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Daily blurbs from the Guru
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4/30 - If misery loves company, then there's a lotta luvin' goin' on this morning.

We had not one, but 2 negative triple digit (SWP) pitching performances yesterday. Mel Rojas authored a -121 SWP beaut, surrendering 11 ER in just 1-2/3 innings. His outing probably had little fantasy significance (except for its impact on Seattle hitters), but Roy Halladay's comparable masterpiece undoubtedly stung many, including me. To put these performances in perspective, using last year's pitching formulas, Halladay's game would have been -202 SWP, while Rojas would have posted -184. The worst outing of the entire 1998 season was by Mike Oquist, who surrendered 14 ER vs. the Yankees last August, bad enough for -229 SWP. Using this year's formula, Oquist's performance would have netted -115 SWP, tied with Halladay but not quite down to Rojas' standard. So, it's quite possible that these two outings will hold up as the worst all season - although with 5 months to go, I suppose there are always possibilities.

It looks like many of the pitching "bargains" are backsliding this week, after both Halladay and Jiminez took giant steps to the rear. It's going to be tougher to find obvious trades among pitchers, I suspect. Mike Morgan had a pretty stinky outing as well yesterday, though you'd never know it by looking at his points. He garnered 50 SWP (and 29 BPP), primarily because 4 of the 5 runs he allowed were unearned. Even so, using last year's pitching formula, he'd have had +1 SWP for the day. I watched part of the game, and was glad I hadn't picked him up. Now that I've seen the resulting point tally, I'm not so sure.

On the Hoops side, the misery wasn't in the scoring, but in the latest injury - to Hakeem Olajuwon. He sat out the 4th quarter with a "deep thigh bruise", and is listed as questionable for tonight. My guess is that he's doubtful.   Tough week for centers!   Ay carumba!

The Smallworld Hoops playoff game is now up and ready for drafting. If you are playing in the regular SW Hoops game, you are preregistered, and you can directly link to the new game from the regular season site. If you are only in the CNN game, then you'll need to register here. I haven't had an opportunity to peruse the prices, but I'll try to get something posted by the beginning of next week. As in previous playoff games, prices will remain constant throughout the playoffs, so point maximization is the sole name of the game. The difference between this game and recent playoff offerings is that trades will be doled out at 5 per week, just like the regular season. However, with the scheduling uncertain, it will be tough to plan trades too far in advance. As I recall, the NBA playoff matchups are "re-seeded" each round, so you can't know in advance what the next round matchups will be. The first round is a best of five format. If some series go the distance, you'll have extra trades available before the first round is over. After that, it's best of seven throughout, so each of those series will probably last about 2 weeks. Thus, while trades have been very scarce in prior SW playoff games, it's not at all clear that trade scarcity will drive the strategy this time.

I've gotten a few emails asking when I will update my NBA schedule pages to include playoff games. Guess what - I'm not! Frankly, since we'll only know the absolute schedule several days in advance, I don't see the point. It looks like SW will be posting the scheduled games on the game's main page, so use that. I'm out of the NBA schedule business when the regular season ends.

4/29 - We got some more lessons about SW baseball trading patterns yesterday:
  • More evidence that early week trading is the dominant influence: Jermaine Dye was the top gainer in the outfield. At the beginning of the week, he was easy to spot on the list of top outfielders. By the end of the week, he was barely noticeable, ranking 42nd in total SWP.

  • Freddy Garcia had a nice follow-through, with an additional $800,000 gain (on top of two straight weeks of $1 million each). I take this as evidence that excess buys are carried over when a player maxes out. I don't think Garcia's ranking at the beginning of the week would have garnered him $800,000 worth of buying activity.

  • Pitcher buying seemed to have been spread around. Kent Bottenfield and Russ Ortiz were the only two to max out, but strong showing were also posted by Jose Jimenez, Roberto Hernandez, Roy Halladay, and Chris Brock, with several others close behind.

  • All six of last week's $1 million gainers posted additional gains this week, some in spite of decidedly mediocre recent performance.

  • The guys who really "lit it up" on the field this past week tended not to show much in gains. In particular, at third base, Fernando Tatis and Matt Williams undoubtedly got in each other's way, aptly demonstrating that it's not enough to consider how the player has been doing, but that the performance of other players at the same position can be equally important when anticipating trading activity.

  • Cheap players also continued to dominate. Bottenfield was the only one of the 5 "million-dollar-men" to have cost more than $4 million last week, and two of them - Flaherty and McEwing - cost less than a million.
Jiminez turned out to be a mixed blessing. Although he came close to maxing out, he fashioned a -61 SWP disaster last night, and will have a tough time showing any price follow-through this week, as he currently ranks only 91st among pitchers in YTD SWP. I picked him up yesterday morning. Fortunately, the guy I sold was Billy Wagner, the only pitcher with a worse point total last night than Jiminez. Since Wagner dropped $150,000 as well, that trade turned out to net me $1,010,000 and 10 SWP! Hopefully none of you dropped Garcia to get Jiminez (but I'll bet some did!) That trade would have netted you $60,000 in value while costing 178 SWP! Yikes!

I'd be remiss if I didn't point out the pair of 3-HR nights for Magglio Ordonez and Larry Walker (although Ordonez needed a doubleheader to accomplish his feat). The White Sox, supposedly impotent without Belle and Ventura, have been scoring some serious runs lately, including 19 in yesterday's twin bill. Maybe Cleveland will have some competition this year after all.

I really haven't looked too closely at the SW Hoops price changes yesterday. My major concern was the "Mourning after" effect, which I alluded to yesterday. Alonzo is going to miss at least several more games, and that caused me to have to revise my trading plans for the final week. You too, I suspect. The top price gainer was old fart Don Maclean, who I had added to one of my rosters last week, not anticipating the gain, but seeing this as an opportunity to combine a cheap producer with a high priced player down the stretch. Unfortunately, Maclean has put up less than 10 SWP in his last two games combined, and now Vin Baker is talking about returning before the end of the season, so that trade could turn out to be a costly one. I should've picked up Jerome Williams, whose two day total was almost 100 SWP more, and who would only have cost a few more shekels. But, who could have known?

Before closing today, let me make a few comments on technical issues. First, some of you reported a glitch at the SW baseball site this morning that was causing your roster to disappear. Kudos to SW for posting a notice about this even before I could alert them to the problem. Technical problems are an inevitable fact of the internet. But quick communication goes a long way toward mitigating unrest. And speaking of glitches, you may have discovered a problem with hyperlinks on my pages when the "ebay" ad banner appears at the top. For some reason, that ad is causing my hyperlinks to be redirected to the ebay subdirectory of the flycast server, which obviously doesn't make the links very useful. I figured out a way to override this, and most of the active pages have been adjusted to compensate, but not all. So, if you get an error message from a link that's trying to go to ebay, just back up and reload the prior page until you can get a non-Ebay banner. (That ebay banner loads irritatingly slowly as well. Just what I need....)

There's probably more that I could expand upon today, but it's already afternoon, and I've had enough of this.

4/28 - At first glance, it would seem that Alonzo Mourning's absence last night (due to an eye injury) night have major scoring repercussions. But among the SW leaders, I suspect just about everyone had him, so the impact is pretty neutral. How quickly he is able to return could have more impact (commonly known as the "Mourning after" effect) but for last night, I'm guessing his zero had minimal influence on the standings. Chris Webber also sat out his second consecutive game, which undoubtedly influenced the standings, too.

Once again, the top scorer in Hoops came from an unlikely source - Jerome Williams.   Eddie Jones had a nice effort in a critical win over Toronto. And Tim Duncan was, well, Tim Duncan.

Today is the final repricing for SW Hoops, and it probably doesn't matter to most teams. I know I didn't even think about price changes this week. Incidentally, I see that there will be a SW Hoops playoff game, probably to be announced later this week. So I guess I'll be tallying NBA stats into July. Ugh.

