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Archive for August, 2009

At Age 46, Randy Couture is a Living Legend

Despite what ended up being a very decisive loss to Minotauro Nogueira on Saturday night at UFC 102, Randy Couture proved that he still belongs in a UFC Octagon. At an astonishing age 46. After the fight, the UFC endorsed the notion that Couture still has ’it’ by extending his contract, leaving him with a six-fight commitment and 28 months of service remaining on his deal.

In other words, Captain American is going nowhere, and we can look forward to seeing him throw down for a few more years. Right up to age 48.
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Wide Receiver Field Wide Open

Admittedly, I’ve had a long week, am pretty tired today, and don’t feel completely up to divulging more draft information to my counterparts. Alas, I promised I’d cover all of the major fantasy positions, and we still have the mess at Wide Receiver to sort out. If you missed the first few go ‘rounds, you can find them here:

Tight Ends
Quarterbacks
Running Backs

For receivers, I can tell you one thing – go with your gut. Oh, I can also tell you that every person in the universe agrees that Larry Fitzgerald should be the top wide out off your draft board. My comment: Word.

Generally, receivers are both easy and difficult to predict. Unlike other positions, receivers follow a more standard career arch, and the effect of scheme, coaching, or quarterback changes are fairly intuitive. At the same time, there is very little collective predictive ability in the fantasy world when it comes to separating receivers on a rank-by-rank basis. That is, it’s near impossible to separate #2 from #5, #11 from #16, #40 from #50, and so on.

What it leaves us with is a wealth of fantasy football advice leading us in all sorts of different directions for receivers, save for Fitzgeezy. So with this admittedly brief analysis, I’m going to point out just how clueless we all are with wide receivers on draft day.
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Navigating Running Backs on the Waiver Wire

CADILLAC WILLIAMS Pictures, Images and PhotosAhhh, running backs. The crux of fantasy football. The be-all, end-all, need-all, must-have commodities of the entire fantasy sports realm. Without three, you are lost. Without two, doomed. Without one, truly damned.

Yes, the collective wisdom in recent years has been that fantasy running backs are an absolute necessity, a treasure, and a God-send. That is, if you have them. Strategists have bought into the RB-RB draft model, preferring to load up on the league’s scarcest (and most talent disparate) position. And this logic has worked, for the most part.

But recent trends in real and fantasy realms have begun to change this thinking. Running back platoons are now the norm, with teams even going as far as to employ a three-headed running back stable. This is obviously frustrating for fantasy owners – while it creates a much larger pool of roster-able running back talent, it also increases parity between running backs, decreases the number of ‘home-run’ draft picks, and makes the position far more difficult to predict and scout.

This change in real-ball philosophy has created a de facto fork in the road for fantasy strategists – stick with the old conventional wisdom and hope that your RB scouting is better than that of your competition, or move to a new way of thinking. This new way of thinking values top WR in the same echelon as running backs, with quarterbacks sneaking back into the discussion. It’s no longer season suicide to go RB-WR-QB, WR-RB-WR, or any other combination not loaded with RBRBRBRBRB.

While this makes leagues a little more open in terms of strategies, and gives those who miss out on top RBs a fighting chance, it doesn’t change the fact that RBs are becoming increasingly difficult to analyze.

Between changing workloads, platoons, injuries, and sly coaches not willing to divulge a shred of in-game strategy for us fantasy deviants, choosing an RB outside of the 15-20 or so who have clear roles is cumbersome. A great deal of fantasy RB posturing, especially in thinner leagues and later weeks, will come down to the waiver wire.

With my ongoing desire to withhold strategic draft information from my league-mates (like in my QB piece, but unlike my TE piece), here is a look at how to approach RBs on the waiver wire.
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"Good QB" Does Not Mean "Good Fantasy QB"

Hey, remember two weeks ago when I said I’d be doing fantasy football position focuses leading up to your draft? It wasn’t a lie, but I’m switching up the format. The last one gave away too much information for free to my league competitors, who all read the site because, well, I’m awesome.

So for today I’m going to focus on a nuance about fantasy football that bothers me a little bit. While not universal, analyzing real football and fantasy football are different beasts. There are things players can do that simply don’t translate to the three or four stats used to accrue points for his position, and nowhere is this more true than at Quarterback (unless you play in an IDP league, in which case you can just ignore me).

Quarterbacks have a strange fantasy history – long considered staples of winning fantasy teams, the RB-RB strategy pushed them down draft boards, and now with the RB point differential shrinking, they are re-entering the conversation as high as the first round. And there is no hiding the studs – everyone wants Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady. Those who don’t get them will convince themselves to follow one of two strategies: optimistically buy into one of the second tier quarterbacks, self-hyping the player to the level of Tier One (and we see this every year); or gamble on two or three lower-tier quarterbacks while promising to ‘play the match-ups’ or ‘let them compete.’

Regardless, without a clear top-tier quarterback, one can be left rather aimless in terms of quarterback strategy. So today’s article has a tip for you: actual on-field performance or results don’t necessarily translate to fantasy gains.
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Usain The Indescribable

So…Usain Bolt is alright. I mean, he’s definitely not the worst.

He has me speechless, if that poor introduction didn’t tip you off. He is dominating everyone. He may actually be too good. Well, at least too good for me to effectively write about him. This is going poorly.

