Friday, June 29, 2012

Fantasy Funkhouser: Like Constantinople or Rome Before it...Your Fantasy Team is Beyond Saving and Must be Allowed to Die

The League of Shadows had the right idea in Batman Begins. To start anew, you have to burn this mother down.


With the All-Star game approaching, the unofficial midway point of the major league season is here. In the fantasy world, it means it's time to take a long hard look at your squad. Players should be slowly coming out of any early season slumps, or if you're unlucky, staying in them. Teams are feeling good or bad about themselves and there's a better understanding about what certain owners need and what certain owners are looking for.


In real life, GM's have to decide if they are going to be buyers or sellers for the rest of the year, but the magic of fantasy baseball is that even if you're in last place, if you've been an active owner...there's still a chance. You can't be timid though. In a standard redraft league there are no favorite players or thinking about the future. It's what can you do for me know, maximizing value, and catching the right player at the right time.


So, if you're in the bottom half of your fantasy standings, let's take a look at some moves you can make to ignite a second half run at a playoff spot. Because we all know, you just have to make it to the playoffs. Anything can happen after that.

Note: There are obviously a million different scenarios for a million different teams, so I'm looking to provide some more generalities for most public, redraft, H2H leagues.

TRADES


Duh.

The most obvious answer is usually the right one. But at this point, the mentality of trading has to go out of the window. If you're finding yourself among a number of vintage wines (in the cellar) then it's clear you've had some bad luck, drafted players that aren't panning out, or just missed completely.

Earlier in the year, the objective of the trade is to get one over on another guy. Propose a deal that seems fair, but in reality you like much more for yourself. Now, it's not about winning or losing it's about reconstructing your team. Depth is needed, not names.

Odds are you must surely have at least a couple of marquee players on your team. Whether it's a Robinson Cano, Andrew McCutchen, or even David Ortiz there has to be someone that is producing and doing a great job. If you drafted Adrian Gonzalez, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Roy Halladay with your first three picks...sorry. You must take these top flight players and get as much for them as possible. One man cannot win you a championship, but trading Cano for Ben Zobrist, Alex Rios, Paul GoldschmidtMatt Harrison? That's reinforcements. Obviously you'd have to add a couple of more players on the Cano end, but Cano is the other guy's target.


This isn't a trade you would ever consider at the start of the year, but now, it's about returns. Let's look at the stats projected for the rest of the year:

Player AVG R HR RBI SB Column1 W K SV ERA  WHIP
Give:
Robinson Cano 0.320 53 10 72 2 0 0 0 0 0
Total 0.320 53 10 72 2 0 0 0 0 0
Get:
Ben Zobrist 0.265 45 7 50 10 0 0 0 0 0
Alex Rios 0.272 45 11 40 16 0 0 0 0 0
Paul Goldschmidt 0.268 38 13 47 6 0 0 0 0 0
Matt Harrison 0.000 0 0 0 0 6 116 0 3.98 1.32
Total 128 31 137 32 6 116 0 3.98 1.32
Difference 0.268 75 21 65 30 6 116 0 3.98 1.32


These are rough estimates based on remaining games and career averages. Again, the garbage players you throw in will skew the Difference down a bit, but it shouldn't affect things that much. Certainly you can't expect Cano to outperform 3 other major leaguers worthy of ownership in a fantasy league, but look at the outcome. Aside form a loss in average, you'd pick up a solid starter in Harrison along with over 20 homeruns and 30 steals. That's production you won't find on the waiver wire. And while it's not as fun to root for Alex Rios as it is for Bob Cano, if you intend to contend, you have to do this.

The key is realizing that an owner that's feeling pretty good about his team right now, probably has good depth. They'd love to add a flashy toy like Cano in order to bolster their team, and giving up some fringe players like those listed is NBD.

Seriously, think about the kind of mentality a guy has to be in 1st or 2nd and continually rip on a league full of complete strangers. This person certainly isn't making up for anything in his personal life under the guise of fake sports and taunting a room full of people that will never, ever know who he really is. No way.We've all dealt with this kind of person,and the kind of thrills he must get from acting like an eternal bad ass while subsequently living in a world where he is anything but, must be supremely fascinating for shrinks. Even I'm getting a kick out of it.

There are tweaks and modifications you can make in this example of a trade to push for the playoffs. Look at what your team needs. Is it in all 5 catgories? Do you have too much of something?

