The year started out as badly as possible. First, I landed in the same division as Greg and Graham, the same pairing from the previous year. Then Dave was awarded Bonds, who was much coveted with his 73 MLB dongs. Then the draft was delayed while we all waited and waited for APBA to get their finances together and send out the data disk. The draft was fairly smooth, minus Bob flaming Chris and I for something we didn't say, but it still was pretty long, and not that I care, but time intensive while I was at work. But the real trouble was still ahead.
Greg and I got together online for our kick-off classic games, but we couldn't connect via NM with Greg as the host. I did host, but that just led to the unforeseen problems of screwing up the ORG file. I had set up a computer run pre-play of the season with one of the .bck files that had been sent out as the official file during the draft. I thought my loading the ORG would overwrite that file and those stats, but it did not entirely do what I expected, and a major snafu resulted. Greg asked around the SL community and found that their were options, but the best entailed losing a little bit of the convenience of seeing the Gretna and Fallon stats correctly in team and streak stats in Statmaster. Once more, I lost 4 of 5 to my division rival to start the season. The bottom really fell out when I played Bob a month later, and he managed to chico me. The offseason dream of my first Spit Cup was now a 1-9 nightmare.
I rebounded against Ken and Chris, beating both of them 3-2 to improve to 7-13, but Graham, who wins the SL Spirit Award so far in 2002, bested me 3 of 5 (I swear, he too could have chicoed me). I again hosted against Matt in his inaugural series, and connection problems aside, it was very rewarding, as I really felt like my team was doing the things I envisioned them capable of as they schlitzed the rookie to take me to 13-17. I met Joe online the following week and he beat me 3-2, but he had his own ORG snafu that resulted in him overwriting our series. I wasn't happy that I lost the series, but I was ready to move on after we played, so I had mixed feelings when we agreed to replay ... also, I wasn't sure if I could win 2 games in a replay. But there were no technical problems in the rematch, and the Ice Men continued to play better ball as I took the series 3-2.
I finished the round robin playing pre-season favorite Dave in a mini-Basl-o-rama. I dropped the first two games as Bonds played like Bonds and Buerhle and Vazquez pitched like Spahn and Sain. But the Ice Men showed life in taking game 3 by a score of 12-0, and I was then faced with one of my more difficult decisions of the year. Before the series, I highlighted game 4 as an opportunity to sit LoDuca, who needs to sit a little more than once per series, and Kent, who needs to sit only 3 times during the season, but had not sat in the first 38 games. I felt I would be better off with Hocking playing instead of the weaker defensive DeShields, and would also have a better bench for the game if I needed a late run with Delino available. But with Blanco getting the start, that would mean Hocking would hit 8th and Blanco 9th, with Raul leading off in place of my new lead off man LoDuca -- hence I would start what amounted to my worst lineup of the season in a game I needed to win if I wanted to win the series and keep some momentum going into the SL free-for-all. My worst lineup of the year took an early lead in a close game and outlasted the Rainmakers when Dave's bullpen failed him late. I took the final game of the series to close the round robin a respectable 19-21.
The stats show my team scoring 5.55 runs per game after 40, with a team ERA of 4.30. My Pythagorean says I've been unlucky, as does my record in one run games (I think my record is 5-8) and my extra inning record (0-5). I don't believe that it's totally related to luck, as we make our own luck much of the time, but I do expect those numbers to normalize over the course of the season. I suppose just about all of us go through 1-9 spells over the course of a season, it was just unfortunate that mine came against division rival Greg and trash-talker Bob, who nearly owns a career head to head advantage over me once again.
My batters are not drawing walks, but they are doubling like I never imagined (118, nearly 3 per game ... on pace to hit 478 2Bs, 16 better than Honolulu's SL record). ARod is fielding 1.000 after 40 games, and the team is fielding .987. Sparks is 5-1, and he and Maddux each have 2 shutouts to this point, as I have generally had very good starting pitching to this point (Kile 3.60, Maddux 4.15, Sparks 3.92, Abbott 6.29, Weaver 3.96). A problem has been a relatively poor showing from the bullpen. Kline and Remlinger have been pretty good, but Groom, Baez, Patterson and Sasaki have been atrocious. Their problem has been with the long ball -- this group has yielded relatively few baserunners, but have combined for about 2.61 home runs per 9. Only Baez (5.0) and the W Abbott (4.5) are averaging more than 3 walks per 9, while Remlinger, Sparks, Maddux, Groom and Sasaki are at or below 2.0, which is very pleasing.
