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Fantasy Baseball – Roto vs. H2H

February 8, 2012 7 comments

By: Nate Douglas

We are mere days from those favorite four words in baseball: “pitchers and catchers report”. This means that fantasy baseball rankings and mock drafts are now in full force as fantasy baseball gurus begin prepping for their drafts and selecting their keepers for the upcoming season. There are two different styles of fantasy baseball: rotisserie (where fantasy players try to win as many categories over the course of a season as possible) and head-to-head points leagues (where a fantasy player tries to accrue more points in a one-week matchup than his opponent). Personally, I prefer H2H leagues over roto leagues, and I’ll explain why in a minute. But first, some background on the history of fantasy baseball which will play into my arguments.

In the late 1970s, aspiring Kansas writer Bill James turned the baseball world upside down when he started releasing his baseball abstracts, questioning a lot of the general wisdom in baseball from everything on how the game was played to evaluating talent. New statistics and formulas measuring success and failure in baseball became accurate barometers of player and team performance as the revolution took hold of first baseball fandom, then started to slowly permeate MLB clubs (as evidenced in the book Moneyball). In 1980, as a result of Bill James’ work, several guys got together at a restaurant in New York City, La Rotisserie Française and played the first game of what would come to be known as rotisserie baseball.

In this article, I’m going to commit fantasy baseball heresy for some, and explain why I believe H2H points leagues are the superior fantasy baseball experience over roto leagues. In order to get a feel for the arguments for roto leagues, I’ll be referring to an article by fantasy baseball Jedi, Ray Flowers of baseballguys.com, who recently wrote a piece about why he played in roto leagues and presented three points about why he disliked H2H leagues.

The basic premise for Ray’s reasoning is that the superior fantasy baseball format (in his case, roto) should best approximate the on-field product. In other words, fantasy baseball should operate as a mirror image of the game the best that it can. I completely agree with and accept this criterion, which is why I prefer H2H leagues. Ray says:

1) “Baseball is a 162-game marathon, as opposed to artificially contrived sessions of weekly matchups which turn the season into a sprint in H2H leagues.”

I agree, baseball is a marathon, but so are H2H leagues. Most H2H leagues still utilize all of the MLB games, just like roto leagues.  If a H2H league has one-week matchups (some leagues have two matchups per week, Mon.-Thur. and Fri.-Sun), that’s 28 possible matchups in a season, with 25 or 26 in the regular season and 2-3 in the playoffs. That hardly makes the season a “sprint”.

If we stay in this vein, however, roto leagues stray further away from the on-field game. MLB does not tabulate all the teams’ statistics at the end of the regular season and declare a winner. There’s the playoffs, and just like “real life”, owners in H2H leagues try to build a team that will give them a good enough record to make the playoffs, as well as succeed in the postseason.

2) “We all know that Albert Pujols will hit .300-30-100 (he’s on the cusp of doing it for the 11th straight season to start his career). However, we really have no idea when he will go deep, when he will produce hits, and when he will knock runners in. If you’re playing in a H2H match up what happens if Pujols hits .450 with three homers and 10 RBI? You’ll likely win that week. What happens though if he hits .150 with no homers and no RBI the following week? You would likely lose that week. Still, if Pujols followed this path, alternating greatness with putrid work, he’d end the year batting .300 with something like 39 homers and 130 RBI. That’s a phenomenal season, right? However, in H2H he’d be a killer to your club in those 13 weeks that he disappeared. Baseball is about consistency and working through the grind as much as anything. When you play H2H you remove that aspect of the game completely.”

Again, have to disagree with Mr. Flowers on this count as well. Correct, we don’t know when Pujols is going to go crazy one week and ice cold the next…well guess what, neither do the Angels! And if Pujols does not produce in a game, their chances of winning go down as well, just like in a H2H matchup. Of course it would hurt if Pujols disappeared for a week; that’s why you build an entire roster to get other players to contribute…just like the Angels. Remember the premise: The best fantasy format is the one that best mirrors the on-field product. I would not say H2H removes the element of consistency, rather it makes the owner try each week to field the best team possible; therefore, he has to pay more attention to slumps, injuries, pitcher/hitter matchups, ballparks, etc.  The H2H owner is always playing to win now. This is “working through the grind”, and H2H play hardly removes that. On the other hand, in roto leagues, Pujols goes through a slump, but no sweat: the roto owner can just sit back because he knows it’ll all even out in the end.  Less work is required from the roto owner.  If only MLB GM’s and managers could do that.  This makes roto the easier style of playing, and if that’s your bowl of chili, then go for it, but it definitely does not resemble the MLB game whatsoever.

Yes, there’s an element of luck to the H2H points style of play, hoping a stud doesn’t have a down week while a crummy player has an awesome one. But to quote Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington, “That’s the way baseball go.” Before the last two World Series started, the majority of “experts” on the worldwide leader picked the Texas Rangers to beat the Giants and Cardinals.  Why?  Because the Rangers had a better overall team, better overall statistics, and didn’t sneak into the playoffs on the last day like the Giants and Cardinals did.  If Major League Baseball were a roto league, the Texas Rangers would be world champions the last two years, but that’s not how baseball ‘go’. There’s a luck-element in baseball, and like it or not, points leagues have to deal with it just like the MLB teams do.  Roto leagues for the most part don’t have to deal with the luck factor as much a H2H, and some roto players may be fine with that.  But remember what game we’re trying to imitate, therefore in this respect, roto baseball makes for a fogged up mirror in comparison to the on-field game.

