2011 JLB Winter Report

By J.D. Moss

Great Falls Grenades

 

The Standings

1.     Great Falls Grenades*                                    103.5

2.     Falls Church Foxes                                         99.5

3.     Reston Roundabouts                                      94

4.     Arlington Arsenal                                           85

5.     Clifton Claims                                                 82

6.     Reston Robots                                                60.5

7.     Herndon Heroes                                              53 (tiebreaker win with 3 6th place finishes)

8.     Centreville 66ers                                             53

9.     Oakton Outlaws                                             45

10.  Alexandria Alleycats                                       37.5

11.  Sterling Starfish                                               36

12.  Fairfax Firemen                                               31

 

*Denotes 2001 champion

 

When I reread the Foxes 2010 winter report, I was struck by the FoxesÕ GM Carlton DavisÕ brazen and outlandish cockiness. ŅSee you all again next year.  Same place, same time, same author of this reportÓ was the end of the report. And everyone expected that to be true. Not so fast, my friends. Add the 2011 JLB season to the Leonard household bedroom as places that Carlton Davis has not lived up to expectations.

 

JLBÕs second decade was kicked off with a year that started with as many as 10 teams trying to crack the money. It ended with two epic races – one for first and one for fourth. Both involved pairs of bitter rivals, teams that hate each other. The Grenades and Foxes continued their rivalry, with the Grenades using a late-season push to finally bring the Joe back to Great Falls with some shrewd in-season management. And the Arsenal used an epic September rally to edge past the hated Clams, likely evening the final score in the bet, err gentlemanÕs agreement. Going into the final night, both positions were up for grabs, despite what Carlton Davis says.

 

For the title, there were wins, and 3 offensive points in play: Falls ChurchÕs AVG versus Sterling and Great FallsÕ RBIs against Clifton or Oakton. If the Foxes got two wins, then it only needed to pick up two of those points to be the winner, though it would be a tie (with the Foxes owning the tiebreaker).  With one Foxes win, the Foxes needed all three of the offensive points to go their way. If the Foxes got no wins, the Grenades won, as they would if the Foxes got one win, but the offense went the GrenadesÕ way.

 

As for fourth, it came down to the last few hours. In classic Jon Lasken fashion, overconfidence proved to be the downfall. On June 15th, he wrote: ŅCouple players to put on the block (only looking to trade one or two of these, not all, this is not a firesale, it just appears that the only available spot is 4th given the deals that occurred, and, not to disrespect Arsenal, but I think I'll have overtaken them soon enough with or without these guys).Ó On June 17th, the Arsenal were passed by the Clams, and did not overtake them until late late on the final night of the season, rallying from 18 back in September to push past the Clams.

 

Rather than try to summarize myself, I defer to the voice of Brian H. Greenhalgh on that crazy final night: ŅKeenan ended up catching Lasken in ERA, which I didn't see coming at all, but a Cahill gem on Tuesday made it possible and then Thornton on Wed put him in the lead. However, he did have a couple other middle relieving/closing types in his lineup. In the 6th inning of the Braves/Phillies game, much to more horror, I see Vance Worley is on the mound. No good can come of this. Yes, it's the Braves lineup, but it's not worth the risk. Sure enough, he walks the first two hitters. Then gets two strikeouts. Right when I think we're out of trouble, Jack Wilson (JACK FUCKING WILSON!!!!) laces a single to right field. The run will score easily. But Hunter Pence comes up throwing. And puts a LASER right on the money to nab Uggla. If it's not a perfect throw, he's safe, the Braves get an extra run, and the Firemen lose a CRUCIAL (to us) ERA point. The Phillies broadcast discussing the play: ŌHe may look awkward out there, but he has a cannon.Õ Couldn't agree more! That same Hunter Pence would later have the game-winning single, for the Phillies AND the Arsenal. Yes, we would take on some insurance points, but a man not on our roster basically got us 4th place.Ó

 

In 2011, some things stayed status quo. The Starfish continued rebuilding. Jon Lasken made ridiculous trade demands. The Clams and Robots finished about where everyone else expected – out of the money. The Foxes continued a magnificent run of success and were penalized for something unsportsmanlike. Dan Hausman turned over his whole roster and stayed in the money. The Outlaws loaded up in the offseason, looked the part of a title contender, and then fell apart as the season went along. And the Joe went to a place it has been before.

