I want to be SMART-er! Don’t’ we all, you ask? Well, I hope so. Of course, loyal readers get the reference to the SMART system Rick Wolf and I employ in our expert leagues. Don’t get me wrong, we did pretty well – 2nd, 3rd, 3rd and 5th in 12 and 13 team leagues filled with the best players in the world. However, had we been SMART-er, there results could have been special. [Yes, my home league team was more rancid than cheese left out for a month but I played that without Rick so what would you expect?]. Without further adieu, here are some lessons to be learned from my mistakes that may help when it comes time for draft prep 2012.
Carl Crawford: Relying heavily on Crawford was a mistake and a big one. Yes, he had a great track record and yes he is firmly in his prime. However, I should have seen the grave risk that he could wilt under the pressure of his new HUGE contract and fail to adapt to the bright lights ofBoston after playing in baseball backwater inTampa (those inTampa should not be offended as there is no argument that the stadium is a joke). I failed to follow my own advice – avoid risk with big money auction bids or early round picks. Spending $38 bucks on Crawford in Tout Wars was just inexcusable. There is almost no way to win when you spend that kind of money and get .255, 11 HR and 18 SB. Lesson learned. [Note, of course there are players who have big years in their first year with a new team. However, more often than not, there is a sharp drop-off as they adjust. So, feel free to carp about how Adrian Gonzalez had a good first year inBoston if you want, but you have been warned].
Mark Teixeira: Ok, you know I loveTex and would want him on any real world team as he is just magic with the glove, switch hits, plays hard and puts up the power numbers year after year. However, another key rule of roto success is to protect batting average. As good asTex is, I should have seen the possibility of a sub .250 average and bid accordingly. Tex’s average went from .308 in 2008 to .292 in 2009 to .256 in 2010. So, was it a surprise that he hit .248 in 2011? Of course it wasn’t. Yes,Tex hit for great HR and RBI numbers again. However, $30 bucks at a deep position for production in three categories plus and major damage to a fourth is not smart spending. Lesson learned.
B.J. Upton: Hope is not a management strategy. I cannot take credit for this truism as it is one Rick constantly (and quite rightly) hammers. However, that is the mistake we made with B.J. Upton. Yes, the 29 year old stole 36 bases and jacked 23 dingers. However, he hit a sorry and category killing .243. Having hit .241 and .237 in the two previous years, expecting anything above .250 was hope, not strategy and certainly not SMART. The lesson here is simple. Feel free to play a hunch for a comeback from players you get toward the end of the draft or who you can roster for a deep discount. However, paying full $29 value based on hope will just lead to disappointment.
Matt Garza/Ricky Nolasco: I know Garza had a good year. However, the T in SMART stands for team. There is no excuse for drafting two keystone starters who would toe the rubber for bad major league teams. It really should have come as no surprise that they won only 10 games each (or in other words, one game less than CC Sabathia alone). It is ok to pick one cornerstone pitcher from a weak team when you are confident the ratios and ks will be there. Not two. Bottom line, pay a bit less for starters on bad teams.
As much fun as it is to beat myself up, there are also lessons to be learned from things one did right. Here are a few (plus this will help my roto self esteem):
Aaron Harang: Some ballparks are just nice to pitchers. And then there is Petco (aka “pitcher’s paradise”). Hurlers with less stuff and far less grit than Harang have gone toSouthern California and resurrected their careers. Stated another way,San Diego is a good place to gamble cheap on pitching (not to spend big bucks because wins will be hard to find). We paid $4 for Harang in LABR NL and got a 3.77 ERA and 14 wins for our investment. Again, great pitchers’ parks are good places to place small bids – especially if you have hurlers on good teams anchoring your staff.