3) “Would you ever draft Gavin Floyd over Dan Haren? That’s like saying you would prefer to cuddle up with Cate Blanchett over Brooklyn Decker? However, there are scenarios where you would end up starting Floyd over Haren simply because you’re looking at one week segments (there is no scenario in which Cate would be the choice over Brooklyn). What if Haren was facing the Yankees and Floyd was pitching in Seattle and Oakland – would you start Floyd because he was a two start pitcher on the road, where he has success, in two parks that favor the hurler? The answer is you might, and we’ve all made that decision at one point or another. However, does this make any sense? Of course it doesn’t.  We’re sometimes “forced” to go with an inferior pitcher merely because we need the starts to keep up with our opponent in the H2H format. In this instance we’re not rewarding the fantasy owner who rostered the players with the best skill, we’re merely rewarding those that were first to the waiver-wire to add a 2-start pitcher. There isn’t any skill in that.”

The scenario being presented here depends on the league rules and if you are actually faced with the either/or that Ray is proposing. If your league imposes strict game start limits, then yes, you might be faced with this decision of starting Gavin Floyd over ace Dan Haren. But roto leagues are faced with the same decision as well because there is a limit on games played per roster spot for the season (and most roto leagues have this restriction; if they didn’t, then the game is just about playing the most players, which is silly). Example, it’s the final week of the MLB regular season, and in your roto league you have two SP starts left before you fill your starting pitching’s starts quota for the season, and you’re faced with choosing between Gavin Floyd against the A’s and M’s, while Dan Haren faces the Yankees in New York.  A lot of people in both roto and H2H leagues would roll with Floyd over Haren.  And if a lot of roto players would chose Floyd over Haren during the last week of the season, the same logic could be applied to the middle of the season as well.  Ultimately, several times during the season, roto owners are faced with choosing between Brooklyn Decker and Cate Blanchett as well. Of course, this hypothetical does not mean that Haren would necessarily go out and blow it against the Yankees. On the contrary, he could throw a complete game while Floyd puts up a couple doozy starts. We really don’t know.  So nobody is being “forced” to use an inferior pitcher in a H2H league; roto leagues play the matchups as well. To have some more fun with Ray’s analogy, you could cuddle up to Brooklyn Decker, who, despite her Deckerness, might not have taken a shower in a month, while on the other hand Cate Blanchett is over there radiating, having just come out of some Elvish spa. You’d have to play that matchup as well.

Concerning Ray’s last point, rewarding the waiver wire pickups…again, there are no guarantees that this strategy would work. It could fail. And if the H2H league is a manly league, with say 12 teams and 25-man rosters, the pickings should be slim for streaming pitchers anyway.

Finally, I wanted to present my biggest issue with roto leagues. It comes down to stolen bases (and why do stolen bases have to be a category? Why not sacrifices? What about advancing 1st to 3rd on a single?). Here’s your token reminder about our premise—the better fantasy format is the one that best imitates the on-field game. The overvaluing of stolen bases in roto leagues dramatically changes the landscape of the players one would draft in a roto league as opposed to a H2H league. As a stat in itself, stolen bases are extremely overrated; they’re risky and have little influence on the outcome of an MLB game as we learned from the Bill James revolution. For example, a Michael Bourn could have six stolen bases in a game, and the Braves could not score one run (which, lest we forget, is what the game comes down to). On the other hand, Jay Bruce could hit just one home run, and the Reds would be beating the Braves and their base-stealing Bourn. Yet in roto leagues, home runs are valued just as much as stolen bases. Can someone argue that roto leagues best mirror the on-field product when this is the case? On the other hand (wait, you’ve got three hands there!), in standard points leagues, SB’s only give you 1 point, while HR’s give you 6 points—an accurate representation of the on-field game.

If all MLB players were put in a pool to be drafted, do you think any of the teams would use the roto stolen bases paradigm and take Hanley Ramirez over Jose Bautista, Troy Tulowitzki or Roy Halladay? Heck no! Yet guys like Hanley Ramirez last year was often taken as the 2nd or 3rd pick overall in roto leagues, the primary reason being he steals bases. On the other hand, H2H points league owners would all take those other guys over the 2011 Hanley Ramirez and Carl Crawfords of the world because they know they would produce more points (as would most big league executives if they could draft any player in MLB).

Over the last 20 years, we’ve learned that .OPS is the greatest contributing factor for MLB teams scoring runs (the object of the game), which is what H2H points leagues emphasize and reward the most. Most fantasy baseball services, however, when they do rankings and mock drafts, are doing them through the lens of roto leagues, therefore they have the overvaluation of steals in mind. This makes most of their rankings and mocks unhelpful for H2H players, which is why in my next article we’ll use some fantasy baseball format hermeneutics to interpret roto rankings and how H2H players should change their approach.

In summary, I believe that roto leagues are still stuck in the 80’s, and while roto leagues themselves would not be here today if it weren’t for Bill James, the roto leaguers obviously didn’t pay much attention to what he was saying.  Baseball has changed.  The game is about extra base hits, scoring and on base percentages.  Therefore, roto leagues need a Moneyball movement.  H2H leagues aren’t taking a cue from fantasy football points-style as Ray would argue. H2H is trying to copy the on-field product the best it can. It’s not perfect, it’s still improving, but H2H players view the MLB players in a more accurate way than roto players .It’s for all these reasons that I believe H2H fantasy baseball leagues best mirror the on-field product, making it a superior fantasy format than roto fantasy baseball.

