Articles by Thomas Callahan

A listing of all the articles written by Thomas Callahan for the RotoWire Blog.

The War Report – A Look at the 2012 Season from the Quarter Pole

Al Gore was right.

The carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have made our synapses fire worse than an old Ford on diesel. Everywhere among us pillars are crumbling, tides are changing and the meek are inheriting the trophies.

Albert Pujols is batting .215 with 3 dingers after 166 AB’s. Austin Jackson’s got a .414 OBP.  And Henderson Alvarez currently holds a stunning 2.62 ERA.

And a WAR of 0.0.

Alvarez represents the WAR average currently being relied upon by the sabermetric community for starting pitchers. Factoring in positional adjustments, and then converting to numbers so that they’re based on replacement level value, WAR is a good indicator of who’s outperforming their positional norm.

Alvarez’s career best splits are bolstered by a waltzing 2.45 K/9 and a slap-happy 2.13 BB/9. He’s allowing 1.31 HR’s per 9 innings.

If those numbers look strange to you, well, you haven’t been paying attention this season. It’s a strange WAR going on.

Strange numbers are the average, in a very strange year of baseball.

Article 1 – League Standings

Colorado’s 10 games back in the NL West, while Pittsburgh is 3 back in the Central. But the shot heard round the marble is the Baltimore Orioles playing .650 ball through these first 40 games.

Currently the O’s lead the majors with 61 homers, and are the only team in the league with 7 players who’ve hit at least 5. Adam Jones is looking like the 3rd coming of Rickey Henderson’s illegitimate love clone. J.J. Hardy’s dropped his K rate to 13.9|PERCENT|. Chris Davis is riding a .364 BABIP to a respectable average, and Wieters is tying it all together like a bouillon cube ties together a good soup. Some smoke, a lotta mirrors, and you’re 8 games up on the Red Sox.

Who’da thunk?

What impresses me most, though, is that they’ve patched the hull with their number 3 to 5 starters carrying a 4.95 ERA. Holy flatulence Batman, does that number leave a stench! And yet, they prevail.

The bedrock of their defensive success, then, has got to be the lockdown bullpen, led by the Major League saves leader Jim Johnson and his 0.42 ERA. In ESPN’s 2012 draft guide, the price on Jim Johnson in AL only leagues was a piece of burnt toast. His emergence came from so far off in left field that he passed Shoeless Joe taking a leak.

I grabbed him in a couple leagues so late it was technically early the next day.

Which brings me to…

Article 2 – The Closers

Jim Johnson leads the league in saves, followed closely by his ERA match (0.42) Fernando Rodney. There was something in the air that night, Fernando. Yeah, Kimbrel, Perez and Paps round out the list, but then Santiago Castilla has the 6th most saves in the league. Didn’t he just get the job 2 weeks ago?

Henry Rodriguez, Frank Francisco (with an 8.04 ERA and a WAR of -0.1), Brett Myers (-0.1 WAR as well) and Fettuccini Alfredo round out the top 12.

That’s 2 of the top 12 closers having a negative Wins Above Replacement total!

I am very proud to say that I did not draft a closer before round 14 this year. That’s the glass half full answer. On the other side of the glass (cause I have one of those trick glasses), I got Marmol in 2 leagues in round 14, and there went my WHIP. Then I chased White Sox and Red Sox closers so hard that my ERA and sanity followed my WHIP out the window, to the nearest bar, and are now listening to Barbra Streisand songs and drinking boilermakers.

You don’t bring me flowers, Heath Bell.

Luckily though, the answer for my sinking cumulative stats has been standing right before my very eyes…

Article 3 – Starting Pitchers

As of this brief moment in time, FORTY ONE starters have an ERA under 3.00. Last year at this time there were 23. The year before that, there were 19.

Quality starts are easier to find this year than dirt.

Brandon Beachy’s currently leading the league in ERA, and has an unsustainable 1.7|PERCENT| HR/FB rate. Four of the top 5 pitchers in ERA (Beachy, Lilly, Cueto and Zambrano) have a K/9 of less than 6.60. Derek Lowe, 6th place in the league with an ERA of 2.05, is striking out 2.22 guys per 9, and walking 2.91! His record is 6-1 and his WAR is 0.7.

A K/9 of 2.2 dude! 6th in the league in ERA.

The average WAR for the top 10 starters (in ERA) is 1.1.

I’m not making this up.

What I wish I was making up though is our…

Article 4 – Offensive Players

Here are your top 20 hitters, by WAR, of the 2012 season to date. Obviously this is a value table that we’re going to disregard for our Roto purposes, as it takes defensive value into account. Still, it provides an interesting view of the season to date.













