Thursday, May 15, 2008

First Quarter Fantasy Baseball Report Card

Well, it's May 15th and a month past tax day. It's also the traditional point in baseball circles which demarks the end of the first quarter of the season. Indeed as you look at the standings through the end of the night every major league team had played between 39 and 42 games out of their scheduled 162. In the real baseball world, some of the "usual suspects" as far as teams go are doing well. In the American league, the Angels, Red Sox and Indians are all within a game of first place, while in the National League the Diamondbacks and Cubs are once again leading their respective divisions. But who would have thought that the Florida Marlins and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays would be in first place in the Eastern Divisions of their respective leagues? Conversely, did any of you think that the San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies would be fighting it out for the worst record in baseball after they played a game 163 last year to determine the National League's Wild Card team?

Baseball is a fun game, isn't it? Well, fantasy baseball can be a lot of fun as well, though sometimes it can be very frustrating. As things closed out on 5/15/08, four of my five most important teams were right there in the battle for first, while one sat mired in NINTH! These are all 10 team leagues, so being in 9th place is not a good thing. So why are four of my teams doing well, and earning what I would call a grade of B or higher, while the other might get a D- from me? The eight letter word that fantasy leaguers ALL dread: INJURIES!!!

Here's a quick overview of my leagues and my teams:

Contenders -
ANGELS (68.5 pts, 2nd place, 4.5 pts out of 1st)

Strong in pitching, good in hitting, needing a little speed. Behind my first round draft pick Johan Santana, this team has managed to post a nifty 2.94 ERA and 1.19 WHIP to date. With only 31 steals the team ranks 8th in that category. Only two teams are within 3/4 of a run of me in ERA and only two are within .07 of me in WHIP. Given that James Shields, Javier Vazquez and Zach Grienke are also on this staff, perhaps a trade of Santana for some speed will be something I may explore at some point. And this is coming from a HUGE Santana fan!

Fantasy Baseball Gurus -
WAVES (63.5 pts, 3rd place, 4.5 pts out of 1st)

This team is the perfect example why you have to discount a slow start if you feel you have drafted a good team. As Baseball HQ's Ron Shandler says "exercise excruciating patience" early in the season. Four weeks in, this team sat tied for 7th place, 29 points out of first. Why did the team get off to such a rough start? David Ortiz wasn't hitting. Mike Napoli and Carlos Pena were hitting home runs, but not for average. Andruw Jones? Well, he just wasn't hitting at all and got shown the door soon after this. My team batting average stood at .258 on that day. 2 1/2 weeks later, this team's batting average sits at .277. I've gone from 9th to 3rd in that category! It doesn't hurt that this team features the other-worldly Lance Berkman along wih a now healthy Jimmy Rollins. Did I mention exercise excruciating patience? Well, an impatient owner in this particular league dropped Robinson Cano and guess who picked him up last week and got to enjoy his 4-for-4 performance last night? :) With 42.5 out of a possible 50 points in hitting, but only 21 in pitching, it's clear that at some point, I may need to move some of my offense to help out Cole Hamels and Zach Grienke.

Boys Of Summer -
THRASHERS (56 pts, 4th place, 9 points out of 1st)

Easily the tightest of any of my five leagues. With only 20.5 points separating first to last at the moment, no team is even remotely close to out of it yet. Over the course of the past week, I've been as low as 9th and as high as 2nd. Yes, this one still has some "settling down" to do. As I may or may not have mentioned here before, this was definitely the strangest of my five drafts. Outfielders went very early and closers very late. As a result, Francisco Rodriguez fell to me at #70 in the draft and I took Billy Wagner with my next pick as all of the offensive players I had targeted for my 7th and 8th round draft picks were gone. George Sherrill was around as the draft was ending so I took him. Well, K-Rod and Sherrill have combined for 31 saves... only one other team in my league has that many total! Needless to say, I'm running away with the category, and with J.J. Putz now healthy, closers became expendable. So, I moved Billy Wagner and Ian Snell for Scott Kazmir this past week. My team leads the league with 45 saves, but is dead last in wins with 14. I have GREAT power here, but am lacking a little in batting average and speed. More trades to come here, I think... but I have a lot of optimism here as with my WAVES team, Lance Berkman and Jimmy Rollins lead the offense.

Diamond Classic -
CRUSADERS (64.0 pts, 4th place, 15.5 points out of 1st)

This is the one team of mine that got off to a truly BLAZING start. Four weeks into the season I was in first place with 71.5 points. Why have I lost 7.5 points and fallen from my perch? My pitching has gone bad. My ace, Jake Peavy has been roughed up a little of late. My sparkling ERA and WHIP of 2.78 and 1.20 have risen to 3.31 and 1.24. Unexpectedly, Brian Roberts, Miguel Cabrera and Adrian Beltre have been drains on my batting average, with none hitting above .265 at the moment. Consequently, I sit in 8th in the category today. Fortunately, my five outfielders (Rick Ankiel, Carlos Lee, Corey Hart, Jermaine Dye and Josh Hamilton) are all hitting .289 or higher at the moment. Hamilton was a draft day target of mine and this was the only one of my five leagues where I nabbed him. His 44 RBI's are a major reason why I've been near the front of this league from the get-go. Out of all of my teams, this one probably has the best balance. Good speed, good pitching, good in pretty much everything. As long as my players can perform up to expectations and I avoid injures, I expect this team to be fighting for a title come September.

From East to West -
CRUSHERS (46.5 pts, 9th place, 25.5 pts out of 1st)

INJURIES! Can you say injuries? I knew you could! When I went into the warroom and peaked at the draft order a couple of hours ahead of time, I was pretty stoked that I finally had a number one pick. A-Rod, the man who helped me to so much success in 2007, would be mine! As the draft unfolded, things just seemed to get better and better. Erik Bedard would be my pitching ace with the 40th pick. Troy Tulowitski fell almost 15 spots below his draft average to me with the 60th pick. Vernon Wells was my 9th round pick. The only thing that went wrong on draft day was that all the decent closers went early. So I reluctantly took Joe Borowski with my 19th round draft pick. And you know the rest of the story! Yes, "Murphy's Law" has attacked this team like a tornado... but am I giving up? NEVER! I know how A-Rod can carry a team and I saw what Bedard did last year... and I've also got perennial slow starter and second-half star Mark Teixiera on my team. Yes, there is even hope for my one "bad" team!!!


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