I don't know what I can say about this team that I haven't already said, in hundreds of emails and phone conversations, during the season, and since. It truly was a roller coaster with this team. They played brilliantly at times, yet would always counter that with a long frustrating stretch that would bring them back to earth. They clearly had some talent, but apparently had enough holes to keep them out of the upper echelon. I suppose the mark of a good team would be how they will be remembered ten years from now. I am guessing that I will still be frustrated by this team. I think it was a significant upgrade from the team that I had the previous season, yet I finished with the same amount of wins. Yes, "frustrating" sums it up.
We spent the majority of the season around .500. I believe the high peak was at game 121, when we were 66-55. We were 4 games under as late as game 74 (35-39), which then gave us a nice run of 31-16, but were back under .500 by game 149, which meant a not so good 8-20 stretch, effectively ending all playoff hopes. We finished strong, winning 6 of the final 7, but again it was a case of too little too late.
My managerial style seems to suggest that I wouldn't have these huge swings. I consider myself a "big picture manager", where I am always viewing the season as a whole. This is kind of a "slow and steady wins the race" philosophy. Obviously we have managers that play the opposite "win at all costs, future be damned". We all know who we are, and which category we belong in. But I am starting to think that maybe my philosophy needs to be tweaked a little. Other than Gregg, the rookie, (great having you aboard this year!) Steve and I now have the longest playoff drought, with no appearances since 2003. Great for the league. Bad for me and Steve.
Typical Lineup 1. Nick Johnson 1B 2. A Rod 3B 3. Ortiz DH 4. Manny LF 5. Kent 2B 6. Winn RF 7. Sizemore CF 8. Lugo SS 9. Pudge C
When I say "typical", I mean it probably happened about 10 times during the season. Ryan Howard was a part time replacement at 1B and DH, and first pinch hitter off the bench. Murton played RF versus most LHP, with Winn moving to CF to sit the platoon challenged Sizemore. Aybar subbed for Kent and Lugo, with A Rod then moving to SS. Larue was Pudge's sub against teams that didn't run much, as I viewed him as being a much better hitter. He actually played a little in LF as well, but that may have been a mistake on my part. Taguchi and Damian Jackson were pinch runners and defensive subs. My notes say that while writing all of these comments that "I see many things that I wish I had done differently during the draft AND during the season". Interesting.
I mostly can't complain about the guys in my lineup. Nick Johnson was the one guy that may have been viewed as"overperforming", but he missed his MLB OPS by about 60, which was by far the closest of anyone on my team. Ortiz may have hit a few more homers than MLB, but walked a bunch less. Kent struggled through the first 100 games, but was actually my team's best hitter after that (stats to follow at the end). ARod, Lugo, Sizemore and Pudge all hit pretty much as I expected they would.
Winn and Ramirez were the most disappointing to me amongst my starters. Manny slumped hard the final 1/3 of the season, to finish with a -.050 iso and a -.200 ops. Winn, a .300 MLB hitter, with a 0 platoon rating should have hit in the .250-.260 area for our league, but finished at .230. May seem like a small difference, but when coupled with the fact that he only had half of his MLB walks, it really hurt me.
Among the bench players, Murton and Howard were pretty much complete flops. Their SL OPS were respectively 339 and 429 below MLB. Granted these are small samples, but it still feels like it could have made a difference somewhere. Larue was a guy that I probably should have given more at bats to, as he hit well in his 200 PAs. Aybar and Taguchi gave me pretty much what I expected in their limited roles.
To this day I think I got some great values here, of which I outlined somewhere else (season preview perhaps?). By this, I mean I thought they would perform well enough based on the cost of their draft position. For posterity's sake, the rotation was:
Peavy 14Z Smoltz 13Z Lackey 12G Lowe 10Z Kazmir 12WG
While not spectacular at all, I thought top to bottom it was pretty solid, and I predicted a 3rd or 4th place finish in starters ERA for the season. It was solid for most of the season. In the final 54 games, it was 5.83, and ensured a 9th place finish for starters ERA. I think I know where I can start my finger pointing.
While Peavy and Smoltz were bad at the end (overworked?), Lackey was pretty bad all season. I certainly envisioned more than 110 innings from him, but he proved from the start that he could not be trusted. He was a 12G just like Beckett for Graham. Lackey got 1 quality start and 0 complete games for the season. Beckett got 10 and 9, in 6 less starts! Granted this was an extreme case, but he was the pitcher in the league most similar. That really hurt me.
I didn't know when the season started, but when I read someone's season preview, I learned that I had the most relief innings available. That included Macdougal, but still I thought I had way more than I would need. Here is who they were:
Cotts 21WH Carrasco 19G Ayala 15Z Torres 15G Majewski 14H Macdougal 13GEach guy brought something to the table, but also had something wrong with him, which usually was why I was able to draft them when I did. Cotts should stop a lot of homers and singles, but would walk many. Carrasco could stop some homers and singles, and eat up innings, but would give up walks. Ayala could stop some singles and walks, but could give up homers. Majewski could stop many homers, but was more susceptible to singles, and would walk guys. Macdougal would stop some homers, but not much else. He would also walk guys. See a trend here? It was a very situational bullpen, and if all things lined up, could have been good. But I apparently was hoping for too many "ifs" to happen. And I really needed a little more out of my starters, as I had to bring in Ayala in the 3rd inning way too often, thus leaving me with no Z pitchers the rest of the game. We finished 6th in relief ERA, and last in inherited runners scored percentage.
