Fantasy baseball strategy

In my last blog, I shifted gears from reality sports to fantasy sports. The sport to be discussed is baseball, where managers roster and manage MLB players online. Scores are determined based on baseball statistics.

Last year, I had one fantasy team and won my league. So, I decided to raise the bar for myself in 2019. I currently have three fantasy teams competing in three different leagues, in St. Louis, Miami and Oakland.

I also play daily fantasy baseball, but today I’m going to discuss season-long fantasy. In ESPN leagues, there are 25 roster spots to fill. You have 13 position players, nine pitchers and three players on the bench.

When I drafted my first team back in January, I was able to roster many of my favorite position players, including Mike Trout. However, my pitchers were not as strong as I would have liked – especially relievers.

On my second team, I felt like I had a better draft. Not only did I get some solid position players, but I also landed top closers Kenley Jansen and Brad Hand. It’s a well-rounded team, and it’s performing the best of the three.

When I drafted my third team, I did something different. A weakness of my team last year, and the other two 2019 teams, is lack of top base thieves. I prefer power hitters, and base stealers are generally not power hitters.

My third team is first in stolen bases, with Mallex Smith (tied for second in the league), Whit Merrifield and Lorenzo Cain (tied for fourth) leading the way. This team is  second in runs scored, but seventh in home runs and RBI.

Summing it up, you can’t have everything. When you draft a team, you have a plan to build a certain kind of team. But you won’t get all the players you want. Fortunately, you have a long season and a fluid waiver wire to work.

NEXT: Solving the pitching conundrum.


From reality to fantasy

The baseball season is just getting started, and the reality is that we don’t know anything about where the 30 MLB teams will wind up. Four of the six teams leading their respective divisions today didn’t make the playoffs last year.

The fantasy season is also just getting started. Fantasy baseball is a game within the game. Players manage rosters of MLB players online, using fictional team names. Scores are determined based on baseball statistics.

In fantasy baseball, there are season-long leagues, keeper leagues and dynasty leagues. The most popular format is season-long leagues, where managers draft their teams at the beginning of the year and then manage them.

I have three fantasy teams right now. There are 25 players on each team, and there are no duplications on any of my teams. Just like in investing, the more diversified you are, the better off you fare. That’s my opinion.

There is another form of fantasy baseball which is also popular. Its daily fantasy baseball. I like both season-long fantasy baseball and daily fantasy baseball (DFS). But you need to know they are very different.

In the season-long version, you spend time pouring over player stats in preparation for the draft. When draft day arrives, you meticulously filled your roster with hitters and pitchers. When a player gets hurt, you are stuck.

That’s why more people are playing daily fantasy baseball. In fact, it has become one of the hottest trends in fantasy sports, largely because it’s fast, easy and gives you a chance to start over every day with a new team.

NEXT: Strategies for both fantasy games.

Free agency mania is over

On the night before Opening Day in Major League Baseball, free agency may not be dead but the mania is over and the game is better off for it. Superstars like Mike Trout are staying put, which means their teams remain competitive.

In the past few weeks,  many players have jumped on the extension bandwagon, signing long-term yet below-market contracts. The big free-agent payday, which seemed like a foregone conclusion a few years, ago is now a crap shoot.

Trout, the biggest of the big fish, acknowledged that Bryce Harper and Manny Machado’s long, agonizing waits on free agency deals influenced his decision to sign 12-year extension worth more than $430 million with the Angels.

Bottom line is that baseball’s best player (perhaps ever) felt uncertain enough about free agency to take a big bird in the hand instead of looking for a bigger one in the bush. It’s a scary world for free agents. Ask Craig Kimbrel and Dallas Keuchel.

The latest superstar to sign an extension was Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom, who signed a five-year deal worth $137.5 million with the New York Mets. This was great news for Mets fans who are hoping their team will be a contender. 

Other superstars that have signed extensions in 2019 include Nolan Arenado with the Rockies (7 years, $260 million), Chris Sale with the Red Sox (5 years, $145 million) and Paul Goldschmidt with the Cardinals (5 years, $145 million).

Don’t feel sorry for these guys. They are all well paid, but they are now more motivated to stay with the teams that developed them. This keeps major league baseball competitive and it will keep more fans coming to the parks.


Trout is a class act

I wasn’t awake at 4:30 a.m. CDT to watch the 2019 Major League Baseball season open this morning in Tokyo. But I was awake hours earlier when it was announced that baseball’s best player will get the biggest contract ever.

The Los Angeles Angels went Trout fishing and landed a whooper. Trout will get paid $430 million over 12 years, easily shattering Bryce Harper’s 13-year, $330 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Trout deal dashed the hopes of Harper and the Phillies, who had been fishing for Trout for two weeks. The city of Philadelphia had been dreaming of baseball dominance with those two stars in the lineup.

There’s no denying Harper is good, but Trout is better. Much better. He’s a seven-time All-Star, who won the American League MVP award in 2014 and 2016. He also  finished second in the 2012, 2013, 2015, and 2018

It’s no surprise that Trout led the AL in wins above replacement in each of his first five full seasons. He also led the AL in runs scored (2012-14, 2016) and times on base (2013, 2015-16, 2018) four times.

As of 2018, Trout led all active major league ballplayers in career slugging percentage (.573), on base plus slugging (.990), and stolen base percentage (84.75%), and was second in career on base percentage (.416).

