Monday, March 28, 2011

And now, the post that *nobody* wants to read. We present your 2011 Gabbling Gadwalls!

Hurrah! It's time for my annual recap of my draft in the HQ Forum Masters fantasy baseball league, which took place Sunday evening in cyberspace with participants from as far away as Hong Kong.

(Yes, Susan, you're excused now. You can move on to somebody else's blog.)

For anybody still left ... anybody? Anybody? ... Well, we shall push on nonetheless.

As most of you all know, I like my fantasy sports, and my favorite of all is baseball, mostly because it has such a statistical bent. Really, a fantasy baseball team is like a 23-part Sudoku with groin strains. Most of what I know about spreadsheets, databases, Excel functions, and statistical analysis I have learned via fantasy baseball.

This particular fantasy baseball league that I play in was put together six years ago by some of the regulars on the forums over at, a fantasy baseball analysis site that I like to read and on whose boards I've probably posted more than my fair share of geeky fantasy baseball comments. I joined it after its first year. This league is the closest thing to an "experts league" that I'll ever play in -- several of the competitors genuinely get paid to write about fantasy baseball. In five years I've won it once, finished in the top four four times, and never finished worse than 7th out of 15 teams. (Last year I was as high as 2nd place with 48 hours to go, but faded to 4th at the finish. Sigh.)

One of the fun things about the league is that we usually write up post-draft recaps of our own drafts. It's fun to see what people think about the team that they just picked the day before, and it's also a good way to learn the different way that people look at what is essentially an identical statistical problem: pick the 23 players (27 with reserves) who give you the best chance to amass the best statistics in: runs, home runs, RBIs, stolen bases, batting average, pitching wins, saves, strikeouts, earned run average, and WHIP (walks + hits / innings pitched.)

And so, without further prelude, here's the 2011 post-draft recap of your Gabbling Gadwalls!


I nearly always seem to have a late pick in this draft, and this year was no exception. With the 11th pick this year, I figured I'd probably stick with my usual strategy of picking up positional value where I could find it. And so it always seems like I'm drafting nothing but catchers, pitchers, and the occasional middle infielder in the early rounds. In truth, I'd be happy to take studly 1B and OFs early, but the truly studly ones are usually gone by the time the 11th pick comes around. And so I take value where I can find it; scrape together a corner infield, outfield, and bullpen from the dregs; and hope to come out with enough productivity, balance, and depth to be able to work the category standings with in-season moves.

Usually it works out okay for me during the season, and at least puts me in position to compete for a top-three finish. I also made a conscious decision to roll the dice on some injured and injury-prone guys this year, since we'll have an unlimited DL for the first time. Yes, that's right. All those other years that I had old, injury-prone players it wasn't even on purpose.

Was all of this a good strategy this year? We shall see.

Here's the blow-by-blow:

1.11 Mauer, Joe C MIN - Yup, I'm going with a top catcher in the first round yet again. Mauer's a bit riskier than I'd like, given his knee trouble this Spring. But I figure he'll DH if he's not catching, which'll work out fine. I figured all along it would come to a choice between Mauer and Tulowitzki here, and thought really hard about Tulo, but I just couldn't quite find the love. Undoubtedly this is the year Tulo wins his first NL MVP.

2.5 Lincecum, Tim SP SF - I had really hoped that A-Rod would slip to me here, but he went three picks earlier. Then I thought I had clicked on Roy Halladay in my queue, but he had just been picked. This was okay, though, because I was quite happy with Lincecum. I liked the statistical impact of the top three pitchers (Halladay, Lincecum, and King Felix) better than the impact of any of the hitters (Werth, Bautista, Choo) available here.

3.11 Reyes, Jose SS NYM - He's gotta stay healthy some year, right? Right?

4.5 McCann, Brian C ATL
- Yup, it's another "two top catchers" draft for me. Coming into the draft I wanted two of the top five catchers (Mauer, V-Mart, McCann, Posey, and Santana) if I could swing it. McCann was the last of those five on the board, and I was happy to grab him, since I ranked McCann a smidge over the two sophomore catchers because of his track record. The dropoff was steep after those five, and I really wanted no part of any of the catchers outside of the top eight.

5.11 Hart, Corey RF MIL - The first of many already-injured players I would draft. Hopefully he'll be back soon to give me some of productivity I gave up by drafting catchers and a starting pitcher early.

6.5 Young, Michael 3B TEX - Just a good value pick here, especially because 3B is so shallow this year. This was the first sign that my batting lineup was going to be the fantasy baseball equivalent of the Washington Redskins "Over the Hill Gang" of the 70s.

7.11 Hunter, Torii CF ANA - Not really "Old Reliable" any more. Mostly just old.

8.5 Carpenter, Chris SP STL - Oooh, an old pitcher. That should balance my old hitters.

9.11 Pierre, Juan LF CHW - Too much value to pass up here, even though he only helps in three categories (R, SB, BA) and hurts in two categories (HR, RBI). This is a seriously power-deficient lineup so far.

10.5 Lee, Derrek 1B BAL - Ahhh, an old 1B. Welcome to the Senior Citizens' Dugout, Mr. Lee. Your training table is waiting.

11.11 Street, Huston RP COL - Just for a change of pace from the old and injury-prone guys, I anchor my bullpen with a young and injury-prone closer. Street was the 14th closer off the board. I had to skip the run on genuinely good closers because I was too busy making up for my C,SP,SS,C start in the first four rounds.

12.5 Infante, Omar 2B FLA - Looks like a productive value with a full-time gig. Does this pick look better if I call him an All-Star 2B? No? I thought not.

