Daily Speculations The Web Site of Victor Niederhoffer and Laurel Kenner


Cheesy Treats Cont'd


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Soon enough, opening day was upon us. My team, the Cheesy Treats, jumped into the lead immediately and established a wide enough margin over the first five weeks that my boys weathered a two month middle-of-the-season nose-dive and stayed atop the standings for all but one, the 17th, of the first 23 weeks. Throughout, the competition was fierce. Several teams played quite well taking their best shots and exchanging seats in second through fifth place, never far enough away that the sweat had time to evaporate from my brow as they nipped at my heels.

Finally, it was playoff time. My team was seeded #1 and drew a first week bye. Time for a little respite and reflection. Oh, like hell. I watched and waited and calculated and schemed and sought out any little mote of info that might give me an edge going into the second round against a team that had been improving each week over the past month. So had my Cheesy ones, but as we say 'more than enough is never too much!' and it was crunch time.

Now, the real head-to-head competition for all the marbles begins. The mighty Treats are fairly well neck-and-neck with the amorphous Cosmic Sandwich from the onset, not more than a couple of points away from one another through the first four days of the week. On the other side of the bracket, a similar titanic struggle was being waged by Gold and the Peckerwoods, both of whom had proven their mettle in the final weeks of the regular season by staying close and improving each week as had my opponent and I. Heading into day five of seven, I was ahead 8 to 5. Ever watchful and studious, I perused the schedule for the last couple of days of the week's competition, noticing that my opponent had more favorable match ups and a number of good pitchers remaining in his lineup while my regular starting pitching staff had already exhausted all scheduled appearances and two of my better pitchers were out with shoulder problems. I could see that I was in imminent danger of being overtaken in two categories, which would have resulted in a four game swing and a 7 to 6 defeat for my (now) beloved Treats. "How to prevent?," I worried. Hmmmmmmmm.

There was a way. I determined to head to the waiver wire, analyze the available pitching, then waiver some of my regular pitching and pick up a few of those pitchers who had been both hot of late and had starting appearances scheduled for the next day. Moreover, I would do this at the stealthy hour of 11:55 p.m., when there was too little time remaining to make adjustments for the coming day and I could not be countered. "Hahahahaha," I cried with maniacal glee as I frantically sliced and diced free agent pitching stats weighted to the past week and month!

Data mining complete, it's 11:00 p.m. and four eligible pitchers pop out from the rest like pimples on prom night...Bush, Hernandez, Hill and Torres. All have improved over recent appearances and all save Torres, the closer, are scheduled to take the mound on the fateful Saturday. I needed strike outs, WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched), wins and saves, or so I believed. I studied the match ups. Bush playing for Milwaukee against Washington. The Mets' Hernandez v. Pirates for whom Torres is the closer. The Cubs' Hill facing the Reds. Do I need all four? Or just three. Or maybe two. Could just one get it? How to pick? More technical analysis and counting, of course.

Alright, I have to have a closer. Torres is a no-brainer. A middle reliever who has not failed to convert a save opportunity since he took the job a month ago. Playing on a losing team does not bode well for frequent save opportunities, but he is the best there is at the moment and Papelbon, my best-in-the-league save guy, is out for the season with a gimpy arm. Done. Torres is in the bag. On to the starters.

Hernandez has been a good pitcher for a long time. A few problems earlier in the year when with the Diamondbacks, but now pitching like crazy with the best-in-baseball Mets. Good strikeouts, good career WHIP and 'batting average against' when throwing at a pretty sad Pittsburgh team. Ok, got him.

Two left, but not to drop any of my good regulars, thinks I with an eye on next week. But, if there is no tomorrow, there will be no next week, so keep your eye on the ball, idiot. One more. You can do one more, not two, but which one?

My gut tells me 'Hill.' Sure, he plays for the down-and-out Cubs, but there're not many pitchers out there who've been as good as he over the last month. The kid just does not give up runs, or hits, he strikes guys out and he is about the only pitcher winning games for his team and with only fair run support. This is a guy who started the season in the toilet. My 81 year-old mother could have hit an in-the-park homer off of him. But they sent him down to the minors for a couple of months and the kid came back a like a house afire. Yet, he is matched up against the streaky Reds. They own him! Sure, only one appearance against them and not even this year, but they pounded him last time. Still, he's the one ... I know it ... I think.

Nonetheless, I have to look at Bush. Yeah, he plays for Milwaukee, a mediocre team. But, in his last start, he pitched a complete game shutout and struck out 10. Tomorrow, he faces the cellar-dwelling Nationals and both his career WHIP and 'batting average against' Washington are point-zero-nothing! A real eye opener. Bush has about an even record this year and is one of those manic guys who when he is up, he is in the stratosphere, when he is down, he is six feet under. And that can be from appearance to appearance. But! Look at that record against the Nationals! Oyyyyyyyy!

Fifteen minutes to go. My gut still says Hill, but I can't ignore Bush's huge last game and the match up. I pick Bush on that basis and click the "add to my team" button. Yahoo asks "Continue?" No! Cancel. It's Hill! I know it's Hill! I click on Hill and "add." "Continue?" No! Cancelled! Good god, man! Take a chance! Yeah, of course, but which chance? Well, in the end, and after a half-dozen picks and cancellations, information won out over gut and Bush was added. Whew! At least that is over with.

Saturday arrives. Hill's pitching a day game. At about 3:00 p.m., it's over. I check. Hill has pitched a complete game 2 hit shutout, walked only 1 and struck out 10 batters. Great Ceasar's Ghost, Lois! What are the odds of Bush doing the same tonight? Ahhhhhhhhh! Life as I know it is over!

