With the 2011 baseball season officially in the books, I thought I’d break from my traditional diary format this week to look back at the postseason and, from a fantasy perspective, try to make sense of it all. Now listen, I’m not one to overrate a player’s postseason performance to the extent where it radically alters my valuation of the guy heading into the following season. In fact, the main reason why I even pay attention to this stuff is that many fantasy players do tend to place way too much importance on the postseason. After all, the images of October linger all winter, so it’s real easy to let a few weeks cloud our judgment. Determining what to believe and what to ignore could give the astute owner a huge advantage on draft day. So here’s a look at five players who were either smoking hot or ice cold over the past month.
Postseason (2 Games, 1 Start): 1-0 0.90 ERA 0.60 WHIP
Seven shutout innings in your first ever postseason start is impressive enough, but considering that this also happened to be Moore’s second career big league start, the kid deserves a ton of credit. He’s a big-time prospect who wasted little time proving that he belongs in the Majors. Chances are he’ll reach ace status sooner rather than later, but in non-keeper leagues, I definitely won’t be the one who reaches for him. Paying big bucks for a pitcher with a mere three Major League games under his belt is too risky. Would I draft Moore at the right price? Absolutely. But I’m pretty sure that he’ll go for a lot higher than I’m willing to spend. To me, at least for the time being, he’s a back end of the rotation mixed league starter who will be valued as a mid-rotation guy. No thanks.
Postseason (12 Games): 5-for-5 in saves 2.19 ERA 0.49 WHIP
Just when we thought that Motte’s dominant postseason guaranteed him the Cardinals’ 2012 closer job, he gets pulled from Game 2 of the World Series before he even allows the tying run! Is that how you treat your closer? I know, I know, the lefty-swinging Josh Hamilton was due up and with a precious one-run lead, Tony LaRussa opted to go with his own lefty, Arthur Rhodes. But still, closers aren’t supposed to be taken out of games like that. The important thing though was that when it came down to securing the Cardinals’ 11th title in franchise history, Motte was the man on the mound. There’s little doubt in my mind that he will open 2012 as the St. Louis stopper, and his talent is unquestioned, but LaRussa’s penchant for micromanaging his bullpen and changing closers on a whim would give me reason for pause before investing heavily in Motte. Even if I drafted him as my No. 2 closer, I’d be a little worried.
Postseason (18 Games): .397 AVG 5 HR 21 RBI .794 SLG 1.258 OPS
Even before his dramatic walk-off homer in Game 6 of the Fall Classic, Freese, the obvious choice for World Series MVP, was arguably the most valuable player of the entire postseason. I’ll tell you why I’m not sold on him though. Freese’s postseason walk and strikeout rates were roughly in line with his regular season averages, yet he batted 100 points higher in October. Not to mention that he was a very streaky hitter throughout the regular season. While Freese’s outstanding month has certainly earned him respect in fantasy circles, I still need to see more before drafting him as my starter in mixed leagues. And I have a funny feeling that plenty of owners will do just that.
Postseason (11 Games): .073 AVG (3-for-41) 1 HR 2 RBI .146 SLG .263 OPS
One of the bigger fantasy surprises of 2011, Avila was basically an automatic out in October, recording a mere three hits in 41 at-bats. But fear not! Avila’s struggles can partly be attributed to a knee injury suffered back in July which eventually led to tendonitis. I can’t help but think that the persisting injury combined with the physical toll of catching every day had something to do with this. Avila will not need surgery, and I fully expect that an offseason of rest is all he needs. He’s ranked as a top-5 catcher on most early 2012 cheat sheets, and I have no problem with it. Avila did enough during the regular season to convince me that he’s for real, and I would not hesitate to target him in drafts next spring.
Postseason (3 Starts): 0-3 14.90 ERA 2.28 WHIP .395 BAA
To say that Marcum struggled in the playoffs would be a monumental understatement. After virtually duplicating his stellar 2010 stat line in 2011, the 29-year-old righty couldn’t even make it through the fifth inning in any of his three postseason starts. Add in the fact that he struggled through a rough September (5.17 ERA 5 HR allowed in five starts) and plenty of owners might be scared off. Don’t be one of those owners. Few starting pitchers have been as consistent as Marcum over the past three years, and I’d gladly slot him into the middle of my mixed league rotation. Give him to me at a discount and I’d be ecstatic.
