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

9/30 - In baseball, it was probably a good night to be picking against the field. The worst pitcher of the night, Greg Maddux, was pretty hard to pass up, going for his 20th win against the struggling Mets. Kevin Brown was also an attractive candidate, going for win #19 against the Giants in Candlestick, er..., 3Com, where he has usually had great success. While Brown was more than 100 SWP better than Maddux, he still didn't reach triple digits. Mike Hampton turned out to be the stud to own, but with the 'Stros recent pitching troubles, and facing the Cincy Red-hots, he probably ranked no better than third on many of your pitching wish lists for the day. And if you found Jose Rosado or Pedro Astacio, then hats off!

On the hitting side, it looks like Mark McGwire is gearing up to "own" the last week of September again, passing Sosa with 2 homers, one in each game of a doubleheader.

OK, on to football, and the new SW prices. In general, things went pretty much as advertised. Here are some of my key observations:

  • Trading appears to have been more focused than last week, with 5 players posting $1 million gains. I've gotta think that the top 50 lists at the SW site helped contribute, but it's also likely that there were fewer trades done during the one week period, which would make each individual trade more potent.

  • Interestingly, the CNN prices were set equal to the SW prices this week, after being different last week. (Suppose last week was a mistake? Hard to imagine, isn't it?)   Qadry Ismail was the primary beneficiary, as his CNN price rose $1.17 million, exceeding the stated weekly cap.

  • There were some clear signs that most trading is being done prior to Sunday. In particular, some of the better players with upcoming byes still posted gains, including Marvin Harrison, David Sloan, Dorsey Levens, Peyton Manning, and Charlie Batch, although in the case of the latter three, I suspect their upward movement was hampered by the upcoming bye.

  • The "contra-Brown" defense strategy seems to be catching on, as Baltimore topped the defense price change list, and upcoming Browns opponent New England placed second.

  • Cheaper players did better than more expensive ones. Three of the $1 million gainers were priced below $3 million going in, and 9 out of the top 12 price gainers cost less than $3m before the changes.
As a group, players from teams with week-3 byes fared the worst. Looking only at those players who have averaged at least 100 SWP/G so far this year, the average price change was -3%. The average change for week-4 bye players was +1%, although if you ignored Harrison, the average of the rest was slightly negative. The best gains were posted by players with byes in weeks 2, 5, and 6. Kurt Warner was responsible for the week-2 average. Week 5 and 6 byes posted average price increases of about +5%. While the data is still skimpy, it is consistent with last season's pattern, and suggests that only the top performers are safe going into a bye, and no one is safe coming out of a bye week.

Since it appears that prior week trading is dominating, I added a new option for the point period on my stats tables, which is a one week lookback at points (i.e., YTD excluding the most recent weekend). For those of you who still prefer to trade between Sunday and Wednesday, this should help you evaluate your trade ideas in the context of the information that most other traders were looking at when trading.

Football team rankings were updated last night, including the latest price change data. Looks like many of your have done pretty well pricewise, with the median 9/29 value increase just above $5.6m, and the median franchise value now standing at $60.7m. It won't be long before many of you can afford the guys you want to own.

9/29 - Three rainouts in one night. Three doubleheaders scheduled for today. Hope this hasn't screwed up your pitching plans too much.

The Reds seem to be the team of destiny this year. And the Astros and Mets are trying to see who can backpedal the fastest. Just two weeks ago, Cincinnati looked like they'd be a "day late and a dollar short." Of course, the fat lady has yet to sing, but there are a couple of teams in desperate need of a Heimlich maneuver.

Pete Harnisch and Steve Trachsel tossed the best games of the night. Tom Glavine also had one of his better outings. Maybe the best strategy this week is to pick the pitchers who face either the Astros or Mets.

On the hitting side, Steve Finley homered twice for the Dbacks. It was his seventh multi-HR game this season! If you're going to own Finley, make sure you pick the right days.

Today brings the final SW baseball price change, and the first "normal" SW football change (since last week's football change covered a two week trading period). It will be interesting to see how the prices of bye players move, with St. Louis coming off a bye in week 2, three teams with a bye in week 3, and three more with a bye this weekend. Tune in tomorrow for a bye week price analysis.

Thanks to Gurupie Todd Lounsberry for sending in today's Tiger Stadium quote. As Todd put it, "Nothing fancy, but I think Ernie deserves the final word." I couldn't agree more.

9/28 - Sorry about the late blurb today. With two sets of stats to update, and new prices to process for 4 Echelon games, it's been a busy morning. On top of that, I've had a difficult time connecting to the RotoGuru server. The problem must have been a router glitch somewhere between me and the server, because it appears that site activity has been normal this morning. But I've burned a lot of time trying to get pages uploaded, so here it is, 1:30pm EST, and I'm just starting the write the blurb.

I was planning to put up a quote related to the last game at Tiger stadium, but forgot to look for one. If anyone finds something suitable, send it in and I may use it tomorrow.

Pedro Martinez had his last start of the season last night. RotoNews reports that he may throw a few innings sometime over the weekend, just to stay loose, so if you can afford to keep him in his slot, you might squeeze a few more points out of him. I needed his slot to rotate through a few more pitchers, so I was forced to say farewell to Pedro.

RotoNews also reports that Jamie Moyer will miss his last start, due to a knot in his shoulder. So if you were hanging on for one last start from him, you can kiss that one goodbye.

I haven't had much chance to evaluate the new Echelon Football Market prices yet, but based on a quick glance, I still haven't got that game figured out. Oh well. Today's job is to work out my pre-repricing trades for Smallworld. If you're looking for some ideas, check out the message forum.

Speaking of the message forum, there was an impromptu pick-the-winners football contest over the weekend. Congrats to "Batboy", who got 11 out of 14 games correct, and also had the 49ers picked to beat Arizona 31-13. I guess he's been dubbed "King of the Gridiron" for the week.

That contest gave me an idea for a new RotoGuru game that I hope to start next week. It will also be a "pick the winner" format, but with a more interesting scoring format. This will be a purely "for fun" opportunity (i.e., no prizes) that I can also use to hone my online game administration capabilities. I'll post more about this in a few days, but if you want to see my preliminary ideas, check the football message forum thread titled "New Game in the works!".

9/27 - Some big days, and some disappointing days. As usual.

Probably the most significant game, from a fantasy perspective, was Kurt Warner's 4 TD monster against the "sorry" Falcons. He's looking like the early leader in the "cheap stud" category this year. Not to be outdone, Peyton Manning matched Warner in SWP, and bettered him in EFP, accounting for "only" 3 TDs, but passing for over 400 yards. And Marvin Harrison caught 13 of Manning's passes, propelling him to the #1 spot on the YTD point listing in both scoring systems.

Manning and Harrison provide an interesting dilemma for their owners this week. Indianapolis has a bye next weekend, and owners now have to decide whether to sell before or after Wednesday. Last season, there was a tendency for bye week players to decline in price both immediately before and after a bye week. There were notable exceptions, though, generally for the most popular buy candidates who showed a confounding propensity to rise in price immediately before a bye week. If history repeats, players who might have been heavily bought prior to last weekend could show an uptick this week. And two guys with that potential are Harrison and Manning. I didn't own either, so I don't have to decide. (Given their Sunday performance, however, I'd much rather be burdened with the dilemma.)

My general advice for players with a week 4 bye is to sell them before Wednesday. But if you own hot players with an upcoming bye, then the decision should probably factor in who you plan to pick up, and whether you'd feel worse about hanging on to a price loser than missing out on a price gainer. If either Manning or Harrison were unusually cheap, I'd say hold on. But while they are certainly attractively priced vs. their production so far, I wouldn't consider them in the "cheap" category. Bottom line...   you make the call.

