Friday, May 04, 2007

Fantasy Journal: Closer I Am to Fine*, by J-Christmas

“It went okay, but I had closer problems all year.”

This was a wise friend of mine’s assessment of his lone fantasy baseball season. I, a virgin fantasy player, had gone to him earlier this year seeking advice before the draft.

Instead of really taking his words to heart, though, I recklessly followed my own path. Now those words have come back to haunt me.

I’m having closer problems.

To my credit, I kind of tried to stack my bullpen during the draft. I did take a closer – albeit a 39-year-old with a bad right shoulder, Philadelphia’s Tom “Flash” Gordon. Then I drafted 2 stud middle relievers, Joel Zumaya (Tigers) and Cla Meredith (Padres). The only problem: those guys don’t get saves. The rest of my pitchers were starters.

Once I realized my mistake, I started scrambling through the free agent scrap heap looking for potential closers. I scoured the fantasy advice columns for the buzz on who might lose his job, and who might take it. I even asked my sportswriter roommate, Mark “Bronson Arroyo” Goodman, to send me text messages whenever he saw a potential closer hit the market.

That’s how I ended up with a ragtag group of sometimes-maybe-closers like Derrick Turnbow, Henry Owens, Ryan Franklin, Joakim Soria, and Mike Gonzalez. Guys who throw heat inconsistently and live on the edge. Guys I would probably never have heard of if not for this weird game called fantasy baseball.

Despite another piece of advice, though, I refused to trade for a closer. I guess I’m a conservative manager in that sense. I’ll dig through the trash, but I don’t make trades.

So despite my cheap-ass efforts, my team languished in last place in the saves category for all of April, and close to last place overall. I couldn’t stop thinking that saves were holding me back.

But little by little, as I accumulated temporary closers and Flash Gordon unsteadily accumulated 5 saves, I started to claw my way out of the save cellar. Today it finally happened: I took over 11th place in saves!

The euphoria didn’t last long. This morning I also noticed a little sticky note with a fiery burst next to Flash’s name on my roster. In Yahoo land, this means breaking news (no pun intended). The note read: “Gordon is returning to Philadelphia to get checked out after feeling pain in his right shoulder.”

Goddamnit! Unsteady as he is, Flash owns 50% of my team’s 10 saves. I can already feel my #11 ranking in saves slipping away like a greased-up Easter egg.
I shouldn’t feel too sorry for myself, though. It’s been a rough start to the season for closers. Brad Lidge had another meltdown (the “sign Dan Wheeler!!!” text got to me too late). Eric Gagne had another physical breakdown. Bob Wickman soon joined Gagne, B.J. Ryan, Octavio Dotel and Jorge Julio on the disabled list. Even Mariano Rivera is suddenly throwing like a large steaming piece of dog poop.

Basically, the closer situation is a crapshoot. (Pardon all the fecal terms.) I’m tempted to just give up on it, accept that I’ll be last in saves, and focus on the other stats. After all, I’m now in 8th place overall, ahead of my mortal enemy Team Zambia, which is all I really care about.

But I’m obviously fated to obsess over closers all year. So I’ll keep tossing and turning at night, checking the waiver wire in the morning, and throwing shit at the bullpen to see what sticks.

*The title for this piece was going to be “Closer I Am to Find,” which I thought was a witty pun referencing both the Indigo Girls song from middle school and that nonexistent superstar closer I’m searching for. But halfway through this thing, I realized the words to the song are actually “Closer I am to Fine,” which makes a lot less sense, unless I’m going to fine Tom Gordon for having a mashed potato shoulder. Whatever.

-That explanation made no sense to me either. – Ed.

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Miami’s Draft Struggles Didn’t End with Quinn, by Adam Zwecker

The Dolphins’ draft choices this year were enough to make fans miss the Wannsteadt-Spielman Era. Granted, Ted Ginn could turn out to be valuable as someone who can return kicks while learning how to play football, a-la-Devin Hester. But what doesn’t make sense is, if the Dolphins were set on taking Ginn over Brady Quinn or some can't-miss prospect like Patrick Willis (a better, faster Zach Thomas) or Darrelle Revis/Leon Hall or even Joe Staley, why didn’t they trade down to select Ginn a few spots later, and accumulate some draft picks? Of course, with the way they draft and Miami’s tendency to give away draft picks for injured quarterbacks nearing retirement, I suppose it wouldn't have done much good to trade down anyway.