Baseball trading was tricky this week, as the top player listings morphed quite a bit from the beginning to the end of the week. I ended up making three trades this morning for each of my two teams. I could have made a couple more, but I just wasn't convinced the marginal gains would be sufficient.

Roger Clemens demonstrated why the consecutive game winning streak is such a screwy record. This was his second dismal outing of the year (in fact, his second with negative fantasy points), but the Yankees keep taking him off the hook. Kevin Appier also got scorched for negative points, by Baltimore. That probably has more implications for the Echelon game, where he was seriously underpriced. On the other hand, maybe it had little impact, since most teams probably had him - the "Alonzo Mourning effect" once again. Curt Schilling threw the masterpiece of the evening, though 9 shutout innings turned out to be insufficient for a win, leaving Shane Reynolds as the top scorer for the day.

The RotoGuru server seemed to be down for a few hours last night. Be aware that the baseball stats are running on a completely separate server, so even when is down, you should still be able to access baseball stats - as long as you have one of those pages bookmarked. Of course, the Assimilator is still on the main server, so that was inaccessible - and it makes no sense to put a duplicate version on another server, since your stored rosters wouldn't be available. Fortunately, the server was back up around midnight EST, so at least you left coast Gurupies had access to all tools when contemplating those last minute trades.

4/27 - I was a little slow with stats this morning. The chief culprits are the injuries to Van Horn and Webber which have caused me to have to revise my trade plans for the balance of the season. Van Horn is out for the season with a broken thumb. Webber missed last night's game due to back problems, and tonight's game is questionable as well. I only had Van Horn on one team, but Webber was on both. Argh! I don't think I can catch the RotoGuru frontrunners now, because they seem to have the high priced guards and mid-priced forwards, and thus managed to dodge the Webber/Van Horn bullets. Ah well, c'est la vie!. (At least that will take care of the question about the automatic berth in the Hall of Fame if I had finished on top.)

The other delay this morning is due to late posting of price changes for both Echelon games. There must be a technical glitch at Echelon, because those updates usually happen like clockwork.

On the scoreboard, Walt Williams was the unlikely "big kahuna" last night (just one night after being benched for an entire game), although Jason Kidd bested him slightly in FCP. No really huge games to comment on, however.

I spent some time last night trying to figure out my SW baseball trading plans for this week. Last week, things seemed so clear. This week, I have much less conviction. In fact, some of the guys who looked so obvious last week now seem anything but. Now, if I rely on experience, then the primary indicator should be the way things looked at the beginning of the week, since I still suspect that early week trading dominates the flows. But, if someone who looked good on Thursday no longer looks like a bargain, that doesn't bode well for a good follow through next week. I know I'm rambling, but I'm still on the fence for most of this week's moves. Most of them. A few still look pretty solid.

Not many monster games posted in baseball last night. No pitchers topped 200 fantasy points. Andruw Jones had the best hitting game, and Torii Hunter was close behind, thanks to a grand slam against the Bosox. I saw him play a few times with the Twins' local AA affiliate (the New Britain Rock Cats). And Juan Encarnacion went 3-5 with a HR. It was a light schedule, however.

I added a new link to the baseball menu which jumps directly to the player lookup menus, so you don't need to route through another page if you know who you're looking for.

Finally, I was hunting around to see whether there was any evidence of a SW Hoops Playoff game. I didn't find anything. But I did find a SW fantasy golf game at the CNN/SI site! It apparently started last week, although it looks like they have weekly contests for each tourney. I haven't had a chance to review it yet, but you golf fans may want to take a look-see.

4/26 - Some big fantasy points were posted by a few NBA players yesterday. Marbury used 20 assists and Mutombo used 8 blocks to share the SWP lead for the day, while Iverson (38 points) and Kidd (another triple double) also posted huge totals.

Only 10 days left in the NBA season, and there are a lot of NBA teams still in contention for the last few playoff slots. There's also a real horserace shaping up in the RotoGuru Team rankings, with the 94 Crawfishers claiming a thin lead over the Bethesda Panthers and Santee. My two teams are lurking close behind, but I'm not sure I'm going to catch these teams.

On the baseball side, Pedro Martinez solidified his position as the #1 point producer in both covered games, with a 10 strikeout complete game over the Tribe.

Team rankings for all sports were updated either Saturday or Sunday. I'm now working on getting caught up on my feedback page.

4/24 - The marquis pitching matchup last night was David Wells vs. El Duque in Yankee Stadium, and it pretty much lived up to the advanced billing, with Wells eventually (and uncharacteristically) undone by two walks to open the Yankee 7th. The big games of the night, though, were tossed by two guys who were unlikely to appear on many fantasy rosters: Mike Sirotka and Livan Hernandez. Livan even contributed a homer, a single, a sac fly, and 4 RBIs to go with a complete game thrashing of Tom Glavine. Quite a night for the Hernandez family.!

Perhaps the most "fantasy consequential" pitching effort last belonged to Freddy Garcia, who pitched fairly well, surrendering only 2 ER in 5 innings (although throwing 90 pitches), but the Mariners bullpen once again failed to hold the lead. The $2.5 million question this week is whether to hold on to Freddy for another SW price cycle, or whether it's time to take the money and run. Given that he has continued to pitch well, he's still relatively cheap, and his next start will be next Wednesday, my current inclination is to hold on for at least another week. Meanwhile, there were some other well pitched games last night from relatively cheap pitchers, so take note of the price column on the Yesterday's SWP page when contemplating next week's trades.

The hitting star yesterday has to be Fernando Tatis, who belted two grand slams - in the same inning! And yes, it is a record. Maybe McGwire won't even be the big stick on the Cardinals this season. (And maybe I should've held onto Tatis last week, instead of swapping for Glaus. Oh well...)

I watched some of the Indians-Red Sox game, which had a couple of bench clearing brawls related to hit batters. Four guys were tossed - Jaret Wright, Jim Thome, Rheal Cormier, and Darren Lewis. I suspect there will be some suspensions in the near future.

In Hoops, Scottie Pippen put his personal troubles aside with a triple-double. Tony Battie also had a huge night. Maybe getting arrested is a good leading indicator of big production?

I modified the sort selection menu for the baseball stats reports yesterday. Now you can more easily transport from one sort combination to another without necessarily going through several intermediate steps. And this morning, I scrubbed my listing of active baseball players, discovering a few unreported moves to adjust for. I don't know if I have everyone correct, but at least I have no more than 25 active players listed for any single team - which is a good sign.

4/23 - TGIF!

There were two 1-0 games yesterday, including the first one ever in the storied history of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Speaking of Tampa, have you noticed that while Jose Canseco leads the majors with 8 home runs, he has only 12 RBIs? I guess TB has been having trouble getting base runners. Even so, they seem to making the most of what they have, with a 10-7 record overall (7-3 in the last 10 games), good enough to place them ahead of 9 other AL teams in W/L percentage.

It was a pretty light day in both sports, especially with rain in Chicago wiping out afternoon games for both the Cubs and White Sox. (I already found the rain dates for those games, thank you.)

For you BP managers, check out yesterday's feedback letter from Greg R. (and my response) about the advisability of holding vs. swapping pitchers held at a discount to market value.

In Hoops, I lost a little ground yesterday in my Hardaway vs. Armstrong gambit, although neither guy produced up to his average yesterday. Armstrong won the day, 24.5 to 21. Meanwhile, Paul Pierce made a quick recovery (45 SWP) from his back injury sustained the night before. It's nice to be young!

