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The Baseball Hall of Fame: A Qualitative Analysis, Part 5

Welcome back to our quixotic quest to find the Golden Age of the Hall of Fame.  Up to this point, we have found that no such animal exists.

There were fewer players elected to the Hall of Fame in the 1980’s than there had been in the 1970’s, and, in general there was some improvement in the caliber of the players inducted.  As we concluded in Part 4 of this series, fewer than half of the former MLB players inducted into The Hall in the ’70’s were excellent choices, and some of the players chosen during that decade were just plain embarrassing.

So let’s turn to the decade of spandex and leg warmers, and take a closer look at HOF voting patterns.

Once again, for those of you scoring at home (or for those of you just reading this blog), BBWAA stands for Baseball Writers Association of America.  V.C. are the initials for the Veteran’s Committee.

1980:  BBWAA – Al Kaline, Duke Snider  V.C.  Chuck Klein

English: Brooklyn Dodgers centerfielder .

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Kaline and Snider are a fine pair of stars, much beloved in their respective baseball hometowns, Detroit and Brooklyn.    When they were on the field, and you were at the park, all was right with the world, or soon would be.

Funny thing about these two great players, neither one of them won an MVP award.  Kaline, who just missed 400 career home runs by one, never hit 30-home runs in a season.  Snider, on the other hand, reached 40 home runs in five consecutive years.

Yet Snider hit only eight more homers in his career than Kaline.  Kaline was the better defensive outfielder (16.3 WAR to -2.1 WAR.)  They each led their league in hits one time.  Kaline’s career WAR (91) was better than Snider’s (67.5) though their offensive WAR’s were much more similar.  Snider’s career OPS+ 140 was better than Kaline’s 134.

Either way, you couldn’t go wrong.

Chuck Klein was a fantastic player with the Phillies for five years from 1929-33, during which he won an MVP award and finished 2nd in the voting twice.  During each of those five seasons, he amassed at least 200 hits and scored over 100 runs.  He also led the N.L. in home runs and total bases four times each.

His career started to go downhill fast after age 32, and his career WAR (39.2) is on the low side, but his career OPS+ of 137 is highly respectable and, it’s worth noting, is the same as three players who came later:  Jack Clark, Will Clark and Reggie Smith.

Overall, despite a mediocre career WAR, Chuck Klein belongs in The Hall.

1981:  BBWAA – Bob Gibson  V.C.  Johnny Mize

I am proud to say that in the year of my high school graduation, the HOF added two worthy inductees.  Bob Gibson is a no-brainer.  What surprises me is that somehow it fell to the Veteran’s Committee to induct Johnny Mize.  How did the BBWAA miss this one?

How does a ten-time All-Star (who also missed three of his prime years to WWII), who led his league in home runs four times not crack 45% of the vote?  Mize accumulated a WAR of 70.2, and his OPS+ was an outstanding 158, the same as Hank Greenberg.

To my knowledge, Mize is the only player in history who hit 50 home runs in a season (51, actually) who struck out fewer than 50 times (42) in that same year.  Mize was a great player.  Kudos to the V.C. for inducting him into the HOF.

1982:  BBWAA – Hank Aaron, Frank Robinson  V.C.  Travis Jackson

Hank Aaron and Frank Robinson in the same year?  Are you kidding me?  Even the BBWAA wasn’t going to screw this one up.  Aaron is a top five all-time player; Robinson arguably a top ten.

If you’ve been following along in this series, then you know that the V.C. has a fetish for Giants players from the 1920’s and ’30’s.  Enter Travis Jackson, a slick-fielding, light-hitting infielder who played his entire 15-year career with the Giants during that era.

Career WAR 43.3, OPS+ 102.  Not an automatic out, but not nearly enough of a bat to justify induction into the HOF.

Thus we have the first HOF mistake of this particular decade.  I hope you Giants fans are happy.

1983:  Juan Marichal, Brooks Robinson  V.C.  George Kell

True or False, a corner infielder with a .267 career batting average, who never led his league in hits, runs scored, home runs, batting average, total bases, on-base percentage or slugging percentage, but who did lead his league twice in double-plays grounded into, with a career OPS+ of 104, does not belong in The Hall?

If you said, “True,” normally, I’d have to agree with you.  But not with Brooks Robinson.  There are some players whose particular skills in one facet of the game are so utterly superior to anyone else who ever played the game, or who will ever play the game, that this aberration needs to be recognized for what it is.  True greatness.

Brooks Robinson’s career Defensive WAR (27.3) is the best Defensive WAR in Major League history.  The next closest infielder, the brilliant Ozzie Smith, comes in at 21.6 WAR.  The next best defensive third baseman on the WAR list, Buddy Bell, registered a 16.5 WAR.

Robinson, the 1964 A.L. MVP, was also the 1970 World Series MVP, a perennial All-Star, and he won 16 consecutive Gold Glove awards as well.  Brooks Robinson deserves to be in the HOF.

Juan Marichal pitched virtually his entire career (all but 13 games) with the San Francisco Giants during the 1960’s and ’70’s.  He topped 20 wins six times, leading the N.L. in wins twice.  His career WAR (64.0) is certainly HOF territory.  His career ERA+ (123) is one point better than Bob Feller’s.

Despite smashing Dodger’s catcher Johnny Roseboro over the head with a baseball bat in August, 1965, Marichal belongs in the HOF.

George Kell was a respectable third baseman with limited power (just 78 career home runs) who nevertheless made 10 All-Star teams in the ’40’s and ’50’s, and finished in the top five in MVP voting twice.  Only once did he reach 5.0 WAR in a season.  While comparisons to Carney Lansford and Bill Madlock are gratuitous, they are not unwarranted.

1984:  Luis Aparicio, Don Drysdale, Harmon Killebrew  V.C.  Rick Ferrell, Pee Wee Reese

I have a theory, probably wrong, that when the economy is strong, Hall voters become more generous with their votes, and when the economy is sour, they become stingier with their votes.  If you have nothing else to do tonight, there’s a topic for you to research.

And so it was with Hall of Fame voters in 1984.  They inducted five retired players, seemingly regardless of merit or talent, into The Hall because, well, let the good times roll.

Briefly, then:

1)  Killebrew – Career WAR: 61.1,  OPS+ 143, 573 home runs, 1,584 RBI.  Nice choice.

