Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

My 2011 Fantasy Team

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Note; stop reading now if you’re one of those people who hate to hear about fantasy teams or analysis of leagues.  I understand your point; its kinda like hearing someone go on and on about how their ugly baby just did the cutest thing last week.

I’m in a modified 5×5 yahoo league with 9 other fantasy baseball nuts (of all the fantasy sports, baseball tends to have the biggest nerds I think.  Well, perhaps fantasy golf or fantasy nascar).  We’ve modified the typical 5×5 categories to add in a 6th category on both sides.  We put in OPS on the hitter side and Losses on the pitcher side.  We made this change a few years back when one of the players won by churning and burning starting pitchers over and over to stock-pile wins and Ks.

Before going into my draft results and analysis, a few notes on my strategy for picking baseball teams:

  • I like pitching and I like to analyze pitching, so I focus on pitchers.  I like to have the bare minimum of hitters and load up on pitchers.  This strategy can be questioned; the clear winner last year had a bare minimum of pitchers but tons of hitter depth and was tough to beat.
  • I try to focus on NL starters with good K rates.  I try to avoid AL pitchers if I can, and I especially try to avoid AL east pitchers because of the gauntlet of great hitting teams they face.
  • I try to get 5 closers.  This can be tough, especially in a 10-person league with only (theoretically) 30 closers to go around.  However, I try not to overpay for closers.  Two years ago I experimented with a Zero closer system and it did not fare as well as I thought it would.
  • Do not overpay for a Catcher.  I’ve been burned so many times on catchers going down with injuries (in the past three years I’ve dealt with Varitek, Russell Martin and Victor Martinez injuries or inadequacies, going to the waiver wire each time).

Here’s my team’s draft results.  I was picking 2nd in a 10-man league with a typical snake-style draft order.