Josh Hamilton











David Wright











Austin Jackson











Adam Jones











Martin Prado











Michael Bourn











Ryan Braun











Matt Kemp











Paul Konerko











Joey Votto











Rafael Furcal











Carlos Beltran











Carlos Ruiz











A.J. Ellis











Robinson Cano











Elvis Andrus











Bryan LaHair











Chase Headley











Mike Moustakas











Andrew McCutchen











You’ll find 5 first or second round picks in there (I’m giving McCutchen the benefit of the doubt). You got a couple pre season wunderkinds (Berry touted Bourn pretty hard this year, while Jones and Andrus were on plenty of analysts’ radar), but seriously.

Carlos Ruiz is batting .371 with 7 homers. Whoever saw that coming probably thinks he can see the image of Jesus in a pretzel. Bryan LaHair is making an MVP run. Puhleeez, two months ago Bryan LaHair’s ADP was laying down by the DOW.

Heck, I didn’t even know who A.J. Ellis WAS until 2 weeks ago, and his WAR’s 2.1!

Which brings us full circle.

WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is an attempt by the sabermetric community to summarize a player’s total value to their team in one tidy little stat. And seasonal norms are a bit wacky this year; versatility is becoming an important managerial trait. Holding on to your studs who should regress to the statistical norm, while at the same time identifying young arms that have the skill set to go the extra mile are your pivotal plays at this time..

It’s a strange season to date people, and we just bought the bouquet.

Happy gambling.

Calculating Luck – An Early Look Into LOB|PERCENT|


He was raised on one of the local farms in the area.

He went by the name Dent.

Also known as ‘Farmer Young’ or ‘Farmboy Young’, he stopped his formal education just after 6th grade so he could help out on his family farm. It was just outside of Gilmore, Ohio. He liked to fish.

His professional career began with a tryout for a minor league team out of Canton. During his tryout he impressed the scouts, later recalling, ”I almost tore the boards off the grandstand with my fastball.” But his nickname came from the fences he destroyed while practicing. One of the reporters present remarked that the fences looked like a cyclone had hit them. That reporter, sadly unnamed, shortened the description, which became the nickname Young used for the rest of his life.


He pitched 7362 innings in his career. And in the 1901 season with the Boston Americans he finished with a 31-10 record, an ERA of 1.62, a K/9 of 3.83 (Whoppin’!) and a .264 BABIP.

AND, a Left On Base Percentage of 71.3.

Though a radical percentage for its day, 71.3|PERCENT| is a fairly accurate baseline to compare players in the modern era. In 2001 when Bonds set the single season Home Run record the average LOB|PERCENT| was 71.2|PERCENT|. In 2007 it dipped to 70.7|PERCENT|, before a pitching resurgence in 2011 pushed the total to 72.5|PERCENT|.

Using Cy Young’s 71.3 LOB|PERCENT| as a reference point, let’s look at the status of some notable MLB pitchers’ LOB percentage, so that we can identify selling and buying candidates for the run up to the All Star break.

Move em while ya can:

Lance Lynn – Cardinals – 91.7 LOB|PERCENT|

Lynn’s a fascinating study. In his 2010 AAA season he had a 4.77 ERA in 29 starts, with a K/9 of 7.7. In his 2011 AAA season he had a 3.84 ERA in 12 starts, and an identical 7.7 K/9.

Then he got called up to the bigs, and in 34.2 innings (mostly in relief) he put up a 3.14 ERA and a K/9 of 10.7. That’s on a class jump.

This year he looks like a Clemens omelet with a side of juice.

A K/9 of 8 isn’t going to get you a sub 2 ERA for long. Particularly in keeper leagues where his value is highest, I’d be sowing the seeds for a sell high.

Yu Darvish – Rangers – 84.4 LOB|PERCENT|

Yu’s got’s a BB/9 of 4.64, which is positively ghastly! Vincent Price could come back from the dead, do a cameo appearance as Yu’s BB/9, and children wouldn’t sleep at night.

His WHIP is 1.424.

And he’s stranding a higher percentage of his men than the S.S. Minnow. (Which brings up the Ginger vs. Mary Ann debate – but I digress.)

Abandon ship comrade. There are lives at stake!

Gio Gonzalez – Nationals – 78.6 LOB|PERCENT|

I recon Gio’ll regress to give you a 3.30 ERA for the first half. I recon he’ll put up a few 5 run stinkers to get there. I recon his 3.69 BB/9 rate will be the prime suspect.

The day of reckoning will soon fall, upon my reconin’.

He’s good. He ain’t 1.82 ERA good. 3 more starts and I’d start to tout him up. He’s pitching over his walk rate.