2)  Aparicio –  Career WAR: 49.9,  OPS+ 82, 9 time stolen base leader, 9 Gold Gloves. Nice defense, but checking the numbers more closely, not Ozzie Smith nice.  That OPS+ is awful.  Questionable choice.

3)  Drysdale – Career WAR: 65.7, ERA+ 121, 209 wins, two 20-win seasons, three-time K leader, one Cy Young award.  Essentially, he was Kevin Brown with a better P.R. agent.  Check the numbers.  Good choice, if you don’t mind a relatively short peak.

4)  Ferrell – Career WAR: 22.9, OPS+ 95. One of the worst players in The HOF.

5)  Reese – Would you believe that his career WAR: 66.7, is the highest of these five players?  Frankly, I didn’t expect that.  He has the same WAR as Eddie Murray.  His OPS+ of 98 isn’t great, but it’s a lot better than Aparicio’s.  Here’s another reason Reese belongs in The Hall.  Solid choice.

1985: BBWAA – Lou Brock, Hoyt Wilhelm   V.C.  Enos Slaughter, Arky Vaughan

Lou Brock:  Let’s begin with the positive.  3,023 career hits, including four 200-hit seasons.  1,610 runs scored.  938 stolen bases, including 8 times leading the league in that category.  A record (until Rickey Henderson broke it) 118 steals in one season.  Five top-ten MVP award finishes.  Six All-Star games.

Now the bad news.

Did you know that only 20 players in history struck out more times than Lou Brock?

Did you know that Brock’s career on-base percentage (.343) is the same as Otis Nixon and Randy Winn?

Did you know that in addition to leading the league in steals 8 times, he led in times caught stealing 7 times?  Did you know that he led the league in errors made by an outfielder 7 times, and that his career Defensive WAR was -4.8?

Brock’s career WAR was only 39.1, and his OPS+ was just 109.  In retrospect, Tim Raines, for example, was a much better ball player.  Still, Brock’s positive numbers are significant enough to merit enshrinement in the HOF.  A defensible, if somewhat flawed, choice.

When Hoyt Wilhelm retired after the 1972 season at age 49, he had pitched in more games (1,070) than any man in history.  This was pretty much his claim to fame, and his ticket into Cooperstown.  Since his retirement, four other pitchers have surpassed his total.

But how good a pitcher was Wilhelm during his two decades in the Majors?

He finished his career with a record of 143-122 and 227 saves.  The modern “closer” hadn’t been invented yet, so that was a lot of saves back then, though it is worth mentioning that Wilhelm never once led his league in saves.

His career ERA+ was an impressive 147, tied with the unlikely duo of Dan Quisenberry and Walter Johnson. Wilhelm’s career WAR was 41.3, but it’s certainly harder to accumulate a high WAR when used primarily as a reliever.  Although the “Most Games Pitched” stat is a bit of a yawner, his other peripheral numbers merit Hall inclusion, given the limitations of his position.

The Veteran’s Committee loves guys like Enos “Country” Slaughter, player’s whose reputations were somewhat inflated and who got along well with the guys.  Slaughter was a good player who, like several of the V.C.’s picks, had a couple of big years and lots of decent ones.  His career WAR was a respectable, but not automatic HOF triggering, 54.1, and his OPS+ was also a nice, but not awe-inspiring 124.  Reasonable choice.

Who is the most underrated player in the Hall of Fame?  If there is such a thing, it might be Arky Vaughan.  Playing mostly for the Pirates, but also for the Dodgers,  he accumulated a WAR of 75.6, scored and drove in runs, drew walks, slashed doubles and triples into the gaps, and played respectable defense.

He led the N.L. in runs, triples, walks, and on-base percentage three times each.  He led all N.L. position players in WAR three times.  He won a batting title.  He led the league in steals once.  And he was named to nine All-Star games.  Tragically, he died at age 40, just four years after retiring from baseball.  This is one the V.C. got right.

1986:  BBWAA – Willie McCovey  V.C.  Bobby Doerr, Ernie Lombardi

With Harmon Killebrew having been elected in ’84 and Willie McCovey in ’86, we may have located the genesis for the arbitrary idea that HOF caliber first basemen should have 500 home runs to their credit.  McCovey, a prodigious slugger (521 home runs) certainly belongs in The Hall.

Bobby Doerr:  See what happens when you put Travis Jackson in the HOF?  You make it that much easier to induct solid-but-not-great players like Doerr.  Doerr was a good (but not great) defensive second baseman who hit with surprising power (223 home runs) for a middle infielder.

He played in a good hitter’s era in a nice hitter’s park.  His career OPS+ 115, and WAR of 47.7, shed further light on the subject.  At this point, he has to be considered a mid-range HOF’er, a category that I’m pretty sure the original founders of The Hall never had in mind.

Ernie Lombardi caught for 17 seasons, but apparently, he didn’t catch much.  He led the league in Passed Balls nine times, and in errors four times.  His career Defensive WAR was -2.7.  But boy, could he rake, finishing with a career batting average of .306, winning a couple of batting titles along the way.  He won the N.L. MVP award in 1938, though he was only the sixth best player in the league.  A career WAR of 39.0 means, even for a catcher, there was less here than meets the eye.  A sentimental pick by the V.C.

Catfish, Billy, and Brad Gulden

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1987:  Catfish Hunter, Billy Williams

While it is true that modern statistical analysis has not been very kind to Catfish Hunter (WAR: 35.4, ERA+ 105), I have to say that in my subjective opinion, Hunter belongs in The HOF.  He was a legend in his own time, sporting a great mustache, nickname, and an assortment of pitches that usually resulted in 20-wins per season.

The ace of two great teams in the ’70’s, Hunter pitched on five World Series Championship teams.  He won at least 21 games in five straight seasons.  He won a Cy Young award in 1974, and also finished 2nd, 3rd and 4th in the voting in three other seasons.

He pitched in eight All-Star games.  He threw a perfect game on May 8th, 1968, vs. the Carew-Killebrew-Oliva Twins.

I wasn’t a fan of the A’s or the Yankees back in the ’70’s, but I do get the larger than life persona.  Sure, he was not all that different from Jack Morris, whose possible election to The Hall I strongly oppose, but this is my personal bias, and I’m sticking to it.

Billy Williams was widely considered a fine, consistent player throughout the 1960’s during his 16 seasons with the Cubs (he broke in with the Cubbies at age 21 in 1959.)  He was N.L. ROY in 1961.  He led the N.L. in games played five times, and held the N.L. for most consecutive games played (1,117) until Steve Garvey broke his record in 1982.

