Monday, March 21, 2011

My Draft 2011

Saturday was our fantasy baseball draft and it was a good time. My goal going in was to add depth and to stay fluid in my approach. I only had to fill eight roster spots but had a meager 42 dollars to do it. The strategy was to throw out players I knew others would want and hope to pick up some bargains. Unfortunately there were several owners that gutted their teams to start for scratch and due to their deep pockets bargains were non existent in the early hours.

My initial intent was to pick up four position players to add depth to my infield and the last four spots would be prospects. I had a short list of six players that in December I deemed hard targets based on their positions. By draft day two had changed positions due to trades and  position battles. That list included James Loney, Juan Miranda, Mike Morse, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jhonny Peralta, and Tsuyoshi Nishioka. I ended up throwing out all six and did land three of them.

Pre-draft our commish had speculated that shortstop and a couple other positions would entice some bidding wars due to the funds available and the limited pool available. A bidding war with my limited funds was not plausible so I tried not to throw out my targets until later in the draft. I had seen Kevin Youkilis go for $25 and I didn't want to go above $15 for him. Then I resisted temptation as Mark Reynolds went for $15 after I dropped him from my roster off season at $25. It was past the two hour mark when I made a serious run at a player when I pulled up to allow Marco Scutaro go for $12. A couple publications listed Scutaro as a one dollar player just like the player I was about to chase down the rabbit hole.

The name Ryan Theriot was thrown out and since he is slated to start at short for St Louis I decided to jump on board. The only shortstop I officially carried over from the previous year is Ian Desmond so I really needed some depth to ward off injury or a sophomore slump. I have Omar Infante who just missed the eligibility cut by one playing 19 games at short last year. Hopefully infante can hit 10 sooner than later this season. Theriot was my first pickup of the day at $10. He's capable of hitting for average but has little pop to his bat. Not a burner but has managed 20 plus steals each of the last four seasons. With the potent St Louis line up he may get a chance to score a career best in runs if he surpasses the 85 he had in 2008. His eligibilty at second could be a bonus but I'm already stacked at the position with Gordon Beckham, Neil Walker, Eric Young, and Infante.

I threw out Loney but he found another home at $9. Then I threw out Nishioki but since he is slated to start at second instead of short I didn't pursue him as he went for an inflated $11. Then I threw out Peralta and managed to snag him at $8. He adds needed depth to both third and short. Peralta didn't live up to expectations in Cleveland but the move to Detroit is expected to boost his numbers which were up after the trade last season. He's capable of hitting 25 home runs and hopefully this season will see that.

Next I threw our Morse and landed him at $5. In the off season he was slated as the replacement for Adam Dunn at first base when they traded him. Then the Nationals traded for Adam LaRoche intent on making him the starter at first. Morse was without a position but his hot bat this spring has helped him get the starting gig in left field.  This spring Morse leads the team with five home runs and a .340 average in 15 games. That is building on his breakout 2010 season where he started to play to his size and found his power stroke with five home runs in September. For some reason he also carries his shortstop eligibility with him this season also. That might be an oversight from his Seattle days but if it remains that will be a nice bonus.

Some prospects started getting thrown out about mid day. One that was near the top of that list was Michael Pineda but he went out of reach at $9. So when Jameson Taillon soon followed I pounced and was victorious at $5. He will sit on my farm team a couple of years but appears to have a bright future. The expectations rival those of fellow Texas Homer Bailey and hopefully Taillon can hit his stride sooner. Taillon appeared on the scene as the number two pick last season behind Bryce Harper. Harper and Taillon had been teammates on the 2009 18 and under nationals team where Taillon posted a 2-0 record with 28 strikeouts and 3 walks over  13.2 innings. That definitely caught my eye.

I tossed up Jake Fox to no interest and got him for one dollar. I had him on my roster a couple years ago when he was called up but cut him before last years draft and then followed his progress all season. Fox is a versatile utility-man that can play catcher, first, third and outfield and once he hits ten games at each position the depth will be a bonus. Currently he is only eligible at utility due to time at DH last season but he's swung a hot bat this spring with seven home runs so he may find a home there.

Next I picked up Juan Miranda for another dollar. I have followed him for a few years and briefly had him on my roster when he was called up by the Yankees to fill in for an injured Teixeira in 2008. Miranda is not as talented as fellow Cuban Kendrys Morales but should be a solid player given regular playing time. He is vying for the starting job at first with the Diamondbacks and it would be good to have a backup at that position. My starter is Joey Votto but some depth behind him would give some peace of mind.

While I had originally planned to finish out with some highly rated prospects I decided to make a reach and threw out Ivan Nova who has a good shot to make the Yankees starting rotation. He did well at Triple A last season with a 12-3 record which merited a late season call up good for seven starts of experience. With the offensive juggernaut of the Yankees behind him Nova might be a good option to pile up wins.

For my final roster spot I went after the player I stated in a previous post I believe is the best in the upcoming MLB draft: Derek "Bubba" Starling. Three college players had already gone that day but I had to one up them with a player still in high school. Starling has the talent and I believe he will choose going pro rather than  entering college.

It was a fun day as all our drafts have been. The regular season is fast approaching and the true fun will begin.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Two Strikes on Blue

There is a problem in baseball that affects more games than a truckload of performance enhancing drugs.The culprits are the minions dressed in blue called umpires. A time for change is long overdue.

The human element while lauded by many has proven to be too flawed. Even the best umpires are handicapped from the start due to their positioning behind the plate. Set up camp on the batters side and the umpire has trouble judging the outside pitches. Do the opposite and be behind the catchers other shoulder and the inside pitch becomes a problem. Try to split the difference and set up in the middle then the low pitches become difficult to judge. This is all assuming the umpire uses the regulation strike zone which few seem to do.

The strike zone is set by the rule book but few umpires adhere to it. Now the truth has come out that umpires adjust the strike zone depending on the pitcher or batter. A veteran pitcher will be given a more liberal strike zone than a rookie while a veteran batter will get calls that a newer player will not. That does not allow for an even playing field and the umpires are making a conscious effort the affect the outcomes of games. 

The scenarios are played out in almost every game of the year. A young pitcher will make what should be deemed a good pitch in the strike zone and the umpire declares it is a ball. The pitcher has to adjust to the "umpire's strike zone" and has to put the ball in a more batter friendly window. Results vary but the worst case scenario for the pitcher is he puts the ball in a sweet spot for the batter who hits a homerun with multiple base runners. This is played out over and over to various degrees multiple times a game every game of the season.

Now some of the umpires are taking this a step further by punishing batters or pitchers that question their corrupt strike zones. A batter may watch a ball go by that is clearly inside only to hear the umpire call it a strike. Even if he doesn't verbalize it the batter may shake his head which is enough to offend the umpire and he ejects the batter for the perceived slight. This also affects the course of the game by removing a player and not allowing him to help his team win. A possible home run lost or spectacular diving catch that is never to be due to the actions of the umpire.

The solution is to take the flawed human element out of that part of the game. The technology already exists with almost every television broadcast showing graphics of the actual pitch placement. That would be a good start. Some day it could be taken further if sensors are placed in the balls and homeplate to assist in determining the location of the pitches. It would be a quick fix and would be so much more accurate.

It may not happen in my lifetime but I can dream....