This whole thing reads pretty sour. But I sincerely enjoyed competing in SL in 2002, and despite my lack of success, I still will remember aspects of the season and aspects of this team with great fondness.
I wasn't nearly as disappointed with my Denali ASPs playoff loss as I had been with previous losses, which led me to being a little more laissez-faire with my approach to SL 2002. While waiting and waiting for the disk, I spent a great deal of time preparing via information posted on the APBA message boards, and then with my own information, while in the past 99.9% of my preparation was with the disk via Wizard and Advanced Draft. I can't say for certain that this hurt me or helped me, but I can certainly say it provided a different perspective of the players and the upcoming season. With the limited time between the disk arrival and the draft going full force, my note-taking was much more scattered and piecemeal than any year since about '95 ... but again, I know others had to deal with similar infringements and I cannot say for certain if I was any worse for wear because of the different approach I took.
The name Fallon was discussed in my team announcement, but if you did not read that article, it had to do with an homage to my close friend, Navy pilot Lt. Brian Boice. Fallon is the location of the Navy's Top Gun school, and Brian as a pilot, much like myself as an SL pilot, is like Top Gun's Ice Man. The collective team would be the Ice Men.
I mentioned in the past that I sometimes try to emulate other teams. It wasn't meant to be a full-scale replication or anything, but the team I tried to emulate most in 2002 was the overachieving Yips of 2000. Most specifically, the resemblance related to putting as many J-0s in the lineup as I could, allowing me to grab a functional bench. Also, my emulation had to do with playing solid defense for all 162, having decent speed, and having the starters turn things over to a strong pen, things Steve accomplished with the Yips ... basically doing the little things that break a game down to the final few innings, where I think I can shine. J-0wise, after the draft, I had J-0s ARod, Giles, Kent, Olerud and Aramis Ramirez, with J-1s Mondesi and Millar, leaving me really only to have to worry about splitting time between LoDuca and Blanco, with similar types Kotsay/Devo/Sanders (occasionally Garcia) manning the other OF/DH games.
The lineup often was:
1. Rolen 3B
2. ARod SS
3. Millar DH
4. Burks LF
5. Kent 2B
6. LoDuca C
7. Olerud 1B
8. Kotsay CF
9. Mondesi RF
With a bench of:
ARod probably batted 3rd alot more than 2nd, but if I was playing all of my top 9 at the same time, he woulda batted 2nd. LoDuca, Kent, Olerud, sometimes even Raul saw time in the #1 spot, pushing Rolen down to 2, ARod to 3 and so on. Mondesi and the Kotsay/Devo platoon switched around in the 8 and 9 spot depending on the opposing starting pitcher and who was batting 7th and 1st. When Karim played, he hit 3rd or 4th, Blanco 9th when he replaced LoDuca. Sanders hit 6th or 7th as he replaced Burks, depending on the situation.
I thought it would be a pretty high average team with a fair OBP, a good iso, decent speed, with not a lot of reliance on stolen bases, but with the ability to get a base if I needed it. The average and OBP ended up not being as high as I anticipated, but the isolated power was pretty fair. I ended up scoring I think about 96% of what I created, which was far below my expectations, but this still was my highest scoring team yet.
My "functional" bench turned out to be a hinderance after the Giles-Ramirez-Groom for Rolen-Burks-Rivera trade. There were way too many games that I ended up starting Devo and Sanders for one. The function of DeShields and Hocking as pinch-runners was ill-conceived, and any defensive replacements I did regarding Sanders (for Burks) or Blanco (for LoDuca) or Hocking (as a late game substitute on the bases for Olerud or whomever) seemed to bite me back when my pen couldn't hold the lead and I was forced to compete then with a subpar offense. Plus, in my decision to take Karim vs. a David Segui (who I coveted late in the draft but was reluctant to pull the trigger on) meant I pretty much had Sanders available off the bench as a hitter, and he rarely produced in those situations.
Relative to the league, my staff was pretty good. The trouble was my G's doing next to nothing to affect HR's, making my low BB/9 guys just that much more likely to serve up the long ball.