Williams could hit for average (he won a batting title in 1972 at age 34), he could hit for power (426 home runs), he could score runs (1,410), and he could rack up total bases (4,599, good for 36th all-time.)  Williams is also in the top 50 all-time in runs created and in extra base hits.  And his career OPS+ of 133 reveals that his hitting success was not just a product of cozy Wrigley Field.

Billy Williams earned his induction to the Hall of Fame.

Willie Stargell hit the longest home run at Ve...

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1988:  BBWAA – Willie Stargell

Pops Stargell seemed like a great guy to be around, leading the “We Are Family” Pirates of ’79 to an upset victory over the Orioles in the World Series that year. He was also co-MVP that year with Cardinals first baseman Keith Hernandez.

Stargell, by the way, played his entire 21-year career with the Pirates, from 1962-82.

Here are Stargell’s career numbers, and here are Fred McGriff’s.  Is it just me, or are they quite similar?  And if Stargell belongs in The Hall (and I wouldn’t argue that he doesn’t), then where’s the love for McGriff?

1989:  BBWAA – Johnny Bench, Carl Yastrzemski V.C.  Red Schoendienst

How would you like to be in a spelling bee naming the Hall of Fame inductees of 1989?

Like Willie Stargell, Bench and Yaz each played their entire careers with one team apiece.  Bench may have been the greatest catcher of all time.  Yaz was the heart and soul of the Red Sox from 1967-78, the most heart-breaking years in BoSox history.  Obviously, they both belong in the HOF.

Schoendienst was an underrated second baseman for the Cardinals.  He was named to ten All-Star games.  His career Defensive WAR was over 7.0, which is very nice.  He garnered 2,449 hits, including a league-leading 200 in 1957, but his career OPS+ was just 94, and his overall WAR was 40.4.  A bit of Willie Randolph combined with Alvin Dark.  There are worse players in The Hall; Schoendienst is not an embarrassment.

So our score-card for this decade is as follows:

Excellent Choices – 19

Mediocre / Questionable Choices – 7

Poor Choices – 3

Not a bad haul, certainly better than what the 1970’s produced.  But it is worth noting that, as with the decades prior to the 1970’s, around one-third of Hall inductees were less than obvious, excellent choices.

Does that percentage, then, reflect what a normal HOF equilibrium, and if so, will that equilibrium persist in the succeeding decades?  We’ll take a closer look at Hall voting patterns of the 1990’s in the next installment of this series.

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Best Forgotten Baseball Seasons: Part 5 – The Phillies

Let’s begin with a trivia question.

How many Phillies pitchers have ever won a Cy Young Award?

O.K., so you got Steve Carlton (4).  Good.  Anyone else?

Let me give you another minute…

Give up?  How about John Denny in 1983. This is surely one of the Best Forgotten Baseball Seasons of all time.

Let’s talk about John Denny and the ’83 Phils.

In 1982, Steve Carlton won the last of his four career Cy Young Awards.  Apparently, his teammate John Denny was paying attention.  The ’83 Phils were a very good team, going 90-72 that season.  They beat the Dodgers in the N.L.D.S., but lost to the Orioles (remember when the Orioles were good?) in just five games in the World Series.  It was Denny’s first season with the Phillies.

Denny had previously won an ERA title pitching for the Cardinals in 1976, so he did have a history of effectiveness prior to coming over to Philadelphia.  But 1983 turned out to be the best season in his career.  At the age of 30, he posted a record of 19-6 with a 2.37 ERA.  The wins were the most in the N.L.  His ERA was second best.

He pitched 242 innings, had a WHIP of 1.162, fanned a career high 139 batters, and surrendered only nine home runs all year.  His 0.3 home runs per nine innings led the league.

Strangely, he made eight errors, the most of any N.L. pitcher.

Outside of 1983,  Denny was one of those pitchers who never enjoyed a great deal of run support in his career.  In ’76, for example, his record was just 11-9 in 30 starts despite winning the ERA title.  And in 1984, the year after he won his Cy Young, his record was just 7-7 in 22 starts.  His ERA in ’84 was 2.45.

In his 13 year career, Denny posted a modest record of 123-108.  He managed only seven seasons of 10 or more victories.

While some pitchers are just getting started at about age 30 (Dazzy Vance, Randy Johnson, Jamie Moyer), others hit a wall.  At age 33, just three years after winning his lone Cy Young Award, John Denny retired from baseball.

So who is the only other Phillies pitcher to win a Cy Young Award?

The answer (enjoy an extra one of your favorite beverages tonight on me if you got this one correct) is Steve (Bedrock) Bedrosian in 1987.

Other than to say that this was certainly the single most absurd Cy Young choice in the history of the award, I won’t spend too much time of Steve Bedrosian.  He won the award that year because The Save, the single most overrated stat baseball has ever developed, was just coming into vogue back then.

Bedrosian saved 40 games in ’87, the only time in his career that he would lead the league in saves, and the only time he would ever top 30 saves in a season.  The Phils were just 80-82 that year, so I guess having saved half of his teams wins impressed a great many voters that year.

But we’re not here to talk about Steve Bedrosian.

The (other) player on the1987 Phils who had one of this team’s Best Forgotten Seasons was Juan Samuel.

Sorry, Mets fans.  You can come up from under the table now.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, bringing up Juan Samuel’s name without warning to a Mets fan is akin to a soldier who suffers from PTSD suddenly hearing a car back-firing.

You see, on June 18, 1989 (exactly 21 years ago today), Juan Samuel was traded from the Phils to the Mets for Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell.  This obviously qualifies as one of the worst trades in team history.  Dykstra became an integral part of the Phillies for the next several years, helping lead them to the 1983 World Series.

Roger McDowell was a competent relief pitcher for the Mets 1986 World Championship team.

Juan Samuel was, uhm, Juan Samuel.

Adding insult to injury, Samuel only played on the Mets for the second half of ’89, posted a horrific .228 / .299. / .300 triple slash, then the Mets traded him away to the Dodgers.

So why am I including him here?  Because in 1987, Juan Samuel had one very impressive season.  Playing second base that year (in later years he would move to the outfield), he played in 160 games, leading the N.L. in plate appearances (726), at bats (655), and triples (15).  He also led the league in extra base hits with 80.

