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Daily blurbs from the Guru
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Go forward to more recent blurbs.

9/30 - I may have jinxed Atlanta in yesterday’s blurb. They couldn’t have had a worse outcome yesterday, losing to Florida while Philly and Colorado both won. They now have a much steeper road to climb. Meanwhile, Minnesota probably needs to sweep the final two games vs. Detroit, or else they’ll need a lot of help – especially since they face Greinke later in the week.

With baseball still winding down and football in full swing, it’s hard to focus on basketball yet. But if you want to play in a AA qualifying league for the RotoGuru Invitational Hoops Challenge, it’s time to sign up. No experience required. If the first AA league fills, we can try to fill a second league, but there’s no guarantee that there will be sufficient interest, so you should really act now if you want to play.

9/29 - I’ve generally been looking at the Minnesota-Detroit battle as the race most likely to go down to the wire, but perhaps Atlanta will be the team that makes things the most interesting. Not only are they only two games behind Colorado for the wild card, but they could still claim the division title if Philly can do a Mets-like collapse.

In Football Pickoff, msearcy posted the top score for week #3 with 15 correct picks and 679 points. Roughly 62 of slates posted positive scores this week, and overall YTD results are now 54% positive.

9/28 - I don’t know if there was a strong breeze blowing in Buffalo or not. But if there was, it wasn’t named Drew. Brees came back to earth with only 172 passing yards and no touchdowns, and it didn’t even matter, as New Orleans won with its defense.

Curiously enough, the top three defenses in TSNP after three games are Denver, the Jets, and New Orleans. Denver has benefited from a schedule of Cincy, Cleveland, and Oakland, so it’s premature to give them too much respect. With matchups against Dallas, New England, and San Diego in the next three weeks, we’ll soon get a better read. The Jets are not as much of a surprise. The Saints have faced Detroit, Philly (without McNabb), and Buffalo – with the latter two games on the road. Their next two are at home against the two New York teams, with a bye sandwiched in between.

In GuruGolf, I finally did it! I think this is the first time I have ever won one of my own games. And it came down to one stroke. I don’t think I ever found myself atop the standings until the final weekend. However, my late charge somewhat obscured another remarkable accomplishment this season, as the team that finished second was also the champion of the worst ball competition. So hats off to Cyberwahoo7, who came within a stroke of an unprecedented double championship.

I was also the best ball winner for the FedEx Cup contest, The FedEx Cup worst ball prize goes to Northeastern Chieftains.

Thanks to all who participated in GuruGolf this season. Prizes will be sent out shortly. And for those contests that I won, the runner-up will receive the prize.

9/25 - Victor Martinez may think that “every game is important now,” heading into a 3-game series with the Yankees. But the Yanks still sport a 5.5 game division lead, so even a Red Sox sweep leaves then 2.5 back with one week to go. Certainly a long shot to overtake the Yankees. And they have all but locked up a playoff berth with an 8 game lead over faltering Texas. So the relative importance of every game diminishes exponentially with every Yankee win (or Red Sox loss).

In the closest remaining race, Detroit and Minnesota continue to win, heading toward their 4-game showdown next week. Detroit’s 3-game advantage puts them in the driver’s seat, but with four head-to-head matchups, the Twins still control their destiny.

Speaking of Detroit, Justin Verlander picked up his 4th win of the season over Cleveland last night. Verlander is probably not the frontrunner in the A.L. Cy Young race, but the fact that he’s even in the conversation is due to Cleveland. Against the Tribe, Verlander is 4-0, with a 0.90 ERA, a .157 BAA, and a WHIP of 0.87. Against the rest of the league is he 13-9, with a 3.80 ERA, a .255 BAA, and a 1.24 WHIP.

The closest remaining NL battle is for the wild card, where Colorado has a 3.5 game advantage over Atlanta, and 4 over the Giants and Marlins. Barring a complete rocky mountain meltdown, there won’t be any drama in the final week of the N.L. season.

It’s time again to start thinking ahead to the Hoops season, and signups for the RIHC (RotoGuru Invitational Hoops Challenge) Qualifying Leagues has commenced. If you played in one of these leagues last year, check this thread to see if you earned a priority placement in one of this year’s AAA leagues. And regardless of last year’s results or participation, everyone is welcome to sign up for a AA league. The signup thread for both AAA and AA leagues are in the Basketball Leagues forum. It may seem early, but the NBA season starts on October 27, just 4 weeks from next Tuesday. So it’s time to get organized!

