Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Season Preview: The Spam Avengers

As a student of history, lover of thoroughbred racing, and reader of Nate Silver, I am squarely of the opinion that in most walks of life, what has happened in the past matters and is indicative of what will come next.  Over the past decade, our fantasy baseball league has pretty much backed up this assertion.  Scot and Tucker have generally remained extremely competitive in the league with intermittent rebuilding years.  Teddy and I have competed but never won.  Will is consistently inconsistent.  Andy, Jon and Sahil...well, they're nice guys.

Which brings us to Alex, who has won the whole enchilada three times in his ten years in the league.  But his "average" finish is 5th place because he's also had some fallow seasons and has only finished in the money but not won once.  His cycle has been:

1.  Initial success (win in '03, 2nd place in '04);
2.  Non-threatening but not horrible (4th in '05 and '06)
3.  Sucktitude (no better than 8th between '07 and '09)
4.  Second round of success (won in '10 and '11)
5.  Non-threatening but not horrible (5th in '12)

So if history repeats itself we have another middling finish coming or worse a fall into sucktidude, right?  Well, let's take a look.


There's a lot of talent but no way for TSA to get it all on the field  unless they're more familiar with how MLB schedules its off days than everyone.  Joey Votto is one of the best players in baseball and Freddy Freeman is an excellent young player as well.  But they both play first.  Robby Cano is by far the best 2B in baseball; Ian Kinsler is in the top 6.  But we don't have a middle infield position.  And none of those four players have any extra position eligibility until Jurickson Profar makes the majors and Kinsler shifts...to first base, which helps them not at all.  To add ridiculousness to it all, their best bench players are Chris Davis and Brandon Belt, both 1Bs.  Davis will have some ability to play in the outfield but Belt is going to be even more buried here than he was in San Fran two years ago.

On the left side of the infield, Mike Moose Tacos and Josh Rutledge are interesting young breakout players.  But they're also it for depth at 3B and SS.  (Rutledge also has 2B eligibility, making matters more comical.)  So while this team can sustain an injury to the right side, it's in deep shit if someone on the left side goes down.


For all the talent in the infield, this team really needs one of those players to get outfield eligibility because the OF as currently constituted is not going to yield a pennant.  Jacoby Ellsbury either plays a full season well or not at all, meaning that you know you'll get solid production IF he can stay on the field.  After that it's a motley collection of Orioles (Davis, Nick Markakis), guys in pitcher's parks (Michael Morse, Carlos Quentin) and a rookie outfielder who may not be a good hitter (Leonys Martin). 

Starting Pitching

Clayton Kershaw and a bunch of lottery tickets.  Okay, that's not completely fair - Ian Kennedy is a decent #2 if he's healthy, and I actually like Jason Hammel this year.  Beyond that though they're relying on a lot of guys with titanic question marks.  Are Phil Hughes and Matt Garza going to be healthy at all?  Annibal Sanchez in the AL?  Tommy Hanson at all?  Doug Fister may well turn out to be their second-best pitcher; if that's the case, the trophy shelf will be empty this October.

Relief Pitching

TSA seems to have eschewed having actual closers for instead taking guys that are halfway decent at throwing the ball.  They're hedging on Detroit's bullpen situation going to hell quickly with Phil Coke and Al Albequerque there to pick up the spoils, which is a perfectly sound strategy.  And Jose Veras and Tommy Millone are okay hurlers.  But this isn't going to get them near the top in saves and may not get them many vulture wins either.


As currently constituted this is not a championship team - there's too much talent that can't play at the same time and the outfield is a mess.  But this is one of the best owners in the league and he's undoubtedly aware that he needs to make a deal for a starter and an outfielder.  Freeman, Cano and Kinsler all are excellent chips for a trade.  If he can cash one of them in to fill a hole, this team can contend for money.

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