Never Ever Leave Your Wingman

Glenn Colton
Glenn Colton examines how the Rules of Engagement decided many fantasy baseball leagues and provides a tribute to the great Mariano Rivera in the final 2013 Week That Was

The Rules of Engagement, a personal thank you to Mariano Rivera and the Schultz lists highlight this week’s Week That Was.

As loyal readers of this column and loyal listeners to Colton and the Wolfman on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio know, fantasy sports Hall of Famer Rick Wolf and I manage our fantasy teams by the “Rules of Engagement” – a phrase borrowed from our radio theme movie Top Gun.  Below are just a few examples of players who won or lost many a fantasy baseball title just as the Rules of Engagement pre-ordained they would.

Matt Kemp  A white hot critical Rule of Engagement for winning fantasy baseball -- the functional equivalent of “never ever leave your wingman” – is that injury prone players get injured.  Thus, one should never ever pay full value for an injury prone player.  Matt Kemp provides a prime example.  Kemp went in the first round of most drafts and cost $35+ in most auctions.  Those who rostered Kemp at full price endured a very long summer.  What did they get?  6 HR, 9SB and a pedestrian .270 average.  Coming off of a year in which he missed 56 games AND had injury concerns in the pre-season, there is no way anyone should have paid full value.  Lesson learned?

Jose Reyes:   I am guessing the lesson is not learned as so many in fantasy baseball fall in love with what could be rather than what is likely to be.  So, let me repeat, injury prone players get injured!  Do not pay full value.  Take Jose Reyes as another example.  IF, a huge IF, he stays healthy, he will dominate a scarce position.  The problem is that he is just not likely to do so.  This year, if you invested a first or second round pick or $30+ in Reyes, you too likely had a long summer.  Reyes played fewer than 100 games and notched a whopping (not!) 15 SB.  Other than his contract year of 2011, he has missed at least 30 games (and often more) in each of his last 4 years.  Why did anyone pay full value for this injury prone player on the rock hard surface in Toronto?  Lesson learned yet?  If not, learn it by March 2014.

R.A. DickeyAnother critical Rule of Engagement is not to pay full value for a big contract player in his first year on a new team.  R.A. Dickey personifies this rule.  In 2012, Dickey won 20 games with a 2.73 ERA. After the big contract and in his first year in Toronto, the wins fell to 14 and the ERA jumped to 4.21.  Those 2013 numbers did not kill your team but they likely did if you paid Cy Young money for RA.  Unfortunately many violated the Rules of Engagement here and many paid the price.

B.J. Upton:   From RA to BJ for more proof that one should never ever pay full price for a big contract free agent in his first year in a new home.  Those who rationalized why they could violated the Rules of Engagement by saying things like “he will be comfortable there with his brother” paid a steep price for investing in Upton.  With his .184 average and 9 HR, Upton will not find himself on many winning fantasy baseball teams in 2013.  Need more examples?  Just think Josh Hamilton – average down 36 point, HR down by more than 50% in first year in new home with big contract.  I think you get the point.  You do right?  Please do!

Adam Wainwright  Ok, now there is a need for some positive and here it is.  The Rules of Engagement say that pitchers coming off TJ surgery jump to a new level in the second year post surgery.  That is why those who follow the rules of engagement made a nice profit on Adam Wainwright.  In 2012, in his first year post-TJ, Wainwright was pretty good with a 3.94 ERA, 1.25 WHIP and 184K.  However, in 2103 the predictable jump came along to the tune of a 3.10 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 214K.  Need more proof?  See Zimmermann, Jordan 2012.

Eric Hosmer:  Here is another positive Rule of Engagement you must remember in 2014:  Players who make the majors young are really talented but rarely live up to the hype right away.  After about 1000 AB, they hit their stride.  However, the “what have you done for me lately crowd” has already been overly critical and depressed the youngsters value well below his real value.  Take Eric Hosmer for example. He made the majors at 21.  At 22 in 2012, he disappointed to the tune of a .232 average.  2013, after 1000 big league AB, the talented 1B will hit 70 points higher and reward his savvy owners with a very tidy profit.