Trade Cano? You may have no other choice. (AP)
Mainly the types of players I'd look to trade for are high upside guys. Players that either had slow starts (Justin Upton, Gonzalez, Shane Victorino, Jose Reyes) that might be frustrating their owners or post-hyped prospects that have a high ceiling (Goldschmidt, Carlos Quentin, Carlos Santana, Pablo Sandoval) . While it'd be nice to put a package together to acquire R.A. Dickey, how much better can he really get? You'd pay full price for a guy that can't really perform better than he has. This takes a lot of resources that a bad team just doesn't have, and ultimately won't pay dividends.

The kinds of guys I'd like to off-load are going to be those big name guys. Anyone that is performing as they should and you can get a big package in return for. Also, I'd always, always, always move pitching for hitting. If you can get a solid group of offense you have to move forward with that. Pitchers can fluctuate greatly, and the standard league has more than enough available pitching that you can stream if need be or maybe get lucky with someone that really takes off in the second half. Riding hot streaks with hitters is much more difficult.

With closers I consider this especially true. You want to be sure to have a couple in your line-up so you don't punt the category, but closers are such a volatile position, you never know what could happen. If someone wants Kenley Jansen or Craig Kimbrel, do it. If you have a lot of depth, then definitely try to overload an owner with saves. Give them two closers for an OF. If he's struggling for saves, two guys with 12+ saves at this point are really enticing.

Closers are always going to be created out of nowhere. While things have calmed down since the beginning of the year, we're reaching the 2nd most tumultuous point of the year, the MLB trade deadline. Closers are always on the market to bolster a contending teams bullpen. Guys like Brett Myers, Rafael Betancourt, Jonathon Broxton or Huston Street have the potential to lose their jobs all together. In their wake, new closers will emerge.


DL SPOTS


If you have them, use them. As much as possible. There's no reason you should have an open DL spot if there is anyone that has ever been serviceable for a fantasy team that will play this year available on waivers. Carl Crawford, Ryan Howard, Emilio Bonifacio? Sign em up. There's no harm in adding these guys. Most of them are nearing a return by the end of July anyway. Holding onto these lottery tickets will provide you with great value if it works out, or if not, just cut them.

Don't forget about those DL'd players (caffeineandcardigans)

The DL spot is also a useful avenue for trades. If an owner is too loaded with DL'd players or in lieu of say Jacoby Ellsbury getting injured they happened to add Edwin Encarnacion well then, guess who doesn't need Ellsbury all that much. Trading active players that can be useful to that team will allow you to get these players on the cheap and store them for their eventual return. For example, I am dead last in one league, so I made a big play for Matt Kemp. I received some high ceiling guys back as well, but the guy had added Mike Trout as a replacement for Kemp, so he was more apt to move Kemp who was just taking up DL space. I wouldn't call this move risky, as what did I really have to lose? There was nowhere else to go but up, and if Kemp can return to his Kemp ways, then that's a huge piece towards getting better.

You have to utilize your DL spots anyway possible. Think of the pitchers alone that are on the DL that are probably available on waivers. Ted Lilly, Derek Holland, Brandon Morrow, Josh Beckett, Ryan DempsterDrew Storen, Andrew Bailey. Those are all potential contributors in mere weeks, and all it'll cost you is a roster move.

PROSPECTS


Odds are if your team is in the dumps, you weren't early to the Mike Trout party (or if you will, sell him, sell him now!). But the last untapped resource for fantasy owners this time of year is prospects. Those AAA studs that just tasted the majors a bit last year or perhaps not at all have been in the minors all season and are ready to make a difference. Remain vigilant on what you need and who will make an impact. This year has been particularly prospect heavy with Matt Moore, Trout, Bryce Harper, Jesus Montero and Eric Hosmer making early headlines in the fantasy realm. The catch with prospects, as you can tell, is that they can work out or not. Each new Anthony Rizzo could lead to untold success or crippling mediocrity. Beggars can't be choosers, so take a flier with anyone experts say will be a future star. It may not happen this year, but you never know. Look at the case of Trevor Bauer. He made a less than spectacular debut last night, but if he's available, grab hold for at least a couple of starts. This was a guy many people couldn't wait to arrive in the bigs. A 4 inning first start shouldn't deter you from looking for a big K output the rest of the way.

There are a couple of guys still working their way to the bigs this season. Add Danny Hultzen, Tyler Skaggs, Andrew Cashner, and Wil Myers to your watch list. Hitters tend to have a bigger impact than pitchers, but they can be harder to come by. A young pitchers best asset is being unknown to big league hitters.

All of these moves come from an aggressive stance. Patience is for the first half of the year. The second half is for making moves. It's quite possible you could go down in flames, but it's better to go out swinging than bemoaning why Ryan Zimmerman couldn't turn it around, or getting happy thoughts every time Carlos Gonzalez has a multi-homerun game for a team that's losing 4 of 5 categories.



