August 23, 2006
Fantasy owners often get into the bad habit of relying on their computers for the stats without watching the players themselves.
Watching television is the next best thing to going to a game, and you can learn things that will help your fantasy club — but not nearly as much as going first hand.
I checked out a Mets/Cubs game at Shea stadium a couple weeks ago and it was an enlightening experience. First of all, the ball jumps off the bat much quicker than it seems on television. Line drives into the gaps are missiles, and liners over the infielders are like bullets.
With Tom Glavine working without his best stuff (and his stuff isn't so good to begin with!) the ball was taking off all night. As the Cubs teed off I noticed how quickly Endy Chavez, their reserve outfielder, got to the ball, and how sure-handed he was. This guy is a really good outfielder, I thought.
Later, after he ripped a homer and then a single, I realized he can hit pretty well, too. (On the way home, the Mets' general manager, Omar Minyana, noted in a radio interview that Chavez once led the minor leagues in batting average. As I watched Chavez wiz from first to third in a flash, I made the vow to pick him up in my rotisserie baseball league.)
I traded a minor league pitcher and a draft pick and got him, along with his $2 salary. What happened next was the kind of thing that makes it all worthwhile. Duaner Sanchez, the Mets' relief pitcher, mysteriously hurts his shoulder while "going out to eat" in Miami at 2:30 in the morning, even though the team hotel has 24 hour room service. The Mets then trade Xavier Nady, the team's regular right fielder for a relief pitcher, and bring in Lastings Milledge to play right. But then Cliff Floyd, the regular right fielder, goes down to an injury! All of a sudden Chavez is playing almost every day and yes, he's hitting and stealing bases.
I also notice Angel Pagan, a reserve on the Cubs. The kid looks fast, I tell my buddy. And he's got some pop. I grab him out of the free agent pool and now he's playing almost every day for the Cubbies. He cost me a lousy dollar, so I have two guys on my active roster contributing simply because I went to Shea.
If you can't get to the park, at least watch as many games on television as you can, and, of course, Sports Center on ESPN. Television can be misleading, but here are some things to look for: swings and misses. The more batters who swing and miss, the better a pitcher's stuff. Take note of the young players who are making the batters look awkward. Sometimes, their control isn't quite good enough and sooner or later they make mistakes the batter will clobber. But oftentimes with maturity comes control.
Sometimes the box score will show a guy going 0-4. As a fantasy player you need to know: did he hit the ball hard? What kind of outs did he make?
The reason is simple: if a guy is in a slump you may want to take him out of your starting lineup. But if he is making hard outs it means they will eventually start falling in.
Carlos Delgado is a case in point. He was in a 0-20 slump and he was swinging and missing badly. But Tuesday he looked better and made a couple hard outs, so I left him in my lineup. Wednesday he pulled a hard single down the right field line and Thursday all he did was drill two homers and a triple!
In the interest of full disclosure I should point out while I did activate Pagan and Chavez, I sent down Shane Victorino, who homered, doubled, and knocked in three the next night. And I also sat down Jon Lieber because the Mets were in Philadelphia and I didn't like the match-up. All he did was throw a shutout!
Hey, baseball — real or fantasy — is like life: you win some, you lose some.