Thursday, March 31, 2011

12-Team Total Points Squad


C - Buster Posey
1B - Carlos Pena
2B - Kelly Johnson
SS - Elvis Andrus
3B - Alex Rodriguez
OF - Ichiro Suzuki
OF - Alex Rios
OF - Mike Stanton
Util - Delmon Young
BN - Angel Pagan
BN - Ike Davis
BN - Placido Polanco
BN - Jhonny Peralta

SP - Felix Hernandez
SP - Clayton Kershaw
SP - David Price
SP - Francisco Liriano
RP - Fernando Rodney
RP - Matt Capps
SP - Clay Buchholz
SP - Michael Pineda
SP - Hiroki Kuroda
SP - Fausto Carmona
SP - Kyle McClellan

A total points league is very different from a head-to-head one. For those don't know the difference, I will explain.
In my head-to-head league, one team plays another team for an entire week. We have 19 different stats that we keep track of. Whoever wins a particular stat that week gets 1 'win.' If you win all of the stats (which I have never seen happen) your record would be 19-0. Say you went 11-8 the next week, your overall record would be 20-8 and so on. At the end of the year, the six best teams make the playoffs and compete for three weeks to crown a champ. In the head-to-head format, every team that makes the playoffs has a chance to win the title.
Total points is pretty self explanatory. You get points for stats (1 for a 1B, 2 for a 2B, -.5 for a K, etc). At the end of the year, whoever has the most points wins. Whereas this is probably the best game-type (along with Rotisserie) to determine the 'best team,' I'm not really a fan of it because not every team has a chance to win. Come the middle of August, some of the bottom teams have no realistic chance to win and may give up. I don't like that. Fans of total points and rotisserie will say it is the best system because it ultimately shows who the best team is. That's fine and all, but that's not how it is done in real sports. Every day (or week), every team has a chance to win or play the spoiler. You may have the best record during the regular season and lose in the playoffs, but 'stuff' happens. Deal with it. And this is coming from a guy who has had the best Fantasy BBall team over the last three years and has zero championships to show for it.

Before I start going through my draft process, I would like to point out this tid-bit of information. Last year in this league, 25 pitchers had more total points than the No. 1 hitter in Albert Pujols. Knowing that, my draft philosophy became rather easy to figure out.
With the 6th of 12 picks, I took Felix Hernandez (the third highest pitcher last year behind Halladay and Wainwright). After watching my buddy and commish Jason Boris tell me that there is no advantage with pitchers (BS) and then take Halladay with the 4th overall pick, I went with King Felix. I was looking to take a SP regardless of what he said, but that just cemented my thought process. The reason pitchers are so valuable is because they get 3 points-per-inning and 1 point per K while losing -.5 point per K/H/BB, etc. Oh, not to mention they get 10 points for a win and only lose five for a loss. Whereas hitters may get you 12 points on a good day, pitchers can get you around 30.
I stuck with this philosophy and took three pitchers over the next five rounds. I went A-Rod, Kershaw, Posey, Price and Liriano. Price was the eighth in scoring last year, while Kershaw was 19th. Having three of the top 19 scorers on one team isn't too bad according to my calculations. Liriano was also 34th in 2010. Not too shabby.
The rest of my draft was spent filling out my lineup. I took five consecutive bats before adding another SP in Buchholz. I may not have the deadliest lineup, but no one in the league is going to mess with my starting pitching.
Still, I don't think my lineup is that sub-par. Posey, Rodriguez, Suzuki, Rios and Young are pretty solid. If they get me an average of 2-5 points per day I will be happy.
Fortunately for me, some of my other buddies and I did a head-to-head points league last year and found out that pitching was the way to go. I have my fingers crossed that it proves true once again.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

10-Team Head-to-Head Fantasy Baseball Squad


C - Brian McCann
1B - Adrian Gonzalez (received in deal for Robinson Cano)
2B - Dustin Pedroia
SS - Omar Infante
3B - Alex Rodriguez
OF - Shane Victorino
OF - Shin-Soo Choo
OF - Mike Stanton
Util - Vlad Guerrero
BN - Ike Davis
BN - Colby Rasmus
BN - Mike Aviles

SP - Ubaldo Jimenez
SP - Francisco Liriano
RP - Matt Thornton
RP - Fernando Rodney
SP - Dan Haren
SP - Clay Buchholz
SP - Ricky Nolasco
SP - Michael Pineda
SP - Kyle McClellan

Some things pop out right away...
1. I said F(orget) closers. I was still busy filling my lineup out when the good ones started to go. Heck, Dennis Egan and Mike Iannotto didn't even have one on their rosters at the end of last season. I mean it is only one stat. I usually like closers, but the process of the draft didn't allow it. From what I read Thornton is doing well, but Rodney has been shaky. What else is new?

