Mastersball

NL Beat


Quarter Pole
NL Beat
Written by Christopher Kreush   
Thursday, 16 May 2013 05:32

The 2013 Major League Baseball season is approximately 25% in the books. A look at the National League divisions show us the three leaders are the Atlanta Braves in the East, St. Louis Cardinals in the Central and San Francisco Giants in the West. I still believe at least two of these divisions will end differently with the Washington Nationals and Cincinnati Reds ending on top in the East and Central, respectively. Washington will be buoyed by their pitching and Cincinnati by their hitting.

In the East, the Philadelphia Phillies are hanging around, three and one-half games out, but the shoulder injury to Roy Halladay along with his ineffectiveness when he was in the active rotation could be too much to overcome. The New York Mets are now six and one-half games back despite the heroics of John Buck’s ten home runs and Matt Harvey’s unblemished win/loss record and 1.44 ERA. The Miami Marlins, as predicted by many, bring up the rear and are now 11 games behind without much hope at all of doing anything positive.

The Central division has the aforementioned Cardinals and Reds in the top two positions but they are still followed closely by the surprising Pittsburgh Pirates, who are only three and one-half games behind. No one offensive player is standing out for the Pirates – not even Andrew McCutchen (five home runs and nine stolen bases) at this point, but they are getting pretty equal contributions across the board from Russell Martin (six HR), Pedro Alvarez (six HR), McCutchen and Garrett Jones (five HR). The same can be said for the starting pitching where Wandy Rodriguez (four wins), A.J. Burnett (three wins), and Jeff Locke (three wins) lead the team. Where the Bucs are getting a standout contribution is from closer Jason Grilli, who now has a league-leading 16 saves without a blown save. Grilli has only allowed two earned runs in over 17 innings of work and is tied with the legendary Mariano Rivera (who is on his farewell tour) for the most saves in the big leagues.

Over in the West division, things are a bit more up in the air. San Francisco has a one-half game lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks and are two games up on the Colorado Rockies. The Diamondbacks are sixth in the NL in runs scored with Gerardo Parra (26) and Paul Goldschmidt (25) leading the team. Goldschmidt is also flashing his power as he leads the team and is among the league leaders with ten home runs. On the pitching side, Arizona is third in the league in ERA at 3.50 with two surprises leading the way. Patrick Corbin is a perfect six wins and no losses with a 1.52 ERA while Trevor Cahill is also undefeated with four wins and a 2.70 ERA. The Rockies are back to their pre-humidor ways, leading the league in runs scored and only one home run behind the Braves for the top spot in the NL. Colorado is getting home run contributions in bunches from a number of players – Carlos Gonzalez (9), Troy Tulowitzki (8), Dexter Fowler (8), Michael Cuddyer (7) and Wilin Rosario (7) – although the neck injury to Cuddyer will put a crimp in things. On the pitching side, I am more heavily invested in the duo of Jorge De La Rosa and Jhoulys Chacin than most and have been a bit surprised but satisfied to this point. Chacin has three victories and a 2.70 ERA while De La Rosa has four victories with a 2.98 ERA. I don’t expect them to continue this ERA pace but what’s already in the books can’t be changed.

On the individual side of things, Justin Upton leads the league with 13 home runs followed by Carlos Beltran, Bryce Harper, John Buck and Paul Goldschmidt with ten each. Besides Buck, the two real surprises are Anthony Rizzo with nine home runs already and, believe it or not, Yuniesky Betancourt of the Milwaukee Brewers with eight. While Betancourt might not hit another home run the rest of the season, he has already exceeded anyone’s projection in this category and the eight are already in the books. You already got your money’s worth if you picked him up as a short-term replacement.

Carlos Gomez, much maligned for his batting average over the years, leads the league with a .365 mark. But if you’re looking to buy, beware of his ridiculously high .431 BABIP. Teammate Jean Segura is second in the league with a .349 average but is also due for a correction with a .376 BABIP. Rounding out the batting average top-five are Adrian Gonzalez (.349), Yadier Molina (.336) and Joey Votto (.327).

The three you’d expect to be the National League stolen base leaders are just that, with Segura (13), Juan Pierre (12) and Everth Cabrera (12) on top. Brandon Phillips surprisingly leads the league in RBI at 34 while Shin-Soo Choo leads the NL with 33 runs scored.

Looking at pitching, Clayton Kershaw and Shelby Miller are tied for the NL lead with a 1.40 ERA. Matt Harvey (1.44), Patrick Corbin (1.52), Jake Westbrook (1.62) and Jordan Zimmermann (1.69) are all below a 2.00 ERA.  Zimmermann leads with seven wins while Corbin and Lance Lynn are close behind with six each. A. J. Burnett has the top spot in strikeouts with 72 followed by Kershaw (67), Jeff Samardzija (64), and Harvey (62). There are a dozen starting pitchers who are striking out better than a batter per inning, led by Burnett at 11.57/9.

There’s still plenty of time to go and many of these leaders will change over the course of the rest of the season. But poring over stats is one of the unique things about baseball and fantasy players. There are so many interesting ways of dissecting players and teams, and it’s hard to tell during the year whether in the end the whole will be greater than the sum of the parts or the sum of the parts will be greater than the whole.
 
Catching Up With Closers
NL Beat
Written by Christopher Kreush   
Thursday, 02 May 2013 04:02

Closer – one that closes; especially: a relief pitcher who specializes in finishing games. Sounds simple but it isn’t as easy as that. If it was, every closer in baseball would have 40 saves and an ERA under 1.00 by the end of the year. But they don’t. And because of that there might not be another position that causes as much angst for real life baseball managers than the closer and, by extension, managers of fantasy teams as well.

Every year, there are some closers that lose their job because of injury or non-performance. As a result, there are fantasy owners who either pay a lot for the top guys thinking they’re a much surer investment, pay less for the lower guys thinking there’s too much volatility to even spend on the top guys or even avoid the position altogether. So how are some closers doing just over a month into the season?

Last year’s poster boy for closers – Craig Kimbrel – is having another very good year. While his ERA and WHIP are up and strikeouts per nine are down, he is still striking out better than 12 batters per nine and has converted nine of ten save opportunities so far. Normally a drop of almost 25% in a pitcher’s strikeout rate would send up red flags, but there was almost no place for Kimbrel to go after last year but down. His fastball is still almost at the same velocity it was in 2012 and there’s no hint of injury, so remaining an elite closer for the remainder of the year is as much a lock as anything in baseball.

J.J. Putz is having a tough year so far. The 35-year-old’s ERA and WHIP are a good deal higher than last year’s while his K/9 is up by 1.3 despite a fastball one mph slower than 2012. The really bad news, though, is J.J. has four blown saves to go with his five converted chances – only one fewer than all of last year. As someone who invested in the Arizona Diamondbacks’ closer, I hope he turns things around before he is replaced.