The "contra-Brown" defense strategy continued to work well yesterday, in spite of Cleveland's 10 points - their first foray into double-digit scoring! Only Buffalo (the "contra-Eagle" choice) outpointed Baltimore.We'll have to wait and see whether "the masses" have figured out this strategy or not. If you own Baltimore and plan to swap into New England (the next opponent for Cleveland), I'd recommend you wait until after Wednesday to make the trade. While both teams probably have price upside this week, I'd guess that Baltimore probably got more buying action late last week.

I added some new data options to the football stats tables, including alternate price change periods, and alternate point (and point average) periods. I think I did the programming correctly, but if you notice anything unusual, let me know.

In baseball, we're down to the last week. This will probably be a frustrating week for anyone who is still battling for position, as key players are likely to sit occasionally, and starting pitching assignments will probably be tough to pin down with any sense of certainty. On the pitching issue, my best advice is to check several sources before trading for a start. And if you're saddled with a key hitter who appears to be "shutting it down" early (Barry Bonds and Larry Walker look like candidates), consider swapping into players who are on teams that are still in contention, like Houston, Cincinnati, and the Mets. (On second though, the way things are going, maybe not the Mets.)

Points for 7/18 were finally corrected at the SW baseball site over the weekend. The 8/13-14 deficiencies remain uncorrected, as far as I know. But, this is progress!

9/24 - Some good news on the scoring front. I think the points for 9/11 at the CNN baseball site have really been corrected this time - less than two days after they were announced as "fixed." Now all we need are CNN points for 9/20, and corrected points for 7/18, 8/13, and 8/14 at the Smallworld site.

Greg Maddux was the only pitcher yesterday to exceed 150 SWP. Actually, that's not quite true. A.J. Burnett had 170 SWP, but he's only listed in the Echelon games.

On the hitting side, Albert Belle was the big kahuna, slamming out 116 SWP/ 125 BPP in a doubleheader. But Chipper Jones was the real hitting story, with his 3-run homer the margin of victory in the third game of the Braves' sweep of the Mets. Chipper certainly staked his claim for the MVP award this week.

I updated the SW and CNN team rankings yesterday. Unfortunately, the posted worldwide rankings are in somewhat of a shambles, especially at the CNN site, and the points are not accurate at either site, but, what I see is what you've got.

For football, I now have CNN/SI prices incorporated in the Assimilator as a fourth game choice. If you want, you can toggle your roster back and forth between SW and CNN/SI to see the pricing differences (similarities, actually). Just make sure that when you save your roster, you save it in the correct game mode, since the Assimilator will remember how you saved it. I still have to add the CNN prices to the individual player pages, and I still need to add some extra column options to the sortable stats, but the progress is forward and steady.

As promised, I updated the football team rankings this morning to include an additional 65 teams which were submitted since the previous posting. If you want your team included, please follow the instructions below the ranking table.

9/23 - I had expected to have two sets of new Smallworld prices to process yesterday afternoon. I didn't expect three! But, new prices at the CNN/SI football site were different than those at the SW site. This is the first time that's happened, suggesting that trading at the two game sites will be independently tracked this season. I can't see much in the way of ramifications, other than that I'll have more work to do, and those of you with teams at both sites are more likely to get confused. For the most part, the price changes were similar at the two sites, but it will be interesting to see how they develop over the course of the season.

I have already added an additional game option to the sortable stats tables, so just pay attention to which set of prices you want to use. I haven't yet added the new prices to the Assimilator. Give me a day to think about the most efficient way to do that. And I'll also have to add the new prices to the individual player pages. That'll probably cause the table to expand beyond the width of your screen, so let me think about alternative formats for that as well.

As an aside, when I downloaded CNN/SI prices, I noticed that about 5 players are currently unavailable in that game. The most notable were Byron Hanspard and Lawrence Phillips. I presume they'll get them added someday, but if you were looking at the possibility of picking up Hanspard in the CNN game, I think you're out of luck for now.

In general, the price changes were pretty much "as advertised", if you've been reading my predictions.

  1. There were fewer $1 million changes than you might have expected, probably due to the extra four trades allocated last Wednesday. When more trades are made, the value of each trade is proportionately reduced.
  2. First week performance tended to have the dominant impact. Players with good first weeks tended to do well, and players who waited until the second week to star did less well, although Marvin Harrison did do pretty well, presumably on the basis of his second week.
  3. Heavily drafted players had a tough time making a move. In spite of a strong first week, Brian Griese couldn't muster up much price momentum. I suspect he's vulnerable next week, too.
The biggest surprise to me was the lack of support for the Tennessee defense. Evidently the idea of picking the "contra-Brown" defense hasn't caught on... at least not yet. I don't know how that bodes for Baltimore next week.

If you're looking for more insight on yesterday price changes, try visiting the football message forum. There's plenty of discussion there, and I need to use my time today to work on integrating the extra set of prices.

On the baseball side, I know most of you don't really care about price changes at this point. The most interesting change belonged to Pedro Martinez, who posted his second consecutive $1 million gain. Usually, the week after a two-start week is disastrous for stud prices, but "upon further review", I think I understand Pedro's movement. Rather than belaboring the point here, if you're interested, check the thread titled "Pedro Price Change" in the SW baseball section of the message forum.

I posted the first cut of SW football team rankings yesterday. I've intermingled teams from both sites, and I think I'll leave it that way, even though the player prices will differ somewhat. I received a fair number of new team ids after I posted the listing. I'll update the rankings tomorrow, so if you still want to get in on this week's listing, send me your team id today. Instructions for finding your id are below the team ranking table.

Usually I comment on the most noteworthy player performances from the prior day. But with the need to integrate CNN prices into the various pages, I think I'll use my time to work on that, and let you make your own discoveries today. Cheers!

9/22 - Pedro was at his best, even pitching through a drizzle. He has topped the 240 SWP mark four times in his last six starts. It's looking like Boston will be the likely first round matchup for the Tribe, and I don't relish having to face him twice in a 5 game series. Hopefully, Tribe in four.

Speaking of the Tribe, Dave Burba had the next most studworthy outing last night, even if it was against Detroit. That trade last year (Burba for Sean Casey) has really worked out well for both teams.

A-Rod claimed the top hitting honors for the night, and after a horrendous early September, he looks like he's back in the groove, with almost 200 SWP in the last 6 days.

I'm not quite sure what points are (or aren't) included in today's SW baseball rankings, but it is the first time this season that the top 5 worldwide teams are all current users of The power of superior stats! (The teams ranked #1 and #2 are both managed by the same guy, who didn't discover the site until midseason.) At the CNN site, it looks like points for 9/20 are AWOL (although 9/21 points are posted... here we go again...), and I think the 9/11 mis-correction is still included in the totals. The season has only 12 days left. I sure hope the points at both sites are straightened out before then.

Echelon had its second football price changes yesterday, and I didn't notice the same type of anomalies that were present last week, although I confess that I haven't studied them extensively. There is a noticeable demand component in the Market price changes, as players with a good first week and a weaker 2nd week tended to show price declines in the regular game (in which prices are solely performance based) but better changes in the Market game. Examples of this include Antonio Freeman, Eric Moulds, and Ed McCaffery. I also notice that players who did not play still incurred price changes (e.g., Marshall Faulk and Jon Kitna), which was not the case in baseball, but doesn't seem to be ruled out in the football game specs. Finally, it appears that player prices will be capped at $3 million. Not one reached that level in the regular game, but three players (Young, Freeman, and Favre) are at that level in the Market game.

