Flipping the Spread

From a Scott Ostler column:
“I’m not saying this was a problem with the Giants or the A’s, but . . . one difference in 21st century baseball is that the manager never flips the spread. The spread is the postgame buffet. Used to be set on a table in the middle of the clubhouse. Team plays stinko, manager walks in and upends the table, ideally splattering barbecue sauce on the players’ civvies. Message: Bon appetit, boneheads! These days the spread is spread in a nice little private dining area. Any manager foolhardy enough to risk compromising his players’ self-esteem by flipping the spread would probably be sued by the Players Association and by several of the players’ personal dietitians..”
Perhaps the demise of the Spread Flip has led to increased “dogging it” on the field. “What the hey, I’ve still got my Pasta Primavera and Baby Greens w/Walnuts and Gorgonzola”. Yes, the spread to be flipped has been updated with the times. And for the Piniella-ites, it’s just not as satisfying to be flipping granola muffins as it was crashing the Barbeque Ribs and Devil’s Food Cake..
Bochy was never a spread flipper anyway. It’s pretty obvious why he isn’t- Bruce is a spread imbiber. But one has to wonder; would a few flips have helped take care of Pablo’s “spread”…
Below, how times have changed. What manager would risk the wrath of the union by flipping the Cookie Buffet?

Fantasy Team Preview-San Francisco Giants

It was an odd-numbered year, so it only stands to reason that the San Francisco Giants didn’t win the World Series (like they did in 2010 and 2012). Instead, the Giants put up an underwhelming 76-86 record, good for a third-place tie in the NL West with the San Diego Padres. Michael Morse and Tim Hudson were brought in via free agency, but for the most part San Francisco is relying on a return to form and good health by a cast of steady and reliable veterans.
Projected Lineup
CF Angel Pagan
2B Marco Scutaro
1B Brandon Belt
C Buster Posey
RF Hunter Pence
3B Pablo Sandoval
LF Michael Morse
SS Brandon Crawford

Even though they play in an extreme pitchers’ park, there will be a fair amount of fantasy value in the Giants lineup once again in 2014. After slipping in 2012, Pence was a fantasy monster in 2013, primarily because he started running again. Even in a down year, Posey was one of the more dynamic catchers in the league and a top option behind the plate in any format. In deep leagues, Pagan’s injury suppressed his numbers, giving a slight sleeper sheen. New addition Morse will suffer somewhat due to the park, but Morse’s biggest challenge will simply be staying on the field. He has logged more than 450 plate appearances only once in his career.
One nice thing about the Giants from a fantasy perspective is that the starting eight appears stable. There aren’t any platoons to speak of, and there isn’t a top-tier prospect banging down the door. Gary Brown could reinvent himself with a strong minor-league campaign, but his timetable no longer is as imminent as it once was.
Projected Bench
C Hector Sanchez
IF Tony Abreu
IF Joaquin Arias
OF Gregor Blanco
OF Roger Kieschnick

Move along, there isn’t much to see here fantasy-wise. Sanchez was a better option as a second, NL-only catcher when the Giants were weak at first base, but with Belt ensconced at the position Sanchez is stuck behind one of the Major League’s best. Abreu and Arias might spell Scutaro from time to time, but unless there is an injury they won’t start. Blanco and Kieschnick are in the same boat, although Morse’s fragility will probably lead to some reps for one or both. Blanco’s speed makes him a better end-game play in NL-only.
Projected Rotation
RHP Matt Cain
LHP Madison Bumgarner
RHP Tim Lincecum
RHP Tim Hudson
RHP Ryan Vogelsong

The strong pitchers’ park makes every pitcher in the Giants rotation worth considering in any format for spot starts at home. Cain might be ahead of Bumgarner on the depth chart, but Bumgarner is the fantasy ace. If he takes another step forward, he could be a top five starter if everything clicks. First half/second half stats are generally poor indicators of future success, but Cain’s 2.36 ERA in the second half speaks to a valid resurgence based on his prior track record. The strikeout rate dropped, but like Bumgarner he’ll be back as a top tier option. The rest of the staff is for deeper leagues, but Hudson’s move from Atlanta to San Francisco gives him a definite bump up in value.
Projected Closer Candidates
RHP Sergio Romo
RHP Santiago Casilla
RHP Jeremy Affeldt