The Chicago Cubs are the perfect example of the bad things that can happen to a closer. Carlos Marmol started the season with the role but lost it due to just plain sucking. Kyuji Fujikawa got the job next and eventually lost it to Kevin Gregg because of an injury. I still think Fujikawa (who was a very good reliever in Japan) winds up with the most saves on the team by year’s end.

Originally, the Cincinnati Reds were going to use 2012 closer Aroldis Chapman as a starter but dumped that plan. The Cuban defector and his 97 mph fastball have picked up where they left off last year, as he has six saves in six chances so far. Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall shouldn’t see many chances to finish a game.

Even though his velocity is down and, as a result, strikeouts are way down, Colorado Rockies' closer Rafael Betancourt is having a good year with an improved ERA and WHIP to go along with eight saves in as many chances. But beware the .167 BABIP, which is .141 points lower than last year and is certainly rather lucky. Betancourt is a candidate for correction.

Jose Veras just isn’t that good a closer but does it really matter who the Houston Astros have in the role?

Brandon League of the Los Angeles Dodgers has eight saves under his belt with one blown save. But with an ERA of 4.09 and only striking out 3.27 batters per nine, look for Kenley Jansen to get a good number of saves before the season is finished.

The Miami Marlins’ Steve Cishek has pretty much doubled last year’s ERA to 5.25 despite striking out a batter per inning. At 93 mph, his fastball is up a bit from 2012 but he is only stranding 64% of the runners that get on base. Unless someone jumps up from nowhere, Miami doesn’t have many options to finish out games, so Cishek should continue getting chances even though the road will be bumpy.

John Axford was the main closer for the Milwaukee Brewers in 2012 but it wasn’t pretty. And it hasn’t been pretty in 2013 either with an 8.44 ERA. 30-year-old Jim Henderson is closing now and is a perfect 6-for-6 in save chances. He should continue to get the majority of the opportunities to close, at least for the foreseeable future.

The New York Mets are relying on Bobby Parnell to finish games but he is only 2-for-4 at this point. When Frank Francisco comes back from the DL, the Mets will have to decide who will get the save chances or if the role will be split. Neither gives their owners a warm, fuzzy feeling.

Jonathan Papelbon has been pretty darn steady as closer for the Boston Red Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies. 2013 has been more of the same for the nine-year pro, as he has saved four out of four. But keep an eye on him as there are some things of concern – fastball is 1.6 mph slower and a .171 BABIP.

With the trade of Joel Hanrahan to the Boston Red Sox, the Pittsburgh Pirates turned to Jason Grilli as their closer for 2013. The 36-year-old has responded very well and, with 11 saves already, strikeouts galore, and stellar ratios, he has so far been arguably the best closer in all of baseball.

Although he is a perfect 5-for-5 in save chances, there are concerns with Huston Street of the San Diego Padres. His ratios are up considerably and his strikeout rate is down considerably – not a good combination for fantasy or real life success. He had a very fortunate .192 BABIP in 2012 but that has experienced a correction to .280 so far this year.

The San Francisco Giants turned to Sergio Romo to close out games this year and he has picked up where he left off last year. Everything on his line looks good and he has 11 saves already.

Edward Mujica wasn’t supposed to be the closer for the St. Louis Cardinals but with the injury to Jason Motte, the team turned to him.  He has been a pleasant surprise, perfect in six save chances. His K/9 is up from last year but keep an eye on that .189 BABIP as a correction could pop up.

Rafael Soriano did a superb job filling in for the injured Mariano Rivera for the New York Yankees in 2012 and is doing the same for the Washington Nationals this year. The 33-year-old has seven saves in eight chances and has pitched well for the Nats. If he continues pitching this well, Soriano will hold onto the role although he might lose a save here or there to Drew Storen.

This is where we’re at with closers so far but I’m sure there will be many changes before the season ends. In other words, the same old-same old.
 
Don’t Look Now…
NL Beat
Written by Christopher Kreush   
Thursday, 25 April 2013 05:35

Part of the allure of baseball is the length of the season. In the dog days of summer when not much of anything is happening in the sports world, baseball is there. When your favorite team is home, you can go to the ballpark and experience all the sights and sounds that are a major league game. And when they’re not home, you can either catch them on the radio, conventional TV, or MLB.TV. On any given day, you can throw some dogs or burgers on the barbeque while kicking back to watch any of a number of other games available to you.

Another attraction of baseball is that with a season so long, there are always things that happen that either defy conventional logic or wisdom or just outright surprise all who witness them. There’s always Jose Bautista of 2010, Ian Kennedy of 2011 or the Washington Nationals of 2012. These anomalies sometimes wreak havoc with some fantasy owners while making others look like a genius. Even though this season isn’t even a month old, there are some things that are causing fantasy players to either scratch their head or reach for the aspirin bottle. Now a look at some of them.

With the success of the Washington Nationals in 2012, there were many (including myself) who were expecting them to take another step this year. But at this moment, they are only in third place in the NL East, five games behind the Atlanta Braves. In 2012, Washington led all of baseball with a +137 run differential while at this point in 2013 they have a -19 run differential. The main culprits have been Stephen Strasburg (11 earned runs against), Gio Gonzalez (13 earned runs against) and Dan Haren (15 earned runs against), who have only combined for three victories in 13 starts to this point. I definitely expect Strasburg and Gonzalez to turn their season around and pitch to how they were expected while I’m not as confident with Haren.

The Central division of the National League is the tightest in baseball with only one and one-half game separating the top four teams – the St. Louis Cardinals, Cincinnati Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates and Milwaukee Brewers. The Cards and Reds should be the teams that fight it out for the division while the Bucs and Brewers fade as the season ages.

The Colorado Rockies look like the Rockies of old in the West division as they lead the league with 115 runs scored and a .283 batting average. It’s not a case of the Coors Field humidor not working, however, as there’s less than a run per game difference in their scoring at home vs. on the road and they’ve hit more home runs away from Coors Field in fewer games.

Chris Johnson is leading the NL with a .397 batting average after years of .308, .251 and .281 with the Houston Astros and Arizona Diamondbacks – two favorable home ballparks for hitters. He had benefited from an injury to Freddie Freeman but now that Freddie is back, Chris will probably be in some kind of playing platoon with Juan Francisco.