2. Although SS is probably my weakest position, Infante is pretty solid. He hit .321 in 134 games last year, climbing up from .305 and .293 the two years before. So far he has been batting either second or third in front of HanRam. I'll take that in the 15th round.

3. OF is a little weak as well. I like Choo and Vlad in Baltimore despite his age. Stanton will be the question mark. I'm looking for power out of him though, which should come. Choo and Victorino will be my speed.

Other than the obvious, I feel like I did pretty well for the 5th pick. Then again, what do you think I was going to say - that I sucked?
I wanted Miggy, however like many of my targets in this draft, he went a pick or two before more. And it was auto-drafted. I decided to go with the hands-down best 2B rather than take a 1B or an OF - both of which are rather deep. Cano may seem early for the 5th pick, but I knew he wasn't going to make it back to me.
Then, as much as it burned my blood, I took A-Rod in the second round. He was the best bat available at a scarce position. Hopefully his hip can hold up. If not, he should try injecting some of his $25M into his blood stream. I heard it worked for Magic Johnson.
The third round is when Lou Peon and I set a new fantasy record for 'earliest trade of the season' after I noticed Pedroia was still on the board. I also noticed that zero good 1Bs were still on the board. With my quick goat thinking, I offered Cano for A-Gon. Lou jumped all over it like I was dangling a burrito supreme over a bed of hot wings. And then proceeded to throw it all up in a hotel sink hours before he had to catch a flight back to Virginia.
From there I went Choo (needed an OF - best available), McCann (last of the top tier C) and then started my staff with Jimenez in the 6th. By then it was either him, Hamels or Greinke. Looking back on the draft results, Cliff Lee was the first pitcher taken at 18. Lincecum and Halladay followed immediately after. I certainly would have thought Halladay would have been the first arm off the board.
Victorino was my 7th pick, followed by Liriano and Haren - both quality No. 1's in my mind. They aren't studs, but I think they are in the second tier of pitchers.
I then rounded out the starting squad with Stanton, Buchholz (CY Young candidate last year), Guerrero and Rasmus.
The last handful of picks: Thornton (first closer in round 14 - haha!), Infante (starting SS), Davis (Util), Pineda, Rodney, Nolasco (185th pick - great value), McClellan and Aviles.
Those who don't know of Pineda and McClellan will hear of them shortly.  Pineda has Felix-Hernandez-like stuff. However, he is a rookie and I usually don't like to trust rookie pitchers. Buuuut I'm going to go with my instincts on this one. McClellan has been a reliever for the last few years, but earned a spot (4-0, 0.78 ERA) in the rotation with the loss of Wainwright. Even though it is only spring training, I figured the risk-reward was high enough at the 196th pick.

Let me know what you think of my team. Please, tell me how much better it is than yours.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Pistol Pete videos

For those interested, here are some links for some Pistol Pete videos...
(Top NCAA shooters)
(ESPN U's Top 10 Players of All Time)
(Red on Roundball)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The ‘Pistol’ relived

“He shouldn’t be dead.  Of anyone, he should be here.  Just to see what his legacy has become.  He needs to be here to see the Hornets in New Orleans, the success of the Jazz in Utah.  He needs to see Steve Nash’s hair worn like a tribute, the old footage of his appearances on Red On Roundball, the popularity of his Hawks jersey throughout the ATL during the ’03 All-Star Weekend.  He needs to see Jason Williams play.  He needs to see all the And 1 Mix Tapes.  Then again, Pete Maravich is probably seeing all of it.  Looking down on us from above.  Smiling, saying, ‘They finally got it.’”
- Scoop Jackson, SLAM, June 9, 2003, The Greatest NBA Players of All Time.