Nate Douglas lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with his wife and son (whom he is 17-0 against in living-room wrestling…never mind if his son is a toddlerweight).  While his day job is sorting through the dirty legal details of the oil and gas industry, his night job is a sports Jack Bauer.  He has yet to come off his Dallas Mavericks championship-high, and he prays daily for that last strike in the World Series  for his beloved Rangers, and that his children will never know a day when they weren’t fans of his favorite teams.  You can follow him on Twitter- @NateDouglas34.  

Dallas Cowboy Fan Rehabilitation and “The Wire”

January 30, 2012 Leave a comment

By: Nate Douglas

The Dallas Cowboys used to be a great franchise. They had Super Bowls to their name, and a rich history of all-time great games, coaches and players.  For my generation, young boys living in the Dallas/Fort Worth area grew up watching the triplets. Their fathers grew up with Landry and Staubach.  The Cowboys had an exciting product and an excellent reputation among what became a rabid fan base.

In week 17 of this past NFL season, the Dallas Cowboys were playing for a berth in the playoffs yet lost in a lackluster effort to their division rival, the New York Giants.  For most other NFL franchises, this defeat would have been one of those frozen sledgehammer-to-the-crotch defeats, but for Cowboy fans, despite the loss, they weren’t singing soprano.  Cowboy fans have been numbed to defeat during the last few weeks of the last sixteen seasons because the Dallas Cowboys hit the fans where it counts every year.

The television show, The Wire, takes place in the city of Baltimore, where the Baltimore Police Department wages a continual war with crime in the city, specifically—the drug war.  The Wire is a gripping series, hailed by many critics as the greatest television show in the last decade. One of the main characters is a drug dealer, Stringer Bell, played by the powerful Idris Elba. His drug product was very successful, sold well, and the West Side kept coming back for more. The drugs had an excellent reputation for giving people a buzz and mellowing out.  Eventually, BPD caught up to Stringer’s operations. In order to stay in front of the police, Stringer’s product quality suffers, and folks on the street stop buying. While all this is happening, in his spare time, Stringer went to business classes at the local college, and consulted the professor on what to do if you have a crummy “product” that people stop buying. The professor said, “Well, one way is you could change the name of the product.”

Change the name.

At the end of the annual crotch-kick, Cowboy fans sullenly sulk back to their homes and silently watch the playoffs without their favorite team.  But the exact same personnel on that Dallas Cowboys team won’t do for the upcoming season.  Something needs to change.  So over the course of the Cowboy’s last sixteen disappointing offseasons, Cowboys GM Jerry Jones fired six head coaches, numerous assistant coaches, built a sexy $1 billion stadium (with a screen so big that fans in the stands are hypnotized and don’t make much noise when the opposing team is on offense), and drafts absolutely horribly. In other words, Jerry keeps trying to change the name of his product.  But you know something is not right with this picture.

Among its several plot lines, The Wire also follows the story of a struggling addict who goes by the name “Bubbles”. Bubbles at different times tries to stop using; sometimes his season of abstinence lasts longer than other seasons, but eventually he reverts back to his old habits. When he notices Stringer’s product is getting worse and no longer packs the punch he needs, he starts freaking out but he won’t buy what Stringer sells, and most of West Baltimore follows suit.  Then something else hits the streets. It has a cool name, and the capsule colors are different.  Bubbles and his buddies load up, get all excited and starts using only to discover…it’s still the same crappy product.  Stringer’s reputation starts taking a hit, but he stubbornly holds on.

Just a few months after the Super Bowl, despite Cowboy fans vowing they will not be so emotionally tied up again with their team, fans start to get excited again.  The NFL draft approaches, then training in Oxnard.  Then, well, “damn the torpedoes!” Cowboy fans say, and rush towards Jerry Jones’ kool-aid-filled igloo likes cows to a fresh bale of coastal hay. Unlike most NFL teams, it doesn’t matter how bad the Cowboys product on the field is, the fans will still show up to games and buy merchandise and go crazy for “America’s Team”. Oh, if only Stringer Bell’s customers were this gullible. See, Cowboy fans are shmucks.  Now I don’t mean to insult anyone, but I see the “addiction”, and I see how crummy the product is, and I look at the axiom (well, more like a poorly constructed theorem) propping up the whole mess and can’t help but shake my head. Cowboy fans are getting played, and it won’t stop until the fans decide to do something.  Jerry Jones takes full advantage of the fact that Cowboy fans keep coming back for more, that’s why he keeps changing the name of the game, but he won’t get rid of the foundation of sand holding the whole thing up—himself. Nobody questions that Jerry doesn’t want to win, he does, but only if he’s in the limelight and he gets all the credit, something he’s never truly received because the Cowboys’ only Super Bowl victories under Jerry’s tenure were achieved by Jimmy Johnson’s football roster craftsmanship. Jerry Jones is an egomaniac, the Dallas Cowboys are his toy, and when it comes down to it, he’ll never give it up, even if it means no more Super Bowls for the Cowboys and their fans. Do you think he’d fire the GM of a team that had sixteen disappointing seasons? He fired six coaches during that time span. He can keep his ownership, but give the reins to someone with brains and a vision, and stay out of their way! Don’t make any trips to figurative (and literal) sideline and interfere. The problem is not coaching, injuries or Tony Romo. As a result from awful drafting and trades, the team just plain sucks, and it’s only one man’s fault.

So I want to use this as a wake-up call for Cowboy fans, because I love many of you, but I see that you’re being taken for a ride. Some of you are just now seeing the light, have yet to see the light, or are past the point of caring. If you want to see your beloved team succeed, then wipe that pink kool aid mustache off your face, knock the igloo over and demand from Jerry Jones that you’re tired of drinking his garbage. Hit him where it hurts—his wallet. It’s time for Cowboy fans to organize in some manner and start boycotting Jerry Jones.  Not the Cowboys. You can still tune in and root for your team.  But abstain from tickets and anything with the Cowboy logo. Use the power of social media, get some #OccupyDallasCowboys action going on Facebook or Twitter. This is rehab, Cowboy fans. If you’re frugal and vocal enough…maybe…hopefully…Jerry will really change.