After a disappointing power output of 17 home runs in 2012, Justin Upton leads the major leagues with 11 round trippers to this point in 2013 even though Atlanta isn’t known as the hitter's paradise that the Arizona desert is. The younger of the Upton brothers is also batting .316 but with 23 strikeouts in 21 games to date, so the average could be in jeopardy of dropping quite a bit. Another red flag is the left fielder only has 16 RBIs despite the 11 home runs as the Braves as a team aren’t getting on base - hitting at only a .250 clip.

In the CBSSports.com Analysts League (NL version), John Buck went for $3. That is turning out to be the steal of the draft (at least for the catcher position) so far as the New York Mets' backstop is batting .271, is tied for second in the league with seven home runs and leads the NL with 22 RBIs. His start has the Metropolitans feeling a bit better about the injury to Travis d’Arnaud, who is sidelined until at least the second week of June with a broken foot.

Jason Grilli of the Pittsburgh Pirates wasn’t expected to be one of the safest bets for saves in the NL this year, but that is exactly what is happening. The 36-year-old leads the league with nine saves and hasn’t allowed a run while appearing in 11 games. Grilli also has 16 strikeouts in 10 innings while only allowing three hits and four bases on balls. With Mark Melancon as the main option to close other than Jason, his job should be safe for the duration of the year.

Tied for the NL lead in wins is the New York Mets’ Matt Harvey. The second year starting pitcher has four victories in five starts without a loss. The 24-year-old has a dazzling 0.69 WHIP and 1.54 ERA with 39 strikeouts in 35 innings pitched. He won’t continue at this pace for the entire year but should be a very good option for the first half of the year at least. I’d be a little careful after that because he hasn’t pitched over 169 innings in a season.

The Colorado Rockies’ Jhoulys Chacin is among the league leaders with a 1.46 ERA. He is currently on the DL with a back strain but, with a 3-0 record over four outings, he has been one of the big reasons why Colorado has gotten out to a fast start. Admittedly more bullish on Chacin than others, I still think he will be a good fantasy play for the year and have put my money where my mouth is as I own him in multiple leagues, including the NFBC.

This is just a handful of things that many of us didn’t expect for the season, and there will undoubtedly be many more surprises in store as the year unfolds.
 
A Tale of Two Teams
NL Beat
Written by Christopher Kreush   
Thursday, 18 April 2013 04:50

One doesn’t have to look far to find the teams with the best and worst record in major league baseball. One doesn’t even have to look past the National League. In fact, one doesn’t even have to look past the National League’s East Division. There, the Atlanta Braves are three and one-half games up on the second place Washington Nationals while the last place Miami Marlins have a three game lead on last place.

These are a couple of teams obviously going in opposite directions. The Braves have been a mild surprise (at least to me) with a record of 12 wins and only two losses. Atlanta is winners of nine of their last ten games and lead all of baseball with a .857 winning percentage.

Miami, on the other hand, is languishing with a record almost exactly opposite Atlanta’s with three victories and twelve losses for a miserly .200 winning percentage. The Marlins are losers of eight of their past ten games.

A look at the Braves shows they are batting .259 as a team, which is only slightly above the National League average. They are, however, leading the league with 25 home runs. Despite the home runs, Atlanta still has only scored a total of 68 runs for the season – good enough for only slightly above the middle of the pack in the NL.

Leading the team in hitting is Chris Johnson, who is currently batting at a .409 clip. His average is pretty empty, though, as he only has six runs scored and five runs batted in to go along with a lone home run on the year in 44 at-bats. The 28-year-old has been mainly manning first base with Freddie Freeman being on the disabled list.

Close behind Johnson is left fielder Justin Upton with a .333 batting average. He is doing his best to prove the Braves did the right thing in trading for him as he leads the NL with eight home runs. There’s a little concern, though, because Justin only has a total of a dozen RBIs on the year.

The rest of the Braves, though, aren’t hitting much of anything with Evan Gattis at .262 and Andrelton Simmons at an even .200 the only regulars at or above the Mendoza Line. Dan Uggla is at .163, B.J. Upton at .140 and Jason Heyward at .128. So it’s pretty obvious the Braves aren’t doing it with hitting.

On the pitching side, Atlanta is far and away leading the league with a 1.77 ERA – almost a full one and one-half runs lower than the next closest team. Their batting average against is a league leading .206 and the 25 earned runs they have allowed is just a little more than half the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 48. Of the pitchers who have started a game for Atlanta, only Julio Teheran has an ERA higher than 2.50 and he has allowed nine of the team’s earned runs against. Tim Hudson is next with five, then comes Kris Medlen with three, Mike Minor with two, and Paul Maholm hasn’t allowed any earned runs. Neither has closer Craig Kimbrel.

Then we have the Miami Marlins. They are hitting .209 as a team, the lowest in the NL. Amazingly, the Marlins have only hit a total of three home runs in their 15 games played – one each by Greg Dobbs, Justin Ruggiano, and Adeiny Hechavarria. Yes, Giancarlo Stanton still hasn’t hit a home run and, even more incredibly, has only scored one run and doesn’t have any RBI on the season (but does have 12 strikeouts in 30 at-bats). Placido Polanco (.333) and Dobbs (.261) are the only regular players hitting above .250 at this point.

The Marlins’ pitching is equally ugly, allowing opposing hitters to bat a combined .273 and compiling a 4.11 ERA. Starting pitchers Jose Fernandez (0.82), Kevin Slowey (2.04) and Ricky Nolasco (3.86) along with reliever Mike Dunn (2.45) are the only pitchers on the entire staff who have an ERA lower than 4.00. The bullpen has been wretched with closer Steve Cishek carrying a 6.75 ERA and Chad Qualls and Jon Rauch both sporting 5.40 ERAs. Miami is the only team in the entire major leagues that hasn’t recorded a save yet in 2013.

I knew things were going to be bad in Miami this year, but I didn’t think they would be as bad as it is now. It’s sad to see that the fans in South Florida will have to put up with another dismal season on the field and poor management from a professional sports team’s front office.

On a side note, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Zack Greinke underwent surgery to repair his left collarbone that was broken in the bench- clearing brawl with the San Diego Padres. Greinke is expected to miss two months with the injury. Carlos Quentin, who was hit by a Greinke pitch and subsequently charged the mound, taking down the pitcher, was suspended eight games as a result of his actions. In my opinion, it’s high time MLB institutes a rule that if a player causes another player an injury as a result of doing something against the rules, that player is suspended the same amount of time as the injured player misses. It will only be then that players might stop and think before doing something that could potentially lead to another player being injured.
 