One Gurupie wrote yesterday with problems saving multiple rosters in the Baseball Assimilator. He was trying to store 16 different watchlist rosters (and people say I have to little to do?), but only 8 were "sticking". I suspect his problem relates to a Netscape limitation on cookies. (Roster files are saved in "cookies" on your local machine.) Netscape limits cookies to no more than 20 per domain - and is one domain, so I assume that limit impacts Assimilator rosters for all sports combined. There is also an overall cookie limit of 300, the solution for which I've discussed previously in a feedback letter on March 2. I don't believe that Internet Explorer has these cookie limitations, so if you are having difficulties, you may want to use IE to handle your Assimilator chores.

4/22 - It's Thursday, which means it the day to evaluate the latest SW price changes. Echelon fans, you'll have to take a back seat for most of today's blurb.

Yesterday's SW baseball repricing looked a lot more like what most of you were expecting, I'll bet. Here are my observations:

  • Trading patterns were much more focused (than the prior week), with 6 players hitting the $1 million price increase cap.

  • Several players showed a nice follow through from last week, including Freddy Garcia, who maxed out for the second consecutive week.

  • I'm often reminded of the saying "Experience is what teaches you to recognize a mistake every time you repeat it." In Hoops, it took me a few weeks to learn that trading is dominated by early week activity, which means that player rankings early in the week are more important value indicators than late-week listings. That must be the explanation for Jeff Brantley, who ranked near the top of the pitcher list a week ago, but doesn't even appear in the top 50 pitchers today. I dropped him yesterday morning, and missed his $930,000 uptick.

  • Low priced players seemed to command most of the action. For instance, managers went for shortstop Kevin Stocker in lieu of hotter-hitting Derek Jeter. None of the top ten price gainers cost more than $4,000,000 (prior to the price change). So while managers at the CNN site have more funds available, buying still seems to be centered on the cheap guys.

  • Just about everyone who had A-Rod must have gotten him sold off last week, since he didn't sustain much more damage. In fact, he was only the fifth from the bottom in price losses among shortstops! I figured more teams would have blown their first week trades before getting the chance to dump him. (Maybe those guys just dumped their whole teams, instead?)

  • I updated the team rankings late last night, and you can see that median value gain for teams at the SW site was around $4.7million, while the median gain for CNN managers was around $3.5 million. Obviously, CNN teams that are spending most of their funds are suffering in the gains department.
I'd guess that the best indicators of next week's "movers and shakers" can probably be gleaned from the current player rankings. In particular, it probably makes sense to look for cheap pitchers who get two starts during the next cycle.

Now, for the Hoops side of things.

  • Actually, Hoops price changes looked more like last week's Baseball price changes. Darrell Armstrong was the predictable front runner, but he only barely topped the $1 million mark.

  • Most of the other leading gainers were hot players with relatively heavy schedules last week. The primary exception was Grant Long, who satisfies the "hot" part of the equation, but played only twice last week.

  • It looks like teams are trying to differentiate somewhat, which I think makes sense down the stretch. In fact, I opted not to go after Armstrong, taking Anfernee Hardaway instead. Although he was priced about $5 million higher, I was hoping he would out-produce Armstrong, and help me pick up some ground on the leading teams. That part of the gamble worked last week, as Hardaway outpointed Armstrong by 43 SWP. Whether that was enough compensation for his extra cost is subject to second guessing, I suppose.

  • I was a little surprised that Paul Pierce declined modestly, given Boston's reasonable schedule (including a Wednesday game), and the rash of Celtics' injuries which have forced Paul to "step up" recently. Of course, Paul rewarded my confidence with a meager 17 SWP output last night, so maybe everyone else knew something I didn't.

  • I updated team rankings early this morning, and the median value gain was only about $1 million. I was surprised that my SW team gained as much as $4 million, given my decision to shun Armstrong - or are the rest of you "shadow trading" my team?
Actually, I expect my CNN team to pass my SW team before the end of the year. It has a value advantage of $3.5 million, and also a slight trades-in-hand advantage. It will be tough to pass everyone ahead of me, though, since most of those rosters look quite similar. But I'll give it the ol' college try.

Only ten trades left to work with - yesterday's five, and five more after the last price change. Since the season ends on a Wednesday, that last 5-trade allocation will have to cover a full week, just like every other dole. If you haven't done so, it's worth planning ahead.

I made a few more baseball report enhancements yesterday. The individual player reports now include a link to the player's page at ESPN, which provides all sorts of statistical breakdowns. And, I added a table of drop-down windows at the bottom of each page which will allow you to navigate directly to another player's individual page, rather than forcing you (and me) to work backward through a summary stats table. If anyone has other suggestions for the player pages, let me know. Otherwise, I think they're pretty well set for the time being.

Now, one last announcement related to the entire site. After the Sunday-Monday baseball stats outage, I decided it was time to set up a new mailing list which I can use to alert everyone on the status of technical difficulties. My registration page did provide a field to submit your email address, but many of those addresses are stale, and it's a burden for me to maintain that list anyway. By using the new email list - GurUpdate - I can easily send out announcements to everyone when appropos, while letting you control the address listing. I don't envision using this email list very often. Probably only to provide status updates when I'm experiencing technical difficulties, and to announce new contests or significant new features. It's up to you to register (by clicking on this link, or the corrseponding link on my home page. This list will be separate from the weekly blurb recap list, so if you want to be on both, you'll have to sign up for both.

4/21 - Another Smallworld repricing day. I spent a good bit of time looking for the screaming deals in baseball, and I had trouble finding many obvious opportunities. It seems like many of the hot players are expensive, or else there are a variety of cheap bargains at a position. I ended up not even using my full trade allotment this week. It's not that I'm totally satisfied with my rosters as they stand, but I just couldn't find enough compelling trades to exploit. Plus, I've got a few pitchers starting today, so I didn't want to chuck them prematurely.

My luck in pitcher selection at BallPark continued last night. John Lieber racked up 5 (count 'em, five) BPP, after averaging over 140 in his first two starts. I'm beginning to feel like the best strategy advice I can provide is to tell you which pitchers I'm picking up so you can avoid them (or pick the opposing pitcher). Tonight's master picks - Curt Schilling and Kevin Appier. (Was that a collective groan I just heard? I suspect many of you already have Appier. Maybe my fund raising project should be to ask you to pay me not to pick certain pitchers!)

Did you see the feature on ESPN Sportscenter last night (or was it Baseball Tonight?) about the team that could be assembled with players who are currently on the disabled list? Check out this lineup:

  • Starters: Piazza, Mo Vaughn, Alex Rodriguez, Scott Brosius, Barry Bonds, Jim Edmonds, Moises Alou
  • Starting pitchers: Kerry Wood, Alex Fernandez, Denny Neagle, Ramon Martinez, Rick Reed, Francisco Cordova, Matt Morris
  • Closers: Tom Gordon, Kerry Ligtenberg
  • Set-up relievers: Ricardo Rincon, Randy Myers, Stan Belinda
  • Bench: Andres Galarraga Will Clark, Ray Lankford, Cal Ripken (OK, maybe he doesn't belong anymore)
All I'm lacking is a front-line second baseman. Homer Bush, Craig Grebeck, or Justin Baughman just didn't seem to belong with the rest of those names. Maybe the next star to drop will be a second baseman? (Please, not Robby Alomar!)

4/20 - I think the site is fully functional again. Baseball stats were moved to a new server late yesterday, where things seem to be "operating within normal parameters". Special thanks to Gurupie (and SW Hockey Guru) Paul Scheirer for assisting in the transition yesterday. Paul gave me some temporary space on his SW Hockey server, guided me to an alternate "Perl-friendly" server, and even provided some critical Unix-related troubleshooting. Thanks, Paul - you da man! I think all of the stats links have been changed from "" to "", except for some historical "Yesterday" pages, which I won't bother to change. If you bookmarked the prior stats pages, you'll need to update, too. And if you find a non-functioning link, please report it. (I still don't know what happened on the prior server - but hopefully the new one will be more reliable.)

