A look at the Forecasters Challenge

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This is as much for my benefit as anyone else’s, but I wanted to check in on how my players in the Forecasters Challenge are doing now that the season is almost half over. We’re not getting status updates, so it’s all guesswork at this point.

For those not following along, Tom Tango’s Forecasters Challenge
includes 22 teams, most generated by rankings provided by experts. The
draft was run 1,000 times with random draft orders to hopefully mix
things up a bit, though it didn’t really work out. 71 players were
drafted by the same team 1,000 times and 185 were drafted by the same
team at least 900 times.

So there isn’t going to be a whole lot of variety outside of the elite
players. Hanley Ramirez, my No. 1 player, was drafted by 18 of the 22
teams and no more than 115 times by any of them. If everyone had ranked
Hanley first, he would have been on every team 45 or 46 times.

My team has a bit more variety than most, suggesting that I didn’t have as many extreme rankings as some.

Here are the players I drafted the most frequently and the position at which I had them ranked on my overall list:

Jordan Zimmermann – 1,000 – 264th
James McDonald – 1,000 – 353rd
Tom Glavine – 984 – 397th
Johnny Cueto – 793 – 149th
Carlos Silva – 667 – 400th
Ian Snell – 513 – 270th
Francisco Liriano – 499 – 69th
Josh Johnson – 467 – 146th
Tommy Hanson – 447 – 425th
Brad Penny – 435 – 325th
Jon Lester – 423 – 68th
Anibal Sanchez – 372 – 306th
Glen Perkins – 341 – 357th
Brandon McCarthy – 311 – 418th

Relievers did have value in the scoring system, but not as much as starters and I ended up with starters almost exclusively.

Unfortunately, that’s mostly it for pitchers. I got Johan Santana 45
times, Chris Carpenter 36 times and Matt Garza 234 times. No one else
drafted more than a handful of times figures to make a big
contribution. It looks like I’m receiving big points from Cueto and
Johnson, who rank third and fourth respectively in the NL in ERA, but
they’re my aces and the lower-ranked guys aren’t doing much.

There’s more to like about the hitters:

Victor Martinez – 999 – 47th
Khalil Greene – 969 – 177th
Coco Crisp – 648 – 91st
Justin Upton – 630 – 73rd
Martin Prado – 629 – 408th
Asdrubal Cabrera – 626 – 228th
Erick Aybar -589 – 286th
Adam Jones – 522 – 92nd
Hunter Pence – 500 – 60th
Nick Markakis – 498 – 14th
Eric Chavez – 494 – 362nd
Joe Mauer – 474 – 53rd
Curtis Granderson – 452 – 31st
Todd Helton – 430 – 147th
Jim Thome – 406 – 136th
Bobby Crosby – 397 – 461st
Rick Ankiel – 387 – 121st
Nick Johnson – 362 – 268th
Conor Jackson – 352 – 83rd
Carl Crawford – 341 – 8th
Yunel Escobar – 338 – 148th
B.J. Upton – 301 – 11th

Everyone knows what Victor and Mauer are doing, and also included
are some of this year’s top breakthrough players in Justin Upton, Jones
and Pence. Khalil is showing signs of becoming useful, and Prado is
providing nice value for who was drafted in the 500s. Unfortunately,
Crisp will go down as a bust because of his shoulder problems. I was
quite surprised to see how often I ended up with Chavez despite what I
thought was a pretty safe ranking.

A couple of more lists before I wrap this up.

Here are the top players I never ended up with, along with where they were picked on average and where I had them on my list:

CC Sabathia – 7th – 29th
Grady Sizemore – 8th – 12th
Roy Halladay – 11th – 25th
Matt Holliday – 12th – 22nd
Tim Lincecum – 14th – 17th
Ryan Howard – 17th – 23rd
Lance Berkman – 17th – 30th
Alfonso Soriano – 20th – 21st
Jake Peavy – 21st – 44th
Cole Hamels – 22nd – 37th
Chase Utley – 23rd – 16th
Carlos Lee – 23rd – 28th
Dustin Pedroia – 23rd – 41st
Brandon Webb – 24th – 26th
Prince Fielder – 25th – 27th

It’s pretty bizarre that I never got Utley or Beltran, considering I
had them ahead of where they went on average. But I guess B.J. Upton
and Markakis were still available in those spots and I was getting them
instead.