Aces Turned into Seven/Deuce Unsuited
NL Beat
Written by Christopher Kreush   
Thursday, 11 April 2013 02:18

Anyone familiar with Texas Hold’em Poker knows the best hand to have before the flop is pocket aces and the worst is seven/deuce unsuited. In between are a lot of other combinations of hands. Some are just eh while others are pretty good and you wouldn’t mind going to battle with them. When you start with the seven/deuce unsuited, your mindset is you expect to lose, or, at the very least, you expect to fold and hopefully weren’t in the big or small blind so don’t have any money at stake. The fantasy equivalent would be starting your team with Wade LeBlanc and Jeff Locke on your staff – your odds of winning aren’t very good.

Pocket aces are a different story. Not only do you expect to do well, you expect to win most of the time. In poker, your odds of winning with the biggest starting hand possible are better than 80 percent. The problem is your odds of being dealt this hand are less than one-half of one percent. So when you have the big cards, you’re feeling very good about your chances. The fantasy equivalent of pocket aces would be starting your team with Stephen Strasburg and Matt Cain on your staff – your odds of winning are outstanding.

But it doesn’t always work out that way. Inevitably, at some point in the season, your grand plan of pocket aces winds up going up in smoke. That, as they say, is why they play the games. Even though we can feel good when our aces take the ball for the day, there are still going to be games during the season when the unthinkable happens and you not only don’t get a win in your column, but sometimes insult is added to injury and your ratios take a beating as well. That has happened quite a few times already this very young season in the National League.

Last Wednesday, Roy Halladay went up against the Braves in Atlanta. He did well in striking out nine batters in the 3 1/3 innings he lasted but surrendered five earned runs on six hits (including two home runs) and three walks. That equates to a 2.73 WHIP and 13.64 ERA on the day for his owners. Ouch.

The fantasy gods then all came together on Sunday to create the perfect storm for fantasy mayhem as Stephen Strasburg, Cole Hamels and Matt Cain all had nightmare games for their owners. Strasburg faced the Cincinnati Reds on the road where he managed 5 1/3 innings in which he struck out five but allowed six earned runs on nine hits and four walks, providing his fantasy owners a 2.45 WHIP and a 10.18 ERA for his efforts.

Hamels was at home to start against the Kansas City Royals – surely something good would come out of this matchup for his owners. But Cole didn’t read the script and lasted only 5 2/3 innings with only two strikeouts, nine hits and four bases on balls, all of which led to eight earned runs. The resulting line score for his owners for the day was a 2.32 WHIP and 12.86 ERA.

Matt Cain was home to face the St. Louis Cardinals later in the day. Surely he would fare much better for his fantasy skippers than Strasburg and Hamels before him. But not this day. When the smoke had cleared, Cain was in the showers after only 3 2/3 innings in which he struck out two and allowed nine earned runs on seven hits and two walks. Amazingly, he allowed as many runs as runners he put on base. His fantasy total for the day was a 2.50 WHIP and a ghastly 22.50 ERA!

As if this wasn’t enough damage, Roy Halladay came back on Monday and presented his owners with another abysmal outing as the Phillies hosted the New York Mets. This time, Doc lasted four innings and struck out three but allowed seven earned runs on six hits and three walks, equating to a 2.25 WHIP and 15.75 ERA. For the season, he now has zero wins and two losses with a 2.45 WHIP and 14.73 ERA – certainly not the start expected by those who drafted him.

As bad as all this damage was, the prize for the most carnage on the season in a single game goes to Mitchell Boggs, replacement closer for the St. Louis Cardinals’ injured Jason Motte. Boggs lasted one-third of an inning, allowing six earned runs on two hits and four walks for a 20.00 WHIP and 180.00 ERA!!! I happen to be one of the lucky Boggs owners.

All this serves to show you that even if you start with pocket aces, you still lose almost 20 percent of the time. In and of themselves, they won’t guarantee you to win the tournament. It’s the cards you hold and how you play them in all your other hands that usually determines the outcome.
 
Back to the Ballpark
NL Beat
Written by Christopher Kreush   
Thursday, 04 April 2013 03:19

You’d be hard pressed to tell it’s baseball season in some parts of the country, at least in the New Jersey/New York area. Normal temperatures for this time of the year are in the upper 50’s to low 60’s during the day and low 40’s at night. But this year we have only had one really nice day in the upper 50’s and nighttime temperatures are routinely in the 20’s. It has been such a bad winter in some parts that a prosecutor in Ohio sought the death penalty in an indictment for Punxsutawney Phil for misrepresentation of early spring. If you watched the New York Yankees/Boston Red Sox game Wednesday night in the Bronx, you might have mistaken Boston shortstop Jose Iglesias for an Eskimo.

But at least baseball is back. And it’s only a matter of time that the weather cooperates and an ice cold adult beverage will taste very good watching a game at the ballpark instead of a hot chocolate. I will be attending my first game of the year next Wednesday when me and my BFF (can a 54-year-old have one of those?) head to Fenway Park in Boston, where we will be sitting on top of the Green Monster watching the Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles. I have seen a good number of games in Boston over the years but this will be my first time in the monster seats. But enough about the weather and the American League - on to the National League.

As is the case in fantasy baseball, standings at this time of year mean absolutely nothing. Case in point is the New York Mets are undefeated and tied for first place in the NL East. So are the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals. I don’t expect this from the Mets or Braves as we get deeper into the season but I do from the Nationals. They are my favorite to go to the World Series representing the senior circuit this year.

Just as there are three undefeated teams, there are also three NL teams still looking for their first victory of the season – Miami Marlins, Philadelphia Phillies, and San Diego Padres. The Phillies should win a good number of games and San Diego will win their share but Miami might not. OK, I’m just kidding. The Marlins will win some games too and have a few guys I like for fantasy this year in Juan Pierre, Justin Ruggiano, and Giancarlo Stanton.

Being a Yankee fan, I like to make fun of the Mets, but even they have some players I like for my fantasy team like…Ike Davis. Well, at least one anyway.

Some interesting National League facts:

Besides being unbeaten in their first two games, Washington also has not given up a run on the season. They are the only team not scored upon in either league. On the other hand, the Nationals have only scored five runs themselves.

The Mets and Colorado Rockies have produced the most offense in the Majors with each having scored 19 runs. The Rockies have done that in three games while the Mets have accomplished it in only two games. The San Diego Padres and Milwaukee Brewers have each allowed 19 runs, the Padres in two games and the Brewers in three.

Nationals closer Rafael Soriano has two saves in two chances this year. Bet the ranch he won’t finish 2013 with 162 saves. On the other hand, closers Mitchell Boggs of the St. Louis Cardinals and Aroldis Chapman of the Cincinnati Reds each have appeared in two games without registering a save.

Clayton Richard of the San Diego Padres has allowed seven earned runs – the most in the league. Teammate Edinson Volquez is close behind with six earned runs. Not hard to figure out why the Padres haven’t won a game yet.

