Leaves of (Outfield) Grass

First a word about my team name. The Van Wyck Expressway runs through Queens in New York City, pretty much from airport to airport (near Shea Stadium actually). There were 3 or 4 references to it during the long Seinfeld series run (one of my all-time favorite shows). The most notable quote was by Elaine, who said, "They say nobody.s ever beaten the Van Wyck.."

Pirates was just one of many possible team nicknames that I could choose. With the puffy shirt, Jerry didn't want to be a pirate. With an eye patch, Kramer did!

Both names worked well for me in the end. I discovered that I could buy a Volkswagen hat (VW), and a Pittsburgh Pirates Brian Giles jersey. No SL team has marketed their team like this since the days of the Mello Yellows, and the House of David. And I marketed it so well, Steve showed up for the finals also wearing a Pirates jersey!

The challenge of writing a season review every year is a great burden for me. I always want to do something, but I want it to be original. And I try to keep in mind that what is interesting to me (say, 50 pages about only my team in 2002), may not be interesting to other people. So the idea is the first step, but it may well be the hardest too.

I started off by stealing the idea from Bob's review last year. So much for being original. I thought I could keep a journal of my team's season. That idea lasted about 20 games, when I decided it was too difficult. But it was my foundation. From there the idea branched out into more of a collection of essays, about my thoughts of the season, and about my team. I still thought that would not be enough, so with a little help from Rob Neyer, I decided to have a little back and forth chat with Keith. Another stolen idea. And from there I decided to incorporate all members of the SL, by asking everyone questions periodically throughout the season. Interestingly enough, I made the list of when I was going to ask guys questions, at 20 game intervals, and I had Steve and Greg as the last two. Those two obviously had the most interesting seasons.

Now the questions never got too interesting, I am sure a veteran reporter could have come up with better questions. I tried to come up with questions that were pertinent to what was going on in the SL at the time, or something specific to that manager. When I ran out of ideas, I would refer back to some standard questions that are always in the back of my mind.

So I am deeply indebted to all of you. Without an argument, you all answered every question with the enthusiasm that I had hoped for, and as far as I know didn't tell anyone else about it, for that would spoil the fun of the first time reading this (not that I expect anyone to read it more than once!). But if I haven't thanked you enough already, thank you all again, because this review truly could not have been done without you all.

Draft Notes? 2-5-03

This may have been the most interesting draft in memory. I faced the challenge of drafting from the 9 slot, where nobody has ever made the playoffs from. I thought drafting from that spot would be difficult, but if you have never done it before, there is really nothing that can prepare you for the daunting task that lies ahead of you.

To me, the hardest part was trying to figure out who might available to you on the next swing, 16 picks later. There is only so far that you can take this. If there is a guy that I want, how early can I take him before that guy becomes too much of a reach, that it will hurt me more than it helps me. My example here is Jim Thome. Being the first pick of the second round may have been a little early for him, but if I didn't take him, when would he go? He most certainly would not have made it back to me at the end of the 3rd round. And the problem as I see it, is would his pick be worthwhile as first pick of the second round if he ultimately didn't get picked near the end of the 3rd, like 12 picks later? Probably not. So drafting out of this spot has to be a combination of reactive and prospective, and this makes it very difficult. My strategy of "you have to pick that guy if you know you want him" just cannot work in the 9th slot, as that will probably hurt your team in the long run.

On the other hand, this factor makes drafting in the later rounds much easier. When each swing came up, it was much more identifiable what my needs were, and what my weaknesses were, and who were the right guys to fill those spots for me. Sure, there was probably 3 or 4 times in the second half of the draft where Dave took the player that I wanted (Chuck J and Loretta immediately come to mind), and that didn't happen at all in the first half of the draft. But at this point, it was much easier to roll with the changes, than it would have been in the early stages of the draft. And I heard that converse effect a lot also. I was taking guys that other guys coveted. Well, that is just the nature of the drafting position. More so in the later rounds would I be picking guys that I didn't think would be there the next time around. Late in the draft that is much easier to get away with.

If there is one pick that I screwed up, it was the 5th starter. For about 2 swings, I had a list of four guys, of which I wanted one of them. The first swing came and none of them were picked, so I didn't take one. Then on the next swing, it happened again, with all four guys still being there, and I again didn't take one, figuring at least one of them would be there for the next swing. Well, once one of them got picked, all four of them quickly went, and it never made it back to me. Hopefully I can control Byrd's L, and utilize his ZZ rating, and not be too hurt.

It is really interesting to see as a draft goes on, how different GMs are setting up their individual teams. This makes the draft even more of a chess match, as I am saying, "Well this guy will never make it past Ken in the next two rounds." Or, "Dave and I are the only ones without a backup catcher, so I need to get one this swing, if he doesn't get one first," etc., etc. That is what makes all of this so much fun.

I am interested to see how this will all turn out. Ken, Greg, Bob and Keith all drafted what I think are unique teams that I will talk briefly about. A few years back, Ken had what was identified as a "might is right" type of GM. His first 4 or 5 years in the league had him in the top 3 in runs scored and home runs every year, and he was a savvy enough drafter to also draft pitching staffs that had enough quality to help drive him to the playoffs. I don't know what happened, but in the late 90s, he got away from that formula and did not make the playoffs for a few years. Well, in the last two years, he has 2 Spit Cups, and 500 stolen bases. Is there are correlation between the two? I don't know if it was the steals that won it for him, as in '01 he had a tremendous offense too, and in '02 he had a deep starting rotation as well as good hitters and stealers. I am not sure what he was thinking this year, but this is my idea. Team speed, and starting pitching is what he drafted. My guess is that he identified this year as being a bit more difficult to score runs, so every extra base that he can get will be that important. And I think he also identified his strong starting rotation from last year as a key factor in him winning the Cup, so that carried over into this year's draft.

Bob last year did not make strong starting pitching a priority, and it got him to the playoffs for the first time ever. This year, he somewhat copied last year's draft, plus added a twist. Like last year, he didn't draft strongest rotation, opting instead for a strong core of position players. In addition to that, he added a deep, talented bullpen. Bob has a managing style that is mostly unique, so it will be interesting to see how this somewhat similar team will perform for him.

Greg drafted a very un-Greg like team. Like ken, he drafted his 5th starter pretty early on, so he does have a deep rotation. His hitters seem to hit pretty well, and some guys will be quite mobile on the bases, but he also seems to be a good candidate to break the strikeout record (if there is one), which is something that you wouldn't expect Greg to draft. Normally, I would think of Greg as a run-creating type of GM, and I think he is going to have a bit of a problem advancing runners this year, as his guys are going to strikeout so much. I've said this before, but year in and year out, I am critical of Greg's draft, and he always seems to prove me wrong. So I would never go far as to discount him from any playoff picture, but once again I have to say I don't know how he could do it.

Last year was really the first time that Keith didn't make it to the post-season. How would he combat that this year? Well, having the first pick in the draft was a good start. Any time you are able to pick up a guy like Bonds that is a good start to your roster, but as we learned last year, you do need more pieces as well. Keith needed to draft his usual balance, but also needed to draft some Bonds protection this year. It looks like Giambi (Jason) and Sweeney are there to protect him, and protect him they will. He has a very solid top 4 starters, and of course got a balanced bullpen per usual. I am amazed at how some GMs are able to stay away from the gimmicks that have plagued me and others over the years. With Bonds as a starting point, Keith could have easily fallen into the trap of drafting a monster offense. But he clearly has the patience and wherewithal to fill out a whole team, rather than just certain aspects of a team. I don't know if I would have done it this way, but I think he did it well, and we will soon enough see how well.

Are you Gellin'.? I am Gellin' Like a Felon. 2-19-03

I am currently 7-3, and feeling pretty good about it. I beat Greg 4-1 last night, and here is what happened. (Doc) Halladay one-hit me in game 1, then games 2-5 I outscored Greg 41-9. It was eerily reminiscent of several other times that the same sort of thing has happened between Greg and me, except an equal amount of them have gone the other way. I would come out strong in the first game, and feel really good about my chances, then end of not even winning another game. This also happens regularly against Keith for me. What my point here is something that Greg said after the series. He said that he hated the makeup of his team. Which brings me to the question about if chemistry is important to an SL team?

I would have to say yes. Chemistry seems like a silly term to use when talking about a computer baseball league. There is only black and white, zeroes and ones, no personalities, and it all comes together through the basis of probability. But I think we use the term differently than say Tony LaRussa. When he uses it, he is talking about morale, and how guys on his club get along with each other, both in and out of the clubhouse/field (I am using LaRussa, because he was recently quoted as saying the Red Sox could not survive without a closer, as it would hurt the team chemistry). Obviously since we are not dealing with humans, we are talking about something completely different, but ours may be even more complex and mathematical.

Really, I think Greg was talking about how limited his team was as a whole. He was 3 for 5 stealing against me last night. Two of the steals were by Williams who is a 26. His team is unlike his teams of other years. His starters will not steal a lot of bases. He is also not going to take a lot of extra bases. He is mostly a poor defensive team. Posada will be catching most of the time, and his +0 throw rating is not too good. All of these factors are not too hurtful individually, but when they all get put together on the same team, your team would be considered to be quite "un-Greg-like". One of the things Greg has always done well is to aggressively run the bases, and I don't see him being able to create runs like that this year. He does have a deep bullpen, although it is limited in innings, a good starting rotation, and good power, but the station-to-station-ness of his team, and his possible record setting strikeout offense may inhibit his team's ability to create runs this year.

But my whole point about chemistry, is that it is something that is very hard to see while drafting. It is not a "forest for the trees" kind of scenario, but rather a "sum of the parts" issue. Until you get this particular group of guys out onto the "field", and play games with them, it is hard to see how cohesive they will be. You always hope that you have drafted that special team of guys that complement each other, and have that rare ability to perform at or above expectations. My Harrison team that won 100 in '98 seems like one of those special teams, and I think they managed to lead the league in both runs per game and in lowest ERA. But I didn't expect that when I drafted them. I knew I had drafted very good players, and a very deep offensive team, but this team seemed to be a case of how each guy fit into his spot in the whole puzzle. And then in '99 I started out so strong again, but again I knew I had a good team, I just did not know until the season started, if they were to be exceptional.

So now some of the questions I ask myself when I come out of the draft. Is this team special (or comparatively so)? And what sort of deficiencies do I have, and how can I compensate for them? Offensively this year, I think I have the potential to be special. My offense has tremendous ability, but I am as of yet unsure if they have that cohesiveness to make them outstanding. However, I think I traded that for a below average defensive team, a not very deep bullpen, and a rotation that lacks that one go to guy. I guess since the drafting is done, that problem becomes one for my manager. How can I handle these problems, and how do I create problems for other managers. I will go on the record here to say that my team could very well finish with over 90 wins, but at this point it is still hard to tell.

Chris vs. Keith 2-25-03

This was the start of it. I read the Neyer column, and thought it was a great idea, so I proposed it to Keith. He was receptive, so I wrote up some things, and asked him to email me back with his responses. I meant for us to go back and forth, but felt that I had taken up enough of his time already, so I stopped it at his answers to my answers.

CHRIS: Do you have an SL wish list? I mean other than a Spit Cup. Personally, there are a few things from the "Golden Age" of the SL that I would love to see again someday.

The one day draft, I still think is a possibility. Each of the last two years, the draft has taken about two weeks. If we were to each take those 13 extra days to scout, that 14th day could be a draft day. Currently the "required" days in the SL is zero. There is one night for the Winter Meeting that attendance via internet or in person is strongly recommended, but even that is not required. My point is that having one required day, a "draft day", should not be too taxing on everyone's personal life, and I think is a do-able issue. If the argument is not to rush through your picks, I also have to disagree with that. If you are prepared, picking once every half hour or so, should not be too much of a stretch. Granted, some rounds will take longer than others, but I was just making an example. One day is not a lot to ask. Then nobody has to worry about picking at work.

