Edition No. 32
October 12, 2004
I know that you have all been breathlessly waiting for this analysis of how the old Skipper outfoxed the rest of the competition and cruised to his fourth Hot Stove League title. Of course, the primary determining factor on how this yearís version of the Senators would compete was what happened on Draft Day. Hence, this analysis focuses mostly on same. However, because our respective fates are also impacted by the Free Agent Draft and trade acquisitions, I have touched on these as well. Where possible, Iíve tried to give myself credit. Where necessary, Iíve tried to acknowledge but explain away my managerial gaffes. In the end, I think you will find it to be a bulls-eye assessment of the 2004 Senatorial campaign.
Hereís how it all happened for the Senators in 2004:
1. Albert Pujols: Prince Albert was a no-brainer, after A-Rod and Helton were taken 1-2. Still, itís always tempting to draft pitching, and if Prior hadnít gotten hurt during spring training, I very well may have taken him if Itchie didnít. Who knows how the course of history might have changed if I had drafted Prior first instead of Pujols. Maybe Stretch would have won the whole shooting match, or something crazy like that. Nah. Anyway, I love Albert Pujols, who absolutely has the best strike zone of any power hitter I have ever seen. He finished 1st among all first basemen and 2nd among all players with 762 points, averaging 4.9 points per game. Nobody should be surprised if he is the first overall pick next season.
2. Roy Halladay: This one turned out ugly because of the injury bugaboo. I canít second-guess this decision, however, since Halladay was dominant in 2003, and rightly earned the Cy Young Award that season. I was afraid that I had stabbed myself in the groin by promoting him at the tail end of the season when I desperately needed points, but Roy Boyís final performance on the next to the last day of the season (28.8 points) showed that he still has some game left in his arm. Heckle and ridicule me if you wish, but I still say taking Halladay in the 2nd was indicated, if not beneficial.
3. Derek Jeter: I have always been a fan of Jeter as a spectator, and now I am a fan of Derek as his owner. In spite of getting off to an absolutely miserable start (wasnít he below the Mendoza line through the end of April?), this gamer came on strong and ended up the season as the third highest-scoring shortstop with 626 points, 21st overall among hitters. Seeing him go into the stands face-first to make a play was what sold me on Jeter, however. There will always be a spot on my roster for him. Good pick, Skipper.
4. Billy Wagner: As with Halladay, I canít second-guess myself on this one. If not for the injuries that plagued him most of the season, Wagner probably would have been one of the top relievers in his new role as the Phillies closer. In the final analysis, he was only a bit player in the Senatorsí storybook season, finishing with a total of 335 points, 21st among all closers. If not for a little good fortune in the form of Danny Graves, this 4th round selection could have been disastrous.
5. Preston Wilson: This one sure didnít work out. Again, it was the injury thing. But getting a guy in the 5th round who led the National League in runs batted in the previous season (141), and who would again be playing at Coors Field, didnít seem like such a bad deal at the time. Nobody bothered to tell me that his cartilage-to-knee ratio was roughly the same as U-Bobís hair-to-head ratio, or I probably would have passed on him. When he did come back, he didnít do jack for me, and when he was reinjured in mid-season, he had to be cut loose. ďSacrifices have to be made!Ē Bad luck pick.
6. Chipper Jones: I think that this was my first season with Larry on my roster. Iíve always liked the guy, as he is definitely a gamer. But he is getting old, his body is falling apart, and this was a big problem for him during the first half of the season. Fortunately, he healed up, got moved to third base from left field, and was a fairly productive member of the 2004 Senators, finishing with 460 points. Iím not going to beat myself up over this one.
7. Shawn Green: Although getting him in the 7th round wasnít the end of the world, itís apparent now that Sheckyís future is now in the past. Heís not altogether healthy, he doesnít hit for a high average, and he tortured me all year by hitting home runs every time I had him in my minors and then struggling like a Maynard whenever I called him up. He batted .266 for the year, finished with a blasť 491 points, and averaged a milquetoast 3.1 PPG. As far as I am concerned, he can sit out Yom Kippur every season, and any other High Holidays that he wishes to observe. A real stinko pick.
8. Michael Young: Itís time to start patting myself on the back. Getting Mike in the 8th round, after he finished 2003 as one of the top point-getters in the league, was grand larceny. A stroke of genius on my part, really. And while his rather tepid second half calls into question his draft status for next season, his torrid first half still allowed him to finish with 670 total points and a 4.2 PPG average, second among shortstops. Being able to play him at second all year long while Jeter handled the SS duties was also a bonus. In retrospect, perhaps my finest hour of the 2004 Draft.
