User Interview: Zackaryl

Q&A with noted SimLeague Basketball user Zackaryl

We recently contacted noted SimLeague Basketball user Zackaryl to discuss theme leagues, pitch counts, lineups, Alvin Harper, Rolando Blackman, Plato, Rousseau, philosophy, the Civil War, Lewis and Clark, Cooperstown, Bobby Grich and the waiver wire.

WIS

Who is Zackaryl?

Zackaryl

Zackaryl (Zack Lentz) is the happily married 33 year old father of two daughters ages 3 years and 8 weeks. I live just outside of Dallas, TX and work for a medical education company that specializes in educating physicians about advances in the treatment of cancer.

WIS

How did you find out about WhatIfSports.com?

Zackaryl

Pretty much the way everyone did back in the early days - by reading Bill Simmons talk about the site. I typed in the web address and the rest was history.

WIS

What was your initial reaction to our site and our games?

Zackaryl

I thought then what I think now: whatifsports.com is the site I would build myself if I knew anything about programming. It blends strategy with sports, statistics, and history - I'm not sure if there is a more addicting mix for someone like me.

WIS

Which SimLeagues or Dynasty games have you played?

Zackaryl

I've played sim baseball, football, and basketball. I'm signed up to play tracyr's first "open" Hardball Dynasty league and it looks to potentially be more addicting and time consuming than the sim.

WIS

Which do you prefer?

Zackaryl

I prefer sim baseball. Baseball is my favorite sport and drafting and managing teams is like an art that I have tried to perfect the past 3 years. I think the most ingenious thing you guys have done is to make the site a place you have to visit at least 3 times a day to check your teams. Certain times of day have become synonymous with when the games sim: first thing in the morning (before I even check email), right after lunch, and when I get home from work. On weekends when my schedule gets disrupted and I'm out shopping or visiting friends during the day, my wife will sarcastically chime in "Worried about your teams?"

WIS

Besides simulation sports websites, what are some of your other interests and hobbies?

Zackaryl

Obviously sports, but I'm strictly an observer. I'm a serious Texas Rangers fan and a casual fan of the Dallas Mavericks. The Cowboys were once my passion, but free agency and the salary cap basically killed my interest in the NFL. I'm also an amateur historian/philosopher with a particular interest in American social and political history, especially Lewis and Clark, Jefferson and Lincoln, and the Civil War.

WIS

What is your favorite sports moment?

Zackaryl

Alvin Harper catching a slant pass from Troy Aikman in the 4th quarter of the 1993 NFC championship game to put the 49ers away for good. The Super Bowl win over Buffalo was practically a let down after the greatness of that game.

WIS

What is your favorite WIS moment?

Zackaryl

Probably beating the infamous Typhoon in two World Series in a two week time span or placing in the top ten of the first go round of schwarze's WIS championship. His themes tend to take a lot of research and I usually don't have that kind of spare time to invest. I was surprised I was able to do so well.

WIS

Who are your favorite teams of all-time?

Zackaryl

The mid-80's Dallas Mavericks, the early 90's Cowboys, the current Texas Rangers, and the late 90's Sixers. The 1992 Cowboys are my all-time favorite team - I'd put that team up against any other team in NFL history.

WIS

Did you play any sports growing up?

Zackaryl

I pretty much played all the available organized sports until high school. My favorite sports memories aren't from organized sports with coaches and uniforms and all that - I have a natural dislike for authority figures. I remember waking up every day in the summer and waiting around for enough kids to play tackle football, or baseball, or some made up game. We'd play until it was too dark to see and then go inside and play Intellivision football. Once I discovered skateboarding in junior high that basically took over my life until college.

WIS

What players did you admire most growing up?

Zackaryl

All the local greats like Roger Staubach, Tony Dorsett, Randy White, Rolando Blackman, Brad Davis, Derek Harper, Buddy Bell, and Jim Sundberg. I am still in awe of Lawrence Taylor - I think he has to be considered one of the top 2-3 greatest players of all time. I also loved to read sports biographies and idolized OJ Simpson (!) in grade school. I remember having a homemade blue with white numbers OJ jersey that I would always wear when we played pickup tackle football around the neighborhood.

WIS

Who are your favorite players in today's game?

Zackaryl

I like watching Mark Teixeira, Albert Pujols and Michael Young in baseball; Dwayne Wade, Dirk Nowitzki and obviously Lebron in basketball; there aren't really any current NFL players that have captured my imagination.

WIS

Build your all-time baseball dream team:

Zackaryl

Playing 2nd base and leading off, Joe Morgan; at SS and hitting 2nd, Honus Wagner; at 1B and hitting 3rd, Jimmie Foxx; in RF hitting 4th, Babe Ruth; in CF hitting 5th, Willie Mays, at 3B hitting sixth, Mike Schmidt; in LF hitting 7th, Stan Musial, and Pudge Rodriguez at Catcher. Greg Maddux on the mound and Mariano Rivera waiting in the pen.

WIS

What is the top sports related thing you want to do in life that you have not yet done?

Zackaryl

If I'm really dreaming, it would be to see the Rangers in the World Series. If I'm being realistic - I still haven't been to Cooperstown.