I'll have updated Team rankings later today for both Smallworld baseball games. I'll also try to work through the email backlog. Dealing with the stats problems has pretty much consumed all of my "free" time in last day-and-a-half.

Tomorrow's SW repricing will be an interesting one, although it may still not be the best indication of things to come. Top 50 player pages are now posted at both SW sites, which should help non-Gurupies find the best trading values. However, if basketball is any guide, trading flows will be dominated by early week activity, and player rankings weren't yet posted when this week's trade allocation was doled out. So we will need to wait one more week before we get to observe an "information complete" trading cycle.

Injuries continue to dominate the baseball front, with Barry Bonds going on the DL for only the second time in his career, and Cal Ripken, Jr. making his first career appearance. Ripken's trip isn't likely to have much of a fantasy impact (he'll only be slightly less productive on the DL than he was on the field!), but Bonds was off to a hot start, and I'll bet his inactivity will lead to some modest dumping. I had him on my ESPN Roto team, which hurts, since I've also got Lankford waiting in the wings.

4/19 - Yes, I know the stats server is not working properly. I don't know what the problem is, but it has been down since Sunday evening, and as of 9am Monday, I still don't know anything more than any of you. I'm hoping it's just a temporary outage. But I am working on a "Plan B", just in case. Meanwhile, the "Yesterday" pages and the Assimilator(s) are all functioning and updated.

Preliminary team rankings are now posted for all three games (Ball Park Dreams plus 2 version of Smallworld.) For Ball Park, I picked all teams from leagues listed when I selected the "search leagues" link and searched for "RotoGuru". There are probably some that didn't appear, and I know there are some of you playing in non-RotoGuru leagues, so if you're not listed and want to be, send in your team id#. I got a lot more Smallworld teams submitted yesterday, and I'll have the next round posted sometime in the next several days, although getting the stats available has become the first priority for now.

You may have noticed that the top 50 player lists by position are now posted at the regular SW site, although I still don't see them at the CNN/SI site. Hopefully, this will bring about more focused trading patterns. Actually, last night was a frustrating one for me all around, in terms of web access. RotoNews was inaccessible all night, and when I went to ESPN's fantasy baseball site, it was generally down as well.

Pardon me for being short-winded this morning, but "Plan B" beckons...

4/18 - Retooling the summary stats reports went smoother than expected, and they're now up. I left the column with prior year average for now, but will probably drop it before too much longer. I also posted the first Team Rankings for both Smallworld formats. Since the SW and CNN sites started with different cash balances, I'll need to maintain separate rankings this year. The first cut of BallPark Dreams rankings should be posted by the end of today.

Injuries continue to take their toll, as Red Sox closer Tom Gordon went on the DL after straining his pitching elbow. In fact, it was a tough day all around for closers, as negative fantasy points were posted by the likes of Mike Jackson, Rod Beck, Jeff Montgomery, John Rocker, and Robert Person. The Yankees' setup men failed to give Mariano Rivera a chance to blow his second save this week, instead blowing it on their own. But amidst all this bullpen carnage, guess who showed flashes of competence? None other than the combustible Seattle bullpen, with two pitchers throwing a scoreless inning apiece, including a save for Jose Mesa, his 3rd of the season (although his current ERA of 15.19 suggests that some of his performances have had that flair that Mesa and Mariner fans have gotten used to over the past few years).

4/17 - Rassin'-frassin'-rainouts!

Two more last night. Colorado has already had 3 games postponed, and Cleveland and Atlanta have had 2 each. Cleveland's game will be made up today as part of a doubleheader, but that often doesn't recover the potentially lost points, since bench players often get to start one of the games of a doubleheader. And rainouts can really screw up pitching plans. Fifth starters sometimes lose their turn altogether, and it's tough to know when other guys will be taking their next turns. I was planning to pick up Appier on my BallPark team prior to his next start, but somehow missed it - possibly due to confusion related to KC's rainout 2 days ago. Grrr. And Odalis Perez keeps getting pushed back, with all of the Atlanta rainouts. I should just stick to players who have dome games....

I upgraded the player stats pages yesterday, adding price and price change data for both covered games. The next project is to add some more columns to the summary stats tables, including actual games played, average over the last 15 days, and points from the last game. I'll be dropping the prior year column. Hopefully, these changes will be done by the end of the weekend (although I haven't been able to successfully connect to the stats server yet today in order to upload today's points - so the updates may be delayed).

I also blew 25 SWP in Hoops yesterday when I forgot to make a trade that I had intended to make. I'm usually pretty good at "multi-tasking", but with two sports, two fantasy formats, and multiple teams per format, I guess I have too many "mental windows" open right now, and my lack of sufficient memory is causing some of the windows to freeze. Too bad you can't just buy extra memory modules to plug into your brain...

4/16 - Before commenting on yesterday's games, I want to celebrate a RotoGuru milestone.

For the past month, you all have been flirting with the 100,000 mark in total pages accessed over a consecutive 7-day period. Twice, in early March, you tiptoed over the 100,000 line, but were never able to sustain it for more than a day.

Well, this week, you blew past it like a greased pig! The last seven days have totaled 122,000 page hits, with Wednesday being the peak day at 29,000. You've accessed 70,000 pages in just the last three days. It obviously helps the tally to have two sports active at once, but even so, I'd like to thank you all for this string showing of your continued support.

Yesterday was not a day for the pitching aces. Roger Clemens appears at the southernmost end of the daily pitching point list, coming up with a negative tally in both covered scoring systems. His bullpen cohort, Mariano Rivera, also posted a double-negative, and ranked just a few slots above Roger. Clemen's pitching opponent, Mike Mussina, fared much better in fantasyland than he did on the field, thanks to 6 of his allowed runs being unearned. I watched some of the game on TV, and Mussina was not worthy of a one-earned-run linescore for the day, although Cal Ripken did prolong one ugly inning with a double error. Perhaps the most counterintuitive result yesterday belonged to Randy Johnson. Get this - his linescore reads 6 IP, 5 H, 4 W, 6 ER, 10 Ks, and a loss. Sounds like a pretty good whuppin', doesn't it? Now, look at his fantasy points for the game: +59 SWP, +52 BPP. Go figure! Some of you have pointed out that it's tough to get really hurt with the pitcher scoring formulas this year. While Clemens proved that it can be done if you get totally creamed, Johnson shows that it's not sufficient to merely stink.

I haven't focused as much on the Ball Park Dreams game as I have on Smallworld so far, which isn't intentional. Part of the reason is that the Ball Park game has daily repricing, rather than weekly, so there isn't a natural "watershed" event to command attention. Frankly, I haven't done as much analysis on that game for my own purposes as I need to. I'm still convinced that efficient pitcher management is the key to success, although I don't feel like my own team's performance has yet been "Guru-worthy", with a ranking in the neighborhood of only 500. (I know, that's still around the 95th percentile, but I expect to meet a higher standard - and I will, eventually.) Still, my pitching choices have been less than spectacular. I've also been running my team with a few hitting slots empty, just to be able to afford better pitching. I'm not convinced that is the optimum strategy, though. The key may be to find the mid-priced pitchers who are hot, so that I can maintain a full slate of hitters as well. The top-ranked teams seem to be able to do it. I guess I just need to be more diligent.

OK, enough self-flagellation. Hoops is going pretty well for me. My CNN team cracked the top 10 this morning, weighing in at #9, and less than 100 SWP behind the #2 team. At the competitively stronger SW site, I'm up to #22, although there's a much steeper mountain to climb ahead. I don't know why basketball seems to be my best fantasy sport. I certainly follow baseball more than any other sport. Maybe the relative strength of competition isn't as severe in Hoops? Or maybe I'm better at managing the scheduling aspect of the game, which isn't nearly as important in baseball? In any event, simultaneously managing competitive teams in two different sports in two different fantasy games takes a lot of time, energy, and commitment. Thank goodness I don't have a real job!

