I think Bob's draft was a textbook case of good individual picks, but a poor overall scheme. I think Lowe was good in the 3rd round, Felix Rodriguez good at 7, Vidro really good in the 8th, Luis Gonzalez really good at 12. Cameron (16), Bordick (17), and Nevin (21) filled out the starting lineup nicely. But, as Bob heard about all season long, he had one of the most limited rosters in the history of the SL. The most prominent case was his IRod and Javy catching platoon (both reaches at 5 and 18), while carrying 4 outfielders obviously was limiting, as were his wasted roster spots of Ventura and Renteria. In a league like ours, where, if you want to succeed, bench guys must have larger roles than to occasionally come in (after Jim Thome pinch hits for the starter at your position) and play like crap for a few innings. Beck (25) and Thome (15) were wasted picks ... I should qualify my comment, talent-wise, they were justifiable picks, but completely inappropriate to the make up of Bob's team.
A little more subtle look sees Bob with some excellent hitters like Bagwell (excellent player, but, because there were soooooooooo many very good firstbaseman available, a stretch at 2), Edgar (4), Salmon (9) and the rest, but all plodders who helped Bob ground into a league-leading 120 double plays. I know that after the draft Bob realized speed would have been a salve, but he was limited in his trading options because he was limited in the construction of his roster.
When Bob filled out his starting staff with Parque (19) and Finley (20), he again took guys that were fine, but a little bit inappropriate. Is there any difference between these lefty 8's versus Brad Radke, the righty 6 Z that Dave took in the 25th, the last rotation pitcher taken? Not very much at all, though I always think lefties have inherent advantages. So if Bob skips taking Parque and takes Jose Valentin (a SS-OF) in the 19th in front of Ken, he gets a better, more versatile player than Renteria, and can take a similar pitcher in the 23rd.
Bob had a great chance to achieve success in 2001, of course by getting Pedro, but also (and more importantly to the Draft Notes) by making the series of good picks he made, like Lowe, Vidro, etc. But he couldn't overcome the series of marginal picks. If not for his limited ability to prepare himself and smooth out the rough edges of his draft, I know Bob would have succeeded in 2001. In 2002, I hope Bob can find a way to prepare himself better, and I hope I can help him do so.
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When he's drafted more traditionally, more conservatively, Steve has fared pretty well. When he's tried to manufacture edges (such as Buhner-ChuckJ in '97, hostages in '99), he's struggled. Chipper at SS, Mac and a bunch of DH-types including a defensively weak wing OF, an all right-handed z-less bullpen -- these were edges he tried to manufacture during the 2001 draft, and they came back to haunt Steve's playoff hopes.
While Steve did grab some great offense, I don't think he had many outstanding picks. The ones I list as outstanding are Stynes (14), Benson (16), Tucker (19), and Stewart (22) -- too few, too late. Yet picks like Bonds were also pretty great. Steve had a huge decision with the 6th pick, after the obvious 2 best hitters were taken and the obvious 3 best pitchers were taken. He could've taken a D'Amico and his J-3, a Nen and his 99 SL innings, a Glavine or Maddux and their larger chance for failure, or an ARod and his fair card, SA-3 and 148 games available, or go with Bonds with the understanding that good to great wing outfielders would be available throughout the draft, and understanding that 146 games played for a #1 pick can pose a problem. Steve weighed these options, and I think he made a great decision to take Bonds. But the effects of the decision were that his pitching staff would suffer ... and when Steve followed the Leiter pick with DH-OF-1B -types (all great offensive) and pitching questionmarks, he doomed himself to the questionable practice of trying to win games 7-6, and to trying to hold leads with a porous bullpen, and to trying to keep games close with an even more porous defense.
