francisco-liriano

What Went Wrong? How My FB365 Roto League Team Failed

Wallowing away toward the bottom half of the standings is never fun, especially at this time of year. There is little satisfaction in battling for 6th place in a league. That, however, is what my FB365 Roto League team has been relegated to. I drafted Albert Pujols and Jose Reyes with my first two picks, so where did it all go wrong!?

First, I probably should never play in 10 friggin leagues again…ever. If you ever thought of trying to manage that many fantasy baseball teams, don’t — unless you have an extreme amount of free time on your hands, which I don’t. It’s craziness. Lunacy. Octomom thinks it’s too much work.

I must say, my draft started brilliantly. Picking second of 12 teams, I was able to land Albert Pujols with pick one, Hanley having gone first overall. When round two came back to me, I decided the injury risk of Jose Reyes was worth the upside. After two picks from the wheel position (Youkilis and Nelson Cruz), I decided to solidify my middle infield by selecting Ian Kinsler. Not a bad start. Rounds four and five were also solid picks for me. I nabbed Jay Bruce in the fourth and Brandon Phillips in the fifth.

This, however, is where things went horribly wrong.
 

The 3B market was already thin and, as it turned out, I panicked, wanting not to have to worry about bottom feeding for a 3B later on. I selected Pedro Alvarez, a player whom I was not 100 percent sold on to begin with, but someone I thought would hit for power if nothing else. Oops. After that bust of a pick came the beginning of what might have been my worst pitching staff…ever.

My team is LAST in ERA and LAST in WHIP. If you read this site back in February and March, you knew that my strategy would be to target my first pitcher in round seven, which I did. That pitcher happened to be someone I was super high on; someone who just the season prior had posted 9.4 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 0.42 HR/9, a 54% ground ball rate and a 2.95 xFIP. Those numbers were nothing short of dominant. However, pitchers can be a fickle foe to fantasy owners. The pitcher I selected as my ace with my seventh round pick was Francisco Liriano. Needless to say, he has regressed horribly this season, posting a 1.5 K/BB ratio and 4.45 xFIP. He did work through a minor injury in spring training and the Twins may have messed with his psyche a bit — trade rumors and preaching for him to pitch to contact — but all-in-all we can’t lay blame on anyone but Liriano himself. He’s the one that stopped throwing strikes. He’s the one that decided to throw fewer sliders, his best strikeout pitch.

Liriano has certainly been a bust, but my pitching woes were just starting. Having selected my first pitcher in round seven, I looked to go with another arm in round eight. That pitcher ended up being Chad Billingsley. I’m not liking the fact that my eighth round pick has given me a 4.08 ERA and 1.41 WHIP.

Luckily, I stopped the bleeding with my ninth round pick, Michael young, an excellent value as it turned out. After Young, however, came two stinkers in Joe Nathan and Nick Markakis in rounds 10 and 11. I had monitored Nathan’s progress after Tommy John surgery very closely. He had been picking up velocity during spring training and the successful comeback rate for pitchers returning from TJS is quite high. Nathan’s velocity is down about one MPH this year compared to his previous two seasons, but the bigger issue has been his lack of command within the strike-zone. Too many pitches left over the middle of the plate led to a ton of damage off his opponents’ bats early and often. A DL stint from right forearm inflammation was the icing on top of the mud cake. I took an injury risk and got burned not only by the DL stint, but from the fact that he had not shaken off the rust by the time the season started.

Nick Markakis was a trap pick. The guy has never lived up to our lofty expectations of him as a prospect, but at least he was a consistent source of AVG and RBI from 2007 through 2009. Numerous projections saw him bouncing back from a down 2010 season, including myself — .300/.375/.444, 17 HR, 92 RBI. While Markakis has actually bounced back from a snail-like slow start, the overall numbers, barring a huge September, will fall short of expectations once again.

In round 12 I selected J.J. Putz, who has done about what I expected him to do: projected for 2.98/1.09, 37 SV, 4.0 K/BB rate. He’s at 2.70/0.96, 33 SV, 3.9 K/BB.

Round 13 was another bust in the starting pitcher department. Colby Lewis was coming off of a solid 3.74 xFIP 2010 and I thought he had a chance to improve his walk rate a bit, which would have, in my opinion, led to an improvement in ERA/WHIP for this season. What I didn’t predict, and what is almost impossible to predict from any healthy pitcher, was his drop in velocity that factored into an extreme issue with allowing home runs. Lewis allowed a whopping 10 home runs in April and has battled the gopher ball all season long.

