Saturday, July 17, 2010

King of the Trail

When I entered the trail at Long Meadow I was ten feet behind two runners -- I dubbed them red-hat and mesh-shorts -- who were racing and pretending not to.  I held back and watched with growing amusement as the red-hat runner surged, only to be matched by mesh-shorts, and then mesh-shorts counterattacked, but red-hat hung tough.  By the time we reached Queen Hill, which has a vertical of 45', both runners were laboring noticeably.  At the crest of the hill, red-hat broke: his shoulders slumped and his pace slowed.  Mesh-shorts had, it seemed, "won."

I picked up my pace and quickly dispatched with red-hat and was gaining rapidly on mesh-shorts when mesh-shorts unexpectedly veered off onto a side trail right before Lookout Hill.  I had wanted to pass him with authority, to show him that I owned the trail, and briefly considered following him down the side trail just to make my point, but ultimately that would have cut my run short, and so I let mesh-shorts leave the trail without conquering him.

As I neared the top of Lookout Hill and its 23' vertical I was surprised to hear footfall behind me.  Red-hat was making a valiant effort to match my pace.  The topography was cooperating with him, as the next stretch around the lake had no vertical.  Red-hat nosed ahead of me and began to one-step me; no matter what pace I ran he ran one step faster.  I realized that breaking him wouldn't be easy.  I would have to grind him down.  To do this, I would use Breeze Hill and its 95' vertical as a weapon.

At the base of Breeze Hill, I began to run at a pace that I knew I couldn't sustain for much more than a minute or two.  I pulled ahead by one step but could not shake red-hat.  Fearing that if I slowed, red-hat would sense that my fast pace was a bluff and gain confidence, I continued to run at an unsustainable clip. When my body started to crack, I promised myself that if I could just maintain this pace until Midwood, I would allow myself to stop and walk.  We crested the hill together, and as we sprinted towards Midwood, I began to rationalize my defeat: I was dehydrated.  I hadn't slept well. The extreme amount of vertical I was running each week, upwards of 1000', was sapping the energy from my legs.

Seconds before I was about to slow to a walk, Red-hat turned to me and said he was going to stop and refill his handheld bottles.  "Nice run, man," he said.  We exchanged names.  "You were really pushing me there," he said.  "Are you training for anything?"

"I'm just trying to get into shape," I said.

"I'd say you're already there.  Have you done any half marathons?"

I thought this was an oddly specific question, so I answered it vaguely: "Ah, yes, there is one in a week or two around here.  I might do that."

"Queens," he said.  "I might do that one, too.  Well, nice running with you."

We shook hands and then he pulled off the trail.  I ran around a few more bends in trail and then leaned over and threw up three times.

I took the long way home, hoping to add mileage to my run, but I knew almost immediately that this was a mistake.  I was fried.  Miles later, when the trail merged with the road up by Grand Army, I vomited two more times and then forced myself to jog every other block, mostly because I wanted to get home so that I could pour myself a tall glass of water.  I was sopping wet with sweat, and even when I was running it wasn't much faster than a walk.  When I was a few blocks out off the trail I nearly ran right into the back of Red-hat.  He was walking with a slight limp.  His chin was on his chest.  He hadn't seen me, and so I immediately crossed the street and went down a side road.  I vomited one more time before I reached my apartment.

9 Weeks Out:
Saturday 7/10: Run 60min; 50' vertical (4.8M race)
Sunday 7/11: Run 50min; 50' vertical
Monday: 7/12: Run 60min; 150' vertical
Tuesday 7/13: off
Wednesday 7/14: off
Thursday 7/15: Run 10min
Friday 7/16: Run 60min, 200' vertical

Total: 4hr; 450' vertical

8 Weeks Out:
Saturday 7/17: Run 1hr, 35min; 1,100' vertical
Sunday 7/18: Run 1hr, 45min; 300' vertical; city hike 4hrs (10miles) and 108' vertical
Monday 7/19: Run 50min; 180' vertical
Tuesday 7/20: Run 60min; 150' vertical (track workout)
Wednesday 7/21: Run 60min; 200' vertical
Thursday 7/22: off
Friday 7/23: Bike 60min

Total for week so far: 11hr, 10min; 1,938' vertical

Monday, July 5, 2010

Barefoot Runners Never Get Injured

I recently agreed to be come a pacer for LEWIS who is running a 100-mile ultra marathon in the Wasatch mountains in Utah.
Pacers are allowed to start at the 39-mile mark.  As far as I can tell, finishing a 100-mile race takes 15 - 40 hours.  Apparently it is helpful to the racer to have company during the race, especially during the parts of the race that are run in in the dark using a headlamp, and during bear attacks, and during the last half the race when the racer is feeling exhausted and sleep deprived.

