New England Sons of Sam Horn Season Review
The whole premise of the show .My Name is Earl. is based on it. Basically he thinks he has gotten bad karma because of all of those bad things he has done in life. So he wrote down a list of all the bad things, and is going back trying to make them right, so karma can once again smile on him. So what does this have to do with the SL? People have written things about the .Apba gods., and how if you piss them off, they will come back to haunt you. Well, I haven.t written a season review since my last Spit Cup. Coincidence? Maybe. But I would rather type a few words than risk the possibility of aggravating the gods. I came close to the playoffs last year. If I had written a season review the previous year, maybe that would have pushed me the one game I needed to get over the top, I just don.t know. If it takes a silly document like this to knock me back into the playoffs, then I will do it. Wouldn.t you?
I finished the regular season with an 83-79 record. Most seasons, that is good enough to make the playoffs. After losing the one game playoff to Dave, that record turned out to be only good enough for last in my division. When I recall this team, I will think of a team that was very resilient, but one that I never got comfortable with, and somehow they never lived up to (my) expectations.
I drew #5, which I was pretty happy about. I don.t recall exactly how I thought the draft was going to go, but I thought it was mostly going to be Bonds and pitching in front of me, with maybe another position player picked too. Basically I was thinking my choice was going to be Beltre or Peavy. The way it ended up going, I was more than happy with having Santana fall to me. Like I tell Steve, it was a no brainer at that point. Of the eight guys that were picked immediately after Santana, I would have taken any one of them if still available to me in the 2nd round (although I don.t recall if I wanted Berkman or not). So I ended up taking Beltran to seal my fate as a last place ball club. More on that later.
I thought I invested heavily in starting pitching, with 3 of my first 5 picks. I did not put much stock into relief pitching, taking my first in the 7th, and only 2 through 12 rounds. I waited too long for my second corner outfielder, although it may have really worked out for me (again, more on that later). I picked 3 catchers between rounds 14 and 19, which may have been good, or may have been too much, I don.t know.
I thought I had floundered around .500 for most of the season, never going more than 5 games over, or 5 games under. Upon further review, I actually hit 10 games over at 28-18 (only to go 2-10 in my next 12 to bring me back to the pack). And my season low appears to be at 3-5, so that means that I then had a 25-13 stretch there, to put me 10 games over, and probably thinking that would be how the rest of the season would go. Far from it. I would keep getting in streaks where I would get to 3 or 4 games over, only to be pounded back to .500, usually by Ken, or Graham. Dave also administered some of the hurts, and combined with Ken, it is tough to win your division (or wild card) when you keep losing to guys in your own division. I ended up going 21-28 in my division. All I needed to do was even that out, and I would have been in the playoffs, but that didn.t quite happen.
Season Highlight: Facing Dave in game 158. We were in an identical tie, 81-76 going into that game. He had John Thomson pitching, arguably one of the top starters in the league. I had Kevin Brown, one of the worst starters. Dave got 4 runs early, but I slowly came back, and even briefly took a 5-4 lead in the 7th, before he tied it in the bottom half. We go to extras. In the 12th, he brings in Juan Rincon, boasting an 18-2 record and a miniscule 2.55 ERA. A single and 3 walks later, and I have the lead. Bottalico works a 1-2-3 bottom half (to make his record 7-0) for the New England victory.
Season Lowlight: Later that same evening. Dave lost 2 of 3 to Ken. So my magic number was 2 with 4 games left, plus Dave had one game left. I think I was in a situation very similar to the one Dave found himself in 2001, where Ken came back to when at the end. Anyways, Ken beat me all 3, which put me and Dave in a virtual tie again at 82-79. He won his next game against Ken, and then I won mine. That was Clemens, with his back against the wall, throwing 6.1 of shutout ball to force a game 163. But please note, the game 163 was not the lowlight, rather it was losing those three against Ken. Those losses were unforgivable.
Game 163: Still the same evening. Brown versus Thomson again. Brown threw his best game of the year. Three consecutive shutout innings! Sheffield led off the game with a single off Thomson. He got thrown out stealing, and I never managed another hit. Alou got a 5th inning walk, but there were no other baserunners for me. Which was fine until the 7th, as Dave hadn.t scored either. And I had Cordero pitching. He was 9-4, 1.78 with 11 holds and 12 saves. None of that meant anything though, as Cordero gave up 2 runs for the loss.
A three headed monster. LoDuca would play against teams that didn.t steal much. Burke against weaker starters and a lot in division. Molina when I needed to stop another team.s running game. Fine in theory. The problem was LoDuca and his poor throwing arm had to start 40 games, and that would be with me never substituting at catcher. Well that wouldn.t happen, as Molina can.t be expected to bat in late innings, in a close game. Plus his defense would be needed for LoDuca to try and control a baserunner in a close game. In the second half of the season, I clearly had to pick my spots for who started against whom. It was a good plan in theory, I just shorted myself some by having to play LoDuca and his poor arm too much.
