Bob     Dave     Ken     Graham     Chris     Steve     Greg     Keith     Joe    

Note from Author

Our generation will forever be asked the question of where you were, what were you doing during the tragic events of 9-11. Here is my story. First of all, the kids and I had spent the previous few days in Cleveland, which 36 hours after we left, became the turning point (literally and figuratively) for Flight 93. The morning of the 11th, as I walked the kids to the bus stop, a lady asked me if I had heard anything about the planes crashing into the WTC. I hadn't, but as soon as I went back home, I turned on CNN. I spent the next 6 or 7 hours with one eye on the TV, and one eye on this report that I was writing. I hadn't realized that 9-11 was the day that I wrote most of this, until I went back to finish it in mid-November, and noticed the day the file was created.

What a crazy year. As we speak, 7 teams are in the playoff hunt (Sorry, Graham and Bob, but I think your chances are slim, as Graham needs to go 14-1 to tie Keith for the wild-card, and Bob needs to go like 26-11, and hope for me and Steve to play under .500 ball). But that is not to say that you will not be a factor in the remaining games. How you guys play in your final games may well make or break a possible playoff team. With Greg and Keith presumably in (Although, if some combination of Ken, Joe or Dave getting really hot, and Keith struggling, he could lose the wild-card, but it doesn't seem probable at this juncture), there are five teams fighting for the two spots left. Dave and Joe are each within 1.5 of Ken, and I am 1.5 behind Steve. And with each of us having at least 20 games left, including many versus each other, there is still a lot that can happen.

Check out the craziness of the 2nd round of the draft this year. Almost all could be considered to be somewhat disappointing:

Batters Pitchers
ARod .231 .341 .438Maddux 11-11 5.28
Nomar will finish with only 132 gamesHampton 12-11 4.77
Kent .267 .347 .499Leiter 8-11 5.23
Ramirez .276 .375 .490
Giambi .273 .419 .500
Bagwell .211 .343 .442

OK, they aren't all busts, but let's break it down a little further. Kent has decent numbers, but he may end up 3rd or 4th in total runs created for 2B. Ramirez has good numbers, but hasn't even reached half of his actual home run total. ARod was picked to be more than just an offensive threat, but ranks just 4th on his own team in runs created per game. Nomar put up good numbers, but a late season injury may have cost his team a playoff spot, and will finish 4th or 5th on his own team in extra base hits and RBIs. Giambi has put up good numbers, but maybe not the kind of runs and RBI that you would expect from your 2nd round pick and cornerstone of your offense. Bagwell is currently hitting 99 points below his MLB average and slugging more than 150 points below. In spite of this, he may still score 100 runs, hit 35 homers, and draw over 100 walks.

The pitchers are completely another matter. I find it difficult to gauge a starting pitchers total effectiveness, but I will throw some stats at you to make your own conclusions. Hampton's numbers are not bad, but consider that his winning pct. is 70 points less than Greg's team as a whole (Leiter also), while Maddux is about right on. Hampton actually ranks in the top 15 in earned runs prevented, but Leiter and Maddux are in the negatives for that stat. Hampton and Maddux will both be at 200+ innings (Hampton may reach 240), but Leiter seems to be a long shot to reach that plateau. In spite of these numbers, I would bet that none of these managers is regretting picking any one of these guys.

So what is going on with the league to make it such a crazy year? Let's briefly break down each team. When you go into the draft, you don't know how guys are going to perform; above expectation, at, or below. Well, I am going to mostly concentrate on early picks that are performing below. Bob seems to have been stuck with a bunch of them. Pedro was the obvious first pick, but I think everyone believed that he would perform better than his 4.00. He then got Bagwell and Lowe on the swing. Lowe currently has 10 losses and is sporting a 4.24 ERA. I am not saying he is a bust, or was a bad pick, just giving the stats. And I still believe there is a lot more of Lowe to come. With his fifth pick, he got I Rod. Playing well for sure, but he has a lage game restriction for the year, and Bob better hope he doesn't get hurt the rest of the way. Sixth pick was Clemens who is 2-13, 7.47. Surprisingly though, Bob is on pace to finish 3rd in team homers, which I don't think anybody expected.

With his third pick, Dave got Tam (Pearl*). While he has been eating up the games and innings, like he was hired to do, he is not performing in the clutch, or else Dave would be in first now. He is 4-12, 4.77, with 10 blown saves. But like Lowe, there is still a lot of him left to be seen. Dave invested heavily in Z pitchers, and it seems to be paying off, as he has issued .6 walks per game less than anyone else, and may hold off Greg to win the ERA title, which he has led all season. I guess the question that will always remain out there, is did he invest too heavily? Through 10 rounds, he had only Giambi, Everett and Kendall offensively. One has to wonder why Dave is at this point, three games under .500. While his pitching prowess has been well documented, he is also doing it with the bat. He is 3rd in average, 2nd in OBP, and is averaging 5.5 runs/game. So obviously, he hadn't sacrificed too many bats for the strong pitching staff.

