RotoWire Partners

Charging the Mound: Angels Flying High

Chris Liss

Chris Liss

Chris Liss is RotoWire's Managing Editor and Host of RotoWIre Fantasy Sports Today on Sirius XM radio.

Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson

Jeff Erickson is a co-founder of RotoWire.com and the only two-time winner of Baseball Writer of the Year from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association. He roots for the Reds, Bengals, Red Wings, Pacers and Northwestern University (the real NU).


-----Original Message-----
From: jeff@rotowire.com
Sent: Tuesday, August 9, 2011 4:26pm
To: "Christopher Liss"
Subject: Charging

Hey Chris, there's still nearly two full months, or one third of the regular season left, but football has started to take over so much of the sports media, fantasy or otherwise. We deal with this tension on our show and on our site all the time, but this is a good time of the year for you to gain an edge on some of your opponents that might not be fully attentive to what's going on in baseball. Whereas in a standard 12-team league a certain callup might draw 8-to-10 owners wanting to pick him up, right now that's down to 3-to-6. This is why we focus on getting our ratio categories in order early - the dead weight in our leagues will start to care less, plus it's harder to overcome the damage wrought by carrying a lousy player.

This is also when some real life teams start to fiddle with their rosters and lineups. The Astros have already had their grand overhaul, but other teams like the Royals and the Reds are making important changes too. Do you aggressively go after some of these rookie callups if you're contending, or is it more important for you to find solid veterans to fill any roster vacancies? How much variance are you willing to take on the higher in the standings that you get?

What other words of advice do you have for players specific to this time of year? Do you have to change up your routine to manage your rosters while staying on top of fantasy football news? For that matter, how do you go about the business of managing your rosters in the first place? Do you have a system where you check each team's roster daily, or do you check certain teams on certain days as it gets closer to the weekly transactions, if you have weekly moves?

The Reds and the Rockies are playing this week, two teams that had reasonable chances to compete at the beginning of the season but are pretty far out of it now. Are there any other teams out there more disappointing than these two teams? Maybe the Twins or the White Sox? One thing each of these teams has in common is that they play in super-soft divisions - had they performed anywhere close to expectation, they'd be right in the thick of it. Which of these four teams has the best chance of winning next year? Can one of them be like the Brewers were last year - knowing that they were close enough to make a push and go for it over the offseason?

Before I let you go, give me one player that's not yet in the majors that you think will have a major fantasy impact. Is it Jesus Montero? How about Matt Moore? I don't think you're the type to hold onto a waiver priority, but if you were, who would you be saving it for at this point?

-----Original Message-----
From: "Christopher Liss"
Sent: Wednesday, August 10, 2011 2:29am
To: jeff@rotowire.com
Subject: Re: Charging

There's no tension between baseball and football. Baseball's still going on with real games, and the NFL has yet to play a preseason contest. Yes, fantasy media outlets have already collected everyone's baseball dollars - no one's signing up for baseball content in August - but if they want the baseball audience to come back again in February and March, they better keep covering it. If anyone's shortsighted enough to abandon their baseball audience at this point, they'll have a rude awakening next season.

It's true, though, that many fantasy owners who are hopelessly out of contention have packed it in and moved on to football, but I'd advise them to stick with it and see whether they can move from ninth to seventh or even 12th to 10th place. It might not matter money-wise, but it's a good exercise to see where you can improve and make the requisite moves. It also affects the rest of the league (hence your point about the ratio categories), so it's good form to try until the end. And if you told me there were two owners, one of whom was in 10th place, and made a huge effort in August and September to get to eighth, and another who was in fourth place and largely coasted and finished there, all things being equal, I'd absolutely bet on the former to beat the latter next year. By trying your hardest, you almost always learn something about the game, or about how players develop and perform over various playing-time samples.
As for the question of gambling on young players or veterans, it's all the same to me. In Yahoo Friends and Family, I have an outside chance to win it (though you're kind of running away with it at this point), and I've picked up Kyle Blanks, Pedro Alvarez, Jesus Montero and Trayvon Robinson, but also Mike Cameron, Ted Lilly and Orlando Hudson (whom I dropped after he got hurt today). I'm just going for anyone who seems like he's healthy, in a groove and capable of a 2-3 week run before I replace him. Small samples of performance are unpredictable, so you simply want at-bats, and some power and/or speed skills.

My method of choosing players is mainly tracking box scores and reading the RotoWire Latest News. That and trusting my hunches about players who could heat up. Some of it is "tape reading," i.e., looking at a few box scores in a row, and intuiting how a player's next couple weeks might transpire, and some of it is just trusting that certain skills (either minor league performance, prior major league performance, raw tools, experience level, etc.) might manifest with regular at-bats. The smaller the sample, the more it's an art than a science.