His power numbers represented career highs.  He hit 28 home runs and drove in an even 100.  He also scored 113 runs and had 35 stolen bases.  He had 329 total bases, and made the All-Star team.

He also struck out more times than anyone else in the league (162).  The player that Samuel most resembles is a young Alfonso Soriano, when Soriano played for the Yankees.

Samuel was one of those middle infielders who had good range, but who also made quite a few errors.  He led all second baseman in put outs with 374, and his range factor of 5.05 was 4th best in the league.  But his 18 errors were also the most of any second baseman in the N.L.

He led all second baseman in errors three times in four years, which is why by 1989, he had been moved to the outfield.  Unfortunately, he didn’t have much of a feel for that position, either, so the Dodgers moved him back to second for a while in the early ’90’s.

Juan Samuel ended up having a respectable major league career, being named to three All-Star teams, twice leading his league in triples, and stealing almost 4oo bases.  He hit over 160 homers and 100 triples, and scored over 100 runs three times.

Just don’t ever say his name in front of a Mets fan without warning, or it could get real ugly.


Stupid Manager Tricks: Part 2 – The Sacrifice Bunt

This is the second installment of a periodic series called Stupid Manager Tricks.  In this series, I will continue to examine certain baseball strategies that have been commonplace in baseball for many decades, some going as far back as the Dead Ball days nearly a hundred years ago.

These strategies are part of baseball’s Conventional Wisdom, things a manager does when he wants to show everyone how aggressive he is, or when he runs out of ideas about how to coax more runs out of an anemic offense.

The problem with some of these strategies, of course, is that they are just plain dumb, Conventional Wisdom notwithstanding.

In the first part of this series, which I posted here on March 11, I took a closer look at the Questionable Value of the Attempted Steal.

In that blog-post, I presented evidence that the Pittsburgh Pirates of the late 1970’s, a team that I used as an example due to their vaunted aggressiveness on the base-paths, almost certainly ran themselves out of at least one, if not two, division titles due to the high frequency of unsuccessful stolen base attempts they piled up those two years.

The point I was trying to make then, and which I will be focusing on again today, is that being aggressive and being smart are not always one in the same  when it comes to baseball.

Which leads me to today’s topic, the Sacrifice Bunt.  Now, it is true to a certain extent that the Sacrifice Bunt has gone out of style.  Indeed , some teams, especially in the American League where the DH is the order of the day, hardly ever employ the Sacrifice Bunt as a strategy.

In fact, use of the Sacrifice Bunt varies widely from team to team.  The Cincinnati Reds used it 100 times last season, the most of any team in baseball.   The Orioles used it the least, just 13 times.

Not coincidentally, perhaps, the Reds manager, Dusty Baker, spent his playing days at a time when the Sacrifice Bunt was often readily employed as a common, in-game strategy, the 1970’s.

Conversely, Orioles manager Dave Trembley has never played pro ball at any level.  He’s been a coach or a manager his entire professional life.

Therefore, Trembley apparently hasn’t been indoctrinated with the Conventional Wisdom of “small ball,”  the philosophy first promulgated during the Dead Ball era that baseball played correctly involves lavish use of the bunt, the stolen base, and the spikes on the bottom of one’s shoes.

But how effective is the Sacrifice Bunt as a means by which a team can  improve its chances to score runs?

To more closely examine this issue, I will have an imaginary conversation with major league pitcher Roy Halladay, now with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Why a pitcher, you ask, and not a hitter?  Because it helps to know if a pitcher thinks this strategy makes his life tougher, or it he thinks it’s a silly waste of time.

And anyway, Halladay was available.  So here we go:

“Roy, thanks so much for joining us here today, especially on such short notice.”

“Not a problem, Bill.  Thanks for having me.”

“Roy, over in the A.L., when you were pitching for Toronto, was the Sacrifice Bunt something you used to guard against as a serious threat by the team you were pitching against?”

“You know, Bill, I hardly ever even thought about that as an issue.  My job, in either league, is simply to get batters out, however I can.  You want to try a Sacrifice Bunt, go for it.”

“Are you saying that the hitters were doing you a favor by attempting a Sacrifice Bunt, that they were, in effect, giving you one free out to work with?”

“Yeah, I mean, a major league hitter should be able to come to the plate and have a reasonable chance to put the ball in play, right?  So if they put the ball in play, without bunting, they just might end up with a hit, or maybe the defense makes an error behind me.  Now,  I trust my defense, which is why I like to pitch to contact.  Keeps your pitch-counts low, and you can work deeper into games.  But when a hitter puts a ball in play, anything can happen.”

“But Roy, isn’t that also true of the Sacrifice Bunt?  Once the ball is bunted, anything can happen.”

“True, but the goal of the bunt is to give up an out, while, hopefully, moving a runner up a single base.  As a pitcher with a lot of confidence in my abilities, that’s a trade-off I’ll take any time.”

“So basically, once a hitter sacrifices, assuming he even manages to get the lead runner down to second base, he has done one-third of your work for you.”

“That’s right.  And now I’m looking for the strikeout on the next batter because if I can get the K, the runner on second-base is a sitting duck.  He can’t be brought home, or even move up a base, with a Sac Fly ’cause now there are two outs.”

“And aren’t big innings much less likely to occur once a Sacrifice Bunt has been laid down, because for big innings to happen, you need multiple base-runners.  The Sac Bunt is playing for a single run.  A one-run strategy would logically lead to fewer runs scored because it creates outs rather than base-runners.”

“Exactly.”

“Now that you are in the N.L., you’ll probably be confronted with the Sac Bunt much more often.  Does this change your pre-game preparation?”

“Depends on the team, the players, lots of variables.  But again, my job doesn’t change.  Get guys out.  Prevent runs from scoring.  I like to keep things simple.”

But now you are also going to have to get up there and hit. How are liking that idea?”
“(Laughing)  Well, I swung the bat a few times in Inter-League Play the last few years, so it’s not an entirely new experience.  But yeah, it could get interesting out there.”

“Will you attempt a Sac Bunt if your manager asks you to?”

“Well, I’ll do what he wants, of course.  He’s the boss.  But I’ll probably break my freakin’ hand doing it”  (laughs again.)

“One final question, Roy.  Do you believe that when a team is facing a really tough pitcher, someone like yourself, that it just might make sense sometimes to try to scratch out a single run, because they know you’re going to be tough to score on, that you’re not going to give up too many runs in that game?”