 

Yet, the leagueÕs eleventh year also featured some marked changes. The Firemen had a midseason fire sale, going from preseason title contender to last place. The Grenades finally got over the hump. The LeagueÕs top payroll finished out of the money. The FoxesÕ unsportsmanlike conduct was not intentional or deliberate. And new blood entered the league for the first time since the 2008 season, with Joseph Gittens and Donald Mixon taking over the middling Reston Roosters after a contentious battle. Oddly, however, not much has changed, as other owners complain about a lack of responsiveness or interest.

 

Looking forward, thereÕs a lot to be excited about in 2012. The Grenades and Foxes cling to title hopes, but new blood may be joining the fray. 2012 is actually a huge year in the Grenades – Foxes rivalry. Is it a Foxes dynasty, where the Grenades snuck in for a year? Or will the Grenades equal the title count at two apiece? It may also be the last year for a while that either team competes for a title. The Roundabouts dominant pitching staff makes them the early favorite for 3rd place, and they will greatly upgrade their offense as well in an attempt to break into the top two. There seems to be a void in the middle, with a number of teams shooting to sneak into the money to catapult them into a 2013 title run. The 66ers, most notably, seem ready to take the leap into the money. It looks like the Joe will remain in one of the 5 cities it has been to already (Great Falls, Falls Church, Reston, Sterling and Centreville). There is plenty of time to look forward, but we write this report to look back, so letÕs do that.

 

AWARDS

 

Most Valuable Player: Matt Kemp, ARL. (115 R, 39 HR, 126 RBI, 40 SB, .324 AVG)

 

Matt Kemp

6

2

1

37

Jacoby Ellsbury

2

5

2

27

Ryan Braun

2

1

1

14

Curtis Granderson

1

1

3

11

Justin Verlander

 

1

1

4

Hunter Pence

 

 

1

1

Jose Bautista

 

 

1

1

 

**The Clams did not cast a ballot, and the Firemen only voted for first place**

 

The Arsenal had the top two vote getters in Matt Kemp and Jacoby Ellsbury. Kemp was unreal – he finished in the top 7 in the league in each of the 5 counting stats. He had 18 more runs, 11 more homeruns, 25 more RBIs, 5 more steals and hit almost 30 points higher than any other full season. That is the epitome of exceeding expectations. He carried the Arsenal back into the money. Ellsbury also burst onto the scene with power, hitting more home runs (32) than he had in his career. His speed dropped a little bit – down to 39 – but he was still a five category stud. Other notable vote-getters include Ryan Braun, whose season was quite similar to EllsburyÕs but Braun had done it before, Justin Verlander (more below), and Curtis Granderson, who led the league in runs with a whopping 136 and was second in home runs.

 

The only vote that didnÕt make sense – Hunter Pence. ThatÕs right – someone voted for the 11th ranked OUTFIELDER on a team that finished in the bottom third of the standings.

 

Cy Young: Justin Verlander, ROU (24 W, 2.40 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 250 Ks)

 

Justin Verlander

9

 

2

47

Clayton Kershaw

1

4

1

18

Ian Kennedy

1

1

 

8

Cliff Lee

 

2

1

7

Roy Halladay

 

1

3

6

Craig Kimbrel

 

1

1

4

Jered Weaver

 

1

1

4

James Shields

 

 

1

1

 

This was a landslide. VerlanderÕs numbers were actually quite similar to runner up Clayton KershawÕs, but he threw 18 more innings. Both were unreal. Verlander came out of nowhere to be the top-ranked pitcher and the #4 overall player, leading the vaunted Roundabouts pitching staff to an astronomical 58 points. VerlanderÕs WHIP was 0.92 was 0.06 better than KershawÕs, and one of only three pitchers below 1.00 in 2011. It was also the third best JLB mark of all time. Verlander also tied a JLB record with 24 wins. Kershaw was similarly dominant, striking out more batters per nine and holding a lower ERA than Verlander. But Verlander dominated the voting here.