A Rod. Not a bad pick in it's own right, but bear with me. The beauty of the pick was essentially (SS-8, 3B-4). This meant I could broaden the scope of my search to include all SS and all 3B, with Alex moving to the other position. This is where I screwed up the draft. I waited too long to pull the trigger during the draft, and ended up with Lugo. A serviceable player, yes, but a SS-8 with no power was not a good fit on a team that realistically was one hitter short of being a great offensive team. I had immediately identified Chipper as the guy I wanted to complement ARod. In spite of his poor performance for Ken, I still wish I could have gotten him. I think he could have made a serious difference to my team. But I was not ready to take him when Ken did, and I paid the price in the end.
At the trade deadline, I couldn't pull the trigger on a deal to get me another quality hitter. I wrote a lengthy piece about this that was lost on my old hard drive at work, but I tried to get Jason Michaels, Placido Polanco, Reggie Sanders, and Michael Young. I was mostly dangling Howard, Kent, Winn and Sizemore. Michaels I thought was the key for me, as I really wanted (needed) another on base guy at the top of my lineup, in front of sluggers ARod, Manny and Ortiz. I am not sure why I didn't get him, but I think it was an unwillingness to part with Winn (who turned out to be "not the player I thought he was"). An addition of Michaels would have given me a much deeper and very solid lineup, and could have made a serious difference, and not getting him probably really hurt me in the end.
I had a five game series against Matt, games 119-123. I won the first three, to give me the aforementioned 66-55 record. Game 4, I sat Manny and lost a one run game in 15 innings. Game 5 I sat Johnson and lost a one run game, with Carrasco and Cotts blowing my lead. This started a streak of losing nine in a row to Matt. Of those nine, six of the first seven were one run games. That really hurts. It is hard to pinpoint a turning point to a season, but I think that 15 inning loss was it for me. Or,
Game 99, versus Ken. Ah, one of my franchise's infamous games. I get three in the top of the 8th off Lidge , to give me a 7-0 lead. Torres and (oops) Macdougal promptly give up 7, and Cotts another in the bottom of the 9th to end it. The fact that I lost the division to Ken by one game would seem to point at this game, but it was still early in the season, and I immediately came back to win the next game, cutting Ken's lead at the time to .5 games. Still it was something that I never should have allowed to happen.
Losing nine in a row to Matt sound bad, right? Well, at one point I lost 10 in a row to Greg. Had I merely gone 9-10 on the season versus Greg, I would have had 87 wins, and a pretty good chance at the playoffs. Luckily most of these losses to Greg came in the middle of the season, when I was otherwise playing very well. Sure, he would sweep a five game series against me, but if I was 6 games over .500 at the time, it wouldn't hurt as much as if was just at .500. But of course, all losses hurt in the end.
Losing 3 of 4 to Dave in games 145-148 was pretty much it for me. We split the first two. Then he wins 17-1 in what sound like a case of me leaving my starter in for the whole game (it wasn't), and wins 7-6 with 2 in the bottom of the 9th to tie and 1 in the 12th to win, off my depleted bullpen. That gave Dave a five game lead over me for the wild card. I had just 14 games remaining, he had just 18. I would cut it to 1.5, when my season finished, but he swept Graham in their final five to win it outright. I did what I could in the end to make it interesting, but he did what he needed to also. I still feel that I had a good team. Even a playoff caliber team. The fact that I didn't make the playoffs just is going to make me review all of my drafting and managerial strategies-which is a good thing-and will hopefully make me stronger in the future.
It was mostly an enjoyable season. While we missed Bob, having Gregg was a welcome addition, and something that will strengthen the league as a whole for ensuing seasons. We played the games at a decent pace, and at the 152 game mark, there was still 7 of the 9 teams that had somewhat reasonable playoff possibilities. That is good for the league, keeping interest up. As usual, I have to say, it is a great league, and one I hope we can keep going strong in the future.OPS for each 54 game segment:
Pudge 541, 748, 565 Larue 561, 721, 796 Johnson 1104, 605, 785 Howard 554, 601, 343 Ortiz 850, 900, 838 Kent 657, 690, 950 Aybar 579, 595, 844 ARod 826, 922, 926 Lugo 689, 519, 605 Taguchi 972, 432, 467 Winn 752, 662, 649 Jackson 733, 192, 385 Murton 422, 709, 594 Sizemore 638, 706, 753 Ramirez 753, 896, 726ERA by 54 game segment:
Peavy 3.72, 3.80, 5.19 Smoltz 2.73, 4.46, 5.75 Lackey 6.58, 4.90, 6.82 Lowe 5.03, 4.99, 5.18 Kazmir 3.25, 6.23, 6.85 Carrasco 2.17, 4.57, 2.18 Cotts 4.28, 1.67, 3.19 Ayala 1.50, 2.68, 3.28 Torres 3.05, 7.19, 2.08 Majewski 2.81, 1.62, 3.99 Macdougal 1.76, 2.60, 5.06Team record by 54 game segment:
29-25 30-24 24-30COMING SOON: A REVIEW OF THE GREATEST SPIT CUP FINALS EVER!