Category Archives: Baseball

For Me March Madness Is Really About Fantasy Baseball

ah-who-invented-baseball

Over these last few years I have been less and less interested/wrapped up in the excitment of the NCAA Men’s basketball tournament. I still filled out two brackets this year and yet have that connection to the tournament, but I did think about not even doing those briefly.

To me I am much more excited about March because that means I start thinking more about baseball and that I start having fantasy baseball drafts. For me among other things fantasy baseball drafts are a fun way to hang out with friends and meet new people as well.  I have long been a baseball fan, and fantasy baseball helps combine two things I like: baseball and numbers/statistics. It is interesting to try to piece together a team in a auction draft, where you have a budget typically of $260 to use imaginary money to buy players. Having the challenge of getting a team that has a good chance at winning the league within that budget.  The fun of budgeting your money and figuring out where to spend it, what positions to spend it on and how to balance it on batters and pitchers so that you have enough good players in both of those areas.

There are a few things I think have helped my rise in interest in fantasy baseball over the last three to four years. One is I joined a league with people I have known from my previous jobs and we have an in-person auction draft and that brings the fun aspect of it with hanging out with friends for an evening, with a few of them I only end up seeing once a year at the draft and then interact the rest of the year online. The second part is that there is a cash entry fee that makes the league more competitive and to a certain degree helps keep peoples interest in the league to make that extra push and try to win the league.

Also, the fact that the league is a keeper league, which means we can keep up to nine players from year to year if we want and the strategy that goes into that. Strategy such as do you want to pay the cost it will take to keep the star player you have like maybe say Andrew McCutchen or Miguel Cabrera or go the route of keeping younger players so that you have more flexibility in the auction at the start of the season. The other part to keeper league that makes it fun is that it allows for you to make trades that will hopefully pay dividends the next season in getting a good young player for the star player that you no longer need in the current season since you are no longer in contention.  In that way your fantasy team mirrors what happens to MLB teams in real life in building for the future with trades you often see go down at the trading deadline.

All of this fun is kicked off each year in March with the annual fantasy baseball auction or draft and why March Madness has now become more about fantasy baseball to me instead of college basketball.

The start of baseball season & baseball books

It is officially baseball season now with the regular season starting this last weekend.  While my Minnesota Twins, did not have a great first series to start out with, hopefully they will have a good season.

For me I personally kicked off the baseball season when last Tuesday, March 29th, I went to hear author/baseball historian John Thorn talk about his new book ‘Baseball in the Garden of Eden: The Secret History of the Early Game’.   While I already had some background knowledge on the early history of baseball, it was great to hear Thorn speak and learn details about the early history that I did not know much about.  Garrison Keillor was the person who was interviewing Thorn, before they opened it up to audience questions.  What Thorn talked about it is how the myth of Abner Doubleday creating baseball is just that a myth, and went on to talk about the real influences on the early history of baseball and how it changed early on became something that was able to grow and become popular.  Overall it was a great event and a nice way to kick off the baseball season for me.  I did end up buying the book on amazon the day after and look forward to reading the book at some point this summer.

I also ordered another baseball book at the same time from amazon, called ’56: Joe DiMaggio and the Last Magic Number in Sports’ by Kostya Kennedy. The takes a look at the 1941 baseball season and Joe DiMaggio’s 56 game hitting streak and the impact that it had on different parts of the country.  Short blurb from the book description:

In 56, Kostya Kennedy tells the remarkable story of how the streak found its way into countless lives, from the Italian kitchens of Newark to the playgrounds of Queens to the San Francisco streets of North Beach; from the Oval Office of FDR to the Upper West Side apartment where Joe’s first wife, Dorothy, the movie starlet, was expecting a child. In this crisp, evocative narrative Joe DiMaggio emerges in a previously unseen light, a 26-year-old on the cusp of becoming an icon. He comes alive-a driven ballplayer, a mercurial star and a conflicted husband-as the tension and the scrutiny upon him build with each passing day.

From the little I have skimmed over since I have gotten it, it seems like a nice mix of looking at the story line of DiMaggio and his actual hitting streak along with as describe above the impact it had.

Halladay is Historic

Simply Amazing.  Even though I was not able to see the game live, it is simply historic to think about what Halladay did on several levels. These stats show how historic Halladay was:

  • Including the Rays/Rangers game that was early game and the Philly/Reds game there had only been two post season no hitters in 2525 games.
  • Put another way only .0007% of post season games ever have been no hitters.
  • Only 5 pitchers have ever thrown two no hitters in same calendar year.
  • Nolan Ryan was the last pitcher to throw two in a season in 1973, 37 years ago.
  • It has Been 54 years since there has been a no hitter in the post season.
  • Last one being Don Larsen’s 1956 World Series perfect game.

As a final though from me it is nice when my love of history and baseball can come together.

A little more info from ESPN:

Only two other times in the history of the postseason had any pitcher even taken a no-hitter into the eighth inning — Jim Lonborg 7 2/3 hitless in the 1967 World Series, and Bill Bevens 8 2/3 hitless in the 1947 World Series. So even to see a man get so close that it came time to start counting down the outs was a heart-thumping experience.

And, of course, Halladay had already thrown one no-hitter himself this season — a May 29 perfect game in Florida. No pitcher who ever lived, obviously, had ever thrown a regular-season no-hitter and a postseason no-hitter in the same season before. So you can add that stunning wrinkle to this improbable script.

via Roy Halladay tosses no-hitter in postseason debut – ESPN.

Why baseball’s Hank Aaron still matters.