Hunter Pence: Entering his age 28 season, Pence had averaged 25 HR, 83 RBI and 14 SB over the previous three seasons. Thus, here was a very safe place to invest. Would he explode inHouston and become Joey Votto? Nope, didn’t think so. Again, I repeat, when investing big auction money, do it on safe predictable players. Pence was that guy. And, not surprisingly, he delivered the stats we counted upon: 22 HR, 97 RBI and while he stole only 8 bags, he hit a strong .314 to make up for the drop in steals. Lesson: invest in safe, prime of career, established track record players when investing big at the auction table.
Mark Trumbo: We picked up the Angels slugger in early March in LABR-AL for just a buck and boy did he pay off – 29 HR, 87 RBI and 9 SB to boot. The lesson here is look for opportunity. The news was already out that Kendrys Morales would not be able to start the season (and there was real question about being able to play 1b). Add in the fact that Trumbo hit 36 jacks and knocked in 122 in AAA in 2010 and you had power + probable opportunity. Bottom line lesson here – look for opportunity and huge upside when filling in the back end of your roster.
Yunel Escobar: Sometimes things just go wrong. Sometimes good players have bad seasons. When you see a player with an established track record of performance in his prime take an inexplicable dive in performance without injury, you should see opportunity. Yunel entered his age 28 season after stinking up the joint in 2010 with a .256 avg and just 4 HR. However, in the three seasons leading up to 2010, Escobar hit .299; .288 and .326. So, was it such a surprise that he rebounded to hit .290 playing every day inToronto? No. Those who saw the opportunity got a very productive undervalued player at a scarce MI position. Look for those same inexplicable drop offs when studying for 2012.
And now, what I am sure his parents have been waiting for, Schultz says (for the final time in 2011):
It seemed like the entire season was a prelude for the last three hours of the final day. It also was a 162 game set up for The Week That Was' longest running feature: THE ALL-SCHULTZ AWARDS.
THE GOOGLE/FACEBOOK ALL-STARS: Sometimes a simple idea turns into a multi-million dollar cash cow. This team is made up of those players that were selected to play modest roles on everyone's team and, more likely than not, helped lead your team to a championship. They didn't cost much but paid huge dividends.
C Alex Avila (DET) - In just one season, Avila nearly equaled his stats from the previous two. Showing patience and a power stroke he's never demonstrated he possessed, Avila hit 19 HR, drove in 82 and flirted with .300
1B Mark Trumbo (ANA) - Supposed to be a place holder for Kendrys Morales; flirted with Rookie of the Year status once Morales was shelved for 2011. Can't sneeze at 29 home runs.
2B Ben Zobrist (TB) - Very few surprises at 2B this year. Zobrist regaining his 2009 swing was one of them.
SS Asdrubal Cabrera (CLE) - People forgot about his 2009 breakout season due to his injury plagued 2010. With 25 HR, 92 RBI and a legitimate MVP candidacy for the first half of the season, the heart of the Tribe made those who remembered him quite happy.
3B Emilio Bonifacio (FLA) - Very few pleasant surprises at 3B this year. Stepping up after the Hanley Ramirez implosion, Bonifacio batted an impressive .296 with 78 runs and 40 steals. His 5 homers and 36 RBIs were just icing on the cake.
OF Curtis Granderson (NYY) - In raising his average up to .267 from the sub .250s of the past two seasons, Granderson nearly doubled his output in every relevant roto-category. No one expected this roto-MVP season.
OF Melky Cabrera (KC) - Shuffled to the Royals after a disappointing year in Atlanta, Cabrera blossomed. Perennially a $1 filler, Cabrera raked at a .305 pace with 18 HR, 87 RBI and swiped 20 bases.
OF Lance Berkman (STL) - Left for dead on the side of the Major Deegan after an unimpressive stint with the Yankees, Berkman not only failed to injure himself in the outfield (as projected), he found the fountain of youth - his .301 31 HR, 94 RBI an echo of his Astros heyday.
SP James Shields (TB) - Even the Rays didn't seem to want Shields on their team this year. Shields didn't seem to care posting a 2.82 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 225 strikeouts, 16 wins and 11 complete games. Clayton Kershaw numbers at a fraction of the cost.