Aces Roy Halladay and Cole Hamels of the Philadelphia Phillies have each allowed five earned runs and have a 13.50 and 9.00 ERA, respectively, for their fantasy owners.

Heath Bell of the Arizona Diamondbacks is sporting a WHIP of 15.00 and ERA of 81.00 after allowing four hits, one walk, and three earned runs in only 0.1 inning of work.

A.J. Burnett of the Pittsburgh Pirates and Matt Harvey of the Mets lead the league with ten strikeouts each. Harvey’s came in seven innings while Burnett only needed 5.2 innings.

The Braves’ Freddie Freeman leads the league with a .714 batting average with five hits in seven at-bats. Gerardo Parra (a player I like a lot this year) is batting .556 with five hits in nine at-bats. Close behind are John Buck of the Mets, Miguel Montero of the Diamondbacks, and Bryce Harper of the Nationals, each with a .500 average.

Freddie Freeman leads the league with six RBIs followed by the Phillies' Chase Utley with five.

David Wright of the Mets and Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates each have two stolen bases to lead the NL. Put that ranch on the line again that McCutchen will out-steal Wright for the year.

Troy Tulowitzki, Dexter Fowler and Carlos Gonzalez of the Colorado Rockies each have two home runs. So do Justin Upton of the Braves and Harper of the Nationals. Both of Fowler’s and Harper’s have been of the solo variety with each having no other RBIs.

A Tale of Two Uptons – Justin is batting .286 (2-for-7) with two home runs, three runs scored, three RBIs, two walks and four strikeouts.  Teammate and brother B.J. Upton is batting .000 (0-for-8) with five strikeouts. I am a Justin believer (though not as much as the Arizona variety) and a B.J. non-believer, even before the season started.

Joey Votto is hitting only .143 with one hit in seven at-bats but has a .455 OBP with four walks to go with the lone hit.

A bunch of players known for having speed (Juan Pierre, Carl Crawford, Angel Pagan, Denard Span, Eric Young Jr. and Carlos Gomez) are a combined 0’fer in stolen bases.

All this makes for some interesting fantasy results so far.
 
Season Opening Injuries
NL Beat
Written by Christopher Kreush   
Thursday, 28 March 2013 04:27

It’s almost here – Baseball 2013 is just around the corner.  This will be the last big weekend of drafts and auctions before the games start for real.  Pitchers and catchers started reporting back on February 10 and position players on February 13 when the weather was pretty frigid across much of the country (oh, the weather is still pretty frigid across much of the country).  The first spring training game was February 21 and there has been a myriad of games, split squads, and position battles to prepare for the upcoming season.

Despite all the training and working out, injuries are inevitable and all fantasy players hold their breath and hope none of their players winds up getting hurt and losing any time before contests start in earnest.  I’m going to take a look at some of the more significant injuries team by team and how the club will make due without the player for the time he is out.  Again, this isn’t an all-inclusive injury list but rather those that could potentially have a significant fantasy impact.

Arizona Diamondbacks:

Dan Hudson – The big right-hander had Tommy John surgery last July and isn’t expected back until sometime after the All-Star break.  Patrick Corbin and Randall Delgado are competing for the spot with Corbin seemingly having the inside track.

Adam Eaton – The base-stealing outfielder has an elbow strain and the date for his return ranges from the last half of April until the beginning of June.  A.J. Pollock will see extra at bats as Cody Ross could also start the year on the DL.

Atlanta Braves:

Brian McCann – The catcher has a shoulder injury and will be out until at least the middle of April.  Evan Gattis and Gerald Laird will share catching duties until McCann returns.

Brandon Beachy – Still recovering from Tommy John surgery, Beachy won’t return until most likely early July at the best.  Julio Teheran will fill out the starting five while Beachy is still recovering.

Chicago Cubs:

Matt Garza, Scott Baker – Garza has a strained lat and will begin 2013 on the DL without a definitive date for his return.  Baker, recovering from Tommy John surgery, will also start the season on the DL and miss at least the month of April.  The Cubs rotation will consist of Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, Scott Feldman, Travis Wood, and Carlos Villanueva to start the season.

Ian Stewart - The season will start with Stewart on the DL – a place he’s more than familiar with.  Luis Valbuena will start in his place at third base.

Cincinnati Reds:  The Reds don’t have any definitive, significant injuries at this point.

Colorado Rockies:

Jorge De La Rosa – The southpaw has tightness in his pitching forearm and, although considered day-to-day, could miss some time at the start of the season although that isn’t a foregone conclusion at this point.

Los Angeles Dodgers:

Hanley Ramirez – The shortstop tore a ligament in his right thumb that required surgery to repair and is slated to be out until at least the middle of May.  Luis Cruz will man shortstop in his stead while he is out with Juan Uribe filling in at third base.

Miami Marlins:

Logan Morrison – The first baseman had knee surgery in September that he is still recovering from and will miss at least the month of April.  Casey Kotchman will receive most of the time at first base while Morrison is out.

Milwaukee Brewers:

Corey Hart – The thirty-one year old is on the DL after knee surgery in January and isn’t expected to return until sometime in May.  Alex Gonzalez will be his primary replacement during his absence.

Mat Gamel – The bad luck continued for Gamel as he tore the ACL in the same knee for the second year in a row.  Gamel is on the 60-day DL and will miss the entire 2013 season.  Corey Hart was his replacement but now it’s the aforementioned Gonzalez.

New York Mets:

Johan Santana – He is nursing a shoulder injury and will start the year on the DL and will likely miss all of April.

Frank Francisco – Sidelined by elbow inflammation, Francisco should start the regular season on the DL.  Bobby Parnell will fill the closer duties to start the season.

Jenrry Mejia – The 23-year old has elbow inflammation and won’t appear in a regular season game until at least the second week of May.

Philadelphia Phillies:

Carlos Ruiz – Suspended for 25 games due to a second test that showed positive for amphetamines, Ruiz will be out until the very end of April.  Erik Kratz will be his primary replacement during this time.

Delmon Young – Still hobbled with pain from a micro fracture in his right ankle, Young will start the season on the DL and won’t see major league action until sometime at the end of April.  Domonic Brown will get the start in right field with Laynce Nix and John Mayberry, Jr. sharing the left field duties.

Pittsburgh Pirates:

Jeff Karstens – Will start the year on the DL and currently there is no timetable for his return.

Francisco Liriano – The left-hander has an injury to his non-throwing right arm and will start 2013 on the DL with a return likely at the end of April.

Charlie Morton – Recovering from Tommy John surgery, Morton will start the year on the DL and is expected back in either May or June.

San Diego Padres:

Cory Luebke – Still on his way back from Tommy John surgery, Luebke will not return until at least the beginning of June.

