Tuesday, July 13, 2010

All-Star Break Review: How Everyone's Doing

The arrival of the All-Star Break gives us a three-day interlude in fantasy sports as well. Since the home run derby, futures game, and ASG itself have a de minimus bearing on fantasy overall, we thought this lull would be a good opportunity to reflect on how everyone's teams have performed to date.

We have a few of bases of comparison: the vaunted Deathship, which shows how every team would have done if owners had drafted and then fallen into comas; the aggregate predictions we ran in April; and our own previews. Let's bring them all together and see what we've gotten right, wrong and didn't see coming so far. (El Angelo)

This has not been a particularly pleasant exercise at many points in the GRBG's history, so I find myself pre-flinching, bomb-squad style. Nevertheless, our public deserves accountability. I guess. (Teddy)

12. Wu Tang Financial (11th in predictions, 12th in Deathship)

While both the aggregate predictions and the Deathship have been mostly on target, there are two teams with which they're both dead-on-balls accurate. This is one of them. Everyone agreed from day one that this was a basement dweller and nothing has changed. The good news: he'll be able to draft B.J. Upton at the #2 slot next March. (El Angelo)

Too true, though, as with many last-placed teams, they've also had more than their fair share of bad luck and unforeseeable underperformance (who had Zack Greinke down for an ERA near 4.00 at the break?). And it's once again worth noting the deft timing that allowed him to get a return on Troy Tulowitski before he hit the shelf until after the trade deadline. (Teddy)

T10. The Little Green One (7th/T7th)

The 7th in the predictions is deceptive because as Sir Teddy noted, the team was clearly boom-or-bust, and the 7th reflected that the owners were divided over the team's fate. They could be a slot or two higher if they had held on to some of their veterans, but for what purpose? (El Angelo)

Yeah, to me the most surprising thing here is the current 7th place position in the Deathship. (By the way, can I just briefly note how happy I am that "Deathship" caught on, both as a concept and a term? I feel like by next year, the league will be like the Tour de France, where the winner of the league gets the glory and the yellow short, but the Deathship winner will get to wear a ridiculous polka-dot shirt as a consolation prize.) By that I mean that when left alone, this team actually achieved mediocrity, rather than a boom or bust. But the decision to sell was a good one in a year where there were more buyer than usual early on. (Teddy)

T10. pastywhite tyrones (12th/11th)

Sneakily good hitting-- their 40 points is not bad, considering the Dustin Pedroia and Jose Reyes injuries--is offset by some truly horrible pitching. Matt Garza's not a bad first starter, but the problem is that R.A. Dickey is playing a prominent role here, and they have no closers. The pitching's shallow and bad enough that climbing out of the bottom tier is going to be impossible, but that said, pitching is variable enough year to year that it wouldn't be a surprise to see this team keep 8-10 hitters and compete next year with a fresh staff. (El Angelo)

Agreed, the move here is to keep the offense more or less en bloc, and then try to catch some arms on the way up next year. The Torkies actually used that strategy to good effect a couple of times a few years ago, so you can see a blueprint at work. Not to say that it's easy, but you can see how the ship could get turned around with a good draft next year. (Teddy)

9. Le Dupont Torkies
(2nd/10th)

Wank. Looks like we have the mirror image of the team that befell the same bad destiny that hit It's Enrico Palazzo last year. This time it's horrible hitting that's doomed the team, and given how bad they're doing in the Deathship, it's clear these guys were probably DOA coming out of the gate. Of course, only a few of us realized that at time, instead basically making the mistake of counting on a veteran team to make one last run.

The silver lining for Tucker (and scary bit for the rest of us) is that Scot's shown that one down year means nothing with good drafting. Who wants to bet that this team won't be in 10th this time next year, when armed with two picks in the top-16? (El Angelo)

It looks like we might have been a year early predicting the demise here. But for those inclined towards belief, we note that the Torkies still have a ton of IP to burn (they're on pace to go 70 innings under the max limit), and better health than they've had for most of the season. We can't see them getting up to their usual spot in the top 2, but a money finish is still not totally out of the question if the bats get going. (Teddy)