RP Drew Storen (WASH) - At the start of the season, Jim Riggelman wouldn't commit to the rookie as his closer; by its end, Davey Johnson had no problems with it. Braving idiotic trade rumors concerning the Twins, the Nats hurler finished with 43 saves and a neat 1.02 WHIP.
DH Travis Hafner (CLE) - When healthy, Hafner seemed like the clutch hitting Pronk of old. Sadly, he was only around for half the season. Nonetheless, he provided better numbers that his cost. Homing for the Tribe aside - you could fill Mike Morse in here - who saw that season coming?
THE 5-TIMERS TEAM: Remember Steve Martin, Elliot Gould and Paul Simon welcoming Tom Hanks to the 5-Timers club? Yes, we here at The Week That Was remember 20 year old SNL skits. This team is made up of players who made the leap from savvy investments to legitimate roto-stars that will unlikely come cheap ever again.
C Mike Napoli (TOR) - Freed from his platoon with Jeff Mathis, the unleashed Napoli mashed 30 homers while hitting .325. Don't look up Mathis' numbers, they make Mike Scioscia look terrible.
1B Paul Konerko (CHI) - Less a rise to a new level but more of an apology for thinking he's slipped. After a couple dreadful season, Konerko regains his standing as one of the most dependable first basemen in the AL.
2B Neil Walker (PIT) - As noted above, an uneventful year at 2B. At a position where your are either a Pedroia or a Schumaker, Walker showed that he will be reliably consistent .275 with 15 HR, 80 RBIs going forward. As the Pirates improve, so will Walker's numbers.
SS J.J. Hardy (BALT) - Playing his first (mostly) healthy season in 4 years, Hardy showed the power stroke that made him one of the Brewers better prospects. With 2011, he proved that when healthy, homers will happen.
3B Pablo Sandoval (SF) - It's amazing what dieting can do. Even while battling a broken hand and sore shoulder that made him abandon switch hitting, Kung Fu Panda still went for 23 HR, 70 RBI and .315 while playing for an anemic offense. He's one of the elite 3Bs moving forward.
OF Matt Kemp (LA) - This is the leap we've all been waiting for. After showing flashes and glimpses of his superstar potential, Kemp unloaded for 39 HRs, 126 RBIs, hitting .324, scoring 115 runs and stealing 40 bases for a terrible team. Albert who? Kemp may now be the most coveted asset in roto-ball.
OF Jacoby Ellsbury (BOS) - Singlehandedly, he nearly saved the Red Sox disappointing season. Always a speedster, he matched his 39 steals with an amazing 32 HR, 105 RBI, .321. Good luck getting him cheap ever again.
OF Justin Upton (ARZ) - Since debuting as a teenager, the other Upton brother has slowly been emerging as one of the more dependable OF options. In 2011, he put together his most complete season to date with 31 HR, 88 RBI, 21 SB, 105 R and .289. He will no longer fly under the radar.
SP The Texas Rangers staff - Without a single name to salivate over, CJ Wilson, Colby Lewis, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland and Alexi Ogando may not be roto-gold but they are far from roto-Kryptonite. In the same way that you can take a Cardinals pitcher safe in the knowledge that Dave Duncan is helming the ship, you can cherry pick Rangers starters.
RP John Axford (MIL) - In mid August, Axford looked to be on shaky ground. However, 46 saves later, Axford may be one of the more dependable closers in baseball. K Rod surely isn't taking his job over the winter.
DH Jose Bautista (TOR) - Just wanted to hold a little support group here. Yes, no one saw him coming in 2010 and none of us thought it would happen again in 2011. It doesn't make us bad people.
THE ALL DOPPELGANGER TEAM: When you look at this team, they seem a championship squad, full of talent and gaudy statistics. Upon closer examination, you realize that they only give off such an appearance and that there's something evil inside. These players killed teams this year. It wasn't pretty.