 

 

Rookie of the Year: Craig Kimbrel, ARL (4 W, 46 SV, 2.10 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 127 Ks in 77 IP)

 

Craig Kimbrel

9

 

1

46

Andrew McCutchen

1

2

1

12

Mike Stanton

 

3

 

9

Starlin Castro

1

 

 

5

David Price

 

1

1

4

Drew Storen

 

1

1

4

Jordan Zimmermann

 

1

 

3

Brandon Beachy

 

1

 

3

Cameron Maybin

 

 

2

2

Neftali Feliz

 

 

1

1

Fernando Salas

 

 

1

1

Mark Melancon

 

 

1

1

 

In his maiden campaign, Kimbrel dominated the voting here, and rightfully so. His saves and strikeouts were dominant, as he was Yahoo!Õs 33rd-ranked player as a closer and as a rookie. Kimbrel also garnered Cy Young votes, as his strikeouts were simply so dominant. He wasnÕt quite as good down the stretch, but he should be a force for years to come at the back end of the Arsenal bullpen. Starlin Castro was the top-ranked rookie hitter, but GM Jon Lasken refused to let him play in Clifton, crushing his chances for rookie of the year honors, playing Ian Desmond and Hanley Ramirez over a superior Castro.

 

Mike Durgala GM of the Year: J.D. Moss

 

Moss

8

2

 

46

Dan Hausman

1

5

2

22

Warren/Greenhalgh

2

3

2

21

Maji

 

 

2

2

Carlton

 

 

2

2

Fleeter

 

 

1

1

 

J.D. Moss takes home his second piece of GMOY hardware though inexplicably was left off one ballot or not placed first. Moss entered the last offseason as a heavy underdog to the Foxes, but made a number of key moves to push his team to first. He found an outfielder in Hunter Pence, freed up cap room by moving Chris Carpenter (getting an asset in the process in Dustin Ackley) and moved the necessary pieces to get Ryan Braun and keep him away from Falls Church. Moss has been heavily criticized in his tenure for his inability to get the final pieces, to mortgage the future and to make deals. But he showed none of the inhibition in 2011, pushing Pence to fill the hole at 2B to fill a devastating injury to Utley, moving Jose Bautista mid-season for pitching and moving Weeks for a closer. The GrenadesÕ scouting also had a big resurgence, with bottom-of-the-barrel signings in Alex Avila, Howard Kendrick, Asdrubal Cabrera, Melky Cabrera, Jeremy Affeldt (2 wins in 3 IP) and Sergio Romo (combined cost: $4.04m, less than half the cost of Brandon Lyon for the Grenades in 2011) paying huge dividends. Kendrick was the subject of a lengthy internal debate, in which Moss and his scouting director had a very public dissension over the Ņmistaken bidÓ, and contributed down the stretch. Perhaps the biggest factor was the two players Moss actively shopped but didnÕt trade in the offseason – Bautista and Josh Beckett. Both were available, Moss didnÕt get fair offers, and both excelled for the Grenades.

 

Considering what the Grenades overcame health-wise – every projected offensive starter landed on the DL other than Ryan Braun and David Ortiz, each of whom missed a week straight due to injuries – and still managed to log 54 offensive points, it is impressive. Then you look at the in-season moves made to bolster the pitching staff – the two preseason closers (Lyon and Broxton) combined for 11 saves, yet the Grenades finished with an 8 in saves, and the fact and two of the top 5 starters entering the year ended up non-factors down the stretch (Danks and B. Anderson), and you have to be impressed with MossÕ performance. 

 

Dan Hausman entered the year with serious offseason questions, but a number of midseason moves gave him enough offense in Jose Bautista and Prince Fielder to lock up third place. Hausman continues to plod along with perhaps a perpetual goal of finishing third. Hausman is always at the center of deals, continually turning out his roster. He traded quantity for Prince Fielder, continued to stockpile pitching and is probably the leagueÕs most impressive general manager. His 94 points wins in some seasons.

 

When you look at it, the shocking thing is that Carlton Davis didnÕt receive more votes. His team finished with the highest total of any second place finisher ever. He was active, moving assets in a push to win and not sitting idle as he did in his two prior victories. He acquired ace Clayton Kershaw, catcher Joe Mauer and slugger Mark Teixeira and made a few shrewd signings mid-season (Javy Guerra and David Robertson), and even down the stretch moved Drew Stubbs (selling high) for David Wright and John Axford to gain at least 1 point. It was an admirable effort for Falls Church, and one that has to leave Davis with his head scratching. In fact, to quote Davis, ŅI mean my team, quite frankly, was amazingly awesome. It just so happened there was a better team out there at the same time.Ó The only regrettable move had to be not pursuing a third basemen named Adrian Beltre in the offseason, but Falls Church simply got beat by a better team.