Turns out that the team I was totally distraught over back in early-September, the team I pretty much gave up on before the season even started, is 4-1. But I’m still not a true believer in this group, and the events of the past 24 hours have done little to alleviate my panic. As if relying on Joseph Addai as my No. 2 RB isn’t risky enough, now he’s hurt! The oft-injured Addai left Sunday’s game early due to a hamstring injury, and his post-game remarks were far from encouraging. “Sometimes you feel a tear,” Addai said. “This was a little grab.” Not good. If he’s out for an extended period of time, I’ll need to make a trade, and with wide receiver being my only area of depth, I’m in real trouble. Wide receiver just so happens to be the deepest of all the positions. Who in their right mind would want to trade a top-20 RB for a non-elite wideout? Let me see if anyone is interested in a swap involving either Jeremy Maclin or Santana Moss. If I can’t pull off anything before Sunday, either Pierre Thomas or Michael Bush will be in my starting lineup. Scary.Tuesday, October 11 – 8:20 PM
What a waste of time and energy. After carefully examining each of the rosters and finally identifying a team that’s loaded at the running back position (Beanie Wells, Felix Jones and James Starks are all sitting on his bench), the guy isn’t at all interested in my receivers. “I’d be happy to move a running back but I don’t see either of those guys as an upgrade at WR for me,” he says. “I really need help at TE, so if you wanted to do one of those backs for Graham, I'd be interested.” Wait a minute. I’m not quite that desperate. So far, Jimmy Graham is the highest scoring tight end in our league. And it’s not even close. Am I crazy to think that this is an unreasonable demand? I’m not even going to answer him. Why bother.Friday, October 14 – 8:45 PM
Fantasy football is cruel. In what other setting do you actually root for players to get injured? Fantasy baseball? Not really. An injury to a regular could open the door for a reserve player to get additional at-bats, but you can just as easily find a suitable replacement on the waiver wire. In football, the waiver wire isn’t nearly as appealing, particularly at the running back position. So if a starter gets hurt, it’s a pretty big deal. A back who would normally get 2-3 carries per game is all of a sudden in line for 15-plus touches. Even though he’s not even on my team, LeGarrette Blount will be awarded the game ball should I win this week. His injury combined with my Week 2 pickup of Earnest Graham has saved me. Look, I’m not expecting Graham to all of a sudden put up monster numbers, but he’ll give me something, especially since this is a PPR league. After all, Graham is averaging just under five catches per game, this as a strict backup. The other good news is that Joseph Addai’s hamstring injury is considered just a strain, so there’s a decent chance he comes back next week. Man, am I glad I didn’t overpay for a mid-tier running back. Sure, it took a little bit of luck, but sometimes the best trades are the ones you don’t make.
Thursday, September 29 – 10:16 AM
It lasted for only three minutes but it lasted long enough to freak me out. For those three minutes, I was rooting against the Yankees while all of Red Sox Nation was rooting for them. The Sox were on the brink of the biggest September collapse in baseball history, having just suffered a walk-off loss to the Orioles after being one strike away from ensuring at least a one-game playoff vs. the Rays for the AL wildcard, and I was loving it. I loved it even more when Evan Longoria launched that walk-off homer in the 12th inning off Scott Proctor, officially putting an end to Boston’s postseason before it ever started. Payback for ’04? Not quite, but I was glad we didn’t hand those guys an extra lifeline.
One of the main reasons why baseball is by far my favorite sport to watch is that there’s no clock. In life, time is always of the essence, so it’s always nice to escape reality every now and then, take in a ballgame and completely lose track of time. But late last night, I was rather surprised to find myself constantly looking at my watch. I was getting tired, and Proctor’s endless number of pickoff attempts was annoying me to no end. Ideally, the Yankees didn’t want to use any reliever projected to be on the playoff roster in what was for them an insignificant game, so it was really just a matter of time before the Rays would win this one, I thought. So let’s get this over with already! Eventually, it ended. The buzzer sounded, and my short-lived obsession with the clock was finally over.
Thursday, September 29 – 8:38 PMI’m not one to veto many trades, but as commissioner I felt that a Chris Johnson for Steve Johnson swap was questionable enough to put to a league vote. Come on, a consensus top-5 overall pick for a barely top-20 wideout? The deal was vetoed (I voted against it too), and less than a week after the vote, it’s looking like we made a big mistake. CJ2K, as they call him, is coming off yet another mediocre performance (and that’s putting it nicely) while the Bills’ Johnson caught eight balls for 94 yards and a score. But back to Chris, what’s going on with this guy? Is it simply rust from his training camp holdout? An injury? Something else? I still have faith that he will finish the season as no worse than a top-15 player, but I’m sure hoping that this trade doesn’t get agreed upon again. As the commish, I’d hate to set up this whole voting procedure again. What a headache! On Sunday vs. the Browns, Johnson will look to prove that three games is not enough of a sample size to deem this trade acceptable, but the Titans’ running back is running out of time.