I don't really have a problem with any of Ken's first 5 picks. For my official stance of Ramirez, I would have to refer back to something I have said numerous times. If that's the guy he wanted, then he is worth that 2nd round pick. The better question probably is, would he still have been there when Ken picked again five spots later. My opinion is a vehement "yes", as I don't think Dave or Bob would have taken him that early, due to his game limitations. With the 6th and 8th picks, he took King, the 22 reliever with very limited games, and Vizquel, the 10 shortstop with very limited offense. I wouldn't second guess either pick though. I would just muse aloud with the rest of the league, at the age old issue here, of when do you take players like that. King, I believe, was somewhat of an anomaly, as there have not been too many high graded low inning relievers like that, so we don't have much to base that pick on. Vizquel was picked in the 5th round in '00, but almost always seems to go between 8-12, so it doesn't seem to be too bad of a pick. The only problem may be that through 9 rounds, Ken has just one starter. While he is a "Big Unit", is he big enough to carry the whole staff?

Graham, I just don't know what to say about his team. Obviously there is a slight pitching deficiency. Foulke, is good, but a very similar Veres was picked 10 spots later, and Foulke is only a 15. Graham got another 15 in the 10th round. For starting pitchers, Park was picked in the 5th round, and, in spite of his good record, his ERA is nearly 6.00. And then he didn't pick another starter until round 15. I have no room to talk about a lack of pitching, but perhaps Graham would have been better suited with a little more balance. Regardless of the makeup of his team, I love his offense, and have been telling people for months that I would have liked to switch teams with him.

Joe and I will forever be linked by that trade, so I will do both of us together, although out of order. Not only do I know nothing about sabremetrics, I normally do not even pretend to know anything about it. That being said, I will try to analyze, and ultimately defend the results of the trade I made with Joe. This will be very crude, and very basic, but it is an attempt. In the trade, Joe ended up picking Alou, Dye, Finley and Ausmus. Good players? Of course. But are they the four that he should have taken at this juncture? A highly subjective question, that I suspect Joe will answer when he gets around to his review. Were my guys the right picks for me? Of course not. I should have taken two starting pitchers with that swing (which would have given me Dempster and Clemens). And my Lofton pick in round 15, was like the biggest joke of the draft, when you consider that Bob got Cameron 10 spots later (compare the stats of those two). But OK, let's look at runs contributed by Joe's 4 guys vs. my 3 guys (and Zito). Runs Contributed is defined as "An estimate of the number of runs contributed to a team's offense by each player above the number contributed by an average player in the league. A Pete Palmer statistic.

Like runs created, runs contributed is an attempt to measure the overall offensive contribution of a player in terms of the only thing that ultimately counts, number of runs. If you divide runs contributed by the runs required per win (approximately 10, see Runs Required Per Win), you have the wins contributed by this player's offensive performance above the league average."

Keep in mind that all this measures, is a player's offensive contributions versus the average offensive contributions league-wide. Joe's four players totalled 39.1 runs contributed, which divided by 10 will give him approximately 4 more wins than the average, based on these four players' offensive contributions. My three guys (Sosa, Abreu, and Lofton) contibuted 85.3 (with Cameron, it would have been around 112), or say 8 wins above average. Throw in Zito, and his 4 wins, and that gives me 12 to Joe's 4. If you can literally switch those numbers around, then Joe wins his division, and I don't win mine. Of course, it really doesn't work that way. Ausmus was picked solely for his defensive contributions, and in that matter, he earned his pick. Finley played well defensively too, but was probably a bad pick for Joe, as he was taken at the end of a run of CF. In rounds 7 and 8, Everett, Griffey, AJones, and BWilliams were picked, with Finley ending the run in the middle of round 9. Was Joe afraid of being stuck with Cameron, Lofton, or Cruz? Cameron was picked at the end of round 16. I will agree that Finley should have performed better than Cameron, but only marginally at best, and something that Cameron could have made up for with better steal ratings. But he certainly should not have been expected to perform 7 1/2 rounds better. I think one of the worst things that can be done when picking, is ending a run of a position, when there are similar guys still out there. You have to weigh who still needs that position (really it was just Bob and Steve), and how similar the remainder of the talent pool is to that guy you are about to take. Take Cameron's plus 2 wins, versus Finley's minus 2 wins, and Joe is really in the thick of things.

By no means am I picking on Joe here. I thought throughout the season that he had a very balanced lineup (well, after the trade with Steve). I am merely trying to prove how fragile each pick can be, and how even the smallest mistake can cost you a coveted playoff spot. I'll get back to Joe's draft later.

