“The Mundies” is a bi-weekly column by Scott Rinear, awarding life and the fantasy football winners, losers and mirages, starting here, at the conclusion of NFL Week 5. Now in its second year of publishing, this column presents an optimistic outlook on life and an analytical approach to the game.
I was undecided what I was going to write about for this edition of “The Mundies.” But then the Seattle Mariners, my home team, clinched their first playoff berth since 2001 in dramatic fashion. Then, only a few hours before I started writing this, the Mariners overcame an 8-1 deficit, winning 10-9 to sweep the Toronto Blue Jays in the Wild Card Round of the MLB Playoffs. So, it became clear, I would write about baseball.
Baseball vs. Football
I have loved football for a long time. I spend more time watching, analyzing and thinking about football than all other sports combined. However, my first true passion when it comes to sports is baseball.
As far as actually playing the sport I am now a fan of, I am a baseball guy. I have played significantly more baseball than football in my life, starting around six years old. I can talk about football for hours. The offensive skill position depth chart for every NFL team? Got it. I can hold my own talking statistics and fantasy football with anyone. I can’t do that with baseball.
My ability to pay close enough attention for the entirety of a Major League Baseball (MLB) season has faded over the years. The Mariners being mediocre (at best) over the last 20 years and my passion for fantasy football taking root in 2006 have drained a sustained interest in baseball. I am not a bandwagon fan. It has been and always will be the Mariners. But the seasons are so long and the two decades without any postseason in Seattle wore me down.
But I know the sport of baseball better than football because of how much I played. I cannot recite the depth charts of MLB teams outside of the Mariners anymore. But I can talk about the nuances and chess match-style strategies of baseball for hours.
I did play a fair amount of football. Starting with the pee-wee league, I played in middle school up through my sophomore year in high school. But I never really enjoyed it. I hated tackling. I didn’t like the contact. My ideal situation was playing WR and only running fly routes, outrunning the defense, and not being touched. So, after my sophomore year of high school, I decided to give it up. It was 100 percent the right decision at the time, and I have never had an ounce of regret.
I started playing organized baseball when I was six. No tee ball, I went straight to “coach-pitch,” and I took to the sport from day one. I made a lot of friends over those first years playing ball, and it was where I first learned and practiced the concept of teamwork.
From age 11 to 12 I was in our area’s Bambino League. No mounds, no leading off while on base and 40-foot base paths. Following that was “13 Prep,” my first experience with pitcher’s mounds, full 60-foot length base baths and the art of stealing bases. Then there was the “Babe Ruth League” from age 14 to 15. Those years were fun. We goofed around in the dugout and ragged on each other for terrible swings.
I made the summer league all-star teams at each of those stages, and we got to travel all over the state, stay in hotels and play in tournaments. My birthday is July 11, and for many summers in a row, I got to play all-star games on my birthday. During those early years, I played all over the place. Everyone did – the Infield, outfield and pitcher, but never a catcher. By the end of it, the outfield was where my heart was set.
Then came high school ball. I played baseball all four years in high school, and, starting about mid-way through my freshman year, I played varsity. I was the lead-off batter and played centerfielder. That was my gig every year. I was fast, able to hit the ball to all fields and had a good eye at the plate. I did not have a lot of power, but I rarely struck out.
I was that thorn in the side of opposing teams. You didn’t want me on base. Baserunning was one of my favorite aspects of the game. I was a believer in smart, fundamental baserunning. Scoring from second base on an infield single was my jam. I took pride in my ability to read the pitcher to get that extra step when stealing second (and third). And sure, home runs are fun, but I did not hit many.
For me it did not get any better than this at the plate: Runner on first, the “hit and run” is called. The runner takes off to steal second, and the second baseman vacates his spot to get in position to receive the catcher’s throw. I go the other way, hitting a ball through the newly created hole on the right side.
I was a good, pesky batter. However, defense is where I especially excelled. I was nicknamed “The Vacuum” one season and made both second and first-team defense during my high school years. If a fly ball had even a sliver of hang time, I was going to catch it. I loved laying out for catches and positioning myself correctly under a fly ball to have my throwing motion and momentum already started toward my target. There is not much better feeling as an outfielder than a successful outfield assist.
