Good morning, good afternoon, or good evening-whichever is applicable to you. We’ve all had that one team. You look over your roster on a daily basis and find comfort in what has been assembled. A roster with no glaring weakness, no easily identified position where an upgrade is needed, a draft day’s dream if I ever did see one. The decimation of rosters due to injury does not exist and draft day busts went elsewhere. Yet despite all of this good fortune, that teams place in the standings just doesn’t seem justified.
So much stock is put into draft day. Sleepers, busts, and everyone in between is covered, spit out, and covered again. I imagine many of you have already started preliminary preparation for 2017 (or at least those in keeper league). Current results help form opinions on players, during the offseason, and I spend the offseason validating and adjusting these opinions as needed. With these findings I will go into draft day wanting nothing more than perfection. However, as I sit here today as an owner of one of these aforementioned teams, I find myself questioning if a draft devoid of errors is actually a good thing.
I value the draft day process. I have confidence in four months of research prior to opening day, and certainly value it over a two-week sample size of production. What that often times means is that players such as Adam Duvall or Trevor Story rarely find their way on my team. With that confidence breeds patience, the patience to deal with struggling players; trusting in the process with confidence that better days lie ahead.
My team, The North Side Flyers, are currently holding down 8th place in my league. I had gotten everything I expected from this roster. Aside from a brief stint on the DL by Dexter Fowler, my team had remained healthy. I obtained draft day values in Mark Trumbo and Ben Zobrist. I had managed to avoid costly disasters such as Jason Heyward. Every box that needed to be successful had been checked, yet for the life of me I cannot understand what had went wrong. While I struggled to find answers, the problem continued.
The offensive narrative during the offseason had baseball reverting back to the early 80’s; where pitching reigned supreme and offenses relied heavily on manufacturing of runs. The first half of 2016 has managed to silence that narrative. In 2015, 20 players among qualifiers finished the season with an average north of .300 – as we stand today 28 among qualifiers are exceeding that total. In 2015, 13 players matched or exceeded 100 RBI, and currently 30 players are on pace to match or exceed that total. In 2015, 13 players had amassed 100 runs or more. Thus far in 2016, 23 players are on such a pace.
The HR has once again become a big part of the game of baseball. In 2015, 20 players hit 30 HR or more, and this year 39 players are projecting to match that total. So for those scoring at home, four of the five most commonly used offensive statistics have seen a dramatic influx of production. As for the 5th, SB, let’s just say the preseason conversation of a SB renaissance were a little premature. In 2015, 30 players stole 20 or more bases. In 2016 a mere 16 are on pace for such a number. While the category has gotten an influx of sources here of late (Jose Peraza, Dee Gordon, and Trea Turner) you’re still looking at quite a drop off.
So while the offensive landscape has done a complete 180, has the pitching dominance narrative been proven wrong? Oddly enough the fantasy relevant options are still putting up eye-popping results. While the league wide ERA has went from 3.96 in 2015 to 4.18 in 2016, the number of viable fantasy options has shown little fluctuation. While projecting Wins is a waste of time, last season 2 pitchers won 20 games. This season six pitchers on pace to win 20 games. Last season 13 pitchers won 15 or more games. This season the current pace has 22 pitchers doing so.
The 2016 strikeout rates are essentially carbon copies of 2015. Last season four players amassed 250 K’s or more, and four are currently on pace this season. Eight players exceeded 220 K’s in 2015, and at the current pace 10 players should reach that plateau this season. All in all, 18 players reached 200 K’s last season; the current pace for 2016 is exactly that.
With an increase in runs league wide one could surmise that upper tier ERA’s have increased. Oddly enough that is not to be the case. In 2015 two players finished with a sub 2.00 ERA compared to one this season. If you use a 2.50 threshold you will find that three players hit that mark last season, with the same number on a similar pace for 2016. In 2015 three players had a mark between 2.51 and 2.75; that group includes five players in 2016. In all, 12 players finished with an ERA below 3.00 in 2015, but this year 18 SP are on that pace. Moving up the ERA ladder you will find that 45 SP finished 2015 with an ERA below 3.75, and the current pace finds 41 SP that project to hit that mark this season.
While breakout performers are part of every season, league wide shifts in production are not. Like many of you, I spent hours looking through various league data – finding what offensive totals are needed in order to be competitive for that league style. All of that essentially gave me nothing. The influx of offensive numbers completely changed the landscape for what numbers will be needed. Your projected 3rd place finish in home runs could easily net you a 7th place finish in the category.
One unaccounted for event has been the culprit in causing the North Side Flyers to be a bottom feeding team. One unaccounted event wiping away a draft of mastery. My focus was squarely on my production. The overwhelming majority of my players were on pace to hit the targets I had for them. The problem is, the targets I set forth were so far below what is needed in 2016. All the while those around me produced one snipe after another while I simply believed in the process.
At the end of the day I’m starting to feel that a little imperfection in roster construction is needed. While my draft may have given me that warm and fuzzy feeling, it left me with few things to consider. I foolishly put the roster on cruise: the problem is I had mine set on 60 while the Speed Limit was 75. Draft imperfections require added attention. The act of becoming complacent rarely settles in if you don’t get too comfortable.
Take SS for example. I believed in Brandon Crawford’s 2015 and loathed Alcides Escobar, yet both were run of the mill draft day options. Had I drafted Crawford I would have stayed with the course. The end result would have been a back-end of a Top-15 SS; better than Escobar, yet the Story’s and Diaz’s would have not been on my roster. Had I ended up with Escobar it becomes very likely that I’d currently be the owner of a Top 5-10 shortstop.
I went into the draft feeling confident in my game plan. I left the draft absolutely loving what I had done. They say that draft day is the most important date of the season. While it goes a long way, 2016’s offensive outburst is just another example why in-season management wins you titles. The North Side Flyers will not be Champions this season. Please don’t cry for the Flyers, use them as a lesson that a little ill feeling post-draft may not be a bad thing.
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