Evening now and Bush steps to the mound in Washington. Bam! Soriano scores. Zimmerman scores. Kearns scores. And that's just the first inning. Second inning. Bam! Logan scores. Fourth inning. Schneider scores! Bush is yanked. Four innings, four earned runs, seven hits, one walk, two lousy strike outs. Six feet under? Ha! Sixty feet, six inches under.

It's late evening now and reality has set in. All is now lost. The probability of the Treat's advancing to next week's championship game is slim to none. I gamely but half-heartedly peruse pitching stats for a Sunday savior. It would take a miracle. I'm now down 9 to 5. A seven point swing. Still, I pick up a starter, knowing that will never be enough. Monday morning comes, whether I want it to or not. i have lost 8 to 6 and will play in the consolation game. Huh! Some consolation.

Well, this tale of woe is told not solely because 'baseball related' items are part of the acceptable spec list mix, but because there is a meal here. At least, I believe it a meal and crow is not the entrée. Here's the deal, folks, but first, a few minor connections.

Torres is kind of like a company that has a record of decent profits while privately held and whose IPO performs well out of the gate, despite a poorly performing broader sector. He'd play pretty well anywhere.

Hernandez is analogous to a decent, steady growth stock in an in-favor sector. No longer a shooting star, but more mature. Good fundamentals, little vol. Price being lifted in part by good performance, in part by a rise in the broader sector.

Hill is by all means the value stock whose price fell like a rock on poor performance, but retooled, added new management, turned it around and is on the rise. Should have recognized and gone long a month ago.

Bush is your typical high vol., high risk, above average reward sort. Sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you.

But these are still not the point, which is ...

Had I chosen Hill instead of Bush, at this very moment, the mighty Treats would be playing for the spec baseball league championship. Choosing Hill would have resulted in a 9 to 5 victory for my guys. I had a choice to make, but it was not really between Hill and Bush. It was between my gut instinct and available information. I chose information when I should have chosen gut. I like to think I make decisions based 50 percent on gut, 50 percent on information. But sometimes gut and info conflict. I've frequently lamented here over the years, that in my trading, my greatest and most painful flaw is not pulling the trigger when I know to do so. When my gut tells me "Do it" but my head says "No." This time it is only for bragging rights, not my dollars. Nonetheless, I've done it again. Not trusted my instincts and what happened? Blown up. Down in flames.

I could say the meal is "if you win enough in the beginning, you can weather the ups and downs as time goes on and if you blow up you can come back," but that's just the starter. My Treats won the first five weeks. Then, over the next 12 weeks, mixed 5 losses, 4 wins and 3 ties, and finished the regular season with another 5 consecutive wins. The early margin kept us afloat during the lean times and we came back strong. Even so, an ever-so tiny miscalculation at the end cost us a shot at the brass ring.

I could say the meal is "change is difficult," but that's just the soup. Personal change is even more so. We as a species are stubborn. We as successful, educated, opinionated specs can be intractable. In any case, change can require a conversion experience. I've had 'em, but I'm uncertain yet if this is one of those for me. If this is the n-th time I ignored my gut and it jumped up and hit me over the head with a 2x4. If it is, I'm lucky, 'cause this time the price is right. I didn't leave a ton of money on the table.

I could say the meal is "be gracious in defeat as well as in victory." Well, that's only the sorbet. And, being gracious in defeat doesn't mean I have to like losing, and by God, I don't! But, I am a sportsman and this incident gives me the opportunity to behave as one ... and I will. My sincere congrats to the other 11 competitors for a well-played and hard-fought season. Congrats also to the Okie Kid and his boys for being the only team to nudge my Treats out of first, even if just for a week. Congrats to the Sandwich and the Peckers for hanging tough and making the championship game. May the best team win. I know it will. And, to Gold, my competitor in the 'consolation' game ... I'm gonna kick your arse, boy! A joke, dude. Let's rub up the balls and see what happens.

I could say the meal is "Go with your gut, most of us are really better than we think we are." Oh, yeah. But that is just the salad. I'm here to tell you that I believe we are better than we think we are, and that confidence, no, self-confidence, not to be confused with arrogance, breeds success. This is nice, but we are not there yet.

To me the entrée is this. I have said I recognize a propensity to make the same mistake over and over again. In life and frequently in trading, I trust what info is presented to me more than I believe in myself. Recognizing that I do this repeatedly is important. But, the question becomes, "Why do I continue to do that?" Does it not? Well, yes it does.

But recognizing that I make the same mistake and asking 'why?,' as my far-smarter-than-I wife pointed out to me, is not even a juicy bone in my tale of diamond woes when compared to the yummy dessert served up here in the skybox. Rather, she asked quite in the true spirit of the list, that is, in the spirit of asking the right question, "Isn't the far more important query, 'Well, just what are you going to do about it?'"

I'll be damned! Somebody tossed the old bean ball. There's my conversion experience, no MRI necessary. Well, I'm not sure yet exactly what I'm going to do about it. Perhaps I'll open my stance, stop stepping in the bucket, level my swing and hit for average rather than for the fences. But, whatever it is I do, it appears lucky for me I married well. I wonder how cigars and port go with Nathan's hot dogs and French's mustard? And, now, ladies and gents, let's sing along with ol' Harry....."Take me out to the ballgame ..."

Oh, honey? Was that a kickoff I just heard? Timmy, I hate you!