KEITH: For the one-day draft, I think that's like driving a Studebaker, dancing the Charleston, computing with Windows 3.1, and the dead ball era of the major leagues. There was a natural progression from those dinosaurs to the current implementations, and in moving from the one-day draft to this current email system, I must say that the 2003 draft was the best deployment yet of the latter, in my opinion and in several other GM's opinions. Regardless of that, I don't see the benefit of your specific suggestion. I see the main goal of a one-day draft as being able to start the season quicker, but in your example, we blow the 13 extra days on scouting just so we can be prepared enough to knock the thing off in one day, and likely, when they are both done, the season with the two-week draft that is able to start sooner, as we do not have to spend time "figuring out" how to manage our roster. That is to say, after a two-week draft, myself and many others did not really need to heed Graham's pre-draft suggestion of spending time following the draft to figure our own team's out, but if we all blitzed through a one-day draft, I could see some definite "learning curve" time being necessary. Even if that assumption is not true, there are still issues regarding the process that do not seem to be easily overcome. When we've gotten together in the past for rapid-fire chat sessions, each time there were too many outside influences affecting our commitment level to the session, and even if we find ways to limit those influences, what you are talking about is still a day long commitment. Should we get this to all-day, but still casual atmosphere, I still question whether we can fairly manage this. Your wish begs the question, what problem was there with the 2003 draft implementation?

CHRIS: Well, I never said that the main reason for a one day draft is to get the season started faster, and I totally disagree with that as a fact, but on to the next idea.

I also had an idea for a 40-game set schedule. It was always really cool when we would all be sitting around the office, waiting for a game to finish, so we could be "up". The set schedule is a little tougher to get activated, but I did just come up with a plan. During March and April, approximately 9 weeks, each week, you have the name of a guy that you have to play during that 7 day period. Since we have 9 teams, an odd number, one guy is off each week also. This would have to be arranged ahead of time, to get the schedule made, but obviously, most vacations and the such are planned. This would get us to the 40 game mark by the end of April, and everyone would be playing at an even rate up to that point. I suppose you could even play ahead of time, as we just want to avoid the situation where someone will put off games for a week, saying they will "play 2 the next week". I thought about a year long schedule like that, but the "free-for-all" was one of the best ideas that we ever had, and that makes too much sense for us to get away from it. I know Greg is currently working on a proposal for something to do away with the 40 game FFF, but I think, without hearing it, that we need something to keep me from finishing off my schedule before somebody else reaches the halfway point.

KEITH: I know that I like the idea of having a framework of a schedule for the first 40, but at the same time, I don't know that we need it. I was as put off as anyone by last year's slow play, but I like to think those then-prevalent factors were aberrations, that we have learned from the experience, and that we can better identify and address the issues that caused slow play. I have knee-jerk reactions to implement something like what you suggest when I get the comments and emails regarding why people cannot play, but as most of those comments are via email, they are easily taken out of context, and in general, I think they are incongruous to our collective mindset.

CHRIS: I still think there is a way we can fit that in. What is something that you would like to see?

KEITH: Face-to-face playoff games with 100% league-wide attendance, whether in Iowa, Chicago land, the greater Denver area, suburban Milwaukee, or wherever we may reside, is atop my wish list. I'm not saying net play (or remote play) has altered our playoff outcomes to date, but I think a playoff series should not be subjected to those contrivances. Asking someone to invest extra money or extra time is not always conducive to our other life goals (nor may be hosting the event for the good of the league), but the Summer League became the Summer League partly through the spectacle of our playoffs, and I want us all to taste the wonderful flavor of the playoffs as much as possible. We all have our schedules, but we all deserve to share these grand moments.

CHRIS: You don't have to sell me on that one. We set a playoff attendance record last year with what, like 6 people? And that is if you include the sleeping Jennifer. No, I am still mad that I had to miss the '94 Spit Cup Final, which probably rates as the 4th best ever, behind '02, '96 and '00, in that order. I did have a good excuse though, with 2 week old twins just out of the hospital etc. Maybe we should decide to have it at Dave's house every year, until further notice, as it is almost a halfway point between Colorado and Illinois. Or all of us get a couple of hotel rooms in Omaha, or whatever the halfway point is. But just because I can sit here and give up everyone's time and travel, that doesn't mean it can be done. In fact, I don't think Matt could ever do it, unless he is involved in it, and even then, it would probably have to be closer to his home. But that is fine, I understand he has many more commitments than most of us (my kids on the other hand, are easy to travel when it is baseball related). I am just saying that 100% will probably always be a reach, but I would like to see all league members for whom it is feasible, to be in attendance. Maybe this could be our "required" day. Anything else?

KEITH: I don't know how to implement a system that tackles the issue like I want, but another wish is that division play takes on a greater meaning. There is only 1 extra game against division foes, which is wholly wrong. What also riles me about this is that when teams are jockeying for the WC spot, too often in the last few seasons there have been races influenced by division winners pitching free agent starters and sitting stud players. While I enjoy 9 teams in the league, I think the answer *could* lie with expansion, where we find a way move to 10 teams and two five team divisions, allowing for a schedule of 92 total games in the division, 70 games out. I know this opens a whole other can of worms, but associated with this wish is that we have an able and available 10th. Of course, the other wish associated with this is that we all can commit accordingly to an SL with 10 teams.

CHRIS: That is why you have to get every win, every chance you get during the season. But I am a firm believer that over the course of 162, the cream will float to the top. You may face Steve with Pedro hurt all season long, but you may have to face someone else's 6th starter that is better than his 5th. I think it all evens out in the end. Keith thanks for your time, you were a very worthy adversary.


In a recent Rob Neyer column, Brian Sabean, Giants GM said, "I'm convinced that, on paper at least, we've got a chance to pitch very well and defend very well, and when you have those two working in combination on most days, you figure how to score enough runs. That type of team really doesn't take too many days off, where you're not competitive."

One of the problems, as everyone in baseball knows, is that even the best of offensive teams do not bring their bats every game. Pitching and fielding are the aspects that come to play every day, but hitting does not. The best batters get hits one of every three times at bat, while the worst fielders still make the play 9 out of 10 times. Such is the problem that I run into when drafting an offensive-based team year after year. Even when my lineup is deep, top to bottom, there are still games when I struggle to get a hit, or to put two or three together in a row, to get myself a run.

So, of course, I drafted a mostly offensive team this year again. I thought it was deep enough, and strong enough to overcome these lapses, or deficiencies. I am only at game 30 right now, and have already had two stretches like that, and they have cost me games. The first four games against Steve, and the last four against Ken, I combined to score 14 runs. An above average offensive team, scoring just 1.75 runs/game over an eight game period, can not expect to win like that. Sure, Ken does have a strong starting rotation, and yes, Steve has Pedro, but other than that, their staffs could not be considered to be outstanding. In the other 22 games for the year, I have averaged about 6.5 runs/game. Not coincidentally, I am 17-5 in those games.

Where does the problem lay, and what can be done about it? On paper, it seems like it could be a managerial issue. I need to recognize when this situation is occurring, and work harder at creating runs in those games, rather than playing for the big inning. While I was never really in those games against Steve, due to his players playing out of their minds, I was in three of those four against Ken, including winning one of them with two runs in the ninth. If I had changed my strategy a bit, like pinch ran with Glanville in the 5th, or pinch hit for Bordick earlier in the game, things may have been different. But you have to understand how hard that is for me. I, like all managers have a basic philosophy, or tenets that I follow during every game. The reason I don't pinch run with Glanville early on is that I don't want to short myself at the end of a close game, when it may "matter" more. Plus, I think my team can hit well enough to come back in every game. To adapt to a different way may be something I am forced to do, even though it goes against my basic principles.

Ed. Note, 11-14-03

I apparently stuck with that philosophy throughout the season, and while I could have possibly won more games with a different method, my way obviously came through enough to win 93 games. Perhaps the underlying feature to any offensive scheme is to just stick with it.

Brief Interlude 3-21-03

I know a little bit of Spanish; 4 years in high school, and a year in college. Plus every year at Twin Orchard, I would get that knowledge put to the test, by my Mexican buddies, who if they think you know one word, also think you have completely mastered their whole wonderful language. Nevertheless, I am just prefacing this scenario by saying that I know a little bit of the language.

My brother Ken did not exactly take the same foreign language path that I did. He struggled (well, that is probably the wrong word, as "struggle" indicates some kind of effort on his part) through 2 years of French in high school, and nothing since. He effectively pleaded ignorance to the same Mexican buddies, who seemed to accept his being incommunicado, without losing their respect for him. My point is that Ken knows very little of the language. What he knows is just everyday phrases, like "hola", and "gracias". While thinking about this, he also knows what society and choice has dictated that he should know; famous Hispanic explorers, dictators, Presidents and the like, and, of course, baseball players. Knowing how little he knows (or pretends to know) of the language, I imagine that what happened to me, is somewhat commonplace for him.

So the other day, while ditching work, I am at the laundromat, and I am minding my own business, separating loads, or whatever. While doing this, I happen to overhear a conversation by these two Hispanic ladies that are waiting for their clothes to dry. I am not eavesdropping, for while that is human nature (or mine anyways), I have absolutely no interest in what they are saying, or what they have to say. I just want to get my clothes in the Maytag washing machine (you owe me for that shameless plug Dave!), and get the heck out of there. But I do hear the ladies. What I am hearing from them amazes me so much, that I almost stop what I am doing. All they are talking about is baseball players and explorers!

So the ladies are talking, and all I am hearing is "Einar Diaz" this, and "Hernando Cortez" that, ... and I am taken completely by surprise. I start to listen more intently, while still doing what I am doing, and appearing to not be listening. It becomes, "y Sammy Sosa y Roberto Clemente, y Porfirio Diaz (well that may be a cigar or something). I could not believe my ears. These ladies must be nuts about beisbol. They probably personally witnessed Vlad Guerrero, circa 1993, playing baseball in the streets of the Dominican Republic, with no shoes, since he couldn't afford them. And these ladies are also quite hip to all of the famous explorers from Mexico, Spain and Portugal. They know so many, I am not even sure if some of them are real people. But I must certainly take their word for it, as they are amazing me with their knowledge. Baseball and history. Wow! Two ladies after my own heart!

Needless to say, I left that facility quite impressed (I believe I had to go watch NCAA basketball). When I came back a half hour later, to move my clothes into the dryer, I was saddened to see that they were gone. Oh, what could have been. We could have talked for hours, what with such common interests, were it not for our slight communication gap. Oh well, I guess I will never know. I can only reflect on what a great conversation we could have had.

Ken Interview

1)You seemed to have a good combination of speed, power and starting pitching during your last 2 Spit Cup seasons, and that was certainly a key factor in your success. This year the speed and pitching are still there, but there is a severe power shortage. Was this a drafting plan, or did it just work out that way during the course of the draft?

[Klein, Ken] I was initially trying to emulate last season. I actually feel I have better pitching, better or similar defense and great speed. No true power. The success from last season stemmed from the power and speed throughout the lineup. The lineup was so flexible, I really enjoyed that and strived to acquire similar players. This season had so few players like that. Guerrero and Giles have power and speed with a crappy stealing %. Same with guys like Walker. Beltran and Sheffield were players I wanted. Floyd was considered. Abreu would have been great but % wasn't that good. I actually did not like any 3B and thought that Boone would go at least a round later than he did. Hinske, yes, but I did not want to compromise my defense.

I did not think that Ichiro would be available when he was - I would not have taken Vidro, as I planned to bat him in the 2 spot. I think he would have great success. It may be a late change to move Beltran to 1 and Vidro 2. Pretty much making Suzuki worthless.

I have faced the best catchers from everyone's team. Except Bob. Of course, I thought that he was resting IRod but he was injured.

I did indeed want the lefty starters. There seemed to be a ton of SA5 lefties but few righties other than Manny. 4 out of 5 starters right now have ERA's in the 3's which is good and rare.

2)Now that you have gone through the league one time, are there any changes that you are going to make the next time through that you can tell me about? (Other than more playing time for Sheffield). Do you think that you will fare much better?

[Klein, Ken] Sheffield can play every day now. Or almost. With him leading off every day there will be more success. I also think he is 0 for 3 base stealing at this point. Lee will remain in the 3 spot. Vidro will not continue to be .200 hitter. My XBH are low. My stolen base pct has nowhere to go but up. I also really like the 20 and 2 19's in my everyday lineup. I wish they would get on base. Winn is actually doing pretty well. His numbers are about what I expected. A few more hits and less walks but similar numbers. All my play testing had Ichiro at .333 ish. And I was abusing relievers for my opponents.

