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Starters left me finished

by Matt Smith

So how did the first week of my Fantasy BaseballUK challenge turn out?  Am I basking in the glory of instant success? 

Erm, no. 

My ‘A Starter for Ten’ plan didn’t bring me any success actually, much as it seemed a good idea on paper.  I ended Week 9 with 513 points, which was only good enough to finish just outside the top 500 (527th out of 3585).  In my last post, I noted that I was reliant on my starters picking up some wins in their second starts of the week.  Kazmir got me off to a good start by getting the ‘W’ against the Pirates on Friday, but Johnny Cueto was the only one of my four starters who followed Scott’s lead on Saturday.  Johan Santana lost to the Yankees, Justin Duchscherer lost to the Giants (while pitching eight innings and conceding just one run) and Jon Lester got a no decision against the Astros.

There are valuable lessons to be learned here.  It’s easy to be seduced by wins in FBUK because they are the stat that brings the biggest reward (20 points each); however if you are banking on wins to be your main source of points, you are really chancing your arm.  As with the age-old argument of assessing a starter’s effectiveness based on his win-loss record, you have to accept that wins are dependent on many other factors outside of the pitcher’s control.  Even if you pick starters with an eye to the strength of their opponents for a given week, their offense needs to provide enough run support and the bullpen needs to make sure not to give up a lead if the starter doesn’t pitch a complete game. 

The lesson of not getting caught up with wins was driven home by the realisation that had all three of my other Saturday starters picked up wins, I would have still been 120 points behind the Week 9 winner: Dru Lynch’s ‘Great Britain Oxymoron Society’ team.  And in fact, even without wishing for extra points, my pitching staff performed better than the ‘Oxymoron Society’ (242 points compared to 237).  The difference between the teams was in the offense: his was great (456 points) and mine was absolutely hopeless (271).

The sensible option would be to find a middle ground between investing enough to get decent pitching points, while having the money to buy a batting lineup that will put up good numbers each day.  I may decide to follow that path one week, but my FBUK challenge isn’t guided by being “sensible”, so I’ve decided instead to put most of my eggs in the batting basket.

I’m calling this my “Offense First” plan: disregard your $12m budget and just pick a formidable lineup from the best offensive players from the last month.  This meant that the likes of Mark Texeira, A-Rod, Hanley Ramirez, J.D. Drew and Milton Bradley all joined my team this Sunday. 

You then take what money you’ve got left and try to find five starters to round off your roster.  I was pleasantly surprised to still have $1,680,000 in the kitty and was able to retain Cueto and Duchscherer, while adding Jair Jurrjens, St Louis’s Mitchell Boggs (hopefully starting against the Cubs on Friday) and Detroit’s Eddie Bonnine.  The latter lost to the Twins last night and earned me a mere four points; let’s hope that batting lineup comes good.

Of course, because I aligned my starting rotation last week so that each starter pitched in two games, I’m only going to get five starts combined from my rotation this week.  That’s going to hurt me a bit, but if I can be patient and stick with them, Week 11 could be my week (subject to Bonnine and Boggs getting demoted and me needing to find very cheap replacements).

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