But what can you expect? I’m just a meager earthling, a wannabe sports writer, a mere mortal. How can I put finger to keyboard in a way that appropriately appreciates The Fastest Man on the Planet. Scratch that, The Fastest Man in the Universe. And Usain…I apologize if that statement is not profound enough to encompass your almighty dominance.

What’s G? G is very very Good. It’s appropriate that Lil’ Wayne does the voiceover for those commercials, because Usain is not the same, he is a Martian.

Yeah, if you didn’t turn on Sportscentre yesterday…uhh, Bolt broke another record. His own record, again, of course, because he is the only sprinter with records left to break. Just how good is Usain Bolt? In a word, Untouchable.
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Raptors Republic Article - The Secondary Effects of the Amir Johnson Trade

After a few boring end-of-offseason weeks, the Raptors finally gave me something to write about. I quickly broke down the Delfino/Ukic for Johnson/Weems trade, and then looked at the secondary effects of the move. Primarily, I looked at the contrast in styles between the first and second unit and the task of lineup mixing that now faces coach Jay Triano. Check it out and holler back playboiii.

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What? Hell yeah I self promote and cyber-stalk celebrities via Twitter! You can follow me here.

Who is New Blue Jay Randy Ruiz

The recent call up of Randy Ruiz over Travis Snider has Jays fans talking. At first, I was being asked questions about arbitration eligibility and Snider’s Triple-A performance. But now, after a five game audition where Ruiz has gone 7-for-21 with two homeruns, the questions have started to focus on the Rod Barajas look-alike.

Questions like Who is Ruiz? Why are the Jays calling up a 31-year old career minor leaguer? Why is he a career minor leaguer? Did he eat Travis Snider? Do they really expect us to believe he’s only 240 pounds? Why wasn’t he called up for All You Can Eat Day?

But seriously, the question I’ve pondered most is this: how does a player with such a strong minor league track record get tagged with the ‘Quad-A’ label (a player who’s skill level sits somewhere between Triple-A and Major League) without getting a shot in the Majors to prove himself?

The Quad-A tag is generally reserved for players who dominated in the minors and struggle in the majors, but Ruiz wasn’t even given a chance until his age-30 season (last year), and it was just a 68 plate appearance audition with the Twins.

So, with an OPS consistently above .850, I tried to find out if Ruiz was unlucky at each of his 11 organizational stops, if he was always blocked by better players, or if there’s just something about Ruiz that has kept teams from giving him his apparently deserved chance.
More after the jump!

What Did Jeremy Accardo Do Wrong?

I guess it’s difficult to argue with the Blue Jays on this one. After all, the team has the American League’s sixth best team ERA with a mark of 4.19, and the company line can sometimes be confused for “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…and if it’s mediocre, don’t fix it…you know what, just leave it alone.”

Still, the fact remains: The Jays are 55-60 at the time of this writing, but their Pythagorean Win-Loss record dictates that, based on runs scored against runs allowed, the Jays should be 61-54. Generally, this kind of gap can point towards bad luck. It’s possible, but I also think it’s an overlooked statistic when evaluating managers – maybe there is some (or a lot) of luck involved in this difference, but it could simply be an indication that the team fails in close games. The Jays are 14-21 in one-run games, so I may not be too misguided in attributing some of that gap to game management. This, of course, includes bullpen management.

And I’m not calling out Cito. Since I haven’t introduced the topic of this article yet, I guess three paragraphs in I should: I’m just wondering, who did Jeremy Accardo piss off?
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Arroyo's Strange and Refreshing Honesty

Lost in the news of Mike Vick signing with the Philadelphia Eagles was a gem of an interview from Bronson Arroyo yesterday. It was my favorite news of the day, for certain. I knew I wanted to write about it, but I really couldn’t decide how I felt about his statements. Is Arroyo an idiot? Ahead of his peers? Looking for trouble? Creating awareness? I have no idea. Rest assured, though, Arroyo’s statements are extremely thought provoking.

This ESPN article does a good job outlining the words Arroyo used, and that’s about it. This USA Today story does a little better. But what was Arroyo really doing? In a time when nobody will admit to steroid use even when they’re caught, when everyone has an excuse as to why they’re on the List of 104, when players walk on eggshells regarding supplements and vitamins, Arroyo flat out accused himself of taking banned substances.
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Navigating the Tight End Landscape

It’s almost time for fantasy football drafts, and so I guess I should provide some coverage for readers who partake. Unfortunately, that means divulging information to competitors since some of my opponents no doubt read this site. With that in mind, I’ve kept away with clear predictions and my own personal feelings, but I will try to assist you in navigating the landscape, position by position.

Today, we start with Tight Ends. Generally, TEs are drafted in this manner: someone jumps on the top guy a little too early, then there is a run on the next few top guys, and then everyone else panics to grab whatever is left. In reality, tight ends are both inconsistent for touchdowns and fairly standard in production once you get outside of the top few guys. So really, the draft should look more like this: someone jumps on the top guy a little too early, then there is a run on the next few top guys, and then everyone else waits it out to draft the 10 or 12 coin-toss TEs later on.

So who are the top guys? To figure it out, I amalgamated the rankings from five different sources to create a composite positional ranking. Again, this is based entirely on the work and predictions of others, not my own, so the value in the below chart extends as far as you think professionals are smarter than me. The sources for these rankings are found at the end of the article.
More after the jump!