The 2012 RAB fantasy baseball leagues

The countdown to pitchers and catchers has reached its final week, but we all know what that means. Yep, a few benign press briefings and not much else. It’ll be a while before we get into the swing of things. In the meantime, we have a perfect opportunity to set up the 2012 RAB fantasy baseball leagues. This should be similar to what we did last year, but also slightly different.

One thing we’ve failed to maintain in these leagues is continuity. Years ago we tried instituting a relegation system, but that requires far too much management. We’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that these leagues are one-year deals. We make ’em and them scrap ’em. So know that coming in.

Last year we had plenty of interest in RAB-based leagues; there were around a dozen total. We’re going for something similar this year. We’ve started the first two leagues, but we’re going to create many, many more. Here’s the procedure.

1) Click here to join the RAB fantasy league. We have two leagues set up right now, RAB League 1 (ID# 39765) and RAB League 2 (ID# 40171). I’m the commissioner of the first league, Mike is the commissioner for the second league. The password for both leagues is salbograntlanny, and both drafts are scheduled for Monday March 5 at 7:30 p.m. Eastern.

Update (1:09 p.m.): We have a new league: RAB League of Champs; ID: 41028; Password: Yankees#1 click here to sign up.

Update (1:36 p.m.): Another league: RAB New England Yankees Fans; ID: 41247; pw: salbograntlanny click here to sign up.

Update: RAB League of Leagues; ID: 41280; pw: nyy baseball click here to sign up.

Update: RAB Ballad of Mariano; ID: 41337; pw: Mariano42 click here to sign up.

Update: RAB The Grandyman Can; ID: 41619; pw: salbograntlanny click here to sign up.

Update: RAB Flags Fly; ID: 41209; pw: salbograntlanny click here to sign up.

Update: RAB Sports Bar All-Stars; ID: 42568; pw: hamandswish click here to sign up.

2) Once those leagues fill up, it’s time to create a new RAB fantasy league. If you want to be commissioner, click here to create a new league. Name it whatever you want, but make sure to make the first word RAB.

3) Email me — joseph p (at) riveraveblues (dot) com — and let me know the league details (name and password). I’ll then update the post accordingly.

We’ll keep doing this until there is no longer any interest.

I’d like the leagues to have uniform rules, so we can compete among the leagues. That is, while your primary competition will be with the teams in your specific league, I’d also like to do some comparisons among the leagues. In fact, we’re going to give away a prize to the team with the highest winning percentage during the season. I’m not sure what the prize is yet, since we’re months away. But it’ll be something good: a bit of memorabilia or a book.

Here’s what we’ve created in the first fantasy leagues.

  • 12-team league. I think this will work a bit better, and be easier to manage, than the 20-team leagues from last year.
  • Offensive categories: Runs, RBI, OBP, Total Bases, Net Stolen Bases (stolen bases minus caught stealing).
  • Pitching categories: Innings Pitched, Saves, Strikeouts, ERA, WHIP.

And we’ll use the following position distributions. It’s only a small change from the default settings:

C: 1
1B: 1
2B: 1
3B: 1
SS: 1
OF: 3
UTIL: 1
SP: 2
RP: 2
P: 4
DL: 1
Bench: 5

Also, I recommend turning on the feature that locks eliminated teams. There’s no reason for an eliminated team to be making a trade, since it cannot benefit them in any way. It’s totally bush league to fire sale anyway, but this is just some insurance against it. Everything else, from what I can tell, goes along with the default league settings.

That’s all I have for now. Again, sign up using the links above, or the spot below. If you have any questions, email me or hit us up using the submit a tip box.

Guest Post: The Legend of Pascual Perez, Ghost-Pitcher

Perez’s 1990 Topps card

The following is a guest post by my dear friend David Meadvin, with some assistance from me on the statistical/research front. Dave previously contributed to TYA as an occasional guest poster, and is probably the world’s biggest Pascual Perez fan. We’re talking about someone who, as a nine-year-old, literally filled three nine-card binder sheets up with nothing but the same exact 1990 Topps Pascual Perez card seen at the right (that’s twenty-seven (!) identical cards) for reasons that remain unclear to this day.

