American Dream League Update (I’m in first).

About 80 percent of all players have played tonight. The Angels and Mariners just got started, the As and Royals have a few more innings. And I’m in first place in a league that I’ve written about a lot, but have never won. This isn’t the place to examine that, but I did want to look at the miracle of what has happened in the home stretch.

On August 27, my birthday, my team was languishing. I’m the Bad Kreuznachs.

Screenshot 2017-09-29 22.22.39This wasn’t quite the low point in the season, but it was the start of feeling that there was not enough time for things to get better.

I started thinking about at least making it into the money, fourth place, and it was clear that that was a stretch.

This was a team with a pretty good freeze list, a team that was in first place until the end of May, a team that didn’t have huge injuries. (Well, Dallas Keuchel missed too much time, and Zach Britton’s injury killed my saves strategy, but my pitching was surprisingly good, thanks to Brad Peacock and a bunch of middle relievers. When James Paxton got hurt, it didn’t even hurt, was how good my staff was.) It was a team for which I had high hopes, and desultory play across the board crushed them. Or at least so it seemed on August 27th.

Today, there are only a few games going on, so we’re down to just two days left in the season, and I am in a much different place.

Screenshot 2017-09-29 22.23.03

The first week of September I had a monster week, with 27 homers and 58 RBI, and in each week since I’ve had the best offense in the league. This was the eventual payoff for adding Lucas Duda (FAAB) and Aaron Judge (trade Dallas Keuchel for him), and also the waiver pickup of Teoscar Hernandez after Ben Revere lost his job (if that hadn’t been clear I wouldn’t have been in on Hernandez and it would have cost me a few points), and the draft buy of the injured Wilson Ramos, who was weak upon his return from injury in July, but has been fantastic in September.

I built up such a lead in wins in late August, thanks mostly to middle relievers, that I was able to cut any starter who faltered down the stretch, and while some of the middle relievers that replaced them haven’t been very good, they haven’t pitched many innings and haven’t hurt my qualitatives.

And Trevor Bauer, who I had as a keep, and Brad Peacock, who I FAABed early on, have been lights out since the All Star break.

And even, after a year of Saves misery, Mike Minor earned a few saves in the last few weeks and earned me a point.

The end result is that what looked like a historically tight race a week or two ago, is now dependent on my team catastrophically failing in the last two days to be a race at all. I’m not discounting that possibility. I’m the new fresh face, the recent riser, and all season long those fresh faces rose and then fell in succession. The good thing for me is that time is running out.

So I’m not counting on anything, but I am amazed to be in this fortunate position, in a league I’ve long struggled to be the bridesmaid, from time to time, and never the bride, to be running my fingers through the wedding cake. Tonight, my aim feels true. A little more than two days will tell the tale. Even if I end up falling behind the Tooners or Kids in the last days I’ll feel fantastically lucky. On my birthday I would have been happy with fifth, and first reserve round pick in March.

Tonight I don’t have to discuss what I’ll settle for.



ADL: What Happened?

Screenshot 2015-10-06 14.50.03I bought the team you see on the left on April 5, 2015, to play in the American Dream League.

It is a keeper league, and I kept Kyle Seager, Kole Calhoun, Luke Gregerson and Kyle Gibson. I also kept Josmil Pinto as my first reserve pick, but he got hurt early in the season in the minors and was never called up.

Still, the other four did pretty well. Well enough to be, arguably, the best kept group in the league. That wasn’t clearly the case on auction day.

Alas, I made three costly errors in hitting on auction day: Victor Martinez (old and hurt and paid like he might repeat his extraordinary 2014 season), Adam LaRoche (got off to a hot start, but also old, and looked it as the season dragged on), and Danny Santana (young and spry but with massive holes in his swing and glove, thus spent most of the year in the minors).

These were all foreseeable outcomes, though none of the prices were crazy considering the players’ 2015 earnings. In any case, I preach it always but in this case I didn’t follow my own advice: Old guys, guys with notable flaws in their games, guys with potential health issues, have to be discounted. Otherwise, you don’t want them.

If you read my comments about Tout Wars, all I have to say here about pitching is, Ugh. I did it again. Kind of. The ADL is a 4×4 keeper league and it is known going in that the top pitchers will be kept or bid up. I priced the top guys aggressively, I thought, but they all went for premium prices. Shut out, unwilling to escalate too much, I got clever and decided to put my money on Alex Cobb, a top starter who was supposed to be back in six weeks. He didn’t come back, and was expensive bust No. 4.