Nate Douglas lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with his wife and son (whom he is 17-0 against in living-room wrestling…never mind if his son is a toddlerweight).  While his day job is sorting through the dirty legal details of the oil and gas industry, his night job is a sports Jack Bauer.  He has yet to come off his Dallas Mavericks championship-high, and he prays daily for those last couple World Series wins for his beloved Rangers, and that his children will never know a day where they weren’t fans of his favorite teams.  You can follow him on Twitter- @NateDouglas34.  

Why Mark Buehrle Scares Me

December 5, 2011 Leave a comment

By: Nate Douglas

The Major League Baseball Winter Meetings are currently underway, and just like eggnog is synonymous with Christmas, so are rumors with the Winter Meetings.  Among the rumors is the Texas Rangers’ pursuit of free agent pitcher Mark Buehrle.  If CJ Wilson signs with another team (which sounds likely), I still do not think signing Buehrle would be the best move for the Rangers.  Over the course of his career, Buehrle has only had one sub 3.50 ERA season, which was 6 years ago.  His highest K/9 rate was 6.05.  When over the course of a season a pitcher strikes out less batters than the average number of days a Kim Kardashian relationship lasts, you don’t miss many bats. His xFIP last year was 4.14, a plateau he has reached regularly, and it would not surprise me if he had an ERA in the 4.00s during the course of his next contract.  I’m sorry, but that doesn’t sound like a $40 million pitcher.  The only argument I’ve heard in Buehrle’s favor was that he’s durable and can get you innings.  In response to this argument, I present you these stats (these averages were taken from 2005-2010):

 

Pitcher A: 189.2 IP, 4.39 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, 139 K’s

Pitcher B: 213.6 IP, 3.94 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, 117 K’s

 

Fairly similar numbers, Pitcher B obviously is a little better.  He’s Mark Buehrle.  Pitcher A is Kevin Millwood (who was in decline keep in mind), the Rangers’ last durable-gets-you-innings-pitcher.  That’s when the Rangers didn’t have any other starting pitchers to speak of.  Now, they have a rotation of Derek Holland, Colby Lewis, Alexi Ogando, Neftali Feliz and Matt Harrison with Scott Feldman as the long-man.  A sixth pitcher would be nice to create even more depth, and if a trade opportunity presents itself for somebody like John Danks or Matt Garza, the Rangers would do well to pick one of them up.  But they don’t need a pitcher like Buehrle, the Rangers already have a left-handed inning eater who doesn’t pile up many Ks—Matt Harrison. Instead, if the Rangers had to get a free agent pitcher, I’d rather they give a couple years to Roy Oswalt at a cheaper price with higher upside than pay $40 million for a lukewarm pitcher in decline.  The Texas Rangers are the two-time defending American League champions.  That kind of pedigree leads to Joe Nathan/Neftali Feliz-like acquisitions.  They are no longer the AL West pondscum from six years, which lead to Millwood-esque acquisitions, which is what Buehrle would be.

Nate Douglas lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with his wife and son (whom he is 17-0 against in living-room wrestling…never mind if his son is a toddlerweight).  While his day job is sorting through the dirty legal details of the oil and gas industry, his night job is a sports Jack Bauer.  He has yet to come off his Dallas Mavericks championship-high, and he prays daily for those last couple World Series wins for his beloved Rangers, and that his children will never know a day where they weren’t fans of his favorite teams.  You can follow him on Twitter- @NateDouglas34. 

Tebowing

November 20, 2011 1 comment

By: Nate Douglas

If Tim Tebow hadn’t already, as of last Thursday, he turned the NFL-world upside down.  Here was this quarterback—he of the sub-50% completion rate and who couldn’t hit sumo wrestlers between the numbers from 10 yards, wreaking havoc among the platonic NFL quarterback molds, causing former greats like John Elway to cringe-smile on national television.  The Denver Broncos are now 4-1 this year when Tebow starts, in stark contrast to the 5 games before where they went 1-4 with Kyle Orton under center.  This has led Tebow’s proponents (primarily Christian conservatives) to proclaim their “I told you so!  I’ve been saying this for the last year!” even louder (something we did not know was possible as of a week ago).  ESPN did a 180 on their Tebow position and LeBron James (the patron saint of bandwagon fans) sang their praises now that he was winning. “He just wins!” Tebow fans exclaimed.  That statement doesn’t smoke my brisket, however, and here’s why.

Just like Houston being undefeated isn’t doing much for the college football writers in their rankings, Tebow’s “he just wins” arguments aren’t doing much for me, either.  In the Kyle Orton days when the Broncos went 1-4, the overall record as of this morning of those teams was 29-16.  Translation: they were losing to really good teams.  Under Tebow’s tenure when the Broncos are 4-1, the overall record of the teams that Tebow beat was 10-18.  Translation: Tebow is good at beating cupcakes.  On the other hand, he gets annihilated by decent teams like the Detroit Lions.  To put it in college football terms (because we’re currently living in awesomely chaotic college football times), Tebow is beating the Northwest Arkansas State A&M’s of the world but he has yet to consistently beat the SEC-quality team.  When he does that, then I’ll say he’s a good quarterback.  Until then, he’s just a white, classy version of Vince Young.  And we know how he turned out…