Brandon McCarthy – A’s – 75.3|PERCENT| LOB|PERCENT|

His ERA is 2.96 and I’m not biting. Primarily because his K/9 is a lackluster 5.8, and his last 4 starts included Seattle twice, and Anaheim, who are in a funk so deep that it’d have Grandmaster Flash taking notes.

3.80 is the regression point. If he’s anything more than your 4th starter you’re not winning your (10 team) league.


Grab em if ya can:

Mike Minor – Braves – 56.2 LOB|PERCENT|

The 3rd incarnation of the gem of the Braves system is carrying a 4.68 ERA. Pick him up now and ride the correction.

8.27 K/9. 2.2 BB/9. The guy’s getting unlucky.

Grab him and tuck him into your shirt pocket. He’ll be coming in handy soon.

Jeff Niemann – Rays – 57.7 LOB|PERCENT|

The former 1st round pick of the Rays enters the conversation with a 1.20 WHIP, a 4.05 ERA and a K/9 of 8.44.

I like him to carry similar ratios for the next 4 (difficult) starts before June hits and he starts to draw attention.

Ya’ve been warned.

Jeff Samardzija – Cubs – 64.4 LOB|PERCENT|

9.38 K/9, 10 walks, a 47.8 GB|PERCENT|. Jeff Zilla’s started the season illin’ like a Dylan (with his homeboy Slim).

I think Jeff is this years the year before last years CJ Wilson.

That’s 2 degrees of separation with a flux capacitor twist, for those of you scoring at home.

CC Sabathia – Yankees – 66.7 LOB|PERCENT|

A 4.58 ERA and a 9.68 K/9 that’s obviously been eating its Wheaties.

Last year in May, June and July he put up 3.63, 3.20 and a 0.92 ERA.

Jump on the regression train if you still can. The ‘mean’ is a lovely place to visit in early May.



At the moment the MLB average LOB|PERCENT| is 72.2. It’s historically fallen in May and June. Incorporate it into your arsenal of player evaluation tools. Though comprised of many factors, it can still be a useful indicator.

Happy gambling folks.

Mr. April – Looking at the Regression Trends of Some Notable Players on the ESPN Player Rater


1973 was the year.

Richard Nixon was president and the Watergate hearings were beginning. The OPEC oil crisis had the world economy in a tailspin. Roe vs. Wade was under discussion amongst the Supreme Court.

But to the common man, more significant events were afoot.

Secretariat was about to become the first Triple Crown winner in a quarter century. Frank Burns started picking flowers for Margaret Houlihan. Stevie Wonder was getting superstitious while Paul McCartney started releasing crappy music. David Thompson led NC State to an undefeated season (27-0), invented the ”alley oop” dunk, and started to prepare himself for his 9 year attempt at snorting away Columbia’s gross domestic product.

And, amidst all the clatter, on June 7th in a smoky room filled with name plates and coffee, David Mark Winfield was drafted number 4 overall to pitch for the San Diego Padres.

The Padres of course started Winfield in the majors, and placed him in right field so they could take advantage of his ”cannon arm”. In his 22 year career he had 3,110 hits, knocked 465 homers, stole 223 bases, batted .283 and was elected into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

But it was in 1985 that Dave Winfield met his moniker. Recalling the 81 series loss to Toronto, an annoyed George Steinbrenner told NY Times writer Murray Chass, ”we need a Mr. October or Mr. September. Winfield is Mr. May.”


In deeper leagues you’ve already found your hot hitters and rubber arms. Omar Infante, Nolan Reimold, and Chase Headley are the present gems of the astute owners roster. But what batters on this years player raters are due for a predictable regression?

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you your 2012 Mr. April nominees.

Josh Willingham OF Twins

Currently the number 11th rated hitter on ESPN’s player rater, Josh has hit safely in all 14 games played this season. He is on pace to shatter Joe DiMaggio’s streak and have the planet Earth renamed after him.

Looking closer though, Willingham is a career .289 April hitter, .259 May hitter and .252 June hitter. As he’s 33 years old, we can expect this career trend to continue.

Prepare to dump.

Andre Ethier OF Dodgers

15th on the player rater, 4 homers, 19 RIB’s (Eve of Eden, eat yer heart out) and a .289 average.

Interestingly, he’s regressed. In Ethier’s 5 year ML career he is a .318 April hitter (4.6 Hr’s) before sliding to .292 in May and .267 in June (those splits are in 484, 486 and 513 AB’s, so injuries aren’t a factor).

In a keeper league I recently packaged Ethier with Gordon to aquire a big fish. I suggest you explore the same opportunity.

Chase Headley 3B Padres

Number 19 on the player rater, Headley’s currently hitting .288 with 4 dingers and 2 swipes.

In his 5 year career Headley’s got 8 homers in 312 April at bats, so at the age of 27 things might finally be clicking into place. On the downside though, he carries a .276 career April average, to a May-June line of .258 and .263 respectively (with 5 homers and 8 homers, re-respectively).