As you can see from this video, the Wasatch course has slightly more vertical than your typical local 5k.  If I'm going to be any help to LEWIS at all, I'm going to have to start running a few more hills and a little more distance.  I asked LEWIS how I should train, and his response made sense to me: "I think any way of just being on your feet moving forward for an extended period of time will be helpful."

So, from now until Sept. 10th, I will turn this blog into an Ultra Marathon Blog.  I've been reading other ultra blogs and apparently there are a few rules to ultra blog writing:
1. Always be earnest; take yourself very seriously
2. Reference the names of mountains and mountain passes
3. Use the word vertical whenever you can
4. Believe in your heart that people with a barefoot fetish never get injured
5. Have mild outspoken superiority complex over runners who run less than 50k races
6. Have mild unspoken inferiority regarding runners who can break 16 minutes for a 5k (Unless you are Anton Krupicka, who seems comfortable with is 5k abilities:" I mean, I’m not a very good runner. I mean, I’ve never even broken 16 minutes in a 5K, dude.")

Over the next ten weeks I will do what I can to honor the ultra blog rules listed above.

10 Weeks Out: (since the race starts on a Fri, I'll keep mileage on a Sat - Fri schedule)
Sat (7/3): Run 1hr 10min w/ 249' vertical; 2+hrs (7mi) of city walking; 262' vertical
Sun (7/4): Bike 1hr; 299' vertical
Mon (7/5):Run 30min, Bike :20min; 37' vertical [heatwave update: high of 99 degrees]
Tue (7/6): [heatwave update:high of 103 degrees]
Wed (7/7): [heatwave update: high of 99 degrees]
Thu (7/8): Run 50min, 138' vertical
Fri (7/9): Run 80min, 715' vertical

Totals: 7hrs, 10min; 1,700' vertical

Vertical stats from

Monday, May 31, 2010

Bottomless Sinkhole in Guatemala City

From NYTimes (click here for full post):

"This astonishingly unnerving photograph was posted today on the feed of the Guatemalan goverment and shows a seemingly bottomless sinkhole that opened up on Sunday in Guatemala City as a swath of Central America was drenched by tropical storm Agatha. Click here for the high-resolution version, if you dare..."

Friday, April 9, 2010

Three Closer Predictions for 2010

Kerry Wood saves 20+ games.  The news of Wood's fantasy uselessness is greatly exaggerated.  I personally feel like there is an 80% chance that Wood gets the closer job back.  I know it is trendy to say Wood is toast, but his replacement Chris Perez's career numbers are not exactly confidence inspiring: 98  innings, 49 walks, 110 K, a 3.92 ERA.  Why is everyone so in love with Perez?  He's going to get killed by his own penchant for giving up walks.

Koji Uejara will close at some point and do very well.  MGonzo has experienced a loss of velocity.  If he continues to get hammered, Koji will get a shot to be the closer.  He's proved he can close in Japan and he's proved he can get MLB hitters out by throwing up a 1.18 whip last year.

Ryan Madson will save more than 20 games.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

2010 H2H Fantasy Baseball Strategy: C.R.A.S.S (CL, R, AVG, SB, SP)

"Certain speedsters are not getting proper respect this year. Borbon, Pierre, Rajai Davis, Everth Cabrera, and Elvis Andrus are all projected to swipe 40+ bags and score 80+ runs, but they're going in the 13th round or later."

- RotoAuthority

Given the multitude of Stolen Base / Runs hitters that are available after round 13 or so, one (head-to-head) strategy is to draft as many high-quality pitchers as possible in the early rounds before scooping up the hitters like the ones mentioned above in the later rounds.