All in all, the Dolphins could have had (1) Brady Quin (possibly the best QB in the draft), (2A) Ryan Kalil (best center in the draft), (2B) Charles Johnson (one of the top three or four DEs in the draft), and (3) Tank Tyler (the third-best DT in the draft) or Ray McDonald (a DE/DT tweener perfect for a 3-4 front) – all on the first day.

Watching the draft unfold, I thought there was a strong possibility Miami would take a QB like John Beck or Trent Edwards (who went in Round 3) with their second round pick in Round 2 and then select center Samson Satele in the third where he was better value. I guess after the heartbreak of seeing Ryan Kalil go one pick before to Carolina, Miami freaked out and reached a little for Samson. Kalil, for his part, will be an All-Pro anchor of Carolina’s line and an above-average player as a rookie a-la-Nick Mangold. That is pretty hard to find these days in a center. Satele is more of a project. He is tough as nails and will at the very least be a good guard/center backup, but he has a strange frame with short arms and played in June Jones’s Tecmo Bowl-style fun-and-gun offense in Hawaii where he never had to run-block or make calls at the line. Hence, he will take some time adjusting to the NFL and might not be a starter this year were it not for the Dolphins’ pitiful O-line situation, as the team has just 3 starters on the roster.

As for the late rounds, I also liked the center from Central Michigan, Drew Mormino, they plucked in the sixth, but I couldn't believe they grabbed him and that no-name 270-lb fullback from Hawaii in the 6th when they could have taken Brandon Siler (the star MLB from the Gators’ defense) and Ben Patrick (the third best TE in the draft – Randy McMichael minus the attitude). They both ended up going in the 7th and I thought all of Miami’s last 5 picks in the 6th and 7th rounds were likely going to be undrafted free agents, particularly FB Reagan Mauia and the punter Brandon Fields.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Explaining Mark Prior

A great photo essay breaking down Mark Prior's delivery.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

The Wax and Wane of Red Sox Pitching, by Sara Hatch

It’s an interesting time for the Red Sox rotation. There is a newness and an oldness to it, exemplified in forms by Daisuke Matsuzaka and Curt Schilling.

Matsuzaka is the hope for the Red Sox. Japanese players are becoming a more common feature in American baseball, akin almost to the American presence in European football. Matsuzaka and his improbable salary had a rough night in his first home game this past week but he’s got a bright future ahead of him. His command of pitches is good and he’s got a range of them. Also, he is used to pitching far longer games in Japan which will mean he’ll be much more durable than many of the other pitchers on the team.

Pitchers are treated with such a revered sense of coddling these days. They can’t have over 100 pitch counts; they can only pitch every five games. But Matsuzaka will be good for the franchise and his newness will have an effect for at least the first half of the season. His loss at home this week wasn’t even all that bad of a game. Sometimes you pitch a good game and the other pitcher is just better. I see good things in his future, especially as he adjusts to the Majors and becomes more comfortable with his surroundings.

On the other end of the spectrum is Curt Schilling who is facing the pull of age. Schilling was such a good pitcher in his time that even now at 40 he can pitch his way out of almost any situation. His fastball has lost its bite but he hasn’t lost his pitcher’s brain. But this year may be his last and it will be a sad thing to see him go. The past few years have been years of brilliance and excess for the Red Sox and Schilling will forever go down in Red Sox history for his World Series performance.

But with time comes change and the masterful command Schilling has on his pitches will become harder to maintain. Going six innings will be a blessing and the great games will come farther and fewer between. Even with all that though, he’s still one of the keys to this year’s rotation.

This year, more than anything, this team will live and die by the strength of its pitchers. When will Matsuzaka settle and when will Schilling break?

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

Devin Hester's Perfect 100

The first 100 skill rating in the history of Madden football goes to Devin Hester...

but is he faster than Deion Sanders, Charles Woodson, and Randy Moss?

Also worth checking out: Hester vs. Ted Ginn vs. Reggie Bush.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Baseball Blogosphere Highlights

Is K-Rod doctoring the ball? Have a look for yourself.

Following this week's Marlins-Nationals series made me wonder: who are these no-name Nats pitchers anyway? Well, today's my lucky day.


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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Blogosphere Highlights

Interview about Cheating in baseball

Interesting piece on the disappearance of the activist-athlete.

UF vs OSU highlights

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