“Well, you know, it’s kind of ironic if you think about it.”

“In what way?

“To use a Sac Bunt against a tough pitcher, whether it’s me or Lincecum or Carpenter, whomever, why would you choose to give up a free out to the toughest pitchers in baseball, the pitchers you can least afford to give up free outs to?”

“Good point, Roy.  Final question:  Is there ever a time, then, when a Sac Bunt should be used at all?”

“You know, if you don’t telegraph it to the whole ball-park.  Try using the element of surprise.  I mean, most guys square around before I’ve even gone into my wind-up.  Instead of trying so hard to get yourself out, why not try to be sneaky about it?  Maybe even get yourself on to first base.  (laughs ironically.)

“Well, if the Official Scorer believes you were trying to bunt for a hit, it goes against the hitter as an 0-1 in the box score.  An obvious Sac Bunt attempt doesn’t count against the batter, unless he strikes out trying.  That’s the hitters motivation.”

“I thought his motivation was to win ball games.  That’s mine.”

“Nuff said.  Roy, thanks so much for being here today.”

“Thanks for having me, Bill.  It’s been a pleasure.”

Well, folks, I for one can’t wait to see if Roy Halladay attempts any Sac Bunts this season.  If his manager reads the transcript of this interview, he just might decide against it. In fact, he might decide against attempting any Sac Bunts at all this year.

Because, Conventional Wisdom aside, there really doesn’t appear to be any logical rationale at all for utilizing this time-honored, yet badly flawed,  strategy.

If you don’t believe me, just ask Roy Halladay.

Next time on Stupid Manager Tricks:  Part 3 – Using Your Closer ONLY in the Ninth Inning.  (about one month from now.)


Stupid Manager Tricks: Part 1

Baseball may be the most “conservative” of all major sports in the sense that once an idea or a philosophy gains broad acceptance, it is almost impossible to change.  Baseball’s  “Conventional Wisdom” is, at times, venerated as inviolable dogma akin to Holy Scripture.  Woe unto ye heretics who question the value of “Small Ball,” Batting Average, or the Speedy Lead-Off hitter.

If you think I exaggerate, just listen to Tim McCarver or Joe Morgan as they wax eloquent as to why sheer aggressiveness on the base-paths is always preferable to a more calculated, cautious approach by a base-runner.  Or how On-Base Percentage is an overrated stat because where is the value in a slow-footed catcher clogging the bases?

Over time, I’ve compiled a list of what I call, “Stupid Manager Tricks.”  Originally, I was going to include all of them in a single blog-post, but as I began to write about the first item, “The Dubious Value of the Attempted Steal,”  I quickly realized that “Stupid Manager Tricks”  would have to become a series of posts.

Therefore, in this post, I will highlight one common baseball strategy, part of baseball’s Common Wisdom, that I believe needs to be consigned to baseball’s Dust-Bin of History.

The first item, as I’ve already alluded to, is one of the oldest and dearest strategies in baseball history.  I am referring to the The Dubious Value of the Attempted Steal.

The most important word in that short phrase is  Attempted because, of course, some stolen base attempts result in the base-runner being thrown out, thereby, in many cases, short-circuiting an otherwise promising scoring opportunity.

It has long been surmised that stolen base attempts rise and fall with the era in which they occur.  For example, the assumption is that base-stealing was a more significant part of the game in the Dead Ball era, and then again in the late 1960’s-early ’70’s, when runs were more difficult to come by.

Surprisingly, however, according to baseballanylists.com, there has been no distinct pattern between run scoring and stolen base attempts when comparing one era to another over time.

In fact, they concluded that, “baseball teams have behaved irrationally with their base-stealing strategies throughout history…  It seems that steals have not been based on the actual value of the steal.”

They cite “mere fashion” as one reason teams decide to run more in one era as opposed to another one.

Last season, Phillies second-baseman Chase Utley stole 23 bases without getting caught once.  In effect, he turned 23 singles into doubles.  Think about that for a moment.  Does that mean that Utley’s overriding strategy once he reached first base was to automatically try to steal second base?  No, it doesn’t.  How do we know that?  Because Utley reached first base a lot more than 23 times last season, yet he attempted only 23 stolen bases.

Now, not all that many years ago, playing in Joe Morgan’s 1970’s National League, Utley would have been considered less aggressive (negative connotations) on the base-paths compared to a player like Frank Taveras of the Pittsburgh Pirates who stole 46 bases in 1978, but was caught stealing 25 times.

In his day, Taveras was often lauded as an aggressive base-runner who put pressure on the opposing team’s pitcher, a player you would place at the top of the batting order to take better advantage of his speed and base-stealing capabilities.

Yet, despite those 46 stolen bases, Taveras managed to score just 81 runs in 702 plate appearances despite the fact that the Pirates, featuring Willie Stargell, Dave Parker, Al Oliver, etc., were one of the premier run-scoring teams in the National League in 1978.

That’s what happens when your “Table Setter” also comes equipped with a .313 on-base percentage.

Meanwhile, Chase Utley, whose on-base percentage was .397 last season, scored 112 runs last season in 687 plate appearances.

Utley is perhaps not as fast or as “aggressive” as Taveras, but he was certainly a better base-stealer, and a much more effective run producer.

And, in the end, isn’t producing runs, (as opposed to merely stealing bases), the reason why any particular player goes up to home-plate, bat in hand, in the first place?

Taveras’ over-aggressiveness, a fatal flaw for the Pirates in 1978 when they finished in second place to the Phillies in the N.L. East, resulted in an extra 25 outs for his team, with little obvious correlation of value-added runs scored as a result.

In other words, it is quite possible that Taveras would’ve scored 81 runs, perhaps a few more, even if he had never attempted a single stolen base that season.

Some stat-heads have calculated that a successful stolen base results in an extra .17-.20 runs scored for the base-runner and his team per steal.  This means that if a base-runner successfully steals 40 bases, he might be adding an additional eight runs scored for his team over the course of an entire season.

Meanwhile, it has also been calculated by statisticians far more competent than I that each caught-stealing costs a team about .50-.60 runs apiece.

Therefore, Taveras’ 46 steals may have resulted in an extra 9 runs scored over the course of his 1978 season.  But his 25 caught steals cost his team about 13 runs.  So, in effect, Taveras aggressive base-running actually cost the Pirates a net total of four runs over the course of the season.