 

The head scratcher was votes for Arlington – who finished fourth almost in spite of their general managers moves from October 1 to July 15. Wasted signings in Jayson Werth and Derrek Lee, giving away Jordan WaldenÕs arbitration years for Ted Lilly, letting Michael Young go to rival Clifton because they didnÕt know he was eligible at 2B, and you see a series of miscues. Of course, a pair of successful moves– trading key youngsters for Dan Haren and Robinson Cano (Cano especially) – put them in the money, even if they overpaid. Cano had 67 RBIs and hit .317 in half a season in Arlington. DonÕt get me wrong – when you go from eighth to fourth, youÕve done something right (though some JLB insiders have pointed simply to the resurgence of Kemp and Ellsbury for that turnaround). But to get first place votes for a few short days of excellent management seems a little bit shortsighted of some owners. They finished fourth, yet find themselves with the barest cupboard in the league outside of Clifton.

 

The other shocking piece was that Mike Keenan did not receive any votes for the Roundabouts third place finish. If there is anything that Keenan should take away from his compete cycle, it should be to run, run, and run when Dan Hausman comes asking for a deal. The history between the two teams is unreal, and Keenan always ends up on the losing side. First, there was Verlander and Andrus for Soto. Then Pedroia for Delmon Young and Martin Prado. Rios, Axford (who was re-dealt for Drew Stubbs) and Am-Ram for Hart, Cahill and Michael Young. And then Prince and Valverde for cash and a stable of mediocre prospectsÉwhich Hausman turned into David Price. All keys moves for the Roundabouts 2011 and 2012 squads, and you wonder whether Keenan wishes he had Drew Stubbs and David Price moving forward instead of what he actually has.

 

 

1. Great Falls Grenades (Total: 103.5 – 54 hitting, 49.5 pitching)

What went right: Almost everything. Career years from Avila, Kendrick, and the Cabrera brothers. Beckett returned to his old self. Ortiz and Bautista proved 2010 was not a fluke. Weaver and Putz were outstanding after coming over, energized by having a shot at the title. The old Lasken-ism of ŅdepthÓ paid off. And Moss managed his pitching staff great – look at those numbers in the team log.

What went wrong: Injuries and Brandon Lyon. Moss had to spend some future resources to fill voids.  But moreover, Brandon Lyon and the $7.8m spent by the Grenades for his abysmal line. See, it wasnÕt just the first signing. He waived him, then resigned him for $800k (on a waiver claim, when he was the only bidder Moss needed saves, he overspent, and thought he would be fine. Yet, a win is a win.

What the future holds: At least one more year in contention. Moss returned every offensive starter except Ortiz, and 5 of his top 6 pitchers, plus all of his ratio relievers. With depth at 2B, SS and C, Moss filled the hole left by Ortiz and acquired the closers he lost, allowing him to stay out of the free agent bidding on closers. Not content to sit put, Moss has been active thus far in the offseason, adding Ryan Howard, Jose Valverde, Erick Aybar, James Shields, and Brandon League. HeÕs also started to deal with injuries and bad luck again – Howard was crippled with a torn Achilles just days after being sent up Hunter Mill Road and will miss the start of 2012. Braun is fighting a tampered steroid test. And Mat Latos was sent from a pitcherÕs haven to a bandbox in Cincinnati. ThereÕs a lot of expiring contracts on this team at below-market rates, so itÕs not clear if the Grenades can make a run in 2013. This was a title team with a healthy Howard, an active Braun and Latos in San Diego. Now they will need to pull a rabbit out of their hats. But either way, they will battle the Foxes for supremacy in 2012. Be shocked if this team doesnÕt finish in the top 2.