4/15 - Guess I'd better get started on my tax return, eh?

Before commenting on all of yesterday's goings on, I'd be remiss if I didn't give Smallworld due credit for pulling off the baseball pricing on schedule. When things go wrong, it's easy to notice and criticize. But when things go well, it's very easy to take 'em for granted. Kudos, Smallworld! We do appreciate it.

Now, where to begin? Let's start with basketball, since it's probably an easier analysis. Yesterday's repricing went pretty much according to form, I thought, although there were a few surprises:

  • Gary Trent was the biggest surprise from my perspective. Thus far, trading flows have been dominated by early week trading, and anyone who bought Trent last Thursday got a measly 2 games played. So, it appears that a number of traders jumped the gun on the heavier schedule for Dallas next week. I'm not arguing the logic of the move - in fact, it makes perfect sense. It's just counter to the way flows have generally worked this season. (Gee whiz, I was just getting used to trading by looking out the rear view mirror. Don't tell me I have to look ahead as well!)

  • Sean Elliott fit the scheduling pattern, with 5 games last week. Ditto for Ostertag. Cuttino Mobley and Randy Brown had only 4 games, but Mobley has been bouncing in price from week to week, and Brown is recently back from an injury.

  • Neither Mashburn nor Nesby could hold their entire gains from last week, although both held up reasonably well. I don't consider those to be surprises.

  • With heavy schedules and money now more plentiful, I thought that Kevin Garnett and Tim Duncan might show some decent upward movement. But I guess not.

  • Frankly, I hadn't been thinking as much about price gainers this past week, since I had turned my attention to maximizing points. And it appears that many of you did the same. If you look at the latest team rankings (posted this morning), you see that the point leaders didn't fare particularly well in value change. And the teams with the best gains tend to be lower ranked. Part of this may be due to the fact that many of the best price gainers were too cheap for the wealthiest teams to own anymore. I know I'm finding this to be the case for my teams. I now need an average salary of over $10 million per player to get the maximum point production out of my team, so I didn't have much interest in Elliott, Mobley, Brown, or Ostertag. (Such problems!)
I did some major trading this morning on my CNN team, trying to take maximum advantage of my $111 million in value, and my reservoir of trades (and no, I'm not revealing the number.) I made 7 trades this morning, and barring injuries, illnesses, and suspensions, I'm hoping to make a run at the top 10 this week. Watch out!

Let's move on to baseball now. The pricing results were very interesting, to say the least. At first blush, it appears that the price sensitivities might be lower than in other recent Smallworld games. However, after further reflection, I think there are several other likely explanations for the lack of very many big price movers:

  1. With the general unavailability of useful top 50 player information (except, of course, at!), trading patterns were probably less focused than we're accustomed to. As Smallworld gets their usual player listings posted, we may see more convergence in trading. You may have thought some bargains were easy to find, but would that have been the case if you didn't have my site to provide the data?

  2. A lot of managers are probably using their trades to swap pitchers for extra starts. If so, then a lot of the trades are self-canceling. For example, if you buy Maddux on Monday, and then sell him on Tuesday, that's two trades that net to zero. Even though I think the optimum strategy is to continue to trade for gains (and not extra starts), I know a lot of people are swapping for pitching starts, and the relatively higher pitching points probably make this appear even more attractive. See a letter which I received and posted yesterday afternoon on the feedback page, which lays out my thoughts on this tricky issue.

  3. We have traders from two different games, trading with two different affordability considerations. So while the cheapest players would have the most appeal to managers at the SW site (who have only $50 million to spend), managers with the extra $25 million at the CNN/SI site might be looking for more recognizable names. The impact would result in more players showing trading activity, but with less of an average price change per traded player.
We don't have a very good base for comparison, because none of the recent Smallworld games (for which I have price histories) had a first repricing this early in the season, with data so sparse, and trades so limited. Last year's baseball game skipped the first repricing, and there were no weekly trade limits either. In football, the first weekly repricing was missed, so managers once again had the opportunity to use 2-weeks worth of trades before the first repricing. Ditto for Hoops. Plus, since no one could turn over more than roughly one-third of the roster, buying was also probably heavily influenced by the players which had to be sold. So the best bargains at each position probably weren't viable options for a number of teams, which had more immediate problems at other positions.

All in all, I'd have to say that it is premature to confidently assess how future trading patterns will look. From the early returns in the new RotoGuru poll, though, gains of $3-4 million look like the most common result, while anything above $4 million looks pretty strong.

By the way, I worked out what the best possible gain could have been yesterday. It was easy to do, since a roster of the best gains at each position would have cost only a bit over $37 million to draft, and so was easily affordable. The gain was $8.19 million. I posted the summary page from the Assimilator if you want to see what that roster looks like.

4/14 - The 9-RBI performance by Ivan Rodriguez looks more like a starting pitcher's fantasy point total. I checked it against last year's best SWP games for hitters, and discovered there were three games which topped the 104 SWP mark. What was more interesting was that all three of those games (by Jose Valentin[113], Mark McGwire[111], and Vinny Castilla[105]) happened in April, too. I guess the hitters have the early advantage.

Gurupie Frank Kovacs uncovered another good source of information on projected starters. Check out these RotoNews pages for the NL and the AL starters. The pages run from Monday-Sunday, which is a common weekly cycle for Rotisserie leagues with weekly roster moves, but doesn't tie in well to the Smallworld trading cycle. Still, it's another useful source, with some commentary thrown in as well. Thanks for sharing it, Frank.

I set a new speed record this morning. Both baseball and hoops stats were updated and posted by 9am. But don't get too used to it yet. It turned out to be an easy baseball day, since there weren't many new players to add, and all of the files for both sports seemed to be error free. Still, the process is getting to be more of a routine, rather than a daily adventure.

I did some SW baseball trading at both sites late last night, and I'm happy to report that all servers were responsive. It appears that the servers are up to the challenge - which should not go unacknowledged. It would appear that today's repricing will happen on schedule. I know the fat lady still hasn't sung, but I think I hear the warm-up arpeggios!

SW Hoops players should take note of the encouraging message on the main page at that site. They have figured out last week's scoring glitch, and although it will apparently be complicated to repair, SW has committed to getting it corrected. Thanks, SW.

Now that I've got the basic stats reports established, it's time to get started on producing the RotoGuru team rankings. For Smallworld and CNN/SI, I cannot identify teams based on your division, so I'll need all team ids to be sent in. What I need from each of you for each team is the team name, the user_id, and the game site (SW or CNN/SI). (If you've already sent it in, I think I still have it, so you don't need to resubmit.) If you don't remember how to figure out your user_id, see the corresponding instructions at the bottom of the SW Hoops Team Rankings page. The team search facility at Echelon's game site is more flexible, and I should be able to automatically locate most of the teams in their RotoGuru divisions, so don't send me those id's yet. Let me take a first stab on my own.

Check back this afternoon for new price information.

4/13 - Basketball stats will be delayed this morning. I use ESPN boxscores as my primary stat source, and it appears that their boxscore feeds crashed at 11:18pm ET last night, because 4 out of 7 games still aren't posted. Hopefully later this morning. So I did baseball stats first today, and had everything posted by 9am. That includes Yesterday's points, the Assimilator, summary stats tables, and the individual player pages. That's the "art of the possible" now that I'm doing a lot more of the report generation "online", rather than preparing all of the reports in advance. (Why didn't I figure this out sooner? Way cool!).

In SW Hoops, some of you have asked whether it still makes sense to trade for gains, or whether point maximization should now be the goal. Including tomorrow, there are only three more repricings remaining. And after tomorrow night's games, teams have between 10-13 games remaining in the regular season.