I find little to respect in those respective numbers.

Though he’s apparently found some semblance of a groove I would see if I could use his age and present numbers to entice another owner into his acquisition.

David Freese 3B Cardinals

Currently batting .364. Nuff said.

At 28 years old, Freese is a career .333 April hitter. And, as much as I like Freese and recommend you hold him, his career at bats (and not production numbers) tell the story. 216 career April AB’s, 110 career May AB’s, 76 June, 85 July, 82 August, 79 Sept/Oct.

Dave Freese is such an injury risk, that if he’d spent his career under the care of the Met’s medical staff he’d already be dead. Own at your own risk.

Matt Joyce OF Rays

Aged 27 when most hitters mature, Joyce has homered 3 times in the last 4 games to raise his season average to .306.

And I still peg him as a sell high candidate. Those who owned him last year will attest. A career .299 April hitter, Joyce traditionally rides the temperate skies of spring to a state of belief, until he melts like cheddar in the summer sun. .183 career June average, .248 July, .254 August. What, do I have to spell it out for you after having just spelled it out for you?

Like Headley, I would package Joyce’s age with his numbers and ship him off to an owner with holes in his socks.

Chad Billingsley SP Dodgers

Bills has 17 K’s in 20 innings this year and wields a 0.69 WHIP. That’s the good news. The bad news is that he historically carries a K/9 of 9 through April and May, before averaging 7.2 through August. Heat behooves him not.


I picked him off waivers in 80|PERCENT| of my leagues this year in anticipation of some sweet early numbers. After the Milwaukee game I managed to spin him off in half of those leagues. After the Houston game I hope to shuffle him off in the rest of them. Let’s face it, he opened the season with 11 K’s against a Padres offense that can best be described as a sham of a mockery.

Dump him while you can. Matt Capps or Jason Kipnis seems a reasonable asking price (at least in my deeper leagues) but I’d aim for more first.

Gio Gonzalez SP Nationals

There were reports during last years spring training that Gio’d put it all together and he rode the rap out to a 2.70-1.67-2.72 April-May-June ERA line. This year he’s sporting a tasty 2.04 ERA with 21 K’s in 17.2 innings.

And, last year he put up a 4.50 July line and a 5.52 August line. This mirrors his career trends of 2.84-3.15-3.76-4.88-4.43. The culprit isn’t his K/9 however, it’s his control. A 2.14 K/BB in April-May becomes a 1.86 ratio in the summer months.

I like Gio to mature this year and I like his move to the NL. I’m also aware of his aversion to pitching in the heat. Watch how his ball movement translates to the humidity on the east coast and be ready to duck if you’ve got box seats.

Things could get dangerous.

Kyle Lohse SP Cardinals

In deeper leagues he’s everybody’s darling. In leagues that count WHIP and BB’s as a category he’s a prom queen with a movie deal. Carrying an 0.89 ERA and a 0.59 WHIP, why wouldn’t he be?

A look at his career trends though paint a bleak outlook. Typically a 4.15 April butterfly, he morphs into a 4.54-4.80 and 5.02 larva around the All Star break.

Now, those numbers in my opinion don’t reflect the voodoo spell that Dave Duncan has cast upon him in the past few years. Still, when we turn our third eye back to last season we notice a 1.64 April ERA, followed by 2.57-4.55-5.53 and 5.92.

There is a light in the tunnel though. Lohse finished last year with a sexy 1.37 September line. And, when Doug Eddings or Matt Hollowell are behind the plate his K/9 jumps to 10.5!! (That’s 3 lights in 1 tunnel Callahan!!)

Sorry. I just paraphrased you.

Astute owners in deeper leagues make decisions based on numbers, not on names. By keeping one up on the Jones’s, you can use your Mr. April’s to accumulate talent that will help you over the course of the season.

We’re 3 starts in people. The data is beginning to round into perspective.

Happy gambling folks.

Birds On A Wire: A Look At The Most Dropped Players This Week

The following are the most notable offensive player drops in ESPN leagues. (Note: I left out Carp, Cain and Quentin as they are injury drops and therefore will not be rosterable (should be a word) in the near future).

Brennan Boesch Tigers OF – 50.3|PERCENT| owned – minus 13.2|PERCENT|

Last year in 478 AB’s Bren had a line of 75-16-54-.283-5. Entrenched in the 2 hole and hitting ahead of Miggy and Prince, he could cross the plate this year about, oohhh say, a kajillion times. (Giving him a liberal line of 1kajillion-22-68-.276-8)

Ryan Raburn Tigers 2B/OF – 88.4|PERCENT| owned – minus 9.8|PERCENT|

Guess spring training stats don’t matter much after all, do they. The fact that Raburn was rostered in 98.2|PERCENT| of all leagues is laughable. Raburn’s a late summer hitter who pounds spring training arms. Pick him up at the All Star break and slot him in accordingly but until then treat him like the moldy cheeze in the far back corner of the fridge that he is.

