Saturday, February 25, 2012

2012 A.L.-only Analysts League: The Patton and Company Team

Yesterday, I participated in the CBS Analysts League A.L.-only auction on behalf of Patton & Company. This is the ninth year for the league, which started in 2004 as a draft league and switched to auction format in 2008. The league is a Rotisserie style auction, 12-teams, standard 5x5 categories and $260 budget for 23 players. 

In two of the past three years, I've gone heavy on the pitching, spending between $90-110 and going with a boring, balanced offense that I would supplement with free agent pick-ups as the season went along. The league has always seen heavy spending in the early rounds (Robinson Cano was the highest priced player last year at $49) so I thought I'd sit back a few rounds and wait for the mid-tier bargains.

But it didn't work out that way this year. I wound up spending a big chunk of my money on hitting, blowing off saves, and buying a thin rotation behind one reliable ace.

Listed below are the players I actually bought, and the position in the auction where I bought them.

(Auction results won't be up on the CBS site until Monday)

Round 1: Carl Crawford $23 (Round 1, 5th player taken overall), Josh Hamilton $24 (1:6), Jacoby Ellsbury $35 (1:10)

The first three hitters in the auction - Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, and Robinson Cano - would have been pushed well over $40 in prior years. This year, they didn't even crack $40. I wasn't sure how to navigate this initially, but in a fast moving auction environment (the auction took about four hours) I didn't have a lot of time to adjust.

I wasn't expecting to spend $82 on the first 10 players called out in the auction, but there you go. Crawford is the biggest risk here, but I had him priced a little higher than this. Even in a horrific year, Crawford earned $16 in 5x5 in 2011. Ellsbury is a $30 player even if the power disappears so I was fine with this price. But Hamilton was the guy everyone in the room was talking about rounds after I bought him. Oddly enough, this wasn't that far below my bid price because of the various risks associated with Hamilton. On the whole, though, I had put together a strong offensive core at a moderate bargain, particularly if Crawford bounces back in any appreciable way.

Round 2: Joe Mauer $16 (2:15)
Mauer wasn't a guy I expected to get, but the room just froze on him. I wasn't even price enforcing here. While I'm not a Mauer fan, I'm happy to get him at $16. If he stays on the field (I know, might be a questionable proposition) he should be a $13-15 guy at minimum at catcher. Given some of the other catching prices later, I was particularly happy with this buy.

Round 3: Jemile Weeks $15 (3:32), Dan Haren $25 (3:33)
Weeks was another guy I thought would sail well past my bid price. Instead, the room seemed to freeze on him at $15 and he was mine. I don't see much power development coming here, but the speed and the contact abilities look real. I'm a huge Haren fan this year, so this price was great from my perspective. He went for $1 less than David Price and $3 less than Jered Weaver.

Round 4: Howie Kendrick $22 (4:38), Jason Kipnis $15 (4:40)
Kendrick is outfield eligible, so he moved there immediately after I got Kipnis two players later. This move had the added benefit of forcing other teams into weaker middle infield options down the line. Kendrick is a five-category contributor, and I'm hoping that he'll at least maintain the power bump from last year. Kipnis isn't likely to hit home runs at the blistering pace he did last year, but he could be a Kendrick-lite type player.

Round 5: Paul Konerko $21 (5:56)
Konerko fits the profile of the type of player I usually buy: an older, post-peak player who runs the risk of seeing some erosion in his numbers. But Konerko could slump back to his 2009 level and still come close to earning this. I don't expect a .300 average again, but given all the speed I had already bought, I needed some raw thump.

Round 11: Colby Rasmus $12 (11:130), Lonnie Chisenhall $10 (11:132)
After spending $196 fifty-six players into the auction, I had to take a breather. There were a couple of prices where I had a little remorse, but in general my instincts were correct and the players that went after Konerko but before Rasmus went past my bid price as the room tried to spend the money it had been hoarding. Rasmus is about as big of a risk/reward buy you'll see, but at $12 the risk is fairly limited. I'm not even a fan but am hoping for a bounce back. I'm not a big Chisenhall backer either, but a second look tells me that his power numbers last year were better than I thought they were. Twenty home runs is a stretch, but 15 might not be.

