Friday, May 16, 2014

Fantasy Funkhouser: Learning When to Hold 'Em, When to Fold 'Em, and Why Gambling is Still Important in Fantasy Baseball

Phil Ivey uses his gut almost as much as his stats.
Fantasy Funkhouser will review all things Fantasy Baseball. After all, life is a small sample size.

Phil Ivey is one of the most well known and respected card players out there. His skills and ability to transition from poker to baccarat to craps to black jack is a spectacle to behold. While poker will always be his calling card and sure when you can lose millions gambling on sports only to go win it all back tossing some dice, there isn't as much inherent risk when Phil Ivey gambles as opposed to when you or I gamble. 

Even with his high powered gambling brain and ability to routinely mop the floor with a poker table of gamblers, Ivey still is a gambler. As Mike McDermott insists in Rounders to his wet blanket girlfriend Jo, "It's not luck," as it pertains to his card playing (if you thought a loosely based gambling intro to a fantasy baseball column written by someone in their early 30's wasn't getting a Rounders reference, then you are the sucker at the table). As the movie plays out and as we see time and time again, yes, a part of it is luck. You might have all the numbers, all the facts, all the odds, all the skills - but when push comes to shove and those chips are on the line ... you're brain tells you to just go for it. To hell with what the odds say.

Ivey won't pass up an opportunity to upend the integrity of gambling by running and gunning to win $10M (albeit done through very skillful means). 

Fantasy sports and baseball in particular have become more and more of an analytics game. Don't tell me what the guys girlfriend looks like, tell me what his O-Swing % is. There are such a litany of stats to look at and pick a part and sample sizes to digest that it's easy to get swallowed up in that. 

What we've seen so far this year though, is that it pays to be bold. Some of the top ranked players across all positions were risks at draft time. They had their reasons for not being drafted earlier, but to those bold people out there, they are paying huge dividends. 

Albert Pujols
Doubted. Denied. Disrespected. The greatest hitter of a generation has his feet under him and is rounding back into the kind of post peak decline fitting a player of Pujols' stature. His drop in form last year was more reminiscent of Wile E. Coyote

Dee Gordon
Hahaha, Dee Gordon? Can't steal first base. He's not a major leaguer. Oh, experts had their fun with Flash Gordon. Billy Hamilton? He has a shot, but Gordon - no way! An improved walk and contact rate has plopped him on first base more than ever, and he's running wild. Not too easy to make fun of Dee now.

Johnny Cueto
I mean come on with this. 99.5% strand rate helps his league leading ERA. But 3 CG's for a guy with an injury history that forced him to alter his mechanics. It's not all witchcraft and dreadlocks. I don't know if this season will end with a Cy Young, but it is well on its way. 

Francisco Rodriguez
The reemergence of K-Rod might be the most nonsensical thing of the baseball season thus far. The guy was toast two years ago, and his peripherals this year don't really show him keeping this up, but he's getting it done. Someone bid $5 on him in my keeper league at the start of the season, and I thought that was insane. Not so much now. He had his first hiccup against the Pirates, but I'm pretty sure we would have all bet the over if May 14th was the date we were given for first K-Rod meltdown. 

Jose Abreu
Masahiro Tanaka
These two are lumped together because they are on a path to the greatest Rookie of the Year battle ever. Sure, they aren't really rookies and they certainly aren't playing like rooks either. I thought early on people were really ragging on Jose Abreu's skill set. Experts said there were some concerns with his swing. That he could get overmatched by top level pitchers. Well, things seem to be going well so far. 

Tanaka is basically Stephen Strasburg with a killer splitter instead of the high heat. He's been baffling hitters with his array of pitches. His start is historic, and the guy everyone pegged as no Yu Darvish is dealing like an elite pitcher. He could wear down later in the year, but the skills are there and they are real. 

Yasiel Puig
Let's be honest with Puig. We all kind of wanted him to fail. It's hard to wrap your head around a guy that plays all out like this can cover up issues like swinging at bad pitches, making bad decisions on the field, oh and potentially getting hunted down by Mexican criminals just on pure will and talent. Well, Puig has been able to make noted improvements in his approach in the batter's box. After a slow start it's full speed ahead for the Wild Horse. He's creeping his way to the Mike Trout level of talk. Oh wait, ESPN already did that. Hasta luego, bat. 

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