It came as a surprise to many that Trout quickly signed the extension with the Angels. But not to those who knew him well. Unlike Harper, Trout doesn’t crave the limelight and wanted to end the drama early.

Although relatively quiet for a superstar of his stature, Trout proved loyal to the team that drafted him 10 years ago and was fully invested in the organization. He appreciated what Angels owner Arte Moreno had done for him.

Mike Trout is a class act. Those who know him best often praise him for his humility and charitable endeavors. I could fill up many blog pages describing these, but suffice it to say that baseball and the world needs more Mike Trouts.




Excitement is in the air

It’s been six weeks since the Super Bowl, and the sports world has been dull. Let me bring you up to date on what’s happened. The Patriots won the Super Bowl. Spring training started. Bryce Harper got a $330 million contract.

That’s about it. Like I said, it’s been pretty dull until now. This week, we have the start of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Major League Baseball opens its regular season in Japan. Seattle and Oakland in Tokyo. Strange but true.

I filled out my bracket today for the Division I men’s basketball tournament. The 68-team single-elimination tournament holds 67 games over 19 days, a jam-packed end to the season that aptly earned the nickname March Madness.

Before you ask me who I picked, let me tell you that I have never won my league, and I’ve been picking brackets since I was in college back in the 1970’s. The reason is that I don’t follow college basketball closely enough to be any good.

Now, I’ll tell you that I picked Duke to win it all. Big deal. I’m sure other contestants in the South Texas Bracketeers league also picked Duke. What will determine the winner is who else we picked in the earlier rounds. We’ll see what happens.

I’m more interested in major league baseball. I’ve already drafted three fantasy baseball teams. I have a team in the Miami Roto League, St. Louis Roto League and Oakland Roto League. Seventy-five players and do duplications.

It’s March 18th, and spring is in the air. Love is in the air. Baseballs are in the air. Pollen is in the air. Fifty-five years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down the Miranda decision concerning legal council for defendants.

“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be provided for you.” I will not remain silent.




NBA losing the war

This morning I had two headline alerts on my phone. First, came the story about Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans demanding a trade. The second was that the Golden State Warriors are unstoppable.

These two headlines are connected in my mind, and it is the reason why the NBA is losing the war because marquee players have taken control. But before I discuss this, let me digress with a military analogy.

The United States of America has the most powerful military on earth. Let’s call them Golden State. Pakistan is ranked No. 13. Let’s call them San Antonio. Pakistan wants to be No. 1 but there’s a problem – money.

The annual military budget for the U.S. is $587 billion, while Pakistan has $7 billion. Pakistan has the same chance to beat the U.S. on the battlefield as the Spurs have beating the Warriors, with $25 million less to spend.

But what if Pakistan’s best military leaders decided to defect to the U.S. because they wanted to be on the winning team? It makes the impossible even more impossible, and so is the problem facing the NBA today.

In my analogy, people like Anthony Davis and Kawhi Leonard are the top military leaders on the NBA battlefield. And they’re defecting. It started with Kevin Durant a few years ago and continued with Demarcus Cousins.

Granted, not all of the NBA’s best are putting on the blue and gold in the Bay Area. Leonard will be headed to Los Angeles to play for the Lakers next year. And Davis is probably going to join him and Lebron James.

Back to my analogy. It’s like the best military leaders from around the world are now defecting to China, who is currently ranked No. 3 in military might and really has a realistic chance of catching up with the U.S.

If the Warriors and Lakers wind up with all of the best players, it’s likely that they will play each other in the NBA Western Conference championship game every year. But the NBA finals will be a joke, and few will care.

The NBA needs to change the rules yesterday to take the power back from the players and give it to the owners and their teams. How? A hard salary cap. The majority of leagues (NFL, NHL, MLS) have hard caps.

The NBA has a soft salary cap. Hard salary caps forbid teams from going above the salary cap. Soft salary caps allow them to go over by paying a luxury tax. A hard salary cap will ultimately fix the problem and save the league.


The fall of Carmelo Anthony

I can only shake my head in awe as I watch Carmelo Anthony suffer one of the most amazing falls from grace in NBA history. Anthony was traded from the Houston Rockets to the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday.

When Anthony joined the Rockets last summer, he was going to be playing for a team that would be a contender for an NBA title. Now, he joins a team that is 11-36 and has no chance of playing in the postseason.

Adding insult to injury, the Bulls made it clear that they don’t expect to see Anthony play in a Bulls uniform and will trade him before the February 7th trade deadline. If they can’t trade him, the Bulls plan to waive him.

How could it be that no one wants this 10-time All-Star? Keep in mind that this is a player who has averaged 24 points per game through 15 1/2 seasons. Are you telling me that me that no one can use that kind of talent?

Apparently not. Hours after the trade was finalized, Rockets superstar James Harden said he hopes his former teammate will catch on with another NBA team. Harden described Anthony as a great player who loves the game.

But the game clearly does not love him. Things have changed since Anthony came into the NBA as a 19-year-old,  fresh off a national championship with Syracuse University. He was the MVP in the championship game against Kansas.

Anthony could always score a lot of points, but his value began to diminish as it became clear that he couldn’t play defense and never seemed to make his team better with his presence on the court. Anthony never evolved as a player.

Melo may get a chance to play in the NBA again, but it will be in a supporting role for a losing team that is desperate for scoring. You won’t see him on a championship team, and he will never be an NBA champion. How sad is that?