Friday, September 30 – 7:34 PM
In fantasy football, every decision is magnified. Yeah, benching a starting pitcher who goes on to toss seven shutout innings is tough to swallow, but over the course of the season, one can easily overcome that blunder. Make the wrong lineup decision in football and you can lose the week because of it. Imagine if you benched Jeremy Maclin in Week 2? A friend of mine did just that, and at the time I didn’t think it was a bad move. There were plenty of questions about Maclin’s health fresh off a one catch, 20 yard effort in the season opener, so maybe sitting him for a week was the wise choice. Of course, he goes on to enjoy the best game of his young career. Wise choice? Not so much.
Anyway, I own Maclin in a different league, and though he’s listed as probable this week despite a sore hamstring, I’m seriously considering benching him in favor of Santana Moss, who has put up strong numbers in the early going. Hamstring injuries are tricky, particularly for wide receivers, and even if Maclin does start the game, how effective will he be? Will he even be able to get through the entire game? I’m leaning towards starting Moss but will be wrestling with this decision right up until 1 PM ET on Sunday. Less than 42 hours to go.
Saturday, October 1 – 2:52 PM
I was all geared up to watch the Yankees-Tigers game last night. Turns out it lasted only 1 ½ innings before the rains came and suspended the whole thing. And I was bummed. What started out as a night of postseason baseball turned into a night of drawn out press conferences where the basic message was that there’s nothing you can do about the weather. Despite a gloomy forecast, they thought they would have enough of a time window to get the game in. They were wrong, and the forecast for tonight isn’t much better. So when will the rain start? When will it end? What if they can’t play tonight? Doubleheader tomorrow? How would all this affect the probable starting pitchers? Is baseball really immune to the forces of time?
Friday, October 7 – 4:28 PM
You see, I’m not your stereotypical Yankee fan. I’m not arrogant. I don’t assume that we’ll win the World Series every year. I’m not infuriated with A-Rod, Teixeira and Swisher, even though all three are coming off horrendous performances in the series that ended last night the same way 2010 ended, with a Rodriguez strikeout. Disappointed? Yes. Devastated? Not so much. The truth is that the Tigers are an excellent team, a well-balanced group led by two elite players, a first baseman who is in the thick of the MVP discussion every year and a starting pitcher who will win the AL Cy Young, almost surely in a unanimous vote. But the thing about the Tigers is that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. I just never got that feeling about the 2011 Yankees. The season will be remembered for Jeter’s 3,000th hit and Mariano’s 602nd save, both tremendous personal accomplishments. There weren’t a lot of team moments though, a ninth inning rally capped off by a walk-off hit. I don’t remember too many of those.
I’m not your stereotypical Yankee fan. I don’t expect Seattle to hand us Felix Hernandez for a bunch of prospects just because we can afford to sign King Felix to a lucrative long-term contract extension. One guy even called in to a local radio station today suggesting a Teixeira for Hernandez swap! I got a good kick out of that. Like the small-market Mariners would want to pay Tex 20-plus million bucks a year for the next five years. Will we overpay for C.J. Wilson, the lone high-end starting pitcher available on the free agent market this winter? Maybe. But chances are the 2012 squad will look a lot like the 2011 version. And unlike your stereotypical Yankee fan, I don’t see this as such a bad thing. A few pieces here, a few pieces there, and who knows, perhaps we can recapture that ’09 magic.
Walking the city streets today, it was hard to ignore the Yankee hangover. Bleary-eyed fans were eager to vent. I must have gotten into about four separate conversations in the span of an hour, some longer than others but all full of opinions as to what went wrong and ideas as to how to fix it. Why didn’t Girardi remove A-Rod from the cleanup spot? Why in the world did he use CC out of the pen last night when Hughes was looking so sharp? Swisher needs to go. Gardner should be traded while his stock is high. After wrapping up an in-depth chat with my building’s doorman, who knows his stuff, I’m standing in line in the bank and this guy I’ve never seen before, noticing the interlocking NY on my hat, comes up to me. “What’s wrong with A-Rod?” he asks. “It has to be the steroids.” Clearly, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, so I need to censor myself here. Keep it simple. Politely, I shrug my shoulders and say something about how there are still six years left on Rodriguez’s contract.