No major changes. I may be searching for a trade as I am not ecstatic with my team.

3)Every year, like halfway through the season, I see a team that I really wished that I had drafted. Quite frankly, it is has usually been Graham's team . Is there a team that you really like this year, to the point where you are saying, "Wow, I wish that was my team?"

[Klein, Ken] I also liked Graham's team. I also really liked Bob's minus Damon. Dave is kind of a surprise. I would take Keith's team with Bonds on it.

Of all the teams, I thought Steve and myself had similar teams. Goes to show what I know.

4)As you saw from your wedding, this is a very closely knit group of guys. Do you think it is reasonable to even consider expansion in the next few years?

[Klein, Ken] Expansion would be fine with me.

I am not giving up hope on my team yet but, it may be a great thing for the league to see something like a Dave v Steve championship. I feel I have lifelong friend connection even though I am 1000 miles away from most.

5)Would Christi mind if I met you in Spain for the Spit Cup Finals this year?

[Klein, Ken] As long as she was in Spain at the time, too. Bring Jennifer and the boys too. Actually, we are likely going to Hawaii.

I was hoping you would ask a question to the likes of - Does it bother you when your opponent is up by 2 runs and removes the starter in the 2nd inning?

It is the largest abuse of our rules. It may make it tougher once that player applying that strategy reaches the playoffs as the game and inning usage is more stringent. I don't think any team applying that strict strategy has gone too far in the league. Some built in failure to it - I don't know.

I would have no problem if the starter is reduced or down something like 3 or 4 runs. Unfortunately, our rules allow removal immediately.

This season's team makes me really appreciate last season's team. All roles were so well defined.


Ed. Note 11-14-03

In the first question, Ken discusses how he had "no true power" throughout his lineup. That is what hurt him most in the first 40, and kind of for the whole season. After the trades he had Green, and Bellhorn supplying most of his power, and that was not quite enough to make a run at the wild card. Plus he had a good makeup early on, but without the power, he had to trade for the power, thus playing with the makeup that he had drafted.

Ken's last sentence in question #2 was the understatement of the year. "May be looking for a trade?" He ended up trading about half his team.

I am not exactly sure what Ken meant when he said that a Dave-Steve final might be good for the league. To keep up everyone's interest? To show that an underdog can do it? Was the Marlins-Indians '97 series good for baseball? I do not know.

As far as bringing in relievers too early, did Ken forget that we tried to pass that at the last winter meeting? If I recall, Keith, Bob and I failed to get the votes necessary, and people then drafted teams according to the rules. Perhaps we can try it again at the next meeting..

Response to Matt's 40 Game Report 4-27-03

Just a few notes of rebuttal to Matt's review. It sounds very much like he had scripted his draft. I am strongly against anything like that. It is OK to have some kind of draft strategy, but you can not go into it saying I am going to draft a leadoff hitter first, etc. And it didn't even work for him, as he said he took Green first for his hitters. In most of the early rounds, I think your best bet will come from taking the best available player, or from exploiting a weakness in the overall draft. That is not to say that Matt did things wrong, as he certainly got a lot of talented players, but say if Hammond was not available, would he have then stretched to the next best reliever with a lot of games and innings? I think that is where the problem lies. If there is a big drop-off to the next guy, like the next best reliever, and you still take him, then you are compromising your roster. I am not saying that this is what Matt did, I am just reading what he wrote, and saying that this might be a possible problem.

Matt's team really hit poorly. I don't know if that was due to the high platoon ratings, but I don't know if any team has ever performed that much below "expectations" through 40 games. It will be interesting to see how it turns out over a larger sample of games, but the future numbers will be a bit skewed, as his lineup has changed due to trades. But it is amazing that he has performed this well, in spite of having no offense to speak of thus far. That fact bodes well for his next 122 games.

Also, Matt, I think Milton winning 11 games last year was a miracle. I don't know how it happened, as he did truly pitch poorly, but it was a serious anomaly, and I don't see how anything can be gained from it ever being mentioned again. He must have had tremendous run support, pitched more innings than an 8 with an L should have, and had many leads held by your stellar bullpen mates, Manzanillo and Isringhausen. Wins in our league are mostly devalued by scrub relievers coming in at opportune times to hold leads (see Williamson '01), so it is amazing that Uncle Milty was able to get all of those and still be a poor pitcher, but like they say on TV, "Do not try this at home!"

SWINEA 5-4-03

I need to take a few minutes here to discuss the resident Apba-savant, Steve Swinea. Steve came over last night to play 20 games, and (apparently), drink 20 beers. Before faltering at the end, with a 2-5 finish, he was 12-1 for the day. If you couple that with the way he ended the first 40, he was on a remarkable 22-2 run, that has maybe been equaled one or two other times in the whole history of the league (but probably not). If you go back to game 5 this year, Steve is on a 40-9 run, which again may have never been paralleled. Who may have done this? Without doing the research, I would say maybe the strong finishes of Mountain View in '97, and Harrison in '98, and the strong starts of Liverpool and Andrews in '99, could have possibly accomplished this, but I do not have the resources to research this. But what is it that makes Wilber so special?

I just sat in my car for a half hour, trying to characterize Steve's team. This is what I came up with. "Mobile." It is true that other teams can use this same word, but it is thus far working best for Steve. He doesn't have the fastest team ever, or perhaps even in this league. What he does seem to have is a good combination of team speed and contact hitters. This is combining to give him some unbelievable on base chemistry. I was one of many that were critical of his trade with Ken, partly because I felt that I had offered him a lot more for Abreu. But Steve said that he had an idea of what kind of guy he wanted on his team, and although Abreu is a great player, he did not fit in as well as Winn.

I think I talked earlier about drafting pitchers, and how it is always a gamble. The Harrison team that won 100 games didn't do it all on offense. The pitching staff was probably slightly above average on paper, but for some reason they turned out to be one of the best staffs in ERA ever in the league. While the jury is still out on Steve's staff, they are proving to be mostly unhittable so far. Moyer is a lefty 12Z, like about 8 other guys in the league this year. So why is his ERA around 3.00, and Mulder's is around 7.00, but is a pretty similar pitcher? Is Steve "handling" him better than Keith? Same in the bullpen. Weber is a righty 16Z, just like Acevedo, yet his ERA is about 6X better. This is something that just can not be explained. I assume that after 5000 innings, they would have very similar ERAs. But after 100 or 200, there are too many variables, and anything can happen. You just keep on hoping for that diamond in the rough, hoping that you picked the right guy. But even more than that, you need timing. You need to catch teams at the right time. Catch them when their hitters are cold. Catch them when they are due for losses. And you know what? These are things you can not plan for. You just play the games and hope for the best. That Harrison team that I keep talking about has the record for wins, but I don't know that they are the best team ever. I don't know that they are even the best team that I ever had. But throughout the course of the season, they were able to put it all together enough times, and get the wins. Can Steve do something like that over 162 games? I don't think so, but in this league, you never can tell.


1) Do you notice yourself doing things much differently as a manager than you have in the past, or do you see most of your improvements coming from a GM standpoint?

I think both. I am trying to emulate what I perceive to be the managerial styles of the successful managers, with the exception of Steve. So I am trying to use hit-and-run more and also be quicker to go to the bullpen (a "fast hook"). I am also trying to make late inning changes that might help me push an extra run across. I drafted a team that I think compliments those strategies, investing higher picks in my bullpen, guys with speed, plus getting Marrerro and Loretta and guys that give me late-inning flexibility.

2)Over the past few years, you have been the subject of more "o-ramas" than anyone else. Has this hurt you or helped you in the past, and are things different this year?

I think "o-ramas" are bad for a manager, but I can't really pinpoint why. It may just be that my "o-ramas" always involve lots of games against you and Keith and (in the past) Ken, meaning that I was playing against some of the winningest managers. I prefer to play 5-10 games in a sitting. Makes it easier to keep track of player usage, scout the other team, etc. Things aren't much different this year, except I hope to avoid ten and fifteen game Netmeeting marathons, which are pure drudgery and no fun at all.

3) You seem to be employing Greg's bullpen strategy from the last two seasons. For example, Groom has used up more than half of his allotted innings thus far, and Witasick about 50% of his appearances. Was this something that you planned on doing from the start, or has it been kind of a game-to-game decision, trying to win every game when you can, regardless of the long term implications?

It is definitely the latter. I am trying to win every game I can when I have the chance to win it, player usage be damned.

4) What are your thoughts regarding the speed of play thus far in the league? You are roughly 4 months ahead of last year's pace. Is this overall a good or bad thing for the league?

I think it is a good thing. I said last year that the only thing "broken" about the league was procrastination. Being able to play games at a leisurely pace makes everything much easier.

60 Game Report?

At 40 games, I may a quick list of what batters on my team I thought were performing at, above and below expectations. My first and second hitters were above (Giles and Huff), and a part-time player, Garcia was also above. Klesko and Colbrunn were next, somewhere between at and above. Right on par were Jones, Anderson and Schneider. Below were my 8th and 9th hitters, Santiago, Cora, and Bordick, and my 3rd and 5th hitters, Thome and Kent. Mind you, I had a 23-17 record at that point and was somewhat satisfied with my team's quality of play. I did (and still do) think that my team is better than their record indicates, but I am ok with 6 games over .500 for now. I still have needs. My bullpen may not be deep enough to get through the long season. I still need a leadoff man, as I am wasting Giles' power in the 1-spot. But unless I find the right guy at the right price, I don't think I can pull the trigger on any trades right now. I want guys to fill my needs, but feel that I would probably have to give up too much to get them, and I am comfortable enough with my guys to survive without making any changes. I still think my team is good enough to win it all, it is just a matter of getting the right lineup and enough starting pitching.

Instead of going on about my team and the league at this point (no matter how eloquently I could have done it), I want to quickly finish this review. My team is good. I have no doubt that it is a playoff caliber kind of team. I will need Steve to falter some if I am to catch him for the President's Cup, as he can play .500 ball the rest of the way and win the damn thing, so I will need some breaks there. The Spit Cup may also be in reach. My team is good enough, but even if I get there, anything can happen in a short (7 game) series, and usually does. So a few breaks here and a few breaks there, and I will be like Siamese baseball players-owners of two cups.

Just to have this on record, I tried to negotiate the SL's first 3 way trade recently. I wasn't sure I even wanted to do it, but I wanted to see how it looked on the table. Bob would give up Wood, Leiter and Guerrero and get JeGiambi, Wells and Mulder. Keith would give up JeGiambi, Mulder and Traschel and get Klesko, Leiter and Piniero. I would give up Klesko, Wells and Piniero and get Guerrero, Wood and Traschel. I was never sure I even wanted to do it. Keith said thinking about it gave him a headache. Bob said he wasn't ready to give up on Guerrero, even for some starting pitchers. Oh well, it was worth a try. doesn't mean I won't try again next year..

Has Anyone Noticed.. Circa 6-16-03

How quickly fortunes can change in the SL? Graham slaughtered me 4-1, and I was lucky to win that one game. That dropped me to 42-38, and I felt as though the writing was on the wall. I had waited 80 games up to that point for my team to gel the way I thought they would from the start. The whole time, I felt we were very close, but could not get over that final hump. don't get me wrong, I was fine with that record, just thought it could have been much better. It is something that Ron Santo talks about all of the time. Once you get to 10 games over .500, you are over the hump, and usually don't look back from there. But the hard part is getting to that point.

Anyways, my team may have turned a corner. I went into a 10 game series with Keith planning on losing 3-7 to drop to .500. Well, we ended up only playing 5, but I schlitzed him. Then I schlitzed Ken, who had owned me up to that point in the season. Then I double-schlitzed Bob, to give me a 16-4 run, and 58 wins at the 100 game mark. Offense has been good, scoring 6.1/game during that run, and more importantly, I scored 4 runs or more in 15 of the games. But it has been my pitching that has done it, giving up just 77 runs in those 20 games (this came on the heels of Graham getting 36 runs in 5 games against me). I don't know if I am catching teams at the right time (Keith did have a lot of injuries when I played him), or just catching all of the breaks, but whatever it is, it is working, or maybe just evening itself out. I talk individually with Steve and Bob a lot about the issue of "timely hitting". Basically I think that is what Steve can attribute most of his success this year to. It is not just getting the hits, it is getting them in a timely fashion. While Steve has done this for most of the season up to this point, I think my team has just started doing it.

