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Monday, July 20, 2020

TP Wiz

My long-time American League fantasy baseball league decided to set aside our "keeper" squads until spring 2021. Restocking the rosters would require a long all-day auction to establish players salaries. We drafted new teams online Saturday in about 3 hours, using a standard snake draft. 

I had the 5th pick based on my 8th place finish last year (of 12 teams). That was true through all odd-number rounds. In the even numbered rounds, I picked 8th. 

We continued to use AL-only players, agreed to use 5 hitting (R, HR, RBI, SB, and OBA) and 5 pitching (W, 2SV+H, ERA, WHIP, and K) categories.  We only use 4 OFers, but 10-man pitching staffs on our otherwise standard 23 man roster. We also select 3 reserves to make this a 26 round draft. Finally, we require 1000 innnings in a regular year, so 370 are needed in this 60 game season to avoid last place in ERA and WHIP.

Rather than use the moniker Hardy House for the league, I set it up to be the KBO Western Division. If you have followed the KBO, you may know there's a team called the KT Wiz. My team is the Tyler Park Wizards of Armageddon, or TP Wiz. I live in the TP neighborhood and Wizards of Armageddon was a terrific book I read in graduate school about the nuclear scientists who developed the US deterrent force posture. The name seems appropriate for the unusual season and it references my Hardy House league team name, the Bolts from the Blue (which is a nuclear strategy term). 

This is how my draft went, round-by-round:

1. P/DH Ohtani LAA

A stretch, perhaps, but my software had Ohtani as a top tier player when his hitting and pitching dollar values are combined. I hope it is correct. Most draft software said I should have selected 3B Ramirez of CLE, OF Martinez of BOS, or P Justin Verlander of HOU ($38). Ramirez and Martinez are supposed to be worth about $31 in a standard 5x5 roto league. While Ohtani's hitting is only projected to be worth $20, his pitching is forecast at just over $13. That's $33, which is greater than $31. 

I wasn't going to take an old pitcher using that high pick, so Verlander was out for me. Forecasts suggest Ohtani pitching on Sundays will get 10 starts. Verlander in 60 games on 5 day rotation will likely get 12 to 14. And he might be a lot better in that role, but he might not be.

2. OF JD Martinez BOS
3. SS Bichette TOR
4. C Grandal CHX

I didn't really intend to pick Martinez, but had to get him when he was still there as the 20th player picked. After all, my software said he was the hitter I could have picked in round 1.  Bichette was perhaps a reach in round 3, but I really wanted to be strong at key positions -- 2B, SS, and C. 

5. P Paxton NYY
6. OF Verdugo BOS
7. OF Tucker HOU
8. P Puk OAK
9. OF Buxton MIN

I didn't intend to fill my OF so quickly, but I really like these guys for their youth, speed, and potential for a breakout performances. Paxton is a very solid pitcher, if healthy, and I think Puk will be too. Both have had serious injury problems in the past.

10. 2B Chavis BOS
11 OF Calhoun TEX
12. P Canning LAA
13. 2B Madrigal CHX

At this point, I basically decided to go all-in on youth. Chavis is really a corner IF who happens to qualify at 2B. Calhoun is going to mash. Canning has really good upside, especially as a #4 starter. Madrigal is an outstanding potential rookie, especially valuable in a league using OBA. Hopefully I have enough power elsewhere. 

14. 2B Alberto BAL
15. 1B Nunez BAL
16. P Magill SEA
17. 3B Franco KC

I think the Baltimore guys were undervalued because of their team. They are not stars, but it is surprising they lasted this long. Also, at this point in the draft there were many teams drafting young guys with upside, so I reversed my earlier course and zagged when others were zigging. 

Magill supposedly has the inside track to closing for the Mariners, but who knows. All the real closers were gone by this round. Franco was picked as a token Royal at a position I needed to fill, though I ended up with another KC pitcher later.

18. P Ottavino NYY
19 1B Tellez TOR
20. P Lyles TEX
21. P Buttrey LAA

Ottavino and Buttrey are second in line for saves on their current teams. That's true largely because Aroldis Chapman apparently has tested positive for COVID19 and will likely start the year on the injured list. 

