As many of you know, I have a bit of a habit. Some would call it an addiction. It's not something easy to shake like heroin or crystal meth. It's fantasy sports, especially fantasy baseball. One of the reasons things have been quiet hereabouts the last week or two is that I have been prepping the draft for two teams. One is the keeper-league Adirondack Black Dogs squad that my brother Mike and I co-own. (The link is to our rather dusty old team web site, with real action photos of fantasy baseball.) The other team is my own squad in the HQ Forum Masters League. That league was started up a few years ago by some of the more frequent visitors in the discussion forums at a fantasy baseball web site that Mike and I subscribe to, BaseballHQ.com. In that 15-team league we draft entirely new teams each year, and each year I give my squad a new alliterative waterfowl-based name.
Previous to the eve of the draft we were the Anatidae TBA, and then on the eve of the draft we announced our 2009 team name: the Loony Loons. (Previous team names have included the Miffed Mallards, the Meek Mallards 2.0 (an in-season rebranding after the Miffed Mallards were in 14th place in mid-May), the Dabbler Ducks, and the Wobbly Wigeons. The league itself is the most competitive top-to-bottom league that I've ever played in. It's run as a bit of a public league on the boards there, in that we report on our progress, moves, etc. We're not Tout Wars or LABR one of the other experts-only leagues, but we're pretty close to a AAA equivalent to their major-league game. In fact, several of our league members do get paid to give fantasy baseball advice. All of this means that I take great pride in having done very well in that league since I joined, so well that just today I was called one of the league sharks. Here are the results to date:
2006, Meek Mallards 2.0 - 2nd place
2007, Dabbler Ducks - 1st place
2008, Wobbly Wigeons - 7th place, 1/2-point behind my mortal rival, Old Tom.
My mortal rivalry with Old Tom probably deserves blog posts of its own, but I think you can see how the 2008 year-end results were entirely unsatisfactory and out of keeping with the level of excellence that we expect here at Patio Boat headquarters. Consultants were brought in, experts were grilled, heads rolled, we applied for a government bailout, and in the long run we ended up blaming our problems on CNBC's Jim Cramer. Ultimately, we decided to solve our problems by jettisoning Matt Millen as a role model and hiring Danica McKellar to be our new general manager, a move I hasten to add that was based entirely on her statistical and mathematical expertise.
The HQ Forum Masters 2009 draft was last night. And if you haven't figured it out by now, this is destined to be the dullest post in the history of Patio Boat because for the rest of this post I am going to tell you about the team that I drafted last night. Get used to it folks, for the rest of the season shortstop Elvis Andrus (Tex) is going to be as much a part of the Patio Boat cast of characters as Katie the Beagle. (Though if I start feeding liver snaps to Elvis, I think we can all agree that I will have gone too far in crossing the worlds.)
Worse yet, rather than give you fresh and original thoughts about my team, I'm about to repurpose content. Since it's a bit of a public league, one of the things we do on that site is to give our post-draft thoughts about how the draft went. And so, without further adieu, here is my annual epic opus on how the draft went and what I thought about my players as I rostered them. In all honesty, you're all excused from reading further. Nothing is duller than reading about somebody else's fantasy baseball team. And unless you know your major-league baseball players or at least something about fantasy baseball, all that follows will quickly degenerate into gibberish.
So why is it here? Well, I'm trying to be reasonably representative of what's on my mind hereabouts, and this was what engulfed my mind last night and for much of the days leading up to the draft.
(We do what is called a "serpentine" draft, which means that my draft position was #14 on the odd-numbered rounds and #2 on the even number rounds. In this league we select our draft positions beforehand, which was its own interesting exercise in statistical analysis and which led me to make an unusual move down the slots to the 14th of 15 spots in the first round.)
The Annual Post-Draft Opus
For the most part this was another "draft for value, trade for need" draft for me, a philosophy that fits well with the #14 slot. I had some things I thought I would pursue, but I didn't plan to force anything. That was just as well because the early disappearance of the reliable and semi-reliable closers made me adjust significantly on the relief-pitching front.
