ANNOUNCING: Bolick’s Guide to Fantasy Football Prospects 2014

Bolicks Football 2014 v3 cover 400wideThe iBook version of Bolick’s Guide to Fantasy Football Prospects 2014 is available now. Click here to buy for $1.49.

The Kindle version is out now! You can buy it here for $1.49.

The pdf version is now live. Also $1.49.

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(If you own the Fantasy Football Guide 2014, see below for how you can obtain a free version of Bolick’s Guide. It contains scores of profiles of

  • Quarterbacks
  • Running Backs
  • Wide Receivers
  • Tight Ends.

Read more

Doings Over at Tout Wars

If you missed them, Doubt Wars final standings are posted over at

Perhaps more importantly, the Leaderboards have been been updated to include the 2013 results. Larry Schechter has increased his wide lead in lifetime earnings. I decided to make the default sort the career earnings, since that is the goal all of us aspire to.

Jeff Erickson says the Leaderboard page is the best argument for reading Schechter’s book. I agree, but can also say while in the midst of reading the book that the book recommends itself. He’s done a really great job of being informative, straightforward, sophisticated and clear. You can order it here:

Wise Guy Baseball is Here!

Gene McCaffrey is a fine baseball and fantasy baseball mind, as well as a deft turner of phrases, and a killer rock’n’roll guitarist/songwriter. Plus he’s funny.

He writes about the fantasy game (or rather, games, including salary cap and NFBC format games for big money) in Wise Guy Baseball, his book. He also contributes to the Fantasy Baseball Guide via his Picks and Pans.

WGB is a book of many pleasures involving sabermetrics and good advice. I like to wade in, pick up fact-based bits about players’ skills and tendencies, and learn something. But what puts the fat on the fire is the sly humor: Of Nyjer Morgan (obviously before he left for Japan): The emergence of Carlos Gomez means less playing time. Gone are the days when we could bank on Nyjer leading the NL in caught stealings.”

Ordering info at Go now!

How To Make A Million Dollars An Hour

Rotisserie analyst and pricing pioneer Les Leopold’s last book was about how the derivatives market was like fantasy sports, and how that contributed to the Great Recession. His new book takes a look at hedge funds and how they work. From the publisher:

Top hedge fund managers make more than Oprah, Rupert Murdoch, and A-Rod combined——but they aren’t running news and entertainment empires or playing baseball for the New York Yankees. Aren’t you curious about how these hedge fund dudes make so much doing who knows what? You may even wonder if you can get there, too. After all, this is America!

This book gives you the answers in a twelve-step guide to accumulating vast riches the way hedge fund managers do—by playing trillion-dollar poker with a marked deck.

Les is a clear and entertaining writer who targets the popular audience. I’ll post a review here after I read it.

Brawny: Wise Guy Baseball

Gene McCaffrey is one of the sharpest fantasy guys around, because he’s smart and inquisitive and makes use of the latest data while watching the game closely. That’s the secret, of course, numbers and scouting combined.

Gene is a wizard of the Diamond Challenge, a game I’ve never played, though many say it is the best of the fantasy games. But he is also a roto guy, a former Tout Wars champion and a member of the world’s most original experts league, the XFL.

I’m writing this not to polish Gene’s knob, but because I was reading his annual book, Wise Guy Baseball 2011, and came across this nugget:
Ryan Braun comment from Wise Guy Baseball 2011

I don’t recall ever seeing fantasy players ranked as if they were fantasy teams before, and there’s something cool about it. The game is all about making better choices than the next guy, and doesn’t this show that clearly? The 2010 Mock Draft in the Guide went: Pujols, H Ramirez, A Rodriguez, Crawford, Utley, Braun, Kemp, Mauer, Mig Cabrera, Teixeira, Ellsbury, Fielder, D Wright, Upton, Howard. The top 15 in the chart are close enough to show who did best, but I’m thinking there is more when can learn from this simple technique.

You can order Wise Guy Baseball at or shoot Gene an email at

Fantasyland, the Documentary: a short review

The movie of Fantasyland, Sam Walker’s book about his season as a fantasy rookie taking on the Tout Wars experts league, is coming out on Friday at I got an early chance to see it and here are some thoughts.

I wasn’t a part of the Tout LLC when the movie was made, so I don’t have any behind the scenes info. Jed Latkin, a trader in New York, was chosen as the regular guy to join Tout AL (which included Sam Walker) for the 2008 season. The movie takes a general approach to setting up the fantasy game, including graphics with statistics indicating the bigness of the fantasy sports world, and interviews with Jed and others who applied for the regular guy role, in which they brag about their charmless obsessiveness. Some of this can be ascribed to their competing for the job, but it isn’t pretty.

Jed, somehow, is the most charmless of all (he has a line where he says, with his child scheduled to be born on draft day, that being an involved parent doesn’t necessarily mean being there for the birth), but his alpha trading personna is actually winning as a character. Perhaps that’s why the filmmakers focus almost exclusively on his exploits, and ignore most of the expert players in the league. Jed also has the perfect sidekick, his patient and generous wife, who softens his rough edges. If she can put up with him, well, maybe we can, too.

