I have written many times that my hometown Strat-O-Matic League, aka MWStrat, is my favorite league among the handful in which I play.
There are a number of reasons for this, and they are all rooted in the notion - at least as I see it - that by playing fantasy ball, our real goal is to be the general manager of a major league franchise and guide that team to a championship. And, I think the MWStrat League affords this fantasy closer than any other baseball interpretation I play.
Where should Hanley hit?
In the MWStrat League, we have 30 teams, each playing in a major league park. We are broken into divisions just like the majors, with the ball parks dictating division. For example, the home field of my team, the Berkeley Liberators, is indeed AT&T Park, so the Liberators are in the NL West, just like the Giants whose who call the park their home.
In the league we can freeze up to 29 players year-to-year, plus five additional players who may not have achieved enough playing time the previous year to merit inclusion in the game stats.
As an example of this, I drafted the Bucs Steve Pearce a couple of years back and he has no card this year in the game. But, Pearce now has a job for what looks like the rest of 2011, and will likely be part of the game next year (Strat-O-Matic ratings are based upon the previous yearís final stats, so this year we are playing out 2010).
Well, this year the Liberators are a pretty good team. At the end of play in May, we were ten games over .500 at 30-20, a game-and-a-half ahead of the Frankfurt Galaxy in the NL West.
I have an excellent rotation anchored by Ubaldo Jimenez, along with Jonathan Sanchez, Jeff Niemann, Jhoulys Chacin and Kevin Correia, and a fine starting nine with Hanley Ramirez, Ryan Zimmerman, and Shane Victorino, and well, we are ten games over .500.
The problem is I think my team should be playing better than this. This month, in home games, we finished at just .500 with a 7-7 record at home, bringing our record so far to 37-27 (some time in the next week I will find out how the Liberators fared on the road last month).
And, though I do seem to be able to beat the likes of CC Sabathia and Roy Halladay, I cannot lick the Sergio Mitres, Brad Bergesens, and Randy Wolfs of the world.
Worse, my best regular hitter is Mark Ellis, at .306-4-26. Hanley is lodged at .299-9-34, Zimmerman at .266-13-41, and my top draft pick from last year, Ike Davis, is hovering at .226-4-26.
Of course these are not egregiously bad numbers - though Davis has been disappointing - but, I have simply not been able to figure out how to arrange the batting order of my team to achieve maximum output.
One of the keys to success in Strat-O-Matic is indeed exploiting lefty-righty matchups, which is another reason I really love this format, but it can be difficult finding the batting order that has rhythm: the one that seems to deliver the big hit at the right time.
And, with this yearís Liberators lineup, it doesnít feel as if I have arranged the guys to gain that production despite the ten games over .500 status.
In previous seasons, after a couple of months of play with a team, I have gotten a sense of whether Hanley or Shane should lead off, and when Jonathan Lucroy should catch as opposed to Humberto Quintero (donít laugh, for it is as deep a league as you will find, and despite that Quintero is excellent defensively).
Which feels kind of like coming close to solving the multi-sided riddle of the Rubikís Cube but coming up short every time.
That is what it has felt like this year where no matter where I put players, the hits just seem random, and the outs and relative disappointment acute, and that makes me nervous. For though I think we will be playoff bound come October, I cannot imagine us winning when I feel unsure that my hitters will come through.
I should remember that the MWStrat League does enforce strict usage rules (same amount of play as the previous season plus 20%), and come August, teams will be throwing cannon fodder pitchers out there, and a strong team can romp.
But as it is now, I have no warm and fuzzies that this will occur. Worse, I donít think that even Emo Rubik can help.
Lawr Michaels has been a player in the fantasy baseball industry since he began writing for John Benson in 1993. He has written for STATS, Inc, was the first fantasy columnist for CBS Sportsline, and has appeared in numerous journals and on websites. In 1996, he founded CREATiVESPORTS, a staple for serious fantasy players, which he merged into Mastersball in 2010.
Over the years, Lawr has participated in a wide variety of playing formats and won numerous titles, including AL Tout Wars crowns in 2001 and 2009. Along with his Mastersball duties, Lawr works for MLB.com as a statistician.