All this talk about having to speed up the game of baseball over the past few years is a bunch of nonsense. Basketball was losing viewership because the quality of the product on the court had significantly dropped. The NFL is crying about losing ratings, too, unable to see the obvious flaws in their game (two-and-a-half-hours of beer and truck commercials to 30 minutes of football play. As a fan of all these sports, I contest that a three-hour baseball game isn't the problem with baseball, just like it's not the problem with the NFL, NBA or NHL... it may be the problem with NASCAR, but that's beside the point. Baseball isn't too slow, and here's why.
Draft a Ton of Pitchers
We've lamented repeatedly on our site about how stupid it is to use Total Strikeouts as a pitching category in 5x5 leagues (as opposed to K/9). After all, ERA and WHIP are both stats based on averages for pitchers, so why don't we use an average for strikeouts, too? Even worse, we're at the mercy of the MLB scheduling Gods to give a pitcher two starts in a single, fantasy baseball week. It happens all the time: your ace will pitch one, great game with 8 strikeouts, while your opponent will have some scrub get two starts, but he'll rack up 9 total strikeouts. He'll have a terrible ERA and WHIP, but you'll lose 5-4 that week all because he beat you in total strikeouts.
Because of this, and because pitchers are limited in their appearances every week, you want to draft as many pitchers as you can in a head-to-head 5x5 league and put them in your lineup every time they have a start. Doing this, you can win the strikeouts category every week, even with mediocre strikeout pitchers. On top of that, you can rack up Wins more easily as well - the more chances you have, the more wins you'll likely get. Plus, you're not penalized for a loss, so why not take the chance?
In short, draft a ton of pitchers on draft day and watch your strikeout totals and Wins dominate all season long.
Another bonus benefit to this is that you'll only want to carry 9 batters on your entire roster. That's right: no backups. When one of your batters gets hurt, you address it then, but not before. Best of all, there's never any second-guessing on which guy to start at which position. Your offense stays the same all year long and you just keep cycling in any pitcher you have who's starting that day. That, my friends, is how you can win with minimal effort in a 5x5 head-to-head league.
Draft Strategy for a Rotisserie League
The good news is that, for those of us who like crunching the numbers and analyzing statistics, drafting for a Rotisserie League is way more fun. In a rotisserie league, you have to draft to try to win every category possible. As opposed to a 5x5 league where you can dominate 6 of 10 categories every week and win the whole league, you can't do that in a rotisserie league. The stats are kept all season long and every single stats counts just as much as the next.
Draft an Extremely Balanced Team
The things to look for first in a rotisserie league are the guys who have the potential to go 30/30 while also hitting for a high average. After those guys are gone (in the first round), you'll need to go after specialists: base stealers, guys who hit for average, guys who solely hit home runs.
Then, you have to draft pitchers carefully, too. The first stat you go after is WHIP. Since all other stats are reliant upon a pitcher's ability to keep guys off base, a pitcher's WHIP is your most-reliable predictor of his impending success (or demise).
Yahoo's draft interface this season has a cool feature where it scores your "standings" during the draft. Based on last year's stats or their pulled-from-thin-air 2015 projections, it will tell you where you stand in terms of your competitors' rosters. In other words, if Team A has 400 Runs amassed in the first 7 rounds based on last year's stats, and you only have 360 runs based on last year's stats, their Standings tool will show you where you're deficient, statistically at that point in the draft. Is it perfect? No. Is it pretty helpful? Yeah, it actually is.
Injuries KILL Teams in Rotisserie Leagues
Honestly, this is the only reason why we hate rotisserie leagues: if your best player(s) get injured, you're screwed for the rest of the season. Period. Once you have a guy in the lineup who you're counting on for 35 HR and 100 RBI, then he goes down for the season with an injury in May (or whenever, really), you're screwed. You can't replace a guy like that with someone of the waiver wires, nor can you make up that ground elsewhere. You can't really predict injuries, for the most part, so losing one or two guys to an injury mid-way through the season will make you lose interest in your rotisserie league very quickly.
Nevertheless, you have to prepare to win, so you must draft a perfectly balanced team in order to have a chance at winning a rotisserie league. And that includes drafting a couple of sleepers who absolutely must pay off, and, of course, everyone must stay injury-free all season long.
Oh - also, draft a head-to-head team, too, so that when your rotisserie team is doomed for imminent failure around June, you'll have another fantasy team to occupy your time.
Michael Brantley's Fantasy Stats
Michael Brantley played in 156 games in 2014. He recorded 611 At Bats, yet he only struck out 56 times. Likewise, he only walked 52 times. What does this tell us?
This tells us that Michael Brantley is progressing to be a great fantasy producer across the board. Of course, his value to the Cleveland Indians is ultimately more valuable, but let's talk about the predictors we see in his stats from a fantasy baseball perspective.
The fact that Brantley puts the ball in play is typically indicative that he will continue to produce, fantasy-wise. While we don't think he'll ever lead the league in home runs, he will continue to hit between 15-30 home runs every year. He'll also maintain decent speed until his early 30s, at least, and he'll keep his batting average around the .290-.310 mark, most likely.
