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:
|10.||Muddy Mush Heads||60.5||0||3||13|
|12.||Hats for Bats||49.5||0||11||40|
And here's a look at my roster:
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.