1. Hanley RamirezPujols goes first; I could have gone with Tulowitzki here but I opted to go with a guy who has been a bit more consistent (and less injury prone) at the #2 spot.
2. Matt Holliday.  By the time I pick again, all the top tier 1B and 3B were gone.  I figured this would happen and had targeted a couple of lower-end 1B and 3B players that I figured I could get later on (see rounds 10 and 14).   I wanted Hamilton here but he went earlier than I thought he would.  I would have loved for Adrian Gonzalez to slip but he did not.
3. Tim Lincecum.  I was either-or for Felix Hernandez or Lincecum here.  In the end I went for Lincecum because of the NL angle and because of how bad Seattle is.  Hernandez went immediately after Lincecum.
4. Richie Weeks.  Coming back at the end of the 4th, I needed to focus one at least one of the “skill” positions that can be tough to fill.  I wanted Uggla but missed him by a few picks.  Weeks is a good all around player; 29 homers with 11 SBs in 2010.  I’ll take that out of the 2nd base position.  Someone took a flier on Chase Utley not knowing just how bad his injury is … it pays to be prepared and up-to-date on injury news.  Weeks himself is an injury risk and was listed as a possible fantasy bust for 2011.  We’ll keep our fingers crossed.
5. Jason Heyward: I can’t remember if Posey was sitting there available at this point or not, but I like having an up-and-coming power hitter here.
6. Alex Rios: I filled my 3rd OF position with a bit of a sleeper in Rios.  He was #27 fantasy producer in 2010, hitting 21 homers and getting 34 sbs.  My first 5 out-field players all can be described as guys who can hit for power and get SBs.
7. Cole Hamels: I missed out on Cliff Lee but am a bit wary of him this year anyway.  He wasn’t THAT great in the regular season last year.  Meanwhile Hamels had a sneaky solid season with 211 ks in 208 innings.  He took a lot of losses though; lets hope that his move to the #4 starter puts him in line to get many more wins.
8. Mat Latos.  #32 ranked 2010 fantasy performer in the end of the 8th round.  I’ll take that.  Lots of Ks, great ERA and whip and pitching in the massive Petco.  Love this pick.
9. Neftali Feliz: I announced prior to this pick that I didn’t care if he was starting or closing, that I wanted him.  He apparently will be the closer, which i’m kinda bummed about since I think he’d be a great starter … but at the same time he’s probably the 3rd or 4th best closer out there.  I wanted Marmol and his ridiculous K rates but he went very early.  I also wanted Heath Bell right around here but missed him by one pick, with Acheson getting him just before I was to pick him.
10. Paul Konerko.  In the 10th round I sitll didn’t have a first baseman or a third baseman, two positions that are very power-hitter friendly.  As mentioned above, once I missed out on the top guys in the 1st-2nd rounds, I made a calculated gamble targeting two guys I figured would be either overlooked or be later round guys.  Konerko was the first: he was the #12 fantasy hitter last year, blasting 39 homers with 111 rbis.  It was a contract year, which is a bit scary, but he also inherits Adam Dunn as protection for 2011.  I’m hoping he continues to hit at this level despite him being 35 this year.  With him and Dunn switching off between 1B and DH perhaps the rest will do him good.
11. Jonathan Sanchez.  Oddly Yahoo has him ranked 173rd, despite being the 70th best producer last year.  I don’t get it; 13-9, 205 ks in 193 innings, good era and whip.  This may have been a reach by ranking points but I like him.
12. Matt Weiters. At this point there was a slight run on Catchers and I felt I needed to make a move.  I was looking at either Weiters or Geovany Soto.  Honestly before the draft I would have loved to have taken a shot at Carlos Santana but he went very early.  I debated between Soto and Weiters and went with the promising rookie.  Vito, drafting right behond me, was thinking the same thing and immediately snapped up Soto.
13. JJ Putz.  At this point in the draft, I nearly had all my positional players and generally go SP-RP all the way out.  I wanted to get my hands on at least one of the upper-end closers available and went with Putz.  Putz took a setup job in Chicago last year and pitched well enough to earn another closer job.  Arizona isn’t going to get him a ton of closer opportunities but after their debacle last year trying Qualls, Rauch and the kitchen sink in the role, Putz may do well.  Remember, Matt Capps got a ton of saves for a last place team last year too.
14. Pedro Alvarez.  My last positional player.  Most of the good 3rd basement went in the first two rounds.  I didn’t want to mess with guys like Bautista (flash in the pan?), Michael Young (he’s a utility player in a bad professional situation) or Aramis Ramirez (two bad years in a row).  I was targeting Alvarez or Mark Reynolds.  Reynolds hit less than .200 last year after a monster 2009 and is moving to a fantastic hitters park for him, so that was tempting.  But he’s also moving to the toughest division with a lot of upper-end pitching and he may push 250 Ks this year.  Meanwhile, Alvarez is a cool rookie with a lot of upside and he could be fun to follow.
15. Francisco Cordero: my 3rd closer; from here out my goal is to get the best closers available til I get to 5, then get whatever starting pitchers look enticing.  Cordero got 40 saves last year; works for me.
16. Leo Nunez; 20 picks later I get Nunez, who I have ranked right next to Cordero.  More Ks, better whip but fewer saves for Florida.
17. Brandon Lyon: Not a ton of saves last year but he wasn’t the closer til August.  then in 6 weeks he got 15 saves.  I’m hoping this is a steal of a pick and he racks up 35-40 saves this year.
18. Madison Bumgarner; Amazing, i’ve got Bumgarner ranked the exact same as Sanchez, who I got 7 rounds earlier.  I like Bumgarner and think he can be as effective as he was in the playoffs.  Honestly I wanted Hellickson around here but Droopy got him.  Bumgarner fits my profile better; NL starter with good numbers.  Not the best K/9 guy but he’s also a youngster and can get better.
19. Carlos Zambrano; This pick was partly a joke; there is a massive Cubs fan in our league (Erwin) who absolutely would have picked this guy.  But this was also strategic; Zambrano got an incredibly quick hook out of the rotation last year, missed a month but still finished the season 11-6 with 8.1K/9.  He was very effective down the stretch.  I’m hoping he picks right back up where he was before.
20. David Aardsma: Strategy pick; I know he’s going to start the season on the DL, so I will move him to my DL slot and pick up another guy.  As it turned out I did not pick up a utility player, so I’ll get the best hitter available before the season starts.
21. Anibel Sanchez: in the last round, i looked at my starting pitcher depth charts for the NL and selected what I thought was the best targeted starter available.  I was considering the likes of Fausto Carmona, Travis Wood, Dallas Braden or Jorge De La Rosa.  In the end Sanchez had a solid season last year for Florida and could do well.