Why Michael Brantley Had a Great Season
With his maturation - both physically and mentally - Michael Brantley was finally able to add a little more power to his swing in 2014. In 2011-2013, what used to be fly-ball outs are now home runs in 2014. What were simple, laced singles into the outfield were driven harder into the gaps and down the line for doubles instead of singles. What were tough ground outs before became harder grounders through the hole, leading to singles instead of ground-outs. Those singles led to more opportunities to steal bases, hence the uptick in that category, too. Now that he's achieved the 200-hit plateau, can he do it again? We think so. In fact, the only thing stopping Michael Brantley from 200 hits again may be added patience at the plate (AKA: more walks)... or injuries, of course, but we don't wanna jinx the guy.
The relative constant in Brantley's stats from 2011-2014 is that he puts the ball in play. He doesn't walk much, but he also doesn't strike out much. We're not gonna go and compare the guy to Tony Gwynn or Wade Boggs just yet, but that may be because he has more power. Likewise, with his extra power, we're also not going to compare him to a guy like Vladimir Guerrero who swings at (and hits) everything in the same area code, but we think Michael Brantley is somewhere in between the high-average slap hitters and a power-hitter like Vlad Guerrero.
Expectations in 2015
Again, we don't wanna jinx the guy because, honestly, we miss the era of the good, contact hitter who's embarrassed to strikeout (no offense, AL MVP Mike Trout... you and your 184 strikeouts). While he may not put up the same numbers as last year, we do expect more than 20 HR, a .295-.310 batting average, 90+ Runs and RBI and another 20+ stolen bases in 2015.
Kyle Seager solidified his spot as a notable power hitter, and he's only 27 this season, too. Seager hit .268 with 25 HR and 96 RBI in 2014, and his batting average has improved in each of the past four seasons. 27-years-old is a typical breakout-season age in the major leagues, so for those of you who thought last year was his breakout year, this year could be even better.
Dustin Ackley hit 14 HR with 65 RBI in 2014, and he, too, turns 27 this season. With Austin Jackson and Seth Smith (presumably) in the outfield with him, they're a bunch of scrappy, tough outs. Jackson, especially - if he learns to be more patient at the plate - is extremely tough on opposing pitchers. The threat for Jackson to steal is significant enough to bother less-seasoned pitchers, although he may attempt fewer steals depending on how this offense jells together. If they're all hitting, Jackson may not run as much since there are so many guys to drive him in. Conversely, if the guys behind him aren't hitting, he'll be running more - maybe more than last year. Jackson only stole 20 bases in 2014, but get this: he stole 9 with Detroit in 100 games, but he stole 11 bases with Seattle in just 54 games. So, the initial indication is that he'll be running more this season, but with the addition of Nelson Cruz and the maturation of the rest of Seattle's power in the lineup, he may give the hitters behind him a few more pitches. Also, Austin Jackson is still only 28 years old this season, so he hasn't lost any speed.
Seattle's Dominant Starting Pitching
Felix Hernandez is money. You already know that. And if it seems like Felix Hernandez has already been pitching for a decade, it's because he has been pitching for a decade. Despite that, he'll still only be 29 years old in April. Now - let us be the first to warn you fantasy baseball nerds out there: just like we predicted CC Sabathia was overdue for an injury prior to last season, we're giving a similar warning about King Felix prior to this season. Given that Felix is in significantly better physical shape than CC Sabathia, we think it's less likely that Hernandez gets hurt this year, but still - we would be remiss... irresponsible, even, if we didn't warn you. Felix Hernandez has started more than 30 games in each of the last 9 seasons. He has also thrown more than 200 innings in each of the past 7 seasons. So... take it for what it's worth, but we honestly think he'll be okay at this pace, at least until he's 31 or 32.
So what about the rest of the Mariners' pitching staff?
James Paxton is, perhaps, the best, relatively-unknown pitcher in all of baseball. We let you know prior to last season that he may end up being the best $1 player in an auction draft, and one of the best sleeper picks among pitchers, period. Turns out, Paxton spent a lot of time injured last season, but when he pitched, he was more than solid. In 13 starts, Paxton carried a 3.04 ERA, 1.20 WHIP and 7.2 K/9 - all super-solid numbers. He's only 26 this season, so we're fairly confident the injury big will stay away from him.
Taijuan Walker is someone who will get drafted in your fantasy league a little too early because he has a cool name, electric stuff and a good flair about him on the mound. He's only 22 years old and he's ready for the big time. Last season, he only made five starts, but he posted a 2.61 ERA, a 1.29 WHIP and 8.1 K/9. While we would expect his ERA to go up a bit given his WHIP, we also wouldn't be totally shocked if his WHIP comes down to match his ERA, instead. We expect Walker to end up around a 3.60 ERA and a 1.25 WHIP. In those stats will be a few flashes of absolute brilliance when he's on, and those flashes could also be hot streaks that last 4 or 5 games, too.