In fact, between 1977-78, the Pirates had several base-runners who ended up costing their team numerous runs over the course of those two seasons.  Here are some numbers showing steals / attempted steals:

1977:  D. Parker – 17/36, A. Oliver – 13/29, E. Ott – 7/14, R. Stennett – 28/46.

1978:  B. Robinson – 14/25, P. Garner – 27/41, F. Taveras – 46/71.

The combined totals for those two seasons by these seven players are 152 steals in 262 attempts, a 58% success rate.  If you calculate the theoretical runs gained from successful steals vs. the runs lost from caught stealing, you end up with, conservatively, a net loss of about 100 runs over the two seasons.

In other words, if the Pirates didn’t attempt a single stolen base in either 1977 or ’78, they would have been better off as a team.  In ’77, they finished in second place, 5 games behind the Phillies.  In ’78, they once again finished in second place behind the Phils, only 1.5 games out of first.

It is entirely possible, then, that the Pirates ran themselves out of at least one, perhaps two, division titles.

So what’s a manager to do?  Should he shun stolen bases entirely as an effective offensive weapon in his arsenal?  Of course not.  In fact, evidence compiled over the past several seasons suggests that many of today’s managers are using the stolen base as a discretionary, tactical weapon in carefully chosen, particular circumstances.

In fact, stolen base success rates are at an all-time high, approaching 78-79 percent over the past few years.

Shouldn’t managers, then, become more aggressive with the running game now that base-stealing success rates are soaring?

Of course not.  If today’s Mets, for example, began to run as frequently as the ’78-’79 Pirates, there is no reason to think they would gain any additional strategic advantage over their opponents.

It is likely, then, that we are now at a point in the evolution of baseball strategy that base-stealing today is now at a near-perfect balance between what can reasonably be gained, and lost, by the current, cumulative number of stolen-base attempts in any given season.

There is nothing wrong with aggressiveness in baseball.  All things being equal, who wouldn’t enjoy having a Jackie Robinson on their team?  And speed on the base-paths is certainly important.  Having a base-runner who is capable of moving from first to third base on a single, or who can score from second base on a base-hit, is always an unquestionable asset.

But the term, “aggressive baseball,” used without a qualifying context, is not the same as intelligent baseball.  In fact, as we have seen with the example of the Pirates of the 1970’s, it can be quite the opposite.

Which is why the often over-used, under-analyzed value of the “aggressive” Attempted Steal, an example of baseball’s unwise Conventional Wisdom, is a primary example of a Stupid Manager Trick.

Now, if only more of baseball’s T.V. “Analysts” would see it that way…

Next up on Stupid Manager Tricks:  The Almost Always Pointless Sacrifice Bunt.

Under the Radar: Part 3

This is the third installment of a series of blog posts called “Under the Radar.”  This series is a periodic examination of the careers of contemporary players who have achieved success in their major league careers, but who are not household names, like Jeter, A-Rod, or Griffey.

In Part 1 of this series (12/28/09), I took a look at the careers of Roy Oswalt and Carlos Beltran.  In Part 2 (1/14/10), I further examined the careers of Aramis Ramirez and Joe Nathan.  In this blog post, we will re-evaluate the relative success of Scott Rolen, third baseman for the Reds, and Jamie Moyer, currently toiling away with the Phillies.

Let’s begin with soon to be 35-year old Scott Rolen.

When Scott Rolen burst onto the scene as a 22 year-old kid back in 1997, he was touted in some circles as the Ssecond Coming of Mike Schmidt.  This appeared to be apropos, as Rolen was a rookie third baseman with the Phillies who had hit with power in the minor leagues.

In fact, Rolen’s career began significantly better than that of Mike Schmidt.  Whereas Schmidt actually produced a batting average under .200 in his second season, Rolen won the N.L. Rookie of the Year Award in ’97.  Rolen  hit 21 homers, drove in 92 runs, scored 93 runs, had an .846 OPS, and even threw in 16 stolen bases.

In Rolen’s second season, he won the first of his seven gold gloves.

In fact, any conversation about Rolen needs to begin with his defense.  Rolen has been the best defensive third basemen of his generation, and probably one of the top dozen fielding third basemen of all-time.  Although his skills have deteriorated from what they were earlier in his career, he has exhibited excellent range, sure hands, and a strong arm.

Rolen has also been generally more athletic than many third basemen; he has stolen 114 bases in his career.  Although this is not an awesome total, he has helped break the stereotype of the slow-footed, plodding third-sacker that was especially common in the middle of the twentieth century.

As a hitter, Rolen has a respectable .284 career batting average, a .370 on-base average, and he has slugged nearly .500 for his career.  In fact, his career OPS of .868 is better than every significant third baseman in history, other than Schmidt, Eddie Mathews, and Chipper Jones.

Rolen’s OPS+ (which takes ball-park factors into consideration) is 124.  Only Schmidt, Mathews, Jones, George Brett and Wade Boggs are significantly higher.  Rolen’s score is about the same as Ron Santo’s.

Rolen as five 100 RBI seasons to his credit, six seasons of at least 35 doubles, seven seasons of at least 25 home runs, and he has made five All-Star teams.

Finally, Rolen has also amassed 446 doubles, 283 homers, over 1,100 RBI’s, and over 1,000 runs scored.

Does Scott Rolen belong in the Hall-of-Fame?  Although his counting numbers at this point in his career do not rate amongst the all-time greats (just 1,810 hits, for example), there is no question that Rolen’s combination of hitting ability, defensive prowess, and general athleticism all rate in his favor.

When all is said and done, although there will be many who will argue that Rolen’s career didn’t finally measure up to his initial perceived potential, it will be quite likely that Scott Rolen will be considered one of the top ten or twelve third basemen of all-time.

Now let’s turn our attention to a pitcher who was already 34-years old when Scott Rolen was breaking into major league baseball.

Jamie Moyer, now 47-years old, is certainly an anomaly in baseball history.  His career trajectory looks nothing like the vast majority of the pitchers who have ever stepped up onto a pitcher’s mound.

Basically, Moyer’s career breaks down into three distinct segments.  Segment one was his initial nine seasons in a big-league uniform (ages 23-32) when he posted a career won-lost record of 59-76.  Now, at that point, the vast majority of pitchers would have seen the hand-writing on the wall, and would have set about identifying a post-baseball career for themselves.