The Funkman says: "I don't want to trade Stanton. If I have to, I'll leave his OF slot open in memoriam."






Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Looking for a Fight: UFC Weekend

This was not how Dana White imagined this weekend would go.

I dreamed a dream in time gone by,When hope was high and life, worth living.I dreamed that love would never die,I dreamed that God would be forgiving. 
Then I was young and unafraid,And dreams were made and used and wasted.There was no ransom to be paid,No song unsung, no wine, untasted. 
But the tigers come at night,With their voices soft as thunder,As they tear your hope apart,And they turn your dream to shame.
source: http://www.lyricsondemand.com/
Les Miserables is a 19th century French novel by Victor Hugo. Set in early 1800s France the novel follows numerous characters struggles for redemption. More commonly known for its musical stage adaptation Les Miserables has also been developed for the silver screen, with the most recent version coming out this Summer and starring Anne Hathaway with a slew of other notable co-stars. While I don't expect Dana White to be singing down the mud soaked streets of historical Paris, he did have a lot of bad things happen to turn his dream to shame.

Months ago in the pre-planning stages of the upcoming UFC 147 event in Brazil, White dared to dream. He saw a football stadium filled with UFC fans, record breaking pay-per-views, a history making event the likes of which the UFC or perhaps sports have never seen all topped off by what could have been the most anticipated fight in UFC history for the middleweight title.

The UFC is never one to play their cards close to their chest when it comes to getting people excited. So having all of the intrigue of Anderson Silva v. Chael Sonnen II in Brazil was a possibility, the UFC did all it could to make it a reality.

However, that card as originally constituted is in shambles. The Silva Sonnen fight was a no go in June in Brazil due to the Rio +20 meeting swooping into Rio de Janeiro causing a strain on space and logistically made a fight of that size at that time an impossibility. Without the use of a soccer stadium to accommodate the record setting crowd, the fight was bumped to the UFC's typical mega card over July 4th weekend.

What remained was a card for the culmination of the first Ultimate Fighter season from Brazil. The top contestants fought, one presumably for that six-figure or approximately 205,462 BRL contract with the UFC. The coaches fight was Wanderlei Silva v. Vitor Belfort, which in Brazil would have been a barn burner, but a late hand injury to Belfort nixed that as well.


With limited options available, the UFC got their rematch to headline the card, but certainly not the one they intended. Silva v. Franklin II will pit two of the only best 190lbs on the planet. Both fighters are certainly established gamers, however, this fight along with some fighters from a Brazil TUF season that few people watched in the states leads me to believe this will be a tough PPV sell for the UFC. All of the changes that have drastically altered this card and Dana White's vision, shouldn't the PPV tag follow suit? This is especially true when the night before UFC on FX 4 hits the free airwaves and boasts a much more intriguing card.

I mean with names like Joey Gambino, Hatsu Hioki, Ricardo Lamas, and love-child Brock Jardine that alone is eye catching stuff.

The main event of this card has the potential to be the best fight of the whole weekend. While Silva and Franklin are always gamers, Gray Maynard and Clay Guida are all out fighters. Maynard didn't win in spectacular fashion twice to current top contender in the packed lightweight division, Frankie Edgar, and Guida, aside from his dull fight against Anthony Pettis, is always high energy and pushing forward.

Maynard can have a sketchy gameplan from fight to fight. He may not know if he wants to wrestle or kickbox or how to transition between the two. This may be a result of constantly jumping from camp to camp, but against a fast paced guy like Guida, this could cause issues.

Although Guida does have a cardio advantage on Maynard, all of his strengths are also that of Maynard. Wrestling and submissions are perfectly countered by Maynard, and I have a hard time seeing Guida knocking Maynard out.

Unless Guida can make this a long fight and tire out Maynard, I don't see many openings for Guida to win this fight. I'll say Maynard by split decision.

So while this weekend may not be all the UFC planned, fight fans need to be happy with a bunch of good fights on back to back nights.


Friday, June 15, 2012

Fantasy Funkhouser: There are No Big or Small Surprises, Only Surprises

R.A. Dickey isn't baffling just hitters, fantasy owners are mesmerized too. (REUTERS/Steve Nesius)
Vince McMahon returned to Monday Night Raw last week. I only know this because the nice people at Xfinity put it in the description for that night's show. Now, I used to watch wrestling when it was good, which, yes, does sound ridiculous, but it's true.

I've thought about it long and hard and while age played a role in leaving the world of WWE, it wasn't the only reason. It's why I'll waste hours when I'm sucked into the YouTube vortex of "the rock funny", "vince mcmahon you're fired", or "stone cold steve austin" searches that lead me down the rabbit hole to whatever poor quality clips I can find. I still enjoy it to this day.

