Sunday, April 01, 2007

Rotisserie Baseball 2007 -- My first stab at a true Roto-ball league. I grew up in Scarsdale, N.Y., where the creators of the original Rotisserie baseball league called home. We Scarsdalians have given the world a number of things -- the roster of famous SHS alumni is long and venerable. The most lasting and notable creations coming out of Scarsdale, though, would have to be Rotisserie baseball (and all of the fantasy sports progeny that have swept the sports world -- after baseball, other Scarsdalians developed the G'National Football League, which carried the fantasy idea beyond baseball) and Platform Tennis (usually called Paddle Tennis in its birthplace).

I was an early participant in the fantasy football thing, with the DAPL (my apologies to my friend Doron, but the league was named in his honor: the Doron's A Pest League, because he really wanted to be in a league, but my other buds didn't want him in). It was more than a decade later that I finally jumped into a baseball league: the legendary Suburban Maryland Anthropomorphic Baseball League, which adapted the Earl Weaver computer baseball game to create the finest fantasy baseball league there ever was. Alas, our league went on a long hiatus about five years ago. I still hope to bring the league back, but it will require new software. Any computer programmers wish to help out -- maybe make lots of money? Please let me know.

It would be impossible to replace our old SMABL -- that league wasn't really a rotisserie league, though. Each day, your team went head-to-head against another team. We had four divisions -- with standings that were updated after each day's game. We even mimicked the major league schedule, by playing series after series, in the designated stadiums -- each team picked one of the existing major league parks as their home field. The computer worked with its algorithms and the most recent stats to create the most faithful projection possible of the fantasy game, based on those real-world stats.

Rotisserie is a different animal. You compete each day against all the other teams, for a league-wide ranking. In a lot of ways, it's more for math nuts than baseball nuts, but there it is.

Finally, I've hooked up with my first Roto-ball league. It's a National League-based rotisserie league. You're certainly welcome to follow along. The Banditos (whose logo and colors are "borrowed" from the Quad City River Bandits) are back, even if in a slightly different context. The draft was this morning. I was sure it was supposed to start at 9:30, but I logged on at 9:32, and found the first four rounds had already gone through.

The Yahoo autopick program did a decent job picking for me. The first pick, however, was a huge reach: Carlos Lee, of the Houston Astros -- but Lee should put up some good numbers there. The program did a much better with the next picks: Cy Young Award winner, Chris Carpenter; followed by a former Cy Young winner, John Smoltz. The program's best effort was selecting Ryan Zimmerman with my fourth pick. Z-man is probably my favorite baseball player. As a Nats' fan, I wanted him more than any other player. Though I might have waited another round to pick Zimmerman in the belief that he isn't generally that highly rated yet, I probably would not have gotten him.

As I was trying to catch up and figure out who was available, I soon discovered that Yahoo makes it pretty easy for you, with automated lists at each position. Of course, some players are listed in last year's position, which isn't always where they are going to play this year -- but it's a helluva lot easier than the handwritten lists I used to work off (I never had a laptop at the drafts -- the last of the low-tech guys).

There is one thing I miss, though. For our now long-gone fantasy league, we did a live draft, where everyone gathered together in one room. We made an event out of it, taking it on the road, To Cleveland, one year, where we saw a great game at Jacobs Field, and then to spring training, in Arizona, for several years. The final year, we met in St. Louis, and many of us took in a game at the beginning of the final season of the old Busch Stadium. The draft was always an exhausting marathon, lasting 10-12 hours, but it was the best part of the whole year. Literally. The day I looked forward to, above all others.

So, I clicked in, saw where my first 4 picks had been, and settled in to take over -- 2 minutes to pick, and my team had 2 picks in a row, each time -- at the end of one round, and the start of the next. I may get these out of order, but my team came together more or less like this: Michael Barrett at catcher - I haven't figured out the relative importance of positions in Roto-ball. In fantasy games, the catcher is vital -- in fact, you need two catchers, because the starter doesn't get enough innings. Every so often, to preserve the realism of the simulation, you had to rest your starting catcher - about five to seven weeks out of the year.

Next, I grabbed Orlando Hudson, for 2nd base. When it came around again, I snatched up John Patterson and Takashi Saito. I think that the next time through the draft order, I picked Barry Bonds (Oy, I know! But, he puts up such gaudy numbers) and Adam LaRoche, at first base. When my 2 turns came around again, I grabbed Adam Wainwright and Rafael Soriano.

Here's where I get a little fuzzy about the selection order, but bear with me. I still needed an outfielder, a shortstop, a position player to be designated utility player, some pitchers and bench strength. I filled out my starting outfield with Jacque Jones. I supplemented my pitching staff with two Mets starters, John Maine and Mike Pelfrey. I snagged Christian Guzman (it was either him or Khalil Greene, and Guzman was really looking good in preseason), for shortstop. I picked up Jose Valentin to back-up the middle infield -- though, as I look at it now, I don't know whether he or Hudson will qualify at shortstop. My depth there may be a problem. Guzman needs to stay healthy and produce, if my team is going to succeed. For bench strength: I added two relievers, Jon Rauch (the tallest player in baseball history), and Henry Owens (whom I know nothing about); and position players Luis Gonzalez, Brian Schneider, Craig Wilson and, the final pick in our league's draft, Scott Spezio.

It was an interesting exercise for me -- it goes too quickly, and I wish we had more rounds. However, it's a lot easier to prepare for, than what I've experienced in the past. In fact, you could do this with little or no preparation, and possibly get similar results. Our old league had over forty rounds -- equivalent to the major league 40-man roster, with some minor league gems, in reserve. It was the rare pick after the 30th round that ever helped your squad, but it required knowing something about each team's farm system. I'm not sure how many minutes we allowed per pick, but it was a 24-team league, with lots of rounds, and the draft had to include catered meals (snack, lunch and dinner). This year, I barely finished my morning coffee, and it was over.

As I said, I would've liked a little more time for each pick -- two minutes was too short a time to really make a selection. With only 11 teams, each round went by too quickly to consider and prepare a likely pick or two. Also, I would've liked to have more picks, but I guess this makes it easier to draft. The thing is, this system puts a premium on the waiver wire -- knowing who is available, and getting in there to snatch up the good numbers-producers that went overlooked in the draft. There's not much involved in setting your line-up, but one does need to pay attention to the free agents, to see if you can improve your lineup that way.

If you want to follow (and I can't imagine you would), it's kossack ball NL. That's Yahoo Custom League ID# 253215. Here's the link: kossack ball NL. As for the draft, here's my final product:

Michael Barrett, Brian Schneider, Adam LaRoche, Orlando Hudson, Ryan Zimmerman, Christian Guzman, Carlos Lee, Barry Bonds, Jacque Jones, Luis Gonzalez, Jose Valentin, Craig Wilson, Scott Spezio, Chris Carpenter, John Smoltz, John Patterson, John Maine, Takashi Saito, Adam Wainwright, Rafael Soriano, Jon Rauch, Mike Pelfrey, Henry Owens.

The real thing gets under way tonight. Mets and Cardinals, baby! Rematch. A measure of revenge, perhaps -- but, it's a long season. Opening Night for them. Opening Day tomorrow, for everybody else. Aaahh, Baseball.

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