Really through three rounds, I was very happy with my picks (Chris). Keith doesn't think Nomar was a good second round pick, but if the next 2, 3, 4 guys after you are telling you they wanted him, then obviously it couldn't have been too bad. Same with Hidalgo in round 3. The thing with those two guys was that I thought they (especially Nomar) were part of a weak talent pool at their respective positions, and had to be grabbed early. But in rounds 4 and 5, I goofed, by picking the wrong relievers (at least one of those picks should have been a starter, or another stud offensive player [Glaus]). And then Abreu in the 6th was probably not the right pick for that time, and the makeup of my team, but you still can't argue too much with his performance. He was hired to be a leadoff man (who's job is to score runs). He finished 3rd in the league in runs scored per game (Nomar was 1st). After I started picking again in round 10, I thought most of my picks were pretty good, other than the Lofton pick. But I had already dug enough of a hole to have no chance of becoming the dominant team that I had the last couple of years.

Steve single-handedly makes the league interesting. What was going on in his head, I have no idea. After 10 rounds, he had 3 starting pitchers, 4 DHs, 3 1Bs, 2 3B, and Barry Bonds. There was much scuttlebut about "hostages", and stuff, but clearly this was beyond something as simple as that. The mastermind that is Steve Swinea is obviously light years beyond the rest of us, as far as knowledge of building teams. Seriously though, it has been proven in this league that you cannot win without relievers, or Z pitchers. Steve had 2 relievers through 15 rounds (his first reliever TJones, was the 24th reliever taken), and his lone Z on his whole staff was Rueter (7). Really, I have no problem with this. But you must have the offense to make up for it, and somehow Steve didn't have this. When I compared his offense to mine after the draft, before the season, I was wondering how I could ever compete with him, as his numbers appeared to be so gaudy compared to mine. I had minimal pitching, and a fair defense, and Steve had minimal pitching, and minimal defense, but I thought his offense was so much better than mine, that I couldn't compete. Through Memorial Day, I was right, as Steve was 27-18, and I was 27-33. But I slowly chipped away at the lead, and the rest is history. Why? No offense. Well, not no offense, but not as good as it should have been. Steve predictably finished 9th in fielding, and 9th in ERA, but lost it when he finished just 4th in runs scored (including scoring 2 runs less than me). As much as he sacrificed most everything for offense, you would think he would have done better than that. (Oh by the way, Steve has the all-time lead for Manager of the Year votes).

Keith says rounds 1-9 are what can make or break a team. Look at rounds 11-15 for the last two President's Cup winners (me in 00 and Greg in 01). Austin, with it's record setting offense got Burks, Parriss, McGriff, Velarde and Cameron, or 4/9 of my regular starters. Greg this year got Ochoa, Hundley, Vanderwal, Ordonez and Segui, which combined probably equalled 4/9 of his starters. What enabled him to do this? Through 10 rounds, he had established his core pitching staff, of 3 starters, and 3 relievers, and his up the middle (2B, SS, CF), and a 3B. This is what allowed him to be able to pick half of his offense in the critical 11-15 rounds. They may not be critical for making or breaking his team, but they are critical for providing the depth that can win championships. In a league where a lot of people think might is right (hello, Chris, Ken, Steve, Graham), lessons can probably be learned from Greg's team. Through 150 games, he had one guy with 30 plus homers. One guy with 100 plus RBI. Nobody with 90 plus walks. One guy hitting .300 or better. Five guys with 20 plus steals. Only 43 GIDP. Not everybody can make these numbers work, but Greg can. I don't really have any complaints about his draft, other than I didn't think he had enough offense to compete. I thought he had shorted himself in outfield offense, which is normally the easiest place to find offense. But he was able to ride the monster year of Alfonso (one-third of his team's total runs contributed), all the way to 5.6 runs per game, and for this, he should be commended.

Let's take a minute to discuss "earned runs prevented". Basically it is the pitching equivalent of "runs contributed", as it measures a pitcher's performance versus other pitchers in the league with a similar amount of innings. A plus score is how much better than average he was, and a minus score is how much worse than average. Here is the example of what importance this stat carries: Thief River had two pitchers with a similar amount of innings. Pitcher A had a 3.97 ERA, and had 10.5 earned runs prevented. Pitcher B had a 5.92 ERA and prevented a negative 13.8 runs. So naturally, Pitcher B got 3 Cy Young votes. We all know by now that Pitcher A was Lieber who carried a 3-7 record, and Pitcher B was Williamson who was 21-6. Obviously wins are very important, but it is team wins that are important, not individual wins. The pitcher's job is to prevent the other team from scoring. Lieber did this far better than Williamson. But as he only averaged 4 IP per start, even if he was winning 5-2 in the 4th, he wouldn't qualify for the win unless he pitched the 5th. And if it was Williamson who then came in, well he would get the win. I am not suggesting that Lieber should have received votes, or been a 20 game winner. I am merely once again imploring the voters to please check the stats before voting.

