Monday, October 24, 2016

World Series Predictions by Astrology 2016

For all ten teams in the MLB playoffs, I Tweeted out an active roster analysis of their rosters as of their first round appearance. For the four that advanced to the Championship Serieses, I Tweeted a graph of each team's top fantasy performers against each other to see which team might have the statistical advantage. But now I thought I would check for connections between players who are contending for a real life championship, and the players on the fantasy astrological teams that had success (or lack thereof) this year. Keep in mind that each fantasy "starting lineup" has space for one offensive player at each of the eight defensive positions, plus a DH, five starting pitchers, and two relief pitchers. The only player on either World Series roster who contributed to the league champion Libra Scales is Indians SP2 Josh Tomlin, who actually outpitched big time acquisition Zack Greinke to be Libra's overall SP4. (Cleveland's Rajai Davis and Lonnie Chisenhall are also Libras, but they were buried on a famously strong depth chart.) However, looking at this year's runner up Capricorn Goats (coincidence?) tells a different story.

Overall World Series fantasy point leader (and NL MVP candidate) Kris Bryant is the only relevant player in this collage, which is made from images taken from two preseason preview magazines (Lindy's and The Sporting News, if you're curious). Not pictured in this collage (due to my lack of picture options, not his lack of excellence) is Bryant's real life teammate Jon Lester, the NLCS co-MVP (with Javier Baez, a Sagittarius) and the highest fantasy point scorer of any pitcher in the World Series. On the other side of the competition, the Indians have a couple of controversial Capricorn starting pitchers. Trevor Bauer (who competed for CAP's fifth starter spot with Kevin Gausman, pictured) suffered a lacerated pinkie in a drone-building accident that caused him to exit early from his last ALCS start, but he'll supposedly be ready to go for Game 2 on Wednesday. And Danny Salazar, who has been out since early September with a forearm injury, could be activated to start Game 4 or pitch out of the bullpen. Also catcher Roberto Perez and middle reliever Jeff Manship were eligible for the Goats' roster, but neither of them made the starting fantasy lineup.

Looking back to last year's champions, we see that the Cubs have some pretty dominant Pisces players on their roster. The most prominent of these is reigning NL Cy Young winner Jake Arrieta (who is also the only Cubs player of whom I had a collage-worthy picture), who has been relegated to CHC's SP3 this postseason due to the presence of Lester and Kyle Hendricks (also a Sagittarius, and their ace pitcher, no less). The Cubs also have some key Pisceses at the back end of their bullpen in ninth-inning force Aroldis Chapman and the man he replaced as closer upon his acquisition, Hector Rondon. (Rondon and Fernando Rodney were neck and neck for the RP2 spot, each of whom were much better first half fantasy relievers as they lost their respective closer jobs due to trades.) Bench bat Jorge Soler and backup-backup catcher David Ross also represent the Fish for the Cubs, as does injured slugger Kyle Schwarber (previously mis-identified as an Aries elsewhere on this site), who could potentially be used as a DH after missing all but two (2) games of the 2016 season. Pisces doesn't have a really meaningful presence on Cleveland's roster, with rookie starter Ryan Merritt and reliever Dan Otero as the only two members.

The two astrology signs most strongly represented on the Indians are Aries and Scorpio. Starting with the Rams, the collage at left shows two-fifths of CLE's rotation for most of the year: not only unquestioned ace Corey Kluber, but also the team's SP2 until mid-September Carlos Carrasco, whose season ended prematurely after suffering a fractured hand about a week after Salazar went down. On the offensive side, Aries also lays claim to the top two players in the Indians batting order (but only against righties), Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis. Interestingly enough, due to the scary strength of the Aries roster, neither player earned a spot on their starting lineup: Kipnis was stuck behind near-batting-champ Daniel Murphy on the 2B depth chart, while Santana had to contend with Miguel Cabrera (pictured) and Adrian Beltre (who himself was behind Nolan Arenado, also pictured) for the 1B/DH spots. The Cubs also have a trio of Aries players with varying relevancy: CF Dexter Fowler was a starter for the fantasy astrology team, while rookies Albert Almora Jr. (OF) and Rob Zastryzny (LHP) bear mentioning as well.

Scorpio has been a very strong offensive astrology team for many years, and although they'll take a clear hit with the retirement of David Ortiz, the presence of Francisco Lindor in the middle of their infield and the middle of their lineup for the foreseeable future will give them a definite boost. He joins fellow Indians lineup members Mike Napoli and Coco Crisp, although the latter of which also only starts against righties, despite his status as a switch hitter. Cleveland's relief corps is also well represented, with closer/setup combo Cody Allen and Brian Shaw both representing the Scorpions. The Cubs only had one Scorpio on their playoff roster, but he's perhaps the one player who most outwardly exemplifies the typical Scorpio personality: SP4 John Lackey.