Roenis Elias is also pretty solid in the rotation, although he can be a bit sloppy at times. His ERA was under 4.00, but his WHIP was over 1.3, which is usually an indicator that his ERA should be significantly higher. Nonetheless, he, too, is only 26 years old, so the upside to his talents far outweighs the downside.
Then there's the old guy of the bunch: Hisashi Iwakuma - he of the aged 34 years in April. Make no mistake, though - Iwakuma is solid, having posted a 3.52 ERA and a WHIP of 1.05 that indicates that he could very easily drop his ERA under 3.00 if a little luck comes his way. His K/9 are also excellent at 7.7. Another fantasy note: this guy will go way later than he should in your draft because he (along with everyone else in Seattle other than King Felix) gets no media attention.
The Mariners' Bullpen is above average. In fact, the biggest issue we see with it is Fernando Rodney. Sure, Fernando Rodney led all of baseball with 48 saves in 2014, but seriously... look at his stats - they weren't that good. Rodney finished with a good 2.85 ERA, but his WHIP was bloated at 1.34. That giant WHIP is a clear indication that he's in trouble. It's also on par with his career WHIP (1.36), whereas his career ERA is a non-impressive 3.61 in terms of being a closer. For fantasy purposes, there's no way we can recommend you draft Fernando Rodney unless you're desperate. Likewise, we see him as, quite possibly, the biggest question mark for the Mariners going into the 2015 season. On top of his bloated WHIP, his age is also pretty bloated - relatively speaking to the rest of the team, of course. Fernando Rodney will be 38 this season, so we don't expect much more from him.
If Fernando Rodney melts down as the Mariners' closer in 2015 - which we kind of expect - Danny Farquhar could get another shot at closing out games. Farquhar keeps improving, posting a 2.66 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 10.3 K/9. His ERA and WHIP are both better than Rodney's, and his K/9 are the same. Farquhar is also 28 this season - 10 years younger than Rodney.
In closing, the AL West needs to be on high alert of the Seattle Mariners. They're young, talented, ready to break out, and ready to have a contagious, winning dugout all season long.
Oh, did we even bother mentioning they have the best offensive second baseman in all of baseball in Robinson Cano? Yeah... that helps, too.
Dodgers Outfield, 2014: Scenario 1
LF: Carl Crawford
CF: Joc Pederson
RF: Yasiel Puig
The first option is one that Dodger fans are (mostly) hopeful for. First, Dodger fans are hopeful that Carl Crawford can, somehow, find a way to play 145+ games and play like his old (errrr - his young) self again. Second, they're hopeful that Joc Pederson ends up being the power-hitting, center0field-roaming stud that they saw in spring training in 2013. Third, they just want Yasiel Puig to play, period, which he will.
Ultimately, the Dodgers are expecting Puig to play right field - the best place for his cannon arm; Pederson would play center field - he has the speed, the smarts and enough of an arm to do it; and Crawford would play left field - the only place he can justifiably play these days.
This best-case scenario requires two relatively-unlikely things: Crawford to stay healthy and Joc Pederson to be a stud on opening day. While this is the plan for 2014, we don't see it lasting.
Dodgers Outfield, 2014: Scenario 2
In AAA last year, before being called up, Joc Pederson was a 30-30 guy in just 122 games (33 HR; 30 SB). The clear weakness he had in the Minors, though, was that he struck out a ridiculous 149 times in that same span (1.22 strikeouts per game, or 1 strikeout for every 2.99 at bats). He still hit .303, though, so the jury is still out on whether he can play in the big leagues or not. If he makes contact, he does serious damage... if he makes contact. But tell that to last year's AL MVP, Mike Trout, who struck out 184 times (1 strikeout for every 3.29 at bats).
Dodgers Outfield, 2014: Scenario 3
Van Slyke would have to play (and he would have to play left field), and Ethier would have to play. Honestly, Ethier could probably still play center field if necessary, which would mean leaving Puig's arm in right field where you want it. But having Puig in Center Field may become a necessity if Ethier can't track down balls the way a center fielder needs to be able to do.
If Puig ends up playing center field, the Dodgers have two problems:
1. Wasting Puig's arm in center field.
2. Expecting Puig to use his baseball smarts to call the shots in center field.
A great arm is still very useful in center field, especially since a base hit through the middle with a runner on second base is a pretty common play to make. But a great arm in center is a luxury more than it is a necessity. Ultimately, the top-priority in center field is having a guy with the speed t track down fly balls. Puig has that; Ethier doesn't.
Also, Expecting Puig to run the show in center field is a scary proposition. If Puig plays center field, you can expect to see him calling guys off of fly balls and then not being able to make the play himself.
Andre Ethier has the smarts and experience to run the show in center field, although his lack of range may prove to be too troublesome for the Dodgers' outfield. The Dodgers really want Puig's arm in right, but they may have to sacrifice his arm for his range.