In general, I'm pretty happy with what I brought back from the draft, though there may be a few decisions I wish I could revisit. I'm especially pleased considering that I prepared less for this draft than any of the other HQFM drafts I've been in to date, due to a variety of non-fantasy-baseball-related things. I did, however, get rid of a few "improvements" I made in my rankings for last year's draft, and just more-or-less went back to a simplified version of what I did in 2006-07.
Here's the blow-by-blow (paired, since I was near the turn with just Atavists two picks at the very end between mine):
1.14 Pedroia, Dustin 2B BOS - It sounds as if the abdomen strain should be okay by season's start, and I liked the positional scarcity at 2B. Plus, I felt I could get a good power-hitting bat with my next pick. A bit of a gamble, really, since last year represented his full upside.
2.2 Holliday, Matt LF OAK - I was in a three-way quandry between him, Beltran, and Soriano, and decided to go with a bit of youth and the hope that his skills will translate to the AL at sea level. He felt like a pretty solid building block here, and the most reliable of the options. I thought Beltran had too much downside potential in this slot, but I thought really hard about Soriano. Ultimately, Soriano felt to me like an injury waiting to happen. He'll undoubtedly lead the league in everything this year. Beltran and Soriano went with the next two picks.
3.14 Peavy, Jake SP SD - Best player on my board, and I thought there was a significant dropoff to the next tier of pitchers. Should be a good anchor for the pitching staff. I had decided in advance that if Santana, Peavy, Halladay, or Sabathia was still on the board at this point, I would probably grab one and concentrate on batters for the next few rounds. Santana, Halladay, and Sabathia were all gone, so I didn't want to leave the best remaining for Avatar at the turn.
4.2 McCann, Brian C ATL - I like to roster two good catchers if I can get them at a decent price. I had rated McCann as my #1 catcher choice, and I liked the value over the replacement pool that he offered here. (Though I must say I was awfully tempted by my favorite Tiger, Curtis Granderson, who went two picks later.)
5.14 Napoli, Mike C ANA - I thought there was a dropoff to the next tier of catchers and decided to finish off my catcher shopping spree. A pretty risky pick with my #5 pick, though, given that he's coming back from shoulder surgery. This pick feels more risky than a pick at the end of the fifth round should.
6.2 Hunter, Torii CF ANA - Best hitter on the board at this point. Thought about Jermaine Dye or Vernon Wells here.
7.14 Dye, Jermaine RF CHW - ... and Dye was still there at the bottom of the 7th round. One thing about drafting around the turn is that players very seldom make it back to you once they go on the long walkabout to the other end of the draft and back. This was a pleasant surprise.
8.2 Polanco, Placido 2B DET - Best combination of hitting and positional scarcity on the board at this point. This is the fourth year in a row I've had Polanco at 2B, and each year he's fallen pretty far below where HQ would rate him. Both the Straight Draft Guide and my own rankings put his value up in the 5th round.
Speaking of OFs I thought about in the 6th round who stuck around, Vernon Wells was still on the board here in the 9th. But I was leary about the fact that he'd already missed a big chunk of ST with a hamstring issue, and that his wrist was acting up. Plus I had already filled three OF slots and thought it was probably time to address some other needs. Wells went to Vino on the autodraft in the 10th round. Man, I was tempted to roster him, but instead decided to start filling in the corner infield.
9.14 Jackson, Conor 1B ARI - I had Carlos Delgado and Carlos Pena queued up for this pick, but they went in the four picks just before me. There was a definite power dropoff to Jackson, but he also has some upside.
10.2 Verlander, Justin SP DET - Oh yeah, pitchers. One thing about Vino's autodraft no show was that it took a ton of the top closers off the board. I didn't like the value proposition of the remaining dregs, while I did like quite a few of the starters still at the top of my board. My original hope was to roster a top starter and a decent closer and fill-in the next seven afterwards. But with the decent closers all gone, this turn was where I decided to punt saves. I was torn a bit between Verlander and Greinke, who I felt were both guys with high upsides and some level of risk. I decided to go with the hometown pick and bet that Verlander's 2009 would resemble his 2007 more than his 2008.
