Mississippi Levee Breaks Preview

Preamble: Liked many things about my teams in the last couple seasons, especially how the 2015 Mukluks led the league in scoring, and how my team has been outscoring the opposition, which to me speaks to my favorite buzzword 'balance'. In post-2015 talk amongst my peers, though, the theme I heard was that I too often will focus on pitching. Maybe I do, relatively speaking from a certain point of view, but I think investing something like that early, middle, and late in a draft is just a product of trying to balance things out. Granted, a portion of my definition of offensive balance in 2015 meant drafting a lower ISO team w/ fewer SBA available, but power-speed is just one component of offense.

Anyway, as I look forward before any draft, it's usually the flaws of the previous team I look to avoid more than a specific greatness I may have achieved that I should want to replicate. Perhaps that's a perfectionist quality that I too often display. Just the same, I knew I had some pet peeves that came out in the 2015 season that I wanted to avoid or at least de-emphasize. Saw too many errors from some positions, saw too many useless playoff innings come from my bullpen, and plainly just lost too many hits to batting a group w/ high platoon ratings.

Funny thing about 2016, which didn't immediately occur to me, is that there will be way more HRs hit. Preplays weren't exactly showing this, but after a couple rounds and then reassessing who all was out there I finally came to this realization. If we averaged 170 HRs in 2015, and only appreciably higher 175 HRs in 2014, expect we'll average 210 in 2016. That is a significant league-wise boost. It became a recurring question from about round 4 through 27, would I be able to limit HRs, and hit enough of my own?

Offense: All in all, this is best case top 3 offense. Worst case, it's still probably a 6th best offense. Trout isn't the same Trout that Chris had, but he should be a solid cornerstone of my offense. League-wide among guys not named Votto, Miguel Cabrera should be the most Votto-like at getting on base. Casali & Parker have big HR cards, and with those guys getting about 1/3 time, Teixiera and Trout and Khris Davis need to hit a ton of HRs to get my franchise to 200 HRs again for the first time since 2009. Another draft achievement was having many mid-to-high walk cards on the team, and considering I expect to be hit and running less than I did in the last couple seasons, I think it will translate to a relatively high walk total. While I did draft a good secondary average team, I won't have a great batting average, unless my collectively low platoon ratings reap bigger benefits than what I am expecting. Now the total average stat for my team? Think that overemphasizes steal success in it's equation, so I don't think my total average will be all that special.

Pitching: Best case scenario is middle of the pack, but I expect I won't be at the league bottom. That's good, right?!? Someone told me Kershaw was who they thought I would take at 1. Don't tell Clayton this, but I was actively trying to talk my way out of taking him in the 2nd. At this point, am glad I did select him, because he will be really strong against most, and having a top starter like him should give relief to my pen, if that makes sense. Scherzer and his ZZ will be outstanding, except when he limits BBs only to allow a HR. In 2016 that will too often happen, but I'll manage around that as best I can. The rest of the staff is kind of piecemeal, where no one stands out as a pick I am super-enthused about. Am formulating some thoughts about how to optimally manage those remaining pitchers, but that's too often something I can weave my way around during an 162 game season only to have that fall flat in a short series ... basically, I don't want to get super hung up on that optimal big picture management but rather like balancing the living-in-the-now with that big picture look at the staff.

Defense: I have aspirations to be top 2 here. Regret not finding a way to include a 1B-5 or 3B-5 on the roster, but w/ a strong-armed 10 in Simmons and the 9 +3 PB1 Molina and the 3-33 in Trout, will have one of the best team defenses up the middle. I was planning on 31 arms Davis and Gardner getting most of the corner OF time, but thanfully took the opportunity of selecting Choo. Preplays were showing Carpenter to be OK-or-better relative to other 2B-7s and 3B-3s, so I hope that whatever I was doing there can be replicated. Christian Yelich will see a fair amount of OF time in relief, I think, which I like. Pitching defense -wise (E1s a huge pet peeve of mine, since the invention of APBA Baseball), only 4 of my 11 rostered pitchers are P-1s, and those poorer fielders aren't the higher innings guys, so that too is pleasing.

Best selections: I like Choo, I like Parker, I like Casali, and I like Zobrist. Hopefully Teixeira outperforms someone like a Chris Davis, who again was someone I had to talk myself out of for pick #11, albeit for the 50-less games Teixeira will play compared to Davis. Zobrist is someone who I absolutely wasn't planning to select, but after missing out out Moustakas and selecting Carpenter to mostly play 2B w/ Blanco taking close to 90 games at 3B, I just wasn't finding the 3Bman to complement those two, and no one who fit nearly as well as Zobrist was going to fit in my eyes. And for many rounds, as with Freeman and Tulo, I thought Zobrist was destined to be one of the guys taken in front of me. Didn't invest a ton in pitching, but I like Boyer and Lynn and Ramos most among opportunity costs for what I did invest.

Worst selections: Gardner was a less-than-perfect response to Upton and Heyward having just been selected, as was Phillips to Lemahieu's selection. However, the problem with Phillips, even if he was exactly who I wanted, in retrospect I am not convinced it was the right time. Molina and Simmons are different type of the same story here, guys I deliberately wanted at the time they were taken, but players whose limited skillset likely spoke to being taken later or avoided. Again, while I didn't invest much in pitching, certain things had to be avoided, but just the same, I took Strasburg though internally I was feeling I should be grabbing someone else, or at least just plainly rueing the predicament of having him as my 5th.

Overall: For the last few 8 team seasons, was thinking it would be great to be in a division w/ Matt, Ken and Chris. Careful what you wish for. Chris mentions in his preview how Ken and I took several guys in front of him, which I read to be that Ken took several guys Chris wanted while I took Khris Davis. Ken masterfully took guys immediately AFTER I chose someone else (Yes, Rizzo after Kershaw, but more to the point of specific position guys like Watson after Familia, Martin after Molina, Turner after Blanco. Those are the types of picks where I make my selection and then KNOW that Ken will be coaxing better performances out of his guys, to the point where I'll look like an idiot for not taking his guy. Graham did the pick-the-guy-I-coveted 6 or 7 times in the draft, moreso than Ken and Gregg did immediately before I picked, partially because of different directions I was going after awhile compared to Ken and Gregg. It's to be expected that someone two picks in front of you takes someone that you want, but when the specific guy I was targeting was taken so consistently by Graham from the mid-rounds on (I think that's the alarming distinction here, mid-round when we should have been more divergent), my drafting strategy became about making significantly longer and more detailed contingency plans. Such is the fun of drafting in the SL with a bunch of skilled GMs.

Good luck to all!