 

2. Falls Church Foxes (Total: 103.5 – 44 hitting, 55.5 pitching)

What went right: A heck of a lot. Curtis Granderson became the leagueÕs best player. Newly-ascended Clayton Kershaw took the leap from great to elite (21 W, 248 Ks in 232, 2.28/0.98). Alex Gordon finished as one of the top 25 players, finally living up to his hype. Ian Kinsler stayed healthy for a year. C.C. Sabathia had his best year as a Fox. Drew Storen was outstanding as a rookie. Davis sold high on Drew Stubbs. And Javy Guerra was possibly the leagueÕs best mid-season signing

What went wrong: Batting average. Davis was counting on Joe Mauer, and he was never healthy. Injuries derailed CarGoÕs season. To DavisÕ surprise (but no one elseÕs), Justin Morneau added nothing at 1B (and actually led to the Foxes $1m UMC fine). Davis emptied the cupboard for a second place finish. He acquired David Wright too late (he could have used the .400 average and 14 RBIs he logged as a Roundabout after Davis passed on him the first time). The Grenades made the in-season moves to pass Davis, but Davis could have put it out of reach with a good offseason. Instead, he explicably spent $4+ million on Frank Francisco rather than adding any kind of offensive depth (David Ortiz or Adrian Beltre may have helped). And letÕs start with the key move of the Foxes offseason: the Kershaw trade. Yes, Kershaw took a huge leap, but the Foxes probably have a better 2011 team without making that deal (as a number of GMs felt when it went down). He could have stayed put with McCutchen and used the prospects he parted with for Kershaw to add Prince Fielder and Michael Young mid-seasonÉ.and run away with the title. Hindsight is 20/20, but the Foxes may be looking at 2011 as a missed opportunity. I look forward to a lengthy email from Carlton explaining why he didnÕt make any of those moves within 4 hours of the dissemination of the report.

What the future holds: 2012 or bust – especially after parting with 5 years of David Price to add 3 hitters, all of whom expire after this year. The Foxes top 3 starters are back, and the offense right now looks better than it did a year ago with two power bats in Teixeira and Fielder (though they will miss Granderson). There isnÕt much left in the minors though, and the Foxes will need to add starting pitching in free agency. The Foxes dynasty has been built on pitching, and Davis will have to find a way to replace the innings of Sabathia and Price, plus stay healthy. Oh wait, he literally traded a sack of crap for Justin Verlander. It helps to give up nothing of value for an ace (sorry, two top-100 prospects for a year of the best pitcher in baseball is not equal). Of course, with DavisÕ insecurity at finishing below a 12 in saves, heÕll probably buy a closer too, especially after parting with Frank Francisco. Still, expect Davis to add some arms with his cap cushion and come away a 3 point win after badgering the Alleycats into giving him an another elite player for nothing. Davis said on Oct. 1: ŅI just need to make my team more amazingly awesome for the future.  This year absolutely raised the bar for what is required to be JLB Champion.Ó He has done exactly that. He should take the 2012 title.

 

3. Reston Roundabouts (Total: 94 – 36 hitting, 58 pitching)

What went right: Everything. Especially 58 points in pitching. 58. It would have been 59 too if Hausman didnÕt move John Axford in August to build for 2012. The pitching staff was better than advertised – which, in itself, is impressive – and stayed healthy. Elvis Andrus broke out. Mike Keenan traded with Dan several times. The number of terrible offenses in the league gave the Roundabouts some key offensive points in the power categories to cement third. Hausman got Prince Fielder and Jose Valverde without parting with any top prospects. Montero, Pedroia, and Ramirez rebounded from injuries to post solid campaigns and Andrus took a step forward. Just a banner year for the Roundabouts.

What went wrong: Tough to say anything at the major league level. With the offense Hausman had pre-season, finishing with more than 90 points was pretty amazing. Things weren't rosy on the farm as a lot of highly rated prospects flopped, though Hausman managed to trade many of them to Fairfax mid-flop. And Matt Moore was the one who didnÕt, and he looks like the next great Reston starter.

What the future holds: Another third place finish in 2012, with a jump back to champion in 2013. Hausman has shrewdly built for the long-term, trading one-year deals for David Price and Jon Lester. The team will be better in 2012, as Hausman fields a real offense for the first time since 2008. The pitching looks set for a while, and HalladayÕs $20 million salary comes off the books for 2013. Hanson, Price and Lester are a nice core to build on, plus top pitching prospect Matt Moore. All of the offense is back outside of Aramis Ramirez, and there is plenty of cap room to add Jose Bautista and David Wright. And Hausman, as always, has 8 closers or closers-in-waiting. Internally, the hope is a title in 2012, with Jim Thome at the helm, but I think theyÕre a year away.

