I’m happy the All-Star Break is over. It’s time to get back to the games that count, and I can’t take any more of Fox’s coverage of “The Derek Jeter Show, with special appearances by some other guys.” This will be a special edition of Ball Street, given that there haven’t been any real games to provide ups and downs for the week. Here are my ups and downs for random things around baseball.
On the Rise
Los Angeles Angels – Okay, so they’re one of my three teams I most follow (behind the Cubs and Royals). But hey, a franchise-best 20 games over .500 at the break is a nice sign of things to come. Last year I thought they may manage some late push to make a wildcard, but their pitching was lacking. This year they aren’t doing well in AL ranking for ERA and QS, but that leaves room for improvement. Richards has emerged as a legit #2 SP for this season at least, and Skaggs has some big potential as well. The bullpen could be a bit of a rocky ride, but I think the offense will carry this team into the playoffs for 2014.
My hope for the Cubs – I’ll say this now: I’m not a Kool-Aid fan who has been thinking that with TheoJed running the show, we’d be competing already. A few years ago I stated that I didn’t think we’d be competitive until 2016, and that was before some of the big moves (getting Russell) and developments (Starlin and Rizzo sucking and then getting better). My position still hasn’t changed. I don’t have a ton of hope for 2015 in terms of playoffs or a pennant, but assuming at least a few of our prospects keep taking steps forward, I’ll be happy for the future. In the mean time, check out this article by Jeff Sullivan.
My use of advanced metrics – At this point in the season, there’s enough data to see trends for players and their development or decline in 2014. We’ve got data for several months, and enough total AB/IP to at least make comparisons to last season. I’m not one to buy high on players who had a hot first half, even if that means I miss out on some full-season success stories. However, if I have any worries or see more than one red flag in a player’s first-half metrics, I’m far more willing to sell high and improve my team’s weak spots.
My regret about trading LAA outfielders – In different leagues, I traded Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout. At the time I thought I was getting good value, and I still have, but I really wish I’d been a fan more with these guys and simply held onto them so that I could enjoy watching their stats help my teams.
My love for the baseball season – At the break, there are six teams within 3 games of the NL wild card, and there are six teams within 3.5 of the AL wild card. There’s a lot of season left, but this could be a very close and cluttered race for the playoffs this year, which always makes for good baseball. I’ll be putting my use of Gameday Audio in overdrive, listening to games all day long.
On the Decline
My love for SP prospects – I’ll admit that any pitcher can end up needing TJS at any time, however it seems that there is far more risk with the young impact arms than there used to be. When building my fantasy teams, I rely on a strong core of SP aces, but starting this season and for the foreseeable future, I’m putting my prospect stock into the hitters. Yes, they can burn me too (see Sano, Profar), but at least those are varying injuries and not baseball’s new epidemic.
My visits to Wrigley Field – I moved from Illinois to Missouri for four years, and so I haven’t been to a Cubs home game in a while. However, I got spoiled at Kaufman Stadium with the newer amenities — and most important, the amazingly tasty and varied food available. Now that I’m back in northern Illinois, I’m a bit less excited about going to Wrigley because I don’t recall any amazing food in all my visits there. When the best thing they can put out are Decade Dogs, one of which is a TV dinner, that makes my stomach sad.
My tolerance for bad trade offers – We all get trade offers that are bad for various reasons — low ball starting offers, ignorant offers, and more. However, at this point in the season, when guys offer me zero keepers (or one borderline guy) for a definite, young keeper, and I’m not in the playoff hunt so the “win now” pieces won’t help me at all, I start to grumble at my computer screen.
The number of fantasy teams I’ll have in 2015 – I used to play with a lot of teams, and like many people, in the redraft leagues where I was out of it at this time of year, I simply stopped caring and following that team in order to focus on my winners. However, in the last few years I’ve removed at least one team per year from my juggling act. I find that with a few very good (and time-consuming) dynasty leagues, along with a casual friends and family league, that’s enough to keep me happy. I have a bit less time than I used to five years ago, and I’d rather focus on just a small handful of teams from now on. I’ll miss the excitement and over-stimulation of having drafts every weekend of March, but I now prefer the quality of each team over the quantity.
My resistance to buying a PlayStation 4 – I bought an N64 for one game and one game only: Super Smash Bros. I bought a Game Boy Advance for one game only: Phantasy Star Collection. Now I’m craving a good baseball game, and they don’t make one for the PC, my only gaming platform. I hear decent things about MLB 14: The Show, and my bank account cringes at the thought of dropping.