The New Hotness (Part 1)

It is a sad time in the sports world with the impending NFL and NBA lockouts.  Sports fans need to satisfy their need for competition, and I’m afraid to say that hockey just won’t do the trick for everyone.  Luckily, there’s a new game on the scene that is ready to fill the void.

Sake Jason.

Nobody really knows where or how it started, but that’s irrelevant.  It began somewhere in America, and has already spread to all seven continents.  People just can’t get enough.  They demanded a sporting revolution, and they got what they wanted.

1. Fill a handle of Banker’s with Sake.

2. Pass it around in a circle.

Next time you’re at a party, business meeting, class, or just chilling with a group of friends, and somebody asks, “Anybody wanna play some Sake Jason?” you’ll be ready.  And you’ll say yes.

So if we lose the NFL and NBA, the big four will have to be MLB, NHL, Sake Jason and….. the new hotness (part 2), which will be available soon.

Top Ten MLB Players Whose Fantasy Value Exceeds Real Value

Fantasy baseball is great for a number of reasons.  It gives you an easy reason to talk smack to your friends.  It gives you something to look forward to every morning while you’re checking your e-mail and facebook.  A 10-0 fantasy victory can be the difference between a good week and a great one, while a bad week has been known to force many to drink bank until their sorrows are sufficiently drowned.

Players on our teams can endear themselves to us forever by putting up numbers when we really need them.  Fransisco Liriano is a perfect example for me.  He helped me win my fantasy league way back in 2006 by putting up a 12-3 record with a 2.12 ERA with 144K’s in just 120 innings (Wow! He used to be good?).  Tommy John surgery in the offseason took away his entire 2007 season and he emerged a completely different player in 2008.  Decreased velocity and movement on his fastball caused his ERA to swell to a sub-par 4.50 and his K’s to drop significantly.  He has provided very little fantasy value since his awesome 2006 season (besides throwing what was arguably the worst no-hitter in MLB history), yet I keep drafting him out of loyalty and the hope that he can regain his form.

Yet I digress.  This blog ranks the top ten players who simply do more for the fantasy stat sheet than they do for their team.  Quick note: a typical fantasy league keeps track of 5 hitting categories (runs, HR, RBIs, steals, and average), as well as 5 pitching categories (wins, saves, k’s ERA, WHIP).  Without further ado, I present you the list!

10. Jose Bautista:  This guy has put up some ungodly numbers during the past two fantasy seasons.  In 2010 he hit 54 home runs and had 124 RBI’s (while hitting a modest .260).  Whoever owned this guy last year must have felt like they hit the lottery.  It came out of nowhere.  His previous career high in home runs was 16, and it happened in 2006!  In fact, more than a third of all of his hits were home runs.  How could this happen?  I have two theories. Theory 1: Roids.  Theory 2:  He just said fuck it, this team isn’t going anywhere playing in the same division as the Sox Yanks and Rays, I’m just going to swing for the fences every at bat and see what I can do for my fantasy owners.  Personally I think it’s a combination of both.  Regardless, the Jays finished fourth in the AL, and Bautista’s fantastic season is remembered only by fantasy owners and Sporcle fantatics.

9. Jonathan Papelbon:  As a Red Sox fan this one pains me to admit, but it’s very true nonetheless.  Once upon a time he saved 37 of 40 possible games, threw down a 1.85 ERA, and earned the Sox closer spot for the forseeable future.  Since then his ERA has risen significantly and every save seems to turn into a nail-biter for Sox fans.  He still has the fantasy worth because of his numbers in the elusive save category, which is why he made the list.  However, no Sox fan who watches the games feels secure with a one run lead in the ninth and Pap in the game.  For the love of God make Bard the closer.

8. Juan Pierre:  All this guy does is attempt steals.  I say attempt because his actual SB percentage is a lot lower than most of us would like to think (just 74% for his career).  His average is decent but his pathetic slugging percentage (.363 for his career) suggests that all he does is hit singles.  And then try to steal second.  And then third.  And he gets out a quarter of the time he attempts this.  Luckily for fantasy owners, none of this matters.  Pierre looks like he will continue to put up 60 SB’s for the rest of his career because that’s just what he does.  So draft him if you need steals and nothing else.

7. Mark Reynolds:  Reynolds put up a whopping 44 HR’s in 2009.  Not bad right?  Now for a stat not typically included in a fantasy matchup: 223 strikeouts.  Are you kidding me?  I could play a full season in the MLB and strike out less than this guy.  I’m almost positive that when he goes up to bat he just closes his eyes and swings as hard as he can three times in a row.  If he makes good contact, home run!  If not, fuck it, same approach next time.  It if gets you 44 home runs then good for you.  Fantasy owners will certainly take it.  Teammates and coaches might have a different reaction, but hey he’s in Baltimore now.