Now, an important disclaimer—I’m rooting for Tebow.  We’re both born and raised Protestant Christians and we were both homeschooled.  I want him to succeed because he’s not floating down the river of “This is how NFL QB’s play”; he’s fighting his way upstream, and it drives NFL so-called gurus (I’m looking at you, Skip Bayless) crazy. It’s easy for them to bash somebody for weeks, quickly apologize for 15 seconds when it turned out they were wrong, and then move on to the next topic…though I still love watching that anyway.  Not only is Tim Tebow an outspoken Christian pro-athlete who doesn’t pay clichéd lip service to God after wins—he’s actually genuine…and he’s a badass on the field.  More Christians who openly share their faith are not only infiltrating the ranks of pro-sports, but they are actually really good (Josh Hamilton, Stephen Curry, et al.).  This is fantastic.   Tebow is a class act, he represents, and that’s why people like him so much.  Christians should watch him and observe the impact he’s making on secular culture, because it is truly amazing how transcendent sports can be in our world.  All of that said, I’m not ready to call Tebow a real deal studmuffin football player just yet, and would recommend his fans throttle down their enthusiasm just a little bit.

So the story is not over yet.  But let’s not act like an overly excited Cowboys fan in the preseason, proclaiming the ‘Boys are Super Bowl bound.  Let’s keep tabs on it.  Root for Tebow, but don’t say he’s one of the best QB’s going. You will appear like you don’t know much about football.   But Christians should definitely keep both eyes on this story.  Watch Tebow in his games, but most importantly, watch him in interviews, read what the pundits say and see how the social media world reacts.  Tebow’s story is very relevant in the culture wars right now and it should not go unnoticed.

Nate Douglas lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with his wife, son and another in the on-deck circle.  While his day job is sorting through the dirty legal details of the oil and gas industry, his night job is a sports Jack Bauer.  He has yet to come off his Dallas Mavericks championship-high, he prays for that last strike in the World Series for his beloved Rangers, and that his children will never know a day where they weren’t fans of his favorite teams.  You can follow him on Twitter- @NateDouglas34.  

MLB Postseason Picks

September 29, 2011 Leave a comment

The Sports Smithy baseball Jedis submit their MLB Postseason picks.  You’ll notice a trend on who makes the World Series below.   We’ll come back and re-visit our picks after the World Series.

Deacon Blues

ALDS
Texas Rangers over Tampa Bay Rays in 4 games
Detroit Tigers over New York Yankees in 5 games

NLDS
Philadelphia Phillies over St. Louis Cardinals in 3 games
Milwaukee Brewers over Arizona Diamondbacks in 4 games

ALCS
Texas Rangers over Detroit Tigers in 6 games

NLCS
Philadelphia Phillies over Milwaukee Brewers in 5 games

World Series
Philadelphia Phillies over Texas Rangers in 5 games

World Series MVP: Roy Halladay

Aaron Booth

ALDS
Texas Rangers over Tampa Bay Rays in 4 games
New York Yankees over Detroit Tigers in 4 games

NLDS
Philadelphia Phillies over St. Louis Cardinals in 4 games
Milwaukee Brewers over Arizona Diamondbacks in 5 games

ALCS
Texas Rangers over New York Yankees in 6 games

NLCS
Philadelphia Phillies over Milwaukee Brewers in 5 games

World Series
Philadelphia Phillies over Texas Rangers in 5 games

World Series MVP: Raul Ibanez


Nate Douglas

ALDS
Texas Rangers over Tampa Bay Rays in 5 games
Detroit Tigers over New York Yankees in 4 games

NLDS
Philadelphia Phillies over St. Louis Cardinals in 4 games
Milwaukee Brewers over Arizona Diamondbacks in 3 games

ALCS
Texas Rangers over Detroit Tigers in 6 games

NLCS
Philadelphia Phillies over Milwaukee Brewers in 7 games

World Series
Texas Rangers over Philadelphia Phillies in 7 games

World Series MVP: Adrian Beltre

The Dynasty That Wasn’t

September 25, 2011 Leave a comment

By: Nate Douglas

In 2010, the San Francisco Giants cruised to victory in the World Series- it took just five games in what was an amazing yet surprising championship run.  Not much time had elapsed before the local writers started uttering the “d-word”- dynasty.  Not an entirely unreasonable thought.  The Giants had one of the best rotations locked down for the foreseeable future in Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and the promising Madison Bumgarner.  The bullpen was among the best in the majors.  They had young hitters, such as Buster Posey who was destined to be a star. Pablo Sandoval could mash if he could stay away from the buffet line and on the field.  Brandon Belt was raking in the minors and was a top 10 touted prospect going into the 2011 season.  As the season began, ticket and merchandise sales were up.  Showtime aired their “Hard Knocks” version for baseball entitled “The Franchise” featuring the San Francisco Giants.  In all of the promos, they showed a clip of Brian Wilson uttering the words, “Mark it down.  Repeat.”  Everything pointed towards a dynasty.

But as of this writing, the Giants were eliminated from the playoff race despite being in the creampuff division of the NL, and 8 games behind the new darling Diamondbacks.  The “dynasty” is not going to even make the playoffs just a year removed from their title.  What happened?   Did the pixie dust wear off?  Were the Giants so hamstrung by injuries this year that title retention was near impossible?  Was the term “dynasty” used a bit too freely?