Let's do some simple arithmetic. Assume that you can pick up players at a rate of 3 SWP/g/$m. That means that if you can pick up an extra gain of $1 million, you should be able to buy an extra 3 SWP/G. With at most 13 games remaining, 3 SWP/G works out to an extra 39 SWP over the rest of the season. Over the past 2 weeks, there are 16 players who have averaged 39 SWP/G or better. So, if you could trade to get an extra game from one of those players, you'd supposedly be indifferent to that strategy vs. going for the extra $1 million in gains. And as the season winds down, the tradeoff of games vs. dollars becomes more and more compelling in favor of games. I think it's fair to say that game maximization is a very important objective from here on. Of course, if everyone goes that way, the heavily scheduled players will also produce some gains. But chasing the cheap player in search of gains while leaving some cash idle doesn't seem like an optimum approach right now.

We're also getting to that point where you need to keep your roster appropriately positioned vs. your chief rival. If you're ahead of the team you're trying to beat, then you may want to keep your roster as similar as you can, thereby immunizing yourself against erosion of your lead. And if you're behind, you want to differentiate as much as possible. It can become a real chess game in the final weeks.

Shifting gears to baseball, someone asked in a recent feedback about last year's experience in the first baseball repricing. Although last year wasn't directly comparable, since the weekly cap was $3m per player, and trades weren't rationed weekly, I did look up the top five gainers from last season's first repricing and posted them in my response. Of the five, only one was a high priced player - McGwire - who started out the season very hot, as you may recall. Robin Ventura was probably the most obviously underpriced player in last year's draft. The other three gainers were cheap players who had hot starts. It's tough to know what the average Smallworld manager will be looking at when making early trading decisions this year, since there hasn't been much in the way of useful player stats posted at the SW site yet. In addition, the new pitching formula makes pitchers look like the dominant players. Does this imply that cheap pitchers will be the early winners? Hard to say. The RotoGuru stats are up-to-date, and you can see that the top 31 players in YTD points are all pitchers. Only 10 of the top 50 players are non-pitchers. With only 5 trades at your disposal, you probably want to drop your early dogs, and replace them with the best cheap candidates you can find at the appropriate positions. As was the case in Hoops, we'll all learn a bit more as we watch these first few weeks unfold.

4/12 - I've been getting a lot of requests for links to certain types of information, like injuries and probable starters. For projected starting pitchers, I use either CBS Sportsline or ESPN, but there are other place to find this as well. For injuries, I find RotoNews to be the best source.

I reprogrammed the BallPark Summary Stats reports over the weekend. I basically reproduced the previous format, but I'm now using a CGI script written in Perl to do it. You may note that it is running on a different server, since the RotoGuru server doesn't currently support Perl scripts. I'm "paying" for the alternate server (at via an additional advertising banner, which is why there are two banners atop each page. Just scroll down. For now, the advantage is that I can put these reports out much faster, but ultimately, I'll be able to provide some more flexible formatting as well. I also started an individual player page format. You can link to it from any player's name on either the BP Stats or the "Yesterday" stats page. The individual stats pages are a bit sparse in information content so far, but I'll be bulking them up over the next few weeks. I just wanted to get something started quickly, so you (and I) could at least see the daily game points. I'll also be adding price changes to this report pretty soon. Next, I need to convert the SW Stats reports to the CGI format - probably later today.

I've also gotten a number of emails asking if I know when the first SW price change will be. All I can do is report what is stated at the SW and CNN sites - that the first repricing will be on Wednesday, April 14. As far as I know, that's still the plan. But if you've played prior SW games, you will recall that it is rare for SW to actually achieve the first repricing on schedule. So, draw your own conclusions.

Baseball stats were posted a little later than normal this morning, due to a few glitches. First, my stat feed was missing players from four teams, so I had to make some manual adjustments. Second, we had the first postponement yesterday (Colorado at L.A. - so much for the scheduling safety of southern California teams!), and I had to make some adjustments to compensate for that as well. Putting the postponement into the schedule is fairly easy to do. The trick is finding out when the make-up game will be played. These are often announced sometime later, and it's really difficult for me to stay abreast of this. So, Gurupies can do me a big favor this year by alerting me whenever you hear about the scheduling of a make-up game.

4/11 - Stats for Saturday's games are now posted.

4/10 - I'm a bit rushed today, so let me just quickly point out a few highlights:
  • At the SW Hoops site, a notice was posted last night that they are looking into the scoring problem. That' a good (albeit tardy) first step. The road to recovery begins by acknowledging the problem exists.

  • At the SW baseball site, a worldwide leaders listing has already been posted. I haven't studied it yet, but I did note that the early leader has done it with pitching.

  • I updated the Full Court team rankings last night.

  • A few of you wrote to gripe about Smallworld's latest credit card bribe. Frankly, folks, I don't think many people will take 'em up on this offer. I wouldn't do it just on principle. Everyone can click an ad, but not everyone can qualify for a credit card. I suspect most serious contenders will play the game "on the field", and not "in their wallet". So while the idea is bothersome, I suspect the impact will be negligible. Don't sweat it.

4/9 - No, I have no idea what the outlook is for repairing the scoring problem(s) at Smallworld Hoops. All I know is that for some rosters, the problems are persisting, and that no one - as far as I know - has received any acknowledgement of the problem from Smallworld, nor has any message been posted at the SW site. Although my trades since Tuesday aren't properly listed in the "roster moves" page, my current roster is correct, and my points scored each day are also correct. But I know that is not the case for some of you, and if you're screwed up, you're probably getting hurt badly. Hopefully, there is a reasonable solution to this, and something will be announced soon, because if uncorrected, this significantly undermines the integrity of the game. I know of some highly ranked teams that have virtually fallen off the charts because of this problem.

As the saying goes, "to err is human, but to really foul something up requires a computer." And although it sounds like a technical malfunction caused the problem, the most outrageous mistake so far is the failure to post any announcement. That is totally inexcusable - even if it says nothing but "we're aware of the problem and we're looking into it."

As far as I know, the CNN Hoops game is not affected by this problem.

This morning, Smallworld corrected a scoring formula glitch in both baseball games, and so far, my teams are being scored accurately - or should I say, my Assimilator score agrees with my official score. Server reponse has been pretty good at both SW sites as well. Ditto for Echelon's baseball game.

I posted summary baseball stats last night for both covered baseball games. I elected to exclude all inactive players with zero points from the tables, just to save on space and download time. I also opted to exclude these "inactive and pointless" players from today's Assimilator update, and this not only reduced the size of the program by about 40% (since the number of players was reduced from about 1450 to 750), but it also runs much faster now. If you have a "delisted" player on a stored roster, that slot will now show up as "vacant" when you load your roster. I can't think of any reason to include permanently inactive players, but if any of you have a dissenting viewpoint, let me know. The speed tradeoff is very compelling.

I'm still working on redesigned stats tables and individual player pages for baseball. In the meantime, I'll continue to update the stats tables in the current format. If you want daily player detail, use the Assimilator for now. When writing new programming code, it's always dangerous to set an ambitious target date, but I'm hoping for some significant progress in the next few days, and I'll keep you apprised.

4/8 - Thanks to Gurupie Jeff Goldberg for today's quote, which I would have run yesterday except that the Bickerstaff reprise was equally timely.

Now, where to begin... Let's start with Hoops. If you manage a team at the SW site, and your points were screwed up for Tuesday night's games, you can take some comfort in the fact that you have lots of company. Any trades done since Tuesday seem to be improperly captured - if at all - in the roster moves page. Some teams got no points for Tuesday night, while others received points for the wrong players. Suffice it to say that this looks like a big mess, and that Smallworld must certainly be aware of it, given the number of emails I received yesterday. Hopefully, there will be some announcement at the SW Hoops site today. The fact that there's nothing posted yet is a little disturbing, though - especially if it suggests that a fix might be problematic.

