Friday, May 30, 2008

How Did I Get Here: Taking Stock a Third of the Way Through

In my Yahoo H2H keeper league, I find myself in second place, 1.5 games behind the Macafeys with nearly a third of the season in the books.  How did I get here and what do I do to stay competitive?  No matter how good your team looks at the end of the draft, there are always things that go right and things that go wrong.

What Went Wrong
1. Pitching
With my keepers and my first draft pick, I focused entirely on offense.  I figured that I'd build my offense and then fill in my pitching staff with a solid core of under-appreciated starters and closers.  The second and third starters I drafted were Rich Hill and Ian Snell, both of whom I was counting on taking the next step in their development.  Snell has taken a step backwards with 19 ER and 17 walks in the past month.  Hill's in AAA on the DL, trying to figure out what's wrong with his control.   Neither pitcher has performed even close to preseason expectations. 

I drafted Matt Garza in one of the final rounds of the draft, banking on his upside.  Though he has pitched well with an ERA of 2.52 this month, he pitched horribly in April.  With my starting rotation struggling to carry the underperforming Hill and Snell, I had to make cuts somewhere, so I dropped Garza before his recent resurgence.  The only reason I still feel glad about cutting Garza is the fact that up until his 10 K performance in his last game, he had a BB-to-K ratio of 20/19.  This last start is promising for him and his owners, but it did come against the Rangers who've struck out 4th most in the majors, so we need to see how Garza performs in his next start, which is against Boston, a team that's a bit more patient than Texas.  Garza's talented, but until he can consistently strikeout more guys than he walks, I don't believe in him for this year.

2. Hitting
I have a lot of hitters who've underperformed.  Mark Teixeira is behaving like his old self, waiting for the second half to unleash his talent.  Brian Roberts is running, but he's hitting more like he did in 2004, rather than he did the last few years.  Both Ryan Zimmerman and Jhonny Peralta are hitting for power, but neither is hitting close to the average that I had hoped.  Carlos Guillen has been hitting for good average, but he's not showing the power that I had hoped.  Kevin Kouzmanoff was horrible for a little over a month, but he does appear to be turning it around.  Josh Willingham was hitting great in all areas, but who knows when he'll be healthy to play.  I traded Xavier Nady for Austin Kearns before the season started in hopes that Kearns would thrive in the new stadium, but I had to cut him about a month into the season because he was doing so poorly.

What's Gone Right
1.  By working the waiver wire and not reaching for anyone, I was able to assemble a strong group of closers for very cheap.  I drafted Matt Capps and Brad Lidge as closers, and took a flier on Kerry Wood winning the closer's job in Chicago.  I picked up Jon Rauch off the waiver wire right before Chad Cordero went on the DL.  With four closers, I can usually win saves, and because we have a 9-start limit for pitchers each week, having a strong bullpen can help me in strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP.  I'm especially happy that I drafted Lidge, as he's performed far beyond where I drafted him.

2. Though my starting pitching has taken some hits, I've been able to stay competitive in the pitching categories by taking chances on pitchers that struggled early and were dropped.  I was able to grab Ted Lilly off the waiver wire after he was dropped for posting an ERA over 9 in his first four starts (I think I dropped Garza for him).  I also took a chance on Ervin Santana, remembering what he was able to do for my team a few years ago.  Both those pickups, along with the underrated Javier Vasquez (drafted) and Todd Wellemeyer and Justin Duchscherer (both off waivers) have helped me weather my early pitching problems.

3. After a poor start, Hunter Pence has been amazing, Brian McCann is looking more like the 2006 version, Carlos Lee is racking up RBI despite a low BA, Rick Ankiel is hitting better than I thought he would, and I was able to pick up Joe Crede for nothing during his hot streak.  

4. Of course in H2H, it's all about luck.  I haven't been dominating in any one category this season, except for HR and Saves.  But I've only lost one week so far and that was against one of the strongest teams in the league.  In H2H, you need consistency from your players, and for things to go right for you each week.  I've been lucky in that when some players on my team have struggled, other players have gotten hot just at the right time to help carry the load.

Where Do I Go From Here
I've been trying to move Brian Roberts because he's my only stolen base-threat and I'm near the bottom of the league in steals.  He's not going to help me win that category each week by himself.  My team just isn't built around speed.  If I can move him for a second baseman with some pop, I could better compete in the other four categories.  Yes, that does mean punting SB's, but I guess I was already doing that without meaning to.

I was thinking about moving one of my closers, someone like Wood or Capps while they still look better than they actually were.  Maybe moving Roberts and Wood for to a team that needed steals and saves for a good second baseman like Dan Uggla or Brandon Phillips.  But I think I'll hang onto Wood; there's no telling what could happen to any of my closers, and I may need all the saves that I can get as the year progresses.

Otherwise, I'm going to keep my eye on emerging players, especially hitters, and hope that Hill and Snell can figure things out.  Anyone got any tips?

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