9/24 - The Tour Championship is underway. Heath Slocum is the most popular GuruGolfer, probably owing mostly to the fact that he’s also the cheapest active golfer available. Four rounds until the FedEx Cup is awarded, and more critically - until the GuruGolf champion is crowned.

TSN has finally published football fantasy point totals for all players. I noted about eight material discrepancies – many related to fumbles – and reported them at the TSN forum. I have no idea whether TSN will take any action. The good news is that the vast majority of their point totals agreed with my independent calculations. And with points now available at the site, trading patterns should be more predictable.

9/23 - It’s been awhile since the previous event, but GuruGolf finally winds up the season with tomorrow’s Tour Championship. If you pushed it out of you mind during last week’s layoff, it’s time to make sure you have your foursome set as you want it. Tee time is 11:45am Thursday morning.

Zack Greinke is making a pretty compelling case for the Cy Young award, last night shutting down the Red Sox on just 2 hits over 6 innings. His season leading 2.08 ERA, a 1.06 WHIP and a .231 BAA are certainly strong credentials. In June, it looked like he might be reverting to mediocrity after a torrid start, but even in that month he ended up with a 4.05 ERA – hardly a major stain. And he’s finishing the season very strong, allowing only one earned run in his last five starts combined. I know the arguments about the supposed “value” of a player on terrible team, but he’s already won 15 games for the Royals, and he failed to earn a win in five games in which he allowed one run or less. The only other A.L. pitcher with an ERA under 3.00 (Felix Hernandez, 2.45) is also on a playoff non-contender.

9/22 - I must confess that I saw very little of last night’s NFL game. So looking at the boxscore this morning, the time of possession stats are eye popping, as Indy had the ball for less than 15 minutes – yet the total yards were fairly balanced (Indy 356, Miami 403), and there was only one turnover in the game. Kind of hard to make sense of that on the surface. I guess Indy concentrated their yardage on scoring drives, while Miami used a lot of time moving the ball in the middle of the field.

This was a tough week for Football Pickoff, with only about a third of slates posting positive scores. Not so tough for wvulax39, though, who scored a Ruthian total of 714 on 14 correct picks.

Although TSN still has not posted their own sortable stats with point totals, the first price change was processed last night. At first blush, I don’t see anything that looks too surprising.

What was a bit surprising, though, was the quiet announcement (at the TSN message forum) last night that the scoring rule for team defenses is being changed. For years, TDs scored by the opposing defense were not charged against the team defense, including the associated extra point(s). Last night, they announced that they would not be able to exclude the related extra points from the point calculation, so instead they were changing the scoring rule (retroactively). So this morning, I revised my team defense point calculations for the first two weeks to reflect this rule change. (Funny that I was able to do this in a few minutes this morning, while TSN/RotoHog is unable to do this for the entire season.. But I digress…) Of course, since there are still no published point totals at the TSN site, I can’t reconcile my calculations against the official TSN scoring, but if you notice some apparent retroactive scoring changes in my reports this morning, that’s why. Eight defenses were impacted by the change in week #1. (By the way, feel free to check my work. I think I made the appropriate adjustments, but retroactive adjustments are tricky to process, especially the related points for opposing defenses.)

9/21 - Kerry Rhodes backed it up. Tony Romo simply backed up.

The TV highlight of the Giants-Cowboys game may have been early in the game when we got treated to a shot of Jerry Jones picking his nose in the owners box. With a stadium featuring so much state-of-the-art technology, I’m surprised that owner nose picking still is a manual operation.

I’ve posted my best shot at football points for both the TSN games. Since TSN still lacks a report showing their own calculation of all player points, I have no way to do a comprehensive reconciliation, so there are probably some discrepancies. If/when they finally produce their own sortable stats, I’ll compare mine vs. theirs.

9/18 - There seem to be fewer MBL races in play this season. The tightest divisional race is in the AL Central, where Detroit brings a 4-game lead into a weekend series vs. Minnesota. The two teams also face each other four times in the final week of the season – so Minnesota doesn’t need a sweep. But they surely can’t afford to be swept. I’ve got to confess, I didn’t realize that Minnesota was still hanging around, but with the Tigers winning only three of the last ten, “hanging around” was all that was necessary.