Here’s the team by position:

  • C: Matt Weiters
  • 1B: Paul Konerko
  • 2B: Rickie Weeks
  • 3B: Pedro Alvarez
  • SS: Hanley Ramirez
  • OF: Matt Holliday, Jason Heyward, Alex Rios
  • SP: Lincecum, Hamels, Latos, Sanchez, Bumgarner, Zambrano, Sanchez
  • Closers: Felix, Putz, Cordero, Nunez, Lyon and Aardsma

Based on last year’s averages/week, my hitters are probably going to be

  • a bit below average for Runs scored (30.8 versus 27.6)
  • a bit above averages for Homers (7.92 versus 7.0)
  • right around average for RBIs (29.1 versus 28.1)
  • right around average for SBs (4.8 versus 4.2)
  • above average for BA (.202 versus .273)
  • above average for OPS (.838 vs .790)

Based on last year’s averages/week, my pitchers are probably going to be

  • Above average for Wins (5.00 vs 3.65)
  • Below average for Losses (4 vs 2.9)
  • Above average for Saves (4.56 vs 3.88)
  • Well Above average for Ks (69.4 vs 48.2)
  • Above average for ERA (3.20 vs 3.553)
  • Right around average for WHIP (1.24 vs 1.25)

I see 6 categories where i’m above average, 3 where i’m about average, two a bit below average and one where i’m well below average.  That could average out to a lot of 7-5 or 8-4 weeks.  Far enough.

Draft Analysis Conclusions: it is fair to say i’m weaker on the hitting side.  That tends to happen when drafting very early and missing out on the 1B and 3B rush.  I much more like drafting 4-5-6th spots so you can get top-tier guys in both positions.  I will have to be diligent on the waiver wire looking for hitters.  There are a couple of non-drafted guys that I like who may fit in at 1B if Konerko falters badly.

I’m also depending a lot on 2-3 non-sexy names (Weeks, Rios, Konerko) and several high profile rookies (Weiters, Heyward, Alvarez, Bumgarner).  This could really backfire if these guys don’t produce.  I’m most worried about Alvarez, who put up decent numbers in half a season last year but it may be a stretch to assume he’s already a 30-homer guy. I’m also worried about Weeks’ health and ability to stay on the field.  He may end up sitting in my DL spot for a while. I may focus on finding a speedster/leadoff/high SB/high Runs guy for my utility player.

I really like my slew of starters.  All of them have good K/9, era and whip values.  Lots of losses though; i’m hoping for a bounceback season for Lincecum and better w/l records from the likes of Hamels and Sanchez.

I’ve got a lot of closer depth, including the Aardsma pickup.  There’s a few other possible closers to be had as well; Lidge is down with an injury, Washington’s situation is certainly fluid, Tampa’s closer really hasn’t been identified, Atlanta may flip flop Venters and Kimbrell, and nobody at all knows who is going to close in Toronto.  So there’s more waiver wire work to be done.

1. Hanley Ramirez
2. Matt Holliday
3. Tim Lincecum
4. Richie Weeks
5. Jason Heyward
6. Alex Rios
7. Cole Hamels
8. Matt Latos
9. Neftali Feliz
10. Paul Konerko
11. Jonathan Sanchez
12. Matt Weiters
13. JJ Putz
14. Pedro Alvarez
15. Francisco Cordero
16. Leo Nunez
17. Brandon Lyon
18. Madison Bumgarner
19. Carlos Zambrano
20. David Aardsma
21. Anibal Sanchez

9 Responses to 'My 2011 Fantasy Team'

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  1. This is funny because I followed the exact opposite approach. I targeted offense hoping I can uncover a few pitching gems during the season (last year I picked up Latos off waivers.) We may be in line for a trade this year (me trading you hitters for pitchers.) ;-)

    I’m no expert and am conservative in most things in life (including fantasy) but it’s fun to analyze.

    1. Weeks was a VERY RISKY pick in the 4th round in my opinion considering he has only had one healthy season in his career. Perhaps he’s turned a corner but historically injury-prone guys usually tend to stay injury-prone. I thought 2B was the deepest infield position this year (after 1B and even though I took Uggla fairly early, and especially if Hill and Zobrist have bounceback years) but think you could have gone elsewhere with this pick and still gotten a guy like Hill or Beckham a lot later. Although I thought Hill fell to Jamos at a great spot last year and he only hit .200 and was subsequently waived.

    2. Konerko at 10 isn’t a bad pick but it’s hard to see him replicate last year’s “career year.” The 1B position is the biggest source of power by far and you’ll have a lot riding on a guy who’s in his upper 30′s coming off a career year. I actually filled my DH spot with my second pick (I would NEVER DO THAT) but really loved A-Gon this year and I HAD TO TAKE VOTTO, last year’s #3 or 4 overall fantasy player, at #10 overall.