9. Kazuo Matsui: What was I thinking on this one? Guess I forgot to read the scouting reports on this guy. Donít know how many points he scored for the Senators while in my starting lineup before I cut him loose, but it couldnít have been many. He finished with 331 points and a 2.9 PPG, 21st among shortstops. Easily my lousiest pick of the Draft. Had me thinking about committing hari-kari for taking him.
10. Russ Ortiz: Not great, not terrible. Finished with 330 points for the year, 38th among starting pitchers. Often painful to watch, and requires a heavy dose of patience. Three good outings are usually followed by one bad outing. Round 13 or Round 14 would probably have been more like it.
11. Mark Buehrle: Similar to the Russ Ortiz story, you have to have patience and perspective to have Mark Buehrle on your staff. He tends to have three or four outstanding performances in a row, followed by one or two Michael Jackson moonwalks backwards. When he gives up runs, itís usually in bunches, and he can be painful to watch on the live scoreboard. In the end, however, he finished with 443 points and was the 13th highest starting pitcher and the 28th ranked pitcher overall, finishing ahead of Maddux, the Oakland triumvirate, and every single Yankee pitcher. In retrospect, a pretty nifty pickup in the 11th round.
12. Joe Crede: My bad. Crede in the 12th was way too early. After suffering through his low average and only occasional power in the early part of the season, I had to cut him loose. He finished with 336 points and a smelly 2.3 PPG.
13. Victor Martinez: A crisp high-five to the Skipper on this one. V-Mart had an outstanding first two-thirds of the season, including a three-bagger that netted 30 bonus points for the Senatorsí cause, and only a late-season slide kept this young stud from finishing as the top catcher. Victor finished the season with 583 points (615 including bonus points), only 22 behind top catcher Javy Lopez. His 4.1 PPG average tied I-Rod for tops among catchers. Arguably the Senatorsí best Draft Day selection or at least in the Top 3.
14. Francisco Rodriguez: F-Rod was another key cog in the Senatorsí machine in 2004, finishing the campaign with 508 points, second only to Tom Gordonís 509 among middle relievers, and 16th overall among pitchers. How on earth did this guy last until the 14th round? I donít want to break my other arm patting myself on the back, but this was a pretty darned good pick for Round 14.
15. Placido Polanco: It was hard to remain placid with all of Polancoís injuries this year, but when he did play, he scored points at a 3.6 PPG clip, eighth best among regular second basemen. However, because he only played 126 games, his point total of 458 was less than stellar. Still, Plac-Man was a good reserve for the Senators, and ended up being a decent 15th round pick.
16. Tim Salmon: Ugh. If this guy isnít hurt, which is most of the time, he spends his time whining and sulking about batting 7th in the lineup. Timmy had to be cut loose early from the Senatorsí roster to keep him from being a clubhouse cancer. He was a bad pick on Draft Day, and itís hard to imagine him ever again being a good pick. Pack it in, Weenie-Boy.
17. Sean Casey: Casey at the Bat was terrific for the Senators in the first half, batting at or near the .400 mark for all of April and well into May. If injuries hadnít limited him to 146 games, he would easily have been a 600-point guy. As it was, he finished with 565 points, 7th among all first basemen. Darned nice for a 17th round pick.
18. Randy Winn: After a painful first half in which he couldnít hit a lick, Winn heated up in the second half and finished with a total of 485 points. Not great, but not bad for the 18th round, and tied with Craig Biggio for 11th among all right fielders. Good enough to pick up his option year.
19. Ugueth Urbina: Double-U was Unbelievable Ugly for the Senators this year. He started off the year without a place to play, and then when he got picked up by the Tigers and pitched in pitcher-friendly Comerica Park, he couldnít take advantage of it. To top it off, just when the Senators needed him most after I traded Graves and Billy Wagner went back on the DL, Double-U packs it up and heads to Venezuela for the duration, just because his mother got kidnapped. Whatever happened to being a team player? Never again.
20. Tomo Ohka: Until just now, I didnít even remember drafting this slug. I donít believe that Ohka ever saw the light of day in my starting lineup, having been cut loose after a couple of ugly early outings. This round got away from the Skipper.
21. Ben Sheets: Now weíre talking. Having suffered through a couple of Gentle Benís previous unfulfilled potential seasons, I finally got him during the year that it all came together. Sheets finished the year with a terrific 2.70 ERA, second only to the Big Unit among National League starters, and his 264 strikeouts were also second in the National League only to the Big Unit. Unfortunately, he got no run support at all from the Brew Crew, and finished with a lackluster 12-and-14 record, which was the only thing keeping him from a 600-point season. Benís 572 points placed him 5th among starting pitchers, and 7th overall among pitchers. A pretty nice pickup in the 21st round, to understate the obvious. High fives all the way around.