 

The 2010 Giants were a team of self-proclaimed misfits.  It made a cute story.  But when general manager Brian Sabean assembled this team of misfits, he could not realistically believe they were a world championship contender, not to mention a dynasty, could he?  Not when his best outfielder was picked up off the waiver wire in August (Cody Ross),his spare part shortstop only played 72 games and hit 3 HR’s (Edgar Renteria), and his third baseman was so overweight that they had to play another spare in his place (Juan Uribe).  Aubrey Huff and Buster Posey were the only decent power hittesr on the team.  Not exactly a lineup that would strike fear in the hearts of opposing pitchers.  Yet the stars aligned and the Giants handled the Phillies and Rangers with ease.  The misfits won.  But can a dynasty be constructed of misfits?  Dynasties require staying power.

 

Struggling to comprehend how the Giants won the World Series, I didn’t know if I should think of Brian Sabean as the luckiest man on earth or not.  Was he the guy that drafted and developed some talented pitchers?  Or was the real Brian Sabean the one who paid out one of the worst contracts in major league history to Barry Zito?  I believe I must go with the latter, due to his inactivity over the offseason between the 2010-11 seasons.  Sabean, in a move that showed how much confidence he had in Renteria and Uribe (or in a move that demonstrated how lucky he realized he had been), let them go and replaced them with Miguel Tejada (who would later in  the year be cut), and wished upon a star that Kung Fu Pandovol would drop some weight.  The Giants went into the offseason with some needs, and Sabean did not fill them.

 

San Francisco fans might attribute this year’s disappointing performance to injuries.  But championship contending teams with studly GMs can cope with injuries to an extent (not to mention dynasties).  The Texas Rangers this season had lost all-stars Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz for over a month each.  Neftali Feliz, Darren O’Day, Mike Napoli, Scott Feldman, Andres Blanco and Tanner Scheppers were all on the DL at one point.  There was a time where the Rangers led the majors with players on the DL for several weeks.  Despite these circumstances, and being in the toughest pitching division in the majors, the Rangers have survived and are on track to defend their ALCS crown because of their depth.  Depth leads to dynasties.  Top-heavy teams are grasping for wind.  These sorts of teams are easily affected by injuries and should be prepared to face them, because baseball happens.

 

This year, the Giants’ offense was so bad they couldn’t hit the sand if they fell off a camel.  Since June, Tim Lincecum started in 17 games.  The Giants won only 8 of them.  Lincecum had a 1.90 ERA during that stretch.  Some of the hitting woes can be attributed to Buster Posey’s absence, but that can’t be the sole missing piece.  He’s good, and he’s going to be great some day, but he’s not a game changer.  The Giants already had great pitching this year (including the surprisingly solid season from Ryan Vogelsong), and a solid bullpen.  But relying on those solely to carry you to the postseason will result you in missing the boat entirely more often than not.  The Giants need hitting in a really bad way, and could stand to upgrade at 2-3 OF spots, the middle infield and set Brandon Belt free.

 

All of this to say, the 2010 Giants’ story is still an amazing one.  They epitomized everything we love about baseball.  The story of the underdog, the team that came out of nowhere, the misfits, classy players, beautiful ballpark, and the fact that when October rolls around, anyone can win.  But a lot of work needs to be done for them to be considered a dynasty.  Lincecum was asked a couple days ago about their chances of someday returning to the World Series.  He simply replied, “I’m worried about us getting back there.”

 

Nate Douglas lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with his wife and son (whom he is 17-0 against in living-room wrestling…never mind if his son is a toddlerweight).  While his day job is sorting through the dirty legal details of the oil and gas industry, his night job is a sports Jack Bauer.  He has yet to come off his Dallas Mavericks championship-high, and he prays daily for those last couple World Series wins for his beloved Rangers, and that his children will never know a day where they weren’t fans of his favorite teams.  You can follow him on Twitter- @NateDouglas34.  

Back On Top…

September 2, 2011 Leave a comment

Sports Smithy Staff 2011-12 NFL Season Picks

 

Aaron Booth:

MVP – Aaron Rodgers, QB Packers

ROY – Mark Ingram, RB Saints

 

Team predictions

AFC East

  1. New England Patriots
  2. New York Jets
  3. Miami Dolphins
  4. Buffalo Bills

AFC South

  1. Houston Texans
  2. Indianapolis Colts y
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars
  4. Tennessee Titans

AFC North

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers
  2. Baltimore Ravens  y
  3. Cleveland Browns
  4. Cincinnati Bengals

AFC West

  1. San Diego Chargers
  2. Kansas City Chiefs
  3. Denver Broncos
  4. Oakland Raiders

NFC East

  1. Philadelphia Eagles
  2. Dallas Cowboys y
  3. New York Giants
  4. Washington Redskins

NFC South

  1. Atlanta Falcons
  2. New Orleans Saints
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
  4. Carolina Panthers

NFC North

  1. Green Bay Packers
  2. Chicago Bears
  3. Detroit Lions
  4. Minnesota Vikings

NFC West

  1. Arizona Cardinals
  2. St. Louis Rams
  3. San Francisco 49ers
  4. Seattle Seahawks

(y – wildcard playoff spot)

Playoff prediction

Byes – Packers, Eagles, Patriots, Steelers

Round 1 – Cowboys over Falcons, Saints over Cardinals, Colts over Chargers, Texans over Ravens

Round 2 – Cowboys over Eagles, Packers over Saints, Patriots over Colts, Steelers over Texans

Round 3 – Packers over Cowboys, Patriots over Steelers

Superbowl Prediction

Final:     Patriots over Packers

 

 

Aaron Watson:

MVP – Tom Brady, QB Patriots

Last years unanimous winner dominated teams with weapons like Deon Branch, Danny Woodhead and two rookie tight ends. This year the team adds Ochocinco, the rookies are a year older and more experienced and Danny Woodhead is back and raring to go. Oh, they also win a ton of games every year and look much improved on defense.

