One of the core fantasy baseball philosophies I've developed over the years is to act early. Part of that is a function of the IDGAC approach to drafting: If you walk away with four or five closers, that probably means you have weaknesses elsewhere, and you'll want to pursue deals to address those holes. But really, acting early is a play on two trends: people overreact to stats in small sample sizes (even in smart fantasy leagues), and getting five-plus months of production from a player is a lot better than just two.
That's why you need to keep a close eye on all the news and streaks that pop up in April. Recognizing trends before your competition would've enabled you to snag Ian Desmond or Josh Reddick last year, before they put up big numbers that won a lot of people a lot of leagues. Scrutinizing any and all early-season happenings — even the subtle ones — will improve your chances of competing for a title down the stretch.
On this week's edition of the Triangle Podcast, Mays and I talked with Zach Lowe about the Cavs (woof), the Nuggets (yes), and the Grizzlies (yes!). Kirk Goldsberry stopped by in-studio to talk about Carmelo Anthony's incredible season (you can read more about that here) and spatial analytics. Mays and I chatted a bit about the Final Four, and which tournament players we thought could be decent in the NBA. Finally, Jonah Keri called in to talk about the young MLB season, focusing on the Marlins, the Angels, the Nats-Reds series, and the sad fall of Roy Halladay.
But none of that, or even Marlins management ordering protesters be tossed from the stadium on Opening Day, tells the full story. When Jose Fernandez mowed down the Mets in his major league debut Sunday, it was a reminder that the Marlins should be known for something much more positive: developing big-time players, and getting them to the big leagues earlier than just about anyone else.
Justin Verlander and Buster Posey both signed gigantic contract extensions, underscoring a growing trend in baseball: the death of free agency.
Already signed through 2014, Verlander's extension with the Tigers will last five years and pay him $140 million. At $28 million a year, Verlander becomes the third pitcher to break the record for highest average annual contract value in the past four months, eclipsing Zack Greinke ($24.5 million) and Felix Hernandez ($25 million). The deal also includes a vesting option for the 2020 season, which could bump Verlander's earnings over the next eight years to $202 million.
Meanwhile, Posey just inked the second-largest deal ever given to a catcher, which is wild, given he doesn't even have three years of service time under his belt. The Giants will pay Posey $167 million over the next nine years, trailing only Joe Mauer's $184 million pact among catchers and nearly doubling the third-largest catcher deal, the $91 million contract the Mets gave Mike Piazza in the late '90s.
Verlander wouldn't have hit the open market until after the 2014 season, Posey until after 2016. But you can now scratch two more names off future shopping lists, as free agency continues its march toward irrelevance.
Welcome to a new season of fantasy baseball with the Roster Doctor. Last year, I introduced you to the I Don't Give A Crap plan, which favors no strategy other than grabbing as many value picks as possible, regardless of position and without fear of waiting two hours in your auction before buying your first player.
For the record, in my three leagues last year, I finished first in an 18-team auction, tied for first in a 15-team LABR-Mixed experts league, and second in a 13-team mixed league (plus winning the league sidepot). IDGAC works better in auction format than straight draft, but the core principles hold for both. I'll report back on this year's draft results a little closer to Opening Day.
One of the main benefits of IDGAC is the ability to outbid everyone else late in the draft. If every other team blew their budgets on superstars early on, that should leave you with the few extra bucks necessary to acquire legitimate talent, while everyone else scrambles for $1 dregs. Last year, a cheap Mike Trout may have won you a league by himself. Ian Desmond, Kyle Seager, and Ben Revere were all significant contributors nabbed at the end of most drafts. Ditto for Wade Miley, Lance Lynn, and Tom Wilhelmsen. Many of these players might've only cost an extra buck or two to acquire above minimum bid levels; that extra buck or two led to a lot of Yoo-hoo showers six months later. With that in mind, let's discuss some compelling endgame picks for 2013, the ones that can make or break your draft (and especially your auction).
So much amazing is happening, and the Shootaround crew is here to help you keep track of it all. You'll find takes on moments you might've missed from the previous night, along with ones you will remember forever.
RIP, King LeBron James, 1984-2013
As the minutes trickled away during last night's game, a relative non-fan of the NBA asked me the ages of LeBron James and Kobe Bryant.
"I think Kobe is 34."
"Oh, I thought he was 40!"
"And LeBron is 28, pretty sure."
"What? I thought he was much younger than that."
On cue, age evaporated. With three minutes remaining, Kobe recovered a missed James Harden layup, crossed Drunk Chris Bosh over, and scored an easy, slicing-away basket. Then he pressed LeBron in the backcourt, hounded him across half court, looked for a steal, and then recovered and blocked a 19-footer. The deflection poked ahead to a streaking Kevin Durant, who dunked. He jutted his chin in that way, and then grinned. "Forty-year-old Kobe" — at his 15th consecutive All-Star game, tied with Shaq for the second-most to Kareem's 18 — checked the Boy King and embarrassed him. Two minutes later, he did it again, stealing the ball with less than a minute to play and the game on the line. (One play later, he did it again, cleanly blocking a LeBron drive, though a foul was called erroneously. LeBron, thunderstruck, missed one of his two free throws.)
