Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Season Preview: Elbow Your Funicular?

Yes, we know that isn't really the name of this franchise. But our corporate overlords at Google are everywhere, and we couldn't pass up the opportunity to run a few photos with this preview. So we've taken the liberty of google-proofing the post title, in the hopes of preserving the anonymity of the innocent and keeping the lovely, funny, and charming wife of the innocent from running us over with a lawnmower.

With that in mind, on with the preview.

This past offseason saw the Funicular Elbows bump up against the limits of the league keeper system. Their response was sort of fascinating, as they chose to keep a few superstars at the cost of any depth whatsoever, and ended up assembling most of their roster at the very end of the draft, about 3 days after everyone else had stopped paying attention. It's the stars and scrubs strategy writ large. Let's see what the results have been to date.


Let's start with the good news: the foundation of Miguel Cabrera, Ryan Howard, and A-Rod is as good as you'll find, assuming that A-Rod hasn't contracted the Bo Jackson Hip-Eating Virus. The supplementary guys are, well...really less lke supplements and more like suppositories. We don't want to ruin the PECOTA predictions that will run later, but it's worth pointing out that PECOTA thinks this team is starting two different .312 OBPs in its IF. That's not really a recipe for success. Of course, the presence of a few obvious holes mean that the team will be able to quickly target big improvements via trade or waiver wire lottery ticket. The big 3 here is enough to keep this unit respectable, regardess of the ominous presence of a Molina brother on the starting roster.


Here we come to the first major flaw with this team's stars and scrubs strategy--it only works if you have, you know, stars. Carlos Beltran clearly qualifies, but unfortunately the list stops there. Nelson Cruz is a fun flyer to have, but as a second OF he's a little shaky. The third slot (and, until A-Rod gets back, the DH slot) will be taken up by platoon OF's Choo-Choo Choo and Dr. Xavier Nady. While fantasy value and real-world value don't always overlap, it's still a good rule of thumb that a player who isn't good enough to start full-time for his real team also isn't good enough to start for your fantasy team. Having two such guys, even if only for a month, is a big red flag. Look upon them, for they are malpractice.


So far we've looked at an infield which is stars and scrubs, followed by an outfield which is star (singular) and scrubs. Lamentably, that trend continues to its logical conclusion with the pitching staff. There are several fun guys on the staff--I had Ricky Nolasco, Chris Carpenter, and Kelvim Escobar targeted as potential flyers--but there isn't a single guy here you'd want to count on to perform over a full season. Given the inherent volatility of pitchers and pitching staffs, you can tolerate a little more risk among your starters. But there's a lingering suspicion here that the Elbows have accumulated a portfolio of Lehman Brothers shares.

The pen is in better shape, with one elite guy in Brad Lidge and two other closers with relatively solid grasps on their jobs in Chad Qualls and Heath Bell. The way to go here might be for this team to punt wins, and try to compete in the other 4 categories as best it can. That strategy hasn't been all that effective in this league (just ask the dear departed M@#e, if you can find his secret lair hiddent deep in the primeval Bolivian rain forest), but it might be the best shot on the table for this team if the SP flyers don't pan out.


Flags fly forever, and this team is feeling the effects of its run a couple of years ago. This sure looks like a rebuilding campaign, and should be marked by a ton of activity in the trade market, as there's no denying the presence of some real prizes on the roster.


Evil Empire said...

This team has been too casually dismissed. The offense is beyond robust. Escobar is a legitimate threat with a .303 career average and 2nd baseman who hit 17 dingers last season as the holes. The outfield, while definitely a weak spot certainly measurers up to the Millings led possey on MA. The starting pitching may lack a star, but the staff consists of 5 guys who have won 15+ games in one of the past two seasons (Cy Young Carpenter excluded). They may not hit the board, but this team will compete.

Teddy said...

We'll cover this more in the PECOTA post, but there is reason to think that the system underrates teams with good players who are going to miss chunks of the season by not factoring the counting stat performance of their replacements.

This team gets bitten pretty badly by that problem, given that they're counting pretty heavily on A-Rod and Kelvim. So it's not unreasonable to adjust upwards.

FTR, the 2 .312 OBPs are Molina and Jose Lopez. Nelson Cruz isn't far behind at .335. We have them near the bottom in OBP and SB.

Big Daddy said...

I have to say, this wouldn't be the first time we had underestimated Will's team.

And shouldn't my caption read: "I can has clients?"

El Angelo said...

This is true. In the past, we have misunderestimated Will's teams.