Today is the first day of the LAST WEEK of fantasy baseball's regular season. It's been very up-and-down for me, as I just discovered:
Record, Wks 1 through 8: 66-27-3 (.710 Win %)
Record, Wks 9 through 11: 16-16-4 (.500 Win %)
Record, Wks 12 through 19: 37-52-7 (.416 Win %)
Record, Wks 20 through 21: 21-3-0 (.875 Win %)
After rushing out to a big lead, my team was painfully average for a while, followed by an even more painful extended period of below-average play. During that latter period another team in the league had a nice surge, to the point where I was in second place and a good 14 games out of first.
But a nice pair of weeks (11-1, 10-2), coupled with two average weeks from the 1st-place team (6-6, 6-3-3) has propelled me up again. Now, with one week left, I'm just 1 1/2 games out of first. I actually have 1 more W than the 1st-place guy, but 4 more L.
I've pretty much locked up 2nd place: the 3rd-place team is 6 1/2 games behind me, so it would take a monumental collapse on my part for him to catch up. This is key, because the top 2 teams get a bye the first week of the playoffs.
So now I'm playing for those 1 1/2 games. I have a slight advantage in that I've tied fewer games than the 1st-place team: that means if we end up tied, I would win the tiebreaker. So I only have to make up 1 1/2 games this week instead of 2.
Can I do it? Maybe. I did just have a historically good couple of weeks. More than ever, I'm grateful that I started hoarding great SP early on:
TEAM numbers, last 2 weeks
13-0, 1.98 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 9 SV, 103 K in 118 1/3 IP (7.83 K/9)
I won 11 out of 12 of the pitching categories those two weeks (lost K last week, but he had a lot more IP). The addition of Dave Bush on August 10 proved pivotal: since then (3 starts) he's gone 2-0 with a 2.66 ERA and 1.03 WHIP.
Adding Melvin Mora (Aug. 14) to play 3B was key as well: Since then he's hit an absolutely ridiculous .400/.462/.943/1.404 with 5 HR, 12 Runs and 15 RBI in only 35 AB. He even chipped in a SB on Wednesday.
Here's what my team currently looks like:
C - Geovany Soto
1B - Mark Teixeira
2B - Willie Harris (3B, OF)
3B - Melvin Mora
SS - Troy Tulowitzki
OF - Adam Dunn
OF - Vladimir Guerrero
OF - Jacoby Ellsbury
Util - Prince Fielder (1B)
BN - Carlos Guillén (1B, SS, 3B)
BN - Kosuke Fukudome (OF)
SP - Brandon Webb
SP - Johan Santana
SP - Carlos Zambrano
SP - Daisuke Matsuzaka
SP - Ryan Dempster
SP - Dave Bush
RP - Joe Nathan
RP - Jensen Lewis
RP - Huston Street
RP - Jeff Samardzija
DL - Troy Percival (RP)
The hitting is fairly balanced: Fukudome is useless, but I haven't had any need on my team worth making a move to drop him. I'll probably end up dumping him for a spot starter, than dropping that starter for a different backup OF. Ellsbury's been doing somewhat better - at the least he's stealing a few bases again.
As I said, my SP has been incredible. Matsuzaka's WHIP is horrific (I actually benched him for his Sunday start because I was afraid he'd damage my WHIP and I didn't need his other categories), but he keeps on giving up very few runs somehow, and keeps getting W's. Zambrano's been a bit shaky, but has held together pretty well. Webb, Santana and Dempster have been stupendous.
My RP has been surprisingly good considering that Percival can't stay off the frickin' DL. Nathan has been untouchable - His 0.98 ERA is the lowest in the majors for any pitcher with at least 40 IP. (CORRECTION: 2nd-lowest. Freak of nature Brad Ziegler had that 39-inning scoreless streak and has an ERA of 0.41. But Nathan's K/9 is more than double Ziegler's, so there.) Street's been up-and-down and no longer gets Saves, but Lewis has a pretty solid hold on the Closer role for Cleveland; his last outing he struck out the side for his 6th Save. And since joining my roster, Samardzija has a 0.00 ERA, 0.92 WHIP and 12 K in 12 IP.
I've got 8 starts this week; 2 each from Zambrano and Webb, and 1 each from my other 4 SP. That should be enough IP to absorb any individual blowouts (there's always one or two) and keep my ERA and WHIP down. Should have plenty of K's too, and a solid W-L. My offense is due a downturn, but I'm knocking wood that the slumping guys (Harris, Tulowitzki, Fielder) will return to form if the others slump off.
I'm also facing the 9th-place team this week, while the 1st-place team faces a team tied for 4th (although that doesn't necessarily mean anything - any team can have a good week or a bad week).
So I'm hopeful that I can steal 1st place away this week. Even if it doesn't happen I'm in the playoffs and 95% guaranteed a 1st-round bye. So I'm almost definitely better than last year (I finished 3rd in the standings).