Colby Rasmus Blue Jay’s OF – 90.6|PERCENT| owned – minus 9.4|PERCENT|

Waking up beside Phillis Diller, has got to be more pleasing that looking back on the last year of Rasmus’s professional career. Still, this is why you have bench spots. Wasn’t it just 2010, at the ripe age of 23, Rasmus went 85-23-66-.276-12?

Damn! That’s a David Duval’ish fall from the cliffs of composure.

If you have the bence space I’d grab him. He’s a traditionally fast starter though, so if he’s not showing a pulse after 4 weeks I’d throw him back to the goats.

Mat Gamel Brewers 3B – 72.2|PERCENT| owned – minus 7.7|PERCENT|

I suspect the 7.7|PERCENT| are chasing closers because really, Gamel is giving owners exactly what they wanted when drafting him. A .273 average and 3rd base eligibility. Wadda’s he gotta do, buy ya a sandwich?

Brandon Belt Giants OF/1B – 65.2|PERCENT| owned – minus 6.4|PERCENT|

The saga continues. I love Belt, and I loved the news that he played his way into a starting gig, and he’s on most of my rosters, and I’m holding onto him with bloody fingernails, and aren’t run on sentences just annoying.

Mark Trumbo Angels 1B – 81.7|PERCENT| owned – minus 6.2

Liked Trumbo as a power hitting, 3rd base sleeper. The question of course is which side of the bed Scosia’s waking up on every morning, the obsessive side, or the compulsive?

True, Trumbo’s got 3 errors in 3 games. Also true, he’s gone 5 for 11 with a homer in the same 3 games. True Part 3 – The Wrath of True, Callaspo’s gone 2 for 16 in his place. The fact of the matter is, if Aybar could just improve his range by 35 feet we wouldn’t be having this 1 way discussion.

Geovany Soto Cubs C – 73.6|PERCENT| owned – minus 6|PERCENT|

Geovany Soto hit’s for a respectable average and moderate power in even years.

That is as enthusiastic as I can be about Geovany Soto.

Jesus Montero Mariners DH – 94.3|PERCENT| owned – minus 5.7|PERCENT|

Montero made his first start of the year at catcher on Wednesday, so he’s on pace to get standard league eligibility around the second payday in June. He’s been ceding time to John Jaso and Miguel Olivio. He has a ton of potential and hits in a terrible park, within a terrible line up.

In 2 catcher leagues I’d drop him for Geovany Soto.

Jason Kubel Diamondbacks OF – 94.6|PERCENT| owned – minus 5.4|PERCENT|

What can I say, in 2009 I liked Kubel alot! He’s a April-May-June hitter (.292 combined average the last 3 years) and is fully capable of manning your OF5 spot while your waiting for Rasmus to stop trembling in the corner.

Or, you can use the roster spot on Lance Lynn, Matt Thornton or Alcides Escobar (no relation to Pablo, who could actually HIT!). And lastly,

Ike Davis Mets 1B – 92.6|PERCENT| owned- minus 5.1|PERCENT|

”Coccidioidomycosis is a fungal disease that resides in the soil of certain parts of the southwestern United States. The disease is usually mild with flu-like symptoms and rashes.” This is the recent installment of the prime time HBO special, ‘Ike Davis – The Year That Luck Stood Still’.

A year ago this month Davis batted .337 with 5 home runs and was on his way to a Gold Glove. Then on May 10th he got tangled with David Wright following a routine pop up, and was handed over to the Met’s medical staff to look at his ankle.

Philosophical question: If a Met’s doctor scratches his head in the forest, does a key player’s injury go automatically undiagnosed?

After taking 2 days off to rest he was given a stretching program, was told he wouldn’t need surgery, was told he would need surgery, was told he might not need surgery again, lost his lead off hitter to a division rival, lost his 3rd baseman to a pinky injury, and contracted Valley Fever. At the plate this year he bears a striking resemblance to Mr. Magoo.

The good news is, when he’s on his game he’s a mean motor scooter and a bad go-getter. I’d grab him to keep your bench warm during the last of these cold, winter evenings. He could end up being anywhere between a poor man’s Michael Young and a rich man’s Adam Lind.

Generally speaking this is way too early in the season to give up on the results of your draft prep. However, if you have the opportunity to cash in on your league mates mistakes, it’s be insulting to the spirit of the game not to.

Happy gambling folks.

