This weekend marks the official end of the first half of the baseball season, so it’s time to take stock of fantasy fortunes as well. I will shortly recap my team’s performance, but for the moment we will look at the race for our league’s 2013 title.
The full standings can be found here. To summarize though, here are how the teams shake out:
|We Got Wood||851.2||10668.5||5.50||5.53|
|Frosted Mini Weeks||891.2||10137.3||4.98||5.43|
|The Crying of No. 49||881.2||9510.8||4.79||5.09|
It can be difficult to assess relative value because different teams have thrown differing percentages of their 1500 IP cap, but we will try. Everyone would agree that the bottom six teams are out of the 2013 race – I will take a look at each team’s rebuilding process a bit later.
With respect to the top 6 teams in the standings, FMW and the Syndicate are largely out of the race IMHO. Both trail the leader by ~500 points while having already thrown significantly more innings. FMW’s offense operating at below 5/G just isn’t nearly enough to qualify as a competitor – FMW has gotten a breakout from Dom Brown and Starling Marte and characteristic excellence from Evan Longoria, Adam Jones and Dustin Pedroia. However, MI has been a particularly bad spot (Brandon Crawford and JJ Hardy delivering poor results in the LWTS format), and John Hamilton’s struggles haven’t helped. Barring a significant infusion of offense, even a strong pitching staff won’t be enough.
Syndicate is also an interesting team – it has sat basically in the top half of the standings all year, though I don’t see much chance to make a real run at the title for a few reasons. Chris Davis and Jason Kipnis have buoyed the offense, while James Shields and Lance Lynn have anchored the rotation but top to bottom there aren’t enough other pieces to vault scoring over the 5.15 per IP/G into the 5.3+ needed to compete. Further, there isn’t much the team has to offer in terms of trade pieces to improve (outside of recently acquired #1 draft pick Mark Appel), which should handicap the team as other competitors add their final pieces. (though as this post was being written, Syndicate made a splashy 4-2 trade involving Matt Holliday).
If this analysis is correct that leaves us with 4 challengers for the 2013 Ottoneu title, which I will examine in greater detail.
Durham Tobacconists (Currently 6th, 10089 pts, 5.21 P/G, 5.28 P/IP, 838 IP)
Lineup: Durham is strong top to bottom as evidenced by their 5.21 P/G total, but they don’t have a Chris Davis type monster season jacking that number up. Robinson Cano and David Ortiz already have 600 points, but Durham has strength in the infield (Cano, Lowrie) and the OF (Bautista, Ellsbury) and has survived underperformances by Pablo Sandoval and Yoenis Cespedes. Could stand an upgrade at C (over Matt Wieters) and 3B (Sandoval).
Pitching: Again, strength top to bottom. Solid bullpen, and King Felix, Gio Gonzalez and a resurgent AJ Burnett lead the rotation. Zack Greinke is back healthy and Hishashi Iwakuma has been terrific, while Mike Leake has also proved worthy of starting in most if not all parks. Burnett, Iwakuma and Leake may all regress to some extent, but rolling the dice with this pitching staff isn’t a bad risk.
Outlook: Dark Horse. I don’t know if the team has enough – they’ll need at least one if not multiple of Pablo Sandoval, Zack Greinke, Matt Wieters and Yoenis Cespedes to put up all-star 2nd half numbers. Durham does have a few interesting pieces to move (Fried, Giolito) if he really wants to try to hoist his 2nd trophy in 3 years.
Chicago Chiefs (3rd, 10298 points, 5.59 P/G, 5.28 P/IP, 803 IP)
Lineup: By a decent margin, this is the best offense in the league. Miguel Cabrera has a ridiculous 120 point lead already on a scorching Chris Davis, he is single-handedly lapping the field. Not to be outdone Michael Cuddyer is averaging over 7/G, Nelson Cruz nearly 6 all the while Joey Votto continuing to rake.
Pitching: 1st half Cy Young Max Scherzer grabs all the headlines, but newcomer Hyun-Jin Ryu has been terrific in LA, and even in a down year Justin Verlander is a top 20 SP. Beyond that, the rotation has questions. Matt Cain no longer consistently exceeds his xFIP, Jake Peavy and Brandon Beachy are struggling to get healthy, Ricky Nolasco is now in the NL West where the pitching parks should help him stay close to 5/IP. Old Timers Mariano Rivera and Joe Nathan are anchors of a bullpen that is more than adequate.
