Saturday, January 10, 2009

Analyzing the All-Free Agent Teams

Buster Olney, Peter Abraham and the folks at River Ave Blues have all had some fun putting together an All-Free Agent team, composed of the Free Agents that have yet to sign contracts.

Some of the players are quite good, so I figured I'd have my own fun and do a little analysis of the teams that have been proposed.

First of all though, there's something every team has in common: A good defensive infield, horrible defensive outfield and very shorthanded bullpen!

Buster Olney's Team

Some future Hall of Famers signed this week, but Bobby Abreu is still out of work, and so are Manny Ramirez, Pedro Martinez and Orlando Hudson. With a little more than a month to go until spring training begins, you could start a 31st team with the available free agents and might have a shot at a respectable record:

SS Orlando Cabrera
2B Orlando Hudson
RF Bobby Abreu
DH Manny Ramirez
LF Adam Dunn
3B Joe Crede
CF Jim Edmonds
1B Sean Casey
C Jason Varitek

Rotation: Ben Sheets, Derek Lowe, Oliver Perez, Jon Garland, Paul Byrd, Randy Wolf, Mark Mulder

Bullpen: Brandon Lyon, Juan Cruz, Dennys Reyes, Will Ohman

Bench: Garret Anderson, OF; Brad Ausmus, C; Eric Hinske, 1B/3B; Kevin Millar, 1B

The biggest here is Olney's proposed infield. While it won't score you much fantasy points, going Crede-Cabrera-Hudson-Casey, aside from being a tongue twister, would be the defensive infield par excellence.

Olney has, however, done a good job putting a theoretical line-up together (if we ignore how all those guys would mesh in a clubhouse). He has a legitimate 1-2 punch in Cabrera and Hudson; Abreu is an effective three hitter if he remembers how to walk and Manny is theoretically the perfect clean up man. Dunn is a little shaky as a five hitter given his all-or-nothing approach, but he's a better option there than the others in the line up. Varitek is a veritable hole in the nine spot, which would be a tremendous weakness in an AL lineup, but between him and Brad Ausmus, there's not much choice.

With a seven man rotation, Olney is playing with fire, but given that Sheets is not likely to make it past April without a DL stint, a six man rotation seems more do-able, especially when you consider that there's no other really #1 type-starter listed. Lowe and Perez are hit-or-miss, and the others are best used as back-end guys.

I don't know much about the guys in the bullpen, except that Olney will probably need to trade for another reliever--four-deep bullpens don't generally get very far.

Anderson and Ausmus are weak on the bench, but Millar is a weapon to use against the Yankees (since this is an AL line up) and Hinske had a bit of a renaissance in Tampa.

Pete Abraham's Team

First base: Kevin Millar
Second base: Orlando Hudson
Shortstop: Orlando Cabrera
Third base: Ty Wigginton
Left field: Adam Dunn
Center field: Ken Griffey Jr.
Right field: Bobby Abreu
Catcher: Jason Varitek
DH: Manny Ramirez
No. 1 starter: Ben Sheets
No. 2 starter: Derek Lowe
No. 3 starter: Andy Pettitte
No. 4 starter: Jon Garland
No. 5 starter: Oliver Perez
Closer: Brandon Lyon
Set-up man: Will Ohman
Set-up man: Juan Cruz

Unlike Olney, PeteAbe didn't order his line up, so let's do some basic managing here:

Like Olney, the top four should be Hudson, Cabrera, Abreu and Ramirez. With the rest of the options, I'd personally go Dunn-Griffey-Millar-Wigginton-Varitek. Griffey has, unfortunately become injury prone and given that this team seems to have no bench at all, hitting him fifth would create an issue when there's an empty hole in the line-up! Anyway, the only hard decision here is the Millar-Wigginton order since Varitek is certainly the nine hitter.

I tend to like PeteAbe's rotation better than Olney's because of the inclusion of Andy Pettitte over Paul Byrd, but, again, there's likely only so long Sheets can go without getting hurt. Can Lowe still be a #1-type? I don't know, and Pettitte, as we all know, is not a power pitcher.

As with Olney, PeteAbe's bullpen is massively shorthanded--how long can a team effectively run on three in the bullpen?

River Ave Blue's Team:

C: Gregg Zaun - the best of a bad lot, Zaun’s the only legit starting catcher option that posted an OBP north of .321 last year (he was at .340)
1B: Doug Mientkiewicz - I’ll take Minky’s avg offense and Gold Glove defense over Kevin Millar’s & Sean Casey’s mediocre bat/no glove offerings
2B: Orlando Hudson - no brainer, my specialty
SS: Orlando Cabrera - another avg bat/GG defense guy, he’s easily the best of a terrifying SS crop
3B: Joe Crede - not going to offer much OBP, but he might run into 25 homers … another stud glove guy
LF: Adam Dunn - it’s okay Adam, I love your perennial .900+ OPS
CF: Jacque Jones - might have a little offensive rebound in him, but more importantly I need a guy with a ton of range between these two corner OFers
RF: Bobby Abreu - what, were you expecting Brad Wilkerson?
DH: Manny Ramirez - no explanation needed

Rotation: Derek Lowe, Andy Pettitte, Ben Sheets, Braden Looper, John Garland - with above average defense all-around the infield, give me the ground ball guys … and Ben Sheets

Bullpen: Juan Cruz, Aquilino Lopez, Brandon Lyon, Will Ohman, Brian Shouse, Russ Springer, Matt Wise - it’s a collection of above avg K guys who throw strikes for the most part

Bench: Pudge Rodriguez (C), Gape Kapler (OF), Damien Easley (IF/OF), Ty Wigginton (IF) - outside of Pudge, everyone on the bench can play multiple positions adequately and hit the ball out of the park … only problem is no lefty hitter

RAB does a very nice job analyzing their own team here, so I'll keep my analysis fairly simple.

The top of the line-up, through the five hitter, is no different than the other two above, but the bottom half is a bit different.

Jacque Jones in Center means that defensively, RAB's team has the best outfield (though, that doesn't necessarily make it a good defensive infield), but that also means that there's a weaker bat there as well. However, RAB sort of makes up for that by including Gregg Zaun as a catcher; unlike Varitek he is not necessarily an automatic out.

Anyway, to order it into a lineup: Hudson, Cabrera, Abreu, Ramirez, Dunn, Jones, Mienty, Zaun, Crede.

RAB's is the only rotation to use Looper, and I like him over Wolf, Byrd or Perez.

RAB's bullpen is also the closest to what an actual ML bullpen would need, although Olney's bench is, IMO, better constructed--RAB's is heavily aged and can't, outside of Wigginton (actually I have no idea if Wigginton can run or not) steal.


If I were to rank these teams as to how I predict they'd due, I would have to say that Olney's team is best constructed to weather an injury to Sheets, while RAB's team is better poised to make up for that loss with offense and mostly solid defense.

I would have to say that RAB's would be most likely to end up in not-in-last-place, and, if everything goes right, possibly contend for a Wild Card. Olney's is second, and PeteAbe's, I'm sorry to say, needs a bit of help.

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