Fantasy Baseball Tumbling Dice: Surprise numbers

by Lawr Michaels, MastersBall.com on August 23, 2011 @ 06:01:54 PDT

 


I don't really watch that much baseball on TV these days. That is sort of due to the fact that my teams play horribly when I do, but also because I get to the yard plenty enough to satiate my need.

But, I do look at statistics. Be they leaders lists or box scores, I love looking at numbers, and I will look at the same numbers over and over, because I think the stats are talking to us.

They are suggesting "here, here, look here" at ground outs to fly outs, or swing through strikes a pitcher might rack up during a start.

I am not sure how much of these numbers I overtly remember: At least if you asked me how many swing-throughs Gio Gonzalez culled Saturday during his start against Toronto, I would have to look it up even though I tracked all the pitches.

Colorado Rockies SP Jhoulys Chacin
The key to my success: Chacin

But, I have seen the numbers - and Gio pitch - enough times to know he gets a lot of them. In fact, I noticed that last year which is why he is on this year's LABR team.

So, in that way, I think the statistics are trying to tell us who hits more line drives than anyone else and in the process, they are telling us who to take on our teams, and who to avoid.

But, since valid numbers require a serious body of totals, rather than a small data sample, sometimes it takes awhile to see how or why the numbers are what they are.

Which brings me back to my Strat-O-Matic team, the Berkeley Liberators of the Mid-West Strat-O-Matic League. When I wrote about the Liberators last month, they were struggling despite being 10 games over .500, and leading the NL West in the 30-team setup.

Unfortunately when the final numbers for the month of June were distributed, we fell to second, five games behind the Frankfort Galaxy as our record for the month was 13-14 to the Galaxy's 18-9.

Well, that number bummed me, so I was slow to play my charge of July games. I did get them completed before our monthly deadline, and was actually kind of pleased that over the 10 home games I had to get through, the Liberators won eight, and one of the two defeats came in extra innings.

So, again, as I write, I am not sure how the Liberators fared against the rest of the league, over our remaining 15 or so away games for June, but I am feeling good for a couple of reasons.

First, it seems like my hitting has picked up some, as now I have eight hitters banging the ball at better than a .270 clip, although two - Jay Gibbons (.326-2-7) and Andy Marte (.306-2-4) - each just have around 40 at-bats.

When, however, I finished playing my games I looked at the leaders board, and though I expected my team to be among the leaders in some categories this time the cupboards were surprisingly bare.

The Liberators did place three of our hitters in Shane Victorino, Hanley Ramirez, and Ryan Zimmerman among the top 10 in at-bats, but since I have 10 more games in the stat base (I will get the rest of the league totals during this week) that is to be expected.

Hanley was 10th in hits, and seventh in steals, but as with at-bats, I can expect that to end when the other 29 teams share their data files. However, in categories like extra-base hits, and doubles or even RBI, there were no Liberators to be found.

In fact, it wasn't till I got to the pitchers numbers that any kind of team strength showed itself, and that was because Jeff Niemann (8-2, 2.45) and Jhoulys Chacin (7-4, 2.84) were among the leaders in both ERA and W/L percentage.

And then I spotted it.

Tucked in among the 75 statistical categories that Strat-O-Matic provides, at the bottom of the list on the second-to-last line of the page was "Opponent Batting Average," and there all four of my core starting pitchers were listed, starting with Niemann (.198), Chacin (.201), Jonathan Sanchez (.204) and then Ubaldo Jimenez (.207).

And, though Jimenez, and maybe even Sanchez, might get bumped when the final monthlies are reported, those are terrific numbers for my starting core (only one other team has as many as two in the top 10).

And, those are numbers that do help explain my team's success.

Just for grins I did look at my fifth starter, which is a combination of 19 starts by Kevin Correia (5-5, 4.92) and Aaron Laffey (5-1, 3.48) meaning after that tough top four, my fifth starter is 10-6, 4.46. Which is not bad.

A bunch of years back I was talking about teams and performance with my mate Trace Wood, and he noted that he thought the sign of a good team was one like mine: that is a team that had nobody in the top 10, but nobody in the bottom 10 either.

In fact we both agreed that a solid steady under-the-radar team that just quietly produces is the thing.

I am beginning to think maybe that describes the Liberators.

See more of Lawr's work, including the Hotpage (published each Monday) and Bed Goes Up, Bed Goes Down (each Saturday), along with the work of Todd Zola, Brian Walton, and the Mastersball team at www.mastersball.com.

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About Lawr Michaels, MastersBall.com

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.

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