Greetings from SCFE’s 2018 Week 12 Hot Topics column. June 21 is here, and it’s the official start of Summer. The Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year (at least in this hemisphere), and is one of the definitive signs that school is out. Along with explosive growth in local mall populations.
Like Fantasy Baseball, Summer movies are an integral part of the Summer experience. After all, you need something to do when it rains or it’s too hot outside. Summer movies tend to be more escapist than awards season films. If you’ve just spent the better part of a year in school and are trying to decompress from finals overload, some mental palate cleansing is always in order.
The best Summer movies are like amusement park rides for the brain. You can laugh yourself silly, get scared out of your wits, or just watch stuff blow up real good. In that vein, I submit one of my favorite Summer movie comedies for your consideration. Once again, I’m going back to my 1980’s library with One Crazy Summer.
The ‘80s were a decade where greed was good and all jackets were required by law to come with shoulder pads. I still don’t get the shoulder pads thing. Questionable fashion trends aside, the 1980s also produced some gloriously bizarre comedies, including One Crazy Summer.
Released in 1986, One Crazy Summer stars a pre-famous John Cusack as Hoops McCann, a recent high school graduate. Unfortunately, he stinks at basketball even though his parents named him “Hoops.” Yes, it’s that kind of movie.
After disappointing his parents by failing to get a basketball scholarship (his graduation present is a street sweeper), Hoops decides the spend the Summer with his friend George on the island of Nantucket. Various hijinks ensue, including a troop of psychotic boy scouts, Bobcat Goldthwait in a Godzilla costume, and a revenge prank involving lobsters freed from captivity.
Before he became a master of hipster intellectualism and prominent Cubs fan, John Cusack got his start with cult classics like One Crazy Summer and Better Off Dead. Both of these movies were directed by Savage Steve Holland, a 1980s legend who also animated the Whammies on the game show Press Your Luck. If “big money, no Whammies, stop!” means nothing to you; I’m feeling old right now.
The best way to describe One Crazy Summer is a “theater of the absurd.” In some ways, that also describes Fantasy Baseball. Like the modern-day obsession with The Golden Girls, some players seemingly come out of nowhere to put big numbers. Like the crazy/weird humor of One Crazy Summer, that’s part of the fun. You just have to go with it.
Let’s kick off Summer and have some fun with a couple of players who fit this mold. Enjoy the 2018 Week 12 Hot Topics.
2018 Week 12 Hot Topics
Hot Topic No. 1: “If we give in now, we’ll be giving into all the cute and fuzzy bunnies in the world!”
Max Muncy, 1B/3B, Los Angeles Dodgers
As part of the movie, One Crazy Summer also features an animated love story in a series of short segments. The cute and fuzzy bunnies are actually sadistic bad guys who torment the main character. Believe me, it makes sense once you see it.
The quote above is part of the standard inspirational speech in 1980’s comedies before the scrappy underdogs take on the unstoppable foe. It’s also a good lesson in perseverance. This could apply to Max Muncy; a player who stuck with it and didn’t give into the cute and fuzzy bunnies.
Originally, Max Muncy was a fifth-round pick of the Oakland Athletics in 2012. In 2013, he put together a .273 AVG/89 R/25 HR/100 RBI/1 SB season between Single-A and Double-A. After that, however, the power seemed to disappear. Getting yanked back and forth between MLB and the minors in 2015 and 2016 probably didn’t help.
He was released by the Athletics before the 2017 season and was signed to a minor league contract by the Dodgers. His 2017 Triple-A numbers were unspectacular from a power standpoint, but he demonstrated impressive contact ability. Overall, Max Muncy finished 2017 with a .309 AVG/.414 OBP/62 R/12 HR/44 RBI/3 SB AAA stat line in 109 games.
Heading into this season, it seemed like Max Muncy was headed towards “AAAA” status. In other words, he might be a little too good for the minors, but not quite good enough for The Show. After starting the season in the minors, he was called up on April 17 after early season injuries made the Dodgers roster look like a Walking Dead episode.
As of June 17, Max Muncy has as many HRs as Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon, and more than Cody Bellinger, Anthony Rizzo, and Kris Bryant. He also had an HR in four straight games from June 8 to June 12. So far, he’s posted a .269 AVG/.389 OBP/22 R/13 HR/30 RBI/1 SB stat line in 134 ABs. Not too bad for a non-roster Spring Training invitee who didn’t make the cut to start the season.
Of course, Fantasy Baseball owners may be skeptical. We’ve all seen players on hot streaks that don’t last. Like one hit wonders, it’s a common tale. There are positive indicators with Max Muncy, however. A career .382 OBP in the minors shows hitting ability, and he did flash power before. As Ron Shandler says, “once you display a skill, you own it.” Like Austin Meadows, Max Muncy is more proof that it may be easier to hit in MLB than in the minors.