My staff was:
Kile 13 Z +3
Maddux 11 Z low BB/9, G
Sparks 12 Z
Abbott 11 W
Weaver 7 G
With a pen of:
Kline 20 H, 89 games
Baez 17 somewhat limited games
Rivera 16 Z low BB/9, G
Remlinger 14 Z +3
Sasaki 14 Z low BB/9
Patterson 12 Z +3, G
Joel Piniero, 14 H, was my 6th starter ... and was 4-0 in 4 or 5 starts. Before I picked up Rivera, I had Groom, a lefty 11 Z with low BB/9 and a G.
I documented my issues in the first 40 in an early 2002 article, but I have to reiterate that I was blown away in my first 10, going 1-9 against Greg and Bob. I hadn't figured out who was going to lead off for me until about game 35, and then it was probably a lesser of the 9 evils decision in picking LoDuca. At the 40 game mark, my pen was pretty poor, with an alarmingly high HR/9 rate. I was 19-21 at that point, convinced that I could be a playoff team with a better pen. The biggest hangup I had with pulling the trigger on the Giles-Ramirez-Groom for Rivera-Rolen-Burks deal was that I knew I could be bailing WC competitor Chris out of a couple of jams ... in adding a lefty reliever to his lefty-less pen and in allowing Cameron to get a whole lot more sits while Giles played CF. Of course, I did not know the extent of damage Giles would do in the middle of Chris's order, but I was expecting good things from Giles in my final 122, so his success in a Truffles uniform should not have been too surprising.
Anyway, I did well after the trade. Rolen and Burks rocked for me, Rolen getting on a ton and Burks hitting a ton of taters. Rivera was pretty consistent. I saw how well Ramirez and Giles did for Chris, but it wasn't a big deal because my team was doing better than his.
I had a brief highlight in early September (mid-season). I don't know what his record was to start the day, but I was in spitting distance of Greg, with a good deal of playoff optimism with my 52-48 record. Greg came by early that morning for 10 with me, and I shlitzed him in the first 5 to get to my high water mark of the season, 56-49. I think I was within 3, maybe only 2, at that point. Great balls of fire if he doesn't shlitz me right back in our second 5 to negate any advantage I had gained. Worse, I played 2 more with Chris that day and lost them both, while Greg did well against Chris, Steve, and Bob. There was no division race after that, and my slide, which had bits of recovery before my late free fall, had begun.
My struggles did not really come full force until after the 120 mark, when I went 16-26 to close the season, winning only 1 of my last 8 series (including a 6-game split). ARod, Millar and Kent stopped producing like middle of the order hitters, Rolen slumped, Burks had to sit a few more than what he had been, Kline decided he couldn't get anyone out for a brief spell, and Remlinger and Rivera were alot more iffy than automatic, which they had been to that point. Compounding my problems were injuries to LoDuca and Rolen at the same time in a late season 10-gamer with Ken (dropped my last 7 in that series), and I fell about as fast as any playoff contender had in our league's history.
I had surmised to myself that collapses don't happen in our league. What happens in the first half of the season should mirror what goes on in the last half, without too much variance unless managers are way overplaying (or I suppose underplaying) their guys. The other possibilty I think I have written about are gimmicky teams that get out of the blocks well as the manager does well to mask their inefficiencies with those gimmicks, such as what Ken might've done in 2000 with the Arctic Cats, definitely what Steve did in 2001, before both of those teams fell apart. Even with those gimmicks (Ken's related to SB% and relief usage, Steve's related to poor defense in numerous positions to gain an offensive advantage), a player's OBP should be pretty close in the 2nd half as it was in the first half, a pitcher's ERA should be pretty similar in the 2nd half to what it was in the first half. BBW success does have an attribute of luck to it, but it's still driven primarily on computer algorithms that do not change, and thus over longer spans, luck is nullified. Yet in the last quarter of the season, I played like garbage while Chris mounted a strong recovery.
I was not eliminated from the WC race until CC Sabathia shut me down in game 161. When you are being shut down by CC, you kinda realize that it just wasn't meant to be.
The kicker was that I was trying to draft a team that could get me wins in the close games, but (among other things) the makeup of my team yielded a pretty poor 1-run record (thanks to Bill James, I think I know why). Alas, I outscored my opponents by a substantial margin, yet I was only 78-84 ... and in the previous two SLs, I had winning records in both seasons despite being outscored each season.