Combined offensive stats were not so good for this unit. A .242 average with .284 obp and .340 slugging. They had 33 doubles and 8 homers, with 51 runs and 64 RBI. Nothing to write home about, but serviceable as the number 9 hitter in the lineup. Defensively
Teixiera was a huge disappointment. His .620 OPS thru 57 games was unbearable, and was traded to Keith. I think Keith traded just to try and shake up his lineup, but Teixiera didn.t perform much better for him (although his power numbers went up). Sexson came over in the trade. He was only able to play 12 of my remaining 100 games, so even though he played well, he had very little impact. I think he had a 2 homer game against Greg at which point Greg said that no matter what team Sexson was on, he killed Greg.s team every year. I think we can all empathize with that comment.
Sean Casey moved from DH to 1B after the trade. He was a solid performer all season, finishing in the top 5 in the league in hits, batting average and doubles. He batted anywhere from 2-6 in the lineup, usually 2nd or 3rd, which makes the following numbers a bit puzzling. In 147 games he had but 66 runs and 64 RBI. With the very solid offensive numbers he put up, and batting mostly in prime spots, he neither drove in, nor scored many runs. I would guess that he was a casualty of poor offensive flow in my lineup, and was more of a .move the guy over a base. type of guy than a .drive them in. kind of guy. Certainly batting second after Mora he was able to move him around a lot, and his own speed may have been preventing him from eventually scoring. I don.t know, it just seemed a bit odd.
For the second straight year I drafted Durham, who had game restrictions. I considered him to be a decent offensive performer for 120 games, and one that wouldn.t clog up the basepaths. After a strong start that saw him batting some leadoff, he then floundered some the rest of the season. At the end, I even had his defensive sub Hudson starting in front of him. In hindsight, Hudson in the 21st round was a very good pick, and Durham in the 12th was a very bad pick. Ironically, Glavine was the next guy picked after Durham. It had been about 50 picks since the previous starter had been taken, (Graham taking Buehrle to end the 6th) and everyone was thinking about him, but nobody could pull the trigger, until Matt did in the 12th. Anyway, I think I would have been significantly better served by taking either Glavine, or one of the two 14GZ relievers that went next, and then pair Hudson up with some combination of Bellhorn, or Freel.
Izturis was the first pick of the 27th round, and was drafted to just play a few games for Rollins in the first 40, only to be dropped after that. Once I found out that Matt wanted him (a better alternative to Larkin), I tried to trade him, but I had already told him I was dropping him, so he figured he would try his luck in the free agent draft. But Izturis had played 19 of the first 40, so I thought I would miss him. I really didn.t.
Rollins. Not so good. His numbers paled in comparison to the 9s that were picked after him, Wilson and Vizquel. In spite of his poor numbers, in sharp contrast to Casey, he had quite a few RBI. 69 to be exact, which put him 2nd on my team. If they were in key situations or not, we cannot tell though, so he can.t be labeled a clutch hitter. Plus he may have had many more runners in scoring position than Casey, we will never know. But all things considered, he has to be considered another bad pick.
Basically this was my position where I got most of my offensive production. Granted these guys also played DH, and Sheff played OF too, but Mora, Glaus and Sheffield combined for some very good offensive numbers. They had 83 doubles, 54 homers, 130 walks, 150 RBI and almost 200 runs scored, in about 1300 PA for me. Mora batted a lot of leadoff, until Sheffield came over to take the top spot, and he then moved to 2nd. Glaus mostly batted 4th or 5th, and was a consistent run producer. They were all poor defensively (3s), but Sheffield never showed it, having no errors in his 40 games.
I thought Glaus was a very good pick in the 20th round. I remember starting in round 16, I had decided I was going to take either him or David Wright. I kept putting them off, and I was a bit surprised that nobody else was taking either of them. I just planned on taking whichever of them was left after the other one was picked. Finally the time was right, and I took Glaus. I was surprised that nobody picked Wright until Dave got him in the free agent draft. I still consider Wright the reason that Dave finished ahead of me.
Mora was a tough call. I grabbed him in the 4th thinking he was probably the best offensive position player remaining (not 1B or DH). His 141 games played was a bit of a restriction, but I thought I would be able to work my way through it. I have no regrets with this pick. Ken said it was the right one for that time, and for my team, so that is what I am going with.
I went into the season having Hollandsworth play against the tough righty starters, Byrnes against lefties, and Mabry against all others. Byrnes had many games available, so he could be there for pinch running duties, and Mabry had my best OF arm, and could also play 3B in a pinch. Hollandsworth was my offensive LF. Well, Hollandsworth struggled out of the gate. He never picked it up until late in the season, and was a big disappointment. He also had a very long stint on the DL. Mabry performed decently for me, but I didn.t think he was capable of much better, and went to Keith.s team in the trade. Oh by the way. He put up ridiculous numbers for Keith. Byrnes played better than expected for most of the season. Deserved to get most of Hollandsworth.s AB (but didn.t). Sheffield also played here some.