Those are the most relevant players of the best-represented astrological signs, with only a handful of players left who had contributing roles on other fantasy astrology teams. The recently un-slumping Anthony Rizzo served as Leo's starting first baseman, breakout multi-position star Jose Ramirez started at third base for Virgo, while the also-heating-up Addison Russell served as an unconventional shortstop/DH pair with Brandon Crawford on a characteristically weak Aquarius team. Meanwhile, super utility powerhouse Ben Zobrist and ALCS MVP Andrew Miller both held down major roles for a Gemini team that was nowhere close to contention.

For those of you keeping track at home, this brings the total of fantasy astrology "starters" on the Cubs to eleven (11), while the Indians lag behind with eight (8). I don't want to presume that this particular bit of trivia has any bearing on which team has the "star-crossed" advantage heading into the Fall Classic, but it'll nevertheless be interesting to see which fantasy astrology stars will be able to step up in the real life playoffs. Obviously, every player on these rosters (indeed, every player in baseball) has an astrology affiliation, and it's possible that the biggest difference maker in the upcoming World Series is not one of the above-mentioned players. Tune into your local FOX station starting Tuesday 10/25 at 8pm ET to find out!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Fantasy Astrology 2016 Playoff Teams

This weekend, I completed work on my preliminary Baseball Database: a huge sortable color-coded spreadsheet that includes a row full of stats and information for all 1,353 players who recorded a game in the major leagues this year. (The full version of the database will eventually add info for all players who appeared on a team's 40-man roster, all non-roster invitees heading into 2016, and any minor leaguer who was traded for a player with MLB experience over the course of the season.) This is a three-step process, involving confirming each player's name, handedness, and roster status as of the last day of the season using each team's official site; then noting each player's position eligibility and teams played for, using's fielding stats page; and finally entering in each player's fantasy point totals, calculated by a custom ESPN fantasy league. It's tedious and time consuming, but it's absolutely a labor of love, and it allows me to generate lineup after lineup, such as these ones of the top four Fantasy Astrology teams from 2016.

As I've mentioned via Twitter, the Libra Scales just won the Fantasy Astrology championship for the fourth time in five years! The lone outlier was 2015 when Clayton Kershaw and Jake Arrieta led Pisces to a wild pitching-fueled upset, but Capricorn could not keep the trend going in 2016. And it's no wonder, considering the incredible wealth of talent that graces Libra's roster every year. Keep in mind, these aren't the lineups each team used in the playoffs, or even throughout the majority of the regular season, but rather an optimized configuration using the aggregate 2016 season stats and positional eligibility. I'll go over some major ways each roster evolved from their opening day versions in the commentary after each graphic.

You might notice that Libra has a spot for an additional position player at the bottom. This is not because the Fantasy Astrology league has two DH spots, but because I wanted you to marvel at this team's outfield depth. The five outfielders listed would likely line up as Betts, Cespedes, and Harper in left, center, and right, with a Gonzalez/Kemp DH platoon. But when you consider that this year's top offensive performer overall Mookie Betts had holdover CF eligibility from 2015, that would eliminate the need to feature either Yoenis Cespedes (and his injury-shortened, albeit brilliant campaign) or Andrew McCutchen (and his admittedly disappointing performance). And that list doesn't even include such luminaries as Jose Bautista, Starling Marte, and Kole Calhoun, who would make a pretty good starting outfield trio on most fantasy teams.

But the outfield isn't the only strength of this team, as the infield is also brimming with depth. Around the horn, Robinson Cano, Evan Longoria, and Xander Bogaerts are backed up by Jonathan Schoop, Jake Lamb, and Troy Tulowitzki, respectively. Looking at the SS depth chart, Brad Miller actually outscored Tulo in 2016, but when the breakout offensive star Miller took over as the Rays' first baseman in August, he was able to unseat the decidedly mediocre Ryan Zimmerman at 1B. Considering that first base and catcher were two of the only weak spots in Libra's lineup (the latter of which should be adequately filled by Cameron Rupp for the foreseeable future), it's a little scary what this offense could look like down the line.

The picture isn't quite as clear for the starting staff, which turned in a good overall performance, despite some major disappointments. These disappointments mostly involved Diamondbacks players: consider that both Shelby Miller and Robbie Ray joined Zack Greinke in this team's opening day starting five. Greinke's 2016 performance kept him in that group, but I'm sure no one expected him to regress from the league leader in ERA to mid-rotation starter status. Another former ace, Chris Archer, also had similar regression, leaving it to Cy Young contender J.A. Happ and versatile Tanner Roark to headline the staff. (Roark's performance as a starter always made me question Washington's decision to move him to the bullpen upon their signing of Max Scherzer... unless it was a clever ruse to limit the second-year-man's innings.) Throw in two of the three top scoring relief pitchers, and you have the makings of a perennial champion.

Libra's opponent this year was the Capricorn Goats, a strong team on both sides of the ball that got a big boost from the positional eligibility rules. Going into 2016, CAP's top two players holding only 1B or DH eligibility were Edwin Encarnacion (22) and Albert Pujols (124), with Victor Martinez waiting in the wings (234). But after the season, that list expanded to include Hanley Ramirez, the team's opening day left fielder thanks to Boston's ill-advised decision to put him in front of the Green Monster in 2015. Losing his OF eligibility effectively forced Hanley to DH and Pujols to the bench, but at least the team had a competent corner outfield replacement in Stephen Piscotty. And of course they still had offensive superpowers in MVP candidate Kris Bryant and MLB home run leader Mark Trumbo anchoring the lineup. But the presence of mediocre performers up the middle like Tucker Barnhart and Jose Iglesias (unseating long time regulars A.J. Pierzynski and Erick Aybar, respectively) ensure that they just can't compare to Libra's star power.