On a warm Dominican spring morning in 1957, Pascual Gross Perez came into this world – and Major League Baseball would never be the same.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m not an advanced stats kind of guy. I’ve never been that interested about baseball on paper; I love the game because it’s unpredictable in a way that stats can never fully capture. When Larry and I were growing up dodging beer bottles at Yankee Stadium and trading Topps cards, I was never a huge fan of the big stars. Sure, I loved Don Mattingly and Darryl Strawberry (I know he was a Met, but good God what a swing) – but my heart was always with the oddballs. And there have been few odder balls in MLB history that Pascual “I-285” Perez.

One of the many strange things about Perez is that his Minor League performance was mediocre at best. Signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 1976, Perez spent five years in Pittsburgh’s minor league system putting stats that hardly screamed “I’m ready for The Show.” In 1979, at AAA, he threw 103 innings of 5.50 ERA ball with an ugly 4.5 K/9 and 4.1 BB/9. He improved considerably the following season at AAA, throwing 160 innings of 4.05 ERA ball with a 5.9 K.9 and 2.7 BB/9, and he made his MLB debut on May 7, firing six innings of three-run ball, then getting sent right back down for his troubles. At the age of 24, Perez started the 1981 season at AAA for the third consecutive year. Today, it’s hard to imagine a pitcher with his minor league stat line ever seeing the bigs, but with a staff that was fronted by John Candelaria, a struggling Rick Rhoden, an ancient Luis Tiant and no one else anyone’s ever heard of, the Pirates were clearly desperate for pitching.

As a result, despite a 4.94 ERA and a worse walk rate (4.1 per nine) than strikeout rate (a paltry 3.2), Perez earned a Mid-May call-up. At the Major League-level, Perez actually pitched slightly better than his MiLB number might have indicated, but still, he was hardly a star. He tossed 86.1 innings of 3.96 ERA/3.57 FIP ball — numbers that few would frown upon from a middle-of-the-rotation starter these days, but back in 1981 were 10% and 1% worse than league average, respectively. Not to mention the fact that Perez still wasn’t striking anyone out, with a 4.8 K/9. Unimpressed, the Pirates demoted Perez back to AAA for the start of the 1982 season, which prompted the Dominican to consider leaving Major League Baseball and returning to the Caribbean League. Fortunately for all of us, the Atlanta Braves decided to take a chance on him and acquired him in a trade for Larry McWilliams, who had pitched to a putrid 6.21 ERA/1.91 WHIP the season before, but somehow managed to put up two solid years for the Pirates in 1983 and 1984.

The Braves may not have known exactly what they were getting in the rail-thin Perez, but it didn’t take long to find out. On August 19, 1982, Perez was scheduled to make his debut start in Atlanta. As game time approached, Perez was nowhere to be found. When Perez finally showed up – well after the game began – he explained that he drove around I-285 three times looking for the ballpark before finally running out of gas. Here’s how the story was reported in Sports Illustrated:

“When I get lost, I been in Atlanta for four days,” says Perez. “I rent a car and get my driving permit that morning, and I leave for the stadium very early, but I forget where to make a turn right.”

Thus handicapped, Perez made an afternoon-long ordeal out of what is normally a 15-minute ride. Circling helplessly, he finally pulled off the freeway at about 7:10 p.m., well north of Atlanta and running on fumes, and using gestures and his minimal English, persuaded a gas-station attendant to pump $10 worth of free gas for him. “I forgot my wallet, too,” says Perez.

The incident earned Perez the nickname “I-285,” which he proudly wore on the back of his warmup jacket. As Yankees fans are well aware, the Braves’ manager at the time, Joe Torre, is not known for treating rookies kindly – much less rookies who miss their first start. In fact, a famed poster commemorating the incident is described as including a mural of Torre, looking baffled, staring at his wristwatch. If anyone owns this poster or can unearth even a JPEG of it, please let us know [UPDATE: We finally secured a copy of this poster during the summer of 2012].