Here are the best players to go 1,000 times and their average pick:

Rafael Furcal – 52nd
Justin Verlander – 58th
Francisco Rodriguez – 66th
Zack Greinke – 74th
Ty Wigginton – 75th
Aubrey Huff – 77th
Mike Aviles – 79th
Carlos Zambrano – 83rd
Willy Taveras – 87th
Matt Cain – 92nd
John Lackey – 93rd
Edwin Encarnacion – 108th
Denard Span – 114th
Jose Lopez – 126th
Milton Bradley – 128th
Mike Jacobs – 131st
Erik Bedard – 131st

Greinke and Cain are set to work out really well. Of the low ranked
guys to go 1,000 times to the same owner, Trevor Cahill, drafted 369th,
appears to be offering the most value.

It’s May 4 and Daniel Murphy is still out-hitting Bryce Harper

Washington Nationals' Daniel Murphy hits an RBI single during the first inning of a baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals Saturday, April 30, 2016, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
AP Photo/Jeff Roberson
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Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy flirted with the cycle in Wednesday afternoon’s 13-2 drubbing of the Royals, as he went 4-for-5 with a pair of singles, a two-run double, and a solo home run. That brings his triple-slash line on the season up to .398/.449/.663. Comparatively, teammate Bryce Harper — the defending NL MVP and arguably the best player in baseball — is currently hitting .266/.372/.649.

Murphy has always been an above-average hitter, but this level of hitting is something else. Of course, he flashed it in the post-season last year when he homered in six consecutive games, helping the Mets advance past the Dodgers in the NLDS and sweep the Cubs in the NLCS.

The Nats signed Murphy to a three-year, $37.5 million contract in January. If Neil Walker, acquired from the Pirates to replace Murphy, wasn’t hitting so well, the Mets would probably be jealous. Walker is hitting .296/.330/.582 with nine home runs and 19 RBI.

Video: Jon Lester tosses his glove to get the out

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Jon Lester throws against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, May 4, 2016, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
AP Photo/Keith Srakocic
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It’s always fun when this happens. Cubs starter Jon Lester snagged a grounder hit back up the middle by Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli in the bottom of the second inning. The only problem was that the ball got stuck in the webbing of his glove. Rather than fight to pry the ball out, Lester just lobbed his glove over to first baseman Anthony Rizzo to get the first out of the inning.

Lester has had issues throwing baseballs to first base, so maybe it was a good thing the ball got stuck in his glove.

Lester did this last year, too, by the way.

Alex Rodriguez lands on the 15-day DL with a strained hamstring

New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez follows through on a single to right off a pitch from Texas Rangers' Shawn Tolleson in the ninth inning of a baseball game, Wednesday, April 27, 2016, in Arlington, Texas. The Yankees lost 3-2. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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Yankees DH Alex Rodriguez strained his right hamstring running out a ground ball in the fifth inning of Tuesday’s loss to the Orioles. The club announced it has placed him on the 15-day disabled list and recalled pitcher James Pazos from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Rodriguez lands on DL hitting .194/.275/.444 with five home runs and 12 RBI in 80 plate appearances.

Dustin Ackley replaced Rodriguez in Tuesday’s game, but the Yankees will likely cycle a handful of players in and out of the DH spot while Rodriguez heals.

What’s on Tap: Previewing Wednesday evening’s action

Philadelphia Phillies' Aaron Nola pitches to a Milwaukee Brewers batter during the first inning of a baseball game Friday, April 22, 2016, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Tom Lynn)
AP Photo/Tom Lynn
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We were treated to a handful of games this afternoon but we still have eight night games left. Let’s talk about the Phillies.