There are other teams having interesting fortunes change as well. Graham and the whole Chad division have been up and down most of the season. It seems like Graham keeps making a run at .500, but will then run into a buzzsaw (usually Matt), and he will spin out of control for a little while, before righting his ship, and making another run. Unfortunately for him, he is currently 15 games behind Steve, and also 9 games out of the Wild-Card.

Keith, I think, has a very similar team to mine. His pitching is a little stronger, but I think, overall my offense is a little better. He is having a similar gel problem, and has also had problems with injuries, which I have not. He is currently on a 12-18 run, which has mostly seen him have trouble scoring on a consistent basis. He has dropped from 5.2 runs/game to 4.7, during this troublesome run. Tejada has probably been the major culprit here, as he got off to such a hot start, that more may have been expected from him throughout the whole season.

Introducing My Bench Coach, Cecil Fielder..

Let's face it, my team is not very swift. I didn't really notice this when I drafted them, but as a whole, they are slow. And fat. This hurt me some during the season. Like the Oakland A's the past few years, the Red Sox most years, and the Weaver Orioles, we eschewed the stolen base, in favor of waiting for the 3-run homer. Want some stats? My team had the least stolen bases of any team in at least the last 5 years (84)! Let's find out why.

The old Apba game had three kinds of runners, slow (1-6), average (7-14) and fast (15-20). I had seven guys that would fit in this fast category! But that is not the whole truth, as four of them didn't play a lot (Boone, Glanville, Garcia, and Cora). The other three, Kent, Giles and Jones, while not bad stealers, combined to steal 21 times in 43 attempts. Not too good. I had four guys in the average category. Anderson and Klesko were 12s, Bordick a 10, and Huff a 9. These guys actually did well, stealing 19 of 24. Now the slow guys. I had three 6s, a 5, and a 4, who didn't play very much (Pratt). These guys, based mostly on ill-begotten hit and runs, went 6 for 15 stealing, in spite of the fact that Pratt was a 31, and Santiago a 26. Oh yeah, the four guys that didn't play a lot (they combined for 639 PA). They got nearly half of my steals (38), while only getting caught 7 times.

I swear I didn't see this happening when the season started. Giles and Jones were 28s, which is not good in this league, but is still serviceable for hit and runs. I picked Klesko instead of other first basemen, because he is pretty quick (12), and was a 29 stealer. Santiago being a 26 for a catcher with a lot of games seemed to be a good "catch". Boone, a 31 with a lot of attempts would be a good pinch-run/defensive sub for my slow, poor fielding starting third basemen. Cora could pinch run in the unlikely event that Bordick got on. And Glanville was there for when I needed a steal.

That was my theory, and I figured you could count me in for 125 steals or so, which I figured to be near the bottom of the middle of the pack in the league. Here is what happened: Giles and Jones got thrown out every time; Bordick never got on (duh!); Klesko was on, but was not in a lot of positions to be hit and run, or steal with; Boone didn't steal so much as get moved around on the bases (he played 101 games in relief, was 14th on my team in PA, yet 8th in runs), and I am pretty sure at least three of his successful steals were of home plate. So I guess my point is that there is a very fine line between being an average stealing team, and the worst ever. But I also have another theory.

Apba hates fat guys. That.s why they wouldn't let Cecil Fielder (my bench and base running coach) steal bases all those years. Have you seen these guys? Go through my roster, and picture them, without looking at the alleged speed numbers that Apba gave them. Schneider and Pratt catching, Thome and Klesko at first, Kent at second (not your prototypical there), the two first basemen that I have playing third, Colbrunn and Huff, plus their "pinch-runner" Boone. In left, Giles, who looks like the white Kirby Puckett, center is Andruw, as solid as they come, and right is Karim, a super-fat guy, and Garrett, who actually weighs the most (according to mlb.com). It doesn't stop there. Fat pitchers has to begin with David Wells (I would read his biography if I cared at all about him, which I don't), who believes that he is some re-incarnation of Babe Ruth. My bullpen also has a bunch of chunks, led by Kaz Sasaki, who must have ate a shitload of egg rolls as a kid, and never stopped. All told, I have 19 guys at 200 lbs., or more (according to mlb.com). This does not include Garcia who is ridiculously listed at 195 (must have been his minor league weight 8 years ago).

Think of the costs that I had to incur because of this. Post-game spreads and meal money was enough to knock you out right there! Plus think of the extra jet fuel needed to get my team plane off the ground. And then fly to places like Oman, Honest (where?), and Sussex, I mean this really jacked up my costs. A really funny thing happened though at a hotel in Wilber, when Giles and Garcia tried to get through a door at the same time. I am still laughing thinking about that one. Here are their heights and weights, and you will see what I mean:















































































Graham Questions

1) League-wide, are there any changes that you think need to be made, 
or do you think we are very strong as a whole right now?

I think that the only thing that would improve the league would be to get more digital cable/high speed connections. Games times are definitely shorter making it easier to "squeeze in" a series.
2)The sentiment around the league over the past 2 or 3 years has been that each year you have drafted one of two or three best teams. Are you preparing for the draft differently than you used to, or was it just a matter of getting familiar with the league and how it works?
The league obviously doesn't know what they are talking about as I have yet to finish above .500. I think that I learn more each year about what stats and numbers are important. I am writing off the first year as I didn't see a data disk until about round 5 or 6. But since then just a lot of number crunching.
3) You trail Steve by 13 games, but he is coasting in. Me and Dave are currently 6 ahead of you for the Wild-Card spot, but will be battling each other the rest of the way for the division title too. Do you think you have a chance to win your division, or does the Wild-Card appear to be your best chance, and is that possible?
It would be difficult for me to catch Swinea, and unless things turn around, the wild card is a long shot. Obviously, if you look at the first 40 games of Swinea's season anything can happen.
4) Without copping out with an "apples vs. oranges" answer, how does the SL rate in your life with frolfing and WSP?
SL rates below WSP and above frolfing, although it is more time consuming than the other two combined.
Ed. Note, 11-14-03

Really now, we are just waiting for Matt and Dave to get the high speed connections, as Keith and I have since the season finished. And Matt's will probably be soon with the new house and all. Obviously, Graham's team went into a major tailspin at the end of the year, finishing 23-39 in his last 62, well back out of both the wild card and the division. What happened is not exactly clear, just another glitch in Graham's way to a future Spit Cup.

"Ten or twelve years ago, I used to be in a tabletop league. It was during this period, in trying to win that league, that I became obsessed with how an offense works, and why it doesn't work sometimes..with finding information you would need to have to simulate baseball in a more accurate way. I had thought about these things before, of course, but to win that damn league, I had to know."

Bill James in Moneyball

Bob Questions

Here you go:

1) If we re-drafted today, would ARod still be your first pick?

Absolutely. Having never won the SC, I decided to explore an alternative strategy in hopes of finding success on a different path. Now with that said, I may not go down that road again anytime soon.

2) You tried the "all-relief" system, even though it hasn't really worked before. What are your feelings about it, and would you try it again, if the situation warranted it?

I have had three SL-Cy Young winners on my teams in the last three years, but having only one short-lived playoff appearance during that span, I decided to go in a new direction. Obviously, the "all-relief" strategy didn't work out for me. However, I have no regrets about trying it. I drafted good relievers, the best available in their respective rounds, but I learned that relying on them every day in early-game situations was not effective, regardless of their grade. I would not try the strategy again, but lets face it, we've all been frustrated by taking lower-tier starters in non-desirable draft rounds.

3) What has been the problem with your team offensively this year?

The SL elitists could probably answer this question a little better than me. It has been pretty frustrating looking at my offensive stats after attempting to draft an offensive team. I'm going to blame some of the problem on not having a true leadoff hitter. Helton's numbers with a man on base ahead of him would look pretty impressive, and with the year Manny's having, his numbers would climb even to a higher pinnacle. I look back at last year and remember so many timely hits. This year, I remember just a handful.

4) Realistically do you think you still have a shot this year? With 57 games left, you are 8 behind Keith, and 10.5 out of the wild card.

Actually, at the time of writing this, I am 9.5 games behind Keith, with very few bullpen innings left. If I had Pat and Ron in the booth they'd be talking about next year's outlook. I need a miracle and then a major miracle to earn some respect, let alone hobble into the playoffs. With that said, I'm not phoning anything in, and I hope to sweep my next series, and then I'll look forward to the next one.

5) Honestly, do you know where any of these cities are?

I assume you are referring to my "travel" piece on all the SL home cities for 2003. I'll try to be honest here: When you get out of the gate as slow as I did this year, it's tough to find energy to do extra research or fluff. It's embarrassing to send something creative to Greg when my team is so bad. It's like saying, "my team sucks, but I don't care, because I enjoy trying to be a witty writer."

6) Anything else to add?

This has been a disappointing year for the following reasons:

I've come to learn that I am a much less effective manager when I am trailing early in games.

It's not the same not playing face-to-face games with Ken, or having him in town for the draft so I can hear him say, "Nothing wrong with that pick."

I was looking forward to having a 4th of July Graham-o-Rama and shooting pool with Maria. Like my team and the Cubs say, "maybe next year."

Ed. Note 11-14-03

With a proper org file being used, Bob may have gotten his miracle. Respect was certainly something he had already earned, I believe. And Bob, I would take being a witty writer over having a good team any day...as long as I was getting paid for it!


"Luck is the residue of design. The more prepared you are, the more you study baseball, the luckier you will become."

Branch Rickey

I think this is so true in the SL. I have (at least in my mind) been giving Steve guff all year long about him being lucky. He can be lucky all day, but that is not going to get him 90 wins. But if you are prepared enough to know what to expect in certain situations, you can combine that luck with your preparation, and parlay that into victories. Like I say all the time. If you want to see what will happen in certain situations, play the game, and study what will happen. Countless times I have asked Ken his opinions on certain specific situations, and he has always given me his most reasonable answer. The more prepared you are for these situations, the better chance you have of making an informed decision when the time comes.

Matt Questions 8-1-03

1) It's about August 1, and you are at 120 games. Last year on October 28, I had you at 118 games. Has this pace been OK for you, or is it too fast?

The pace has been fine. I set a goal back in March to try to play a series a week, figuring there'd be times when that wouldn't work, and times when I'd play multiples. That seems to have worked out ok; it isn't too much, but keeps my head in it. Playing faster than that wouldn't be too feasible anyway, as Sandy would kick up the guilt level, and I have too many other responsibilities. And I also told her I wouldn't allow playing to effect all this other stuff we have going on -- and mostly due to other's willingness to be flexible (read, play in the evenings), that has worked too.

2) You have to go 27-15 the rest of the way to reach 500. Any chance of that?

It would approach the Miracle Mets. No. I've gone 17-23 over the last 40, and my starting pitching other than Pettitte has been worse than they were in the first half -- and he is coming under innings restrictions. Rhodes & Issy have been quite bad of late. My offense just isn't going to be any better than they have been; Rolen's BA is going to stay under .200, McLemore's OBP will stay under .300 and Lofton's under .250.

I don't see it happening. I'm picturing more of a 20-22 finish to get to 74-88. Not too good.

3) How do you decide who plays centerfield and catcher for you each game, and does it really matter?

The centerfield question really goes back to my draft. I had earmarked Steve Finley going in as a guy I wanted. He had 144 games as a 3 defensively, had some power and walks, a good steal grade with 30 steals available. He seemed solid, and I thought he would be overlooked a bit, as the big 4 (Edmonds, Berkie, Bernie, Beltran) would go pretty early, then the bigger names in-between (Torii, Andruw) but, I thought, ahead of, Finley. I had pictured him getting to about the 9th or 10th round. But, following Andruw going on the wrap to start the 8th, Finley & Hunter went later in that round, as part of a small run on CFs.

At that time I'd been focused on getting Alfonso to hit second and figuring out what leadoff man would be available. Alfonso went the pick before me in the 8th, so as a knee-jerk reaction I picked between the only two other "good" third basemen I saw on the board (Rolen & Chavez) -- picking Rolen due to better OBP numbers with same ISO, plus staying away from the lefty SA5 -- instead of seeing that what the bigger issue was; that the CF pool would be draining quickly.