I haven't mentioned how painfully slow 2002 was. I was partly to blame, as I too took July off. While schedules will always provide interference, hopefully the mistakes (if there really were some) that were made in scheduling provided learning and growth opportunities. The funny thing to me is that for 4 or 5 months, I was in the playoffs. All in all, I feel a little silly as I ponder my November collapse ... as my only other November games to this point were in the '96 playoffs, and then, because of the length of the season, we had questions about whether the SL would continue.
Related to the "4 or 5 months I was in the playoffs" comment, I was not suggesting that, during the entirety of that span, I expected to make the playoffs. Rather, I was just looking at the standings and noting that I had the WC lead. Playing with the WC lead in a season like we had in 2002 was different than most. Usually, there are division races, and a true WC race doesn't really present itself until closer to the end of the season. But each division champ in 2002 was pretty well set, say, by the 80 game mark. As no one took off in the WC race, and as no one really nose-dived, it was a 6 team race for half a season, which is pretty remarkable. Not making excuses, or even presenting facts here, but it seemed like every time I played one of the other 5 in the race, I was facing the other team's best. I may be overstating Matt's affect on the WC race, but I think more than anyone else outside of his division, he wanted to beat my team. In my other three series, vs. Greg, Bob and Ken, I think I was facing their best also -- with Greg, I was facing his closest competition in the division race; with Bob, I was facing an arch-nemesis; with Ken, as most of my games with him were close to the end of the season, he may have wanted to use up the games of his best J-2, J-3 and J-4 players (maybe even some J-1s) before the final 12 intra-divisionals, as he wouldn't want to risk an injury to one of these players going into the playoffs. All of the above may be false ... the division leaders might not have given a rip about who I was as they were simply fine-tuning their victory machines heading into the playoffs, and the other 5 may have been treating me as just another foe ... but at the time, I didn't get that impression, and thus, this perception exists in my head that I was the hunted.
Steve Kline over FRod? Trading away Brian Giles? ARod over Helton? Underplaying Rolen and LoDuca, while possibly overpitching Weaver and Abbott? Without these decisions (indecisions or misdecisions) would I have held onto the WC? Were these more personnel issues that were the fault of the GM, or usage issues that were the fault of the manager? Why would anyone ever try to emulate a Swinea miracle?
I cannot answer these issues listed above (and the others I may have missed) collectively, other than to say mistakes by the GM begat mistakes by the manager. All things being equal, and of course hindsight being 20/20, there's no way I would've made the trade with Chris again.
It was suggested to me that, with the same limited scouting available to all, the cream would rise to the top in SL 2002. That may have been true to some extent, as we were all on equal footing, but I think the limited scouting hindered me more than others in my drafting strategy ... that is to say, while others took more risks during the key points of the draft (and occasionally reaped the rewards), I saw a need to stay on a conservative path. Mostly, this just led to a bunch of early- to mid-round picks on relief pitchers that weren't significantly better than the pitchers taken at the end of the draft.