Got your Smallworld football trades all entered? Historically, first week trading patterns have tended to be a bit confusing, in part (I suspect) because information during the first week is often sketchy. For example, Smallworld didn't get their top 50 player lists posted until Friday afternoon, so I suspect a lot of teams made their weekly moves without much organized statistical support. Assuming that new prices are posted sometime this afternoon, I should have my sortable stats tables (and the Assimilator) updated about an hour later. And with any luck, the first RotoGuru football team rankings will be posted by tomorrow. I'll bet a lot of you will feel better when you see the mediocre start that my own team has gotten off to.

9/21 - Danny Kanell was the only QB in last night's game with positive SWP. That should tell you what the caliber of play was. Emmitt Smith did play well, as he surpassed Tony Dorsett to become the all-time leading Cowboy rusher. On the flip side, Jamal Anderson left the game with a knee injury in the first quarter.

So now we prepare for the first SW price change. If you're using my stats table to guide your SW trading decisions, there are a couple of problems I should warn you about.

  1. Luther Broughton shows up on my listing as the 12th best tight end, and there is no one ranked higher who costs less. However, Smallworld shows him with zero points. I don't know if that's because they have him on the wrong team, or because they have his name misspelled, but until they get him straightened out, you'd better avoid him.

  2. Kevin Williams is a more confusing story. (...better make that much more confusing.) In real life, there are two guys named Kevin Williams. One plays for Buffalo (I'll call him "KW-Bills"), and the other plays for the Jets ("KW-Jets"). Both return kicks.

    Smallworld lists one kick returner named Kevin Williams. On the price list, he is listed as being on Buffalo. On the player statement, he is listed as being on the Jets. For week one, the his player page showed 159 SWP, and two games played. Since KW-Bills had 150, and KW-Jets had 9, it looks like their totals were added together. But for week 2, so far only the points for KW-Jets are included (and the games played is now up to 3). For week 2, KW-Jets had only 5 SWP, while KW-Bills had 176 SWP. Based on the price, though, it seems clear that KW-Bills is the player that should be used. And if you look at my table, you'll see that KW-Bills should be the top kick returner through two weeks.

    Once again, suffice it to say that until this is fixed, you'd better avoid Kvein Williams - in any incarnation.

Those are the only two point differences I've found between my stats and Smallworld's, although that is based on only a visual inspection of the top 50 lists. I've alerted Smallworld to both problems. But you shouldn't assume they'll be corrected until you can see the evidence.

Following up on my Griese scoring comments in yesterday's blurb, Gurupie Steve Houpt offered the following possibility as to why the stats services seem to show Brian Griese with 2 fumbles lost, and Terrell Davis with none. Steve points out that this is what happened in the Denver game:

          Griese fumbles, Griese recovers.
          Griese fumbles, KC recovers.
          T Davis fumbles, KC recovers.
          Griese fumbles, T Davis recovers.

So the stats look like:
Griese 3 fumbles, 1 recovered (net = -2)
T Davis 1 fumble, 1 recovery (net=0)

I think Steve may be correct. I remember a similar issue last season with Eddie George, where in one game he lost a fumble, but also recovered someone else's fumble, and thus showed zero fumbles lost for the game. It's kind of a silly way to track fumbles, but it seems to be the way it's done.

On to baseball. In a light schedule, Denny Neagle continued his late season surge, with 8 innings of 2-hit, 1-run pitching against the Padres. The big hitter was September call-up Derrick Gibson of the Rockies, who banged out 6 RBIs with his first two career HRs.

It was heartening to see evidence of a 7/18 scoring correction at the SW site yesterday. But it was discouraging to discover that it was botched. In fact, if you felt fortunate that you had personally avoided any of the scoring glitches so far this year, you are probably no longer unscathed (although you might have been favorably "scathed" this time!) As best I can discern, every team with a valid 7/18 roster lost the points which had been originally credited on 7/18. Then, 7/18 points were added back to all teams, valid or not, but based upon the active roster as of sometime last week! I can't pinpoint the day, but based on the detective work of several Gurupies, it seems to be the roster as of sometime between 9/9 and 9/12.

Not to be left out of the fun, the CNN site now shows points for 9/11, but they are also based on the wrong active roster. In this case, my best guess is that the active roster of 9/17 was used. It actually benefited me by 170 points, because I incorrectly got Lima's points.

So far this morning, the "Manager Statement" links to the 7/18 (SW) and 9/11 (CNN) scoring summaries have disappeared, so I presume someone at Smallworld is working on unscrambling the mess.

9/20 - Let's start with a few football highlights:
  • Brian Griese gave a lot of Smallworld managers something to think about yesterday. Actually, it appears that he might not have been as "guilty" as charged, as there is a difference of opinion in the stats services this morning. ESPN,, and Yahoo all show Griese with 2 fumbles lost yesterday, but CBS.Sportsline shows Griese with one and Terrell Davis with the other. And I saw a written recap of the game which indicates that Davis really did lose one of the two fumbles. So, it appears Griese should probably have only -17 SWP, and not -62. And Davis should have 45 less. Perhaps the incorrect stats service will have this corrected tomorrow. (Even if it is corrected, whether it gets reflected in SW scoring is still questionable.)

  • The Tennessee defense, while not the best of the day, scored well enough to solidify the dominant defense-picking strategy for the forseeable future - at least until Cleveland shows an ability to advance the ball against someone.

  • Randall Cunningham had an interesting linescore. He was the top rated QB using Echelon's scoring formula, but only ranked 11th in Smallworld scoring. Although he threw for 364 yards and two TDs, he had three turnovers, which are heavily penalized in the SW formula, but warrant only a "slap on the wrist" in Echelon's formula.
I sure there are a lot more noteworthy items, but with two sports to evaluate this morning, I just haven't had time to scan through everything yet. I do have all of my football pages updated, so go find your own nuggets. And as always, let me know if you find anything that looks screwy. Some of the football process is semi-manual, so occasional errors are inevitable. But if you find' em, I'll fix 'em.

Baseball success this weekend might have been defined as much by which studs you didn't have as by which ones you did have. Both Lima and Hampton got similarly scorched. But Kevin Brown nicely survived a rain-shortened Coor's Field start. Greg Maddux could have had a monster total if the Braves could have overcome 4 unearned runs. And Randy Johnson was uncharacteristically mediocre. If you got your pitchers correct for the weekend, you probably made a nice move in the rankings, because I suspect most teams had a difficult weekend.

Before closing today, let me mention a couple of things about hockey. First, as many of you know, hockey just isn't my bag, and I won't be providing hockey coverage again this year. But, Gurupie Paul Scheirer (aka "philliephan" in the RotoGuru baseball rankings) will once again host his hockey stats site, which includes many RotoGuru-like features. I have an icon in the left panel which is linked to his site, but you might just want to bookmark it now.

Second, Echelon released its hockey game over the weekend, and the game design is distinctly different from recent offerings. It's actually most similar to last year's Touchdown Football game, but with price changes that will vary based on both performance and demand. Echelon also suggests that this may be the format for more future offerings, so I expect their basketball game will be similarly framed. The game will require a lot more strategic planning, and should appeal to Gurupies, but will probably also be more confusing to the casual player. Even if you don't plan to play hockey, you might want to take a look at the rules.

9/18 - Let me squeeze in a quick Saturday blurb, because there were some unusual happenings last night.

First, some of the more popular pitchers had uncharacteristically poor outings. Foremost has to be Jose Lima, who got torched for 9 St. Louis runs in the fourth inning, and took a -62 SWP/-31 BPP. Late season stalwart Garrett Stephenson was the undeserving beneficiary, getting the "W" in spite of a sub-par 5 IP, 6 ER linescore. Ismael Valdes had an even worse fate, surrendering 8 ER in 2 innings, but it was in Coor's Field, so what'd'ya 'spect? In fact, the Dodgers scored 10 runs, and still lost by 8. Tim Hudson must have felt like he got hit by another hurricane, barely posting positive numbers. Too much rest, perhaps?