Surprisingly, Torre stuck with the enigmatic righthander. Incomprehensibly, Perez’s mishap lit a fire under the Braves. Heading into his Braves debut, the team was mired in a 2-19 slump. Yet, according to Sports Illustrated, the team “found the mishap so hilarious that they laughed their way into a 13-2 winning streak and then went on to win the National League West, thereby making Perez’s ride more familiar to Atlanta schoolchildren than Paul Revere’s.” The title run was also helped by Perez’ 79.1 innings of 82 ERA-/89 FIP ball for the Braves that season despite a K/9 of just 3.3(!).

Perez also began establishing a reputation around Major League Baseball that season for on-field antics that included shooting batters with an imaginary finger-gun, peering through his legs to see what kinds of leads baserunners were taking, regular beanings and threats, an occasional eephus pitch (which would come to be known as the “Pascual Pitch” in certain circles), and of course his gleaming curly locks. As one opposing manager proclaimed, “there’s not enough mustard in the State of Georgia for Mr. Perez.” Perez’s response? “Everybody mad at me because they think I try to hit somebody, but I don’t try to hit nobody. The coaches tell me, ‘Don’t be afraid sometimes to pitch inside,’ so I do it.”

Coming into the 1983 season, the Braves saw Perez as an emerging star, and he lived up to their expectations, posting the best season of his career. He threw 215.1 innings of 3.43 ERA (90 ERA-)/3.39 FIP (87 FIP-) ball, with a 6.0 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9, worth 4.1 fWAR. Sadly, Perez found himself jailed in the Dominican Republic in the offseason on drug charges. After his release, he returned to the Braves in May 1984 and proceeded to win 14 games the remainder of the season. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that if not for his jail time, Perez would have been a 20 game winner in the ’84 season.

In 1985, everything fell apart. Perez served three stints on the disabled list with shoulder pain before earning a team suspension in July for disappearing somewhere between New York and Montreal. After finishing the year with a heinous 1-13 record, Perez, who just a year earlier was seen as an emerging ace and probably would have been unanimously elected mayor of Atlanta, was released by the Braves.

1986 is a complete mystery. There is no record of Perez throwing a single pitch in any organized baseball league, or even what he did with his time.

Fortunately, the Pascual Perez story was not over. Prior to the 1987 season, the Montreal Expos managed to track him down and signed him to a minor league contract. Visa problems kept him from entering the United States until May, but after several months of minor league ball, Perez made his return on August 22, 1987, throwing five innings of three-run ball against the Giants. He finished the year a perfect 7-0. This time, Perez appeared to have finally figured it out with Montreal, enjoying the finest three-year stretch of his career as he threw 456.2 innings of 2.80 ERA (80 ERA-)/3.05 FIP (85 FIP-) ball, upping his K/9 6.7 and walking almost no one, with a 2.1 BB/9. In 1988, he pitched a rain-shortened, five inning no-hitter.

After an uninspired 1989 season, the Yankees came calling. Coming off two straight fifth-place seasons and utterly desperate for starting pitching (their starters pitched to an MLB-worst 121 ERA- from 1988-1989), the Yankees decided to invest 3 years and $5.7 million in Perez.

The big-bucks investment didn’t exactly pay off. Prior to throwing a single pitch for the Yankees he arrived seven days late to spring training with what the Yankees described as yet more “visa problems,” prompting then-Expos manager Buck Rodgers to describe Perez as “a time bomb that the Yankees will have to monitor closely.” In his third start that season, Perez departed with an ailing arm that required rotator-cuff surgery that August.  He also could have invested in a datebook or personal assistant, as Pascual showed up 10 days late to spring training in 1991, and five days late in 1992.