Fan Duel Value Plays

Beachy vs. Houston – 6800

This is my keystone and where I put most of my dosh. The scoring structure gives 5 points for a win and Houston’s lineup looks about as formidable as a headless cricket.

C – Castro of Houston – 2500

I always fill the catcher spot last, and for as cheaply as possible.

1B Billy Butler – 3700

I like the 10th rated 1B’man on the board in a stacked lineup facing Tom Milone (Sam and Diane’s illegitimate love child).

2B Jemile Weeks – 3600

Riding the hot hand in 4 roster spaces, and this is one of them. 9th rated second baseman, I like his price.

3B Chone Figgins – 2600

I love this value, and believe me–as a Mariners fan, I am gun-shy to the max about believing in Chone Figgins. (note: The phrase ‘Grody to the max’ should enjoy it’s retro rebound in about 4 years – so I’m jumping the gun and gun-shy in the same sentence. Just color me flustered.) Anyhoo, Figgins is finding the ball with the bat again this year. In a few weeks we’ll know if he’s for real or if the A’s can’t pitch.

SS Rafael Furcal – 3200

Batting .526 with 2 steals and facing Bailey. Odds are he ain’t gonna kill me at this price.

OF Brett Gardner at 3600 and Granderson at 4900

I’d hoped to load up on Yankees facing Matutz but Cano was too pricey and though I like A Rod to resurge I thought Figgins was a better value. I’ll go ahead and say it so you don’t have to read between the lines, Beachy and Matutz are the 2 key players of the night for me this evening.

OF Beltran 4100

Hitting .389 with 2 dingers and a swipe, the lineups warm and he’s facing Bailey in Cincy. Why not?


Do you have any other players you think are firing on all cylanders early? Have a Fanduel lineup you’d like to compare? Either way, have a great day people and remember – it’s more fun if ya bet on it!

Curveballs on Mars: A brief introduction to astrophysics, and how it can assist you in identifying starting pitcher value during the regular season.

Curveballs on Mars: A brief introduction to astrophysics, and how it can assist you in identifying starting pitcher value during the regular season.

Pitchers cannot throw curve balls on Mars!

The threads on a spinning ball on Earth throw air to the side and make the ball curve by what is known as the Magnus effect. This effect is non existent in low density atmospheres. As there exists low density atmospheres in major league baseball, this is a handy little fact to tuck into your tool belt.

Today I’m going to run you through some of the basics of air density and astrophysics, so that you can identify target zones for streaming starting pitchers. Target zones are regional areas where there is a statistical atmospheric advantage (or disadvantage)  for starting pitchers.

I routinely stream starters in the second half of the season using 2 roster slots. This allows me to trade my starting pitchers who’ve been hot in the first half of the season for any needed offensive help (if you follow my draft strategy, that will be batting average) after the All Star break. As well, by the second half of the season I have a pretty good idea of who I can trust and under which conditions.

Speaking of conditions…

On the planet Mars a curveball doesn’t break. Baseballs and Mars have a complicated relationship. (11 of their friends ‘like it’)

The following facts are facts:

  1. The air on Mars is 100 times thinner than the air on Earth (less dense). So things that fly through the air produce 100 times less lift on Mars than they do on Earth at the same speed (and the drag forces by the air are 100 times less).
  2. Pitchers cannot throw curve balls on Mars! Once again, the threads on the spinning ball throw air to the side and make the ball curve by what is known as the Magnus effect. This effect is non existent in low density atmospheres.
  3. The atmosphere on earth is thick! It puts 14.7 pounds of pressure (downward force) on everything on earth’s surface at sea level.
  4. Atmospheric and barometric pressure effects the movement of objects on Earth. (It slows them down or allows them to move freely, for a variety of reasons.)
  5. The movement they effect most is spin, which is important because it’s the life blood of effective pitchers.

In other words, Sandy Koufax’s curveball would fly like Robin Hood’s arrow on Mars. (And Yuniesky Betancourt might even be able to actually hit it! Doubtful, but possible).

But what if Koufax was pitching at Coors?


Coors Field in Colorado sits at 5883 feet above sea level, so the atmospheric pressure is about 18|PERCENT| less than at sea level. As such, baseballs rotate at 82|PERCENT| of their rate then at Camden Yards (altitude of 11 feet). ‘As such’ squared, pitchers pitches don’t break as well. (Super Duper mental note alert!!)

Temperature is another factor, because hot air is less dense than cold air. It’s hot in Arizona.

Humidity is a complicating factor. Humid air is less dense than dry air, but on the other hand, high humidity makes the balls deader (less bouncy).

What we aim to find in a target zone is a high altitude, hot environment with clear skies because there curve balls don’t curve, and breakers don’t break. When we identify those target zones we stock up on offense.