Of the other 11 members of Tout AL, the film makes Ron Shandler the big dog, the guy Jed wants to beat. Ron plays the part to perfection, adopting a “what’s that, a fly?” attitude toward Jed, disdainfully criticizing him for trying to make a trade in April, and for driving down to Roanoke. Virginia, to Ron’s house, without calling, to try to seal a deal. These scenes are funny, and made me wish there was more interaction between Jed and the other combatants. The film feels, in terms of storytelling, a little thin, but the set pieces (Jed goes to Spring Training to introduce himself to his guys: “Hey, Justin Verlander, welcome to the Jedi Knights”) are funny, and as we go along the movie’s focus on Jed’s voice pays off.

It turns out that this is a story of one man’s attempt to live his dream, and really all we need to see of it is his point of view. His reactions and attitude are strong enough to open the window into all fantasy players’ psyches, at least partway. Fantasyland, the Documentary, is competently made with unflagging energy and should be of interest to everyone who has played this game that obsesses me. That it is a bit of pathology as well as entertainment might be uncomfortable, but it isn’t a bad thing.

There are many clips and outtakes at YouTube, which will give you an idea of the film’s flavor.

John Burnson’s The Graphical Player

I am a big fan of John Burnson’s Heater Magazine, a weekly pdf of baseball stats and analysis that makes the Sports Weakly baseball stats pages look like the Weekly Reader.

John sent me a copy of his annual book, The Graphical Player, in January, when it came out. I glanced at it then, but I was busy and it ended up on a shelf and I didn’t write about it then, which is too bad. Like Heater Magazine, the Graphical Player is crammed full of information. John is evolving a set of graphical rules for presenting data that makes it increasingly useful and understandable, and helps put a player’s skills in the context of his team and of the game as a whole.

This is not a book to use to look up a fact, though there are plenty of those in here. This is a book to browse through, to hunt for patterns in, to savor as a baseball fan the way a gourmand might taste a sauce. The good news, even at this somewhat frantic moment, is that much of the information in the Graphical Player will still pertain after the season starts. If you want to see if a player has historically been a slow starter, this book has graphs that show that he has been or hasn’t. Once you get used to the way the information is presented, this sort of research is a pleasure. The data and its context are presented as a picture.

Other features of note: John asked three writers who follow prospects to name their 60 top rookies for this year. He has compiled their rankings and notes for these 111 ROY-eligible players, with their stats (presented in a very useful format) for the last three years. This is a very helpful survey of this year’s top prospects, though it does omit my decidedly dark horse candidate Thomas Neale (who didn’t make The Guide, which shows just how dark a horse Neale is).

I also think, as documentary, that the team profile pages in the back of the book are full of useful information. They won’t surprise readers of Heater, but as with much of the book, once you get past the sheer data density you’ll be surprised how satisfying it is to see a chart of who played what position the most each month for each team. And the charts that compare each team’s production in different categories to the league average spark only ideas thus far, but clearly they help us understand what was going on. This is a new way to experience this data, and an invigorating one.

I’ve only scratched the surface of the types of information included in the Graphical Player. Some is of help analyzing baseball, while other stuff is geared totally to fantasy players. I don’t want to be grandiose, but it is an amazing accomplishment.

UPDATE: So I posted the above glowing review only to find out that the only copy of the book you can buy at Amazon currently costs $91. It’s worth every penny, of course, but that’s a little steep. It seems the Graphical Player is also sold out at Acta Publishing, the company that published it. Barnes and Noble doesn’t have it. I’ll tell you what, I’ll sell my copy to the first bidder for $75. And in the meantime, I hope this means that John Burnson sold out his print run and made a small fortune.

Forecaster and Handbook are out!

I got my copy of the Baseball Forecaster about 10 days ago, but closing the magazine meant not cracking it, even though I’ve got a short bit in it (which happened to run here first, about WHIP v. WH/9), until now.

Ron’s lead essay is very smart. It’s about how wrong we are about players, year after year, and he wonders why we pursue exacting but nearly always wrong projections. Then he comes up with something new, called the Mayberry Method.

There’s a lot to like about the way the MM summarizes a player’s skills in a descriptive way. Yet despite it’s simplicity, I’m not convinced it is going to catch on. New stuff often doesn’t, even when it has real merit. On the other hand, the benchmarks MM describes so succinctly are becoming increasingly entrenched as leading indicators, making me wonder why–if we’re getting better at defining leading indicators–we’re not getting better predicting breakouts.

As Ron says in the piece, we may be smarter now than we were 20 years ago, but that may not be such a good thing.

Steve Moyer always gives us so-called experts a copy of the hot-off-the-press Bill James Handbook at First Pitch Arizona, for which I am very grateful. Not that I wouldn’t buy it, I have many times, but this way it ends up in my hands even sooner.

The book continues to grow, with increased focus on the defense awards and rankings, focus on baserunning skills, and the ever useful park factors. I’m a great fan of and, both of which I use all day long, but I sit and read the Bill James Handbook, poring over its pages as if it were a ripping good yarn, which in many ways it is.

I’m glad for both these books and recommend them highly.