Due to the other 2 picks, as the 9th round came back to me, I saw that everyone else had a CF except for Keith, giving me 2 chances to get someone ahead of him. And, I saw Randy Winn as decent enough -- a 3 with good steals, a lot of attempts, and some walks. Having the 2 picks, in the 9th I went after a safe versatile leadoff/number 2 hitter type that I figured I could DH in Luis Gonzalez. Then looking ahead as the 10th round came back to me, I saw that Keith hadn't picked a reliever yet. So I picked Isringhausen as I had wanted him with his HZ, and figured he'd be gone prior to me picking again -- then Ken picked Winn. Just didn't picture someone picking a second CF.

So I took the guy I saw as the next best CF available on my next pick -- Wilkerson -- with his 81 walks and decent power, despite his 19 steal grade and his 73 CF games. I thought I'd be able to get a part time CF, then play BW in left the remainder of the games, plus sub at 1B for Palmeiro's 7 sits. Then I saw Floyd still there in the 12th, and tried to add some offense, unbalancing some of those earlier plans.

A couple things I could've done ... obviously less focus on bullpen would've had me perhaps thinking how thin overall CF was in the 6th round when Bernie Williams went the pick following Arthur Rhodes (although at the time I was thinking I could be safe with Finley). Or, Winn in the 10th instead of Issy to be certain of a CF -- and he could've been a leadoff man, sorta. Or, not panicking and grabbing someone at the end of a run when all the available guys had different fleas on them anyway, and I should've sat and analyzed what fleas would've not lined up with the fleas my team already had anyway. Of course, I likely needed to go through the experience of having this sort of team to see the fleas.

who plays, and what is the plan, you ask ....?

In centerfield, Wilkerson has only those 73 games available, so I built a platoon system with him and Lofton, where Wilkerson the SA1 faces lefties. He has a few extra games beyond only lefties every 40, so I try to get him in versus righties with higher likelihood of allowing home runs. Essentially a straight platoon, though, throughout the first quarter of the season. McLemore, Drew & Ichiro all have some CF games available, and I was occasionally starting them out there in the second 40 due to Wilkerson's OBP sliding/sliding/sliding and Lofton's sitting around .200. Those guys didn't have many games out there, so I stopped pretty quickly, figuring I would need to have a few extra games laying around. Ichiro still hasn't used his 3 games, so I'll likely start him in the final 40 to get another bat in the lineup. I overplayed Lofton a bit in the third 40, as he raised his OBP up to about 250 (hit .235 with an OBP of .288 during the third 40), versus Wilkerson's sitting at .265 (hit .190 with an OBP of .275 during the third 40), so I have about 25 available CF games left for BW and thus can, and will, be more flexible with my bench.

At catcher, Myers has only 65 games, and Damian Miller 101, so I built a platoon system where those two would be my starters about 35 games out of 40 -- allowing some buffer for pinch hitting or game injuries -- and Michael Barrett would be my backup catcher with a few starts against teams that don't run much or well. Myers couldn't face 22 righties each 40, though, so that platoon got more complex. I believe Barrett wound up with about 25 total starts for the year. I erred to the side of conservative early in the season to be certain of having enough games, so now Miller can catch in almost all the remaining games (39 of 42), and is officially my backup catcher for Myers now, due to the defense and games.

I also have been straight platooning at 2B. McLemore plays against lefties & Walker against righties. They have enough games that McLemore gets additional starts at shortstop, and plays some 3B & CF. This move has actually been to Todd Walker's advantage, I think, as his ISO number is about +50 versus MLB2002, although the season isn't over.

Does it really matter, you ask .... ?

The centerfielders haven't distinguished themselves. BW obviously has more power and early in the year walked enough that I was really disappointed I couldn't play him more. His strikeouts escalated and walks declined during the second 40, and his OBP hasn't recovered, but he occasionally shows that again with XBH or a big walk. Lofton, I drafted for his walks, 3 defense and occasional power (48 XBH, MLB2002), as I thought that would be a decent overall combination to platoon in CF. He really disappointed in the first half, with a .210 OBP, but has played better of late. Neither have helped my offense much; BW did in the leadoff spot early before his OBP plummeted.

The catchers are truly a three headed monster with different strengths. Myers has the best arm, walks a ton (OBP over .300), and seems to come up with big XBH. Miller has the best overall combination (8, arm, power, some walks), but hasn't hit well other than occasional power and rare walks. Barrett has hit great (.275 BA, .518 SLG, with some big hits) and has thrown out a better percentage than the other two despite his +0 arm, plus he runs some, and hits and runs fine, I just haven't trusted his +0 enough to play him a lot, and an offensive catcher as your backup isn't the best choice often during the endgame. Mostly they've equated to about the same guy; some offensive help but not stars, decent arm.

4) Ichiro, Walker, Wilkerson, Rolen, Vizquel and Maclemore will routinely have a 50-66% chance of successfully stealing bases, yet have 77 attempts for you combined. Are you aware of this and do you think it has helped or hurt your team at all?

I learned last year with Abreu that a 28 basestealer isn't a good one. I'm finding out this year that a 19 basestealer (Wilkerson) is awful. The biggest reason for the 77 attempts by those specific players involves "blown" hit and runs by hitters that were hit and run 2s or 3s. I have run all of them occasionally on straight steals, but I would be surprised if more than 20 times total, and those times only against catchers with a +1 or worse arm. If you throw out Wilkerson's 5 of 15, those guys are at 63% -- not a great number -- but similar to LuGo's 7 of 13 attempts as 31. I'm sure that 63% as a team has cost me, but I'm not sure how to bucket it into "straight steals" versus blown hit and runs. And how to measure successful hit and runs value versus the lost baserunners from blown hit and runs, and if the overall gamble is worth it?

I guess the question is really is ... is this a good way to build a lineup? And the follow-up of ... can a team have success like this? I'm not sure which way my offense would turn out without hit and running as much as I have this season. Walks and rare 3 run homers, something like that. Steve has a hit and run team, and has succeeded -- however he has more of a doubles hitting club and mine is more of a walks club -- but will he succeed in the next round; that remains to be seen. Both of us have been propped up by our pitching.

My philosophy has been that the hit and run 2s & 3s should hit and run with a baserunner. I have learned during the year that some 3s (Ichiro) are more likely to protect the baserunner than other 3s (Vizquel), due to their lack of walk & strikeout numbers. I almost always hit and run with Rolen to keep him out of the double play, and with good doubles hitters who are hit and run 2s (Millar, Walker) to try to score the baserunner from first. I definitely always hit and run with the 3s (Ichiro & Vizquel). I have mostly stopped hit and running with Gonzo & Palmeiro, though, after doing that quite a bit early.

This was a part of my draft philosophy that I likely need to look at hard ... that steal grades didn't matter as much for my everyday players if they could play D, be a hit and run 2 or better, and walk some (Rolen, Vizquel, Lofton, Palmeiro are the best examples -- Walker doesn't walk and McLemore is more a utility player without much D anywhere), as it hasn't paid off.

5) Do you think you are at a disadvantage by having only played around 20 games face-to-face in your career? Do you see things happening differently in the few times that you do play face-to-face?

I guess I cannot say whether I'm at a disadvantage or not as I haven't played face-to-face enough to know. That is the most simple answer, but is the most true as well. You all are better bets to know that answer, although all have different biases.

Moves, results, bench & pen utilization, etc ... are all things I see and can learn from via the different managerial styles regardless of whether I play face-to-face or not. I am very comfortable with a computer, so that isn't a drawback, versus someone who learned the game face-to-face and isn't as comfortable with a computer to begin with.

My impression would be that the face-to-face experience is more about the comaradarie and the things outside of the game itself. I think that there are things that would be amplified to me if I played a large volume of games (25 or more) at one time (via net or face-to-face), which I am slower to see as that occurs over a 5 or 6 week span. That I could gain from, as I'm sure my analysis and breakdown of what happened isn't the same as having it drummed into you multiple times in one sitting. Although would there be difference there between face-to-face & net then either - don't know?

Perhaps I could learn more playing face-to-face due to seeing reactions from the opponents to moves, being involved in trash talking, etc .... The face-to-face games I've played have only been with my brothers, who I already know, and who aren't super-demonstrative anyway. (Bill James asks about managers if they are more decision-makers or emotional leaders -- Kleins are more decision-makers) There may be some gain there, but I don't know.

I'm the first truly internet manager in the league (I believe Graham played face-to-face first). I think that having my sources willing to answer questions & explain scenarios and situations to me has helped me beyond where another internet manager would be coming in new.

Do things happen differently ...?

Perhaps. I think personalities and such get involved more face-to-face. How big of a factor that can be? I'm really not sure.

Am I at a disadvantage ....? Perhaps. I don't know. I'd say that my limited roster construction over the past two seasons & sometimes shaky in-game managing has put me at a bigger disadvantage than not having face-to-face experience.

6) What has been most disappointing for you this year?

First, I would say not being able to turn the corner and be right around .500 all year. I began the year that way (10-10 isn't a big sample, but gave me a feel -- plus I finished the second half last year at 40-41), and thought my pitching could keep me around there.

But some early injuries hurt. I got very frustrated with Shawn Green and his .250 OBP, 5 homers & 6 GIDPs in the first 40 games. I lost rubber games against you & Keith early, where I thought I could squeak out a series win that could have given me some momentum.

Bob & Greg for some reason I cannot beat, which is frustrating as I believe my team is better than either of theirs.

So -- I've been sitting 6 games below .500, then sliding, then recovering, then sliding. Seems as though my team is better than that to me. Managing issues???????

Second, underachieving from Rolen, McLemore, Lofton, Rhodes & Isringhausen -- and the first quarter from Green & Floyd (although Sheffield, Millar, Pettitte, Padilla & Bradford have all likely overperformed for me).

If Rolen could hit .210 (MLB .265) instead of .185, he'd likely hit 30 homers instead of the 22 he on pace for, and that could be a 5-6 game swing for me considering all the close games I'm in. If McLemore would have an OBP of .325 instead of .280 (MLB .384), and Lofton an OBP of .290 instead of only now finally getting to .250 (.354 MLB), I'd have a much better offensive flow -- and the team runs created would likely be more around 4.3/4.4. And those are things I would think aren't too much to ask.

Third is likely the managing thing. It just feels as though my team was better than it played, which I question how much I contributed to that. And would a better/more experienced manager have gotten the team performing at a higher level? Would Keith have won 84 games with my original team? Or if we simply replayed the season 100 times would that fix some of the things, saying it is a little bit of bad luck?

On the flip side .... I tried some things this year -- some worked and some didn't. I learned some things. My team isn't awful and won't finish with 94 losses like last year's did. I like things about this team better than last year's. I have a better understanding of both my strengths as a manager and what I like to do as a manager. And likely what would better feed into my strengths. Some of my draft picks worked out well, which is a good feeling. However, 10 more drafts/seasons likely would have to be gone through to be comfortable/skilled. And I'm swimming with a lot of sharks around. But I do feel I can compete, which I didn't always last year.

Ed. Note 11-14-03

Matt did pick up the pace and make a run at .500, playing 25-17 in his final 42,only to fall two wins short. For the second straight year, he has had a pretty good second half record. Maybe he is just taking a while to find a comfort level with his own team. A suggestion there would be to play a bunch of pre-season games, to get more familiar with his team, although quite honestly that doesn't always work, and I think he has tried that before. Keep pluggin' away Matt, you made many improvements from last season, and seem to be on the way to a future playoff spot.

Who Are We Like 8-24-03

I just picked up a copy of Baseball Weekly, grabbed the most recent org, and made comparisons. Trying to find MLB teams that are similar to SL teams is not as easy as you might think. Basically, I just picked winning percentages that were similar, and tried to make a few hasty generalizations to make the facts fit. This is what I came up with:


MLB Team


Steve .607

SF .609

Both teams have one dominant starter. I amazed that SF even wins a game when Bonds is not in the lineup. I amazed that Steve is at .607

Chris .578

Boston .574

Strong, deep offense, top to bottom. Pitching is a bit suspect, other than one or two guys

Keith .543

Phil .547

Quality starting rotation. Deep bullpen. One or two guys that can carry the whole team offensively, and often do.