Now, before you thank me for being a genius, please let me tell you why this plan is foolhardy:
  • If you punt saves, you can also "unpunt" them through smart/fast waiver wire pickups. If you punt HR/RBI, you will never be able to unpunt them. In other words, there is no hedging your bets with this strategy. Either you are in, or, as Heidi would say, you are out.
  • During that moment when a player on your team hits a HR, your team instantly is rewarded in four categories: R, RBI, HR, and AVG. Why would you draft a bunch of guys who can't hit HRs?
  • Pitchers are, supposedly, "riskier" because they get injured more frequently
  • Andrus might hit 8th; Borbon can't hit lefties and might lose his lead-off spot to Kinsler; RDavis could lose at bats and/or see his AVG dip; ECabrera might not lead off; etc., etc., etc. In sum, picking hitters late means you are more likely to have to deal with loss of playing time, demotion to lower in the lineup, demotion to minors, and regression of skills.
Here is why I'm going to use this strategy anyway:
  • I did the boring old "best player available" last year and got my clock cleaned. My team was terrible. So I decided I'd rather do something oddball and fun than predictable and unfun.
  • People love power. So if you want it, you'll need to pay for it. On the other hand, powerless players can come at a huge discount. Most people view the Juan Pierre's of the world as one-trick ponies. I'd argue that with 600+ lead-off at bats, they can become three-trick ponies (R/AVG/SB).
  • With all the decent SB options available late, this is the perfect year to give it a try.
  • The league I'm in has daily lineup changes, three SP slots, four P slots, four OF, and five bench slots. Winning teams in this league usually have one or even zero bench hitters; almost every inch of bench space is used to rotate in pitchers. This C.R.A.S.S strategy won't work for all league settings.
A few reminders:
  • Focus less on the stolen bases and focus more on the Runs and the Batting Average; a team of speed guys will certainly lock that category down, but if you can't win Runs and AVG most weeks, your team won't be successful. To this end, you probably want to lock down a dependable Dustin Pedroia Run/Avg guy early in the draft.
  • Try to get five closers so that you can guarantee winning that category each week.
  • Did I mention that you should shoot for a team filled with leadoff-type hitters? You want your team to make up for its inability to hit a home run by getting more at bats.
  • You can't afford to draft a single player who is AVG challenged.
Here is what an example team might look like (plus ESPN Projections):
  • OF: Ichiro 29sb. 91r, .307 (#1 hitter)
  • OF RDavis 37sb, 62r, .279 (#1 hitter)
  • OF Borbon 38sb, 80r, .281 (#1 hitter)
  • OF Morgan 40sb, 78r, .276 (#1 hitter)
  • 1B Helton 0sb, 75r, .309 (#3 hitter)
  • 2B Dustin 17sb, 110, .305 (#2 hitter)
  • 3B Prado 2sb, 62, .300 (#2 hitter)
  • SS Aybar 25sb, 72r, .303 (#1 hitter)
  • C Yadier 12sb, 42r, .301 (#6 hitter)
  • UTL Pierre 40sb, 62r, .287 (#1 hitter)
  • SP Lincecum
  • SP Halladay
  • SP Lester
  • RP JonP (39sv, 1.17whip)
  • RP THoff (32sv, 1.13whip)
  • P FrankFrank (31sv, 1.20whip)
  • P Wandy
  • BN Hamels
  • BN Nolasco
  • BN Josh Johnson
  • BN Lyon (24sv, 1.28whip)
  • BN Downs (9sv, 1.30whip)
Other Options:
  • Alt: Wieters 0sb, 78r, .303 (#5 hitter)
  • Alt: Polanco 5sb, 91r, .306 (#2 hitter)
  • Alt: Frasor (17sv, 1.26whip)
  • Alt: Wood (29sv, 1.28whip)
  • Alt: Capps (24sv, 1.33whip)
  • Alt: MGozo (29sv, 1.35whip)
  • Alt: Dotel (22sv, 1.36whip)
  • Alt: Nunez (23sv, 1.34whip)
  • Alt: Jenks (31sv, 1.27whip)
  • Alt: MMontero (0sb, 66r, .286)
  • Alt: Howie 10sb, 73r, .313 (#2/7 hitter)
  • Alt: Kemp 30sb, 96r, .307 (#2 hitter)
  • Alt: Loney 5sb, 69r, .302)
Example Draft (12-team mixed league):
  1. Lincecum
  2. Dustin
  3. Roy Halladay
  4. Ichiro
  5. Lester
  6. Josh Johnson
  7. Jon Pbon
  8. Hamels
  9. Nolasco
  10. Borbon
  11. Wandy
  12. Morgon
  13. RDavis
  14. Hoffman
  15. FrankFrank
  16. Prado
  17. Yadier
  18. Pierre
  19. Aybar
  20. Helton
  21. Lyon / Dotel
  22. TOR CL (Downs or Frasor or Other)
Don't like this team? Pick and choose your own team:
  • 1.Pick #2 Lincecum, HamRam, Albert
  • 2.Pick #23 Pedroia, Halladay, Ellsbury
  • 3.Pick #26 Pedroia, Halladay, Ellsbury, Zack G.
  • 4.Pick #47 Votto, Sandoval, Cliff Lee
  • 5.Pick #50 Ichiro, Wainwright, Lester, Vazquez
  • 6.Pick #71 Papelbon, JJohnson, Carpenter
  • 7.Pick #74 Chone, Bourn, Choo
  • 8.Pick #95 Hamels, McCutchen, THanson
  • 9.Pick #98 Gallardo, Nolasco, Ubaldo, MYoung, Wieters, Bartlett
  • 10.Pick #119 Span, Wandy, Borbon
  • 11.Pick #122 Garza, Shields
  • 12.Pick #143 RMartin, NMorgan, RDavis
  • 13.Pick #146 SBaker, RSoriano, Asdrubal, GSoto
  • 14.Pick #167 EAndrus, Neftali, DPrice
  • 15.Pick #170 FFrancisco, BAnderson
  • 16.Pick #191 Capps, EAybar, Loney
  • 17.Pick #194 Wood
  • 18.Pick #215 Helton, RHarden, Pierre
  • 19.Pick #218 Yadier, Kuroda
  • 20.Pick #239 Everth Cabrera, A. Escobar
  • 21.Pick #242 Liriano, DFowler
(Note: the players in the above team should be understood as placeholders of sorts, merely to give you a better idea of what this draft strategy might look like if it were to be carried out in the present fantasy baseball market. During your draft, you can always target other pitchers or hitters that you feel are more likely to be available in your league or more likely to perform at a high level during the 2010 season.)