AVE OBP SLG PRO (MLB) DIFF etc. GARCIA, K. .375 .375 .875 1.250 1.071 +179 8 PAs HOCKING, D. .333 .333 .500 .833 .654 +179 7 PAs, 0-3 SB RODRIGUEZ, A. .295 .369 .639 1.008 1.021 - 13 7-7 SB OLERUD, J. .276 .331 .474 .805 .873 - 68 2-2 SB BLANCO, H. .276 .290 .414 .704 .634 + 70 31 PAs RAMIREZ, A. .272 .321 .442 .763 .886 -123 KENT, J. .264 .326 .409 .735 .876 -141 LoDUCA, P. .264 .314 .550 .865 .917 - 52 SANDERS, R. .263 .317 .500 .817 .886 - 69 KOTSAY, M. .247 .287 .444 .732 .807 - 75 GILES, B. .245 .297 .497 .794 .994 -200 4-4 SB BUTCHER, M. .240 .311 .373 .685 .931 -246 MONDESI, R. .213 .284 .369 .652 .795 -143 8-9 SB WHITE, D. .158 .238 .263 .501 .802 -301 21 PAs, 6-7 SB DeSHIELDS, D. .100 .100 .100 .200 .697 -497 10 PAs, 4-5 SB
In my 2001 Draft Notes article about expected performance, I surmised that a -100 to -115 point differential in OPS (aka Production in APBA) should be expected. Excluding the guys with very few PAs (Garcia, Hocking, Blanco, Devo and Delino), I have 5 guys exceeding what should be expected (ARod, Olerud, LoDuca, Sanders and Kotsay) and 5 guys are producing below expected (Aramis, Kent, Giles, Butcher and Raul). So I cannot fairly say that I expect Giles to improve in the next 122 games without expecting Olerud's performance to fall off. I suppose one encouraging thing is that Sanders and Kotsay don't get as many PAs compared to the guys in the below expected group, meaning maybe I am due for better hitting as a team in the second half, as their slump will be felt less by the team as a Giles and Butcher hot streak. Of course, in the same article where I look at the ASPs, I note that the ASPs had 6 guys exceed expectations and 9 guys below expectations, so maybe the Ice Men will not maintain the symetrical 5 exceeding / 5 below rate that they have at this point.
Ken and Dave look very strong so far, even though Dave is scoring only 85% of the runs he creates and is being outscored handily, and even though Ken's lineup is proving not quite as strong as he had hoped, though they lead the league with 6.1 runs per game. Greg is 14-11 at this point, despite not having hit his offensive stride, so watch out for that to happen. Bob is the league's surprise so far, but one wonders if his shiny beads, shallow flattery and thin pitching led by Beanpole Glavine will hold up (note to the league, Mondesi has a better OPS than Ichiro at this point). Joe has yet to hit his groove, but most of us agree his talent can be a force in this league ... we just don't know if the lineup will mesh at some point or be more like Bob's strong but underachieving Homer Simpsons lineup. Chris is full of questions about his team and himself, but he's so money and he doesn't even know it. Matt has struggled early, but all rookies take their licks at some point ... could he be like Graham's rookie Arvada team and put together a strong surge in the latter portion of the season, maybe stringing together a win streak against some of the better teams in the league similar to Arvada's 8 game run? Speaking of Graham, led by 4-0 relief work from Beanpole Levine, he is kinda playing the Survivor role ... hanging around under the radar at 15-15. Greg and I traded emails about the situation within our division and how it resembled last year's Joe-Dave-Ken division ... where each team had the lead at important points of the season and no one was ever a decided favorite, yet from the constant challenges throughout the season, a toughness emerged in Ken that led him to his first Spit Cup.
The season is still very young. I am on pace to do good in a number of areas, but I'm also on pace to go 4-17 against Greg and 0-20 against Bob, while missing the playoffs with a 77-85 record. I am looking forward to the free-for-all period, and I welcome the opportunity to renew and invigorate my friendships with each SL owner.