Thursday, May 28, 2015

Game of Thrones MLB Depth Chart

Ever wonder what would happen if your favorite stars from Game of Thrones were to take the field as part of a baseball team? Well, wonder no more!

Monday, May 18, 2015

My All-Star Ballot 2015 has been promoting its online All-Star balloting since what seems like the first week of the season, but I've held out on voting until today because it just seems wrong to judge midseason All-Stars with less than 1.5 months of the season gone by. So today I weighed all the pros and cons and fantasy point totals of each candidate and voted the maximum of 35 times (with my primary email address, I may or may not have several more rounds of voting in the tank) for the players I found the most deserving. Here are the graphics provided my MLB upon submitting my ballot:

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Developed Teams 2015 SNEAK PEEK: Seattle Mariners

Last night, I made a the decision that I would preorder a bundle including a brand new PS4 and the much-anticipated title Batman: Arkham Knight (Arkham KUUUUHHHHH-neegit in Monty Python speak). I made this decision because I cannot, in good conscience, live in a world where this game exists and is within my reasonable grasp, and for some reason choose to deny myself the experience of playing it. For better or worse, that's not the person I want to be in 2015. This is arguably the culmination of most impressive depiction of the character of Batman that we've ever seen in a video game universe, and I would like my front-row seats, please.

This game doesn't come out until June 23, which also happens to be one day after my wedding anniversary, which I took as a good omen - also making it a day I'm sure not to forget. That means I have a little over a month to finish up all my outstanding business with the PS3 games: not only the journey of Hunter S. Batman, professional baseball player (his picture is at the top of this blog), but also a spousal run through of The LEGO Movie: The Video Game, and a recent spousal gift of Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe - a veritable blast from the past that I somehow missed and am excited to finally check out.

But with the new system comes the possibility of new games on which to stage new baseball related projects. This is the area of my social media space that usually gets the least traffic, but it's the topic about which I'm most compelled to write, for some reason. I guess not all amateur journalists are created equal. In any event, the project I am envisioning is a rehashing of my Developed Teams project, presented on the shiny new stage of MLB 15: The Show.

As a preliminary first step, I created projected lineups for all 30 Major League teams, in preparation for simulating a season (or at least a postseason) with all (or at least 10) of these teams. I'm providing this sneak peek because it seems right to riff on my findings so far, even though this project is weeks from phase 2, so to speak - I likely won't get started building rosters or simulating games until after the All-Star Break, using the half-season's worth of sample size to inform my choices, somewhat like my Hometown project last year. Plus I'll need time to finish Arkham Knight, hopefully with a blog-related project attached! But for now, here's the first look at this year's version of the project: the developed starting lineup for the Seattle Mariners:

As a spoiler alert for my whole project: this team might not just be the strongest developed team in the AL West, but it might even have what it takes to win it all. Every player on this squad except one has spent time with Seattle’s big league club, but it’s that one who might tip the scales in this team’s favor. Most baseball fans know that David Ortiz made his major league debut with the Twins before becoming a star with the Red Sox. But I’ll bet a lot fewer people know that Big Papi spent his first three professional seasons in Seattle’s minor league system (where he was known as David Arias), as opposed to just part of one in Minnesota before his first call up to the majors.

A great deal of this team’s success, however, hinges on Ortiz being able to strap on the glove regularly, because after him on the 1B depth chart are guys like Willie Bloomquist (who will be around until he’s Jamie Moyer’s age), Jesus Guzman (currently playing in Japan), and Greg Dobbs (currently unemployed). One other option is to slide Alex Rodriguez across the diamond - he has one game at 1B this year (or one fewer than Ortiz), plus two more in Spring Training, but his superior athleticism could make him a better fit for the position.

The fact that Ortiz was traded for just 28 games of Dave Hollins in 1996 is just slightly less cringe-worthy than looking at the deal that sent Adam Jones and Chris Tillman (among others) to the Orioles for Erik Bedard, who managed just 46 games for Seattle. Tillman spent enough time in the O’s system before making his debut that I awarded him to Baltimore, but at least the Mariners get the AL’s batting leader Jones back into the fold for this project.

Felix Hernandez is a legitimate homegrown talent, but the presence of Hisashi Iwakuma brings up an inherent problem with the Developed Teams project. Iwakuma was already a known quantity with 11 seasons in Nippon Professional Baseball before being signed by the Mariners, and he didn’t need any “development” in the minors. But guys like him and Ichiro (on this team’s bench) and Masahiro Tanaka are too talented to leave off any roster, so I guess I’ll just have to reward the teams that are savvy enough to import them.

The fact that Rafael Soriano doesn't have a team for which to play right now (although that might change soon as he's reportedly in discussions with the Marlins) doesn't change the fact that he still has shut-down ninth-inning stuff. It's also a deep group behind him: Tom Wilhelmsen has closed before, and he's joined by such solid yet lesser-known arms as Yoervis Medina, Shawn Kelley, Scott Atchison, Dominic Leone. There's even another plus lefty (Eric O'Flaherty) in case Thornton falters. The rotation also has some upside if top prospects James Paxton and Taijuan Walker ever get their acts together.