On the upside, though, Paul Abbott got a surprise 9th inning relief appearance, and promptly blew a save by walking in the tying run - but then got the "W" when David Bell homered to lead off the bottom of the ninth. A tough break for John Halama, who posted strong numbers even without the points for the win, but a nice bonus for Abbott owners who got burned when he skipped his last start.

The biggest hitting night came from Dante Bichette, with 2 homers and 7 ribbies. Teammates Larry Walker and Todd Helton also contributed heavily to the Coor's Field pyrotechnics. Mike Stanley paced Boston's 14 run outburst in gasping Tiger Stadium. Paul O'Neill continued his hot mid-September. And John Flaherty gave my midseason team a Lima-offsetting boost with 2 dingers.

I made a few more tweaks to the individual football stats pages for team defenses. I now show SWP for both the team defense and the opposing team defense on the same table, broken out by home vs. away. (See Pittsburgh for an example.) Hopefully, this will help you analyze your defense picks as the season unfolds.

Don't forget your daily eBay click. Then go enjoy the weekend.

9/17 - Yesterday's baseball slate was relatively compact. The best pitching option turned out to be the "contra-Angel" choice, Jeff Suppan, with a complete game 6-hitter. Freddy Garcia and Hideki Irabu ("skinny") also came up with strong outings. I went with the "contra-Cub" choice, Juan Guzman, and he was looking pretty good too, until the Reds defense and bullpen let him down.

On the hitting side, no one topped 50 SWP for the day, although it was good to see A-Rod crank out a grand slam after a week of virtually nothing out of him.

As you can see, I was fortunate to maintain power throughout the storm, and I spent some time yesterday adding some more football features. The individual player pages are now functional. And I added an extra position option to the Smallworld sortable stats tables:   Opposing defense. This shows the points scored by the team defenses of the opposing teams. It's not very interesting after just one week, since it is just the inverse of the team defense category (with Cleveland at the top, and Pittsburgh at the bottom). But as the season wears, this will be a very useful way to quantify the weaker offensive teams. The price listed is the price of the next opponent. If you don't quite follow this now, I think it will become clearer after another week.

It's about time to get your weekend football rosters settled. Of course, you can always wait until the last minute, in order to take advantage of any late breaking news. But be reminded that this "wait and see" strategy is not without risk. If the game server malfunctions at the 11th hour, you could be preempted from making your desired moves. And baseball managers will tell you that weekend server problems are not without precedent. So there is no riskless timing strategy. Choose your risk, and load your weapons.

One additional reminder to Echelon Football managers. If you have players who you plan to keep, but who have declined in value since you bought them, you should drop them and immediate buy them back at their lower prices. Since there is no minimum holding period and no transaction cost, you have a free option to exploit. (Note: this tactic does not apply to the Football Market game, where there is a transaction cost, and where players are held at market value anyway.)

9/16 - Pedro may have "pitched good", but Chuck Finley pitched better. Well, OK, maybe the quality of the competition did have something to do with it.

I didn't see anything new or noteworthy about yesterday's SW baseball price changes, so I'll forego any comments. Suffice it to say that pitcher rotation trades continue to dominate the flows.

I've recently been asked whether I think Smallworld will ever honor their commitment to award points to invalid rosters for July 18 and and August 13-14. I don't have any inside information on this, but I'll tell you what I do know. If an organization has integrity and takes pride in its work, it honors its commitments. It does not say it will repair a defect, and then fail to do so - especially not without an explanation and an apology, if it turns out that the promised remedy is not fulfilled.

I believe Smallworld is staffed with good people who aspire to run the best fantasy games possible with honesty and integrity. I believe that Smallworld wants to honor its commitments. I believe that if something causes them to be unable to remedy the point shortfalls, they will not just ignore the whole issue and hope nobody notices. And therefore, I expect that Smallworld will do the right thing.

On to football. I was surprised to see that Smallworld awarded 4 extra trades yesterday, bringing the current availability to 8. I realize that the rules at the SW site stated that 4 trades would be awarded each Wednesday. But the rules didn't state that every team would start with an initial allocation of 4 trades, so I figured that our initial allocation of four was just an advance on Wednesday's dole. In fact, at the CNN site, the rules specifically state that "You will get 4 new trades after each price update." So it would seem that that rules have certainly been violated at that site. But, that's the hand we've been dealt. If you researched your draft well and planned based on the stated rules, it's understandable if you feel cheated by this development.

While this will provide many teams the likelihood of greater total gains next week, it will also dampen the magnitude of most player's gains - assuming that the price formula will operate the same for football as it has for baseball. The value of each buy or sell is proportionate to the total number of trades, so if there are twice as many trades made, then the value of each trade will be one-half of what it otherwise would have been. For player prices which would have exceeded a $1 million gain (or loss) without the weekly cap, this may not matter. But for most teams, twice as many trades won't yield twice as much in gains. Temper your expectations accordingly.

If SW doesn't get player point rankings posted soon, trading patterns for the first week will certainly be more dispersed and less predictable. Unless they use or do their own extensive calculations, it will be difficult for many managers to find a number trade opportunities that would otherwise appear to be "no brainers". That's not necessarily all bad - but it would be nice to know the conditions under which most trading will be done.

Up here in Connecticut, we're predicted to have heavy rains and wind gusts up to 60 mph later today - on the fringe of Hurricane Floyd. If we lose power at RotoGuru World Headquarters, I may be incommunicado for a day or two. (Unfortunately, our corporate backup systems are not well developed.) So if stats seem to be absent tomorrow, that's probably why. Hopefully, we'll come through this relatively unscathed, but I live in a neighborhood with a lot of old, tall trees, and area power outages are a virtual certainty in these conditions. (Maybe I'd better go make some trades now!)

9/15 - Javier Vazquez outduelled Kevin Brown in pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium last night, taking stud-of-the-day honors with a one-hit shutout. Shawn Estes was close behind, falling short by 3 hits, 2 K's, and a walk. And Jamie Moyer's effort over Tampa Bay was studworthy in its own right - but only third best last night.

With the bat, Jermaine Dye took advantage of a doubleheader to post the best hitting totals, with Karim Garcia almost bettering Dye's totals in just one game.

If you haven't yet made your pitching moves for today, be advised that Randy Johnson is not going to make his scheduled start tonight against Pittsburgh, due to soreness in his pitching shoulder. His next start is now reported to be on Saturday, which has the advantages of letting him miss a start in Coor's Field next week, and setting him up for a final start of the season on Wednesday, 9/29, giving him plenty of rest in advance of the first playoff game.

The CNN/SI baseball site seems to be having its problems lately. As far as I know, no one has received any points for last Saturday, even though there has been no public statement. The site was also down for the better part of yesterday, and remains inaccessible as of midmorning today. The silver lining may be that it kept you from swapping into Johnson (it helped me that way) - unless you were diligent enough to squeeze it in during the intermittent up-time yesterday.

On the football front, the most interesting news yesterday was the first repricing for Echelon's games. There are a handful of players with some rather inexplicable price declines - like Brad Johnson, Edgerrin James, Curtis Enis, Mark Brunell, and several others. You can easily pick out the anomalies in my sortable stats tables. In the regular football game, these will turn out to be opportunistic for some managers, who can pick up these guys at bargains. In the Football Market game, it's more troubling, since these prices are directly reflected in the scoring. The market game does include player demand as a component of pricing, but that doesn't explain these particular anomalies. (In fact, that's probably why Edgerrin dropped only $286,000 in the Market game, vs. a $300,000 loss in the regular game.) Suffice it to say that if future price changes continue to show these types of apparent irregularities, the Market game will die a quick death. We don't need absolute predictability in price changes, but we do need to know that a negative sign isn't being randomly assigned to price changes.