22. Larry Bigbie: This young Oriole left fielder is an up-and-comer, but still a year or two away from greatness. Although Larry spent a few days in my starting lineup early on, he had to be cut loose when the Free Agent Draft featured greener pastures. A non-factor in the 2004 campaign.
23. Tom Glavine: I violated previous avowals and picked up this previously-declared Senator never-ever in the 23rd round, only because nobody else would touch the guy. Despite some tough luck in terms of run support, Tommy-Boy had some nice outings early on for the Senators and put a few points in the bank account, before serving as trade bait along with Danny Graves for Brian Giles. In the end, he was serviceable both as a starting pitcher and as trade bait, but now goes back on my never-ever list.
24. Casey Blake: In retrospect, Blake was more than a decent pickup in the 24th round, finishing 11th among starting third basemen with 488 points, and 28 points ahead of Chipper Jones, who ended the campaign as my starting third baseman. Unfortunately, the impatient manager of the Senators pulled out the chopping block a bit early on old Casey, terminating his services well before the All-Star break, and well before he started hitting for average and power, finishing with 28 home runs, 88 RBIs, and a .271 average. Lesson learned. Maybe.
25. Brad Ausmus: Irrelevant because of Victor Martinez. Taken only because we have to take two catchers. Finished with 283 points and a 2.2 PPG average, maybe had a dozen at-bats for the Senators.
26. Julio Mateo: I have no idea who this guy is, what team he plays for, what position he plays, nuthiní. I must have been rubbernecking on Screechís cheat sheet on this one.
27. Jason Johnson: As Jim Ed learned later on in the season, Jason will absolutely make you tear your hair out if he is on your staff. But every tenth outing, he flirts with a shutout and scores about 33 points. In the other nine outings, he erases most of them. What do you expect in the 27th round?
28. Danny Graves: All right, so I admit I may have gotten a little but lucky with this pick, but Iím happy to point out that all of the rest of you had the same information available to you on Draft Day. Danny was slated to be the closer for the Reds, and Danny has shown in previous years that heís got game. Fortunately for me, almost all of his game this year came in the first half of the season when he supplanted Billy Wagner as my front-line closer, before dying on the vine while a member of the infamous 2004 Tribe during the late stages of the season. Graves finished with 41 saves and 384 points, nearly all of which were logged during the first two-thirds of the season. A vital cog in the 2004 Senators machine.
As in years past, I was a fairly active participant in our weekly Free Agent Drafts, having picked up a total of 38 players on the Free Agent wire, as follows:
The most important of these pickups, of course, were Oliver Perez, Lew Ford, Aaron Rowand, David Newhan and El Duque, although Bronson Arroyo, Craig Monroe, Josh Towers and the now-hated (by the rest of you) Jeremy Bonderman all pitched in and provided needed points at crucial times. Ollie the Trolley ended up having a fantastic year pitching for the hapless Pittsburgh Pirates, scoring a total of 472 points and finishing 11th among all starting pitchers, just one spot behind Pedro, and 23rd among all pitchers. His 15.7 PPG average was 10th best among starting pitchers, better than both Pedro and Roy Oswalt. Ollie wonít ever be a free agent draftee again.
Lew Ford finished the year with 509 points, 12th best among left fielders, despite having to share time with a lot of other talented Twin outfielders. Only 327 of Lewís points counted toward the Senatorsí cause, due to some early mistrust in his abilities and some late overmanaging on my part. Aaron Rowand finished the season with a respectable 493 points, 9th best among starting center fielders, and a sparkling 3.5 PPG average, 5th best among center fielders. Only 222 of his points made it into the Senatorsí bank account, primarily because he wasnít drafted until June 28th. However, while in the Senatorsí starting lineup, Rowand averaged a superlative 3.8 PPG. His stock is only going to continue to rise in this league.
Although he got clobbered his last time out, El Duque still contributed 120 points to the Senatorsí cause, averaging 12 points a game for his ten starts as a Senator. Bronson Arroyo contributed 133 points to the Senatorsí season, averaging 13.3 PPG during his ten starts as a Senator. Not bad. A decent free agent year.
Not much happened on the trading front for the Senators this year. Unless I have forgotten something, I think that my one and only trade proposal was to U-Bob, in which I offered Glavine or Buehlre and Graves or Urbina for Brian Giles. Luckily, U-Bob picked Glavine and Graves, as Glavine floundered while Buehrle flourished during the post-trade time period. Be that as it may, the whole transaction was really of little moment, as Giles never really did heat up as hoped by me, and ended up pitching in a so-so 211 points (3.6 PPG) to the Senatorsí cause. He was the 7th-highest ranked right fielder when U-Bob traded him to me, and he ended the year as the 7th-best right fielder, scoring a total of 567 points, at the same 3.6 PPG clip, for the entire season. Hey, Iím not sneezing at the deal, but Iím not going to credit Giles with turning my teamís season around, either. He was a bit player in the grand scheme of things.