            Jared Holmes, one of my best friends, was the first to introduce me to ‘Pistol Pete.’  We were in middle school at the time; maybe 12 or 13-years-old.  One day we were smacking around plastic golf balls in his back yard with a putter when I noticed something was printed on it.  “Pistol Pete.”
            “Who names their putter ‘Pistol Pete?’ I joked.  “Who even is that?”
            I then questioned his heterosexuality, but that didn’t seem to faze him.  He was already looking at me like I had three heads.
            “Tell me you don’t know who Pistol Pete is?” he said.  “Do you know anything about basketball?”
            Looking back now – no, I didn’t.  I tried to defend myself at the time.  I said I was young.  How was I supposed to know about somebody that played in the 60s and 70s?  Fortunately for Jared, his father used to tell him about the legend of ‘Pistol Pete’ and how great of a player he was.  Where does the putter fit in?  Nowhere.  Jared’s dad used it as a snake hook in the early 1970s.  He has no idea why it as ‘Pistol Pete’ on it.  Funny how things work out.
            Still, I would bet that today not many 13-year-olds have heard of Pete Maravich.  They don’t know about the ‘Pistol’ and how he transcended the game.  Well, they need to.
            Pete Maravich was born in Aliquippa, PA in the late 1940s.  His father was a college coach and began teaching him the game when he was about seven-years-old.  He made him do dribbling drills such as dribbling on rail-road tracks or dribbling blindfolded.  He even had a drill called the ‘scrambled eggs’ where he would dribble between his legs while patting himself on different body parts.  This made the ball seem like a yo-yo in Maravich’s hands.  He would go around his back with ease whenever a defender was over-playing him or went for a steal.  Both he and the defender pretty much knew that he would do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. 
Maravich’s great ball control helped him introduce some ridiculous passes as well.  He liked to bounce a pass through his legs to a teammate in stride for a lay-up.  He acted like he was about to throw a bounce pass to his right, but then flicked his wrists down hard and threw the pass in the opposite direction.  He sometimes wrapped an around-the-back pass to his left as he looked to the right.  It was like poetry in motion.
Now I highly doubt that Maravich’s father taught him how to make the crazy passes that he did since most people at the time thought it was show-boating.  But over time he became a master at the around-the-back pass, the no-look drop off and the change-of-direction bounce pass.  I guess they just came with practice.  Or a lot of time spent fooling around in the driveway.  Unfortunately for Maravich, he was too far ahead of his time.  Nobody really knew how good he was or truly appreciated him for his talents because of the era and style that he played in.  That’s where Scoop’s message comes in.
            While Maravich’s ball-handling and passing skills drew the most attention, his ability to shoot was practically unrivaled.  His shot was so smooth and quick that it earned him his nickname.  Maravich shot the ball from his hip like an old-western revolver and was later tabbed ‘Pistol Pete’ by a local sportswriter.
            As if his flashy-style and overall skill-set weren’t enough to have spectators in awe, his college scoring numbers have sports enthusiasts mind boggled.
            I will start out with the basics for those not as familiar with Maravich.  In just three seasons at Louisiana State University (1968-1970), the ‘Pistol’ tallied 3,667 career points.  That’s an average 44.2 points-per-game over 83 games.  Both are still NCAA Division I records.  His three season averages of 44.5 (senior), 44.2 (junior) and 43.8 (sophomore) points-per-game rank No. 1, 2 and 3 all-time respectively.
            At the time, NCAA rules prohibited freshman from playing on the varsity level and were forced to participate on either freshman or junior varsity teams.  This prevented Maravich’s freshman numbers, 741 points (43.6 ppg), from being added to his college totals.  Imagine if they were.  That would push his total to over 4,400 points.  No player in NCAA Division I history has scored more than 4,000.  Oscar Robertson (2,973 pts, No. 8) and Elvin Hayes (2,884 points, No. 11) are also Top-25 scorers affected by this rule.
            On a side note, here are some other pieces of information that I think are very noteworthy.  Maravich’s stat-line in his first college game against Southeastern Louisiana University: 50 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists.  He holds the NCAA record for most 50-point games in a season (10 in 1970) and in a career (28).  He has made the most free throws in a game (30-of-31).  The list goes on as he currently holds at least 14 other NCAA records.
            Now to the point of inspiration for this column.  I was watching a sports talk show the other night and SNY’s Brandon Tierney quoted a piece of information that I found absolutely staggering.  Per Les Levine’s article from The News-Herald (Ohio) on June 14, 2009…

Former LSU coach Dale Brown watched tape of every college game played by Maravich, who died in 1988.  Brown calculated that 13 of his made shots per game were from what is now behind the collegiate 3-point line.

            Thirteen three-pointers per game.  Thirteen.  Take a second and think about that…
            Why are you still reading?  Literally, take a few seconds and think about it.

            Crazy, right?  The three-point line wasn’t instilled until 1986-87, so I am sure this affected a lot of the top scorers.  Not as much as Maravich.  The extra points would push his career scoring average from 44.2 to a ridiculous 57.2 points-per-game.  Players can’t even do that in video games.
            Wilt Chamberlain is probably looked at as the most dominate college player of his respective era.  In two seasons at Kansas, Chamberlain averaged 29.9 points-per-game.  That’s almost 12 points less than the jump-shooting Maravich.  Lew Alcindor from UCLA?  He averaged 26.4 points-per-game; nearly 20 points less.  Notre Dame’s Austin Carr, who graduated in 1971, is second on the career average list with 34.6 points-per-game.  You do the math.
            Maravich did shoot a lot though.  He fired up 3,166 shots in his three-year career.  That’s an astounding 38.1 shots-per-game with a .438 shooting percentage, but I don’t think it should be held against him.  If a person is a ‘scorer’ and their team needs them to score in order to win, then they have to do what they have to do.  I’m sure Brown didn’t mind or else he would have told him to lighten up somewhere along the line.  He could be looked at as a Kobe Bryant or Allen Iverson.  They may hoist it up a lot, but who else on their team was going to do anything.
            Let’s recap.  Maravich finished with 3,667 points in three seasons.  Add the 741 from his freshman year and we have 4,408.  Now tack on the extra 1,079 points he would have received from the three-pointer line and we are up to 5,487 theoretical points.  All I can do is laugh at that number.
            Sadly, on January 5, 1988, Maravich collapsed and died at age 40 of a heart attack while playing in a pickup basketball game in the gym at a church in Pasadena, California.
             If people of this world didn’t know about ‘Pistol’ Pete Maravich before this piece, hopefully they have a better understanding now.  I know once Jared filled me in all those years ago, I immediately became a fan.  I even bought his LSU jersey online.  It may be three sizes too big for me, but I hope to frame it someday.
            That way, any time somebody walks into the room they will be reminded of the legend of ‘Pistol Pete.’  And if they don’t know who he is, I would be glad to fill them in.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Man-to-Man defense: The Lost Art