If you follow baseball at all, you understand the importance and significance that stats and records hold in baseball and how we measure players in history in this sport. At the end of a career if they are a pitcher we ask how many wins, strike-outs, complete games etc. For batters, we ask how many home runs, runs batted in, how many chucktoddhits, lifetime batting average. We measure players on how well they do on those areas. We also try to use those numbers to match up players from different eras to the age old question who is the best player ever? But all of that has come into some question with the problems that steroids have caused in baseball in the last 10 or 15 years or so. Which brings us to this quote from the article Rodriguez’s Chase Offers Chance to Re-examine Aaron – NYTimes.com.

Re-examined in the light of subsequent steroid revelations and admissions, Aaron’s assault on Ruth becomes more impressive than anything ever seen during the recent era of lying eyes.

Very true, now that we are exiting the high point of the steroid era in baseball, we can start to reflect a little and remember what an achievement Hank Aaron accomplished when he passed Babe Ruth for the all time home run record. How Aaron sustained his home run hitting well into the latter half of his career as the numbers and quote shows below.

Actually, Aaron broke the mold, hitting 203 home runs in the five seasons after his 35th birthday and 245 over all, second in that category behind the presumed-to-be-chemically-enhanced Bonds. By comparison, Willie Mays hit 37 at age 35 and never again topped 28. Ken Griffey Jr. hit 35 at 35 and went steadily downhill. Reggie Jackson hit 39 at 36 and faded like a California sunset.

Even as his slugging indicators have dipped, Rodriguez is still among the leaders this season in runs batted in. But if the coming act, post-35, looks more like the aging Mays than the amazing Aaron, the lingering question will be this: just how much of his prime-career performance was improperly enhanced?

Aaron, meanwhile, will remain baseball’s prime example of how to age with a pure and potent grace.

via News Analysis – Rodriguez’s Chase Offers Chance to Re-examine Aaron – NYTimes.com.

The ultimate points for me that I take away from this article are several. One, given the damage steroids have done to the history of the game and the importance of stats in baseball, we can see how truly great Hank Aaron was and he still deserves a lot of respect and wonder for what he did. The second thing is that no matter what happens with any player who has a taint of steroids or surrounded in scandal from it, like Bonds, McGwire, or Rodriguez, there will always be some question as to the credibility of their numbers or if they truly deserve the rankings in all time numbers that they end up with. With all of that in consideration I certainly think there will be people who still consider Roger Maris for single season and Hank Aaron for career home runs, as the true record holders until some one with a truly clean record breaks either or both of those records. Whether that may be Albert Pujols or maybe it will be some player who currently is only 10 years old and yet to come on the radar, it is hard to say.

Summer reading

The latest books I have read or am in the process of reading this summer (loose definition since I know technically today the 21st is first day of summer) have been Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis  and the book Blood Oath by Christopher Farnsworth, which just came out this last May.

While Moneyball has been out since 2002, I just got around to reading it and I am glad I did.  If you are unfamiliar with the book Moneyball, the basic premise to me is how Oakland Athletics under general manager Billy Bean came to have a low budget winning teams while putting a much greater reliance on numbers and statistics when evaluating players instead of decades old traditional ways of doing it. Besides the statistical part and sections on scouting etc, there are some good sections that just describe some of the players from the A’s organization.  Lewis gives you a real picture of baseball and what it is really like, from how the baseball draft was run to the art of making deals at the trading deadline and many things in between.  So if you enjoy baseball and have not read this book I would say certainly pick it up.

What I am currently reading is Blood Oath, and what the book is about I will leave to the description I got from the book-

The ultimate secret. The ultimate agent. The President’s vampire.

Zach Barrows is an ambitious young White House staffer whose career takes an unexpected turn when he’s partnered with Nathaniel Cade, a secret agent sworn to protect the president. But Cade is no ordinary civil servant. Bound by a special blood oath, Cade has spent more than 140 years in service to the president, battling nightmares before they can break into the daylight world of the American dream.

Via: Aamazon.com Blood Oath

While I have not finished Blood Oath yet, I am just a few chapters into it, but so far the book is quite enjoyable.  So far it is a good page turned and more a fluffy action type of a book that still has a good story or at least enough of a story to keep you interested.  This type of book with a mix of action, and a bit of science fiction or fantasy is a good match for me and one of the genre’s of books that I do enjoy.  Wile it has a promising start will just have to read the rest of the book to see how good the book is overall. I will try to post again on what I thought of the overall book once I finish reading it.


The hype of Stephen Strasburg

Strasburg #nats (Getty pic) on Twitpic
Via MLB twitpic http://twitpic.com/1xym68

Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg had his third major league start tonight and again showed us that so far he has had no big problems it seems in adjusting to the big leagues.  I got to thinking about Strasburg after seeing a friend pass along this tweet below, with info on this record Strasburg broke tonight.

Strasburg 7 Ks thru 4 IP. Just matched JR Richard (1971) for most K’s (29) in 1st 3 #MLB starts since 1952. Unbelievable. #nats

via MLB (MLB) on Twitter.

By the end of the night Strasburg had 32 strikeouts for the season and ten strikeouts total for the night.  In his three starts so far has gone 7 innings (IP) twice and 5.1 IP the other time.  Add to that 32 K’s and a 2.19 ERA and I would say that is a pretty good beginning to your career.

Granted his first two starts where against Pittsburgh and Cleveland neither which are having great years, but he went up against the White Sox’s tonight who are a bit better than Cle & Pit. Given the caveat just written,  so far at least it certainly seems like Strasburg is living up to all of the hype that has surrounded him even before he was drafted in 2009.  It certainly will be fun to see how well he does the rest of the year and if the rest of the leagues catches up to at all or if he just keeps cruising along.

If you want to read more about Strasburg third start here is the game report from MLB.com