Other Outfield Options for the Dodgers in 2014
Really, the three options listed above are just about the only options for the Dodgers in 2014, barring anomalies and other injuries. The Dodgers should just relax and be thankful that they have four potentially serviceable outfielders, even after the departure of Matt Kemp to San Diego. With Puig, Ethier, Crawford and Van Slyke, they should be okay. Not great, but okay. What they really to focus on now is what to do with Juan Uribe at third base, and what to do when they realize that Howie Kendrick is half the player that Dee Gordon is... but that's a different discussion.
Curt Schilling: "Yeah, oh absolutely. Um... Yeah, they - the process isn't flawed - stupid people do stupid things... I've seen so many in the past... people making - voters making their vote into a news article, protesting this, protesting that - except just voting the player on his playing merits. And, you know, that's normal, I guess. We're human and, you know, we all have bias, we all have prejudice, and, you know... when Pedro (Martinez) gets 91-percent of the vote, that tells you something's wrong."
I want you to realize something here: Curt Schilling is on the Hall of Fame ballot, too, but he didn't get voted in. Despite that, he said that the voters "absolutely" got it right this year. Curt Schilling was not elected into the Hall of Fame, yet he said that the voters got it absolutely right. Furthermore, he even lamented that Pedro Martinez didn't get enough votes with 91% - and Pedro and Curt were not all that chummy in Boston together.
Did Being a Republican Cost Curt Schilling Votes? Stop it...
Look, people, quit making news out of horseshit that isn't news. You're the same people that focus your attention on a missing girl in Aruba as being national news. You're the same people who focus on a house-fire in Chicago and make it national news. You're the same ones who focus on a cold spell in the middle of winter in Iowa being national news... as if it's newsworthy at all that it's freaking cold in the middle of winter in Iowa, for God's sake..
"Oh my God! Did you hear it's cold in Iowa right now?!... In fucking January??!!!"
"NO WAY!!! Quick!! We've got our news lead!! Top of the hour!! GO GO GO!!"
Go back and listen to the interview. Schilling was clearly joking about Smoltz being a Democrat, then Schilling played on the joke (along with the hosts) that he's a Republican and, therefore, he lost some votes. Curt Schilling, as you can clearly hear throughout the rest of the interview, is completely fine with not getting into the Hall of Fame. Listen to the entire interview and remain objective. It's really not hard to understand. It's also pretty entertaining for true baseball fans, I must say... but you gotta get past your inherent hatred for Curt Schilling and/or Republicans.
Also remember something even more important: I'm not asking you to like Curt Schilling; I'm just asking you to listen to what he says, objectively.
The Worst Part of this Whole "Situation"
The fact that, out of all the things that Curt Schilling said in his interview with the Dennis and Callahan Morning Show, the fact that this one comment about him being a Republican is going to be the focus, speaks volumes of the attackers on Twitter today. Because of this, there will be memes, there will be endless punch-lines, there will be caricature drawings of Curt Schilling crying about the Hall of Fame every year while wearing an elephant lapel pin... I'll bet someone even throws in an, "If Sarah Palin was allowed to vote for Curt Schilling, he'd make it in the Hall of Fame" joke. Wait a minute - that's actually a pretty good one. I'll keep the Palin joke for myself. "DIBS!"
Anyway, the fact that this one comment is going to overshadow all the great insight throughout the interview is a damned shame. Curt Schilling shared, among other things:
All this is good stuff. Great stuff, even, if you're the host of a sports talk radio show. Unfortunately, though, Curt Schilling is now going to have to face this bullshit (non-)issue every year when the Hall of Fame balloting comes around, and it's going to take time away from the real issues at hand, like his stats and actual merit on the field for (potentially) earning his spot in the Hall of Fame.
The fact that certain people are choosing to blast Curt Schilling for the "Republican" remark proves exactly what he said in the interview when he addressed not getting votes.They simply don't like him for being as opinionated as he is:
"I do know that there are guys who probably will never vote for me because of the things that I said or did... y'know... that's the way it works."
Just like in the Twitter-verse, there are people in the media who simply don't like Curt Schilling. I mean, radio hosts seem to love the fact that he's opinionated, of course, but some guys in the media dislike him for that exact same reason. Go figure.
Again, no one's asking you to like Curt Schilling - you don't have to like him or the Republicans to understand this. By choosing this one, off-handed joking remark and focus all of your attention on it, yet totally ignore all of the other interesting insights that Schilling gave during the interview, it just shows that you are incapable of shaking your own bias. You are incapable of being tolerant of this guy because he's a Republican. Again, you don't have to like Republicans, nor do you have to like Curt Schilling, but can you just focus on the actual news, here? Curt Schilling said in this very same interview that Randy Johnson was a "miserable, miserable guy." Shouldn't that get some attention? He also said that Todd Helton was one of his least-favorite guys to face. He also said that he has no problem with Craig Biggio being a "compiler" (a guy who gets a bunch of hits because he plays forever). He also said that the media simply doesn't like certain guys... oh wait... we've been over that.