Steve didn't have a lot of negatives, or even many questions. Of course, Mac at 5 was a reach and Chipper was a question at 7. In my estimation, Mac likely would have been around in the 7th, and Steve could've improved his pitching with a Veres or Sirotka in the 5th, or even taken a true SS like Jeter with that pick. Another pick in the same mold -- a decent player picked inappropriately to Steve's team situation -- was Palmeiro, who Steve would use as trade bait to pick up relief savior Curt Leskanic. When Steve did finally address his bullpen needs, it was poorly addressed with Todd Jones and his 14 G. Kasahiro Sasaki was a similar pitcher to Jones and he was available 14 rounds later (yes, Sasaki's L was a difference maker in the equation), and in my estimation, Sasaki was a questionable pick given the context of Steve's all righty, z-less bullpen. I think if you make questionable picks, and if the majority of those gambles lead to pitching staff questions, you'll be doomed to a second division finish.
As I said before, Mac in the 5th was a negative, but I'll again qualify that by saying it's only because he could've been available later and because of the DH situation already afoot on the Good Kids. If you look at what Mac did in 80 games combined with an average replacement level 1B in Sean Casey (21st round selection), you see excellent numbers:
PA XB HR RBI BB HP GIDP AVE OBA SLG PRO RC
MM-SC 664 86 46 105 107 13 3 .284 .413 .611 1.024 152.5
Which individual players created more runs in the SL? Delgado, Alfonzo and Helton. Which regulars had a higher OPS (aka Production)? The same three players plus Barry Bonds. In the end, Steve did great with his selection of McGwire, all things considered.
We all know by now that Steve is leaving the SL, and he will be missed, as he brought passion, flashes of genius, and a special flair to the SL. He didn't guide the most successful franchise, but he did win a lot of games, and certainly a place in our hearts. The SL will of course continue, maybe with Jim Frank in the lineup, but it'll kinda be like how Elmo eventually filled the void after the passing of Mr. Hooper on Sesame Street ... someone totally different in nature will come, someone with totally different sensibilities and a totally different appeal, and our game will go on to different heights, and years from now we'll all look back and realize we've grown some, and yet we'll all realize that while Elmo has great appeal to the child within us, Elmo is no Mr. Hooper, as he does not speak to the soul of who we are and what we do.
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In rounds 1-9, what I've said in the past are the rounds in the draft where a team can break itself, I gave the highest marks to Graham. With that, let me acknowledge that Graham's come a long way in 2 years, when in '99, he picked the most questionmarks in these same rounds. I think Helton was pretty obvious, yet still an outstanding offensive foundation that Graham built upon with great picks like Burks (7), Bernie (8) and Piazza (9). Kile was the 22nd pick in the draft, and I conceived him going as early as the 14th pick, which was another plus for Graham. Even the mediocre picks in these rounds (Foulke, Park, Erstad) still had strengths that Graham took advantage of. And the only pick in this span that I question is Kent in the 2nd -- and he was about the only 2nd rounder who didn't underperform, eventually finishing 7th in MVP voting -- and I question his selection only because of how top heavy 2B was and because of the availability of Giambi, who Graham didn't need already having taken Helton. Kudos to Graham for building such a strong foundation. The only pertinent negative with his situation after 9 rounds was that it was a mostly offensive foundation, in a league where great pitching is at a premium.
The middle rounds for Graham were pretty quiet, filled with decent, not outstanding, complementary picks like Mecir (10), Cirillo (11), Tejada (14). Rusch had a fine MLB bb/9 ratio, but as a lefty 7Z, he was a reach in the 15th. Matt Lawton was a great replacement outfielder who came very cheap with his 16th round price tag. I thought Darrin "Fletcher the Catcher" was going to be a question (17), but his 910 OPS in 457 PA's out of the 9th spot in Graham's lineup was huge, and more than made up for his defensive liabilities, I think. The questions I have about this group seem nitpicky, but they are pretty revealing about Graham's overall struggles ... his picks of Wickman (12) and Howry (13), then Hawkins (18) failed to balance Graham's bullpen. Individually, they were decent picks, but he could've used at least one more Z and a lefty to complement what he had already in Foulke and Mecir. No, there weren't a ton of options at those points, but they are talents a GM has to provide for in some measure throughout the draft, and the fabric of a team can be severely affected by a failure to grab these spare parts when they are available. So again, Graham bettered his squad in the middle rounds, but the questions he answered in these rounds were more the offensive questions, not as much the very important pitching questions.