WIS

Which five people, past or present, sit at your dream roundtable discussion?

Zackaryl

Plato, Rousseau, Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, and Winston Churchill

WIS

If you could be commissioner of any league, which sport would it be and what would you do to change the game?

Zackaryl

The NFL - I would do away with the salary cap.

WIS

What is your favorite aspect of our website?

Zackaryl

The customer service. You guys are very responsive and always seem to be on the lookout for ways to improve the quality of the site.

WIS

Least favorite?

Zackaryl

The draft function for baseball is still too limited. It makes no sense that there is an unrelated site with a better search function.

WIS

Having played primarily in baseball, do you prefer open or theme leagues? If you prefer theme leagues, which types are your favorite and why?

Zackaryl

Before the MLB licensing fiasco I loved playing both, but I only play themes now. I like mid-range caps (80-100M) with blacklists, drafts or franchise elements. The Original Blacklist is my all time favorite league - great owners, tough competition, and players most people would never use.

WIS

In SimLeague baseball, what is your general strategy for building teams?

Zackaryl

I build all my teams around the same general principle - find players that the sim undervalues. In this version of the sim that means defense and high K power hitters and low K/9 pitchers with high ERA+ and high HR/9+. I think I'm known for drafting either Joe Gordon or Bobby Grich whenever possible.

WIS

What is the most important thing to keep in mind while drafting?

Zackaryl

Don't spend a ton of cash on one or two players - you'll almost never get the true value of a high priced player. Spread your cash around evenly in your lineup and make sure to have plenty of quality pitching. In this version of the sim I generally spend 60% on pitching.

WIS

How do you go about setting your lineups and pitching staffs?

Zackaryl

I use the traditional high OBP at the top of the order approach for my lineups. I break that rule if I'm using a player with less than 600PAs as they will fatigue quicker. I've developed a unique approach to pitching staffs - I usually go with 3-4 100-160IP starters, 3-4 100 IP relievers, and 3-4 70-80 IP set up/closer types, and put AAA as mop up. I only draft 1180-1200 IP with leagues that have AAA. I don't recommend trying this until you have a strong grasp of the game

WIS

How do you approach setting tendencies (advanced settings) and pitch counts?

Zackaryl

For my lineup I use Sparky's recs for every setting except stolen bases: I set almost every player to 0. With the addition of the catcher rating for arm strength, I think SBs are basically worthless. I use Sparky's rec's for starter pitch counts but set every pitcher to call bullpen 5 and auto rest of 90%. All my relievers are set to call bullpen 5 with auto rest at 90%. I vary pitch counts between 20-40 except for mop up which I set to "None".

WIS

Do you make transactions during the season to try and separate yourself from others? Why or why not?

Zackaryl

I never use the waiver wire. If you haven't drafted the right team at the outset, the waiver wire seems to do nothing more than weaken your team. Players that underperform early tend to come around if you just leave them alone. I think the single biggest piece of advice I would give to new players is to resist the temptation of the waiver wire completely.

WIS

Are there any players in specific that you like to put on your teams?

Zackaryl

Besides the aforementioned Gordon and Grich, I like Jim Thome, Randy Hundley, Dwayne Murphy, Jesse Orosco, Schoolboy Rowe, and Mariano Rivera. Whenever I can afford him I use Willie Mays. I think that is another common mistake that new players make - they expect sentimental favorites from their childhood to be as good in the sim, and that isn't always (or usually) the case. If you want to win, make the rational choice. If you just want to have pick players you like and that is what you enjoy, good for you. But I think in most cases you aren't going to win that way.

WIS

What one feature in SimLeague Baseball would you add?

Zackaryl

The ability to set priority selection for pinch hitters, pinch runners, and relievers (Editor's Note: This currently exists in Hardball Dynasty and will be part of the next big release for SimLeague Baseball).

WIS

Do you spend much time in the forums? Why or why not?

Zackaryl

Not really. I only have enough free time to look for new leagues and make draft selections. There are some pretty funny posters in general discussion but I can't always keep up on all the inside jokes.

WIS

What would other users be surprised to know about you?

Zackaryl

Probably either that I don't really like math (seems like we have a ton of math geniuses in sim baseball) or that I have a master's degree in philosophy.

WIS

Who are the users you respect and/or enjoy the most?

Zackaryl

I don't want to leave anyone out, so let me make a blanket statement that if you play in either Doc's tag team or sweetsalve's Original Blacklist theme, then I respect the hell out of you for making those leagues so much fun to play. I'd be remiss if I didn't point out that shaybee and sford are the two owners I respect the most - they always have competitive teams, play all kinds of leagues, and never bitch just to bitch.

WIS

What would you tell new users to the site who want to get the most out of what WhatIfSports.com has to offer?

Zackaryl

I would start off by playing the sim or dynasty game that you enjoy most in real life and really get into it. Spend the cash on a six pack and try several different strategies. Learn from other owners in the forums.

WIS

If you were in one of our games, what sport would you play, at what position and how much would you cost?

Zackaryl

I'd be an underused 72 IP set up guy that cost $3.2M

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