Saturday, February 21, 2009

CBS Sportsline A.L. Recap II

Since the CBS Sportsline auction has garnered a great deal of interest, I thought I'd return to it and specifically discuss the players I bought. Listed below is a position-by-position rundown, my bid limit on the players I bought, and Alex Patton's bid limit, as listed at Patton and Company's free player database. Keep in mind that I put my bid limits together independently this year, so I didn't use Alex's prices.

Catchers. Joe Mauer (bought at $24, my bid limit $24, Patton bid limit $24). Victor Martinez ($17, $19, $20).
Mauer is probably the only player I bought at par, but at this point I had spent $108 on pitchers, didn't have a hitter, and was getting nervous about filling in my offense with all of the high hitting prices. If healthy, Mauer's going to earn that or come very close to it. Martinez is a little more complicated. His overall numbers stunk last year, and he's reaching an age where some catchers start to lose it rapidly, but his OPS after he returned from his injury (in an admittedly small sample size) looked like his 2004-2006 numbers. I do expect the Indians to rest him a little more, but feel like at $17 he'll be OK.

Corners: Wilson Betemit ($4, $7, $10), Russ Branyan ($1, $5, $3), Scott Rolen ($2, $7, $10).
Frank points out that my corners are weak and he isn't whistling dixie. I had to fill out in the endgame, and the only player I'm sorry about here is Betemit. I think Patton's bid is optimistic and it's much more likely that Josh Fields is going to win the job than Betemit is. Heck, I think my $7 bid was probably too high in retrospect, and I should have let Betemit walk given all of the bargains that were coming later. Branyan at $1 is an acceptable risk, and even if he gets 300 AB should earn $5-7. Rolen at $2 is nice. Even if he's settled in as a poor major league 3B, he should still be a safe bet for $10 worth of earnings as the Jays every day 3B.

Middle: Akinori Iwamura ($7, $9, $11), Mike Aviles ($17, $19, $12), Nick Punto ($1, $4, $5).
As you can see by my bid price, I'm not a big Iwamura fan. He's got a big swing for a guy whose power didn't translate to the U.S., and the fact that he only earned $11 last year in about 700 plate appearances doesn't bode well for a big breakthrough this year. But he should play every day again, and I'm hopeful that maybe he'll steal double digits. Nick Punto is yet another one of my endgame plays I'm OK with. He was purely a steals play at that stage of the auction, and I just have to hope that he doesn't destroy my batting average.

In retrospect, my Aviles bid was probably a mistake. Since Patton's projections weren't ready, I averaged CBS Sportsline and Fanball's projections as a basis for my bids, and then did some reality checks. Fanball's robust projection for Aviles (21/84/7/.308) led to a baseline bid of $19, which my gut should have told me to bring down to $15 or $16 but I didn't, since shortstops in the A.L. look weak this year. I've covered Aviles elsewhere, but I agree with the naysayers that he's a huge risk for this year. At $13-15, it's a risk that has enough reward to take it. At $17, probably not. If there's a player I think I'll regret, it's Aviles.

Outfield: Bobby Abreu ($25, $21, $27), Carlos Gomez ($18, $24, $23), Denard Span ($16, $19, $21), Hideki Matsui ($10, $16, $15), Ryan Sweeney ($1, $8, $11), Garret Anderson ($1, $8, $16).
My $21 bid limit for Abreu was put together before he signed with the Angels. The morning of the auction was when his signing was announced, so I adjusted on the fly and bid him up to $25 (I probably would have stopped there). For more insight on Abreu see here. He's going to enter a decline phase, but I think he should hold up for another year or two. Gomez is risky, but I also see a lot of upside, and a player who probably should have spent 2008 in AAA. He's 23 years old and should improve. He's also super fast, and if he improves his reads on pitchers even a little could be as dangerous as Jose Reyes on the bases. Span is another Twins outfielder surrounded by questions, but I think his breakthrough last year was real - or at least real enough - that he should probably keep his average around .270 - .280 and steal bases. Like Gomez, that's the main reason I bought him.