In the latter part of the draft, again, the picks were pretty decent. Though limited by both games and PA's, Chris Donnels (23) provided some excellent depth. Though not as powerful as in past years, Larry Walker (21) had some positives, and he proved that this was a very deep draft for wing outfielders. I'm sure Graham wishes he didn't have to invest in such a limited player like Santiago as his 575 SL OPS in the 19th round, but he served his purpose as Fletcher's defensive replacement, no differently than the other good-field, no-hit catchers did for the other teams. Weaver (22) was among the worst pitchers in the league, but it's not as though Graham could've vastly improved his starting pitching situation. Plesac and Polanco weren't great picks, but picks very appropriate to the needs of Graham's team, and Polanco ended up as a plus in my estimation, as he helped Graham improve his staff when Steve traded Benson to Golden.
Continuing his trend since reintroducing himself to the SL in '99, Graham drafted better in 2001 than the year before, and I look forward to seeing how he continues his progress in 2002. Hopefully for him, that means he strives to balance his team better. Considering how excellent his draft was in 2001, I think this means we all should be wary of him in 2002 and beyond.
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During the draft, I didn't have many strong opinions about Joe's team. 9 months later, I think he made some of the stronger picks, and also some of the weaker ones. He started off with 4 solid picks, especially Brian Giles. Then he benefitted from the trade, tactically, with Chris -- Joe traded the 45, 46, 135 and 136 picks for 50, 59, 68, 77, essentially gaining 118 spots in the draft. But he didn't capitalize with the picks, and his fortunes were reversed with several lukewarm selections like Larkin in the 11th (Tejada and Furcal, the 2 SS's taken in the 14th, were arguably better with more games available), Caminiti in the 14th (followed the pattern Steve and Bob started with taking quality guys with limited games way too early), and Galarraga in the 17th (Joe's options were limited at this point).
Yet Joe made a strong comeback with a super series of late picks including Chavez (18), Melusky (19), Ramon Martinez (20), Casey (21), and Adrian Brown (22). But the uneven draft continued when Joe took the likes of Garret Stephenson and his L (23), someone who might've been around in the 27th, Rickey (25) and Ben Molina (26) -- two guys who didn't belong in the league because they brought no specialties worth having to the table.
So he had good picks and bad picks, just like the rest of us. What separated his team from the teams that finished above him? I point to the Steve Finley pick in the 9th. Finley's selection was the last in a mini-run on centerfielders that Dave started 21 picks earlier when he took Carl Everett in the 7th. In the 8th round, Denali selected Griffey, Greg followed with Andruw, and after Joe took Ausmus, Graham snatched up Bernie Williams. Yes, Finley was the best available CF at that point, but only Steve and Bob were without CF's by the 9th. And Joe already had Brian Giles (though just a 2-30, he did have 70 some games available in CF), who is viewed as an excellent pick partly because of his CF flexibility. So it shouldn't have been a priority to grab a CF 3-33 with moderate offensive numbers, and if you review the next several non-wing outfielder, non-2B (Joe had Robby) and non-C (Joe had Ausmus) position players picked to see who Joe could've taken, the list reads Rolen, Fryman, Palmeiro, and Cirillo -- all good players in positions where Joe ended up with questions he had to address. Seeing as how Lofton and Cameron were taken 6 rounds later, you could envision Fryman and Lofton/Cameron on Joe's team instead of Finley and Caminiti, and with that you see a stronger team.
Of course, if Finley had played better, this wouldn't have been so glaring a blemish. And if Ausmus hadn't played so poorly compared to the next 3 catchers taken (Kendall, ChuckJ, Piazza) he wouldn't have been so questionable in light of Bernie still being available in the 8th. But these two had totally unacceptable rc/game of 2.7 for Finley and 2.4 for Ausmus. Worse, Finley found himself in the 6th hole, sometimes even the 5th hole later in the season as Joe had to deal with the game limitations of Alou, Caminiti, Larkin, Giles and the like. Giles, too, ended up being part of the problem, contributing just a .418 slugging percentage and .224 average, when Joe and the rest of the league expected much more.