My next pick was the popular speed sleeper Rajai Davis. Davis had stolen 50 bases in 143 games in 2010 and was set to bat leadoff as the Blue Jays’ everyday centerfielder. In early April, he hurt his ankle; not good for a player who’s value is based around his stolen base and runs scored numbers. He’s currently on the DL with a hamstring issue. Thanks for the memories, Rajai.

Rounds 15 and 16 were good to me. I landed Miguel Montero and Jhoulys Chacin. In round 17, I took a flier on one of my favorite sleepers, Edwin Encarnacion. E5 stunk it up for the first half of the season, but now in his proper spot (DH or 1B), his numbers are starting to show up. Too little too late, but at least he’s showing why I viewed him as a sleeper in the first place. E5 has hit .310/.412/.559 with 8 HR in 145 at-bats since the all-star break.

Seth Smith was another preseason sleeper for me and I landed him in round 18. Though his power numbers have only started to come around recently, he has still hit for AVG with decent R/RBI numbers, though losing at-bats to lefties has stalled those numbers a bit. Still, he had been teetering around being a top 100 bat all season long, thus holding value in round 18.

Rounds 19 and 20 held little value for my team. Denard Span has only played in 65 games due to a concussion and Brian Fuentes did what I expected him to do in round 20, which was get me a few cheap saves and move along.

I took a flier on Nate McLouth in round 21, as he was only a year removed from a 20/19 season. It was round 22, however, where I struck gold, holding onto hope for Alex Gordon, who had been a busted prospect until this season. That pick was followed by another value in Erik Bedard, who has been productive with a 3.45 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and 113 strikeouts in 117.1 innings pitched.

The remainder of my draft was a wash. Dan Johnson couldn’t hit the great wall of China if he tried and Omar Infante’s multi-position eligibility meant nothing due to a big regression in AVG. At least my last round pick, Wade Davis, posted a 2.73 ERA in April. He was cut soon thereafter.

I started the season with a rotation of Francisco Liriano, Chad Billingsley, Colby Lewis, Jhoulys Chacin, Erik Bedard and Wade Davis. It’s tough to recover when your top three starting pitcher picks all bomb, though I tried. At various points I added the likes of Madison Bumgarner, Brandon Beachy and Tim Stauffer. However, I also stuck with my trio of Liriano, BIllingsley and Lewis for way too long. The damage had been done and, at this point, it’s unrecoverable.

47 of my teams’ 62 points have come via the offensive side. That’s 76 percent. Clearly, that side of my team has not been an issue. I’ve actually added to my strong offensive draft with players like J.J. Hardy, Travis Hafner, Eric Hosmer, Nyjer Morgan and, more recently, Lucas Duda. If I had any resemblance of a solid pitching staff, my team would have been a contender.

I have to admit, there was big risk involved in the way I drafted my pitching staff. However, it was my inability to cut bait that cost me.

Francisco Liriano has been the single biggest disappointment to me this season. He was once one of the most dominant pitchers in the game before Tommy John surgery sidetracked everything. When he came back from the surgery, he just wasn’t the same pitcher, throwing fewer of his nasty sliders and trying too hard to keep the ball away from the middle of the plate, which killed his walk rate. Last year, however, Liriano worked on recovering his confidence while pitching in the Dominican winter league. He started throwing strikes again. He started to trust his nasty god-given “stuff” again. That translated into a dominant performance during the 2010 season, which was dampened a bit by a defense that let him down and cost his ERA perhaps a half run or more when all was said and done. He has to have been pitching at less than 100 percent this entire season, right? Why else would his fastball velocity have dropped about two MPH from one year to the next? He did, after all, battle arm fatigue late in the 2010 season and shoulder soreness in spring training of this year. His recent trip to the DL marks the third time this season he has been out with a shoulder related issue.

Maybe I was just too blinded by the outstanding, dominant numbers and ignored the signs that said Liriano simply was not going to be able to perform at the level he did in 2010.

Liriano would have to be the poster boy for what went wrong for my team in the FB365 Roto league. I drafted a pitching staff that carried a certain degree of risk and I got burned big-time. Simple as that. But what lesson did I learn? Does this mean a change in strategy should be employed for 2011? Does my evaluation of pitching in general need to be tweaked? Perhaps all of thee above. Perhaps none of the above. Perhaps, you simply can’t predict baseball. Certainly, to a point, you can’t predict baseball, but I do believe that one can always strive to make better, more informed arguments as to why or why not a player will regress or progress the following season. I will continue to try and improve the arguments I make, both in player evaluation and strategy, I always do.

As for my immediate lesson learned from this team…it’s risky to draft risk, especially early on in the draft.