I'm not sure when I'll get the first football team rankings done, but feel free to start sending in your team user_id's for both the Smallworld and CNN/SI games. If you don't know how to find your user_id, see the instructions at the bottom of my baseball team ranking tables. Just email me the game (SW or CNN), your team name, and the user_id. I haven't yet decided whether I'll do a team ranking for the Echelon football game(s). Their own ranking lists are pretty good, and my team penetration at the Echelon site is much better than at Smallworld, so I'm not convinced that my Echelon team rankings add much value.

9/14 - Brian Griese certainly outperformed his price tag. But if you used the savings to pick up Terrell Davis, you're probably disappointed this morning. Regardless of how you did, though, it's time to regroup and figure out where to go from here.

It seems like a lot of you are already questioning whether your SWF season is now a lost cause, based on your (Pittsburgh-less) first week results. Fantasy football is a much different game than other major fantasy sports. In baseball, basketball, and hockey, the season has many more games, and when you own a player, you typically own him for a string of games, thereby increasing the probably that he will produce somewhat comparably to expectations. But in football, with only 17 weeks, the impact of a single game is greatly magnified, and even if you figure your disappointing stud should still produce OK, quick trigger trade flows can still make hanging on a difficult choice. If you believe in a player, sometimes it's best just to ignore the price implications and hang in for the long term. But a bad week certainly can have a disproportionate impact on a season. And in Echelon's football game, where trades are unlimited, a bad week from a stud can present opportunities to pick him up more cheaply.

I think I have good point totals for all football players now. (BTW, Smallworld did get the kickers corrected since yesterday.) When planning your SW trading strategy, you should figure that the majority of managers will use this week's trades before Sunday. If Smallworld gets the listing of the top players posted in the next few days, that will probably drive a lot of trade decisions. But that doesn't necessarily mean that you should trade now to maximize your trading gains. The best pickups next week will likely be the guys who do well in each of the first two weeks, since they should have decent price action in the first two weeks. So to the extent you are happy with your current roster's scoring potential, I'd suggest you hold through the weekend, and then assess trading opportunities early next week.

I also have the football Assimilator fully loaded with first week's results, as well as the sortable stats tables. I'll eventually be adding some extra data options to the stats tables (similar to baseball), but so far I have just have a "bare bones" version posted.

On to baseball. David Wells continued his on-again/off-again season, outdueling El Duque and the Yankees with a complete game 4-hitter. The more likely rotation pickups, Mike Hampton and Omar Daal, did pretty well too. On the hitting side, no one was really worthy of blurb-mention, so I won't.

I just realized that less than 3 weeks remain in the season. That means starting pitchers have only 3-4 starts left. If you've been hoarding trades for a rainy day, you'd better raise that umbrella soon.

Getting two sets of stats posted is exhausting. I'm pooped. Later.....

9/13 - If you had both Pedro Martinez and Greg Maddux over the weekend, then you averaged about 132 SWP on those two starts. And neither one probably had much impact on your overall ranking, because most teams had 'em both. But if you picked someone other that Maddux, then you probably had a good Sunday - unless your alternative pickup was someone like Luther Hackman. Now, I seriously doubt any of you actually had Luther Hackman, but I just wanted to post his name at least once this year. It reminds me of the Superman movies, in which Gene Hackman played Lex Luthor. All I can pitcher is Gene Hackman toiling on the mound. And probably with similar success.

I'm going to dispense with further baseball banter in this blurb, because I'm spending my time this morning trying to get football stats checked and posted. I have a preliminary table of yesterday's points for both the Smallworld and Echelon games. I've done some cross checking of my stats vs. various other sources, but I still suspect I have some errors that remain to be discovered. Stats sources are notoriously poor at the beginning of any season, and this year is clearly no exception. I was apalled at the lousy quality of the ESPN boxscores for yesterday's games - missing names, players listed under wrong teams, incorrect stats,... - certainly not up to ESPN standards. CBS.Sportsline seems to be a bit better, although I've found errors there as well. Actually, Yahoo seems to have the best quality in their posted boxscores. But they haven't yet updated their downloadable stats. Believe it or not, I put my stats together manually, and crosschecked passing and rushing yardage totals against several sources, so I think I have most stats correct. But I'm also sure there are some errors in there somewhere. In particular, I only captured fumbles lost, which is all that's needed for SWP, but I believe Echelon uses gross fumbles, rather than fumbles lost.

Smallworld did have player points posted on the team page this morning, and I have checked my totals against theirs for my team. It does look like SW has incorrect points for all kickers, but I haven't found any other problems yet. So, if you find any discrepancies between my listed points and any other source, first check to figure out which looks to be correct. And if mine appears to be wrong, please send me an email. I appreciate your help in this.

I will update the football Assimilator this afternoon. I may get the sortable stats tables updated for the first week as well, although the "yesterday" pages work almost as well for now.

I'll save most of my commentary on the first weekend's points until tomorrow. As was the case last year, however, defense looks like the most critical roster slot in the Smallworld game, and if you drafted Pittsburgh, that should offset a lot of other less fortunate picks. Of course, a lot of managers drafted Pittsburgh, given their initial opponent. Unfortunately, I had them on my first list, but switched to Seattle before the final freeze. Oof! At least I know I have a lot of company with Seattle as well. But I guess I should never second guess myself. At least I avoided Steve Young and Vinny Testaverde. But even so, it appears that I'm firmly mired in mediocrity already.

9/10 - A light Thursday schedule still produced a couple of excellent pitcher's duels, with Shane Reynolds overcoming both the weather and Paul Byrd, and with Orel Hershiser surprisingly outpitching Kevin Brown. In fact, the Dodgers were done in by former Dodgers, as Mike Piazza supplied the game-winning homer.

Meanwhile, in a non-pitchers duel, Jeremy Burnitz went 4-5 with a HR and 6 RBIs, producing the best hitting scores of the day, by far.

I did update the midseason rankings last night, but the worldwide rankings at the SW midseason site still weren't totally in synch with the scores. I'm guessing they were probably at least a day out of phase.

My final football tip was going to be to double check your official roster in each game, and make sure it includes the players you expect. I'm sure many of you have changed your minds several times during preseason, and it can't hurt to make sure you've actually processed those final adjustments. Also, check RotoNews or the other fantasy football sites one last time to make sure there's no new negative information about any of your players. Then sit back and enjoy the first weekend.

But when I went to the SW football site this morning - to check my own roster - I noticed that they have posted a last minute scoring formula change. Kickers will now be charged a flat 30 SWP per missed kick, regardless of length. Clearly, that seems to be a scoring formula "dehancement", so I assume they must have had a problem capturing the stats for missed FG by length. I adjusted my calculation of kickers' points using 1998 stats, and noted that this reduces the average points per kicker by almost 70 SWP, or almost 5 SWP per game. Certainly not an earth shaking change, but still a negative impact on every single kicker. I doubt if this will cause you to rethink your choice of kicker, but I have redone the numbers in the stats tables, in case you want to check them out.

And finally, if you want every available edge, then don't forget the advertising inducements. In SW, you can get $10,000 per day by clicking on an ad banner, and in the Echelon games, you can also get "freebie points" up to 15 times over the course of the season. Advertising revenues are the life blood of free fantasy sports games, and supporting the advertisers is an important way to support the games. And while you're at it, don't forget to click on RotoGuru ad banners as well. In fact, why not click on an eBay ad right now. Thanks for your continued support.

