Tuesday, June 30, 2009

BWB Newbie School: Starting Pitching, a Case Study

The New Fairfield Neanderthals were taken over this year as an orphan team after having a dismal year last season at the hands of The Notorious Kelly Smith. My early season prediction for the Neanderthals was at best a .500 record considering the many weaknesses of the team at that time. Team owner Russ has managed to guide the team to a 36-30 (.545) record to date, which stands at 4th best in the entire league! In looking at their roster, one would not think this would be possible: the lineup features Russell Martin, Adam LaRoche, and Chris B. Young as the 3-4-5 hitters! So what gives?

It comes down to one thing: starting pitching, period. New Fairfield has allowed the least amount of runs per game in the entire league (4.2) despite having only one closer and carrying an injured Hong-Chih Kuo.

Let's take a look:

P1 Josh Beckett 4171
P2 Carlos Zambrano 4220
P3 Edwin Jackson 2346
P4 Aaron Harang 4016
P5 Zach Duke 2062

S1 Ross Ohlendorf 267
S2 Jason Hammel 545

Although none of the starters were ranked in the Top 5 at the beginning of the season, they are mostly solid veteran pitchers (with the exception being Edwin Jackson's shorter career), and the rotation is dependable from 1 through 5. Additionally, Harang and Beckett came off of down years, so their contracts were reasonably priced. The spot starters are nothing to get excited about, but Ohlendorf has been healthy all year and can be relied on in case a starter misses a start or two. Basically, New Fairfield ranks very highly in the Starting Pitching ERA category -- simple as that.

It has been suggested in the past (by Andy, I do believe) that Benchwarmer Baseball comes down to pitching, and I am not sure I am a convert, but it is clear that having 5 strong pitchers in the rotation can turn a weak team into a contender fairly quickly.

Hey Russ! If you actually take Coco out of the lineup, replace Kuo and Howie Kendrick, you may even take a run for the division. (But since I'm first in the division right now, I hope you're not reading this!)

Friday, June 5, 2009

Experts League To-Date: Top 3 Positive Surprises

In my Benchwarmer Baseball Experts League season preview, I detailed my brief analysis for the outlooks for all of the Experts' teams.

After comparing my review with the current standings, these are my top 3 positive surprises in the league to date:

1. Jerry King's Rock Ridge Specials standing in first place in their division by 2 games (I picked them 2nd) despite losing Manny to suspension, suffering through Fatty Kruk's slow start, and having Carlos Quentin playing injured.

2. Tom Harms' Heat Wave Hot being 1 GB in a closely fought division. Honestly, the team still doesn't look that strong to me and may be susceptible to fading in the standings. If Tom can make some roster adjustments to sure-up a depleted starting pitching staff, perhaps he can hang around.

3. Brad Berreman's MVN.com Fantasy Outsiders having the overall best record in the league with a winning percentage of .682. Of course, it helps to play in the same division as the single worst team in the league, Collin Hager's Erie Warriors, who is mired at 13-31. Regardless, I figured the Fantasy Outsiders for 3rd in the division at the beginning of the season. Powered by A-Gone and A-Rod, the team is currently injury free and should put up a good battle versus Howard Bender's 2nd place RotoBuzz Boyzz (tied for the 2nd best record in the league).

The races are all fairly close and roster management very well may be the deciding factor in determining the division leaders at the end of the season.

Vote in the sidebar poll for (up to) 3 experts you think have the best chance of winning it all this year.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Dismantling a First Place Team

It's about that time of year when you have a pretty good idea if you should be a buyer or seller in thinking about a year-end game plan. Although my Jundland Wastes are tied for first place in the division in the Shadowball League, it seems unlikely that this team will be able to win the Championship this year due to injuries to Brandon Webb, off-season acquisition Aramis Ramirez, and recent DL tripper Grady Sizeless. In thinking about 2010 and beyond, the Wastes do have some fine young players to build around, so contention for next year is the goal of this rebuilding project. To that end, I look to be very active in the trading market over the next few months to hopefully acquire players to help the team next year and beyond.