So there you have it: your first taste of my Developed Teams project updated for 2015. Stay tuned for more analysis leading up to the actual game simulation!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Fantasy Astrology 2015: Rebalancing for May

I'm reading a book about personal finances and investing right now, and one of the principles for maintaining a healthy portfolio is regular rebalancing. For example, if you start out with 60% of your investment capital in stocks and 40% in bonds, but one of your stocks has a dramatic rise in value, in addition to having more total money, your percentage will be more heavily weighted towards stocks. Thus you have to "rebalance" your portfolio by selling some of your stocks and buying some more bonds, so that you don't expose yourself to excessive risk.

I've taken a similar approach with the 12 rosters in my Fantasy Astrology project, making sure each roster has the best players in the starting lineup and adding hot performers from the waiver wire. Experts say that you should rebalance your financial portfolio on a quarterly or even yearly basis, but since keeping up with fantasy astrology stats is also beneficial for my personal fantasy team, I've decided to rebalance the astrology lineups on a monthly basis.

Below is a link to each astrology team's roster page - because they are apparently viewable to the public - along with some top performers on each team and a summary of any notable changes made since the beginning of the season. Since it's too early for the standings to mean much, I'm sorting the teams by the mysterious "Points For" category from ESPN's fantasy client.

1. Aries Rams

Offensive leader Miguel Cabrera is going to be the top performer on most of the fantasy teams that he's on, but Lorenzo Cain deserves honorable mention for already putting up more than 300 fantasy points and taking the charge of the hot-starting Royals. Felix Hernandez is the number two pitcher in the sport, trailing only Dallas Keuchel in total points, but this team has had rockstar pitching performances from Matt Harvey, Jake Odorizzi, and Anthony DeSclafani, the latter of whom wasn't even on the roster to start the year.

Odorizzi and DeSclafani replace the injured Hisashi Iwakuma and the surprisingly disappointing Chris Sale (who might be feeling some effects from his offseason foot injury) in the rotation. Defending AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber has also been struggling, but he keeps his spot for now. With Koji Uehara returning from the DL, he replaces pirates closer Mark Melancon next to David Robertson in the bullpen. It also might be time for third baseman Adrian Beltre to officially pass the torch to Nolan Arenado.

2. Virgo Maidens

Virgo has three All-Star caliber first basemen on their roster: Paul Goldschmidt is a no brainer, but I ended up making the wrong decision for the DH slot, starting Freddie Freeman over Joey Votto to start the year. I also made the wrong decision in center field, but the rankings overwhelmingly supported Jacoby Ellsbury over Billy Hamilton, so I don't blame myself much. Backup catcher Nick Hundley is getting playing time with John Jaso hitting the DL early. And the last change I made was replacing struggling shortstop Ian Desmond with Marcus Semien, who is quietly becoming the most effective healthy shortstop in the AL

Gerrit Cole has been the leader in the pitching department, showing that he might be ready to reach his number one overall pick potential. Adan Wainwright's injury is definitely a blow to this pitching staff, but luckily they had his Cardinals teammate Carlos Martinez waiting on the bench. The bullpen also got a boost since Wade Davis is picking up saves for Kansas City with Derek Holland hurt.

3. Leo Lions

Mike Trout and Adam Jones are a beastly outfield combo, and there's a good chance that pair will be starting alongside either Nelson Cruz or Hanley Ramirez in this year's All-Star Game. Alex Rodriguez's resurgence has earned him a lineup spot, especially given Jason Heyward's struggles. Wilmer Flores isn't a big upgrade over Chris Owings, but I figured I'd let the young kid have his shot.

The top pitching performer on this team has actually been closer Huston Street, although Max Scherzer would likely claim that title if he had been able to make his scheduled start before getting injured while swinging his "wet newspaper" at the plate. There was a lot of turnover in this pitching staff as unforseeable circumstances caused Joaquin Benoit to become obsolete, and the strong early performances of Brandon Morrow, Jesse Hahn, and Nick Martinez (a waiver wire addition) easily eclipsed Clay Buchholz, Taijuan Walker, and Drew Hutchison.

4. Aquarius Water Carriers

In a surprising role reversal, an Aquarius team that has never before been close to contention finds themselves in the thick of it, thanks to Todd Frazier's hot bat and Johnny Cueto's incredible pitching abilities. I mean, Jose Abreu and Scott Kazmir have helped, and when top prospect Addison Russell gains eligibility at 2B, this lineup will start looking a little stronger. The bullpen is still a mess with fill-in A's closer Tyler Clippard only saving one game so far. Changes in the starting rotation: Ubaldo Jimenez and Travis Wood take the spots of struggling Doug Fister and Julio Teheran, for this month at least.