The one thing that always gets me is Vinny Mac himself. He's the best, and he never disappoints. His larger than life character, which isn't as much of an exaggeration on the actual man as you would think, always presents the most ridiculous and hilarious circumstances a person could ask for. Vinny Mac is money in the bank.

When it comes to fantasy, very few players are money in the bank. Evidenced by Albert Pujols' early season struggles. I mean if a guy that has been consistent for 10 years all of a sudden falls off, then we really can't expect much from anyone else.

What makes fantasy all the bit the fun, exciting, depressing, and confusing game that it is revolves around being surprised; for better or worse. There isn't a Vince McMahon of fantasy where 10 years ago and up to last week will never fail to disappoint. It's a myriad of shocks and constantly asking, "Is this guy really doing this?"

A little past the quarter mark of the season, it's time to assemble a team of those shocking performances, good or bad so far this year.

Catcher - Carlos Ruiz


In the fantasy world, catchers are the most tumultuous position you can find. Just look at this portion of this year alone. The top ranked catchers when the season started:

Carlos Santana, Mike Napoli, Brian McCann, Buster Posey, Matt Wieters

As it currently stands:
Carlos Ruiz, Yadier Molina, A.J. Pierzynski, Joe Mauer, Buster Posey

The current top crop of catchers are all fairly proven at the major league level. With Chooch already being in the league for 7 years he's kind of eclipsed that mantra of catchers develop their hitting last. While Ruiz has always been an contact hitter and on-base guy, being among the league leaders in hitting and driving in 35 runs has been a rare bright spot this year for the Phils.

1B - Adrian Gonzalez

A-Gone (Getty/Sarah Glenn)
A-Gon has been a mystery since leaving San Diego. He started his Red Sox career by hitting for an insanely high average but no power, hitting with power, then back to hitting with no power. Overall he finished with great numbers in 2011 and looked primed to put it all together in 2012. After saying his previously injured shoulder was better than ever before the season started, what looks like happened is the exact opposite.

He's hitting for no power and no average. He's striking out more than ever and is set to have his lowest OPS since he started playing regularly. How someone goes from consistently hitting 30 homers in San Diego to not being able to put a couple out of Fenway is a mystery, but Gonzalez may just be pressing too hard. He's been a weak cog in a Sox line-up that really needs his production.

2B - Rickie Weeks

There are a lot of positive stories at 2B this year in fantasy. Jason Kipnis looks to fill the fantasy spikes of Chase Utley, Jose Altuve is hitting like he's still in the minors, there's Kyle Seager, Allen Craig, and even a Gordon Beckham sighting, so it's more fitting to focus on the horrible run of Rickie Weeks.

The knock on Weeks has always been his injuries. If he can stay healthy, he's very productive. In 2010 when he played a career high 160 games he scored 112 runs hit 29 homers with 83 RBI and 11 steals. As a follow-up he was on pace for similar numbers before an ankle injury knocked him off track. While the injury cloud hung over Weeks, people seemed to figure he turned a corner. Not so much. He's healthy, but batting .164 with 12 RBI and 21 runs. Maybe his mind is what's out of whack this year.

3B - Mark Trumbo
Because it's just fun to say TRUMMMMBOOO! (REUTERS/Alex Gallardo)


Hard to imagine the Angels weren't going to be able to fit Trumbo in their line-up when the season began. He's only their best hitter. You'll hear all about Trumbo's BAPIP, but the power is there, the contact is there, and the pitch selection is all developing for this future 35+ homerun hitter.

SS - Jose Reyes


You know the name, but probably don't recognize the stat line. Reyes is lead-off man for the consistently inconsistent Miami Marlins. One month no one can hit, the next month they're winning over 20 games, then back to being ice cold. The whole team has been this way and Reyes is either infecting the team or not washing his hands properly and catching the streak bug. While Reyes' numbers are more in line with 2010 Reyes, not 2011 Reyes, he hasn't been able to provide that spark at the top of the line-up the Fish had hoped.

Aside from expertly handling his usurping of incumbent SS Hanley Ramirez's position and becoming uncomfortably buddy-buddy with Han-Ram and therefore keeping him happy and motivated, Reyes overall contributions have been negligible to team and fantasy community. His runs are low and he has a surprising lack of RBI production even for him. You'd also figure he'd be punishing the expansive Marlins park for extra base hits, but he only has 13 doubles (t-31st) and is tied for 13th in hits.

Reyes can still rebound, but his production is more in line with Jimmy Rollins and Marco Scutaro thus far. Not the company he wants to keep.