In the NL, the closest divisional race has the Dodgers with a 5 game lead over Colorado. Those two teams meet in the final three games of the season – but Colorado will have to make up some ground in the meantime if those games are to matter. Of course, since Colorado currently has the wild card lead in the NL, the division title may not matter. It’s even possible that the division title could be on the line for that final weekend, and the two teams would still opt to rest their top starters.

With the baseball races largely decided, though, Friday is devoted to football preparation. Injury reports need to be reviewed, lineups need to be set, picks need to be made. To that end, more than half of last week’s Football Pickoff entrants still need to log their selections for week #2. Get to it!

9/17 - For those who are playing the TSN salary cap football game, TSN site performance has been an early annoyance. And I’m not talking about the network issues that made the site inaccessible for several days last week. Those problems may have been unavoidable. But three days after the final game of week 1, and they still don’t have sortable stats (or any standings)? Fortunately, I have sortable stats available here, so RotoGuru users are not totally high and dry. Of course, if most TSN managers are flying blind when making trade decisions this week, it will be difficult to anticipate or exploit expected trade patterns. I have noticed some traffic flowing to my sortable stats through referrals from the TSN forums this week. But not a lot.

Be that as it may, I did update the Football Assimilator yesterday to allow for copying in rosters from the TSN site. So far, that seems to be working OK – although with the TSN site programming still in a state of flux, I may or may not have to make adjustments to keep it working. Bear in mind that this facility only picks up the frozen roster from the previous game week, although the reported trade count seems to be current.

If you are looking for GuruGolf scoring results this morning, you’ll have to wait a week. The Tour Championship doesn’t take place until next week. I guess it’s like the Super Bowl – you need a 2-week buildup period.

9/16 - The week #1 football post-mortems are winding down, and preparations for week #2 have begun in earnest. As is always the case, some big performers in the opening game will turn out to be irrelevant for most of the rest of the season, while some who disappointed in the opener will turn it on this week. It’s always dicey to place too much credence on the results of one game. Still, in salary cap games, sometimes you have to bite your lip and pick up a player that you don’t think is necessarily good long term value. In other formats, this might be the time to take the road less traveled and bargain hunt for those players who were prematurely thrown to the curb.

I finally updated the 2009 RIFC league page – standings, rosters, draft links, etc. I made a trade prior to the first game that netted me the Seattle defense, and by starting them instead of the Bears defense, I managed to eke out a win that would otherwise have been a close loss. Sometime this season I’ll be on the other end of close scores, so it’s nice to build up a cushion to start the season, particularly when I can point to a specific decision that turned a loss into a win.

9/15 - If you are a Patriots (or Belichick) hater, last night’s come-from-behind win must have been particularly disturbing. But if you have Tom Brady, things sure improved in the final 5 minutes. And although Terrell Owens did at least manage two receptions for 46 yards, you can probably assume that his fuse has already been lit. We’ll see how long it burns before the first explosion.

I still haven’t been able to reconcile my point calculations vs. those at the TSN site, because TSN still doesn’t have a published table of points. However, my own team’s scoring for the first weekend seems OK.

The top score in Football Pickoff belongs to the aptly named little lucky, who picked 15 games correctly. But when you realize that the only game that he missed was Denver over Cincy, you could say he was actually a “little unlucky”. Overall, consensus favorites did well, winning 13 of 16. 65% of all slates produced positive scores.

9/14 - Lots of sports to digest this weekend. I wonder why the NBA would bury their Hall of Fame ceremony on a weekend when there is so much current sports action to deflect attention?

I’ve calculated fantasy points for both TSN and RotoHog, and they’re now posted in all the usual places. I haven’t been able to reconcile all of the TSN points – particularly the defenses, where there are sometimes interpretational differences in what constitutes points against the defense. Once TSN posts the points for all players (in the “buy” listings, the stats are currently posted, but not the related points), I’ll do a full scale reconciliation.

Two teams shared the top best ball score (-49) in GuruGolf, and only one of them had Tiger, so he apparently wasn’t an essential ingredient for success. Liters4 (+63) took the worst ball crown. GuruGolf now has a one week hiatus before closing the season with the Tour Championship.

9/11 - It didn’t take long for the Madden curse to assert itself. Steeler DB Troy Polamalu suffered a sprained MCL and will be out 3-6 weeks. If you have Larry Fitzgerald on your roster, be very afraid – because this year’s Madden game cover features both Polamalu and Fitzgerald. Aye carumba!