8. Suck It, Silver (1st/3rd)

And here's everyone's colossal misfire. For now, I'm less curious about what's gone wrong versus everyone's predictions, and more curious why he's getting killed versus the Deathship. On its face, the answer appears to be entirely about offense, which is getting Corey a pathetic 14 points in our league versus 37.5 in the DS. Let's do a side-by-side comparison of what his team has earned in each category in our league (left) versus the DS (right):
Runs: 404 vs. 404
HR: 95 vs. 94
RBI: 366 vs. 364
SB: 63 vs. 64
OBP: .336 vs. .344
The OBP difference aside--which would only put him up 5 more points and into 7th place--this basically proves something we've all suspected, that in-year changes do matter. The stats that you'd get simply based off your draft aren't good enough, you need to acquire better players. Not coincidentally, Corey is in the bottom 4 of the league in transactions.

But is that his bad managing? Corey entered the year with a deep roster, and only Adam Lind has really completely shit the bed this year. Everyone's been just enough below average to not give up on them. More problematically, it is difficult to find good hitters in the free agent pool, especially infielders. Which means Corey's only real sin is not being more active in the trade market. But when you're down 30+ points, I can understand being hesitant on the trigger finger. (El Angelo)

I'd put the same point slightly differently. This has been maybe the most positively managed first half since the very early days of the league, when keeper slots didn't yet force bad teams to sell early. Almost everyone (and believe me, I talked to almost everyone about potential trades) had the goal of hitting the board this year, and managed accordingly. The result was that standing still in the middle lane was not an option, unless you wanted to get passed on both sides. And that's what's happening here. A year after riding a great draft to the money, this team is riding a merely good draft to the middle.

That said, because there are only two really good teams right now, these guys are still in it to hit the board. The problem is that there aren't that many teams left to loot for upgrades, meaning the necessary improvement will have to come internally (we're looking at you, Aaron Hill) or over the wire. (Teddy)

7. The Situation Room (8th/4th)

The entire difference between the Deathship and my current lot in life is Kelly Johnson's explosive April and May. Had I kept him instead of futzing around with shitty players before dealing for Dan Uggla, I'd probably be a little higher in the standings. That said, the initial prediction looks about right, what with Lester, Hernandez and Upton all off the roster in a rebuild mode for '11; if I finish higher than this slot, I've screwed something up. (El Angelo)

As I've probably made clear, I think a couple of teams behind you are ripe for a run, so I think you'll settle back nicely. Maybe not as nicely as you'd like, but nicely nonetheless. (Teddy)

6. Jeters Never Prosper (6th/9th)

The team's season is exactly as boring as we expected. And their drafting didn't help. Here's a recipe for mediocrity, courtesy of a draft summary:

R1--Aramis Ramirez: horror show.
R2--K-Rod: Met.
R3--Jason Kubel: Meh.
R4--Nate McLouth: Disaster.
R5--Kevin Slowey: Bad.
R5--Octavio Dotel: Finally, a good one!
R6--Billy Butler: Blah.

This isn't to pick on Jake--most of these picks were defensible when made. But when you go 1-5-1 on your first 7 picks, you're going to have trouble competing. (El Angelo)

You've neatly summarized what happened to me last year. Of course, I ended up getting lucky and winning the draft lottery, which set me up well for this year. So hope abounds here. (Teddy)

5. Duck-Duck-Duck-Fuke (10th/2nd)

I give up. (El Angelo)

It is absolutely uncanny how bad we--and now, given this year's methodology, the rest of the league--are at predicting how this team will do. Hell, even the Deathship is bad--I don't know how you can make a clear win-now trade in the real league yet still somehow be behind your original roster in the Deathship. The usual laws of physics appear not to apply here. I therefore encourage the owner to name this team the Event Horizons next season. (Teddy)

4. Enrico Palazzo (9th/6th)

Manager of the half year by a mile, the team that finished next to last in the previous year is suddenly in contention. How? Well, they've constructed a monster offense that leads the league in all the power categories, is second in OBP and is 5th in steals. Compare that to last year, where the squad crapped all overitself to 26 1/2 points. Credit goes to drafting David Wright and Carlos Quentin, hitting the jackpot with Paul Konerko (in the 16th round--holy shit!) and Alex Rios on bounceback years, and getting David Ortiz at the right time.