I didn.t invest much into this position, picking the guys in the 16th, 17th and 23rd rounds, so I probably got a good return on my investment (if you look at it that way, right now, Mabry was probably the steal of the draft)
Alou almost single handedly kept me in the race for the first 117 team games. At that point he was an MVP candidate. He was hitting .279 with 39 doubles, 32 homers and 90 RBI. He struggled through the last 45 games, with 5 doubles, 7 homers, 21 RBI and hit about .200. Still good enough for 11th in the MVP voting, but obviously a big letdown from his outstanding start. He was also in difficult position for missing games. In the second half of the season, I suffered long injuries to Hollandsworth, Glaus and Mora. I considered these guys to be some of my top offensive performers, and couldn.t see myself sitting Alou and one of those guys at the same time. So it ended up with him sitting out the final 5 games of the season (2-3). I was OK with it at the time, because I was well aware of how poorly he had been playing. But on the other hand, I am an APBA purist. I know that every time he plays, he has the potential to be a good hitter. That is what hurt the most for those games. So as it turns out, he had a torrid first two thirds of the season, a horrible final third, and ended up just about right as expected, with an OPS of (-.084) as compared to MLB. Throw in his 22 OF assists (4th in the league), and you got yourself a good 6th round pick.
I took no starters between rounds 5 and 24. Looking for the possibility of at least two complete games out of my three good starters at the front end of a series, knowing full well that I would use a lot of pen in the last 2 games. Let.s dissect their seasons, starting at the top.
Santana, first round, 5th overall. He ate up the innings (10th most ever). He struck out a lot of people (4th most ever). Led the league in CG, and was near the top in QS. He had 19 starts that he struck out 10 or more. Went 11-8 in his final 19 starts. All this got him was a 15-15 record and a 3.91 ERA. Was hurt by a lack of run support (3rd lowest in the league), and a bunch of homers (2nd most in the league). Upon further review, was it a good pick? Absolutely. Even though I felt let down by my first pick, Pedro, the previous year, and the fact that I hate taking a pitcher in the first round, I felt this pick was a no brainer. He was the top starter available, and still there with the 5th pick. No way I could pass that up. He didn.t shut guys down as much as I would have liked, but the innings that he saved my bullpen were invaluable. Big problem.1-3, 5.70 against Ken (with 7 unearned runs).
Clemens in the 3rd. Basically a tale of three seasons for this guy. He started the year 6-0 2.01. He then lost his next 6 starts, going 8.47 over that span. Then his remaining 21 starts he pitched like he should have all season, going 8-8, 3.75. Still, he came up strong in the end, going 2-0, 1.86 in his final 4 starts, including that pivotal, back against the wall, game 162. Pavano was the last starter picked before him, and they had nearly identical stats. The big difference was Clemens giving up 10 extra homers, probably mostly accounting for the 16 extra earned runs which gave him an ERA more than half a point higher. Take out his bad 6 game stretch, and he was 14-8, 3.16, a strong Cy Young candidate.
Wright/Schmidt in the 5th. I was very disappointed in Wright, through his 12 starts for me. While Clemens was a streaky pitcher for me through 12 games, Wright turned out to be that way all season. His win-loss streaks were 4, 4, 4, 7, 5, 2, and 1. That was it. His only non-multiple game streak came because the season ended. He finished similar to Clemens, at 13-14, 4.31, but made up most of that with Keith. I was tired of him, and kind of made him a throw-in in our trade. It seemed to pay off for me, as Schmidt mostly pitched very well. He finished the season 2nd in ERA (to John Thomson!), mostly due to the fact that he led in HR/9. A solid performer, he made me temporarily think that I got the better of my trade with Keith.
Brown in the 24th. I felt as if the pitchers left were all bad, so I might as well get a Z out of the deal. As it turned out, it didn.t matter. He was pretty bad. He went more than 4 innings twice all season. Once was a complete game blow out win against Graham, which is ironic, since Graham dominated me all season. He also pitched well in game 163 against Dave, throwing a shutout for his required 3 IP. Including that game, he only went 3 IP or more 6 times. He ended up going 1-10. As little as he pitched, that meant that my offense (or lack of it) has to shoulder some of the blame. He left most games in the first three innings, and apparently 10 times he was already trailing. He usually didn.t give up more than a run or two, but that means that my team was a) already losing and b) never came back from that deficit. So he was a bit of a hard luck pitcher, with a record probably much worse than he deserves. On a personal level, I want to thank Kevin for the years of service. He is number 2 on the all time win list. He was on my Spit Cup winning teams in .96 and .99, and my President.s Cup team in .98. I of all people should have given him a better send off.