Even so, in mid May I was in second place overall, and my staff was second in ERA and second in WHIP. My hitting was in terrible shape, because of slow starts by everyone. I tried to fix things on the waiver wire, but on April 20, our first week, I didn’t bid on Marco Estrada (who went for $4) and Shawn Tolleson (who went for $0). In the following weeks there wasn’t much pitching available, until Lance McCullers was called up.

I bid, but three teams bid more than $15 out of our $50 budgets. The winning team paid $19. I thought it was too expensive, until I saw McCullers pitch.

As, one by one, my high flying starters combusted, my team sank in the standings. Still, the team that finished last in the draft day standings was in fifth place as late as the penultimate week of the season.

Part of it was the ascension of Eddie Rosario and the resurrection of Shin-Shoo Choo (an old suspect guy who actually went at a discount). Some of it was adding Ben Revere at the trade deadline. I also had Kris Medlen come back in the second half, and picked up Josh Tomlin on waivers. They helped.

Another part was managing to top the league in Wins despite finishing next to last in ERA and fourth from last in WHIP. I had 26 wins from pitchers who had an ERA of more than 5.00 while they labored for my Bad K.

There are two lessons learned here.

1) Take flawed old players at a big discount or not at all. They may not fail, but the cost when they do should be less.

2) If going cheap in pitching, you have to have an ace. If you don’t have an ace you need a broader range of pitching support, which is going to cost more.

Looking at 2016, I have seven keepers max. How about?

Shin-Soo Choo 17
Chris Davis 23
Eddie Rosario 10
Jason Kipnis 20

Danny Salazar 10
Kelvin Herrera 2
Kris Medlen 3

On the Bubble

Salvador Perez 19
Caleb Joseph 1

Last but not least, Walter Shapiro’s Nattering Nabobs kicked ass all season long. They moved into first place the third week of the season, and were never bested after, winning with a 35-year league record 87 points. Here’s the finals (yes, the Palukas passed me on the next to last day, dropping me into the second division):

Screenshot 2015-10-06 23.19.01



Rotisserie Culture 101

Bruce Buschel usually precedes each American Dream League auction with a benediction, but this year, in honor of our Easter Sunday kickoff, he and Larry Fine sang lyrics they wrote to the melody (sort of) of Irving Berlin’s Easter Parade. I missed the very beginning, alas, but you’ll get the idea.

The Final ADLed Taxi

The Burn Bags won the American Dream League today, by one-half a point.

The short story is that the Bags and Bad K went into the last day tied, with many ways each of us could win. Bags had more ways, but the conclusion was not foregone.

What happened, when all was said and done, was that he caught the Palukas in runs batted in, and gained half a point.

And I was not able to win a game or save one, so I did not improve, and so I fell half a point short.

The longer story is that the Bags held onto their FAAB money at the trading deadline and numerous times afterwards, waiting for their guy. Sometime in August it became clear that their guy was Rusney Castillo. But Castillo didn’t actually become eligible for the ADL until September 22nd, and not even Babe Ruth could be expected to get off to a decisive start. But Castillo did.

At first it was his three steals that seemed decisive, and then his two homers on the week, but when the final numbers were tallied those bad boys were window dressing. It turns out that it was Castillo’s six RBI that earned the Bags a point, and moved him from one-half point down to one-half point up.

I’m boycotting Cuba.

The Final Four… ADLed Innings

I spent the afternoon driving home from Vermont. At various times along the drive the Bad K and the Burn Bags were tied. At others, the Bags were ahead by half a point.

When I got home and parked the car, I checked and discovered I’d lost an ERA point to the Jerry’s, putting me down one and a half points. Oh no! But by the time I got back to the house, I had the point back. I hope I keep it, because if I don’t it will be because I activated the Astros’ Mike Foltynewicz today. He didn’t have a good day.

So, with four innings left to go in the meaningless Angels-Mariners game (the A’s just won in Texas), we have the following:

Bags and Palukas are tied in RBI. So this is a race: Pujols and Cron versus Mike Trout and Brad Miller. Miller isn’t in the game right now. If Trout and Miller out RBI Pujols and Cron, the Bags and Bad K tie.

Unless Danny Farquhar either wins (unlikely) or saves (unlikely) today’s game. Either decision for Farquhar would give the Bad K a half point.

We can all doom the math. I mean do.

ADLed: One Is the Loneliest Number

After 161 games we’re tied, thanks to Kevin Lobstein’s fifth inning meltdown and homers from the Moose, breaking the tie with the Bags.

There are so many ways this thing could turn it isn’t worth thinking about. I replaced two done starters with two relievers (Linstrom and Foltynewicz). Who knows.

No tiebreakers in the ADL, so unless the Mariners win (against the Jerry’s Cory Rasmus, please) and Oakland loses, forcing a playoff game, this is it.