13.11 Nishioka, Tsuyoshi 2B MIN - Rolling the dice on the Japanese import to close out my middle infield. He looked good in Spring Training. I'm kinda pleased with this pick. That can't bode well.

14.5 Ordonez, Magglio RF DET - Ahh, yes, back to our core competency: old and injury prone.

15.11 Lyon, Brandon RP HOU - Oooh, look! A guy who's not really injury prone! Of course, he's not really good, either.

16.5 Ibanez, Raul LF PHI - Funny story. I tried to draft Trevor Cahill with this pick because I was seriously deficient in starting pitchers by this point. Alas, my draft window had locked up, and no matter how many times I tried to pick Cahill, it just stared back at me, unmoving. So instead I had to watch helplessly as the autodraft picked Ibanez off the top of my queue, where I had innocently stashed him for my next offensive pick as part of my ongoing effort to acquire old and injury-prone players.


You know, like getting a sharp stick poked in your eye is funny ... to a bystander.

This may work out okay, though. Ibanez has what I desperately still needed at this point: power. And he probably wouldn't have lasted much longer. My outfield consists of five guys aged 28, 35, 33, 37, and 38. The 28-year-old is the one starting the season on the DL. I can't possibly imagine what can go wrong with this plan.

17.11 Arroyo, Bronson SP CIN - He's not good, plus he has mononucleosis. But I missed out on the last good or healthy starting pitcher long ago.

18.5 Peavy, Jake SP CHW - At least he'll start the season on the DL, where he can't hurt my pitching stats too much. Lord only knows what he'll do when he finally steps on a mound.

19.11 Bedard, Erik SP SEA - Does it look at this point like I was all about drafting starting pitchers who are injury disasters with upside? 'Cause I was all about drafting starting pitchers who are injury disasters with upside at this point.

20.5 Garcia, Jaime SP STL - Hmmmn ... young, talented. He doesn't belong on this roster.

21.11 Rodney, Fernando RP ANA - This closed out my pitching picks. Oddly enough, I had Rodney queued up and watched a different Angel reliever, Jordan Walden, get picked a few picks before I picked the guy who is starting the season with the closer gig. Rodney has defied implosion expectations before. Perhaps he'll do so again. Or at least maybe he'll chip in a few saves before imploding and wrecking my WHIP. Given my other two closers, another save source to start the season seemed prudent.

This pick filled out my nine-man pitching staff. However, with one starting pitcher already on the DL and the slim odds that all three of my closers make it through the season, there's in-season work to be done on the pitching front.

22.5 Smoak, Justin 1B SEA - I kinda had him up my sleeve to fill out my corner infield. I still like his upside. If he doesn't work out ... well, it was the 22nd round.

23.11 Matsui, Hideki DH OAK - Needed the best available hitter to fill my UT slot. Hideki Matsui was the best available hitter. Usually I don't like to clog up my UT slot with a DH-only guy, but how could I pass up the chance to add an injury-prone 36-year-old to this lineup? Hopefully he'll sneak into five games at OF sooner instead of later, because I desperately need a backup OF.


24.5 Porcello, Rick SP DET - Just rolling the dice on the upside.

25.11 Burnett, A.J. SP NYY - I need the Ks and Ws. As for everything else A.J. has brought the last few years ... well ... um, maybe I can find a few safe matchups for him.

26.5 Guillen, Carlos 2B DET - Picked him up to tuck away on the DL and serve as my backup MI when he's finally back on the field.

27.11 Johnson, Dan DH TB - My Plan B in case Smoak doesn't work out. He should be 1B-eligible after the first week or two. Sure, all he brings to the party are HRs. But this party badly needs some HRs. Normally this would be my Russell Branyan pick, but somebody actually drafted him this year. I've picked up Branyan in the reserves the previous three years straight to serve as my HR-source in the hole. Hopefully Johnson can serve as a poor man's Russ Branyan. I can't believe I just typed the phrase "a poor man's Russ Branyan."

Summary: How do I feel about this draft? Eh, okay, I suppose, but I'm not as fond of the results as I've been some other years. This squad is even more brittle than I had meant it to be, despite my plans to target the injury-prone this year. FWIW, the HQ projections show my starting lineup at 1,092 R, 226 HR, 1,028 RBI, 151 SB, and .288 BA, and my pitching at 86 W, 76 Sv, 1,048 K, 3.59 ERA, and 1.25 WHIP. Those aren't stats good enough to win the league, and the power is decidedly lacking. But it should be good enough to give me a base to improve on, and I don't feel as if I lost the league on March 27th.

What I like: My catchers, Lincecum & Carpenter at the top of my rotation, Bedard in the 19th round, Matsui in the 23rd round.

What I don't like: seven starting batters in their mid-30s, the back end of my starting rotation, dubious bullpen, lack of power.

Catcher - Mauer (C), McCann (C)
Corner Infield - D. Lee (1B), M.Young (3B), Smoak (1B)
Middle Infield - Reyes (SS), Infante (2B), Nishioka (2B)
Outfield - Hart (OF)(DL), T.Hunter (OF), Pierre (OF), Ordonez (OF), Ibanez (OF)
Utility - H.Matsui (DH)
Starting Pitchers - Lincecum (SP), Carpenter (SP), Arroyo (SP), Peavy (SP)(DL), Bedard (SP), J.Garcia (SP)
Bullpen - Street (RP), Lyon (RP), Rodney (RP)
Reserves - D.Johnson (1B), C.Guillen (2B)(DL), Porcello (SP), A.J.Burnett (SP)

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