Runner up – Aaron Rodgers, QB Packers

OPOY – Darren McFadden, RB Raiders

The often injured burner finally showed what he is capable of last year, averaging 5.2 ypc and leading the league in rushes of forty yards or more. If he stays healthy (obviously a huge if), he could be primed for a monster season. He is explosive both between the tackles, on the perimeter and in the passing game.

Runner up – Arian Foster, RB Texans

DPOY – DeMarcus Ware, OLB Cowboys

The league is obsessed with sack totals, and Ware is one of the premier players at getting to the quarterback. Rob Ryan will move him all over the field to get him good matchups, so expect his numbers to be fantastic for a team that should be better on defense.

Runner up – Ndamukong Suh, DT Lions

OROY – Mark Ingram, RB Saints

High profile player on a high profile team, he will split carries but will look good doing so. He also will rack up great TD totals as he acts as the goal line back. His ability as a receiver and blocker will help him see the field than a lot of other rookies might.

Runner up – Cam Newton, QB Panthers

DROY – Von Miller, OLB Broncos

I know being the highest defensive player drafted almost assures he will not win this award (although Suh did it last year), I still think he has the talent to be a difference maker in his first season. Early reports have him dominating in practice and he appears to have a great feel for rushing the passer as well as dropping into coverage, especially for such a young player.

Runner up – Jimmy Smith, CB Ravens

Team predictions

AFC East

  1. New England Patriots – 13-3
  2. New York Jets – 10-6 y
  3. Buffalo Bills – 6-10
  4. Miami Dolphins – 3-13

AFC South

  1. Houston Texans – 10-6
  2. Indianapolis Colts – 9-7
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars – 6-10
  4. Tennessee Titans – 5-11

AFC North

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers – 12-4
  2. Baltimore Ravens – 11-5 y
  3. Cleveland Browns – 7-9
  4. Cincinnati Bengals – 2-14

AFC West

  1. San Diego Chargers – 12-4
  2. Oakland Raiders – 9-7
  3. Kansas City Chiefs – 8-8
  4. Denver Broncos – 4-12

NFC East

  1. Dallas Cowboys – 10-6
  2. Philadelphia Eagles – 10-6 y
  3. New York Giants – 8-8
  4. Washington Redskins – 5-11

NFC South

  1. New Orleans Saints – 11-5
  2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 10-6 y
  3. Atlanta Falcons – 10-6
  4. Carolina Panthers – 4-12

NFC North

  1. Green Bay Packers – 12-4
  2. Detroit Lions – 9-7
  3. Chicago Bears –  7-9
  4. Minnesota Vikings – 6-10

NFC West

  1. St. Louis Rams – 9-7
  2. Arizona Cardinals – 7-9
  3. San Francisco 49ers – 6-10
  4. Seattle Seahawks – 5-11

(y – wildcard playoff spot)

Playoff prediction

Byes – Chargers, Patriots, Saints, Packers

Round 1 – Bucs over Cowboys, Eagles over Rams, Jets over Texans, Ravens over Steelers

Round 2 – Packers over Bucs, Eagles over Saints, Patriots over Ravens, Chargers over Jets

Round 3 – Patriots over Chargers, Packers over Eagles

Superbowl Prediction

After defeating the Chargers in the Championship round, the Patriots will play the defending Champion Green Bay Packers in the Superbowl.

Final:     Green Bay – 24                  New England – 31

 

 

Britton Norris:

MVP – Tony Romo, QB Dallas

He’s in the prime of his prime.  He was an MVP candidate in 2009, but Peyton Manning was carrying the Colts on his shoulders.  Romo has matured.  Last year was a disaster and his season was cut far too short when Giants linebacker Michael Boley came charging through the line unblocked.  This year, Romo has the benefit of a head coach that has been his offensive coordinator the past four seasons.  While the concern will be the Dallas O-line and their inexperience, Tony Romo will have a field day throwing downfield to targets like Witten, Bryant, Austin and Murray.

Runner up – Drew Brees, QB New Orleans

OPOY – Andre Johnson, WR Houston

Johnson has a classy persona, but he’ll never back down from a fight – check out his beat-down of Cortland Finnegan a year ago if you want to see NFL attitude at its best. Johnson puts on a clinic every year.  He’s a big powerful receiver that wants to win.  In fact, he’s on record this year declaring that he’s tired of watching the NFL playoffs from his sofa and is determined to get the Texans into the postseason for the first time in franchise history.  A fantasy superstar every year, expect Andre Johnson to make a bid for OPOY.

Runner up – Ray Rice, RB Baltimore

DPOY – Ndamukong Suh, DT Detroit

This guy is a stud.  If I’m lining up as an offensive center or guard I’m shaking in my boots.  “There are two types of intimidation,” Suh said. “There is dirty intimidation, which people have accused me of. And there is the intimidation of always being in somebody’s face, doing the right thing, causing them problems, not allowing them to run their offense. I think that’s what I have consistently done. That’s what my job is. That’s what I want to do. We do that as a front four. Quarterbacks are aware at every single point, that all four or eight of us can come in and cause you a problem.”  Enough said Mr. Suh.

Runner up – Brian Orakpo, OLB Washington

OROY – Mark Ingram, RB Saints

The Saints already have an offensive machine and rookie running backs are notorious for picking up an NFL offense fast due to the position’s reliance on instincts.  This is one of those picks that seem to be pretty popular.  In Head Coach Sean Peyton’s mind, Ingram will be everything Reggie Bush wasn’t.  He has hefty expectations, but I can see him excelling in this offense.

