Saturday, September 5, 2009

Week 20 v. Bedwetter Brent

Losing streaks - who likes them? No one, really, although some folks have to get used to them, I guess. I've now got my first one of the season. Not quite the 1899 Cleveland Spiders, but still not comforting to this owner. Especially because things are not getting any easier in the coming weeks. To look ahead or to look back? I guess we better check the damage of this wreck before shopping for a new clunker.

Roy Oswalt and newly-acquired knuckler Charlie Haeger will have their masterpieces hung on my refrigerator door. Each of them tossed seven innings of shutout baseball and snagged a win. Derek Lowe, on the other hand, got absolutely shelled by the Mets. For the week, he gave up 20 hits and 11 earned runs. His "artistic creation" will be lucky to end up underneath the fridge with the stray cheerios and dust bunnies. Chalk up strikeouts, ERA, and WHIP on Brent's side of the board. On the plus side, workhorses Street and Franklin combined for seven saves to seal up that category. The bonus one from LaTroy Hawkins was just showin' off.

At the plate, I must give massive props to Luis Castillo for an out-of-this-world average of .538 as well as two very important steals. The list of stinkers is a lot longer: Jermaine Dye, Julio Lugo, Luke Scott, David Murphy, and Geovany Soto all had more than 10 ABs and hit under the Mendoza Line. Combine them together and you get a 10/89, which, at best, roughly carries the aroma of this object. On the whole, the offense was just not good, even in the usual strongest categories for the Five-Ways. Steals were the only bright spot as Brent earned a 6-3-1 victory.

So what's next, you say? A rematch with Mr. Mistoffelees, the only team to truly thump me all year. Even though Jim's a great guy and a fellow Dawg, the 0-8-2 of late June still stings a little. Luckily, my team didn't let a squirt of grapefruit juice in the eye unravel everything for everyone, right, Costanza? Anyway, the magical one's team is a bit banged up (David Wright), so my plan for redemption starts there. Fingers crossed...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Man's League Blog: Week 19 v. Claymate Ryan

Much like choosing the right DJ for a wedding reception, this final stretch will make or break my season. I'm facing the other main contenders, and Claymate Ryan's team is the one most similar to mine. He went with the reliever strategy, punting wins and saves, and giving him a chance to build a better offense. So far he has reaped the rewards, and is near the top of the league leaders in a bunch of categories.

To start the week, I was excited to get Roy Oswalt back. I shouldn't have been. His two starts featured a grand total of 11 IP, 21 hits and walks, and 11 ER. Nice outings from Aaron Laffey, Tommy Hunter, Derek Lowe, and Hiroki Kuroda were essentially wasted by The Wizard's inflated numbers. Add that Kuroda took a line drive off the head, putting his future in jeopardy, and the season-ending shoulder surgery for Erik Bedard, and the week feels a little like this. The twist at the end? Ryan's all-reliever staff scored six wins to beat my five while I got more saves than his four closers. So yeah, saves were the only pitching category I won.

My offense took a while to come around. Their line on Sunday was fast and furious: 10 R, 5 HR, 16 RBI, .413. This was enough to claim the power categories but fall short on average and runs. For these failings, I shall blame Cristian Guzman, who flashed back to 2005 by hitting under .200 for the week. Luckily for me, he got an operation to correct his vision after that season and his career has trended upward since. Jessica's vision has not been corrected. And in the oh-by-the-way category, Claymate speedster Michael Bourn snagged five bags to doom me in steals.

The total damage came to a 3-7 loss, but there's no rest forthcoming. Bedwetter Brent, whose squad sits at a formidable 106-74-10, is next in line for the Five-Ways. My previous contest with Brent gave me my best result of the season, a 9-1 win when neither of our rotations were faring particularly well. Chances are really good that this time it will be much closer. Brent's crew hasn't lost since the middle of July, so not only are they the favorite by record, they're also the hotter team at the moment. Fingers crossed...

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Man's League Blog: Week 18 v. Pod Vader

And what a battle it was. It began with Willy Aybar blasting two home runs on Monday, laying down the challenge to brother Erick, a player near and dear to Pods' heart. That, and Cole Hamels just begged to be traded. Then came the revenge of Ryan Roberts, who was unceremoniously dumped from my squad back at the end of June. He hit three home runs and .471 for the week. Talk about holding a grudge. I could continue, but to keep this blog post readable in one sitting, I will now return to our regular format.