Typically, I create a TSN Ultimate Salary Cap football league reserved for GuruPatrons – those who have provided financial support to the site. This year, due to an apparent lack of interest in the TSN game (for a variety of reasons), that division has only attracted 7 teams. In an attempt to get it up to 10 teams – which makes the winner eligible for a $50 prize – I have opened it to any user of the RotoGuru site. The division name is GuruPatrons, and the password is pachyderm. If you want to participate, please join.

Since only one NFL game is in the books, I won’t be posting 2009 player points until next week. I figure the sortable stats are more useful with 2008 points for all players, rather than with 2009 points for locked players and zeroes for everyone else.

Meanwhile, both the TSN and RotoHog sites managed to stay up for most of the day yesterday. My strong advice is to get your rosters loaded and set as far in advance of Sunday as possible. The inevitable last minute surge of activity always threatens to brings the sites to a crawl for those who procrastinate.

9/10 - The football season opens tonight, but the sailing has been anything but smooth for the two salary cap games for which I provide statistical support. Both TSN and RotoHog have experienced significant network problems over the past two days, making their sites essentially inaccessible. RotoHog appears to be working this morning, and TSN has been intermittently up and down this morning. TSN has reported their issue as related to a “denial of service” attack, and it’s reasonable to assume that RotoHog’s problems are related – although I have not seen any acknowledgment of that by RotoHog. Baseball access has been impacted as well – at both sites. Not good. And if a denial of service attack truly is the cause, that’s unfortunate, as it’s not the fault of the game operators.

I discovered a glitch in Football Pickoff this morning. I inadvertently coded the kickoff time for tonight’s game as 8:30AM, rather than PM. I fixed this at 10:30AM, but the consequence is that any attempts to save a pick for tonight’s Tenn @ Pitt game were negated between 8:30 and 10:30 this morning. If you made a pick before then, it’s fine. And picks can now be entered or changed. Chalk it up to (another) senior moment.

9/9 - I’m going to devote today’s blurb to promoting Football Pickoff.

Football Pickoff was first offered in 2001, and the rules and the basic premise have been essentially unchanged since the beginning. The game spans the entire NFL season, from the beginning of the regular season through the Super Bowl. Each week, each entrant selects the winner of each NFL game. Points spreads are not considered, but the risk/reward is implicitly reflects the spread, because the universe of picks determines the scoring potential.

Here is the simple explanation. Let’s consider the first game of this NFL season, Thursday night’s Tennessee at Pittsburgh game. If half of the entrant select Tennessee to win, and the other half select Pittsburgh to win, then a correct pick will earn you 50 points, and an incorrect pick will lose you 50 points. But so far, only 30% have selected Tennessee, while 70% have picked Pittsburgh. If the relative proportions stay 30/70, then the scoring will be as follows:

If Tennessee wins: Tennessee pickers earn +70, Pitt pickers earn -70
If Pittsburgh wins: Tennessee pickers earn -30, Pitt pickers earn +30
The points for a game are calculated as percentage of entrants who selected the losing team. So, if a heavy favorite loses the game, the points awarded (or deducted) are high, while if an underdog loses, the points awarded (or deducted) are low. While you obviously benefit by picking the winner in each game, over time the winner will be the entrant who does best at picking vs. the implied odds. For example, if you think Tennessee has a 40% chance of beating Pittsburgh, you should probably select Tennessee if the implied odds are only 30%.

The key is that the execution is simple – you only need to select the winners each week. The optimal strategy has many nuances, which is what makes the game more interesting than a straight pick-the-winner format. And the best way to understand the strategy is to try it out.

The game is free to play – so there is no cost to try. You can register as many as three entries.

The game benefits from having many entrants, because that helps to stabilize the selection percentages. So if you haven’t tried this game before, I commend you to give it a try.

End of promotion.

9/8 - T-minus 2 days and counting. That’s when baseball has to cede the mainstage to the NFL. Pre-season games are over. Rosters have been trimmed. Some sleeper picks will soon awaken. And others will undoubtedly stay asleep. We’ll start to piece it all together in a few days.

For those not prepping for football, I loaded up the 2009-10 NBA schedule over the weekend. Use the NBA schedule links in the basketball section along the left menu.

In GuruGolf, the bestball honors went to pfb (-51), while BooHoo3 (+47) was the worstball leader. We now have just two GuruGolf tournaments left, and neither has a cut. However, you have only two trades to work with for these final two tournaments combined. We’ll see how that goes.