9/9 - It often seems like the big pitching price gainers immediately "punish" their owners with a substandard outing. But Mike Hampton produced $1 million and 184 SWP yesterday, a very potent perfecta. The other big gainer, Kevin Millwood, didn't fare as well, though with a timely "pinch walk" and a clutch save by John Rocker, he managed a very respectable 136 SWP (although it was his first sub-150 SWP game in the last month.)

Of course, while you couldn't have fared better in price gains than with Hampton and Millwood, you could have done modestly better pointwise with Dave Mlicki, who has put together a pretty impressive string of games in the last month as well, never drifting below 3-digits. But his muted price changes indicate that he's either gone unnoticed, or else most managers are non-believers.

And Octavio Dotel also continued to put up decent points, especially given his low price, which clearly has been attracting buyers.

On the hitting side, one name dominated: Steve Finley. 3 dingers, 6 ribbies, 103 SWP, 111 BPP. It seems like he's a mediocre producer for most of the season, but there are always a handful of games that he really puts up monster numbers, not only this year, but in prior years as well. The trick is anticipating his hot streaks. It's a trick I haven't solved.

While pitching continued to dominate most of the SW price action yesterday, hitter Brian Giles produced a strong gain to complement his strong stretch at the plate. He was picked up by a little over 5,000 teams. There were only about 250,000 total trades during the past week, so if most active teams were using close to 5 trades, that implies that Giles was added to about 10% of all active rosters.

I updated the SW and CNN full season team rankings last night. I did not update the mid season rankings, since the posted worldwide rankings were clearly botched yesterday. Hopefully they'll be fixed today - but if not, I'll probably update anyway.

Today's football tip takes a look at the projected Smallworld points by position, and considers the drafting implications of this distribution.

Which positions are the "impact" positions, and which are less potent? Using the 1999 point formula applied to 1998 stats, I took a look of the positional makeup of the top 50 and top 100 players in SWP/G. Here's the table:

Position Distribution of
Top Players in SWP per Game
Position Top 50 Top 100
Running back1221
Wide Receiver930
Kick Return02
Tight End00

Clearly, there is no positional parity in productivity. And this distribution is roughly reflected in the first price gains from last year as well. If I consider only the players whose first price gain was $200,00 or higher, roughly 80% of these gains (both in player count and dollars) were for QB, RB, and WR. Defense contributed another 10%.

So what's the preseason message? I'd suggest that for the three less impactful positions - tight end, kick return, and kicker - you draft players that you think you can hold for awhile, certainly beyond the first several price changes. Since these positions are likely to be less actively traded, they should exhibit decent price stability, particularly if they are on the cheap side. This will give you the ability to direct your early trades to the positions that are likely to attract the most attention.

Bear in mind that I'm not saying that the tight end, kicker, and kick return positions don't matter. In fact, as the season develops, you'll definitely want to upgrade those slots (unless you drafted Shannon Sharpe). I'm only suggesting that you wait until you can afford to make a material upgrade for these slots, and then do it in one shot, whereas you'll probably want to make more gradual upgrades to some of your higher producing positions.

Of course, it's always possible that some tight end or kick returner has a real burner in week one, and attracts significant trade flows. It may be that a quick trade can snag a disproportionately high gain, and you have to be alert to those opportunities. But maintaining flexibility requires that you draft players into these slots that you won't need to trade (i.e., no early byes, no overly speculative picks).

9/8 - There weren't any "true" studs scheduled to pitch last night, and I suspect many of you elected to pass on pitching rotations , as I did. But several guys came up with studworthy outings, including Scott Erickson (who tossed his league leading third shutout of the year - Ashby has 3 in the NL), Dustin Hermanson, Steve Trachsel, and Jason Schmidt.

On the hitting side, Greg Vaughn was "Triple-Digit Man, blasting 3 long balls in the nightcap of Cincy's doubleheader. He got totally shut down in the first game, so although he played two, his second game total was actually better than his daily total. Teammate Aaron Boone scored north of the 80 point mark for the day.

For today's football tip, I'll look at Echelon's Football Market game. Based on the preseason poll results, only about 10% of you are planning to play this game, but there are some differences from the recent baseball version that may make this one more interesting. Of course, as with any new game format, it's tough to anticipate how some things will really work, so those of us who do play the game will have to do some on-the-job learning.

The draft prices for this game are identical to the prices for the Regular Echelon Football game. But I expect the prices to start to differ with the first price change. While past Echelon games have only used performance as the basis to adjust prices, the rules of this game indicate that player demand (i.e., buys and sells) will also be reflected in price changes. Since demand is not listed as a price factor in the regular football game, I assume the prices for the two games will diverge. Just how demand is factored into the equation is anyone's guess, but it will be interesting to track.

I've been doing pretty well in the Baseball Market game, in spite of a slow start and a general cluelessness about the inner workings of the price change formula - especially for pitchers. The best tip I can give - and I suspect this will be valid even with the addition of demand to the price formula - is to concentrate on the cheaper players. In fact, I'm starting out with a fair chunk of leftover cash, since I think the players with the best price upside will tend to be the expected starters who are priced more like bench players. This would have been true even without demand factored into price changes, but may be even more true now. Remember that the lower priced players tend to have the best price moves in the early weeks of SW Football as well, which is totally demand-based.

The big unknown of this game is the degree to which "Monday morning quarterbacking" is a successful strategy. In baseball, the best approach seems to be to wait until a player has a monster game, and then buy him just before the next price update. While this forfeits the big dividend, it captures the price action, and dividends tend to be fairly inconsequential relative to the size of the bigger gains. The only real risk, then, is that you have to hold the player for four more days.

In football, you can also wait until just before the price change to capitalize on hot players from the prior weekend. What we don't yet know is whether the sacrifice of the dividends for these players will be a material opportunity cost. Since there is no minimum holding period for players, and a fairly minimal transaction cost (0.5% per sale), if dividends really are immaterial, then the entire game might turn out to be a dud. But, we'll never know until we try it out.

9/7 - Based on message forum chatter, the stud choices for yesterday generally boiled down to Clemens, Lima, or Maddux. If you went for Kenny Rogers, you definitely scooped most of the field, although Maddux - broken hand and all - did almost as well. Lima was fortunate that the pinch hitter he was lifted for - Russ Johnson - contributed a three run homer that gave Houston a lead that just barely help up. Those 50 SWP for the win were more than half of his total for the day. And Clemens, against the Angels, was... well,... he did have positive points.

Tony Clark was the best of the hitters, lifting Detroit to a 9-7 win over wildcard hopeful Oakland. Albert Belle was close behind - as was his team.

Today's football tip focuses on the Echelon Football game. This game is constructed quite similar to the recent basketball and football games, with a hard salary cap that increases gradually throughout the season, player prices that adjust based on performance (but not buys and sells), and a roster that includes two wild card slots. In the basketball and baseball games, active management to gain additional game exposure was the most critical strategy, and while bye week management will be an important factor in football, it won't require the same level of activity and attention that was necessary in the other sports. In fact, perhaps the most important strategy will be to identify the most significantly underpriced players, and lock them in before the first price change. Successful basketball teams generally picked up Anfernee Hardaway at the start, and held him throughout virtually the entire season. Adrian Beltre has been on all of the top teams in Ball Park Dreams since the outset. Finding a few productive cheapies not only gives you decent bang for your buck, but it also provides more capacity for other higher-priced players. And while the top teams always seem to have a few cheap players locked in for a long time, they also trade actively in many of their roster slots, looking for the hot hand, picking up the new starter (whether due to injury or promotion), and exploiting favorable matchups.

Although some Echelon games have postponed the first price change until the second week, I see no mention of that in this game, so we should assume that the first price change will take place on Tuesday, Sept. 14th. If you missed a good cheap pickup in your draft, you'll have until Tuesday morning to rectify the omission(s). And while stats won't be posted at the Echelon site until the prices are updated, you can use to identify the first week's cheap producers. With any luck, I'll have Sunday's points posted by mid-Monday, enabling you to make a quick roster rebalancing before some prices start to run away.

