Saturday, February 10, 2007

Back In the Saddle

With my basketball team hopefully on the road to recovery (currently 5-4 against the league leaders this week), I'm starting to turn some attention to fantasy baseball. As the commissioner, defending champ and husband of the only other champ in league history, the pressure to dominate my fake baseball league couldn't be higher (I'll pause while the gravity of that sentence, and what me making a statement like that implies about my sanity, sinks in). The first order of business is to see who's coming back. Within six hours of sending out the email to invite everyone back, 5 of the usual suspects already responded, including G's and my friend Kevin in Taipei. (that's right, we're international, baby!) He lost to G in the inaugural league championship in 2005 but fell on hard times last year, missing the playoffs. That hasn't diminished his trash-talking ability one iota. As the all-time league leader in this category (and it isn't even close), you can always count on Kevin to spice things up a bit. In this case, he's vowing payback to the rest of the league for his 2006 struggles. He tends to load up on Cleveland Indians, so they're going to need to avoid underachieving (as they did last year) if Kevin is to follow up on his pledge.

This is a keeper league, so I'm going to have some interesting decisions to make pretty soon here. The league hasn't voted on how many players we get to hold onto, but one thing's for sure: I won't be able to keep everyone I want. Johan Santana's a no-brainer, but beyond that, about half of my team is roughly on that next level of guys you want, but may not be slam dunks depending on how many guys get to stick around and what you need to give up to hold onto them (last year, we regarded keeper picks as slotted into the team's Xth-round draft pick, and we'll probably do something similar this year). Do I lock in 2006 slugging revelation Chris Duncan (22 HR in 280 AB)? How about a proven power hitter in a walk year (Jermaine Dye)? Steals are rare, so do I hang onto breakout thief Hanley Ramirez, who had 51 last year? Speaking of scarcity, what about Chase Utley, a power source at an unlikely position (2B)? Then, you go to pitching. I loved last year's bullpen (in particular veterans BJ Ryan and Scot Shields, plus my sleeper closer du jour, Chris Ray of Baltimore), but in large part because of my historical success with guys like Ray, I'm likely to cut down my keeper list here first.

Finally, Jered Weaver presents a uniquely interesting case (hence, he gets his own paragraph). If you project his numbers over an entire year, you end up with something like 21-4, 200 K, 2.60 ERA and 1.05 WHIP. Of course, you can't really do that; he could hit a wall in his first full big-league season, hitters could figure him out, he could figure them out more, he might get more or less support from the Angels this year, he's likely to go up against opponents' #1 and #2 starters where he faced #4 and #5 guys last year, and there's probably at least half a dozen other factors I can't even think of right now. Even though a lot of those are negative, you can't ignore the potential this guy has. I'm likely to keep him, since the fact that I got him on waivers last year as opposed to in the draft will likely make him a bargain, but Weaver's one of those guys that could make or break my season. If he puts the type of numbers up that I mentioned a couple sentences ago, combined with yet another solid season from Johan (I've been on his bandwagon since he was a part-time starter in 2003, so we're on a first-name basis at this point), then my team will go quite far in the pitching categories. If not, my season might not be toast, but it will put more pressure on me to mine for a solid but heretofore unknown or unremarkable starter in the regular draft.

Well, I think I just set the record for talking about a fantasy league whose members aren't even set yet, so I think I'll shut it down for now.

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