6. Daric Barton:  Now before you go looking up his stats and saying “who the f is this scrub? He has absolutely no game.  Nobody in their right mind would ever draft him in a fantasy league,” understand that I picked this guy for one reason only.  Errors.  This man has committed 8 errors in just 62 games. 8! In 62 games!  That’s two more than anyone else in the league.  You would at least think this guy would be moderately good at defense given that he provides literally nothing on the offensive end (.212 average, 0 home runs), and he STARTS.  Upon consulting further stats I realized he plays for the A’s, and this makes slightly more sense.  But come on man.  I maintain that his fantasy value exceeds his real value because he actually loses games for his team.  Seriously, with his numbers I would say that his abysmal defense creates more runs for the other team than his shitty average and (lack of) power on offense.  This guy is a scrub, and is singlehandedly putting the A’s in the basement of the AL West. (I exaggerate).

5. Adam Dunn:  See Mark Reynolds, but with more consistent power numbers and fewer strikeouts.  Fantasy owners love this guy because you can always count on 40 home runs.  True, he strikes out about 200 times a year, but once again, fantasy owners could care less.  Draft him if you’re ready to sacrifice average for home runs and RBIs.

4.  Alex Rodriguez:  A consistent fantasy stud, A-Rod hasn’t put up fewer than 30 home runs since his breakthrough season in 1996.  The knock on his real value here: except for a few streaks he has never been a clutch player.  True, people’s expectations are through the roof from him.  He’s looking like a serious competitor for the all time home run record.  But if you watch the games you’ll notice that a lot of his stats come in garbage time in games that have already been won or lost.  Let’s put it this way: I would be much more worried about A-Rod going deep in a game where the Yanks are losing 7-0 to the Red Sox with the bases empty (in fact this happened just the other night), than A-Rod driving home the runner on third in a 1 run game in the 9th.  His stats are incredible, but they easily overstate his actual value to the teams he plays for.  That’s why he’s on this list.

3. Carlos Zambrano:  This guy is a character.  I absolutely love watching him flip out on sportscenter during every game he pitches.  He has been the ace of the Cubs staff for a few years now, putting up as many as 18 wins in a season.  But it’s the intangible and character issues that knock his real value.  My favorite recent Zambrano story:  He leaves the game after pitching 7 innings of one run ball and a 2-1 lead.  Closer Carlos Marmol proceeds to blow the lead and the Cubs lose 3-2.  Now, any MLB pitcher would be frustrated, especially with the way the Cubs season is going.  But Zambrano went off!  Unfortunately footage is not available, but if you saw the sportscenter or know what he’s like in general, you can imagine.  He called his team a “triple-A team” and “embarrassing”, and even went as far at to critique Marmol’s pitch selection.  But at least he cares about his stats.  He wanted that win!  What kind of fantasy owner wouldn’t love a guy like that?  So what if he antagonizes his teammates.  Luckily, most fantasy baseball leagues don’t use an ejections stat.  Quick footnote: I did play in a fantasy basketball league that kept ejections as a stat. Why? We may never know.

2. J.D. Drew:  Sorry J.D.  You are useless.  Anybody that has been watching the Sox for the past five years knows what I’m talking about.  Think A-Rod minus the consistent regular season numbers.  J.D. Drew can’t hit a game winner to save his life.  Maybe it’s because his emotionless face would break if he ever got excited about anything.  He manages to hit 20 home runs and post a .280 average pretty consistently, so he’s not a completely useless fantasy asset (exculding his horrendous 2011 season thus far, on a record setting Sox offense mind you).  But he’ll put up these numbers in the least useful time, leading management to think at the end of the year, Hey, JD put up another solid season, let’s continue to give him $14 million a year.

and number one is….

 

 

1. Troy Tulowitzki:  I didn’t give Tulo the number one ranking in an effort to minimize his value to the Rockies.  He is the best player on the Rockies, a team that always seems to string together a bunch of wins at the end of the year to make the playoffs or at least come close.  And Tulo is usually the reason for the late push put on by this team.  He steps up his game to another level when it counts most. But that’s why he’s on the list.  Anybody who played in a fantasy league last year knows exactly what I’m saying.  If you had Tulo on your team at the end of the year and you didn’t win, I don’t know what the hell you were doing.  He could literally be playing on a team of hood rats and singlehandedly win you the fantasy playoffs.  In september, the month of fantasy playoffs, Tulo hit .332 with 15 home runs, 31 runs scored, and 41 RBIs.  So as good as he is in real life, his fantasy value is god-like.  He wins leagues.  That is all.

NBA: Whites v Blacks

Here’s an interesting idea. What if the best black basketball players of all time played on one team against the best white players of all time?  Would it even be close? No.  It would be like watching the Latin American All-Stars of the MLB take on every other race.  Would it be entertaining? Yes.  Fun to imagine? Absolutely.  So let’s dive into this hypothetical matchup and see just how one-sided it is.

All NBA first team black squad

PG – Magic Johnson

SG – Michael Jordan

SF – Elgin Baylor

PF – Tim Duncan

C – Wilt Chamberlain

All NBA first team white squad

PG – John Stockton

SG – Jerry West

SF – Larry Bird

PF – Dirk Nowitzki

C – Bill Walton?

