the point. Let's take a step back for a moment and ask yourself: "whats different today compared to 1 week ago?" Unless you have Schwarber, Choo, or a few other players that have had tough injuries, the answer should be: nothing.
One week does not make a season and history will show that patience is a critical virtue in fantasy baseball. How many times have we all picked up someone off of waivers that you couldn't believe was dropped? Then that person turns things around, and you get to reap the rewards all year for someone else's hasty decision. Don't be the person that regrets the early season "panic move".
If this random one week sampling happened in the middle of June, no one would bat an eye. Obviously we all want our teams to succeed, but the season doesn't end after one week. If you want to make lineup moves, that's fine; but you shouldn't value your players differently than you were prior to the start of the season just because of one bad week. Let your team have a little more time to get things together and then make a proper evaluation. Now, if another owner is panicking and offering you a trade that is too good to pass up, by all means take it. Just don't be the guy that gives up everything for nothing.
If you are the unfortunate owner of Schwarber specifically, it will be a big hole to fill, but in most formats, there are likely undrafted serviceable catchers still on waivers. Cervelli and Hundley both have low ownership in most single catcher formats and are off to nice starts. They are full time catchers on good offensive teams, and while they aren't Schwarber, they could be reasonable replacements.
Please do yourself a favor: if you absolutely feel the need to make a major roster move because someone isn't performing to your expectations, take a look at your pre-season cheat sheets and remind yourself that just seven days ago you expected your superstars to carry your team to a championship. That can still happen if you give it time.
This article is essentially the follow up to my 10 bold predictions of 2016. In this article, I'm specifically looking at which MLB teams I project to win in 2016. While this doesn't necessarily have the 'fantasy' spin to it, it's just fun to do and an exercise I look forward to every year as a true baseball fan.
American League: Overall, I think the American league is very tough to predict this year. There is a ton of evenly spread out talent with very few elite / poor teams. I could probably make an argument for 10 of the 15 teams to make the playoffs, and out of those 10 a good 5 that have a shot to go to the World Series. That said, here are my 5 projected playoff teams:
AL East - Boston Red Sox: Some may call this a homer pick (I'm a big Sox fan), but there is logic behind this as well. Their off-season addressed a few issues and the Kimbrel and Price additions were big. The recent decisions to play Shaw and Holt over Sandoval and Castillo indicate that they value winning over justifying bad contracts. They are also usually aggressive at the trade deadline, and with talks already between them and the Padres to get Shields, I'm confident they would make a move for another SP (which they need) if they are in the race.
AL Central - Chicago White Sox: This is probably my biggest 'surprise’ pick, and this division was by far the toughest to choose. To me, they are the most well rounded team in the division. The Royals lost too much pitching, and while their bats are still strong, I don't see them repeating again. Similarly, I love the Tiger’s offence, but think their pitching isn't going to be able to keep them afloat. I love the Indians pitching, but their offense if terrible. The twins just stink. I see this everyone in division beating each other up and the winner being the team with the least wins of all 6 division winners.
AL West - Houston Astros: I like the Astros a lot this year. I expect them to pick up where they left off last year, but with more experience and hungry to win. Most of the pieces of last year's team are back with a nice addition of Ken Giles. If McCullers comes back and is healthy, I think they win this division easily.
AL Wild Cards: Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners: I think the Blue Jays could win the east bumping the Red Sox here, but I'm reasonable confident they will both make the playoffs. Seattle was another gamble for me, but I think this is the year a lot of things come together for them. Their pitching is 5 deep and Karns (Seattle's #5) could be a #3 of a number of other clubs. Their offense is solid as well and they remind me of the White Sox; well rounded.
National League: The national league was also tough but for very different reasons. In the NL, there are 6 - 7 really good teams and another 5 - 6 really bad teams. The tough part is figuring which of the good teams survive the regular season.
NL East - Washington Nationals: This was a tough pick, and I think the Mets could just as easily win. Both teams have a similar construct, with elite starters and a solid lineup. I'd rather have the Natonals Ace (Scherzer) and slugger (Harper) over anyone the Mets has, and that gives them the slight edge for me.
NL Central - Chicago Cubs: I think they are just the strongest team in the division. The front office has done a great job building their roster with big bats as well as stud pitching. They may end up being the only 100 win team in baseball this year.
NL West - San Francisco Giants: Every other year right? Seriously though, I love the additions they made to their pitching staff with Cueto and Shark. Madbum is still the team's ace and they have a perennial MVP candidate in Posey. Couple that with the young talent like Duffy and Panik who I expect to both play big roles this year, and it's recipe for success.
NL Wild Cards: New York Mets and St. Louis Cardinals: It was so tough to choose who to leave out. I think the Dodgers and Pirates could both end up with 86-90 wins and conceivably miss the playoffs. There are just so make terrible teams in the NL, all of the good teams will feast off of them. The I just feel the Mets and Cards are stronger and more well-rounded than their competition and sneak in.