Anything can happen in terms of injury or ineffectiveness, but Romo should have a stranglehold on this job based on last year’s performance. If you are a believer in handcuffs, Casilla had two of the three non-Romo saves in 2013 and is the logical next in line. Affeldt’s numbers weren’t very good last year and he might be more of a name-only in fantasy. In NL-only, try Jean Machi instead.
Position Battles
As mentioned above, the Giants line-up appears to be fairly stable. Scutaro is 38 years old and could fall apart, but with guaranteed money through 2015, the Giants won’t make a change unless he deteriorates. Ryan Vogelsong and the fifth starter’s slot is probably the job the watch. Yusmerio Petit was terrific down the stretch and if Vogey struggles, it wouldn’t surprise anyone if Petit snuck into the rotation in May or June. Vogelsong is only making $5 million in 2014, which isn’t enough to justify keeping him in the rotation if he repeats his 2013 5.73 ERA.
Player to Target: Brandon Belt
Brandon Belt now has over 1,200 plate appearances under his, um, belt and has improved every season since his call-up in mid-2011. There might be another moderate power spike coming but—even if there isn’t—Belt’s value at the first base is underappreciated. Expect another moderate step forward but even if it doesn’t happen Belt will be pretty useful in 2014.
Player to Avoid: Michael Morse
He shouldn’t be avoided, but don’t pay for a full season worth of at bats either. Morse is perpetually injured, never plays a full season, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see 400 plate appearances this year as opposed to 600. There are better, more reliable power options in standard mixed leagues, and even in deep leagues there are enough outfielders out there that you shouldn’t pay for Morse expecting peak performance.
Deep Sleeper: Gary Brown
This isn’t a good team to go trolling for deep sleepers, but if you must, a post-hype prospect like Brown is the way to go. A .231 batting average in the PCL is beyond abysmal, but the power/speed combination that enticed fantasy owners in the first place was still on display in 2013. Brown isn’t young, but at 25 he isn’t finished either. There isn’t a lot of reason to put your faith in Brown, but on a stable Giants team he is the best of a weak lot of “sleepers.”

“Real” Fantasy Baseball


Of baseball, fishing, and…what else is there?

I wrote a baseball poem-ONCE! I rather liked it, it was about the legendary Dick Stuart as we sat by my pond shortly after he had passed away. I’ve forgotten it- I know we watched the dragon flies dance on the water and I asked him if he’d seen my father and brother in the fields of green…
I did a post about baseball’s poetry before and there were wonderful contributions from all. I hope those of you who stop by will share your favorites.
This first is of fishing, or longing for it. This is from my earlier post.

Love of fishing and love for baseball are naturals- they speak of summer, of hope, of a way of life that is going, going, not quite gone…tell me why you love to fish, or would love to fish- perhaps as Billy Collins penned “Fishing on the Susquehanna in July”

“But the nearest I have ever come to
fishing on the Susquehanna
was one afternoon in a museum in Philadelphia
when I balanced a little egg of time
in front of a painting
in which that river curled around a bend
under a blue cloud-ruffled sky,
dense trees along the banks,
and a fellow with a red bandanna
sitting in a small, green
flat-bottom boat
holding the thin whip of a pole.
That is something I am unlikely
ever to do, I remember
saying to myself and the person next to me.”


This is a poem by Tim Peeler, I love it:

Tim Peeler’s “The End of the Century”

And the comparisons are inevitable –
All us fanatics must know for sure:
Who is the greatest athlete
Of the last 100 years?
It will come down to the final two
As ESPN is nice enough to decide for us.
And why not? When we are so frantic
To be told, gripping the sweaty cans
Of our beer, adjusting the angle
Of our recliners – we are a fallen race
Of men who have managed to catch
Ourselves just like this, in this action
Of watching action.
A week will turtle by in the office break rooms
And out by the furniture loading dock
And in the student lounge, even.
Michael or the Babe, what do ya’ think?
Black or white, yin or yang?
And I will be called stupid, racist, out of touch
For taking the Babe – though I love the other
Game for the way it turns into dunks,
Revenge into blocks, violence into good defense –
The way it brings hope to the hopeless and money, too.
So the week will drift along while I defend the Bambino
Against my family of sports fans, point to the support
Of his numbers, the sheer ineffable dominance of peers,
The pitching record, and the stolen bases, I point to
These things as if to a pie chart, but Michael will get it,
Here at the high-flying end of the century;
And nobody, not a single arguing one of us
Will listen to Satchel Paige, who cocked his cap
And said, “Don’t look back.”