Stan Musial cranked more extra-base hits than anyone but Hank Aaron or Barry Bonds. He ripped more hits than all but Rose, Cobb, or Aaron and reached base more times than anyone but Rose, Bonds, Cobb, Rickey, or Yaz. He won seven batting titles (trailing only Cobb, Wagner, and Gwynn) and three MVPs (only Bonds won more).
Yet he holds no screaming records, owns no career-making signature moments that people will talk about 100 years from now. For a player who began his career the last time Ted Williams hit .400 and ended it with a single past rookie Reds second baseman Pete Rose, Musial gave us 22 years of nearly uninterrupted greatness, and a career that only a few others can match.
Here's a video of Lionel Messi scoring 86 goals in the year of our Maradona, 2012, breaking Gerd Muller's record of 85 goals for club and country in a calendar year.
It's hard to pick just one. There was the cheeky chip against Valencia, a shooting-star free kick against Atletico Madrid, the time he froze the Bayer Leverkusen backline in carbonite like a bunch of German Han Solos, and when he invented the geometry of the future against Granada. I liked when he backed a pickup truck into a compact parking spot on the roof of Zaragoza's keeper's garage, and when he made Philippe Senderos look like Lennie from Of Mice and Men against Switzerland. I loved the free kicks against Uruguay and Real Madrid, and the snapshot against Deportivo La Coruña. Nobody's better at their chosen sport than Lionel Messi is at football, right now. Watching him score 86 goals, either during the games, or in YouTube compilations, for Barcelona or for Argentina, was one of the greatest gifts we received this year. He'll be justly rewarded for these accomplishments with trophies and silverware, but I just wanted to give him my thanks. Watching him play is one of the best things I did with my time this year. — Chris Ryan
Jonah Keri sits down with Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis in Grantland's studio to discuss one of the most memorable and tumultuous periods in franchise history. Did the infamous McCourt divorce case seep its way into the clubhouse? What's it like to work for Magic Johnson? What was the team's reaction to The Trade? Can Andre Ethier start pronouncing his name correctly already?! All that, plus a look at Ellis's own remarkable career path, and what Manny Ramirez is really like, in this week's Triangle Podcast.
Mailbag time! If you've got a question for a future fantasy baseball post, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or do as these fine folks did by tweeting questions to me here: @jonahkeri.
What is the general potential of Matt Harvey? Could he be the future ace of the Mets? Is he worth staking as a keeper in a competitive NL-only league?
— Kevin McNeill
Pretty strong. Harvey came into this season as Baseball America's 54th-ranked prospect. In 20 starts at Triple-A this season, Harvey fanned more than a batter an inning, hiking his minor league total to 268 strikeouts (and 95 walks) in 245 ⅔ innings. Called up to the majors a month ago, Harvey's continued his bat-missing ways. On Wednesday against the Rockies, he struck out nine Rockies in six innings. That hiked his season total to 43 Ks (along with 15 walks and three homers allowed) in 36 innings. Harvey's 43 punch-outs in his first six major league games actually broke the Mets franchise record previously held by some guy named Nolan.
There are so many angles we can take to describe and explain Felix Hernandez's mastery of the Tampa Bay Rays during Wednesday's start, one that produced the 23rd perfect game in Major League Baseball history. Rather than neglecting salient points, let's try to cover a bunch — 27 of them, one for each out that King Felix recorded in his masterpiece.
27. Inside Edge delivered a terrific infographic showing pitch location and pitch type for all 27 batters that Felix faced. The way he mixed pitches all day was masterful. Check out his inside-outside, high-low sequence to Evan Longoria in the second inning. Or how he handled Carlos Pena in the fifth. You can count the number of mistakes Felix made in the game on one hand. You could argue that the most hittable pitch he threw was a high fastball on a 2-1 count to Sam Fuld, the first batter of the game. Fuld smoked the ball, but Eric Thames made a great running catch. Felix cruised from there.
Major League Baseball suspended Giants outfielder Melky Cabrera for 50 games after he tested positive for excessive levels of testosterone, wiping out the rest of his season and dealing a blow to San Francisco's playoff hopes.
The notion that Cabrera could have a major impact on a pennant race would have seemed ludicrous as recently as two years ago. At that point in his career, Cabrera had reached double-digit home runs in a season just once. Hell, he'd slugged .400 or better just once. He was a popgun hitter who provided moderate value when his bloops and grounders would find holes, next to zero value when they didn't.
It's a baseball and Batman podcast, now with extra controversy. Jonah Keri and SB Nation's Rob Neyer unpack the baseball trade deadline, tackling some of the biggest moves and non-moves of the past 48 hours. How much help did the Dodgers and Giants really get in Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence? Are we sleeping on a really good Braves team? Are the Nationals vulnerable? Are the Reds the best team in the National League? In the battle of Rangers vs. Angels, who will prevail? Grantland's Andy Greenwald then stops by for some much-needed Phillies nostalgia. With Victorino and Pence gone, how's die-hard Phils fan Andy feeling about the team's new era? And how should we remember the Phillies' dominance of 2007-11?
Then, the gloves come off: The Dark Knight vs. The Dark Knight Rises ... who ya got? We nerd our way through both flicks, deride the Harvey Dent plotline, weigh in on Maggie Gyllenhaal as a source of undying love, praise loud explosions, and finally render a verdict on TDK vs. TDKR and, more broadly, on how we watch movies.