In the end, I think Joe had periods in of brilliance, but too many poor picks. His SL situation reminds me of my experiences frolfing. I picked up the sport in the Fall of '97 while working with Greg at Sundoro Development in Itasca. We started frolfing together at Clark Park in nearby Elk Grove Village, and I really enjoyed the game. When we started frolfing 3 times a week at lunch the next summer, I was not too far from becoming a skilled frolfer. But I didn't have the love of the game like Greg did, and when he left the company, I stopped frolfing. I have worked in Schaumburg now for the last 2 years, in a buildng equidistant from Clark Park as Sundoro was, and for most of that time with a former Sundoro employee who used to accompany Greg and I, but we didn't go frolfing on our own or together once in our new situation. I think Joe enjoys the SL the way I enjoyed frolf, but his participation was inspired by his ties to Twin Orchard and Chris, Jon Bryant, Greg, Ken and I. He has had his highs, just as I did in frolf, and he's had a difficult time getting to the next level, just as I did in frolf. While some of us live and breathe for the SL, just as Greg did in frolf, Joe's taken a more grounded approach to our league, just as I did in frolf. In the end, I hope he remains with us and succeeds in a way I didn't with frolf.
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I've wrote in my breakdown articles like "Loads of Pitching" that Dave made a lot of solid picks, and a lot of the solid picks were related to pitching. As I mentioned in those articles, I think Giambi (2) was a gift, but I didn't go into great depth in those articles about how Dave, despite such a strong investment in pitching, filled out an offense that finished with the 9th most runs in our history.
The best picks of the bunch were Jason Kendall (9), Mike Sweeney (15) and Greg Colbrunn (16), and to a lesser degree, Geoff Jenkins (11) and Quilvio Veras (21). Kendall had many numbers comparable to Jorge Posada (in MLB and BBW), and Dave was able to take the faster, better suited to leadoff Kendall 25 picks after I took Posada. Sweeney's 9.3 MLB rc/game were better than anyone taken after him, and even better than some 1B-DH types taken several rounds ahead of him. While Dave did sacrifice some defense by putting Colbrunn at 3B, he created 9.0 runs/game in MLB and was a great opportunity cost.
Dave made a tough decision in the 11th when he selected Jenkins over Luis Gonzalez, but to have both of those meat of the order hitters still available made it a win-win scenario for Dave. Gonzalez had more games available and had a slightly better MLB rc/g (8.8 to 8.7) than Jenkins, but Jenkins had a stronger arm (31 to 28), had a better platoon rating (3 to Gonzalez's 5) and was better on the bases. Given the same situation, my personal preference would have been to take Luis, but given the make up of Dave's team, I understand his want to have a better OF arm and lesser platoon ratings. The final decision just meant Gonzalez was an excellent selection for Bob. As for Veras, he was a great complement to Dave's SS-2B platoon of Cruz and Furcal, moderately comparable to Biggio who Ken selected 5 rounds earlier.
There were some personnel gaps, but other than the reach to pick up Trevor (6), they were mostly minor gaps. Among the regulars, I was surprised Everett was taken in the 7th, but mainly because he was so close to what Griffey, Andruw and Bernie all were. Though better in the power department than the others, Everett had many fewer CF games than the others, negating his extra-base hit advantage. Higginson (12) was decent offensively, and certainly provided value as a 2-37 in RF, but as I've said throughout these notes, wing OF depth is pretty phenominal in the SL. A third outfielder should not necessarily be a mid-round priority, especially if other needs are passed up for that wing. Of course, the other needs weren't all that obvious.
Where Dave definitely could have improved were in his bench selections. Kapler (23) and Benjamin (27) were pretty weak, but give Dave credit for understanding that and releasing them and improving his situation with Rios and Shumpert, guys he might have wanted to take in the first place. Doug Glanville (19) was Dave's worst pick in my opinion, a pronounced offensive liability (who somehow had a fair 719 SL OPS), good but not spectacular in the field, and as pinch-runners go, Glanville's E31 was quite pedestrian.
Dave drafted a surprising good team in 2000, though he had a few weaknesses. His GM skills improved in 2001, drafting what I would argue was the best team on paper. 2002 will be pretty telling for Dave and the rest of us, as we see if we can stop the momentum Dave has gathered, or we see if he can continue to narrow, or even close, his gaps and make the leap to greatness.