C.C. Sabathia:   Here is one more Rule of Engagement for you:  do NOT pay full value for a player coming off surgery.  Yes, it is tempting to say things like “it was just a minor clean-up” or “he is a horse who will pitch through it”.  While I did not own CC in any league, I did convince myself that he will transcend the Rules of Engagement.  Bad Idea!  CC stayed in the rotation, took his turn every 5 days and for that he should be commended.  However, his fantasy owners did not get anywhere near the value they paid for as CC registered an ugly 4.78 ERA and 1.37 WHIP. 

Bottom line:  when planning your 2014 teams, pull this article out and continue to say to yourself “NEVER EVER LEAVE YOUR WINGMAN”.

Moving on -- of course, no WTW would be complete without the musings of the Baron of the Bottom of the Page, so let’s hear what Schultz says:  “With the season (likely) coming to an end this weekend, there will be no more weeks for The Week That Was to recap. So, when a season comes to an end, the traditional thing to do is make lists!! If one thing can be said with certainty about the Internet, it is that people love lists. With that in mind, here are the 2013 All-Schultz Teams.

The 2013 BILL DE BLASIO TEAM. Like the Democratic candidate for mayor of New York City, this team rebounded from lackadaisical starts and had strong finishes that likely propelled their roto-owners to titles (provided, they didn't bail too early).

C   Victor Martinez (DET) - After missing all of 2012 with a torn ACL, V Mart came out of the gate slowly. But, since the All Star break, he's been the second-half's batting champion with 91 hits and a .363 batting average. It's a shame he loses catcher eligibility next season.

1B Eric Hosmer (KC) - In the first half of the season, you could count Hosmer's extra base hits on one hand. A key factor to the Royals late season run, Hosmer stroked to the tune of .328, 8 HRs, 39 RBIs and 38 runs in the second half.

2B Robinson Cano (NYY) - While he didn't have to atone for a poor first half, his .331 with 41 second half RBIs helped keep the Yankees' playoff hopes alive longer than anyone thought possible. If Cano is serious about wanting $300 million, Mariano Rivera won't be the only one playing his final game in pinstripes this weekend.

SS Hanley Ramirez (LAD) - The story of the first half of the season: overpaid Dodgers failing badly. The story of the second half of season: Yasiel Puig leads Dodgers to runaway NL West title. Puig-mania obscured the fact that Han Ram returned from a torn thumb ligament to put up a second half that included .316 12 HR 32 RBIs 37 runs and yes, another injury.

3B Martin Prado (ARZ) - The only major-league ready player the D'Backs received in the Justin Upton trade hardly looked like it over the first half of the season. The versatile utilityman rebounded late with a .322 average and driving in 47.

OF Andrew McCutchen (PIT) - The fortunes of the Pittsburgh Pirates seemed to correlate with the success of their budding roto-superstar. McCutchen's .340 average with 11 second half homers helped carry the Bucs to their first post-season since Barry Bonds failed to throw out Sid Bream at home plate.

OF Matt Holliday (STL) - The Cardinals specialize in hosting roto-stud quality outfielders that seem to fly under the radar of the hoi polloi of roto-punditry. Following in the footsteps of Jim Edmonds and Larry Walker, Holliday's .344, 8 HR 45 RBI second half helped the Cards outpace the Pirates and Reds.

OF Jayson Werth (WAS) - Missing a large part of the first half with a sore hamstring, Werth recovered and hit .341 with 15 HRs and 49 RBIs, scored 46 runs and swiped 7 bases. Werth was everything that Bryce Harper wasn't.

OF Billy Hamilton (CIN) - This last spot should rightfully go to Mike Trout and his .327, 11 HR, 35 RBI, 12 SB, 43 run post-All Star break line. For roto-purposes though, Hamilton's 13 September steals (as of the 5th inning of this Saturday's game) had a seismic effect on many roto-leagues - much like Trout's 2012 season.

