Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A mid-summer's post

It's been a fun season in UPL Baseball thus far. (If you're curious, you can check out the mid-season UPL awards over at The UPL Blog.) The last time I gave an update about my fantasy team here in May, I was looking to add speed to my team--and hoping it would be running like a "well-oiled machine in June." Little did I know that the very next day I'd lose Manny Ramirez to a 50-game drug suspension, and the day after that I'd lose Aramis Ramirez to the DL for two months.

Admittedly, when I lost both of those guys, I thought I'd have to tread water until they got back. I wasn't giving up on the season, but I figured I'd have to "keep it close," and then once my team was healthy again, "make a run." But a funny thing happened shortly after those two key personnel losses. My team's one weakness, lack of speed, started to correct itself. I found Michael Bourn and Jason Bartlett on the waiver wire, and they both have helped me with steals. Carlos Beltran moved up from fifth to third in the Mets' lineup, and thus started stealing again. Best of all, Justin Upton finally began to realize his potential and became a power/speed threat. In both runs and steals, my team started to gain a few points.

Looking back on the two months I was without Manny and A-Ram, it turns out I had already drafted their replacements from Day 1--Justin Upton (for Manny at OF) and Pablo Sandoval (for A-Ram at 3B). So, fortunately, not only did the '90 Reds tread water, we did one better. Here's a look at the standings at the break:

Team Points Pts Change Waiver Moves
'90 Reds 115.5 0 2 31
IamJabrone 105.5 0 8 32
O.N. Thugs 93 0 12 45
Westy's Sluggers 92 0 9 28
SuckMyknuckleballs 80 0 1 6
Cheeseheads 74.5 0 5 16
Black Sox 70 0 4 10
Phatsnapper 69.5 0 6 31
TheJimmyDixLongballs 67 0 10 20
Muddy Mush Heads 60.5 0 3 13
Benver Droncos 59 0 7 21
Hats for Bats 49.5 0 11 40

And here's a look at my roster:

(Cle - C,1B)
(Phi - 1B)
(Mil - 2B,3B)
(SF - C,1B,3B)
(TB - SS)
(Ari - OF)
(LAD - OF)
(Bal - OF)
(ChC - 3B)
(Hou - OF)
(Det - SP)
(Min - RP)
(SF - RP)
(Ari - RP)
(TB - RP)
(Atl - SP)
(Ari - SP)
(Hou - SP)
(Pit - 2B)
(Ari - SS)
(SF - OF)
(Det - RP)
(Was - SP)
(LAD - RP)
(ChC - SP) DL

When I look at the names on my roster, I know the story behind how each of them got there. And of all those stories, one of my favorites is J.P. Howell.

It all started when one of my closers, Troy Percial, went on the DL. Obviously, I wanted to figure who, if anyone, would be the next closer for the Rays. Everything I read online indicated that the Rays would go wtih a closer by committee, and different fantasy experts gave wildly different recommendations. Many experts said Joe Nelson was the pickup, but several figured it would be Dan Wheeler or some combination of the two. Others guessed even more names, to include Grant Balfour and Randy Choate. I even read a few articles where people speculated Jason Isringhausen would take over as the closer once he got off the DL, and another that said some guy in Triple-A could be promoted and become the 9th-inning guy.

Noticeably absent from all of these theories was a one J.P. Howell. Yet when I looked at the numbers, he had been far and away the best reliever the Rays have had for the past year-plus. All of Howell's peripherals were what I look for in a pitcher, and I figured it was only a matter of time before the Rays had to give Howell the job by default. So I decided to pick up Joe Nelson (because that's what the experts said to do) and I picked up J.P. Howell (because that's what I wanted to do). I think I dropped Nelson about three days later. A few weeks after that, the Rays' bullpen blew a 10-run lead which Howell had nothing to do with. Since then, he's picked up the majority of their saves.

Over the past month, Howell has tallied 3 wins, no losses, 3 saves, a 2.61 ERA, a 1.26 WHIP, and 10 Ks in 10.1 innings pitched. Those are nice stats, but even now Howell is flying under the radar. In fact, Thor Nystrom over at Rotoworld still lists Howell at the bottom of the Tier 4 closers with a question mark.