In a low altitude, low temperature and humid environment baseballs respond to the pitchers grip. When we find those target zones we buy up starting pitchers.

Let’s take a look at some altitude readings of major league cities and relate them to temperature and barometric pressure.

The highest altitudes of MLB parks (optimal hitter zones):


Altitude in feet

Average temp in July

Average rainfall in millimeters for July (a simple measure of barometric pressure)














Kansas City














Arlington, Texas






Notice Phoenix, Denver and Texas have a tasty little mix of thin air, high temperatures and low pressure. These are parks where balls don’t spin as they could. What does this mean for you?

After the All Star break next year, when temperatures are warming up:

Jhoulys Chacon is going to become more hittable.

Justin Upton should go on a tear.

You should sell Yu Darvish for whatever you can get.

Jair Jurriens becomes a BIG, BIG, BIG liability.

Tulowitski will catch fire (sound familiar?).

Dump Joe Nathan to that guy who’s got 4 points in saves – and watch him sink!

(Super Duper mental note – this lack of spin can seriously fark with the psyche of young starters. When I see youngsters just called up going to Coors or Chase field, I attack them like Adele tackles a roast!)

It should be no surprise then that ESPN posted the following ratings last year:

MLB Park Factors – 2011 – most runs










Rangers Ballpark in Arlington (Arlington, Texas)








Coors Field (Denver, Colorado)








Fenway Park (Boston, Massachusetts)








Rogers Centre (Toronto, Ontario)








Chase Field (Phoenix, Arizona)








Now, the lowest altitude MLB parks (optimal pitcher zones):


Altitude in feet

Average temp in July

Average rainfall in millimeters (a simple measure of barometric pressure) for July

San Francisco








New York City




San Diego




Washington, DC













Here we can see the sweet combination of sea level altitudes, cooler temperatures and precipitation (obviously, these rainfall charts should give you pause in leagues where you set your rosters on a weekly basis). What does this mean for you?

After the All Star break next year:

Bumgardner, Cain and Lincecum become more effective.

Dump Grandersen, Stanton and Panda.

You want all Padres starters in your arsenal.

National’s hitters cool off.

And Annibal Sanchez should – SHOULD find his mojo.


The ESPN park rater said the least runs were scored last year:


AT&T Park (San Francisco, California)








Tropicana Field (St. Petersburg, Florida)








Petco Park (San Diego, California)








Angel Stadium of Anaheim (Anaheim, California)








Safeco Field (Seattle, Washington)







Interestingly, it’s not the size of the park that matters; it’s how high it is, how hot it is, and how thick the air is. That’s what she said!

So, when looking for target zones to stream hitters next July through the pennant race:



Arlington, Texas

And Kansas City/Atlanta are your best bets.


And your pitching target zones:

San Francisco (by a country mile)

San Diego




You may be wondering why I don’t have you just read the ESPN charts and leave it at that. The answer is because as you understand the concepts of how objects fly through different environments, so are you able to apply those concepts to situations you’ve never seen before.

How will you respond to a heat wave hitting the Bay area?

Suppose El Nino whips a cold front over Texas?

How will you adjust when autumn temperatures turn cooler during the pennant race?

What if the Mayans are half wrong (or half right, depending if your tokin’) and an earthquake flattens Colorado like a married man’s spirit?

How will you stay ahead of the proverbal game?

Ballparks stay the same. Hitters and pitchers play to their abilities. Bloops fall, drives rip, and speed kills (especially at a casino!). But curve balls don’t curve on Mars, or in Coors Field.


With this knowledge you can confidently target buy low pitching candidates in trades, dump sell high pitchers to free up roster space, and stream your ass off and make up ground by finding and utilizing your attack zones and the players who are scheduled to inhabit them.


Happy gambling folks.

Course Management – Applying a strategic approach to a 162 game ROTO season using a Par 5 framework.

Course Management: A standard ROTO season from a par 5 perspective.

The 15th hole at the Riviera Country Club turns its lazy head to the breeze, watching the next group approaching in the 1947 Pro-Am golf tournament.

Roger Kelly, a young amateur with a wild streak holds the teeing honors. As he reaches into his bag for a 5 wood, intent on laying up early for a second shot approach around the dogleg, to the green, he hears the challenge.

”When I was your age, I’d drive myself right over them tree’s and chip myself on for a birdie chance,” says Sam Snead, known for having one of the sweetest swings in the history of golf.

Kelly, bucking up to the challenge, lines up and rips his drive arrow strait – into the dense forest that protects the green. His hole is finished.

”Course,” says Snead, ”when I was your age them tree’s was about 20 feet shorter than they are now.”