So besides the crazy overall number of taters hit (27), here's how the offense played out. Vader's evil speed demons (mostly Nyjer Morgan) netted him steals. I had top of the order guys score me a feast of runs. Guzman, Ethier, Ichiro, and beast of the week Chris Coghlan scored 6 or more times each. Russell "the Muscle" blasted a grand slam, cinching RBIs for the good guys, but the forces of evil finished with one more home run. And yes, I left David Murphy's two home run performance on the bench earlier in the week. Good call there.

With Bedard, Oswalt, and Wakefield still on the shelf, I had to rely on Derek Lowe, waiver-wire pick-up Tommy Hunter, and opposing two-start wonder Luke Hochevar to seal up ERA and WHIP. The pitching side of things also provided some tension on Sunday, as both wins and saves sat dead even. Neither team was able to take advantage, and I smartly kept Hideki Okajima glued to the bench for the Sunday night game, leaving those as ties. And as usual, I punted strikeouts like they were a cute little dog named Baxter. In fact, I should probably just start calling them Baxters.

When all was calculated, good defeated evil and I can forever claim to have defeated Pod Vader. Not convincingly or by a giant margin, but a win is a win. Now the schedule gets really tough - I face Claymate Ryan, who is atop the Anne Hathaway division and 2nd overall in the league. He earned his Man's League golden ticket by admitting to voting for Clay Aiken when he was on American Idol. Despite this flaw, his team is very formidable, and a tough match-up for me because we had similar ideas about how to build a good team in an all Fantasy Focus-listeners environment. Does my squad have what it takes to pull of the upset? Fingers crossed...

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Man's League Blog: Week 17 v. Stand Up Jill

In a way, this was a great turning point. The final match-up of the Man's League season that, by itself, didn't have a lot riding on it. With my stretch run schedule including Pod Vader, four of the five teams ahead of me in the standings, and then the final regular season week, this was the only time the Five-Ways could serve up something not-so-tasty and still have the time to recover.

I was already going with a small crew hampered by injury with Bedard and Wakfield on the shelf. Then on Monday, Roy Oswalt strained his back delivering a tray full of waffles to table 14. Now my IHOP was seriously under-staffed, and it felt like a Saturday morning rush - only Hiroki Kuroda and Derek Lowe remained to take most of the tables, I mean, toss a significant amount of innings. So I had to suck it up and get a few fill-ins, who ended up being Aaron Laffey and Kevin Hart. Laffey was disappointing, but Hart managed to pick up a victory despite doing only okay work. But praise to my closers, who combined to log the equivalent of a 1-run complete game, while netting five saves. Thanks to the them, I took the pitching half 3-2.

At the plate, Cristian Guzman showed off the benefits of Nyjer Morgan bumping him down in the Nats' lineup - an octopus worth of RBI plus six runs scored. Cody Ross jumped into the top 50 outfielders on the player rater with a series of blasts. Strong weeks from Pedroia, Ethier, and the rest of the crew was enough to secure 3-2 on this half too. Add up your paragraphs and you have a standard 6-4 victory.

What can I really say about Pod Vader? If it weren't for his original unmanly Diet Soderberg League, this or any other 06010-sponsored Man's League would not exist. And we all know he's not the world's greatest fantasy baseball player, but his team with Manny is a whole lot scarier than his team without Mr. Ramirez. Geovany Soto should return from the DL during the week, but my pitching may or may not be healthy. I will probably have to pick up a start or two from the waiver wire to piece together a rotation, which definitely feels like playing with fire, even if it might be my only chance to defeat the dark side. Fingers crossed...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Man's League Blog: Week 16 v. Weaselly Brian

Just a few days before I faced off with Weaselly Brian, he pulled a trade with Peanut Rico and picked up quite a haul of offense. Ryan Zimmerman, Dexter Fowler, and Josh Hamilton were all going to line up against me. Fowler immediately scored a combo meal on Monday and the five-category rout was on.

The good news for my hitters centered around crusty and rusty vets Carlos Guillen, who finally returned from the DL, and Julio Lugo, my called-back-from-exile pickup of the week. Youth didn't fare poorly either: Coghlan and Ethier also woke up from mid-summer slumbers to go yard twice each. And in case you were wondering, typing both either and Ethier in the same sentence wouldn't be possible without the under-valued delete key. I'm telling you, buy low on the delete key. Or for those of you in PC-only leagues, the backspace key.

From the mound, the only contributors in the accumulating stats were Lowe and Street with two each, leaving me behind in wins but ahead in saves. Erik Bedard had a semi-meltdown before leaving with the same shoulder trouble as before. Which, especially after Mark Buehrle's perfect game, makes me wonder how those two have fared since I swapped one for the other on May 24th:

Looking deeper into those numbers, I think I'd still rather have Bedard, assuming he returns from his injury as relatively the same pitcher. And speaking of pitching injuries, the 94-year old Tim Wakefield has finally broken down with a bad back. The remaining guys will have to carry the load. And they did well enough against Brian to secure both ERA and WHIP.