Matsui at $10 strikes me as a steal. Even if the Yankees don't trade Xavier Nady or Nick Swisher, I suspect Matsui will still get 400-450 AB at a minimum. He'll score a lot of runs in that line-up and has always been a strong batting average play. Where he bounces back to in HR is an open question, but at $10 I don't care. Sweeney isn't any great shakes, but the only outfielder on the A's who can passably play center field is Rajai Davis, and his sub 300 OPS isn't going to win him an every day job. Sweeney's boring, but he could put up a 10/15 year with a decent batting average. Anderson was a flier who I was hoping would sign with the Mariners. That doesn't look like it's going to work out, and I'm guessing Anderson's going to wind up in the National League, and I'm going to need to find a replacement.

For starting pitchers, I'm going to shift from Patton's 4x4 prices to Mike Fenger's 5x5 bids, since there's too much variation between the two formats, particularly with closers.
Starting Pitchers: Josh Beckett ($24, $26, $21), Ervin Santana ($21, $25, $23), John Lackey ($20, $24, $22), Cliff Lee ($19, $25, $26), Jeremy Guthrie ($5, $9, $14).
This is where I was pleased as punch, despite the fact that I had to make adjustments later on offense. The top four were my 3-6 starting pitchers overall, and got them for $16 below my sheet prices. After I blew $108 on these starters plus Mariano Rivera at $24, I was obviously worried that some pitching bargains might fall through, but Justin Verlander and Erik Bedard were the only two other starters I had with a $10+ bid limit who went for $3 or more under my pre-auction bid limit. Fenger's not as high as I am on any of these pitchers except for Lee, but still says I got bargains, which is a good reality check. All four of them have ace potential, and even if Lee and Santana regress, I should still have a solid, top of the line staff. I don't think Fenger's $14 bid on Guthrie is realistic, but I do think Guthrie is an underappreciated innings eater who is fine at this price at the back of this staff.

Relievers: Mariano Rivera ($24, $26, $30), Roy Corcoran ($1, $6, $2), Miguel Batista ($1, $1, $2), C.J. Wilson ($1, $1, $7).
One thing my prolific spending on starting pitchers did was take me out of the running for a true second closer (which was a godsend, since the last true closers at the end went for too much money). I like Rivera at $24, and I know he's 39, but I'll believe he's past his prime when he actually starts pitching like it. The rest of these guys are $1 fliers as a closer, with Corcoran and Batista being better bets than Wilson. I also grabbed Tyler Walker in the reserve phase of the Sportsline auction, so I'm clearly betting against Mark Lowe. I don't need any of the non-Lowe Seattle relievers to be great; 10-15 saves from any of them would probably put me 2nd or 3rd in saves, since one owner was nice enough to buy three closers.


BirdWatcher said...

Thanks Mike for the recap. I don't disgree with any of your player assessments, but please give us some insights into your overall strategy. You spent 45% of your budget on pitching which pretty well puts you behind the 8-ball, since you just don't have enough bucks left to assemble a respectable hitting/stealing team.
On top of that, your 45% only gave you one closer. Weren't guys like Rafael Perez, Ziegler/Devine, Ray, Balfour/Wheeler and Rodney/Zumaya available as potential sleeper/closer candidiates ? You also went with 2 high-priced and injury-risk catchers (another 16% of your budget). That means less than 40%of your budget went to non-catching hitters. I have never seen that sort of allocation before. Did you actually plan it that way?

Eugene Freedman said...

BirdWatcher- I'm not sure why you think Mauer is an injury risk. He's played more games and had more PAs than any other catcher over the past four years. He was injured his first season in a freak accident where his spike got caught in the astroturf. He's still very young. Maybe you just believe all catchers are injury risks, but I disagree. I don't think they're any more a risk than any other skill position - second, short, centerfield, even thirdbase. Plus, those two are so substantially better than any catcher other than Wieters (who's still an unknown) that if they can be bought under par. Just getting starters at the other positions will lead to a tremendous AB advantage. That AB advantage will lead to significant advantage in Runs and RBI.

And, I think Mike does have very good steals. He's got one premier basestealer in Gomez, Abreu, Punto, Sweeney, and a few others who will add 5-10 SB. Plus, he hardly paid for those steals.