Believe me, I appreciate the contributions of DK, Devo, Raul on the bases, Burks, and the others that kept me in the race for so long, but in retrospect, I needed much more, and I mostly didn't get it. Expected performance was a topic I wrote about in my 2001 Draft Notes, and here are the guys that I expected more from in SL 2002 :
ARod - relatively poor BB totals, stuck on 39 HR for about 20 games ... -134 OPS
Rolen - two late-season HBP injuries ... still a "good" -61 OPS
Kent - well under his MLB HR total ... an acceptable -107 OPS
Millar - hit more like rich man's Luis Pujols than poor man's Albert Pujols ... -192 OPS
Olerud - not anywhere close to his MLB OBP ... -167 OPS
Sanders - shoulda had many more dongs ... -182 OPS
Raul - thought he was a bargain, instead he was Raul just being Raul ... an acceptable -103 OPS
Maddux - 2-5, 5.53 last half of season
Weaver - 1-7, 8.81 last half of season
Baez - he may hit like Mays and run like Hayes, but he pitched like Joan Baez
Klein, KH - forgot to extend an invitation to GM Taterka to the housewarming party that Kevin Walsh hosted
My MVP ballot was:
|1. Barry Bonds||1331||1765||224.3|
|2. Larry Walker||1032||1184||146.3|
|3. Todd Helton||1031||1114||159.8|
|4. Jason Giambi||995||1083||132.5|
|5. Brian Giles||966||1017||145.5|
|6. Chipper Jones||908||929||126.7|
|7. JD Drew||1029||1115||106.9|
|8. Cliff Floyd||930||993||128.8|
|9. Shawn Green||796||806||84.8|
|10. Jose Cruz||766||769||77.0|
My Cy ballot:
|1. Felix Rodriguez||1.57||29-2||14 saves|
|2. Aaron Sele||2.93||20-6|
|3. Russ Ortiz||4.04||17-9|
|4. Matt Morris||4.11||13-13|
|5. David Weathers||2.93||11-12||23 saves, led in IRSP|
My Benevolent Yellow Tumbler (aka MOY) ballot:
|1. Bob Taterka|
|2. Greg Nims|
|3 (tie). Steve Swinea|
|3 (tie). Graham Haas|
I don't want to go too much into my thought process about all of the above, but I think I would add about the MOY ballot that it's not so much that I think Bob "outmanaged" everybody on a game-by-game basis, as much as I thought he clearly did the best with the least. In other years, I've looked at Bob's team and brazenly thought I could have found a way to have gotten 5 more wins than he did. In 2002, I might not have won 70 games with his squad. Great job, RT.
Also, I know that Steve and Graham both had losing records, but I think they both could have lost more games if not for their good managerial jobs. For Graham, I think in our head-to-head play, he outmanaged me, thus he got special extra credit points vs. say, Ken, who truly may have outmanaged me, but I got the feeling that the deciding factor in all of our games was luck. Plus, in each series, Graham won 3-2, except the 3-3 final series, where I needed to win 5-1 to keep my playoff hopes. If not for him playing a bunch of games at my house, I may not have voted for Steve, but I saw many, many games against other teams where he used his bench just magnificently ... and if I can't give him extra credit for saving the league, then fuhgettaboutit.
I thought Kile would've had more Cy support, maybe even finishing 4th to Sele, FRod and Ortiz. Instead, he was just another blip, tied for 9th win 5 other pitchers. From my perspective, Kile was a workhorse. He finished 2nd to Sele in ERA, delivering some clutch starts and some clutch wins ... except for in game 161 when it mattered the most. I think what really derailed DK was how poorly Kline did in Kile's starts. Here are the gory details:
Kline in non DK's starts ... 7-3, 2.81, 10 holds, 30% IRSP, 5 blown Kline in all DK's starts ... 0-4, 7.36, 2 holds, 71% IRSP, 3 blown
Specifically to DK, Kline blew 3 potential DK wins, in a different game allowed an inherited DK runner to score in a tie game that DK ended up losing, and of the 6 runners inherited from DK, Kline allowed 5 of them to score.
I had wanted to write Draft Notes all season long, in a somewhat different format than what I have done in the past, tackling more general topics related to our GMing than anything related to specific picks. The mix of the extended season, the fact that I was at least in the WC race until the last days of the season, the short off-season, and my heated job search did not provide me the opportunity to give that subject much of a look. Hopefully I can continue with something compelling in the future. Chris's Savoy review certainly fills the bill for player analysis, if you are interested.
The limited off-season also affected this document. I had wanted to put the Fallon review to bed before I started with anything 2003-related, but of course, the disk came out shortly after the end of the season, and scouting began. We even abbreviated our scouting opportunities by a few days to get a jump on the draft. While we were drafting, I said to myself that I would write the Fallon review before I played any games, but school and other time restraints again pushed the review off, while I jumped at the chance to get in my first few series. It was a unique season, so I suppose it only appropriate that my attempts to close the book on the season should be equally unique.
Having just returned from Ken's wedding, I'm still revelling in the SL brotherhood, but I'm not going to pull any SL 2000 fall party B.S. and go on about how I love you all. But I will say that you all mean a great deal to me (of course, the whole more than the sum of our parts in my heart), and being in the SL is about as important to me as everything else except God, family, and health, I suppose. Peace!