Sunday, April 12, 2009

Welcome to Happy Fun Ball

barry-bonds-perjuryu Quite frankly, my annual pay league – Happy Fun Ball – has found a way to pop up every season on this site, and it never makes much sense if I just throw it in the middle of the season, (see right). No doubt many of you will just skip this post; maybe fantasy isn’t your thing. But I’ll make the introductions now anyway. In this, the fifth year of Happy Fun Ball, Team Adventure Ball will be seeking the championship, attempting to return to the form of their 2007 Wire-to-Wire season, (hell, they started 9-0). A few notes: as seen above, people take the league very seriously. Equations are often used to describe events for no reason. This will become apparent as the season progresses, (B. Inge = MVP, anyone?) Other than that, it’s your typical, high-intensity, make-believe baseball league. With a monster jackpot at the end of the year.

happyfunballHere are the rules: Head-to-head league, weekly lineup, 12 teams, nine hitters (standard fielders plus utility), seven pitchers, six reserves, one DL spot. In addition, no taunting Happy Fun Ball. Bonus if you can spot that reference. Points are awarded as follows:
Hitting: 1B, RBI, R, and BB – 1pt, 2B and SB – 2pts, 3B – 3pts, HR – 4pts (note that the run and RBI make a HR worth at least 6).
Pitching: ER – (-1pt), BBI and HA – (-0.5pts), K – 1pt, IP – 2pts, CG – 5pts, W and S – 10pts.
Some notable difference between most leagues: batters are not penalized for strikeouts, and a walk is worth just as much as a single. There is no differentiation between relievers and starters. Some teams will load up with closers and others with starters. Since it it’s a weekly lineup league, I like to have a few closers on staff that I can plug in when my starters sit with bad matchups that week. When a starter has two starts in one week, he’s obviously more valuable, even if he’s normally a bad one-start option. Since it’s a 12-team league with 22 spots on each roster plus one DL, it’s a pretty deep league – 264-276 spots.

After my extensive draft prep, I’m more pleased with this team than I have ever been with any fantasy team. HFB was reincorporated in early February, and the draft took place on March 18th. I’ve given the list in draft order, with overall pick in parenthesis:

1st Round Mark Teixeira (1B, 7), Ryan Braun (OF, 18)
3rd Matt Holliday (OF, 31),  Roy Oswalt (SP, 42)
5th Adam Dunn (OF, 55), Brian Roberts (2B, 66)
7th Brad Lidge (RP, 79), Rich Harden (SP, 90)
9th Troy Tulowitzki (SS, 103), Chris Iannetta, (C, 114)
11th Joba Chamberlain (SP, 127), Ryan Zimmerman (3B, 138)
13th Gil Meche (SP, 151), Johnny Cueto (SP, 162)
15th Mike Jacobs (1B, 175), Huston Street (RP, 186)
17th Chris Young (SP, 199), Nelson Cruz (OF, 210)
19th Hank Blalock (1B/3B, 223), Chad Qualls (RP, 234)
21st Joey Devine (DL, RP, 247), Billy Butler (1B, 258)
23rd Paul Konerko (1B, 271)

adventureballlogo2 Here’s my breakdown of the team. Extremely strong offense. I like to stick to drafting hitting in the upper rounds, as pitching is hard to predict, (in general, hitters vary about 20% more than hitters year-to-year). And I love Nelson Cruz. I think he’s going to be putting up huge numbers this year, and I stole him in the 18th round. He hits in a loaded Texas offense. He is the next Josh Hamilton. I’m loaded down with backup first basemen in Butler, Jacobs, and Konerko  – all of which will probably spend most of the year on my bench, unless they can outperform Cruz, who currently has the utility spot. Otherwise, they’re drop-bait. In fact, Butler is standing on the plank right now with one leg over the water. I had Cruz starting the first week before I got nervous, freaked out, and threw Konerko in. Thus far, Konerko has contributed 17 points, (pretty good for a 23rd-rounder) while Cruz has gone for 31 points on the bench – tying Tulowitzki for the top scorer on the team. I’ve learned my lesson.

I’m confident that between Cruz, Blalock, Butler, and Konerko, I will have at least one guy who’s hot enough to throw into the utility spot each week. If Iannetta does what he can do, (meaning, the Rockies get some self control and stop sitting him for Torrealba) even the catcher spot is strong. The only weak spot is at third base; I’m banking on both Zimmerman and Blalock to breakout, at which time I can trade one for pitching. I’m predicting that at least one of these guys will hit 25HR this year. I can’t see any trades I can make that will strengthen the hitting on this team, except for Carlos Lee. Lee has been a fixture on every one of my fantasy teams. The problem with an annual league is that the guys know how you draft and exploit it. The Springfield Isotopes grabbed Lee in the fifth round. Boo yas and laughs ensued. The Isotopes were hoping to rattle me in the draft and collect a huge ransom in a trade afterwards. I refuse to play into these games, and thus Lee remains with the enemy. Prior to the start of the season last year, I traded David Ortiz – whom I got stuck with in the 2nd round – for Carlos Lee, whom my brother had picked up in the 6th. Accusations of “Ortiz > Lee” and collusion ensued. Lee easily outperformed Ortiz last year – so Lee > Ortiz. But even if I get him this year, who do I sit? The problem with Cruz is that I’ll never get fair value for him if he’s the real thing, because he isn’t well established yet. So I’d prefer not to trade him and keep him pumping in the Utility spot.

I’m less thrilled with my pitching, but I am still happy with it. Harden is great when he’s healthy, and when he isn’t healthy, he’s on the DL, so it’s a black and white. I don’t have to worry about him starting one week and putting up a crappy outing half the time. When he’s starting, I know he will give me 20 points without having to rely on the bullpen for the 10 point boost in the win. In his first start, he struck out 10 and earned me 18.5 points despite the losing the win to the bullpen. Last year, Aaron Harang was the antithesis of this. I knew he could pitch well, but he never got a win from the Reds and eventually started pitching like crap. I had to plug him in each week, however, because I was always hoping he’d come up with a huge, 30 point start. It never came and I benched him for the last few weeks.

Qualls is a solid, undervalued closer (20th round!? I picked him right between Ken Griffey, Eric Byrnes, Todd Wellemeyer and Mike Hampton) that pitches for a decent team in Arizona. I went with Lidge in the 7th round in keeping with one of my core draft strategies – draft the best player on the board that you can fit in your starting lineup. Interestingly, CBS projects Lidge to earn 497 points and Qualls 418 this year. That’s a 3 points-a-week difference in 13 rounds. Lidge is a consistent closer (his numbers really were never that bad in those two off years), and a guy I know I can plug in every week for solid points. Ditto with Harden and Oswalt, which leaves me with four spots to fill as matchups dictate. Qualls probably makes the cut most weeks. If Meche continues to pitch like he has been, it won’t matter if the Royal’s can give him wins, (which I think they will). He’ll start most weeks as well. That’s five guys that are going to be a lock most weeks, and I choose between Chris Young, Chamberlain, Cueto, and Street for the remaining two spots. Not bad.

And that is Happy Fun Ball!

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