The Season Ends

One good day never came

All I needed was a couple of steals, or a couple of saves or a few extra runs and I would have won the Tout Wars competition in just my second year of playing in an AL-only league.  But the numbers never came and so my Tout team fell short of the title, finishing in third place, 2 points away from victory. 

In retrospect, there were several contributors to the shortfall that were outside the realm of talent evaluation.  But within the game, injuries ended up the primary culprit.  I tried to build this team to be injury proof, and for the most part I was successful.  Had there only been or two season ending injuries, there's little doubt I would have finished first.  But after losing Doug Glanville, Jeremy Giambi and Greg Colbrunn, the losses of Kevin Mench and Matt Lawton for the final stretch run was the final undoing.  That's how close the race was.

Granted, neither of those guys light up the scoreboard, but the available replacements I was left with offered this:

Name        At Bats   Hits   Home Runs   RBI   Runs   Steals   Average
Magruder      21       5        1         1      2      0       .231
LaForest      27       5        0         3      0      0       .185
Riggs         32       6        0         1      4      2       .187
Delucci       36       5        1         4      3      2       .138
Total        116      21        2         9      9      4       .181

Even as poorly as Jeremy Giambi fared early in the season, his production would have been a significant improvement over what I ended up with.  And before we bury Giambi too quickly, let's not forget that despite the fact that he was announced as the Red Sox starting DH to open the season, he did not actually start 3 games in a row until mid June.  It's hard to work oneself out of a slump with a tear in one's shoulder, but it's only slightly harder than trying to get out of one without getting consistent at bats.  Giambi was asked to do both.

But getting back to Mench and Lawton, only one needed to survive the final month and a half and that would have been enough offense to win.

Name        At Bats   Hits   Home Runs   RBI   Runs   Steals   Average
Mench         125      40        2        11     15      1       .320
Lawton        374      93       15        53     57     10       .248

A half point could have been made up with either 7 more home runs, 11 more RBI, 5 more runs, 2 more steals or .0025 in batting average.  With either one getting 150 at bats, or roughly what they would have gotten with regular playing time over a month and a half...

Name        At Bats   Hits   Home Runs   RBI   Runs   Steals   Average
Mench         150      48        2        13     18      1       .320
Lawton        150      37        6        21     23      4       .248

... my team would have finished at least one spot higher in runs, and either one point higher in RBI (with Lawton) or one point higher in batting average (Mench).  And that would have been enough to win. 

Oh well.

One thing is certain - finding pitching isn't a problem.  Last year, despite my 9th place finish, my team boasted the 3rd best pitching in Tout.  This year, I had the best pitching staff in both Tout Wars and Mixed Nuts.  Early in the season, I said that Mike MacDougal would hold on to his closer's role for most, if not all of the season despite his wildness, that Esteban Loaiza would finish with the best numbers of any of the White Sox starters, that Joe Borowski would be a very good closer all year, and I named Jason Stanford, Jeremy Gonzales, Eric Dubose, Jerome Williams, Wilson Alvarez, Rich Harden and Rafael Soriano as possible decent contributors to their teams as the season wore on.  I also listed others who would do well, but most like Ryan Rupe, Jon Rauch and Brian Falkenbourg were never given a legitimate chance.  Others, like Runelvys Hernandez, succumbed to injury and were unable to fulfill their promise.

I wasn't quite as good with the hitting side of things, although I did score some direct hits with Hideki Matsui, Milton Bradley, Kevin Millar and Travis Lee (although this one looks much more like a work in progress).

So what did I come away with this season?  Besides a bad taste in my mouth from not winning?  Well, I know two things about fantasy baseball.  The first is that you get the most value out of pitching.  It's next to impossible to draft a $1 hitter and at the end up with $30-$40 of production from him at the end of the season.  It's not an uncommon occurrence with pitching.  This year, Esteban Loaiza accomplished the feat in the AL.  In addition, there were half a dozen end-game plays in both leagues who ended up producing $18-$25, including Brandon Webb, Livan Hernandez, Dontrelle Willis, Tim Worrell, Gil Meche and Sidney Ponson.  Pay for your production with hitting, get your value from pitching. 

The second thing I know is that after just my second time playing AL-only, I'm ready to win.  How do I know this?  Because in this year's draft, I left $7 on the table, spent $7 on Jesus Colome in a late round bidding war to get rid of cash and spent $9 on Carlos Febles because I had too much money left over and was running out of second base options in the final rounds.  I think I could get a pretty decent middle fielder next year for that $23.  This year, that much would have been enough for Bret Boone, David Eckstein, Frank Catalanotto, Jose Valentin or Jerry Hairston plus Brian Roberts with money left over.  Any one of them would have been enough to make the difference.  So the second thing I know is that I'll spend my money next draft.

I will post a playoff preview tomorrow morning, but will be taking some time off to work on some publishing projects that are not on the web.  One of them is the 2004 STATS Scouting Notebook, where I will again be analyzing and summarizing the Padres and Expos for next year, both at the major and minor league levels.  However, I will update here sporadically regarding the postseason, the Arizona Fall League and the winter leagues, so check back every once in a while just to see what's new.  Thanks.