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Chris wrote about his draft a fair amount in the Hummers Review, which is worth checking out. In his estimation, his poor picks were "probably Nelson (4), Kreuter (12), and Green (14)," While his "steals" were Velarde (25th), RHernandez (10th), and Sosa (5th).
I think his 2-5 picks of Nomar, Hidalgo, Nelson and Myers were all questionable, though none of them exceptionally poor. Nomar and Hidalgo fit the strategy Chris has been drafting with for ages now ... not necessarily the right picks for the situation, but the players he wanted and knew wouldn't come back around. Nelson and Myers were valiant attempts to grab good pitching, but their deficiencies were pretty alarming considering their draft positions. I agree with what Chris said in his review that he probably should have picked up a Veres or a Foulke instead of one of his two, to better balance his staff. I think too that Abreu was a poor pick in context of where his team was headed ... and as good as a pick as Sosa was, Abreu cost way too much considering the price Chris paid in the trade.
His 13th round on featured just one questionable pick (Green, 14, who had positives in his defense and speed, but his MLB 7.1 rc/g was nothing spectacular on the wing) and several good picks. Those good picks are I think where Chris was able to salvage his season, Delgado notwithstanding. Batista (13) had the power and his games played were a certain tonic, Hocking (15) provided the versatility for Chris to pull off the 8 man bullpen, Sullivan (16) provided the innings to help anchor the pen, Franco (21) was an excellent selection considering how Joe, Graham, and Steve were all likely looking for decent lefties at that point, and the finish of Velarde (25), Josh Paul (26), and Shawn Estes (27) were as good as anyone's last three picks. Granted, Estes ended up with pretty rotten pitching stats, but his 9 pitching grade gave an upside to his W, and his 15 speed was another useful tool as Chris melded his team into a playoff participant.
His most interesting selections were his catchers, I think. Defensive stud Matheny (11) had nothing to offer offensively, Kreuter (12) could draw walks and had a good arm, and Paul (26) had a decent bat and speed and a strong arm in limited games. Together, they made up nearly 1/4 of his position players. The strong arms were obviously important to Chris, who was able to get +3's in Redman and Halama, but otherwise couldn't trifle with peripheral numbers when he selected his staff. I thought Kreuter's huge walk numbers would benefit his team, but overall, the group's performance was pretty horrid:
PA XB HR RBI BB HP GIDP AVE OBA SLG PRO RC
MM 308 17 3 25 13 2 2 .171 .212 .251 .463 15.9
CK 255 22 4 25 47 0 1 .235 .374 .382 .756 34.2
JP 87 10 1 10 7 1 0 .244 .310 .423 .733 11.2
TOT 650 49 8 60 67 3 3 .204 .286 .319 .605 61.3
Defensively, the group was on par with Valhalla in providing the best defense from the catcher spot in the league. The defense they provided, considering Chris's pitching plight, was pretty important, but I just think Chris being forced to use 3 of his 13 position players on very, very weak hitters ended up hindering his team in the end.
Don't know if I've mentioned this before, but mid-season, when Chris and I were both under .500, he asked if he thought everyone was enjoying how he and I were getting it handed to us after our long string of success. I told him then that I didn't think our teams were all that bad, and we both had a chance to come around. It just took a lot of time for Chris's offense and 8 man pen to overcome his weak starting pitching, and it proved that in the SL, Chris at his weakest is still pretty strong.
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Ken had some huge challenges following the draft, but most of them had to do with the same issue having to force himself to sit players. To answer the challenges, luckily for him, he drafted as talented a team as he's drafted since 1997.
Of course, the high j-rating issue began with Manny (118 games) in the 2nd. Ray King was a unique 6th round pick, as he was definitely the best reliever available, but at the cost of few games (36 games) and very few innings -- not what I would call a questionable pick, only a challenging pick. King became more of a challenge when one of the other five relievers also had few games available ... Ryan Kohlmeier (26 games, 23rd round). Taking 6 relievers was a good remedy to the situation, but not the perfect remedy, as Ken's weak "other 4" starters forced a ton of innings upon the serviceable Keith Shetter* and the horrible Steve Kline.