But that's enough talk about the first half of the season. Right now I've got to be focused on the second half. I'm glad that my team has done as well as it has, but there's a long way to go. My 10-point lead is misleading for two reasons: 1) I'm running well ahead in innings pitched and 2) I'm vulnerable to losing points in many categories on any given night. We have 11 weeks left, and my lead could literally go away in two or three days.

This isn't going to be easy. As I size up my top three competitors, I recognize that I'm going up against the Greatest of All Time (O.N. Thugs), the Defending Champ (IamJabrone), and the Manager of the Half-Season (Westy's Sluggers).

Like I said, this isn't going to be easy. There will be injuries. There will be ups and downs, unexpected slumps, and other teams will make a run. Between now and October 4, I need to beg, borrow, and steal my way across the finish line.

Whatever it takes.


Chairman said...

Gotta say, you leave yourself open to all sorts of "Who the hell is (insert questionable pick-up here)?" comments from the peanut gallery when you pick up guys and have them get blown up. But when they come in and are lights out, then the gallery is sort of silent...

What I'm curious about is how you handle Sandoval/Victor Martinez. Normally, you'd figure to trade Martinez and get a bigger bat at UTIL. However, Sandoval probably doesn't qualify at C next year. Hang on to both? Move Victor, but insist on a decent C as part of the package?

Greg said...

Well, I have given this situation some thought ever since Sandoval started to look legit (early June). I do think Sandoval loses his C eligibility next year, so that's a bummer. Right now I'm leaning toward hanging onto both guys. I'm willing to trade either if the price is right, but I doubt that it will be.

Besides, it's a moot point if Martinez doesn't start hitting again... I think he will, but this recent slump has just about made up for his torrid April.

Pauly said...

You better roll with the luck while you have it, because it always runs out.

Case in Point: You should see the train wreck of players that I drafted this year (most of whom I had a high opinion of)...and Ive really set myself up great for this whole keeper thing. Im almost always a middle-of-the-road to decent drafter (but a better transactions guy):

1. (3) José Reyes SS (has pretty much crushed my team with Arod's early absence. He wasnt even that good when he was playing.

6. (70) Garrett Atkins (nothing needs to be said here. This guy sucks ass).

7. (75) Ryan Ludwick (yet another slow starter for me).

9. (99) Carlos Mármol (pretty much lost the closer job the day I drafted him, and now I'm stuck keeping him).

10. (118) Ricky Nolasco (my biggest mistake of the year -- dropping him, not drafting him. But he had maybe one of the worst starts I can remeber for a pitcher).

12. (142) Vernon Wells (what do you know, another slow starter).

13. (147) Cameron Maybin (bust city).

14. (166) Chien-Ming Wang (I can sense a theme here).

16. (190) Matt Lindstrom (probably the worst WHIP for any closer ever).

17. (195) Adrián Béltre (about as good as I thought he'd be).

18. (214) Phil Hughes (cant even take Wang's role).

19. (219) Armando Galarraga (this guy had a lot of potential once).

Did I mention that the UPL was my first draft of the year, and I wasnt very prepared? On the brighter side, the practice enabled me to draft a much better team in my $$ league where it counts (I'm in a solid second).

Where I look better is the guys I picked up for these scrubs :) --> Bedard, Zobrist, Span, Scutaro, B.Molina, J.Rivera, Lowe, Volstad -- but still, the hole is so big I may never see my way out of it.

Although I already know who I want with the first pick overall next year...hehe

This turned out to be more of a vent than a response...just embrace the good luck thing :)

Chairman said...

Wow, Greg. Is Pauly just calling you out for being lucky? Or does he know something about how this is going to turn out? Don't get me wrong, though, as I do agree with Pauly :-)

Of course, like I always say, better lucky than good.

Greg said...

Heheh. Well, I do feel a bit like Rodney Dangerfield here. ;-)

But yeah, luck is definitely a component to fantasy baseball--and any game for that matter.

And gosh, reading Pauly's own account of his team... dang, I can't help but feel a little bad for the guy. But just a little...

clauff said...

I do remember Pauly laughing at your team during the draft and calling you out on specific draft picks. And while you may have deserved part of that at the time, Greg, I have to ask one question: Who's laughing now?