 

4. Arlington Arsenal (Total: 85 – 43.5 hitting, 41.5 pitching)

What went right:  September, Matt Kemp and Jacoby Ellsbury. Trading Joe Mauer for Matt Cain. When you have the top 2 MVP vote-getters and the Rookie of the Year, you better finish in the money. Passing on Hanley to get Cano jumpstarted a comfortable 4th place finish. The Arsenal were remarkably balanced as well, as the pitching staff anchored by Cain and a rising Matt Garza took a step forward. Plus, Mark TrumboÕs emergence allowed the Arsenal to escape the $15 million in bad contracts it had at first base.

What went wrong: Jayson Werth. Adam Dunn. Passing on Michael Young. Derrek Lee. Fourth was the preseason goal though, and fourth was the result, so despite the disastrous route, itÕs tough to fault a team for meeting its goal.

What the future holds: Neither the owners nor the rest of the league know. The Arsenal have not made a single move this offseason, and itÕs tough to see a competitive team in 2012. IÕm sure there will be some bad contracts though. With the gentlemanÕs agreement in play, expect a quick rebuild in 2012 with a push in 2013. ThereÕs a lot of bad contracts coming off the books in 2012 ($35 million between Beltran, Lackey, Zambrano, Lee and Dunn).

 

5. Clifton Clams (Total: 82 – 47 hitting, 35 pitching)

What went right:  Mike Napoli being signed for a bargain price of $1.6m and getting traded in real-life to Texas, where he mashed (30 HRs in 370 ABs, with a career-best .324 average). Starlin Castro emerged as a future star, though the Clams were late to that party. Michael Young was a huge mid-season acquisition, and Brandon Phillips enjoyed a resurgence. Lasken also stole C.J. Wilson from the Foxes mid-season and grabbed Fernando Salas off the waiver wire.

What went wrong: The Clams beat their 2010 total, but it wasnÕt enough for the money. GM Jon Lasken, sidetracked by his wedding (priorities, please!), blew a huge lead down the stretch to let the Arsenal pass his team. Though there was no Tyler Clippard gaffe like 2010, there was plenty of poor management down the stretch. The Clams finished 4 RBIs out of 4th place, and had 13 games left on the table. And despite LaskenÕs Mike Napoli claim, Lasken maxed out his games at catcher. The fault here lies solely on Lasken and not on his players.

What the future holds: A last push for the money in 2012. Lasken couldnÕt get value for his players in the offseason, and he got a huge break with closer signings this offseason. The offense is still scary with Miguel Cabrera, Hamilton, Castro and Napoli, but losing Cruz and Young will hurt. Also the starting pitching is just okay – strikeouts will be an issue, as will depth –so 4th place is the ceiling here. The minor league cupboard is completely bare. Clifton is the new Great Falls – 5th place again in 2012.

 

6. Reston Robots (Total: 60.5 – 27 hitting, 32.5 pitching)

What went right:  Not much. Title aspirations preseason turned into a rebuilding project by the end of the year, as a JLB-record payroll led to 6th place. James Shields did justify his 2011 offseason signing by putting it all together as a top-10 starter. But it is tough when your payroll is almost twice as high as your standings points to be excited. Sergio Santos stayed strong and is a closer, but his previous stint as Firemen roster filler really limited his trade value. Young guns Butler, Jones, Votto and Garcia did continue to develop and progress.

What went wrong: Carl Crawford, the offensive leader, was abysmal in what was expected to be a monster year as he moved to Boston. Josh Johnson was hurt most of the year and he needed to be an ace. Strikeouts aside, Zack Greinke was not the ace the Robots needed. Chris Carpenter fizzeld, and Brandon Webb is still on the payroll. No one really exceed expectations – no one.

What the future holds: A rebuild. ThereÕs some elite prospects, but not much at the second level. Other than Joey Votto, thereÕs not a ton of below-market assets to jumpstart a rebuild with elite guys (though Votto should merit a haul). With $27 million still owed to Brandon Webb, it will be 2014 at the earliest before the Robots can make a run. According to GM Matt Hausman, ŅThe Robots franchise savior, Brandon Webb continued his long road back to superstardom as the robots fan base waits for 2nd start as a robot with great anticipation.Ó

 

7. Centreville 66ers (Total: 53 – 29 hitting, 24 pitching)

What went right:  Arguably the year went about as well as possible for the 66ers. Everything broke their way to allow the rebuild to be only two years. Maji stole Ben Zobrist for nothing, and now has a cheap starter at second base. Jose Reyes had a huge resurgence. Adrian Beltre was a steal at just over $5m, coming in as the 3rd best 3B despite missing time on the DL. Maji got two cost-controlled aces and a utility man for Ryan Braun, and one of the best pitching prospects in the game for Matt Thornton. And the young pitching was fantastic – Zimmermann, Luebke, Pineda and Strasburg. And Maji traded from excess, getting Alex Avila for Johnny Cueto after a career year.  He also has an unbelievable number of picks – 12 in the first 2 rounds of the next 2 MLDs and 7 first rounder picks in the next two amateur drafts, including 5 in 2013.