OF - Alejandro De Aza, Josh ReddickBryce Harper, Mike Trout


All happy thoughts in this outfield crew. All of which were probably barely drafted in a standard 12 team league. If you did by chance draft all of them, then you're probably in good shape.

De Aza is outperforming many higher draft picks. (Getty/Jonathan Daniel)
Reddick is the guy out of the group I think will have the biggest fall off. His 15 homeruns this year have been shocking, but it has taken him 14 games to get from 14 to 15. If this were a couple of years ago Reddick, who was acquired via trade from the Red Sox, would have been the latest Billy Beane genius move, but Reddick has never projected as a power hitter, and in the A's home park it's even less likely his power will be able to continue. However, it's for those reasons that his power surge through the first part of the season has been all the more impressive.

As for De Aza, he's really been able to put all his skills together to be a top 15 fantasy outfielder at this point in the year. Although his production isn't as shocking as you would think, he was maybe just a little under hyped. For example, if you look at De Aza's line in limited time near the end of 2011:

54 games 29 runs 4 homers 23 RBI 12 steals .329 AVG

Compare that to a very hyped player coming into this year Brett Lawrie's numbers in limited time near the end of 2011:

43 games 26 runs 9 homers 25 RBI 7 steals .293 AVG

Even with a slight game discrepancy De Aza certainly seems to be owed some points in his favor. Thus far he is greatly out performing Lawrie in fantasy.

Then there's Harper and Trout. I could wax on about them for a while, and I did. Let's just say for fantasy purposes they've both been unbelievable. Experts questioned if Harper would be able to bat about .250, he's batting .307. He's been hitting with power and gaining steam over the past 10 games.

All Trout has done is be the best player in fantasy over the past 15 days. He has hit for power, stolen 16 bases already and hitting .341. It can't be this easy can it? Both of these future world beaters will pay dividends in leagues this year. And if you have either...or both...in a dynasty league, feel free to laugh maniacally.  And if you're questioning these two guys prodigious talents, then all I can say is that's a clown question, bro.

Mwahahaha-mwahaha-HAHAHAHA! (REUTERS/Mark Blinch)

SP - Tim Lincecum

Many might be amazed that R.A. Dickey has somehow found a way to sort of control a knuckleball at 37-years-old or that the White Sox thought putting Chris Sale in the bullpen was a great idea, but for me, nothing has been more befuddling in all of fantasy baseball than what's gone on with Tim Lincecum.

This is a two-time Cy Young Award winner just entering what should be his prime as a pitcher. Instead he's someone that looks like he's lost a good amount of his skill and nearly all of his confidence. With no reported injuries to fall back on this is a strange, strange case.

Yes the whispers have always been there for Lincecum. He's too small, not durable, will get injured, wear down, etc., but you'd figure 4 straight years of 200+ innings and a World Series ring would put those to bed.

A lot of his peripheral numbers aren't that different outside of his BB/9 numbers. People are making a big to-do about decreasing velocity, but overall I feel the general arc of most hard throwing pitchers is that they come out firing and gradually settle in velocity as their secondary pitches round into form. Now, I'm sure everyone would like to be Randy Johnson or Justin Verlander, but with Lincecum it appears to be more about lack of control and lack of confidence. This season is looking less and less salvageable for him. Maybe he should go back to his old diet. Hell, Verlander does eat Taco Bell when he's not pitching or starring in every baseball commercial ever.

RP - Craig Kimbrel


I got this excited just writing about Kimbrel. (Getty/Kevin C. Cox)
For all the chaos that has beset closers this year, there's a comfort in Craig Kimbrel. The Braves fireballer was the top fantasy closer this year, and that's typically a throne that has many different suitors. The reigning NL Rookie of the Year had a tall order if he wanted to follow-up his first full season in the bigs and he is doing so in grand style. With closers crumbling all around him, Mt. Kimbrel is sporting a 1.50 ERA 0.88 WHIP with 18 saves and 40 K's in a lower innings pitched rate than his rookie year (purposefully implemented by the Braves so as not to wear him down like last year).

Kimbrel hasn't let up a run since May 4th, and since he let up that run he's let up only 2 hits and 2 walks! He's also following suit last year where he "struggles" as much as he does early on and then goes lights out. After letting up an earned run on June 11th and sporting a 3.38 ERA, Kimbrel didn't give up a run until September 9th. He had slashed his ERA in half to 1.55 and been perfect in every opportunity he was put in.

Looks like he's going down that same path. It's good to be king Kimbrel.





The Funkman says: "How dare you not discuss Edwin Encarnacion. This is offensive. What kind of person are you?"