Players like Max Muncy are part of the mystique of Fantasy Baseball. The guy on nobody’s radar who takes an opportunity and runs with it. It may or may not last, but it’s a blast when it does. You also have to love the fact that he never gave up, kept working, and now the effort is paying off.
Max Muncy is currently unowned in 31% of ESPN and Yahoo leagues. In addition to 1B/3B eligibility, he’s also OF-eligible in Yahoo leagues. If you have a need and he’s on the waiver wire in your league, you may as well ride the hot hand. Who knows; it may last the whole season. Stranger things have happened.
Hot Topic No. 2: “Uncle Frank, every year he sits there, trying to win that stupid radio contest. Every year he loses a little bit more of his mind.”
Blake Treinen, RP, Oakland Athletics
Closers in Fantasy Baseball are like kickers in Fantasy Football. Trying to apply logic and reason to find consistent production at these positions can cost you your sanity. In One Crazy Summer, George’s deranged Uncle Frank spends every summer alone in a room sitting in front of a telephone hoping for a call from the local radio station. If he’s there and answers the call, he’ll win $1,000,000. This has negative psychological consequences on him, to say the least.
If you spend significant draft capital or prep time on closers, you may wind up like Uncle Frank. There’s just too much randomness. Like kickers in Fantasy Football, closer production depends on a lot of things outside a player’s control. To get consistent save opportunities, a closer needs to be on a team that not only wins but doesn’t win by blowouts. Just like a kicker needs a team with a good offense, but that doesn’t score a ton of touchdowns.
Closers and kickers also have the same level of job security of the average Imperial commander working for Darth Vader. One bad stretch, and it’s force choke time. In Fantasy Baseball, you also have to worry about a good closer on a bad team being traded to a contender and becoming a setup guy. To make a long story short (too late); when it comes to drafting closers and kickers you may as well throw a dart.
Which brings us to Blake Treinen. If anyone out there predicted Blake Treinen as a top ten closer in 2018 (currently sixth on ESPN’s player rater), raise your hand. If your hand is up, you’re either lying or you may have psychic powers like Gary in Anchorman 2. This isn’t to say Blake Treinen is a bad player, or that the numbers don’t support his success. He’s yet another example of how trying to predict the closer position is like trying to figure out where Brick got his hand grenade or future gun.
Blake Treinen was drafted by the Athletics in the seventh round of the 2011 draft. He was then traded to the Washington Nationals as part of a three-team swap in 2013 and made his MLB debut on April 12, 2014. He has put up solid career numbers (2.96 ERA/272 Ks in 295.0 IP) and was eventually given a shot at the closer role by the Nationals in 2017.
Unfortunately, he flopped like NBC trying to reboot Heroes. Before being traded back to the A’s (cue Welcome Back, Kotter theme) on July 26, 2017, Blake Treinen’s 2017 stat line for the Nationals was a grotesque 0-2/5.73 ERA/1.62 WHIP/32 K/3 SV in 37.2 IP. That’s gonna leave a mark.
Like Community finally figuring out what kind of show it was in the second half of its first season, Blake Treinen apparently just needed another chance. After pulling the plug on Santiago Casilla, the A’s gave Blake Treinen the closer job and he announced his presence with authority. His numbers for the A’s in 2017 were an impressive 3-4/2.13 ERA/1.16 WHIP/42 K/13 SV stat line in 38.0 IP.
A 15% swinging K rate with Oakland in 2017 backs up the stats. Heading into 2018, Blake Treinen was named the A’s closer in February. If you drafted Blake Treinen, you probably said to yourself: “I need to take a closer, and he has the job for now.” I’m guessing you’re pretty happy with that decision so far.
Through June 18, Blake Treinen has posted a 4-1/1.06 ERA/0.94 WHIP/40 K/15 SV stat line in 34.0 IP. He’s also 15-for-17 in save opportunities for a 36-36 team. If you threw a dart and wound up with Blake Treinen on draft day, congratulations. The Fantasy Baseball gods have smiled upon you. Unless he loses it in the second half. Welcome to the wonderful world of closers.
Those are the Fantasy Baseball 2018 Week 12 Hot Topics. We’re nearing the halfway mark of the season, and the waiver wire should be your friend. Don’t be afraid to ride a hot hand, even if it seems completely random. Even if it seems crazy, sometimes you just have to go that way. Take it from Seal; he fights wolves. And never stop never stopping.
Until next time, always never forget to check your references.
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