Round 12: Cliff Pennington $10 (12:142), Vernon Wells $8 (12:144)
Another speed guy and another upside play. I'm hoping Pennington runs more this year, but he's a sneaky source of low end power (14 homers the last two seasons) and is the kind of churner in runs/RBI I like owning in 5x5. I'm hoping for the dead cat bounce with Wells, but even in an awful year Wells hit 25 HR and stole almost 10 bases. He's likely to hurt my batting average, but I'm hoping it is pain in the .240 range and not the .210 range.

Round 13: Casey Kotchman $5 (13:155)
If there was a place at all in this auction where I got too cute, it was here. Five dollars is a fine price for Kotchman, but there were a few more corner infielders on the board that I liked better, and some went for cheaper prices (Scott Sizemore $4) or for a little more (Danny Valencia $7) later on. Kotchman should be fine, but as a virtually zero power guy, his upside is very limited.

Round 14: Luke Hochevar $6 (14:167)
Finally, 134 players after Haren, I got my next pitcher. I had not intended to spend so little on pitching, but I didn't like most of the prices this year and early on thought that pitching would slip the way it had in years past. Hochevar's never going to be a world beater, but I'm hoping the ERA catches up to the peripherals and he puts up a 4.00. The WHIP is solid, which is why I had him priced even this high.

Round 16: Philip Humber $5 (16:188)
Humber's another guy I shrugged at when I bought him but like the more I look. His peripherals are solid, and his awful ERA in July and August was almost entirely a product of terrible BABIP luck. I see a pitcher here who could post a 3.8 ERA, and maybe even better if he takes another step forward.

Round 20: Derek Lowe $1 (20:237)
I had a max bid of $2  now so from this point forward I was waiting for a couple of players at the end. I had a $4 raw bid on Lowe, so this pick was fine. Is Lowe a victim of bad FIP luck or are his skills eroding due to age? I think it's a combination of the two, but in a league where you can reserve active pitchers, I won't keep him in the line-up for long if it turns out he's toast. I needed innings and strikeouts, so had to take some gambles.

Round 21: Jonathan Broxton $1 (21:246)
I (clearly) blew off saves, so here was my first closer-in-waiting attempt. If he's healthy, he's a great source of reliever strikeouts even if he doesn't pick up a single save in Kansas City. If he gets hurt again, I got him for a buck. Shrug.

Round 22: Hank Conger $1 (22:253), Jake Arrieta $1 (22:260)
I was waiting on Conger. I'm not a fan of Chris Iannetta outside of Coors, and am hopeful that Conger can take at least some of the job from Iannetta. Arrieta doesn't excite me all that much, but this was the 22nd round of an A.L.-only auction and - as noted above - I needed innings.

Round 23: Glen Perkins $1 (22:265), Joel Peralta $1, (22:269), Greg Holland $1, (22:271)
Here's where I plucked up all of the closers-in-waiting. This is one of the biggest differences between CBS and more seasoned expert league like Tout Wars. The CIWs in Tout Wars almost always go for $3-4; here I could pluck three solid relievers off of the scrap heap at the very end of the auction. Of the three, I like Perkins best. I have zero faith in Matt Capps and think that Perkins could be good for 10-15 saves. Two other teams didn't buy a closer, so at the very least I might get three cheap points in the category.

Here is the roster, from top to bottom:

C Hank Conger $1
C Joe Mauer $16
1B Paul Konerko $21
2B Jason Kipnis $15
SS Cliff Pennington $10
3B Lonnie Chisenhall $10
CO Casey Kotchman $5
MI Jemile Weeks $15
OF Carl Crawford $23
OF Jacoby Ellsbury $35
OF Josh Hamilton $24
OF Howie Kendrick $22
OF Colby Rasmus $12
DH Vernon Wells $8
P Jake Arrieta $1
P Jonathan Broxton $1
P Dan Haren $25
P Luke Hochevar $6
P Greg Holland $1
P Philip Humber $5
P Derek Lowe $1
P Joel Peralta $1
P Glen Perkins $1

Needless to say, I'm not worried about a $217 offense where I believe I got value at almost every position. The pitching is what will keep this team afloat or make it sink like a stone. Haren has to pitch like an ace or I'm screwed, but some of the arms behind him also have to at least post competent seasons in order for me to be competitive. There is some risk here...but in an environment where the league finally stopped spending like drunken sailors on the top hitters, I made a tactical adjustment and went top heavy on offense. I think my team is solid. We'll see if it's solid enough to pull out a win.

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