I’d give Bird the slight advantage over Baylor, and the Dirk/Duncan matchup would be close.  But the other three positions aren’t even close.  Blacks win by 20.

Don’t despair whites!  Our first team could certainly take the second team black team.  Right?  Well let’s take a look at the matchup.

Second team all blacks

PG – Isiah Thomas

SG – Kobe Bryant

SF – Julius Erving

PF – Kevin Garnett

C – Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Yikes.  This would certainly be a more closely contested game, but I gotta say blacks by at least 8.  The center comparison isn’t even close.  It’s just not a white position.  Seriously.  After Wilt and Kareem the blacks still have Bill Russell, Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaq, Moses Malone, David Robinson and many others.  The whites have…. George Mikan?  Seriously who the fuck is this dude?

Kobe v. West is a tough to picture just because they’re from completely different eras.  Stockton/Thomas and Dirk/KG would be intriguing matchups.  I’d still give Bird the advantage over Dr. J.  If the whites could somehow minimize the impact of the center matchup we might have a close game.

Anyways, I think first team whites could give second team blacks a run for their money.  Comment if you disagree with this or anybody on my lists.

Jordan vs LeBron

So by now we’ve all heard the infamous Scottie Pippen quote from Mike & Mike.  “Michael Jordan is probably the greatest scorer to ever play the game. I may go so far as saying LeBron James may be the greatest player to ever play the game.”  This has naturally stirred up endless discussion.  People have been comparing these two players ever since LeBron played his first NBA game (and maybe even before that).  But nobody would have thought in a million years that somebody that got to experience Jordan first-hand throughout his entire career and six NBA championships would even put these two guy on the same tier, given that King James is in just his eighth season.

So why would Scottie say this?  Well let’s just take a look completely objectively.

Here are LeBron’s stats through his first seven years.

Year Team PPG RPG APG SPG FG%
03-04 CLE 20.9 5.5 5.9 1.6 41.7
04-05 CLE 27.2 7.4 7.2 2.2 47.2
05-06 CLE 31.4 7.0 6.6 1.6 48.0
06-07 CLE 27.3 6.7 6.0 1.6 47.6
07-08 CLE 30.0 7.9 7.2 1.8 48.4
08-09 CLE 28.4 7.6 7.2 1.7 48.9
09-10 CLE 29.7 7.3 8.6 1.6 50.3
10-11 MIA 26.7 7.5 7.0 1.6 51.0
Career 27.7 7.1 7.0 1.7 47.9

And Jordan through his first eight years:

Year Team PPG RPG APG SPG FG%
84-85 CHI 28.2 6.5 5.9 2.4 51.5
85-86 CHI 22.7 3.6 2.9 2.1 45.7
86-87 CHI 37.1 5.2 4.6 2.9 48.2
87-88 CHI 35.0 5.5 5.9 3.2 53.5
88-90 CHI 32.5 8.0 8.0 2.9 52.6
89-90 CHI 33.6 6.9 6.9 2.8 53.9
90-91 CHI 31.5 6.0 6.0 2.7 51.9
91-92 CHI 30.1 6.4 6.4 2.3 49.5
Career 31.3 6.0 5.8 2.7 50.9

Good call Scottie.  Jordan both scored more points and shot at a higher percent than LeBron at this point in their respective careers.  Jordan had a good sized advantage in steals, while LeBron was more generous with the rock and grabbed more boards.  From a statistical standpoint I’d have to give the slight advantage to Jordan at this point.

As for championships, Jordan was in the middle of his first three-peat, having just won his second Finals MVP and his third regular season MVP.  LeBron is more than likely on the way his first ship.  The finals MVP is questionable though.  Here’s where I see a clear problem for LeBron’s legacy.  How could he possibly be compared with the best player of all time if he might not even be considered the best player on his team during the NBA finals?  Could you see Jordan deferring to Pippen in the finals even if he had a “hot hand”?  Bottom line, no.  Jordan stepped it up to a completely different level each of the six times he made it to the finals.  If you need a reminder check this out. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OLQl7UJOYUs . (Sorry haven’t figured out the links yet).  It’s the flu game from the 1997 NBA finals.  I don’t know but I just can’t see LeBron doing that at any point in his career.  He has certainly shown flashes of greatness, especially in these playoffs, but doesn’t have the ability to take over a game like we got used to seeing Jordan do.

Even if LeBron wins this year’s NBA finals and five more I just can’t see him being a better overall player than Jordan.  Bottom line people are rated on winning.  Therefore the best player of all time must be the best player at winning.  Look at old youtube videos of Jordan in the finals.  I’m not saying it will be impossible for LeBron to ever be there, but he has to make the leap now.  If he loses this series or Wade wins the MVP I think he’s officially out of the best player ever debate regardless of what he does for the rest of his career.

We won’t ever see another Jordan.  Frankly we don’t want to.  He defined the game of basketball.  He’s exactly how you would want to describe the best player ever.  That being said, let’s just enjoy watching a guy that should end up as one of the top five greatest players of all time.