Tellez has real power, but was hurt by the decision to move Vlad Guerrero to 1B. Hopefully, he gets plenty of ABs as a DH. Lyles had a fairly good year last season and the new Texas park is supposedly more favorable to pitchers. We'll see.

22. OF Margot TB
23. C McGuire TOR
24. P Singer KC
25. P Andriese LAA
26. P Edwards SEA

Margot provides some needed steals, hopefully, and plays on a team that uses its depth and has a good track record of getting performance out of imported NL players. 

McGuire is a young backup catcher with upside. Brady Singer is KC's top prospect (unless Bobby Witt Jr. has already usurped him) and is likely to get some starts in the majors this year sooner rather than later.  Edwards is insurance on saves, though I suspect he'll have a short leash in my bullpen. 

In all, I have young bats all over my lineup. I have four Angel pitchers in part because they work in one of the AL's better pitcher's parks. Plus, this season they only play against AL West and NL West teams. That's also true of the Mariner and Oakland pitchers I selected. The best pitcher's parks in the AL include Oakland and Seattle and the best in the NL include LA, SD and SF. I'll want to bench my pitchers when they appear in Coors and maybe Arizona. Of course, some of the western teams have great offenses -- especially Houston and the Dodgers -- so this strategy may backfire. We'll see.



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Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Baseball 2020

Given the surge of COVID-19 cases around the country, particularly in Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas, it seems odd to think that major league baseball is gearing up for a 60 game regular season -- and then a post-season.

Those 4 states I mentioned, by the way, are home to all major league spring training sites and 10 of the 30 major league teams. The league has averted the first problem by sending teams to their own cities and stadiums for the abbreviated "summer camp" that is about to start prior to the regular season, which is slated to begin on July 23.

The 10 teams in the afflicted states will have to grapple with the reality of operating amidst a worsening pandemic. It's also not clear what happens with the Toronto Blue  Jays as the US-Canada border is still mostly closed to non-essential crossings. 

My long-time American League rotissiere-style fantasy league is going to set aside the keeper element this year and have a one-time Zoom draft tentatively scheduled for July 18. We're debating some category changes, but not everyone has agreed to play. The picks will be either linear or snake-style. The "regular" Hardy House league and auction-style draft will resume in 2021.

My long-time head-to-head 24-team league is making plans to resume the linear draft that was interrupted on March 12. We'll begin picking a couple of players per day again starting July 9 and then initiate a short 7 week regular season on July 23. We'll use 3 divisions of 8 teams, so every team will play against all the other teams in its division. The divisional champs and then the 2nd place team with the best record will have playoffs and a World Series in the last two weeks of the season, ending September 27.

Let's hope the players, managers, coaches, and staff associated with the various teams are able to pull this off safely. I've been watching some KBO games that I record on the DVR and they've been playing without a hitch for many weeks -- even though the league says it will shut down for at least 3 weeks if anyone tests positive. Of course, South Korea has done a much better job managing the virus.  Despite this success, the situation remains precarious, of course. 


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Saturday, June 27, 2020

Hulu Film Festival

During quarantine in May and early June, my spouse and I activated the 30-day free Hulu offer that was promoted with the Roku device I purchased last fall. We streamed a large number of movies during those 30 days and I'm going to rank them quickly here.

Must-viewing: excellent and very good films

Parasite (South Korea)
Honeyland (North Macedonia documentary)
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (France)
The Guilty (Denmark)
Shirley
Biggest Little Farm (documentary)

The top 3  here were serious Oscar contenders last year. Indeed, we signed up for the free month primarily to see Parasite.

The Guilty was a tense crime drama that was unexpectedly good. Maybe on a different night I would have put it in the category just below.

We're not big fans of Elisabeth Moss as we don't watch Handmaid's Tale and didn't see Mad Men. Her Smell was really difficult to watch last year. However, if you really like her, then this is a great showcase for her talent. The story is also good. Moss has a nack for playing unpleasant characters, at reflected in her recent films.

Biggest Little Farm is flawed, but I'm putting it here because it made me think about my own gardening processes -- and my eating.