”I miss. I miss. I miss. I make.”
Seve Ballesteros describing his putt on the 16th at Augusta in 1988

Course management is one of the essential skills that a championship golfer must master if he is ever to earn his keep playing on the tour. Similar-il-ur-ily, managing a 162 game fantasy baseball season is a true test of a baseball fan’s collection of skills.

Today we’re going to look at the timeline of a fantasy baseball season, and the general philosophy you should employ on your way to a money finish. As there are specific stages in a fantasy season, it is vital that you are aware of what each stage represents, so that you are able to navigate your team through the predictable challenges you will face.

It’s an objective based approach, with clear and measurable objectives.

A standard ROTO fantasy baseball season is a lot like a par 5 hole in golf. Its how the entire hole is played, that separates the maestros from the mulligan’s.

”Swing hard, in case you hit it.” Dan Marino

The Tee shot: Drafting Counting Statistics

In ROTO scoring the need to accumulate counting stats in your draft is of utmost importance. Players like Dan Uggla, Fielder, Dunn (in a former life), Gian-Michael’identitycrisis’Carlos Stanton, Bourne all gain value in ROTO leagues because of their impact on your counting stats. As well, Gio Gonzales, Gallardo, Bumgardner and Morrow (gulp) should be on many of your rosters, as they are reliable sources of valued strikeouts.

Remember, counting stats are much harder to acquire later in the season. Your goal in the draft is to stack your roster with power players and fire ballers early. By gaining distance on your drive you will be in a better position to make finesse decisions later in the season.

Snead’s entire philosophy was centered on the second (or approach) shot, because that’s where the best players will show what they can do. He called them the ‘scoring shots’.

The Approach shot: Identifying break through candidates.

In the first 6 weeks of the season you are looking to have picked up a minimum of 4 players. These are players you’ve had your eye on during spring training who are proving themselves against major league talent. You’ve scouted them during the offseason, and now you have the proof.

Last year it was Sam Fuld, Tim Stauffer, Melky Cabrera and Curtis Grandersen that won fantasy championships in May for their savvy owners. In 2010 Jose Bautista was passed around more rosters than a bong at a reggae festival, and he ended up being the difference maker in many Championship runs.

This year’s winning talents are out there, and your job is to lock them up once they prove themselves worthy. Is Liriano going to continue his Spring Training run of accuracy, will John Mayberry prove to be this years Gehrig Lite, is Moustakas going to find his ceiling early, will the artist formerly known as Alexi Rios ever catch up to a fastball again?

But the weak at heart don’t win fantasy championships.

“That’s a great shot. Especially with that swing.” – David Feherty, CBS and Golf Channel announcer

The Short Iron approach: Manipulating cumulative stats at the All Star break.

Now is reward time, for your carrying Brandon Morrows pathetic control on your roster over the first 60|PERCENT| of the season. You can safely dump him now; he’s no use to you anymore.

With a lead in K’s, and a healthy rating in Runs, RIBs and dingers, it is time for you to start to shave the pork off your rosters and tighten up the preverbal ship. Your bread and butter for manipulating your cumulative stats are going to be Padres pitchers, Coors hitters, the solid Nick Swishers types in run producing line-ups, Giants bullpen arms, Tyler Clippard ratio’s, and any and all cheap sources of average and WHIP you can find.

One play I like to make in this position is to trade your Weavers, Stantons and Nyjer Morgan’s to those 6th place teams who are starting to panic. Melky Cabrera, Marlon Byrd, Ian Nova, Lohse and Doug Fister were your aces in the hole last year.

“The three things I fear most in golf are lightning, Ben Hogan and a downhill putt.” – Sam Snead

The Putt: Poise and composure is the key.

80|PERCENT| of communication is nonverbal. At this stage in the year, 80|PERCENT| of fantasy success is poise.

You’ve ensured your counting statistics are well represented in the draft, you’ve found your break out candidates to put yourself in front of the field, and you’ve aggressively manipulated your cumulative stats in August. Now, you hold steady and look out behind you.

A waiver pick up here to thwart your competitor from acquiring a necessary piece for his stretch run, a trade to a competitor to deny your opponent a needed saves leader or speed bandit, or NL dark-horse starter.

You’re hopefully playing defense at this stage in the game.

Managing a 162 game fantasy baseball season is not for the mild or meek. Aggressively accumulating counting statistics early, boldly grabbing emerging talent off the wire, and deftly managing your cumulative statistics late are essential skills that portend a successful fantasy season.

By employing this strategic approach you will be able to track your progress and adjust your course, while the other owners are blindly holding court over their ill managed rosters. Rosters that are neither goal orientated, or measurable in their status, are rosters that are playing in the dark.

Enlighten yourself. Employ a sound, reasoned approach toward your fake team?s season.

I hope you find this model a successful approach for you this season.

Happy gambling folks.