Wednesday, March 27, 2013

My youth game design hero

This amazing video from edutopia's Is School Enough? series features my main man and youth game design superstar Rhys. Rhys is a former STEM Challenge winner and one of the most prolific designers in Gamestar Mechanic.

Monday, March 25, 2013

ZFL 2013 Draft Recap

As chronicled in my first post, yesterday was draft day in my 16-team, head to head points league. I went into the draft having kept CC Sabathia and Adrian Beltre and having traded away the third of my three keepers, Prince Fielder, for draft picks, which resulted in me having 5 picks across the first three rounds, including the second overall pick.

I went into this year's draft with a bit more of a strategy than I have had in past years (where I've tended to be reactive while trying generally to take the 'best' player on the board who I can fit on my roster). After studying the available players and doing a bit of mock drafting, I decided to 'script' those first 5 picks with plans to deviate only if something crazy happened.

As a reminder, the draft is twenty rounds, but due to the keeper rules Round 1 is really like Round 4 of a standard mixed league draft.

Round 1: Ian Kennedy

The league rewards pitching and with several owners sitting with two, three and even four starters going into the draft, getting a second ace (or near ace) to compliment CC was a key part of my plan. Kennedy and James Shields were the only two pitchers in the draft pool that met those criteria in my opinion. Shields was the #1 overall pick, and so Kennedy it was.

Round 2: Ben Zobrist, Doug Fister

I was going to take the best OF or 1B bat available, but that was when I had projected Zobrist to go in the first round. Most of that round was dominated by teams taking starting pitching and Zobrist fell this far. Zobrist is an undervalued player in fantasy, particularly head-to-head points formats like ours, where I have him as the fourth overall 2nd basemen. That plus his multi-position eligibility (2B, SS, OF) makes him a very valuable fantasy asset. Having him totally opened up my draft.

I had planned to take the best available SP with my other 2nd Round pick, and after the run on pitching Fister was it. This gave me Sabathia, Kennedy and Fister at the front of my rotation, all legit #1 or #2 fantasy starters before some teams had even drafted a #1.

Round 3: Chase Utley, Matt Wieters

Position scarcity dictated my strategy here: I had a long wait before my next pick and didn't want to go that long without filling my MI and C spots. Taking Zobrist allowed me to take either the best SS or 2B on the board here, and Utley was it as a potential comeback candidate. By this point, Wieters and Yadier Molina were the last decent catcher options on the board and Molina ended up going before my next pick, validating my choice to reach a bit early for talent at a weak position.

Rounds 4-6: Shane Victorino, David Ortiz, Phil Hughes

My focus on pitching and filling out weak positions early left me with gaps at traditional power spots like OF and 1B, but those are the choice we make. Victorino as my #1 outfielder is not as strong as I'd like, but I'd take him over guys who I expect to perform marginally better that went several rounds earlier any day. Big Papi at 1B is an injury and age risk, but could still deliver decent production, and my flexibility at IF and SP could let me trade for a better option later.

My rotation depth also let me take Hughes in the 6th round as my fourth starter, even though he's a #3 starter in our league and similar (uninjured) guys were already off the board rounds earlier. With my depth, I can ride out the earlier part of the season and then either get a boost in production or trade him to a team in need of rotation help.

Rounds 7-10: Neil Walker, Wei-Yin Chen, Norichika Aoki, Vance Worley

I was looking for OF #2 and not liking the options I saw in round 7. Still on the board was Walker, who due to anonymity of Pittsburgh, survived til round 7 and is capable of putting up 100 points more across the season than the average outfielder on the board at that point. I was already set at 2B (with both Utley and Zobrist there), but Walker can DH and serve as a hedge against the injury-prone Utley. I feel somewhat validated in this strategy because I got Aoki as my second OF (a top 30 fantasy outfielder in our format) 2 rounds later when similar players were going in this round.

Chen and Worley rounded out my starting rotation. I'm not a huge Chen fan but he fell farther than he should and will get some wins on a good Baltimore team in a weakened AL East. Worley is a big question mark coming off injuries and poor performance, but still the kind of guy I could take flier on as my sixth best pitcher.

Rounds 11-15: Ben Revere, Jim Johnson, Sean Marcum, Jeff Keppinger, Mark Teixeira

3rd outfielders are a dime a dozen and I almost always end up finding a waiver wire guy who outperforms both my #2 and #3 outfielders, but you need to start 3 and Revere's improving OBP and speed make him an attractive choice.