5. Capricorn Goats

This year I'm enacting a Tampa Bay style of this team's name, dropping the "Sea" and having them known only as the Goats. Cuz I've heard of a Mountain Goat and a Billy Goat, but what is a "Sea Goat" anyway? The point is, Hanley Ramirez's power surge leads the team on the offensive side, but I actually moved him out of the shortstop slot due to the emergence of Jose Iglesias. All three 1B/DH types on this roster are struggling, but you have to believe that at least two of the trio of Edwin Encarnacion, Victor Martinez, and Albert Pujols will heat up eventually, provided they can avoid the DL.

Perhaps no player has had more of a hand in the Astros' hot start than Dallas Keuchel, who has evolved into a true ace of a team that is surprisingly relevant. Also Trevor Bauer and Danny Salazar have worked their way into a very strong rotation, although after today's performance, I wish I hadn't given up on Jon Lester so soon. We'll see if he can keep up the pace against a non-Brewers team in his next start.

6. Scorpio Scorpions

Giancarlo Stanton has lived up to expectations as Miami's offensive leader and Sonny Gray is developing into a solid ace in Oakland (with great taste in socks). Two surprise offensive stars are catcher Stephen Vogt, who really deserves some All-Star consideration even in the early going, and second baseman Alex Guerrero, who only made the Dodgers' roster due to a technicality. Greg Holland's injury is softened by Jason Grilli taking over from Craig Kimbrel as the Braves' stopper, but there's still the disappointment that is Cody Allen. The hot starts of Shane Greene and Mike Leake will help make up for Masahiro Tanaka's predictable injury.

7. Libra Scales

Matt Kemp and Bryce Harper lead the offensive attack, and the hot starts of Jose Bautista and Starling Marte have pushed such potential stars Andrew McCutchen and Yoenis Cespedes to the bench. Ryan Zimmerman's eligibility at first base fills the only major hole in the lineup. Then of course there's just Troy Tulowitzki, Robinson Cano, and Evan Longoria holding it down in the infield. You know, just some pretty OK players. On the pitching side Chris Archer and Zack Greinke headline a strong but shallow location, and Jeurys Familia is doing a great job filling in for the suspended Jenrry Mejia.

8. Taurus Bulls

Sometimes even having the best offensive performer in the sport (Adrian Gonzalez) isn't enough to land in the top half of team ranks. Not even when that player is supported by top tier second baseman Jose Altuve and star closer Joakim Soria. But the cold hard truth is that a team needs pitching to win as well, and the team's top starters - Aaron Harang and Alfredo Simon - weren't in the rotation to start the year. (Again, I'm a slave to the rankings, who could blame me!?)

9. Cancer Crabs

For this team, it's Nelson Cruz and pray for rain. Sure, there are a couple of solid infielders (Manny Machado, Ian Kinsler, and Howie Kendrick are holding it down) and the duo of Michael Wacha and Edinson Volquez (when the latter gets back from his suspension) are looking very impressive. But there are no save opportunities to speak of, they don't have a shortstop to replace Derek Jeter, and the rest of the roster is just plain mediocre.

10. Pisces Fish

Rookie Devon Travis has been a nice surprise for the Blue Jays after he was acquired in a one-for-one swap over the offseason and Denard Span and Josh Reddick have both impressed since coming off the DL. But not even three All-Star closers (Aroldis Chapman, Glen Perkins, and Fernando Rodney) can stem the tide of mediocrity that this roster provides. Now to test your predictive skills: raise your hand if you thought Jake Arrieta would have more fantasy points than Clayton Kershaw a month into the season...

11. Gemini Twins

No team has been so badly decimated by injuries as Gemini. They lost a pitcher (Jake Peavy), two catchers (Jonathan Lucroy and Devin Mesoraco), their second baseman (Ben Zobrist), and their shortstop (Jose Reyes), and that's not even counting Anthony Rendon, Josh Hamilton, Matt Wieters, and Matt Moore, none of whom have played yet this season. This leaves Royals DH Kendrys Morales as their top offensive performer. In the pleasant surprise department, Andrew Miller has taken over the closer's role for the Yankees and Bartolo Colon has shined for the red hot Mets.

12. Sagittarius Archers

Josh Donaldson and Wil Myers have been raking with their new teams, but neither of them compares to what Matt Carpenter is doing for his astrology team's last place effort. This team has also seen a lot of its stars head to the DL: Carlos Gomez, Yasiel Puig, David Wright, Christian Yelich all went down, although I'm leaving Gomez in the starting lineup because he's slated to return to the field this weekend. James Shields is the most solid starter, with Hector Santiago's surprisingly good start not doing enough to mitigate the negative point totals put up so far from Mat Latos and Ian Kennedy.

All this work might eventually be moot, because very well might use a "best case scenario" version of each team to determine playoff seeding. But keeping the teams somewhat up to date will give my loyal blog readers something to look at!