Down to Two: Furtherly ADLed.

We camped outside last night, up on the hill behind our friends’s house in Vermont, with a spectacularly clear dark sky (just a sliver of waxing moon) that set us smack dab inside the Milky Way. The fire roared, a guitar hammered, voices rose in praise of, mainly, the Rolling Stones and Tom Petty. The kids made s’mores and the dogs howled when coyotes got too near.

Around us radio waves certainly flew, filling the air, but none of our devices could receive them. After dark, when the singing was replaced by crickets and the dogs curled up close in front of our tents, when the dreams came, I did have a vision that Hector Noesi was pounded by the Royals, but I couldn’t tell from the fuzzy box score whether Eric Hosmer, I hoped, did the damage.

So, this morning was different than all the other mornings this week. On those other days I knew the results when I woke up, apart from maybe one late game, but today I knew nothing.

I thought, as I walked down the big hill, smelling of fire and smoke, that I should wade into last night’s results. Page through the box scores, try to recreate the events game by game, but when I sat down at the machine I clicked Last Night’s Boxs. I couldn’t wait, and there was good news.

Homers from Reddick, Calhoun and Ackley certainly helped separate me from Jerry’s Kids, and gained me half a point.

My gamble on Noesi resulted in a decent game for him, but no win, while my other starter, Rick Porcello, was pounded by the Twins. So, no big W in the Wins column. That was the bad news.

If I had clicked on the Burn Bags’ box score, I would have learned that he got Wins from both his starters (Iwakuma and Kluber), that Rusney Castillo hit a homer (so did Brian Dozier) and stole a base, that Marcus Strohman earned a save (!) and that the Bags hit .362.

But I didn’t click on the Bags’ box score, but rather checked the standings, where I was immediately reassured that I was still in first place, and then dismayed to see that my lead had shrunk to .5 points. It was then I looked at the Bags big day.

The villain here, as far as I’m concerned, is Rusney Castillo. Without his two homers the Bags would have one fewer point. That would be much better for me. He’d be farther from a steals point, and less likely to gain in RBI and more likely to lose. Rusney Castillo is wrecking my week.

Here’s the rundown of the cats. I’m far from dead, but things are darker today than they were yesterday:

HOMERS: Bad K are three ahead of the Jerry’s. Bags are tied with the Moose, two ahead of the Tooners.

RBI: Bad K are locked. Bags are four behind Palukas, two ahead of Nova.

STEALS: Bad K are one steal ahead of the Tooners. Bags are two behind the Guns.

BA: Bad K are locked. Bags are .0005 behind Nova.

WINS: Bad K are tied with Jerry’s, with Lobstein and Kyle Gibson starting. Jerry’s have Cory Rasmus. Bags are locked.

SAVES: Bad K are tied with the BB’s, who have gotten three saves from Aaron Sanchez this month. Hopefully no more. With the Marcus Stroman save yesterday, the Bags are one save behind the Peppers, two ahead of the Hackers and Tooners.

ERA: Bad K are .01 ahead of the BBs. Bags are locked.

WHIP: Bad K are .016 behind the Nova. Bags are locked.

I don’t think I’ll sleep out tonight.

Three and out. Totally ADLed.

Yesterday the lead was three points, with four days to go.

Today, Friday, there are three days to go, and yesterday the Burn Bags got the explosive game from Rusney Castillo they’d been waiting for since the middle of August. That explosion included Castillo’s first ML homer, plus three ribbies.

On Thursday the Jerry’s Kids’ Max Scherzer won his start, and the Jerry’s Mike Zunino hit a homer. I was tied with the Jerry’s in wins and one ahead in homers. Ugh!

And Kevin Gausman, my sole starter on the day, pitched a fine five innings, but was matched by Hiroki Kuroda, another one of Jerry’s arms, who was then staked to a nice lead by the Orioles’ defense’s mistakes. Uh-oh, but then the usually reliable David Robertson, a closer I would love to have get a save to help the Tooners catch the Bags in saves, blew Kuroda’s three run lead. Robertson did end up with a win, which was better than Kuroda getting it.

The good news, was that my reliever, Kelvin Herrera, won the Royals’ game against Jose Quintana, one of the Bags’ starters, and stole it from James Shields, of the third-place Palukas, for whom a win would have pulled him into a tie with the Bags, knocking my more potent nemesis down a half point.

Is the question whether it is better to gain half a point or have your challenger lose half a point academic? My immediate reaction is to prefer my opponent to lose, because I figure my guys will come through later, but I don’t see any real logic in that besides the power of rooting for my guys. Which is real.

