What can I say, this league is getting harder and harder each year. I thought I was going to roll along to another strong 40 game start, when I got steamrolled by Steve and Dave to finish at 21-19. But I can't really complain. Going into game 1 this ye ar, I thought I was going to be well under .500 (which could still happen). I had the wonderful E-machine run 3 or 4 replays, and each one, even with liberal relief usage, had me closer to .400 than .500. And I was disappointed with my team. I agree wi th Greg that you can not go into a draft with a plan, and I certainly did not say this year, "screw starting pitching". It just worked out that way. And while there is not much defense to my early trade, I can defend the way I drafted (but actually if you look at who was drafted in that trade, you have to say, maybe it wasn't as bad as you might have thought). Each time I came upon a starting pitcher, I weighed him, and the other ones left versus a position player and/or reliever who was available at that same time. Each time the starter came up short. After a certain time, it just became ridiculous to even try and draft a starter. As a History major, you might think I would have learned something from Ken last year, with his strong bullpen and mos tly weak starters, yet still finished 2nd from last in ERA. All I can say, is that don't forget that for the first 100 games or so, Ken was one of the 2 or 3 best teams in the league. That is hope for me to cling to.
So I have poor starters. What did I do to combat that? Really I feel that I countered that with strengths in almost every other area. I have like 13 position players, and they all have a speed of 15 or higher except for Delgado, and my catchers. I hav e a 9 at SS, and an 8 at 2B, because with all those runners on base, I will need to turn a bunch of double plays. With all of those runners on, I will need them to not be taking extra bases. This led to me drafting Matheny (+6), and my outfielders (37, 36, 35). Offense? Somewhat surprisingly, that is probably my next weakest area. I will take my first 5 against anyone else's, but I am pretty weak after that (although Batista who bats 7th or 8th is leading my team in homers). My bullpen is not great, but it goes 8 deep, leaving me the opportunity to take my starters out early. Altogether, I am pretty confident that I did a good job compensating for my weaknesses.
This isn't the time or place, but I am starting to wonder what defense means in this league. Steve, who is leading the way, routinely throws out 36, 37, 38 team defenses. Dave, who may have been leading were it not for a schlitzing by Ken, does the same . But that is a topic for another essay.
Seems like about every year this time, we start talking about parity. Bob is at the bottom right now, but may be just a few breaks here and there of snapping out of it. He seeme to have the personnel to make a strong move. Graham, Greg , and Keith are next, and they are within 2 games of each other, in the same division. Graham made a trade to improve his team. Greg has been talking about his lack of offensive punch, and seems likely to trade or draft some help there. Keith leads the division, and ha s not found his offensive niche yet. That Ken -Dave series that I referred to before was the leagues last series before 40, and was perhaps the most interesting. It matched up 2 teams both averaging around 6.4 runs per game. So they defied logic, and s cored 15 and 13 runs in 5 games (a day earlier, Dave had scored 21 in one game vs. me). Ken certainly lacks no firepower, and Dave, who put a lot of emphasis on drafting Z pitchers, is leading the league in ERA. Joe and Steve who boast the 40-game MVPs in Robbie Alomar, and Barry Bonds, are leading their divisions, and are not stopping there, by being very active in the free agent process, and the trading mills. Like the quotable Steve Swinea would say, "These next 120 games should be interesting."
As for me, well, expect to see a lot of relievers the rest of the way. Greg said in his season preview, that he wasn't sure how much fun I would have this year with my team. He is somewhat correct. I am not having as much fun as I would like, but I am trying to turn it to my advantage. I am looking at this season as more of a challenge. Can I trade and draft this way, and still field a competitive team? The past 3 years, I have enjoyed a lot of success, but I think it was mostly based on the teams I drafted, rather than my managing. This year, if I do well, I think it will be due to good managing, as I have recently fired my GM, who had gotten too big for his britches. And anyone that thinks they are out of the hunt, keep in mind several things. Keith was 5, 6, 7 games back for most of the first 100 games last year before making his move. My 100 win team, the Cheeky Monkeys was a mere 22-18 at the 40 game mark, then went 78-44 the rest of the way. And Greg's Mountain View team from '97 went lik e the whole second half without losing a series. Those things can be done, and I think we have 9 teams in this league capable of doing it this year.
Actually upon re-reading Greg's preview, he said he thought I would have fun with my team. I don't know if he changed that, or I just initially misread it (could be some kind of Freudian thing there), but I will stick with my previous comments about it. Anyways, I am now at 50 games, and my team is in a total freefall. If you throw out my 3-2 series over Greg, my team has gone 1-4 in each of the last 4 series, and things don't seem to be looking very promising. My offense has really gone sour. It is too late now, but I think I realized one of the errors in my draft. After taking Abreu with the first pick of the 6th round, I really didn't take another hitter the rest of the way. (Batista and Green may count, but I took Tony as the best available 3B, and Shawn as a 3-OF with an arm, who could steal.) This has kind of limited my offense to 4 or 5 quality guys, who if they don't hit, I don't stand a chance.