I always wait until about this point to take a closer because there are so many options out there, and indeed Jim Johnson projects similarly to guys who went 5+ rounds earlier (and will undoubtedly be outperformed by 5-8 guys who aren't on anyone's radar right now). Marcum is another injury case/ potential upside pitcher who could provide help or trade fodder when he comes off the DL, and Keppinger's multi-position eligibility makes him an attractive backup infielder.

Even though it's a gamble, I consider Teixeira the steal of the draft in round 15 if he returns and produces anything like his career averages for even just the second half of the season. I'd rather take the flier than draft a waiver wire guy or unproven prospect and walk away with no tears if he ends up missing the season.

Rounds 16-20: JP Arencibia, Phillip Humber, Jason Vargas, Jake Westbrook, Tevor Rosenthal

Once a backup catcher is secured, the late rounds are all about drafting pitching depth. I like to draft undervalued guys with upside potential, rather than unproven rookie talent. Humber has shown that he can perform at a high level and a change of scenery might help him find the consistency he's lacked. The move to Anaheim (with it's big dimensions and good team) could also breathe new life into Vargas. Westbrook isn't the sexiest pick, but you know what you're getting and Rosenthal is both a good hedge on him and a guy with breakout potential if he gets a shot at the St. Louis rotation or is traded.


In a league that rewards pitching heavily, a rotation of Sabathia, Kennedy, Hughes, Fister and Chen is definitely in the top third of the league. I'm also strong at traditionally weak positions like MI, 3B and C. I'd prefer to have a little more power in my lineup at 1B and OF, but have the ability to perform near league average across those positions. The flexibility with so many multi-position guys and SP depth also gives me some nice insurance to deal with injuries and lay the groundwork for future deals. There are a couple of teams whose rosters I'd prefer to have... but not many.

Overall grade: B+

Sunday, March 24, 2013

ZFL 2013 Pre Draft

Since so many of my friends are Fantasy Baseball nuts, I'm going to use this blog to keep a record of my performance in the ZFL: the ultra-competitive 16 team head-to-head points fantasy baseball league I'm in.

For a variety of reasons detailed by league commissioner Joe Pisapia in his best selling Fantasy Baseball Black Book, I believe this league to be an example of the optimum fantasy baseball format and scoring system. You must start C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, 3 OF, UT and 6 pitchers, of which at least one must be a starter and one a reliever. The scoring system rewards solid pitching with bonuses for wins, saves, holds and quality starts; penalizes poor pitching with negative points for losses, blown saves and ER and penalizes batter strikeouts. There are 23 man rosters with a 3 man keeper, meaning a 20 round draft. Players and draft picks can be traded before and after the keeper deadline, though you must designate 3 keepers at the deadline and return the rest of your roster to the draft pool.

I finished the 2012 season just missing the playoffs due to some significant injuries after having made them each of the prior 3 years the league has been around. I kept CC Sabathia, Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre and had the second overall pick in the draft.

There are a few wheelers and dealers in the league, and two very savvy owners (including the commish) adopted the strategy of trading away draft picks for other teams' surplus and marginal keepers. These two teams had put together pre-draft rosters that in some cases had 3 or 4 starting pitchers (all well above average) and often one or two decent hitters. It also left their counter-parties in the trades with an excess of draft picks, creating some situations where they'll be picking several times in the early and middle rounds.

My sole off season move was to get in on this, trading Fielder to the commish for his 2nd and 3rd round picks. I'm usually not one to trade draft picks (I tend do well in drafts by being reactive and drafting for value) and Fielder is a top 5 fantasy player, but I made this move for a few reasons:

1. The commish was already sitting with 3 elite or solid SP options (he has since traded picks for a fourth) AND his 2nd and 3rd round picks (he'd already traded away his first round pick for one of the SP). That much pitching talent plus the players he'd get with those picks was scary. He now has Fielder and his great pitching staff but doesn't pick til the fourth round.

2. While Fielder is great, he's at such a deep position. I figure I can get 80% of his production in the draft while ending up with a better team overall. The depth at first base also softened the blow of giving him to someone with a strong team entering the season.

3. Having the overall #2 pick, I wouldn't have picked again until the late second round. That left me concerned about being below average at scarce positions. I now have 5 of the first 36 picks, which I think will let me be above average at a number of positions (including maybe even 1B), rather than very, very above average at 1B but average or weak elsewhere.

We'll see if it pays off. The draft is later today and I'll post a recap once it's done.