We’re almost exactly two months into the baseball season, and I’ve always liked to use the start of June as the jumping off point to make my first real soul-searching conclusions about the squad(s) I’m fielding. We’ve reached a stage of the season where a decent number of stats have gained a semblance of statistical significance, and we can start to separate some early season performance from the security blanket of small sample size. So with the spirit of self-evaluation in the thick air, let’s take a look under the hood of my TDGX squad. In Part I this week I’ll check in on how the team has performed to date, and then in Part II next week I’ll plot and scheme on what I should be looking to accomplish over the next phase of the season.
The Raw Numbers
My squad currently sits in 7th out of 20, buoyed by a nice run of late that we’ll call The George Springer Experience. Before the season started I hung a 55 present grade on my squad, meaning I saw my assets combining to form a slightly above average team in the league, and so far that prediction has played out more or less on point. The Springer Experience notwithstanding, my team has consistently hovered in the mid-one-teens to low-one-twenties range for the past several weeks of play, and that feels about right given how the season has unfolded to date. Here’s the breakdown of how I rank by category, as well as the position of the league leader in each category and an estimate for the middle of the pack as context:
|Category||Team Total||Rank||League Leader||League Avg|
So the basic moral of the first two months of this story is that my team has been good but not great in a few categories, poor but not terrible in a couple more, and narrowly on the plus side of average in the rest. My most glaring statistical weakness to date has been Saves, which was a known fate entering the season on account of my failure to draft even one current closer. It’s also the area I’ve taken the most aggressive steps towards addressing in the early going, as I recently consummated a trade for Koji Uehara on top of blowing a full two-thirds of my annual FAAB budget on anointed second division closers. There’s a decided break in the middle of the pack between the “haves” and “have-nots” of closer ownership, as there’s currently a seven save gap between the nith and 10th place teams. With several of the squads still ahead of me in the category having already mailed in the season and sold off their relief assets, I figure there’s an easy floor of five to six points I should be able to gain in this category over the remainder of the season provided Uehara stays healthy and Qualls stays in the Houston closer’s chair for the next few weeks at a minimum.
I’d have to say the volatility of my pitching starting pitching has been an unexpected weakness of the club. When I put the team together on draft day I did so with the anticipation that I’d be fielding one of the stronger rotations in the league come May and would need to be prepared to scrounge for bats. But the staff hasn’t come together as I’d hoped, and the primary reasons for that reside right at the top. Despite pitching like a reasonable facsimile of his younger self in the bulk of his starts, my ostensible staff ace Cliff Lee did some serious damage to the bottom line of my ERA and WHIP numbers with a couple nasty clunkers out of the gate, and he currently sits on the DL with an uncertain ETA for his return from a Grade 1/2 flexor strain in his elbow. He currently sits 46th among starting pitchers on ESPN’s Player Rater, which is not the kind of return I needed from a mild reach of a pick in the fourth round.
And my fifth found pick Shelby Miller has been a pretty epic disaster by any and all advanced metrics so far. He (and I) benefited heavily from some good fortune early in the season, and the six Wins he’s somehow managed to net me are nice. But he’s pitched terrible, terrible baseball pretty much from the jump this season, and after a thorough shellacking at the hands of the Hated Yankees in his last turn his topline numbers are starting to catch up to his unsightly 5.11 FIP. While his velocity and “stuff” both compare reasonably with what he showed last year his mechanics have been a mess and his command non-existent. He’s pitching behind in the count far too often, and hitters aren’t chasing any of his secondaries out of the zone. The combination has led to a dramatic decrease in his swing-and-miss rate and an ever-ballooning walk rate. He currently sits 77th on the Player Rater, and even that value is almost entirely on account of his Win karma. Yuck.
I’ve also been surprised at the tandem mediocrity of my AVG and HR totals thus far. The way the draft unfolded for me I ended up executing an intended strategy of sacrificing a bit of batting average for power by drafting guys like Ryan Howard, Mike Napoli, Adam Dunn, and Garrett Jones. I thought I’d done a reasonable job at balancing out at least out some of the potential batting average catastrophe of that foursome with higher average hitters like Omar Infante, Billy Butler, Everth Cabrera, and Denard Span. But here we are at the two month mark and none of those guys are hitting better than .261. Butler probably deserves his own post, as he’s been so spectacularly bad thus far that he seems like an out-and-out wasted pick even in a league as grotesquely deep as this one.
Biggest Signs of Encouragement
I took some heat in reaching for Springer with a third round pick in the draft, and amid his struggles out of the gate it looked like I might be in for a long summer. But he’s been on another planet for the last week and change and has now more than balanced his cumulative stat line for the season. His strikeout rate remains terrifying, but he’s showing flashes of the same unique skill set that has consistently defied his contact issues over and over again, all the way back to his first couple seasons at UConn. I don’t expect him to keep hitting bombs daily, and he’s not the top 10 player he’s been over the past month. But I do anticipate he’ll do more running than he’s done thus far (one steal in three attempts), and that should hopefully help balance out his production value as the homerun streak cools and his power numbers normalize.
I’ve also been generally happy with my evaluation of veterans in the middle portion of the draft, particularly on offense. Guys like the aforementioned Howard, Dunn, and Jones have all performed right at the benchmarks I’d hoped for when I drafted them, and I’ve been able to tread water offensively despite underachievement from a couple other guys like Napoli, Ethier, Span, and Infante who I’m confident will all get to their numbers by year’s end. Outside of Springer, the other three of my top four bats drafted have underperformed thus far (Braun, Longoria, and Everth Cabrera), which has made the contributions of some of those key veterans that much more important in stabilizing my lineup.
So What Now?
I’m basically where I was hoping to be at this stage of the game, and now it comes time to start addressing some of my squad’s weaknesses to try and wiggle my way up the leaderboard. I see the coming six week period as the time in a season where a team positioned as mine is needs to be aggressive in making moves and trying to improve for a run. That way, come July’s end if you’ve made progress you can double-down and build more for the moment. And if you haven’t, you can re-evaluate and try to make a few smart, targeted dumps to position yourself for next season.
Next week I’ll examine some of the specific holes I’m looking to fill and talk about some players that owners with similar needs to my own should be targeting in their leagues.