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Juan Pierre: King of Contact%

96 players stole at least 10 bases last year. That means that in a twelve-team league, it would be possible for each team to have 8 hitters steal over 10 bases. That sounds like a lot of players.

But how many of those steals are "clean;" how many of those stolen base threats have a decent chance of scoring runs and hitting for average? Nobody wants 10+ steals if they are attached to a part-time player who struggles to hit over .260 (yes, I'm talking about you, Bonifacio).

Well, here are the players who had a contact%* of over 83% in 2009:
*Total percentage of contact when swinging at all pitches.
93.2% Juan Pierre (1.00)**
93.0% Dustin Pedroia (1.64)
90.4% Robinson Cano (.48)
89.9% Denard Span (.79)
89.6% Todd Helton (1.22)
89.6% Martin Prado (.61)
89.0% Erick Aybar (.56)
88.7% Ichiro Suzuki (.45)
88.7% Shane Victorino (.85)
88.5% James Loney (1.03)
88.4% Jacoby Ellsbury (.66)
88.0% A.J. Pierzynski (.46)
87.8% Brett Gardner (.65)
87.3% Elvis Andrus (.52)
87.0% Yadier Molina (1.28)
86.9% Ryan Theriot (.55)
86.2% Julio Borbon (.54)
85.2% Asdrubal Cabrera (.49)
85.0% Nyger Morgan (.54)
84.2% Chris Coghlan (.69)
83.9% Alcides Escobar (.22)
**Eye (also known as Batting Eye), which is defined as walks divided by strikeouts, is in parenthesis. This metric is considered by some to be a good measure of a player's strike zone judgment. The very best MLB hitters have batting eye ratios over 1.00. Eye ratios of less than 0.50 are indicative of a free-swinging approach to hitting and poor strike-zone judgment. Players with eye ratios of .70 or better have a greater probability of maintaining a high batting average than players with eye ratios of .50 or less.

Here are some players that didn't break 83% contact% in 2009:
82.7% Andrew McCutchen
81.9% Everth Cabrera (.52)
80.6% Michael Young
80.2% Rajai Davis
79.4% Franklin Gutierrez
79.4% Howie Kendrick
79.3% Dexter Fowler
78.9% Michael Bourn
77.5% Matt Wieters
77.4% Carlos Gonzalez
76.0% Drew Stubbs

(I know that not all the players listed will steal 10+ bases, but I included them for one reason or another.)

All of this makes me feel pretty good about the hitters on the top list. That is, until I saw that Nate McLouth had a contact% of 84.1% in 2009 and batted .256 on the season.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

2010 Y! Default Ranks: The Highs and Lows (Relative to MDC)

Yahoo's default rankings are pretty excited about a few players:
Ranked higher on Y! (ADP on Mock Draft Central / Y! default rank):
  • Denard Span (MDC 127 / Y! 63)
  • Julio Borbon (MDC 185/ Y! 113)
  • Andrew McCutchen (MDC 90 / Y! 60)
  • Michael Young (MDC 96 / Y! 64)
  • Asdrubal Cabrera (MDC 151 / Y! 106)
  • Chris Coghlan (MDC 225 / Y! 102)
  • Adrian Beltre (MDC 196 / Y! 159)
  • Wandy Rodriquez (MDC 115 / Y! 75)
  • Scott Baker (MDC 154 / Y! 98)
  • Stephen Strasburg (MDC 264 / Y! 200)
On the flip slide, there are a few players that Yahoo's default rankings seem to dislike and/or forget.