Runner up – Julio Jones, WR Atlanta

DROY – J. J. Watt, DE Houston

This is a shot in the dark.  I do think that Houston will have a much improved defense with new coordinator Wade Phillips.  This defense has several high profile draft picks and just hasn’t gotten it done year after year.  The buzz about Watt is strong and he’s won the starting job… who knows.

Runner up – Patrick Peterson, CB Arizona

Team predictions

AFC East

  1. New England Patriots – 11-5
  2. New York Jets – 9-7
  3. Miami Dolphins – 6-10
  4. Buffalo Bills – 3-13

AFC South

  1. Houston Texans – 11-5
  2. Indianapolis Colts – 6-10
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars – 6-10
  4. Tennessee Titans – 4-12

AFC North

  1. Baltimore Ravens – 13-3
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers – 10-6 y
  3. Cleveland Browns – 5-11
  4. Cincinnati Bengals – 1-15

AFC West

  1. San Diego Chargers – 12-4
  2. Kansas City Chiefs – 9-7 y
  3. Denver Broncos – 7-9
  4. Oakland Raiders – 4-12

NFC East

  1. Dallas Cowboys – 11-5
  2. Philadelphia Eagles – 9-7
  3. New York Giants – 7-9
  4. Washington Redskins – 4-12

NFC South

  1. Atlanta Falcons – 12-4
  2. New Orleans Saints – 11-5 y
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 8-8
  4. Carolina Panthers – 4-12

NFC North

  1. Green Bay Packers – 12-4
  2. Detroit Lions – 10-6 y
  3. Chicago Bears –  5-11
  4. Minnesota Vikings – 5-11

NFC West

  1. Arizona Cardinals – 9-7
  2. St. Louis Rams – 8-8
  3. San Francisco 49ers – 4-12
  4. Seattle Seahawks – 3-13

(y – wildcard playoff spot)

Playoff prediction

Byes – Baltimore, San Diego, Green Bay, Atlanta

Round 1 – Dallas over Detroit, New Orleans over Arizona, Houston over Kansas City, Steelers over Patriots

Round 2 – Atlanta over New Orleans, Green Bay over Dallas, Baltimore over Pittsburgh, Houston over San Diego

Round 3 – Atlanta over Green Bay, Houston over Baltimore

Superbowl Prediction

Final:    Atlanta – 30          Houston – 28

 

 

By: Nate Douglas

MVP – Tom Brady, QB Patriots

I must concur with my colleague, Mr. Watson.  Brady made a gourmet meal of steak, potatoes, asparagus and a good cabernet out of a McDonald’s happy meal last year, and it’ll only get better this year.

Runner up – Aaron Rodgers, QB Packers

OPOY – Jamaal Charles, RB Chiefs

Last year’s leader in yards per carry will finally get the touches he deserves, and will run away with this award.

Runner up – Roddy White, WR Falcons

DPOY – Ndamukong Suh, DT Lions

Adding Nick Fairley to the mix will give opposing o-lines fits, and Suh will get even more opportunities this year to eat QB’s.

Runner up – Eric Berry, CB Chiefs

OROY – Julio Jones, WR Falcons

Julio will be targeted frequently, has good hands and great speed.  He will make an immediate impact at the WR position as Roddy White draws the tougher assignments.

Runner up – Mark Ingram, RB Saints

DROY – Patrick Peterson, CB Arizona

If you’re considered a part of the Heisman conversation as a cornerback, you’re good.   Peterson will rack up interceptions, many returned for TDs for the Defensive Rookie of the Year.

Runner up – Von Miller, LB Broncos

Team predictions

AFC East

  1. New England Patriots – 12-4
  2. New York Jets – 10-6 y
  3. Buffalo Bills – 4-12
  4. Miami Dolphins – 3-13

AFC South

  1. Houston Texans – 11-5
  2. Indianapolis Colts – 10-6 y
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars – 6-10
  4. Tennessee Titans – 5-11

AFC North

  1. Baltimore Ravens – 12-4
  2. Pittsburgh Steelers– 9-7
  3. Cleveland Browns – 7-9
  4. Cincinnati Bengals – 3-13

AFC West

  1. San Diego Chargers – 10-6
  2. Oakland Raiders – 9-7
  3. Kansas City Chiefs – 9-7
  4. Denver Broncos – 5-11

NFC East

  1. Philadelphia Eagles – 11-5
  2. New York Giants – 9-7
  3. Dallas Cowboys – 8-8
  4. Washington Redskins – 4-12

NFC South

  1. Atlanta Falcons – 11-5
  2. New Orlenas Saints  – 10-6 y
  3. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – 8-8
  4. Carolina Panthers – 4-12

NFC North

  1. Green Bay Packers – 13-3
  2. Detroit Lions – 9-7 y
  3. Chicago Bears –  6-10
  4. Minnesota Vikings – 4-12

NFC West

  1. St. Louis Rams – 9-7
  2. Arizona Cardinals –8-8
  3. San Francisco 49ers – 5-11
  4. Seattle Seahawks – 3-13

(y – wildcard playoff spot)

Playoff prediction

Byes – Patriots, Ravens, Falcons, Packers

Round 1 – Texans over Jets, Colts over Chargers, Eagles over Rams, Lions over Saints

Round 2 – Patriots over Texans, Ravens over Colts, Falcons over Eagles, Packers over Lions

Round 3 – Patriots over Ravens, Packers over Falcons

Superbowl Prediction

Final:     Green Bay – 35                  New England -21