I think the Reds, Rockies and Twins all have a good chance of contending next year. Maybe the White Sox do, too if Adam Dunn comes back from the dead, but Paul Konerko will be another year older, and Carlos Quentin might not stay healthy again, and they'll need Jake Peavy to stay healthy, too. Anything can happen, but I like the White Sox the least of that group. The Reds have a core of good young players (Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Johnny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman, Drew Stubbs, Devin Mesoraco) that should sustain them especially if Homer Bailey, Mike Leake, Edinson Volquez, Zack Cozart and/or Travis Wood take a step forward. The Rockies have two mega-stars (Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki) locked up, and the Twins would have won the AL Central going away had Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Francisco Liriano and Denard Span (among many others) been healthy. We'll see how many of them bounce back and/or remain with the team, but I like them better than the White Sox.

I picked up Moore in my home league on the off chance the Rays use him down the stretch, and I picked up Montero in the Friends and Family League in case the Yanks call him up. But my pick for minor leaguer who will make an impact is Stephen Strasburg. Maybe that's cheating because he's only rehabbing in the minors, but of the three, that's the guy I'd want.

-----Original Message-----
From: jeff@rotowire.com
Sent: Wednesday, August 10, 2011 10:21pm
To: "Christopher Liss"
Subject: Re: Charging

It's really easy to forget about Strasburg, but that was a pretty savvy pick up for you in Friends & Family. He's the perfect fit for this type of league - at least, he will be next year, when he can work deeper into games. But a high-strikeout pitcher such as him will really maximize his innings for you. And he'll fold in perfectly with the Nats' plan to shut down Jordan Zimmermann - not that they don't have plenty of other guys that they could swap out.

But that's one other aspect we're going to have to start looking out for - teams that are going to shut down their young players early. I know that the Mariners earlier said that they wouldn't shut down Michael Pineda, but that was when they were still in contention in the AL West. Now that they are a parsec or two from contention, I think they'll revisit their plans with him. We're not quite there yet with injured layers, but soon enough, it's going to get really annoying when teams won't put their injured guys on the DL, because of the September 1 roster expansion. That, and pretty soon there won't be minor league games for injured major leaguers to compete in rehab assignments, making a player's return date all that more difficult to discern.

Finally, I want to get your take on two contenders that are a bit of a surprise, for different reasons. We discussed Arizona back a couple of months ago, and for a while they started to fade away, and then they lost Stephen Drew. But once again they've climbed back, and even took two of three against the Giants in San Francisco. I fixate on their starting pitching - I just don't think it's in the same league as most contending teams, and certainly not the Giants. But in a way that makes me overlook that their offense is considerably better than the Giants. Justin Upton might have a legit shot at the NL MVP this year. In the American League, when the Rangers went on their massive winning streak and then got the two relievers they needed, I thought that they would start putting the Angels in their rear-view mirror. After all, the Angels didn't add anyone at the trade deadline, and have an offense that's been shut out frequently. But their top-three starters are as good as anyone in baseball right now, given how well Ervin Santana has been going. As Dalton Del Don said on our show today, I'd hate to have my team match up against their starters in a short series. Are the Angels a legit playoff contender? Who do you think comes out on top in each Western division?

-----Original Message-----
From: "Christopher Liss"
Sent: Wednesday, August 10, 2011 10:49pm
To: jeff@rotowire.com
Subject: Re: Charging

I have to say the Rangers will take it because they have better rotation depth and a better offense, both of which matter more during the regular season. In the playoffs, I'd probably rather face the Rangers than the Angels for the reasons you say, but you have to get there first. (The two-game lead - at the time I'm writing this - also helps). As for the D-Backs, I'd love to see them hold off the Giants if only to punish Brian Sabean for screwing with Brandon Belt all year. I mean to sign Aubrey Huff and Miguel Tejada and then yo-yo your top prospect around all year is disgraceful. But I agree that the Giants' pitching will probably see them through.

The other issue in September is healthy veterans getting more rest. The Yankees and Red Sox probably don't care that much about who wins the division and who gets the wild card, so you might see Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Kevin Youkilis, and Carl Crawford (all the non-MVP candidates). getting time off. Same with Chase Utley, Jimmy Rollins and a few others. I can't tell you how many teams I've had that were in contention (or even in first place in late August) just fall off the map during baseball's Week 17. It's gotten to the point where I sometimes think leagues should run through August 31.