Friday, March 25, 2011

Season Preview: Cosmic Douchery

I’m heading out of the country tonight, so this will be my last post until a few days after the season starts (by which point my team will have settled nicely into 8th place). But I wanted to get out a preview for Cosmic Douchery before I left, mainly because I view the owner as the mongoose to my snake (in a good way, honest). He always finishes ahead of me, even in years in which I hit the board, and I still haven’t forgiven him for serving as the Big Red Machine to my ’75 Red Sox by consigning my best-ever team to a second place finish a few years back.

I also mention the snake/mongoose thing because we apparently had the same guys circled on our draft sheets this year. I stole Chris Iannetta from him, and would have stolen Aaron Hill as well had he not been pre-ganked by Kicked in the Nuts. At first, that made me feel kind of good, in a moderately evil way. But that got me to thinking—if my team sucks, but CD’s owner still wants my players, might not his team also suck? Are we both destined to crash off the board this year, snake and mongoose alike run down by a combine harvester? Well, let’s see.

Infield

This is the group that’s going to determine the team’s fortunes this year. There’s talent in the OF; there’s talent in the rotation. But in the middle infield, there is Omar Infante and Tsuyoshi Nishioka. Also, in a move that most of you probably missed because it involved the last overall pick, John Buck has been installed as the starting C. Infante and Buck both were traded into a park that suppresses hitters, while Nishioka was traded into an entirely new country. If those three (or, you know, their replacements) can tread water, then the rest of the roster is good enough to prop them up. If not, it’ll be awfully tough to carry three anchors.

Now for the good news: Mark Teixeira and Adrian Beltre are also on hand, so there is strength at the corners. Side note: has any batter ever had a better three stage home ballpark progression than Safeco->Fenway->Arlington? If that keeps up, Beltre’s next team is going to play in a phone booth on the summit of Mt. Everest.

Outfield

Open your eyes, the worst is over. Josh Hamilton provides the foundation, having proven that he can carry a fantasy team despite being incapable of staying healthy for a full season. Andrew McCutchen is one of the real underrated guys in baseball—he'd be a household name if he played in, well, anyplace other than Pittsburgh. I’ve already expressed some doubts about PECOTA slut Chris Young, but he’s just fine as a third option. And Rajai Davis is also here as the designated burner, though the power outage up the middle might necessitate Luke Scott grabbing the DH spot at some point during the season.

Starting Pitching

Intriguing. We start, as you must, with the top three of Tim Lincecum, Francisco Liriano, and Max Scherzer, all of whom are still young and still quick. That’s a great top three, though as we’ve seen, starting pitching is now deep enough league-wide that plenty of teams have a good top 3. It’s the back half of the rotation where this team gets interesting. For those who believe in results, Carl Pavano and Ervin Santana are around. For those who believe in potential, post-hype sleepers Rick Porcello and Brandon McCarthy are here. And for those who believe in modern medicine, the unknown remaining percentage of Jake Peavy is here. There are hedges every which way. That, combined with the fact that this team is one of our Megapen squads this year and thus is not all that SP-dependent, mean there are plenty of matchup/platoon/hot streak options that the manager can choose among. For a manager with this sort of record of success, that bodes well.

Bullpen

[ee-ee-AH-oh-ooh] That’s the sound of a whole bunch of individually mediocre arms Transformer-ing into a Megapen. (Although since we’re talking about a bunch of small weak guys combining into a more powerful big guy, I suppose the correct ‘80s cartoon reference would really be Voltron. But I digress).

There’s not a single guy here you’d waste a life preserver on if he fell out of a boat. Joel Hanrahan, Frank Francisco (currently deputized by Octavio Dotel), Kyle Farnsworth, Kevin Gregg, and David Aardsma? Wow. I mean, this is supposed to be fantasy baseball, right? I don’t think there’s anyone who’d believe that group could fulfill any fantasies of any sort. Still, it is a shitload of closers. But this is really going to test the outer limits of the closer-centric approach that a couple of teams are trying this year. In fact, given the multiple save sources, this team could be the first in history to bench an active closer mid-year in order to preserve rate stats. I foresee a bunch of trades down the road involving this group.

Outlook

Every year, there is one team which comes away from the draft with a boom-or-bust roster. This is that team this year. It has kind of a weird roster as currently assembled—neither the offense nor the pitching is plug-and-play. They’re either going to find a formula early on and trade from strength to plug what should be some fairly obvious holes, or they’re going to struggle early and spend three months auctioning closers. But, look, the owner has finished 1, 3, 3, 3, 9, 2. You doubt that track record at your peril.

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