Tuesday, July 15, 2008

In a land called Fantasy...

As some of you out there may have heard, the MLB All-Star Game will be played tonight at Yankee Stadium. In any other major sport it would just be another fun but ultimately meaningless dog and pony show for the fans, but of course in the crazy world of twenty first century Major League Baseball, this light exhibition game will determine home field advantage in the World Series. Just think, months from now the question of who will play the critical deciding game 7 of the World Series at home may be determined by a late game match up between "All Stars" Cristian Guzman and George Sherill.

While there is an equivalent to the All Star Game in the world of fantasy baseball. This break for the Mid-Summer Classic gives me the perfect opportunity to take stock of how my two fantasy teams have faired thus far (because I'm sure everybody out there has just been dying of suspense and speculation). Looking back on the posts and the wide eyed optimism that permeates from every fantasy owner just after completing a draft, it's always interesting to see just how everything has played out thus far. Overall I noticed that there were a few accurate predictions, a handful of pleasant surprises, and of course a fair share of crushing disappointments.

Team 1
The Chan Ho Parks
Current Rank: Tied for 7th out of 12
Real Life All Stars: 3 (OF Corey Hart, OF Nate McLouth, SP Aaron Cook)
Team MVP: OF Nate McLouth
Team under performer: RP Rafael Soriano
Waiver Wire Star: OF Nate McLouth

The Good:
About half this team is now made up of surprisingly productive players scooped from the waiver wire, the most prominent of whom has been Nasty Nate. He basically came out of nowhere and, despite weekly predictions by critics that he would return to mediocrity, has been a five tool stud. Other stars picked from the fantasy scrap heap include groundball inducing wins machine SP Aaron Cook, the surprisingly productive C Bengie Molina, and human Swiss Army knife Mark DeRosa who has more than adequately filled in for FOUR different positions (1B, 2B, 3B, OF).

The Bad:
Pitching has yet again become my Achilles heal. A combination of slow starts, inconsistency, and just straight up crappiness have put me in an early hole in the pitching catagories. Staff ace CC Sabathia had an absolutely awful start to the season, however after some constructive criticism, a trade to the Brewers, and the dropping of the periods in this first initials, he seems to have gotten him back on track. SP Chad Billingsley has also started to come around as well. However, despite his recent success I still won't be convinced SP Oliver Perez is consistently startable until he gives me a couple more non-meltdown starts.

The DL:
3B Ryan Zimmerman's extended trip to the DL may have been a blessing in disguise since it forced to me replace him with replacement 3B Jorge Cantu rather than have kept putting up with his sub-par season in the hope he'd turn the corner. RP Rafael Soriano now joins Dan Kolb and Bob Wickman in the list of Atlanta Braves closers I've drafted that have totally let me down. Soriano was sharp for all of 9 appearances before making my DL spot his long term home and leaving the aging and ineffective Trevor Hoffman as my SOLE source of saves. Then of course there's the sad tale of my number 2 starter Chris Young, who is making the long trek back from a freak Albert Pujols line drive to the face.

Prediction:
I may be languishing just south of the middle of the pack but I wouldn't count out a second half run. A lot of my star guys have started playing up to their potential (Carlos Beltran, Jimmy Rollins, Corey Hart) so I wouldn't be so quick to call this season a wash. First may be too far out of reach but a second or third place finish is not out of the question.

Team 2
Team Korea All Stars
Current Rank: 1st out of 10
Real Life All Stars: 6 (C Russell Martin, 2B Dan Uggla, OF Ryan Braun, SP Edinson Volquez, RP Mariano Rivera, SP Carlos Zambrano)
Team MVP: RP Mariano Rivera
Team under performer : OF Delmon Young
Waiver Wire Star: SP Edinson Volquez

The Good:
There's plenty of good to be said when your team is in first place. Basically, in stark contrast to my first team, there haven't been many changes to the roster since opening day due to most of the original player playing up to my expectations (C Russell Martin, 1B Derrek Lee, OF Ryan Braun, SP Carlos Zambrano, SP John Maine). That combined with a few other players playing far beyond my expectations (2B Dan Uggla, RP Mariano Rivera) have given this team sustained success. Also Edinson Volquez's amazing season thus far, along with Josh Hamilton and Cliff Lee, is one of the great waiver wire success stories of the season.

The Bad:
The only real negative is the surprising amount of notable players that have been cut due to season ending injuries. SP John Smoltz was on his way to another fine season when shoulder problems shot him down, projected number 3 starter Kelvim Escobar didn't even pitch an inning this year, and my second closer Chad Cordero had his season cut short after his first appearance (fortunately I got his replacement, Jon Rauch who has been solid). It's a good thing everyone else was playing well enough to make up for these losses, on paper they look like they would have totally crippled the pitching staff.

The DL:
Aside from the above mentioned season enders, the DL has been a relatively quiet place, probably also another reason for my unexpected success. There was a rough stretch where I was forced to put in Bobby Crosby to make up for the absence of Jimmy Rollins. Currently Ryan Chuch (who was playing way over his head before getting hurt), and Magglio Ordonez (who may have lost his OF job to fill in Xavier Nady during his absence).

Prediction:
My lead in first is only a mere 2 points so that league title is far from a done deal. I know my offense will always be there, so if the pitching can just keep up for another two months I should be able to hold off the competition.

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