            After having played the sport of basketball for nearly 16 years, covered it with the Lehighton TIMES NEWS for six and coached it at Pleasant Valley for four, I have come to notice a trend in today’s high school/middle school style of play.
            The man-to-man defense, which used to be the only way to defend the opposition, is unfortunately becoming phased out of game.
            It never really hit me until last year as Matt Gould and I coached our respective seventh and eighth grade basketball teams.  Since then it has only become more and more apparent.
            As I am sure most coaches do, Matt and I like to discuss the events of our games on the trip home.  After a handful of conversations we came to realize that there was a central theme of our talks: Another opponent had played some sort of zone defense.  Of the 12 different teams we played in 2009-10, two or three went man-to-man.  This year has been a little better, but not by much.
           So I kept this thought in mind as I covered local high school games this year.  To my surprise, I found out that hardly any of them played man-to-man.  Now I know that it was just one of their 22 games.  Perhaps the coach thought that a zone defense would give his or her team the best chance to win that night.  Maybe the other team had too much size or was quicker and more athletic.
Still, I covered over ten games and 20 different teams in 2010-11 and most of them either 1. zone pressed and dropped into a zone, 2. dropped straight back into a zone or 3. ran a pressure 3-2 zone in the half-court in which they tried to trap.  These three options seemed to reign supreme at the middle school level as well.
            Now I am not trying to question any coach’s game plan or defensive philosophy.  I'm no John Wooden.  Every coach has his or her own strategy and opinion on what is best for their team.  Not to mention that every team is made up of different players with different skill sets.  I get that.  Quickness and athleticism, two things a coach can not teach, also tend to play a part in whether a team is capable of playing man-to-man.  Proper technique is half the battle, but ‘God Given Talent’ is always nice too.
            As an eighth grade coach, I feel that it is my duty to be focusing on teaching my players the fundamentals of the game.  Things like how to shoot a non-dominate handed lay-up or when to throw a bounce pass.  You do not understand how hard it is to get a 13-year-old to throw a bounce pass.  Other things include working on a player’s shooting form, teaching them how to jab-step while in triple-threat or showing them how to box out.
            However, in my opinion, there is another fundamental that may be even more important.  That fundamental is the act of playing man-to-man defense and being able to stop the man in front of you.
            I would guess that most coaches run a zone defense now-a-days because they would rather give up a jump shot than a lay-up.  That’s a smart move I guess, but with the right offense a team can still get easy buckets against a zone.  Then again any defense is beatable with the right play.  Regardless, I feel that knowing how to play a proper man defense will help the player later in their career.
            All the proper man principles are needed to run a zone defense as well.  The player must know the proper defensive stance and how to slide their feet.  It doesn’t matter if the player is protecting a five-foot area or trying to defend the ball – they need to know how to keep the man in front of them.  Being able to help on defense is important too, but that is a whole other story.
            To me, zones are boring.  It slows down the game too much.  Plus, if a team has a big, tall defender – they can just camp them in the paint since there is no defensive three-seconds.  Some teams call it defense and use it to their advantage.  I can respect that.  However, I would call it lazy defense.
            I also don’t prefer zones because it makes it harder to box out and rebound.  In a man-to-man defense the player should be around the man they are guarding (unless they are rotating and helping) and can box out quickly once the shot it taken.  In a zone, the defender must first locate a player (if they can/try to locate one at all) and may not be ready to go get the ball.
            Every zone has a weakness.  The 2-3 is vulnerable on the wings and around the free-throw area.  A 3-2 is vulnerable along the baselines and the free-throw area.  The 1-3-1 can be beat by shots from the wings and just outside the block.  With a man-to-man, a player should always be able to at least get a hand in a shooter's face and make a quick box out.
            As I stated before, to each his own.  Whatever a coach wants to do with their team is their right as  coach.  But when it comes to the future of the game and the skills of the players, I feel that a man-to-man defense is a must know.  At all levels of play.