Yasmani Grandal – While nursing an inflamed tendon in his finger, the catcher has a 50-game suspension to serve after testing positive for a performance enhancing substance, effectively keeping him sidelined for most of the first two months of the season.

Chase Headley – The third baseman will start 2013 on the DL and miss at least the month of April with a left thumb fracture.  Jedd Gyorko will fill in during his DL stint with Alexi Amarista playing second.

Logan Forsythe – Originally slated to take over third base for the injured Headley, Forsythe will now be DL bound with plantar fasciitis in his right foot.  There is no timetable for his return.

San Francisco Giants:  The World Series champions don’t have any significant injuries at this point.

St. Louis Cardinals:

Chris Carpenter – Has nerve irritation in his right shoulder that forced the team to place him on the 60-day DL.  The 37-year old’s career might be over.

Jason Motte – The Cardinals’ closer has a partially torn flexor tendon in his right elbow and will start the season on the DL.  Mitchell Boggs will get the first chance to close in his place.

David Freese – Fighting a lower back problem, Freese is on the DL to start the year.  Ty Wigginton will replace him at third base.

Rafael Furcal – On the DL after Tommy John surgery, the shortstop will be out for several months and will be replaced by Pete Kozma initially.

Washington Nationals:  No significant injuries at this time.

Here’s the full list of anticipated pitching matchups for opening day:

Miami/Washington – Ricky Nolasco & Stephen Strasburg

San Diego/New York – Edinson Volquez & Jon Niese

Chicago/Pittsburgh – Jeff Samardzija & A.J. Burnett

Colorado/Milwaukee – Jhoulys Chacin & Yovani Gallardo

San Francisco/Los Angeles – Matt Cain & Clayton Kershaw

Philadelphia/Atlanta – Cole Hamels & Tim Hudson

St. Louis/Arizona – Adam Wainwright & Ian Kennedy

In the one interleague game between the Angels and Cincinnati – Jeff Weaver & Johnny Cueto

Enjoy opening day!
 
Scheduling Simplified?
NL Beat
Written by Christopher Kreush   
Thursday, 21 March 2013 03:43

Opening Day 2013 is only ten days away, with the Texas Rangers visiting the new kid on the block in the American League, the Houston Astros, on March 31. The National League doesn’t start their season until the following day (April Fool’s Day) when the Miami Marlins play the Nationals in Washington; San Diego Padres travel cross-country to the New York Mets; Pittsburgh Pirates host the Chicago Cubs; Milwaukee Brewers are home to the Colorado Rockies; San Francisco Giants travel to rival Los Angeles Dodgers; Braves welcome the Philadelphia Phillies to Atlanta and the St. Louis Cardinals take on the Diamondbacks in Arizona.

New to 2013, due to the move of the Astros to the American League to create six five-team divisions, is interleague games will begin on April 1 and will continue for almost every day during the regular season. Thus, the Los Angeles Angels and Cincinnati Reds will inaugurate play between the leagues this year.

Each team will play eight interleague series for a total of 20 games. Similar to what the National Football League does, each division will be matched up against a division from the other league. Each team will play four of the five teams from the opposite division they are matched up against in one three game set. The last team in the opposing division will be played in two two-game sets. For this year, the matchups will be the NL East vs. the AL Central, NL Central vs. the AL West, and the NL West vs. the AL East. This amounts to 16 of the 20 interleague games.

In addition to these interleague contests, each team will play an additional four games, in two back-to-back two-game sets, against what is referred to as their "natural rival." For these games, the divisional matchups will be reshuffled with the NL East paired against the AL East, NL Central against the AL Central, and NL West facing the AL West. These "natural rivals" are: Braves/Blue Jays, Marlins/Rays, Mets/Yankees, Nationals/Orioles, Phillies/Red Sox in the eastern divisions; Brewers/Twins, Cardinals/Royals, Cubs/White Sox, Pirates/Tigers in the central divisions; Diamondbacks/Rangers, Dodgers/Angels, Giants/A’s, Padres/Mariners, Rockies/Astros in the western division. Some of these, like the Mets/Yankees and Cubs/White Sox, make sense as "natural rivals." Others, like the Diamondbacks/Rangers and Padres/Mariners, not so much.

The remaining 142 games will be scheduled as 19 intra-division games, six games each against some intra-league, non-divisional opponents and seven games each against the other intra-league, non-divisional teams.

Simple, huh? It’s gotten to the point where you need a computer science degree to understand the major league schedule.

Pitching matchups for some of the April 1 games have tentatively been set. As of now, it looks like Miami/Washington will have Ricky Nolasco facing Stephen Strasburg. Chicago/Pittsburgh will feature Jeff Samardzija against A.J. Burnett. St. Louis/Arizona will have Adam Wainwright matched up against Ian Kennedy. San Francisco/Los Angeles has the marquee matchup of Matt Cain vs. Clayton Kershaw.

The next week and a half will be filled with many fantasy drafts (including my final one of the year), and owners are frantically putting the finishing touches on their draft preparation and consuming every bit of information they can get their hands on. Next week, I will update all the NL pitching matchups for Opening Day and take a look at some of the lingering injuries that will impact teams for the start of the season.
 
Closers’ Crapshoot
NL Beat
Written by Christopher Kreush   
Thursday, 14 March 2013 05:46

If you play in a league that uses saves as a category, then closers are a necessary evil for your team. Necessary because unless you totally dump the category, you need to invest in at least one of the specialists. Evil because the job of a closer is not exactly the most secure position on a team. Just look at how many closers-in-waiting emerge each year to become the last man out of the bullpen due to injury or implosion by their predecessor.

I divide the closers by quarters for ranking purposes and try to have as many from the top two quarters while avoiding the bottom two quarters as best I can. This isn’t always possible and sometimes I’m forced to roster closers from this group. To try to mitigate the possibility of being on the wrong end of a closer losing their position, I try to get an extra one or two from this group or make sure I pick up their backup or some other closer in waiting.

The top of the heap for National League closers is Craig Kimbrel of the Atlanta Braves. He burst onto the scene with 46 saves in 2011 and followed that up with 42 saves last year. But the saves weren’t the only thing, as they came with a gaudy 14.8 and 16.6 K/9 rate as a bonus for fantasy owners.

The rest of the top group of closers includes Jason Motte, and Jonathan Papelbon. After being given a chance in 2011, St. Louis gave Motte a chance in 2012 and he responded with 42 saves and 86 strikeouts in 72 innings. He did blow seven saves but his high strikeout rate and low WHIP more than made up for it. Unlike Kimbrel and Motte, the 32-year-old Papelbon had been closing for a number of years with the Boston Red Sox before transitioning to the National League's Philadelphia Phillies last year. The transition was a success as he recorded 38 saves while striking out 92 batters in 70 innings.

