Festus Miracle Season Review

To say that the 2006 Festus Miracle season was a success would be an understatement for a couple of reasons. The first reason is obvious, I suppose, in that the goal of every manager is to win the championship. The second reason is more subtle. In drafting this team, I took certain risks hoping but not knowing that they would pay dividends. It turns out that they did, which is gratifying. I doubt anyone except me thought that my team would be fighting for the championship at the end of the season. Maybe I got lucky, but maybe I didn't. The scary part of every season is drafting a team and knowing that if you make mistakes, it will be 365 days before you get to correct them. I have known that feeling more than once. The fun part is testing the "conventional wisdom" and things turning out OK.

I am not claiming to be a draft genius or even that my team was better than Greg's. If we played 100 times, he probably wins more than 50 times. Nevertheless, we matched up evenly in the regular season and I got the rolls in the postseason. It was good enough to get to the finals, and there I matched up with Keith, the team I had the most success against in the regular season. My team was 4-0 in Clemens starts going into the playoffs, and we ended up 1-0 against him in the finals. It took a miracle, but we beat him again.

Because of my domination of Kilimanjaro, Festus was 35-27 against the three playoff teams in the regular season. We actually had a losing record against Ken and also against Matt, but we were at least .500 against everyone else.

Let's look at the highlights of the championship season, shall we?

The First 70 Games

Festus got off to a quick start, and even kept pace with China for a short time before hitting a rough stretch just prior to the 70 game mark that left us at 34-36 after 70 games. My bullpen was especially dominant in the early part of the season. Rincon (my tough out pitcher throughout the season) was 8-4 after 70 games with 2 blown saves; he ended up at 11-13 with 8 blown saves.

The Trade

At the 70 game mark, I made a trade with Keith (Figgins-Francouer-Perez for Shelton-Chavez-Wells) that was much more about luck than it was intelligence. I even tried to talk him out of the Shelton-Perez part of the deal, explaining that the last thing my team needed was less offense. It turned out that Shelton was a real key to my second half. He ended up leading my team in average, OBP and slugging. He also had 46 RBI in 223 at bats. I had wanted Chavez in the draft, hoping that having a 5 at third base would help me have a dominant defense that would help me turn a bunch of double plays. After getting Chavez, my runs allowed per game actually went up from 4.2 per game to 4.3 per game. So much for that theory. Wells played sparingly for me but did quite well, slugging .522 in only 67 at bats. He hit some huge pinch hit home runs, and I liked having him in CF rather than Figgins when Dye needed to sit at the end of the year. But he was a throw in by Keith, not someone that I had identified as a need. Like I said, the trade was mostly luck.

The Second Half

After the trade, my team won 53 and lost 39, 14 games over .500 ball and good enough for the league's second best record. We won a bunch of games right after the trade, including a 4-1 or 5-0 series against Keith immediately after the trade that helped jump start the resurgence. We also finished the season on a 6-0 run thanks to a final series chico against Graham even with two scrub free agent pitchers and Chen batting for himself to help avoid batter injuries. Carpenter continued to be fairly dominant and actually did better after the trade. Loaiza's ERA went up a full point after the trade, but Burnett's went down around a half point and Linebrink, Valverde and Gonzales pitched better in the second half as well.

On the offensive side of the ball, Ichiro and Dye both had good second halves as did Andruw. The key to my offense all season was Teixeira, who scored 106 runs, hit 44 home runs and 106 RBI. The Ellis-Castillo platoon scored 79 runs, which was decent. Mauer turned out to be an offensive disappointment with only 49 runs scored and a .297 on base percentage.

Regular Season Overview

In my own evaluation of my team after the draft, I think I was pretty darn accurate:

I said: "Overall, this is not a dominant offense, but we will hit our share of home runs." We ended up tops in the league with 248 HR, but scored only 705 runs, putting us right in the middle of the league.

I said: "The rest of the lineup shows a bias for slugging over on base percentage, although Castillo and Perez will play a lot and get their share of walks." OBP was a struggle all season, and we ended up last in the league, but we were fourth in slugging. Castillo and Perez both walked about as often as they struck out, which is much more than I can say for the rest of my team (totals were 387 walks and 1062 strikeouts).

I said: "Carpenter was a big investment for me and I am hoping he will anchor an otherwise average rotation." Carpenter won the Cy Young. I often heard from other league members that he was overachieving, and I am glad he did.

I said: "For me the key was the bullpen and I am very happy with how that worked out." I am not sure where my bullpen ranked overall, but I always felt (perhaps incorrectly) they were a strength. Valverde finished in the top ten in reliever ERA and earned runs prevented and ended up 12-5 with a 2.53 ERA. Gonzales and Linebrink had a ton of holds and ended up at 5-1 and 8-3 respectively. Nathan and Rincon both were among the league leaders in blown saves, however, partially diminishing the strength of the overall performance. We ended up with 20 blown saves, which was almost the worst in the league.

I said: "It will be hard to steal against my team and hard to take an extra base against any of the outfield arms. This, combined with good home run control, should help me minimize the effect of more baserunners allowed by my many non-Z pitchers." We did pretty well against steals, but so did many other teams, and Festus ranked around the middle of the league in stolen base percentage allowed. What is interesting is that we allowed the second fewest stolen bases in spite of being average at throwing out runners, which means that perhaps my "chilling effect" hopes were correct. We did do a good job against home runs as well, allowing the fewest in the league by a fairly wide margin.

I said: "My team can take the extra base and keep the other team from doing so. I am hoping that this, together with a solid bullpen, will be the difference in close games. If this team does make the playoffs, I feel we are well designed to win those type of tight, pitching and defense oriented games." During the regular season, we were 30-19 in 1 run games and 16-9 in extra innings. We also outscored our opponents 229-181 in the late innings. In the playoffs, we were 2-1 in one run games in the semifinals and finals (perhaps in spite of the bullpen against Greg, not because of them).

The Semifinals

Going into the series against Greg, I was somewhat confident because I had played well against him all year and had finished .500 against his team in spite of our final series where he blitzed me 4-1 with my bullpen on fumes. Nevertheless, I knew I would have to get the rolls to beat his President's Cup winning team. We ended up with a 4-2 series victory after out hitting his team 52-37 and out slugging them .523 to .376. The pitching staff did very well as we ended up with 62 strikeouts in 6 games and we out homered China 14-8.

The Finals

I was hoping that my regular season success would translate to postseason success against Keith and it did. There were some surprises (the unlikely comeback in Game 2 being the largest) but the series went about how our whole season series had gone. Festus continued to do well in strikeouts (striking out 54 Helens in 5 games) and home runs (winning the battle 7-5). Keith's strong OBP was not quite as strong in the finals, and we won OBP by .279 to .213 and slugging by .450 to .265. It was great to win the series 4-1, and I am now basking in the glow of my first Spit Cup.