Baseball Prospectus Giants’ Top Ten Prospects

1. Kyle Crick
Position: RHP
DOB: 11/30/1992
Height/Weight: 6’4” 220 lbs
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2011 draft, Sherman HS (Sherman, TX)
Previous Ranking: #1 (Org), #65 (Top 101)
2013 Stats: 1.57 ERA (68.2 IP, 48 H, 98 K, 39 BB) at High-A San Jose
The Tools: 7+ fastball; 6+ potential CH; 6 potential CB; 6+ potential SL

What Happened in 2013: An oblique injury three starts into his season slowed his initial California League destruction, but it didn’t take long after his return for him to emerge as one of the best young arms in the minors, a trend he carried over to the Arizona Fall League.

Strengths: Excellent size and present strength; arm is incredibly fast; fastball is easy plus-plus offering; pitch works in the 93-97 range; touches higher; big late life; changeup started out as a weakness but emerged as his best secondary offering; excellent arm speed and late action to the arm side; difference-maker pitch with more consistency; shows both curveball and hard slider; curveball with two-plane movement and some depth; plus is possible; slider is hard with sharp cutter-like slice to the glove side; mid-80s to low 90s; aggressive approach.

Weaknesses: Delivery can be problematic; can struggle with balance and rhythm (arm can be late); overall command is below average; secondary inconsistency; fastball-heavy attack; can overthrow the slider and lose depth.

Overall Future Potential: 7; no. 2 starter

Realistic Role: 6; late-innings reliever (closer)

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate risk; yet to pitch at Double-A level

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The positive takeaway for fantasy is that Crick will miss bats regardless of his role. As a starting pitcher, Crick could be a big contributor in ERA and strikeouts, but his WHIP is likely to hold him back (unless he takes a big step forward in control) and his high pitch counts may inhibit his potential for wins. If he’s a reliever, he can be an 80-90 strikeout closer—which installs a relatively high realistic floor into his fantasy value.

The Year Ahead: Crick is a monster, regardless of his ultimate role. Given his age and developmental progress of the changeup, you can see a frontline starter in the making, with size, strength, a deep plus potential secondary arsenal, and a near-elite fastball. The inconsistencies in the delivery and command woes could limit his upside in a rotation, which several sources cite when a bullpen projection is suggested. If he can iron out the delivery in the next few seasons and throw more strikes, Crick has the type of lively stuff that can survive in the zone, and if one of the breaking balls steps forward into a true plus pitch, the big Texan shouldn’t have any trouble missing bats and barrels alike. I think Crick can stick around in a rotation for the foreseeable future, and any command refinement could launch him into the top 10 prospects in the game.

Major league ETA: 2015

Mid-Winter Giants report from Twin Central

I said no baseball, but I can’t stand it anymore.

Posey- need to get back a goodly portion of his MIA 9 HR 31 RBI from 2012
Belt- can he fulfill his potential at AT&T? 2014 should go a long way in deciding that.
Scutaro- a major question mark, would have liked to see a utility infielder upgrade
Crawford- needs to hit LHers or Arias may platoon
Panda- lean, mean,hittin’ machine? Well, that’s the hope. Posey and Pablo need to be all they can be..
Pence- ink in 25-90.
Pagan – Coming back in September was a good move- we got to see the 2012 version
Morse- Pray for 2011, hope for 2012, or…can you spell P.L.A.T.O.O.N.?
Hector- don’t look now but Susac is in the rear view window and closing fast
Arias- hacker with no pop, but somehow has made himself valuable- versatilty and desire
Abreu- looks like he may hit
Blanco- more valuable than many think.
5th OFer- I have to think it will be Perez
MadBum- ready to make his CY run
Cain- need the second half guy
Timmy- sets out on a 2 year trek for the pot of gold
Hudson- teach your children well- and give us 12-14 wins while you’re at it
Vogie- well, how many lives does he have left? One will do.
Petit- should have the long relief job and ready if needed in the rotation
Kontos and Machi fight for one spot
Affeldt- swing man can pitch anywhere
Lopez- just the best loogie going
Casilla- looked to have his velocity back when he got off the DL
Hembree- needs a big spring or having options may bite him
Romo- I’m done doubting his stamina- good closer.

Notes :
I only see one spot in doubt- one relief spot. Unless Sabes pulls a surprise, he’s already dealt the hand they’ll go with. Everybody is key- but I see Posey, Panda, and Morse as the guys who can make us sink or swim on offense, Timmy and Huddy on the pitching staff. This is a very “iffy” team- need a lot of the “ifs” to go our way.

Will “The Beast” be “The Man”?