Eric Hosmer, my totally disappointing first baseman (and proof rooting doesn’t work), homered in that game, to tie it at 3-3, so I kept pace with the Jerry’s in homers.

Shields only pitched six, presumably to help him save something for the Play In game next week. The Royals’ magic number for the wild card is one. The Royals bullpen has been great and they made use of it yesterday.

Oh, so you’re wondering what the score is with three days to play?

Bad K 71
Burn Bags 68.5
Palukas 67.5

There are points in play for the Top 3 in every category. This isn’t going to be decided until the Sunday games are over.

Four More Days! Feelings of CREEP.

The day started out badly. Chase Headley hit a home run, which brought the Bags into a tie to start the day. A tie at 72 points, which is close to my peak, and only a sliver of the Bag’s potential.

There were many subsequent stories on the day. Notably:

Bud Norris won for the Orioles, despite Headley’s homer, which moved the Jerry’s back out in front of me.

Chris Sale pitched the way Chris Sale does, despite a fixation on Victor Martinez and center field. Win goes to Justin Verlander, whose nudies with Ms. Upton led to this bit of superhero art (click to enlarge).

upton-verlander-superheroesPhil Hughes won in Minnesota, in an interleague matchup, which had no direct bearing on our standings, but meant he won 16 games while walking only 16 guys. This is a crazy rare feat in 20th and 21st century game. He also set a record for best K/BB ratio in history. Hats off to Mr. Hughes.

The Angels/Athletic tilt was a bore, fantasywise, until my safe-as-milk reliever, Mike Morin, melted down and allowed four runs in a third of an inning. This cost me a point in ERA. It also opened a save opp for Huston Stret, whose eventual save moved the Peppers ahead of the Bags in Saves by one. Down one half for the game, however, if we’re talking about me.

The Royals’ loss to the Indians keeps the door open a crack for the Cleveland team, but was meaningless fantasywise unless Yan Gomes’ three-run shot made a difference to your team.

Which brings us to Seattle and Toronto. Taijuan Walker was starting for the Bags. Um, I mean Seattle. A win for Walker would be very bad for my chances, and mean nothing to Toronto. Fortunately, the game meant something to Mark Buehrle, and he matched the brilliant Walker frame for frame until the eighth, when Munenori Kawasaki and Ryan Goins got something together. Big relief for the Bad K. Uh oh!. Aaron Sanchez came into save the game, giving him three improbable saves for the BBs and tying them for next to last with, watch out, ME! That’s a half point I’m not getting back unless Luke Gregerson does something mystical. Very painful.

In Boston, I was worried that Rusney Castillo, the newest Burn Bag, might produce. He didn’t. I also had to worry about Jake Odorizzi, who was pitching for the Jerry’s, who I was one behind in wins. Fortunately, Odorizzi bombed, and Castillo didn’t homer or steal. Unfortunately, neither did my guy, Mookie Betts. But I’ll take it.

At this point there was one more game. Lisalverto Bonilla and his Texas Rangers against Scott Feldman and his Houston Astros. I’d picked up Bonilla on Monday because Houston has been soft offensively the last couple of months, and because I needed wins. His two previous starts were, um, fine, and I wouldn’t trust him against a team of good hitters, but Houston has power but is manageable because they don’t make a lot of contact.

And Bonilla managed, going six innings with two walks and four hits and no runs at all. Worryingly, Feldman only allowed one run, a situation that led to angst when Robbie Ross relieved in the seventh and put the first guy on by walk in a 1-0 game. But Ross got out of it, Roughned Odor and Ryan Rua homered and gave the Rangers a 5-0 lead, which they kept, and Bonilla advanced to 3-0 on the season.

Not all is a bed of roses however. Baserunners went wild in this game. Jose Altuve stole a couple, which went to the Random Hackers, who muscled past the Bags, costing him a point. And Odor stole one, which didn’t cost me a point, but moved the Moose three steals ahead. It’s hard to see that point in play anymore.

Which brings us to the current situation.

The Bad K lost a half point in steals and a half point in saves. Down to 71, and both are probably irretrievable.

The Bags, despite the early and heady fireworks, lost a half point in homers, a full point in steals (and he’s now two behind), and a half point in saves. He ends up with 68.

I think that’s my biggest lead ever, and knowing that twice in the last 12 hours we were tied, I don’t feel good about it at all.

Despite that, I’m heading out tomorrow to go camping in Vermont, which may get in the way of posting updates. I will be following as best I can, and will post updated scores from my phone, if I can. Not that anyone cares about this other than me and the Bags, and maybe the Palukas, but I think there is a value to the close observation no matter what happens.

I’ll be watching.