The point is: be honest. This is actually a really insightful interview if you can just get over your immediate, knee-jerk reaction to hating all things Republican or anything that comes out of Schilling's mouth. And if you're a true baseball fan, you can listen to everything that Curt Schilling has to say in this interview and come away saying, "Wow... that was some pretty good stuff" because, objectively speaking, it really was.
Barry Bonds and the Media
The reason I bring up the media is because the sports writers who have the power to vote guys into the Hall of Fame are the ones keeping Barry Bonds out. They all know that Barry Bonds played on an even playing field when other hitters - and many pitchers - were doing steroids, or other Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs). The problem that the sports writers have with Barry Bonds is that Bonds was arrogant, and Bonds was even a flat out dick to these guys in the media. Why was he a dick to them?
Barry Bonds really started being a dick to the media when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa became media darlings in 1998 with their famous Home Run race, when McGwire hit 70 HRs and Sosa hit 66 - both beating Roger Maris's 37-year-old home run record of 61. When it was discovered that Mark McGwire was using Androstinedione that season, the media washed over it and continued their coverage of McGwire and Sosa. While I have no problem with the media's coverage of the home run race, Barry Bonds did. That same season, Barry Bonds hit his 400th career home run, making him the first and only baseball player in history to hit 400 home runs and steal 400 bases. By the way, that's fucking ridiculous that he was able to do that. When Bonds did that, the media all but ignored him and continued chasing around McGwire and Sosa like a bunch of horny teenagers gawking at cheerleaders.
Should Barry Bonds have been so upset about it? In my opinion, no. But... Barry Bonds is an egotistical guy, therefore, he did care. He wanted the notoriety that McGwire and Sosa were getting, especially since Bonds knew that he was 10-times the player that either of those two guys could ever dream of being. At that point, Bonds, apparently, decided that he was going to do whatever it took to dominate baseball like no one else had ever done.
Bonds was the Smartest Player in Baseball
Bonds scouted players and pitchers like no one else. I remember watching games with him playing left field and the announcers were commenting that he was playing the batter too close to the line. Also, he was playing the batter opposite the rest of the team. In other words, the rest of the team was playing a left-hander to pull, while Bonds was shading him toward the left-field line. Why? Because he knew better than anyone else. Bonds knew the hitters and he knew his team's pitchers. He knew that, based on the way his pitcher was pitching the guy, he would slice it the other way. Sure enough, the guy at the plate would pop one up the other way, and Bonds was there to make the catch. Not only was he there to make the catch, he didn't have to dive to do it. He had his scouting down so well that he was able to park himself there and wait for the ball to come to him. Flashy, diving catches weren't necessary in the world of Barry Bonds.
Now - real quick: did Barry Bonds have a great arm? Absolutely not. He had an average arm, at best, as Sid Bream can attest to. But his mediocre arm was, literally, his only flaw. There. Now that's out of the way. Let's continue analyzing why Barry Bonds belongs in the Hall of Fame.
Bonds vs. Sosa and McGwire
When you look at Bonds, Sosa and McGwire - the three most-prominent home run hitters known for using PEDs (uhhh... allegedly) - you can see a significant difference in the way Bonds' stats improved versus the way Sosa and McGwire's stats improved:
In short, pitchers and coaches were never afraid to pitch to McGwire and Sosa - they knew they could get them out so long as they didn't make a mistake. Look as Sosa's strikeouts those 5 seasons: his best season was only 144 strikeouts. McGwire didn't fare much better, striking out like crazy, himself. Bonds, on the other hand, improved significantly in strikeouts, for the most part.
Look at Bonds' 2003 season where he had 130 games played, then compare it to McGwire's 1996 season where he also had 130 games played. This is about as close to apples-to-apples as you can get with this comparison.
McGwire was 32 years old. He recorded 423 at bats with 52 HRs, 116 walks and 112 strikeouts - an excellent year for him, to say the least. Arguably, his best season in terms of overall offensive balance and reliability. He also hit .312 with a .730 slugging percentage.
Bonds, on the other hand, was 38 years old. Bonds recorded just 390 at bats while hitting 45 home runs. He also walked a ridiculous 148 times while only striking out 58 times. He was also intentionally walked 61 times (vs. McGwire's 16 times). Bonds' batting average was .341 with a .749 slugging percantage - both better than McGwire's.
In general, Sosa and McGwire's numbers increased slightly across the board mathematically. Perhaps thanks to the PEDs, what would have been warning-track fly-outs had become home runs, giving Sosa and McGwire a slight bump in batting average, home runs, RBI and slugging percentage. Bonds numbers, on the other hand, got way better across the board. His walks went way up, his batting average went way up, and his home runs went way up. Pitchers and coaches were afraid to pitch to Bonds - they knew they weren't going to strike him out. McGwire and Sosa, on the other hand, were frequent strikeout victims that no pitcher was afraid of.
Barry Bonds was the Smartest Hitter, Ever
Take it easy, there, Ted WIlliams fans. We're not about to argue anything about Bonds being any better than Ted Williams... necessarily. We could waste time arguing about the "different era" thing, but we won't. Bonds was very likely the smartest hitter in the history of baseball, but it was because he figured out such a simple approach to hitting that, for some reason, no one else seems to have figured out.