What went wrong: Chris Young and Andre Ethier took a step back – itÕs not clear that Maji has more than one championship level starter on his roster (McCutchen). And Clay Buchholz didnÕt take a step forward as Maji hoped. I guess if you are nitpicking, some of the prospects didnÕt progress as hoped.

What the future holds: A run at fourth place in 2012 and a potential dynasty for the years thereafter. Maji did a masterful job retooling in 2011 and 2012 and has assets to move to get the missing pieces. ThereÕs not a lot of offensive punch at the big power positions, so Maji will need to make a deal. The question is whether he will focus too much on value and shopping his guys, or will make the moves necessary to make his team a winner in 2013. Based on his dealings over the past few years and the fact that Dan Fleeter is no longer around, expect consistent second/third place finishes over the next five years, but not a title unless the Heroes are too focused on getting drunk on the last day of the regular season again. I think Maji is too hesitant to make moves in 2012 because of the hierarchy at the top, misses the money, but emerges as force in the next few years.

 

7. Herndon Heroes (Total: 53 – 18 hitting, 35 pitching)

What went right:  White once again proved he was the master at maximizing the best results out of the least talent on his pitching staff. You look at his staff, and say what? Only Ian Kennedy is a guy I want on my team. Yet his 35 points on pitching in a rebuilding year was impressive. Mike Stanton was great – as expected, Paul Konerko proved he could start for a contender, and free agent Mark Melancon was masterful.

What went wrong: White failed to recognize that his team couldnÕt compete until too late. Injuries and regression hurt, but no one outside of Herndon thought this team could compete in 2012. He traded a first rounder for Rafael Furcal, promoted Mike Stanton and Buster Posey in a non-competing year, and held assets too long. ­He passed on a first round pick for Kyle Farnsworth, only to end up with a couple of third rounders. Posey got hurt and has a huge question mark now – heÕd look a lot better at 400k in 2012. Essentially, WhiteÕs half-in, half-out strategy (he didnÕt promote Hellickson, for example, and only spent like $65m) puzzled a number of GMs.

What the future holds: A run at fourth place in 2012, and hopefully no lingering effects from the push a year early. Even with Evan Longoria, thereÕs not much championship level offense on this team now – Posey is if healthy, as are Longoria and Stanton, but thatÕs about it. However, White has tons of cash and the big question will be how he spends it. On the staff, he returns just one closer after having three for most of 2012 (MelanconÕs value went away as quickly as it came), and thereÕs question at the starting staff. Kennedy is great, but itÕs not clear just how much is right behind him, especially without Hellickson coming up. White is the master of finding pitching off the scrap heap. The Longoria acquisition was great value, but White blocked his best prospect in Brett Lawrie. He probably misses the money in 2012, but sneaks into the back end in 2013.

 

9. Oakton Outlaws (Total: 45 – 37 hitting, 8 pitching)

What went right:  Tough to fault the offense. Tulo continued his assault on the shortstop position. Matt Wieters rebounded. Robinson Cano was great – until he was dealt to the Arsenal. Mariano Rivera was worth every penny, and Jason Motte finally proved his worth.

What went wrong: Injuries. They started before the year with ace Adam WainwrightÕs Tommy John. They continued, with Shin-Soo Choo, Ike Davis, Logan Morrison, and Troy Tulowitzki among the starters who missed time. The pitching had no depth to start, and that was amplified by injuries. And Ryan Howard continued to regress, though Bertman rid himself of that problem.

What the future holds: Call Bertman the Daniel Snyder of JLB. He wins every offseason, but things just donÕt pan out in the season. He needs both time and good luck, and has had neither. With BertmanÕs GM joining the married ranks of JLB (CONGRATS!), time will be even harder to come by. It remains to be seen what his plan is. He seems to be continually trying to finish in the money, not paying attention, and falling short. He has the talent in 2012 to break through, but does he have the time or the pitching? This is one of those that you will need to see to believe, but the talent is there. With such a busy time in his life, itÕs clear BertmanÕs focus is not all on his team, as he traded a first round pick and a rising star in Logan Morrison for a non-tender candidate.