I was given scholarship money to play baseball in college, which is where my baseball story took an unfortunate turn. When I got to college, baseball (and being a functional, responsible student) plummeted down my priority list. Partying and getting loaded took over the top spot. In my freshman year, while warming up before the first game, I was informed I was on academic probation. Set to be the starter in left field as a freshman, I was told I would not be able to play that season. A tough pill to swallow, but it did briefly lead to me trying to improve myself.
The next season, my sophomore year, after improving my grades and training harder than I ever had, I was once again set to start in the outfield. I had committed to baseball like never before. I didn’t miss any offseason weightlifting sessions and I gave 100 percent to all conditioning, drills and practices, even when no one was watching.
A few weeks before the season started, I slipped on some black ice in a parking lot and shattered the humerus bone in my left arm. I knew as soon as I stood up that my arm was badly broken. I’ll never forget the moment – sitting in the hospital looking at the X-ray with the doctor. My bone was completely broken halfway between my shoulder and elbow. I sobbed; I don’t remember for how long. I knew that season would also not happen. It destroyed me. Even though I still had two more years of eligibility, I think deep down I knew in that moment I would never play baseball again.
And I didn’t.
This was a pivotal moment in my trajectory. Freshman year was my fault. But sophomore year was an unfortunate accident. And I let it push me off an edge. By the time junior year rolled around, I was done with baseball, something I will always regret.
After college I would have recurring dreams that I was getting ready to play in a game, but something always stopped me from taking the field in the dream. I’d forget my cleats or my glove, whatever it was, and the dream would either spin off into the quest to retrieve the item, or I would wake up right before the game started.
I did join a recreational league in Seattle in my 20s, so I did get to play organized baseball again for a few years. My baseball dreams started, including playing baseball again, but it was short-lived. Over time, the “almost but not quite getting to play” dreams have resurfaced. They are infrequent, but they happen.
Ground Ball Gratitude
This isn’t meant to be a “woe is me” sob story. This is just what happened. It’s a brief rendition of my baseball career. Of course, I wish it had played out differently, but I can say that about many things in my life. I try not to hold onto many regrets because there is no point. But I do regret quitting and forgoing the opportunity to play two seasons of college baseball.
At the same time, I was fortunate enough to play a game I loved (and still do) from an early age through high school at a relatively high level. I have experienced the thrill of hitting a walk-off homerun and making a game-ending diving catch. I have experienced the agony of grounding out with the bases loaded down by one run to end a game against a cross-town rival.
My wife used to get slightly annoyed while we watched games because of how often the broadcasters and I said the same thing, but I said it first. I feel a connection to the game when I watch baseball – the Mariners win a playoff series – that I don’t feel with football. Baseball is a part of me, and I am truly grateful for that.
I hope, if anything, readers recognize what they should be grateful for while they still have it – whether that’s playing a sport or just managing a fantasy football roster.
And now, The Mundie Awards.
This column was written before the “Monday Night Football” game in Week 5.
THE NFL WEEK 5 MUNDIE AWARD
The Mundie will be awarded to a player or players who were winners during the previous week(s), whether directly by scoring a lot of fantasy points or from a volume/opportunity standpoint that puts them in a position to score a lot of fantasy points moving forward.
Breece Hall (RB, New York Jets)
In Week 5, Breece Hall put up the best fantasy performance of his young NFL career. Hall turned 20 touches into 197 yards and a rushing TD, good for 27.7 Point Per Reception (PPR) points. Currently, that is the RB3 on the week, with “Monday Night Football” still to go. And he was a couple of feet away from a much bigger day.
Hall had only two targets on the day. He caught both, one for 79 yards in the first quarter, and the other for 21 yards in the fourth quarter. But on both catches, Miami tackled him inside the one-yard line. And the following play after both catches was a one-yard TD run by Michael Carter. A couple of feet away from 39.9 PPR fantasy points and the very likely RB1 on the week.
The concern with Hall in redraft formats was never his talent. It was the opportunity, as Carter began the season as the starter. When would Hall take over as the lead back for the Jets? It seems we have our answer. Between Week 1 and Week 4, Hall’s snap share increased by 21 percent. Carter’s snap share has gone in the other direction, decreasing by 16 percent over that same time. Hall began out-touching in Week 3, but through the first three weeks, Carter led the Jets in rush attempts.
But in Week 4 against the Steelers, Hall took over as the lead back. Hall has 17 and 18 rush attempts over the last two games, respectively. During that stretch, he has averaged 4.7 Yards Per Carry (YPC). Carter has 19 rush attempts and has averaged 1.9 YPC during that time.