The thing is, when Perez actually took the mound he was effective, putting up a 2.87 ERA and 3.60 FIP in 1990 and 1991. But he only pitched a total of 87.2 innings spread out over two seasons. For whatever reason, he just couldn’t stay healthy (or present) for long stretches during his time in pinstripes. It all came crashing down in 1992 — the third and final year of Perez’s big contract – when he was suspended by MLB violating the league’s drug policy. This forced him to forfeit the remaining $1.9 million left on his contract.

Despite these myriad setbacks, the Yankees were actually interested in retaining Perez’s services. The New York Times reported that general manager Gene Michael placed about 60 calls to him over the offseason, but never heard back. Perez, who once referred to himself as “one of five twin brothers,” (one of those five, Melido, of course also pitched for the Yankees, and gave the Bombers quite a bit more than Pascual ever did, posting a 4.06 ERA/3.84 FIP over 631.1 innings from 1992-1995) had fallen deep into the Dominican Republic, far from the grasp of Major League Baseball.

Despite the Yankees’ best efforts, to this day, Pascual Perez has never been found. He may be gone, but his legacy lives on in the hearts of fans everywhere who consider him a hall-of-famer in baseball’s theater of the absurd.

Fan Confidence Poll: February 13th, 2012

2011 Record: 97-65 (855 RS, 657 RA, 102-60 pythag. record), won AL East, lost to Tigers in ALDS

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Open Thread: Tim Redding

(AP)

The 2005 Yankees were a run prevention disaster. They had what was arguably the worst defense in modern baseball history, and their starting rotation was such a wreck (thanks to the Jaret Wright, Carl Pavano, and Kevin Brown injuries) that Brian Cashman traded the overworked Paul Quantrill to the Padres for replacement level arms Tim Redding and Darrell May in early-June. They simply needed innings.

May, 33 at the time, started for the Yankees a week after the trade, giving up seven runs in 4.1 IP to the Indians. Redding, then just 27, started against the Red Sox in Fenway Park about a week after that. To say it went poorly would be an understatement. He faced eleven total batters and eight reached base, four on walks and two on extra base hits. The Sox had already scored three runs when they had the bases loaded with no outs in the second. May came in to replace Redding and allowed all three inherited runners to score, and then some. The duo combined to allow a dozen runs in 3.2 IP. They faced 28 total batters, and 17 of them reached base. The Yanks went on to lose 17-1. Here’s the box score if you want to relive that nightmare.

Redding — who turns 34 today — was banished to the minor leagues after the game and never threw another pitch for the Yankees. May suffered the same fate, except he never pitching in the big leagues again. The pitching situation looked gloomy earlier this offseason, but it was never 2005 bad. The Yankees have a stable of viable young starters in Triple-A, meaning the emergency trades to fill rotation spots with the Reddings and Mays of the world are a thing of the past.

* * *

Here’s tonight’s open thread. None of the hockey or basketball locals are playing tonight, but I’m sure you’ll find a way to entertain yourself. The Walking Dead comes back, and I guess I’ll give it another chance after the stellar finale last year. Anyway, talk about whatever you like. Have at it.

Former Yanks second rounder Sam Stafford to miss season

Via Aaron Fitt, Texas left-hander Sam Stafford will miss the 2012 season due to shoulder surgery. The Yankees selected Stafford with their second round pick last year, but they did not sign him after a physical revealed a small tear in his shoulder. They’ll receive the 89th overall pick in this year’s draft as compensation. The injury is really unfortunate for Stafford, who was poised to climb up the draft rankings this year as a hard-throwing lefty in a class generally considered short on college pitching.

Report: Yanks, Pirates have framework for Burnett trade in place

12:59pm ET: Via Ken Rosenthal, the Yankees would pay $19-23M of the $33M left on Burnett’s deal and receive multiple non-40-man roster minor leaguers from the Pirates. The two sides are still talking and it doesn’t appear that a trade is imminent.