11.14 Meche, Gil SP KC - Best pitcher left on my board. A pick for reliability over upside.
12.2 DeJesus, David LF KC - Best batter left on my board. A pick for reliability over upside.
Yeah, those two seem kinda boring, but at this point of the draft it often seems to me just a matter of picking up value when and where and how it falls to you.
13.14 Andrus, Elvis SS TEX - This was the first pick where I really felt that I rolled the dice. At this point I needed some SBs and I needed a shortstop, so I rolled the dice with the 20-year-old rookie instead of going with the safe pick in Jason Bartlett. So I went with Elvis's upside. This pick could turn out okay, or it could come back to bite me. Gambling on upside in the 13th round doesn't seem too bad, though. Bartlett went to Atavist with the next pick. If I get 30+ SBs out of Elvis, it will have worked out. If not, eh, all I passed on was Jason Bartlett. We shall see.
14.2 Kawakami, Kenshin SP ATL - Gambling on the Japanese import. Japanese pitchers have translated well the last few years, and I think HQ's done a good job of projecting them.
15.14 Guillen, Carlos 3B DET - Best hitter left on my board, and a pleasant hometown pick. I hope he can stay healthy in LF. I like his 2009 prospects a bit more than HQ.
16.2 Kuroda, Hiroki SP LA - Another Japanese import, this one with a successful year of MLB under his belt. I thought he was a good value here.
17.14 Wheeler, Dan RP TB - At this point, a few of the relief pitchers that I didn't like earlier started to look okay. With several of us likely punting saves, I reckoned that picking up a few saves might be worth some points in the end. Wheeler was the best pitcher I had left on the board, though that value relies on Percival's wheels falling off and Wheeler getting the job.
18.2 Blalock, Hank 1B TEX - I had Blalock and Mora both pretty even going into the turn, so reckoned one of them would come back out the other side. They both did and I decided to roll the dice with Blalock. Power was getting pretty scarce around here and all three of my CIs are pretty speculative. I was pretty tempted to roster both Blalock and Mora, and move one of them to my UT slot. In retrospect, that might have been the right move.
19.14 Morales, Kendry OF ANA - Nice upside and he should also be able to serve as a Plan B at CI if things go awry there.
20.2 Percival, Troy RP TB - Well, since I already bought the Tampa setup guy and presumable heir apparent when Percival collapses, I reckoned I might as well buy Percival himself and see how many saves I can squeeze out of him before the collapse.
21.14 Spilborghs, Ryan RF COL - Best overall hitting value left on my board because I couldn't find Felix Pie in the draft room. (I have no idea what went awry, and I tried from pretty much the time I rostered Percival until I was on the clock here, so I decided that somebody must have already drafted him, though I could see no evidence of it.) I probably needed power or SB more than BA, though, so I should've speculated on somebody with upside there like, like ... well, Felix Pie. It wasn't as if there were a lot of good options left here. We were definitely into the Mark Teahens and Luke Scotts of the world. Pie went four picks later to somebody more technically competent than me.
22.2 Devine, Joey RP OAK - I'm sure we all dropped him off our boards because the dreaded phrases "elbow" and "visit to Dr. Andrews". In the 22nd round it seemed worthwhile to see how the visit turns out. If things go bad, he won't be the first 22nd rounder I've cut. He won't be the last.
23.14 Uehara, Koji RP BAL - The Loony Loons are starting three Japanese pitchers this year. Alert the Japanese papparazzi and add some tempura and some miso soup to the clubhouse banquet. Not sure what, if anything, he has left in the tank at this point in his career, but I am sure I've drafted worse pitchers in the 23rd round.
24.2 Litsch, Jesse SP TOR - Figured I should get a pitcher to put in Devine's place while we await the news on his elbow. Litsch was the best one left on my board, so he's out of the reserves and into the rotation.
25.14 Griffey, Ken RF SEA - Took a flyer on a leftover possible power source. What does he have left in the tank? How will his declining power in the Cincinnati bandbox translate to the spacious walls of Seattle? Can he stay reasonably healthy at DH? I dunno. But it seemed worth a flyer to see what happens. I'll probably start him in the Spilborghs/UT slot to start the season and see how it goes.
For anybody who made it to this very end of the post. Congratulations, you're awarded the Patio Boat Croix de Candlestick for meritorious blog reading!