On the player side of the j-rating issue, Ken's 9th round investment in Charles Johnson was very wise, but like a lot of catchers, he played a mere 128 games. The issue was compounded with the DH situation Ken brought upon himself, with Glenallen Hill (104 games, 18th) splitting time with Olmedo Saenz (76 games, 21st) -- both cheap investments with nice payoffs for Ken, but not without opportunity costs. Ken's 2B decision added to challenge when he selected Biggio (101 games, 16th) and backed him up with Vina (123 games, 25th) -- again, good players available at little cost, other than the cost of their game limitations. Even some of his j-1's needed to be benched alot, such as Klesko (145 games, 15th) and even Edmonds (152 games, 5th) and Vlad (154 games, 3rd) -- I'm not saying Vlad's 8 sits are a lot, but if you end up having to start your 4th outfielder 62 times in the OF, then are forced to use him another 10 to 20 times at DH, your bench is severely limited, and when he's replacing your 2nd, 3rd and 5th round picks, he has to be an excellent player for your lineup not to suffer. Overall, these guys all were very talented, but their collective games played plight was a challenge I believe only a veteran manager should consider tackling, as Ken's bench was generally only Johnny Damon in half of the games plus Jose Valentin in 9 of 10 games.
I think Ken's best picks relative to draft position and opportunity cost were Troy Glaus (4), Johnson, Klesko, Hill, Valentin (19), Shetter (20), Saenz (21), Einar Diaz (24), and Vina. Einar was taken when a lot of teams were still looking for their 2nd and 3rd catchers, and while most all of the others after him were all either strictly offensive or defensive types, or both but severely hampered by game limitations, Einar was a good a blend of offense, defense and games. Something else Ken did well was draft percentage stealers, which helped him lead the league in "stolen base runs." And unlike what he did in 2000, he didn't draft one dimensional stealers like Glanville, Singleton, Febles and Benjamin ... he drafted more players like Damon, Klesko, Glaus, and ChuckJ ... good players with excellent stolen base opportunities.
The most questionable pick other than Manny was Ken's selection of Hunt* in the 17th. With just 1.5 MLB bb/9, yes, Hunt wasn't a basic Z pitcher, but the cost of his L is monumental. I know Ken feels strongly about it, but I believe the advantages of a ZZ rating for a 7 is miniscule in a league such as ours, as the ZZ control rating will just lead to more opportunities for his low grade to come into play. Mix that with the added home run frequency, and I see no advantage to picking Hunt over a 8 with no control rating, someone like Dave Burba, who Ken took 5 rounds later, or Scott Elarton, who was available 59 picks after Hunt. In the 2001 SL, Hunt did have one of the better bb/9 ratios, but it was a not too outstanding 3.47, while his 2.18 hr/9 contributed to a very bad 6.52 ERA. Burba gave up not quite as many hr/9, but that small difference helped his higher baserunners/9 total to better Hunt's ERA, as Burba had just a 6.20 ERA. For Elarton, he gave up even more baserunners/9 than Burba, but his relatively low hr/9 total alao provided a lower ERA than Hunt, a 6.48 ERA.
A solid draft by Ken, with really only one or two questionmarks and only one real challenge. And as I pointed out in the "breakdown" article about Manny in the 2nd, that challenge is not necessarily as much of a challenge come playoff time, so in that sense, it's occasionally a worthwhile challenge to have. I'm very happy for Ken, the last of the remaining founders of our great league to win a championship. Keep in mind that we didn't get the Spit Cup until 1997, so one of the founders still has not taken a drink from that trophy.
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I always find it hard to get a good enough perspective on my own picks or to taut my good picks as I sometimes do, but honest self-analysis is one of the essential parts of anyone's draft review, I feel. When I finished the draft, I thought I had drafted a team with a chance to be really good. After reading Greg's comments about my team in his preview, I changed that opinion and was more wary of the task ahead of me. And mid-season, when I was mired below .500, I thought I had drafted my worst team since '95C. Some of the early deficiencies reversed themselves after my 43-47 start, and I eventually again had a playoff team. But this was a team with several questionmarks from the start.