On the starting pitching front, however, Capricorn has several more impressive hurlers than Libra could muster, starting with a pair of Cy Young candidates, one for each league, in Rick Porcello and Jon Lester. Interestingly enough, Porcello wasn't even in the opening day rotation for this team, his spot going to 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel, whose struggles this year have been well-documented. And speaking of Cy Young candidates, their closer Zach Britton could garner some votes for the top honor for a pitcher, regardless of his non-use in the American League Wild Card Game. (Other relief pitching options include veteran Francisco Rodriguez and newly minted closer Alex Colome, both of whom averaged more than 30 points per game last year). The starting rotation behind Lester and the incredibly consistent Cole Hamels did have a fair bit of turnover though: Danny Salazar had his season cut short due to injuries and Michael Pineda couldn't perform consistently despite good health. They were replaced by two from the trio of Danny Duffy, Kevin Gausman, or Trevor Bauer.

My home-sign team, the Cancer Crabs, always seems to be on the edge of contention, but this year they lost out to this year's champions in the season's penultimate matchup. Let's start with the players we knew would be great: Manny Machado continued to dazzle at the plate while also gaining eligibility at shortstop, Nelson Cruz once again hit 40 home runs, Ian Kinsler put up another quietly impressive season, and Charlie Blackmon took advantage of Coors Field to boost his offensive numbers. Now the surprises: DJ LeMahieu ended up winning the National League batting title, Angel Pagan had a bit of a career resurgence, and most importantly, Trea Turner burst on the scene with an electrifying rookie season. Turner played center field and second base this year, but if he takes over at shortstop for the Nationals any time soon, he'll go a long way towards filling the hole left in Cancer's shortstop depth chart by Derek Jeter's retirement.

But perhaps the biggest reason for this team's success was a complete revamping of the pitching staff. Here's how the rotation looked on opening day based on preseason rankings: Stephen Strasburg, Michael Wacha, Wei-Yin Chen, Patrick Corbin, and Edinson Volquez. The only pitcher in that group who stuck around for the whole season was Strasburg, and he ended the season on the disabled list. (Of note: Marco Estrada would have earned a place in the opening day rotation based on his rank, but his own injury issues kept him from the fantasy lineup for the first matchups of the year.) Of course, no one could have expected that the Blue Jays would go back on their promise to move ace Aaron Sanchez to the bullpen, or that CC Sabathia's new sober lifestyle would give new life to his career. Likewise the bullpen, which featured only middle relievers at the start of the season (Kevin Siegrist and Brett Cecil) ended with three bona fide closers - although Seung Hwan Oh, Jim Johnson, and Tony Cingrani had to climb significantly up their teams' respective depth charts to earn their saves.

No Fantasy Astrology team was touched with more tragedy than Leo, who lost a key member of their pitching staff and one of the most captivating personalities in Major League Baseball when Jose Fernandez was killed in a boating accident. Obviously a tragedy like this takes the focus away from such trivialities as Astrology Baseball, and my thoughts and prayers go out to Fernandez's friends and family and teammates on his real life organization, the Miami Marlins. He was a bright spot in this game and he will be sorely missed.

In 2016, Jose Fernandez helped pitch the Leo Lions into the playoffs along with overall 2016 fantasy points leader Max Scherzer, slugging pitcher extraordinaire Madison Bumgarner, and (when healthy) Japanese ace Yu Darvish. Their relief pitcher situation was a bit more tenuous as both Santiago Casilla and Jake McGee lost their grips on their respective closer positions, and Huston Street was a nonentity pretty much all season; although the team did get a boost from the emergence of ground ball specialist Brandon Kintzler as Minnesota's stopper late in the season.

There's no question about who this team's leader was on offense, as Mike Trout finished second only to Mookie Betts among all batters in 2016 fantasy points (third overall behind astrology teammate Scherzer). Anthony Rizzo finished a fairly close second in offensive points, with the only other 100-RBI season on the team, while Dustin Pedroia had another typically excellent season, topping the 2,000 point mark for the fifth time in his career. Injuries did hit this team fairly hard: breakout catcher Wilson Ramos was lost for the season right at the height of the Fantasy playoffs, third baseman Wilmer Flores likewise saw his season end early after taking over from an immensely disappointing Pablo Sandoval, shortstops Zack Cozart and Aledmys Diaz each missed significant time, as did slugging outfielder J.D. Martinez. In the end, the consistency of Adam Jones and Melky Cabrera couldn't win the day.

Check out my twitter feed for graphical analysis of the rosters of the current playoff teams, and stay tuned to this blog for more 2016 season wrap-up-type posts and for analysis of rosters in the upcoming World Baseball Classic!