Instead, Moyer suddenly achieved significant success as a pitcher.  Once he began pitching for the Seattle Mariners in the mid-1990’s, everything changed for him.  For eight seasons, from 1996-2003, Moyer enjoyed an astonishing won-lost record of 126-56, posting a .692 win-loss percentage.

In fact, he first became a 20-game winner at the age of 38, then topped that total with 21 victories at the age of 40!

Over the past six seasons, however, in the third segment of his career, Moyer has re-emerged as a mere mortal, posting a record of 73-63 during that time.

Overall, then, Jamie Moyer has won 258 games, while losing 195 in his career.  His career ERA of 4.22 makes it all but impossible, however, that no matter how many victories he ends up with, he will never make it into the Hall of Fame.  And, at age 47, it is extremely unlikely that he will ever see 300 victories.

Still, just ten more wins will tie Moyer with Jim Palmer for 35th on the all-time wins list, and fifteen more wins will tie him with Hall of Famer Red Ruffing for 32nd place.

Considering how poorly Moyer’s career began, and almost ended at age 32, Moyer has been Exhibit A regarding  the potential rewards of persevering through even long-term failure and disappointment.

At the age of 40, Moyer enjoyed his first and only invitation to pitch in an All-Star game.

It is impossible to imagine this honor tasting any sweeter than it must have to Moyer that year.

Fantasy Baseball Part II: Strategies and Tips

So let’s get right to the point.  There are a number of ways to win a fantasy baseball championship. But there are infinitely more ways to lose.  In fantasy baseball, as in war, the side that makes the fewest mistakes usually wins.

Thus, putting together a successful fantasy baseball season is less about who makes the most creative, clever decisions.  It is primarily about minimizing risks, and seizing obvious opportunities when they present themselves.

As I stated in my last post, I’ve been involved in a fantasy baseball league since the early ’90’s.  No, this doesn’t make me an expert, and I certainly don’t pretend to have a monopoly on fantasy baseball wisdom.  I can only share my own experiences that have allowed me to enjoy my fair share of success, but also, an impressive record of futility.

The strategies and tactics I’m going to share with you occur to me from time-to-time, but I don’t follow each and every one of them religiously.  There have been, however,  some self-imposed rules that I once considered inviolable that I have since discarded.

For example, for many years, Rule #1 was Never Draft Rockies Pitchers.  The thin mountain air of Coors Field meant high ERA’s and generally low strikeout totals for pitchers unlucky enough to call Coors home.

This season, for the first time, there are at least two or three pitchers on the Rockies that I would be happy to own.  Perhaps at the end of this season, if none of those pitchers live up to expectations, I’ll reinstate my old rule number #1.

So here, without further preamble, are some of my guidelines for the 2010 fantasy baseball season:

1)  Never draft a pitcher in the first round. This doesn’t mean that I don’t think any starting pitchers are worth drafting with your #1 pick.  In fact, if I have the 9th overall pick in our ten team league, and Tim Lincecum is still on the board, he would be very difficult to pass up.  But the reality is, pitchers are seldom as reliable and predictable as hitters, and you cannot afford to make a mistake with your first choice.

2)  Beware of career years outside the norm. Do you really believe Marco Scutaro will score 100 runs again?  Do you really believe Raul Ibanez will set yet another career high in slugging percentage at age 37?  How much are you willing to bet that Mike Cuddyer will match the 32 homers and 94 RBI’s he tallied last year?  All of these players are past 30 years old.  Buyer, beware.

3)  Ignore win totals. There is no strategy that will get you into more trouble than looking at a pitcher’s win total from one season and using this total to project the following season’s numbers.  For example, in 1976, Jerry Koosman finished the season with a record of 21-10, and he was runner-up to Randy Jones for the N.L. Cy Young award.

Now, if anyone other than Bill James had been playing fantasy baseball in the Spring of ’77, they would have drafted Koosman, largely based on his win-loss record, in perhaps the second round.  So what happened in 1977?  Did Koosman pitch poorly and finish with a losing record?

Well, no, and yes.  He actually pitched quite well, leading the league with 7.6 K’s per nine innings.  But the Mets as a team were terrible in ’77, offering Koosman no support at all, and he finished with a remarkably terrible record of 8-20.

That’s right, he lost 20 games the year after he won 20 games while pitching only slightly less effectively himself.  Pitchers are simply never a sure thing (see Rule #1.)

So how does one go about choosing pitchers to draft?  It’s not that hard, actually, and I have found year after year that I can begin the season with a mediocre looking staff only to have other owners in my league jealously eye-balling my rotation by the All-Star break. This brings us to item #4.

4)  Draft pitchers with high strike-out rates and low WHIPs. Dominance in the form of high K rates eventually reveals itself on the ball-field in the form of wins.  This does not contradict what I stated about how win totals aren’t important.  But if you start with wins as your base-line to project success, as opposed to high K rates and low WHIPs, you are far more likely to end up disappointed with the end results.

Let me illustrate this strategy using two examples of starting pitchers who will be drafted this spring:  Matt Garza and Scott Feldman.  Feldman, a 27 year old pitcher for the Rangers, finished last season with a promising record of 17-8 with a reasonably good WHIP of 1.28.

Garza, on the other hand, a 26 year old hurler with the Twins, finished the season with an 8-12 record despite an even slightly better WHIP of 1.26.  Who would you rather have, the 17 game winner, or the 8 game winner?

If you chose Feldman, the bigger winner, good luck to you.

Here’s why.  Feldman managed to strike out only 113 batters in just under 190 innings last season.  Garza K’d 189 in 203 innings.  That’s 76 more K’s for Garza in only about 13 more innings.  Fewer K’s mean more balls in play.  More balls in play lead eventually to many more hits, opportunities for errors by the defense, and bigger innings by the opposing offense.

Strikeout pitchers with reasonably low walk totals get themselves out of many more jams, with less damage done, than contact pitchers.  There are just far more opportunities for dominance by a strikeout pitcher than for a contact pitcher, and far more opportunities to fail for a contact pitcher, who, in Feldman’s case, also happens to pitch in one of the best hitter’s parks in baseball.  Which leads me directly to item #5

5)  Draft the Ball-Park: Look, obviously, when you are talking about great players such as Albert Pujols or a pitcher like Roy Halladay, ball-park factors are largely incidental.  Put them on any of the planets in our Solar System, and they’ll find ways to succeed.  But for many of the mere mortals out there, the ballpark they call home for 81 games during the season can make a big difference in the level of success they achieve.

