My esteemed colleague Perry Van Hook correctly pointed out last weekend that going into a panic over box scores this time of year is counter-productive to your team's long-term goals. But what if you had the clairvoyance to see ten days of box scores prior to your Fantasy Draft?
That is exactly the case in an old-school AL only league that has been in existence since 1987 - 12 teams, 4x4, 23 players, $260 budget, 15 maximum keepers. Due to the circumstance of many owners participating in multiple leagues and our faithful adherence to a live auction, we actually drafted last weekend (April 14th). The result, of course, is what can be termed "Box Score Inflation" (BSI), as owners get to see hot and cold starts as well as defined roles that were still in limbo prior to opening day. Trying to work your way through this minefield as a team owner is a unique challenge and each year brings additional nuances to filling one's roster.
My partner and I are the owners of the franchise known as the Fusco Brothers (in honor of the totally inept cartoon-strip characters) and had captured the league championship for four consecutive seasons prior to last year's 11th place finish. We naturally spent the second half of 2011 attempting to re-build and had developed a promising pitching staff until losing Gio Gonzalez, Trevor Cahill and Erik Bedard to the NL and Scott Baker and Felipe Paulino to injuries. We were left with only three pitching keepers in David Price, Jake Peavy and Matt Thornton. On the offensive side, we had two All-Star worthy third basemen in Evan Longoria and Adrian Beltre, some steals from Alcides Escobar, decent production from Josh Willingham and three guys that would cause you to keep your fingers crossed - Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Nolan Reimold and Alex Rios. That left us with $133 to spend on 13 roster spots.
In looking at the draft, it became clear that we would have to consider punting saves. While this is a dangerous ploy in a 4x4 format, the only closer in the pool that was a sure thing was Mariano Rivera and it was certainly going to take more than $30 to secure his services. The BSI was in full flight in this category, as relief pitchers who would have been ignored just a few weeks ago went for exorbitant prices - Hector Santiago $22, Jonathan Broxton $18 and Fernando Rodney $14. Even injured closers commanded double digits as Kyle Farnsworth and Andrew Bailey were both $12. We stayed away from all these choices, as well as Rivera, who eventually went for $33. We'll look for saves through free agent pick-ups, FAAB and trades in hope of garnering a few points in the category.
Other than Miguel Cabrera (who was kept at $44), all the big-time first basemen were in the draft pool. As we got to bring up the second player of the day (our perk for finishing next-to-last), our thought was that the first player out might very well be Albert Pujols and with the auction taking place less than 30 minutes from Anaheim Stadium, $50+ was a reasonable estimate. Then, we would nominate a middle-tier 1B like Billy Butler, Paul Konerko or David Ortiz and try to spend less than $30 - leaving Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez and Mark Teixeira to the big spenders. As Steve McQueen said in The Magnificent Seven, "it seemed like a good idea at the time". The first player on the table turned out to be Gonzalez and the price started at $39. While there was a moment of hesitation, he eventually went for $42. We stuck to our original idea and nominated Butler, but the bidding was strong and we dropped out at $30 on the way to his eventual price of $35. When Pujols came up later in the first round, we were only price reinforcing when nobody exceeded our $44 bid. We had him at a $45 projection in this format and with an approximate draft inflation of 15%, $52 would have been reasonable. 1B prices later in draft were Fielder $45, Teixeira $35, Konerko $30, Carlos Pena $25 and Ortiz $25...we think we did well with "Phat Albert".
Another thought was the strategy at the catcher position. Do we spend our money elsewhere and just take Kelly Shoppach (Salty's back-up) in the end game? Or, should we go after the best player at a scarce position and be satisfied with a back-up OF in the end game? When Matt Wieters came up in the 1st round, we decided on the latter approach. The $21 we spent might be $2-3 over his inflation-adjusted value, but we think Wieters and a $2 OF will provide more production than a $21 OF and a $2 end-game catcher.
The third prong of our thought process dove-tailed with the saves category discussion. If, in fact, we were forced to give up on saves, we needed to beef up ERA and WHIP in order to be competitive overall. Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez and Jeff Weaver all fit the bill for this strategy and "King Felix" came out on the table ahead of the other two. We had Hernandez at an inflation-adjusted value of $26 and we got him for exactly that price. Later in the festivities, Verlander went for $30, Weaver for $27 and Jon Lester for $29. We're satisfied with our choice.
Having drafted these three big-time players early, we were left with only $42 for ten additional players. Lots of patience and frustration ensues but you can't lose focus at this point and your scouting and logic strongly come into play. Our next player was Addison Reed with the thought that a
Looking for some additional stolen bases, Chris Getz filled our 2B slot. A $1 bid put Felipe Paulino back on the roster in hopes of him being in the KC rotation by the end of April. Then Endy Chavez, who may platoon with Reimold and another $1 pitcher in Kelvin Herrera, who has a long-shot chance for saves if Jonathan Broxton keeps eating lunch at the Golden Corral. Brendan Ryan for $1 adds double-digit SB's and the final two OF's were Johnny Gomes amd Franklin Gutierrez.
The basic roster projects at 200+ HR's, 800+ RBI's and 140+ SB's along with a 3.64 ERA and 1.21 WHIP.- certainly good enough to finish better than 11th place...beyond that, we will see.
Where else did the BSI come into play? Hiroki Kuroda's shutout the day prior to the draft caused him to go for $20 and there were others. However, there was also "Box Score Deflation" (BSD). Francisco Liriano's $10 price would certainly have been higher if he hadn't been blasted twice in the first ten days of the season. A team got Hector Noesi for $1 due to his dismal first outing, but his second start indicates they may have themselves a great bargain.
Next week, with draft season over, we'll start to transition back to baseball cards with occasional forays into the Fantasy game. Thanks for reading.