Hitters, in general, when they get to the plate, they have the automatic mindset that they have to swing at strikes, when they really don't. Hitters forget that they get three strikes to play with. Bonds understood this, therefore, Bonds created his own strike zone.
When Barry Bonds went to the plate, he had a smaller "sweet-spot" strike zone in his mind that was within the actual strike zone, per se. This was a smaller window that was his personal sweet spot where he wanted to see pitches. This sweet spot was a smaller box within the strike zone that, if a pitch was going in that little box, he would absolutely crush it, regardless of the count. If he had less than 2 strikes on him and the pitch wasn't going in his sweet spot, he wasn't going to swing at it, period. He would just take strike one - or even strike two, for that matter. It wasn't until Bonds had two strikes on him that he would swing at anything close to the strike zone to protect the plate. While everyone else had the mindset that they had to swing at every strike, Bonds was patient. He waited for his pitch, and if he got it, he killed it. If he didn't get it, he would wait until he had two strikes to protect the plate, and then you'd see him lace doubles in the gap, rip singles through the box, or even hit an opposite field home run. This mentality at the plate set Bonds apart from, literally, every other hitter in the major leagues. Again, this comes down to Bonds just being smarter than everyone else on the field. Again, you don't have to like the guy, but you must recognize that his approach to hitting was beyond unique - it was smarter than everyone else in the league.
Debunking the "Everyone Was Doing Steroids" Argument
Was everyone in baseball using some sort of PED? Well, no, not literally. But PEDs were rampant in baseball during Bonds' career. And both pitchers and hitters were using PEDs. Hell, even FP Santangelo got busted for using PEDs, but he also admitted that he used them just to recover from injuries more quickly (he obviously didn't use PEDs to hit more home runs). Nevertheless, when you look at the steroid era, Barry Bonds' numbers still stand out from the crowd as the ultimate, "Holy shit!" stats. When you look at it objectively, pitchers were trying to get over on hitters by using PEDs, too. And hitters all over the league were popping PEDs like Tic-Tacs, but none of them came close to measuring up against Barry Bonds. Bonds' stats were so ridiculously beyond everyone else's that, if you had to pick one guy from the steroid era to make the Hall of Fame, it would have to be Barry Bonds. Also keep in mind that this doesn't take into account his accomplishments before the alleged PED use. By the time Sosa and McGwire hit the limelight, Bonds was already a 400 HR/400 SB guy - the only one in the history of baseball, by the way.
One Last Case for Bonds and the Hall of Fame
We've already covered the fact that the guys in the media are just being bitchy that Bonds wasn't nice to them during interviews, and that's playing a large role - rather, a HUGE role in Bonds not getting into the Hall of Fame. Memo to baseball players today: be nice to the old farts in the media because they're the ones who are going to vote on your Hall of Fame worthiness later on when you retire. So kiss their self-important, nostalgic asses now if you think you have a chance at the Hall of Fame when you call it quits.
Aside from the writers in the media not taking kindly to Barry Bonds' arrogance, these vote-carrying writers have to suck up their pride and do their best to compare apples to apples. In Bonds' era, he was so clearly the best player in baseball that there's no way you can justify leaving him out of the Hall of Fame. There's just no way. When everyone competitive in his era was doing the same thing (PEDs - both hitters AND pitchers), Bonds was so far ahead of them that it wasn't even comparable. Okay... let's put it this way... other teams were so afraid of Bonds beating them that Bonds was able to record a season like the following at the age of 39:
Bonds drew 120 intentional walks!!! Do you even realize how ridiculous that is? Bonds was walked intentionally 120 times in 2004. You know who has the second-most intentional walks all time in a single season? It's Barry Bonds (68 times in 2002). You know who's third? It's Barry Bonds with 61 intentional walks in 2003. Willie McCovey was walked intentionally 45 times in 1969... Albert Pujols was walked intentionally 44 imes in 2009... Jesus H tap-dancing Christ, man, how much more evidence do you need?! Do you realize how arrogant and self-confident you have to be just to make the life decision of, "I think I'll be a professional baseball pitcher for a living."? Pitchers who were already arrogant enough to make that decision, then went on to justify that decision by earning a spot in the major leagues as a pitcher, then went on to face Barry Bonds, then said, "Screw this, man.. I ain't pitching to this guy. He'll KILL me!" Do you realize the ego-swallowing act it takes to intentionally walk a guy in the majors? Then you also have a coach coming out to tell you, "Hey, man, walk this guy. He'll crush you." Bonds was intentionally walked 120 times in a single season!!! Victor Martinez led the league in intentional walks in 2014 with 28. Giancarlo Stanton was second with 24. Hows that for perspective?