Dave .512

Minn .512

Do you consider Dave to be a small market team? Like the Twins, you aren't completely sure how they win, they just do.

Bob .469

Ana .485

The reigning MLB champ, and a reigning divisional champ. Both rely heavily on their bullpens. Both face an uphill climb to reach the playoffs this year.

Matt .467

Balt .472

Pitt (.457) and Cinc (.453) were also pretty similar, but they both had huge negative run differentials. Balt is at -2. Matt is at +13

Graham .467

Texas .460

You can summarize these teams in one sentence. Many runs scored, too many runs given up

Ken .440

Mets .433

Cleveland was actually more similar, but they have that big youth movement going on. Like the Mets, Ken kept trading for guys to put into his lineup, without regard as to how they would play together. Great teams on paper.

Greg .407

Milw .414

It is merely an off year for Greg. It is an off decade or two for the Brew-crew. Greg appears to be on his way to set an offensive strikeout record, which is something the Brewers have been known to do of late.

None of this is clear cut, and like I said, I was just having fun, to see what it was like. Not meant to ruffle anyone's feathers.

Greg Questions 9-9-03

  1. A two part question. The first may seem a bit silly, but has this year been your most frustrating/disappointing season yet? If so, when did you first see signs of this happening?
  2. yes, its been the most frustrating. I have been thinking about this question, and tried to think of ways its not been (great job by everyone getting games played, stable managerial group, etc.), but I can't ignore the fact that its painful to even update the standings, even when I don't have games to update. I first saw signs when I couldn't win any friggin games.

  3. You seemed to draft a lot of guys that were, well, "un-Greg-like". Some were big whiff guys, other were very much station to station guys, etc.. Why was this? Was this a matter of filling needs, or best player available, or something else completely?
  4. shrug, just taking guys who seemed to be the best available and filled my needs. I was playing from behind on offense the whole draft, so guys like soriano, posada, etc., were "great offensive value" when they were taken. or not so great.

  5. It seems to me that when some guys are doing well (specifically you, Dave, and Steve), they do a lot of trash talking. Is this good for the league, detrimental, or does it have no effect?
  6. I would like to claim I don't trash talk so much, but perhaps thats only my perception. but I think its a good thing for the league.

  7. MLB has rivalries like the Yankees-Red Sox, and the Dodgers-Giants. Does such a rivalry exist in the SL? I ask you this question, because it seems that you have somewhat of a playoff history with me (we have split our six meetings), but you also have one with Keith, and I may be missing others.
  8. I don't really see any rivalries. i'm always competing with chris and keith on the scoreboard (all time cups, all time wins, all time playoff appearances), but I don't view those games as more important than others or anything.

  9. Will we be seeing a Hawkeye national championship team any time soon?
  10. no way. well, I guess its possible for any top 20 team to have a lucky season, so I guess it could happen. I envision consistent winners as long as ferentz is here, which will hopefully be a long time. but I doubt it.

I thought one of the funnier moments in the season came when Dave got the last question in the chat with Oakland A's General Manager Billy Beane. Here is the excerpt:

Dave (Newton, IA): Just so you know, my nine-team APBA league is run by nine Billy Beane - disciple amateur GMs. Makes for an interesting draft and some interesting lineups (Bonds and McGwire batting leadoff, etc.) Have you ever played APBA, Strat-O-Matic or Diamond Mind baseball? Do you use similar simulations to see how players will fit into your real-life lineup?

Billy Beane: Newton, Iowa...Maytag world. I played all of these games growing up and some people accuse me of still playing them. On a funny note, myself, Paul, Dan Feinstein (video coordinator) and Steve Vucinich (Clubhouse Manager) four years ago all had a mock draft on the 1st day of the 1999 baseball season. The winner would be the lineup that had the highest combined team OPS...at the end of the year, Paul and myself tied with the exact same team OPS!

Ed. Note 11-14-03

I would hesitate to say that we are all Beane disciples. In a perfect world, I would love a traditional leadoff man, 2nd hitter, 3rd hitter, cleanup hitter, etc. But just like the world that Billy lives in, sometimes the price is too high, and you are forced to find alternatives. For us, just like for him, you have to do what you can to survive, and sometimes that means doing things out of the ordinary


Steve Questions 10-7-03


Well that is Steve's predictions. Next I commissioned (or not), past Spit Cup champs, for their views on the upcoming events. Please note that Ken was asked while there were still games to be played, and Keith was asked just before the finals.


Chris plays Dave and wins 4 games to 2. Bob now needs 4 wins to at least tie Dave and manages to get 4 exactly against Keith. Game 163. After a one hour game - as there were many stoppages to review one game playoff rules - Bob wins 6-4 late on pinch hit heroics by Mike Piazza. Dave admits his team was tired after playing over 200 games this season. In the battle for the Presidents Cup, Steve needs 2 wins vs Graham and gets 4. Prez cup to Steve.

Playoffs: Keith v Chris A true battle. It goes 7 games. In what would appear to be an absolute slugfest, the games turn into low scoring pitching duels. Keith wins game 7 on a 2 run 'seems to like baserunners' homer by Miguel Tejada. It is Tejada's 3rd homer in the 7 games. Bonds has a good series and doesn't seem to do anything spectacular but has 8 walks, 6 runs 2 2B and a homer in his 6 games. Keith advances.

Bob v Steve The league waits weeks for this one. As opposed to the other series, it is very high scoring. Bob gets ahead in every game but Steve has 4 amazing late inning rallies against 16, 17, 18 and 19 grade relievers and wins the series 4 games to 2. No big heroes for Steve.

Finals: Keith v Steve It appears that Steve's well runs dry. Benji Molina is worthless as Keith makes no steal attempts against him the entire series. While conversely, Steve's hit and run tactics end up running himself in to outs and Hernandez throws out 5 base stealers in the 4 games he plays. Keith wins in 5. Jose Vidro knocks out 8 doubles and a homer in the 5 games and drives in 7. Keith wins the cup.

Greg They Are Going Ahead Without Me This Year
by Greg Nims

I didn't make the playoffs for the first time ever this year, and instead of canceling them, the Summer League is carrying on with business as usual. Oh well.

Steve ran away early with the best record this year and held on for the President's Cup, with Chris finishing close behind. Keith won this year's weaker-but-more-competitive division, and Dave snagged the Wild Card thru some late season replays.

The odds I give for each team winning the exulted Spit Cup:

Chris  3-1
Steve  4-1
Keith  5-1
Dave   8-1

I believe Chris's Van Wyck Pirates are the strongest team, despite finishing 3 games behind Steve for the best record. I imagine the Pirates will top Keith's Oman Ice Man fairly easily in the semi-finals, and I'm guessing the series will last 6 games.

Steve continues to win lots of games with smoke and mirrors. Although maybe its not smoke and mirrors if it keeps happening. The Wilber Waiting President's Cup victory gives Steve the advantage of facing playoff rookie Dave and his Shungnak Redemption in the semi-finals. The poorly documented playoff rules are probably too hard to get used to in your first playoff appearance, so I'm picking Steve to win in 5 games and become the first non-Klein/Nims to win a playoff series and advance to the Summer League World Series.

The World Series should match up 3 time Spit Cup champion, 8 time playoff participant, and all-time Regular Season Wins leader Chris and his Van Wyck Pirates against Steve, who will be playing in his first World Series with his Wilbur Waiting. Steve may have the small advantage of setting his rotation after finishing off Dave in fewer games than it takes Chris to vanquish Keith. I still figure Chris to beat Steve, taking the Series in 6 games and winning his 4th Spit Cup, and first since the 1999 Andrews Red Rangers.



Steve vs. Dave

It will always be hard for me and Bob to look at this #1 vs. #4 matchup, knowing that it could have been us in these spots, were it not for my idiocy in playing with the wrong org.

Dave's season strengths appeared to be the high end of his bullpen, and his high percentage base stealers. This is why I have to pick Steve here. Dave's base stealers will be negated by Steve's throwing studs at catcher, plus a variety of plus moves at pitcher. And Dave's bullpen unfortunately will leave him a bit shorthanded. Groom will only have a few innings of availability, Witasick only a few games, and Holmes will be limited in both.

Steve on the other hand, appears to be in a position not to fall. Pedro and Gagne seem built for a short series like this, and Steve's offense, however they did it in the whole regular season, will probably have a bunch more hit and run miracles in them for the playoffs. Jason Kendall will probably not stand in their way.

My gut says Steve in 5, but to be safe, I will pick him in 6. Dave seems destined to hit a grand slam in the series.

Chris vs. Keith

This part of the preview will be quite biased, but I can't help it. I also wonder if he is mad at me for not taking Jeremy Giambi off his hands at the 40 game mark. I don't recall the specifics of the trade, but it obviously wasn't a good deal for me, so I didn't do it.

Everything points to this being a close series. All season long I have been trying to tell everyone who would listen what similar teams he and I have. Both have potentially explosive offenses. Both have average to slightly above average pitching, with Keith getting the nod in the depth of the rotation, and I think I have a slight edge in top-end of the bullpen. Neither team runs very much, yet still has potential there in a short series.

I really think this series will be very close, and will come down to 2 key factors. Who is hitting the 3-run homers, and who is getting the 2 out hits. Runs were down enough this year to make those multi-run homers that much more valuable in this season, and who gets more in the playoffs may be the champ.

Keith beat me 12-8 in the season, so I now think my team is due for some wins against him. I think I will win in 7 games. We have played each other in two previous series., and I won both in 7 games, so I am predicting that I will continue to be his "white whale".

FINALS: Chris vs. Steve

With Pedro hurt for the series (a prediction), Steve does not have enough bullpen innings to handle my offense. His catchers prove worthless, as I refuse to run, exposing their bats as his weakness. Klesko finally proves his mettle, and Thome hits as many post-season homers as he did in the regular season (well, not as many, but I am still pissed that he didn't even hit 40). Finally the hit and runs don't work like clockwork, and Steve is forced to rely on two out hits, and that only takes him so far. I win in 6.

Dave had mentioned that the four of us in the playoffs were somewhat similar to the MLB playoffs. four teams left. He was the Marlins, playing Steve, the Cubs (there is an irony for you!), and Keith was the Yankees playing me the Red Sox. It will be interesting to see how ours turns out versus the MLB results.




Well, I would have enjoyed that, and agonized over that, the Red Sox over the Cubs. But before we get to the playoff results, let's check and see what I thought of my team in the regular season.

Team Review 11-11-03

I suppose now that the season is done, I can talk a little bit about the guys I drafted. Why I drafted them, and how I thought they performed for me. If I did it by draft order, I think that would take too long, so I will group my guys by position, and hopefully cut to the chase.


Schneider was my 16th pick, Santiago my 20th, and Pratt my 24th. When I took Schneider, only one other catcher had been taken in the previous 2 and a half rounds, and that was Damian Miller two picks earlier. Kendall was the next catcher taken. I knew his games would limit him, but he was a +5 with some pop in his bat (MLB OPS over .800), so I thought he was a good pick. Santiago came next. I thought he would be a good complementary starter, but never did I intend to have to start him 99 times. He had some home run power, and was hit and run available (F-26). Interestingly enough, with the next pick, Dave took Pierzynski. He ended up getting traded to Ken, and in the SL season, AJ had 14 more PA, and created 3.1 less runs, while having less of a throwing arm, so I guess I made the right choice, if my choice was between those two. Wilson, Matheny and ChuckJ were still available for a defensive third catcher at this point, so I planned a nice three catcher rotation, which is something that Keith and I talk about every year, going with two catchers or three. On the next swing, I had too many other needs (a starting shortstop and a pinch-runner), so I couldn't pull the trigger. Right before my next swing, Dave took the last of those three, so I wasn't sure what to do next. I decided to take Pratt, as I go with the option of never having enough hitters on my team! But he would be a good right handed DH for the 15 games that Thome had to sit, and maybe I could get away with starting him once in a while.