This is now Hall’s backfield, and a monster season looks to be on the horizon.
THE NFL WEEK 5 ANDY BERNARD WALL PUNCH AWARD
The Andy Bernard Wall Punch Award
The theme of this award is overreaction, and Andy Bernard said it himself after punching through the wall, “That was an overreaction.” This award will be awarded to a player or players as a warning to not overreact to recent performances or outcomes, either good or bad.
Gabriel Davis (WR, Buffalo Bills)
It is difficult to give this award to Gabriel Davis only hours after he erupted for 171 yards and two receiving TDs against the Steelers, good for 32.1 PPR fantasy points and the current WR1 of Week 5. I have fallen in the middle of the Gabriel Davis debate that raged throughout the offseason.
This is how I see Davis: He will have these monster weeks, but they are predicated on monster TD catches. I am not arguing about Davis’s talent. His one-handed TD catch in Week 5 was a thing of beauty. I just think he is a great sell-high candidate because this type of scoring is not consistent or sustainable for Davis.
Gabriel Davis has 11 receptions for 309 yards and three TDs this season.
Davis had three catches on six targets. That is 10.7 PPR points per catch and a ridiculous 5.4 PPR points per target. Even in this massive, week-winning performance, the volume still was not there. I get it, what good is target share if the production is what it was in Week 5? And if you want to ride the Davis roller coaster, I have no issue with that. But you also have to be fine with his Week 3 and 4 type games too, where he totaled four catches on nine targets for 50 yards and no TDs, with a target share of 9.3 percent over those two games.
This award is not going to Davis because I think he’s a bad player. He is a very good NFL receiver. It just seems every time Davis has one of these games, a lot of fantasy managers think. “YES! The slam dunk, every-week WR1 has now arrived!” But we have enough data showing that Davis will remain boom-bust until his volume consistently increases. That is the mirage of the Week 5 result. So, if you can sell him to someone for an actual WR1, someone who is gaga over his Week 5 explosion, make the move.
THE NFL WEEK 5 BUFFALO BRANCH AWARD
No relation to the Bills. The Buffalo Branch Award will be handed out to a player or players who were “not great Bob” during the previous week(s) and is representative of the trend rather than the exception for that player.
Chase Edmonds (RB, Miami Dolphins)
Chase Edmonds is droppable in standard-size redraft leagues. The negative trend in Edmonds’ usage and opportunities since Week 1 tells the story, hitting a low point in Week 5. Edmonds rushed one time for one yard and had zero catches on only two targets. That equates to an 8.1 percent opportunity share. Meanwhile, Myles Gaskin, whose only action had been 26 percent of the special teams’ snaps in Week 1, saw an opportunity share of 24.3 percent in Week 5.
Raheem Mostert is now the primary RB for the Dolphins. Over the last two games, Mostert has an RB rush share of 76.7 percent, and his snap share increased by 30 percent from Week 1 to Week 4. Edmonds’ snap share was a healthy 63 percent in Week 1. In Week 4, Edmonds was in on only 28 percent of the snaps, a 35 percent decrease in only three weeks.
Edmonds seems to have also lost the change-of-pace, pass-catching role that we were accustomed to seeing during his time in Arizona. If Week 5 is any indication, Gaskin may be ahead of Edmonds for that role, as Gaskin saw five targets for a 16.1 percent target share in Week 5.
And the Week 5 final score, with the Dolphins having lost 40-17, is deceiving. It was a one-score game entering the fourth quarter. The Dolphins were in a neutral game script for most of the game. I cannot find any indication that Edmonds is dealing with an injury, and this downturn in Edmonds’ usage does coincide with the timing of Tua Tagovailoa’s head injury. But the trends with both Mostert and now also Gaskin point toward a bust season for Edmonds based on where he was drafted.
Thank you so much for reading! As I have moved toward more analytics-based fantasy football content, my goal is to provide that content in a manner that is as easy to digest as possible. Advanced analytics are very useful, and I think can be explained simply and logically. Please feel free to reach out to me to explain more about the analytical concepts I present in these columns. My Direct Messages (DMs) are always open.
And as always, find me on Twitter, talking fantasy football, joking around, posting GIFs and lending my support where it’s needed @MunderDifflinFF.