"But Bonds was doing PEDs when he did that!" sayeth the holier-than-thou sports writers. Horseshit, seyeth me, the objective, meek Blog writer. Jeff Bagwell didn't draw those walks. Pujols didn't draw those walks. Larry Walker didn't draw those walks. Triple-crown winner Miguel Cabrera didn't draw those walks. Cecil Fielder didn't draw those walks. McGwire and Sosa didnt' draw those walks. Barry Bonds drew 120 intentional walks in a single season, and he stil hit 45 home runs in 373 at bats... with 101 RBI, a .362 batting average, an .812 slugging percentage and a total of 232 walks to just 41 strikeouts... Dude... SERIOUSLY... Go ahead - say it with me...
Bonds' stats are beyond video game stats, and there were plently of guys in his era that slammed PEDs like they were Halloween candy.
I think we can finally rest this case. Barry Bonds belongs in the Hall of Fame, you pompass, purist, bitter, jealous, conceited, biased sports writers. Get over your feelings. Don't tell me what you feel - tell me what you think. You know Barry Bonds is the greatest player of his era and it's not even close. Leave McGwire out. Leave Sosa out. Leave Bagwell out. Leave Palmeiro out. Leave Frank Thomas out - oh, wait too late. He's already in (for the record, that's fine with me). Hell, you can even leave Roger Clemens out for all I care. Roger Clemens is nowhere near as a good a pitcher as Bonds was a hitter, so Clemens can stay out. But Barry Bonds belongs in the Hall of Fame. There's just no way to justify leaving Barry Bonds out of the Hall of Fame.
I'm not asking you to like Barry Bonds. I'm telling you to put him in the Hall of Fame where he belongs. You don't have to like a guy to put him in the Hall of Fame. Ty Cobb, anyone? I don't remember Barry Bonds spiking anyone in the guts while sliding into second base on a routine grounder, but I do remmeber Barry Bonds dominating baseball even before he used PEDs.
Just suck it up, get over your bias, get over your hatred for Barry Bonds and his giant ego... and his giant head... and just vote him into the Hall of Fame. There is no justification for keeping Barry Bonds out of the Baseball Hall of Fame. There just isn't. And the same goes for Pete Rose, too, I might add... but that's a different article altogether.
Masahiro Tanaka is a highly-touted, 24-0 pitcher out of Japan with an ERA of 1.27. He's only 25 years old and he already has 7 years of professional baseball experience in Japan. His career ERA in Japan was 2.30 with a 1.108 WHIP and 8.5 K/9. So how does one translate (no pun intended) those Japanese stats into Major League Baseball? More importantly for us fantasy nerds, when should we draft him, or what should we pay for him in a fantasy auction? In other words, what's Masahiro Tanaka's Fantasy Worth?
Is Brian Cashman Downplaying Tanaka's Ability?
On one hand, you don't pay a #3 starter $22-million per year. By comparison, Zack Greinke makes about $24.5-million per year, and he's a solid #2 starter behind the best pitcher in baseball... in a great pitcher's park, to boot. On the other hand, Masahiro Tanaka may be the real deal, and Brian Cashman may just be downplaying the dude's ability, just in case he turns into the next Hideki Irabu.
By comparison, Hideo Nomo came onto the scene in the US at the age of 26. His stats in Japan were as follows: 3.15 ERA, 1.317 WHIP, 10.3 K/9 over 5 seasons in Japan.Nomo then had 2 good seasons with th eDodgers before the league figured him out.
As another, more-recent comparison, Yu Darvish spent 7 seasons pitching in Japan, starting at age 18, just like Tanaka. Darvish's ERA over that span was 1.99 (including 5 consecutive seasons under 2.00), 0.985 WHIP and 8.9 K/9. When Darvish came over to the United States, his ERA jumped to 3.90 in his first season (still not terrible), and then he improved (unlike other former-Japanese-League pitchers) in his second year to 2.83. His WHIP also improved from 1.280 to 1.073, and his K/9 actually improved, too, going from 10.4 K/9 to 11.9 K/9 and leading the league in total strikeouts.
Most importantly, Tanaka's stats are more-consistent with Darvish's, and this leads us to believe that Masahiro Tanaka will develop in much the same way as Darvish. Yu Darvish took his lumps in his first season while he figured out batters. Taking Hideo Nomo, by comparison, the league took 2 seasons to figure him out, and once they did, he took years to recover and learn how to get ahead of hitters again.
When do I draft Tanaka in My Fantasy Draft?
If you're in a standard fantasy draft, we wouldn't take Masahiro Tanaka before the 5th round. In fact, we'd probably wait until the 8th-10th rounds, even. Pitching is strong again, and there are tons of good options out there who are proven. HOWEVER... there's always that one idiot in every league who buys the hype and tries to look like a genius to everyone and drafts a guy like Tanaka way too early. That means that he'll probably go between the 3rd-5th rounds in your league. Don't be that guy unless you really, really like him. Maybe you spent time in Japan watching him pitch. Maybe, before your draft, you plan on going to every Yankees' spring training game to watch him pitch and just maybe he'll be the most-dominant pitcher ever. Regardless, we're here to tell you to expect a year very similar to Yu Darvish's first year. Tanaka is either going to have an ERA over 4.00 because he doesn't strike out nearly as many guys as Yu Darvish, or he's going to have an ERA of around 3.50 because he's going to figure out very quickly that he can rely on his fielders. Still, we recommend drafting him in the 8th-10th rounds just because there are so many other proven options out there.