Well, defensively, those guys canceled each other out, like I expected. Santiago threw out the least pct. of runners of those guys that qualified, and was second worst in stolen base ave. Schneider didn't throw out a lot, but guys ran quite infrequently against him. Pratt threw out zero guys, but only allowed 3 attempts in his 11 innings. Offensively these guys all performed below expected, if you go by Keith's -.100 OPS, but they did not perform too poorly. I was a little disappointed by Pratt's (zero homers) and Benito's power, and by Schnieder's lack of walks (half his MLB totals), but all three were quite serviceable. Ironically, in the playoffs against Keith, Pratt hit his first homer of the year (in my team's first post-season at bat), and threw out his first runner, as he played 13 innings at catcher in two playoff games. The guys also hit .300 in that series. All in all I guess I don't have too many complaints about my catchers. I got what I paid for.

First Base

Thome was my second pick, and Klesko, my 9th. Obviously, one of these guys would be a DH, but I am grouping them here for ease of reporting. I may have misjudged Thome's power, though, as his ISO was nearly 100 points below his MLB. If this was due to the large amount of Gs and Hs in the league, I don't know, but his power was somewhat disappointing. But he finished in the top three in most categories like production, runs created, runs contributed, etc., so I can't complain too much. Let me just say that he wasn't the power source that I expected. Klesko was mostly disappointing all season. I expected a lot more out of him. I think the last 30 or 40 games, he played well, to finish at only .165 OPS below MLB, but his role in my lineup needed him to produce more than that. Friggin. Spiffy produced as much as he did! (.761 to .760, although I shouldn't complain as Spivey got picked 24 guys before Klesko) The Apba guys were saying how his card was just like Helton's, except for one walk number. That one number cost me 122 OPS points obviously. Klesko hit cleanup most of the year, and finished just tied for 4th on my team in RBI, and it wasn't for lack of opportunity, as both Thome and Giles in front of him walked over 100 times. Neither guy was very effective against Keith, going 7 for 44, but Klesko did have some big hits in the final three games. They do have potential to do well against Steve though, as he has just three lefty pitchers, and I don't see Rogers pitching too much.


Second Base

When I got Kent in the top of the 6th round, I was amazed that he was still available. Sure Soriano had better offensive numbers, but I didnąt want to be hurt by his 6 defense. Vidro was better defensively, but I thought Kent's overall offense (read: power!) would be able to compensate for it. My pick of him started a little run of secondbasemen, with 4 others being picked in the next 3 rounds or so, so I canąt help but feel that he would have been picked soon after I got him.

For the season, like many others, he had his ups and downs. There were series where he was unstoppable, and there were long stretches where he couldnąt even buy a hit. Overall I was mostly satisfied with him. Maybe more than anyone else on my team, he was put into RBI opportunities, which explains why he led my team in both RBI and left on base. And he was flexible enough as a hitter to bat anywhere from 1-7 in my lineup. Well, that may be more of flexibility on my part than his, but he was a decent player. Bellhorn and Soriano both outperformed him offensively, but I considered Bellhorn to be a bit of a wild card, who also only hit .209, and I have already discussed Soriano's defensive limitations, so I am fine with my pick of Kent.

Third Base

Colbrunn in the 14th, Huff in the 18th, and Boone in the 12th was my third base platoon. Wow. Looking at them like that really makes me wonder if I didn't make a huge mistake there. A twelfth round pick for a pinch-runner/defensive replacement is a high cost. Plus many may say that he was under-utilized at those roles even, and they are probably correct. He had just 11 steal attempts, although he did play a total of 111 games for me. Then Colbrunn in the 14th is a bit of a stretch for a 72 game guy. Finally Huff in the 18th, while a very similar player, Millar was still available in the 23rd. Another big question.

But what you can't question is their cumulative performance. They combined for almost 800 plate appearances (they totaled 80 innings played at positions other than 3B) and had totals of 54 doubles, 1 triple, 33 homers, 115 runs, and 114 RBI. Arguably one of the more productive groups at third base, they created a total of 112.2 runs. This compares to Graham's 6th round pick, Pujols who created a pro-rated to 800 PA total of 98 runs, while having more errors, 19 to 12. In spite of however poorly these picks may look, or have looked, they performed offensively for me, and did a more than stable job defensively, so I have no complaints.


I got Cora in the 17th round, and Bordick in the 21st. I don't know if this is typical, but it seemed to be a weird year for shortstops. Seven starting shortstops played 150 games or more, with just me and Ken having guys split up their time. My question after drafting these two guys was, who was the starter. Do I start Cora, a better hitter, and more base running potential, or do I give up the offense and the movement for Bordick's superior defensive ability? Very early on, the answer became clear. Bordick was the starter. I had enough other offensive weapons, and needed Bordick's defense to shore up what may have been a devastating weakness on my team. Plus, Bordick on the bench could be used for defensive purposes only. Cora could pinch run, or pinch hit in a pinch, as well as come in if someone else pinched for Bordick.

Offensively, they proved to be very disappointing. Well, I had no expectations of Bordick, so he could not have been too bad, but both guys were around .200 from their MLB OPS. Most of Bordick.s negatives were in the isolated power area. Cora seemed to match his MLB on base and slugging isolated numbers, but hit about 100 points below his MLB average. Defensively, Cora seemed to play about on par with the other 8s in the league, but here is where Bordick provided his mettle. He had an error early on, and one in the last few games, going 103 games in the middle without one. He alone is the reason that I finished in the top half of team fielding for the season. He may not have been the least productive offensive player in the league, as there were a bunch of catchers that were worse, but he was the worst hitter with 300+ PA.


Although I invested so heavily in Giles, I didn't really in my outfield as a whole. Through 25 rounds I had my three starting outfielders, plus a pinch runner (Glanville). Giles in the 1st, Jones in the 8th, Anderson in the 13th, Glanville in the 22nd and Garcia in the 26th was the final one. Really my only complaints about Giles were that he had to lead off most of the time, and that his stolen base pct. turned out to be so low. I picked him and Thome together on the first swing, knowing full well that I could lead him off if I was unable to draft another leadoff type guy. Throughout the season a few other guys were tried in the spot, but I felt that I was doing a disservice to my team if I did it on a consistent basis, so it was usually just a game here or there. But Giles produced like a first round pick, getting 119 walks, and 87 extra base hits.

When I picked Andruw, I thought he was one of three quality CF left. Finley and Hunter were the other two, and they were both gone by the end of that round, so I obviously was not the only one that felt that way. How did Andruw perform compared to them?





































Really all three performed similarly enough that the only mistake here was to not take one of them, if you still didn't have a CF at that point. Finley did a lot of leading off for Bob at the end of the season, which accounts for his higher run total. Andruw must have hit pretty well with runners in scoring position, as the guys directly in front of him (Anderson and Kent typically) had OBP of .261 and .282 respectively, so it wasn't a case of him having guys on a lot. In fact, Andruw had a pretty low amount of runners left on base for a guy with his number of RBI. Extra base hits were pretty even, with Finley having less, as one would expect. Andruw had a significant higher number of walks than Finley, and likewise for him with Hunter. Finley out stole both of them as to be expected. Production was quite similar. Assists and errors went as expected for Hunter and Finley, but Andruw's numbers were quite interesting for a 3-36 CF. I expect that was more a reflection of my team's overall defense than anything else.

The reason I took Andruw over Finley was based on CF games played, OF arm, and extra base hits plus walks. I thought Andruw was very similar to Hunter, but thought the walks were too big of a difference to ignore. In the end, I was very happy with his selection.

Garrett Anderson was pretty much one of the last full time OF-2 picked. He seems to be a match made in heaven for Steve's team. Lots of doubles, low walks and low strikeouts, making him a good guy to hit and run with. In fact, he was a very similar player to Ibanez, without the first base capability, and Raul was picked 34 guys earlier. Salmon and Damon were both picked just before him, and the three guys had a very similar total of runs created. I think Garrett was a good pick in that he was probably the last of his kind.

Doug Glanville begs the question of who has the record for most SL steals in a season without getting caught. From 99 to present, nobody had that many without getting caught, so I guess he is the answer. That being said, I thought he would play a slightly bigger role for me. I thought he would be doing a lot of late inning defensive substitutions for Giles and Anderson, and that never really materialized, as evidenced by his 68 games played and considering how many of those were pinch running efforts.

Karim Garcia was an afterthought. I thought my outfield was set, and was just looking for a fifth guy for pinch hitting/defensive sub, like Matthews turned out to be for Steve. I don't know why, but I had never even considered Matthews. I was thinking more of Grissom, and had planned on taking him as early as the 18th round. But I had too many other needs, so he kept getting pushed back. When I discovered Garcia, I realized how well he fit into my team. His drawbacks were a low number of games played, and a minimal number of walks. Neither one of those facts really bothered me, as I already had Anderson with a low number of walks, and he could start the remainder of the games. His positive attributes were a stronger arm, and a bit more power. The arm was a big factor, as my wing outfielders had poor arms. Karim performed just as asked, getting 16 homers, 43 RBI and 6 assists in his 53 games played, and I think for the makeup of my team, has to be considered one of my best picks.

Starting Pitchers

I got Buehrle in the 5th, Wells in the 7th, Pineiro and Nomo in the 10th and 11th, and Byrd in the 23rd. Also got Ainsworth in the 27th, which was a shrewd move in that he didn't even pitch. Their ERAs were 3.70, 4.08, 4.56, 4.69 and 5.88. Excluding Buehrle, they all pitched between 146 and 187 innings. As I recently told Matt, Buehrle wasn't a workhorse until I turned him into one, and he pitched 242 innings, almost 8 per start. That was necessary, as I had shorted myself one guy in the bullpen this year, to get an extra position player on the bench. Also, his +3 move was pivotal, as I needed Santiago starting all of those games at catcher. Wells finished the league 6th in ERA, and Piniero was hovering around 4.00 all season, until some rough outings at the end. Nomo, who was Pineiro.s twin brother, as far as APBA ratings were concerned, pitched much poorer, but was still somewhat of a steal, as he was picked 18 guys later. I say it is a steal just because I was able to get the exact guy 18 picks later. I am saying nothing of their actual value.

As Chris Berman would say, "Oh by the way.", that 3.70 ERA belonged to Byrd, who fell 16 innings short of qualifying for the league leaders. Had he maintained that number, he would have finished 4th. He turned out to be one of the most consistent 5th starters in the league, in my humble opinion.


I think Keith compared my 3rd and 4th round picks of Reed and Romero to my '01 4th and 5th picks of Myers and Nelson. I see similarities, but I think it was different, and it really doesn't matter. Those two (Reed and Romero) gave me 23 wins, 28 saves, and 220 innings, while combining for an ERA right around 3.00. They did their job. And because they had so many games and innings, I did not pick another reliever until Sasaki in the 15th. Another pretty decent pick when you consider that he was a 17, and there was also another 17 reliever picked in the 6th round! Granted they aren't exactly the same, but they were both 17s. And a 14 had already been taken. Urbina was next for me, in the 19th. He didn't have a lot of games or innings, but was an XYZ, and he performed adequately for me. Finally, I got Karsay in the 25th. When you get a guy like this, you hope you are involved in a lot of blowouts, going either way (preferably yours!). Just an innings eater. Of course, there weren't nearly enough of those, and he pitched in a lot of tight ball games. But that was OK, as he pitched well enough.

Final bullpen totals were 40-23, 3.51, with 36 saves, and 19 blown. Only 25 pct. of the inherited runners scored. League wide, this is how those numbers compare. 2nd in least blown saves, 6th in IP, 2nd lowest inherited runners coring pct., 3rd in strikeouts to walks, 4th in wins, 3rd in winning pct. Other than Reed, individually they were not spectacular, but as a group performed very well.

Pineiro and Urbina led the league in wild pitches for starters and relievers.


I thought I had a good, deep draft, with a lot of players to perform specific roles. I had some flexibility and most positions, and my roster provided much more situation specific movement than I have had in the past. Here is how we performed as a team: 2nd in wins, runs, homers and slugging pct., 4th in ERA and fielding pct. One of the unnoticed keys to the season was the lack of injuries to my team. Giles and Jones each missed a few games here and there, otherwise I can not think of any. The only one that could have had serious injuries that would significantly hurt my team was Schneider, as he was obviously my best catcher, and a J-3 as well. But that never happened, so I realize how blessed I was.