Can this keep up? Well, you'll note that 2 of those players are old, 2 are pretty breakable and the 5th is a Met, so I remain skeptical that they can keep sprinting to the finish. And they still have no closer. So to me, this looks like a 5th place team. Which is a huge step forward from last year. (El Angelo)

I dunno, I look at the pitching and see no particular reason why it should be this bad. That's especially true now that Jon Lester is on board. Yes, the lack of saves is going to hamstring them some, but it's not that hard to project an increase in the SP-driven numbers that at least cancels out any regression from the old guys on offense. I think they're more likely to end up 2nd than 5th (unfortunately for me). (Teddy)

3. Gowanus Superfunders (4th/5th)

My co-author is in 3rd place despite getting nothing out of Brian Roberts, still not getting anything from Carlos Beltran (told you so), Adam Jones playing worse than Tom Jones, and trading for a busted shortstop. What's next?

Well, if they really want to contend, they're going to need at least two of those guys to contribute in the second half, because the easiest place for this squad to improve is steals, which Beltran and Roberts should provide if their legs work. And presumably their runs total would go up as well. Which leads to the key question: how many points is it going to take to win the league? If it's ~85, they've got a shot with some health breaks. If it's closer to 90, they look like the 3rd best team. (El Angelo)

See, I think I can get more steals without too much problem with the guys on my current bench (Scott Podsednik and Jose Tabata). The problem has been that I couldn't start those guys consistently without dragging the rest of the offense down. That's where Beltran (who is officially back as of Thursday) and Tulo will hopefully help--it's not that they'll steal bases on their own, it's that they'll let me run a steals-only guy out there consistently without further decimating my OBP.

If I have hope, it's in the return of those guys, plus the fact that I have several traditional second-half players on my team (Johan Santana, Ryan Howard, Tulo, Mark Reynolds). But for me to hit the board, everything needs to start going right now, and keep going right the rest of the way. That's a big ask. (Teddy)

2. The Revenge Society (3rd/1st)

For all the pickups, trades, and strum und drang, this squad's a couple of points behind its DS standings. That said, it's a pretty balanced team with two studs on the DL (Chase Utley & Clay Buchholz) and a lot of chits to trade if they're going to make a run for it. I liked last year better when this team sucked. (El Angelo)

Yeah, for all my bitching about the Tulo injury, TRS didn't get much more out of Utley before he hit the shelf. The Buchholz injury hurts them less, (a) because it's less serious, and (b) because they have plenty of pitching (and are on pace to go 40 innings over the limit, so they could do with a work slowdown anyway). Like me, it's a race back to health in the MI for TRS, because there just aren't good temp options up the middle this year. Random prediction: keep half an eye on Chris Davis, who is again a starter in Texas post-Smoak. (Teddy)

1. The Spam Avengers (5th/T7th)

Here's what's scary: these guys were in DAFL for brief portion of this year, i.e., they squandered a month and are still in first, and still have room to improve. They're dead last in steals and have solid upside to improve in steals and RBI's, especially if they make 1-2 more moves. I liked them at the start of the year, and love them to win it now. Well played to date, Alex. (El Angelo)

I think these guys are closer to their ceiling, points-wise. It's very much true that they have some easy upside on offense. But they are also on pace to blow through the IP limit by a whopping 100 innings. That's good news in some ways, because it means that the team's great rate stats are locked in. But there are no more points to be had for this team in those categories, because they're already at the top. For the counting stats, the pace news is not so good. At a +100 inning pace, you need to reduce TSA's Ws, SVs and Ks by about 7% to account for the looming IP wall. That would trim between 3.5 and 5 points off their total, depending on how you round. That makes things at least a little more competitive than they look on the surface.

Still, I don't think that there's any doubt that these guys are the favorites as we turn for home. Note the gap between this team's actual standings and the Deathship--the owner has driven the hell out of this team to date. 90 points should be enough to win this year, and the path to 90 is clearer for this team than it is for any other. (Teddy)

EDIT: For the visual learners among you, we tack on this section of Super Fun Excel Graphs showing the league standings and points measured at roughly two-week intervals over the course of the season to date.

The asterisk by the June 18th date is there because it marks the point where several teams began to sell off assets. Now by league rank:

The most volatile team? Our leaders, The Spam Avengers. Check the growth pattern on their points:

And finally, our least volatile team is actually the current second-place franchise, The Revenge Society:

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