Ranked higher on MDC (ADP on Mock Draft Central / Y! default rank):
  • Carlos Gonzalez (MDC 121 / Y! 128)
  • Gordon Beckham (MDC 94 / Y! 136)
  • Chris Davis (MDC 160 / Y! 301)
  • Evereth Cabrera (MDC 228 / Y! 270)
  • Juan Pierre (MDC 213 / Y! 280)
  • Martin Prado (MDC 235 / Y! 294)
  • Alcides Escobar (MDC 244 / Y! 335)
  • Jake Fox (MDC 344 / Y! 1042)
  • Trevor Hoffman (MDC 164 / Y! 255)
  • Kerry Wood (MDC 222 / Y! 338)
  • Matt Capps (MDC 212 / Y! 393)
  • Brandon Morrow (MDC 363 / Y! 484)
  • Brad Lidge (MDC 217 / Y! 487)
  • Jon Lester (MDC 59 / Y! 78)
  • Scott Kazmir (MDC 174 / Y! 222)
  • David Price (MDC 171 / Y! 237)
  • Max Scherzer (MDC 145 / Y! 263)
  • Clay Buchholz (MDC 192 / Y! 290)
  • Joba Chamberlain (MDC 197 / Y! 316)
  • Francisco Liriano (MDC 220 / Y! 979)
  • Chien-Ming Wang (MDC 420 / Y! 1049)
Feel free to post any other outliers that I missed in the comment section.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

MLB: 2010 Projected Lead-Off Hitters

Runs have, apparently, the highest correlation with fantasy baseball hitting success. So, if you believe that players who bat early in the line up get more at bats, and if you believe that more at bats leads to increased run production, then you might be interested to know who is going to be the leadoff hitter for each major league baseball team. I do not have this information, but what I do have is a list of 2010 lead-off hitter guesses / projections (I sometimes added Mock Draft Central ADP, the draft position in a recent Y! mock draft, and ESPN's projected Runs, Steals, and Batting Average):

Cubs: Ryan Theriot (81r, 21sb, .285avg)
Reds: Drew Stubbs (69r)
Hou: Michael Bourn (79r)
Brewers: Rickie Weeks (86r)
Pirates: Andrew McCutchen (100r)
STL: Skip Schumaker (78r)
ATL: Nate McLouth (95r)
Florida: Chris Coghlan (19th MDC, 10th Y!; 96r, 16sb, .292)
NYM: Jose Reyes (93r)
PHI: Jimmy Rollins (101r)
Nats: Nyjer Morgan (78r)
ARZ: Stephen Drew (10th MDC, 15th Y!; 87r, 8sb, .289)
COL: Carlos Gonzalez (81r, 11sb, .283)
LAD: Rafael Furcal (92r)
SDP: Everth Cabrera (20th MDC; 72r, 33sb, .263avg)
SFG: Aaron Rowand (64r)
BAL: Brian Roberts (101r)
BOS: Jacoby Ellsbury (92r)
NYY: Derek Jeter (103r)
Rays: Jason Bartlett (72r)
TOR: Jose Bautista (45r)
White Sox: Juan Pierre (62r)
Cleve: Grady Sizemore (97r)
DET: Austin Jackson (52r)
KC: Scott Podsednik (44r)
MN: Denard Span (12th MDC, 7th Y!; 92r, 21sb, .304avg)
LAA: Erick Aybar (72r)
OAK: Rajai Davis (62r)
SEA: Ichiro (91r)
TEX: Borbon (17th MDC, 11th Y!; 80, 38, .281)

The list of lead-off hitters available after the first ten rounds of mock drafts who are projected to bat over .280, steal 10+ bases, and score more than 80 runs is small:
  • Carlos Gonzalez (11th MDC, 10th Y!; 81r, 11sb, .283)
  • Chris Coghlan (19th MDC, 10th Y!; 96r, 16sb, .292)
  • Julio Borbon (17th MDC, 11th Y!; 80, 38, .281)
  • Ryan Theriot (22nd MDC, 19th Y!; 81r, 21sb, .285avg)
Quick Links: