Summertime Blues

Bleh.  This has been a very bad last 10 days.  Not only did I have serious computer problems, but my Tout Wars team seems to have gone on strike.  My players have been either injured or lousy, posting a team ERA over 6, a team batting average under .230 and 3 more players to the DL.  But these things happen; most teams go through a stretch where nothing goes right.  But that doesn't mean the season is done, especially when it happens this early.  The key for me is remembering two things:

The first is to knowing what my players can do.  I already have some idea of what to expect out of each player: I had preseason projections or at least general expectations.  It's just a matter of tempering them.  In the case of injury, a guy I may have penciled in for 20 homers (like Mark Quinn) may now only hit 15.  That's no big deal because someone else on my team (like Geronimo Gil, who most predicted would hit 7 homers; I projected 12 and is currently on pace for 18) will exceed expectation in that category to help make up the difference.  I can also pick someone off the wire who could get hot for a week or two and mitigate the damage.  As for a week or two of lousy performance, most of those are accounted for in the projections.  Very rarely do pitchers have a season in which they do not get bombed at least once or twice, or hitters go through a season without a hitless skein.

Which brings me to the second thing, which is to never, ever panic, even when it seems that all my players are betraying me at the same time with lousy play.  This is not easy, especially when my team is dropping in the standings and I have the urge to do anything to stop the bleeding.  Don't.  Every player has funks and most come out of them ok.  Unless I have a significant excess in another category, trading to salvage injuries makes no sense because I will have to re-aquire whatever category I trade away.

The object of trading is to improve the long term production from one or more roster spots; you trade for the season, not because of the week.  Trade because you and another team match up well to help each other or because you think a player on someone else's team is about to get hot or that one of your players isn't as good as the hype.  But not to make up for a non-season ending injury.  Since most leagues allow for a DL or a taxi squad, the injured player doesn't take up an active roster spot while he's out.  He will eventually be back and producing in time so it's just a matter of replacing him during what amounts to an injury-induced slump.  Which is actually less damaging than a non-injury induced slump; at least then, you know the cause and when it's gonna end.

So when someone goes down, even if it's a star player, all I look for is someone who'll give me any production while he's out.  I usually look for hot call-ups.  The scouting reports take a little time to get a round on rookies and in the meantime, Adam Piatt, for example, hit's like the second coming of Chuck Klein.  Once my injured player returns, I have an extra guy I can trade for something I really might need.  Unless you lose a player for the year or for more than half the season, there is no reason to trade to try to make up the loss.

Another important thing to remember, especially this early, is that there is still more than half the season left to play.  Sure, there's the possibility of a strike, but there's nothing you or I can do about that other than stop going to the games.  That's right, stop going to the games.  Watch them on TV.  The owners already have guaranteed money from the TV contracts so that money is already in their coffers.  What isn't in their bank accounts is the gate money from the games.  The owners appear to be doing everything they can to reduce their live audience anyway - why else would they want to contract 2 teams and bad-mouth the game? - so why not just beat them to the punch.  Dry up their gate receipt money and let's see how much we fans can contract.

Anyway, what I started to say was that because of injuries and slow starts, my team is floating at the bottom middle of the pack.  Because they are underperforming so badly, I have a good feeling about their potential.  If everyone had been relatively healthy and/or performing near expectation, I'd be a little worried if I was in the same place in the standings.  But guys like Tony Clark, Damian Easley, Travis Fryman, Cristian Guzman, Robin Ventura and Mark Quinn are hitting well below their career averages.  Since there haven't been any significant rule changes that would be affecting them, nor do they have any debilitating injuries, they are strong candidates for rebound from this point on.  They still might not reach their career averages but they won't likely continue to struggle for very much longer.  The stated goal of 76-79 total points (28-30 in hitting, 48-49 in pitching) by the All-Star break is still possible, but August 1st is a more likely achieved target date.