Look, we were all spoiled by those teams of the 90’s, but what’s easy to forget is that if it were not for the homegrown group of Jeter, Pettitte, Posada, Bernie and Mo, that dynasty era never would have existed. I’m looking forward to 2012. Jesus Montero appears to be a star in the making. Banuelos, Betances and Brackman could all make meaningful contributions by season’s end. Patience everyone! Why are we in such a rush to get rid of these guys?
Did I mention that I’m not your stereotypical Yankee fan?
Seven innings pitched, two hits, no runs, one walk, six strikeouts. Just another outstanding performance by Javier Vazquez tonight. After getting off to a terrible start to the season Javy has been near flawless in the second half (7-3 2.16 ERA 0.89 WHIP) and fortunately for me, I picked him up at exactly the right time…during the All-Star break. Come to think of it, I always seem to own Javy at the right time. I owned him back in ’03, then again in ’07, and again in ’09. Firmly convinced that drafting Vazquez in odd numbered years was the secret, I liked him this season as a late-round value pick, as he would be returning to the NL and pitching in a very favorable home ballpark. The problem was that a lot of other owners were also intrigued by him, so I was left Vazquez-less in all of my leagues. But here I am reunited with him again, and I’d like to thank Javier for helping me ascend to 6th place in my money league after spending most of the season in 9th or 10th. Actually, I’d like to thank my entire pitching staff, including Vance Worley, Ivan Nova, Jeremy Hellickson and the rock solid Tim Hudson. Without you guys, I’d be the laughingstock of this league, the so-called “fantasy expert” who can’t even finish in the top half in a league with his old college friends.
Thursday, September 22 – 2:25 PM
Yeah, I won my Week 2 matchup in my football money league. But it took Jeremy Maclin’s 42.2 fantasy points to do it. And while Joseph Addai had a decent game, rushing for 64 yards while catching four passes for 37 yards, an obvious improvement over his Week 1 stinker, I’m still very uncomfortable with him as an every week starter. A trade is in order, but this won’t be easy. Who in their right mind would want to deal a top-20 running back this early in the season? It just doesn’t make any sense, especially when the highest scoring waiver wire options are none other than Marcel Reese and John Kuhn? But there’s no harm in trying to pull off something. So I just posted a message to the league offering Maclin, whose stock can’t possibly get any higher than it is right now, in exchange for a quality No. 2 level RB. I like Maclin a lot but do have Santana Moss on my bench, and he would make for a serviceable replacement. Let’s see if there’s any interest, because things just can’t go on like this, spending every week wondering whether I’d be getting anything at all out of my second running back.
Friday, September 23 – 10:45 PM
Well, barring a miracle, it’s looking like my NL-only head-to-head league squad will come up short of a title. And while it’s disappointing that I won’t be taking home the hardware in my rookie season in this league, I’ve honestly never been more satisfied with a second place finish. Hey, I almost backed out of joining, overwhelmed by the complex keeper and contract rules and fearing that I might make a complete fool out of myself. But to get all the way to the finals after posting the second-best regular season record is a pretty cool accomplishment. And I’m not one to pat myself on the back. With Troy Tulowitzki hurt for a good portion of the two-week long championship round, Tommy Hanson on the DL, Dillon Gee’s first half cinderella ride a thing of the past and the normally ultra-consistent Joey Votto slumping badly, my team simply ran out of gas. But that’s OK. The important thing is that I took on a new challenge and enjoyed a great deal of success. I’ll be back in 2012, and will surely not feel overmatched next time around.
Saturday, September 24 – 3:46 PM
Zero. So far, there’s been zero interest whatsoever in swapping a No. 2 running back for Jeremy Maclin, and I’m not all that surprised. There’s really nothing I can do right now but continue to wait and start preparing to see a miniscule point total next to Joseph Addai’s name on Sunday’s box score. He’ll square off against a Steelers defense that routinely dominates against the run. Even the elite backs struggle to produce vs. Pittsburgh, so the thought of Addai facing them is scary.
But why worry about that now? I’ve got a Yankees-Red Sox game to watch, and I’m looking forward to it. With the fates of my five fantasy baseball teams more or less sealed, I can sit back, relax, and enjoy the show as the game of reality baseball takes center stage. Then again, if reality gets a bit too boring, I can always escape into the world of 2012 draft planning.