Robb Nen was the first questionmark. He was a stud reliever in a pool that was pretty shallow ... but he only had 99 innings available. A reliever hadn't been taken so early since '96, and then, in an era where the options for grabbing great hitters were much more limited, I questioned Ken for taking Jose Mesa, a 26* Z with loads of games and innings available. Though he was no Mesa, I think Nen answered my questions during the season, blown saves notwithstanding, but come playoff time, he was again quite limited in games and innings, which brought up more questions about the soundness of his selection.
Lance Berkman was not the best available DH when I took him in the 12th. I wanted a great hitter without 24s on his card and with a 0 platoon rating to hit protect ARod without grounding into a ton of DPs. Berkman had the potential to be very good, but his major weakness was his 114 games. With guys like Mike Sweeney, Klesko, Thome and John Vander Wal (a virtually identical player as Berkman, but with more games and better stealing, at the cost of being a lefty SA-5) all available, I jumped on the lesser Berkman and his small positives. Berkman didn't hit for most of the year, and his selection haunted me like no other, especially when Greg chose Vander Wal and managed a better performance from him.
Several people told me after the draft and throughout the season that they wanted Dave Hansen before I took him in the 18th. I wasn't sure how sound it was to draft a guy with limited PA's, mostly poor defense, a high platoon rating, power but not much ability to hit for average, and no speed. Hansen had a couple good games and a few big pinch hits, but he spent most of the season confirming my worst fears about what he brought to the table.
I long to have a solid balance, and in the pen, I sought Ricardo Rincon as the final piece to balance that group. Why I let myself get in the position where Rincon was a viable option, I have no idea. Yes, Rincon was a lefty 15* with an H, but he was the most limited pitcher in the league in terms of innings, and his W loomed large. What I needed more was maybe a John Franco before Chris took him, or even a Rocker or Plesac before they were taken, or instead of Rincon in the 26th, righty 13* Mike James and his +2 move ... as Rincon was the 6th reliever I took and the 6th +0. Or I should've picked up a 6th Z reliever like Nelson Cruz, as my confidence in Rincon facing tough lefties, for even a single batter, was minimal, as most of those guys (Delgado, Giambi, Bonds, Giles, Vander Wal, Luis Gonzalez and Helton) were exactly the guys who would take advantage of his W. Believe me, I am not complaining about Rincon's 1.69 ERA for the ASPs, just saying that it was a product of pitching just 26.2 innings and be very lucky.
Obviously, to win 89 games, I didn't draft only questionmarks. I thought Mussina (4) was a bargain, I was glad to get a CF as good as Griffey (8) when I did, I was very happy Frank Castillo (9) was still around when he was, and I thought Fyhrie (16) and Aaron Boone (24) were very good complementary picks.
The picks I felt best about were Jeffery Hammonds (21) and JD Drew (22). These guys are the epitome of what I have said throughout these notes about the depth of wing outfielders in our talent pool. Neither was exceptional enough to warrant a mid-round selection, but their ability to solidify my bench when I started Floyd early in the season, and then to contribute at the top of my order when I moved Floyd into the role of pinch-runner, was as important as any other factor in my eventual success. Finding solid contributors such as these guys late in the draft is necessary for success if you invest early in pitching, and I think it's why I was able to better Dave by 7 games in the wild card race.
My success in 2001 was a product of luck, as my Pythagorean and record in one-run games suggest. But to some degree we all make our own luck, I feel. It's pretty unbelievable that my analysis is that my 89 wins were more than anything a product of the edge I received with my 21st and 22nd round picks, but it should be a lesson to all of us that we have to take every pick very, very seriously as we try to compete against some very serious and very exceptional competition.
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Why does Greg win every year? I know that one reason is because he always drafts very well. And when I say he drafts well, I mean that when the rest of us make 15 really good picks in a given draft, maybe he'll make 16 good picks, and Greg the manager will use that 16th player to his advantage during play to get some extra wins. Or if he has a "down" year and only makes 15 really good picks, the quality of those 15 will exceed the quality of everyone else's good 15, and Greg the manager will use that better quality to get those extra wins. Or if he has a really down year with only 14 good picks, maybe he'll get a Pedro. Or he'll simply make his manager work even harder and mold the average picks into his types of players. Simply put, Greg makes his own luck, and it's usually done on draft day.