Greinke in the 26th. Once again, I thought an L was something I could try to live with, and work my way around, considering he had a Z, and I knew he would get limited innings. At the bottom end of the rotation, is there really much difference between all these guys? Anyways the best thing about Greinke was that he really didn.t pitch very much. Only Brown and 2 other guys had less innings. His numbers, other than homers were mostly similar to Brown. Still, like I said earlier I wish I would have pulled the trigger on Glavine earlier. Special nod here to Rusch, my 6th starter. In his one appearance he gave up 1 run in a complete game victory. His current season with the Cubs has me dreading hearing his name, but he gave me one good game last year, and I am happy about that.
This can be summarized in the phrase .you get what you pay for.. I got my first reliever, Cordero in the 7th round. Three more guys in rounds 11-15, one guy late, and a 6th at the free agent mark. Most people invested heavier (Bob, in the extreme, had 5 guys before I got my third). The end result was my team in the middle, or near the bottom of most relief categories. The only thing contradicting this, naturally, was blown saves, in which I was second, 1 behind the leader. The plan here was that with my top end heavy starting rotation, I wouldn.t need as much bullpen help. It pretty much seemed to work that way, and I have no complaints about that.
Individually, Cordero stood out far above the rest. He led in relief ERA, and in lowest inherited runner scoring pct. He won 9 games, saved 12, and had a 1.84 ERA, far better than my next best reliever. Takatsu started out strong, had a miserable middle part, and a strong finish. Mahay was consistently pretty good, but seemed to give up a lot of key hits and/or homers. Bottalico was my free agent pickup.mostly just to fill innings. That is all he did well, plus scavenging 7 wins without a loss. Wagner was my only Z in the bullpen, and I was not able to count on him most of the year. He had a few series. where he couldn.t get anyone out. Romero was another innings eater, who in spite of his G rating, gave up 22 homers. I didn.t expect much out of him, but I certainly didn.t expect him to give up homers that frequently. If I had to grade my pen, I would give them a C. They mostly did what was expected of them, based on draft position.
Obviously I haven.t said anything about Beltran yet. Not really sure where to go with that. Basically I blame him for me not making the playoffs. A little more production from him, and I think I would have been a shoo-in. His SL production was over .200 less than MLB. That includes his ISO being about 75 points below.
What was worse was that he disappeared down the stretch, which was when I needed him most. He had one homer in the final 45 games. One homer! This is for a guy that in MLB averaged one homer every 18 plate appearances. So in that 45 game stretch, he should have had close to 10. And it wasn.t like the G and H pitchers were turning his homers into doubles either, as he only had 7 of those during the same time period. Very frustrating for a manager when your second round draft pick disappears. I wasn.t expecting much from him, but I thought he would give me more than actually did.
One of the problems with him was where to bat him in the batting order. Because of his rare combination of power and speed, yet an uncanny ability to not got on base, really made it difficult to find a spot for him. First? His .286 OBP really made it tough to bat him there. His speed would have been great at the top of the lineup, but he was rarely on first. Second? More of a possibility, as his power was based on people being on base in front of him. But still, that guy would be on only about one third of the time, leaving Beltran a good candidate to lead to a one two three inning. Anyways, you get my drift. I was most comfortable batting him 6th where a lot of times he would have guys on in front of him, or he could get himself in scoring position for the bottom guys. But that sucks for a second round draft pick, something I may not have thought all the way through when I drafted him.
Should I have expected more from him? Taking a look at his history in the SL, probably not. He had a pretty good season for Greg in 2002. Other than that his 4.2 runs created per game for me were right on pace with all of his other seasons. True, he did win a gold glove, and almost led the league in steals, but still.. Here is what I knew when I drafted him. 1)Solid defender that could play almost every game in CF 2)Excellent base runner/stealer 3)He wouldn.t hit much for average, but he could walk, and had a lot of power dependent on guys being on base in front of him 4)Had not too good of a history in the SL 5)My first pick was a pitcher, so I had no other offensive players at this point 6)He probably would not survive the swing to make it back to me. So knowing those things, should I have picked him there? I still don.t know if it was the right thing.
Still, it was a fun season. I made an 11 game improvement on my previous dismal season. It was my first back to back seasons of not making the playoffs since 95A and 95B (95B I finished in a tie and then lost the one game playoff. I then played very well in 95C and won the Spit Cup in 96, so I think that bodes well for 2006). The season was long, but it was highlighted by Steve.s 88 games in a three day weekend at my house. That was a lot of fun. I keep saying this, but the league keeps getting tougher and tougher. That is a good thing. And still lots of fun, which is most important. I just need to find my way back into the playoffs..