I wrote this preview of the Phillies just before the season started, predicting them to win only 65 games, which would mark only a marginal improvement over their 63-win season last year. In my defense, I wasn’t alone, as almost every expert as well as the projections had them finishing under 70 wins. And yet, here they are 27 games into the season with 16 wins. That’s on pace for a 96-win season. What the heck.

Aaron Nola pitched seven shutout innings against the Cardinals in a 1-0 victory on Tuesday, marking the Phillies’ sixth shutout of the year, the best mark in the majors. Even as the Phillies prepared to draft him, Nola was described as “major league ready” but no one expected him to be quite this dominant. In his first 19 major league starts, Nola has a 3.37 ERA with a 112/26 K/BB ratio over 117 2/3 innings. This year, not only has Nola been extremely stingy with the walks, but he’s been missing bats at an elite level. He’s only 22 years old.

Nola is joined in the rotation by Vincent Velasquez, the pitcher who highlighted the return from the Astros in the Ken Giles trade. The right-hander made headlines in April with a 16-strikeout performance against the Padres and currently stands with a 1.44 ERA with a 39/10 K/BB ratio in 31 1/3 innings. Unlike Nola, Velasquez was billed as a future ace or a dominant eighth- or ninth-inning guy.

Then there’s Jerad Eickhoff, who came over in the Cole Hamels trade last year. Though he has a ho-hum 4.15 ERA, Eickhoff is occasionally dominant as evidenced by his 32/5 K/BB ratio over 30 1/3 innings. He has a pretty curve. Look at it. Eickhoff probably won’t be an ace, but he wasn’t considered to be a future mainstay in the rotation when the Hamels trade went through. All he’s done so far is exceed expectations. Nola-Velasquez-Eickhoff makes for an outstanding start to a long-term starting rotation.

The offensive tools aren’t quite where the pitching is yet for the Phillies, as third baseman Maikel Franco has wavered between looking like Mike Schmidt and looking completely lost at the plate. He has only five hits (zero home runs) in his last 37 plate appearances. Shortstop prospect J.P. Crawford isn’t there yet, nor is outfielder Nick Williams, catcher Jorge Alfaro, and outfielder Cornelius Randolph. There’s certainly a lot of hope on the horizon.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a Phillies fan, but wearing rose-colored glasses isn’t a crime of which I’ve been often accused over the years. It has been one headache after another being a Phillies fan between 2012-15. The front office under former GM Ruben Amaro, Jr. was stubborn and out of touch. Now, under new president Andy MacPhail and GM Matt Klentak, the team has a goal and is seeing it through. No, the Phillies won’t win 96 games this year — they probably won’t even win 80 — but they’re certainly further along than a lot of us gave them credit for being.

The Phillies play game three of a four-game set in St. Louis tonight at 8:15 PM EDT. Lefty Adam Morgan will oppose the Cardinals’ Mike Leake.

The rest of Wednesday’s action…

Detroit Tigers (Anibal Sanchez) @ Cleveland Indians (Corey Kluber), 6:10 PM EDT

New York Yankees (CC Sabathia) @ Baltimore Orioles (Tyler Wilson), 7:05 PM EDT

Texas Rangers (Colby Lewis) @ Toronto Blue Jays (Aaron Sanchez), 7:07 PM EDT

Arizona Diamondbacks (Rubby De La Rosa) @ Miami Marlins (Jose Fernandez), 7:10 PM EDT

Los Angeles Dodgers (Alex Wood) @ Tampa Bay Rays (Drew Smyly), 7:10 PM EDT

Boston Red Sox (Clay Buchholz) @ Chicago White Sox (Carlos Rodon), 8:10 PM EDT

Minnesota Twins (Phil Hughes) @ Houston Astros (Mike Fiers), 8:10 PM EDT