Here is a quick overview of my team and forward-looking plan for each player:

Name ML Team Pos Salary Contract
Brandon Webb Ari SP 7205
>On the DL so I do not expect a lot of interest for this year. Very happy to keep him for 2010 when he'll have a lower salary.

Tim Lincecum SF SP 6491 2011
>It is my estimation that this signing is the most valuable in the league as no player with as high a productivity value as measured by salary is under a contract for as long as 2011. Lincecum offers about $16mm in value free and clear thanks to the long contract (all else equal). It would take a nice package for me to move him.

Grady Sizemore Cle OF 5920
>On the DL currently; may need elbow surgery. Will hold for next year.

Brad Lidge Phi RP 5730 2009
>Signed for this year, so despite the slow start to the season, could be a valuable piece for another team and a chip I would consider trading at the right price.

Aramis Ramirez ChC 3B 4624
>Biggest disappointment for me this year. On the DL. Will hold for next year but would entertain offers in a month or so after he's back from the DL.

Garrett Atkins Col 1B, 3B 4190
>Let's be realistic: No trade value.

Kevin Youkilis Bos 1B, 3B 3855
>Lots of value here with the productivity and position flexibility. Would entertain offers, but they would have to be very strong. Figures into 2010 roster.

Brian Roberts Bal 2B 3757
>Figures into 2010 roster. Great top-of-the-lineup guy.

David Bush Mil SP 3063
>Decent P4-P5.

Corey Hart Mil OF 3003 2010
>Signed through 2010, so he can play in the starting lineup or the bench and save a team some money. Figures into 2010 roster but would entertain offers.

Wandy Rodriguez Hou SP 2930
>I'll probably look to sign Wandy to an extension.

Heath Bell SD RP 1751
>Looking like an extension here too.

Jack Cust Oak OF 1724
>Decent player and not very expensive. Not as attractive as Corey Hart.

Marco Scutaro Tor 2B, 3B, SS 1467
>I have Scutaro in a few leagues. Great year so far with great positional flexibility. Figures into 2010 roster plans but would talk trade here.

Alexei Ramirez CWS 2B, SS, OF 1289
>Great flexibility, but underperforming high expectations. Good bench player.

Rick Ankiel StL OF 1147 2010
>Just traded Beau Mills for Ankiel. Having a slow year (lost his HGH?) but I like that he's under contract. Figures into 2010 roster.

Mark Loretta LAD 2B, 3B, SS 910
>Good bench player.

Daric Barton Oak 1B 853 2009
>He's still on my squad?? Need to remedy that.

Clayton Kershaw LAD SP 719 2011
>Nice signing here. Figures into 2010 roster.

Carlos Ruiz Phi C 713
>Nothing to get excited about here. Would look to upgrade for 2010.

Elijah Dukes Was OF 629
>Could be a starter or bench player. DL stint and crowded outfield has taken away some early-season playing time. Definate 20/20 potential.

Frank Francisco Tex RP 603
>Doing a great job in TEX and will be extended. Figures into 2010 roster.

Willy Aybar TB 3B, 1B, 2B 560
>Nice bench player. Figures to get more playing time with Aki gone for the season.

Santiago Casilla Oak RP 446 2009
>Free player for this year with good numbers. Could be a trade piece to upgrade a bullpen at no dollar cost.

Chris Coste Phi C 406
>No comment.

Leo Nunez Fla RP 272
>Closer in waiting? I'm waiting. Figures into 2010 roster.

Rick VandenHurk Fla SP 216
>So injured, so often.

Homer Bailey Cin SP 127 2010
>AAAA pitcher? No one knows for sure.

Josh Outman Oak SP 106
>Nice start to season so far. Figures into 2010 roster.

Brett Anderson Oak SP 100
>More heralded than Outman, but making less outs, man. (That was bad... sorry) Figures into 2010 roster.

Andrew Bailey Oak RP 100
>Extending. Figures into 2010 roster.

So, there are some attractive players for other teams, most of which are under contract for this year. So for teams making the run in 2009, I should see some interest.

I will be posting finalized trades as the season progresses. If you're in Shadowball and have some prospects or other useful players to deal, please feel free to drop me an e-mail or trade offer and we can try to work something out to help each of us.