In general, I like to find talented young hitters who have shown ability but still haven’t had the right opportunity, put them in a hitter’s park like Philadelphia or Texas, and you have a recipe for success.  Two players who, going into last season, fit that description exactly were Nelson Cruz of Texas and the Phillies Jayson Werth.

Neither player had previously enjoyed a full-time job with their clubs, but both men had shown solid slugging abilities in part-time or platoon stints.  Each of them blossomed into extremely valuable commodities last season as they took advantage of playing regularly in hitter-friendly parks to amass impressive numbers.  (You can look up their numbers on your own; no need to reprint them here.)

For pitchers, this strategy works just as well, but in reverse, of course.  Find young arms that have shown some talent, check to see if they pitch in pitcher-friendly ball-parks, and you will probably find a diamond in the rough (the still very young Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers comes to mind.)

TIP Alert! About a half dozen of the best pitcher’s parks in the country are in both league’s Western Divisions.

6)  Beware of catchers: Look, there’s a reason why Bill James in his book, “The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract” ranks Darrell Porter as the 18th best catcher of all time.  There just haven’t been all that many great catchers, folks.  Currently, Mike Napoli (yes, Mike Napoli) of the Angels is a top five A.L. catcher.  And Chris Iannetta of Colorado, along with his .228 batting average (in Colorado, or God’s sake?) is top ten in the N.L.

This past season, one participant in our league decided to try to corner the market on catchers, thus garnering for himself a clear competitive edge at one position.  He drafted Jorge Posada, Russell Martin, and Geovani Soto.  Soto had been named N.L. Rookie of the Year the season before with the Cubs, and Martin (Dodgers), seemed to be among the leaders of a class of solid young N.L. catchers

For those of you who followed baseball at all last season, you know Soto was a disaster, and Martin appears to be following along the career track of Jason Kendall, and empty singles hitter with a little speed.

So, needless to say, that strategy backfired.  And why shouldn’t it?  Again,  there have been fewer than fifteen great catchers in the entire history of major league baseball.

Therefore, if you don’t end up with a once-in-a-lifetime talent like Joe Mauer (a sure first-rounder) don’t panic.  There are worse fates in fantasy baseball than to end up with Yadier Molina as your starting catcher.

7)  Avoid aging players in their decline: This is especially true at deep positions like first base.  Someone will certainly draft either Lance Berkman, age 34, or Derrek Lee, age 35, over Joey Votto, age 26 due to reputation and resume.  But neither of the two veterans offer anything like the potential upside offered by Votto.

At best, Berkman and Lee will accomplish something close to what they usually offer in their average seasons.  Votto hasn’t had anything like his best season yet.

It is not a foolish gamble to bet on a player like Votto whose OPS is already extremely impressive, who plays in a good hitters park and who can only get better.

TIP AlertAvoid with extreme prejudice!

Other players / positions who fit the aging, yet still productive bill are:  Miguel Tejada at shortstop, Chipper Jones and Michael Young at third base, Benjie Molina (catcher), Raul Ibanez, Carlos Lee, Vernon Wells and Vlad Guerrerro (OF) and the following pitchers:  Carlos Zambrano, Roy Oswalt, Joe Blanton, Andy Pettitte, Mark Buehrle and closers, Francisco Cordero, Bobby Jenks, and Fernando Rodney.

8)  Beware of Over-Hyped Rookies: (Especially Pitchers) Anyone out there remember all the hype surrounding young PHEENOM David Price last season?  The next Dwight Gooden, and all that?  To be fair, most people probably drafted Price rather conservatively last season, but even those people were almost certainly extremely disappointed with his final season totals:  10-7, 4.42 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, only 128 innings pitched.

Generally speaking, it takes most young talents a couple of years or so before they really begin demonstrating their can’t-miss talent on a regular basis.  King Felix Hernandez had been hyped to the extreme for about three years before it all came together for him last season.

Sure, there are some rookies who jump right into the Big Leagues hitting line drives all over the place (Ryan Braun), or fanning ten batters in a game (Tim Lincecum)  and never look back.  But they are few and far between, and if you build a fantasy strategy based in part on acquiring as much rookie talent as you can, you are taking an unnecessary gamble.

TIP Alert! Neither Stephen Strasburg nor Madison Bumgarner will win the Cy Young Award this season.

And finally,

Strategy #9) Draft Power at the corners: Whenever I’ve had a successful fantasy baseball season, it’s often been in part because I’ve had legitimate sluggers at first and third base.  It’s not difficult at all to draft power at first base, and if you don’t, you’re sunk.  Third base can be a little more tricky sometimes because this position isn’t always as deep as it appears to be this season.

There are lots of good hitters at third base, but not necessarily a lot of big sluggers at this position.  One player I know everyone will be watching closely is the Mets star David Wright.  Last season he hit an unbelievably low ten home runs.  That’s Mark Teahen terrritory, folks.

Everyone expects Wright to rebound in 2010, perhaps doubling his homer total to twenty, or even twenty-five.  And, if he does hit 20-25 homers, lots of people will think they’ve landed a bargain if they draft Wright in the fourth or fifth round.

But think of it this way.  Evan Longoria, A-Rod, and Mark Reynolds are almost certain to hit about twice as many homers as Wright, even if Wright doubles last season’s total.  Are you willing to concede that much run production at such an important offensive position if you don’t have to?

Moreover, several other third basemen will hit about the same amount of homers as Wright, but will be drafted much lower.  Sure, Wright also brings stolen bases to the table, but I’ve never found in my league that stolen bases win championships.  Power does.  A three-run homer trumps a double-steal any day.

Now What?

Once Draft Day finally arrives, I’m quite sure that I will do what everyone else does, adjust to the circumstances of the draft.  And every draft is different.  Like a general on a battlefield, once the shooting starts, you might as well roll the battle-plans around a half dozen cigars and drop them on the battlefield, for all the good they’ll do you.

Still, a general without a plan is more likely to freeze up in a key moment, a potentially decisive situation, precisely because he wasn’t as prepared as he should have been beforehand.  I hope the tips and strategies I’ve shared with you will offer you some tactical advantage over your adversaries in your 2010 fantasy baseball season.

If you have questions or comments about the strategies and tips I’ve shared, or would like to share some of your own, by all means, please let me know.

Next blog post:  A.L. / N.L. Fantasy Baseball Player Rating Guide


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