 

10. Reston Roosters / Alexandria Alleycats (Total: 37.5 – 22.5 hitting, 15 pitching)

What went right:  New ownership should inject energy into the league, as former GM Dan Fleeter didnÕt have the time to keep up with the league. Brandon League was a revelation as a closer, and Brandon Beachy was the steal of free agency with his crazy K/9. But it was yet another year of purgatory for this franchise, which spent too much money on its roster and didnÕt move expiring assets like Kevin Youkilis and Adrian Gonzalez.

What went wrong: Hard to say much went wrong – it just went as expected.

What the future holds: Based on the first two moves by the new owners, not much. They literally gave away Jon Lester for a bag of crap, falling victim to Carlton DavisÕ persuasion and baseless rhetoric. It seems to be a fatal flaw of new owners to give Davis a stud pitcher for nothing. Most assumed Lester would go for 3-4 top 100 prospects, including 2 elite guys. Instead, it was a prospect with a ceiling as a #2 OF, and a few likely non-tenders. When you trade Jon Lester, and donÕt even get the best prospect in a deal where you only get prospects, things arenÕt looking great. The other odd move was trading League for Johnny Cueto – either you rebuild and trade for prospects or you trade for Cueto – the two moves make little sense together. Personally, I hope the Alleycats get it together and actually get some value for Adrian Gonzalez, but itÕs been a schizophrenic start. LetÕs hope they turn things around.

 

11. Sterling Starfish (Total: 36 – 21 hitting, 15 pitching)

What went right:  A stolen bases win. Justin Upton returned to his projected career path, Erick Aybar was a steal at $700,000 and Madison Bumgarner emerged as an elite starter. The Starfish paid nothing for Doug Fister, and he was sensational down the stretch. Getting Neil Walker for nothing also helped fill a position for the Starfish.

What went wrong: When you finish 11th and commit to another year of rebuilding, a lot. The $10 million spent on backup closers yielded little, and the big fish – Rafael Soriano – missed most of the year. The offense is still a mess. Though there are prospects with elite starter potential, UptonÕs the only guy who would start on a contending JLB team. And while there are tons of middle relievers, the same can be said of BumgarnerÉ..yet there is little left in the pipe.

What the future holds: At least two more years of rebuilding. The Starfish still have two titles in the last 7 years, but it will be a while before the next one comes in. The prospects havenÕt panned out as expected and deployments have limited the ability of the Starfish to obtain assets for the pending compete cycle. ThereÕs a lot of talent in the minor league system, as expected, but itÕs hard to see any of it competing (Bumgarner aside) before 2014 at a championship level. The Starfish will continue to stockpile assets.

 

12. Fairfax Firemen (Total: 31 – 11 hitting, 20 pitching)

What went right:  Um, nothing. Prince Fielder was awesome, but he was dealt for quantity. A pair of middle relievers in Scott Downs and Joel Peralta were great, but, eh, who cares? He traded Mark TeixeiraÉ.and actually got prospects for him despite the contract.

What went wrong: Pre-season contender to rebuilding, so a lot. Trading Pedroia didnÕt work, as he had a career year and Prado had a huge step back. Hanley was not close to Hanley. Michael Young was good, but mostly after he was dealt. Johan Santana never suited up. Felix Hernandez was good, not great. Mark Teixeira was never worth his contract, but at least the Firemen arenÕt on the hook. And trading Julio Teheran for Matt Thornton will haunt the Firemen for years.

What the future holds: A long, long rebuild. There are no prospects and no picks. There is no cash, and still a bad contract or two on the books. With such a lengthy rebuild ahead, Keenan took quantity over quantity for Prince FielderÉand only time will tell on that deal. KeenanÕs last rebuild didnÕt lead to much, but heÕs learned a lot and should come back strongerÉ.whenever he does actually come back. 2015?

 

Projected 2012 Standings

1.     Foxes

2.     Grenades

3.     Roundabouts

4.     Heroes

5.     66ers

6.     Clams

7.     Arsenal

8.     Outlaws

9.     Starfish

10.  Alleycats

11.  Robots

12.  Firemen