    3. Love the Hamels pick; I drafted him as my #2 SP last year after Lester, and he got ZERO run support from the Phils bats (meanwhile Halladay got nearly double the run support, which was reflective in their win totals.) My #1 starter is Haren who I hate. I will need pitching.

    4. Rios has been an enigma and I gave up on his promise last year but he had a great season. I think it’s just a matter of whether or not he shows up every day.

    5. I would also say you paid for the rookie hype of Heyward with a 5th round pick; maybe I’m proven wrong but he’s still really young.

    6. I was the guy who drafted Bautista by the way. I’m not expecting 52 bombs, but if he can hit .260 with 30-35 HR and 100 RBI, I’ll be more than happy with that production at 3B this year. He hit 10 HR in Sept. in ’09, and actually hit more HR in the 2nd half of last year than in the first half. I would say that he’s “adjusted to the adjustments.” I don’t think he’s a flash in the pan and I hope I’m right.

    Droopy

    25 Mar 11 at 1:56 pm

  2. 1. Weeks was and is risky no doubt. However I got burned so badly on middle infielders last year (Zobrist and Bartlett) that I wanted to make sure I had something. As I said I really wanted Uggla and missed out on him by a few picks there. Didn’t want Utley, perhaps made a mistake not getting Prado (I can’t exactly remember where he went but it was right in the same area). Past that, the drop off is significant in terms of overall rank and performance last year. Aaron Hill may be a great come back story. I don’t know why you think 2b is “deep” : looking at a combination of this year’s ranks and last year’s performance I really only see 4-5 guys I’d really want. Cano, Pedroia, Kinsler, Uggla, Prado. I had Kinsler and he burned me badly last year. Phillips constantly underperforms his ranking. Utley hurt and god knows when he comes out. Beckham was awful last year. Brian roberst may not play. Everyone else was horrible.

    2. Agree on Konerko. Another risk. Like i said; the problem with picking so high is that by the time my 2nd round pick came back to me the best 4 third basemen and the best 6 or 7 first basement were gone. I didn’t want Youkilis (again, burned by him last year), don’t trust Morneau, think Dunn will regress, don’t trust Butler, Morales is starting on the DL … well that takes you down to Konerko. So I like my strategy there. Honestly, I was going to pick up Ortiz about 3 picks after someone grabbed hiim. I had 4 or 5 guys that I was targeting get snatched just before I was looking at them.

    3. Haren may disappoint you yeah. Hamels may have another 16-10 season (lots of losses) but he’s consistent.

    4. Rios; yeah we’ll see.

    5. Heyward’s yahoo ranking was 44: i drafted him at the top of the 5th round in the 42nd spot. So per Yahoo that was right on. He was just ahead of Posey, who perhaps skipping over was a mistake. But i’m sick and tired of getting burned by catchers. I refuse to draft a high-end catch er ever again. McCann who everyone was so excited about? 157th last year in fantasy. That’s 10th round, not 5th. Forget it. I’d rather have a power guy who also gets some steals and who now has Uggla as big-tiem power protection in that lineup.

    6. You have a similar worry in Bautista as I do with Konerko; they both got paid. The thing that gets me is just how far he rose. He was averaging 14 homers per season prior to this year. Scares me. Risk-reward for you.

    I can’t wait to get going. I already need to make a couple moves and want to see who is out there. Towards the end of the draft i stopped tracking positional players so I have no idea if a couple guys i want to pick up are there.

    Todd Boss

    25 Mar 11 at 2:12 pm

  3. Brandon Phillips has averaged 21 HR, 86 Runs, 80 RBI, and 24 SB over his last five years. As a second baseman. I would argue that’s the best five year average of ANYONE. Maybe even Utley. And he hits in a solid hitters ballpark. I think he’s pretty underrated. He had a bit of an “off” year last year seemingly in the power and SB numbers but I don’t think he underperforms his ranking.

    Beckham is very young; he had a great first year, horrible first half last year but rebounded in the 2nd half. I like his upside and we could get him 10 rounds later.

    My point was the 10th, 11th and 12th ranked yahoo! 2baggers have a lot of potential — Zobrist, Hill, Beckham. Zobrist bats third in an awesome Tampa lineup.