And there you have it, the story of the 2004 Senators. Long may their pennant flap in the breeze.
Okay. Letís take care of some other business. Here are the final leaderboards for hitters and pitchers for the 2004 season, together with their drafting team and the round drafted:
HITS AND MISSES
This has to be the first time that a free agent pickup didnít crack the top 25 in hitting. The lowest draft pick (Round 20) to make the top 25 was Adrian Beltre, who also was in the top 5. Itchie may sell dreams, but even Itchie would have had a hard time selling this pick as anything but blind luck.
Itchie drafted his 600+ men in the 1st (Helton), 3rd (Tejada), 10th (Ortiz), 13th (Drew) and 20th (Beltre) rounds. Better to be lucky than good.
Only the Cubs* and Tribe did not draft an every-day player who finished in the top 25. The Cubs* and Tribe finished 11th and 12th, respectively. Perhaps we have a correlation here?
I was stunned to see Moises Alou made the Top 25 list, with 622 points. Of course, as his teammates all say, ďHeís a gamer.Ē Right, Moises. Gamers usually strike out to end their teamís postseason hopes.
The only first-round hitter drafted who did not make the Top 25 was Carlos Delgado who, of course, was a Tribesman. Who will U-Bob put the kiss of death on next season?
Itchieís man Tejada blew away all the rest of the shortstops with his 701 points, and his 150 RBIs led the major leagues among all hitters. Is this the next A-Rod? So who do you pick first in 2005? Tejada, Prince Albert or Bonds? Not a bad problem to have.
Twelve of the top 25 hitters this season were drafted in the first three rounds, 13 through Round 5. Five more were drafted between Rounds 6 and 10, and six were drafted between Rounds 11 through 15, including three in Round 13 alone (Matsui, Drew and Rollins). In all, 24 of the top 25 hitters were drafted by Round 15, and only one, Adrian Beltre, was drafted between Rounds 16 and 28.
The Blues had a sensational first five rounds in terms of drafting hitting, getting three of the top 17 (Beltran, Abreu and Rolen) in the first five rounds. Then, apparently, somebody turned out the lights, because it was pretty much all downhill after that.
Pitchers taken in the first three rounds who did not finish in the top 25 among pitchers were: Javier Vazquez, Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Roy Halladay, Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Barry Zito, Mike Mussina, Brandon Webb and Kevin Brown.
If anyone, anywhere doubts the concept of ďItchie Magic,Ē just take a quick glance down at Rounds 19 and 20 of the Draft. During that five or ten-minute sequence, when Itchie was no doubt lamenting the terrible team that he was in the midst of picking, unbeknownst to him and the rest of us he was drafting the No. 5 hitter overall (Beltre), and the No. 5 pitcher overall No. 1 closer and No. 3 pitcher overall (Brad Lidge). These two totaled 1341 points for him. Great opportunism, or blind-ass luck? Well, consider that in Rounds 17 and 18, Bone took Mark Grudzielanek and Jeremy Affeldt, presumably because he liked them ahead of the Beltre-Lidge combo. The Grudzielanek-Affeldt duet sang to the tune of 373 points, compared to Beltre and Lidgeís 1341.
The Free Agent Draft didnít yield many large plums this year. None of the top 25 hitters came from the Free Agent Draft, and only Oliver Perez and Jose Mesa, Nos. 23 and 24, among the pitchers made the top 25. Itís hard to imagine how Mesa slipped past all of us on Draft Day.
How does a middle reliever like Flash Gordon make the top 25? He plays for the Yankees, thatís how. A good set-up man on a top team can get as many points as a top closer on a mediocre team. (Memo to self: File this notion away for future Draft Day reference.)
The Pirates and the Tribe were the only teams that did not draft a pitcher on Draft Day that finished in the top 25. Imagine that. SloPay rectified this somewhat by picking up Jose Mesa in the first Free Agent Draft, who did make the top 25. However, since SloPay drafted starting pitchers in Rounds 1, 2 and 3, and another pitcher in Round 6, to little avail, it will be interesting to see what sort of draft strategy he employs next season.
Jim Ed drafted four pitchers in the first seven rounds (Oswalt, Dotel, Santana and Zambrano), and all four finished in the top 25. Nice. I think that our boy is finally figuring this system out.
Seven of the top 25 scoring pitchers were drafted in the first five rounds this year, and eight were drafted in Rounds 6 through 10. Six more went in Rounds 11-20, two in Rounds 21-23, and two in the Free Agent Draft. For whatever thatís worth.
Iíve used up our ink allowance for this week. Hope you enjoy this offering. Next issue: I will update our All-Time Individual Player and Team Point Scoring lists.
Have a good one.
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