The next quarter includes Rafael Betancourt, Steve Cishek, Jason Grilli, J.J. Putz, Rafael Soriano, and Huston Street. Betancourt became the full-time closer for the Colorado Rockies last year and finished with 31 saves and a strikeout per inning, although he did blow seven chances. Cishek was given a chance by the Miami Marlins last year and converted 15 of 19 save opportunities while striking out more than a batter per inning. The blemish is a higher than desired walk rate which led to a 1.30 WHIP. Grilli is basically untested in the closer’s role as the 35-year-old Pittsburgh Pirate only has five saves in his career. He has a less than stellar home run rate and slightly elevated walk rate. Putz, of the Arizona Diamondbacks, has good peripherals and the role but has David Hernandez and Heath Bell, who both have the ability to close, waiting behind him if he falters. Soriano has the tools and the job to start the year for the Washington Nationals as well as closer experience with Atlanta, Tampa Bay, and filling in for the New York Yankees’ Mariano Rivera last year. His two issues are a higher than desired walk rate and Drew Storen right behind him. San Diego Padre Street has all the tools except for a below average fastball. Despite that, he still manages to retire batters at a very high rate. His only bugaboo is being plagued by injuries.

The third quarter is comprised of John Axford, Jonathan Broxton, Brandon League, and Sergio Romo. The Milwaukee Brewers’ Axford has recorded 105 saves over the past three seasons, but that’s the silver lining. The dark cloud is a really bad 5.0 BB/9 rate as well as surrendering 1.3 HR/9. This translated into a 1.44 WHIP and 4.67 ERA in 2012. Broxton saved 27 for the Cincinnati Reds last year but also blew six chances. This combined with his sub 7.0 K/9 pushes him down the closer ranking list. League, of the Los Angeles Dodgers, walks too many and strikes out too few and has Kenley Jansen waiting in the wings for an opportunity. San Francisco Giant Romo doesn’t have an elite fastball yet still manages to strike out better than a batter an inning but is relatively untested as a closer with only three saves prior to last year’s 14.

The last quarter that I don’t want any part of consists of Carlos Marmol and Bobby Parnell. Marmol of the Chicago Cubs had an outstanding 11.7 K/9 in 2012 but as good as that was, he walked more batters (7.3/9) than some closers struck out. The New York Mets’ Parnell gets the nod by default but stands a good chance of losing it once Frank Francisco is ready.

In my NL-only league, I was willing to pay for both Kimbrel and Motte, so I should be set there. The mixed leagues I’m in have a combination of the different levels, so I was also on the lookout for closers in waiting just in case. A strategy of having multiple plans is the best when it comes to the volatility of closers.
 
The Price of Ownership, Part 2
NL Beat
Written by Christopher Kreush   
Thursday, 07 March 2013 03:39

Two weeks ago, I started talking about putting together a fantasy team and the cost of rostering certain players. To recap, there are certain players that would be too expensive for me to own, either by virtue of the draft choice it would take (the prime example, albeit not a National League product, would be Josh Hamilton) or the dollar value it would take in an auction league (Bryce Harper will probably cost more than I’m willing to pay).

But for those who are too expensive to roster, there has to also be those who are undervalued or who slip far enough in rounds to warrant being picked. Let's take a look at some players who fit this category.

The first name on my list is Ryan Howard. It’s not too long ago that he was one of the premier power hitters in the league and a consensus early-first round pick. He put together a string of four years where he hit 58, 47, 48, and 45 home runs before ‘tanking’ with 31 bombs in 2010. The Phillies’ first baseman added another 33 in 2011, and these two years were enough to drop him out of the first round in some drafts. Then came 2012 and his Achilles surgery with a season of 14 home runs and a .219 batting average, and that was enough in many people’s eyes to signify that the end has come for Howard. I was more than happy to pick him up with the 11th pick in the 10th round of an NFBC 50-round slow draft just completed and will gladly add him to more teams at that price.

It seems like it’s been forever now that Juan Pierre’s demise has been predicted due to him being too old. Yet he keeps providing what his owners draft him for – a pretty good average to go along with a bunch of stolen bases. Even with only 130 games in 2012, the 35-year-old managed to swipe 37 bases for the Phillies while batting over .300. I’m not going to chase the next biggest thing in Everth Cabrera, Ben Revere, or Jean Segura for my stolen bases. I’ll gladly take Pierre and the old man discount that will come with him as well as playing on a Miami Marlins team that won’t get any respect this year. To that end, I was rather elated to purchase him for $17 in the CBS NL Analysts league – about $10 less than my projected value.

I consider Angel Pagan to be kind of like Juan Pierre-lite in that he’s also north of 30, will provide a good batting average and, while not stealing as many bases as Pierre, will still provide you with mid to upper 20’s. Pagan never seems to get much love or respect and as such can be undervalued. He hasn’t made it onto any of my teams yet but there’s still time.

When you talk of catchers in the National League there is, of course, Buster Posey and Yadier Molina at the top followed by the likes of Miguel Montero, Russell Martin, Brian McCann, and Wilin Rosario. But in that second group is another catcher who doesn’t have the name recognition but who I like more – Jonathan Lucroy. He’ll give you low teens power with an average much more likely to help you as opposed to what you’ll get from many other backstops.

There aren’t too many things I like about the New York Mets (especially being a Yankees fan), but Jon Niese is one of them. He’s not flashy or a big up and coming name but the 26-year-old will quietly provide you with about 8.0 K/9, double digit wins and ratios that won’t kill you. All at a price worthy of, well, the New York Mets.

It was only a few years ago that The Freak was all the rage in major league baseball. With a lightning start to his career, Tim Lincecum was at the top of the baseball world after winning consecutive Cy Young awards. But then cracks started to appear in the invincible facade, with a declining strikeout rate that went from 10.5 to 9.8 to 9.1 combined with win totals that went from 18 in 2008 to 13 in 2011 and his first losing season. That was followed up by his fantasy killing 2012 with a 10-15 record, 1.47 WHIP and 5.18 ERA. I was on record here for two years prior to 2012 that I was staying far away from Lincecum but most people were still willing to pay top dollar plus for the San Francisco Giants star. I’ve now come full circle and am now a buyer for his services. Not that I think he’ll return to his Cy Young glory days, but the price of ownership will be way down from those days that he might actually return a profit on the investment.