In a sense, you get a free mulligan. Even if your opening drive is only slightly offline, no penalty strokes will be assessed, so you might as well take full advantage of it. Others certainly will.

By the way, I'm collecting all of my preseason football tips in one place for easy reference. So you don't have to wade through prior blurb to ferret them out.

9/6 - In spite of striking out 13, Randy Johnson was off his "A" game, avoiding a loss only when Atlanta decided to give the D-backs an extra out to work with in the 9th inning. Brad Radke claimed the day's pitching honors, with a complete game 5-hitter over Tampa Bay. Chipper Jones nailed down the top spot in hitting, going yard twice against the Big Unit.

Today I introduce eBay as a new sponsor for You'll notice special eBay sports banners on a number of RotoGuru pages. Whether you're interested in buying, selling, or just window shopping, eBay offers a wide variety of opportunities in sports memorabilia and sporting goods. And every click-through to eBay is a "ka-ching" to, so I hope you'll make a trip to eBay a daily habit.

For today's football tip of the day, I took a look back at the first price change in last year's SW football game. As will be the case this year, the first price change occurred after the second game, so there may be some relevant patterns to consider. The tables below list the 10 top gainers and the 10 biggest losers, along with their SW points for each of the first two games. (Note that the maximum weekly price move was $3 million last year.)

I think several messages come through loud and clear. First, on the upside:

  1. First week point totals dominated those of second week in determining the first price changes.

  2. Low priced players got most of the upside action. John Carney is there because of the combination of his low price and decent first game. Ditto for Randy Moss, Glenn Foley, and Donnell Bennett.

  3. Hearst had a bye in the third week, but that didn't seem to hurt his price action early on, even though the bye occurred only 4 days later.

  4. Randall Cunningham was the biggest exception to the week-1 dominance, as he didn't emerge (due to Brad Johnson's injury) until the second game. And even his output in game #2 wasn't significant. But he was cheap, and it looks like people took the savings and plowed it into Terrell Davis, who started his steady price climb right off the bat, again probably more reflective of his second game points.

  5. Only one defense appears in the top 10 gainers, and that was the best performing defense in the first week. In fact, Seattle really stuck out by posting a rare positive score in its first game.

10 Best and Worst Price Changes
for the First Week of 1998 SW Football
Name Pos Draft Price Gain SWP
Week 1
Week 2
Moss, Randy WR $3,830,000 $1,810,000 302 166
Foley, Glenn QB $3,710,000 $1,540,000 492 140
Hearst, Garrison RB $5,910,000 $1,090,000 526 314
Bennett, Donnell RB $1,580,000 $1,070,000 242 51
Carney, John K $690,000 $930,000 100 40
Cunningham, Randall QB $1,340,000 $820,000 0 95
Stewart, James RB $5,230,000 $760,000 336 254
Seattle D $5,380,000 $740,000 51 -164
Davis, Terrell RB $10,800,000 $720,000 238 516
Bruce, Isaac WR $4,640,000 $700,000 242 480
Name Pos Draft Price Loss SWP
Week 1
Week 2
Smith, Antowain RB $5,690,000 -$400,000 74 42
Pickens, Carl WR $4,040,000 -$450,000 128 132
Tampa Bay D $5,730,000 -$450,000 -553 -360
Arizona D $3,180,000 -$490,000 -684 -454
Alstott, Mike RB $4,930,000 -$590,000 15 2
Johnson, Brad QB $8,400,000 -$630,000 351 110
George, Eddie RB $6,610,000 -$650,000 208 4
McNair, Steve QB $5,540,000 -$770,000 174 275
Grbac, Elvis QB $4,520,000 -$990,000 175 0
Plummer, Jake QB $4,870,000 -$1,020,000 158 88

The losers also point out a useful message. While you probably need to trade "like a lemming" in the early weeks, dare to be different in your draft.  Why? Last year, at the beginning of the season the most heavily drafted quarterbacks were Plummer, McNair, and Grbac, based on a combination of moderate price and high expectations. In fact, I remember someone remarking that they were hard pressed to find any team without either Plummer or McNair as one of the two preseason QBs. And while neither had stellar games the first week, they didn't totally stink. McNair even had a good second game. But they were the three biggest price losers, because they were so heavily drafted, and other QBs - like Foley and Cunningham - suddenly looked much better. Of course, all you had to do to avoid the debacle was trade like a lemming. But the moral is that these price declines were not so much a function of these players' performances; it was a function of their heavy drafting, and of other high performers at their position. And particularly at the QB position, a few players are likely to have eye-popping point totals the first week. If it's not one of the more popular draftees, then watch out.

Who are this year's more heavily drafted players? Look around at other teams in your division, and I think you'll see a few names appearing more often than others. Or read through some of the message forum posts to see which players are being hyped the most. The more you are able to differentiate your team in the draft, the more trading flexibility you should have in the early weeks.

9/4 - Jamie Moyer tossed a late night 3-hit complete game against the Red Sox to snatch pithing stud-of-the-day honors from Kevin Millwood. Millwood had personally outhit the D-backs through seven innings, going 2-3 while Arizona was a collective 1-22. But 4 singles in the 8th inning turned a potential monster score into just a "vanilla" stud outing.

Disappointment of the night honors must belong to Andy Pettitte, who barely posted positive points against the Angels. Perhaps it was due to jet lag.

Ken Caminiti dominated the hitting stats, with a 2-HR, 6-RBI outburst. Over his last 5 games, he's averaged better than 40 SWP/45 BPP, reminiscent of his MVP credentials from several seasons ago.

Today's football tip of the day is not so much a strategy hint, but a rules clarification. I've gotten several emails, and also seen several message forum posts, all indicating that the best trading strategy is to swap from Sunday players into Monday night players, thereby picking up extra games. Let's see if we can nip this one in the bud before anyone burns themselves with this approach.   Don't do it!   Why? Because it won't work!   In both the SW and Echelon games, the roster freeze deadline applies to all games for the entire weekend. You can't manuever mid-weekend to get extra games. And in Echelon's Football Market game, any trading after Saturday morning will forfeit the weekly dividends for both the player sold and the player bought, although you will still get the Tuesday price change for the new player. So, think of the weekend slate of games as a single chunk. Monday night games are no different than Sunday games. Don't waste any effort planning trading strategies to exploit the calendar. (I wonder how many nasty emails each game provider will get on that first Tuesday when no one benefits from their weekend switches?).

9/3 - Only eight games were played yesterday, as many teams had a travel day. And a few teams played in the afternoon, so they could make a quick getaway.

David Wells gets stud-of-the-day honors, with a 4-hit complete game over Minnesota. Nagy, Nathan, and El Duque all ptiched and scored pretty well. The pitching disappointment of the day was probably Aaron Sele, who looked like a good pick against the Tigers, but pitched only so-so, and then lost points for the win when slumping Jeff Zimmerman failed to protect a 3 run lead.

Tim Salmon was the only hitter to top the 60 point mark in either scoring system. He seems to be rounding into form again, though it's certainly a case of too little, too late for the Angels.

Before I segue into my football tip of the day, I should probably offer a disclaimer. Football is definitely my weakest fantasy sport. It seems to be the sport where weekly matchups are the most critical factors, and where statistical analysis pales by comparison. With only a 17 week schedule, a few bad decisions and/or missed opportunities can wreck a season. And, as the most popular fantasy sport, competition is the toughest. Last year I only finished with a SW rank in the low 3000's, while I've consistently been a double- or single-digit finisher in baseball and hoops. So while I'm happy to offer my perspectives, suffice it to say "buyer beware".