Entertaining, but flawed
Alternatively: Interesting and probably worth your time

Jane (documentary)
The Day Shall Come
Killer Joe
Citizen Jane (documentary)
Grabbers
Non-Fiction (France)
Vox Lux
Hotel Mumbai
Plus One
A Brilliant Young Mind
I Kill Giants
The Sound of Silence **

The two Jane documentaries are both great in spurts, but have some dull or weird spots that brought them down a notch. The Day Shall Come is probably not as good as this ranking suggests, but it is an appropriate film for the social moment we are experiencing in the US regarding policing and racial injustice.

If you liked Tremors (1990), you'll probably like Grabbers. No Kevin Bacon or Fred Ward, but Ruth Bradley was good.

Non-Fiction was trying hard to be important, but I was resistant to its commentary on modern forms of communication. McLuhan's "the medium is the message" is pertinent.

The Sound of Silence is slow with a very subtle message. Did you like Noise (2007) or Safe (1995)? It had that vibe.

Natalie Portman was giving Moss's character in Her Smell a run for the money, but this had an odd twist in the story.

Plus One was predictable, but watchable thanks to Maya Erskine primarily. Male lead Jack Quaid is the son of Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid, which likely helped him get cast.

Give it a Pass

Greener Grass

This satire had its moments, but too few, sadly.

** My spouse likely would have put this film in the Give it a Pass category.


Note: After the free trial ended, I activated the Sprint mobile phone offer to get Hulu free -- but with commercials. Thus, if we've missed something particularly good, we could return to it. However, we really hate commercials. I tried to watch an episode of "Ramy" and it had more/longer breaks than I was anticipating.



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Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Best Films of 2016

As promised, I'm working my way backwards through the annual Metracritic lists of top films as compiled from the rankings posted by film critics. I didn't see all of these films in 2016-2017 so I'm looking for possible viewing opportunities in the next few weeks (or months) of home lockdown.
FILMS MENTIONED ON MOST CRITIC TOP 10 LISTS - 2016
Movie and Metascore# 1st Place# 2nd Place# OtherPoints
199 Moonlight653391353
294 La La Land371982.5232
396 Manchester by the Sea212995218
481 Arrival14775.5133
593 Toni Erdmann161145116
688 Hell or High Water7768105
790 Paterson1125684
896 O.J.: Made in America *7104182
984 The Handmaiden3953.581
1089 Elle51036.572
1181 Jackie2645.564
1279 American Honey2632.552
1382 The Lobster153650
1486 Cameraperson252642
1579 Silence332641
1683 20th Century Women3128.540
79 Sing Street1035.540
83 The Witch0137.540
1983 Everybody Wants Some!!1132.538
2079 Green Room0329.536
2182 Certain Women212533
2290 The Fits2515.532
2395 I Am Not Your Negro1222.530
2487 Love & Friendship002829
2578 Zootopia022428
84 Kubo and the Two Strings022328
2765 Deadpool1120.527
2879 Loving1022.526
79 Fences2019.526
83 13th112026
* The eight-hour documentary O.J.: Made in America was screened in two theaters to qualify for film awards prior to airing as a miniseries on ESPN. As a result, you may see it appear in lists from movie critics in addition to those from TV critics.
This is a quick and crude ranking -- keep in mind that I haven't seen some of these films in four years.
Readers may recall that 2016 was a trying year for my family, so it's not really a surprise that I missed seeing so many of the top ranked films. Once I see them, I will move them in the list and mark the updates with yellow highlighting. 

Best Films of 2016

Hell or High Water
Moonlight
Manchester By the Sea

Excellent

Paterson
Sing Street
La La Land
13th
I Am Not Your Negro
The Lobster
The Fits
Fences

Very Good, But Flawed

20th Century  Women
Deadpool
Green Room
Love & Friendship
American Honey
Arrival
Everybody Wants Some!
Jackie

Have Not Yet Seen

Cameraperson
Certain Women
Elle
The Handmaiden
Kubo and the Two Strings
Loving
O.J. Made In America
Silence
Toni Erdmann
The Witch
Zootopia

I confess that Toni Erdmann has been on my priority list for awhile. While in Ottawa on sabbatical, I checked it out from the local library, but never watched it (partly because of the length). I'm unlikely to see the animated Kubo or Zootopia. There are several documentaries on the list and a horror flick, genres I never prioritize for quite different reasons.


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