World Series: Now that we have out 10 teams, who makes it??? More importantly, who wins it? To me, this was easier than selecting the 10 playoff teams. While there are a lot of good teams this year, I think two are a cut above the rest. I've played out a number of scenarios but I keep coming up with the same winners: Cubs over the Astros in 7
The Cubs and Astros respectively are really built to win. Neither has a glaring weakness (other than a curse) and with the taste of playoff failure fresh from 2015, should have even more motivation to win now.
Now that I've put the hex on all of these teams, the Twins and Rockies fans can thank me for all of their victories.
Last night, I completed my final draft before opening day; a home draft that I was less than thrilled about. It wasn't a terrible draft, but looking back there were a number of picks I really wish I made different selections with. Before this turns in a vent session, I'd like to look at all of my drafts as a whole and make some general observations:
Players I have across multiple leagues:
The more leagues a person plays in, the more likely it is they will have the same player multiple times. I've really tried to limit the amount of leagues I play in down to a reasonable number, and I've settled on four that I really want to focus on this year:
Now, across these leagues, I figured I would have some players multiple times. I knew there were some guys that I was higher on than most and they would inevitably end up on my teams. It's almost never intentional, I simply try to draft the most value in each league. I don't try to target or stay away from certain players, I simply draft the best values that fall to me. Looking at all 4 teams as a whole, it's interesting to see who I have the most, and who I don't.
Hisashi Iwakuma: Iwakuma is the only guy I have in all 4 leagues. To be honest, I was surprised when I saw that I had anyone in all 4 leagues. This wasn't intentional, and looking at my projections for him compared to his ADP, I wasn't all that far off. So for him to fall to me everywhere was a very unlikely and pleasant surprise. I had him projected at 128 overall while his ADP was closer to 140. Looking at my drafts I was able to get him at: 160, 157, 168, and 133. All are values compared to where I have him projected.
Now i'd like to take a look at some numbers on Iwakuma for a moment. He's entering his 5th season in the majors, and while he missed time last season, he's been fairly durable through his career. He's healthy coming into 2016 and while the 35 year old isn't exactly entering his prime, he has been absolutely effective his entire time in the majors.
He's very quietly posted a career ERA of only 3.17. This is in the American league and across a 4 year stretch mind you. Only two other AL pitchers have posted better ERA's in that same time frame (Sale and Felix). Arguably more impressive, his career WHIP is 1.08 from 2012 thru 2015. Sale is the only AL pitcher to be better during that time. While his career K/9 is modest compared to some elite pitchers, 7.59 is serviceable when you post absolute elite ERA and WHIP ratios.
Now, like I mentioned, he is 35 and he is coming off of injuries. I understand the risk for regression as well as potential playing time missed. All of that said, he's either my 4th or 5th starter in every league and should things break right, he has the potential to far exceed his draft day value.
Josh Reddick and Santiago Casilla: I have both Reddick and Casilla in 3 our of my 4 leagues respectively. I'm not shocked about Reddick at all. I've pretty much lead the Reddick fan club by myself this year and I wrote all about it here.
Casilla was a bit more unexpected. I wasn't high on him compared to others, however I am high on closers in general. I have him as my #3 closer in each league and I this had to do more with tier's than anything else. I have him at the bottom of my third tier, and while I don't project him to be elite, I do think he should be good and have a reasonable amount of job security. I have roughly 10 other closers ranked lower than him, and they all have many more question marks when it comes to skills and job security.
Players I have in two leagues: This is a long list, and in no particular order: Ben Zobrist, Clay Buchholz, David Price, David Robertson, Gerardo Parra, Jarrod Dyson, Jeff Samardzija, Jorge Soler, Kevin Pillar, Kris Bryant, Lorenzo Cain, Marco Estrada, Marcus Semien, Mark Melancon, Matt Duffy, Michael Wacha, Starling Marte, Zach Britton.
This is way too long of a list to go into specifics on each player; but I i do have some general observations. Most of these guys were players that I ranked much higher in my projections compared to ADP so it was natural that I ended up with multiple shares of them. Others were later round targets that either filled a particular category or position that I was missing. Whatever the reason, looking at this list, these are almost all guys I really like and am glad I have in multiple leagues.
Players I missed out on: Looking at my rankings there were some guys that I was really high on compared to others; and for the most part I have multiple shared of them. There were however some players that I have in one league (or none at all) that I wish i was able to get more of:
I'd say overall i'm happy with the teams I've drafted and landed a good amount of guys that I was targeting. The draft is only the beginning through. Now comes the in season roster management and while a good draft can set things up nicely, staying on top of your roster is equally if not more important.
Good Luck to everyone this season and feel free to ping me here or on Twitter with questions.