    You already had a SS so Weeks isn’t an awful pick there but for me had I not taken Uggla (who I probably am paying for a “career year” last year, but I love his move from a horrible hitters park in Fla to Atlanta) I would have waited on 2B and taken Hill, Beckham, or Zo.

    Droopy

    25 Mar 11 at 3:55 pm

  4. Phillips: yahoo rank 37. 2010 performance rank: 87. 2009 performance rank: 71. 2008 performance rank 105. His “preseason” ranking for 2007, 08, 09 was always in the 13-25 range, indicating he was a 2nd or 3rd round talent. In other words, from a fantasy perspective he’s constantly overrated and overdrafted. If you can get him in the 8th round he’s great value. In the 4th he’s a waste.

    Hill looks like he could have a great bounce back year. But the two years prior to that he was awful as well. Zobrist; he went from #39 to #201 fantasy performer. Is that worth the risk? I thought no and went with a guy who improved a ton last year and is trending the right way. Beckham; two awful seasons and I didn’t like what I’ve been reading about him. So all three guys were stay-aways for me.

    Todd Boss

    25 Mar 11 at 4:30 pm

  5. I’m a big proponent of position scarcity.

    Do the yahoo! performance rankings take POSITION into consideration? Of course a 20-20 2B like Phillips isn’t going to perform in overall fantasy rankings with the likes of Ryan Howard, Cabrera, Hanley, or pitchers like Halladay, Lee, Lincecum, etc. But if you weigh his production at 2B vs. the other 2B which were probably drafted or rostered, I’d bet it’s a pretty solid advantage. I wonder how many 2B were ahead of him with that #87 end-of-year ranking.

    I could be wrong though. Okay I just looked:

    Cano ranked #11 (2nd rated preseason 2B last year behind Utley)
    Uggla #18 (season before hit .240; career year last year but probably drafted in the middle rounds)
    Weeks #38 (undrafted)
    Johnson #60 (undrafted)
    Prado #69 (undrafted)
    Phillips #87
    then all the way to Utley at #144.
    Kinsler was #219.

    I would say that’s a fair return on investment considering the other guys came out of nowhere.

    Droopy

    25 Mar 11 at 5:35 pm

  6. No positional scarcity taken into account; just pure fantasy rankings versus other people at the position. If you sort the players at a particular position by ranking there’s definitive groupings/tiers. I like looking at yahoo’s predictions and last year’s performance side by side. For me in 2nd base there were three tiers.

    Robinson Cano 9 11
    Dustin Pedroia 26 324
    Ian Kinsler 28 219
    Dan Uggla 35 18
    Brandon Phillips 37 87
    Rickie Weeks 42 38
    Chase Utley 49 144
    Martin Prado 79 69
    Kelly Johnson 96 60
    Ben Zobrist 103 201
    Aaron Hill 104 343
    Gordon Beckham 125 484

    So, Cano is in a class by himself and should have been a late 1st round/early 2nd round pick (normally Utley would be in there too). Then, i like Kinsler/Pedroia/Uggla as a 2nd tier. Weeks is kind of out there out by himself in a 3rd tier, then there’s a dropoff to the next tier.

    Todd Boss

    25 Mar 11 at 6:32 pm

  7. Have to say I laughed at the ugly baby analogy.
    And, no, I didn’t read any of this, but at least you understand why.

    Mark L

    26 Mar 11 at 8:00 am

  8. I kinda adapted that line from Bill Simmons’ podcasts, where he loves fantasy and loves to have on ESPN’s fantasy experts, but really tries to avoid talking about his own teams for the same reason. Baseball is a bit easier to generally discuss than football, since most people play with the exact same rules in baseball. Football systems are so vastly different that to evaluate a team you have to know if its a PPR league or a scoring league, what kind of points system you have for QBs versus the other skill positions, etc. You almost have to whip out your league’s scoring sheet to describe your scoring system before asking for analysis.

    As you can see from the other comments here, my fantasy league members are not shy about opining :-)

    Oh coincidentally, I’ve updated the master organization list for the BA and BP rankings. https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0Aoe2S6_m1TendGR5WHEyc0pCbkdJaklsaXFWbVk5V1E&hl=en (this link should be along the side too). I’ve got every ranking I could find going back to 2001. Keith Law didn’t like Washington as much this year, but the other three rankings are all comparable.

    Todd Boss

    26 Mar 11 at 10:35 am

  9. [...] with last year’s edition of this post, feel free to stop reading now if you don’t want to read fantasy team analysis [...]

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