Yesterday's repricing probably provided many teams with their biggest single-week gain of the season. Frankly, I thought this was a pretty easy week to call, with the four biggest gainers all obvious right at the start of the week. Next week, however, seems much more difficult. Not only do we have to decide whether Nesby and Mashburn might have more upward movement or not, but there are a number of teams with heavy schedules, and the schedule-related buying could easily be dispersed across a number of players. I had been looking forward to this next week for Terrell Brandon, but then he screwed things up by getting injured at the eleventh hour. So instead of waiting for others to pick him up, instead I'll have to sell him. Bummer.

Even though the point totals are probably useless, I posted an updated SW team rankings this morning so you could see how your value gains compared to the Gurupie universe. Obviously, a lot of you found this week pretty easy as well. Twenty-seven teams have now topped the $100 million mark, and 52 teams had a weekly gain of $10 million or higher.

Now to baseball. Alex Rodriguez turned into the first significant casualty of the season. I suspect that won't impact many managers at the SW site, but probably has a much bigger impact at the CNN site. I expect he'll get driven down in price pretty significantly, creating a "Mashburn effect" when he returns to action.

Ball Park Dreams had its first price change yesterday, and some of the questions appear to have been answered. Hitters look like they'll be subject to a $50,000 daily cap. That means any hitter which goes up the max will earn 5 bonus points, which is just slightly more than the value of a single. Pitchers would appear to be subject to a daily cap of $150,000. I'll try to get summary stats tables posted later today for the baseball games, so you begin to get a better feel for early season developments. They will probably also be helpful in providing some clues about alternative replacements for A-Rod.

Anyone have a good idea for the next poll? I'm blanking out.

4/7 - Hopefully the RotoGuru server will be able to hold up better today. For the near future, my daily routine is as follows (all times are EDT):
  1. By about 8:30 am, I usually have the daily points and the Assimilator posted for basketball.
  2. The daily points and Assimilator for baseball are posted around 10:00am.
  3. By noon, the sortable stats for both hoops games should be updated, and the Hoops Assimilator should also be updated with new Full Court prices.
  4. If all goes well, the daily blurbs should be posted by noon, too.
  5. Individual hoops player pages are usually updated in the early afternoon. On Wednesdays, this is delayed until after new SW prices are available.
Site response has been pretty zippy in the first half of the morning, but from noon to 3:00 it's been pretty congested. I think I was moved to a faster server yesterday, but even so, you'll probably have a more pleasant experience if you avoid the peak traffic period.

I hope to have some baseball summary stats available by the weekend. I don't yet know when individual baseball player pages will be ready to go. In the meantime, if there are players you're interested in, you can use the baseball Assimilator to track their daily stats.

After a long hiatus, we had another triple double last night. Vlade Divac had 11 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 assists. However, for the day it only ranked fifth in FCP, and sixth in SWP.

It's SW repricing day again. I had some difficult decisions to make this week. I think most of the big price gainers are fairly easy to forecast, but a few of them are so cheap that if I picked them all up, I'd have a ton of idle cash, which seems inefficient. On one of my teams, I decided to skip one of the likely gainers, just to pick up a more expensive, higher point producer. We're getting to that point in the season where current point production is probably as important as price performance, since the future returns from higher values diminish as the season winds down. If I'm going to make a run at the top ranking, I'm going to need to kick it into gear pretty soon. I haven't figured out just what I need to do to get there, but after today's repricing, I probably ought to work out a plan.

This afternoon marks the first time you can trade players in Echelon's Ball Park Dreams game. I wonder how that server will hold up under the strain? I continue to think that pitcher rotations will be the most critical strategy to exploit in this game. Last week I mentioned that by rotating starting pitchers every 4th day, you should be able to increase your pitching point production by 25% or so. As I think more about it, I think there's an even better way to manage starters. Rather than swapping your starters every 4 days, add a starting pitcher just in time to get his next start, and then don't drop him until after his second start - probably in 6 days. Assuming a pitcher starts every 5th day, you can get 2 starts per 6 days this way. This should increase your pitching production by 67% over a buy-and-hold strategy, and by 33% over a strateagy of swapping pitchers every 4th day. Think of it this way: over a 60 day period, getting 2 starts every 6 days will produce 20 starts. Passively holding a pitcher who starts every 5th day will net only 12 starts. And swapping pitchers every four days will get you only 15 starts. The extra game exposures are so significant that you should probably use your wild card slots for starting pitchers as well. Of course, this all assumes that pitchers will be priced on a comparable basis with hitters. Given the draft prices, this seems like a reasonable assumption.

I realize my current poll is pretty stale. I've just had too much going on to reset it. I'm also a bit backlogged in emails again. Just bear with me while I adapt to the rigors of baseball.

Finally, if today's quote sounds familiar, it should. I used the same quote several weeks ago, just after Washington thrashed its most recent opponent. What a difference a few weeks make!

4/6 - The RotoGuru server slowed to a crawl late this morning, and I can't get any pages uploaded for now - which I suppose doesn't really matter, since you can't get anything downloaded, either. The same thing happened about the same time yesterday. It appears that it's traffic related - too many cars on the interstate all at once. My web host is working on expanding my capacity - but for now, you're better off to stop by early in the morning or late-afternoon & evening.

As I shakedown the baseball stats, please report anything that appears to be wrong. That's the best way for me to find all of the bugs. The initial "Yesterday" page was missing all of the Cardinals, but that will be corrected as soon as I can get the updated version uploaded.

Ah, the price of success!

4/5 - And they're off!

For the next month, I get to track daily stats for both basketball and baseball. Fortunately, basketball stats are running pretty smoothly (knock on wood), so I can focus my attention on the development and production of baseball stats.

Yesterday's fantasy baseball points have been posted. Please report anything that looks off. There will be an inevitable shakedown period while I get everything appropriately programmed and linked. The Baseball Assimilator will be updated sometime this afternoon. Summary stats tables won't be available for a few days, nor will individual player stats pages. I'm planning to use some CGI scripts to produce both of those reports dynamically this season, rather than using my traditional approach of producing pre-sorted static reports in advance. This will ultimately provide for greater flexibility for each of you to tailor the information to suit your personal preferences, although my first task will be to simply replicate the standard formats. Since point averages don't become very meaningful until a few games are played, waiting on these reports for a few days shouldn't be any hardship.

I'm also in the process of reviewing all of the 30 major league rosters to make sure the active players are coded on the correct teams. I've got this about halfway done, but as of yesterday afternoon, I wasn't able to track down the final 25-man rosters for 15 teams yet. Hopefully I'll get this done within the next few days. In order to save download time, I will only include active players on the daily point listings, and I'll probably go that route on the Assimilator as well, which could really benefit from some slimming down. There are over 1400 players listed in the two covered games, but only 750 are going to be active at any point in time.

I haven't yet started to collect team IDs for the RotoGuru baseball rankings. I'll start that once I get the stats reports up and running. So don't bother to send in your team numbers yet. I'll let you know when I'm ready.

Back to the salt mines....

4/3 - I still haven't gotten my Ball Park preseason strategy piece done. Barely started, in fact. So I guess it'll be an early-season article. Which, in a sense, is appropriate, since there are still some unknowns that can't be fully answered until we get a chance to observe. Like the maximum daily price change. And whether a player's price will only change after he plays a game. And whether pitcher prices will change with the same frequency and limits as hitters. Since price changes will figure directly in the scoring, it's impossible to plan the best strategy without making some assumptions about these issues. And since we'll know much more in a few days, it probably makes sense to wait, especially since rosters can be so painlessly reconfigured after just 4 days.