U  Alfonso Soriano (NYY) - Wrongly thought to be "washed up," his return to the Yankees rejuvenated his career and he almost singlehandedly carried the Yankees to a wild card. His 18 HRs and 52 RBIs made him the second half's unquestionable roto-stud in the power categories. Oh yes, he also stole 8 bases.

SP Ubaldo Jimenez (CLE) – In the first half of season, Cleveland fans called him "F*#^ing Ubaldo" with scorn and derision. Now, it is said with pride and admiration. Jimenez' 1.86 ERA, 1.16 WHIP and 87 Ks going into this weekend are a large reason the Tribe are on the verge of returning to the post-season. Who's talking about Drew Pomeranz or Alex White now?

RP Greg Holland (KC) - After nearly losing his closer role in the first half of the season, Holland's 24 saves, .74 WHIP, .58 ERA 41 Ks in 31 innings made him Craig Kimbrel's equal in the second half.

The 2013 JIMMY McMILLAN TEAM. While no one would ever claim the rent for this team was too damn high, the third-party candidate from the Rent Is 2 Damn High party perfectly exemplifies the sleeper ethos that makes this team so valuable.

C   Jason Castro (HOU) - For 1/15 of the price of Carlos Santana, you received substantially the same numbers.

1B Brandon Moss (OAK)/Chris Carter (HOU) - Neither hit for average - in fact, it could be argued that Carter hardly hit at all - but for a minimal investment, the return was nearly 30 HRs and 80+ RBIs and the cache of showing roto-savviness.

2B Matt Carpenter (STL) - Kudos to anyone that realized they might be getting corner infielder production from a middle infielder spot as Carpenter made the position switch to second base. Rather than let the unfamiliarity of the new position affect his hitting, it propelled him to a .321 average and a league leading 126 runs.

SS Jean Segura (MIL) - The Brewers' shortstop slowed down off his torrid spring pace but 12 HRs, 44 steals and flirting with a .300 average was expected from Jose Reyes not from someone with zero career home runs and 7 prior steals in 45 games.

3B Chris Johnson (ATL) - One of the streakiest power hitters, this year the Astro outcast challenged for a batting title before falling off Michael Cuddyer's pace.

OF Will Venable (SD) - While the east coast slept, the San Diego outfielder put together the quietest 20-20 season in recent memory - well 22-22 season to be exact.

OF Hunter Pence (SF) - After bouncing around from Houston to Philadelphia to San Francisco over the last two seasons, no once could be faulted for forgetting that Pence was once one of the most coveted roto-outfielders. Those that remembered were rewarded with 26 HRs, 94 RBIs and a career high 22 steals.

OF Marlon Byrd (PIT) - Perennially and justifiably overlooked, Byrd's 24 HRs, 88 RBIs and .291 average match or surpass his career marks and he was likely scooped up with a waiver wire claim.

SP Bartolo Colon (OAK) - Everyone that foresaw that BFBC would return from his drug suspension, challenge for the American League ER title and walk only 29 batters on his way to a 1.17 WHIP and 18 wins, raise your hands. Everyone, look at the liars with their hands in the air.

RP Edward Mujica - Once Jason Motte went down for the season, there was much speculation as to who would emerge as the Cardinals closer. None of that speculation ever spread to Mujica, who distanced himself from the pack, saving 37 games with a 2.52 ERA and .96 WHIP.

The 2013 CHRISTINE QUINN TEAM. Despite having the backing of all the roto-pundits, somehow this team managed to fail to live up to expectations, disappointing all who backed them for the 2013 season.

C   Carlos Santana (CLE) - For 15 times the price of Jason Castro, you received substantially the same numbers.

1B Albert Pujols (LAA) - Perhaps the next 8 years will work out better for Albert, who is looking less Phat with every season.

2B Dan Uggla (ATL) - Uggie usually bails out his trusting owners with a strong power surge at the end of the year. In the absence of one this year, his 22 HRs fail to make up for the .179 batting average.

SS Asdrubal Cabrera (CLE) - Even when lodged atop the potent Indians lineup, the perennial 20-20 threat failed to produce -- an entirely underwhelming season for a shortstop from which much more was expected.

3B Chase Headley (SD) - After his .286, 31 HR, 115 RBI and 17 steal season, many expected the Headley to quickly become an elite roto-cornerman. Even with the early season injury, Headley's .249, 13 HR, 50 RBIs was simply Moustak-awful.

OF Matt Kemp (LAD) - A proven roto-stud of Trout like quality, Kemp spent practically the entire year on the disabled list. While the pulled hamstring was disappointing, the sprained ankle he suffered sliding into home with a meaningless run on his first game back was a smack in the face to his owners.

OF B.J. Upton (ATL) - With 9 HRs, 26 RBIs, 12 steals and a .184 average with 150+ strike outs, Upton now can join Frank Stallone, Ashlee Simpson and all Baldwins not named Alec in the "lesser sibling" Hall of Fame.

OF Josh Reddick (OAK) - About the only thing that didn't work right in Oakland this year. Reddick followed up his 32 HR, 85 RBI breakout with a 12 HR, 55 RBI dud. Perhaps the beard weighed him down.

SP C.C. Sabathia (NYY) - Always one of the most dependable roto-studs, Sabathia lost weight and seemingly lost his ability to dominate . . . or even compete. His 4.78 ERA, 1.37 WHIP and 175 strikeouts are his worst season totals since his early days in Cleveland.

RP Tom Wilhelmsen (SEA) - After sprinting to 24 saves, the Seattle closer simply fell apart. Rarely has a closer gone from elite to unusable in such a short period of time.


C   Travis d'Arnaud (NYM)

1B Darin Ruf (PHI)

2B Kolten Wong (STL)

SS Xander Bogaerts (CIN)

3B Mike Olt (CHI)

OF Billy Hamilton (CIN)

OF Kole Calhoun (LAA)

OF Avisail Garcia (CHW)

SP Danny Salazar (CLE)

RP Trevor Rosenthal (STL)

As always, my thanks to Hall of Famer Glenn Colton for letting me be part of this little corner of the Rotoworld empire. If you listen to Colton & The Wolfman at 10:00 p.m. on Tuesday nights on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports radio, maybe he'll discuss who's currently undefeated in the Colton & The Wolfman fantasy football listener league.

See you all in 2014.”

Response:  All nonsense aside, just great work from Schultz as he puts the cork in another Week That Was fantasy baseball season.  Keep listening to Colton and the Wolfman as we will surely have the Baron on in the coming weeks.

Personal Note I:  So much has been written about Mariano Rivera that I really cannot add much other than my own personal thank you:  Mariano, it has been an honor and privilege to watch you pitch for almost two decades.  Rarely does one get to watch an athlete perform KNOWING that he is the best there ever was at what he does.  That you did so with grace, dignity and class while fiercely competing each and every night just boggles the mind and conjures up nothing but pure respect.  I will proudly wear your replica Yankee 42 jersey to many fantasy drafts and baseball events in the years to come.

Personal Note II:  Thank you to all our loyal readers. It has been a pleasure writing for you throughout the 2013 baseball season.  I look forward to spring 2014, new grass on the field and renewed hopes for real and fantasy baseball pennants.  Of course, until this column returns in the spring, I will not be far away.  Colton and the Wolfman on SiriusXM fantasy sports radio (Sirius 210, XM 87) with Rick Wolf and me is on every Tuesday night from 10pm to midnight eastern time.  There will be lots of fantasy football talk but feel free to call or tweet your baseball playoff, keeper and off-season questions.  Like football, it is never too early or too late to talk baseball!

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