That said, here's Friday's football tip of the day.   Look ahead!   In the SW game, you are limited to four trades per week, and that means at least eight of the players you draft for the first game are going to have to remain on your roster for game two. In fact, since SW has already announced that the first price change will occur after the second game (Wed., 9/22), you should try to draft a team that you think you can live with for at least the first two weeks. This will allow you to use your four trades after the second game (but still before the price change, if desired), making them as potent as possible.

A consequence of this is that you probably want to avoid any players who have byes in at least the first two weeks, and maybe even the third. San Diego has a bye in week one, and St. Louis sits for the second week. Week #3 byes include Dallas, Miami, and New Orleans. It may be OK to draft a week #3 bye (or two, at most), but if you do, recognize that this is going to significantly restrict your trading flexibility early in the year. And those early trades are probably going to make or break your season. A lot of teams will undoubtedly get off to fast starts, and while the baseball and basketball schedules generally give you time to recover from early problems (and I'm living proof of that), football is much less forgiving (and alas, I'm also living proof of that!).

"Bye the way", in case you haven't noticed, my stats tables and the Assimilator list the bye week for each player. The 10 week schedule look-ahead in the Assimilator is especially effective in allowing you to visually identify bye week concentrations. The tools are at your disposal... take advantage of them.

9/2 - If I'd have assured you yesterday that the top pitcher of the night would get 211 SWP in Yankee Stadium, I'll bet most of you would have picked the wrong guy. Omar Olivares bested Roger Clemens for the top honors. Digressing for a moment, the Clemens-Wells trade certainly hasn't had the impact that many expected before the season began, although it's fair to note that neither Clemens nor Wells has had a banner year. While both have had some stud-like performances, neither has exhibited anything close to stud-like consistency. Still, the ultimate value of the trade will probably be determined in the postseason, depending on how Roger does - and also whether Toronto even makes it.

After a month or so of almost no activity, the feedback page has once again shown a pulse. Clearly, the message forum sapped most of the life from the feedback page. But it now appears there is a role for both features. The message forum tends to get cluttered with a lot of repetition and social chatter, and it is difficult (or not worth it) for the time constrained Gurupie to sift through all of the verbiage. The feedback page is more focused, highly edited, and more widely read. To help you notice when new feedback letters are posted, I've added the date of the last update to the right of the feedback menu link on this blurb page.

SW repricing seemed back to normal yesterday, with pitcher trading dominating the activity and the price changes. Although some managers seemed surprised at the strength of the changes for Randy and Pedro ("the Pedro"), I think they were wholly consistent with the patterns we've seen all summer.

Football tip of the day: Today's tip applies to all covered games, and while it may seem obvious, it is probably the most important issue at this stage of the season. Find the starters who are priced like reserves. There are several reasons:

  1. You won't start out with enough money to buy "name" players. You'll need some productive players with very low prices to be able to assemble a competitive roster.

  2. Unless they completely crap out, these guys are going to increase in value early in the season. Whether price changes result from demand (SW), performance (EF), or both (EFM), the best of these cheap players will get the biggest bang for the buck in terms of early price gains.

  3. Putting some very cheap players on you roster will allow you to pick up some star talent. Especially in the SW game, the early price gainers are likely to be those whose prices look the most out-of-line in the top 50 listings. (Remember Freddy Garcia and Kevin Stocker?) Of course, if everyone drafts the same cheap players, their price increase potential will be severely dampened, since (historically) draft buys haven't been incorporated into the SW price change formula. Which means that your rewards will be even greater if you can find the needles in the haystack.

How do you find these guys? Check out team depth charts (you can find links to several sites with depth charts on my favorite links page), and compare them to the draft price lists. Read fantasy football analysts for hints on "sleepers". Check out the RotoGuru message forum to see who is being touted. Look at other rosters in your division to see who is being drafted. Read preseason boxscores and look for new names. There are plenty of ways. But the season opens in 10 days, so you'd better get started soon, if you haven't already. Because until you figure out which cheapies you want, it will be hard to figure out what you can afford for the rest of your roster.

Get busy.

9/1 - September already!?

If you rotated a pitcher in for last night's start, you probably did well. All of the most likely rotatees - Randy Johnson, Jose Lima, Greg Maddux, Andy Ashby, and even Brad Radke pitched and scored quite well. Unit probably pitched the best of the bunch, but got saddled with no offense again, and lost 2-1. None of these guys did as well as Larry Luebbers, though, as he threw a complete game 5-hitter against the Marlins. (Does it seem to you that the Marlins always overachieve against stud pitchers, but then stink against the weaker ones?)

In spite of the good pitching, three teams scored 14 runs, the most remarkable being Cleveland, who put up a 10-spot in the 8th inning to overtake the Angels 14-12. (If only they could face teams like this in October!) There weren't any "Edgardian" hitting feats last night, although Barry Bonds continued to be en fuego with two more home runs. He's produced 313 SWP in the past 7 days, averaging almost 40 SWP per game.

I reran my top 100 roster tally (top 50 worldwide at the full season SW and CNN sites) shortly after yesterday's freeze, just to see how many Randy Johnsons I'd find. And the answer is... 95. Only 5% of the top teams went Randy-free last night. And I have trouble understanding why that would be - why anyone would skip the Big Unit, that is. With one of the hottest arms, a 2-start week, and a sure price gain, why concede his points to the field?

I posted the entire tally of the top 100 teams by position. I also broke out the SW vs. CNN distribution. In most cases, the representation is similar between the two games. A few players show up significantly more in the CNN game, though: Shawn Green (11 SW vs. 30 CNN), Billy Wagner (11 SW, 26 CNN), and Manny Ramirez (13 SW, 23 CNN) are the three with the greatest difference. Only one player - Chipper Jones (18 SW, 8 CNN) - has as much as a ten team advantage on the SW side. I don't know how to interpret the differences. While the average top 50 CNN team has about a $9 million value advantage ($105m vs $96m), that doesn't really seem to explain these names. Maybe it's just the luck of the draw. The other players held more on the SW side tend to be cheaper players - Benson, M. Ordonez, Clemente, Cedeno, Dotel, Batista... Those higher holdings probably are related to the relative affordability.

What strikes me the most is the diversity. Alomar and Arod are the only two hitters on more than half of the teams. Griffey is on exactly 50%. Only four other hitters appear on as many as 40% of the teams. Also, three of the top six pitchers are relievers - Rocker, Wagner, and Williamson - although rotational flows undoubtedly distort the pitching picture. For example, Pedro shows up as #5, on 36% of the teams. But I'll bet that was much higher 24 hours earlier.

I'm not sure there's anything of great strategic importance here, but it is interesting.

Since it's September, I though I should start devoting some blurbspace to football. So, for each of the next 10 days or so, I'll try to include a preseason strategy tip for at least one of the covered football games. While some of you will find some of these tips to be obvious, I think many of you will find them helpful in getting your "football thinking caps" activated.

Today's tip relates to Smallworld football. There are some significant scoring changes vs. 1998, the most noteworthy being for team defenses. Last year, you may recall that team defenses averaged negative points per game, and a special deduction applied to team defenses on bye weeks. Since this flat deduction was more attractive than most team's averages, many managers chose to pick up a bye week defense.

This year, expected points for team defenses are positive. This means that holding a bye week defense is just like holding any bye week player - you'll score nothing. And nothing will not be an attractive defensive score, since the better defenses will produce over 200 SWP per week. In fact, using the new scoring formula, 300+ SWP games occurred 68 times last season, for an average of 4 per week. This will continue to make team defenses one of the more potent roster slots, and one that you should evaluate carefully each week.

Click here for prior daily blurbs, by month:

1999: 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<>.