What Hump?   (06/21/01)

The inspiration for this week's Sandbox update is "Young Frankenstein" (pronounced FRAHNK - en - steen).  So what does Mel Brooks' brilliant horror spoof have to do with fantasy baseball?  A couple of things really.  First, every team needs a good set of big knockers.  And secondly, when you're putting your fantasy team together, you always aspire to create something beautiful and awe inspiring, and hope that it's the other guy who put the Aa Bee Normal brain in his creation.

Hearts and Kidneys are Tinkertoys

I'm gonna depart from my usual form and start with the standings.  This will give some foundation for the more specific analysis to follow.
                                   Starting P       Relief P       Hitters FP
Rank  Team                       FP   G   FP/G    FP  G  FP/G    FP    G  FP/G   Total
1     ...Jumanji!               1087  66  16.5   523  61  8.6   2268  694  3.3    3878
2     SF Mock Woodmen            935  73  12.8   405  56  7.2   2494  680  3.7    3834
3     BaseballHQ Bombers        1092  62  17.6   497  69  7.2   2120  689  3.1    3709
4     Sandbox Sports            1090  79  13.8   489  66  7.4   2066  688  3.0    3645
5     Fantasy Baseball HQ       1121  73  15.4   592  73  8.1   1852  687  2.7    3565
6     Dr. Stats Juggernauts     1450  72  20.1   477  63  7.6   1612  664  2.4    3539
7     The Write Stuff           1141  63  18.1   390  60  6.5   1801  678  2.7    3332
8     Desert Dwelling Scalawags 1190  93  12.8   256  59  4.3   1880  681  2.8    3326
9     WSS Hurlers               1130  76  14.9   357  60  5.9   1772  649  2.7    3259
10    Press Room Pundits        1157  80  14.5   288  49  5.9   1789  689  2.6    3234

Normalized to the actual number of games played in MLB, the top 3 are:

Rank  Team                       FP   G   FP/G    FP  G  FP/G    FP    G  FP/G   Total
1     ...Jumanji!               1152  70  16.5   514  60  8.6   2287  700  3.3    3953
2     SF Mock Woodmen            897  70  12.8   433  60  7.2   2567  700  3.7    3897
3     BaseballHQ Bombers        1232  70  17.6   432  60  7.2   2153  700  3.1    3817

I used 60 games played for the reliever because each Sandbox team only gets 140 relief games and 60 games to this point follows that ratio.

The reason I didn't include the 3rd, 4th and 5th place teams here is because they are already ahead of the actual MLB games pace, meaning that their scores probably are better now than they will be at the end of the season relative to the top 3.

Looking at things through the games limit is important in determining just exactly where one stands.   While the regular standings show ...Jumanji! with a 44 point lead, it's actually slightly larger given the games played.  Additionally, since last week, the lead over the then-2nd place Bombers has expanded from 118 points to 169 points; in real terms, it's only 136 points.  The Woodmen had a monster week - 483 points - to take over 2nd place but that is unlikely to continue as I'll get to in a moment.

This coming Monday will mark the completion of 11 weeks of competition.  ...Jumanji! is averaging about 367 points per week, which would put the final tally at a little better than 9500 points, and should be able to continue that pace.

Nice Grouping

The Mock Woodmen should get a boost in production at shortstop when Nomar Garciaparra returns.  Also, Eric Young and Scott Rolen are playing below expectation.  But can Barry Bonds, Luis Gonzales, Paul LoDuca, John Burkett and Josh Towers continue their current pace enough so that when those guys return to form it makes a difference?

As I mentioned yesterday, as good as they are, Bonds and Gonzales are so far ahead of their career norms, their performances to date defy reason.

LoDuca has a good history of hitting for high average in the minors, but has never shown this much power.  In his 8 year professional career, he's never topped 8 homers in a season.  He's got 8 already this season.  Nor has he ever topped a .470 slugging percentage for a full season, even though he's topped it a couple of times in partial seasons in AAA.  This year, he's slugging over .550.

There was a time when John Burkett was very good... well, for one year anyway.  However, Burkett has never been this good at hit prevention.  Batters are hitting just .217 off him so far.  His lowest mark previously was .255, and for the past 4 years, batters have hit over .300 against him.  At 36 years old, he seems an unlikely candidate to suddenly become Greg Maddux.

Like Burkett, Towers has a history of giving up more hits than innings pitched.  What makes him intriguing is what he did in Frederick in 1998.  In 145 innings as a 21-year old in A+ ball, he struck out 122 batters and gave up 137 hits... and only 9 walks.  Rookie pitchers tend to do well their first few starts, so it's hard to predict exactly how they will do over the course of his first year in the bigs.  Based on his minor league record, expect him to continue to be stingy surrendering free passes. But also expect that he'll start giving up more hits - he gave up 204 in 189 innings in 1999 in AA, and 157 in 148 innings last year in AAA.