If you're in an auction draft, this gives you a chance at him no matter what. Depending on the other pitchers you get in your auction, we would be fine with spending anywhere from $5-$20 on Masahiro Tanaka. We know that's a big window, but think about it: If you've already spent money on Kershaw, Strasburg and Kimbrel, you're not going to spend another $20 on an unproven rookie, no matter what his Japanese stats were. However, if you get out-bid for the big-name pitchers, or if you spend big on a bunch of offensive power hitters, you're going to have to shop around for bargain, sleeper and comeback pitchers. Suddenly, spending $20 on Masahiro Tanaka doesn't look so bad when your other options are Kyle Kendrick, Ryan Dempster and a scrub to be named later. Now, Tanaka might be the best potential pick left in the draft. You know that Dempster has a career 4.35 ERA and 1.432 WHIP... you don't know what you're gonna get out of Tanaka, but the upside potential is much, much better than a lot of the other options.
FINAL ADVICE ON MASAHIRO TANAKA
Watch Masahiro Tanaka in spring training and take his stats more seriously than you would any other pitcher. He's coming into a whole new world and it's unlikely that he's not going to want to pitch his best right out of the gates. Not only does he nee to prove to the Yankees that he's worth the money, he also needs to prove to himself early that American Major Leaguers are just another bunch of guys with bats in their hands that can't hit his stuff. He'll be treating spring training like real, regular season games. Read his stats, watch him pitch and then re-evaluate his worth on draft day.
By Justin Moreau
But then he came back down to Earth a bit. He got lit up by the Arizona Diamondbacks in a no-decision where he only lasted 4.2 innings... but then he settled back into a groove over his next two starts, finally recording his first major league win on June 11 against the Mets.
After his first four starts, he had an ERA of 4.37 - not bad for a 21-year old rookie trying to make his way in the bigs. Nonetheless, Manager Mike Matheny sent him into the bullpen to do some mop-up and Hold work. To make a long story short, by year's end, Wacha dropped his ERA down to 2.78, finished with a WHIP of 1.098, and struck out 65 batters in 64.2 innings pitched. He also flirted with a no-hitter on his last outing of the regular season.
So far in the post-season, Wacha's ERA is 1.00, he's 4-0, and his WHIP is 0.704 (holy crap, man!!!), and he has struck out 28 batters in 17 innings pitched.
Where Does That Leave Michael Wacha in Terms of Fantasy Value?
We'll be the first to tell you we're impressed with Wacha's command. Especially when a kid comes into the league throwing gas 80% of the time, we expect him to take his lumps. But that's usually because these guys come into the league throwing 4-seam fastballs with no movement. Macha's fastball has excellent movement, diving down and in on right-handed batters.
Still, though, he's been through the league once already, for the most part, and he's been in the national spotlight in the post-season. Major League hitters will be looking to adjust to the movement on his fastball, which means Wacha is going to have to throw it less and mix in - and maybe even learn - a few more pitches, maybe more often than he likes.
The bottom line is this: treat him in 2014 just like you treated Kris Medlen or AJ Griffin in last season's fantasy draft: he's gonna be good, but he's not gonna be this good. Expect an ERA around 3.00-3.50, and if you get something better, take it. Also expect a WHIP around 1.10 and about an 8.50 K/9.
We expect Wacha to go through some growing pains in 2014 - someone's bound to study enough film on him by the time they face him. Also, pitchers like Michael Wacha tend to give it all up in one or two games, so you'll have that one, devastating week, then it'll be smooth-sailing for a few weeks after that. Plus, with a full season in St. Louis - and with that nasty bullpen behind him, We'd be shocked to See Michael Wacha earn anything lower than 15 Wins on 2014.
When Do I Draft Wacha In 2014?
Well, here's the deal, man: if you want Wacha (especially if you're in a keeper league), you'd better draft him early. Normally, just based on the expected stats, age, and upside, he would go around the 6th-7th round. However, since he's the media darling of Major League Baseball right now, he's going to stay in the public eye all through Spring Training in 2014. So long as he's healthy through Spring Training, you can expect someone to draft him before the 5th round.
In an auction draft, he's going to crack the $25 mark easily. He puts up big numbers, he's only 22 years old, there's almost no chance of him getting hurt, and he still has to run through some of the league for the first time, which is definitely to his advantage. He's only faced 11 different teams so far, and he's only faced the Pirates, Cubs, Reds and Braves more than once (and only twice, each, with the exception of the Pirates for a thir timein the playoffs... and we all know how that went for the Pirates). Most of league will be seeing Wacha for only the first or second time ever, and you can bet they'll be a bit nervous when they do having seen him buzz-saw his way through the playoffs.
So, draft Michael Wacha earlier than you should because you're gonna have to if you want him, and spend more than you think you should on Wacha in an auction draft... because you're gonna have to.