Last week I put together a snapshot of where my team stands in TDGX at the two-month point, and this week we’ll turn the page from past performance to future performance. Since that post my team has gained some tenuous ground from 127.0 points and a seventh place standing to 136.5 points and 6th place. I took steps forward in Runs (+3), WHIP (+3), strikeouts (+2), and runs (+1.5) to make up the ground, and currently sit 4th in total offense and 9th in total pitching, about 40 points behind the league leader (give or take). It’s a solid position, but if I’m going to make a run this year I’ve got some work to do to make up some ground over the next couple months heading to the trade deadline.
Over the course of my analysis last week I identified top-end starting pitching and the tandem of batting average and homeruns as my most pressing holes in need of addressing at this point, and that’s where we’ll pick up this week. The hour is nigh for aggressive action if you’re looking to compete this season. Time to rise and shine and figure out what comes next.
Rotation Depth a big concern
I’ve written elsewhere in the past about the need to make in-season adjustments based not on the team you thought you drafted, but instead with a focus on the team you’re actually fielding. And lo, here I sit in exactly that position. Exiting the draft I was confident I’d drafted a deep rotation that would be able to hang with the best in the league. But as evidenced by the results my squad has produced to date that’s just not the case. I had envisioned a lineup on order of value something along the lines of this for my starters:
1) Cliff Lee
2) Hisashi Iwakuma
3) Shelby Miller
4) Corey Kluber
5) Dan Haren
6) Charlie Morton
7) Brad Peacock
Fast forward two months, and that hasn’t quite been the case at all. Iwakuma and in particular Kluber have both delivered the goods, and I was able to wrangle some solid surplus value out of Haren before shipping him off to address my deficit of Saves. Morton and to a lesser extent Peacock have largely been who I thought they’d be, and I’ve been able to add some decent back-end depth in Wei-Yin Chen and Drew Pomeranz for marginal costs. So basically the bottom three-quarters of my rotation has more or less done what I needed it to. But in a testament to just how important nailing your early picks can be in a league this deep, the water I’ve taken on from my top two pitching selections has been enough to drop me from a top-five staff to a decidedly mediocre one.
So what does that mean for the rest of this season? Well, on the one hand I think my rotation as constructed can do enough from here on out to at least maintain its baseline performance to date. My biggest problem though (non-Shelby Miller Is Apparently Terrible division) is that Lee’s injury – and the uncertainty surrounding his timetable for return – throws a significant wrench in my gears. I’m short my rotation anchor, and it’s a heavy one that I would otherwise be counting on to deliver significantly more future value than he’s delivered already. I can dance around the margins with streaming options and maybe a minor trade or two to keep myself steady, but especially when factoring in some of the recent moves made by the competition above and immediately below me the bottom line is that I need another impact starter, and I need one on the sooner side of later.
My clearest path to making up significant ground in the pitching categories involves shoving a sizable chunk of my chip stack into the middle for a top ~20 starter to supplement the top of my rotation. The problems with that proposition: 1) in a league format like this with so many teams and no sunset on renewing a player’s contract the price for acquiring such talent is that much higher, 2) several potential options have already been moved, and 3) gambling on starting pitching is an inherently terrifying proposition. If I ship off two or three of my top prospects for an impact arm, and that impact arm becomes the 4,736th arm of the season to explode into pieces next week I’m up a creek. But such is the position I currently find myself in, and the clock is ticking while I compute the cost/benefit for making that kind of a move.
If you find yourself in a similar position I recommend consistent veteran types as targets at this stage of the game. There’s enough data at this point that legitimate breakouts under way by guys like Teheran, or Kluber, or Gray are going to be cost-prohibitive, particularly in a dynasty format. Boringly steady veteran types, ideally ones who’ve performed below their draft slot despite decent peripherals, are your white whale in this situation.
I remain confused by the mediocrity of my average/power combination. I’ve lost a bit of production to injury (Napoli) and general below-board performance (Butler, Longoria), but on balance the ingredients should be there for at least better homerun numbers than I’ve posted so far. My RBI and Run output has been solid, and at least part of the issue seems to chalk up to a hint of bad luck. That’s good news, to the degree that I see a bunch of dingers still nestled sleepily in the bats I already have. But at the same time, deficits are deficits, and we’re deep enough into the season now that I can’t afford to sit around hoping for better days to come at this point.
For acquisition purposes, power and batting average are certainly more fungible assets than topline pitching production, and this bodes well. Unlike my pitching situation, where some relatively drastic action is required, I feel confident I can work more on along the edges here and hopefully steal some points with smaller, more targeted moves. On the batting average front I’m weary of “targeting” it as such with an in-season trade if it can be at all avoided. Given the volatility of batted balls it’s a difficult thing to build a strategy based on results-orientation perspective. Batting average never stabilizes as a predictive statistic, and even the best hitters in baseball go through slumps long enough to eat into a significant chunk of the return value you’d be attempting to acquire in a trade. That leaves power, which just so happens to be a category where advancement in my particular league context is quite possible. I’m ninth in homeruns currently, but I’m just seven dingers shy of fifth place. Even the 22 homerun gap between the top team and myself is not insurmountable at this stage of the game, though it’s important to focus on baby steps for the time being.
More or less disregarding batting average impact broadens the horizon significantly to where you can target a larger swath of power-first hitters who should come cheaper than a superstar would. And after that all it takes is some BABIP luck over the short-term to double your return on investment. A piecemeal approach is more valuable here as well on account of the flexibility it affords you for roster-setting purposes; the more options you have week to week, the more you can play percentages and match-ups to limit your vulnerability to batting average drain.
Trading is next, that’s what. Once you’ve identified your chief areas of need it’s time to take a look at your league context and build a list of potential targets. Once you have that, pursue every single one of them until you’ve secured the deal(s) you need to secure. I’ll check back in on the state of the state next month, but know that if I’ve failed by then to land an impact arm and shore up my offensive depth the chances are that I’m not going to be any closer to the promise land. And the same goes for you: if you have any inkling of being able to compete for your league title this year, now is when you make your move (if you haven’t done so already). You still get solid bang for your buck in terms of compiling stats from your acquired players, and you’ll be giving yourself enough time to evaluate your post-trade team before traditional trade deadlines start to creep up at the end of July.