That being said, I think this was one of Greg's weaker drafts. I say that because he didn't necessarily get that 16th good pick, the quality of his 15 (or so) good picks didn't greatly exceed the quality of anyone else's 15 good picks, he didn't get a Pedro-type or anyone else who far exceeded the rest of the pack. If you look at Greg's picks in rounds 1-8, you see a decent group, but nothing too outstanding, and nothing too distinguished from any of the rest of us. This is why I think we are all getting better as GM's ... in year's past, you could almost always tell who was gonna be good after rounds 1-8, and the rest of the draft would determine who among those good teams was gonna be awesome. That has changed, and it's much more of a 20 round process, maybe even the full 27, to see who will excel.
Where Greg excelled especially, more than any other GM, in the 2001 draft was in rounds 11-17. At that point, Greg had a fair staff and some decent players -- certainly Alfonzo ended up being more than a decent player, I understand. But the lineup depth and bench strength he gave himself with great picks like Ochoa (11), Hundley (12), Vander Wal (13), Segui (15), Mondesi (16), and Tom Goodwin (17) was immeasurable to his eventual success. Greg challenged himself in ways similar to what Ken did in terms of j-rating challenges, but Greg did so without costing himself a bench (to a point), and without sacrificing staff depth.
Staff depth is the other area where Greg set himself apart, I think. And he did so with great subtlty. With his selections of D'Amico (1) and Hampton (2), he gave himself a great base on the starting end, and with Rivera (4), Veres (5) and Wunsch (7), he grabbed a decent bullpen base. With D'Amico and Hampton and their potential to be innings-eaters, he seemed to understand that the backend of the rotation and the backend of his bullpen could still be average and be a success. He made late investments in guys like Adams (21), Miller (22), and Jose Santiago (24), and they worked well for him. At the beginning of the draft, I would have suggested a righty 11Z with limited appearances like Santiago was a wasted pick, but in reality, he provided a ton of innings that his 6 and 8 starters didn't have to pitch. Mixed with a potent offense, this fair, but deep and balanced, bullpen was everything he needed for success, similar to what Chris's fair, but deep, bullpen was to his success.
The two questionable picks I have were Sele (10) and Kenny Rogers (18). I understand how their peripherals appealed to Greg, but I still don't think those bonuses warranted selection. To the credit of Greg the manager, when Sele and Rogers, and certainly Rekar, didn't have success, Greg was apt to realize the game could be won with his bullpen. And of course, to the credit of Greg the GM, he drafted a deep enough pen to handle the innings. But wouldn't he have been better to have passed on Sele and say Terry Adams and instead took the much better righty with the +3 move Jim Mecir and then whichever starting pitcher from the remaining group of Halama, Weaver, Burba, Elarton, Stephenson, Lieber and Radke? Or wouldn't he have been better if he had passed on Rogers and his peripherals for a Brian Moehler or Javier Vazquez and their better grade? I'm not arguing with the overall result, I'm just saying that the fabric of the team could have been even smoother -- silk instead of nylon in our cotton blend league. But in the big picture, two questionable picks will not hinder a good manager like Greg.
People rooted against the Yankees pretty heavily this post-season, I suppose because they've been there too much -- especially lately -- and because of what they represent throughout history. Many Summer Leaguers root against Greg for the same reasons. But when it came time for me to put my money on the MLB playoffs, I put money on the Yankees, and I fully expected them to triumph, though they didn't necessarily have the best talent. Greg the GM may not have given himself the best talent, but like the Yankees, the talent he gathererd was still exceptional, and he gave himself the opportunity for glory. But we needn't fret, as our plan to infiltrate Greg's franchise by having Pam divert his time usually devoted to scouting is working well so far. And maybe even before 2003, her biological alarm clock will help push Greg the GM into the second division, kinda like how the Ken Phelps trade wreaked havoc with the Yanks.
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