We are now through the first third (roughly 9.5 weeks) of the baseball season and by now you should start to have a good feel of what your strengths and weaknesses are on your respective fantasy teams. The team that I have analyzed throughout this column is the one that I care about most, my NFBC main event team. It has been a bit of a roller coaster ride thus far, but a strong week 10 has put us in prime position to make some serious noise, provided that we can correct the weaknesses that I’ll outline later in the article. First, let’s take a look back at week 10 and see how the team has performed thus far.
Though some people don’t believe in doing so, I think that keeping target goals for the season and analyzing how you are doing each week in respect to those targets can be an extremely helpful exercise and can help you realize where your weaknesses are before they are too big to correct.
As you may have read in this column, through the first two to three weeks of the season I could already see a problem developing that we were going to be well short of our necessary target in wins. A lot of people who commented said that it was too early in the season to pay attention to the “pace” that I was on for wins and that it was way too early to do anything drastic like adding lesser double starters to chase wins, yet putting my ratios at risk.
Well, I disregarded most of that advice and proceeded to add double starters as much as possible through the first eight weeks of the season. While this has helped to correct the issue somewhat, we still have a tremendous deficit to overcome.
This past week, we were lined up to have 12 starts from our pitchers and thought we could make some serious headway toward correcting that problem. Through our first six starts of the week we had solid ratios, but only a Jake Peavy victory to show for it. Our six weekend starts were slightly better, giving us wins from Justin Verlander, Ryan Vogelsong and Nick Blackburn. James McDonald and Chris Carpenter pitched well enough in their respective double starts but could not find the win column, neither could Michael Pineda.
For the week we established our highest innings pitched total of the year at 80 innings, with a respectable 3.72 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. This brings our yearly ratio totals to 3.67 and 1.21 respectively, right about where we wanted them to be before the season. Our 62 strikeouts for the week were 14 over the weekly target and puts us 59 over the pace to hit our yearly goal. The four wins that we eked out are on par with the weekly pace, but still leaves us 12 behind where we want to be.
Drew Storen managed to save two games, but also looked shaky at the end of the week. Joel Hanrahan didn’t see a save opportunity the entire week. This leaves us 6.5 saves behind where we would like to be at this point in the season.
On the offensive side of the ledger, things were slightly better in week 10. Again let me reiterate the basic mantra that maximizing at-bats correlates directly with success in this game. We set a new yearly high with 328 at-bats this week and it led to us hitting our goals in every counting category.
Danny Espinosa had a very solid week, hitting three home runs, scoring and driving home five each and also stealing a base. Elvis Andrus also had a monster week hitting .444 with seven runs and RBIs each, while homering and stealing four bases. Carl Crawford, Carlos Beltran, Justin Turner and Corey Hart all had major contributions as well. Heck, even Ryan Raburn who has been dragging down our offense from the fifth outfielder spot all year, managed to hit .250 for the week and hit a grand slam on Sunday.
Perhaps the biggest player on our offense this week wasn’t even on our team the week before. Those of you that have followed this column know that the backend of our outfield has been our biggest weakness this young season. Ryan Raburn and Will Venable were drafted with high hopes and have yet to contribute anything of value (save for Venable’s stolen bases before he was demoted). To counteract this weakness, we have searched the waiver wire high and low all season long looking for someone to step in and provide consistent offensive production. Brad Hawpe struggled early on. Rick Ankiel never really got going. Carlos Peguero hit us a couple of home runs, but hurt our batting average. We even spent $150 FAAB on Brandon Belt a few weeks ago in the hopes that he would play the outfield full time after his return from Triple-A.
Finally, before week 10, the golden opportunity presented itself. We bid aggressively, winning Mike Morse for $206 FAAB. He stepped right in and mashed to the tune of .357 with two home runs, six runs and nine RBIs on the week. If he can keep up that kind of production, our biggest weakness may be solved.
For the week, we managed to hit a very respectable .271, bringing our season average up to .255. We scored 45 runs on the week, which was four over the targeted number but still leaves us 45 behind where we wanted to be. We blasted 14 homeruns on the week which easily bested our weekly goal, but again leaves us trailing 17. We destroyed our RBI target by driving in 63 runs on the week! This helped to lower our deficit there all the way down to 16. We also managed to steal eight bases this week, which puts us only two behind where we need to be.
Going forward, our biggest concerns are obviously wins and runs scored. Saves may also become an issue, and we’ll need to find a third closer at some point during the season. The past few weeks the power has started to come around to erase the deficits there, so that’s not as big of a concern.
Nick Hundley will return from the DL this week and rejoin Russell Martin in our catching tandem. The Humberto Quintero/Eli Whiteside tandem didn’t do a whole lot in Hundley’s absence so we anxiously await his return.
Our infield has been more or less solid all year with Ryan Howard, Espinosa, Andrus and Michael Young. Justin Turner has done a solid job occupying our middle infield spot, but Ty Wigginton has been swinging a hot bat the past two weeks. He’ll step in for Turner for at least the first period as he plays four games to Turner’s three. Justin Morneau still starts as our corner infielder, but this is one position that continues to worry me greatly. Not only has he continued to struggle, but the power has just not come back and he’s now battling another slew of ailments. In a league this deep you can’t just easily find someone to replace his possible production, but he has been a huge detriment to the team thus far.
Vlad Guerrero continues to hold down our utility slot and has done pretty much what we expected from him. Our outfield for this week looks like Crawford, Hart, Morse, Raburn and new addition Xavier Paul. Beltran fouling that ball off of his shin on Sunday scared me a bit, and though he’s listed as day-to-day, I only expect him to play a maximum of two games in that series.
This leaves Beltran, Turner, Venable, Belt and Lonnie Chisenhall as our bench players for this week. Having guys with flexibility on the team like Wigginton, Turner, Young and Raburn has been extremely helpful in maximizing our at bats to this point.
Our pitching decisions were pretty easy for this week. Storen and Hanrahan are obviously in as our only closers. Matt Garza, Scott Baker and Pineda each go twice, so they have to be in as well. Verlander, Carpenter and Vogelsong have all pitched well lately and deserve to be out there.
This leaves our only decision coming down to our ninth and final pitcher for the week. Nick Blackburn has pitched well this year and even won a game for us last week. He also left his last start after the fifth inning, and I heard some rumblings that he may even be skipped this turn through the rotation. Likewise, Peavy appears likely headed to the DL so he can’t go for us. By process of elimination this puts our only other healthy arm in James McDonald in there. He’s been hit or miss this year, and hopefully can turn in a decent outing at home against the Mets.
Well, there you have it folks! A look at how our team is shaped and how they’ve performed to his point. With our solid effort last week, we moved up to second place in our league, only four points out of first. If you have any advice or suggestions on how to make our team better, or how I can more effectively manage what we do have, I would love to hear it! Best of luck to all of you in week 11, and I’ll catch you on the flip side.