So, if you're drafting your Ball Park Dreams roster, my best advice for now is to bear in mind that this roster only needs to stay in place for 4 days. Emphasize players who will play 3 games in those first four days. In particular, don't draft any 4th or 5th starters yet - their turns will come later. In fact, pitcher rotation strategies may turn out to me the single most effective strategy in this game, since roster additions are only frozen for 4 days, while starters usually pitch every 5th or 6th day. By actively recycling starting pitchers, you should be able to increase your pitching performance point production (PPPP) by 25% or so.

Play Ball!

4/2 - Judging fom my heavy email response yesterday, I reeled in a good many of you in my April Fool's ruse. Actually, what I found most gratifying was how many of you said you would be very willing to ante up for the Assimilator, or to do whatever it takes to keep afloat. Several even commented that while they'd probably never pay to play a fantasy game - since there are so many free alternatives to choose from - the quality and uniqueness of RotoGuru made it well worth a nominal cost. Although I'll never say never.... for the time being you can rest assured that all aspects of RotoGuru will remain free.

I failed in my stated mission yesterday. I didn't finish my preseason strategy essay for Ball Park Dreams. Too many distractions. I do have a title: "Tinker Forever, Perchance" (hopefully a few of you old farts will catch the significance of that title). The primary point will be that, in stark contrast to the Smallworld game, drafting mistakes are relatively painless to correct, since you can turn over your entire roster after just four days. In fact, it may be that the best strategy in this game will be to "tinker forever" with your lineup, since trades are virtually unlimited, and there will probably be a continual flow of opportunities to tweak up your performance. I'll try to get something posted before too long, but don't hold off much longer in assembling your draft (if you haven't done so yet).

Actually, one of my "distractions" yesterday was working out my own Smallworld draft. I've got my $50 million roster done (subject to some likely second thoughts), but I still have the $75 million roster to tackle. And I haven't started my Echelon roster yet. So I have a pretty full weekend ahead of me, with or without a strategy article. I also updated my feedback page, since the backlog was getting to be embarrassingly long. Although some fantasy game sites (which shall remain nameless) habitually seem to ignore their email, I like to be as responsive as possible - even if it's just to say "Sorry, can't help you." Part of the RotoGuru distinctiveness.

Injury problems were prevalent last night. Jayson Williams broke a leg and is done for the year. Christian Laettner cracked a rib and will miss a few weeks. I'm sure neither of these guys were on many rosters, but they had the potential to be if they ever heated up.

Back to drafting - rosters and essays. No holidays at RotoGuru World Headquarters.

4/1 - I have a "watershed" announcement to make. Before reading on, please take a deep breath and try to relax.

As long time Gurupies realize, the RotoGuru site has always remained a free service, funded exclusively by the advertising banners which appear on each page. While the growth of traffic has been very strong, I now realize that advertising alone cannot fully support this venture if RotoGuru is ever to become commercially viable. Recognizing that many of you play the games I cover because they are free, I also know that to make the entire RotoGuru site a fee-based venture is probably suicidal. So, for some time now, senior management at RotoGuru World Headquarters has been wrestling with different ideas on ways to raise some additional revenue without jeopardizing growth.

Probably the most unique and highly acclaimed feature of the RotoGuru site is the Assimilator. With the recent enhancements to the new baseball version, this tool promises to be even more useful. And with the baseball season about to begin, now is the most logical time to institute the change I'm about to announce.

Starting with baseball, the Asimilator will be available only on a subscription basis. The price will be very modest, and I will offer a single sport plan as well as a annual subscription package which will entitle you to a full year of Assimilator usage for all sports. While I know this will infuriate some of you (after all, I've seen how many of you reacted to the recent SmallWorld cap offer!), it is a decision that I believe is in the best interests of RotoGuru. For details on the pricing terms and for instructions on how to subscribe, click here.

With that delicate task out of the way, let me tell you that I posted my preseason SW Baseball strategy essay, Pitching for Dollars. I'm sure I haven't thought of all of the nuances of the new rules, and as always, I invite you to send in any other observations and thoughts that you're willing to share with other Gurupies.

Now, a few reactions to yesterday's Hoops price change. (By the way, as of 10:20am EST this morning, the price lists at the SW site still had not been up updated, although the new prices are in place. So don't take the "head fake". The CNN price lists were up to date, however.)

  • While I fully expected Darrell Armstrong to continue his price ascent, I was surprised at the strength of the gain. He's now exactly $5 million above his draft price. I know that a lot of non-Gurupies have no idea what his overall price change has been, and therefore can only base trade decisions on how his price looks at the moment. But there will come a point when everyone who is still active can't buy him, because they'll already own him. I wonder how close we are to that point? Nevertheless, with four games in the next six days, Orlando's schedule remains attractive.

  • Johnny Taylor and Elden Campbell capitalized on favorable schedules and great on-court performance. Taylor's late week point dropoff doesn't seem to have been much of a factor, once again demonstrating that early week trading flows are still the dominating influence, and it doesn't pay to react too quickly.

  • Cuttino Mobley's gain was undoubtedly due to a heavy schedule and his cheap price following last week's selloff. And Eric Williams demonstrated the value of appearing at the bottom of the price list - especially at the beginning of a 5 game week.

  • At the southern end of the list, Toni Kukoc's injury was well timed to take advantage of last week's allocation of new trades, and I suspect his recovery will prompt a mirror image effect next week. (Duhhh!)

  • The other large declines all seem to be principally related to scheduling or injury as well.

  • Based on my email last night, it appears that yesterday's biggest surprise appears in the center of the table (when sorted by price change). Many Gurupies wrote to ask why Tyrone Nesby failed to show any movement. I'm sure the reason relates to Smallworld's traditional practice of freezing the price of new IPOs for the first repricing. This practice dates back to the days of daily repricing, when IPO prices were typically frozen for the first several days, presumably to allow everyone the opportunity to buy at the offering price. In the year since repricing has changed to a weekly occurrence, IPO prices have been frozen for one cycle. Although I haven't seen any announcements confirming the continuation of this practice, none of the Hoops IPO prices have moved in their first week this season, so I can only assume that this is what ailed Nesby.

SW Team rankings were updated this morning. (Fortunately, my cable modem connection was restored sometime overnight, making this a viable operation once again. You guys with 33.6 telephone modems must have the patience of a saint!) The top ranked (and #3 ranked worldwide) Bethesda Panthers must have gotten just about every trade right this week, posting a very healthy $8.3 million gain. And while no team has yet crossed the $100 million threshold, next week I expect a several teams to do so. Although this season is more than halfway over, if baseball follows a similar course, then $100 million rosters are possible by early June. Granted, the maximum weekly change per player will be only $1 million in baseball (so they say), but there are also 14 potential price gainers on a baseball roster, vs. only 10 on a Hoops roster, so it still seems plausible with astute trading. We'll see soon enough.

I'm knocking at the door of the Worldwide Leaders at the SW site, listed at #53 yesterday. (Actually, I got up to the mid-50's about 10 days ago, but then drfited back to the low 100's before making my last surge.) My SW team has now outpointed my CNN team, but the CNN team has been in the top 50 for several weeks now, and currently stands at #25. Thus, there is still strong evidence that the competition remains stiffer at the SW site.

My next project is to prepare a preseason strategy essay for Echelon's Ball Park Dreams game. Maybe by tomorrow, if I can stay focused. Meanwhile, I've once again gotten a bit backlogged in responding to emails, so please be patient while I my attention is diverted.

Click here for prior daily blurbs, by month:

1999: March . . . . . February . . . . . January

1998: December . . . . . November . . . . . October . . . . . September . . . . August . . . . . July . . . . . June . . . . . May . . . . . April . . . . . March

RotoGuru is produced by Dave Hall (a.k.a. the Guru), an avid fantasy sports player. He is neither employed by nor compensated by any of the fantasy sports games discussed within this site, and all opinions expressed are solely his own. Questions or comments are welcome, and should be emailed to Guru<>.