Quiet Dignity and Grace

The Bombers should get a boost from their catcher's spot when Javy Lopez/Brad Ausmus hit to their ability.  Both players should be top 10 at their position and neither player has been to date.  However, it's hard to imagine the Bombers getting any more production out of any of their other position players.  Jason Giambi, Bernie Williams, Manny Ramirez, Neifi Perez, Rich Aurilia, Roberto Alomar and Sean Casey are at or near career high performance levels.  Aurilia and Ramirez are actually above what they normally produce.  Improving on that level of production or even maintaining it might be tough to do.

His non-Pedro starters have good potential if they can ever get straightened out.  In my pre-season analysis of the effect of the new strikezone, I thought that Darren Dreifort and Freddie Garcia would benefit from the change.  So far, they really haven't.  Each has had a couple of terrific outings, but generally their performance has been as inconsistent as it has been the last couple of years.  I still think they could come around and be very solid.  I'm not as high on Bruce Chen or Russ Ortiz.  Ortiz walks too many batters to be effective over an entire season and Chen still hasn't kicked his gopheritis.  Those are the kinds of problems that prevent talented pitchers from becoming really good pitchers.

He's going to be very popular

In a perfect world, Vlad Guerrero, Carlos Delgado and Bobby Abreu would be hitting up to their expectations.  Guerrero has a reputation of being a second half player.  Over the past 3 years, his batting average and slugging percentages have gone up markedly - 11 and 74 points respectively - after the All-Star break.  Delgado has shown some of the same tendencies, although not as dramatic.  His July and August performances have been somewhat muted by disappointing Septembers.  A closer playoff race than previous years for the Jays might inspire a stronger season-ending performance.  They are definitely a team that can make up ground in the extra head-to-head matchups offered by the unbalanced schedule: last year, the Jays were 7-5 versus the Yanks and 8-4 versus the BoSox.  Abreu also has a history of good second halves, although last year he departed from his modus operandi and was consistently good throughout the season

I'm not sure that any of my players are hitting above their demonstrated level of ability.  Ryan Klesko was hitting this well last year - .316/.405/.625 with 19 homers in the first half - before back spasms slowed him down.  Phil Nevin was hitting as well as he is currently through August of last season before injuries lessened his effectiveness.  Lance Berkman has always been a good hitter, showing the skills of a player capable of hitting .320+ with an onbase of .420+ and a slugging of .600+.  This year is his first opportunity to display those skills full-time.  Cliff Floyd showed similar ability in his minor league days.  He's simply never been healthy enough all season to show it at the major league level.  Ben Davis was this good in the minors once he got adjusted to the level.  This year has been his first real shot at playing regularly in the majors and he's showing exactly what he did in the minors in 1997 in A+ ball, 1998 in AA and 1999 in AAA.  These guys aren't doing anything new; it's just that injuries and lack of opportunities have prevented them from showing what they're capable of on the big stage.

Oh, Sweet Mystery of Life at last I've found you

On the pitching side, I don't think my starters have reached their potential yet.  Kerry Wood is just now starting to show what he can do.  He's given up 2 earned runs or less in each of his last 6 starts.  As soon as he learns to pitch off his great fastball more efficiently - which will occur when Cubs manager Don Baylor starts making Joe Girardi his regular catcher - he should really take off.  After a rough stretch through May, Wade Miller showed signs of coming around in his last start, limiting a hot Rockies' line-up to just 4 hits.  Like Chen, Miller does have a touch of gopheritis, but that could simply be due to playing half his games in one of baseball's most notorious homertoriums.  AJ Burnett and Kip Wells were both studly in the minors and are showing flashes of their immense talent now against major leaguer hitters.  And Matt Morris isn't doing anything surprising; he came into this year with the 3rd best career starting ERA in the majors, behind only Pedro Martinez and Greg Maddux.  So the pieces are here for a starting staff that can average 18-19, perhaps even 20 points a start.

To the lumberyards!

The season is not half done yet but plenty has happened.  Still, there's a long way to go.  In the fantasy realm, most of the grave robbing (also known as waiver pick-ups) has been performed.  When comparing the expected player performances to the actual ones, ...Jumanji! probably has the best chance of the top three teams to maintain or improve it's current pace.

The next month or two will determine whether there is a need to risk a major transference from the doctor to the monster (a trade), or it's time to sit back with a little wine and some sponge cake and enjoy.