Last weekend, I went home from Bucknell University with Heather for her to meet my family at my sister’s graduation party. We had to get back to Bucknell Sunday night because I had work Monday morning. When the car ride started, I put on the Fantasy Sports SiriusXM radio channel because they talk about all sports and teams and players throughout the entire country, rather than just LeBron and Tim Tebow on ESPN. Also I enjoy playing fantasy sports as a hobby and as a way to put all my sports knowledge to use. The channel mentioned something about different types of fantasy baseball leagues, and Heather asked a question about it so I just went on a stream of conscious lecture of anything that came to my mind.
I started off explaining the different leagues that there are in fantasy baseball. The first big difference is rotisserie and head to head leagues. My personal preference for fantasy baseball leagues are rotisserie leagues that last the whole season. Head to head leagues have a problem in that they do not really allow for the best team to win because they are on a week by week basis. This is okay for fantasy football because part of fantasy football is picking each specific matchup week to week. Also, football is more of a sprint while baseball is a marathon. With 162 games, you cannot judge a team based on a 7 day segment. If you had Mike Trout all year last year, he carried your team but when the last month of the season rolled around, which is the time when fantasy head to head playoffs would be, he had cooled off and a team with him on it, may not have done well because his stats for that week weren’t great even though his 2012 numbers were historic. That is why my preference is a yearlong rotisserie league. It counts all the stats over the course of the year of each of your starters every day and then ranks you based on these categories. For example, if it’s a ten team league and you are first in home runs, you get 10 points for that category, if you finish second, you get 9 points, and so on.
Leagues can also be considered mixed, AL, or NL leagues. In a mixed league, you can use all the players in the MLB, while AL and NL leagues only allow you to use players from their respective leagues. These are more challenging as you need to know players that may not be consistent starters but may just be platoon players that can help you out because they perform well when they do get the plate appearances. There are also a variety of different categories that can be used in fantasy baseball leagues. The standard hitting categories are batting average, runs, runs batted in, home runs, and stolen bases. The standard pitching categories are wins, strikeouts, earned run average (ERA), walks plus hits over innings pitched (WHIP) and saves. These categories are what most fantasy sites and sports sites base there fantasy rankings on. However, there are a variety of fantasy leagues that use extra stats. The most common statistics that are used as the extra categories for hitters are walks and strikeouts and the categories for pitchers are quality starts and holds. These two categories are not as well known by many sports fans. A quality start is given to pitcher who pitches at least 6 innings and gives up no more than 3 runs. This is valuable stat because it is more indicative of how well a pitcher performs because it does not matter how well his offense performs. Holds are a statistic given to relievers who come into a game with less than a 3 run lead before the 9th inning and do not relinquish that lead before they are taken out of the game. This is a valuable stat in fantasy leagues because it gives value to relievers who do not get save opportunities. These relievers are sometimes actually better than the closers on their teams, specifically Kenley Jansen, Joaquin Benoit, and Ryan Cook among others. Leagues with holds make these players more valuable and much more in demand.
Once I was done explaining just some of the variety in fantasy baseball leagues, I just went into talking about different organizations, how they do business, and how effective they are. The talk about Kenley Jansen got me into the Dodgers and their new big spending ways since the ownership group containing Magic Johnson purchased the team on March 27, 2012 for 2 BILLION dollars… over a billion more than any other purchase of an MLB team. Since this purchase, the Dodgers have not been afraid to spend money. When Kenley Jansen’s heart problem resurfaced prior to the 2013 season, they gave Brandon League a 3 year 27 million dollar contract. Brandon League has a career 3.67 ERA and only had 60 saves prior to 2013. He did not deserve 9 million dollars a year to close, but the Dodgers don’t care with all the money they have in such a large market and a new ownership group creating more interest. They were able to trade good, but not top, prospects for players like Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Carl Crawford, and Josh Beckett because they were willing to pay all the money on their ridiculous contracts. So far this season, it has not worked out for them, but over time if they learn to scout quality players, their money should allow them to field top teams for many years.
As I was finishing up my Dodgers talk, the radio mentioned something about Michael Wacha. Wacha is a Cardinals pitcher that was just called up Thursday, May 30th. Of course, everyone on the channel is raving about him and thinks he will be one of the next great starters to come from the Cardinals organization. He definitely is not the most highly touted pitching prospect that has been called up this year, behind Kevin Gausman and Jose Fernandez most notably. However, Wacha has been the most hyped because he is coming from an organization that just pumps out pitching prospects all the time and whenever they are called up, they are ready to pitch in the majors even if they are not highly rated prospects. So far this year, they have called up pitchers like Tyler Lyons and John Gast. Both of these pitchers are not highly touted prospects, but they have been serviceable in the majors and have helped the Cardinals to continue to win even with the plethora of pitching injuries. The Cardinals have also pumped out great pitchers such as Adam Wainwright and Shelby Miller, so when a good Cardinals prospect is called up, it is a big deal and almost everyone in the fantasy sports community believes they will be good. In contrast, the Orioles have done plenty to show that they have not been able to develop pitching. They have failed in developing Brian Matusz, Jake Arrieta, Zach Britton, and Chris Tillman who were all supposed to be top of the line starters. Chris Tillman has been okay this year and Brian Matusz has been good in the bullpen, but nowhere near their projections. So, when Kevin Gausman got called up on May 23rd, there was skepticism because of the previous history regarding Orioles pitchers. Now all of these players who have failed to live up to their hype were drafted by the previous baseball operations regime. Dan Duquette, Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations, and Buck Showalter, Manager, were the head of the baseball minds that drafted Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman. Therefore, I have been optimistic about Kevin Gausman and believe he will be at minimum a very serviceable pitcher in the major leagues for years to come. This optimism may also be because of my Orioles fandom. However, I do think that Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman will break the trend of failed Orioles pitching prospects and become good to great pitchers in the major leagues.
This conversation about the Orioles led to a conversation about draft picks and trades and how the balance of trades have been changed in recent years and then possible trades at the deadline in 2013 and the rest of the car ride is to be continued.