Luckily for me, the 7-3 loss didn't cost me anything in the divisional standings. It did drop me to 6th place overall, which is a little close to the edge of the playoff boundary for my liking. And with only three teams left to face before repeat opponents begin, the match-up with Pod Vader looms just over the horizon. Standing in my way is Stand Up Jill, who is playing fantasy baseball for the first time this year. As the only woman in the Man's League, she gained entrance with her most manly act rather than an unmanly deed. And considering her rookie status, she's not doing too shabby after a rough start. But despite my depleted pitching staff, there's a decent chance that Queen City Nine will help the shabbiness return. Fingers crossed...

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Man's League Blog: Week 15 v. Traveling Pants Ben

The streak is over. The Five-Ways had won three match-ups in a row, matching their longest stretch of the season in weeks 1-3. But I'm not too disappointed with my squad - they actually played fairly well by the numbers. Except for Cody Ross, whose performance came off more like this.

The All-Star break and the short week meant that every number counted just a little bit more. With that in mind, the boys on the hill clamped down and gave up very few runs. Unfortunately, Ben's crew was even better, hurling 5 quality starts in the 7 permitted for the contest. I had a shot at saves, but in the end, Rivera got more chances than Street and Franklin. So despite a good effort and Ricky Romero's kindly nature, Ben wrested four of the five runs from me here.

To counter that, I had the clubhouse guy order some of Big Papi's magic eyedrops and hand them out. This resulted in Ichiro, Ethier, Pedroia, Castillo, and Seth Smith hitting over .350 for the week. That's right, Seth Smith! Apparently someone informed the Rockies that although Eli Manning played ahead of Smith, it wasn't required that Carlos Gonzalez do the same. You would think that would be pretty clear, since Archie is definitely not Carlos' father. Here's hoping Smith remains in the regular lineup, as the blogosphere has been begging for since early June. And what of the offensive categories? Well with that kind of spark in the lineup, it wasn't that hard for the Queen City Nine to grab four of the five categories and even out the score.

So although the results weren't quite what a manager hopes for, I can't really complain about a tie game. Except for the fact that this is a form of baseball. There's no tying in baseball! Oh wait, maybe there is. In any case, week 16 awaits, and that means a face-off with Weaselly Brian. Like his nickname would suggest, he's a very sneaky type of fantasy player, frequently hitting up the waiver wire to improve his team with undrafted young talent. This practice is far more respectable than his original weasel-deed, where he registered his young son for tumbling rather than tee ball, and while delivering the boy to his activity, had the nerve to blame the switch on his wife. With any luck, at the end of our contest he will have to claim she was at fault for my team's victory. Fingers crossed...

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Man's League Blog: Week 14 v. Blossom Jim

Just before the All-Star break there was an epic battle of native Ohioans between yours truly and Blossom Jim, hailing from the town of Waynesfield, Ohio. Yeah, I didn't know where it was either, despite having lived all around the state. It's one of about a million things named for General "Mad" Anthony Wayne. Kind of like the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, Duke, and Batman's alter ego. But since neither team was able to put Mad Anthony himself on their roster, the result of this contest was in doubt. Let's see how it turned out!

On the hill, Jim was punting saves, but the other categories were hotly contested. Erik Bedard left the training room behind to contribute two starts, while Derek Lowe decided to rejoin the ranks of pitchers who don't smell like a garbage truck. And even though Hiroki Kuroda's bonus relief appearance didn't turn out so well, those earlier efforts were enough to snag ERA and WHIP for the Five-Ways, but not quite enough to take wins or K's.

What of the other five categories, you say? A gigantic 7-RBI Tuesday from "el monstruo de cuadrangular", Luke Scott, highlighted a very nice offensive week for the Queen City Nine. This team effort brought home all five categories. Even Luis Castillo chipped in. No, not this Luis Castillo and not this kind of chipped in. More like this Luis Castillo. Not making quite as big an impact was Geovany Soto, whose sophomore slump continues in the form of an oblique injury. He was just coming around, but my team has survived without his best all season, so hopefully they'll continue to do so.

With this victory, my squad has jumped back into 2nd place in the Division de Megan Fox with a record of 78-56-6. That's not shabby at all heading into the break. In the short week after the All-Star festivities, Traveling Pants Ben is my opponent. His fame and Man's League entry derives from his enjoyment of this in its book & long form version. His team is definitely stronger on the pitching side of things, but being that our match-up will only last four days, anything could happen. Fingers crossed...