12:00pm ET: Via Buster Olney, the Yankees and Pirates have a framework in place for an A.J. Burnett trade. The deal is not done because they still have to agree on the final players and dollar amount, but the two sides are now on common ground. Jon Heyman and Joel Sherman say the Yankees don’t love the two (!) minor leaguers Pittsburgh is offering and will shop around a bit just to make sure there’s not a better deal to be made. All indications are that A.J. will be moved in the coming days. The money they save may then go to Eric Chavez and a left-handed DH.

The Evolution of “Retro”

Hello and goodbye, childhood.

(The workweek is Saturday-Sunday, so it still counts!)

I’ve never known any other shortstop than Derek Jeter.

River Ave Blues has spent the past week talking about 80’s and bits of pieces of the 90’s because they’re history now: the players are gone, and while their numbers remain forever to tell us what they think is important, and while the plays may be play-index’d and written in scoresheets, they’re long in the past.

One of the great things about baseball is that it’s ageless: it can bring together the young and old. Baseball is frequently passed down from our parents or grandparents, who may have gifted us with stories about Ruth, Henderson, Berra, Righetti, or any number of the people who we the fans were fortunate enough to have in pinstripes. Maybe they became attached by someone old, cranky and awful, like Mel Ott. Fans of all ages deck the stands at New Yankee Stadium, from the cranky old gentlemen whining for the old park to the babies too young to really understand what’s going on yet. For each generation, what Retro Week is is something a little different. Everyone has their own childhood heroes, and ten different Yankees fans of ten different ages would write ten different weeks of Retro Week.

I was born in 1988 and missed out on Mattingly, Berra, and the hapless Yankees of the 80’s. My generation and I were lucky enough to pick up at the right time, raised with a scrawny-legged shortstop named Derek Jeter and his comrades: a Panamanian ex-starter, a chinless, scowly catcher (who was first a backup), and a beak-nosed crafty lefty. And there were plenty of other Yankees in those dynasty teams that 8-year-old me will never forget too, of course: Tino, Bernie, Cone, Paul O’Neill (my first favorite player ever), and so on.

As I end up finding my place in the real world attending my stupid job and counting my birthdays (I turn 24 in two weeks), the players that I grew up screaming for in front of my tv with my grandma have slowly faded away. Earlier this week, Mike covered David Wells’ perfect game as yore and I came to the startling realization that it happened way over ten years ago. Meanwhile, every new year comes with a new group of fans and their own childhood players. There are plenty of readers, I’m sure, who have never known another third baseman other than A-Rod, and some who can’t remember a time when the rotation didn’t feature the pure domination of CC Sabathia. That’s not bad, it’s just the way that time is. The half-important types that these Yankees kids might pick up could be Cervelli, Pena and Nunez. My favorite was Chad Curtis, and I will always love Alfonso Soriano. Sooner than maybe we’d all like (or maybe not soon enough), the youngest generation of fans will only know Derek Jeter from videos, retro baseball cards, and their parents’ brilliant stories of him, much like I know Mattingly, and my grandparents knew Ruth. When he’s honored for the Hall of Fame and Mo knows what else (tentatively everything), they’ll give him polite applause because he is history, while I’m pretty sure I will bawl hysterically thinking of the hundred different ways he enshrined himself in the hearts of everyone (but, as always) especially the kids.

Eventually, fans will grow up loving Manny Banuelos, Austin Romine, JR Murphy, and Mason Williams, or players in that age-group. I will politely reply to any children I have (and maybe some boasting kids) that there’s no one like Jeter or Pettitte or Wells anymore, and that while the cathedral that is Yankee Stadium right now is pretty amazing in almost every conceivable way, it isn’t what they had back in the 90’s. They’ll scoff, of course, and point to whatever the next greatest deed that’s been done by their hero, even if the teams are awful. And after that, well – I’m sure plenty of Yankee heroes of the future are still a blink in their parents’ eyes like Jeter was in the 60’s and Robinson Cano was in the 70’s.

Some day, kids will love them and will eventually boast to their kids that their generation was great, but man they would kill to see heroes of yore, like Derek Jeter.

(Mo is, of course, immortal, and all our children’s children will still see him pitching.)