Outlook: This team has been outstanding to date, but I see more regression than improvement coming. Cabrera, Yadi Molina and Votto are all Hall of Fame trajectory players and will continue to hit, but the 2nd half may bring rough waters for over performers like Cuddyer, Jhonny Peralta and Nelson Cruz. Chicago does have Shane Victorino and a recovering Josh Willingham looking for starting slots which may help. On the pitching side, Peavy or Beachy may prove to be the arm Chicago needs but Scherzer has never thrown 200 IP and Verlander is proving good not great in 2013 – feels like they need an arm and a hitter to cement the stretch run.
We Got Wood (2nd, 10668, 5.50 P/G 5.53 P/IP, 851 IP)
Lineup: One word – balance. Only Mike Trout is over 575 points (and he has nearly 750) but the lineup has almost no weak spots – Carlos Gomez, Albert Pujols, Andrew McCutcheon, Ian Desmond, Desmond Jennings, etc. If I want to quibble, there are probably upgrades over Leonys Martin/Josh Reddick for 5th OF, and Marco Scutaro’s injured finger probably will mean some bench time in the 2nd half. Top to bottom though this lineup is deep and ready for the last 70 games.
Pitching: Matt Harvey . . . and then everyone else. Harvey has been a revelation in Flushing, but beyond that, WGW runs out Matt Moore (solid, though his command issues make me concerned he’s walking a tightrope not entering his prime as an ace) and Hideki Kuroda, and then some hope and prayers: Felix Doubront, Bud Norris, Tyler Skaggs, Ryan Dempster, Chris Archer. This doesn’t feel like a championship rotation to me – if Matt Harvey comes back to earth and/or the Mets pitch him less down the stretch (they are skipping his start today) WGW may struggle for productive innings. If Matt Harvey had an elite 646 points this far in 2013 rather than an otherworldly 846, WGW’s P/IP would be under 5.3.
Outlook: I don’t think this team can cross the finish line without adding an excellent SP (or 2), and I don’t see many pieces with which WGW can acquire one. Perhaps a larger package involving one of WGW’s breakout stars might return some serviceable offense and the SP he needs to hoist a banner.
WAR Horse (1st, 10725, 5.41 P/G, 5.80 P/IP, 818 IP)
Lineup: Kudos to WAR for putting together the most creative elite offense in the league. Everyday sluggers Adrian Beltre and Paul Goldschmidt lead the charge, but beyond that only Edwin Encarnacion and Shin-soo Choo have 500 points. Rather than relying on stars, WAR has mixed and matched a set of platoon players (Nava, Matt Joyce, Brett Gardner, Darin Ruf) to the top of the standings. The platoon system has worked thus far but Brian Dozier, Jose Iglesias (despite his unexpected production) and Yunel Escobar don’t form the keystone combo of a title winner – look for WAR to add in the middle of the diamond.
Pitching: In contrast to the platoons in the lineup WAR’s pitching is led from the top – Clayton Kershaw, Adam Wainwright and Cliff Lee and 1st, 2nd and 5th, respectively in pitcher scoring. Toss in Bartolo Colon’s trip through the rejuvenation machine, Doug Fister’s stead hand and newcomer Jeff Locke, and you’ve got the league’s best SP. The bullpen, led by Aroldis Chapman, Mark Melancon and Greg Holland has been nearly as good. This staff is elite.
Outlook: Just this morning, WAR made a big trade, sending away Fister, Locke, Joyce and catcher Jason Castro for Matt Holliday and Colby Rasmus. Cashing in some part time pieces for everyday players makes sense, though I wonder if WAR will regret moving the SP, especially with Colon facing possible suspension and Corey Kluber working his way through his first full season. Like a couple other contenders, WAR has little in the way of trade bait so may have to go with what it has or what it can find on the waiver wire. While the 5.80 P/IP doesn’t look sustainable to me, the pitching staff is still elite even if it regresses to some extent, so WAR will go as far as its hitting can carry it. I don’t think WAR can win without adding some offense particularly in the infield, but if Matt Holliday is healthy that’s a great first step.
Unscientific Prediction: WGW is the first team to fade, its starting pitching just doesn’t look deep enough to compete with the other contenders. Durham makes a trade to upgrade the offense but it’s not quite enough and though the rotation continues to produce, and settles into a 3rd place finish. Left only with WAR and Chicago, WAR’s pitching falters a bit down the stretch and Chicago’s top to bottom lineup strength wins out over time; barring a big trade by WAR or Durham, Chicago eeks out its first title.