It seemed like league wide there was a large number of late inning comebacks this year, which is somewhat surprising because of how well graded the relief staffs were. Ken says that 9 times Steve came back from 3 runs or more to win games against him. I felt that my team was not involved in as many as most. Here were some of my bigger ones, let's see if you recall them as fondly as I do: Game 51, against Greg, I got 5 in the top of the 9th off Halladay, then held to win 6-5. If I recall that was during the Dave/Greg-o-rama, and I think all runs cane with 2 outs. Game 60, also that same day, versus Dave, he had a 3-0 lead in the 8th, and gave the ball to Holmes. I got two in the 8th, he got one back in the 9th, but I got 3 in the 9th, to win 6-5. I think an Andruw Jones walkoff happened there. Game 66, against Steve, I was down 5-2 in the 7th, and got one off Kline. Then Gagne came in for the 8th, and I hit back to back homers, a two run shot for Andruw, and a solo for Santiago that was the game winner. Game 86, against Ken, I was down 7-3 after 7. I got 1 in the 8th, 3 in the 9th, and 3 in the 10th, mostly off Randy Johnson, to win 10-7. Game 101 was almost a replay. Johnson had a 2-0 lead after 6 ˝. I got one in the 7th, then had two guys on in the 8th, when Ken brought Donnelley in to face Colbrunn, who homered for the 4-2 win. The next game had Ken scoring 2 in the top of the 9th to take the lead, only to give up 2 in the bottom half for the loss. In Game 135 against Matt, I was down 3-0 going to the bottom of the 7th, when I got 2 off Rhodes. I then got 1 in the 8th, and 1 in the 10th, both off Hammond, for the win. There were others, but these seemed to be my biggest late inning comebacks.

The Polls

I know Keith's polls are just meant for fun, and we are not to take them too seriously. But I think they are a nice gauge of how the league perceives you and/or your team. Here is what I learned this year.

  1. Some people think I am selfless. I don't know what that really means, but I know I certainly have no problem hosting events and any games Bob or Steve want to play here. That may even give me some advantage, as I get to see more games being played. I just know that I have a lot more free time than some other managers, and am more than willing to help in any way.
  2. Immediately after the draft, I was one of the favorites to win the Spit Cup. I think I was the favorite until someone in Graham's corner started stuffing the ballot box.
  3. Keith thinks that as a manager I "keep an even keel" and "play apba-ball". The consensus is that playing apba-ball is much more important to winning than keeping an even keel. (a funny thing just happened. I typed "evil keel" by mistake.)
  4. There is no inherent advantage to either side in netmeeting games.
  5. Steve and Greg are the most aggressive managers. Other than Graham, I am one of the most conservative.
  6. As I discussed earlier, Keith was a favorite to beat me before we played. Same for me over Steve, before we played (roughly 4:3 favorite)
  7. I am coming back next year.

Keep it up Keith. We are all staying informed as to the pulse of the league.


"That's the rottenest thing in this life, isn't it? The best team doesn't always get to win"

Roger Kahn. The Boys of Summer

That may have been what Keith said after this series.

This was an unusual series for me. I normally am as prepared as anyone, and really into every series, all season long, regardless of whom I am playing, and when. Well, for this series against Keith, there was some combination of things that just made me less caring than I normally am. I have recently had the Cubs to be excited about. I am still upset about playing with the wrong org, which put a sour note on the end of the season. Also, we had, after much debate, settled on a specific date to do all of the playoffs on one day, and then I had to change the plans, as something came up for me. For this, I feel like for the second time in less than a month, I let the league down, which I don't think I have ever felt like that before, SL related. I also had some personal things going on this week, life-wise, and it all had taken a lot out of me. I kind of just wanted the season to be over with, so I could get on with my life for a couple of months at least, until the next draft. So, I scouted Keith's team for about 15 minutes one night, trying to figure out his rotation, and which of my guys would play against his starters. Driving over to his house (my career record in Island Lake is under .500 I think), I was at peace with myself, win or lose, which is something I can't always say, as I take many of my losses very hard. Keith is a great manager, and has a great team this year, so it would be no blemish on my record to lose to him. Plus then next weekend, could go on as planned, with Dave coming in to town, and Steve coming up to play. All would be well again in the SL. Oh, and Keith's poll had him at roughly a 3:2 favorite, so I was not the only one that thought he would win.

Well, something happened along the way. Games 1 and 3, I lost, and I was never really in them, and Game 2 I won, but could have easily lost. Game 1, my leadoff man, Pratt homered. Then Keith went on to have 7 unanswered runs, before I hit two meaningless solo shots in the bottom of the 9th. Game 2 had me going up 7-2 after 3, but Keith came right back to tie it in the 6th. Luckily I got 2 in the bottom of the 8th, and held for the 9-7 win. Game 3 moved to Oman, and Keith quickly put up a 5 spot in the bottom of the 2nd, and we played even the rest of the way, with him winning 7-2. So, after 3 games, I was lucky to only be down 2-1. In Game 4, the "other" Giambi hit a 2 run homer (second straight game with that for him), in the 2nd inning, and things were looking difficult for me. I had Nomo on the mound, and he was by far my worst starter during the season. Well, he and my bullpen held Keith the rest of the game, and 4 runs for me in the top of the 5th was the only scoring for the rest of the game, as we tied the series up. Those runs, all scored with two outs, were started by the bottom of my order, an RBI single by Schneider, followed by a Bordick walk, and that was the turning point of the series. Plus the yeoman's work by my bullpen. That game started a run of 6 hitless innings by them, and they allowed only 1 run the rest of the way. Game 5, saw me jumping out to the early lead against Mulder, as I got another 2 out RBI by Bordick, and back-to-back homers by Thome and Klesko to knock Mulder out down 5-0 in the third. Keith then got 3 back in the 5th. After 2 quick outs, Koskie walked, Hernandez singled and Kearns homered. But I added an insurance run in the 8th, with Garrett again coming to my rescue, and Reed held in the 9th for the 6-3 win. Suddenly I am up 3 games to 2, and at a series clinching situation. So naturally I start Byrd here. He pitched great all season long for me, albeit in a limited role, so I thought I would give him the chance here. If he got in trouble, like any "L" situations, I would quickly remove him, as I had plenty of bullpen innings and games left. Another positive point to this would be having Wells available to pitch Game 7, as Piniero had pitched poorly in his first try (8 walks). Or, having Wells available for Game 1 of the Finals, were I so lucky. Naturally, he was tested right away. First and second is an L situation, as far as I know. Keith's first two guys singled, and Bonds was up. At this point, I felt Byrd.s ZZ or Z ˝ was more important than his L, and I let him pitch to Bonds. He grounded into a double play (thank God!). So I was a Giambi out away from getting out of it. But the current situation gave him like a 1/9 chance of hitting a homer. I pitched anyway, and he was hit by a pitch. So Tejada was up. His homer chance in that situation was 1/12. That was enough Byrd for me (good job Paul!). Karsay came in, which may have reduced the homer chance to 1/18. Tejada singled in the run, but then I got out of it. I can only thank my lucky stars that I got out of that inning only down 1-0. In the top of the 3rd, I get 2 runs, started by a Bordick walk, and both runs coming on 2 out singles by Klesko and Kent (Klesko was 1-15 after 4 games, then got 4 hits in the next 2 games). Keith gets one back in the 5th, when Reed gives up a single and two walks before surrendering a run scoring double play. In the top of the 7th, Schneider and a pinch hitting, clutch hitting Garrett Anderson greet new reliever Ray King with back-to-back doubles, and a 3-2 lead. I am now 9 outs away from the Finals. Well, Romero, Urbina and Sasaki retire those 9 in order, 6 via strikeout, and I am on my way.

My bullpen was unbelievable, just like against Keith in the 96 finals. 3-0, 0.51 with 4 saves were the final numbers here (0.56 against him and Greg in 96). Four different relievers got saves here. Garrett Anderson was a clutch hitter, going 6 for 15 with 3 doubles, and 4 RBI, and seemed to be in the middle of my important innings in the last 3 games. So now it is on to the finals. You know the number 2 seed has made it to the finals every year in our history, except last year. This will be my 4th finals in the last 5 years, and 5th overall. Now I await the Dave-Steve matchup. There is some relief from my standpoint, but again, I don't think I will do too much scouting. I know what I have, and sometimes you just have to let your boys play.

A Word About a Song.

It seems like a bunch of years, guys have named their teams after songs, or have a song associated with a particular season. And who could forget Keith's wonderful draft notes with all of the Seger songs. This year, while I opted for a couple of Seinfeld references as a team name, yet feel that I still have a song that will make me think about this memorable season. It is "Achilles Last Stand" by Led Zeppelin.

How did this come to be?

  1. It is a song that I did not know very well, until 2 or 3 months ago (it has been in my CD player), and have come to love
  2. It is a song that reminds me of the heyday of Rush in the mid-70s
  3. I listened to it on the way to Keith's house before our playoff bout
  4. My team is kind of like Achilles - strong, but with at least one glaring weakness
  5. One never knows when their luck will run out. Could this be my last stand? I have been fortunate enough to make the playoffs for 4 or 5 years in a row, but the league may be catching up to me, who knows.

Tomorrow is the finals. I hope Steve does not find my Achilles heel. I hope it is not my last stand. But I do know I will be listening to that song before the series, and hopefully after, in celebration.



I won't do a game by game review, as I already sent out an e-mail with that in it. But from that e-mail, I need to clarify a point. I said that neither Steve nor I did a great managing our clubs. What I meant to say was that I don't think either of us utilized our teams in the most effective manner. But maybe that has to do with the playoff rules and format, etc., I don't know. Maybe I should have said nothing at all.

For Brian Giles, what a difference a year makes. In last year's finals, he had an OPS of .448. This year, 1.146. Maybe that was because I was wearing his jersey, I don't know. Thome took over his slump, not getting a hit against Steve, and finishing the year mired in an 0-24 slump (he was 2-40 in the post-season). But if I can win and have him slump like that, it is fine. I thought a key would be a strong Klesko series. He didn't bust out or anything, but in two of my wins, he had all my team's RBI, so that is something. Interestingly, Klesko, Giles and Thome combined for zero singles against Steve. (Really you can also throw Santiago, Pratt and Bordick into that mix, with those guys having a combined 98 PA with zero singles). My support guys played well. Schneider, Santiago, Colbrunn and Garcia all played limited roles, but performed capably in those times.

Just like the playoffs though, it was my bullpen that got saved me. After the Spivey homer in game 1, my bullpen threw 16 consecutive scoreless innings to finish the series. At times I was disappointed with their performance during the regular season. Romero, in fact, frustrated me on a regular basis. But in the end, they came through, and for that I am grateful.

This win took some weight off my shoulders. After two frustrating game 7 losses in my last two finals., I was beginning to wonder if I could win the big one again. But I was pretty loose and confident this post-season. No stress. I knew I had a good team, and I had been here enough, that when the games came, I would be ready for whatever came my way. And if not, then I would be fine with that too.

Three of the last four years have seen #2 beat #1 in the finals. This tells me a couple of things. First, the two best teams have been rising to the top in the playoffs, and making it to the finals. The other thing is just a theory about why 2 keeps beating 1. I think those #1 seeds are built more for the long haul of 162. The #2 seeds are very good teams, but what makes them not the best over 162 games, may actually help them in a short series. I can't prove that, it is just a random thought that I am throwing out there.

And finally thanks to Steve. He was couldn't have been more gracious in defeat.

Final Note

One quick word about e-mails. There seems to have been a lot of bickering and dissension this season, usually in regards to someone sending an e-mail that someone else took offense to. Let us in the future keep in mind how impersonal e-mails are. You can not tell a person's tone from this electronic letter. Also readers may be trying to read between the lines, and unnecessarily so, as the writer was not implying anything more than he was saying. Let's just try for peace and harmony in the league, as it is in the league's best interest to keep the nine of us together.

In SL 2004, don't expect much of a review from me. I have already decided that I spent way too much time on the SL this year, and while I won't cut down on game playing or pre-season scouting time, I can definitely cut down on this kind of time spent on the league.

You know, Joe was right, it was fun while car parking. But to me, it hasn't lost any of it's fun since. Thanks to all of you for making it so great, and let's keep it up!