Last on my list is a pitcher fellow Mastersball contributor Ryan Carey had as one of his targets going into the CBS NL Analysts auction – Jordan Zimmermann.  Ryan was able to secure his services for $20 – an amount certainly within my range of tolerance. The Washington Nationals' starting pitcher went in the seventh round of my just completed NFBC draft – just before I was able to take him. He certainly is not unproven but I believe he is just starting to come into his own at 26 years of age. Being third fiddle to Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez will help temper the price enough for me to be a buyer.

These are just a handful of the players I think will come cheap enough for me to roster on more than one team this year and who I’ll be ready to jump on. Proof in my mind that the right POO doesn’t have to stink.
 
POO Put into Practice
NL Beat
Written by Christopher Kreush   
Thursday, 28 February 2013 03:30

For those expecting to see my second part to last week’s column, The Price of Ownership (POO), I beg your indulgence as I stray from that this week.  The reason for the change of plan is I (as well as Ryan Carey) are representing Mastersball in the CBSSports.com Analysts NL-only league, the auction being held this past Tuesday.  I won’t reveal anything of Ryan’s team as he will most likely be posting about it and the auction itself from his perspective.

In participating this year, I am looking to improve greatly on last year’s tenth place (out of 12) finish – even if it happens to be at Ryan’s expense (sorry, buddy).  In preparing for the league, I was contemplating my strategy.  How was I going to beat all the sharks in this league?  Should I go stars and scrubs?  Draft for positional scarcity?  Take a balanced approach?  After mulling over different possibilities, I decided not to pigeonhole myself into a strategy but to instead take what the auction presented me.  Many times this is counter-intuitive to what we think about drafts.  We always have to come up with the perfect plan that will guarantee a Yoo-Hoo shower at the end of the year and the accolades (as well as the bragging rights) that come with it.  In most cases, that plan usually goes up in smoke well before the season actually ends with our team languishing deep down the standings.

As it turns out, I drew the last place in the nomination process, which worked to my advantage in waiting to see what the draft was going to give me.  While I was sitting there bidding some but mostly watching the proceedings, it became evident to me that this auction was dovetailing nicely with The Price of Ownership.  First on the block was Washington Nationals phenom outfielder Bryce Harper and the bidding was hot and furious, finally topping out at $29.  This was a little over my value but effectively set the bar for the top tier players and I realized the price of ownership was going to be expensive.

Next up was a curve ball in shortstop Billy Hamilton of the Cincinnati Reds, which was obviously a speculative play as he’s projected to get fairly minimal playing time this year.  Hamilton went for a meager $3.  Being that he is one of the hottest prospects out there, this signaled to me that most people were quite possibly saving their money for the big boys.

The next player on the block was Atlanta Braves starting pitcher Kris Medlen, who I had valued in the mid teens but who was sold for $20.  After Medlen came the whale of the auction, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun.  I had him valued in the $41 - $43 range and was mildly surprised when he sold for $40.  But I just didn’t want to pull the trigger and bid $41.

Next player up was the premier NL starting pitcher, the Los Angeles Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw.  My draft sheet showed him at $33 - $35 and I couldn’t resist as the bidding started to stall in the upper $20’s and I bought him for $31.  Back to offense and teammate Matt Kemp was thrown up for bid next.  I looked at my sheet and saw I had him valued in the $33 - $35 range and was surprised when he actually sold for $39.

The bidding was back to the NL Central’s Reds with Joey Votto up for sale.  The mashing first baseman was auctioned for $37 against my projected value of $30 - $33.  Next was another young power hitter in Giancarlo Stanton.  The Florida Marlins outfielder sold for $39 versus my value in the mid to upper $20 range.

Up next was the premier NL closer in the Braves’ Craig Kimbrel and I knew the price was going to be a bit steep.  Bidding escalated quickly then slowed considerably in the high teens.  My list price on him was in the $20 - $22 range and as the bidding dragged, I jumped in near the end and purchased him for $25.  I now had the top starting pitcher and top closer in the National League on my team.

The next two players were Nationals starter Stephen Strasburg and Pittsburgh Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutchen.  Strasburg went for pretty much the same value ($30) versus my $29 projection.  I mentioned last week that 2012 was the year to own Cutch as the secret is now well out.  I had him valued at about $34 which was exactly what he went for.  I bought him last year in this same league for $32 so the price of ownership has gone up a bit as I predicted.

It became obvious to me that the top players were pretty much going for a premium and I then decided to try to work this to my advantage and get some players that would provide a profit.  I looked down my list and came upon the name Andrelton Simmons.  This is a player I like (especially in an NL-only format) and I figured I’d try to get someone I actually wanted to own at a discount.  I had the Atlanta shortstop valued in the mid-teens and won him with a bid of $12.  Chalk up a profit of a few dollars.

I stayed with this plan and didn’t purchase another player until I nominated Darwin Barney my third time up and purchased the Chicago Cubs second baseman for roughly half his value at $6.  I continued watching players go over value then had to spend some money on a first baseman as the position was getting thin.  I overpaid a bit on the New York Mets’ Ike Davis at $24 but really like what he did in the second half last year.  Likewise for shortstop, which was also getting thin at the top, so I ponied up $24 for Davis’ divisional opponent Jimmy Rollins.  I made one mistake midway through the draft with the +$1 button and got saddled with Travis d’Arnaud as my first catcher for $8 when I wanted to top out a couple dollars below his $7 projection.

All in all, I stayed with this game plan and wound up pretty much in control of the last third of the auction when I was able to purchase the likes of Tim Hudson, Nate Schierholtz, Wandy Rodriguez, Gerardo Parra, Chris Nelson (both of whom I spent $10 on just because I could), Gregor Blanco, Ted Lilly, Eric Kratz, Sean Marshall, Jorge de la Rosa, and Jhoulys Chacin.  All in all, I’m pretty happy with the results. Here is the whole squad with price paid along with projected value in parenthesis.

C – d’Arnaud 8 (7), Kratz 2 (2)

CI – Davis 24 (18), Chris Johnson 6 (12), Adam LaRoche 21 (20)

MI – Barney 6 (11), Simmons 12 (14), Rollins 24 (25)

UT – Nelson 10 (10)

OF – Juan Pierre 17 (27), Michael Cuddyer 21 (20), Schierholtz 4 (10), Parra 10 (12), Blanco 1 (10)

P – Kershaw 31 (34), Kimbrel 25 (20), Motte 18 (15), Hudson 6 (5), Rodriguez 4 (5), Lilly 1 (1), Marshall 2 (4), de la Rosa 3 (6), Chacin 1 (1)

Bench – Alex Gonzalez, Jeff Karstens, Dioner Navarro, Xavier Paul, Logan Schafer, Edward Mujica, Josh Harrison

By my calculations, I spent $257 for $289 worth of stats.  Now I just have to manage it and hope the ROI is what I think it should be.
 
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