9/7 - Pay attention when setting your lineups today. Eight MLB teams have Labor Day off. But the Yankees and Rays play twice.

Tiger Woods starts the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship tied for 30th, 9 strokes off the pace. It’s not really a big deal in the overall scheme of the FedEx Cup, though, as he’ll probably still be ranked no worse than second overall in FedEx Points, and that decline would require that Steve Stricker wins.

If you live in the U.S., enjoy your Labor Day. If you live elsewhere, enjoy your day.

9/4 - Vintage Pedro spoiled a nice outing by Tim Lincecum in an intergenerational clash of Cy Young award winners. If Pedro can pitch like that in the playoffs, the Philly threesome of Hamels-Lee-Pedro looks pretty daunting.

The Deutsche Bank Championship is underway, and Charlie Hoffman continues to be the holdover GuruGolf favorite, although his sponsorship is dropping (down about 5% from last week, now on about 37% of foursomes). Variety is the watchword this week, as David Toms and J.J. Henry are the only other golfers who are on as many as 19% of all foursomes.

Football Pickoff has been launched for 2009. Nothing fancy this year, and no scoring changes since last year. Still free. Be there or be square! And invite your friends – this is one RotoGuru game whose rules don’t give you a brain cramp!

9/3 - Every struggling pitcher in the Americamn League should be clamoring for their agents to get them traded to the National League. Brad Penny became the latest in a lengthening list of transfers who enjoy life much better on the other side.

No GuruGolf action today, because this week’s tournament starts on Friday.

So far, only 4 teams have signed up for the GuruPatrons division in TSN Ultimate Football. This division is open to anyone who has ever donated to the RotoGuru site. The password for this division is on the bottom of the GuruPatron validation page, but if you can’t get that to recognize you, send me an email and I’ll clue you in. We need at least 10 teams so that the league is eligible for a prize for the winner.

9/2 - Charlie Manuel said he looked like the “old Cole”. He should have said “old King Cole,” because Cole Hamels certainly mastered the Giants in a 2-hit, 1-walk, 9-K shutout. And he needed to be that “kingly”, because the Phillies managed only one run off of Giants starter Jonathan Sanchez. For teams that drafted Hamels early this year (he was the 4th pitcher drafted in the RIBC), the year has been a clear disappointment, as Hamels sports a 4.26 ERA, a 1.28 WHIP, and only 8 wins. He was winless for the entire month of August – although he did throw 8 shutout innings in his previous start, and now has a string of 19 consecutive scoreless innings. Hasn’t seemed to hurt the Phillies much, though. And if they can go into postseason with Hamels and Lee both smoking, they’ll be tough to oust.

9/1 - Tough break if you have Jim Thome. After last night’s trade to the Dodgers, Thome goes from being an everyday DH to "come off the bench and be a great influence in the clubhouse." I don’t think there are any fantasy categories that benefit much from the latter. Or the former, for that matter.

The RIFC draft was completed yesterday. Rationales are still coming in for the later round picks, and will be organized later today.

2009: August . . . July . . . June . . . May . . . April . . . March . . . February . . . January

2008: December . . . November . . . October . . . September . . . August . . . July . . . June . . . May . . . April . . . March . . . February . . . January

2007: December . . . November . . . October . . . September . . . August . . . July . . . June . . . May . . . April . . . March . . . February . . . January

2006: December . . . November . . . October . . . September . . . August . . . July . . . June . . . May . . . April . . . March . . . February . . . January

2005: December . . . November . . . October . . . September . . . August . . . July . . . June . . . May . . . April . . . March . . . February . . . January

2004: December . . . November . . . October . . . September . . . August . . . July . . . June . . . May . . . April . . . March . . . February . . . January

2003: December . . . November . . . October . . . September . . . August . . . July . . . June . . . May . . . April . . . March . . . February . . . January

2002: December . . . November . . . October . . . September . . . August . . . July . . . June . . . May . . . April . . . March . . . February . . . January

2001: December . . . November . . . October . . . September . . . August . . . July . . . June . . . May . . . April . . . March . . . February . . . January

2000: December . . . November . . . October . . . September . . . August . . . July . . . June . . . May . . . April . . . March . . . February . . . January

1999: December . . . November . . . October . . . September . . . August . . . July . . . June . . . May . . . April . . . 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<>.

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