Since we are on the subject of ERP, let's talk about Keith's team. His bullpen was the key to his success, and it should have been after investing a first and third round pick on it. His bullpen had an ERA .3 better than anyone else, and put up an astounding 48-16 record with 35 saves. He was 33-18 in one run games, and 16-6 in extra-innings, which seem to mostly be due to a strong bullpen, and timely hitting. His first round pick was Nen, who had 15 blown saves, and was third among relievers on his team in earned runs prevented. In his defense, he was 15-5 with 18 saves (hmmm, 15 blown saves, 15 wins....), and his ERA was good (3.09). His 3rd round pick was White who had a higher ERA than Nen, had less saves, less wins, more losses, less blown saves, and was 4th on the team in ERP for relievers. His 4th round pick and "ace" starter was Mussina. Mussina's horrible year would have gotten a lot more press if it wasn't for two things; Roger Clemens, and his offensive support. Clemens was 3-15, 6.62 (-30.8 ERP), with 4.3 runs of support. Mussina was 9-9 6.22 (-26.7 ERP) with 6.1 runs of support. Switch the run support, and I dare say you switch the records. In the first 14 rounds of the draft, the only starters that prevented less runs than Mussina were; Park (5th round), Clemens (6), and Heredia and Sele (10). Of course, in the true Yankee spirit, Mussina pitched admirably in the playoffs, posting a 3.00 ERA.

Posada was his 6th pick. He had a great offensive year, finishing first among catchers in total runs created, and in runs contributed (I don't count Piazza, as he only played 2 games at C). But Keith had him leading off. You know, for years, this issue has been debated, as many times there have been base clogging slow men who get on base frequently (Frank Thomas is the most notable). Ken, in fact, struggled this whole year, in his own mind with the prospect of leading off Klesko, who is marginally faster than Posada. Here is the comparison between Posada, and Joe's leadoff man, Alomar. Alomar was also considered to be an only marginal leadoff man, as he doesn't walk much, but he had speed, and peripheral numbers to make him acceptable for Joe. Posada's OBP was 34 points higher. He was on first base via single, walk, HBP 194 times vs. Alomar's 158, but Robbie out-doubled him, 51-35. This is 229 times on first or second for Posada, 209 for Alomar (in very similar plate appearances). If you take their runs scored (less homers), Posada had 60, Alomar 97. So, Posada, Keith's leadoff man scored about 1/4 of the time that he was on base, and didn't knock himself in. More importantly, that means he scored once every two and a half games (other than his homers). Granted there are other factors here besides his speed, but is scoring that infrequently acceptable for a lead off man?

Is there such thing as a guy that is a notoriously poor SL performer, in spite of his MLB numbers, no matter what they are? Again, Frank Thomas was thought of as a guy like this, as he seemed to continuously underperform in the SL (until the 99SL, when he had an "off" MLB season, and turned in a fine performance for Ken). Well, in rounds 1 and 4, Joe appeared to pick two of these career "underachievers". Glavine had a career record of 42-64 going into this season (in '96 for me, he was a 15, and went like 5-10). So it may have been no surprise that he went 11-16 for Joe this year. In the 4th round, he picked Brian Giles, who put up an OPS number of 754 (.335, .418), well below his MLB numbers 1031 (.437, .594). But he is one of those never perform guys. His SL career OPS is now 765. Why these players are like this, I do not know. Should they drop lower and lower in the draft based on past Summer League performances? That is up to each individual GM to decide.

Let's look at the differences between Joe's and Keith's closers and overall bullpens. Koch ended up just ahead of Nen in relief points, but his numbers were far inferior, except for saves and blown saves. ERA 3.09 to 4.86. Record 15-5 to 9-11. But Koch converted 19 of 23 save opportunities, while Nen was 18 of 33. Overall bullpens, let's go back to ERP. Keith 87.8, Joe 8.3. This ranked them 1st and 8th (sorry Steve). How can we correllate these two unlikely stats? The only idea I can surmise is that Keith was involved in so many more close games than Joe was, and was just involved in so many more save situations, that any number of things could have happened. In fact, Keith had twice as many team save opportunites. Keith also scored about 20% more runs than Joe from the 7th inning on. Regardless, it still seems somewhat miraculous that Koch blew only 4 saves, in spite of all his other numbers.

That brings us to the 2002 SL. Some new things are being discussed. Steve will be absent for the first time in a long time, and will be sorely missed. But we will go on. I may bitch about the league all summer long, but it gets better every year. More fun, more competitive, and just a different look every year. That is what makes it what it is; so great, so fun. I tell my kids that I yell at them, or I lecture them, only because I want them to be the best. Well, that is what my SL bitching is about. I just want the league to be the best, and I just want to PLAY GAMES.