C Joe Mauer (MIN)/Jorge Posada (NYY) - Hard to choose between the two. Mauer, a former batting champion, battled mysterious bilateral leg weakness and when he returned couldn't really hit for power or average. Posada? He just stunk.
1B Justin Morneau (MIN) - Even when you discount the injuries, Morneau's half season of .227 with 4 HRs crippled some teams expecting more. Begs the question of whether roto-owners would have better off if he pulled a Kendrys and skipped the season all together.
2B Gordon Beckham (CWS) - Remember when he finished 2010 with a flourish? Well, you would have better off not knowing as he followed it up with a .230, 10 HR, 44 RBI. Beckham becomes the guy that will likely become a superstar on someone else's team - likely the guy who doesn't pay attention and recalls good things being said Beckham.
SS Hanley Ramirez (FLA) - Even before the injury, Ramirez was terrible. Drafted/acquired in roto-land with dreams of Jose Reyes numbers with more power, Han Ram fizzled, hitting .243 with 10 HRs before opting out of 2011 with shoulder surgery.
3B Alex Rodriguez (NYY) - This one is the Schadenfreude special. Who doesn't like watching ARod fail? Injuries slowed down the Yankees 3B this year as he produced numbers well below his norm. New York fans can rest easy though, he was 7 more years on his contract to get better.
OF Carl Crawford (BOS) - .255, 11 HR, 56 RBI, 65 R and 18 SB. If you don't think these numbers scare the living daylights out of every Red Sox fan, you're crazy. If you don't think the roto-owner who picked him in the first round or spent $35 at auction on him feels the same way, you probably should be reading a different site. May I suggest Slate.
OF Ichiro Suzuki (SEA) - At 37, one of the game's all-time best contact hitters may be starting to fade. .272 with 40 steals and 47 RBIs may be serviceable from a lead off hitter, more is always expected from Ichiro and this is the first season he really didn't deliver.
OF Jason Bay (NYY) - The former slugger's time in Flushing has not gone well. Once again , Bay failed to remain healthy and when he did, failed to capitalize on hitting amidst Carlos Beltran, David Wright and Jose Reyes. A horribly disappointing year.
SP Francisco Liriano (MIN) - The improvement shown in 2010 was illusory. Liriano seems unlikely to ever regain the skills he showed in his rookie year. Even his no-hitter this year was painful to watch as he walked the ball park to make it happen. He's destroyed the hopes of any who believe(d) in him.
RP Carlos Marmol (CHC) - With his 10 blown saves, Marmol did damage to every Cubs starter - costing them win after win - while doing nothing to help himself. Some relievers just aren't cut out to be closers - Marmol is one of them.
DH Adam Dunn (CWS) - If Ozzie Guillen requested that Dunn be given a full body scan to see if aliens had taken possession of him, the Sox would have at least thought about it before realizing Ozzie's insane, wouldn't they? .159 with 11 HRs. Yikes. If the Comic Book Guy worked here, he would give it a "Worst. Season. Ever."
THE 2012 TEAM. Get excited about these guys for next year.
C Jesus Montero (NYY)
1B Paul Goldschmidt (ARZ)
2B Jason Kipnis (CLE)
SS Dee Gordon (LA)
3B Lonnie Chisenhall (CLE)
OF Brandon Belt (SF)
OF Desmond Jennings (TB)
OF John Mayberry (PHI)
SP Matt Moore (TB
RP Jake McGee (TB)
DH Ryan Lavarnway (BOS)
Thanks to everyone for reading throughout the season. See you all in 2012.
Response: Love the teams, the humor and the analysis. Picking Pronk over Papi (who was undervalued in many leagues) is more than a little homer-ism, but who am I to talk?
Final thoughts: It has been a privilege to write for Rotoworld and for all the loyal readers out there. Thank you all for visiting this column week after week.
My final piece of advice for 2011 is to sit back, enjoy the playoffs and the game for the special pastime it is. See you in March in a hopefully SMART-er version of myself.